Category Archives: Album Reviews

Album reviews by WQAQ staffers

Reincarnate – Motionless In White album review

 

 

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Let me start off this review by saying that I love Marilyn Manson, but hate nu-metal. Confused? Read on – you’ll figure it out soon enough.

Motionless In White is a band that has gone through several sound evolutions throughout their time as a band, starting with a very scene sound during their early EPs and releases, then pushing their metalcore aspects on Creatures, to a hardcore/Marilyn Manson combination on Infamous. Does their new album, Reincarnate, size up/surpass their old works?

I’ll start by saying that I loved Infamous – from the opening track, the band’s second album was not only darker, but it was extremely aggressive compared to their previous release. Infamous, in my opinion, was also a step in the right direction for the band’s image: they showed their fans that they were headed in a darker, heavier, industrialized/hardcore direction.

When I first heard the title track single Motionless In White released for their album Reincarnate, I was blown away – there was an increased electronic presence on the song, and the band seemed to have not only settled comfortably into their Infamous sound, but actually expanded on it by developing the song’s choruses into a multi-layered hook that had me listening on repeat. The production quality was also significantly better than previous works. When the second single was released, “Puppets 3 (The Grand Finale) feat. Dani Filth”, an aggressive powerhouse of black/thrash metal influenced metal, I knew I’d be heading into the band’s heaviest, most aggressive album yet. With high hopes, I pre-ordered the special edition of the album (Bible box and all) and awaited for September 16, 2014.

And yet, 14 seconds into “Death March”, the opening track of the new album, I felt as though I was listening to a nu-metal band. A once guitar-driven band seems to have changed – rhythms are focused on low-end only, whereas keyboards and vocals create a layering effect that adds melody to each song; while this works for certain sections, the aggressive, dark riffs seem to be missing from this album, and it’s upsetting to me; I was disappointed to find that the guitars on the album follow a trend of nu-metal styled riffage.

Certain songs avoid the pure-rhythmic style riffage, but they fall short in other ways – “Unstoppable” has a simple song construction that sounds like my high school band’s first effort at writing music, and the chorus seems like a knock off of the band’s song “Cobwebs” off of Creatures. “Break The Cycle” (which, by the way, has almost the exact same opening melody as “Dark Passenger” on the album), follows suite and almost seems like a regression for the band – the riffs that are melodic are typical metalcore riffs, and it’s the kind of material I would’ve expected to hear during the Creatures era. The final track, “Carry The Torch”, redeems the band’s guitar-driven style, but unfortunately, the verse riffs are reminiscent of a 2006 metalcore band – it’s something you’ve heard before, because it sounds exactly like it’s off of Creatures.

When the vocals kick in on “Death March”, their style immediately reminded me of Manson’s The Golden Age of Grotesque, and I thought there was more hope for the album – unfortunately, I feel that a lot of the album has it’s Manson moments that end up turning into nu-metal songs. “Generation Lost”, which is one of the album’s heaviest songs, is straight from the 90s with lyrics like “Throw your hands in the air and let’s start this shit” – the song quickly turns into a knock off of “Vodevil” by Manson, down to literal melodies being the same, but then returns to a nu-metal song. The song eventually explodes into a hard-rock styled bridge, which is redeeming and almost makes me forget that the song is nu-metal…until the lyrics, “Coast to coast, I hear the masses calling/Turn up now this is your final warning” are rapped. “Dark Passenger”, on the other hand, mimics the album’s title track and seems helpful from a musical/vocal standpoint, but is too generic of a metalcore song to stand out on the album in comparison to the band’s other material.

Despite all of my negativity towards this album, I find myself listening to it over and over again. Why? Because Motionless In White has also expanded their industrial side, and my god, it’s GREAT. The songs that excel on this album are the ones that either use guitar as a melody-driving device, or electronics to further each part. “Contempress feat. Maria Brink” is more ballad-like, but has a heavy edge, and the hook is damn catchy – not quite a “City Lights” or “Sinematic”, as it’s not dark enough to match either song, but it follows those songs’ style in its own way. “Wasp”, coming in at 7 minutes and 2 seconds, actually stood out to me as one of the best on the album – the layering is fantastic, the piano on the track is absolutely chilling, and at times it even reminds me of “Death of Music”, the 12 minute epic, by Devin Townsend.

The darkest, heaviest song on the album, is “Final Dictvm feat. Tim Skold” – and let me tell you, Skold’s influence is clear. Though the song starts off with an EDM style, which was initially a turn off to me, it builds into a chilling electronic industrial song, which would be perfect for anyone’s next Halloween Soundtrack; in fact, the sound of the song reminds me so much of SPF1000 that any underground goth fan is sure to love it, regardless of Motionless In White’s overall sound. The song is a black sheep on the album, but it shows what the band could eventually become; though I hope they don’t continue in this direction, as it would mean that their music would lose it’s hard aggressive edge, I wouldn’t mind hearing more songs like this on the next album they put out.

My favorite track, however, is “Everyone Sells Cocaine” – though the guitar is very nu-metal during verses/post-choruses, pre-choruses use dynamics well, and when the chorus hits, it’s huge: the sound balances out the 90s influence by bringing forth the band’s other influences.

I would be very, very surprised if fans of Motionless In White who have not expanded their listening tastes to the band’s influences like this album – it combines various styles from the past 30 or so years into 13 songs, but they aren’t always executed well. Fans of Infamous will find a few songs they enjoy listening to, whereas fans of Creatures may like the album better. Fans like me, however, who knew about Manson, Skold, and nu-metal far before they ever heard about Motionless In White, may have mixed feelings – if you’re looking for a hard hitting metal album, look elsewhere. However, if you want to hear heavy, enjoyable dark music, look no further; there’s plenty for you here.

I give Reincarnate a 4/5 – and I realize most fans probably won’t feel this way. Though it has a few songs that are generic or I probably won’t ever listen to again, there are enough songs that should/probably will become live set staples, and I’ll be looking forward to hearing how they translate from recording to the stage.

“Roughkast,” Album Review

I was given the album, “Roughkast,” by…wait for it….. Roughkast. Since it is my first album review on this page, I’ll try to go in depth, without taking up too much space.

Anyways, the album I received is one that takes influence from the styles of Jet, and Foo Fighters, to name a few. The influence in Roughkast’s songs are incredibly apparent, as every song on the CD is tooled with a Rock and Roll style, but the question remains, is the album any good? Well, not really.

“Roughkast,” is an album that certainly performs a nice little attempt at producing quality Rock and Roll tracks, but it contains some pretty critical flaws.

First of all, it is incredibly predictable. By that, I mean that every song on this CD has the same basic structure, starting with the main guitar riff of the song, then adding in the complementary instruments to add to that riff, then chorus, and so on and so forth. Don’t get me wrong — I am well aware that this is a principle in almost every rock song, but to keep an album interesting, you have to make it diverse. “Roughkast,” unfortunately, fails to add anything immensely diverse, and is incredibly tedious.

From the aforementioned point, this album also falls victim to identity loss. It really doesn’t set itself apart from anything else in the Rock and Roll genre, and nothing new is implemented into these songs. Sure, you’ll hear an occasional guitar solo, or a drum fill here and there, but otherwise, it’s just too straightforward. You won’t find your jaw dropping when you listen to this CD.

Lastly, the mixing in a few of these tracks is sub par. This issue forces the lead singer to sound like he is mere background noise, as opposed to being the leading force in the band. I understand that a more unknown band like Roughkast probably doesn’t have access to a Gold Record producing studio, but if you’re going to create an album that relies on loud instruments and vocals, you have to be able to reach equilibrium between those features.

All in all, “Roughkast,” receives a 5/10. The band certainly does have potential to be much better than what they are, but in the meantime, this record is just too generic and will most likely be forgotten shortly after your first listen, (should you choose to do so). However, I can say that a few of the tracks on the CD are some you can bop your head to, such as, “Do You Wanna Dance,” or, “Ruckus,” but this album will never be more than low-grade workout music.

Haze – The American Scene Album Review by Jonathan Hammer

Though I respect all music, it’s sometimes difficult for me to branch out of screaming vocals and heavily distorted guitars – as a metal head, indie pop-rock music that all sounds the same usually just doesn’t do anything for me.

Then there’s The American Scene.

The American Scene’s latest work, Haze, comes out September 9 via Pure Noise Records, but an advanced promo copy has gotten me sucked into some relaxing indie that has memorable hooks and a simple-but-fun sounding song construction.

The album opens with its title track and sets the mood well: crunch guitars that have the clarity of a gorgeous clean tone, upbeat drums that follow pop rhythms but aren’t generic, bass lines that create an infrastructure of low end to make sure the mix isn’t too thin, and catchy vocals with just enough reverb and delay to make them stand out, all allow for The American Scene’s work to hold its own against other acts in the genre.

Darker, mellow songs like “Nails of Love” aren’t too common on the album, but offer a good break from the more upbeat songs that abound. As “Nails of Love” ends and transitions into “4th and Broadway”, an upbeat piece with more guitar presence, listeners can understand that the band has a whimsical play of dynamics with their instruments, as well as a writing process that leads to diverse works.

The album is also filled with lyrics that college students can relate to, such as the extremely catchy chorus of “Nails Of Love”, which is guaranteed to remind you of at least one person you’ve met before: “She doesn’t want to be in love/Doesn’t think it’s any fun/All her friends are getting high on the weekends/He doesn’t dance unless he’s drinking/But he’s been breaking it down”

With no song clocking in at over 4 minutes, and most of the 10 songs on the album being less than 3 and a half minutes, Haze offers listeners music that can stay on repeat because of how short and catchy each song is. Whether you’re looking for something to go for a run to, trying to find new study music, or simply just want to listen to a new band, watch out for Haze in the near future; The American Scene made a mark on my music listening habits, and I’m sure it will for you, too.

 

“Royal Blue”, the band’s single for the album, can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JQDKVHIxdY

“Through Struggle Comes Strength” – The Involuntary, EP Review

“You live your life so aimlessly, without a purpose I can see.”

From the beginning, this five song EP hits hard and doesn’t look back. With lead singer, Dan John’s powerful opening statements, its evident this New Jersey five-piece means business. Forming from the ruins of several renowned post-hardcore acts all over Jersey, John (Cry the Beloved City, By Defect) is supported by guitarists Ryan Robb (The Red Effect) and Rahul Chitale (Fairfield) as well as bassist Peter D’elia (Elodie) and drummer Vince Rifino (Gold, The Red Effect). Though a few years removed from their previous acts, The Involuntary are making a splash in a stagnant New Jersey hardcore scene with their debut EP, “Through Struggle Comes Strength”.

Showing off their arsenal of talents, The Involuntary seem to have no weak spots in their power lineup. If you were around 5 or 6 years ago in the New Jersey music scene, you would know that these guys were all over the Garden State playing shows together, just for different groups. Now together, they’re creating buzz in a scene that’s been struggling for some time now.

 

Showcasing their wide range of influences from old-school Thrice, math rock studs Minus the Bear, and techni-core giants August Burns Red, The Involuntary are proving that there is plenty of originality left to be explored in hardcore music. While the casual hardcore listener can access this EP without a struggle, the deep listener will appreciate the little things the band has made an effort to display. They tracked the record in Montville, New Jersey, with Mike Lisa, a former bandmate of Rifino’s as well as a popular local producer. From there the tracks went to Rifino’s older brother Matt, where he mastered the EP at NBC studios. While the production value on the EP is outstanding, it is not over-produced, a medium that many hardcore bands struggle to achieve with all of the temptations of studio help.

John fully embraced the roll of the frontman, something he has yet to do in his musical career. Previously he was a guitarist/singer, but now he is displaying his talents in both singing and screaming, and doing both in outstanding quality. Robb and Chitale’s guitars compliment each other, and while neither of them is considered the “lead” they dual parts and make sure the listener is never bored. D’elia, a former guitarist in his last stint with Elodie, proves he can write and perform basslines that will entice fans and rumble their bones. Rifino is drumming at another level throughout the record, continuously challenging himself and his bandmates, while also making sure the listener keeps their heads bobbing through the entire 16 minutes of chaos.

The Involuntary are proving that there is some excitement left in this genre that New Jersey has been quick to abandon. This work has been in production for about a year and a half now, the band is aiming to keep fans and listeners coming back for more. They do just that with these five tracks, and their exciting live performances. The EP is available June 21 on the band’s Soundcloud and Bandcamp, as well as streaming on their YouTube page. You can like The Involuntary on Facebook for updates.

Concert Review – Manchester Orchestra, Balance and Composure, and Kevin Devine at Terminal 5, NYC

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Photo by:  Ashley Silva

 

Terminal 5 was packed to its 3,000 person capacity Thursday, May 22 as Manchester Orchestra came to town, bringing along friends Balance and Composure and Kevin Devine and the Godamn Band. All three of the acts have released albums within the past two years that were made to played live. Manchester Orchestra’s Cope is a raw, punch you in the mouth, sort of rock and roll album, full of huge distorted guitars accompanied by Andy Hull’s soaring voice. Balance and Composure’s The Things We Think We’re Missing is an emo-grunge album that hones Nirvana’s Nevermind but also poses aggression and melody in a way similar to Sunny Day Real Estate’s Diary. Kevin Devine has released two albums in the past year, entitled Bulldozer and Bubblegum respectively, that transcend his usual acoustic power pop as well as his love for loud pop punk.

Kevin Devine and the Godamn Band started the show off, coming out to a cheesy country song that was apparently chosen by their sound guy. They got right into it, playing their spastic form of pop punk that is undoubtedly influenced by early 2000 Brand New and blink-182. Kevin Devine hopped around stage doing his best impression of Peter Cottontail. At one point, Devine started to sing the overplayed Nickelback song “How You Remind Me”, but thankfully retracted from the chorus into one of his own jams. One exciting part of Devine’s set was when he went into his ballad “Cotton Crush” and the road crew quickly set up a second drum set on stage, as a guest drummer came out to join them. While the second drummer didn’t do much to differentiate himself from the other drummer, it was pretty rock and roll. Kevin Devine and the Godamn Band got the crowd moving and prepared them for the night of excitement that was to come.

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Photo by: Ashley Silva

On comes Balance and Composure after about a 20 minute intermission. Behind them hung a large white banner displaying their name in a simple, lower-cased font. By the sound board in the back of the room was an oil-wheel projector that spun tie-dye colored blobs around on their banner. While the background was mesmerizing, it didn’t take away from the epic set that was about to happen. Balance went into their hit single from their debut album “Quake”. As the guitars lulled the crowd into a trance, lead singer Jon Simmons casually wandered over to the microphone, just to announce to the crowd, “Bang your fucking head”, just before the song dropped. The energy in Terminal 5 was electric and the crowd came alive in full force from that point on. Balance mixed in a variation of songs from both of their albums, feeding off the crowds energy. Fans were crowd surfing and opening up push-pits everywhere possible inside the venue, mimicking scenes of past years’ Warped Tours. Balance and Composure, on their largest tour to date, playing alongside a band in Manchester Orchestra that has influenced their music in various ways, showed no nerves, and won the crowd over with their loud, emotional songs.

Now for the main course, the beautifully chaotic, Manchester Orchestra. Opening the stage up to its full capacity and displaying a large banner, simply reading COPE behind them, the men from Atlanta took the city stage, opening up with their single from their second album “Shake it Out”. It was almost like they knew that they crowd would freak out once they heard those opening notes and the tambourine hits because the place literally erupted. Not one person in the venue was not singing along to the words, “Shake it out, shake it out. God I need another round, another round, another round, another I can feel it now.” Manchester went through a set which suprisingly only included four songs from Cope. The set was very heavy in songs from their second album Mean Everything to Nothing. It also included a Bad Books cover which included Kevin Devine joined them on stage to end their set. Of course once they left the stage the fans began the “one more song” chant. To the fans excitement, they came out with a vengeance, with their first single from Cope, “Top Notch”. The crowd seemed to have its own pulse and moved along with every song throughout the encore, until Manchester finally closed the night with “Only One”, where Hull proclaims, “I am the only one who thinks I’m going crazy, and I don’t know what to do”, while the entire crowd seemed to feel his emotion and sing along.

The show was loud, fun, exciting, and inspiring all in one package. Every band knew how to work the crowd and feed off of their energy and emotion. Each band also nearly replicated their sound from their albums, from every note hit, to each bit of guitar feedback. These three groups worked perfectly together and it would be surprising to not see some of them on tour together sometime in the near future.