Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Rose - "Songs for the Ritually Abused"

Rose - Songs for the Ritually Abused
2017, Hindenburg

1. The Tortured Girl/Bye Bye Hands/Songs for the Ritually Abused
2. Keep You To Myself
3. Medication
4. Whispering Whales
5. Kellan and the Illustrator
6. Mickey
7. The Girl
8. Monster
9. Hell's Locked From the Inside
10. When Will I Be Loved?

Remember back in the 80's when there was a big scare (especially in the Church) about satanic ritual abuse? Lots of books written, documentaries made, etc. Bob Larson's Dead Air comes to mind. Despite all the panic it seemed that this phenomenon wasn't as widespread as the paranoia would've had us believe. So... it seems odd that in this day and age Randy Rose and crew would make a concept album about ritual abuse. I mean... that's not something that really happens, right? Though on the other hand, I know the human heart and I also have a hard time believing that it doesn't happen. I guess I'm in the middle about it, was the point of all that.

The music is dark and murky. If you're were a fan of the band's brand of stoner rock/doom metal, then you'll be pretty at home here. This time out, Randy and co. add a few more influences to really spice things up. You'll hear a lot of Queen and even maybe a smidge of King's X. The production is loud and full of fuzz and Randy's vocals, while recognizable, are much more varied. Surprisingly, a couple of the album's best moments come in the form of piano ballads - "Kellan and the Illustrator" and "When Will I Be Loved?" - are heart breaking and poignant. If I'm being honest (and a little bit nitpicky) I could have used another full on faster paced rocker like "Medication." However, as it stands, Songs for the Ritually Abused is a tragic gut-punch of an album conceptually speaking but sonically very compelling and well worth your time. Even if you don't believe in ritual abuse.

Useless Fact: Most of the band these days consists of Randy's wife and kids.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cooper, Alice - "Hey Stoopid"

Cooper, Alice - Hey Stoopid
1991, Epic

1. Hey Stoopid
2. Love's a Loaded Gun
3. Snakebite
4. Burning Our Bed
5. Dangerous Tonight
6. Might as Well Be On Mars
7. Feed My Frankenstein
8. Hurricane
9. Little By Little
10. Die For You
11. Dirty Dreams
12. Wind-Up Toy

So here's something weird - Hey Stoopid does pretty much all the same things as Trash but I like it better. Again, there wasn't anything wrong with Trash, it just didn't do a lot for me. Another weird thing because it's totally 80's and you would think I'd be all over it. But, nope. Hey Stoopid for some unexplainable reason was more likable and catchy to me. I think this one might actually more commercial too. Yeah... I don't know. I do want to point out the cool guitar part in the verses of "Might as Well Be On Mars." I think this album also has more of the creepy Alice Cooper feel too (especially in "Wind-Up Toy"). I'm not sure this one will rank up there with my top Cooper platters, but it's definitely in the upper B-tier.

Useless Fact: Alice Cooper was in Wayne's World. "Feed My Frankenstein" was featured in the movie as well. Though I'm sure you probably already know that.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ayreon - "The Source"

Ayreon - The Source
2017, Mascot

1. The Day That The World Breaks Down
2. Sea of Machines
3. Everybody Dies
4. Star of Sirrah
5. All That Was
6. Run! Apocalypse! Run!
7. Condemned To Live

1. Aquatic Race
2. The Dream Dissolves
3. Deathcry of a Race
4. Into the Ocean
5. Bay of Dreams
6. Planet Y Is Alive!
7. The Source Will Flow
8. Journey To Forever
9. The Human Compulsion
10. March of the Machines

So let's talk about comics for a second, yeah? If you're a fan you'll know that every so often a comic book series will kind of "start over" either totally with a new number one issue or just sort of clear the way with a simple story. These are usually intended to be jumping on points for new readers. They're designed to be read without having to know all the lore beforehand. I bring this up because I think The Source is...you guessed it... a great jumping on point for new listeners. It's sound is quintessential Ayreon. If you know someone who's every been curious, you can hand them this album and they'll get an excellent overview of what Ayeron is all about.

Some of the reason I say this is because the music is a bit more accessible as well. As a whole I don't think it's as long as previous Ayreon albums (not that that's a bad thing). It's also a bit more traditional in structure with a lot of anthemic choruses and catchy riffs. The focus of this album seems to be two-fold: more guitar and heavier guitar. In fact, I think this is the band's heaviest album to date. This is in stark contrast to the more melodic and progressive The Theory of Everything. While I say this album is the heaviest I don't mean to say there aren't slower, melodic parts because there are - and they go well with the crushingly heavy riffs the album is built around. There's also a lot of faster paced, full on metal songs like, "Everybody Dies," "Run! Apocalypse! Run," and "Planet Y Is Alive!." Arjen said that he thought this album would originally be a Star One album because it was so heavy but that he came up with too many proggy, slow parts for it to really be a Star One disc. He's also said that every album is a reaction to the previous album, which I've said was the more complex Theory. I don't think I've ever been disappointed by an Ayreon album and that still holds true with The Source. So to all you Ayreon-ignorant people out there - the train is pulling up to the station. It's time to get on and experience the wonderfulness that is Ayreon.

Useless Fact: Arjen usually records the vocalists in his own studio, The Electric Castle. However, this time more of the vocalists couldn't do that due to time restraints so only a few of the artists recorded at the Castle. The rest worked in their own studios.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Paramore - "After Laughter"

Paramore - After Laughter
2017, Fueled By Ramen

1. Hard Times
2. Rose Colored Boy
3. Told You So
4. Forgiveness
5. Fake Happy
6. 26
7. Pool
8. Grudges
9. Caught in the Middle
10. Idle Worship
11. No Friend
12. Tell Me How

In my mind, Paramore holds a distinct honor that few bands hold. That is, they've gotten better and better with each release. This culminated in 2013's self-titled album which mixed their original alt-rock sound with pop sensibilities. I found it to be the peak of their career at the time - their final form, if you will. What could the band do that could top that? How could they get even better? Answer: reinvent themselves. This is always a dangerous proposition, as Linkin Park is finding out. Paramore, however, have pulled if off with their usual aplomb. Despite jettisoning all hints of their former alt-rock past, the band has crafted a bright, catchy Eighties throwback pop record. It's immediately recognizable as Paramore but still different from anything they've done before and certainly different from anything on the radio right now. I think that's where Linkin Park erred. Their new album sounds like the usual dreck you hear on the average Top 40 radio station. Paramore, on the other hand, sounds like what you might hear on the radio thirty-some odd years ago. This is a good thing. It's also not really out of left field as a few tracks on the last album kind of hinted at the direction this album took. It's weird because it seems like each song demonstrates some trope of Eighties music but it doesn't come off as ingenuine or pandering.

Now despite the bright album artwork and the upbeat, luminescent instrumentation After Laughter is pretty dang depressing. From the opening notes of "Hard Times" to the moody longing off "Tell Me How," this disc is an ode to bleakness. "For all I know/The best is over and the worst is yet to come..." begins "Told You So." I like the contrast between the music and the lyrics, however, and I think it's just one more thing that makes this record stand out from the crowd. So yeah... four great albums in a row. That's a hard thing to do even for the best of bands. My hat is off to Paramore and hope we've got many more years of albums to look forward to.

Useless Fact: The band put together a playlist of songs that inspired this album. Many Eighties bands make appearances. I know...shocking.