Vancouver’s peculiarly monikered Anciients are turning some heads in the metal world with their debut full-length album, Heart Of Oak.
Always on the lookout for some fresh and exciting young metal bands to come on the scene, I gave this record a spin, and dagnabbit, the advance buzz was spot on–these guys have got the goods. Heart Of Oak is a veritable grab bag of metal and rock genres dumped in a big-ass cast iron cauldron and simmered into a uniquely ambitious introductory statement.
The genre-hopping madness shows itself from the very first track. “Raise The Sun” begins with a relatively sedate but ominous guitar line that sounds like it could have been lifted straight from Baroness’ “Bullhead’s Psalm,” before busting out into a rolling hard rock blues riff which segues into black metal screeching laid over double bass kick drumming. That’s followed by an extended proggy, stonerish instrumental section which drops into a juicy groove riff. This is not a one-song anomaly; it’s par for the course on this record.
Stone Sour’s House Of Gold & Bones Part 2 marks the conclusion to the double concept album that began back in October 2012 (see review of Part 1 here).
As expected, it’s fairly similar to Part 1, so I won’t waste your time going into great detail about the “sound” of the album. Rather, I think this release provides a good opportunity to examine what makes a successful double album.
Releasing a double album–a concept double album no less–is by its very nature an ambitious move. Some bands release both albums simultaneously, as Baroness recently did with its Yellow & Green records. But those albums were stylistically different from one another, with one serving as the aggressive side and one the more melodic. But that was not Stone Sour’s approach on HOGAB, which means the band was essentially saying one of two things: 1) It required two albums to adequately tell the narrative and thematic stories, or 2) The band went into the studio and came out with what it deemed to be two album’s worth of high quality songs.
Unfortunately, I don’t think either is true.
The Postal Service’s debut and only album, Give Up, came out ten years ago. Since then, the music landscape has changed significantly, lending an interesting context for the album’s tenth anniversary deluxe reissue.
The Postal Service was the pet project of Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and electronic music artist Jimmy Tamborello. Given Gibbard’s commitments to Death Cab, The Postal Service was only ever able to put out this single album, but it somewhat surprisingly took off and garnered great acclaim along the way.
The tenth anniversary reissue includes the original ten-song album in remastered form, along with a fifteen-track bonus disc compiling the band’s b-sides and remixes in addition to two brand new songs recorded in the last year and other assorted goodies. This is a great time to reexamine Give Up because electronic music has largely taken over today’s pop music scene, wielding much more influence than it had back in 2003. But the electronic music of 2013 is more about EDM and dubstep and dance music; it’s about larger than life DJs wearing Lite-Brite mouse helmets conducting giant drug-fueled raves in Ibiza. I’m not saying this stuff wasn’t around back in 2003, but it hadn’t yet swallowed the genre whole.
Outlaw country. Rockabilly. Punk. Johnny Cash. Elvis. All sifted through the lens of a Danish hard rock troupe; that’s Volbeat in a nutshell.
It’s a ludicrous combination that shouldn’t conceivably work, and yet Volbeat has been proving time and again, album after album, that they can indeed pull it off. Little has changed in that regard on their fifth album, Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies.
Volbeat stylize themselves as a metal band, which is technically true, I suppose. But they are metal in the way that American Idiot-era Green Day is punk. It’s a tempered, commercialized, broader vision of the genre, with many of the edges removed in order to appeal to a wider audience and to open up many avenues of sound expansion that don’t naturally conform to the genre’s boundaries.
Volbeat certainly toys with metal (the King Diamond cameo on “Room 24″ practically screams out for metalhead validation everywhere), but I don’t think the band would have steadily risen from near obscurity on American shores to the rock radio staple it has become over the past few years if it was overtly metal. Instead, what’s got the band to where it is now is its catchiness and its accessibility. Above all else, this is a rock band that writes good songs–plain and simple.
Cold War Kids were a pretty big name on people’s lips back in 2006-07 as a hip indie rock band to be on the lookout for. Spurred forward by the relatively huge success of their single “Hang Me Up to Dry,” a lot of people envisioned this band blowing up big time.
Well, they never really broke out into huge Kings of Leon-size stars, but they’ve managed to carve out a pretty nice career for themselves nevertheless. Their first two records saw them sticking largely to the raw, white-boy rock n’ blues of “Hang Me Up to Dry,” but on 2011′s Mine Is Yours, they seemed to make the conscious decision to polish their sound and really try for that mainstream success so many thought they were destined for.
For reasons unbeknownst to me, that record mostly fell on deaf ears. It was by no means perfect, but I found it quite enjoyable. Still, whether it had been a dream of theirs to begin with or simply one foisted on them by external pressures, the group’s initial attempt to garner a wider audience failed, and its follow-up, Dear Miss Lonelyhearts, seems to be a direct response to that.
I’ve got a themed triple-threat album review for you today, focusing on soundtracks. These movies and their music have nothing to do with each other, but juxtaposing them in this fashion highlights some important aspects of soundtrack construction and quality.
Let’s just jump right in, shall we?
Les Miserables: The Motion Picture Soundtrack
Notice the subtitle for this soundtrack–there is a reason I am specifying “The Motion Picture Soundtrack” for this movie, since Universal Republic engaged in the most cynical, disgusting cash grab they could in regards to releasing this film’s accompanying music. A few days before the movie’s American release date (which happened to be Christmas Day, so you know they wanted to get this CD on store shelves before the holiday), the record company slyly put out what appeared to be the movie’s soundtrack. Instead, it carried the subtitle “Highlights from The Motion Picture Soundtrack.” Well…OK, it is a 160 minute film, you say; how were they to fit it all on one consumer-friendly disc? Alright, I understand that reasoning, and this is certainly a film that does have highlights (as in, not everything is fantastic and worthy of repeat listenings). But if that is your thought-process going into the curation of a “highlights” record…you better freakin’ include the highlights!! How difficult is that to understand?!
That three-second-long shrill shriek at the beginning of “The Hell In Me” marks the very first sound of Killswitch Engage’s sixth album, Disarm The Descent. There’s no volume fading or short instrumental intro to set the scene, just pure volatility cranked up to 11 from the moment you hit play. It’s an entirely appropriate introduction to the record since it announces the return of KsE’s original singer, Jesse Leach, to the fold after a ten year absence and last year’s departure of Howard Jones.
I hope you weren’t expecting a gentle reentry for Leach. Instead of testing the waters or coasting smoothly onto the airstrip, Leach pilots a crash landing on the tarmac, sans landing gear. And while it’s an explosive reintroduction, I think Leach’s return has unfairly pigeonholed the expectations for this record. Now that the original lineup (plus drummer Justin Foley, who joined in 2003) is back together, a lot of fans want, need and expect this record to sound like 2000′s self-titled or 2002′s Alive or Just Breathing — the latter of which is held up by many fans as the best album KsE has ever made and which, not coincidentally, was Leach’s last with the band…until now, of course.
I’ve been turned on to more than a few cool new bands over the years after seeing them perform on any of Conan O’Brien’s late night platforms (Late Night, The Tonight Show, Conan). His music supervisors are good about showcasing a wide variety of genres in addition to bands at varying levels of the fame spectrum. It’s always a joy to tune in not knowing who the musical act is when the opening credits roll, but by the end of the show feeling like you’ve just discovered a gem. Some of my most memorable finds up to this point have been Diane Birch and The Joy Formidable, but the British indie rock crew Alt-J, who graced the show with a performance last week, are easily my favorite of them all.
Alt-J’s debut album, An Awesome Wave, was released here in the U.S. back in September of last year, but I don’t think I’m alone in having just discovered them. The record is so jam-packed with different sounds, styles and approaches that a granular breakdown of each would seem to suggest some unruly, unimpregnable art rock beast. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
I know Matt and Kim are a moderately big band in the indie rock scene, but I’ve just never got into their music.
I do, however, remember their “Lessons Learned” music video because, well, how can you forget a video where two people strip naked and run through Times Square?
Well, now the band is back with another quirky video involving them in a semi stage of undress, though they aren’t going full on birthday suit this time. This is a really fun video. Check it out:
Cold Day Memory was supposed to be Sevendust’s return to form following guitarist/songwriter Clint Lowery’s return to the band. I know a lot of people loved that album–I wasn’t one of them (see review). I thought it was a decent but ultimately uninspiring effort that couldn’t hold a candle to the band’s earlier output.
In the interim between that album’s 2010 release and the band’s ninth studio album, Black Out The Sun, Lowery and drummer Morgan Rose took some time off to work with their new band, Call Me No One. In addition, guitarist John Connolly and bassist Vinnie Hornsby dabbled in several side projects. Poor ol’ Lajon Witherspoon was the only Sevenduster not really spending time on other projects in the past couple years.
But I think the time spent away from Sevendust, now more than 15 years into its existence, did the whole band some good. Whether the guys were able to exert some restless energy elsewhere or explore other ideas that wouldn’t have fit in with the Sevendust dynamic, the band now sounds refreshed and more in tune with its core sound than it has in some time. Lowery’s return finally seems to have registered in the songwriting. That, in addition to the band’s decision to self-produce this record (rather than their reliance on Johnny K, who manned the helm on Cold Day Memory and tons of other mainstream metal records) has this album sounding in many ways like classic Sevendust, at least stylistically if not always qualitatively.