Album Review

Album Review: Machine Head- Of Kingdom And Crown

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!

Overall Rating: A

Machine Head- Of Kingdom And Crown:

Of Kingdom And Crown (Spotify):

Album Of The Week: KEN Mode- Null

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.

Overall Rating: B+

KEN Mode- NULL:

VIDEOS:

A Love Letter:

UNRESPONSIVE:

Throw Your Phone In The River:

But They Respect My Tactics:

Album Review: Alphamega- Between Light and Shadow Vol I

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!!!

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10

Alphamega- Between Light And Shadow Vol I. :

VIDEOS:

Sound Of Your Excuse:

No Longer Broken:

Late To The Party:

Pariah:

Annihilator:

On Spotify:

Album Review: Holy Fawn- Dimensional Bleed

I was not prepared for this album. The moment I put it on, I was completely taken aback by the intensity that permeated through my speakers. From that moment, I was hooked and I didn’t want it to end. There is something transcendent about this album and how it all comes together and hits you like a slew of anvils as though Wile E Coyote would be trying to catch the roadrunner. Holy Fawn have created an utter masterpiece with Dimensional Bleed and there is absolutely no denying it.

The way this album grabs you and doesn’t let go is comforting and at the same time contemplative. The way the band shifts between genres is seamless. Being able to go from metal, shoegaze, with bits of doom and ambient is purely astonishing. Then you have the vocals that sway from these delicate melodies to an outright onslaught of near black metal extremes. The songs flow perfectly into each other creating that ebb and flow that a perfect album has. There is a range of emotions (melancholy sadness, aggression, despair, and anguish) that create a whole other dimension while listening. Musically and lyrically they are both striking and can stand on their own. Dimensional Bleed is as explosive as it is ambient without compromising one for the other. Going track by track for this record, like I’ve said on others, would ruin it for you. Instead, I implore you to listen to this album start to finish and let it soak in. Then when it’s over, start it again and pick up on all the little nuances that you missed the first time.

There is a real emotion and power to Dimensional Bleed that when other bands hear this album, they will try to replicate it but, won’t be able to come close to what Holy Fawn did here. I love that Holy Fawn made an “album” and that it really takes you places. The etherial vibe from this record will stay with you even after listening. I’ve listened to this album many times through and I have to say it has become one of my favorites to listen to while I drift off to sleep. It provides quite the soundtrack to some vivid dreams and when you awake, there is a feeling that you just lived through. Thank you Holy Fawn for Dimensional Bleed. I’m completely enthralled by this and can’t stop listening! Top 5 Albums Of The Year For DAMN Sure!

Overall Rating: A

Holy Fawn- Dimensional Bleed:

VIDEOS:

Void Of Light:

Death Is A Relief:

Album Review: Greg Puciato- Mirrorcell

There are certain times in life when you hear a record that not only takes the artist to a whole other level it, resonates in a way that you begin to get swept away by the absolute force of its being. The evolution of Greg Puciato as a songwriter and artist has been quite the journey to hear and see. From The Dillinger Escape Plan to The Black Queen, Killer Be Killed and now as a solo artist as well, what a significant aspect and contribution to be proud of. On this new solo outing, Mirrorcell, not only is this the a natural follow up to his debut Child Soldier: Creator Of God but, it seems that there is a level of inspiration that took this one further.

“In This Hell You Find Yourself” kicks off this album and creates a tension that sets up an uneasiness and then it grabs you and never lets go as “Reality Spiral” starts to sink its claws in. As you listen, you start to hear where this album is coming from and the influence and inspiration that guided these songs. “No More Lives To Give” steps up the heaviness a bit and takes you on an introspective journey lyrically while musically you are hit with hard hitting riffs and melody that sticks with you. “Never Wanted That” (my favorite song on the album as of this writing) is the “Evacuation” of the record. The way this song hits you is astonishing. The bass driven opening again creates a tension that when the chorus of the song comes in, the crushing emotional weight hits you like a ton of bricks. The vulnerability on this song is absolutely powerful. “Lowered” is one of the tracks on the album that again, takes things to another level. The combination of Greg and guest vocalist Reba Meyers from Code Orange is a revelation. These two voices together make magic and when you hear them together, the chills you get from it, I’ll just leave it there. “We” is a track that has a bit of a Black Queen tinge to it but explores more of the new wave elements that are prevalent in their songs. “I, Eclipse” is another of my favorite songs on the album. The intensity of this song and where it’s placed really guides the last part of the album. There is something else about this song I can’t put into words quite yet that, when this song is played live, I’ll be able to explain further. “Rainbows Underground” is one hell of a stellar song and another one that shows the growth of Greg as a songwriter. Finishing off the album with “All Waves To Nothing” leave you not only wanting more but you are then compelled to start the album over. This track has moments that hark back to Greg’s time with The Dillinger Escape Plan but, in a way that feels natural and a bit different.

Throughout this album you are get to hear a whole other side of Greg Puciato. It’s a more cohesive album than his debut and this one seems to hit on a bit of a more personal streak. One of the revelatory aspects of the record is how talented of a guitarist Greg is. His riffs, solos, and playing is a story all on its own. Perhaps too, his time spent with Jerry Cantrell has rubbed off a bit, as there are plenty of ode’s to Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and other 90’s bands that have inspired Greg throughout the years. Another aspect of this album that deserves a ton of credit are the drums and playing by Chris Hornbrook. His ability to create memorable driving hits and rhythms helps propel these songs to that other level I was mentioning. Seriously, when you hear it all put together, you can hear why Chris and Greg as a duo are perfect for one another. Mirrorcell is not only one of those albums that you will be stuck on for a long time, you actually find yourself immersed in the album as a whole, just like it should. This album is a definite candidate for album of the year. Truly, each time I listen to this album I find something else to love about it. Greg put out one hell of an album with Mirrorcell and should be damn proud of it. I can’t wait to hear these songs live along with the ones from Child Soldier. I have a feeling the live show for this is going to be something special all on its own.

Overall Rating: A


Greg Puciato- Mirrorcell:

Album Review: Billy Howerdel- What Normal Was

When the news first broke that Billy Howerdel of A Perfect Circle/Ashes Divide was going to put out a solo album under his name, I became very intrigued. While reading about the making of the album, there was a quote of Billy’s that really stood out to me, “”This is me stepping back into my early teen self and making the record I would’ve made if I had the means and the knowledge when I first picked up a guitar — just in 2022.” I couldn’t love that statement more. I love that he went back to the well of what first really got his passion of music going and created an album that pays homage to those musical influences and inspirations but this record is one that can stand on it’s own during a resurgence of that sound.

What Normal Was is ten songs of goth tinged, dark pop, with melancholic tendencies and a sense of ambience that is both haunting and beautiful. Digging into his love for bands like The Cure, Depeche Mode and Siouxie and the Banshee’s, you can hear those bands in certain moments wheteher it’s a synth, vocal melody, bass line, guitar part or even a drum beat. But this isn’t a “copy” of those bands. Instead this is Billy making the album that he grew up wanting to make. I have a strange thing about wanting to go track by track as I feel like it gives the listener a preconceived notion but I do want to highlight a couple tracks. Opener “Selfish Heart” is one hell of a track to kick off the record. The vocal delivery on this song is superb. As the album continues tracks like “Free and Weightless,” “Ani,” “Beautiful Mistake,” “Poison Flowers,” and “Bring Honor Back Home” have all been standouts each time I listen. Closing song “Stars” is quite the contemplative track and one that gives the album an open ending to continue on this path at a later date.


What Normal Was is the type of album in 2022 that is not only needed but it’s a teaching tool for all these younger bands and “kids” who don’t quite understand how to make this type of music. The homage portion of the album and the desire to create something that you’ve always dreamed of makes this album work. It’s not just Billy stepping out of the shadow of Maynard and A Perfect Circle, this is Billy discovering who he is as a musician and songwriter. What Normal Was is a record that will grow on you after a few listens. There’s even a part of it that will make you want to seek out the bands and albums that helped to inspire this record. Personally, I can’t wait to hear what Billy Howerdel does next in his musical evolution.

Overall Rating: 9/10

Poison Flowers:


Free And Weightless:


Beautiful Mistake:


Selfish Hearts:


The Same Again:

Album Review: Cave In- Heavy Pendulum

Cave In are a band that have weathered every storm you can think of as a band. And no matter what is thrown at them, be it life lessons and tragedies, Cave In always comes out on top and armed with a sense of passion and delivery that most bands would and should be envious of. What Stephen Brodsky, Adam McGrath, JR Conners and Nate Newton have put together on their new album, Heavy Pendulum, they should not only be proud of but this album sets the band on a whole new journey of triumphs to be had and stages to rock.

Heavy Pendulum is an album that has one hell of an ebb and flow just like an album should. All the classic Cave In elements are here along with some new twists and turns. As the album begins with “New Reality” it’s obvious the guys are looking to move on from what they have been through and using this a new way to set forth a new path for the band. This track not only sets the tone for the album, the riffs attack with a sense of urgency similar to that of the Perfect Pitch Black era. The melodic leads provide the right amount of ear candy to wet your Brodsky/McGrath guitar appetite. The album continues at a pace that draws you in more and more with lush sound scapes, sick riffs, rhythms that will get you up rocking and maybe dancing a bit, top notch melodies not just vocally, lyrics that are reflective, deep and provide a bit more closure, and a sense that this album really just re-kickstarted a band that is just scratching the surface of where they can go now.

The 14 songs that make up Heavy Pendulum swing ferociously. From all the heavy riffs to the mid tempo drops and the more delicate moments, this album has most definitely earned its spot within the top 5 albums of 2022. I could go track by track which I did when I was listening to the album but, I really believe that takes away from your listening experience. Instead I will point out a few of my favorite tracks like “Blood Spiller,” “Floating Skulls,” “Heavy Pendulum,” “Amaranthine,” “Nightmare Eyes” and the closing song “Reckoning” which I must say Adam McGrath absolutely shines on this song.

The addition of Nate Newton to the band is very present throughout the album. His tone, style of play and passion for this band radiates through each song. After I heard the news of Caleb Scofield’s passing, I knew the only person that could ideally fill his shoes was Nate and not only has he honored Caleb but he’s continued on with same drive for the band that he had. When you hear the parts of the songs that would be “Caleb moments,” Nate drives those parts home with a sense of gusto that I’m sure would make Caleb smile.

Cave In has made an album that not only sums up their career but sets the foundation for where they can keep going. There isn’t one moment on this album that feels forced or makes you want to change a song. The whole album captures the listener like an album should. Heavy Pendulum isn’t just another Cave In album, this one is one that was destined to be made and the end result is something beyond tremendous. Personally, I can’t wait to hear these songs take on a new life when played live. Cheers to Stephen, Adam, JR, and Nate for creating one of the best albums of 2022 as well as one of the best albums in the Cave In catalog.


Overall Rating: A

Cave In- Heavy Pendulum:

By: Brian Lacy

Album Review: Black Map- Melodoria

Black Map is one of the bands that as soon as I heard, I instantly fell in love with. Armed with the riffs, pummeling rhythms, and right amount of melody, Black Map have cemented themselves amongst the rock world. As a three piece the magnitude of volume emitted from Ben Flanagan (vocals/bass), Mark Engles (guitar), and Chris Robyn (drums) is astounding. Their new album Melodoria is a catchy, inquisitive and etherial driven album.

From the moment the first song “Chasms” kicks things off with that riff, you the listener are truly in for an experience. Black Map didn’t put together a collection of songs, they made an album that demands you listen and soak it all in. Across the ten songs on the album, there are many different vibes that shape the record and take you on a journey. One of the best things about Black Map is the velvetly delicate vocals of Ben Flanagan. Not only can you hear what he’s singing but with each line and verse and listen you get more and more engrossed in the subject matter and the thunderous bass tone that packs one hell of a punch. Mark Engles guitar work on this album is on par with his brightest moments in Dredg. There will always be a tinge of Dredg in this band but, the way it’s used brings in a different element that adds a level of atmosphere and space to the hard driving riffs. And who can forget the absolutely devastating drums provided by the one and only Chris Robyn. The combination of all three of these gentleman has made for one hell of a band and 3 albums of pure and honest rock music.

A band like Black Map is a breath of fresh air in a musical climate where programmed drums and taking the easy way out has become acceptable. Black Map was founded on the premise of being a heavy rock band with melody and they really have delivered the goods on Melodoria. They’ve achieved and found their sound on this album. Taking the best of what the first two albums offered, mix that with the maturity and development and you really have a recipe for a damn good album. I really recommend putting this album while on a drive and letting it take you over. It’s one of those albums that will grow on your in different ways. It hits you in all the right ways depending on where you are at in that moment. Black Map deserves to be played on every stereo and loud. Go see them live when you get a chance, they will rock you for damn sure!

Recommended Tracks: Chasms, Super Deluxe, Madness, Witching Hour, Melodoria

Overall Rating: 8.5/10

Black Map- Melodoria:

Album Review: Failure- Wild Type Droid

A band like Failure doesn’t come around too often. Ever since their inception, they have been pushing the boundaries of rock music. It’s been talked about for years now how much of an influential masterpiece their third album, Fantastic Planet is. That album is truly the new Velvet Underground and Nico. Just like with The Velvet’s anyone who has picked up a copy of Fantastic Planet has inevitably started a band. But that’s not what this is all about. Instead let us focus on the fact that Failure have released their third new album since their return in 2014 and this one is without a doubt in line with the great albums they have produced. Wild Type Droid is out now and it’s absolutely stunning.

Wild Type Droid fits in its own part of Failure lore. As much as it fits within the “space rock” spectrum, this one hits differently. Firstly the music on this record is a bit more rhythmic and complex. The crisp production courtesy of Ken Andrews is superb. Every nuance that should be heard is making for one hell of a listening experience. The performances from all three members especially drummer Kellii Scott is astonishing. There’s almost this whole other level that Ken, Greg and Kellii went to with this one. Painting vivid pictures with the lyrics and melodies along with music that creates a truly whimsical feeling makes Wild Type Droid an album that stands out. The way the album starts, flows, and ends is something special on its own. It’s one of those that you feel compelled to start again as soon as it is over.

This year has already given us so many great albums and Failure’s Wild Type Droid is right there amongst those (Quicksand’s Distant Populations, Every Time I Die’s Radical, Genghis Tron’s Dream Weapon to name a few). For a band that’s technically been around for over 30 years there is no stopping Failure. If anything it’s as though the reunion only made then stronger and reinvigorated. There is no substitute for Failure. Other’s have tried to capture what they do but, if it’s not Ken, Greg and Kellii, it’s just going to sound like an imposter. Cheers to Failure for yet another triumphant album. Personally, I can’t wait to hear these songs live. It’s going to be out of this world good!

Overall Rating= A

Failure- Wild Type Droid:

Album Review: Every Time I Die- Radical

ALBUM REVIEW: Radical - Every Time I Die - Distorted Sound Magazine

Radical is one hell of a way to describe the new Every Time I Die album of the same name. Throughout their career, Every Time I Die have continued to get better and better with each release. Like a fine wine or scotch, the older these guys get, the more ferocious and unrelenting they get. This being the band’s ninth studio album, the absolute urgency felt throughout the album is unparalleled. To top it all off too, there are 16 blistering tracks on this one and the moment it ends, you are compelled to start it over.

Tracks 1-16 are phenomenal. The riffs, beats, bass lines, vocals, lyrics, and melodies are some of the best ETID have come up with. There are moments throughout the album that hark back to previous albums like The Big Dirty and Hot Damn but, there is no denying that these new songs push through what they’ve done in the past. I could go through the album track by track but as I’ve said many times before, that would just ruin it for you, the listener. Instead what I will do is say that there isn’t one track on this album that doesn’t belong or feels out of place. The poetic nature and introspective lyrics of singer Keith Buckley are striking and vulnerable in a different way than on Low Teens. His ability to tell stories and make you think while at the same time rocking out is something that not many people can do. Then you put that together with the crushing riffs of Andy Williams and Jordan Buckley plus the pummeling rhythm section of Steve Micciche and Clayton “Goose” Holyoak and you have the recipe for one of the best bands of the century. Radical also features guest appearances by Josh Scogin from ’68 and Andy Hull from Manchester Orchestra, adding another color to these songs. To top it all off is the stunning production from Will Putney (who also helmed Low Teens).

This album is one that will hold up for years to come. Their ability to expand their sound and take risks only make this album stronger. There is a polarizing sensibility to the record but also a delicate tinge that allows the listener to really soak it all in. You’d think that after over 20 years of being a band and all the miles on the road that they’d slow down but, you’re totally wrong. There is no stopping Every Time I Die and Radical proves that!

Overall Rating: A

Review By: Brian Lacy

Every Time I Die- Radical: