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Framing Hanley – “A Promise To Burn” (2010) May 28, 2010

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2010, Framing Hanley.
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Written by Andrew Hart

Framing Hanley’s debut album, ‘The Moment’, was a difficult album to describe. At times mundane, other times vibrant, the album proved to be a sparkling debut, but not one that left a lingering taste. For the three years since, I’ve seen Framing Hanley as a band with great potential. The Nashville quintet has a good sense of song writing, and a talented and unique set of performers. Their newest album ‘A Promise to Burn’ sees the band take their second stab at greatness, an attempt highlighted by a much greater variety of music, and a realization of potential. ‘A Promise to Burn’ is not hard to describe; it is quite simply amazing.

Read the rest of the review at Tunelab Music


Drowning Pool – “Drowning Pool” (2010) May 2, 2010

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2010, Drowning Pool.
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Written by Andrew Hart

No band has had worse luck with lead singers than Drowning Pool.  Made men thanks to their early singles like “Bodies” and “Tear Away,” Drowning Pool has since lost two vocalists and have acquired frontman Ryan McCombs, formerly of Soil, to take over singing duties.  Now, unlike the two before him, McCombs has been given the chance to do a second Drowning Pool album, the follow up to 2007’s Full Circle, an album which sorely needed a standout track.

Read the rest of the review at Tunelab Music

Three Days Grace – “Life Starts Now” (2009) April 28, 2010

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2009, Three Days Grace, Uncategorized.
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Written by Andrew Hart

A staple of rock radio since 2003 thanks to hits like “Just Like You,” and “Riot,” Three Days Grace are hardly a bunch of obscure nobodies.  The band has developed a reputation for aggressive and angry music, fueled on the power of anthems that fight against the antagonists of the world.  Now, while many bands would take the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, Three Days Grace seems to demand differently of themselves, and while they may have achieved fame by being angry and hateful, their third album seems like a fresh start for the band.  I guess it’s only fitting that the title of that album be Life Starts Now.

Unlike their past two albums, Life Starts Now showcases a reinvigorated, and dare I say happy version of the band.  The opening track “Bitter Taste” is not only a biting attention-grabber, but also one that serves as the perfect bridge between this album and 2006’s One-X.  The song revolves around the line “So long, I have erased you,” and as intense as it sounds, it’s really just a song about moving on and being damn happy about it.  It’s a pretty killer song too, with some impressive drumwork leading out of the chorus, and some passionate vocals from frontman Adam Gontier.

The theme of moving on from a bitter past is evident throughout Life Starts Now, perhaps most prevalently in show-stealing ballad “Last To Know.”  Primarily piano-driven, the emotional track begins by delving into a failed relationship, but turns the theme on a dime mid-song by screaming about the future failures of a new one.  It’s angry, but also optimistic, at least for fans of a pulse-pounding hard rock band.  It’s a revenge song at it’s best, and Gontier displays some impressive falsetto vocals for the first time in the band’s career.  By the end of the song you’ll have shivers running up and down your back as it hits impressive notes, especially in an impressive climax.

A lot of tracks on Life Starts Now aren’t as immediately accessible as much of Three Days Grace’s past catalog.  Only leadoff single “Break” and “Riot”-inspired “The Good Life” are ear-grabbing immediately, but this album rewards repeated listens with surprising depth.  Deep cuts like “No More” and “Someone Who Cares” are some of the best tracks in the band’s catalog.  Still, it wouldn’t be a Three Days Grace record without a few mediocre rock tracks.  This time that gap is filled by “Bully,” a song that just feels like it’s trying too hard, and “Goin’ Down,” both late- record tracks.  It’s totally made up for though by the end, as “Life Starts Now” is easily the best closing track in the band’s discography, and a fantastic, uplifting way to end a surprisingly optimistic record.

Life Starts Now isn’t a modern rock classic, nor is it even a brilliant album, but what it is a great step in the right direction for a band who’s schtick was already feeling old two albums in.  Life Starts Now is refreshing, rewarding, and a revelation for the career of a band who takes way too long to put out new albums.  With winning tracks like “Last To Know,” and “Bitter Taste,” it’s easy to forgive the faults of the record and just look at a greatly accessible modern rock album.  While not fantastic now, Life Starts Now may eventually be seen as a turning point for Three Days Grace, and for that it should be a respected, and constantly played record.

8 out of 10 – Download “Bitter Taste”

Rawk out to Three Days Grace on Myspace and Facebook

Envy on the Coast – “Lowcountry” (2010) April 21, 2010

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2010, Envy on the Coast.
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Written by Andrew Hart

Nothing gets me worked up over a band more than a unique sound, which might explain the immediate attraction to New York’s Envy on the Coast, a band which defies genre and preconceptions.  Going by nothing but straight up “rock,” their newest album Lowcountry is easily one of the most interesting albums of what has been a rather lackluster year up to this point, and it’s driven mostly by some different-sounding stuff and a niche that just can’t be owned by anyone but themselves.

What Envy on the Coast does right is pretty evident after one spin of Lowcountry.  The band’s sound is unlike any other, led largely by some killer vocals that I’ll do my best to describe as a mix of Incubus and Madina Lake with a little Papa Roach sprinkled it.  If that doesn’t get your attention, then something on this album surely will.  “Head First In The River” is the most immediately noticeable tune that has an irresistible hook, and “The Great American T-Shirt Racket” is a brilliantly paced song that may just be the best song I’ve heard in a few months now.  The verses are cool and calm, while the chorus is certainly not shy about screaming out “now I’ve got a t-shirt to go with my scars.”  The lyrics are a bright point on this album, though sometimes they are used to merely dance around material that is already familiar to the genre.  Another of the album’s gems is “Made of Stone,” which an unconventional ballad that doesn’t really hit the mark until it’s climax, but it does it in a big way.

The biggest problem with Lowcountry is how front-loaded it is.  With most of the best songs towards the beginning of the album, there is a noticeable difference following the terribly useless intermission track called “*” (which is an entirely different pet peeve of mine that I won’t get into).  “Made of Stone” aside, much of the back half of the album is hardly memorable, and that’s when the song formula starts to show.  Envy on the Coast has a tendency to go low then high with almost every song, and it gets pretty monotonous by the time you reach the very lame “Just South of Heaven,” which is far lesser of an album closer than “Made of Stone” would have been.

Envy on the Coast has a really diverse and unique sound to their songs, which has sadly become cliche by album’s end.  Despite the cool sound to the band, the album itself isn’t diverse enough to warrant a ton of playthroughs.  I was committed to calling this the best album I’d yet heard in 2010 after the first two or three listens, but since then I’ve become less sure as I realize that Envy on the Coast wears out their welcome pretty fast.  With the exception of a few songs, there aren’t a lot of reasons to go back to Lowcountry, which is a shame given how much promise the band’s sound has.  Still, the album is definitely worth a spin or two, and for a bit, it’ll be pretty entertaining.

6.5 out of 10 – Download “The Great American T-Shirt Racket”

Rawk out to Envy on the Coast on Myspace and Facebook

Lostprophets – “The Betrayed” (2010) March 24, 2010

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2010, Lostprophets.
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Written by Andrew Hart

A lot of people weren’t all that content with the latest album from the U.K.’s Lostprophets, a disc called Liberation Transmission that was a real amalgam of poppy rock and crazy-long song titles.  While myself and others may have been pleased with the more upbeat and hooky material, it was certainly a deviation from earlier Lostprophets work, which focused primarily on atmospheric transitions and unique song structure.  All of that is well in the past now, Liberation Transmission was released in 2006, so maybe it’s time to move on and accept the long-awaited The Betrayed. I can’t for the life of me fathom the idea behind the title, all I can say is it’s been way too long since Lostprophets have broken through with some new material, and there’s plenty to be excited about on this eleven song gem.

First off, those who miss the heavier and more transitional material of days gone by will love “If It Wasn’t For Hate, We’d Be Dead By Now.”  Don’t freak too hard, the long song title is all this intro track has in common with the previous album.  Track one is a powerful, drum-fueled, quickie that packs a heavy punch.  A lot of the album focuses on refining what the band has done for it’s last three albums, but the opening track is a significant standout from that.  Similarly, the Lostprophets have a grand finale in “The Light That Burns Twice As Bright.”  The song itself is airy and beautiful, similarly to 2004’s “Sway,” with a really fantastic crescendo.  The fun does not stop there though, as the final eight minutes of the album are a cluster of interesting beats and sounds, an instrumental that would fit well on a sci-fi movie soundtrack or Nine Inch Nails album.  These two tracks certainly pack a unique punch.

That’s where the real big differences end though.  As stated before, The Betrayed feels more than anything like a refining of a craft.  Each track contains reminiscence of at least one Lostprophets album before it, whether it’s the non-stop electricity of “Dstryr and Dstryr” or the insane poppiness of leadoff single “Where We Belong.”  Song transitions make their return from the Start Something years, making this album a smoothly flowing experience marred only by brief gaps between songs.  However sometimes there is too much similarity for comfort.  “Dstryr and Dstryr” takes a lot from 2004’s “Burn Burn,” while “For He’s a Jolly Good Felon” borrows a great deal of it’s tempo from the 2006 single “A Town Called Hypocrisy.”  While it does seem like Lostprophets are working on perfecting their style, they need to be a little more unique in the future.

Ultimately though, The Betrayed is a delight of an album packed with memorable songs that aren’t too poppy nor too dark for a casual listener.  Lostprophets have achieved a good balance with this album and have churned out some great gems like “Dirty Little Heart” and “Streets of Nowhere,” each having a boatload of great traits that make them songs that can be listened to again and again.  A lot of songs on this album can get burned out fast, but for each of those (like “Next Stop Atro City”) there’s a gem of a song that takes a few listens to really get under your skin.  In all, The Betrayed is not a brilliant album, but it is far from a failure, and is a worthy addition to a consistent catalogue.  Now if only it would see an American release any time soon.

7.5 out of 10 – Download “Streets of Nowhere”

Rawk out to Lostprophets on Myspace and Facebook

Breaking Benjamin – “Dear Agony” (2009) February 17, 2010

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2009, Breaking Benjamin.
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Written by Andrew Hart

So Breaking Benjamin finally screwed up, their latest album Dear Agony being a colossal failure on the part of a band that has screamed consistency for the better part of eight years now.  How you say?  Well, it took three years to release Dear Agony after 2006’s Phobia, as opposed to the usual two.  Quality-wise it is still very good though, I can guarantee this.  In fact, Dear Agony has enough moments of classic Breaking Benjamin mixed with a little bit of new stuff, that it may be the best part in a well-oiled Breaking Benjamin catalog.

Per usual, I’ll mention the instantly accessible opener, “Fade Away.”  Breaking Benjamin has developed a reputation for hooks, and this song is no exception.  Dare I say, it’s one of the only songs on this album that makes good on the promise of strong, easily noticeable tracks.  Something about the cool and mellow way frontman Ben Burnley coos out the opening words just pulls the listener right into a hard-hitting Breaking Ben song of old.  It’s not as powerful as past openers like “So Cold” and “Diary of Jane” but it still does it’s part in kicking off the disc right.

As mentioned though, hooks on Dear Agony are hard to come by.  Though first single “I Will Not Bow” is fun and catchy too, most of the album lacks these big standouts.  This can be interpreted as good or bad, and I’ll call it good since Breaking Benjamin seems to be playing around with their other skills more on this album, trying to make strides from the usual write-catchy-radio-friendly-rock formula.  Listen to songs like “Crawl” and “Hopeless” and you’re treated to some classic guttural screams from Burnley, a rare treat on the last few albums.  Meanwhile, “Anthem of the Angels” and “Without You” toy with beautiful string arrangements, creating incredibly immersive songs through atmosphere alone.  Dear Agony may take more time to process than some albums, but it’s worth it to dive into some of these great songs.

All that said though, Breaking Benjamin has failed at one thing they’ve been good at their whole career, memorability.  Sure, it’s hard to forget the moment in “I Will Now Bow” when the drumming breaks down to a whole new level, or the ending seconds of “Without You” when Ben screams “I forgive you, forget you, the end,” leading into a slow, smooth outro, but there’s a lot of Dear Agony that just blends together.  “Into The Nothing” and “Lights Out” practically bleed into one another towards the end of the disc, unusual due to their separation by the title track.  Breaking Benjamin essentially shifts between ballad and rocker through the whole disc, but the formula wears out it’s welcome by the end, nearly spoiling the beauty of the title track’s uplifting chorus.

Minor gripes aside, every song on Dear Agony is a great listen.  Some like “Lights Out” are good for just that and little else, while others will be stuck in your brain for hours on end.  This album is without a doubt worthy of the Breaking Benjamin catalog, but these few flaws may make the band question if the experimentation of the disc was worth it.  The answer is a definitive yes, as unconventional Breaking Benjamin tracks such as “Without You” and “Dear Agony” are more than worth the price of the album, and make this one go down as smooth as any album of 2009.

8 out of 10 – Download “Without You”

Breaking Benjamin is | Benjamin Burnley – Vocals, Rhythm Guitar | Aaron Fink – Guitar | Mark Klepaski – Bass | Chad Szeliga – Drums

A Broken Silence – “All For What…” (2009) January 30, 2010

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2009, A Broken Silence.
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Written by Andrew Hart

Listening to A Broken Silence’s All For What… is one of the most invigorating experiences I’ve encountered in years.  The moment the album kicks off is an exhilarating one, with a few distinct piano chimes leading into the explosive chorus of “Are You Not Entertained.”  The moment the track hits is a rush, one unlike any other disc has created for me in some time, and it’s just the beginning.  Yes, All For What… is an absolutely one of a kind experience that no fan of rock music should miss.

Allow me to clarify something immediately, A Broken Silence is a half-rap, half-rock hybrid from Sydney, Australia, but don’t be put off by the rap in this band’s sound.  Much like early Linkin Park, A Broken Silence backs up their rhythm and rhyme with intense backing from several instruments, whether it be the conventional guitar and drums, or some heavy-duty electronics.  Even those who think that rap is not for them should be giving A Broken Silence a chance, because this band is anything but conventional.  While most artists in both rap and rock lean heavily on cliches and ridiculous lyrics far too often, A Broken Silence speaks out with words that can dig deep and hit hard.  For evidence of this, look no further than “The Road Is Lost” and the bridge that sees lead rapper Torcha cry out “We’re caught up in the pictures that they have shown us and not the millions of innocents that been blown up, cold hearts disconnecting us from our own blood  for their objectives it’s best that they blindfold us.”  A Broken Silence doesn’t care about hot rides and dope bitches, instead they choose to speak out on the problems that plague the world, and therin lies much of the appeal.  A Broken Silence is a breath of fresh air.

For those doubting this band’s ability to be remembered, just try and spin “Run a Check” or “There They Go” without getting caught up in the adrenaline rush each song creates.  The former is action-packed from start to finish, while the latter builds up slowly to one of the most intense final minute’s on any album in recent memory.  While the band themselves create plenty of solid material on their own, some of the album’s best work is brought together by some phenomenal guest work.  Tyron Woolfe provides some killer vocals that give “By Your Laws” an irresistable hook, Tim Freedman sets the entire tone of “The Road is Lost” with some low but passionate singing, and Ozi Batla brings the house down with his own incredible verse of “This Nation.”  You don’t have to recognize the names to appreciate the music, which brings relative unknowns together to create some fantastic sounds.

From the beginning, the ambient and powerful “Are You Not Entertained,” to the end, a slowed-down and melodic number called “Take This Mirror,” A Broken Silence cannot disappoint with their debut.  This album is not 100% rock, in fact the majority of the album is easily influenced by rap.  However, it cannot be ignored that when blended together, A Broken Silence has crafted some of the best music I have had the pleasure of hearing in some time, and the fruit of their labors is an album I’ve been unable to put down in four months now.  Take a second to move past any stereotypes you may have about rap, and give A Broken Silence a chance.  All For What… is too incredible to pass up.

10 out of 10 – Download “By Your Laws (feat. Tyron Woolfe)”

A Broken Silence is | Torcha – Vocals | B-Don – Keyboards, Electronics | Cactus – Guitar | Slim – Bass | Nathan – Drums

Chevelle – “Sci-Fi Crimes” (2009) January 11, 2010

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2009, Chevelle.
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Written by Andrew Hart

If any band deserves the title of “most consistent band in hard rock,” Chevelle might win unanimously.  Lingering on the scene since “nu-metal” was still a popular phrase, the Illinois threesome has been kept no secret by rock radio.  From 2002 and onward, hits like “The Red,” “The Clincher,” “Well Enough Alone,” and “I Get It,” have brought Chevelle to the forefront of modern rock.  With their latest hit single “Jars,” Chevelle is determined to prove their longevity, and their newest album Sci-Fi Crimes may just do the trick.

Kicking off Sci-Fi Crimes with one of the biggest hooks on the album is a no-brainer, so it’s no surprise that Chevelle would start the engine with “Sleep Apnea.”  This slow-burning song starts with a steady beat and an unhurried pace as it constantly builds towards an epic climax.  As each chorus of “Sleep Apnea” passes, the track builds more and more momentum until it becomes just about the biggest standout on the album. First single “Jars” follows this trend with its hard-hitting, nonstop hook, reinforced by awesome lyrical content.  As Chevelle is well known for, “Jars” is just one of many songs that puts a lot of stock into powerful and unique lyrics.

“Mexican Sun” is sure to bring fans of harder Chevelle out in droves as well, with powerful screaming vocals setting up an intense, guitar-driven chorus.  Fans of the lighter side of Chevelle are in for a treat as well, as “Shameful Metaphors” is more than happy to demonstrate.  Oozing with radio potential, “Shameful Metaphors” carries an airy tone that simply feels more passionate than countless other songs, thanks in part to its late-song kick driven by melodic vocals side-by-side with some classic Chevelle screaming.  An even mellower slow jam is quickly uncovered in the mid-album gem “Highland’s Apparition.”  Joining a short list of acoustic Chevelle songs, “Highland’s Apparition” is a great chance for Pete Loeffler to show off his pipes in a calm manner, and the result is an empowering masterpiece sure to send chills down spines across the world.  Toss in the unique-sounding “Fell Into Your Shoes” and Sci-Fi Crimes has some of the most prominent eight tracks of 2009.

Many Chevelle fans would be quick to bring up that this band does not typically put together a first-listen masterpiece.  Like all of the band’s previous work, it will likely take a while to dig into each song completely and figure out all the nuances of Sci-Fi Crimes. Thanks in large part to the weak back-end, this album may take even longer to work its way into your brain.  Once “Highland’s Apparition” sadly concludes, the listener is left with three tracks that are barely up to par.  Throw in a poor man’s interlude (aptly-titled “Interlewd”) and Sci-Fi Crimes feels more stale than refreshing by the disc’s end.  While Chevelle can seemingly do no wrong through the first half of the album, the opposite can be said in the latter. “This Circus” is a passable closer and “A New Momentum” has the potential to grow with enough repeats, but each of the final four feels more like thrown together hodge podges of past Chevelle efforts, and thus they all come up short.  Toss in this minor gripe too, “Mexican Sun” is horribly misleading with its intro.  With those drumstick clicks and an inward breath, I swear I’m about to listen to “Well Enough Alone” every time.

Still, Chevelle has handed in another fantastic album to the kind folks who demand some good music, and fans of the band should find little reason to be disappointed here.  While not proving to be as wonderful from front to back like a few of Chevelle’s past works, Sci-Fi Crimes still has plenty to contribute to a diverse and interesting discography, and songs like “Shameful Metaphors” and “Sleep Apnea” will go down as absolute classics for this band.  With a better back end, Sci-Fi Crimes would have had album of the year potential.  As it stands, Chevelle will just have to settle for another damn fine album.

8 out of 10 – Download “Shameful Metaphors”

Chevelle is | Pete Loeffler – Vocals, Guitar | Sam Loeffler – Drums | Dean Bernardini – Bass

2009 Album of the Year Winner January 10, 2010

Posted by rawkfistmusic in Marianas Trench, RMAs.
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Marianas Trench – “Masterpiece Theatre”

Though it’s not the hard-rockenest of albums, you’d have a hard time convincing me that Masterpiece Theatre isn’t one of the strongest albums in recent memory.  From start to finish, Marianas Trench’s sophomore effort is exactly what it claims to be, a dazzling concept album that ranges from incredible hooks to brilliant and unique instrumentation.  The vocals are top-notch, the arrangements are unforgettable, the lyrics are sweet and simple, the album is unforgettable.  Though there was a fair amount of strong competition in 2009, the gripping Masterpiece Theatre simply would not be topped.

2009 Newcomer of the Year Winner January 7, 2010

Posted by rawkfistmusic in Joan Red, RMAs.
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Joan Red – “Side Effects of You”

An inspiring album of the year contender, Joan Red’s debut album burst out of left field and shocked with it’s accessibility and depth.  From the immediately noticeable “Can’t Let Go” to the subtle and powerful “Sorrow List” to the hit-in-the-waiting “Show Me The Way,” Joan Red’s debut album is relentless.  Standing tall with one of the best albums of 2009, Joan Red has declared that they are here to stay.