The Raw Alternative

All posts tagged The Raw Alternative

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.

Artist of the Year: Chelsea Wolfe

Album of the Year: Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss

Song of the Year: Faith No More – Superhero

Music Video of the Year: David Bowie – Blackstar

Rock Act of the Year: Tame Impala

Alternative Act of the Year: Bjork

Rap/Hip-Hop Act of the Year: Kendrick Lamar

Punk Act of the Year: Teenage Bottlerocket

Metal Act of the Year: Deafheaven

Best Collaboration: New Order/Iggy Pop – Stray Dog

Best Live Act: Queen Kwong

Best Local/Regional Live Act: ALBUM

Best Album (Local/Regional Act): TIE: Kitchen Knife ConspiracySeven Deadly Sins and The ZouKills, Part 2

Comeback of the Year: New Order

Best New Artist: Black Wing

Lifetime Achievement: Bjork

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

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Artist: Alex Hall’s Figurehead

Album: Alex Hall’s Figurehead (EP)

Release Date: 6/2/15

Rating: 9/10

Lengthy jams. Infectious grooves. Soaring vocals. Wailing guitars…

It’s not easy to capture all of these elements at one time, in one place. For many, it takes years and years of honing one’s craft before such a bold attempt can not only be made, but mastered. Not to mention carrying the lofty tag of “Progressive Jam.”

However, Youngstown independent act Alex Hall’s Figurehead has somehow managed to wrap their head around this concept while simultaneously blowing ours.

With their three-song self-titled EP, AHF has taken a perfect snapshot of what their band is all about; see above. Recorded at Central 8 Studios in Akron, by the band along with Nathan Doutt, AHF are carrying on the tradition of area mainstays Jones For Revival and Vibe and Direct, only with a unique signature twist. The band channels complex arrangements more akin to the heyday of Bachman-Turner Overdrive and Yes than the Grateful Dead or Phish, only condensed down into a powerful, more conventional run time. Add in some good vibes and soulful lyrics, and you have one of the area’s hottest up-and-comers, Alex Hall’s Figurehead!

Alex Hall's Figurehead performing live in 2015. Photo Courtesy of facebook.com.

Alex Hall’s Figurehead performing live in 2015. Photo Courtesy of facebook.com.

The EP opens with the pounding Reggae-like rhythms and ripping guitars of “Perform.” The track swings back and forth from an attention-grabbing rocker to a more chilled-out jammer, climaxing with an elevated, melodic guitar solo on par with that of David Gilmour. From there, the psychedelic riffs and organs of “Credit Hole” take a listener on a blues-heavy groovin’ trip. The shifting middle section gives way to yet another soulful guitar solo. Finally, the EP concludes with the Doors-esque “Shakespeare,” with exceptional instrumentation by a band who sounds very comfortable together.

All in all, Alex Hall’s Figurehead is a very rare debut in the fact that it showcases a band firing on all cylinders from a very early point in their career. The band has set the bar rather high for itself, leaving the listener wanting more, and in anticipation for the next release! The only disappointment is in there only being three tracks on this EP.

Alex Hall’s Figurehead is set to perform the Friday, Oct. 9, at Cedars West End in Youngstown, Ohio, along with Sleepy Hahas and Knife Fighters.

 

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

By the late 90s, the promising musical landscape that was “Alternative Rock” took a dramatic turn into strange, unsettling territory. And there was none more unsettling than that of Nu Metal.

This hybrid genre, comprised of post-Thrash groove metal, alternative rock and rap/hip-hop, left a very bad taste in the mouth of 90s alternative audiences. The decade that saw the rise and mainstream success of acts as influential and diverse as Jane’s Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, Kyuss, Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana to name a few, fizzled out into an instantly nostalgic radio-rock wasteland.

Enter Nu Metal: A bastardized version of alternative metal which filled the gap between Electronica and third generation post-grunge.

Looking back, rock music was almost just as much an integral part of rap and hip-hop at its inception as anything else. DJs lifted just as many samples from 70s hard rock as they did from funk and soul. The idea of a slick, repetitive guitar riff under and funky beat was undeniably infectious, as proven on Run DMC’s rendition of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way:” The first major hybrid hit. Also, in the late 70s, punk and hip-hop were akin to one another, speaking socio-political truths to disenfranchised youth.

By the early 90s alternative scene, acts like Faith No More and Rage Against the Machine had emerged. With their aggressive heavy metal guitar overtop deep grooves and rap-like vocals, new audiences flocked. With the former taking it to experimental and avant-garde territories and the latter taking on a punk rock-esque political platform, the musical marriage undeniably made sense. By the mid-90s, angst-driven metal-ish acts like KoRn, Deftones and Limp Bizkit ushered in and solidified the sound of Nu Metal, taking the groove and hip-hop influence even further, with downtuned, bass-like riffs, screamed/growled vocals and later introduced a Turntable-spinning DJ as a predominant instrumentalist.

In its humble beginnings, the genre seemed just as promising as any of Lollapalooza-era offshoots. However, by the time of its peak mainstream accessibility, it failed to capture the admiration of either heavy metal or rap audiences. It instead found it’s niche in (predominantly) white suburban teen angst. The fashion choices of this scene are perhaps cringe-worthy enough (baggy clothes, overly-abundant accessories, poorly spiked hair), but what about the music itself? Here is a look at some of the best and worst the Nu Metal scene had to offer…

 

THE BEST

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IncubusMake Yourself 1999

Of all the acts from this scene, Incubus may have been the most musically diverse, and certainly had the best vocalist; Brandon Boyd. The album features signature scratching and rapped vocals, however, they are used sparingly and actually add quite a bit of flavor in contrast to Boyd’s impressive vocal range. Lyrically, the album isn’t as angst-y as most of its contemporaries either, and instead takes turns into the philosophical and ethereal. The album as a whole has more in common with post-grunge than KoRn. One could argue that if the scratches and raps weren’t present, it’d work as a decent Stone Temple Pilots record. The band would eventually abandon the signature Nu Metal sounds all together on future releases and explore more alt-rock territory on later releases.  Overall, Make Yourself holds up rather well almost two decades later.

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SlipknotSlipknot 1999

Perhaps the most aggressive and extreme of their contemporaries, Slipknot drove deeper and darker than your average teen angst Nu Metal act. The fact that they wore unique masks and dressed in post-dystopian-like jumpsuits worked as both a gimmick and the most initially intriguing aspect of the band. The music was ugly, and sounded just a bit more demented than the rest of the crop. Slipknot incorporated elements of Industrial, Thrash and Death Metal, along with distorted turntables, horror film samples and hard-edge rapped vocals (possible influence on Tech N9ne?). Their chugging guitars were not far off from those of Ministry. They would eventually go darker and heavier on their follow-up Iowa, before teaming with Rick Rubin for  more crossover appeal on 2004’s Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses. Still, their debut stands out like a severed head in a period of mostly dormant heavy metal.

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SepulturaRoots 1996

Is it fair to label Sepultura a Nu Metal band? Absolutely not. The Brazilian quartet took Thrash metal into exciting new places in the early 90s with albums like Chaos A.D., and also made a name for themselves as an early Death Metal act in the late 80s. So what happened? Finding influence in their native Brazilian and African percussion-heavy “roots,” and looking to emerging acts like KoRn and Deftones, they teamed with producer Ross Robinson for something new and heavy. Robinson’s signature sound saw the band eliminating almost all high-end from their guitar sound, trading leads and guitar solos for low, downtuned riffage. For what it was, and when it was, its the perfect marriage of old and new school heavy metal. Both new and old fans embraced this momentary direction. Frontman Mx Cavalera would eventually abandon Sepultura entirely to go in a complete Nu Metal direction with his next, and currently still-running band, Soulfly.

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KoRn KoRn 1994

It’s almost hard to believe this album came out at a time when Nirvana, Soundgarden and Smashing Pumpkins were dominating the rock landscape. The sound was at least three or four years ahead of its time, and no one sounded like KoRn before KoRn. Their decision to utilize (then-cutting edge) seven-string guitars and tune them a whole step lower, was something unheard of even in the deepest corners of extreme metal. Their riffs steered far away from traditional heavy metal by sounding more percussive, with all instruments locked into a tight, heavy groove. In ’94, Death Metal was still a very underground phenomenon, and this was the heaviest thing to alt-rock audiences since Pantera. As a result, it spawned a new approach to metal which would come to the forefront in the late 90s and early 00s.

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DeftonesAround the Fur 1997

With their sophomore release, Deftones took the rough edges of their debut, 1995’s , smoothed out some, and sharpened others. The vocals, although still mostly screamed, had just enough accessibility to lift the song to higher levels when needed, without losing any edge. The riffs were still very grove-heavy, but stronger. The main difference between Around the Fur and Adrenaline was that the band learned when to hold back before exploding, giving these tracks a truly powerful impact. There are hints, albeit few and far between, of the Post-Punk and Shoegaze avenues the band would eventually take. However, Around the Fur is probably the most artistic record of the Nu Metal era.

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System of a DownToxicity 2001

Toxictiy was undobtedly a powerful nail in the coffin of Nu Metal. Sure, the band played low-tuned groove-riffs with the occasional growled vocal. But of any of their contemporaries, System of a Down took note from the genre’s most high-profile inspirations; Faith No More and Rage Against the Machine. The spastic outbursts and odd time signatures clearly harkens back to the best days of Faith No More and Mr. Bungle, while their socio-political overtone is of the strongest since the heyday of Rage. The middle-eastern influences and overall quirkiness also set the band light years apart. Toxicity is often referred to as an essential metal record.

Honorable Mentions:

Soulfly – Soulfly

KoRn – Follow the Leader

Stuck Mojo – Stuck Mojo

System of a Down – System of a Down

 

THE WORST

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KoRnTake A Look In the Mirror 2003

By 2003, KoRn were basically the lone survivors, smoldering in the rubble of Nu Metal. And they weren’t in the best of shape either. After failing to find a groove or produce anything new or interesting for several years, Take A Look In the Mirror sounded like a tired reflection of the innovative sound the band became known for, only worse. The lyrics are angry for the sake of being angry, and cheesy to the point of no return. The riffs sound like uninspired rehashes of earlier work. The inclusion of rapper Nas on a track sounds like a failed attempt to recapture the magic of earlier collaborations with Ice Cube. Although the band would try their hand at more electronic and Industrial sounds on future releases to mixed results, this album will forever serve as a glimpse at the end of an era.

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EvanescenceFallen 2003

Evanescence attempted to trick many a young pre-teen and teen girl that their generic, commercial brand of post-grunge Nu Metal was hip and Goth. Shame on them! Although singer Amy Lee has an impressive vocal range, the overuse her high-pitched soprano overtop cheesy, formulaic riffs doesn’t do much other than tire the listener. The fact that Fallen saw much mainstream success at the beginning of the decline of the music industry is also a testament of what the record industry was pushing on the masses during its last breaths. The band declined after this release.

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Papa RoachInfest 2000

Not sure what’s worse: The fact that Papa Roach rose to fame with generic rap-rock anthems of angst at the height of the genre’s reign or that they morphed into some awkward cock rock band who still saw success after its demise. One thing is for sure: The undeniable irony. And it makes perfect sense. Infest was as whiny, angst-y, and lyrically idiotic as it got in terms of frat boy Nu Metal. With the rise of bands like Limp Bizkit, Nu Metal saw success in pop territory, and Papa Roach did well to exploit that. And, unfortunately, they still do.

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Linkin ParkHybrid Theory 2000

By the time of Linkin Park’s debut, Nu Metal was down to a science. Find a group of angry suburbanites who lived through the grunge years, were exposed to punk and Industrial but never quite got it, and who had a deep appreciation for aggro-Gangsta Rap and BAM! You have a successful Nu Metal band. Linkin Park did little, if nothing, to further the genre. Instead embodied literally all of its tacky cliches. Hybrid Theory, a massively successful record, serves as their crowning achievement. And understandably, as it represents this genre at its mainstream peak. It was possibly the biggest crossover hit, having just enough edge (in terms of Nu Metal) for the hardcore fans but enough fluff for rock and pop radio. Linkin Park would go on to attempt Electronica and more traditional radio-friendly alt-rock to moderate success, however the scars of Hybrid Theory are too deep not to notice.

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Limp BizkitChocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water 2000

Initially, Limp Bizkit seemed like a silly joke. Kind of a far-inferior version of Primus; wrought with redneck humor, but overall lacking in artistic integrity. And it was okay. They sounded like douchey frat boys and they owned it. Take into consideration some stellar musicianship, especially from guitarist Wes Borland and bassist Sam Rivers, LB might not seem so bad. It wasn’t until their third album, 2000’s Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water, that the real moronic nature of vocalist Fred Durst hit it’s all time high, or low. With jabs at pop starlets, alt-rock titans like Trent Reznor, and whoever else he didn’t like, Durst put it all on tape, ultimately embarrassing only himself. Musically, it sucks. That’s about it. Lyrically, your dog’s farts might be more profound. There are no redeeming factors here (Sorry Wes). You’re best off to just move along.

Dishonorable Mentions:

Flaw – Through the Eyes

Limp Bizkit – Results May Vary

Papa Roach – LoveHateTragedy

Dope – No Regrets

Adema – Adema

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

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Artist: Chelsea Wolfe

Album: Abyss

Release Date: 8/7/15

Rating: 9.5/10

Chelsea Wolfe is very much unlike any of her contemporary indie singer-songwriters. Drawing inspiration from the likes of Black and Doom Metal, and having a real affinity for the dark, she dares to dabble in areas that not many artists in today’s musical landscape would dare. Therefore, there’s much more than the average “doom and gloom” to Wolfe’s haunting soundscapes and blurred vocals; this being most evident on her latest effort, Abyss.

Rewind just five years earlier, Chelsea Wolfe introduced herself and her unique songwriting approaches and dark folk-meets-neo-psychedelia her debut album, 2010’s The Grime and the Glow. However, it wasn’t until her follow-up, 2011’s Apokalypsis, that her droning Goth Rock style began to take shape. She went even further with 2013’s Pain is Beauty, incorporating more synthesizers and electronic textures.

Fans of Goth, Shoegaze, Doom and Black Metal alike began to take notice, although the signature heavy/distorted guitars of said styles were either not present, or set somewhere in the background.

This is certainly not the case for Abyss, Wolfe’s noisiest and heaviest effort yet. Inspired by her own experience with sleep paralysis, the album is truly the soundtrack to a 3 a.m. nightmare. Opening track, “Carrion Flowers,” sets the tone with a terrifying Post-Industrial wall of synth noise that’s enough to give Trent Reznor or Nivek Ogre nightmares! From there, the volume hits 11 with the guitar-heavy “Iron Moon” and “Dragged Out.” The opening trio of songs set the tone for what’s to come, while successfully catching the ears of new and old fans, as it’s not exactly what one might expect from Chelsea Wolfe… until now!

Chelsea Wolfe. Photo courtesy of Instagram.

Chelsea Wolfe. Photo courtesy of Instagram.

From there, the piano driven “Maw” changes the pace sonically, while only descending deeper into Wolfe’s terrifying trip. Tracks like “Grey Days” and “After the Fall” showcase Wolfe’s lyrical ability, creating moods and emotions not unlike a painter’s brush on a canvas. “Crazy Love” and “Survive” nod to earlier material with a Goth-Folk vibe, with “Simple Death” and “Color of Blood” let ambiance take the lead. Finally, the droning “Abyss” closes the record with an eerie detuned piano and haunting string session, placing the listener into Wolfe’s mental state following the series of night terrors.

Don’t let the over-bearing darkness fool you, Abyss is equally beautiful as it is haunting. Chelsea Wolfe has a real raw emotive power to her voice, much in the way of PJ Harvey. She could bring a room to tears, or perfectly erupt into the noise of her band at any given moment, while barely raising her voice. This album is the sound of Chelsea Wolfe in prime, both as a songwriter and an artist who is continually challenging herself, yet successfully remaining true to her roots.

All in all, Abyss is Wolfe’s best work yet. This is a true testament to artistic progress. Standout tracks include “Carrion Flowers,” “Dragged Out,” After the Fall,” “Survive” and “Abyss.” This album is great for new fans. Those who appreciate the work of Curve, Om, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Swans or early Nine Inch Nails and PJ Harvey should find instant appeal.

Chelsea Wolfe will kick off a North American tour alongside Wovenhand on Aug. 27 in Las Vegas. Abyss is out Aug. 7 via Sargent House Records.

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

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Artist: Refused

Album: Freedom

Release Date: 6/30/15

Rating: 6.5/10

The late 90’s were indeed a great time to be into Punk Rock. While acts on the Pop-Punk end of the spectrum (Blink-182, Reel Big Fish, Eve 6) where gaining mainstream attention and a shit ton of airplay, there was something even bigger about to burst from the underground. And it was Swedish Post-Hardcore outfit Refused and their seminal classic, The Shape of Punk to Come, that blew the doors wide open!

The Epitaph Records act had a major hit on their hands in 1998. Led by the success of the single “New Noise,” Refused were poised to be the next big thing and the band to possibly take down Nu Metal before it had the chance to break onto the bastardized Alternative scene of the late 90’s. Unfortunately, it all imploded from there.

Refused called it quits just about a year after the release of The Shape of Punk to Come, leaving a massive void on the emerging Post-Hardcore scene. Although bands like At The Drive-In, Glassjaw, Zao and The Dillinger Escape Plan saw success at the turn of the decade, it wasn’t until the scene’s bastard cousin, “Screamo,” broke through to the masses that a sound pioneered by the band could really be recognized by a mainstream audience, albeit a very watered-down version of it.

However, the impossible happened in 2012, and the all-but-dead Refused returned from out of no where for a triumphant reunion. And after a few years of “will they, won’t they,” in 2015 Refused announced a full-scale second run along with a new album.

On June 30, Refused released Freedom, their first album in 17 years. The hype surrounding the release has been quite circumstantial, given that the band released on of the most influential pieces of music in the last 20 years.

With this being no easy feat, Freedom doesn’t exactly live up to all the expectations. Most lacking on Freedom is the sense of experimentation the band had come to be known for. Any experimentation that is present, feels forced.

Kicking off the album is the semi-lackluster, “Elektra,” leading into the awkward chant-along rocker, “Old Friends/New War.” Following this, the album slowly kicks into gear, with the scorching lead single, “Dawkins Christ;” an almost Faith No More-esque heavy rocker that captures, or recaptures, the band in the artsy-angst that made them legends.

Refused, circa 2015. Photo courtesy of pitchfork.com.

Refused, circa 2015. Photo courtesy of pitchfork.com.

From here, “Francafrique” and “War On the Palaces” come up somewhat flat, sounding as the band is trying to find some balance between a good poppy hook and a blast of Hardcore rage. Luckily, the final four tracks of Freedom really offer up something special.

“Destroy the Man” is a true rocker, boasting the trademark energy fans have come to expect from Refused. And although the following tracks, “366” and “Servants of Death” take on a more electronic-ish danceable role, they boast just as much Punk Rock as they do anything else, proving the band still have some new tricks up their sleeve. Finally, the album concludes with “Useless Europeans.” As the tension builds throughout ” Useless Europeans,” Freedom climbs to a satisfying climax.

All in all, Freedom is not exactly the follow-up to The Shape of Punk to Come. Refused take a step back at moments, several steps actually, allowing melody and hooks have more room than the blast of energy one may expect. However, nearly two decades have passed between the two records, and the band have undeniably grown as songwriters. With so many years missing in between, there’s no telling what baby steps where missed from Shape of Punk to Freedom.

Nonetheless, the record has some very solid tracks. Highlights include “Dawkins Christ,” “Servants of Death” and “Useless Europeans.” Conversely, “366” and “Francafrique” offer terribly catchy hooks that may just have you revisiting them, whether they strike you initially or not.

The Rolling Stones. Photo courtesy of billboard.com.

The Rolling Stones. Photo courtesy of billboard.com.

By Brandon Judeh (Music Reporter)

The lights went down and the massive video screens showed 50 years worth of music and photos.

Fireworks went off and nearly 60,000 fans went insane.

Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones.

It was ironic as 71-year-old lead singer Mick Jagger strutted onto the stage and sang “And I howled at my ma in the driving rain,” during the opener “Jumping Jack Flash” just as the day long rain had subsided.

The crowd was in full-blown hysteria by the time the sets second song “It’s Only Rock “n” Roll (But I Like It)” kicked in, as Keith Richards’ sleazy guitar sound filled Heinz Field.

Though feedback, due to the excess of amplifiers, drowned out the greatness of songs like “All Down the Line” and “Tumbling Dice,” the rest of the show sounded flawless for a band that’s half a century old.

2012’s “Doom and Gloom” faired well stacked up against “Bitch” and “Moonlight Mile” and proved the boys from London can still write a hit song.

“Paint it Black” won the fan vote, over songs such as “Shattered” (much to the crowds delight).

Perhaps the biggest fan reaction came when the Gramps with Amps kicked into “Honky Tonk Woman” as nearly the entire stadium was on its feet belting out “It’s the honky tonk woman, gimmie, gimmie, gimme the honky tonk blues.”

Speaking of blues, guitarist Ronnie Wood and company played an exceptionally bluesy version of “Midnight Rambler,” which was easily the highlight of the night.

It also displayed the often-underrated chemistry between Richards, Wood and drummer Charlie Watts (as well as the backing musicians).

They all managed to cohesively trail off into their own jams just enough to make the performance a unique one. Then brought it back around to complete the classic track.

Before Richards took over lead singing duties on “Before They Make Me Run” and “Happy,” Jagger introduced the entire band.

Wood, ever the attention whore, stretched out his ovation by walking around the catwalk and egging the crowd on for more cheers.

Though Richards introduction was received with a roar of applause and chants of “Keith” the sometimes under appreciated Watts received the biggest reception.

Maybe the shyest Stone, Watts was treated to a nearly three minute ovation, before quietly returning behind the kit.

Kicking off their performance of “Gimme Shelter” the band played to a dimly lit stage as the lyrics to the 1969 hit still resonate to this day.

It’s worth noting that long time backing vocalist, Lisa Fischer, did an admirable job singing the legendary Merry Clayton’s vocals.

As the muggy night wore on, Jagger came out in a bright red, feathery outfit as flames erupted and the opening drums to “Sympathy for the Devil” filled the air.

When the Stones returned to the stage for their encore they were joined by the Penn State Concert Choir for a stunning rendition of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

But sometimes you get what you need, as fans were treated to the ageless “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” as the closer.

One thing is certain, all of the Rolling Stones fans, both old and new, left Heinz Field satisfied.

 

Buzz Osborne. Photo courtesy of metalinjection.net.

Buzz Osborne. Photo courtesy of metalinjection.net.

By Brandon Judeh (Music Reporter)

Buzz Osborne of the Melvins has been making plenty of headlines in the past month, due in large part to his criticism of the Kurt Cobain documentary, Montage of Heck.

The Raw Alternative talked to King Buzzo last week while he and his band mates were in Columbus, Osborne talked Cobain, new music and vinyl.

Whenever the topic of Nirvana or his late friend comes up, you can always expect the truth and some sarcasm thrown in from the Melvins singer.

This time there was a bit of surprise expressed.

“Getting all of this attention about that documentary has been surprising, I can’t believe people care about what I have to say regarding it,” Osborne said. “I’ve already said everything that’s been needed to say about the shitty documentary. What good is there to say? Kurt was a close friend of ours and he’s dead, tell me what the good part of that is?”

Osborne said the only reason he even watched Montage of Heck was because another outlet asked him to do a review on it.

The singer has been critical of the movie, saying, “90 percent of it is lies, false, made up bullshit.”

Buzz first met Cobain in high school and the two quickly forged a friendship, as the young Cobain became a roadie for the Melvins who heavily influenced the future Nirvana leader.

Fan reactions have been mixed about his comments. Some agree, some do not, while others are claiming Buzz is a “Bitter, old man that is jealous of Nirvana’s success.”

Osborne’s answer to that is priceless.

“Yep, that’s it! They are exactly right, I’m bitter, I’m old and I’m jealous,” Osborne sarcastically quipped. “Whatever people want to think is fine, if they want to assume I’m not successful, that’s great! I could care less.”

“I know what happened and what the documentary portrays is not how it happened, I was there from the beginning all the way to their final show when Kurt walked on stage for the final time.”

The Melvins will be walking onto the Grog Shop’s stage on Thursday as they continue to tour behind their release of the EP The Bulls and the Bee’s and the rerelease of 2001’s Electroretard all on one CD.

Melvins-cover

The main reason behind the rerelease of Electroretard (an album full of reworked songs) is because it was long out of print and Buzz and drummer Dale Crover wanted to give fans a better chance to have a physical copy.

“We felt it was a good time to put it back out there, to give fans a chance to get a copy, I think it was a good idea,” added Osborne.

EPs are something that Osborne says he’s fond of and believes that today’s generation may feel the same way.

“I think it’s an attention span thing, plus I would rather hear five or six really good songs rather than a LP that may be half good and half shitty,” Buzz added.

The vinyl release of “The Bulls and the Bee’s” has been delayed due to delays at factories because of the overwhelming demand for vinyl.

It’s no secret that every hipster imaginable has jumped on the vinyl bandwagon, but Osborne say’s he really doesn’t mind, nor does he care that chain stores such as Barnes and Noble have also jumped at the opportunity.

“It’s cool, I don’t mind it, it give’s more people ways to listen to music. The more opportunities there are for people to listen to my music the better. With so many stores carrying vinyl now, it makes it easier for the consumer to get a hold of music, it’s definitely an industry changer,” Osborne added.

The Melvins, however, are not new to vinyl; they have been releasing albums on the format for many years, often limited runs that fans snatch up quickly at shows.

Not to mention the limited edition posters, pins and other off the wall and rare goodies the band is known to sell at their concerts.

While Buzz admits that he doesn’t collect vinyl, he says he understands the mind of a collector.

“I get the whole mentality of it, I collect stuff too, so I understand how a person can get into collecting vinyl, it’s all pretty similar,” said the 51-year-old.

Though 2015 is half way over, the Melvins still have plenty of plans for the rest of the year as well as 2016.

The Colossus of Destiny: A Melvin’s Tale is a documentary on the more than 30 year history of the band and will be released in early 2016.

Started as a Kickstarter fund, the project raised nearly $100,000 and has plenty of cool extras that fans could snatch up for different dollar amounts during the pledging stage.

Stay tuned, as the Raw Alternative will have all of the latest Melvins news.

Rob Zombie performing at Packard Music Hall in Warren, Ohio. Photo by Brandon Judeh.

Rob Zombie performing at Packard Music Hall in Warren, Ohio. Photo by Brandon Judeh.

By Brandon Judeh (Music Reporter)

Halloween arrived early Monday night, when Rob Zombie and his “Super Monster Sex Action Tour” rolled into W. D. Packard Music Hall in Warren.

Set to a backdrop of famous monsters such as Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolfman and King Kong, Zombie and company rocked the intimate venue for nearly two hours.

Coming out in a cloud of fog and red lights, Zombie, guitarist John 5, bassist Piggy D and drummer Ginger Fish kicked things off with 2013’s “Teenage Nosferatu Pussy,” much to the fans delight.

The sold out crowd erupted after the first few notes of White Zombie classic, “Super-Charger Heaven” which set the tone for the rest of the night.

The layout of the concert was much more low key than a typical Rob Zombie show, using backdrops, lighting and fog to set the atmosphere.

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Photo by Brandon Judeh.

A big contrast to the high-end productions Zombie has been known to put forth in recent years. Missing were the giant robots, fire and big screens.

Surprisingly, this did not take away from the show; rather it proved that Zombie and his team could put on a high quality show, no matter the setting.

“Living Dead Girl” and “Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown” stood out as two of the best songs of the set, with Zombie’s energetic stage persona leading the way.

As the quartet hammered through “House of 1000 Corpses,” “Meet the Creeper,” and “Never Gonna Stop” they switched gears by throwing in a couple of covers.

In between “Thunder Kiss ‘65” the band stomped out heavy renditions of the Ramones classic “Blitzkrieg Bop” and Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out.” With Zombie adding “I’m sure sometime in the 22-year history of the Ramones that they came through your town. If you didn’t see them, well, you fucked up. If you weren’t born yet, that’s your problem.”

The Ramones did indeed roll into nearby Youngstown in July of 1976, when they played their first concert outside of New York at the Tomorrow Club inside of the old State Theater.

Joey Ramone also met future members of the “Dead Boys” that night.

Guitarist John 5. Photo by Brandon Judeh.

Guitarist John 5. Photo by Brandon Judeh.

As the band returned to the stage after a brief intermission (with the crowd chanting “ZOMBIE, ZOMBIE!”), John 5 came out and proved why he is one of the best Metal guitarists.

His gritty guitar solo of the National Anthem was the perfect segway into Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re an American Band.”

Aside from that, John 5 showed all night long why Zombie works closely with him on albums and with the music he provides for some of Zombie’s movies (see Lords of Salem).

As the night slowly closed to an end, John 5, Piggy D and Fish played a slow, sludgy and heavy rendition of “The Lords of Salem” before closing with the fan favorite, “Dragula.”

When the band left the stage and the lights went on, the crowd continued to chant, but this time the beautiful horror show was over.