Friday, December 2, 2016

Pentatonix - "A Pentatonix Christmas"


Pentatonix - A Pentatonix Christmas
2016, RCA

1. O Come All Ye Faithful
2. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
3. White Christmas
4. I'll Be Home For Christmas
5. Up On The Housetop
6. The Christmas Sing-Along
7. Coventry Carol
8. Hallelujah
9. Coldest Winter
10. Good To Be Bad
11. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays

Oh, look! More Christmas Pentatonix! There's not really much more I could say about Pentatonix is there? I pretty much like everything they do. I do wonder why they chose "Hallelujah" and "Coldest Winter" for this album as they are not Christmas songs at all. And "Hallelujah" was even the album's first single. This was also before Leonard Cohen died (God rest his soul). So...yeah... it's Pentatonix - go get it already...though be ready for the inevitable reissue next year with extra tracks.

Useless Fact: "The Christmas Sing-Along" and "Good To Be Bad" are the originals here.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Sweet, Michael - "One Sided War"



Sweet, Michael - One Sided War
2016, Rat Pak

1. Bizarre
2. One Sided War
3. Can't Take This Life
4. Radio
5. Golden Age
6. Only You
7. I Am
8. Who Am I?
9. You Make Me Wanna
10. Comfort Zone
11. One Way Up
12. Can't Take This Life (ft. Moriah Formica)

I wasn't originally going to pick this up. I've never really liked any of Michael Sweet's solo stuff so I didn't think One Sided War would be any different. However, it is pretty different, hence its presence here. It's actually more akin to Stryper material than anything else...er... maybe even a little heavier than Stryper. I particularly like "Radio" which pokes fun at rock stars who turn over to country for the money. I'm kind of surprised that this wasn't just a Stryper record, I mean, it's that close. So if you liked Fallen, you will totally dig this. I know I did.

Useless Fact: Remember when Michael Sweet said Stryper wasn't a Christian band. That was weird. I don't really have anything for this disc.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Genesis Project - "Calling All Stations"



Genesis - Calling All Stations
1997, Atlantic

1. Calling All Stations
2. Congo
3. Shipwrecked
4. Alien Afternoon
5. Not About Us
6. If That's What You Need
7. The Dividing Line
8. Uncertain Weather
9. Small Talk
10. There Must Be Some Other Way
11. One Man's Fool

Poor, poor Calling All Stations. Talk about an underrated album! What’s lower than underrated? I mean, a majority of people don’t even know this album exists. The band never mentions it – almost like it never happened. It did happen, however, and it never really had a chance. It came out in ’97. If you’ll remember, alternative rock had ruled the rock scene for years. Pop princesses and boy bands ruled the radio. There was some ska for a minute, there. Point is, while the bands unique blend of progressive rock and tight, catchy pop worked for them in ’91 when We Can’t Dance was released, it definitely wouldn’t in ’97. This is especially true considering, at this point, the band only contained two original members. That’s right...Phil Collins had flown the coop. He’d become the “face of the band,” but dang it, he had Disney movies to score. So not only do we have a style that the radio at the time wouldn’t touch, we’ve also got a form of Genesis that lacks Peter Gabriel or Phil Collins. So it’s safe to say that Calling All Stations was pretty much doomed to fail before it was even released.

I remember my initial reaction to an album without Phil Collins was pretty much, “Yeah… no thanks.” However, I was young and ignorant of the band. Tony Banks himself wrote a fair amount of Genesis’ catalog by himself. He wrote so much that Steve Hackett got mad about it and left. Not to say that Collins didn’t contribute to the writing and sound of the band because he did, but I think that Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks contain enough Genesis DNA to be given a chance. It’s the reason why I eventually chose this album over …And Then There Were Three.

So the main question becomes, “is it any good?”

Yeah, actually. It’s pretty dang good. Ray Wilson was hired to handle vocal duties and while he doesn’t sound like either Peter or Phil, he does a great job on his own. The album busts out of the gate with the title track which is pretty heavy. Probably the heaviest the band ever got. It leads into “Congo” which recalls albums like Invisible Touch and is one of the tracks where Collins’ absence is most felt. “Shipwrecked” is another tune I really dig and I think it actually benefits from not having Phil. I think it would be a lot sappier with him in it. In fact, while there are some love songs there’s nothing lame, over sugary, or just plain lazy. “Alien Afternoon” is a great throwback to the more progressive Genesis as is “Small Talk.”

The big drums make a return here too to give it the illusion that Collins is behind the kit. You’d think that would come off poorly, but it doesn’t. You just go, “Oh, they’re trying to remind me that this is a Genesis album.” The only thing that really hurts this album is the fade-outs. Several songs just sort of… fade away into silence. It’s like they didn’t know how to end them so they just turned down the volume. It’s not a deal breaker or anything but I’m surprised that so many songs would end this way.

That said, Calling All Stations is a really good album. It does suffer a bit from the lack of Collins and the fade outs, but the songs are strong and Ray Wilson is a fantastic vocalist. I honestly think it is worthy of the Genesis name and wish the band would stop forgetting about it. It is absolutely worth your time and attention and I’m glad I ended up choosing it for the project.


Final Score 3.75 out of 4

Useless Fact: Rumor has it Ray Wilson wasn't treated very well by the rest of the band.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

HammerFall - "(r)Evolution"


HammerFall - (r)Evolution
2016, Nuclear Blast

1. Hector's Hymn
2. (r)Evolution
3. Bushido
4. Live Life Loud
5. Ex Inferis
6. We Won't Back Down
7. Winter Is Coming
8. Origins
9. Tainted Metal
10. Evil Incarnate
11. Wildfire
Bonus Track
12. Demonized

Many years ago I used to have HammerFall's Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken and I liked it quite a bit. I got rid of it for reasons which now escape me and were probably foolish and dumb because it was a great album. So recently I got a hankerin' for some of HammerFall's straight-forward, no nonsense, classic heavy metal. I was hoping that FYE might have some and was hoping I could get it while on vacation. As luck would have it, they did have this album so I snatched it up. It's HammerFall - for good or ill. They are one of those bands that know their style and stick with it. I absolutely love it. That being said, I don't think that if you didn't like the band before this album isn't gonna change your mind. It definitely scratches an itch for me, though!

Useless Fact: I think this is the first time the band's mascot, Hector, has his own song.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Amaranthe - "Maximalism"



Amaranthe - Maximalism
2016, Spinefarm

1. Maximize
2. Boomerang
3. That Song
4. 21
5. On the Rocks
6. Limitless
7. Fury
8. Faster
9. Break Down and Cry
10. Supersonic
11. Fireball
12. Endlessly

I tell you the truth, Maximalism is basically like a Monster energy drink in musical form. Life got you down? Need motivation for work or school? Pump this album - you will be motivated. It goes from zero to RAWK! in sixty seconds. Amaranthe is one of those bands, like Paramore has been over the years, whose albums have gotten better and better with each release. Maximalism is no exception. The band has spent years refining and carefully welding metal, techno, and pop into a radio-friendly blend. This is definitely the band at their most pop, especially with songs like "That Song" (the first single), and the Dead or Alive homage song "Boomerang." Yet it's not watered down - it's got enough substance that a few tracks could actually stand to be a bit longer. Which I think I said about the last album either. I can say that this is probably my favorite album from this band so far. I still hate the title though. Why couldn't they just call it "Maximize?" Maximalism is NOT a word! Speaking of which, the lyrics on this album are...not deep. It's mostly about high energy, partying, and just generally being extreme. Not much emotional turmoil here, no sir. Fortunately, the album doesn't need it as they make up for any lack of depth with sheer energy and passion. Elize Ryd is really coming into her own as a powerhouse vocalist. I can't wait to see what the future brings for these guys - hopefully some mainstream success.

Useless Fact: "Fury" is the first song the band has done to focus on the growler of the band. It works really well, actually.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Circle of Dust - "Disengage (Remastered)"



Circle of Dust - Disengaged (Remastered)
2016, FiXT

DISC ONE:
1. Waste of Time
2. Refractor
3. Yurasuka
4. Babylon
5. Chasm
6. Thulcandra
7. Blindeye
8. Mesmerized
9. Perelandra
10. You Are Fragile
11. Disengage
12. Chasm (Version 2.1.0)
13. Refractor (Version 3.2.1)
14. Easier To Hate (lvl Remix)
15. Hate Opened Wide
16. Alone to Die (lvl Remix)
17. Deadly Love (Uncensored Version)

DISC TWO:
1. Machines of Our Disgrace
2. Yurasuka (Blue Stahli Remix)
3. Your Noise (1997)
4. Resist (1996)
5. Goodbye (1998)
6. Waste of Time (Acoustic)
7. Yurstillasuka
8. Mesmerized (Acoustic)
9. Yurasuka (Blue Stahli Remix) [Instrumental]
10. Mesmerized (Instrumental)
11. Your Noise (Instrumental)
12. Mesmerized (Babylonian Flashback)
13. Resist (Instrumental)
14. Wast of Time (Acoustic) [Instrumental]

DISC THREE:
1. Beneath the Skin (Waste of Time Demo)
2. Chasm (Early Demo)
3. Blindeye (Demo)
4. Chasm (Late Demo)
5. Refractor (lvl Void Remix) [Demo 1997]
6. Chasm (Version 2.1.0) [Demo]
7. Dust 29
8. Dust 30
9. Dust 31
10. Dust 32
11. Dust 33
12. Dust 34
13. Dust 35
14. Your Noise (Clean)
15. Deadly Love (Censored)

Disengage is the final album in Klayton's Circle of Dust remasters. Naturally, being a Klayton production, there's a metric butt-ton of bonus material and superb art direction. I didn't have much experience with this album because I never even knew it existed until years after its release. It's much different than the albums that came before it. Most notably, the lyrics are not really Christian as Klayton was distancing himself from the market. It's also more on the techno side and less on the metal side. I think it would be a stretch to call this industrial. There's also not very many cool, strange samples. Disengage is also very ambient. Several tracks are techno-ambient tracks, that while cool, don't really do much for me. Almost the entire latter half of the album is remixes of "Refractor" and "Chasm." Hope you like the choruses to those two songs! Also the line, "YOU ARE FRAGILE!!!" You will hear these a lot is what I'm saying. This is probably my least favorite of the Dust albums but only because of the abundance of remixes and ambient stuff. I really like the first five or six tracks and I like some of the bonus stuff on disc two as well. There's just a lot of other stuff that isn't really for me.

Useless Fact: "Yurasuka" is not Japanese. It means "You're a sucker." Not much of a fact, but I only realized it when I heard the song itself. I thought it was Japanese for the longest time! Also, "Thulcandra" and "Perelandra" are names from C.S. Lewis' "Space Trilogy."

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Devin Townsend Project - "Transcendence"



Devin Townsend Project - Transcendence
2016, Inside Out

DISC ONE: Transcendence
1. Truth
2. Stormbending
3. Failure
4. Secret Sciences
5. Higher
6. Stars
7. Transcendence
8. Offer Your Light
9. From the Heart
10. Trans-dermal Celebration

DISC TWO: Holding Patterns
1. Gump
2. Celestial Signals
3. Support the Cause
4. Into the Sun
5. Time Overload
6. Lexus
7. Farther On
8. Victim
9. Monkey Mind
10. Canucklehead
11. Loud

Listening to Transcendence is a bit of a gear shift from previous albums. Not that Devin & co. have changed styles or anything like that. It's more that previous albums have taken a more accessible pop direction. Addicted!, Epicloud, Sky Blue, and Dark Matters all married Devin's "wall of sound" style with pop hooks for albums that were both meaty but easy to digest. Transcendence, however, is much more progressive and ponderous. It's close in style an album like Synchestra or maybe the original Ziltoid. The songs are still very heavy, but overall slower in tempo and lack the standard song structures of the previous discs. As a result, this is going to be a bit of a grower. It's going to take a few listens for things to sink in. One thing I noticed is that the drumming is absolutely off the chain here! Ryan Van Poederooyen is really firing on all cylinders. I think it's one of his best performances on any Devin album I've heard. I'm still not sure how exactly I feel about this record, though. I like it but it hasn't really sunk in yet. I've still got more listens to go, but the good thing is that I do want to listen.

Useless Fact: The album title has to do with Devin "getting over himself" both literally and spiritually. He let the other band members have more input into song writing than normal.