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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Karate High School

Arcade Rock

Review by Gary Hill

Well, one look at the album cover and the band and disc titles and you can be sure that this isn't something to take too seriously. These guys say that they combine the music of arcade games with other sounds to create their sound. Well, that's a bit gimmicky way to put it. In fact there are some elements that call to mind video game music, but they tend to be more afterthoughts. The group's core sound is an energized combination of emo and nu-metal. This is nothing earth shattering by any means, but it is fun. Also, in contrast to a lot of music from both of those styles, they change it up enough from song to song, and in fact within some of the songs, to keep it from all sounding the same. This is often raw, a bit odd, but also a lot of fun.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 3 at

Track by Track Review
Good News and Bad News
This is a pretty catchy emo rocker. It's fun and reminds me a little bit of old school new wave/punk band that I used to like a lot called "The A's."
Twice Upon A Time (110%)
This one still has a bit of that emo texture, but it also rocks out more with a nu-metal sort of texture. Add into the mix a very tiny rap metal leaning and you have pretty much the full picture on this one. Still another nice touch is some rather progish keyboards laced over the top. This one is a step up from the last one. When you consider that that cut wasn't anything near bad, and that tells you that this one is pretty strong. They even include a cool drop back (albeit feeling rather nu-metal) to a keyboard-dominated segment. It also turns toward progressive metal modes later. The outro is especially heavy.
88 Million Light Years Away
Video game keyboard sounds start off this track, but it quickly shifts to more of an emo texture. As the verse enters the sound resembles a cross between nu-metal and emo. This mode makes up the majority of the track. A video game styled keyboard solo is a nice touch.
Sweep The Leg
This one is noisy, heavy, and quite cool. It comes closer to true punk than anything here, and is just a nice piece of raw rock. It's one of my favorites on the disc.
This Is the Soundtrack
This one is another with a lot of aggressive textures. It's probably much closer to nu-metal than it is to emo, but there is still a little of that other sound, along with some techno and industrial thrown into the mix. It's another nice change of pace and includes some intriguing changes - including a drop down to keys, vocals and percussion.
Scenes Rushing By
This one really does have an arcade game feel to the backing textures. It's essentially a modern rock ballad, but they give enough twist to the structure to make it interesting. They also include some rather progish keyboard elements on this one, making it a rather unusual, but quite cool addition to the album.
Extra! Extra! (Hear All About It)
More hard-edged rock starts this one off in a nu-metal, punky jam. This isn't that much different from a lot of the other material on the disc, but the band change it up enough to keep it interesting.
Another Day at the Office
With more of an emo texture, they still incorporate some prog-like elements and some intriguing changes here. The poppy pre-chorus is a nice (if short) touch. So are some more of the arcade game keyboards.
Oh No
This one is the strangest cut on show here. It starts with just odd keys and the vocal line over the top. After a verse it pounds out into more of the same basic sounds that have predominated the disc, though.
Smile, You're On TV
This one is extremely aggressive and raw, combining real punk elements with nu-metal and alternative rock sounds. The result is a cut that can be a bit hard to warm up to, but also is a definite change from the other stuff here.
The Joke Is On Us
Almost symphonic rock textured keys give way to a song that seems to combine the earlier segments of the disc with an almost epic metal texture. This one is a bit odd, but also my favorite track on show here. It is the most dynamic piece on the CD, too.
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