Monday, September 18, 2017

Foo Fighters Concrete and Gold- New Album of The Week

    After the promise of Run earlier this year the Foos have delivered with an excellent album that draws on some old school mojo mixed with a hit of metallic freak out. Most of the album is devoid of the more Alt rock elements that usually call back to Grohl’s time in Nirvana, replacing them with a double dose of Classic Rock inspiration and Metal attitude. The Foos have also decided to throw some vaguely political themes on a few songs, but they do those of us who find escapism in music a favor by keeping the political messages background to the music most of the time.
    The first track, T-Shirt, seems to illustrate that Grohl also would rather stick to just making music, stating “I just wanna sing love songs and pretend like nothing’s wrong…”. This track does a good job of prefacing one of those vaguely political tracks, Run, by letting us know Dave is only addressing these topics because he feels that he needs to. The track also build up musically to the beginning of Run, flowing together into Run’s metallic freakout of a first verse.
As I said back when I reviewed Run as a single, I love hearing Dave Grohl’s harsh vocals on the verses, especially when contrasted with the softer approach he takes when getting to the melodic chorus. Taylor Hawkins Dancehall and Drum n’ Bass inspired drumming on this track also adds a level of chaos and danceability that I have never heard on a Foo Fighters track before.
    The next track, Make It Right is solid featuring more of Hawkins drumming up front as well as a Jimmy Page like guitar riff and backing vocals by Justin Timberlake. Track 4, The Sky Is Neighborhood is one that I fully expect to wind up on Top 40 and Alt Rock stations, sounding like an all real instruments take on Imagine Dragons. Rather than the drum samples, computerized samples and copious amounts of studio reverb that Imagine Dragons use we have a somewhat dry mix full of acoustic drums and guitar riffing getting the same feel. Also Dave Grohl sounds much nastier and more powerful than Dan Reynolds’ polished vocals.
    The next track La Dee Da is my favorite track on this album featuring two of my favorite gimmicks in a rock song and one of my all time favorite vocalists. This track has powerful fuzz bass as the main driving element, powerful metal screams in a non metal song and backing vocals by Alison Mosshart; seriously if Jack White had a guest solo on this track it would be my favorite song of all time. Even though Mosshart’s vocals aren’t that high in the mix this whole track has the same kind of spastic rhythm that she is known for, likely because her and Grohl are singing the same lines and he decided to match her cadence rather her sing it straight. This is basically the second Run on this album, featuring a powerful sound and somewhat politically charged lyrics.
    Dirty Water is an okay Alt rock tune and Arrows is the most standard Foo Fighters song on this record. Happy Ever After (Zero Hour) is a trippy song that reminds me a bit of Across The Universe and has that distinct Classic Soft Rock sound. Speaking of The Beatles, the next track features Taylor Hawkins doing his best John Lennon impersonation on vocals and Paul McCartney guesting on drums. Sunday Rain rather intentionally sounds like a halfway point between The Beatles and Nirvana and does a good job of feeling nothing like a Foo Fighters song, largely because of not having Grohl sing on this track.
    The second to last track The Line reminds me of Walk and is a pretty solid Foo Fighters track. Closing out this album is the title track which Grohl described as sounding like a mix of Sabbath and Pink Floyd, and honestly that description is nearly perfect. The slow but punishing guitar on the first verse and chorus with Grohl’s creeping, almost spoken vocals certainly sounds like Black Sabbath mixed with Comfortably Numb. Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men adds a choir of haunting background vocals on the chorus that perfectly hammers this song home. This track is filthy and beautiful in all the right ways and closes out the album perfectly.
    Overall this is a pretty awesome album by the Foo Fighters, proving once again that they are second only to Jack White in the modern Rock god pantheon. The only real weakness of this album is they don’t have many songs that sound like the typical Foo Fighter’s sound, but I really like the aggro metallic style that they display on Run and La Dee Da, especially when contrasted against Sunday Rain and Happy Ever After. The dynamics and blending of numerous influences are what make this album so much fun to listen to, along with all of the crazy guest spots on this record. As we get closer to December I have started to make my year end Top 10 list, and something off of this album will definitely be on it.

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

8. Powerful Instrumentals

Justin and Noah talk about the instrumentals that stir up and create emotions in the listener, from Tina Guo to Trans Siberian Orchestra and every point in between.

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Sunday, September 3, 2017

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

QOTSA Villains: New Album of The Week

  So I meant to write this Friday when the album officially released, but being one of the few people

who did not listen to it when it leaked I was caught rather flat footed. Now I've done quick

turnarounds before, particularly with the How Did We Get So Dark review; the difference there was

that I knew exactly what my thoughts were after two listens. With Villains however, it's taken me a

little longer to get a grasp on this thing. This album features some of my favorite QOTSA songs of

all time as well as some that I can't stand.

  Starting off we get a slow Stranger Things synth filled buildup that quickly turns into funk and

fuzzy masterpiece Feet Don't Fail Me. Mark Ronson's style is all over this track, with the heavy

compression and retro styling he is known for blending with QOTSA's Stoner Rock filth. This is

precisely what I was expecting after hearing The Way You Used To Do as the lead single. This song

also features a really slick solo and a dynamic end that fades out before turning into aforementioned

The Way You Used To Do (review here).

  After a strong start we go into a somewhat darker track called Domesticated Animals. This track is

filled to the brim with the snark and wit that Josh Homme is known for, featuring cynical lines that

explore themes of dominance and power. The chorus seems to be commentary on the cyclical nature

of power and freedom; every revolution just leads to another leader to revolt against
(as illustrated below)

The songs' mysterious feeling is aided by it's 7/8 time signature adding an off kilter rhythm to it.

Homme appears to be using the metaphor of domesticated animals to allude to the way people

are essentially tamed by their leaders and governments.

 The next track Fortress is one of my favorite songs on the album and is by far the most touching

thing I have ever heard from QOTSA. The song uses the metaphor of the heart as a fortress at first,

describing how people hide away their true feelings by locking their heart away. The metaphor can

then be linked to the first chorus with the line "every fortress falls" relating to a broken heart. At the

same time the rest of the song seems to be talking in terms of more general hardship and darkness,

likely referencing Homme's own depression.

Where the song takes a really touching turn is when you realize that at least part of the song is

written to Homme's children, with the lines,"...I pray you won't feel as alone as I have felt...I tell you

the awful truth, Everyone faces darkness on their own, As I have done, so will you" being particularly

heartbreaking. Homme then wraps it up by simply letting them know that even if their Fortress falls

they are always safe in his.

 Following that emotional strong point is the track that only QOTSA could record, a slightly insane

track called Head Like A Haunted House. This song features Homme doing his best Elvis / Michael

Poulsen from Volbeat impersonation over the rest of the bands take on  Psychobilly. I've heard some

people say the track feels out of place on this album, but I think it works perfectly as a call back to

the more typical QOTSA sound. While this song is fun and pretty solid, the same can't be said for

most of this album's second half.

  Despite the strength of the album up to now, I just can't get in to any of the last 4 tracks except for

The Evil Has Landed (review here.)  Un-Reborn Again and Hideaway are forgettable and Villains of

Circumstance is just kind of okay. So yeah, in total this album is pretty awesome; even though I don't

like most of the the second half of the album, the first half is so good I'm still recommending it. Plus

I understand my opinion on those 3 songs might not be in the majority here, so give it a listen for


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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Megadeth Risk- Throwback Album of The Week

Throwback Album of The Week is posted every Wednesday

    For last week’s Throwback review I looked at the universally hated St. Anger by Metallica; this week we are looking at the biggest flop by fellow Big 4 band Megadeth. While Metallica’s worst effort was due largely to under production and being extremely un refined, Megadeth’s worst album kind of had the opposite problem. Megadeth’s 1999 album Risk strayed far too close to mainstream rock, mixing in a lot of Alternative Rock and Industrial elements that made a lot of Megadeth fans very angry. Dave Mustaine has said before he believes if the album had not had the Megadeth name on it, it would have been a huge success; today I aim to put that to the test.
    As I have never really been a huge Megadeth fan I feel that I can be impartial in looking at this album as it’s own entity. Honestly I kind of see what Mustaine meant, listening to the first couple of tracks it doesn’t really sound bad so much as weird. The first track Insomnia has a definite Nine Inch Nails sound to it, with some driving synths under some downright nasty sounding guitars. The thing that will sound familiar to Megadeth fans here is Marty Friedman’s epic guitar solo on the bridge of this song.
    Moving on to Prince of Darkness I’m seeing a very specific style for this album, kind of a blend of old school Metal and 90’s Industrial. Prince of Darkness is really close to Insomnia in style, but as the album goes on tracks start to feel more Ozzy Osbourne and Iron Maiden influenced. One track in particular sounds like it draws heavy influence from a particular Thrash Metal band by the name of Metallica. I’m honestly surprised no one has brought this up before but The Doctor Is Calling main riff sounds extremely similar to Metallica’s One. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s kind of shocking that as petty as Metallica fans can be that no one brought this up.
    Honestly though, I kind of dig parts of this album. Not going to try and say this album isn’t still pretty bad, but it’s nowhere near as bad St. Anger. The biggest issues on this album is that this style isn’t Megadeth, it feels like a half hearted attempt to sell out by incorporating popular elements such as Industrial and Alternative Rock without going full bore into those genres. On top of that, a lot of the lyrics and deliveries on this album are really cheesy without the full bore Metal attitude that would normally cover that up.
    For comparison to Metallica I’d say this is better than St. Anger but worse than Load and ReLoad, mostly because Metallica went a little more hardcore when it came to jumping around new genres and ideas on Load and ReLoad. So I’d say Risk would have been an average album by anybody else, but from Megadeth it’s confusing and kind of disappointing.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

QOTSA The Evil Has Landed-Single of The Week

Single of The Week is posted every Tuesday

    Today we are looking at the newest single by Queens Of The Stone Age in anticipation of their new album Villains, due for release this Friday. This track called The Evil Has Landed is a bit different from the previously released The Way You Used To Do, feeling much more like a blend of classic QOTSA and Them Crooked Vultures. Unlike the majority of Villains (according to those who have heard the leaked version) this track doesn’t feature many funk elements, instead being mildly bluesy with a straightforward rock sound overall. The one similarity this song does have to The Way You Used To Do is that at least parts of it have the same signature Mark Ronson production.

    The only real issue I have with this track is that the first 2:30 or so is extremely thin sounding with the drums and bass being barely audible and the guitar being compressed to hell. On further listens I realized that it works as a bit of a buildup as the subsequent sections get progressively nastier and thicker. Even though the sterile production on the first section of the song is a bit much for me, I still find this track to be a great effort from QOTSA. I think this is a nice middle ground between their usual sound and the more polished and funky sound of Villains overall.

    I’m curious to hear how Mark Ronson’s clean cut and compression heavy production style works on the full album as QOTSA are generally a pretty dynamic and lo-fi band. The combination could certainly work as previous artists like Jack White and Muse have taken very raw and nasty sounding music and converted to clear and sharp production similar to Ronson’s. From the clips I’ve heard of other tracks, Feet Don’t Fail in particular this album appears to have a really nasty funk vibe to it, similarly to The Way You Used To Do. While funky QOTSA might not sound appealing to everyone, I really dig what I’ve heard so far.

    Overall I think this track is good, it’s a bit of a struggle for me to get past the first section because the drums and bass being so low in the mix and all of the empty space bugs me. Once I get past that section though this song absolutely rocks. I get the effect they’re going for, and they do accomplish it by starting small and then ramping up, but I just don’t like the beginning that much. So yeah, I’d quantify that as like a 6 or 7 out of 10 if I did ratings.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Metallica St. Anger- Throwback Album Of The Week

Today we are looking at an album considered to be one of the worst of all time. Not only is this album considered objectively bad, but even more disappointingly it comes from one of the greatest Metal bands of all time. Today we are looking at St. Anger by Metallica.

The biggest issues on this album have very little to do with the music, with production and runtime being the biggest issues here. Metallica decided to take a very lo-fi approach to this album, attempting to convey the anger and frustration present during its recording. Because of their dedication to keeping it as raw as possible none of the songs are polished beyond their simplest forms, featuring no solos and a raw Garage Rock aesthetic.

Unfortunately these choices, while keeping the music very raw sounding also doesn't cover up mistakes or disguise bad choices, like Lars Ulrich's loose snare sound. While a loose snare sound on it's own isn't bad, the recording techniques used mean that not only can you hear this horrible pinging noise every time Lars hits the snare, but you can hear the loose snares rattling in the background of most of the songs. This album also features some of the least complex bass playing to ever appear on a Metallica album since producer Bob Rock actually played the bass for this album.

These recording issues and bad drum sounds are only exacerbated by the length of a lot of these songs. Simple and straightforward tracks like St. Anger and Some Kind of Monster are stretched to over 7 minutes when they should only be 4 at most. They keep the same length from their usual songs without having the complex layers. And just to add insult to injury, not only is the music not of a particularly high quality, it also sounds extremely dated as the band sound like they were trying way to hard to fit in with the Nu Metal trends of 2003.

    Despite these numerous issues, I'd still recommend the tracks Some Kind of Monster and St. Anger. While they should only be about 4 minutes long, they are both pretty good songs and, for me at least, overcome the recording issues. Even with a few tracks that I actually like on this album, it’s still the worst Metallica album of all time. While a lot of people don’t like the style of Load and Reload, St. Anger is objectively a horrible album.