Review: The Stage

Following the surprise release of a new track earlier this month, Avenged Sevenfold decided to pull a Beyoncé and drop a new full length album with no announcement.  The Stage is the band’s seventh full length album, and the first with drummer Brooks Wackerman.  You can see the music video for the album’s title track here:

Going into reviewing The Stage, I was unsure how I’d feel about the record.  Musically it seems like the album will have a similar sound to City Of Evil, which could be a good or bad thing.  I’m hoping that Avenged Sevenfold will have taken those vibes and given them a more modern twist.

The record opens with the title track, which is a great way to begin the band’s concept album about artificial intelligence and the breakdown of society.  If you didn’t get the meaning behind the lyrics immediately, watching the video for the track above will clear things up for you.  This is followed by Paradigm: the chorus, guitar solos and complex drum fills of which make it obvious that this record has moved on from the more classic metal stylings of Hail To The King. 

Even though the record is pulled together by M. Shadow’s signature vocals, Johnny Christ’s undulating bass and Zacky Vengeance’s backbone of guitar riffs, each track has its own influences from all sorts of musical areas.  These additional touches are demonstrated by the addition of brass during Sunny Disposition, to the chugging opening riffs of God Damn, to the choral backing vocals during Higher. 

There are a couple of ballads on this album, as is to be expected from Avenged Sevenfold.  Angels is a grade A ballad, but the guitar solos starting at around two and a half minutes and again at around the four minute mark managed to sneak in and completely blow me away.  The layering of vocals towards the end of the track give it an incredible, almost cinematic atmosphere.

The feel of The Stage is absolutely massive and theatrical, and in my opinion it’s 100 per cent what the band needed to put out following Hail To The King.  If you’d asked me to guess what this album would sound like, I would not have come up with this in a million years.   Another reason for this is that the drumming on Hail To The King was very classic and more simplistic to reflect the style of the album, however Brooks Wackerman’s drumming is much closer to The Rev’s than Arin Ilejay’s is, which makes the album fit much better into their discography than their previous album.

Avenged Sevenfold managed to keep details of the album under wraps very well, and that air of mystery really boosted the hype for this record when it dropped on Friday.  Another reason for the hype is that The Stage is the band’s longest record to date, and includes their longest ever song, the epic Exist which runs for almost 16 minutes.  You definitely get a lot of bang for your buck with this record.

To be honest, I don’t think Avenged Sevenfold will be making many new fans with this record.  I think half of its charm is that it hails back so beautifully to City Of Evil, and even their self titled album and Waking The Fallen in some tracks, which shows that even though the band have grown massively over the years, they haven’t forgotten their past.  This charm will be totally lost on new listeners.  Plus, I think the band’s attitude, theatrical style and love for putting on a big performance definitely comes through much more on this record than they did on Hail To The King.  I do think that existing fans will enjoy this record as much as I do, and I absolutely cannot wait to see some of these tracks performed live when I see Avenged Sevenfold play in Nottingham in January.

P.S. I didn’t mean for this review to sound so negative about Hail To The King: I do love that record, but I’m so much more excited about The Stage as I was for their previous album, and it’s difficult not to draw comparisons.

Highlights: Sunny Disposition, Creating God, Roman Sky

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7 incredible tracks you need in your life – October 2016

It’s that time again, folks: it’s the end of the month, and time I rounded up the best tracks put out over the past few weeks.  With no further ado, let’s get on with the show!

Descendents – Feel This

If you’re after a minute long punk rock punch in the face, this is the track for you.  Descendents may be the honorary Dads of the punk rock world, but they’re still going strong as a band.

Cover Your Tracks – Cages

To me, the sound of this track reminds me of Bring Me The Horizon’s latest album, and that’s no bad thing.  I like how the piano and electronic elements work with the track, and whilst I’ve never listened to Cover Your Tracks before, this track has left me wanting to find out more.

Moose Blood – Cheek

Punk rockers Moose Blood have released the video for Cheek, a track from their popular second full length record, Blush.  This is a cute track with an uplifting catchy chorus.

Palisades – Aggression

Even though Palisades have been around for a few years, I’ve not listened to a lot of their music.  This track shows great promise, and I’ll be looking out for their third album due out in January.

Franz Ferdinand – Demagogue

As part of the 30 Songs 30 Days Challenge, indie rockers Franz Ferdinand have put together a little track which essentially is a two and a half minute long middle finger aimed straight at Donald Trump.  What else could you need?

Bloc Party – Stunt Queen

Bloc Party’s latest single is a fantastic, feel-good song, which really puts me in a summery mindset.  Too bad it was released in October really.

Korn – Everything Falls Apart

Korn recently released their twelfth studio album: Everything Falls Apart is one of the singles from the record, which shows the band have grown and matured whilst still maintaining their original attitude.

What do you think of these tracks? Are there any singles I missed off this list? Let me know on my Facebook or Twitter page, or in the comment section below this post.

Review: Who You Selling For

New York rock band The Pretty Reckless have returned with their latest full length record, only a two years since the release of their album Going To Hell.  Hype for Who You Selling For started to build with the release of the first single – you can watch the video for Take Me Down here:

To me, this track was less heavy than the band’s previous releases and had some pop and even country vibes, so it definitely piqued my interest to hear what the rest of the album would sound like.

Immediately Who You Selling For takes a surprising turn, starting out with the piano-led introduction to The Walls Are Closing In/Hangman.  However the track quickly picks up with a lot of emphasis on bass guitar and the bass drum, and layered backing vocals give the track an atmospheric, grungy feel.

My impression that this album could end up sounding more pop than previous records was shattered by the second track, Oh My God, with its impressive guitar-led introduction and vocalist Taylor’s gravelly voice layered overtop.  The worry that The Pretty Reckless are turning into a pop band, thankfully, seem unfounded.  However, there are definitely country and blues elements to be found throughout Who You selling For, and these are most apparent on tracks such as acoustic-guitar led Back To The River.

Some of the songs that really stand out from the rest include the fantastic bassy groove of Prisoner, the riff heavy Wild City, and the chilled out Bedroom Window.  This record is made up of a strong collection of songs, most of which have enough individuality to stand out from the rest.  This mix forces the audience to really pay attention to what each song has to say.

Lyrically, to me, the album seems to take a lot of influence from more classic rock and metal.  Taylor sings about religion, young women heading to “the big city” and trying to avoid the vices and temptation there, and making deals with the devil.

To conclude, I reckon that fans of The Pretty Reckless will be pleased with the band’s lyrical maturity and progression of their sound over the past couple of years.  Sometimes I find it hard to believe that Taylor Momsen is only two years older than me, because her lyrics and rough-around-the-edges voice may suggest she’s older to those who know nothing about the band.  There’s definitely more to Who You Selling For than meets the eye, and I look forward to listening to the record a few more times to pick up on anything I missed the first time around.

Highlights: Oh My God, Prisoner, Living In The Storm, The Devil’s Back

Essential albums you need in your car

Hi altrocklifers! In massive life news, I officially got my first car this week, and I feel like I’m one step closer to becoming a responsible adult.  It’s a cute little navy blue Ford Ka, 11 years old, and named Lzzy after one of my favourite vocalists, Lzzy Hale (cringey, I know).

Katie sat in her new car on her driveway
Isn’t she cute??

Naturally, as a music lover the part I was most excited about when I got the car home was filling the glove box with CDs.  I haven’t driven it much, which isn’t surprising considering I haven’t passed my test yet, but here are the albums I’m looking forward to listening to on the road.

Slaves – Take Control

I love this record, and the aggressive riffs and lyrics means shouting along is a great way to channel any road rage without crashing the car or giving other drivers the middle finger.

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes – Blossom

I always think it sounds badass when a car blasting punk music drives past you: that’s what I’m aiming for when I play this record.

We Are The Ocean – Ark

This record is great for long drives, especially at night: plenty of big choruses to keep you awake, and some more mellow numbers for stretches of empty road.

A Day To Remember – Bad Vibrations

This is, so far, my favourite album released this year, so of course I had to put it in my car to maximise the amount of time I spend listening to it.

Pure Love – Anthems

Frank Carter’s discarded project produced one of my favourite all-time records.  You can’t beat a car sing-a-long to tracks like Handsome Devils Club or Bury My Bones.

Bastille – Other People’s Heartache Part 3

If I fancy listening to electronic music, this EP by Bastille is always one of my top choices.  My favourite track on the EP is Remains, featuring the beautiful voices of both Rag N Bone Man and Skunk Anansie.

Foals – What Went Down

This album always manages to keep me occupied and entertained during boring, stop-start town driving.

What are some essential albums or tracks on your car playlist?  Let me know your on my Facebook or Twitter page, or in the comment section below this post.

Review: WALLS

To me it seems like Kings Of Leon have been around on the music scene forever.  The band of brothers (and a cousin) have been making music since 2000, and their sound has evolved from grungy alternative rock to become more indie and acoustic.  Kings Of Leon started promotion for their latest record, WALLS, earlier this year with the release of the single Waste A Moment – you can watch the video here:

Public opinion of the band’s sound has shifted over the years, with many fans critical of their more easily accessible, and in turn more mainstream, recent records.  To me it sounds like their more chilled out vibes, first explored in Come Around Sundown, then followed up in Mechanical Bull and now their latest record, will be here to stay.  If I’m in the mood for more chilled out, acoustic tracks, Kings Of Leon are my first choice of band to listen to.

Anyway, back to WALLS, which was released on Friday.  The record opens with Waste A Moment, arguably the most popular single from the album with a monster chorus, and is quickly followed by the slower, bass-y Reverend.  The album doesn’t fall into a predictable groove, however: Find Me picks up the pace with quick-fire guitar riffs and a big chorus, and Conversation Piece features sweeping strings which adds something special to what could have been a simple ballad.

Lyrically this album is pretty downbeat and introspective. Vocalist Caleb sings about the death of a friend on Muchacho, which wouldn’t sound out of place on the soundtrack to a country and western film.  The album’s title is an acronym standing for ‘We Are Like Love Songs’, and as the title track discusses how difficult it is to move on when a relationship fails, this title is definitely appropriate.

I’ve really enjoyed Kings Of Leon’s past releases – and I still do, to be fair – so it’s safe to say that I had pretty big expectations for WALLS.  To me, this latest album is the logical follow-up to Mechanical Bull, and the band have become even more chilled, which I didn’t think was possible.  I reckon that now the Followill lads are onto their seventh album, they’ve probably just stopped caring what critics and fans think, and decided to make the music that they want to.  If that means more relaxed indie vibes from them in future, then I’ll be happy.

Highlights: Reverend, Over, Eyes On You, Wild

News: Avenged Sevenfold release new track, tease next album

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Avenged Sevenfold, so you should be able to imagine the screams of excitement when I saw the band’s latest update.  First off, I noticed this intriguing post on my Facebook timeline:

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FAvengedSevenfold%2Fposts%2F10153776085585583&width=500

The link to the band’s website lead us to the music video for their latest single, The Stage.  It’s an eight and a half minute long anthem which has obvious influences from Iron Maiden and Metallica, and to me sounds like the logical follow-up to their 2013 album Hail To The King.  The music video takes a damning look back at the history of mankind, how we the public are merely pawns to politicians and the human race is doomed to constantly repeat history.  You can check it out for yourself here:

The website also contains a semi-hidden link to Doombot, an application which answers questions typed in by the user.  When I asked it some questions it told me to look out for November 18th, so I’ve marked that date down in my calendar as the time to expect more Avenged Sevenfold news.

This single was also the first time we’ve heard from the band’s new drummer, Brooks Wackerman.  The drumming throughout The Stage is much more complex than throughout Hail To The King, which is of course a stylistic choice of the band’s and no reflection on previous drummer Arin Ilejay’s talent.

Overall I’m very excited at the release of Avenged Sevenfold’s new single, but I definitely cannot wait to hear more from the band about a future record, especially because I’ll be seeing them on their upcoming UK/EU tour in January.  Here’s hoping there’ll be tracks from a new album to hear performed on tour.

What do you think of Avenged Sevenfold’s latest track? Let me know your thoughts on my Facebook or Twitter page, or in the comment section below this post.

Review: Of Mice & Men, Nottingham Rock City

Last night I went along to Nottingham and saw one of my favourite bands, Of Mice & Men, performing live for the fourth time.  I hadn’t planned on attending, however a last minute change to my work and my sister’s sixth form schedule meant we could take the trip to see the performance.  I didn’t manage to get any photos from the gig, but here’s a snap from the band’s Instagram account which will give you a taste of the atmosphere.

A photo posted by Of Mice & Men (@omandm) on Oct 4, 2016 at 12:13am PDT

We arrived to the venue a little late, so unfortunately we only heard opening act Hands Like Houses perform three songs of their set.  From what I heard, I really enjoyed their performance: the vocalist’s voice was strong throughout, and the instrumentals sounded pretty tight.  These guys were definitely a solid choice of opening act.  Here’s the video for one of the songs they played:

Following Hands Like Houses was Crown The Empire, whose performance I also really enjoyed.  There were a couple of issues with microphone levels throughout this set, however: during the first couple of songs the vocalist’s voice was drowned out by the instruments, and towards the end his microphone was too loud and the guitars were overpowered.  Even noticing this issue, I still thought Crown The Empire put on a great show, and they really helped to amp up the atmosphere in preparation for Of Mice & Men to take to the stage.  Here’s the music video to one of the songs I most enjoyed hearing them play:

Then it was time for the main act to take to the stage.  Of Mice & Men opened with Pain, one of my favourites from their new record Cold World, and it was a fantastic, high energy start to the gig.  They mainly played songs from the new record, which is understandable as it was only released a couple of weeks ago, as well as a fair few from Restoring Force.  I was extremely pleased when I realised that they were also playing The Calm, The Storm, The Flood and The Depths in succession, which definitely went down well with more long term fans of the band.  Their encore was topped off with Second & Sebring, was was probably my highlight of the whole night.

Overall the performance by Of Mice & Men was brilliant, as per usual, with no noticeable technical issues or dodgy microphone levels.  In the past I’ve consistently noted that Aaron Pauley’s vocals live were fairly weak and quiet, however even though he complained of waking up with a cold yesterday morning, I think his vocal performance was the best I’ve heard.  Maybe he was pushing his voice harder than usual to make up for his illness?  The only issue I found with the band’s performance was Austin Carlile’s clean vocals during Away: I thought his voice was quite nasal, and reckon he’d be better off sticking to harsh vocals from now on.

It was definitely worth seeing Of Mice & Men for the fourth time, as to me their performances are getting better and better every time.  If you’re able to attend any of the remaining UK tour dates this month, I’d highly recommend it.

Were you at the gig last night?  What did you think of the performance?  Let me know on my Facebook or Twitter page, or in the comment section below this post.

Review: Take Control

It’s only been a little over a year since Kent two-piece Slaves released their debut full length album Are You Satisfied?, but it seems like Laurie and Isaac are set on taking over the world with their iconic grungy punk.  Take Control, released on Friday, contains fourteen tracks interspersed with two skit tracks, which makes the record a solid little parcel jam packed with bangers.  The album was introduced with the lead single Spit It Out: you can see the low-fi video here:

The album opens with the above track, followed by Hypnotised which keeps up the fast pace and crashing drums.  Consume Or Be Consumed, featured on Thursday’s round-up of the month’s best singles, features slower, grungier guitars, additional keyboard effects which add something a bit special to the choruses, and quieter vocals rapped over the track, including a rap verse by Mike D. of Beastie Boys fame.  Even within the first three songs of the album, it seems obvious to me that the punk duo have freed themselves from the constraints of more traditional old school punk, and allowed themselves to experiment a bit more with their sound.  That’s a solid amount of development between records.

Lyrically the album discusses issues with tax fraud and classism within the upper classes in Rich Man, troubles in the romance department in Angelica, and dwelling on past mistakes in Spit It Out.  There are also some lighthearted tracks such as Fuck The Hi-Hat, which at the end of the day are just a bit of fun.  That’s one of the things I like about Slaves: by taking every day issues and coating them in unapologetically British punk and straightforward language, their music is something everybody can enjoy.  Unless they’re not into punk music, I suppose.

Slaves have stretched their musical muscles during tracks such as the slower paced Lies, which is almost a ballad by their standards, and one of the longest songs on the record.  Steer Clear also stands out with its electronic drums, synth-infused choruses and female backing vocals adding to the chilled vibe.  In fact, much of the second half of the record is made up of slower tracks, which helps to demonstrate that these guys are nowhere near one trick ponies.

I was a little worried that Slaves would be one hit wonders, bursting onto the scene then slinking away as suddenly as they appeared.  Thankfully, following this record it seems to me that the twosome are taking this music lark seriously, and I certainly hope that the band will be around for a long time.  If you enjoyed Are You Satisfied?, then Take Control needs to be on your Christmas wish-list, or just go ahead and order it now if you don’t want to wait that long.

Highlights: Rich Man, Lies, People That You Meet, Same Again