Category Archives: CD Reviews

Enter Shikari

entershik1The Mindsweep by Enter Shikari (Hopeless Records)

On January 20th, Enter Shikari made their official Hopeless Records debut with The Mindsweep – a very defining move in sound establishment by the English foursome.

There seems to be an underlying concept to this record. Close your eyes and lay down with it in your ears and you’re flying through the cosmos, enjoying a digitally ambient selection of tunes intersparsed with passionate poetry. Yes, I mean poetry.

Front man Rou Reynolds is and has been truly poetic in some of his deliveries during his tenure in Enter Shikari. The introductory track of this album, The Appeal and the Mindsweep Pt. 1 melts like butter, moving spoken word along a beautifully controlled crescendo. When it drops, it’s super powerful and in much the same way, it’s very different. Try not to think too hard about picking your jaw up off the ground…you might as well leave it there; The Mindsweep is a journey that will surprise even the most avid Enter Shikari listener.

entershik2I say this because the band seems to have found an equilibrium of control in the writing and production of their songs. Everything runs together so tightly. There’s something really raw about the screams, yells and even the accompaniment. I commend Enter Shikari and their production team for being able to create this feeling in a genre otherwise muddled by accusations of being completely generic — particularly because of their electronic elements.

This record really kicks in with The One True Color — You can feel the profundity that Rou Reynolds conveys in this ambient jam. This song serves as a true demonstration of Enter Shikari’s ability to mesh the synths with powerfully progressive instrumentals without creating any dissonance.

Even general EDM listeners will get a kick out of tracks like The Last Garrison and Torn Apart. These songs give the electronic aspect of this record a well-deserved opportunity to shine. In contrast to prevalent thought about electronic elements in post-hardcore music, there is a real individuality to what Enter Shikari is producing. The connection between each of the musicians and their craft in this record is refreshing — perhaps revolutionary. The truth about The Mindsweep is that you really haven’t heard anything else that sounds like it.

Even earlier Enter Shikari albums don’t really hold a candle to this one in my mind. There’s something more melodic and consonant about Reynolds’ voice in the choruses of these tracks. Since the band released the very lengthy A Flash Flood of Color in early 2012, it’s evident that they’ve been working on their togetherness and instrumental implementation. Rather than a cacophonous mixture of wobbling saws and bass with exceedingly progressive drums, we hear what can only be the result of creative maturity. Give The Bank of England a careful listen if you want to know exactly what I’m talking about.

The instrumental team of Rob Rolfe (drums), Chris Batten (Bass) and Rory Clewlow (guitar) really couldn’t have come together in a more resonant way. Rolfe seems to have more control in contrast to their last record, and the guitars, as previously mentioned, mesh beautifully with the synths.

Something worth discussing is the six and a half minute cool-down that is Dear Future Historians…. This track directly follows the powerful There’s a Price on Your Head (which, in a strange way, reminds this reviewer of Hypnotize era System of a Down). If you really want to hear Reynolds demonstrate his vocal maturity, give both of these tracks a thorough listen. You’ll hear a different man on each track. It’s kind of difficult to come to terms with the fact that the same man is singing, but when you wrap your head around it…it makes this record all the more impressive.

Can your emotions handle a pretty difficult coming of age story? Not to say that Reynolds is coming of age, or anyone else in the band for that matter…but rather, Enter Shikari as an entity and as a whole has grown and found an extremely definitive sound. In this reviewer’s opinion, they’ve found a sound that they need to absolutely stick with. I’m going to give this a solid 4.5/5 — I genuinely hope we do not have to wait another 3 years for a new Enter Shikari record.

(Review by Zachary S. Valladon)

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Gang Of Four

gangfour_whatnextlpWhat Happens Next by Gang Of Four (Metropolis Records)

A Gang of Four album without their original vocalist Jon King is a strange proposition. For the first album led by sole original member guitarist Andy Gill, What Happens Next features four vocalists over the course of ten songs.

Photo by Leo Cackett

On the first track Where the Nightingale Sings The Big Pink‘s Robbie Furze contributes some dour vocals to a downbeat song. What should have been the lead track Broken Talk opens with a pumping beat, scratchy guitars and features The Kills‘ Alison Mosshart’s sassy and bold voice, the song giving hope to jaded and wary ears that the Gill-led band can keep the fire burning for the dance-rock sound they pioneered decades ago.    Herbert Gronemeyer sings on The Dying Rays,  a slow and contemplative song with just the lightest of guitar accompaniment but with some haunting piano. The singer has a soulful voice and creates a mournful mood. An interesting choice but considering Gronemeyer has the first and third best-selling albums ever in Germany, not a bad one: he has gravitas.

On First World Citizen John “Gaoler” Sterry takes the mic and he’s not too shabby, surrounded by menacing and funky bass and vigorous percussion and Gill’s textured and varied guitar approaches.  On Stranded the strident beat and vocal back and forth between Gill and Sterry is fun and a little nostalgic yet Gill’s forays into atmosphere and slower sections show the man attempting a new and darker sound.  Dead Souls follows, a true Gang of Four song if there ever was, with bombastic bass, in the pocket drums, itchy and angry guitars tearing through and punching your guts, Sterry going for different vocal approaches to make for an enjoyable listen.

Photo by Tom Sheehan

Photo by Tom Sheehan

Embrace the new Gang of Four or don’t.  Andy Gill doesn’t care, he’ll still be doing his thing as long as he can hold a guitar pick and strum six strings.  There are a few songs on What Happens Next that contain the template of his band’s earlier sound, but time will tell how the band evolves and finds their voice without Jon King. See them on tour in the States this May.

Gang of Four is Andy Gill (guitar), John “Gaoler” Sterry (vocals), Thomas McNiece (bass) and Jonny Finnegan (drums)

(by Bret Miller)

LINKS:
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Vital Signs

vitalssignssmoke1Smoke and Mirrors by Vital Signs (Imminence Records)

The explosive Vital Signs is already showing signs of an astounding pulse, even at this stage of their career. Featuring ex-members of Ace Augustine, An Early Ending and I Am History, Vital Signs is destined to break out of the Pennsylvania music scene – especially if their new EP Smoke and Mirrors is indicative of greater glories ahead. Imminence Records has unleashed a winner with this one, kicking off the New Year with a bang!

vitalsignspic1Smokes and Mirrors commences with Sound Of The End, an impressive cut that should instantly hook the listener in with its vibrant intensity. Dear Death is a stunning highlight with its devastating “there must be something more than this God forsaken world” lyrical content and crushing melodies. After a brief instrumental Interlude, The Chosen smashes into your psyche with its heavier than hell inflections and thunderous breakdowns. And then closing out the recording way too soon is the spiraling title cut Smoke and Mirrors, ambitious in scope, leaving the listener wanting to hear a whole lot more.

The musicians contributing to the stirring heartbeat of Vital Signs include Alex Runk on vocals, Alex Bolton on guitar, Bryan Merriman on guitar, Frankie Donaldson on bass, and Patrick Sherman on drums.  If you are a fan of Memphis May Fire and The Color Morale, expect your pulse to race into the stratosphere when encountering the exhilarating sounds of Vital Signs.

(Review by Ken Morton)

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Tyler Carter

tylercarterart1Leave Your Love by Tyler Carter (Velocity/Rise Records)

January 13th marked the official release of Tyler Carter’s debut solo EP via Rise Records — and it’s a breath of fresh air that you’re going to want to take.

Carter’s new EP, Leave Your Love, is a heavy-hearted wrestling match with how to love and how to deal with lost love. Amidst the apparent heartache of this unique collection, the Issues vocalist journeys into understanding who he is relative to who you are, who I am, and for that matter, who ALL of us are. In a very real way, Carter establishes his own musical identity through these six songs.

Style wise, an EDM listener might love this as much as an R&B fan. It’s somewhere in the middle with regard to genre. In fact, the genre of this EP is very blurred. This is, I think, intentionally done. A careful listener will hear the musical maturity of Carter’s implementation of dynamic, soulful vocal melody juxtaposed with blunt, over-honest rap sections.

Let’s get down to specifics…There are a few tracks to give very careful consideration on this EP. You won’t passively digest the content despite a somewhat easy listening feel. In the opening track, “Sophisticated”, Carter dives into a new pop-driven territory and explores a individualized love encounter. While extrapolating his examination of the love interest in this track, he is demonstrating something a little bit more raw in his vocal delivery.

By the time we get to the title track, “Leave Your Love”, Carter’s vocal dynamic is completely different than anything we’ve been made accustomed to by his performances in Issues or Woe, Is Me.

Carter drops into a lower register for most of what I can hear on this record, and saves that familiar tenor belting for artistic accents. Instead, he relies on his head voice for most of the higher parts in this record. This is highly evident in “Leave Your Love” and the EP’s first single, “Georgia”.

Carter is an avant-garde romantic in “So Slow” — the track which defines this EP’s cross pollination of Hip Hop and R&B. This song is an allegory of the touring musician’s battle with trying to maintain love. It even drops into something of a vocal breakdown — counteracting cool, upbeat synth with some brilliantly adjusted vocal freestyle.

If you want to get straight into the meat of this record, give thoughtful consideration to songs like “Sophisticated”, “Georgia” and “Tears on the Runway Pt. 1”. The interplay of Carter’s vocal style with guest vocalist Nylo in the latter track simply had to be forged in heaven.

Overall, the solid production of this EP alongside equally listenable musical content earned a well-deserved 4/5 from me. If we can look forward to a full-length release from Carter in the near future, this reviewer will be happy to give it a thorough listen.

(Review by Zachary S. Valladon)

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Palisades

mindgamesMind Games by Palisades (Rise Records)

With the second full-length recording by Palisades, it looks like the New Jersey based outfit and their label Rise Records are kicking off the New Year with a sonic bang! Mind Games is the kind of album that screams “breakthrough,” and the ten songs found within will surely captivate music fans from all walks of life. Merging highly charged clean vocals with driving breakdowns and EDM inflections, Palisades has established their sound in a vast and exciting way. It’s early on in 2015, but there is no doubt that Mind Games will be a highlight of the year for many a music fan when all is said and done.

Player Haters’ Ball is the perfect commencement for Mind Games, where the old sound of Palisades collides with the vibrant present, and the results are nothing short of astounding. Featured on this first cut is the participation of Blackbear, an artist on the rise who own work such as The Afterglow EP is well worth seeking out.

palisades2015No Chaser cements the fact that these new Palisades songs wildly infectious, featuring epic choruses that will be embedded in your head for ages! Bad Girls is explosive and rapturous, featuring lyrics such as “I’ll says the thing that they won’t say and I’ll do the things that make your legs shake,” and the finality of “She’s going home with me” ringing persuasive at the track’s conclusion.

The triumphant title track Mind Games is up next, featuring the participation of Champs and the promise of “Never again will I let you f*ck with my head” pulsating throughout vividly the song. Whatever You Want It To Be then continues on with the empowerment over a difficult relationship, featuring a chorus that rages into the stratosphere. Afraid flies into the face of adversity, a trademark in any Palisades song, containing a good deal of passion and intensity from all musicians involved.

People Like Us is a standout cut, complete with heart pounding dance beats and a stirring guest appearance by Garrett Rapp on The Color Morale. “Your love is a battlefield” is the call to arms in the grooving Like A Drug followed by the heavy inflections of True Blood that sends the room spinning into orbit. And then closing out Mind Games is the Come Over And Watch Netflix, ending the proceedings with a beat so driving and infectious that you’ll want to dance it out to the memorable “take me back” lyrical incantation. This last song shows Palisades at their most imagination and radio friendly.

There is no sophomore slump to be found within the vestiges of Mind Games – just a collection of tracks you’ll want to revisit time and again. The Palisades membership who bring on the dance party include the participation of Louis Miceli on vocals, Matt Marshall on guitar, Xavier Adames on guitar and vocals, Earl Halasan as Producer and DJ, Brandon Sidney on bass, and Aaron Rosa on drums. Be sure to jam the wondrous Mind Games by Palisades and get ready to launch into 2015 with style and flair!

(Review by Ken Morton)

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Crazy Lixx

crazylixxcd1Crazy Lixx by Crazy Lixx (Frontiers Music)

If Crazy Lixx had been around in the high flying 80’s, their popularity would have skyrocketed into the stratosphere and well beyond! Performing anthems in the grand tradition of Skid Row and Def Leppard, these raging rockers from Sweden bring back the glory days of Hollywood metal with an all-out vengeance. And don’t think for a minute that Crazy Lixx reside in the past – there is nothing more timeless than wildly infectious hooks and epic choruses that blissfully remain in your head for ages. The brand spanking new Self-Titled album from Crazy Lixx is destined to captivate all types of music fans looking to “rock this city black and blue!

crazylixx2014_2The opening track Hell Raising Women is catchy beyond belief, and should be scorching up airwaves all around the world – that would be if commercial radio actually played anything cool these days! Sound Of The Loud Minority is a song of empowerment for the badass rock and roller in us all. Another true stunner is the rambunctious Girls Of The 80’s, guaranteed to have you singing along rapturously while recalling those blazing hot women of the past, present and future.

All Looks, No Hooks and Ain’t No Rest In Rock And Roll is sure to resonate with those toiling away in bands for the passion of it. A real treat for the longtime Crazy Lixx fan is their glorious remake of Heroes Are Forever, from their long out of print first album. Another standout track is the final cut Wrecking Ball Crew, smashing the listener in the face and leaving them wanting a whole lot more of those Crazy Lixx!

Ready to rock your world with their fierce and blistering tunes, the Crazy Lixx lineup consists of Danny Rexon on vocals, Adde ‘Andy’ Zäta on guitar, Edd Liam on guitar, Joél Cirera on drums, and Jens Sjöholm on bass. Be sure to check out the fantastic Self-Titled album by Crazy Lixx, as well as their trio of past releases. With a collection of songs as glorious and triumphant as what’s heard on this instant classic, rest assured that sleaze rock and hair metal will live on and thrive in the wild and wicked ages ahead.

(Review by Ken Morton)

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Her Pride

herpridecover1When The Ravens Call by Her Pride (Self-released EP)

With the unveiling of When The Ravens Call by Her Pride, the New Year 2015 kicks off in an exhilarating way. Featured are five tracks of sheer sonic intensity that should garner Her Pride a good deal of attention. Possessing a diversity yet maintaining a seething heaviness throughout, When The Ravens Call is a high flying debut that will captivate the senses of metalcore fans everywhere.

First up is the rapturous title track, instantly grabbing the listener by throat with its vibrant intensity. The Forgetting Bottle then unleashes an earth shattering fury, slamming into the listener with a mighty sense of ferocity. This memorable cut features the participation of Ray Prichard of the late, great Seladora. Play It Again, Brian is relentless and driving, and should ignite ferocious mosh pit action when performed live.

herpride2014Wooden Bones is ambitious in scope, with a through-the-roof magnetism that sends this sweeping cut into the stratosphere. And then closing out this raging journey is the outstanding A Trail Leading Back, featuring haunting clean vocals in the chorus demonstrating another imaginative side to the Her Pride experience.

The Her Pride lineup of talent consists of Jonathan Carlo on bass, Ian Josey on vocals, Will McGhee on guitar, and Chase Myers on drums. The self-released EP was recorded and produced with ingenuity and flair by the aforementioned Ray Prichard at Tunnel Vision Audio.  With a debut as thrilling as When The Ravens Call, it will be exciting to see what the future has in store for this explosive Southern collective on the rise.

Her Pride will be playing their first ever show at Green Light Sound Studio in Augusta, GA on February 13th.

(Review by Ken Morton)

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Centinex

redeemingfilth1Redeeming Filth by Centinex (Agonia Records)

Centinex of Sweden: Born 1990 – Dead 2006 – Reborn 2014

Centinex has been launching sonic assaults upon the world at large since 1990, and 25 years later remain one of the most underrated death metal bands in the universe. From their diabolical beginnings with the late great Repulse Records to their breakthrough recordings with Candlelight, Centinex has unleashed solid recordings revered as underground classics.  Some of the members have been doing time in Demonical, and it’s been nearly a decade since we’ve heard any new music from the ranks of Centinex.  Redeeming Filth is the next chapter of malevolence from Centinex – as well as their first for Agonia Records – featuring 10 devastating cuts that will make you want to destroy everything in sight.

The ear splitting commences with the relentless When Bodies Are Deformed, instantly demonstrating a death metal entity at the very height of their creative madness. Moist Purple Skin then smashes into your face with a deadly precision. Death Glance fills your speakers with a slash and burn attitude, leaving no prisoners in its wake.

centinex2014_2Stone Of Choice will make you want to bang your head into the realms of oblivion of beyond. Unrestrained is heavy as hell, even while exploring dark and dirty mid-tempo terrains. Bloodraze then places the listener squarely into the depths of an utter hell, before exploding into a barrage of raging clamor. A thunderous circle pit shall ensue when this thrashing cut is performed live.

Without Motives seethes with a brutal conviction, followed by the churning refrains of Rotting Below. And then closing Redeeming The Filth out is the fiery one-two punch of Dead, Buried and Forgotten and Eyes Socket Empty, a massive pummeling that will leave all genre aficionados writhing for more!

Even at this stage of their career, Centinex find themselves releasing their most ferocious album to date with the unveiling of Redeeming Filth.  A triumphant comeback to be sure, Redeeming Filth is sure to enrapture their longtime fans as well as thrill newer converts looking to smash heads in worldwide mosh pits of destruction. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 9 years for the next vicious Centinex manifesto to be unleashed.

Centinex is Martin Schulman on bass, Kennet Englund on drums, Sverker Widgren on guitar, and Alexander Högbom on vocals.

(Review by Ken Morton)

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Stephen Emmer

International-Blue_1404463545International Blue by Stephen Emmer (Electric Fairytale Recordings)

As 2014 spins to its chaotic conclusion, one of the albums released this year that will stand the test of time is the superlative International Blue by Dutch composer Stephen Emmer. Filled with 10 wondrous cuts that will take your breath away, imagine Bowie channeling Sinatra within the confines of a David Lynch film – and you are only just beginning to envision what Emmer and his various guest vocalists has in store for those looking for a sweeping auditory adventure.

international-blue_collaborators-editedThe commencement of International Blue is destined to hook the listener in with first track Let The Silence Hold You, featuring the captivating vocal work of Glenn Gregory from the famed Heaven 17. Those who remember the new wave classics Let Me Go and We Don’t Need That Fascist Groove Thing will be enraptured by the smooth Bowie-like croon Gregory unleashes on this gorgeous opening track as well as his other vocal contributions throughout International Blue.

Another glorious highlight is Taking Back My Time, with the captivating vocals of Midge Ure of Ultravox gracefully weaving a magical spell through the timeless song. Sleep For England is another sumptuous song for the ages, embellished by the striking vocals of Neil Crossley (Furlined) – this is an earlier version which was recently re-imagined as a Christmas-time song featuring Julian Lennon on vocals. Song For A Deserted Wife is a dazzling standout cut, with Liam McKahey’s (Cousteau) devilishly heartbreaking vocals sending the cut into a whole other dimension of space and time.

And if all this style and flair isn’t enough to ensure the album reaches classic status for the ages, International Blue was mixed and produced by none other than Tony Visconti at Abbey Road Studios and Avator Studios in NYC. Known for his iconic work with David Bowie and Iggy Pop, Visconti’s inspired partnership with Emmer sends the entire project into the stratosphere. Be sure to check into Stephen Emmer’s International Blue, and prepare to be swept away by its intriguing soundscapes and overall elegance.

(Review by Ken Morton)

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A Skylit Drive

skylitrise2Rise: Ascension by A Skylit Drive (Tragic Hero Records)

And so major players of the band A Skylit Drive make their way to the exits. and what does the rest of the remaining members have in store for the world at large?  Of course they launch one of the most exhilarating, stylish recordings of their career! If A Skylit Drive’s previous effort Rise was not amazing enough to send fans over the moon with joy, vocalist Michael “Jag” Jagmin and guitarist Nick Miller take all of the songs and re-imagined them as vividly artistic acoustic pieces.

Michael “Jag” Jagmin at Vans Warped Tour 2014, San Diego - Photo by Jack Lue

Michael “Jag” Jagmin at Vans Warped Tour 2014, San Diego – Photo by Jack Lue

Rise: Ascension is the result, and the 12 tracks contained within will launch the listener back into the Skylit stratosphere. All the wondrously expressively lyrics could be heard in their full on glory, clearly showing A Skylit Drive’s gift for passionate imagery. In addition to Jag’s expressive vocal performances and Nick Miller’s wonderful acoustic work, Rise: Ascension features piano, cello, bass, and other assorted instruments. Cuts such as Save Me Tragedy and Unbreakable sound absolutely remarkable given a sweeping acoustic treatment.

Enlisting producer Jim Wirt (Incubus, Something Corporate, The Rocket Summer), Rise: Ascension by A Skylit Drive demonstrates a band at the very height of their creative prowess. Ready to commence on a brave new chapter of an already intensive journey, the 2015 incarnation of A Skylit Drive is sure to impress the diehard fans and as well as gain new converts with the unveiling of Rise: Ascension. Other standout cuts include Crazy, Wide Awake, Shadows, and Dreaming In Blue. Such a terrific way to begin to New Year to be sure! It will be exciting to see what the future has in store for A Skylit Drive!

(Review by Ken Morton)

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