Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Advent Spectacular 2015!

Hello everyone! Over at my You Tube channel I did a little series of videos on each Advent Sunday this year talking about different Christmas related things. I thought I'd share that playlist here too as my last post for the year. Merry Christmas everyone! God bless us, everyone!

Episode One: Christmas Memories and Greetings
Episode Two: Christmas Music
Episode Three: Christmas Movies
Episode Four: Faith

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Favorite Albums of 2015 (Video Edition)

Yes, sir, it’s that time again – recapping my favorite albums from the past year. It was a pretty good year with a lot of cool stuff. Some cool stuff didn’t even make it onto the list (which makes me a bit sad), but I limited myself to five picks, so that’s what I stuck with. As always, this isn’t necessarily stuff that came out this year, just stuff I discovered though some may be new releases.

Marmozets, “The Weird and Wonderful Marmozets” – This was a Christmas present last year and it pretty much dominated the first part of the year. One part Paramore, one part fierce, technical musicianship. All parts awesome. Can’t wait to see what this band does in the future!

White Lighter, “White Lighter” – A project from former Stavesacre/Crucified frontman Mark Solomon, White Lighter is a sort of laid back, Black Sabbath-esque rock band. Their debut album came out late in 2014 but I’d only heard about it later through Solomon’s podcast. It’s a fantastic album that I listened to over and over.

Symphony X, “Underworld” – Symphony X continues to impress with another stellar release. Not quite as heavy as “Iconoclast” but it makes up for it with melodic hooks and catchy tunes. It’s even got a little bit of a commercial vibe which, surprisingly, actually helps the album rather than hurt it.

I Fight Dragons, “The Near Future” – I like catchy tunes and I like the original Nintendo, so… I pretty much have to love this album.

Queensryche, “Condition Human” – Welcome back, guys. Welcome back. Queensryche is energized and full of life once again. While I do think it might fall just short of true classic status, I have no doubt they are going to create the next “Mindcrime” or “Empire” of their careers with Todd LaTorre. I cannot wait to see what they do next.

Honorable Mentions

Jerry Gaskill, “Love & Scars”
Pentatonix, “Pentatonix”
Coheed & Cambria, “The Color Before the Sun”


Tourniquet/Ted Kirkpatrick, “Onward to Freedom” – Well, there’s certainly enough talent on this disc that, mathematically speaking, it should be good. Right? Unfortunately the songs are largely forgettable and the preachy PETA lyrics don’t help matters any.

Meghan Trainor, “Title” – It’s unfortunate that the subject matter on Trainor’s debut album is so annoying. We get it… you’re an independent woman who don’t need no man – except when you do. They you’re mad because that idiot you’re messing around with treats you bad. I really hope this is a persona instead of Trainor’s real life.

The Gentle Storm, “The Diary” – Here’s another album that should be one of my picks. Arjen Lucassen and Anneke Van Giersbergen team up for a Celtic-influenced heavy/pop album. It should work! For some it does. Me, however, it just didn’t seem to do anything for me. I never really found myself going back to it. Oh well… we are due for another Star One record soon…

Atomic Opera, “Gospel Cola” – No surprise here. I loved “For Madmen Only” but heard “Gospel Cola” had fallen short. I held out hope that maybe I would really latch onto it but, nope, I didn’t. It’s as mediocre as everyone has said. Sad face.

I’m going to so something a little different next year. Not too much different as there will still be my regular reviews. However, I will be spending one review each month to a specific thing. Get ready for…. THE GENESIS PROJECT! Want to find out more? Watch the video edition!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Connick Jr., Harry - "What a Night! A Christmas Album"

Connick Jr., Harry - What a Night! A Christmas Album
2008, Sony

1. It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
2. What a Night!
3. Christmas Day
4. Holly Jolly Christmas
5. Please Come Home For Christmas
6. O Come All Ye Faithful
7. Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies
8. Let There Be Peace On Earth
9. Winter Wonderland
10. It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
11. Santariffic
12. Jingle Bells
13. Zat You Santa Claus?
14. We Three Kings
15. Song for the Hopeful

I think my Harry Connick, Jr. Christmas collection is complete. Though honestly I didn't like this one as much at first. It took some growing time. The traditional songs are as great as they always are. I really enjoyed the jazzy version of "We Three Kings" even though, like I said, I had to warm up to it at first. I also love this version of "Winter Wonderland" with Harry's daughter singing with him. I think it's probably one of my favorite versions. I don't know how I feel about "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies" as I don't think jazz is quite the style that fits with that version. Also, it doesn't seem like the originals are as good as the ones on the previous albums (except the title track, which I love). Still worth getting, though. I just don't think it's as strong as the other two.

Useless Fact: I don't really have any facts left about ol' HCJ.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Gaskill, Jerry - "Love & Scars"

Gaskill, Jerry - Love & Scars
2015, Rat Pak

1. Far Away
2. This Picture
3. No More Yesterday
4. Hypothetical
5. Waking Up
6. Never Ever Know
7. Sandy
8. Patty's Song
9. Paradise
10. Sad
11. Girl In the Warehouse
12. Goodbye Song

While I count King's X as one of my favorite bands of all time, I've never really cared much for any of the members solo material. Neither Ty Tabor nor Dug Pinnick have been able to captivate me with a solo record. Now I'd heard for a long time that Jerry Gaskill's solo debut, Come Somewhere was the best solo out of them but I'd never checked it out. I heard about Love & Scars a month or so before it's release and got to hear some samples. I was hooked immediately. One Amazon reviewer said that, "This is what the last fifteen years of King's X should have sounded like." And well... yeah, kinda. It's got that deep low end and harmonies - glorious harmonies. The songs are catchy to boot and really dug their claws in deep. Especially songs like the opener, "Far Away" which really does sound like a lost King's X track and "Paradise" with those wonderful harmonies. Then there's the beautiful and epic, "Sad" which, again, sounds an awful lot like a King's X tune. I've always thought that Ty and Dug are what made most of King's X sound like King's X but it appears I was happily mistaken. Congratulations to Jerry who's the only member of the band whose solo album I loved! I guess I have to check out Come Somewhere now...

Useless Fact: There are a slew of guest musicians on this album like Billy Sheehan and Phil Keaggy.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Trans-Siberian Orchestra - "Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night)"

Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night)
2012, Lava

1. Winter Palace
2. Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night)
3. I Had a Memory
4. Someday
5. Time You Should Be Sleeping

Dreams of Fireflies serves as sort of a postlude to the TSO Christmas trilogy. There's no surprises here - if you like TSO, you'll like this little EP. Though there isn't much to be had. There's only five songs and no song is over four minutes long. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but depending on how much you pay for it, you might not feel like you're getting your money's worth. However, the music is awesome as usual. The first two tracks are nice heavy, progressive instrumentals. "Someday" and "Time You Should Be Sleeping" are both good ballads. I say if you liked the trilogy, you probably won't regret picking this up. Love that cover art!

Useless Fact: As far as I know there's no actual story for this album.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Pentatonix - "PTXmas"

Pentatonix - PTXmas
2014, RCA

1. Angels We Have Heard On High
2. O Come, O Come Emmanuel
3. Carol of the Bells
4. The Christmas Song
5. O Holy Night
6. This Christmas
7. Little Drummer Boy
8. Go Tell It On the Mountain

This album came out a bit before their official Christmas debut, That's Christmas To Me. I picked this up in an effort to find every last Pentatonix Christmas song that exists. Naturally, it's great. I mean, it's friggin' Pentatonix so it's pretty impossible for it to be bad. I don't think they could be bad if they tried. I think if they intentionally tried to be bad it would probably just be "above average." Anyway, it's more Pentatonix Christmas music. If you like Pentatonix, then you'll want this album. If you don't... well... you're just wrong.

Useless Fact: That's Christmas to Me has been reissued as a deluxe edition with extra tracks! Argh! We just got the extra tracks on Itunes, even though I'm still strongly tempted to get a hard copy for the vault.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Pentatonix - "Pentatonix"

Pentatonix - Pentatonix
2015, RCA

1. Na Na Na
2. Can't Sleep Love
3. Sing
4. Misbehavin'
5. Ref
6. First Things First
7. Rose Gold
8. If I Ever Fall In Love
9. Cracked
10. Water
11. Take Me Home
12. New Year's Day
13. Light In the Hallway
Bonus Tracks:
14. Where Are U Now?
15. Cheerleader
16. Lean On
17. Can't Sleep Love (feat. Tink)

We love Pentatonix at our house. I've said it before and I'll say it again: if you like music and can't find something to like about these guys, you're going to want to see a neurologist or something because something is wrong with your head. While the group has proven they can make any pop song better than the original version, this is the first time they've done an album full of original songs. It's great, of course. Their knack for fusing acapella with pop sensibilities remains and produces some of the best pop songs I've ever heard. Seriously, "Can't Sleep Love" is an almost perfect pop song. Other songs, like "Water," and "Sing" will get stuck in your head for days. "Light in the Hallway" is an amazing tune with layered vocals and poignant lyrics and one of my favorites as well.

I do have a couple quibbles though. One, it seems like Scott (the one who looks like a Twilight vampire) gets a lot of lead time here. One would almost be tempted to think he's the lead singer with the other folks backing him up. He sings lead on a good share of the songs here. That's not bad, per se, but for a group with this much talent in its ranks I'd like them to share the spotlight a little more. Each person does seem to have their own song (Kirsten's is "Water," Avi's is "Light in the Hallway"), but I like it when they work as a team more like on their covers and Christmas stuff. Also, there's a few songs that sound a little too radio friendly. Stuff like "First Things First" and "New Year's Day" conform more to the pop standard I think. One of the things I like about the group is that they break away from the standard modern pop sound. Anyway, minor things aside, Pentatonix is great and we'll probably be listening to it well into next year.

Useless Fact: Scott and Mitch (the little one) have a You Tube channel called "Super Fruits." My wife tells me it's very amusing.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Coheed and Cambria - "The Color Before The Sun"

Coheed and Cambria - The Color Before The Sun
2015, 300 Entertainment

1. Island
2. Eraser
3. Colors
4. Here To Mars
5. Ghost
6. Atlas
7. Young Love
8. You Got Spirit, Kid
9. The Audience
10. Peace to the Mountain

Well... it had to happen eventually. I knew at some point Coheed and Cambria would have to make an album without a concept. The question, of course, is can a band whose stock and trade has been convoluted concept albums their entire career even pull something like this off? The Color Before The Sun might not overthrow my favorite Coheed album (Good Apollo, Vol. 1 if you're wondering) but some of the songs on here are some of the best of their career and that is not an exaggeration. Song's like the haunting "Ghost" or the uplifting and energetic "Atlas" leave their mark for days in your brain. "You Got Spirit, Kid" recalls some of the bouncy radio-friendly tunes like "Blood Red Summer" or "The Suffering." The album closer, "Peace to the Mountain" is altogether different being one of my favorite Coheed songs of all time.

It's kind of weird to listen to Coheed lyrics that make sense! The band is far less angsty and dark on this album and the hope and exuberance for life shines through. This is a good thing as I don't think you can only be angsty so long before it starts sounding fake. This is certainly the most optimistic record they've ever done. Again, this is not a bad thing. I'm happy to see the band evolving and challenging themselves. While as a whole  The Color Before The Sun isn't quite as compelling as some of their other albums, the songwriting is still top notch and contains some phenomenal songs. I have no reservations about the future of the band anymore.

Useless Fact: I think "Atlas" is actually the name of singer Claudio Sanchez's son.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Queensryche - "Condition Human"

Queensryche - Condition Human
2015, Century

1. Arrow of Time
2. Guardian
3. Hellfire
4. Toxic Remedy
5. Selfish Lives
6. Eye9
7. Bulletproof
8. Hourglass
9. Just Us
10. All There Was
11. The Aftermath
12. Condition Human

Let me start this review by first saying, THANK YOU TODD LA TORRE! His addition to the band following Geoff Tate's ouster has reinvigorated these guys. They are full of passion and fire now - it's obvious they are glad to be Queensryche again. The real Queensryche - writing real Queensryche songs, instead of being Tate's mediocre vanity project. This fire was apparent on the self-titled release from 2013, but that album - while enjoyable- was rushed and light. This one however... for me it's the best album since Empire. The band is on point here and the album is much more substantial than the previous offering. It's full of great instrumentation and strong hooks. Just one listen to the blistering opener, "Arrow of Time" and you just know - Queensryche is back. Some people say that this album sounds a little like Empire or Promised Land but I disagree. I don't think it sounds like the previous albums (save for shades of "Anybody Listening?" in the title track). I think it sounds fresh, new, and modern. It's like we got an album from an alternate universe where the Hear in the Now Frontier and later never happened. I particularly like tracks like "Bulletproof" where La Torre just belts it out with all of his heart.

I don't think the album is perfect, though. I do think the lyrics aren't quite to the quality standards of the heyday of Queensryche. At times they seem a little generic and don't quite pack the punch that one might be used to from the classic albums. Also, the cover are and liner notes are really dark and a bit hard to read (a nitpicky gripe to be sure). Still, while I don't think this is quite a "classic" it shows a definite upward direction for the band. Honestly, I think the next one is going to be the definitive La Torre-era album and I heartily look forward to it. Until then I will enjoy this album secure in the knowledge that Queensryche's name and legacy is in good hands.

Useless Fact: Fear not, Tate fans! Tate still has a mediocre vanity project. It's called Operation: Mindcrime and the debut album, The Key, should come out... at some point. Don't ask me when because I neither know nor care.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Iron Maiden - "The Book of Souls"

Iron Maiden - The Book of Souls
2015, BMG

1. If Eternity Should Fail
2. Speed of Light
3. The Great Unknown
4. The Red and the Black
5. When the River Runs Deep
6. The Book of Souls

1. Death or Glory
2. Shadows of the Valley
3. Tears of a Clown
4. The Man of Sorrows
5. Empire in the Clouds

I didn't really know too much about The Book of Souls other than that I'd seen it around for sale. Naturally, I bought it one day while getting groceries. I mean, it's friggin' Iron Maiden. How bad could it be? Seemed like a pretty low-risk investment. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a double album with some truly epic tracks. Quite a few here are over the ten-minute mark, not to mention "Empire of the Clouds" which is a whopping eighteen minute opus. I'm pretty impressed that a band that has been around as long as these guys can sound so alive and energetic. You could group this album in with Number of the Beast or Powerslave and no one would be the wiser. Bottom line, if you like Iron Maiden, you will dig these discs.

I do have a couple of complaints though. First, the production seems a little dated here. When I said you put this next to those other albums I meant it... unfortunately that seems to include some dated production. I also think a couple of tracks could have been trimmed a bit. I love the rollicking "The Red and the Black" but there's an extended galloping session near the end that I think could have been trimmed a bit. Also, Bruce Dickinson seems a big strained here. Though, considering he was battling cancer at the time I think I can give him a pass. That's how tough that man is. "Oh, I've got cancer? Let's record a double album! What do you think about that, cancer?!" As of this writing, he did beat that cancer.

Useless Fact: "Tears of a Clown" is a tribute to Robin Williams and I understand "The Man of Sorrows" is about Aleister Crowley.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Nash, Leigh - "The State I'm In"

Nash, Leigh - The State I'm In
2015, One Son

1. Spider and the Moth
2. Cruel Heart
3. Chicago
4. Mountain
5. What's Behind Me
6. Somebody's Yesterday
7. The Promise Break
8. Dreaming Out Loud
9. The State I'm In
10. High Is Better
11. Tell Me Now Tennessee
12. Doing It Wrong

I pretty much hate country music. Let's get that out of the way right now. Especially the insipid "Bro Country" which mostly involves girls, beer, and trucks... and rap somehow. Anyway, Leigh Nash's little country album caught my attention because, being a longtime Sixpence fan, I've known she's wanted to do country stuff for a long time. Like... she was talking about it in interviews for This Beautiful Mess... i.e. a LONG time. So this isn't some cash-in-desperate-grab-at-fame record. Nope, this is an album she's wanted to do. And... I like it. Quite a lot actually. I guess it helps that it's less Florida-Georgia Line and more Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard. I was raised on country - Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Alabama, The Oak Ridge Boys... my parents would take rides through the hills of upstate New York and those folks were the soundtrack to many of those rides. Despite my intense dislike for country, there were a lot of songs by those artists that I liked. I think that's why I like The State I'm In because it definitely reminds me of those songs. This may surprise you but some of my favorite tracks here are the more honky-tonk ones like the title track, "High is Better" and "Doing It Wrong." I also like "Mountain" and "What's Behind Me" - both tracks could have been Sixpence tracks (though a little more countrified Sixpence).

I do have some small gripes about this album. First, I don't like the song "Chicago." Part of it is that it's the third slower paced song and by that point I think the album's momentum would have done better with a peppier song. I also don't care for the lyrics which is just the singer pining over some dude, begging him to tell her more about Chicago. I just don't like it. Second, the packaging is really flimsy - it's a thin cardboard digipack that's easily damaged. It does come with liner notes with lyrics, though, so that's good. Despite these minor gripes I enjoyed The State I'm In way more than I thought I would. It's definitely worth checking out even if you don't like country.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Spock's Beard - "The Oblivion Particle"

Spock's Beard - The Oblivion Particle
2015, Inside Out

1. Tides of Time
2. Minion
3. Hell's Not Enough
4. Bennett Built a Time Machine
5. Get Out While You Can
6. A Better Way to Fly
7. The Center Line
8. To Be Free Again
9. Disappear
Bonus Track:
10. Iron Man

The You Tube robot plopped the "Bennett Built a Time Machine" lyric video in my feed awhile back. I was instantly hooked. I love that song. In fact, it's probably one of my favorite progressive songs of all time. No I'm not lying. The rest of the album is good too. I like how the band mixes plenty of progressive virtuoso playing with good hooks and melodies. This is especially apparent on songs like "The Center Line" and "Disappear." The latter is another song I love to death. I'm not sure if this is a concept album or not because the liner notes feature a story about "Bennett" in... the one who built the time machine, but the other songs don't seem to make reference to it, so I don't know. It's a good album and I may have to get into more Spock's Beard in the future.

Useless Fact: Um... Neal Morse was in this band? Yeah, I know everyone knows that but I don't know the band well enough for a really good fact.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Lifesavers - "Heaven High"

Lifesavers - Heaven High
2014, Retroactive

1. Heaven High
2. All Fall Down
3. Bark Bite
4. Offed My Head
5. I Love It When
6. Dog Days of an Indian Summer
7. Oh Baby
8. Stereo Radio
9. Ocean View Lane
10. Last Spring

I've never been a huge Lifesavers-type person. My most vivid memory of them is seeing Poplife around the Christian bookstores back in the day. Recently, Michael Knott was on the Frontline Rewind podcast and he played "Heaven High" and I quite enjoyed it, so I decided to check out the album proper. It's pretty good. I guess you would kind of call it surf/pop/punk... I guess. It's pretty light and fun and while I don't come back to it over and over again it's a satisfying listen nonetheless. It's also pretty short at under a half an hour. I burn through the whole thing on the way to and from work.

Useless Fact: The picture on the cover is of St. Clare of Assisi. Her story helped influence the album.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Worldview - "The Chosen Few"

Worldview - The Chosen Few
2015, M24

1. Mortality
2. Illusion of Love
3. Back in Time
4. The Mirror
5. Why?
6. Prisoner of Pain
7. Two Wonders
8. Walk Through Fire
9. The Chosen Few
10. The Last Cry

I put off buying Worldview for quite a while after it came out. I listened to the few songs available and, despite the talent, was that impressed. However, a little bit later I started checking out the album as a whole and discovered I really did like it after all. Worldview is a project of former Deliverance/Recon guitarist George Ochoa and former Sacred Warrior vocalist Rey Perra. It sounds exactly how you might expect. It's metal that's a throwback to the heyday of Christian metal - though the modern production helps fill out the sound. It's really nice to hear Rey Perra singing again. I still don't know why he wasn't on the last Sacred Warrior album. His inclusion really makes Worldview sound a lot more like Sacred Warrior than Waiting in Darkness did. The band puts together some distinctly 80's sounding hooks in songs like "Back in Time" and "Walk Through Fire." This is not a bad thing. There are also some eastern musical influences tracks like "Mortality" and "The Last Cry." Basically, if you're a fan of late 80's/early 90's Christian metal (like I am) then Worldview is right up your alley. If not you can still enjoy Rey Perra's pipes which still sound good after all these years and Ochoa's guitar which is also stellar. So I guess you have no excuse but to buy it.

Useless Fact: Originally Rick Macias, who was the keyboardist for Sacred Warrior was supposed to be involved but tragically passed away before the project got off the ground.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Projects and Plans

Hey everyone! As you might have noticed reviews have slowed down a bit. My goal used to be to do five per month. I'm going to have to slow that down to three. Mostly because the disposable income isn't there for me to just buy CDs with. I know... I'm sad too. There's at least three albums coming out soon that I'll be reviewing: the Leigh Nash solo country album, the new Coheed & Cambria, and the new Queensryche. On deck are Worldview, Lifesavers, and Spock's Beard.

Another reason the blog has slowed down is because I've been working on more Let's Plays. For the uninitiated, a "Let's Play" is a series of videos where someone plays a game and makes commentary as he goes. Visit my You Tube channel - like, comment, and subscribe! I'll be doing this for at least a year, maybe more. Right now I've been posting videos of Monster Part and Vice Project Doom. Watch and enjoy!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Symphony X - "Underworld"

Symphony X - Underworld
2015, Nuclear Blast

1. Overture
2. Nevermore
3. Underworld
4. Without You
5. Kiss of Fire
6. Charon
7. To Hell and Back
8. In My Darkest Hour
9. Run With the Devil
10. Swan Song
11. Legend

So yeah... remember when I bought Iconoclast twice a couple years ago? I've slowly become a Symphony X die-hard - so much so that I pre-ordered Underworld to make sure I'd have it whether or not we had money in the house. Is it the non-stop metal freight train the last album was? No, it's not, but that's okay. This disc is a little more progressive than the last. They've backed off a little on the throttle and let in more of the progressive elements that have been part of the band's sound. There's a little bit more of The Odyssey in here than on Iconoclast. However, they've kept a lot of the "fist in the air" metal from that album, only backing it off enough to let some more melody seep into the songs. What you have is an album that is at once very heavy and progressive, but a times dang near commercial with its hooks. So far, every listen has been a treat and it only gets better with subsequent listens. Underworld will almost certainly make it on my picks of the year list.

Useless Fact: The theme for this album, not surprisingly, is hell. Specifically Dante's vision of it but also it includes the general concept of an underworld as seen in Greek myths.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Freedom of Soul - "Caught in a Land of Time"

Freedom of Soul - Caught in a Land of Time
1991, BAI

1. Freedom of Soul
2. Caught in a Land of Time
3. Runnin'
4. A Touch of Soul
5. Cookin' Bacon
6. Blue Sky Lies
7. Acknowledgements
8. It's On You
9. This Is Love
10. Can't Hold Back
11. Cartoon Goes to Texas
12. Skin Deep
13. January 15
14. Y Don't You Want 2 Play Me
15. Serious Lyrics

So I was listening to Mark Solomon's podcast, like you do, and one of his guests was the main man behind Freedom of Soul. Freedom of Soul was one of those rap groups in the same circle as S.F.C., Dynamic Twins, etc. For some reason I never listened to them. I have no reason for this other than I just didn't ever pick up one of their albums. After listening to the podcast, however, I decided to check them out. It's pretty good stuff. Definitely in line with that group of performers. You hear a lot of Super C and the Twins in the background doing various things. I don't think it's quite as distinctive as some of the other groups of the time, but that might just be me. There are also a couple of skits ("Cookin' Bacon" being my favorite). Even Ben Redeemed, who - if you'll remember - appeared on S.F.C.'s A Saved Man (In the Jungle) as a jackass D.J. makes an appearance. He's a little bit more sympathetic here though and it's actually the performers that kind of come off as whiny... to me anyway.

Useless Fact: Rene Vasquez (the main rapper for the group) spoke on the podcast about how he used to just listen to Gene Eugene talk about things and set things up because Rene would learn so much that way. Rene said that you couldn't really ask Gene a question and get a good answer, you just had to listen and watch while he was doing his thing.

I still kind of miss Gene.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Atomic Opera - "Gospel Cola"

Atomic Opera - Gospel Cola
2000, Metal Blade

1. Jesus Junk
2. October
3. WinterLand
4. Reiah Discerns the Times
5. Malediction
6. My Head
7. Silence
8. Muse
9. Love is as Strong as Death
10. The Circle is Closed
11. Stop My Heart
12. Doxology

I've not heard good things about Atomic Opera's albums after For Madmen Only. Sometimes that doesn't matter and I end up really liking those albums. However, in this case, I have to say...Gospel Cola is... okay. Just okay. It's not terrible but it's not nearly as beautiful and addicting as the debut. One of the problems is that while the guitars are still chunky, they're now kicked to the back of the mix. The guitars was one of my favorite aspects so it's disappointing to see them given the short end of the stick. The other problem is the songs themselves... they're... okay. I like "Jesus Junk," "October," and "My Head" but the rest of them are just alright. Not wonderful, not crap just there. Oh well.

Useless Fact: "Jesus Junk" talks about all the stupid Christian products the Church thinks up to make money. The song mentions Testamints - which I called out as stupid as well when they came out. There's also quotes at the end of the lyrics from "Bad Buddha" which vaguely remind me of the quotes from Wild Sylas Tomkin back in the day.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

White Lighter - "White Lighter"

White Lighter - White Lighter
2014, Northern

1. Swan
2. Son of Dawn
3. City Sailor
4. That's Right
5. Breath Cancer
6. Heavy
7. Omens
8. Hard Love
9. Make Fire
10. Spearhead

I found out about White Lighter quite by accident. I started listening to Mark Solomon's (The Crucified/Stavesacre) podcast, "Never Was" and was interested in the music he uses for the intros and transitions. Turns out it's his new band, White Lighter, which consists of Andy Pricket (The Prayer Chain) and Steve Dail (Project 86) - making it a veritable super group. It's definitely got a retro vibe to it. Some folks say it sounds a little like early Black Sabbath. However, having never heard any early Black Sabbath I can't say. However, Mark does sound a bit like Ozzy on these tracks. Not that that's a bad thing. It's not really metal either, it's got kind of a mellow swagger to it with great little riffs and infectious hooks and grooves. Take "Son of Dawn" for instance - a tune that will stay in your head for days. I'd also like to give kudos for the lyrics which are very well written... very meaningful and unique. This is definitely on my list for my top picks of 2015!

Useless Fact: As if this band didn't have enough star power behind it, Jason Martin (Starflyer 59) produced the album.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Let's Play stuff!

Hello everyone! I've started a new venture - I'm going to be a dork that plays video games on the internet. This is my first "test" Let's Play of Star Trek: TNG Pinball. Check it out. My very first full LP will be of Gargoyle's Quest for Game Boy. I hope to upload every Friday. I will still be doing music reviews for those two or three of you who actually read my reviews, so fear not!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Atomic Opera - "For Madmen Only (Twenty Years Later)"

Atomic Opera - For Madmen Only (Twenty Years Later)
1994/2014, Feverdream

1. Joyride
2. Justice
3. Achilles' Heel
4. I Know Better
5. All Fall Down
6. War Drum
7. Blackness
8. December
9. This Side of the Rainbow
10. New Dreams
Bonus Tracks:
11. Joyride II
12. Hammer
13. Magic Castle

Years ago I got ahold of Atomic Opera's debut album. I listened to it one time and wasn't too terribly impressed. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when, for some reason, I decided to check them out again and was very impressed. I don't know what changed between then and now but I really got into it this time. Atomic Opera is another Texas Sam Taylor band like King's X and Galactic Cowboys. And like those bands, incorporates heavy riffs with layered harmonies for a most bodacious effect. I guess I'm channeling my inner Bill & Ted now. Atomic Opera does seem to have their own sound despite the similarities. There's also kind of a melancholy here that King's X and the Cowboys didn't quite have until years later. I can't believe I didn't like this the first time around! This particular edition is digital only but does boast a few extra tracks. "Hammer" and "Magic Castle" fit quite nicely with the original material. Having another version of "Joyride" is okay but hardly essential.

Useless Fact: Atomic Opera put out two other albums that I'm aware of: Penguin Dust and Gospel Cola. Both of which I'm going to have to check out.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Beastie Boys - "Hello Nasty"

Beastie Boys - Hello Nasty
1998, Capitol

1. Super Disco Freakin'
2. The Move
3. Remote Control
4. Song For the Man
5. Just a Test
6. Body Movin'
7. Intergalactic
8. Sneakin' Out the Hospital
9. Putting Shame in Your Game
10. Flowin' Prose
11. And Me
12. Three MC's and One DJ
13. The Grasshopper Unit (Keep Movin')
14. Song For Junior
15. I Don't Know
16. The Negotiation Limerick File
17. Electrify
18. Picture This
19. Unite
20. Dedication
21. Dr. Lee, PhD
22. Instant Death

Hello Nasty continues in the vein of the B-Boys previous albums - infectious rap songs bundled together with experimental alternative tracks. They've gotten a bit more electronic here, eschewing the more organic sounds of Ill Communication and Check Your Head. I don't have a problem with this. The raps are still just as catchy as they always are. I will say that after listening to all these Beastie albums I definitely prefer it when they just write awesome rap songs instead of wandering into artsy-fartsy territory. Also, this disc is about three tracks too long. "Dedication" is really kind of boring. "Dr. Lee, PhD" is a rambling track with some guy pontificating over it. It's about as captivating as watching paint dry. Also, the closing track "Instant Death" is a similar snooze fest. This is probably why I really like To the 5 Boroughs... even though it's not a fan favorite. There's no garnish on that one. I really enjoy Hello Nasty despite my complaints.

Useless Fact: In the video for "Intergalactic" the band pays homage to Japanese Kaiju movies. They pilot a big robot and fight an evil monster. I know... everyone's seen that video but I'm not exactly a Beastie Boys expert yet.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Taylor, Terry Scott - "Avocado Faultline"

Taylor, Terry Scott - Avocado Faultline
2000, Stunt

1. Cowboys With Engines
2. Startin' Monday
3. Capistrano Beach
4. Pie Hole
5. The Afternoon
6. Built Her a Cloud
7. Angels Must Smile Like That
8. With What I Should Have Said
9. Pretend I'm Elvis (For Just One Night)
10. Papa Danced On Olvera Street
11. Kind Word

Listening to Avocado Faultline after just having come off John Wayne was a bit of a gear shift. Whereas the latter album was raucous and loud, Faultline is more mellow. It's sort of a combination of country, folk, and Americana - a bit more like a Lost Dogs album perhaps. "Built Her a Cloud," the sole "rock" track could also have been a shoo-in for a Dogs disc. Surprisingly, I like some of the "country" songs the most, like "Cowboys With Engines" and "Pretend I'm Elvis (For Just One Night)." While I always enjoy whatever Uncle Terry has to bring to the table, I do have to be in the right mood for this one.

Useless Fact: Speaking of the Lost Dogs, they pretty much all show up on "Pretend I'm Elvis."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Taylor, Terry Scott - "John Wayne"

Taylor, Terry Scott - John Wayne
1998, KMG

1. Writer's Block
2. Mr. Flutter
3. Too Many Angels
4. Boomtown
5. You Told Them Exactly What I Didn't Say
6. Big Shot & Miniature Girl
7. Ten Gallon Hat
8. Hey John Wayne
9. Chicken Crosses The Road
10. You Lay Down

I tried buying this awhile back but the webstore I used told me they didn't have it in stock! So... take two? I guess? John Wayne should be pretty comfortable listening to fans of Daniel Amos' Kalhoun, or Bibleland, or even Dig Here, Said the Angel. It's pretty straightforward alternative rock. That's not to downplay how good it is though. It's so good, guys. Tim Chandler's warbly wandering bass lines are all over this disc. The hooks are strong as well, especially on tracks like "Mr. Flutter" and "Boomtown." The disc veers over into some country-lite territory with "Ten Gallon Hat." This album has kind of a melancholy tone as a few of the songs seem to be about Taylor's lack of mainstream musical success. It's totally worth picking up.

Useless Fact: Terry Scott Taylor wrote the soundtracks for both The Neverhood, Skullmonkeys, and the upcoming Armikrog - games by Doug TenNapel. TenNapel also contributed some art to the liner notes.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Haken - "Visions"

Haken - Visions
2011, Sensory

1. Premonition
2. Nocturnal Conspiracy
3. Insomnia
4. The Mind's Eye
5. Portals
6. Shapeshifter
7. Deathless
8. Visions

My good buddy recommended I check out Visions as we both went nuts over the band's latest full-length album, The Mountain. So I bought it, because if he says I'll like it, chances are at least 98.9% that I will like it. Surprise! I really like it! It's actually a good deal heavier overall than The Mountain. Whereas the newest album falls a bit more on the "progressive rock" side of the spectrum, this one is more on the "metal" side. The shear amount of talent here boggles the mind. The bass playing is astounding and the sense of melody is captivating. Emotion just pours out of this music. Remember when I was just getting into Dream Theater? I have to say, Dream Theater sounds almost sterile and antiseptic compared to some of the stuff I've gotten into since then. Especially this. I think I might actually like this better than The Mountain. Though I don't know... I'd better listen to The Mountain again...

Useless Fact: This does seem to be a concept album about time travel, vampires, and murder, but I'm not exactly sure what the story is.

Haken - "Resoration EP"

Haken - Restoration EP
2014, Inside Out

1. Darkest Light
2. Earthlings
3. Crystallised

Holy cow! I can't believe I didn't review this! I've had it since around Christmastime of last year. Well, let's remedy that right now shall we? Restoration is a nice cheap little EP and it is well worth your time. "Darkest Light" is heavy - more akin to some of the stuff on Visions. It's a good song but it doesn't blow my socks off or anything. "Earthlings" is a ballad that is, honestly, kind of boring. The final track, "Crystallised," however, is amazing and wonderful. The whole EP is only like $2.67 on Amazon last time I checked. Worth every penny I'd say.

Useless Fact: I don't really have anything else to say about this album.... sorry.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Immortal Souls - "Wintermetal"

Immortal Souls - Wintermetal
2015, Rottweiler

1. First Snow of Winter
2. Calm Before the Snowstorm
3. Dawn of Northern Coldness
4. The Trail in the Snow
5. Inverno
6. Snowstorm
7. Cold and Barren Land
8. Northern Star
9. The Grave of a Poet
10. Solitude
11. Wintermetal

I've never really liked melodic death metal. Of course, I've never really listened to a lot of it but what I had heard never really grabbed me. Except for Immortal Souls, that is. Immortal Souls has been around for a good long while but this is the first album I've heard of theirs. I listened to some samples and was impressed enough to buy the whole album. It smokes! I think what I dig about this album is that it seems to be a bit more rooted in thrash at times. Let's not forget some cool riffs and blast beats - though the blast beats aren't overused. The vocals are of the growling type but a couple of songs ("The Trail in the Snow" and "Northern Star") feature clean vocals which adds some variety. As one could guess by the album title and song titles, the theme of this album is "winter: it's way cool, man." I understand these guys have been writing about winter for their entire careers. I mean, I love winter too but I don't know how many songs I could write about it. I'm a little bummed that it wasn't actually winter when this came out. I feel like it's kind of blasphemy to listen to Wintermetal while in the peak of spring!

Useless Fact: This album shares a label with Grave Robber and Lust Control. Several of the label's bands are charting on the Christian Hard Rock charts. They're starting to turn into the modern equivalent of Intense Records!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Beastie Boys - "Ill Communication"

Beastie Boys - Ill Communication
1994, Capitol

1. Sure Shot
2. Tough Guy
3. B-Boys Makin' With the Freak Freak
4. Bobo On the Corner
5. Root Down
6. Sabotage
7. Get It Together
8. Sabrosa
9. The Update
10. Futterman's Rule
11. Alright Hear This
12. Eugene's Lament
13. Flute Loop
14. Do It
15. Ricky's Theme
16. Heart Attack Man
17. The Scoop
18. Shambala
19. Bodhisattva Vow
20. Transitions

I think Ill Communication is my favorite Beastie platter so far. It starts off with, what I think, is one of their best songs ever - "Sure Shot." The album continues the somewhat experimental approach that began with Check Your Head. There's a lot of funk, alternative, some hard core punk, and even more world music. Though I actually think this one is a bit more cohesive and there's a lot more actual rap songs. I also like the instrumentals better - especially the violin's on "Eugene's Lament." This album is most well-known for "Sabotage" and its video. Hey remember when "Sabotage" was in the Star Trek reboot. As much as I love that song I hated that they put it in Star Trek. A young Jim Kirk rocking out to the Beasties after stealing a car. Seemed very un-Star Trek to me. Anyway... this is a great album and it's too bad the only thing people have heard off of it is "Sabotage."

Useless Fact: Q-Tip guest raps on "Get It Together" and Biz Markie makes another appearance on "Do It."

Monday, May 25, 2015

Beastie Boys - "Check Your Head"

Beastie Boys - Check Your Head
1992, Capitol

1. Jimmy James
2. Funky Boss
3. Pass the Mic
4. Gratitude
5. Lighten Up
6. Finger Lickin' Good
7. So What'Cha Want
8. The Biz Vs. The Nuge
9. Time For Livin'
10. Somethings Got to Give
11. The Blue Nun
12. Stand Together
13. Pow
14. The Maestro
15. Groove Holmes
16. Live At P.J.'s
17. Mark On the Bus
18. Professor Booty
19. In 3's
20. Namaste

Paul's Boutique, the B-Boys' sophomore album was a critical success even if that didn't translate to spectacular sales. For their follow-up, Check Your Head, the band picked up instruments and decided to be all experimental and what not. The result is, not surprisingly, very experimental - mixing their old school hip-hop with funk, alternative rock, and even some world music. I remember I had a friend at church once that had recently got the album and was like, "Man... I don't know what's going on with them!" I could see where it could be quite a shock to someone not prepared for it. Let it be known that the instrumentation is stellar and, might I say, who knew Adam Yauch was such an accomplished bass player? Honestly, though, I don't like this one quite as much as Ill Communication because I think there could definitely stand to be a bit more actual rap on here. That being said, I can also see why a lot of people cite this one as their favorite.

Useless Fact: Biz Markie does some "singing" on "The Biz Vs. the Nuge." It's awful... or sublime. I depends on what you think of Biz Markie.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Beastie Boys - "To the 5 Boroughs"

Beastie Boys - To the 5 Boroughs
2005, Capitol

1. Ch-Check It Out
2. Right Right Now Now
3. 3 The Hard Way
4. It Takes Time To Build
5. Rhyme the Rhyme Well
6. Triple Trouble
7. Hey F**k You
8. Oh Word?
9. That's It That's All
10. All Lifestyles
11. Shazam!
12. An Open Letter To NYC
13. Crawlspace
14. The Brouhaha
15. We Got The

Well... I guess I'm not done. I can't not do this. I can't. So... let's just forget that last post where I said I was done, okay?

Anyway, our first stop on the Beastie Boys tour is To the 5 Boroughs which a lot of fans think is one of their worst albums. Naturally, I love it. I used to own this back in the day and got rid of it, but I can't remember why. It's just straight forward old-school rap without any distorted vocals or instrumental experimentation. There's also a lot of profanity and leftists politics but that doesn't bother me anymore (maybe that's why I got rid of it way back). I'm just too old to get upset by people expressing their opinions - though I do disagree with some of the things they say on here. It's definitely not the genre-bending, boundary defying stuff they were trying in the 90's that's for sure. I think they just wanted to do an old-school album and pay tribute to their hometown - especially after 9/11. They do this quite admirably in the title track. No, this album might not be "their best" but it's catchy and clever nonetheless and I think it deserves a bit more credit than it gets.

Useless Fact: Notice the cover art has the twin towers pictured even though this came out in 2005. The liner notes also include the lyrics, which is rare for a rap album.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Gentle Storm - "The Diary"

The Gentle Storm - The Diary
2015, Inside Out

1. Endless Sea
2. Heart of Amsterdam
3. The Greatest Love
4. Shores of India
5. Cape of Storms
6. The Storm
7. The Moment
8. Eyes of Michiel
9. Brightest Light
10. New Horizons
11. Epilogue: The Final Entry

The Gentle Storm is the latest project from Ayreon mastermind Arjen Anthony Lucassen. He teamed up with Anneke Van Giersbergen to create a folk/metal album. She sings all of the tracks. This is a good thing. I've always loved her voice all the way back from the Electric Castle days. She does not disappoint here. The music is a cool mix of folk-type stuff and metal. That is, if you're listening to the "Storm" version. This album has two discs with two versions, a "Storm" and a "Gentle." I've listened to both but I prefer the Storm version. There's nothing really wrong with the Gentle version but it seems like I can hear the holes where the heavy parts should be. The music is a lot more focused than Arjen usually does. It's a great disc and I love the songs and the melodies, but it doesn't blow me away. Arjen's usual musical tropes are in full effect. Some parts almost have a Stream of Passion vibe. If you're looking for something really different you'll be disappointed, but it's a solid album and a good listen if you're a fan of Arjen and Anneke like I am.

Useless Fact: One of the special editions for this album is an LP sized art book edition with four CDs! It was a little pricey, so I declined. But it was really, really hard.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Trouble - "Psalm 9"

Trouble - Psalm 9
1984, Relativity

1. The Tempter
2. Assassin
3. Victim of the Insane
4. Revelation (Life or Death)
5. Bastards Will Pay
6. The Fall of Lucifer
7. Endtime
8. Psalm 9
9. The Tale of Brave Ulysses

Trouble was another of those bands I'd always heard about as a youth but never actually listened to. They'd gotten a reputation for being Christian even though the band itself was not. They were just tired of all the satanic stuff in metal and decided to go the opposite direction. I recently watched a YouTube video were Scott Waters (from Ultimatum and No Life Til recommended this disc in his Christian picks (though he admitted the band wasn't really Christian). So I searched You Tube to see if someone had posted the album and lo and behold, I heard some pretty awesome metal. A quick trip to Amazon later and it was on my iphone. Trouble are usually referred to as doom metal which is characterized by slow riffing - made popular by Black Sabbath. There are some slow, doomy parts on Psalm 9 but most of it is just pure, awesome heavy metal. Be sure to enjoy the awesome guitar work of Bruce Franklin who would later go on to form Under Midnight. I can't believe it's taken me this long to check this out. It's definitely a metal classic that should be in every metal-head's collection.

Useless Fact: This album is actually self-titled. It wasn't until later pressings that the record company made the title Psalm 9.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Petra - "On Fire!"

Petra - On Fire!
1988, Star Song

1. All Fired Up
2. Hit You Where You Live
3. Mine Field
4. First Love
5. Defector
6. Counsel of the Holy
7. Somebody's Gonna Praise His Name
8. Open Book
9. Stand in the Gap
10. Homeless Few

Hey kids! It's story time!

A long time ago my cousin and I were really into music. We watched endless hours of MTV, bought tapes by the handfuls (when we could afford it), and generally thought and talked about music 24/7. We had some relatives who we called "holy rollers" because they were Christians and didn't do anything but talk about Jesus 24/7. So one day after church I had said something to my cousin about Skid Row (her favorite band) and she said, "I don't listen to them anymore." I was astounded. She had become a "holy roller." I reminded her that we had vowed never to become those (it didn't work out so well...). At some point she gave me a tape of Petra's On Fire! and I think a Michael Peace tape. I quite enjoyed it at the time and that pretty much kicked off my official entry into the Christian rock world. So when I saw this in a little thrift store on vacation I snatched it straight away.

You know what? It's still pretty dang good. Better, now that I have more of a mind about me to appreciate things. They had embraced an 80's hard rock sound and it totally worked for them. Some of these songs even border on metal (like "Defector" and "Counsel of the Holy"). After this album they would hit their peak with Beyond Belief, but On Fire! is a great album to this day.

Useless Fact: Jon and Dino Elephante produced this disc. You can tell because the production on their albums is always super clean and shiny.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Blind Guardian - "Beyond the Red Mirror"

Blind Guardian - Beyond the Red Mirror
2015, Nuclear Blast

1. The Ninth Wave
2. Twilight of the Gods
3. Prophecies
4. At the Edge of Time
5. Ashes of Eternity
6. Distant Memories
7. The Holy Grail
8. The Throne
9. Sacred Mind
10. Miracle Machine
11. The Grand Parade

My wife got me this album for Valentine's Day. Because nothing says, "I love you" like some progressive power metal! I actually had A Night at the Opera for awhile back in the day but I didn't listen to it as much. I think it was just too epic at the time. However, after getting into a lot of symphonic metal last year I decided to check these guys out again and surprise, surprise, really enjoyed them. I love Hansi Kursch's vocals. He has a sound all his own and you can always tell it's him no matter what he sings. This is a concept album about... something... gods? Mirrors? The Holy Grail? Chief? McCloud? Ahem... anyway...It's supposed to be a sequel to one of their older albums but I can't make heads or tails of it. I particularly like the more melancholy (yet still heavy) "Distant Memories." I also like "Sacred Mind" a lot - the one where they sing about Xanadu. I have no idea what that has to do with the story. Thankfully, the music is rockin' and appropriately grandiose.

Useless Fact: Hansi Kursch did a couple albums with Jon Scheaffer of Iced Earth called Demons & Wizards.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Beastie Boys - Solid Gold Hits

Beastie Boys - Solid Gold Hits
2005, Capitol

1. So What'cha Want
2. Brass Monkey
3. Ch-Check It Out
4. No Sleep Til Brooklyn
5. Hey Ladies
6. Pass the Mic
7. An Open Letter to NYC
8. Root Down
9. Shake Your Rump
10. Intergalactic
11. Sure Shot
12. Body Movin'
13. Triple Trouble
14. Sabotage
15. Fight For Your Right

So last year I got into Tom Petty starting with a best of and I think this year it will be the Beastie Boys' turn. I picked this up, much like the Tom Petty one, because I realized I liked a lot of their songs. I used to own To The 5 Boroughs... once. I can't remember why I got rid of it. The songs here are not in chronological order which can be both good and bad depending on the artist. I don't mind here. Not much else to say other than I really enjoy this more than I thought I would. I'll probably be picking up some more Beastie Boys in time.

Useless Fact: Ready for another weird association? Beastie Boys and Metroid on the old Nintendo. See I had a friend that had License to Ill and I went to his house right after renting Metroid. Somehow the two got linked.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The O.C. Supertones - "Supertones Strike Back"

The O.C. Supertones - Supertones Strike Back
1997, BEC

1. Supertones Strike Back
2. The Grace Flood
3. Resolution
4. Perseverance of the Saints
5. Like No One Else
6. Louder Than the Mob
7. Unite
8. Shut Up and Pray
9. Tonight
10. Little Man
11. Caught Inside
12. So Great a Salvation

I enjoyed reacquainting myself with the Supertones' debut so much I went out and go their sophomore album. I don't think this one is quite as much fun as the debut. It just didn't get into my brain like the first one. One of the things that annoy me is the "I'm not worthy" type lyrics. It's one thing to be humble and acknowledge God's grace, it's another thing to constantly focus on how "unworthy" you are. I think the lyrics tip the balance here - focusing too much on the singer. It's not terrible by any means, but I don't like it near as much as the debut.

Useless Fact: The beginning riff of "Supertones Strike Back" is lifted from Metallica's "Master of Puppets" I believe.

Friday, March 13, 2015

MxPx - "Life in General"

MxPx - Life In General
1996, Tooth & Nail

1. Middlename
2. My Mom Still Cleans My Room
3. Do Your Feet Hurt?
4. Sometimes You Have To Ask Yourself
5. The Wonder Years
6. Move To Bremerton
7. New York To Nowhere
8. Andrea
9. Your Problem My Emergency
10. Chick Magnet
11. Today Is In My Way
12. Sorry So Sorry
13. Doing Time
14. Correct Me If I'm Wrong
15. Christalena
16. Destroyed By You
17. Southbound

I was a pretty big MxPx fan in my mid-teens. Mostly because that's what there was after the scene transitioned from metal to alternative and punk. Their music never quite stuck with me and even though they've been putting out albums for years I've never been interested in checking them out. Life In General is certainly their best record up until that point. Pokinatcha wasn't very good except for a few songs though Teenage Politics improved the band's sound immensely. For their third outing they've honed their sound to a nice sheen. Their production is good - with a nice meaty guitar tone and little in the way of ear-piercing feedback. The songs retain a lot of their speed but have more commercial hooks as well. A good balance if you ask me. The lyrics are laughably teenagery, but I can't fault them too much because they were teenagers at the time. It just reminds me of when I was a teenager. Though I certainly hope they've matured lyrically since then. I will say that "Middlename" is probably one of my favorite songs of all time.

I was going to see MxPx at Kingdom Bound one year but their show got rained out. They didn't even set up their merch table or anything. I was bummed.

Useless Fact: I can play several songs on this album on the guitar. One of the few times I can pick out the chords by ear. Not that that would be very hard.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Model Engine - "The Lean Years Tradition"

Model Engine - The Lean Years Tradition
1997, 5 Minute Walk

1. Hang You Upside Down
2. Scarred But Smarter
3. Reeperbahn
4. Suture
5. Weathervanes
6. Walking Wounded
7. Anonymous F
8. Halcyon Days
9. Encore
10. Rosinante

I've always considered 1997 one of the worst years for music (at least for me personally). Though now that I know that Model Engine's (formerly Black Eyed Sceva) one and only album came out that year I might have to reconsider. If you liked Black Eyed Sceva's two albums I can't imagine you would love this one as well. There are some differences, however. The sound I think is a little bit dirtier and grungier here with the guitars taking on a distinctly fuzzier tone. Also, while the lyrics are still excellent, they're not quite as transparent as Sceva. That's not a complaint, by the way, I love the lyrics on this album. I'm just a little sad that I could have been listening to this album for years and years. If only I would have gotten it sooner...

Useless Fact: The "F" in "Anonymous F" stands for exactly what you think it stands for.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Razormaze - "Annihilatia"

Razormaze - Annihilatia
2013, Slaney

1. Something Like a War
2. The Slowest Death
3. Worshiping the Void
4. Sink  Below
5. Demagogue
6. Electric Deception
7. Terminal Escape
8. Without Words

Here's another album that, if I was honest with myself, I bought strictly for the cover art. 'Cause that is a cool cover right there. Razormaze play fast and furious thrash with just a smidgen of progressive-ness in there. The vocals are varied from thrash shouts to growls to some singing. "Singing" would probably be a better way of putting it. Not that it's bad it's just... metal. However, all the full throttle technical riffing kind of makes the album inscrutable. I mean, usually after a few listens I get used to the music and can really dig in and discover its wonderfulness. However, even after several listens Annihilatia felt very much impenetrable. Like I was locked outside and not able to really immerse myself. Does that make any sense? I'm not even sure why I feel that way as this is not a bad disc in the slightest.

Useless Fact: I have no idea what the monster on the cover is supposed to be. The um... Illuminati Octopus? It's very Lovecraftian. Illuminati Octopus would make a good name for a band.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Trainor, Meghan - "Title"

Trainor, Meghan - Title
2014, Epic

1. The Best Part
2. All About That Bass
3. Dear Future Husband
4. Close Your Eye
5. 3am
6. Like I'm Gonna Lose You
7. Bang Dem Sticks
8. Walkashame
9. Title
10. What If I
11. Lips Are Movin'
Bonus Tracks
12. No Good For You
13. Mr. Almost
14. My Selfish Heart
15. Credit

So my wife and I were in the kitchen one day singing "Lips Are Movin'" because we are weird people. I said to her, "You know, I kind of want to get that CD." She replied, "I TOTALLY WANT TO GET IT!" Now, it's hard for me to not buy music when my wife doesn't care so imagine how little restraint I had when she said that. I bought it the very next day. If you like the two hit songs: "All About That Bass" and the aforementioned "Lips Are Movin'" you will not be disappointed by Title. Her whole retro/Motown/Hip-hop/white girl rapping thing really works for me, musically speaking. Ms. Trainor is also a great singer with a great voice and she's one of the few pop people today who wrote all of the tracks on this album herself (and her one songwriting partner). It definitely breaks up the monotony on the radio for me. So yeah... the music is great. The lyrics, however...

Oh. Gosh.

The lyrics.

How can I sum up the basic thesis of Title? I guess it would be, "I make bad choices about men and then am mad and confused by the results." Sure there's a lot of body acceptance themes in some songs and I've no problem with that. However, there's also a lot of "if you treat me like a queen the best you can expect out of me is to maybe have sex... maybe." How she expects men to treat her better when she freely admits to getting drunk and having one night stands is beyond me. Kind of sending some mixed messages there, chief. Now I don't actually know Meghan Trainor so these songs could just be a persona or character. That's all well and good but this persona is a crazy person.

In summation and in conclusion: great sounding album, annoying lyrics.

Useless Fact: The song "Bang Dem Sticks," and ode to Ms. Trainor's drummer does not actually contain any live drums.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The O.C. Supertones - "The Adventures of the O.C. Supertones"

The O.C. Supertones - The Adventures of the O.C. Supertones
1996, Tooth & Nail

1. Adonai
2. Who Can Be Against Me
3. Unknown
4. Never Wanna Fall
5. Roots
6. Heaven
7. He Will Always Be There
8. Exalt
9. Found
10. O.C. Supertones
11. I Love God
12. Blood Washed Pilgrim

I remember getting this my senior year of high school. Heavy metal had long since faded away in the Christian scene and despite the rise of alternative and grunge in the secular market, nothing really took its place. Enter ska. Ska never really caught on in the mainstream aside from a couple tunes from bands like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Reel Big Fish. In the Christian realm, however, it took off... like a rocket. Ska bands were numerous but the O.C. Supertones were the top dogs (along with Five Iron Frenzy). I'm not sure what motivated me to pick this up after so many years but I'm glad I did. I've never been a huge ska person but I love this debut. I think the biggest draw, for me, is the lyrics. They are very worshipful and genuine. This was before worship music became a style too. It also helps that the bass work is awesome. The mastering seems a little thin to but it's not enough to hurt my enjoyment. I never followed the band after this album for various reasons (which I may share some day), but I think I may have to remedy that.

Useless Fact: Along with the Supertones and Five Iron Frenzy were The Insyderz, B.O.B. (Bunch of Believers). I'm sure there were more but those are the ones I remember.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Killed By Cain - "Killed By Cain"

Killed By Cain - Killed By Cain
1993, REX

1. Intro to Hypocrisy
2. Burn the Church
3. Violence
4. Thou Shalt Not Kill
5. Gasoline
6. Jezebel
7. Father
8. Sin City
9. Walk the Line
10. Gun Control

Someone on a Facebook group posted a picture of this album. I suddenly remembered that Killed By Cain were actually a thing and that I had owned this particular disc (well... tape). I also remember my impressions of it being "okay, but not a frequent player." Definitely wasn't over the moon for them originally. So I bought it again to see how time has treated it. Well, like a lot of albums I rediscover, I enjoyed it more the second time around. It's has kind of that Snakes-era Bride shimmy and shake vibe but much less commercial and much more metal. The vocalist sounds like both Axl Rose (in his lower register) and the vocalist from Dangerous Toys (whose name escapes me). There's a bit of Black Sabbath in here as well with slower, doomier guitar riffs. I love the acoustic track, "Sin City." I think Killed By Cain were another band who were victims of their time. '93 was not a good year for a metal band to put out a debut album. While I don't think there's anything particularly spectacular about this disc, I think they had a lot of potential and it's too bad they never got to do a second album.

Back in the old days of the Deliverance message board Dion, from Hot Pink Turtle, had a funny story of Killed By Cain at Cornerstone. Apparently the power kept shutting off as they were trying to start their show. Each time the vocalist grew less and less enthused with his opening line.

Useless Fact: Dale Thompson of Bride produced which probably accounts for any similarities. Also, drummer Stephan Rolland was Bride's drummer on the Silence is Madness album.

Friday, February 6, 2015

BabyMetal - "BabyMetal"

BabyMetal - BabyMetal
2013, Toy's Factory

1. BabyMetal Death
2. Megitsune
3. Gimmie Chocolate!!
4. Iine!
5. Akatsuki
6. Doki Doki Morning
7. Onedari Daisakusen
8. Song 4
9. Uki Uki Midnight
10. Catch Me If You Can
11. Rondo of Nightmare
12. Headbangya!!
13. Ijime Dame Zettai

BabyMetal is quite the oddity. It's a mix of Japanese pop and metal. Don't know what Japanese pop sounds like? Well, go to your nearest arcade or Chuck-E-Cheese. Go to the Dance Dance Revolution game. Whatever music you hear pouring out of that cabinet is J-pop. Now put metal with it. You'd think that would be awful but, against all odds, it works. The songs themselves are catchy as heck - and heavy. The people responsible for the music know metal. They know how to write a riff and you can tell that they have been longtime fans of metal just by how quality the music is. The girls singing are well... totes adorbs. Also, the lead singer is fantastic - she's got the chops to handle both the pop aspects and the metal crunch. She's only sixteen (the other girls are twelve, I think), so it will be interesting to see where her career goes from here. This album also qualifies as "instant good mood" music.

Useless Fact: The girls didn't know anything about metal when they were told about the band.

Friday, January 30, 2015

I Fight Dragons - "The Near Future"

I Fight Dragons - The Near Future
2014, Independent

1. The Near Future I - Prelude
2. The Near Future II - Eighteen
3. The Near Future III - Battle
4. The Near Future IV - Another Week
5. The Near Future V - Meeting
6. The Near Future VI - Rescue
7. The Near Future VII - Time to Fly
8. The Near Future VIII - Requiem
9. The Near Future IX - Return
10. The Near Future X - Fighting On
11. No Strings
12. Pretend
13. Chicago
14. Always
15. Jimmy and Sally

I found out about I Fight Dragons through a You Tuber, The Rock Critic. Their a pop-punk band that mixes a lot of chip tunes into their music. You might think this would be annoying, but you are wrong. Mostly because the band always balances the chip tunes out with great melodies and hooks. I was sold on "Eighteen" alone. It's an amazing song. The lyrics perfectly capture what it was like young like that. I would go so far as to say it stands up there with Alice Cooper's "I'm Eighteen" in terms of perfectly capturing the angst of that age. The rest of the album is filled with catchy songs with great layered harmonies that kind of remind me of The Mustard Seeds at times. Also, the lyrics are really good - very well thought out and poignant. The first half of the album is a concept about a kid who gets superpowers, the second half is stand alone songs.

Useless Fact: As of right now there is no actual hard copy CD - only vinyl. Oh... the tragedy! What will I put in the vault?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Marmozets - "The Weird and Wonderful Marmozets"

Marmozets - The Weird and Wonderful Marmozets
2014, Roadrunner

1. Born Young and Free
2. Why Do You Hate Me?
3. Captivate You
4. Is It Horrible
5. Cover Up
6. Particle
7. Cry
8. Weird and Wonderful
9. Vibetech
10. Love You Good
11. Hit the Wave
12. Move, Shake, Hide
13. Back To You

A female-fronted alternative rock band has a tough row to hoe these days. Mainly because they are a dime a dozen. They are everywhere. It takes a lot for a band to differentiate itself from all the others out there. Marmozets does just that. They are another of my You Tube finds - "Move, Shake, Hide" was the song. It was so raw and chaotic, then balanced out on the chorus with a little Paramore-esque melody. Don't mistake me though, Marmozets has little in common with Paramore. The guitar work is way too technical. They've got some crazy time signatures and little riffs and fills that reminded me a little of Silent Earth-era Coheed and Cambria. Vocalst Becca MacIntyre has taken up some of that intensity that Lacey Sturm had in the early days of Flyleaf. Though Ms. MacIntyre goes right off the edge and it's so cool. Definitely looking forward to what this band does in the future.

Useless Fact: This band is British. They've been together since 2007. I honestly don't know that much about them.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Freak Kitchen - "Cooking With Pagans"

Freak Kitchen - Cooking With Pagans
2014, Laser's Edge

1. Professional Help
2. Freak of the Week
3. Sloppy
4. Goody Goody
5. (Saving Up For An) Anal Bleach
6. Private Property
7. Mathematics of Defeat
8. I Don't Want To Golf
9. Hide
10. Comeback to Come Back
11. Ranks of the Terrified
12. Once Upon a Time in Scandinaviastan

Here's the weird thing about Cooking With Pagans - I'm kind of disappointed with it, but there's technically nothing wrong with it. The guitar work and vocals are stellar. The songs are good. I really like "Mathematics of Defeat" and "Hide." However, I feel like I'd pretty much digested everything this album had to offer in a few listens. It felt light... like there's not enough meat on the chicken bone. I'm not sure what the deal is. It's probably me. Kudos to them for having one of the weirdest song titles I've heard: "(Saving Up For An) Anal Bleach."

Useless Fact: There's a video for "Freak of the Week" that has some stunning animation in it. You should go watch it immediately.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Tourniquet/Ted Kirkpatrick - "Onward to Freedom"

Tourniquet/Ted Kirkpatrick - Onward To Freedom
2014, Pathogenic

1. Onward to Freedom Prelude
2. Onward to Freedom
3. The Slave Ring
4. The Noble Case For Mercy
5. Let the Wild Just Be Wild
6. No Soul
7. If I Had To Do the Killing
8. Virtual Embryo
9. Stereotaxic Atrocities
10. Animal Crossing at the Rainbow Bridge
11. Drowning in Air
12. Cage 23

Oh gosh... I'm almost hesitant to write this review. Why? Because Onward to Freedom just doesn't sit well with me. I can't tell if it's the rather overt and insistent vegan message or the fact that it seems like the songs just don't come together for me. Granted, the last Tourniquet disc took a few spins to really register but so far this one hasn't. It's sort of a mash-up of a Ted Kirkpatrick solo album and Tourniquet. Thankfully, it's not six minutes of an ape bellowing over doom metal chords. No, it's more in line with an actual Tourniquet release except it's got a lot of guest vocalists. These (the guest vocalists) were actually pretty enjoyable. It's always good to hear Dug Pinnick sing no matter the subject matter. Michael Sweet also turns in a fine performance. I'm not sure who Gabbie Rae is but her voice is melodic and sweet and very enjoyable.

Though... I don't know... it's not really progressive enough to be a real Tourniquet record. That's okay, by the way. But the fact that after several spins I still wasn't really captivated by any particular tune on here is very disappointing. I loved Antiseptic Bloodbath but Onward just... I don't know...

And about that message. I'm all for more compassion toward animals and what not. My family tends toward free range organic whatever. However, I get the distinct impression that if you found yourself lost in the woods and had to feed off the land, Mr. Kirkpatrick would just rather you go ahead and die instead of harming an innocent chipmunk or something. Should we just... like... never have anything to do with animals ever? That's kind of the vibe I get here. I guess that's my issue, I just get irritated when I listen to this and it gets in the way of the music... and the music didn't wow me enough to get me to listen more.

Useless Fact: This album used to be referred to as The Tourniquet Ark project. Then it was just Tourniquet. they had a really cool Noah's Ark cover for it until they changed it. The new cover was a big fat rhino running out of a tunnel. I'm glad they added the raven cover because I like that a lot better.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Jupiter VI - "mOVEABLE wALLS"

2014, Roxx Productions

1. Sleepless End Pts. I - IV
2. Wasting Away
3. Running
4. A Face in the Sky
5. A Message From Home, Pt. I

Let's talk about Shovel Knight for a minute shall we? For those who don't know Shovel Knight is a video game - specifically a side scrolling platformer in the mold of an old 8-bit Nintendo game. It takes a lot of its design from games like Mega Man, Castlevania, and Super Mario Bros 3. The game wears its influences on its sleeve. It's quite obvious. But... man... is it a fantastic and fun game. It's got all the charm of the retro platformer (cool sprite graphics, addictive gameplay) without any of the punishing characteristics of some of those old tyme games.

I think Shovel Knight and mOVEABLE wALLS have a lot in common in that it's quite easy to see where the inspiration for each came from. This particular album has all the makings of Pink Floyd, specifically, Wish You Were Here - wherein three shorter tracts are sandwiched between two epics. From the opening thunderstorm crash and guitar swells you just know that Jimmy P. Brown is doing his best Floyd impression. Here's the thing though, while this album is obviously an attempt at Floyd... it's so good. The melodies are haunting. The guitar work is stellar. And even though these are longer, more progressive songs they always keep their focus and are never boring. Heck, I can't even say that for Pink Floyd! You can tell that Jimmy really put his heart into this record. Who knew he had this kind of... soul? Seriously, there is some soulful stuff on here. I have quite enjoyed Jimmy's foray into the world of progressive rock and if he chose to stay there for awhile it would not bother me a bit.

So I'm gonna go ahead and recommend you pick up mOVEABLE wALLS... also Shovel Knight. You should buy that too. Listen to Jupiter VI while you play the game and I guarantee you will have spent your time well.

Useless Fact: I think Jimmy actually completed a second Jupiter VI album called A Message From Home, Pt. 1 and even turned it in to Retroactive Records for release but they never put it out. I have no idea why. This album also has a special edition with an extra CD with some bonus tracks and cover tunes.