Alloy, of Greenville, TX Releases Neo-Rock Debut

Meet Alloy, the Greenville Neo-Rockers
“Black and White,” album cover art by Alloy.
I had the pleasure of getting to see Alloy perform live in Dallas, TX opening for Black Stone Cherry. There were two other bands who played before they came out, and Black Stone Cherry brought the…

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AS YOU WERE — THE SHARPER SIDE OF NUMETAL

51fUqyJGawL._SL500_AA280_Article by PJ Cornell.

Syndicated from Asterisked Music.

Assessment: 9.2 out of 10.

Bottom line up front: It’s rare to see an unsigned band with such a polished sound.  Some of their songs are a little reminiscent of Hoobastank.  Others sound kind of like a more hard-core version of Creed/Alterbridge.  They’ve found a very pleasing blend of melodic metal that rides the border between hard rock and metalcore.  With soaring vocals and aggressive riffs, they are bound to be a crowd pleaser at any metal concert.  They would not be at all out of place opening for any number of great bands (they are a great band in their own right; they’re just not that well known, yet).  I could see them as the opening act for Papa Roach, Disturbed, Sevendust, Nickleback, Skillet, or any other mainline hard rock or metal group — they have an edge, but they are not so far out on the edge as to be inaccessible to the average metal listener.  They are on the far boundary of what might be considered «radio friendly.»

Criticisms: While they have very catchy, very cohesive, and very technically inclusive songs, with plenty of solo areas for each band member to shine, this band would do well to branch out a little, harmonically and rhythmically.  This is not a major criticism — their relatively conventional harmonic and rhythmic language will not prevent them from enjoying quite a bit of success — in fact, too much adventurism in harmony and rhythm can, potentially, prevent a band’s success if they experiment too much early on.  Their songs are perfect for a first release.  Just interesting enough to grab the attention of the listener, without demanding too much attention to follow.  I would encourage this band to run with they’ve got for now, which is excellent material, in terms of listenability, marketability, and overall musical professionalism.  For their next effort, however, they would do well to try to branch out a little bit.

Highlights: My favorite song on this album has got to be Second Chances, which is a Killswitch Engagesque metalcore anthem that gets the album off to a great start.  I’m also quite partial to Embrace Your Crown, and Darker Shade of Life, which are a couple of delightfully edgy songs.  Never Healing is a great tune, which sounds a lot like some of Alterbridge’s better songs — it’s comfortingly intense.  (Don’t know what I mean by that?  Well, you’ll just have to check it out for yourself, then.)  Break Out and Flip My Switch remind me of Nickleback, a little bit — in a good way.  Hold Me Down and Not Yours for the Taking are songs that Five Finger Death Punch would be proud of (and these guys should definitely be proud of them).  Overall, their vocalist is amazing, and their lead guitarist is more than decent.  They don’t let the rhythm, bass or drums out to play as much as they could, but when they do, they definitely show potential.

Conclusion: So long as these guys stay on the road and keep these songs in the ears of metal fans, I foresee nothing but success for these guys.  They have a very polished, confident sound, that delivers the kind of punch that metalheads are looking for.  They could afford to branch out a little rhythmically and harmonically, but they have their whole lives before them to experiment.  The important thing now is that they have all of the elements to be successful, and I think that they will be.

DISARM THE DESCENT (KILLSWITCH ENGAGE) — BEST ALBUM OF ANY GENRE IN RECENT YEARS

915cohz2LYL._SL1425_Article by PJ Cornell.

Syndicated from the Asterisked Music Journal.

Assessment: 10 out of 10.

Bottom line up front: While this band’s ultra-intense brand of metalcore may not be for everyone, I would nevertheless venture to say that it is, quite possibly, the greatest album of any genre to be put out in recent years. (Full disclosure: I’ve been a fan of this band for a while; I’ve liked them ever since I heard their album Alive or Just Breathing, and every since they released The End of Heartache, I’ve considered them to be my favorite band — so I’ve got a strong, pro-KsE bias).

Highlights: Jesse Leach comes screaming back with a holy, fiery vengeance, shaking Hell itself to its core with songs like The New Awakening (“I… WILL… NOT… LIVE… IN… FEAR!” — their best song of the album, which is sure to inspire riotous moshing in the audience), A Tribute to the Fallen (“In the end, we will not stand alone!”), and, of course, the rhythmically aggressive Beyond the Flames. Their slowest, most exotic, and gorgeously romantic song, Always, is, paradoxically, perhaps also the most intense song of the release. A masterpiece.

Criticisms: None. I love that Mr. Leach is back with the band. My heart goes out to Howard Jones, as he struggles with his diabetes.

Conclusion: This is an incredibly powerful album which, in a time of political upheaval, rising tempers, escalating tensions, and deep spiritual awakening, is both timeless, and very much a phenomenon of its time and place. If you are a man prone to trembling with righteous ire, if you are praying man, if you experience feelings of open aggression to the accelerating creep of tyranny, lies and injustice all around you, and if you are frustrated by the domination of fear and insecurity in our world, then this is the band and album for you.

WICKED WISDOM

04Article by Barbara Cornell.

Syndicated from Barbara Cornell’s personal blog.

Just checked out Jada Pinkette Smith’s death metal band, Wicked Wisdom. They ain’t fixing to take over Metallica’s market share anytime soon (too bad, really), but they’re not half bad. Even though metal is viewed as an angry, young, white man’s genre, it really is an equal opportunity crowd.

That’s not as true with other genres, which seem to be more comfortable in their own demographic. Yes, there are a few white rappers (Eminem, Vanilla Ice — if he even still counts; his most repeated lyric these days is likely, «Would you like fries with that?» and that’s really it), but mostly they’re black. Yes, there are a few old fart pop singers (Paul McCartney…um…), but mostly they’re barely post pubescent, pimplies. Try being a white blues singer or guitar player, and you’ll find yourself faced with «Who does he think he is? White man trying to be John Lee Hooker. Psht.» And try to sell pop music to the teeny-boppers, the Beliebers, if you’re old and wrinkled…good luck with that.

The metal crowd is as likely to embrace the Killswitch Engages, the Sevendusts, the Within Temptations, the AC/DC’s (I heard Angus and his school boy uniform recently celebrated their Golden Anniversary) among us, as they are the Avenged Sevenfolds, and the Five Finger Death Punches. Black, white, latino, asian, male, female, young, old, gay, straight, christian, satanist, atheist, liberal or conservative, the metal crowd just does not care. Just bring it hard, fast and intense.

EXPANSIONS (KRIS BECKER): THE KIND OF ART MUSIC THE MARKET MIGHT ACCEPT

photoArticle by PJ Cornell.

Syndicated from the Asterisked Music Journal.

Assessment: 9.7 out of 10.

Bottom line up front: For several decades now, the culture of the so called “art music” genre, which, in most cases might more aptly be called “academic music;” the institutional heir of what is known as “classical” music, has been to shun anything which might be construed as being accessible enough to be sold to the general public. This condescending attitude toward the listener has, predictably, led to the decline of art music consumption to an amount approaching zero. Kris Becker (composer and piano virtuoso) is a refreshing exception to this trend. This release abounds with clever quartal harmonies set to jazzy rhythms, and an upbeat attitude that, while sophisticated, does not take itself so seriously as to be a burden to listen to.

Highlights: This album, while being largely consistent in style (as opposed to some of his earlier releases, which were eclectic, to say the least), expresses a very wide range of emotional content, from the pensive Elegy, to the blindingly bright and upbeat Piano Sonata #1. One thing this release is not is boring — at any point in time. The harmonic center tends to shift suddenly, with little warning, and by the time we’ve processed the occurrence, we’re on to something else. The harmonic content, in general, is stable enough to not lose the audience, yet varied, dissonant, and progressive enough to hold the attention of the listener throughout each track.

Criticisms: This album does not break new ground in any revolutionary way; it sounds a lot like some of Barber’s better works — but it certainly displays mastery of the art. Think Hindemith spruced up for the market place. This isn’t even really a criticism; you could say that creating market-acceptable art music is a massive innovation in and of itself.

Conclusion: This is a highly sophisticated and listen-able release that displays a lot of theoretical, compositional, and performance mastery, while avoiding the common pitfall of being out of touch with what people want to hear.

NO WAY IN NO WAY OUT (SILLS AND SMITH): ALTERNATIVE TO THE ALTERNATIVE

51omOu6uGcL._SL500_AA280_Article by PJ Cornell.

Syndicated from the Asterisked Music Journal.

Assessment: 9.0 out of 10.

Bottom line up front: Imagine yourself somewhere in Canada. There’s snow on the ground. It’s dark. It’s cold. As you walk down the ice-laden road, you see a bar nestled amidst the pines. The lights inside flicker a warm glow out onto the frozen ground below. As you approach, you hear a band playing. The music is as warm and inviting as the weather outside is cold and harsh. You step into the bar. The band’s drummer gives you a smile and a nod as you approach the bar. You order a whiskey on the rocks. The drink is cold, but sweet, and warms you as it goes down. You let the fire on the hearth, your stiff drink, and the full sound of the band wash over you until you’re relaxed from head to toe.

Highlights: The best part of this album is that it is so stylistically expansive. There’s something for everybody: metal, post-hippie jams, country, adult alternative, and good old alternative rock. This band’s sound is very thick, and the songs have good trajectory. Would it be Different is a Pink Floydesque favorite of mine. Lot’s of complex harmonies, good use of vocal technique, and amazing guitar solos. Melancholy World is another really good one; it’s a very upbeat, yet emotionally complex song with a beat that anyone can get behind, and guitar solos that make your soul ache. I Can’t Reach You is a good bluesy jam. In Pain, they demonstrate their artistic versatility by busting out a straight-up numetal anthem which is strangely consistent with the feel of the rest of the album. These Ghosts is a dreamlike song with a country feel.

Criticisms: My only real criticism is that, in some of their songs, they would do well to space out the lyrics a little more. It occasionally seems that they try to compress too many words into a short space. They would do well to use shorter poems, or else give their song a little more space to breathe. They’re choruses are usually the highlights of their songs; for example, in I’m Right Here, their verses are little too wordy, but the chorus: “I’m right heeeeeeeere, I’m right heeeeeeeere….” gives me chills every time.

Conclusion: This is an excellent album, overall. The more you listen to it, the more you like it. This album is better than their first one, a worthy effort in its own right (review pending) and I think the next one will be even better. I look forward to hearing it.