Avenged Sevenfold – Diamonds in the Rough: The Four ESSENTIAL Songs!

What’s up, guys! Happy album release day to all of you.

As usual, most of the music I’m diving into today is brand spankin’ new (Green Day, Sepultura, Galantis, God Dethroned, etc.), but I can’t shake this strange feeling that I’m in some sort of time machine….

That’s because even though last I checked it’s February 2020, Avenged Sevenfold are releasing a b-sides album for their 2007 self-titled album. Nearly 13 years too late.

OK, that’s not entirely true. They’re repackaging and updating 2008’s Diamonds in the Rough for streaming services, and even including one brand new unreleased song for good measure.

Since there’s undoubtedly a lot of Gen Z A7x fans who didn’t even know these songs existed, I figured it’d be fun to take a trip down memory lane and dissect what I believe are the four essential tracks from this rarities collection. Because contrary to what the band clearly believe, some of the material on Diamonds in the Rough was completely worthy of inclusion on the self-titled album. But of course, that’s for us to debate!

You can find the full video here:

 

Annihilator – Ballistic, Sadistic Album Review

What’s up guys – coming at ya with another review! This one is a must-watch for the Thrash fanatics.

In this video I dissect album number 17 from Canadian Thrash Metal veterans Annihilator. As I talked about years ago, Jeff Waters and co.’s 1989 debut Alice in Hell remains a high water mark for the genre’s more technically proficient Second Wave. Though I’ve popped my head in on a few of the band’s recent releases – most notably 2015’s Suicide Society – Ballistic, Sadistic was my first time really SITTING with a full-length Annihilator release in quite some time.

So how did it stack up? Is this the swift kick in the ass 2020 needed in order to hit the ground running? Watch the full review here:

 

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:

 

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:

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:

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

Alter Bridge’s “Dying Light” Single

Honestly, I’ve been getting increasingly worried about this new Alter Bridge record.

The forthcoming Walk the Sky – the band’s sixth LP overall – has now produced five singles from its lengthy tracklist, of which the first four (“Would You Rather”, “In the Deep”, “Take the Crown”, and “Pay No Mind”) I’ve found myself significantly underwhelmed by. So far, these tracks have teased a noticeable departure from the winning formula of 2013’s Fortress and 2016’s The Last Hero in several ways: toned-down aggression, de-emphasized guitar riffs, less vocal breaks, and as guitarist Mark Tremonti hinted at months ago, some experimentation with synthesizers.

As a massive proponent of bands not making the same fucking record over and over again, I’m obligated to applaud Alter Bridge for changing things up. And I’m convinced that Walk the Sky will be one of my most interesting and challenging reviews of 2019 when I do cover it on YouTube. But I simply haven’t enjoyed what I’ve heard so far. This new single “Dying Light”, however, is possibly my favorite of the lot, and manages to dodge several of the critiques I’ve had for the other four tracks.

Most importantly, the band seems to be overemphasizing frontman Myles Kennedy’s vocals, which is resulting in unbalanced songwriting. When you look in the rearview at some of Alter Bridge’s best moments (think “Blackbird”, “Cry of Achilles”, “Come to Life”, “Island of Fools”, etc) they all involve extended instrumental sections that complement Kennedy’s singing by juxtaposing his bright and shiny hooks with their darker and sometimes grittier shadow; songwriting that a Walk the Sky single like “In the Deep” eschews almost entirely . But “Dying Light”, with its moody guitar-and-vocal interplay in the verses, as well as the wonderfully nauseating guitars that groan through the bridge section (3:18 mark), does strike this balance well. Bland and pointless guitar solo aside, it’s got some genuinely unique and memorable instrumental moments, which I’m going to go out on a limb and say is absolutely crucial to Alter Bridge’s music. When they make it all about Myles’ vocals, they start to wade dangerously into “Butt Rock” territory.

But as always, I reserve all judgments for the irreplaceable context of the whole album front-to-back. For all I know, it might all make sense on the 18th, and here’s to hoping that “Dying Light” is somewhat indicative of what “making sense” is gonna sound like.

Walk the Sky is due out October 18th on Napalm Records. Any way you slice it, it’s bound to be one of my most exciting reviews of the year, so be sure to tune in on YouTube! And check out “Dying Light” below:

 

Betraying the Martyrs – Rapture Album Review

What’s up guys! Got a brand new Metal review for you today! This week I’m unpacking the fourth full-length record from French Deathcore band Betraying the Martyrs.

I was just introduced to these guys about a month or two ago, and I thought Rapture would be a great opportunity to stretch my tastes a little bit and do a deep dive into something I typically wouldn’t check out. A majority of bands either on the Sumerian Records roster, within the Deathcore movement, or of the “verb-the-noun” persuasion tend to not be my cup of tea – and Betraying the Martyrs happen to check all three boxes. So I purposely went into this review hoping to be pleasantly surprised. Full review below:

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: