Album Review

Album Review: Eighteen Visions- XVIII

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Comeback albums aren’t easy to make. There are so many different ways it can go wrong yet, if it’s done right, then the payoff in the end is tremendous. 10 years ago following the misstep of their major label debut, Eighteen Visions called it quits. Everyone associated with the band went on to other bands and projects. For years fans had been wondering if they would ever see the Orange County hardcore band again. Every chance the press got to interview a former member, it seemed that it wasn’t in the cards. Now, I’m not sure what pushed them to get the ball rolling again, perhaps it was the passing of bass player Mick Morris a couple years back, or maybe it was even their desire to get back to what they did best. Either way, Eighteen Visions are back and with a vengeance.

Their first album in ten years, XVII, is 10 songs of pure unrelenting old school Eighteen Visions. This is the album they were meant to make. It harks back to their early days a la Until The Ink Runs Out and adds a dash of Vanity/Obsession. Singer James Hart sounds better than ever. Guitarist Keith Barney is still pumping out tasty riffs and dramatic breakdowns. And drummer Trevor Friedrich is pounding away on the drums with such fury.

From the moment the opening song “Crucified” hits, you know you’re in for quite the ride. As “The Disease, The Decline and Wasted Time” comes in, the album is already in full swing and it won’t let go. The song “Live Again” is a solemn tribute to the late Mick Morris, and it shows the real growth of each member in the band. Other stand out tracks from the album include “Oath,” “Laid To Waste In The Shit Of Man,” “Picture Perfect,” and the closing track “For This I Sacrifice.”

As a fan of the band for many years, this is the album I’ve been wanting them to make for years. It has the explosiveness of their very early days and it also has bits of melody sprinkled through some of the songs, to separate them from the rest of their peers. This isn’t just a comeback though, this is a reinvigorated band firing on all cylinders with something to prove to themselves. It shows in their dedication to make this album and go for it. On a side note, I have to say I’m really stoked on the fact that they made this album without crowdfunding. XVIII will go down as one of the band’s best albums. I can’t wait for them to tour this album.

 

Eighteen Visions- XVIII:

Album Review: Mastodon- Emperor Of Sand

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Mastodon are one of the best bands to come out in the last 15 years. They have always been a band that stuck to their guns and let the music speak for itself. They have managed to evolve as a band as organically as possible. When you have four members that all fit together to create something so deep and poignant, it leaves a lasting mark. On their new album Emperor Of Sand, Mastodon gets back to what they do best, making albums. Drawing from their personal struggles and family tragedies of cancer, Emperor Of Sand tells the tale of a desert wanderer who has been handed a death sentence. This album is one of their deepest lyrically since Crack The Skye. So much so that, when you are listening to the album the story and words take you on a journey that is separate from the music. There is something truly remarkable about this album with its ability to give you two different ways to listen. One being just the music and the other with the lyrics and story.

Working with Brendan O’Brien again, who was in the producers chair for Crack The Skye, gets the band back on track. Songs like opener “Sultan’s Curse,” “Precious Stones,” “Roots Remain,” “Ancient Kingdom,” “Andromeda,” Scorpion Breath (featuring Scott Kelly of Neurosis on guest vocals) and closer “Jaguar God,” all have the Mastodon DNA ingrained in them. Other songs like “Steambreather,” Word To The Wise,” and Clandestiny,” see the band stepping out of their comfort zone a bit more and experimenting with different melodies and tones. The one odd ball song on the album “Show Yourself” is the biggest departure Mastodon has ever done. The lyrics and theme of the song really fit with the album, but musically it’s a sharp left turn.

All in all, Mastodon, has really dug deep and returned with a fantastic album. They are masters at what they do and it shows. They are truly making complete albums, something that a lot of bands seem to be forgetting about. After listening through the album a few times, I’ve determined that it’s sonically similar to Crack The Skye with a bit of Once More Round The Sun, and a dash of Blood Mountain. Mastodon are one of the few bands since the turn of the century to really leave a lasting mark. Had they come out in the 90’s, I think they would have been one of the biggest bands of the era. Not only that but, I think they would have a Tool-esque following.

Overall Rating: A

 

Mastodon- Emperor Of Sand:

 

 

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):