Brendan O’Brien

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:

 

 

Unsung Masterpieces: Korn- Issues

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Lets travel back to 1999. The peak of the nu-metal genre was riding high and Korn was on top of the mountain. Fresh off their success of their mainstream breakthrough of Follow The Leader, Korn followed that up with a more melodic simplified album, Issues. Issues saw Korn maintaining their signature heaviness while incorporating a slew of guitar hooks, vocal melodies that enhanced the lyrics, a dash of electronics, and production that really made their sound bombastic. Korn was also able to go back to its bare essentials, dropping their hip hop flair and rapping. Working with Brendan O’Brien allowed them to stay on track, and make an album that sonically sounds great and cohesive. Granted all of Korn’s albums have the same themes throughout, Issues was the absolute pinnacle of what became their signature. “Falling Away From Me,” “Trash,” “Beg For Me,” “Make Me Bad,” “Somebody Someone,” “No Way,” and “Dirty,” are absolute standouts on the album. The short interludes in between songs like “Dead,” “4U,”and “It’s Gonna Go Away,” add to the already dark lyric tones, but actually provide a nice bridge to carry on the flow of the album. I can remember buying this album and being absolutely enthralled by it. There was something about this record that really hit home with me. During this time in music, it wasn’t hard to write angry lyrics and such, but to do it with conviction and actually mean it was something Korn did perfectly. Yes, they have repeated the same thing for years, but they really know how to do it.

I’m bringing all this up because Korn are releasing a new album later this year that they promise will be more in the vain of their older efforts like Issues and Untouchables. They released a new song called “Rotting In Vain,” that really does have an old school Korn feel to it. Needless to say I’m actually intrigued to hear it. When I heard the new song, I felt compelled to go back and listen to a few of their albums. Issues was always the one besides their debut that stood out to me as a solid album. It’s quite strange to think that 22 years later, Korn is still releasing music and selling out venues, but they keep doing it and people keep listening. So take a trip down memory lane and listen to Issues.

 

Korn- Issues:

 

Korn- Rotting In Vain:

Unsung Masterpieces: Audioslave- Revelations

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When Audioslave broke on to the music scene they were met with very high expectations. Their debut album was a really great album, full of great songs and a renewed sense of energy for each other the members. Their second album was hit and miss. There were some really good songs but as a whole it just didn’t come across as well. When Audioslave released their third album Revelations, they finally hit the mark and found their sound. This would be their final album sadly. Rather than working with Rick Rubin on this album the band chose Brendan O’Brien, with whom both Rage Against The Machine and Soundgarden have worked with in the past. Brendan was able to really capture the essence of what this band is and was. There are more influences on this album as well delving into funk and soul. This was also the first album which Chris Cornell was sober during the making of. Audioslave did not tour on this album, instead they broke up.

Revelations though as their swan song is brilliant. The first song “Revelations” really sets the tone for the album. It’s such a great song. The songs “Wide Awake” and “Shape of Things to Come” were prominently featured in Michael Mann’s horrible film adaption of Miami Vice. Both of these songs are tremendous. “Wide Awake,” evokes some political angst as well. The song is about Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath. “Until We Fall,” is another song that really shows the progression of Audioslave. The closing song “Moth” is a bit of foreshadowing for what was about to happen to the band. The song is powerful and one of the most inspiring songs on the album. Chris Cornell’s voice really shines on this song (along with “Wide Awake”).

The entire band was clicking on all cylinders one this album. It’s shame they couldn’t last longer. Thankfully there have been news reports as of late that both Tom Morello and Chris Cornell said they would be open to working together again. Let’s hope so. I would love to see Audioslave return.

Audioslave- Revelations:

Album Debate: Pearl Jam TEN or VS

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To create an album that is absolutely memorable, relatable, and sonically amazing is no easy task. However during the musical renaissance of the 90’s there was an abundance of bands that did just that. Pearl Jam came out swinging with their debut album TEN. Songs like “Once,” “Black,” “Garden,” “Alive,” hell the entire album is a gem. There is not one ounce of filler on this album. The only thing I can really pick on about the album are the mixes. The band was never completely satisfied with the final result. When TEN was re-released, longtime producer Brendan O’Brien remixed it to the way the band had envisioned it originally. You can definitely tell the difference. A couple years later in 1993, Pearl Jam released what I consider to be their finest piece of work, VS. This album had a much more together feel along with a rawer and more aggressive sound. There was also a more natural, band-oriented album, rather than each member bringing in a bunch of songs that was already arranged. It really does show. As a whole its a more cohesive put together album. This is where the bands identity lies. It also showed a broad section of the band and their ability to do ballads, faster songs, slow songs, and the more punk driven songs. Again, there is not one song on this album that is filler. From the heavier side of things like “Go,” “Animal,” “Rearviewmirror,” to the more delicate like “Daughter,” “Elderly Woman…” and “Dissident” and closing it out with the more than beautiful “Indifference,” this is such a well rounded album.

Obviously I pick VS as my favorite album of theirs. Where do you stand?

 

By: Brian Lacy

 

Album Review: Seether- Isolate and Medicate

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Now 5 albums into their career, Seether has returned with their newest album Isolate and Medicate. This album due to legendary producer Brendan O’Brian (Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Mastodon, etc), comes across as tight and focused, with every layer of instrumentation serving a purpose. Frontman Shaun Morgan says “The whole record is a collection of diary entries. It’s just where I’m at and what I’m going through. I’m writing songs about getting through whatever situations I’m in at the time. These songs deal with relationships and life situations.”

With that being said, this album is full of Seether’s signature tales of woe and despair mixed with “grungy” riffs. Opener “See You At The Bottom” begins with tuned down bass and guitar lines before exploding with Morgan’s trademark soulful growl. “Same Damn Life,” is one of the most accessible and catchy songs of Seether’s career. The high pitch vocals are a very weak point of the song. First single “Words as Weapons” is a fairly standard Seether song, a distortion driven chorus with some added spine tingling vocal harmonies. There are a couple songs that have a bluesier side to them “My Disaster” and the stellar “Nobody Praying for Me.” “Suffer It All” is heavy,and full of chunky riffs. “Keep the Dogs at Bay” is a driving heavy melodic track. And “Watch Me Drown” is a solidly written song, but nothing special. “Crash” is a solemn ballad, with purposely layered guitar lines and some more great vocal takes. This song is one of the most powerful songs the band has written in years.

Isolate and Medicate is a strong release from one of the most consistent rock bands. This album is also indicative of Shaun Morgan being a really good songwriter. Seether has never been a band to reinvent the wheel when it comes to this style of music. There are a lot of people that have written this band off as a radio rock band and just nothing, but there is really something more to this band than any others in their realm. This album isn’t as good as their first 2 albums, but it does have a way to really connect. On the scale of 1-10, I’d give this a solid 7.

 

 

By: Brian Lacy

 

Live Review: Royal Blood and The Last Internationale at the Roxy

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Rock N Roll was in full effect last night as two very talked about bands took the stage at the Roxy, England’s Royal Blood, and former Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave drummer Brad Wilk’s new band The Last Internationale.

Kicking the evening off was The Last Internationale. This female fronted three piece takes their love of 70’s rock and adds thought provoking lyrics that deal with more social issues. Singer/bassist Delilia Paz has a voice that is reminiscent of a cross between Janis Joplin and Jefferson Airplane singer Grace Slick. The dirty distorted bass lines that come from her side of the stage are commanding. Guitarist Edgey Pires plays with a more bluesy soulful approach that is lost amongst most guitarists today. Brad Wilk still has one of the tightest drum sounds around. His energy behind the kit is very noticeable. Their upcoming debut which was produced by Brendan O’Brien will be out in the next couple months.

Royal Blood is on the cusp of breaking out. This two piece band has more guts and gusto than other two pieces like The Black Keys and The White Stripes. Their music is loud, melodic and heavy. Vocally and lyrically they are steps ahead of those other bands mentioned. Starting their set with the song “Hole,” got the crowd into a frenzy of head bopping and dancing. “Come On Over” has a very Muse inspired riff all the while, a sort of sexy vibe to it. Newer songs from their upcoming full length sounded great, if not better than the songs already released. Closing out their set was their hit “Out Of The Black.” The crowd erupted when the drums for the song started. The more harder tinged songs really got the crowd worked up. My friend and I were left stunned by how good they were live. Having only released an EP so far, the people in the crowd knew all the words to those four songs.

The Last Internationale are a terrific band and put on a great live show as well. I’ve said it before and I stand by it Royal Blood is what The Black Keys would sound like if they had balls!

 

The Last Internationale: https://www.facebook.com/thelastinternationale

Album Sampler:

Live From Austin:

 

Royal Blood: https://www.facebook.com/RoyalBloodUK

Come On Over:

Figure It Out:

 

By: Brian Lacy

Album Anniversary: Stone Temple Pilots- Purple

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Every band has their entire life to write their first album. The one after that can be the hardest. You don’t want to repeat what you just did, and you want to grow as a band. The 90’s were a great time for this and one album in particular managed to do just that. Stone Temple Pilots album Purple. This album pushed the band away from the “grungier” sound of their debut Core and brought in more of a southern rock and psychedelic rock feel to the way they wrote. The use of slide guitar throughout the album really adds another dimension to the tone of the guitars. Scott Weiland’s vocals and lyrics stepped up leaps and bounds. First track “Meatplow” is bluesy complimented with a laid back feel. “Vasoline” is a grooving hard rocking song with great melody. It’s also the only song on the album that drummer Eric Kretz got writing credit on. “Lounge Fly” really evokes the psychedelic feel. This is one of my favorite STP songs. “Interstate Love Song” is the one of the bands most popular songs. It also has a great video to accompany it. The southern rock vibe is very present on this song. The vocal melody is one of the best they’ve ever created. “Still Remains” is a great song to follow “Interstate.” It also shows a more vulnerable side of Scott Weiland. “Pretty Penny” takes it down further, stripping it down. “Silvergun Superman” brings the album back up to the rocking side of things. The chorus melody of this song stays with you for a lifetime. The guitar riff is chunky and heavy but mixed in perfectly not to cause a rumble. “Big Empty” which was actually first heard on STP’s MTV Unplugged, utilizes the slide guitar perfectly and the guitar solo, oh my. I still remember this song best from The Crow (RIP Brandon Lee). “Unglued” is another strong rock song that gets your head bopping and it also has a slight tinge to it that can make you dance. ” Army Ants” goes back to that psychedelic sound in the intro then kicks into high rock gear. Closing out the album is “Kitchenware and Candybars” which again strips the band down and puts Weiland back in the vulnerable state which he embraces. The subtle nature of this song has lots of introspective components foreshadowing a bit in to the future of the band.

Brendan O’Brien’s production and mixing on the album is absolutely flawless. the arrangements of the songs and flow of the album have yet to be duplicated by the band. Scott Weiland cemented himself as a great lyricist and singer on this album. Dean De Leo’s guitar work and tone is unrivaled. Take a listen to Slash try to play STP songs, it just doesn’t sound right at all. Robert De Leo is a fantastic bass player and his ability to harmonize with Scott is tremendous. Eric Kretz is a seriously underrated drummer. This also marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Purple. And in the 20 years it sure does hold up.