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Strata – “Strata Presents The End of the World” (2007) March 4, 2009

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2007, Strata.
1 comment so far

Written by Andrew Hart

Many times experimentation in rock music is met with failure. Many fans of the band feel isolated by a major change, and oftentimes the music is criticized for being a major departure from the well known sound. Yet, time and time again rock musicians insist on this silly thing called “evolution” in an attempt to make themselves feel better about doing nothing but strumming on instruments all day long (I kid people, I’m sure there’s some other reasons too). And so, despite the failures of many before them, hard rockers Strata took a huge gamble in 2007 with the release of Strata Presents The End of the World, a major transition from their post-grunge inspired debut to be sure.

If you don’t figure out pretty damn quick that Strata made a big time jump as “Night Falls (The Weight of It)” kicks in, you may need to get your hearing checked. The opening track is nothing like the dark rockers such as “The Panic” or “Never There” from the self-titled debut, but instead commands your attention with a killer drumbeat and vocalist Eric Victorino’s piercing high voice crooning some brilliant words. “The walls of this city are all cold metal and stone, but we’re nothing permanent we’re just soft skin and bones,” is just one display of Strata’s obvious lyrical evolution. The difference in musical style is noticeable as well, as there’s far less overpowering distortion in the guitars, and much more focus on the band’s strength, Victorino.

Every track on Strata Presents The End of the World is mind-numbingly unique, from the soft and comforting “Hot/Cold (Darling Don’t…)” to the relentlessly quick “Cocaine (We’re All Going To Hell)” (Too many parentheses yet? Don’t worry, I think I’m done with those). The album’s flow would seem erratic based on such varied musical styles, but never once does the disc feel awkward, but instead it feels as though every song was perfectly chosen for it’s piece in the grand puzzle of this end of the world. Those two songs with such drastic differences in style are just separated by one song as early album-goers, as crazy as that seems from listening to them.

Each and every track also delivers one of the things that makes a lot of bands today so great; raw passion. “Coma Therapy” stands out as music that plays along with Victorino’s every sultry-sung word. The drum pounds with your heart on the verses as the lyrics build up to the soaring chorus, a beautiful ballad that Victorino clearly poured his soul into, and it shows. Don’t get caught in it’s entrancing three and a half minute span though, or “Poughkeepsie, NY” will kick your teeth out. The track stands out lyrically as do the others, a story of a man meeting with “the devil” in a bar, but it’s dark tone combined with the repeated “Hallelujah” lyrics from Victorino stand out as a great intentional irony.

It’s hard to fault any album as good as this one for it’s experimentation that has clearly paid off so gloriously, but fans of Strata’s previous work are obviously all on the fence regarding this disc. It’s a great descent from Strata’s last album, and leaves little reminiscence of that time. The disc has a much softer vibe, and there’s far less focus on instrumentation. The other glaring flaw is the politically charged “The New National Anthem.” Some will view the lyrics of the song as the best on the album, while others will no doubt attack it for daring to speak what it does. It’s the only political song on the album, but not all songs of this nature will be taken kindly.

The other faults? Well, there just aren’t any. I’d love to call this album perfect; it does everything right after all. Victorino is one of the best vocalists out there, something I’d never expected to say after the first album, and his lyrics are as top notch as his vocal quality. Strata is no longer in the business, Victorino is pursuing other projects, and this may has well have been his first. It’s all his writings, his music, his passion poured into every crack. Enough dancing around, is Strata Presents The End of the World a perfect album? Not quite, simply because it takes a lot of effort to love this album. It’s different, it’s not real attention-grabbing, and it’s not entirely identifiable. It’s an isolated record, and the listener may have a hard time “feeling” it, but when you finally get it, there are few albums better.

The Point – Eric Victorino shines as the vocalist for Strata, a band that despite major change, has succeeded in creating an original and beautiful album. It may take some to appreciate it, but it’s worth the effort to get a chance to hear these marvelous songs.

9.5 out of 10

Download This – “Coma Therapy”


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Review – Sixx:A.M. "The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack" (2007) August 28, 2008

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2007, Sixx:A.M..
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Written by Andrew

One of the absolute darkest things I have ever heard is a haunting story about addiction to heroin, cocaine, and so many other drugs that it literally corrupts the human soul. It’s eerie to hear how one man’s life can be turned so upside down by harmless-in-appearance white powder or syringes filled with substances beyond compare. It’s even more harrowing to hear how such a person could so very literally die, and somehow luck into a second chance at a life they barely deserve. Such a tale is the life story of Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx, who’s drug addiction in the late 80’s was recently brought into great light when he released a year of his maddening diaries last year. But print simply wasn’t enough for Sixx, who ever the musician, formed a band for the sole purpose of telling his story. The result? The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack.

It is almost etherealy frightening how this album begins it’s life. Nikki Sixx recites an excerpt from his book that is already chilling to the core just to listen to this madman as he explains the sad situation his life has become. This intro, fittingly named “X-Mas In Hell” is not strong musically, and why should it be? It serves it’s purpose all too well, introducing the listener to the depressing life of Nikki Sixx, as he puts it “crouched naked under a Christmas tree with a needle in their arm like an insane person…”. “Van Nuys” is the next chapter in this saga, which begins as coldly as as the previous track ended, nothing but a quiet piano slowly playing away. At this point, Sixx becomes James Michael, who handles all the vocals for this album. His soft crooning is an intriguing way to begin the true musical part of the album and it’s not until a good minute and a half in that the emotion of the music bleeds out through his voice. If you weren’t aware that Sixx couldn’t sing to save his life, you’d assume it was him singing based solely on the raw feeling exerted into the lyrics.

“Life Is Beautiful” starts slowly as did the previous track, but is clearly the most mainstream-friendly track of the bunch once it gets going. The riffs are powerful, the drums are frantic, and most importantly, the words are intense. If you’re not sold on Michael by this point, I’m not convinced you have functional ears. Not only is his range pitch-perfect on a song that goes insanely high in such a thing, but again, you’d think it was he who was at one point hooked on the junk. “Pray For Me” sees Michael transform into a new kind of man, the one who sings for She Wants Revenge. The vocal change is shocking at first but fits the powerful tone of the song which emphasizes Nikki’s desperation to quit but is unable to do so. “Tomorrow” keeps up the intensely fast pace of the last two songs and has a chorus that’ll ring in your head for days.

The truly moving “Accidents Can Happen” brings the album back down and is once again propelled by the outstanding vocal work of James Michael. By this point, there’s no more need to emphasize how vocally powerful this album is so I’ll stop name-dropping him at this point. “Intermission” returns us to Nikki’s insanity as he reminds us that we’re only halfway through this insane journey of his, and then sends us into “Dead Man’s Ballet” an oddly paced number that brings out the angry insanity of Sixx better than anything on the album, before evolving mid-song into a chorus of hopefulness and willingness to survive. “Heart Failure” then starts off with another bit of spoken word from Sixx, then hits hard with a blistering chorus.

The highlight of an already spectacular album occurs at this, the 10th track, and it’s name is “Girl With Golden Eyes.” The song is a spectacular metaphor for heroin, but of course, heroin is a girl. “And though I hardly know her, I let her in my veins, and trust her with my life,” Michaels bellows sweetly as the song weaves it’s way delicately in front of you before sliding into a harmoniously beautiful chorus that may just bring tears to your eyes or at least a lump to your throat. The tale of self-pity isn’t lost on the heartstrings, and it gets more intense when Sixx begins to read off his days of rehab. Day by day his insanity thickens as he goes through painful withdrawl, and you truly feel sorry for a man who wrecked his own life. The emotion of the song is everywhere, and makes it powerful enough to even merit it’s own paragraph.

“Courtesy Call” gets the wonderful task of following up the the guy who juggles flaming chainsaws and certainly does it’s best to do so. It’s dark and brooding energy is unlike anything else on the CD, but still remains cohesive with the rest of the songs. “Permission” truly concludes the album as a song of optimism and promise, as it should be. It’s slow but radiant in delivery and may at last bring a smile to your face. “Life After Death” serves as an outro, getting a little more spoken word from the Sixx man himself to send you on you way satisfied.

As far as concept albums go, this one is unreal. The story this album tells is fierce, emotional, depressing, and chilling, and every song is unique but still fits into the tale. I have nothing else to add aside from how very necessary it is for someone to experience this album, not just to listen. Whether you love it or hate it, The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack will certainly stick in your mind, as it rightfully should.

The Point – Sixx:A.M.’s brutal emotion and powerful vocals make this album a treat both musically and in a sense of storytelling.

10 out of 10

Download This – “Girl With Golden Eyes”

Review – Scissors For Lefty "Underhanded Romance" (2007) August 26, 2008

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2007, Scissors For Lefty.

Written by Bree

It wasn’t really written out in bold letters when all this ridiculous Indie slam, jam crap started, but from what my deductive reasoning can tell, it was definitely before 2002. The band members, Bryan Garza, Peter Krimmel and James Krimmel got together in San Luis Obispo while attending college and decided to put themselves together a little band of sorts. In 2002 Bryan’s Uncle Robby got involved. Then in 2006 Robby and Bryan pulled their relative Steven into this mess. And unlike a lot of experimental bands that are having difficulties getting themselves a creditable name and haven’t been signed, they produced themselves up a debut, BRUNO, in 2005.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve really been looking for the perfect band to rip to shreds and just completely annihilate for weeks now. I have mentally been begging for the opportunity to really just dash an album to bits. Well, ladies and gentlemen, the time has come.

When I clicked on that small windows media play button, I really didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t been told fantastic things, so maybe I was searching for mediocre. What I got was nowhere NEAR mediocre. It was downright dreadful. I do believe my exact first thought was: Did these hooligans REALLY get signed? And then as I clicked on biography: Damnit all, Eenie Meenie Records actually signed them, and put one more worthless album out on the streets: Underhanded Romance, released June 12th.

The album starts out with a track called “Nickels and Dimes“. Its got all the usual stuff. A guitarist, a drummer, a vocalist, possibly a few other supporting instruments and maybe even some extra vocals in the back- honestly, it doesn’t matter, because the song wasn’t really worth my time. You’ve heard this kind of beat before- there’s really nothing fresh about this track at all. The riffs are plain and the drumming painfully repetitive. The vocalist repeats “Hey Hey Nickels and Dimes,” over and over- and as far as I’ve heard, there’s not really a deep meaning to the lyrics, they’re just rhymes a 2nd grader could concoct. Quite frankly- what a disappointment. After some of the raves this band got, I didn’t see that song coming.

As the computer monitor blinked out of sleep mood, I found myself curious about what would come next. NOT out of excitement, mind you. It was out of dread. Surely the 2nd song couldn’t be as bad as the first. Ha Ha Miss Breezee- Incorrect. The song is WORSE than the first. Next to Argyle has your tambourines, your drums, guitars, bass, a vocalist or two, and some support instruments. The vocalist is what gets on my nerves the most. He’s Saying something along the lines of, “B-B-B-B-B-B-Browns,” I believe. I looked for lyrics, I couldn’t find any- my assumption is that everyone agreed that it just wasn’t worth it. The male singer sounds like he’s gone a bit on the feminine side in half the song, singing fairly high- Disclaimer: Not always a bad thing, Jake does it quite well in fact- and I just really don’t think it works for them. As the end of the song states, “I could be wro-onggggg.” Though- Heed my warning: I don’t think I am.

The agony continues. This little piece of hell has 11 tracks of hideousness. Take the time with me to skip down to track 4- where you will meet a curious mix. The song starts out with a “Mhm, hmmm, Mhm, Hmmm…” I don’t like it at all. At this point that probably isn’t very hard to believe- but it’s the next part that gets me. A beautiful guitar begins to play. What IS music coming too? They have a beautiful sounding instrument and they’re adding it to… techno-ish disturbances and Indie backsplash? The vocalist comes next, saying something inaudible for the most part, and filtered for sure. Then the techno shit starts again. The song ends about the same way it started- beautiful guitar riffs included.

By now I’m really sick of this album, but I’m willing to send my point clear to the moon with one or two more examples. I’d also like to take the time to point out that I just fell asleep to this album- so the contagious energy some albums have? Yeah, totally didn’t affect this album. Lets take a look at track 8- That’s a ways down, maybe they’ve gotten better. I’ll just answer for you- No. No they definitely didn’t get better. The instrumentalists in the group are phenomenal, but being the cold hearted person I am- sorry guys, the vocals are ridiculous, and quite frankly- Just knock it off. If you MUST listen to this track, please, just do me a favor and pay attention to instruments only. Forget the voices.

I’m sure in an offset kind of way this album was spectacular to many, but in my eyes, the album reeked. It was unoriginal and an overall dud of what true Indie is capable of. With that, I’d like to finish up with this: The album made me fall asleep twice- the lack of energy is costing Scissors For Lefty some points. Some other points are deducted when it comes to lyrics and vocals- They suck, ignore them. The guitars were alright but the drummers were monotonous and lacked any real flavor. The tambourines were one of the most exciting parts of the entire album, AND I just about called it quits on the attempt to review this crap. A gentle warning to rockers everywhere- Leave this album on the shelf- it deserves all the dust and bugs it can collect.

4 out of 10

Download This: Nickels and Dimes

Review – Linkin Park "Minutes To Midnight" (2007) July 16, 2008

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2007, Linkin Park.
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Written by Jake

May 14, 2007 will forever be, in my eyes, one of the saddest days known to man. It trumps Pearl Harbor. It trumps the day the first shot was fired in WWII. Hell, it trumps the day Michael Jackson and R. Kelly got off not-guilty.

That fateful day, yours truly found himself at Best Buy doing one of the very few things that he regrets. Buying Linkin Park’s 3rd studio album, entitled “Minutes To Midnight”.

I was naïve, I was convinced this CD would live up to the hype I had built up inside of myself. I got home and put the CD into my computer. I hit play. I washed over by 43:30 of the biggest let down I have ever experienced.

There was no more Hybrid Theory or Meteora. There was no Reanimation, no Collision Course. All I heard emanating from my speakers was Rick Rubin demolishing any semblance of my favorite band in existence.

That man did terrible things to Linkin Park. Horrific, unforgiveable things. It tore me up inside to listen to this CD and know that every teenage girl and guy who listened to the local Hit Music station would love this piece of crap, and I would be left with nothing.

The first four singles, “What I’ve Done”, “Bleed It Out”, “Shadow of the Day” and “Given Up” are the pinnacles of this opus. They are some on Linkin Park’s finest works to date. But combine that with the other eight tracks and run straight through you’ve got a pretty powerful experience. If not one completely unworthy of having the name Linkin Park attached to it.

There is just no substance to any of the songs on the CD. They lack any real method, and tend to lean toward the emo side of modern rock that plagues almost all bands now-a-days. The one upside I’ve noticed is that all of these songs are fun to sing along with. Now if it were just a children’s movie and not a failing opus with a Parental Advisory sticker on the front.

I suffered through delusions that this was a good direction for Linkin Park to go for awhile. About a year, actually. I would tell people, “Dude, go pick up Minutes To Midnight, it’s a great CD,” but I was simply feeding them lies to help myself sleep at night.

Ask anyone that knows me and you will find out that I am quite possibly one of the biggest Linkin Park nerds on the face of the planet. I would go to any length to defend their credibility and showmanship, but how do they expect me to help them along if they send me crap like this?

As much as it pains me to say it, I cannot, in sound mind and body, recommend this epic to anyone anymore. I have done my damage already, and who knows what is has wrought. On this note, I would like to leave you with an admission.

My name is Jake, and I’m a LP addict.

4 out of 10

Download This – “What I’ve Done”

Review – Apocalyptica "Worlds Collide" (2007) June 24, 2008

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2007, Apocalyptica.
1 comment so far

Written by Jake S.

Few of you may have heard of Apocalyptica, probably because they hardly ever tour the U.S., but hopefully this CD will show you just how hard four cellos can, indeed, rock out.

Worlds Collide is Apocalyptica’s 9th album so far and this cello-tastic quartet from Helsinki has yet to disappoint. They got their start while attending Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, presumably the only students on the conservatory’s campus blasting Metallica and Pantera from their speakers.

After many years together and many years to come, Apocalyptica is still going strong with all four original members. Word on the street is they put on an astounding live act, but yours truly has yet to experience said awesomeness.

Worlds Collide starts out with two original compositions, including the title track and “Grace”. If one were to listen only to these tracks you would find it to be satisfying, if not just another album by a unique quadruped bringing the face melting upon four cellos and a drum set.

It isn’t until you reach the third track, “I’m Not Jesus” that you begin to realize the true splendor that “Worlds Collide” has become. The track has guest vocals from Corey Taylor, a big player in the modern age of metal. This would seem enough of an accomplishment, but they don’t stop there. Further guest vocalists appear on “Helden”, “I Don’t Care”, and “SOS (Anything But Love)” (Rammstein vocalist Richard Kruspe, Three Days Grace’s Adam Gontier and Lacuna Coil’s Cristina Scabbia, repectively).

All of the tracks with guest vocals are exsquisite and receive perfect scores, with special merit going to “I Don’t Care”, one of Adam G.’s most fantastic performances I have ever had the privilege of hearing.

As much as I like to love on these guys, I have to admit that after nine albums I expected them to give us a little more meat on the bone. At 11 songs, Worlds Collide is an average length’d, if not impressive set. The CD would have been infinitely better if it had simply been a compilation of all the songs they’ve done with guest vocals and/or musicians, plus these new tracks.

Unfortunately, because of this I am forced to knock this fine quad of men down a peg. Though they do get kudo props for being best friends with Dave Lombardo and Toryn Green.

9 out of 10

Download this – “I Don’t Care”