Lyric Quote of the Month!

NOVEMBER 2015

"The definition of existence is to be aware of consciousness."
from 'Time Will Not Remain' by Killswitch Engage
DECEMBER 2015
"Whenver you dream you're holding the key, it opens the door to let you be free."
from 'Sacred Heart' by DIO
JANUARY 2016
"No one knows, friend or foes, if Valhalla lies beyond the grave...."
from 'Deaf Forever' by Motorhead

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Scars of Armageddon headline 2 February shows (2/19 & 2/20/16)

Post #325
Independent Band of the Year, Scars of Armageddon, are performing 2 live shows as headliners this month.

First, they visit the Elbo Room on Chicago's north side for a show with Lords of the Trident and Witchcross on Friday, February 19th at 8:00pm. Cover is $10.00.

The next day, Saturday, February 20th they play at Smithwood Bar and BBQ in Union, IL (West of Crystal Lake). Openers at this show include Alethia and Arcane Framework.

Don't miss the opportunity to see these guys live!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Trivium in concert with Conniption and The Bloodline (1-21-16)

Post #324

Touring in support of their newest album, Silence in the Snow, Trivium made a stop in my neck of the woods in southeast Wisconsin and I got myself a ticket, in spite of it being on a week night. It has been far too long since I've managed to see Trivium live, plus this would be my first chance to see them as a headliner! They've put out 3 albums since I last saw them on Mayhem Fest in '09, so there would be plenty of new songs in their set, plus I also got a chance to see two other up and coming bands: Conniption and The Bloodline.

I had been following The Bloodline in recent months, since Mike Sylvester of Fist to the Sky joined their touring line-up, but Conniption were completely new to me. I had no idea what to expect. As soon as Conniption started playing I knew I was in for an awesome night of thrash and power metal. Conniption are from Milwaukee, WI, and they perform an intense brand of traditional metal or power metal- fast-tempo, power-riffs, numerous extended guitar solos, and a vocal style akin to Iron Maiden. One of the songs in their set was an instrumental, featuring multiple guitar solos- traded off between lead guitarist Bill House and vocalist/guitarist Michael Brigham. The two played competitively, razzing each other while the other was playing their lead... sort of the way that Sam Totman and Herman Li of DragonForce do. After their opening set, it was time for The Bloodline.

The Bloodline are a Chicago-based melodic metalcore band, and a perfect warm-up for the likes of Trivium. Their style fluctuates between melodic vocals, and hardcore screams in a well-balanced ratio. Vocalist Travis Neal had a commanding stage presence while singing either style. I was reminded of Five Finger Death Punch's Ivan Moody, and it wasn't just their coincidental image of shaved heads, this dude can really sing... and scream. At every point where the song called for it, bassist Mike Sylvester was right there providing the backing vocals, also with both the melodic or hardcore style. Their brutal heaviness and intensity got the crowd energized and moshing ensued...

Next up was the band the whole venue had been waiting for with eager anticipation. Trivium- a band who in my opinion are the best to come along in thrash metal since the genre's beginnings in the mid-1980's. Trivium- whose music I regard as highly as I do Metallica's or Megadeth's. Trivium- a band who almost single-handedly restored my faith in metal's future when I first heard their song 'Entrance of the Conflagration' nearly 10 years ago...

Trivium took the stage as the classical music of 'Sn0fall' played as their intro. The crowd gave them an enthusiastic welcome, the release of their anticipation almost palpable... The band launched immediately into the title track of their new album, 'Silence in the Snow'. Power chords, thundering drums, and headbanging ensued almost immediately. After that they quickly mixed things up, playing a song from nearly every one of their albums in quick succession. They gave the crowd some of their older and well known hardcore classics like 'Rain' and 'Like Light to the Flies' from their landmark Ascendancy album, while ensuring each song was packed with potent energy, and they gave a kick-ass performance!

Matt Heafy was a perfect front-man: Keeping the crowd engaged, and entertained. He mixed some goofing off stage antics in with the expected venting-of-rage that Trivium's lyrical style lends itself to. For the first few minutes of their performance he stuck his tongue out for the crowd in a variety of manners, playing to the smartphones that were snapping pics every couple seconds. He struck several poses while his hands kept jamming out riff after riff. But he would let the crowd get too complacent either, asking us to keep the emotions high and loud even between songs. We in the audience were more than happy to oblige. We gave our all to show our support with screams, headbanging, moshing, and fist-pumping as often as possible.

The band as a whole was in top form on this wintry night. Bassist Paolo Gregoletto provides the melodic backing vocals, and Corey Beaulieu the hardcore backing vocals, while Matt switched back and forth with expert vocal control. Not to be overlooked is their brand new drummer, Paul Wandtke. Hired on by the band right at the start of this tour, replacing previous drummer Mat Madiro on short notice, he nailed all the drum parts like a pro. Heafy gave him a special nod right before he launched into 'Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr', the band's trademark song, and one with the most intense drum-intro I've ever heard.

Trivium left the stage but it was mere seconds later that chants of "TRI-VI-UM! TRI-VI-UM! TRI-VI-UM!" started up... And we kept it going for several minutes until another taped intro began to play. The crowd erupted in cheers with recognition of the track 'Capsizing the Sea', the intro to their 2011 album, In Waves. Matt Heafy again thanked us for being a great crowd, but also instructed us to sing the two-word chorus "In Waves" as loud as we could, and when the song kicked in, we did! I know I was screaming myself hoarse as the mosh-pit grew to encompass at least half the square footage of the entire venue. A fitting conclusion to a killer set-list by one of my favorite bands.

Here are the songs performed on this night. You should find they make an excellent playlist! You cna find the songs of each band downloadable through their websites, also listed below.

Setlist: CONNIPTION
-The Torrent
-Sonata #1 in b minor
-Kamikaze
-(Come On) King of the Road
-Let the Wolf Out

Setlist: THE BLOODLINE
-We Are One
-Divided
-Dead and Buried
-Midnight
-With Fire (Comes Absolution)
-Poisonous
-The Blackout

Setlist TRIVIUM
-Sn0fall (intro)
-Silence in the Snow
-Into the Mouth of Hell We March
-Strife
-Rain
-Tread the Floods
-Built to Fall
-Like Light to the Flies
-Insurrection
-Throes of Perdition
-Becoming the Dragon
-Down From the Sky
-Until the World Goes Cold
-Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr
---encore---
-Capsizing the Sea (intro)
-IN WAVES


After the show I also took advantage of a meet - n - greet they offered for Trivium. Getting to hang with these guys after the show was a truly special honor. I headed to the balcony of the venue and waited a while until the band came out and made the rounds, taking a couple minutes to chat with each fan in the room, and sign their CD's or LP's too. They were very humble, very personable, and professional guys! I wish I had thought of some more meaningful stuff to talk with them about, but I was starstruck, and simply grateful for the opportunity to meet them and say a few words. You may recall that I missed a chance for a meet and greet when I attended Mayhem Fest, but this night made up for it.

Don't forget to follow each of these bands on facebook:
Trivium
Conniption
The Bloodline

My pics from the show...

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Jake Stratton-The Survival (EP 2014)

Post #323

Jake Stratton, the guitarist and songwriter from the band Ten With Strangers, reviewed previously on this blog, released a solo-project CD in 2014 entitled 'The Survival'. This has a bit of a different vibe than either of the TWS releases, since Jake himself also does the lead vocals here, but there is enough of his unique songwriting style to recognize the similarities.


This EP rocks with a rock 'n' roll/pop-punk vibe and contains plenty of catchy hooks, melodies and clever lyrics to draw you in. At times it sounds like a 90's pop-puck effort, at others an 80's hard rock staple. In either case Jake Stratton gives you the kind of catchy hard rock that Ten With Strangers' fans might expect.

This'll Have to Do -This 'un-ballad's lyrical theme reminds me of the Sara Bareilles hit 'Love Song' in that it is not the kind of song that the title may imply. To clarify: Bareilles sings "I'm not going to write you a love song today..." The entire song in an inspiration from her record label's request for a love song from her. In 'This'll Have to Do', Jake sings, "Someday, when I tell you 'so-long!', I'm gonna write you a beautiful love song, and 'til then, this'll have to do..." Did I mention this is my favorite track on this EP?

Rock and Roll Warriors -If Green Day were to write a song telling the story of rock n' roll music from it's inception through the end of the 90's, it might sound like this. Jake starts with Chuck Berry, and walks us through the 60's, 70's, 80's, and 90's until thrash, glam, and grunge have all been introduced. It is a kind of anthem encouraging rockers to keep on rockin'.

Fallin' in Love Again -A song inspired by the Fountains of Wayne hit 'Stacy's Mom', it carries a similar pop-punk feel, but portrays the opposite scenario. Equally taboo; in this song the middle-aged man falls in love with a lady half his age...

I Don't Know - Another straight-up pop-puck type of rock song. The riff is one that sounds like it would fit right in on Green Day's 1997 album Nimrod.

March of the Zombies -Jake Stratton chooses to close this EP with perhaps the heaviest song it has to offer. This song is pretty much a description of living in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. It plods along with a slow tempo, perhaps to imitate the slow and methodical lurch of the stereotypical zombies from the old movies...

You can download all of Jake Stratton's music at Broadjam.com: http://www.broadjam.com/artists/albums.php?artistID=21904

You can also visit the Ten With Strangers Facebook page...

Additionally both of the full-length Ten With Strangers releases can be purchased for download or CD at CBaby.com: http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/TenWithStrangers

Monday, January 18, 2016

Scars of Armageddon opening for Dissona's Album Release show: Jan 23rd, 2016

Post #322

HappyHeadbanger's Independent Band of the Year, Scars of Armageddon, are playing their first show of 2016 on January 23rd! They're opening for progressive metal band Dissona's 'Paleopneumatic' album release show.

This show will be at Nite Cap 5007 W Irving Park Rd, Chicago. For just $10 you'll see five Chicago area metal bands. Show starts at 7:30pm... Don't miss it!




Monday, January 11, 2016

Swirl-Self-titled EP (2013)

Post #321

SWIRL are an up and coming hard rock band from southern California. While keeping a fresh sound to their formula, they truly are like a pure rock 'n' roll band. Some may call them modern hard rock, or pop metal, but as I'm a minimalist when it comes to defining genres, I'll just call them rock n' roll.
http://www.swirltheband.com/?page_id=42

SWIRL's 2013 debut, self-titled EP delivers 7 quality tracks that show you their potential. From several listens through the EP as a whole I can say these guys are a band about positive vibes, uplifting lyrical themes, old-fashioned hooks, solid musicianship and just letting the good times roll. They fuse solid grooves, memorable riffs, and skilled technical abilities into a modern heavy rock 'n roll product. Vocally their singer has a tone and pitch that reminds me of Sammy Hagar, so any 'Red Rocker' fans out there might want to pay attention... Each song has something to offer, and I'll touch a bit on each one now... along with a memorable or catchy lyric from each as well.

Fourth of July - * The EP opens with a straight-up hard rocker. A mid-tempo, classic groove sets the tone of this song about a hot babe that '...lights me up like it's the Fourth of July!'. My favorite line has to be when the singer says, "Like Johnny Cash, for you, girl I'll walk the line."

Spell - Fantastic and groovy bass intro on this one. The bass guitar continues to drive this song throughout. 'Breaking from your spell' is a lyrical analogy for seeing the true side of someone in a bad relationship.
"You got your money but you ain't got no soul..."

Rise Up - This is another song that has a classic rock 'n roll feel. Carries a theme of true self-empowerment and anti-entitlement...
"We gotta take back what we own. We're the kings and the queens of this world..."

We Are Alive - * This one's a little harder, little faster. It's built on a great catchy riff, but really pulled me in with the anthemic key-change at the 2 minute mark!
"Realize that we are human beings, not robots or machines."

Message - * A cool echo-effect at the start of this one makes it catchy from the start. It is a slow-tempo, heavy number, and the vocalist employs a scratchy, raspier tone to his voice. It almost seems like it could be post-grunge, and reminiscent of Candlebox.
"You gotta take a stand, no one's gonna hold your hand..."

Time to Fly - *** Hands down, this is my favorite track on this EP. Primarily played in a minor key, it transitions to an uplifting theme at the choruses, and strings come in to compliment the song.
"They tell her that she's wasting her time, losing her mind, better get back in line and follow the blind."

Mad Disease - A darker and heavier number again, perhaps the heaviest offering on this mostly mainstream rock recording. The lyrics of this one depict an anti-drug theme.
"Needle to vein, there's no more pain. You had the world at your feet, now you're falling from grace..."

SWIRL have opened for a number of well known metal bands from the 80's and 90's, and if the chance arises that they play somewhere in the midwest, I look forward to possibly catching them live... follow them on their facebook page to keep up with their tour schedule.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

2015-16 Independent Band of the Year: Scars Of Armageddon

Post #320
Congratulations to Scars of Armageddon for narrowly eclipsing VIA (Violence In Ascension) to claim the title of 'Independent Band of the Year' for www.happyheadbanger.com. Scars of Armageddon are based out of McHenry, IL (a far, far northwestern 'suburb' of Chicago). There will soon be a link to their main website in this blog's left-hand sidebar, a review of their independently recorded album 'Never Sleep... Again', and monthly posts of their upcoming performances. In the meantime you can start following their Facebook page to keep up on what they have going on...

Friday, January 1, 2016

Ian "Lemmy" Killmister: 1945-2015

Post # 319

On December 28th, 2015 Motorhead frontman Lemmy Killmister passed away from "an extremely aggressive cancer". This comes as a shock to the entire subculture of heavy metal music. Other notable iconic artists have been sharing their life experiences through their independent websites and social media pages. I'm sure by now many of you have already read several of those posts, so I won't bother posting links here- they'll be easy enough to find with simple google searching. I just want to take a moment to reflect on Lemmy's body of work, influence, and legacy in heavy metal.

What I will share with you are my previous reviews, suggested songs and albums from Lemmy's bands Motorhead and Hawkwind. (Yes, for the casual follower of Lemmy and Motorhead, he was in another band, Hawkwind, before he formed Motorhead, from 1972-1975!) Although I may never have considered myself a 'Die-hard' fan of Motorhead, it was impossible to get as deep into heavy metal music as I have without knowing a lot of Motorhead music. Lemmy is also well known as an amicable collaborator within the industry, as I have been reading over and over again in memoirs of rock and metal musicians in addition to the previously mentioned social media updates. To name a very underrepresented few of those who cite Lemmy and Motorhead as a significant influence are Twisted Sister, Metallica, and Ozzy Osbourne. Many of the independent bands I have reviewed on this blog also consider Motorhead a significant influence. There really are too many to name. Even as an artist who never cared what others thought of his music, Lemmy's dedication to the fans was undeniable. Motorhead was constantly on tour for the better part of 5 decades.

I count myself fortunate enough to have had the chance to see Motorhead in concert twice. In each case, they were not the main draw for me personally, but each time I walked away impressed, satisfied, and more a fan than I was before. The first time I saw them as part of The Metal Masters Tour in 2008. Judas Priest was the headliner in support of their Nostradamus album. Several years later I attended Megadeth's Gigantour in 2012. I recall I enjoyed this performance by Motorhead better than the first time. Click the links for my full reviews of those shows.

Before I go into my recommended Motorhead music I'm first going to suggest you find some early music by Hawkwind and listen to it. Lemmy started out in this psychedelic space-rock band and their early work is considered a key influence on the early years of heavy metal. He even performed with them occasionally as a guest through the years. See him singing lead vocals on the Hawkwind classic 'Silver Machine' here. Hawkwind are still around, you can like their facebook page to keep up on their music. Other famous songs from their early years that feature Lemmy include 'Lost Johnny' and of course 'Motorhead'. 'Lost Johnny' was included in The Heavy Metal Box (box set of significant Heavy Metal music from the late 60's to the mid 90's).

Their newest album, Bad Magic, was just released on August 28th of 2015. The band had planned a 40th anniversary tour, but some things are just not in the cards... Bad Magic is also available in a number of special packages through Motorhead's main website. Shop for one of them here.

I'll leave you with some of my personal favorites from Motorhead, but whatever you do to honor Lemmy and his legacy to music, do it loud, and without a care for what others may think of you. Be true. Be loud. Be a motherfuckin' bastard!

My recommended Motorhead ALBUMS:
-Ace of Spades ('80)
-Orgasmatron ('86)
-1916 ('91)
-Inferno ('04)
-The World is Yours ('10)

My favorite Motorhead Songs:
-Ace of Spades
-Get Back in Line
-Just 'Cos You Got the Power
-Kingdom of the Worm
-No Voices in the Sky
-Going to Brazil
-Overkill
-God Was Never On Your Side
-I Know How to Die
-R.A.M.O.N.E.S.
-Killed By Death
-Deaf Forever
-In The Name of Tragedy
-The Game
-Hellraiser

And don't forget (from Dave Grohl's Probot album...)
-Shake Your Blood


Monday, November 23, 2015

Ronnie James Dio-This Is Your Life (Tribute 2014)

Post #318

When Ronnie James Dio lost his battle with cancer in 2010, the world of heavy metal mourned the loss of one if its most iconic vocalists of all time.

http://ronniejamesdio.com/

As far as tributes go, it is hard to top this one. The roster of artists performing on this tribute CD are all practically legends themselves. Killswitch Engage, Scorpions, Corey Taylor (of Slipknot and Stone Sour), Halestorm, Anthrax, Tenacious D, and even the mighty Metallica have all included a song on this collection. That should show you the significance of Dio's influence alone, but do yourself a favor and listen to this collection of songs, penned by one of the greatest vocalists metal has ever known.


Recommended tracks:
-Neon Knights (Anthrax)
-The Last In Line (Tenacious D)
-Rainbow In The Dark (Corey Taylor and others)
-The Temple of the King (Scorpions)
-Straight Through The Heart (Halestorm)
-Ronnie Rising Medley (a blend of 4 tracks from Ronnie's material by Rainbow-arranges and performed by Metallica)
-This is Your Life (Dio- this one is a Dio original, and one I hadn't paid close attention to before. It is from his album Angry Machines. The lyrics make it a very fitting inclusion here.)


Do not forget that 100% of the proceeds from sales of this tribute album benefit the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund

Saturday, October 24, 2015

INDEPENDENT BAND OF THE YEAR 2015

Post #317
It is time again to vote and decide the new Independent Band of the Year here at www.happyheadbanger.com. Check out each of the following contestants and vote for your favorite! If you have a couple you can't decide between, you do have the option of voting for more than one. When the poll closes, the band with the most votes will become the featured independent band on this site for the 2016 calendar year.

MAKESHIFT TRAGEDY (NuMetal/Post Hardcore- Indianapolis, IN)


These guys from Indianapolis are tearing things up with their modern Nu-Metal sound. A hardcore vocal style with alternative-metal elements

Check out:
Dollface
Half Life Homicide

VIA (Melodic Death/Progressive Metal, New Castle, DE)


This band has a serious hardcore riff structure and a vocal repertoire to match. Primarily hardcore/death metal music and vocal styles, but they incorporate melodic elements and progressive song-structures.

Check out:
-Royal Bloodshed
-Hell's Gate

EL FAMOUS (Melodic Metalcore- Chicago, IL)


Chicago natives deliver intense, furious metalcore riffage, with technical guitar elements and a peppering of melodic vocals. Lyrics convey self-empowering themes.
Check out:
-Rise
-Sacrifice

ARCANE FRAMEWORK (Melodic Metal/Alt Rock- Wauconda, IL)

A female-fronted metal band that delivers a great mix of heavy and melodic songs. Beautiful vocal qualities clash with thundering and heavy riffs broken up by melodic guitar passages.
Check out:
-Some Kind of Grace
-Colorblind

STAND WELL AMONG GIANTS  (Electronic Post-Hardcore- Orlando, FL)

A hardcore metal band with a little something different. A melodic hardcore structure, layered throughout with electronic music elements and percussion.
Check out:
-Pluto of Jupiter

SCARS OF ARMAGEDDON (Progressive-Power/Traditional Metal- McHenry, IL)

A tight heavy metal band with a full, heavy and balanced sound. Heavy traditional metal that incorporates progressive elements. There is no shortage of technical expertise in the guitar work while the vocals remind me of a fusion of grunge and power metal.
Check out:
-Our Dying Day
-Edge of Darkness


ANCHORS OF EMPIRES (Alt. Rock/Post-Hardcore- Kenosha, WI)

A melodic metal band, with catchy hooks, melodic vocals, powerful hard rock riffs, and thrash-metal elements. These guys are poised for mainstream accessibility.
Check out:
-Giants
-Bridgeburner

Friday, October 16, 2015

Eliminator-...and the Brokenhearted Balladeers (2011)

Post #316

Eliminator... at one point they were dubbed the 'Masters of Speed-Black', back in 2008 with the release of their first full-length album, Breaking the Wheel. Then in 2010 they decided they didn't like being boxed into a specific genre, even if it was a unique one of their own invention, and incorporated several different stylistic elements on their 2nd album The One They Were Waiting For. I've reviewed both of those releases (follow the links above to see more of my thoughts on them!), but their 3rd album, released in 2011, was so unprecedented I feel almost like it rewrote the rules of music for me, or perhaps it is more accurate to say it defenestrated all the rules of music...

In any case, I've wanted to write this review for a long time, and now its time has come. Eliminator's 3rd album: And The Brokenhearted Balladeers
https://eliminator.bandcamp.com/album/and-the-brokenhearted-balladeers

While many of their established fans may shun the music recorded here for its daring new directions and seeming abandonment of the 'speed-black' metal style from their debut, I do believe the open-minded music fan will find this release almost incomparably unique among rock/metal releases in general. The album opens with 'Cuttin' You Down (Switchblade Fighter)', a song that emulates a power-ballad vibe with a raw, almost under-produced sound. Though the recording quality is high throughout, the production seems like the sounds were left in their original state- not doctored up in any way. Guitar music purists out there will love this aspect of the album, regardless of which track they may choose to sample. A power ballad is already a totally novel concept coming from Eliminator, but that's just the beginning...

The second track, 'No Answers' is best described as a hardcore-punk/metal song. It is not quite as intense as their work on Breaking the Wheel, but it's as close as you'll get on this album. Fans from that early Eliminator album may find this to be the only song worth recommending, but I dare anyone reading this to listen to the album front-to-back and then see what you think. It is a listening experience truly unlike any other.

My personal favorite from this album is the third track, 'Near Dark'. This one is much more traditional metal in its approach and execution. Themed after the cult-classic vampire flick of the same name, this song deliveres a more 'metal' subject matter as well. The intro guitar solo will grab you with shredding hooks, and pull you under... Go willingly! You'll thank me for it later.

As 'Near Dark' winds to a close the drums transition in an instant to 'Sex, Drinks, and Music... In My Grave', an old-school rock and roll song, complete with boogie-woogie piano. It almost has a vibe like an ole' west drinking song. The seamless transition from one song to the next brings the shocking contrast of style home with full force. Here again is an instant where listeners will need a moment to process what they're hearing, and ultimately decide for themselves if they like it or not.

The album continues to shift back and forth and sideways between several rock and metal genres. You may start to wonder what they were thinking when composing such diverse music and juxtaposing the songs on a single album, but if you can set that all aside and simply listen... you'll find this to be a very creative, innovative, and above all unique collection of music. Overall, I find And the Brokenhearted Balladeers to be ambitious in its originality; daring in its blatant destruction of walls between the genres of rock 'n' roll, blues, and metal; yet still appeasing in its surprising listenability. An essential recommendation for those with eclectic tastes!

Recommendations from And the Brokenhearted Balladeers:
-No Answers
-Near Dark
-Sex, Drinks and Music... In My Grave
-Amor Fati (This one is also quite unique, even within the context of this album! electric-guitar avant-garde, slow and melodic...)
-Time is On Your Side (Another heavier offering: next to 'No Answers', perhaps the heaviest tune on the album.)


(FYI: when viewing the Eliminator Bandcamp page, the tracks are simply numbered. Here is a reference to the song titles: 1-Cuttin' You Down (Switchblade Fighter), 2-No Answers, 3-Near Dark, 4-Sex, Drinks, and Music... In My Grave, 5-Just Ain't the Same, 6-Route 69, 7-Punk Island, 8-Amor Fati, 9-Time is On Your Side, 10-Crystal Ball)

Monday, August 31, 2015

Imminent Sonic Destruction-Recurring Themes (2012)

Post #315

Imminent Sonic Destruction, from Detroit, MI are like the 2nd coming of Dream Theater. There are some specific examples of similarities you can directly compare, but as is the case with any new band, they forge their own unique elements into those they take from their influences. Beyond that first impression of mine, they do seem to be true disciples of prog rock and prog metal as their name is a direct inspiration from the progressive space-rock band Hawkwind. It is just with their heavy tonality, and balanced instrumentation, Dream Theater is the most accurate comparison that comes to mind...
Recurring Themes is a full-length album (it's hard not to be when they employ such an accomplished prog-metal style!) that is packed with technical prowess, grand ambition, spectacular musicianship, and jaw-dropping execution. Although a self-released title, they did catch the ear of famous metal producer Roy Z (whom has produced albums for the likes of Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson), and he offered to produce this album.

The opening song, 'Driving Home' features heavy guitars, synthesizers, and elegant guitar solos. It clocks in at just over 10 minutes and instantly gives you a heavy dose of this band's abilities. Fans of Dream Theater (like myself) will find them to be a promising young talent with a bright and promising future.

Another track, 'With Death This Story Ends', gives you a bit of something new, as it incorporates a subtle amount of hardcore screaming in the vocal palate. At first it is a slower, subdued song, with a mild tempo primarily driven by bass and drums. Overall the vocals are still primarily melodic, it is just that we hear their potential for the harder edge after a transition towards the end of the song. In this day and age almost any serious metal band will use some degree of hardcore vocals. Imminent Sonic Destruction are no different, and they can do so as well as anybody, they just choose to use it sparingly.

Describing their style as "progressive super metal" is no understatement, and neither are the comparissons to Dream Theater! It takes a lot to reach that level of musicianship, and it is not a comparisson to make lightly. They can compose and execute compositions of epic length with professional scope and vision. no less than 3 of this album's tracks break the 10 minute mark. 'Raven', the longest of them all, clocks iin at 16:36, and closes the album in stellar fashion.

Another favorite track I want to highlight is 'Here, It's Over'. This one has a dark, melodic intro that feels like it's building to something. The bridges and choruses are heavy thrash metal segments, while the verses revert to the melodic minor-key vibe of the intro. The lyrics depict a personal relationship: a life built together that is slowly disintegrating. Vocally, there are hardcore screams that come into play when the emotions intensify.

So if any of you are a Dream Theater fan wondering when another band might come along to follow their footsteps, or carry that style of metal into the next generation, wait no longer. That band has arrived, and their name is Imminent Sonic Destruction!

Visit their Youtube Channel to see music videos, interviews, stunts, updates, etc...

Though this release has been out for a couple years already, they are still touring in support of it. As a matter of fact, ISD are opening for Fates Warning on their North American Tour this fall!
Visit their facebook page for more details and updates...

Recommended tracks from Imminent Sonic Destruction's Recurring Themes:
-Driving Home
-Monster
-With Death This Story Ends
-Temple
-Here, It's Over
-Raven

Friday, July 31, 2015

Dee Snider: Shut Up And Give Me The Mic (A Twisted Memoir)

Post #314

Dee Snider has lived quite a memorable life in the world of rock n' roll and heavy metal music. In his 2012 autobiography, Shut Up and Give Me the Mic, he tells his tale, and that of Twisted Sister, with an often humbling honesty born from clear-minded, 20/20 hindsight of a career that was a rock n' roll roller coaster ride. I know that sounds cliché, but there are few more-accurate analogies to make!
http://www.amazon.com/Shut-Up-Give-Me-Mic/dp/145163739X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1411435393&sr=1-1&keywords=shut+up+and+give+me+the+mic
Dee's childhood and teen years from his middle-class suburban New York upbringing are covered with enough detail that you get a sense that you knew a kid like Dee at some point or other in your life. As he began to pursue his passion for rock music by singing in local bands, his reputation and natural talent eventually led him to audition for Jay Jay French's band Twisted Sister.

Years of building a cult following on New York's club scene, and a reputation as the hardest working band in the city would eventually pay off as they were finally signed to a major label in the early '80's. However, the circumstances and details of the contract, management at the record company, and promotional support (or lack thereof) would each be key ingredients of the band's fall from grace a few years down the road.

First, however, there was their unprecedented rise to the top of the heavy metal music scene. A couple albums into their career Twisted Sister hit the jackpot. Stay Hungry was their 3rd album, released in 1984, and featured their first genuine hit, "We're Not Gonna Take It". It broke open many doors for the band; international touring, commercial success, multi-platinum album sales... Heck, the entire genre of Glam-Metal (AKA 'Hair Metal') probably got its image from Dee Snider's hair! But one of the biggest keys of Twisted Sister's, and Dee Snider's, success as a cultural phenomenon was their success on MTV.

The band jumped into the MTV music video business with true flair. Dee himself had a specific vision of a semi-scripted mini screen play that would serve as an intro to the actual song. The resulting video was of course, "We're Not Gonna Take It". If you look into the history of music videos, you'll find that this was the first ever music video to feature an extended, scripted segment preceding the song, acting out a story-line that sets the mood for the song, and continuing the plot throughout.

For the next year or so the band enjoyed the success of rock-stars, as their stereotype expectations of a dream-career as rock musicians actually came true... But an unfortunate set of circumstances that would doom their career was just around the corner.

Ironically, the cultural phenomenon that Twisted Sister and Dee Snider had become would also play a role in their downward spiral as the parents of this generation of metal fans would make them an example of the 'evils' they believed lay in the music's themes and lyrics. The Parents Music Resource Center (aka P.M.R.C.) originated at about this time as a crusade of sorts against profanity and violence in music. They sought to demand that music which contained certain offensive lyrics and imagery be labeled with Parental Advisory stickers to make consumers aware of their content. This concept quickly brought up the first amendment and the right to free speech.

Dee was invited to give a statement at the senate hearing for the PMRC's proposed parental warning labels for rock music packaging.
(I.E. the 'Parental Advisory-Explicit Lyrics or Content' labels that are now found on a great many album covers- this is where that practice began, and the artists were against it for the most part...) What the PMRC expected was a wasted, unsophisticated, profanity-spewing, blasphemous, high school drop-out, whose demeanor would incriminate itself and become an example of the exact thing they were against. But what they got was Dee Snider: a 100% clean and sober, composed, intelligent, family man who happened to be the lead singer for one of the most popular rock and roll bands of that era. I could describe Dee's speech in detail, but it's easier to just see it for yourself here:


To put it in a nutshell: The PMRC were unprepared for Dee's logical arguments and defense of his craft. Before they knew what hit them, it was all over, and the pompous politicians and their wives were stuck in a perpetual verbal back-pedal, and having difficulty defending or justifying their own words that Dee Snider had quoted to them.

The down side? There was no social media back in 1985, and the masses who would have been educated from hearing this speech didn't get the chance. Coverage in most media outlets was limited to a couple of paragraphs in a newspaper, or 30 seconds on the nightly news. And each reporter was able to put their own spin on the debate, or the spin they were told to put on it by the company they worked for... in 1985... in the height of the Republican's wave of conservatism... at the peak of Reagan's popularity.

Sure, nowadays, every metal-head who is worth their weight in denim and leather will champion Dee for taking a stand for metal music, and representing the artists with dignity, respect, and composure. But what difference did it make back then? Well, do you see those parental warnings on the cover-art for your cutting edge artists? And even more relevant to this specific review: can you name a top-40 Twisted Sister hit AFTER 1985??? In the fallout from the PMRC's demonizing of heavy metal in general, and Twisted Sister (and Dee Snider) specifically, record stores cut their promotion of their music, parents wouldn't let their kids buy their albums, and MTV even banned their high-budget music video from their follow-up album from their network! That song was 'Be Chrool to Your Scuel', and it featured a guest-appearance by the one and only Alice Cooper, but it was never aired! (Of course now it is available on youtube, you'll see I've posted it below...)

For Twisted Sister, their rise and fall has been a mixed bag of blessings and curses, with one often tied-to or wrapped in the other. Dee recounts all of these circumstances with humble clarity, and foreshadows what's to come as the proverbial dominoes are set up right in front of his face, only to be tumbled down in a collapsing house of cards. By the end of the 80's, Twisted Sister was dead in the water, and for all the ambition, creativity, and side projects that Dee could muster, it was years before he was able to find other successful in-roads back into the entertainment business.

Overall, I have found Shut Up, and Give Me the Mic to be one of the most enjoyable and insightful memoirs of a heavy metal artist I have read yet. I am grateful to Dee for taking the time to write this book, and tell his own side of his life-story. I find I am more appreciative of the music he has made because of my understanding of the work that went into creating it, and circumstances that surrounded it. I sincerely hope I am able to catch Twisted Sister live in concert before they hang it up for good. Even if they remain a nostalgia-act, performing just their hits from the 80's, I would still appreciate the chance to see the hardest working band in show business.

In closing, I'll leave you with links to Twisted Sister's trilogy of classic music videos... (well, 2 classics and the 'controversial' banned-from-MTV 3rd video), followed by some recommended tracks that give you a good slice of Twisted Sister's legacy...










Recommended tracks from Twisted Sister:
-Under the Blade
-Bad Boys (of Rock N' Roll)
-You Can't Stop Rock N' Roll
-I Am (I'm Me)
-Burn In Hell
-Stay Hungry
-The Price
-I Wanna Rock
-S.M.F.
-Be Chrool to Your Schuel
-We're Not Gonna Take It
-Heroes are Hard to Find

Friday, July 10, 2015

Scarlet Canary-Arise (2015)

Post #313

Scarlet Canary are a female-fronted metal band from Denver, CO. I first discovered them when they came to Chicago to play Dame-Nation in August 2013. Their style could be called hard-rock as easily as it could be called melodic metal. I prefer the latter, especially as they incorporate elements of hardcore and metalcore into their sound.

Scarlet Canary's style and formula is actually quite comparable to Halestorm's for the most part. They employ a crisp and heavy tonality, song structures that vary form alternative rock to classic metal or even thrash, memorable guitar riffs, lead guitar solos, and catchy vocal melodies. Singer Hannah Haze delivers the lyrics with a primarily melodic style, but when she goes for it, her voice has a gritty edge when she pulls out her hardcore screams.


Their newest EP: Arise, gives you everything you'd expect from them for those who have heard their previous recordings, but adds the slightest hardcore edge. Since their last album they've had a change in their line-up and some of the new members bring their own influences into the mix. Overall the results are great! This band was poised to step to the next level and Arise certainly takes them in that direction.

Now for a breakdown of the tracks...
Fade-Clean guitar intro, and clean vocal melodies. The song progresses to include distorted guitars, but remains within a radio-friendly structure. This one is pretty much alt-rock through and through.

Regrets-A little heavier, this slow-to-mid tempo rocker builds to a strong chorus where hardcore vocals are used to deliver the line, "Your strength is beautiful to me!"

Death of Rock and Roll-This one is a great metal song with a strong groove, and could also be called a drinking song. Although if one would listen closely its lyrics are a tongue-in-cheek satire and lamentation of the hardships of struggling to make it in the music business as an independent artist. The crux is summed up best near the song's end when they suggest that the 'shots' you get at the bar will be the only 'shot' you'll get.

Bring Forth the Fire-Here is where Scarlet Canary up the ante a bit. During the choruses of this song hardcore screams are featured more prominently. On this one we may be hearing some of the influence from newer members, but it reveals a promising and versatile palate with which this band could continue to create music. To them I would say, 'Bring forth more music!'

Bottles and Anchors- This one has a more traditional metal/hard rock sound, keeping Scarlet Canary's sound accessible yet still heavy. Backing vocal elements tempt me to compare this number to the style to Iron Maiden. Coincidentally this song also contains one of the better guitar solos on this EP. Lyrically the song walks you through the ashes of a broken relationship, and the protagonist experiences betrayal, despair, and later some retribution.

Ghosts- This one has a memorable riff in a minor key which sets a dark mood, util the chorus brings a key-change and lifts the mood. Then the song returns to the darker mood for the next verse. This song has a true ebb and flow with the well-structured key-changes that keep the mood in flux. Another awesome guitar solo can be found here too.

Scarlet Canary are on tour again this summer and will be appearing in northern Illinois once again. This time they're hitting Rockford, IL on August 29th. Tracks from Arise are sure to be prominently featured in their set-list. If you like what you hear in the links below, then you should definitely catch them when they come through town. Visit their Official Website or facebook page for tour schedule, streaming audio and news updates. Also visit them on Reverbnation, itunes, or Bandcamp for downloads. Or you could buy a CD copy here.