Archive for February, 2014

Skindred: Kill the Power

Posted in Album Reviews on February 20, 2014 by lukesreviews1014

I simply just can’t get enough of this band or this record. Like Bayside, Skindred are a band that have been around for over a decade, but for some reason, NO ONE in America seems to know this band and even if they do, it clearly isn’t making a difference because visibility in the States is so slim (they’re currently gearing up for a tour where they are main support for Seether and Black Stone Cherry, which I believe is hanus, but we’ll talk about this later). I think this mainly has to do with the fact that the band are Welsh and therefore don’t always get the opportunities to cross over the pond and play here.

Never before has a meta band successfully married reggae, rap,  and dub influences in one successful manifestation quite like Skindred, which is what makes this band so incredibly unique. There are moments where the band can be bone-crushingly heavy, then in the next song, the band will sit back and let the electronics take over while the rest of the band provides a solid backbone. Either way, there’s always this nu-metal style bounce that emanates on every track on every album. These traits are no different on Kill the Power. It’s a very diverse and heavy album that will surely please even the most casual of Skindred fans (all though to be honest, I’ve never met just a casual Skindred fan).

I think every album has been better than its predecessor and the band completely stepped up their game with Union Black and while I think Kill the Power is incredibly strong, I don’t think it will be able to top Union Black (in my mind at least. This album is definitely almost on par though). The use of electronics and dub step has increased with every album and really controls a good portion of this one (especially on “The Kids are Right Now” and “Dance with the Devil”). Excluding the electronics, this is still an incredibly strong Skindred album through and through. Some of the best songs of the band’s career are on this album. From the second the album starts, you’re hit the face with this unimaginable force of different styles of music blended together in a way you probably thought wasn’t possible…until now. Skindred are a genre of one and that’s exactly what I love about this band.

As I mentioned earlier, the band are getting a lot of U.S. exposure this year. They are main support for Seether and Black Stone Cherry, which I think is very wrong because these bands could not be more opposite and many of Seether and Black Stone Cherry‘s fans probably won’t get Skindred and vice versa. I guess any publicity is good publicity and as long as they’re playing, then that’s good enough. There is a silver lining though because Skindred are set to play Rock on the Range this year, which means that if you’re reading this, then it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to attend this concert and see their set. Do yourself a favor and listen to some good music by one of the world’s great live acts.

Luke Helker

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I Killed The Prom Queen: Beloved

Posted in Album Reviews on February 20, 2014 by lukesreviews1014

Here’s an interesting one. I Killed the Prom Queen were one of the last band’s that I expected to reform and put out a new album in 2014. I’ve never followed this band too intently, so I wasn’t aware that they’ve been touring fairly consistently for the past two years and I was also completely unaware of guitarist Jona Weinhofen’s involvement with Bring Me the Horizon. When I first learned that, I hadn’t heard this record yet and assumed that since he was fired from Bring Me The Horizon that this album would be a retaliation by ripping off the same signature production and songwriting styles. Thankfully, I was wrong on those accounts, but at the same time, I was a little underwhelmed with this album.

I said before that I was not following this band intently, but I was still very much into this band during the mid-2000’s and really liked Music for the Recently Deceased (but then again,who didn’t like this record?). I since lost touch with this band and felt compelled to revisit their older albums when I found out that this new album was on its way.  I remembered how good this band were and how these albums still sound pretty fresh today. I should also mention that I’ve never seen the band live too, just so you know my perspective for this review.

After listening to this album, I concluded that the songwriting was fine; fairly consistent from their older releases and the production was more modern of course, but I could not get past the vocals. I don’t think Jamie is a bad vocalist by any stretch of the imagination, but I have a harder time believing what he says compared to Michael Crafter, who kinda was the real face of the band when they were at the height of their career (at least in my opinion). After listening to the older material and realizing again what this band are(were) capable of, I found it that much harder to really enjoy this record. I’m sure though that there are people out there that have been waiting forever for this band to reform and will love the album no matter what.  It’s a very modern interpretation of what this band did best back in 2006; more breakdowns, less clean vocals and tighter production.

I hate to be “that metal guy” that then says he can’t get into a record because of the vocals, but I just don’t believe what I hear. There’s just no conviction in what is being sung, but I still think fans of this band will enjoy the album to some extent.

Luke Helker

Bayside: Cult

Posted in Album Reviews on February 20, 2014 by lukesreviews1014

For a band that got their start in the punk and emo scenes of the early 2000’s, I’m glad that Bayside are currently at the highest level of popularity in their career, but I think this band should have been experiencing this since 2004. They have been extremely consistent throughout their career and Anthony Raneri keeps writing these grand, anthemic, punk-rock/emo tracks. Fr a band that have never had a bad album, I’m still shocked that it has taken as long as it has for people to really get behind this band. This is a band that has really meant a lot to me and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of their records to date (I even have their Live in New York album on white vinyl).

Cult is the sixth full length release from this band and is just as good as anything else they’ve put their name on. Bayside are a band I can rely on to have at least three tracks on each album that have choruses that will be stuck in your head for weeks after you first listen to the album and that definitely holds true for Cult. The album kicks off with the bombastic drum intro for “Big Cheese,” a classic Bayside track and then neatly moves into “Time Has Come,” which is a little too pop-punk for me. The next three songs though “Hate Me,” “You’re No Match,” and “Pigsty” are some of the best songs that the band have put their names on, with huge choruses. “Stuttering” might be the best track on the record and really illustrates Raneri’s emotions towards the music industry. It’s very passionate and discusses his role and the frontman in a band and the stipulations that come with that kind of position. It’s a very forward-thinking track for a band that have been around for over a decade.

The production on this record is fantastic with big drums and even bigger guitars. Everything is very well mixed and the songwriting on this record is probably the strongest the band have ever been.  I mentioned before that the band are notorious for having a plethora of songs that will be stuck in your head for days on end, but I think this might be the band’s most memorable album through and through. There is not a single dull moment on the record, unlike a few moments on some previous albums where it starts off and ends strong, but dips just a little in the middle. Overall, while it’s not a perfect album, it might be my new favorite album from them, and that’s after only two listens. I’m extremely please with this album and glad that Bayside have found themselves in the limelight currently. It’s about time.

Luke Helker

Mighty Ships

Posted in AHP/Local Bands on February 17, 2014 by lukesreviews1014

Mighty Ships is a post-rock/punk project from Normal/Aurora, Illinois that was originally a solo project created by Tyler Bachman and has extended to musical partner Harrison O’Brien as of this winter. There a re a few other friends that are involved on this project as well. The band recently posted two songs as an introduction to the music that they’ve been working on and what they hope to create in the future. Both songs show a broad range of what this group has to offer and the potential that resides in each member. Listening to these two songs, one hears bits of post, emo, and indie, which is a lot to hear in just two songs and have it sounding fresh and exciting.

I really look forward to seeing what else these guys have up their sleeves and hopefully 2014 will be kind to them.

To get involved, visit the Mighty Ships band camp here: http://mightyships.bandcamp.com.

The Restitution

Posted in AHP/Local Bands on February 17, 2014 by lukesreviews1014

Hailing from the West Coast, The Restitution are a new progressive metal band that you all need to check out (especially for fans of The Deftones, Tool and even some bands that don’t necessarily fall in that category like Thrice and Underoath. There’s also bits of post-rock in the music, to further make it a very diverse album to satisfy all parties.

The band is the brainchild of Michael Wright, whose musical vision has led to his debut album, Waves. Waves paints a very beautiful picture of a well-constructed progressive album that has resulted over many years of hard work and few borrowed instruments, and a great deal of creative experimentation. This album is a real melting pot of some of the genres that I love most and is presented in a very palatable and cohesive manner including punk, post, and progressive (the three P’s). They combine clean and shouty-edgy vocals over beautifully constructed melodies to generate a mass of emotions.

The production on this record is very strong, but raw and really compliments the music. I’m a big fan of albums that sound like x number of dudes just jamming together in a room both in a songwriting and a production stand-point because it feels more natural and real. I totally get this with The Restitution and the songwriting is very mature. Some key tracks for me include “Stone Dweller,” “Weigh,” and the title track, but really every song is great.

The band currently don’t have any shows lined up, but if they do happen to appear in your area, then you best be seeing them because you do not want to miss out on the experience.

Luke Helker

 

Aurora (MA)/Blank Youth Records Interview Special

Posted in AHP/Local Bands, Interviews on February 5, 2014 by lukesreviews1014
Here is an amazing example of a community working together towards a larger common goal. Some friends in central Massachusetts decided to form a label in order to help out their other friends and colleagues in working bands. They’ve in turn created a small scene within a small community that has been created around them and are making a lot of headway. We need more people like this who are willing to work together instead of competing for advancement. Hopefully these interviews shed some light on the bands and labels that you should be familiarizing yourself with no so that you can get involved tomorrow.
The Aurora questions were answered by Sean O’Loughlin (Vocals)
  
LH: How long have the members of Aurora been playing together?
SL: Aurora has been a band since the summer of 2012. All of us are original members besides Ethan Cheesman, our new drummer who started with us in late 2013.
LH: You’re kicking off 2014 with a new acoustic single and accompanying music video. What was the thought-process that determined this?
 
SL: I was going to release Changing Winds on my own. It was a song that I had been working on for a while and wanted to do some acoustic stuff on my own. I recorded it and then showed the other guys in Aurora. When they all liked it we decided to use it as a full band release. In the end it worked out perfectly and we started the new year with a new track!
LH: “Changing Wind” is definitely a new step for this group and I was curious what the origin of this song was (if one).
 
SL: I really don’t know how to put it with this song. Everyone goes through hard times, I just wanted people to listen and relate to this song in any way that they could.
LH: Who produced your Changing Winds music video?
 
SL: Nick Parabicoli, from our new label Blank Youth Records laid out the idea with the dog. We all thought it would be funny to have a deep song with a video that had no true meaning. Plus, Scoobe (the dog) is awesome.
LH: Having never been to MA, I was curious what the punk scene was like in your area.
 
SL: It’s strange, there are some awesome punk, pop punk and indie bands that come out of MA. In our area, Central Mass there’s a way bigger hardcore, post hardcore scene which makes the shows really dynamic in genre.
LH: Any touring plans?
 
SL: This summer we will be doing a week or two around New England. We are working on getting another band to come along with us as well. Hopefully later on this year we’ll book another tour during winter break too.
LH: What else is in store for 2014?
 
SL: Were going to head into the studio soon to start recording our next EP which we’re planning to release in the Spring of 2014. Until then we will keep promoting ourselves, playing shows and anything else we can do to get our name out there!
The Blank Youth Records questions were answered by Matthew Perham (Owner)
LH: How long have BYR been in business?
MP: Well, I got the idea to start a record label back in December of 2012. I wanted to showcase some of the local talent in Central Mass and give them an outlet to build their careers in music. I started working on my own and released a 10 song compilation album featuring local bands. After the release I started to realize that I had a lot of close friends that were as passionate about music as I was and I asked them to help out with the label.
In August of 2013 I enlisted the help of four long time friends, Pat, Jon, Bryan and Nick. We discussed what goals we wanted the label to accomplish and started talking about which bands we would like to sign. In September of 2013 we chose a name for our label and started researching the first artist to join our roster. In late December 2013 we announced the signing of Aurora and Blank Youth Records was on its way!
LH: What types of music do you usually cater towards?
MP: At the moment we are catering to the Pop Punk/Alternative Rock scene. In our area there are a lot of Hardcore/Post Hardcore bands but we wanted to find a smaller niche to work with. Although, that doesn’t mean we won’t be branching out to different genres later on in the future.
LH: Besides Aurora, what other bands have you worked with?
MP: Aurora is our first and only signing at the moment but after we get our feet off the ground and release their third EP this spring we’ll be looking to sign other artists. When I released the 10 song compilation in 2012 on my own it featured some awesome bands from Massachusetts such as Atlas, Pathogenic, Kerrigan, and SuperStoker.
LH: What is your specific role in the organization?
MP: I’m kind of the ‘Jack of All Trades’ when it comes to the everyday operations within the label. I’m first and foremost the owner. I’m the guy behind the scenes making sure we get everything done. I (attempt to) keep everyone in line and on task. I figure out what needs to get done and then I make it happen.
LH: What are BYR’s plans for 2014?
MP: Right now we are really focused on getting Aurora’s EP out in the spring and getting them out on tour. After we get that release under our belt we will start seeking out other artists to work with and start the process of releasing awesome music all over again. 2014 should be a big year for Blank Youth. We hope your ready to hear some awesome music.
For more information on Aurora (MA) and Blank Youth Records, visit their Facebook pages:
https://www.facebook.com/BlankYouth
https://www.facebook.com/aur0rama
Luke Helker

For Today: Fight the Silence

Posted in Album Reviews on February 3, 2014 by lukesreviews1014

For Today are one of the more consistent bands around today, which I think says a lot. In a world where fans are quite fickle and constantly demand more change , For Today have been able to capitalize on a sound that I think was solidified with Breaker back in 2010. Some bands don’t have a lot in the way of songs and need to constantly change their sound and image to appeal continue to appeal to their old fans whilst trying to gain new fans, but I think For Today are one of those bands that have struck true to their beliefs and are still pumping out great tunes.

You can say what you want about the christian aspect, and to be honest, I’m not religious whatsoever, but I still applaud this band for sticking to their guns and pressing on, despite some of the lineup changes that have occurred over the past few years. What I think is slightly humorous about some of the original members departing though is that they’ve picked up members from failing christian metal bands including Crimson Armada drummer David Puckett and In the Midst of Lions rhythm guitarist Sam Penner.

If you’ve heard Immortal or the Prevailer EP, then you have a good idea of what is on Fight the Silence. There are no real surprises  on this album. There are some more clean choruses provided by Ryan Leitru, which I think has been a great addition to the For Today sound and Leitru has really stepped up on this album. I think Immortal was the guinea pig album that allowed for this album to sound the way it does.

The first three songs are absolutely huge (“Molotov,” the title track and “Pariah”) and some of the best songs the band have ever out their name on. There are also a couple shorter, almost interlude tracks (“Reflections” and “Resonate”) that are spacey, guitar solos with Lietru’s voice guiding them into the next song, further proving his continued influence on the overall production and songwriting for the album. Other standout tracks include “Break the Cycle,” which features  Matty Mullins of Memphis May Fire fame, “Fatherless,” “A Call to Arms” and “For the Fallen.” (I’m seeing a trend in that a lot of their best songs begin with the letter F). I feel as though the lyrics are also a little more personal on this record, especially with “Fatherless,” which told a story that I had not heard yet from Mattie.

Not to slate the record, but if you’ve heard any of the last three records, then you kinda know exactly how this album will sound. It’s not a bad thing because I think the band are still writing killer tracks, but I’m sure there are some fans out there that want more of a change and might not be fully satisfied by this record. I think it’s a very natural step forward for the band though and give it a very big thumbs up.

Luke Helker