Archive for May, 2009

Article: Eyes Set To Kill, A Breath Of Fresh Air

Eyes Set To KillRemember when we had bands that tried their hardest to sound like another band? Just one band? You had bands growing up trying to sound like Relient K, or the main influence of a band is August Burns Red, and every track you hear sounds exactly like that band? I feel like we’ve gone way past this predicament. We’ve got band’s trying to combine all of their favorite bands into a new entity, something that they will love even more, or that fans will find more interesting than the previous music.

Enter Arizona-natives Eyes Set To Kill. Ranging in styles from metalcore to screamo to alternative metal, this five-piece proves to be a mix of some very diverse acts. One minute sounding like hardcore giants As I Lay Dying, the band immediately switches to a melodic Evanescence sound. Other moments on their debut, Reach and their new album The World Outside, due out June 2, the band can have full-force hardcore in place, and you throw all of these things together to create something that some of us might ultimately deem original. Originality in hardcore and metal music is often hard to come by, and we seem to be stuck in a generation of new metal bands that constantly sound the same, even down to the same kind of melodies. Eyes Set To Kill seems to be a breath of fresh air in this time of copy-cats and rip-offs.

The band is quite unique in members, as well. With a female lead vocal who also plays lead guitar and keyboards (Alexia) and her sister (Anissa) playing bass, I have to give credit where credit is due. It isn’t easy for people of the female persuasion to make it very far in this genre, but the band has definite potential. Their new album is littered with piano interludes and fantastic instrumentation that will be a pleasing sound to anyone’s ears, right before the crunching guitars come in and assault your eardrums, like on “Risen”. The finale of their new album showcases slow piano along with beautiful lead vocals from Alexia, providing a soothing end to the onslaught that is The World Inside. It may not be the hardest thing you’ll hear all year, but talent is definitely shown throughout both albums this small band has released.

For an indie band, these guys (and girls) have quite a lot going for them. You can see them on tour this summer on the New Nu Metal Tour, featuring headliners Sky Eats Airplane, along with hardcore acts In Fear And Faith and The Word Alive. The World Inside releases June 2, 2009. Be sure to check http://www.myspace.com/eyessettokill and http://www.eyessettokill.com for more information.

Article: Marilyn Manson, Misunderstood?

Marilyn Manson

We’ve all known artists who have pushed the line within music and popularity. Eminem, known for his drug addictions, shocking lyrics, and popular lifestyle. Ozzy Osbourne, biting the head of a bird off at the beginning of his shows. Even Michael Jackson and his bizarre lifestyle changes. There are tons of others. But what about certain artists that are genuinely talented (not to say these I have mentioned are not talented) and get a bad rap?

Marilyn Manson has always done things to get on the public’s bad side. Shock value is nothing new for him. Known as a bad influence for children, and his outrageous antics at concerts and on tour, the man is not necessarily a role model. But if you look further, and actually listen to some of the music the artist has put out in recent years, you’ll see an identity shift happening, or so it seems. I’ve never really been one to continuously listen to his music, but in the past year I’ve started giving bands and artists chances, just to see what’s really out there. I’ve enjoyed some great music in the past year, and one of those is Marilyn Manson. It’s not something I listen to on a daily or even regular basis, but hear me out on what the man has done.

Albums like The Golden Age of Grotesque and Eat Me, Drink Me have titles that would set anyone off. But listening to them, and lending a critical ear to them, you find that Manson is truly a gifted individual. In such a world that we live in, we hear top 40 music that all sounds the same, and rock band after rock band comes out with nothing new under the sun. Even Manson’s own style, the hard rock/industrial/metal scene hasn’t seen anything new and exciting in the last 10 years or so, some would say more. With a new album, The High End Of Low, coming next week to stores, it will be his seventh album, and likely his most adventurous. Just listening to a few tracks like “Four Rusted Horses”, “Running To The Edge of the World”, and the epic 9-minute “I Wanna Kill You Like They Do In The Movies” showcase Manson as a theatrical and experimental genius. Hints of country and acoustic sounds flood the album, along with  his signature hard, industrial tracks like “Black & White” and “WOW”. Pushing the envelope for Manson has never been hard, but little did we know he was doing it musically right under our noses as we scoffed at his antics on stage and in the public.

The music is still not something you want your kids or even a younger generation listening to, but instrumentally and theatrically, this artist has given a whole new level to music, and even those who question his lifestyle should be able to recognize originality when they hear it. We suffer, in this world, from lack of originality in everything. Movies are constantly re-done, music that actually sells is always the same, and things are always being rehashed. Maybe we should stop and look at someone who’s been pushing the envelope and take a nod from them once in a while rather than doing the same old thing that we’ve always been comfortable doing.

Marilyn Manson’s new album, The High End of Low, in stores 5/26/09 in both a standard version and a deluxe edition with remixes and extra tracks.

Review: Mat Kearney, “City of Black & White”

Mat Kearney, City of Black & WhiteAs a singer/songwriter originally from Eugene, Oregon now based in Nashville, Tennessee, Mat Kearney has his work cut out for him. Nashville is full of his type, but most people don’t venture into a form of acoustic hip-hop like Kearney did. After getting signed to Columbia Records, he released a second version of his debut album, Bullet, titled Nothing Left To Lose. It was this stylistic change that proved he had power to make it on the airwaves, and Columbia obviously didn’t want to miss out on that. With his third album (as the record label is calling it) City of Black & White, Kearney shows how he can morph into a more pop-fueled act, which will likely disappoint some fans as the rapping that was so prominent on tracks like “Undeniable” and the second album’s title track is now gone.

On City of Black & White, Mat Kearney has made a switch to full pop/acoustic, and the songs are still as good as his previous ones. Songs like the first single “Closer to Love” and “Fire and Rain” are similar in chorus use and verse structure, but they make for great, catchy tunes. The album’s intro, “All I Have” starts the album out on a high note, and gives listeners a look at how the production has changed. These songs have more piano than we’re used to hearing from this singer/songwriter, but he proves he can play both instruments well. “New York to California” appears at the halfpoint of the 12-track album, and is completely a piano ballad, reminiscent of Coldplay’s “Yellow”, with just as much hit potential. Other songs like “Runaway Car” have quite a catchy feel to them, while “Annie” is a steady beat but makes for an intimate moment on the album.

Overall, this album is full of radio-friendly tracks from Mat Kearney, and will likely be a successful album for him. Unfortunately, many fans appreciate the change of pace that Kearney was known for on his debut and re-release, incorporating hip-hop verses into an acoustic setting. Those elements are gone, and his fan base may suffer from that fact. If you’re a fan of Kearney’s old stuff, don’t shrug this album off right away. There’s likely something on here you’ll find you like, and new fans will definitely find plenty to enjoy from this talented singer/songwriter.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Review: The Chariot, “Wars and Rumors of Wars”

The Chariot, "Wars And Rumors of Wars"Former frontman of Norma Jean, Josh Scogin, is back with his band The Chariot, seven years after he left. The Chariot is continually known for their energetic live shows that usually consist of destruction of the set through a half hour or more of mayhem. After two full length records and an EP of re-released songs, the band has arrive with what may be their most concrete and tightly produced album to date. Wars and Rumors of Wars showcases the band doing what they do best: brutally attacking every track with, at most, two and a half to three minutes of gut-wrenching guitars, squeals of feedback, and Scogin’s signature screaming. This album sees Scogin pushing his vocals to what seems like their breaking point, specifically on tracks where it’s evident that he had to breath in and out hard during the recordings, which gives the listener a whole new experience in hardcore music.

Tracks like the opener “Teach:” and “Evolve:” have constant guitars and it appears that sounds of hard guitar and drum beats are coming at you from all angles. In both songs it appears Scogin messed up on a lyric or two, but made up for it by just coming back with a random and more scream thrown in, which shows how improvisational their practices and recordings can be. “Impress.” shows the band moving towards a bit more of an epic feel, with haunting riffs for the last minute of the song, before Scogin and crew throw us back into the mayhem with “Never I”, which boasts spiritually relevant lyrics like “To sing of love or to sing of faith / is a lonely road / but I walk in faith.” The song then ends with the cryptic yet powerful lyrics pounded out in guttural screams, “This is for the earth that slept too late / Bless the thief” and a seemingly triumphant whistling begins, leading into the odd beginning of “Giveth”.

The Chariot isn’t new to using such interesting ways of getting their music and message across, as “Giveth” begins with a country song played in the background for not even two seconds before Scogin comes in yet again with his forceful nature. This record seems to showcase the band with a much better handle on their instrumentation and production, and they’re experimenting as well, as the whole band comes together to do gang vocals on a track or two. “Giveth” ends with a large buildup and screaming in the foreground, and gang vocals complimenting every scream Scogin lets out. “Abandon” almost appears that it’s going to be an acoustic and instrumental song, when screams nearly rip through the blackness of silence to compliment each sound with the lyrics “Is this a blessing or a curse? / should I belong to the trend? / At least it’s a tragedy that will only come once.” “Daggers” proves to be an excellent showcase of all the band’s talents, and will make for a great first single for them, accompanied by the over-the-top cartoon-like video.

The band ends the short 10 track album with its longest song to date, and any fan of The Chariot or even Norma Jean will be proud to listen to this six minute epic ending. Overall, these are perfect songs to destroy a stage to, and that’s exactly what The Chariot will likely do with them, with fans and critics watching and loving every second.

Star Rating: 4½ out of 5

Review: The Devil Wears Prada, “With Roots Above And Branches Below”

The Devil Wears Prada, "With Roots Above And Branches Below"Ohio-based hardcore band The Devil Wears Prada has gone through both scrutiny and glory in the past years that they’ve been around. With a style that showcased unabashed hardcore riffs and brutal screaming, their first two albums would leave anyone rubbing their ears from the pain of how hard they can be. With their third album, With Roots Above And Branches Below, the band proves they are more than just full maniacal insanity. Seemingly taking tips from hardcore act Underoath and hard rock newcomers Secret & Whisper, they have a more produced and clean feel, keeping vocals and screams excellently done all the way through.

Song titles mean nothing to the band, as they make an ode to the Office on “Assistant To The Regional Manager” and another track is titled “Big Wiggly Style”, to which the lyrics don’t match the title whatsoever. The songs are also much more epic sounding than the band’s two previous efforts, with backing guitars that soar throughout songs as screams and clean vocals abound. The album opens with the strong, forceful “Sassafras”, in which vocalist Jeremy DePoyster raises his voice to a high falsetto that mimics new Tooth and Nail artist Secret & Whisper’s vocals. This is evident on other tracks, as he seems to have cleaned up his vocals much more than previously seen. Mike Hranica’s screaming compliments his soaring vocals on every track, bringing brutality to each part of the album. Electronics are featured as well throughout, which is a newer concept for The Devil Wears Prada, and they make it work on every track. Songs like the finale “Lord Xenu” and “Ben Has A Kid” showcase both the electronic element and a harder sound than previously heard on both Plagues and Dear Love: A Heavenly Discord.

“Louder Than Thunder” is the only ballad on the album, and the transition from the previous track’s hard sound is excellent. While the ballad may not be the best to come from the band, it’s always good to hear hardcore bands like this do slower tunes and see what else they’re capable of, and The Devil Wears Prada pulls it off quite well here. Another plus for the band is that each track is a good three to four and a half minutes, making this eleven track record worth it. Third records have a habit of defining band’s careers, and The Devil Wears Prada will likely find that this is the case for them. With a much better produced feel and fixes made all the way through, this is definitely the band’s best work, and they can only go up from here.

Star Rating: 4 out of 5

Review: As Cities Burn, “Hell Or High Water”

As Cities Burn, "Hell Or High Water"

As Cities Burn hasn’t been a huge force in the Christian music scene since they came around in 2002 with their hardcore debut Son, I Loved You At Your Darkest. However, the music that came out of this small band from Louisiana was strong, forceful, and convicting in ways music hadn’t seen in quite a while. Lyrically the band has never shied away from being blatant about their faith, and through genre-changes over two albums and a near break up in 2006, the band has continued to go above and beyond, at least until their rumored (yet now nearly confirmed) final album, Hell Or High Water.

The band started out with Son, I Loved You At Your Darkest, focusing on hardcore sounds and screaming vocals that showcased real talent from the gifted men of the band. Fans grew to love this sound, and some were surprised to see the band change their style drastically moving into their second album, Come Now Sleep. Come Now Sleep featured the band’s changes in vocals, as Cody Bonnette replaced his brother TJ at lead vocals. Screaming was drastically reduced, yet still a prominent feature throughout. Fans seemed to grow to love this change and encouraged the band to stay together, despite rumors and possibilities of a break up. Starting in August 2008, the band announced they would be working on a new album, and it was released in April of 2009.

Hell Or High Water is yet another significant change from both Son… and Come Now Sleep, as screaming is basically gone completely, and the band is more of an indie rock, progressive rock sounding entity now. Songs like “84’ Sheepdog” and “Errand Rum” still have a slightly hard feel, but overall the sound has changed again, showing just how diverse As Cities Burn can be. Lyrically, the album is less spiritually significant and blatant as their previous efforts, and seems to be a bit more cryptic than ACB is used to being. But that doesn’t mean all of it is gone. I’ve always had to listen for a while to get all the spiritual messages behind their songs, and Hell Or High Water is no different. Choruses and lyrics are continuously repeated which would normally get on my nerves, but As Cities Burn shows that they can keep things creative and fresh, and the repeated phrases work well with the music on the album. Other highlights on the album include the slow-building “Into The Sea”, the almost dance-like closer “Capo”, and the southern-styled “Petty”.

Sadly the album is short with only 9 songs, a somewhat clear indication that the band is about to end. The songs are longer, yes, but if this is indeed the band’s final bow, it would have been nice to see them go all out for their final album, not just do a bare minimum. However, on the iTunes version, you can get a bonus track that is definitely worth picking up. “Gates” acts as the album’s closer on that version, and the song is a studio version of a song the band has been ending their shows with for a few years now. Likely the most blatant and convicting song on the album, it is also the only track associated with the new album that has a bit of screaming, where original vocalist TJ sings “We will wear compassion, we will wear it / and the gates of hell, they won’t stand / they won’t stand against it.” In the end, for a band that has been through hardships and continual changes in genres, music, and members, this final album is definitely not one to pass up. It may not be the best overall, but it shows us what we have to remember As Cities Burn by.

Star Rating: 4 out of 5