Saturday, June 16, 2018

Grave Robber - "Escaping the Grave"

Grave Robber - Escaping the Grave
2018, Rottweiler

1. Burial Ground
2. Into the Pit
3. The Evil Dead
4. Zombieland
5. The Beast Within
6. Lips of Blood
7. The Conjuring
8. The Swarm
9. The Night Evelyn Came Out From the Grave
10. Jet Black Tears
11. Escaping the Grave
Bonus Track:
12. Curse of the Werewolf (Remix)

Yay! Grave Robber is back! I always loves me some Grave Robber. They are consistently great. I don't think I've ever heard anything bad by them. Escaping the Grave continues this tradition. This release is a little bit faster and harder - a bit more punk and less metal than the previous ones. Though this album seems a little bit light on content. I don't think this is the band's fault. The band has had to endure a lot of crap since the last album - line-up changes, equipment problems, general life problems. So it's not a surprise that this one is shorter than the others with one track being an intro, the bonus track being a remix, and a cover ("Jet Black Tears"). Add to this that many songs are under two minutes in length. So... considering all they've been through we should be glad we got anything at all, let alone something that's just as fun and addictive as usual. Hopefully this means we'll get a more steady stream of material from these guys!

Useless Fact: The album was produced by Tim Bushong of LoveWar and The Bleed (featuring Rex Carroll) fame.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Sardonyx - "Sons of the Kingdom"

Sardonyx - Sons of the Kingdom
2018, Lightshine Music Group

1. Sons of the Kingdom
2. Children of the King
3. Greater Things
4. All That We Are
5. Power and Love
6. Perfected
7. Awake
8. My Bride Beloved
9. Angel Armies

Sardonyx is back again. I always hoped they'd follow up Linear Progression but gave up after years and years went by. Yet, here they are! I've always like Sardonyx because throughout the years they've really stuck to their guns as a "ministry band." They make no bones about this and they pull no punches with their message. Anyway, unlike Linear Progression there is no nu-metal influences here. This is pure progressive/power metal. It fits nicely right after Majestic Serenity in terms of style but the production is way better this time around. If you like Sardonyx, then Sons of the Kingdom will satisfy you. It doesn't really reinvent the wheel but the instrumentation is excellent and Tom sounds as good as he ever has. "Awake" is probably my favorite track because it's basically a psalm set to music. And I mean "psalm" in the sense that it starts out soul-crushingly depressing but ends with worship. The lyrics are also extremely bold and preachy. As a Christian this doesn't bother me at all, though at times I think they're more concerned with a lyric lining up with four or five Scriptures than it making sense. Sons of the Kingdom is definitely worthy of the Sardonyx legacy and I hope it won't be another twelve or so years for the next one.

Useless Fact: "My Bride Beloved" features some female vocals from Kristen Anselmo-Hertzog. I've never heard of her before but she does a great job.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Metallica - "Load"

Metallica - Load
1996, Blackened

1. Ain't My Bitch
2. 2 x 4
3. The House That Jack Built
4. Until It Sleeps
5. King Nothing
6. Hero of the Day
7. Bleeding Me
8. Cure
9. Poor Twisted Me
10. Wasting My Hate
11. Mama Said
12. Thorn Within
13. Ronnie
14. The Outlaw Torn

I think time has been pretty good to this album. I confess I was one of those that were originally aghast that the band had cut their hair and "sold out." Time has proven that they made the right move here. They'd pretty much done what they could do with thrash as a genre. Where do you go after Justice? Where do you go after the Black album? They had to branch out and do something else and the more hard rock, swagger of Load keeps all the aggression but allows the band do dabble in other sounds. And when that swagger works - man, it WORKS! "King Nothing" and "Bleeding Me" are prime examples. The main strike against this album is the length. At fourteen tracks and almost an hour and twenty minutes of music... well... that's a bit too much swagger for me. I think they could have lost two, three, or even four tracks off this and made a much more compact (and better) album. As it stands I really appreciate and enjoy it now. Though I still hate the cover art. And the title.

Useless Fact: If I remember correctly Load and Reload were supposed to be a double album. Which is WAY too much swagger if you ask me.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Brown II, Jimmy P. - "Eraserhead"

Brown II, Jimmy P. - Eraserhead
2018, Retroactive

1. EGO
2. Stained
3. Indecisive
4. Entertaining Angels
5. The Scales
6. Memoria
7. A Story of Time
8. The Swell Lot of Thieves
9. Digital Postage Stamp
10. The Watchers

*** This review is based on a pre-release version. The album is due in the fall and I don't know if everything from the art to the track list is finalized. ***

As much I loved The Subversive Kind and its return to Deliverance's thrash roots, I've always leaned more towards the "creative years" of the band. Eraserhead has been billed as an album for fans of that era - especially since it features Manny Morales on bass and Jon Knox on drums. However, there's much more to it than that. It's somewhere between the "creative years," a heavier Jupiter VI, and Saviour Machine (along with a helping of David Bowie, naturally). Tracks like "Memoria" and "Digital Postage Stamp" sound like they could have been on an album after Camelot while "Indecisive" and "The Swell Lot of Thieves" recall Back From Mars with a bit more aggression. Speaking of "Indecisive," Manny is absolutely killing it on the bass! Terry Taylor once said of bassist Tim Chandler that he was good at filling in the cracks of songs. I think Manny is playing a similar role. He's given a lot more room to work so you hear so much more variety and melody than you might with a Deliverance album. With the album not needing to conform to any preconceptions, both Manny and Jon are let loose and as a result turn in some of the finest performances I've ever heard from either of them. Oh, and Jimmy covers a Newsboys song, "Entertaining Angels," for some reason. I've never liked the Newsboys. Ever. So when I say "holy crap Jimmy has made me like a Newsboys song" you might not understand how much of a compliment that is. I might get some hassle for saying this but I think I prefer Eraserhead over The Subversive Kind. There's just so much to dig into here and there's so much energy and heart. The album culminates in the phenomenal "The Wachers." This track is one of Jimmy's finest closers bar none. Right up there with "Sanctuary" and "In-U." It's soaring and majestic - reveling in some Saviour Machine-type theatricality. Finally, I do think that long time fans need to adjust their expectations a little. Yes, this has some influences of Deliverance, Jupiter VI, etc. - but, honestly, Eraserhead is truly its own thing meant to be taken that way. It's not River Disturbance II or Learn II so don't expect that. It's Eraserhead - and if you can handle that, you'll be able to enjoy one of the best albums you'll hear this year.

Useless Fact: "Memoria" was originally supposed to be a Deliverance track and later popped up in a different form on Fearful Symmetry's A Loss of Balance. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Rush - "Working Men"

Rush - Working Men
2009, Atlantic

1. Limelight
2. The Spirit of Radio
3. 2112
4. Freewill
5. Dreamline
6. Far Cry
7. Subdivisions
8. One Little Victory
9. Closer to the Heart
10. Tom Sawyer
11. Working Man
12. YYZ

I've had this album for, like, two years. I've kind of been saving it as a placeholder in case I needed something else to review while I'm listening to other stuff. So... yeah... I'm not really ready to review a bunch of albums at present. They're really good so I want to take my time. Anyway, I bought this in an effort to get into Rush (before I bought 2112). It's a compilation of a bunch of live tracks from various places. It's okay. I wasn't really wowed and it really didn't make much of an impression on me. I much preferred the whole album more than I did this collection. It's not terrible, but if you're trying to get into Rush I'd definitely start with something like 2112 versus this.

Useless Fact: Some of the tracks are from the band's Rush In Rio album which I watched in Bible college. They put on a great show, but I really wasn't super impressed then either.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Judas Priest - "Firepower"

Judas Priest - Firepower
2018, Epic

1. Firepower
2. Lightning Strike
3. Evil Never Dies
4. Never the Heroes
5. Necromancer
6. Children of the Sun
7. Guardians
8. Rising From Ruins
9. Flame Thrower
10. Spectre
11. Traitor's Gate
12. No Surrender
13. Lone Wolf
14. Sea of Red

I've never been a big Judas Priest fan. Sure I like "Breaking the Law" and "You've Got Another Thing Coming" but nothing beyond that. Not that I hate them or anything - I just never got into them. So it probably seems weird that I would pick their latest album instead of one of their classics. However, the buzz around this album was really positive. Like... "this is one of their best albums in a long time, maybe ever." So I checked out some samples and I'll be darned if I wasn't hooked from the title track onward. This is a great traditional heavy metal album. If you like NWBHM, that's what this is - only with some modern production. Speaking of which, the production is very clean with a fantastic guitar tone that's crunchy and heavy. Halford's vocals are great - he's still got it. Though I do wish he'd hit the high notes a bit more often. I'm not sure if I'm ever going to do a Judas Priest project, but I tell you what, Firepower is probably the first album of 2018 that really stuck with me. Oh... and it has really awesome cover art.

Useless Fact: Did you know Rob Halford was gay? I know! Right? I'm shocked. (I really don't know too much about Judas Priest if you couldn't tell).

Friday, May 4, 2018

Pentatonix - "PTX Presents: Top Pop, Vol. 1"

Pentatonix - PTX Presents: Top Pop, Vol. 1
2018, RCA

1. Attention
2. Finesse
3. New Rules x Are You That Somebody?
4. Havana
5. Perfect
6. Stay
7. Feel It Still
8. Despacito x Shape of You
9. Issues
10. Praying
11. Sorry Not Sorry

Conversation about Pentatonix my wife and I had...

Wife: "Why are songs always better when Pentatonix does them?"
Me: "Well, I think it's because most modern pop music these days is very much influenced by EDM in which the production can be very harsh. Not to mention the decreased dynamics and variety in just about all modern pop music. Where with Pentatonix - everything is smooth as silk and in terms of dynamics, sometimes you're getting more with those five voices than with an over-produced pop song. So when Pentatonix does it you get to hear the real melody of the song without the bombastic, harsh production."
Wife: "You're Old"

And so it is with the groups latest offering, PTX Presents: Top Pop, Vol. 1. It's made me like songs that I never liked and made me like songs I already liked even more. In other words - a normal day for Pentatonix.

Useless Fact: Avi left the band at some point. The name of the new bass singer escapes me and I am too lazy to look it up. Ooh... there's also rumors that Avi and Kristen didn't get along... so... there's that too, I guess.