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.

 

 

Queen Kwong, “The Strange Fruit”: A ‘Ten Dimes’ Review

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There’s a handful of powerful female voices popping up across the airwaves over the past couple years.  From the dark, gothic rumblings of Chelsea Wolfe, to the folk songstress Laura Marling, or perhaps the guitar virtuoso Marnie Stern or emerging pop artists Sky Ferriera or Lana Del Rey?  All of them have something to say and are making no bones about getting their message across.  In some ways closer to the Marnie Stern vibe comes Carre Callaway – a young woman whose actually been in and out of the scene since 2009, when discovered in New Orleans by none other than NIN’s Trent Reznor.

She’s the solo artist behind the moniker Queen Kwong and she recently collaborated with Wes Borland (Limp Bizkit, Black Light Burns) on her new single, “The Strangest Fruit.”  This was my first exposure to her as an artist.  I then tackled the smattering of EP’s and singles over on Spotify.  It’s interesting to see her growth as an artist in just three short years.  She’s equal parts Iggy Pop & The Stooges (“Eddie the Kid” single (2011)), post-punk a la Kim Deal (‘Bitter Lips” single (2011)), alterna-grunge a la Hole, or even Black Light Burns-like frenetic guitar work (2012’s “Long Gone” single).

“The Strange Fruit,” is another animal entirely.  Sparse keyboard notes, a shuffling percussion, and cinematic guitars take this track into shoegazer territory yet it holds a pop sensibility.  It’s rather brilliant stuff.  But Levar Burton really said it best.  Check out the video for the track below (sorry, no Wes cameo…)

Untitled Metal Column: Volume 1 (3.15.14)

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Eleven years ago today I said “I will” to my wife but I’ve been married to metal for longer than that. I’m not really sure what my first metal album was (Either …And Just For All or The Black Album by Metallica on cassette I think) but as soon as I discovered the genre, I couldn’t stop eating it up. My first concert was Pantera with Crowbar opening at the Wallace Civic Center in Fitchburg, MA on the Far Beyond Driven tour in April of ’94 and I’ve been to hundreds of heavy shows since (Wow, 20 years since my first show. I’m old.) Anyway, I listen to metal, see metal live, and while I was writing for popblerd.com, wrote a regular metal column for over 2 years (I have some metal tattoos, too).

Which brings us to today and Rock And Roll Fables’ first “regular” column, a play on my old “Metal Monday” from my Popblerd days. I tend to write about what I like so if you’re looking for some scathing reviews of bands I don’t like then go elsewhere cuz frankly, I don’t have the time to write or listen to what I don’t like (There are few exceptions, however, especially when a band I like puts out a shitty record.)

But I digress. A lot apparently.

I had plans on reviewing the new Lamb Of God doc (That’s coming next week) and then I was going to write about the phenomenal new album from Hark (That’s coming next week, too, I hope) but then yesterday Killer Be Killed premiered the first two tracks from their upcoming debut on Nuclear Blast Records and I was immediately inspired.

If you don’t know Killer Be Killed yet they are the definition of a metal “supergroup”. Mostly (Sorry ex-The Mars Volta drummer David Elitch!). Beginning as the brainchild of Max Cavalera and The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato who wanted to create a Nailbomb-type project (Which was a one off pairing of Cavalera and Fudge Tunnel mastermind and later The Mars Volta producer Alex Newport), the group eventually expanded to feature drummer Elitch and Mastodon’s Troy Sanders.

First up is “Wings of Feather and Wax” which opens with a wall of feedback followed by a juggernaut of riffs as Sanders and Puciato trade lines. Cavalera enters later with his uncanny growl. The band hits tribal territory during the breakdown with Elitch laying down a solid foundation until Max brings the Sepultura with a line beginning with “Arise! Arise!”. The song is all over the place with elements of metal, thrash, and some really melodic lines thanks to Puciato and Sanders.

“Face Down” is the more straightforward metal song of the two with a great Cavalera riff and Puciato letting it rip vocally. The song goes for the jugular for almost five minutes and displays the diversity that this debut is sure to have. The surprising thing about both songs is how diverse the vocal line up is. If you were expecting this to be the Max Cavalera show then you’ll be sorely disappointed. The other great thing is the amount of melody involved. Sanders has evolved considerably over the years and it shows here while Puciato really gets to show his stuff on “Wings…” bringing to mind the “poppier” DEP moments (“Black Bubblegum” in particular) and his work in Spylacopa. If this is a sign of what the rest the rest of the album holds then metal fans are in for a treat!

Killer Be Killed will be unleashed through Nuclear Blast on May 13th. Pre-orders are up now over at the Nuclear Blast shop but for now you can check out “Wings of Feather and Wax” and “Face Down” below. For more on the band, head on over to their official Facebook page.

 

 

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.

Where You Should Be This Weekend: The Irrepressibles at The Middle East 3/15/14

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Music doesn’t get much more jaw dropping than the kind that The Irrepressibles make. Take the lush tones that Bright Light Bright Light create and combine it with the raw sonic power that Antony & The Johnsons emit vocally (With a vibrato that’s to die for) and you’ll have a small idea of what multi-instrumentalist Jamie Irrepressible brings to the table.

Just one listen to “Not Me” should be enough to get the hairs on the back of your neck standing at attention but if that doesn’t enthrall you, try out the evocative piano-driven sounds of “Two Men In Love” coupled with the stunning video filled with undeniable visuals of, well, love. It gets even better from here, kiddies.

The last of their series of 3 EP’s drops on March 24th but you can catch a preview when the “Art-Pop orchestra” known as The Irrepressibles hit Cambridge’s Middle East on Saturday night. For more on The Irrepressibles, head on over to the official Facebook page.

 

Those Mockingbirds is your new favorite band in 2014!

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Looking for something to do in and around Boston this weekend? Sick of the music scene and need a band to come along and totally change the face of rawk? Then you’re looking for Montclair, New Jersey’s own Those Mockingbirds! I’m not going to mention the many accolades the band has already received because, quite frankly, the tunes speak for themselves.

Just one listen through “How To Rob A Bank” (Stream it below) or “A Ballad From Hell” (Here it here) should assure you that you’ve made an excellent choice should you choose to venture to one of their three (3!) shows in the area this weekend.

It’s hard to describe Those Mockingbirds to the uninitiated. There’s some Clutch in there (Check out some of the riffing in “…Bank”), some Von Bondies in other spots and enough “Whoa-oh” sing-a-long moments to bring a classic Misfits record to shame. But Those Mockingbirds is none of the above. Something else entirely, they pave their own way and that’s just fine by me.

Their first full length, Penny The Dreadful, should see the light of day this summer. Meanwhile, you can get all your TM needs over on their official Facebook page or better yet catch them live as they hit Pittsfield, Providence, and Cambridge’s Middle East this weekend with New City Ghost, Islands In Motion, Arms & Ears, Nemes, and Friendly People.

 

 

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!