Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Shield Of Wings - Unfinished (2022)

 Post #395

It's been a while since I reviewed Shield of Wings on this blog. Their first recording, the EP Solarium, was released in 2011. I reviewed a concert they played in August of that year, and have been following them since then. 

I was pleasantly surprised to hear their announcement of a new, full-length album, Unfinished. I was instantly curious to hear how they sound on this new material. Guitarist and main songwriter, James Gregor, and fellow founding member Patrick Eulitz (drums), have recruited a new lineup, featuring Aliyah Daye on keyboards and backing vocals, Alex Luke on bass guitar, and Lara Mordian on lead vocals. My first exposure to any of the new music was their music video for the first single, "Wetland". After that experience, I was eager to hear more. Their overall sound and style of symphonic metal sounds complete, fresh, and epic! Beyond that, the recording reverberates with top-notch production. Every instrument can be heard crisp and clear.

To reference a couple established bands in the symphonic metal genre, I'd compare Lara's vocal style to Epica's Simone Simons. Lara uses a smooth blending of head-voice and chest-voice throughout most songs. Aliyah adds backing vocals in styles ranging from melodic harmonies to death growls. While this may seem stylistically similar to Epica as well, Shield of Wings doesn't implement the harsher vocal style as prominently. Theirs is a primarily melodic, operatic style of vocals with a small peppering of death growls, and only in a fraction of their songs.

Musically their formula sounds close to mid-era Nightwish, as they use heavy guitars, and synthesized symphonic and folk elements to navigate the mood of each piece. Patrick Eulitz could practically be channeling Nightwish's Jukka Nevalainen, he's so precise with the rapid, double-bass drums, and keeping a tight and powerful rhythm through the heavy moments of the music. Nearly every track incorporates multiple elements, with segments that shift from dark heavy tones, to light operatic phrases and back again. Tempos ramp up to furious paces, only to calm again and build the contrast further. Yet every transition flows so seamlessly, they sound like they've been in this field for years, if not decades.

On the track "Cedar", they introduce elements of folk and Celtic music, with a wide array of instruments to match. Heavy guitars and symphonic elements join in, and make this song an immersing musical experience. It's one of my favorite track on the album.

The closing track, "The Scarred Clay Reshaping" is the crowning jewel. The longest track at seven and a half minutes, and lyrics that bring the album full circle, even referencing their early EP in the chorus: "Unfinished solarium, one more cut of the seeker's tongue." Themes of life, struggle, despair and rebirth abound throughout the album, but culminate in the closing lyric: "Ode to the scarred clay reshaping, ode to the ever-flowing river!"

Prepare to be transfixed... Here is the video for "Wetland":


The overall lyrical composition of this album is truly soul-searching, with themes about attainment on levels both personal and existential. Every element of this album, from the music, instrumentation, lyrics, direction, production, mixing, and performance is truly top-notch. Unfinished is, without question, my favorite symphonic metal album since Nightwish's masterpiece Once. If you have even the slightest appreciation for the symphonic metal genre, you owe it to yourself to listen to these songs. Blending beauty and aggression so seamlessly, I feel Shield Of Wings have a bright future ahead. 

Recommended tracks from Unfinished:
-Crushing Hail (another incredible music video, with lyrics as as well!)
-Frozen Harbor (favorite lyric: "Too old to write of innocence, too young to write of wisdom.")
-Cedar (as mentioned previously, this is the 'folk-symphonic-metal' track!)
-Wetland
-Mind of Myth (A favorite lyric from this one: "If I do Not Die How Will I be Reborn?")
-The Scarred Clay Reshaping

(advance digital review copy provided by James Gregor and Shield of Wings)

Shield of Wings' music is available on several platforms, such as...

Stream, Download, or Order a CD copy today!

*Unfinished is scheduled for release on February 11th, 2022.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Tetrarch-Unstable (2021)

 Post #394

In 2021, Tetrarch released Unstable, their follow-up to 2017's Freak, and on this release the band show much consistency and growth as they tighten their grip on their trademark sound. They also continue to impress with their music videos, of which they now have for 4 different tracks from Unstable.

Unstable opens with "I'm Not Right", a blisteringly heavy number that picks up right where Freak left off without missing a beat! This is also one of the 4 official music videos I mentioned. I will link to a couple of those at the end of this post.

While Tetrarch are great at writing those fast-paced shred-fest hardcore songs, they also deliver quite a few songs with a more moderate tempo on this album. "You Never Listen" is one of those songs. It's still quite heavy, don't get me wrong, but they can switch up their delivery as good as any band out there.

One of my favorite elements of heavy metal music has always been guitar solos. While most of the time you can hear Diamond Rowe's lead guitar reverberating in the background throughout most of their songs- again channeling an eerie mood-setting vibe in a style similar to Korn, there are several songs here where she shows off her chops with some shredding guitar solos. Check out the tracks "Sick of You", "Addicted", or "Pushed Down" for some of her best soloing techniques. If I'd compare her style to a well-known guitarist, I'd pick a late-era Dimebag Darrell. Keep on shredding Diamond!

Not to leave behind another element of metalcore, blast-beat drumming, you should really hear the song "Take a Look Inside". Staccato power chords mirror the driving beat of the bass drums and bass guitar in this song. Their drummer, Ruban Limas' technical skills cannot be questioned after hearing this one! If I have any song to compare this one to, it might be "Primal Concrete Sledge" by Pantera. I love the powerful, relentless groove it gives!

Lastly I'll mention the closing number, "Trust Me", which is a bit of a departure from the rest of the tracks, in that is slows the tempo way down, and projects dark and ominous moods. This gothic alt-metal brilliance in its own right, and the drummer drives the rhythm mainly with loud cymbal crashes throughout, almost like Black Sabbath's "War Pigs", but slower and heavier.

Recommended tracks from Unstable:

-I'm Not Right

-You Never Listen

-Sick of You

-Stitch Me Up

-Pushed Down (this one has a chorus that just begs to become an anthem: "We are the psychos, the untouchables!")

Now for those promised music videos, but first, you should be sure you check out Tetrarch's Youtube channel and subscribe so you don't miss out on their next awesome video!

Here are their videos for "I'm Not Right" and "Stitch Me Up"

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Tetrarch-Freak (2017)

 Post #393

Tetrarch spent their time from 2013 to 2017 relocating (they moved from Georgia to L.A.) and also reinventing themselves. Their early EPs might have fallen comfortably inside the 'metalcore' subgenre, but by the time they dropped Freak it was clear they'd discovered a new calling and were headed in a  new direction...

The album opens with the title track, "Freak"- an aggressive hardcore song that puts some of their new formula on display. Diamond Rowe's guitar leads emulate an eerie vibe that seems to channel Korn's Brian 'Head' Welch. Vocalist Josh Fore pours forth emotion with ever line. His voice could be compared to Chester Bennington when singing melodically,  or Corey Taylor when screaming. If this sounds like a promising formula of sounds for a metal-head, that's because it is! Plus you have to love the bridge lyric: "In the darkness the strange becomes ordinary..."

The next track, "Spit", takes them a step closer to Korn-esque alt-metal, as Fore employs new inflections in his vocal delivery, bringing comparisons to Jonathan Davis to mind. However, as the 3rd track, "Pull the Trigger" unfurls, we are once again blown away with an assault of aggressive metal. 

The rest of the album continues in this fashion, swaying back and forth between hardcore, brutal metal riffs, and eerie, haunting melodies. Drums and bass that bludgeon the senses relentlessly, guitars that can shred in one moment and entice the mind the next, and a masterful blend of melodic and hardcore vocals, this band gives us a great metal album with Freak. If you crave this blending of angst and aggression, then please do yourself the favor of checking out this band!

Their Music video for the title track:


Other recommended tracks from Freak:
-Pull the Trigger
-Oddity
-Break the Trend* (this is a personal favorite- very close in style to their previous metalcore/thrash sound)
-Torn Apart (a little softer sound on this closing track, but still very dark in the pictures painted both in sound and lyrics)

Watch for my review of their new album Unstable coming soon!

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Tetrarch- The Will to Fight and Relentless (EP's 2011, 2013)

Post #392

Tetrarch first came on my radar in 2011. I was on the lookout for independent bands to feature in my annual reader's poll contest for Independent Band of the Year, and somewhere, somehow I had heard their track 'We are the Hunters', and it blew me away. This was around the time I was diving deep into melodic metalcore bands like Trivium, All That Remains, Atreyu, and Killswitch Engage. Tetrarch reminded me of all of those bands, but also with more thrash metal influences. Riffs that will pummel your ears, and tempo that is... well... relentless, and powerful vocals that blend screams with melodies. And a singer who has drawn comparisons to both Corey Taylor and the late Chester Bennington. Needless to say, this review is long overdue, and more reviews of their recent work will be coming soon!

This song turned out to be from their debut EP, The Will to Fight. I loved every track on this EP, and I became an instant fan. These guys fit right in with all the newer bands of metalcore I had just been discovering. While these recording may no longer be available for direct download, I believe you can still find them on youtube, so I'll embed the links to those songs for your enjoyment here. Happy Headbanging!
Though it may no longer be available through iTunes, you can find the complete album on youtube to stream. Every track is worth recommending.
The song titles are:
We are the Hunters

The Will to Fight

Set to Flames

Sons of the Sea


Two years later they released a 2nd EP entitled Relentless, and it was every bit as awesome as the first.
This EP may also be unavailable on iTunes. Still, you can try youtube for tracking these gems down...
The song titles are:
Final Words

Leave Me Alone

Relentless

Take Your Best Shot


Watch for reviews of their newer albums Freak and Unstable, coming soon!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Rumpus Room- What Now (2021)

 Post # 391

The Rumpus Room are a 3 piece rock band from the University of North Michigan. They have a garage-band vibe, but also reveal a hint of influence from late-60's acid-rock, like The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The White Stripes are another possible comparison, in regards to the raw sound that comes across in this recording. While the production may be rough around the edges, the band had a groove that is undeniable. 

What Now is their debut EP. It consists of 4 tracks, the first of which, "Cops Called", is an instrumental. It's a new-age, alternative-rock jam session, almost falling into the 'experimental rock' genre. Reverberating effects on guitar are prominent, while the song eases in and builds throughout.

 The second track, "Pipes/ Double Barreled", has a slow-tempo, minor-key tone that sets a somber mood. The riff here really gives me more of those Hendrix vibes, and some of the guitar leads sound similar the "Peace in Mississippi" by Hendrix. Maybe it's this connection that makes this stand out as my favorite song on the EP. In any case, I love the groove and the mood in this song.

The closing number, "Fuck", is the most intense song. It jams along with a groovy, hard rocking riff, and throws some guitar solos in the mix. It again is largely instrumental, with the exception of the occasional shouts of 'Oh, Fuck!' In this respect it could be compared to "Tequila" by The Champs.

What Now is The Rumpus Room's first recording. You can find it on iTunes.

What Now track list:
-Cops Called
-Pipes/Double Barreled
-Ray
-Fuck

Or you can also get it on Amazon Music!

Happy Headbanging!!

Friday, March 26, 2021

A Sound Of Thunder-Parallel Eternity (10-Year Anniversary Album- 2020)

 Post #390

    A Sound of Thunder are an independent band from the Washington, D.C. area that have been creating their own brand of powerful heavy metal since 2010. I was lucky enough to discover them in July of 2011 at Dame Nation 3 in Chicago, IL. I chatted with the band briefly after their set and at the merch booth. We connected on social media and I've followed them closely ever since.

Fast forward 8 years, 5 albums, 4 EPs, and numerous Kickstarter campaigns, and we arrive at 2020, a year that marks the 10th anniversary for this band. With most of the world's activities put on hold or derailed due to the COVID 19 pandemic, A Sound of Thunder found themselves in a relatively lucky place as they had just completed the recording of their 10th anniversary album- Parallel Eternity. This was an ambitious project from the start that kept getting boosted to higher tiers as their Kickstarter goals kept getting exceeded. So the final product is a deservedly grand and over-the-top celebration of the band's whole career and then some!

In a nutshell- this is a 'Best Of' collection with new orchestral arrangements of each track, a bonus disc of covers and alternate mixes, plus a new recording, "Explorer", which has been in the works since the band's conception. This track was meant for this album- it is a 13 minute+ epic, prog-metal masterpiece that just wouldn't be the same without the orchestral elements. It reminds me very much of Iron Maiden's recent prog sound, or perhaps Dream Theater. And with the melodic vocals by Nina Osegueda, a comparison to Nightwish isn't out of the question either! But again, the orchestration brings it to another level. This track alone is worth the $13 for a digital download of the album, but if you're a true music collector, they have different bundles in CD or Vinyl formats that include the deluxe, 72-page booklet and a few bonus items.

As a compilation, this album totally delivers for the long-time fans as well as newcomers, as each of their releases has at least one track represented. Let me reiterate: each and every track gets the upgrade of new, orchestral arrangements! So, even if you've been following this band for years, as I have, you still get something totally new!

Disc 2 starts off where disc 1 left off, with an orchestral arrangement of "Elijah", a 9+ minute epic track from their Lesser Key of Solomon album. Then it starts to mix things up (pun intended!) There is an acoustic cover of Black Sabbath's "Too Late" (From the Dio-era Dehumanizer album). After a live version of "La Preso Del Rei De Franca" they have 3 tracks with a classical mix (orchestral instruments without the guitars and drums), 3 tracks with dubstep remix, and 3 tracks with different world-music remixes. It is quite a listening experience! 

Overall Parallel Eternity is a compilation I can't get enough of. I love the symphonic-metal arrangements of this band's greatest hits. For the absolute best of this Best-Of, I would recommend you at least hear the following tracks:

-A Sound of Thunder

-Explorer

-Walls

-Queen of Hell

-Udoroth

-Els Segadors (this is the band's rendition of the Catalonia national anthem, a song that brought them international attention in 2017.)

Here is the official video of their live performance of Els Segadors in 2017:


Thursday, February 4, 2021

Happyheadbanger's Van Halen playlist-Remembering Eddie (1955 -2020)

 Post #389

Eddie Van Halen...

That name has meant so much for generations of music fans and musicians for such a long time. Eddie's name-sake band Van Halen, have been in the fabric of pop-culture practically since they first hit the scene in the late 1970's. Eddie's innovative and flashy playing style caught on almost faster than his fingers on the fretboard! With their debut album releasing in 1978 the timing was perfect for inspiring the next decade of rock guitarists, and Eddie was certainly a key influence on the 1980's 'Hair Metal' era. I wrote another post, years ago, 'The Lost Disciples of Eddie Van Halen', about some of the lesser-known guitarists from this era.

Growing up in the 1980's, it sometimes seemed that Eddie Van Halen was everywhere. There were several popular movies that made reference to Van Halen, and some to Eddie specifically. I'll never forget in Back to the Future, where Marty McFly uses a cassette tape labeled 'Edward Van Halen' to convince his teen-aged future-father George to take Loraine to the dance, or else he would 'melt his brain'.

Then, in the 90's, the movie The Wedding Singer, set as an 80's throw-back romantic comedy, incorporated the mid-80's break-up of Van Halen into the film's plot.

But my favorite pop-culture reference to Eddie Van Halen has to be in the opening scene of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure where Bill and Ted have an extended, circular debate about how to get Eddie to join their band, Wyld Stallyns. There are certainly many, many more of these references in our TV, Film and other media- Eddie was truly a cultural icon!

Here is the clip from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure:


When I heard the news that Eddie Van Halen had passed away on October 6th of 2020, I felt the loss of this phenomenal artist, who had graced rock and roll's legacy with his unique and inspiring sounds for decades. 

So at a time when all the radio stations, or streaming services, will continue to play the best-known songs by Van Halen, I will take a moment and give you a deeper sampling of the artistry of Van Halen- my personal favorites. These tracks dig a few layers deeper than those you may be familiar with. Of course I'll probably have some picks here that overlap with the staple-hits, but hopefully I can also guide you to some songs you may have forgotten, or overlooked, or truly never heard before. And if you should make new favorites of some of these, then I have helped you better appreciate one artist's talent, and the mark they leave on this world will have grown by another degree.

Enjoy these recommended Van Halen tracks:
-Out the Window (Edward Van Halen- from his score for the film The Wild Life)
-Atomic Punk
-Hear About It Later
-Judgement Day
-Dirty Water Dog (Here is a favorite from the overlooked Van Halen III album)
-Somebody Get Me a Doctor
-Up For Breakfast
-In a Simple Rhyme
-Top Jimmy
-Inside
-Cathedral
-In 'N' Out (Don't assume this is innuendo, the lyrics are about financial strife)
-Me Wise Magic

Last but not least, I saw this video soon after Eddie's passing. It became an instant tribute to the legend, and features several rock celebrities. The guitarist of Satchel of Steel Panther. Here's the cover of "Unchained".

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Books that Rock: Alice Cooper- Golf Monster ('07), with Life and Crimes Box Set

Post #388

Alice Cooper is a living legend and the original 'shock rocker'. His career has spanned over 5 decades, and he continues to record new music and tour. His career in music has had him cross paths with everyone from Rob Zombie, to Megadeth, to Paul McCartney, to Elvis Presley, to Frank Zappa and Pink Floyd... to name just a few.

As I finally got around to reading his '07 autobiography, Alice Cooper, Golf Monster: A Rock 'n' Roller's 12 Steps to Becoming a Golf Addict, I found it to be one of the most enjoyable rock musicians' biographies I've read in a long time! I had fun going back and listening to several albums as I read through the stories behind them, appreciating the new perspective gained by having Alice's own insight into them fresh in my mind.


While the book does follow his music career from his high school beginnings with The Spiders, all the way up to his late 1990's releases, he also gives several very thorough tips and instructions and analogies about golf, it's similarities to music, the unending challenges the sport presents, and numerous tips on how to improve your own game. He puts chapters on golf in between those on life and music. The chapters of the book alternate in this fashion pretty regularly. If you are not interested in golf, or even interested enough in Alice's obsession with golf, then you'll probably be bored with almost half of this book. But I recommend giving it a fair chance, as Alice does tie the two parts of his life together quite nicely by the end.


Now, as you're reading through these reminiscences you can also treat yourself to a thorough sampling of the songs from Alice Cooper while you read, or at the very least, in between chapters. The Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper is a 4 disc box set released in 1999, soon after his album The Last Temptation. While this biography was published years after the box set, in 2007, the majority of the discussion about his music career only goes up to The Last Temptation. That album was a significant statement for Alice on several levels. You'll have to read the book to find out those reasons yourself.;-) He mentions the albums Brutal Planet (2000) and Dragontown (2001) only in passing. No further music projects are mentioned, although in closing Alice does say that he continues to record music and/or tour every year. He says he'll keep doing it for as long as he can...

God bless you Alice! As a fan, I can only look forward to hearing your next album, seeing your next tour, and if I'm fortunate enough for our paths to ever cross, I wouldn't say no to a round of golf! My game has nothing to do but improve!

Recommended Alice Cooper tracks:
-Why Don't You Love Me? (The Spiders-1965)
-I'm Eighteen (1970)
-Elected (Alice mentions that John Lennon once said it was his favorite Alice Cooper song. 1972)
-Cold Ethyl (1975)
-Teenage Frankenstein (1986)
-Poison (This was the song that introduced me to Alice Cooper when I was a teen myself. I can never get enough of this one! 1989)
-Stolen Prayer (An especially treasured favorite of mine, featuring guest vocals by Chris Cornell. 1994)
-Brutal Planet (2000)
-Disgraceland (2001)
-School's Out/Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2 (Hollywood Vampires-2015. This rerecorded version reflects the manner in which Alice has performed this song live in concert for years. I love it to death!)
-My Dead Drunk Friends (Hollywood Vampires-2015)

Happy Headbanging!

Friday, April 17, 2020

Dear Deadly-It's Not Over Yet (2017)

Post #387

Dead Deadly are a melodic metal band from the greater Chicago area of Illinois. I happened to catch them live in concert in the Spring of last year- a concert I reviewed in Post #375. In the fall of 2019 they won this blog's annual Independent Band of the Year reader's poll. They are hard at work on a full length album coming soon. For this post I'll take a close look at their 2017 EP It's Not Over Yet.


It's Not Over Yet is a tight, yet diverse collection of 6 original heavy metal songs. At times you could call it hard rock, or post-grunge, or nu-metal, or alternative metal, and you wouldn't be wrong. Consistent throughout is their melodic vocals, sharp and crisp guitar tones, tight rhythm section and high production quality. Many lead guitar solos are highlights of several songs. Lyrics are delivered with vocal strength and control to evoke many emotions form one track to the next.

The best part of following this band online is the fact that they've produced music videos, or lyric videos, for almost every track on this EP. I will embed or link to most of them below. If you like what you hear and see, then take a minute to follow them, download a track or the whole EP, and stream their songs and videos!

As the 2020 Spring and early Summer season of concerts and tours have been canceled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems unlikely that I'll be able to promote any shows for them in the near future, but I'll be sure to do so once these events resume. In the meantime I'll try to think of other ways to promote them and their music in the months ahead. Follow this blog or HappyHeadbanger on Facebook for future content.

Visit Dear Deadly's Facebook page to follow their activity
Visit Dear Deadly on Instagram.

Songs from It's Not Over Yet
-Very Wicked Things


-Deviant (My top pick! The lyric video follows a vampire theme, but they also have an official video that's entirely footage of motorcycle stunts!)


-The Devil You Know (An original! Not a cover of the Anthrax song of a similar name!)


-Conviction (A teaser clip-guitar solo only, but still awesome!)


-I Tried (Showing a slightly softer side, this especially melodic song is a mellow self-reflective type of song)

-The Hopeless (A great song with social-political themes, and the inspiration behind their promotional bumper stickers!)

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Lost In Vegas- Hip-hop Fans' Reaction Videos to Rock and Metal Music

Post #386

In the last couple years I've discovered a new favorite YouTube channel: Lost In Vegas. These guys are a couple self-described "Hip-Hop Heads", who've adopted a 'free-thinkers' approach to discovering new genres of music.

For a quick intro to their channel I'm going to highlight 3 of my favorite reactions of theirs from September to October of 2017. The first of these, Megadeth's 'Holy Wars', is one of the key reaction videos that I believe started to grow their following. Lost In Vegas, if you're out there reading this, please feel free to confirm or deny this hypothesis.

Lost In Vegas reacts to 'Holy Wars' by Megadeth From (9-15-17)...



For people new to metal music to be given this iconic song to react to early in their journey into the depths of metal, the veteran metalhead may ask (as I did), "If they think so highly of this song, what are they going to think when they hear Metallica's 'Master of Puppets'?" We'll get to that in a moment, but they had another great reaction before they got to 'Master of Puppets', and I'm talking about when they first heard Judas Priest- 'Painkiller'!

From October 6th, 2017... Lost In Vegas reacting to 'Painkiller' by Judas Priest...



And last but not least, Lost In Vegas' reaction to Metallica's 'Master of Puppets' from October 18th, 2017...



Now, these were all from about a year and a half ago, and Ryan and George have kept their youtube channel going strong, as well as adding a Patreon.com page, where they have more reaction videos beyond what they're able to post on youtube. You can follow their Twitter profile, and vote in polls they post. They have also updated their equipment so the audio on their newer reaction videos is much better. See for yourself! So if these three reactions have you entertained, by all means keep checking them out! They do reaction videos to ALL GENRES of music, not just metal, but as I'm a heavy metal reviewer, these are the ones I gravitate to...

Enjoy! And Happy Headbanging to all!

For the original music videos for each of these songs please use the following links:
Megadeth-Holy Wars... ...The Punishment Due
Judas Priest-Painkiller
Metallica-Master of Puppets

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Rock USA Oshkosh, 2014, Day 3: Like A Storm, Black Stone Cherry, Halestorm, 3 Doors Down, KoRn

Post #385

(an overdue review from 4 summers ago... See here for review of Day 2)

As Rock USA continued for its 3rd day on July 19th, 2014, I would again be taking in a variety of rock and metal music for an entire afternoon. The line-up on this day featured several bands I was looking forward to (Halestorm and Korn), and a few that were totally new to me (Like a Storm and Black Stone Cherry). In any case, it promised to be a day filled with awesome hard rock and metal music.

The first band I caught on the main stage was Like a Storm. They are a brand new band out of New Zealand, touring here in the States in support of their new album, Chaos Theory: Part 1, featuring their hit song 'I Love the Way You Hate Me'. They switched things up a bit with their alt-metal cover of Coolio's 'Gangsta's Paradise'. When it comes to their sound, between the vocals and guitar tones I felt they were comparable to Seether. These guys were something else! They even incorporate a didgeridoo into their music.

Next band on the main stage was Black Stone Cherry. They delivered their brand of hard rock with a veteran presence on-stage. Their songs were hard-edged yet made for mainstream radio. I recognized their main hit, 'White Trash Millionaire'. Their set was enjoyable and kept the crowd rocking out.

Halestorm were next, and they were one of the bands I'd been anticipating the most. It was late afternoon by this point and this band kept the crown engaged. Participation was encouraged by the band and the crowd responded. They opened with 'I Miss the Misery', a favorite of mine and a big hit of theirs. Lzzy proved to be one of the best band leaders of the whole fest. She kept the crowd engaged in the music, leading crowd participation segments, and interacting with her band mates. One of the best points of their set was here interaction with drummer (also her brother) during the drum solo. Another favorite from their set was 'A Familiar Taste of Poison'- a song I'd heard covered at Dame Nation Fest... But for me the real show stopping moment was when they launched into their cover of 'Dissident Aggressor'- the classic Judas Priest number (also a setlist staple for Slayer). Lzzy's voice sounded brilliant covering this metal classic, and she more than did the song justice, as Halestorm practically made it their own.

3 Doors Down performed on the main stage as the penultimate act of the day. They opened with 'Time of My Life', and their show was off and running. They delivered a great set, touching on all their major hits, and included  a new song from their (then) upcoming release. I was pleased to hear several songs from their debut album, The Better Life, as it is the album of theirs I know best. Of course the played Kryptonite- perhaps their most trademark of songs. Then it was down to Korn to close out the night...

Korn hit the stage with their unique, dark and twisted presence. 'Falling Away From Me' was the opening number. From heavy riffs to haunting 7-string lead guitars, dousing the outdoor ampitheater in the shadows of minor-key tones of ominous darkness, Korn blew the crowd away. Jonathan Davis' unique voice made spines tingle throughout the crowd. They closed this day of rock and metal music with a performance to be remembered. Not to be overlooked, they saved their early hit 'Blind' for their encore-closer.

All-in-all, it was a great day of live music enjoyed to the fullest. Setlists for these band on this day are as follows...

Like A Storm
-Chemical Infatuation
-Never Surrender
-Just Save Me
-Alone
-Nothing Remains
-Gangsta's Paradise (Coolio cover)
-Enemy
-T.N.T. (AC/DC cover)
-Love the Way You Hate Me

Black Stone Cherry
-Maybe Someday
-Me and Mary Jane
-Ghost of Floyd Collins
-Yeah Man
-Like I Roll
-Rain Wizard
-In My Blood
-Blind Man
-Fiesta del Fuego
-White Trash Millionaire
-Blame it on the Boom Boom
-Lonely Train
-30 Seconds of Death Metal

Halestorm
-I Miss the Misery
-Love Bites (So Do I)
-It's Not You
-Freak Like Me
-Break In
-Familiar Taste of Poison
-(drum solo)
-Dissident Aggressor (Judas Priest cover)
-Mz. Hyde
-Daughters of Darkness
-I Get Off

3 Doors Down
-Time of My Life
-It's Not My Time
-Duck and Run
-Away From the Sun
-Behind Those Eyes
-Loser
-Citizen/Soldier
-You Better Believe It
-Here Without You
-The Better Life
-Kryptonite
-When I'm Gone

KORN
-Falling Away From Me
-Twist
-Got the Life
-Did My Time
-Spike in My Veins
-Hater
-Shoots and Ladders
-Coming Undone
-Here to Stay
-Never Never
-Freak on a Leash
----
-Blind
http://www.rockusaoshkosh.com/

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Trivium-The Sin and the Sentence (2017)

Post #384

Trivium are always one of my top favorite bands. They have continually challenged themselves with each album they've recorded, and keep shifting gears between aggression and toned down melodies. 2017's The Sin and the Sentence is no different. While their last album, Silence in the Snow, was the most melodic one they ever recorded, being practically devoid of the hardcore screams, this latest album brings them back, at least for a good percentage of the songs. The result is a truly balanced Trivium album that shows every strength the band has to offer. It is their most diverse release since 2011's In Waves (previously reviewed here).


The Sin and The Sentence opens with the title track, and it is a furious metalcore classic- it fades in only to launch into a driving riff with overlayed lead guitar, and Matt Heafy begins with his melodic vocals, but they are complemented by his furious screams at the bridges and choruses. Different passages of the song shift from hardcore screams to melodic singing, while the instruments teeter back and forth in the same fashion. Lastly I must compliment the lyrics. Matt Heafy is a brilliant lyricist in my opinion, and this song is packed with thought provoking lyrics such as: “I know the true monsters lie between the light and the shade.”

From there each song brings a new formula, or a new combination of their bag of tricks, so that each track is unique in its own right. By this stage of their career, Trivium have become such craftsmen of metal music that nearly every song is a work of metal mastery.

Their first single from the release was The Heart From Your Hate. This song was an instant favorite of mine when I first heard it, and it remains so today. It’s the kind of song I can’t hear without upping the volume a bit. I always like to think this song carries an anti-racism theme, and picture the lyrics as  challenge to anyone who hates, “What would it take to rip the heart from your hate?” Truly, in today’s times, there is no room for hate.

I cannot really find a song on this album I would not recommend. So bear this in mind with my following recommendations. By no means should you stop with these, but rather use them as a starting block with which to delve into the entire album. These may be my personal favorites, and the best of the best, but that is not to say the rest of the tracks are not great as well!

Recommended tracks:
-The Sin and the Sentence
-Beyond Oblivion
-The Heart from Your Hate (see official music video below)
-Sever the Hand
-Beauty in the Sorrow
-Thrown Into the Fire


Friday, December 6, 2019

Diamoth-Exhibition of Reality (2019)

Post #383

Diamoth are a Christian Black Metal band form Arica, Chile. This may seem an oxymoron of sorts, as the term 'Black Metal' originated to describe bands with anti-Christian views. Therefor a more accurate description for Diamoth (or other bands in this situation) would be 'Unblack Metal'. By virtue of the genre's definitive vocal style consisting of screams and shrieks, to the casual listener the majority of lyrics seem unintelligible. For listeners who go for the overall feel of their music, and put less concern on the specifics of lyrics, they may appreciate black metal and 'unblack' metal equally.

Nonetheless, Diamoth identify as 'Christian Black Metal', and deliver their heavy and demonic-sounding metal with the best of them. What I particularly like about their sound is that they hang onto many stylistic elements from the early days of death metal: riffs that build, progress and move the music. Tempos that show variation- they have several slower-tempo grinders in addition to the faster-paced thrashers. Many of their songs remind me of early-80's Sepultura.

Exhibition of Reality, their newest release, is a 'Black Metal' style album with its claws dug into the thrash-influenced origins of the genre. My aforementioned similarity to Sepultura is highly present throughout Exhibition of Reality. A true benefit to getting the physical CD copy would be the fact that they include scriptural inspiration for each song in the liner notes.

Recommended tracks:
-Awakening (This song is the first on the album and kicks you in the teeth with speed-driven riffs!)
-Pride and Powerless (This one is one of the slower grinding songs. It has a lot of riff changes that give it an almost progressive vibe)
-Preacher of Lower Passions (This one starts with a slow intro, but soon kicks into high gear and is a great, riff-fest of a thrasher!)
-Baal (The album's closer- this is a mid-tempo grinder with chugging riffs. They do have a lyric video for it on youtube. See the link below!)




(review copy of Exhibition of Reality provided by Peter Smith of Frozen Tundra Records.)