Entries under 'reviews'

Review: Strung Out - Transmission.Alpha.Delta (Released on March 24th, 2015)

Strung Out are one of the bands that I can honestly say that I fell in love with at first listen. I remember hearing "Rotten Apple" on the 1996 Fat Wreck Chords compilation album "Survival Of The Fattest" and completely losing my mind. I couldn't believe how tight and fast they played, like this band was from another planet or something. Jason Cruz is an amazing vocalist and his performance on Transmission.Alpha.Delta is outstanding. Jordan Burns is also a drummer I've always admired, his fills are insane and he uses every available part of his kit, which I also like. Jake Kiley and Rob Ramos have such a powerful guitar sound together; so full sounding and just that perfect tone. Chris Aiken's bass is mixed amazingly on this album as well. I am a full blown bass addict and I love hearing that deep pounding bass in rock genres of music. Needless to say, this record will be in heavy rotation in my car for a long, long time.

Regardless of how familiar you may be with this band, but particularly for anyone who enjoys the melodic So-Cal style of playing, I highly recommend adding this one to your collection. A great listen all the way through, I can't find anything about this album that I don't like. I was fortunate enough to have seen Strung Out live twice, and hearing their great new music makes we want to run out and see them live again as soon as I get the chance. Grab this record and get in the know.

Purchase album here: http://www.fatwreck.com/record/detail/920
Official: http://www.strungout.com/
Fat Wreck Chords: http://www.fatwreck.com/

Review: Expain - Just The Tip (Out on June 24, 2014)

Expain (formally known as "The Almighty Excruciating Pain") hail from Vancouver BC, which made a lot of sense to me as I have found their brand of humour to have a familiar overtone. It's always nice to hear some high quality shreds originating out here on the west coast. As per usual, I tend to notice the drumming right away, and Expain certainly has the right guy for the job. What a powerhouse!! Speaking of which, it is worth mentioning that this band was formed exclusively with the help of Craigslist, boy technology can do swell things sometimes.

Aside from the obvious that these guys shred like hell, it's cool to hear metal being jazzed out a little bit; I'm a huge music nerd so I'm into that sort of thing. I remember the first time I heard Sleep Terror, there's a lot of that cool jazziness in there too, it blew my mind to hear how well these totally different musical elements can actually work together. So that's pretty cool. It's awesome to see musicians who utilize as much of their playability and influences together in a cohesive delivery, I think that very few bands can truthfully stake that claim. Expain are self releasing Just The Tip on June 24, so make sure you rip over to Bandcamp, iTunes or CD Baby to get your hands on your copy! It's always commendable to see a band self releasing their own albums, which I know from experience is not an easy (or cheap!) task to undertake. Show this band some love, these guys are going hard and kicking ass!

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Review: Hollow - Mordrake (Out on May 30, 2014)

Hollow are a blackened death metal band from Montreal, QC. This album is the band's second release; a follow up to their 2010 Cynoptic Eschaton EP. At first listen, I knew this band was a step ahead of the pack. These guys are tight as hell, and create an intense atmosphere with their brutal approach to metal. It is especially worth noting that the drums on this album were recorded WITHOUT the use of triggers; which not only ads to the overall black metal feel, but is a commendable nod to the old school way of doing things. There was also no use of midi, or any cut/paste editing. This is a true rarity in this day and age of recording! I'm a big fan of the heavy low end of the overall mix too, but I just have a thing for big thick bass, it just makes for such a full, rounded sound. For only having one guitarist, they've certainly got the right one - this dude shreds!!! Hot damn. And of course, as for vocal delivery, you get it all on this album. Nice high black metal-eque screaming, demonic harmonies, and intense gutteral death metal growls.

All of these guys are above average musicians on their own, which is blatantly evident when listening to them play as a band. I would jump at the opportunity to see Hollow play live, and if they're coming to play near you, I advise you do the same. But more importantly, if you're a black metal fan, get yourself a copy of Mardrake when it comes out on May 30th! Big thanks to Asher Media for sending this one my way, you rock dude!

"Landscape" official video

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Review: Psychotic Gardening - Hymnosis (Out on May 13, 2014)

Psychotic Gardening are a metal band from Winnipeg, MB. This album has a Death cover on it (Open Casket), which is a bonus right off the bat. I like the rough sound to this album, it's not completely clean and polished but I don't think it would be quite the same if it were. The mix fits the music really well. I'd call this traditional/old school metal revival with a touch of black metal, if I had to pin a label on it. You can hear the old school death metal influence for sure, these guys kind of remind me of my old band Deadkind just a little bit in that respect. It's refreshing to hear a metal band going against the grain like that. I really like the vocal delivery in this band as well.

Hymnosis is the third album from Psychotic Gardening, follwed by 2011's Humanitorium and the 2007debut Hurdur. The more of this record I listen to, the more I dig it for sure. Hymnosis starts off well, don't get me wrong, but this record is a creeper for sure; it grows on you more and more the further in you listen. I like that, some of my favorite records kind of have the same effect. Very cool arrangement, and a unique overall sound as well. I can hear the influences in the music, but this band doesn't straight up remind me of any other bands on the first spin, which is pretty hard to find these days. If you're into that old school feel, you don't want to miss out on this release. Be sure to check out Psychotic Gardening ASAP!

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Review: Dark Century - Murder Motel (Out on April 18, 2014)

Dark Century is yet another metal powerhouse from Montreal, QC. Right away, on the very first track, I found that the overall sound of the band reminded me a little bit of Yyrkoon, which is awesome. By that I mean the tone of the instruments; the overall mix of this album sounds very similar to the overall mix of the last two Yyrkoon records. It's such a great mix for this kind of music, I'm not sure what exactly makes such a sound, if it's in the mastering or the gear the guys are playing or what, but holy hell does it ever sound good. What a good sounding record!

Before this was sent to me by Jon Asher I had not heard of this band, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear Murder Motel. The vocal delivery here is astounding, this dude has quite the set of pipes going on. Also, pay attention to those drums - what a great drummer. I can't wait to rip this one in the car, I can tell from the first listen through that this is going to pound the living shit out of my poor Malibu.

If you're at all into death metal, thrash metal, and grindcore, you'll be pleased with this seamless blend of aggression. This record is likely to scare the shit out of your neighbors and other drivers around you at red lights. I am very curious to hear Dark Century's other album, 2009's debut "Days Of The Mosh." As someone who was in a metal band that self-released our own EP, I have much respect for other bands doing the same. Definitely check this band out!

"Kill The Crowd" Video on YouTube

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Review: Melt Banana - Fetch (Out on October 1, 2013)

Melt Banana are from Tokyo, Japan and have been around since around 1992. This is their 7th full length studio release. I'm a little (more than a little) late with this one, but let me start off with a gerthy "holy shit." Melt Banana are a great example of genre blending that actually works. I like to simply refer to their music as "avant-garde," but one can easily pick out pieces of grindcore, noise rock, pop, synth-pop, and punk rock. I think that Ichirou Agata has probably got the most hilarious approach to playing guitar I have ever heard or seen, and I truly mean that as a genuine compliment, coming from a guitarist of almost 30 years myself. I can just listen to this stuff all day long. I really have aquired an appreciation over the years for those with an unorthodox approach to playing instruments, specifically when the end result comes out so flawless and beautiful as what Ichirou can do. On a side note, I have yet to track down any of his solo work, but based on what I've heard from Melt Banana and other reviews I have read, I am dying to get my hands on some Agata. I think this all stems from getting into Mr. Bungle when I was 13, but that's another story all together.

Vocalist Yasuko Onuki, again with the completely abnormal approach to vocals/singing, for lack of a better term blows my fucking mind. It honestly took me a little while to get used to this band a few (10 or 11) years back when I first heard of them, mostly due to her vocal delivery, but now that I'm "used to it" and have a better understanding of this band, I think she's brilliant. Now that I think about it, I have yet to hear any other vocalist even come close to sounding like her, but really, I don't think there are many people out there that could pull it off like she does. I don't know, I just really get a kick out of this band.

It has been six years since these guys have put any music out, the last release being "Bambi's Dilemma" back in 2007. I have learned that Yasuko and Ichirou have been performing live as a duo since last year, and have opted to also record "Fetch" as a duo. I'm not sure exactly who is programming what in regard to the drums, bass and sampling, but I could see someone with an untrained ear being surprised to find out only the vocals and guitar are "organic." I seem to like everything I have heard from Melt Banana thus far, but I must say, Fetch is really really good. It sounds really good in the car too, which is good for extra points in my book. I got this one late, it's been out for a couple of months, so do yourself a favor if you're feeling adventurous (to those who have never heard this band) and check this record out.

Review: Jake Bugg - Shangri La (November 18, 2013)

My wife and I both became instant fans the first time we heard Jake's music about a year ago now, and we just caught him live in Vancouver back in September. We've both been looking really forward to Shangri La, and neither of us were disappointed with this album whatsoever. Two singles from Shangri La were available early; a demo of "What Doesn't Kill You" was released in September (days before we saw him live), and "Slumville Sunrise" in October. We were fortunate enough to hear both songs live before the album was released, as well as "A Song About Love." It was interesting to hear the version of "What Doesn't Kill You" on the album, as much less of Jake's Nottingham accent comes through on Shangri La. Much like his self-titled release of 2012, Shangri La is a record I have no trouble listening to all the way through without skipping any tracks. This record also has a bit more of an upbeat feel to it than last year's debut, with a few more rock songs and a bit faster tempo. The name from this album comes from Rick Rubin's studio in Malibu CA where this was recorded over the summer of 2013. A funny thing to note too, this record wasn't supposed to be released in North America until January 2014 (much the same as the debut record coming out in North America months after the initial release in the UK), but when his most recent tour sold out so fast, Island Records decided to push the release back to November 19 2013, one day after the UK release by Mercury Records. Way to go Jake! I hope this kid has years and years of music up his sleeves yet, because this is the kind of stuff I don't see myself ever getting sick of. I'm sure glad my wife and I got to see him live for $15 while we could!!! Go out and get this album today, it's a real gem.

Lucid Skies - Hounds EP (November 26, 2013)

Lucid Skies come flailing out of Edmonton with this intense 4 track EP. I hadn't heard of this band until just recently, and I'm pretty impressed with what I'm hearing. This is a good solid blend of old school hardcore and progressive thrash; nice short songs that still build and fly but don't leave you waiting for an end. I'm a big fan of the hardcore style scream singing, it reminds me a bit of Raised Fist or Sick Of It All, which works awesome for this band.

Overall the vocals are mixed just a touch loud for my tastes, but everything still comes across clear and full. These guys are putting many elements on the table that a wide range of aggressive music fans can all find something they enjoy here. Lots of breakbeats and break-downs, very melodic bass lines (that aren't lacking in heaviness, mind you) and a sick guitar sound with lots of crunch and just enough shred to go around.

These guys just indirectly remind me of a lot of bands that I like, and that's awesome. They don't sound like any particular band I can think of, they just remind me of a lot of good stuff. Sounds like a pretty simple concept, but it's such a rare thing lately. Lucid Skies are about to rip a 12 date tour to support the EP, so if you live near any of the places they'll be playing do yourself a favour and go check them out. And make sure to grab a copy of Hounds!! Thanks to Cara from Asher Media for sending this gem my way!

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The Songs Of Tony Sly: A Tribute (October 29, 2013)

Tony Sly was an unbelievable songwriter. I first discovered No Use For A Name when I was 12 or 13, and I knew at first listen that this wasn't just another punk band. Though most (especially earlier) No Use songs were initially played quite fast and with heavy distortion, they more often than not translate extremely well across different genres of music. One of my favorite things about this tribute album is being able to hear exactly that. The Acoustic Vol.1 and 2 albums Tony did with Joey Cape (2004 and 2012 respectively) now seem to almost foreshadow this record in a way, hearing those familiar old songs softened, slowed and stripped down to the bare essentials. It worked as seamlessly and beautifully then as it does again now on this tribute to Tony.

I was fortunate enough to have seen No Use For A Name live multiple times. I find it hard not to think about the live show experiences I've had with bands after the fact when I listen to their music. Of all the times I watched them, I never did get the impression that anyone in that band was simply going through the motions, or just there to make some money and get some tail. One just can't be a part of a band like that with such an amazing songwriter, and not love what you're doing. As far as I've ever known, No Use was a band crafted from the love for the music itself, the same way Tony wrote each and every one of his songs.

It is just such a sad thing, I think that there was a lot of music left in Tony, and that this wasn't your typical "rock star death." For me it just seems far more tragic and sad than rock n' roll or glamerous. I don't think it was truly meant to happen, but it is far too late for that. Thank you for all the wonderful music, and the great memories that go along with it. Never forget Tony Sly. 1970-2012.

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SNFU - Never Trouble Trouble Until Trouble Troubles You (Out on Oct. 24, 2013)

I just need to state that first and foremost, I fucking love this band. This is the first release from the band in almost ten years, following 2004's "In The Meantime And In Between Time." Drummer John Card is back for his third stint with the band, technically bringing the band status back up to 2/4 original members.

It should be noted however, that Chi's vocal abilities have began to waver slightly. The rest of the band fills in with back-ups quite nicely, but it should be understood that for a guy like Ken Chinn who has been through the extremes in both physical and mental health, it is amazing that he can still do what he does in the first place, even if somewhat less gloriously than in previous years. On the other hand, his lyrical abilities haven't suffered a stitch, so all you die-hards like myself can still expect that classic SNFU sound.

Overall I find the final mix of this record slightly treble heavy, which is of course an easy fix on the old equalizer, but other than that I think Never Trouble Trouble sounds great. One of the things I've always liked about this band is their lack of "filler songs" on their albums, making for a great listen all the way through.

I'm hoping all the best for the guys with this album and the touring that goes along with it, because I certainly would love to hear more and more out of SNFU! If you're a fan it should go without saying that this record should already be a part of your collection.

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