Category Archives: Album Reviews

The Year That Was // What’s To Come

I’ll start by saying that I had a HUGE post at the ready for my ‘Best Of..’ but I scrapped it in favor of a more streamlined and digestible approach (which will probably end up being wordy just as well). Moving on…

2011; what an amazing year of music for fans in almost every genre. Great metal, great pop, great rock, etc. I was introduced into several different musical worlds this year and I am grateful to have heard releases from some of my favorites and some newcomers. Besides, say, the top 4 or 5, the albums should be considered interchangeable in that I couldn’t say one was better than the other; it depends on what I’m in the mood for.

 

The Best of 2011

20. The Interbeing – Edge of the Obscure 

19. Memfis – Vertigo

18. The Computers – This is The Computers

17. Trap Them – Darker Handcraft

16. Decoder – Decoder

15. Fake Figures – Hail the Sycophants

14. Sainthood Reps – Monoculture

13. Architects – The Here and Now

13. Dispatch – Dispatch EP

12. Trivium – In Waves

11. Thursday – No Devolucion

10. Blindside – With Shivering Hearts We Wait

9. Foo Fighters – Wasting Light

8. Awolnation – Megalithic Symphony

7. World Under Blood – Tactical

6. Thrice – Major/Minor

5. Mastodon – The Hunter

4. Blue October – Any Man in America

3. Fair to Midland – Arrows & Anchors

2. MuteMath – Odd Soul

1. Stray from the Path – Rising Sun

 

Honorable Mention:

letlive. – Fake History, Epitaph re-release (would be No. 1, but technically would be considered a 2010 release)

In Flames – Sounds of a Playground Fading

Protest the Hero – Scurrilous

Fall in Archaea – Gatherings

Dream the Electric Sleep – Lost and Gone Forever

Bright Eyes – The Peoples Key

 

2012 Most Anticipated:

Every Time I Die – Ex Lives

Enter Shikari – Flash Flood of Colour

Bleeding Through – The Great Fire

The Safety Fire – Grind the Ocean

The Intersphere – Hold On, Liberty!

Lamb of God – Resolution

Celldweller – Wish Upon a Blackstar

What Hands Are For – TBA

The reunions of American Head Charge, He Is Legend, and At The Drive-in

Well, THERE you have it! I am sure I missed a few “Best Of’s…” towards the top. I may have missed a few upcoming releases, so take it up with the errors and omissions department. Which is of course me, and I don’t care!

In 2011, Stray from the Path introduced me to alternative hardcore. MuteMath gave me a great hard soul record. Blue October made me feel something. Fair to Midland showed me that the live show is still alive. Mastodon sent me to another dimension of metal, and Thrice refined their sound on their way out. World Under Blood gave me the Deron Miller I have always wanted him to be in CKY. Blindside returned more mature. Awolnation was my feel good electro rock album of the year, and Foo Fighters proved they are still the best rock band in the world. Thursday went out with a greatly textured album, and Trivium put out one their best. Architects pissed some people off and showed another side, which was amazing and Dispatch came back with a VERY solid EP. Trap Them released one the heaviest albums I’ve ever heard, and Sainthood Reps debuted an intense post-hardcore gem. Fake Figures was a great supergroup album, and Decoder debuted their perfectly balanced sound. The Computers defined ‘garage metal’, The Interbeing showed heaviness with melodic choruses a la the Swedish metal elite, and Memfis finally self released their 70’s influenced metal that was originally recorded in 2008.

In closing, I listen to entirely to much music. Honestly, WAY to much. I used to think listening to anything and everything was the way to be a “true” music fan. I was wrong, and several albums/artists helped change my mind on this issue. This year, Stray from the Path implored me to “Bring It Back to the Streets“, and I will. I promise I will. I bought (and downloaded, sorry :/) more music than I could have ever possibly listened to. How will I ever find anything amazing when I don’t give it the time?

We have too much music in circulation each year, and its getting worse. 2000 song iPods, where the next song is only 30 seconds and a click away. No one LISTENS to music anymore, they just HEAR it and move on. Scenes have taken over, and the market is over saturated and drowning. I can go on forever, and if you’re still reading, when then thank you, and I am sure you probably feel the same way as I do.

So, lets make a pact; we will consume LESS music to LISTEN to more. If it’s good, I’ll buy it. And if not, it won’t enter my collection. BUY the records from the bands that deserve it, from the bands who put their hearts into the music, from the bands who care about their fans. Bring it back to the streets, indeed.

All the best in 2012!

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Song of the Day: 11/29/11

Biffy ClyroMountains

 

I gave Biffy Clyro and attentive listen for the very first time yesterday, and I was honestly blown away. For some reason, something, possibly the name, possibly the shirtless live performances, possibly the name, just turned me off. I have actually watched them play live several times at festival appearances while quickly glancing at Palladia, and I did find myself watching it through to the end. However, I have no explanation whatsoever as to why I’ve completely written them off until now.

 

Their most recent release, Only Revolutions, is chock full of anthemic rock songs. To be honest, I love when I can hear hints of an accent in a singers voice, and the Scottish drawl of singer/guitarist Simon Neil shines through here, full of passion. The album balances well between harder, faster paced songs and ballad type offerings. It is gritty at times and and crystal clear at others. The dichotomy just works, and this comes from a person who doesn’t really like when a band who can rock slows it down.

 

In closing, to quote myself from a mere paragraph ago, “…I have no explanation whatsoever as to why I’ve completely written them off until now.” I’ve got some catching up to do!

 

Below is a live video for Mountains, from their Live at Wembley DVD.

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Proceed//Curious Electric EP

I came across this UK based act yesterday, and have been consumed by it in the hours that I’ve had the Curious Electric EP in my possession. I’ve listened to it 3 times through already since I got it, and each listen brings more and more enjoyment.

Dan Lancaster’s vocals are the key, as he travels through each song with a voice that at times feels akin to a more interesting version of Dallas Green’s (City and Colour/Alexisonfire). Thats what drew me in, and keeps me listening. Now, don’t get me wrong, the entire band KILLS it on this record, but his voice plays so perfectly with the instrumentation that you’ll have goosebumps by the end of the album opener, Fight / Flight. The music is a well controlled chaos, staying tight to the groove while keeping a frenetic pace, with Lancaster’s vocals soaring over it all. Honestly, every track is a standout, making this 7 track EP a solid listen from front to back.

 

As of January 2011, the band was in the studio recording their follow up debut LP. I haven’t found much news on it besides what’s been posted by the band on their website, so I hope that is still in the works.

Check out some tunes on their Facebook page, and check out the video for A Tricycle Journey below. The EP is available on iTunes if you’re so inclined. Enjoy!

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4 Quick Blasts…

There are several bands that I have come across in the last week, and besides a few other go to albums I can’t get enough of, these are the bands I’ve been listening to. It’s Sunday, and I don’t want to take up to much of your time, but here are 4 Quick Blasts (hence, the clever title) for you to dig in to. Click on the band name and you will be directed to their music.

The ComputersThis is The Computers

This is a solid album, which is the debut full length from these Exeter, UK lads. Simply put (much like the bands sound), this is a fun record that successfully fuses hardcore punk with a garage rock quality and style. In the end, this is a no frills, in your face punk record that should be enjoyed with your stereo on full blast.

HexesWhite Noise / Black Sound

This is a very interesting album, and it comes courtesy of a few angry Brits. It is difficult to pin them down to a specific genre/sound, because while it stays consistent, it does incorporate several elements. The guitars are loud and tight and the drumming isn’t all over the place, yet it still has a metallic vibe. There are electronic elements and synth lines that give the music another layer as well as another sense of melody. Then, from the moment you hear the vocals, you will a) know they are English, b) have to acquire the taste of Daniel P. Carter’s screaming, and c) probably be completely hooked like I was. The album came out in 2009, but from what I’ve read they are working on new material, so stay tuned if you dig this album.

None More BlackIcons

I am not usually one for punk bands, or at least modern “punk”; it always tends to sound way to happy for me, as I live on music that puts out a darker vibe. But, after coming across None More Black on a recent music search, I have found a band that does it well. Icons came out in 2010 on Fat Wreck Chords, and is the perfect blend of modern punk and hard rock. I also love the guitar work, as it combines a punk sensibility with solid rock riffs, helping the tracks standout. The vocals don’t know whether they want to be screamed or sung, which lends to the overall sound of the band and gives it a nice edge. And, with a name that pays tribute to Spinal Tap, you can’t go wrong!

This Time It’s WarTerror Plots

This one is for the metalheads out there, who are sick and tired of the overwhelmingly boring and stale technical metal scene. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE metal, but I’m just over the current scene (8 string guitars, PERFECT recordings, image over substance, etc.). Enter This Time It’s War and their self released 2010 album, Terror Plots. It does modern technical metal without sounding overproduced and devoid of emotion, refreshing your stance on the scene in the process. Great screams and clean vocals, great guitar work and drums that keep everything moving in a frenetic yet comforting way. Once you’re done consuming this album, click on the link above to check out their newly released Rusted Screws EP. It can be found as a ‘name your price’ option on their BandCamp page.

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, and if there is anything you’re listening to, make it known in the comments section and I’ll check it out!

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MuteMath//Odd Soul

So, MuteMath came out with a new album, and I was completely oblivious to it. Which, actually has me enjoying this album even more, because I had no lead up to it all. I sampled a few tracks on iTunes when I came across it, watched the video for Blood Pressure, and knew I needed to have it. My wife won’t be to pleased that I’ve bought another record when she checks the account, but this album rips and it’s exactly what I needed to hear.

First, back to my previous point about having no lead up to this album prior to its release. I love that I had no idea it was out and that I hadn’t heard a single track or read any pre-release reviews. This brings me back to the old days (yes, I’m only 26) when I would buy a new album with no preconceived notion of what it was going to sound like. Now, we get free album streams days before the release and even before THAT, we get 3 or 4 songs to hear well in advance of the release. As a result, the music doesn’t feel as fresh when we get our hands on it because we have already had our first experience with it, thus after a few rotations (or whatever an mp3 does) we quickly move on to the next band/album/song. But, not this time, not with this album. It is ALL new to me, and I get to truly experience it.

Their most recent release, 2009’s Armistice, was no doubt a great release in my mind. However, it was a little slow and wide open, but they do it well and are known for that atmospheric presence. It’s how I got into them, after all. But, I’ve always thought that if they could get a little bit more of an edge they would skyrocket right to the top of my favorite bands list. With Odd Soul, they have done just that.

Odd Soul is a very appropriate title for this 13 track collection. It has a bluesy/soul vibe that, being from New Orleans, comes naturally. But, it is done in an “odd” way, meaning it isn’t your traditional soul record, but an album that finds the band defining the genre with their own vocabulary. Each track has a bounce that will get your head bobbing, while still possessing that MuteMath sound. Paul Meany’s vocals are so damn catchy and flawless, navigating through beautiful harmonies along the way. The drums pulse with chaotic consistency, per usual with Darren King, and the guitars crunch like no MuteMath album I have heard. Rolling synths, organs, and many atmospheric elements abound to make this release a must have for not only long time fans of the band, but newcomers who are interested in a fresh, yet familiar and fun record.

 

I might post a little more of a track by track breakdown as I get a few more listens in, but for now, just check it out for yourself. I think you’ll dig it!

Check out the video for Blood Pressure. As always, its a very interesting concept!

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Middle Class Rut // No Name No Color

Sometimes, you find exactly what you need. Sometimes, you don’t realize what you’ve found until it shuffles through your iPhone on the way home from work. When “New Low” came blaring through my speakers tonight, I knew that it was Middle Class Rut, an alternative Sacramento, CA based duo consisting of Zack Lopez on guitar/vocals and Sean Stockham on drums/vocals. What I did not realize during previous listens, was how amazing this record was.

 

No Name No Color is the bands debut full length, and it came out in 2010. It made its way to my ears just a few months back, but it got pushed to the back burner. I found myself enjoying the sound and style of the album, but I kept waiting for something to happen. I suppose that in the height of my progressive metal listenings, this wouldn’t really be the album I was trying to found. However, after getting somewhat burned out on the overproduced riffs that are modern metal, I needed to clear my palette. I’ve always loved the post-punk/post-hardcore genre. In fact, that would probably be my favorite of all genres, mainly because of the energy and emotion you hear laced within the comparatively unpolished tracks. Case in point, Middle Class Rut.

 

This album is dirty. Its raw, yet it sparkles in a way that a lot of albums in the genre don’t. It has a quality to it that you can’t turn away from, because its lyrical content and overall vibe fits within the context of the everyman. Lopez plays the guitar with a passionate precision that is unrivaled, and you can feel it. His heavy use of effects gives him a heavy, darkly textured tone that provides Stockham’s drums the perfect musical bed to pulsate on. Add to this Lopez’s searing vocals with the backgrounds provided by Stockham, and you have yourself a marvelous debut full length.

 

As I found out, while ‘waiting for something to happen’, I failed to realize that it WAS happening. This album is perfect in its simplicity, and it doesn’t need to be anything else. Its a real album. We don’t see that enough anymore, so I say thanks and I am grateful that we have bands that play with this kind of heart.

Here is USA, from their debut album, No Name No Color.

 

 

 

 

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The Haunted//Unseen

This is what I will call a “mid-listen” review of Unseen, by The Haunted. I heard varying reports on what this album was going to be months before its release. Most commentary airing on the side of ‘not worth it’. But, I must say, amidst contrasting reviews, I am really falling in love with this album. The very first song I heard by The Haunted was ’99’, from the rEVOLVEr album. I thought it was one of the best songs I had ever heard and I remember vividly blasting it through my truck speakers during my college years. I have listened to Sweden’s The Haunted ever since.

 

This album is, well, for lack of a better term, different. It is not The Haunted of years back; gone are the speedy riffs and aggressive screaming. I would be lying if I said I did not want to hear more of that, but this album treads upon ground that they haven’t yet walked through. I am someone who likes to see groups evolve and experiment, even though there are times where this fails and I end up wishing they would “get back to their roots”. Vocalist Peter Dolving had a controversial re-entry into the band when they recorded the rEVOLVEr album, but I love what he has done in the band. But, he is all I have ever known for the band. They let him experiment with his vocals this time around, and I think its working out great.

 

There are more layers within Unseen than with previous recordings, and even after a one time listen I can tell that this album is going to produce surprises down the road. It is interesting, and its definitely a ‘grower’, but I can’t get enough. I can say I didnt know what to expect from this record, and the single they released didnt really get me to pumped for the release. But now that I have the full album to play through, I know that in the context of the album, each song works perfectly.

 

Check this one out, I think you’ll dig it. My stand out tracks are The Skull, Them, and Never Better.

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Unicron

 

 

 

Well, this is an interesting band I stumbled across on Tuesday while checking out the Fall in Archaea MySpace page. I was checking to see why their EP had not yet been released on iTunes, when I noticed their tour banner, and I just searched thefirst band on their below FIA, and it was a Canadian band that call themselves UNICRON.

I was drawn in by the technicality of it all. On top of all of that, the vocals sucked me in as well. Color me intrigued. I won’t lie, I tried to find the EP via “online resources” first. But, my unsuccessful attempt led me to the iTunes store and the eventual purchase of the Powerbomb EP. It only cost me a few bucks, and I was more than willing to part with 3 bucks to satisfy my growing curiosity brought on by the brightly colored MySpace page and sample songs they had on the player.

I would say that this in an interesting collection of songs. There are 4 total, and each includes technical noodling and electronic-laden, yet unconventional breakdowns. The majority of the vocals are done by Courtney LaPlante. The choruses and clean vocals are extremely catchy and bring out a very melodic side of the band, while bookended by brutal growls by LaPlante and bassist and 2nd vocalist Kenny Walker. Their are only 4 songs (not nearly enough!), but be sure to listen to Manic Panic, that is probably the stand out for me.

I have to give it up to Unicron, because they created such a buzz within me that I needed to have the album as soon as I heard the first song on their MySpace player. There is room for growth, and I don’t mean that to be a negative thing, because I think it is an awesome EP, I just know they have alot of potential and I am excited to hear what they are going to be able to create next. Be sure to grab the Powerbomb EP from iTunes to show them some support!

MySpace – http://www.myspace.com/unicronwillrockyourface

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/unicronband