June 3rd Singles: DJ Khaled, A Day to Remember, and More

The first Friday of June bombarded us with a dizzying amount of new music, particularly singles! Below I’ve written up five of them:

For Free (feat. Drake) – DJ Khaled

“Another one” indeed, Mr. Khaled. DJ Khaled and Drizzy’s ode to bedroom prowess caught me – and, well, the rest of the world – completely by surprise. Drake is a little over a month past his enormous Views campaign, yet he drops a one-off single that’s better than his entire album! While I do miss the Toronto MC putting effort into the technical side of his rhymes, I love the Kendrick reference in the opening verse, and just the overall snarling cockiness of the whole track. It’s rightfully simplistic and fun – you can practically feel the summer breeze oozing out of the speakers. That being said, among others questionable lyrics, one line I particularly can’t let slide is “you’re the only one who can fit it all in her mouth”. To me this nonsense yanks away the playful aspect of the theme and turns it into run-of-the-mill graphic Hip-Hop. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just really unnecessary. It’s been a long time since the chauvinist, controlling messages of Drake’s music resonated with me, but at least “For Free” is a genuine banger.

Bad Vibrations – A Day To Remember

So here we stand with the second leak from A Day To Remember’s sixth album Bad Vibrations, due out August 19th. This new single – the title cut and album opener – will be directly preceding first single “Paranoia” in the track list, which I discussed here. “Bad Vibrations”, however, leans way further toward Metal than “Paranoia – it’s less urgent and more forceful. Oddly enough, the pre-chorus of this track – with its hammering double bass and harsh vocal – jumped out at me as catchier than the angsty chorus (which I did warm up to after a few listens). Clearly tailored toward the live environment, the breakdown here (“toxic!”) is extreme predictable, with dissonant chords and stabbing syncopated rhythms, but stylistically, ADTR are in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario, so it’s difficult to fault them for it. When the breakdowns go away, the kids start whining. When the breakdowns show up, they’re “played out”. But I digress. “Bad Vibrations” is nothing special or extraordinary, but ADTR are 2 for 2 with me! August 19th needs to hurry up!

Whatever, Wherever – Band of Horses

I’m so psyched to have Band of Horses back! Tomorrow the indie rockers will release their fifth album, “Why Are You Ok?”, and this single “Whatever, Wherever” indicates we might be in for more in the vein of Infinite Arms, in the best way possible. The clean guitar tone is gorgeous, the falsetto backing vocals in the chorus are addictive, and the drums add a gentle backbone. It’s another Band of Horses song tailor made for night drives full of those larger-than-life moments – the ones where you gaze up at the sky and come to terms with your insignificance.

Maybe IDK – Jon Bellion

Jon Bellion has built quite a buzz in both Hip-Hop and Pop through several mixtapes, his association with Logic and Visionary Music Group, and yes, that Zedd song “Beautiful Now”. Hip-Hop really is a twisted system when you need to put out years of free music just to earn the right to release your debut album. Which is a right Bellion has apparently earned, as his debut The Human Condition is set to drop tomorrow. Unfortunately “Maybe IDK”, the LP’s fourth single, is generic as hell. It could be One Republic. It could be Phillip Phillips. Who really knows, because it’s that hard to tell. And FOH with that clapping nonsense! Clapping sections RARELY come off as anything but impossibly corny. When are people going to get that through their heads?? Anyway, despite my distaste for this track, I’ll hold out for the album.

Is Anybody Out There?  – Machine Head

From out in left field we have the first music from Bay Area titans Machine Head in over a year and a half. Making headlines for the lyrical references to Phil Anselmo’s “white power” incident, “Is Anybody Out There?” is a decent single from a band capable of more. The dramatic intro, featuring piano and a lead guitar lick in the vein of “Judas Rising”, is a check in the “positive” column. As is frontman Robb Flynn’s impassioned vocal delivery, which compensates enormously for the somewhat bland chorus lyrics. He’s remarkably convincing, and feels like he’s pouring his heart into every syllable. But my major gripe is the cringeworthy pseudo-rapping in the verses, calling to mind the nightmare that was Machine Head’s Nu Metal ventures on The Burning Red. When Flynn utters “Let me tell you something” like a Hip-Hop ad lib before the first verse, I cringe every time. But otherwise, the thrashing riffs, assaulting drums, and gruff vocals are all there.

Volbeat’s “Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie”: Three Singles Deep

Is Volbeat going to be Rock’s next arena act? It’s a conversation that needs to be had. If Five Finger Death Punch can do it, I don’t see why Volbeat couldn’t. In addition to having toured with the likes of Avenged Sevenfold Anthrax, and FFDP themselves, they’re coming off two straight highly acclaimed, exciting Hard Rock records. Both 2010’s Beyond Hell/Above Heaven and 2013’s Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies struck an impeccable balance between credibility and commercially viability.

Over 3 years since it came out, I still can’t get enough of Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies. It’s got infinite energy and endless hooks, and isn’t quite sure whether it wants to be a Rock or Metal record, which affords it considerable breathing room. Active Rock radio listeners eat it up, metalheads (particularly old-school ones) can vibe with it, and the occasional mainstream listener gets pulled in as well. I may be reaching a bit, but it all feels Foo Fighters-esque. I don’t think we’re anywhere close to the peak of Volbeat’s upward trajectory.

Of course, whether this momentum continues is dependent on Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie, the band’s sixth album set to drop this Friday, June 3rd. Currently, all we have to go on is three pre-release singles. So how is Volbeat’s highly anticipated new LP looking thus far?

The Devil’s Bleeding Crown: I already discussed this one when it dropped in early April. It’s the first single and opening track on Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie, and it keeps things basic: basic hooks, basic riffs, and predictable structure. It’s solid Rock and Roll through and through, just safe. Michael Poulsen’s voice is as powerful as ever, and this single’s Active Rock radio success is imminent, but I’m getting nothing new out of it. And I could definitely do without that horribly cheesy clapping section.

The Bliss: Self-replication in music is an interesting phenomenon. Is “ripping yourself off” against the rules? Considering the careers of AC/DC, Motorhead, and Slayer, I suppose not. So it shouldn’t matter that certain parts of “The Bliss” earn the song its “Lola Montez 2.0” moniker. The blatant similarities to “Lola Montez” did irk me at first, but the more I’ve listened, the less bothersome it becomes. “The Bliss” is distinct enough from its predecessor, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s a love song of sorts, bursting with positivity and sugar-sweet vocal harmonies. The thumping banjo-centric bridge is an adventurous yet appropriate breather. All in all, the track works. Not to say Volbeat hasn’t “done this before”, but at least it’s less bland than “The Devil’s Bleeding Crown”. Oh, and an alternate version titled “For Evigt” is also available. Check that one out too.

Seal the Deal: My favorite of these 3 singles. Its lead riff is fairly standard sleaze-rock, emitting copious party vibes. The energy never lets up, even as the bridge section slows the tempo momentarily. The chorus is fittingly hook-y, including a well-calculated key change for the song’s final moments. Rob Caggiano serves up a ripping solo as well. Again, not reinventing the wheel, but “Seal the Deal” executes so damn well.

If all thirteen tracks on the LP resemble what we’ve heard thus far, then redundancy is going to be a weighty issue on Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie. This 3-track sampling suggests we’ll be in for something enjoyable, but nothing special. While we’d all prefer special, enjoyable is not the end of the world. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

 

 

Hatebreed’s “A.D.” and Volbeat’s “The Devil’s Bleeding Crown” Singles

Happy April 8th, 2016 everyone! Time to grab your copies of Deftones’ Gore and Zakk Wylde’s Book of Shadows II to celebrate! In addition, I’ve written up a pair of new singles from Hatebreed and Volbeat below:

 A.D. – Hatebreed

Connecticut’s own Hatebreed will unleash their seventh album The Concrete Confessional on May 13th – a Friday the 13th already jam-packed with high-profile releases (Devildriver, Gorguts, Pierce the Veil, and the very brutal Meaghan Trainor, just to name a few). The LP’s opening track “A.D.” is our first complete taste of what’s to come, and it finds the veterans placing their Hardcore influences on the backburner for a majority of the song in favor of mid-80s Thrash, even tossing in a shred-laced guitar solo for good measure.

Even vocalist/motivational coach Jamey Jasta knows that not every Hatebreed song needs to be uplifting, positive, or hopeful – if the state of the union (or the world) is chewing at him for whatever reason, there’s no better platform. And Jasta takes advantage – A.D. is jam-packed with venomous quotables that address the crumbling of the American dream.

The latter portion of the track deals with the inaction and subsequent profiting of media and government outfits from violent shootings, acts of terrorism, and the like. Here’s a choice quote that prompted a tweet of mine (and a subsequent retweet from Hatebreed themselves): “thoughts and prayers again, is that what it’ll take? Which industries profit while lives are at stake?” HARD.

The Devil’s Bleeding Crown – Volbeat

Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie….that’s what Volbeat chose to title their new album? Hey, no complaints here – it made me chuckle, and quite frankly, anything that’s not a fucking self-titled record is fine in my book. Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie will follow two Metal-tinged Rock LPs that are absurdly well-constructed – 2010’s Beyond Hell/Above Heaven and 2013’s Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies. A band still very much in the midst of their ascent – let’s be honest, we have virtually no idea how big this could get – they could put out a by-the-book replication of their last two efforts and still receive resounding acclaim. They have become one of Rock’s most beloved and likable acts.

“The Devil’s Bleeding Crown” retains Volbeat’s familiar mammoth sound. As expected it’s completely old school, the main riff calling to mind a chunkier Wolfmother. And I suppose the ghost of Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave” will continue to hover over the genre for all of eternity, so no need for any painfully obvious insights in that regard.

The bottom line: fans of Volbeat anthems like “A Warrior’s Call” will be fully satiated by this single. But here’s to hoping there are a few twists and turns on the full record, out June 3rd.

A Day To Remember’s “Paranoia” Single

Nearly two and a half years after Common Courtesy, and an impossibly ugly cage match with Victory Records over contract discrepancies, the world finally has new music from A Day To Remember – yeah, a whopping 3 minutes and 22 seconds, but still. It’s a single called “Paranoia”, which, while it has been made clear it doesn’t necessarily mark the beginning of an album cycle ramp-up, is exciting enough on its own.

2013’s Common Courtesy was, in this narcissist’s opinion, far away ADTR’s best record to date. Their fifth LP found the Ocala, FL quintet simultaneously mastering Pop-Punk and Metalcore – the Pop-Punk moments were livelier and the Metalcore moments were devastating (particularly on “Violence”…my God). So I guess after publicly squaring off with Victory over Common Courtesy, ADTR Records is still a thing. And the band has my wholehearted support. The way the industry is structured in 2016, with only a few independent labels for aggressive music still standing that haven’t been conglomerated, the more DIY shit you can pull off successfully, the better. But on to this new single “Paranoia”.

The tune kicks off with a bit of a volley between a dissonant guitar lick and markedly punk-y explosions of rhythm. It terms of power, adrenaline, and attitude, it wastes no time. Nor does it waste time arriving at the ultra-catchy chorus, which stitches together the frantic verses that surround it.

And like every ADTR studio effort from For Those Who Have Heart onward, “Paranoia” is a meticulously produced tidal wave of sound. The Thrash-informed breakdown is the particular highlight, with the chunky guitars, drums, and bass working in tandem in the mix rather than stepping on each other’s toes. While calling this tune “groundbreaking” in the ADTR world might get you laughed out of the room, it’s a powerful “we’re back” statement – nay, exclamation – that has me drooling at the thought of Common Courtesy’s follow-up.

Megadeth’s “Dystopia” Single

Yesterday Megadeth released the title track and single number three from their upcoming fifteenth (!) studio album Dystopia, due out January 22nd.

Interestingly enough, after the near-universal panning that 2013’s Supercollider received from fans and critics alike, Megadeth have once again found themselves in the underdog position with album number fifteen, one in which they have tended to thrive throughout their career. And with the three singles unveiled thus far, the band is certainly showing a lot of promise. First the thrashy “Fatal Illusion” (which I wrote about here) and “The Threat is Real”, and now “Dystopia”.

To my ears, “Dystopia” is the strongest of all three, but perhaps most notably, it’s the most tuneful. See there’s a period in Megadeth’s career – the one metalheads tirelessly and (mostly unjustly) rail against – in which their brand of metal became more song-centric. It began with Countdown to Extinction and progressed through Youthanasia and Cryptic Writings (both of which I earn minority status by holding in high esteem), before crashing and burning with Risk. But here’s the catch: despite much of the Thrash being absent in Megadeth’s mid-90s output, Mustaine’s songwriting was exceptional. The well-crafted hooks – whether on vocals or guitar, mind you – are light years beyond the capacities of most bands of the Thrash persuasion. But with the breakneck pace and sneering confrontation of Megadeth’s early years missing, it’s understandable why these albums didn’t fare too well. In reality, what truly needs to happen for a stellar Megadeth release is a fusion of the aforementioned song construction with balls-to-the-wall, guitar-driven speed metal. And “Dystopia” might be the closest we’ve gotten to a sonic manifestation of this dream in quite some time.

The track opens with a mid-tempo groove and a simplistic, ear candy guitar melody a la Youthanasia. From there, hasty yet modestly concise verses allow the guitars to take center stage, the long solo section after the second chorus being Exhibit A. In general, “Dystopia” is peppered with the most exciting guitar solos that have been on a Megadeth track in God knows how long. Let’s be honest, Kiko Loureiro SMOKES every Megadeth guitarist since Marty Friedman. I don’t care what you think. Like what the actual fuck is he doing with those octaves at 1:43??? I really hope an official songbook comes out for Dystopia so I can give some of these mind-blowing licks a spin.

But “Hangar 18”-style extended leads aside, Mustaine and Co. still bring the riffs. The winding groove after the solo section is classic Megadeth before the song is given a dramatic send off with an dopamine-pumping dual guitar harmony that crescendos beautifully to wrap everything up.

A Megadeth diehard, I’ve been in a state of “eager anticipation” since the announcement of Dystopia back in October. But the title track, which balances out the energy of “Fatal Illusion” and “The Threat Is Real” perfectly – clueing us in to what has the potential to be an excellent, well-rounded release – has allowed me to say I’m “excited” now for reasons other than just being a fucking stan. January 22nd, I’m ready for you!

UPDATE: Full Dystopia review here

Anthrax’s “Evil Twin” Single

More than four years removed from one of metal’s most epic comebacks and a possible career peak in 2011’s Worship Music, a new Anthrax album is imminent. Man, it makes me tingle writing that. With what will be the band’s eleventh studio album slated for a 2016 release, classic thrash fans have a lot of celebrating on the horizon, with Megadeth’s Dystopia album also dropping in early 2016 – January to be precise (read my write-up of the “Fatal Illusion” single HERE). And this past Friday, fans got their first sampling of the as-of-now untitled release from Scott Ian and Co., a single entitled “Evil Twin”.

Immediately noticeable in “Evil Twin” is a new and improved rhythm guitar tone from Scott Ian – while Worship Music was a near-masterpiece, the rhythm tone did lack a certain thrash metal punch, reducing the power of pedal tone riffs on songs like “The Devil You Know” and “The Giant”. With an opening riff centered on pedal tones, “Evil Twin” serves as the perfect comparison, and the improvement is quite evident – the guitars sound heavier this time around. I realize some would considerate it disrespectful, ignorant – as well as a bunch of other useless adjectives I don’t give a shit about – for me to compare a veteran band to their metalcore offspring, but the main riff is very much an Anthrax’d version of Killswitch Engage’s “Rose of Sharyn”, at least before it bursts into punk-influenced rage.

Elsewhere, Joey Belladonna continues to contend for the G.O.A.T. spot among thrash metal vocalists (what’s up Bobby Blitz?), and delivers the thoughtfully-penned, topical lyrics in a way only he is capable of. I know this lyrical comparison is painfully obvious, but…”Holy Wars”, anyone? Newcomer Jonathan Donais (formerly of Shadows Fall) also delivers an appropriately shred-laced solo, although I am definitely going to miss Rob Caggiano.

My one gripe with this track is Charlie Benante’s choice not to sync the verse riff with double kick drums. Perhaps my neurological pathways are overrun with Fear Factory jams lately, but I can’t help but feel like locking in that guitar and bass groove with the kick drum would push the verses to an even heavier place.

It is no secret that Worship Music will be tough for Anthrax – and, quite frankly, any modern thrash band – to top, but “Evil Twin” effortlessly reaches the high bar set by that album and arguably lifts it higher. It is, simply put, a clinic in thrash metal circa 2015.

Megadeth’s “Fatal Illusion” Single

In the Megadeth world, the last year or so has been a PR whirlwind. There was the failed reunion of the Rust in Peace lineup, the sudden departure of guitarist Chris Broderick and drummer Shawn Drover, the exciting replacement drummer no one saw coming in Lamb of God’s Chris Adler, and a whole lot of sensationalized Blabbermouth headlines. In all fairness, it’s publicity like this that keeps a band relevant after releasing an album that was truly a skid mark on their legendary discography. Being the Megadeth diehard that I am, Super Collider remains the only album by the band that I cannot listen to (yep, Risk included – without Megadeth’s name on it, there’s some decent alternative rock hidden in there). The only thing that could’ve possibly ignited my interest in Super Collider’s follow-up was if the band recruited one of my favorite drummers and potentially my favorite guitar player of all-time…. wait a second, those would be Megadeth’s brand new members, the aforementioned Chris Adler and Angra’s Kiko Loureiro! Based on this alone, Megadeth’s instant jump in my mind from “washed up” to “I can’t wait for their new album” makes me feel like such a wishy washy hypocrite.

This past Thursday, Megadeth’s fifteenth album became public knowledge, with the title, release date, track list, and some truly awesome cover art all revealed, along with the premiere of first single “Fatal Illusion”. The album will be called Dystopia, and won’t be out until January 22nd of next year. I’m not sure whether to be charmed by Universal’s traditional album roll out or concerned by such a resistance to industry change. Either way, we now have the first Megadeth song since June 2013, and I couldn’t have been more curious to hear it.

“Fatal Illusion” is – at a minimum– the best Megadeth song since 2009’s Endgame. After a well-executed intro that allows the song to gradually build, we’re greeted by one of the meatiest bass tones I have ever heard, as David Ellefson introduces the main riff “Peace Sells” style. After that, it’s everything that makes Megadeth great, and everything Super Collider was missing. The song’s powerful main riff is amplified by Chris Adler’s hard-hitting double bass, which segues into a catchy verse groove straight out of the Rust in Peace playbook. Kiko Loureiro and Dave Mustaine sprinkle some indulgent lead playing throughout, adding some spice to the song’s structure. By the time the band erupts into the breakneck bridge section, “Fatal Illusion” has already sold itself. Megadeth are not fucking around this time.

Sonically, “Fatal Illusion” is along the lines of United Abominations and Endgame – the production strikes a successful balance between polish and edge. In addition to Ellefson’s stunning bass tone, the guitars and drums sound like Megadeth again, as opposed to the muddiness of Super Collider and its predecessor, Th1rt3en. Perhaps the biggest critical headache on Super Collider was Dave Mustaine’s lazy, painfully corny lyrical content, but “Fatal Illusion” makes significant strides in this department, despite the backseat role lyrics often assume in Megadeth. If you ask me, “It’s a fatal illusion that evil never dies” is pretty fucking badass.

With “Fatal Illusion”, Megadeth have made quite the statement. Super Collider is already disappearing from the rear view mirror, and the band’s new lineup gives the metal community – young and old – something to be truly excited about. I’m eagerly anticipating Dystopia’s January 22nd release. Well, either that or its inevitable leak.

Logic’s “Young Jesus” Single

Two weeks after the left-field announcement of The Incredible True Story, his follow-up to last year’s full-length debut Under Pressure, Maryland rapper Logic has premiered the project’s first single, “Young Jesus”.

Upon its promotion, The Incredible True Story was given the subtitle “a sophomore album and motion picture Sci-Fi epic from Logic”, to which my body instinctively responded with a cringe that reverberated throughout my body for days, like rippling water after a failed stone skip. The whole thing just reeked of lyricist-gets-distracted-by-overly-grandiose-concepts. Not to take away from magnificent hip-hop albums like Deltron 3030, good kid, m.A.A.d. city, or Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool, but there’s also shit like T.I. vs. T.I.P and Because the Internet. Where Logic’s 2014 debut Under Pressure succeeded was its directness, honesty, and commitment to the more intricate side of lyricism. Did the second half of the title track sound EXACTLY like Kendrick Lamar’s “Sing About Me”? Sure, it had a deadly trifecta of production, flow, and content lifted straight from King Kendrick. But Under Pressure was a promising release that left me eagerly awaiting Logic’s next move. A full-blown concept album threatens to be a leap where Logic needs a well-calculated step. However, a stand-alone track like “Young Jesus” has the luxury of simple surface judgments about the song’s quality, which, frankly, is all that should matter.

“Young Jesus” is one of the best songs of Logic’s young but prolific career. Less than a year removed from his first album, he sounds completely revamped – more confident, more aggressive, and more comfortable with himself. 6ix’s production gives Logic’s “take ‘em back to the nineties” ad-lib credibility, as the track’s hard-hitting boom bap does invoke a mid-nineties East Coast. The simplified “over here” refrain is certainly nineties as well.

Logic‘s bar trading with Rattpack’s Big Lenbo provides a nice lyrical balance, with both emcees leaning heavily on punchlines and posturing. Shout out to Big Lenbo for the particularly hilarious line “bitches want an autograph, I sign them titties with Crayon”. Seriously though, this fun and highly effective duet makes me wonder if Under Pressure would’ve benefitted from some features to break up its more monotonous moments. “Young Jesus” finds our protagonist all the more confident with a sidekick.

Having heard “Young Jesus”, I will certainly hold off on further premature assumptions regarding The Incredible True Story. Logic is already a noticeably better emcee than the wide-eyed rookie behind his debut album. And if the quality of the rapping and the quality of the music is there, experimentation with concepts and narratives is welcome and even encouraged to a point. Ambition, after all, is what will continue to propel Logic past his peers as long as his lyrical standards are upheld.