BLACK | LAKES – Single Review: “Dissident”

Black Lakes

A few posts back, I mentioned that it seemed half the artists and bands I’ve previously featured on this blog are releasing new music in 2019, and another one of them is BLACK|LAKES, a progressive alternative metal rock band that collectively hail from South Wales & Southwest England. Comprising the band are five enormously talented musicians – Will S. Preston (lead vocals), Scott Bradshaw (guitar, backing vocals), James Rowlands (guitar, backing vocals), Lee Harris (bass) and Dafydd Fuller (drums). Last October (2018), they released a monumental single “The Divide” which I reviewed, and now return with hard-hitting new single “Dissident“, which drops today.

The track opens with a brooding guitar riff accompanied by an ominous synth chord, then explodes with a barrage of chugging riffs, pummeling bass and thunderous drums. After ten seconds, everything calms down to a melodic interlude of pulsating guitars and measured percussion during the verses, only to ramp back up into a furious onslaught for the choruses, keeping us in a continual state of tension. The guitar work throughout the song is fantastic, really showcasing Scott and James’ considerable talents on their respective six-strings. Lee’s deep bass lines drive the track forward while Dafydd pounds his drums like his life depends upon it.

Will’s resonant vocals remind me a bit of Puddle of Mudd’s Wes Scantlin, starting off smooth and plaintive as he bitterly renounces someone who’s hurt and betrayed him: “Here inside this cage, this never ending maze. Watching myself waste away. The bitterness I taste. Complete intemperance. I sit and slowly count the days.” They turn raw and impassioned in the choruses when he defiantly screams that he will survive and move on: “The last words I’ll ever say. In spite of you I will not fade into a world plagued by you.

“Dissident” is a magnificent and electrifying rock song that proves Black|Lakes’ can continue to deliver the heavy and melodic progressive metal we’ve grown to love from this amazing band.

Connect with Black|Lakes:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream/purchase on Spotify iTunes

THE EDGE OF REASON – Single Review: “RIVER”

TEOR2

There’s some outstanding hard rock music coming out of Germany these days. One excellent band I’ve featured on this blog is HOUNDWOLF, and another recent find is post-hardcore band The Edge Of Reason (TEOR). Founded in 2012 and based in Regensburg, TEOR combines elements of metal, hard rock and punk to create music that’s exciting and heavy. Their hard-driving rhythms, infectious melodies and meaningful lyrics are delivered with blistering riffs, dynamic percussion and the impassioned, multi-faceted vocals of charismatic band front man Ro Seven. And if all that talent weren’t enough, like HOUNDWOLF, TEOR are incredibly kind, gracious and humble guys.

In addition to Seven, the TEOR lineup includes Billy Oldboy (guitar), Alex Gorst (guitar), Dani Shorty (bass) and Niko van Laak (drums). They released their debut album Broken But Not Torn in 2017. The hard-hitting album was inspired by Seven’s personal struggles in dealing with his psychological and emotional problems, and regaining his mental health, and features 11 powerful tracks with some of the most brutally honest lyrics I’ve seen in a while.

In November, the band dropped their latest single “RIVER”, a dramatic song about obsession over another person. The band explains “‘RIVER’ describes the mental addiction to a person whose love you can never reach. On the way to affection you die of thirst, although the river full of water is so close. An inner voice does not let you get away from it. The glass on the cover artwork symbolizes the unreachable salvation you are crawling to.”

The track starts off with a distorted riff backed by pulsating synths, then erupts into a galloping rhythm of scorching guitars, deep, buzzing bass and furious hammering drums. Seven’s vocals are impressive, fervent and vulnerable one moment, then exploding into savage wails the next as he sings of his frustrating obsession that’s driving him mad:

I’m crawling to the river. I’m dying of thirst.
Cause when my love is leaving, my heart, it will burst.
Am I just an incurable mess?!
I’m crawling to the river. I’m crawling to you!
And I will drown! Drown in you!

It’s a fantastic song, and I love the video that really showcases the band’s electrifying performance.

Connect with The Edge of Reason:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud / Deezer
Purchase on iTunes / Bandcamp / Amazon

TRIPLE CREEK – Single Review: “Torn Down Whole”

Triple Creek

Triple Creek is a four-piece rock band based in Columbus, Ohio who play straight-up classic-sounding rock with just the right touch of the blues. Consisting of Brannon Criner (lead vocals), Tom “TC” Cummings (guitar), Brian Rellinger (bass) and Nick Brady (drums), all are seasoned musicians with experience playing with other bands and music projects in and around the Bowling Green, Ohio area. They formed in 2017 as a cover band, but have recently begun recording their own original songs. Brian told me the two singles they’ve recorded thus far were previously written by Brannon, but had never been recorded. The songs had been written for an acoustic guitar, but the band added a rock feel to them, and in August they released their first single, the bluesy “What’s Your Name.” On November 15, they followed up with a second single “Torn Down Whole,” which I’m reviewing today.

The dark song opens with Brian’s funky little bass riff, then TC’s gnarly guitars enter the scene, accompanied by Nick’s nimble drumming, which is quite impressive. As the track progresses, we hear TC’s bluesy and distorted guitars that add dramatic tension to the song. Brannon’s heartfelt vocals perfectly convey the sad sense of resignation and despair expressed in the lyrics. He explained that the song tells the sad story of a relationship gone bad, and the guy in the song is despondent at seeing the other person go on to flourish and prosper, while he remains torn down and depressed.

Angels fall down on me 
Sunrays pour on you 
Ashes burn in complicity 
Reconciled a drought by few 

Burn in hell and be replenished 
For the dead world to view 
Love is gone life almost finished 
My soul is pissed on you 

Torn down whole again 
All what we had was sin 
Questions scream never heard 
Emotions lifeless deep within 
Torn down dark and grey 
Pages burned and blown away 
Crippled by thoughts of discussion 
torn down torn down whole again 

Take a listen to this very fine song:

To learn more about Triple Creek, check out their Website
Follow them on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / Amazon

VOODOO – Album Review: “Ashes”

Voodoo Ashes album

Norway has a vibrant music scene, and I’ve featured on this blog a number of bands and artists from the Scandinavian nation, including No Mind State, Sherpa, Antipole and Lazy Queen. My latest find is alternative rock quartet Vöödöö. Formed in late 2014 and based in Bergen, the band consists of Gøran Stavang Skage (Vocals), Sveinung Fossan Bukve (Guitar), Stian Brungot (Bass) and Giuliano Antonio LoMonaco (Drums). They combine powerful rock beats with massive guitar riffs and catchy melodies to create their exciting modern sound, which is showcased on their debut album Ashes. The album dropped in mid-September, after the release over the past several months of a number of singles that are featured on the album.

In their bio, they describe the elements of their music thusly: “The unique sound of Vöödöö comes from the band’s wide span in musical background and approach. Guitarist Sveinung Bukve is a gear-freak with a vast selection of pedals, sometimes combined to create overwhelming huge effects more similar to an organ or a spacecraft than an actual guitar, sometimes more controlled to cut through the mix with in-your-face riffs. The rhythm section is all about hard beats and hard bass fingering, though dynamic, it is about making you feel the beat, not only in your eardrums but through the torso and into the home of your soul. Last but definitely not least, Vöödöö will charm you all the way with the high-pitched mind-baffling vocals of the theatrical Gøran.”

Voodoo

So let’s dig into Ashes to see if Vöödöö lives up to the hype. The album opens strong with the sensational title track “Ashes,” immediately hooking us in with a spooky chord and strong drumbeat, followed by a cascade of jangley riffs. The guitars, bass and drums intertwine nicely with Gøran’s soaring impassioned vocals as they all build to a spine-tingling crescendo halfway into the track. Then Sveinung unleashes a blistering gnarly riff as Stian’s deep bass and Giuliano’s crashing cymbals bring things to a dramatic finish before ending with a drawn out repeat of the opening guitar chord. It’s a fantastic song, and listen for yourself to hear what I’m talking about:

Next up is the anthemic “Lay Me to Rest,” Vöödöö’s very first single release and a sizable hit, earning over 110,000 plays on Spotify. I can see why, as it’s a real banger, with a heavy, pounding beat, hard-driving bass and jagged guitar riffs that’ll have you shouting “fuck yeah!” Gøran brings chills as he all but screams: “But the only thing I want from you is to save me from being scared. Love me, then disappear. Hold me, then let me go. Drag me, but I’ll never face the fire to see you again.” The guitar work is outstanding, and I love the little flourishes of piano synths sprinkled throughout.

By the time the third track “The Secret” plays, I’m hooked on this band. I love their melodic, thumping rhythms, killer guitars and Gøran’s fiery vocals that bring unbridled passion to every track. And “Dots” has all these qualities in spades. The track starts off with a cool keyboard synth-driven melody, fuzzy guitars and lots of crashing cymbals. Suddenly, it’s all ripped apart by a stabbing cadence of gritty riffs and Gøran’s frenzied vocals that leave me gasping for breath all the way to the end.

Vöödöö continue delivering hard-hitting rock goodness with “Shine On,” the bluesy “Broken Cage,” and the frenetic “Let it Burn.” But one of my favorite tracks is “King and Clown,” a monumental work that borders on symphonic rock. This song has it all – catchy as hell surf guitar, dramatic, achingly beautiful melodies, heart-stopping percussion, and gorgeous soaring vocal harmonies. But the real highlight is Gøran’s jaw-dropping vocal gymnastics that bring a new layer of chills on top of the ones already caused by the incredible instrumentals. This man can sing! He alternately seduces, pleads and screams, his voice nearly reaching the breaking point as he wails “Freedom is power you know. It’s not over. Free from deception and lies, it’s not over.” My god, this is an awesome song!

They close the album with “The Rope,” a slow, mournful song that’s a major departure from their other hard-rocking songs. The brief but beautiful tune opens with only an acoustic guitar, accompanied by Gøran’s sorrowful vocals, then is joined in the second half by a gnarly electric guitar that seems to convey the sense of heartbreak expressed in the lyrics: “When you are gone. Left me here, I’m hanging by the rope. You broke, even though you never meant to hurt.”

To sum up, Ashes is a phenomenal album and an impressive debut for this talented band of musicians. Their songwriting, musicianship and vocals are incredible, and they should be very proud of this work.

Connect with Voodoo:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on  Bandcamp / Indie Recordings

HEIST AT FIVE – Interview and Single Review: “Finish What You Started”

Heist At Five is a charismatic and multi-talented electro/hard rock band based in London, UK. Their aggressive, innovative sound borders on experimental rock, with complex melodies, intricate chord progressions and brilliant electronic and guitar-heavy instrumentation. This past February they released an impressive debut EP The Blacklist (which I reviewed), and now return with a wicked new single “Finish What You Started,” which officially drops on October 26.

Heist at Five finish what you started cover

Like many bands, Heist At Five has undergone a few personnel changes, but the current line-up consists of Oskar Abrahamsson (vocals), Jozef Veselsky (guitar), Marco “Fuzz” Paone (bass) and Josh Needham (drums), with assistance from production guru Kim Björnram. A special shout out goes to David Marvelly and former band guitarist Huw Roberts, who helped the song come together with production, and mixing. I sent the guys some questions about their band, creative process, and the new single, and received thoughtful – and sometimes cheeky – responses from four of these charming lads on every question.

EML: Hi guys, thanks for wanting to discuss your new single “Finish What You Started.” Before we get into the song and video, tell me how you came together to form Heist At Five, given your international origins. (Oskar is from Sweden, Jozef from Slovakia, Marco from Italy and Josh is English.)

Marco – The paths we chose individually took almost all of us to the same music uni in London. Oskar and I met in the very first week of uni and he soon invited me to jam with his new flatmate. There, I found Josh behind the kit! We clicked almost instantly; I remember our first feedback said that it felt like we had been playing together for years, and at that point we realised this could really go somewhere.

Josh – When we started playing together and eventually made it a band, we went through a fair few line-up changes, which I think is quite normal. Eventually, Jozef appeared, and Heist At Five was born!

Jozef – Yeah. I’d studied music in the UK, same as the rest of the band, just at a different institution. About a year ago I was simply on a lookout for a new project and among the ads, the selection was pitiful. So I just went for a lesser evil 😀  Kidding – the first part is true, but when I looked up these guys I knew it was it! The rest is history.

Oskar – It is really cool to have a group where every member is from a different country. It has really opened my eyes in a lot of ways.

EML: How do you go about creating new songs? Do you all share songwriting duties?

Jozef – We try to have songwriting sessions regularly and write together as a band. Sometimes one is inspired, sometimes other …sometimes no-one.

Oskar- If it’s good, its good. Then where or from when or what it comes from doesn’t matter.

Josh – Yeah, our songwriting sessions are completely random. The intro riff to “Finish What You Started,” for example, was accidentally written when we were just checking if our MIDI keyboard was working! But we always try and use different approaches to songwriting, we haven’t got a specific “process” (yet).

Marco – Initially we would write more independently, everyone bringing his own little song. Then we realised that, probably because of our different tastes, they would differ too much from each other. Since last year we started having sessions all together from start to finish of a song and it’s been really refreshing. Ideas come from everyone, we all motivate each other and we got to known ourselves much better since then.

EML: “Finish What You Started” has a bit more of a progressive metal vibe than the songs on your debut EP “The Blacklist.” Is this representative of the new musical direction you mention on your Spotify page?

Jozef – It definitely is! In this song we wanted to show that we’re not afraid of going heavily electronic. At the same time, with this song being the first one with me on the bill, I pioneer a slightly more modern approach to metal guitar playing within the band. In various forms and shapes, we hope to manifest these trends in our music going forward.

Josh – We definitely wanted to try and be a bit more ballsy, and make ‘Finish’a big “IN YOUR FACE” kind of statement. And I think that will continue to be our approach. We all have different influences but we all have the collective vision to take those and make something modern and massive.

Oskar – I’d say both yes and no. I want everyone to know that you never will be able to predict the next move from Heist At Five. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t…

Marco – While ”The Blacklist” already flirts quite a bit with the electronic edge, with ‘Finish’ we decided to be even bolder to the point of undermining the usual hierarchy you find in modern pop/rock song with a big chorus. I love the fact that it’s boiling hot but it never quite explodes, and always leaves you on the verge.

EML: It certainly does! I’ve listened to the song several times, but can’t quite figure out what it is that was started that needs to be finished. Is it perhaps a metaphor for the band’s music mission?

Jozef – I’ll leave this one for Oskar to answer.

Oskar – I’m going to break every songwriters golden rule to not explain the lyrics and ruin the magic, but please, keep on coming with your own interpretations – they are as true, if not truer, than ours. By following our mission statement of letting the audience make up their own minds about the world they live in, it’s written very open-mindedly on purpose. One layer in the song is about the fear and uncertainty of going through with ideas and things in life, as there is no guarantee they will turn out the way we envisioned. Is it worth finishing these things? Maybe it ends up in a place that is great! But if you are unlucky, it could be terrible, so maybe it’s better to never finish what you started.

Josh – Maybe you made a cup of tea and forgot about it, and it’s going to go cold soon. (You’re welcome by the way)

Marco – Josh’s right, I always forget to drink my tea!!

EML: In the video – which is very cool by the way – the mysterious person whose face we never see is shown at the beginning putting on a hoodie he finds laying on the pavement. He then walks around, almost stalking the different band members, but never actually threatening or accosting them. At the video’s end, he vanishes into the night as his hoodie returns to the ground. What or who does the mystery guy symbolize?

Oskar – We wanted to make a video that didn’t just show what we spoke about in the song, but added layers to the story and concept.  Maybe “hoodie man” is just a projection of our consciousness, seeing our actions from an outsiders point of view, a symbol of doubt or disbelief in if we are doing the right thing. In the twist at the end, in true M. Night Shyamalan spirit, it is maybe implied that ideas are bigger than the people and personalities behind them. As the idea is executed, the faces will be forgotten but the idea they finished will remain. But I’m not going to rant on for an eternity, go on and make up your mind about what it means to you 😉

Marco – Another potential interpretation is that the “Hoodie man”, as we like to call him, by restricting his view, only has the focus on what’s in front of him. He perseveres in whatever direction he wants, regardless of what happens around him. His goal? That’s for the viewer to decide.

EML: Are you guys currently writing and recording more songs? Any plans for a second EP or possible full-length album?

Jozef – With the trends in today’s music industry in mind, we decided that for a while we’ll continue with single releases until the time comes for something bigger. The next one is being recorded as we speak!

Oskar – Yeah, we think that by doing individual singles, we get the opportunity to take bolder creative decisions, and totally go in a new fresh direction for each release.

Marco – A lot is in the pot right now: Yes, we are recording and writing new material. Our plan at the moment is to keep the hype up with new single releases, although I wouldn’t exclude the possibility of including them in a new EP or an album in the near future. Only time will tell!

Josh – It’s actually exciting not knowing exactly what we’re going to do next. We’re not limiting ourselves musically, and I think that’s clear to see with “Finish What You Started”.

Thanks guys! So let’s check out the new single. The track opens with a buzzing riff, then Josh’s pounding drums enter the scene, accompanied by discordant spacey synths as Oskar sings in an almost sinister voice:

Is this how you imagined it? That work of art inside your head?
What you once saw in black and white is fading out.
Spinning round and round, and suddenly it’s harder to see what’s up and what’s down.
Swimming in the deep end now.
So take a deep breath, and finish what you started, started, started.

Marco lays down a heavy bass line that serves as a sturdy foundation for Jozef’s gnarly guitar and Josh’s power drums as the spacey industrial-sounding synths continue. I love how the the roiling riffs of distorted guitar and pummeling drums are so thoroughly in sync, punctuated here and there by frantic flourishes that seem to rip at the airwaves, making for a unsettling, yet mesmerizing song. Watch and listen:

Connect with Heist at Five: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes / Bandcamp

BLACK | LAKES – Single Review: “The Divide”

I’m back in the UK, this time to shine my spotlight on the band BLACK | LAKES, who just released their phenomenal debut single “The Divide.” The band is comprised of five members who hail from South Wales and Southwest England, including Will S. Preston (lead vocals), Scott Bradshaw (guitar, backing vocals), James Rowlands (guitar, backing vocals), Lee Harris (bass) and Dafydd Fuller (drums). Influenced by too many bands to name, they play an electrifying and melodic style of progressive alternative metal rock.

Black Lakes Promo 2

The single was produced and mastered by Romesh Dodangoda at Longwave Studios, and premiered along with a review on Down the Front Media. As the band explained in that post, “The Divide” is “about rejecting the predetermined path laid out in front of you by mainstream society. It’s about demanding your individuality in a world hell bent on making you the same.” The article’s author Claire Hill goes on to say: “Based on the band’s collective personal experience and persistent, bitter disappointment at being let down by those holding positions of power and authority, ‘The Divide’ is a pretty good assessment of what a lot of people feel about what is happening in society today.”

The song starts off with a delicate synth chord, then blasts open with a cascade of gnarly and wailing guitars, mammoth bass, and thunderous drums. As the song progresses, layers of jangly and distorted guitars are added to the already dynamic mix, propelling the track into the sonic stratosphere.  Will’s gorgeous vocals are filled with passion as he fervently sings the powerful lyrics, soaring to intense heights in the choruses that spread chills up and down our spines: “One by one we fall in line with docile obedience. In lies we trust, stand in line justified you’re one of us. Father forgive them for the lives they have stolen. Further we are taken down the paths they have chosen. One more time.”

It’s a monumental track, and as close to perfect as any rock song I’ve heard lately. The brilliant video was created by Yuvraj Imaginaria. Check it out:

Connect with Black | Lakes:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream on  Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes

THE UNDERGROUND VAULT – EP Review: “In the Water”

Underground Vault EP

Today I have the pleasure of introducing The Underground Vault, a fine rock band from London, England. They play a bluesy style of rock that’s hard and raw, with a bit of an old-school late 60s-early 70s vibe that calls to my mind such greats as Eric Clapton, Deep Purple and Ten Years After. Following up on the success of their 2017 debut EP Dawnbreaker, on September 15 they dropped their second EP In the Water, delivering six hard-driving tracks that solidify their status as a band on the rise. Making the noise are Blair Dollery on lead guitar & vocals, Jamie Dove on guitar, Pete Sadler on bass, and Dan Young on drums.

Underground Vault2

The EP opens strong with hammering drums and gnarly riffs announcing the arrival of “Colt.” Dollery snarls the dark lyrics warning an apparently very bad person that their days are numbered: “Got this gun in my hand. Gonna shoot you as fast as I can.” I’m not sure whether it’s Dollery, Dove or both who play the blistering riffs in the finale, but they’re fantastic. The guys rock and roll on “Everymans Fantasy,” a rousing song about a woman who’s driving him crazy with desire: “You’re in my dreams. I’m on my knees. You’re everyman’s fantasy.”

The band really settles into their groove by the third track “In the City.” This tune rocks the hell out, with an arresting melody that hooks us in from the get-go. Dollery and Dove set the airwaves aflame with scorching riffs of gnashing and wailing guitars, while Sadler’s humming bass and Young’s pounding drumbeats keeps things grounded. Dollery’s raw, passionate vocals at times are as fierce as the wailing guitars, raising goosebumps. “Heal the Wounds” delivers more hard-driving melodic rock with fuzzy riffs and lots of soaring vocal harmonies.

All the frustrations and angst seem to reach the boiling point on the hard-rocking “Love is Hate.” With exasperation in his voice, Dollery shouts the lyrics: “Going out, going out tonight. Getting drunk. Gonna have a fight. God you are getting on my nerves. It’s the end, it’s the end I suppose. Love is hate. Love is freedom. Love is hate. Keeps us human.” The fast-paced guitar work, deep bass and pummeling drums on this track are really terrific.

The guys save the best for last with the standout title track “In the Water” a beautiful song that’s also my favorite on the EP.  It starts off with a more relaxed cadence than the other tracks, with layers of gorgeous multi-textured guitars floating above a solid buzzing bass line, and accompanied by a military-type drumbeat. Dollery’s vocals are heartfelt as he sings about loss, possibly of a relationship that’s broken beyond repair: “Reach for the sky. Truth can not lie. All our dreams will be dead in the water. Drifting at sea, only you, only me. All our dreams will be dead in the water.” A little more than halfway into the track, the pace quickens, cymbals crash and guitars wail for about a minute, then everything slows back down for a while before cranking back up for a dramatic finish. It’s an epic song, and a perfect ending to a stellar EP.

 

Connect with The Underground Vault:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes

HOUNDWOLF – EP Review: “Tempted to Abuse”

Houndwolf

HOUNDWOLF is an outstanding hard rock/metal band based in Witten, Germany. Influenced by some of their favorite rock and metal bands like Metallica, Motörhead, Pantera, Slayer, Black Stone Cherry, Trivium and Black Label Society, they play melodic and aggressive metal-infused rock’n’roll, with some of the best guitar work I’ve heard from any band. Comprising HOUNDWOLF are four gracious, cool and funny guys: Milan Schloßmacher (Lead Vocals & Guitars), Tobias Maienschein (Guitar & Backings), Daniel Teuchert (Bass & Backings) and Thomas Neuhaus (Drums).

In early 2016 they released a debut 3-track EP Fast and Loose, then dropped their first studio album Beware of the Dog that November, which I reviewed in December 2017. This past April, they followed up with a new four-track EP Tempted to Abuse, serving up more of their signature aggressive, high-energy rock’n’roll. They kick things off with “Roll,” a simple but effective ode to what they do, and Milan makes sure we don’t forget it as he shouts “We are determined to rock, so you better roll!” Milan and Tobias crank out red hot riffs while Daniel lays down a solid bass line and Thomas pounds out the beat on his drum kit. They perform a studio playthrough of the song on this video, and it’s fun to get a close-up look at them playing their respective instruments.

The guys seem to channel Metallica on the hard-driving title track “Tempted to Abuse,” tearing up the airwaves with extended riffs of blistering guitar work. Milan’s raw vocals even remind me a bit of James Hetfield on this track. Dial up the volume on this banger! Next up is “The Second,” a great bluesy rock song that’s probably my favorite of the four tracks. As always, their guitar work is terrific, but what really stands out for me are Milan’s great vocals. They have just the right amount of raw power when he sings the aggressive verses, then he injects a little humor into his more spoken vocals, when we can also hear a bit of his German accent. It’s clear from his body language and facial expressions that he really gets into playing and singing, which is a joy to watch.

Pursuit of Ambiguity” is straight-up metal rock’n’roll, with rapid-tempo heavy riffs, pounding drums and tons of crashing cymbals. The guitar work in the bridge is absolute fire, and Thomas seems to beat the living hell out of his drums! These guys are amazing musicians and it’s always a pleasure listening to their dynamic rock’n’roll music. I love HOUNDWOLF!

They’ve produced several entertaining videos of themselves playing their songs, as well as some behind the scenes footage of the recording of this EP, which you can check out on their YouTube channel.

Connect with HOUNDWOLF:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

REALITY SUITE – EP Review: “Awaken”

Reality Suite

Reality Suite is a New Jersey-based rock band with a fresh sound defined by scorching riffs and anthemic melodies. The band was formed in 2009 by three life-long friends, Brian King (drums) Antonio Valenti (bass) and Joe Padula (guitars). After struggling through a string of male and female vocalists, the wonderful Kimmii Heart came to the rescue, and their winning lineup was firmly established. They released their debut album Skinn to critical acclaim in 2015, and followed a year later with the single “Bury Me Alive.” This May, they dropped their EP Awaken, which I have the pleasure of reviewing today.

The EP is a deeply personal work for the band, each of whom have experienced the death of a loved one in the past few years. In an interview with PopBreak.com, Brian explained: “During the writing for what became “Awaken,” Kimmii and I realized most of what we were writing about were losing loved ones. Each of us had lost someone close to us in the last two years. I lost my mother in 2016 to lung cancer – which spawned the song “Cut, Burn Bruise.” Kimmii lost a close family friend which inspired “Grave.” Antonio lost his mother and Joe had lost an Aunt in 2017 – so, as much as “Grave” and “Cut” are about missing a loved one, in the context with the other songs – “Awaken” becomes an album about recovery and rebirth…leaving the pain behind and moving on. The songs “Live Now Forever,” “Dead to Me,” and “Lust” drive that point home.”

Dead to Me” perfectly exemplifies their dynamic, hard-hitting sound. Brian’s pounding drumbeats establish a sturdy foundation for Joe’s gritty riffs and Antonio’s buzzsaw bass lines, though the song also has moments of relative calm where glossy synths and delicate guitar notes dominate. Kimmii’s emotive vocals run the gamut from seductive purr to malevolent snarl to impassioned wail as she throws dark shade on someone she’s clearly had enough of: “I’m done playing nice with your sick little ways. Breaking my back just to keep you away. It’s over this time I’m losing my mind. You think that I’m blind well I’m feeling like – You’re dead to me!” The music and vocals ultimately build to a crescendo, with sweeping strings, wailing guitars and a soaring harmonic chorus that make for a dramatic finish.

Grave” is a dark anthemic ballad with fantastic guitar work that wends its way amongst the crushing bass and crashing cymbals. Kimmii’s passionate echoed vocals are marvelous. The band dials things up a notch on “Live Now Forever,” a terrific head-banger with fierce riffs of fuzzy guitars and humming bass. I like the way Joe makes his guitar squeal, and his blistering riffs and Brian’s pummeling drums in the bridge and final chorus are fire. Kimmii’s vocal gymnastics are impressive as she matches the fury of the instrumentals note for note. It’s one of my favorite tracks on the EP.

Another powerful anthem, “Cut, Burn, Bruise” is about missing someone so desperately you’d do almost anything to have them back: “Can’t bring you back. So I drive through the night. Going fast makes me feel alive. You make me feel alive. / Love’s a cut, a burn, a bruise. But I loved you til I’m black and blue. Feeling broken, I am learning to live without you. But I’d die for another day with you.” Reality Suite keeps the hard-driving rock grooves coming with “Lust.” These musicians are really at the top of their game, delivering more of their signature fiery riffs, throbbing bass and tumultuous percussion, and Kimmii’s dazzling vocals raise plenty of goosebumps. It’s a great track, and Awaken is an awesome little EP that packs one hell of a mighty wallop.

Connect with Reality Suite:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes / cdbaby

ALL TAKEN – Single Review: “Smells Like Mistakes”

All Taken2

All Taken is an alternative rock band based in Los Angeles. Formed in 2015 as a duo by long-time friends Daniel Daghlarian and Avo Karapetyan, All Taken melds electronic and hard rock, along with a bit of 90s grunge, to create their dynamic alt-rock sound. Daniel plays guitar and sings lead vocals, and Avo pounds the drums and sings backup.

They released a strong debut single “Burning Red” in 2016, and followed up in March 2017 with their EP Accept This, which I reviewed. They’ve just dropped a hard-driving new single “Smells Like Mistakes,” and they sound better than ever. (They also recently hired a new bass player after the song was recorded, but he will play on all future tracks.)

All Taken Single Art

The track opens strong with an explosion of gnarly, stabbing guitar riffs that rip through the airwaves, aided and abetted by heavy crushing bass and pounding drums. At the chorus, Daniel lets loose with a blistering guitar solo while Avo hammers out a powerful military beat on his drums and furiously crashes the cymbals. You give me chills guys!

Daniel’s vocals sound great as he passionately wails the lyrics about a man dissipated from a self-destructive life lived hard: “It wasn’t what he said. It was those tired eyes. Cigarettes dangling from lips dried up from whiskey sips. The twists and turns that life may take. You’re just a man who smells like mistakes.

Although a short track, clocking in at only 2:39 minutes, it’s a real head-banger, so crank up the volume and rock the hell out! And what about that awesome artwork!

Connect with All Taken:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes