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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”

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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

Adelitas Way – “Adelitas Way” (2009) August 16, 2009

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2009, Adelitas Way.
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Written by Andrew Hart

Promising new acts continue to burst onto the scene in 2009, continuing with Las Vegas rockers Adelitas Way.  True to the heritage of their hometown, Adelitas Way is all about putting on a show and blowing away their audience, as they’re happy to make apparent on their self-titled debut.  Strong hooks lead the charge through much of the album, propelled forward by vocalist Rick DeJesus, who stretches his vocal cords most prominently on album opener and first single “Invincible.”  Popular already thanks to the affiliation to WWE Superstars, “Invincible” has all the makings of a rock and roll smash, with it’s undeniable prescence and nonstop pace.  This trend rocks continually through songs like “Scream” and “My Derailment,” though both remain strong in their own ways thanks to notable choruses and great pacing.  The latter in particular is notable or these reasons.

The softer side of Adelitas Way is exposed a few times throughout to distribute the weight of the disc a bit.  “Closer To You” is atmospheric and emotional, standing as one of the most noteworthy cuts on the album.  The same cannot be said of it’s late-album sibling, the aptly titled “Brother.”  Though lyrically “Brother” is one of the better tracks from Adelitas Way, it’s sadly remiss of anything else.  The pacing of the song doesn’t fit the emotional baggage of the theme, and it makes this closing track a downer for all the wrong reasons.  Still, “Brother” is one of the few misses on an album full of gems like the intense “So What If You Go” and the ethereal “All Falls Down.”

While some of these tracks showcase the lyrical potential of Adelitas Way, tracks like “Scream” and “Dirty Little Thing” seem to lower the bar the band has set for themselves.  Although strong in instrumental quality and hook, the band jumps on the cock rock bandwagon a little too comfortably with lyrics like “I like it when we’re up against the wall.”  While I’ve never been one to crucify a band for hopping on the party traditions of old school rock and roll, a band with as much potential as Adelitas Way seems to be squandering chances on pleasing an album-wanting audience.  There’s no denying the hooks of each cut on this disc though, and the debut album from Adelitas Way will offer up plenty of replay on your MP3 player to whet your rock appetite.

8 out of 10 – Download “Closer To You”

Adelitas Way is | Rick DeJesus – Vocals | Chris Iorio – Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals | Keith Wallen – Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals | Derek Johnston – Bass, Backing Vocals | Trevor Stafford – Drums, Backing Vocals

Sick Puppies – “Tri-Polar” (2009) August 6, 2009

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2009, Sick Puppies.
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Written by Andrew Hart

Nothing will get you attention like an Australian accent, an attractive bass player that tears the house down, and a bunch of free hugs.  What band could possibly have all three?  How about a band of three, calling themselves Sick Puppies, who roar into 2009 with a sophomore effort that’s catching on like wildfire.  After their 2007 single “All The Same” roared throughout the world thanks to the “Free Hugs” campaign, the australian threesome have stormed into the current year with songs like “War” used to promote the Street Fighter IV video game, and “You’re Going Down” being used in professional wrestling.  The newly acquired tough guy persona is a big shift in persona, but how well does it work with a band known for interesting lyrics and relatable subject matter?

Well the aforementioned songs are certainly a trip, that’s for sure.  Though shallow and anything but chivalrous, “War” and “You’re Going Down” are visceral and addictive from the drop of a hat.  Flooded with rough, angry vocals and unstoppable instrumentals, these two singles and their counterpart “I Hate You” are quick standouts on an album that takes a lot of listens to fully grip.  Once you slip past these easily accessible anthems, you’re suddenly swimming in subject matter that brings you back to Sick Puppies’ debut effort.  “Riptide” is an odd song from this batch with it’s big change in tone from verse to chorus, but it still stands out as a strong and relatable track.  Just about the biggest standout is “Don’t Walk Away” which is also one of the biggest changes in sound.  Toned down and acoustic for great portions of the song, “Don’t Walk Away” is a big change from tracks like “War”, but it’s soaring and catchy chorus will have you coming back time and again.

Tri-Polar, as the album is called, is not without faults.  Many of the songs blend into each other too well like the period from “So What I Lied” to “Maybe”, a stretch that contains four songs.  While each is fine on it’s own merits, none really stand out on a straight listen of the disc, especially the bland “Maybe.”  “Odd One” is also a poor song overall, lacking any sort of memorability.  On top of these issues, tracks like “War” and “You’re Going Down” may be addictive and fun, but their shallow lyrics are a major step down from many of the songs on the Puppies’ 2007 debut.  Many of the stronger lyrical songs are the least accessible ones, and thus it takes many spins to figure out Tri-Polar. While there is a decent amount of material to enjoy on this album, there is also a lot that wouldn’t be missed, which makes for an erratic experience.

6 out of 10 – Download “Don’t Walk Away”

Sick Puppies is | Shimon Moore – Vocals, Guitar | Emma Anzai – Bass, Backing Vocals | Mark Goodwin – Drums

Our Lady Peace – “Burn Burn” (2009) July 21, 2009

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2009, Our Lady Peace.
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Written by Andrew Hart

It’s been a long time since the latest effort from Canadian four-piece Our Lady Peace.  Way back in 2005, Our Lady Peace continued their endeavor to add as much variety to their career as possible with the mellowed-out Healthy In Paranoid Times, adding to a collection that has seen everything from grunge influence to falsetto-laced concept albums.  In the time since 2005, the band has postponed their seventh studio album with two greatest hits collection and a solo album from lead singer Raine Maida, but at last the time has come for some new music from the band in the form of a disc called Burn Burn. At a mere 10 tracks, Burn Burn has a lot to live up to in a short amount of time, but per usual, Our Lady Peace does not disappoint.

Lead single and kickoff track “All You Did Was Save My Life” is easily the most accessible and radio-ready of any track on the CD.  Uptempo and unrelenting, it’s one of the most rocking tracks Our Lady Peace has written in recent memory, and while certainly not as catchy as most stuff one would hear on the radio, it’s got all the makings of a song to be lodged in your mind for days.  The rest of the disc is quick to depart from this theme, and quickly create a new one, revisiting the old days.  While “All You Did Was Save My Life” is certainly a throwback to the hard-rocking days of early Our Lady Peace, the next track “Dreamland” is quick to invoke the name of the more recent, toned-down incarnation of the band.  Much of the CD is focused on sounding more streamlined and it succeeds with this with tracks such as the two aforementioned as well as “Never Get Over You” and “White Flags.”

It’s certainly not the last of the Our Lady Peace throwbacks though.  “Monkey Brains” is about as vintage as you’ll ever hear from this band, a song with a quirky sound and strange lyrical content that sounds like it would have fit happily in with the sounds of the band’s earlier work Happiness…. The tempo shift in mid-track even pulls directly from the influence of that album’s “Stealing Babies.”  Those who miss the days when Raine pulled out that signature falsetto will get a small bit of fanservice as well, as he shows it off briefly, for the first time in nine years, on the album’s closer “Paper Moon.”  Most of the album dwells on sounding like the more mainstream works of Our Lady Peace, but each track seems reminiscent of various parts of the band’s career, making this disc an excellent retrospect for fans.

Taking a moment to assess the band, they all seem as in sync as they’ve ever been.  Maida as always turns in a great vocal performance, singing all over the board with various tempos and tones and even ringing out that falsetto briefly.  The music is so well written however, that all the other members of the band have moments to shine despite the overall mellow atmosphere of the disc.  Guitarist Steve Mazur gets to turn in some memorable riffs on tracks like “Escape Artist” and drummer Jeremy Taggart continues to impress with his sheer talent behind a kit.  A great technical drummer, Taggart impresses not with speed, but with variety throughout all of Burn Burn. Our Lady Peace has for years been a fantastic all-around band and this album certainly continues that trend.

At a mere ten tracks, and run time of just over thirty-eight minutes, the biggest fault of Burn Burn’s may be it’s short stay.  And, while still interesting and a great retrospective, the album does not feature the kind of creativity of past Our Lady Peace efforts.  The same band that once wrote an entire concept album based on robots and machines is now writing straightforward ballads like “Never Get Over You.”  While of course, this change has been happening for a few years now, it’s still a disappointment.  Many of the songs retain some of that creativiy however, and Maida is still a fantastic songwriter when he can play off these cliches well.  There’s plenty of that genius songwriting of old too, with lines like “This whole world has gone crazy, God’s got a little lazy,” from “White Flags.”  All things said, Burn Burn is another fantastic showing from Our Lady Peace, and one which will be even more rewarding for longtime fans of the band.  For old fans and new however, this album will serve as a great disc sure to please plenty of alternative rock fans.

9 out of 10 – Download “Escape Artist”

Our Lady Peace is | Raine Maida – Lead Vocals | Steve Mazur – Guitar, Backing Vocals | Duncan Coutts – Bass, Backing Vocals | Jeremy Taggart – Drums

Daughtry – “Leave This Town” (2009) July 11, 2009

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

Okay, I’ll admit it, I have been known from time to time to give into the satanic cult that is American Idol.  The reason for this of course being that once in a great while, an act like Chris Daughtry will pop up and remind me just how totally awesome someone can be.  See, despite not winning American Idol that year (instead Taylor Hicks won), Daughtry put some people together and in very Bon Jovi-esque fashion formed a band based on his namesake and went on to sell a bajillion records with their debut album.  Now, an excruciating two years later for those of us who fell in love with aforemention debut, Chris and Co. return with Leave This Town, and attempt to duplicate all that magic of 2007.

I’d love to start this off by saying “You Don’t Belong” is every bit as good of a disc opener as the 2007 smash “It’s Not Over” but quite frankly, it’s not.  What it is however, is an explosive rock radio hit waiting to happen.  The opening riff is more intense than anything on the debut, and leans far more to hard rock than this band has dared to tread before.  This is actually a pretty common trend too, and Chris wasn’t lying when he claimed at one point this was going to be a harder record.  “Every Time You Turn Around” and “Ghost of Me” are both bombastic hard rockers that definitely flow in the same vein of harder songs of the genre.  Powered by Chris Daughtry’s incredible voice, one built from the ground up for this kind of music, the hooks are heavier than ever, and most importantly, much catchier.

The album’s not all eardrum explosions however.  Obviously drawing from the formula that created the song-so-good-it’s-freaking-everywhere known as “Home”, there are plenty of awesome ballads to round out Leave This Town. Leadoff single “No Suprise” is arguably the weakest, which is saying something since it’s still pretty good.  Really it’s biggest flaw is there’s no obvious hook, a rare moment for this album.  For it’s flaw however, the others step up.  “Life After You” is a major standout four songs in, and “Open Up Your Eyes” is an awesome blend of ballad and rocker much as “Breakdown” was on the previous album.  While songs of this nature don’t stand out as much as the heavier songs, they’ll be getting your attention just as much as the others after a few listens, again with a lot of thanks to Daughtry’s vocal power.

The two tracks that really need to get addressed are “What I Meant To Say” and “Call Your Name”.  The former is one of those hard-hitting slobberknocker tracks I’ve already mentioned thousands of times in four paragraphs, but it pulls it off brilliantly.  It’s a song of epic F-U proportions, driven by the line “I know I said I’m sorry but that’s not what I meant to say.”  You know those moments when you just really hate someone or something that happened and you need a song to blow at the guy next to you in traffic.  This is that song.  Getting back to “Call Your Name”, we find a totally different song from anything on the album.  Demonstrating Chris’s voice and songwriting abilities better than anything better than recent memory, “Call Your Name” is one of those brilliant escalator songs, one that gets bigger and better as it goes.  Kicking off with some light falsetto and instrumentation, and ending with a crash of guitars and drums, “Call Your Name” is an epic ending to Leave This Town, and a track sure to leave a lasting memory.

So where does Daughtry go wrong?  My thoughts are this, Daughtry goes wrong without Daughtry.  There’s a reason this band bears Chris’ name, and that’s because it would be lacking without.  The instrumentation throughout the album is never stellar or all that ear-grabbing, but instead most of the disc is driven forward by Daughtry’s amazing vocal prowess.  I hate to throw so much of this band out the window, but I’d be lying if I said that his voice isn’t priority numero uno for this project.  The lyrics and song structure are strong enough, so all in Leave This Town is really good music.  I can’t take much away from it for it’s flaws, because as long as Chris is part of the band, these guys are the real deal, and have once again crafted a CD full of addictive radio rock sure to please casual and hardcore listeners alike.  Don’t doubt it, Daughtry is no one-album wonder, but is in it for the long haul.

9 out of 10 – Download “Call Your Name”

Daughtry is | Chris Daughtry – Vocals, Rhythm Guitar | Josh Steely – Lead Guitar | Brian Craddock – Rhythm Guitar | Josh Paul – Bass, Backing Vocals | Joey Barnes – Drums

Hypnogaja – “Truth Decay” (2009) July 8, 2009

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2009, Hypnogaja.
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Written by Jake Sparkman

From the opening of “Dark Star”, with its moody, dark, slowly progressing chords and post-production, to the calm, refreshing, slightly epic feel of “Cellar Door” it occurs to you that Hypnogaja, if they play their cards right, could find themselves playing right-hand man to bands like Korn, Atreyu and even (probably) Linkin Park within the next couple of years.

If you don’t know who Hypnogaja is, don’t get this CD quite yet. Go hunt down the song they did for The Looking Glass Wars soundtrack, entitled (dutifully enough), “Looking Glass”. If ever there were a quentisential Hypnogaja song, that would be it. Find it now, I’ll wait. No, seriously, listen to it then come back and keep reading.

Got it? Good. Now we’re on the same level here. Whether you liked it or not, at least now you can understand where I’m coming from when I say that Hypnogaja is all over the fucking place. Soft, almost savory and sultry piano coupled with distortion I haven’t heard since…Metallica.

Lyrically speaking, this is far from something to write home about. These guys don’t know much about subtlty, but maybe that’s a good thing? In a musical world where emphasis is put on great lyrics (let’s just bar Pop from this whole discussion, ok?) and deep meaning, it’s sort of refreshing (I think) to be able to listen to something without feeling obliated to sit down and try to figure out what the hell they mean when they say, “When it’s too dark to find our way home/It’s alright, because we’ve still got light”. They mean exactly what they say, to hell with continuity issues.

While we’re speaking about the bad, let me bring up “Worship Me (I’m On TV)”. I feel about this song much as I do about System of a Down’s “Radio/Video”. While “Worship Me” has a little much lyrical substance and musical variance, the only parts of it that you remember are the chorus. It’s a fairly lackluster affair that leaves you yawning and heading for the skip button after you’ve heard it once or twice. Which is good, because it’s followed by “Things Will Never Be The Same”, which is probably one of the strongest tracks on the record. But more on that in a moment.

While “Kill The Humans” has a very clear and vibrant message of “Hey, fuckers, stop polluting and killing our only home. You’re all a pile of dicks”, and can get relatively tiresome if listened to over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, it redeems itself by putting to use that wonderful piano/vocal/acoustic ability that I will forever remember Hypnogaja for. As catchy and beautiful as the song is, please don’t follow instructions. Mostly because once people see you start trying to talk to this sick, dying Mother of Nature, an end will be put to you before you have a chance to accomplish anything. No one likes to see failed plots of destruction, they’re the stuff of bad comic book villains.

“Things Will Never Be The same” reminds one heavily of the airy days of yore. Back when the airwaves were flooded with songs of redemption and the future. Back when nobody cared about anything, threw caution to the wind and just rocked out. Everyone knew the world was changing, and (yes, I am so going to do this) they all knew that, “From here on out/Things will never be the same”.

This brings me to another point of sadness. The arrangement of the tracks on Truth Decay is far too haphazard. It gets you all pumped up and excited, then presents with a lovely melody and fully expects your moods to swing and float around like a pubescent girls’. It detracts from the whole experience which, in my book, is a BIG no-no. At the very least they could’ve switched “Cellar Door” and “Dark Star: End Transmission”. “Cellar Door” is a perfectly acceptable closing song, mind you, but “End Transmission” would’ve brought the whole thing full circle. I am TOTALLY game at ANY POINT for bringing things full circle.

Oh yeah, the good parts! I almost forgot about those.

One of the other things I love about these guys is their (sometimes) new perspective on their song subjects. While one band might produce a song chronicaling the rise and fall of a relationship, Hypnogaja takes it blunty. See: “Apocalyptic Love Song”. Almost laughable in its conceptual ludicrousity, it strikes an oddly tight chord for unknown reasons. Well, for me anyway. Don’t freak out if you listen to the song and go “Ok? Where’s this big emotional breakthrough I’m supposed to be having? This is bullshit, I’m never going to http://www.rawkfistmusic.com ever again.” Not all of us have such close emotional bonds to music.

Also, who stops reading a site because of one bad occurrence? What kind of a dumbass are you?

While there are still a few songs on Truth Decay that I didn’t cover in this review, this was not because I deemed them unworthy. Far from it, as 85% of the songs on here are solid rock songs at their very core, and can only grow from there. Hypnogaja might not be ready for the big time just yet, but they’re damn close. This CD is by far their best and I suggest you go find it (after having listened to “Looking Glass” you cheating fucker). Dare I say that Truth Decay might be Hypnotizingly good. Eh? *nudge* Eh!?

8.5 out of 10 – Download “Dark Star”

Hypnogaja is | Jason Arnold – Vocals | Jean-Yves Ducornet – Guitar | Bryan Farrar – Bass | Adrian Barnardo – Drums | Mark Donikian – Keyboards

Killswitch Engage – “Killswitch Engage” (2009) July 5, 2009

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2009, Killswitch Engage.

Written by Andrew Hart

Killswitch Engage is practically a household name by now, following the success of singles like “The End of Heartache” and “My Curse” as well as a cover of Dio’s “Holy Diver,” the metal quintet out of Massachusetts has broken into the mainstream and quickly become one of the most respected bands in the biz.  Needless to say, their 2009 self-titled release (their second by the way) has been highly anticipated by fans of both metal and straight up rock, and with good reason.  With their mix of powerful melodic vocals on top of well-placed screams, and intense instrumentals from all other parties, Killswitch Engage is looking to put themselves on top of the metal world with their fifth studio album.  The funny thing is, they just might be up to it.

The biggest standout on a first listen for anyone on this disc will be the leadoff single “Starting Over.”  It’s easily the choice for a single to keep the band on the map too, relying on a strong vocal hook and a catchy but simple riff.  Much of the band’s work relies on faster riffs but “Starting Over” merely falls back on a great and varied one.  This works for the song too, much as it did for “My Curse,” in providing a hard-hitting but instantly accessible hit.  “Starting Over” may just be the strongest work on this release, but it’s far from a one horse race.  While no other song immediately springs to mind in the same category, the opener “Never Again” is an excellent way to prepare for an hour long headbang session.  Starting with some signature metal screaming, the chorus evolves into an absolute anthem and a drum beat perfect to break your neck to.

Let me delve into a couple more of the gems on this self-titled album.  “Reckoning” is similar to “Never Again” in almost every way by creating an atmosphere of straight-up intense metal, which isn’t a bad thing by all means.  Fans will instantly embrace these two tracks as songs that you’ll have blaring in your car to piss off your neighbors anytime you’re flying past.  “Take Me Away” is breakneck and over as quickly as it ends, but try not to get pulled into it’s incredibly speedy intro followed by an addicting chorus.  “This Is Goodbye” is another one that’ll be sure to have you hitting the repeat button, a fantastic ending track that begins far away before pulling in slowly and blowing you away with one of the strongest choruses on the disc.  By the time it’s over you’ll be ready for round two with Killswitch Engage, or if you’re like me, rounds three, four, and so on.

One track I feel needs a little bit of special attention is the mid-disc “The Return.”  At one point I considered this one of the weakest moments on the album, a track full of wasted potential as I saw it.  It’s chorus doesn’t blow the song open like the slow-building preliminary verse would have you believe, and not once is there a real solid hook in the song.  I soon realized however, that “The Return” is not a song to choose as a single, but is instead a slow-cooking metal ballad of sorts, one intended to show passion and incredible emotion.  Vocalist Howard Jones pulls it off brilliantly too, the entire second verse is an emotional plea in tone, and chills will run up your spine as the drumming intensifies leading into the final minute of the song.  “The Return” may still have been able to pull off certain moments better, but there’s no doubt in my mind it’s one of the strongest songs on the disc now, if not of the year.

If I’m complaining, which I am obligated to do at least briefly, it is that Killswitch Engage is not immediately accessible to fans of radio rock, and the CD may be grating for those not tolerant of non-stop shredding.  It’s not a horribly varied effort on Killswitch’s part, which is to be expected from a band who’s so good at what they do right now.  More tracks like “The Return” could have strengthened this disc overall, or just more tracks in general as the album clocks in at only 11 tracks and under 39 minutes.  It’s short and loud, so fans hoping for anything more may leave disappointed.  This, however, may be the most complete effort from Killswitch yet, and is a fantastic step for the melodic metalcore genre.  Don’t hesitate to give it a spin or two, even if you don’t think you’re a metalhead.

9 out of 10 – Download “The Return”

Killswitch Engage is | Howard Jones – Vocals | Adam Dutkiewicz – Guitar, Backing Vocals | Joel Stroetzel – Guitar | Mike D’Antonio – Bass | Justin Foley – Drums