Showing posts with label hard rock. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hard rock. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

video review: 'anthem of the peaceful army' by greta van fleet

Yeah, this was a tough one, have to be honest... but I'm happy I got it out regardless.

Next up, some old business in country, so stay tuned!

album review: 'anthem of a peaceful army' by greta van fleet

I genuinely wish the conversation about this band began and ended with just their recorded output.

But it doesn't - and even putting aside the unmistakable influences, the conversation about Greta Van Fleet's success on rock radio and rock streaming playlists has almost overshadowed any discussion of the band's unique quality. On the one hand, it's not surprising: radio loves familiarity, and if there's a band that's going to harken back to long-overplayed classic staples, they're going to win points in that scene right out of the gate, especially if there seems to be genuine instrumental chops. But that raises a very different, more ominous spectre, the question whether rock radio, through its slavish worship of the sounds of the past and a refusal to innovate the foundational sound without succumbing to pop, whether its embrace of this band shows a format so blinded by the aesthetic sheen they'll forsake actual quality.

And if any of this seems like a new conversation... well, it's not, and if anything it's a truly dire sign that rock hasn't found answers to these questions since the breakthrough of Jet and The Darkness in the 2000s, and yet it's the critical conversation surrounding those two bands that seemed like the most immediate answer I needed to evaluate with this band. Because it's undeniable that Greta Van Fleet was inspired by the past, but would they crank the sound up on steroids to campy, near-parodic levels, or would they just seem like a naked ripoff, most certainly marketable but quickly forgotten by anyone with class and taste? Of course, the third option is that they'd actually be good, but there was a part of me that had the sinking feeling that might not happen - review sites like Pitchfork have praised retro-leaning acts in the past and don't tend to bring out the level of old-school savagery they did for Greta Van Fleet if the band was actually solid. But fine, what did I get out of Anthem Of A Peaceful Army?

Monday, August 6, 2018

video review: 'vicious' by halestorm

Okay, first to catch up on some old business by posting this, but that's not all that's coming...

Thursday, August 2, 2018

album review: 'vicious' by halestorm

The last time I reviewed Halestorm, it didn't go very well.

Actually, that's probably putting it mildly, given that this a band I've repeatedly tried to get into and have felt consistently let down time and time again, be it by underwhelming writing, unexceptional melodies, or inconsistent production, the last of which utterly crippled any enjoyment I got out of their third album Into The Wild Life, produced by Jay Joyce seemingly before he hit his stride later that year. And from there, I'll freely admit Halestorm has not been on my radar whatsoever. And with their new album... well, it showed up on my schedule and they'd gotten rid of Jay Joyce, but they'd replaced him with Nick Raskulinecz, who you might know better for producing the comeback records for Alice In Chains and chunks of the more mainstream-accessible Mastodon records, and the last underwhelming Rise Against album... and the worst Ghost album.

So okay, not precisely a good sign, and I'll freely admit I was skeptical when I saw the band professing that this was going to be the one where we truly see all sides of the band and this was the one that was going to win us over... and I hate to be that guy, but I've heard this press run before at least twice, and while it seems like a fair number of critics were won over here, I'll admit I had low expectations. So what did we get with Vicious?

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

video review: 'prequelle' by ghost

I have to keep remembering to post these video updates here... anyway, solid record, but it should be better - enjoy!

Monday, June 4, 2018

album review: 'prequelle' by ghost

There's a part of me that finds it really weird how big Ghost are becoming as a band.

That's not to disparage the talent behind the group, of course - in terms of metal they've hit the increasingly rare sweet spot of being able to merge progressive and heavy tendencies with actual melodies and hooks and a commitment to a gimmick that I respect a great deal. A little over-the-top and theatrical, sure, but if the music remains kick-ass like it did on the self-titled debut and Meliora, I wasn't going to complain. But that sort of theatricality tends to ostracize bands, especially with Ghost tilting so heavily into blatantly Satanic material - say what you will about Black Sabbath and classic metal bands, if you dug into their content they tended to avoid that, and even for an act like KISS that leaned even harder into their image, the content rarely backed up the spectacle.

And yet Ghost has doggedly remained committed to the content and the gimmick, and with their rising fame and in the age of the internet, that's genuinely impressive... although I had to question how much longer it would last, especially as the frontman's identity was leaked and all his former bandmates quit and then sued him for treating Ghost like a glorified solo project. And yet after a tumultuous few years for the group - including winning a Grammy - Ghost has recruited a new set of musicians and have a new record, one that was reportedly aiming to be their most accessible to date... which can be a loaded qualifier when it comes to any metal act looking to make a pivot towards mainstream rock radio, but I was curious where the hell this could be going, especially given how awesome their last record was, so how is Prequelle?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

video review: 'you're not alone' by andrew w.k.

Huh, I was expecting this review to be way more controversial than it is... guess most people are lukewarm on it too.

Okay, next up, the movie review of Annihilation, stay tuned!

album review: 'you're not alone' by andrew w.k.

I remember when saying you liked Andrew W.K. as a critic was a much more polarizing statement than it is today.

And let's not mince words: when I Get Wet first came out, there was a vast gulf between the critics that adored it and those that hated it with a passion. And a lot of that was a factor of the time: it was late 2001, hard rock was making a hard pivot to the dark and serious, and here comes an artist with the simplest of lyrics, the most obviously overblown sound and production, all driven by strident piano compositions that seemed deceptively simple. For a set of cynical critics coming out of the 90s, it had to be a corporate calculation gone wrong, or a parody years out of date, all of it so damn stupid that nobody in their right mind could ever take this seriously!

In retrospect, time has been way kinder to Andrew W.K. and I Get Wet specifically because of the gradual revelation that it wasn't a gimmick. Yeah, it was broad and goofy and ridiculous, but there was a method to that deceptive simplicity that cut across critical faculties into something damn near transcendent, rooted in sharp melodic songwriting and the real earnestness and optimism that Andrew W.K. brought to the table. Sure, it was a little one-note in terms of content - although the sound would eventually dive towards mainstream rock before going for outright piano rock on later records - but like with Lil Jon in hip-hop, as a collective society we've decided to keep Andrew W.K. around, if only because that good-hearted earnestness is only a net positive, be it on the multiple J-pop cover records or his motivational speaking tours! 

That said, when Andrew W.K. announced his first full-length record in nine years, I won't deny that I was skeptical, mostly because I Get Wet still looms above so much of his musical career, and even if he had found a way to remake that party magic seventeen years later, the album was still going to run fifty-two minutes and sixteen tracks - you can only hit one note so many times. But hell, I wanted a good time, so how is You're Not Alone?

Saturday, August 26, 2017

album review: 'painted ruins' by grizzly bear / 'how did we get so dark' by royal blood / 'visuals' by mew / 'no culture' by mother mother (VACATION SERIES)

So here is our second vlog, this time from Lexington (and a few days late posting - I am on vacation, promotion takes time). In any case, next up I'm now in Nashville, so stay tuned for more!

Friday, April 21, 2017

video review: 'inFinite' by deep purple

Yeah, I know, I should have posted this two days ago, but given that I was hitting burnout and I needed a day or two to recuperate (plus, my birthday and such), I wanted to get this out.

And on the note of getting things out, time for some long-overdue catchup - stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

album review: 'inFinite' by deep purple

Look, even despite being a longtime Deep Purple fan, I don't think anyone expected their 2013 record Now What?! to be as great as it was. 

Their first record in eight years and their first after the death of long-time keyboardist Jon Lord - it showed a band reinvigorated yet again, surging forward with the sort of progressive experimentation and flair that didn't reflect a band that had been around for over forty five years! And sure, you might be able to pass along some credit to legendary producer Bob Ezrin, but it's also hard to ignore that Deep Purple are one of the most resilient hard rock bands still working. Let's get brutally honest, you can probably count the number of rock bands who tour as extensively as Deep Purple does for as long as they have on one hand, and to see a resurgence of quality in the compositions and songwriting - long one of the areas the band has struggled on weaker albums, of which there are a fair few - was a true marvel. 

But like it or not, you can't do it forever, and there's a part of me that knew it would only be a matter of time before Deep Purple set their instruments aside, perhaps to go off on one glorious high note as hard rock legends. They had finally been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, an honor many had said they had deserved for decades, they were coming off the most critical acclaim and popular attention they had received in years if not decades, and unfortunately drummer Ian Paice had suffered a minor stroke in June of last year, which affected his right hand and fingers. And to end things off with one last ride called The Long Goodbye Tour and a record called inFinite, I had the feeling that this might just be the last record we get from Deep Purple. So enough reminiscing and nostalgia, what do we get on inFinite?

Friday, April 7, 2017

video review: 'emperor of sand' by mastodon

So I have no idea how this is going to be received. Thus far, things seem to be good, but certain audiences can be fickle...

Anyway, I'm not done with metal, as we're finally heading back into black metal territory... stay tuned!

album review: 'emperor of sand' by mastodon

I wish I liked Mastodon a lot more than I do.

Now that's a loaded statement to open up a review of a record that's already sparked some controversy among critics, but it's necessary to provide some context here. Suffice to say I came to listen to a lot of Mastodon's material late, and furthermore I came from the more meticulous, prog side of metal, not as much sludge or the hard rock the band has increasingly embraced in order to pull in mainstream appeal. As such, when I revisited their discography again before this review, I came away convinced that I still do like and appreciate this band for their relentless shredding and oblique songwriting and knack for melodic song structures in the face of increasingly complex ideas, but I never found them as captivating as I wanted - a group I respect a lot more than I outright love.

And more than that, the complex, relentlessly visceral and bestial albums I did really like - Leviathan, Blood Mountain, especially Crack The Skye - seemed to be in the opposite direction of Mastodon's current progression. As such, while I was more forgiving of Once More 'Round The Sun than some critics for some stronger hooks and cohesive melodic experimentation, I was concerned that the group would eventually start to hit diminishing returns in simplifying their sound and approach for a mainstream rock audience, especially if the hooks didn't come together as strongly. But hey, it's still Mastodon, and they've won enough goodwill with me to dig in deep, especially if the writing and melodies cam through - did Emperor Of Sand pay off?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

video review: 'silver' by gotthard

Man alive, I really wish I liked this more. There was a chance this could have worked... and yet it just felt really underwhelming to me, and I can't deny I'm disappointed.

So now time for The xx... whoo, that'll be fun, so stay tuned!

album review: 'silver' by gotthard

I shouldn't be as defensive as I am when I talk about Gotthard.

I mean, this is a hard rock and heavy metal band that has existed for around twenty-five years at this point, this is their twelfth record of original material, they've never released a bad album! So why do I always feel like I'm steeling myself whenever I talk about this Swiss group who is named for a mountain range in their country and a ridiculous pun?

Well, part of it is that Gotthard is a group that has always felt distinctly out of their own time - they're a melodically driven hard rock act that released their debut in 1992, at the very moment that style of music went out of style in the mainstream and became very easy to mock. And they were not a band that decided to leap aboard mainstream trends in rock either - there has definitely been stylistic experimentation and shifts in the tones and sounds, but at the end of the day they're going to throw up the horns and rock the hell out with the sort of larger-than-life swagger that most mainstream music seems to snub as being too much fun. I like Gotthard in the same way I like Andrew W.K. - there may be a simplicity to their formula on the surface, especially in the lyrics, but when you execute it so well, I can appreciate the power and purity that shines through. Now of course if you've dug in deep to Gotthard's discography you'll know there's a lot more beneath the surface than meets the eye - an old-fashioned style of performance and composition, to be sure, but Gotthard has continued to update their production while still maintaining the core of their sound

As such, it should be no surprise I was primed to enjoy their newest record - it's been three years since their album BANG! completely blew through any expectations I might have had, and it's their third album with frontman Nic Maeder stepping in for the late and legendary Steve Lee. They know their lane, they're a band that can literally take any possible direction at this point in their career - where does Silver take us?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

video review: 'ghostlights' by avantasia

Again, better late than never. And in this case, I'm happy to get it out, because this was a real welcome surprise.

In any case, Billboard BREAKDOWN coming up next, followed by that new Charles Kelley and maybe Pop. 1280 if I have time. But this weekend I'm going to be out of town, so it might be tight timing. Either way, stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

album review: 'ghostlights' by avantasia

So when I talked about The Mute Gods a few days ago, I brought how supergroups tend to market themselves - these people are attached to something you already know and like, and now they're working together, so you should buy that. In truth, that's one of a few ways, the second being a lot more complicated and unlikely: one artist with a defining vision recruiting a whole team of established artists in order to realize that grand plan.

Now some of you will inevitably point to hip-hop and say, 'Well, duh, we get this all the time', but this falls into a slightly different category, because how often do all those guest verses fit with the story or concept, presuming there's a story or concept at all. When you narrow it down like that, this list gets a lot smaller, and it also further divides into two categories, this time focusing on the man behind said project. Is he a musical genius capable of sketching out a vast world where every unique singer plays a distinct part, or is he simply an incredibly gifted networker who has some solid connections? In the former category in metal, the name that immediately jumps to mind is Arjen Lucassen, the founder of the progressive metal Ayreon project. And on the flipside, you have Tobias Sammet, frontman of Edguy and leader of the symphonic power metal project Avantasia.

Now I've been getting asked about my opinions on Avantasia since I mentioned that I like symphonic metal, but prior to doing this review, I had never really delved into them at length. So I took the opportunity to listen through their previous six albums and try to get a handle on the story that Sammet is writing - that's the big reason why this review is as late as it is. In short... I wish I liked this group a lot more than I do. Don't get me wrong, the group can often put together some spectacular symphonic metal songs, but the albums can feel pretty uneven, partially thanks to tracks not always doing enough to stand out from each other - with the exception of some godawful synth choices - partially because the writing can dip a little too often into metal cliche, and partially because the stories can get incomprehensible if you're trying to follow the plots. Now this upcoming record is following along from the story started on their 2013 project The Mystery of Time, a record aiming for grander symphonic presence, which focuses on a character in Victorian England falling in with what I'd basically described a steampunk machine cult. I definitely think it's a good, if hard-to-follow and frequently overwritten album, although I wouldn't say it always gives us their best individual songs, but apparently Ghostlights was going to be even bigger, even darker, even more grandiose... was that really the case?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

video review: 'drones' by muse

Well, this was better received than I expected it'd be. Hmm, interesting.

Okay, tomorrow I'm going to try to get the Billy Currington review out, but RL might get in the way, so no promises. Stay tuned!