Album Review

Album Review: Korn- The Nothing

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13 albums in and 25 years since the beginning, is it still possible to be relevant? Well, In Korn’s case, yes, yes it is. For many years and albums, Korn has tried new things and the results were very hit or miss. Then, Brian “Head” Welch returned to the fold and things starting getting back on the right track. The bands previous album, The Serenity Of Suffering was surely a step in the right direction in terms of sound and getting back to what they do best. Now, on their new album The Nothing, Korn has really stepped up and made their best album since Untouchables. This new one has bits of Untouchables, Issues and their debut all wrapped into one. The end result is something that the band can look back on and be very proud of what they created.

The over arching theme of The Nothing is obviously the loss of Jonathan Davis’s wife and how he’s dealt with it. Never one to shy away from his pain, this album has some of the most vulnerable performances from JD in a very very long time. Opening the album is “The End Begins” which features bag pipes, rumbling percussion, and fuzzy bass along with JD putting himself deeply into this and uncontrollably sobbing as he asks “Why did you leave?” From that point, the album then begins to take shape as “Cold” hits with an impact that harks back to the way Issues started. “You’ll Never Find Me” is part 2 of the 1, 2 punch of how the album starts. The riffs and rhythms that accompany these two songs are some of the best of Korn’s career. One of my favorite songs on the album “Idiosyncrasy” is one hell of a song. The Pantera-esque riff along with melodic chorus makes this song one of the true standouts on the album. This album has a bit of everything for Korn fans. It hits the heavy, melodic, and experimental aspects that have made up the bands career. Such songs like “The Darkness Is Revealing,” “Finally Free,” The Ringmaster,” Gravity Of Discomfort,” and “H@rd3r” are great examples of that and showcase the different vocal approaches of Jonathan Davis as well as the band at a very creative turn that hark back to the origins of the band while adding a more modern approach. In true Korn fashion, these few songs have a life of their own but stay true to desperation and realism that the album carries. “Can You Hear Me” has a very cool Queen Of The Damned vibe along with a bit of a Follow The Leader melodic tinge. “This Loss” is one of my other favorite songs on the album. The band really honed in on the melodic aspects they’ve become known for. The interludes that appear also give the album a bit of a schizophrenic aspect but, help to tie in the thoughts being conveyed.

The Nothing stands up quite high in the bands catalog. There are some really classic Korn elements on these songs, along with memorable hooks and catchy choruses. The dueling guitars that became signature to Korn are extremely prevalent on this album and Munky and Head really shine. Fieldy’s bass hits the way it used to along with his percussive style bass that balances the guitars and drums. Ray Luzier finally sounds like he fits on a Korn record. His groove on this record is reminiscent of what David did on the older albums but, it’s done in a way that doesn’t sound rehashed and it stays true to the beast of a drummer that Ray is. Jonathan Davis’s vocals and melodies on this album are some of the best since Issues and Untouchables. Obviously the pain and grief of loss is ever noticeable but, they catharsis through the performances really makes the whole thing shine.

I’m sure many people have given up on Korn over the years. I know there was a point that I just didn’t care but, on the last album and on this one, Korn has recaptured what they do best without it coming across as forced. Working with Nick Raskulinecz has been a blessing for the band. He’s one of the few producers out there today that really understands the essence of what bands are and how to capture that magic again. The Nothing is an album that will draw older fans back into the fold while giving those skeptical ones something to sink their teeth into. Are there moments that are hit and miss, sure, but that doesn’t take away from how genuine and pure this album is.

 

Overall Rating: A

 

Korn- The Nothing:

 

Review By: Brian Lacy

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Album Review: Tool- Fear Inoculum

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Tool’s new album is one of the most anticipated albums ever. The drama and hype surrounding this album have been astounding. Even the rumors about this album have given it all sorts of life before anyone even heard a single note. Finally, after 13 years of waiting, the long anticipated album has arrived. The big question though is, was it worth the wait? Well, in the next few minutes of you reading this, you will get my opinion on that.

I still remember hearing Tool for the first time and thinking this was really cool. The first song I ever heard was “Sober” and the video was pretty stimulating to watch. Undertow was obtained a few days later and after that I was hooked. When Aenima was released that changed everything. That album is a masterpiece straight up. Then 5 years after that, Lateralus was unleashed on the world and that left one hell of a lasting impression on everyone. 10,000 Days though, was a record though that took a long long long time to really get into but, one it finally clicked, it made sense. Especially the song “Right In Two.”

Now here we are, thirteen years removed from 10,000 Days and Fear Inoculum has finally arrived. The thing is though, was 13 years too long? Yes, yes it was. Allow me to further explain. When a band takes this long to release an album, one would expect the record to be truly masterful, evolved and takes things to another level. Each song on Fear Inoculum feels as though it was obsessed over, torn down and rebuilt to try and create a substantial song but, that amount of detail and agonizing over has provided a bloated sense that these songs are more than just a glorified wank fest.  Instead, what was released was a self indulgent piece of art that is so wrapped up in its own ego that it’s truly hard to really get to the nitty gritty of what is there. It’s not that the album isn’t good, it is, it’s just that this album is drab and feels uninspired. I’m all for long songs. I love listening to an album that really takes you on a journey. This album however, only takes me on a journey to fall asleep.

That’s not to say there aren’t moments of brilliance on this album. The odd time signatures are aplenty and the Tool sound is ever prevalent. The song everyone seems to be so jazzed about is “7empest.” That song if you were to really cut the fat out of it has the potential to be one of the most legendary Tool songs in their catalog. That song really has some defining moments for the record.  Fear Inoculum is definitely an album that, with the right amount of patience and time, one can come to really enjoy. This is not a casual listen type of album. As with every Tool album, there is a depth to it that takes time to unravel and decipher. This album not only has those elements but there also seems to be another level that they went to that isn’t quite easy to digest. Among the other gripes I have with the album is Maynard’s vocals. It’s as though his vocals were just placed in spots without the right amount of attention needed to truly highlight the singer. All the time spent working on the actual music and not having Maynard in the room really takes away from what this album could have been. Danny Carey is truly a drum champion but, even his parts on this album just like guitarist Adam Jones, tends to go on and one a bit too long and tend to drone on with no end point. That’s not to say they aren’t good at what they do, they just needed to reign it in a bit more and be more concise about the length of parts. My other issue is not having enough moments for Justin Chancellor to shine. On the previous couple albums, Justin had been at the forefront of many of the songs but, on this one he too seems to have taken a back seat and because of that, the album loses a bit of the aura it should have with Justin’s bass tone and playing. The production on the album though is stellar. Sonically it does sound good and it’s mixed very well.

As I mentioned above, it’s not that this album isn’t good, it is but, it’s just rather drab and boring. I know there are a ton of you out there that think this is the be all end all of albums in 2019 but, it’s really just hype. After 13 years, this is the best that they could do? Maynard was even quoted in a recent interview that the album could have been released 8 years ago. I will continue to go back to this album and see if my mind changes about it. I’ve listened quite a few times and even with each listen, I still find myself wanting to reach for a pillow and just drift off to sleep. One other thing, I do find it quite interesting that both the Tool and A Perfect Circle albums have been quite underwhelming. Is it possible that after all this time both bands have lost the fire that once drove them?

Overall Rating: B-

 
Tool- Fear Inoculum:

 

Album Review: Baroness- Gold & Gray

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Ever since they released their Red album, Baroness have been on one hell of a journey. One that would take the band to different highs and lows both musically and personally. Through all that though, Baroness has always persevered and used all of that to create albums (yes I said albums) that encapsulate everything into a beautiful piece of work. Now in 2019, with the release of Gold and Grey, Baroness have rediscovered parts of themselves with an album that is truly a work of art from start to finish. This album is one of the best of 2019 without a doubt.

The moment the album begins with “Front Toward Enemy” there is a feeling that overtakes the listener with a sense of “here we go.” There’s a section in the song lyrically that I like to think of as foreshadowing “We’re headed for disaster, But I won’t close my eyes until it’s over, So carry on.” To me that is such a powerful statement and one that thematically resonates throughout the entire album. As the album continues on, the songs have this wonderful ebb and flow that really pulls you in and crawls under your skin in such a way that you find a sense of comfort in the music, words, and melodies. Songs like “I’m Already Gone,” “Seasons,” “Tourniquet,” “Throw Me An Anchor,” “I’d Do Anything,” “Emmett- Radiating Light,” “Cold-Blooded Angels,” “Broken Halo,” “Borderlines,” and “Pale Sun” are all stunning on their own merit but, as a whole they really deliver something spectacular.

 
The addition of guitarist/vocalist Gina Gleason has given Baroness the touch they’ve always needed. Gina’s guitar playing is outstanding and she and singer/guitarist John Dyer Baizley play off each other in wondrous fashion but, her vocal ability is what really takes this album and it’s songs to anther level. The delicate textures on this album courtesy of the harmonizing vocals makes Gold & Grey stand out even more in the bands catalog. Drummer Sebastian Thomson and bassist Nick Jost, provide this album with a rhythm that is thunderous and pummeling but, in a way that is delicate and dense. The band has always been a stellar band but, this lineup is truly the essence of what Baroness is. There’s only one thing about this album that is off and that’s the mix. It’s pushed a bit too far into the red making for a distorted fuzz sound that at times, overtakes the music and the textures. That’s really the one fault this album has. Other than that, what a great album.

Gold & Grey is an album that with out a doubt stands out not just in Baroness’s catalog but, also in today’s musical climate. The creative elements that brought these songs together shine ever so bright. If you would have told me when I first heard Baroness, that one day they’d release an album like this, I wouldn’t have believed you. But, here we are and they have made a remarkable piece of work, one that will be a pinnacle for bands to follow and be inspired by.

 

Overall Rating= A

 

Baroness- Gold & Grey:

 

 

 

Review By: Brian Lacy

Album Review: Cave In- Final Transmission

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Since the start of their career, Cave In have always been the type of band to delve deep into themselves and deliver albums that compliment those feelings and emotions. So, it’s no surprise that on their new (and maybe final) album, Final Transmission, that all the grief and thoughts the surviving members of the band have are front and center.
Final Transmission is an album that is bittesweet all the while is pure and true to what they’ve always done.

Beginning with the title track “Final Transmission,” you automatcally feel the spirit of the late Caleb Scofield. The song is actually a voicemail left by Caleb following a writing/demo session, which features Scofield playing an acoustic guitar and singing a melody over it. From there the album moves to “All Illusion”  a song that features lyrics written by Scofield that was taken from a journal that was found after his death. This is  where the album takes a turn for the sound they all created on the highly acclaimed (and my favorite) album Jupiter. The guitar work by Adam McGrath is superb. He’s use of delay and heavy guitars is masterful. Mix that with singer/guitarist Steve Brodsky’s soaring vocals, and the ferocious rhythm section of drummer JR Conners and Caleb Scofield, and you have the perfect Cave In song. The song “Shake My Blood,” is one that will have you reaching for the box of tissues, as you think about the grief that wafted over each member of this band. Other stellar songs on this album include “Winter Window,” “Strange Reflection,” “Night Crawler” “Lanterna,” and the final track “Led To The Wolves” which is quite a poignant ending to a loving tribute to their fallen brother and friend.

 

Final Transmission was unintended to be released in its form, the band obviously was working on making a complete and full album before the passing of Caleb. There is a slight feeling of this being more of a collection of songs rather than an “album” but, the more you listen, the more it all starts to really gel. One thing that is lacking is the absence of Caleb’s screams which helped to give Cave In more of an aggressive edge as found on Perfect Pitch Black and White Silence. Still, It’s a collection of tracks that see a band who has been gone way too long deliver the goods and really make sure that this is something that Caleb would be proud of.
Overall Rating: A-

 

Cave In- Final Transmission:

 

Review By: Brian Lacy

 

Album Review: Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes- End Of Suffering

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I still remember the first time I heard that raspy snarl. The charisma that could ignite a crowd into a frenzy. Far removed now from his time in Gallows, Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes have solidified their place in modern rock today. End Of Suffering, the bands third album, sees the group moving along in away that still connects with their roots but lays down a foundation of where this band can go. 2017’s Modern Ruin was a great benchmark for just how talented this group is. End Of Suffering takes that level and adds a few layers of optimism as well as tenacity.

The entire album is quite interesting. There are many different speeds to this record. On one hand you have a song like the opener “Why A Butterfly Can’t Love A Spider.” This track sets up the album in a tonal way by the feel of the music and the lyrics. There’s a sense of pain but hope in the way it’s delivered and that carries through the rest of the album. Songs like “Anxiety,” “Crowbar,” “Heartbreaker,” “Kitty Sucker,” and “Tyrant Lizard,” which features Tom Morello ripping it up,  all provide the uptempo tenacity that Frank is known for. Then songs like “Love Games,” “Angel Wings,” “Supervillain,” and “Latex Dreams” have a bit more of sensitive side but still contain a sharp edge and gruffness. Ending the album is the title track “End Of Suffering.” This soul bearing song gives a deeper glimpse into the mindset of Frank and where this album is truly coming from.

End Of Suffering is the kind of album that has something for everyone. It’s diverse and full of life. Nothing about this is phoned in or fake. If you’ve been following Frank since his days in Gallows, you know you are going to get a guy giving his all. While this album may seem to be more “straight forward” in terms of sound, it does show what the band is capable of doing as songwriters and how not to constantly repeat what they’ve done before. Frank and The Rattlesnakes (Dean Richardson, Tom Barclay, Gareth Grover and Thomas Mitchener) have really found themselves as a band. End Of Suffering was a not where you think they would have gone after Modern Ruin but, it’s definitely the right move.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes- End Of Suffering:

Album Review: Spotlights- Love & Decay

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When I first heard the Spotlights 2017 album Seismic, I immediately was floored. The combination of shoegaze, doom metal and sludge was just what I needed at the time. And Seismic found it’s way into my top 5 albums of 2017. Fast forward to 2019 and Spotlights have released their new album Love & Decay. Not straying too far from where they left off, Love & Decay continues on the path they laid out with their previous releases only this album goes deeper into that sound.

The album starts off with a sonic explosion that is “Continue The Capsize.” This mood setting song pulls you in just like an album opener should. As the album continues, the crunchy guitars, fuzzed bass, dreamy synth layers, pummelling drums and soft vocals, give Love and Decay the sound for all these songs to come to life. Songs like “The Particle Noise,” “Far From Falling,” “Until The Bleeding Stops,” “Xerox,” and “The Age Of Decay” emit all those elements and then some. Then you have a song like “Mountains Ar Forever” that is a bit of a departure yet still is Spotlights through and through. This experimentation gives the album a needed right turn. Closing out the album is “The Beauty Of Forgetting.” This song continues the experimentation path by adding in some haunting acoustic guitars, underlying industrial style beats and thunderous bass to really drive home the end of this album.

Love and Decay is exactly what Spotlights sound like, only this time around, they stepped up the heavy and added a level of melody to help propel the songs to new heights. The one thing about this album is that at times, it feels like the songs are just a shade too long. It’s like when you watch a film and think that certain parts could have been cut down to get to the point faster. Other than that, Love and Decay is a killer record. Mario Quintero (guitars/vocals/production), Sarah Quintero (bass/vocals) and Chris Enriquez (drums) have formed an exquisite bond as a three piece and they sound like there are at least eight people in this band. Love and Decay is the type of album that with more and more listens you will find more to love and be drawn deeper in. It’s also worth noting that, having seen Spotlights live before, I just know these new songs are going to tear the roofs off of venues and leave audiences in awe. 

Overall Rating: 8/10

Spotlights- Love and Decay:

 

 

 

Album Review: Helms Alee- Noctiluca

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There are certain bands that have the ability to evolve in a way that it doesn’t seem like they are yet, they truly have albeit in a subtle way. Never a band to be complacent or comfortable, Helms Alee have been pushing the boundaries of the sludge metal genre since their first release back in 2007. Noctiluca, the bands fifth full length studio album, sees the band moving more into a progressive territoty while still maintaing their psychedelic and sludgy tendencies.


The album as a whole has something for everyone. Songs like “Interachnid,” “Beat Up,” are signature Helms Alee with thunderous rhythms and delayed guitars that give the album the start and roar it needs. Then you have a song like “Be Rad Tomorrow” which takes the band on a different journey. This song is one of the more experimental tracks on the album with a more prog feel to it. The expansiveness of this song is very representative of how the members of Helms Alee have evolved as writers and players. Then you have a song like “Lay Waste Child” that continues what “Be Rad Tomorrow” started only this song, takes you deeper down the rabbit hole. “Illegal Guardian” seems to complete the trilogy of the previous two songs. This track is everything that Helms Alee is all about. I’m not going to give it away. You just need to listen and you’ll hear what I mean. A song like “Spider Jar” is a welcome treat. It shows off the more melodic side of the band and provides a more delicate approach to the bands sound. Closing out the album is “Word Problem” a song that is drenched in doomy sludge (think Sabbath meets The Melvins). It’s a straight forward song that will have you starting the album over once it’s done.

Helms Alee have created an album that hits on everything they’ve done till now. Noctiluca is the type of album that if you are just discovering the band, it will get you into them for sure. One of the best things about Helms Alee is that as a three piece drummer/vocalist Hozoji Matheson-Margullis, bassist Dana James, and guitarist Ben Verellen are super tight and play off each other so well. They have the ability to create a sonic assault that while deafening at times is soothing and almost hypnotic. If you have the chance to see Helms Alee live, I highly recommend you do. Their live show makes their songs truly come alive and will give you one hell of a rush. 

 
Overall Rating: 8/10

 

Helms Alee- Noctiluca: