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Guns N’ Roses – “Chinese Democracy” (2008) April 19, 2009

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2008, Guns N' Roses.
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Written by Andrew Hart

Try as much as you want, you can’t avoid having heard of Chinese Democracy, the Guns N’ Roses album 14 years in the making that had the musical world raving every time it was brought up in conversation.  Tracks leaked, band members left, Axl Rose cut his hair, it seemed as though a true Guns N’ Roses album would never see the light of day again.  Axl Rose, the only member remaining of the original group, finally announced the release of the album in early 2008, and at long last it came to fruition.  14 years of work had better produce a damn good collection of songs however, so the question in everyone’s mind is, does the album stand up to it’s legacy?

Welcome to “Chinese Democracy,” a devilishly addictive opening title track with plenty of bells and whistles to show off the new GNR, from Axl’s screechy vocals to some furious fretwork from Robin Finck.  It’s abundantly clear immediately that this isn’t your daddy’s GNR, but a more industrial and inventive group.  Yes I said it, inventive.  The material on Chinese Democracy is ingenious and unique, unlike anything the band had produced previously, even on their acclaimed debut Appetite For Destruction. “Shackler’s Revenge” continues this showcase with an attention-snagging riff and a multi-toned Rose, who’s voice jumps more on this song alone than many other voices ever will.  The chorus will drill it’s way into your head too, if given the chance.

A light dose of Rose introduces “Better”, arguably the most straightforward rock track on the album.  It’s rock and roll at it’s best, something Axl has always tackled with relative ease.  The repetition of the chorus will fixate your mind on the track and make it a surefire good listen from the album.  “If The World” has a great chorus as well, supported by some even better instrumental work that gets better if you focus on only that aspect of the song.  There’s a lot of hidden brilliance deep in this album, little tweaks of the guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and overall mixing that makes every song a unique experience.  “Madagascar” stands out with it’s empowered climax, with a Buckethead driven solo over top quotes from the great Martin Luther King Jr.  If you think it sounds odd than you are certainly in the right, but the spoken word pulls the song together marvelously, and alongside the intense solo provides the best moments of the album.

I did mention that this was one unique experience and I stand by that thought, but it also serves up the biggest flaws of the disc.  Some of the tracks like “I.R.S.” and “Madagascar” are far and away better than most songs because of the inventive tweaks to the songs, but many tracks like “Riad N’ The Bedouins” and “Street of Dreams” aren’t memorable time in and time out because these gambles don’t pay off.  While they do not hinder the listening experience of the album, they’ll never stand out, so oftentimes you’ll be jumping from track to track to listen to the true gems of the album.  This CD also lacks a great deal of cohesiveness.  Every song has it’s own personality from “Shackler’s Revenge” to the impassioned ballad “This I Love” but because of this there is no real flow to the experience.  Those who are okay with greatest hits style compilations will be okay with this, but people who love a little smoothness in their listening will be disappointed.

After 14 years it is not hard to believe that Chinese Democracy would be a disappointment, but truth be told it’s not.  This is not the Guns N’ Roses the world used to know, that brought us “Paradise City” and “Welcome To The Jungle”, and in all honesty it’s not really GNR anymore.  Axl Rose has, however, written a truly wonderful album, with lots of standout moments and plenty of unique experiences.  Those expecting Appetite For Destruction Part 2 will be disappointed, but those with an open mind will find plenty to love in Chinese Democracy.

8 out of 10 – Download “Madagascar”

Guns N’ Roses is | Axl Rose – Vocals, Guitar | Robin Finck – Guitar | Ron “Bumblefoot” Thai – Guitar | Buckethead – Guitar | Paul Tobias – Guitar | Richard Fortus – Guitar | Tommy Stinson – Bass | Bryan Mantia – Drums | Frank Ferrer – Drums | Dizzy Reed – Keyboards

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Theory of a Deadman – “Scars and Souvenirs” (2008) April 13, 2009

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2008, Theory of a Deadman.
1 comment so far

Written by Andrew Hart

Theory of a Deadman’s been riding the recent resurgence of party rock from bands that newcomers like Rev Theory, Hinder, and Saving Abel have gotten increasingly popular for.  For all intents and purposes though, they were here first.  Making their debut in 2002, Theory has finally recieved a fair bit of attention for their most recent album, thanks to several hit songs that many people have already heard.  But hits do not a good album make, so does the rest of Theory of a Deadman’s Scars and Souvenirs stack up to these popular songs?

Well the first of those songs will be the first one to establish itself on this record.  “So Happy” is upbeat and headstrong, cramming itself into your brain with an aggressive chorus and Tyler Connolly’s vocal twang.  If you’ve been needing a song to kick someone out of the house to, you’ll find no more killer tune than “So Happy.”  “By The Way” is a powerful scorcher of a track with a similar theme to its predecessor, but with less rock and roll and more flat out emotion.  The back up vocals from Chris Daughtry provide an epic outro as the chorus repeats itself for the final time late in the song.  “Got It Made” will have you singing along by the first minute, and the same can be said for “Crutch” and the ridiculously raunchy and well-known “Bad Girlfriend.”  Meanwhile power ballads like “Not Meant To Be” and “All Or Nothing” stand out despite their cliched lyrics.

Theory of a Deadman consistantly draws comparison to Nickelback for their relatively juvenille lyrics and style of catchy rock and roll.  Where the comparison needs to end is the vocal prowess of Tyler Connolly, who stretches out his range and lung capacity with the incredibly fast moving “Bad Girlfriend.”  It can’t be easy to sing that song, especially while playing its infectious guitar riff, yet Connolly pulls it off in stride.  On top of that, Theory of a Deadman knocks every song out of the park with unique and diverse hooks, evident by the uplifting “Heaven (Little By Little)” or the anthemic “Hate My Life.”  The contagious drumming and strumming of each song will pull out the air instrument in anyone.

Those previously pointed out cons are certainly a factor though.  Songs like “Hate My Life” are an embarassment to songwriters ever.  I don’t care how catchy the song may be after ten listens, a verse like “So sick of the hobos always begging for change, I don’t like how I gotta work and they just sit around and get paid,” is absolutely inexcusable.  As noted, many of the lyrics are cliche and are near the bottom of the barrel even compared to most other modern rock bands.  It’s also worth pointing out that none of the members of the band seem to be incredibly proficient with their instruments, as each song contains mostly basic beats and riffs.  Still, each song fits well, so it’s hard to complain about a major lack of experimentation.

Scars and Souvenirs is at the end of the day, a rock record and that’s about it.  There’s some shining moments, and there’s some rather groan-worthy ones.  As a whole the album is a nice disc to throw on while driving around town or rocking out with some friends, but it’s not going to impress any music savants or really stand out amongst some other records.  It’s just fun, addictive rock and roll, and that was probably what Theory of a Deadman was shooting for anyway.

7 out of 10 – Download “By The Way”

Theory of a Deadman is | Tyler Connolly – Vocals, Lead Guitar | Dave Brenner – Rhythm Guitar | Dean Back – Bass | Joey Dandeneau – Drums

Reality Addiction – “Maybe Now You’ll Listen” (2008) March 24, 2009

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2008, Reality Addiction.
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Written by Andrew Hart

I was a bit of a latecomer to the fad of piano rock, not really learning of it’s potential greatness until introduced to Dropping Daylight’s unique brand in 2006 (look ‘em up, this review isn’t about them). Since then however, it’s been easy for me to develop an appreciation for the craft, which typically adds much-loved melodies to hard rock tunes. So when I stumbled across Reality Addiction and discovered their penchant for piano playing, I was immediately intrigued. Intriguing was most certainly what I ended up with too, once I gave their debut album Maybe Now You’ll Listen a spin.

Reality Addiction picked a damn good opener with “People Die Building Bridges.” The opening riff is unique and sure to grasp your attention just as much as the crisp vocals and great lyrical content. Anyone who says rock and roll is all about sex, drugs and women forgot to tell Reality Addiction, who go out of their way to fill songs with meaningful content. Sure there’s still a lot of sappy songs of love lost or found, but at least they make an effort to have it sound unique. As it stands the lyrics are definitely one of the highlights of Maybe Now You’ll Listen.

This is even more evident on the follow-up track “The Story of You and I,” which stands out as one of the most complete songs on the album even despite some cheesy vocal harmonies at the end. It works as a really powerful early album ballad, and becomes a formula Reality Addiction will attempt to repeat multiple times throughout the album. The exactly-what-it-claims-it-is “A Sad Song” is the first example of this which really gives it the proper twang of emotion thanks to some beautiful piano playing, though the vocals are lacking the best range to truly throw some passion into the song.

Maybe it’s because of that fact that so many of the album’s songs fall flat when it appears they shouldn’t. The best work on the disc is no doubt the unique drumming of Ben Antelis and the perfect backdrop of the piano from Max Green. Neither one is overpowering at any point on the album, but both really move each song along and get it as close to its potential as it can go. The problem is that despite Dustin Widofsky’s crystal clear voice, his range isn’t very big, and his inability to really nail some higher notes makes a lot of the songs fall flat even when the other instruments are playing out of this world. This combination sadly leaves a lot of unmemorable tracks on the CD, from “Smokescreen” to “Bleeding Through.”

There’s a lot of good stuff going on with Reality Addiction though. The band is relatively new and has the potential to make a big splash thanks to some great song-writing and brilliant incorporation of piano and keyboards. As a mostly soft album, songs like “A Little Light Please” and “Almost Beautiful” are really wonderful sounding songs with proper use of the piano, and every song on the album sounds good. Really though, sounding good will only get you so far, and the lack of memorable hooks and varied vocals push Reality Addiction closer to the bottom of the barrel than they probably deserve. Maybe Now You’ll Listen is a solid debut effort, but Reality Addiction will want to refine a little more before their next disc drops.

6 out of 10 – Download “The Story of You and I”

Reality Addiction is | Dustin Widofsky – Vocals and Guitar | Robby Tal – Lead Guitar | Jonathan “Sheep” Schevelowitz – Bass | Ben Antelis – Drums | Max Green – Piano, Keyboard

Brynna Campbell “Rough Masters” (2008) January 16, 2009

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2008, Brynna Campbell.
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Written by Jake

And from out of Left Field comes singer/songwriter/actress/novelist daughter of the bassist for 70s band America (infamous for the song “Horse With No Name”. You know, the one with the guy who has been through the valley. On a horse…with…you know what, you can finish it)! What, you don’t know who she is? Dude that’s OK, me neither.

Well that’s not completely true. I first heard Brynna Campbell on the Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog DVD (AVAILABLEATAMAZON.COMRIGHTNOWGOBUYITANDSUPPORTTHINGS) via an Evil League of Evil application. That little ditty was entitled “Undead” (she was a Zombie Princess, get it?) and it wasn’t half bad. Unfortunately I didn’t know she actually had a full album out.

Then our very own “Gravity” pointed out to me that it was available online. Yes, I was skeptical at first. Yes, I may have stumbled onto something that is straddling the fencd on “Rock Music”, but she still ain’t half bad. Her genre is TECHNICALLY Pop/General, just so you are aware.

Let’s begin with a little back story. As stated before, Brynna Campbell is the 22 year old daughter of Richard Campbell, bassist for the 70s group America. She is a self-proclaimed singer/songwriter/actress/author and is currently on 124th page of her novel (info via her MySpace page, accurate as of this posting). Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be talking about her music aren’t I?

Well, that’s just the thing. If you go into this opus without a mindset of understanding about her then it would seem very scatterbrained and probably unbearable. But once you learn this information (and get used to her voice) it’s actually quite enjoyable. Certainly not even radio quality (Brynna I mean that in the nicest way possible) material, but let’s not forget the album’s title: Rough Masters. Certainly some of these songs, however, with a little polish, could be heard spinning on your local station in no time. And they are quite deserving of such treatment.

Running at a mere 10 tracks, the album leaves a little to be desired. As mentioned before, her singing styles take a little getting used to, and by the end of the album you’re used to it and you want more. But you’ll be fine, just run the album again. It’s totally worth it, I promise.

It’s very jazzy, alternative, acoustic, funky, mellow blues. Songs like “Forsaken” and “Rain” emphasize her jazz and (almost) 90s Pop Female Vocalist influences, as well as emotional lyrics. I could’ve sworn “Rain” was some sort of Kelly Clarkson song when it started. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find quite the opposite.

As emotional as her lyrics are though, I can’t help but get the uneasy feeling that they could be better. They’re very jumpy and teenage girlish. There is certainly promise there, it just needs to be nurtured and brought to full fruition. This is true with all new acts, just starting out. Give it time and I feel it will truly become something epic and at least noteworthy.

The weakest song on the album is almost certainly “Branches”. It’s not a bad song, not at all, the concept is good and damn me to hell if I don’t like that flute. It’s a song that Brynna steps out of the box on, something new to break up the album. It seems like she wasn’t quite as prepared as she could’ve been when she was singing it, with very raspy high notes and wavering breath throughout much of the track. With more experience, as I’ll say again, this could be easily rectified.

As a side note, I’d just like to say that the verses in “What You Get” are the closest thing to a School House Rock song I’ve seen since…well, School House Rock. Which is awesome. I loved School House Rock.

Closing out the album we find the one true rock song, “Undead”. As is it’s pretty good, and I don’t presume to know how to make an artist’s rendition of their own work any better, but production quality could probably be a smidgen better. Turn up some volume, twist a few knobs. Who knows what could happen?

The Point – Brynna Campbell’s very first formal foray (like the alliteration?) into the realm of music is fair, but not great. The songs are catchy enough, if not lacking a little in the vocal and lyrical areas. Instrument use is top notch (as I can only assume she recorded most if not all of them of her own accord) and, overall, the whole thing is fun to listen to. Just remember to keep in mind these are Rough Masters and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

6.5 out of 10

Download This – “Undead”

Saliva “Cinco Diablo” (2008) January 5, 2009

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2008, Saliva.
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Written by Andrew

Man, do I just hate it when a band with such promise throws so much of it away. After 2002’s emotionally charged Back Into Your System, I’ve been constantly expecting better of Saliva, yet since then have received two largely mediocre albums. Are we as rock fans forever doomed to completely average Saliva albums? Saliva’s newest record, Cinco Diablo, thankfully answers the question, and the answer is a resounding no. We are, of course, condemned to absolutely awful discs.

The first track of the CD begins with “Ladies and gentlemen…” Yeah, I could have pulled that line straight from a review from the 2007 release Blood Stained Love Story, but it still applies here. Opening single “Family Reunion” is a “Ladies and Gentlemen” clone through and through, featuring frontman Josey Scott talking randomly for about a minute, before kicking you in the nards with a pathetic attempt at a hooky chorus. I’d call it the least original track on the album, but that title must instead go to “Southern Girls” which I swear to some random deity, is an absolute thievery of Motley Crue’s “Girls Girls Girls.” Once it hits the chorus, I dare you for one second to try and distinguish the two, because the only difference I could find is that Motley’s is good.

The lack of originality is easily the biggest plague on Cinco Diablo, which is infested with horrible writing and lackluster-sounding music. Short of a guitar solo here, or heaven forbid, some actual singing there, Saliva’s newest record is a thrown together mess of every rock song you’ve ever heard and wanted to burn your ears out following. “Hunt You Down” is clearly the successor to the rap rock line following the already adored “Family Reunion”, as it follows the same exact pattern. I don’t know if Josey Scott simply forgot how to sing on more than 30% of all the songs, but all of “Hunt You Down” is talking or loudly talking on his part. The following “Judgment Day” tries so hard to repair the emotional scars of the five tracks before it, but with lyrics like ““Bang bang, another body goes down in flames,” it seems pretty clear that Saliva is now only interested in writing for the pro wrestling crowd.

Merit? I suppose there’s a couple of points there for Saliva. “How Could You?” has a pretty solid melody, but the chorus relies on the hook provided by “How could you cheat on me, you turned your back on me,” which wins not only most bluntly buzz-killing lyric of the year award, but also the worst rhyme of 2008. Seriously, if I was okay with rhyming “me” with “me” I’d have a five-year-old write some songs for me. “Forever and a Day” suffers a similar fate. The track is the best throwback to the good ole’ 2002 days, but the lyrics are very cliche and bring down the song significantly.

The biggest bright spot on the album is the closing “So Long” which are almost certainly the words you’ve been praying to hear for the last 45 minutes. Josey’s low, dark vocals cut in after an eerie opening segment, and despite not being overly catchy, “So Long” serves as the most complete song on the album, and really the only bright spot. It’s too little too late for Saliva though. The other bright spot in theory would have been Brent Smith’s appearance on “My Own Worst Enemy” but I can’t hear the Shinedown frontman anywhere, probably for the best for the sake of his reputation. I know I’d hate to be heard on this mess of an album.

The Point – Don’t buy this album, don’t steal this album, don’t listen to this album. As far as trash goes, Cinco Diablo belongs at the bottom of the nearest landfill you’re aware of. If you must own this album since you’re a diehard Saliva fan, please wash your hands before and after touching, and clean out your ears following exposure to horrible songwriting and the worst vocal performance I’ve heard in years.

1.5 out 10

Download This – “So Long”

The All-American Rejects “When The World Comes Down” (2008) January 2, 2009

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2008, The All-American Rejects.
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Written by Jake

Oh All-American Rejects, how fond I have grown of you over the years. Your music, much like myself, has grown and matured. Well, matured might be a strong word. In any case you come to me and ask me to do you can favor, to review your newest musical offering, and I agree to your proposition on this day, they wedding of my daughter, with full knowledge th–…Wait, what am I saying. This isn’t the godfather, Marlon Brando is dead.

These Rejects of the All-American variety, however, are most certainly alive and kicking. Given the nature of their last opus, Move Along, one might come to expect a poppy guitar driven slap to the face. You might be looking for catchy singles like the title track or Dirty Little Secret. Well yeah, they’ve got you covered.

When the World Comes Down still has so much more to offer past its shiny, lab coat and boyish charm exterior. The boys from AAR have put together a piece of work that will keep your toes tapping and impress you down to your core. Songs like the borderline cock-rock “I Wanna” and anthemic “Gives You Hell” seem like duplicates of the aforementioned “Move Along” and “Dirty Little Secret” of Move Along, and I guess in a way they are, but somehow they feel more evolved.

Think of it like this: you remember middle school, yeah? Do you remember the one guy or girl that filled the cute-but-i-wouldn’t-wanna-tap-that niche? Ok, now do you remember how smoking fucking hot she became in freshman year? Yeah that’s totally AAR right now. They are an underage slice of jailbait waiting to be taken from….ok yeah you get the point.

Tracks like “Damn Girl”, a seemingly formulaic song about those girls who use you up and toss you aside like a condom, brings to bear not a deeper meaning (please, AAR isn’t known for their depth), but instead a song that’ll get stuck in your head for months and keep you entertained for every last second. If you buy this album never once would you regret it.

Every album’s gotta have a “downer”, right? Well When the World Comes Down’s is entitled “Mona Lisa” and let me tell you, it is anything but a downer. This is the modern equivalent of John Cusak holding a boombox over his head trying to win a girl back. Throw out that 80s shit, Tyson’s got what you need big guy.

The Rejects said they wanted to move away from the guitar-driven qualities of Move Along and instead prove that they can be more than just a band with great hooks. Not only have they stripped this thing down to bare bones but SOMEHOW they have managed to maintain the catchy pre-teen pubescent optimism that haunted their first two albums like Casper the friendly ghost. The thing that got people hooked on AAR in the first place.

The Point – When the World Comes Down is a fine offering from Tyson, Nick, Mike and Chris. They’ve proven their worth as a solid band that can put out more than mindless pop rock time and again with this album. They’ve kept the energy and spunk that made them what they are and have taken on a warm, welcoming somewhat artsy feel (see the castanets in “Another Heart Calls”). The problem lies with the fact that as much as they’ve improved, they haven’t really changed enough to merit grand recognition from anyone. They’ve evolved, yeah, but it’s like a kitten growing into a cat as opposed to a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.

8 out of 10

Download This – “I Wanna”
_________

Take Two by Andrew

Oh yes, the All-American Rejects aren’t going anywhere. Yes, When The World Comes Down is a simpler CD than past endeavors, but it only makes the appeal of upbeat toe-tappers like “Gives You Hell” much greater. On top of that, the band hits home runs with slow jams like “Mona Lisa” and the home run of the album “Another Heart Calls”. It’s quite a change from their last effort, but given a little time, When The World Comes Down is even easier to swallow.

8 out of 10

Fall Out Boy “Folie A Deux” (2008) December 26, 2008

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2008, Fall Out Boy.
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Written by Andrew

Fall Out Boy has been having a falling out with it’s fans for years. While garnering the attention of the masses with power-punk-pop singles like “Dance, Dance” or “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs” the popular band has slipped away from the indie punk roots it was once famous for, choosing instead to write the most unique and catchiest music on modern radio. The audience it’s developed since then will gladly stick up for the band’s move to stay in it’s ear-friendly direction, but long time followers need not be completely left in the dark, as Fall Out Boy continues it’s musical evolution with Folie A Deux.

Keeping in touch with their standard insane track names, Folie A Deux opens with “Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes” which features significantly less hook than more recent Fall Out Boy singles but is more than welcome with a unique vibe throughout. Whether it be the slow intro with Patrick Stump’s vocals accompanied by only a piano, or the climactic bridge in which the entire band chants “Detox, just to re-tox,” the opening track is like a Fall Out Boy Through The Years collection. The newest sound of Fall Out Boy emerges in “I Don’t Care” a guitar fueled romp with tons of energy. Stump’s vocals have a darker tone to them during the verses to “I Don’t Care”, the first single, a theme that pops up once or twice more throughout the album, and is a welcome addition to Fall Out Boy’s act.

The trend emerges later on “w.a.m.s.”, which minus the final few seconds of random beats, may be the highlight of an ecclectic album. The writing of bassist Pete Wentz shines through with lyrics like “My head’s in heaven, my souls are in hell, well let’s meet in the purgatory of my hips and get well,” and the chorus is catchy in a different sense than most of the band’s previous affairs. Stump’s aforementioned drop in tone is in elegant use in “w.a.m.s.” and his use of falsetto is brilliant as well. In fact, Stump’s voice seems to be in better shape than ever, as is made even more evident on pop jingle “The (Shipped) Gold Standard” and others.

However, for every standout like “w.a.m.s.” and “Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown on a Bad Bet” there are a number on surprising downers on Folie A Deux. Among them, the Elvis Costello-lined “What A Catch, Donnie”. I’ve reiterated several times since Infinity On High’s “Golden” that a slowed-down tempo is the last thing Fall Out Boy needs to be touching on, and “What A Catch, Donnie” reaffirms this notion. Boring is the perfect word for this mid-album downer, which cleverly features several guest vocalists dropping lines from past Fall Out Boy tunes toward the end, but it sounds like a jumbled mess on top of an already uneventful track. “What A Catch, Donnie” is a disaster at best. Thankfully, the band doesn’t touch on the slow song again throughout the album, but songs like “20 Dollar Nose Bleed” and “27” are relatively bland pop-punk affairs as well.

The biggest problem with Folie A Deux, and this shocks me to say, is the overall lack of good hooks. While Stump’s voice is good enough to drag people in with it’s fantastic changes of pitch at the drop of a hat and it’s very different sound, the rest of the songs are typically not enough to support it. Those more content with riveting guitar or fantastic drum beats will not find much to enjoy, though honestly the guitar work is more interesting than past Fall Out Boy outings. This time however, it seems Patrick Stump is the only one who really tried to make this album anything beyond mediocre, and while he certainly does his best, the rest of the band can’t seem to bag a catchy enough tune to save the entire album. Hit and miss is the perfect term for Folie A Deux; some songs will be stuck in your head for days while others float to the bottom of your library.

The Point – Patrick Stump is at the top of his game and establishes himself as one of the best vocalists in the game with Folie A Deux. Sadly, the rest of the band doesn’t do near enough to make many of the songs any more than average, and the album suffers for it. Still, the album is likely to grow on you after some time, and thus should be given a few chances to succeed.

6.5 out of 10

Download This – “w.a.m.s.”

Pop Evil “Lipstick on the Mirror” (2008) December 17, 2008

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2008, Pop Evil.
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Written by Andrew

Most fans of good ole’ rock and roll would agree that pop is evil, thinking that Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, Nelly Furtado, and more continue to corrupt our nation and serves to separate us from good music. While this may or may not have been the inspiration for the name of Michigan rock band Pop Evil, it almost certainly had some bearing on their musical style. Playing a no-bones-about-it style of hard rock since 2001, Pop Evil prepares to make their biggest statement with their newest release, Lipstick on the Mirror, which also serves as their first label-backed issue.

Pop Evil throws down the rock gauntlet quickly with a sharp guitar riff to break open “Hero” the album’s first track and single. The scream of vocalist Leigh Kakaty kicks off the hook-laden crowd-pleaser, and his rough vocals take you on a ride. “I won’t be your hero, everything I did was for you, everything you did was a lie,” are great emotional lyrics to drag the listener into a catchy album opener that doesn’t rely on overpowering cliche lyrics. This track is the perfect demonstration of what Pop Evil can do, and they stick to their guns throughout the album.

While Hero grasps you tightly with the opening licks, it won’t be the last time Pop Evil pulls that trick. Guitarists Dave Grahs and Tony Greve whip out furious guitar solos at every turn, and throw in plenty of fantastic hooks at the beginning of many of the tracks. “Another Romeo and Juliet” has a quick and exciting guitar solo to start the song, and “3 Seconds To Freedom” and “Jupiter In June” rely heavily on this thrashing to keep the songs interesting. The guitar playing is as good as many of the years best albums and proves Pop Evil’s ability to rock falls back onto the old standard of rock music.

Kakaty’s vocals are another highlight throughout much of Lipstick on the Mirror. The slowed down “Stepping Stone” shows off the edgy singing well as the focus is of course on the lyrics and voice. The instrumentals are rarely eventful on this song but hold up a nice ballad-esque feel around Kakaty’s voice. However, it’s worth noting that this one of the songs when his lack of range definitely shows. While Kakaty makes the most of the voice he’s been given to give his songs a hard edge, he stands as very mono-pitch for most of the album, and while it’s easy to disguise this on the bigger, solo-filled tracks, the stripped down “Stepping Stone “and “Hey Mister” are fairly boring from a vocal standpoint.

Pop Evil’s biggest issue is not Kakaty however, but a distinct lack of hooks throughout a good portion of this album. While “Breathe” and “3 Seconds To Freedom” will snag you and not let go for weeks, the majority of the album takes a good deal of listening to in order to get any kind of good feeling out of the experience. Songwriting is more at fault here than anything else, as it’s already been mentioned that the solos prove more than effective at doing their job. Many of the songs will eventually find their way into your iPod’s repeat cycle, such as the soaring “100 In a 55” or the vocally strong “One More Goodbye”.

There’s really not much more to say on the topic of Pop Evil. The guitar work is a great reason alone to bear witness to this up-and-coming band, and the edgy southern-style vocals will rock you like a hurricane without making you feel like you’re in the back of a van in the swamps of Alabama. The modern rock style infused with a little bit of southern kick helps Pop Evil in a lot of ways, and makes the album a little more memorable than most generic rock that comes down the tail pipes. Will Pop Evil make a best of collection any time soon? It’s unlikely, but that doesn’t mean that Lipstick on the Mirror isn’t an effort worth checking out.

The Point – Modern rock with a southern flair and a groupie bus full of fretwork help Pop Evil stand above the crowd a little bit, but the album lacks a good deal of catch, and the lyrics aren’t anything special.

7 out of 10

Download This – “3 Seconds To Freedom”

Linkin Park “Songs From The Underground EP” (2008) November 29, 2008

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2008, Linkin Park.
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Written by Jake

Linkin Park is back, kids, and with a vengeance. Released along-side their newest Live DVD/CD, Road to Revolution: Live At Milton Keynes, Songs from the Underground is a collection of live recordings and songs formerly only available on LPU (Linkin Park Underground) albums. This 8 track piece of art is a little short, but dear God it tastes so good.

The first two tracks on the album, “Announcement Service Public” and “Qwerty” won’t be terribly new to the hardcore LP fans as live recordings of these two songs were leaked onto the internet last year. The only cool thing about them is that now they’re studio quality. Oh, and also, that makes them twenty times more badass.

You’ll also find some early LP favorites like, “And One” and “Part of Me” located here, both longer and recorded in the studio. “Part of Me” is the most notably lengthened, running hot at almost 13 minutes due to a bonus song placed at the end of the track (after 6 minutes of odd “phone static”).

I found the song “Hunger Strike” (Chris Cornell featuring Chester Bennington) to be the most interesting offering off of Songs from the Underground just because it was done incredibly well. It’s a Live recording, so the crowd goes wild when Chester starts singing, but his voice works so well with the song it almost sounds like Chris is stilling having at it.

“Dedicated”, a song presumably off of the infamous Xero Demo Tape, is one of the more surprising tracks. It might even rank in my top 3 of all time. Mike shows that he can pull this rap shit off once more, but even more than that it’s just a really good song. It’s catchy, it has lyrical depth, it’s very…Linkin Park.

“I Sold My Soul To Yo Mama”, while not a very long or impressive song, has one of the best titles I have seen in a long time. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to listen too, and it’s a great song, but I don’t think the overall feeling of the album would be hindered without it. The song just feels more like filler than anything else.

Also, might I say that Joe Hahn knows his fucking way around a record. ‘Nuff said.

I have saved the best for last. An old favorite, even, named, “My December”. Its appearance on Songs from the Underground is in Live format, but that just makes it all the better. The first time I listened to it (and the second, and the third, and as of right now the fourth) I melted. If I was a chick and Chester was singing that song to me I would tap that. Right there, right then. I would yank his pants off and fuck him all night long. For some reason unknown to me, this recording just has something more to it. It feels right. Mikes backup vocals, as a side note, probably have a major part in this effect.

The Point – Songs from the Underground is a fantastic epic to tide us LP fans over until 2009 when they release (hopefully) their next album, and is well worth the 10 bucks you’ll spend on it. It’s a little short, but you don’t notice this unless you step back and take a good long “think”. The say the least, Songs is impressive.

4.5 out of 5

Download this – “My December (Live 2008)”

Mudvayne “The New Game” (2008) November 23, 2008

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2008, Mudvayne.
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Written by Jake

I’ve gotta tell you, I was not excited going into this new Mudvayne CD business. The first 26 seconds of the first track on The New Game (“Fish out of Water”) is the extra same 3 seconds riff played over. And over. And over some more. Still, I retained a small sense of sanity. Incidentally, the entire time I listened to this CD my feet hurt surprisingly bad.

I still maintain the stigma that Mudvayne is a band whose music can only truly be appreciated if listened to live; and by live I don’t mean a live CD, I mean a full fledged concert. That being said, this CD supports me one-hundred percent.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some absolutely solid songs on The New Game, songs that will be stuck in your head forever (a rarity amongst hard rock and metal music). I think that’s probably due to Mudvayne’s mostly “melodic” use of their vocalist.

As far as the overall sound goes it’s pretty…Mudvayneish? Nothing sounds quite like it, and never has, so it’s very hard to define something as itself. To put it simply, if you’ve liked Mudvayne up until this point, you’ll still be madly in love with them. As long as you promise to zip back up.

This is one of the problems I’ve been seeing lately, however. A lot of bands are comfortable where they are and are sticking with that sounds. They aren’t gaining fans or losing fans, they’re just content with their status. It’s perfectly fine and acceptable, except for the small fact that it makes for sometimes incredibly dull CDs to listen to. Take Indestructible by Disturbed; a solid CD, most definitely, and full of great tracks, but simply a dull thud on the giant cracked cliff that is this year’s musical competition.

There’s no variation, nothing new or exciting this late in the year, and you know when I START complaining about variation the pickings are pretty slim. Somehow we went from an absolutely fantastic first ¾ of 2008 to the “craptastic” (that might be a little harsh) October-December bit. I was sort of hoping, deep down, that Mudvayne might crack that shell and give me something I’m going to listen to more than twice in my entire life.

An odd thing happened while I was listening to The New Game though. The second track, “Do What You Do” sounds like it’s…missing something? For some reason the majority of the song sounds slightly empty.

On the whole Mudvayne’s The New Game is a fine metal CD. Certainly one die-hards will enjoy for ages. Maybe one or two new comers might even want to pick it up, just to give it a try, but frankly it’s no shining star in the sky. But really, how much more could you ask of a band like Mudvayne? Like I said, I hear they put on a great show.

The Point – The New Game is a good metal album and certainly has its merits, but it does nothing to dilute the deluge of dynastic dung that has been dining with our ears this past month or two. I won’t penalize Mudvayne for it, but I will make an example of them. Show us innovation. Show us craft. For god’s sake show us some art.

6.5 out of 10

Download This – “Have It Your Way”