October 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:

Alter Bridge – Walk the Sky: Following the acclaimed Metal-tinged Hard Rock of 2013’s Fortress and 2016’s The Last Hero, “Creed plus Myles Kennedy” changed it up for album number six, with mixed results. The uplifting, positive, “zen” (their words) emotional direction of Walk the Sky inspired some thoughtful lyrics, and a profound exploration of existential angst, but the music got a bit “vanilla-fied” in the process, to coin a term. That being said, the band’s experiments with elements of Synthwave represent some of the LP’s notable high points, and hopefully in the future they’ll explore this some more. Here is a full review. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Bad Wolves – N.A.T.I.O.N.: I thought this was supposed to be a “Metal supergroup”? The L.A.-based band’s lineup – which includes ex-members of God Forbid, Devildriver, Divine Heresy, etc. – seems to suggest so. Well, I guess not. This is one of the worst and most egregiously pandering “Butt Rock” albums I’ve heard all year. YIKES. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Cigarettes After Sex – Cry: An absolutely mesmerizing second album from one of the very best in the modern Dream Pop movement. This record will become the most indispensable late-night drive soundtrack you never knew you needed in your life. And beneath its ethereal sheen, it’s got quite a visceral and even sexually-charged spirit to it. Getting into this band a few months ago was one of my best decisions of 2019. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

The Devil Wears Prada – The Act: I could never get into The Devil Wears Prada. Better yet, I don’t think I even gave them a fair shake. Maybe it was the “Christian Metalcore” tag that turned me off as a rage-filed 14-year-old. But as Three Days Grace once told mopey depressed teenagers, “it’s never too late”, and that rings true for me here. The Act is not only downright vicious at times, but the tortured lyrics are something to behold, most notably the haunting portrayal of depression on the single “Chemical”. The crushing retrospective longing of “As Kids” is nothing to sneeze at either. The depth of this record really took me by surprise! RECOMMENDED.

Insomnium – Heart Like a Grave: To be fair, there was no way Insomnium was gonna match the brilliance of their 2016 masterpiece Winter’s Gate, but Heart Like a Grave is a substantial drop-off. Tracks like the plodding “Mute is My Sorrow” and the sluggish “And Bells They Toll” weigh down otherwise excellent songwriting on the title track (which pulls off the impressive feat of carrying essentially one melody through most of the song and maintaining interest), the Winter’s Gate-esque “Twilight Trails”, and the dynamic “Pale Morning Star”. Now, do I hold these Melodic Death Metal masters to an unreasonably high standard? Yes I do. This is still a good record, albeit one that I’ll be cherry-picking from rather than revisiting front-to-back. Here is a full review. RECOMMENDED.

Jimmy Eat World – Surviving: Album number ten from these Pop-Punk legends is a decent, if uneven, platter of tracks. If you stick with this LP for a couple listens, though, you’ll find a song here or there to come back  to. The most paper-thin and poppy material (“555”, the title cut, “One Mill”) disproportionately populates the beginning of the tracklist, obscuring otherwise classic Jimmy Eat World moments that come a wee bit too late on the back end, like “Recommit” and “Congratulations”. But personally, I’m gonna stick to Clarity and Chase This Light. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Kanye West – Jesus is King: I’m not sure what makes me cringe harder, a bunch of pretentious neckbeards hating on this album for not conforming to their nihilistic  worldview, or religious conservative pundits like Dennis Prager pretending to support Kanye now because it conveniently conforms to theirs. The reaction to Jesus is King has been sickening, especially because we should instead be focusing on the following: the songs here are memorable and well-crafted, the displays of genuine humility, modesty, and self-examination from West are as pleasantly surprising as they are inspirational, and the worthwhile values espoused in these lyrics are urgently necessary in a modern society decimated by an epidemic of loneliness and lack of purpose. This is another landmark moment in Kanye’s career. It’s just a shame everyone chose to witness it with their ideological blinders on. RECOMMENDED.

Mike Posner – Keep Going: Shocked at how much I enjoyed this! After – in Posner’s own words – “losing 2018 to broken heart”, Michigan’s favorite two-hit wonder comes roaring back with his most mature, well-written, and satisfying project to date. Notably enlightened, and dare I say “spiritually-tinged” songs like “Amen”, “God’s Lottery”, and “Slow it Down” show that Posner’s complete breakdown brought him an immense amount of clarity, insight, and inner peace. What a delight to hear. Oh, and his lyricism as an MC reaches a career peak on Keep Going as well. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

A FEW MORE:

Enjoyed:

Danny Brown – U Know What I’m Sayin’? (Hip-Hop)

Exhumed – Horror (Metal)

Fit For an Autopsy – The Sea of Tragic Beasts (Metal)

Lacuna Coil – Black Anima (Rock)

Mayhem – Daemon (Metal)

Wilco – Ode to Joy (Alternative)

1349 – The Infernal Pathway (Metal)

 

Didn’t Enjoy:

Gatecreeper – Deserted (Metal)

Gost – Valediction (Electronic)

Wale – Wow…That’s Crazy (Hip-Hop)

Alter Bridge – Walk the Sky Album Review

Whew, it’s finally here! Thanks for your patience guys. Florida Hard Rock band Alter Bridge (a.k.a. “Creed Plus Myles Kennedy”) changed it up quite a bit for album number six, and it took me longer than usual to figure out how I felt about it.

I’m glad I took a little extra time, because I couldn’t be more proud of this review. I feel like I covered this record from every possible angle, and whether you agree or disagree, I really hope you find it entertaining! Full review below, thanks for watching!

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: