Saturday, January 14, 2017

Circle of Dust - "Machines of Our Disgrace"

Circle of Dust - Machines of Our Disgrace
2016, Fixt

1. re_Engage
2. Machines of Our Disgrace
3. Contagion
4. Embracing Entropy
5. Humanarchy
6. Signal
7. alt_Human
8. Hive Mind
9. Outside In
10. Neurachem
11 k_Os
12. Neophyte
13. Malacandra

Klayton caps of a year of Circle of Dust remasters with a brand new album. A fantastic one at that! Machines manages to combine the sounds of the old albums into a unified whole. You've got some Brainchild type moments with the title track and "Contagion," but you've also got some more Disengage moments with "Embracing Entropy" and - naturally - "Malacandra." I'm really impressed with this album and I hope this isn't the last we hear from Circle of Dust. The only reason why Scandroid beat out this album for a spot on my picks is because Scandroid had the benefit of being a delightful surprise. I kind of knew I was probably going to dig this.

One thing I noticed was the voice samples. Past Circle discs were full of random samples from television shows, movies, etc. I've noticed that the samples on this album have kind of been limited to obscure sci-fi movies. That's not a complaint by the way. I'm wondering if Klayton was a little gun-shy about using copyrighted material. Back in the day you could get away with that sort of thing, but today? Good grief... he probably had to pick some stuff that was not under copyright just to save himself some headache down the line.

Useless Fact: "Neurachem" features samples from the seminal classic, The Brain That Wouldn't Die as made popular by the best show on earth, Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Scandroid - "Scandroid"

Scandroid - Scandroid
2016, Fixt

1. 2517
2. Salvation Code
3. Aphelion
4. Shout
5. Destination Unknown
6. Connection
7. Datastream
8. Empty Streets
9. Awakening With You
10. Atom & E.E.V.
11. Neo Tokyo
12. Probots and Robophobes
13. Eden
14. Singularity

I was not initially interested in Klayton's Scandroid project because I'm not a huge techno person. I like industrial and I like the fusion of styles that Klayton is known for, but straight up techno? No thanks. Then I heard what Scandroid actually was - a love letter to Eighties synth wave. I listened to "Neo Tokyo" and I was hooked. It's like it scratched and itch I didn't even know I had. Yes, I know, I always have the nostalgia itch - no need to send letters. It's scary how authentic it sounds. However, even though it revels in Eighties synths, percussions, etc. it sounds fresh, new, and full of energy. Imagine the soundtrack to the first Mass Effect or the more recent Stranger Things combined with tight hooks and pop sensibility. That's kind of what you're in for with Scandroid. There's even a cool cover of Tears for Fears' "Shout." I dug this o much I put it on my best of 2016 list without reviewing it first.

Useless Fact: "Probots and Robophobes" says it "features" Circle of Dust. How does that work? Both of them are Klayton. So... Klayton featuring Klayton?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Holy Soldier - "Promise Man"

Holy Soldier - Promise Man
1995, Forefront

1. Promise Man
2. Mumbo-Jumbo
3. My World
4. Rust
5. Why Don't You Look Into Jesus?
6. Break It Down
7. Cover Me
8. Grind
9. Love Conquers All
10. Sand

Time and fate kind of conspired to make sure Promise Man wasn't enjoyed quite to the extent that it should have been. It came out smack dab in the middle of the Nineties when the alternative revolution was in full swing. Former vocalist Stephen Patrick, the charismatic - if somewhat eccentric acting (at least on stage) was replaced with Eric Wayne. He's got a lower register than Patrick but fits the band's new style. Speaking of which, it's not the commercial hard rock/metal they started out with. As befitting the times it's more alternative hard rock. While long time fans might disavow this album as a sell-out, I really enjoy it. No, it doesn't sound like old Holy Soldier. It sounds more like...King's X. Not lying. There's some pretty serious King's X worship going on here, especially in tracks like "Break It Down" and "Cover Me." They've definitely got the whole drop-d thing mastered. There's also a cover of Larry Norman's "Why Don't You Look Into Jesus?" that was on a tribute album many years back. The band was signed to Forefront, which if you'll remember was the home of hip-hoppers like DC Talk and E.T.W. I guess Forefront wanted to branch out? Anyway, far away from the time it was released I can say it's a good little album. I like it just as much as Last Train.

Oh, and since we haven't done my weird associations game here we go. I got this for Christmas in '95 along with the Super Nintendo masterpiece, Chrono Trigger. So those two things have been linked my entire life.

Useless Fact: Well...I guess more people enjoyed the album than I thought. It won a Dove Award for best hard rock song, "Promise Man."

Monday, January 2, 2017

Favorite Albums of 2016

Wow. 2016. Amirite? Personally, it’s been a year of adventure for my family and I – losing weight, new job, new car, new baby. It’s definitely had its ups and downs. However, it’s been a great year for music. You know the drill: five main picks and three honorable mentions. I’ve restricted myself to stuff that has come out this year so this really is a “Best of 2016,” not just my personal favorites.


Anthrax, For All Kings –  Every single one of the big four put out albums this year. How awesome is that? We also got albums from Testament and Death Angel. It was a good year for thrash fans that’s for sure. I could probably fill a list with just thrash. I’m not going to do that though. Out of all the amazing thrash discs I heard this year, Anthrax’s latest stayed at the top. This was truly a modern classic with some of the best songs of their career. Keep in mind Megadeth and Metallica put out some great stuff too. In the end, though, there was no contest For All Kings was king.

Steve Hindalong, The Warbler – Steve Hindalong is not known for his singing prowess. I did not expect his solo album to be one of my favorites of the year. His first solo album, Skinny, decent but I wasn’t totally enamored. The Warbler, however, is probably a better Choir record than some of the more recent Choir records. Great songs, strong production, much improved lyrics over the past few Choir albums. I listened to this one over and over. Just writing this makes me want to listen to it again.

Knifeworld, Bottled Out of Eden – Knifeworld came back this year with the bizarre brand of progressive psychedelic pop. I don’t think it quite reached the highs of 2014’s The Unravelling but there’s just nothing like them out there.

Amaranthe, Maximalism – Like I said in my review, Maximalism is like an energy drink in music form. It’s an instant mood lifter and motivator. Even though the band has gone in a more pop direction with this album, they haven’t sacrificed heaviness and – I think – made their strongest record yet. Still don't like the title, though.

Scandroid, Scandroid- Well, well, well…Klayton has certainly been a busy little bee this year. He’s rereleased all the Circle of Dust albums (as well as the stellar new album, Machines of Our Disgrace) as well as putting out the debut album of Scandroid. Scandroid is Klayton’s synthwave project that is a love letter to the Eighties synth music we know and (some of us) love. I didn’t think this would appeal to me at all, but I was hooked from the first track I heard. Not to mention we get a fantastic cover of Tears For Fears “Shout.” I will review this proper but I haven’t gotten a chance since I got it for Christmas. Yes… got it for Christmas and it’s one of my top picks.

Honorable Mentions

The Jelly Jam, Profit
Panic at the Disco, The Death of a Bachelor
XL & Death Before Dishonor, Offensive Truth

Disappointments of 2016

Dream Theater, The Astonishing – I am shocked at the amount of love this album gets. I must be in the minority. I found The Astonishing to be a ridiculous waste of my time. The story is rubbish, pure and simple. The music has little in the way of hooks and little in the way of progressive mastery. If doesn’t have any of that stuff then why am I even listening to Dream Theater? I can just play Final Fantasy IV…or VI…or VIII. At least the story would be better.  I was never one to say that Mike Portnoy was the “talent” behind the band, but this is the second album in a row on my disappointments list. I’ll give you one more, guys. Then I’m done.

Devin Townsend Project, Transcendence – Wait….what? Yeah… I had some pretty high hopes for this one. It’s not bad. Let me repeat, it’s NOT bad. It just didn’t stick with me like I hoped it would. I didn’t find myself wanting to go back to it again and again like most DTP albums. I’m hoping it will grow on me throughout the years. Maybe it was the gear shift between the more pop oriented albums to a more progressive one.

Favorite Random Music Things of 2016

Circle of Dust Remasters – Klayton (mastermind behind Celldweller, Circle of Dust, and Argyle Park) finally bought the masters to his old music. He remastered them from the ground up and added several discs worth of unreleased material and remixes. It made for a very fine year. And to top it off we also got a new (awesome) Circle of Dust album!

The Genesis Project – Yes, I am not technically done with this project, but it has been a lot of fun. I’m a bonna –fide Genesis fan now. So far my favorites are Selling England By the Pound and A Trick of the Tail. I’ll do a “summary” write up after I finish the final review. It should be at the end of this month. Should be.

Thank you for reading everyone! I hope you have an awesome and blessed new year! Looking forward to all the cool music that’s destined to come out.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Metallica - "Hardwired...To Self-Destruct"

Metallica - Hardwired...To Self-Destruct
2016, Blackened

1. Hardwired
2. Atlas, Rise
3. Now That We're Dead
4. Moth to Flame
5. Dream No More
6. Halo On Fire

1. Confusion
2. ManUNkind
3. Here Comes Revenge
4. Am I Savage?
5. Murder One
6. Spit Out the Bone

1. Lords of Summer
2. Ronnie Rising Medley
3. When a Blind Man Cries
4. Remember Tomorrow
5. Helpless (Live)
6. Hit the Lights (Live)
7. The Four Horsemen (Live)
8. Ride the Lightning (Live)
9. Fade To Black (Live)
10. Jump in the Fire (Live)
11. For Whom the Bell Tolls (Live)
12. Creeping Death (Live)
13. Metal Militia
14. Hardwired (Live)

When this album was nearing release I'd read an article saying the band was "getting back to their roots." Naturally, I rolled my eyes so hard I got a headache. Usually this means nothing. I expected it meant nothing in this case. Then I heard "Hardwired" as was like..."Well... maybe they are going back to their roots." While this is far from Kill 'Em All II they definitely dip deep into that well. "Hardwired" and especially the masterpiece closer "Spit Out the Bone" are fast, heavy, but relatively simple. They definitely remind one of the band's debut album. The rest of the album is a pretty solid continuation of what they accomplished with Death Magnetic - hearkening back to their old thrash roots while still injecting more melody. Some tracks, like "Am I Savage?" and "Murder One" lean toward the Load/Reload days. My only problem is that this album is a bit too long. I think if it was one disc with nine tracks on it, it would be stellar. As it is it's two discs and the second disc definitely has some filler - here I'm thinking of "Confusion," "ManUNkind," and "Murder One." They're songs that aren't bad, but not quite the quality of the first half. Though I really like "Here Comes Revenge," and "Am I Savage?" Oh, and let's not forget "Spit Out the Bone" which I already mentioned. It's probably one of the best songs they've ever written. Not kidding there. Actually, most of the first disc, too, is full of great songs. I think a shorter album would have made it a bit tighter and more unified.

Now I can't complain too much because it's been eight years. I get the sense that the band wanted to reward fans for waiting so long. I mean, the deluxe edition (which I think is the only edition) has three disc. Disc three is several B-side type tracks and what would amount to an entire live album. Also, the packaging is stellar and it's only like ten or eleven dollars. I do hate the cover art though. It looks...weird...not a fan.

Useless Fact: I guess this album contains no riffs from Kirk Hammett as he reportedly lost his phone with all his riff ideas on it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Bullet Boys - "Bullet Boys"

Bullet Boys - Bullet Boys
1988, Reprise

1. Hard as a Rock
2. Smooth Up In Ya
3. Owed To Joe
4. Shoot the Preacher Down
5. For the Love of Money
6. Kissin' Kitty
7. Hell On My Heels
8. Crank It Up
9. Badlands
10. F#9

I remember watching the videos for "Smooth Up In Ya" and "For the Love of Money" back in the day on MTV. I really dug those two songs and bought the album from some record and tape club. For whatever reason I didn't really like the other songs on the album. However, as an old man with his wits about him, I really do like the rest of the songs. In fact, I like this album as a whole quite a lot and would probably rank them right up there with Firehouse in terms of Eighties albums I love. Definitely worth a listen if you're into the hair metal.

Useless Fact: "For the Love of Money" is a cover but I do not know the original artist and, yes, I am too lazy to look it up.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Sting - "If On a Winter's Night..."

Sting - If On a Winter's Night...
2009, Decca

1. Gabriel's Message
2. Soul Cake
3. There is No Rose of Such Virtue
4. The Snow It Melts the Soonest
5. Christmas at Sea
6. Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming
7. Cold Song
8. The Burning Babe
9. Now Winter Comes Slowly
10. The Hounds of Winter
11. Balulalow
12. Cherry Tree Carol
13. Lullaby For An Anxious Child
14. Hurdy Gurdy Man
15. You Only Cross My Mind in Winter
Bonus Track:
16. Blake's Cradle Song

Last year I watched the lighting of the big tree in New York City and Sting was on playing "Soul Cake" and I absolutely loved it. A lot of that had to do with how different it was from everything else that was being performed. Naturally, I had to look up more about this album which isn't so much a Christmas album as much as it is about the winter season in general. It's also not your standard Sting album. This is folk/acoustic music for sure - very minimalist in a lot of places. Sting doesn't even really use his normal singing voice, but sings in a much lower register. Your mileage may very as to whether you'll like it, but heaven knows I did. It's great to have some seasonal music that is completely different from anything else. I found a few new Christmas favorites from this album like "Soul Cake," "Christmas at Sea," "The Burning Babe," and "Cherry Tree Carol" just to name a few. Also, joy of joys, I got the special edition media book with extra DVD. If you're looking for something different, definitely check this out.

Useless Fact: The version of "Gabriel's Message" on this album is a more morose and acoustic version of Sting's 80's Christmas classic.