Saturday, April 28, 2012

Otherwise: Making Dreams A Reality On Debut Album

What do you think of when someone mentions Las Vegas to you? Gambling? Neon lights? Partying? Living in excess? Well, to the band Otherwise, Las Vegas is their home and it’s where they planted their feet firmly and started to chase their dream. They’ve been through a lot of trials and tribulations to get to where they are today and it seems to be finally paying off.

Their debut album True Love Never Dies is about to be released on their new home Century Media Records. If lead singer Adrian Patrick looks or sounds familiar, then it may be because he sang on the song “The Promise” with Maria Brink and In This Moment. Now, they’re about to prove to all that sticking to your dreams and working hard is more than just a cliché in the music industry. These guys are a prime example of living the dream.

The album opens with “Die for You”, a song about that one person in your life that you’re willing to lay it all on the line for. It definitely sets a tone of urgency on the album that holds through until the end. “Lighthouse” is another melodic rocker with a great hook. A great breakdown and guitar solo in the middle add a great layer to this number.

“Scream Now” has rock anthem written all over it from beginning guitar riff to the big scream along hook in the chorus. It’s a song to scream out to all of those important in your life, whether here or gone. “Vegas Girl” is a song that may just get the guys smacked when they go home to Vegas. Although it’s about a type of girl instead of one particular one, I am sure there are probably more than a few who think the song is about them.

“I Don’t Apologize (1000 Pictures)” is a song of pure poetic brilliance. It’s a hypnotic song that draws you in with its mellow arrangement and Adrian’s smooth vocal delivery. The guys have stated that it’s an anthem for the heart broken. It’s definitely one of the strongest songs on the album and could blow up big at radio given the right push. I guess time will tell, but I think it’s certainly one to keep your eye on.

What can I say about “Soldiers” that hasn’t been said before? Wow, this is a song that took on a life all its own. It’s been around for a hot minute and there are quite a few people who were already aware of this awesome song. It may have started out as a battle cry for what unsigned bands go through to make their dreams come true, but it grew into something else. It grew into an anthem for just about everyone because we are all soldiers in our own individual ways.

The album closes with the song “Heaven”, a powerful and emotional ballad with a guest vocal performance by Ashley Costello of New Year’s Day. A beautiful and powerful ballad that’s full of emotion and conviction. Ash’s vocals compliment Adrian’s really well and their voices mesh really well. I can see in my mind an arena full of lighters raised high to the sky during the performance of this song.

Overall, this is a very solid album from beginning to end. It’s really hard to believe that it’s a debut album because of the level of maturity throughout the entire thing. The songwriting is top notch and shows range and depth by going from songs of heartbreak to songs of positivity. Ryan Patrick and Vassilios Metropoulos are a deadly guitar duo and they know exactly when to pull back to keep the licks from becoming overkill. The rhythm unit of Flavio Ivan on bass and Corky Gainsford on drums is as solid as any unit that is out there. Lead singer Adrian Patrick just has one of those voices that stands out for many reasons. He has power and conviction and believability that transcends way beyond the parameters of a 3 ½ minute song.

The last six months of this band’s career has been a crazy ride. They lost their cousin, signed with a label, recorded their debut album and hit the road opening for Lacuna Coil. They’ve also been added to some of the biggest summer festivals including Carolina Rebellion, Rock on the Range and Rocklahoma. Check out their debut album True Love Never Dies and see just why these boys from Vegas are stirring up such a noise for themselves.

God Forbid Marches Forward With Equilibrium

Momentum is a great thing for a band and in many instances; they like to ride that momentum as they go into the studio to follow-up a big album. The metal band God Forbid was doing just that as they entered the studio to record the follow-up to 2009’s Earthsblood. That album was a very solid release for them and many considered it amongst the best that they had done to date.

Guitarist, song writer and founding member Dallas Coyle left the band shortly after the release of that album and former Darkest Hour guitarist took his place on that tour. Matt Wicklund, of Himsa, took over that position permanently. Would Dallas’ presence be missed in the studio? Only time would tell on that question. That brings us to the release of their newest album Equilibrium.

A new label and a new guitarist are major changes for any band. How would they react to the major shake-up? Well, for most counts, it seems to be an easy transition for them. Equilibrium is a really good album, but it’s not perfect. It’s not a progression from the last album, but it’s also far from being a step back. It starts off strong with the first track “Don’t Tell Me What to Dream”. The net was a buzz after this song was released a while back because of its djent sound, but it’s the only track on the album with such a sound.

Next up is “My Rebirth” and the pounding drum intro gets it going right out of the gate. The guitar work between Wicklund and Doc Coyle is killer on this song. The guys pick up the pace with “A Few Good Men”. This song is just one of a few that have a breakdown in it, but it’s not necessarily a textbook breakdown, therefore making it somewhat interesting. “Scraping The Walls” is one of the stronger songs on the album and it excels in its many layers and arrangements. It also has a great chanting, sing-a-long chorus that should translate really well to the live show.

The guys included a very cool instrumental entitled “Awakening” which really allows the band’s musicianship to shine through. It’s a great number that ends and leaves you wanting more. The closer, “Where We Come From”, is another of the stronger tracks on the album and closes the album out in a major way. The guitar work on this track is blistering and the way that they play off of each other is pretty amazing. It’s not always that a band saves the best for last, but this just may be one of those albums.

So, was the absence of founding member Dallas Coyle felt? I would have to say yes, but not in a major way. Yes, his clean vocals are missed, even though his brother Doc Coyle is now handling them. Matt Wicklund does more than just step into the shoes as their new guitarist, he stomps the fool out of them with his guitar skills.

The first album by God Forbid on their new home label Victory Records is pretty solid, even though there are a few weaker tracks. It’s kind of funny because even the weaker tracks are better than a lot of what’s being heard in that genre today. The guys still know how to maintain the balance between melodic riffs and aggressiveness. As far as vocals go, Byron Davis turns in yet another solid performance. The band will be on the road in support of the new album and it should prove to be an interesting night of head banging. A new guitarist, new material, but the mentality of maximus rock is still there.

Emmure Prove Old Habits Are Hard To Break

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’m not sure if Emmure is familiar with that saying or not. It’s been just a little over a year since their 2011 album Speaker of the Dead came out, but the boys are back already on the music scene. A new album entitled Slave to the Game has just been unleashed by the band. Is it another chug fest or do the guys charter new ground and branch out? It’s time to break out the scalpel and dissect this new effort.

The album opens with “Insert Coin” and it’s a short intro that sounds like someone going into what may be an arcade and inserting coins into a game. Track two, “Protoman”, starts off with a killer riff that grabs you from the start. Frankie Palmeri’s vocals are top notch on here. His growls are just as fierce and intense as ever. If this son is any indication of how the rest of the album will go, then we are in store for a very interesting ride.

Well, old habits and patterns are hard to break. The band, which is notoriously known for the use of or overuse of breakdowns, suddenly begins to sound repetitious. You know the pattern: chug, chug, chug, breakdown, breakdown, chug, chug, and chug. Could it be that’s what the fans expect from them and they’re just delivering what they want? If that’s the case, then fans of the band will really like this album because it doesn’t stray from the formula that they use.

Don’t get me wrong, the album is good and it has some killer tracks on it. The previously mentioned “Protoman” is one as well as “Blackheart Reigns” and the insane “Umar Dumps Dormammu”. The latter song is heavy on intensity and shows the band using some samples and electronics which does show the band showing some range. The track probably will turn some fans off because of the experimentation.

The guitar work on this album is also very interesting at times. Jesse Ketive and Mike Mulholland show signs of growth on several tracks. They bring in elements of playing that I think will surprise even the most hardcore of fans. I’m not sure what’s going on with the bass though, as it seems to struggle to be heard on many of the tracks. Did the other guys in the band punk Mark Davis by turning down the amp on his bass? New kid on the block Mark Castillo does a great job on his Emmure debut as drummer and he definitely brings the intensity throughout the entire album. Vocalist Frankie Palmeri is just as strong and solid as ever.

Overall, I can’t give the album two thumbs up or two thumbs down. Maybe it was rushed? Maybe they should wait longer next time in between albums? Maybe working with another producer besides Joey Sturgis again will push them creatively? Comic books and video games are all fine and well, but sometimes you have to write songs with more substance to them in order to keep your fans attention. Time will tell if their fans get tired of eating from the same buffet or if they decide to try something else.

7 Horns 7 Eyes: A Solid Debut Effort

The Seattle based metal band 7 Horns 7 Eyes formed in 2006 and released their self-titled EP in 2007. They quickly created a buzz and people began to notice them. They were handpicked to take part in Demon Hunter’s 2009 “Huntour” and then, the band seemed to quiet down. They did release a single in 2011, but we haven’t really heard much else out of them. Well, the band is back in a major way with their debut album entitled Throes of Absolution on Century Media Records. If you thought you knew who 7 Horns 7 Eyes are, you may just want to rethink that after listening to this new album.

Produced and mixed by guitarist Aaron Smith, along with being mastered by Jens Bogren (Opeth), this debut album finds the band with a new focus and determination. It kicks off with “Divine Amnesty”, which starts off slow and haunting until the one minute mark and then a thunderous roar and the band crashes in. The on-set of chugging riffs, guttural, growling vocals and pulsating drums set a tone of urgency and determination by the guys. A blistering solo midway through helps to strengthen the fact that there is more going on here than just your typical death metal.

There are a few tracks on the album where the band lets off the gas and the chugging guitars become darker and more ominous. “Delusions” is one of those songs where they slow it down a bit and the playing becomes more technical. Now, when I say slow it down, I don’t mean slow as in a ballad, just slower than the in your face style that they use for the most part on the album.

“Vindicator”, possibly the strongest cut on the album, may start off slow, but it kicks into overdrive with the faster, chugging riffs. This is a song of complexity and layers that solidifies that these guys are truly talented musicians. The closing number, “Regeneration”, is an epic seven minute instrumental that features guitar god Jeff Loomis (formerly of Nevermore) and is a delight to the ears. The guitar work on this track is beyond impressive.
If there was a weak point on the album, it would be the vocals. JJ “Shiv” Polachek IV is great at the deep growls, but he is pretty much the same on each and every track. There’s no range or depth there and it grows old after a few tracks. If there were some highs to compliments the lows, then the vocal delivery would be more lasting and interesting to the listener.

Overall, this is a very impressive debut album from a band swimming in a sea of over saturated metal water. You may call them technical death metal or progressive death metal, but no matter what you call them, they rock. Aaron Smith and Sean Alf are a deadly two guitar assault. They complement each other very well and the way they can change up from slow, chugging riffs to more intricate and technical faster riffs is very impressive.

This is a very promising debut album from this band from Seattle. The city may have been once associated with grunge, but these guys are set on changing that stereotype. Throes of Absolution is a great addition to any metal fans library, regardless of however you choose to categorize it. Instead of worrying about labels, just sit back, crank it loud and let the melting of your faces begin.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Callaghan: A Coat of Many Musical Colours

I love discovering new music. I love hearing an artist for the first time and being blown away. I love listening to a singer and having their words touch me emotionally and move me. It’s not always that I get to hear a new artist who can do all of those things, but it recently did happen. Her name is Callaghan and her debut album is about to be released and heard by the world.

Hailing from London and transplanted here in the states in the summer of 2010, Callaghan started to work on her debut with Grammy nominee Shawn Mullins. The result of all of her hard work and effort is entitled Life in Full Colour, a courageous twelve song journey, full of emotion and honesty that will make you smile and it will make you cry. You see, Callaghan is a rare breed in today’s turbulent music industry. She writes or shares writing credits on all twelve tracks and is also a skilled musician. She sings from her heart and conveys so much emotion in her vocal delivery that you feel it deep inside.

Her album opens with a toe-tapping little number entitled “Best Year”, which would sound right at home in an Old Navy commercial. Callaghan seems to draw on relationships in more than one song on this album. “To Be Loved by You” is another upbeat number that taps into being appreciative for that special person in your life who loves you for being you.

“Nothing You Say” gives a peek into a more emotional side of Callaghan that really does shine bright. This is one of those songs where she seems to open up and write from the heart. It’s a poignant and emotional song of reassurance from one person in a relationship to the other.

“It Was Meant To Be” is one of those songs that you can get lost in. The emotion that she conveys in her voice really does touch your heart. This is when Callaghan is at her best; when she slows things down and exposes herself emotionally for all to see. Her vulnerability and honesty is something that can be universally felt and any listener can relate to. It’s a beautiful song and one of my favorites on

 the album.

Callaghan is a story teller, an art form that is sorely missing in music today. The best example of that on her album is “Get Me Through the Night”. It’s a story, an acoustic guitar and a woman with a voice as beautiful as the woman who possesses it. I’m not sure if she has experienced such a pain personally, but it certainly comes across in her voice on this track. It’s simply an amazing and heartfelt track. She even gets a little bluesy and soulful on the track entitled “the Edge of Love”.

On Life in Full Colour, Callaghan proves to be a coat of many colors. She combines elements of pop, folk, blues and most importantly authenticity as she takes us along this wonderful ride that she has ventured off on. The album is solid from beginning to end and that in itself is another rarity these days. In an industry that seems to be focused more on singles than an entire album’s worth of great songs, Callaghan has twelve tracks that can stand on their own.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Halestorm Deliver A Strong Sophomore Album

Halestorm is a band with a real old school attitude when it comes to the music business. They practically live on the road as it seems like they are always on tour. They have also established a reputation for being one of the most fan friendly bands out there. In this viral age that we live in, news travels faster than ever and the internet can be a double edged sword for any band.

A lot has happened to the band since their breakout self-titled album was released in 2009. Although they still play small clubs, they have also shared the stage with the big boys on such tours as Avalanche and the Rockstar Uproar Festival. In an industry where more and more female fronted bands are emerging, Halestorm have proven that they are the real deal and not an overnight sensation.

Since breaking out in 2009, the band released the Live in Philly 2010 album, ReAniMate: The CoVeRs eP and Hello, It’s Mz. Hyde. The last was a very smart marketing move for the band as it was a four song preview of the much anticipated new album. It did more than just wet the appetites of their fans, it got a buzz brewing inside the industry that this album may just be something really special.

The Strange Case Of… is easily one of the most anticipated albums of 2012 and it definitely delivers in a major way. The album opens with “Love Bites (So Do I)” which is the first single and has blown up big at rock radio. It showcases a sassy, aggressive side to lead singer Lzzy Hale and the song rocks out in a major way. Just as you try and catch your breath, the drums march you into the equally rock worthy “Mz. Hyde”. When Lzzy sings “welcome to the nightmare in my head”, you know this isn’t some wet behind the ears rookie band penning these powerful lyrics.

“I Miss the Misery” is a twisted little number lyrically. Lzzy sings of missing the bad things: the screaming, the blaming, and the kick in the face. In this relationship, she doesn’t miss you per say, she just misses the misery. “Freak Like Me” is another example of the sexy, sassy side that Lzzy has to her. Oh, but wait, the album then suddenly shows the softer side with the song “Beautiful With You” which has the possibility of being a big hit for the band. Lyrically, it’s one of the strongest songs whose content will have mass appeal. Everyone‘s had someone in their life that no matter how dark things get, they are always beautiful to that person.

The next two tracks continue the softer, vulnerable side that Lzzy and the guys are not afraid to show the world. No matter how old we get, we all have a room that we can escape to in which we feel safe from everything and everyone. On “In Your Room”, Lzzy sings of wanting that other person to open up and let her in their room. It’s not about being intrusive, it’s more about feeling comfortable around that other person and totally being yourself. Again, it’s a song whose lyrics have a universal appeal to them.

“Break In” is, in my opinion, one of the most amazing and powerful songs that the band has recorded. In a prime example of “sometimes less is more”, this is simply a piano and Lzzy, with a light string section midway through. Powerful, emotional and very moving, this song will definitely tug on quite a few heartstrings. Lzzy may have sang of the “misery” in an earlier song, this time she sings of that one special person who is able to “break in” the walls that people build to keep from being hurt.

“Rock Show”, which was on the Mz. Hyde EP, definitely shows that Lzzy and the guys still know exactly what it feels like to be a fan of a band. This seems to be one written for the fans and should translate really well in their live show. “You Call Me Bitch Like It’s A Bad Thing” is another sassy, tongue in cheek number. “Here’s To Us”, also from the EP, closes out the album and was recently featured on the television show Glee. Now, that version was a sanitized version, but I think it lacks quite a bit of punch without the colorful “adult” words.

I would highly recommend getting the deluxe version of this album. That version has three bonus tracks and includes a pretty amazing song entitled “Private Parts” which features James Michael of SIXX A.M. Another powerful and emotional composition and I am surprised it didn’t make the cut for the regular album.

The entire band has really raised the bar on this release. The rhythm section of Josh Smith on bass and Lzzy’s brother Arejay Hale on drums are tighter than ever playing with more passion than ever. Joe Hottinger has elevated his guitar game to a new level is playing more ferociously than ever. Did someone piss these guys off because they seem to be playing with a renewed purpose. Don’t get me wrong though; it freaking rocks and I love it! As far as Lzzy goes, she proves that she can sing the tender songs that will touch your heart and the grittier songs that will rip out your heart. We hear more of that grittier side on this album when she allows that alter ego to come out and play. She’s also pretty lethal on the guitar too!

Technically, this is Halestorm’s sophomore full length album and they do not fall victim to the dreaded “sophomore slump”. I thought the first album was really good, but this one is on a totally different level. They seem to have a good working relationship with producer Howard Benson, who produced their last album as well. I’m not sure if he pushed the band or if they pushed themselves, but they produced near perfect album this time around.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I The Breather Look Ahead To A Summer Of Metal

I The Breather came out of the gates with all guns a blazing back in 2010. Their debut album These Are My Sins blew away critics and audiences alike. The band sounded more like seasoned veterans than a band putting out its debut album. That can put a lot of pressure on a young band when it comes time to work on the follow-up album. That sophomore album came out recently and we caught up with drummer Morgan Wright to discuss the release as well as the zombie apocalypse and the fact that the band has no Wikipedia page.

Music Is My Drug Of Choice: Hey Morgan, how’s it going man? So, is this a day off for you?

I The Breather: Hey man, things are going great. We got home on March 3 after our tour with August Burns Red wrapped up. I’m just at home today trying to occupy my time. It’s great seeing family and friends and everybody, but it does get a little boring sometimes. I tend to do a lot of drum practicing when that happens!

Let’s dive right in and talk about your awesome new album Truth and Purpose. What’s the initial feedback that you are hearing from everyone about it?

I tell you what, it’s been really great. We just got the first weeks numbers and they were awesome. We debuted at number 179 on the Billboard Top 200 and at number 11on the Billboard New Artist Chart. The fans have been awesome and the feedback on our Face Book page has been overwhelming. We’re pumped about it all and so is our label. There was a lot of hype around the album going into release week and we weren’t sure what to expect. It’s just a really good feeling for everyone to be so receptive to what you’re doing.

You worked with two producers on this album in Paul Leavitt and Taylor Larson. What’s the story behind that?

Well, when we started talking about who we wanted to produce the album, we all knew that we wanted to work with Taylor, but he wasn’t sure if he would be free. There were some time conflicts to work around. So, we decided to book Paul instead. We would work with Paul in Baltimore, which means we could record closer to our own home and we liked that. Well, then we found out that Taylor was going to have some free time on his hands and we couldn’t turn him down. It was really awesome to work with both of them because I think they both influenced us structurally and in our sound. That’s a good sign for longevity and we definitely plan on being around a long time.

Can you tell us how the song “Mentalist” with Micah Kinard from Oh, Sleeper came about? By the way, I have to say that is one killer song!

Thanks man! You know, I actually filled in on drums for Oh, Sleeper when they were touring a while back and became really good friends with all of them. I wrote the song lyrically and I knew I wanted to add a guest vocal on it. We were on tour with After The Burial and we were going to be making a stop in Texas. I called Micah up and we lined up the time to do it and we layed it down. It’s definitely one of my favorite tracks on the album. I also think that their voices, Micah’s and Shawn’s really complement each other.

I would have to agree with you on that point. They are similar in style, but yet unique at the same time. Speaking of favorite tracks on the album, you may have just accidentally answered my next question. I wanted to ask if there was any one song on the album that you were exceptionally proud of?

Yeah, I’m proud of that one, but track 5 (“Meaning”) on the album also means a lot to me. I like it when I listen to a song and it makes me feel something, any kind of emotion whether it’s happy, sad or anger. It never fails, every time that I listen to this track, I can feel the anger in Shawn’s voice. When he screams ‘you call yourself a man of God, but can you defend it’, it just really hits home for me. It’s all about calling people out.

There’s such a big difference between this album and your debut album, even on the very first listen. Can you compare and contrast the two?

I’m very proud of These Are My Sins, but I think it’s one dimensional. I mean, we were together for about a year when we made that one and we were really young. On Truth and Purpose, we’re a lot more mature. It captures elements from Sins, but it also adds a lot more to it. I think this CD really has a lot more to offer and we’re all so very proud of it.

So, we just read the news release about the Sumerian Stage being added to this year’s Mayhem Festival and you guys were be performing. How awesome is that?

Dude, we were completely blown away when they told us. I mean, we were speechless and thought they were joking with us! This is going to be huge! We are on the entire tour and we couldn’t be more excited. I mean, you have all the heavy hitters in the metal genre, Slipknot and Motorhead and so many other amazing bands. This will definitely be the biggest tour we have done here in the states. The August Burns Red tour was big, this one is way bigger.

That’s an awesome opportunity for you guys this summer. What a great chance to expose so many people to your music who may not already know you. I think it’s awesome and much deserved for you guys. So, what are you guys up to until Mayhem starts?

We’re home for about a month and then we leave on April 4 for the Sumerian Records Tour. It’s a tour that will focus on some smaller markets and the underground scene. Sumerian has a great name in the metal core genre and we’re looking forward to doing this tour. We’re also hoping to add some revenue to our CD sales while out on the road.

Ok, now it’s time for the really tough questions. I hope you’re ready.

(Laughs) Ok, let’s go. What do you have?

First off, you guys are a bit of a mystery because there’s not a lot of info on the band on the internet. You guys are like ninja rockers.

(Laughs)You’re right, there’s not a lot out there. I mean, we don’t even have our own Wikipedia page yet! I mean, everyone has a Wikipedia page.

Maybe we can talk to George (Vallee) at your label and see what he can do about that for you guys. Ok, now back to the hard questions for the fans. Do you have any pre-show rituals that you do before going out on stage?

I actually do! I stretch for about ten minutes, then I take two aspirin and chug a bottle of water. Then, my blood is flowing and I am really pumped. I say a little prayer by myself and then we say one as a band. Then we crank some Set Your Goals, which is a punk band, to get everyone fired up.

Do you have any guilty pleasures that may surprise even your most hardcore fans?

(Laughs) I love cheesy pop songs and Disney soundtracks! I usually get stuck driving our van while we’re out on tour and I love cranking Katy Perry or Hanson. I also love The Lion King soundtrack because it helps me to escape from all the metal that we hear each and every night.

That’s awesome! There’s nothing like pulling up to a stop light with “Hakuna Matada” blasting from the speakers!

I know, right?

The Zombie Apocalypse is tonight. What three things are on your survival checklist?

This is great because my best friend and I are always talking about this. We decided that we would bunker down in Wal-Mart because they have everything that you could need! They have guns and ammo, food and anything else you could need. That would be our home base! If I had to pick three things, I would say my cell phone, a toothbrush and clean underwear.

Wal-Mart as command central; that’s awesome! You never see that in the movies, do you? Well Morgan, I guess it’s time to wrap this up. It’s been a blast talking with you and I am sure we will run into you at Mayhem this summer. Is there anything that you want to say to wrap this interview up?

Thanks man, it’s definitely been fun! I do want to tell all of our fans to come out next month and see us on the Sumerian Tour that runs from April 5th through the 25th. Come over to our merch table and say hi because we would love to meet all of you. After that, we hope to see all of you on the Mayhem tour this summer!

Veil of Maya Talk Music and the Zombie Apocalypse

Veil of Maya have been riding a new wave of metal commonly referred to as djent for several years now. The music can be somewhat technical in its nature and also very complex at times. The band burst onto the scene back in 2006 with their debut album All Things Set Aside and quickly began winning over fans as well as critics. Their 2010 album [id] took them to a whole new level and really raised the bar for them as well as other djent bands. We recently caught up with guitarist Marc Okubo to talk about their brand new release Eclipse.

Music Is My Drug Of Choice: Hey Marc, how are things going for you?

Veil of Maya: Things are going really well! Today is an off day for me and I’m about to go see the Bulls play, so it’s going to be a fun night.

I didn’t know that you were a basketball fan. I wonder how many of your fans already knew that piece of trivia. Well, I definitely don’t want to make you late for your game, so let’s jump right into this thing. Your album Eclipse was just released. What’s the word on the streets about it?

The initial feedback has been overwhelmingly positive! There has been only one common complaint amongst the fans and that has to do with the length. A lot of people are unhappy with that. We wrote it and had originally planned on releasing it last summer, but we didn’t. I feel like the listener gets the full album effect, even though it’s short. I mean, we could have added a lot of filler and instrumentals between the tracks, but we chose not to.

So, how did you guys hook up with Misha Mansoor from Periphery and decide to use him as the producer?

Well, he’s a very good friend of ours and we had been talking about collaborating together with him. He said he wanted to try a demo and see what the results were. I think it was in May of last year that we tried him out and we really liked the results. I had written about 90% of the album, but I still needed some transitions and a few bridges. Misha helped me out with those. I wrote tons of riffs and then he helped me piece them together and he helped to write the transitions. It was like he was an extra member of the band.

So, how did he challenge you guys as musicians to top your last album [id]?

This album was much more experimental than the last one. This one has an old school feel to it. It was more like a four piece band being locked in a room and jamming. We also had the majority of this album planned out before we started recording. The production is also a big difference. It’s like a movie soundtrack; all detailed with orchestration and a big choir.

That’s a great segue for my next question. I think the instrumental “Eclipse” is an amazing song. Do you purposely set out to write an instrumental or do you have the music layed out and you can’t write the lyrics around it?

It’s one of those things that just happens. I actually wrote that on the Summer Slaughter tour in 2010. It all came about when I was jamming with Havier from Animals as Leaders. Our producer Misha heard me jamming on it in the studio. He just looked and told me that it had to be on the new album. I think it’s really cool and it has a Final Fantasy sound to it.

So, I know your tour with In Flames and Trivium has ended. I know you guys are dying to get back out on the road. Do you have any definite plans yet?

Well, we have plans to tour Japan and Hawaii and the Europe in May. We will be back here in the states for the summer doing the Summer Slaughter tour.

You guys are definitely road warriors! I, for one, cannot wait to hear this new material live. Speaking of live, do you have any kind of routine that you do before taking the stage each night to play?

I always drink two beers before going out there. I also have this thing that I do where I put an extra pick somewhere on the stage just in case I need it. The funny thing is I have never had to grab it.

I have to ask you my guilty pleasures question. Do you or any of the other guys in the band have any that would surprise your fans?

Well, it’s safe to say that nobody in this band listens to metal. If you put on that song “Moves Like Jagger”, then Danny and I are going to be singing along at the top of our lungs. Oh yeah, and Katy Perry’s “ET”. That’s my jam right there!

I’m not sure if you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, but what three necessary items are on your zombie apocalypse survival checklist?

Lets’ see, it would definitely be a car and keys and a crossbow. I do watch the show, but I am such a big technology nerd that it drives me crazy. I mean, I don’t get why there’s no internet or cell phones being used. The lack of technology on that show just drives me crazy!

You make a good point there, I never thought about that. Well, as much as I hate for all of this fun to come to an end, you have a ball game to get to. Marc, it’s been a pleasure and I hope we get to make it to cover a show of yours during the upcoming summer touring season. The new album Eclipse is something really special and we encourage everyone to take the time to check it out.

Monday, April 2, 2012

3 Inches Of Blood's Vow To Keeping Metal Alive

The Canadian heavy metal band 3 Inches of Blood has a method to their metal madness. Early on in their career, they found their groove and their musical comfort zone and the settled in. The band has released four albums and has shared the stage with such heavyweights as Machine Head and Ozzy Osbourne. In a weird twist of circumstances, their 2009 album Here Waits Thy Doom was their first album that didn’t include any of their original members.

Here we are, ten years after their debut album Battlecry Under a Wintersun was released and they haven’t really strayed from their original formula. It has won them over a legion of devoted fans, but is it enough to keep their interest for yet another release? Let’s put this album on and crank it and see what it has to offer listeners.

The album opens up with “Metal Woman” and the intro riff conjures up visions of old school Iron Maiden. The thumping bass line takes over and then Cam Pipes enters the song with his trademark voice. Is the song cliché? Is it tongue in cheek? Does it really matter because in the end, it just rocks! “My Sword Will Not Sleep” continues in the same vain with an added standout performance on drums by Ash Pearson. The guy’s a beast on this track!

“Leather Lord” is up next and with a title like that and the 80s influences; you may be asking yourself if this is an ode to Mr. Rob Halford of Judas Priest? Well, I will let you be the judge of that one after you do an air guitar solo to some serious shredding by the two guitar attack of Justin Hagberg and Shane Clark. There also some rough vocals added to this song that bounce off Cam’s normal delivery really well.

“Chief and the Blade” is one track that totally took me by surprise. The song has a mellow and tranquil intro that includes a flute ala Jethro Tull. A two and a half minute instrumental that almost sounds like the soundtrack for a renaissance fair. There are no ear piercing screams or wailing guitar solos. Is this just a part of experimentation by the band? I’m not sure, but I guess time will tell.

The last two tracks on the album are very interesting and entertaining while managing to be complete opposites of each other. “Men of Fortune” is epic in style and substance as it clocks in at over seven minutes. If one song on the album defines the sound of 3 Inches of Blood, then it would be this song. The last song, “One for the Ditch”, is another instrumental that will catch you off guard. It starts out with an acoustic guitar playing and slowly builds in its intensity. The guitar work at times has a Spanish flavor to it. As the intensity builds, so does the guitars as the chugging guitar riff starts to come in behind the acoustic. It really starts to rock out about mid-way through before ending on a calmer, somber note.

In this case, the title of the album is definitely fitting. This is an ode to the metal that has preceded us and a tip of the hat is given in respect. It’s old school flavor with a touch of today’s sound sprinkled in for good measure. It’s a fun album and very enjoyable. Does the band push the envelope this time around? Well, they definitely don’t reinvent the wheel on this album, but they sure do know how to rock out and have a fun time doing so.

Veil Of Maya Shine On Eclipse

Veil of Maya have just unleashed an album that is sure to catch the attention of listeners and critics alike. Their new album entitled Eclipse surpasses the high expectations already placed on this young band. It’s the follow-up to 2010’s [id] which was a hailed by many as being close to perfection. So, how do you follow-up such a ground breaking release? It’s not always easy, but you dig deep into that create reserve that truly talented artists have and you raise the bar on yourself. That is exactly what Veil of Maya has done.

The album opens with the instrumental “20/200”. It’s barely over a minute in length, but it definitely wets your appetite and makes you anxious to hear what’s next. It leads us into “Divide Paths” which is brutality at its finest. The riffing of guitarist Marc Okubo combined with the drum attack of Sam Applebaum creates a sense of brutality at its finest. What a lethal combination these two guys are!

At times, Marc and Sam seem like two young kids competing for their parent’s attention. Maybe it’s a case of that that game “I can do anything you can do better”. “Winter is Coming Soon” is a prime example of that. The drums and guitars are insane on this track! It’s almost staggering to listen to them and not be in awe of their sheer power and intensity.

There is a lot of attention being given to the production quality of this album. Producer Misha Mansoor of Periphery listened to the vision that the band had and he delivered in a major way. The band wanted the production to be over the top, with a big, more detailed sound. I think all you have to do is listen to one song to be able to hear how substantial of a difference there is. The drums have definitely been brought more to the forefront and counter the barrage of riffing being done.

“The Glass Slide” is another standout track for many reasons. It packs all the intensity that you would expect as well as the intricate layers of guitar work. The vocals combine the lower end, growls with the higher end screams that work really well on this song. The song also has that big, orchestration sound near the middle that adds such depth to the song.

I have never been much of a fan of instrumentals from a metal band of any genre, but Veil of Maya may have swayed my opinion on this matter. “Eclipse” is such an amazing song that showcases a different side of the band that is rarely heard. This track isn’t necessarily a ballad, but its pace is somewhat slower than the brutal assault of most songs by the band. Marc and Sam are somewhat more somber on this track. The intensity from both is there, but it’s more melodic than on the other tracks. It’s a very cool composition from the band and showcases a side of them that should be tapped into even further.

The album is solid from beginning to end and all the guys have really stepped up their game. It’s still hard to believe that the album has ten tracks and clocks in at just 28 minutes. I can see how people can view this as the glass being half full or half empty. They could have put tracks in there to lengthen it out, but you don’t want to put filler in there just to adhere to what a normal album length is suppose to be. It’s 28 minutes of intensity and brutality and you get more in that 28 minutes than a lot of bands pack into an album twice its length.

Although short in length, this album packs quite a punch and is highly recommended. If you are into metal core or progressive metal or if you just like to crank it loud and headbang, then Eclipse by Veil of Maya is well worth the investment. This one deserves a second listen immediately following your first to truly appreciate the depth that this band has to offer.

I The Breather Find Their Truth and Purpose

Just about anyone who has been to college has heard of the dreaded “Freshman 15”, referring to college students gaining 15 pounds their freshman year of school. Well, in music, throughout the years there has been something known as the sophomore slump. That refers to when a band’s second album doesn’t sell as well as their first one does. There have been numerous bands that have fallen prey to this curse of the industry. I have always wondered if it plays with the psyche of a band when they are coming off a successful debut album and start preparing for its follow-up.

This brings us to I The Breather, who is definitely coming off of a successful debut album with These Are My Sins, released in 2010. The album saw the band’s fan base grow by leaps and bounds as it was praised by both critics and listeners alike. The band’s unique blend of chugging riffs and pulsating drums made them stand out amongst a sea of sound-alike’s. You could definitely hear their influences, but they were far from copying them.

Here we are two years later and their new album Truth and Purpose has just been released. Not only has the band not succumbed to the dreaded sophomore slump, they may have just raised the bar with this release and taken their game to a whole new level. The album opens with “False Prophet”, which begins in a calm and somber tone. Then, lead singer Shawn Spann rips open the speakers with a scream of “You’re not a prophet”. The intricate fret work ensues between Chase Kozlowski and Justin Huffman as they begin to lay down the many layers of this song. This is an excellent album opener that really gets the listeners attention.

The brutality really gets going on “The Beginning”. Again, I know this is being redundant, but the guitars are amazing on this one. The band manages to mix in some clean vocals on the chorus and have excellent harmonizing as well. The hook in the chorus on this one is especially addicting and catchy. “Bruised and Broken” is the first single from the album and a great choice at that as it definitely wetted the appetites of the listeners as soon as it was released.

“Mentalist” is another great track and it features a guest vocal performance by Micah Kinard of Oh, Sleeper. This is one of those times when they got the call right. Micah’s vocal delivery compliments Shawn’s really well and vice versa. “The Meaning” is a standout for on so many levels. Shawn’s delivery on this one is really powerful from beginning to end. The lyrics are exceptionally powerful on this track also. I love the ending of the song as Shawn screams and it goes into a haunting piano closing as the song finishes. “Lunar” is an instrumental on which the guys just let loose on a two and a half minute jam session. My only complaint about it is that it’s over way too quick.

I have to say that I was thoroughly impressed by this album. It’s solid from beginning to end and not a single track comes across as being “filler”. I could get all technical with terms describing their guitar playing and how they are part of the djent movement, but I’m not. The truth is, these guys are insanely creative and they lay down some incredible riffs from beginning to end. There are a lot of chugging riffs to be found on the album, but they skip the traditional breakdown that has become somewhat stale because of its vast repetition.

The drums are huge on this album and Morgan’s double kicks are unbelievable. Armand Jasari lays down some consistent nasty bass licks that really help to carry the songs. I’m afraid if go on any further about how amazing the guitar work on this album is that I may slip into geek mode out of admiration for Chase and Justin. Again, blistering, intricate, original and absolutely insane! Shawn also steps it up and sings with more power and conviction that I have ever heard him use before.

Overall, it’s a near perfect album in my opinion. The guys set the bar high with their debut, but not only did they surpass it this time, they totally destroyed it! I am sure this album will make many Best of 2012 lists come year’s end. Call it djent, call it progressive metal, call it melodic metal core, call it what you want. I call it a tasty new addition to a rather stale buffet of metal.