Is Candlebox trying to cut into contemporary rock? Probably. Their newest album, Disappearing in Airports, came out in April and sounds like church and not the hip kind: The hipster kind. The light rock, Santana, and Country-Pop influences are applied as thick as fondant on prime time Food Network. The result is a laxative so powerful it will send the most hardened normy first to the splatter house then to the crumbiest record store in the basement of a bar to start a long lasting diet of hard tack black metal and noise core.
There are attempts at making this smoothy of food coloring more nutritious, such as straight lifting of entire chord arrangements, solos, and themes from early 2000’s radio friendly “alt” as heard on “The Bridge.” The majority of semi-interesting material seems to be completely contrived and vacuous of real intellectual merit drowned in a sea of aimless anti-depressant covered and un-passionate fake soccer mom love songs. For a band who takes the moniker “hard rock,” this album will help anyone having trouble on the john.
I’m covering this new single before Ay-Hole can. He turned me onto the Crimson Bridge Ministry last year, demanding we do a split review of what he deemed an instant melodic rock classic.
That’s probably putting words in his mouth, but it certainly doesn’t seem like a huge exaggeration: Remnant Rock threaded delicious classic rock riffs with poignant Christian lyrics. My personal favorite was “Trashman”, a biting yet uplifting track that reminds people to not always seek refuge in Earthly things, but to turn to God in times of need. Regardless of your personal beliefs, it’s impassioned and very down to earth, a tone that resonates throughout Crimson Bridge Ministry’s entire first album.
I was stoked about twenty minutes ago when I saw the new single was out. I headed directly to the website and was not disappointed. The opening riff is played out almost like AC/DC, letting full chords ring out into jagged electric punches. The drums quickly kick in and Norm Campbell’s soaring vocals come in. A thank you letter to God for saving us from sin, it’s a slab of hard rock that keeps the guitars loud and the melodies soaring. The vocal melodies following the riff’s lead. It’s simplistic and fun, with the verses being a little more laid back and the choruses entering ultra-catchy territory. It’s a perfect build up, and the songwriter (presumably Campbell?) clearly understands melodic rock structure. I love it.
Ay-Hole can review the whole album. I just want to spread MY word on a cool band that’s spreading THE word.
Done goofed and missed this back in March. The third in an alleged trilogy based solely around the fact that he has an adept touring band with members of Superchunk, the only real constant being that they constantly switch between fast pop-punk and slower college alt-crawls. Either way, the hooks are up and the volume’s almost always punching your face. As far as I’m concerned, as long as Mould doesn’t touch an acoustic guitar (which hasn’t happened often for almost thirty years), he’s a top five songwriter easy.
Released for free download on Bandcamp and on a handful of cassettes, Scare Tactic plays really fast and barks through six minutes of heaven. Honestly, I’ve listened to so many things like this, I could probably fall asleep even if the lead singer jumped out of my headphones and started screaming in my face. Although if he jumped out of my headphones, he’d probably get stuck in my ear canal.
Rather than saying emo, Rough Surf’s Bandcamp defines them as “sad punk”, a way more endearing term. If Rough Surf’s definition of sad punk wasn’t crappy Akaline Trio derivations, then they’d be onto something. The first six tracks suck, including a mindless three minute instrumental and five craptastic emo blasts. Out of nowhere, “Daisy” strikes with a straightforward irreverence like no other. “Mourning Radio” is pretty great too, but it’s sandwiched between a bunch of acoustic guitars, a pitfall that Bob Mould avoided. I feel bad saying that Rough Surf should be more like Bob Mould, especially because there’s probably a large group of people that would simply adore this music. I think I’m going to have Ay-hole Andy give a second opinion on this one.
It’s always 2004 when Assemblage 23 is around. Actually, back then, I would have said futurepop wished it was 1984, but 2016 does some weird shit to your brain. There’s not a whole lot new going on with the sound and ultra homogeneity rears its ugly head, but Depeche Mode with electro beats is never a bad thing. Ever.
Michael Sweet – One Sided War
Look at the man on the right. Does he look like a bad ass metal God? Or does he look like some douchey guy who’d play rhythm guitar for the Eagles?
Either way, Michael Sweet’s been a part of my life since I picked up Stryper’s To Hell With The Devil on cassette back in 2002. The first and final word on nonsecular mainstream metal, they were frenetic thrashers at their earlier best and sterile hairspray losers at their absolute worse.
After reuniting the band’s classic line-up for over a decade, Stryper released Fallen last year, their heaviest and probably best album yet. Michael Sweet touted the band’s new sound in countless interviews, talking about his love for classic metal bands and how happy the band was to be recording in a harder style.
But I didn’t expect Sweet’s newest solo album to be ten times more amazing. His previous entries didn’t stray too far from melodic hair. Things remain extremely poppy on acceptable tracks like “Radio” and the one absolute abomination, “One Way Up”, but the rest rips hard. “Bizarre” and “Golden Age” are heavier than anything off Fallen, and the slower rockers like “Comfort Zone” and “I Am” are totally solid.
In all honesty, the album peaks at it’s slowest point, the epic “Who Am I”. Burning slow at eighty beats per minute, the opening verse’s bleeding chords and chorus’s soaring lead are a delicious and sincere aside among all the metal riffage. After finishing the album, I replayed it three times just to really grasp what was going on.
Overall though, I’d say most of One Sided War doesn’t take long to sink in. While some of the robust vocal melodies are recycled from previous Stryper releases, the riffs and performances are powerful and fun. Many metalheads will never embrace the glossy production, but at the end of the day, when all is screamed and thrashed, consistent songwriting and bombastic power are all any true metal fan, and thus Michael Sweet fan, really wants.
Decades and albums later, Hammers of Misfortune still sound like they’re trying to nail a sound down. It sounded like they were on the brink of a stylistic breakthrough with their previous album, 2011’s wacky prog-metal/folk/whatever 17th Street. Every track had a unique sound that still lent itself to a cohesive style, an approach that Dead Revolution drops without any fanfare.
While the organs and crazy harmony antics are still there, they’re buried under a much more traditional classic metal facade. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing at all: “The Velvet Inquisition”, “Dead Revolution”, and “Flying Alone” are all great tracks. Fast, infused almost purely with a NWOBHM focus on tight speed, melody, and rhythm, newcomers to the band will instantly fall in love.
But honestly, old fans SHOULD be disappointed. While partially a return to the more conventional metal styling of some earlier releases, it’s a cheap ploy for metalhead appeal. 17th Street had a lot of bad songs, but they were all over the place: it was a cool and weird combination of Iron Maiden, Queen, Pink Floyd, and everything in between. Even the longer tracks like “The Precipice” and “Here Comes The Sky” stick very close to traditional metal. Now almost purely Maiden style, the band probably uncovered that’s it’s just easier to make straight ahead metal not suck and sacrificed their sprawling sound out of pure laziness.
As if to make up for how awesome and not progressive the first six tracks are, the last track is a ridiculous rendition of the folk song “Days of ’49”. It’s slow, stupid, and Bob Dylan’s version sucked too.
Last track excluded, go listen to Dead Revolution and enjoy the tasty riffs and great harmonies. I’m going to go sit in a corner and whine about how too many bands are defaulting on NWOBHM stylings and not even trying to come up with anything new.
I woke up this morning desiring two things: listening to the Dwarves Blood Guts and Pussy and finally trying out Crystal Pepsi. Unfortunately, I live in a town largely untouched by crass commercial enterprises. There’s more strange foreign export sodas here than you’ll ever know, with Polish strawberry junk and different types of Vimto being my primary sustenance.
Without Crystal Pepsi, I decided to eschew the Dwarves and find some new music to crap about on Blah Blah Music dot com™.A little too rockin’ to be Oi! punk and too hardcore to be filed safely under pop-punk, Chemical X is everything I love about punk: fast, hooky, and occasionally telling me to suck its dick. The opener “Cry Baby” embodies this approach, and they even a throw in a cool meedly-meedly solo just to be more awesome. While I’m not sure why they’re concerned with people banning rock ‘n’ roll in the mid-2010s, the sentiments all there baby.
This heightened energy and songcraft returns later on tracks like “Religious Control” and “Freaks Unite”, yet there’s a lot more generic stuff in between. “Are You Stupid?” has been written and performed eight million times done better by other bands. Playing hardcore back in high school, I already know how it goes: you write the guitar riffs first and the vocal melodies are a total afterthought. An approach as old as Ozzy on “Iron Man”, the vocalist apes the power chord’s pitch the entire time.
But still, who gives a shit? It’s all inconsequential when the actual result is an awesome blur of chords and gang vocals. I’d play a show with them.
After decades of suckitude, the Misfits are finally going to reunite with original singer Danzig. Still, the bastard ’90s Misfits, whose only surviving original member is bassist Jerry Only, capitalized on this announcement by releasing the Friday the 13th EP in June. I didn’t even realize it came out; there seems to have been no promotion for the release. Still, after their mostly garbage track record over the past twenty plus years, it’s more than likely that everyone’s given up on the ’90s Misfits.
So imagine how stupid you feel when it doesn’t suck at all. Or maybe you’ll consider how stupid Jerry Only’s posse is. Couldn’t they have released music like this the entire time? Why bother with all the metal posturing and barely written songs when this betters 99% of today’s punk?
The title track opens with a garbage intro that drags on way too long before it bursts into pitch perfect horror punk. With an infectious chorus that’s as dumb as it is memorable (“BEWAAAAAARE / BEWAAAAARE / FRIDAAAAAAY THE THIRRRRTEEEENTH”), it’s like Jerry Only recently discovered how to write a hook. “Nightmare on Elm Street” is even better, repeating the song’s title over and over while adding in woo-oos to great effect. I’m not sure what film “Laser Eye” is referencing, but it’s easily the best song here based solely on catchy melodies. Things take a nasty turn with “Mad Monster Party”, layering the cheese thick with its ’50s rock schtick. It’s not awful, but it quickly reminds you that this is indeed not the original Misfits.
And you’re left with that idea planted in your head: rather than playing like he’s the one and only Misfits, Jerry Only is happy sounding like a Misfits rip-off band. All things considered, it’s a very, very competent Misfits rip-off band, one that finally understands how to please its audience. Let’s just hope Jerry doesn’t forget this for another twenty-one years and that the metal Misfits sound is finally dead.
Friday night, Metro-Detroit’s only remaining punk band played their annual show. The night started off with an alternative drum and vocal feel. The Corpse Killers have really redefined their sound. The entire Fires in Japan act even jumped on stage to dance around the amplifier until the guitar screamed in.
The Corpse Killers seemed to be more about the music for the first half of the show. There was no banter between songs and they stood focused on their performance. About 15 songs in Bone Jackson started to do more dancing about 30 ft away from the mic and the rest of the band started to unleash. Good thing there was another 45 songs left because the second half was when the raillery started to fly and the sweat started to pour.
The Woahs, Ohs, and Babies were brash and numerous. Crowd favorites, such as “Jaws 2,” and band favorites, like “The Making of Jaws 2,” littered the set list. Notably absent were classics “Street Fighter 2010,” and “Kyle Reese.”
After the show, Reggie “The Reckless” Fright had to be helped to the bathroom to wash out the paint in his eyes. There are talks of a CD release party, maybe even before next year. 4/5
The next act made it apparent they were from Las Vegas, Nevada. Bitch’n’Dudes are a metalcore band with a slight touch of punk ska. Almost too much metalcore, almost too little ska, the sounds is very blended and almost comfortable or expected. An avid listener to punk ska might feel it does not qualify, while a listener of metalcore might be drunk at the bar already and unavailable for opinion.
The best song of the set was the song about weed. There was plenty of genre bending madness amidst the skanking and squealing. Although the front women is absolutely crucial to the act, one would have liked to hear more of the classic third wave goblin singing that the male vocalists lead with. 3/5
Fires in Japan played a full set with a new guitarist. This was a momentous occasion because the band is almost on their 100th birthday and they finally rounded out the sound. A listener is assailed with visions of 2005 and picking up a date with emotional pop punk chords played on both the down and the up stroke. Fantastic background bar music. 3/5
The Rockery venue has really improved their sound with some killer insulation. One could imagine it is from all of the noise complaints from one of my managers who lives around the block. Notable events from the evening were the drummer from Bitch’n’Dudes getting on someone’s shoulders to climb the tree in front of the bar, a d-bag who was observed in the audience after telling the doorman he just wanted to “throw this water bottle out,” without paying, the Abominable Duke Baron Von Joshenghoulie passing out from dehydration and fatigue on the pool table, and Dave W getting hit on by another guy.
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.
On Saturday, M and I ventured into dangerous and racially segregated Corktown to hear the annual Crash Detroit street festival music… uh… festival. Bands from all over the US of A and perhaps even Canada temporarily relocate for 24-48 hours to play under or around tents and play obnoxious faux-jazz/rock street festival band music. There is not really a way to explain street festival except it is usually a horde of eccentric people who belong at band camp but were let out into the real world. There are drums, brass, battery powered and backpack amplified electric guitars, and an obsession with shock value. The event started at noon and went past nine but the attention today will be for the acts in the middle of the event, you know, the forgotten middle guys.
Often you will see men wear ghoul face paint and traditional marching band clothes, and women wear semi-bondage style either too tight or too loose “late night” clothing with fishnet stockings on their legs and arms. Rule of thumb for “dead” street festival band look: all clothing must have sleeves ripped off and sprinkled with gooey fake blood. Around five there was Dead Music Capitol Band, which, like most street festival bands, adorned themselves like specters of a terrible zombie horror movie from the 60’s. The band themselves were very well practiced and entertaining. They engaged in the popular run-into-the-audience-pretend-to-be-dead-then-slowly-rise-up-while-playing-unique-polyphonic-melodies, that’s RITAPTBDTSRUWPUPM for short. It probably has a cooler name, like, grave-jump. 3/5
In another tent we saw the next band in their official debut, Bitch, Thunder. They played two sets of quads, a bass, and two floors. They hit the drums. They were pretty okay. 3/5
We ran back to the first tent to hear another band. My Brightest Diamond and the percussion section of the Detroit Party Marching Band teamed up. They played a huge marching in intro and then this huge guy started killing the bell kit. I have never seen scales, skips, steps, tremolos, and doubles hit with such speed and accuracy for what felt like the entire six minute song. The most unfortunate part of this act was the front-women of My Brightest Diamond, who just wailed into a megaphone backed by four other women, each wailing into more megaphones to what M thought sounded like the TV theme for Thundercats. The set up was terrible. One megaphone is often employed in a street festival act since megaphones are the most effective way to shout directions or signal a new part of a song or dance, however, multiple women wailing what one would assume to be song lyrics into multiple megaphones is uncharted territory. It was horrible. Then, after the song ended, the huge guy kept on murdering the bell kit until the front women picked up an electric guitar plugged into a stationary grid-powered electric guitar amplifier, a very taboo move for street festival musicians who embody the concept of movement. She mentioned the song was about the “flint water crisis,” and “the killings.” She did not mention which killings she was most concerned about, but one can assume her worldview permitted her to incorporate all of them. The next song featured a perfectly innocent electric guitar getting unjustifiably desecrated while the only word fully distinguishable blared out in a deeply uncomplicated impossible to imitate melody. I think she said “Obama.” 2/5 only because of the bell kit guy.
Seizing some front row seats, we were unprepared for what was about to unfold. One band started up in this tubular march song and marched right through the tent over to the other one. Then, replaced like office supplies for bubble gum and video games, a slew of randomly dressed mostly old dudes and their grandchildren flooded in. The animal costumes are old hat, and dancers are understandable, but what is unacceptable is sheet music. Each and every musician had sheet music attached to their instruments and their quality of playing exposed this. What would have been cool was a theatrical play of some lady reading H.P. Lovecraft and being attacked by demons and a fat guy in skin tight leopard print spandex except it was played to the tune of Metallica’s “All Nightmare Long” without guitars and drum kit. Awful. 1/5
Fleeing to the next tent, we joined the already in progress Environmental Encroachment act, which, as far as I can tell, is a mash-up of other bands. Melodic percussion was a facet of this act. A waist worn marimba was frequently utilized but the real interesting instrument was a huge assembly of metal pipes with dozens of circular saw blades pounded into tone producing shapes and suspended for hitting with wooden mallets. The whole assembly was worn by a single individual who often used four mallets simultaneously to add an incredible depth to each melody. One of the songs had what felt like a three minute solo that I recorded on video and might link to on youtube. There was also a dude who would pull out this tiny trombone which was about the size of a regular trumpet. All of the musicians were very well practiced and they did perform a deserved grave-jump, which gave the other musicians some much needed rest while the saw blade guy buzzed the audience’s heads off. Somehow they recorded an album and that was bought after the show. 4/5
The last act of the so-called middle acts was the Jefferson Street Band. This band I had seen before and actually had their 2015 album. They played a lot of the same songs and a few new ones. This is actually a smaller band which only uses one of each instrument. The obvious leader is the snare drum player who is very showy with his important playing. At one point he had to help the bass player load up a battery and the song lost about 70% of its oomph, the technical term for snare and bass guitar in this instance. It would have been a better idea for one of the other drummers to help. The set was still good and they appeared professional all throughout. The black guy on the bari-sax is a crowd favorite. When he plays he looks like he is about to blow e’eryone’s birthday candles right off the cake. 4/5
The fairgrounds, being in front of Michigan Central Station, now with glass windows, were a lot more built up than the previous two years. A food truck parked in the street and Motor-city-brewing served drinks. There was a very small merch area and two separate tents for used instruments and a crafting area for children to make their own instruments out of cardboard, which they would immediately take to go play with and march around the actual bands. That could be the best part of this event, getting kids to listen and participate in real live music, even if it is obnoxious and escapes understanding. Crash Detroit is one of my personal favorite attractions in Detroit and I hope it continues to expose people to visual and aural anxiety for years to come. That is it for the middle bands.
Crash Detroit 2016 5/5