Showing posts with label rap metal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rap metal. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

video review: 'the hunting party' by linkin park

Well, this turned out surprisingly decent. Turns out going back to hard rock was a good fit for Linkin Park - who knew?

Okay, that should take care of the major releases for the week - next up... hmm, either Sage Francis or First Aid Kit, we'll see. Stay tuned!

album review: 'the hunting party' by linkin park

Do I honestly have anything more to say about Linkin Park?

This is a band of whom I've covered twice before, first with Living Things in written form and then my video review of the remix album Recharged - and honestly, I wasn't a fan of either album, as they felt like regressions into stale subject matter they'd already covered more effectively elsewhere and a musical sound that alternated between being dreary and boring and atonal and insufferable. And this is coming from a critic who can admit that Linkin Park has never really been a terrible band, even in their earlier days with Hybrid Theory. Yes, it's material that hasn't exactly aged well in comparison with their mid-period work, but it does have a certain visceral pathos that can work if you're in the right demographic for it. And I will give Linkin Park for two points that aren't often noted: a knack for incredibly solid hooks and an ability to evolve with the times, culminating with the excellent, more conceptual album A Thousand Suns in 2010, which I'll place myself in the minority by saying is probably my 'favourite' Linkin Park record. And yeah, there are better records exploring nuclear holocaust, even in the electronic rock and metal veins, but I'll give Linkin Park credit for experimentation and mostly sticking the landing.

And honestly, that was one of the reasons Living Things was such a disappointment for me, in that it simply took much of the same electronic rock sound and fused it with lyrics that couldn't support it, and it felt like a regression. And when I heard about The Hunting Party this year... well, I had no idea what to expect. Not only did the band say they were putting aside electronic rock and going back to a harder edge, they were planning to show more maturity in their subject matter as well. That, if anything, got my curiosity raised enough to pick up the album - how did it turn out?

Monday, October 28, 2013

video review: 'recharged' by linkin park

Well, this came together quickly - mostly because there's so little to say about this album as a whole. Next is probably Reflektor by Arcade Fire, because I've been preparing that particular diatribe for some time. Stay tuned!

album review: 'recharged' by linkin park

I have no goddamn clue why I'm reviewing this album. I mean, a remix album comprised of almost entirely songs from a record I thought barely scraped the ceiling of mediocre by a band that has completely run out of ideas? Really, I can't think of a greater waste of time other than review the new Christmas album by Kelly Clarkson (which isn't happening, by the way, so don't hold your breath)!

First, a bit of context. Last year, when my reviews were previously confined to my blog, I reviewed Linkin Park's Living Things, and suffice to say, I didn't like it. And while upon reexamination I don't think my review is particularly well-written (it's a little too overwrought and overloaded with lecturing), I stand by my opinions surrounding Linkin Park and the album in particular. The album was poorly written, it lacked instrumental heft and weight, it was an unwelcome return to the concepts of their earlier work that haven't aged well and a distinct step down from the high-minded ambitions of A Thousand Suns, and worst of all, it was boring as tar. Yeah, 'Powerless' was a good song, but outside of that a year later, I can barely remember the album and that's never a good sign. I mean, I remember fragments of 'Burn It Down' and I remember thinking that it was mediocre at best, a far cry from the grit and energy that occasionally made some of the band's earlier material worth a listen.

So maybe I shouldn't have been surprised that the album was getting the remix treatment, almost doubling the original album in length courtesy of guest DJs and rap verses. And as much as I'd like to be snide and point out that it apparently requires more hands in the mix to make Linkin Park vaguely sellable, I wasn't exactly set to condemn this album. After all, the remixes could add some layer of unique personality to pierce through the boredom I had with the original record, and who knows, maybe Pusha T might be able to deliver a better rap verse than he did on Kay's debut. So with that in mind, how does Recharged by Linkin Park turn out?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

album review: 'the terror' by the flaming lips

I think I'm obliged to say this as a professional: the majority of music that is designed to be 'scary' and 'intimidating' fucking sucks.

This is another incident where the fact that I am a music critic and have heard a ton of music speaks to a disconnect with the average music listener, but I think part of it comes down to my growth of musical knowledge. As I've said before, I jumped pretty much from boy bands and Eminem straight to power/symphonic metal, thus skipping the rap rock/rap metal/thrash period that most young teenage guys go through. But really, the more I think about that, the more I'm grateful I avoided those trends, because any retrospective examination into those genres has just filled me with contempt, disgust, and revulsion. And as someone who can get back into the teenage mindset enough to tolerate even the occasional Simple Plan song, there's no goddamn excuse for the dearth of quality in this genre.

So yeah, I'll come out and say it outright: acts like Hollywood Undead and Killswitch Engage and Atreyu and Underoath and Bring Me The Horizon just plain suck. Musically, they aren't within spitting distance of quality metal and content-wise, they just bore me. Too much of this material is wrapped up in unfortunate sadomasochistic tendencies (you know, always talking about the BLOOD and the PAIN and the SUFFERING and all that nonsense), and it's very rare that any of it is all that compelling. On top of that, it's hard for me to consider any of these acts remotely 'scary' or even all that intimidating, particularly recent entries in the genre. I think most of my issues with these acts comes back to similar issues that I have with the American horror film industry, namely that there is no subtlety or pacing. In the pursuit of over-the-top 'gorn', too many acts come across as way too ridiculous to take seriously, the music of immature white boys who don't have the sophistication or patience to take in something better. The slightly better side of the genre features acts that aren't taking themselves all that seriously but are still trying to come across as 'scary', and this tends to remind me of the trashy, too-hip-for-the-room schlock otherwise known as 90s horror films. 

But either way, it's not scary to me. The obsession with gore and tits in some of this material is exploitative, but it's not compelling exploitation and it has nothing to say. I'll make an exception for some of Marilyn Manson's material because he has occasionally made some interesting albums, but even that stuff relies too much on shock imagery and the musical equivalent of a jump scare. And sure, that can be startling or revolting, but that doesn't horrify me or even come across as particularly memorable. I think some of it is desensitization, but really, outside of the occasional political polemic Marilyn Manson includes (which you tend to see more of in the industrial punk/metal scene), there's just not much there.

I think the other big problem with my retrospective examination of these genres is that I'm a fan of Eminem, who is probably the only artist I can think of who balanced being scary with being listenable. That's another issue I have with most of the modern metalcore or horrorcore acts: the overproduction stands out, making the songs appear too polished to really get under my skin. Hell, this even happened a bit with Eminem's Relapse (although I'd argue that overproduction choice was part of the point of that album, showing just how heinous and simultaneously pathetic Slim Shady really was). 

But let's ask the question why The Marshall Mathers LP, arguably the best horrorcore album ever made, works and actually does come across as genuinely scary to me, even to this day. Well, there are a number of elements that contribute here: Dr. Dre's minimalistic, grimy beats, the bleak production, the tone of menace present even on the lighter tracks, or the fact that Eminem always brings an intensity that feels genuine (one of my recurring problems with horrorcore rapper Cage, by the way). But what I think made the album work the best was the grounding of it all in real, human places. Songs like 'The Way I Am', 'Kill You', 'Stan', 'Marshall Mathers', and especially 'Kim' are creepy and unnerving not just because of the instrumentation and subject matter, but the fact that they feel like they're grounded in human emotion and come from a very real, very dark place. Eminem isn't trying to ingratiate himself to you or come across like a decent human being, he's intentionally exposing his very worst impulses to the microphone and daring you to listen. This purposeful alienation really adds an interesting concept to the rest of his career, particularly on subsequent albums, and some could read that alienation and subsequent loneliness and disillusionment with fame as founding factors for his next three albums.

But I'm getting off-track, because what the ultimate point I'm trying to make is that even today, Eminem managed to nail the elements that make music genuinely scary for me, stuff that can send a shiver down my spine. And really, no other artist who has followed him has really managed to capture that same fear.

Until now. Because The Flaming Lips, the experimental rock act known for some of the strangest and psychedelic experiments in music have just released their thirteenth studio album The Terror - and it scared the shit out of me.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

album review: 'living things' by linkin park

Short version: in which I finally get a chance to vent about rap metal and nu-metal (yes, it's been long in coming), and I get the chance to explain completely why I hate those genres with a burning passion. Oh, and then I review some album called 'Living Things', which was only distinctive in its ability to disappoint me. Wonderful.

How many of you remember rock in the mid-to-late 90s? Because I can say this definitively - having briefly revisted that era to do a bit of research, you don't want to.

I should explain this. After Kurt Cobain's death and the collapse of Nirvana, grunge rock lost market share, and while alternative rock pushed by bands like R.E.M. continued to hold some sway, there was a rush to fill the void with a variance of musical styles. Punk received a mild mainstream revival thanks to bands like Green Day, weird psychedelic/prog rock began making headway in the underground (like with the Flaming Lips, Radiohead and Porcupine Tree), and even ska got a brief, painfully short time in the limelight. Sure, bands like Soundgarden and the Foo Fighters and the Smashing Pumpkins were continuing what Cobain started, but towards the end of the decade, they would find their mainstream spotlight usurped by an unholy, haphazard blend of genres that touched off some of the worst trends in rock at the turn of the millennium.

Yes, I'm talking about rap metal.