Archive for the Album Reviews Category

Beardfish: +4626 Comfortzone

Posted in Album Reviews on January 20, 2015 by lukesreviews1014

For my first review of the new year, I’m going to take a look into a band I had never heard before despite many recommendations from friends of mine. Swedish prog outfit, Beardfish, have been for almost 25 years now, which surprises me that it’s taken me this long to finally see what all the fuss was about. That being said, now that I have had a taste of Beardfish, I simply can’t get enough; these guys are nothing short of genius in my book.

+4626 is the band’s eighth album to date and the follow-up to what I’ve gathered to be a hugely successful predecessor of an album (The Void). However, because I’m not well-versed in this band and by no means an authority on their back catalog, I’m going to assume it’s all very decent based off of what I heard on this album.

It’s really no surprise that there is a theme for this entire album. According to the band, “The Comfort Zone is the invisible protective suit of negativity, almost like an entity of itself. It’s been with you since birth; your parents and your teachers and your friends and your neighbors all teaching you the way the world works – this is how it is and will be and there’s nothing you can do about it…”

A pretty broad and complex topic to be able to spin into an album full of complicated yet catchy and accessible songs illustrating these fears and apprehensions and confusions.

“The negative vibe is like a voice living inside you, a companion through life. With time you start to like that voice and the place it takes you to: your comfort zone. I’m so sick and tired of it and I want to address it and maybe in that way start to work out of it.”

Truer words have never been spoken. I’m a firm believer in facing those apprehensions no matter how negative it can get. Addressing it and bringing it out into the open is the only way to truly solve it.

Again, while most albums that are tethered around a “concept” generally end up being vague and off topic at times, this album is very exposed in its intentions, yet fraught with a myriad of musical designs and hooks to keep the listener engaged well after the album has finished. The album artwork also does a spectacular job of depicting some of those themes as well. Truly a great start to the year even with so much to look forward to. I can’t wait.

Luke Helker

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Slipknot: .5 The Grey Chapter

Posted in Album Reviews on November 10, 2014 by lukesreviews1014

What might be the most highly anticipated release of the year (next to Tool…when the hell is that album coming out?!) has finally been unleashed to the public. Heavy metal titans Slipknot have recently released an extremely raw and painfully personal album dealing with the death of their friend and band mate as well as the inner turmoil within the band during those turbulent times.

Since the death of Paul Grey and the release of this album, the band also parted ways with drummer Joey Jordison, another integral member of the band whose departure sent shock waves through the metal community. There was much speculation as to what would become of these holes within the band. Would they add a new bassist? Would he wear a mask? Would they play on stage or behind a curtain? and so on… It was finally announced that there would be replacement members for both Joey and Paul that would feature slightly altered masks based on the original designs.

The band never publicly revealed who became the new members of the band, but when the band released the first single, “The Negative One,” there was a lot of speculation that Chris Adler of Lamb of God had filled in, despite his inability to recollect ever recording the tracks. When the second single, “The Devil In I” was released, it became easier for fans to determine who the new members were based on the music video that was released along with the single. embarrassingly enough, fans were able to identify the new bassist as Alessandro Venturella by his wrist/hand tattoos that were briefly highlighted during the music video for “The Devil In I.” At this point in time, the new drummer has not been revealed, but there is much speculation suggesting that the new drummer is Jay Weinberg, son of Bruce Springsteen‘s drummer, Max Weinberg.

Well, now that we’ve discussed that drama, let’s talk about the album. Obviously, the shadow of Paul Grey hangs heavily over the album. This is a very introspective record in which every member, especially Corey Taylor, gets the opportunity to grieve and clean out their respective closets in order to provide some sort of closure to this tragedy. It’s not only chillingly honest, but the songs themselves are reminiscent of those on Iowa, another very dark record. The album starts off with an opening track that features some drones, soundscapes and Corey screaming all by himself; basically serving as an introduction to the whole record. This feeds in nicely to “Sarcastrophe” and “AOV,” two absolute bangers that get the album started on a very high note.

“The Devil in I” is on a different level in my opinion as far as Slipknot songs go and while it’s a little slower, it still packs all the rage and aggression of any other track found on the album. I also firmly believe that it’s one of the greatest songs the band have ever written. From there we have tracks like “Killpop,” “Skeptic,” “Nomadic,” and “The One That Kills the Least,” each of which don’t have a  single dull moment and really solidify the cohesion of the record.

Overall, I think that this was not  only an absolutely stellar record in the wake of some skepticism had by some around the material found on All Hope is Gone, it was the album that this band needed to make. It’s extremely reminiscent of the older material (especially Iowa) and really reminded me of why I became a fan of the band in the first place. I simply can’t speak highly enough of this record, so please take the time now to go check it out. Thanks.

Luke Helker

Lower Than Atlantis: Lower Than Atlantis

Posted in Album Reviews on October 29, 2014 by lukesreviews1014

I know this particular review is a bit overdue, but that’s mainly because I’ve been trying to spend with as much time with this record as possible. As many of you may now, especially if you’ve read many of my older posts or lists, that I am a HUGE fan of the band. I don’t believe many people in America even know about them, because they’re from the UK, but I believe that this album might change that. Lower Than Atlantis are a a British punk-rock band that have been consistently releasing amazing records since before 2010. I’ve began following the band since when debut LP came out and have absolutely fell in love with the band.

Admittedly, I have noticed drastic stylistic changes in the band from  album to album. One could argue that they have gotten much lighter in their overall sound and less aggressive since Far Q and they’d be right. To some peplum that may  be seen  as selling out. For me, I think I’ve fallen too deep in love with this band for them to do any wrong in my eyes. While i think it’s important for some people to have bands that function in the same way, it can be hard to be honest with yourself when listening to the album (hence why I’ve listened to it so much since it was released).

I will say this, the band are still writing really catchy songs that you’ll be humming for hours on end. Songs like “Here we Go,” “English Kids in America,” “Emily,” and “Words Don’t Come So Easily” are all prime examples of this. When the first single, “Here we Go” came out I thought, wow, this is probably the heaviest riff the band ever wrote, and I got really excited for the album. Shortly however was the release of “English Kids in America” along with its music video counterpart and this made me slightly question whether or not I would like the album as a whole. I believe “Emily” was also released early as a single, which I enjoyed and that song helped reestablish some faith for me with the album.

After listening to the album multiple times now, I must conclude that I really don’t hate any song on the album, but the album production and songwriting style definitely suggest a band that has seemed to integrate themselves a little more with the mainstream. This then brings us o the subject of selling out. Selling out is a phrase I don’t ever want to use to describe any band, let alone a band so important to me.  The fact of the matter remains though that the band’s sound n0w is drastically different from their previous material. The lyrics of “Criminal” further suggest that the band are aware of this shift in the band’s change and admit to using the label’s money in order to maintain their equipment as opposed to being products of a label. I gotta hand it to the band though that they have definitely done everything on their own terms, which I highly respect.

That pretty mud brings the conversation full circle. I really do enjoy the record, but understand that the sound is very different and may cause some rifts among fans. Still worth checking out if you’re in the mood for some hard-hitting feel-good music.

Luke Helker

1349: Massive Cauldron of Chaos

Posted in Album Reviews on October 17, 2014 by lukesreviews1014

Admittedly, I’ve never really listened to much of 1349‘s music until this year, although I wish I had because I might be able to present a more well thought-out, well constructed review. Massive Cauldron of Chaos is my entry point for this band and while I may not even be the the world’s biggest black metal fan, I can tell that this band are making very large strides within the genre and carving out a place for  themselves in the chronology go the genre.

I was able to explore the back catalog of this band shortly after discovering this record and was very impressed by what they had to offer on just about every record. Massive Cauldron of Chaos is a return to a more traditional approach to black metal, although to be honest, I don’t hate albums like Revelations of Black Flame. I thought it was a strong attempt to expand certain elements of the genre, which is always admirable even if it’s not the most successful album. I will say thought that I do prefer the more straight-forward albums that this band has including this new record.

This album accurately illustrates the hallmarks of what makes black metal music so near and dear to its fans while simultaneously encouraging the expansion of the genre and pushing the envelope as far a what these artists can accomplish. In a funny way, songs like “Slaves” incorporate classic heavy-metal riffing with the sonic production of a typical black metal record to make it a little more accessible and could even serve as an entry point for people who don’t know any black metal.

I have little doubt that even a casual black metal fan would have no problem enjoying this record. Very strong record from a very strong band.

Luke Helker

Devin Townsend Project: Z2

Posted in Album Reviews on October 6, 2014 by lukesreviews1014

Of all of the highly anticipated albums releases for this year (and there have been many), I don’t think any one of those compare to the excitement that has been brewing in anticipation for this release. In 2007, Devin Townsend released the tongue-in-cheek rock opera about the infamous alien, Ziltoid the Omniscient (of which the album is aptly named, Ziltoid the Omniscient), who travels to Earth in search for the world’s best cup of coffee. Upon being given a “fetid” cup of coffee, Ziltoid launches an attack on Earth’s army, only to end suggesting that the whole experience had been dreamt by a day-dreaming employee in a present day cafe.

This was truly a solo album in which Townsend plays all of the instruments on the album, excluding the drums which he sampled with the EZdrummer software. Shortly after the release of this album, Townsend took an indefinite hiatus to concentrate on his newly created family.

One could probably argue that during this time, Ziltoid the Omniscient had garner somewhat of a cult following amongst the hardcore devin fans. To the enjoyment of many eager fans, Townsend performed the world exclusive performance of the album in its entirety in Helsinki, Finland in 2010. It was also to everyone’s amazement when it was announced that there would be a sequel to Ziltoid the Omniscient, aptly titled, Z2. After almost scrapping it, Townsend announced the official recording of the album in early 2014.

Now, it i with great excitement that I write-up this review for this long-awaited sequel. The album contains two discs, each with a very different, but still Devin Townsend style to it. The first disc is entitled Sky Blue, which could be seen as just a separate collection of songs and doesn’t really add to the story of Ziltoid. The second disc however, is entitled dark Matters and serves as the continuation of the Ziltoid concept. The main theme overall for the album though is “Ziltoid against the world.”

I don’t want to give too much away in regards to the continuation of the story on this record, but let’s just say there’s a war princess, lots of poozers, and the most epic battle sequences imaginable. Devin Townsend really shells out for this album and it shows. The production on both records is absolutely massive, wrapping the listener in a cocoon of insanely heavy riffs and beautiful harmonies with the tongue-in-cheek humor laced throughout the record. For a follow-up to an already classic record, I have no doubt that the hardcore fans with easily embrace this record and love every second of it.

Luke Helker

Electric Wizard: Time to Die

Posted in Album Reviews on October 1, 2014 by lukesreviews1014

Electric Wizard are no strangers to the metal world. They’ve been going strong for twenty years now and have had a few albums widely considered to be staples within their genre. Now, we have been graced with another doom-metal masterpiece from our friends across the pond.

Never before has 1970s-influenced doom metal sounded more fresh and relevant than in the past few years, especially 2014. I’ve heard so many stellar doom metal bands (and loads of rip-offs too) and for the most part, they all are unique and memorable in their own way. One thing that I think has really set Electric Wizard apart though is the fact that unlike most other bands that are just really good and fitting into the niche or fitting in to the genre – these guys live it everyday. In fact, during the band’s early period, the drug abuse, harassment from the authorities, rural environment and typically violent lifestyle all melded together to create some that was really raw and honest, but still left plenty of room for the imagination.

Electric Wizard have managed to create a cult following for themselves over the years and to be honest, I’ve only recently become a fan of this band and have since started to dig at some of their older material. Time to Die though is easily one of the heaviest records released so far in 2014 and apocalyptic beyond all counts. The lyrics are stronger than ever and the sludgy guitars are simply hypnotic; having the ability to engage the listener so much that they become entranced in what is going on musically (that is, assuming you’re enjoying this album really nice speakers or headphones and have allowed yourself to relax and let the music carry you away).

For just being a casual fan of this band and the genre as a whole, I have to say that this is a tough album to match as far as style and consistency. Time to Die is Electric Wizard’s eighth LP and is released through Spinefarm Records. For further music and info, check out the band’s Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/electricwizarddorsetdoom/timeline

Luke Helker

Flying Colors: Second Nature

Posted in Album Reviews on October 1, 2014 by lukesreviews1014

I’m generally pretty skeptical of supergroups to begin with. part of that is because I can’t change what I know or how I already feel about the bands that most of these artists were previously in and in most cases find it difficult to not compare the new music to the music they created with their original band(s). I’ve also recently questioned Mike Portnoy‘s sanity as I have not found much substantial music in the Winery Dogs‘ catalog.

However, this daily new group seems to stand out, at least musically, above some of the other supergroups that are emerging. Along with Portnoy, both Neal Morse (Transatlantic, Spock’s Beard, Independent) and  Steve Morse (Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs and Ex-Kansas) are a part of the group. Additionally, the bass player is Dave LaRue, former of Dixie Dregs, Joe Satriani, and Steve Vai. Looking at that lineup, it’s hard to argue the musical credibility of these musicians, but what’s intriguing is that the singer for this project is a relatively new talent; Casey McPherson,whose background has been primarily pop music.

Let me be clear in stating that this is my first time listening to this band. I haven’t listened to the self-titled debut yet, but definitely will now having heard this record. It appears as though this band’s mission has been to create sophisticated, yet equally accessible music. I think they’ve accomplished that, at least with Second Nature. On the surface, this album is catch y an appealing in ways similar to someone who is a fan of Dream Theater or Transatlantic. Once the listener really starts to absorb the album, they’ll mow likely discover a deep reservoir of texture and countless layers of sounds and harmonies that continue to surprise and stimulate with every listen. What’s equally amazing is that this album was written AND recorded in just NINE days; a feat for any band, let alone a progressive rock band.

This is still a fairly tricky album to surmise because instrumentally, the album sounds like a sum of its influences. Since the members all come form prolific bands including Dream Theater, Transatlantic, Joe Satriani, and Steve Vai, there are familiar characteristics of each of these groups that can be pin-pointed in certain aspects of the album. On the other hand, the songs themselves do sound a little fresher and with McPherson offering a new brand of singing and style that these artists haven’t worked with before, it still makes Second Nature an album full of breathtaking material worth listening to multiple times.

At this point, the album should have already been released through Music Theories/Mascot Label Group. You can find more info here: http://flyingcolorsmusic.com

Luke Helker