Saturday, August 1, 2015

Music Releases From July 24th-30th, 2015

I felt a disturbance in the force.  It seemed to my knowledge that album release dates have now shifted to Fridays instead of the normal Tuesday release days I was used to when working in the record store.  Nonetheless, go with the flow, and carry on.  From now on, we'll just use a weekly time frame rather than a specific date (in case someone wants to release on Thursday or something like that).

(Artwork by AFGM. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

So for the most part, I am pretty excited about this week's releases.  There are a few names here I am very much looking forward to hearing such as Gus G, Symphony X, WCAR, and Lamb of God.  Between that and the debut album from Awaken The Empire (and rounding out with a Death Angel DVD), it seems like a great mix of genres that I would be thoroughly enjoying throughout the week; in hopes you all enjoy as well.

So if you are looking for a preview of these tracks, then social media, or YouTube would be your best fit.  If you are determined to purchase a copy, then be sure to do it from a local record store, online retailer, or trusted digital source.  Cheers and enjoy discovering new music!

(Awaken The Empire - Aurora)

Aurora is an album with a lot of high points (the quick fire opening salvo, the epic and riff laden Heavy Is The Hand That Wears The Crown, the aforementioned Cross My Heart and the string laden Ashes) but ultimately doesn’t match the heights of its grand ambitions, at times trying to be too grand just for the sake of it and this doesn’t really come off. Awaken The Empire undoubtedly have it in them to make an amazing album but just fall short here and it will be extremely interesting to see what the band come up with next. -Toxic Online

(Gus G - Brand New Revolution)

Gus G is obviously a fantastically talented individual and he has cleverly pulled in the help of some equally talented musicians to make a solid rock/metal album that is jam packed full of guitar solos. It does feel that a little continuity is lost in the album through the different vocal styles of the many singers and there are a few tracks I found less interesting than others. Having said that, there are also a few exceptional tracks that I will be listening to for many years to come and even those less interesting ones all had a great solo to look forward to. All in all a very good album, just sitting a little below exceptional. -Games, Brrraaains & A Head-Banging Life

(Symphony X - Underworld)

All the ten songs (“Overture” is a climatic introduction for the album) are wonderful, but besides I told above for you to hear the entire album, you could start with the climatic, technical and heavy “Nevermore” (with Mike Romeo playing very good riffs, a wonderful solo, and with Russell using multiple tunes of his wonderful voice), the abrasive “Underworld” (again with Michael Romeo creating great moments with his 6 strings axe and great moments of Russell, but Michael Pinnella is showing a very good work on his keyboards as well), the introspective and beautiful ballad “Without You” (great chorus, fine clean and distorted guitars, and Michael Lepond and Jason are playing savagely, with technique and weight). On “Kiss of Fire”, great orchestrations and a fine work on bass guitar give the initial spark for a heavy and catching song, and another great chorus is presented. A heavy and worked tempo is presented on “Charon”, another excellent song, with vocals using and abusing of very good tunes and with that final touch perfectly done by bass guitar and keyboards. The long and elegant “Hell and Back” comes, full of great tempo changes, tons of very heavy and good technical moments, and a perfect and hooking chorus, with both Michael Romeo and Michael Lepond being simply splendid on this song. -Metal Temple

(Conquer Divide - Conquer Divide)

The songs that comprise Conquer Divide are solid musical works, however the beautiful vocal pairings (“Heavy Lies The Crown”) alongside melodic choruses and heavy leads (“Despicable You”)just feel dated. The technical skill and production quality make Conquer Divide a truly fine record, but a record without any remarkable innovation. Now that Conquer Divide have their feet planted in the music scene, though, they may have more room to branch out and create something spectacular next time around. -New Noise Magazine

(We Came As Romans - We Came As Romans)

We Came As Romans have some figuring out to do, but there are certainly more hits than misses on board, and the album’s particularly potent considering it runs to only 33 minutes in length.  Based on this evidence, their self-titled isn’t a mission statement so much as the latest snapshot of a band in a definite state of flux. There are two different bands in this fight; perhaps, in two years time, we’ll know which one has come out on top. -Already Heard

(Lamb of God - VII: Sturm Und Drang)

And though Lamb of God use melody in a more profound way than they have in the past, the songs are all still as brutal as a back-alley gang beating. Drummer Chris Adler’s acrobatic beats are like a fusillade of kicks to the ribs, Mark Morton and Willie Adler’s crunching guitars and squealing fills are heavy as a mausoleum and their licks ensnare like giant fish hooks and Blythe’s vocals range from red-faced to demonic.

Any serious review of VII: Sturm und Drang would be incomplete without addressing “Overlord,” in which Lamb of God trumps Pantera’s lauded “Cemetery Gates” by delivering a haunted, bluesy power ballad (or as close as they’ll ever come to that). Those who listened carefully to the band’s last album, and remember “Insurrection” know Blythe can carry a tune, he just usually chooses not to.  -Loudwire


(Death Angel - A Thrashumentary)

The first half of the documentary is by far the most compelling part. It covers the band’s early days, breakup and reunion. Along with Osegueda and Cavestany, many metal luminaries make an appearance in the documentary. Members of fellow Bay Area bands like Gary Holt (Exodus) and Chuck Billy (Testament) talk about Death Angel, as do numerous other musicians such as Scott Ian and Charlie Benante (Anthrax), Andreas Kisser (Sepultura), Michael Amott (Arch Enemy), Jeff Walker (Carcass) and Chris Adler (Lamb of God).

The second half of the documentary that covers the current era of Death Angel and focuses heavily on the Relentless Retribution album and tour cycle has its moments, but isn’t as riveting as the first half. -About Entertainment

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

First Impressions: TD Echo Beach

So on July 19th, I had the pleasure of experiencing TD Echo Beach for the first time.  While the venue has been in operation since 2012, this was the first time an artist [that I enjoyed listening] happened to be playing.  It only took me 3 big deal. haha

So first impressions are always a good indicator.  The venue entrance was the same as the Molson Ampitheatre, so I was quite familiar with the security, ticket scanners, etc.  I did notice that for a venue of 5,000, they seemed to have a similar amount of security that would be used for the ampitheatre.  Maybe overkill?  My perception might have been off anyways about it.  So let's talk about the dynamics of the venue.  Here is a map of the place if you are like me and have not attended this fine place yet.

(Map courtesy of TD Music)

The Layout

Overall, the layout was pretty decent when compared to similar outdoor venues.  One of the first things I noticed when entering was the amount of places to view the stage.  From the front entrance, to the front of the stage, and everything in between was a visible area.  The VIPs were [respectively] on either side of the stage, towards the front.  The main area, which is all sand, can easily hold a few thousand people.  There was also plenty of room along the sides of the venues where picnic tables were set up, as well as a hill for fans to sit and enjoy the show.

The Stage

The stage was set up towards the back of the venue, right next to the water.  One thing I noticed that was a nice bonus was the see through mesh for the stage, and for the sound booth.  While the stage isn't as large as its sister site (Molson Amp), but it still boasted enough room for a five piece group to easily maneuver around.  Going back to the mesh, it really made a difference for fans who were caught behind the sound booth for viewing, as well as a beautiful skyline of Toronto in the background.

The Food

The food was pretty decent.  While both the food and drink still cost an arm and a leg, at least there were a few more choices besides the usual pizza and french fries.  Various food trucks with a variety of cuisine (such as gourmet hot dogs, seafood, salads, etc) made for a better (and more fresh) selection for concert go-ers.  The trucks were all lined up towards the back of the venue so you could actually hear the orders and not have to shout over the music.

The Drink

Well, despite the usual problem with venue beer (aka Coors, Molson, MGD, etc), it was your average drink selection.  While there was about 5+ different spots to purchase alcohol from (and a few beer vendors in the crowd) I was fortunate enough to find [what seemed to be] the only area serving imported beer; and by that, I mean either Stiegl, or Junction Craft Brewery.  For the extra $1.50, it was well worth the price.  Now all they need to fix is the $11.50 for the beer overall!

Bonus points to Echo Beach for having an ADVERTISED water refill station.  Not sure if it was due to a large heatwave affecting Toronto, but security allowed for fans to bring one plastic bottle of water into the venue for refill.  I must say this was a nice touch to promote free water, unlike many other venues I have been to in the past.

(Photo courtesy of TD Music)

The Washrooms

Portable washrooms can be hit and miss.  On the plus side, they are mobile, can be replaced, and cleaned rather easy.  You can add and remove washrooms based on demand of venue, and might be cheaper in the short/long run for venues.  While I have had my fair share of shitty washrooms (all puns intended), the washrooms at Echo Beach were (for the most part) clean.  The nauseous fumes were not present, the necessary amenities were filled on the regular basis, there was actually hand sanitizer, and even some hand washing stations.  In a place where 5,000+ people are sharing germs and sicknesses, it's reassuring that they kept on top of the washroom cleanliness.

The Sound

Outdoor venues are hit and miss.  And even by that notion, the sound techs are hit and miss as well.  So you have two variables such as weather conditions, and the reliance of the sound tech to ensure the show sound goes as planned.  The evening that we attended Echo Beach (Killswitch Engage/Rise Against), the sound was rather enjoyable.  Both bands performed great, and really capped off a great first experience of Echo Beach.


I would have to put this as a top venue in Toronto (weather pending).  While it did not necessarily make my all -time lost for sound quality, I felt the different aspects of the beach that I mentioned in this article made for a great experience.  No the question is...when will I get to be there again?!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Music Releases For July 17th-23rd, 2015

I felt a disturbance in the force.  It seemed to my knowledge that album release dates have now shifted to Fridays instead of the normal Tuesday release days I was used to when working in the record store.  Nonetheless, go with the flow, and carry on.  From now on, we'll just use a weekly time frame rather than a specific date (in case someone wants to release on Thursday or something like that).

(Artwork by AFGM. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

So for the most part, I am pretty excited about this week's releases.  There are a few names here I have not gazed upon in some time such as Alan Jackson, The Chemical Brothers, and George Lynch.  Between that and the Moonshine Bandits + Sublime with Rome (and rounding out with Powerwolf), it seems like a great mix of genres that I would be thoroughly enjoying throughout the week; in hopes you all enjoy as well.

So if you are looking for a preview of these tracks, then social media, or YouTube would be your best fit.  If you are determined to purchase a copy, then be sure to do it from a local record store, online retailer, or trusted digital source.  Cheers and enjoy discovering new music!

(Alan Jackson - Angels and Alcohol)

Angels & Alcohol has a few bumps in the road—some songs that maybe could have benefited from borrowing a line or two from a co-writer—and then the album has few really good ones. And overall, with that classic voice backed by traditional sounds, there’s just something about an Alan Jackson album that puts a smile on your face, and makes you hope new Alan Jackson albums don’t go away anytime soon. -Saving Country Music

(Moonshine Bandits - Blacked Out)

The album was produced by Ty Weathers and Durwood Black, and the production quality is perfect.  The Moonshine Bandits have always had great production, but there’s a crispness in Blacked Out, I hadn’t heard on the other albums.

There’s no doubt, if you’ve liked what you’ve heard from the Moonshine Bandits until now, you’re going to love Blacked Out.  It’s the best album they’ve put together yet. What this new album should do for the Moonshine Bandits, though is further broaden their fan base.  Blacked Out is a culmination of years of hard work in the clubs and the studio. They sought out the best on the album to collaborate with, and what they got was the most musically diverse album I’ve heard this year. -Hick Hop Music

(The Chemical Brothers - Born in the Echoes)

So on Echoes we get Q-Tip spouting motivational pizza box rhymes over rubberband basslines on future sports montage soundtrack "Go" followed by St. Vincent staring into the suicidal void of a performer’s high on "Under Neon Lights", which peaks with a guitar (or is it a synth?) solo that searingly recalls "Bulls on Parade". We get the viscous funk of "Taste of Honey"—replete with buzzing bee cameo—next to the taut title track, which features a coolly distant vocal from Cate Le Bon and sounds like a worthy tribute to the late, great psych auteurs Broadcast. Then Beck shows up at the end to help Rowlands and Simons create the finest New Order song in ages. "Wide Open" makes the inevitability of losing it—life, love, inspiration—sound terribly triumphant, and just as the track hits its climax, Beck wisely gets out of the way, making room for undulating waveforms that bristle and burst with all-too-human imperfections. -Pitchfork

(Sublime with Rome - Sirens)

As a pretty diehard Sublime fan of course I was ready for a different sound, a different light. A member leaves the band, there’s a name change, things happen, however was I disappointed? A little. Every musician has their own and to compare any musician to Bradley Nowell isn’t fair but as I stated before, the man could write a song about nothing and it was poetic. “Sirens” had its own sense of artistry however could have had a stronger foundation. -Pop Break

(George Lynch - Shadow Train)

The music on Shadow Train certainly sees Lynch reaching for the pinnacle of his career, where all the stars align and that one moment of clarity is achieved. Built upon the backs of his early bands, including The Boys, Dokken, Lynch Mob, his solo work, instrumental albums and projects (KXM, Sweet & Lynch, Lynch/Pilson), Lynch never has stopped striving to attain the elusive carrot. Partnering with Gregg Analla, Gabe Rosales, Donnie Dickman and Jimmy D’Anda, Shadow Train’s self-titled studio album is a defining moment for Lynch and his fellow bandmates. -Hard Rock Haven

(Powerwolf - Blessed & Possessed)

What you can take away from “Blessed & Possessed” is that if it ain’t broke….don‘t fix it! Powerwolf has an established sound that will likely never change. If part of your musical enjoyment is to allow for massively addicting and repetitive choruses, fun and uptempo riffs, then it really gets no better. If you view music as an exploration that needs to constantly grow, show variety and extend over boundaries, then you can skip over “Blessed & Possessed.” If you like both, then you are in a class of fans that music needs the most: the “blessed and possessed.” For this author, music is much about the former, with the flavor of fantasy and witty sarcasm acting as icing on the cake. -Metal Underground

Pan Am: What Was The Big Deal?

I think my rant for the morning will obviously follow on the heels of the Pan Am closing ceremonies.  While I was not in attendance (both at the venue or on the TV), I knew that many friends and family members would surely be paying attention. From what I have read and seen, I am kind of glad I did not.

Pan Am Games closing ceremony: Fans cheer Team Canada, Kanye West's mic cuts out

Now most of you might get the impression that I am not a Kanye fan.  I think my relationship with his music turned after the first few albums of his work.  College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation were all top notch albums!  Songs such as "Through The Wire", and "All Falls Down" had me reinvigorated in the hip hop scene.  Hell, I'll even settle for a spoonful of 808s & Heartbreak (such as "Heartless") when the time calls for it.  Maybe it's the ego, maybe its the spotlight, but I can assure you that there is no 'hating' simply because we want to be him.  Far from it; we want him to be an artist that embodies the spirit of music, not the megalomaniac we now see before us.  At least that's what had me bypassing his performance.

(Photo courtesy of PanAm/Parapan, and Wikipedia)

Kanye West wows crowd at Pan Am closing ceremony

While I know Pitbull and Serena's performance seemed to go over very well with the crowd (and honestly, how could you not when Serena was responsible for the official Pan Am anthem), but I think that also.showed something that might have been glossed over.  The crowd wasn't upset it was a pop artist headlining, because if that was the case, then Pitbull would have been as UN-welcomed as Kanye was.  But the difference I found was the approach.  Pitbull didn't need to be there, but he was energetic, optimistic, and thoroughly wanted to be a part of this event.  Not sure I could say the same for Yeezus, especially after that mic throw and walk off.  Craig from AFGM happened to be in attendance for the closing ceremonies.  While he did dive into it too much, this is what I gathered from his sentiments.

I am not one to complain but what was that at the Pan Am closing ceremonies?  Everything was amazing with the organizers...then the music part comes in.  Serena Ryder, and even Pitbull (which I am not a fan) did a great job.  Very personable with the crowd; then followed by Kanye West.  I don't know if that was called a performance or not. 

How much did they pay for this guy to....I can't even say perform, he just jumped around the stage or walked around sang terrible with back up music.  He didn't address the crowd, wasn't personable with them, etc.  Just like him always thinking about himself, and he calls himself the greatest rock and roll star?  After his set he just throws his microphone up in the air and leaves the stage and that was it. Even the TV person from CBC didn't even mention his name.  I honestly don't get it. -Craig (via Facebook)

Kanye West Throws Mic, Walks Off But Still Impresses at Pan Am Games Closing Ceremony

So all in all, I am not here to condemn or criticize people for liking Kanye.  If his music appeals to you, then listen to it!  I have my own reasons why I choose to focus my time and attention on other artists, but different strokes for different folks right?  However, I am still scratching my head at the organizers of Pan Am for their decision to bring such an artist to an international event like this.  The onslaught of social media and backlash are a direct result of poor marketing, lack of ticket sales, and the ultimate need to book a major headliner (whether embodying the game or not) for the sake of filling a venue.