Thursday, August 29, 2013

Avenged Sevenfold - Hail to the King

Overview: Hail to the Kings indeed.

Let's not sit and pretend like you don't know who Avenged Sevenfold is. To my generation (I'm 19), we remember them for "Bat Country" as that was their first huge hit. Looking back I still love that song but back in 2005 I didn't realize how much more there was to the band. City of Evil is an incredible album, that's less of an opinion, more of a fact by now. 2003's Waking the Fallen has grown to become my favorite album of theirs, it's heavy as shit while showing us the catchiness that we would come to love on later albums. If you know me and have talked to me about the band, you know I'm not the biggest fan of their self-titled album, it gets an "okay" in my book and for me, the low point of their discography. The band came back with a vengeance with 2010's Nightmare which was a cross between Waking the Fallen and City of Evil and was a surprisingly good album.

The Positive: First off, cause this is important, the riff in "This Means War" is godly. It wasn't until a friend told me that I realized it sounds pretty similar to Metallica's "Sad But True" which is one of my favorite riffs. Now I wasn't too big on the lead single and title track when it came out but it seriously grew on me. "Requiem" is probably my favorite song, with a choir singing the intro and M. Shadows singing to the same melody, it goes back to the haunting days of Waking the Fallen where they had an evil sound to them. "Heretic" continues the creepy atmosphere with Shadows speaking parts of the verses, the chorus isn't the best but the rest of the track holds it together. A7X has always, in my opinion been good at doing slow songs, "Warmness on the Soul", "Tonight the World Dies" and "Fiction" are some of my favorites from the band in general and "Crimson Day" on this album joins them. "Coming Home" has a very Iron Maiden-esque sound to it; from the riff to the way Shadows sings over it, I could see Bruce Dickinson soaring over this track on one of Maiden's newer albums. "Planets" is a monstrosity of a track, I don't know how to explain but the song just sounds huge, like watching planets collide into each other, that's what this sounds like, and it's a great sound. Lastly, I enjoy the opener "Shepard of Fire" but I don't think it should've opened the album, it's mid-tempo and doesn't pump you up for the album, but upon further listens, the song is great. The bonus track is worth buying off of iTunes, "St. James" is pretty killer, I wish it was on the standard, store-bought edition but I'll pay the $1.29 for it and so should you.

The Negative: They hit a homerun with "Crimson Day" but they hit a single with "Acid Rain", I find it rather boring, the chorus is pretty solid but what's built around it falls flat for me. Reworked it could be better, maybe they'll rework it and do it acoustically, that could work, but overall I wasn't big on the song. I'll keep it for now to see if I can hammer it into my ears. "Doing Time" is really the only track I can say I fully don't like on this album, it's just cheesy and doesn't offer much. We're used to A7X doing rather complex things but this song seems very basic to me. I was a little disappointed that M. Shadows didn't scream on this album since it made a return on Nightmare. I guess it wouldn't really fit with any of the tracks except maybe "Requiem", it doesn't hurt the album though, just don't expect them.

Overall: This album is one you need to listen to more than once, on my first listen through I only like 2 songs, I've now listened to it 4/5 times and it's grown on me immensely. The album is somewhat a simplified version of what we're used to as the songs are very riffed based. Pretty much it's like an Iron Maiden album from the mid 80's (Powerslave or Somewhere in Time) in that the guitars shine when they're meant to while the vocalist soars over the instruments, all the while the rhythm section is tight and holding it all together. This isn't the best A7X album but it's not even close to their worst. It's better than I expected it to be and I'm very happy that it is.

Number of Tracks Kept(Including Deluxe): 10/11, with "Acid Rain" still pending, so possibly 9/11.

Rating: 8.5/10

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Top 10 Bands of the 21st Century

This is the DEFINITIVE list of the top 10 bands of the 21st century.

- The band's official debut album must've come out on or after January 1, 2000.
- The list is any genre although it pretty much ended up being all metal.
- That's it.

10. Parkway Drive, is a band who's 2005 debut crushed the metalcore scene and since then have released 3 albums that have all been different but have all been great with last years outing, Atlas, solidifying their spot on this list. Debut: 2005's Killing With a Smile.

9. Revocation, some may argue that they're too low on the list, some may argue that they haven't been around long enough to prove themselves. The truth is they released their debut in 2008 and have since released 3 albums and 1 EP which is an extremely good output. Each album has been better than the one before and in 20 years we may look back at Revocation in the 2010'S as we look at Pantera in the 90's. Debut: 2008's Empire of the Obscene.

8. The Black Dahlia Murder, Unhallowed debuted this now beloved death/black metal bands sound which was perfected on 2007's Nocturnal. Now 6 albums deep, Dahlia has proven over and over again that they are modern death metal and one of the biggest bands doing it today. Debut: 2003's Unhallowed.

7. Whitechapel, while Dahlia are the masters of modern death metal, Whitechapel are without a doubt the masters of deathcore. Making brutality somehow catchy is no easy feat as few other bands in the overpopulated genre have done it but none of have done it nearly as well as Whitechapel. 4 albums in, with a 5th on the way, the band is heading the deathcore movement with no competition. Debut: 2007's The Somatic Defilement.

6. Avenged Sevenfold, broke onto the scene back in 2001 and released their 6th album earlier this week. They may be one of the lighter and commercial bands on the list but albums like Waking the Fallen, City of Evil and Nightmare make the band a can't miss band of the century. Debut: 2001's Sounding the Seventh Trumpet.

5. Senses Fail, the odd man out on this list, they came out back in '03 and have been dominating the depressing/emo/metalcore world ever since, with the monster album Still Searching, the band has been on an incline ever since with the bands latest release, Renacer, leading right now in my "Album of the Year" list. Debut: 2004's Let it Enfold You

4. Killswitch Engage, barely making the cut with their debut being released in 2000 the band has seen 2 singers, 1 on their first 2 and most recent and the other(pictured) on the 3 in between. They saw a huge rise in popularity with 2006's As Daylight Dies and with the exit of Howard Jones and the reentry of Jesse Leach the band released Disarm the Descent earlier this year that brought the band back to their heavier than hell roots. Debut: 2000's Killswitch Engage.

3. Trivium, releasing their debut in 2003, I didn't discover the band until 2007, 2 years after their breakthrough album, Ascendancy. The band perfected their sound on Shogun and In Waves and are now looking to release their 6th album later this year. Debut: 2003's Ember to Inferno.

2. Mastodon, the band transformed themselves from their sludgy 2002 debut, Remission into their 4th album, the prog masterpiece that is Crack the Skye. The band sounds like 2 different bands while still sounding like Mastodon, something most bands can't do. 2011's The Hunter was yet another departure for the band, leaning away from the concept album and into more single song structure. Mid-2013 the band is one of the biggest in modern metal and it's clear to see why, each of their albums have brilliance laced within them and they would be the number 1 if it weren't for the behemoth of a band that took the spot. Debut: 2002's Remission.

1. Lamb of God, this is where the criteria comes into play, yes they had an album out in 1999 but it was under the name Burn the Priest. OFFICIALLY the band released their debut, New American Gospel in 2000. The band's breakthrough was in 2004 with Ashes of the Wake and even more so in 2006 with Sacrament. Somehow the band kept improving and released their (in my opinion) masterpiece in 2009 with Wrath. Off of those 3 albums they would make this list, but their debut, 2002's As the Palaces Burn and 2012's Resolution catapult the band into being my number 1 pick for the top band of the 21st century. They have earned the label of "Pure American Metal". Debut: 2000's New American Gospel.

Honorable Mentions: Rise Against, A Day to Remember, Sum 41, Silverstein, Bullet for My Valentine(pre-Temper Temper, Every Time I Die and The Sword.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sworn In - The Death Card

Overview: Three Fucking Cheers

Sworn In is an Illinois hardcore/deathcore/metalcore (I'm not entirely sure what to label them) band that formed in 2011. In 2012 they released their first EP, Start/End which I enjoyed but thought there were things that could've been done better. The band released the song "Let Down" which I absolutely love and got me pumped for the album.

The Positive: The album absolutely kills, it's undeniably brutal. From the get go you're in for a 40-minute session of being kicked in the balls and punched in the face simultaneously and as soon as it ends all you can say is "Thank you sir, may I have another?" There are breakdowns and surprisingly a ton of riffage, and good riffage at that. The vocals are pretty nuts too, his highs are shrieking and his lows sound like the stereotypical ultra-Christian idea of what Satan sounds like. Some of the phrases he screams with such passion and in some instances, velocity that it's impossible not to get into. On to the songs, what separates Sworn In from the plethora of bands in this genre is good songwriting. They take a cue from Parkway Drive and use breakdowns to accent the song instead of building an entire song around a breakdown which is what it seems 95% of bands do now. "Hypocrisy" is a crazy good standout with great lines. The band is great at writing one-liners that stick in your head all day. For example, "So take your necklace off and put a fucking noose in its place."(From "Hypocrisy"). "Dead Soul", "A Song for the Nameless", "Snake Eyes", "Deadpan", "Three Cheers", the short but super sweet "Bitter Blood" and "Death" are the rest of the tracks that I have as standouts that are fantastic tracks. These tracks alone are better than some albums that have been released this year.

The Negative: While the lyrics aren't exactly riveting they're brutal and get you pissed like they're supposed to and that's all they need to do. Also the interludes "Senseless" and "Mute" work as nice breaks if you're listening to the album all the way through as I did a few times and they tie the songs together pretty well but besides that they don't do much for me. I haven't decided how I feel as the intro "XIII" and the closing track "Return (Heartless)", the intro is good and sets the album up pretty well but I don't see myself listening to it besides that. "Return (Heartless" is a solid track but I'm not feeling it entirely.

Overview: It's a great debut album that's not perfect but who's album is these days anyway? The Death Card is hopefully the first album in a long career for the band. It won't win any "album of the year" but it's a damn good album. Sworn In are poised to become one of the standout bands in a genre(s) overrun with generic bands.

Number of Tracks Kept: 10/13

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Asking Alexandria - From Death to Destiny

Overview: From Great to Bad.

Asking Alexandria are a metalcore band from England who's latest release is their 3rd full-length. Back in 2009 they released their debut Stand Up and Scream which defined what has become known as "risecore", "sumeriancore" and "crabcore" and spawned countless bands who imitated the album, Attack Attack!, Woe, is Me, I See Stars, to name a few. Looking back on the album it's incredibly generic but something about it still feels fresh and all of its imitators have yet to be able to do the album as well as Asking Alexandria did. Their sophomore album Reckless and Relentless was a change of pace stylistically that I hated at first but since 2011 it's grown on me a bit and while not as good as its predecessor it's a solid album. Which brings us to album number 3. The stylistic change is even more prevalent on this than before. I would bet that if you showed someone that's unfamiliar with the band a song from their debut and a song from this album, they would think it's 2 different bands. Danny Worsnop's vocals are unrecognizable. His screams are way less harsh and his cleans are worse, yet better because I think the band finally used his voice instead of using studio magic.

The Positive: The band is starting to find what they want their sound to be which is respectable. The opener "Don't Pray for Me" is a great opening track minus the obnoxious minute and a half barely audible electronic intro which would've been better off as it's own track so you can just skip it. The 2 singles, "The Death of Me" and "Run Free" are some of the strongest tracks on the album as they have catchy choruses and heavy verses. "White Line Fever" is one of my favorites on the album which a great chorus and for once on this album pretty good lyrics. "Moving On" is a completely cleanly sung song that I really enjoy, for me the band is 2 for 2 when it comes to cleanly sung songs(the other track being "Someone, Somewhere).

The Negative: As I said, the annoying intro to the opening track. "Killing You" is an abysmal track with an abysmal chorus. "Creature" flat out sucks and the band completely misuses Howard Jones of Killswitch Engage fame on the track "Until the End". The main issue with this album is the choruses, they're just not good. Outside of a few tracks the choruses really drag every song down instead of elevating and hooking you. Though I enjoy the songs I enjoy there's really nothing special at all about them, they're just solid songs.

Overall: It's an album that's just kind of there, there are good tracks, okay tracks and bad tracks. The band really seems to be trying to get away from the genre that they almost single-handedly created. There is nothing from Stand Up and Scream that is still with the band now, I think I counted 4 breakdowns, maybe. Now that the band is really finding the sound they want hopefully they'll put more into creating songs that are better and hopefully this album is a stepping stone in a discography that could be better. But, sadly as of now this album continues the downward trend of the band's releases. If you hated their debut, you may like this better, if you loved their debut, chances are you won't enjoy this nearly as much.

Number of Tracks Kept(Including Deluxe Edition): 7/14

Rating: 5/10