Release Date: Sept 23, 2016
Operation Mindcrime (the brainchild of former Queensryche frontman Geoff Tate) returns with the second part of their trilogy for Frontiers Music. While their debut, The Key, was proggy and quirky, it was also pretty rockin’. Resurrection, on the other hand, continues the story but gets completely bogged down by prog elements. Of the 14 tracks here, 10 are actually songs and two of those are iffy as complete pieces in my opinion.
Let’s start with the good. The production here is stellar. It’s got a rich full sound and the mix allows the instruments to stand distinctly from each other (most notably the pretty incredible bass playing). Outside Queensryche Tate releases have been pretty hit and miss in this regard so it’s nice to hear the production stabilize with the two Operation Mindcrime albums.
There are a handful of cool tracks here that I really enjoyed. “Miles Away” is a synthesizer heavy, Blues-laden tune that has all the right ingredients and reminds me a bit of the Hear in the Now Frontier album (which is one of my favorites). The mid-tempo “The Fight” has a nice feel to it too. This is probably Tate’s best vocal performance on the album as well, he sounds very natural, foregoing some of the effects that dominate the album. The acoustic guitar/piano break that launches the guitar solo gives it a nice twist as well. “Taking on the World” is catchy and has a strong Hard Rock bounce to it but vocally, it’s pretty spotty. The bottom falls out when the chorus hits so it never really takes flight as was surely intended.
Realistically, there is a lot to wade through here in order to get to the album’s best moments. The first four tracks are sound clips and prog wankery. In a way, you get frustrated just trying to get to the first “real” song. As a huge fan of Yes, even I have to admit that the prog moments are particularly draining. I believe I get what Tate & Co. are going for but they just can’t transcend their Hard Rock backgrounds. It comes off as cheesy and unnecessary on much of the album. Additionally, Tate’s vocals are way over-processed on the majority of this album, which is confusing to me since he is one of the premier voices of his generation and one of the few who hasn’t lost much in terms of his ability.
Overall, The Key, turned my ears up and Resurrection makes me take a couple steps back. You could chalk this up to sophomore slump or the fact that it’s the middle of a trilogy (it fits both categories), but either way this album feels like a misstep. Hopefully, the trilogy will offer the best for last. I don’t hate this, but I can’t imagine coming back to it very often either.
Reviewed by mark1340
Release date: September 6, 2016
The best bands create an identity that strikes a chord with listeners. In the best cases it’s less of a gimmick and more of a personality that embeds songs in the listener’s mind, in a special spot that only those snippets of bliss inhabit. Canadian power trio Double Experience do just that. Their nerdy take on alt-metal falls somewhere between the heavy creativity of Coheed And Cambria, and the hooky brilliance of Weezer. Lyrically, the band mines sci-fi and video game themes without limiting content to that area only. The result is original metal with huge pop hooks that hit the listener hard. The impressive results can be heard on their third album, Unsaved Progress.
My first listen to this album nearly caused me whiplash. After a 12 second build up, “SOFINe” explodes into a thumping metal verse, only to give way to a chorus that could make an arena full of fans break out in jubilant destruction. Between the sudden snap of my neck to check the display on my stereo to see that I was listening to and the uncontrollable headbanging that took place, I nearly needed a neck brace after a single song. To my joy, the remaining 8 songs were no less impressive. “AAA” uses video game analogies to paint a picture of desire transmitted by vocals that intermittently bring to mind Claudio Sanchez (Coheed And Cambria) and Patrick Stump (Fall Out Boy). “The Glimmer Shot” gives a nod to the melodic hard rock of the 1980s, building tension during the verses and releasing it with a bombastic chorus. Double Experience demands the listener’s attention.
Nearly any song on this album could be pointed to as a highlight. “See You Soon” has a quirky beat and catchy chorus, creating an alloy from prog rock and pop melody that is overwhelmingly enjoyable. A cover of Blue Oyster Cult’s classic “Godzilla” easily outstrips the original in power and immediacy. “Weakened Warriors” shows off a constantly changing riff that highlights how well the band clicks, moving seamlessly between tempos and patterns. Double Experience creates music that is immersive. These songs hold the listener in their grasp, creating waves of power and melody. Unsaved Progress is so good I bought the band’s previous releases after listening to this album . What higher compliment can I give?
Reviewed by Jim 1340
Release Date: July 29, 2016
Iceland’s Ourlives return with their second stateside release. The band made their U.S. market debut in 2014 with Den of Lions and will return this fall with a brand new EP entitled Black River. Fans who have been patiently waiting though, will find Higher Hopes to be a real treat. Featuring b-sides, new studio outtakes, and material previously only released in their home country, this is the kind of collection that makes you stand up and take notice.
In my opinion the undisputable highlight here is “Honestly.” It’s a melodic indie rocker that seamlessly wraps a near falsetto voice around jangly guitars that start out acoustic and then electrify in more ways than one. It’s very calming in a passive aggressive sort of way. It’s flat out just a perfect moment that reminded me of how good indie rock can still be. “Den of Lions” has a quirkier flare to it, featuring some odd, but funky, bass rhythms and a really snappy snare drum sound that really draws your ear in. On the flipside, “Whisper and Wait” is absolutely breathtaking for completely opposite reasons. The understated vocal work dances around some sparse piano work while it all gets pushed to the surface by an ambient sounding combination of strings and effects. It’s grandiose in the best possible way and about as meditative as they come.
Ourlives was entirely new to me but I’m completely hooked. I can’t stop listening to this album, which has cemented this fall’s upcoming EP as one of my most anticipated releases of 2016. Ourlives is definitely a band to keep your eye on and Higher Hopes, despite being a collection, is an excellent place to start.
Review by mark1340
Demon In Me
Here’s Your Way Out
Release Date: September 2, 2016
From California come Demon In Me, an Alt Rock band that walks the same trails as bands like A Day to Remember, Thrice, and occasionally, Sunny Day Real Estate. Here’s Your Way Out is their label debut for Cleveland, Ohio’s Standby Records.
They say that you should always put your best foot forward and Demon In Me heed that advice. “Cold Sweat” is likely my favorite track on the album. It reminds me of the pinnacle of the Emo movement with it’s swaying, guitar-led verses and emotional vocal work. Kylle Reece’s voice passionately drives the song as the rhythm section builds and builds underneath him. “Make It Hurt” continues the pulsating charge of emotion, adding more aggression to the mix. The melodies are a little bigger on this one too, straddling on the edge of anthemic without ever jumping all the way over. The duo of songs work really well together.
“Bruised Hands” is another standout for me. It bears a strong resemblance to later years Thrice but it’s also pretty damn fantastic so you won’t hear me complain. The guitars get more atmospheric on this one and the chorus has a really catchy melody. The cool part about the chorus is the vocal melody drives it while the music backs off and lets it soar. Plus, the line, “It’s hard to build a home with bruised hands” is one of the most memorable lyrics I have heard in a long time. There’s a lot of truth in that. A lot.
Here’s Your Way Out is a fairly typical debut album. There are some great songs but it’s also largely unfocused. The band offer some pockets of incredibly intense greatness but have a hard time keeping the momentum throughout. Overall, I really dig about half of this album and feel that the band are at their best when they lean towards the more atmospheric and emotive elements of their tunes. If you are a fan of Emo’s evolution into Alt Rock in the early to mid 00’s then you should definitely give Demon in Me a shot.
Reviewed by mark1340
Release date: September 30, 2016
The Pixies are an alt rock institution. The band’s pre-breakup albums are a textbook on creative rock that colors outside the lines. Songs ranged from the blissful pop of “Here Comes Your Man” from 1989’s Doolittle to the chaotic arena rock of “U-Mass” and the post hardcore “Alec Eiffel” (both from Trompe le Monde, 1991). The Pixies mixed classic rock sounds with punk rock disregard for the rules, and created something that changed the landscape of rock n’ roll. They are nearly singlehandedly responsible for inspiring the grunge bands of the 1990s. Since reuniting in 2004 the band has proved that they have lost no power or creativity with the passage of time, releasing 2014’s Indie Cindy to the rabid anticipation of fans both old and new. Head Carrier drives home that fact that the Pixies are less of a band, and more of a force of nature.
What this album does best is show that the Pixies have both improved with time, and remained true to their roots. The opening riff of the title track brings the listener right back to Doolittle while the verse is saccharin sweet pop. All of the classic elements of a Pixies album are in this song – Black Francis’ quirky lyrics and unique mix of crooned and shouted vocals, Joey Santiago’s inimitable guitar, David Lovering’s solid drumming, and bass guitar and backing vocals from Paz Lenchantin that are more than able to fill the role left by original bassist Kim Deal. Lenchantin’s perfect vocal harmonies on “Classic Masher” make it feel like Deal never walked away. She even takes lead vocals on “All I Think About Now,” a track she co-wrote with Black Francis. The song is an homage to Lenchantin’s predecessor that brings to mind Deal compositions like “Where Is My Mind” (Surfer Rosa, 1988). Despite a change in personnel, this album sounds like a classic Pixies release, and fits perfectly beside the band’s back catalog.
Head Carrier is full of outstanding songs. “Um Chagga Lagga” is a wild post-hardcore ride. “Baal’s Back” is raw, dark, quirky punk rock. “Talent” is a Pixies take on high octane rock that bears a bit of resemblance to Black Francis’ solo work, particularly “You Can’t Break A Heart and Have It” from 2007’s BlueFinger. As a longtime Pixies fan, I feel that Head Carrier is the strong album I had hoped for from Indie Cindy. While I enjoyed the band’s 2014 release, in retrospect it sounds like the chronicle of a band regaining their footing, while Head Carrier is a classic Pixies album from start to finish. This is album fans have been clamoring for since the band reemerged on the scene. Hearing the Pixies back and in top form makes the wait worth the reward.
Reviewed by Jim 1340