Universal Choke Sign 

Last Breath

Missoula metal veterans Universal Choke Sign (UCS) nearly capture their frenetic live sound on their debut, Last Breath. The enthusiasm is present, but the band's a victim of a dynamically squeezed production, which sucks some of the energy out of the final result. That's not unusual, it just leaves a lingering sense of "what if" should this band be provided a larger recording budget.

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The strength of UCS lurks in the groove-based foundation maintained by the rhythm section of drummer Dayv Drake and bassist Per Carlson. These guys provide just enough funky swing to keep songs like "Too" and "Pull" interesting. Meanwhile, dual guitars chug along in vigorous unison; thick and meaty, the tones merge into a wall of sound best appreciated at high volume.

Guitarist Justin Tribble unleashes a tasty little solo in the breakdown of "Grudge" that hints he has chops beyond what he's showing us. Singer JJ Keller has an excellent voice, but a little more emotional range beyond guttural rage would take these songs to another level while reducing none of their angry impact.

Regardless of nitpicks, this band delivers the goods every time out. Last Breath is an excellent debut and introduction to the band that should leave the metal faithful hungry for round two.

Universal Choke Sign plays Dimestock 2009 at the Palace Saturday, Dec. 12, at 8 PM with Blessiddoom, River Runs Red and Quietus. $7.

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