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Album Review: Alice In Chains ‘The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here’

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AliceInChains_TheDevilPutDinosaursHereAlice in Chains is a tough band to impartially review. There is the old iteration of the group, featuring the late Layne Staley on vocals, which released all the classic records – Facelift, Sap, Dirt, Jar of Flies and the lesser, but still solid, Alice in Chains. This catalog is untouchable in many fans’ minds who believe there is no Alice in Chains without Layne Staley.

Then there is what could be referred to as the coping/hibernation phase of the band, or the Jerry Cantrell solo albums, Boggy Depot and Degradation Trip, the latter record being an awesome reflection back on Cantrell’s career and the passing of Staley. It’s a monster in its own right and one hell of a double-album.

Which brings us to Alice in Chains circa 2013, featuring Jerry Cantrell in full-on frontman mode and adding William DuVall on backing guitars and vocals (with some standout leads peppered throughout). At this point, Alice in Chains is very much Cantrell’s band (though there are plenty of core members still around). So we get sort of a blurred mixture of his solo efforts without the raw emotion Staley added to the mix

Black Gives Way to Blue was the huge 2009 comeback record, and while perspectives (and reviews) were a bit biased, this was one of the best returns to form in quality for any reuniting band. Alice in Chains in 2009 was still foreboding and dark, but also more cleanly produced and polished, which could be good or bad depending on your perspective. Staley was declining rapidly towards the end of his career and this album was easily better than the band’s last self-titled record.

And now, in 2013, the at-first strangely titled The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here marks the next point in Alice in Chains’ career. The album does not grab the listener the same way Black Gives Way to Blue did, but there is no way it could. While the previous release had some amazing songs (“Check My Brain,” “Last of My Kind,” “A Looking in View,” the list goes on), the follow-up record is a more complete listening experience due to the band no longer having to prove it can still move forward without Staley on vocals.

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Album Review: The Dillinger Escape Plan ‘One of Us is the Killer’

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thedillingerescapeplan_oneofusisthekillerIt took me 10 years and one live concert to finally “get” The Dillinger Escape Plan. No I was not continuously listening to the band in this time, trying to understand the appeal of the music, but rather I didn’t really give the group a fair shake. That all changed when I heard 2010’s Option Paralysis and later saw the band live at Knotfest in 2012 (there aren’t many bands out there who put so much energy and emotion into a live performance).

To me, Option, was the perfect mix of melody and aggression (and admittedly it is the most melodic Dillinger album to date). I then went back and explored the group’s back catalogstarting with Ire Works and Miss Machine and finally getting into the group’s roots with Calculating Infinity (which is excellent in its raw appeal, but the weakest album in the band’s catalog).

This left me curious, what would Dillinger’s 2013 follow-up One of Us is the Killer sound like? The answer is a mix of the more intense moments on Ire Works (and even a hint of Calculating Infinity, blended with a scaled back version of the melody found on Option Paralysis). Maybe this album was released at the right point in my musical experience, but it fully delivers the sound I was waiting to hear from the band.

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Written by Eric

June 5, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Album Review: Clutch ‘Earth Rocker’ makes me a fan of the band

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I’ll waste no time admitting it. I have never cared much for Clutch’s music. It spawned the crusty, stoner, rock ‘n’ roll movement which I don’t get much enjoyment out of, especially in the local music scene, because these types of bands are decent, sure, but all the songs get old fast. I have also seen the band live and wasn’t impressed there either. It was the equivalent of catching a jam-band show, without the energy of a full-on metal show (not that I consider Clutch to be full-on metal) and I quickly zoned out and eventually left the venue.

However, in 2013, I decided to give Clutch another shot and check out Earth Rocker. I heard the title track previously online and thought the straightforward, almost classic rock, direction of this record fit the band better than past releases. In addition, frontman Neil Fallon’s vocals have more of a bluesy vibe, which I can totally get behind.

My first listening experience with Earth Rocker took place in Denver, Colorado, and it provided the fitting soundtrack to driving on the highway, with scenic mountains in view. The previously mentioned album opener, “Earth Rocker,” provides fun, straightforward rock ‘n’ roll entertainment, and that’s exactly how I would describe my feelings towards the record as a whole.

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Written by Eric

May 4, 2013 at 8:00 pm

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Album Review: Six Feet Under’s ‘Unborn’ contains some bloody-good leftovers

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Roughly 10 months after the release of Six Feet Under’s surprisingly rockin’ death metal record, Undead (which was never actually reviewed on this site – great album), the band released another full-length disc of what many would assume to be leftovers (aka B-sides) of material on Unborn. Similarities in album names and cover artwork aside, both albums showcase why former Cannibal Corpse frontman Chris Barnes is still adored by so many fans, something Six Feet Under’s previous work never did for me.

Ever since his final album with Cannibal Corpse (The Bleeding), Barnes’ career in Six Feet Under started to feel like a pot-smoking parody of his former one – no, the music world did not need a death metal cover album of Back In Black in its entirety, no matter how hard you might argue (see Graveyard Classics 2). It didn’t help that Cannibal Corpse had a stellar last couple of albums with George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher on vocals.

However, in 2012, Six Feet Under’s track record of mediocrity was crushed by Undead. The album took everything fans loved about Barnes and combined it with an amazing backing band, led by guitarist Rob Arnold, of Chimaira fame. On Unborn we lose the greatness of Arnold (his guitar work is only featured on “Psychosis” and “Inferno”), but still get plenty of enjoyable songs written and performed by Whitechapel’s Benjamin Savage and Torture Killer’s Jari Laine (Ola Englund is the current touring guitarist with the band).

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Written by Eric

April 20, 2013 at 1:24 am

Album Review: Anthrax’s ‘Anthems’ EP is enjoyable, but not the record fans need right now

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It’s always intriguing when a famous band decides to release an album of covers. Especially when that band is Anthrax, who released a strong comeback in the form of 2012’s Worship Music with frontman Joey Belladonna returning on vocals and even more recently lost lead guitarist Rob Caggiano, whose last recorded work with the band is featured on the Anthems EP.

The best cover albums come from musicians who put their own signature sound into the tracks they choose to record, such as on Metallica’s Garage Inc. full-length, otherwise a covers album is a passing pleasure that doesn’t do much to enhance a group’s catalog.

Anthrax’s Anthems EP generally plays it safe in the delicate balancing act between staying faithful to the originals and putting the band’s own thrash-fueled spin on things, which results in a mostly pleasant, but not entirely necessary listen, unless you are already a diehard fan.

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Written by Eric

March 25, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Album Review: Soilwork’s ‘The Living Infinite’ is a career-defining double album

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In Flames and Soilwork are two of the biggest Swedish melodic death metal bands still consistently putting out albums. While In Flames changed its formula drastically over the years (and isolated many fans in the process), Soilwork gradually modified its sound to the slightly more commercial output of today while still retaining elements set in place on the now classic releases A Predator’s Portrait and Natural Born Chaos.

Fans and critics have applauded more recent efforts by Soilwork including The Panic Broadcast and Sworn to a Great Divide, but these albums were missing something that made the previously mentioned classics (and even to some extent Figure Number Five) so highly regarded. Given the departure of longtime guitarist and founding member Peter Wichers for a second time, followed by other longtime guitarist Ola Frenning leaving, things were beginning to look shaky for frontman Björn “Speed” Strid and the future of Soilwork. It was even more worrisome when Strid announced the follow-up to Sworn to a Great Divide would be a double album released as a full 20-track package (a risky move for any band).

After giving The Living Infinite several listens, it is safe to say the double album is Soilwork’s best release in years and holds its own against the group’s other career-defining classics.

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Quick Review: Suffocation ‘Pinnacle of Bedlam’ + Coffee = WOOOOO!

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If someone told me Suffocation was going to release one of its best albums (if not my new personal favorite) in the year 2013 that could give the death metal classics a run for their money… I’d probably roll my eyes and say, “Yeah, right.” Well be prepared to do a spit-take if you are drinking a beverage when starting up Pinnacle of Bedlam – because this statement is 100% musically accurate (unlike the bogus claims that Human Centipede was 100% medically accurate).

I happened to be fresh off a strong cup of coffee when I first put on the new album and the combination of the caffeine mixed with the blast beats of Dave Culross and throaty death growls of Frank Mullen on “Cycles of Suffering” fired all the synapses in my brain at once into a euphoric burst of energy. No the lyrics aren’t euphoric themselves of course, it’s just that the technicality of this release as a whole is insane.

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Written by Eric

February 19, 2013 at 11:59 am