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”

Ignite the Fire2

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

SHADOW OF EVEREST – Album Review: “The Hunting Ground”

Shadow of Everest album art

Shadow of Everest is a Canadian progressive groove metal band hailing from the beautiful city of Halifax, Nova Scotia. (I recently featured another Nova Scotia artist, singer/songwriter Guy Paul Thibault.) Formed in 2014, the band’s line-up includes guitarist/vocalist John Vriend, bassist Shaun Cowell, guitarist Andew Welsman and drummer Matt Burton. Influenced by some of their favorite hard rock bands Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Machine Head, Mastodon, Tool and Karnivool, they play an arresting and innovative style of metal rock, featuring intelligent lyrics penned by Vriend and delivered with unconventional melodies, wicked riffs, driving bass lines and pummeling drums.

Shadow of Everest2

They released an impressive debut album Idle Hands in 2017, and this past March, dropped their sophomore album The Hunting Ground, which I’m reviewing today. As the album’s title suggests, the songs generally speak to the darker, feral nature inherent in each of us to some degree. Similar to their first album, The Hunting Ground opens with an intriguing instrumental track “Umm al-Maa”. Wondering what it might mean, I did a Google search and found it translates to “mother of water” in Berber Arabic, and is also the name of one of several lake oases in the Idehan Ubari Sand Sea located in the Sahara Desert of southwestern Libya. The music on this brief track consists of strummed guitar, delicate piano keys and what I’m guessing to be a cello, accompanied by sounds of wind and water that beautifully convey the sense of mystery and wonder of a remote oasis. The dark irony is that the water in these oases is too salty to drink. John commented “Imagine being lost in the desert and finding that oasis, and then drinking the salty water would be your demise.

They next launch into “Fifty Four”, serving up chugging riffs of gnarly guitars over a foundation of buzzing bass and hammering drumbeats, and punctuated by flourishes of distortion. Vriend’s commanding vocals express a raw urgency as he sings about feelings of hopelessness and ennui: “Substituting for a lack of stimulation. Seeking out the offspring of my mind. Beneath consciousness there’s desperation that fits nicely into my design.” The title track “The Hunting Ground” at first sounds almost like a continuation of “Fifty Four”, with a similar melody and chord progression, but the killer guitar solos in the bridge and outro turn it into an especially satisfying track. Vriend passionately sings the lyrics that seem to speak to the age-old notion of survival of the fittest – ‘kill or be killed”: “Hear that wild call. Smoke them out. Rise or fall. Become what you fear.”

Here’s a great video of the guys performing the song live.

One of the highlights of the album for me is the gorgeous “We Are Wrong”. I usually like when metal and hard rock bands show their softer side with a slow ballad, and Shadow of Everest are no exception here. I love the haunting melody, outstanding guitar work, and especially the sublime vocal harmonies of Vriend and guest singer Erin Crosby. Guest musician Lex Coulstring played keyboards on this lovely track. The message expressed in the lyrics seem to be that “ignorance is bliss”: “And the moments became too many. Time keeps passing on. One day we understand. The next day we are wrong.”

“Castle in the Sky” is hard-driving metal rock at its finest, with rock’n’roll overtones and more of the raging guitars this band so nicely delivers.  This song seems to be about needing to be rescued from a life of degradation and despair: “Couldn’t see the splendor from the underground. There was no will to satisfy. Pull me out of the loss and the ruin. Those broken pieces will build our castle in the sky.” The aptly-named “Dark Spiral” dives deeper into progressive metal, with interesting melodic transitions and greater use of dissonance in the song structure, not to mention fearsome riffs and Cowell’s crushing bass. Vriend’s impassioned vocals are almost chilling as he wails “How does it feel to be spinning on a tangible wave of magnificence? As an ignorant drone, completely unaware and obsessed with your own insignificance.”

The guys unleash their sonic fury on “Ravenman”, the most metal-esque (is that a word?) track on the album and another one of its highlights. It’s a monumental six minute, 49-second-long tour de force of rampaging riffs, buzzsaw bass and Burton’s speaker-blowing drums.  The hardcore backing vocals are sung by Lex Coulstring. Thought I’m not certain, my take is that ‘Ravenman’ represents the devil, or at least the inherent evil that each of us is capable of: “I know the nightmares, what they mean. What you should fear, the shadows in your head, the violence in your hand. Be not a patron to the failures of the damned.” It’s a fantastic song.

They close things out with “The River”, another epic track that seems to be about the end of the world: “The earth is parting and the vultures fly. Statues crumble while the pharaohs die. What glory lies beyond the river’s flow? We’re unaware how far this shadow goes.” As always, Vriend and Welsman deliver scorching riffs while Cowell and Burton confidently maintain the aggressive rhythm section. It’s a strong finish to a solid album of heavy hitters. The guys are all highly accomplished musicians who now have two outstanding albums on their impressive resume. I trust we’ll be hearing more great music from them in the future.

Connect with Shadow of Everest:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on  Spotify
Purchase on  Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

HEIST AT FIVE – Single Review: “Falling With Style”

Heist at Five Falling With Style2

When I last featured the wickedly talented and undeniably charismatic UK band Heist at Five on this blog in October 2018, they had released their fantastic single “Finish What You Started”. I reviewed the song and also interviewed the band, which you can read here.  Based in London, but with an international pedigree, the electro/hard rock collective plays an aggressive, innovative style of alternative rock that borders on experimental, with complex melodies, intricate chord progressions and brilliant electronic and guitar-heavy instrumentation. Making the music are Oskar Abrahamsson (vocals), Jozef Veselsky (guitar), Marco “Fuzz” Paone (bass) and Josh Needham (drums), with assistance from production guru Kim Björnram. They released their impressive debut EP The Blacklist in early 2018 (which I also reviewed), and now return with an exciting and introspective new single “Falling With Style“, and it’s one of their best songs yet.

The band states “the song is about fully embracing the idea of failure and finding comfort in it”, and it’s message is delivered with a glorious soundscape of elaborate instrumentation and sounds. Jozef is an amazing guitarist, dazzling our senses with incredibly intricate riffs and spine-tingling power chords. Marco and Josh keep the rhythm with a deep, throbbing bass line and powerful drums, backed by swirling moody synths and otherworldly but beautiful electronically-enhanced soaring choruses.

Oskar’s fervent vocals are spectacular, raising goosebumps as they go from sultry purr to tender falsetto to emotionally wrought wails as he sings:

Now we’re fighting for our life just to get our balance back
How we see the world shakes, under attack
The sky is caving as its weighing down these skinny legs
We’re slowly getting close to the edge

It’s all been shattered, torn apart
Burnt to pieces, right from the start
It all falls
But does it matter, for us at all
When all you need is, to fall with style

The song has been translated into a brilliant and surreal video that tells the story of a young woman who sees moments of her life in flashbacks, which ends up changing her perspective about life, and in the process breaks her old pattern of decision making. The video was written, directed and edited by Oskar, and filmed by James Kiberu at IPuzzle Digital Media Video. The woman was played by Anoushka Rava, and the lead girl by Julie Rabesahala.

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

PHANTOM SUNS – Album Review: “Caldera”

Phantom Suns album

Based in the bucolic New England city of Burlington, Vermont, Phantom Suns is an indie band who play alternative rock heavily influenced by grunge elements, with traces of metal and progressive rock to create their distinctive raw sound. The band consists of Seth Gunderson (guitar & vocals), Chris Knauer (bass & backing vocals) and Chris Mathieu (drums, percussion & backing vocals). Ryan Cohen previously played bass but was recently replaced by Chris Knauer, however, Cohen will continue to provide production and engineering assistance to the band. 

I’ll admit up-front that I’m not the biggest fan of grunge rock, and didn’t care for it when it became popular in the early 1990s. I generally prefer rock music that’s highly melodic, with fuller, more polished arrangements, and just couldn’t get into the dissonant, sludgy and rather depressing sound of grunge. In time, however, I came to recognize and appreciate its groundbreaking influence in reshaping the sound of rock, and music in general, and learned to like some of it. I also get why its honest lyrics and darker themes addressing social issues like alienation, disillusionment, substance abuse and depression, along with its lack of flash, pretense and overt sentimentality, made grunge so popular and accessible, especially to young people who more closely identified with the messages expressed in the songs. Like rap, grunge music reflected what many of them were feeling.

That said, it was with a bit of trepidation that I agreed to review Phantom Suns’ album Caldera after their drummer Chris Mathieu reached out to me. Though I am EclecticMusicLover, and try to always keep an open mind about all kinds and styles of music, I feared I may not be the right person to judge their music. But I gave the album several listens and am happy to report that not only do I really like it, I’m also blown away by their skilled songwriting and musicianship. And as much as I like their raw, gritty sound, it’s their intelligent and compelling song lyrics, written by Gunderson, that most impressed me. I’m glad they included them with the songs on their Bandcamp page, and I encourage my readers to check them out.

Caldera was released in November 2018, and follows the band’s 2014 debut EP Parhelia. The album features 12 tracks, the first of which, “Forget“, starts off slowly with a moody strummed guitar, then erupts into a barrage of gnarly riffs, buzzing bass and hammering drums. Gunderson’s raw vocals match the grittiness of the music as he advises us to not overthink things: “Searching for the key to unlock all your potential when you don’t know what you think. But what you think you know is only your opinion. Soon as I make up my mind, I’ll be all set. Maybe start chipping away at all this debt. Stop regretting things that haven’t happened yet ’cause you never know.

It’s a good song, but the guys really hit their stride on the hard-driving, melodically complex “Lazuli“. The track storms out of the gate with dark, sludgy riffs loaded with raw power and grit. Two-thirds of the way through, a furiously distorted guitar solo announces an abrupt change in the melody. With his grimy guitar ablaze, Gunderson snarls “You don’t have a clue but you fake it so well.

One of the standout tracks for me is “Disposable“, both in terms of it’s more melodic, progressive rock vibe, and it’s scathing lyrics attacking man’s greedy, wasteful ways that imperil our future: “Watch your castle crumble all around you. Just because you want more than you can handle. Disposable culture. Blatant disregard for the future. You’re disposable.” The video they made for the track is fantastic too, a psychedelic trip of colorful imagery superimposed over footage of the band performing the song that nicely complements the rough textures of the instrumentals.

As I continued diving deeper into Caldera, some of the tracks sound similar to one another, which is to be expected on an album with 12 tracks. Nevertheless, there are many more gems to be found here. I really dig the metaphor of “Knotweed“, symbolizing someone the singer just can’t rid himself of: “You just keep sprouting up. You return even though I dug you right up by the roots. Invasive foliage. I wage an all-out war. You’ve clearly overstepped the boundary. Can’t eradicate you. You’re so damn resilient.” And the heavy chugging guitar riffs, fuzzy bassline and boisterous drums are as dirty as the soil from which the knotweed’s been pulled. “Probably Wrong” ventures into rock’n’roll territory, with moments where Gunderson’s raging guitar and Mathieu’s frantic drumbeats propel the song into the sonic stratosphere.

Another standout is the face-melting “Trial By Stone“, an homage to Jim Henson’s classic film The Dark Crystal. As is befitting the film, the song is heavy and dark, with dense, gritty riffs teeming with distortion and reverb, deep, crushing bass and thunderous drums. Gunderson’s guitar work is fucking incredible, and Mathieu is a veritable beast on his drum kit. Gunderson’s vocals are chilling as he sneers “A dying world. A dying race imprisoned within themselves.” The video superimposes scenes from The Dark Crystal over footage of the band performing the song.

Perpetual Motion Holder“, “Hush Money” and “Brontoscorpio” deliver more gnarly riffs, fuzzy basslines and speaker-blowing drums. “It Won’t Stop” is a serious head-banger, opening with Gunderson shrieking words I can’t quite make out, followed by an explosion of raging guitars, heavy buzzing bass and furious drums. Gunderson all but screams the lyrics advising us to just accept our fates: “Your best bet is to just accept it. A warm welcome as it explodes. There’s no hope of getting out of the way. The kind of fury that can never be tamed. It will envelop, it will engulf, entirely. No! It won’t stop!

The album closes on a high note with the mostly instrumental “Olympus Mons“, an epic track that offers definitive proof that these guys are supremely talented musicians. The track starts off with a somber guitar riff, then a simple drumbeat kicks in as the guys sing in harmony: “One of these days I’ll write some words.” With that, a very gritty, reverb-drenched riff ensues before calming back down for the second harmonic vocal: “I was so bummed out. Another Olympus Mons.” The gritty guitar and bass return, only this time distorted into a maelstrom of tortured riffs, accompanied by an abundance of crashing cymbals that add to the drama. Eventually, a wailing guitar solo is layered over the stormy distortion, blowing our minds and speakers before it all spirals downward into oblivion at the close. Wow, what a masterpiece this song is, and a fitting conclusion to this superb album by Phantom Suns. If you’re a fan of grunge-infused alternative rock, then you will enjoy Caldera.

Phantom Suns has a show coming up on on April 19 at Monkey House in Winooski, VT.

Connect with Phantom Suns on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify 
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

The Only Route [TOR] – Single Review: “Not Worth It”

The Only Route2

British alternative indie rock band The Only Route (also known as TOR) play some of the most exciting guitar-driven rock around, slicing through the airwaves with razor-sharp riffs, thunderous percussion and addictive melodies. Hailing from Lowestoft, England, TOR 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, the most recent of which was the scorching-hot “Made”, which I reviewed upon it’s release in January 2018. Now they return with a powerhouse new single “Not Worth It“, which drops today.

The song is a giant kiss-off to someone who’s exhausted everyone’s patience. To drive home their point, the guys lay down aggressive riffs of gnarly guitars, anchored by a pulsating bass line and pummeling drumbeats. They’re all excellent musicians who are quite skilled with their respective instruments. The interplay between Robby and Ryan’s guitars and Andy’s bass in the bridge is fantastic, and to my ears channels a bit of a Jack White vibe from both a melodic and technical standpoint. I love Ryan’s distinctive rapid-fire vocals and strong accent as he chastises the trouble-making jerk: “We all know you by now. You’re just causing shit. You’re not worth it! You’re definitely not worth it, mate!

“Not Worth It” is a great song, and another in a series of strong singles from this talented young band.

 

The band has a busy tour schedule in the coming week, and those of you in the UK can catch them at one of these shows:

TOR March Tour

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

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