Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dangerous Toys singer joins forces with Pitbull Daycare members to form Evil United

According to Evil United's Facebook page, they "will definitely quench the thirst on you heavy metal pallet [sic] and make you wanna gargle nails and then spit them out with AK-47 intensity impaling non-believers!!!". After listening to the band's self-titled metal offering--especially the powerful guitar riffs--I'd say that it's a pretty accurate description.

Evil United opens with the track "Blasphemer". The song begins with a mysterious sound effect, but the guitars and drums kick in right away. Evil United certainly brings the metal, but the vocals were not at all what I expected. The singing was mostly high-pitched, throaty screams. I was expecting something much lower, almost a growl. "Blasphemer" is very rhythmic and fast paced, which gives the song a thrash metal feel. The guitar work is fantastic, and although the solo is short, it really packs in the intensity.

"Speak" is slower than the opening track, but it is by no means a slow song. It begins with begins with lower, deeper guitar tones. When the vocals hit, they contain the high-pitched screams, but it quickly turn into more of a melodic singing style. Vocalist Jason McMaster's singing voice becomes much lower and is at times quite melodramatic. It almost sounds like two different people are singing on this track because of the great variation. "Speak" features another good solo--one with a bright power metal sound that really contrasts with the lower tones present in the rest of the song.

"Wargod" also features the varied vocal style from "Speak." The drumming is fast and heavy, and the guitars are, again, fantastic. It is definitely a thrash-inspired track.

"Fifty Year Storm" is preceded by the melodic instrumental "Dark Serenade". It is incredibly fast and heavy, and it really takes you by surprise because the brief "Dark Serenade" seems so calm. I quite enjoyed the vocals on this track. They're not too high in most of the parts of the song, and they seem to fit the musical style better. You can really hear the distinct lead and rhythm guitars working together here, especially during the intro.

Evil United's final track, "Hexorcism", begins with an almost demonic voice speaking the line, "I'm speaking to the entity inside of this child!". The screaming vocals hit, repeating the same phrase. The name is cool, like several of the other evil and "metal" sounding titles--"Dawn of Armageddon," "Walking to Sodom", among others. What I enjoy most about "Hexorcism" is that it boasts one of the longer guitar solos on the album. It is has a melodic power metal sound, which is a lot brighter than the rest of this deep, dark song. The contrast is fascinating.

Evil United has put together a very fresh, modern sounding debut album. One can really hear the influence of other metal styles such as thrash and power metal over the course of the record. I didn't really care for some of the vocals on this album. Jason McMaster's high-pitched moments kind of came across as a bad Bobby Blitz impression, but really throaty. The variation in his singing style was often distracting, and I couldn't quite tell what he was going for.  There were times when the vocals just didn't seem to complement the musical style. However, it was nice to hear something new and super heavy that didn't use a low guttural growl the ENTIRE time. Despite all of this, the top notch guitar work from TC "Bird" Connally and John "JV4" Valenzuela made Evil United completely worth my time spent listening to it. Now, I am rather anxious to check out their other band Pitbull Daycare to hear how their amazing talents match up with another vocalist.

6 1/2 out of 10 stars

MVD Entertainment Group
Evil United on Facebook

Slipknot spin-off band delivers part one of a double album epic

The House of Gold and Bones - Part 1 is the first installment of Stone Sour's new double concept album. It is the band's first album without bassist Shawn Economaki. Rachel Bolan of Skid Row fame temporarily joined the band to record both parts of The House of Gold and Bones.

Part 1's opener "Gone Sovereign" begins with feedback noise and heavy repetitive guitar riffs. Corey Taylor's vocals are calm, yet powerful, in the beginning. They periodically get louder, and come to a scream during the highly intense "This is MINE" line of the song. The guitar solo is purely hard rock--with fast, screaming notes. It is definitely something that fans of more classic hard rock and heavy metal will really appreciate.

"Gone Sovereign" bleeds into the following track, "Absolute Zero". During this transition, the word "yeah" is sung in a dark, dissonant type vocal. It almost sounds like something out of an Alice in Chains song. The "yeah" (or "hey" as it often sounds) is prominently featured throughout the song. "Absolute Zero" has some moments of screams, but the vocals are mostly a melodic style. This song, with its heavy and driving beat, also features a catchy chorus with the memorable lyric, "You're looking at an absolute zero / I'm not the devil / But I won't be your hero".

Part of what makes The House of Gold and Bones - Part 1 a concept album of sorts are the recurring themes and motifs. This really begins to take shape with "The Travelers Pt. 1". This track is a peaceful ballad featuring an acoustic guitar with an underlying string arrangement. It is highly emotional, and very descriptive of travelling through life. The vocals are super pure and clean, but the song ends with muffled screaming in the background, which escalates into the next track, "Tired".

"Tired" is much heavier than previous track, but it's definitely not the heaviest song on the album by any means. It opens with a somewhat bluesy guitar riff, and an orchestral string arrangement soon appears again. The strings really add more fullness to this track. I'm very drawn to the overall big sound and the intense outpour of emotion.

"Taciturn" is another acoustic ballad on The House of Gold and Bones - Part 1. It too is highly emotional, which really comes across in Taylor's vocals. "Taciturn" is more dynamic than the previous ballad. It has a lot of build-up and suspense. It briefly "goes electric" toward the end, but it ends in the acoustic style in which it started.

"The Travelers Pt. 2", which is near the end of the album, revisits "The Travelers Pt. 1". It is quite a bit heavier than Part 1, especially at the beginning where it prominently features heavy guitar riffs. The vocals also often have an interesting muffled quality to them. "The Travelers Pt. 2" recalls some of the lyrics from Part 1, particularly the "I don't need a conscience..." line. This gives the song a strikingly similar chorus. The dark guitar riffs from James Root and Josh Rand really add to the mood. A heavy bass line leads into the album's final track--the highly energetic and aggressive song "Last of the Real."

Stone Sour's The House of Gold and Bones - Part 1 boasts a great balance of introspective ballads and heavy rock songs.  It is an incredible musical journey through pure aggression and sincere emotional contemplation. The tracks are well organized, and the constant changes in pace always keep it exciting. I absolutely cannot wait to hear the continuation of this album! The House of Gold and Bones - Part 2--which was recorded alongside Part 1--will be released in 2013.

8 out of 10 stars

Roadrunner Records/Warner Music Australia
Stone Sour Official Website

KISS' latest offering has its high points, but does it live up to its predecessors?

KISS just reached a major milestone in their career--the release of their 20th studio album, Monster. It certainly stays true to the band's signature sound, and it pretty much picks up where 2009's Sonic Boom left off. Monster was produced by Greg Collins and Paul Stanley, who also produced Sonic Boom.

"Hell or Hallelujah" is the album's opener and the lead single and it has the classic KISS sound right from the start. Paul takes on the lead vocal duties on this track, and his voice sounds like it is in great shape, not in the least bit strained as it has in recent times. The chorus is catchy, and the riffs are heavy. "Hell or Hallelujah" features a great guitar solo from Tommy Thayer. This relative newcomer to the band really fits in and sounds like he's been there all along.

Monster's first track with Gene Simmons on vocals is "Back to the Stone Age". It has a heavy bass intro and is very much a Gene song. The chorus is rather cheesy, but what would you expect from a song about returning to the wild and free days of being a caveman? Gene would have probably made a good caveman, so it actually makes sense!

Another Gene song from Monster is "The Devil is Me". It's darker and heavier than "Back to the Stone Age"--and an overall better song. I really dig the sinister attitude of this track. "The Devil is Me" is no "God of Thunder" by any means, but it's pretty cool.

"Shout Mercy" is one of Monster's heavier tracks, and it really reminds me of something from the band's Creatures of the Night era. I'm a sucker for good backing vocals, and this song is no exception. I really enjoy the shouts of "ooh hoo", "alright", and "mercy" in the background. The guitar riffs from this track are great and certainly have the classic KISS feel, and along with "Hell or Hallelujah", it's the best song from Monster.

"Outta This World" is a fun rock song that features guitarist Tommy Thayer on vocals. It's not one of the best songs from the album, but it did raise an eyebrow. The first verse of this track mentions feeling out of place in the human race and "wasting my time looking for my kind", and the chorus mentions a "midnight rocket ride". These lyrics just might touch a raw nerve with hardcore fans because they seem to have such a forced Spaceman theme. Tommy is definitely more of a singer than Ace has ever been--which is this track's redeeming quality--but this song just does not scream KISS at all.

"Last Chance" is the appropriately named last track on Monster. Paul Stanley sings lead on this song, which has the most classic sounding riffs on the whole album. The intro sounds very much like it was inspired by "Deuce". There are some really cool moments where the bass line gets extra heavy. I've always said Gene Simmons is an underrated bassist, and I enjoy his playing style--particularly on this track. Along with this great bass playing, this track also features the most explosive and impressive guitar solo from the whole album.

Monster may have a few good songs on it, but not many truly stand out. It was difficult to pick my favourites because of this, but there were some songs that grew on me more than others. Some of the songs may be catchy enough to get stuck in your head for a few days or even weeks, but they're not necessarily good enough to be remembered for years like much of KISS's previous work. I did appreciate the fact that the band embraced their classic sound, but the substance of the songs just wasn't all the way there. Monster is not at the top of my list of favourite KISS albums, but it's a decent record with some fun moments.

6 out of 10 stars

KISS Online

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Sevendust, Call Me No One members join Tennessee couple in new band

Guitarist Chad Grennor and singer Ashley Grennor currently hail from Knoxville, Tennessee, and are active in its local music scene. They are rising stars and are moving onto bigger things, as they have formed a new band--Annandale--with Sevendust and Call Me No One guitarist Clint Lowery and drummer Morgan Rose. Annandale will soon be releasing their debut EP, Moving Forward, which Lowery produced.

Moving Forward kicks off with the hard and heavy track "This Fight". One thing that makes this song--and the band itself--unique, is the use of a male vocalist and a female vocalist. Annandale's female vocalist, Ashley Grennor, is featured most prominently on "This Fight". Her singing alternates between being strong and being lighter and breathy. The band's rhythm guitarist, Chad Grennor, shares the singing duties, and the chorus features his vocal harmonies. Another thing that makes this track really exciting is the highly suspenseful build-up before the bridge.

Next comes the EP's title track, "Moving Forward" and it’s a bit heavier than the previous one. The verses are mainly sung by Ashley and they are quite melodic. This really contrasts with the angsty, hard-hitting chorus sung by Chad. This song's chorus is faster, and has more of an alt-rock feel to it. "Moving Forward" boasts a fantastic guitar solo with some blistering fast hard rock notes.

"Step One" has to be my favourite track from Moving Forward. It is the catchiest song from the EP, and I can't wait to hear this one on the radio. The song's intro features some heavy, pronounced drumming courtesy of Morgan Rose. The fast guitar quickly kicks in, as do the rapid rhythmic vocals from Chad. Ashley provides some much calmer harmonies in the chorus. The riffs are certainly hard and fast on this one!

"Waiting" is much more relaxed than the previous tracks. It has sort of a pop rock feel, but the guitar riffs are still substantial. The vocals on this song are sung as a duet, and it kind of reminds me of a rock version of country music's Lady Antebellum.

The final track, "Broken Dreams", is very low and dark sounding in the beginning, and it's probably the heaviest song from Moving Forward. The riffs on this one really pack a punch, especially in the guitar solo. Chad's vocals are the most prominent, but Ashley's really provide depth to the song. The style of the song--and the heavy use of the male vocals--are reminiscent of a band like Daughtry.

Annandale's Moving Forward EP features a wide variety of sounds--pop rock, alternative, and hard rock bordering on metal. While there are surely some Sevendust and Call Me No One influences, this band is purely original and certainly has its own vision. As a fan of both Sevendust and the Grennors' work in the Knoxville music scene, I am ecstatic this band has come to be, and I am excited to see where they will go.

7.5 out of 10 stars

Official Annandale Website