At the peak of their power in the late 1970s, Queen released News Of The Day (EMI/Elektra) to only solid reviews at the time. The band was riding high on a string of mid-70s chart-topping albums, with already some of the biggest hits of all time, that established them as one of the biggest bands in the world. Becoming of those bands changed Queen, a group of highly accomplished master musicians and live performers. Their concerts were already the stuff of legend since they were the first band in the world to book sold-out gigs at sports stadiums worldwide when arenas could not contain the scope of their shows. So as a response, the band began writing with the crowd in mind even more, creating entire passages meant for audience participation, not just the choruses. Critics at the time dissed them for this, but in hindsight, they presaged Metallica, AC/DC, Pearl Jam, Guns ‘N Roses, Judas Priest, Queens Of The Stone Age, Muse and just about every other arena rock band since in this regard. Continue reading
Progressive metal band Caricature are back with yet another release, this time the surprising Unborn EP. It’s tough to qualify anything surprising from this outfit and its leader Joseph Spiller, since their last release Stampede was a one track EP that was a 27 minute long song about Spiller’s cat, Parmesan. That track is epic in length and also musically, and so it begs the question: where do you go from there? Well obviously if you are Caricature you go right back to work write some of the best songs in your career.Continue reading
In a little more than a handful of years, California’s Of Mice And Men went from metalcore newcomers to one of the greatest American rock bands today. They did this by making fine albums and touring constantly, building rabid following, and being all about their fans. However, the road to the top has not been easy by any means.Continue reading
For a veteran radio rock band producing a heady concept album may seem strange, but San Diego’s P.O.D. has made a career of making left turns seem right. They have been able to shift chameleon-like from their early days as So-Cal hardcore punks, to Nu Metal, to active rock torchbearers while still writing big hits. When you are a band at this level, the choice to make a concept album at this stage of the game is a curious move, but a welcome one.
Following a day in the life of the main protagonist, with all the moral choices a person has to make daily, The Awakening (T-Boy/Universal) is tied together with little vignettes in the form of the intros and outros of tracks. Some of the acting is hammy in places, but in the context of the album, it works. Without being too preachy, the long running Christian act continues to ply its faith through lyrics firmly on each track. Opening with the posi-rock of ‘Am I Awake’, the track sets the tone. I expect arena rock ready hit single ‘This Goes Out To You’ to be heard in the PA system of every NFL stadium this fall. It’s an homage to the SoCal lifestyle the band grew up with and their fans.
The broody ‘Rise of NWO’ is going to be a hit with the bro in your life that follows Facebook groups and Reddit threads about The Illuminati, and False Flag nuts. The track is heavy and features Sonny Sandoval’s deft rhyming. Marcus Curiel, along with help from drummer Wuv Bernardo have done some of the best guitar work in the history of the band on The Awakening. ‘Criminal Conversations’ features In This Moment’s Maria Brink in the lens of an adulterous relationship. Musically the ballad works, and I can see it being a hit with fans, but I wasn’t crazy about the collabo. One exciting thing about the album is the band reconnects with its punk roots on ‘Speed Demon’ and ‘Revolución,’ which features Lou Koller from Sick Of It All. The most surprising track on the album is ‘Want It All’. In addition to the heart tugging vocals and lyrics covering the “why are we all here” stuff, it is a slick Jazzy tune, complete with smokey horns and vibraphone parts that chill you way out.
The Awakening feels like a comeback album for a band that didn’t need to make one. It’s cool to see them challenge themselves and their listeners at a time when many other bands just mail it in.
Super groups, as we have discussed in this space many times are a) sprouting up everywhere, and b) are a risky proposition for the bands and fans. Saint Asonia has all the makings of a “big deal” new band in an age of shrinking headline acts. With Adam Gontier, formerly of Three Days Grace and Mike Mushok of Staind, the collective radio hits and platinum records sold between just the two of them, that is impressive for any era, but especially this one. Added to the mix are Rich Beddoe (ex-Finger Eleven) and bassist Corey Lowery (Eye Empire, Stuck Mojo, Stereomud), and you have enough talent and power to create an impressive beast of a band. On Saint Asonia (RCA) the band has certainly made a good first impression. Let’s see if they answered the hype bell, or not.
First single ‘Better Place’ has been everywhere this summer and rightfully so, since it rocks. It’s great to hear Gontier’s voice wailing again. Especially with the full use of his dynamic vocal range, his thoughtful lyrics hit you hard. The song also features a terrific shreddy and soulful guitar solo from Mushok, which is cool, since he did almost none of that with Staind. Best of all this track is heavy and catchy, which is definitely the secret sauce for this band. Second track ‘Blow Me Wide Open’ is a strong, sensual track that is rough enough to please. These two songs are indicative of confident modern album rock writing at its finest. Third track ‘Let Me Live My Life’ might be the best track on the entire album. With an ear-worm for a chorus so hummable, the marketing boys ought to hashtag that title!
Where Saint Asonia has all of the members former bands’ beat is in the heavy rock department, some of the ballads prove to be a possible Achilles heel. ‘Even Though I Say’ is fairly solid, but it’s not special. ‘Fairytale’ roars back in next, wakes you up and cements the fact that this groups’ best musical moments are when they just scream out and let it fly.
The second half of the album has more arena-ready ragers such as ‘King of Nothing’ and ‘Happy Tragedy’. Rich Beddoe’s drumming stands out a lot on these songs, providing some fierce beats when needed to match the riffage. ‘Dying Slowly’, ‘Trying to Catch Up’ and the folksy ‘Leaving Minnesota’ have might some legs at radio, but also could be stronger. It’s hard not to imagine the many hits Mushok has had a hand in crafting and Gontier’s ability to deliver a penetrating impassioned verse, you wish there was a little bit more of that on here. Still, credit goes to both for not regurgitating old sounds either. The potential is definitely all there in this band to be enormous.
Despite their lineage, Saint Asonia has much more in common with Alice In Chains and Sevendust in terms of melody, grooves, and bringing the feels. Get used to seeing them at a lot of festivals in the coming years.