Saturday, January 28, 2012

Halestorm Teases With Hello, It's Mz. Hyde EP

Halestorm seemed to come out of nowhere in 2009 with their song ultra sexy song and video for “I Get Off”. Led by lead singer Lzzy Hale, who was a deadly combination of leather and lace, the band was called an overnight sensation by many. What many did not know was that the band had been together for a long time and paying their dues. They released an EP in 2005 entitled “One and Done” and became road warriors, playing just about anywhere and everywhere.

Their self-titled full length album spawned numerous hits including “I Get Off”, “Familiar Taste of Poison” and more. Here we are three years and hundreds of shows later and the pressure is on as all eyes are on these childhood friends from PA. Will they rise to the challenge or suffer the dreaded “sophomore slump”? Well, for now, we are getting a 4 song EP entitled Hello, It’s Mz. Hyde to serve as a teaser for what’s to come.

The EP is a digital download only, but that’s familiar ground for the band. They released a covers EP last year entitled ReAniMate: The CoVeRs eP as a digital download only. For anyone who is familiar with the band, they know that they have been infamous for doing killer cover songs for years now and that EP was no exception.

The first track and single, and maybe even song title of the year, is “Love Bites (So Do I)” and it shows off a bit of an aggressive edge for the band that brings to mind Skid Row’s “Slave To The Grind”. Lzzy vocals are diverse on here and effective to bringing true emotion to the lyrics. Joe Hottinger offers some tasty guitar work in this song. Lzzy’s brother Arejay also is a beast on the drums on this track

The band showed us on their last album that they definitely know how to create a catchy song that will get stuck in our heads. “Rock Show” is another example of one of those songs that you will immediately be singing the chorus after only one listen. This is one of those songs that all fans and music lovers can relate to. As Lzzy sings, ‘At the rock show, you’ll be right in the front row’, you just start rocking your head in agreement. Josh Smith also lays down a solid bassline that carries this song from beginning to end.

“Daughters of Darkness” is a great track with Halestorm doing what they do best. The chorus screams for audience participation and would fit in great at a live show. The last track, “Here’s To Us”, shifts gears and shows that Lzzy and the boys are no strangers to the old school power ballads from the eighties. The acoustic intro sets a great tone as the boys slowly join in on this track and establish a great melody. Lzzy’s reflective lyrics are sure to strike a chord with everyone who listens as I am sure we can all relate.

A mere four song teaser and I am so hungry for more. We have been served an appetizer and now we must wait until April for the main course. This EP is everything that we would expect from Halestorm, but they raised the bar. Anyone who has seen this band live knows that they are diverse and rich with talent. This EP taps into that a little more than their debut album did. Lzzy’s vocals are stronger than ever and even more convincing in her lyrical deliver. You actually feel what she is singing. Joe, Arejay and Josh sound tighter than ever and have really pushed themselves. Man, April needs to get here as soon as possible!

Friday, January 13, 2012

OTHERWISE Sign With Century Media Records

It seems as if every now and then that the music industry gets it right. Well, I do believe that this is one of those times. Century media Records announced on January, 12, 2012 that they had just signed the band OTHERWISE to a recording deal. Now, I know that many of you out there may not have a clue as to who this band is, but you are about to; mark my words.

The band was formed in 2005 by brothers Adrian and Ryan Patrick. The road up to this point in their careers has not been a bed of roses, as there were a few thorns experienced along the way. Adrian garnered quite a bit of national exposure when he was featured on "The Promise" singing with Maria Brink and In This Moment. The song received mainstream airplay and a video was also shot for the song. Adrian joined In This Moment on the 2010 Mayhem Festival and performed the song with the band. After the tour, he returned home with a new found hunger to make it to the big leagues, but it a setback. A major shakeup in band personnel happened and what might have ended other bands, just made Adrian and Ryan that much more determined.

The guys found the remaining pieces of the puzzle in bassist Flavio Ivan, drummer Corky Gainsford and guitarist Vassilio Metropoulos. The band was labeled by FOX News as the "#1 Unsigned Act in America" and by Xtreme Rock Radio 107.5 as the "#1 Unsigned Band in Las Vegas". Well, those two labels are a thing of the past thanks to the announcement on 01/12/12. The band are currently in the studio with Jay Baumgardner (Bush, Linkin Park, Papa Roach, Incubus) recording their debut album.

This article is just a little intro for all of you who may not be familiar with the band. The first video included here is "The Promise" by In This Moment. The second video is for "Soldiers" by OTHERWISE. Check out their Facebook page,!/otherwiseofficial?sk=wall, and learn more about this band who will definitely be making a major noise in 2012.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Melissa Bel Proves She's Going The Distance

I think everyone has dreams when they are really young. One day you want to be a cowboy, one day a firefighter, the next day a doctor, but Melissa Bell was a little different. At the young age of six, she decided that she wanted to be a singer. If anyone doubted her back then, she is quickly proving them wrong. She just released her brand new album entitled Distance and this Canadian dynamo is creating quite a buzz.

The album opens with the title track “Distance”, which is a remixed and remastered version from her Brave album. There was not a huge promotional push for that album in Canada, but Melissa and her producer Tom Treumuth both believed it deserved another shot. Melissa also believed she could do a better job vocally, being a few years older and more experienced, so she re-cut her vocals. The efforts have paid off as the song sounds fresh and new. Melissa’s new vocals add a richer, more emotional layer to the song. Guitarist Sean Ashby adds some wicked fretwork and a very unique sound to the song with his playing.

“Joyride” is a funky little number complete with an added horn section. Melissa’s sassy side comes out in this number of a love gone wrong. I think we can all relate to this song of being taken on a joyride by someone we were in a relationship with. The diagnosis by the doctor on “Lovesick” is one that he cannot offer a prescription for and she’s ok with that because she’s willing to endure this feeling.

Melissa does an amazing cover of the Bill Wither’s classic “Ain’t No Sunshine” on which she even shows off some of her guitar skills. She wraps herself around this song and delivers a powerful and convincing vocal performance. The album closes with “He’ll Never Be You” and is another song that I am sure that many will relate to. You know how it is, you are in a relationship with someone new, but they just don’t compare to that one person that you’re not quite over.

This EP shows a lot of growth by Melissa on many levels. She had more input on this release and more creative control. She had no experience going into recording her last album, so she relied on her producer and her musicians. This time, she had the confidence to run the entire recording sessions. That new found confidence shines in the end result as this EP is pretty awesome. It’s funky, bluesy, and emotional and it rocks. Melissa’s vocals are so powerful and passionate they pack an emotional punch that is well beyond her years.

Distance is leading up to a full album release in March of 2012. She has already won many awards in her homeland of Canada, including Artist of the Year in 2008 and Best Pop Album. Canada’s rising star is poised to share her gift with the US and the rest of the world. Check out her new EP and hear for yourself as the buzz she is creating will soon become a roar.

Attack Attack! Return With This Means War

Attack Attack! has been through quite a lot in their short career. The band released their debut EP in 2008 entitled If Guns Are Outlawed, Can We Use Swords and were quickly signed to Rise Records. Their major label debut, Someday Came Suddenly, was released in 2008 to mainly negative reviews. Their second album, which was self-titled, was released in 2010 to better reviews. Along this short ride, the band lost more singers than Spinal Tap did drummers; not to mention other personnel changes also earlier on.

The band is now poised to release their new album entitled This Means War. I am not sure if that title is a message to the many critics who have constantly slammed these guys, but they are more focused than ever on this release. In a genre known for its breakdowns, let us “breakdown” this album and see what it’s all about.
The album, which was produced by lead singer and keyboardist Caleb Shomo in his home studio, opens with “The Revolution” and what a great opener to set the tone of the album. Caleb Shomo is quite impressive with his mix of clean and unclean vocals. Lead guitarist Andrew Whiting delivers some crushing rips that chug right along throughout the song. This song is an excellent choice to begin this latest chapter in the band’s story.

“The Wretched” is another great example of the growth of this band. Caleb’s keyboards and synthesizers add so much to this song and many others. They add an interesting layer to what would could easily be just another metal core song and elevate it to another level. The conventional “breakdown” now sounds fresh and original because of that.

“The Motivation” is a song that will catch you off guard more than once. It opens with a rather slow and tranquil keyboard before Andrew’s guitars erupt in a wall of sound. The rhythm section of John Holgado on bass and Andrew Wetzel are on their A game on this selection. A song about staying focused and never giving up should become a theme for these guys as a band and overcoming their critics.

Over all, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this new album. It definitely shows growth by the band in many areas. Caleb seems to have found his comfort zone vocally. His non clean vocals show a lot of improvement and his clean vocals, used mainly on the choruses, make them catchy and infectious. Andrew also gives a solid performance on guitar turning in some pretty amazing solos while managing to keep his breakdowns from just becoming a chug-a-thon.

The guys have announced dates on the “This Means War Tour” with The Ghost Inside, Sleeping with Sirens and others. It should be interesting to see how the new material translates into the live show. Pick up a copy of This Means War when it’s officially released on January 17, 2012 and listen for yourself. It definitely lives up its title.

Rammstein: Flame Thrower Sold Separately

There is no denying the impact that Germany’s Rammstein has had on the metal/industrial scene since they released their debut album Herzeleid in 1995. They quickly caught the attention of Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and he gave the band some major exposure here in the US by including two of their songs for the David Lynch film Lost Highway. Their breakthrough album Sehnsucht was released in 1997 and their worldwide hit “Du hast”.

Over the span of sixteen years, Rammstein have become huge superstars in their native land of Germany releasing platinum album after platinum album. Their live shows are the stuff that legends are made of. The over the top theatrics including tons of fire, guitars that shoot sparks and gloves that shoot fireworks have attracted a huge following. With a show like that, there’s no wonder their shows here in the US constantly sellout even with limited “commercial” success here.

So, here we are sixteen years after their debut and a career retrospective is finally being issued by their label. It’s entitled Made in Germany 1995-2011 and it is being released in three forms. There’s the single disc containing sixteen tracks, the deluxe disc containing an extra disc of seventeen remixes and a super deluxe edition with discs plus all the band’s music videos and a 240 page book all encased in a steel box.

The main disc contains an interesting mix of songs. Whenever a “best of” collection is issued on a band that has been around as long as Rammstein has, then there will be those who complain that certain songs are missing. First, let’s look at the obvious choices that did make it to the disc. “Du hust” is here as well as “Amerika” and “Mein Teil”. So, what about the fan favorites that were excluded? Well, “Benzin” and “Mann Gegen Mann” and Das Modell” are missing. One of the most puzzling omissions is the song “Feuer Frei” which was featured in the movie xXx starring Vin Diesel in which the band was shown performing live.

The remixes on disc two include efforts from Faith No More on “Du Riechst So Gut 98”, the Pet Shop Boys on “Mein Teil”, Devin Townsend Project on “Rammlied” and Meshuggah on “Benzin”. Some of the remixes do not stray too far from the originals feel while others, the Devin Townsend Project, are comical. I am usually not a fan of remixes, but I will have to admit that a few really caught my ear. Laibach’s remix of “Ohne Dich” and the Sono remix of “Mutter” as very interesting efforts.

Rammstein is one of those bands that has to be seen live to truly appreciate the power and energy that their songs empower. Lead singer Till Lindemann was born to front this band. His voice is so powerful and unique and brings so much to the songs that he writes. Who cares if almost all the lyrics are in German? It’s so easy to get swept away by the music and energy that you almost forget that you can’t sing along to them!

Overall, this retrospective is really good and especially for the casual fan who wants a compilation that spans their career. As far as the die-hard fans, well it may come up a little short for them. I think most of those fans have everything included here. Well, unless they want to fork over the big bucks for the super deluxe version; flamethrower is not included.

Dead Throne Elevates The Devil Wears Prada To A New Level

There must have been something in the water last year when The Devil Wears Prada recorded their Zombie EP. It’s as if someone or something took control of the band and steered them in a direction that was unfamiliar territory for them. The music and songwriting was taken to another level and the fans were caught off guard, but in a good way. It also left fans wondering if this was just an experimental phase because of the EP or was this something wet their appetites as they awaited the new album.

Well, the wait is over and it is proving to me well worth it. The band just recently released their fourth studio album entitled Dead Throne with very favorable results from both critics and fans. The band is sounded more focused and heavier than ever. The songs on the album, for the most part, were written by guitarist Chris Rubey. Maybe having just a single person focus on the songwriting is going to be the formula that TDWP needs to push them to the next level. It definitely seems to be leaning in that direction on this new album.

I do have to admit that I was buying into this new found direction during the first few tracks on this new album. The band seems to be warming up on the first four tracks and then it happens. I got kicked in the groin when “R.I.T.” began. It’s as if the case of Redbull didn’t kick in until then. Oh, but wait; it doesn’t end there. The rest of the album is just insane! The riffs are much heavier and the musicianship is tighter than ever. The trade off of vocal styles between singer Mike Hranica and guitarist Jeremy DePoyster is taken to a whole new level too.

“Born to Lose”, “Constance” and “Hold Fast” are standouts for so many reasons. Of course, the above mentioned reasons are ever apparent on these selections, but the balance between being heavy while still being catchy on these songs is just unbelievable. The band has also included a synth element with James Baney doing those duties. It really adds a layer to the music while still allowing the songs to take on that heavier sound.

The new album was produced by Adam Dutkiewicz of Killswitch Engage. I think he definitely needs to be credited, at least in part, for helping the band find this new comfort zone which helps them to grow as a group. This is definitely a different TDWP and they show that they have grown by leaps and bounds in such a short amount of time. I don’t know, maybe Adam helped them unlock their own personal Pandora’s Box? There is even an instrumental on the album entitled “Kansas” that showcases just how much the band has grown as musicians since the early days of their debut.

The rhythm section of a band is like the glue that holds them together, but doesn’t always get the praise that they deserve. Well, I think bassist Andy Trick and drummer Daniel Williams need to be given a co-MVP award on this album. The fill-ins that Daniel provides are top-notch and that double-kick of his is in rare form. It’s almost exhausting listening to him on this album!

So, is this the best that TDWP has unleashed on us? Well, I would have to say a major YES to that question. It seems as if almost every aspect of the band has been given steroids, with the exception of writing. It’s pretty much in line with past efforts, but this time it just seems to click better with their new sense of heaviness. The only thing that really doesn’t work for me would have to be Mike Hranica’s high-end screams/vocals, which seem to be a little weak when compared to his low end. His low register has quite a bit of depth to it and is very effective.

I really hope that TDWP will take this new found focus and build on it. Change and evolution is good for a band and is also very necessary for staying power. It’s tough to be a one trick pony in this industry now and not fade away quickly. The guys seem to have woken up to this fact and seemed determined to become a staying power and not just another footnote. This is definitely one of the best releases of 2011 and it also sets the bar high for many bands from this genre looking to release a new album in 2012.

The Force Is Strong For The Empire Shall Fall's New Release

Every now and then an album is released that just demands to be heard by the masses. Now, that’s a pretty bold statement to make, but I do believe that this is one of those albums. The Empire Shall Fall is not a Star Wars reference, but a fairly new metal core band founded by former Killswitch Engage lead singer Jesse Leach. They released their debut album Awaken in 2008 and garnered quite a bit of attention for their non-conventional sound. It was a hybrid of jazz, punk and metal core and definitely caught quite a few people’s attention.

Their new release is entitled Volume 1: Solar Plexus and is being released on 180 gram vinyl and digitally only for the time being. It is the first of three EPs to be released and all three will have a theme that ties them all together. The band has stated in an interview that the album is about “picking up the pieces of your life and starting over.” Once all three of the EPs are released, the band will release an actual CD with all three combined into one. An interesting and bold concept, so let’s take a look at Volume 1.

The album consists of a total of seven tracks with four being complete songs and three being instrumentals. “The Genesis of These Scars” open this journey that the listener is about to take off on and it goes from 0 to 60 in about 2 seconds! Jesse mixes clean vocals and screams in a very effective way. The arrangement on this song is also amazing in the way it mixes up alternating from metal core to a more melodic styling.

“Narrow the Path I Walk Part 1” and “As the City Sleeps” are great songs and show the versatility of the band. On their debut album, the guys really did break down the stereotypical walls established by a genre. They brought so many different elements into the mix and made their sound fresh and new and not just “traditional” metal core. These two songs bring even more of that to the table.

My favorite song on this album is the closing track, “The Final Redemption” which clocks in at an impressive 7:48. The beginning is very slow and has a jazz feel to it, but it builds. It really hits its groove at the 38 second mark. I think this is the bands’ shining moment on this track. It’s heavy, it’s melodic, it’s progressive, and it’s djent and more all rolled up into one. Jesse vocal delivery is stellar on this as well as some amazing guitar work by Jake Davenport and Marcus de Lisle.

The only problem that I have with this album is that it is way too short! I know it’s just an EP, but you just don’t want it to end. The instrumental tracks really work great to connect the songs together and they don’t just seem like throwaway tracks. The guys really have put together something special here and I cannot wait for part 2 to be released. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up and give it a listen. In a genre of so many sound-alike’s, The Empire Shall Fall are carving a niche out for themselves that is going to propel them to the font of this genre. With the way that these guys are going, they may even create an entirely new genre on their own.

Steel Panther Go Balls Out On New Album

It was bound to happen; something this awesome can’t stay an underground sensation for too long. The new masters of cockrock are back in a big way. How dare you ask who! I’m talking about LA’s Steel Panther and their sophomore album Balls Out is exactly what you want from these guys and then some. The narrow minded and easily offended need to stop reading right here because this just won’t be your cup of tea.

The guys from Steel Panther have been paying their dues for some time now under different band names including Danger Kitty and Metal Skool before officially becoming Steel Panther in 2008. If they look familiar, it may be because you saw them as the house band on the Gene Simmons roast or on his show Family Jewels. These guys have an impressive fan base including Paul Stanley of KISS, Green Day, Scott Ian of Anthrax and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.

Their new CD Balls Out is trademark Steel Panther. It’s funny, it’s raunchy, it’s catchy and it kicks some major metal ass. It’s deep in 80s influences such as Def Leppard and especially Motley Crue. One listen will have you wishing the days of 80s metal was back to stay.

“In The Future” opens the album, based in the year 6969, sounding eerily familiar to Motley Crue’s “In the Beginning” and features comedian Dane Cook. “Supersonic Sex machine” then gets the party truly rocking. The combination of Steel Panther and a song with a title of “Just like Tiger Woods” just screams instant classic. This is definitely old school 80s and is so catchy that you almost start singing along on the first listen. It also contains the line of the year, tongue in cheek of course: “Three holes are better than a hole in one”.

“If You Really Really Love Me” starts off acoustically, but then slips into true Panther territory and will have you laughing until it hurts. The lyrically content has you shaking your head sometimes as if “Did I just really hear that?”! “It Won’t Suck Itself” contains cameos by none other than Nuno “Where Have I Been Hiding For The Last 20 years” Bettencourt of Extreme and Chad Kroger of “the band that seemingly sells millions of records yet nobody seems to like” Nickelback. I don’t think I have to go into the lyrical content of the song given a title like that.

“Tomorrow Night” is probably my favorite track on the album. It’s straight up Motley Crue Shout at the Devil era influenced and is infectious as hooker with an STD. What other band can put together a song as epic as this and name drop Charlie Sheen, Britney Spears and Christopher Walken at the same time?

80s metal and power ballads are as synonymous as Lindsey Lohan and court appearances and Steel Panther deliver a great one entitled “Why Can’t You Trust Me”. To quote a line from this song,” you better treat me with a little respect, before I go Chris Brown and punch you in the neck.”

There’s nothing better than a song that rocks and helps you with your spelling. A, B, C is as easy as 1, 2, 3 when you have Steel Panther cranking out classics such as “Gold Digging Whore”. You have to love those sing-a-long choruses! “I Like Drugs” is like a 4 ½ minute dinner theater metal style complete with Michael getting pulled over by a cop. It’s hilarious!

Is anyone craving some cowbell? Then “Let me Come In” is for you, but not if you’re bashful. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the lyrical content given a title like that! The album closes with yet another Crue inspired song ala “Home Sweet Home”, well at least musically it is. “Weenie Ride” is a piano ballad, but don’t let that brief description fool you. It’s pure Panther baby complete with the big guitar solo.

Wow, what a ride a Steel Panther album is. The guys are serious about their metal, but I don’t think they always take themselves seriously. It’s almost as if they are a caricature of themselves, yet they live out these characters 24/7. It is a fun album, a raunchy album, a rocking album and one of the catchiest that I have heard this year. If you’re not embarrassed or offended by the lyrics, then you will soon be converted over to a huge fan of Steel Panther. Balls Out will go down, no pun intended, as one of the best of 2011.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Daughtry: If It Ain't Broke, Yada Yada Yada

America’s favorite poster child for not winning American Idol and still coming out ahead of the actual winner is back. Daughtry has just released a new album entitled Break the Spell and it follows the “if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it” formula fans expect from the band. That’s not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing.

Daughtry first burst onto the scene as a contestant on American Idol in 2006. He was one of, if not the, first contestant who had a true passion for rock. Many fans of the show remember his shocking elimination from the final four on the show. You have to YouTube the clip and just look at the expression on his face and eventual runner-up Katharine McPhee. Chris went on to almost make a joke out of the show by selling more than all of the contestants combined from that season. His debut album sold over four million copies and produced numerous hits and his follow-up Leave This Town was also a hit. He has proven that he is not a flavor of the week and that he is serious about his music career.

The band brought in Howard Benson again to produce for them. He has also produced Daughtry’s first two albums. A producer can bring a lot to the playing field for a band. A great producer will push a band and force them to think outside of the musical box. I have to admit than I am a fan of Daughtry and they have a formula that works for them. They do manage to break out of the “relationships on the brink of disaster” formula a few times on this album, but for the most part it’s sticking to that tried and true formula that sells millions for them. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, I guess it’s open for debate with both sides holding valid points, but time will truly tell.

“Renegade” kicks off the album with a big rock number. No, it’s not a cover of the Styx classic, but it definitely has an edge to it that they would be envious of. Next up is “Crawling Back to You”, which is the first video and single and textbook Daughtry. “Outta My Head” is another catchy, rocking number with a hint of Bon Jovi .
“Start of Something New” is a mid-tempo, acoustic flavored ballad that will most certainly draw comparisons to “Home”, but it’s still one of the strongest songs on the album. An artist always wants to connect with the listener and make them feel what they are singing. “Gone Too Soon” is an excellent example of one of those songs. A powerful and emotional song of a lost child and the grief the parents are going through as they think “what if”. This is one song that will definitely tug on the heart strings of the listener.

Chris dabbles a little bit in the field of falsetto on the song “Rescue Me” and pulls it off like a pro. What’s the lyrical content of this one? You guessed it, another wounded relationship song. “Spaceship” closes out the regular edition of the album; a standout track on the album about love and a romantic escape and proving that even adults who rock and roll for a living can still daydream.

I think Break the Spell is a really good album with a few standout tracks that show the band branching out. Is it a great album? Well, I am sure most diehard Daughtry fans will give a big “HELL YEAH” to that question. I just wish there was more growth or experimentation from the band, whether in lyrical content or musical direction. That is needed from any band to be able to make their career in the industry a marathon rather than a sprint.

M Lazar And Her Unique Artistic Vision

“We’re not here to take over the world. We’re the band that will create a new world for you to come join us in and escape,” M Lazar, September Mourning.

Enigma. Webster defines it as an inscrutable or mysterious person; something hard to understand or explain. Enter stage left one Emily Lazar; a multi-layered artist whose talents including being a writer, singer and model. She has modeled for and/or endorsed such companies as Draven, Coffin Case, Samson Microphones, Sourpuss Clothing, Lip Service and many more. She fronts an art project, not a band, called September Mourning. The story of M and her vision is one filled with ambition, hard work, strong women and comics. I recently sat down for a long and interesting chat with M about what ignites the creative beast inside of her.

Johnny: Hey M, it’s great to finally catch up with you. I know that you have been really busy as of late with September Mourning, but before we get into all of that, can you give the readers a brief introduction to who M Lazar is?

M/September Mourning: Who knows? I’m not even sure if I do! Well, I am a performer and I have been one since I started walking. I stepped on the stage for the first time at the age of 4 and I haven’t come off since. I have always been involved in the arts in some way. I have always been singing, dancing and modeling. I usually come up with the concepts of the shoots that I do too, such as with Draven shoes. I just love to put my own stamp on it.

Johnny: So, tell us about your project September Mourning.

M/September Mourning: Well, it’s definitely more than just a band, so I like to refer to it as my art project. It started out as a story of a girl who has her own alter bridge to cross. She is a strong female who is not always taken seriously, but she will punch your face off if she is pushed to it. I wanted to integrate music into the story since I am a musician. I hooked up with Marc Silvestri of Top Cow Comics about 4 ½ years ago and told him my idea. I picked Marc because when he describes female characters, they are empowered and strong, such as his character Witchblade. He loved the idea and asked if I had a band to provide the soundtrack to the story, so at that time I started putting one together.

Johnny: When you were piecing the band together, what kind of sound did you want to create?

M/September Mourning: I got in touch with Chris Egert who was an industrial kid that I had great chemistry with. I knew I wanted an industrial sound with a rock edge to it, but I really hate to put our sound in a box. I also worked with James Duran and Carley Coma and we cut some demos.

Johnny: Your sound has changed somewhat since those early demos; as well as your band mates. Was the musical change a conscious decision?

M/September Mourning: I believe that you have to grow as a group. The minute that you stop changing or morphing as an artist is a sign for you to break up or just stop because there is nothing left to do. Our current sound is popcore with a little electronic thrown in, but it’s still changing along with our band members and our look. We will definitely have all of those changes defined by next year. Our sound did change a bit from those first songs, which were more industrial. We didn’t release them, but we are going to go ahead and do so because a lot of fans discovered us back then because of them. O

Johnny: Those fans got a taste of those songs when you went out on tour with Marilyn Manson. How crazy of an opportunity was that for you?

M/September Mourning: It was like being blasted out of a cannon! We got that touring spot just 6 months after becoming a band. I think we did really well and it was definitely a blast. Manson is such an amazing artist both musically and visually and I learned so much from him.

Johnny: So, this project has been in the works for a few years now. You had a pretty major announcement at the San Diego ComiCon this year. Can you tell us more about that?

M/September Mourning: I am so excited about our project with MTV. We are putting together live action/animation webisodes that will depict the storyline of September Mourning. Each webisode will link together and they will contain our original music. They will be very interactive and the fans will drive the storyline. MTV Geek is just amazing and they really understand where we are coming from. They are very forward thinking and they get our vision and that really helps. Ultimately, this project is my life, it’s my child. My little goth/metal child.

Johnny: You just recently released a teaser video for a new song entitled “Children of Fate”. What a great song and a bit of a different direction for you. Also, on a visual level, it is quite striking. Can you elaborate a little bit on the whole package?

M/September Mourning: Well thank you! The reaction to it has been really great so far. First off, I am a huge Annie Lennox (Eurythmics) fan and I love watching 80s videos. I especially love her video for the song “Why”. I was inspired by that one and I wanted to show how our look and sound has evolved in the video. My look is more specific now and the video shows me evolving.

Johnny: When you write a song, such as “Children of Fate”, where does your inspiration come from?

M/September Mourning: I write alot of songs and I try to write one everyday; whether it’s just a verse or a hook or a complete song. I draw my inspiration from everything in life. I draw it from the guy I am dating and the way he smiles at me in the morning. I’m inspired by movies or seeing an artist perform and the crowd’s response or the taste of a chocolate chip cookie on my tongue. I have my dark periods too and I think that was because I was surrounded by so much death and trauma when I was little. My dad worked in an ER when I was 7 and I saw a lot of things that I shouldn’t have at that age.

Johnny: So, on a lighter note, do you have any guilty pleasures that would surprise your fans?

M/September Mourning: Well, I am a Scorpio, so I am an intense, sensual person; so some of those things can’t make it to print. Hmmmm, a guilty pleasure that’s printable? Well, I love science and quantum physics. I guess that makes me a nerd huh? I’m also a gamer and I love the new Batman Arkham City game. There’s also a new game coming out called Darkness 2 and I played a demo of it at ComiCon. The first one was banned in Singapore because it was so violent. It’s an all out gore fest and I love it!

Johnny: I would use many words to describe you, but nerd is definitely not one of them. You are such an active person and you definitely prove that there is a lot of brain there to compliment all of your beauty. I know at times your body must be exhausted, but your brain is still running at mach speed. How do you finally come down long enough to sleep?

M/September Mourning: It’s very hard to and that’s why I am usually an insomniac! I just recently learned how to shut it off thanks to meditation. I use to think that stuff was for “sandal wearing, granola crunching people” and not for me, but boy was I wrong! The very first time that I tried it, I was so chill that night. I do it now to help me stay centered, plus I have also learned how to just let things go too.

Johnny: Speaking of letting things go, as much as I hate to, I guess I should let you get back to the studio. I, for one, can’t wait to hear the new CD. I know you are shooting for the first quarter of 2012 for a release. Please keep us posted on your progress with that and thanks again for taking time out of your crazy schedule to talk with us. Is there anything that you would like to add in closing?

M/September Mourning: You’re quite welcome and thank you for wanting to talk to me. I do want to thank all of our fans, both old and new ones, who have stayed with us all this time and for passing us on to new listeners. We are a product of what you make us. Keep spreading the word and keep letting us know on Facebook what you think.

Carnifex Proves They're Are Not For The Meek

California based Carnifex is back with a new offering on Victory Records entitled Until I Feel Nothing. It’s a beast of an album following in the footsteps of their 2010 praised release Hell Chose Me. That release saw the guys move closer towards the fore front of the death core/death metal scene as their praises were seen all over such magazines as Metal Edge, AP, Metal Hammer and many more.

Until I Feel Nothing may not break any new ground for the band, but it does showcase the band offering up more songs of intensity and brutality. The album opens with “Deathwish” and basically that song is an instrumental (minus a couple words) that starts off with a creepy horror movie feel to it. It builds in anticipation before unleashing a blast of energy that leads into the next track “We Spoke of Lies”.

For me, the album starts off a bit slow before settling into a good rhythm. It wasn’t until track four, “Dead but Dreaming”, before it really started getting interesting. That was when my face truly started to melt. Then, “Creation Defaced” made me a true believer. This song shows growth within the band musically. It’s a great arrangement that starts intense, but the breakdown towards the middle takes the listener is an unexpected direction. The screaming guitars disappear and the songs takes a dark, almost apocalyptic sounding direction. A minute or so later, the guitars return as the listener gets kicked in the face with a blast of rage. I am sure that some may hate it this risky move, but I found it to be very interesting and I think it really adds another layer to the song. I also think this song also showcases lead singer Scott Lewis’ guttural growls the best.

“Until I Feel Nothing” and “Curse My Name” are two more stellar tracks worthy of being heard. The rest of the album is some of the most extreme music that I have heard in this genre. I put Carnifex right up there and inching closer to the level that The Black Dahlia Murder is on. Time, as well as continued focus by the band, will tell if they make it to that next level.

The death metal label is quickly becoming oversaturated with bands and you really have to find your niche to standout for any kind of long term success. The band seems to be focused on unleashing the most brutal sound that they can. Producer Tim Lambesis (As I Lay Dying) was a good choice. He definitely allowed the band to find that comfort zone again that was found during the recording of Hell Chose Me. I’m not sure it was a step forward for them, but it was definitely not a step backwards.

As far as the band goes, the dual guitar attack of Ryan Gudmunds and Cory Arford is bombastic on the album. The shredding just peels away the skin when listened to at maximum volume. The rhythm section of Fred Calderon on bass and Shawn Cameron on drums are more than worthy of supplying the glue that holds this arsenal together. Just listen to Shawn’s drumming and tell me that he doesn’t exhaust you with his playing just a few songs in! As for Scott, he definitely has some of the most insane growls and guttural vocals in the industry. As for his high end, it’s better than in the past, but at times sounds like so many in that field.

Overall, I think it’s a really good album. If you’re a pansy and want you metal all sweet and corporate, then you need to stay away. If you’re looking for something intense and crushing in its delivery, then Carnifex is definitely the band for you. Grab a copy, crank it up and prepare to be assaulted!

Five Finger Death Company Prove They're No Fluke With American Capitalist

Ivan Moody and the guys from 5 Finger Death Punch have a sound that is two parts testosterone driven rock with one part aggression. The band burst on the scene in 2007 with their debut The Way of the Fist. Ivan’s distinctive vocals and the band’s take no prisoners approach to their live show quickly established them a solid following in the world of metal.

Their second album, War is the Answer, was released in 2009 propelled the band to a whole new level. This album saw the band fine tuning their sound and the results were heard all over the radio. The album was deep in singles, six to be exact, with their cover of Bad Company’s song “Bad Company” exposing the band to a whole new audience.

That brings us to one of 2011’s most anticipated releases: American Capitalist. Producer Kevin Churko was called in to produce again and the results are nothing short of amazing. The album opens with the title track and quickly lets you know that the 5FDP sound is alive and well. The twin guitar arsenal of Zoltan Bathory and Jason Hook quickly begin to lay down the solos that are inspiring a whole new generation of guitar hero wannabes.

“Under and Over It” is the first single released and it blew up big everywhere upon its release back in July. Ivan’s signature growls mixed with clean vocals on the chorus are heard loud and clear on this track. It’s definitely a very catchy track and a great choice as a leadoff single for all outlets.

Track three is one that has been met with a great deal of opposition from fans and critics alike. The song is called “The Pride” and it’s been butchered for its “cheesy” or “fluffy” lyrics, which to many make no sense. Basically, it’s three minutes of Ivan naming off numerous staples from our pop culture. He then states “I’m not selling out, I’m buying it! Only the strong survive, I will not be forgotten.” Lyrics are always open to interpretation, but I think it’s all tongue in cheek and Ivan’s drive to be part of those iconic nuggets of pop culture.

5FDP also explore their softer side that was unleashed on their last album. “Coming Down” is a great example of the band being willing to show that side of themselves without coming across as wimpy. Ivan’s clean vocals combined with some very dark lyrics make this a powerful song. The other entry would be one of the best songs on the album entitled “I Remember Everything”. This song is today’s version of the big power ballad from the 80s, complete with the big guitar solo in the middle. It’s a song which serves as a letter home to Ivan’s family telling them that he’s sorry for all of his shortcomings. It’s a very powerful and emotional song with a great chorus made for being included in their live show. This song will blow up big when released as a single; mark my words.

To compliment the softer side of the band, there are plenty of heavy tracks too. “Menace” and “Wicked Ways” are standout tracks for those craving the harder side of the band. Ivan’s vocals are dead on and there is plenty of shredding on both tracks. Let me add that Jeremy Spencer is a juggernaut on the drums and takes that double kick to a whole new level. The man is insane!

It’s really hard to say that an album is perfect, but this one is pretty darn close. “The Pride” is a take it or leave it track for most, but other than that, this album is solid all the way through. Ivan’s vocals are stronger and even more distinct than ever. The rhythm section of Spencer on drums and new addition Chris Kael on bass have already formed a solid foundation for the band to play off of. I have already praised the one/two assault of Hook and Bathory on guitar.

I think this album will propel the band to that next level, but time will have to tell. The initial week’s sales were a strong indicator as it debuted at number 3 on the Billboard Top 200. In today’s turbulent music industry, it’s not a sprint, but a marathon, so we will have to wait and see.

This Is Hell Unleashes Black Mass

There’s a new addition to my ever growing “music to get a speeding ticket to” collection. This Is Hell has just unleashed a new album entitled Black Mass and it is definitely worthy of being added to that collection. It’s a full-on assault of the senses that just crawls underneath your skin and spreads all over your body.

The guys released Weight of the World in 2010 and it was their first album since leaving Trustkill for Rise Records. If that album was a step in the right direction for the band, then this new album is a huge leap for them. The band seems to be tighter and more focused than ever. One may even say that they are hungry and feel as if they have something to prove.

The first track on the album, “Acid Rain”, definitely sets the tone of the album and that tone is intensity and aggression. This takes me back to the early days of thrash with Slayer and Anthrax. The riffs are so insane on here that it should come with a “no responsible for spontaneous acts of air guitar” disclaimer!

They don’t even give you a chance to catch your breath as “Black Rain” and, my personal favorite; “Salt the Earth” continue the onslaught. The two guitar assault of Rick Jimenez and Chris Mazella is something of sheer power and brutality. There will be many a horn thrown in honor of these shredders throughout the world upon listening to this album.

Next up is the title track and for a mere 13 seconds, the band lets up on you with a slow, acoustic intro, but don’t be fooled. The pedal is then pressed to the floor and the thrash onslaught continues. Mike “I’m Gonna Beat the Living Hell Outta My Drum kit” Sciulara is a beast beyond control on here. He puts in a solid performance on every track, but this one left me exhausted.

“The Outlaw” has one of those infectious guitar riff intros that enter the ear and nests in your brain causing an instant mosh pit in your head. “Demons” then pushes the gas to the floor again and takes off at top speed. The level of intensity on this album just makes you shake your head in amazement.

I have to admit that I was totally floored by this album musically and exhausted by the end of it. It’s a non-stop joy ride on the hardcore highway. The guys sound tighter than ever and more focused. I love the old school thrash tone to the album too. This may just be the bands’ best offering since they debuted in 2006. Put this one on, crank up loud and sweat a few pounds off in the process.

Evanescence May Have Been Gone, But Their Fans Did Not Forget

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I am sure that Amy Lee from Evanescence was pondering that saying as she sat in her recording studio piecing together the bands’ third studio album. Would the teenage goth girls who looked up to her be all grown up now and out of that phase of their life? Would the industry welcome her back with open arms? A lot has changed since their last album; just look at Hot Topic!

Evanescence seemed to be an overnight sensation back in 2003 with their debut Fallen. Their songs were all over MTV, Amy was in almost every music magazine that you picked up and the band even won two Grammy Awards. Their follow-up in 2006, The Open Door, was also a huge seller for the band. Then, they just seemed to disappear. There have been many rumors floating around and dates of a new release were teased for quite some time. Early 2011 saw the first true signs of a new album forthcoming and the anticipation begin to grow among the fans.

The fans wishes were granted in October as the new self-titled album from Evanescence hit the stores. If the initial response to the first single “What You Want” was an indication of whether the fans missed the band, then they had nothing to worry about. The single blew up in a major way and has been all over MTV, the Sixx Sense Sideshow Countdown, radio and more!

The album is a good mix of styles that we expect from the band with each one woven around the incredible voice of Lee. There are several rock oriented songs on the album such as “Never Go Back” and “End of the Dream”. Each has that signature crunching guitar sound that you associate with the bands’ trademark sound.
“The Change” is a great song that shows exactly how Amy can start a song out slow and build on it with her powerful vocals. She just wraps her voice around it and cradles it until it’s ready to be unleashed at its full fury. “My Heart Is Broken” is another example, but this time she includes a beautiful piano intro to build off of.

There are two key tracks on the album that stand out for totally different reasons; other than the fact that they are both exceptional tracks. “Swimming Home” shows Amy dabbling in the electronica field on this very smooth and relaxing track that sounds unlike anything I have heard the band do before. The other track is the beautiful “Lost in Paradise”. Again, Amy’s piano skills are featured here and they compliment her emotional vocal delivery to the utmost. There is a soft, angelic like quality to her vocals that helps to accentuate the emotion in the lyrics. The addition of the string section on this song is almost brilliant and takes it to another level. The sheer beauty and emotion in the vocal delivery is enough to give you goosebumps.

This album was well worth the wait and it presents the band in a different light both musically and lyrically. The sound is more reminiscent of Fallen than of The Open Door, but they still manage to branch out and grow their sound. The lyrics are also a big surprise as they are not as dark as in the past. We all know that Amy wrote the last album from a darker point in her life, but this new album seems to be almost a total opposite as far as the writing goes.

A new band, a new album that debuted at number one on the Billboard Top 200 chart and a new tour has Evanescence feeling a huge wave of love from their fans. Don’t fret though, there’s still some goth left in her, it’s just matured and channeled in a different creative way.

White Chapel Recorrupts The Masses

Whitechapel have been carving out a name for themselves in the genre of death/extreme metal since their debut The Somatic Defilement was released in 2007. The guys from Knoxville, Tennessee have been perfecting their hardcore sound and clawing their way up the hardcore scene. 2010’s A New Era of Corruption was a success on multiple levels and left fans in high anticipation of its follow-up. Well, the guys just released an EP entitled Recorrupted to tide the fans over until that full length album is completed.

Recorrupted is comprised of five tracks: one new song, one cover, two remixes and one acoustic. “Section 8” is the lone new track and it is Whitechapel delivering what they do best. It’s extreme and intense with crushing guitars and is a good indicator of where that next album might just take us. Vocalist Phil Bozeman is in rare form on this one and his guttural delivery is close to perfection.

Up next is the cover of Pantera’s “Strength Beyond Strength”. I have to admit that is a great spin on the song and it takes the song to a very dark place. Again, Phil’s vocals play a huge part in the dark edge that this cover has. The acoustic track, “End of Flesh”, is a reworking of the song originally found on their A New Era of Corruption album. Now, I know that an acoustic song from such a heavy band may automatically have fans pressing the next button and skipping over this track. I really hope that they take the time to listen to it because it’s an amazing stripped down version of the song. It shows that the guys are versatile and that their sound shouldn’t necessarily be put in a box and labeled.

The first remix is for “Breeding Violence”, from A New Era of Corruption, and it was done by Big Chocolate and has a dubstep sound to it. The remix for “This is Exile”, from the same titled album, by Ben Weindman of the Dillinger Escape Plan is really interesting. It is creepy and eerie at times and almost sounds like it would be at home on FX’s American Horror Story as its soundtrack. It even has a bit of a Trent Reznor feel to it.

This EP is really cool and I think that the fans will really like it. I am not sure on the remix of “Bleeding Violence”, but I think they will be pleased with the rest of it. The triple guitar attack of Ben Savage, Alex Wade and Zach Householder is an arsenal of sound just waiting to unleash on the listener. This EP also shows that the guys have a few tricks up their sleeves. If it’s an indicator of where they may be heading with the new album, then fans have a lot to look forward to. I encourage fans of the band and even fans of this genre to pick up the EP and give it an honest chance. I do believe that you will be happy if you do and you certainly will be rocking.

As I Lay Dying: A Decade of Intensity

It’s amazing how quickly ten years can just fly by. It seems like just yesterday when we were reading about this new band called As I Lay Dying and their debut album Beneath the Encasing of Ashes that had just been released. The band quickly won over fans and respect from the critics and other artists. They were a part of Warped Tour, Ozzfest, Soundwave Festival and many other huge shows. They also toured with such heavyweights as Disturbed, Slipknot and Lamb of God.

Now, here we are 10 years and 4 more studio albums later and As I Lay Dying are celebrating. To commemorate their anniversary, the band has released a new album to say thanks to their loyal fans. Decas consists of 3 new songs, 4 covers, 1 re-recorded medley and 4 remixes. It’s a mixed bag of tricks that is sure to satisfy all levels of As I Lay Dying fans. The album opens with “Paralyzed”, which is in the same vein of where the band was on their last album Powerless Rise. This song will definitely wet the appetites of fans who are anxiously awaiting a new studio album and tour. “Moving Forward” is cut from that same musical cloth and will not disappoint the listener.

Cover songs; some people like a band to put their own spin on them while others like for the band to stay true to the original. The band covers Slayer’s “War Ensemble” and totally, no pun intended, slays it. Tim’s vocals on this song fit just like a glove. Next, the band attacks “Hellion” and “Electric Eye” by Judas Priest and produce a result that even the rock icon Rob Halford would give a horns high salute to. The last cover is a 35 second insane spin on the Descendents’ “Coffee Mug”. The medley, “Beneath the Encasing”, contains parts of several songs from their debut Beneath the Encasing of Ashes.

As for the remixes, the band takes one song from each of their releases since Frail Worlds Collapse and I have to admit that there is some very bizarre territory being explored there. They seem a bit bizarre to me for some reason. I’m just not feeling them at all and I don’t think that they bring much to the table. It’s nice for a band to explore new territory and try to expand their horizons, but I am not sold on these remixes. In a world of the ever growing dubstep craze, I think this is a step backwards for the band. I’m just glad it’s for this special album and not a new musical direction for the guys.

Decas is a really solid album, minus the remixes, from the band. The musicianship on the new songs and covers is tighter than the band has ever sounded. Tim Lambesis’ growls are more aggressive than ever and very dark at times. Josh Gilbert’s clean vocals offer a great balance and contrast to Tim’s. This album is something for the fans and is not meant to take the place of a new studio album. If the three new songs are any indication of where the band is headed, then their follow-up to 2010’s Powerless Rise is going to be one of the most anticipated releases of the year.