My Chemical Romance
“Ness is one of the most underrated pure songwriters in rock.” – Los Angeles Times
Here’s how you know you’ve made it in the music business: You’ve stayed strong for three decades on your own terms, on your own time, by your own rules, and over that time your influence has only grown. Each of your albums has been stronger than your last. You’ve been brought onstage by
Bruce Springsteen, because he wanted to play one of your songs. You’ve seen high times and low ones, good days and tragic days, but every night you give 100%, and every morning you wake up still swinging.
This is the short version of the Social Distortion bio — the long version could be a 10-part miniseries. But over the past 30 years, the punk godfathers in the band have all but trademarked their sound, a brand of hard rockabilly/punk that’s cut with the melodic, road-tested lyrics of frontman Mike Ness. Their searing guitars and a locomotive rhythm section sound as alive today as they did in ’82, as do Ness’ hard-luck tales of love, loss and lessons learned. “The most common thing I hear is, ‘Man, your music got me through some hard times,'” Ness says. “And I just say, ‘Me too.'”
Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes (produced, for the first time, by Ness himself) is the band’s first record since 2004. For a band with a career spanning over 30 years, Social Distortion experienced a significant amount of firsts in 2011. For starters, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes debuted at #4 on the Billboard Top 200 and was the highest debut that the band has yet seen. Hard Times was also the #1 Independent Album and the #2 Modern Rock/Alternative Album week of release. The band also made their late night television debut when they performed “Machine Gun Blues” on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and later played for Conan on Hard Times’ release date. Taking their successes to the road, Social Distortion played European festivals including Reading and Leeds for the first time. They
also booked their first tours of Australia and South America. And finally, Social Distortion played Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits Festival, and Coachella – all of these for the first time.
Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes has Social Distortion’s key components — their patented mix of punk, bluesy rock n’ roll and outlaw country — while also stretching the boundaries of their signature sound. Social Distortion is a blend of potent power that appeals to all ages. They are honored to have been able to reach as many people as they have so far. “I write songs for myself, and I hope that other people will like them too,” Ness says. “I think every record you make is
showing people what you’ve learned over the past few years. It’s showing people, ‘This is what I know.’ ”
Now in their fourth decade, Ness and Social Distortion have officially achieved one of the most nonpunk things possible: They’ve failed to burn out.
Dexter Holland (vocals, guitar), Noodles (guitar), Greg K (bass) and Pete Parada (drums) are The Offspring, one of rock’s most exciting and enduring bands. The Offspring have performed over 1100 shows across the globe and sold more than 40 million albums worldwide. Their 1994 release Smash remains the highest-selling album of all-time on an independent label. Among the band’s best-known hits are the rock anthems “Self Esteem,” “Come Out And Play (Keep ‘Em Separated),” “The Kids Aren’t Alright” and “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid.”
Machine Gun Kelly
Colson Baker, also known as “Machine Gun Kelly,” is a multi-hyphenate talent with an impressive career that started in Cleveland and has made him a globally known star in both music and film.
As Machine Gun Kelly, he burst onto the music scene with the release of his first album Lace Up via EST 19XX/Bad Boy/Interscope Records. After debuting at number two on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, he has since released the artist albums General Admission (2015), Bloom (2016), Binge (2018), Hotel Diablo (2019) as well as the upcoming Tickets to My Downfall.
In 2019 alone, Spotify announced that his songs were streamed 571,200,000 times in 79 countries. Additionally, “Machine Gun Kelly” was one of the top ten most searched artists of 2018 according to Google.
In April 2020, he released “Bloody Valentine,” the first single off his forthcoming Tickets to My Downfall album, executive produced by Travis Barker. The two appeared on THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH JAMES CORDEN to perform the song, and the official video starring Megan Fox garnered over 4,000,000 views in under 24 hours.
On the acting side, he received critical acclaim as the lead role as Tommy Lee in the Netflix’s THE DIRT, a biopic based on the rise of the band Motley Crue directed by Jeff Tremaine. He also starred opposite Sandra Bullock, John Malkovich and Trevante Rhodes in Netflix’s thriller film BIRD BOX. In its first week of streaming, 45,037,125 Netflix accounts watched the film, making it Netflix’s most streamed film at the time. He appeared in BIG TIME ADOLESCENCE from writer/director Jason Orley, also starring Pete Davidson, Griffin Gluck and Jon Cryer, which premiered in competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. He will next be seen in Netflix’s PROJECT POWER from Henry Joost and Ariel Shulman also starring Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, which will premiere globally in August 14, 2020.
At 6’4’, the musician/actor has walked in New York Fashion Week, and his distinct look and love for fashion landed him a campaign as the face of John Varvatos for Fall/Winter 2017-2018. Combining his musical talents with the campaign, he played the opening of Varvatos’ first ever store in Dubai in November 2018. He also collaborated with Reebok on their Club C sneaker campaign.
Emerging from the blue-collar swamps of Berkley, California, Rancid has now been a living, breathing punk rock band for over a quarter century. Apparently, nothing can kill them.
Back in 1991, after the demise of their much beloved and still influential first band, Operation Ivy, founding members Tim Armstrong (vocals, guitar) and Matt Freeman (bass, vocals) decided to do the impossible — start an even better band.
Signing with Epitaph Records, the band released their first album, “Rancid,” in 1993. Shortly thereafter, Lars Frederiksen (vocals, guitar) joined the band, because… well, are you going to tell him he can’t? The result, in 1994, was “Let’s Go.” People noticed. In 1995, Rancid released the classic platinum-selling “…And Out Come The Wolves.” You still remember when you first heard it.
They followed with the even more ambitious “Life Won’t Wait” in 1998, and in 2000, Rancid released another album entitled “Rancid,” just to see if anyone was paying attention.
After “Indestructible” in 2003, Branden Steineckert (drums) joined to solidify Rancid’s current line-up. They subsequently released the albums “Let The Dominos Fall” (2009), “Honor Is All We Know” (2014), and “Trouble Maker” (2017).
Through it all, Rancid has remained fiercely independent, never losing their loyalty to community or each other. Their music confronts political and social issues, while balancing personal tales of love, loss, and heartbreak with attitude. Rancid gives their listeners a community where everyone can belong. By carrying on the traditions and spirit of the original punk rock bands that came before, Rancid has become a legend an inspiration to punk bands that have come after. They are the living embodiment of East Bay punk. And if you don’t know all this by now — you’re not playing their music loud enough!
See ya in the pit.
The saying goes that while we may be through with the past, the past is never really through with us. For their seventh album, Rewind, Replay, Rebound, the multi-platinum selling Danish rock band Volbeat — Michael Poulsen (guitars/vocals), Rob Caggiano (guitars), Kaspar Boye Larsen (bass), and Jon Larsen (drums) — have built upon the DNA-distinct, psychobilly punk ‘n’ roll sound they are known for. They have made their sound fresh for themselves and for their diehard legion of fans by distilling from and paying homage to rock ‘n’ roll’s rich, storied past. The end result finds the band reaching a creative summit.
With their own nearly 20-year history, which includes tours with Metallica, Motorhead Slipknot and beyond, over one and a half billion streams, a 2014 Best Metal Performance Grammy nomination for “Room 24” from Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies, and multiple Danish Music Award wins, Volbeat return with an album that, when all is said and done, will help usher in the rock ‘n’ roll surgence that is both long overdue and inevitable. It also aims to bring rock back to the forefront.
“The whole point for us, and a lot of other bands, going into the studio, is because you still have something to prove — not just for the fans, but mostly for yourself,” says Poulsen. “You are still eager and have that desire when it comes to music and lyrics. As long as you are inspired and you are satisfied with what you come up with… I will say this is our best work because it has to be our best work until the next records comes. But we would not be able to do this record if it wasn’t for the work we have done in the past. No matter how old the band gets or how many records we do, there is always going to be that signature sound.”
The stakes are not only professionally higher for Volbeat and Poulsen. They are elevated personally, as well. The frontman became a father two years ago, and in order to be away from his family by making music and touring, he has be firing on all musical cylinders and playing music he and the fans love.
To keep things interesting and in order to remain true to their sonic identity, Poulsen and his bandmates knew they had to dare to try other things and to introduce “new elements that haven’t really been touched upon on previous albums. The balance and challenge was to incorporate these new ideas into what is typical Volbeat,” and that meant mining their own personal pasts and that of the genre they traffic in. All of those elements and contrasts combined are ultimately the connective tissue that will bind the album to its listeners.
“There is a side of it where people will go, ‘Oh, wow, we didn’t know you could sing like that,’” Poulsen says with a laugh. “Yeah, me either!’ The album has a hint of going back in time to your childhood. If you listen to the lyrics, the listener can go back in time and think of his or her own childhood. Whether it’s a certain smell, a color, a location, a feeling, or something that happened in the summer that made you feel good, or when you were really struggling, but you found your way through to the other side and continued being inspired by life and the challenges therein. The songs are personal but they are relatable.”
With the album, everything is cyclical. “With the lyrics, you go back in time to your own childhood and fly away to what you did as a kid,” Poulsen continues. “When you do that, you replay that when you grow up. If you’ve been going through something and you have been down, and then rise up and get stronger, that’s the rebound. But it also references the music. Some songs could easily be on our first two or three records — that is where we rewind. Now, in 2019, we replay it, and we even become stronger.”
On Rewind, Replay, Rebound, the band invited several guests appear and to give the record a thick and varied rock ‘n’ roll vibe. In addition to working with backing vocalist Mia Maja on several tracks, Volbeat once again recruited the Harlem Gospel Choir, who appeared on the song “Goodbye Forever” on a prior album, to feature on three songs, including the single “Last Day Under the Sun.” Weaving the choir into the Volbeat sound was a seamless process, with Poulsen saying, “I didn’t have to think about it. I knew they would fit. They are on three songs when they could have easily been on more.”
Clutch vocalist Neil Fallon is featured on “Die to Live,” the result of touring together and a love for the singer’s gruff and powerful style. Raynir Jacob Jacildo (piano) and Doug Corocran (sax) of JD McPherson’s band also appear on the song. Poulsen explains, “I wanted that Jerry Lee Lewis-like piano playing. We knew these guys would be able to do it, with the sax on top, with a sort of a Little Richard feeling. They nailed it.” Exodus and Slayer guitarist Gary Holt also performs on “Cheapside Sloggers,” with Poulsen explaining, “I wanted to add something new and not typical, so why not bring in Gary Holt? He is a great guitar player, and the solo sounds great.”
While the songs are riff-driven and room-filling, the topics Poulsen tackles lyrically give the album additional depth and dimension. “Last Day Under the Sun” was inspired by Johnny Cash. “When I read his book, he went through tough times with alcohol and drugs… He walked into a cave to lay down to die. But he wakes up and feels like he has been given a second chance, and becomes a believer of God. You can hear it in his music — something very strong happened to him in that cave when he came out. That’s something every one of us goes through in life — we struggle with depression and demons. Every one of us steps into that cave and comes out a new person with a new mindset or new hope or new meaning.”
“Pelvis on Fire,” with its cheeky title, nods to the fun and frivolous rock of yore. “It’s a pure rock ‘n’ roller,” according to Poulsen. “When you hear songs from the ‘50s and ‘60s, and read the lyrics, they are not that deep. What the fuck is ‘Tutti Frutti, oh Rudy?’ [laughs]. That doesn’t make sense. But it sounds great. It is a feeling. It’s a movement. It’s sexuality. It’s emotional and that thing we feel when we hear good rock ‘n’ roll.”
“Rewind the Exit” and “Die to Live” both explore how the pursuit of perfection can be a hollow goal. About the track, Poulsen muses, “Perfection, if you ask me, doesn’t exist, and it fucks up a lot of people to think that they need to be perfect to have a good life. What would you do with perfection if you reach it? What’s left? If you don’t have something in front of you, where will you go? If you stay on the top, how boring would it be to walk backwards?”
“When We Were Kids” finds Volbeat ruminating on the immortality and innocence we all naively experience in our youth “when you think you can live forever and had your whole life ahead of you,” while “Leviathan” revisits the childhood fable about the wonder of a little boy who thinks he can fix the world’s problems by communicating with a sea monster.
“Sorry Sack of Bones” wanders into less serious territory and gives itself over to multiple interpretations. “It’s like when you have the worst hangover, and you feel like a sorry sack of bones,” Poulsen explains. “But there is another side of it, like a horror script,” where you wake up in the woods and feel your body deformed, crushed, and you have a flashlight and there are tons of bags of body parts, and you are left to wonder how you got there. “Cloud 9” explores the idea of keeping the memories of loved ones alive and close, while “Maybe I Believe” is about learning to trust in yourself and others to achieve great things. “Parasite,” which was penned in a few minutes, looks at those people whose sole function is a parasitic existence.
“The Awakening of Bonnie Parker” is the band’s take on the classic Bonnie & Clyde tale. “Bonnie had a great desire to be a movie star and she wrote tons of letters to the movie studios, who would always write back saying they couldn’t use her. Clyde was also a saxophone player who carried around a sax in the back seat of the car while they were robbing banks. In our story, Bonnie wakes up from the dead and is convinced that Columbia Pictures has been calling and she is the next big thing. She picks up Clyde’s saxophone and brings it to his grave and tries to convince him to join her on her trip to Hollywood, but he is content and has found peace in his coffin.”
“The Everlasting” is an ode to that fire that burns upon cremation and can take you anywhere you want to go before the last farewell, while “7:24” is an autobiographical celebration of becoming a father and references the exact time of the birth of Poulsen’s daughter. He finished performing on a North American Metallica date and flew home to Copenhagen to welcome his newborn child. He then hopped a flight back to the U.S. for the next show.
The deluxe edition of Rewind, Replay, Rebound features unheard demos from the album’s pre-production, an alternate version of “Die To Live,” and two new songs. The first, “Under The Influence,” Poulsen says “is a song for my girlfriend. It’s about me being high on love for her and becoming a fan of her personality.” The second, “Immortal But Destructible,” “ is about being a young kid where you have all the time in the world in front of you and feeling immortal but at the same time fragile.”
Ultimately, Volbeat have not lost the musical fire in their veins or their passion to create and progress. They strive to outdo themselves and their previous output. It’s that which keeps them hungry — and musically honest — on Rewind, Replay, Re
The darkest moments in history — those when fear and hate trump all else — are the times that define us. As politicians use bigoted rhetoric to gain power at home and abroad, and fringe groups creep from the shadows, it’s tempting to succumb to despair and defeatism. But Rise Against is challenging fans to create a bold new identity together: one that is stronger than these setbacks, and bigger than any election. WOLVES, their 8th studio release, is about recognizing the power within all of us; it’s a primal call for the prey to become the hunters.
The darkest moments in history — those when fear and hate trump all else — are the times that define us. As politicians use bigoted rhetoric to gain power at home and abroad, and fringe groups creep from the shadows, it’s tempting to succumb to despair and defeatism. But Rise Against is challenging fans to create a bold new identity together: one that is stronger than these setbacks, and bigger than any election. WOLVES, their 8th studio release, is about recognizing the power within all of us; it’s a primal call for the prey to become the hunters.
“If you are in the wilderness and you hear wolves howling, what you’re hearing might be an animal lost or mourning,” says Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath. “But it doesn’t make you any less afraid. You know they’re there. And you know what this powerful pack of animals is capable of.”
For 18 years, Rise Against has kept its moral compass steady, using their international punk platform to speak out for social justice. The band cut its teeth during the George W. Bush administration and has released records across three presidencies, but today’s political climate forced the band to step back and rethink how they define themselves.
The record was originally titled “Mourning in America,” but after the U.S. presidential election that rang hollow. It felt somber and hopeless. Members of the band felt those emotions, too, but decided they needed to create an album that focused more on our potential than our failings. They knew it needed teeth and claws. The result is WOLVES, a soundtrack for the hunt.
“In many ways, a Rise Against show is a safe space for our fans,” McIlrath says. “But I realized that I don’t only want to create safe spaces, I want to create dangerous spaces where misogyny can’t exist, where xenophobia can’t exist. I want to create spaces where those sentiments don’t have any air, and they suffocate: where those ideas die. WOLVES isn’t about creating a safe space, it’s about creating a space that’s dangerous for injustice.”
The influence of the U.S. presidential election can clearly be heard in songs like “Walls” (“the monsters lost in history are now making their return”) and “Welcome to the Breakdown” (“ignoring the facts, intoxicated by the throne”). WOLVES is of course shaped by the new presidency, but it’s not limited to it. There is a spirit of resistance and optimism here that transcends our current crisis, and will outlast any politician.
Like all Rise Against records, the band tackles political struggles alongside personal ones, creating songs as complex as their fans. On tracks like “House on Fire” and “Politics of Love,” one can hear echoes of the iconic punk/folk songwriter Billy Bragg in McIlrath’s words; the personal is political, the political is personal, and it’s all rooted in a revolutionary, uncompromising love.
This evolution in Rise Against’s identity came against the backdrop of other changes for the band. For 11 years, they had worked closely with producer Bill Stevenson, of the Descendents and Black Flag fame. With Descendents on tour and Stevenson tied up, Rise Against stepped out of their comfort zone and began working with Nick Raskulinecz, the Grammy-winning producer who has partnered with Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains, and Deftones.
Recording with Raskulinecz meant moving to Nashville, Tennessee — far from the band’s familiar worlds of Chicago and Los Angeles, and a firmly red state where Rise Against has rarely played. Political yard signs and conversations around town were constant reminders to the band that they were in new territory. And even though Nashville is a music town, it’s country — not punk or hardcore. During the band’s five months in the area, these outsider feelings shaped the identity of WOLVES.
Living in the South transformed the record in some unexpected ways. “As people on the news are arguing about immigration and class warfare, we are driving down the highway and seeing Civil War battlefields and monuments,” McIlrath says. “When you tour these battlefields, you hear about what kind of muskets they used. But shouldn’t we be talking about what got us to that point as a country?”
As further evidence of the geographic influence on the record, it’s comprised not just of anthems of resistance, but also reconciliation. Living in Nashville drove home that we can’t just focus on our differences, McIlrath says. If we can stop and talk to each other, face to face, we might realize our common ground. We are all wolves in the same pack, circling at the gates.
“They say we’re divided, we are conquered,” McIlrath sings. “But our enemies have never been each other.”
A few years ago, “famous” displaced “teacher” as the number one career choice for children. When another recent study asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” one in five kids replied, “I just want to be rich.” High on the ultimate drug, worshippers of a new pop culture religion with its own twisted clergy, a generation of vacuous celebrities chases fame as its own reward, jettisoning any pretenses about talent, sincerity, or artistry.
Thankfully, there are still dedicated, hardscrabble, no-nonsense soothsayers, organizers, musicians, and likeminded creative badasses who’ve defiantly said, “enough!” Like SEETHER, the multiplatinum rock radio anthem-making machine whose albums, songs, and live performances are armed with big riffs, bigger melodies, crunchy tones, and atmosphere.
SEETHER’s existence itself is an act of rebellion, weaponized to cut through the noise with truth telling clarity and undeniable authenticity. Even as no-talent hacks and cartoon social media living mannequins seek to dominate the discourse, SEETHER takes a stand against those who Poison the Parish.
“We want to bring back musicality, playing loud, and the importance of having something to say that you can stand behind,” declares SEETHER front man/co-founder Shaun Morgan. “It’s about honesty in your music.”
Poison the Parish, the band’s seventh studio album, arrives just in time on Morgan’s new label imprint Canine Riot Records, via Concord Music Group. Morgan also served as producer (the first time he’s produced an album in its entirety), working alongside engineer and mixer Matt Hyde (Slayer, Deftones, Hatebreed) at Nashville’s Blackbird Studio, which has played host to everyone from Taylor Swift to Jack White.
Make no mistake. Poison the Parish displays no specific agenda, political or religious. But it is personal. This time out, SEETHER restored their sound with the blood, sweat and heaviness that’s long powered their career. In this day and age, keeping it real and doing it for the right reasons is a bold statement in and of itself. At a point where most bands start to waver, SEETHER have made certain album seven is the band’s heaviest yet.
“What it really boils down to is that I am disgusted and horrified by what I see society becoming, the complete idolatry of vapid social media and reality TV ‘stars,’” Morgan explains. “It hearkens back to the days of clergy shaping a society as voices of authority; now we’ve got these people glorifying soullessness and lack of talent. They’re preaching this gospel that you can be famous, as long as you have the right face or the right body or the right connections. They aren’t saying, ‘Hey, go out there and write a book, invent something, try to cure cancer.’ It’s all about getting the angles right, to create this illusion that your life is great.”
Poison the Parish is filled with newfound ferocity and purpose, all built around Morgan’s gift for classic pop melody and structure. Album opener “Stoke the Fire,” is a focused statement of purpose and the message is clear: SEETHER is a hard rock n’ roll band, first and foremost. Lead single “Let You Down” is a dynamic, groove-oriented earworm. The moody vibe of “Emotionless” is relentless and chilling while “Against the Wall,” brooding and melodic, reverberates with honesty and self-reflection.
Descendants of Nirvana, early Alice In Chains, and Soundgarden, SEETHER continues to create modern, urgent and memorable music fifteen years into an illustrious and highly successful career.
Consider: the South African band has amassed twenty Top 5 singles, three platinum records, a fan-beloved gold-selling DVD and scores of #1 singles including “Fine Again,” “Fake It,” “Remedy,” “Broken,” “Words As Weapons,” “Country Song,” “Breakdown,” “Rise Above This,” “Same Damn Life,” “Truth,” “Gasoline,” “Driven Under” and their infamous cover of “Careless Whisper”. The band has also been recognized by the South African Music Awards, MTV Africa Music Awards, and Revolver Golden Gods Awards.
The relentlessly hard working outfit has averaged 90 performances a year, crisscrossing the globe as headlining mainstays and featured performers on many of the world’s biggest rock festivals. SEETHER songs are familiar to anyone who plays Madden NFL games or watch the WWE.
In addition, Morgan co-founded the annual Rise Above Fest, the largest suicide awareness event in the world. Now in its fifth year, the annual benefit concert will take place over two days in July 2017 featuring performers such as Korn, Shinedown, Stone Sour, Skillet and SEETHER.
“We felt so much freedom with this album. We really focused on putting out something completely representative of who and what we are,” says Morgan. “We like to have a good time. That thing you feel when you create and play music, if you lose that to the business side, then you sort of lose the whole reason why you’re doing it. This album is, I think, where our hearts have always been and it represents us completely as the band we are.”
Creating something of value and meaning is SEETHER’s cultural antidote, its north star. And with Poison the Parish, they’ve done it with unrestrained power and grace. “Give something to people,” Morgan says. “Make people’s lives better in some way. That’s really the point.”
It has always been hard to put a tag on GOJIRA, one of France’s most extreme bands the country’s musical pallet has ever known. But then again, the band has never really sought out such a tag, instead letting the music do the talking, preferring introspection and intelligence over preconceived notions and preexisting tags. Ever since the 1996 formation in town of Bayonne in the southwest of France, GOJIRA has been an ever- evolving experiment in extreme metal ultimately built upon a worldly, ever-conscious outlook with roots firmly-planted both in the hippie movement and an environmentally-conscious, new age mentality. This time, with The Way of All Flesh, GOJIRA harnesses a spiritual consciousness as well, but still culminates in a sound wholly heavy.
Originally dubbed Godzilla, after the scaly, green film star with an equally huge reputation as the newfound band’s sound, the brothers Duplantier – guitarist/vocalist Joe and drummer Mario – and fellow Frenchmen Jean Michel Labadie on bass and Christian Andreu on guitar, quickly released several demos, ultimately changing the band’s name and independently releasing the first GOJIRA album, Terra Incognita, in 2001, offering up a brief glimpse into the giant GOJIRA would eventually become through persistent hard work and years of toiling in the metal underground.
After the 2003 release of the band’s follow-up, The Link, throughout Europe and the subsequent live DVD release the next year, of the aptly-titled The Link Alive, 2005 brought the release of From Mars To Sirius, the band’s breakthrough release, garnering high praise and a North American release through Prosthetic Records in 2006. Fans of not only heavy, extreme music took notice, but so did the intellectual world, thanks to Sirius’ thoughtful and expansive inner examination of the world at hand and the consequences of humanity’s struggle to coexist without harm. The metal world was amused and amazed: much of it hadn’t yet seen an equally intelligent and pummelingly heavy release that was as expansive and open as it was dense and concise.
Following the immense praise of From Mars To Sirius and recurring trips across the Atlantic for North American touring alongside the likes of Lamb of God, Children of Bodom, and Behemoth among others, GOJIRA established its stranglehold on the extreme metal spectrum with a linguist’s touch, a lyricist’s finesse, and a
crushingly heavy live show that left audiences astounded, establishing the band’s live performance as a spot-on recreation of the band’s increasingly adept and intelligent studio output.
While 2007 wrapped with GOJIRA again touring North America on the Radio Rebellion Tour alongside Behemoth to the best reaction yet, the dawn of 2008 saw a nearly 10 month wait for while the band assembled The Way of All Flesh, one of the year’s most anticipated records. This time revolving around the undeniable dilemma of a mortal demise, GOJIRA’s soundtrack to the situation seems fitting. Shifting ever-so-slightly from the eco-friendly orchestra of impending doom on From Mars To Sirius to the band’s new message of the equally uncontrollable inevitability of death, The Way of All Flesh melds the open and airy progressive passages GOJIRA has become famous for with the sonically dense sounds and bludgeoningly heavy rhythms that makes the band an equally intelligent force as it is unmatchably heavy.
Featuring a guest vocal spot on “Adoration For None” from Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe – one of GOJIRA’s most vocal supporters from their first moment making an impression in the Americas – and the now familiar Morbid Angel-isms of The Way Of All Flesh’s title track join the angular riffing more akin to Meshuggah on “Esoteric Surgery” and the epic, artful plodding of the nearly 10-minute “The Art of Dying,” showing that GOJIRA have indeed opened a new bag of tricks for The Way Of All Flesh, while not abandoning the sound that first showed a massive promise of potential on Sirius.
“It’s more inventive than From Mars To Sirius and at the same time more straight to the point,” GOJIRA frontman Joe Duplantier says of The Way of All Flesh. “The whole album is about death, death is like a step on the path of the soul. The mystery surrounding this phenomenon is just so inspiring, and death is the most common thing on earth.”
“This album is also a ‘requiem’ for our planet,” Duplantier continues. “We don’t want to be negative or cynical about the fate of humanity, but the situation on Earth is growing critical, and the way humans behave is so catastrophic that we really need to express our exasperation about it. It’s not fear, but anger. But we still believe that consciousness can make a difference and that we can change things as human beings.”
Every living creature must face the will and judgment of time.
Ancient Greeks personified time in the form of the titan Kronos, father of Zeus, and Egyptians celebrated Heh as an abstraction of endless years. Famously, William Shakespeare lamented humanity’s immutable fate as “time’s subjects” in Henry IV. GRAMMY® Award-nominated hard rock band Mastodon ponders the nature of time on their eighth full-length album, Emperor of Sand, on Reprise Bros. Records. Threading together the myth of a man sentenced to death in a majestically malevolent desert, the Atlanta, GA quartet—Troy Sanders (bass/vocals), Brent Hinds (guitar/vocals), Bill Kelliher (guitars) and Brann Dailor (drums/vocals), and conjure the grains of a musical and lyrical odyssey slipping quickly through a cosmic hourglass.
“Emperor of Sand is like the grim reaper,” admits Dailor. “Sand represents time. If you or anyone you know has ever received a terminal diagnosis, the first thought is about time. Invariably, you ask, ‘How much time is left?’”
Since forming back in 2000, Mastodon have certainly made the most of their time. Most recently, their 2014 seventh offering Once More ‘Round The Sun bowed at #6 on the Billboard Top 200, marking their highest chart entry to date and second consecutive Top 10 debut following 2011’s The Hunter. Casting a shadow over pop culture, they received “Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance” GRAMMY® Award nominations in 2007, 2014 and again in 2015. Their music blasted through the Academy® Award-winning comedy The Big Short, animated blockbuster Monsters University, and sci-fi western Jonah Hex starring Josh Brolin—for which the group composed the score. After contributing “White Walker” to HBO’s Catch The Throne, Vol.2 mixtape, Dailor, Hinds, and Kelliher appeared as “Wildlings” in a popular episode of Game of Thrones Season 5.
Not only did they earn the appreciation of Time, Rolling Stone, Stereogum, Billboard, and more, but they also turned many peers into fans, including Metallica, Pearl Jam, Tool, Queens of the Stone Age, CeeLo Green, and Feist, to name a few. Performing everywhere from Coachella and Bonnaroo to Download and Sonisphere and nearly every major festival, they’ve headlined legendary venues such as Red Rocks and sold out shows around the globe. Emperor of Sand offers the next conceptual and instrumental evolution for these musicians.
“Since it regards enduring insurmountable odds, it’s a continuation of the Mastodon catalog,” explains Sanders. “That started in 2002 on Remission. Two years later, Leviathan was about hunting a metaphoric whale that could solve all of your problems, or it could kill you in the hunt. We took a journey up Blood Mountain and vaulted all of the hurdles that needed to be cleared for survival. Crack The Skye was its own deep and twisted concept. The Hunter was loosely based on dealing with death. Once More ‘Round the Sun was about being given an opportunity to do this one more time, one more trip, one more tour cycle, one more year, and one more birthday. Now, we’re reflecting on mortality. To that end, it ties into our entire discography. It’s 17 years in the making, but it’s also a direct reaction to the last two years. We tend to draw inspiration from very real things in our lives.”
A trying, turbulent, and tragic turn of events transpired as Dailor and Kelliher began writing music in the latter’s brand new basement studio. The guitarist received news of his mother’s brain cancer diagnosis during May 2016. He spent the next six months making regular trips to Rochester, NY before her untimely passing in September.
“When my mom became ill, it was really heavy,” Kelliher sighs. “She’s the person you know best. She’s the person who brought you into the world, nurtured you, and cared for you. No matter how old I was, my mom never let go of worrying about me, checking in on me, and trying to give me advice on life. It’s a sad and terrible thing when you have to watch your mother die. It’s something I think about every single day.”
Dailor recalls, “Writing was like a distraction to give Bill a release. There’s nothing you can do, but you can say, ‘Let’s go in the basement and see if there any riffs.’”
“One of the things I appreciate about my bandmates is we channel our current energy— although it may be dark—through the art we call Mastodon,” adds Sanders.
As jamming ramped up, a narrative took shape for Emperor of Sand. Dailor details it: “A Sultan in the desert hands down a death sentence to this guy. He’s running from that. He gets lost, and the sun is zapping all of his energy akin to radiation. So, he’s trying to telepathically communicate with these African and Native American tribes to get rain to pour down and kill it.”
In order to capture the vision on tape, the guys enlisted producer Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, Neil Young, Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc.) with whom they worked on 2009’s seminal Crack The Skye. For several weeks, the band recorded with O’Brien at The Quarry Recording Studio in Kennesaw, GA.
“Brendan is a charismatic and funny guy,” smiles Hinds. “He knows us so well, and it felt like like we picked up right where we left off. He adds all of these bells, whistles, and perks outside of being an awesome musician in his own right. Everything came together lickety-split.”
“I feel like we had an even better time with him,” says Kelliher. “We trust his opinion, and he’s super hands-on. He was always in the room with us, and he knows what we’re going for.”
Emperor of Sand commences with the unpredictable swell of “Sultan’s Curse.” A storm of muscular guitar riffs and a thunderous bellow rages amidst a deluge of acidic percussion. Opening the storyline, our hallucinating protagonist, “believes he’s being bathed by the Sultan’s daughters, but he’s being carried to his assassination by the Sultan’s men,” as Dailor says.
“It felt like a natural beginning,” agrees Kelliher. “It’s got traditional Masto elements, and it’s fucking rockin’.”
Next up, “Show Yourself” alternates between Dailor’s hypnotic croon and Sanders’ overpowering roar, trudging into one of Mastodon’s most chantable refrains.
“It’s about revealing your inner strength to power through a bad situation,” Dailor goes on.”
“It’s outside the box,” Hinds comments. “That’s exciting for us to do things people don’t expect.”
Whether it’s the thought-provoking elegy of “Roots Remain” punctuated by a searing Hinds solo or the hammering “Andromeda,” which boasts a primal scream by Brutal Truth’s Kevin Sharp, the music ebbs and flows inside of an emotional hurricane awash in cinematic keys and mellotron, fret fireworks, and the push-and-pull of three distinct voices. On the latter half of the record, the venomous and vital “Scorpion Breath” upholds a tradition of cameos by longtime friend Scott Kelly of Neurosis. Conclusion “Jaguar God” hinges on a delicate acoustic intro by Hinds before climaxing in a head- spinning last gasp of crunching distortion and a polyrhythmic percussive flood.
In the end, Emperor of Sand siphons raw emotion through the framework of an immersive story and intricate musicianship, digging to the core of what defines Mastodon and all timeless rock ‘n’ roll.
“When people hear it, I want them to experience the spectrum of emotions that we put into it,” Dailor leaves off. “We’ve been through everything together. We still have the same four guys after 17 years. It’s been the wildest of rides. I love it, and I love those dudes.”
“If our songs can touch someone in a positive manner, that’s the magic of what music can do,” concludes Sanders. “I know for a fact that music is the universal language. I hope someone will find it touching. As far as the fan base we’ve built up over the years, I hope they’ll give it a listen and stay on this ride with us. It’s a marriage! At the end of the day, we’re four guys in a rock band. We navigate through difficult circumstances musically and in life as brothers. It’s the next chapter of our adventure.”
+LIVE+, the multi-platinum band from Pennsylvania–Ed Kowalczyk (vocals, guitar), Chad Taylor (guitar, backing vocals), Patrick Dahlheimer (bass) and Chad Gracey (drums, percussion)–have sold over 22 million albums worldwide and earned two number one albums (Throwing Copper, Secret Samadhi). Their catalog is filled with such gems as “Lightning Crashes,” “I Alone,” “All Over You,” and “Lakini’s Juice,” which live on today as classics at rock radio. Throwing Copper—which is being celebrated in 2019 with a new deluxe 25th anniversary edition via Radioactive/Geffen/Ume–produced the band’s biggest single, “Lightning Crashes,” which was #1 at Modern Rock radio for 10 consecutive weeks. Throwing Copper reached #1 on the Billboard Top 200 and eventually surpassed sales of 10 million albums sold with Rolling Stone honoring the album with placement on their list, “1994: The 40 Best Records From Mainstream Alternative’s Greatest Year.” Secret Samadhi (1997) immediately shot to #1 on the Billboard Top 200 and eventually went double platinum. The release of the platinum-selling The Distance to Here (1999) turned +LIVE+ into an international powerhouse and moved the band from arenas into stadiums. +LIVE+ has been and remains today a global concert juggernaut. The band released an acclaimed five-song EP in 2018, LOCAL 717, their first new music in over a decade.
It’s rare that a career gets a second shot, let alone a whole second act, but then Anthrax isn’t your average band. Formed in New York in 1981, the group that would go on to sell over ten million records and become the living embodiment of America’s hi-top wearing, riff-spitting, ear-thrashing answer to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal has undergone not one, but two complete eras – but that isn’t their real achievement. More than the group who let a fledgling Metallica crash on their studio floor in 1983, who became a lightning rod for geekdom by immortalizing Judge Dredd with “I Am The Law” in 1987, who enthusiastically raised a middle finger to the critics and unimaginative fans alike by collaborating with rappers Public Enemy in 1991, and who – in 2011 with the release of Worship Music – proved that classic albums aren’t a bygone concept, the story of Anthrax is one of gritty determination in the face of outrageous odds.
The liveliest fourth of the Big Four, they’re arguably the only member of that legendary fraternity who’ve kept their eyes so firmly focused forward and who’ve so consistently delivered the goods, both on stage and in the studio. Ironically, it was on stage alongside those immortal co-conspirators where the story of Anthrax’s 11th studio record began. Seeing their names in lights next to Slayer, Megadeth, and Metallica had a catalyzing effect on the band weary from years of toil and changing times. According to bassist Frank Bello, it wasn’t just a potent reminder of what they did back in the 80s, but also of how far they’ve come.
“Charlie, Scott and I have talked about how we have to credit Metallica with what we’re doing right now,” he says. “When the Big Four got back together back in 2009, it kinda reminded us that we belonged, that we really were part of that group of bands. We didn’t forget it but maybe people did – it suddenly made sense. It was like, ‘wow, we’ve been busting our asses for all those years,’ and then we released Worship Music – that was the catalyst. We knew we had something awesome, but it was about everybody giving it a chance – we sold a lot of records. It’s testament to how great metal fans are, because they came back.
“We’ve been doing this for 35 years now,” Frank continues. “We are who we are, we can’t be something we’re not, we can’t bullshit people…that’s just a New York mentality.”
As with any band, Anthrax has its creative turbulences, but those add up to their unique chemistry. While all five members contribute ideas and make suggestions to pretty much every song, drummer Charlie Benante makes early writing inroads with foundation riffs and other ideas, rhythm guitarist Scott Ian has a very particular way of incorporating his intense lyrical ideas into the band’s music, Bello has proven to be a very talented melody writer, something that has helped set the band’s music apart from others in the same genre, Belladonna crafts his vocals to best utilize that soaring voice of his, and guitarist Jon Donais brings crushing leads. In the end, the five bring it all together to create what simply is Anthrax music.
Scott will be the first to admit that the For All Kings (Megaforce/North America • Nuclear Blast/International) backstory hasn’t exactly been conventional or without its setbacks. In the summer of 2012, Charlie realized that due to his ongoing carpel tunnel syndrome, he would be unable to join the band on all tour dates going forward. But Charlie wasn’t about to just sit around at home, so began writing riffs for the new album.
“When the Mayhem tour was over,” said Scott,” Frank, Charlie and I got together in the Jam Room in my house in L.A. and started arranging, and out of those first sessions, we had like four skeletal arrangements. Those first sessions were unbelievable.”
Crucially, Charlie would employ a secret weapon that would become central to the process of creating an album that would stand tall in a back-catalogue bejeweled with some of the most important and influential releases of all time: a mutant guitar called The Shark.
“It’s a weird story,” he says. “Paul Crook, who used to be our guitar player (1995-2001), hooked me up with a good friend of his from Las Vegas, Mark Katzen, who spent all his time making custom guitars. I wanted this Eddie Van Halen replica of his, which is taken from an Ibanez Destroyer but it kinda looks like an Explorer now. Mark made an exact replica for me and from the time I got it, there was just something strange about it – it’s like I just wanted to keep playing it. About a year later I heard that Mark had passed away, and I had this weird feeling about the guitar, like he packed it with riffs and went, ‘here, take this and do something great with it.’”
The result, in short, is a record that’s as diverse as it is satisfying: a feast for the ears, and something of a victory lap for a band that bears the unique distinction of inventing what they do while still being the best at what they do. From the straight-ahead, no-nonsense fury of “You Gotta Believe” and “Evil Twin” to the sprawling, heavy-riffing masterpiece of “Blood Eagle Wings” (original working title, “Epic,”) to its stately title track, “For All Kings” was – as Joey reveals – as much fun to record as it was to listen to. Chalk it up to the masterful efforts of Grammy-nominated Worship Music co-producer Jay Ruston, whose credits span the likes of Stone Sour, Killwswitch Engage, and Steel Panther, among others.
“It’s awesome working with Jay,” says Joey. “It’s like we can just nail a track and move on. I love that confidence, and we’re doing some crazy things. ‘Listen to Zero Tolerance,’ man – that song is so fast!”
There have been other changes, too. In 2013, it was announced that Rob Caggiano, longtime lead-player who’d become known for his startling solos as well as his backstage antics, left the band to resume his role as a producer, but not before he’d introduced the band to highly respected shredder Jonathan Donais from New England bruisers Shadows Fall.
It would be an emotional experience for Jon, who confesses to the unique problem of simultaneously being a fanboy of a band in which he’s now a full-time member.
“I grew up with them,” says Jon. “I still remember being in junior high, on a beach trip in Maine and my parents got me State of Euphoria. I just loved it as soon as I heard it. Anthrax was a huge influence on me and my other band so it’s still kinda weird for me. I mean, Scott is just a top-notch rhythm player – there are a lot of classic riffs going on! I was working most closely with Charlie. He’d go, ‘alright, gimme some Dimebag, no – go for Randy this time. Ok, now gimme some Eddie.’ It was intimidating, I mean these guys are legends.”
It’s about more than just the music though, and true to Anthrax form, For All Kings isn’t just infused with pop-culture references, but deeper subtexts that bespeak the thoughtful artistry that underpins everything that they do. As Charlie explains, while Anthrax’s 11th studio record doesn’t have a running theme, there’s a significance to it all that comes straight from the heart.
“A king to me doesn’t mean King Henry the Eighth,” he says. “My Dad passed away when I was five years old, I never really had that Dad relationship so I looked elsewhere for role model and inspirations. KISS was a big thing for me, they were like kings to me. And that’s who this record is dedicated to – those people, maybe they’re sports figures, family members – the people that are big in your life.”
Look closely at the album artwork, and you’ll notice the fingerprints of one such hero in the band’s life – the inimitable work of godlike comic artist and longtime Anthrax supporter Alex Ross, whose immortal depictions of classic DC and Marvel characters are in a league of their own.
There’s an interesting parallel there, because there’s little that Anthrax does that doesn’t have a story or thought-process behind it. Take “Blood Eagle Wings,” for instance, and consider the wide-eyed imagination that inspired it. Says Scott:
“I was sitting in my hotel room in London the day before hosting the Golden Gods, specifically with the intent of needing to write – I was so behind, and when I’m at home with my wife Pearl and my son Revel I just don’t have the discipline. I can’t go, ‘Daddy’s gotta go write!’ If I here him playing, it’s like, ‘alright, I gotta go play, there’s some Lego Star Wars shit I gotta be a part of.’ So I was sitting there in London banging my head against a wall, and Pearl goes, ‘go get out for a walk,’ so I did, and I started thinking about London and the blood that every great city has been built on – the murder, the bones and the blood of so many millions of people. Any great city is built on the blood of the innocent: Rome, New York, Los Angeles, London, or go watch Chinatown. The last season of ‘Hannibal’ also happened to be on TV at the time, where I learned about the Viking practice of slicing a person’s back open and pulling the lungs out, so…”
“Evil Twin” isn’t just influenced by the shocking state of international affairs, but by the emotions accompanied by the realization that you suddenly have everything to lose.
“Lyrically there’s no overall concept,” Scott adds. “I have a child now, and this is the first record I’ve ever written lyrics for since I’ve had a son. That’s how I view the world now. You bring a child into the picture, and it makes everything so much scarier. Out of fear comes anger and it makes you hate the world that much more. You’ve got this human being you would take a bullet for – I would do anything to protect my son – so most of the album comes from that place. I don’t write happy lyrics, but to have a child in this world and then tell me that I shouldn’t be angry? That was a huge well of fear in my belly to draw from.
The result is an album that’s as ferocious as it is sublime, as current as it is classic. From the straight-ahead thrashing brilliance of opener “You Gotta Believe” and “Breathing Lightning” to the seven-minute majesty “Blood Eagle Wings,” For All Kings is the quintessential Anthrax record, and proof positive that you can’t keep a good band down.
No matter the climate, KILLSWITCH ENGAGE makes trend-resistant, timeless heavy music that feeds the soul, touches the heart, and strengthens the mind. Their anthems and live staples like “My Last Serenade,” “My Curse,” and “In Due Time,” have the staying power that appeals to all generations of rock and metal fans worldwide, along with a message that serves to unite, enlighten, and entertain. Having shared the stage with acts ranging from Rise Against to Slayer, the diversity and versatility of their touring is unparalleled and a true testament to their reach.
The band’s seventh studio album, INCARNATE, possesses a stack of new KILLSWITCH ENGAGE anthems certain to set the heavy music world ablaze once more. As cofounders of KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, guitarist/backing vocalist Adam Dutkiewicz, rhythm guitarist Joel Stroetzel, bassist Mike D’Antonio, and Leach (who returned four years ago after a decade-long absence) together with longtime drummer Justin Foley employ unrelenting determination to continually release powerfully potent work.
Leach wears his heart on his sleeve like never before, coming out of the experience of making INCARNATE a brand new person. It’s an album of reclamation and redefinition, from a band that still rules the scene.
The reckless abandon of creative passion, the search for higher truths and personal justice, and the authentic reality of the duality within all people – the light, the dark, the playful, the deadly – these are the components that comprise KILLSWITCH. They are the elements of KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, INCARNATE.
The Pretty Reckless
Rock ‘n’ roll is a religion. It’s a commitment to an ideal, a belief system. The lifestyle and trappings may appear to be glamorous and romantic, but the road isn’t easy. It requires staying power and an enormous amount of faith. The Pretty Reckless—Taylor Momsen [Vocals], Ben Phillips [Guitar], Jamie Perkins [drums], and Mark Damon [bass]—are truly a rock and roll band.
Embodying unwavering integrity and serving up uncompromising anthems, the Pretty Reckless’s unbelievable twelve-year journey has quietly brought them from sweaty small gigs to successive number one hits, gold plaques, and some of the biggest stages in the world—unprecedented for a rock act this century. Formed in New York City during 2008, the musicians and late producer Kato Khandwala initially made waves with their 2010 debut, Light Me Up. After countless gigs, they lit a fuse to burn everything down on Going To Hell in 2014. Not only did the record crash the Top 5 of the Billboard Top 200, but it also ignited three #1 hits—the gold-certified “Heaven Knows” (the biggest rock song of 2014), “Fucked Up World,” and “Follow Me Down”—a feat that had not been accomplished by a female-fronted group since The Pretenders in 1984. Meanwhile, their third offering, Who You Selling For, saw them return to #1 on the Mainstream Rock Songs Chart with “Take Me Down,” which cemented them as “the first band to send its first four singles to #1 on the chart,” according to Billboard. Praise followed from Vogue, Nylon, and more as the quartet lit up television shows such as Letterman and Conan. With over half-a-billion streams, they headlined countless sold out shows and toured with Guns N’ Roses and many other heavy hitters.
However, 2017 set off a series of events that shook the group to its very core, yet ultimately cast their fourth full-length album and Fearless Records debut, in the kind of fire, tears and blood that doesn’t ever wash off…
“There was no way to hide from this,” exclaims Taylor. “There was no running from what happened. I didn’t have to ‘write’ it; it was just infused into what we’re doing.
As the story goes, The Pretty Reckless landed a prestigious tour in 2017, opening for Soundgarden in packed amphitheaters across the country. Then, following a rapturous gig in Detroit, Chris Cornell tragically took his life. The aftershocks reverberated throughout popular culture and left a scar on The Pretty Reckless. They retreated, cancelling most of their touring and disappeared from the public eye. It got even worse eleven months later, when The Pretty Reckless’s muse, friend and longtime producer Kato, had died in a motorcycle crash.
“It sent us into a downward spiral.” Ben reflects, “We fell apart. It turned into a world of depression and substance abuse. At that point, we had to try and figure out how to continue making music. It was either death or go forward.”
So Taylor and Ben turned to writing songs to channel the emotional toll, and in late 2018, The Pretty Reckless returned to the studio to record. For the first time, Taylor and Ben co-produced with longtime friend Jonathan Wyman. And the results are inspiring on so many levels. The sessions took well over a year in the studio, and now, the band introduce the album with the track “Death By Rock and Roll.” The song starts hauntingly with a recording of Kato’s footsteps leading to a bold bluesy riff that snakes through the distortion. The din subsides on a solo vocal as the frontwoman croons, “On my tombstone when I go, just put, ‘Death By Rock and Roll’.” Her howl takes hold in between the massive beat and fiery fretwork.
“It has our whole mentality in the lyrics,” she goes on. “It’s not a morbid song. It’s, ‘I’m going to live my way; I’m going out my way’. That’s the rock and roll ethic. It’s empowering.”
Bringing the trip full circle, The Pretty Reckless joined forces with Matt Cameron and Kim Thayil for “Only Love Can Save Me Now.” Tracked at the legendary London Bridge Studio in Seattle, it marked the first time Matt and Kim recorded at the space since Soundgarden’s Louder Than Love. Nearing the six-minute mark, it trudges through detuned bliss and an off-kilter time signature before Kim conjures a slippery psychedelic solo as Taylor admits, “I want to be saved from the sound,” over Matt’s percussive wizardry. “Lyrically, it goes with the world now,” Taylor adds. “It references what we’re all going through.”
Elsewhere, Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello lends his axe to the rambunctious and raucous “And So It Went.” Then, there’s “25.” Her gravelly timbre quakes above an ominous funereal march and echoes of strings. She screams, “At 25, all hope has died and the glass of my intentions turns to sand…shatters in my hand.” Meanwhile, “Got So High” bleeds into a heavenly stoned refrain as an acoustic guitar rings out. After the nostalgic “Rock and Roll Heaven,” the record sails off to Valhalla on “Harley Darling” ushered along by harmonica, the sound of an engine revving and a devilish dedication as she sings, “Oh, Harley darling, you took my friend, you took everything and now I’m alone again.”
The Pretty Reckless sound more alive than ever…
“We lived this” Ben leaves off. “Rock and roll means everything to us. Taylor sacrificed everything for this record. I think it shows.”
“We stuck to our ethics,” she concludes. “We built this up over time. Either you throw it all away or go for it. It’s cliché, but rock and roll saved our lives.”
The five-piece metal band from Byron Bay, Australia formed in 2002. The band features vocalist Winston McCall, guitarists Luke Kilpatrick and Jeff Ling, bassist Jia O’Connor, and drummer Ben Gordon. For more than a decade, the band has stood at the forefront of heavy music worldwide, matching their uncompromising urgency with a powerful musicality. Parkway Drive has released six studio albums, all on Epitaph: Killing with a Smile (2005), Horizons (2007), Deep Blue (2010), Atlas (2012), IRE (2015), and Reverence (2018). With Deep Blue, Atlas, and Ire all achieving gold status in Australia. The band has also released two platinum-selling DVDs, one EP, one book, and a documentary film.
Globally praised for their powerful live show, Parkway Drive has headlined Europe’s biggest metal festivals including Wacken (DE), SummerBreeze (DE), Bloodstock (UK), Resurrection (ES), and Hellfest (FR). In addition, the band has had massive performances at festivals worldwide including Welcome to Rockville (US), Aftershock (US), Carolina Rebellion (US), Northern Invasion (US), Rock on the Range (US), Warped Tour (US), Montebello Rockfest (CA), Rock Am Ring (DE), Rock Im Park (DE),. Hurricane/Southside (DE), Download Festival (UK), Reading and Leeds (UK). Greenfield (CH), Nova Rock (AT), Lowlands (NL), and Pukkelpop (BE).
Asking Alexandria have earned a place among the most streamed, downloaded, watched, and altogether listened to bands in a generation, combining the innovation of modern active rock with the traditional attitude of the culture’s trailblazers.
They’ve shared the stage with Guns N’ Roses, Green Day, Alice In Chains, and Avenged Sevenfold, and Slipknot; co-headlined with Black Veil Brides; joined Warped Tour and Rockstar Mayhem; played every major rock festival in the world; and headlined sold out theater tours.
“The Final Episode” and “Not the American Average” were both certified gold by the RIAA for single sales in excess of 500,000 each. The music videos for those two singles alone amassed over 100 million views on YouTube. Their third full length album, From Death to Destiny (2013), shot to #1 on the Rock and Metal charts in the U.K. and cracked the Top 5 of the Billboard 200 in the United States upon its release.
Made with producer Matt Good, Asking Alexandria’s self-titled fifth album is an unbridled celebration of acceptance, of the strength of diversity and the freedom of “leaning into the crazy” (as Worsnop puts it), instead of struggling for conformity.
“Into the Fire” offers a beautifully combative, contradictory, and unrelentingly powerful message to the true believers who have stood by this band through thick and thin. “I wouldn’t take back a moment / Not one miserable moment / I’ll give it all ‘till there’s nothing left,” Worsnop sings. It’s most assuredly a genuine promise.
Black Veil Brides
Like their band name suggests, Black Veil Brides evoke transcendent visions of an impenetrable hereafter, intermingling with a steely focus on the dark passions and elusive mysteries of the here and now. A romantic fantasy first summoned in a small town by an isolated kid fascinated with death rock, theatricality, and monsters (both real and imagined), Black Veil Brides has become a gothic postmodern heavy metal institution.
In an era when rock music is regularly declared “dead,” Black Veil Brides music videos have been viewed over a half a billion times. The band (and its members) Instagram and Twitter accounts command close to 10 million followers between them. Vale, the group’s most recent full-length album, went to No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Hard Rock Albums chart.
After five cherished records (four of which entered the Top 20 at home and abroad), BVB remain a step ahead, refashioning the release cycle to better reflect a boundless creativity and the more immediate needs of the allies and supporters who download, stream, and still covet the holy grail of physical media. Together with their new partners at Sumerian, Black Veil Brides usher in a bold new chapter with “Saints of the Blood” and “The Vengeance,” two unrestrained singalongs harnessing the strengths of beloved anthems like “In the End,” “Heart of Fire,” and “Coffin,” with reinvigorated bloodlust and nerve.
The band’s strident opposition to conformity, false authority, and obstacles (from both within and without) strikes a chord with every outcast who ever felt drawn to the allure of the dark. It’s evident in the 150 million views accumulated by “Knives and Pens,” an early demo committed to video before singer Andy had found his band of brothers. The RIAA-certified gold single “In the End,” which itself boasts 125 million YouTube views, is proof that the group whose merchandise dominated Hot Topic stores before they’d dropped their debut album was no passing fad or ill-fated “scene”. This was built to last.
Andy Biersack, named one of the 100 Greatest Living Rock Stars by Revolver, reignites the creative passions long churning within the heart of the band. Golden Gods Best Guitarist award winners Jake Pitts (who produced the new songs, after coproducing previous outings) and Jinxx (a classically trained violinist); APMAS Best Drummer award winner Christian Coma; and bassist Lonny Eagleton (most recently seen onstage with Biersack as part of the singer’s Andy Black vehicle) sound confident and determined, burning blast furnace intensity into what are undeniably Black Veil Brides identity solidifying songs.
With a rightful reverence for the pop cultural icons of the past, the young outfit has nevertheless fashioned their own collective future, with relentless fury. In the hearts and minds of their fans, Black Veil Brides represents an unwillingness to compromise and a resistance to critics (personal and professional), fueled by the same fire as the group’s own heroes, the iconoclasts whose creative output, once dismissed, is now canonized.
Which isn’t to say that the press hasn’t been kind. The roar of BVB’s unshakeable devotees is too loud to ignore. Rock music tastemakers like Kerrang! and Rock Sound have put Black Veil Brides on their covers multiple times. Revolver put Biersack alongside legends like Axl Rose, Ozzy Osbourne, and Gene Simmons in their list of 100 Greatest Living Rock Stars. In over 30 years of publication, only Trent Reznor has graced the cover of Alternative Press as many times as BVB’s singer, who was invited to host the magazine’s 2017 award show.
Black Veil Brides has worked with A-list producers, including John Feldmann (Blink-182, Good Charlotte), Bob Rock (Metallica, The Cult, Motley Crue), and Josh Abraham (Linkin Park, Velvet Revolver, Weezer), but the artistic drive and conceptual cohesion has always come from within. As Black Veil Brides enter 2020, that vision is stronger than ever.
The lyrics, symbols, and imagery associated with Black Veil Brides adorn the bodies of a diverse legion around the globe, in tattoos and t-shirts. Each song serves as an empowering anthem, whether wrestling with existential angst, challenging the status quo via post-apocalyptic allegory, or casting the gaze inward at heartbreak and despair.
The cast aside, the marginalized, and the misunderstood have a kindred spirt in Andy, the face and voice of the band. He crafted a platform and an image with the same DIY spirt that drove Generation X, the Misfits, and KISS in their early days, reaching out from beyond the confines of Cincinnati, Ohio at the dawn of social media, and moving to Hollywood when he turned 18. Biersack has made five records with BVB; two albums as Andy Black; hosted the APMAs; starred in American Satan; released The Ghost of Ohio graphic novel; finished a book; and collaborated with Patrick Stump (Fall Out Boy), Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance), and Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio/Blink-182), among others.
Jinxx and Pitts, transplants themselves, were also fighting to make their dreams come true in Hollywood, through a series of false starts and empty promises. The uniquely special chemistry between them was instantly tangible. Together they forge a twin-guitar sound worthy of their peers and idols, from Metallica to Avenged Sevenfold. Jinxx is a film composer; Pitts, one half of the DJ duo Dr Cool and Babe, whose credits include the remix of the Papa Roach song “Elevate.” Both have helped develop and mentor younger bands.
Coma played in earlier bands with BVB’s guitarists.CC is possessed of the wild man swagger of hard rock’s best larger than life drummers, pairing a sizeable charisma and charm with his utterly devastating chops. He sat in with Falling In Reverse for a US tour and performed as part of a one-off exclusive Andy Black lineup at the APMAs, with Mikey Way (My Chemical Romance), Quinn Allman (The Used), and John Feldmann (Goldfinger).
Like something out of the movie Rockstar, BVB’s newest member was a BVB fan first. Already an accomplished live and studio musician who has performed on the Juno Awards in his native Canada, Eagleton was tapped to play guitar on tour in support of Andy Black’s second album for Universal/Republic, The Ghost of Ohio, in 2019. When the bassist position in Black Veil Brides opened up, he was a seamless fit as a performer and person.
The band’s tour history reads like a textbook of subcultural mile markers in the modern heavy music scene. An initial hardscrabble headlining outing in 2009 has been followed by multiple mainstage runs on the Vans Warped Tour; tours with Slash, Motley Crue, Avenged Sevenfold, Bullet For My Valentine; the massive Resurrection Tour, co-headlined by new labelmates Asking Alexandria; multiple US festivals, including Rock on the Range and Aftershock; and several appearances at the UK’s acclaimed Download Festival.
Black Veil Brides have championed the isolated, the dismissed, and the forgotten since the band’s early inception. That ethos and spirit persists in the fully realized incarnation of the band whose image is the object of devotion and obsession, and whose anthems are sung in unison by an international audience, a diverse legion who refuse to surrender.
The time has arrived for TESTAMENT to unleash new thunder to the masses and reveal their thirteenth studio album: Titans OF Creation. Just as the elements of this planet thrive within all living creatures, each musician in TESTAMENT represents a necessary component of this latest musical endeavour. Still filled with a massive and unstoppable energy since their last release, TESTAMENT has taken their style to the next level and present an album that is loyal to the roots of traditional thrash metal while still bringing alluring, brilliant, and progressive ingredients to the table. Bass is showcased, new vocals are introduced, and as expected, the guitarwork of Peterson and Skolnick is greatly complex and mesmerizing.
Eliran Kantor stepped up once again to create a new piece of artwork for the cover of this release. His classic, almost Renaissance style of painting melds beautifully with the ancient, psychological, and enlightened subject matter of the songs. Three monstrous titans stand in the place where the planets are formed. One pours molding liquid which the others hammer into human DNA, twisting and turning into the ring of a newborn planet. Each titan has the flame of a dying star burning in their chest; the origin of the atoms making up the bodies that are bubbling and boiling on the curves of the spiraling helix.
Titans OF Creation h as many moods and material contained within; all of which somehow tie into a common philosophy of creation and its necessary counterpart: destruction. “Children Of The Next Level” smashes through the gates as the opening track with a flood of sound that prepares the listener for an abundance of violent thrash. Meanwhile, the lyrics rage about the outrageous philosophies of the Heaven’s Gate cult (founded in 1974).
Songs like “Dream Deceiver” carry more old school sound that will tickle the senses of any common TESTAMENT fan. The lyrics describe being trapped in a dream by an otherworldly female force who is slowly working to degrade the mind. Dreams are part of existence, but when we are asleep we are entirely vulnerable; one of the many mysteries of being human. “Someone’s haunting you and won’t leave you alone; the only time they pick at you is at night when they can control the way you sleep,” describes vocalist Chuck Billy.
“Night of the Witch” features frightening and captivating vocals from Eric Peterson. Carrying a vibe far more akin to Black Metal, Peterson swoops in with a power that melds perfectly with Billy’s ground shaking, guttural growls. Taking some influence from Robert Egger’s 2015 horror masterpiece “The VVitch: A New England Folktale,” the song carries with it a magical quality that directly reflects the mood of the film. At the very end of the track, a theremin howls through the air much like witches rising towards the moon; setting the final tone. “The album has a lot about it that’s fresh to the ear,” explains Peterson.
WrittenbyguitaristAlexSkolnick,“S ymptoms”isfilledwithdetailedwithintricateguitarworkthat well represents the complicated and spellbinding journey that comes along with handling depression, mood swings, and a countless list of mental health frustrations. The lyrics in this song discuss a sad truth: that mental illness is more common than we all think, and than many of us are willing to acknowledge. On a lighter note, a vibrant track entitled “The Healers” swings back and forth between waves of death and thrash, heavy and melodic, light and dark. The words are spiritual, and extremely personal. They describe Billy’s own experience dealing with all natural medicine men; the elders of the earth, and how they managed to help him pinpoint and heal his past illness. “City Of Angels” comes bearing an entirely new sound for TESTAMENT. The creeping sludgieness and slow, stalking tempo, walk hand in hand with the almost unbelievably gruesome tale of the Nightstalker Richard Ramierz, all combining to form another stand-out track on the record.
In 2020 the days of writing an album all together in one room are far gone, but to be able to take advantage of technology allows for TESTAMENT to go about a very similar writing process to what they always have. Basic songs are molded, structures are added by everyone in the group, instrumentals are highlighted, and finally the lyrics and vocals are created to finalize the sonic story. Facetime and human on human contact still remain crucial elements to TESTAMENT’s song writing process and at some point throughout, every member physically interacts and writes with one another. In between writing this album, the band toured relentlessly which allowed for less stress, more time in between, and greater inspiration for this album cycle. There was also plenty of anxiety-free and level-headed time for pre-production and the initial recording process with Juan Urteaga of Trident Studios. Andy Sneap was then able to tweak, mix, and master this album to his usual perfection.
TESTAMENT’s process of creation has evolved and progressed yet they’ve remained steadfast over the course of literal decades. While always managing to present the genuine aspects of thrash metal that solidify their existence, they spread into unique horizons through developing crisp and fascinating sounds.
As political correctness suffocates and squeezes the last drop of fun from popular culture, four men boldly plant their flag (and maybe another appendage) into the ground in the name of heavy metal…
Now, Steel Panther—Michael Starr [lead vocals], Satchel [lead guitar], Lexxi Foxx [bass], and Stix Zadinia [drums]—have certainly waved the flag for sex, drugs, and metal to the point of keeping this holy trinity alive since emerging in 2000. However, they fulfill (i.e. engorge) this mission to its fullest potential on their fifth full-length, the aptly titled Heavy Metal Rules. The solos screech louder, the vocals soar higher, the drums hit harder, and the bass throbs mightier than ever before.
“You’re going to hear something familiar, but you’re also going to hear something new,” says Michael. “We grew as musicians and as people. The core values stay the same: Heavy Metal Rules and hot chicks are fun.”
“Heavy Metal Rules is the perfect phrase to describe how we feel,” explains Stix. “It’s not just music; it’s a lifestyle. We’ve been able to create an environment for ourselves where nothing is off limits. There are no boundaries. We push it, because we like to push it. In this day and age, people are open to pushing it, because everything is so politically correct. We are the last bastion where you can go if you want to get your freak on. We’re the most truthful band on the fucking planet.”
The planet continues to welcome them time and time again.
2009’s full-length debut, Feel The Steel, brought the balls back to rock as Balls Out let them fly free in 2011 as Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger, guitar god Nuno Bettencourt, and Dane Cook joined in on the madness. Three years later, All You Can Eat arrived to a 4-out-of-5K review from KERRANG! and kudos from Slipknot and Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor who described it as “top to bottom so damn good.” 2017’s Lower The Bar earned praise from Metal Hammer and Classic Rock as the group’s cumulative
streams surpassed 100 million and views leapt past 100 million by 2019. Along the way, they shook stages alongside everyone from Aerosmith to Alter Bridge and Stone Sour and incited flashing from crowds at Download and countless sold out headline gigs.
In 2019, they hunkered down in Lexxi’s mom’s garage alongside frequent collaborator and regular producer Jay Ruston [Anthrax, Stone Sour] to cut Heavy Metal Rules.
“I can’t play what Satchel does, so we got a fucking Bitchin’ studio musician to do the bass,” states Lexxi.
“The studio musician killed it. We had one of my strongest photo shoots, because I had some Botox and got my highlights done right before. I’m still staying with my mom. If this goes well, I’ll be able to get my own apartment.”
“The lead guitar is really in-your-face,” adds Satchel. “We left out a lot of the rhythm guitar. It’s easier to hear the solos. They don’t suck either.”
“What Jay got out of the record sonically is our best,” Stix elaborates. “There are hooks all over it. It’s the perfect Steel Panther album.”
Look no further than the first single “All I Wanna Do Is Fuck (Myself Tonight).” A thick beat gives way to a gang vocal backed by heavy riffs and a message of self-empowerment…
“You want to fuck yourself, because you can’t find anybody hotter,” the frontman goes on. “When you see a band on stage, the first thing you notice is what they’re wearing or what they look like. If you’re getting ready, you want to make sure chicks want to fuck you, but you want to fuck yourself. Once people are attracted by the look, they get trapped by the fucking infectious music of our songs. Looks are the most important thing. It’s what’s on the outside that really matters.”
Acoustic guitar builds towards a lovelorn lamentation on “Always Gonna Be A Ho,” which, as Michael Puts it, “Is about this one chick who had a problem fucking everybody I know”
He adds, “All of the guys in the band are attracted to strippers, because we basically have the same lifestyle. We perform for people who want to fuck us, but we also do it for the love of fucking being on stage. Girls just want to get laid too. Some girls say, ‘Oh, Steel Panther are a bunch of whores.’ Well, the reality is so are you!”
The thunderous climax on “Gods of Pussy” details the burden of “getting as much pussy as Steel Panther gets.” Meanwhile, “Fuck Everybody” rails against injustices of “some dick going 20 miles in the fast lane” or “having to wait at Starbucks.”
“Heavy metal rules,” reiterates Stix. “You don’t like it. Suck my dick.” If things keep going as well as they are, you’ll have to get in line…
“We’re going to write about sex, drugs, and all of the Bitchin’ shit from the 80s we love,” Satchel leaves off. “It’s a great feeling to be in this band. We have a blast. We love each other. We’ve been through a lot together. We’ll keep on rocking until one us breaks a hip or some shit.”
“We really do love heavy metal and performing,” Michael concludes. “We’re going to fucking conquer the world the Steel Panther way. Heavy metal is coming back. Pretty soon, everyone’s going to have long hair and wear spandex.”
“Can I just say we all look fantastic as well?” interrupts Lexxi (as everyone else leaves). “We’re doing our part to bring heavy metal to the messes. Do some occasional drugs to keep yourself okay on the inside, fuck as much as possible, and oh yeah, Heavy Metal Rules.”
YelaWolf, born Michael Wayne Atha in Gadsen, AL, made his major label debut with Eminem’s Shady Records (Interscope) in 2011 after building a rabid fanbase that caught the attention of critics and label execs alike. The rapper, songwriter, performer and entrepreneur has released new music relentlessly and travelled around the world performing sold out shows across the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. His first five full-length albums and various side projects have featured collaborations with a wide variety of top artists including Ed Sheeran, Travis Barker, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gucci Mane, Kendrick Lamar, Diplo, A$AP Rocky, Kid Rock, 3.6 Mafia, Big Boi, Killer Mike, Wynonna Judd, among others. With
his faithful and ever-expanding following, YelaWolf has cultivated a global community with his lifestyle brand Slumerican. He opened the Slumerican Made flagship store in Nashville, TN in 2017. His sixth studio album Ghetto Cowboy is available now via his own Slumerican Records, and will include extensive touring in both the US and internationally in its support.
“Humans are animals, pretty much in denial of just how savage we can be,” declares Body Count singer Ice-T. “The songs on Carnivore play out that theme in different ways. It’s not about a diet; it’s about being bloodthirsty creatures.” Carnivore is the pioneering metal band’s seventh album since forming in 1992 and skyrocketing to infamy thanks to the “Cop Killer” song controversy. Carnivore is also the most melodically hardcore and lyrically articulate BC album to date. It serves up eight originals, including the poignant “When I’m Gone,” featuring Grammy-winning guest vocalist Amy Lee of Evanescence, along with the call-to-arms of the edgy, rapid-fire “Bum-Rush,” and the primal roar of the title track/first single. Prestigious musical guests–friends and fans excited to work with BC–include Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta and Riley Gale of Power Trip. Additionally, “Colors 2020” and “6 In Tha Morning,” two iconic Ice-T rap cuts, get re-done, metal style, with Slayer’s Dave Lombardo guesting on drums. Body Count pays homage to Motorhead with “Ace of Spades,” while political punk provocateur Jello Biafra makes a cameo, further cementing Carnivore’s 11-song collection as an album for the ages.
Longtime BC bassist and musical director Vincent Price observes that Carnivore is the culmination of Body Count’s ever-increasing power, starting with 2014’s Manslaughter into 2017’s Bloodlust, with Carnivore completing the unholy trinity. Produced by Will Putney from the band Fit for an Autopsy, BC are proud they’ve upped their game: “We’re satisfying ourselves first before we satisfy others,” Price says. “Back when we were rehearsing a tour for Manslaughter, Ice said to me, ‘How are we gonna top this album?’ I’m like, ‘Well, Ice, don’t worry. We got it.’ I look at myself as ‘the fan’ too, and this is our best yet.”
In “Bum-Rush,” one of the key lyrics is “we’re woke,” and Ice-T lays it bare in the lyrics. “A lot of times, people can’t see through the bullshit,” he says. “My job as an artist is to kind of break down the confusion that the media and the press and government try to put in our way to keep us separated. On this album, just like in ‘No Lives Matter,’ [from Bloodlust] one of my main focuses is that unity is power, and that most of us have the same issues, same enemies and the same problems.”
“Bum-Rush,” the follow-up single to “Carnivore” is a metaphor for likeminded people joining to create power and change. And with today’s world changing so quickly, one of Carnivore’s songs has now taken on two meanings. “When I’m Gone,” where Ice-T is joined by BC fan and platinum-selling Evanescence singer Lee, was inspired by the murder of L.A.-born activist, entrepreneur and rapper Nipsey Hussle, says Ice. “It’s a wake-up call, saying that we have to take advantage of our friendships while our friends are still around. And now, with the loss of Kobe Bryant…” Ice adds: “’When I’m Gone’ is another song that kinda transcends metal, and having a woman sing on it—the first time we’ve ever done that—is just the growth of Body Count.”
While Ice-T has spent two decades portraying NYPD Detective/Sergeant Odafin Tutuola on NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Body Count is never far from his mind: he brings music in progress to the set, playing it for the crew and cast. Hearing Carnivore, his TV family got an earful: musically, the band has raised the bar. Price explains that he and guitarist Juan Garcia are mutual fans and longtime friends, and “I always try to have both Juan and Ernie C. play solos. I think it’s more interesting. On ‘The Hate is Real,’ there’s a part where they trade off on solos and then do a harmony at the end, which was another first for Body Count.”
There’s no stone left unturned in Carnivore’s creation, and that includes cover art by renowned Polish artist Zbigniew Bielak. His ultra-detailed, visceral line drawing of venomous-looking gang-banger ramps things up to another level. As Ice explained: “We made the ‘Carnivore’ video just by animating the album cover, which is so intricate. It’s probably the best piece of art I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some great work on my album covers. I think this is a masterpiece.”
Equally cool are the re-imaginings of 1988’s “Colors” (the title track to the film of the same name) and 1987’s “6 In That Morning” from Ice-T’s legendary hip-hop/rap classic Rhyme Pays. Turns out a lot of Body Count’s fans also dug Ice-T’s raps. “But Body Count is a live metal band, so it’s not like I could throw on a backing track for ‘Colors’ and do it,” explains Ice. BC had fun cutting the songs metal-style, and of the Body Count tour, Ice says: “if the set provides the time, we can give fans an old-school Ice-T cut.”
Indeed, over the years, Body Count has played prestigious festivals, including Wacken Open Air, Ozzfest/Knotfest, and the Vans Warped Tour 15th Anniversary show in LA, where they shared the stage with Katy Perry, NOFX, Pennywise and Bad Religion. Plus, they’ve opened for friends and influences Guns N’ Roses, Slayer and Metallica, with TV appearances including the Tonight Show and Late Late Show. BC’s 2020 schedule in support of Carnivore will be no less intense. As Ice-T concludes, “we’re always looking to make it better. The worst thing is to put on an album and have someone say ‘the last one was better.’ No way will that happen with Carnivore.”
Badflower don’t care what you think about them. They don’t care whether you get what they’re doing, because their thoroughly modern rock is more ahead of the curve than anyone else you might try and pigeonhole them with. And they really don’t care whether you like the messages in their songs, because what they sing about is important, if uncomfortable.
That attitude might seem misguided for a band who have yet to release their debut album. In this age where music’s money comes largely from touring, fans are more important than ever – they’re the ones who buy the tickets to shows and ultimately give artists the opportunity to keep playing and progressing. But the LA four-piece aren’t complete beginners – since forming in 2013, frontman Josh Katz, guitarist Joey Morrow, drummer Anthony Sonetti, and bassist Alex Espiritu have toured relentlessly across the US and beyond, building up a reputation as a formidable live force as well as an ever-growing mass of loyal followers and praise from the likes of Billboard, Forbes, and Consequence Of Sound.
Though the band credit their years of gigging with giving them the life experience to write their debut album, ‘OK, I’M SICK’, it’s also had its downsides, especially for Katz. The singer and guitarist suffers from anxiety and panic disorder – something that he’s had to learn how to cope with on the road. “I once ran off stage mid-song and just had to take a beat and was very confused,” he says, offering an example of how the problem can affect him. “I wasn’t sure if I should be throwing up or sitting down. Typically, it’s just clenching every muscle in my body until it hopefully goes away. I can barely stand up, barely get notes out. It’s all of these feelings at once.”
It’s that problem that inspired ‘Ghost’, the band’s big breakthrough single. After coming home from tour, Katz was so fed up with what he had to go through to get on stage every night, he was in two minds whether to carry on with music. “If I’m miserable every night, why am I doing it?” he asked himself. It was that song, which reached the top of the US charts, that saved Badflower.
Despite its success, the group was initially sceptical about it being more than an album track. In its often graphic lyrics, Katz plays out a dark, suicidal fantasy – “This life is overwhelming and I’m ready for the next one,” he sighs resignedly at one point. They worried listeners would think they were glorifying suicide, cynically using a very real and serious problem for their own gain. “But people got it immediately and we realised how many people are affected by depression, panic disorder, and anxiety issues,” Katz explains. “You hear about it all the time, you see it on every commercial – there’s some anti-depressant being sold to you because everybody has these issues – but people don’t like to talk about it that much.”
While ‘Ghost’ is a somewhat harrowing take on mental health issues, not all of ‘OK, I’M SICK’ is as serious. Opener ‘x ANA x’ (inspired in part by Jimmy Iovine and Dr Dre documentary The Defiant Ones) tackles a similar topic but with a far more sardonic tone. An ode to the helpful qualities of Xanax, it’s eyebrow-raising, incredibly self-aware and rife with meta moments (in one breakdown Katz cheerily asks: “Hey, wanna see what happens when I mix Xanax, blow, and a MacBook Pro?”). Along with the constantly changing music – be it speeding up, stuttering almost to the brink of collapse, or weaving even more claustrophobic layers together – it adds up to something completely manic.
“The whole song is meant to feel like a panic attack – unexplained chaos happening within you,” Katz says. “We wrote that song together and then I took what we had to our house in the desert and stayed awake all night and, like a mad scientist, destroyed everything and chopped it up. I didn’t feel like it was manic enough. It’s making fun of anxiety but it’s also making fun of itself.”
As a band with plenty to say, mental health isn’t the only message Badflower share on their debut. ‘Murder Games’ is the album’s most intense and urgent sounding cut, metallic, guillotine-esque swishes entwined with a punishing guitar line that sets you on edge. Its lyrics speak about veganism (Katz has been vegan for four years) in uncompromising terms. “That’s gonna alienate our band like crazy,” the frontman shrugs, unbothered. “We think it’s something important that needs to be talked about so we’re gonna talk about it. It’s about getting the conversation started. It’s about getting people to look at it in a different way and not be so passive about the idea that something in society that you grew up hearing was right might not be as right as you think.”
‘Die’ also has the potential to cause controversy. Partly a damning assessment of Trump’s position on the environment (Morrow is keen to point out the President is not the only target of the song), it features Katz screaming the title as if his own life depends on it. But his sentiment is not what you might immediately assume. “It doesn’t mean, ‘Hey, go get murdered’ or ‘I’m gonna kill you’,” he clarifies. “It’s more all of those people who are so stuck in their ways, who are afraid of change and afraid of evolution, need to get old and die off so the next generation can come up and make some change and do something good.” Despite first appearances, it’s intended as a statement of progression. “We’re meant to move forward, not stagnate,” Espiritu notes.
Elsewhere, the album navigates subjects like abuse (‘Daddy’), depression in the face of success (’24’), and social media stalking (‘Girlfriend’). The latter merges old and new, layering lyrics about Instagram filters and the internet over a big blues-rock jam. “We’ve always wanted to write about that anyway,” says Katz, “and it was the perfect, wacky blues riff to write that over. I think we came up with something very special.”
Badflower’s focus might be on big conversations but that doesn’t mean they aren’t happy to turn their attention to less weighty subjects too. ‘Promise Me’ is the only traditional love song on the record but not even it can escape the band’s entrenched darkness. “That’s my proudest moment on the album,” Espiritu says. “We talk about doing what we want and what the spirit of rock and roll is, and then we have ‘Promise Me’, which is this leftfield, beautiful, romantic love song, and we’re able to spin it and make it our own.” The making it their own, Katz explains, involves one of the song’s characters meeting their maker.
Produced with Noah Shain (Atreyu, Dead Sara), ‘OK, I’M SICK’ represents a band full of ideas and submerged in the most modern of sounds. The band’s intention was to make the most 2018 album they possibly could, unfazed by the idea it could sound dated a few years down the line. “Timeless music is amazing but everybody’s trying so hard to make timeless music that they’re making vague, cookie-cutter shit,” Katz says. “It sounds like everything else and I don’t think there’s really many rock bands who are trying to write anything current. We wanted to make something for this generation.”
You might have realised by now this band isn’t one to limit themselves. “We don’t even consider ourselves a rock band,” Katz says defiantly. “If we decide to put out a rap album next week, we’re gonna do it. Watch us. We don’t fucking care. We do what we want. Rock and roll used to be about that spirit and that got lost somewhere.” You can count on Badflower to put it right back in the heart of things, whether anyone else likes it or not.
With unflinching tenacity, the impenetrable heavy metal hardcore factory that is HATEBREED has brought forth yet another iron cast, sonic weapon with Weight Of The False Self. It comes as no surprise that their eighth, full length album is the result of the usual sweat and blood that have cemented HATEBREED’s unique niche in the world of music for over two decades. Renowned for their ability to provide an intense and cathartic release for their fans, HATEBREED challenged their writing style through this album cycle in order to produce material that is exceptionally relatable in a contemporary world flooded with overstimulation, emotional dampening, and lack of social patience. “Weight Of The False Self’ is a perfect representation of HATEBREED in 2020, a fresh onslaught of soon to be classics with all the elements that led you here since day one,” explains guitarist Frank Novinec.
A metaphorical weight is carried by almost every individual in regards to their emotional construct. Our experiences shape who we become and over time, gradually produce a heavy burden that we continue to lug along. For many of us, the weight becomes so much that we struggle to get out from underneath, let alone move. It is these struggles that are translated throughout Weight Of The False Self.
“Seen or unseen, everyone is carrying a burden. The music we love helps us bear the weight” proclaims vocalist Jamey Jasta. Tracks like “Cling To Life” supply a play on words that usually mean to desperately cling to those last breaths, but here, these words display that in the wake of true loss and mourning, to cling to the idea of happiness and future can bring sincere relief. On the other end of the philosophical spectrum, the first single “Instinctive (Slaughterlust)” not only presents a fresh vocabulary word, but screams about the power that comes from our defense mechanisms when backed into a corner. When someone is being pursued by their past, another person, or just defending their own territory, it’s only a matter of time and distance before they can explode into a savage, primal beast. “It should be illegal to make a song this heavy,” describes bassist Chris Beattie.
The song “Wings Of The Vulture” is a metaphor for all the negative forces of nature, fate, and humanity that hope to prey upon us during some of our weakest moments; waiting for the death of something meaningful. “A Stroke Of Red,” contrary to what it may seem at first, touches on the concept of having the choice to harm yourself or others. “It’s an eye for an eye, but that leaves everyone blind. Once you go down that dark, violent path, there is no turning back. This song is a dark canvas; leaving my body to exact terrible things on a different plane, and coming back to myself in order to learn from it so that you don’t ever give in to that dark, carnal desire,” explains Jasta.
Album artwork by renowned heavy metal artist Eliran Kantor depicts a man chiseling away at the massive sculpture of a stone bust. In Kantor’s classic painting style, cracking through the clay of turmoil and sadness, a light is beginning to shine through the rock as the sculptor turns his face from the blinding beams of healing. The image visually combines the album’s themes of emotional struggle and managing to overcome pain after layers of depression, anxiety, betrayal, and heartbreak have hardened atop a person’s soul.
Over the course of over 20 years and 8 albums, the writing process for a band like HATEBREED has stayed safe in its roots, but still reached out and grabbed for crisp and compelling pieces of progressive sound to add to the mix. There are waves of fresh sounds while the massive foundation that houses HATEBREED remains strongly held in place. “On this album I really pushed myself; made myself rewrite things until they were better, until it clicked. I pulled myself out of that comfort zone. In the age of legacy bands having to play so many hits from their catalogue at shows, we love to hear fans request new songs when we’re playing live,” explains Jasta, “we’ve really played into our strengths with this one.”
“There’s no shortage of beefy-riffs and adrenaline-fueled-drums on this record. I’m proud to say that we will consistently provide a soundtrack to which you can mosh in your living room and destroy your apartment,” details drummer Matt Byrne.
Recording the album once more with the help of ZEUSS, the band experienced a sense of challenge and breakthrough that enabled them to obtain a new level of sound. After working with the band for several years, and while normally spending his time with bands that have a fairly different sound, Zeuss is able to test HATEBREED and expand their already infamous vibration. “It was really great working with Zeuss again on this one. Love the way the guitars sound,” comments guitarist Wayne Lozinak. As time goes on, the quality of production technology only seems to get better and better, creating a safe and productive nest in which albums can evolve and end up with a much cleaner sound; Weight Of The False Self brings early 2000’s era HATEBREED into the new decade.
Due to be released on November 27th, 2020 via Nuclear Blast Records, Weight Of The False Self will likely be noted as one of HATEBREED’s strongest, and most memorable albums.
Last year, thrash architects EXODUS celebrated 35 years since the release of their first album, thrash metal’s classic blueprint Bonded By Blood. Keeping with that tradition, EXODUS was joined by their original guitarist, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, on their most recent release Blood In, Blood Out (2014). In its first week, Blood In, Blood Out doubled the first week sales of their most previous full-length release, in addition to securing their highest charting position ever – #38 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart, as well as #2 on the Hard Rock/Metal chart and #6 on the Independent Albums chart. Blood In, Blood Out gained a strong foothold in European countries by topping several first-week international charts, as well as landing at #6 on Canada’s Hard Music chart. Order the dual-disc Blood In, Blood Out digi-pak from http://smarturl.it/EXODUS-Blood. EXODUS is currently in the studio working on a new album, which is scheduled for release in Summer 2021.
The heavy metal-n’-roll dark madcap visionaries collectively known as AVATAR didn’t pick their moniker by accident. An “avatar” is defined as either a manifestation of a deity in bodily form or an icon representing a separate being in another realm. Both meanings perfectly describe the Swedish rock sensations, as they’ve built something larger than life.
Ambitious sorcerers of the highest order, AVATAR smash the boundaries between band, theater troupe, and cinematic masterminds, with a series of celebrated albums and videos, and the immersive world of Avatar Country, a fantastical land where metal rules supreme.
The AVATAR cultural infiltration encompasses both commercial rock radio and streaming services, where songs like “The Eagle Has Landed,” “Hail the Apocalypse,” and “Let it Burn” have amassed more than 100 million streams, as new “citizens” enter into their “kingdom.”
Avatar Country (2018), released via Entertainment One, was the second-largest independent album in North America upon its debut. Already a Breakthrough Band (Metal Hammer) award winner and Top 40 act overseas, the band’s seventh record debuted at No. 4 (Hard Music Albums), No. 8 (Rock Albums), and No. 25 (Billboard 200 Current Albums). One major rock outlet even declared Avatar Country a heavy metal Sgt. Pepper’s.
AVATAR returns in 2020 with a bold manifesto called Hunter Gatherer. The band’s eighth album is an unflinchingly ruthless study of a clueless humankind’s ever-increasing velocity into an uncertain future, furthering the reach of the band’s always expanding dark roots. Songs like “A Secret Door,” “Colossus,” and “Age of Apes” are ready-made anthems for the modern age, each struggling for a collective meaning amidst the savagery of technology.
Casting themselves as “gods in disguise,” guitarist Jonas Jarlsby and drummer John Alfredsson combined forces as teenagers, determined to manifest their creative strength into the world. Soon, they recruited vocalist Johannes Eckerström, bassist Henrik Sandelin, and guitarist Simon Andersson, recognizing them as fellow visionaries and troublemakers.
Before any of them had turned 20, they financed a blistering debut album, Thoughts of No Tomorrow (2006), by themselves. Riding on a wave of youthful intensity, AVATAR unleashed a sophomore set, Schlacht (2007), cracking the Top 30 on the Swedish album charts. Avatar, the self-titled third album, followed in 2009, as the band’s unrelenting touring schedule saw them on the road with acts like In Flames, Helloween, and Obituary.
Guitarist Tim Öhrström replaced Andersson in time for the release of Black Waltz (2012), cementing Avatar as an unstoppable five-headed hydra poised to spread fire like a burning plague across the world. During this period, the band began to come into their own in the visual medium as well, with a sinister dark precision and a sense for the spectacular. AVATAR showcased their expansive visual flair on tour with Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch, followed by their first American tour, with Lacuna Coil and Sevendust.
Hail The Apocalypse (2014) smashed into The Top 10 US Top Hard Rock Albums. Loudwire declared the engaging and inventive clip for “Vultures Fly” the Best Rock Video of 2015. Produced by Sylvia Massy (TOOL, Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers), Feathers
& Flesh (2016) was an astonishing concept album, spinning a fantastical tale of owl vs. eagle, and producing several songs that continue to resonate as signature Avatar compositions.
Following the release of Avatar Country (2018), the group broadened its horizon into a feature film. AVATAR blew past a $50,000 Kickstarter campaign goal in less than 90 minutes, eventually collecting close to $200,000 to finance Legend of Avatar Country.
It was demonstrative of the feverish dedication of the band’s audience; the same fans who propelled them into the Rock Radio and Billboard Album charts since the band formed as teens in Gothenburg. Legend of Avatar Country serves as both companion piece and natural expansion of the Avatar Country album’s rich story blueprint. As Kerrang! rightly observed, “The insanely rabid fan response to the [movie] announcement is a testament not only to the band’s connection with its fans but to the strength of the concept itself.”
Hunter Gatherer (2020) shares the determined focus of the conceptually driven Feathers & Flesh and Avatar Country while decisively emphasizing the individual songs above any overarching story. At the same time, there are thematic threads throughout the album, reflecting the members’ shared state of mind. Hunter Gatherer is the darkest, most sinister version of Avatar, with deep studies of cruelty, technology, disdain, and deprivation.
In 2019, Avatar reunited with producer Jay Ruston (Stone Sour, Slipknot, Anthrax) at Sphere Studios in Los Angeles, California, where the foundation for each song on Hunter Gatherer was laid with the band performing altogether, as they’d done only once before, on Hail the Apocalypse. The old-school method of playing as one in the studio, more akin to how they are on stage, captured the essence of Avatar. Recorded entirely to two-inch tape, something you don’t hear about much in 2020, Hunter Gatherer
exhibits everything that makes AVATAR standouts in the vast, rich landscape of heavy metal’s past and present.
Not since the initial cultural disruption of MTV has the combination of ambitious compositions and visual storytelling merged with such vibrance. Like Rob Zombie, Rammstein, and KISS, AVATAR seamlessly blur the line between sights and sounds. AVATAR songs are new anthems for the ages, precision heat-seeking missiles targeting a cultural landscape ready for fresh songs to champion from a band with a giant persona to rally behind. The AVATAR experience is challenging, daring, and altogether captivating.
As the more than 200,000 subscribers to the band’s YouTube channel will attest, AVATAR conjures the flair for the dramatic of old school Hollywood, the macabre moodiness of modern adventure films, and the adrenaline-fueled thrills of Halloween horror attractions.
POP EVIL is the bridge between life-affirming hard rock hit-making and the burgeoning new frontier of genre-bending postmodern playlists. A crowd-pleasing band unafraid to embrace the heaviest and most melodic ends of the spectrum, with a seemingly endless stream of No. 1 hits veering between fist-pumping anthems and timeless power ballads. POP EVIL delivers their most ambitious rebirth yet with a jaw-dropping sixth album.
“Let the Chaos Reign” and “Work” arrive as a twin assault of invigorating readymade hits for 2020, from an album filled to the brim with a dozen tracks each worthy of a dedicated spotlight. “Let the Chaos Reign” is the heaviest single the band has ever dropped, a rousing fight song of self-determination and rising to meet any challenge with courage and strength. By contrast, “Work” puts its heavy guitars atop grooving rhythmic punch and EDM flourishes, as it champions the working-class heroes struggling to persevere across all industries today.
“We won’t bore people with the same song over and over,” assures charismatic frontman and bandleader Leigh Kakaty, who co-founded the band in Michigan. “When you come to our live show, we feel like there should be an ebb and flow, peaks and valleys, that are similar to real life. Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down. We like to take people on a journey when they listen to our music or come to see us live.”
Pop Evil has been a staple at major festivals and in theaters and clubs for nearly two decades, despite the group’s relative youth. As they’ve ruled the roost with No. 1 Billboard Rock singles like “Trenches”, “Deal with the Devil”, “Torn to Pieces”, “Footsteps”, and “Waking Lions”, they’ve taken their inspired message to the people, on tours with modern rock titans and veteran acts alike.
One listen to any of the songs from the impressive body of work laid down by the band on Lipstick on the Mirror (2008), War of Angels (2011), Onyx (2013), Up (2015), and the self-titled smash Pop Evil (2018) confirms exactly how Pop Evil built such a diverse fanbase.
On their go-for-broke sixth album, the group doubles down on the yin-and-yang at the heart of their sound. There’s no other band that bounces between a song like “Waking Lions” and “A Crime to Remember” or “100 in a 55” so effectively and with such overwhelming success.
How are Kakaty, longtime guitarists Dave Grahs and Nick Fuelling, bassist Matt DiRiot, and powerhouse drummer Hayley Cramer able to flip the spectrum so seamlessly? “If my voice sounds good on it, the hook is catchy and memorable with a single listen, and it will go over well live, we’re not afraid to draw from any genre that we see fit for inspiration,” says Leigh.
Even for a Pop Evil record, that contrast and fearless genre-defying cross-cultural pollination have never been stronger than on album number six. The preproduction process yielded close to 30 songs, whittled down to the most potent 12 that represent everything Pop Evil is about.
Songs like “Inferno”, “Breathe Again”, and “Survivor” sound equally destined to take their place in the pantheon of Pop Evil signature songs that mean so much to devoted fans and casual listeners alike. Each is just as poised to conquer new genre formats.
No. 1 smash “Waking Lions” was designed “to remind our fanbase that we’re not afraid to turn up the guitars. Just because we’re Pop Evil, don’t forget about that ‘evil’ element.” The new LP builds on the foundation laid by that 2018 album specifically, springboarding with melodic heft and hook-filled heaviness blending hard rock, alternative, and pop with punch.
The band bunkered down in Los Angeles in the winter of 2019 to put the finishing touches on the new record, working with new creative teams of producers and collaborators, each enlisted to emphasize the uniquely varied aspects of the band’s sound. “We worked with multiple producers that fit each song’s dynamic,” the band’s hardworking singer explains.
Collectively, Pop Evil’s previous five albums account for over a million copies in worldwide sales and over 600 million streams.. Lipstick on the Mirror found its way to listeners via a major label
re-release, despite the business trouble that resulted in the band tearing up their major label contract on stage, in what Spin Magazine called one of the Ten Best Moments of Rock on the Range. War of Angels brought Pop Evil to a worldwide audience.
Up debuted at No. 25 on the Billboard 200 and produced no less than three Top 5 Mainstream Rock singles: “Ways to Get High”, “Take it All”, and “Footsteps”, which went to No. 1. This was on the heels of the three No. 1 Rock singles from Onyx. Pop Evil debuted at No. 5 on the US Top Rock Albums chart. “Be Legendary” was one of the Top 10 most played songs of 2019.
Pop Evil combines the bigger than life bombast of Mötley Crüe or KISS with the earnest warmth of Pearl Jam, mining the same depths of creativity and emotion found within the cosmic riff foundation of legendary active rock, hard rock, and modern rock acts like Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. The Pop Evil faithful are a broad and dedicated group of fans around the world, people whose support was earned, one by one, show by show.
This is a band that unapologetically flies the flag for their chosen form of creativity. Rock n’ roll music is as American as apple pie. It’s particularly important in the Midwest, where Pop Evil was born. Fans who are living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to support families with a 9 to 5 gig, rely on the music made by bands like Pop Evil to help them endure the daily grind.
The signature Pop Evil elements of the past are found in the music they make today, amplified and sharpened like never before. The utmost respect is paid to the fans; part of that respect is in making sure to never simply repeat what’s come before. The “Evil” will move the crowd. The Pop embodies groove, vibe, and atmosphere, extending a warm welcome to all comers.
“We’ve got loud and heavy guitars while staying true to the groove we’ve had with songs like ‘Take it All’ and ‘Footsteps’. We have that ‘Pop’ and that ‘Evil’ just as we’ve always done. And with this record, we’ve taken another big step into our own definitive sound and identity.”
“That’s our thing,” Kakaty declares. “People know they’re going to get that Pop Evil.”
A Thursday Afternoon Gloating:
• 1998 Thursday got together.
• 1999 Thursday got recorded.
• 2000 Thursday got wheels.
• 2001 Thursday got big.
• 2002 Thursday got sold.
• 2003 Thursday got War.
• 2004 Thursday got wings.
• 2005 Thursday got wiped.
• 2006 Thursday got weird.
• 2007 Thursday got dropped.
• 2008 Thursday got cultured.
• 2009 Thursday got Common.
• 2010 Thursday got soft.
• 2011 Thursday got stressed.
• 2012 Thursday got split.
• 2013 Thursday got sick.
• 2014 Thursday got lost.
• 2015 Thursday got found.
• 2016 Thursday got reunited.
• 2017 Thursday got reinvited.
• 2018 Thursday got celebrated. • 2019 Thursday get relocated.
– — — – — – — – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
• 2020 Thursday got front-lined.
Q: How is 2020?
A: ’I don’t want to feel this way forever’
Thursday did everything in 2019 from My Chemical Romance to Japan. They refused to sit by and do nothing in 2020. On the 21st Birthday of the 21st Century, they are gonna do more than just something.
August 20 – 22nd, 2021 – Psycho Fest -Vegas. September 16 – 19th, 2021 – Riot Fest – Chicago
The first L7 album in 20 years, Scatter the Rats embodies everything that made the band so iconic in the first place — the distortion-heavy riffs and headbanging rhythms, sludgy grooves and indelible melodies. And in their lyrics, L7 achieve a direct transmission of raw feeling, often spiked with biting commentary on the chaos of the world today.
Working with producers Norm Block (Jenny Lee, Paper Cranes, Plexi) and Nick Launay (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Yeah Yeah Yeahs), L7 recorded Scatter the Rats at Happy Ending Studios, and Sunset Sound in L.A., instilling each track with a kinetic vitality. Lead single “Burn Baby” opens the album with a galvanizing reflection on letting go of old grudges for the sake of fighting a greater evil, while “Fighting the Crave” offers a slice of life on the inner push and pull of whatever one might crave. Throughout the album, L7 also examine depression (Sparks’s “Holding Pattern,” which matches its delicate melody with a disarming vulnerability), lonely hearts (Gardner’s gloriously swampy “Murky Water Café”) and codependency (the unhinged “Garbage Truck,” written by Finch). And on “Uppin’ the Ice,” the band delivers a dance-worthy track inspired by a bit of advice Plakas got from her doctor upon breaking her arm before the band headed into the studio. “I took the idea of upping the ice as a metaphor for throwing down and doing what you have to do to make something happen, naysayers be damned, because that’s who we are as a band,” says Sparks.
Closing out Scatter the Rats, the album’s title track came to life in a moment of pure spontaneity. “There were a couple of rats in the basement of the studio, where all the amplifiers were, and at one point Norm said to us, ‘Let’s get rockin,’ we can scatter the rats,'” Sparks recalls. “I threw it out as a song title/concept with each one of us writing and singing a different verse while the others were sequestered outside so that none of us knew what the others were doing.” As a result, “Scatter the Rats” unfolds with a scrappy complexity, its lyrics encompassing everything from Gardner’s Black Plague allusions to Finch’s meditation on “how finding a voice can scatter the rats of dubious personalities.” “That song’s scary and it cracks me up at the same time, which is a classic thing about L7.” Plakas notes.
Formed in 1985, L7 first began as a collaboration between Sparks and Gardner. “We were from the art-punk scene but we were making a rather Flintstones version of metal,” says Sparks. “Not heavy metal but more like scrap metal — grab a pile of scrap and we’ll make something out of it.” Later adding Finch and Plakas to the lineup, L7 released their self-titled debut in 1988, followed by 1990’s Smell the Magic and 1992’s Bricks Are Heavy, a Billboard 200 hit whose lead single “Pretend We’re Dead” reached the top 10 on the Alternative Songs chart. In the meantime, L7 founded Rock for Choice and organized the abortion-rights nonprofit’s inaugural, history-making concert (a 1991 event also featuring Nirvana and Hole). With Hungry for Stink arriving in 1994, the band joined that summer’s Lollapalooza tour, later releasing 1997’s The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum and 1999’s Slap-Happy. Announcing an indefinite hiatus in 2001, L7 returned for extensive touring in 2015, then put out a pair of back-to-back singles: 2017’s “Dispatch from Mar-a-Lago” and 2018’s “I Came Back to Bitch.” In addition, 2016 saw the release of L7: Pretend We’re Dead, a feature-length documentary on L7 by Blue Hats Creative.
Having toured the world to massive sold-out crowds since in recent years, L7 are now augmenting their live set with their tonally eclectic new material. “Some of it’s dark, some of it’s funny, some of it’s ‘fuck you,’ but you can rock to all of it,” Plakas says of Scatter the Rats. And with further touring to come, the band looks forward to introducing a certain elusive element back into the musical landscape. “I think it’s good for people to enjoy a meat-and-potatoes rock band for a change,” says Sparks. “We’re not rocket science, we’re rock & roll. And there’s value to that, and we do it pretty well. So if you want to rock, come on back to L7.”
Everyone leaves a legacy behind. No matter how big or small, our words and actions echo forever and make a lasting imprint.
Two decades since their 1999 formation in Southern California, that truth weighed heavy on the members of gold-selling metal mavericks Atreyu—Alex Varkatzas [vocals], Brandon Saller [drums/vocals], “BIG” Dan Jacobs [guitar], Travis Miguel [guitar], and Porter McKnight [bass].
Of course, their musical legacy speaks for itself. 2002’s Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses established them as an influential force, while 2004 follow-up The Curse sold 450,000-plus copies as the group rose to global renown. A Deathgrip on Yesterday and 2007’s Lead Sails Paper Anchor both bowed in the Top 10 of the Billboard Top 200 with the latter garnering a gold certification from the RIAA—a highly rare accomplishment for a 21st century rock band.
Following a hiatus post-Congregation of the Damned in 2009, the musicians returned firing on all cylinders with Long Live during 2015. It crashed the Top 30 of the Billboard Top 200 and earned widespread acclaim from Revolver, Loudwire, AXS, and Kerrang! who dubbed it “a hell of a return.” Along the way, the boys sold out countless headline shows in addition to sharing the stage with everyone from Slipknot and Linkin Park to Chris Cornell and Avenged Sevenfold.
As they commenced writing for their seventh full-length, In Our Wake [Spinefarm], the band posed an important question…
“What are you going to leave behind?”, asks Brandon. “We named the album In Our Wake, because a lot of the concepts address this question. There are lyrics about dealing with your own personal demons and darkness. Some of it is about our children, which his who we live directly in our wake. Others are about the general public and the outpouring of hate and fear—especially in our country. We created something of a concept record without even trying.”
“Everything we do causes a ripple or a wake,” adds Alex. “It can be positive and good, or it can be fucked up and horrible. However, we are the masters of our own destiny. We want to leave something good behind.”
Following a two-year tour cycle for Long Live, Atreyu regrouped in Southern California and started sharing ideas for what would become offering number seven. Ceremoniously, they all agreed it would be the right time to reunite with producer John Feldmann who famously helmed Lead Sails and Paper Anchor.
“Long Live was really heavy and reminiscent of our early material,” continues Brandon. “While we were on the road, fans kept asking to hear more from Lead Sails and Paper Anchor. It made us revisit that era of the band. It was a fun, experimental, and explorative time for us, which is so fun. We wanted to give ourselves and the landscape of heavy music a jolt, so we reached out to Feldmann.”
The band recorded in two chunks bookended by Brandon’s touring obligations for Hell Or Highwater. Working out of Feldmann’s Los Angeles studio, they embraced this new approach as the producer still made them “wonderfully uncomfortable and willing to push harder,” according to Alex.
“Every song with the exception of two was fully written in the studio,” says Brandon. “We’d split off into groups and crank out two ideas per day. We’d never written a fresh idea from scratch every day. Spontaneity makes things flow so much better though. We also never spread an album out like this either. We laid the foundation with five recordings, sat with them, and finished with a better picture of where we wanted to go.”
As a result, the record sees Atreyu once again evolve. The first single and title track “In Our Wake” hinges on a slow burning, but bombastic percussive buildup before charging ahead with an undeniable chant and fiery fretwork.
“It’s a deep one,” admits Alex. “We looked up to Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, and their deaths were fresh during the writing process. It made us think of what we’ll leave in our wake. We have a choice to change the lives of others for the better.”
A ticking clock gives way to a stadium-size chant on follow-up single “The Time Is Now.” It seesaws between a robust beat and scorching call-and-response by Alex and Brandon as they carry the carpe diem chorus.
“It’s all about just grabbing life by the balls, picking yourself up by your bootstraps, and realizing you only have one shot at this,” Brandon goes on. “That was very reminiscent and reflective of this album. In our heads, there’s no time to fuck around or just do what we’ve always done. We have to really fucking go for it. Tomorrow isn’t promised, so we went for it.”
Meanwhile, “Terrified” swings from a hypnotic refrain into an acoustic bridge, illuminating the diversity at the heart of In Our Wake. Closer “Super Hero” [feat. M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold & Aaron Gillespie of Underoath] conjures visions of “Atreyu meets Queen meets Disneyland meets E.L.O.” with its cinematic orchestration, horns, flutes, and grandiose production.
“It’s about being your kid’s superhero, so we invited other singers who are fathers to join us,” Brandon explains. “Everyone wrote his own respective part and gave perspective on what fatherhood meant to him. I wanted it to feel like the music from the Soaring Over California ride at Disney’s California Adventure park. It ends on such a huge note and offers a breath of fresh air.”
In the end, In Our Wake doesn’t just reaffirm Atreyu’s legacy, it expands it like never before.
“We want to give listeners an experience,” Alex concludes. “Every track functions as its own moment. There’s something that you can hopefully come back and listen to again and again.”
“I feel like this is the record that people will remember our band by,” Brandon states. “I’m saying that because the best parts of Atreyu happened on it. We’re continuing something we began a long time ago. This band means everything to me. We’ve been through incredible highs and incredible lows. We’ve loved each other, and we’ve wanted to kill each other. Somehow, twenty years later ,it’s reached a whole new level. I feel like we’re alive, and Atreyu has never been more on fire than we are now.” – Rick Florino, July 2018
For some it was all of the live energy, for others it may have been the massive sleeper success of their 2016 LP but whatever it may be, Knocked Loose’s arrival in the general public consciousness transcends metal and hardcore and into a new arena entirely.
Due on August 23rd, 2019 via Pure Noise Records, A Different Shade of Blue is the mammoth and hotly anticipated follow-up to their 2016 debut, the head-turning Laugh Tracks. Recorded by producer Will Putney, the new LP was approached slower and more methodically than the band’s last smash effort, abandoning the previous “live in studio” recording approach for something more deliberate. Under Putney’s direction, the band cranked out twelve new tracks that deal with all manner of anger, especially loss in lieu of absence. Vocalist and lyricist Bryan Garris initially felt blocked heading into the studio but eventually found catharsis, as well as some of his most intensely personal lyrics to date.
Forged on musical bonds built at an early age, Knocked Loose came together in the small yet relatively formidable hardcore / punk scene of the greater Louisville, KY area– the same that gave birth to bands ranging from Slint to Breather Resist to Endpoint to Coliseum. And though said scene was relatively strong, a lack of available bands, touring parties and scarcity of gigs forced diversity– mixing genres and challenging young ears with new ideas, approaches and styles. That diversity – death metal bands mingling with youth crew, screamo on the same bill as Am-Rep-style bands and on and on– created the basis of Knocked Loose musically and the genesis for their approach, an amalgam of heavy influences that never commits to any singular style but maintains a loyalty to the hardcore tradition.
While A Different Shade of Blue reflects the diverse musical influences and backgrounds of Knocked Loose, it also ups the ante. On the new effort, the quintet come harder with a more fine-tuned approach toward songwriting, riffs that would make Trey Azagthoth blush and an added level of vein-bulging fury to tie it into one nasty package. Featuring guest vocals from Emma Boster of Dying Wish and Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die, A Different Shade of Blue is not only a step forward for the band, but for hardcore as we know it. While some musical influences are easily identified–Pantera, Hatebreed, Obituary and more– the band’s palette and canvas has expanded by leaps and bounds, incorporating Gothenburg-style death metal (At the Gates, early In Flames), slam metal (Devourment,
Dying Fetus), blood-thirsty thrash (Sodom, Kreator), black metal (Craft) and the mind-boggling complexity of latter noisy hardcore like Snapcase and Bloodlet. Spanning twelve tracks, including the massive single “Mistakes Like Fractures” which reared its ugly head in April via 7” single, A Different Shade of Blue clocks in at a lean and mean 37 minutes, grabbing the listener by the throat from the jump and slowly tightening that grip for the duration.
Knocked Loose is the obvious evolution to decades of bands like Integrity, Disembodied, Botch and others– total and complete integration between metal and hardcore into a singular, seamless entity. Since its inception, hardcore has evolved from the germ of “Slayer actually has punk parts” to crossover to the addition of everything from death metal to rap to shoegaze. Knocked Loose is the proverbial fish walking on land– the end of the evolution, and possibly the apex of the metallic hardcore punk movement thus far. Ably combining the teeth-clenching hatred of a hardcore band with the unmitigated technicality and ferocity of metal, Knocked Loose have conceived state of the art hatred– a true melting pot of ideas that combines pit-ready riffs, memorable songwriting and deviously clandestine melody into a boiling-over pot of vitriol.
Since 2016’s Laugh Tracks, Knocked Loose, comprised of the young Cole Crutchfield (rhythm guitar), Bryan Garris (vocals), Isaac Hale (lead guitar), Kevin Otten (bass) and Kevin Kaine (drums), have taken a huge leap, moving from upstart hardcore-influenced favorites to bonafide key figures of the genre. Their debut offering was a revelation, taking the world by storm and establishing the band as a major force within metal, hardcore and beyond. Following the well received effort, Knocked Loose hit the road and hard. The band is quick to single out turning point tours such as Warped Tour 2017, a stellar showing at This is Hardcore 2018, headlining gigs over the legendary Terror and Australia/Japan tours as crucial to their growth, and while that may be partially true, the real key component to their success lies beneath all of that– a strong attention to excellent songwriting and a near-undying work ethic.
Knocked Loose have doubly proven their ability to write a cohesive and compelling record, and the band is looking forward to proving themselves yet again at live gigs across the globe, fan by fan. It’s this single-minded, borderline-stubborn attitude to take the songs directly to the people that has driven this band from the get-go.
First impressions last a lifetime. Wolfgang Van Halen has prepared a lifetime to make his first impression. The songwriter, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist worked tirelessly towards the
introduction of MAMMOTH [Explorer1], his self-titled 2021 debut album. Playing every instrument and singing each and every note, his music presents a personal and powerful perspective, balancing memorable hooks and tight technicality. As many times as audiences have experienced his talent alongside the likes of Tremonti, Clint Lowery, and of course, Van Halen, they meet Wolf as an individual for the very first time now.
“You only have one chance to make a first impression, and I wanted to do so to the best of my abilities,” he affirms. “Throughout the whole process, I was finding who I am musically and by
the end, I got a pretty good handle on a sound I can claim for myself.”
His father often played guitar against his mother’s pregnant belly, and Wolf absorbed those vibrations from the womb. At the age of 10, his Pop gave him a drum kit for his birthday. To this
day, Wolf considers himself “a drummer before anything else.” As he developed as a musician, he learned how to play guitar in order to perform “316” — which his father penned for him — at
a 6th-grade talent show.
It may come as a surprise, but outside of his father teaching him one drumbeat from an AC/DC song, Wolfgang taught himself every instrument. “My dad wasn’t the best teacher,” he laughs. “I
would ask him to play something, and then he would just proceed to be Eddie Van Halen. He would look at me and say, ‘Do that.’ to which I would laugh and sarcastically reply, ‘Sure thing, no problem.’”
In the summer of 2006 when he was 15 years old, Wolf grabbed a bass and began noodling. While at the legendary 5150 Studios, his impromptu woodshedding inspired Eddie and Uncle
Alex. Endless family jam sessions followed. By summer’s end, Wolfgang phoned David Lee Roth’s manager and by winter Roth showed up for rehearsal. They rocked “On Fire,” and “That’s how the 2007 tour began,” says Wolf.
Not only did Wolf canvas the world with Van Halen while in high school, but he also held down the low end on 2012’s A Different Kind of Truth—which debuted at #2 on the Billboard Top 200. When not on tour with Van Halen, he cut bass for Tremonti’s critically acclaimed Cauterize  and Dust  in addition to joining the band on the road. In 2019, Wolf handled drums and also played bass on half of the 10 songs for Clint Lowery’s solo debut, God Bless The Renegades.
In the midst of all this, at the beginning of 2015, Wolf broke ground on what would become MAMMOTH with producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette [Alter Bridge, Slash] behind the board. Wolf began to embrace his voice, inspired by everyone from his father, to bands like AC/DC, Foo Fighters, Nine Inch Nails, TOOL, and Jimmy Eat World. “I’ve been singing my whole life, but it wasn’t until MAMMOTH that I really found my voice. Elvis was great, and he helped me gain the confidence to become a lead vocalist.”
“The name Mammoth is really special to me.” says Wolf. “Not only was it the name of Van Halen before it became Van Halen, but my father was also the lead singer. Ever since my dad told me this, I always thought that when I grew up, I’d call my own band Mammoth, because I loved the name so much. I’m so thankful that my father was able to listen to, and enjoy the music I made. Nothing made me happier than seeing how proud he was that I was continuing the family legacy.”
Grandson is a 23-year-old alternative artist hailing from Canada. Born in the small town of Englewood, New Jersey, he relocated to the cultural melting pot of Toronto at a young age, and grew up surrounded by music ranging from jazz to rock & roll to rap, dancehall and R&B.
At 17, he moved to Montreal to attend university, and began working in nightclubs cleaning tables and DJing. He started writing music at this time, incorporating the unique blend of sounds he grew up surrounded by. He started experimenting with music production and rapping in 2013, dropped out of school and headed to Los Angeles to pursue music full time.
Adopting the “grandson” moniker while living in LA, he dove deeply into rock influences such as Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana and Led Zeppelin, while keeping an ear on the rap/R&B music emerging out of Toronto and alternative acts such as Twenty One Pilots and Hiatus Kaiyote. He found a small community of musicians to work and perform with in LA and eventually formed his band. Reminiscent of early punk and grunge music, grandson’s live set attempts to create a frantic, mosh pit-inducing cathartic release of energy for fans.
Searching for his voice and for meaning in today’s divisive, chaotic world, grandson’s songwriting confronts the most pressing issues of his generation, such as financial inequality, governmental and environmental accountability and social justice, giving these topics a soundtrack with a genuine sense of urgency and frustration, while simultaneously touching on adolescence, relationships, and the insecurities and difficulties of growing up through your 20s. When asked about today’s music scene, he says “I genuinely believe the world needs honest rock and roll, now more than ever.”
For London-bred band BONES UK, every song is a chance to speak their minds with total freedom, to shed light on the extreme disconnect between the status quo and the far more glorious world inside their heads. On their self-titled debut album, out now via Sumerian Records, vocalist Rosie Bones and guitarist Carmen Vandenberg confront everything from the beauty industrial complex to toxic masculinity to music-scene sexism, embedding each track with choruses primed for passionate shouting-along. With their galvanizing energy and relentless joie de vivre, BONES UK offer up an album that’s both provocative and endlessly exhilarating, even in its most outraged moments.
True to the L.A.-based band’s anti-conformist spirit, BONES UK unfolds with an entirely uncontainable sound, a riff-heavy collision of rock-and-roll and rough-edged electronic music. In forging that sound, Rosie and Carmen worked in close collaboration with producer Filippo Cimatti, who shaped the album’s kinetic textures with lavish use of electronic bass. Matched by Carmen’s masterful yet inventive guitar work and Rosie’s magnetic voice—an instrument that seamlessly slips from menacing to stunningly tender—the result is a bold new sonic world, savage and frenetic and infinitely mesmerizing.
On the album-opening “Beautiful Is Boring,” BONES UK bring serpentine riffs and sinister grooves to a feverish statement against societal expectations of beauty. “We’re living in an era when everyone’s being airbrushed into looking all the same, when really it’s imperfections that make you beautiful,” says Rosie. On “Filthy Freaks,” the band twists the narrative to an all-out celebration of the perfectly imperfect, the song’s bright tempo and surf-rock rhythms backed by Rosie’s brazen lyrics (e.g., “I like your leather/But I like it better on my floor”).
Raw defiance also fuels tracks like “Pretty Waste”—a dizzying anti-anthem driven by blistering beats and Rosie’s haunting vocal delivery. “It’s about this idea that if you’re a girl, you can’t be both attractive and smart,” Rosie says. “We wanted to show that you can be feminine and strong and tough and angry all at the same time: you can be whatever you want to be.” Another moment of brilliant fury, “Leach” lashes out against all the creeps BONES UK have encountered in their wanderings around L.A., cleverly contrasting their venomous lyrics with swinging rhythms and flamenco-inspired strumming. And on “I’m Afraid of Americans,” BONES UK bring that sardonic mood to a divinely snarling cover of David Bowie’s late-’90s hit, instilling the track with a wild new urgency.
Elsewhere on the album, BONES UK shift from the restless reverie of “Souls” to the dreamy balladry of “Black Blood” to the swampy blues of “Girls Can’t Play Guitar,” echoing the deliberate unpredictability of the album-making process. “We recorded everywhere—in bathrooms, in the backs of cars,” says Rosie, noting that most of Bones came to life in their basement studio in Laurel Canyon. “We’re together all the time and we love that freedom of being able to record whenever we want. We don’t need that pressure of going into some big studio; we’d much rather just be instinctive about it.”
All throughout their thrilling debut the band shows the sharpness of their instincts, an element that each musician has spent her whole life honing. Growing up in Italy, Carmen began playing violin at age five, but soon felt compelled to take up guitar. “My dad played me a VHS of Woodstock, and when I saw Jimi Hendrix I just went, That’s what I wanna do,” she recalls. Classically trained in guitar from age six, she later ventured into blues and rock, eventually crossing paths with Rosie after playing a 2014 gig at a blues bar in Camden. “I went up to her afterward and we drank several bottles of whiskey, and we pretty much started playing together right away,” says Rosie. Born and raised in London, Rosie had gotten her start as a drummer but switched to guitar as a tool for her songwriting. “It’s always been all about the lyrics for me—using songs to tell stories and paint a picture, in a way that actually says something about the world,” she notes. (An art-school dropout, Rosie also designs all the artwork for BONES UK, with the band working together to create each of their outrageously cinematic videos.)
After recruiting Filippo (a former classmate of Carmen’s at The Academy of Contemporary Music in Surrey), BONES UK began pushing toward the heady complexity that now defines their music. “We all come from such different backgrounds, and BONES UK is the amalgamation of that,” says Carmen. “When we realized what we could create together, it was like we didn’t have a choice—we had to just keep going.” Moving to L.A. in 2017, the band made their name as an incendiary live act, soon taking the stage at major festivals like Lollapalooza and touring with bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Bush, and The Cult.
Joined onstage by their drummer Heavy, BONES UK now see their live set as the ideal medium for their ever-expanding message, a vehicle for both catharsis and transformation. “Music is the most powerful platform you could possibly have, because it has the potential to move people in so many ways,” says Rosie. “We feel like we have a duty to use our platform to talk about the things we care about, and hopefully end up empowering and inspiring people, and help give them the confidence to be who they really are.”
“Witnessing (BONES UK) live is as memorable as the album.”
“Poignant… set against an electro-punk backdrop, the track addresses shutting down negativity.”
– Alternative Press
“Shower after watching BONES UK’s “I’m Afraid of Americans” video… their cover of the David Bowie song gets a muddy 2019 revamp.”
– The FADER
“Like the greats before her, (Vandenberg) finds inventive, magical sweet spots that become her voice. No one can teach that, so a listen is worth it to hear that intangible quality alone.”
– Premier Guitar
Whether you’re a man or a woman, chances are you’ve heard the phrases ‘man up,’ ‘be a man’ or ‘take it like a man’ at one time or another. We all have. Butcher Babies took that old school goading and transformed it into the inspiration at the core of their second full-length album, Take It Like a Man [Century Media Records].
“We all come from different places and backgrounds, but every member of this band had to fight to be the person he or she is today,” affirms co-vocalist Carla Harvey. “That’s the whole basis for the record. It’s not a gender thing. It’s the inner strength you have to find in order to pull your boots up and keep moving forward, whatever the situation may be.”
The group—Harvey, Heidi Shepherd [co-vocals], Jason Klein [bass], Henry Flury [guitar], and Chris Warner [drums]—literally never stop. For the unfamiliar, Butcher Babies rose up out of the Los Angeles scene by throwing down a blood-soaked live show rife with the fierce theatricality heavy metal had been missing for quite some time.
Their 2013 debut, Goliath, landed at #3 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Chart, while the quintet charged across North America. Night after night, they delivered aggressively unforgettable performances alongside the likes of Marilyn Manson, Danzig, and In This Moment and on the Rockstar Mayhem Festival with Rob Zombie and Five Finger Death Punch.
Following up this whirlwind of touring, they hunkered down at a Hollywood Hills studio with producer Logan Mader [Gojira, Fear Factory] to cut what would become Take It Like a Man in November 2014. The structured 10am-6pm daily sessions allowed the group to amplify their attack exponentially.
“Goliath was written over a lifetime,” says Shepherd. “We went out to prove something. However, it wasn’t as heavy and thrash-y as we knew we could be. We wanted to embrace that side. We’d been touring for almost four years straight, and we saw what the fans liked. This is more us.”
While penning lyrics, Shepherd and Harvey also opened up like never before. Blatant, brutal, and (sometimes) belligerent honesty was the only rule.“You have to dig to get that emotion out,” sighs Harvey. “Metal heads can sense authenticity. They know when you’re real. Everything we write comes straight from the heart and our own experiences. It’s not cookie cutter bullshit.”
“Many times, Carla and I would be going over ideas together and be on the verge of screaming or crying as we literally extracted feelings we’d suppressed from childhood,” admits Shepherd. “There were a couple of songs that came from really dark places in our respective pasts. We turned those negatives into positives.”
As a result of that cathartic process, the first single “Never Go Back” pairs a bruising riff with the girls’ haunting and hypnotic harmonies as a darkly catchy refrain takes flight. “It’s written for anybody who has had that moment in their lives where they feel like, ‘I’ve been stuck in this place, and I’m finally free of it. I’m never going back!’” declares Shepherd. “You could base it on a relationship, but it could be any bad situation in life you’re finally free of.”
“Gravemaker” begins with an ominous hum before slipping into polyrhythmic assault and battery fueled by the girls’ growls. “That’s an important one,” explains Shepherd. “You go on tour and kids will look up to you like you’re a god. On the inside, you think, ‘We aren’t those people. We have flaws. We have things that will ruin others.’ It reminds everyone we’re normal.”
Elsewhere a delicate clean guitar opens up “Thrown Away,” simultaneously showing Butcher Babies at their most vulnerable and vibrant. “It’s beautiful,” Harvey goes on. “In this lifestyle, you go from city to city like a ghost. You walk through these towns, play shows, make people happy for a small period of time, and you leave like a ghost again. Your whole family is at home, and you’re out on the road. There are moments at night when you feel completely disenchanted and lost.”
At the same time, they find empowerment in the music, literally confronting abandonment and abuse on the searing “Dead Man Walking.” It also ignites the titular line—Take It Like a Man—like an atom bomb. “The lyrical content is so personal for us in different ways, but it’s similar,” says Shepherd. “Carla’s dealt with abandonment from her father, and I dealt with abuse from mine. It’s about how that changed the course of both of our lives. It’s extremely emotional to put ourselves back into those suppressed memories.”
That openness has already turned countless fans into believers. Take It Like a Man espouses an inspiring final word. “We want to coerce feeling,” Shepherd leaves off. “If you’re a musician who does that, you’ve succeeded. We just want to inspire anyone who listens to us—and melt their faces off.”
Guitar rocker Ayron Jones is the new sound of Seattle in 2020. The gritty, genre-blending artist is an amalgam of the incredibly rich history of the city, from Jimi Hendrix to Nirvana to Sir Mix-A-Lot who produced Jones’ first independent record.
Now, Jones is primed to bring his unique sound to the rest of the world with his explosive single “Take Me Away” and his forthcoming album for Big Machine/John Varvatos Records. “Take Me Away” pulls Jones’ diverse influences into a style that is at once both familiar and yet distinctly his own, with firm footing in the nostalgia of rock music.
While the tones and musical roots may be familiar, the story is unique to Jones and the struggles and darkness that shaped his art. Jones experienced a tumultuous childhood marred by parental addiction and abandonment; he became a child of the state at age 4 before coming under the care and adoption of his aunt. While grateful to his aunt and the life she provided, Jones struggled with the emotional effects of loneliness and betrayal, always feeling unsettled from the weight of his past. This is the inspiration for “Take Me Away”.
“‘Take Me Away’ was about how music was my escape, how I sometimes felt stuck in my own personal prison of isolation and solitude that I’d constructed for myself. I had such conflicted emotions – my home was a blessing, but also felt like a trap because of my own demons. Music was my release, and from the darkness I could create something beautiful, and not be defined by my history.”
This dichotomy is a key factor in Jones’ music overall – his conflicted past informed his songs in ways both dark and twisted, yet also soaring and brilliant. From the shadows there comes light, and Jones channeled his pain to become one of the most talented musicians of his time, and to be inspired by a wealth of sounds and styles.
“I think ‘Take Me Away’ embodies the whole record, honestly. Some songs take on heavier notes with a nod to the classic Seattle grunge, some songs will take on lighter notes with a slower R&B touch, and some of its hip hop. Classical music is a huge inspiration in my writing and arrangements as well. And, I’m a huge fan of Dr. Dre – in fact, one of the songs I wrote for the album was inspired by ‘Forgot About Dre’.”
Jones’ love affair with music, and specifically guitar began young – he picked up the craft independently as a child. “I taught myself every bit. Never really sat with anybody and had a formal lesson or anything like that. I just sat there and listened to records over and over again.” Cut to 2020, with Jones as one of the most stellar guitarists of the time, and notably renowned throughout Seattle.
Part of the fabric of the Northwest city, Jones has opened for Guns ’N’ Roses at the Gorge and B.B. King, plus worked with Sir Mix-A-Lot and Screaming Trees drummer Barrett Martin and Eric Lilavois at the iconic London Bridge Studio. The city has championed his sound with consistently sold out shows, and Jones has been embraced by the city’s wealth of music royalty including Duff McKagan, Mike McCready, and more. His reach extends well beyond Seattle, playing alongside such acts as Run DMC, Public Enemy, Rahkim, Jeff Beck, Theory of a Deadman, Robin Trower, and Spearhead, plus notable festival performances to include SXSW, Sasquatch, and Bumbershoot.
This ascent was all achieved as an independent artist, breaking barriers in the rock music world. Jones explains “being a black artist in the rock industry, I was forging a path into establishments and onto tours that had not previously embraced an artist like me. But the one thing that always changed minds and spoke for itself was the music. Years ago, Country and Blues had a baby named Rock and Roll; Rock is
the epitome of blending cultures and can be the healing voice to this all. We have more in common than we have apart.”
While he paved his own way, he does honor the collaborators along the way who helped to inspire the journey. “I had the privilege of working with Janelle Monáe’s Wonderland, and seeing her and her team in action was a pivotal point in my career and inspiring me to do what I do.” Jones also explains “Barrett Martin is one of the most influential figures in helping me to find that Seattle sound. Then Sir Mix-A-Lot, who produced my first independent album, was a huge leader in my career – I still look to him as a mentor figure in my life.”
Now, Jones is inspired by the next chapter of collaboration, with Big Machine/John Varvatos Records. “John Varvatos and Scott Borchetta share my vision for the music, and I’m excited for this next stage of creativity. It’s the right home for me because I can be myself, and we all share a vision for what’s to come.” And that vision starts with ‘Take Me Away’; at this time, the words have never been so universally felt, and once again music unites.
From Ashes To New
Like food of the gods, rock ‘n’ roll nourishes the soul. Offering holy communion, Crobot proudly personify a trinity of “meat, strings, and emotion” within their music and during the raucous and raging gigs they remain known for. Striking a delicate balance between hard-charging riffs, ass-shaking funk, and out-of-this-world reflective stage attire, the Pennsylvania quartet—Brandon Yeagley [lead vocals, harmonica], Chris Bishop [guitar, vocals], and Dan Ryan [drums], satisfy starvation for sonic sustenance on their fourth full-length and 2019 debut for Mascot Records, Motherbrain. James Lascu and Eddie Collins share the role of touring bassist for Crobot.
“When we were making the record, it was all about ‘meat, strings, and emotion’,” affirms Chris. “It explains the thought process. We’d usually start the day with chicken biscuits from Chik-fil-A. Obviously, I would play the strings. The emotion comes from the sheer power of me playing.”
“It had nothing to do with the chicken biscuits,” laughs Brandon.
Regardless, Crobot continue to fill a void. Since emerging in 2011, the group have quietly cemented themselves among the rising rock vanguard. Following the 2012 debut Legend of the Spaceborne Killer and 2014’s Something Supernatural, the musicians made waves with Welcome To Fat City in 2016. Consequence of Sound praised the title track as “a stomping slice of doom,” and Classic Rock bestowed a coveted 4-out-of-5 star rating on the album, going on to claim, “Welcome To Fat City is a mighty leap forward for Crobot, an ebullient masterclass.” Not to mention, they received acclaim from AXS, New Noise Magazine, and more as total album streams surpassed the 1-million-mark. Along the way, Crobot toured with the likes of Anthrax, Clutch, Black Label Society, Volbeat, Chevelle, Motorhead, The Sword, and more in addition to appearing on ShipRocked! and at numerous other festivals.
During late 2017, the boys started to write what would become Motherbrain. Signing to Mascot Records, the group went from writing at Chris’ spot in Austin, TX to Marietta, GA where they holed up in the studio with Corey Lowery [Seether, Sevendust, Saint Asonia, Stereomud] for a month. The producer’s direction to embrace the dark side took life, while Brandon delivered some of the most emotive recordings Crobot has delivered to date.
“I think it’s a much darker record, musically, lyrically, and thematically,” says the frontman. “It’s some of the heaviest material we’ve ever done, but it’s also some of the funkiest. We’re widening the Crobot spectrum even more. It’s the catchiest too. It’s less about wizards and dragons and more about everyday turmoil and the struggles of life. Corey made it digestible and appealing for not just dudes with beards or chicks with dicks.”
They heralded the record with the rabble-rousing “Keep Me Down.” Meanwhile, the first single “Low Life” shows the scope of this expanded palette. Featuring chunky guitars and a howling hook, it sees the band co-write with Johnny Andrews and deliver a bold banger. “It’s a song we never would’ve written by ourselves,” Chris continues. “That makes it cool. It took us out of our comfort zone.” “It’s an anthem about this outside perspective on the definition of a lowlife,” explains Brandon. “There’s a misconception that being a touring musician without a lot of money makes you a lowlife, but how is that really any different from the rest of the world? And, if that does make you a lowlife, we’re okay with it!”
Co-written by Brian Vodinh of 10 Years, “Burn” nods to “the power of Stone Temple Pilot’s ‘Dead and Bloated’,” and siphons it through “a Crobot filter.” Elsewhere, “Drown” tempers a muscular groove with a magnetic melody, while the “funkiest song” of the bunch “Alpha Dawg” pays homage to a “funky werewolf mofo” inspired by Teen Wolf. Then, there’s “Stoning The Devil.” So catchy it might be Satanic, the tune flips tradition upside down.
“I wanted a different spin on the act of stoning the devil,” states Brandon. “Muslims take a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia to throw stones at these pillars. The act is supposed to ward off evil spirits and cleanse one’s soul. It’s a different culture for the devil’s storyline in our genre.”
In the end, “meat, strings, and emotion” might just be what rock ‘n’ roll needs in 2019 and beyond…
“When people hear this, I hope they say, ‘Yeah, that’s Crobot’,” the frontman leaves off. “We want to maintain our identity from record to record. We always want to be genuine. It’s going to evolve, but it will always be Crobot.”
Fit For A King
While so many bands exploded onto the scene with supercharged “hype,” only to burn out and fade away just as quickly, FIT FOR A KING steadily built a ferociously dedicated following through determination, classic American Metalcore breakdowns, lyrical courage, and steadfast conviction.
The heaviest and catchiest extreme metal act from the Lone Star State since the original cowboys from hell, FIT FOR A KING’s ascendance is demonstrated as much by the massive singalongs at their shows as their jaw-dropping online following. The 2018 full-length Dark Skies has been streamed nearly 50 million times. In 2019, the band had nearly two million listeners on Spotify; incredible for an underground group who self-released their EPs just over a decade beforehand.
Album six, The Path, is a definitive masterpiece. Bigger, bolder, and overwhelmingly epic in scope, The Path leans harder on the “metal” side of their sound, with shredding guitar solos, while doubling down on the massive catchy choruses that propelled their fiercest fan-favorite anthems.
Like Dark Skies, The Path was produced/mixed by WZRD BLD, aka Drew Fulk, who was responsible for career-making records from Dance Gavin Dance, Motionless In White, and Bad Wolves.
Even as their music is rightfully heralded as “majestic and punishing” (Revolver Magazine) “straightforward heaviness” (Metal Injection), genuine connection, fearless transparency, and an accessible relatability are the most essential elements of the band’s powerful presence.
Where Deathgrip (2016) and Dark Skies spoke to raw feelings of alienation, abandonment, and disillusionment, album six is focused on The Path out of those hells. FIT FOR A KING has become the very soundtrack for fighting through life’s most painful and difficult seasons.
Their music appeals equally to anyone whose tastes were shaped by gateway bands like Slipknot and Korn or New Wave Of American Heavy Metal titans like Killswitch Engage and As I Lay Dying.
As important as each record in the band’s catalog has been, much of their dedicated supporters first encountered FIT FOR A KING on the road, as the road dogs appeared several times on the Vans Warped Tour and on celebrated subcultural touring bills alongside Ice Nine Kills, Beartooth, August Burns Red, Whitechapel, and labelmates The Devil Wears Prada, to name just a few.
As devotees of Fit For A King, fans have enthusiastically supported singer Ryan Kirby’s book of devotionals, vocalist workshops, and creative cover songs, some done in collaboration with guitarist Daniel Gailey (Phinehas, Becoming The Archetype). Drum playthrough videos from rhythmic beast Jared Easterling are similarly consumed. The FFAK faithful are just as supportive of Off Road Minivan, the Tooth & Nail Records alt-rock band fronted by bassist Ryan “Tuck” O’Leary. Bobby Lynge, who joined the early incarnation of FFAK alongside Kirby before the band created their first proper full-length, no longer tours, but remains a core member and songwriter.
“Breaking the Mirror” garnered close to two million streams in just over a month of release in early 2020, proving how much the appetite for FIT FOR A KING music had grown since the release of Dark Skies. It quickly took its place alongside songs like “Ancient Waters,” “Hollow King,” “The Price of Agony,” “Slave to Nothing,” and “Dead Memory,” which together total close to 20M views on YouTube. The song isn’t so much about distancing oneself from a troubled past as it is about destroying it. Musically it encompasses all of what they do best: vicious roar, melodic might, and crushing mosh parts demonstrating why this is the band to Make Breakdowns Great Again.
“The Face of Hate” takes aim at those who hijack religion for personal gain. “God of Fire” is about the type of theology that values fear over love, a misrepresentation of the hope and salvation that is central to FFAK’s faith. “Stockholm” decries the type of “Stockholm syndrome” that keeps the masses beholden to politicians, even as elected officials across the spectrum exploit the citizenry.
The Path is the sound of victory, championing perseverance over divisiveness, boundless optimism over anxiety and depression. FIT FOR A KING stand for triumph over adversity. This music is the soundtrack for those who muster the strength to carry on, to achieve, to overcome all obstacles.
The fans are behind FIT FOR A KING, because they know FIT FOR A KING stands with them.
cleopatrick (yup, the ‘c’ is lowercase) are a heavy alt-rock duo from the tiny town of Cobourg, Ontario.
A quick listen reveals devastating riffs and hip-hop inspired grooves, but closer inspection exposes the core mission of lifelong best friends Luke Gruntz (guitar/vocals) and Ian Fraser (drums): to restore the outspoken provocation of rock & roll through raw, abrasive honesty.
And the craziest part? It’s working.
To date, cleopatrick’s song “hometown” has independently amassed over 60 million streams without the help of a record label or marketing campaign. The band has been featured on the front cover of Spotify’s massive “Rock This” playlist, performed at Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits– and done it all from their parents’ basements in a small town you’ve never heard of.
Fuck whatever you think rock is, because cleopatrick is about to change it all.
Somewhere in Queens, a musical madman creates compositions in an underground lair. Formerly used as a break room for 1950s MTA tunnel workers, the grit and legacy of the city radiates from the walls, anointing Des Rocs with the authentic soul of NYC.
Des Rocs is Rock ’N Roll. A fourth-generation New Yorker and pizza maker, his authenticity, coupled with his obsessive drive to create, has spawned an undeniable force of nature. His music builds upon its deep and soulful rock roots and applies a sadistic, frenetic twist. Des delivers Rock ’N Roll to the modern landscape, enriched with the deep reverence to the history of the art form.
Inspired by music and culture of both past and present, Des provides an energetic and dynamic live performance, displaying the blood, sweat, and tears of the journey to reinvent Rock ’N Roll.
Des Rocs is a man possessed, the chosen prophet of his Filthy Animals™, the movement created by his fanbase. He approaches his career as an all-encompassing art piece. The music, the performance and the visual aesthetic all work in concert to provide his Filthy Animals™ with a captivating movement that’s impossible to ignore. His art is deeply personal, vulnerable, staying true to, and betting on, his unique creative vision.
Des’ newest offering, an EP titled This Is Our Life, will be released December 4th, 2020. This Is Our Life is an anthemic celebration of our greatest tragedies becoming our greatest strengths. The EP captures the true triumph in our flaws, and the clarity found somewhere at the end of our rope.
Thrash metal band Alien Weaponry are “one of the most exciting young metal bands in the world right now” according to Revolver Magazine in the USA. And they’re not the only ones who thinks so. Since they released their debut album ‘Tū’ on 1 June 2018, fans, bloggers, the music industry and the media worldwide have raved about Alien Weaponry’s unique blend of thrash metal and their native language, Te Reo Māori.
In the first three weeks after its release, ‘Tū’ had over a million streams on Spotify, and has been listed among the top albums of 2018 by musical institutions including Revolver, Loudwire, Metal Hammer and many others. Three months after the album was released, Napalm Records had to produce more CDs after selling out of the first run.
The single ‘Kai Tangata,’ released in May 2018, has had nearly 1.5 million views on YouTube and spent 3 months from July to September 2018 in the no. 1 slot on the Liquid Metal show’s Devil’s Dozen, broadcast by New York based Sirius FM and syndicated throughout the USA. In June 2018, the video for Kai Tangata was the ‘Most Added Metal Song’ on US Cable Channel Music Choice (delivering to 50 million households).
The band has been touring Australia and Europe since early July 2018, where they have sold out venues and attracted record numbers to stages at Wacken Open Air (Germany), MetalDays (Slovenia), Bloodstock (UK) and other festivals.
In their home country, New Zealand, the three teenagers from the tiny town of Waipu in Northland won the prestigious APRA Maioha award for their song ‘Raupatu’ (a no punches pulled commentary on the 1863 act of parliament that allowed the colonial government to confiscate vast areas of land from the indigenous Māori people); and are finalists in six categories at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards.
The de Jong brothers (lead singer/guitarist Lewis, 16; and drummer Henry, 18) are of Ngati Pikiāo and Ngati Raukawa (Māori tribal) descent; and began their schooling at a kura kaupapa Māori (full immersion Māori language school). While singing waiata and performing haka were a daily routine there, also ingrained in their early learning were stories of New Zealand history told to them by their father – giving rise to songs like ‘Raupatu’, ‘Urutaa’ (about an early Māori-European contact incident which resulted in an outbreak of sickness; and the subsequent revenge – the burning of the ship The Boyd and the massacre of its crew); and ‘Rū Ana te Whenua’ (which tells the story of the mighty battle at Pukehinahina/Gate Pa in 1864 where their ancestor, Te Ahoaho, lost his life).
The band’s English language material is equally hard-hitting, with songs like ‘Rage,’ ‘Holding My Breath,’ ‘Hypocrite,’ and ‘PC Bro’ addressing everything from a schoolyard punch-up to teenage mental health issues, and the hypocrisy of teachers, the media and reality TV shows alike.
“We listened to all sorts of music when we were younger,” says Lewis, “but we were drawn to thrash metal because it’s quite complex music, and it is a great vehicle for expressing real stories and emotions.”
“It also works with Te Reo Māori,” adds Henry. “Both the musical style and the messages have a lot of similarities with haka, which is often brutal, angry and about stories of great courage or loss.”
Early musical influences included Metallica, Anthrax, Rage Against the Machine and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers; with current favourites including Lamb of God, System of a Down, Gojira and Trivium. The brothers wrote their first song together when they were 8 and 10 years old and the band’s name was also decided then – inspired by the movie District 9.
Bass player Ethan Trembath (16) met Lewis while they were honing their unicycling skills at the local circus school in Waipu, where the de Jong brothers moved to in 2012. He scored the job in Alien Weaponry because he could play the ukulele and (at age 10) he was the first one of their friends who could reach the end of the bass guitar. Now, he is the world’s youngest and New Zealand’s only Spector bass endorsed artist.
LAW is a rock band based out of Los Angeles County, CA, founded in 2013 in Long Beach, CA. The band consists of Jakob Nowell (Vocals), Aidan Palacios (Guitar) and Nick Aguilar (Drums). LAW has been playing live since 2013 and are currently in the studio writing new music. Their style consists of a heavy emphasis on loud, live sound with thunderous basslines, sonorous solos, furious drums and wailing vocals – they seek to spread their message through straightforward, to-the-point, no-nonsense rock music. To learn more, visit www.lawlbc.com
The founders of LAW are Jakob Nowell, Dakota Ethridge and Nick Aguilar. In early 2012, Nowell and Ethridge would begin creating music for their would-be band and began forming plans to leave their homes in San Diego to start a project in Long Beach City. After showing their early work and sharing their plans with Michael “Miguel” Happoldt, founder of Skunk Records, Happoldt would go on to assist them in their beginning endeavors. It was on March 16, 2012 that Happoldt would find himself at a Mike Watt & the Missingmen show at DiPiazza’s Restaurant and Venue in Long Beach. It was there that he noticed 15 year old drummer, Nick Aguilar, sitting in with the Missingmen. Aguilar got an email from Watt several weeks later noting that Happoldt wanted Aguilar to play drums for Nowell and Ethridge’s band. Happoldt arranged for Nowell, Ethridge and Aguilar to meet up several times and play through the material that Nowell and Ethridge had created. It was from these early sessions that LAW was formed. Nowell and Ethridge (ages 17 and 18 respectively at the time) would then move out of their homes in San Diego and move up to Long Beach to begin their new lives with 15 year old Aguilar as members of LAW.
2013; Learning the Ropes and Gaining New Hopes
LAW’s first show was at DiPiazza’s in Long Beach, CA on June 14, 2013 with Mike Watt & the Missingmen, followed one month later by a show with Perro Bravo (Michael Happoldt’s project) at the same venue. A few days later, LAW played in Ocean Beach, San Diego at the OB Block Party, and at the Malibu Inn in Malibu, CA with Perro Bravo and The Expendables.
December 8, 2013, LAW played a show with Slightly Stoopid and Perro Bravo at SOMA in San Diego, CA. This gig was a benefit for Toys For Tots, and was LAW’s first show with Slightly Stoopid.
LAW took most of this time to forge their earlier style, play gigs when possible and craft the songs that would later be on their first release.
2014; Playing Shows as the Band Still Grows
On January, 14th, 2014 Perro Bravo’s Facebook page announced Skunk Records 25th Anniversary shows. Law performed at the Observatory in Santa Ana, The Roxy in Hollywood, and Jakob made an appearance during “Carress Me Down” during the Skunk Records 25th Anniversary set at California Roots Festival in May of 2014.
Nowell, Ethridge and Aguilar continued to diligently and passionately hone their craft as musicians and devise a plan for their next steps. It was during this time that Nowell and Ethridge were introduced to guitarist and philanthropist Aidan Palacios. It was Aguilar that first introduced Palacios into the mix, the two having played in several bands before their time in LAW. After jamming with the band for only a short while the three members of LAW knew that they needed Palacios’ unique talents on their team. This marked a major turning point in the style of LAW, adding more deliberate guitar sections, blistering leads and immense new tones.
Palacios would go on to record guitar tracks on the band’s first release “Mild Lawtism” and would continue to aid in the songwriting process for future releases yet to come.
2015; A First Release for the New Four Piece
LAW, now as a four-piece, continued to play shows throughout 2015, with more frequency than before yet spent the majority of their time recording their debut release, “Mild Lawtism.” This record is an 8 song EP released via Skunk Records and produced by Mic “Dangerously” De La Torre of Long Beach band Zen Robbi. LAW played an EP release party at Clancy’s Irish Pub in Long Beach, CA on August 30, 2015 with Corn Doggy Dog & the Half LB and Better Heroes.
After solidifying their first release, LAW would continue playing shows yet opted not to tour immediately to promote their EP. This deliberate choice was due in part to internal band directional decisions but was mostly due to the bands slight dissatisfaction with the music they were producing. The band’s sound was constantly changing and they wanted to promote a record that reflected a more accurate depiction of their live sound.
The band would continue to feverishly write new material and play regular shows.
2016; A New Face and a Faster Pace
In April of 2016, Dakota Ethridge resigned from the band to pursue other musical and creative outlets. It was during this time that bassist and ex-marine Logun Spellacy would begin jamming with the band during their practices. Spellacy is the cousin of Palacios and his talent and passion for music was undeniable. It was because of this that the band would ask to have him be a permanent residing member. This marked the final phase in the early evolution of the young band. Having discovered a newer and heavier live sound with the addition of Spellacy, the band would discover a newfound confidence and would begin preparations for their first tour.
The band embarked on their first tour, a California run called the “No Fun Allowed Tour” starting in early June of 2016 and ending late July 2016. Following the end of the tour, LAW set out to record “Toxic” a 4 track EP recorded at The Compound Studio in Long Beach. This record mark a gravely significant time for LAW. The EP was their final goodbye to the stylistic choices of their past. They would seek to bury the hatchet so to speak with that style and would use the release to mark a sonic departure from “Mild Lawtism” and its contemporaries.
After releasing “Toxic” the band would spend the majority of the year doing smaller tours outside of the state, most notably in Washington, Arizona and Nevada. LAW continues to seek out show dates farther and farther from their reach in Los Angeles County. The band continues to grow stylistically and personally each and every day from working with one another. From the trials and tribulations of their indomitable friendship and the passion they have for playing honest live music, LAW has developed a new sound that is a far cry from their early work.
The Blue Stones
When Tarek Jafar and Justin Tessier formed The Blue Stones, they were facing uncertainty about who they were and where they were going. But they did know they wanted to make music together, and so they did, writing songs over time and eventually releasing their debut album Black Holes in 2018. As confident and self-assured as they are, that record was very much about the pair finding themselves, both musically and existentially, and deciding to pursue the rock’n’roll dream by jumping into a black hole of the unknown instead of choosing a more ordinary life-path.
“When we wrote that stuff,” explains Tessier, “we were both finishing undergrad degrees. That album was us trying to figure out who we were. These new songs are more about how we know who we are, but they’re also us learning to come to terms with the dark side of ourselves.”
The band drew the attention of producer, Paul Meany – the creative force behind alternative rock band Mutemath, and who recently worked with Twenty One Pilots, producing their fifth album, Trench. Needless to say, getting Paul involved provided the pair with a huge sense of validation.
“We jokingly suggested him,” chuckles Tessier. “We were shooting for the stars, but a week after our management approached him we found out he was into the band and into us as musicians.”
Working with Meany didn’t just lead to The Blue Stones exploring – and creating – music in a different way than they had before, but it also led Jafar to approach and tackle lyrics in an entirely new light. Combined with the band’s nuanced and layered approach to their sound, it makes these songs resonate with a powerful emotional intensity.
The band will release multiple songs as singles leading into their highly anticipated sophomore album release in 2020. The first of those is ‘Shakin’ Off The Rust’ – a song, as Jafar explains, that very much serves as a mission statement for their renewed sense of confidence and newfound identity.
“There were times along the way where I felt I wasn’t good enough, “ explains Jafar, “or that I didn’t deserve any happiness or success. This song is about battling those thoughts in your head that make you doubt yourself, and coming through with the confidence to make something great.”
That much is clear from listening to the songs that the pair have recorded so far. While ‘Shakin’ Off the Rust’ is probably the closest to the sound the band inhabited on Black Holes, it also represents a clear and profound evolution – it’s more textured, more layered and, yes, more confident than anything on the first record. That’s an idea the pair – Jafar on vocals and guitars, Tessier on percussion and backing vocals – have woven into the fabric of the other new songs. Take, for instance, the restrained, layered, hip-hop-inspired vibes of both ‘Careless’ and ‘Make This Easy’, two songs that would be hard to imagine the band that made Black Holes recording, but which make total sense in terms of their new outlook and approach. Although The Blue Stones were always more than a blues-rock duo, that’s especially true now.
“When we record,” says Tessier, “we really like to dive into a lot of different sounds and use a lot of different instruments that sort of break the boundaries of what a blues-rock duo is.”
“It’s not a conscious thing, though,” adds Jafar. “It’s more an amalgamation of listening to a lot of different types of music over years and years and soaking in that influence subconsciously. And that shows in the songwriting.”
One other difference with this record was Jafar’s lyrical approach – something that was inspired by Meany’s presence during the sessions.
“I never really focused on lyrics before,” admits Jafar. “They were secondary to the music, and I used them just to help the melodies, but now I’m focusing a lot more on what I’m saying and how it’s coming across. When we sent Paul the demos and we started to have a little bit of a conversation back and forth about it, he shined a spotlight on the lyrics and really opened my mind to the narratives of these songs. And I just took it and ran with it.”
The result was not just that The Blue Stones truly discovered who they were while writing these songs, but they’ve crafted something that shimmers with such purity and truth – musically and lyrically – that you can’t help but be swept up and carried off by these songs and what will eventually form the as-yet-untitled album. They’ve redefined who they are, but at the same time ensured they kept their identity intact.
“Even though some of these songs sound different,” says Jafar, “at the end of the day we stayed true to who we are as The Blue Stones. So even if the songs border on a different genre, you’re still going to get us, because it’s still us writing the songs and performing the songs. We have a vision that we’ve been focused on since we started this band and that hasn’t changed. I want the fans to really enjoy and connect with these songs.”
“We both just tried to serve the music the best way we could,” adds Tessier. “And that was by taking out the ego from them. I really want these songs to capture people’s attention. I want them to understand that The Blue Stones are a force.”
The Contortionist represents fearlessness in musical expression, designed to please artist as much as audience. This band makes progressive metal music, anchored in the heavy sounds that first drew the individual players to the stage, yet unmoored by convention or expectation.
On Clairvoyant, the band’s distinctive fingerprints remain, even as their atmospheric flourishes broaden to encompass ever-richer textures and mine the beauty of simplicity.
For the entirety of their career, The Contortionist has proven capable of being been equally at home on tour with Deftones, Periphery, or Between The Buried And Me, thanks to their dynamic combination of metal’s blunt precision with the adventurous spirit of prog-rock heroes like Rush and King Crimson. The Contortionist integrates seemingly disparate worlds to create their own sound, with a focus on tone, vibe, color, and atmosphere.
The band’s first two records, Exoplanet (2010) and Intrinsic (2012), are monstrously heavy,though no less ambitious than their newer and more expansive creative declarations. The character of The Contortionist’s sound expanded greatly with Language, the 2014 monolithic album that introduced the band’s current lineup of vocalist Michael Lessard, keyboardist Eric Guenther, and bassist Jordan Eberhardt alongside co-founding members Cameron Maynard (guitar) and brothers Robby Baca (guitar) and Joey Baca (drums). In it’s 5/5 review, Substream praised the album as being akin to “a journey through a dream state.” Prog Metal Zone was similarly kind, awarding the album 10/10 and remarking on its propulsive drum rhythms, ambient keyboards, fusion, and “astonishingly inventive flight(s) of musicality.”
Clairvoyant, which reunited the band with producer Jamie King (Between The Buried And Me, Through The Eyes Of The Dead), takes the best elements of The Contortionist’s past and reshapes them as the band follows their individual creative muses toward the future.
The Contortionist ultimately prove to have as much in common with the psychedelic experimentation of later Opeth or Tool and even the textured melodicism of Sigur Ros as they do technical heavy music, but they’ve never sacrificed urgent impact. Critics and fans admire their intelligent approach to the crushing riffs of tech-metal, which becomes more vibrant with elements of ambitious post rock and jazzy / fusion-infused virtuosity. Even when angular riffs, odd time signatures, and devastating breakdowns give way to hypnotic,ethereal, and trancelike musical meditations, The Contortionist are never lacking in total power.
In whatever The Contortionist endeavors to do, there will always be a great amount of thought, attention to detail, and shared love of musicality. They have committed to never surrender to the path of least resistance, always challenging themselves and their audience.
This is art for art’s sake. The Contortionist ease through the doors of perception with grace where possible and smash through the boundaries with absolute force when necessary.
Ego Kill Talent
“We all develop a self-image that we want to show to the world. We make decisions and actions that feed that image and in the attempt of making it real we end up believing that is what we are. (EGO) Little by little, our frantic and desperate effort to keep this illusion gradually blinds us to what we truly are. (KILL) Our true self is a silent witness of our essence, completely independent of the character, and with full potential for anything. (TALENT)”
Google identified Ego Kill Talent’s vibrant debut album as one of the twenty (20) most relevant artists of 2017. It became a Top 50 Viral Spotify release in the UK, France, Portugal and Brazil. It also attained Spotify “Playlisting” in the U.S., Canada, France, Mexico, UK, Portugal and Spain, racking up over 20 million plays on streaming platforms.
Formed by, Jonathan Correa (vocals), Jean Dolabella (drums and guitars), Raphael Miranda (drums, bass), Niper Boaventura (guitar, bass), and Theo Van Der Loo (bass, guitars), Ego Kill Talent (an abbreviation of the saying “too much ego will kill your talent”) toured Europe for the first time in 2017, playing Download Festival Paris, the legendary Arènes de Nîmes supporting System of a Down and the iconic Melkweg in Amsterdam. In addition, performed at premiere festivals in South America, including Rock In Rio, Planeta Altantida and Santiago Gets Louder (Chile).
From the beginning the band has connected with the preeminent and iconic artists of Rock and Roll. 2018 included stadium tours with the Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age in Brazil, followed by a European tour with Shinedown and another supporting the Dutch band Within Temptation.
Ego Kill Talent received great reviews from European press on each tour including a 5 “K” rating from Kerrang! UK magazine for the Download Paris performance. The Dutch press (Aardschok, 3FM and Smash Press) compared the band’s sound and performance to Foo Fighters, Stone Sour and Royal Blood.
As we roll towards 2020, the band recently wrapped their second album at the famed 606 Studios, owned by The Foo Fighters which will feature 12 tracks with special guests John Dolmayan (System of a Down), Roy Mayorga (Stone Sour) and skateboarder Bob Burnquist (13 times X Games Champion).
EKT are also in the final stages of completing a global recording deal that will be announced shortly. The first single is slated to be released in April and full album, mid-June, 2020. Again, EKT will have the fortune of touring Brazilian stadiums with Metallica and Greta Van Fleet in April. Then, make their U.S. debut in May before heading back to Europe in June for Festival Season. Other significant happenings include joining C3 Artist Management and William Morris Endeavor for global booking.
“When Rock music is made with emotion and truth, it really touches us. I believe we have captured something that encompasses all of these feelings”, says Theo Van Der Loo regarding the messages featured within the album. “All the lyrics and musical creation are part of a questioning process. The intention is to use these questions as paths to free ourselves from anything that causes us pain”, he adds.
“More is more, that’s the whole vibe,” says Kevin Comeau of the powerhouse Canadian duo Crown Lands. “We joke around, what if the White Stripes covered Rush? We’ve really focused on adding to the instruments and roles we play within the band. We don’t want to do the stripped-down, raw, bluesy thing. We want to sound as big as we can be with just the two of us.”
The release of Crown Lands’ upcoming, self-titled debut album—produced by six-time Grammy winner Dave Cobb (Lady Gaga, Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, Rival Sons)—marks the arrival of a major new force in rock and roll. Raised in Southwestern Ontario, Comeau (guitar, bass and keys) and Cody Bowles (vocals and drums) are bringing together a range of influences and, drawing on their own intense personal chemistry, creating something unique and fresh.
“We’re really inspired by the town we came from,” says Bowles. “Oshawa has this really specific kind of sound. People would describe it as ‘blackgrass’—like a dark bluegrass. But we were always massive prog fans, so we wanted to blend the two of those things together.”
The two musicians met six years ago, when Comeau came home for Christmas from Los Angles, where he had been playing in a reggae band. Bonding over their shared obsession with Rush, they became “instant best friends” and started jamming together in a local barn, switching up instruments, but never straying from a two-piece set-up.
“We got ambitious really fast,” says Comeau. “We started booking shows—we called them ‘401 Runs’ because we’d drive a few hours on the highway east or west. When I bought a mini-van, we had room for more members or more gear and we had to make a choice. I like vintage amps, big amps, and vintage synthesizers, so we took all the seats out and filled it to the roof, and we would actually sleep on top of our gear.”
In 2016, Crown Lands released their first EP, Mantra, and accelerated their relentless touring schedule, which has seen them open for such major acts as Jack White, Coheed and Cambria, Primus, and Rival Sons.
Their second EP included “Mountain,” a significant song for the duo not just musically, but ideologically as well. “It’s about the horrors of Canada’s colonization,” says Bowles, whose own heritage is half Mi’kmaw, an indigenous tribe from Nova Scotia. “The mountain that the song refers to is a metaphor—a physical manifestation of hope for my fellow Indigenous Canadians.”
The group’s name is also indicative of its identification with marginalized people and interest in the troublesome history of Canada; “Crown Land,” also known as royal domain, is a territorial area belonging to the monarch—or, as Bowles puts it, “Crown Land is stolen land and we are reclaiming it.”
Crown Lands’ musical ambition extends into their lyric writing and the weighty subjects they tackle in their songs. “People are going to listen to you, so you may as well say something that matters,” says Comeau. “I don’t play rock and roll to talk about rock and roll, I play to talk about things that matter to me. I don’t need any more ‘Hey Mamas’ in my life.”
They point to the song “End of the Road” on the new record as emblematic of their intentions. “The song references the Highway of Tears,” says the guitarist, “an infamous highway in North British Columbia where a lot of Indigenous women go missing.” Cody elaborates: “There’s been no recourse and no follow-up. It’s systemic in Canada—there are so many roadblocks that prevent any progress from happening or any reconciliation moving forward, so we’re trying to raise awareness that this is happening in a country that claims to be very progressive and safe for threatened, vulnerable people.”
Working in Nashville with the legendary Cobb (who they met through Rival Sons) has helped the duo in both refining their writing and following their gut. “Dave pushed us to listen to ourselves and really trust our initial instinct with a song,” says Bowles. “The first couple of times we would play through a song, he’d be like ‘OK, we’re good’—if you beat it over the head too much, you lose the spirit and the feel is totally gone. So he allowed us to listen to ourselves and identify that spirit, and I think we’ll really take that with us moving forward.”
They both agree that “The Forest Song” may be the track that best defines the band right now. “The sonic architecture of it feels so Crown Lands to me,” says Comeau. “We were writing in a cabin, and that song showed up on the last day out of nowhere. It’s very epic for its short run time, it’s got every musical element that excites us—pastoral 12-string guitar passages like Genesis but with a Zeppelin drumbeat. The lyrics paint a beautiful picture of an ancient woods, and hanging out in the woods is Cody’s whole vibe. So that song just feels like us.”
*With plans for another record later in 2020, Crown Lands’ explosive live show continues to evolve and progress, propelled by added inspiration from the legends they’ve been touring with. “The level of showmanship that they display every night, what they do with their audience, we really want to try to have our music come across in that same way,” says Bowles.
“We struggled with the rigidity of our set for a long time, playing the same songs night after night,” adds Comeau. “We learned from Jack White and Primus how to be more fluid and change it up.”
Working as a duo —especially one that aspires to the scope of its psychedelic heroes—has the advantage of efficiency, but comes with obvious challenges both musically and personally. The members of Crown Lands maintain, though, that the intensity of their collaboration has only reinforced their creative relationship and their friendship.
“We have such great chemistry already, only strengthened by the ups and downs of being on the road,” says Comeau. “We have a really special bond—pretty much like brothers, but more. Cody is like my life partner, basically. I think that connection comes through in our performance. There’s something special about the two of us getting together and turning up to ten, the sound waves that hit people. I’m a fairly little dude, a soft-spoken guy, so when I plug in my gear, I want to become a wall of sound on my own to have Cody’s voice soar on top of.”
“When we’re listening back to our performances now,” he continues, “the sound I used to hear in my head is now coming out of the speakers. So we just have to keep pushing ourselves even further.”
South Of Eden
“We’re a band that writes, records, and plays like the pioneers of rock before us. We aren’t looking to bring anything back, but instead to remind people what rock n roll means. No rules. This music represents what we believe is real, raw music. No click tracks and triggers or copy and paste bullshit. Just a bunch of hippies in a room.”
South of Eden (formerly Black Coffee) are: Ehab Omran [lead vocals, acoustic guitar], Justin Young [lead guitar, vocals], Tom McCullough [drums], and Nick Frantianne [bass]. The Columbus, OH quartet have already performed alongside everyone from the Foo Fighters to System of a Down, and invite you to join them on their journey of looking at rock ‘n’ roll through a modern lens.
“We want to open up the doors for rock in the modern era,” exclaims Ehab. “We want to sound the way we hear rock in our heads—vintage with a sprinkle of today. We try to give listeners the feeling of discovering the genre for the first time. We think now is the moment to be a rock band.”
The band has already paid their dues to reach this point. Growing up in Columbus, OH the band formed by combining their passions and uniting over their love of music. Originally from the country of Jordan, Ehab primarily listened to the Arabic music his parents would play, in addition to superstars like Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, and James Brown. After coming to America, he was introduced to a wider range of music that inspired him: eighties and nineties rock including Guns N’ Roses and notably Queen. Like Freddie Mercury Ehab’s parents, like many parents, didn’t agree that a life in rock ‘n’ roll was the best thing for their son. However, as he met the rest of the band, his dream became a life affirming reality.
Ehab and Nick performed together in various bands (channeling Iron Maiden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Alice In Chains) and eventually joined Justin and Tom who had been working on their own band (influenced by Van Halen and Black Sabbath). Justin, who was at the time attending Berklee College of Music, describes first writing with Ehab and noted “The first jam was crazy. He came over with Tom and just listened for a while. We had the riffs to songs, and he just immediately started singing. Here I had gone to music college to find people I could mesh with stylistically, only to come back home and find that my best friend and a singer that I had already known about were all I needed!”
This newfound discovery lead to a fast-paced evolution. As Tom noted, “We didn’t have a bass player, bass amp or a bass! Ehab wrote most of the bass lines on guitar and we grooved so well. We were a band for like a week before we had booked our first show two weeks out. We ended up borrowing equipment and we became a band.” As they continued to tour, they crossed paths and shared bills with Puddle of Mudd, Red Sun Rising and recently graced the main stage of Sonic Temple and Epicenter in 2019. That very same year Jason Flom caught wind of the band and signed them to Lava Records.
When it came to recording, they honor the methods of those who come before them and “tape in a vintage way, with no click track, pitch correction, copy-paste, or any of that nonsense.”
The musicians headed to Los Angeles to record with legendary GRAMMY® Award-winning producer Greg Wells [Adele Twenty One Pilots, Deftones]. “When I first heard the band, it had its own original identity,” explains Greg. “That was something I had waited years to find. I emailed them back saying, ‘I want to be your Mutt Lang’.”
When describing their new body of work, Ehab notes “It’s a mixture of a lot of things. We’re ‘classically rock’ influenced, but listen to so many different genres and eras that there are a lot of different feelings in our music.”
On the lead single Ehab describes “We knew we wanted our first release to showcase our personalities, both in the music and the visual. “‘Dancing With Fire’ is just that; personality. It’s a song about conflict, and to us that conflict is being a bunch of twenty-two-year-olds attempting to make it as a rock band in unprecedented times. We’re excited to see how people interpret the song into their own lives.”
“When you hear us, I want you to walk away thinking, ‘That was honest and different’,” Ehab leaves off. “We’re just doing what we do. We’re proof you can do anything you want and shouldn’t compromise your dreams.”
Theories abound regarding the seven-year cycle. Even the most casual of searches yields a wealth of discourse on the philosophy, positing the occurrence of transformation (or even full rebirth) in the seventh year. Higher Power grow into a similar space on their second full-length offering and Roadrunner Records debut, 27 Miles Underwater. Uncovering the nexus between melodic vulnerability, metallic viciousness, and punk vitality, the Leeds, UK quintet—brothers Jimmy Wizard [vocals] and Alex Wizard [drums], Louis Hardy [guitar], Max Harper [guitar], and Ethan Wilkinson [bass]—deliver eleven anthems informed by everything from shoegaze and grunge to punk and thrash, yet defiant of era.
As such, they embody alternative in the truest sense of the word.
“Song-wise, the record came from events and relationships over the past seven years,” explains Jimmy. “I started reading about the seven-year cycle. It made a lot of sense in terms of my life. I’m 27 now. It feels like this is where the biggest changes are happening. Being underwater is a metaphor for being inside of your own head. I hate water, so going underwater is not a pleasant experience for me. When you’re submerged, it’s dark. You can’t hear what anybody is saying. You can’t open your eyes. You feel disconnected and alone. This is what the record speaks to.”
A particularly fruitful cycle brought Higher Power to this point. The band made its debut with 2017’s independent Soul Structure. As it tallied over 1 million cumulative streams, Revolver proclaimed it one of the “20 Best Albums of 2017.” Along the way, the group garnered looks from Metal Hammer, Brooklyn Vegan, Kerrang!, and more in addition to touring with everyone from Turnstile to Vein. Signed to Roadrunner Records in 2019, they retreated to Modern World Studios in Tetbury, UK with producer Gil Norton [Foo Fighters, Pixies] for six weeks to record what would become 27 Miles Underwater. In the studio, they sharpened a signature style inspired by Deftones, Hum, Soundgarden, Silent Majority, Björk and UK hip-hop.
“We’d been listening to a lot of different music,” states Louis. “We wanted to write bigger and catchier hooks. We’ve all played in hardcore punk bands since like 15, so we tried to take advantage of that platform to explore a different style of songwriting now. As the songs came together, we paid more attention to harmony and melody. Gil made such a difference to the record. He turned our attention to a new way of observing the songwriting process. We really focused. We were writing from a more emotional place. These real-life experiences were being transformed into music.”
Lead single “Seamless” opens with thrashing guitarwork and feral screams, curling towards a hypnotic hook – “And I wish it was as seamless as it seems—inside my head” – before a hauntingly melodic bridge nodding to the album title.
Jimmy goes on, “I don’t talk to people about my problems. I’m very closed off, but I always have these ideas and feelings. When I attempt to translate them to the world, they are never as seamless as I want to say them. In my head, it all makes so much sense, but introducing them to others is super hard.”
Meanwhile, “Lost In Static” shuffles between a pummeling beat, hulking guitars, and a headyrefrain punctuated by analog computer transmissions.
“I remember walking home from work after the shittiest day,” recalls Louis. “I was a laborer at the time. I put on HUM’s Downward is Heavenward. It completely lined up with how I was feeling. All of these weird chords came to me and inspired ‘Lost In Static’.”
“Sometimes, you just lose touch with people,” Jimmy elaborates. “We’re never home, so it’s hard to maintain relationships. You come back to somebody, and you’re just on different planets. ‘Lost In Static’ is about a friend. It helps when you realize the difference between you and the other person. It’s okay if you end up worlds apart. It happens.”
Elsewhere, “Low Season” trudges forward on a bouncing groove before a flourishing chorus about “How winter in England is super depressing, because you’re stuck indoors, isolated, and doing nothing,” as Jimmy says. Acoustic guitar entwines with caustic confessions on the intimate “In The Meantime,” while “Staring At The Sun” offers up a different kind of heavy love song.
“‘Staring At The Sun’ is dedicated to my dog,” smiles Jimmy. “He’s the best friend I’ve ever had. I thought it would be cool to mess with convention.”
In the end, Higher Power turn every convention over on 27 Miles Underwater and kick off a new chapter for heavy music.
“We’ve come really far,” concludes Louis. “We’d love to be proof anything is possible. If you listen to the record and think anything you want is obtainable and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, it would be sick.”
“On the sonic side, I hope people don’t categorize what we’re doing,” Jimmy leaves off. “On an emotional level, I like to listen to songs that are straight to the point. I want listeners to hear this and directly relate. I feel alone in a lot of my problems, but albums remind me I’m not alone. Maybe 27 Miles Underwater can do the same for someone.”
Formed in Southampton, CREEPER soon developed a die-hard following of fans. The CREEPER CULT quickly became enamoured with the band’s visionary hybrid of engaging narratives, striking theatricality and a sound simultaneously visceral, grandiose and adventurous. Their debut album ‘Eternity, In Your Arms’ shot straight into the Top 20, while early acclaim included Best British Newcomer at the Kerrang! Awards, Best New Band at the Metal Hammer Golden God Awards, and Best British Newcomer in the Rock Sound readers’ poll.
The Black Moods
The Black Moods play raw, amplified rock & roll.
Born in the Arizona desert and reared on stages across North America, the band delivers a fresh, fiery update of a timeless sound. The Black Moods’ three members — frontman/guitarist Josh Kennedy, drummer Chico Diaz and bassist Jordan Hoffman — aren’t looking to reinvent the wheel. Instead, they’re piling into a vehicle that’s existed for decades, upgrading the engine to suit their contemporary style, and pointing the headlights toward their own rock & roll horizon. The result is a sound that Maximum Ink calls “modern classic rock”: a mix of electric guitar, percussive stomp, and anthemic hooks that not only recall the headbangers of rock & roll’s past, but also position The Black Moods alongside other present-day rockers like Dirty Honey, Greta Van Fleet, and Dorothy.
The band formed in Tempe, Arizona. Championed by hometown heroes like the Gin Blossoms and Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, The Black Moods began building their audience the old-school way: by playing shows and hitting the road. They toured heavily, promoting albums like 2016’s Medicine with gigs across the country. By the time “Bella Donna” hit the radio airwaves during the summer of 2018, The Black Moods’ fanbase had grown exponentially. The song became a Top 40 hit on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, where it held strong for fourteen weeks.
Modern-day torchbearers of ageless, guitar-driven rock, the Black Moods aren’t shy about nodding to their influences. “Bella Donna” was inspired by the Doors’ slinky strut, while the climatic chorus of “Bad News” — another active-rock hit, peaking at Number 24 and remaining in the Top 40 for five months — points to groups like the Foo Fighters. With one boot planted in the same ground as their influences and the other pointed toward unexplored territory, The Black Moods blaze their own path while still paying tribute to those who came before them. It’s no surprise, then, that they’ve shared shows with everyone from Whitesnake to Shinedown, bridging the gap between hard-rock’s past and present along the way.
Hit singles like “Bella Donna,” “Bad News,” and “Whatcha Got” and “Sunshine” were recorded with Grammy nominated producer Johnny Karkazis, who flew to Phoenix and set up a makeshift studio in the band’s own rehearsal space. There, the band funneled the spirit and swagger of their live show into their most dynamic recordings to date. That live show — which the Black Moods have sharpened with cross-country tours alongside the Doors’ Robbie Krieger, Shinedown, Jane’s Addiction, and numerous others — has always been one of the band’s strongest selling points. Now, with the band’s upcoming album, Sunshine, scheduled for release in 2020, The Black Moods’ fury and fire onstage is matched once again by their electricity on record.
The band’s name is The Black Moods, but these days, those black moods are looking pretty bright.
Another Day Dawns
Formed in 2010 the Lehighton, PA based band Another Day Dawns continues to be the most talked about up and coming rock act in the Notheast to Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. Led by Lead Singer and front man Dakota Sean, Guitarist Tyler Ritter, and Drummer Nick McGeehan the band re-leased their EP “A Different Life” in Febru- ary 2018 which landed them a charting spot on Billboard which solidified their founda- tion in the active rock market.
Hitting the road with bands such as Hin- der, Issues, Cold and Buckcherry the band has created an established following in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Through- out the last two years the band has per- formed in multiple venues with 400-1200 capacity, filling hundreds of seats, and grossing over 15K in followers on their so- cial media accounts.
Unity TX is a punk / rap / hardcore band out of Texas who is quickly making a name for themselves. With the release of their EP “Madboy” and their signing to Pure Noise Records, the band will tour throughout 2020 in support of the new EP. With a unique blend of hip hop and hardcore, Unity TX stands out as a band who is bound to make noise in the near future.
The Cold Stares
Authenticity. A word that is frequently used in describing The Cold Stares, and frequently missing from modern music discussions. “We’re not just a blues band, or just a rock band, or anything other than who we are”, front man Chris Tapp says. There is a power and a realness that is arrived at by just doing what you do best. The Cold Stares do that.
Formed in 2010 after the duo had spent a number of years in other bands, Chris Tapp and Brian Mullins got together for the sole reason to just jam. No preconceived notions on what the project should be. Just do what comes naturally. The result is a hard rocking, story based brand of rock and roll that is sung from the soul.
Chris’ unique guitar rig, along with Mullin’s giant bass drum provides a visual and sonic landscape for the two to travel on different paths than other acts. In fact, you may find yourself looking for another member behind the curtains but it’s just these two men.
“The first time I saw them,” says Nashville radio personality Dan Buckley, “I thought they had at least two other musicians secretly behind the curtain. There’s just no way that sound comes from the two of them.”
As Huffington Post writer Radley Balko wrote in describing the first time he saw the group at 3rd and Lindsley in Nashville-
“This will go on for an hour. Between songs, people will whisper. They’re asking one another if anyone knows who the hell this is. And it’s here that you and everyone in the room will have the same realization just about everyone else has the first time they see they hear the Cold Stares live: These guys are better than the band you came to see.”