Album Review: Volbeat- “Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies”

Lately, Volbeat have been setting the bar high for modern hard rock- bringing a heavy and experimental, yet radio-friendly sound to a genre desperately in need of some variety.

Now, the genre-mixing virtuosos from Denmark are back with what is likely their best album to date.

“Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies,” the follow up to 2009’s successful “Beyond Heaven/Above Hell,” carries the band into a zone of noticeable focus and further experimentation.  “Lets Shake Some Dust” sets up listeners with western-style twangs and harmonica chugs that brilliantly foreshadow “The Lonesome Rider,” a later song that takes this style choice and runs with it in the most beautiful way possible.

The remainder of the album is the full package:  solid track after solid track, with very little dead space.  The infectious hooks of “Lola Montez,” an impressive cover of Young the Giant’s “My Body,” and a vicious collaboration with King Diamond on “Room 24” stand as some of the album’s major knock-out moments.

The album occasionally rings with a tone reminiscent of past Volbeat records, but for the most part, it is a total game-changer for the band.

Volbeat have, once again, done little to disappoint listeners.  “OutLaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies” is just the next step in an uncontrollable creative ascent.

All in all:

Standout Tracks:  “Cape of Our Hero,” “The Nameless One,” “Room 24,” “Lola Montez,” “My Body,” “The Lonesome Rider,” “Our Loved Ones”

Volbeat- “Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies:” 4.5/5

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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: 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

Three Days Grace- “The High Road” Song Review

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“I hate everything about you.  Why do I love you?”

–          Three Days Grace, “I Hate (Everything About You)”

“I took the low road in.  I’ll take the high road out.  I’ll do whatever it takes to be the mistake you can’t live without.”

–          Three Days Grace, “The High Road”

By comparison, it is clear that “The High Road,” Three Days Grace’s latest single, is much more passive-aggressive than their past material.

The song is the second to be released from the band’s “Transit of Venus.”  It is a straightforward hard rock ballad free of the experimental elements explored on its predecessor, “Chalk Outline.”

Adam Gontier sings of uncertainty and regret amidst echoing chords and a particularly effective string section.  While Gontier’s lyrics are nothing new, their delivery is undeniably genuine.

“The High Road” is a passionate track that is worth consideration, but at times, it toes the line between memorable and mundane.

Three Days Grace- “The High Road:” 3/5

Drowning Pool- “Saturday Night” Song Review

Ten years ago, Drowning Pool unexpectedly lost their original lead singer, Dave Williams, to heart failure.  Since Williams’s passing, the band has gone through a roulette of different vocalists over the course of three albums.

Now, following Ryan McCombs’s departure, the band has returned once again with new vocalist, Jason Moreno, and hopes to solidify a permanent line-up.  “Saturday Night,” a heavy, feel-good party anthem serves as the lead single off their upcoming, currently untitled fifth album.

The song’s lyrics aren’t exactly clever, but its arrangement masks this notion for the most part; surprisingly, despite legions of similar, contemporary bands, Drowning Pool’s signature style is still very easy to identify within seconds.  However, Moreno’s voice, though similar to McCombs’s at times, alters the band’s usual mudslide sound.  He sings with a rough, slithering draw that sounds like a fusion of Taproot and Rob Zombie.

“Saturday Night” barely compares to past Drowning Pool material, but it teases listeners with fresh potential.

Drowning Pool- “Saturday Night:” 2.5/5

Deftones- “Koi No Yokan” Album Review

Bands change, it’s almost inevitable.  Most artists tend to dabble in some form of stylistic experimentation, but the Deftones hold up as one of the most consistent in the business.

Rather than exploring new horizons, “Koi No Yokan,” celebrates all of Deftones’ old tricks; but that’s exactly what everyone wants.

The new album, which is Deftones’ second to not include bassist, Chi Cheng, finds the band in a much more relaxed state of mind.  2009’s “Diamond Eyes,” seemed to indicate a much needed release of emotion that bled with subtle themes of rising above. “Koi No Yokan’s” material is just as passionate and provocative, but revives the stripped down, garage-style snarls that initially helped defined the band’s sound.

“Swerve City” quickly makes this evident with an intro that plays like repeated right hooks to the face.  “Leathers,” “Poltergiest,” and “Tempest” all showcase “Around the Fur” style grandeur with buzzing, neck-breaking verses and soothing, hook-driven choruses.   Most of the album’s tracks shine through their sheer ferocity, but there are several entwined reminders of Deftones’ unique beauty and control; “Entombed,” for example, is mesmerizing.

The craftsmanship displayed on “Koi No Yokan” is simply unparalleled; every single space on the album is filled with fine-tuned detail that commands undivided attention.

All in all:

Standout Tracks:  “Swerve City,” “Leathers,” “Tempest,” “Poltergeist,” “Rosemary,” “Entombed,”

Deftones- “Koi No Yokan:” 5/5

Soundgarden- “King Animal” Album Review

Last August, the Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan publicly cut down Soundgarden- accusing the band of reforming “only to make money.”  He went on to dismiss the band’s recent reunion tour as “one more round at the till.”

Somewhere in the world, Corgan must be kicking himself.

True, as “Been Away Too Long’s” title implies, Soundgarden has been out of the spotlight for quite some time now.  However, after several side projects, rumors, and teaser tours and singles, the band has finally released “King Animal-” its first new album in 16 years- and it’s very clear that the break has not weathered them one bit.

On “King Animal,” Chris Cornell and the gang have returned to form in every sense of the phrase- drawing out the best qualities of each of their past albums, molding them together, and sprinkling some impressive new dynamics and production value atop the final product.

“Non-State Actor,” “Bones of Birds,” and “Blood on the Valley Floor,” among others, include some of the most ferocious, inventive riffs and shreds of the band’s career.  Meanwhile, Cornell quickly re-establishes himself as one of the best rock vocalists of all time; there is never a time where his vocals don’t impress.

This is the kind of album that makes veterans of the grunge era smile from ear to ear; this is the kind of reunited effort that should stand as an example for any disbanded act looking to follow suit.

“King Animal” is stellar.

All in All:

Standout Tracks:  “Black Saturday,” “Bones of Birds,” “Taree,” “Non-State Actor,” “By Crooked Steps,” “Blood on the Valley Floor,” “Rowing”

Soundgarden- “King Animal:” 5/5