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

TRUE THE GRAY – EP Review: “Bledstone”

True the Gray Bledstone

True the Gray is a metalcore band from Denver, Colorado, consisting of Peter Vaughn (guitars, clean vocals, percussion, keys & overthinking to a fault) and Scotty Wilson (growls & screams, guitars, percussion & weed). They’ve been friends for years, and played together in the now-defunct Denver metalcore band Me Against Sunrise prior to forming True the Gray in 2016. Inspired by some of their favorite bands like Slipknot, Wage War and Polaris, True the Gray make relentlessly aggressive yet melodic metalcore rock. They cheekily describe their sound as “great background music for wine and cheese board parties and satanic rituals.

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Scotty & Peter

In 2016, they released a very respectable debut self-titled EP True the Gray, and followed up in May 2018 with a powerful, face-melting single “Greet Your Tragedy”, which I reviewed. That October, they dropped a three-track EP In A Wake, and last month (June 2019), they released their latest effort Bledstone, a five-track EP serving up more of their signature punishing wall of sound, dark lyrics and fearsome vocals. The EP was produced and mixed by Peter and Scotty, and mastered by Mike Kalajian. Tanner Lichty played bass (and mixed and mastered “The Old Haunt”), and drums were played by John Baptiste Maukbuke.

Kicking things off is “The Old Haunt“, which opens with what sounds like a stylus being placed onto a worn record album before an onslaught of raging guitars and pummeling drumbeats ensue. Scotty savagely growls the lyrics that speak to man’s inherent evil nature, and our internal struggles to conquer that evil in the hopes of finding our better selves: “There is a piece of everyone’s heart that is wicked from the start. But there’s a reason to feel we were placed here to heal and contrive new working parts.” As the song unfolds, Peter fervently sings “A way to cross the line. A face an image of lies. And through thoughts he finds a side. Through thoughts he finds the sight.” But alas, goodness is not to be found, as Scotty bitterly laments “And in conclusion a sweet delusion of fortune and good faith, but as I have no doubt, nothing works out for the bold and the brave.

With nary a break in the action, “Lionize” explodes with a furious barrage of staccato riffs, crushing bass and hammering drums. It’s an exquisite track, both beastly and beautiful, and my favorite on the EP. The guitar work is spectacular, and really showcases the guys’ impressive musicianship. At the two and a half minute mark, everything calms down momentarily as we’re treated to an enchanting melodic guitar interlude before ramping back up for a dramatic finish. Peter and Scotty’s contrasting vocal styles complement and mesh together quite nicely on this and other tracks.

The guys unleash their sonic fury on “Dreamstealer“, a near-epic song with searing lyrics spoken from the perspective of a godlike figure to humankind. Angered by the mess they’ve made of earth and themselves, god concludes that the only solution is to flood the earth again, as was done in Biblical times: “I’ll fuckin’ turn the tide again. Let a wave take away your precious land./ You failed me. You all fell from my grace. So spineless. Empathy; I have none for the weak. Your price to pay. I gave you life. You meant everything to me. I’ll miss your sight. But you weren’t meant to be.” The heavy, distorted guitars and percussion fade out at around 4:40, transitioning to an atmospheric soundscape of haunting ethereal synths lasting another full minute, symbolizing the somber aftermath of such a global cataclysm.

Eon” blasts through the speakers with a relentless volley of machine gun riffs, frantic guitar runs and jackhammer percussion. Now it seems the devil is the one ready to settle some scores, and accordingly, Scotty’s vocals are more savage than ever as he screams “I will open the sky, I will watch as your demons die! With certainty the moon will bleed and light our darkest nights!” Once again, Peter’s clean vocals provide a dramatic contrast to Scotty’s metalcore growls. True the Gray continue to lay waste to the airwaves with their intense metalcore mayhem on the final track “Deadwood“. The song’s meaning isn’t totally clear to me, but my take is that the godlike figure is telling mankind that he/she is no longer their god: “These hearts left hallowed. My feelings shallowed. And I’ll turn away. I can’t be the one you follow.” Scotty and Peter’s vocals have never sounded better, and raise the hairs on the back of my neck from start to finish.

Bledstone is a fantastic and well-crafted little EP. Despite it’s relatively brief running time of only 19 minutes, it’s a raging beast of unabashed ferocity and brilliant metalcore grooves. True the Gray continue to grow in terms of their songwriting and performance with each release, and Bledstone is clearly a step forward for the talented duo.

Connect with True the Gray:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify /  Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp

UNDER AEGIS – Single Review: “Separate”

UNDER AEGIS is a badass progressive djent metalcore band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin who I’ve been following since their early days in 2016. Their brutal, take no prisoners sound, forged from explosive guitars, buzzsaw bass lines, speaker-blowing drums and fearsome vocals, is a full-frontal assault on the senses, while their biting, often provocative lyrics are in-your-face, yet highly relatable. Since their formation, UNDER AEGIS has experienced a couple of changes in vocalists, and the formidable lineup now consists of Carl Martin on vocals, Bao Vo on guitar, and brothers Avery Gaitens on bass and Parker Gaitens on drums.

Under Aegis2
Photos by Kelley Curran

I’ve reviewed most of their music, beginning with their debut EP [Extinct] in 2016, followed by the scathing singles “Sedated” in August 2017, and “Point Blank” in March 2018. (You can check out those reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the bottom of this page.) Now they’ve returned with a face-melting new single “Separate“, along with a violent but visually stunning video. The song is the first single from their forthcoming album Desolate, due out later this year.

About the song’s meaning, Carl Martin told the webzine The Noise, “I went through the darkest time of my life while in the process of writing these new songs. Each and every part has an intense emotional connection while in the midst of a performance. ‘Separate’ represents the desperation I felt to avoid people affecting my sanity over the course of a long period of time.” Thus the opening lyric “Separate yourself from those who bring you pain. Separate yourself. And fall into the weightlessness above”, which Martin sings in beautiful, clean vocals, accompanied by sweeping cinematic synths and Vo’s melodic guitar notes.

Suddenly, the song explodes into a thunderous maelstrom of tortured riffs, crushing bass and shattering percussion, and Martin turns into a rampaging beast, savagely screaming his bitter contempt: “You let me go the wrong fucking way! And I will never live life the same. Why don”t you show me the path to hell so I can forget your name? It’s time to make up my mind again. And rip out the heart of your lies!” Vo continues to blow our minds and eardrums with his furious shredding action while the Gaitens brothers keep the turbulent rhythm section going at full blast. These guys tear the mutherfucking roof off the sucker, and are among the best metalcore musicians around today, in my not so humble opinion.

The bloody but brilliantly filmed – and well-acted, I must say – video depicts the story of what appears to be a drug or some other deal gone terribly wrong, interspersed with footage of the band performing the song. In his discussion with The Noise about the band’s vision for the video, Martin explained, “The music video ties into the theme of the lyrics to an extent. Associating yourself with the wrong people leads to unfortunate circumstances. The bullet and near-death experience is a representation of reinventing yourself as an individual. On the other hand, Avery’s character represents bad decisions that catch up with you. The question is, ‘what’s in the bag?’ You will have to watch our next video to find out.”

Watch the intense video and prepare to be amazed by both the song and visuals:

Catch Under Aegis at one of these upcoming shows:
SAT JUNE 8 – X RAY ARCADE BAR, w/Oceano, The Cambion, Angelmaker, Cudahy, WI
SAT JUNE 29 – UNDER AEGIS @ SUMMERFEST, Milwaukee, WI
SAT AUGUST 10 – EDENFEST 2019, w/I Killed Everyone, Wausau, WI

Connect with Under Aegis:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on 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

TRAVERSE THE ABYSS – EP Review: “Traverse the Abyss”

Traverse the Abyss album art

Traverse the Abyss is a heavy metal band based in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Their intense, face-melting sound draws from a myriad of metal sub-genres, including classic heavy metal, thrash metal, death metal, nu-metal and metal core, as well as hard rock, rock’n’roll and even punk influences. They formed in 2016 and quickly got to work recording their first album Gamble of Life, which was released that November. It was an impressive debut, and you can read my review here. Since then, they’ve dropped three singles, all of which are now included on their new self-titled EP Traverse the Abyss. 

The band has undergone a few personnel changes since their beginning, and the current line up is now Eric Abyss (Vocals), “Iron” Mike White (Guitar), Mike “Bnoc” Bieniecki (Bass/Backing Vocals), Matt Mierzejewski (Guitar) and Nathan Cardona (Drums).

The guys get right down to business with the scorching opening track “Failure.” Our ears are greeted with a wailing guitar solo that’s quickly broken by an explosion of stabbing shredded guitars, jack-hammer death metal riffs, and speaker-blowing drums. Halfway through, the guys throw some nice melodic riffage into the maelstrom of furious guitars, adding texture and complexity to the track. Eric screams the lyrics with a savage ferocity that’s almost frightening.

I hope he has a good ear, nose and throat specialist, because he’ll surely need one after he’s done ripping his vocal cords to shreds on “Dead Weight.” This is a real head-banger, with frantic riffs of raging guitars, crushing bass and pummeling drums.  Eric brutally screams the biting lyrics that are a total repudiation of someone who’d fucked you over: “I think you’ve mistaken me for someone who truly gives a fuck.”

Traverse the Abyss turns introspective on “Time Flies,” ruminating on life changes and the inevitable loss and regret many of us experience with the passage of time: “I have to live with decisions that I’ve made. Yet they make me who I am today. / I lie awake every night and reminisce. About my friends and family and times that I miss, and how they are never coming back.”

The guys continue on their rampaging path of sonic destruction with the face-melting “Family” and “Inner Demons.” The furious, fast-paced riffs rain down hot and heavy, but with an amazing intricacy, and Eric’s death metal growls are positively bestial. They inject a heavy dose of rock’n’roll into their metal on “Battle Cry,” one of my favorite tracks on the album. It opens with a playful burst of fiendish laughter, then Eric sings “A scooba dooba do bop ba bop bam boo” before frantic rolling guitars, heavy bass and thunderous drums take over. “Iron” Mike and Matt tear through the airwaves with jaw-dropping riffs as sharp as razor wire, while Eric screams the lyrics that are a clarion call against tyranny.

I thought I’d heard the most brutal music the band had to offer, but I was wrong! The guys really bare their death metal teeth and dial up the ferocity on the final track “Blink.” Man, the staccato death metal riffs are like machine-gun fire on steroids, and the pummeling bass and drums so powerful I could feel them in my gut. Eric seems to stretch his vocal abilities to the breaking point, his screams and growls matching the fury of the instrumentals note for note. It’s a great finish to a fantastic, hard-hitting album.

With their sophomore effort, Traverse the Abyss further confirm their strengths for writing outstanding heavy/death metal songs with compelling, relevant lyrics and great melodies, as well as their skills at bringing them to life with their impressive musicianship. With two great albums now under their belt, I would safely say they’re a band on an upward trajectory.

Catch them at one of these upcoming shows:

Connect with Traverse the Abyss:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Reverbnation
Purchase on  iTunes / Bandcamp

TRUE THE GRAY – Single Review: “Greet Your Tragedy”

True the Gray is a metalcore band based in Denver, Colorado. Formed in 2016 from the ashes of metalcore band Me Against Sunrise, True the Gray consists of Peter Vaughn (guitars, vocals, percussion, keys) and Scotty Wilson (vocals, guitars, percussion). The guys are friendly and engaging, referring to themselves as “Just two friends making heavy, passionate music that features references to Transformers, chicken and rice stuffing, and crematoriums.” Works for me! They released a very respectable debut self-titled EP True the Gray in 2016, and now follow up with a face-melting, emotionally powerful new single “Greet Your Tragedy.”

The guys explain that the song “is about someone on the verge of madness, trying to hang on to what semblance they have of their former selves. An anthem for mental health.” It opens with a gritty distorted guitar chord, setting an ominous tone for things to come. Suddenly, all hell breaks loose as the song erupts into a maelstrom of bone-crushing staccato riffs, wailing distortion, and massive, ear-piercing percussion. These guys mean business, delivering a relentless onslaught of furious instrumentation that elevates the track’s emotional impact nearly to the breaking point. Their chilling vocals range from savage growls and furious screams to impassioned soaring harmonies. By song’s end, we’re left dazed and spent.

“Greet Your Tragedy” is a brilliant, flawlessly-crafted track, with compelling lyrics and superb instrumentals, vocals and production values. The guys really up their game on this mind-blowing powerhouse of a song, and it’s their best work yet.

Connect with True the Gray:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify /  Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes 

BURN DOWN THE DISTRICT – EP Review: “This Is Not The End”

Burn Down the District band pic

UK metalcore band Burn Down the District is aptly named, because their music leaves a charred path of destruction in its wake. The Chesterfield, Derbyshire five-piece released their debut EP This Is Not The End in October 2016, hell-bent on melting our faces off. Making this ferocious music are Dean Roberts (Guitar), Roy Shaw (Guitar), Dan Wilkinson (Bass), Paul Whibberley (Drums) and Steven Navin (Vocals).

The guys waste no time launching a full-frontal assault on our ears with the brutal first track “Burn.” With two guitarists and a bassist, they deliver a relentless onslaught of razor-sharp wailing riffs and pummeling bass, aided and abetted by Whibberley’s thunderous drums. Navin displays jaw-dropping vocal power as he screams at the top of his lungs: “We will burn it down! You can’t see the whites of, the whites of their eyes!”  The distorted guitar fadeout, which lasts nearly half a minute, is freaking awesome.

There’s no letup in the ferocity of the proceedings as we segue to “Flocks.” This track is a beast, with scorching jack-hammer riffs and Wilkinson’s bone-crushing bass. At this point, I’m wondering how it’s possible that Navin has a shred of vocal cords left as he wails: “I am so tired of flying in flocks! Give me my freedom, it’s all that I’ve got!

The title track “This is Not the End” offers up more savage intensity, with merciless guitars and speaker-blowing drums. Roberts and Shaw lay down some mind-blowing power riffs as Navin screams the lyrics about refusing to give up, despite everything appearing hopeless: “This is a fucking wasteland! Grab my hand, give me a hook. This is not the end.

This Is Not The End is a must-have for fans of serious metalcore, though with only three tracks it leaves us wanting more. That said, I hope the guys will bestow upon us some more brutal gems for our listening pleasure – and soon!

Connect with Burn Down the District:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream or purchase their EP on Bandcamp