Norma Jean I was at a store in Abilene, Texas when I picked up Norma Jean vs. The Anti Mother. I was visiting relatives and new music is the only antidote for boredom there. It's either listen to new music or sit...
Haste The Day I've been a huge fan of Haste the Day since "Burning Bridges" came out. I was relieved that they kept their sound when Jimmy Ryan left and they released "Pressure the Hinges". And I was very happy to hear...
Time Is Fiction
Edison Glass Diverse, complex and unique are all words that accurately describe the Indie/Alternative rock band, Edison Glass. Their debut album, A Burn or A Shiver, was a solid record and left much to be expected...
Fresh and Exciting | Posted May-18-2009
I was at a store in Abilene, Texas when I picked up Norma Jean vs. The Anti Mother. I was visiting relatives and new music is the only antidote for boredom there. It's either listen to new music or sit around talking about hunting with your cousins. That's probably why I seem to buy more CDs in Abilene than in any other place on Earth. lol
I'm not the biggest Norma Jean fanatic, but I have three of their albums which I've enjoyed. I guess if I had to put a label on them it would be "Chaotic Metalcore". But I don't think that's entirely accurate. It's only chaotic sounding to someone who's never heard them before. It really takes a huge amount of precision and planning to play and write music like this. So it's really more organized than chaotic. And in reality, jamming the blues is more chaotic because with that kind of music usually you have no idea what you're going to play and how it's going to come together when you start.
The album opens with "Vipers, Snakes and Actors". It's pure Norma Jean. The song takes aim at legalistic, self righteous Christians who "wear that cross like a crown... wear that cross like a dagger". And who "cleaned the outside of their chalice... but it's filled with robbery and self indulgence". And they remind us that with this sort of behavior "nothing is the outcome". I've had more than my share of dealings with people like that, so it's a song I can identify with.
With "Self Employed Chemist" all the "me"s and "you"s make the lyrics somewhat ambiguous if the writer doesn't elaborate. This style of writing is a common flaw in much of Christian music.
"Birth of the Anti Mother" is basically about getting rid of lies and deception, although the lyrics describe "lies and deception" more like "vomit and blood", which is probably one of the reasons there isn't a larger female following for the band. lol
And I just have to mention the crazy guitar noises at the end, it's just great. It's what Hendrix would do if he played metalcore!
With a name like "Robots 3 Humans 0" you know it's gotta be good. And the song lives up to it's name. The drums and guitars are TIGHT on here. Musically it's one of the best. The band joins different parts of the song together seamlessly, which is very difficult to do. I've played songs which had similarly disjointed parts with some of the more adventurous bands I've been in, so I know how everything has to go exactly right or you have a train wreck. I bet Norma Jean is incredible live to be able to play these songs.
"Robots" is the highlight of the album, although it doesn't overshadow the other songs by much. I'd recommend you listen to the whole album all the way though without hitting shuffle. You don't need shuffle.
"Death of the Anti Mother" depicts the judgment of evil itself. The "I" in the song could refer to any number of things. Is the "I" literally Cory Brandan, the lead vocalist? Is "I" referring to a saint or angel? Or is it written from the viewpoint of Jesus, with the line "we will burn for this... we will both of us burn" referring to to the time after Jesus' death when he went down into hell to free the righteous and take them to heaven? Or is the "I" something else entirely?
Musically the song is slow and soft with a feeling of uneasiness and impending doom. It builds into a slow and heavy guitar driven monster. It's one of my personal favorites and a great follow up to "Robots".
"Surrender Your Sons..." builds in the intro and suddenly drops off to a clean guitar and singing, not screaming, on the verse. The chorus almost sounds like a heavier Showbread. It has more singing than most Norma Jean songs, but metal heads do not fear, it's as brutal as ever. The breaks and singing do nothing but give the heavy parts that much more impact.
"Murphy was an Optimist" has a sort of modern indie rock flavor to it and plenty of Norma Jean style curve balls. The blend of genres makes it interesting (in a good way) and adds a new dimension of sound that can be heard on every track in the album.
"Opposite of Left and Wrong" gets back to the full on fury that is metalcore. Long time fans should especially like it.
"...Discipline Your Daughters" uses the guitar to bend notes to create a nauseous feeling in the music. It's slightly softer than what we're used to from Norma Jean, but just slightly.
"And There Will Be A Swarm of Hornets" is a great closer. With guitars literally swarming like hornets and fleshed out with gang vocals and a long outro, it's epic. Not to mention it's eight minutes long, so it better be epic!
Overall, this has been my favorite Norma Jean record. It's slightly softer than the others, with more of a modern rock influence but it retains an edgy, adventurous quality that should please long time fans. The breaks only serve to make the heavy parts that much more brutal, and it offers a dynamic that makes it the entertaining enough to listen to the whole album free of boredom. Remember, this is not for the faint of heart. Headbanger will love it, but The Jonas Brother would probably rather be struck by lightning.
If you want to hear something fresh and you have a slightly eclectic taste in music, you have to check this out. It's one of those albums you'll want to listen to again and again. If you're looking to buy it, get the whole album instead of two or three songs off iTunes.
For fans of Underoath, Inhale/Exhale, August Burns Red, all metalcore and hardcore and Michael W. Smith. (Just kidding on the last one...)
I gave it four and a half stars out of five. It would have been perfect, if the lyrics weren't filled with vague "me"s and "you"s.
This Dream is not a Nightmare | Posted May-15-2009
I've been a huge fan of Haste the Day since "Burning Bridges" came out. I was relieved that they kept their sound when Jimmy Ryan left and they released "Pressure the Hinges". And I was very happy to hear that they not only kept their sound, but improved it with "Dreamer".
The first track "68" is about the self destructiveness of sin. "I am my own disease" is a phrase repeated throughout the song and the general theme is echoed throughout the album.
"Mad Man" is one of the leading songs on the album. It's also the subject of Haste the Day's latest music video.
"Haunting" is one of my favorite songs on the album. It kind of reminds me of Underoath. Listen to it and you'll see.
"Resolve" is uptempo and one of the most overtly Christian songs on this CD. "Our lives hang on the words you have spoken and we wait for our God to return. Lift your hands to the Heavens. Let your heart be encased in flames". A lot of parents are hesitant to let their kids listen to screamo because of how hard it is to understand. I've found that when you read the lyrics and listen to the song you can understand it fine, and yes that's really what they're saying. If you're having a hard time convincing your parents, this would be a good song (a good album in fact) to show them the lyrics of.
"An Adult Tree" continues the metalcore assault of your eardrums, but it has a couple of soft parts in it too. These create the interesting dynamics that is a staple of Haste the Day. It keeps it from ever becoming boring. And I've got to give them major kudos for the cool guitar solo in this song!
As I'm listening to the album again for writing this review, I realized that I like this CD better every time I hear it. There's really not a weak song on here. And "Babylon" is no exception.
It's lyrics have an apocalyptic theme and an unsettling guitar part to match. The queasy vibrato and dark metal riffs set the right mood for the song.
"Invoke Reform" is yet another good song that keeps the momentum going. And if you're a fan of "shred" guitar, this is one you should enjoy.
"Sons of the Fallen Nation" deal with the struggle we all have with sin and God's willingness to forgive (more good lyrics to show your parents). It sounds similar to "When Everything Falls".
"Labyrinth" slows the pace down with it's eerie melody and droning guitar. I hope that Haste the Day writes more songs like this in the future, it's really cool.
"Porcelain" picks up the pace again as it builds out of "Labyrinth". The lyrics really sum up the theme of the entire album as it's about the fall and subsequent redemption of man kind by God.
"Autumn" was a surprise ending to be sure.
I don't know if I can think of another metal album that ended with an acoustic guitar song, and I've listen to quite a few. It's rare for a metal band to be able to pull off a song that features only vocals and a guitar. And it's even rarer for the vocalist to have a good voice when the heavy distortion and drums are stripped away. But, as someone is heard saying it the end of the song "I think you nailed it!"
In fact, the whole album "nailed it". This is not an album where you'd be better off downloading just a few songs from, it's worth buying the whole thing. Whether you're a longtime fan or new to Haste the Day, this album is for you. This has been my favorite album so far from one of my favorite bands. Hopefully they'll have more good stuff coming our way in the future!
For fans of August Burns Red, Disciple, Destroy the Runner, Decyfer Down, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, Norma Jean, The Showdown, Spoken, Staple, War of Ages and most of all Underoath.
Lightning Strikes Twice | Posted March-21-2009
Diverse, complex and unique are all words that accurately describe the Indie/Alternative rock band, Edison Glass. Their debut album, A Burn or A Shiver, was a solid record and left much to be expected from EG's sophomore release, Time is Fiction.
Time is Fiction is upbeat without it ever becoming tiring. All of the instruments are worth mentioning. The musicianship is above and beyond your average rock band. The drum beats are tight, the two guitars weaving in and out of each other in complex riffs, and the bass lines are creative. They've stepped it up a notch since A Burn or A Shiver.
While Christian themes are clearly present throughout the album, it's subtle and not overt. The vocals are distinct and immediately identifiable as Edison Glass.
You can't fully appreciate Time is Fiction in one listen. You have to listen to it many more times to catch everything, like how you have to watch a complex and exciting movie more than once to understand everything that's going on. It is one of the most enjoyable albums of 2008 in my opinion. It's very interesting, not background noise.
It's not watered down music. I'd highly recommend that you give it a listen if you're a musician or a more adventurous music listener. While it may sound confusing or disjointed at first, let me assure you that it takes serious skill to play music like this without falling apart. It's tighter and more well thought out than most albums.
If you liked A Burn or A Shiver, you will not be disappointed at all by Time is Fiction. It's different without the band changing their style, and the songs sound different even within the albums. That's one of things I like so much about them. If you've never heard Edison Glass, you really need to give them a listen.
For fans of Alternative, Indie or Experimental Rock. Sounds like Underoath, The Almost, Copeland, Seabird and The Myriad.
Wavorly Conquers | Posted October-30-2008
Wavorly began in 2001, as a punk pop band called Freshman 15. Between then and now they have grown into mature sounding modern rock band, and they only have one album out!
Drawing from a long line of influences from Relient K to Classic music to Dream Theater, they have a very fresh sound. I first heard of Wavorly from the NRT podcast and I was hooked. Their debut sounds like it could be any other band's third or forth effort, proving that this is no ordinary group.
The first full song "Madmen" is a creative hard rock song with lots of great guitar riffs and catchy melodies. Everything is very well done, and even the bass work is worth mentioning. The lyrics speak of what little time we have and how we need to make our lives count. "No excuses, the time for change is here and now."
The next song "Part One" starts out with screaming rock guitars and tapers off into a verse filled with a palm muted electric guitar and plucked string instruments then builds back into a sing along chorus.
The song is about how light and dark can't coexist, you have to choose one or the other.
The third song of the album is "Stay With Me", a punk pop sounding song with pulsing drums and memorable melodies. It's not a standout but it's still a good song and doesn't take away from the album.
"Praise and Adore" is Praise and Worship song, which is unexpected considering the musical tone of the first three songs. What is even more unusual is that it's actually very good. I'm sure it didn't get the radio airtime it deserved, it's so much better then most of what the radio plays.
With "Endless Day" the album picks up the pace again. It has a distinctly prog rock feel, especially in the intro. It's also one of the stand outs on this record.
Conquering the Fear of Flight continues with yet another strong song, "Sleeper". The drums are especially good. It's about God calling us awake, the lyrics to the chorus are,
"Sleeper, no deeper
Lift your eyes
Awake from dreaming
Sleeper, arise and you will find life
The answer is in Me"
The strings throughout the song are very tastefully done.
"Summer Song" is a romantic song driven by the acoustic guitar. Light drums and strings join in at the second verse as Dave Stovall sings,
"Two years ago, I had no idea that you were so perfect
As we wait so long, until we join hands
You make the wait worth it"
"Time I Understood" is a punk pop influenced song about things working out for good even when you doubted they would. After the rock part is done a piano and string duet begins. It adds a nice little break and ties the mid-album back to the Intro. Like "Stay With Me" it's not one of the best tracks, but it's good nonetheless.
"Forgive and Forget", a song that is not easily forgotten. It is one of the heaviest and best songs in the record. The foot tapping and memorable chorus is the pinnacle of the song and the verses provide a solid foundation for it.
The high hat (cymbal) being played on the up beats makes you want jump up and start clapping to the beat. And it finishes off with kick drum pounding. Try not to hit your head on anything if you listen to "Forgive and Forget" while in a small and enclosed area.
The following song is "How Have We Come This Far". It begins with a mellow piano and soft orchestral strings, which it followed by acoustic guitar, bass, rolling cymbals and vocals being added to the mix. It builds to the climax, which is the chorus where the honest lyrics deal are of someone wondering how he got so far from God and realizing he needs to change.
The electric guitar driven song "Twenty Twenty" returns back the pace of the earlier songs. It is a mixture of all of Wavorly's influences, everything from punk to pop to classical to progressive to hard rock can be heard. While that may seem like an odd combo that would end in disaster it actually works quite well and makes "Twenty Twenty" another stand out.
The last track is "Tale of the Dragon's Defeat".
It's a hard rock song that sounds sort of like something Skillet would write, with guitars and strings working together to create the riffs.
The lyrics actually tell a story, and I would suggest reading along with them as you listen.
"The Defeat" is sort of like part two of the intro, and like the intro is less then two minutes long with strings and piano.
Overall I think this is extremely strong debut album that is highly creative and entertaining to listen to. The unique sound is a must hear for any modern rock fan. Though God is rarely mentioned by name the songs are written from a Christian point of view about issues that relate to Christian life. Any stickler for Christian lyrics should find nothing wrong with them.
I'm giving it 4 out of five stars, because a few songs feel like album fillers. But the vast majority of them don't, making this album worth every penny.
I'd recommend Wavorly's "Conquering the Fear of Flight" for anyone who likes Skillet, Kutless, Relient K, The Killers, Subseven and Decyfer Down
Sons of the South | Posted October-29-2008
Maylene & the Sons of Disaster is a hard name to forget. They were formed in 2004 by Dallas Taylor of Underoath fame. Dallas says that Maylene is derived from the tale of Ma Barker, one of the last organized crime bosses of the 20th century. Both their band name and lyrics reflect that story.
Southern born and bred, Maylene's debut album offers up a unique blend of southern rock and metal that will appeal to fans of either genre. The album was released in 2005, when I was in Jr. High. A friend in high school let me borrow the CD to listen to, because at the time I didn't know very much about hard music and was interested in hearing some. My first impression was "Wow, this is the heaviest thing I've ever heard!" but the southern grooves appealed to me and kept me from dismissing it as just another crazy metal album.
Maylene offers longer instrumental break then most metal/screamo bands and is laden with memorable hooks and melodies that other metal bands usually neglect to add. So it's probably less inclined to give you a headache if you're new to the hard music scene and if you're already a die hard head banger you're going to have a hard time resisting playing air drums and air guitar, especially if you listen to this CD while driving.
The sheer brutality of the lyrics might cause some CCM fans to cringe at first, but there is an underlying Christian message beneath the dark exterior.
In the first track, "Caution: Dangerous Curves Ahead" Dallas screams
"Heretics claiming the Savior as their own
I have the book and it's warned me of you".
If you play guitar one of your favorite songs will be track two, "The Road Home to Panther Creek". Complete with a southern blues injected guitar solo, this is one of the best songs on the album. It's also has some of the most overtly Christian lyrics. At the end of the song come the lines,
"Turn or burn not the most peaceful thing, but truth is out of my hands
Love is never easy
Not to attractive for the weak".
The third track "Bang! The Witch is Dead" starts with another bluesy guitar riff and proceeds into a chorus of bone crushing ferocity. The drumming is not even close to being as complex as in most metal bands, but it's solid simplicity greatly adds to the southern roots sound of the band.
"Tough as John Jacobs" is probably the most laid back song of the album, combining grungy southern style singing with screaming that makes this song another stand out. It's chorus makes you want to sing along. And the addition of a cowbell and guitar solo are a nice touches.
Even into track five Maylene's debut it just keeps on getting better. "Gusty Like the Wind" invites you in with a quick pounding drum fill and evolves into one of the heaviest songs on the album, waking you back up after "Tough as John Jacobs" comparative softness.
The lyrics are honest and heartfelt, they speak of a struggle with depression.
Between it's infectious chorus and pounding double bass this song is unforgettable and you may find yourself rewinding it for a second listen once it's ended.
The sixth track is titled "A Mind of Grimes" and it continues the momentum build up by "Gusty Like the Wind" with some more incredible guitar work. While it's not typical super technical metal guitar work, it's much more musical then someone who just taps out minor scales as fast as humanly possible.
"Lady At The Gate" is another solid track. Maylene has a knack for making every song sound different and similar at the same time. As a result it's almost irresistible to listen to the entire album after hearing only one song.
Around the time "Never Stop Haunting" comes around you begin to wonder if it's possible for Maylene to come up with a mediocre song. While "Never Stop Haunting" may not be the best song in the record, it doesn't stop short of being a great song.
The closing song, "Hell on the Rise" does not contain lyrics for the faint of heart. While it's not gory it certainly is dark. Musically it matches the lyrics, but it still makes for a good end to the record.
Overall I don't think there is much Maylene could have done to improve this album, it's already so good. They could try to work God into more of their lyrics, but at the same time the level they're at is good. Any more preachy and it might turn off some non Christian fans who may have otherwise been influenced in a good way by it.
I've thought long and hard about what to rate it and in the end I've decided that I have to give it five stars. This is truly southern metal at it's best.
I'd recommend this album for fans of He is Legend, Underoath, Disciple, War of Ages, Haste the Day and The Showdown.
The Great Line Redefined | Posted October-27-2008
I was in Abilene Texas, in Lifeway, on September 2nd. I wasn't having very good luck in their music department, it was overtly obvious that I was no longer in Houston. Here we have a nice diverse range of genres in our Lifeways. But in Abilene they don't have music sections, they have Third Day sections. Nothing against Third Day, but I think that an entire two shelves devoted to them is a little much. I had almost given up when I caught Lost in the Sound of Separation out of the corner of my eye. I almost danced with joy! I immediately snatched it up and bought it.
Since my parents are by no means Underoath fans I had an agonizing wait until that night, when I had free time and my old trusty walkman that's been with me since before iPods were invented. My first impression was fairly good. I could hear the heavy Define the Great Line influence, as well as some They're Only Chasing Safety vibe. But in this melting pot of Underoath soup, there was a new sound emerging. A style unique to A Sound of Separation. At first it was not so pronounced, but it grew as the album did and turned this album into something special.
Let's take a look at the lyrics and their meanings for a moment. "We Are the Involuntary" is the only song in which the phase "Lost in the Sound of Separation". It really sums up the entire theme of the album. That man has lost his way and needs to end his separation from God. On several songs the theme expands to frustration with yourself for contently falling short, and the need in your life for God's redemption. Until I read the lyrics thoroughly I had always thought of Underoath as one of those bands that had a stereo typical Christian song here and there and for the most part sang about girls, cell phones and batman rides (sorry Reliant K fans). But every single song on the album, even if they are about life issues more then they are conventional "Awesome God" type lyrics, cannot be fully understood unless they are viewed from a Christian standpoint. I'm really impressed, I haven't seen very many other Christian bands with such honest and deep lyrics.
The album begins with the song "Breathing in a New Mentality". Which it's overtly Christian lyrics and pulsing drum part it is an all around solid song. It bears an unmistakable resemblance to the songs found on the Florida sextet's last release, "Define the Great Line". Only "Breathing in a New Mentality" has a more refined and mature flavor. I try not to toss around the words "brutal" and "ear splitting" too often. This is still music, no matter how "metalcore" it may be, not a some piece of construction equipment. Overall this was a slight downer of a first track, seeing as it doesn't offer up anything particularly new for Underoath. If you've heard "Define", you've heard this song.
With the second track things start to look a little brighter. "Anyone Can Dig a Hole, but it Takes a Real Man to Call it Home" tackles the subject of overcoming yourself and asking forgiveness from God. It's a very interesting song to hear, in a good way, and even though it still sounds like something from "Define" or "They're Only Chasing Safety" a little something new shines through as well.
"A Fault Line, A Fault of Mine" keeps the momentum going and offers up some attention getting musical dynamics.
In the next song "Emergency Broadcast :: The End is Near" Underoath finally enters uncharted territory. It's experimental sound is something that sounds very much like what Underoath fans have come to know and love, yet it doesn't sound like a song you've already heard them sing. It's not as hard or fast paces as the previous tracks, but if every track on the album was heavy and fast it would be a very boring experience. It's bleak lyrics and fuzz-injected instruments will have you headbanging in no time. As a drummer I took note of the beyond amazing drum part in "The End is Near". Underoath is known for it's talented drummer/singer, Aaron Gillespie, but this is just too good to be true. I would go as far to say he's the best thing since John Bonham. That's high praise for any drummer.
"The Only Survivor was Miraculously Unharmed" (don't you love Underoath's song titles?) continues the self-persecution, need for a savior theme and again makes musical progress. It sounds like a new Underoath song, not a leftover from "Define".
"We Are the Involuntary", as I've mentioned before is sort of the title track of the record. It speaks of fallen man's desire to find God and pleads with God to have mercy on the fallen man, who is usually described in first person throughout the album. This track has to be one of my favorites, and it continues to forge ahead as Underoath proves they still have plenty of originality and creativity left in them.
"The Created Void" is a creative piece which talks about the world's inability to understand us as Christians and Christians desire to share God with a world living in false reality. It's slowing pace and singing offers us an island in a sea of screams midway through the album. It's another one of my favorites.
In "Coming Down is Calming Down" the pace picks up again and the momentum carries on and keeps your attention.
Again, Underoath's sound leans in the "Define the Great Line" direction with "Desperate Times, Desperate Measures". It's still a very good song, but I think they could have pushed the envelope a little more. It's drum driven and just as heavy as anything you'll find by Underoath and it certainly makes for an interesting (again, interesting is a good thing in my reviews) listen for any new-school Underoath fan.
As the final climax, "Desperate Times, Desperate Measures" ends, things begin to wind down with "Too Bright to See Too Loud to Hear". The lyrics are perhaps the most Christian of all the lyrics on the album. Aaron sings, "Good God if Your song leaves our lips / If Your work leaves our hands / Then we will be wanderers and vagabonds" and the song finally builds into passionate screams in the end. The song, laden with melodic singing, sounds almost as if it could have been on "They're Only Chasing Safety", but luckily it still offers up something new that Underoath fans will dub the "Lost in the Sound of Separation" sound.
The last track, "Desolate Earth :: The End is Here" finally slows the record to a halt in a very well done fashion. The lyrics are not as dark as the title, and they are only introduced in the last moments of the song. "You said there was nothing left down here / Well I roamed around the wasteland / And I swear I found something / I found hope, I found God / I found the dreams of the believers". As a standalone track I don't think that it would do very well, but it is a perfect end to wrap up the entire album.
Overall while some songs were heavier then what was found on "Define the Great Line", the album as a whole was not. However the greatness of an album is not determined by how heavy it is, or whether or not it's more "brutal" than anything previously released by the band. It comes down to creativity, quality and entertainment. While guitar feedback and howling screams certainly add to the experience, that's not what it's all about.
In this age were the "shuffle" setting reigns on every teenagers iPod it's refreshing to hear an album that is as strong when you play through it in the traditional vinyl fashion as when you tear it apart and listen to a single song at a time. I'd have to say this is not only the best Underoath album of all time, but the best album of 2008. It just gets better with every listen, and as with a Maylene and the Sons of Disaster album, you just can't bring yourself to hit shuffle!
I give it four and a half out of five stars, near perfection. If they had added more infectious "They're Only Chasing Safety" style sing along melodies, added a guitar solo here and there and branched out a little more from "Define the Great Line" I would have given it five stars. I know Underoath is more drum driven than guitar driven, but I would have loved to hear a guitar solo.
I'd highly recommend "Lost in the Sound of Separation" to fans of hardcore, metalcore, August Burns Red, The Devil Wears Prada, Haste the Day, Norma Jean, Demon Hunter, Mortal Treason, Spoken and The Showdown.