John Jackson

Jul 182019

Out of tragedy and turmoil, Awaken I Am have released a collection of emotion-filled tracks that are at once beautiful and yet filled with anger, confusion, and heaviness.

Australian band Awaken I Am have gone through the typical band member replacement drama but also have had to endure the worst, when a wrong-way driver took the life of guitarist Connor Verner-Oakley.  The band had just finished a US tour in support of their debut album Blind Love and were due out on the road in less than two weeks.  The band picked up guitarist Jay Sibthorpe and pushed on.  The ep The Beauty in Tragedy is the band’s way of not only paying tribute to Connor but also coming to terms with the senseless nature of the tragedy.  Taylor Larsen (Asking Alexandria and The Word Alive) recorded the ep.

The ep opens up with one of the heaviest tracks in “Kin”.  Start off with some electronica and then bring in the heavy guitar riffs and once those die out the keyboards and bass largely keep things moving along during the verse sections backed by some drum work from Luke McKenzie that adds some interesting texture.  Vocals are incredibly smooth and emotion-filled and to be honest, from a composition standpoint, the song reminds me a bit of something from Linkin Park but with a bit more emphasis on melody and heavier guitars.  Topically the song is addressed to the driver who purposefully drove on the wrong side of the road, so you can imagine the emotion involved.  Not being a fan of this style of music, the emotion in the performances drew me in before I even knew the back story.  This is one of those albums you listen to and think to yourself that there is something authentic here and it keeps your interest. Continue reading »

R.A.I.D. – “Imperium”

 Posted by on July 16, 2019 at 17:07  No Responses »
Jul 162019

In their latest album, R.A.I.D bring old-school hardcore from Hyderabad, India in a collection of pounding tracks that aim for the sounds found in the clubs in places like New York and Boston.

Admit it, when you read old-school hardcore, you had images of New York and bands like Madball, Sick of It All and the like and you weren’t thinking of Hyderabad, India.  Well, R.A.I.D is here to change that and as Rolling Stone India put it, they are “Hyderabad’s sole hardcore frontrunners”. For this follow up to The Strong Survive (2018), the band chose material focused on finding and using one’s inherent strength, inspired by the Biblical character Samson.

Clocking in under 20 minutes for seven songs, the album certainly fits the typical mold for an old-school hardcore effort, no wasted time.  A short drum roll and “Unbreakable” is off to the races with a galloping riff that slows for the verse sections where Ruben Isaac barks out the words.  The first song does set the tone for the whole album and there are a couple of sound issues and/or choices that I’m not a big fan of that I feel hurt the overall impact of the songs.  Continue reading »

Jul 062019

Guitarist extraordinaire Timo Tolkki (ex-Stratovarius) returns with the final installment of his symphonic metal trilogy Avalon project in the album Return to Eden.

Before getting into this album, I had no idea it was the third part of a trilogy, whose first two albums have not been exactly enthusiastically received, and after learning that I can see many of the same flaws in Return to Eden as others have made against the first two albums, “The Land of New Hope” and “Angels of the Apocalypse”.  Those first two albums featured well known vocalists for guest spots including the likes of Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation), Elize Ryd (Amaranthe), and Floor Jansen (Nightwish) and some of the legendary guitar work expected from Timo but many thought the music in general seemed forced and seemed to lack that certain spark.  After listening to Return to Eden, I was struck by some amazing guitar work as one might expect from a guitarist who once made a “50 fastest guitarists” list, but in general there seemed to be a lack of passion and intensity.  Every part of the songs seemed to be scripted with the band just reading along and following the script…albeit to near perfection. Continue reading »

Jul 042019

The band recently playing to huge crowds at Graspop and Hellfest, Gloryhammer, also recently released their third album Legends Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex, which has already climbed charts in the EU as well as US and Canada as fans have been waiting for more of the epic power metal Gloryhammer is known for.

The Scottish band Gloryhammer started by Alestorm vocalist Chris Bowes (keyboards here) largely as a way to explore symphonic and epic metal and is seen as one of metal’s favorite sons as they manage to take as many metal clichés as possible and use them in song in such a way that everyone is in on the joke and yet somehow  it all embodies everything metalheads love. The band released Tales from the Kingdom of Fife in 2013, Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards in 2015, and now the conclusion (?) to the trilogy, Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex in 2019.  Unfortunately, due to space constraints, I can’t go into the overall story except to say that it spans time and dimensions, but it’s worth the time to listen and hear the epic tales.

The track “Gloryhammer” might be the best introduction to the band and the album one could imagine as it captures everything that sets them apart and makes them so entertaining, especially in a live setting I would imagine.  Fortunately, the band made a video for the track which helps add to the image as well.  Following a gang yell of “Glory…hammer” an riff reminiscent of Rammstein’s Du Hast kicks in but is accented by some keyboards  that sound like something out of late 80’s Rainbow and that contradiction initially throws you off but works brilliantly.  Continue reading »

Jun 222019

Two man project Mystic Winter bring their diy ethic to bear on the ep Tergiversating Blasphemies

Mystic Winter arose from the ashes of the band Haloed Patriots in the woods of Indiana and the early material sprang from two band members realizing material they had did not fit the previous band’s identity.  In March of 2018, Mystic Winter released the single “Withered”,  with Tergiversating Blasphemies coming in 2019. With musical influences including black metal icons like Antestor, Crimson Moonlight, Horde, and Vials of Wrath, one might expect a project filled with black metal and explorations into the ambient side of the genre.

The ep opens with “Exordium” a haunting mostly ambient, keyboard and horror movie sound effect laden track with some deep, growled spoken word over the top.  Suprisingly, the next track “Nomadic Tumor” also starts out with the atmospheric keyboard intro,  instead of the usual explosion of riffs and blastbeats common to the genre.  Unfortunately, while the keyboards sound as if they were recorded normally, once the rest of the music comes in it sounds more like it was recorded in metal box a ways away from the microphones.  The songs is muffled echo-driven noise separated by cleanly recorded keyboard sections.  Ambient black metal noise seems a fitting description. Continue reading »