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:

 

 

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

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!

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!

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!

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)

 

 

Justin Bieber vs. Tool: RANT

Hey guys, so just in case you were doing productive and valuable things with your time over the weekend, you missed a bit of a “news story”. No seriously. Apparently this was news-worthy, given that Billboard and a whole other host of outlets devoted “news stories” to it (which basically consisted of screenshot-ing a tweet and adding in a snarky joke or two).

Anyway, I was triggered by this whole Bieber/Tool situation. Not because of anything that happened here necessarily, but it set me off about Metalheads, Metal culture, Alex Skolnick, and a bunch of other shit I just needed to get off my chest. Below is the full rant: