Saturday, July 14, 2018

"Guest Review' From Matt's Rock Invasion- Jared Mancuso- Hype!

(Note: This is a review from my other blog, featuring bands/artists of a more rockier variety "Matt's Rock Invasion: I figured it was time to cleanse the palate with something a bit less metal but with high quality nevertheless)

Jared Mancuso is an up and coming rock artist with a new album, his third overall, called Hype! He has a range of sound that he says is influenced by everyone from Weezer to the Pixies to Queens Of The Stone Age and beyond. 

The album begins with a roar with the song "Splendor", which features almost a new wave feel with it's straight droning almost motorik beat alternating with hooks and lyrics.

"So Strong", is next, and is a greasy ironic exhalation against a (lover, ex lover?). Not as catchy as the first song, but still bouncy and fun.

Next song funks it up a bit, it's called "Extraordinary", the groove and catchiness of this song cannot be understated. The riff almost has a seventies feel delivered through a post punk/alternative lens, and is a worthy third album track.

"So In Love" features a fuzz box groove with some cool stop start riffs and gorgeous hooks

"Alright" continues the pop meat hooks but has some heavy fuzz riffs alternating between this, almost if ELO and Blue Cheer did a session together – cool heavy riffs ensue in the second half of the song

The title track carries on that 70's Stevie Wonder mixed with Devo groove that permeates the album, we're back to funk territory in other words. Not my favored track on the record, but still if the groove doesn't get you dancing, you're not a human being!

It also features a cool, sort of psych styled breakdown and solo as well.

"The Jungle" features a cool odd timing, then the party continues with a more straight timing
and features the best guitar solo on the whole album, almost with shadows of Jimmy Page in there!

"Play False Blues"  has the quirkiness of some of the other songs, but heavies it up for the second act.

"Optional" has a similar feel to some of the earlier songs as well, still catchy though. 

"Make It Right" begins with a punky riff that would make the sadly departed Jay Reatard swoon in the direction of, and then carries forward with more of the fuzz funk and closes the album on a high note.

 One thing I really dug about the album was the production, dynamics were aplenty and the instruments balanced but also raw enough to keep the sound warm. 

Not exactly "retro" production by any means, but a good balance between the warmer productions of yesteryear, (even the 90's, when analog was still king) but with the added clarity of modern times. 

Jared has a natural born knack for songcraft, melody, and just the right amount of novelty to make a good album that definitely also has focus as well.

His music is a merging of influences into something unique, fun, and danceable with the right amount of quirkiness added in. It also has a classic rock touch that keeps the music from being tied to just one time period or another, that's the magic of having such a diverse musical pallet to choose from.

It's with this merging of influences into something concrete that makes the music so appealing, rather than what some bands/artists do and just have x song sound like "that band", etc. That is where the strength of Jared's songwriting really shines, in having those influences melded together into something new. 

I would definitely recommend this album to those who are into the bands previously mentioned, or those who want to check out a rising artist before everyone else does!

You can check out Jared Mancuso at the following links:

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Album Review: Levant- Beneath Rubble, Run Rivers Red

Levant are a new band (made up of a collective of musicians) from the U.K. Their debut album, Beneath Rubble, Run Rivers Red, which is available for pre-order on August 6th, 2018 from their website, comes out officially worldwide on September 3rd.

From the first song, "Nowhere to Hide", I found that they definitely had some obvious modern influences, but with a cool gnawing guitar sound that cuts through a lot of what you would expect.

The vocals also alternate between metalcore influenced screams and a more gritty clean vocal style that is definitely to my liking. Nothing bothers me more than when there is heavy music with an almost "boyband" sounding clean vocal style (like sometimes is found in modern metalcore and djent bands) so I found this refreshing as hell. This first track has a maelstrom of riffs and melodies.

The second track, Carry Me Home, opens with a Helmet-esque odd timed riff and some more screams, before going into a more groove influenced progression and then back again with the stop start styled riffs.

The guitar solos aren't exactly shredtastic but sound suited for the song instead of being the second coming of the Viking warlord himself (that being Yngwie of course). I personally could do with a few more solos, but I'm a massive shred fan so that's me.

Silenced, the third track, is where things pick up, alternating an almost death metalish hammering riff with clean vocals. It's here when the contrasts become something substantially good, and the oblique harmonic vocals don't hurt either, easily the best track so far. Great guitar tone as well.
The song works better in part because there are no scream vocals and it actually fits BETTER with the extremely heavy riffs.

A Perfect Picture is a strange pop interlude featuring female vocals alternating between male that almost reminds me of something Coldplay or U2 would come up with if they played heavier. Not a terrible song per se, but it does feel a bit out of place.

Say Whatever You Like is a return to the bludgeoning and it's somewhat similar to the first few tracks on the album.

Fall Away features a bit more of an eighties influence, but as previously said, I'm glad the gravelly clean vocals are prominent on this song as well, it really ups the ante as far as the catchiness goes.

A few songs later and the next highlight, The Darkness In Me is with us. A heavy as hell almost gothic metal sounding droning riff drives the song, definitely the best song since Silenced for the novelty and the way the melodies and riffs go together – a clean interlude helps with the song as well that is followed by some groove metal influenced riffs with cool drum and cymbal work.

Time to Shine closes the record, with film samples and piano. 
It's certainly better than the other lighter track on the album, because of the more melancholy note that it ends it on, and the samples and subtle electronics help propel the song forward.

Overall, I definitely found some things in Levant I liked. The singing was good and at times there was definitely a progressive feel to many of the riffs that I enjoyed. I could do without some of the more overtly commercial moments though I realize this is a balance many bands have to tread nowadays.

Stylewise, being a "Collective Supergroup" of sorts, Levant do have a lot of variety, though I would say that this is both a blessing and a curse. As with any project of this size and scope, you get musical variety but at the loss of some focus. I think future releases will definitely have more focus, and to me the best of the musical concept would be to congeal their more progressive/experimental inclinations with their more standard modern sounds, whilst also keeping some of the accessibility. 

Levant is also a charity project, initially, five percent of all proceeds are to go to the War Child UK fund, and it's definitely admirable they're doing this for a good cause. 

You can find out about Levant at the following links, and also make sure to check out the press release video about the project below:

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

5 Unreleased "Holy Grail" Recordings Metalheads Would Love To See Officially Released!!

Whether it'd be unfinished/unreleased second albums or archaic demos that hint at a nostalgic past era of a band, this is a list of 5 hence unreleased albums or releases that metal fans would pay a pretty penny for, even in this supposed age of downloads and streams. The original acetate or tapes, or even hard drive containing these songs and releases would definitely fetch tons of money wherever they went. I compiled this list considering both my personal tastes and tastes of metal fans in general, needless to say, some of these will probably make the rounds in the future, though in some cases (see the # 1 entry) they likely will not.

1. Unreleased Iron Maiden 1977 Rehearsal Demo Tape/Live Tapes.

Recently making the rounds on youtube and elsewhere are mere snippets (on a tape owned by former Iron Maiden and Samson drummer, Thunderstick) of this purported (pretty much demo quality) rehearsal recordings of Iron Maiden featuring a very different lineup than even made the Soundhouse tapes. You can hear synthesizer, slower tempos, and almost a more Wishbone Ash style to some of the recordings of some of the songs. Songs like "Iron Maiden" have a "boogie" quality to them that is a testament to the fact that these songs are firmly rooted in the 1970's.
There is some controversy now with a pending lawsuit from original (pre D'ianno) vocalist Dennis Wilcock concerning song/lyric writing credits that were never given. I won't go into the controversy and contention  regarding this in this article, but needless to say, if a release of these original FULL recordings (on CD, Vinyl, or Download/Streaming) would be imminent as far as part of a settlement of this lawsuit, it would be awesome and appreciated!

2. Unreleased Control Denied Album.

The year 2001 brought upon us the tragic and untimely death of Death and Control Denied founder Chuck Schuldiner, a groundbreaking and innovative musician if there ever was any.
Control Denied were recording a second album when Chuck died, and this album is unreleased/unfinished to this day. If Chuck's prior history is any indication he would have pushed his music in new directions and thresholds like he had always done before.

3. (Possibly Mythical) Metallica Ride the Lightning song/riff recordings with Dave Mustaine.

Did Metallica record a SECOND demo with Dave Mustaine after No Life 'Til Leather, in this case, containing songs that were later recorded for the Ride the Lightning album? Are there recordings with any unrealized/unused riffs, or are there jams with the band that contain embryonic riffs that later became the basis of both Megadeth and Metallica songs? This has been a matter of debate. On many websites in the past, it was said that there were recordings of Dave on an unspecified "Ride The Lightning" demo. Some of these "leads" were later proved to be false, but there is this mysterious recording that remains that is supposedly Lars Ulrich and Dave Mustaine jamming some of the aforementioned riffs that does remain (perhaps this was slated to be one of the "Extra Tracks" on the aborted "Deluxe Edition" of No Life 'Til Leather? Perhaps we'll never know).

4. Judas Priest The S.A.W Sessions.

Now I know what you're thinking. Isn't Turbo close enough to "AOR" or Pop Rock to satiate your curiosity for what they'd sound like within those musical boundaries? I definitely disagree with your assertion, as I would love to hear Halford's golden lungs especially sing (arguably at his peak during this time) this style of music. The 1986 S.A.W sessions were a short-lived collaboration between Priest and a trio of pop songwriters/producers Stock Aitken and Waterman, famous for songs such as Dead Or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)" and Banarama's cover of "Venus". Three songs were recorded with Priest and the team, and all that's been released so far is this short snippet:

5. "Mind Conception" and other Pre-Rob Halford (or pre-signing) Judas Priest Demos.

Judas Priest had a singer before Halford? Well, yes! His name was Al Atkins. He had a lower ranged, whiskey soaked voice than Rob, but the fact that there is an Acetate out there of the following song,  is something that is rarely mentioned in interviews. It'd be interesting to hear what Priest would sound like with a singer that has a lower range, and to hear these proto/early Metal riffs before the band took center stage would be interesting indeed. Again, only snippets have been released to the public so far (dig the groovy psychedelic feel of the song as well):

I made a short list for brevity's sake, but I'm sure there are many others that could be added to the list. Hopefully we'll get to see some of these released to full fruition, otherwise they remain legendary and archaic musical relics that we can only get a small glimpse (or listen to) of receiving.

What are some unreleased albums, songs, or demos you'd like to see released? Make sure to leave a comment or two!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Review: Blood Sun- Self Titled EP

Now enter a band that shows huge potential and has a very unique sound. I won't lie, even though I enjoyed many of the acts I've reviewed on this blog the past several months, it's refreshing to hear a band who is closer to having the elements that are far more endearing to me that your average band.

South Carolina's Blood Sun is one such band, and they are releasing their debut self-titled EP on April 20th 2018.

The first thing I need to mention, in part being a guitarist myself, were the killer riffs. Twisting, huge, interweaving riffs, that definitely sound like they're being done by an army of guitarists rather than one. This band has that essential ingredient that bands who have killer riffs have, it isn't exactly prog metal, but thinking about how cool even 90's Mercyful Fate, classic Annihilator and yes, even classic Megadeth's riffs were, you could be reminded from time to time with Blood Sun. I'm also reminded of the underrated 80's German band Vendetta, in just the way the time changes (and even occasional odd timings) and catchy melodic parts encapsulate the listener with their twists and turns.

The first song, Mindsweeper starts out with a doomy and heavy riff and then goes to an almost more melodic seemingly melodeath influenced section.

The second song, Coven, starts with a moody bass and cymbal exclusive line and then a lone minimal guitar then accentuates some odd timed riffs with some dark melodic linesand subsequent harmonies with a cool bass driven figure in general.

The song seems to be about witches or vampires, but the band states the whole EP follows a loose lyrical theme which I still have to analyze and put together (but seems interesting).

Some wicked evil riffs  follow, and is enough for any headbanger worth their salt
The song seems to end abruptly though. 

Late is a more modern sounding song, almost with refrains that could be on modern rock radio, but meets Megadeth but also is superior to most stuff you hear on  the radio (Especially the leads).

Downfall has the most comfortable sounding vocals of all the songs. Probably the best vocal melodies of the release as well. It is a thrashy speed metal song which gets more mid-paced for the parts that the vocals come in on.

Revelations rounds out this set of songs, with some more quirky time changes and a vocal line that reminds me of Black Album Hetfield barking out apocalyptic visions though I must admit this song may be my least favorite.

I must say that after reviewing many bands the past few months, this is definitely one of the ones with the most potential. 
Fresh riffs, catchy refrains and melodies and those awesome crushing riffs.

The main complaints I have are a few of the songs, even though full of great ideas, seem to resolve themselves and end abruptly. 
If I also wanted to nitpick more, the drums are a bit clicky, though overall the instruments are very well balanced and could just be my old man metal ears who's always skeptical of modern drum productions.

The solos shred gallantly and it's refreshing to hear a band able to make a new twist on older sounds but to balance them with a modern context.

My main criticism would be the vocals: Not the timbre, range, or even melodies. Rather the way they sound produced. I'd say they are too dry in the mix and could be improved as far as being more well put together. It should be said that I enjoy the vocal style very much, The vocals on some of the songs in the latter half sound improved from the first half, though the aforementioned last song suffers from this issue as well. 

Overall, this is a promising start to an excellent new band. To hear a band mix classic sounds, some modern sounds, but with a twist of technical hell spawned riffage is something to pay attention to in the future. 

You can find out about Blood Sun by checking out the following links:

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Review: Lesser Known Character- Calamity

Lesser Known Character are a Bristol UK Punk act that, in a rare move amongst modern punk acts, actually has the accent of their country of origin! It's not without irony that I make that statement, as Yank acts from Green Day and even early Industrial mavens Ministry have tried to appropriate this. 

The band reminds me of such bands from yesteryear like Bad Religion, the Descendents or even early Husker Du at times. A very melodious, aggressive and catchy form of Punk Rock. 
The chiming melodies, along with the speed but very overt hooks make a very catchy and melodic experience. 
It's interesting, though refreshing that such influences still permeate in the consciousness of band's minds. The title track, Calamity has the best mix of hooks and riffs, it's fresh metallic sheen making for the most enjoyable song on here. The band's liveliness is pretty apparent, I am sure they put on quite a  good and energetic show from the sounds of it. Calamity, is a bit short, being a very quick EP (harkening again back in the days when Eps like Black Flag's Nervous Breakdown would barely pass five minutes), but very promising. 

You can check out the release (and band)  at the following links:

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Review: Vaudeville Remedy- I've Got An Idea For Christmas​.​.​.

Vaudeville Remedy is a self proclaimed “blues/punk” band from Assiniboia, Saskatchewan,
At first I thought the location they gave was a joke, but then I googled it, and indeed there is a town with that name (Populaton: 2,389). 
However, you can seriously expect a sardonically humorous element to their new release, “I've Got An Idea For Christmas​.​.​.

The three piece band has been around 2009 and has six releases (at least from what is listed on bandcamp).

The album is a concept one, purportedly about “a heroin junkie's misadventures throughout the holiday season”.

The song, "Home Alone 6" (hey, I thought there were only 2 or 3 films) starts out the album.

It features some calliope type backing keyboards, and almost has a slightly New Wave post punk feel to it.
The second song, “I've Got an Idea for Christmas” has an almost Stooges style shuffle, and appropriate hooks.

"XXXmas Alley", follows and has a bit of a jazzier feel.

"Too Much Christmas Cheer" has that classic early pop/punk (think Descendents) feel and is a a welcome adrenaline rush added to the proceedings.

Behind the Bars Until Next Year is the last song, and it's a mellow, bass driven ditty that concludes the story-line.

The lyrics are done in a tongue-in-cheek manner, as previously stated, they feature such gems such as "open your presents then tie your arm, let me pump you full of that Christmas charm."

Overall, the band shows promise on this release. After all, the album is kind of a less pretentious and more whimsical version of an album with similar subject matter, Sixx A.M's Heroin Diaries. The main criticism from me is that it's mercilessly short, they could've fleshed out the concept more and gone through more moods for the songs. It is a catchy album though.

You can find out more about Vaudeville Remedy at the following links:

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Review: Judas Priest- Firepower (2018)

                                                     Judas Priest- Firepower  (2018)

By now, we've all heard the controversy. Some controversial remarks by former co-lead guitarist KK Downing regarding the new album by Judas Priest, Firepower. How much the now publicly Parkinson's disease suffering guitarist Glenn Tipton plays on the album isn't exactly known, bands for years have obfuscated how much tweaking from session musicians albums have had, Kiss's Psycho Circus being a notorious example. Priest singer Halford has responded in the press by saying that Tipton played on the album.

Whoever you believe, it's the music that matters, and the new Priest does deliver the goods to a certain extent in that respect. One thing that is apparent is that getting knob twiddler Andy Sneap at the production helm is a move that should be followed by other veteran metal bands.

I can think of two examples right away that come to mind, namely Iron Maiden and Danzig would do much to benefit from his expertise. The instruments are the clearest they've been on any Priest record since Jugulator (and even here they're clearer) and the frequencies are as ear pleasing as they can get.

Not only have Priest sought out Sneap, they've also brought along Tom Allom, a name that should be familiar to any fan since he produced all of their 80's albums, to coproduce.

You can even hear Ian Hill's bass, which is a rarity among modern Priest albums. The drums are decent, a little bit like other Sneap's other productions, nothing exciting but they do the job well.
You can compare this album to the other post-reunion albums, and sonically at least, by far it is the best.

The performances are fantastic too, especially with Rob Halford. As for him, this is his best recording since Live Resurrection from his solo band, his voice is dynamic and full of life. High screams aren't as prominent, but it's overall a comeback for his vocal power.

As for guitars, it's undeniable that at least some of the leads and fills are Tipton, since they have his trademark sound. Whatever the case, maybe Faulkner played a lot more guitars this time around, we may never know the complete truth, but Tipton was undeniably involved in a major way with songwriting at least and at least some of the guitars if not more depending on who you believe.

Now as far as the songs:

This is where things vary a bit more, and are a bit more inconsistent. I'm still giving the album a shot as far as it growing on me, so this may change, but I definitely like it more than Redeemer of Souls. I found Redeemer to have a lot of filler, not to mention the mix and production being subpar, something they've obviously abated by bringing Sneap and Allom into the fold.

However controversial, my favorite "reunion" era Priest album remains Nostradamus, and perhaps I'll do a retrospective review on this blog to show my reasons for this opinion.

As for the best songs, it's kind of a best song sandwich, that is, the best are the beginning and towards the end. The beginning title track reminds me of "Dragonaut" from the last album, but is superior in every way. Lightning Strike is more classic Priest, and Evil Never Dies reminds me a bit of something off of Angel of Retribution. Never the Heroes is more of a moody song like Desert Plains, and this is where the album takes a bit of a dive.

Now this criticism is not meant to be a total bash of the following songs and riffs a hundred percent, but there are too many "protagonist" songs as I call them on the album. We all know these types of songs "Painkiller", "The Ripper", "Jugulator", "Exciter", "Sinner", etc- they used to appear only once or twice per album, but having songs such as "Necromancer", "Flamethrower", and "Spectre" all on one album is a bit much. Necromancer is kind of a heavier version of Nightcrawler from Painkiller (well there's another one),  "Spectre" is a better song that has a cool groovy riff, but "Flamethrower"..well let's just say if this song would've been a bonus track (or what us old folks called a "bside"), that would be doing it justice. The single cheesiest lyric I've ever heard Halford utter "you're on the run from the stun of the flamethrower", just embarrassed me to no end. I get that Halford always likes to go for gay double entendres and such, but the fact the song sounds like pure filler doesn't really help it any. 

The album doesn't really pick up completely again in my eyes until "Traitor's Gate"- a modern sounding power metal song with massive hooks and balls.

"No Surrender" has some killer vocals from Rob that recall Rock Hard Ride Free from Defenders of the Faith.

"Lone Wolf" is a great track that has a bluesy and moody Sabbathesque vibe and a cool lyrical premise about going it alone in life.

"Sea of Red" is the only true ballad on the album, and it's good, but not on par with songs like "Angel" from Angel of Retribution nor some of the softer songs on Nostradamus.

Overall, this is a good though not great album by Priest. At this age and from a band with their legacy, it's definitely "good enough" and has some real kick ass moments. I do wish they would've forsaken a few tracks like "Flamethrower" though and also taken more risks on a few songs and had more moments like "Lone Wolf" which weren't afraid to tinker with some of the Priest formula though.
Halford sounds terrific for someone who's 66 years old though, and the band is definitely revitalized.

I would rank this maybe slightly above Angel of Retribution in some respects, though this seems to be more of a grower like Nostradamus was. I never got truly into Redeemer of Souls, and this avoids much of the weaknesses of that album.

You can stay tuned for my review of Nostradamus, the Priest album that I find to (still) be their best since Painkiller, a controversial opinion but something I will elaborate on. I think if Sneap would've been behind the board for that one, it may have had more of an impact that it did, because he knows how to get such a good sound and performance.