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Sampler Vol. 1
Artist: Various Artists
Label: Salad Dressing Records (2001)
Length: 20 Tracks (73:24 minutes)

Salad Dressing Records is an independent Christian label based near the Canadian provincial capital of Winnipeg, Manitoba.  Working in line with its stated aim of promoting punk, hardcore and emo music, the Sampler Vol. 1 collection features a plentiful assortment of artists from each of the aforementioned segments of the rock music genre.  Dreaming of the Fifth sprinkle their characteristically melancholy and self-deprecating emo offering, "Losing Fire Games," (I am so afraid/ Insecure and one with shame/  I really could use some change) with chiming guitar flourishes to fine effect.  Veronica construct their similarly despondent, yet thoroughly engaging, slice of emo rock, "Tied for Second," around a simple, but haunting, repetition of a two-line lyric: "Why don't I listen?  I know you're never coming home."  Every New Day's Patience," plants its feet firmly in the punk rock ethos by virtue of its semi-sneering vocal work and frenetic set of guitar riffs which occasionally dips into the Eddie Van Halen pool of pyrotechnics for inspiration.  And Fallen Silent's "Once Again Blind" peppers its intrinsically blistering drumwork and growling, near-shouted vocals with arpeggiatic guitar runs to give the energetic hardcore anthem a surprisingly noticeable, albeit intermittent, sense of  melody.

Oddly enough, the compilation's chief weakness winds up working as a blessing of sorts for the various artists on the set. The Vol.1release is sated with an overabundance of largely similar-sounding bands who build their songs around the now-ubiquitous framework of terse guitar lines and semi-whined vocals first popularized by mid-'90s punk-pop purveyors like the Offspring and Green Day.   As it stands, such an exceedingly homogenous song mix makes it rather difficult for any of the groups to really step out and distinguish themselves from their peers.  That said, while the album's excessively uniform texture inarguably works to mute its collective impact, it nonetheless renders virtually all of its performers equally likely to garner larger commercial success.  All said, while the Vol. 1 compilation admittedly breaks little new ground musically or lyrically, its overarching songcraft savvy, technical proficiency and top-notch production skill all combine seamlessly to make it an admirable and highly enjoyable body of work.

Bert Gangl  8/23/2001


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