Terror’s “The Walls Will Fall” EP

Calling all you mosh-thirsty punks! West Coast Hardcore stalwarts Terror are back with a brand new EP, The Walls Will Fall; their first new music in nearly two years. It’s five songs, it’s nine minutes, and – as expected – it rips.

This band has been cranking out punishing, sub-30 minute Hardcore releases for the better part of 15 years. They’re remarkably reliable, delivering a healthy mix of New York Hardcore, a bit of Crossover Thrash, and a bit of Metalcore with every biennial LP (2013’s Live by the Code might be my favorite at the moment). And The Walls Will Fall should once again satisfy the Hardcore purists – who from my experience, are even more fickle than those dreaded Metal purists – that flock to this band.

What’s most notable about The Walls Will Fall is its deliberate, even pacing. Opener “Balance the Odds” allows its slow-building intro to segue into urgent Crossover riffing before settling back into a mid-tempo mosh (that final breakdown is so sick – “the freedom of my life – I’ll take it back!!”). The title cut has a similarly smooth sequence, with grinding Thrash rhythms consuming its first half and a simplistic half-time pulse sending off its second half.

My favorite track by far is the closer, “Step to You”, which begins in blistering fashion but morphs into a four-chord, gang vocal-riddled Punk tune that is catchy as hell and could squeeze onto a ‘90s Madball release like you wouldn’t believe (the track “Pride” from Demonstrating My Style springs to mind for me).

Guitarists Martin Stewart and Jordan Posner once again bring an appropriately chunky, mean guitar tone (though I still think the best rhythm tone they’ve achieved was on Live By the Code – it had more of a raw “dryness” to it), and Scott Vogel continues to be a quintessential Hardcore frontman. These five tracks went straight on my gym playlist, and they deserve a spot on yours. Props to Terror for not tampering with a winning formula, and I look forward to the next full-length!

Recap of September 18th Releases

This past Friday, September 18th, was like Christmas. Dozens of the most heavily anticipated early-fall releases were unleashed onto the world. Having a set of working ears on this day was like having a fucking golden ticket. So many exciting releases from so many different corners of the industry. While I am most certainly still sorting through the ashes and gathering my senses, I would like to share the seven releases that I’ve given the most attention these past four days.

Long Live – Atreyu

Returning from a four-year hiatus, metalcore veterans Atreyu exceed any and all expectations on this superb return-to-form, effortlessly revisiting some of the best moments from their catalogue, adding quite a bit of muscle to their sound in the process. Read my initial review of the title track here, and watch my full review of the album below:

GO:OD AM – Mac Miller

Already universally hailed as his best work to date, Mac Miller comes back from a messy battle with substances with more confidence and self-assurance than ever. GO:OD AM is fun and ambitious, yet never overindulgent. With minimal contributions from guests, the spotlight never leaves Miller, and he doesn’t waste a second. Tracks like “ROS” and “Jump” are some of the best hip hop songs of 2015. Read my full review of the album here.

Pagans in Vegans – Metric

More stadium-ready, energetic, absurdly catchy electro-pop from Metric, who – along with 2009’s Fantasies and 2012’s Synthetica – have now made a trio of top-notch albums. Though my ears may be clamoring for more of the guitar-driven sounds of the band’s earlier work, it is impossible to be mad at tracks like “Cascades”, “Fortunes” and “The Shade”. Slower moments like “The Governess” add a nice contrast.

Metal Allegiance – Metal Allegiance

Along with a murderer’s row of guest appearances, “Metal Allegiance” features the core lineup of Megadeth’s David Ellefson, Testament’s Alex Skolnick, and ex-Dream Theater/current Winery Dogs drummer Mike Portnoy. Given the involvement of thrash legends like Skolnick and Ellefson, it comes as no surprise that tracks like the crushing opener “Gift of Pain” – which features Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe – pay homage to the Bay Area. The unlikely duet of Dug Pinnick of King’s X and Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta works tremendously on “Wait Until Tomorrow”. “Let Darkness Fall”, featuring Troy Sanders of Mastodon, is another highlight. The album also closes with a ripping cover of the classic Dio track “We Rock”. An incredibly fun, larger-than-life project that is loaded with first ballot heavy metal hall-of-famers. Let’s pray we get to see this live.

Abysmal – The Black Dahlia Murder

If there’s one feeling Black Dahlia fans aren’t quite familiar with, it’s disappointment. Seven albums in, and we’re still getting top shelf death metal. The dizzying technicality and manic riffage of “Re-Faced” are like an old friend stopping by and checking up on you, just making sure you’re still cool. “The Fog” contains the albums thrashiest moments, while the doomy “Stygiophobic” gives the album a welcome dose of breathing room. Ranking Abysmal in the band’s discography will take more than a few listens, but Black Dahlia continue to uphold the high death metal standards they’ve set for themselves.

Threat to Survival – Shinedown

Threat to Survival is certainly a good batch of catchy, radio-friendly rock songs, with soaring, defiant choruses and stomping grooves. What it is not, however, is the edgier, borderline-metal riff-fest that was 2012’s Amaryllis. Despite occasional misses like the sappy album closer “Misfits”, and the dull “It All Adds Up”, frontman Brent Smith’s ear for choruses remains undeniable, and Threat to Survival is highly recommended for fans of Papa Roach, Buckcherry, and Saving Abel.

I Hurt (single) – Children of Bodom

“I Hurt” is the opening track and now third single from Children of Bodom’s forthcoming I Worship Chaos album, due out October 2nd. I was not a fan of first single “Morrigan” initially (though I was probably just cranky), but the pummeling title track pulled the band back into my good graces. New single “I Hurt” features a heavy Pantera-style groove that is unorthodox for the band, yet adds a whole new layer of aggression. Elsewhere, the tune is classic Bodom, and my ears are definitely tingling in anticipation for the release of I Worship Chaos.

Recap: Playing Onstage with Jamey Jasta!

You really have to soak in the big moments in your life as they happen. As human beings facing an inevitable death, our goal is to live a life so fulfilling and so adventurous that eventually, we no longer fear its end. And last night I certainly took a big step. In front of a packed crowd at Irving Plaza in NYC, I got to get up onstage and play with my hero, Jamey Jasta from Hatebreed.

Me and Jasta

When it was announced that Jamey was offering a VIP option to jam onstage with his solo band during the summer tour with Fear Factory and Coal Chamber, it was one of those moments for me where fantasy and self-confidence intersect: fuck it, why NOT me?

After relentlessly nagging him via Gmail with a list of songs that I’d be down to play, Jamey finally came back with: “come up and do fearless! That’ll rock!” Whew, holy shit. This is really happening, isn’t it? Sixteen days and counting. Time to tune my guitar down, figure the song out, and play it ‘til I’m so fucking bored of it that I could play it perfectly while tripping acid and hanging upside down from a tire swing. (The track in question is “The Fearless Must Endure” featuring Zakk Wylde on guest guitar, off of the Jasta solo record).

It’s incredible how fast sixteen days can whizz by you with anything performance-related on the horizon. It was August 11th and I was feeling that beautiful blend of nerves and through-the-roof excitement that any musician has a phD in.

Three hours before Jasta’s set time, I met with Pat, the band’s lead guitarist, and we played through all the parts in an upstairs dressing room inside the venue. Right away, this was very quickly transitioning from nerve-wracking to just plain awesome. Pat (Seymour, also the lead guitarist for CT underground favorites Eyes of the Dead) revealed to me some of the completely badass changes the band makes to the live arrangement (I won’t speak guitar nerd here), and was totally cool with me playing two of the song’s solos. We talked Marty Friedman, Jeff Loomis, Oli Herbert, diminished arpeggios, and every built-up guitar nerd outburst I desperately try to repress while hitting on women. Given the fact that I attend a preppy catholic college where I have yet to see a piece of black clothing, talking guitar with Pat was akin to an immigrant finally interacting with someone from their native country.

Before Jasta’s set, I met Jamey backstage at the meet-and-greet in Fear Factory’s dressing room, and stayed back there with the band through all the setting up, warming up, and casual socializing. Just surreal for me. I simply stayed out of the way and grasped at any sensation I could hold onto and stow away into my brain.

Aside from an anxious paranoia about my guitar being in tune (shout out to the Fear Factory guys for being so understanding), I was beyond psyched as I watched Jasta tear through the first four songs of their set from the side of the stage. Sure enough, fifth song in the set, Jamey calls my name. And my God did the nerves disappear fast. What I remember is a lot of headbanging, flashing stage lights, and exchanging smiles with all the band members as we ripped through the song. As I unplugged my guitar, Jamey told me I would’ve made Zakk Wylde proud – the biggest compliment I have ever received. The fact that it came from my idol didn’t hurt, either.

Ironically though, the most surreal part of the whole experience came the morning after. I convinced my poor mother to come to the show and sit through Jasta’s set in the hopes of maybe capturing my time on stage on photo or video. In my email inbox the next day was a 10-second video in which I’m shredding the second solo, and Jamey points at me and goes, “that’s a badass motherfucker!” Anyone who has ever idolized someone can imagine what it felt like to see that. Watching the footage, I realized I had just created one of those rare memories – the ones that trigger an automatic, instinctive smile every single time your mind ventures back to it.

If you have an opportunity to create an unforgettable memory, don’t even blink. Grab it by the throat, and most importantly, cast aside every negative emotion you have ever felt and be completely present for it. It might be the most important lesson I’ve ever learned. Every corny, played-out “carpe diem”-related cliché applies here, in spades. When you live a moment that triggers that overwhelming rush of gratitude for being alive on planet Earth, it feels like you are hearing every one of those clichés for the first time.

Thank you so much to Jamey Jasta, the rest of the band, and the Fear Factory and Coal Chamber guys for being so accommodating and so cool to me, especially with me invading the cramped dressing room! I hope reading about my experience playing with Jasta inspires someone else to create their own special, lifelong memory.

The Jasta Show: Metal Music’s Number One Podcast

I cannot believe it’s only been about 10 months since Hatebreed/Kingdom of Sorrow frontman Jamey Jasta began pleasuring my eardrums (pause) with his incredibly entertaining podcast, “The Jasta Show”. If I had conceived a child to episode 1, it is possible that my hypothetical metalhead baby would still be taking his sweet-ass time in the delivery room like his father did. Yeah, it’s a “he”. Your political correctness is unwelcome.

Being from Connecticut, I’ve always been a big fan of Jamey’s, but this show has made me idolize him on a whole new level. The guy is relentlessly hard-working, insightful, entertaining, and infectiously passionate about metal and music in general. In addition to appearances from fascinating non-musicians such as comedian Jim Norton and UFC fighter Matt Brown, “The Jasta Show” features interviews with every important metal musician who walks the Earth. Seriously, everybody. From icons like “The Metal God” Rob Halford and Kirk Hammett, to newer heavyweights like Corey Taylor and Ivan Moody, to underground fixtures like Scott Kelly of Neurosis, to Ice-Motherfuckin-T, Jamey delivers engaging interviews week after week at a level of intimacy where you practically feel like you’re in the room hanging with them. It speaks to his level of respect in the industry that he is able to connect so organically with so many different people.

10 months in, this podcast (updated twice a week) is an irreplaceable fixture in my life. I truly believe that the quality of my day-to-day existence is noticeably higher with “The Jasta Show” as one of my many soundtracks. Listening to Jamey’s insightful interviews week after week is inspiring, uplifting, entertaining, and even cathartic at times. Nobody works harder in this business than Jamey Jasta. When I feel like kicking back and watching Netflix, I just think to myself “what would Jamey do?” The answer, most likely, is Coffee, Death Metal, and Pushups. You’ll get that reference once you subscribe. If you are at all a fan of heavy music, I cannot recommend enough that you do.