Friday, October 31, 2014

'Alone in North America' (featuring The Morning After Girls) Movie Review

STREAM: the morning after girls - "alone"

'Alone in North America' (featuring The Morning After Girls) Movie Review
Touring has to be grueling for an indie band...there are many stories about the tempers, tensions and breakups that come from the forced 'co-habitation' of band mates for long hours at a time in small touring vans. The documentary "Alone in North America" follows the Australia-to-Brooklyn-to-Australia neo-psychedelic outfit, The Morning After Girls on their U.S. tour in support of their most recent release, alone.

"Alone in North America" premiered earlier this month at the CBGB Music and Film Festival and this short film gives a 'you were there' perspective of life on the road which is combined with concert footage from various tour stops.  Director David Hilbert does an excellent job of capturing the desolate, wide-open spaces of (presumably) middle-America along with footage of the band members interacting in what seems to be a very small touring van as the band drives from gig to gig.  The 'road picture' footage is intermixed with some killer live performance, which include the previously unreleased song, "Corruption".

It is somewhat amusing that The Morning After Girls' bassist EJ Hagan had the following to say about the film: "I was like, 'You made a movie?'...I thought maybe it would be something on a website or something people could view on YouTube. I didn't expect the festival."

One of the pull quotes for the movie stated "To trust someone is to allow them to be everything they are" and the viewer can quickly see the friendship the band members have formed being out on the road together.  The "...departures, arrivals and deportations"  occurred more recently as half the band is back in Australia due to visa issues but the members are currently working on their next disc.

For anyone who isn't familiar with The Morning After Girls' sound, vocalist Sacha Lucashenko clearly summed up his views on the band's sound in a 2012 interview with The Big Takeover:

The Big Takeover: Do you get tired of comparisons to typical psych bands such as Spaceman 3 or Brian Jonestown Massacre, or are you used to it? I myself hear bits of Oasis, The Verve, and Engineers in your vocals, especially in the dynamics of quiet and loud across the record. Can you expound a bit on this?

Sacha: Those psych comparisons are really boring for us – especially when regarding Alone. It almost guarantees the journalist or whoever concerned hasn’t even listened to it. You’re right, I’d draw more comparisons to the ones you’ve mentioned. Also modern classical composers like Arvo Part and Gyorgi Ligeti were major influences. Plus the rock records that were coming out by New Order, Interpol, and Oasis in the early 2000’s. That was a great period for consistent albums coming out from bands. I just think we sound a lot like The Morning After Girls.

The Morning After Girls

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Grayces (Nashville Grunge/Pysch) Guest Editorial on Touring / CMJ Shows at Bowery Electric on Oct. 21st / Day Show at Spike Hill on Oct. 24th

The Grayces (Nashville Grunge/Pysch) Guest Editorial on Touring / Shows at Bowery Electric on Oct. 21st / Day Show at Spike Hill on Oct. 24th
The road. The road is a treacherous place for a heart set in its ways and a mind filled with the assumptions of inexperience.

Lets see...what can I say about traveling on the road as a musician? Always be prepared for just about anything. Take time to research and learn about the places you are going. Never assume you know about a place or its people based solely on what somebody else has told you. Don't get discouraged if something doesn't go to plan or something goes wrong. Fall in love with the process.

As musician folk, we can fall into a mundane pattern of show-to-show city-to-city tunnel vision when touring on the road. I commend the focus based around the main point of putting on a killer show but I do believe there is a lot to gain between the dots. For instance, taking some time to find out what a town has to offer, besides just the venue you are playing at can be quite rewarding for all involved. While we were touring through St. Louis we had researched and decided to visit The City Museum. Best idea ever! This place was literally an interactive art piece designed to be a playground for all ages. I hadn't felt that free since I was 7 years old. There was a point I was clapping my hands smiling and screaming weeeeeeeeeee as I slid down a couple story-twisting slide in the midst of a beautiful sculpture. This shared experience brought us closer together as a band and made for a killer show later that night. If we didn't take the time to understand the city we were in, we would have never found this place. I recommend it to all.

We had never played in Detroit until we scheduled a show as a stop for this tour. I heard so many stories and opinions about Detroit prior to our arrival. Stories of deluged danger. Let me tell you, don’t take to heart everything you hear. The people of Detroit were some of the most enjoyable, kind, generous and easygoing folk we’ve met on this tour. All those stories we heard turned out to be 100% not applicable. I am so glad we didn’t listen to outside opinions and stuck to our gut, which was telling us “Go…go to Detroit.” It made for a wonderful memory with wonderful people.

Sometimes things do not go to plan when you’re on the road but don’t freak out. Our show scheduled in inner city Chicago was a wash. Let’s just say it wasn’t worth the efforts we put into it and leave it at that. Discouraged by the evening, we drove back to where we were staying in the burbs. When we arrived back to our place of rest for the evening, our friends 2 smiling faces greeted us with some good news not knowing the horrible night we had. They had sent out to a local record shop to see if we could play an in-store while we were in town, they had accepted and it was all set up. This off the cuff show was a great success! We met many wonderful people and now have the proper connections to have successful shows in and outside the city next time we come through. The road has many hidden gems if your open to the flow of what it throws at you.

In conclusion, what I am trying to say, is the more you open yourself up to the diverse possibilities of the road the larger your chance of developing the ability of widened perspective. This will aid in the successful capturing of once elusive beauties and new points of view. If you take time to notice life as you are living it, you will always have more than you started with. I believe, as a musician, it is important to gain these experiences, as it is essential for creating music that gives back to your audience with the honesty of true experience. Taking the good with the bad, learning and never letting it defeat your forward motion of predestination - that is life on the road.

-Thoughts on the road brought to you by Iz Stone of The Grayces somewhere between Pennsylvania and New York City-

The Grayces

Brainstorm - 'Firestorm' CD Review (AFM Records)

Brainstorm - 'Firestorm' CD Review (AFM Records)
While German power metalers Brainstorm’s tenth disc, Firesoul (AFM Records), came out earlier this year, I never got a chance to put my thoughts about the disc on ‘paper’. After the local Judas Priest show, I was reflecting that Brainstorm’s new disc captures a lot of the elements that were missing on Judas Priest’s most recent release so I thought I should finally sit down and knock out a review.

Brainstorm’s core sound falls solidly into the power metal genre but the band extends this sound to include elements of NWOBHM with the down-tuned dual lead guitars of Torsten Ihlenfeld and Milan Loncaric, light orchestral elements along with a little bit of prog, which includes clean, technical guitar solos. Adding to this, Andy B. Franck’s raspy but melodic vocals are directly comparable to artists like Rob Halford or Bruce Dickenson though Franck never goes for the high-end scream.

The disc starts with “Erased By the Dark”, which is an old-school power metal number that is powered by some breakneck drumming and the band just picks up the pace from here. The title track, “Firesoul”, is the next cut and this track is a bit more aggressive. This number focuses around driving guitar riffs and dual NWOBHM guitar leads and the vocals match this intensity.

One of the many standout numbers is “Entering Solitude”, which is a slower number than the disc openers. This track has a ‘classic rock’/AOR feel centered around clean melodic guitar lines, soaring vocals on the chorus and a melodic guitar solo toward the back-half of the song. This number is followed by “Recall The Real”, which really changes up the pace with its Gregorian choral intro and outro. After this ethereal opening, this slow burning number kicks into high-gear with staccato guitar riffs which are accompanied by soaring vocals and meaty, melodic choruses.

Looking at some of the other tracks, “Feed Me Lies” is a return to the aggressive and driving sounds of the disc’s opener and this track is the one that stuck with me after a few spins of the disc. “The Chosen” is the closest that Brainstorm comes to ‘traditional’ power metal as the keys are higher in the mix for this number and the riffs are downplayed in favor of orchestral flourishes. The soaring choruses are a notable standout along with the very clean guitar lines, which include a technical power-prog solo. The disc wraps up with “…And I Wonder”, which is another AOR rocker and the minimal instrumentation allows this number to be powered by Franck’s vocals.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

At the Gates Release 'Death and the Labyrinth' Video from Forthcoming Release 'At War With Reality' (Century Media)

At the Gates Release 'Death and the Labyrinth' Video from Forthcoming Release 'At War With Reality' (Century Media)
Not to be a total fanboy geek but...meeting At The Gates was one of the highlights for me of MDF 2014. The band's studio followup to 1995's Slaughter of the Soul, entitled At War with Reality, will be released in North America on Monday, Oct. 27th. Similar to last year's comeback album from Carcass, Century Media is releasing this disc in a number of different formats and on different color vinyl.

At War With Reality is available in the following versions:
- Jewelcase CD (20 page booklet)
- Digipak CD (20 page booklet; 2 bonus tracks; patch)
- Cassette (limited to 500 copies worldwide)
- Digital download
- Gatefold 180gr. LP (20 page booklet; poster)
- Ltd. mediabook CD (40 page booklet; 2 bonus tracks; patch)
- Ltd. 3-disc artbook (48 page booklet; 4 bonus tracks; 5.1 surround mix DVD; patch) - limited to 3000 copies
- Ltd. 2x10" boxset (20 page booklet; poster) - limited to 1000 copies worldwide via CM Distro

The limited edition mediabook and digipak format will include the bonus tracks "Language Of The Dead" and "The Skin Of A Fire", as well as a vintage ATG-logo patch. The 3-disc artbook format will also include the patch and those same two bonus tracks, as well as a demo version of "Eater Of Gods" and a cover version of "Re-Animation" by Canadian cult thrash metallers Sacrifice. The 3rd disc is an exclusive bonus DVD featuring a special 5.1 surround mix of the album.

The 12" LP format will be available in the following colored vinyl editions:
- Black (unlimited)
- Transparent red (limited to 300 copies via CM Webshop EU)
- Dark green (limited to 500 copies via CM Distro EU)
- Clear (limited to 500 copies in Sweden)
- Lilac marble (limited to 100 copies via CM Distro USA) *sold out*
- Blue marble (limited to 200 copies via CM Distro USA) *sold out*
- Magenta marble (limited to 200 copies via CM Distro USA) *sold out*
- Ash grey marble (limited to 500 copies via CM Distro USA)
- Silver (limited to 400 copies in the USA)
- Gold (limited to 1500 copies in the USA)
- White (limited to 100 copies; exclusive 2015 MDF edition in the USA)

In advance of the release, At The Gates has now debuted a video for the album track "Death And The Labyrinth" which was directed by Patric Ullaeus (IN FLAMES, ARCH ENEMY, LACUNA COIL, etc.).

Tomas Lindberg (vocals) comments: "We had a very special idea about the kind of approach we wanted for the first video from 'At War With Reality'. What we needed was someone gifted enough to throw himself artistically into the project full on. The lyrics to the song are very multi-layered and surreal, so we wanted someone to create a fevered dreamworld that went with the melancholic frustration and dramatic desperation that we feel comes across in the song. This is exactly what Patric has created for us. It's his vision of the music and lyrics, which compliments the track perfectly in my opinion. I couldn't be happier!"

Director Patric Ullaeus adds: "It's always nice to work with creative artists who are like-minded. Ideas seem to flow easily. We had a lot of fun making our vision come true. Being on these amazing locations in Antelope Canyon, Arizona was truly an unforgettable experience."

At The Gates

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Tom Vek (UK Electronic Post-Punk) Plays Baby's All Right on 10/20 and Mercury Lounge on 10/21

Tom Vek (UK Electronic Punk) Plays Baby's All Right in Brooklyn on 10/20 and Mercury Lounge on 10/21
London, England-based artist Tom Vek debuted his video for “Pushing Your Luck” back in August and this song – Vek’s open message to the Internet age – is a droning, moody track that builds to dancefloor proportions and can be found on his third album Luck, which was released in the US on June 10, 2014 via Moshi Moshi Records.

Following a two and a half week long UK tour, Vek will land stateside next week for a run shows in New York and Los Angeles. He will perform at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn, NY on October 20th; at Mercury Lounge in Manhattan on October 21st; and at The Echo in Los Angeles on October 23rd. A current itinerary is below.

Drawing on the modern anxiety of finding your place in a world saturated by information, Luck plunges the personal to deliver tracks that are sincere, angry and poignant. As ever, Vek delivers an album that eludes straightforward definition. As he puts it, the ‘garage rock for the pro-tools generation’ is alive and well, only now it is met with the grandest production and some of the biggest beats of his career. ‘There’s noise everywhere,’ Vek tells us, but with enough force we might return to a place of truth. Luck is the magnificent offering from an artist who has achieved the rare feat of preserving the seduction of youthful rebellion and marrying it with experience. It’s big, angry and impossible to ignore.

Over the course of his decade-long career, Vek has forged a reputation as one of London’s most enigmatic and exciting musicians. Breaking on to the scene with the attitude-spiked We Have Sound (2005), he channeled his homegrown musical prowess into a bastion of mid-90s electronic punk rock rebellion. His long awaited follow-up, Leisure Seizure (2011), was less raw but no less impactful.

Tom Vek Tour Dates:

Tom Vek

Heliosage (Symphonic Power Metal) - 'Towers in the Distance' CD Review

(Note: This single was released last year and is not on the full-length album)

Heliosage (Symphonic Power Metal) - 'Towers in the Distance' CD Review
Outside of Operatika, I haven’t seen too many US bands successfully pull off the Nordic symphonic power metal sounds of bands like Nightwish, Therion and Epica. Texas-to-Minnesota transplants Heliosaga’s self-released debut, Towers in the Distance, is an exception to this rule as the band’s ornate and majestic sounds are very comparable to these aforementioned bands. Heliosaga’s sound focuses around the soaring operatic and emotive vocals of classically trained singer Chelsea Knaack along with the melodic, yet aggressive, guitar riffs and solos and dense, swirling keyboard sounds of band leader and principal songwriter Damien Villarreal.

The band’s core sound can be heard in the riff-heavy power metal of “A Tower So Tall” “To Heal All Wounds” and “Lost”, all three of which highlight the band’s heavier side with aggressive, chugging guitar work and shredding solos. Heliosaga isn’t afraid to stray from their core as, musically, the band touches on a variety of styles across this disc. One of the highlights is the epic ‘Iron Maiden like’ rocker “All Souls”, where this 9+ minute song brings in significant proggy elements and tempo changes that will hold the listener captivated. Other styles range from the mid-tempo symphonic prog rock of “Edenscar” to the slow burning ethereal exorcisms of “Hideaway”. There are also a number of hard rock stops in between these points where Villareal’s riffs border on thrash.

While the vocals are upfront on all of the tracks, Knaack’s hypnotic vocals complement the instrumentation and never attempt to overpower it. Her vocals are the highlight of tracks like “Hideaway”, which adds angelic backing vocals that rise to the level of harmonies, and “Hunter’s Moon”, which is a hard rock number where the guitars are dialed back to allow the vocals to shine.

Heliosaga has posted on their website that they are looking for a bassist and guitar player so it seems unlikely that there will be any live dates anytime soon but this will be something to watch for in the future.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

JoyCut (Italian Experimental Rock) Play Bar Matchless on Friday, 10/17 and Trash Bar (CMJ) on 10/23

JoyCut (Italian Experimental Rock) Play Bar Matchless Friday, 10/17 and Trash Bar (CMJ) on 10/23
Bologna, Italy's JoyCut have an intriguing dark-wave/post-rock sound and a dynamic live show to go along with the music. The trio played Mercury Lounge earlier this year on their first proper US tour and the two drummers sat face to face with a guy with 'machines', both a conductor and author, in between them. According to the band's bio, "JoyCut produce a mesmerizing and conceptual sound based on dilated and biting electro sound."

The band is back in town for shows at Bar Matchless on Friday, 10/17 and Trash Bar (as part of CMJ), on Thursday, 10/23.

Fall Tour Dates:
10.13 - Wilmington, DE · Oddity Bar
10.14 - Philadelphia, PA · Johnny Brenda's
10.15 - Boston, MA · O'Brien's
10.16 - Hamden, CT · The Space
10.17 - Brooklyn, NY · Bar Matchless (Headling - 11PM, Cover is $8)
10.18 - Spring City, PA · Chaplin's
10.19 - Asbury Park, NJ · The Saint
10.21 - Montreal, CA · L'Esco
10.23 - Brooklyn, NY · Trash Bar (CMJ) (Playing at 11PM with Tuscon garage-punk act Prom Body closing out the night with a set starting at 11:45PM; Cover is $7)
10.25 - York, PA · The Depot
10.26 - Pittsburgh, PA · Howler's
10.27 - Cincinnati, OH · MOTR
10.29 - Nashville, TN · Springwater Super Club
10.30 - Paducah, KY · Maiden Alley Cinema
10.31 - Louisville, KY · Haymarket Whiskey Bar
11.01 - St. Louis, MO · Cicero's
11.02 - Wichita, KS · John Barleycorn's
11.03 - Oklahoma City, OK · Conservatory
11.04 - Houston, TX · Mango's
11.05 - Austin, TX · Holy Mountain
11.07 - New Orleans, LA · Beat Nik
11.08 - Birmingham, AL · Trim Tab Brewery
11.10 - Bloomington, IN · The Back Door
11.11 - Chicago, IL · Elbo Room
11.13 - Toronto, CA · The Silver Dollar


Exodus and Slayer Play The Wellmont Theater in Mont Clair, NJ on 11/29 / Hatriot - 'Dawn of the New Centurion' CD Review (Massacre Records)

Hatriot - 'Dawn of the New Centurion' CD Review (Massacre Records)
Thrash veterans Exodus just released their 10th album, Blood In Blood Out, on Oct. 14th and this disc features the return of vocalist Steve "Zetro" Souza, who last recorded with Exodus on their 2004 disc, Tempo of the Damned. What is interesting is that original Exodus guitarist Kirk Hammett also guests on this album with a solo on “Salt The Wound”. Slayer, Exodus and Suicidal Tendencies are out together on a fall tour and the closest the tour geta to NYC is a show at Wellmont Theater in NJ on November 29th.

What many people may not know is that Zetro is pulling double-duty as he is also the vocalist of Hatriot, a Bay-area thrash band which includes Zetro’s two sons in the lineup. Earlier this year, Hatriot released its sophomore disc, Dawn of the New Centurion, on Massacre Records.

This disc is exactly what you would expect from Zetro and crew – nine tracks (50 minutes) of hard-hitting, heavy thrash. This disc starts off with "From My Cold Dead Hands" which opens with Charleton Heston’s speech to the NRA and follows this with a slow build that will get a crowd into the pit waiting for the explosion. Hatriot doesn’t disappoint as the thrash kicks in with Zetro’s sneering, spat vocals, cross-over guitar riffs that straddle the border between speed metal and thrash and a gang vocal chorus. Across this disc, the music is punctuated by surprisingly clean production which emphasizes Hatriot’s sonic attack and, lyrically, Hatriot are pissed off about the state of the world, the hypocrisy of organized religion (check out the scathing 7+ minute “Silence in the House of the Lord”), etc. and aren’t afraid to call out the abuses that they see. The band even calls to free Pussy Riot at the end of “Superkillafragsadisticactsaresoatrocious”.

The band doesn’t stray far from their crossover thrash core, but Dawn of the New Centurion contains some complex variations on this core. “The Fear Within”, which is 7+ minutes long, is a hard rock/power metal number with a bit of doom metal thrown into the mix. This track starts with a slow burning opening and features clean, melodic guitar lines. This song then brings on gang vocals in an almost call-and-response counterpoint to Zetro’s vocals, slows radically toward the end for an introspective moment before picking back up for a boot stomping finish. “World Funeral” is a schizophrenic metal number with an aggressive gang vocal opening and some shredding riffs.