HOLLOW INTENT – EP Review: “Monster”

Hollow Intent Monster

Hailing from Wilmington, North Carolina, hard rock band Hollow Intent has been making quite a name for themselves on the local music scene with their aggressive style of melodic metal rock. In May, the band was nominated for the 2019 Carolina Music Award’s Best Rock Group, with front man Will Baker also nominated for Best Rock Male. On August 1st, they released their appropriately-titled debut EP Monster, which I’m pleased to feature on this blog.

Hollow Intent was born when guitarist and vocalist Will Baker and drummer Mark Davis started jamming together and discovered an immediate chemistry between them. Soon, they brought on bassist Shane Noren and guitarist Wesley Seven to complete the band’s lineup, and quickly began perfecting their intense sound and crafting songs to take advantage of their explosive, guitar-driven music style. The band explains that Monsterdepicts all feelings with a negative connotation such as depression, anxiety, stress, rage, etc,, and they’re put together to create this “Monster”.

Hollow Intent

The EP kicks off with the title track “Monster“, a two-minute long instrumental that sets the tone for things to come. As its title implies, the song’s a rampaging beast of wailing distortion, grinding bass and crashing drums, plunging us headlong into the heavy metal zone.

Before we can catch our breath, “Burn” explodes onto the airwaves with a thunderous barrage of raging guitars, buzz-saw bass and speaker-blowing percussion. But the real highlight for me are Baker’s jaw-dropping vocals. He has a phenomenal voice that sounds beautiful when singing clean, and positively feral when he launches into his metalcore screams and growls. There aren’t many metalcore vocalists who also have great clean singing voices (Slipknot’s Corey Taylor and Ice Nine Kills’ Spencer Charnas are two who come to my mind). Baker definitely does, and it’s no wonder he was nominated for the Carolina Music Best Rock Male Award. When he screams “Let’s go!” with a terrifying ferocity, we have no choice but to comply. But then he draws us in as he plaintively sings the biting lyrics addressing someone who’s actions have brought out the worst in him: “You hate what I’ve become in you. The monster inside me. You’re inside my head, tearing me apart. Filling with red, straight through the heart. You’re starting to turn. There’s no controlling all these evil eyes. I’m here to watch you burn!

The face-melting “Bipolar” serves up chugging riffs of reverb-soaked grit and distortion enveloped in a punishing wall of sound. This song kicks some major ass, and is one of my favorite cuts on the EP.  Once again, Baker blows our minds and eardrums with his vocal gymnastics. The way he makes his voice bleed one moment as he screams “Liar!” or “Bipolar“, then transitions to a seductive croon the next is really impressive.

The guys slow down the pace with “Shadow of You“, a darkly beautiful metalcore ballad that speaks to duplicity and betrayal: “You didn’t believe in me. I trusted you, but I knew you were faking. /I am always in the shadow of you. It’s getting colder as I close my eyes. These dreams are made of all your lies.” The guitar work is fantastic, and I really like the recurring mournful little riff, as well as the moody piano keys at the end of the song.

Parasite” serves up more metalcore goodness with a torrent of shredded guitars and pummeling drums, accompanied by Baker’s death-rattling growls. But it’s on “Welcome to the Dead” that Hollow Intent show us what they’re really capable of. Wow, these guys blow the fucking roof off here, with some of most explosive instrumentals I’ve heard in a very long while. The raging guitars, crushing bass and pummeling drums are so hard-driving they leave me breathless! The guitar work here is nothing short of magnificent. Turn the volume all the way up for this monster of a tune!

The EP closes with “Normal“, a beautiful ballad that showcases the band’s softer side. The instrumentals are more stripped down, with strummed acoustic guitar, subtle bass, stirring strings and gentle percussion. Baker passionately implores someone to help him overcome his mental anguish and live a healthy existence: “If the pain could go away, would you save me? If the light stays gray, will you help me believe? If you could find a way to break this hold, could you help me be normal?

Though it contains only seven tracks, six of which include vocals, Monster feels monumental in scope. All of the songs are superb, both in terms of their high quality and in their power to move us, and it’s a very impressive debut work. Hollow Intent are an incredibly skilled group of musicians who know how to play metal rock as it was meant to be played – heavy, melodic and loud! Furthermore, Will Baker is one of the finest metalcore vocalists around, in my opinion. I cannot wait to hear more music from this fantastic band.

Connect with Hollow Intent:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Monster” on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / Google Play

New Song of the Week: ELEPHANT GUN RIOT – “Man Down”

Elephant Gun Riot Man Down

Elephant Gun Riot (is that not a great band name or what!) is a female-fronted modern rock band based in Spokane, Washington. Formed in 2013, the five-piece is made up of vocalist Caitlin Rose, guitarists and brothers Zach Wirchak and Sean Ciolli, bassist Patrick Rooks, and drummer Mike Lowe. They released their debut EP Sic Infit in 2014, and followed with their self-title album Elephant Gun Riot in 2016. Since then, they’ve release two more EPs and several singles, including a face-melting cover of Billie Eilish’s “You Should See Me in a Crown”. Now they’re back with “Man Down“, their first original single of 2019 and my selection for New Song of the Week.

It’s a banger of a tune, featuring the band’s signature sweeping melodies and roiling riffs of gnarly guitars, driven hard by an explosive rhythm section. Wirchak and Ciolli’s intricate, layered guitar work is impressive, running the gamut from delicate chiming notes to some serious shredding, and everything in between. Rooks lays down a crushing bass line while Lowe pounds his drum kit like a banshee. And then there’s Rose, who has a beautiful, yet incredibly powerful vocal style that pairs perfectly with their hard-rocking sound. Here, she raises goosebumps with her raw, impassioned vocals as she rails against another’s deceit and betrayal,”The truth will find you out. So long now. You best get out of town. Long gone (Man down).” Listen and see for yourself:

Connect with Elephant Gun Riot:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play

New Song of the Week: DRAWING ON SCARS – “Rewrite”

Drawing on Scars Rewrite

I just reviewed a song titled “Under These Scars”, and now turn my attention to Drawing on Scars, an online alternative rock music project based in Atlanta, Georgia. The creative brainchild of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Will Thacker, Drawing on Scars seeks to collaborate with guest vocalists from across the U.S. in the creation of unique, ever-changing music. Generally, Thacker writes the music and lyrics, which the different vocalists then interpret in their own distinct ways, keeping Drawing on Scars’ repertoire sounding fresh and delivering the unexpected.

Formed in 2012, the project produced an EP featuring seven artists, then went on hiatus in 2017, during which time Thacker formed the band Fieldcrest. He resurrected Drawing on Scars in early 2019, and since March has released four singles, the latest of which is “Rewrite“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

The song features vocals by Jena Jones, who is also vocalist for Fieldcrest (I reviewed their EP Canvas last October.) The song has an Evanescence feel, not only because of the dark, complex melody and powerful instrumentation, but also because Jones’ strong, resonant vocals remind me of Amy Lee’s. Thacker’s a skilled guitarist, and his work really shines here as he dazzles our ears with crushing riffs of grimy guitars and heavy bass. The spooky synths and thunderous percussion are pretty fantastic too, and combined with the intense guitars, create a massive backdrop for Jones’ mesmerizing vocals. 

The lyrics seem to speak about someone suffering from mental illness or an emotional breakdown, and their desperate plea for help and support in getting their life together. Jones’ emotion-filled vocals beautifully convey the anguish expressed in the powerful lyrics:

I need you here babysitting my thoughts
I can’t control them, they’ll tear me apart
There’s just little things that go straight for my heart
It makes me sick

I hope I can keep control and not let myself down
But I’m a fake, how much can you take
Can’t you see that I’m afraid

Distorted perception of who I am
Help me rewrite it, begin again
This war going on inside of my head

I don’t know how to fix myself
The words that kill me are my own
Oh, I’m the harshest critic I know

Connect with Drawing on Scars: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / YouTube
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play / cdbaby

FOLLOW NO ONE – Single Review: “Fear No Evil”

Follow No One is the music project of two highly accomplished musicians from different parts of the world and two completely separate musical backgrounds – singer/songwriter and pianist Rich Hall, who’s originally from Nashville, Tennessee, but now based in Denver, Colorado, and guitar virtuoso Pedro Murino Almeida from Lisbon, Portugal, but with roots in Brazil. Rich began performing at a young age in theater, but found his true calling performing and writing music. Pedro was classically trained in music composition, with a successful career involving his own musical acts, and his work has been featured in film and video. Their dynamic style of rock music is influenced by such giants as Dream Theater, Alter Bridge, Foo Fighters, Avenged Sevenfold, Imagine Dragons and Three Days Grace.

The duo released their debut EP, simply titled “5“, in September 2017, which featured five hard-hitting tracks. (My review of the EP has been one of my most successful, earning nearly 300 views.) They followed in 2018 with an excellent cover of the David Bowie song “I’m Afraid of Americans”, then “Your Time of Dying” in March 2019. Now they’re back with a killer new single “Fear No Evil”, which dropped August 9th. The song was inspired by Hall’s study of Demonic Possession, a topic he has researched for many years. The track has had quite a journey during its creation, having been recorded in both Portugal and the U.S., and mixed by Jarrod Headley (Music Supervisor for the History Channel program Counting Cars), before finally being mastered in Dallas.

The track blasts open with an explosion of Almeida’s gritty, chugging guitar, while Hall fervently wails the opening lyrics. Almeida’s guitar soon settles into an intricate back and forth dance of melodic jangly riffs alternating with some serious shredding and mind-blowing distortion. Holy hell, this man can play the guitar! Fortified with a rock-solid rhythm section of crushing bass and thunderous percussion, Almeida lays down a riveting backdrop for Hall’s colorful, impassioned vocals as he plaintively laments:

I tried to believe
And the people let me down
I gave them every chance
Changed every circumstance
People you think you can trust
Are not even people at all
Imagination or indoctrination
Chipping away at the edges of your soul
See no evil
Hear no evil

“Fear No Evil” is a fantastic, powerhouse track that gets better with each listen. Almeida’s guitar work is among the best I’ve heard lately, and both he and Hall make a formidable pair, delivering outstanding and hard-driving rock with every song they release.

Connect with Follow No One:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  SoundcloudSpotify / Tidal / Google PlayYouTube
Purchase:  iTunesAmazon

New Song of the Week: THE ONLY ROUTE [TOR] – “Secrets”

The Only Route3

British alternative rock band The Only Route (also known as TOR) play some of the finest, most aggressive guitar-driven rock of any indie act around today. Slicing through the airwaves with wicked riffs, explosive percussion and addictive melodies, their hard-hitting songs never fail to deliver an electrifying listening experience. The Lowestoft, England four-piece consists of Ryan Redwood (vocals, guitar), Robby Hodgey (lead guitar), Andy Kirk (bass) and Matty Larkman (drums).

Since early 2017, they’ve released a series of terrific singles, including the blistering semi-autobiographical “Made” in January 2018, and the fantastic kiss-off “Not Worth It” this past March (a real ripper of a song which has spent the past nine weeks on my Weekly Top 30). I reviewed both of those singles, the links to which you can find under “Related” at the bottom of this page. They’re now back with a new banger of a single “Secrets“, which drops today.

As expected, TOR demonstrate yet again their talent for composing arresting melodies and penning straightforward lyrics based on their real-life experiences, and bringing them to life with their outstanding musicianship. The guitar work is fantastic as always, and Robby’s guitar solo in the bridge is absolute fire. Andy and Matty keep a tight rhythm while Ryan denounces a friend that cheated on his wife, who then left him and ran away from their town, but he kept it a secret. She eventually returns, but is like a stranger to everyone, with a completely different personality: “I looked out your window and saw that she was back. And you’ve got some secrets and they’re really bad./ Why doesn’t she look the same? She said she had changed her name.”

Ryan has a wonderful, commanding voice that’s perfectly suited to their style of hard-driving rock, and is one of the many positive attributes of TOR’s music. Plus I’m a sucker for a good strong British accent that comes through in the vocals. I love this band!

Connect with TOR:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Google Play
Purchase on iTunes

AGENCY PANIC – Single Review: “The Middle”

Agency Panic3

Agency Panic is an Irish rock band who, over the past year, have been establishing themselves as one of the more exciting and innovative acts in the progressive metal scene. They seem to prefer maintaining a low profile, however, as the few photos they have on their social media accounts are dark, with their faces in shadow, and I know them only by their first names:  J.D.K. on vocals, Tubs on guitars, Lee on bass, and Revsy on drums. My sense is that they want their music to speak for itself, rather than the focus be on them personally.

In July 2018, they released their monumental debut single “Panic” (which I reviewed) as the first installment from what they’re calling their ‘drip feed’ EP, which is being released one song at a time. The incredibly intense song set a very high bar for the band, with face-melting riffs, explosive percussion and fierce, chill-inducing vocals. I loved it so much it ended up on my Top 100 Songs of 2018 list.

They followed up that October with their second single “Lie”, a darkly beautiful banger featuring more of their signature scorching riffs and thunderous percussion. Now they’ve returned with their third installment “The Middle“, which dropped June 14. It’s another winning single, serving to further bolster Agency Panic’s flawless resume for putting out stellar progressive metal songs that challenge the listener. Unlike a typical song with a catchy melody that quickly bores into our brain, progressive metal (or any progressive form of other music genres for that matter) often requires a closer and/or repeated listens to fully absorb and appreciate the nuance of the unusual melodies, song structures, lyrics and instrumentals, all of which “The Middle” has in spades.

In keeping with their penchant for maintaining a bit of mystery, the poetic lyrics are somewhat abstract and open to interpretation. When I asked J.D.K. of the meaning of the song, all he would tell me is that “it all took place in the middle of Amsterdam.” The song opens with a twangy electric guitar riff and a whisper of ominous synth, then a somber drumbeat kicks in as J.D.K. speaks in a rather unsettling echoed voice about what seems to be a dream or possible acid trip:

Blinding blinding flicker
Sparks of light
Creeping dilations
Pupils rise
Abstract thoughts
Deceptively distort, shadows crawl to the sirens song
As it all dissolves the show has just begun.
Through to black
Beyond the veil
The oceans of chaos were about to sail…

The guitar suddenly explodes into gnarly riffs of shredded distortion as deep bass and heavier percussion are added, and J.D.K.’s vocals turn more impassioned as he sings:

Invasive influence
Hooked direct to the mainline.
Re con struct self
Time has melted design
Illusion slowly reveal
Spilling right into the dream…
Ahhhhhhhhhh
Ahhhhhhhhhhhh
In the loop again
In the loop again
In the loop again

By the third verse, everything ramps up to near-frenzy, with screaming guitars and speaker-blowing drums as he fervently wails the lyrics that seem to speak of being reborn into a new reality:

Erasing what you think is real
Ego peels
Stripped down to bone to which you’ll find
One mind’s eye
Seductively it reels us in
Hooks through the skin
Past present future on a plain
Reincarnate
Walking through the void
Entrance to the other side
Take take fear…

Step from the darkness into the light
As movement slowed and we bent time 

The song closes with a fadeout of reverb, leaving me awestruck by its magnificence. Agency Panic are proving themselves to be phenomenal songwriters and musicians worthy of notice, and I’m thrilled to be following them on their musical journey as they continue to release more songs.

Connect with Agency Panic:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Panic” on  Spotify /  Apple Music
Purchase on  Bandcamp /  iTunes

SABOTEURS – Album Review: “Dance With the Hunted”

Saboteurs album art

Saboteurs is a rock band from Lincoln, England who (in their own words) “play trans-genre songs about badgers, constellations and other things which creep into our lives during the night.” Fusing elements of alt-rock, grunge, post-punk, metal and folk, they create hard-hitting music that thrills and surprises our ears and minds.  Like many a band, they’ve experienced some personnel changes since forming, and now consist of Ben Ellis (lead vocals/guitar), Rick Whitehead (lead guitar/vocals), Kirsty Marlog (backing vocals), Geoff Standeven (bass), and Pete Botterill (drums), although for the album Dance With the Hunted, drums and percussion were performed by Hamish Dickinson, who also handled production, mixing and mastering.

The band released their self-titled debut EP Saboteurs in 2018, immediately attracting a growing base of fans and recognition by BBC Introducing, as well as being named Richer Sound’s Artist of the Week and finalists in Radio Wigwam’s Rock Act of the Year. But shoulder surgery for lead guitarist Whitehead led to unrest in the band and, ultimately, a violent split with the rhythm section. This caused the band’s songwriters Ellis and Whitehead to sink into a dark place, which actually provided them with needed impetus for an explosion of new material that would become their first full album Dance With the Hunted, which dropped on May 4th.

The opening track “Splintered” reveals the intensity of their feelings while writing the songs for the album. The biting lyrics speak to a bitter breakup of a relationship, delivered by Ellis’ fiery vocals: “The pain – I dedicate our loss to you. The shame will never end but I’m coping on my own. The ones I left behind – they just fade out. If I fall down, I won’t stay down. If you fall down, you will stay down.” The roiling riffs of grungy guitars, pulsating bass and thunderous drums are fantastic.

Next up is “Over and Doubt“, a moody but gorgeous track that leaves no doubt that these guys know a thing or two about crafting superb songs with the power to inspire and move the listener. And I’ll state right here how much I love Ellis’ vocals, which in addition to his and Whitehead’s spectacular guitar work, are one of the strong points of Saboteurs’ overall sound. He’s one of the best rock vocalists around today, in my opinion, with an incredible tone and range that give him the ability to comfort us one moment, then chill us to the bone the next. When he plaintively wails “Please stay with me, over and over again!“, we really believe him. On this track he sounds a lot like Steve Kilbey of The Church. Musically, the song features a complex, ever-changing melody that keeps us enthralled from start to finish, and the guitar work is outstanding. It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album.

The dark and moody vibe continues with “Believe Nothing Hurts“, but presented here with an exhilarating fast-paced rhythm and chugging riffs of gnarly guitars. Ellis angrily snarls the searing lyrics condemning someone for their duplicity: “This time, believe nothing hurts. Oh, your lies. As they come in they’re drowning now in your own sweet precious melody of lies.” “Break Down” is a lovely, incredibly melodic song with a 1990s vibe that, to my ears, calls to mind songs by the Goo Goo Dolls, Gin Blossoms and Deep Blue Something. The strummed guitar is a great addition, providing a wonderful added texture of sound. The backing vocal choruses by Miles Kent and Kirsty Marlog are especially nice.

Marooned” is a big, arena-worthy track, with lush, layered guitars and a torrent of bombastic percussion. But it’s the deep, pulsating bass that plays a starring role here, giving the song a massive U2 vibe. In fact, Ellis’ vocals sound a bit like Bono on this and a few other tracks. He passionately sings of emotional hurt that can never be undone: “Broken red skies are endless. The reason I guess why you left me here. They look like the old wounds you can’t suture. They are the scars of time.” On the poignant, hard-rocking “I Think My Face Hates Me“, Ellis sings of his feelings of hopelessness: “I’ve been lying on the floor just eating time. Pretending there’s no light behind my eyes. I’m going home or I’m going down. Every day I am reborn in the skin I’ve had before.

The guys keep delivering compelling lyrics and killer riffs with “One Track Mind“. The protagonist acknowledges his need to change his ways: “What would it take to be the better man? To say, ‘Yes, I can – I’ll never let you down’. Constant mistakes – pathetic apologies. Want to effect a change and make it alright.” But then he bitterly resigns himself to the fact that while he’s the one who must change “I kill the doubt inside and learn to play your game.“, others will not: “You all stay the same.

The title track “Dance With the Hunted” is about a rock star whose fame has not brought the happiness and contentment he’d hoped for. Instead, he lives a miserable, self-destructive life: “The spotlight I always craved keeps pulling me back but there’s no light behind these eyes./  Is art ever worth the pain? To watch you die on centre stage for fifteen minutes of shame.The disappointment never ends.

Traces” is one the darkest tracks on the album, with trace elements (no pun intended) of metal, giving it a heavier vibe. The song opens with a mesmerizing guitar riff, then expands with a powerful melange of intricate guitars, throbbing bass and hammering drums. The lyrics speak of someone tortured by their past and possible mental illness, desperate to escape their surroundings in the hope of starting over fresh: “There are traces of the old times. Like battle scars in my mind. Only the world to me. Turn the lights out – leave this home. Wherever the white lines take us.” Backing metalcore growls by guest vocalist Jamie Armstrong add an extra layer of gritty texture to Ellis’ raw vocals, to great effect.

The final track “Willows” closes out the album on a gloomy note, speaking of a couple whose relationship is so damaged by hurt and pain, it may be beyond salvation. In vocals that really seem to channel Bono, Ellis passionately wails “Skin so thin, so thin it bleeds right through you. And we blame ourselves, don’t you blame yourself too? Walking wounded – in a black wind. Take me to the place where the willows grow. Write down everything that hurt us so. Everything we never said.” As always, the instrumentals are hard-hitting, with furious riffs, crushing bass and tumultuous drums.

Dance With the Hunted is a heavy, emotionally-wrought album to be sure – there are no upbeat love songs here! But it’s a beautifully-crafted work, with deeply compelling, heartfelt lyrics, gorgeous rock melodies, and magnificent instrumentals. Every track is superb, with no filler or throwaways. If you like some of the aforementioned bands I discussed, you will enjoy the music of Saboteurs.

The beautiful original album artwork was designed by Anita Inverarity.

Catch Saboteurs at one of these upcoming shows:

Saboteurs concerts

Follow Saboteurs:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase on Bandcamp / Google Play

SECOND PLAYER SCORE – Album Review: “Glorified”

Second Player Score Glorified

Second Player Score is a terrific rock band based in Vancouver, Washington (located across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon), and nice guys too. They play hard-driving, melodic music they humorously refer to as nerd punk, influenced by two of their favorite bands Green Day and Bad Religion. Making the music are Brian Tashima (guitar, lead vocals), Daniel Downs (bass, backing vocals) and Kyle Gilbert (drums/backing vocals). The guys released a fine debut album Fortress Storm Attack in late 2014, and followed up two years later with the monumental Nobody’s Hero (which I reviewed in July 2017). They’re now set to release their third album Glorifed on June 21st via No Pants Records.

Like Nobody’s Hero, Glorified is another concept album. Band drummer Gilbert explains, “The heroine of the story is a woman named Gloria. She was raised to be the best soldier of her generation, and ends up fleeing her oppressive hometown and reluctantly helping people as she traverses a post-apocalyptic wasteland in search of answers about her past. The story is similar to other stories like the latest Mad Max and Alita Battle Angel.”

Eye of the Needle” kicks off the album in a big way with an onslaught of chugging, gnarly riffs. crushing bass and tumultuous percussion. As Tashima shreds his guitar nearly to bits, he fervently sings the lyrics spoken from Gloria’s perspective, in which she comes to the realization that she can’t take any more of the oppressive bullshit she’s been living under: “I’m always such a good little soldier, following your every command./ But I don’t need this anymore./ Cause now I see just how sweet it is to be living free of all your drama and your sorrow. I don’t know why it took so long to go. But I’m finally looking forward to tomorrow.” He then lays down a scorching-hot riff while Gilbert beats the crap out of his drum kit. These guys know how to rock!

Next up is the hard-driving “Ragged Town“, which sees Gloria bitterly decrying her town and the people who live in it: “One day you’ll see reality lies somewhere out beyond this ragged town./I hate you now, I always will. You’re like the ones I love to kill. But tonight you’ll be my clown. Something’s wrong, something’s amiss. I don’t know why I feel like this, but burning scars have worn me down.” The guys deliver more of their signature furious riffs and aggressive rhythms, providing a thunderous backdrop for Tashima’s impassioned tirade.

They slow things down a bit on “Broken Ecstasy“, though it’s still a great rock track. We now find Gloria addressing her broken spirit, not knowing exactly what’s next for her, nor where she’ll go: “Don’t ask where I’m going to go. I said that I do not know. Don’t analyze or fantasize. Just relax and enjoy the show./ Be sure that you comprehend there is no goal, I have no soul. On that you can depend. I don’t want to see your face. We’re all just a big disgrace.

The guys dial it back up to full throttle on “Liberty’s End“, with chugging riffs of fuzzy guitars, heavy bass and speaker-blowing drums. Gloria laments about her shitty world and wanting to escape both it and herself: “Don’t you know the world cannot be saved. With good deeds the road to hell is paved. I just want to live my life for me, and wallow in my pit of apathy. Hello, I’m running from liberty’s end.” Brian makes great use of the talk box in the bridge, providing another texture of sound to the track. The amusing video shows the guys’ playful side, as they act zany in scenes of them running a race, interspersed with them performing the song in a garage.

Gilbert’s fantastic pummeling drums are a highlight on “The Last Trigger“. Wow, this man is a beast on his drum kit, giving new meaning to the term “power drummer”! Tashima’s scorching guitar and Downs’ powerful bass are pretty damn amazing too, as are their vocal harmonies. “Shiny Rebellion” sees Gloria confronting her oppressors and vowing to lead the fight to defeat them: “See I know that underneath your fancy crown, is a skull that’s full of nothing but decay. So I go, cause I can’t take this lying down. I’m a leader in the war against your way.”

The guys continue on their sonic rampage with the hard-driving “Into the Ruins“, in which Gloria assesses the wasteland before her: “Welcome to the ruins of a paradise gone wrong”, and the dark”Desolation“, with its tortured riffs, grinding bass and blasting drumbeats. Tashima snarls the bitter lyrics spoken from Gloria’s point of view: “And I don’t care how much you might stare now. It doesn’t matter anymore. No. Cause I don’t care now!” “More Than I Can Give” starts off like a heavy metal ballad, then explodes into a storm of frantic riffs and rapid-fire drumbeats, with a melody that reminds me a bit of Green Day’s “Bang Bang”.

On “Long Road Home” Tashima really shows us what he can do with his guitar, delivering killer riffs that set the airwaves afire, while Downs aptly lays down a bass line so heavy we feel it in our cores. And it goes without saying that Gilbert nearly blows our speakers with his frenzied drumming. The lyrics speak to Gloria’s determination to stand up and fight in her lonely mission to defeat the evil forces: “When this all started I fled and I ran. Now I must finish what they all began. I understand your master plan. Nothing can stop me when I’m all alone. I’m going home to claim your throne.” “Death and Glory” is a continuation of Gloria’s plan to vanquish her oppressors once and for all: “Now this time you’ve gone too far. It doesn’t matter where you are. I’ll be coming after you. You won’t even have a clue./Cause I am here to end your story. Drown your fear in death and glory. Close your eyes, this might get gory tonight!

They close the saga and album with “Some Of Us Were Meant To Be Alone“, an eight and a half minute long epic that ties things up without an actual resolution or happy ending. To a somber, gritty guitar riff, Tashima sadly wails: “There’s nothing left to say. I don’t know why it has to be this way. There’s nowhere left to go. I didn’t think that time would fly so slow. I hate to say the answer’s still unknown. Why some of us were meant to be alone. I’m giving up it’s true. Sometimes that’s all I ever want to do. I know it isn’t fair. I wish I could forget I even care.” At around 3:40, Tashima begins shredding his guitar and Gilbert pummels his drums at full blast to the same forlorn, start-stop melody as before.  Then, at 5:39, the song erupts into a fury of shredded and distorted guitars, pulsating bass and hammering drums that continue to the end. It’s a breathtaking finale to another monumental album from this badass band!

Track listing:
Eye of the Needle
Ragged Town
Broken Ecstasy
Liberty’s End
The Last Trigger
Shiny Rebellion
Into The Ruins
Desolation
More Than I Can Give
Long Road Home
Death And Glory
Some Of Us Were Meant To Be Alone

Here is a link to the email list sign up that will provide a free download to the full Glorified album:

https://t.co/dqu9CcdeGF?amp=1

Connect with Second Player Score: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Steam their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation
Purchase: Bandcamp / iTunes

IGNITE THE FIRE – Single Review: “Echoes”

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Alternative metal band Ignite the Fire play some of the most electrifying rock I’ve had the pleasure of hearing recently. Based in the state of Maryland northwest of Baltimore, the band was formed in 2011 by guitarist Mark Quinn and drummer Caelan Gregory while they were still both in high school. Their phenomenal vocalist Jack Gurecki joined a short time later after responding to a flyer put out by the band looking for a singer, and was soon joined by a second guitarist Michael Nelson, who serves as the band’s resident “unclean” vocalist for their harder-edge songs. The fifth and newest band member is the amazing bassist Holly Smith, who came on board in 2017.

That same year, Ignite the Fire released their debut EP Trial and Triumph, an outstanding work featuring their hard-hitting single “Criticize”, which was named 2017 Song of the Year by Z98 and iHeartRadio. They followed up in late November 2018 with a second EP Between Shadows and Solace, featuring six mind-blowing tracks. “This whole EP is about what it means to be human,” says band drummer Caelan Gregory. “We don’t want to just connect with listeners on a musical level, but an emotional one as well, and in doing that we hope to connect with people in a real and significant way.” Guitarist Mark Quinn adds “The title ‘Between Shadow and Solace’ speaks for itself. We are writing about battling the darkness but also about the hope that is there. You see that in the world we live in. There’s this feeling of dread and darkness around us but also there’s hope.

In April, they released an outstanding video for “Echoes“, one of the most popular tracks from the EP that strongly resonated with their fans and followers. The video shows scenes of a man returning to an empty house he once occupied with his significant other, and remembering past moments they shared in better times, interspersed with scenes of the band performing the song. At the end of the video, he sees her standing on the beach, and runs toward her, only to disappear just before reaching her. We’re left to determine the scene’s meaning for ourselves, but my take is that it’s too late to salvage the relationship, and he can no longer reach her, literally and figuratively. The video was directed by Tom Flynn and stars Jimmy Donohue and Kris Doscher.

“Echoes” is a stunning rock anthem, starting off with a gentle melodic synth and strummed guitar line. The song then expands in the first verse with jangly guitars, strings, keyboards, and crisp percussion as Jack begins singing in his beautiful, clear vocals. When the first chorus arrives, Holly’s deep bassline melds seamlessly with Mike’s guitar riff into a thunderous mix, accompanied by Caelan’s power drums that send the song into the sonic stratosphere. Jack’s commanding vocals – which have been favorably compared to Shinedown frontman Brent Smith’s –  rise to the occasion, bringing chills as he passionately sings the deeply poignant lyrics:

Cause I fear that I’m right
But I pray that I’m wrong
I’ll echo this silence
And I won’t let go
You left me uncertain
Don’t leave me alone
I’ll search through the darkness
And I won’t let go

The band just released a ‘Behind the Song’ video where they discuss their process and inspiration for the writing of “Echoes”.

Since 2018, Ignite the Fire has performed on numerous stages, supporting the bands Otherwise, Shaman’s Harvest, BadWolves, From Ashes To New and Diamante via Live Nation.  This year they provided direct support to Stone Horses and Another Lost Year, and headlined shows in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Those of you in the Middle Atlantic region can catch them at one of these upcoming shows. I would love to see them along with another one of my favorite bands The Mayan Factor, but alas, live 3,000 miles away.

SAT JUNE 8  –  ROCK FOR ROB! 2019 @ KC’s Music Alley, Fredericksburg, VA

FRI JUNE 14  –  With Stone Horses, The Mayan Factor, After the Broken @ Fish Head Cantina, Baltimore, MD

FRI-SAT JUNE 22-23  –  With Defending Cain, Seventh Seal @ Break Away II Sports Lounge, Hagerstown, MD

Connect with Ignite the Fire:  Website / Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Reverbnation
Purchase on iTunes / Amazon

Concert Review – THE HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES

I hate to admit it, but I really didn’t know much about supergroup Hollywood Vampires until a few days ago, when a friend asked me if I wanted to go with her to see them perform at one of the local casinos. I knew that Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp were in the band, but not much else. I’m so glad I went, because they put on a fantastic show!

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For those as unaware as I was, Hollywood Vampires was formed in 2015 by rock legends Alice Cooper and Joe Perry (lead guitarist of Aerosmith), and actor Johnny Depp to honor the music of the rock stars who died from excessive lifestyles in the 1970s. The band name comes from the drinking club called The Hollywood Vampires that was created by Cooper in the early 1970s. The club, which besides Cooper included such rock legends as Elton John, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, Harry Nilsson and Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees, used to meet at the famed Rainbow Bar & Grill on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. Their main objective was to drink until no one could stand up. Thankfully, Cooper and the other surviving members eventually cleaned up their act and are alive and well today.

Hollywood Vampires just completed a brief Spring Tour, which began in Las Vegas on May 10, and ended last night (Saturday, May 18) at the Fantasy Springs Resort & Casino in Indio, California (30 miles SE of Palm Springs). They were the only act on the bill, so we didn’t have to sit through any opening acts. They appeared on stage around 8:15 pm and played their asses off for nearly two hours, proving that age is only a number (Cooper is 71, Perry 68 and Depp will turn 56 in June). It was nice seeing a band where most of the members are older than me for a change LOL!

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Along with Cooper, Perry and Depp, the other touring band members included Chris Wyse on bass, Tommy Henriksen on rhythm guitar, Buck Johnson on keyboards and Glen Sobel on drums. They’re all seasoned musicians who played as a tight unit, and clearly enjoyed themselves on stage. Their infectious energy easily transferred to the audience.

They played a mix of classic songs and covers, original songs from their 2015 debut album Hollywood Vampires, and five new songs from their forthcoming second album Rise (set for release on June 21st), opening with “I Want My Now” from the new album. They followed with the head-banging “Raise the Dead” from their 2015 album, and now had the audience nicely worked up. Even though I wasn’t familiar with those first two songs, I was really digging them big time!

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Alice Cooper in action

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Joe Perry working his magic

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Is there anything Johnny Depp cannot do?

Cooper was very engaging, and talked with the audience a bit between songs, doing a bit of reminiscing as he introduced some of the old songs. Some of the highlights for me were their covers of the Doors’ “Break on Through (to the other side)”, Aerosmiths’ “Sweet Emotion”, The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” (during which drummer Glen Sobel blew us away with a phenomenal drum solo), and David Bowie’s “Heroes”, in which Johnny Depp did great justice to Bowie’s memory by doing a fantastic job singing lead vocals. He’s really a fine vocalist; I loved his singing in the film musical “Sweeney Todd”, and I think he’s also pretty good at singing rock too.

Here’s a terrific video of the band performing “Heroes” that was shot by Joe Schaeffer, a photographer/videographer who also happened to be at the concert, and has graciously allowed me to include it in this review.

And here’s some footage of the band performing “Baba O’Riley”, showcasing Sobel’s amazing drum solo. I apologize for the poor quality of the sound on my video.

Among the other new songs they performed from Rise was “The Boogieman Surprise” a great, hard-driving track. Here’s the official video of the band performing the song at another show:

The guys kept playing song after song with scarcely a break, finally ending with their cover of Tiny Bradshaw’s “The Train Kept A-Rollin'”, then walked off stage. The crowd applauded wildly and repeatedly yelled “oncore!” To our collective delight, the band returned to finish off with another new song “We Gotta Rise”, and a rousing medley of the crowd-pleasing Cooper classic “School’s Out” and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”. It was an awesome show, and we all left happy.

Set List
1.  I Want My Now
2.  Raise the Dead
3.  As Bad As I Am
4.  Five to One / Break On Through (to the Other Side) (The Doors cover)
5.  The Jack (AC/DC cover)
6.  Who’s Laughing Now
7.  The Boogieman Surprise
8.  You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory (Johnny Thunders cover)
9.  My Dead Drunk Friends
10. Baba O’Riley (The Who cover)
11. Sweet Emotion (Aerosmith cover)
12. Heroes (David Bowie cover)
13. Git From Round Me
14. I’m Eighteen (Alice Cooper cover)
15. People Who Died (The Jim Carroll Band cover)
16. The Train Kept A-Rollin’ (Tiny Bradshaw cover)

Encore:
17. We Gotta Rise
18. School’s Out / Another Brick in the Wall