The Raw Alternative

All posts tagged The Raw Alternative

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

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Artist: Third Class

Album: Virginia’s Playlist

Release Date: 1/1/17

Rating: 9.5/10

For nearly two decades, Northeast Ohio’s Third Class have dazzled audiences from across the region and beyond with a fierce passion. With an intimate and immediate delivery, Lee Echard Boyle and Co. consistently hit the mark with songs that boast as much dry wit as they do emotion. On their latest offering, Virginia’s Playlist, the Indie Rock mainstays craft a heartfelt, touching and often cynical story that takes the listeners across time and space, with all of the whirlwind emotions in between.

With Virginia’s Playlist, Third Class have taken their unique brand of quirky Indie Rock and Folk Pop and have sprinkled in subtle hints of Americana, Garage Pop and Baroque Pop for a 20-track massive opus. Not only is this perhaps their most ambitious record to date, but it serves as a refreshing reminder that the band is still searching, still hungry and still eager to push the limits of their songwriting one step further than the next.

Kicking off with the tongue-in-cheek “College Radio,” Third Class come out swinging in a charm all of their own. “We’re college radio but no one plays us, We never played a show where people paid us right, And in our pinky toe we’ve got more talent than you could ever know, Your bass rig towers high,” is a part cynical, part facetious, slightly-ambiguous look at either the local scene, or perhaps a parallel to the greater music scene in general.

A swarm of lush acoustic guitars and strings dominate “Radio to Cassette,” before the piano-driven “The World Sounds Like Poetry,” and the folky “Being and a Ball,” draw from personal reflection. From there, “Kiss You Until You Bleed,” “Lonely for You” and “Crying in the Dark” drive home the sincere melodramatic love songs that are trademark of Third Class. Somewhere between the brooding of Neil Young and the bluesy swagger of Springsteen, the songwriting carves its own niche of pure lyrical poetry.

The Neil Young-esque “Hardwood Sky” and the Baroque Pop of “Lonesome Dove” change the pace slightly, leading off the climatic second half of Virginia’s Playlist. “Colors of You” and “Better Mood Today” take a page right from White Album-era Beatles songwriting with a quirky baroque piano taking the lead on the former and a more subtle approach on the latter.

As the record draws to a close, tracks “Me and Wally” and “Witch Hunt” paint the melancholy picture of a summer sun setting of the reckless abandon of youth. Closing track “Sweet Potato” is a soaring glimmer of hope lead by a beautiful and frantic piano that fades off into the sunset.

Virginia’s Playlist is not a record you should put on at a party, and perhaps that is its most endearing quality! It is a record that demands your full attention. Best experienced by a few full uninterrupted listens. Third Class have crafted a record of continuity, a record that once heard in its entirety, it sticks with you. It is also evident on this record that the band have not hit their plateau in songwriting. Standout tracks include “Radio to Cassette,” “The World Sounds Like Poetry,” “Hardwood Sky,” “Grow Up in Portland,” and “Witch Hunt.” However, Virginia’s Playlist will leave the best impression if listened to from start to finish.

Virginia’s Playlist is available directly from the band at thirdclass.net.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

POTD

Artist: Psyclosarin

Album: Perceptions of the Damned

Rating: 9/10

Since 2011, Northeast Ohio Death Metal mainstays Psyclosarin have been offering up their unique take on the genre. With enough massive riff and slamming grooves to bring any mosh pit to its knees, the band have carved themselves a special niche on the scene. With dozens of high profile performances at notable venues such as the Agora in Cleveland, Psyclosarin have set the stage as one of the leading forces in a new generation of Extreme Metal.

With their latest release, 2016’s Perceptions For the Damned, Psyclosarin take the overt brutality of classic Death Metal and sprinkle in a slight but significant touch of the atmospheric drone of Black Metal for a refreshingly exciting collection of very heavy songs. Similar to the approach taken by acts like Behemoth and Vader on recent releases, Psyclosarin favor neither style over the other, but sacrifice nothing, keeping up with straight-forward yet extreme ethos of the hybrid sub-genre, Blackened Death Metal.

Perceptions of the Damned opens with the rousing title track. A true Death Metal Slammer complete with grinding riffs overtop blast beats for an unrelenting pulverizing track with a middle section vaguely reminiscent of Powerviolence and a closing guitar lead-to-final refrain that climaxes into the highest reaches of hell.

From there, the slow opening of “Limb from Limb” does nothing to prepare for the insanity that’s to follow. Crashing into a wall of chaotic, frenzied riffs, the track introduces some more Black Metal riffing styles for some serious textured sonic torture. “Thrown to the Wolves” offers more gigantic riffs while “All Hail None,” the undoubted standout of the first half of Perceptions of the Damned, boasts another wall of  massive guitars, but the real moments of genius hit just two-thirds into the song, as the song begins to shift into an unexpected slamming groove.

“Sever the Cord” begins with an interesting melodic swarm of guitars, taking a brief but welcomed left turn, before igniting into another nuclear assault of riffs and chaos. The Thrash-like riffs that hit by the middle of the song are also a definite highlight! “Born to Burn” showcases more of what Psyclosarin seem to do best, with twin guitar attacks shifts from Black to Death Metal-style riffing seemlessly. The album closes with the Thrashy “Rampage,” with riffs that rival the most technical and brutal moments from Machinehead.

All in all, Perceptions of the Damned is an unrelenting, ugly collection of songs that rarely comes up for air. Amidst the chaos, there are several moments of genius and some really well-crafted material that comes across to perfection. The production does great justice, by balancing the harsh technically to where nothing sounds sacrificed; a rare feat in the age of extreme digital compression. This record is Psyclosarin coming into their own, and serves as an exciting landmark of what’s they’ve done and where they’re heading. Standout tracks include “All Hail None,” “Thrown to the Wolves,” “Born to Burn” and the title track.

Watch the official music video for “Limb from Limb” by clicking here.

The best 2016 had to offer…

RICK’S PICKS:

Artist of the Year: David Bowie

Album of the Year: David Bowie – Blackstar

Song of the Year: Nails – You Will Never Be One of Us

Music Video of the Year: Anti-Flag – Without End

Rock Act of the Year: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Alternative Act of the Year: Radiohead

Rap/Hip-Hop Act of the Year: Danny Brown

Punk Act of the Year: Descendants

Metal Act of the Year: Nails

Best Collaboration: The Body/Full of Hell

Best Live Act: Swans

Best Local/Regional Live Act: Mississippi Gun Club

Best Album: (Local/Regional Act): Mississippi Gun Club – Shovelhead

Comeback of the Year: Metallica

Best New Artist: S U R V I V E

Lifetime Achievement: David Bowie

 

SARAH’S PICKS:

By Sarah Sepanek

TOP 10 SHOWS OF 2016 (no order but yeah Boris/SunnO)))/Sleep wins)

Cobalt/Mantar @ Mohawk: This show was just volcanic. Everyone looked like melting plastic. It was like we were in musical lava. Charlie Fell was just in glorious agony, sealed himself as frontman.

Dragged Into Sunlight/Primitive Man/Make @ Paper Tiger, SA: Possibly the hottest show ever, in some loading dock windowless garage. Very cerebral. Make and Primitive Man both gave good doomface; Dragged, however, faced the wall so if they were making metal faces, I didn’t see. Some jags pulled down the giant candelabra in front of the stage and nailed me in the chest so hard I wondered if I cracked a rib. But I stayed in that dark hot hell room till the end. They easily outdrew Big Business in the room next door.

Reverend Horton Heat w. Jello Biafra @ Continental Club: I’ve loved the Rev for going on 20 years; still a solid showman. Still damn charming too. Sometimes it’s just fun to dance and goof around. Jello Biafra had his crotch three inches from my face for half an hour and stage dived on me several times, but it was neat seeing them do Dead Kennedys songs together. Also I duked it out with some drunk girl up front and won. Any excuse to spray up my hair is a good night.

Gatecreeper/Oathbreaker/Skeletonwitch @ Barracuda: Definitely a show where the openers outshone the main act. Gatekeeper and Oathbreaker had both just released amazing records, and they didn’t disappoint live.

Crawl/BLK OPS/The Body/Full of Hell @ Sidewinder: Broken strings aside, this was a sonic strobe flash of otherworldly noise. Only caveat was that since they were playing just their one album together, it was kind of short.

Annihilation Time/Fuck You Pay Me @ Barracuda: Confetti, Jimmy Rose, Ohio, Erba – a farewell of Cleveland proportions came to Texas for two nights and Night Two was wild as fuck. Austin for all its weird-bragging is lacking in pure crazy at punk/hardcore shows. Tony Erba bashing his face into a pole was met with more concern than enthusiasm, but there was confetti and toilet paper and it was amazing for the “last” AT show.

Grim Reaper @ Dirty Dog: I didn’t expect this to be as much fun as it was. I usually balk at nostalgia tours because I mostly feel guilty at bands having to slough through Spinal Tap-esque sets past their prime, but Grim Reaper was a shitload of fun. Steve Grimmett was still in excellent voice, and he poked fun at himself, made dirty jokes between songs, and had fun posing with fans holding a giant sword. He even used a goddamn selfie stick. Thumbs up from me.

Torche @ Barracuda: The first of 2 times seeing Steve Brooks and the boys this year, and the first time I had seen one of his bands in at least 10 years. Definitely reminded of why he’s one of my favorite people on the planet, as he rolled on the floor wailing solos Marty McFly-style.

Insane Clown Posse @ Empire Control Room: Shows in ATX are a lot less … unhinged than I’m used to, so this messy trash circus was a pleasant reprieve. ICP played all of Riddle Box, which I had on orange cassette. Jugglo fam was friendly and festive. Not used to that level of camaraderie here either. Everyone was happy. And wet. I sprayed gallons of diet root beer Faygo, sang all the words. It was Shaggy 2 Dope’s birthday. I’ve been to the Gathering when it was at the Ledges so I knew to warn an ICP virgin not to wear his good shoes. Walked to the car soaked, down with the clown.

Sleep/SunnO)))/Boris @ Mohawk: This show happened by accident, due to a festival rainout, and I got tickets by the grace of god. Hundreds of angry fest pass-holders were left SOL as they reorganized the fest acts into new smaller venues and did a whole new ticket sale. The stage itself was gear porn, loaded with amps and gongs and drums and stacks and backlined within an inch of its life. I got fog machine cancer and couldn’t hear for a week but it was so good. So good. Surreally good. Once in a lifetime.

HONORABLE MENTIONS
X_X/Obnox @ Barracuda
Fister/Aseethe/Clrvoyant @ The Lost Well
Sleep brunch @ Mohawk
Vermin Womb/Pornohelmut @ The Lost Well
Destroyer 666 @ Satellite Bar, Houston
ITCHY-O @ Scoot Inn
Goatwhore @ Grizzly Hall
High On Fire @ Grizzly Hall
Daikaiju @ The Grand
Wreck & Reference @ Sidewinder
Karma to Burn/The Obsessed @ Dirty Dog
Antwon/Fat Tony/Xetas @ Barracuda
SURVIVE record release @ Barracuda
Absu/Expander @ Sidewinder
Bongzilla/Lo-Pan/Author & Punisher/Black Cobra @ Swan Dive & The Lost Well
The Body @ The Lost Well

Most ridiculous/embarrassing: Tie between Taake and Millions of Dead Cops
Biggest letdown: St. Vitus @ Grizzly Hall
Best onstage coat wearing: Tie between Absu (Proscriptor!) and Taake (leather jacket w sleeves pushed up w no shirt)
Best show that never happened: Levitation Fest – Runner up: l.o.t.i.o.n @ Electric Church (waited til 5 am only to have amps blow out or something; in retrospect that place was a death trap)

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By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

A great perk to following a local music scene is the undoubted authenticity of hungry musicians. At nearly every turn, in every local venue, there are new and unique artists, experimenting with the future or improving on the past. Those who put in the blood, sweat and tears, especially while maintaining a family and a day job, is nothing short of impressive. But it’s the passion that keeps the scene alive.

Such passion can be unlocked in the music of Spy Convention. As one of the Valley’s most intriguing newcomers, Spy Convention consist of two local doctors, Asif Khan and Zafar Sheik, who, by near accident, decided to take their passion for music to the next level.

“We met by chance at a school function for our kids about 3 years ago, and one day Zafar came over with his family,” said Khan. “There was a guitar sitting in the house, he picked it up and started singing. I was totally impressed and shocked! I had no idea he could sing. We only started writing together in January of 2015, and wrote ‘You Are Not Alone.'”

Featuring a refreshing blend of Post-Punk and early Goth/Darkwave, tracks like “Baltimore” and “Gravity” channel The Psychedelic Furs and Echo and The Bunnymen, while “You Are Not Alone” hints at Interpol’s more updated Indie sensibilities.

With their first batch of singles, Khan and Sheik carve out a unique sound that’s both reminiscent of the past yet feels like the present.

“We both have influences that are quite varied. However, we think everybody has a connection with the music they grew up with and, being of a certain age, that 80s sound resonates with us. It’s kind of in our minds so it naturally comes out in the songwriting process,” said Khan.

Khan indicated that both Indie and Alternative music have both played a crucial role in their musical development.

“As fans of music in general, we have a tendency to search out new music, and there’s always lots of great music being made. We’re fans of indie and alternative bands so all those sounds we’ve heard from the 80s to the present is just a part of us,” said Khan.

With the music of Spy Convention relying heavily on atmosphere, covering such music depth as a duo can get tricky. However, Khan said that both him and Sheik have found a rhythm to crafting their sonic structures.

“We do everything ourselves, drums, guitar and bass primarily by me, and vocals synth by Zafar,” Khan explained. ” Zafar writes the music and lyrics as an idea for a song. We get together and start throwing more ideas out, very simple piano lines for example, and it starts to blossom from there. Our approach is to layer instruments together to get a full sound.”

He also indicated that it’s important to be their own worst critic and to keep it honest in order for the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts.

“Occasionally we will scrap an entire song and start over if need be. This happens rarely but needs to be done if we don’t like it. We also made it a point to criticize without any ego involved. If something is horrible, we say it,” said Khan.

Asif Khan of Spy Convention. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.

Zafar Sheik of Spy Convention. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.

He added that most importantly, they have to be having true fun in order to keep it worthy of their efforts.

“We started the project first as a diversion with no real expectations. We still really don’t have any expectations. It’s fun, and ZERO pressure. We have kids and lives that demand our attention, so music is purely an escape,” he said.

With the Post Punk Revival of the last decade or so, artists as diverse as Interpol, The Killers and Death From Above 1979, along with relative newcomers like Cloud Nothings, Health and Soft Kill, have in their own unique way, channeled the likes of 80s greats such as The Cure and Joy Division, but have expanded on those ideas to varying levels of success, both artistically and commercially. Spy Convention have focused on, if not perfected, the atmosphere of the era while giving it a new spirit.

Khan said it’s the impact of the song that transcends both genre and era.

“It’s not a style or genre necessarily, but the song itself. If you connect with the song, that’s what really matters,” Khan said. “We both love Interpol and The Killers. We don’t really focus on longevity of bands, but we appreciate the song. The song is what stands the test of time. There have been one-hit wonder bands and everyone latches on to it because it’s a great song. Nothing else, more or less.”

He explained too that what he found in the music that inspires him also had the ability to move him, and that good music lasts because of its ability to do so.

“What is it about that music that connects with people? Maybe it’s the simplicity of the music, like the driving bass line, or a well written vocal line that allows everyone to participate, sing along. Was it the production? It could have been current events. It’s hard to say, but for a song to move millions of people is quite amazing, and powerful,” he said.

Heading into 2017, Spy Convention looks to hit the stage, and is currently in the process of auditioning live members to round out a live lineup.

“We have desires to play live and are currently auditioning musicians,” said Khan. “Ideally, we’d love to play live in 2017; we’ll see what happens. We aren’t looking for much, but all the attention is great. We are grateful people like the songs and we’ll just keep writing as long as we can and have fun doing it.”

A full-length release is in the works for the next year as well.

“Our next phase is to complete an album of 7-10 songs,” said Khan.

Spy Convention have released a slew of singles, some of which have been in regular rotation on The Homegrown Show on 93.3 since August 2016. Those tracks, along with a cover of INXS’ “Don’t Change” and Rush’s “Time Stand Still,” can be streamed exclusively on the band’s official Soundcloud page by clicking here.

Prince PORTRAIT

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

An assortment of some of the area’s most well-known and eclectic talent will join forces this Friday at Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts for a career-spanning tribute to Prince. Since his passing on April 21 of this year, there has been a far-reaching cry across the musical landscape for the iconic multi-instrumental songwriter. A fact no different here in the Valley, as musicians from acts such as The Zou, The Vindys and Jude Benedict and The Last Drop, among many more, will take the stage to express their love, admiration and gratitude for the works of The Purple One.

The event was spear-headed by Kyle O’Donnell and John Anthony, both of whom will be taking part in the performance. O’Donnell said musicians from Youngstown, Warren, and Pittsburgh, as well other parts of Pennsylvania will be taking part, for a diverse representation of the region.

“I actually didn’t even meet some of the guys in the band, who are from PA, until 2 days before our first rehearsal, but I’m excited that they’re willing to bring their talents to Youngstown for a night,” said O’Donnell.

The initial bond that unites these musicians is, of course, the music of Prince. Anthony said that following his death, he decided to analyze himself as a musician and just how important of a role Prince played.

“With the passing of Prince, I felt as a guitar player I always wanted to dive more into his musical vocabulary but always pushed it aside because my focus was always working on different music. Myself and our drummer, Kelvin Newell, had spoke about doing a Prince tribute show for years however we were never able to make a particular date work with our schedules. Once Prince passed, I like everyone else, began to revisit a lot of the music and felt that it was time to really study his guitar playing,” explained Anthony.

There’s no denying the impact Prince made on the musical landscape. Khaled Tabbara of The Zou explained the significance of Prince’s discography and how it influenced the sound of artists to follow.

“Prince’s is one of the greatest artists and performers in the history of modern music. His impact on rock and popular music is unsurpassed. Equal (or greater than in some ways) to the Beatles or Dylan. Even if you think you don’t like Prince, he is probably your favorite artist’s favorite artist. If you like, Beyonce, Beck, Dave Grohl, Justin Timberlake, Stevie Wonder, Rhianna, Trent Reznor, or most things you hear on the radio, you are listening to music made by Prince fans,” said Tabbara.

O’Donnell said that his legacy is on par with that of greats like Michael Jackson.

“Some people might not believe it, but Prince was once talked about in the same breath as musicians such as Michael Jackson. Actually, the story goes that Michael Jackson asked Prince to sing on his song “Bad,” but Prince turned it down. Jackson is responsible for the best selling album of all time, so being considered to be on his level speaks to Prince’s talent,” said O’Donnell.

“He put out 1999, which is a totally cool, electronic synth-pop record, and about a year later, dropped Purple Rain, what many consider one of the greatest rock records ever made,” added Tabbara.

Anthony said that although he discovered Prince slightly later in the game, the impact was felt no less.

“Prince was an artist that I did not discover until high school. My parents did not play him in our house and it wasn’t until his performance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction in 2004 that I found out who he was,” said Anthony.

O’Donnell, Tabbara and Anthony all agree that this tribute will give justice to Prince’s musical and cultural impact and turn casual or non-fans into believers.

“This show will obviously showcase the classics, but it will also showcase some of the lesser known tunes. I bet that we will have some audience members say to themselves, ‘Oh, I know this song,’ but they might never have realized that it was Prince. I think that this will really outline how even the non-fan was impacted by Prince’s music,” said O’Donnell.

“This show is full of musicians from across the musical spectrum; rock guys, pop girls, jazz and classical cats, funk and R&B fans. We all come from different musical influences, but we are all huge Prince fans,” added Tabbara.

All three musicians share an excitement and enthusiasm upon performing with one another, bringing out the best in one another and doing so in such an unconventional fashion.

“Many of the musicians who are playing this group were picked because of their love of his music. These individuals are some of the best musicians in the area who look at taking an artist’s work and playing it at the highest level of musicianship possible,” said Anthony.

“This is perhaps the most interesting part of this gig. I feel like the story behind the story is the band. In the past, myself and John Anthony have done a number of tribute shows with multiple groups of musicians,” added O’Donnell.

“I’ve known a lot of these musicians for a while, but I’m really excited to have a chance to finally play with them. It’s going to be a really dynamite show,” finished Tabbara.

O’Donnell said that although he doesn’t want to reveal too much, this tribute will be one to remember, with plenty of surprises in store.

“Well, I’m not going to give away too much about the set list, but Prince was very unique and eclectic, so the audience will experience a wide range of styles and themes. We will play music from four different decades, so we plan to cater to both the casual fan and the diehard one.

“Performance wise, we’re going to have a pretty good balance of group playing and solo jams. We have a huge amount of talent in the band and we want to showcase that as much as possible,” O’Donnell said.

“Like many of the other tribute shows that we have done, it’s always exciting to see the people who come to these shows because typically you see the excitement and nostalgia that a lot of this music is going to bring them,” added Anthony.

Lastly, O’Donnell commented that all of the greats to come before and after Prince, the timeless music will continue to inspire and intrigue generations to come.

“I think that Prince’s lasting influence was already being felt, even before his death. When you think about artists like Prince, David Bowie, Elton John, etc., it’s easy to go straight to the crazy outfits and the odd behavior. Beneath all of that, they are all incredible musicians who are very proficient at their craft. Moving forward, I think that future generations will have more awareness of who Prince was, the level of talent that he possessed, and just how prolific of a career he had,” O’Donnell said.

The Tribute will take place at Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts in downtown Youngstown on Friday, June 10. Here is the complete lineup of musicians involved:

Vocals: Khaled Tabbara – Youngstown, OH (Band leader for The Zou)

Guitar: John Anthony – Youngstown, OH (Guitarist for The Vindys)

Keyboard: Doug Finley – Pittsburgh, PA (Guitarist for Jude Benedict and The Last Drop)

Bass: Dave Traugh – Kiski Area, PA (Bassist for Jude Benedict and The Last Drop)

Drums: Kelvin Newell – Warren, OH

Backing Vocals: Katianne Timko – Youngstown, OH (K808)

Aux. Percussion: Jon Pincek – Pittsburgh, PA

Trumpet 1: Tim Tuite – Youngstown, OH

Trumpet 2: Kyle O’Donnell – Youngstown, OH

Trombone 1: Brian Mayle – Youngstown, OH

Trombone 2: Sean Durkin – Youngstown, OH

Saxophones: Stephen Harvey – Rochester, PA

Where's Winona Now? left to right: Ryan Augustine, Lucy Sawyer, Connor Lane and Tyler Toporcer. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.

Where’s Winona Now? left to right: Ryan Augustine, Lucy Sawyer, Connor Lane and Tyler Toporcer. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

As the seeming endless pool of unique original talent continues to pour out of every corner of the Mahoning Valley, one quartet is bringing the raw intensity of unrefined punk rock to the forefront.

Where’s Winona Now?, a fresh-faced teenage punk rock outfit, is carving quite the niche into the local scene. With memorizing high-profile performances throughout the area including Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts in Youngstown, Dave Grohl Alley in Warren and the Outpost Concert Club in Kent, as well as a slot on one of 2016’s most-hyped events, Revive Arts and Music Festival, the band continue to steamroll their way onto the scene, picking up fans at every turn.

Through heartfelt and empowering lyrics, partnered with powerful music, the band are set to lead the next generation of the Steel Valley music scene.

Consisting of vocalist Lucy Sawyer, guitarist Tyler Toporcer, bassist Ryan Augustine and drummer Connor Lane, Where’s Winona Now? formed out of friendship, and a general love for music. The band’s sound is primarily in the vein of punk rock, with the influence of the fuzz-soaked alternative scene of the 1990s.

“Lucy is into a lot of Nirvana and Bikini Kill, Ryan likes Nirvana, Green Day and classic rock, Connor is into more metal bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Metallica, and I’m all over the place,” said Toporcer of his influences.

Despite coming from a much younger generation, Sawyer said that growing up, classic rock radio was a staple in her home.

“Definitely! My dad was always playing non-stop music,” said Sawyer.

“My dad listened to a lot of Metallica, and we’d listen to Rock 104, and I got into music that way,” added Lane.

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Much like the band’s key influences, Where’s Winona Now? connect with their audience through deep personal lyrics that reflect where they are in their lives. Through long jam sessions, the band carefully sift through their music and piece together each song.

“I write all the lyrics. Definitely about personal events, relationships and not-so-good relationships. They jam and I pick out the parts that I like,” explained Sawyer.

One of the recurring themes through the band’s songs is the idea of embracing imperfection and being comfortable in one’s own skin.

“I think the point of [the band] is that we’re not perfect. And we want to reach people like that, we want to make sure everyone knows they have somebody,” said Sawyer.

“It’s a nice thing to relate to,” added Toporcer. “Not being pressured to be perfect, just be yourself.”

This is a sentiment that Sawyer said is lacking in popular music today.

“It’s just really general stuff, and I get that. But there’s not much that’s real personal that makes you feel that way too,” said Sawyer.

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The members of Where’s Winona Now? all agree that they are at their best in a live setting, where the end result is greater than the sum of its parts. Original songs such as “Tell Me Why,” “Bad News” and “Her Song” capture the raw emotion the band conveys through both their music and lyrics. And with a slew of noteworthy, attention-grabbing live performances already under their under their belt, the band has successfully hit the ground running.

One area the band have most successfully carved a niche into is the revived downtown Youngstown music scene, where the band feel most at-home.

“I definitely think it’s better that the scene is coming back here, because we had to drive up to Kent and Akron to play shows a lot,” said Sawyer.

It’s nice to play shows where people around here are excited to hear us rather than try to get 20 people to pay for tickets to drive up to Kent to see us,” added Augustine.

Sawyer said that she believes it’s very important to have a strong scene in a central location such as that of downtown Youngstown with all of the great culture and talent that surrounds it.

“I think it’s important just because locally it feels like we were culturally starved for a little bit, especially after the Wickyards shut down,” said Sawyer.

As the downtown Youngstown scene continues to expand and rebuild, Where’s Winona Now?, along with a handful of their peers, find themselves smack in the middle of an exciting new movement.

While band look to hit the studio for their first proper recording in the near future, they have a few high-profile performances to keep fans satisfied for the meantime.

“We’ll be at the BuzzBin Arcade and Music Ship in Canton on June 3 and Revive Arts and Music Festival in downtown Youngstown on July 16,” finished Toporcer.

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By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

filter-crazy-eyes

Artist: Filter

Album: Crazy Eyes

Release Date: 4/8/16

Rating: 9/10

Few survivors of the industrial rock scene have remained as consistent as Filter. Since their debut in 1995, the Richard Patrick-led project have pumped out one great record after another. With the industrial scene eventually fading into the background of metal or goth-techno by the late-90s, and genre pioneers like Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails taking long hiatuses, there was little representation of the golden age of industrial rock; save for Filter. Despite waxing and waning mainstream attention, the band have retained a core audience that spans the likes of alternative, industrial and heavy metal listeners.

At the core of Filter is Patrick, the one-time Nine Inch Nails guitarist who exited the band on the eve of their most commercially-successful era. He formed Filter, looking for a less synth-driven and more guitar-driven sound. Their iconic 1995 debut, Short Bus, dropped at the height of the industrial-alternative crossover, when the sound was at it’s peak popularity. The follow-up, 1999’s Title of Record, was a massive success propelled by the crossover hit, “Take A Picture.” But for much of the 00’s, addiction issues and an evolving alternative scene kept Filter out of the limelight, despite releasing the underrated gems The Amalgamut and Anthems For the Damned. In 2011, Filter came back hard with the slamming The Trouble With Angels record, boasting a return to the sound that brought Filter to fruition. 2013’s The Sun Comes Out Tonight further featured the rage and socio-political disdain that was synonymous with industrial rock. Few artists have captured the heaviness of the original industrial scene as well as alternative rock sensibilities quite like Filter.

With their latest release, Crazy Eyes, Filter dive head first into a classic industrial rock sound with pulsating synths, distorted bass lines, mechanized drums and grinding guitars, matched with a primal rage against a failing system. Tracks titles like “Pride Flag,” “The City of Blinding Riots” and “Your Bullets” quickly indicate the social commentary that’s to come, while “Nothing In My Hands” and “Welcome To the Suck (Destiny Not Luck)” tease up the anger and disdain.

Crazy Eyes opens with the classic industrial slammer, “Mother E,” a synth-heavy stomper that finds Patrick screaming the refrain; “I got my reasons and my reasons are sound,” as a wall of swelling synths build to a head-banging groove. “Nothing In My Hands” looks at the Ferguson and Michael Brown case, while capturing all of the socio-political angst the industrial scene had/has to offer. From there, the more accessible, and dare I say, poppy, “Pride Flag,” keeps in tune with the album’s feel, looking through the glass at a society spiraling into chaos.

Filter mastermind Richard Patrick, circa 2016. Photo courtesy of blabbermouth.net.

Filter mastermind Richard Patrick, circa 2016. Photo courtesy of blabbermouth.net.

Tracks such as “The City of Blinding Riots” and “Welcome To the Suck (Destiny Not Luck)” feature a more atmospheric, KMFDM/Combichrist-esque stomp, while “Take Me To Heaven” and “Head of Fire” boast a more groove-heavy bass-driven feel, with sneering hooks in the vein of NIN. “Tremors” is also write with Ministry-style mechanical percussion, circa Land of Rape and Honey.

Most of Side B on Crazy Eyes leans a little more in the rock direction, with tracks like “Kid Blue From the Short Bus, Drunk Bunk” and “Your Bullets” featuring the more classic Filter sound of heavy alt-metal, most prevalent on Title of Record. The album concludes with “Under the Tongue,” a slow-building heavy groove tracks that spirals into a wall of distortion, before descending into the acoustic comedown of “(Can’t She See) Head of Fire, Pt. 2.”

All in all, Crazy Eyes may be Filter’s strongest album since Title of Record. While the last few records clearly showcase Patrick showing his teeth and muscles, it’s few and far between they feature his ability to write really interesting songs. Crazy Eyes ebbs and flows, and although it’s consistently heavy and brooding, both sonically and lyrically, it ties together many small concepts into a central theme. Standout tracks are difficult to pinpoint, but would certainly include “Mother E,” “Welcome To the Suck (Destiny Not Luck)” “Your Bullets” and “Pride Flag.” For fans of the golden age of industrial rock, this will surely spark an interest in a scene long stagnant.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRV51e753f8

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

VVVV Cover

Artist: Cvttvnmvvth

Album: VVVV

Release Date: 2/12/16

Rating: 9.5/10

Over the past few years, the Northeast Ohio music scene has seen an explosion of Sludge, Doom and Stoner Rock influenced acts attempting to, and often succeeding to, bring raw, gritty heavy rock back to the forefront. But none have dared further, lower, dirtier, eviler and spacier than Youngstown’s Cvttvnmvvth!

Since the release of their 2013 debut, Tough Snake, Cvttvnmvvth have pummeled ear drums with their unique blend of Doom, Space/Psych, Stoner Metal and Post-Punk, with heavy atmospheres reaching as far in Goth as they do into Black Metal. Now, the power trio of gloom are set to release their next monumental output, a cassette tape titled VVVV.

Over the seven tracks that comprise VVVV, Cvttvnmvvth touch base on all the aforementioned styles, piss all over them, and write their own set of rules. The upbeat “Barf Star” opens the tape, setting the tone with a lo-fi, punk slammer of a track, leading into the heavy licks of “Strangle Game.” Along with a DIY aesthetic, the lo-fi production and heavy reverb, especially on the drums, is almost instantly reminiscent of the hey day of the tape-trading Black Metal scene of early 80s acts like Hellhammer and Bathory.

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“Plug Life” is the first track to really slow things down, right down into the dirt! Featuring some Pentagram-esque riffage, the track emphasizes Cvttvnmvvth’s ability to dig deep, while keeping the song grounded and interesting. “Subwolfer” sounds like a long-lost Black Sabbath demo, complete with drummer Kenny Halbert and bassist Eric Tharp holding down a tight, swinging groove over top some deliciously doom-y riffs and almost bluesy vocals courtesy of singer/guitarist Javier. “World Abattoir” continues this vibe before naturally segueing into the spacey, psychedelic doom the concludes VVVV.

“Sex Feast” nods to Candlemass, perhaps if Candlemass had begun in the early 70s, with a very classic doom riff filled with Space Rock flair. Finally, the album concludes on a definite highlight with “Sky Burial.” The epic eight-plus minute track soars high, really high, serving as a well indicator of how Cvttvnmvvth have developed as songwriters.

VVVV has a very genre-bending overall approach, one which says more in seven tracks than most artists do across three albums. Upon listening to VVVV, there’s no doubt that Cvttvnmvvth are both unafraid to take risks, and enjoy pushing the boundaries of which they have set. VVVV is the perfect answer to Tough Snake, the band have not only grown as songwriters, but have set the bar even higher this time around.

Cvttvnmvvth will hold an official release party for VVVV on Feb. 20 at Cedars West End along with Mississippi Gun Club for support.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vh93CQ7ylo&feature=youtu.be

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

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Artist: Red Water Tragedy

Album: The Beast A Part of Me

Rating: 8.5/10

Storming out of the Akron/Kent music scene, Red Water Tragedy front a new breed riff-heavy Rock and Roll. Their particular blend of bluesy modern rock and grinding sludge, offer an equally powerful blend of soul and angst. The band take on the aesthetics of acts like Clutch and Corrosion of Conformity, with a modern twist that’s interestingly both radio-friendly and slamming heavy. On their latest output, The Beast A Part of Me, the band have clearly defined a path for which their exciting brand of heavy rock will take listeners on a relentless, wild ride.

Initially formed over a decade ago, Red Water Tragedy have undergone a handful of lineup changes and fresh starts before solidifying themselves in 2013. Now, after slaying audiences across the region with high-profile performances throughout the Akron, Cleveland, Kent and Youngstown areas, Red Water Tragedy are set to unleash their first major statement on the face on the regional scene.

The Beast A Part of Me comes out swinging with the slamming opener, “Lest You Forget.” The track immediately announces its presence, and offers a nastiness in the vein of Clutch or Red Fang, with soulful angst-ridden vocals of lead singer Paul Galloway in full effect providing a unique edge. From there, a blast of riffage hits hard via “Storm the Castle,” which to many fans, has become Red Water Tragedy’s signature song thus far. The track particularly highlights most of the band’s best qualities; tight-yet-pounding rhythms, massive riffs and searing vocals.

The tracks “Concede” and “The Struggle” both feature and Alice in Chains-esque dynamic of hard riffs and moody atmospheres. They contain a certain quality of darkness that is immediately and refreshingly reminiscent of Layne Staley in the mid-90s.

Red Water Tragedy

Red Water Tragedy

After a brief “Intermission,” Side B of The Beast A Part of Me sees the band taking their songwriting up a notch with more diverse subject matter and musical complexity. “The Reckoning” displays a tense build-up before an epic crescendo, finding Galloway screaming “Go fuck your ego,” with true conviction. Although political overtones are subtlety and tastefully weaved through the album, the following track, “False Fangs,” places them front-and-center. “Contradict and leave us in the dark,” sings Galloway, while making a strong point, and leaving just enough to the listener’s own interpretation.

Closing out the album is the ripping “Far Too Long,” featuring some flavorful wah-heavy guitar, slick bass lines and cowbell! Finally, the album concludes with “Darkness Inside,” a brooding, atmospheric and vulnerable acoustic track, that still puts high emphasis on what’s quite possible Red Water Tragedy’s true knack; moodiness.

All in all, The Beast A Part of Me serves as a great introduction to what Red Water Tragedy is all about. There’s power, angst, soul, groove, heaviness, moodiness and well-formulated songs. The production quality is very high, leaving just enough grit for the average Sludge/Stoner Rock fan to enjoy, but just enough polish for a radio-friendly audience to grab. That is no easy feat, as some acts who walk the line of underground and mass acceptance run the risk of insincerity. Luckily, this is not the case for Red Water Tragedy, as each individual track stands out in one unique way or another. The Beast A Part of Me is perfect for fans of regional acts like Resinaut, Mississippi Gun Club and Rule of Two, or national acts such as Clutch, Red Fang, Floodgate or Alice in Chains.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAjP0RWGzpA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIHVeDuzAn4

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

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Artist: K808

Album: Runaways

Release Date: 12/12/15

Rating: 9.5/10

Youth. Reckless abandon. Free spirit. The best days of your life…

This is exactly the summation of Runaways,’ the second release from art-pop singer/songwriter/producer K808. A soundtrack to the days of young adulthood; on the cusp of life but not having everything figured out, and not necessarily being concerned with it either. Runaways is a perfect example of a coming-of-age tale of young millennial love; a fun and upbeat banger with a deep complexity and sharp wit beneath the bubbly surface.

K808, formerly know as the indie-pop songstress Katianne Timko, has undergone quite the transformation over the last two years. After making quite a name for herself on the regional Indie scene, Timko took a huge risk. Rather than continuing on her already successful musical course, she completely reinvented her image and her art, fully becoming and embracing K808, a forward-thinking “pop” artist, with emphasis on the artist.

For her new EP, Runaways, K808 took on the role as songwriter, composer and producer, to impressive results. The production quality is top notch, with beats and hooks for days. Each of the six tracks all loaded with superb club-ready bangers, commanding dance floor dominance. The EP is bright and fun, with a sense of both self-awareness and artistic wit of veteran songwriter, which is exactly who K808 is. Her new sound does not feel like a gimmick or a cash-in, but a very interesting artistic risk, one of which contains a heavy dose of heart and soul.

Runaways kicks off with the slamming “Young + Hungry.” The track’s lines “Play me like vinyl babe, I want you like an autograph, I want to run away and you’re the one who makes me laugh,” and “My heart is beating still, we’re millennials and we’re never satisfied. We’re young and we’re hungry and we’re having the time of our lives,” perfectly sum up what the EP and K808 are representing.

“The Dark Side,” featuring rapper GRIZZLY, was the first single released some months back. The Track boasts yet another banger, with strong songwriting from both K808 and GRIZZLY for an interesting crossover appeal. “Pool House” is a fun track and perhaps the poppiest number, not far from modern Katy Perry or Taylor Swift. From there, the complexity begins to rise with one of the EP’s sharpest tracks, “Sleeping With the Enemy.” K808 sings ” I like my love delusional,” is the post-hook of the song, indicating the true naivety and complications of young love in an ever-evolving society.

Closing tracks, “Valentine (Ready, Set, Go)” and “H20” offer more huge hooks and powerful words from a young woman who is quickly coming into her own, but still has the youthful abandon on her side.

All in all, Runaways marks a very pivotal point for K808, both as a musician and songwriter. She has stepped out from behind the shadow of her acoustic guitar and ventured into an entire new world of musical discovery. Her knack for a song melody, huge hook, and superb production techniques are impossible to ignore. Key tracks include “Young + Hungry” and “Sleeping With the Enemy.”

And Runaways is a rare and beautiful occasion where an artist goes pop without selling out, but marking an even bigger and bolder statement. As a songwriter, K808 is continually expanding her horizons. Whether its love songs, or heartbreak, or a fun-in-the-sun track like “Pool House,” her approach is one of maturity and experience, with a strong artistic sense behind all of it. Runaways is artistic evolution, and it’s exciting to see what direction K808 will take next.

Runaways will be available on iTunes on Dec. 18.