Album Review

Album Review: Black Map- In Droves

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Rock music is alive and well. Armed with inspiration, influences and artistry, Black Map has officially cemented their place in rock with their new album In Droves. Consisting of 15 songs, well technically 12 if you don’t count the three interludes, In Droves breathes a much needed breath of fresh air to the rock world. Ben Flanagan (Bass/Vocals), Mark Engles (Guitar) and Chris Robyn (Drums) play off each other tremendously. They have the ability to be heavy without compromising melody.

Starting off the album is “Run Rabbit Run” this is a great start to the record. It’s rifftastic, heavy hitting and thumping with soaring vocals. From there the album takes a turn towards the melancholy with “Foxglove” then back to the rock with the melodically heavy “Ruin.” As the album continues with songs like “Heavy Waves,” Dead Ringer, “Octavia,” and “No Color” you can tell that Black Map has really dialed in their sound. By the time “Indoor Kid” kicks in, you can tell you that you’ve been experiencing an “ALBUM.” “White Fence” is drenched in atmosphere. While “Just My Luck” is a solid rocker. ” Cash For The Fears” is a solemn track that is full of depth and emotion. Closing out the album is the epic “Coma Phase,” which is a great summation of the album.

Black Map is a band for the times. Their sound is full of 90’s rock without being a copy. If I were asked to describe what Black Map sounds like I’d say Failure mixed with Helmet. The vocals and lyrics of Ben Flanagan are full of melody and deep. Mark Engles guitar work is showcased brilliantly. Bringing some of the ambience and atmosphere from Dredg, really helps to make the heavy riffs, their own. Chris Robyn is one of the most underrated drummers. His work in FAR alone deserves that nod, and his playing on this album is just as good. Black Map are the “X marks the spot” type of band if you are looking for the next great rock band.

Overall Rating: 9/10

Run Rabbit Run:

Ruin:

Just My Luck:

Heavy Waves:

No Color:

Album Review: Darkest Hour- Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora

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I will be the first to admit that after the past two albums Darkest Hour released, (The Human Romance and their Self Titled album) I had lost interest. The line up changes and musical shift that was happening really just wasn’t cutting it for me. But now on their ninth studio album, Darkest Hour has found their way back to what made them great. I’ve always regarded the band as a very underrated treasure. Musically they combine all the elements I enjoy from punk, thrash and Swedish melodic death metal. On this new album Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora, Darkest Hour have cemented themselves as a force to be reckoned within the heavy music circles.

The moment the first song “Knife In The Safe Room” begins, you know that you are in for a treat. Every single song on this album is something special. In particular ” Timeless Numbers,” “None Of This Is The Truth,” “The Flesh and the Flowers of Death,” “Those Who Survived,” “Enter Oblivion,” “In The Name of Us All,” and closer “Beneath It Sleeps.” Guitarists Mike Schleibaum and Michael “Lonestar” Carrigan have never sounded better together. Along with the input and contributions of former member Kris Norris, the guitar work on this album is what fans have been wanting for years. Drummer Travis Orbin and bassist Aaron Deal have finally hit their stride as a rhythm section. As much as I miss Ryan and Paul in the band, if this is the direction Travis and Aaron are going to go, I’m more than satisfied. Vocalist John Henry has really stepped up his game lyrically and vocally. Personally I think this is the best he has sounded since Undoing Ruin.

The choice to work with producer Kurt Ballou was a great choice. Kurt was really able to dial in on the tones needed to make this a special album. In fact this album is one of the best I’ve heard Kurt produce and record outside of Converge, since High On Fire’s De Vermis Mysteriis. Armed with this album and a renewed sense of purpose, Darkest Hour are roaring back with a no holds barred approach. Godless Prophets & The Migrant Flora is an album that will be looked back up in the bands catalog as a standout. The band should be really proud of what they have created. I as a fan, am really stoked on this album. This is everything that Darkest Hour should be.

Overall Rating: A

 

The Making of the Album:

 

Album Review: With Our Arms To The Sun- Orenda

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With the world fast approaching the end, at least there is good music coming out. One of the most anticipated albums of 2017 is finally here, With Our Arms To The Sun‘s new album Orenda. This band has personally given me more hope for the future of music than any other new band I’ve heard in a long time. The four members of With Our Arms To The Sun have the passion and desire to succeed and their devotion to their art is astonishing.

Orenda, which is defined as by the Iroquois is a supernatural force that is believed to be present in varying degrees, in all objects or persons, and that spiritual force is the link toward which human accomplishment is attained or accounted for. So, with that in mind, know that the album that we are talking about is one for the ages. The ten songs that make up the album take you on a journey of self exploration and transcend the norms of rock music. Combining the elements and inspiration of philosophy, prog rock, metal and hope, With Our Arms To The Sun have produced (with the help of Buzz Osborne from The Melvins) an epic album for the times.

From the first song “Disdain- Why I Am” all the way to the final song “Homebound- March of the Trees,”  there is a genuine flow between all songs. The songs range from dark and intense, to ambient and seductive. In particular “Memory- The Drift” “Macrocosm- Prometheus,” “Apex- 100 Year Dream.” “The War- Light The Shadows.” and “Regret- Sailing Stones” encompass all those emotions. Singer/guitarist Josh Breckinridge is a revelation behind the microphone. His ability to lash out into a bellowing scream and then articulate his words with his soothing melodic voice is something that really stands out. Guitarist Joseph Leary adds another layer of heaviness with his back up vocals and his style of guitar playing. Holding down the rhythm ever so pummeling and tight is bassist Joseph Breckinridge and drummer John McLucas, both of whom emit energy and tone that only add to the magnitude of the songs.

I’ve been very impressed with the band not just as musicians but as people too. They are four of the most genuine and humble people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and knowing. Their dedication to their art and music is inspiring. They lay it all on the line every time they take the stage. I’ve mentioned this in other posts about their live shows and I’ll say it again, if your band plays after With Our Arms To The Sun, you best bring your “A” game, because you won’t be able to compete with them. Orenda is an album that emits love, devotion and hope in a time that they are needed more than ever. Do yourselves a favor and buy this album. If you pre-order the album, you get a download of it right away. Do it, it will be one of the smartest things you do all year.

Overall Rating: A+

 

Macrocosm-Prometheus:

 

 

Album Review: Code Orange- Forever

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We are only a couple weeks into the new year and there is already an album released that will be in the top ten for the year. Code Orange’s new album Forever is the album I’m talking about and it will leave you pumped and begging for more. They have managed to transcend the hardcore genre and evolve into a dangerous force to be reckoned with. Let me further explain what I mean. While still keeping true to their hardcore roots, Code Orange has grown by leaps and bounds as songwriters that understand that there is more to music than just being “heavy.”

Starting off the album with the title track “Forever,” it’s chunky and crushing, providing a punch to the gut. “Kill The Creator” is a thrashy meets hardcore song that really shows the bands understanding of dynamics. “Real” is a doom meets hardcore track that continues the assault. “Bleeding in the Blur” is a dark and dreary song that shows another side of the band. This is one of those chance taking moments and it really pays off. “The Mud” is another track that  continues to take a chance and pays off as well. “The New Reality” is what the bands origin was founded on. “Spy” continues to show off the evolution of the band. When “Ugly” kicks in you know you’ve gotten to a point in the album that ties it all together. “No One Is Untouchable” is back to the roots. “Hurt Goes On” is a moody and explosive song. There are bits of an industrial feel to the song as well. I personally think this should have been the album closer. “Dream 2” explores more genre bending and evolution and presents an interesting way to close out the album.

Code Orange have really stepped up their game. Their previous album I Am King, was a statement, and Forever is a full on call to arms. I personally love the way the album flows. It doesn’t feel like anything is out of place. Forever is an album through and through. The evolution of this band is showing that heavy music can come in many forms and still be pummeling. I will say this , if you have a member in the band that has a real “singing voice” use it and don’t be afraid of it. Melody is a great thing, and in this band, it really adds more depth. One more thing, if this is the way the band is evolving, I would love to see them work with a producer/engineer like Joe Baressi (Tool, Every Time I Die, Isis, Nine Inch Nails). I really think Joe could get great tones and songs out of the band.

Thank you Code Orange for doing your part to evolve and be yourselves.

Overall Rating: A

 

Forever:

 

Kill The Creator:

 

Bleeding In The Blur:

 

Album Review: Nine Inch Nails- Not The Actual Events

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Trent Reznor promised new Nine Inch Nails before the end of 2016 and he delivered. Not The Actual Events, the new EP (and first EP since 1992’s Broken) finds Trent and now full time member Atticus Ross, delving deep into the industrial landscape with a bit of shoegaze, and erratic sensibilities. There are moments among the 5 songs that hark back to the Broken days along with bits of The Downward Spiral. I can say this about the EP, if you’ve been wanting Nine Inch Nails to go back to their heavier days, then you are going to really enjoy this.

Starting off with “Branches/Bones” you know that this is Nine Inch Nails. “Dear World” is a song that take a right turn, but doesn’t lose the identity of it being a part of this EP. “She’s Gone Away” is a song that takes you on a journey all on its own. There is a real epic feel to this song. I could really see this one becoming a fan favorite like “Reptile.” “The Idea Of You” is absolute classic Nine Inch Nails from the Broken era. The distorted guitars and thrashy drums (courtesy of Dave Grohl) really make this a true stand out. This song is the type of Nine Inch Nails song, the “old school” fans have been clamoring for. “Burning Bright (Field On Fire)” is dark, heavy and deeply poetic. The screaming guitars are plyed by Dave Navarro (This marks the first time he’s played on a NIN track since the Further Down The Spiral remix album) I could see why Trent decided to put this out first.

There is a real darkness to this collection, all the while providing a sense of life, hope and relief. Trent and Atticus aren’t afraid to reach back into what Nine Inch Nails has done before, but they do it in a way that makes it feel fresh and not rehashed. Not The Acutal Events is short and sweet but, it does leave you wanting more. Either way, there is new Nine Inch Nails out there, and that makes me happy.

Overall Rating: A

Burning Bright (Field On Fire):

 

 

 

 

Album Review: Metallica- Hardwired…To Self Destruct

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Metallica is one of my top 3 favorite bands of all time, right behind Nine Inch Nails and Alice In Chains. I’ve been eagerly anticipating a new album from Metallica for a while now. And I can honestly say that the wait was well worth it. Metallica really delivers the goods on their new album Hardwired…To Self Destruct. This album has everything Metallica fans love about the band. It’s thrashy, riff driven with lots of groove, and harks back to their more raw intense days of say Kill Em All and Ride The Lightning, with bits of the Black album and dashes of Load era blues. Let me simplify that for you, this new album is as though Kill Em All and The Black Album fornicated and did a few lines of Load.

Now here is a track by track rundown of the album:

From the start of the album with “Hardwired,” you know you are in for a ride. The anger and intensity that comes from everyone in the band comes alive on this song. “Atlas, Rise,” is a borderline epic jam that has flashes of Ride The Lightning influence to it as well as an Iron Maiden feel.”Now That We’re Dead” is very groovy, and musically there is a tinge of Alice In Chains to this song. “Moth Into Flame” is one of the best songs Metallica has ever written. There is nothing about this song that isn’t awesome. The melody, the riff, the drums and rhythm, it simply rocks. “Dream No More” is a very “black album/Ride The Lightning” influenced song, with some more grunge rock melody, making for a very gritty track. There is even a mention of Ktulu, which is a nice little ode to the Ride The Lightning era. “Halo On Fire” is  one of the more somber and mellow tracks on the album but, by no means does it lose the edge the rest of the album has. Kirk Hammett’s leads on this song add a sense of melancholy in a good way. “Confusion” keeps with the melodic and heavy riffs. “ManUNkind” is thrashy and heavy. This is one of those songs that really has the Kill Em All/Ride The Lightning feel to it. Plus the video for it is absolutely awesome. “Here Comes Revenge” is another heavy track but, this one has lots of dynamics to it, that separate it from the rest of the pack. “Am I Savage” starts off with a very epic drawl then transforms into a groovy track. “Murder One” is one of my favorite songs on the album. There is something really rocking and cool about this song, as it’s a tribute to the great Lemmy of Motorhead. Closing out the album is the heaviest track on the album “Spit Out The Bone.” This is the type of song many Metallica fans have been waiting for, for many years. This is a song is going to be one of those songs live that will leave you with whiplash from headbanging.

Metallica have delivered a truly great album. From the songwriting, production, artwork, and marketing, Hardwired…To Self Destruct is going to go down as a classic for the band. James Hetfield sounds great on this album. His lyrics are top notch and full of insight and imagery. Kirk Hammett’s solos are tasteful and full of melody. He even manages to lay off the wah-wah pedal enough to showcase his playing. Robert Trujillo provides a layer of thunder with the bass that hasn’t been heard since The Black Album. Lars, well Lars actually brings a speed and intensity that he has lacked in recent years. Sure he’s not playing like he did all those years ago but, he’s giving the songs what they need.

I for one am glad that Metallica took their time and didn’t rush to put out an album. Among their peers in the metal community, they have always done what they wanted and it pays off in the end, with the exception of St. Anger. That was just wretched but, necessary to get the band back to where they need to be, heavy and ruthless in their approach. Take a listen to the entire album and let this album encompass you and make you fall in love with Metallica all over again.

Overall Rating: A

 

Metallica- Hardwired…To Self Destruct:

 

Album Review: Vanishing Life- Surveillance

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When I first heard about Vanishing Life, I already knew, without hearing a song, that this band was going to be something I’m going to enjoy. Having one of my all time favorite drummers in Jaime Miller from Snot behind the kit and Walter Schreifels of Quicksand singing, this was sure to be something special. Joining them on guitar and bass, are Zach Blair of Rise Against and Autry Fulbright of And You Will Know us by the Trail of Dead. The first 7″ they put out was two songs of pure energy and unrelenting aggression. Now on their first full length album Surveillance, Vanishing Life has put together a record that harks back to the days when music had something very important to say.

From the urgency of the first song “Realist,” you can tell that you are in for quite a ride. “Outlier,” has a really cool melodic tinge to it without losing the “vibe” of what the band is. “Painter” is the type of song you’d expect from Walter, which has a sort of Rival Schools feel to it. “Pretty Ruined” has a post-hardcore vibe. “Exile” is a great punk rock track. “Image” is a pretty poignant song lyrically. “Vanishing Life” is full of the energy you’d want from a band in this style. “Thinking Weightless” is a really cool song that has great dynamics. “People Running” was featured on their first 7″ and the first song I heard from Vanishing Life, and this song is raw and full of punk ferociousness. Closing song “Big Other” has an epic vibe to it. I could almost see this as a pre-cursor to what the band might evolve into.

There is something beautiful about the simplicity of these songs. These guys are all great musicians and can play the hell out of their instruments, but they understand the need to play according to the song. Everyone in Vanishing Life lives in different areas but, I really hope that doesn’t cause this to be a one off project. This debut album really shows promise of what the four of them can do together and I’d love to hear more.

Overall Rating= B

Vanishing Life- Surveillance: