Chevelle, La Gargola: Album Review

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As I tackle listening to the new Chevelle – I mean really listening to it on a pair of headphones – I start to hear something worth talking about on album #7 from the Chicago trio.

If one were to go back to 1999, when the band first dropped on the scene with Point #1, I remember being at a vendor trade show and being handed a promo copy of that album.  My close colleagues, who were hard rock fans themselves, asked me what I thought.  Well, I could hear parts of Tool and some of the other more melodic hard rock at the time.  This was before the Three Days Graces of the world.  We’re talking the Staind’s, Godsmacks, and Korn’s still commanding stages and this band coming up and trying to play to half packed arena’s waiting for the headliner.

The first two tracks, ‘Ouija Board,’ and ‘An Island,’ harken back to their early days…the more I listen, the more I appreciate.  The single ‘Take Out The Gunman,’ is pretty sweet, even if it’s usage of cowbell seems to be a running joke in rock these days.  In my opinion, Chevelle’s albums are generally pretty decent, but you never know how decent (Speaking of decent, I don’t know if I’ve just got a shitty digital copy that I DL’d or if the production of this album truly is this gritty).

For example, on one listen of 2002’s Wonder What’s Next – I knew that album was going to be huge and that it was chock full of radio and arena-friendly singles.  Sadly, I was right about Nickelback’s Silver Side Up during this time too.  Chevelle have always remained true to their sound, though – and there’s something to be said for that.  This Kind of Thinking… (2004) was kind of their ‘commercial,’ sophomore album and it was just kind of ‘eh…’  Vena Sera, well, to be honest I’d completely forgotten about that album until I sat down to write this.  That could have had something to do with first single, ‘Well Enough Alone,’ which never managed to register with me.  Too commercial and lacking in hooks, which was indicative of the album as a whole.

Sci-Fi Crimes brought it all back to Wonder territory for me and 2011’s Hat’s Off… was half an album of really solid stuff.  So after an initial strong start, where do the other seven tracks land in summary of La Gargola?

‘Jawbreaker,’ is a slow simmering boil reminiscent of a few tracks on Hat’s Off… ‘Hunter Eats Hunter,’ sounds like something off of Tool’s Opiate EP for the first 2:40, before :50 of instrumental threaten to derail the almost six minute track.  A little bit of editing here would have tightened up the aggression.  Honestly, the track could have been a lot better if two minutes were trimmed.

Featuring guitar patterns that recall dredg, ‘One Ocean,’ is an interesting, lighter turn midway through the album.  ‘Choking Game,’ is melodic to a degree before dissolving in it’s final minute into something recalling Pretty Hate Machine type industrial rock and feedback.  ‘The Damned’ is groove oriented but perhaps a bit stock for Chevelle at this point.  ‘Under the Knife’ again starts with riffs that are most cognizant of early Tool, and fortunately maintain the vibe through the entire four minutes without diverging elsewhere.

La Gargola closes with ‘Twinge,’ a slow burner with distant shimmering guitar and  a steady refrain.  It’s a good track and in the same vein as ‘Clones’ (which closed the last album).  Basically, I found six out of the 10 tracks to be keepers after giving things an honest listen.  I enjoy Chevelle and admire their work ethic.  They’re mostly consistent and La Gargola, while perhaps not as good as the last two albums, still holds it’s own early, in the middle and again at the end with some filler in between.

 

Untitled Metal Column: Volume 2 (3.29.14)

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At seven albums in, Lacuna Coil continue to grow so it should comes as no surprise that Broken Crown Halo pushes the band even further. Just when fans think they know who their beloved band is and what they’re capable of, a ferocious song like “Victims” comes along which sees co-vocalist Cristina Scabbia delivering a vicious spoken word diatribe. Later, there’s the industrial power ballad “Cybersleep” where Scabbia opens up with an autotuned intro (which rears it’s mechanical head during the outro as well) and continues breaking new ground for the band.

I don’t quite remember Lacuna Coil being so Korn-ish which is not necessarily a bad thing just surprising as the downtuned guitars explode on defiant  opener “Nothing Stands In Our Way” and continue throughout the rest of Broken Crown Halo. BCH also sees LC at their creepiest with an eerie synth permeating throughout the opening onslaught sounding like some leftover score cues from Nightmare On Elm Street (The original, obviously). “Zombie” showcases co-vocalist Andrea Ferro, who really sinks his teeth in on this brutal banger. Next up the dreamy “Hostage To The Light” lets Scabbia strut her stuff in what is one of the most anthemic and beautiful Lacuna Coil offerings yet.

Of course, if you’re a purist and need your Lacuna Coil to just do what they do then pay close attention to tracks like “Infection” . However, if you’re like me and want the bands you champion to go one step beyond with each outing check out “In The End I Feel Alive” which brings back the Korn grooves as bassist Marco Coti Zelati does his best Fieldy impression (Hopefully not with the cross tattoo on his face) or closer “One Cold Day” which is the stuff of Tim Burton inspired nightmares.

Broken Crown Halo is out on April 1st through Century Media. Pre-order packages are available here.

 

 

 

Band of Skulls, Himalayan: Album Review

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The propulsive march of the lead track that takes charge of Southampton’s Band of Skulls third album is more proof that the U.K. still has some fantastic imports.  ‘Asleep at the Wheel,’ is ripe with swagger, squeal, and bluesy abandon – reconciling 70’s power chords across the simplest of lines ‘…because where we are going is anyone’s guess.’

The power trio knows exactly where it’s going though, as their sleeves are full of their influences.  The title cut, ‘Himalayan,’ finds Russell Marsden and Emma Richardson harmonizing across Prince worthy funk keyboards and a guitar solo that makes you wish you had a few more quarters for the jukebox to play the song over.  I mean, in my minds eye, I can see Bootsy Collins and G.E. Smith jamming this track out, 10 years ago.

‘Hoochie Coochie,’ – I literally had to look around to verify it wasn’t a T.Rex cover.  Complete glam and strut.  There are a few things that separate Band of Skulls from their contemporaries (I would utter The Black Keys, BRMC and The Whigs in the same breath).  For example, Emma Richardson’s vocal presence and musical input.  ‘Cold Sweat,’ is a ragga-blues slow burner with strings, and a pace changer after the rollicking opening trio.

‘Nightmares,’ is one of the band’s most commercially accessible tunes, to date.  Everyone’s got to have their U2 moment, right?  This one was stolen from the early 8o’s post-new wave landscape right down to Bono’s ‘Ooh-Ooh-Oooh-Oh.’  It’s a tip of the cap and as such, is slightly head-bob worthy for the four minutes of space it takes up.

Drummer Matt Hayward brings the album bopping back on ‘Brothers and Sisters,’ navigating underneath Marsden’s guitar lines and laying nifty percussion changes across the bridges and chorus.  Everything about this album has a familiar vibe to it.  ‘I Guess I Know You Fairly Well’ is probably the closest to aping the Black Keys that occurs, though.  The band has enough creativity, enough of a respect for what’s come before them, to both honor and admire those sounds in creating something bold and new.

On ‘You’re All That I’m Not,’ the band lopes through its first three minutes before taking a progression through Snow Patrol to Spirtualized to Eric Clapton (circa 1989’s Journeyman).  The ghosts of Jack White and Marc Bolan rear their heads on the noir-ish southwestern ‘I Feel Like Ten Men, Nine Dead and One Dying.’  It’s a rip-off but in a post-White Stripes world, one happily accepts.  Three quarter’s into Himalayan one realizes that not only was there no sophomore slump on 2011’s Sweet/Sour, but Band of Skulls keep getting better with the passage of time.

Shimmering, foreboding strings open the Richardson-led ‘Toreador,’ before it picks up into a gallop.  The word alone evokes strong imagery – a toreador of course, being a bullfighter.  The guitar solo puts you in the arena as one imagines the eyes of the bull, steam billowing from it’s nostrils and it’s front hoof digging it’s position in the dirt.  The matador in gold sequined attire, the colored cape and shoulderblade betraying the banderillas hidden and waiting.  Ah.  Love truly is blind, sometimes.

‘Heaven’s Key,’ follows and, in some ways, reminds me of a great band out of Wokingham, Berkshire, entitled The Cooper Temple Clause as well as pretty much anything by Black Rebel.  It’s a great moody piece with some edgy guitar.  ‘Take my head/or/Take my heart/and keep your conscience clean/well/I got a feeling/it’s a burning desire/and I don’t know what it means/so ‘F’ it/are you looking at hell/for heaven’s key?’

On the album’s closing track,’Get Yourself Together,’ it’s pure homemade love.  It’s dreamy, mopey British pop at it’s finest, recalling Bowie and The Doves.

Himalayan really is a collection of mountains – all impressive peaks, with very little bottom.  I look forward to catching these cats live, hopefully in the not too distant future…

 

 

 

 

Doom Abuse: The ultimate The Faint record?

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Doom Abuse, The Faint’s sixth album, took way too long to come out. Considering that The Faint ceased to be somewhere in the six years since their last album (2008’s Fasciination) was released it’s a miracle that fans are even holding a copy of Doom Abuse in their hands. But speaking of the album you should almost be holding in your hands by now (Vinyl copies are out now, available on CD and digitally April 8th), it is by and large well worth the wait. The sound of a band reinvigorated  and taking stock of what made them great in the first place but branching out into unknown territory at the same time, Doom Abuse grabs hold of everything that made The Faint unique in the past and fuses it with something even more futuristic and awesome. Worth the wait? Eff yes!

Mildly teased at the end of 2012 with the 10th anniversary Danse Macabre tour that heralded the “Evil Voices” 12″ (The sinister “Unseen Hand” has been slightly retooled to fit in here while “Evil Voices” remains mostly intact), Doom Abuse is finally here and it is easily the best, most fun, and most cohesive album The Faint has concocted thus far.

This is an album that was made to be danced to from the opening dischordant squeal of “Help In The Head” through to the synth fade out on “Damage Control”. The Faint live is this infectious moving beast that compels the audience to follow suit and dance like maniacs. Doom Abuse is a great soundtrack to that through and through. There’s the punk rock rabble rousings from Fasciination (“Salt My Doom”, “Scapegoat”), Danse Macabre throwbacks (“Lessons From The Darkness”) and some things that are completely new (“Mental Radio” is a Gary Numan meets The Cure amalgamation while “Dress Code” goes for Freedom Of Choice-era Devo).

In other words, Doom Abuse has *ahem* something for everybody.

At the end of the day, this was the album The Faint needed to make after their hiatus. Todd Fink is at the top of his game on every track (Especially on the quintessential “Loss Of Head”), Dapose is a sonic maelstrom throughout as well while Jacob Thiele creates these epic synthetic soundscapes (“Animal Needs”) and Clark Baechle just keeps the beat alive incessantly.

Doom Abuse is out now as a Deluxe Double Vinyl Edition and out on April 8th in CD and digital formats.

 

 

Combichrist rule the world, motherfuckers. Or didn’t you know?

The most aggressive band in industrial music today is back with We Love You, an album that throws everything AND the kitchen sink into the mix. If you liked the guitar-heavy hyper-intensity of last year’s No Redemption soundtrack yet yearned for the more club friendly numbers then We Love You is the solution to all your problems.

It’s like the Daleks are narrating the Doctor Who meets Flash Gordon synth overtones of “We Were Made To Love You” which opens the apocalyptical album. “We Were Made To Love You” is the logical comedown after last year’s abrasive No Redemption album featuring a disjointed swirl of electronics and guitars after the narration ends and the sonic shitstorm begins.

From there it sounds like business as usual (The KMFDM electro romp “Every Day is War”, chaotic thumper “Can’t Control”) but if there’s one thing that listeners should take away from WLY, it is this: Nothing is as it seems. Like the press release states: “Everything is farther, faster, and darker. There are more guitars, pounding drums, heavier electronics, further experimentation, lots more anger…” This means for every “Satan’s Propaganda” there’s a song like “Fuck Unicorns” (Think Daft Punk with some seriously dark undertones and frontman Andy LaPlegua acting as a demented ringleader/televangelist) or the acoustic-driven, pensive “The Evil In Me” waiting in the wings to expand their sound even further.

We Love You also features some of the most straight up rawk tunes Combichrist has ever laid down as well as being the most sing-a-long  album to date. “Maggots At The Party” is up first (Followed by “Love Is A Razorblade” later on) and is a straight banger. You can almost picture the Beastie Boys “You Gotta Fight…” meets Lamb Of God’s “Redneck”-style video that should accompany the song with drummer Joe Letz just wailing away at the kit while LaPlegua forces his way through some cluttered crowd at a house party,

The tail end of WLY is where the magic really happens, though. “From My Cold Dead Hands” is a blessing. Easily one of the best industrial songs of the year, the effects-laden robot trading verses with LaPlegua’s monstrous growl is serene. That leads into the equally impressive “We Rule The World Motherfuckers” (Sure to be a hit on the goth dance floor and during their upcoming tour) which is another example of the genius of Combichrist at work. Speaking of genius, that word doesn’t even come close to describing the majestic two part closer “Retreat Hell” with “Part 1” being this monstrous tribal wall of sound and “Part 2” supplementing it with a long running rant by LaPlegua to make the perfect coda to a perfect album.

We Love You is available on March 25th through Metropolis Records. Physical and digital copies are available here and make sure you head on over to their Facebook page to see where you can catch them on their upcoming North American tour with William Control and New Year’s Day.

Eagulls: Believe the hype!

 

Whenever a band is labeled as “post-punk” and compared to one of my all-time favorites like Killing Joke I’m always skeptical. Take Eagulls, for example, who have even gone so far as to put out a cover of “Requiem” (For the record, I didn’t like the cover). When it come to these UK upstarts, however, you best believe the hype.

From the moment the hypnotic “Nerve Endings” kicks in it’s apparent this debut is something else. In fact, is it too early in 2014 to declare an album “must-have” or “brilliant” or champion it for album of the year? Mixing Killing Joke, U2’s early days in some spots and then Failure-like guitar screams in others, Eagulls capture an era and then go beyond on their debut.

“Hollow Visions” is and abrasive guitar exercise complete with Raven/Youth bass lines while “Yellow Eyes” captures some of that ’50’s dreamy guitar pop during the intro but quickly devolves into 21st Century post punk. Official first single “Tough Luck” mixes that “Eighties” riffage with a thunderous percussive presence and some truly monolithic choruses while later on, “Fester Blister” combines shimmering guitar lines, pummeling drums, and enough time changes to make Kyuss step back and say “Whaaaaa?!?!?!”. Through and through, Eagulls is a solid debut that demands to be listened to at obnoxious volumes

Eagulls self-titled debut is out on March 4th though Partisan Records. You’d be wise to get your copy here (And like us over here if you want).

 

Maximo Park give “Too Much Information” on fifth LP.

“Wanted to try something different this time” sings Maximo Park vocalist Paul Smith in a haunting falsetto during the chorus of Too Much Information lead single “Brain Cells” and no truer words have ever been sung. TMI is, hands down, one of the most diverse records MP has ever released. It doesn’t totally abandon the Maximo Park “sound” so much as it expands upon it greatly.

“Give, Get, Take” is like the pied piper leading listeners into a trap with its jangly guitars and broad choruses, typical for standard Maximo Park. Then it all goes South. The aforementioned “Brain Cells” is unlike anything the band have written to date and we had some words to say about it when it was released late last year. From there, TMI takes a turn for the somber and the synth.  “Leave This Island” follows next and continues along the “Brain Cells” path adding a little more organics to the mix with a tale that’s equal parts beautiful and bittersweet.

“Lydia, The Ink Will Dry” dials it back to Our Earthly Pleasures while “My Bloody Mind” is an almost Beatles-esque full on rock out which, when fully realized on stage, is sure to be a crowd pleaser for years to come. Smith’s heavenly falsetto comes back into play on the ’80’s inspired “Is It True” reminding listeners that TMI is definitely not your typical Maximo Park album.

Too Much Information might not be the Maximo Park album that fans deserved but it’s the one that we all need from time to time. TMI is out now. Get your copy here and be sure to check out the band when they tour the States this spring!

 

White Noise Owl’s debut EP is the first must own of 2014!

It’s true what they say: Good things come in small packages. In White Noise Owl’s case the “small package” is in the form of a debut EP instead of a full-length and the tracks included within are definitely some of the best hard rock anthems you’ll hear in all of 2014.

Until We Meet Again is a mature helping of hard, heavy rock from a bunch of guys who you probably saw in one form or another on Ozzfest ’98. Make no mistake, though, this is not another version of Snot or Ultraspank or even Evanescence or Staind. WNO is something different altogether. This is a group of guys who have been around the industry and are banding together to forge a new destiny and judging by the results of Until We Meet Again, it’s definitely a promising one.

Vocalist Pete Murray croons on opener “Feed” with the line “I don’t care for what you’re feeding me/And I won’t stand for negativity, no!” and that is exactly the case with White Noise Owl. There’s no bullshit and a focus on the heart of the matter: The music!

“Bomber” is a sonic masterpiece and has some of those grandiose Filter-like radio rock choruses that the band have become known for (Title Of Record producer Ben Grosse coincidentally is the producer and mixer here) while guitarist Chris Shy diversifies the proceedings during the opening of “End Over End” with some down home strumming. The EP culminates with “Are You Breathing” which is probably the best example of the “White Noise Owl sound” as it were featuring stellar drumming from Will Hunt and some fantastic bass work from John Fahnestock along with the aforementioned Shy and Murray.

Look, I’m a fan of most of these guys already. I’ve been Team Murray since I first heard of Ultraspank and their ridiculously underrated vocalist in the late ’90’s, I bought the Snot debut after seeing Lynn Strait leap on stage during a Manhole opening slot in Boston (Fahnestock actually sold me the long sleeve I still own after a Snot show opening for Sevendust in Worcester), and I loved both Skrape records that Hunt bashed away on.

These guys know the biz and they definitely deserve your attention. Hopefully White Noise Owl is the spark that lights a fire under the ass of the hard rock music world.

For more on White Noise Owl including pre-order options for Until We Meet Again (Due on March 11th), head on over to their official Facebook and Twitter pages and please don’t forget to “like” us over on ours.

 

Breton prepare for “War” on sophomore release.

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Listening to War Room Stories, the second full length from the UK’s Breton, has made me appreciate Other People’s Money so much more. They’re both equally brilliant but for different reasons. While OPM was this mechanical blip-hop masterpiece, War Room… sees the band opening up so much more.

Opener “Envy” is an easy contender for single of the year. It’s catchy and moves the band’s sound ahead tenfold presenting a more organic overall approach and a warmth not felt on some of their earlier works. Maybe it’s the Caribbean vibe the song emits or maybe it’s the typical “They’re growing as musicians” spiel. Whatever the case, the song is hypnotic and is the perfect introduction to War Room Stories.

From there, Breton continue to excel and exceed expectations. “S4” could be a film score with the plucked strings that open it up and while “Legs & Arms” (Along with “302 Watchtowers”) might be the closest Breton come to sounding like OPM, the track still drives their sound infinitely forward. Speaking of forward, “Get Well Soon” is the undeniable future of Breton. A veritable sonic tour-de-force, the song is unlike anything Breton have birthed thus far yet it’s the next one, “Closed Circuit”, that really shakes things up. It’s the striking guitar lines, the string section, the horns…just everything about this song that screams perfection.

While later still, echoes of “Envy” rear their pretty little head on closer “Fifteen Minutes” proving that Breton makes music that’ll make you think as well as move. Far be it from me to tell you what you should and shouldn’t like but I’ll be damned if I don’t take this opportunity to stress how essential War Room Stories is to any your collection this year.

War Room Stories is out on February 3rd. You can still pre-order the album here then check out Breton online here and don’t forget to head on over to our Facebook page and give us a like, too!

 

Have A Nice Life invite you to The Unnatural World!

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I have to admit: I tried to get into Have A Nice Life before and couldn’t. For all the praise Deathconsciousness received I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Still, when The Unnatural World was announced I was determined to try again. I’m lucky I did because this is easily an album that is not to be missed in 2014.

If ever there was an album that was meant to be heard through headphones and at high volumes it was The Unnatural World. Especially during these recent cold New England nights, a stereo just won’t do this album justice. One needs to be fully enveloped in the warmth of Have A Nice Life’s sound to fully appreciate it. Take opener “Guggenheim Wax Museum”, for example, which is this massive wall of sound that could easily be dropped into The Thing as it heralds something truly bleak and solitary.

Cut to the Joy Division meets The Sisters Of Mercy “Defenstration Song” which is glorious, goth-soaked, and destined to stand out on the dance floor at the Paradise during one of their inevitable Man Ray Redux nights to give you the knowledge that Have A Nice Life is anything but predictable. “Burial Society” follows and is this beautiful and hypnotic piano-laden piece with vocals that are at times Dave Gahan-esque while the rest of The Unnatural World just amplifies what the first three songs inevitably laid the groundwork for. Like Sigur Ros without the made up language (Especially “Music Will Untune The Sky”), Have A Nice Life is presenting something completely fresh and an easy contender for must-own album of the new year.

The Unnatural World is out on February 4th through The Flenser (Stream AND buy it here). For more on HANL, head on over to their Facebook page and don’t forget to like us, too, over on ours!