Category Archives: Album Review

Album Review: David Bowie – ‘Who Can I Be Now?’ (1974 to 1976) Box Set

david-bowie-wcibn

Over the past week and a half, I’ve seen several erroneous reports that a “lost” Bowie album has resurfaced and is now available for purchase. What these articles are referring to is what the Bowie camp are purporting to be The Gouster, a scrapped album that eventually gave way to Young Americans, currently included in the recently released Who Can I Be Now? box set. Continue reading Album Review: David Bowie – ‘Who Can I Be Now?’ (1974 to 1976) Box Set

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Album Review: Skold – The Undoing

Skold - The Undoing

The Undoing is the highly anticipated third studio album from SKOLD that almost never saw the light of day. The album was scheduled to be released back in mid-April of 2014. Days after it’s announcement, it was cancelled “due to unforeseen developments”, and all pre-orders were refunded. On January 12, 2016, SKOLD announced The Undoing would be arriving April 22, 2016, and pre-orders were made available through Metropolis Records’ Metropolis Records.
Continue reading Album Review: Skold – The Undoing

Album Review: The Dreaming – ‘Rise Again’

The Dreaming - Rise Again

If Rise Again sounds too much like Stabbing Westward, it’s because singer Christopher Hall and keyboardist/programmer Walter Flaka were original members and the key songwriters of Stabbing Westward.  They stated that their intention was to deliver an album that brought back the early Stabbing Westward sound that fans had been asking for. The Dreaming is rounded out with guitarist Carlton Bost (Orgy, Deadsy), bassist Brent Ashley (Static-X) and one-time Stabbing Westward drummer Johnny Haro.

Continue reading Album Review: The Dreaming – ‘Rise Again’

ALBUM REVIEW: Marilyn Manson – ‘The Pale Emperor’

Marilyn Manson - The Pale Emperor

After a long stretch of uninspired, downbeat offerings, Marilyn Manson had a semi-comeback with 2012’s Born Villain.

Was that a late career fluke winner?

The followup, The Pale Emperor will be a good indication if he is truly back on track.

What really helps to shake this album up and what keeps it fresh is that Manson has collaborated with film/television/video game composer Tyler Bates for the music.  A lot of the ensuing product has a rustic, bluesy vibe yet there are some nods to the heavy, nu-metal past (“Deep Six”).  “The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles” seems to combine elements of the band’s early music with the direction they have taken over the last decade better than one could possibly hope.

New drummer Gil Sharone (Stolen Babies, Dillinger Escape Plan) provides surprisingly spare beats yet this also helps to keep the songs less cluttered and more propulsive.  It creates a swagger than fans of the band’s 90s work could be surprised by.

On the downside, the album is definitely front-loaded with the more varied/memorable tracks comprising the first two-thirds of the collection.  The last three songs are mostly boring numbers though “Cupid Carries a Gun” does have some moments.

Overall, The Pale Emperor seems to be proof that Manson is again focused on putting together worthwhile albums that aren’t mired in depression and a lethargic pace.

The years have changed him from what he once was, but you can also look at it as growth, spooky, spooky growth.

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This post was written by:

When J.J. Ellis isn’t writing as the Allentown DVD Examiner, his Decent Exposure Radio can be heard on the air every Friday night from 10:30 to midnight (EST) on WXLV 90.3 FM or wxlvradio.com!

Album Review: Iced Earth – ‘The Plagues of Babylon’

Iced-Earth-Plagues-of-Babylon

With all of those death metal bands lurking around the swamps of Florida (Obituary, Deicide, Morbid Angel, Death, among others) sometimes it can be easy to forget about Iced Earth.

Their newest album is called The Plagues of Babylon.

The band’s “Something Wicked” concept is picked up for the first six songs of the album, concluding with one of the absolute highlights “The End?”.  For the second half of the album, we are left with songs that are meant to stand alone. Thematically, it would have made more sense for this to be divided into two EPs, but if you aren’t one to get hung up on lyrics or overarching narratives, it’s really not a noticeable point.  Besides, having it as one full-length certainly makes it more marketable.

“If I could See You Now” is a sing-along keeper while “Democide” is a shot of adrenaline.  Come to think of it, the first half of the album is extremely varied in terms of tempo and feel while retaining the Iced Earth sound we have become familiar with.

On the other hand, this is a front-loaded affair.  Starting with “Peacemaker”, a halfway-decent track that reveals a bit of an outlaw country fascination, the pace slows way down and things never truly right themselves again.  A cover of the song “Highwayman” featuring guest vocals from Michael Poulsen (Volbeat), Russell Allen (Symphony X) and Hansi Kurch (Blind Guardian) is capably done and a fine collection of talent, but it still misses a chance to end things on a truly memorable note. The outro is an absolute waste of studio noise that would have been better left off.

The theme of member turnover continues for this album as a new rhythm section is employed (Luke Appleton on bass and Raphael Saini on drums).  They hold up their end of the bargain quite nicely.  Lead guitarist Troy Seele remains on board and the continuity helps as there are some fantastic solos throughout.

This album isn’t quite the vocal showcase for singer Stu Block that Dystopia was.  For most of the songs, he sticks to his lower register which isn’t far off from his predecessor (and who many feel to be the band’s definitive singer) Matt Barlow.  Block has shown himself to be capable of approaching the range of one-time contributor Ripper Owens, but he largely relegates this vocal approach to layering it into some of his background work and only occasionally bringing it to the forefront.

It’s also worth noting that this album sounds a little more raw than Dystopia so you’ll either praise the slightly less processed sound or will be hoping for a little more polish.

The Plagues of Babylon is fine album from the long-running Iced Earth.  It would have been a stronger collection of songs it if was only made up of the first 8 songs which would have been a respectable, nearly fat-free 45 minutes.

As it stands, the decision to let some different influences come to light will test some longtime fans, leaving them to decide for themselves whether this is a good album or a great one.

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This post was written by:

When J.J. Ellis isn’t writing as the Allentown DVD Examiner, his Decent Exposure Radio can be heard on the air every Friday night from 10:30 to midnight (EST) on WXLV 90.3 FM or wxlvradio.com!

Album Review: CHVRCHES – ‘The Bones of What You Believe’

CHVRCHES - The Bones of What You Believe

2 years after the release of the hit single “Mother We Share”, Scotland’s own indie electro pop trio CHVRCHES has finally released their long awaited debut full length album.  Bones of What You Believe puts the band on the map, and with the backing of Glassnote Records (Mumford & Sons) there is no limit to how big they will get.  The instrumentation is beautifully choreographed and entrances the listener, taking their ears for a roller coaster ride of soothing bass lines, head bobbing drums, and heartfelt lyrics.

The album kicks off with their biggest hit “Mother We Share”, and keeps you energized and feeling good with their other great singles “We Sink,” “Gun,” and “Recover.” Even after listening to this album constantly over the past few weeks, it has been a challenge finding much wrong with the album. Whenever an album can simultaneously get you to sing, dance, and generally feel excited to hear more, you know that you’re listening to a potential classic. The only weakness in the album is the closing song “Caught the Light”.  It is good on its own, but in my opinion, should not have been the last track because the lead singer Lauren Mayberry is nowhere to be found on the track.  Amongst an array of synthpop and electropop bands that have gone by the wayside, CHVRCHES have solidified their place as the ones who rose above the rest, and caught the attention of so many.

If you’re a fan of synthpop, electropop, chillwave, or whatever you want to call it, then you will absolutely love Bones of What You Believe.

-Chris Meyers-

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This post was written by:

Chris Meyers – When Chris Meyers isn’t helping out with writing and conducting interviews with bands, he is a freelance cinematographer making commercials for local companies in the Lehigh Valley and selling records via his Robot Duck Records.

Album Review: Hawthorne Heights – ‘Zero’

HH - Zero

Over the years Dayton, Ohio-based band Hawthorne Heights has had its ups and downs.  The tragic loss of rhythm guitarist Casey Calvert, has still been the biggest blow they had yet to fully recover from.  With Zero, the band’s fifth full-length studio album since the Hate and Hope EPs, it feels like a new beginning for them.

Zero is their first attempt at a concept album, and for some listeners its story may be quite confusing.  Whether you get the story or whether you don’t, this album, still reels you in hook, line, and sinker. The production of the songs brings me back to when both the The Silence In Black And White and If Only You Were Lonely first came out.  I continue to be a sucker for memorable riffs, beats, and lyrics, and this has it all.

Overall I think, like many concept albums, the story gets lost in translation.  If you read the lyrics you will get an idea of the concept. The gist of it is, a group of rebels who can take no more rise together and fight against the ruthless Conglomerate that has overtaken their town.

Concept aside, with songs like “Spark”, “Zero”, and “Put Me Back Together” you’ll fall in love with this album as quickly as I did.

-Chris Meyers-

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This post was written by:

Chris Meyers – When Chris Meyers isn’t helping out with writing and conducting interviews with bands, he is a freelance cinematographer making commercials for local companies in the Lehigh Valley and selling records via his Robot Duck Records.