Sept 15, 2017 Release Music Reviews
"Prophets Of Rage" By Prophets Of Rage
Genre: Rap Rock/Funk Rock
The supergroup that everyone's salty over cause it isn't a regular Rage Against The Machine reunion has released its self titled debut album. Being a supergroup the band is of course talent stacked with the three instrumentalists of RATM, DJ Lord and Chuck D of Public Enemy, and B-Real of Cypress Hill. Despite that talent the band comes off as a watered down Rage for the most part as the instrumentation is in Rage's style, unsurprisingly, but is neutered a bit in its aggression as Chuck D and B-Real are pure rappers and not punk rockers. That's not to say there isn't some fun tracks here. "Unfuck The World" is an energetic track that the two rappers sound most at ease on and can show off their chemistry pretty well. Tom Morello's ambient guitar work in the intro and verses is a highlight that harks back to the quality of some his earlier work. "Legalize Me" is an upbeat, fun, funk rocker with a pro-cannabis message. The more dancey rhythm the band performs sounds reminiscent of their Audioslave track "Original Fire".This song and a lot of the lyrical work on the album relies on repetition of its various slogans to drive the band's political messages home. While an effective songwriting method it can get tiresome when it's used for nearly every single track. Also for an album with Tom Morello on it his trademark solo ability seems less inspired than usual. While the album isn't a flop it is far from the best work any of its musicians have done. Especially considering the storied and influential musical histories of RATM, Cypress Hill, and Public Enemy. Perhaps in time the band can improve its chemistry to give them a more unique musical identity set apart from the past of its members.
"Year Of The Tiger" By Josh Todd And The Conflict
Genre: Hard Rock
Josh Todd and and Stevie D are back with a new project following the departure of two of their longtime Buckcherry band mates. I've never given Buckcherry a serious listen beyond their big radio hits and wrote them off as just another hedonistic rock and roll band. Year Of The Tiger however is a surprisingly solid album that holds some catchy riffs and even some aggressive tracks that border on heavy metal. Lyrically the record is fairly introspective and deals with internal emotional struggle as well as the usual romance song here and there. "Inside" is one of the more metal leaning tracks with its fast tempo, rumbling guitars, and its catchy chorus. The band makes an excellent hard rock version of Prince's "Erotic City" that is definitely a record highlight. And "Rain" is sure to be a fan favorite with its stripped down composition, stomp-clap rhythm, and bluesy vibe. Year Of The Tiger is a well done rock record that goes beyond the usual formula of other bands that draw their influence from 80's rock and roll. People that may not have been fans of Buckcherry's output may find something to change their mind with this record.
"Totenritual" By Belphegor
Genre: Blackened Death Metal
Belphegor continues to do what Belphegor does best. Perform their blend of black and death metal with more Satan than you can shake a stick at. Is it gimmicky? Maybe. But is it good? That's a resounding yes. If a band can keep putting out quality records who cares if the style doesn't switch up? Opening track "Baphomet" is a strong opener to the record with its lurching riffs and non stop double kick drum work. Speaking of drum work Simon "BloodHammer" Schilling is a steady secret weapon throughout the record with his machine-like drumming ability that drives much of the album. Especially on tracks like "Apophis-Black Dragon" and "Embracing A Star". The music is expectedly intense with layered vocals adding an emphasis on aggression in certain parts but is dynamic enough to not get old. If you like what Belphegor has been doing so far you won't be disappointed with this record.
"Mareridt" By Myrkur
Genre: Gothic Metal/Black Metal
The latest record from Denmark musician Amalie Bruun's Myrkur project explores several musical avenues from black metal to Gothic rock to peaceful yet haunting Nordic folk. All while keeping the mood dark and bleak. The mood is fitting with inspiration from the album coming from Bruun's bouts with nightmares and sleep paralysis. The album title itself, Mareridt, is Danish for nightmare. Within this dark focus are some beautifully crafted songs such as "Maneblot" which blends the blast beats and shrieks of black metal with orchestral string arrangements and folk leaning vocal melodies. The percussion on this track is mixed softly to act as a frenzied yet palatable undercurrent to the more prominent melodic elements of the song. It's a beautifully done contrast that gives "Maneblot" an unexpected power while remaining peaceful overall. "The Serpent" is one of the album's heavier tracks that features distorted guitar more at the forefront. The track has a sinister, doom metal vibe that is aided by Bruun's more direct and forceful singing on top of it. The slow lurching rhythm gives the song its heaviness more so than usual tools like guitar tuning and aggressive vocals and the symphonic elements make the song feel more epic and less direct. "Ulvinde" is another favorite with its slow, swinging drum beat and choir singing making it sound like a driving, religious hymn. It's simpler in its layers than most of the record but abides by the old "less is more" mantra allowing the listener to focus more directly on its elements instead of having to peel back layers of instrumentation to decipher the full experience. Mareidt has a consistent musical message but finds a multitude of ways to deliver it. The album delivers equal parts bliss and terror all while riding a wave of impeccable production to get its point across. Its an excellent listen meant to be experienced from start to finish that I highly encourage all to partake.
"Two Paths" By Ensiferum
Genre: Folk Metal
Ensiferum is one of the early leaders of metal's oddball sub-genre folk metal. This is my first listen to them and really only my second serious foray into a folk metal album. With that said the album's metal elements lean heavily towards the traditional metal style with its galloping rhythms and swift melodic guitar leads. There's screaming vocals featured but nowhere near as guttural and abrasive as most other melodic death metal bands employ. The folk elements come more in the usage of brief acoustic guitar segments, occasional accordion passages and fantasy-centered lyrical content. The lyrical content can get especially cheesy at times on tracks like "Don't You Say", "Hail To The Victor", and "Way Of The Warrior". The last of those is a definite album highlight despite the lyrics with its rousing chorus and catchy guitar and accordion leads. The rest of the album however is just solid and not particularly ear grabbing. The formula of gallop rhythms, mid tempo classic metal guitars, and war-centric lyrics gets tired after a while. There's fun to be had in its light-hearted "fight the battle" anthems but not enough to keep most listeners around for repeat listens.
"The Stories We Tell Ourselves" By Nothing More
Genre: Alternative Metal/Alternative Rock
Nothing More is a band that takes repeat listens for me to get into. On the surface they seem like just a solid radio rock band. But the more you listen to them the more you can hear the subtle complexities of their sound. A big reason for this is the performance of front man Jonny Hawkins being so at the forefront of the band's writing and production. Every song is built around Hawkins' vocal melodies and hooks while the rest of the band gets relegated to the background for the most part. While this formula has lead to some mainstream success for the band it does dampen the more progressive tendencies in their instrumentation. If a better balance could be found between the instrumentation and the vocals it could take Nothing More's sound to another level. That said The Stories We Tell Ourselves sounds like a more consistent record in style than its self-titled predecessor. It feels less aggressive than the previous album as well but that may be because the harder hitting tracks are all loaded to the album's front. Many of these tracks are favorites such as "Ripping Me Apart" and "Don't Stop" and showcase the versatility of Hawkins' voice. The rhythmic yet intricate guitar work mixed with the electronic elements are also nicely done. The more melodic tracks are a tad simpler like "Go To War" and "Who We Are" but Hawkins' vocal power and catchy melodies are plenty to hold a listener's attention. Overall TSWTO is a strong record that shows Nothing More's ability to craft an album as a complete idea rather than individual tracks. It's a layered yet easily accessible addition to the band's discography that's worth a listen.
"Clairvoyant" By The Contortionist
Genre: Progressive Rock
Indiana's The Contortionist continue to explore new musical territory with their latest release by eschewing metal altogether pretty much. Heavily distorted guitars and growled vocals are mostly non-existent on Clairvoyant in favor of complex and atmospheric guitar melodies and relaxed, melodic vocal delivery. While there's not much in the way of heaviness on the record metal fans should still be able to appreciate the band's skill for composition and guitar work. Nine lengthy compositions that span 54 minutes make up the record and has the band packing a lot of material within each song. As is common with much music in the progressive realm these songs won't stick with you on a first listen. There isn't much in the way of catchy vocal melodies or in your face riffs but the beauty is found in the ways the songs move from one movement to the next. "Reimagined" is an exception in its more conventional structure and shorter length at three and a half minutes. The song serves as a more accessible starting point to the more expansive tracks on the record. "The Center" features an echoing guitar lead through much of the song that acts as a kind of hook for the track as well as some subtle distorted guitars that rumble under the composition giving it a degree of power. The title track "Clairvoyant" is probably the most energetic song of the album with its busy guitars and spurts of double kick drumming. It's the closest to sounding like a metal track on the whole album and is the favorite of the record. The mellow melodic vocals add a nice contrast to the rest of the instrumentation and maintains a soothing vibe compared to the instruments' dynamic energy. Clairvoyant isn't going to be a record for everybody. It's a record that will take some patience for many to enjoy and may even be called boring with its heavily melodic and dreamlike vibe. Older fans of The Contortionist will surely be split in their opinions as this record moves even further away from the band's metal roots. But for a band diving so deep into new musical territory The Contortionist is still coming out with quality work.
"Concrete And Gold" By Foo Fighters
Genre: Alternative Rock
The Foo Fighter have enjoyed a long and wildly successful music career with their steady stream of hit-laden, consistent albums. A little too consistent for many people as criticism has often been directed at the band for not changing their core sound much from album to album. With their latest effort Concrete And Gold however there is a noticeable difference from the Foos' usual punk-hard rock blend. The band takes notes from some of their older influences such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and a whole lot of Beatles. With these influences FF have crafted a much more mellow album than their usual fare with "Run", "The Line", and "Make It Right" being the only real hard rock tracks of the album. Radio single "The Sky Is A Neighborhood" is especially Beatles-esque with its simple drum beat, dreamy atmosphere, and choral sing-a-long chorus. While the band makes their influence for each song blatant it still sounds unique coming through the Foo Fighters' alt-rock filter. "Sunday Rain" is another favorite with its funky, classic rock vibe and is interestingly drummed by The Beatles' Paul McCartney while the band's usual drummer, Taylor Hawkins, takes lead vocal duties on the song. The album is a breath of fresh air for a Foo Fighters album. While the band has been exploring new ways to write and record music with their past few releases they've had sporadic success critically in succeeding at it. With Concrete And Gold however the band has done it beautifully by reaching into the past to make fresh music for the present.