Top 10 Albums of 2017 – Will Baker

It sure has been a while since I have written anything but I am glad to be back for this one! This has been a year of ups and downs in the music industry. Lots of amazing music coming out, brand new bands making their way through the ranks, and some unfortunate tragedies as well. I sat down and listened to EVERY album that caught my attention this year and decided to list off my top 10 favorites so, enjoy!

10. Something Clever – Season of Light
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This album was the very first review I did this year and I still find myself sitting in my car and doing the ole’ chicken neck to every single song. This album was an amazing pleasure to listen to and to buy.

9. Nickelback – Feed the Machine
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I know some people may give me some grief for this but let’s think this through shall we? A lot of people don’t know that this group generally plays in a lower tuning like B. Now, yes, they made headlines due to having a war of words with Corey Taylor (Slipknot/Stone Sour) but in my opinion, this album is a beautiful blend of their old and new sound. Please, keep your foot to yourself. Speaking of Stone Sour…

8. Stone Sour – Hydrograd
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Corey Taylor definitely threw in some of his best vocal work I’ve ever heard from him. Yes, he can scream and all that mess but let’s face it, it isn’t about how high you can sing or how low you can growl, it is about the technique, structure of the song, and design. Bravo, sir. My hats off to you.

7. Nephilym – Nephilym
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This group of guys have loads of talent and know exactly where to hit it at the musical heartstrings. The album is up and down with emotions and the images portrayed….WAKE UP, MAN! Yes, the imagery is that great.

6. Ded – Mis-An-Thrope
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These guys seemed to have come out of nowhere, bringing to life the catchy polyrhythms like old Linkin Park and similar sounds to Motionless in White. Keep it going guys, Fred Durst definitely steered you guys in the proper direction. I truly believe they are bringing back the rap/rock genre of the industry, hands down.

5. Hell or Highwater – Vista
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I have always been a huge fan of Atreyu so when I heard Brandon Saller (drummer for Atreyu) singing, I was immediately a fan; however, their album material doesn’t describe the energy that they have when playing a live show. An absolute must see.

I would like to note that some new albums are on their way out!
Asking Alexandria, Story of the Year, and Breaking Benjamin will have new albums out soon!
Now, back to the good stuff…

4. While She Sleeps – You Are We
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Expressive, tormenting, and well thought out, this album possesses the makings of every emotion known to mankind. I’ve had this album since it came out and it gets better every time that I hear it. I especially love the track, “Silence Speaks” featuring Oli Sykes of Bring Me The Horizon.

3. Thrice – To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere
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These guys came back with some powerful tunes and it just seems like it comes natural. I remember listening to an interview they did about the song “Black Honey” and it was all inspired by a dream. Amazing.

2. Starset – Vessels
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This album definitely brings out the rock prowess that they have. Edging out his personal experiences and masterfully welding them with the Starset Community, I always find myself closing my eyes and feeling the gravity of each song pull me, tugging the strings of existence.

1. Nothing More – The Stories We Tell Ourselves
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These guys definitely outdid themselves with this album. Jonny Hawkins really put his vocals on the line with this album. The whole album is an epic story of today’s society and what we believe that we shouldn’t. The electronic influences mixed with strong riffs and well-thought drums and of course, those bass lines really pump the songs through.

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Deuce’s – Invincible – Review

Deuce is formally known as “Tha Producer”, one of the founding members of the rap-rock group Hollywood Undead. His debut album of the same name dropped on April 24th, 2012 and his upcoming album “Invincible” officially releases on December 1st.

Musically, the album isn’t so bad. The first song “Hell Is Gonna Break Loose” has this dark, circus-like tone that makes it strangely appealing. It’s as if Pennywise from Stephen King’s “IT” helped write it. Not really a fan of clowns but I have to admit, it’s dark vibe is pretty interesting. However, when the vocals come in, I begin to lose interest.

In some of the others like “Catch Me If You Can” for example, it almost sounds like it has this unusual My Chemical Romance influence that meets his rapping during the verses. And it doesn’t necessarily work but the melodic vocals actually do it some justice. “Invincible” brings on this catchy vibe with the intro and just fast-paced drums throughout. It reminds me obviously of Hollywood Undead and defines the album as a whole.

“It’s Alright It’s Ok” is actually quite interesting because, with no rapping, it’s almost straight up rock and metal with it’s sound. And vocally it sounds as if it were an Offspring song. Without a doubt, I’m sure the hardcore and dedicated fanbase will continue to buy the album, but new listeners and average alike may not find it appealing enough.

There were only a couple of the songs out of the album that I found enjoyable enough to listen to the second time and headbang slightly. Given that, I feel as though if he tried putting out music without rapping in the style of songs like “It’s Alright It’s Ok” and much of “Catch Me If You Can”, it would make for a very interesting turn and possibly a sound he could easily attract new fans too.

Overall, I give this album a 3/10. As a fan of subgenres such as rap-rock and nu-metal, I can’t really place it among other bands like Linkin Park, Hed PE, or his former group Hollywood Undead. While many of the lines are catchy and some of the music is enjoyable, I feel as though it lacks in diversity in it’s dynamics. It feels as though it’s repetitive and reprocessed from each other song.

You can find “Invincible” on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and other music store platforms as well as Amazon.

Artist Interview: SoulSeason

It has been a hot minute since I had a chance to sit down and put together a damn good article. But luckily I had the chance to talk with Chris Scott from North Carolina rockers, SoulSeason.

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Soul Season has been a group that has been on my personal radar for quite some time now even though they haven’t been around that long. I do have to say though, I am a bit ashamed of myself since I haven’t been able to check out these dudes live yet. Soon though, it’s on my list for sure.

T: So why don’t you introduce yourself!

C:  I’m Chris Scott, singer, and guitarist for the band SoulSeason. Our other members include Adam Moore on drums and Scott Osment on guitar.

T: So how did you guys get involved in the music industry and form what we know as Soul Season?

C: I’ve been in and out of the scene for 15 years. I gave it up about 5 years ago because it’s so hard to find musicians with the same drive as you. At the time our previous bassist and I had shared bands together and we always clicked on writing. A couple of years ago we decided we wanted to write an album for ourselves as more or less a keepsake. We never wanted to get back into all the hoopla of bands. Once we started writing we got the cravings to play live again and to sum it up here we are.

T: For fans that haven’t had a chance to hear your material before, how would you explain to them what your sound is?

C: Mood metal haha. It’s a self-proclaimed term really. Everything we write starts with an emotion or mood. Usually with riffs or what have you, but once we have a vibe for the song we build the rest around it. Throw in some heavy groove and melody and bake on 666 for 43.7 Minutes and tada SoulSeason song.

T: You just so happened to release your first full-length album “Wither” back in June this past summer, so CONGRATULATIONS on that! Can you give us some insight as to how things went into the recording process?

C: Once we had the songs we wrote we decided we wanted to deliver them raw and unpolished. The purest form. We recorded in two locations ourselves with some good Mics and an I Mac. When I mixed it I just went for an organic live sound. We left small imperfections to flare the character of who we are. We’ve never set out to be anything more than guys writing and playing what comes naturally so we wanted the album to portray that.

T:  What happens to be your favorite track on the album?

C: For me, it’s This Lovely Pain. The song has always taken me somewhere. It’s about embracing your demons accepting who you are even the darkness. We all struggle with hardships, it’s what makes us great this song makes peace with that.

T: Speaking of albums. If you had to pick one album, just one, to listen to every day, what/who would it be?

C: That’s an evil fucking question haha. I listen to so many different styles it’s really a mood thing. But I’m the context of important albums to me I’d say Gojiras Magma.

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T: Soul Season has really gotten the attention of quite a few people in the North Carolina market, especially with having such a short time in the market, what do you think sets you apart in the scene from others?

C: I am not sure what really sets us apart I try not to look at any comparisons. We just kinda do what feels right for us and people seem to enjoy it. We do big shows load, high energy. We believe people come to shows to see something different and we just try and be the band we’d wanna go and see.

T: If you were to step outside right now and find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do with the winnings?

C: Focus on my music full-time hands down. Quit this day job shit and live the dream. I’ve always dreamed of owning a label and helping bands strive. There’s so much negativity in music amongst bands, you can’t change that but no one takes a chance on some of the real talents there is out there.

T: What are the plans for the future?

C: We are wrapping up shows for the year and finishing up writing our next album. This time we are approaching a little differently and are headed to NYC to record at Gojira’s studio. It’s truly an honor to do so and we can’t wait to unleash a few other surprises coming up.

There you have it folks, an insight into the world of Soul Season. Make sure you pick up a copy of their EP at an upcoming show! Until then, check out their social media pages linked below!

Facebook.com/soulseasonband

Instagram.com/soulseasonband

Bridge to Breakdown Unleashes their Self-Titled EP

I met the guys of Bridge to Breakdown back in 2016 when they were playing on the same bill as my husband’s band, and we clicked immediately. These are some of the most down-to-earth and friendly guys I have ever met and I can’t wait to introduce them and their new EP to you all. Their EP is available for pre-order right now, with the release date of 01 October 2017!

Their EP is available for pre-order right now, with the release date of 01 October 2017!

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Tayln (singer/guitarist), Malcolm (singer/guitarist), and Taylor (drummer) have known each other for many years, and Ian (bassist) is the newest member (as of 2016) to join the band. Together, they form a rock band with a unique style of Blues, Rock, Metal, and Alternative. The best comparison I can think of would be Rage Against the Machine (they are heavily influenced by Rage, and if you haven’t heard their cover of Killing in The Name Of  then you are definitely missing out! #babyrage)

Let’s talk about their album, shall we? Cuz otherwise I will rave about these guys all day long I swear.Their first EP has four original songs on it and they don’t disappoint. If you’ve been to their shows before here in NC, then the songs will be familiar to you.

Ashes is the first song on the EP. It starts with a cool guitar riff and cymbal work and it’s a good intro to the song that lasts for a good minute and a half before Malcolm begins with the vocals. I feel that it is probably the most mellow of the four songs on the EP while still being a good display of their talent.

Power to the People is next on the EP, and it one of their better-known songs. It starts immediately with Malcolm at the vocals. I won’t lie, I’ve had to listen to them perform this song several times to get what Malcolm is saying because he sings it somewhat quickly. Tayln joins him on singing the chorus with his distinct vocals singing the title of the song while Malcolm continues with the message of the song. This is also a phenomenal display of their guitar talent throughout this song. Towards the end of the song Tayln shows off his vocal range in the chorus and it definitely catches your attention. The song has a strong message.

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Rusted is a newer song that I am not as familiar with. I love the guitar in the beginning of the song and a good drum beat to get your head moving. Tayln sings on this song and again it’s a great display of his impressive range. He was operatically trained as a singer before B2B came to be. You know what else is impressive, watching Malcolm headbang to this song and not once trip over his guitar chord or pull it out of his guitar or his pedal board!

The last song on their EP is probably one of their most well-known songs, called Walk the Bridge. It’s got a catchy melody that encourages movement and head-banging and a great blend of their instruments. Something that I just noticed is about half-way through the song there is a good overlay of vocals between Tayln’s higher pitch and Malcolm’s lower notes. There is a great instrumental section that really displays Taylor’s talents as a drummer.

Congratulations to the boys and check the flyer below for their official release party and where you can find your copy of the self-titled release!

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Virginia’s Own Pop-Punk Phoenix: Telltale

On January 20th 2017, the Virginia-born pop-punk band Kept At Bay played its final show at The Canal Club in their hometown of Richmond. In the year prior during my days with my former band, The Static Drive, we had the pleasure to play a show with these guys alongside another Virginia band, Drop The Girl. It was a fun show with loud and rebellious pop punk and the atmosphere was nothing but positive energy and good vibes. When I had heard a few months later that they were breaking up, I was definitely bummed out. But little did I know that a phoenix was rising from the ashes of what remained of that incredible punk band: that phoenix is called Telltale.

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Telltale is a punk group that consists of members from other bands in the Virginia scene. Travis Slack (drums) and Bryce Marshall (guitar) formerly from Kept At Bay, Cole Bennett (bass) formerly from Drop The Girl, and John Carteret (vocals) of Until The Wind Shifts. I knew right away this was a band ready to take on the world.  Their debut single, “Atlas”, released in March of 2017 causing a wave of support from the punk scene. It was pure punk. The intro was heavy and the verses were fast enough that they reminded me of the old hardcore bands. In no time at all, did Telltale’s fan base grow and they dove right into the scene playing shows like it was nothing. Two months later in May, they finished recording their EP in New Jersey with Pete Zengerle, which would later be announced as “Good Intentions” dropped on September 22nd, 2017.

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Without a doubt is “Good Intentions” nothing short of the heavy chords, melodic vocals, and powerful drums as I expected after I heard their singles “Floodwall” and “Atlas”. Telltale brings their own sound into the pop-punk scene with this EP. As I listen to these songs, I hear influences from bands such as The Story So Far and Four Year Strong among many other bands in the pop punk and post-hardcore sub-genres. “Floodwall”, being the single, is already a hit and probably the most memorable song in the EP. “451” is a vocally melodic song that really showcases John’s singing while “Empty Promises” gives us a somewhat dark and heavy turn towards the second half of the song. Travis Slack’s drumming in “Bayview” during the verses bring a nostalgic feeling of old hardcore punk and the song altogether fades out perfectly ending a fantastic EP. Their music video for “Floodwall” shows the band reminiscing over old photos in an almost completely empty house with the only piece of furniture being the very same couch from their EP cover. That very same song is featured on the 91-track album called “Good Vibes Only Vol. 2” put together by Common Grounds Records as a charity compilation benefitting the Keep A Breast Foundation.


You can catch Telltale’s next show at The Canal Club in Richmond, VA with Hold Close, Neverkept and more on October 27th, 2017. Make sure you pick up the new album directly from the guys while they are on tour or pick it up on Google Play, iTunes or Amazon.

Nephilym’s Self-titled Album Review Guest Writer – Jake Tripp

After remaining a powerful and consistent name in the North Carolina music scene for well over a decade now, Nephilym’s self-titled release blasts straight out of the gate with “Voices”.  A massive grooving guitar riff sets the stage for the rest of the album, which tosses back and forth a seemingly yin-yang contrast of heavy breakdowns and softer, acoustic-drenched alternative rock.

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Great rock bands and radio ear-candy go hand in hand, and lead single “Could Have Been” delivers in spades.  Any fan of honest songwriting will easily gravitate towards the subject of nostalgia and loss, which is impressively depicted in this song.

The album takes it up a notch with “Horsemen”, utilizing instrumental breaks tastefully, without the overly predictable songwriting formula adopted by many groups of the early to mid 2000s.  It finally lands at an ending breakdown that metalcore fans of the aforementioned generation won’t be able to resist moshing to.

“The Place We Call Home” undoubtedly stands as my personal favorite.  Raw, sentimental poetry sits atop a foundation of acoustic guitar, piano, and strings; eventually building into a finale of purely emotional rock.

Another standout is the simply heavy, constantly marching rhythm of “Challenger Deep”.  This one establishes more of a call-and-response correlation between whispered verses and ear-splitting screams in a style that was arguably made prominent by nu-metal acts of the late 1990s.

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One of Nephilym’s paramount strengths lies in a detailed variety of vocal styles.  Too often, it seems that frontmen in the hard-rock genre will settle on an undeviating palette, rarely stepping outside of their comfort zone.  In the case of vocalist Brent Underwood, the variation of soulful melody and gut-wrenching roars make up just a few of a slightly larger range of vocal tones, with one style not overpowering another.  Many of the 12 tracks offer a professedly divergent combination of instrumental and vocal flavors that I would urge everyone, rock fan or not, to delve into.

Buy the album, connect with the band on Facebook, and make sure you catch them in your area!
www.facebook.com/NephilymBand

 

Check out Billboard Breakout Artist: Vajra

Enter: Vajra. For those of you who have yet to discover this band, it is time to open your ears up and fill them with their music. Vajra’s music is a tapestry of hauntingly dark and hypnotic, melodic, progressive, foreboding and mysterious lullabies.

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Vajra was formed by composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist, Annamaria Pinna during her self-imposed exile in India. The child of a former monk and school teacher, Annamaria was encouraged to learn about the world around her and to question her assumptions. She believes there is divinity in creativity. Annamaria has a neurological condition called synesthesia, where she attaches color and shapes to sound.

I recently had the unique opportunity to talk with Annamaria about her band, touring, and upcoming projects!

A-P: Hello! For those who don’t know Vajra, could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about the band name?

Annamaria: My name is Annamaria and I am the creator of the band Vajra. Vajra is a Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist (Dorje) symbol for the thunderbolt or the diamond.  It is that which breaks through anything.  It is the unbreakable or indestructible force that permeates all things-the ultimate truth of the universe. I had a powerful dream about this energy and later when I was brainstorming names for the band, the word kept resurfacing. I surrendered to it, and so it is.

You have worked with some pretty big names! Blake Flemming (ex-The Mars Volta), Sylvia Massy (Tool, System of a Down, Prince, Johnny Cash), and Tom Baker (NIN, Foo Fighters, Ministry Prince). Tell us what the experience was like and how much it has helped you develop as an artist.

Each experience was similar in that I was super thrilled to work with them because I respect their what each of them does tremendously. At times, I was a bit intimidated, but I had to stop myself from traveling down that path by just focusing on the music. Blake is a friend so it was both inspiring and fun to work with him.  I love his choices (musically) and he is such an awesome dude.  When I left Sylvia’s studio, I was overcome with emotion, and I didn’t want to leave.  I had made a new friend, and we connected on that music level that only musicians can truly understand.  Also, at that time, I was realizing that this was happening that the music I had heard and translated from the ether was now here in this physical world.  It was something I had wanted to do since I was a child.  So, part of the emotion I felt was also the acknowledgment of a dream come true. Tom was awesome!  He is like the mad scientist tinkering with buttons that made it all sound even better.  He had all these gold records on the wall in his studio and I couldn’t believe I was there. Working with each of them has challenged me to go deeper into my craft.  They continue to inspire me today.

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You have an upcoming EP, “Irkalla,” part 1 of The Trilogy Series. What is the story behind this series and is there a release date for “Irkalla?”

Irkalla is the Sumerian word for Underworld.  We wanted to release an album but then I thought maybe we will do an EP.  And then I kept getting signs telling me to do 3 related eps, and hence, the Trilogy Series was born.  Each EP and possibly each single will be released on an auspicious day that is a derivative of 3 (numerology).  Each EP will consist of 3 songs and 3 interludes and possibly a bonus track.  Each piece of music will have a video component and after the release of the 3rd EP, we will release all the music and all the videos into one movie.  The music and the videos will dictate how the movie turns out.  It will tell us what it is.

No release date yet.  We keep getting shows to perform and so the time we can spend on the new music dwindles.  We are close though.

For Vajra fans, they enter “The Temple.” How did that come about and what is the meaning of “The Temple?”

I wanted to create the sense of community where our fans can gather.  The best thing would be for The Temple to inspire one to dig deeper into their own lives and to do whatever it is she or he is gifted to do.

You have a neurological condition called Synesthesia, where you attach colors and shapes to sound. What have been the positive and negative aspects in how it has been applied to your music?

For me, it’s positive because it helps to physically express what I hear when I write.  There is a visual component to the music.  One negative aspect is that when I explain something to my guys and say something sounds yellow or I demonstrate the shape of what I hear, they look at me like I’m crazy. So I have to remind myself to explain musically as well.  The communication is different with everyone. 

You are on tour right now and are soon to be headed to Sweden! What has been the best experience on this tour? Of all the tours, which place has been your favorite to perform?

Yeah, we can’t wait for Sweden!  We’ve been heading out on long weekends after our To The Ends of The Earth Tour in March/April to the West Coast and back.  We had 29 shows in 32 days.  It was exhausting but incredible.  I love touring.  Home is where you make it.  I love seeing new places and meeting new people and experiencing different subcultures. 

Some of the best experiences are, of course, great shows with large, receptive audiences but also playing great rooms like Viper Room in LA and The Chance in Poughkeepsie.  Thinking of the musicians that have performed on those stages where my feet we planted was exhilarating.  Also, the fans make the shows great.  We had one fan travel to a few shows on the tour, gifted us some vino with a beautiful card that said we inspired her to follow her dreams.  And another fan who made us individual jewel trees under the moonlight and presented them in labeled silver sparkle boxes because she wanted to thank us for inspiring her.  These are beautiful moments that I will never forget.  

I can’t say that I have a favorite place to perform.   Favorites are tough for me. There are different things that I like/dislike about most places.

Lastly, I have to say I have become a huge fan, even joining “The Temple” myself. Is there anything you would like to say to aspiring artists looking to get to where you are at now? 

Thank you so much!

Take some time to challenge your assumptions and to discover or rediscover who you are and how you want to spend your time here in the awareness of who you are.  And when you know, do it!  Focus on that truth.  Don’t let distractions or people stop you from being who you really are. And be!


Make sure you check out Vajra on their upcoming tour that makes its way from the US all the way to Sweden! For more info, visit http://www.thevajratemple.com/