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.

ASCENDERE: METAL — SHIVA STYLE

292265_354946391214168_271990769509731_955633_739138811_nArticle by PJ Cornell.

Syndicated from the Asterisked Music Journal.

Assessment: 8.5 out of 10.

Bottom line up front: Metal is alive and well in the Indian subcontinent, and one of the better representatives of the rising Hindu (I’m assuming) Metal Horde is the band, Ascendere. With their blindingly fast and precise riffs, guitar solos dripping with chromatic flames, brutal screams, and crackling drums, these guys are a force to be reckoned with. Their single, Worthless is a fine specimen of reptilian metal brutality.

Highlights: These guys have everything hardcore metal heads are looking for in a band — driving riffs at breakneck speeds, powerful growls (focused mainly on the mids), an impressive drum performance, and great guitar solos; all set in a brutal quasi-octatonic pitch set.

Criticisms: Ascendere has demonstrated mastery of the genre. However, they have not yet added anything new. Of course the band was only formed in 2011, and they already have a very clean, sophisticated, and powerful brand of speed metal. It is not difficult to imagine that in the coming years, they may yet break new ground in the genre.

Bottom line: These guys stand out among their peers in terms of ability, although they do not yet stand out in terms of originality. That may yet come.

AMARYLLIS: A NEO-HUMANIST MANIFESTO; SHINEDOWN

Article by PJ Cornell.

Syndicated from the Asterisked Music Journal.

Overall assessment: 10 out of 10.

Bottom line up front: this album is a positively flawless accomplishment on the part of the numetal giant, Shinedown.  If this album doesn’t inspire you to take to the streets waving angry signs around, or yelling out of a bullhorn, to tell your family and friends how much you love them, and wake up each morning trying to find new ways to do what others before you only dreamed of doing, then nothing will.  When tyrants and misanthropists go to Hell, they will be forced to listen to this album over and over again, existing with the eternal realization that this is the essence of the human spirit which they tried to suppress and crush.

Highlights: The lyrics of these songs are consistently on point.  «No one’s gonna cry on the very day you die; you’re a bully.»  «You got the world on it’s knees, you’re taking all that you please; you want more!  But you’ll get nothing from me you’re like the burden we bear; you’re all the hate that we share; you want more!  But you’ll get nothing from me but enemies!»  «So have you ever been caught in a sea of despair, and your moment of truth is the day that you say ‘I’m not scared?'»  «I like to stare at the sun and think about what I’ve done.  I lie awake in my great escape.  I like crossing the line and slowly losing my mind.  Are you ok?  ‘Cause I feel fine.»  Simply amazing.  There is not a single song on this album that isn’t excellent, but my personal favorite is I’m not Alright, which is a delightfully iconoclastic song which takes sharp jabs at the simpering pricks who would like to label anyone with backbone and heart as insane.

Criticisms: None.

Conclusion: This is that rare album that will actually make you a better person the more you listen to it.  If you enjoy rock or metal even a little bit, then I vehemently recommend that you get a hold of a copy of this album.  This is probably the best album in the genre to have been published in 2012.  This is a metal masterpiece.