Archive for January, 2014

Periphery: Clear [EP]

Posted in Album Reviews on January 24, 2014 by lukesreviews1014

Ever since Periphery stirred up the metal community with their ground-breaking debut album, Periphery, it has been hard to not talk about this band because of what they’ve done and all of the other projects that they are involved in. For example, the bands Juggernaut, The Mothership, and The Haunted Shores all contain some of the members of Periphery and have also worked extensively with bands like Sky Eats Airplane, Tesseract, Veil of Maya, Stray from the Path, and Animals as Leaders, further gaining a mutual respect amongst many of the modern progressive metal bands.

The band have gone through many lineup changes before the first album even came out and have never stopped refining their sound. Even some of the EP’s that have come out in between records have allowed for some experimentation for the next record (I talk as if there were more than one example, but I’m really just referring to the Icarus EP and now this I guess). I think the Clear EP, is a healthy way of allowing every one in the band to express themselves creatively, while still putting it under the Periphery banner, as opposed to taking time off and making solo records. With the exception of the “Overture,” the entire EP contains just one song in which one member of Periphery was the main songwriter. This allows for some interesting interpretations and re-imaginings of Periphery‘s sound.

The first song on the EP is “The Summer Jam,” which was written by guitarist and programmer, Jake Bowen. Right off the bat, I thought this was a much brighter side to what this band are capable of and yet, still very heavy. “Feed the Ground” was written by drummer Matt Halpern and I think it is widely considered to be everyone’s favorite on this EP. It’s one of the heaviest songs that Periphery have put their names on and is much more direct and straightforward than some of their other songs that have more progressive song structure. “Zero” was written by Misha “Bulb” Mansoor, who writes most of the music in general, which is probably why I didn’t particularly care for this track. It’s an instrumental, which I don’t mind, but I felt like I had already heard the song and wasn’t really going anywhere for me. Still an absolutely heavy track with all the hallmarks of a Periphery song. “The Parade of Ashes” was written by vocalist Spencer Sotelo and is the one that I think really goes out in left-field as far as what this band have done in the past. It’s much more electronically driven, which is a little new for Periphery and has a pop-like, almost “dancy” chorus to it. The next track is “Extraneous,” which was written by Adam “Nolly” Getgood, who usually plays bass, but played guitar on this track. This is an instrumental as well and to me, also sounded like a Periphery-by-numbers kind of song and didn’t really excite me like some of the other tracks. The final song on the EP was written by other guitarist Mark Holcomb and is called “Pale Aura.” This song also plays with different song structures, Spencer does some new vocal tricks, and is a fitting end to a very interesting and well-rounded EP.

I think an EP is the only way one can get away with doing something like this and I think many fans will be very receptive to this. This is a very healthy way of allowing everyone’s creative voice to be heard, while still keeping it in the Periphery catalog, and I think this will help to further influence the song-writing on the next record.

Luke Helker

Against Me: Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Posted in Album Reviews on January 24, 2014 by lukesreviews1014

If any of you have been fans of Against Me before, then you should all know the story of their lead singer, Laura Jane Grace. For those of you that don’t know, the title of this new album should tell you everything that you need to know. If not, do your homework.

Against Me have always sang about their confusions and frustrations of the music business, punk rock ethos, sexual orientation, etc. and have never stopped being a brutally honest band. This album definitely is within the same vein of what this band have done in the past musically, but I think lyrically, we’re seeing a shift back to some of the older Against Me records. This is also the record that Grace needed to make. This is the first record that has been released since Grace came out as transgender and this album is used to further come to grips with this new life. As a result, we have a record that is raw, independent, and honest in a very confused way in which Against Me are further trying to figure out their place in the world.

The first two songs “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” and “True Trans Soul Rebel,” are Grace’s way of confronting sexual identity and then figuring out what the next step in life is. “Drinking with the Jock” also harks back to the days of school where one tries so desperately to fit in and be considered part of the “in crowd.” Some may see it a little sophomoric to still be singing about that, but to me it seems only natural to go back to these old themes since the first couple of songs reflect on that. I think putting those songs on some of the older records might not work as well, but the message is very clear on this record.

I’ve always just been a casual friend of Against Me, but I think this band have really struck gold here. It’s one of their more honest records that I’ve heard and I also thought every song was an anthem in its own way and as soon as I finished listening to the album for the first time, I wanted to listen to it again. It attacks the social issues of being a transgender from all angles as well as using other themes to confront how people crave acceptance, despite being confused internally. It’s a very personal record, but I also think the songs themselves are strong enough that even if the album doesn’t draw any parallels with you lyrically, you can still appreciate the consistently strong songwriting and will most likely really enjoy this album.

Luke Helker

City Mouth Interview

Posted in AHP/Local Bands, Interviews on January 21, 2014 by lukesreviews1014

This is an interview I had with City Mouth’s creator, Matt Allpow. 

LH: How did you form this band?

MA: City Mouth started out as my solo electronic indie pop project. I started programming beats when I was a freshman in high school and when I started college, I decided to apply it to a project by combining production with my singing and songwriting, which I have been doing for a large portion of my life. I always hated performing live with electronic tracks though. I just felt like I couldn’t convey the energy and emotion that I wanted to in a live performance without real people creating the music. So I gathered up a backup band for our first show, which was also the release show for our electronic album called The Things That Haunt Me. The lineup for the show was originally supposed to have a lot more synth and other instruments in order to capture the feel of the album, but a lot of our members had to drop out because they didn’t have time. So we ended up being forced to do a more minimal approach to the songs with only one guitar, drums, bass, and vocals. It basically ended up being a pop punk show which wasn’t really a bad thing because it added a lot of energy to the songs. Eventually, I decided to officially make City Mouth into a rock band because it felt a lot more natural and exciting to do it that way. We now play as a six piece band (two guitars, bass, drums, keys, and vocals) with the only current permanent members being Troy Sennett and myself (Matt Allpow).

LH: What’s the origin behind your band name?

MA: The name is a combination of Aesop’s character, the City Mouse, and the term kids and parents use to describe the inappropriate children, “potty mouth”. I always think of the city as a metaphor for the “real world”. The big bad world out there and all of the good and bad influences that come with it. I think the reason I started thinking of it this way is because I grew up in this little suburb that nobody’s ever heard of called Evergreen Park. It’s just about 20 minutes south of downtown Chicago. My first job was downtown at Millennium Park when I was probably a sophomore in high school and that was the first time in my life that I was consistently going into the city. So I associate the city with that first knock at the door that reality gives you and says “it’s time to grow up now”. I also felt like the city was the embodiment of the cold world that I had just begun to become acquainted with. It was dirty, everything was made out of metal and concrete, and the people seemed calloused and disconnected and they could get angry about the slightest things. It was during this time that I felt myself growing less innocent and I started to become more like those disconnected people. The way my songwriting has evolved reminds me of these changes in myself that I’ve gone through as I have been (and continue to be) excited, overwhelmed, confused, and let down by the big bad world around me. This kind of reminds me of those little kids who get in trouble for being “potty mouths”. Maybe the kid watches too much TV and is constantly being exposed to that exciting, scary, and twisted world behind the screen. Maybe they have all these influences, good and bad, just cooking inside their heads as they struggle to make sense of it all, and maybe it comes out as this little voice screaming obscenities. Sometimes it feels like when I write I am that confused kid yelling about things I don’t completely understand, with all of these little thoughts that can be too much for me to handle just swimming around in my head and jumping out of my mouth when they get the chance. There’s something about that idea that I really like. I think that, to an extent, you can’t really control what influences you; you can really only choose how it does. That’s a part of the human experience that I find really interesting to share through art.

LH: What are your musical influences?

MA: Personally, there are a lot of artists that influence my songwriting that don’t really sound very much like any of the City Mouth songs that I’ve written. Some of these include fun., Kanye West, Ellie Goulding, Glen Hansard, Frank Ocean, and a lot of other random artists. There’s too much great music out there that it just seems silly to me to restrict yourself to one genre.

Then there are the bands that we sound a little bit more like that are more shared influences of both Troy and myself (although Troy likes a few of those previously mentioned artists just as much as I do). Some of these include Taking Back Sunday, Motion City Soundtrack, The Format, Brand New, Envy On The Coast, Into It. Over It., Jimmy Eat World, The Wonder Years, Mixtapes, Warren Franklin & The Founding Fathers, Fall Out Boy, and more pop punk, alternative, and emo bands.

When I’m asked what bands we would compare our sound to, I would say Motion City Soundtrack and Brand New.

LH: Can you talk about the story behind “Out Late?”

MA: This is a funny question because whenever people ask me that I always say something like “ugh, it’s really complicated. I’ll tell you later.” But i guess now is the time to explain it to the world (or the five to seven people who care about our songs) what this song is actually about. This was about two years ago, the summer before I went away to college. There was this girl I met at a party that I started talking to a lot and I kind of liked her. We started talking and hanging out a little bit right before she went to Ireland for like two weeks. During the time she was in Ireland, we would text every day and it was clear that we were both interested in each other. I was just waiting for her to come back because I really wanted to become more than friends with her. So after two long weeks she comes back and the first chance I got to see her was when she needed a ride from some party near my house. So I picked her up and drove her to sleep over at her friend’s house. Mind you, she was quite drunk at this point. She basically wanted to make out with me right then and there and I didn’t want to because I didn’t want it to turn out to be that she kissed me just because she was drunk. I didn’t want it to be like I took advantage of her or anything, and even more I didn’t want to start off something that could turn into something more serious in such a cheap way (I was kind of a hopeless romantic at the time). So the next day she was all offended that I didn’t want to kiss her and I explained my side to her. She responded to that by saying that she didn’t want to get into anything serious before she went away to school. She just wanted to have fun and mess around without all of the other complications. She said she thought it would be best to just “rip the band-aid off”.  So then we stopped talking for a little while and during that time I decided that I kind of wanted that too. So I told her that and we started talking again with this no-strings-attached relationship that we were both pretty bad at. It mostly consisted of me picking her up from parties and then making out with her and then a lot of texting. But I guess we talked way too much for that kind of thing, because she ended up getting really attached to me. So we basically switched places. Then when I found out that she was getting attached, we stopped talking for a while and she kind of hated me (or seemed to). Then when I started school, I started talking to her again out of a combination of loneliness and curiosity. She came to visit at one point and we met up at a party. That was the night that I THOUGHT (she has since promised me that I was wrong) I tasted vomit off of her tongue. I’m not sure why I included that gross detail in the song, but it just shows how ratchet the whole situation was. At that point, we talked and she got angry at me and she said that she didn’t want to talk to me ever again. I felt bad, but at the same time I felt like I hadn’t done anything wrong. It was a big confusing mix of emotions so I decided to write about it. The cool thing is that when she heard the song, she knew it was about her and she apologized for being kind of crazy. It was nice because the song actually helped us have some closure on the subject.

I know that’s a really long answer and it might not make any sense, but that’s why I always avoid the question.

LH: Any shows approaching?

MA: We have a CD release show on January 31st at Firehouse Pizza in Normal, Illinois which is also the release show for Troy’s other band, Modus Aurora’s full length album. Other than that, we don’t have anything confirmed yet. We’re working on setting up a spring tour in March, so keep a lookout for when we announce those dates.

LH: What are your plans for 2014?

MA: We plan to play as many shows as possible this year and make as many connections with other bands and listeners as we can. We’ve also started writing songs for our next release. I’m thinking that my next goal is a seven-song EP, but we’ll see how the ideas evolve.

LH: How can listeners get involved?

MA: There are a lot of different ways that people can get involved. The biggest ones are probably listening to our music, sharing it with friends, and coming to support us at shows. We’re also always open to hear feedback or just to chat with anybody who is interested in what we do. Any interaction is welcomed and very appreciated. It would also be cool to hear some covers by anybody who plays and/or sings. One of our biggest goals is to connect with other people, so any chance to do that is awesome.

For more information regarding City Mouth, check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/citymouthmusic

Luke Helker

Suicidal Angels: Divide and Conquer

Posted in Album Reviews on January 21, 2014 by lukesreviews1014

Greek thrashers, Suicidal Angels recently released their fifth full length studio record Noise Art/Napalm Records. Similarly to how I approached the Legion of the Damned album, this is very much a thrash band striving to stand out in a sea of copy-cats.

It’s very difficult for thrash metal bands to appear relevant in today’s market. You need something to make you stand out and in the past decade, I think the only band we saw with the potential to change the game for thrash metal and make it accessible again in the way that Metallica and Slayer did was Evile and they faded away almost as soon as they have exploded back in 2007 (and shit, no one in America seems to pay enough attention to Machine Head, who have written this generations Master of Puppets in my opinion with The Blackening, which tells you all you need to know about the state of thrash metal in our country). Now we have the old guard releasing some decent records every now and again and some new bands trying to go somewhere, but not being able to progress on the old formula. There will always be the underground audiences however that will never stop supporting bands like this, but at the same time, I doubt that this album (or any that will follow) will have the strength to push the band into the next level and because of that I see Suicidal Angels on the same plane as Legion of the Damned. Not bad, but most likely not getting any more exposure in the U.S. than they’ve had in the past.

In a more positive light, I thought the album was still really enjoyable. “Seed of Evil” and “In the Grave” are great songs and the band have all the hallmarks of a classic thrash band. The riffs and solos will most definitely melt your face and the drums will trample you into the ground with the force of a crash of rhinos. The incorporate a small string section to open up the song “Control the Twisted Mind,” which I thought was a cool thing to do and “White Wizard,” the album closer, clocks in a blistering 8 minutes and 50 seconds.

Overall, I thought it was a solid mid-way record, but due to the reality of the world we live in, most likely won’t be able to propel the band any further.

Luke Helker

Skull Fist: Chasing the Dream

Posted in Album Reviews on January 18, 2014 by lukesreviews1014

After some financial and personal setbacks, Canadian heavy-metal band Skull Fist have just released their second full-length record. The band have been making waves since 2006 when lead-singer/guitarist Jackie Slaughter released the first EP entitled No False Metal. Since then Slaughter has released Heavier than Metal EP (2010) and Head of the Pack (2011) and has experienced many lineup changes since the bands inception. The band have also become important amongst this new 80s metal influenced revival that has been dubbed the “New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal” and bands such as White Wizard, Cauldron and Enforcer also fit into this bracket. Bear in mind, however, that bands like 3 Inches of Blood have existed for years and have also maintained a “Trad-Metal sound” so I don’t know exactly how legitimate this “NOTHM” movement is, but it seems to be the general consensus.

Nevertheless, Skull Fist are an absolutely kick-ass group. You’ll be singing these songs all the way to the bar where you’ll then pick a fight with someone twice your size thanks to your newly found confidence. Chasing the Dream is packed with killer riffs, shredding solos, memorable choruses, and an 80s production that transports you back to those good ol’ years. After the release of Head of the Pack in 2011, the band were about to enter the studio again only to find to their surprise that they didn’t have enough money to record yet. This, in turn, pushed the album’s production by another two months. Then (if you follow the band closely you’ll remember this) Jackie was in a small skateboarding accident and really did a number on his body, which further setback the record by another month. The pay homage to this by adding a short sound clip of a man riding a skateboard and then falling in the beggining of the final track on the album “Mean Street Rider.”

If you were ever into 80s metal like Iron Maiden, Motley Crüe, or even Steel Panther (which are a more tongue-in-cheek modern hair metal band), then there is no reason that you shouldn’t be listening to this record right now.

Luke Helker

Andi Deris & The Bad Bankers: Million Dollar Haircuts on Ten Cent Heads

Posted in Album Reviews on January 17, 2014 by lukesreviews1014

Andi Deris made a name for himself as being an extremely powerful vocalist when he fronted power/speed metal pioneers, Helloween. His distinct voice can be recognized a mile away and has become a prominent figure in metal vocals. He has been working on solo projects outside of Helloween since the late 90s and Million Dollar Haircuts on Ten Cent Heads is the third album with his backing band known as the Bad Bankers.

With the exception of perhaps the very first three Helloween records, most of their best material was in the late 90s when Deris was the vocalist. By this point Helloween had made their everlasting mark on metal with their Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1 and 2 albums and Deris brought a new life and energy into the band. However, I felt that after the Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy that the band recorded with Deris in 2005 was the last great thing they’ve done and have since released three very bland, stagnant records that all sounded alike.

This album, apart from being ridiculously titled, sounds like an FM Radio-metal band that is very heavy-blues-rock influenced…but with no good songs whatsoever. The album kicks off with “Cock,” which is just rude for the sake of being rude and doesn’t really mean anything. Then there’s “Will We Ever Change,” a silly attempt at a ballad, along with a few other tracks on here like “I Sing Myself Away.” The there’s “Don’t Listen to the Radio”… which is the single that they specifically released for radio. I just don’t get what they’re trying to do (if anything) and don’t think any of the songs are memorable or catchy in the least.

Deris as a frontman is still solid. He’s singing on the record as if he’s fronting Helloween, which is fine, but since the Bad Bankers don’t really offer me anything else musically, I’d rather just listen to The Time of the Oath or Master of the Rings. The riffs on this record are sometimes heavy, but more often not and the lyrics are just ridiculous.  I mean, the new album has Deris smoking a cigar while holding a burning hundred-dollar bill. What’s up with that?

Overall, I don’t think there’s anything redeemable on this record and to me all it all boils down to the fact that there aren’t any songs on this record that I can sing after the record is over.It’s very disappointing to say this about someone who has been involved with a very influential power metal band. It sounds like someone on his pension; just making half-assed music for a consistent paycheck.

Luke Helker

De La Tierra: De La Tierra

Posted in Album Reviews on January 17, 2014 by lukesreviews1014

2014 seems to be off to an international start. Former Sepultura guitarist Andreas Kisser has founded a new band with former members of South American bands A.N.I.M.A.L., Maná, and Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. They released their debut album under the moniker De La Tierra, which means For The Earth.

I think the fact that they sing completely in Spanish (It could very well be Portuguese, but I’m not 100% sure) makes them stand out much more. The music itself isn’t really special or groundbreaking, but it’s great to see much more representation from South American music this year and I think people that follow Sepultura closely will be interested in what Kisser is up to these days. The rest f the band consists of Alex Gonzalez (Maná; drums & vocals), Flavio Cianciarulo (Los Fabulosos Cadillacs; bass & vocals) and Andres Gimenez (A.N.I.M.A.L.; vocals & guitar). 

The riffs are heavy, the vocals are melodic, but it’s not very easy to sing along. Not to use this band as the model, but Rammstein have somehow found a way to combine heavy riffs and melodic singing in a way that is still somewhat singable and I think few bands that sing in different languages can get away with that in the way Rammstein can. Other bands like the black metal bands of Scandinavia rely on a hardcore fan base that will follow these bands to whatever end, but I’m not sure how this band will hold up in the US. They’ll get a lot of attention because of Kisser and hopefully will play a few American metal festivals because I think people would dig it.

Check out the band’s newest single “Maldita Historia.” I think we’re going to hear a lot more good music from South America this year.

De La Tierra’s self-titled album is being released via Road Runner records. 

Luke Helker