April 2020 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:

Abysmal Dawn – Phylogenesis: One of the finest Death Metal albums of the year thus far and a strong candidate for my upcoming Mid-Year Metal list! Abysmal Dawn combine dizzying technicality with a truly hideous aesthetic, capping it all off with an impressive cover of Human-era Death. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

DaBaby – Blame It On Baby: Jonathan Kirk (a.k.a. “DaBaby”) has put out three full-length studio albums in just over a year. I’m fucking exhausted by it, so I can’t imagine how he feels. This “quantity-over-quality” thing really starts to bleed his sound dry on Blame It On Baby, which must’ve been made quite hastily since there are multiple references to COVID-19 within it. Despite a few banging beats (SethintheKitchen’s “Rockstar”, London On Da Track’s “Nasty”, and a couple of joints from DJ Kid), I found this LP pretty forgettable. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters: Here’s a singer/songwriter – a Grammy-winning one, no less – whose work I was completely unfamiliar with until the “music writer crowd” compelled me to take a listen. Fiona’s intimate, conversational style of vocals is endlessly charming and has such an authentic vulnerability to it. From the personal narrative of “Shameika” to the downright uncomfortable “Under the Table”, I’ve enjoyed escaping into her neurotic world. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Purity Ring – Womb: God, what a gorgeous album. Everything I fell in love with when I first heard Shrines is still intact. The way Purity Ring combine Megan James’ ethereal, angelic vocals with a bellowing bottom-end and fairy dust keyboard flourishes sends me to a whole other universe. From the uptempo groove of the closer “Stardew” to the heartbreaking IDM-tinged “Femia”, this is my Album of the Month right here. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

The Strokes – The New Abnormal: I had no idea how much I missed The Strokes. One of the foremost Indie Rock bands of the 21st century returns to the fray with the Rick Rubin-produced The New Abnormal. This was never gonna unseat favorites of mine like 2011’s Angles or 2003’s Room on Fire, but the delightfully cheesy, Synth-Pop infused “Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus” and the appropriately titled “Why Are Sundays So Depressing” are worthy additions to the band’s catalogue. RECOMMENDED.

Testament – Titans of Creation: Following some misguided experimentation  on 2016’s Brotherhood of the Snake, Chuck Billy and co revert to the status quo for a solidly enjoyable platter of old school Thrash tunes with a modernized sound. As usual, my favorite moments are when the band briefly flirt with Extreme Metal, as on the blistering “Curse of Osiris” and “The Healers”. Here is a full review. RECOMMENDED.

Trivium – What the Dead Men Say: As a Trivium fan for over half of my life, I am as qualified as anyone to take the following deeply unpopular position: this album ISN’T GOOD! Sorry. From the half-baked guitar tones to the Pop-Metal songwriting to the lazy, recycled solos, this is one of Trivium’s worst moments, outdone perhaps only by 2015’s Silence in the Snow. Here is a full review. NOT RECOMMENDED.

A FEW MORE:

Enjoyed

August Burns Red – Guardians (Metal)

AWOLNATION – Angel Miners & the Lightning Riders (Alternative)

The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous (Metal)

Dvsn – A Muse In Her Feelings (R & B)

Katatonia – City Burials (Metal)

Like Rats – Death Monolith (Metal)

Thundercat – It Is What It Is (Jazz Fusion)

 

Didn’t Enjoy

All Time Low – Wake Up, Sunshine (Alternative)

Trivium – What the Dead Men Say Album Review

What’s up guys! Time for one of my biggest reviews of 2020.

As I’ve talked about here and here and here and demonstrated here and here, Trivium’s music has been a big part of my time for a long time.

After what I’ve deemed a “latter career revitalization” with 2017’s excellent The Sin and the Sentence, I was curious to see if the band could continue the momentum with this one.

As it turns out, I’ve taken quite an unpopular position on this record, which is always fun! Check out the full review here:

 

Name That Pantera Song!

What’s up guys! Time for another long overdue “Name That Song!” challenge. I always forget that these are low key my favorite videos to make. Even though I detest the “reaction” video ecosystem of the Internet, I totally get why creators do it, because it’s really fun to just shoot the shit about music (or other content) AS you’re listening to it.

Pantera hit me the other day as an obvious choice for one of these, as their catalogue isn’t too huge (five albums), it’s almost universally loved by my viewers, and I have strong opinions about all of it, as you’ll see in the video.

Basically, the way this works is we compete to see who can identify that most out of 20 Pantera songs, using only the first 30 seconds of each track.

And if you’ve missed any of the other episodes in this series, be sure to check out the similar challenges I’ve done for Slipknot, Trivium, Machine Head, and Killswitch Engage.

Best of luck, and be sure to comment below the video with your score!

Testament – Titans of Creation Album Review

What’s up guys! Time for album review number seven for 2020. This time around I’m digging into the thirteenth studio album from Thrash Metal legends Testament, who seem committed to only dropping new music while the country’s trying to pick a new president.

Looking back at 2016’s Brotherhood of the Snake (or in Testament’s terms, the “Trump album”), I significantly overrated it in my review. It was actually the band’s weakest release of the 21st century thus far, and I’ve been crossing my fingers that Titans of Creation (the “Trump v Kamala” album….ok fine, the “Trump/Biden/his secret female VP” album) blows it out of the water.

Well, did it? Is this Testament’s lucky thirteenth album? Check out my detailed thoughts below:

March 2020 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:

Body Count – Carnivore: After 2017’s shockingly great Bloodlust, Ice-T’s Metal band followed it up with nothing more than a glorified EP full of corny, unlistenable lyrics. The cover of Ice’s 1988 classic “Colors” is a high note, as is the hard-hitting single “Bumrush”, but this was generally a big disappointment. Here is a full review.  NOT RECOMMENDED.

Code Orange – Underneath: Wow! I was one of the few holdouts on this critically acclaimed Metalcore act’s previous LP Forever, but it all clicked for me on Underneath. This album sounds like Metalcore from the future – a ferocious platter of Converge-influenced songwriting with modern industrial flourishes and lyrical themes that bemoan the dystopian direction of society in 2020. Here is a full review. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Jay Electronica – A Written Testimony: So the Chinese Democracy of Hip-Hop finally showed up after 13 years, and it wasn’t quite what we expected. Rather than what Jay Elec initially hinted at with singles like “Exhibit C” years ago, instead we got a spirituality-themed Watch the Throne-style collaborative album with Jay-Z. I don’t know what it is about Jay Elec, but he always brings the best out of Hov, who delivers his best bars since…well, the “We Made It” remix with Jay Elec six years ago. I especially enjoyed Jay Electronica’s self-production on standouts like the soulful “Ghost of Soulja Slim”. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Jessie Reyez – Before Love Came to Kill Us: I found this to be a directionless record that couldn’t figure out whether it wanted to be obnoxious lowest common denominator Pop (“Dope”), wallpaper Pop (“Figures”), or some form of lite R & B (“Intruders”, “Imported”). Reyez’s melodramatic over-singing just made it drag that much more. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Joyner Lucas – ADHD: The creepy, unnecessary skits alone should take this album out of the running for any 2020 Hip-Hop list. But throw on top of that a poorly selected guest list (Chris Brown, Logic, Timbaland), a little too much robotic “lyrical miracle” flow, and unoriginal production, and Joyner falls short of the hype on his debut album. I did like a couple tracks like the brazen “I Love”, and also that one song about all the bad people who should’ve died  (the name escapes me), but that’s about it. I gotta say, an Eminem co-sign is starting to mean very little. Slaughterhouse is defunct, Yelawolf and Obie Trice have niche audiences, and on his last album, Eminem shouted out: Joyner Lucas, Hopsin, and Logic, none of whom have earned much critical acclaim. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Joywave – Possession: A very fun Indie record from a band that I’ve been ambivalent about up until this point! Joywave show fantastic range on here, from the opening ballad “Like a Kennedy” to punchy, energetic cuts like “F.E.A.R.”.  RECOMMENDED.

Lil’ Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake: Still not quite sure how I feel about this one. I do find Uzi to be one of the most emotive and charismatic MCs in the current “mumble rapper” class, and the way he rides on top of beats like “Lo Mein” has me revisiting this one quite a bit. I think releasing a double album was a bad move on his part that watered down its impact (the back end of this is actually Lil’ Uzi Vert vs. the World 2), but Eternal Atake is a pretty solid listen, all things considered. RECOMMENDED.

 The Weeknd – After Hours: Much like The Weeknd’s 2016 blockbuster release StarboyAfter Hours could’ve been a classic with some of the fat cut out (the drab radio song “Hardest to Love”, the bloated “Escape from L.A.”), but it’s still got some of the best material of his career. Two particular must-listens are “Save Your Tears”, and the MJ-influenced “In Your Eyes”, the latter which features an awesome saxophone solo. RECOMMENDED.

A FEW MORE:

Enjoyed

Jhene Aiko – Chilombo (R & B)

Megan Thee Stallion – Suga EP (Hip-Hop)

My Dying Bride – The Ghost of Orion (Metal)

Didn’t Enjoy

Childish Gambino – 3.15.20 (Pop/Hip-Hop)

Loud Luxury – Nights Like This EP (Dance)

Pearl Jam – Gigaton (Alternative)

Silverstein – A Beautiful Place to Drown (Alternative)

 

Trivium: Top 10 Deep Cuts!

What’s up guys! Ahead of the release of Trivium’s ninth album What the Dead Men Say next Friday, I decided to dive headfirst into the Trivium catalogue for another “Deep Cuts” video.

I did this with Slipknot and then Avenged Sevenfold and had an absolute blast both times, so I figured why not with Trivium too? But since Trivium have been so good to their fans in terms of keeping their live setlists interesting and always playing under-appreciated songs, I had to switch up the criteria this time for what exactly a “deep cut” is, which will likely spark some lively debate in and of itself.

But I’m super proud of this list I’ve put together – it runs the gamut of the band’s near 20-year career and serves as a great warmup for my forthcoming What the Dead Men Say review. Check out the full video below:

Top 15 Favorite Songs: Q1 2020

What’s up guys! First of four of these bad boys for 2020. Can you believe we’re already over 25 percent through the year? I know this COVID shit has put quite a damper on things as of late, but I personally had a fantastic quarter – personally, professionally, and of course, musically!

There’s been ton of great music to get excited about . Hip-Hop in particular is already having a better year than 2019, which was a significantly below average year for the genre, at least from where I was sitting.

Artists discussed in this installment include: Jay Electronica, Pet Shop Boys, Grimes, Joywave & more! And be sure to check out the accompanying Spotify playlist for honorable mentions!

Essential Metal: Between the Buried and Me – Colors

It’s funny – despite the fact that I don’t actually listen to that much Progressive Metal, a huge chunk of my desert island Metal albums happen to fall under the Prog umbrella. Scenes from a Memory, Blackwater Park, Operation: Mindcrime, Temple of Shadows, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son….and yes, Between the Buried and Me’s 2007 masterpiece, Colors.

I think it’s mostly because Prog bands put so much more effort into ALBUMS as complete bodies of work. An ALBUM is the perfect vehicle for an ambitious narrative concept, for densely layered tracks that reward multiple listens, and for the occasional detour into instrumental fireworks for its own sake. These are all things that Prog bands excel at. They’re things that work great in the context of an album, but work terribly from the perspective of a record label trying to sell singles. So as a result, a lot of the greatest ALBUMS – when considered front-to-back and not as a consequence of their hits – come from the Prog world.

Colors is an incredibly special album. There’s nothing quite like the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to Metal that BTBAM adopt on these eight tracks. And it was important to me to at least ATTEMPT to convey that. I poured my heart out trying explain why I love this fucking record so much, and I hope you guys enjoy it! Full video here:

 

 

 

Code Orange – Underneath Album Review

You knew I couldn’t let this one go unreviewed!

Three years ago, Code Orange wowed every hipster music critic on planet Earth who needed a token Metal band to prop up – but underwhelmed me – with Forever. Now it’s a new decade, and the Pittsburgh Metalcore outfit is back with major label release numero dos. Does it live up to the exorbitant Hipster Hype? Or is it another intriguing but directionless mishmash of abrasive Hardcore, tepid Alt-Metal, and sporadic Industrial flourishes, like its predecessor? Full review below:

 

Body Count – Carnivore Album Review

What’s up guys! New releases are really starting to heat up now. Back for album number seven is Ice-T’s Metal band Body Count, whose last record Bloodlust I reviewed quite favorably  – and to this day get more feedback than any other video from viewers who got turned on to the band through the positive things I had to say about them. Which is awesome – that’s why I do this!

The only remaining question is: can Body Count follow that up with something equally strong? Singles like “Bum-Rush” sure seemed to point in a positive direction. But does all of Carnivore deliver? Watch the full review here: