Northlander – “Forces of Light”

 Posted by on March 6, 2020 at 17:35  No Responses »
Mar 062020
 

Chris Ratzlaff, vocalist and guitarist of Northlander, inspired my February listening journey. You see, I’d had only my own rough idea of what metalcore and post-harcore was about and to be honest, equated it with My Chemical Romance’s emo stylings, mistakenly. I’d also recently taken Bring Me The Horizon’s crib notes anthology “2004-2013” for a spin, and if you’ve heard “Amo” (2019), marvelled at their brutal musical beginnings before turning pop. The difference between Fallstar and Northlander is like this in a way. Northlander are Chris, Bryan and Cody from Fallstar but in a different guise.

In an interview around the time of Fallstar’s 2013 album “Backdraft”, Chris listed bands that influenced how he wrote music, as well as his vocal style. He mentioned bands like August Burns Red, Beloved, Senses Fail, Taking Back Sunday and The Used, and listening to “Backdraft” I could hear how these influences may have shaped Fallstar’s sound. With less of a hardcore bent than some of the others, and perhaps not as stylistically experimental as The Used are, Fallstar has a heaviness that puts them outside what might be conventionally considered “worship music”. I also get that many churches questioned whether heavy metal music could glorify God, and that many bands like Fallstar were given a cool reception. Christian heavy metal bands continue to fight ridicule from secular bands, but like Fallstar gospel joy continues to shine through in their performances. It is in this time that members of Fallstar composed songs for a future project now known as Northlander.

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Moon Reverie – “Moon Reverie”

 Posted by on February 29, 2020 at 03:40  No Responses »
Feb 292020
 

Moon Reverie started as a project back in 2012 when guitarist Luca Poma decided to create his own music after touring extensively through Europe with the likes of Uli Jon Roth, Kee Marcello, Vinnie Moore and many other notable artists.  The guitar virtuoso brought influences ranging from Rainbow to Hendrix, to Malmsteen, and Europe into his project. 

Very quickly into this album, even if you know nothing about the band and Luca Poma, it becomes readily apparent that you will be hearing some masterful guitar licks.  The intro track “Into Glory” sets the stage and the first full track “Forgiveness” showcases Poma’s guitar skills to an even greater extent.  I am instantly transported back to the first time I heard Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force…which to my ears was like if someone fed Ritchie Blackmore a whole lot of coffee.  For all of the guitar parts to work with listeners, production has to be clean and that is certainly the case here.  Luca Pozzi has the vocals that work perfectly well within this classically-influenced power metal.

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Wolfpakk – “Nature Strikes Back”

 Posted by on February 29, 2020 at 03:03  No Responses »
Feb 292020
 

The seminal all-star power metal project Wolfpakk is back with their fifth album filled once again with performances from a wide array of metal talent bringing soaring, powerful vocals, driving rhythm sections and blistering guitar solos.

Wolfpakk is one of those all-star projects that goes back quite a ways, getting their start in 2011 when Mark Sweeney (ex-Crystal Ball) and Michael Voss (Mad Max, Casanova) released the debut self-titled album.  Two short years later Cry Wolf was released and then in another two years, Rise of the Animal, all of which featured an all-star cast of guest musicians.  Wolves Reign followed, in a yes, two years later in 2017, and now in 2020 we have Nature Strikes Back.  Looking back, Sweeney and Voss have been linked all the way back to 2009 when Voss was producer for Sweeney’s 2nd solo album.  Looking at the timeline for the albums, it was not long after this interaction that the two started writing tracks and finding guest artists to help bring their vision to life…and the rest as they say is “history”.

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A Broken Line – “Rat Beach”

 Posted by on February 28, 2020 at 02:46  No Responses »
Feb 282020
 

Long Beach punk natives A Broken Line have released their sophomore album, Rat Beach, a collection of raw, infectious tracks that fit right in with what their predecessors were producing.

Southern California has certainly produced a lot of punk bands over the years and from that backdrop is where A Broken Line emerged.  Before we get too far into this, A Broken Line is not your typical straight ahead SoCal punk or hardcore band, as they bring elements in from ska and bit of a heavy garage/alternative sound as well. From the driving opening track “Placebo”  to the slower, heavier, almost like Sublime track “Garage Door” to the feedback-drenched and bass-highlighting “Ticking Away” with its drum/atmospheric interlude to even more feedback and driving rhythms in “Disconnect” to the Five Iron Frenzy like parts in “Pier”, the first five tracks cover a lot of ground and consistently present a loud, brash punk rock attitude.

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The Lead – “Burn This Record +30”

 Posted by on February 6, 2020 at 03:06  No Responses »
Feb 062020
 

Roughly 30 years ago, Christian punk rock pioneers, The Lead, released Burn this Record and now the whole thing has been remastered and re-released with a bunch of previously unreleased bonus track demos.

The Lead are one of those bands that have remained pretty much a well-kept secret over the years.  From their beginnings in 1984 or so, The Lead released seven different albums/eps to go along with four other self-released titles before ending up on Roxx Records to release This Past Behind and Burn this Record in 1989.  In 2018, the band released the Again (ep) on Roxx Records and now have followed it up with this re-release.

The Lead certainly are one of those bands where I  look back and wonder how I missed them.  I keep seeing the label “Christian punk rock pioneers” applied to them, but especially with Burn This Record, I’m thinking there more like the thrashy-crossover SOD, but with obviously different lyrical content.  Musically, most of the songs tend to lean toward the ultra-fast more metal sounding riffs and freight train drumming.  Nina Llopis vocals have that challenging, in-your-face punk rock sneer and work really well even in this metal/punk hybrid.  A good introduction for the unknowing is the “Skate or Die” lyric video from the remastered version here.  Lyrics are boldly Christian and pull no punches, being very straightforward.  As I noted on my review of the Again (ep) the songs tend to go on a bit longer than they really should almost as if the band had parts of other songs they couldn’t finish, so they added them into existing tracks.  That being said, one component that I do really like in some of these sections are the screaming guitar solos that seem to explode out of the mix, reminding me of some older Greg Ginn craziness.

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