Tag Archives: Music Reviews

Quick Artist Profile: Reignwolf

Jordan Cook sounds like an average name. You could probably open up the phone book and find multiple Jordan Cooks (do People even Have Phone Books anymore.) But Jordan Cook has an alter ego, and that is Reignwolf the name of his sometimes one man sometimes three piece band. Reignwolf is definitely an artist to keep an eye out for, as he takes the garage rock thing and makes it his own using amazing showmanship and musicianship to create a sonic brew that can only be described as mesmerizing.

I found about Reignwolf while cruising the internet last week, and started watching his videos and was sucked into my computer screen for hours watching his performances of him. I was stunned by the level of talent and the awesomeness of the music that just came from one man and a bass drum. Truly amazing.

Checkout Reignwolf NOW!

-B. Harlow

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Black Label Society Release New Single, “My Dying Time”

If you play guitar then there is one man who stands out when talking about modern guitar playing, and that man is none other than former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist, Zakk Wylde. Wylde fronts his own band, Black Label Society who have a large following, that they refer to as the “Black Label family.” Think about a  motor cycle club cross pollinated with the Kiss Army and that would be the “Black Label Family.”

Recently Wylde has been hunkered down in his home studio, The Black Vatican working on new music for the follow-up to 2010′s  Order  of The Black. Last week we got a first taste of this new music which will be released April 8th and be titled Catacombs of The Black Vatican. This new track is entitled “My Dying Time,” and let me tell you, it does not disappoint.

“My Time of Dying” starts with a very atmospheric type riff, and then a chugging guitar gets introduced. After this the rest of the band comes in and this track really takes off nicely. The vocals are very reminiscent of older Black Label Society Material, in fact they sound a lot like Wylde’s southern rock side project, Pride & Glory. The guitar playing in this song is spectacular, it is shredding, but is also melodic and most importantly fits the song well.

I can’t wait to see what Zakk and his crew have up their sleeves, but I’m sure of one thing, and that is that Black Label Society will put out a fantastic album.

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Trivium Release Their Sixth Album, ‘Vengeance Falls’

Trivium released their sixth album last week, and let me tell you it is a great piece of work from top to bottom. It’s no secret I’m a huge Trivium fan, as I’ve seen them live multiple times and met them on many occasions too. So obviously I wanted to take some time with this record before I reviewed it that way I could form an opinion that was unbiased. That being said I will say that this is one of Trivium’s best records and stands next to  2011’s In Waves, 2008’s Shogun, and 2005’s Ascendancy nicely. The album was produced by David Draiman from Disturbed and Device, and let me tell you he did an excellent job on the production.

The record starts off with the track, “Brave This Storm” which starts with a heavy riff that leads into a more groove oriented riff. This leads nicely into the verse which is sung in a very rhythmic way by Matt Heafy which is definitely a different approach. The chorus then comes in, and this is done in a much more typical way than Heafy’s verse which was rhythmic opposed to flowing. The title track “Vengance Falls” is up next and this track is interesting as you can see the band is further experimenting with layered vocal harmonies, and the guitar playing displayed by Heafy and Corey Beaulieu is excellent. As always Nick Augusto and Paolo Gregoletto are locked on and go beyond the call of duty.

The album’s first video single was up next and this song is entitled “Strife,” and is one of my favorite tracks on the album. The song starts with this riff that is not the most technical, but gets the job done, and sets the ground for the epic riff that ensues. This leads into the verse section which is another interesting vocal performance not typical to Trivium’s music, but it works nicely with the lyrical subject. The verse also features some nice bass playing by none other than Mister Paolo Gregoletto. The chorus comes in next and vocally and instrumentally I love the chorus. Next up is “No Way To Heal” which is another spectacular track that is typical of Trivium, and is one of the best one the album. Again the chorus on this track is excellent.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is the sixth track, “At the End of This War” which starts of with a nice acoustic intro which then blasts off into a full-bore metal track. Heafy’s vocals on this track are also different from what I’ve heard from him.  “Through Blood and Dirt and Bone” is another track where I think the band realized that they love writing music with interesting rhythms.

The ninth track on the album, “Incineration: The Broken World” is one of my favorite tracks on the record, as the band shows their amazing musical skills, especially Gregoletto who put down an awesome bass solo. The Album concludes with the great track “Wake (The End Is Nigh)” which is my favorite on the album as I think it is a great showcase to the bands versatility both musically, and it shows throughout the track, as Augusto, Beaulieu, Heafy, and Gregeletto put down great performances.

Vengeance Falls is a great record that I believe shows the bands great capabilities as musicians, and I can honestly say that I enjoyed this next evolution of the band.

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Album Review: The Devil Wears Prada ’8:18′

One of the best bands to hit the scene in recent year are, The Devil Wears Prada. The band is set to release their fifth studio album 8:18. 8:18 is the long-awaited follow-up to 2011’s full length effort by the band, Dead Throne and 2010’s masterful, Zombie EP. This album picks up were those to works left off, and continues to push the boundaries of what this band is capable of doing. The sound is dark and more mature, and we guarantee you’re in for a great ride from track one through thirteen.

8:18 starts off with the slow-moving synth driven intro to the track “Gloom.” However “Gloom” picks up it’s pace at the 50 second mark when the band comes in and provides a bruising intro. “Gloom” almost seems like a mission statement from the band, telling the listener what they have in store for the rest of the album. The drums, guitars, synth, and vocals work well on this track. The next riff that will hit you is the intro to the second track “Rumors” which is a bruising riff, but it slows downs in the verse which is atmospheric, but we hear the first hint of melody in this tracks chorus.

“First Sight” is the third track on the record, and it hits you like a brick wall from the beginning, but then as the track moves on you hear the song grow into this melodic juggernaut in the chorus. The stand out of this track however are the guitars which are tight, but leave enough room in the mix for the track to breathe.

The next track that caught my attention was the album’s title track, 8:18 which has a beautiful clean intro which is interrupted by vocalist Mike Hranica’s primal screams. The next track that really grabbed me was “Care More” which is a real departure for the band which is awesome. They really mixed it up with this one showing what they can do both vocally and with arranging.

Next thing you know theirs a bell chiming and this signals the intro to the track, “Martyrs” which was one of the first tracks that fans got to hear from this record. This track is great and is a real throw back to the Dead Throne sound that I and TDWP fans love. “Black and Blue” starts with an ominous intro that sends the message that mayhem is about to unfold, and it does and this mayhem continues throughout the rest of the record concluding with the thirteenth and final track, “ In Heart.”

Overall I believe that 8:18 is the next step in The Devil Wears Prada’s evolution. This record is excellent. One of the best metal records of the year.

-B. Harlow

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Avenged Sevenfold Pull From Their Influences to Create, ‘Hail To The King’

The metal community came together in 2009 to support Avenged Sevenfold after the death of their drummer, James ‘The Rev’ Sullivan. It was a sad time to be a fan of the band, but the band rebounded quite well with the release of their fifth album, Nightmare in 2010, which the band was working on at the time of the Rev’s death. The drums on the album were completely recorded by former Dream Theater drummer, Mike Portnoy. After some touring they announced a new drummer, Arin Ilejay, would be touring with them. In 2013 they made Ilejay a full-time member, and is now featured on the band’s latest album, Hail To The King.

Hail To The King is very different from the band’s previous work. It has a very classic rock vibe with a lot of their influences displayed prominently throughout the record. It is unclear whether or not this was intentional or not, but some of the tracks are clearly shoutouts to the bands that have influences, Avenged Sevenfold. The first track, “Shepherd of Fire”  is a clear example of this as it sounds like a mix of “Raining Blood” and the bells are reminiscent of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

Next up is the album’s title track, “Hail to The King.” The intro to this song this sounds like AC/DC’s “Thunder Struck.” But this new track sounds like Maiden throughout the guitars yet has an Avenged Sevenfold feel due to the vocals provided by M. Shadows. who sounds excellent. This track moves at a steady clip, but could have been brought up several BPM. The guitar playing by Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengance is excellent. Lyrically M. Shadows is on par with many other metal vocalists and lyricists.

“Doing Time” is a great track that reminds a great deal of Guns n’ Roses. I don’t hate it. And Honestly I can say I don’t mind it. Rock needs a track like this to clear out all the crappy radio rock that is played these days (i.e. Theory of a Deadman.) “This Means War” is up next and this track also lends its self well to comparison of other classic metal songs. This song particularly makes one think of the classic Metallica tune “Sad But True.” “Requiem” is the fifth track on the album, and is one of my favorites on the record. It has a very old school vibe which is awesome. It reminds me of “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin in the orchestrated part too.

The next track really slows down, and is entitled, “Crimson Day.”  It’s also one of the best tracks on the record, as it shows that M. Shadows is a great vocalist. And also shows the great melodic guitar playing of Synyster Gates. “Heretic” is the next track on the album, and this one is definitely influenced by another Big 4 band, Megadeth. It sounds without a doubt like “Symphony of Destruction,” write down to the punishing bass line. There is also a part that sounds like Megadeth’s “Hangar 18.” Again I don’t hate it, in fact I quite enjoyed it.

The next track that really caught my ear was the final track, “Acid Rain” which is a beautiful ballad centered around a piano very reminiscent of so many great songs, but the thing is they made it their own and came up with a great song.

Hail To The King, is a great album and will stand side by side with their best work. They have mastered the formula that includes many of their influences and created their own signature brew.

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Nile Rodgers: Musical Innovator and Cultural Icon

I was listening to the radio a couple of days ago and I heard a song from Daft Punk’s latest album, Random Access Memories. The track was called “Get Lucky” and features vocals from Pharell and Nile Rodgers on guitar. When the D.J. came back on he told the listeners what they had heard, and he said that was Daft Punk featuring Pharell, but forgot about the guess spot by Nile Rodgers. This angered me because Nile Rodgers is one of my favorite musicians of all time, as well as one of my favorite producers of all time. Not only is Rodgers one of the best guitar players for what he plays, but for what he doesn’t, he picks just the right notes to make the song sound amazing. He also defined the sound of pop music in the 80’s. He is the man who made this hits. You may not know his name, but you definitely know one of his songs.

Rodgers is a New York native and got his start playing studio sessions with other musicians. He eventually left the studio and started playing shows with the house band of the Apollo Theater where he played with such notable acts as   Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King, and Parliament Funkadelic.

Nile Rodgers and Bernard EdwardsAt age 18 Rodgers met Bernard Edwards who would become his main collaborator. In 1973 New York City had a big hit with “I’m Doing Fine Now,” Edwards would get a job as the band leader and asked Rodgers to be the group’s guitarist. They would become known as The Big Apple Band, and were billed as New York City and The Big Apple Band. Rodgers and Edwards had found their own groove and formed the band, Chic which would inspire Rodgers to write “Everybody Dance” and many more hits including, “Freak out” and “Good Times.” “Good Times” was a huge hit and important to the hip-hop world as Edward’s bass line was sampled in the first multiple-platinum Hip-Hop single “Rappers Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang.

In the 80’s the disco fell out of favor, as the “Disco Sucks” trend became the mindset of the music listening public. Chic had been grouped in with this, even though they weren’t disco. To add to this, the music business was going through a huge change. But there was a bright light for the two collaborators, as Diana Ross had committed to working with Rodgers and Edwards on her album, Diana. Rodgers and Edwards wrote and produced the album, and it would go on to 6 million copies. Rodgers and Edwards would go on to work hard on another Chic album, but the band dissolved. Rodgers and Edwards eventually would cut their ties due to drugs.

Rodgers would go on to release a solo album which received a less than favorable response from the public, but did garner a very good opinion from famous art rocker, David Bowie. Bowie would meet Rodgers and invite him to his house in Switzerland where they worked on what would be the track, “Lets Dance.” It would go on to be David Bowie’s biggest selling album. Let’s Dance had several hit singles including “China Girl”, “Modern Love” and the title track, “Let’s Dance.” The album also was a stepping stone for the young, Stevie Ray Vaughn. The album gave Rodgers the production credibility he needed and he continued work with some of the best artists of the day. Rodgers produced the single “Original Sin” by INXS, and would go on to work Duran Duran worked extensively with Rodgers after he remixed their largest selling hit single, “The Reflex.”

One of the crowning achievements was when Rodgers decided to take a risk with a young artist who went by the name, Madonna. With Madonna, Rodgers struck gold upon the release of her album, Like a Virgin; which featured the hits, “Material Girl” and the album’s title track, “Like a Virgin.” The album would go on to sell 21 million copies world-wide. This would give Rodgers the credibility.

During the 80’s, Rodger’s resume would grow significantly working on albums with Jeff Beck, Thompson Twins, Mick Jagger, Steve Winwood, and records for Cyndi Lauper, and a couple of soundtracks with Genesis madman Peter Gabriel.

In 1992 Chic got back together, and went back on the road, and that’s when drugs and alcohol caught up with him, but nile rodgersit wouldn’t be till 1994 that he’d enter rehab. In 1996 Chic and Rodgers came to Japan to play a show to celebrate Rodger’s career, and after the show Edwards would be found dead in his Hotel room. He had died from pneumonia. Shoot forward 17 years Rodgers is immersed in many projects including touring with a new Chic line-up, and playing his vast discography and letting artists sample bits of his vast catalogue. Rodgers also survived a really aggressive form of prostate cancer.

Rodgers is one of the best musicians of all time. It is truly criminal how many people don’t know who he is, as he is a legend of epic proportions. Not only has he produced some of the greatest artists of all time, but he single-handedly shaped the sound of 80’s pop music and influenced numerous musicians in various genres.  We need to recognize Rodgers for the influence he has had on our culture.

-B. Harlow

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Avenged Sevenfold’s New Track “Hail To The King”

Avenged Sevenfold are one of the biggest Metal bands of this generation, and have been since their 2005 album City of Evil where the band moved away from their Metalcore roots and moved to a more pure sound reminiscent of a Guns n’ Roses and Metallica hybrid. The band will be releasing their sixth album Hail to The King in August. Hail to the King will be the first album with new drummer Arin Ilejay who joined the band as a touring drummer in 2011 before becoming an official member in 2013.

Well now you can add another  couple bands that this band has taken influence from, and they are AC/DC and Iron Maiden. The intro to this song this sounds like AC/DC’s “Thunder Struck.” But this new track sounds like Maiden throughout the guitars yet has an Avenged Sevenfold feel due to the vocals provided by M. Shadows. who sounds excellent. This track moves at a steady clip, but could have been brought up several BPM. The guitar playing by Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengance is excellent. Lyrically M. Shadows is on par with many other metal vocalists and lyricists and this song has a very mature feel to it.

I can’t wait to see if this album will be good, or if it will be sub-par. The last album was spectacular, but 2007′s self titled was a pure flop.

-B. Harlow

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Jay-Z’s New Album, ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’

This summer has been an exciting for all of the hip hop world, but the album we all know would set the bar for summer releases, hit last week.  That album is Jay-Z’s latest effort, Magna Carta Holy Grail which was released via a Samsung app, a move that Jay-Z thought would re-write the rules in this new age of high-tech music. But one thing is the consistency of Jay-Z’s work. This album has some high points and some low points, but overall is a great listening experience.

One of the best parts of the album is the first track, “Holy Grail,” which is a mid-tempo track featuring Justin Timberlake who provides an awesome performance with the bravado needed to push the track. “Piccasso Baby” is the second track on the album, and this track is strange because I liked the live instrumentation, but could not stand what sounded like a dental drill. “Tom Ford” is a highlight on the album, as it definitely has a catchy beat.

“Crown” is one of the best hip-hop tracks that has been released in recent years, especially because it brings back something that has been missing in hip-hop, a good dis that effects more than just hip-hop culture. Not since the Ludacris Bill O’Rielly fued have I heard a dis so good then the one Jay-Z put on Scott Boras the infamous sports agent when he states, “Scott Boras, you over baby.” Obviously this is in reference to the next big project that Jay-Z has been working on, Roc-Nation Sports. The next track you should listen to is “Heaven” which is the best track on the album.

Magna Carta Holy Grail is a great album, I suggest you find a stream and check it out!

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Lamb of God Tear Up The Palladium 6/18/13

Lamb of God made a triumphant return to one of the first places the band played on their first tour last night, The Worcester Palladium. It was a special night and you could tell that everyone was excited to see Lamb of God throw down their signature brand of pure American heavy metal. The bill last night was also spectacular featuring The Acacia Strain and the Polish metal band, Decapitation.

Lamb of God started their set with the song, “Desolation” and this got the ball rolling in a big way. The crowd of the palladium erupted, and the band continued with their set playing “Ghost Walking” and one of their best songs, “Walk With Me in Hell.” The band then launched into “Set To Fail” which is one of my favorite songs and the band played it expertly.

The band then played a couple of their older songs. One of these was “Ruin” which went over incredibly well with the crowd, as did “Now You’ve Got Something to Die For” which was dedicated to The United States Military. During this song the bands two projection screens featured pictures of military men and women who were also Lamb of God fans, which was awesome. They finished this part of the set with the great “11th Hour”

The band then played “The Undertow” this song was an odd choice in my mind, but the crowd still raged on. Then Randy Blythe said the opening words to “Omerta” and that’s when the palladium went absolutely insane, and it would remain that way for the rest of the, as the band weaved their riffs. The band finished the main part of their set with the brutally fast, “Contractor.”

The stage went dark and the Palladium started booming with chants of ‘Lamb of God,’ and then we heard the acoustic intro “The Passing” which lead into the bands terrific encore which included “In Your Words,” “Laid to Rest,” “Redneck,” and the always classic “Black Label.”

-B. Harlow
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NEVER SAY DIE: Black Sabbath Return With First Album Featuring Ozzy Osbourne in 35 Years, ’13′

Black Sabbath. These two words say so much. They conjure images of Ozzy Osbourne peace signs swinging in the air hoping up and down like a coked up Richard Nixon. Of Tony Iommi standing in place playing the evilest riffs that can be conjured. And Geezer Butler, whose bass tone and style is the gold standard for all of heavy metal.  These three titans have come together with the help of producer, Rick Rubin to release their first new album in 35 years, 13.

13 starts off with the ominous opening riff to the album’s first track “End of The Beginning.”    “End of The Beginning” has a very slow ominous feel to it that is very reminiscent of the band’s eponymous song “Black Sabbath.”  The song eventually picks up and the listener gets bludgeoned by another one of Iommi’s signature riffs.

13’s second track is entitled “God is Dead?” which starts off with a slow instrumental section that sets the mood for the song. This then gets interrupted by another one of Tony Iommi’s signature riffs. You can hear how tight the band is on this riff especially bassist Geezer Butler and session drummer, Brad Wilk. The slow meandering riff comes back again and with it we hear Ozzy’s vocals which sound excellent. Rick Rubin did a great job polishing Ozzy’s voice on this song, as it is spotless in performance. Butler’s bass is super punchy during the verse too, which gives the song a certain movement that is different from Iommi’s guitar playing which is very smooth. The chorus comes in and this is when we hear Black Sabbath as it is meant to be heard with extremely loud riffs. Around the 5:55 the song hits a bridge and this is by far my favorite song as it fits in with the band’s older material like “Hole in the Sky.”

“Loner” is the next track on the album, which is a track about pure alienation, which lyrically is interesting because many of Sabbath’s early songs were about that same topic. The riff in this song is very standard and simple, but it gets the job done.  But where the song really is stunning is towards the middle where it slows down for a short period, but then the band kicks in, and they’re full speed.

“Zeitgeist” is the albums fourth track, and is one of my favorite tracks on the record. The song has a great feel reminiscent of their great track, “Planet Caravan.”  It’s a beautiful track, and Rubin did a great job on the mixing allotting each instrument the correct space in the mix. If there’s anything that would be the polar opposite of “Zeitgeist” it would be the next track, “Age of Reason” which is a riff driven track about the end of the world, but what I love about it is it’s riff which sounds like a number of my favorite Black Sabbath songs got shoved into a blender, and the end result was this track. Tony Iommi’s guitar playing is also something that should be noted, as he provides a very heavy mechanical feel, but still makes the track groove. Wilk’s drumming is also great on this track.

“Live Forever” is another one of those tracks that you just want to bang your head to. The riff has so much groove. It’s a tremendous song, and the lyrics on the track are spectacular too. “Damaged Soul” is the seventh track on the album, and this song sounds like it came straight from 1971. The production on this song isn’t as spectacular as the rest of the album, but the unpolished feel adds to the rustic and true image that Black Sabbath has always portrayed.

“Dear Father” is the last track on the album, and this song is as heavy, as anything I’ve heard even though it’s a slower song in parts, I would say it’s one of the heaviest tracks I’ve ever heard. I love it.

13 is a collection of eight great tracks that bring one back to the 70’s. Rick Rubin said he wanted the album to sound contemporary, but also have a vintage feel, and with this record he definitely captured that vibe. Sabbath is back!

-B. Harlow

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