Machine Head’s new album Of Kingdom And Crown is not just an achievement for the band but, for Robb Flynn on his own. After the hit and miss of Catharsis which saw the band lose half its members (the absolute greats Dave McClain and Phil Demmel, you will definitely be missed) and divide the fan base a bit, it would’ve been an easy way out to either hang up Machine Head and try something solo. Instead, Robb, who is never one to play it safe (just look to the Machine Head catalog for proof), took the time to craft an album that not only stands up to the great ones in the band’s history (Burn My Eyes and The Blackening) but, Of Kingdom And Crown takes things to a different level of epic heaviness with his first concept album. And it’s one hell of an album and ride!
Of Kingdom And Crown is an absolute vicious and and vengeful album that hits home in ways you wouldn’t expect. The concept of the album allows the listener to become one of the two characters in the story and or both depending on how you listen to the album. I stress that this is an “album” that deserves to be played as such. The concept of the album as told by Robb goes “There’s character number one, named Ares [pronounced Aries]. He loses the love of his life, Amethyst, and goes on a murderous rampage against the perpetrators who killed her. Character number two, named Eros [pronounced Arrows], he is the perpetrator, the one who killed Amethyst. He loses his mother to a drug overdose, and in his downward spiral, he becomes radicalised by this charismatic leader and he goes on his own murderous rampage. The lyrics detail how their lives intertwine.” And now that you have that in mind we can get to the songs.
The first song on the album “Slaughter The Martyr” is an absolute banger and epic! It’s a ten minute song that doesn’t feel like it’s that long. It not only introduces the listener to the characters and story, this song is seriously a beast. One of those that when played live, will no doubt be a fan favorite. “Choke On The Ashes Of Your Hate” is another classic sounding MH track. There is a serious ferociousness to this track. One of the highlights on this track is the guitar solo by Vogg. He adds his stamp to Machine Head on this song. “Become The Firestorm” continues the blazing trail that started the album. This one has some killer blast beats and guitar work that hits on that classic sound again. As the album continues, it takes a turn with “My Hands Are Empty.” This track brings in more of the “epic” feeling with the way the almost choral opening starts things off before becoming one of the more thought provoking songs on the album. The song while it fits within the realm of the story, it’s also societal commentary that fits with today quite well. The “epicness” continues with “Unhallowed.” This song has a really cool groove to it while still being a head banger. Lyrically and vocally, you can tell Robb wanted to try different things and it all works. Oh and the solos on this song… DAMN!!! This is one of my favorite songs on the record. “Kill Thy Enemies” is a straight up heavy song that brings the album’s intensity back up a bit. And then, “No Gods. No Masters” comes in and knocks your teeth out. The chorus has this catchiness to it without being tacky. I personally look forward to hearing this one live when Machine Head tours the states. “Bloodshot” is a very direct and heavy track. It’s got an almost punk rock feel to it and then breaks into a groove driven song. “Rotten” is another direct and groove heavy track only on this one it’s more anthemic. I could see this one being worked into the setlist and being a fun one to play and hear live. Closing out the album is “Arrows In Words From The Sky” as song which Robb has said “is maybe the most hopeful song we’ve ever written… even though it’s totally sad and depressing!” And he’s not wrong, the song is one hell of an end of album track. It’s everything you love about Machine Head in one song. This is my true favorite song on the album. I love everything about it. It’s one those songs that you will feel compelled to listen to again once it’s over.
Of Kingdom And Crown is not just a triumph for Machine Head but for heavy music as well. This album not only fits perfectly in the MH catalog but, to me, has set a new standard for the band moving forward. The new blood in the band seems to have reinvigorated Machine Head and Robb. The Pandemic for all the issues it caused the world, seems to have done some amazing things for bands and the material they are putting out. Machine Head should stand proud with this album. It stands up among the best of their career. This is one of those albums that you don’t want to end. It’s that good and then some!
Heavy music knows no bounds. That’s one of the many things I love about heavy music. The fact that you don’t have to work in a set of parameters to create music that is intriguing, interesting, and that will absolutely decimate everything in its way. Throughout their years, KEN Mode has carved out their own niche among their peers. They done things their own way and it’s proved to be quite successful for them. Their new album NULL, is one hell of an album. Across the 36 minutes of pure aggression, vulnerability and ferociousness, KEN Mode has delievered the goods and then some. In their 20 years together they’ve incorporated elements from punk and hardcore to noise-rock and sludge to mold into an ever evolving sound.
NULL is the bands eighth studio album and they have taken everything they’ve done before and mixed it together to create an album that not only stands on its own merit but, also pushes the band to new directions for the future to come. NULL is an album that hits on feelings of anger, frustration and anxiety and then musically will knock your teeth out with the intensity and tension all of these elements create together. The album isn’t an all out assault. There is a real natural ebb and flow created to takes the listener on quite a ride in a short amount of time. KEN Mode is a band too that is never one to do the same thing. NULL pushes the band into almost avant-garde territory without becoming an “art project” rather it’s quite thought provoking and at times violent.
NULL is an album that isn’t afraid to take chances without being too weird for the sake of being “weird.” The methodical chaos found here is pure and KEN Mode have released an album that seems like only the beginning of what else is to come. In fact, this is only part one of a two part arc. So, when we get part two of this, I would bet that all hell will break loose. In the mean time, NULL is enough to satisfy long time listeners as well as new. KEN Mode are here, armed with a vengeance and throughout this album, you will feel it all.
The other night at The Cobalt Presents show I was part of putting on (which you should definitely be coming out to), the excellent DJ we have at our events (Thank You, Johnny Scott Gramercy) played a song in between bands that I haven’t heard in quite some time. While listening to it, I went into a bit of a trance as the song shifted my attention. That evening I put The Mars Volta’s epic masterpiece, De-loused In The Comatorium on as my go to bed album. Of course I didn’t fall asleep to it like I planned, instead I became comepletey consumed by the album like I did the very first time I listened to it. Then when it got to “Televators” (the song played at the show), I found myself completely in awe of the song again. It’s one of those songs that in the context of the album is so perfectly placed, and as a stand alone track, it’s quite the trip. The Mars Volta’s debut album is a perfect album start to finish. “Televators” is one of the hidden gems of their catalog! Enjoy!
The Mars Volta- Televators (Album Version):
The Mars Volta- Televators (Live At Electric Ballroom, London- 2003):
The other day I had a song stuck in my head and after about 10 minutes I remembered who the band was and I went and put it on. The band was Professional Murder Music, who you might remember from the early 2000’s and their inclusion on the End Of Days soundtrack with their song “Slow.” While listening to their album, I remembered their very great cover of The Cure’s “A Night Like This.” While listening to that I thought, I should listen to another cover of the song by The Smashing Pumpkins. The pumpkins version is sung by James Iha so it has a different vibe than you’d normally get as we are so used to Billy/William as the singer. So I spent some time with both and I have my favorite of the two. Which one do you prefer?
Professional Murder Music- A Night Like This:
The Smashing Pumpkins (James Iha on Vocals)- A Night Like This:
My excitement level is pretty high right now. After last week seeing Nine Inch Nails for my 19th time and now this week, the news is finally released about The Smashing Pumpkins long awaited new album! “Atum: A Rock Opera In Three Acts”. The 33-track collection, whose title is pronounced “autumn,” is being billed as a sequel to 1995’s “Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness” and 2000’s “Machina/The Machine of God”. The LP will be released as three 11-track “acts”, eventually culminating in a three-act rock opera. Act 1 of “Atum” will arrive on November 15 2022, Act 2 on January 31 2023, and Act 3 will be made available, along with a special-edition box set featuring all 33 album tracks plus 10 additional unreleased songs, on April 21, 2023. “Atum: A Rock Opera In Three Acts” was written and recorded over a four-year period by Corgan and the rest of the current SMASHING PUMPKINS lineup: guitarists James Iha and Jeff Schroeder, plus drummer Jimmy Chamberlin.
The first single “Beguiled” is out now and features a video that was made and performed live on TikTok of all places. And to make things even more interesting, Billy Corgan will premiere a new track every week for the next 33 weeks on his new podcast, “Thirty-Three With William Patrick Corgan”. The first two episodes, featuring the songs “Atum” and “Butterfly Suite”, are out now.
Not only is this exciting but The Smashing Pumpkins and Jane’s Addiction tour starts next week and runs through November. What a show that will be. I know I’ll be attending it. See you there!
I remember the first time I heard the term shoegaze. It was around the time that The Smashing Pumpkins released Siamese Dream and all these reviews I read and interviews kept referring to this new sub-genre called “shoegaze.” I thought what a strange term for a genre of music. Then it was explained to me (keep in mind I was only 7 or 8 when Siamese came out) and it made sense. Then later on I was exposed to the great My Bloody Valentine album, Loveless, and that’s when I truly found my deep fondness for shoegaze. Over the years the sub-genre has grown to include other elements from different genre’s making it quite a trip to listen to. There is one band that has combined shoegaze with dream pop, indie rock and a tinge of 90’s alternative rock that has captivated me. Allow me to introduce you to Powder Pink and Sweet. The band was formed in 2016 by the eclectic Cris Verso. And through the years since, Powder Pink and Sweet have carefully crafted a batch of hypnotic, dreamy and lush songs. Their upcoming EP, Little Stories, captures all the above and then some. The first single “Slightly Hopefull” is a dreamy and contemplative tune that provides quite the escape from the harsh realities of the COVID lockdown. Little Stories will be released Friday November 4th.
I’ve been searching for a band among all the modern metal bands that I can actually get into and watch develop into a monster. It’s been a long struggle but, I have finally found that band that I think can take these little wannabes and knock them on their asses. Today, Alphamega has released their first EP, Between Light And Shadow Volume I and for the 18 minutes that it lasts, it surely kicks some major ass. It’s heavy, melodic, fresh and urgent. The band has embraced their love of Swedish Melodic Death Metal (think Soilwork), American metal (Metallica) and some bits of the Mid 00’s (a la Killswitch Engage- Howard Jones Era). Combining all those elements has given Alphamega the edge they need to separate themselves from all the generic crap that is flooding the “metal markets” today.
Starting off the EP is “Sound Of Your Excuse” that out of the gate it grabs you with its melodic metallic teeth. It’s one of those songs too that when played live it goes to another level of heavy. Following that is the bands first single “No Longer Broken.” It’s a catchy tune that is a true banger and delivers a positivity that is much needed i the dark times we all live in. That chorus is such a sing a long one that you’ll be singing it by the time the second chorus comes in. “Late To The Party” is one of those songs that has the right amount of groove and the right amount of melody. Plus the little breakdown towards the end is killer. “Pariah” is the track that shows the most melodic side of the band without losing their edge.And It’s another great catchy sing along/crowd participation type of chorus. Closing out the EP is “Annihilator” the heaviest track on the album. This one is packed full of aggression and passion. You can hear it the moment this one starts all the way till the last note.
Alphamega is the read deal. There is not one ounce of gimmick with this band. Are there modern things going on sure, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Alphamega has delivered a record that not only they can be proud of but stands out among all the modern bands that lack what they bring to the table. Plus their live show energy is something else. You have to go see them to understand what I’m talking about. Singer Adam Ryan has one hell of a voice. His passion, desire and energy is heard on each song as he delivers heart wrenching vocal performances. I like to think of him as the American Bjorn “Speed” Strid of Soilwork. Guitarist Michael Muenzer shows his skills as a talented player and riff writer. Even his solos are done in a tasteful way that have elements of 80’s metal and the 00’s metalcore era. Chrissy Warner delivers the hard pounding beats that guide these honest and powerful songs. I have to say too it’s very refreshing and great to hear live real drums on an album, especially the way records are made these days. Alphamega are here and are coming to take over. Prepare Accordingly!!!
This one is too easy and since I’m still on a roll from my 19th NIN show, it’s only fitting. There is no denying the power of this song. There is a reason why it’s been a live staple since the beginning and why it pretty much closes the show. “Head Like A Hole” is an absolute triumph of a track one. Interestingly, “Down In It” was the first single from Pretty Hate Machine but, once “Head Like A Hole” was released and the video too, there was nothing that was going to stop Nine Inch Nails. This song is pure awesome. It’s song with 2 choruses and both are equally as punishing as the other! Live, this song goes to a whole other level especially with thousands of people singing along. Head Like A Hole is a perfect example of what a track one should be!
It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen Nine Inch Nails (this was number 19), I’m always left speechless at the end of their shows. It’s more than just a band playing a show to me. There is so much more to it and the level at which Trent and Company perform at is astounding. Plus seeing them at the Santa Barbara Bowl makes it a little more special as that venue has it’s own cool, mystic vibe with it being tucked away in the hill and the sound there is just incredible.
The night was perfect for this show. The cool night air coming off the pacific was coming in creating this very distinct atmosphere that was shaping up for something to explode, and that it did. As the clock struck 8:15 pm the rumble began and out came Mr. Self Destruct right out of the gate like they just released the bulls in the streets of Spain. Then the assault kept coming as “Wish,” “Last,” and “March Of The Pigs” utterly destroyed and decimated the audience. Then came “Piggy” which has always been a live favorite of mine. There was something about this version of “Piggy” that hit a bit harder than usual. Perhaps it’s all the things going on with me but, I keep having “Nothing Can Stop Me Now” repeating in my head as a mantra and I hope that doesn’t go away.” Then Trent moved along to “The Lovers” a track off their EP, Add Violence that hits so well live. It’s a song with tinges of the Pretty Hate Machine era mixed with a bit of a Fragile vibe. Next up is where I’m pretty sure I lost my voice as The Frail/The Wretched were played. I apologize to the guy next to me but, something came over me and I was in another place while screaming my lungs out during that song. And it didn’t help my voice much after that song as NIN charged into one of my favorites from The Downward Spiral, “Reptile.” After that there was a bit of break with the inclusion of a really great live version of “God Break Down The Door” and “Copy Of A.” The one song I could have done without and gave me a break was “Closer.” Then a quick talk with the audience with Trent saying “now how bout we play a sad song” and then they broke out “This Isn’t The Place” which is one of my favorite newer songs. It’s such a beautiful song that really hits you in the feels. Listen to it and you’ll hear it. Then another eruption happened with “Heresy” and right into one of my top 5 NIN songs of all time “The Perfect Drug.” As the night was winding down we got a very rocking (almost extended) version of David Bowie’s “I’m Afraid Of Americans,” a heavy hard charging “Gave Up” into the closing staples of “The Hand That Feeds” and “Head Like A Hole.” For the encore, I couldn’t have been more elated to have “Even Deeper” be part of it. I love that song. Finally, the end came and “Hurt” closed it out.
I’ve seen now seen Nine Inch Nails 19 times and each of them have been their own experience. It’s truly something remarkable to have seen a band this many times in the 22 years since the first time, and still walk out of the show like it’s something fresh and new. Trent Reznor never disappoints. The songs are classic and timeless. On a performance level, to be able to go out there and still give it everything they have each night, on top of the intricate lights, and other behind the scenes work, makes each Nine Inch Nails tour and show special. I will go every chance I get to see this band. Thank you Nine Inch Nails for all the years of amazingness! I will see you again very soon!
Review and Photos: Brian Lacy
PHOTOS: NINE INCH NAILS- Live at the Santa Barbara Bowl
01) Mr. Self Destruct 02) Wish 03) Last 04) March Of The Pigs 05) Piggy 06) The Lovers 07) The Frail 08) The Wretched 09) Reptile 10) God Break Down The Door 11) Copy Of A 12) Closer (with The Only Time breakdown) 13) This Isn’t The Place 14) Heresy 15) The Perfect Drug 16) I’m Afraid Of Americans (David Bowie Cover) 17) Gave Up 18) The Hand That Feeds 19) Head Like A Hole
I have this really deep love for the movie Empire Records. Ever since I saw it as a kid, I’ve loved that movie and the soundtrack. There are plenty of songs to focus on from it but one in particular has always intrigued me mainly due to the story of how the song came to be. In between the Gin Blossom’s debut and second albums, there was a song written, “Til I Hear It From You” that would be the lead single for the Empire Records soundtrack. The song was written in a hotel back in 1995 during the annual South By Southwest Festival. The writing of the song according to the story took about two hours with Gin Blossom’s guitarist Jesse Valenzuela and songwriter Marshall Crenshaw having committed a rough version of the tune to tape, and about two weeks later Crenshaw received a copy of the completed track from the band, lyrics having been written by the group’s frontman Robin Wilson. Interestingly too, the Gin Blossom’s were being sought after to be on the soundtrack but due to label issues it was proving to be a struggle. Then as things worked out and the soundtrack to the movie was then switched to the label home of the Gin Blossom’s, A&M Records. The song was a hit for sure and spent soooo many weeks as a staple on rock radio in the mid 90’s. And even to this day, when this song comes on, it takes me back to that time, the movie and eventually wind up singing along!