May 30, 2010

Album Review: "When Will We Surrender" by Hundredth

There's not a lot of room for error in the melodic hardcore genre. Bands that choose to embrace this style need to walk a very fine line between balls-out, tough-guy hardcore and overly melodic post-hardcore, without leaning too heavily on either style. Comeback Kid and Diecast were among the first bands to master the genre, and thus are often considered its founding bands. In recent years, a multitude of new bands have emerged playing a similar style, while mostly utilizing screaming vocals and very little clean singing. For the Fallen Dreams, The Ghost Inside, and For Today are the biggest new names in the genre, but one very young band that has the potential to take the entire scene by storm is Hundredth. On their debut album, When Will We Surrender, the quintet from Myrtle Beach, SC sounds like a group of seasoned veterans, melding the best elements of their classic influences with the style of the genre's new leaders.

May 28, 2010

New & Noteworthy, May 28th - Three Nil

The saying goes that bad things come in threes, and that was proven this week. In the wake of the deaths of Ronnie James Dio and Peter Steele, the metal world was struck this week with the shocking death of Slipknot bassist Paul Gray. Gray, 38, was found Monday morning on the floor of a hotel room in Urbandale, Iowa. So many parts of this story are heartbreaking and awful, most of all the fact that Gray is survived by his wife and unborn child. His death deeply affected the members of Slipknot, who held a press conference on Tuesday regarding his passing. The terrible news on Wednesday that Gray was found with hypodermic needles and pills in the hotel room only worsens the story, as he had been in rehab twice before and apparently had been clean for a few years. Regardless, though, Gray will be sorely missed, and Slipknot will never be the same without him. Rest in peace, Paul Gray.

Now the updates and news:

May 26, 2010

Album Review: "Miracle" by Nonpoint

Since their debut album Statement hit stores in 2000, Nonpoint has been a veritable institution in the hard rock scene. However, they've been a small institution, never quite able to break into the mainstream and achieve huge success. Part of the reason for that might be because they were one of the last bands to jump on the nu-metal train, and while they've slowly evolved away from the much-maligned subgenre, their origins have held back their career in the long term. The only widespread success they've gained is with their cover of the Phil Collins classic "In the Air Tonight", which has shown up in commercials, movie soundtracks, and radio stations nationwide. However, through all of this, Nonpoint has persevered, never giving up on their music or their fiercely devoted fans. Their newest album, Miracle, completes their musical evolution into a full-fledged hard rock band with little to no trace of their nu-metal roots left.

May 21, 2010

New & Noteworthy, May 21st - Faded Rainbow in the Dark

Another metal legend has fallen this week, saddening the hearts of the entire world. Ronnie James Dio died this past Sunday from the stomach cancer that has plagued him for months now. At the age of 67, Dio was still rocking hard with Heaven & Hell until late last November, when the cancer was first diagnosed. The singer will be forever remembered in the hearts of metal fans around the world, and his legacy of rock will never die.

It doesn't help matters that a number of other losses struck the metal world this week. Legendary Bay Area manager/booking agent Debbie Abono also passed away this week at the age of 80, also after a battle with cancer. Abono helped to book and promote bands like Exodus, Possessed, Forbidden, and Vio-lence in their early years, bringing them to the level of prominence that they achieved as their careers advanced. Abono will be fondly remembered by the entire Bay Area scene for her dedication and vitality. Adding insult to injury were announcements that Isis is breaking up and Destroy the Runner is going on indefinite hiatus. It's a shame to see these two bands going away. Post-metal will never be the same due to the contributions of Isis, and the youthful energy and inventiveness of Destroy the Runner were nice to see amidst a mostly stagnant metalcore/post-hardcore scene.

There's no easy way to move on from these losses. Here are the announcements for this week:

May 19, 2010

Album Review: "Cold Day Memory" by Sevendust

There are few bands that can match the consistency and perseverance of Sevendust. Since their self-titled debut album came out in 1997, the band has struggled to achieve any sort of big breakout, while many of their peers have leapfrogged them into fame. However, the band has never stopped or given up, remaining very tightly knit throughout all their trials. The band has only experienced one member change in their entire career, in the form of Clint Lowery's departure in 2004, and that change was undone two years ago when Lowery expressed his desire to rejoin the band. Cold Day Memory marks the recording return of Sevendust's original lineup, and the reunion with Lowery immediately proves to be a huge step forward for the veteran quintet.

May 14, 2010

New & Noteworthy, May 14th - Old Chapters Revisited

Welcome to New & Noteworthy, and what a week it was! The '80s reared their beautiful, glorious head in force this week, as two classic bands made headlines with huge news. The first story is confirmation that Anthrax has reunited with original singer Joey Belladonna, with plans for extensive summer touring and recording a new album. This reunion allows the much-rumored "Big Four tour" to occur in Europe, and if the tour goes well there, then US fans can start to get excited for it to occur Stateside. The second story covers a partnership among Relapse Records, Perseverance Holdings Ltd., and Chuck Schuldiner's family to reissue his legendary work. The reissues of Death's back catalog (with the exception of 1995's Symbolic) were released this past Tuesday, but of greater significance is the expanded reissue of The Fragile Art of Existence, the sole release of Schuldiner's progressive side project Control Denied. There are also future plans to finish and release Control Denied's unfinished sophomore album, When Man and Machine Collide. Fans of Chuck Schuldiner (translate that as "every death metal fan in the world") will be dying to get their hands on that album, and with good reason. Control Denied was a phenomenal musical endeavor that ended long before it should have, and the release of their final album will hopefully expose this amazing band to a wider audience.

Moving on, we have the first of three fairly uneventful weeks of new releases this week. What a nice birthday present, music industry. Thanks. Oh yeah, by the way, my birthday is this coming Tuesday, May 18th. And I will say that I got an excellent early birthday present that appears in the tour announcements. Read on to find out what it is!

May 13, 2010

Vlog #2: Ozzfest Lineup Commentary

Please allow me twenty minutes of your time so I can rant about why Ozzfest is both awesome and terrible at the same time this year:

I apologize for the poor sound quality of this video. I had to lower the bitrate in order to get the file under Blip's 1 GB file size limit. The quality seems to affect my background music more than anything, though, so it's not a total loss.

May 10, 2010

Album Review: "The Powerless Rise" by As I Lay Dying

The process of evolution and maturation is always different from one band to the next. Some bands evolve quickly, hitting their stride right from the get-go, but then fall into stagnation over time. Others experiment with many different things before finally finding their sound later in their career. As I Lay Dying is one of the few bands to achieve the fine balance of slow evolution with consistent growth. With each new album the band puts out, they get better and better over their previous work. 2007's An Ocean Between Us sped up the process of evolution somewhat, with the production help of musical prodigy and master comedian Adam Dutkiewicz. The Christian metalcore veterans returned to Dutkiewicz for a new album, The Powerless Rise, which sets a new high point for the band in terms of musical development and composing excellence.

May 7, 2010

New & Noteworthy, May 7th - Drama Storm

Anyone who thought that heavy music was exempt from Hollywood-style drama needs to only browse this week's music headlines to have their illusions shattered. Godsmack has been raising an uproar recently, as reports that their new single "Cryin' Like a Bitch" was written about members of Mötley Crüe continue to gain strength. Whether Sully Erna's lyrics are about Nikki Sixx or Vince Neil is unclear, but animosity absolutely exists between the two bands now. Meanwhile, a report that Shawn "Clown" Crahan of Slipknot might run for political office wins the award for strangest rumor of the week, while likely causing many members of the Republican Party to prepare torches and pitchforks. The biggest hurricane of controversy, though, swirls around musical abomination Courtney Love, who has stooped to horrendous lows in order to get her name out. One report has her saying that she slept with former Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale while he was dating No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani, whom he has since married. Another story reports that she insulted Fred Durst at a concert where both Hole and Limp Bizkit were performing, saying that "he brought about the worst years in rock history". The irony of that quote is definitely not lost on me, nor should it be lost on any of you. As for Courtney Love, she should learn not to throw bricks from the front yard of her glass house. And while she's at it, she could also try to stop being a grotesque monster from our worst nightmares.

Now that we're done reporting on that inhuman and horrific excuse for a musician, let's get to more pleasant stories. There are a bunch of great new albums debuting this week, including a highly anticipated DVD and an exciting solo album. The summer touring circuit is filling out quickly as well, with two enormous festivals topping the announcements. Read on for all the latest updates!

May 4, 2010

Album Review: "Eternal" by War of Ages

War of Ages came to the metalcore explosion late, but that didn't stop the Pennsylvania-based quintet from diving in headfirst without looking back. The young Christian band has released four albums and a re-recording of their first album, all within the past six years, while also touring nonstop alongside the likes of Bury Your Dead, As I Lay Dying, Hatebreed, Throwdown, Heaven Shall Burn, Sick of it All, Demon Hunter, Earth Crisis, and Living Sacrifice. Such a strong DIY ethic, along with the band's straightforward approach to their music and undying love for well-placed breakdowns, has given War of Ages greater appeal among hardcore fans. Eternal continues the trends of previous albums, delivering new and powerful songs with insightful lyrics.

May 3, 2010

Album Review: "Fever" by Bullet for My Valentine

Bullet for My Valentine lives and dies by Matt Tuck. The young lead vocalist and guitarist is capable of driving the band to massive success or dragging them into total collapse, and nothing is better evident of this than the contrast between their debut album, The Poison, and its follow-up, Scream Aim Fire. The Poison was one of the biggest metalcore albums on the decade and helped to revitalize the entire subgenre when it was released. Scream Aim Fire was a decent album, but nowhere near as good as its predecessor, owing mostly to two factors: the lack of Tuck's screaming vocals due to his emergency tonsillectomy in 2007, and some rather uninspired compositions that did not live up to his potential. The band's third album, Fever, somewhat maintains the level of quality that Scream Aim Fire had, but doesn't advance back to their prior level of excellence.