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Stone Sour – Meanwhile In Burbank
This is the second review in a row where I unwittingly stumbled upon an album of cover songs. This one, like the review of the album by Prong, took me a song before I realized what I was getting myself into. But, unlike the Prong tribute album, this had a different affect on me.
The first song, “We Die Young,” on Stone Sour’s EP of cover songs entitled, Meanwhile in Burbank, reminded me a lot of Alice in Chains. I wasn’t familiar with the song but the voice was very similar to that of the late great Layne Staley and I wondered if that was the intention. Guess it was and, honestly, not a big fan of that kind of thing. It’s not a bad cover but it doesn’t really add anything new or different. Might as well just listen to the original.
Same goes for “Love Gun” originally recorded by the one and only KISS. Lead singer Corey Taylor sounds very-much-sort of-like Paul Stanley minus the refined glam edge that Stanley has perfected. Again, not bad…but might as well listen to the original.
Stone Sour also tries to tackle the Judas Priest classic, “Heading out to the Highway” with about the same result – except that Taylor thankfully sounds nothing at all like Rob Halford. Definitely should listen to the original.
The fourth song on the EP marks a slight return to the sound-alike theme in a slightly subdued version of Metallica’s “Creeping Death.” Like the others before, it’s a well-made cover song but I just can’t help but harp on the fact that if you’ re not going to bring anything new to a great song by a great band – why do it? Same goes for that song as the band takes a stab at Black Sabbath’s, “Children of the Grave.” Ozzy, err, I mean Taylor is back to his mimicking ways but without the awe that the original song brings.
I suppose if you are a big fan of Stone Sour then hearing these songs would probably be pretty cool but they really can’t hold a candle to the originals. What you end up with is an album full of songs that would be pretty cool to hear in a bar on a Wednesday night somewhere in Middle America.
Prong – Songs From The Black Hole
I have to admit, it took me three songs to realize Songs From The Black Hole was an all-cover album. That’s when I heard a song that sounded very familiar to me. Who could it be? Wait. What? The Butthole Surfers? Really? Yes! So that opened up my eyes and as I read down the song list, I started seeing more familiar titles from some of my favorite bands like Bad Brains, Fugazi, Black Flag, Husker Du, Sisters of Mercy, Killing Joke and Neil Young. Wait. Neil Young? Really? Yes! But more on that in a minute…
So I went back and started over and it made more sense why lead singer Tommy Victor (native New Yorker) sounds sort of English in the first song, “Doomsday.” While taking it to that extreme may be a little much, it’s still a killer song and the right choice to kick start the album. And with each song, I found more of the same from these veterans of industrial metal. I would never have thought that a band could do justice to a Butthole Surfers song but Gibby Haynes and the boys would be stoked to hear Prong’s version of “Goofy’s Concern.” I know I was.
Then I got to thinking. Songs From The Black Hole really isn’t just a cover album. In my opinion, it’s also a tribute album and one that might also open the doors to a whole new world for listeners who may not be familiar with (or familiar enough with) some of the bands that may have influenced the members of Prong in one way or another. And if you’re like me and are familiar with most if not all of the bands covered, then Songs is sort of like taking a refreshingly different path down memory lane. Might actually make you break out some old albums.
Oh…and Neil Young. Really? Doesn’t seem to fit with the other bands, right? Who cares! Prong’s haunting rendition of “Cortez The Killer” does the song justice and is a fitting end to a really cool album.
Revolve – The Road to Here
This is a review of the debut EP from the band, Revolve. I don’t have very much information for you about the band at this time other than this EP, The Road to Here, was produced by Clint Lowery of Sevendust and will be available digitally on April 21, 2015 and physically on May 1, 2015. They also have a website, www.revolveofficial.com that only includes a pretty cool preview of the songs from the EP.
The first song on the EP, “Believe,” might just have you doing that as it will no doubt get your blood pumping right from the start. The music in this song is tight – especially the drums – and the guitar solo is refreshingly just that…a guitar solo like they used to do them back in the day. The other songs stay true to the new metal style without going crazy with post-production fillers that so many bands fall victim to these days.
The standout song for me, “Buried Alive,” starts out with a trippy intro that leads right into a musically powerful song that works very well with the lead singer’s vocals.
What I now know after listening to The Road to Here from Revolve is that this band has a lot of talent and potential and have put out a solid debut effort. It will certainly be interesting to see how Revolve evolves over time.
Full Devil Jacket – Valley of Bones
Dear bands I’ve been critical of recently,
Do yourself a favor and listen to Full Devil Jacket’s, Valley of Bones, if you were not clear on my criticisms of your work and the direction I believe you’d be better off taking. Valley of Bones is exactly how new metal or alternative metal – or whatever you want to call it – should sound. It rocks. Plain and simple. It is guitars, drums, vocals, and the right amount of production that serves to highlight the music rather than suffocate it. The reunited boys from Tennessee have put together a long-awaited album (15 years since their first full length one) of excellent hard rock songs that all bands, new and old, should use as a blueprint for success.
Instead of using technology to manufacture creativity, the band mostly uses the traditional tools of hard rock along with their immense talent on songs like “We Got the Love”- a fast-paced and upbeat rock song with just the right amount of the deep, blood-curling vocals from lead singer, Josh Brown. And if you like that style of metal, as do I, then you can’t do much better than Brown on tracks like “Blood of the Innocent” and the ripping title track, “Valley of Bones.”
Other standouts for me include, “What if I say” – a solid rock ballad-esque song that never loses its integrity to producers with happy fingers and dollar signs in their eyes. “The Monument” is a great song that reminds me a lot of the best of Alice in Chains but with a fresher, up-to-date sound that is all their own. “Picturebox Voodoo” – a really cool White Zombie-like song (still all FDJ) is a great example of using technology to one’s advantage as it accentuates the song instead of overpowering it.
The highlight of the album, for me, is a kind of quiet and traditional rock song called “Paper Crown.” From the drums to the classic guitar solos to the crisp vocals, this is the song that you can crank up in your car in heavy traffic and not worry a thing about who’s watching you.
If I had a knock at all, it would be that Valley of Bones ends with an excellent, heartfelt ballad (mostly piano, strings, vocals) instead of something powerful like “Killers” to put an exclamation point on what is a killer album.
Like a Storm – Awaken the Fire
Crikey. What to say about this New Zealand band’s sort of 3rd studio album, Awaken the Fire? It’s OK. Sounds a lot like, well, sounds a lot like a previous album of theirs, Chaos Theory, Part I, because all but four songs on this new one come from Chaos Theory.
But Like a Storm also sounds like a lot of other bands on the market right now in how they creatively mosh just about every style of so-called metal together to make their songs. But just like with similar bands, this style of music all too often creates identity issues that are hard to overcome. What you have is a musically talented band that just can’t seem to figure out who they want to be. Should we be Thrash metal? Heavy metal? New metal? Rock-n-roll? Top 40? So instead of picking one – of which they would probably be great – they throw it all in a blender and there you have it. Perhaps we could add a new style to the genre called, “Formula” metal?
For me, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Most songs on Awaken the Fire are musically tight and will provide you with quite a few new metal head-banging-ish opportunities. I couldn’t really pick one over another to highlight because they all sound kind of the same to me. Again, not bad, just not great. Personally though, I prefer songs like “Southern Skies,” which showcases a stripped down version of the band without all of the metal hoopla. What we get in return is a good, honest rock-n-roll song. Same goes for “Ordinary.” It may be a little bit Nickelback-esque but it proves that Like a Storm has the potential to not be so ordinary after all.