The album Something’s in the Hall by Swamp Eyes is a poignant artistic expression that delves into the profound emotions experienced by a parent when confronted with an unexpected diagnosis and its subsequent challenges. Sam Kuban, the artist behind Swamp Eyes, found inspiration from personal experiences when his seventeen-month-old child was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Both in its lyrics and musical composition, this album revolves around the interconnectedness of adversity and acceptance, as well as the juxtaposition between beauty and ugliness. Through an innovative blend of chaotic folk elements, the listener is invited to immerse themselves in a tense dichotomous realm, where haunting fingerstyle guitar harmonizes with bursts of frenetic disarray, creating a uniquely satisfying experience.
The first song is entitled “Trash Palace” and there’s a lot of different styles here. It sounded a bit like the band Grizzly Bear if they were a little more punk. The song is quite beautiful and haunting. There’s a lot going on in a good way. The dynamics were great from the soft warm harmonies to the explosive Wolf Parade like moments. I thought this was a good way to open the album.
“Wait For The Lights” is on point. The drumming is very inventive here. It makes the groove unique. There’s this juxtaposition between elements that I found engaging. I loved the intimate moments on this song as well and how the energy could suddenly change. The range is certainly impressive.
“Dig A Hole” sounded like this different approach to a gospel song in some ways. The vocals in particular have this soulful revival feeling. Similar to the previous song there’s an interesting exploration of dynamics with some moments that are pure energy. Wow - what a song.
“The Farm Up North” is a stripped back song but with some exceptional guitar playing. I also loved the way effects like reverb and delay were used. “Mess Maker” is gorgeous. The vocal harmonies in particular were incredible against the instrumental elements and laid back country flavor. “Scurry” was a highlight amongst highlights and reminded me of a band called The Local Natives.
“Eat Us” is another master class on dynamics and how to use effects subtly. There are great lyrics across this release but “Cracks getting wider / Smoke billows higher / Preventable fire / We’re gonna let it happen / We’re gonna let it happen / We’re gonna make it happen” might be my favorite. Last up is a great intimate closer entitled “Cheers.”
Talent is dripping from every angle on his release. There’s a lot of originality here and Kuban makes it feel easy. It’s not but it is one of the best releases I've heard this year.
Riot Dawn (vocals), Keytar Mark Wagler (guitar/vocals), Troy Harper (bass/vocals) and Terry McDowell (drums) are Toxic Blonde. The band from Cedar Rapids Iowa has been entertaining audiences and is expected to drop a new EP later this year. Back in 2021 the band released a single entitled “Invisible” which I spent some time with.
The song is pretty epic overall. It sounds huge and reminded me of arena rock that was more common in the ’80s. That being said the song feels like it’s been updated for a more contemporary feel but still has a lot going on in it that you heard from bands back in the day.
The composition commences with a powerful impact from the drums, accompanied by distorted guitars and a consistently rhythmic bassline. In a short span of time, the band effortlessly transitions into an ethereal and dreamy verse, enveloped by captivating vocals. The clever application of reverb and subtle trickling elements adds an enigmatic quality to the song. As the distorted guitar reenters the mix, it becomes apparent that the song is steadily progressing towards an irresistible climax. And when the hook finally erupts, its sheer magnitude resonates through every note, leaving an indelible impact on the listener's senses.
They move quickly and get back to the verse and rinse and repeat effectively. The second chorus hits and by this time I felt like I was singing along. I thought the guitar was a killer. The guitarist had a bit of Jimmy Page like style to his lead playing. It’s at this point where the song is boiling over with energy. The outro is a triumph and the band crushes it.
This is a rock song and doesn't hide. It’s the type of song where people will hold up their lighters. The song can work as an opener or closer on an album. It won’t go unnoticed. That’s for sure.
I can’t say I was familiar with this band but this single was impressive. I’m certainly looking forward to hearing what they have up their sleeves for their upcoming EP. Recommended.
Jeff Randall, a guitarist with a conservatory background, dedicated fifteen years to the Milwaukee-based band Katella. Throughout their career, they released two CDs and embarked on extensive tours, sharing stages with renowned hard rock and heavy metal acts from the ‘80s and ‘90s. However, in 2012, the band disbanded. Rather than allowing his creative spirit to wane, Randall took the initiative to establish EversouL, which he describes as a "genuine solo" endeavor. In this project, Randall assumes the roles of songwriter, performer and recording artist, single-handedly bringing his musical visions to life. Explaining his motivation, Jeff expresses that he wasn't quite ready to join another group following the dissolution of Katella, as he found it challenging to recreate the sense of brotherhood and camaraderie he experienced before. Nevertheless, he possessed numerous musical ideas that he yearned to materialize, leading him to form EversouL.
EversouL's musical style combines heaviness and melodiousness, encompassing lyrical themes that transcend the conventional subjects commonly explored by rock and metal bands. Drawing inspiration from both iconic acts like Queensryche, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, as well as the emerging wave of rock and metal bands like Alter Bridge, Avenged Sevenfold and Disturbed, EversouL blends influences from both legacy and contemporary sources which you can hear on his release Propaganda. I also listened to a single entitled "Destined To Fly."
The single was great and one of the best songs I heard. It's melodic, full of energy and I thought the arrangement was very well done.
The album opens with “In The Name Of” and was instantly brought back to metal from the ’80s. I would say the references to the aforementioned sound are perfectly split on this song. It’s a hard-hitting song and indicative of what else you will hear on the album.
“I'm Alive” is another hard-hitting song. It’s pretty epic and sort of this war tribe like groove which reminded me of early Metallica. The song bangs and has the type of energy you can sing along with. The energy and intensity continues with “My Poison.” Randall sings “Staring out my window / Yesterday’s just a stranger to me / Been so long since better times / Maybe tomorrow will be what used to be”
The album continues to rock with “Other Side Of The Mirror.” “Requiem (The Reason Why)” is the first song that chills out a bit. The song revolves around bongos, guitar and vocals. It was a nice deviation. The rocking out commences with “Nobody's Child,” “Save Us Tomorrow” and “King Of The Masquerade.” Another high point was “Victim” and I thought the last song “Dare” was also well done.
If you’re a fan of ’80s metal you should love this album. The songwriting is there. Take a listen.
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Hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area, The Vrbs came into existence in late 2019 when Jared Richard (guitars/vocals) and Paul Cingolani (bass), former bandmates from Audiobender, teamed up with Jeff Ham, the former drummer of Weapon Eleven. Their collaborative efforts gave birth to a fresh and unique style of modern rock, infused with a nostalgic ‘90s vibe. Blending commanding vocals, guitar-fueled power-pop and elements of neo-grunge, they embarked on a musical journey like no other.
The band recently released a double self-titled album The Vrbs, which contains fifteen songs. Their music is certainly rock based, melding elements of punk, garage rock and other sub-genres. The first song I listened to was called “Take Me Home” and this song in particular had an early 2000’s indie rock flavor in the spirit of a band like The Strokes. It’s catchy, fun and well-delivered but also doesn’t contain many surprises.
A similar garage rock vibe is presented on “Say Hello” where the band manifests catchy melodies and an undeniable upbeat energy. On “New Drug” we start to hear some deviation. The energy comes closer to a ’90s punk band like Green Day and arguably Rancid.
“Paper Claims” is another deviation in style. Something about this song felt like it was from the Seattle Scene in the ’90s. The vocalist even sounds a little like Layne Staley from Alice in Chains. “Without You” was one of my favorites. This song was clearly influenced by ’50s pop between the vocal harmonies and drum beat. “Scream for Me” was another high point. I loved how the vocals were delivered on this song. “Under The Sea” is more reflective and atmospheric. It's a great song and displays another side to their talent. They reach some impressive heights with this song.
The second side to the album has some good songs. There’s a bit of ’80s flavor with “Gravity” which is also a darker song that again brought to mind Layne Staley especially when he goes for those high notes. The band sounds like a jam band on “Closer” which has some killer grooves and some intimate moments. “Hog” is a fairly straightforward rocker but again well done and delivered. They explore punk again on “Blow It Up” but the flirtation of spaghetti western on “Run” was even better. The band closes strong with “Down The Mountain” which is a dynamic tune with a great build.
The Vrbs aren’t reinventing the wheel and their influences felt overt.That being said, they write great songs and rock. There are some great songs and the band does a great job exploring the many sub-genres of rock.
Cicola is a one-man band from Columbus Ohio. This enigmatic singer/songwriter by the name of Jason Cicola puts the heart into blues and folk music. The opening track, "My American Dream,” on his latest album, Cicola III, makes this abundantly clear. It's packed full of spirit. The type of song that transcends beyond the chords and melodies -- it's not just about the way in which it was written but the performance from Cicola himself. You can hear the heartbreak in every single word sung. The thing I love most about this track is the haunting, harrowing feel of the melody; Cicola really does convey a disturbing, dark atmosphere on this opener.
And that's why it was a pleasant surprise to see a different side to this talented musician on the second track, "Last Call.” Darkness is replaced with a slightly more feathery, somber track. A ballad, more than a dissonant tune. There's another lovely vocal melody to this track, but it's definitely more of a stripped-back piece -- just Jason Cicola and his acoustic guitar. And he does a fantastic job of proving that's all he needs to deliver an astoundingly beautiful performance. That being said, there is a soothing, sliding clean electric guitar solo towards the end of the track. It really closes off the song nicely. Love the chorus on this track and everything else about it. Another belter of a tune.
One of my personal favorites on the album is "The One That Got Away.” I love the slow, bluesy beat, acoustic guitar progression, and electrifying lead electric guitar. This is a funky, engaging piece of music. Cicola really does a wonderful job of utilizing guitars in such different ways throughout the album -- he traverses so many different genres, and each one is traversed sublimely. His husky vocals really shine on this particular track though. I particularly enjoyed the vocal melodies sung with Cicola's harmonized backing voice -- he really has mastered the art of putting on a one-man show. And then there's the closer, "Chapter 3: Going Home.”
What an outro to a wonderful album. More hauntingly pristine acoustic guitar-picking, both on the rhythm and lead guitars. Cicola's vocals ring out powerfully; every word, as always, oozes with passion. You can tell how much each song means to him. Each track is more than a catchy melody -- it's a page on which he pours out his innermost thoughts. Cicola III is truly an exceptional album from start to finish for this very reason -- it's not often that musicians truly feel their music in the way that Cicola clearly does.
Emerging from the fiery remnants, three formidable performers emerged as dominant forces. Bade sprouted from the conclusion of one expedition and the dawn of another. Initially united as the central trio of the Columbus group "Dance Furiously" in 2018, Patrick Kleinknecht (bass), Adam M. Thayer (guitar/keys/ vocals) and Andrew Ginn (drums) ventured into the realm of Hard Rock as the pandemic unfolded. Since then, they have accumulated more than 65 fresh song concepts, unveiled a solitary track, launched a four-song EP which we will be reviewing today, and are eagerly preparing to record their inaugural 15-song album in the summer of 2023.
Their EP contains four songs and I would say there were a couple things that came to mind right off the bat. I couldn’t help but think of Rage Against the Machine at first. Once the verse hits I was reminded more of bands like Alice In Chain. I love both of those band's so I was excited to hear how the song unfolded. The band rocks it out with a solid hook but my favorite part of the song was the end with the breakdown and ascending lead guitar. I thought the guitarist got some great sounds from his guitar.
Up next is “Air Waves” and I was getting a slight jam band type of feeling here. The guitar and bass work together very well. There’s a good amount of rocking on this song as well. I also thought the vocals were delivered in a unique way. Very cool song.
“Drive” sounds somewhere between Rage Against The Machine and Red Hot Chili Peppers. There are a number of killer grooves on this song. The fuzzy bass and exceptional drumming create the foundation and the guitarist continues to showcase some inventive technique.
“Exploited” is the arguable highlight. I loved the energy here which reminded me of the band Tool. The bass keeps the momentum going and the steady drums add to the dynamics. I would say the hook did sound like an alternative song. It felt a little separate from the mood they were creating on the verse. I thought the instrumental section was a high point.
The band sounds like music that needs to be experienced live. That being said, turning this music up loud should give you an idea of the energy Bade can bring. Recommended.
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Carbon Red is a fortuitous fusion of five talented musicians hailing from diverse corners of the United States, united by the serendipitous discovery of one another. Their harmonious synchronicity resonates through their captivating melodies. Each member, an accomplished songwriter, cherishes the profound camaraderie and admiration they share. With an unwavering passion for music, they vow to compose timeless compositions indefinitely, driven by their shared love for the craft. They are grateful for their extraordinary bond and are committed to a lifelong musical journey together.
Carbon Red has just unveiled their latest release, The Tree, a resonating twelve-track album. Enchantingly melodic and steeped in the nostalgic essence of ‘60s and ‘70s rock bands, it opens with "Life of a Pirate." This maritime-themed melody transports listeners to the high seas, evoking cinematic imagery. The song's dynamic is elevated by the interplay between two distinct vocalists, while the addition of a flute lends a refreshing and delightful touch to the composition.
“Remembering The Times” is a solid rock ballad. The chemistry of the band is evident here and I thought the vocals were powerful. “Enki” is an interesting one. It’s got a mix of Pink Floyd and The Doors in there. The organ sounds huge and the vocalist uses an affectation which works perfectly.
In the soul-stirring ballad "I'll Stand Again," Carbon Red explores themes of resilience and gratitude. The vocalist's soothing delivery creates an atmosphere of warmth and ease. The album ventures into anthemic rock territory with the soaring anthem "Fire No More," while the melancholic yet ethereal "Find My Way" evokes subtle Pink Floyd influences. "The Tree," "I Need You Now" and "Chasing the Shade" exemplify the band's continued display of remarkable talent and proficiency. The energetic rocker "The Person I Call Me" stood out among the tracks. "The Dark (The Beginning)" commences with a whimsical charm reminiscent of a fantasy film, leading to a captivating musical journey. The album concludes with "Time Roll On (Present Time)," a gothic-infused rock ballad that adds a haunting touch to the final moments.
Carbon Red is a top tier rock band. I think fans of classic rock in particular will appreciate this.Take a listen.
Red Recluse is a band from Indiana that recently released their debut album entitled White Album. The album has a somewhat ominous but a tongue in cheek message on their Bandcamp page. “As the year 2022 portends significant upheaval in global events, simulated through our various contemporary media feeds: the perpetual pandemia, rumors of civil war, economic inequality, escalating tribalism, ad nauseum, we are reminded that somewhere at sometime there was a prophet claiming this is THE year, but who knows? Could this be the year? In May of 2023, a step towards this resolution comes in the shape of the debut album by Red Recluse. Perhaps it will hasten the apocalypse. . .or even stave it off?”
The band open with “Exit Satanosphere” and is sort of bluesy yet heavy classic rock inspired guitar dueling showdown. It feels like every guitar is showing what it has and is presented to those big heads on Rick and Morty in this universal competition. Earth rocks and this guys definitely “got it.”
“Lite Tonite” has vocals and is this slightly experimental approach to hard rock. It’s cool and inventive and is only a little over a minute long. “Nines” is good fun for the most part. The song is catchy and I thought the vocals were well done. It's dark which makes it more enjoyable. Great song.
“Levity Jane” is a highlight. The vibe here is all over the place in a good way. I was reminded of early Animal Collective and I think I heard a sitar in there as well. The song seems to have some Eastern influence but is also quite cinematic. On top of that the song is good in all sorts of unconventional ways.
“Brains” is great as well. Some of the lyrics are dark and absurd but also sort of comedic. I loved it. The band thinks outside of the box once again and does a job exploring interesting territory. “Dr Oxygen” has some conventional moments but also pokes at some experimental moments.
“The Son Of My History” is this semi mystical sounding song with droning elements and this sense of being lost at sea. I felt like “March Of The Red Recluse” was music that should be used in a Quentin Tarantino movie in which the protagonist comes into view and is a complete badass.
We get some groovy rocking with some attitude on “Permanent Midnight” while “Hey Kid” is a hard hitting song with a very catchy hook. Another highlight was “Gold Dust” which has some very well done soundscapes that sound cinematic. “Marvin Gaye and Chardonnay” closes the album but sounded really lo-fi compared to some of the other songs.
I thought this was a great album and the bands best moments are when they stray away from conventional rock. Recommended.
Rick Quesnel, also known as TEMPR MENTL, is an accomplished musician, showcasing his talents in his latest release Mentl Kase. This hard-hitting rock album comprises eight powerful songs, spanning a duration of approximately twenty-eight minutes. The album opens with the intense track "The Mirror," characterized by its industrial-like quality, fueled by the presence of mechanical drums. The song delivers an onslaught of fast-paced and aggressive elements, leaving a lasting impact.
Following "The Mirror," the album progresses to "All That's Beautiful," which exhibits a striking resemblance to the opening track. This song carries a sense of angst, evoking shades of Nine Inch Nails in its sonic texture. Moving forward, "What It Feels Like" showcases Quesnel's intense frustration, accompanied by an unmistakable industrial ambiance, reinforcing the album's overall tone.
Within the album, "Down Is The Only Way" and "What It's All About" stand out as particularly well-crafted songs, with the latter being a definite highlight. The intensity escalates further with the aggressive and unrelenting track, "Stab Me in the Back." The reminiscent echoes of Soundgarden are evident in "Stand In Line," lending it a distinct allure. Notably, the closing track, "Demons Inside," shines as one of the album's standout moments, leaving a lingering impact on the listener.
Mentl Kase is a cathartic album, serving as an outlet for the artist's profound pain and anger. The raw emotions are palpable throughout, as evident in explicit declarations like "fuck off," without any semblance of reconciliation. It's a visceral expression of inner turmoil, allowing listeners to connect deeply with the artist's unfiltered emotions.
I think this album definitely feels real and raw. You get the impression that Quesnel needed to make this album. I think there are a lot of people out there who can relate to the pain he sings about and hopefully this album will create a sense of empathy.
Aurum Argentum is an artist from Australia who writes and performs his own music. I spent some time with a number of his songs which cross a couple of different genres. The first song I listened to was entitled “Style.” This song specifically reminded me of the song “Sweet Jane” by The Velvet Underground. One of the main differences between them however is that “Style” has no lead vocals. The lead on this song is guitar. There’s a good amount of lead guitar which caught my ear. I especially enjoyed when the electric guitar was put in the mix but the acoustic guitar picking was also very well done.
“Two Guitars” sounds exactly like what is advertised although there are other elements as well. That being said there’s one guitar panned hard left and the other panned hard right which is the focal point. It's pleasant and I found it relaxing. The guitar skills are not only technically impressive but also quite creative. Similar to “Style” an electric guitar comes in about halfway through which adds some excitement to the mix.
On “Locomotive” we have a distinctly different style. This is a much harder song and somewhere between metal and hard rock but a little more towards the latter. I loved the groove on this song but there’s really not much of a lead instrument here which I thought it could have used. “New Year’s Eve” has a similar style. I would say this song was a highlight. The lead here is very well done and reminded me of the playing style of Joe Satriani.
It’s all in the name. “Funky Base” is funky but it sounds like it’s all midi from the horns to the bass. It works for the most part but it does give the song this mechanical quality. The song contains some vocals but I wouldn’t call it a lead. It felt more like another element in the song. One of my personal favorite songs was called “Mexico.” I thoroughly enjoyed the strumming patterns on this song which contains flamenco style guitar.
There are some very interesting styles on offer from Aurum Argentum. He’s one talented musician who is able to cover a lot of different styles.
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