November 2019 Album Round Up!

What’s up guys! Another month, another Album Round Up. Below is a quick run-through of all the records I checked out this month:

Cattle Decapitation – Death Atlas: I was ready for the Metal Album of the Year here, but that’s not what I got. Cattle Decap lean a bit too far toward generic Death Metal and, disappointingly, leave some of the pulverizing grind behind. That being said, these guys are still quite a talented bunch and I do enjoy the record – in fact, I’ll even nominate the amazing Black Metal-tinged “Bring Back the Plague” for Top 5 Songs By the Band Ever – but over the long term, I have a feeling this won’t stack up to genre-defining releases like The Anthropocene Extinction, Monolith of Humanity, or The Harvest Floor. RECOMMENDED.

Gang Starr – One of the Best Yet: What a treat it was to see this slew of high-profile guests – everybody from Q-Tip to Royce da 5’9 to Talib Kweli, J. Cole, Jeru the Damaja, etc. – come together to pay tribute to the late Guru over some vintage DJ Premier boom-bap production. Toward the LP’s latter half, the whole “pasted-together posthumous rapping” vibe starts to wear a little thin, as it has tended to for similar albums like UGK’s UGK 4 Life after the passing of Pimp C, or more radically, something like 2Pac’s Loyal the Game, but One of the Best Yet never ceases to be a good-natured celebration of the Hip-Hop legends that brought us Step into the Arena. RECOMMENDED.

Highly Suspect – MCID: If the phrase “discount Twenty One Pilots” didn’t have any prior meaning to you, it will now. As someone who grew up a dedicated Rock fan, I always get excited when the term “Rock music” is even mildly associated with a commercially successful album by a young band, and that’s what happened when Highly Suspect dropped their debut Mister Asylum in 2015. So I’ll always have a certain curiosity here. Unfortunately, the intriguing eclecticism suggested by an album featuring both Metal heroes Gojira and superstar rapper Young Thug manifests more as a directionless identity struggle . They can’t figure out whether they want to be painfully edgy (“These Days”) or play things safe (“16”). Are they Twenty One Pilots (“Tokyo Ghoul”) or a different version of Twenty One Pilots (“Freakstreet”)? They should probably answer these pressing questions on LP number four. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Lindemann – F & M: The less shocking part: I never tire of hearing Rammstein frontman Til Lindemann’s bellowing baritone. The shocking part: F & M – a second collaboration with Hypocrisy’s Peter Tagtgren – might be better than the actual Rammstein album that dropped in May. This thing is frickin’ awesome. I recommend starting with the Industrial Metal romp “Gummi”, the radio-ready title cut, and the tender ballad “Wer Weiss Das Schon”. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Madeon – Good Faith: FOUR YEARS. FOUR. YEARS. That’s a hell of a wait since Madeon’s exhilarating, party-ready Adventure (one of my favorite LPs of 2015). Turns out the French wunderkind was hard at work these past four years honing a much more mature and vocal-centric approach for Good Faith. Whether fans will prefer this over Adventure is in the eye of the beholder, but I find the lead single “All My Friends”, the irresistible “Miracle”, and the longing ballad “Heavy with Hoping” as compelling as anything on Adventure, albeit for completely different reasons. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Nile – Vile Niliotic Rites: One of my Death Metal gateway bands is still delivering after all these years! Vile Niliotic Rites is another worthy installment in the Nile catalogue. It’s noticeably more accessible than much of their recent work, but keep in mind that when I say “accessible” I’m mostly referring to positive traits like the clarity of the production and the snappy catchiness of the riff-writing. Some purists will long for the relative muddiness of early Nile (for some reason), but I’m perfectly fine with 2019 Nile. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Rittz – Put a Crown On It: At any point over the last five years, if you asked me who my Top 5 MCs in Hip-Hop were, my list would always include Rittz. The one-time Yelawolf protege is a supremely talented lyricist with the smoothest double-time flow in the game, a knack for beat selection and hook writing, and a disastrous personal life that makes his vulnerable, soul-baring tracks all the more hard-hitting. Unfortunately, I have to report that Rittz’s first album since leaving Tech N9ne’s Strange Music (and fifth overall) is the first of his that I don’t enjoy. Whether he’s beating his tried-and-true formula to death (“Wake Up Call”), treading into cringeworthy “edgelord” territory (“Politically Incorrect”) or just sounding uninspired (“Live It Up”), this LP is spotty at best. There are a few tracks with replay value, but if you’re new to Rittz you’re better off sticking to his first four albums, as well as his seminal White Jesus mixtape. Review coming soon to YouTube. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Yelawolf – Ghetto Cowboy: For his first LP since leaving Eminem’s Shady Records, Catfish Billy continues to explore the Country-Rap fusion that made 2017’s Trial By Fire so captivating. Ghetto Cowboy, however, is a less bold and more streamlined approach. While the Folk-y guitars that populate tracks like “Opie Taylor”, “Renegades”, and “Country Rich” add a rich sonic layer to the album’s production, there are also bland (“Ghetto Cowboy”) and uninspiring (“Here I Am”) tracks that drag the album down a bit. Review coming soon to YouTube. RECOMMENDED.

A FEW MORE:

Enjoyed:

Abigail Williams – Walk Beyond the Dark (Metal)

Beck – Hyperspace (Alternative)

Brother Ali – Secrets & Escapes (Hip-Hop)

FKA Twigs – Magdalene (Electronic)

Liturgy – H.A.Q.Q. (Metal)

Milky Chance – Mind the Moon (Alternative)

Didn’t Enjoy:

Fire From the Gods – American Sun (Metal)

Pardison Fontaine – Under8ed (Hip-Hop)

Coldplay – Everyday Life (Pop)

 

Bad Wolves – N.A.T.I.O.N. Album Review

What’s up guys! It’s time for another album review, and this week I had some STRONG words for Metal supergroup Bad Wolves. Their sophomore album follows the rapid success of last year’s debut Disobey, which came complete with a platinum-selling cover of The Cranberries’ “Zombie”, as well as several high-profile tours with the likes of Five Finger Death Punch, Shinedown, etc.

Seeing that their lineup consists of former members of bands like Devildriver, Bury Your Dead, In This Moment, and Divine Heresy, yet they appear to be catering more towards a Hard Rock audience, I was curious to check this out. Will they be an important band bridging the gap between Hard Rock and Metal? Or is this more insufferable Butt Rock? Find out in the review below! Thanks for watching:

 

October 2019 Album Round Up!

What’s up guys! Another month, another Album Round Up. Below is a quick run-through of all the records I checked out this month:

Alter Bridge – Walk the Sky: Following the acclaimed Metal-tinged Hard Rock of 2013’s Fortress and 2016’s The Last Hero, “Creed plus Myles Kennedy” changed it up for album number six, with mixed results. The uplifting, positive, “zen” (their words) emotional direction of Walk the Sky inspired some thoughtful lyrics, and a profound exploration of existential angst, but the music got a bit “vanilla-fied” in the process, to coin a term. That being said, the band’s experiments with elements of Synthwave represent some of the LP’s notable high points, and hopefully in the future they’ll explore this some more. Here is a full review. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Bad Wolves – N.A.T.I.O.N.: I thought this was supposed to be a “Metal supergroup”? The L.A.-based band’s lineup – which includes ex-members of God Forbid, Devildriver, Divine Heresy, etc. – seems to suggest so. Well, I guess not. This is one of the worst and most egregiously pandering “Butt Rock” albums I’ve heard all year. YIKES. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Cigarettes After Sex – Cry: An absolutely mesmerizing second album from one of the very best in the modern Dream Pop movement. This record will become the most indispensable late-night drive soundtrack you never knew you needed in your life. And beneath its ethereal sheen, it’s got quite a visceral and even sexually-charged spirit to it. Getting into this band a few months ago was one of my best decisions of 2019. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

The Devil Wears Prada – The Act: I could never get into The Devil Wears Prada. Better yet, I don’t think I even gave them a fair shake. Maybe it was the “Christian Metalcore” tag that turned me off as a rage-filed 14-year-old. But as Three Days Grace once told mopey depressed teenagers, “it’s never too late”, and that rings true for me here. The Act is not only downright vicious at times, but the tortured lyrics are something to behold, most notably the haunting portrayal of depression on the single “Chemical”. The crushing retrospective longing of “As Kids” is nothing to sneeze at either. The depth of this record really took me by surprise! RECOMMENDED.

Insomnium – Heart Like a Grave: To be fair, there was no way Insomnium was gonna match the brilliance of their 2016 masterpiece Winter’s Gate, but Heart Like a Grave is a substantial drop-off. Tracks like the plodding “Mute is My Sorrow” and the sluggish “And Bells They Toll” weigh down otherwise excellent songwriting on the title track (which pulls off the impressive feat of carrying essentially one melody through most of the song and maintaining interest), the Winter’s Gate-esque “Twilight Trails”, and the dynamic “Pale Morning Star”. Now, do I hold these Melodic Death Metal masters to an unreasonably high standard? Yes I do. This is still a good record, albeit one that I’ll be cherry-picking from rather than revisiting front-to-back. Here is a full review. RECOMMENDED.

Jimmy Eat World – Surviving: Album number ten from these Pop-Punk legends is a decent, if uneven, platter of tracks. If you stick with this LP for a couple listens, though, you’ll find a song here or there to come back  to. The most paper-thin and poppy material (“555”, the title cut, “One Mill”) disproportionately populates the beginning of the tracklist, obscuring otherwise classic Jimmy Eat World moments that come a wee bit too late on the back end, like “Recommit” and “Congratulations”. But personally, I’m gonna stick to Clarity and Chase This Light. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Kanye West – Jesus is King: I’m not sure what makes me cringe harder, a bunch of pretentious neckbeards hating on this album for not conforming to their nihilistic  worldview, or religious conservative pundits like Dennis Prager pretending to support Kanye now because it conveniently conforms to theirs. The reaction to Jesus is King has been sickening, especially because we should instead be focusing on the following: the songs here are memorable and well-crafted, the displays of genuine humility, modesty, and self-examination from West are as pleasantly surprising as they are inspirational, and the worthwhile values espoused in these lyrics are urgently necessary in a modern society decimated by an epidemic of loneliness and lack of purpose. This is another landmark moment in Kanye’s career. It’s just a shame everyone chose to witness it with their ideological blinders on. RECOMMENDED.

Mike Posner – Keep Going: Shocked at how much I enjoyed this! After – in Posner’s own words – “losing 2018 to broken heart”, Michigan’s favorite two-hit wonder comes roaring back with his most mature, well-written, and satisfying project to date. Notably enlightened, and dare I say “spiritually-tinged” songs like “Amen”, “God’s Lottery”, and “Slow it Down” show that Posner’s complete breakdown brought him an immense amount of clarity, insight, and inner peace. What a delight to hear. Oh, and his lyricism as an MC reaches a career peak on Keep Going as well. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

A FEW MORE:

Enjoyed:

Danny Brown – U Know What I’m Sayin’? (Hip-Hop)

Exhumed – Horror (Metal)

Fit For an Autopsy – The Sea of Tragic Beasts (Metal)

Lacuna Coil – Black Anima (Rock)

Mayhem – Daemon (Metal)

Wilco – Ode to Joy (Alternative)

1349 – The Infernal Pathway (Metal)

 

Didn’t Enjoy:

Gatecreeper – Deserted (Metal)

Gost – Valediction (Electronic)

Wale – Wow…That’s Crazy (Hip-Hop)

Alter Bridge – Walk the Sky Album Review

Whew, it’s finally here! Thanks for your patience guys. Florida Hard Rock band Alter Bridge (a.k.a. “Creed Plus Myles Kennedy”) changed it up quite a bit for album number six, and it took me longer than usual to figure out how I felt about it.

I’m glad I took a little extra time, because I couldn’t be more proud of this review. I feel like I covered this record from every possible angle, and whether you agree or disagree, I really hope you find it entertaining! Full review below, thanks for watching!

Discography Ranking: All That Remains

Happy Friday everyone! Jesus Christ (Kanye pun intended), there are a LOT of new releases to get to today! Of course, Kanye West finally dropped the Gospel-themed Jesus is King, but I’m also chomping at the bit to hear the new Cigarettes After Sex. And then in the Metal world there’s Mayhem, Fit for An Autopsy, Sunn O)), and I’m also planning to review Bad Wolves, who are a massively popular band I have yet to dive into. Oh, and that Alter Bridge review is coming. I double pinky promise.

But for now, I had a lot of fun traveling down memory lane to rank the discography of the Massachusetts Metalcore powerhouse that is All That Remains. As I discuss in the video, there’s nothing quite like listening to a band with the context of their entire career arc at the forefront of your mind. For me, it totally transforms the way I see certain albums.

And All That Remains was an interesting one to do because of how MUCH and how LITTLE I regard different parts of their catalogue. It’s a topsy-turvy ride. And of course, I got to squeeze in a tribute to the late great Oli Herbert. Watch the full video below:

Machine Head – Do Or Die Track Review

God, this was so fun.

As anybody in the Metal universe knows, the release of Machine Head’s brand new clunker “Do Or Die”, has caused an absolute shitstorm. Between the extremely childish “beef” that ensued between frontman Robb Flynn and Edsel Dope, to the band’s own fans turning on them, to Flynn’s remarkably poor grammar in his Instagram tirades, it’s been a long week for Machine Head fans. And here to break it all down is yours truly.

The main goal of this video was to point out all the things that are wrong with “Do or Die” that nobody else seemed to catch, amidst the (admittedly) highly entertaining level of petty in the various fan reactions to this track.

Also, if you’re a Machine Head fan, I’ve published a lot of content on the band. Be sure to check out my Catharsis review, my Machine Head Discography Ranking, the Name That Machine Head Song segment, and other rants where I respond to Flynn’s often politically-charged lyrics.

Full “Do or Die” track review below:

Essential Metal: Dissection – Storm of the Light’s Bane

This might just be the best Essential Metal video I’ve ever done. Actually, it might be the best video I’ve done, period.

In this latest addition to the Essential Metal series, I “dissect” (yes, pun oh-so-egregiously intended) the classic second album from Dissection, Storm of the Light’s Bane, which I refer to in this video as “the Old Testament of Blackened Death Metal”.

If you’ve never heard this record, PLEASE go give it a listen (as soon as you watch this video, of course!). If you’re at all into Extreme Metal, chances are you’ve heard it already. But if you’re not, this could be your perfect gateway in. Check out the full video below:

 

Insomnium – Heart Like a Grave Album Review

Happy Columbus Day everyone! Got another great review for ya. This week I’m digging into the brand new record from Finnish Melodic Death Metal masters Insomnium! Just in case you missed it, here were my thoughts on the title track and lead single a couple weeks ago, and now it’s time for the full review treatment! Unless you somehow go to great lengths to memorize my year-end lists, I will note that the band’s previous LP Winter’s Gate got the number 1 slot in my 2016 Metal list. So how does it’s follow-up compare? Check out the review below:

Streaming Took Us Back To Albums! (RANT)

Despite what every movie montage you’ve ever seen might lead you to believe, change does not happen quickly. It kind of creeps up on you, until one day you sneak a glance in the rearview mirror and the stuff that once constituted your “everyday life” is nowhere in sight. As we approach the end of a decade (we’re less than two months away from the 2020s, how crazy is that?), it seems as good a time as ever to reflect on the impact of streaming on the music business.

As trite as this topic may appear on the surface, I do have a uniquely optimistic take on it. And, I have embarrassing anecdotes from my childhood. And, I edited the SHIT out of this one until it was under 8 minutes, keeping in theme with our supposedly diminishing attention spans (SPOILER ALERT: I don’t really buy that). Check out the full video below:

September 2019 Album Round Up!

What’s up guys! Another month, another Album Round Up. Below is a quick run-through of all the records I checked out this month:

As I Lay Dying – Shaped By Fire: Seven years and one attempted murder charge later (yep, I went there), Metalcore veterans As I Lay Dying are back in business. And I had a lot to say. Some of my key critiques of this album include whiny, poorly executed clean choruses, copy-and-pasted songwriting for their last few releases, and at least one track that’s just bad across the board. But I (pun intended) WARMED up to this album as time went on, and ended up finding a lot to enjoy. Full review here. RECOMMENDED.

Betraying the Martyrs – Rapture: I’m glad I finally swallowed my pride and gave a true-blue “Verb-the-Noun” band a shot. Sure, I had plenty of critiques for Rapture (the French Deathcore upstarts’ fourth LP to be released on Sumerian Records), but I went in hoping to be pleasantly surprised, and I WAS, mainly by the pure Death Metal fury of the title cut and the “Iron Gates” as well as the formidable two-guitar songwriting on the single “Down”. Full review here. RECOMMENDED

Blink-182 – NINE: All the way back to my formative years, I’ve never been a Blink fan. So why I keep taking their new releases exceedingly seriously (2016’s California being another example) doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. As I explain here, I’m always gonna cherry pick a couple of instantly catchy tunes and discard the rest. And that’s what I did here with the ballad “Heaven”, and to a lesser extent cuts like “Black Rain” and “I Really Wish I Hated You”. See you guys in 2022 for another three songs! NOT RECOMMENDED.

Cashmere Cat – Princess Catgirl: Possibly my favorite album I heard all month, Cashmere Cat’s ability to pull so much emotion out of cheesy Kanye-esque chipmunk vocals and glitchy EDM tropes astonished me. Dude, it’s 19 minutes long. Do yourself a favor and go listen to it. It’ll make you feel like you’re in a romantic, utopian video game. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Opeth – In Cauda Venenum: Far and away the worst of the “screamless 2010s” era of these Swedish Prog Metal legends, I found In Cauda Venenum to be dreadfully boring. Songs like “The Garroter” make me feel like I’m trapped for hours on end in the most depressing vintage record store ever, surrounded by rare Pink Floyd vinyls that not even Pink Floyd themselves give a shit about, wondering how the hell the owners can afford their rent. I’m not opposed to “screamless Opeth” – I think it’s fantastic that Mikael Akerfeldt and co. had the balls to drastically change course two decades into their career – but I AM opposed to soullessness. And In Cauda Venenum is egregiously soulless. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Post Malone – Hollywood’s Bleeding: After Postie Boy shocked me (and virtually all music writers) with the excellent Beerbongs & Bentleys last April, I thought to myself “gee, I hope he doesn’t rush-release an overly commercial follow-up”. I guess I forgot to knock on wood. Ironically, Hollywood’s Bleeding boasts excellent singles – the irresistible Young Thug collab “Goodbyes” is perhaps my favorite Top 40 Radio song of all of 2019, and the unexpected shoegaze-y guitars in the “Circles” intro still get me every time – but once you get to deeper cuts like the nursery rhyme chorus of “Myself”, or the failed Weeknd attempt “Allergic”, the LP doesn’t hold up. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Sturgill Simpson – Sound and Fury: Simpon’s brand of Alt-Country is one of the only modern shades of the genre granted full acceptance by the “music writer crowd”, and listening to tracks like the rock-influenced “Remember to Breathe” or the funky synth-infused “A Good Look”, in which Simpson’s hearty twang is the only noticeable “Country” element anywhere in sight, you can see why. But that’s not Simpson’s fault. He continues to be a fearless experimenter and poignant lyricist on album highlights like “Make Art Not Friends”, the aforementioned “A Good Look”, and “All Said and Done”. A must-listen! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Zac Brown Band – The Owl

WOW. This is a (potentially unequivocal) contender for Worst Album of the Year. And “OMW” – in which the band recite a texting acronym and pass it off as a chorus – is an equally fierce contender for Worst Song of the Year. If “OMW” and “Me and the Boys in the Band” are the type of music Zac Brown and Co. want to make, then just go be Florida Georgia Line. Or join Florida Georgia Line and make one giant Pop-Country conglomerate with 32 members. It’s actually MORE offensive to me when they try to “return to their roots” with a late-album cut like “Shoofly Pie” buried in the tracklist. NOT RECOMMENDED.

A FEW MORE:

Enjoyed:

Cult of Luna – A Dawn to Fear

Eclipser – Pathos

Korn – The Nothing

The New Pornographers – In the Morse Code of Brake Lights

Tegan and Sara – Hey, I’m Just Like You

Didn’t Enjoy:

Charli XCX – Charli

JPEGMAFIA – All My Heroes Are Cornballs

Starset – Divisions