Venom Prison – Glitch: Mental Health and Touring Musicians REACTION

Happy Friday guys! Or I guess I could wish you a Happy As I Lay Dying Release Day, Happy Cult of Luna Release Day, Happy Blink-182 Release Day, Happy Zac Brown Band Release Day, or however you choose to make this otherwise-insignificant day meaningful.

I wanted to share a few thoughts on this mental health-centered tour documentary that the band Venom Prison did. You can watch the full documentary here. It’s certainly a unique spin on your typical idealized and/or goofy supercut of “backstage footage” from established bands. “Glitch” instead chooses to focus on the emotional hardships of the touring lifestyle. The boredom, the drudgery, the loneliness. And it brought up a lot of interesting themes that I enjoyed discussing. Check out my full reaction here:

Insomnium’s “Heart Like a Grave” Music Video

Not since The Lord of the Rings have such ugly men been surrounded by such breath-taking scenery.

Ahead of the release of album number eight next month, Finnish Melodic Death Metal songbirds Insomnium have unleashed the video for its title cut, “Heart Like a Grave”.

Considering I literally gave Winter’s Gate the album of the year in 2016, it’s safe to say that I’m excited for its follow-up. And to my delight as a fan who prefers evolution, “Heart Like a Grave” doesn’t have a ton in common with Winter’s Gate musically. The band’s feet are completely off the throttle tempo-wise as this track eschews blistering blast beats and lightning-fast tremolo guitars in favor of a more reserved, textural approach that dips its toes into a bit of Power Metal.

And the video? God, the footage is gorgeous. It’s a shame that someone always has to die (spoiler alert! as if you actually cared about a music video plot) in every Extreme Metal visual, though. Just let everybody live and fake play their instruments. Your album will sell the exact same guys, don’t worry.

Anyway, Insomnium’s Heart Like a Grave drops October 4th. And I’m definitely planning on reviewing it! Check out the music video for the title track below:

 

 

Discography Ranking: Lamb of God

Happy Friday guys! GOD, I’m so happy to finally release this video. See what I did there? No? It’s ok, neither do I most of the time.

Lamb of God has such a fascinating catalogue. They are the PERFECT band for a Discography Ranking because across all seven of their albums, there not a single undisputed “dud” nor “masterpiece”, which lends itself to incredibly rich discussion and debate, and a massive range of opinions.

I definitely make some controversial picks here, and I can’t wait to see what people think. If you watch this, do me a favor and leave a comment below the video with YOUR ranking of the band’s discography! Above all, I hope Lamb of God fans really enjoy this celebration of one of Modern Metal’s elite:

August 2019 Album Round Up!

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

Illenium – Ascend: Quite disappointed with album number three from this EDM wunderkind. While I enjoyed its predecessor Awake quite a bit in 2017, Ascend finds Illenium leaning full-on into the bland, bubblegum Top 40 Dance/Pop hybrids that he only winked and nodded at previously. He seems to be going the way of Kygo. But to be fair, you knew it was doomed when a Chainsmokers collaboration was involved. What a shame. Notable tracks I enjoy in spite of this continued distillation of his sound are “Hold On”, “Crashing”, and “Every Piece of Me”. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Joell Ortiz- Monday: As I explained here in detail, the veteran Brooklyn spitter and former Slaughterhouse member continues to distinguish himself from the pack on Monday, which arrives only 10 months after Ortiz’s excellent Mona Lisa project with Apollo Brown. Rich in lyricism, narrative, and introspection, Hip-Hop fans won’t want to miss this one. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Killswitch Engage – Atonement: To my dismay as a longtime KSE fan, album number three in the Jesse Leach Era 2.0 is shockingly middling. The majority of this short track list is lyrically repetitive, musically derivative, and contains no sense of exploration outside of its Killswitch-by-the-numbers songwriting formula. Here is a full review. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Rick Ross – Port of Miami 2: While 2017’s exceptional Rather You Than Me put Rick Ross in my good graces with several years of leeway, I found Port of Miami 2 to be a slight step backwards. While you have certified bangers like the intro track “Act a Fool”, a familiarly luxurious cut like “Vegas Residency”, and even the jazz-tinged “Running the Streets”, the  hooks are in short supply here. “Big Tyme”, “Maybach Music VI”, and “Rich N*gga Lifestyle” – all of which utilize somewhat forced-sounding guest appearances to achieve their ends – exemplify this. But still a solid release from Ross, who continues to impress me as an MC. RECOMMENDED.

Sleater-Kinney – The Center Won’t Hold: One of 2019’s greatest blessings for me has been getting into Sleater-Kinney. I’m utterly addicted to the sass of Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker. The Center Won’t Hold is certainly much sleeker and more polished than the band’s raw mid-90s material (which I tend to prefer) but “Can I Go On”, “Hurry On Home”, and “The Future Is Here” have all been in steady rotation for me since this came out. RECOMMENDED.

Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind: With the notable exception of Tool-mania,  I’m not sure a Metal release in 2019 has landed with quite the splash that this one did. While We Are Not Your Kind winds up somewhere in the middle ranks of Slipknot’s catalogue (which speaks more to this band’s accumulated artistic achievements thus far than anything else), I’m so thrilled by the combination of forward-thinking 2019 Slipknot (“Spiders”, “My Pain”, “Nero Forte”) and vintage early-2000s Slipknot (“Red Flag”, “Critical Darling”, “Orphan”) that makes this track list so well-rounded. Here is a full review. RECOMMENDED.

Taylor Swift – Lover: Um, I actually like this. This is my favorite Taylor Swift album thus far, and for me to admit that must mean that the “Swifties” are going absolutely insane over it. The defiant feminist anthem “The Man”, the break-up ballad “Death By a Thousand Cuts”, the slightly mawkish but enjoyable title track, the tender Dixie Chicks collaboration “Soon You’ll Get Better”, the carefree “Paper Rings”…I could go on and on. Sure, I’ve got plenty of gripes about it too, but Lover is a well-thought out and very well-executed Pop juggernaut. RECOMMENDED.

Young Thug – So Much Fun: Quite the misleading title, Thugger. A sprawling 19-song track list with a few great moments here and there (“The London”, “Hot”, “Jumped Out the Window”) is the opposite of fun. I guess So Much Arduousness wasn’t as snappy. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Like:

Brockhampton – Ginger

Carnifex – World War X

Clairo – Immunity

Common – Let Love

Drake – Care Package

Knocked Loose – A Different Shade of Blue

Lana Del Rey – Norman F*cking Rockwell

Tool – Fear Inoculum

 

Dislike:

A$AP Ferg – Floor Seats

Trippie Redd – !

Ugly God – Bumps and Bruises

Vic Mensa & 93PUNX – 93PUNX

Volbeat – Rewind, Replay, Rebound

Joell Ortiz Did It Again: Check Out His New Album “Monday”!

So, while Tool-mania consumed every pretentious music nerd on the planet this past weekend (the Prog Metal darlings finally emerged from hibernation after over 13 years with a new hour-and-a-half of dorkiness), my attention was focused elsewhere, to the chagrin of many a Tool fan on my YouTube channel.

Turns out I had bigger priorities. Joell Ortiz – a.k.a. “The Yaowa” – dropped album number five! And no, I had no idea it was coming out. And yes, it’s fire.

As the intro track explains, “Monday is for the hustlers; for those who work the hardest. Shit gets done on a Monday”. And several Mondays have passed – just shy of 10 months’ worth, actually – since Ortiz’s exceptional Mona Lisa project, a collaboration with Apollo Brown.

The Brooklyn-bred spitter and former Slaughterhouse member dazzles once again with a healthy mix of the autobiographical (“Momma”), the introspective (“Anxiety”), and loads of clever bars (one of my favorites is on the track “Champion”, when he raps, “my wife pops Rose like Jack did in Titanic”).

I also find myself engrossed in the nostalgia of “Screens”, which finds Ortiz bemoaning the decline of childhood in the modern day and I SWEAR uses the same sample as Nas’ “Black Girl Lost”. Doesn’t it? Somebody look that up for me!

“Learn You” is another highlight – a vulnerable, touching ode to Joell’s children and confession of his shortcomings as a father. Ortiz has never failed to let us into his life in a major way, and that’s what always keeps me coming back to every single one of his releases, as opposed to the lyrical miracles of his former group-mate Kxng Crooked, whom I know I can “check in” with every couple years and not miss a whole lot. If you skip an Ortiz project, you’re gonna miss a whole part of his life.

Please don’t sleep on this one, guys! For every last one of you who constantly bemoan the cultural dominance of “mumble rap” and the decreasing emphasis on lyrical skill in Hip-Hop, well, here’s your chance to vote with your ears.

Monday is available now on all major streaming services, via Mello Music Group. Check out the complete project below:

NAME THAT KILLSWITCH ENGAGE SONG!

Alright guys, time for another edition of Name That Song! I figured since I just reviewed their new record Atonement, Killswitch Engage would be the perfect candidates!

What I really enjoy about doing these videos, besides testing my knowledge about some of my favorite bands, is that I get to squeeze in quite a bit of commentary too. While I’ll never be a “Reaction Video” guy, there is admittedly something totally different about talking about music while you’re listening to it. And I had a lot of fun doing this one, as I did with Slipknot, Machine Head, and Trivium in my previous installments of this segment.

Be sure to comment below the video with your score! Best of luck!

Essential Metal: Testament – The Gathering

What’s up, guys! Hope you’re having a great Labor Day weekend.

Today I’m super excited to resurrect my Essential Metal series, in which I dissect Metal albums from all subgenres that I believe every metalhead MUST own! This time around it’s Testament’s stone cold classic The Gathering – which, as I explain in detail, is a modern Thrash Metal benchmark that directly paved the way for The New Wave of American Heavy Metal, as well as supercharged Thrash revivalists like Vektor.

I also dig briefly into some Big Four talk, as well as Testament’s broader history as one of the so-called “Next Big Four”. You don’t want to miss this one! Check it out here:

 

Tao Te Ching: TOP 10 BEST QUOTES!

Hey guys! Got a totally different type of video for you here.

“One who conquers others is strong. One who conquers himself is all-powerful.”

“There is no greater misfortune than feeling ‘i have an enemy’. For when ‘I’ and ‘enemy’ exist together there is no room for my treasure. Thus, when two opponents meet, the one without an enemy will surely triumph.”

These are just two of the priceless, life-defining pieces of wisdom from one of the most important and influential texts in the history of mankind – the Tao Te Ching – that I discuss in this new video.

Lao Tzu’s words have had such an enormous impact on my life that I wanted to share what they mean to me and hopefully inspire others in the process. The seemingly counterintuitive concepts throughout this text (which itself is the literary cornerstone of Chinese Taoism) are still some of the most widely referenced in the modern day. You might not even realize that some of your favorite quotes (“a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, anyone?) came from the Tao Te Ching.

Really hope you guys enjoy this! Would love to hear from you about which of these 10 quotes mean the most to you personally and why:

Top 10 Five Finger Death Punch Songs

So, a couple years ago – no, really, a couple YEARS ago – I had the bright idea to make a list of the Top 10 Five Finger Death Punch Songs. One of the most commercially successful Metal acts of the 21st century – and quite a prominent one during my early to mid teens – I know the catalogue well and this thing should be real easy to put together, right?

I quickly gave up. I started making the list and realized that, based on what I was hearing coming out of the speakers, my problem was not gonna be NARROWING DOWN the best songs, but actually finding 10 that I liked! I was stunned at how much my tastes had changed over time. In the coming year, I went on to make a negative video about the band and then another – albeit, facetious – negative video about the band.

Fast forward two-and-a-half years, and I had this burning desire to go back and complete the list. Sure, my tastes have evolved quite a bit over the years, but it was time for a fun little trip down memory lane. And ironically, approaching this topic as a critical “outsider”, so to speak, made for much more compelling content in my book.

So here it is, a fond ode to quite possibly the bro-iest (is that a word?) Metal band of all time. I hope you guys enjoy!

Killswitch Engage – Atonement Album Review

Another album review! It feels so good to be back doing these, I can’t even tell ya. This week I’m digging into the brand new Killswitch Engage album Atonement, the band’s first for Metal Blade records, third since the return of original vocalist Jesse Leach, and eighth overall.

Based on this record’s singles, one of which I reviewed here, I gotta say, I was a little nervous. Atonement follows two SUPERB Leach-fronted albums (2013’s Disarm the Descent and 2016’s Incarnate), and I was anxious to see if the band could keep the momentum going and score a little hat trick here.

Full review below. Thanks so much for watching!