Release Date: September 25, 2015
Huntress may seem like an overnight sensation, but anyone who has seen a heavy metal show in the last few years knows that they are the epitome of the term “Road Warriors.” They are everywhere: playing big stages, small stages, in between stages, and probably even some garages and barbeques. It all pays off though with Static, the band’s third album for Napalm Records and the follow up to the head turning Starbound Beast.
Static is very similar to Starbound Beast, yet it’s a lot more refined. “Harsh Times on Planet Stoked” is a great example of this. It has the same thrashy groove as much of Starbound Beast, but Janus’ seems much more in control of her vocals as she spits the melody all over the head bobbing rhythm of the bass and drums. The guitars are fairly reserved here but when the opportunity comes to shine Meahl and Santana don’t waste their chance.
“Sorrow,” the album’s lead single, is another highlight in my opinion. It opens the album with breakneck speed and an epic vocal performance that is likely what Bruce Dickinson would sound like if he were a throaty sounding, hot, blonde chick. “I Want to Wake Up” places the spotlight on a slightly more diverse aspect of the band. The song listens like a journey through Janus’ mind, ebbing and flowing brilliantly without ever getting lost in the time changes like so many other bands do. “Noble Savage” is certainly a personal favorite as well, holding down a dark mid-tempo sound that reminds me of the late eighties bluesier hard rock that didn’t get much attention, while managing to still sound as powerful as the rest of Static.
In my opinion, Static is the sound of Huntress fully realized. Janus’ voice soars as she lets go of the shrieking that held their debut Spelleater back and embraces the throaty growl that made you keep listening to their sophomore effort Starbound Beast. Everything sounds more natural and more epic on Static. Fans of great heavy metal need to check this out as it is certainly an album of the year contender.
Reviewed by Mark Fisher
The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die
Release Date: September 25, 2015
For me the word Emo was initially something terrible. I was into Ska and Punk and that was it. Then I went to see The Juliana Theory open for Sense Field. they closed with “Constellation” and I was blown away by the emotional roller coaster and power contained within that song. Over the next 5 years plus Emo and I had a great love relationship. It lasted up until the term was completely corrupted in 2002 (see every annoying pop rock band being called emo).
Fast forward to now. The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die (TWIABP)’s Wikipedia page identifies them as “flagbearers for the 2010s emo revival”. You would think I would have learned my lesson from the first time I wrote the term Emo off, but I immediately scoffed TWIABP as something stupidly poppy. I then proceeded to discover and love bands like The Obsessives, Into It. Over It., Spraynard, and Modern Baseball. Yet, somehow I could not get over my prejudice against TWIABP. Even when I gave Whenever, If Ever a cursory listen I just couldn’t get over my prejudice against something Wikipedia said. Shame on me. If you have written them off in the same way, shame on you.
After seeing Harmlessness get more hype than anyone’s money could buy I decided to give TWIABP another chance. What I discovered is a band that can only be described Godspeed! You Black Emperor (GSYBE)’s punk rock child. TWIABP has mastered the crescendo/decrescendo roller coaster in a way that only the aforementioned post-rock masters have previously. Harmlessness takes the expansive movements of Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven and condenses them down into 5 minute rock songs. Take for example the moving “January 10th, 2014” (which I have listened to like a teenager who just discovered their first pop song) over the course of 5 minutes it takes you through a tour of the following and then some The Graduate, The Juliana Theory, Ester Drang, Arcade Fire, Queen, Elliott, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Brand New. That’s just one song.
The difficult for me in reviewing this album is that it exists as a series of movements instead of as full tracks. “I Can Be Afraid of Anything” features a moment that is a favorite of mine, closing with dual vocals that remind me of Brandtson at their finest. Another highlight is the amazing use of stop/start dynamics and stand-alone vocals in "Rage Against the Dying Of the Light". "We Need More Skulls" shows the bands singer channeling his inner Billy Corgan with a perfect whine/sneer delivery.
This band has roughly 9 members (they claim to use a revolving door type method of band membership). In the videos I’ve seen while obsessively searching for them on YouTube I’ve seen them use guitars (at least 3), violin, trumpet, keyboards, bass, drums, percussion, and members just singing. It’s crazy to think that something this massively orchestrated can come from a collection of so many members, but nothing is lost in the mix. These songs are massive in their scope and in their execution. If there is on complaint in listening to Harmlessness it’s that the songs tend to be a bit formulaic in how they are constantly starting small and then building into something massive. It’s a bit like riding the same really awesome roller coaster over and over again, but one where the last hill is the biggest and best. That’s not to say it’s not an amazing roller coaster, but it does get a little repetitive after listening to the album 15 times in a row. Not that I’ve done that or anything…
I want to return to the aforementioned song “January 10th, 2014”. From a lyrical perspective, I think it highlights one of the scariest, but most empowering things in punk rock. The song tells the (supposedly true) story of a Mexican woman who goes and takes matters in her own hands in the form of taking the lives of those who hurt others. It closes with the line “make evil afraid of evils shadow.” While on one hand the reasons behind this type of commando justice are apparent, the question begs as to when the cycle stops. Is this endorsement only perpetuating the cycle of injustice and evil in the world, or is this a situation where this can be considered acceptable? It’s definite food for thought.
I could go on and on about the positives of listening to Harmlessness for days on end, but honestly every minute spent reading this review is taking you away from going and discovering this gem for yourself. This record has all the trappings of a classic (except for the awful album artwork) and now I understand why The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die are worthy of being called flagbearers.
Reviewed by: Rob 1340
Warner Bros. Records
Release Date: September, 11, 2015
Duran Duran are a bit like a chameleon. Throughout the years they have consistently swayed with the wind, riding it wherever it took them. This, of course, led to them being one of Pop music’s premier godfathers. Whether it’s the electronic-laden sounds of Big Thing and Medazzaland or the decidedly more Rock and Roll Rio, Astronaut, and the wedding album or even the dance hall soul of Notorious, Duran Duran do it all with an undeniable swagger.
Paper Gods most likely lands somewhere between Big Thing and Notorious, falling somewhere along the line that connects soulful and danceable sounds. “Last Night In the City” (Featuring Kiesza) is the culmination of it all with Le Bon’s vocals front and center alongside Kiesza’s almost gospel worthy performance. This is all amidst a backdrop that would make ravers proud.
Nick Rhodes brings the disco groove to the forefront again and again, but it’s most noteworthy on the synth led “Change the Skyline” (Featuring Jonas Bjerre). It’s gorgeous vocal bridge creates a huge, bright melody that speaks joy amidst some programming that even makes old codgers like me want to dance a bit (Please don’t tell anyone that though).
The album’s title track, “Paper Gods,” is unquestionably the highlight of the album. Featuring Mr. Hudson, the song acapellically builds into a soulful, kind of Billy Joel meets dancehouse meets Duran Duran thing. What really gets me though are the lyrics as the Duranies rarely make statements. This song ironically speaks to the fading of all that glitters (aka the paper gods), something the band has traditionally glorified.
As with any Duran Duran album, there are a couple of failed experiments here and an outright stinker or two. Overall though, this is better than either Red Carpet Massacre or All You Need is Now (which were both solid albums), making it the best Duran Duran album in nearly a decade and proof positive that they still have it in them to be leaders in Pop music.
Reviewed by Mark Fisher
Panic State Records
Release Date: October 9, 2015
Dead Ahead is a four piece melodic punk band from Newburgh, NY. Members of the band have played in With The Punches, Autopilot Off & Measured In Grey. The experience of this band shows through in their aggressive, but controlled style. Dead Ahead isn’t blazing any new territory here, but they also don't miss in any way while following the path tread before. This 4 track EP is gritty melodic punk that fans of The Break or early Alkaline Trio will definitely enjoy.
“Cold Truth” is a great opener for this record as it features everything the Dead Ahead brings in one package. It has a storming guitar line, passionate verses and a massive gang vocal chorus. It sets the stage for the remainder of the record perfectly. “Rose Lenses” is the shortest of the four tracks, featuring a bridge that loses steam before ratcheting the intensity back up at the end of the song. “Bezerker” is my favorite track of the four. It’s a rocking track that features a really raw vocal line from singer Jesse Vadala. The poppiest of the four tracks, “Exit Letters”, is still extremely raw. It features a gang vocal chorus that has a nice melodic hook to it but seems a little off key.
There is an interesting dichotomy featured through this record as a whole. On one hand it is raw and unpolished from a production standpoint, but on the other hand it is very mature in its punk energy. The comparison to The Break’s self-titled record just will not stop playing through my brain while listening to this album. If you are looking for something new to play alongside your melodic punk rock collection, grab Dead Ahead’s self-titled debut. It’s not perfect, but punk rock was never supposed to be.
Reviewed by Rob 1340
Holy White Hounds
Release Date: September 18, 2015
It’s been awhile since I have had a good dose of jangly rock and roll. While the rest of the rock and roll revivalists take their cues from seventies stoner and garage rock, Holy White Hounds aren’t afraid to show their nineties alt-rock cards, incorporating cues that remind me of bands like Nada Surf, Local H, An Horse, and early Beck.
“Oh Mama” seems to be the calling card here. It’s a quirky little number that lands somewhere between REM and Cake with an almost-but-not-quite whiny vocal that holds the loose instrumentation all together. It’s an odd little ditty that packs a musical punch despite its ballad-ish feel.
Meanwhile, songs like “In Your Skin” and “Switchblade” bring the Hounds quirky rock and roll tendencies to the forefront. They are more aggressive overall as far as the guitars go, but they are really, really dynamic tunes that take you through a variety of emotions.
"Black Lust” is my personal favorite. It plays like a nineties alt-rock anthem and causes me to fondly remember when music in the mainstream had some personality. The guitars are loose but the rhythm section marches everything forward, leaving the listener able to fully focus on the lyrics/melody.
Overall, this is a strong album for an indie. With the advent of the internet, independent music has become pretty impossible to navigate. Thankfully, I have this job and the natural filter that comes with it, because otherwise I may have missed out on Sparkle, Sparkle. If you like good, solid alt-rock that takes chances and doesn’t waste time with the trappings of mainstream radio (not a single “oh” or “la la” on the record!) then check out Holy White Hounds.
Reviewed by Mark Fisher