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!

Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind Album Review

IT’S HERE, BABY!

Slipknot are without a doubt one of my favorite Metal bands to discuss and dissect, as evidenced by this, and this, and also this.

For the latest installment of Ryan’s unsolicited ramblings about the Iowa Metal titans, I’ve broken down Slipknot’s brand new, highly anticipated album We Are Not Your Kind. It’s the band’s sixth LP overall, second without drummer Joey Jordison and late bassist Paul Gray, and first without (irrelevant) percussionist Chris Fehn, who – in case you gave a shit – is currently suing Slipknot for his share of the trash-can-beating profits.

Seriously though, I’ve never been more proud of a review! I really hope you guys enjoy this, and be sure to share and subscribe!

SLAMMING New Exhumed Single “Ravenous Cadavers”: Listen Here

Wow, here’s something to jolt you awake this Tuesday morning!

Extreme Metal veterans Exhumed have just announced album number nine – it’s called Horror and it drops October 4th via Relapse Records.

If this first single is any indication of the full 15-track release, we’re really in for a treat. “Ravenous Cadavers” turns its attention much more towards the Thrash-on-steroids, Carcass-influenced part of the band’s sound, rather than the Grind side of things. Frontman Matt Harvey’s voice sounds as brutal as ever. Check it out here and let me know if you love it as much as I do:

Top 10 Mid-Year Albums of 2019: NON-METAL EDITION

What’s up guys! Time for the Yin to the Yang that is my Mid-Year Metal list! Here are all the killer albums from the first half of the year that had nothing to do with Metal. As you’ll see, several of these picks were HUGE (pleasant) surprises for me, and I’m not sure there’s anything more rewarding than giving music a chance that ends up adding incredible value to your life.

Speaking of adding incredible value to your life, I really hope this list turns you on to some awesome stuff you wouldn’t have otherwise checked out. Thanks so much for watching!

Top 10 Mid-Year Albums of 2019: METAL EDITION

Hey guys, it’s finally time for our Mid-Year Lists! I actually put these together in late June, but July got crazy and I haven’t had time to edit the footage and get it up on YouTube. Part 1 is our Metal list, featuring an AMAZING slew of releases ranging from heavy-hitters like Periphery and Baroness to criminally underrated music from the likes of Astronoid and Numenorean. Also featuring the…ehm…”colorful” commentary from yours truly, as always.

Check out the full video below, and let me know your picks! Non-Metal list coming soon too!

 

July 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:

Abbath – Outstrider (Metal)

Wow, this is a massive improvement over the former Immortal frontman’s 2016 self-titled debut. Outstrider is a lean, mean commercial Black Metal record, with just the right mix of grit and production. Riff-fests like the title track, “Harvest Pyre”, and “Hecate” are among my favorite Metal songs of 2019. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Banks – III (Alternative)

For three albums straight now, I’ve fallen in love with Jillian Rose Banks’ cutting edge, occasionally trippy brand of…Alternative R & B? Truthfully, Banks has always existed at a genre intersection that is difficult to categorize, and III only expands that sentiment. I’m still digesting some of the LP, but start with the powerful synth-laced single “Gimme” or the hauntingly dramatic “Godless”. RECOMMENDED.

Chance the Rapper – The Big Day (Hip-Hop)

Man, I expect better out of a three-year gap between Chance the Rapper projects. The guy’s always been lovably goofy, but on The Big Day he really overindulges in that carefree, ironic, tongue-in-cheek attidue, so much so that it dilutes his bars. Just listen to the unbearable, rambling rhymes in “Hot Shower”. And some songs on here are just poorly constructed, like “Get a Bag”, or “Ballin Flossin”, the latter with a SHAWN MENDES feature. Of all people. Though I love watching Chance take a stand against the industry with his independence, the songs need to be stronger next time around. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Crown the Empire – Sudden Sky (Rock)

Crown the Empire’s whiny Second Wave of Metalcore shtick has never been my cup of tea, but I’ve recognized the band’s talent since 2011’s Limitless and have always given them a chance. On Sudden Sky they provide exactly what 2016’s Retrograde provided: a lukewarm album with a couple really killer singles worth returning to (see: “What I Am”, “Blurry”). NOT RECOMMENDED.

Ed Sheeran – No. 6 Collaborations Project (Pop)

Ok, here’s the funny thing about this one: quality-wise, it’s such a mixed bag, with some of Ed’s stylistic adventures paying off (“Antisocial”) and some falling beautifully flat (hearing him rap on “Remember the Name” is so cringe-inducing). But I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way! The general problem with Sheeran’s music tends to be how safe and bland it feels. In contrast, this was an exciting project full of risk, inclusivity of ideas, and creative self-indulgence just for the fun of it. And even though I don’t love every minute of it, I admire when an artist of Sheeran’s stature has the courage to abandon their comfort zone. RECOMMENDED.

Nas – The Lost Tapes 2 (Hip-Hop)

As it turns out, an album full of b-sides from Nas’ prime (2002’s incredibly underrated The Lost Tapes) is very different from an album full of b-sides from PAST Nas’ prime (The Lost Tapes 2). Within this scattered tracklist, you can hear the once great Nasir Jones going through the very same artistic identity crisis that has marred his inconsistent projects of the last decade, most notably 2018’s Nasir and 2008’s Untitled. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Sabaton – The Great War (Metal)

I’ve been hearing about Sabaton for a number of years, and their profile in the US got a huge bump when they toured with Trivium in support of their 2016 album The Last Stand. As someone passionate about both world history and epic, grandiose Power Metal, I was eager to give The Great War a shot, which is conceptually centered around World War One (a.k.a. “The Great War”).  Unfortunately, while there are a couple standout tunes (exhibit A: “Fields of Verdun”, with its triumphant guitar lines in the chorus), I generally found The Great War to be nothing more than your generic Power Metal fodder. NOT RECOMMENDED

A FEW MORE:

Like:

Big K.R.I.T. – K.R.I,T. Iz Here (Hip-Hop)

Blood Orange – Angel’s Pulse (R&B)

Knife Party – Lost Souls EP (Dance)

Tomb Mold – Planetary Clairvoyance (Metal)

Wear Your Wounds – Rust on the Gates of Heaven (Metal)

Wormed – Metaportal EP (Metal)

Dislike:

E-40 – Practice Makes Paper (Hip-Hop)

Machine Gun Kelly – Hotel Diablo (Hip-Hop)

Marshmello – Joytime III (Dance)

 

 

Care Package is Way Better Than Drake’s REAL Albums

This past Friday, Aubrey Drake Graham dropped the clumsily titled Care Package, a collection of old b-sides, rarities, and unofficial singles that nobody asked for but everyone’s listening to. It’s set to debut at number one on the Billboard Charts this week.

Being the retrospective project that it is, Care Package reminds us of several things we might have forgotten. It reminds us that “Johnny Football” was once a thing (see: “Draft Day”). It reminds us that J. Cole once apologized for saying “retarded” in jest (see: “Jodeci Freestyle”). But here’s the one big fat reminder that Care Package serves up: Drake can’t make albums like he makes songs.

As a loose collection, the Care Package track-list arguably flows better than Drake’s last three albums (or FOUR, if God forbid you wanna separate Scorpion into two). It’s more lyrically proficient than Nothing Was the Same, it’s less narcissistic than Scorpion, and as for Views…well, there’s certainly less Dancehall pandering.

I love the lyrical toughness of tracks like “Dreams Money Can Buy”. I love the introspection of “4PM in Calabasas”. I love the biting bitterness of “How Bout Now”. I love hearing Drake trade bars with J. Cole on “Jodeci Freestyle” and Rick Ross on “Free Spirit”, and find myself wishing his real albums were more feature-friendly.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is by no means a wholesale endorsement of this project. Some cuts, like the plodding “My Side”, are flat-out terrible. And there are more than a couple of reminders on Care Package  that no matter what era we’re talking about, Singing Drizzy is never as good as Rapping Drizzy. Ever.

I’m merely pointing out the glaring contrast between the invigorated Drake on these b-sides who’s just, to quote his lyrics, “do(ing) it just to do it like it’s nothing”, and the tiresome insular self-obsession of Drake’s last few LPs. This guy has so much raw talent, but when he goes to put an ALBUM together, it’s like he’s trying too hard. Don’t believe me? It took him branding something a mixtape (If You’re Reading This) for it to garner deserved critical acclaim.

We’ll forever remember Drake for his great songs, of which there are many. If only he’d stop overthinking his albums, maybe we’ll have a chance to remember him for those too.

All That Remains: Victim of the New Disease was AWESOME!!

What’s up guys! Time for a discussion that’s LONG overdue.

Last October, while his band was getting ready to unleash their highly anticipated ninth album, one of my heroes suddenly passed away.

The tragic, untimely, mysterious death of All That Remains shredder Oli Herbert shook the Metal community (particularly here in New England) and, needless to say, added a great deal of dark context to Victim of the New Disease, the ATR album released the following month in the wake of his passing.

Now that nearly a year has gone by, there’s something that I STRONGLY felt needed to be said about Victim of the New Disease. Several things, actually. And no, not just that it’s “AWESOME!!”

In the video below, I walk viewers through the crucial importance of Victim of the New Disease, both to the All That Remains legacy and the Metal world at large. If you’re an All That Remains fan, this is a must watch!

And as always, be sure to leave a comment with your thoughts on Victim of the New Disease! Thanks for watching!

June 2019 Album Round Up!

What’s up guys, hope the first half of your 2019 ended with a bang! Mine certainly did. Monthly Round Ups are back and here to stay! Below is a quick run-through of all the records I checked out this month:

Chon – Chon (Instrumental) 

Full-length number three from this virtuosic instrumental four-piece has completely reinvigorated my love for instrumental music. Chon’s entrancing blend of rock, jazz, and prog (among other influences) has inspired me to revisit brilliant records in my collection from Pat Metheny, Marty Friedman, and Steve Vai – records whose greatness, dare I say, Chon’s self-titled effort deserves mention alongside. Must-listen for guitar nerds and prog fans alike. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Meg Mac – Hope (Singer/Songwriter)

Australian singer/songwriter Meg Mac impressed me once again with this little seven-track mini-album. Her voice is powerful, versatile, and has me constantly wondering why massive success in the US has eluded her thus far. Particular highlights include “Head Away” and the dramatic title cut. RECOMMENDED.

X Ambassadors – Orion (Alternative)

You really have to TRY to make music this bad. I was appalled at the bland genericism of Orion, a batch of throwaway Alt tunes that makes Imagine Dragons appear bold and progressive. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Baroness – Gold & Grey (Metal)

One of Metal’s critical darlings did it again with this double album – album number five in Baroness’ color-themed series of releases. The music Baroness make is often more Hard Rock than Metal, actually – frontman John Baizley’s gruff melodic vocals and gritty down-tuned guitar riffs occupy a similar crossover territory to fellow Georgians Mastodon. I particularly enjoyed the numerous instrumental interludes sprinkled throughout this track list. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Hate – Auric Gates of Veles (Metal)

More devastating Blackened Death Metal from Polish giants Hate (known to some as “the other Behemoth”). While I don’t find myself having the same visceral reaction that I did to 2017’s Tremendum, Hate’s suffocating instrumentation and sinister aesthetic continues to draw me in. RECOMMENDED.

Mark Ronson – Late Night Feelings (Pop)

Wow! Quite pleasantly surprised by this highly collaborative LP from Pop producer extraordinaire Mark Ronson. I really expected to hate this. But Ronson is no DJ Khaled – that is to say, a “curator” who cobbles together records through a very “forced” combination of guests – but rather, a producer and co-writer with a vision here. The title track, “True Blue”, “Don’t Leave Me Lonely”, “Pieces of Us”, and even the Miley Cyrus-featuring “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart”, are all highlights here. RECOMMENDED.

Lil Nas X – 7 EP (Hip-Hop)

An even bigger surprise was actually ENJOYING this EP from Lil’ Nas X, the 20-year-old rapper responsible for the Country-Rap Internet smash “Old Town Road”. Though he still feels like a novelty and his longevity is certainly still appropriate to be questioned, Lil’ Nas X holds his own on these seven songs. Particularly fond of the Cardi B-assisted “Rodeo” and the Rock-influenced “F9mily”. The jury’s still out on this kid but I’m gonna give him a chance! RECOMMENDED.

Mannequin Pussy – Patience (Alternative)

My favorite record of the month. And “Drunk II” is my favorite song of the month. SO much to love about this punk-infused alternative band! And their Epitaph Records debut will hopefully introduce front-woman Marisa Dabice in particular as the force of nature that the band’s underground fans have always known her to be. Producer Will Yip’s fuzzy-yet-polished approach works wonders here as well. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

A FEW MORE:

Like:

The Black Keys – Let’s Rock (Alternative)

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana (Hip-Hop)

Goldlink – Diaspora (Hip-Hop)

Pryda – Pryda 15 Vol 1 (Dance)

The Raconteurs – Help Us Stranger (Rock)

 

Dislike:

Enthroned – Cold Black Suns (Metal)

Gucci Mane – Delusions of Grandeur (Hip-Hop)

Top 15 Favorite Songs: Q2 2019

Hey guys! Another quarter of a year has (almost) passed us by. If I were running a Fortune 500 company, I might refer to it as a “fiscal quarter”, but I’m writing a relatively anonymous music blog, so something about the word “fiscal” just doesn’t feel appropriate….

But it’s a quarter of the year nonetheless! And with each quarter of a year that inches me closer and closer to my impending doom, I celebrate on my YouTube channel with a list of my Top 15 Favorite Songs of the past few months. These lists deliberately exclude Metal, as it’s all about shining a light on the broad spectrum of tunes that have been soundtracking my life.

And I’m not sure i’ve ever been more proud of one of these lists. This fucking group of songs (which I spent a surprising amount of time narrowing down) has it all: EDM, Pop, Indie Rock, Hip-Hop, R & B, Instrumental music – you name it, it’s here.

Be sure to check out the accompanying Spotify playlist – complete with 10 additional honorable mentions – here. Full video below. Thanks for watching!