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All posts for the month March, 2015

Torche. Photo courtesy of the band's official Facebook page.

Torche. Photo courtesy of the band’s official Facebook page.

By Brandon Judeh (Music Reporter)

Most bands strive to get better with each album and tour, but few achieve this. Miami based Sludge Metal outfit, Torche, however, has.

Now four LP’s deep, the quartet, consisting of Steve Brooks (guitars, vocals), Jonathan Nuñez (bass), Rick Smith (drums) and Andrew Elstner (guitar, vocals), continues to evolve with each new album.

Nuñez said that every record is a snapshot of where the band was during that particular time period.

“I think every album showcases where we were during that two or three week period that we recorded the specific album, or what we were doing at that time,” said Nuñez.

Torche’s new album, Restarter, is just as sludgy as it’s predecessors, but shows the band maturing with poppy hooks and a broader sound. Though the album, which Nuñez said got its name because it connected well with the songs on the album, was released in February, the band laid the groundwork for it a year ago.

“This album is a little over a year old to us,” added Nuñez. “I feel this represents us very well and is a bit more sludgy than our other records. Our last record (Harmonicraft) was more up-tempo… A big reason why our records sound the way they do is because of our straight forward approach to song writing, we focus more on the power of each song.”

Restarter

Anyone who is a fan of the band will instantly love songs like “Bishop in Arms” and “Minions” as both are prime examples of Torche’s well-oiled rhythm section of Nuñez and Smith.

The duo has been playing together for more than 10 years and Nuñez said this is why the two are so tight musically.

“On the records our playing is more straight forward, but when we are on tour we open up our playing a little bit,” he said. “When we are playing live, we like to jam on a lot of the parts and leave room to embellish a bit.”

The jams will continue to roll as Torche is currently on tour (The band played Cleveland Height’s Grog Shop on March 17) through March. The group will then head to Europe for the entire month of May.

Though touring can sometimes be a drag, filled with little sleep and constant traveling, Nuñez and his band mates enjoy being out on the road and seeing friends, both new and old.

“We all love to tour, it’s great getting out and seeing old friends. From touring so many years we literally have friends all over the United States and overseas,” the bass player said. “It’s also great to hit up certain restaurants in different city’s and eat some great food and search around for some used gear.”

Playing shows in Europe though, is a whole different experience, from the culture to the food. But it’s something Nuñez said he always looks forward too doing, ever since he first played overseas back in 2006.

“It’s so exciting playing in Europe, it’s like a different world between the culture and the way people act. The food is amazing and it’s a great place to go exploring. What’s also neat is how we often will cross paths with a lot of different bands while over there and we try to check out their shows. We have had a ton of great experiences,” Nuñez said.

Checking out and listening to a wide variety of bands is nothing new for the men of Torche.

Their influences range from Sublime to African beats and classic rock to metal. Nuñez said that each member likes different kinds of music, but in the end it all blends together to make the bands signature sound.

Nuñez and company also happen to be a productive band; in fact, they are already three or four songs deep into their next record. Though they have no clue when the next album will happen, they are pleased with the head start.

“We started around January and have three, maybe four songs nailed down with some other jams we are playing around with,” said Nuñez. “A lot of our songs come together from jam sessions, we are a very productive band and are always writing and looking forward to the next stage.”

One of the main reasons the band keeps pushing forward is because of their fans, which have stuck with them from the start.

Perhaps the biggest show of support came after lead singer Steve Brooks came out as one of the few gay musicians in the “Metal” scene.

Brooks had no fear of any backlash, as he was certain he would have the support from his fans and band mates.

“Steve, along with the rest of the band, never received any kind of negativity over that. Obviously we all support him and so did our fans and people around the whole ‘metal scene’ or whatever you want to call it. We have a lot of great fans and open-minded people,” Nuñez stated.

“We have a lot of chill, liberal fans that come to our shows, at the end of the day, they don’t care about our sexuality or anything like that, they just care about the music and want to have a good time at the show.”

Restarter was released via Relapse Records and fans can visit their website torchemusic.com and play an exclusive 16-bit video game called Torche vs Robots: Annihilation Affair that features the band fighting robots.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Seven Deadly Sins

Artist: Kitchen Knife Conspiracy

Album: Seven Deadly Sins

Release Date: 3/7/15

Rating: 9/10

For music fans in the Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania region, it’s very likely that Kitchen Knife Conspiracy are a household name. For nearly two decades, the self-proclaimed “Stompcore” act have offered an endless onslaught of battering rhythms, chugging guitars and horror-themed lyrics to the masses. But to write KKC off as just another act is the seemingly endless pool of death metal bands should be considered a “deadly sin.” The regional mainstays have transcended a multitude of fads and genres, balanced personal careers and side-projects, experimented sonically while only continuing to intensify and have influenced countless local acts over the years. Their lyrics, although violent, contain a stabbing social-awareness and razor-sharp wit, often sprinkled with a Cannibal Corpse-esque sense of humor. Like it or not, Kitchen Knife Conspiracy are the original “pimp daddies” of the Youngstown music scene.

It has been nine long years since KKC released their last album, 2006’s A Friend in Need… Is a Friend to Kill. Since then, a lineup shift saw the departure of guitarist Kevin Lewis and original vocalist John Prosenjak. Enter new frontman, Ian Pethtel (ex-IO, Secondhand Suicide, and currently of Orwellian). The local metal veteran joined KKC now several years ago, and is recently featured on their long-awaited new album, Seven Deadly Sins.

Seven Deadly Sins features Kitchen Knife Conspiracy on their most ambitious musical escapade yet. As the band examines each of the actual seven deadly sins, an emotional, often piano-driven instrumental serves as the calm-before-the-storm before all of the hellish fury of each individual sin is to be unleashed. With these instrumentals, largely composed by drummer Fred Whitacre, a stage is set allowing each of the following tracks an opportunity to stand out in a unique way.

The album opens with “The Wrath,” an instrumental leading into the blistering and soon-to-be concert favorite, “Buried By the Hatchet.” Another anger-fueled rouser, “Violent Eclipse,” follows before leading into “The Greed” and “Triple Six Fix,” another stomper with Pethtel bellowing, “Openly plan your fame, deceivingly win it all, now that you’re on the run, is the risk worth the reward? You’ll burn as they overcome.”

The middle section of Seven Deadly Sins begins to emphasize the band’s growth as songwriters.

“The Sloth” leads into “Acedia,” another standout track featuring the ruthless grind of guitarist Jeremy Cibella with some of his most clever riffs to date. The following track, “Red Ghost,” is also a highlight from the album. From the haunting yet soulful backing vocals and equally haunting piano lines provided by Whitacre, to the ingenious melodic bass lines from Johnny Kihm, this track is like no other in KKC’s repertoire. Off all tracks, “Red Ghost,” in many ways, feels like a band coming together on all creative fronts, with the whole truly greater than the sum of its parts.

Kitchen Knife Conspiracy. Left to right, guitarist Jeremy Cibella, bassist Johnny Kihm, vocalist Ian Pethtel and drummer Fred Whitacre.

Kitchen Knife Conspiracy. Left to right, guitarist Jeremy Cibella, bassist Johnny Kihm, vocalist Ian Pethtel and drummer Fred Whitacre.

“The Pride” enters into “Doomcult,” led by a (somewhat) slowed down, melodic Doom riff. “The Lust” brings us “Desire For the Dead,” another perfect example of KKC’s lyrical ability to balance both grotesque and thought-provoking imagery. “The Envy” gives us the slammers “They’re All Dead in There” and “I Don’t Have Anything,” with more brutal riffage and technical prowess.

Finally, Seven Deadly Sins concludes with “The Gluttony,” giving us another track most likely to become a fan-favorite; “A Vile Sense of Taste.” With a straight-forward attack, it’s reminiscent of the band’s earlier material. Final track “The Seven Deadly Sins” closes the album on a similar note, with yet another haunting melodic piano performance from Whitacre.

In many ways, Seven Deadly Sins indicates how extreme metal can stimulate both the primal and intellectual components of the mind. KKC never fails to energize and get the blood pumping (or squirting). However, they also have used their intensity to paint a much bigger picture and there is much appeal to this new record. Musically, the band are not only just as ambitious as they were on earlier work such as 2000’s Sin Pathetic and 2002’s Handicapitated,” but their hunger has only intensified. The influence of individual side ventures is apparent as well. Last year, Whitacre released a solo album spanning a multitude of genres. His confidence as a songwriter shows, especially in the excerpts credited to him. Pethtel, having been working with Orwellian for the past year-and-a-half, has also seemed to keep him sharp, as anyone who as seen that band live would attest to.

All in all, Seven Deadly Sins is an ambitious piece musical mastery. Nine years worth the wait, as the album successfully keeps Kitchen Knife Conspiracy true to themselves, while offering a whole lot more. Stand out tracks include “Triple Six Fix,” “Acedia,” “Red Ghost” and “Doomcult.” Although, the endless brutality of “Buried By the Hatchet,” Desire For the Dead,” “A Vile Sense of Taste” and the title track are not to be counted out either. Although not for everyone, this record will secure the band’s legacy among die-hard fans and undoubtedly usher in a new generation of fans. If you like your music heavy, mean and thought-provoking, then Seven Deadly Sins is a must-have!

 

The Gaslight Anthem circa 2014. Photo courtesy of buffablog.com.

The Gaslight Anthem circa 2014. Photo courtesy of buffablog.com.

By Brandon Judeh (Music Reporter)

After putting out five albums in 10 years, most bands would probably feel like they’ve “made it.”

Though they have accomplished a lot in the past decade, The Gaslight Anthem feel they still have a lot to do in order to cement their place in Rock ‘N’ Roll history.

“I feel like, bands that think they have settled into some sort of groove, or that they have mastered this whole music thing are the ones that usually become stale pretty quick,” said drummer Benny Horowitz in a recent interview with The Raw Alternative.

“Being complacent can be an artistic curse, not just in music, but with pretty much anything from a painter to a film director. We are critical of our own work and we push ourselves to do better with every album and every performance.”

The quartet did indeed push themselves on their latest effort, Get Hurt, which was released in August and peaked at number four on the US billboard 200 chart.

Their fifth album is perhaps their best to date as it displays the bands growth and maturity more than anything else they have released in the past.

Recently, lead singer Brian Fallon said that Pearl Jam’s No Code was a huge influence on this album and after giving it a listen, you can see why.

It’s no wonder, as Pearl Jam is one of those rare bands that continue to change and evolve.

“Brian sometimes pulls influences into his songwriting and we all kind of pull from Pearl Jam,” Horowitz said. “Pearl Jam has a lot of records and they have changed and taken chances throughout their career. No Code represented a change for them, just like Get Hurt does for us, we need to keep expanding.”

Eddie Vedder and company is not the only band that Horowitz is into. He also stated that he likes bands such as the openers on the tour, the Northcote and the Scandals, as well as some hip-hop. Another well-documented influence has been Bruce Springsteen, but gone are the days of fans chanting “Bruuuuuuuce” at the band, expecting to hear a cover of the fellow New Jersey native.

Finally fans and critics alike are starting to see the band for what they are: Themselves.

“Sure, it got old hearing those chants and we struggled a bit creating separation, but it turned into something that we took as a compliment. To be lumped in with one of the greatest musicians of all-time really isn’t a bad thing,” said Horowitz.

The Gaslight Anthem's fifth album, "Get Hurt," is out now via Island Records.

The Gaslight Anthem’s fifth album, “Get Hurt,” is out now via Island Records.

New Jersey has a rich tradition of great music. From Springsteen to the Misfits and Frank Sinatra to Ricky Nelson. The question is: Will the Gaslight Anthem ever be mentioned amongst those greats?

“If we’re lucky, yes,” Horowitz added. “It’s cool to think about, especially growing up a Rock ‘N’ Roll fan. Actually one of the coolest experiences for me, so far, was after we released our third record (American Slang) we officially started being cataloged at record stores.

“It doesn’t seem like much, but I use to work at a record store and I remember the rule of thumb is, once a band has three full-length albums they get their own tag with the band name on it. It was a feeling like ‘hey, we made it,'” said Horowitz.

Though the band is happy with the way Get Hurt turned out, Horowitz said they are still hungry and want to expand their music in ways they have not done yet. Though it’s tough, for any band, to predict how the future will turn out, or even if they will still be a group, Horowitz also indicated that he doesn’t focus too much on the future.

“If there is one thing I’ve learned in life it’s that you can only control what you can control. The stuff I can’t control I don’t even worry about. Right now we are focusing on touring and the whole creative process,” said Horowitz. “In a perfect world, I would hope that 10 years from now we would still be relevant and making albums and it would be the same four members in the band.”

Currently on tour, the band will make a stop at Cleveland’s House of Blues on Wednesday for what will undoubtedly be an energetic show. Canadian band, the Northcote, as well as fellow New Jersey punk rockers the Scandals will be opening as mentioned earlier. The Gaslight Anthem will be switching up the set list every night and sprinkling in new songs, with all of the classics to keep things fresh.

Horowitz added that the entire band loves playing in front of their fans and hope that all that come can enjoy themselves and leave all of their troubles at the door and just have a good time.

Tickets for the Cleveland show are $36.00 and $42.50.