The Smashing Pumpkins came back in 2018 with a vengeance. Their “reunion” tour was outstanding. The 3 hour set of nothing but songs from the beginning of their career till Machina was something special. Everything about it was spectacular. William Patrick Corgan sounded marvelous and having Jimmy Chamberlain and James Iha back with him along with long time cohort, Jeff Schroeder and new comers Jack Bates and Katie Cole added to the truly great experience. When it was announced that the Pumpkins were coming back, WPC, mentioned that there would be new music, and that day is upon us. Shiny and Oh So Bright Volume I is here and it’s a delight. It’s everything you’ve ever loved about The Smashing Pumpkins and more.
Starting the album off with “Knights Of Malta” was a superb choice. The song not only sets a tone but it features a groove and melody that will have you swaying and singing along in no time. I have a feeling that this song will fast become a fan favorite and a live staple for years to come. “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)” is a pure classic Pumpkins song. Parts of it hark back to the Siamese Dream era but, it’s modern and current without relying so much on nostalgia. WPC sounds dreamy on this song, and Jimmy Chamberlain’s playing is subtle yet commanding. The riff and melody to this song is something that will stay in your head for years to come. “Travels” is a sweet mid tempo song with introspective lyrics. The guitar melodies on this song have a warming and calm tone which gives this song more depth. “Solara” is another classic Pumpkins song. This track is a beast and live it kicks even more ass. “Alienation” is one of those “deep cut” songs that will have audiences wanting for it live. It’s a beautiful song through and through. “Marchin’ On” kicks the moment it comes in. It’s got an anger and urgency to it just as “Zero” did when that song was first released. This is another that is sure to be a fan favorite. “With Sympathy” has a delicate nature to it. The guitars glisten along with WPC’s vibrant vocals and words. Closing out this volume is “Seek and You Shall Destroy.” This track has a very cool mid 90’s Pumpkins vibe to it but, again isn’t retreating to the nostalgia of it all. Seek sounds like the band in today’s world without losing the roots of what the band is about.
All in all Shiny and Oh So Bright Volume I is a terrific collection of songs. I wouldn’t say it’s an “album” per say but, it was sequenced in a way that does flow in a way as an album. Having Jimmy and James back in the band is a welcome return. The songs sound like Pumpkins songs because of how they play and treat the songs. Over the years Jeff Schroeder has been able to tap into that “style” and on this album, he’s right there along with James and WPC to make the songs even bigger. This is a welcome return to form for WPC and company. Shiny and Oh So Bright is full of songs that as I mentioned will become fan favorites and live staples for years to come. The Smashing Pumpkins have never been a band that has needed to resort to rehashing the past and this album solidifies that. I can’t wait for the next tour they do so I can hear these songs live. If you ever gave up on The Smashing Pumpkins, Shiny and Oh So Bright Volume I, will bring you back into the fold and you’ll fall in love with the band all over again.
Overall Rating: 9/10
Knights of Malta:
Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts):
Seek and You Shall Destroy:
Ever since I saw Cult Leader live, I’ve been impressed. The night I saw them, they were on tour with The Dillinger Escape Plan on their final US tour. The moment they took the stage, you could tell that there was more to this band than just being a heavy band. As they tore through their set that night, I was hypnotized by their magnitude of volume, precision, and pure passion for what they created. Needless to say, I was at their merch table right after their set to buy their album Lightless Walk. That album has been in constant rotation since I procured it over two years ago.
Cult Leader have returned with a new album entitled A Patient Man, and if you are a fan, you’ve been waiting patiently for the next chapter of the band. The wait for this album was immensely worth it. A Patient Man is not for the faint or weak of heart. This album is dark but there is an element of optimism to it. From the moment “I Am Healed” kicks off the album, you best buckle up because this album is going to take you on a ride. “Curse Of Satisfaction” keeps up with the pummeling nature of the album. “Isolation in the Land of Milk and Honey” is one of the most brutal and honest songs on the record. It’s a very introspective song with lyrics and parts that really strike a chord within. “To Achlys” might just be one of the most epic songs of 2018. It’s a welcome departure for the band. Though if you’ve been listening to Cult Leader for some time, you could tell that they were expanding and evolving into a differing style like this. “A World Of Joy” continues on the epic path and could quite possibly be one of if not the best song on the album. “Craft of Mourning” brings the album back to the heavy with a crushing attack. “Share My Pain” is one of those songs that shows the band incorporating a “groove” element to their repertoire. This song stands out not just because of the groove but because of the personal approach. “Aurum Reclusa” is as Cult Leader as it gets. This song harks back a bit to the Gaza days. The title track “A Patient Man” is another epic. This one, like “To Achlys” is deep and introspective only on this track there is a bit more “hope.” Closing out the album is “The Broken Right Hand of God.” This track is a great summation of what A Patient Man is. It’s brooding with heaviness, epic moments and full of heart.
Cult Leader have carved out a niche amongst their peers. They have evolved past the norm of just being a heavy band. Each member of the band has made significant contributions to make A Patient Man something special. Musically, Casey Hansen, Sam Richards and Mike Mason have created a sonic style that (as I’ve mentioned before) is hypnotic and heavy at the same time. Vocalist Anthony Lucero, really grew not only as a lyricist but as a vocalist. His sort of crooning on some of these songs really, gives off a personal touch. And Kurt Ballou’s production work is outstanding. He really helped to deliver the sound this album needed. The jump from Lightless Walk to A Patient Man is quite astounding. To be able to still maintain your roots and come away with a piece of work like this is something to really be proud of. I can just imagine the live set in a club being something I will and others in attendance will remember emphatically. Thank you Cult Leader for understanding and not being afraid to go after what moves you. Music is art and it’s a wonderful thing. When you can find the right members to balance the vision, great things like A Patient Man happen.
Overall Rating: 9/10
Cult Leader- A Patient Man:
Losing a band member is never an easy thing. Especially when it’s the main songwriter in the group. Things at that point can either fall off the tracks or the band comes together and pushes forward. A couple years back Architects guitarist and main songwriter Tom Searle passed away from cancer. This led many to think that the band was over and or going to take a break for a while. Through all the pain and sorrow, the band pulled through and hit the road to celebrate the life of their fallen brother. It was during this time too that Architects released the song “Doomsday,” a song that was one of the final things Tom was working on but was unable to finish. When the song was released they song they mentioned that there was a future for the band and that they were looking forward to working on new music.
Now in 2018, a couple years later, Architects have written one hell of an album. Not only does their new record, Holy Hell, pay tribute to Tom but also explores many different themes of pain, loss, suffering and mourning. Musically all the members contributed to create a unified front and it sounds like it. Holy Hell at times sticks to what the band has done best for years but, at the same time takes on a more melodic approach. This being their 8th album, they have found their “sound” and they are running with it. The first three songs released “Hereafter,” “Royal Beggars,” and “Modern Misery” highlight the style that the band has, while other songs like “Mortal After All,” “Damnation,” “Holy Hell” and “A Wasted Hymn” show that the band isn’t done evolving and incorporating different styles and elements into the fold.
I will admit, it has been a while since I last really listened to Architects. When I heard “Doomsday” after it was released, I started to get really intrigued by the band again. Architects have created an album that will cement their names in heavy music. They have also brought the prog djent sound to the forefront. Holy Hell is exactly the album that the band needed to make. The only thing I can nit pick at is the polished production. At times it seems a bit too clean and compressed but, that doesn’t change how powerful the songs are. Architects have a lot to say about what they are dealing with and you know that when the time comes to start playing shows, those performances are going to set the venues on fire.
Overall Rating= 9/10
Architects- Royal Beggars:
Architects- Modern Misery:
It’s never easy for a band to come back from a lengthy hiatus and pick up where they left off. There are a few anomalies over the years where that has happened, Failure, Alice In Chains, and Death From Above 1979 are just a couple that come to mind. You can now add Daughters to that list. Releasing their first album in over 8 years, You Won’t Get What You Want is an album that continues the legacy of what Daughters created at first but now, takes it a bit further and almost reinvents what the band once was.
You Won’t Get What You Want is not accessible or mainstream by any means. Instead you get a visceral album that stretches and pushes the boundaries of art rock, post punk, a bit of industrial and rock. From the well crafted songs to the production, the final product is every bit a Daughters album and then some. There are songs that border on the chaotic like “Long Road No Turns,” “Satan In The Wait,” and “Less Sex.” Then there are others that expand upon different elements of atmosphere and aggression like “The Flammable Man,” “The Lords Song,” “The Reason They Hate Me,” and “Ocean Song. The opening and closing songs “City Song” and “Guest House” have a way about them that not only set and end a mood but, they also hit you like a ton of bricks.
Daughters are a band that aren’t easily describable. Sure you can throw around different genres to see if they stick but, in the end, the experimental nature of the band and what they create is in itself art. You Won’t Get What You Want is an album that is much needed in this day an age. It will make you think, as well as take you places you and your mind might not have gone before. Daughters are back and have delivered an album worthy of their past as well as what the future holds for them. What an album. Every time I listen, I hear something else that makes me dig this album even more. This record is most certainly in my top 10 of the year.
Overall Rating: 9.5/10
Daughters- You Won’t Get What You Want:
Behind The Scenes of You Won’t Get What You Want:
A couple years back Meg Myers came on the scene with a sense of urgency. Her unbridled delivery and very real lyrics made her an artist to watch. Meg sure made an impact with her debut album Sorry as well as her intense live performances. Now on her second album, Take Me To The Disco, Meg takes risks and explores a side that delves deeper into the last couple years of her life.
The album begins with the title track “Take Me To The Disco.” This song sets a mood and gives you a lyrical taste of what is to come. “Numb” the first single deals with the pressures of being on a major label and all the weight that comes with it. “Jealous Sea” is one of those songs that really hits. The moody music and beats along with Meg’s lyrics and vocal prowess on this song really makes it a standout track. Other stellar songs include, “Tear Me To Pieces,” “Little Black Death,” “Done,” “Tourniquet” and “I’m Not Sorry.” One of my personal favorites “The Death Of Me” is one of the best songs Meg has ever written. You can feel every emotion she sings about from heartbreak, anger, and love. It’s a truly powerful song. Closing out the album is “Constant,” a song that really sums up the album and what it stands for. It’s one of those songs that gives you chills while listening.
Take Me To The Disco is an album that stands out on it’s own. It’s not trying to duplicate what Meg did on Sorry. The production of Christian “Leggy” Langsdon, crosses genres and gives the album a breath of fresh air among a sea of over-produced manufactured garbage. Meg Myers is as real as it gets. I’ve often thought of her as a cross between Fiona Apple and Tori Amos, and on this album her Tori side comes out a bit more. Meg is without a doubt a bright spot in a rather dull and corporate styled market. After listening to Meg bare her soul, you’ll understand why Meg Myers is truly an artist to watch out for.
Meg Myers- Take Me To The Disco:
Meg Myers- Sorry:
Ever since I first heard The Black Queen‘s debut album Fever Daydream, I’ve been hooked. The Black Queen are a revelation among a sea of imposter bands of the genre. Greg Puciato, Josh Eustis and Steve Alexander have created a sound that is inspired and deep. The lush ambient landscapes and 80’s synth wave driven music along with the exceptional vocals and lyrics have made The Black Queen a real force to be reckoned with.
Their new album Infinite Games is superb from start to finish. From the moment “Even Still I Want To” begins all the way to the closing track”One Edge Of Two,” you as the listener get the full album experience. Songs like “Thrown Into The Dark,” “No Accusations,” “Your Move,” “Lies About You,” and “Spatial Boundaries” will instantly grab you. Then there are other songs like “Impossible Condition,” “100 To Zero,” and “Porcelain Veins” that really go deep and take you on a bit of a journey. The album is dark and brooding yet sensual and seductive at the same time.
The combination of the three of these men, Josh, Greg and Steve is astounding. What they have created not only extends on what they started with Fever Daydream but, on Infinite Games, they have created an album that transcends the norm of what synth wave music is as well as paying homage to the bands/artists that have influenced and inspired them without making it a straight derivative of those works. Greg Puciato not only is one of the best frontmen of the last century but he undeniably has one of the best voices as well. His ability to go from The Dillinger Escape Plan to The Black Queen not only shows his versatility as a vocalist but also as a lyricist. The lyrical content explores different emotions and themes that he wouldn’t normally get into while in Dillinger, thus making this a visceral and impassioned adventure.
The Black Queen is calling and you need to make it a point of delving into this album, as well as Fever Daydream.
Overall Rating: A
The Black Queen- Infinite Games:
The Black Queen- Fever Daydream:
Thrice has never been a band to repeat what they did on their last album. They’ve always pushed forward and tried new things. Sometimes those experiments worked (Vheissu) and others not so much (Beggars). Now on their tenth studio album, Thrice have returned with Palms, a record that picks up where To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere left off. Palms is chock full of those signature Thrice moments from the riffs, lyrics, melodies and rhythms that makes Thrice a special band.
There is no doubt that when Thrice writes a “heavy” song, you know that it’s going to be a favorite. Rather than go all out heavy on the first track, “Only Us” starts it off with a very subtle mid tempo track that is heavy but full of melody. Then on track two with “The Grey,” they step it up a bit more to really push the album further. “The Dark” then takes it back to the melodic with it’s dark brooding body. Dustin Kensrue, really shines on this song. “Just Breathe” which features guest vocals from Emma Ruth Rundle, is another stellar track that shows a bit of a different side of the band. As the album continues on with songs like “Everything Belongs” and “My Soul,” Thrice explores a bit of their ballad side, then they bring it back up tempo with the distortion heavy “Hold Up A Light.” Closing out the album is “Beyond The Pines” a very stark and haunting track that continues on the bands experimental path but doesn’t stray from the overall sense of the album.
Overall, Palms is very much a Thrice album. They aren’t trying to sound like anyone else but themselves. The experimentation works for these songs. Since the band returned with To Be Everywhere, you get the sense that Dustin, Teppei, Ed, and Riley are feeling inspired again and have something more to say. The playing and performances on this album are top notch and hark back to their early days, when making music was fun and full of life. The only complaint I have about Palms, is that the mix on this album is pretty weak. Often times, the drums are buried, the bass just becomes a rumble, the crisp/bright guitars are often lost amongst the distortion, and the vocals at times seem to be too compressed. But if you look past these things, Palms is a very enjoyable and full album. Thrice have really pushed themselves to not repeat the past and on Palms, they achieve that and show their collective maturity.
Overall Rating 8.5/10