Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Iced Earth - "Plagues of Babylon"

Iced Earth - Plagues of Babylon
2014, Century Media

1. Plagues of Babylon
2. Democide
3. The Culling
4. Among the Dead
5. Resistance
6. The End?
7. If I Could See You Now
8. Cthulhu
9. Peacemaker
10. Parasite
11. Spirit of the Times
12. Highwayman

I don't always go on vacation, but when I do I end up buying an Iced Earth CD. Chalk it up to my relaxed attitude toward money-spending while on vacation. Even though I described their last album as "perfectly pleasant" I figured even if that's all it is it won't be a total loss. Luckily, it is better than just "perfectly pleasant" in that at least I can remember many of the songs and actually have some favorites. Stu Block continues to perform admirably and their's a little bit more variety in terms of song tempos. Also, no mention of single mothers anywhere. Plagues is quasi-concept album. The first six songs have a story arc continuing the band's Set Abominae mythos while the latter half is stand alone songs. Much like I prefer the non-conspiracy episodes of the X-Files, I prefer the stand-alone songs better. They're not tied down with the, frankly, inane story and that helps them resonate with me more. All I have to say about the story itself is that it includes zombies and I am so sick of zombies. I wish the general public would get over their fascination with them. On the other hand we have "If I Could See You Now." It's a great song about the pain of losing a loved one. "Cthulhu" is about, as the name suggests, a man named George Wimberton and his struggles in getting his family to church on time. Ha ha! I'm kidding, of course. It's about - you guessed it - the national debt crisis. Okay, all kidding aside I think I would have rather had a concept album about the Lovecraft stuff than the Set Abominae stuff. I guess I'm still in the very small minority that likes The Glorious Burden the best.

Useless Fact: Russell Allen (Symphony X) and Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian) lend some guest vocals. Kursch and Scheaffer put out a couple albums together as Demons & Wizards.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Icon For Hire - "Scripted"

Icon For Hire - Scripted
2011, Tooth & Nail

1. Overture
2. Theater
3. Make a Move
4. Get Well
5. The Grey
6. Off With Her Head
7. Fight
8. Up In Flames
9. Iodine
10. Only a Memory
11. Pieces

Icon's debut, Scripted, lacks some of the pop, hip-hop, and electronic flavor of their self-titled album, but it's still a great debut. It manages to set itself apart from the Fireflights and the Letter Blacks of the world. The hooks are strong and the lyrics are insightful and clever (for example: "Crazy's I believe the medical term/ When we want to recover/ But we don't want to learn..." from "Iodine"). I will admit that it does sound slightly more generic than their self-titled but I think that's to be expected as the band is still refining their sound. However, their heart and attitude shine through - especially on tracks like "Make a Move" and "Off With Her Head." I would almost compare them to Christian metal legends, Bloodgood, in terms of having that special type of passion that just breaks out of the music. Having listened to both albums time and time again I can say that this is a band I will be keeping an eye on.

Useless Fact: Lead vocalist, Ariel, makes and sells her own clothes on Etsy.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - "Into the Great Wide Open"

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Into the Great Wide Open
1991, MCA

1. Learning To Fly
2. King's Highway
3. Into the Great Wide Open
4. Two Gunslingers
5. Dark of the Sun
6. All or Nothin'
7. All the Wrong Reasons
8. Too Good To Be True
9. Out in the Cold
10. You and I Will Meet Again
11. Makin' Some Noise
12. Built to Last

For some reason Into the Great Wide Open was kind of underwhelming. I've never really loved "Learning to Fly" as I think it's kind of a pedestrian fluff song. The rest of the album kind of follows suit neither being bad but not really demanding my attention either. There are some songs I really like besides the title track which I've always loved. "Two Gunslingers" is a cool song with a cool story and lyrics. I also really like the rocking "Makin' Some Noise" and the sort of 50's-inspired "Built to Last." The rest of the songs just sort of play without really capturing me.

Useless Fact: I think I mentioned that Johnny Depp starred in the video for the title track, didn't I? Well, I'm mentioning it again.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Audio Adrenaline - "Don't Censor Me"

Audio Adrenaline - Don't Censor Me
1993, Forefront

1. Can't Take God Away
2. AKA Public School
3. Soulmate
4. Big House
5. My World View
6. Jesus and the California Kid
7. Don't Censor Me
8. Let Love
9. We're a Band
10. Rest Easy
11. Scum Sweetheart

I became familiar with Audio Adrenaline through their debut album. It was awful. It's mostly remembered (if it's remembered at all) for two "black sheep" songs, "DC-10" and "My God." Both of these sounded like License To Ill era Beastie Boys or maybe Anthrax's I'm the Man. Anyway, I actually liked these songs. The rest of the album was lame, generic Christian pop. I'm not really even sure how those two songs made it on the record. I mean... they are really different. Their second album, Don't Censor Me was still Christian pop but the song writing was a lot better and they were starting to find their own sound. While they wouldn't quite achieve their own identity until Bloom, this is a decent album - leaps and bounds better than its predecessor. I loved this as a teenager but I don't think it's aged well. I still love "Let Love" and "Scum Sweetheart." I will also defend "Big House." Yes, it's cheesy and corny but it was supposed to be that way. It's just a fun song and there's nothing wrong with that. I'll accept it in the spirit it was intended. The rest of it is alright except the fantastically boring ballads, "My World View" and "Rest Easy." I wonder what world we would live in if the band had chosen to emulate "DC-10" and "My God" instead?

Useless Fact: Audio Adrenaline were "discovered" by DC Talk if I remember correctly.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Petty, Tom - "Wildflowers"

Petty, Tom - Wildflowers
1994, Warner Bros.

1. Wildflowers
2. You Don't Know How It Feels
3. Time To Move On
4. Wildflowers
5. It's Good To Be King
6. Only a Broken Heart
7. Honey Bee
8. Don't Fade On Me
9. Hard On Me
10. Cabin Down Below
11. To Find a Friend
12. A Higher Place
13. House in the Woods
14. Crawling Back to You
15. Wake Up Time

Next stop on the Tom Petty train is Wildflowers. It's got my other two favorite tracks: "You Don't Know How It Feels" and "You Wreck Me." The latter in particular is a hard rocker with a great groove that instantly improves my mood when I hear it. Wildflowers is, with a few exceptions, quieter and more intimate than Full Moon Fever. It's more ponderous as well. I've heard Petty was going through a divorce when he wrote this album. The music leans a bit more toward folk and Americana. "Don't Fade On Me" is one of the most incredible songs I've ever heard from the man. The chorus riff alone gives me a music-gasm. I think I might slightly prefer Full Moon Fever over this one, but just slightly.

Useless Fact: Rick Rubin produced this album.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Icon For Hire - "Icon For Hire"

Icon For Hire - Icon For Hire
2013, Tooth and Nail

1. Cynics & Critics
2. Nerves
3. Sugar & Spice
4. Hope of Morning
5. Sorry About Your Parents
6. Pop Culture
7. Watch Me
8. Slow Down
9. Rock and Roll Thugs
10. Think I'm Sick
11. Fix Me
12. Counting On Hearts

Here's a conversation that transpired about Icon For Hire:

          Me: "Hey, I found this new band you might like. They're called Icon For Hire, they're pretty cool."
          Wife: "Yeah, I know. They've been on my YouTube feed for months."
          Me: "Oh. Well... I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day."
          Wife: "You're a turd."

So what does Icon sound like? Well, take some Paramore and make them heavier. Then throw in some electronica, maybe a little dubstep. Then add, because why not, some white girl rap. Mix it all together and you've got Icon For Hire. Their music is accessible, but heavy, catchy but not obnoxious. Vocalist Ariel may not have quite the range of your Hayley Williamses, but she makes up for it in pure attitude and heart. You can really tell that the band has put their all into this record. Something I think is rare these days. Even the "white girl rap" parts (like in "Sugar & Spice" and "Think I'm Sick") totally work. I would also like to point out that there is no filler here either. All the songs are really good and the album is best listened to as a whole. Icon For Hire has risen to the status of "family's favorite band" as of this writing. And if you don't think a four year old singing the lyrics to "Sugar & Spice" is not the cutest thing ever, then you have no soul. I guess kids these days really can make good music!

Useless Fact: One of the band members has a huge mohawk. When I see it I laugh and laugh and think back to the days when I thought Joey Daub's (of Believer) half-shaved-mohawk-thing was just the coolest thing ever.