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CRADLE OF THORNS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Download This! (Triple X) 1994
Feed-Us (Triple X) 1994

Bakersfield, California's Cradle of Thorns melds metal/hard rock with funk, goth, industrial, a little jazz and even a touch of opera to create a sound that, while not always pleasant, is at the very least intriguing. Feed-Us presents a young band that's as musically ambitious and ambiguous as Jane's Addiction once was. Countered by Tamera Slayton's lovely operatic soprano, Ty Elam's painfully ragged vocal style sounds like Alice in Chains vocalist Layne Staley's trademark growl — but even Staley doesn't revel in throat-scorching howls this much. Although the lyrics address the usual overdone controversy-stirring topics, the music itself is impressive: guitarist David File, drummer Kris Kohls, keyboardist/sampler Rohan and bassist Scat Elis handle a dizzying array of styles with admirable ease. The alternately crunching, lilting "Transparent Jesus" is especially noteworthy — it would sound right at home on any Metallica album.

Cradle of Thorns doesn't integrate its personality any better on Download This!; if anything, there are even more genres in the mix. Unfortunately, musical prowess is once again overshadowed by the inanely grotesque obnoxiousness of the lyrics. Want a laugh? Try "Bulimia Blow-Job," "Thirsty 4 Sex," "Cocaine 4 Breakfast," "Roaches 4 Roaches" and "The Golden Butt Plug Puppet Show."

[Katherine Yeske]