THREEFOLD MAZE – Album Review: “Dollar of Dust”

Dollar of Dust

Threefold Maze is an indie progressive metal/hard rock band based in Fort Worth, Texas. Formed by long-time friends Doug Whittenberg and Mike Smith, who originally called their fledgling band Aura Caelestis, they released a respectable self-titled album in 2010. Moving forward, as they state in their bio: “it was decided that the next album needed more production, better gear, and a much better name.” After an exhaustive name search, they decided upon Threefold Maze, and spent several years writing and recording songs for their debut album Dollar of Dust. Regarding the album title, Mike explained that it’s “the approximate value of all the stuff in the human body – if dried up. Kinda morbid but sounded cool.” Indeed it does!

Dollar of Dust was released in July 2016, and it’s an ambitious work containing 12 tracks and running an hour in length. Both Doug and Mike played guitar and keyboards on the album and Doug also played bass and provided the lead vocals, while Mike sang backup. Doug’s son Derek Whittenberg was recruited to play drums, and Caitlin Smith provided guest vocals on some of the tracks. The album was self-produced by Threefold Maze, and mastered by Mika Jussila at Finnvox Studios in Helsinki, Finland. The band chose Mika based on his work with other bands that fall into the same genre, and the wide-open dynamic sound he delivered that they wanted for Dollar of Dust.

Threefold Maze

I’ve given the album multiple listens and discover another melody, lyric or instrumental nuance each and every time. It’s truly monumental in scope – the kind of album Styx, Boston and Dream Theater would create if they combined their talents and music styles. (In fact, to my ears, Doug’s vocals are reminiscent of Dennis DeYoung.)

From the ominous heavy sounds and eerie tinkling piano at the beginning of the opening track “Phear,” it’s clear we’re about to hear some amazing music, and Threefold Maze does not disappoint. They deliver an onslaught of blistering, razor-sharp guitar riffs, thunderous percussion and soaring harmonizing vocals. Toss in some amazing keyboards and exuberant orchestral synths, and we’ve got songs of incredible complexity and depth. This is strongly evident on “Hope,” one of the many standouts on Dollar of Dust. The guitar solo at the bridge is mind-blowing.

Many of their song lyrics address the search for meaning and purpose in life, and the challenges we face in finding our own truth. With pummeling bass and guitars blazing, the hard-hitting “To Visit the Darkness” tackles this head on:

Speculation about the world around me.
Never knowing what might be found.
I try to find my way.
Struggles of the mind are great.
Love and fear and often hate permeate my thoughts and take control.

The guys serve up more killer riffs and pulse-pounding drums on the melodic tracks “Lost My Way” and “Frozen in Time.” In fact, the brilliant “Frozen in Time” is pretty darn close to being a perfect progressive metal anthem, and is my favorite track on the album.

Next up is the beautiful instrumental interlude “Caelestial Intermission,” a nod to the band’s previous name and album. This track is loaded with magnificent guitar work and mesmerizing synths, and is another one of my favorites. The relative calm is abruptly shattered by the pummeling heavy metal sounds of “Vacant Eyes.” At 2:30, the song shifts to a soothing 30-second interlude featuring keyboards, sweeping synths, and the sublime guest vocals of Caitlin Smith, before the metal riffs return for the outro. Caitlin appears again on “If I” and the epic “What Truth,” a seven and half minute long tour de force of rhythmic shifts, chord change ups, hammering percussion, buzzing bass lines, intriguing synths, mindbending guitar work and lovely vocal harmonies. The track is so melodically and musically complex that it has the feel of a mini rock opera.

At this point, one would think the guys would begin to run out of steam, but nothing could be further from the truth. Their phenomenal musicianship continues to shine on “Beyond the Grey” and “This Moment Calling,” another standout track with jaw-dropping power riffs. The fantastic hard-driving “Neverwake” is a reworking of a track that originally appeared on Aura Caelestis, and a fitting closer to a superb album.

Connect with Threefold Maze:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music on  Spotify / Soundcloud

Purchase on  iTunes / Amazon / Bandcamp / cdbaby

DEAD ON ARRIVAL – EP Review: “Chasing Tides”

It’s back to the UK to shine my spotlight on metal rock band Dead On Arrival. The Derbyshire four-piece was formed in 2011, and consists of Jack Dughan (Lead Vocals & Rhythm Guitar), Ben Calver (Lead Guitar & Backing Vocals), Connor Woodward (Bass) and George Lathbury (Drums). Drawing on influences from some of their favorite bands such as Metallica, Machine Head, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Asking Alexandria and Bring Me The Horizon, the guys make aggressive rock that’s melodic, raw and in-your-face. As they state on their Facebook bio, “Our passion is to write, produce and release our own music and then play it live and LOUD.

Dead on Arrival
Photo by Pete Key

Dead On Arrival released a full length debut album From the Ashes in 2016, and now return with a terrific EP Chasing Tides, which dropped on August 18. The EP delivers four scorching tracks that clearly demonstrate the band’s growth, both in songwriting and musicianship. Their song lyrics address themes of dysfunction and betrayal within ourselves, our relationships and our government leaders, and their ferocious instrumentals perfectly convey the strong feelings expressed in the lyrics.

Chasing Tides

Vulture in the Waves,” released as a single in late 2016, kicks things off with an onslaught of shredded guitars, powerful throbbing bass and pounding drums – all hallmarks of the band’s hard-hitting sound. Dughan wails the lyrics that speak of someone wracked with guilt and tormented by his actions:

Oh I’m the vulture in the waves
Chasing tides to escape my mistakes
Because I couldn’t live on
Knowing what I’ve done
And I hide in the shadows
It’s the only way to survive

Hammering drums and blazing riffs continue unabated on the hard-driving “Inside” and “Corrupted World.” Calver’s shredded and distorted guitars are mind-blowing, and the bass so heavy I felt it in my core. On the latter track, Dughan implores, “This is a final call. We will stand tall and fight against this corruption.”

As if the first three tracks aren’t aggressive enough, the guys unleash their full sonic arsenal on the bombastic “Sickening Thing.” The frantic guitar riffs rain down like thunderbolts, and Lathbury attacks his drums like a wild beast, nearly blowing out the speakers – and my ear drums! Woodward lays down a face-melting bass line, and Dughans’ fiery vocals match the brutal music note for note. It’s my favorite of the four tracks, and really shows what these guys are capable of.

Connect with Dead on Arrival:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music on  Spotify and purchase on iTunes

MEN WITHOUT ARMIES – EP Review: “Strapped & Loaded”

Men Without Armies is a hard rocking, guitar-driven metal band based in Nashville, Tennessee. The band was formed in 2013 by Canadian guitarist/composer/producer Brennan Dylan, and now includes lyricist Dude Diablo and drummer Derek Bachtold. The band is set to release their new EP Strapped & Loaded on July 20, 2017.

Before I get into my review of their EP, I want to provide a little background on the band and its founding member Brennan Dylan. Born in Vancouver, B.C., raised in Ottawa and then Toronto, he’s had a love and aptitude for music since early childhood. He began playing sax and composing music at the age of 10, and performed classical, jazz & swing in school stage bands. In his bio, Dylan states “When I was 14 I picked up a guitar for the first time; it was like I’d inherited freedom. My high school music teacher told me that guitar wasn’t an instrument. I ignored him and studied rock/metal guitar for the first year.

Brennan D as boy

He wrote rock and metal songs and, while still in high school, performed jazz, rock & blues improv guitar at a local club. He branched out and studied everything from Motorhead to Dick Dale to Bach. He was in a surf band one summer, then moved into electronic music, which he incorporated into hard rock/metal compositions. He eventually moved to Boston to study Performance Guitar at Berklee College of Music, then headed west to LA where he played the Sunset Strip as a solo artist, performing with some major acts, including Michael Angelo Batio, DeathRiders and Gorillaz at the Whisky a GoGo.

In 2010, Dylan released his first self-produced CD Bullet Ride, followed two years later by Broken Glass, which received positive reviews and radio play, including a CBS Radio interview and press in Performer Magazine, NME & Guitar World. In 2013, he dropped his third CD Raining in Berlin. Still restless, he relocated to New York City that same year, where he formed Men Without Armies, about which he explained:

That simple 3 man band was the formula I’d been searching for in the trees rather than the forest. Pure rippin’ metal has been coursing through my veins since I first picked up a guitar. My adventures to incorporate every genre that has a beat into my metal compositions was very necessary and still is. I want to study it all but most of all I want to become a better guitar player and composer. By straying from the herd I think that I can accomplish that…no one has a monopoly on anything, even a flat tire kicks off a beat. I may not like all music genres but I’ve always been able to find great guitar players and/or composers in all I’ve studied.

brennan dylan

Men Without Armies released their debut self-titled EP in 2014, and followed up in 2016 with Walking Through Fire. The band won the prestigious IMEA (International Music and Entertainment Association) award for Best Metal Group in October 2016. They’re now based in Nashville, and ready to drop their third EP Strapped & Loaded next month.

Dylan states that the songs on Strapped & Loaded took more than a year to create and, in the process, he literally became a ‘man without an army’ after the band’s original drummer and bass player/vocalist abruptly quit to follow other pursuits. He had written 53 new songs, which he whittled down to 20 and finally 12 that he fully developed into complete works. With his drummer and bassist now departed, Dylan played all instruments but drums (guitar, bass, keyboards and synths) and hired a session drummer for recording of the songs, as their time at Vibe Studio had already been booked. The vocals were sung by Vibe Studio owner Johnny Burke.

Dylan and Diablo eventually landed Derek Bachtold as their new drummer, and they’re currently recruiting for a new bassist/vocalist. They decided that Strapped & Loaded will now be a six-song EP instead of a 12 song album. But they also recorded the remaining six songs without vocals. Those six instrumentals have been amped with searing guitar solos which have become their trademark and something their fans have come to expect, so they will also be released as a follow up EP to be called Strapped & ReLoaded once they have a new vocalist on board to sing the lyrics.

About the new EP, Dylan explains: “Strapped & Loaded speaks about our times, and three of the songs have a military theme. The song “Strapped & Loaded” is the single and has a double meaning. Dude also wrote it to help give my mom strength and courage to battle her cancer. “Crash ‘n Burn” is all about Vegas. The title for “Fast Life in Hollywood” says it all. “The Gun Show” was written to help bring more awareness of living life inside of our inner cities, to those living the great life in places like Man Hat Tan – grab a coat, got a plane to catch, see ya man.”

Track listing:
1. The Desert Haunts Me
2. The Gun Show
3. Strapped & Loaded
4. Crash ‘n Burn
5. Fast Life in Hollywood
6. A Day in The Life

The Desert Haunts Me” kicks things off with a rousing, hard-driving beat and killer riffs. “It’s the trigger that sets me free. The trigger that sets me free. Bang bang bang bang. Brings the bullets right out of me. The bullets right out of me. Bang bang bang bang. Forced to kill. Enough to thrill. The desert haunts me.” “The Gun Show” ramps up the energy with a frantic beat and awesome rapid-fire riffs that really show off Dylan’s amazing guitar playing skills. The in-your-face lyrics speak to the endless bloodshed of gang violence: “Welcome to the gun show baby, with bullets flying. We’re all locked and loaded, spilling blood with people dying. Welcome to the gun show, and no one’s keeping count. It keeps rising, and rising and rising and rising.

Dylan unleashes his sonic weaponry on the title track “Strapped & Loaded,” with scorching hot riffs that do justice to the intense lyrics that describe the band’s mission and also Dylan’s mother’s battle with cancer. In his gritty vocals, Burke snarls: “Crashing through the gates, a burning hell. Never quit, always with horns up, never ring the bell. Punching stars, we’re rippin’ metal. This is our story for us to tell. Strapped & loaded we will go. There is silence in screaming. There is violence in dreaming. Bullets riddle my mind.

Crash ‘n Burn” offers up more hot, bass-heavy riffs and thunderous percussion, before all hell breaks loose on “Fast Life in Hollywood.” Frenetic guitar riffs, crushing bass and hammering drums make this track a real head-banger that gets the blood pumping, and Dylan’s guitar solo at the finale is jaw-droppingly fantastic!

My favorite track is “A Day in the Life,” a complex song with two distinct melodies. The track opens with a mysterious atmospheric synth chord, then explodes with snarling guitars, crashing drums and Burke’s gruff vocals singing the defiant lyrics: “Fearless we live, yeah, fearless we fight. Fearless we live, yeah, fearless we die.” The tempo abruptly changes to a beautiful melody, with gentler guitars, snare drums, and softer vocals, before the gruff, hard-driving melody returns for two more cycles, making this a musically exciting and compelling song. Dylan lays down one of his signature blistering guitar solos in the bridge.

If you’re a fan of heavy, guitar-driven metal rock, Strapped & Loaded needs to be part of your collection. Show Men Without Armies some love and support by following them on:

Facebook /  Twitter /  YouTube

Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Reverbnation

Purchase it:  Reverbnation

UNDER AEGIS – EP Review: “[Extinct]”

Under Aegis is a Progressive Djent Metalcore band with a lot to say. Their brutal in-your-face sound, born from generous amounts of crushing bass, explosive guitars, speaker-blowing drums and ferocious vocals, bulldozes a path of sonic destruction. At the same time, they launch a frontal assault on societal evil, hypocrisy and bullshit with their violent but compelling lyrics.

The Milwaukee, Wisconsin based foursome includes Nik Dennee on vocals, Bao Vo on guitar, and brothers Avery Gaitens on bass and Parker Gaitens on drums. In December 2016, they released their hard-hitting EP [Extinct] (two years after their debut EP The Narcissist). We’ve followed each other on Twitter for more than a year, and I’m finally getting around to featuring them on this blog.

Under Aegis 2

[Extinct] confronts a dystopian world where violence, corruption and despair reign. The opening track “Apex Predator” sets the tone with a full-blown attack on every one of our senses. Avery lays down a bass line so intense you can feel it pounding against your chest, while Bao shreds and distorts his guitar nearly to the breaking point. With his jackhammer drums working in tandem with the crushing bass, Parker seems intent on blowing out the speakers – or our eardrums! Nik growls and screams the lyrics like a rampaging T-Rex: “I am a savage fucking beast at the prime of my killing spree. Brutal. Savage. Controlled by instinct. I always wondered what fed this thirst. Pull yourself together. You won’t feel a god damn thing.”

Unbelievably, the band somehow manages to dial up the intensity on “Born Sick.” The drums and bass are even heavier, and by now I’m certain my head’s gonna explode. The lyrics seem to be about the belief that man is born cursed with original sin, and in a continuous struggle to make it through life in one piece. Nik unleashes his fury as he screams “It’s never safe to say that tomorrow is another day. Live and learn and love and respect, because every breath you take is just another fucking side effect. I’m lost, an empty shell, living in fear.” 

Invective” speaks to someone contemplating taking their own life as a way out from dealing with their problems. “You said you’d give anything for a good night’s sleep. Now you have found a solution not so temporary. You’re a fucking coward taking the easy road to eternity. Listen close, no need to be nervous. Just relax it’s only self disposal. Every tragedy begins with a simple idea. You fucking coward. You worthless waste of fucking flesh. Why don’t you close the door. Roll up your fucking window. And just fucking give up.” The track has some seriously good guitar work, and Nik comes close to tearing his vocals chords to shreds as he whips himself into a vocal frenzy.

There’s no letup to the sonic onslaught on “Total Void,” a depressing song about the futility of life in a dystopian society: “We’re all born with broken bones. Suspended, hanging from a rope. So just lose all fucking hope! The ground is breaking beneath us. Sanity controls us. The ground is breaking behind us. Be free and follow me into nothing. Losing your mind could be the end of your struggle.

Nomad” is the most melodic and, at nearly five minutes, longest of the tracks on the EP.  It starts off with a mysterious guitar riff, then heavy percussion and bass ensue, accompanied by layers of shredded and distorted guitars. Nik passionately screams the lyrics that speak to man’s eternal search for meaning and purpose on an earth that’s increasingly being degraded by his own selfish actions:  “All the lines that we used to know they have all been crossed. In this world nothing is fair. No one belongs anywhere, We are all thieves. Searching for our piece of this rotten world long that has been long deceased. Overgrown cities, self absorbed drones. I’m not a miracle, I’m a walking crime scene. Outline me in chalk. Write my obituary.

Under Aegis demonstrate with [Extinct] that they are not only amazing musicians, they’re also adept at writing deeply powerful, relevant lyrics that speak to social and personal upheaval. Bao told me they’re now working on new songs that will address political and governmental issues, and I can’t wait to hear them.

Follow Under Aegis:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream their music:  YouTube /  Spotify

Purchase:  Bandcamp /  iTunes

BAD LLAMA – EP Review: “Shedding Skin”

Sometimes I wish I lived in the UK, as so many of the artists and bands I like seem to be located there. I’ve featured many of them on this blog, and today I introduce Bad Llama, an alternative metal five-piece based in Burton Upon Trent.  I was happy they contacted me about their EP, because I became hooked on their music at first listen.

They formed little more than a year ago in early 2016, and in fairly short order released their debut EP Shedding Skin last September. Blending 90s rock, funk and metal with modern industrial and progressive sounds, Bad Llama creates music overflowing with intricate melodies, complex arrangements, powerful instrumentals, intelligent lyrics and impassioned vocals.

Making all this great music are Kyle Jordan (Vocals), Lewis Hutchings (Bass), Gaz Waddell (Drums), Dan Houlbrooke (Guitar) and Sam Wyatt (Guitar and Backing vocals). The band made their first live appearance at the 02 Academy 3 in Birmingham in October 2016 and have since played there again. They also appeared on Johnny Doom’s show Amp’d on Birmingham TV (a video of that appearance is at the end of this review), and have played a number of venues throughout the Midlands.

Bad Llama

From the moment we hear the mysterious haunting synths at the beginning of the stunning first track “The Healer,” the song begins to cast its spell. Then jangly guitars, heavy bass and pounding drums enter the picture, drawing us in until a waterfall of swirling and snarling guitars rain down upon our dazed ears, leaving us helplessly in thrall. After just one track, it’s safe to conclude that these guys are masters of their respective instruments. Jordan’s powerful vocals are mesmerizing, going from vulnerable one moment to passionately raw the next as he implores: “Your silence speaks volumes to me / Maybe everything isn’t as it seems.”

The Wolf You Feed” takes a darker turn, with gritty, wailing guitars and cymbal-heavy percussion creating a foreboding sense of doom. Jordan’s vocals once again run the gamut from smoldering to anguished screams, adding complexity and power to the track.  The video was filmed in an abandoned warehouse, and features menacing images of ghoulish characters tormenting the band, alternating with scenes of them performing the song outside the warehouse.

Houlbrooke and Wyatt show off their guitar-playing chops on the exhilarating “Paint in Sound,” as the song opens with a rapid-fire riff before we’re treated to layers of shredded, swirling and distorted guitars. Hutchings’ throbbing bass adds heft to the track, while Waddell pounds out the driving beat. Jordan pleads “Is this prison? Give me something to live for.” His captivating vocals take center stage on “10 Years Time” as he goes from tender falsetto to fiercely intense and everything in between. As to be expected, the instrumentals on this track are outstanding.

Last, but certainly not least, is “Exile,” a brooding, six minute long epic. The intricate guitar work on this track is extraordinary, at once both powerfully intense and achingly beautiful. Hutchings’ bass is so heavy I could feel it pressing against my chest. And it goes without saying that Jordan’s incredible vocal range is on full display, rising to an ear-splitting crescendo before things calm back down by song’s end.

There isn’t a standout track on Shedding Skin, as all five of them are superb. It’s a great EP, and I’m confident we’ll soon be hearing more phenomenal tunes from Bad Llama.

Here’s a video of their appearance on Johnny Doom’s Amp’d:

Follow Bad Llama:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud
Purchase it:  iTunes

Artist Spotlight – COLD REVIVE

Cold Revive is on a roll. Over the past few months, the Fresno, California-based rock band released two songs and have been interviewed on two radio programs (one local and another in Chicago) to promote their music. Now they’re back in the studio working on new songs, which they’ll be releasing soon. I had the good fortune of discovering them when they followed me on Twitter, and quickly became a big fan – not only because of their great music, but also because I was impressed by the band members themselves. Despite their badass rocker image, they’re actually genuine, down-to-earth guys. If the kindness they’ve shown me is any indication, it’s clear they appreciate and support their fans, which is a significant part of being a successful band at the end of the day. One of their main goals is to connect even more with their fans – to touch their lives in a positive way with their music.

Cold Revive

Cold Revive consists of Brent Stevens (vocals), Jason Fischer (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Gentky Vang (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Chase Hagerman (drums, keyboards, backing vocals).  All are seasoned musicians who’ve been previously involved with other bands and music projects. Jason and Brent actually met on Craigslist when each was interested in connecting with other musicians who might be interested in forming a band. Inspired by bands they both loved such as Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Hinder, Three Days Grace, Buckcherry and Korn, they joined forces in early 2016 and formed Cold Revive. Subsequently, Gentky and Chase came on board to complete the band lineup.

Like many hard rock bands these days, Cold Revive’s hard rock sound draws from alt-rock, punk, metal and grunge influences. Brent is especially fond of Halloween, horror films and such, so his dark lyrics reflect that.

The band’s first single “Sik’ Hellish Us,” is a dark and brooding hard rock song about being trapped in a toxic relationship you’re unable to break free of. Sinister guitars and heavy bass set an ominous tone, then a slow, thunderous drumbeat adds tremendous power to the track, which rises in intensity as the song progresses. Brent’s gritty vocals are delivered with a menacing vulnerability as he snarls “I’ve made my bed in hell, now I need to lie in it, ’cause it serves me well. As you held me there, my heart’s not escaping.

Diary” is an even darker song about finding a significant other’s diary after their suicide, and discovering how much your actions hurt them. The lyrics are gut-wrenching: “What I read on that page, tore me down I saw my own mistakes. All the pain I caused you is insane…   Suicide drove our love to an end. Those words killed us, was I always to blame? I’m so sorry!” The song has a Buckcherry vibe in both music and tone. Brent’s raw, heartfelt vocals match the emotional intensity of the gnashing guitars and aggressive percussion, making for an emotionally-charged song.

Here’s a live acoustic performance of “Diary” that isn’t quite as intense or sorrowful.

Cold Revive will be releasing their two new singles “Twisted Fright” and “Cold Dark Coma” in the next month or so. In the meantime, connect with them on Facebook and  Twitter, and stream their music on Reverbnation.  Subscribe to their YouTube channel for their videos and band updates.

Their music is not yet available for purchase, but I will update this post when it is.

Song Review: RAVENSCROFT – “The Chase”

Orange County, California band Ravenscroft have been thrilling fans for quite some time with their incredibly dynamic hard-hitting rock. Drawing upon influences from some of their favorite rock bands, including Godsmack, Iron Maiden, Shinedown, Metallica, Guns’n’Roses, Black Sabbath, Megadeth, Pearl Jam, Audioslave and Deep Purple, among others, Ravenscroft melds 60’s psychedelic/acid rock, 70’s and 80’s metal, and 90’s grunge to create their own melodic alternative metal/hard rock sound. Making all this heavy noise are Ralph Buso (Vocals), Brett ‘Octane’ Gorke (Guitars), Devin Baker (Bass) and Pat Magrath (Drums).

Ravenscroft

The guys just released a fantastic new single “The Chase” and it’s a three and half minute long full-frontal assault of heavy metal power. Gorke lives up to his nickname ‘Octane’, setting fire with blistering, metallic guitar riffs that shred, snarl and distort from start to finish. This man can play guitar! Baker’s thunderous bass adds incredible heft to the track, while Magrath pounds the hell out of his drum kit, the two of them conspiring to blow out the speakers.

With his gritty, impassioned vocals, Buso practically screams the lyrics that speak to not wasting precious time chasing hopeless causes and living a dishonest existence, instead focusing on what’s real and attainable:

Don’t waste your time, fighting life, chasing love. Don’t waste your tears, on the fears, up above./ Don’t Waste your life, telling lies, acting up. Word to the wise, in due time, it catches up.”

The lyric “Look to the light of the rising sun” may be a metaphor, symbolized by the Shogun warrior battle scenes artfully depicted in the fascinating video.

To learn more about Ravenscroft, check out their Website, and connect with them on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.

Stream their music:  Spotify /  Google Play /  YouTube /  Pandora /  Reverbnation

Purchase it:  iTunes / Amazon

Song Review: AGONY IN THE GARDEN – “Falling in Reverse”

Last September, I reviewed the fantastic song “Obsolete” by Dayton, Ohio-based rock metal band Agony In The Garden (which you can read here).  Today – March 10, 2017 – they dropped their wonderful new single “Falling in Reverse.” It’s their first single released under their new label Spectra Music Group. To recap, Agony in the Garden is comprised of singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Mack Perry, drummer Bobby Milton and guitarist Michael Greer.

agony-in-the-garden

“Falling in Reverse” is a slight departure from the hard-driving rock feel of “Obsolete,” though it still contains a lot of the raw power that is part of the band’s signature music style. A mournful but beautiful strummed guitar riff introduces the track, then light percussion enters the picture, along with Perry’s emotional vocals. The intensity of the instrumentals and Perry’s vocals ramp up 45 seconds in, giving the track a decidedly harder edge before calming down 20 seconds later, only to ramp back up at 1:35. The shredded guitars and heavy, buzzing bass are impressive, giving the track a gritty, yet highly melodic sound. It’s a great single.

As with other Agony songs, this track’s lyrics are deeply compelling. “Falling in Reverse” seems – to me at least – to be about feeling helpless and adrift, searching for truth and meaning in one’s life but not ever quite getting there. “Now we’ve seen this game before and I wonder what it’s for?/This thing called life/Always searching, in reverse.

Connect with Agony in the Garden by checking out their website, and following them on  Twitter,  Facebook and Instagram. Stream their music on Spotify and Google play, and purchase on itunes, Amazon and other online music sites.

Artist Spotlight on L.A. band SIFTING

I recently had the pleasure of being introduced to the fantastic metal rock band Sifting by fellow blogger LIFELIFETHRUMUSIC. Currently based in Hollywood, California, Sifting was originally formed in Caracas, Venezuela in 2010 by singer/songwriter Eduardo Osuna Gil. The band started recording their first songs in 2011 around the time the band Bullet for My Valentine chose them to open a concert in Caracas. Their debut single “All the Hated” was released that year on the famous line-up of games ROCK BAND® for the main gaming consoles worldwide. Their first album, also called All The Hated, was released in 2013 after Gil relocated to Los Angeles and reformed the band with new members Chris Eklund on lead guitar, Victor Ladines on bass and Abelardo Bolano on drums.

In a great interview with LIVELIFETHRUMUSIC (which you can read here) Eduardo discussed the origin of the band’s name: “Sifting is a word that gives meaning to the action of purifying, separating and cleaning things in order to get the best of them. This project uses this theory, always seeking to purify every aspect of what we are as a band, improving each day as musicians, as a group, as a part of society. In every lyric, arrangement and performance of our music we always seek to leave a message that teaches and encourages our followers and fans to improve and evolve every day, trying to make a real positive contribution to our environment.

sifting

The band’s music is characterized by complex, highly melodic arrangements with outstanding intricate guitar work, strong, driving beats and powerful vocals – all of which I love. Their excellent debut single “All the Hated” has all those ingredients in spades.

In 2015, the band released a 3-track EP Blurry Paintings, which includes the monumental track “Alone,” an eight-minute long tour de force. As beautifully articulated by Gil, the song is “packed with all kinds of emotions and transitions, progressive instrumentals, huge solos, incredible synths and orchestra arrangements, and thoughtful lyrics.” The song is literally a rock symphony. Eklund’s guitar solo midway through the song is breathtaking, and Bolano’s drums practically blow out the speakers. The compelling lyrics speak of man’s destructive instincts: “It’s so irrational to lead Mankind into its bitter end / And they still won’t listen / We won’t be forgiven / We’ve been left alone…

Sifting has been recording new songs for their upcoming album Not From Here that they expect to release in early 2017.  Three tracks that have already been finished are “Nothing But Us”, the title song “Not From Here,” and “Gloom.”  “Nothing But Us” bursts open with Gil’s aggressive vocals and furious guitars riffs set to heavy percussion. The powerful lyrics speak to standing one’s ground and staying true to oneself, not allowing others to push you around or make you into something you’re not: “I know the things they think about me / Though the words hurt, I don’t care / Go on push me around now, you can’t bring me down.

“Not From Here” is another epic song, with over six minutes of thunderous guitar riffs, pummeling bass and strong drums. At times, the highly complex guitars remind me a bit of the legendary band Boston. Gil’s raw vocals snarl and scream, backed by his band members’ soaring choruses.  This is an awesome track.

Their latest track “Gloom” is a lovely, bittersweet rock ballad about the heartache and feelings of rejection when a former love doesn’t want to continue the relationship. The great guitar riffs in the song have a bit of a Journey vibe, and Gil’s heartfelt vocals convey a deep sadness.

Sifting is a really talented group of musicians, and I look forward to their upcoming album Not From Here. To learn more about the band, check out their website and follow them on Twitter,  Facebook and Instagram. Steam their music on Spotify, and purchase on iTunes or Amazon.

Song Review: Agony In The Garden – “Obsolete”

Dayton, Ohio has produced quite an array of important and influential artists and bands over the years, spanning a broad spectrum of music genres. Some of the notable ones include funk/R&B greats The Ohio Players & Lakeside, rocker Rick Derringer, hip-hop band Zapp, dance-pop singer CeCe Peniston, alt-rock band Guided By Voices, pop-punk band Hawthorne Heights, and metalcore bands Twelve Tribes and Devil Wears Prada. Now let me introduce another band to rise from the Dayton music scene: rock metal band Agony In The Garden.

As they explain in their bio, Agony in the Garden’s music “honors those who would challenge the sun. Though our overture reflects the eternal dream, the sleeper has awakened. As we bore witness to this paradox the logic is ill refute.” Their music style fuses rock, metal and blues to create a powerful wall of sound that grabs hold of and engulfs the listener in a realm of blazing guitars, massive synth chords and sharp percussion. Their poetic song lyrics are always compelling and socially relevant.

Agony In The Garden started out as a concept band, with singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Mack Perry as the solo artist writing and recording all the music. He released a debut four-song EP Where Olympus Dwells in May 2015, receiving critical acclaim and earning a growing legion of fans. Drummer Bobby Milton and guitarist Michael Greer joined the band in July 2016, and they are now working on a new album tentatively named Second Light, and set for release in Fall 2016.

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The first single to be released is “Obsolete,” a sonically hard-hitting metal rock tune that dazes the senses. The song opens with a delicate, crystalline guitar solo, then erupts into a rich stew of snarling, swirling guitars, and pummeling bass.  Assertive drums keep the hard-driving beat moving forward, but never overpower the phenomenal heavily-textured guitars and Perry’s raw, impassioned vocals. Finally, demons expunged and both singer and listener spent, the song closes with a repeat of the gentle guitar riff.

The powerful lyrics speak to the sins of mankind and his impermanence on this earth. The end will come for us all as we cast away our demons (sins), breaking free of our physical selves and ascend to an afterlife. “Burning flames will shatter/in a world made of stone. Hear the dying children’s laughter/in a hell so new it’s old. Darkened sacred waters/Go on and fill them with your name. You can rise above the wreckage/go on and rise above your mortal chains. Throw your demon into the sun, ’til it’s done. Throw your demon, one by one into the sun.

For a background reference of the band’s music, here’s the video for their excellent 2015 single “Where Olympus Dwells.” It’s a provocative commentary on poverty and homelessness that intertwines beautiful scenery with startling images of the homeless and disasters – both natural and political – that contribute to the homeless epidemic. The song has been chosen to be featured on the soundtrack of the new Ugandan Action Cinema film Precision: The Child Drug Trafficking.

I must make note that, from our conversations by e-mail and Twitter messaging, Mack Perry is one of the most gracious and respectful musicians I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with. So support his band by checking out their website and following on Twitter and Facebook. Stream their music on Spotify and Soundcloud, and purchase on itunes, Amazon and other online music sites.