Song Review: Avenged Sevenfold- “Hail to the King”

Avenged Sevenfold arguably has one of the most loyal and passionate fanbases of any modern heavy metal band.  So naturally, there should be a reasonable level of elation from deathbat worshipers everywhere in response to the band’s newest single, “Hail to the King.”

The song- hot off the presses as of two hours ago- is like a three-way hybrid of Iron Maiden, Guns N’ Roses, and Metallica.  It includes much of what one would expect from a standard A7X tune:  and a gravely M. Shadows vocal performance, a powerful rhythmic backdrop from Johnny Christ and Zacky Vengance, and a collection of Synyster Gates lead riffs that will hurt the fingers of the guitar-illiterate.  The only notable deviation from the band’s  typical metalcore/classic metal formula is the contributions of Arin Ilejay (who replaced the late James “The Rev” Sullivan earlier this year).  Ilejay pounds away at his kit and makes it clear that he is a solid replacement for a nearly irreplaceable musician. 

“Hail to the King” packs a punch, but not a wallop.  It lacks the overtly-dominate hooks and stand-out guitar riffs displayed on older songs like “Beast and the Harlot” and “Nightmare,” but it still gives listeners a strong sampling of the upcoming album’s potential.

Avenged Sevenfold- “Hail to the King:” 3.5/5

Listen to “Hail to the King” here:

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Album Review: Device (Self-titled Debut)

An brief glance at “Device’s” opening tracks shows a collection of songs that sound all too familiar. Heavy, chopping guitars, angry lyrics, and tribal-esque chants and growls?…Surely this must be a new Disturbed album.

Nope, it’s not.  It’s only when the whistling synthesizers of “Villify” kick in that it becomes clear this is actually something different.  Device, David Draiman’s first project since Disturbed began its hiatus, grinds through songs slightly in the same vein as Nine Inch Nails or Marylin Manson.  Songs like “War of Lies,” “Haze,” and “Hunted” find Draiman plastered atop a factory of crunchy guitars and industrial-inspired loops and beats.

A closer look at the album reveals some memorable collaborations with other musicians.  Lzzy Hale plays Lita Ford on a beautiful, stand-out cover of “Close My Eyes Forever,” while Serj Tankian’s rebellious vocals provide extra edge to “Out of Line.

Other notable guests include Avenged Sevenfold’s M. Shadows, Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler, and Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, all of which pair very well with Draiman.  Shadows and Draiman’s combined vocals, in particular, are a match made in hard rock heaven.

It is pretty hard to listen to Dramain’s commanding, blast-beat style vocals without immediately thinking of Disturbed.  The vocalist is guilty of occasionally using recycled hooks from the “Believe” and “Indestructible” sessions, but he does take periodic strides outside of his comfort zone.

“Device” toes the line between expected and experimental more than it runs past it, but it still stands as a strong sampling of what is currently a growing thought-pool of potential.

All in all:

Standout Tracks:  “Villify,” “Haze,” “Close My Eyes Forever,” “Out of Line,” “Opinion”

Device- “Device:” 3.5/5

Song Review: Volbeat- “The Hangman’s Body Count”

Volbeat have always been about pushing the boundaries on what is considered conventional for a major rock band, blending inventive metal riffs with just about every genre imaginable.

Where their latest single, “The Hangman’s Body Count” is concerned, however, the band takes a much more straightforward hard rock approach, using shifting time signatures and impressive lead guitar solos to keep things as fresh as possible.  Michael Poulsen keeps his James Hetfield/Johnny Cash hybrid vocals on a leash, but he still manages to whip up some pretty catchy hooks.

“The Hangman’s Body Count” isn’t the most astounding of Volbeat’s singles, but it is still a solid effort that will certainly please the band’s fans.

Volbeat- “The Hangman’s Body Count:” 3/5

Song Review: Alice in Chains- “Stone”

Lately, a considerable portion of Alice in Chains’ fans have remained skeptical about the band continuing onward without the late, great Layne Staley.

But if there was ever a time to leave the past in the past, that time is now.  And “Stone” is one of the main reasons why.

The successor to the chart-topping hit, “Hollow,” “Stone” kicks off with a thundering bass line before segueing into one slimy three-ton behemoth of a guitar riff.

The beauty of the song is that while it does evoke fond memories of “Dirt” and “Facelift,” it stands as its own unique piece of Alice in Chains material.  The band’s trademark mucky guitars are complimented with a crisp, modern sound that packs an unbelievable punch.

If “Stone” does not get your blood boiling for Chains’ upcoming album “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here,” there is a strong chance you may not have a pulse.

Alice in Chains- “Stone:” 5/5

The Ten Best Songs from Green Day’s “Uno, Dos, and Tre” Trilogy.

Green Day is a band that has been admired since the early 1990’s.  Known for their snotty, sarcastic lyrics, hard hitting riffs, and machine gun drum fills, the post-punk trio have appealed to a large variety of listeners during their career.  However, a common complaint among fans is that the band has been unable to live up to its magnum opus, “Dookie,” since its release in 1994.

The debate over vintage and modern Green Day still rages on, but however you look at it, the band has never come close to overshadowing their impressive past until now;  “Uno, Dos, and Tre” the band’s recent trilogy of new albums, provide some of their best work in quite a while.

Here are what I believe to be the ten best tracks from the trilogy:

1. “Let Yourself Go”– Fast-paced, edgy, and at times, pretty humorous, “Let Yourself Go” is one of Green Day’s best singles in a long time.  The song deserves to be considered alongside the classics from “Dookie” and “Insomniac.”

2.  “X-Kid”“X-Kid” is a perfect radio single and one of the best moments of the trilogy.  The song includes the catchiest hooks of the entire “Tre” album.

3.  “Fuck Time”– Green Day play with pleasing, classic rock-style energy throughout “Fuck Time,” a song that swings on like a flaming pendulum.  “See You Tonight” may be “Dos’s” opening track, but “Fuck Time” is the real attention-grabber.

4.  “Nuclear Family”The initial indicator that vintage Green Day had made a partial comeback, Nuclear Family kicks the trilogy off in the best way possible:  with a memorable lead guitar riff and a furious drum performance from Tre Cool.

5.  “Oh Love”One of the most recognizable of Green Day’s newer songs, “Oh Love” swings the door shut on “Uno” with its choppy scratches and captivating guitar solo.

6“Kill the DJ”- “Kill the DJ” may be a little unconventional for a post-punk band like Green Day, but they nail it anyway, jamming in a style akin to the Strokes or Arctic Monkeys.

7“The Forgotten”– Yes, it is easy to question “The Forgotten’s” substance due to its inclusion in the “Breaking Dawn Pt. 2” soundtrack, but, this notion aside, the song is a well-written, emotionally-charged ballad that finds Green Day channeling their inner Elton John.

8.  Carpe Diem– “Carpe Diem’s” opening chords sound all too familiar in Green Day’s catalog, but the song still manages to ring with an original tone.  The song continues to stoke the fire started by its predecessor tracks, “Nuclear Family” and “Stay the Night.”

9.  “Troublemaker”– Green Day chip away at “Troublemaker” in a controlled groove.  The song’s purposely ridiculous lyrics and well-placed “hey!” hooks make it a staple of “Uno.”

10.  “Stray Heart”– Despite opening with the exact same bass line as Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl,” “Stray Heart” quickly becomes its own song.  A distressed Billie Joe Armstrong sings of love and longing during the song’s chorus.

My Top 10 Rock Albums of 2012

1. Soundgarden- “King Animal”        

No contest.  Soundgarden have returned, seemingly right where the left off.  “King Animal’s” songs churn with crunchy grunge riffs, but they also find Soundgarden as focused as ever on small details and complexity.  Songs such as “Taree” and “Blood on the Valley Floor” loudly ring in the band’s return, while “Black Saturday” and “Halfway There” complement the album with a beautiful, acoustic shimmer.  This is the album that Soundgarden fans (and most rock fans in general) have been craving for years.  “King Animal” is the undisputed best rock album of 2012.

2. Rush- “Clockwork Angels”      

It has a big sci-fi plot, absolutely no filler, and crushing production value that rivals that of modern heavy metal bands (not to mention the most beautiful outro track of the year).  Rush’s “Clockwork Angels” is not just an album, it’s an experience.

3. Deftones- “Koi No Yokan”     

It must be easy for bands to become envious of Deftones; the band seems to be incapable of releasing a bad album.  “Koi No Yokan” is Deftones’ second album without longtime bassist, Chi Cheng.  With masterpiece tracks such as “Leathers,” “Entombed,” and “Tempest,” the band has continued to honor Cheng’s legacy in the best possible way.  Every second of “Koi No Yokan” tugs at a variety of emotional strings.

4. Dinosaur Jr.- “I Bet on Sky”    

Dinosaur Jr. released some of their best work in the 1980s and 1990s, but recently, they have been giving their classics a run for their money.  “I Bet on Sky” builds off the perfection of 2009’s “Farm” and takes it to whole new heights.  “Almost Fare” and “Pierce the Morning Rain,” among others, are some of the best songs the band has ever written.  J Mascis’s modest vocals and powerful guitar runs have arguably never sounded better.

 

5. Wallflowers- “Glad All Over”    

“Glad All Over” was widely anticipated by many, and it did not disappoint in the least. From the start, the album showcases some of the band’s best work of the last decade.  “Love is a Country,” “Constellation Blues,” and the Mick Jones-graced “Misfits and Lovers,” in particular, are very impressive cuts.  Jakob Dylan and the boys have found fresh energy.

6. Offspring- “Days Go By”    

The Offspring have continued to move in a logical direction with “Days Go By.”  The album shines with surprisingly captivating, controlled riffs and solos, all while echoing vintage Offspring  by means of “Cruising California (Bumping in My Trunk)” and the appropriate, burn out conclusion of “Slim Pickens Does the Right Thing and Rides the Bomb to Hell.”  “Days Go By” proves that the Offspring are beginning to truly reach their full creative potential.

7. Green Day- “Uno”    

For those who favor old Green Day as opposed to politically charged, rock opera Green Day, “Uno” stands as a major breath of fresh air.  The album takes the smooth production of “American Idiot” and “21st Century Breakdown” and combines it with edgy, “don’t give a f*ck” lyrics reminiscent of “Dookie” and “Insomniac.”  Uno may be Green Day’s strongest album of the past decade.

8. Bruce Springsteen- “Wrecking Ball”    

When Bruce Springsteen releases a new album, brilliant craftsmanship is usually a given.  “Wrecking Ball” is no different;  songs like “Death to My Hometown,” “Jack of All Trades,” and the opening anthem, “We Take Care of Our Own” prove that The Boss is still one of the best in the business.

9. Three Days Grace- “Transit of Venus”    

Though not as full or emotionally charged as past Three Days Grace albums, “Transit of Venus” stands as a strong effort.  Most of the album finds the band broadening their horizons with new dynamics and song structures.  However, songs such as “Operate” and “Anonymous” still give longtime fans a reason to listen.  Regardless, it is evident that Adam Gontier’s songwriting has improved immensely.

10. Stone Sour- “House of Gold and Bones Part 1”    

Despite the fact that Stone Sour have had quite a lot of success over the years, they never truly seemed capable of producing an album that felt complete.  That is, until they released House of Gold and Bones Part 1.  The album currently stands as their magnum opus.