Archive for August, 2011

Lil Wayne: The Carter IV (The Game)

Posted in Album Reviews on August 30, 2011 by lukesreviews1014

This is the newest addition from arguably today’s greatest hip-hop/ rapper icon. However, after only one listen (bear in mind, one listen doesn’t always have the album leap out at you), i’m a little torn on what i think of this new record. First of all, let me say that i’m a fan of Lil Wayne. I think that he’s the best at what he does and what he does is a blend or  Freestyle Rap and Hip-Hop and other not so immediate influences texturing some of his songs. In terms of lyrics he’s got some brilliant lyrics and some not so brilliant lyrics. There’s no dispute though that no matter what you think of him or his music or his lyrics, Lil Wayne has become the face of modern hip-hop  not only having an extensive back catalogue of his own original songs, but he’s also featured, in some way shape or form, on every other hip-hop single on the radio by other popular artists including,  but not limited to Tech N9ne, Eminem, Jay Sean, and Drake.

Anyway, on with the review:

I’m going to start off by saying that this isn’t my favorite Lil Wayne record, but it’s a strong record nonetheless and definitely worthy of your attention. That being said, i do have a few complaints about  some aspects of the album. First off, in terms of lyrics, I feel like to some extent he’s recycling some of his lyrics and recycling a lot of his ideas, but twisting them a little bit so that he’s not repeating anything. i mean, if anyone else thinks i’m full of shit on this, then please let me know what you think, but some of the songs on this record kinda felt familiar not in the tune itself, but i felt like i heard him say the same thing before on “Rebirth” or “I’m Not a Human Being”. There wasn’t anything new or different on this record that makes it stand out more so than any of his other records, it’s simply another Lil Wayne record. Nothing wrong with it and it certainly has potential to be album of the year, but there’s nothing groundbreaking on this record in particular. But then again, let’s be honest, Lil wayne is one of those artists where the old saying, “If it aint broke, don’t fix it” applies. As long as the tunes still kick then Wayne will remain at the top.

Another thing, sorry Lil Wayne, but don’t do ballads anymore. Seriously, ballads just don’t come across very well when you’ve got vocoder vocals flying on top of everything. The song i’m referring to in particular is “How to Love”, but “How to Hate” can also apply to this rant (sorry T-Pain). Lil Wayne just simply shouldn’t be doing ballads like that. I’m not saying don’t do slower tempo songs, but if you do, you need to change your singing style a little bit to accommodate the song. What Lil Wayne does for “She Will” is alright though. Thats a better example of what i’m trying to explain. And another thing, while i’m thinking of it, why does every other song on this record need to open up with the clicking of a lighter. We get it, you smoke a lot and you like to sing about it a lot as well, but we don’t need to hear your lighter in the beginning of every song.

Now on to the positives on this record:

Like i said before, this is another strong Lil Wayne record, nothing new, but nothing’s overdone or dated. Every Wayne record to some extent is something of a declaration that this is who he is and he doesn’t compromise with anything and that sort of declaration translates very well on his records because you can hear the ferocity and anger in his rapping . It might just be me, but i felt like this record had a lot more moments where I thought he was saying, “Fuck this”, “Fuck that”, and “I am who I am, If you don’t like it, then go fuck yourself”. It’s that confidence and do-it-yourself attitude that Lil Wayne seems to portray so well that I think is the main reason why so many people gravitate towards him. Most rappers and hip hop artists in the past went through very hard upbringings and therefore have deep messages under the surface of all of their songs (artists like Biggie, Eminem, Dr. Dre, Tupac, etc.) and lets be honest, Lil Wayne didn’t really go through some of the hard times that the aforementioned rappers went through. I’m not saying that he was born with a spoon in his mouth, but because he was never a hustler or anything like that, he doesn’t have much to talk about, which is why he’s more political than most rappers (thanks to Katrina and George Bush according to Wayne). Lil Wayne’s lyrics and themes are more focused around whats going on in the world around him as opposed to directly within him. I guess what I’m really trying to say about Lil Wayne is that it’s not always necessarily WHAT he says but HOW he says it. I mean, Wiz Khalifa sings most of the same stuff that Lil Wayne does, but what’s the major difference? Songs. Lil Wayne’s got songs. He’s also got a career twice as long as Wiz’s but thats beside the point.

I’m getting lost in that rant so i’m going to quit while I’m ahead before people get majorly confused.

Anyway, to bring this review to a close, it’s another great Lil Wayne record. If you like Lil Wayne, you’ll like it. It may not be your favorite, but it’s got great songs and at the end of the day thats all you need.

Enjoy,                                                                                                                                                                                               Luke Helker

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Trivium: In Waves

Posted in Album Reviews on August 12, 2011 by lukesreviews1014

I’m sorry i’ve been lacking on the new album reviews, the summer kinda dipped a little and not a lot of good albums were coming out (i will give some shout outs to the new “All Shall Perish” and “Iwresteldabearonce” albums because both of which were very good).
When I found out that Trivium had a new record coming out soon, I thought, ‘Ok, this is possibly do or die for them. They NEED to have some sort of “Black Album” equivalent in order to stay afloat in the music world’. So when I heard the first single “In Waves” I was very impressed because that tune is an absolute banger. Then i heard that song live as well as “Built to Fall” on the Mayhem Festival and both of those songs sound brilliant live in relation to the other songs they brought with their set. So, now I’ve heard the album “In Waves” in full and i have to say…it’s great. Just on the back of those two singles I thought, Ok, this is gonna be good. But honestly, I didn’t think it was would be as good as it is. It’s REALLY good. Easily the best thing since “Ascendancy” and almost like the record they’ve been threatening to create all along. They really stepped up this year and i’m very proud of this album, and i’m not even that big of a Trivium fan.

There are so many noteworthy aspects of this album that need to be addressed, so let me start off with saying that in terms of the songwriting, it’s really stepped up. It’s got the melodic sensibility and crushing brutality of “Ascendancy” mixed with the complexity and huge production value of “Shogun”. Like i said before, “In Waves” is such a huge tune that it really set the bar for how the rest of the album would play out and even though no other song really matches to that of the title track (in my opinion), a lot of the songs come very close (“Built to Fall” being one). There’s a whopping 18 tracks on this record, and i wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s all killer no filler, because there are a couple instrumental tracks, but it’s still one of their strongest albums.

There’s also a lot of shouting vocals again, which they obviously lost during “The Crusade” (I’d like to point out also that I actually quite like “The Crusade”, but for the sake of comparing thus album to their past, i’m going to ignore “The Crusade” because i’m party of the minority) and kinda regained with “Shogun”. It’s actually quite hard being a band like Trivium where you try to incorporate a very strong and delicate balance between the shouting and clean singing. It honestly HAS to be perfect or else it’ll sound too much like generic metalcore. Bullet For My Valentine are one of the few bands that have successfully accomplished this and I would say that Trivium have as well with this. They’ve really come into their own on this record. For example, in past records (*cough* *cough* CRUSADE *cough*) you can her bits and pieces where they ripped off other bands and you could pull out a lot of parts that were trying too hard to emulate other bands. However, there is a perfect blend of melody and complexity as well as a perfect marriage of shouting and clean singing on this record.

Anyway, there isn’t much else to say other than it’s a brilliant, strong record and it’s one of my favorite things that they’ve done (“Ascendancy” will always be their best piece of work in my opinion). Honestly, I implore you all to check it out, even if you’ve had mixed feelings about the band in the past. If you liked “Ascendancy” then you will love this as well, so please give it some time because it also is a bit of a grower. I didn’t really realize how brilliant it was until the third listen, but thats not to say thats it’s a slow record or hard to get into. You really just have to check it out for yourself and see where it tales you.

In terms of Trivium live, they are finishing up the Mayhem Festival dates and then they probably will do another North American tour for the fall, but i haven’t heard anything so keep your eyes and ears peeled to see if they come near you because they’re great live.

Ok, thats enough from me. I promise you’ll be getting a bunch more album reviews now since my concert swell has just about ended. Until then, take care and please feel free to share your comments. Thanks

Luke Helker

All Stars Review!!!!!

Posted in Concert Reviews on August 9, 2011 by lukesreviews1014

As I am writing this i am currently nursing the various repercussions of yesterdays adventure. Going to this show with a couple other friends of mine, we traversed up to Jersey to go to the venue around 10 in the morning, arriving at the venue at 11:30, forcing us to wait about two hours for the doors to open. It was obviously well worth it because we saw a total of 15 bands!!! So, let’s jump right into it:

Attila – I really didn’t get to see enough of it because they had started as we were filing into the venue and we shuffled over to the merchandise area. From what i heard though, they were on top of it. Playing mainly songs from their second, and better album, Rage, they brought a great energy that helped to kick off the days festivities. They have a new album coming out later this year even so do check it out if you are a fan of Miss May I, Within the Ruins, or even Emmure.

Sleeping With Sirens – …I just can’t be bothered with a band that has a singer that sounds like a female and a band that dimply plays heavy pop-punk songs. One, it’s not done well and Two, it’s unconvincing (A word thats going to appear a lot today). It doesn’t make sense hearing angry sounding music with lovey dovey sounding lyrics.

Chelsea Grin – When they’re EP first came out debuted the band as a band, some critics hailed them as being a great, true, deathcore band. Now it just seems as though they are a bad joke that people keep repeating over and over again. I mean, if they are really this big, great deathcore band…then why aren’t they on the Summer Slaughter Tour Bill with REAL deathcore bands like Whitechapel and Six Feet Under?

Motionless in White – Let me preface this by saying they sound better live than on the album. They actually have some intricate and slightly complex guitar melodies that really blend well with the keyboards on their new album. I’m not really a fan that much and their live show really didn’t help at all because it was just rubbish. I don’t like to judge a band based on looks, but I think that the band would greatly improve from getting rid of their Marilyn Manson-esque type image. Don’t put on an act, just play your songs.

After the Burial – One of the most anticipated bands coming from me and my friends, we finally made our way to the front railing after pushing through the crowd during the last three aforementioned bands’ names. The band came on and just set the place off. At this point, they had the most crowd participation of any aforementioned band. They played “Encased in Ice”, which is a song they hadn’t played before this tour and seeing Trent and Justin play different solos from what you hear on the album, but having it still fit in within the context of the song, was truly amazing. During the show, Trent through a pick out towards us and it bounced off of my buddy (Tom)’s head and on to the floor, so he quickly picked it up. I later caught another pick from Trent again, but I gave it to my other buddy Steve (the kid who pretty much turned me on my side and turned me onto a bunch of the bands i like today) because he’s been trying to catch one for a while and deserves it. As luck would have it, later during the day i looked down and saw a pick by my feet. I picked it up and it turned out to be an After the Burial pick from Trent, I told Tom, and he checked his pick because there were only two picks thrown. Long story short, the pick Tom picked up was actually from Chelsea Grin and I ended up getting (technically) both After the Burial picks. I guess thats karma for you.

The Ghost Inside – Great. Just great. One of the few bands on this “blue team” that I really like and they’re actually quite heavy for that team. I looked into them before because I never really heard of them before. I liked what I heard on record, but live was just a whole new dimension. Relentless, abrasive, almost party-boy energy, but not fake or pretentious in any way shape or form. They were the big “surprise” band in my opinion. I knew they’d be good, but I didn’t think they’d by THAT good. The worst part of their show in my opinion was when they brought out the singer from Motionless in White to sing with them. Other than that, great show…and me and Steve both got drum sticks so thats a plus also!

For Today – Absolutely brilliant! Last time i saw them was during Bamboozle but that was outside and i had stayed in the back during their set because I was tired of being up front for the bands that came on before them. This time I was right up there on the front line for every second of it and it was the most religious I’ve ever been (I’m not sure if it counts, but i’m not religious at all so i don’t care). The other really great thing about them is that their enormous bass drops shook the rafters of the venue. When I  saw the at Bamboozle, they didn’t really carry out that well out doors, but was quite the opposite last night. The only other band that had bass drops as enormous as For Todays were maybe Blessthefall. The ONLY problem that I see with this band is that sometimes I think Matt (singer) rambles on a little too much just to say that he loves Jesus and everything. America is not very well receptive to bands that wear their religion on their sleeves like that and while i’m not religious I respect them (him really because the rest of the band wasn’t really on stage while he was ranting) for sticking to their guns and saying whats on their mind. I would just say be careful because you can loose a lot of fans that way.

In This Moment – The first time I saw them was Mayhem Fest last year right as their new album had dropped. The new album was the best thing they’ve ever done, but if you notice, besides this tour and Mayhem fest last year, this band haven’t really been on tour that much. After seeing them yesterday it finally dawned on me why.  It took a while for the band to really get the crowd going whereas every other band (yes, even Sleeping With Sirens and Chelsea Grin) got people moving almost immediately. Also, I noticed that I really just didn’t care. I mean the heavier songs were good and everything, but…they’re really just not that good. They songs may be getting better with progression, but they aren’t evolving and growing as a band and that is why I say that they will never be bigger than they already are (and you can quote me on that). It kinda seems like half of their popularity comes from their hot singer Maria Brink. Like some of the other bands i mentioned, the word in unconvincing.

Iwrestledabearonce – I’m not a huge fan of this band really. They’re good and extremely wacky…almost too much for their own good at times. This band have set a whole new level of spastic, schizo music that you use this band in order to measure other bands on the wacky scale. That being said, seeing it live made a lot more sense. If there are any of you out there who are doubters, because i didn’t think all of their crazy changes would translate well live, but they did so check it out. They’re all just so funny and crazy. I mean, one second, you’re chest will cave in from their heavy break downs, the next second, they’ll be shredding the necks of their guitars to pieces, another second they’ll break down in just some wacky ambient-dance sample while the singer whines on top of it, then they’ll break down and clean up their guitars and do a wacky hawaiian riff. It’s all just so crazy and indescribable you have to see it live. the band members all had they’re moments too. The drummer at one point took his hi-hat stand and was lifting it over his head like a set of weights….while he was PLAYING. The singer climbed up onto the amp cabinets, got in a feetle position and screamed her ass off. They had strobes and lasers and they’re singer kept talking like batman…it was one of the most fun shows of the entire day.

Blessthefall – I actually quite liked them because they’re a bit heavier than most other post-hardcore bands. The problem I  had with them was simply just that there were some crazy girls (and not good crazy) at the show who were constantly crowd surfing, which was annoying and i found it hard to really enjoy their show. They were good though. Very heavy and very on top of their game. They played a new song, which if their new album is like this song, then it’ll be the heaviest thing they’ve ever done, which is always good. I’ll have to hear it to believe it though. They’re another band that are good, but also on the verge of soemthing good, taking them to a whole new level, or they won’t improve at all and slump into something like In This Moment in musical limbo, never getting any bigger than what they already are. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Born of Osiris – Playing a lot later in the day than I thought they would, Born of Osiris came on and just brought. Another brilliant show from another highly anticipated band!! Playing the best songs from their first album and they’re new album, they were relentless and reckless. I’m also gonna throw this out there and say that The Discovery is one of the top 5 best albums of 2011. You’ll definitely see it very high on my list in December. Any who, not much to say really about there show other than it was just all killer no filler. I saw them at Bamboozle also and that was also a great show. I’m not quite sure which one was better…both were great in there own way. Definitely check them out if you haven’t already.

Alesana – Oh boy where do i begin…another band that i just cant be bothered with. First of all, they had three guitars players and not once did they sound tight or together at all. I also don’t like how they have all of their albums set up like concept albums and then have every album follow a continuing story line…it makes Coheed and cambria look like the Who. I just never really bothered with them before and their live show didn’t change me at all so thats it.

Emmure – Ho!-Ly! Shit! Were they amazing or what!? Even though I stayed in the back for their show, I had just as much fun watching them from the back as i would have up front. They played every hit from Felony and the new album (another album that’ll be high on my 2011 list) and a couple of songs from the early two albums. They were just on fire from beginning to end. Even though half of the people left between Born of Osiris and Alesana, every single person danced and jumped and bounced and did everything that Frankie told them to do. Thats the thing about Emmure that makes them so great. not only are they the best at what they do because they are the only band that have perfectly mixed hip-hop elements with deathcore. They just have such a level of swagger and attitude that you can’t help but believing everything that they say. There was also a point where there were some technical difficulties and even though there was that lull in the middle of their show, they brought it right back by going into “Drug Dealer Friend”. Opening up with “Children of Cybertron” and ending with “4 Poisons 3 Words” as their encore, it was just AMAZING! SO LOUD!!! And as another plug, my friend Tom caught a drum stick, which is really cool because they’re drummer is very good…and left handed!!!

Any, in conclusion, i’d also like to add that I got an autograph from Anthony (lead singer of After the Burial) and while we stopped at a local wawa on the way home…guess who showed up…BORN OF OSIRIS. What an amazing end to the night. being able to chill out for a bit and chat a little with the members of Born of Osiris (they had partied quite a bit beforehand so they weren’t in the right mind space if you catch my drift) at a Wawa at midnight. Truly the best day of the whole summer!!

Luke Helker

Mayhem Festival REVIEW

Posted in Concert Reviews on August 1, 2011 by lukesreviews1014

Yesterday the fourth annual Mayhem Festival hit the shores of Camden for a day of non-stop hard partying and even harder music. This was my second Mayhem Fest and even though I was slightly skeptical about this years billing (read my preview of the fest if you are confused), Mayhem really did a good job picking out a smart. strong, and fucking awesome lineup.

Before I delve into my day, first let me share with you some important news in case for whatever reason, you spend more time reading my posts then looking the official website for your news concerning the festival. Due to a very serious illness to one of the band members family members, In Flames have canceled every remaining date scheduled on the tour. Terrible shame for the band. i was quite looking forward to maybe seeing them play “Take this Life” live and it sucks for some people who really wanted to see In Flames. This band is just stricken with bad luck and it’s an awful shame.

Anyway, onto the day itself. After immediately purchasing my desired merch upon arrival, I beelined with a few friends over to the Revolver stage to get a good spot for Straight Line Stitch, All Shall Perish, Suicide Silence, and Machine Head. Out of all twelve of us in our group, only one of us (Gary) was really familiar with some of Straight Line Stitch‘s material. I never really got into them, but they played a surprisingly VERY good show and a great way to start off the day. Their bassist was sick!!! He played a six string bass and was easily the best bassist on the whole tour. He was so good that he should be in a Veil of Maya, After the Burial type band and at the end i caught his pick!! After Straight Line Stitch, I stopped by the Rockstar tent and grabbed some free drinks because it was hot that day, but not nearly as hot as it was at Warped Tour, which was ten days earlier. While getting a drink I noticed that Machine Head were doing a free signing so I immediately got in line with my buddy Shawn and met all of them, which was amazing. Such nice dudes, but more on the band later.

So because of my Machine head signing i heard a little bit of Red Fang…if you read my preview then you know that i don’t care about them. i missed the first half of All Shall Perish‘s set, which wasn’t soul destroying for me because i’m not a huge fan of them either. they’ve always just been ok or pretty good for me, never amazing. When the crowd dissipated after All Shall Perish’s set, i made my way up front for Suicide Silence. Me and my friend Steve are huge fans of the band and have similar views on the band in that we prefer “The Cleansing” to all their other albums and wish that Tanner was singing for them still. Even still, they put on a fantastic and highly enjoyable show, despite the massive amounts of crowd surfers hitting me in the head. Playing a bunch of songs from the new album and not enough fro the first album (only two songs), Mitch had a camera attached to his mic so that he could video tape the entire show and film the crowd going crazy in the process, especially for songs like Wake Up, Unanswered, You Only Live Once, and No Pity for a Coward.  Truly a great show and I even caught  pick from their guitar player, bringing my pick count to 5 total.

While most of the people in our group moved over towards the lawn to reserve good seats for the main stage festivities, i stayed at the Revolver stage to see Machine Head. Easily, the best show of the entire day, Machine Head owned the day in my opinion. They’ve never been really acknowledged in America like they have been in the UK for being as brilliant as they are, but judging from the MASSIVE sea of people surrounding the sound booth and further back, the majority of people at the festival were watching Machine Head and helping to chant the famous “Machine-Fucking-Head” in between ever single song. The band debuted their new single “Locust” on this tour and the song is amazing. If the rest of the new album is anything like this new song, then i think the band have released another Blackening-sized album. The crowd was just sooo loud and sooo supportive from the first second to the last, I think even the band themselves were surprised about just how into the show the crowd was. It was truly a special moment and not a bad second on the entire set. There really is no other way to put  it. You had to have been there.

Moving on to the lawn for the Main stage, Trivium was the first band up. Not much to say other then they were great. I mean, after just seeing Machine Head, I was still just in awe from them so it was hard to really get into Trivium because it was so hard to follow up their show.  They sounded good and they played great songs from Shogun and Ascendancy, including their new song, In waves. I’m quite looking forward to their new album. Megadeth came on after Trivium and played a great show featuring hit after hit after hit. I’m a big fan of Megadeth, but MY GOD, their songs sound so good live, but i still can’t help feel like it’s just Dave and friends when you see them. After a while, his relentless soloing because starts to blend together and i feel like I started to loose interest a little. I know that those solos are built into the songs, but it still wasn’t as gravitating as some of the other bands that performed. It wasn’t labored, but they were just the odd band out on this whole bill.

As the rain started to trickle down, the heavy introduction chords to Crying Like a Bitch cut through everything and Godsmack were on for a full hour. No pyro, no videos, just them and they’re music. For a full hour it was just hit after hit after hit. Songs like “The Enemy”, “Speak”, and “Whatever” reignited my love for this band. Voodoo was amazing with the rain coming down at a pace as calm and cool as the song itself, it was quite magical, but not as magical as the battle of the drums. For those of you who don’t know, singer Sulley Erna has been drumming for over 20 years and at every show, brings out an alternate drum set and performs with actual drummer Shannon Larkin for a synchronized drum battle duet. being a drummer myself, i was just blown away by their performance. At one point they started playing segments of songs like War Pigs, Back in Black, and Aqualung and hearing the audience sing the words was massive and incredible. That whole performance, to me, just proves why drums are the best and I would not be surprised at all if people were turned on to playing drums because of a performance like that.

The rain had cleared up and stopped by the end of Godsmack, but everything was still cool when Disturbed took the stage. A bit of a rough start for the vocals, all at the fault of the Susquehanna Bank Center’s not so professional sound system and even less than professional crew running the boards. But once they were on, the were fucking on for the entire night playing nothing but great tune after great tune after great tune. the thing about Disturbed is that you can’t get every single hit song in one set. They have soooo many great songs that there’s no way you can get every single hit song in one set. The band played almost every song from “The sickness”, with a bunch of songs from “Asylum” and the big singles from the other albums. i was happy with every second of their show, but I  was kind of bummed that they didn’t play songs like, “Stricken”, “Intoxication”, “The Night”, or “Overburdened”, but it still wan’t nearly enough to ruin the night for me because they are just such a good and band and with this indefinite extended hiatus on the horizon, I’m glads i could see the band and get down to all of their tunes (my highlight through was getting my friend Kathy to windmill for “Down with the Sickness” hahaha).

All in all, great night with fun had by all. No major disappointments aside from the In Flames news. Can’t wait for next years festival. I want bands like Devildriver, Skindred, System of a Down, Fear Factory, Volbeat, and/or Arch Enemy on next years bill.

Stay tuned for my preview of next weeks’ All Stars Tour.

Luke Helker