Archive for December, 2013

My Top 20 Albums of 2013

Posted in Lists on December 30, 2013 by lukesreviews1014

As we conclude 2013, let us look back on what has become a spectacular year for music. There have been too many great albums to come out this year to list and has made the process of choosing 20 albums extremely difficult. I decided to include a few non-metal albums in this list as well because there were a few really standout albums this year that weren’t metal that deserve to be in my list. Most of these albums I didn’t review earlier, but there should be a few that you may have read this year. I hope you enjoyed the music of 2013 and please feel free to add in your own lists.


20. Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze

I went to the same high school as Vile and although I never met him, I knew most of his siblings who were in my grade and in school at the same time. The whole family is extremely gifted in all things artistic and it is so great to see how Kurt has grown as a musician and as a songwriter. This is a great album filled with hauntingly beautiful melodies and expanded song arrangements. This college rock icon just gets bigger and better.

19. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Admittedly, I haven’t ever been a real fan of Daft Punk until this very record. This record totally changed my entire perception on the group and thought this was a stellar record. The instrumentation and the sheer driving force of the band behind the techno-driven duo was astonishing and the vocals were highly impressive. Hopefully, their future releases will be as strong as this.

18. Ihsahn – Das Seelenbrechen

I’ve always been a fan os Ihsahn’s work since his time in Emperor and always felt that Ihsahn was the king of Norwegian Black Metal. He simply hasn’t put out any bad records and while I miss the spastic saxophone solos that obliterated the last two albums, Das Seelenbrechen is one of Ihsahn’s strongest releases to date. There is a level of evil to his songs and the overall production of his records that actually frighten me at points, this album bearing no obvious exception.

17. Children of Bodom – Halo of Blood

This is classic Bodom! I enjoyed Reckless Relentless Forever when it came out, but then had to take a step back and admit that the reason it was so popular with me was that it was a much more cohesive album than Blooddrunk was for me. It was still a good album, but now when I try to compare that with Halo of Blood, I’d rather just skip over the last two records and stick with the classic Children of Bodom albums. The songs on this album are killer and it just feels right when I listen to it. It sounds like a band that is back on top and I think that they are now.

16. Born of Osiris – Tomorrow We Die Alive

Another extremely thorough masterpiece by a band that blew the lid off the genre back in 2011 with The Discovery. The production on this album is just as immense as the songwriting has become. There is so much going on that I discover something new with each listen. From the moment the album starts until it stops your mind will be blown. They also win the award for coolest album artwork again.

15. Tesseract – Altered State

For a band that can’t keep a consistent singer in their roster, they’ve been able to release two monstrous albums and two incredibly strong EPs. As far as the new wave of progressive metal goes, I think Tesseract are one of the best and this album is a mammoth testament to that fact. You really go on a trip with this album and the music almost messes with your mind as if it is trying to put you in an altered state.

14. Eminem – Marshall Mathers LP 2

I don’t think anyone would have seen this coming. Eminem had regained his footing with 2010’s Recovery, admitting even in the songs o the album that his career had hit a real slump and something needed to be done about it. While Recovery was very popular, I don’t think anyone expected his next release to be as good as it is. The first Marshal Mathers LP, released in the year 2000, is widely considered to be his greatest album to date, so making this album a sequel means that there are huge expectations set and I believe Eminem met those expectations with this record. I don’t think this album will become more popular than the first, but I still think this album is just about on par with the first Marshall Mathers LP.

13. The Safety Fire – Mouth of Swords

Much like Tesseract, I feel that The Safety Fire are among the best bands in this new wave of progressive metal. However, I don’t think The Safety Fire have gotten all of the recognition they fully deserve because they still aren’t headlining any of their own shows. This is their third album now and it is easily their best effort yet. In fact, the other two albums have incredibly strong and I hope 2014 will allow for The Safety Fire to really become popular and start headlining more shows.

12. Kvelertak – Meir

This is the second release from Norway’s newest sensation. I’ll admit it took me a long time to get into the first record. I almost had the chance to see the band live, which would have no doubt made everything click for me, but nevertheless, I’ve finally started to realize what all the hype is with this band. They’re absolutely magnificent. There are very few bands capable of busting out huge classic-rock riffs with blast-beat driven fits of fury in the manner that Kvelertak present. This is new album hit me instantly and hasn’t stopped being amazing.

11. Stray from the Path – Anonymous

One of the most honest bands that I’ve ever listened to have done it again. This band has managed to package an uncontrollable rage into ferociously good tracks. From start to finish this album repeatedly knocks the listener out and proceeds to kick them while they are on the ground. Following swiftly after Rising Sun, which took them to a whole new level of fame, Anonymous is making damn sure that everyone knows not to fuck with this band or there will surely be hell to pay.

10. Woodkid – The Golden Age

This is the debut album (he had a few EPs beforehand though) from French music video director/graphic artist/singer-songwriter Yoann Lemoine. His music combines huge organ/synth sounds with authentic oriental percussion and small orchestras to produce an epic sound worthy of the silver screen. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lmoine started composing film scores for some big name films in the next few years. Lemoine’s sound is still very accessible and equally worthy of massive airplay. I’ve seen Lemoine featured on a few Vodka commercials recently, which hopefully means that more people will start to pick up on him in 2014.

9. Protest the Hero – Volition

After all the complications with their label and having to utilize indiegogo to raise funds for this album, one can’t help but look back through everything that has happened to band in 2013 and smile and their success. They had reached their quota for this album budget in 30 hours upon starting their indegogo campaign, and in turn, released a monstrous record. Once again, this band have proved that any obstacle is no match for these progressive giants. The musicians in this band are top-notch and even when they lost their drummer, Chris Adler of Lamb of God fame, came in and tore it up on the new record. I can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store for this band.

8. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

This was my entry point for this band surprisingly enough. They were always a band that I meant to check out, but for whatever reason, didn’t fully explore their back catalog until after I first heard this record and fell in love with it. I was blown away with how tight each individual member was and astounded at the level of songwriting. It all sounds so simple you wish you’d thought of it. Also, every song on this record is an absolute anthem in its own right. Not a single dull moment to be found.

7. Skeletonwitch – Serpents Unleashed

Here’s a death band thrashing it like no one else this year (except for maybe Carcass). Skeletonwitch simply don’t put out bad records, seeing as this is the fourth record of theirs and it is easily on par with Beyond the Permafrost. To me, they combine all the hallmarks of thrash and death metal and package it up with a razor wire bow in the form of their shredding guitars and relentless drums. I also thought this album was a bit of a departure from their previous material, adding a few doom elements to their sound that makes me very curious to see how it will develop from here.

6. The Dillinger Escape Plan – One of Us is the Killer

One of, if not the best release from Sumerian Records this year (except for After the Burial, but we’ll get to them in a minute). Much like how I described Born of Osiris and Stray from the Path, this unyielding album has so much packed into it that you will be discovering new things with each listen. With this album, I think we’ll see this band return to the top of the totem pole and will no doubt dominate every live show they have booked in 2014. These songs are fresh, exciting and unpredictable; much like their live show. I definitely recommend paying attention to this band.

5. Cage the Elephant – Melophobia

This is another album that came out of nowhere for me. I had been a casual fan of their music with the past two albums and enjoyed their live show, but this album completely obliterated all of my previous opinions and assumptions about this band. With this album, we really see a band developing a more mature sound and a more direct approach to their songwriting. They add a random assortment of other instruments on a few notable tracks as they use these instruments to bring the house down. To me, this album is a perfect example of having to take a few steps back in order to leap forward.

4. After the Burial – Wolves Within

While I may have said that the Dillinger Escape Plan record was the best Sumerian Records release of 2013, I have been a huge fan of After the Burial for years, so before I even heard the record I knew it would most likely chart well for me. It’s been 3 years since the last After the Burial album, yet for me it has felt like an eternity. Nevertheless, this new album was worth the wait. The overall sound of this band grew enormously and so have the songs. Again, this is a band that can pack so much into five minutes that will leave your mind reeling. The twin guitar melodies continue to astound me and the rhythm section is equally bombastic with Anthony at the helm, whose vocals have really gotten stronger. I honestly can’t even begin to express how proud I am of this band. Great effort!

3. Letlive – The Blackest Beautiful

This is another band that have built a reputation for being brutally honest and pure to level that I believe has not been matched by any other hardcore band of this generation. I recently saw this band live and noticed that singer Jason Butler had a cast on his arm from a recent surgery, but came out and jumped around as if that cast wasn’t there. It just goes to show you how much this band (and really this entire band) cares about what they do and that they are making the music they want to make. There’s a level of humility and integrity presented in this bands music that just seems so natural to them, but is incredibly hard to generate from any other band that hasn’t fully experienced everything that this band has gone through. A really miraculous album from an absolutely amazing band.

2. Ghost – Infestissumam

Here is another band understanding the important of what a show is these days. Following the steps of the classic shock rock bands like Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, King Diamond, and Marilyn Manson, Ghost have immersed themselves in an image and have created a mystique that still surrounds them. At the same time, they have two albums that are littered with simple, catchy-as-hell tunes that appeal to a massive audience. They combine the Catholic image and sound and turn it on its ear as they praise Satan and delve into uncomfortable territories (i.e. explicit merchandise). This band is going to go far and continue to enthrall audiences with their devilishly memorable music.

1. Black Sabbath – 13

They started it all and now, after many years apart and involved in other projects, the original Black Sabbath lineup (well almost the complete lineup) have released an absolute masterpiece. With Brad Will of Rage Against the Machine fame filling in on drums for Bill Ward, the band took the music that they created and pioneered in the early 70s and put a modern flair on it, further solidifying why they are the metal gods. Ozzy amazingly, sounds better than ever (which is still so odd to me considering how he can barely speak) and Iommi’s riffs are just as strong as they were forty years ago.  They’ve even been playing a bunch of shows throughout the year while Iommi continues to battle lymphoma. Hopefully the band are still going to go strong and I pray this isn’t their last record.


So that’s my list. If any of these bands/albums are foreign to you, then I highly recommend them. This was an incredible year for metal and equally for music in general. I hope 2014 is just as strong. Happy Holidays.

Luke Helker


The Perms

Posted in AHP/Local Bands, Album Reviews on December 29, 2013 by lukesreviews1014

The Perms are an Alt-Rock band that have actually been around since the late 90’s and have quite a lot of albums under belt already. This high-octane, energetic group are looking to break the boundaries of the 21st century as their music progresses and these men mature as musicians.

The band just released a new EP entitled The Aberdeen EP. It contains four tracks that are all absolutely killer. The EP opens up with “It’s Mania,” a driving rock anthem that will surely get you in the mood to rock out. That song transitions smoothly into “Aberdeen” a more mid-tempo, beautifully harmonized track. Next is “The Parent Thing,” which actually sounds more like an old-school Blink-182 song than any other track on this EP. The EP closes with “Walk Away,” another guitar-driven anthem to round out a great EP.

If you like Cage the Elephant, The Offspring, or any other great FM radio rock bands, you will totally dig this group. The EP can be found on the band’s Facebook page here: They also have their own website, which you can check out here:

Luke Helker

Cursed Graves

Posted in AHP/Local Bands, Album Reviews on December 29, 2013 by lukesreviews1014

Cursed Graves are a new noise-punk band from San Diego and are honestly unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. They’ve got the raw intensity of any classic punk rock band, yet they have also equipped these shorts bursts of raging fury with the screams of feedback and other natural guitar noises to heighten the dirty sounds they are trying to project. It really transports the listener to the small club in which this band would most likely perform in and helps illustrate the fierceness of what it’s like to be at a punk show.

The band released a new record this past Friday. The album runs about 10 minutes long total, but I assure you it will be the harshest 10 minutes of your life. All of the tracks are short, explosive bursts of punk rock fury that will surely satisfy even the most casual of punk fans.

Here’s an interview I had with Blake Cox of Cursed Graves:

LH: How did the band come together?

BC: It’s actually a pretty funny story. Last Halloween our friends put together a cover show for fun, so the three of us (having played in bands together in the past) decided to play a Black Sabbath cover set, but ended up throwing out the covers and writing a record instead.

LH: Is that why you have a shirt in the style of the Master of Reality album cover?

BC: When we originally started writing music for Cursed Graves, we knew we needed something to pay homage to Black Sabbath; so the Master of Reality tee is just us paying our respects.

LH: How exactly did you go from covering Black Sabbath, who are much more in the vein of heavy blues rock to Cursed Graves, which is insane noise-punk?

BC: Our Black Sabbath influences aren’t necessarily directly related to the music, but we definitely were drawn to the idea of writing dark/eery music, which is obviously Black Sabbath’s biggest claim to fame.

LH: Where does the name Cursed Graves come from?

BC: I could come up with some crazy elaborate story about the name, but in reality we just thought it sounded cool.

LH: Why is the album called S/T?

BC: Seeing as it’s our first release, we wanted to keep it simple & easy to remember: a self-titled record.

LH: I saw on the merch section of your Facebook that you are selling this album on cassette as well as a digital format. Is this true? If so why cassette instead of vinyl or CD?

BC: Well, to us, the point of owning a physical copy of any record (whether it be CD, vinyl, etc.) is that it’s something you can collect; having our record on cassette is just another way to listen to our music, not to mention the distinct warm, analog sound you get from vinyl & cassettes.

LH: Where was the album recorded? Who produced it? 

BC: We spent a weekend recording the record at the Roseland Recording Room in Fallbrook, CA with Matt Fitzpatrick from My Iron Lung, who taught us a lot of things about “Wonderwall” by Oasis.

LH: What exactly did you learn about Oasis and “Wonderwall?”

BC: Oasis’ “Wonderwall” is not only your favorite song in the entire world, but at the same time, it’s your least favorite song in the entire world.

LH: You have quite a few shows coming up in the next few weeks. Having not been to California and also not being a native, I was wondering if you could shed some light on the punk rock scene in San Diego and elsewhere around California. Is it a nurturing environment for the music you create? Are there plans to tour out-of-state?

BC: There isn’t a huge amount of punk bands directly where we’re from. Most of the notable bands (Sleepwalk, Take Offense, PSO) reside closer to the border in Lemon Grove & Chula Vista. Although, up north in Los Angeles & the Bay Area, there’s a much bigger punk/hardcore scene with bands like Creative Adult, Harsh Vibes, Zero Progress, & a bunch of others. San Diego is a bit of a bust when it comes to punk.

LH: What does 2014 hold for Cursed Graves?

BC: We definitely have a tremendous amount planned for the upcoming year, including months of touring the U.S., as well as at least two more releases by the end of 2014. In other words, if you live in North America, chances are you’ll be hearing about us in the next couple of months.

Enjoy the record!

Luke Helker

Lost Swimmer

Posted in AHP/Local Bands, Album Reviews on December 20, 2013 by lukesreviews1014

Lost Swimmer is a post-hardcore group from Kentucky. They just released their latest EP, Songs About Breathing, which contains five aggressive tracks that are absolutely killer. The band have a Title Fight/Brand New sound to them and this EP is very raw and very tasteful.

“Plan B” opens up the album and starts out with a solo guitar setting the tone and then vocals in the distance. As the rest of the band comes in and builds, the intensity of the song builds until it explodes into a furious punk anthem. “Lost Summer” immediately pumps the brakes as the guitars continue to create an atmospheric presence while the drums and bass plow through. This tracks also explodes later on and is carried by the bass the entire time.  “Forget, Regret” is the first time that I feel the guitars are the most important part and really drive this song. “Gunlock” is another song that starts soft and explodes later; also with the bass driving the entire time. Finally, “Chloe, Underwater is the longest track on the album, clocking in at over six minutes and opens up with a bass solo. This song goes back and forth between softer and louder parts, I think to create a sense of struggling to stay afloat when one is lost at sea.

Lost Swimmer previously released an EP entitled Maps & Lessons, which contains four tracks that are more on the pop-punk side of what bands like Title Fight do. Two very different EPs, two very different faces to this talented band, but all the songs are worth listening to.

As the band continues to play shows in their hometown and release EPs, we need to help them get more shows by making everyone more aware of who this band are and what they do. To do that, get involved with their Facebook page ( and their band-camp (

Luke Helker

Coastal Break

Posted in AHP/Local Bands on December 20, 2013 by lukesreviews1014

Coastal Break is the creative name for Ryan Sullivan, a try one-man band. He has taken it upon himself to accept every role in his modern hardcore-metal project and just completed his first piece, which is called “A Letter Behind” and is a 16 minute mammoth of a track instead of breaking up the musical ideas into separate songs.

Musically, Sullivan has the technical facility of any modern-day shredder and has the creativity of some of the more forward-thinking bands around. His music to me sounds like it fits somewhere between Tesseract/The Safety Fire and Chimp Spanner/Pomegranate Tiger, especially Pomegranate Tiger. Like Pomegranate Tiger, Sullivan’s music is also completely instrumental and flows within itself beautifully. The overall aesthetics of the song are breath-taking. I can hear the personality that is driving these riffs and melodies and know that he is playing straight from the heart, which isn’t always easy to translate to modern audiences, but I think many people will grasp on when they become more informed.

This is the first thing that Sullivan has released, which is very exciting because we get to see his career blossom and expand as he continues to write more music that impresses us. To download his track or find out more about what Coastal Break is up to, visit his Facebook page here:

Luke Helker

CI Records X-Mas Show!

Posted in Concert Reviews on December 18, 2013 by lukesreviews1014

Last Sunday I went to the Lancaster County Convention Center to check out one of the CI Records Christmans shows. Evert year, CI Records hosts two shows that showcase some of the finest and fastest rising bands around the area and around nation. This year’s bill included many hardcore icons including the ever-growing letlive from California, the conceptually unique group Defeater from Boston, and hardcore powerhouse Every Time I Die from Buffalo, NY. The show was also headlined by August Burns Red, a fitting conclusion for a show in their hometown. The other CI Records Christmas Show is on December 29th at the Chameleon Club and features many more local acts including  ConQuest, Beneath the King, Armory Infirmary, Gladiators, Amateur Theory (who I thought stopped playing shows, but I guess not so check them out because they’re amazing), and Albert React. The show will also have Carousel Kings headlining.

When I went to the show, I came late and missed out on some of the local openers like The Road t Milestone, One Year Later, and Code Orange Kids. They’re great bands and I’ve seen them before at other local shows around the Lancaster area before. I went to the concert with a friend and we got there just as the Code Orange Kids had finished their set and were getting ready for letlive. I’ve been a huge fan of letlive for a long time now and I wouldn’t miss any opportunity to see them live. They’re exciting unpredictability is incredibly captivating and dangerous that you can’t help but fall in love with them. They played a few tracks from their newest release and included some classic cuts from Fake History including “Muther.” The best part of the whole show was that Jason (singer) had recently had surgery and his arm was in a sling. So here’s a man already notorious for having no boundaries on stage; running and jumping around and practically killing himself onstage from the sheer intense emotion of the music and then add the sling, which of course didn’t stop him at all. It was very cool to watch him go nuts on stage and always will be.

Next we have Defeater, one of the first more modern hardcore bands that I fell in love with (when I say modern I mean post-Refused hardcore acts that have come around in the past decade) and hadn’t gotten a chance to see live yet. I missed them when I went to the warped tour this season, which  was very regrettable, but I was glad to have redeemed myself by seeing them this past weekend. What I love about this band is that they have an over-arching concept that gets broken down with each record, but still translates beautifully. I can’t think of another band that incorporates a concept into their sound in the same way as this band either. The concept itself isn’t even all that complicated (not like Coheed and Cambria), but the deliverance of the music and lyrics on each record is so fueled with the emotions that I don’t think it would have nearly the same effect if performed any differently. Going into the show, I admittedly was a little skeptical of how the concept would translate to the live show. I assume they wouldn’t play an entire record front to back, which they didn’t and I was glad about, but i wasn’t sure of what would happen. They ended up playing songs from albums all across their catalog including the newest record Letters Home. I realized right then and there that a lot of their songs could be taken out of context from the albums concept and allow themselves to be played just like any other song and still have the same effect, which to me speaks volumes about the talent of this band. The softer guitar parts held everyone’s breath while the drums were absolutely relentless. Really great show and I was so thrilled to have finally seen them.

Next up is Every Time I Die, easily the best band on that bill with the largest back catalog of any of the aforementioned groups. They’re at  point where they simply don’t play bad shows because they are all greatest hit sets. Tracks like “Wanderlust” and “Werewolf” ignite the crowd like no other and the band themselves are extremely tight. They were also incredibly heavy that night. I had seen them twice before on previous warped tour sets, but they just sounded 10 times heavier that night, almost as if they were Lamb of God. The band also played a brand new track that they had only been playing for about a week called “Thirst,” a short bout of hardcore fury that was very well-received. I already can’t wait for the new record. Their set was spanned across their whole catalog and didn’t have a dull moment. It was easily the best show of theirs that I have seen and I’m confident that they will just get better as a live act.

Finally, we close the show with the hometown heroes playing on their own turf, August Burns Red. Now before that show, I wasn’t the hugest fan of this band. Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re amazing, but I have a much stronger love for the other three bands that have not been matched with many other bands in their respective genres. That being said, I was completely blown away by ABR’s performance. From the moment they took the stage until their final note, I was completely hooked and couldn’t wait to get home so that I could stay up all night and listen to all their records (which I did). I forgot how good their guitar harmonies were and being a drummer I’ve been here long enough to realize that Matt Greiner reigns as the king drummer in Lancaster. That whole band is extremely talented and it was something I knew, but didn’t fully realize until seeing them live. It just clicked for me and I really loved their show. They finished their set and then came back to play two of their Christmas tracks that they recorded (they have a whole album of christmas songs that they recorded and made very heavy with no shortage of killer breakdowns). The band played “Frosty the Snowman” and “Carol of the Bells” while Jake Luhrs (singer) was throwing presents out into the crowd.

Twas a great show through and through. I enjoyed every second of it and can;t wait for next year’s show.

Luke Helker


Posted in AHP/Local Bands, Interviews on December 18, 2013 by lukesreviews1014

Over the past weekend, I have been in touch with Shane Dunlap of the band Greylines. These self-proclaimed “Lock Haven Bastards” have a unique blend of punk and hardcore in a way that is very accessible, but also doesn’t alienate them from that true-blue fan base.

The band just released a new EP entitled Night Terror. Be sure to check it out because it’s a great EP with wall-to-wall bangers on it including “Shudder,” the song that the band just recently released a video for.

Here is an interview I had with Shane. We talked a lot about the new video. Below that you’ll find the music video for their song “Shudder.”

LH: Is this your first music video?

SD: Yep this is our first music video. Some of us were never really into the idea of a video but a couple of our friends really pushed us and put the idea in our heads and basically got is psyched up to do it.

LH: Who produced the video?

SD: A friend of ours named Matt Spencer from Pittsburgh did the video. If you haven’t check out any of his work I suggest you do that; he seriously rules.

LH: How does it feel to have Alternative Press feature your video?

SD: It’s a really awesome feeling of course haha we’re all really excited about it and probably will be for a while.

LH: Have you been getting attention from any other fairly well-known publications besides AP? 

SD: A few other media sites have shared it and it made its way around the world of twitter or so I’m told haha.

LH: Did anyone actually jump off that bridge?

SD: Yes, our singer Russell did actually jump off that bridge.

LH: What inspired the home video footage?

SD: I believe that was our friend Anthony’s idea. I brought up the idea of Russ flipping through old pictures then the idea of old video footage was stemmed from that. We wanted something that would give the viewers a reminiscent feeling when watching.

LH: This is your third EP. Can you discuss a little about how the songs came together and what makes this particular EP great.

SD: Technically this is our third release, but only our second EP. We’ve put out an 8 song EP and a one song split prior to this release.  The songs came together in a rather unusual way; the song Night Terror was written as a full band pretty much immediately after we released the first EP, so we’ve had that one in our set for quite some time. I think we wrote Shudder after that but ended up scrapping the song for a while and then eventually re-worked it until we were fully satisfied.  Russ wrote Regal and Ode completely by himself then brought the songs to us where we then added our own twist to it. 40 was a collective effort in that we all wrote different parts then mixed them all together; then a good deal of it was changed and reworked while we were in the studio.  I guess what makes this EP great or at least why we think so, the songs are filled with a ton of emotion, we really try to show that with the music but Russ does a great job of writing lyrics that allow people to bring back memories both good and bad.

LH: Any touring plans? 

SD: We’re going to do some weekenders this winter and try to play some places we haven’t played yet. Then we’re getting things worked out to do a bigger tour this summer.

LH: Whats the next step for Greylines?

SD: We’re trying to play as much as we can in 2014 and really push the new EP as hard as we can.

Luke Helker