ALBUM REVIEW: Machine Gun Kelly – Tickets to My Downfall

Whether you know him from his decade-long rap career, role as Felix in Birdbox, spot-on portrayal of Tommy Lee in The Dirt,  comedian Pete Davidson’s BFF, or Megan Fox’s new beau, Machine Gun Kelly, born Colson Baker, has left footprints across the entertainment industry.  Hot off a summer full of home-recorded covers and his first MTV Video Music Award, MGK takes another step in a new direction with his fifth studio album, Tickets to My Downfall (Bad Boy/Interscope), wearing his heart on his sleeve for 13 tracks (and 2 interludes) of pop-punk magic. Most fittingly, the new release was executively produced by Blink 182’s Travis Barker, who Baker first collaborated with last summer on  “I Think I’m Okay,”  along with Brit bud Yungblud.  It’s no surprise the album sounds as if it could have been born during the early-2000’s pop-punk heyday.  Though TTMD  is a change of pace from MGK’s typical style, it does not fully abandon his roots, highlighting a multitude of hip-hop guests and beats, party songs, and pop anthems. In fact, he has consistently cited various rock acts as influences, so it was only a matter of time until he fully submerged himself in the genre.

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Royal Republic – Club Majesty

They say fashion and pop culture are cyclical and this old adage is at work again with the current ’80s revival, with the recent Goonies-esque vibe of Stranger Things and IT, the Motley Crue film The Dirt and the Spielberg explosion of colour that is Ready Player One. As well as Muse‘s retro love fest Simulation Theory and the wonderfully abundant AOR cliches of The Night Flight Orchestra. From this colourful decade, Swedish rockers Royal Republic have drawn inspiration for their fourth album Club Majesty (Nuclear Blast Records). Continue reading

I Prevail – Trauma

With the numbers they put up with debut LP Lifelines and the warm reception they received at Warped Tour, I Prevail clearly has designs on going mainstream. How grand are these designs? Well if Lifelines was them knocking at the door of stardom, Trauma (Fearless Records) is an urban assault vehicle demolishing the front gate and making its way through mainstream America.

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Hoobastank – Push Pull

Who can forget Hoobastank’s 2003’s Grammy nominated hit ‘The Reason?’ The band, which hails from Agoura, Calif.—the neighboring suburb of Los Angeles that brought you Incubus and Linkin Park—hasn’t had the same success since the release of their second album by the same name. They have released three studio albums since, toured with Velvet Revolver, opened for Creed’s reunion tour in 2009 and found themselves back on the Billboard 200 chart with 2012’s Fight or Flight (Open E). Teaming up with producer, Matt Wallace (Faith No More, Maroon 5) the quartet is back trying to stay relevant with Push Pull (Napalm). Continue reading

All That Remains – Madness

I’m pretty good at separating the art from the artist. James Woods’ political leanings aren’t my cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to change the station whenever Videodrome or Casino comes on. I can ignore his tweets and enjoy the work. That’s the approach I took with All That Remains’ latest, Madness (Razor & Tie). Continue reading

As Lions – Selfish Age

While it is unrealistic to expect the son of a world-renowned musician to naturally sound like (or even want to sound like) his father, the fact is, when your last name is Dickinson, people are going to judge you based on preconceived notions. Author Joe Hill knows all about it; his father is master horror storyteller Stephen King, and when Hill started out, he intentionally took on his mother’s maiden name (bad pun, sorry, couldn’t resist) to avoid the inevitable comparisons to his old man. Continue reading

Art Of Dying – Nevermore

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Have you ever been in a relationship that damaged your heart beyond repair? Ever had to look for the strength to stand up for yourself and walk away from something your heart won’t let go of? Then I recommend this album. Continue reading

Nightingale – Retribution

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Swedish multi-instrumentalist Dan Swanö has had a long and strange career. On the one hand, he’s known for ambitious melodic death metal with Edge of Sanity on the other, he’s been a stalwart of the progressive rock scene with the likes of Nightingale, who are back after a seven-year hiatus. Their new album, Retribution (InsideOut), it’s all about the melody.

This is the seventh album from the band – made up of Swanö on guitar, keyboards & vocals, his brother Dag on guitars and keyboard, Erik Oskarsson on bass and Tom Björn on drums. In their early days, Nightingale was a goth rock outfit unafraid to embrace their experimental progressive sides. Today, they’re more of a poppy, radio-friendly outfit with hints of 80s goth, 70s style synth and AOR.

From the upbeat opening of ‘On Stolen Wings’ to the gentle rock of ’27 (Curse Or Coincidence?)’ it’s clear Nightingale are sticking to the lighter side of the rock spectrum. Whether it’s the synth heavy ‘Chasing the Storm Away’ or the slow gallop of ‘The Voyage Of Endurance’, every track is essentially a catchy, hook laden pop songs and it’s not to get caught up in the moment.

Swanö’s vocals have always been a strong point, no matter which band he’s playing in. And while there are no death growls, his powerful, soaring voice suits the AOR style of Nightingale’s music perfectly. But despite being easy on the ears, there’s little on offer for anyone who doesn’t like their rock dad or radio friendly. Pretty much every song is either a mid-paced stomper or some kind of power or acoustic ballad. The song writing is all to a high standard, there’s little filler, but there’s nothing to get the blood pumping or the head banging.

It might lack any adventure or experimentation, but Retribution is an enjoyable and perfectly listenable album. Edge of Sanity fans may find little to enjoy, but anyone who enjoyed the melodic aspect of Witherscape‘s debut or any of Swanö’s prog-orientated releases will be pleased to find the man back on good form.

 

7.0/10

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DAN SWINHOE