Category Archives: Music

Music of 2014: A year in review

The last 12 months were interesting ones in music. Ignoring pop and rap, because I don’t listen to or enjoy those genre’s – nor do I really think there’s anything interesting happening in them – the rock/metal genres took interesting turns in 2014. One of the most important to note was the complete dearth of new and interesting music in hard rock.

The Foo Fighter’s release, Sonic Highways, was excellent, and a very interesting example of a unique way to record an album, but it didn’t completely blow me away. The new Rise Against album, The Black Market, stood out to me, but again, it wasn’t groundbreaking, it was simply good. Even the “new” Pink Floyd album, The Endless River, failed to blow my mind (nor was it designed to, it was basically a B-sides album for The Division Bell).

Rock was, seemingly, a let down for new music in 2014. A few of my friends have said so as well. Which left me with a single genre (with many sub-genre’s) to fill the void: Metal. Now, I am a self-professed metal head (not a purist, however), so this may not come as much surprise to anyway, but about 90 percent of the music I listened to last year was metal in one form or another. There were quite a few excellent albums released, although none that I would call truly groundbreaking or mind-blowing (I’ll touch on this again later).

This said, here’s a look at my top 10 (metal) albums from 2014:

10. Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown (maybe?)
Number 10 is a bit of a toss up for me. There are about five albums I’d like to slot in at number 10 but I think I’m going to give it to ETID based on the fact that I saw them live this year, and they put on a phenomenal stage show (as always). Also, “Moor.”

If you haven’t given the new ETID album a listen I recommend starting with track 6 – “Moor” – first. If you’re familiar with ETID, this track will come as a surprise. If you aren’t, will offer an interesting look into their particular brand of metalcore. Beyond “Moor,” the rest of the album is a solid offering from the Buffalo-based group, highlighting Buckely’s impressive vocals and demonstrating how a band nearly two-decades old can still bring some new, impressive force to their music.

9. Caliban – Ghost Empire
Number nine is another metalcore album, with no apologies. Caliban is a fairly recent discovery for me (yeah, I know, weird), and I honestly blown away by this album. The ninth release from the German five-piece, Ghost Empire picks up where I Am Nemesis left off in the evolution of Caliban’s sound and takes it the one step further this band needed I think. The album blends in clean vocals more smoothly than their earlier releases and has some pretty heavy-hitting stand outs on it – specifically tracks 5, 6 and 7, “I Am Ghost,” “Devil’s Night” and “yOUR Song.” If you’re not a Caliban fan, check this album out and maybe give them a second chance, they’ve certainly won me over very quickly.

8. Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen
A fairly later release of 2014, the eighth album from old-school folk metaler’s Primordial was an excellent addition to the year. With their particular blend of black metal and Irish folk music, Primordial has been a favorite of mine since I was introduced to folk metal and they continue to impress. Where Greater Men Have Fallen provides a solid entrant into the annals of folk metal that I believe holds up equally well against the subgenre’s earlier contributions and modern metal. If you’re a fan of black metal, folk metal or even Irish folk music, I highly recommend giving the album a listen.

7. Mastodon – Once More ‘Round The Sun
Mastodon certainly make waves with their followup to 2011’s The Hunter. While I personally wasn’t a huge fan of The Hunter, it was arguably a critical step on the path from the band’s earlier releases and Once More… Between the controversy over twerking in the music video for “The Motherload,” and the immediate fanfare over the album’s first single, “High Road,” Once More ‘Round The Sun made it onto a lot of top metal album lists this year, and mine is no exception. It’s difficult for me to pin down what I like so much about the album, other than it’s true to form for a band that hasn’t disappointed me yet, even with my general “meh” feelings about The Hunter, and continues to evolve their sound in interesting ways. *The below video is potentially NSFW.*

6. Agalloch – The Serpent & The Sphere
Somehow I managed to miss the existence of this band until earlier in 2014. Though they’ve been around for almost 30 years, The Serpent & The Sphere is only Agalloch’s fifth studio album, but it’s an impressive one. The album capture’s much of what I love about doom metal, the atmospheric dissonance and carefully constructed waves of sound that seem to lull me into a peacefulness. It also offers a very organic, natural sound, lending credence to the band’s other subgenre labeling of neofolk. I’d recommend this album to fans of nearly any subgenre of metal, and folk as well.

5. The Great Old Ones – Tekeli-Li
The Great Old Ones are a relatively unknown band, signed to an indie French label, but with their sophomore release they have won a place in my heart. Oh, did I mention they’re a Lovecraft-themed black metal band?

The Great Old Ones first album, Al-Azif, introduced their particular brand of Lovecraftian black metal to the world, and Tekeli-Li is an impressive extension of that first album. Themed after Lovecraft’s “At The Mountains of Madness” (which also happens to be my particular favorite of his stories,) Tekeli-Li is moody, immersive and a truly haunting example of modern black metal (or post-black metal) – fitting its theme perfectly.

4. Insomnium – Shadows of a Dying Sun
Melodic death metaler’s Insomnium’s sixth studio release was a breath of fresh air in the death metal scene this year. Interestingly enough, death metal is perhaps my least favorite subgenre of metal, but Shadows of a Dying Sun managed not only to make my top 10 list, but worm its way to number four for several reasons. The first of which is how much of an ear-worm track two, “While We Sleep,” is. A solid album from start to finish, Shadows of a Dying Sun provides a flow that few death metal, even melodic death metal, albums manage.

3. Volumes – No Sleep
Metalcore, and it’s offshoot Djent in particular, is a hotly debated topic in the metal community. While metal purists argue it’s not true metal, all things evolve and I think metalcore is a natural growth out of the technical death metal, progressive metal and nu metal sub genre’s that already exist. And I think few people would argue that metalcore is worse than nu metal.

Despite the argued place of metalcore in the metal genre, Volumes has quickly become of my favorite bands this year with their sophomore album, No Sleep.

Music is typically about emotions, and not just those that go into the songs, but also those that they invoke from the listener. My love of Volumes comes from the fact that they invoke similar feelings that the band Thrice does/did in me. Track three, “Erased,” in particular is an amazing, slower and more emotional track in the midst of a heavy hitting album that does the band’s talent justice and offers up an interesting look at where the metal genre as a whole could be heading.

2. Eluveitie – Origins
While Eluveitie’s Origins may not have been my second favorite album of the year based on the music alone, it earned the spot in part due to its theme – getting back to your roots. Track seven, “The Call of the Mountains,” in particular invokes some extreme emotions that draw the listener not just to a place of comfort, but also fond remembrance. These concepts might seem rare in the metal genre by folk metal has blended the extreme, brutal, often angry themes of metal with calmer, more introspective ideals, and Eluveitie has mastered the integration of these concepts with its particular blend of celtic folk metal.

1. Opeth – Pale Communion
Many in the metal community might take issue with my selection of Opeth’s Pale Communion as my top metal album of the year for the simple fact that it isn’t really a metal album. Opeth has evolved more than any other metal band over the years, from black metal into progressive metal to what some have called jazz metal, with the culmination into their 11th studio release, which could be considered more progressive rock than metal.

What appeals to me from this release, other than the band’s unique evolution, is that it demonstrates so clearly how metal can be more than most people think. Metal has stronger roots in classical than many other genre’s, taking directly from the complexities and intricacies of classical composers while blending all-too-modern distortion and instrumentation, and I don’t think anyone showcases this better than Opeth. Pale Communion is the marriage of metal, classic, jazz and progression rock in a way that I don’t believe has ever been done before, and it was the only album to be released in 2014 to blow my mind and worm its way into my list of favorite albums of all time.

So those are my thoughts on music in 2014. If you feel I may have missed an amazing release in another genre, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll check it out. If you’d like to check out my full playlist of the Best of 2014: Metal, you can listen on Spotify.

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The Silent Comedy, a Review

The Silent ComedyOnce in a while, I bother watching film/television show/video game trailers online. Usually only if someone points it out to me, it’s something I’ve been anticipating… or just something that looks really cool. This week pulled two of those on me. First off, The Tony Stark ExtravaganzaAvengers trailer looks fantastic. Much snark, much explosion, much awesome. I’m looking forward to that one. Then yesterday I noticed a video game trailer someone posted online that had an interesting title – Dark Souls. Fairly generic, but you don’t see many games with generic titles like that, so it actually caught my interest. I watched the trailer, and while the game looks interesting (sort of a dark, medieval, horror fantasy style game) I was more caught up in the song that played through the trailer. Amusingly, the thing that sold me most in The Avengers trailer was also the song (Nine Inch Nails – We’re In This Together, fantastic song), which fit really, really well… so this was a running theme last week apparently.

So, Dark Souls trailer, song… yes. The band is The Silent Comedy. The song in the Dark Souls trailer can only be described as western rock… almost like a split between The Raconteurs, Murder By Death, and old blues. While not all of the band’s songs are quite this style (though most are similar), it’s definitely a fantastic sound (and doesn’t quite fit with the game trailer, which has an interesting dynamic). Fast-forward a day…

Listening to the album Sunset Stables I can definitely get a feel for the band. This is their first album, which is impressive. Very, very well produced and put together. It has a very nice sound, and flows very well. Reminiscent of The Raconteurs, as I mentioned earlier… with a bit of a Mumford & Sons sound in there as well. The similarities with the latter are in fact impressive, considering they formed around the same time I believe.

Spinning through the tracks on the first album, it’s a cohesive and fun sound. Enjoyable to listen to, not too ridiculous, not too boring. Something I can sit down and listen to “cover to cover” and not skip any songs. But again, nothing overly impressive. Nothing in particular that stands out and grabs me. Onward to the second album!

Common Faults is the band’s second album. This album has a bit more of that bluesy feel to it that I mentioned earlier. The song from the Dark Souls trailer is on this album – “Bartholomew” – and is definitely a favorite for this album. The album starts out extremely strong with “‘49” and continues to soak into your skin. Unlike their first album, which, while impressive for a first album, is simply good, this album is damn fantastic. Some of the tracks stand out more than others… but like the first album, it’s all very well put together, and the production quality of this album is absolutely fantastic.

So songs… songs are important. I should mention the really good ones. Bartholomew, as previously mentioned, is fantastic. “‘49,” “The Well,” “Moonshine,” “Exploitation,” …and “All Saints Day” are the other really good ones off of the second album (Yes, I realize that’s just about half the album…). If I was going to recommend one song for you to listen to, though, it would be the whole albumBartholomew. It’s my favorite anyway… It captures that old blues underdog power that many, many songs try for, and most fail at. It just drives forward, beating you down and lifting you back up. “Moonshine” has a similar feeling to it, but doesn’t quite have that unexpected boom that “Bartholomew” has. So yeah, that’s my recommendation there.

The Silent Comedy live

From The Silent Comedy's website.

Overall, the band has a fantastic sound that I think few bands even go for these days. And it’s original… as much as this genre of music can be. I mean, hell, in “Moonshine” you’re rocking out along with the song and suddenly there’s a jazz organ jamming away in the background… very unexpected. So if you’re getting really tired of “wubwubwubwub” or the same generic sounding rock/rap/pop/etc. music, this is one of the few newer albums I would highly recommend to you. The new Foo Fighters, Thrice, and Authority Zero would be a few others… but… we were talking about The Silent Comedy. So yes, if you want something that actually sounds “new,” then check them out. I highly recommend them.


Music Over Time – Thrice Edition

ThriceDespite the title this is not an ongoing theme… just a clever title that popped into my head, ha.

Earlier this month Thrice’s new CD, Major/Minor, came out. Before I begin talking about *any* of this, I will say the CD is fantastic, and you should buy it regardless of if you are a fan of their earlier work. It is quite possibly their best album to date. Now on to the good stuff.

While Brandon and I were discussing Thrice’s new album the other day, I realized I have been listening to the band for ten years now, about how long the band has been around. Thrice is known for their vastly diverse sound on each album, with no two albums sounding alike. Thrice’s sound has changed so drastically over the years that they have gone from being a Post-Hardcore band, to an almost “Experimental Post-Rock” band. I first heard their music when I was in high school, a little while after the release of their debut album, Identity Crisis. With their first album Thrice was easily “classified” as a Post-Hardcore/Melodic Hardcore group, with a very punk sound and stressed, screaming vocals.

At the time, this was the style of music I was very much into. I had just gotten into Tool, as well, the year before, so my music tastes were nestled somewhere directly between “angry driving Rock/Metal” and, well, “angry driving Punk/Hardcore.” It worked for me at the time. Tool, System Of A Down, Thrice, From Autumn To Ashes… etc. Then Thrice’s next album, and possibly my favorite album of theirs, came out – The Illusion of Safety.

The Illusion of Safety, while sounding similar to Identity Crisis, is much more impressive of an album. The songs have a lot more range of emotion, and the music has definitely matured. Just from listening to the album, you get a sense that the band learned a lot after the release of Identity Crisis and worked very hard to show it in the follow-up album. Deadbolt and The Beltsville Crucible are absolutely brilliant for the genre of music that they are, with the piano outro to Deadbolt showcasing a much darker tone to this album overall. At the time, this album again followed along with my taste in music closely, pinpointing a darkness I was feeling at the time (ah, angsty teenagers), while still sliding into that post-hardcore sound I was really enjoying at the time.

And then there was my senior year in high school, and then the album The Artist In The Ambulance. TAITA came out while I was actually in Europe (long story) so I picked up the album when I got home in August. The album again was very different, with a much richer sound than the last. Many of the songs seemed to drift almost entirely away from the Post-Hardcore sound entirely, hitting a more Hard Rock vibe. Yet the album overall was still influenced heavily by that screaming vocal style and driving guitar riffs. At the time, I was getting ready to go to college and start a new chapter in my life (one that would change my life significantly for the better) and this album struck home for me. It spoke to me of change as well, and it’s an idea I clung to. This remained my favorite album for my entire freshman year of college.

Then in 2005, Vheissu came out. This album is perhaps my least favorite album (though I by no means dislike it) of Thrice’s. It is also Thrice’s first album that delves into Experimental Rock. The album is by no means bad, as I said, I just didn’t feel as strong of a connection to it as I did (and do) to the rest of the albums. Vheissu did, however, come out at a time where I was beginning to get heavily into Philosophy studies and was very much into experimental music, so it fit in well with the other bands and albums I was listening to at the time. I gave it quite a few good listens, and enjoyed it immensely for its almost “randomness” at the time.

Then, as I was entering my final year of college, The Alchemy Index (Vols. I & II and Vols. III & IV) came out. Immediately I was struck dumb by the album, before I even heard the songs. The theme alone of the album, a mini-album for each of the four elements, played perfectly with how I thinking at the time. I was exploring a lot of my personal beliefs at the time and nature and alchemy were playing heavily into that exploration. This album, spaced between October 2007 and April 2008 fit perfectly into that. And the album itself is beautiful. Each mini-album captures the element it is trying to portray perfectly. When listening to Fire, you feel the heat of an inferno wrapping around you. When listening to Water, you feel the gentle waves lapping against you… as if floating on an ocean. With Earth, you feel the strength of mountains resonating, and the folksy/acoustic sound really strikes deep into the soul. And Air has this ethereal “Art Rock” sound that really floats through you… perfect for its name. The two-part album is considered by many to be the band’s greatest effort to date, and also seems to chronicle the band’s evolution as well, with Fire being a much harder sound, and each album representing a change in the band, with Earth and Air sounding much more like the band’s most recent efforts.

Then, in 2009, Thrice released Beggars. Beggars was a massive change, with a much more Indie/Blues/Rock sound than their previous albums, much like Earth and Air of The Alchemy Index. The album came out in a time where I was trying to work my way through life, aiming to put in a hard days (or nights, as the case was) work, come home, and relax. The album spoke volumes to me in this sense, and at the time, I was listening to *a lot* of blues… so it fit right in. Beggars also came as a bit of a surprise. At the time I was listening to a lot of older music. I had been ignoring new releases and new bands for about a year at the time, so when Beggars came out I almost missed it. Right around the release date I happened to be at the mall and noticed the new album and picked it up. I could also blame this album for my journey back to newer artists and music. All I can really say is that Beggars really hit home for me at the time, and I’m glad I found it when I did…

Enter 2011, and Major/Minor. Major/Minor is the exception to the rule. With a history of changing their sound drastically from album to album, Thrice really threw their fans for a loop with Major/Minor, which sounds like a much more polished, meaningful Beggars. A fantastic album, and (for me) their best since The Illusion of Safety, Major/Minor really tells a story I can relate to. At this point in my life I’m changing direction and trying to get onto the track that I’ve wanted to be on all along, as a writer… and other things. This album really just infiltrated my soul. And again, I found out about the album on its release day… I hadn’t been paying attention and didn’t even know the band was putting out a new album.

I find it fascinating that as my taste in music has changed over the years, Thrice has been right there beside it. I’m sure many people who grew up with The Beatles or The Who, both of whom had drastic sound changes over the years, could say similar things… but to me it’s nice to know that there is something I could always relate to at every changing point in my life.

And to wrap all this nonsense up, here’s a song from the new album, Words In The Water… enjoy.