Monday, July 31, 2006

Get A Gryp ...

Gryp is a Christian metalcore (though often referred to as Rapcore for some reason. They don't rap ...??!?! but whatever) group from California. These guys play a chaotic hardcore style reminiscent of Stabbing Westward though Curtis's vocals are harsher with a vomiting feel. Korn comes to mind as does Faith No More as far as vocal stylings and the range Curtis uses for each song adds a lot of passion and emotion unique to each song and feels more thought out than just screaming.

Gryp is another band I discovered originally browsing through (Christian music review site) and downloaded a number of tracks via Kazaa. I have bought their self titled sophomore CD, but alas it was used. I try. On to the music.

"Gryp" is their second release, but actually features "2002 remix's" of 5 songs. The difference's are not too drastic. They are a bit tighter and maybe a little faster, but both versions are done well. The album starts out by vocally scratching our eyes out with "Change My Name" as well as setting a dark and brooding mood for the album. The Stabbing Westward sound is mostly in the rhythm guitar work, bass work and Curtis' clean vocals.

The first remix is "Left Behind" which is a dark melodic song with a psychotic break down and thought provoking lyrics. The other remix's are "Can't Explain", "Ungrateful" , "Good Enough" and "Heal Me Back". "Heal Me Back" and "Ungrateful" have some great guitar manipulation akin to Living Sacrifice and maybe early Disturbed. "Heal..." is crunchy and "Ungrateful" is dark. My favourite of the remix's and tied for favourite track is "Good Enough". It has a subtle foreboding bass line throughout the song and expressive freaky (Korn like) vocals that almost breech death metal territory at times in their intensity. A very dark and moving song.

There are a couple of instrumentals as well "Airlock" and "Crash". "Crash" is really just chaotic noise and sound effects but "Airlock" is quite catchy with a great beat and a guitar squeak not unlike Anthrax's guitar work on "Bring Tha Noize" with Public Enemy. It's almost Tribal in an industrial way.

My other favourite track is "Save Me". This is their most radio accessible song, at least sound wise (Left Behind got some radio play)and is a bit more upbeat. Quite the contrast to "Good Enough" which precedes it. The signature guitar riff is hooky and pulls you right in and the song is very sing along friendly. Lyrically it deals about ones struggle to save themselves from themselves and realizing it's through Jesus. The solo is fun too.

Overall Gryp is a great band with loads of potential. Unfortunately, they have disbanded so that's that.

Up next I'll be treating you all to some fantasy/ sci-fi metal (not lord of the Rings based either) so stay tuned, I have some doozies ...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Einherjering in the Waylands ...

Eluveitie play a brand of folk metal akin to Waylander. Really though if you were to take Finntroll, Einherjer, and Waylander and put them into a blender the results would be a gross mess, but musically it would be Eluveitie. Consisting of somewhere around 300 odd musicians or so it sounds ... (seriously there are about nine members) who got together for a one time studio project spearheaded by Chrigel Glanzmann, but after several shows and line-up changes Eluveitie emerged as a band.

Their debut EP "Ven" starts off with a haunting traditional Celtic chant with "D'veriu Agage D'Bito" that introduces some heavy guitars at the end to blast us into "Uis Elveti". "Uis Elveti" is heavy with full crunchy guitars and black metal-like vocals often used in folk metal. Clean male vocals are used sparingly to enhance the Celtic sound. This song though does not lose it's traditional folk roots which is chillingly provided by various flutes, whistles, bagpipes, violins/fiddles etc. The mix is incredible.

"Oro" is a very traditional piece presented in traditional Celtic style with acoustic guitars and bagpipe's and various traditional instruments. This helps secure a strong Celtic feel to the album. We are then hammered with "Lament" an aggressively eclectic mix of traditional instruments and good heavy guitar riffs. The violins/fiddles and such carry the melody throughout the song while we get blasted by a blistering guitar assault and fine riff work.

"Druid" is freakin' fast and almost death metal like in it's style. This is a melodic tune with some nice flute and guitar mixes not unlike Dream Theater's guitar keyboard solo's. This as well features a nice warrior's battle hymn bridge.

"Ven" ends with "Jezaig" which is not quite an instrumental featuring choral vocals mimicking the music's melody which is very celtic sounding. This is a slower chunky song that is heavy and melodic ending in a crescendo of noisy feedback.

Lyrically, Eluveitie are neutral in their views of politics and religion, but have gained a lot of Christian followers by playing various Christian festivals. What Eluveitie are doing is not new, but man they do it well and I'm looking forward to hearing their first Full length release "Spirit" out now. Then I'll let you know what "New Wave Of Folk Metal" is.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

No More Than 13 Bucks ....

Bedlam is a rock 'n' roll band along the same veins as Soul Asylum (though less whiny sounding) and REM (not as political). Do not mix them up with the '70's jam band Bedlam or the death metal band Bedlam, this is Jay Joyce's Bedlam circa 1992 (Jay Joyce is the singer and main songwriter). I have not spent more than $13 on this band and I bought "Into The Coals" 3 times (unfortunately none of it going to the band, but what can you do). It all started back in highschool in a bargain store called The Bargain Store ... (cough,cough) where I would browse their $0.50 cassette section for interesting bands and titles (ie Damien, Sword and Atomseed) and Bedlam was one of the dozen I would eventually purchase, and of all of them they were the best.

I would listen to it constantly to the point I was getting worried about wearing it out. The bargain store closed and I eventually bought a CD player, and I fretted that I would never find it on disc. Then years later I was in a Cash Converters (a glorified pawn shop) browsing through the used CD's and lo and behold! There it was Bedlam's "Into The Coals" $6 ... someone obviously had some real debt issues if they had to sell this gem for quick cash, but lucky for me! Again after numerous listens I would begin to worry about what I would do if this CD got scratched or lost (this being pre Ipod). Now we jump ahead a few more years to me browsing through yet another used CD store (and the bane of my wife's existence. She is a patient and understanding Lass, God bless her.) and again lo an behold! There it was Bedlam's "Into The Coals" a much better copy for $9.99! Now even the simplest of mathematically inept would notice the math problem here, so to finish this little tale, as I brought it to the counter to purchase, the owner of the store told me it was half price! Score! And that's the story of how I got into Bedlam. That's Bedlam circa 1992, not the Bedl .... ah you get the point ....

"Into The Coals" is simply a great rock album. Flat out rock anthems like the opening "Drink It Down" to songs "Madhouse", "Turning The Lights Out" and the album closer "Closing Time". The slower groove laden' tunes such as "Sunday to Sunday", "Freakshow", and "Upside down". And the ballads "Hiding Place", "Carnival Lights" and "Lucky". There is not a bad song on here.

"Drink It Down" hooks you in with a very catchy guitar strumming and sing along chorus and "Madhouse" has great rock riffs and a wickedly simple but cool effects laden guitar solo. "Just About Home" is a rocker with heart. It has an emotionally stirring bridge midway through that just tickles the heartstrings. Though I would not call Bedlam a Christian band, their song "Heaven" is upliftingly philosophical with lyrics like ~Me and Jesus got it all worked out, I ride shotgun when we go out ~. Ain't that the truth. And "Closing Time" appropriately closes the album off with some wailing solos and anthem-like vocals.

"Lucky" is an acoustic ballad finger picked with emotion and enhanced with some piano plunking. This is a down on your luck number that's played with a hopeful despair quality and a sense of realism, relatability. A beautiful piece and most like Soul Asylum.

And last but not least there is my favourite track "Carnival Lights". The guitar work is stirring and the lyrics wax nostalgic of years past hanging with friends at the local Midway on a warm summer night, of good times when life was simpler. The music is almost ambient in its subtlety yet invokes happy imagery.

Bedlam's "Into The Coals" does not break new ground, it is just solid rock 'n' roll with catchy riffs, nice hooks, and sing a long chorus's. The lyrics are obscure enough to be poetic, but thought provoking. Jay Joyce's vocals shine in your stereotypical raspy, breathy rock style. I can honestly say this is one of my all time favourite albums. And for the reasonable price of 13 bucks .... Sweet ...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Rose From The Ashes Of The Plague ...

As I said earlier, Misery Signals is the offspring of a couple of members of 7Angels7Plagues. The bass player (name) and guitarist (name) helped in creating this new band and continue in the melodic metalcore style they were brilliantly a part of in 7A7P. Misery Signals do not use as much melody and have more of a Nodes of Ranvier sound to them, a kind of chaotic core using weird time signatures and start/stop riffing. The vocals are screamy with more use of clean (non distorted) singing than 7A7P did which gives them more of an anthemic feel ... shout out like.

"Of Malice And The Magnum Heart" starts off with "A Victim, A Target" which is a short mood setting piece that's dark and haunting as well as good and crunchy. Then we get blasted by "In Response To Stars" which has ragged breathing like start stop riffing with a good chunk of melody. The off timed raging brutality continues with "In Summary Of What I Am" and "The Stinging Rain".

We get a chance to slow down here with "Worlds And Dreams", a slower instrumental with emo-like influences. It's long enough for us to get comfy and relaxed before being sucker punched by "Murder" one of the more brutal tunes.

The album comes to a close with some more melodic metalcore on tracks "Five Years" which is emotionally crunchy and heartfelt and "Difference Of Vengeance And Wrongs". "Difference ..." slows us down without losing the chunky riffs, but instead features more "clean" vocals and melody.

My favourite track is "The Year Summer Ended In June". This song was recorded earlier I think for an EP or Demo as well as being included on "Of Malice ...". This is the most melodic song on the album and has a great mix of brutal guitar work and heavy emotion riffing. The last minute or so of the song is very moving and is obviously under the influence of 7A7P songwriting I'm sure (but don't quote me!).

As sad as I am that there will never be another 7Angels7Plagues album, I am hearten that some members will carry the torch while growing in their own musical direction with new musicians' influences. Misery Signals has a good handle on melodic metalcore and the signal looks strong!

The next couple of posts will not be building off the pattern I've started with melodic metalcore, but in fact will be moving in several different directions ... I'll surprise ya's!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

What Can I Give To You, That You Don't Already Deserve ...

As I Lay Dying is another Christian melodic metalcore band. I find their lyrics far more thought provoking and spiritual than 7Angels7Plagues, but I would still have liked a little more boldness like early Nodes Of Ranvier and Bleach. All the same As I Lay Dying are not ashamed of their spirituality and it is felt in their music.

"Beneath The Encasing Of Ashes" is a strong album and is heavy and noisy. Running only about 30 minutes it is able to punch you in the gut, pick you up, dust you off, then body slam you. It is brutal and crunchy and though it is not as melodic as 7A7P I find it is more emotionally stirring. Starting off with the title track we are introduced to a groove laden metalcore onslaught that is unapologetic in its force. "A Breath In The Eyes Of Eternity" and "A Long March" also feature bone crushing breakdowns. As I Lay Dying use a lot of thrash influenced riffing tastefully intertwined with their hardcore brutalness especially on tracks "Blood Turned To Tears" and "Torn Within". This creates a nice original sound.

"Innocence Spilled" has a crunchy start and hammers the listener down before uplifting them with a powerfully melodic outro. The effect works beautifully as it blends nicely into the best track on the album "Behind Me Lies Another Fallen Soldier". This is like the power ballad of metalcore music. It is both heavy and brutal, yet passionate. It starts with beautiful Metallica like picking and an acoustic guitar solo (not present on the re-recorded version for Frail Words Collapse) with the singer speaking over the intro in clean (no distortion) vocals. Then a pick slide crushes us with the weight of the songs anguish. The song as I interpret it is about one who is overwhelmed by the extent of God's Love and knowing that even if he gives his whole self it is no where as near to what God deserves for all He has given us. This is all accompanied by heavy melodic metal music and the vocals, though sounding like they're sung through a mouthful of gravel, just scream of humility and humbleness. The last line of the song sums up, not just this tune, but the album as well. "You laid down your Life, when I refused to give mine". What a powerful statement.

As I Lay Dying have done well in breaking into the mainstream market, while I believe sticking to their beliefs. This is my favourite of their albums. It's raw and passionate.

Up next I'll let you know how the 7Angels7Plagues members are doing with their knew band Misery Signals.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Metal A Bye Baby In The Tree Top

Imagine if you will the brutality of Living Sacrifice or Norma Jean mixed with the melodic sensibilities of Life In Your Way or Kids In The Way and you'll have an idea of the powerful music that 7 Angels 7 Plagues play. Go ahead, think about it ... Alright.
"Jhazmyne's Lullaby" is melodic metalcore at it's finest. Unfortunately it's also the only full length album the band released (RIP as of 2002). It would have been interesting to see if the band could continue with such great music. The guitarist and bassist (Ryan Morgan and Kyle Johnson ) went on to form Misery Signals (featured later) but in my opinion it just ain't the same ....

Ah well. "Jhazmyne's Lullaby" starts with the Norma Jean style brutalness on "A Farewell to a Perfect score" which continues into "Someday". "Dandelion" and "Acadia Fades (Jhazmyne's Lullaby pt.II)" feature bone crushing fist pounding riffing with the later ending with powerful crunchy riff. "Silent Death/Crowded Lives" has a metal sound as well as a very xDisciplex AD style riffing to start the song off with a *head* bang and ending with an emotionally melodic outro.

Mixed in with the chunky and hardcore vocals (which are not bad on the ears as far as hardcore vocals go.) Are "The Afternoon" which is a raw acoustic instrumental which lets us catch our breaths before being pummeled by "Away With Words" (which I'll get to shortly). The album ends with the title track "Jhazmyne's Lullaby (part 1 ???)" which is a beautiful piano instrumental reminding us that 7 Angels 7 Plagues know how to move the listener emotionally and lets us reflect on what we've just been through.

My favourite track is "Away With Words". Now darn near all the songs feature various degrees of melody, I feel that "Away With Words" perfects the mixture. It starts off with a freaky intro and leads into a heartwrenching melodic bit with acoustic guitars to emphasize the melody. Then the song just brutalizes you with a crunchy middle section and leaves us listeners emotionally drained. I love the "drums in a can" sound they use part way through. It brings a vulnerable to the song and breaks down our emotional walls.

7 Angels 7 Plagues are a very passionate band, the members are Christian which gives the songs a sense of spiritualness although rather vague. However, the vocals are powerful and the lyrics are thought provoking and this all adds heavily to the emotions on the album. The band all feel strongly about what they are performing and it really shows. It is a shame we will no longer experience this amazing band, but you can check out Misery Signals or even As I Lay Dying which is like 7Angels7Plagues' younger brother and who'll I'll feature next.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Imitation Of Brutality

xDisciplex A.D. is one of the first Christian hardcore bands I started listening to. At first I had downloaded their songs from Kazaa ... I know, but I eventually found and bought this album and I love it. "Imitation of Love" is one of the most brutally heavy albums I own. This album clocks in at almost 23 minutes and chocked full of mid-paced bone crushing riff work and vocals that sound like they've raked through hot coals. Nothing fancy here just flat out HARDCORE!

The album starts out by blasting you with "See Me Through" before hammering the listener with the 50 sec onslaught that is "Set To Destroy". "Set To Destroy" holds a special place in my heart cause it is the song that my wife and I had our first dance to at our wedding. OK seriously, we played about 10 seconds of it pretending it was our first dance song for our friends and family who know I'm into extreme metal. It was funny, and my Wife was a good sport.

"Eyewitness", "Stronger" and "Heart Strings Broken" are fine examples of head banging, crunchy brutality and "Refuge and Strength" adds a touch of melody while pummeling you with crunchy riffs.

"Baregrounds" and "Final Sunset" have a darker, brooding sound to them, while "Baregrounds" sports ripping guitar riffs. The stand out track I like is "Candy Apple". The longest song at over 3 min. has a little bit of everything in it from the doom like intro, crushing riffwork and death metal vocals. It also is the song that I stole a riff from whilst jamming at a live outdoor performance I did. All the other performers were playing jazz and folk while blasted in with some death metal. The song was simply tossed together with a signature black metal riff and death metal grunting. No lyrics just grunts. It was fun and everybody had a good laugh.

xDisciplex AD are a staple for any hardcore fan, though they are no longer together, some members are now in Jesus Wept, which heck, why don't I review next. This "x" theme was kinda silly anyway. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 10, 2006

It's Not Just "Smoke and Mirrors"

I may have been harsh in my statement about Symphony X being a Dream Theatre clone. I'm sorry. There are definite influences, but upon refreshing myself with Symphony X' "Twilight In Olympus" I realize that they are very much their own sound. If I can justify my statement briefly, I did think Symphony X was exactly like Dream Theatre when I first heard "Twilight In Olympus". This was the first album of theirs that I bought and at the time I was quite the hardcore D.T. fan and in such very defensive. That's not to say that I did not enjoy this album, I did very much so, but I did think they were copying Dream Theatre. Well enough about that.

Symphony X' music is far more accessible than D.T.'s for one thing. The songs are shorter and tighter (with a few exceptions, I mean they are progressive). Lyrically they deal with a lot of fantasy/mythology and classic literary works, but they pull it off without appearing cheesy. Musically they bring a lot of melody and classical influences, but never compromise heaviness. I find Russell Allen's vocals to help make their music more "real". It's easy to become silly especially with the subjects Symphony X deal with, but Russell's vocals are powerful with a wide range of emotions and the appropriate amount of gruffness, no wailing here and I like that. I sense a bit of Matthew Barlow of Iced Earth in his vocal stylings.

"Twilight In Olympus" is a good album (though not their best) and as I said it is the first one I owned by them. It starts off with the blazing opener "Smoke and Mirrors" which is good and heavy and then continues on with "Church Of The Machine" which I would say is my favourite track. "Church ..." has it all, fast and heavy with a lot of melody and a good sing along chorus. The keyboardist Michael Pinnella is fantastic and is responsible for a lot of the melody in the music. Especially on tracks like the epic (13+ min.) "Through the Looking Glass (pt.1,2,3)", "Lady of The Snow" and "Church Of The Machine".

The heaviest track (or more appropriately riff) is "Orion - The Hunter" which is a good example of Michael Romeo's fine guitarmanship. He is often compared to Yngwie Malmsteen in shredding capabilities, but he doesn't get showy. Romeo has a great sense of song structure and keeping them strong without flights of soloing fancies. I actually think "Lady of The Snow" is the heaviest track.

Overall I really like Symphony X, and their other releases are equally brilliant. What I especially like is that unlike Dream Theatre (who I think have mellowed out a bit) They have stayed heavy and continue with strong albums. They make fantastical/mythological metal cool! And truly shine as a unique progressive metal band.

Up next with me 'X' theme is hardcore greats xDisciplex A.D. stay tuned!