track 5 conspiracy

Hardline – Human Nature

junkheadv1tmbHardline – Human Nature

Has there ever been a pop/rock album so obsessed with the end of the world? The epic to the breaking point production coupled with loss-filled lyrics all create this sense that everything is crumbling down in a beautiful mess of roaring guitars and soaring vocals.

This enormous apocalyptic tone runs throughout the album. Lines like “Repent/Repent/You’ll never be forgiven/The world is falling down” and “Where are we going now/Where’s the future of mankind” have a bizarre, paranoid feel that just keeps compounding as the album continues. Any power ballad that says “Burn the sky of Earth/We thought the end was just a fear/A thought of this end never felt near” is for sure conjuring images of a world splintering into pieces.

Adding to this atmosphere are the gargantuan riffs, with over half the tracks recalling straightforward heavy metal over the big AOR-infused sound normally associated with Hardline. “Where Will We Go From Here”, “Where the North Wind Blows”, “The World is Falling Down, and “Running on Empty” are like monster trucks careening down the highway at 100 miles an hour, a distinct switch from the soccer mom coming-of-age SUV ballads tucked away on Danger Zone, the band’s last album.

As with that release, all around cool guy Alessandro Del Vecchio returns to produce and write the majority of songs, but he definitely is taking a new approach. Perhaps after writing and producing Ted Poley’s ultra upbeat solo album earlier this year (which I gave an A-), Vecchio decided to take more influence from the Book of Revelations this time around. It’s the kind of style lead singer Johnny Gioeli is accustomed to through the Axel Rudi Pell band, yet there’s still a very pronounced melodic rock flair that keeps everything positive, lifting you up while the walls are coming down.

There’s only one ballad at around the halfway point, a brief reprieve that goes for the traditional almost losing the one you love bit. The key word is almost: the verse’s are all sadness and loss, but the “Whoa-oa-oa-oa/Love is gonna take you home/To me” chorus is calling us all back from the destruction and raising us up with the gorgeously delicate piano chord arrangement.

That’s probably what makes the album so palatable, through music and lyrics so focused on the end but looking forward to a new rebirth. For every line of doom and gloom, there’s always a “Here we are, blood thick as stone/We have our dreams to chase that goal” ready to balance everything. That’s probably why the cover’s that silly Yin and Yang thing on fire: every generation always feels like we’re on the brink of death, but we all come out bruised, battered, but stronger than before. Actually, a lot of us just end up confused and in the mental hospital, but for generally sound people like Vecchio, Gioeli, and Junkhead Josh, I think the album’s message will ring true.


Witherscape – Witherscape

junkheadv1tmbWitherscape – Witherscape

Some bands, in search of a “sound”, totally just pull two bands names out of a hat and go to work seeing how they can combine them. Witherscape might be the worst of all those bands, combining something really great and something ultra repugnant: the melodic death metal of Amon Amarth and radio-friendly hard rock.

The opener “Wake of Infinity” paints the picture in disjointed strokes: great guttural verses with juicy technical lite guitar work followed by a clean Foo Fighters chorus. The song literally stops about three minutes in and a Nickelback passage enters. Things get better with track 2, “In the Eyes of Idols,” a slightly intriguing mix of melodic death and conventional rock. This keeps most vocals growling and the rhythm playing two chords at a time, throwing in some random synths.

Some synths are okay, but what seems like a light prog touch quickly engulfs the rest of the album. Tracks like “Divinity” and especially the fifteen minute “Northern Sanctuary” are overblown to the point of absurdity, pulling in synth spiderwebs and spontaneous ballads far too often. So yeah, Amon Amarth and Nickelback if they wanted to sound like Dream Theater. Just in case everyone missed how artsy-fartsy they really were, Witherscape throw in a minute long piano piece to wrap things up super shitty.

Of all the tracks, the only great one is “Marionette”, a random goth metal track hidden somewhere at the halfway point. The verses are totally throwaway, but the chorus spreads out with lush keyboards and epic power chords. Too bad its ruined by the Scruff McGruff death metal barks pushed way up front. Then again, it sort of summarizes the whole album: a waste of an idea that wasn’t that great to begin with.

The lowest D+ you could possibly imagine.

Dirty Bombshell – Dirty Bombshell

junkheadv1tmbDirty Bombshell – Dirty Bombshell

Cock rock was a staple in the teenage American male’s diet for decades. Ted Nugent, Kiss, and virtually every hair metal band have bragged and begged for a woman’s affection time and time again, but it was only a matter of time before horny white guys died out. Much like Steel Panther, Dirty Bombshell attempts to recreate that classic time with reckless stupidity.

Reportedly an old cover band that realized rock songs about boning is mere pocket rocket science, Bombshell’s self-titled debut isn’t the dullest crayon in the toolshed. The music is pure hard rock, distilled like strong and sloppy AC/DC moonshine. Vocalist/bassist JD gives some spirited performances, the drums sound great, and Ryan riffs competently through it all. My only major complaint is how buried and muddled the guitars sound. In a genre driven by loud thunderous riffs, it’s a little odd that they sometimes come off more as quiet farts.

The lyrical content is sure to please everyone’s grandmother. The disgusting title of “Sixteen/Sexteen” would normally bother me, but the breakdown lyrics are just too good to be true: “sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex”. It only gets worse when they start trying to make sense, dumbing out hard in the only way rock gods can. Here are my favorite examples.

“Slut Queen” – So I tap her on the shoulder/And I tell her/ And I tell her/I’ve gots to get me some/Slut queen

“Drinking of U” – Are you drinking of me/Drinking of U/Can you feel it girl/Can I feel it too

“MicH377e” – Go to hell/Michelle

“Vince” – Phonin’ it in/phonin’ it in/phonin’ it in/Oi oi oi oi

The last one’s rather telling, as the shtick starts to wear thin over the fifteen track length. “Dead Man’s Curve” and “Walk of Shame” are like the awful tracks on your favorite Ugly Kid Joe album, which is definitely more of a compliment than I initially intended. For the vast majority of listeners, that’s a bad thing, but for us about to rock, it’s not too shabby.

Keeping your social justice warrior girlfriend in mind, Dirty Bombhsell were thoughtful enough to include “Pants Off” radio edit. She’ll still break up with you, but at least her virgin ears will remain intact.


Sockeye – Unruley King and I

junkheadv1tmbSockeye – Unruley King and I

In 1994, there was a lot of stuff that blatantly embraced the retarded. Retards were brought front and center in the cinemascape with Forrest Gump and Dumb and Dumber. Jerky Boys 2 was up for a grammy and GWAR had their very short stint with the majors. Wanton stupidity was becoming embraced by the mainstream.

But insensitive retardation didn’t pop up overnight. Throughout the ’80s, a handful of bands were the vanguard of stupid nose-picking humor, and Sockeye was drooling at the front lines. With songs like “Fuck Your Cat” and “Wheelchair Full of Old Men”, Sockeye’s early lo-fi tapes are as weird and wild as noise-punk get. If “Destroy everything while a bunch of retards fuck your mom/Then beat your dad to death with a pillowcase full of squirrels” doesn’t sound like a good time, then you probably listen to Mariah Carey and have no soul.

Among all of ’94’s big-budget retarded glamour, Sockeye released Retards Hiss Past My Window, tardcore’s White Album, Dark Side of the Moon, and Led Zepplin IV all rolled into one. Comprised of re-recordings of Sockeye old classics alongside some new tracks, Retards displays the band at their peak. The refined yet slimy studio sound and stellar performances really brings out Sockeye’s insanity, making the album a seriously unheralded classic.

So twenty-two years later, My Mind’s Eye has just released the Unruley King and I, a vinyl-exclusive collection of demos recorded prior to Retards remastered from the original four-track tapes. It comes in random colors. My copy’s baby poo green with some brown and black stains for good measure.


This collection is an instant must-have for any Sockeye aficionado. The remaster job is pretty great, with everything sounding crisp and clear. These are probably the best performances of “Destroy Everything” and “Freaky Friday Tits” you’ll ever find, the former featuring some great noisecore breaks mid-song and the latter absolutely ripping through the track. While versions of “Retarded Boy Rendevous” and “Your Muff Has Tusks” might not be better than their studio counterparts, they certainly are different enough to warrant attention. Most of the other tracks are good runs of the songs you know and love, but a few different tracks sneak in. Both “We Are Circumcized” and “Two Babies Fucking” can be found on other releases, but they definitely sound better here.

Basically, Sockeye’s music will appeal to anyone who thinks poop and dick jokes are funny, myself included. The only track I really dislike is “Yo Me Gusta Cum”, an acoustic track sung in fake Spanish that wasn’t really funny the first time around. Otherwise, it’s a great set that should be in every record collection ever.

It’s appropriate that they broke up right after recording these demos and Retards: with Beavis & Butthead and Dennis Leary rearing their heads, offensive humor was quickly becoming the status quo. How can you be noise-punk rebels when everybody’s making dead baby jokes? I’m glad these demos were sat on until now, a time where political-correction has returned in a big way. Unruley King and I reminds me that while culture is constantly changing, there will always be anti-everything vagabonds willing to fantasize about Ulysses S. Grant appearing on their pizza.


Brotherhood – Turn The Gold To Chrome


junkheadv1tmbBrotherhood – Turn The Gold To Chrome

Few things can match the first time I heard Cleopatra Record’s Goth Box back in ’97. It opened my little ten year old eyes to a genre plagued with misconception. I figured popular metal junk like Type O Negative was the be-all-end-all, but the compilation featured bands from Bauhaus to Beat Mistress. It helped me develop a taste for goth music that’s only grown over time, a respect that makes an album like Turn The Gold To Chrome so appealing.

In many ways, Brotherhood is a saucy love letter to those ’80s and ’90s goth bands. They combine all the elements that made the Sisters of Mercy so wonderful: pounding beats, brooding vocals, and those catchy single-note guitars melodies. The strange thing is that retro-memorandum bands don’t normally top their influences, which Brotherhood often does.

“End of Time” is a driving opener, but you won’t realize you’re onto something great until track two, “Abigail”. “Sha-na-na-na-na/That’s what she said/Sha-na-na-na-na/As she walked away” is the kind of catchy melancholy that’ll be branded in my mind for weeks to come. Later, “Lost” mixes rolling acoustic strumming and shimmering synths to perfection. “So Many Stars” elevates the typically tepid slow burner style to great heights with a gorgeously droning male/female chorus.

Things get decidedly more poppier sounding during the second half, with sections of “Sleepwalking” and “Over and Over” introducing elements that remind you more of Depeche Mode than Death Ride 69. “Question and Answer” takes this to the absolute extreme, dominated by a bouncier beat and bubblegum guitar/synth riff. The change keeps things from getting stale, showing more songwriting range from the group and giving listeners more to chew on.

Basically, Brotherhood is any goth fan’s second honeymoon: it recalls everything that made you fall in love with the genre in the first place, reviving an old paradigm with careful songcraft. So yeah, I’ll take a Turn The Gold To Chrome over a Vision Thing any day.


Young Thug – Slime Season 3


junkheadv1tmbYoung Thug – Slime Season 3

In many ways, Slime Season 3 should be typical. The beats are sparse as the latest style dictates, but here they don’t matter. Light sizzles and pulses exist only to make way for a voice, the bitchy little auto-tuned yelp of Young Thug.

Why it’s compelling is hard to explain. Thug is so fucking annoying that you’ll probably want to punch your speakers the second he comes on, but he knows how to wrap his voice into a pop-friendly package. His flow, hooks, and percussive spurts all come to a fine point early on with tracks like “Drippin” and “Memo”. A couple tracks give Thug a solid minute of time to just move freely over space, and they’d be pretty appealing to even the most mainstream ear.

Not surprisingly, the finest moments are all straightforward pop. “We ran out of digits/We ran out of money/We ran out of digits/We ran out of money/We ran out some digits/We ran out some mon-aaay” will be looping through your head for hours*. “Worth It” is the most honest hood ballad you’re likely to find, and “Tattoos” is the only time a delicious beat sneaks alongside the vocal gymnastics.

Nothing sticks out as particularly bad, but “Problem” and “Slime Shit” are standard trap garbage in comparison. Losing all of the slick style, they’re all “Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-BLAH (‘EY!)/Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-BLAH (SKIRR)”, probably a bid by Thug to keep one of his feet grounded in the ghetto.

But Thug can’t fight it; he sold his soul years ago and mainstream vampire blood is in his veins. A couple top 40 hits will do that to you. Thank the corporate shills for that.


*This is clearly an example of Ay-hole’s Track Five Conspiracy©. I’m tagging this post as such.

Track 5 Conspiracy: A Bound Bridge is a Sound Bridge


ayholev1tmbSouthern Empire – Southern Empire

The first track is just for foreshadowing. The second is to get attention. The third track is boring. The fourth sounds like it belongs in an early 80’s feature length animation montage.

But the fifth track, “The Bridge That Binds,” is what this album is all about. It is written in with many different sections, giving it a very symphonic feel. The lyrical content is all about learning your place in the universe and stuff. Out of the 28 minutes, the introduction feels like the first 29. Eventually, classic Sonic the Hedgehog progressive jazz fusion kicks in and things are good.

There is a great build about a quarter of the way through bleeding into a smooth saxophone solo that Danny Lopresto had to sing over to keep the track under a half-hour, which is okay because the smooth saxophone comes back after some smooth guitar and some smooth drums and smooth bass which should have continued for the remainder of the bands career, but then they would just be a smooth jazz band.

Which is still okay, because after a brief vocal interlude the Aussie’s go full swing into a classic prog-rock break down. There is a hand-holding-kumbaya that adds lyrical content and 8 repeating chords. The kumbaya ends with an excerpt from a Vincent Price film and jumps into a rockin’ synth exposÉ with a capital É because that was the only accent I could figure out. Alas, it ends too soon, again, and there is something about letting a river run red screamed over a heavy metal chug.

Finally, there is the revelation and resolution, where Lopresto has decided it is all up to me, uh… him. What classic prog-rock album would be without the flute, an ostinato strings, and overall orchestral syncopation? Not this one.

Even though the lyrical content is a little bleak and open to interpretation, the ending section could be the strongest part of the whole album, which is why it was foreshadowed in the first track. There is a brief revisiting of all of the lyrical content from the last two deca minutes while the band builds to a very short cadence that is literally one eighty-fifth of the entire song length. So close to one hundred.

The final track is a very typical progressive rock song and probably designed as filler.

Honestly, the entire album should just be “The Bridge That Binds.” As one track it is long enough to stuff an entire 33 and almost as long as the entire remainder of the album. But I will tell you why Southern Empire made the other tracks. Because they wanted “The Bridge That Binds” to be contender for track five of the year. They even stuck in track six just to seal their candidacy.

If you like prog-rock, listen to conXious. If you want more, listen to track five of Southern Empire’s self titled debut.