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Right On, Kid! – “Forever Missing Out” (Manic Kat Records)

As we inch closer and closer to summer (it’s coming, we promise), it’s time to get those sunny day soundtracks in order – you know, those mixtapes that you crank to 11 while sitting by the pool, playing cornhole and/or Kan Jam (hopefully both), sitting by the fire or just cruising with the windows down. And if you’re anything like us, those playlists are often dominated by pop-punk and we’re now making room for Right On, Kid! thanks to their latest release, Forever Missing Out.

After the opening title track sets the table, “Clarity” amps things up with reverent guitar tones, hyperactive snare drum play and even some dissonant screams tossed in for good measure. “Bier Castle” hits like an early morning Starbucks Venti Caramel Macchiato straight to the veins – a potent, no nonsense injection of pop-punk that clocks in at just over a minute, the aptly titled “Consistent” is just that – a prototypical, and yes, consistent, pop-punk anthem and Right On, Kid! save the best for last on “Loci,” a familial blast of energy that sounds more like early Senses Fail than anything else. This track could have easily found a home Let It Enfold You.

Forever Missing Out’s five tracks and 15 minutes freaking fly by, so what are you waiting for?

Go Download: “Loci”

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Society’s Plague – “Call to the Void” (Eclipse Records)

Infusing just the right amount of clean vocals into their potent mix of thrash and melodic death metal, Lexington, Kentucky’s Society’s Plague have delivered a memorable heavy record that’s more modern metal than metalcore with their second full length Call to the Void.

Society’s Plague’s entire arsenal is on display right off the bat on “Ashes For Air,” a pummeling affair full of razor ship riffs, thunderous drumming and truly dynamic vocals, a successful cacophonous recipe that bleeds over onto “Whispers,” an early highlight of Call to the Void. Soilwork’s Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid lends his operatic vocals to “Distant Waves,” creating an absolutely stunning pairing with vocalist Matt Newton, combining sky-high soaring refrains with low-end guttural screams. “The Fall” succeeds despite the questionable inclusion of a bed of synth thanks in large part to video game quality leads (seriously though, couldn’t you imagine these guitars in the next Mega Man?), “Broken By Design” and “Paramnesia” are epic slices of modern metal and Nelson shows off some of his melodic chops on “Fear Is Failure.” One of the strengths of Call to the Void is that it doesn’t fade down the stretch, as closer “Rise Of The Eidolon” is one of the album’s best tracks.

Sophomore slump be damned – Call to the Void is pretty impressive to say the least.

Go Download: “Distant Waves”

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Powerman 5000 – “New Wave” (Pavement Entertainment)

As one of the rare bands to actually survive the nu-metal movement, Powerman 5000 have actually thrived in its wake; seemingly getting better with each record they release. So, contrary to popular belief, this band did not peak with 1999’s Tonight The Stars Revolt! Case in point, their 11th studio album, New Wave, a bombastic affair that slots in as one of the bands best releases to date. PM5K get all industrial on the straight up rollicking “Hostage” and the subsequent “Sid Vicious In A Dress,” gush over the late David Bowie (rightly so) during the aptly titled loving tribute “David Fucking Bowie” and refuse to surrender on sullen ballad “White Flags,” before attempting to blow out eardrums everywhere with the shredding blast “Thank You,” a 1:11 detonation of sound. “Die On Your Feet” is a pure slice of Rob Zombie-inspired regalia (frontman Spider One is Zombie’s brother, so it’s makes sense, right?), the penultimate “Get A Life” is a nostalgic throwback to the chugging industrial of their Tonight! days, and the closing “Run for Your Life” somehow manages to have a strange Billy Idol vibe to it. With New Wave, Powerman 5000 do a great job blurring some genre lines and refuse to allow themselves to be painted into any one corner.

Go Download: “Get A Life”

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My Ticket Home – “unReal” (Spinefarm Records)

Forget everything you know about My Ticket Home because everything you think know is about to change. Often associated with the modern nu-metal movement, My Ticket Home has cast off the shackles of genre classification with their latest album unReal, a moody alt-metal journey that represents a newly matured sound for the band. But that’s not to say that My Ticket Home suddenly forgot how to be My Ticket Home (lead single “Thrush” is a perfect blast of the band’s newfound Deftones-adjacent sound, “Flee the Flesh” is a thick slab of dense, layered alt-metal, “Flypaper,” the album’s heaviest track, sounds taken off of the bands 2013 Strangers Only album thanks to churning guitars and frontman Nick Giumenti’s all-too-memorable bark, “Hyperreal” combines hypnotizing melodies with aggressive tones before devolving into a mixture of screams and reverb, “Redline” and “Gasoline Kiss” up the badass quotient of unReal thanks to waves of heady riffs). Perhaps the strongest attribute of unReal is its willingness to push boundaries (“Time Kills Everything” introduces dissonant and hazy atmospherics, “Cellophane” is dark, ominous and entirely powerful, “Down Life” is a dejected slice of gloom and despair, “Melancholia” explodes with explosive outbursts of emotion), succeeding time and time again in blurring genre lines. unReal is captivating, at times breathtaking, and well worth the four year wait.

Go Download: “We All Use”

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Soil – “SCREAM: The Essentials” (Pavement)

Soil’s career trajectory can be viewed as two sides of a coin – one with singer Ryan McCombs, and one without. The band shot to stardom during the nu-metal days with McCombs at the helm, plummeted into obscurity once he departed, and quickly returned to relevance upon his return. SCREAM: The Essentials is a flight path of the band’s turbulent trajectory, which starts at the beginning, quite literally with a few tunes off of Soil’s debut album Throttle Junkies (“Road To Ruin,” “Black Betty”) and, as you would expect, a good chunk of SCREAM: The Essentials is dedicated to Soils’ brilliant major label debut Scars (“Halo,” “Unreal,” “Breaking Me Down”) and subsequent follow-up Redefine (“Pride,” “Redefine,” “Can You Heal Me?” (Acoustic Version)), documenting the good ol’ days of the band before singer Ryan McCombs left the band only to end up in Drowning Pool, replaced by AJ Cavalier for a pretty forgettable run (“Give It Up,” featuring the late great Wayne Static and “Let Go” off True Self and “The Lesser Man” and “Like It Is” from Picture Perfect). McCombs would finally return for the band’s latest studio work, 2013’s Whole (“Shine On,” “The Hate Song” and “Way Gone”). The gems of the bunch are “Gimme Some Lovin’,” a new cover of The Blues Brothers song made famous by the film, which the band transformed into a gritty rock version, with a wonderful female component thanks to vocal contributions from Lindy Gabriel (Gabriel and the Apocalypse) and Cristina Feliciano (Oblivious Signal) and a cover of the classic Soundgarden song “Rusty Cage.” SCREAM: The Essentials delivers on nostalgia as well as optimism for the future of Soil.

Go Download: “Gimme Some Lovin’”

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I, The Dreamer – “Shadow Hearts” (Standby Records)

I, The Dreamer manage to be infectiously melodic without sacrificing their metallic thump, trading off chugging leads for soaring electronica-spattered hooks, much in the same vein as Sleeping with Sirens and I Prevail, on their latest, Shadow Hearts. Blistering guitar work and scorching vocals litter opener “Rise,” complete with stirring melodies and a killer breakdown, metalcore mostly takes a backseat to post-hardcore on the melodic “Echoes,” “Fearless” dissolves into an array of discordant screams and shredding riffs and standout track “The Black and White of Sleepless Nights” showcases I, The Dreamer’s innate ability to croon just as well as they crush. Shadow Hearts isn’t anything you haven’t heard before, but I, The Dreamer do what they do very well, so this EP should easily find a home in your playlist.

Go Download: “The Black and White of Sleepless Nights”

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High Down – “Moving On”

Armed with an arsenal of killer melodies in the form of their latest EP Moving On, UK punkers High Down deliver five tracks of some of the most explosive and anthemic pop-punk this side of the pond. “Life Lessons” is unavoidable; manifesting one memorable hook after another, a successful formula that continues on the bouncy “Making History” and powerhouse “All On You.” After channeling All Time Low’s “Remembering Sunday,” complete with the fantastic female vocal counterpart courtesy of Christina Rotondo, on the heartstring-plucking “Rescue Me” (‘My heart is the ocean and your love is the shore, I was drowning here without you but I’m not anymore,’ ‘I wish you could see what you mean to me, take a deep breath and dive into our destiny’), High Down supplies the good stuff one last time on closer “Against the Tide,” reminding us all why we were listening to Moving On in the first place – killer pop-punk.

Go Download: “Life Lessons”

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Sink In – “Ordinary People. Extraordinary Things” (Standby Records)

Opening with Jimmy V.’s now iconic ESPY Awards speech (“O.P.E.T.”), it’s hard to be anything other than inspired going into Sink In’s Ordinary People. Extraordinary Things. The band keeps that optimistic vibe going via a slew of upbeat pop rock entries bursting with bouncy rhythms and attractive melodies (“Higher,” “Get Out!,” “Absolute”), before the dance floor ready, synth-drenched “On the Radio,” featuring DAVII, provides a break from the standard fare of Ordinary People. Extraordinary Things, albeit not a very welcomed one. The quasi-spoken word “Tell the Kids” is a heartbreaking affair about a drug-addled mother who abandons her family, “Here & Now” is an emotive effort in nostalgia (frontman Tighe Eshleman simply asks ‘do you remember when?”) and bonus tracks “Wither,” one of Ordinary People. Extraordinary Things’ more powerful anthems, and “Castaway,” about as catchy as the album gets, round things out in memorable fashion. Ordinary People. Extraordinary Things is palpable and well written, two adjectives most often used to describe good albums, which this is.

Go Download: “Wither”

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Shatterproof – “Shatterproof” (Revival Recordings)

Shatterproof’s violin-laden onslaught of bombastic riffs and soaring hooks takes center stage on “So Punk,” the opener off of their genre-bending self-titled EP, before they tip their cap to early Panic! At The Disco on “Cookie Cutter Life,” which features driving riffs, carnival-like atmospherics and vocals that Brendon Urie would be proud of. Lead single “Karma” continues Shatterproof’s avant-garde sonic delivery with whiplash-inducing tempo changes and one hell of an aural landscape. “Definition of Fine” peels back yet another layer of the onion that is Shatterproof, introducing an entirely new dynamic and sound – it’s a slice of straight Top 40 alt-pop fire. On many other records this track would seem entirely out of place, but here it feels right at home. Closer “Lykos” plays like the true culmination of the five song set, thanks to a grandiose finish featuring an operatic falsetto declaring ‘this is the end.’ Shatterproof may not be for everyone, but there’s a good chance you won’t hear anything like it anytime soon.

Go Download: “Cookie Cutter Life”

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Album Review: DED – “Mis•an•thrope” (Suretone)

DED’s Mis•an•thrope is the record that nu-metal forgot; a powerful piece of throwback metal that’s every bit of Dope’s Life, Twisted Method’s Escape From Cape Coma and Korn’s Issues, or their more modern counterparts, My Ticket Home’s Strangers Only and Cane Hill’s Smile. From frontman Joe Cotela’s simple instructions of ‘when I say go, go psycho’ on uncompromising opener “Architect,” Mis•an•thrope is a towering inferno; 11 tracks of volcanic hot fire spewing forth with sheer venomous rage (“Anti-Everything” is a resounding rallying cry for the despondent and downtrodden (‘You won’t take me alive / I’d rather die than live in this prison / I am anti-everything’), tracks like “Dead To Me” and “FMFY,” lost tracks from Slipknot’s self-titled debut in another life, just want to watch the world burn (‘So fuck me and fuck you too / The world should start over new / Bring out the guillotine / Save all the sympathy,’ Cotela screams off the top of “FMFY”), the accessible “Remember the Enemy” plays like an impactful single lying in wait, standout “Disassociate” is a stunning display of aggression, “Rope” is a manifesto for the lovelorn (‘I’m done choking on your mediocrity / A fucking ton of this empty vanity / I’m putting my foot down’)). And in classic nu-metal fashion, DED ties a bow on Mis•an•thrope by tugging on the old heartstrings with closing ballad “Beautiful” (see Lifer’s “Perfect,” Disturbed’s “Darkness,” Stereomud’s “Perfect Self,” and so on and so forth). Come year’s end, if Mis-An-Thrope isn’t 2017’s top metal release, it should end up at 1a or 1b.

Go Download: “Disassociate”

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Album Review: Maypine – “In The Back Of My Mind” (Disconnect Disconnect Records)

There’s nothing inherently bad about Maypine’s new EP In The Back Of My Mind or any real fault to be found throughout its five tracks. This UK product plays pop-punk and they do it pretty well. The problem is, that can be said about a lot of other bands as well. Openers “A Little Sooner” and “North South Divide” radiate sunny vibes with bouncy cadences and energetic rhythms, calling to mind Warped Tour parking lots and the summer nights driving with the windows down, “Inside Out” provides a highlight thanks to a killer breakdown, acoustic tear-jerker “Never Far Apart” is an instant standout with a Dashboard Confessional-meets-Brand New aesthetic and In The Back Of My Mind ends with another accessible pop-punk anthem in “Day After Day.” Don’t expect a reinvention of the wheel on In The Back Of My Mind, but its quality pop-punk nonetheless.

Go Download: “Inside Out”

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Album Review: Vault 51 – “Kid”

As a pure rock record, Vault 51’s Kid covers all the bases, playing out like a roller coaster throughout its six tracks. Opening with heavy riffs, big choruses and gritty vocals on the crunchy “Thirty-Six,” Kid hits its first big drop on the album’s heaviest output “We Don’t Care,” a beefy radio-ready track equipped to take its place next to the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus’ and Trapt’s of the world. The album plummets into a valley on lead single “Magnolia,” a memorable mid-tempo rocker that still manages to pack a punch thanks to a litany of screams from frontman Landon Jones, “Wildfire” expands the reaches of Kid with expansive hooks, the ethereal “Mourning View” is somber and haunting and closer “Sincerely Me” brings everything full circle with chunky guitars and swirling vocals. You can never have too many good rock records and Vault 51’s Kid surely classifies as such.

Go Download: “Magnolia”

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Album Review: KillSET – “S.T.F.U.”

It’s no secret that nu-metal died a long time ago. But apparently no one told KillSET. Even though the much-maligned genre has become a punchline and the butt of many jokes nowadays, this rock outfit is helping to lead the charge of a mini-nu-metal revolution. While their latest, S.T.F.U. gets off to a slow start (opener “Get Up” is worth four minutes of your time), it picks up steam as it rolls on “Tomorrow,” a destructive force of rap metal verses and stomping screams. KillSET transform the innocent and breezy early-90’s R&B vibe of Kris Kross’ “Jump” into something intrinsically dangerous, vocalist Luca shines on “How Dare You” and “Animal,” showcasing his full arsenal, from lofty melodies and rap interludes to aggressive outbursts, token ballad “Not A Love Song” provides a late highlight and closer “Don’t Let Me Die” is an explosive smattering of guitars, deep bass lines and intense vocals. There’s some bumps along the way on S.T.F.U. but there’s some good to be found here if you’re willing to look for it.

Go Download: “Tomorrow”

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Album Review: The Nightmare Police – “Losing The Light”

Harkening back to the early days of Bayside, The Nightmare Police’s gruff new EP Losing The Light revives that early emo sound that we all know and love. Two-fifths of Losing The Light brings to mind the raw emotion of Alkaline Trio and Jimmy Eat World (“Medicine Cabinet” is straight ahead alt-rock with memorable hooks, “Whoa” is instantly infectious thanks to contagious melodies and more than enough ‘woah-oh’s’ to sink your teeth into), while the other 60 percent emotes the passion of that afore mentioned early emo era (gravel-throated screams lace opener “Taking Hold,” which plays like a sonic time machine, “Transitions” is a curt blast of top notch pop-punk, “Where Were You?” features passionate wails and upbeat measures). Rest assured, Losing The Light plays well in today’s modern landscape – it isn’t merely an effort in nostalgia.

Go Download: “Transitions”

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Album Review: Conveyer – “No Future” (Victory Records)

On their latest album No Future, Conveyer deliver track after track of piledriving melodic hardcore, the type which should satiate longtime fans of Victory Records. Maddening screams, punishing riffs, bleak breakdowns and hefty percussion dot the landscape of No Future (“Dust” is a quick, appetizing blast of urgent galloping leads, frontman Danny Adams delivers relatable and emotional bars like ‘It took this long to figure out / How you stole my confidence / Everyday I’m reminded of how I never truly felt never good enough for someone else’ on the standout “The Whetstone,” “New Low” is perhaps as well rounded as the album comes (though “Carrier” is a close second), “Disgrace” is crushing and pit-inducing). No Future hits its stride with “Levity,” which adds some staunch melodic hooks to the mix and the unforgiving title track, which houses razor sharp riffs and truly killer breakdowns. The record tends to fade at times with the tracks becoming too same-sounding, but No Future is passionately penned enough to overcome some of it pratfalls.

Go Download: “No Future”

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First Annual Cobblestone Live! Music and Arts Festival: The Ultimate Buffalo Music Fest

You know the names and maybe even the places – England has Glastonbury and Download, Germany has Wacken Open Air, California has Coachella and Chicago has Lollapalooza (not to mention literally dozens and dozens of other great music festivals across the globe). And now Buffalo has Cobblestone Live! Music and Arts Festival, which could soon become the Queen City’s signature music fest, a welcome addition to our summer’s already jam packed outdoor event schedule.

The inaugural Cobblestone Live! Music and Arts Festival, located in the heart of the Historic Cobblestone district in downtown Buffalo, on July 15 and 16, is brought to all of us by Buffalo Iron Works, Lockhouse Distillery and Sunbeam Entertain ment. A portion of all proceeds from the fest will go directly to benefit Planned Parenthood (find ticket info below).

While Western New York has endless summer concert series, Kiss the Summer Hello, Kerfuffle and so on and so forth, Cobblestone Live! presents something different and something so inherently Buffalo.

“It’s important to showcase the local scene,” Buffalo Iron Works General Manager Josh Holtzman says. “Nationals get a broader reach and they pull people from outside markets, and so we wanted that, too. But this was all put together by people who really care about the city and the talent in the area, so we committed to a festival that would be comprised of more than half local talent. The businesses involved are all local, too, from the vendors to the production staffing – it’s all Buffalo.”

“It’s true that a lot of successful festivals have a very narrow focus, but this festival is particular to Buffalo, it’s reflective of the community that is producing it. And Buffalo has eclectic taste. When we put our heads together, we wanted to come up with a lineup that offers a little something for everyone, that covers a lot of ground,” he adds.

The first annual music and arts festival will feature three stages  – one located outside on Illinois Street, one inside Iron Works and one inside Lockhouse. Music enthusiasts can eat, drink and consume the best that Buffalo has to offer, all while enjoying sounds from acts such as Moon Taxi, Real Estate, Aqueous, Moon Hooch, The Hip Abduction, Solidisco, Wild Child, The Dig, Delicate Steve, Funktional Flow & more. In addition to three stages featuring over 35 artists/bands, there will be food trucks, beer tents, local vendors and outdoor activities so attendees can wander from stage to stage to get the full experience.

“I’m really looking forward to all the great music,” Sonny Baker, who will perform solo and as part of local institution Lazlo Holyfield, says. “I’m excited to be a part of such a great lineup and getting the chance to play both days. They’ve curated such a great mix of national and local acts. This town has so much talent to offer and they’ve done a great job picking out some of Buffalo’s best. With that being said, I’m also excited for people to have the chance to check out all of these bands in the span of two days. I love that people can come and go whenever they want. A lot of bands that are playing early get passed over by people that can’t make it to a club at midnight. And then there are a lot of heavy hitters playing at night. Something for everyone. I can’t wait to see how all of this plays out. The organizers have been doing a great job so far. It’s long overdue for Buffalo to have a festival like this downtown. Great spot, good people and great music.”

 

Gates open at 1pm and music starts at 2pm daily, and music at the outdoor mainstage will end at 11pm, with music continuing in Iron Works and Lockhouse until 2am. Perhaps the most unique aspect of Cobblestone Live! is that re-entry will be allowed, something mostly unheard of at music festivals, but hopefully will become a trend in the future.

“With two days and nights of music spread across three stages, we realize that people might need to take a break, maybe stop back at home, or simply get a change of scenery,” Holtzman says. “We want people to come for as short or as long of a period of time as they want to and are able to. We just want them to come.”


Tickets are still available – $25 day tickets / $45 two day pass / $100/$200 VIP levels – and can be purchased at www.cobblestonelive.com.  VIP Level 1 include a Two Day Pass, access to VIP areas at Main Stage, Iron Works Stage & Lockhouse Stage, complimentary food at VIP tents, special merchandise items and collectible laminate from Cobblestone Live and more perks TBA and the VIP Level 2 includes all of that and a private Sunday brunch with live music from The Emporium (Mike & Dave of Aqueous) & Midnight Snack as well as a private open bar Happy Hour on Saturday.

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CD Review: Patent Pending – “Other People’s Greatest Hits” (Rude Records)

When it comes to covers albums, fun is the name of the game, a memo Patent Pending clearly received and took to heart on their latest, Other People’s Greatest Hits, all the way the down to the album art, which features the heads of the five band members super-imposed onto the Beatles iconic Sgt. Pepper and the Lonely Hearts Club album cover. Other People’s Greatest Hits is a freight train of fun, starting with a bizarre yet splendid pop-punk mashup of Tiesto’s “Wasted” and Avicii’s “Wake Me Up,” which is better off heard than simply read about and like Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You, Patent Pending transforms Frankie Valli’s timeless hit “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” into a stadium rock anthem. Other People’s Greatest Hits isn’t a complete effort in jest either, as the band presents a number of pretty perfect takes, including a masculine take on the Spice Girls’ “Spice Up Your Life,” spot-on renditions of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” and Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” and a surprise highlight in Joe Bellion’s “All Time Low.” Elsewhere, Patent Pending somehow manage to transform The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” into Andrew W.K.-lite, get sexy during a silky take on Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You,” and succeed in making Miley Cyrus sound good with the closing “See You Again.” Other People’s Greatest Hits doesn’t take itself too seriously and it’s a better album because of it.

Grade: B+

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CD Review: Rebel Beat – “Steel Dust” (Pavement)

Rap rock has become something of a punch line as of late, thanks in large part to Limp Bizkit and the like; a genre that most often looked at as a four letter word than anything else. Fortunately for Rebel Beat, they fall more in line with the rap rock stylings of Hollywood Undead than anything else, much to the benefit of their debut full length Steel Dust. Rebel Beat waste no time in showcasing what they’re all about on opener “I’m The Law,” a true piece of rap rock that sounds a bit Kottonmouth Kings-esque, but from there, Steel Beat is more than a mere paint-by-numbers  genre entry. The album leans closer to Linkin Park-Hybrid Theory territory with crunchy riffs, gigantic hooks and rap accents (“Swinging Around,” “Red Rock,” “Steel Dust,” “Ferguson”). Rebel Beat also isn’t afraid to get heavy as evidenced by “Melody,” which features by far the albums heaviest guitar work. Not all of Steel Dust is up to snuff however (“One Man” is ultimately forgettable by the end of the record, “Away” seems lacking by comparison). Luckily for Steel Dust, its’ forgettable moments are very few and far between.

Go Download: “Melody”

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CD Review: FOREVERANDNEVER – “Promises”

There’s something tangibly nostalgic about FOREVERANDNEVER’s new three-song set Promises, a welcoming feel that immediately envelops the listener. Raw emotion pours from each note of the sprawling opener “Promises” with passionately woven bars like ‘I’m sick and tired of all / The fights / The screams now become so quiet / I can’t hear you now / Was everything perfect here for you? / Mouth like a storm, you’re pale blue,’ before FOREVERANDNEVER shifts gears and put their foot on the gas for the thunderous “Like Wolves,” which pairs deafening cymbal crashes with tormented vocals and churning guitars. But not to be outdone, Promises saves perhaps the best for last in the roiling “One With The Night,” a nod to latter day Brand New that breaks down into a turbulent sea of guitars and drums. Maybe it’s the fact that Promises sounds like it should have been released 10 or 15 years ago. Or maybe it’s the fact that this is just a very good EP. It’s hard to pinpoint but the latter seems right.

Go Download: “One With The Night”

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CD Review: Brighter Than A Thousand Suns – “The Way Out”

As Brighter Than A Thousand Suns sing on “What’s Inside,” the closing oeuvre of their brilliant EP The Way Out, ‘open your heart and open your mind,’ two things you should do before pressing play and embarking on this four-song sonic voyage. The Way Out is awash with rampant electronic flourishes and rolling swaths of lush synth (Angelika Roswell truly shines on “The Upside Down,” channeling In This Moment’s Maria Brink as she transverses absolutely shattering vocal outbursts and magnificent hooks, the EP’s driving title track, which serves as its lead single, is inescapably catchy and insanely memorable, Roswell takes flight during “Hole In Your Heart,” and delivers a vocal performance on “What’s Inside” that would make Lacuna Coil’s Cristina Scabbia do a double take). Roswell is an unquestionable star throughout The Way Out, an impressive, albeit brief, album. Go out of your way to listen to this album right now.

Go Download: “The Upside Down”

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CD Review: Kill the Clock – “Southgate”

Combining the infectious swag of new school pop-punk with the angst and grit of mid-90’s punk, Buffalo’s Kill the Clock impress on their far-too-brief new EP, Southgate. Because at only three tracks, that might be the EP’s only downfall. Opener “Ode to Cheating Death” pairs punchy guitars, bouncy hooks and anxious lines, “Withered” offers a tip of the cap to The Starting Line and Kill the Clock even save their best for last on Southgate. Instead of recapping a conversation between Matilda, Hansel and Derek about their all-night freak fest (seriously people, watch Zoolander), “Earth To Matilda” is a vitriolic spitefest lined with vicious bars centered around a poor lass named Matilda (‘I hope you take the hint and grow the fuck up / Count to ten and run away / As I start a fire / At the end of this rope / Leading to the gas tank of your car / I hope you’re in the front seat putting your makeup on / When the flame ignites the engine and you / Watch your life flash before your eyes / In the mirror as a I blow a kiss goodbye). Just like these songs themselves, Southgate is raw, unapologetic and straight to the point.

Go Download: “Earth to Matilda”

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CD Review: Vanish – “From Sheep To Wolves” (Outerloop Records)

There’s some My Chemical Romance The Black Parade theatrics on “From Sheep To Wolves,” the opening title track off of Vanish’s latest EP, no small coincidence since the band too hail from New Jersey, thanks to some operatic ‘woah-ohs’ and key piano work. Devastating vocal refrains coexist with sparkling melodies and ominous tones on “Only In My Head,” Vanish launches into full-on post-hardcore mode on the soaring “Stromalong Harbor” and keep that switch flipped on the explosive “Dead.” And if that all weren’t enough, Ice Nine Kills’ Spencer Charnas delivers one of the highlight moments of From Sheep To Wolves when he drops by on the closing “Paper House,” upping the decibel level alongside Vanish frontman Patrick Hamilton. From Sheep To Wolves could have benefitted from a few more outings like the crushing “Heaven Sent // Hell Bound,” the albums heaviest track and one in which Hamilton truly shines behind the mic, however. At 27 minutes, From Sheep To Wolves is certainly an adventurous EP, but there’s a lot to like here.

Go Download: “Only In My Head”

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CD Review: Hell or Highwater – “Vista” (Spinefarm Records)

 

Hell or Highwater play to their strengths on their sophomore album Vista, an album peppered with bombastic alt-rock led by the warming tones of Atreyu drummer Brandon Saller. Opener “Colors” is all things anthemtic, the arena-ready “Walk Out in the Rain” is truly inescapable, “Don’t Hate Me” has all the makings of a rock radio hit and the cocksure bravado of “I Want It All” stands out late in the game. Vista isn’t without its blemishes however; though a portion of those imperfections stem from the album’s willingness to take more than a few sonic chances (the Queens of the Stone Age-esque “Lighter Than Air” sounds nothing like the rest of the album, “Dame” introduces subtle horns and an entirely different attitude, Saller returns to his folksy solo roots as he breaks out the falsetto on “Pieces,” closer “Revolution” sounds closer to something you’d expect from Imagine Dragons). With Vista, Hell or Highwater do what all bands should on their second album – effectively build upon their debut, which Saller and the gang do a pretty damn fine job of here.

Grade: B

Go Download: “I Want It All”

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CD Review: Seether – “Poison the Parish” (Canine Riot/Concord)

From the very onset of Seether’s Poison the Parish, the band’s seventh album and first to be produced by frontman Shaun Morgan, it’s clear that this trio is out for blood, or perhaps they might just be out to prove something. Opener “Stoke the Fire” is a tidal wave of down-tuned guitars and loud cymbal crashes that devolve into Morgan screaming ‘who’s gonna stoke the fire?’ “Betray and Degrade” continues that manic formula, complete with one hell of a frantic onslaught during its latter stages, “Something Else” and “I’ll Survive” work to calm the waters of Poison the Parish a bit, though bombastic riffs and huge hooks still rule the day and massive single “Let You Down” is pure hard rock bliss, delivering everything you want in all the right places. From there, “Against the Wall” fills the power ballad column, “Let Me Heal” ventures into Coheed and Cambria territory, the vitriolic “Saviours” pay homage to Nirvana’s raw garage spirit, “Count Me Out” plays like a cathartic release for Morgan, “Emotionless” introduces a bit of sludge into Poison the Parish, and closer “Take a Minute” brings the album full circle, closing things out with another staunch wall of heavy sound. Poison the Parish is relentless, uncompromising and Seether’s heaviest output in years. If the band has proven anything with Poison the Parish, it’s that they still hold a place among rock music’s elite.

Grade: B+

Go Download: “Stoke the Fire”

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CD Review: Ten Cents Short – “Major Steps, Minor Setbacks”

 

Like an extra shot of espresso in your caramel macchiato, Ten Cents Short deliver a concentrated dose of potent pop-punk straight to the heart on their sophomore EP Major Steps, Minor Setbacks. From caffeinated guitars blasts to exuberant call-and-response vocals, the EP clearly benefits from the production touches of Four Year Strong’s Alan Day (“Draw the Line,” “Setback”), leading to more than one highlight reel worthy track along the way. “Beggars” is one such instance thanks to well-written stanzas and infectious melodies, as is closer “Make It,” which sees the band coming to grips with a love gone sour (‘I’m better on my own / I think I’m better off alone,’ the band laments). Major Steps, Minor Setbacks is good, bouncy, pop-punk fun, and at only 5 tracks in length, the replay value is strong with this album.

Grade: B-

Go Download: “Beggars”

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CD Review: Kingdom Of Giants – “All The Hell You’ve Got To Spare” (InVogue Records)

 

Kingdom of Giants deliver a mostly immersive experience on their latest, All The Hell You’ve Got To Spare, an engulfing array of progressive metalcore packed to the gills with strident djent riffs that repeatedly build and crest before crashing down with incredible force; a potent dynamism guided by frontman Dana Willax’s effortless gritty-then-melodic-and-back-again delivery (“Cash Out,” “Damaged Goods,” “Bored To Death,” “Speakeasy”). A trio of guest spots help to buoy All The Hell You’ve Got To Spare, as ERRA’s JT Cavy brings some true heaviness to “Tunnel Vision,” the bleak as shit “Lost Cause” features Daniel Gailey from Phinehas swaddling austere lines like ‘there was never a time that I prayed in church, and now I find myself praying for the whole fucking world’ in swaths of memorable guitar licks, and Caitlyn Mae offers a soft touch on “Gray Area,” ending the record on a serene yet somber tone. It’s clear that Kingdom Of Giants refuse to be sonically typecast, and with All The Hell You’ve Got To Spare they manage to stand out from most of their like-sounding brethren.

Grade: B+

Go Download: “Damaged Goods”

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CD Review: Younger Then – “Younger Then” (Standby Records)

 

With a sound and presence seemingly well beyond their years, Buffalo’s Younger Then (who only formed in 2015) combine elements of Kings of Leon’s heartfelt song structures and Young the Giant’s true indie rock sensibilities on their latest eponymous EP. With only a six song window, Younger Then manage to captivate via driving melodies and memorable hooks (vocalist Zack Dupuis shines early and often on energetic opener “December,” the powerful “Ghost” introduces an unforgettable swagger into the mix, “Forget Love” is transcendent and ticks all of the boxes, the bouncy “Sweetest” ups the pace during the EP’s latter half, “Like Hell” is as grandiose as it is emotional, expansive closer “Uproot” is overflowing with lush, vibrant passion). As a prelude to a now highly anticipated full length, Younger Then succeeds on many levels.

Grade: B

Go Download: “Ghost”

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CD Review: Lions Lions – “Monument”

Putting their best foot forward on “Circles,” the opening track isn’t the last time the word memorable can be used to describe Lions Lions’ latest entry Monument (“Standby” is a potent mix of stellar vocal work and badass guitar riffs, “Bliss” is immaculate thanks to perfect hooks and inescapable melodies, good luck getting “I’m Not Afraid” out of your head after Monument concludes,  frontman Joshua Herzer soars to new heights on the standout “Between Us,” Lions Lions play their post-hardcore card on “The Bridge”). And all of that comes before perhaps Monument’ best track “Sleepwalking” hits your headphones, which sees Herzer showcasing his veritable range, going from silky smooth tones to a lofty falsetto in mere seconds. After you spend some time with Monument, you’ll be left scratching your head as to how Lions Lions do not have a record deal. These Boston products remain one of music’s best kept secrets, but you can unlock that secret with Monument, one of this year’s best releases to date.

Grade: A

Go Download: “Sleepwalking”

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CD Review: Nothing Left – “Destroy and Rebuild” (Facedown Records)

 

Aptly titled Destroy and Rebuild, former For Today members Ryan and Brandon Leitru do just that on the debut EP from Nothing Left, a 6-song bombardment of floor-punching, circle pit-inducing heaviness. The onslaught begins with Nothing Left sounding the alarm on the opening title track, before burning everything down on the caustic, breakdown-filled “Hands of Death.” Those seeking solace won’t find it on curt blast “Eternal Defiance” (‘death will always follow you when you tip the scales of justice,’ Nothing Left proclaims), “Burn It Away” is a blistering assortment of chugging riffs and truly menacing tones, things take a bleak turn on “No Way Out” as the band declares ‘we’re all just slaves to the system’ amidst a bevy of shattering guitars and corrosive vocals, and there’s no rest for the wicked on closer “Widen the Wound,” which just pours more gas onto the fire as Destroy and Rebuild fades out. Not to mince words, Destroy and Rebuild is heavy AF. This shit could be hazardous to your health.

Grade: B+

Go Download: “Eternal Defiance”

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CD Review: The Without – “Factions”

 

Combining the gritty candor of Cancer Bats and the bounding intensity of Every Time I Die, The Without impress with their debut EP Factions. Opener “Play Tricks” is the EP’s sonic outlier thanks to its infusion of glam rock bravado which features frontman Michael Draper delivering the lines ‘your body wants it bad and that’s good, cause your mind will play tricks on you,’ during the hook before melting down into a barrage of screams (‘you must have lost your mind!’). The Without puts it all together on “Dead Gold,” a slick modern rock banger that pretty well sums up Factions in a nutshell – spastic vocals that transition from strained shouts to melodic bluster backed by churning riffs and concussive drumming. The Without straight up take their swag game to the next level on the closing “Rat Party,” with Draper emulating Keith Buckley to a T, adding an exclamation point to Factions, a memorable debut EP. Hey, it’s only four songs, but they’re damn good.

Grade: B+

Go Download: “Dead Gold”

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CD Review: Blacktop Mojo – “Burn The Ships (Cuhmon Records)

Blacktop Mojo makes rock music for the American working man, because that’s who they are, and that’s who they care about. Ray Zalinski quotes aside (although that statement is pretty true), the bands’ sophomore release Burn The Ships is, not to mince words, one hell of a rock record. After “Where the Wind Blows” and “Burn The Ships” set the table for things to come on Burn the Ships, the band tugs at the heartstrings on powerful ballad “Prodigal” (‘One of these days I won’t be around / I’ll rip my roots up from this ground,’ frontman Matt James wails) while delivering one of Burn the Ships’ most memorable guitar solos before things take a turn for the heavy on colossal standout “Shadows on the Wall” and “Sweat,” a stomping homage to the blue-collar working class (‘If sweat were money I’d be a millionaire / I make my living on sweat and blood’); “8000 Lines” is a dynamic outing that combines demonstrative riffing with warm guitar plucks, instant classic “Chains” pretty damn well defines Burn The Ships in four minutes and acoustic closer “Underneath” showcases James’ immense vocal skill even further. Blacktop Mojo places an emphatic stamp on Burn the Ships with a sensational take on Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” a song that is immeasurably difficult to get right, adding a bit of southern rock to the timeless track. With ammunition as potent as Burn the Ships, Blacktop Mojo have what it takes to be one of the next great rock bands.

Grade: B+

Go Download: “Shadows on the Wall”

 

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CD Review: Various Artists – “Music For Everyone” (Collective Confusion Records/Sub City Records)

 

Music is great in its own right, but when it’s used to make a positive change, to help give back and ultimately create more good in this world, that’s when it’s true power shines through. The Music For Everyone compilation is one of those intersections where good music and an even better cause meet, as proceeds from album sales go to directly benefit the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Compiled by Taking Back Sunday’s John Nolan with help from Collective Confusion Records, Hopeless Records and the Sub City, Music For Everyone unites artists who have provided rare, unreleased and/or brand new music to voice their concern about the current political landscape. With this cause, it would stand to reason then that political punkers Anti-Flag kick things off with “Buried The Shame,” a quick and to-the-point burst of good ol’ punk rock. There are plenty of highlights throughout Music For Everyone’s 27 tracks; Taking Back Sunday emotionally breaks things down in a way only they can on “Just A Man” before returning to supply the musical bed for Blackalicious’ Gift Of Gab on the superbly penned “When Justice Comes,” Anthony Green paints a sparse landscape on minimalist plucker “Spanish Moss,” a palpable feeling nearly matched by Secret Space’s “Point Of Change,” Frank Iero goes all Frank Iero on manic standout “Getting Into Heaven Can Be Hell,” Modern Chemistry shines on rocker “The OverThinker” and The Republic Of Wolves slow things down on the sullen “Birdless Cage.” Music for Everyone is an album can change our country. Literally.

The Music For Everyone compilation is available for a pay-what-you-want price with a minimum of $10 at https://musicforeveryone.bandcamp.com. For more information and testimonials from the participating artists on why they wanted to be involved, visit www.musicforeveryone.us.

Grade: B+

Go Download: Frank Iero – “Getting Into Heaven Can Be Hell”

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CD Review: Tuxedo – “Tuxedo II” (Stones Throw Records)

 

Mothers hide your daughters and brothers hide your sisters because Tuxedo (the joint project between Jake One and Mayer Hawthorne) is back with Tuxedo II, a full-on onslaught of the senses – 11 boudoir anthems that will have you dancing in the streets and between the sheets. Returning all three tracks from their Fux with the Tux EP (“Fux with the Tux” has so much swagger it could make Bruno Mars jealous, “Special” ebbs and flows thanks to monolithic synth and stimulating work by Tuxedo’s rhythm section and closer “July” slows things down with deep bass notes, striking vocal harmonies and engulfing atmospherics), Tuxedo II lights up the dance floor on countless occasions (“2nd Time Around” is silky smooth and endlessly infectious thanks to inescapable hooks, “Take A Picture” is unadulterated 70’s R&B euphoria led by chunky bass and sparkling arrangements, the debonair “Shine” introduces a sexy female vocal component, “Back In Town” is a nice nod to Morris Day & The Time). Hell, Tuxedo even shines sans vocals on the instrumental “Scooter’s Groove.” It’s time to don your Sunday best because Tuxedo II is going to make you move one way or another, so you better make sure your wardrobe is breathable.

Grade: A-

Go Download: “2nd Time Around”

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CD Review: The Bunny The Bear – “The Way We Rust” (Needful Things Records)

After taking a slight left hand turn on 2015’s A Liar Wrote This, The Bunny The Bear are up to their old tricks again on The Way We Rust, their debut for Needful Things Records and first album since leaving Victory Records, which introduces two very important elements – first, Joseph Garcia replaces Haley Roback as The Bear (5.0), and perhaps more importantly, The Bunny, Matthew Tybor is now sober, and we’re all better for it. All those If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say… feels come flooding back immediately on “I Am Free,” introducing us to Tybor and Garcia’s palpable chemistry, while “Andrea” is plain and simple vintage TBTB – Tybor handles the rough stuff while Garcia paints the skies with lofty melodies, all underpinned with synth touches and electronic flourishes. Tybor spits venom on instant classic “Love Lies,” before Garcia takes flight on one of the album’s best hooks, the guys fall down the rabbit hole (PUNS!) on the emotional “Second Hand Smoke,” which effectively gives The Way We Rust an entirely new look, the explosive “Bloody Lip” showcases what this band can be when The Bear and The Bunny are firing on all cylinders and “Last Call (Interlude)” is a nice shout to TBTB’s hometown of Buffalo (‘In my city the bars stay open ‘til 4am’) before The Way We Rust enters the stratosphere with the sprawling closer “Revisiting Romance,” which finds Tybor screaming ‘I gave you all that I have’ over and over as the scene fades to black. An argument can certainly be made for The Way We Rust as The Bunny The Bear’s best record to date, and if it’s not, it’s certainly one of them.

Grade: B+

Go Download: “Love Lies”

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CD Review: Bunglr – “The Nature of Being New” (Innerstrength Records)

As Samuel L. Jackson famously said in Jurassic Park, ‘hold onto your butts.’ And you best strap in and hold on tight as you embark on Bunglr’s latest, The Nature of Being New, as nothing short of sheer unhinged lunacy awaits. How Bunglr frontman Greg Kolb still has functioning vocal chords after recording The Nature of Being New is a mystery because his throat-shredding delivery is madness personified (“Finders Keepers, Takers Leavers” is a haze of distorted guitars, frenzied screams and loud cymbal crashes, strenuous vocal refrains reign supreme on the rifftastic “Double Gare,” “Rotting Fruit (Is for the Birds)” is the definition of chaos, the guitar bridge midway through “Closest Confident” is perfection). The Nature of Being New is so maniacal in fact that when the band lightens things up on “Dead Breath,” it’s incredibly jarring. But don’t worry because you’re quickly returned to your regularly scheduled program on the following “Smooth Hysteria.” Also, the penultimate “Opia” is a thick cut of doom-and-gloom and (spoiler alert) The Nature of Being New ends with someone enjoying a bag of chips during “Feed Him Gravel.” Yes, this record is really that metal. At the end of The Nature of Being New’s 32 minutes, your head is going to ache, your ears are going to throb and your asshole is going to bleed, and not necessarily in that order.

Grade: A-

Go Download: “Rotting Fruit (Is for the Birds)”

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CD Review: Blood Divisions – “Cardinal One” (Metal Blade Records)

Expanding on their 2015 eponymous EP, Blood Divisions, a supergroup consisting of a veritable heavy music who’s-who like Chris Jericho (Fozzy), Dave Austin (Nasty Savage), Ralph Santola (Death, Obituary, Testament), Terry Butler (Obituary, Death), Greg Gall (Six Feet Under), Bill Owen (Purgatory), Ben Meyer (Nasty Savage), Ed Aborn (Intersonic Cyber Symphony) and Ken Andrews (Obituary) to name a few, Cardinal One adds a pair of instrumental originals and another pair of covers to the mix. In addition to Nasty Savage’s nine-minute oeuvre “The Morgue,” a track that sees Jericho go from subdued whispers and hushed refrains to snarling rebel yells and impassioned battle cries and the Scorpions’ straight up hard rocker “Top of the Bill,” Blood Divisions cranks up the 80’s hair flare with their boisterous take on U.F.O.’s “Hot and Ready,” which has the band sounding like KISS in all their Lick It Up excess and put all of their combined metal mastery in motion on the album’s second Nasty Savage cover “No Sympathy,” a six-string shredfest that features exhausting, blistering riffs and Jericho hitting the highest of falsetto notes. Of the two original works included on Cardinal One, “March of the Machine Elves” is an instrumental opus that runs the gamut of the band’s endless musical capabilities that turns downright demonic, while “Return to the Garden of Temptation” sounds plucked from some epic movie score. With Cardinal One, it’s clear that Blood Divisions are masters of their craft, and once again they have left us all wanting more.

Grade: B+

Go Download: “Hot and Ready”

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CD Review: Villain of the Story – “Wrapped In Vines, Covered In Thorns” (Stay Sick Recordings)

While Wrapped In Vines, Covered In Thorns gets off to a somewhat tempered start with “GHC,” and although it does a nice job laying out the particulars of the album to come, the training wheels come off on the blistering “Dragon Sickness,” as Villain of the Story pair towering hooks with scorching vocals and punishing breakdowns, a combination that quickly becomes the albums calling card (“A Message for Mr. Rascal,” “Promise Me,” The One Reborn,” “Wrapped in Vines, Covered in Thorns”). “Never Coming Back” is a needed change-of-pace from its metalcore surroundings (though Villain of the Story manages to sneak in a crushing deluge for good measure – you’re listening to a metal record by the way), before soaring shit-starter “This Apocalypse” drops you right back in the pit. Saving (almost) the best for last, Villain of the Story delivers one of the album’s best moments on the near-perfect closer “Grow,” a truly memorable and infectious parting shot. Perhaps the best part of Wrapped In Vines, Covered In Thorns is its willingness to take chances, and when the band steps outside their comfort zone, it’s a successful venture more often than not. Wrapped In Vines, Covered In Thorns doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any means, but it’s better than most.

Grade: B

Go Download: “Promise Me”

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CD Review: Redeem/Revive – “Free Minds” (Stay Sick Recordings)

While it’s a post-hardcore record with a metalcore heart, Redeem/Revive’s debut full length Free Minds is much more than a combination of chugging verses and melodic hooks, although the band executes such pageantry pretty damn well (“Revive,” “Omen,” “All I’ve Done,” “Prelude”). Free Minds is so much more than mere pomp and circumstance (“Call To Arms” adds an ‘ohs and ahs’ call and response dynamic  to the successful sonic formula, Redeem/Revive ascends to new post-hardcore heights on the soaring “Live This Way,” “Burn” is a sleek banger that has potential hit written all over it, Top-40 alt-rocker “Forty-Nine Thirty” is a stylistically stunning departure from the rest of Free Minds, making for a truly memorable moment). Heavy, passionate, impressive, Free Minds ticks all the proverbial boxes.

Grade: B+

Go Download: “All I’ve Done”

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CD Review: Young Fox – “Sky Beats Gold” (Spartan Records)

Dark and brooding yet eloquent and moving, Sky Beats Gold, the latest release from Young Fox, is an effort in melancholia. Sky Beats Gold is a blend of heady, potent and moody orchestrations (“We Move As Wolves,” “Slow Burn” (which features a guest appearance by Anberlin’s Stephen Christian), “Hearts of Men (Part 1),” “To Be Moving”) and powerful, bombastic outings that see Young Fox exploring their heavier side (“Sometimes the Monsters Win,” “Atom Smasher,” “We Are Not the Wolves”). Beyond that, “Wine of Violence” peels back the layers of Sky Beats Gold further, exposing a raw underbelly, one teeming with unadulterated passion and expansive closer “Hearts Of Men (Part II)” manages to swell the reaches of Sky Beats Gold even further in anthemic and grandiose fashion. Fans of dredg, Black Map and Far (or anyone who digs atmospheric rock) – Sky Beats Gold may be your new favorite record.

Grade: B+

Go Download: “Sometimes the Monsters Win”

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CD Review: Stone Priest – “Stone Priest”

 

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Not only do classic rock revivalists Stone Priest follow in the footsteps of the sonic renaissance their predecessors Cosmic Shakedown took part in, they turn the movement on its ear a bit by drenching things in reverb and shrouding them in a thick stoner haze on their self-titled debut. Fuzzed out riffs, potent low end and luscious keys drive the vehicle that is Stone Priest (“Darkness,” “Creep,” “Evil Winter”), though if you’re in the mood for a crusty slog into the distorted abyss; navigate your way over to acid rock opus “Dust Of Wonder.” The sprawling “Better” is early Black Sabbath-meets-latter day The Doors psychedelia, making for one of the albums best moments. While Stone Priest pick up where Cosmic Shakedown left off, Stone Priest leaves little doubt that the former will surpass the latter much sooner rather than later (if they haven’t already).

Grade: B+

Go Download: “Better”

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CD Review: Light the Way – “Grace” (Indie Vision Music)

 

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With a sonic tip of the cap to pop-punk forefathers New Found Glory and Yellowcard, California’s own Light the Way sound as sunny as their West Coast home, giving off breezy vibes and nostalgic feels on their debut EP, Grace. Light the Way go all “Ocean Avenue” on inspirational opener “Note To Self,” the succinct “Black Waves” sounds like a lost b-side from Sticks and Stones, powerful anthem “BRKN” is the best of the bunch thanks to flawless hooks and exceptional melodies and “I’m Sorry” is perhaps Grace’s most all-around pop-punk effort. Capped off with a pair of acoustic entries, the vulnerable and emotional sing-a-long “Scatterbrained” and an unplugged version of “Note To Self,” Grace is a fun and memorable listen that’s easily digestible (and certainly replay worthy), which just might be its strongest quality.

Grade: B-

Go Download: “BRKN”

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CD Review: Curses – “Chapter 1: Introspect” (Imminence Records)

 

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Just as a precaution, it should be stated that listening to Curses’ Chapter 1: Introspect may cause injury, especially to your neck. From the stilted staccato chugs of “Death Addler,” Chapter 1: Introspect is a sonic tidal wave with a melodic crest, one that consistently crashes with devastating force. The vocal duo of Brandon Castro and Eli Fry offer up a balanced mix of malicious wails and pure tones, providing a dynamic complement to the endless string of ear-shattering breakdowns, crushing riffs and sparkling hooks that make up Chapter 1: Introspect (“The Abandoned,” “Outlast,” “Miss Misery,” “The Lowest Level Of Loyalty,” “Ghost 40”). Periphery’s Spencer Sotelo also provides a memorable moment when he drops in on “Fortune Collapse” to trade some venomous barbs. If you have to immediately seek the council of your nearest chiropractor after listening to Chapter I: Introspect, don’t say you weren’t warned.

Grade: B+

Go Download: “Outlast”

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CD Review: Acadia – “InFocus”

 

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Acadia’s debut EP InFocus plays out like a classic motion picture – building as times goes by to an ultimate crescendo at the climax, which InFocus does with its final two tracks (but more on that later). “Victory” and “Casablanca” set the table, introducing listeners to soaring, anthemic choruses, raw passion and heartfelt vocals from frontman Jameson Trudel, a formula that permeates everything to come. “Balance” is energetic and catchy and “Silence” offers up a contemplative period (just like an good indie flick) for InFocus; an emotionally-infused ballad that finds the band reflecting on lost love (“I wish I could hold you tight / I wish that we could have just one more night / I’d do anything for another chance…I visited you today / Touched the granite on your grave / You wanted me to move on / But I don’t know how to,” Trudel wails), while also serving as the calm before the album’s climactic storm. Like Pacific’s Jordan Black lends a hand on the sentimental “Pawtucket Street,” which features the albums best hook and Matty Arsenault delivers the goods on the closing “Radiant,” which serves as InFocus’ lead single for a reason. InFocus is rare in that it gets better with each passing track, something most bands could only hope for.

Grade: B

Go Download: “Pawtucket Street”

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CD Review: A Breach of Silence – “Secrets” (Eclipse Records)

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On their third full length Secrets, A Breach of Silence took all the best tenets from 2014’s The Darkest Road, built upon and expanded them, proving third times a charm for the band from the Land Down Under. While it’s surely their most accessible record to date thanks to an influx of clean vocal stylings from frontman Rhys Flannery (“Falling Away,” “Secrets,” “The Revelator”), which leads to more than a few absolutely monster hooks, fear not, because Secrets still finds these Aussie’s as menacing as shit (“Ride Or Die,” “Nightcrawler,” “Buzz Killington”). “Fair Weather Friends” encapsulates Secrets, combining the best of both the heavy and melodic, pairing punishing riffs with anthemic bars and just the right touch of glam. And just for the hell of it, A Breach of Silence tack on a cover of The Weeknd’s “Shameless,” done up with all the proper ‘core bells of whistles of course, and the album closing “Sugar And Spice,” a gratuitous ode to 80’s hair metal cheese that would make The Darkness, or maybe Warrant or Van Halen, blush. Not only do these tracks provide a sonic respite for brevity’s sake on Secrets, they prove that A Breach of Silence don’t take themselves too too seriously, which makes this record that much more awesome. A Breach of Silence is probably the best metal band you’re not listening to right now, though Secrets should help to rectify that.

Grade: B+

Go Download: “Fair Weather Friends” (honorable mention “Sugar and Spice”)

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CD Review: CRNKSHFT – “CRNKSHFT”

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No matter what you do in life, you should always strive to put your best foot forward, which is sound advice overall, but especially important when you only have four songs to win over a listener. And heed that advice CRNKSHFT did with “Systematic,” the beastly opener of their eponymous EP. Stomping drop tuned leads, soaring vocals and hard-charging grooves litter the lead single, a formula that pays off in spades on the riff-tacular “Tears Me Apart,” CRNKSHFT’s most accessible offering.  CRNKSHFT channels Alice In Chains on the sludgy “Old Habits” (that guitar solo requires multiple spins) before reminding us all how awesome nu-metal was on the closing “Breaking the Silence” (think Soil, Drowning Pool, Full Metal Jacket, etc.). Producer Daren Grahn’s (Metallica, Motley Crue) fingerprints can surely be felt across CRNKSHFT’s four tracks, but this EP is much more than one man behind a mixing board. The band says that they are ‘accepted by all those who listen to metal and rock’ and a truer sentence may have never been spoken.

Grade: B+

Go Download: “Tears Me Apart”

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CD Review: Ghost Key – “If I Don’t Make It” (InVogue Records)

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If you’re looking for another fancy scenecore album full of all the paint-by-numbers tropes you’ve come to know and love, you’re not going to find one with Ghost Key’s debut If I Don’t Make It. Hell, if you’re looking for any clean signing, you should look elsewhere because this record is all piss and no filler; from frontman Austin O’Brien defiantly barking ‘drown yourself’ in stern repetition on opener “Death In the Family” to the earth-rattling breakdown that defines “Indecision,” If I Don’t Make It is 10 tracks of piledriving, no-frills-necessary hardcore (“Ache” is near perfect thanks to fiendish vocals and destructive riffs, “Embrace” is stunning in its corrosiveness, O’Brien is a fire-breathing monster on the This Is Love, This Is Murderous-era Bleeding Through-esque “Dying To Live,” “Attention To Detail” will send you scurrying for the nearest pit). If you enjoy your metal straight up with no chaser, then Ghost Key’s If I Don’t Make It needs to be in your immediate future, because this is one hell of a first impression.

Grade: A-

Go Download: “Ache”

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CD Review: Under Fire – “Blackout”

 

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New England pop-punkers Under Fire come out firing on all cylinders on their latest EP Blackout, with openers “Blackout” and “Set Adrift” overflowing with exactly what you want your pop-punk records to be teeming with – unbridled energy, saccharine hooks, powerful riffs and passionate vocals, which should come as no surprise once you find that Blackout was produced by Four Year Strong frontman Alan Day. Day’s Four Year Strong influence continues through “Lone Wolf,” though the best of Blackout is reserved for the final two tracks, “Renegade” and “Paralyzed.” The former ebbs and flows through bouncy melodies and weighty guitars, while the latter is the album’s standout track, a mixture of the sheer passion of Rise Against and the rawness of early Story of the Year. On “Paralyzed,” Josh Carley delivers the albums best all-around vocals via one impassioned refrain after another, making for enough of a memorable moment to send Blackout listeners out on a pretty damn high note.

Grade: B

Go Download: “Paralyzed”

Underoath – “Erase Me” (Fearless Records)

After eight years since the release of Ø (Disambiguation), Underoath is back with Erase Me, not with a vengeance per say, but more with aplomb. While the faces are the same, the music has changed, sounding closer to Bring Me the Horizon and I, Prevail than the Underoath of 10 years ago. It’s not all bad, trust me.

It only takes a few bars of Erase Me opener “It Has To Start Somewhere” for the dam of feels to break and come flooding back – from Aaron Gillespie’s duel clean vocal/drumming threat to Spencer Chamberlain’s unforgettable vocal delivery, but those feelings come with a bit of a caveat – this isn’t the same Underoath of old. “Rapture” and “On My Teeth” are two of the more commercially appealing tracks the band has ever laid down, though “Bloodlust” and “Sink With You” provide the nostalgic goods – frenetic guitars, memorable vocals and soaring hooks. The pummeling “Hold Your Breath” is reason alone why we should all give a shit that Underoath is back. This singular track delivers us the Underoath of old with Gillespie and Chamberlain going tit for tat, trading off crushing bars for melodic blissfulness. Some tracks sound like an extension of Chamberlain’s Sleepwave project (“ihateit,” “Wake Me,” “No Frame”), but those tracks are few and far between, thankfully. The penultimate “In Motion” finds Chamberlain shredding his throat on wax, screaming “there is no fix” as the track fades out. Timothy McTague and James Smith save some of their best guitar work for last on the closing “I Gave Up,” which also features some killer programming from Christopher Dudley.

If you’re tuning into Erase Me expecting to hear “They’re Only Chasing Safety” or even “Define the Great Line” era Underoath, chances are you’ll be sadly disappointed. It’s not a perfect record by any means (you should expect a band to show some rust after nearly a decade apart), but this looks to be the start of a new sonic path for Underoath, which could be a good thing for all of us.

Go Download: “Hold Your Breath”

Divided Minds – “Mood Swings” (We Are Triumphant)

If there is anything you can never have enough of, it’s pop-punk, especially when it’s good. Enter Divided Minds and their major label debut Mood Swings, a six song clip that delivers everything you’d want out of a pop-punk record – it’s fun, infectious, laced with saccharine and cathartic. These are songs about love, love lost, hopes, dreams, death and broken relationships, and honestly, would you really want it any other way?

Mood Swings is a mixed bag of all things powerpop and pop-punk, but not in a bad way, as the phrase usually connotes; in one minute the band is doing their best A Day To Remember impression (“Don’t Get Too Close”) with a heavy-as-hell mix of scathing vocals and grinding riffs, is all-out powerpop the next, sounding like Panic! At the Disco’s kid brother with punchy guitars, bouncy rhythms and squeaky clean vocals on “Take My Hand” (‘Oh baby, can I take your hand, cause you look like a girl who wants to dance, hold on baby cause you’re not ready for this, and I’ll tell you that I’m not something to miss, and she said, take my hand,’ Sean Collins sings), then transitions to a sound more akin to New Found Glory on “I Forgot You,” speeding things up with faster riffs and quickened drums (‘You fucked me up, when is the next lie, I’ll come over just to say my last goodbyes, call once, call again just to waste my time, it’s true that you’re not on my mind, I forgot you in our memories, at least I wished too’).

From there, “Elizabeth” fills the obligatory acoustic quotient, and closer “Life’s Overrated” breaks out the big guitars as Divided Minds questions their life choices and if chasing their dreams, and living at all for that matter, is even worth it. Pretty freaking heavy shit from a pop-punk album, huh?

Like I said, Mood Swings ticks all the boxes, and on top of everything else, it’s only 18 minutes long, so it’s pretty much a must listen.

Go Download: “Take My Hand”

Zero Theorem – “Ataraxis” (Shim Sham, LLC)

Nowadays in music everyone seems to be constantly looking for the next big thing – the new Disturbed, the next Five Finger Death Punch, the next FLAW – and often times the band tabbed with that label fails to live up to expectations. Things are different with Zero Theorem. Now, I’m not saying that these guys are the ‘next anything,’ but it’s clear from their debut EP Ataraxis that they have the goods to be ‘next something,’ and a major player in the future of modern metal.

Led by a powerful vocal battery from frontman Caesar, whose passion and breadth of ability is audibly woven into each and every bar, Ataraxis is a clinic in fresh faced modern metal. Producer Kane Churko’s (Papa Roach, Five Finger Death Punch, In This Moment) imprint can be felt up and down these six tracks – “Euthanize” is a strong opener that would sound just as electric being belted out from the stage of a small club or a massive amphitheater, lead single “Area” has a future at rock radio thanks to a true earworm hook, album standout “Becoming” is about as FFDP as Ataraxis gets with driving, bombastic grooves, “Rorschach” puts the metal in modern metal with screaming exhortations, stomping riffs and booming cymbal crashes and the title track shows Zero Theorem can exist just as coherently in a slower paced setting, sounding like something that would close out most metal albums. On closer “Low,” the band transforms into Fozzy with Cesar playing the role of the venerable Chris Jericho, going from commanding refrains to snarling accents amidst churning guitars and big hooks.

You’d be hard press to find a better way to spend 20 minutes today than with Zero Theorem’s Ataraxis. While it’s only half a dozen tracks, the problem is once you listen to Ataraxis, you’re going to want to listen again and again. And then again and again.

Go Download: “”Becoming”