“We Are Not Your Kind” is an astonishing record.” – NME
“Slipknot is a band whose music will always be relevant.” – The Fader
“Slipknot have become a pop culture phenomenon.” – Vice
“This may be one of the band’s most personal records, but the rage they capture is universally felt.” – The Independent
“20 years since their debut, Slipknot are as bold, fearless, and exhilarating as ever.” – Kerrang
Twenty years ago, nine inspired musicians from Des Moines, Iowa, shattered the scope of what was possible in rock music.
From the moment Slipknot emerged in 1999 with their self-titled debut, it was clear they were like nothing the world had seen before, but were everything they needed. Where a similarly creative act might have burned out or lost their relevance chasing mainstream acceptance, Slipknot has only proven that an enduring commitment to hard work, constant evolution, their craft, and their fans can allow a rock band to not only continue- but to actually push the envelope on what defines heavy metal, and rock in general.
With “We are Not Your Kind,” Slipknot’s first new album in five years, the band deliver when they are needed most. In an increasingly claustrophobic psychic landscape, “We Are Not Your Kind” brings back the violence, to meet the darkness blow for blow. The band’s creative strength and vision propelled “We Are Not Your Kind” to a #1 debut on the Billboard Top 200 chart this past August. Always a global band, the album also debuted at #1 in United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Japan, Russia, Mexico, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium, Finland, Spain, and in the Top 3 in Germany, France, Norway, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.
Meanwhile, Slipknot’s annual Knotfest festival has evolved into the biggest hard rock and metal festival in the world, expanding to four continents, with new cities announcing in 2020. Over 550,000 fans have attended these massive festivals, which are as much cultural as they are music-based, mixing heavy rock with hip hop, world music, visual art, experiential installations, and much more.
Recorded music and live performances aside, Slipknot has always permeated mainstream culture in ways that defy expectations. Recently, Slipknot partnered with Amazon Studios’ advertising campaign for their smash hit “The Boys”, and have launched Slipknot No. 9 Whiskey as a partnership with Cedar Ridge Distillery (American Distilling Institute’s “2017 Distiller of the Year”).
A Day To Remember
Over the course of the past several years, each of A Day To Remember’s releases have hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Rock, Indie and/or Alternative Charts. They’ve also sold more than a million units, racked up over 400 million Spotify streams and 500 million YouTube views, garnered two gold-selling albums and singles (and one silver album in the UK) and sold out entire continental tours (including their own curated Self Help Festival), amassing a global fanbase whose members number in the millions. All of which explains why Rolling Stone called them “An Artist You Need To Know.” In other words, their creative process has worked and worked well.
But for new album Bad Vibrations, the Ocala, Florida-based quintet of vocalist Jeremy McKinnon, guitarists Kevin Skaff and Neil Westfall, bassist Joshua Woodard and drummer Alex Shelnutt switched gears and headed for uncharted territory. Their path included a loose and much more collaborative songwriting process, one that also saw them recording for the first time with producers Bill Stevenson (Descendents, Black Flag) and Jason Livermore (Rise Against, NOFX). And though the album’s being released on the band’s own ADTR Records (like 2013′s Common Courtesy), this record marks their first distribution deal with Epitaph and is the first time they’ve worked with Grammy winner Andy Wallace (Foo Fighters, Slayer), who was brought in to mix.
“We completely changed the way we wrote, recorded and mixed this album,” says vocalist Jeremy McKinnon. “It was one of the most unique recording experiences we’ve ever had. We rented a cabin in the Colorado mountains and just wrote with the five of us together in a room, which was the polar opposite of the last three albums we’ve made. We just let things happen organically and in the moment. I think it forever changed the way we make music. And working with Bill was an awesome experience. He was a bit hard to read at first, so I think we subconsciously pushed ourselves harder to try to impress him. As a result, we gave this album everything we had.”
Recorded at Stevenson’s Fort Collins-based Blasting Room Studios, Bad Vibrations masterfully channels the kinetic energy that recently found A Day To Remember named “The Best Live Band Of 2015″ by Alternative Press. The band decided to forgo digitally driven production and focus on live recording. “These days it seems like a lot of heavy sounding music is heading more and more in a digital direction,” notes McKinnon. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but we wanted to go the opposite way and make something that’s aggressive but has more of a natural flow and feel to it.”
By powering Bad Vibrations with so much raw passion, A Day To Remember ultimately deliver some of their most emotionally intense material to date. “I’m like a child screaming in a room when I write,” laughs McKinnon. “I’m singing about the things that are frustrating me, but at some point there’s an arc within the song. It’s almost like I’m giving advice to another person about whatever I’m struggling with, but I think I’m really just trying to give that advice to myself.”
The catharsis-inducing album sees the band tackling duplicity and deception (on the gloriously frenzied ‘Same About You’), the destructive nature of judgmental behavior (on ‘Justified,’ a track shot through with soaring harmonies and sprawling guitar work), addiction (on the darkly charged ‘Reassemble’), and friendship poisoned by unchecked ego (on ‘Bullfight,’ a track with a classic-punk chorus that brilliantly gives way to a Viking-metal-inspired bridge).
‘Paranoia,’ one of the most urgent tracks on Bad Vibrations, fuses fitful tempos and thrashing riffs in its powerful portrait of mental unraveling—an idea born from the band’s commitment to close collaboration in making the album. “Originally it was a joke song about someone being paranoid, but then Neil and Kevin and I started brainstorming lyrics together, which we’d never done before,” recalls McKinnon. “It ended up being shaped so that the verse is a person talking to a psychiatrist, the pre-chorus is the psychiatrist talking back to that person, and then the chorus is paranoia personified. The whole thing just exploded and came together in this really cool way.”
On ‘Naivety,’ the band slips into a melancholy mood that’s perfectly matched by the song’s bittersweet, pop-perfect melody. Says McKinnon, “It’s about that journey when you’re getting older and starting to view the world as a little less magical than you used to, and you’re missing that youthful enthusiasm from when you were a kid.”
Ultimately, McKinnon says that this particular album-making process breathed new life into the band. “Breaking out of our comfort zone and working in a less controlled way, we ended up making something that feels good to everyone, and we can’t wait to go out and tour on it,” he says. “I think a big part of why our music connects with people is that they’re able to get such an emotional release from our songs. And while most of the songs are me venting about whatever’s affecting me at the time, people who are going through something similar can see that it’s coming from a real, honest place. That’s really the core of what A Day To Remember has always been.”
Bad Vibrations debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 and #1 on the Top Album Sales Chart. It was also the #1 album in Australia, #6 in the UK and #7 in Germany. After a summer / fall tour with Blink-182, A Day To Remember headlined the Bad Vibes World Tour in Australia, the United Kingdom, Europe and Russia.
2017 saw A Day To Remember play Download Festival in the UK and the X Games Minneapolis among other festival shows in the US and Europe. On March 18th, the band received the keys to the city of Ocala from Mayor Kent Guinn and performed a sold out hometown concert before supporting Avenged Sevenfold on select dates of their summer tour, playing their own headline shows with support from Moose Blood and Wage War and presenting 3 stops of their Self Help Festival. In October, Jeremy McKinnon joined Linkin Park on stage at the Hollywood Bowl to perform ‘A Place For My Head’ in honor of Chester Bennington.
The following year, A Day To Remember celebrated 15 years of being a band with a headline US tour supported by Papa Roach and Falling In Reverse that included a headline slot at Self Help Festival in San Bernardino, California. They also played North American festivals including Inkcarceration, Montebello Rockfest, Las Rageous and Buku.
Legendary rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd returns with a fiery slice of Southern style guitar rock heaven in Last of a Dyin’ Breed, their newest release on Roadrunner/Loud & Proud Records due August 21, 2012. This is the kind of record guaranteed to feed the needs of the multi-generational Skynyrd Nation, and continue the renewed vigor the band exhibited with their last album, 2009’s God & Guns.
For the passionate, longtime fans of the band, this is Skynyrd at the top of their game, complete with instantly memorable songs, more hooks than a tackle box, and a blistering three-guitar attack at full power. From the raging guitars of the title track and the pounding, funky homage to local talent in “Home Grown” to the mind-blowing “Honey Hole,” Lynyrd Skynyrd sound like young bucks having one hell of a good time, which, regarding the latter, founding member Gary Rossington says is very much the case.
“For me this is one of the happiest and most fun albums I’ve ever done,” says Rossington. “We didn’t have a lot of problems goin’ on; it was just fun goin’ to work every day.”
Having survived enough tragedy and just plain hard miles for 10 bands, Skynyrd is, remarkably at this stage of their career, on a roll. God & Guns debuted at #18 on the Billboard Top 200, giving the band their highest debut since 1977. Last Of A Dyin’ Breed re-ignites the in-studio alchemy the band found with Guns producer Bob Marlette, and the sound is traditional Skynyrd blended to perfection with the edge of immediacy. In short, it’s rock ‘n roll for the times.
Led by core members Gary Rossington (guitar), Johnny Van Zant (vocals) and Rickey Medlock (guitar), Skynyrd has recorded an album that continues to build on the legacy that began over 35 years ago in Jacksonville, Florida. Joining them in the studio and on the road are new bassist Johnny Colt (Black Crowes, Train) guitarist Mark “Sparky” Matejka (a “Nashville cat, just a pickin’ fool,” according to Rossington), and keyboardist Peter Keys, who replaced Powell on the God & Guns tour.
In a tragic tale oft-told, the Skynyrd story could have ended in a Mississippi swamp with the 1977 plane crash that killed three band members, including Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines. Since then, the band has lost vital players in Billy Powell, Ean Evans, Allen Collins, Leon Wilkeson and Hughie Thomasson, yet here they are again with a hard-rocking, stirring album that can sit proudly alongside any recording that bears the Skynyrd name. The breed may be nearing extinction but Skynyrd is very much alive and ready to throw down.
Van Zant, now in his 25th year standing where his brother once stood agrees with Rossington about the making of Breed. “We worked with Bob Marlette again who’s a great guy we just love as a producer,” he says. “During the recording of the last album we were going through Billy and Ean passing away, and with this album we were able to laugh and joke a lot.”
Medlock says that after the hard touring behind God & Guns he and the other primary writers Van Zant and Rossington took their time writing the songs. But the actual recording came together quickly, aided by the band’s in-studio chemistry. “This time what we wanted to do was go back to doin’ stuff old school,” he says. “A lot of the album was done with all of us in the recording studio, playing all at one time, the way we used to do it when we’d go into the studio to make records.”
With a catalog of over 60 albums, sales beyond 30 million worldwide and their beloved classic American rock anthem “Sweet Home Alabama” having sold over two million ringtones, Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Lynyrd Skynyrd remains a cultural icon that appeals to multiple generations. But far from resting on their laurels, any illusions that this may be a band at anything less than the height of its powers are quickly lost with the distorted fury of the fiery guitar licks that open the album’s title track and further put to rest with the gritty triumphs that follow.
They could easily continue cranking out old songs to rapturous audiences around the world but the fact is they’ve got plenty left to say musically, personally and as social commentary. “Every once in a while the record label will ask us if we want to put a new album out and we always say yes, because, although we love playing all the classic stuff, it’s fun to do new stuff too,” says Rossington, “for our own heads, our own peace of mind.”
Lynyrd Skynyrd is a band of today, carrying a steely mantle forged in the sweaty confines of the Hell House in Jacksonville decades earlier. And this is a band album, to be even more specific, a guitar driven band album. The triple guitar assault has never sounded more on point, with passionate musicality, expert harmonics and of course, plenty of attitude to burn. There’s a reason this is one of the most beloved bands of all time.
“We tried to go back to the old sound, doin’ it as a band, goin’ in all together and layin’ it down,” says Rossington. “On the last album, we leaned a little more country, back to our roots, but this time we just tried to be our old selves and write some Southern rock. Just good ol’ songs, get in and get out, say what they say, do a little bit of pickin’ and tap your feet.”
Those searching for traditional Skynyrd solos and fierce instrumental breaks will have plenty to love on Breed, with every song featuring ample fretwork from one, two or even all three guitarists. “We love to do the harmonies and stuff with lead guitars,” says Medlock. “That’s a Skynyrd staple, and we embellished on it quite a bit this time around. We wanted to make a guitar driven record and have the vocals sit really good in the saddle there with all the guitars, just have it more rockin’ and a lot more powerful.”
Mission accomplished, with plenty of fireworks and rock-solid rhythms from all players. “Sparky has just fit in great with Rickey and Gary, everybody knows their place now,” says Van Zant. “Sparky’s a strat guy, Gary’s a slide guy with the Les Paul sound and all those great fills, and Rickey’s the ‘all-around’ guy that does a little bit of everything.”
But the guitars and other instruments—Keys’ organ, for example, play a vital role in the soundscape. Van Zant’s vocal chops and way with a lyric have never been in finer form, breathing life into these songs and taking on some serious vocal challenges. “I quit smokin’ a year and a half ago, so that helped out quite a bit,” he says with a characteristic laugh. “Workin’ with Bob is great too. We cut the vocals right in the control room itself, which is real cool to me, because me and Bob go back and forth right there, so you’re not waiting for a button to be pushed. It’s just a real cool vibe. We’ve got a good thing goin’ here.”
They’ve got a good thing going in terms of material, too. The primary Skynyrd writing team of Rossington, Medlock and Van Zant worked with some of their favorite songwriters to pen the songs that populate Breed, including Tom Hambridge, Blair Daly, John 5, Donnie Van Zant, and Marlette, along with contributions from the bands Matejka, as well as Marlon Young, Audley Freed, Shaun Morgan from Seether, Cadillac Black’s Jaren Johnston, and label mates Black Stone Cherry’s Chris Robertson and Jon Lawhon.
The blend of writers from within and outside the band concocts a hard-hitting cadre of songs that fit perfectly into the Skynyrd canon. These songs are of the 100-proof variety. “We like bringing in outside influences and I love feeding off other people,” says Van Zant. “I’ve had people ask me, ‘how could Gary create another ‘Free Bird?’ We don’t even try that. Those are legendary songs. We just write what we write. It’s more about us just hangin’ out and being together and enjoying life and writin’ songs. My theory is like Ricky Nelson’s, ‘you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.’ If you’re happy with it at the end of the day, so be it.”
Not as overtly political as its predecessor God & Guns, Breed focuses more on the struggles of the working class, though the band make their thoughts on the direction of this country crystal clear on songs like the reverb-drenched “Poor Man’s Dream” and the blue-collar powerhouse “One Day at a Time.” “When we go in to record, we don’t go in with one certain mindset,” says Medlock. “We just go in and write about stuff we believe in, our experiences.”
The band is tuned in to the tough times many Americans are going through, and they sing songs that might well help on that journey, or at least help let off some steam. “Skynyrd really thinks about how people are struggling and what’s goin’ on out here,” says Medlock. “We see it a lot, because we’re a working man and working woman’s band. We’ve got three generations under our belts, we know people have a tough time out there, and we share in that.”
Gary Rossington won’t typically volunteer for political talk but he is an astute observer, and what he sees sticks in his craw. “I don’t like to talk politics,” he admits “I just don’t trust a lot of politicians. I think the country’s way off track, but we’ll get it back on, it’s too good of a thing to lose. We travel all around the country, there’s too many good people and good Americans who all want the same thing, just to get back on track the way we used to be.”
Like it or not, with a title like God & Guns, the previous album was bound to be a lightning rod out of the box. “I couldn’t believe how well God & Guns was accepted when it came out, in Europe, Australia, South America, here in the States; everybody we talked to, 99% of it was positive feedback,” says Medlock. “My whole thing was, we’ve got to go in the studio this time and step up, we’ve got to do at least what God & Guns did, or one better. And, in my opinion, I think we accomplished that. I’m looking forward to going out and playing some of this record live, along with our classic material, and taking it to the people and letting the people make their decision.”
Odds are, the “people,” specifically, the aforementioned Skynyrd Nation, will love Last of a Dyin’ Breed, and anyone who hasn’t checked into what this band has been up to for a while will likely be blown away. As for their part, Skynyrd will, per usual, indeed be taking their music to the people, as fans in Europe and North America will have a chance to catch the band on tour through the end of 2012 and beyond.
As a rock icon and filmmaker with a unique vision, Rob Zombie has continuously challenged audiences as he stretches the boundaries of both music and film. He has sold more than fifteen million albums worldwide, and is the only artist to experience unprecedented success in both music and film as the writer/director of eight feature films with a worldwide gross totaling more than $150 million.
Rob Zombie achieved great success in the music industry, first as a member of the multi-platinum band White Zombie and later as a solo artist with even greater results collecting numerous multi-platinum and gold albums along the way including Hellbilly Deluxe, The Sinister Urge and Educated Horses. In 2013, the seven-time GRAMMY® nominee released his fifth solo album, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, on his Zodiac Swan label through UMe. The album debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 and spawned two Top 10 Active Rock singles, “Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Super Town” and Zombie’s spin on Grand Funk Railroad’s anthemic “We’re An American Band.”
Rob Zombie’s first concert film, The Zombie Horror Picture Show, was released May 19 2015 by Zodiac Swan/UMe. The feature-length film held the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Music DVD chart for two consecutive weeks. Recorded live over two sizzling nights in Texas, The Zombie Horror Picture Show captures Zombie’s elaborate, multi-media production of mind-blowing SFX, animatronic robots, pyrotechnics, oversized LED screens and state-of-the-art light show combined with his powerhouse band featuring John 5, Piggy D and Ginger Fish.
In April 2016, Zombie released his 6th studio album, The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser. The album debut at number six on the Billboard Top 200 making it the sixth consecutive release to debut Top Ten. Produced by Zeuss, it was recorded and mixed at Goathouse Studios. A full return to form by the rock icon, The Electric Warlock… features John 5 (Guitar), Piggy D (Bass) and Ginger Fish (Drums).
October 2020 saw the release of the first new Zombie track and video in over four years — King Freak: A Crypt Of Preservation And Superstition off of the latest full-length album entitled The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy. A classic Zombie album through and through with high-energy rages like The Eternal Struggles of the Howling Man and Get Loose to heavy-groove thumpers like Shadow Of The Cemetery Man and Shake Your Ass-Smoke Your Grass. This new slab of Zombie madness released in March 2021.
“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.”
It seems like only yesterday, but it’s been more than a decade since Staind first exploded onto the hard rock vanguard. In that time, the Massachussetts-based quartet has staked a claim as one of modern music’s most powerful and provocative outfits, combining aggressive hard rock energy with singer/songwriter Aaron Lewis’s raw, heartfelt lyricism and gift for undeniable melody resulting into a magnificent, multi-platinum career. Marked by 15 million album sales worldwide, eight top ten singles across multiple formats with three songs hitting number one, and the most-played rock song of the past decade, “It’s Been Awhile,” Staind has solidified their name as a top hard rock act with three out of seven albums—Break the Cycle, 14 Shades of Grey, and Chapter V—debuting at #1 on the Billboard Top 200.
Lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Aaron Lewis, guitarist Mike Mushok, and bassist Johnny April united as Staind in February 1995, and since then have ridden an endless wave of continual artistic growth and escalating success; all accomplished without the petty personal dramas and ego-driven power plays that traditionally mark such an incredible career. Staind’s self-released 1996 debut, “TORMENTED,” along with near-constant shows throughout the New England area, spawned the birth of the band’s fervent fan following. Word about the band spread like wildfire through the music industry, ultimately attracting the attention of Flip Records, who in 1999 unleashed Staind’s initial breakthrough, “DYSFUNCTION.” Fueled by tracks such as “Mudshovel” and “Home,” the album proved a true sensation, going on to achieve double-platinum certification for sales exceeding 2 million.
In 1999, Staind hit the road as part of the Family Values Tour, joining a line-up that included such stars as Limp Bizkit, Korn, and Primus. The band’s original set quickly became the highlight of each night’s show, due especially to a poignant new song performed by Lewis and headliner Fred Durst. “Outside,” as eventually included on “THE FAMILY VALUES TOUR 1999” companion CD, launched Staind to the head of the hard rock pack. 2001’s “BREAK THE CYCLE” sealed the deal, entering the Billboard 200 at #1 with first week sales of over 700,000.
The RIAA gold-certified “MTV UNPLUGGED” DVD was released in 2002, followed the next year by the critically-acclaimed “14 SHADES OF GREY.” The album was Staind’s second consecutive #1 debut, going on to double-platinum status via the success of the singles “Zoe Jane,” – written for Lewis’ first daughter – “Price To Play,” and “So Far Away,” which topped Billboard’s “Mainstream Rock” chart for 14 weeks.
Staind toured hard behind “14 SHADES OF GREY,” playing sold-out shows around the world into 2004. After a brief – and well-earned – break, the band hit the studio and in August 2005, unleashed “CHAPTER V,” their third consecutive release to arrive in the pole position on the Billboard 200. Their most evocative and inventive work to date, the album spawned yet another “Mainstream Rock” #1 hit in “Right Here,” along with further radio smashes in “Falling” and “Everything Changes” (a new acoustic version of which is a highlight of “THE SINGLES: 1996-2006”).
“CHAPTER V” was followed by hard touring, including headline treks and Aaron Lewis solo shows that featured a number of compelling new songs and provocative covers of artists which inspired Staind from the very beginning. With the release of “THE SINGLES: 1996-2006,” Staind closed the book on their amazing first decade.
Staind’s sixth studio album “The Illusion Of Progress,” contains an array of Staind “firsts” that earmarked the release: It’s the first album where guitarist Mike Mushok wrote and recorded on a standard guitar rather than his customary baritone. Despite the band’s heralded run of ten Top 10 hits at radio – including four No. 1 singles – it’s the first time that they have recorded a song that they almost feel can be classified as a pop song, and it is also the first time that front man Aaron Lewis has taken a political stance lyrically. On that same lyrical front, Mushok is proud to point out (with a laugh) that “Consciously, I don’t think Aaron says the word ‘pain’ once throughout the record!”
For their seventh studio album, the band decided to dive into bleaker recesses than ever before and surfaced with their heaviest and most hypnotic album to date – the self-titled, STAIND, which debuted at #5 on the Billboard Top 200 charts.
Lamb of God
“For millions of headbangers, Lamb of God are simply the most important contemporary metal band in the world.” – Guitar World
Demagoguery, divisiveness, unrest, desperation, poverty, exploitation: if ever there were a time for a definitive mission statement from the modern standard-bearers of extreme music fury, that time is now. Thankfully, for the anxious and restless around the world, LAMB OF GOD delivers.
It’s not an accident that the latest album from the internationally acclaimed metal institution arrives with nothing more than LAMB OF GOD as its title. On their eighth studio album, the prime architects of the explosive New Wave of American Heavy Metal assemble ten songs of unrelenting might, encompassing every aspect of what they do best. The Grammy-nominated titans, beloved around the world with the same devotion as spiritual forefathers and touring comrades Slayer and Metallica, enter the new decade with an uncompromising new testament.
The band’s first album in nearly five years is a bold declaration of identity and intent, backed by the sharpest weapons in their renowned arsenal, from the invigorating dynamic anthem “Memento Mori” to the breakneck pummel of the penultimate album closer, “On the Hook.”
D. Randall Blythe is as angry, insightful, and informed as ever, contextualizing and harnessing a subcultural born angst with an everyman venom no politician could possess. Guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler riff as if they may never riff again, injecting the album with a mountain of thrash, groove, shred, and stripped-down aggression in equal measure, demonstrating more than ever before why Guitar World hails them for their eclectic “wizardry.”
The formidable and fluid bass playing of John Campbell looms large as a rhythmic shadow, making use of every fingertip with the same aggression found on the Burn the Priest demo tape in 1997, finetuned by more than two decades of experience in clubs, theaters, arenas, and festival stages. Art Cruz, who rose to prominence as one of the genre’s top touring drummers with Lamb of God as his favorite band, makes his recorded debut with the band with a whirlwind introduction. Like the historic additions of Bruce Dickinson, Jason Newsted, or Paul Bostaph, Cruz commands his position with passion, sweat, and expansive dynamics, reenergizing Lamb of God’s overall sound.
Twenty years prior to the release of Lamb of God, the Richmond, Virginia born quintet gave heavy metal a violent shove into the new millennium with the prophetically titled New American Gospel. Kerrang! called it the “dawn for the most brutally aggressive band since Pantera.” As the Palaces Burn (2003) made the Rolling Stone list of the Top 100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time.
Ashes of the Wake (2004) was the first Lamb Of Gold album to be certified gold by the RIAA, a feat all but impossible for a contemporary extreme metal band. Sacrament (2006) went gold as well, on the heels of its Top 10 Billboard 200 chart debut. Instant classics “Walk with Me in Hell” and “Redneck” contributed to Sacrament’s Album of the Year status in Revolver Magazine.
The raw and organic malice of Wrath (2009), which began the band’s enduring relationship with producer Josh Wilbur (Gojira, Avenged Sevenfold, Korn), earned Lamb of God the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hard Rock, Rock, and Tastemaker charts, with a No. 2 position on the Billboard 200. Those No. 1 positions were repeated with the boundary-smashing Resolution (2012), which swung effortlessly between thrash, traditional metal, sludgy doom, and flashes of crust punk with swagger and bravado. Like its predecessor, VII: Sturm und Drang (2015) debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. It was voted Best Metal Album of 2015 by the often difficult-to-please Metal Sucks, and the single “512” received a Grammy nod for the “Best Metal Performance”, their fifth nomination.
Multiple cover stories over the years, published by the likes of Revolver, Metal Hammer, Kerrang!, Rock Sound, Rock Hard, Decibel, Outburn, and even the Indian edition of Rolling Stone, demonstrate the massive interest in what Randy Blythe has to say. And there is no shortage of topics on Lamb of God, delivered through the author and photographer’s most famous medium. There was no shortage of riffs, either, the result of multiple sessions spread over several months.
Lamb of God was even more collaborative than recent records, where the track listings could be broken down more easily into “this is a Mark song, this is a Willie song.” As Morton explains, they began to consciously move back toward a more mashed up approach with VII, hearkening back to the days of As the Palaces Burn. “It started on the last record and continued on this one.”
“We both had a lot of material going into this album, but we made an effort to really have each other’s back,” Adler confirms. “We wanted to get back to the way that we used to do it.”
“I heard the demos from the writing sessions soon after they were done,” Blythe recalls. “There’s Willie’s demonically prolific output, along with Mark’s, and it came in waves. It was alarming.”
The guitarists got together several times to sort through songs and collaborate, in different locales, alongside Wilbur at The Halo Studio in the South Windham historic district of Maine or at a studio in Virginia Beach, about 90 minutes from Richmond. Work on the instrumental demos was broken up by the group’s main support slot on Slayer’s “The Final Campaign”, providing distance from the works-in-progress as they played their best-known songs. “I was really stoked on that aspect of it,” Adler says. “Moving forward, I would vote to do it the same way again.”
Morton agrees. “Normally it’s preproduction and then straight into the studio, but the way this one was fragmented and spaced out – sometimes by months – was really beneficial.” Once the band came together in Mark’s detached garage, where they rehearse, the songs came together as well. As Campbell notes, “Resurrection Man” is “a song that came together in that room, in preproduction, as opposed to the songs Willie and Mark had worked up beforehand.”
Blythe came armed to disrupt, demolish, and rebuild in all of the ways only aggressive music can, taking a page from the revolutionary self-starting personal politics of early punk, with an atom bomb sized disdain for current affairs. There aren’t any songs about any specific individual. Instead the record examines the state of the world and looks to the root causes of our problems.
“You try to pick the lesser of / but evil doesn’t come in twos,” Blythe warns in “Checkmate,” the second song on Lamb of God. “Make America hate again and bleed the sheep to sleep.” In “New Colossal Hate,” he laments, “the melting pot is melting down.” The epidemic of addiction is another target of the singer’s ire, as he links the opioid crisis to crack cocaine, to the Vietnam War, the Iran-Contra scandal, and of course, to Park Avenue. “Reality Bath” takes an unflinching look at mass shootings, with extra venom reserved for perhaps the vilest of them all: in schools.
“It’s addressing this whole generation, my daughter included, that’s growing up learning to hide in active shooter situations,” says Mark. “The second verse is about the rainforest disappearing. It’s talking about real things, very current subject matter, but it’s also a throwback to me, in a sense. It reminds me of when I was coming up as a teenager, when thrash music was very topical. I learned about a lot of issues and had a lot of conversations through music. Whether it was Sacred Reich or Megadeth, thrash metal was very political. This album has a lot of that.”
“Everything is shifting so swiftly, it’s impossible to put your finger on any one topical issue, since it’ll change tomorrow, so I chose to write this record about the global mental environment that has allowed this fucked up situation to occur,” Blythe explains. “I wrote down a list of topics I wanted to address. ‘Where did all this craziness start?’ The societal sickness from whence everything stems. I believe all of our problems stem from the creation of consumer culture, starting with the Industrial Revolution. And that’s what inspired the song, ‘Gears.’”
“Distraction flows down an obsessive stream / rejection grows into oppressive screams.” “Memento Mori” observes seeing the dangers inherent to a constantly “connected” culture. But it isn’t delivered without hope. “A prime directive to disconnect / reclaim yourself and resurrect.”
“Memento Mori” opens the album, but it arrives at the middle point in the lyric sheet. “There are two sequences,” notes Randy.” There’s the musical sequence, which is the flow of the album, and then there’s the lyrical sequence. In the lyric booklet, the lyrics are printed sequentially. I start by pointing out several glaring problems, the most important ones in my mind, and the root of them. Then it moves into a feeling that you can resist this stuff, to a feeling of hope. I could sit here and be a negative Nancy, and just write a completely 100% nihilist record, which I might have done if I were still 27 years old and drinking. It was important for me to have positivity in here, to keep the PMA, as the bad brains have taught us, which starts on an individual level.”
Even in an age of streaming and shuffling, sequencing remains of paramount importance to all five men of Lamb of God. “Albums are meant to be listened to front to back,” declares Adler. “We are privileged just to be able to release an album into the world. [But] you can have a bunch of great songs but if they’re not in the right order then an album just isn’t what it should be.”
“Every time we put out a record, we’ve had many somewhat heated discussions about [the song order],” Campbell says. “We very much look at it as an album more than a collection of songs.”
“This album is very representative of everything that Lamb of God does,” Morton declares. Which comes back to the decision to call the album, simply, LAMB OF GOD. “The whole vibe within the camp at this moment just lends itself to it,” Adler says.
“We feel very strongly about this record and about who and what we are,” Campbell agrees. “Putting our name on it is a statement,” Randy says. “This is Lamb of God. Here and now.”
Three decades ago, B-Real, Sen Dog, and DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill sparked a trip that left popular culture stoned, stunned, and staggering in anticipation for more. In 1988, the trio certainly didn’t look like any other hip-hop collective, sound like anything on the radio, or smoke like any homie, headbanger, hasher, or hippie. Instead, they rolled up intense rhymes, hard rock attitude, smoked-out psychedelic production, and Latin swagger into a one-of-a-kind strain on the legendary double-platinum Cypress Hill in 1991.
Not to mention, they made history as “the first Latino American hip-hop recording group to go platinum.”
Next up, 1993’s Black Sunday bowed at #1 on the Billboard Top 200, earned a triple-platinum certification, garnered three GRAMMY® Award nominations, and became “the highest Soundscan recording for a rap group at the time.” The platinum Cypress Hill III: Temples of Boom followed in 1995 as 1998’s Cypress Hill IV went gold. In 2000, they merged heavy metal and hip-hop like no other on the platinum Skull & Bones with iconic assists from the likes of Eminem, Deftones, and more. Stoned Raiders  and Til Death Do Us Part  emerged on its heels, while Rise Up  scored a Top 10 debut on the Billboard Top 200. Along the way, they sold over 20 million albums, packed venues around the globe, and embedded themselves in pop culture as immortalized by a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2019 and getting animated for an episode of The Simpsons. They would also be sampled by everyone from JAY-Z and Black Eyed Peas to A$AP Rocky and Vic Mensa with Chance the Rapper.
Among countless hits, VH1 dubbed “Insane in the Brain” one of the “100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop.” Also, who could forget the trailer for Denzel Washington’s Academy® Award-winning turn in Training Day soundtracked by “Rock Superstar?” It would also certainly be fair to say the bilingual “Latin Lingo” broke down doors for “Bodak Yellow” and “Despacito.” Additionally, the guys waved the flag for legalization and cannabis culture from the onset of their career and via the highly successful Smokeout Festival brand.
However, some things don’t change, and Cypress keep forging ahead. That brings us to the group’s ninth full-length studio album, Elephants On Acid. Comprised of a 21-track-interlude mix, this opus plays out like a rap odyssey around the world, through other dimensions, and back to the hood. For as far as the vision stretches, the union of B-Real, Sen Dog, and Muggs felt familiar in the best way possible. Muggs commenced collating possible ideas for a new record as early as 2013. After dreaming of an out-of-body experience as a man with an elephant head, the vision percolated for the producer. At the same time, he crafted beats around the world, recording in Egypt between spending time alone in King Solomon’s Tomb, making beats in Jordan after floating in the Dead Sea, and experiencing Joshua Tree with third eye wide open. Bringing these ideas back home, B-Real and Sen Dog added their respective truths via one hard-hitting verse after another on tracks like the single “Crazy,” “Band of Gypsies,” “Stairway to Heaven,” and more. Longtime percussionist Eric “Bobo” Correa contributes drums to “Locos” and remains a key force in the touring lineup. The legendary Mix Master Mike will also join the group on tour—both he and “Bobo” notably logged separate stints with Beastie Boys and now will be with Cypress. In the end, Elephants on Acid represents all things Cypress through and through. — Rick Florino, July 2018
Gojira tends to operate in polar extremes. “I can’t help but see humanity as a parasite,” Gojira’s
co-founding guitarist and principal songwriter Joe Duplantier explains, “and yet the most
beautiful things come out of humans.” To that end, the French quartet—Duplantier and his
brother Mario [drums], Christian Andreu [guitar], and Jean-Michel Labadie [bass]—have spent
the past 15 years translating this duality into a distinctive sound: dark, crushing metal brightened
by triumphant arena-rock melodies, contrast-heavy and emotionally charged.
Enter 2016’s Magma, whereupon Gojira found strength—and crossover success—through a
singular commitment to self-reflection. The intensely personal record, penned in memory of the
Duplantier brothers’ late mother, was a painful significant turning point for the French group. It
debuted at No. 24 on the Billboard 200 chart, topped the Billboard “Hard Rock Albums” chart (a
first for a French band), and netted nominations for Best Rock Album and Best Metal
Performance (for “Silvera”) at the 59th annual Grammy Awards. Numerous global headlining
tours, including a stint with Metallica, followed. Coming out of Magma, Gojira weren’t just one of
the biggest metal bands on the scene—they were one of biggest rock bands in the world,
unified and self-emboldened.
Humbled and honored as he was by Magma’s success, Duplantier came out of that victory lap
feeling exhausted—and eager to move on. “Magma marked a sad moment in our lives,” Joe
says of the record. “We were expressing grief, so it was a bit heavy: not only to the process of
making that album, but also talking about it, and playing the songs, and doing all of these
interviews around a difficult time in our lives.”
And so, Gojira made a group decision: for album number seven, Fortitude, they’d have some
damn fun. In late 2019, the brothers Duplantier returned to Silver Cord Studio, their Ridgewood,
Queens, headquarters, to begin work on new, self-produced Gojira material, culled from ideas
they’d developed over the past two years. “With this album, we wanted to come back with more
joy, more power, and more positivity about life in general,” Joe explains. “We’re so lucky to do
what we love; it’s not like we were depressed or anything, but we had something in our system
to express—Magma—and we felt like it was time for something else—something that is all
“The writing process was very thrilling and exciting,” Mario adds. “Joe and I really dug deep into
every song, paying particular attention to the structures and arrangements. Every idea, every
single riff, was analyzed with a fine-tooth comb: everything from the tonality of each instrument
and scales used, to the dynamics, interpretation, and tempo. We left nothing to chance.”
Of course, 2020 had other plans. Just as Fortitude was nearing completion—halfway through
the mixing process, to be exact—COVID-19 hit, bringing Gojira, along with the rest of the
world—to an abrupt halt. While waiting out the lockdown back home in France with his family,
Joe re-examined the songs from a post-pandemic perspective; not only did they fit the turmoil of
the time, in hindsight, they were downright prophetic. “In a way, I saw these songs being born
again with a new meaning,” he says. “Every single song ever written resonates differently these
days, but it’s almost like we felt like this was going to happen.”
To be clear, Fortitude isn’t intended as a musical escape hatch from all this unending global
misery. Actually, it’s the opposite: a series of searing motivational speeches urging humanity to
imagine a new world—and then make it happen. “Come on! Get back on your feet! Go for it!”
Joe says of the album’s themes, briefly stepping into the role of life coach. “Everyone wants to
hear that once in a while, and we want to be that to people: the little voice in your head that says
you’re a fucking badass, and that you can do it.”
First single “Born For One Thing” kicks off the album in typical Gojira fashion: hyper-focused but
unhinged, confrontational and yet compassionate. “We have to practice detaching ourselves
from everything, beginning with actual things,” Joe says of the song’s anti-consumerist
message, which was partially inspired by the Tibetan and Thai philosophers he read in his youth
back in France. “Own less possessions, and give what you don’t need away, because one day
we’ll have to let everything go, and if we don’t, we’ll just become ghosts stuck between
Gojira pivot to more earthly concerns on “Amazonia,” a lush ripper interwoven with indigenous
folk instruments and Sepultura-inspired groove-metal rhythms. The soundscapes skew verdant,
but the themes prove anything but idyllic, as Duplantier surveys the endangered Amazon
rainforest, concluding: “The greatest miracle/ Is burning to the ground.” Proceeds from the song
will benefit the indigenous Guarani and Kaiowa tribes, continuing Gojira’s career-long tradition
of harnessing their music as a vehicle for environmental activism (their partnership with the Sea
Shepherd Conservation Society goes back over a decade). “We don’t want to just release a
song called “Amazonia”—we want to do something on top of that,” Joe explains. “We feel a
responsibility as artists to offer a way for people to take action.”
The album-long call to action comes to a head with “The Chant,” a slow-burning track singled
out by Mario as Gojira’s most melodic material to date. Where past anthems were driven by
nuanced dynamics and technical guitar arrangements, “The Chant” is a self-described “healing
ritual” emanating primordial warmth, culminating in a harmony-stacked chorus that bridges the
gap between ancient hymnals and contemporary rock. Consider Joe’s two-word rallying cry in
the refrain—“Get strong!”—Fortitude’s mantra, as well as the band’s mission statement heading
into this new, uncertain decade. Gojira struggled; Gojira persevered; Gojira rose. Now, it’s our
turn…and the soundtrack is at the ready.
After more than two decades together, numerous top-charting releases, and countless worldwide tours, CHEVELLE—the outfit consisting of brothers Pete Loeffler [guitars, vocals], Sam Loeffler [drums]—have confidently sailed through decades of uncharted waters and have emerge with a sound that is equally intricate as it is intimate. Now, the understated musical powerhouse, who have consistently delivered rock anthems, will unleash their ninth full length album, NIRATIAS, on March 5th, 2021.
After almost 5 years between studio albums, the band felt despite the musical landscape growing more uncertain during unprecedented times, the time was right to unleash the new collection of songs.
“We decided that pandemic or not, we are a rock band. Writing and releasing music is just what we do,” the band says. “Even for our mental health, it’s reason enough to put NIRATIAS out and feel some normalcy and pride in what we have been working on. As music fans, we appreciate this from the bands we follow, and we hope our fans will appreciate it, too.”
NIRATIAS draws upon Pete’s fascination with space travel, simulation theory and a healthy distrust and skepticism of the unknown. NIRATIAS was recorded over 2019 and 2020 with longtime producer Joe Barresi.
The album builds upon the pair’s impressive discography. To-date, Chevelle has achieved Multi- Platinum, Platinum and Gold certifications across 8 studio albums and 7 number one hits, with 17 songs reaching the Top 10 on the Rock charts. The band has sold over 5 million albums in the US, and more world-wide. Their extensive body of acclaimed work includes the 2002 Multi-Platinum selling genre staple Wonder What’s Next and the 2004 Platinum selling follow-up This Type of Thinking Could Do Us In, which debuted #8 on the Billboard Top 200. The releases that followed held their own against the ever changing faces of popular music: 2007’s Gold record selling Vena Sera reached #2 on the Billboard Rock Albums Chart while 2009’s Sci-Fi Crimes debuted #6 on the Billboard Top 200 and #1 on the Alternative Chart. 2011’s Hats Off to The Bull (#5 on Billboard Top 200), 2014’s La Gargola (#3), and 2016’s The North Corridor (#8, #1 Rock) built upon the success. In 2018, Chevelle released a B-sides and rarities collection entitled 12 Bloody Spies while they wrote and recorded the new album.
With no signs of this Chicago alternative rock staple slowing down, their numerous chart topping releases have certainly earned this band their place in American rock music history. NIRATIAS will be sure to add another chapter to the extensive catalog of this successful music career.
“You don’t want to repeat yourself,” affirms Sam. “We want to seize something different with each song. Every record has to take on its own identity. As an artist, you have to progress and evolve.” As they continue to master their craft, Chevelle take on the critics and prove time and time again that they are a force to be reckoned with.
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.”
Stone Temple Pilots
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.
Falling In Reverse
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.”
Like few rock bands today, BEARTOOTH harness the sacred and profane, and purge inner darkness with a dizzying light. Steadily, without pretension, the fearlessly determined and boundlessly creative Midwest powerhouse perfects a sound sought by a generation of bands, equal parts solitary musical confession and celebratory exorcism. Their marriage of colossally catchy choruses and post-hardcore- soaked-in-sweaty-metal is without rival. Its effect is evident by their deeply engaged audience; tours with Slipknot, Bring Me The Horizon, and A Day To Remember; and a RIAA-certified gold plaque. It’s all a testament to the purity of intention manifested by frontman Caleb Shomo from the start.
A handful of bands play the “devastating riffs and catchy hooks” game, but for BEARTOOTH, this music is the difference between life and death. As easygoing, charming, and outgoing as these young men may appear, there’s an inner turmoil churning away, only satiated by the savage music they play. Suicidal ideation, emotional desolation, and desperate dark nights of the soul are chewed up and spat out in song after song; cathartic singalong anthems like “Body Bag,” “Sick of Me,” and “In Between.”
BEARTOOTH’s blistering fourth album, Below, is a pure distillation of rage. A savage attack against mental illness and an outright refusal to suffer in silence, Below weaponizes its deceptively radio-ready bombast to deliver stone cold truth missives, each packed like a bomb with noisy rock chaos. Songs like “Fed Up,” “Dominate,” “Hell Of It,” and the expansive album closer “The Last Riff” are destined to stand beside the strongest of BEARTOOTH’s catalog and moreover, in metal’s pantheon.
When Rolling Stone introduced BEARTOOTH as one of 10 New Artists You Need To Know, the sound was rightly described as “like a nervous breakdown, usually with enough optimism to push through.” As the band grows (grabbing trophies at genre events like the Golden Gods and Loudwire Awards), the raw nerve simply becomes more exposed, sounding crazier yet accessible all at once.
Back in Black was the first album Shomo ever bought with his own money, and the straight-to-the-point stomp of AC/DC’s multi-platinum masterpiece remains entrenched in the BEARTOOTH backbone. Motörhead’s fast-paced groove and “let it rip” attitude is another part of the anatomy, central to what separates the Metallica/Slayer-worshipping crew from their Warped Tour comrades.
Shomo delivers his confessional catchy-metal on the stage with guitarists Zach Huston and Will Deely, bassist Oshie Bichar, and drummer Connor Denis. The five friends converge as an explosive, formidable live unit. Their shared commitment to leave everything they have on the stage, each and every time, earned consistent accolades in tastemaker publications like Kerrang! and Revolver.
Below was written, performed, produced, engineered, mixed, and mastered by Caleb. Like Nine Inch Nails, Tame Impala, and the first Foo Fighters album, BEARTOOTH is a one-man band in the studio. It began as musical exorcism, conceived and constructed in Shomo’s home recording sanctuary, a means to tame the demons of debilitating depression and anxiety he’s suffered since childhood.
BEARTOOTH’s 2013 Sick EP was an emotionally-stranded Shomo’s “message in a bottle,” tossed into a figurative ocean. The message was received, and the throngs of likeminded people who responded became his lifeboat. Disgusting (2014), Aggressive (2016), Disease (2018), and Below (2021) expanded those themes of desperation, each sonically getting a step closer to the magical balance between the blood, sweat, and tears of classic recordings and the smooth gloss of modern production.
Below revels in the darker underbelly of traditional metal, soaked in stoner rock tones and doomy dirge. BEARTOOTH offer no cure. The recovery comes in the process; the journey is the destination. As long as the dueling dichotomy of mental health anguish and cathartic creative expression remain bound together, Shomo and his mates will be here to oversee the show. So please, enjoy the ride.
Through an unwavering dedication to progression, Wage War sharpen their patented hybrid of heavy pit-starting technicality and hummable hypnotic melodies with each subsequent evolution. Look no further than the aptly titled third full-length from the Florida quintet, Pressure [Fearless Records]. The band—Briton Bond [lead vocals], Cody Quistad [rhythm guitar, clean vocals], Seth Blake [lead guitar], Chris Gaylord [bass], and Stephen Kluesener [drums]—drove themselves to fully realize their ambition by pushing harder. A whirlwind four years set the foundation for such a statement. The group’s 2015 debut, Blueprints, yielded multiple fan favorites with “Alive” cracking 12 million Spotify streams and “The River” exceeding 8 million to date. Meanwhile, 2017’s Deadweight established the boys as a rising force. Totaling nearly 50 million cumulative streams in two years, the single “Stitch” racked up 14 million streams on Spotify as Deadweight received widespread praise from MetalInjection, New Noise, Metal Hammer, and Rock Sound who dubbed it, “a relentless, genre-evolving treat.” Meanwhile, they toured alongside everyone from I Prevail and Of Mice & Men to Parkway Drive and A Day To Remember, logging countless miles on the road. In order to approach their next evolution from a different angle, Wage War enlisted the talents of producer Drew Fulk (Motionless in White, Lil Peep, IDKHOW)and recorded in Los Angeles for the first time, delivering a bold body of work.
Sleeping With Sirens
It starts at ground zero. By wiping the slate clean and turning the page to the next chapter, Sleeping With Sirens re-center, recalibrate, and realign on their fifth full-length and first album for Sumerian Records, How It Feels to Be Lost. The gold-certified quintet—Kellin Quinn [vocals, keyboards], Jack Fowler [lead guitar], Nick Martin [rhythm guitar], Justin Hills [bass], and Gabe Barham [drums]—amplify the impact of their unpredictable fretwork, velvet vocal acrobatics, and hypnotically heavy alternative transmissions without compromise.
In essence, the band strips itself to the core and uncovers what it sought all along…
“We needed to get back into a room and not care about the outcome,” exclaims Kellin. “We needed to sit down and write something from our hearts we really love and believe in without regard for opinion. That’s what we did. We didn’t care about the result. We wrote one song, liked it, and moved on. Everything finally fell into place.”
The time turned out to be right for them to do so.
Since emerging in 2010, Sleeping With Sirens have tested the boundaries of rock by walking a tightrope between pop, punk, metal, hardcore, electronic, acoustic, and even a little R&B. This high-wire balancing act attracted a faithful fan base known as “Strays,” generated global album sales in excess of 1.5 million, ignited over half-a-billion streams, and achieved a trio of gold-selling singles: “If I’m James Dean, You’re Audrey Hepburn,” “If You Can’t Hang,” and “Scene Two-Roger Rabbit.” They launched two albums—Feel and Madness—into the Top 15 of the Billboard Top 200. Additionally, they collaborated with MGK on “Alone” and Pierce the Veil on the gold-certified “King For A Day.” Beyond selling out shows worldwide and receiving acclaim from The New York Times, Alternative Press crowned them “Artist of the Year” at the Alternative Press Music Awards, proclaimed “Kick Me” the 2015 “Song of the Year”, and featured them as cover stars a whopping seven times.
However, everything came to a head during 2017. In the midst of the tour cycle for Gossip, Kellin found himself at rock bottom under a haze of depression and alcoholism.
Reaching a fork in the road, the future of the band hung in the balance.
“I let everything go,” he admits. “I wasn’t being the leader I had always been. For the last few years, I was struggling with alcoholism, depression, and anxiety. I didn’t know how to turn it around or what to do. Being on the road and touring as much as we did for Gossip was really hard on me. I didn’t know if I even had it in me to write another record or get on stage and perform. Something just happened one day. I woke up, called Jack, and said, ‘Hey, I want to stop drinking. I want to go into a room and write the best record we’ve ever written’. Both of those things happened within a week.”
With Kellin free from alcohol as of December 2018, he and Jack holed up at MDDN studio in Los Angeles and got to work. This time around, they welcomed longtime friends Zakk Cervini [blink-182] and Matt Good [Asking Alexandria] behind the board as producers. Jack cooked up “dark music” that immediately resonated with the frontman.
The whole process “felt organic,” as he recalls. “The music reflected exactly where I was at.”
As a result, the first single and opener “Leave It All Behind” exudes an undeniable sense of urgency. A buoyant riff seesaws between electronic echoes before converging on a vocal crescendo topped off by a hard-hitting scream and distorted crash.
“Sometimes, you get those thoughts,” he sighs. “You wonder, ‘What would happen if I wasn’t here?’ I put it into perspective. There are people who listen to my band. There’s my family who rely on, love, and me. I realize it’s important to stick around, because we can figure it out together. This is also a reminder for the youth to keep fighting.”
The follow-up “Agree to Disagree” tempers a snaky bass line and a rush of vocals with a bold falsetto-punctuated declaration, “I like the nighttime, better.”
“We can sit around and argue all day long, but it doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong,” he continues. “We need to realize if we can’t agree, let’s find a way to coexist. We have to be open to understanding others, even if we’re aren’t one-hundred percent on the same page.”
Elsewhere, the equally anthemic and addictive “Medicine” confronts Kellin’s demons head on as it details “being up late at night drinking.” The finale “Dying To Believe” extracts comfort from darkness beneath cover of strings and guitars with a “thank you” for the fans and reminder “to see the best in yourselves.”
In many ways, the title, How It Feels To Be Lost, hints at actualization as much as it does potential.
“It felt like we finally found what we were looking for with this record,” Kellin smiles. “The lyrics, the emotion, the musicianship, and the production are all there. It’s the best we could do. It’s going to be exciting to get on stage and perform these songs. We finally found ourselves.”
In finding themselves, Sleeping With Sirens emerge with their most dynamic and definitive body of work to date.
“Certain records have saved our lives,” Kellin leaves off. “They became staples that I put on. They got me through hard times in my life if I needed to scream or sing my heart out or just feel thrashing guitars and loud music. This album brings all of those sides together. I want this to be our anthem for new fans. To the diehards, we want this to do justice for you. It’s what you’ve been waiting for.”
Dance Gavin Dance
Dance Gavin Dance fully indulges the extremes of creativity. They mine the outer reaches of the rock music landscape with thrilling abandon. Their ambitious blend of heady progressive rock and post-hardcore became something uniquely their own.
Dance Gavin Dance fans have streamed “We Own the Night” nearly 12 million times on Spotify alone, with staple catalog anthems “Chucky vs. the Giant Tortoise,” “Young Robot,” “Inspire the Liars,” and “Deception” accounting for another 30 million streams on top of that. Their albums regularly chart in the Billboard 200, each of the last three progressively higher than the last, from Top 40 to the Top 15.
An international touring act for over a decade, Dance Gavin Dance has done Vans Warped Tour three times, toured with the likes of Underoath, A Day To Remember and Pierce The Veil, performed at major festivals, and headlined sold out club tours.
Where most bands erroneously claim wholly distinct identities, Dance Gavin Dance truly defies categorization. The Sacramento based outfit possess the kind of artistic compass shared with broadminded but heavy metal and hardcore-punk rooted iconoclasts like The Mars Volta and Coheed & Cambria, but use it to diverge wildly, charting a new course that incorporates the melodic screamo of Thursday or Taking Back Sunday, with a taste of the earnest pop melancholy of Death Cab For Cutie.
The current and most definitive incarnation of Dance Gavin Dance is responsible for half of the band’s albums, including their most recent effort, Artificial Selection. The new record is the strongest and most wondrously diverse showcase yet for the lauded post-hardcore experimentalists, equal parts intense, melodic, and unbound.
There’s the angelic and R&B infused highs of the sweet voiced Tilian Pearson; the unhinged guttural growls and chaotic screams of cofounder Jon Mess; the dizzyingly unpredictable arpeggio-led guitar crunch of cofounder Will Swan; the soulful poly-rhythmic backbone of longtime bassist Tim Feerick; and the mind-blowingly powerful nuanced foundation laid by drummer and cofounder Matt Mingus.
It’s all even bigger than ever on Artificial Selection, brought to life by close collaborator and producer Kris Crummett (Sleeping With Sirens, Crown The Empire, Issues). Dance Gavin Dance’s ambitious adventurousness and experimental spirit continues to differentiate them from the pack, from the funkier slow jam of “Count Bassy” to the heavy screamo of “The Rattler.” There’s a throwback to the Death Star era of the band’s sophomore album, “Shelf Life,” complete with former singer Kurt Travis. “Midnight Crusade” and “Bloodsucker” are guaranteed crowd pleasers. “Son of Robot” goes on an epic musical journey, from mournful to vengeful full stop.
As the Boston Globe astutely observed, “Dance Gavin Dance resists pigeonholing… heavy, ambitious, and sometimes witty rock that seizes on the past few decades of edge-dwelling music, places it all in a blender, and puts the speed on high.” (There’s even Motown, funk, pop, dance, and heaping helpings of indie rock in that blender.)
Now more than a dozen years on from their inception, Dance Gavin Dance celebrates an insurgent career, in the tradition of iconoclastic artists from Frank Zappa to Nirvana who did what they wanted, how they wanted, confident that an audience would catch-up. Eight studio albums deep, a thriving fanbase champions the band’s irreverent diversity and propulsive power.
Visionary media collective STARSET have carved out a unique path as part cinematic rock band, part conceptual storytellers, weaving an intricate narrative through multimedia and redefining the concept of a truly immersive entertainment experience. Led by enigmatic frontman and PhD candidate Dustin Bates, the band have made it their mission to take fans on a journey through music, video, AR-integrated performances, a Marvel graphic novel and online experiences, blurring the lines of science, fact, and fiction. The band’s third album DIVISIONS provides the soundtrack to the next chapter of their overarching narrative – one of a dystopian future world divided by the technology that has taken over in a war for human consciousness – those obeying and implementing it, and those fighting against it. Clues have been left behind by The Starset Society through a series of transmissions of what will occur in the future. These have been seeded throughout the campaign for fans to find and for them to become part of the story itself in a search for knowledge and to reveal new music.
Ice Nine Kills
In a landscape littered with celebrity fakes and would-be influencers, ICE NINE KILLS stand apart. Visionary trailblazers and multimedia raconteurs, INK has steadily built a thrilling new underworld for a growing legion of devoted true believers, with theatrical shows, high-concept videos, and inventive band-to-fan communion.
Ice Nine Kills summon the most captivating elements of metal, punk and hard rock and combine it with melody, cinematic obsession, and a literary fascination.
Loudwire hails them as “one of the most unique acts in metal right now,” a declaration supported by the band’s Billboard Hard Rock Albums chart topping slab, The Silver Scream. 13 songs of devilishly devious odes to classic horror, The Silver Scream generated anthems for the disenfranchised and subculture obsessives, like “The American Nightmare,” and broke them into Active Rock radio.
After a decade of studio wizardry and live theatricality, ICE NINE KILLS draws favorable comparisons to rock icons like Slipknot, Rob Zombie, and Marilyn Manson, via a likeminded synergy of music, lifestyle, and cult following reverence.
ICE NINE KILLS is at the forefront of the natural crosspollination of subcultures. “Heavy music and horror are both escapes from our mundane struggles,” singer Spencer Charnas points out. “You could be having the worst day, then you put on a great metal record or horror movie and forget about all of your problems.”
Rhymes and riffs incite more change than bullets and bombs ever could.
Not long after the Vietnam War, Bad Brains rallied a Rastafarian punk spirit against the international blight of apartheid and the coked-out corporate greed synonymous with eighties America. Taking aim at endemic and institutional racism, Public Enemy spoke up against the Fear of a Black Planet only four months before Operation Desert Shield descended on the Middle East. Bringing blue brutality to the forefront of the zeitgeist, N.W.A. chanted “Fuck Tha Police,” and Body Count went primal on the whole program via “Cop Killer.” Rising from the same streets that gave the world Dr. Dre and eventually Kendrick Lamar, Fishbone tackled poverty and urged for social justice. The list of sonic rebels goes on and on…
In 2018, the United States of America feels ripe for a musical uprising. Divided more than ever in its 242-year history over systemic issues of immigration, race, class warfare, inequality, and misogyny, the time for change is now. The band is The Fever 333.
Comprised of vocalist Jason Aalon Butler [ex-letlive.], drummer Aric Improta [Night Verses], and guitarist Stephen Harrison [ex-the Chariot], the Los Angeles trio lock and load gnashing guitars, guttural beats, and brazenly bold bars and then pull the trigger on a hard-hitting hybrid of hip-hop, punk, and activism.
“The movement is much greater than the music,” exclaims Butler. “The art is only a contingent piece. We want to make sure we’re just as involved in the activism and actual activation. By no means do we expect other artists to take on this task. Most of the people who made big improvements were either assassinated or just called crazy. We make it ostensibly clear that everything we do is in an active effort for change. It’s about bringing back that socio-political mindfulness. We’re trying to write the soundtrack to the revolution that we know is about to happen.”
In the midst of America’s 2017 socio-political upheaval, the singer—a self-described “bi-racial double agent who’s got a black father and a white mother”—could feel the weight “of the divisions we’ve created because of race.” After meeting Travis Barker of blink-182 by chance, he spent Super Bowl Sunday with the iconic drummer and mutual friend producer John Feldman. That day, this unholy triumvirate’s conversation inspired the songs that would eventually comprise The Fever 333’s 2018 debut.
“We started talking about black punk rock,” he recalls. “Punk rock and hip-hop are one-in-the-same. They’re always flying the flag of channeling art from discord. Travis and John supported my desire to create something a little dangerous that was subservice: musically and in ethos. We opened the floodgates together.”
Around this time, the frontman made a conscious decision to disband letlive., which he founded 15 years before. Equally inspired by the teachings of Angela Davis and the words of “hood prophets” in his native “Section 8 Inglewood,” Butler’s future agenda became etched in stone.
“I appreciate my accomplishments in letlive.,” he says. “I wanted to move forward towards a very clear-cut and specific vision. Personally, artistically, mentally, emotionally, and politically, I’m very radical, left-leaning, and unapologetic in what I believe. That’s the only way to accomplish anything, whether contemporary or long-term. letlive. had done what it was supposed to. It was time for a new era.”
Feverishly writing, each session yielded more tunes. Last summer, The Fever 333 made their live debut—quite appropriately—on July 4, 2017. They hijacked the parking lot of infamous L.A. staple Randy’s Donuts (Notably, it’s a stone’s throw from South Central where the vocalist grew up). This “Political Pool Party” preceded the storm to come.
Every element made a statement—even the lineup.
“We’ve got a black guitar player, mixed race singer, and white drummer,” he goes on. “There’s a purpose.”
On their upcoming EP, that purpose can be felt loud and clear. Fittingly, their sonic declaration of independence, “We’re Coming In,” culminates on the sharp scream, “We’re coming in, motherfucker!”
“It’s about pulling the fuck up at The White House and having a discourse with our current administration and cabinet about how what they’re doing affects us,” he sighs. “The middle class will soon be eradicated. We’re showing face in hopes to create an empathetic capsule.”
“Hunting Season” stands among a long lineage of anthems for “people of color versus the authority and that vicious cycle.” “Made In America” ignites a clarion call of buzzsaw riffing, a volley of vicious verses, and another powder keg chant.
“This country’s wealth and success were built on the backs of slaves,” he sighs. “We’re all immigrants. It’s about the fucking facts. The people in power benefit from that.”
“Walking In My Shoes” doesn’t just title another banger; it serves as the banner for The Fever 333’s activism. The Walking In My Shoes Foundation will host speakers, launch art installations, promote storytellers, and benefit partner charities such as Downtown Los Angeles-based Inner City Arts, The ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, and more.
In the end, the revolution truly starts with The Fever 333.
“‘The Fever’ involves self-possessed autonomous human beings spreading an idea of understanding and empathy from one mind to another,” he leaves off. “It’s infectious. Three is the magic number. The strongest shape in geometry is the triangle with its three points. ‘C’ is the third letter in the alphabet. The ‘Three C’s’ are ‘Community, Charity, and Change.’ The people who want to invest in this are as fucking important as we are. By invest, I don’t mean sales or awards; I mean success towards making this revolution a reality. Our generation has so much power. We have these systems in place that are completely fucked, but we’re up next. If we can rally together and cultivate this strength and solidarity, I believe we can be the change.”
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
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.
The Blood of Gods Mythos:
The story of GWAR is carved across the history of this barren and hopeless planet, but GWAR themselves are not of this world… their story begins in the deepest reaches of outer space. Long ago, the beings who would become the rock band GWAR were part of an elite fighting force, the Scumdogs of the Universe. For eons, they served as thralls to a supreme being known only as the Master. But one by one, each future member of the band earned a glaring reputation for being an intergalactic fuck-up. And so, they were banished, sent away on a fool’s errand to conquer an insignificant shitball floating in a dark corner of the universe; the planet Earth. Once here, GWAR shaped the face of the globe, destroying and rebuilding the natural world, and giving rise to all of human history. Aliens to some, gods and demons to others, our erstwhile Scumdogs fucked apes to create the human race, and this fateful unplanned pregnancy would prove to be truly disastrous!
When Ayron Jones wrote the haunting lyric, “Got me on my knees / too much smoke, can’t breathe,” heard in his new single “Mercy,” he meant the words quite literally. It was August of 2020 when he penned the song along with Marty Frederickson and Scott Stevens, and by that point, during one of the most tumultuous years in recent American history, the whole world appeared to be on fire.
“I just felt like the line epitomized where we were in America,” Jones says. “It was like taking a telescope and giving people a perspective of America from an outsider and what it felt like to experience this time. It was a rough story about what was really going on here in this country—and particularly for me, as a Black man.” Full of charged lyrics and melodies, “Mercy” strongly captures a collective consciousness of the time. It is also, though, underscored by a vision of hope and endurance: through it all, we persevere.
Jones’ own personal story—from the streets of Seattle to full-blown rock star—is no less rough, yet also one filled with perseverance and determination. His parents both battled drug addiction, and at a young age Jones was taken in by his aunt and uncle. Money was tight, and Jones struggled to understand both his place in the world and how to overcome his tumultuous youth. Yet, these very elements became the fuel to drive his early career.
Doubling down on his uniqueness with an album that harkens back to Jones’ beginnings, CHILD OF THE STATE is slated for release on May 21 via Big Machine / John Varvatos Records. “Having faced the abandonment I did as a child, and how that affected me in life, is really what this album is about,” he explains of the title. “It’s the triumph of overcoming all of that and still being that person. I’m the same kid looking for his parents, that longed for the love and support. A lot of people have faced adoption and abandonment, but it’s not really talked about as to how that affects people and I thought it was important to be a beacon of hope for those people. To stand for something and prove not everyone has to be a stereotype or statistic.”
Jones was 13 when he first picked up the guitar that belonged to his friend—one that he began visiting more frequently just so he could spend more time with the instrument. Recognizing his raw talent, his aunt and a neighbor eventually gifted him guitars, and all the while he taught himself to play, picking and strumming until the strings felt like a second skin. “I had a lot of conflicting emotions about my identity and my childhood,” explains Jones, “and until I found the guitar, I didn’t have an outlet. Writing and playing became a channel to express everything that I had been feeling, and then it just became my obsession.”
That self-sufficient tenacity continued to buoy Jones when, at the age of 19, he began releasing music independently. His talent and diligence earned him opportunities with iconic artists such as BB King, Guns N Roses, Janelle Monae, and many more; he forged a path to continuously widen his audience, and broke barriers as a Black artist in the Rock industry. Jones tells “in the early days, we would walk into clubs and be treated poorly because we didn’t look like the usual Rock band; but, after leaving the stage we had won over the hearts and minds of the crowd. We knew that we were doing something to open the door for other artists like us, not just in Seattle but across the world. Fast forward to today, and Seattle has become a Black rock city – prominent Black artists are leading the scene. I’m proud to have endured the hardships and challenges that I did as a performer, in order to open the door for those coming next.”
Jones cultivated a robust following in the Pacific Northwest, earning the embrace of the city’s musical royalty including Duff McKagan, Mike McCready, and more. His independent rise allowed him to hone his creative vision, and the partnership with Big Machine / John Varvatos Records was the next step in his musical and creative journey. Jones explains: “Had I stayed independent, I don’t think I would’ve had the opportunity to be where I am now, as a chart-topper and moving into my first major record,” he says.
CHILD OF THE STATE will feature “Mercy” as well as his Top 5 debut “Take Me Away,” which proved that there’s definitely a market for Jones’ genre-blending sound. His life is sprinkled throughout the full album, with lyrics tackling controversial subjects, and stories that listeners can relate to.
Jones weaves together complex issues of addiction and relationships, in “Spinning Circles” – You’re the want that I need / Like that cough from good weed / And those lines that you toe / That slow drip down your throat. For him, the song is autobiographical in the sense that “we have all been in relationships that were very unhealthy, where we couldn’t get rid of the person and there was something there that kept drawing us back and forth, going in circles.”
“Supercharged” stands as an anthem for his love for female energy and past muses. Jones admits, “I love love and for better or worse the abandonment in my childhood has fueled that emotion.” Masterfully upending preconceived notions of music and lyrics, the album also feeds on a palpable passion: from the bluesy “Baptized In Muddy Waters,” evoking Muddy Waters both literal and figurative, to the stripped-down and pensive “My Love Remains,” and the hard-driving soulful melody of “Boys From the Puget Sound.”
From one song to the next on the album, Jones’ love affair with the guitar and his versatility on the instrument shines through. He also played a heavy role in production on Child of the State, collaborating with producers to craft his sound and vision. “The experience of working with various individuals on the project both allowed me to express myself and my experience in the studio, plus to further my own knowledge of production.”
“I’m this cat that is playing Rock, and I probably look like I came from the hood—which I did,” Jones adds. “But I’m not the stereotype, and I want people to be taken aback. I want people to think about what CHILD OF THE STATE means. And when they open up this record by a hoodie-wearing Black man from the worst of circumstances who’s creating this sonically gorgeous music, I want people to think about that, too.”
Crown The Empire
Amigo The Devil
If you’ve ever heard a room full of people yelling “I hope your husband dies” in a some harmoniously sloppy, drunken unison, you’ve probably stumbled into an Amigo The Devil show. Danny Kiranos, better known to the masses as his musical counterpart Amigo The Devil, has been challenging the expectations of traditional folk, country music purists, and rock/extreme metal fans alike with his morbid, yet oddly romantic, take on folk that has amassed a dedicated and cult like fan-base. Despite being armed with only his vocals and a banjo/acoustic guitar, the live show is worlds away from what people expect of a folk show. Loaded with sing-alongs and an unsuspecting dose of humor to make otherwise grim topics accessible for fans of every genre, the songs remain deeply rooted in the tradition of story-telling that seems to be slipping away from the human condition.
“Spiritbox is where serene art-rock and metal savagery meet.” – Loudwire
The existential dread of isolation and the wondrous alchemy of artisans, ensconced in a self-imposed enclave of creativity, have converged in the music of SPIRITBOX. Part post-metal band, part art collective, SPIRITBOX makes magic in the musical and visual mediums, evoking spirits like that other type of “medium.” Not unlike the arcane occult technology of their namesake, SPIRITBOX communes with people all around the world, via broad emotional outbursts of sound.
Conjuring spirits through music and video as do-it-yourself artists from their remote place of worship, the burgeoning arts community of Vancouver Island, the husband and wife duo of Courtney LaPlante and Mike Stringer inspired a cult following from their first emergence in 2017. It wasn’t long before bassist Bill Crook was baptized into the fold, expanding the outfit to a trio.
A self-titled EP introduced SPIRITBOX to the world, enchanting an even broader spectrum of the esoteric minded sort. Singles Collection, the five-song set that followed in 2019, documents LaPlante’s struggle with depression, while emphasizing the band’s genre-transcending musical prowess. From melancholy to madness, from hopelessness to redemption, SPIRITBOX is a complete extension of its creators. As Revolver Magazine pointed out in a glowing profile, the band’s 2020 breakout single, “Holy Roller,” is both “insanely catchy and totally crushing.” Most strikingly perhaps, like everything SPIRITBOX, “Holy Roller” was fashioned free from compromise.
There is nothing pandering or remotely insincere about this band. That authenticity is what attracts its religiously devoted adherents, an ever-growing “denomination” of diverse people. The obsessive nature of the burgeoning fandom is a testament to the immersive quality of SPIRITBOX. As the ghostly phrase from the late ‘80s baseball movie goes, “If you build it, they will come.”
Dorothy was built around Dorothy Martin, a singer who was born in Budapest but raised in San Diego. As a child, she started singing early and eventually made her way to Los Angeles. Rolling Stone named Dorothy one of the best 50 Best New Artists of 2014 and soon after Dorothy was signed by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation.
The band’s first album ROCKISDEAD, received much critical acclaim, hitting No. 1 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Chart, No. 5 on Top Hard Rock Albums, and featured two songs (“Raise Hell” and “Dark Nights”) in the Top 40 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart. Their sophomore album, 28 Days in the Valley, kicked off with a standalone single “Down To The Bottom”, which hit No. 35 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart and which Rolling Stone called the “perfect mix of blues and alt-rock guitar crunch.” The band’s third album, GIFTS FROM THE HOLY GHOST, is expected to debut in early 2022 via Roc Nation. For more information, visit dorothytheband.com.
Fire From The Gods
The songs we can’t stop singing last forever. They soundtrack life’s most important moments and stay with us through good times and bad.
Los Angeles alternative rock band Dead Sara set out to write those kinds of songs on their 2018 EP and first release for Atlantic Records, Temporary Things Taking Up Space. The trio —Emily Armstrong [vocals and guitar], Siouxsie Medley [lead guitar] and Sean Friday [drums]— doubled down on the brash and bluesy bravado that made them a fan favorite, while sharpening the songcraft to knifepoint precision and simultaneously widening the sound’s scope.
“You listen to some songs and think, ‘Oh my God, I want to hear that again’,” says Armstrong. “After ten years of doing everything on our own, we’ve learned so much. However, we were stuck in our ways- the way we’d always done things. Why should anything be off limits? I realized we’d been too afraid, and I was hiding in my own world. I’m ready to open that world up. When we started scaring ourselves, it was the best thing possible. For the first time, I was exposing myself lyrically in a way that I’d never done before. We got more vulnerable overall. Then again, isn’t that what songwriting is all about?”
“We took the time to figure out what we wanted and how to grow as individuals,” elaborates Medley. “Then, we did that.”
Most importantly, Temporary Things Taking Up Space marks a natural step. Since the release of their 2012 self-titled debut, Dead Sara have quietly carved a foothold at the forefront of the 21st century rock vanguard through a one-two punch of raucous riffing and sky-high vocals. Along the way, the musicians earned high-profile fans such as Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick who namechecked them in The Wall Street Journal, Muse’s Matt Bellamy who invited them on tour, and Dave Grohl who proclaimed, “Dead Sara should be the next biggest rock band in the world.” Between releasing their acclaimed 2015 sophomore offering Pleasure to Meet You and endless touring, they repeatedly lit up the small screen, performing on Jimmy Kimmel LIVE!, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and during an episode of The Vampire Diaries.
In hindsight, it feels as if everything was building towards Temporary Things Taking Up Space.
“We started to open up a new chapter,” comments Friday. “We were bringing in so many different sounds.”
“Oh boy, I believe this has been a long time coming,” exclaims the frontwoman. “We had the energy, we had the passion, and we had the love for music. We were missing that one thing. We had to change in order to find it.”
Embracing an adventurous spirit, the group’s process started morphing in 2016. Rather than hit the studio with loose ideas to quickly cobble together an album, they dedicated nearly a year to writing and perfecting the new music. Another first, they welcomed collaborations with writers such as Simon Katz, and Tommy English, while enlisting Tony Hoffer [Beck, M83, Air] as producer. Musically, they further incorporated synthesizers and electronic percussive elements, confidently expanding the sonic palette.
“We went outside of the box in the approach to this EP,” Medley remarks. “The creative process was definitely different from what we’ve done in the past. We tried every avenue and didn’t limit ourselves in any way. We tried more synths and programming—which Sean really drove.”
“We’ve never spent this much time writing,” Armstrong continues. “I stopped taking work. I stopped everything. I decided the only way this was going to happen was if I dedicated my all to it. I was obsessed. I just wanted to get better. It opened the floodgates. It’s a bridge to what’s next for Dead Sara.”
“We devoted a month to hashing out the songs and making them the best they could be,” adds Friday. “In addition to the synths, we tried a lot of direct-input guitars to make it sound really gritty. It’s tighter. With all of that experimentation, we went into the studio.”
The trio ignites this next chapter with the 2018 single “Anybody.” Propulsive guitars curl around an arena-ready beat punctuated by heavenly synths programmed by Friday before the seismic refrain, “Come on and touch me. Do I belong to anybody?”
“I was going through a breakup,” recalls Armstrong. “The world seemed like it was imploding. Donald Trump had just gotten in. It was as if everything shifted. I felt like I didn’t belong. There was nothing I could hold onto, grab, or be a part of. Life went dark. We captured something really raw in the moment.”
“Siouxsie added these really cool guitar parts to it,” recalls Friday. “We built it organically like most of this material.”
Elsewhere on the EP, an arsenal of Medley’s vintage guitars wail wildly on the stomping shuffle of “Heaven’s Got A Back Door” before spiraling into a cathedral-size chant.
Thinking “What would Keith Richards do?” (after a few tequila shots), “UnAmerican” sarcastically skewers stereotypes with lyrical barbs, a lively scream, and a clever and catchy chorus explosion, “I guess I’m UnAmerican.”
The spacey six-string echo of “What It Takes” resounds as Armstrong delivers one of her most personal performances to date.
“‘What It Takes’ is essentially about coming out,” she states. “That’s something I was never able to speak on. I was living this life where I felt like if I said something I was going to die, but by not saying anything, I was already dying. Again, I was scaring myself with this song. It’s about realizing that it’s ok to just be yourself, because honestly, nobody really cares but you.”.
In the end, Dead Sara unleash a body of work befitting their ambition, drive, and decade-plus grind.
“We finally have the music we’ve been looking for,” Armstrong leaves off. “We rebuilt everything to get here. There’s a lot of growth. Now, it’s so exciting to see how this unfolds. I think we can reach a whole new level with these songs.”
Meticulousness ensures singularity. Bad Omens carefully direct each nuance of their music, approaching the process with an auteur mindset. The California quartet—Noah Sebastian [lead vocals], Joakim “Jolly” Karlsson [lead guitar, vocals], Nicholas Ruffilo [bass], and Nick Folio [drums]—explore the enigmatic idiosyncrasies of their signature sound on 2019’s Finding God Before God Finds Me [Sumerian Records], imbuing cinematic electronics and gospel stature into metallic melodies.
Produced by Noah and Jolly, the ten-track trip unfurls like the sonic equivalent of a gripping existential drama.
“What makes us a rock band is the fact we play instruments, but we’ve always been pretty experimental in terms of post-production,” explains Noah. “We dove after a specific sound without boundaries. What separates us is the attention to detail in every song.”
Bad Omens diligently worked to hone this approach since their 2016 self-titled debut. As the entire tracklisting tallied nearly 30 million streams, the breakthrough single “The Worst In Me” leapt past the 8 million mark on Spotify. Meanwhile, “Glass Houses” clocked 4.7 million Spotify streams, “Exit Wounds” racked up 2.6 million Spotify streams, and “Reprise (The Sound of the End),” “The Fountain,” “F E R A L,” and “Enough, Enough Now” each exceeded 1 million-plus on the platform. Along the way, they received looks from Alternative Press, New Noise, and Revolver and toured alongside everyone from Parkway Drive to Bullet For My Valentine and Asking Alexandria. Following Warped Tour 2017, the group commenced writing for what would become Finding God Before God Finds Me.
In addition to expanding the sonic structure under the influence of the Hillsong UNITED and other gospel production, Noah endeavored to brighten up the thematic palette as well.
“The last record was so melancholic, sad, dark, and nihilistic at points,” he admits. “Before we started really writing the new record, I went through some things that opened up my mind and made me realize who I wanted to be as a musician, what message I wanted to send, and the feeling I needed to inspire. This is predominantly hopeful. There’s a sense of underdogs overcoming adversity. We should be a safe place for people. There’s also a musical feeling of uplifting catharsis. It’s not entirely happy or sad, but more so regal.”
This drove 2018 singles “Careful What You Wish For” and “The Hell I Overcame.” Fans immediately responded as the former generated 1.5 million Spotify streams and the latter quickly neared 2 million. With Jolly a world away in Sweden, they finished the record remotely, maximizing the time in between tours to cap off a panoramic vision.
The 2019 single “Burning Out” couples strains of piano and choir with trudging distortion and a sweeping and soaring chant of empowerment, “I was lost, but now I’m found under the lights and in the sound.”
“It’s about the impact music has made on me and how it saved me in a sense,” he continues. “It’s about my relationship with myself and music and how I overcame my emotions and took advantage of this ability to reach a better place. I wanted the lyrics to give you a sense of hope.”
Evocative of the experimentation, the album slips from choral elegance into a Spaghetti Western-style swing on opener “Kingdom of Cards.” The conclusion “If I’m There” climaxes on a beautiful reprise, “Well if I’m there to catch you when you fall, you’ll have a friend down in hell after all.”
“In some ways, it’s a love song,” he adds. “It’s also a song of forgiveness and acceptance, which is why it’s the end. I’m drawing a line in the sand and forgiving. This is something I never would’ve done in our stuff before.”
By imparting a piece of themselves on every aspect of the composition and production, Bad Omens deliver a statement that stands out.
“We just want you to feel something,” he leaves off. “Nothing in the world is stronger than emotion. It makes us human, gives us soul, and separates us. We tried to make this album like a movie where it captivates you immediately, takes you on a journey, and gives you a positive payoff.”
You hear it again and again.
When one door closes, another one opens. However, it’s true – especially in the case of Sick Puppies. Weathering and persevering through potentially life-changing events, the gold-selling, chart-topping Los Angeles-based and Australian-bred hard rock outfit knew one thing.
They were going to make more music as Sick Puppies.
“There was no question” affirms Emma. “We had no doubt that we wanted to continue. Mark and I got together and basically said, ‘first and foremost, we love music. We love this band and our fans, and we have put so much into it, and we are not done and want to take it further.’ In order to do that, we needed to find the right member.”
Instead, the “right member” found them. With stints in several bands under his belt, Texas-born singer and guitarist Bryan Scott reached out to Emma via Facebook within days of the announcement. He sent her a video of himself performing, and she swiftly replied.
“Both Mark and I knew he was the guy right away – he was cool and he sounded great. It was a natural progression. We were totally on to something” said Emma.
“Something just overwhelmed me,” admits Bryan. “I had a feeling that I needed to reach out. They needed a singer and guitarist and that’s what I am. I had always loved their music and as soon as I saw the post, I went home and immediately sent Emma a message. We clicked right off the bat. Music is in their blood – it’s who they are. They live and breathe it every day. I’m the same way.”
Following a first dinner together at a Los Angeles burger spot, they hit the rehearsal studio together and began jamming. After nailing numerous favorites from the Sick Puppies catalog, they started writing new material over the next several months.
2013’s Connect saw the band embrace a more experimental side.
“On the last album, a lot of ideas came from many different places, but our core is rock and that is what we love!” Mark says on this new album, we’re giving fans what they want, that classic Sick Puppies sound.”
“I think fans will enjoy the resurgence of the heaviness,” smiles Emma. “We love that, so we went all the way with it.”
The group teamed up with producer and songwriter Mark Holman [Three Days Grace, Red, Shinedown, Halestorm, The Struts], to start working on their fourth full-length album. Recorded in Nashville and Los Angeles during 2015, the new music reflects the group’s, incendiary interplay between Emma, Bryan & Mark.
“We were actually supposed to work with Mark Holman before, but it never materialized for whatever reason,” Emma continues. “It was the right moment in time, and he was the perfect producer to bring out the emotion in these songs.”
Locked and loaded with a muscular riff and booming percussion, “Stick To Your Guns” the band’s first single announces the band’s return with a literal bang. Bryan’s vocals careen from hypnotic to heavy as an arena-size refrain takes hold.
“You have to push regardless of what anyone tells you,” he says. “This was a big thing for us. You can pray, hope, or wish for something to happen, but at the end of the day, you have to “stick to your guns”, go out there, and believe. The song is meant to empower.”
Then, there’s the epic “Where Do I Begin,” which spotlights Emma and Bryan’s impressive harmonies in the chorus. For lyrical inspiration, the musicians actually turned to the diehard collective Sick Puppies World Crew.
“We looked on their Facebook and read everything,” Emma recalls. “We saw that everyone shared a lot in common, and it was quite touching. We grabbed a few descriptive words and came across this theme. A lot of people out there feel like they’re missing out. They hear things like, ‘You can do it when you’re ready.’ I think, ‘What’s ready?’ If someone’s going to wait to be ready, they might wait their whole lives. It’s about struggling with that and making a move.”
With its gnashing chant and pummeling groove “Let Me Live” introduced the album during the first teaser video—which arrived to palpable audience fervor. Meanwhile, “Walls” sees Emma’s vocals take center stage with gorgeously haunting delivery.
“It describes the painful feelings that come when a friend, family member, or someone you’re very close to changes, disappoints, disappears, or drifts away,” she sighs. “It’s just a snapshot of what I was feeling at that point in time.”
That kind of honesty has solidified a bond between the Sick Puppies and their fans since day one. To date, their breakout second full-length Tri-Polar has sold more than 500K albums, yielding 2 million single sales including the gold-certified “You’re Going Down” as well as rock smashes “Maybe” “Riptide,” and “Odd One.”
“All The Same” the band’s first hit single from their debut album, “ Dressed Up As Life” became the soundtrack for the viral video “Free Hugs” campaign racking up tens of millions of online views and saw them appear on Oprah , 60 Minutes , CNN , Good Morning America , and The Tonight Show .
2013’s Connect earned the band its highest Billboard Top 200 debut at #17 and yielded two top 10 singles at rock radio peaking at #2. Along the way, the trio played alongside the world’s biggest bands from Muse, The Killers, Deftones, Evanescence, Breaking Benjamin, Papa Roach, Incubus to Tool.
Now, their message is more powerful than ever.
“When people hear this, I want them to take away a feeling of new life, new passion, and new excitement from this band,” Emma leaves off. “Mark and I love what we do. We were going to forge ahead no matter what. We found the perfect guy, and we’re excited about this next chapter.”
Fusing hard rock licks with deep southern blues and gospel swing, the three cousins (namely Landon Milbourn [vocals], Brandon Qualkenbush [rhythm guitar, backing vocals] and Tyler Baker [lead guitar]) are fuelled by their desire to craft timeless, catchy and anthemic rock songs. The band formed after the death of Tyler’s brother in June (hence the band name), vowing to honor his memory with their soulful and life-affirming sound.
In the wake of their 2017 full-length debut Magic Valley, the boys earned the endorsement of Rolling Stone, contributed “Liberty Mother” to a high-profile Budweiser TV campaign as well as a WWE theme song, packing shows across the country and racking up 44 million-plus Spotify streams. After notching placements on ESPN, NFL, NHL, Need for Speed, and Madden (EA), the three-piece is forging ahead with their first full-length album on Earache Records entitled ‘Community Inn’ (October 25, 2019).
In this politically challenging era, it’s time to stand up against the machine. Brass Against is collective of artists, led and curated by Brad Hammonds, who share in the goal of creating brass protest music that calls fans to action.
Brass Against was formed in 2017 due to the political climate and feeling there was a real need for politically charged music. In the summer of 2017, Brad met with Andrew Gutauskas (Baritone Sax and Musical director), played through a few Rage Against The Machine tunes, called their friends to help create a video, and Brass Against was born.
Brass Against has since toured Europe twice, including 12 sold out shows on their first outing in early 2019. Additional appearances include various festivals, including Boomtown, Pukkelpop, Download Madrid, and more, as well as an opening spot with Lenny Kravitz at the O2 Arena.
The collective started off strong in 2020 with shows in Australia, festivals in New Zealand (Splore and Electric Avenue) and Indonesia (Java Jazz Festival), and are set for a return to Europe for headlining shows November/December.
Over the past two years, Brass Against has released three full length albums including renditions of songs from Rage Against The Machine, Tool, Audioslave, and more, featuring vocals from Sophia Urista, Liza Colby, Samuel Hope and more.
On April 10th the group debuted their original music with Sophia Urista on vocals. “This EP marks our first foray into writing after doing interpretations of others’ songs for the last two years,” says Brad. “We can’t wait to release these original tracks and to continue writing and recording. The process has been the most rewarding thus far.”
Brass Against wants the music they perform to sound inspiring and resonate with people’s emotions, encouraging them to act. They combine rock and edgy hip-hop to play music that’s powerful and empowering. Brass Against is exceptional music with a political edge. They’re angry, they’re inspired, and they’re ready for change—and they hope their music amplifies this energy in everyone who listens.
Iconoclastic 3TEETH frontman Alexis Mincolla is dedicated to exploring the relationship between archetypes, mythologies, history, and the hypocrisy of the human experience. “We’re constantly dissecting the space between chaos and order in the eternal psychic battle between forces with opposing beliefs or perspectives, that we call the cosmic taint,” he says.
3TEETH use corrosive rhythms, acerbic samples, blazing guitars and a confrontational polemic to inspire listeners to question the ideologies that we hold sacred. It’s the same kind of musical activism sparked by groups like MC5 in the ‘60s and reignited in the ‘90s by Rage Against the Machine.
“I saw Rage four times when I was a kid and that had a profound effect on me,” says Mincolla, who holds two political science degrees. “I took out Che Guevara’s ‘Guerrilla Warfare’ from the library in seventh grade because I wanted to know who this guy on the t-shirt was. And that stuck with me.”
The dualities between the left and the right, the haves and the have nots, and the variegated results of governmental oppression and total anarchy are touchpoints for 3TEETH, a band that doesn’t believe in aphorisms or absolutes and seeks liberation through angry, yet accessible music. The band’s third album, METAWAR, is a powerfully political compendium of songs which are both enlightening and infectious.
“I wasn’t writing for the left or the right or anything like that,” Mincolla says. “I just wanted to write stuff that reflected the whole insane, absurdist political theater and wrap it all up in this nihilistic approach of bringing it all to an end. There’s something really rewarding about creating this funhouse mirror that we’re holding up to things like the military-industrial complex. You warp it in this sardonic way and reflect it back at people – it’s like sucking the poison out of the mass-production society and then spitting it back in its own fucking face.”
Having established themselves and cemented a following with their first two albums, 2014’s self-titled debut and 2017’s
“This was the first record where we weren’t working side jobs and just getting together on free time and cobbling together a record,” Mincolla says. “We put our total focus into this and that helped us find our real sound and hone it. We self-produced our first two albums, and that was cool, but having a producer as experienced as Sean to help push us really brought out our best. And we had a fucking blast.”
One listen to the syncopated beats, misanthropic vocals and uncanny melodies of the opening track “AFFLUENZA” illustrates 3TEETH’s determination to stretch boundaries and shatter preconceptions. The rest of the album is just as impacting. The first single, “AMERICAN LANDFILL,” starts with a sample redolent of industrial chainsaws and the threatening sound clip, “You gonna buy American next time?” Then, the track launches into a surging number fueled by the contempt of ignorance and a celebration of decay. Mincolla’s vocals see-saw from aggro screams to haunting melodic crooning and the band compliments his delivery with chugging riffs, pulsing keyboards and battering ram beats.
In addition to drawing inspiration from the biggest names in industrial music, 3TEETH are well-schooled in the pioneering demolition of the scene’s progenitors, including Skinny Puppy, Front 242 and KMFDM, to name a few. In addition, the band is inspired by the skewed sounds of bands such as Tool, Sepultura and Deftones.
“Time Slave” is a mid-tempo barrage of pummeling rhythms, piercing synths and driving riffs colored by a tuneful refrain and “President X,” which begins with an ominous whoosh that morphs into the shouts of a riotous crowd, is a masterful mélange of mechanized vocals, martial beats and keyboards that compliment the scathing, non-partisan message.
“We’re really trying to find a weird space in between everything else that is maybe anti-systemic, that isn’t on the left or the right, and is underrepresented,” Mincolla says. “On ‘PRESIDENT X,’ we’re not making fun of President Trump. We’re making fun of every president. It doesn’t make a difference who the president is. It’s all the same bullshit.”
Digging underneath conventional wisdom to reveal the rotting underbelly and impure motivations of the corporate mainstream is a major part of 3TEETH’s aesthetic and Mincolla relies on his knowledge of numerology, theology, sociology and history to wake the complacent pacified by misinformation and call out the parasites that feed off the ignorant. Even the band’s name is a means of bonding with the enlightened and educating the curious.
“3TEETH is this cryptic way of explaining the Trident, which is the divine weapon of creation and destruction of the gods,” he says. “But I like codifying it in this very gritty and almost disgusting way. You hear 3TEETH and maybe you think of a meth addict or someone who has been smashed in the mouth. So, you’re either in the know or not, and if you don’t know, it almost has a guard up against you unless you really want to delve into it.”
Understanding or interpreting the meaning beneath the surface has been important to Mincolla for years. One of his greatest epiphanies came when he was a 21-year-old college student and he was hanging out under a statue of Giordano Bruno. Unbeknownst to Mincolla, Bruno was a 15th Century Italian philosopher, astronomer, mathematician, and occultist whose theories predated modern science.
“While I was standing there, I was talking to my history professor and he explained that Bruno was burned at the stake,” Mincolla says. “The Catholic Church thought he was a heretic because he was interested in Numerology, Neoplatonism and other esoteric things that they condemned. When I found that out, I dove down this rabbit hole to learn about hermetic wisdom, symbology, the western occult, Rosicrucianism and Egyptian mythology. I dug as far back as ancient Sumerian origin texts like the Enûma Eliš where I became obsessed with this concept of the trident – it was the god Marduk who represented order, who killed Tiamat who represented chaos, thus creating the universe.”
Unlike most bands, which form to write songs, play gigs and maybe make some money, 3TEETH were born out of a synthesis of visual art, inventive thought and unconventional music. At the time, Mincolla was a creative director of an L.A. tech noir nightclub called Lil Death. Soon, after, he met keyboardist Xavier Swafford, with whom he had much in common. “I found out we actually lived next to each other and he was a producer,” Mincolla says “We started getting together and making some music but we were really just doing it because we were bored. Then we got more into it. Having a background as an art director, I started creating all this memetic force by creating imagery and leaking teasers about what we were doing. Everyone was like, ‘Who are these guys and where do they come from?’ That’s when we thought, ‘Damn, maybe we should just keep writing and do a record.’”
Mincolla and Swafford outsourced guitar and drum duties to various friends and peers until they teamed up Andrew Means (modular synth/ bass), Chase Brawner (guitar) and Justin Hanson (drums). In 2014, the members of 3TEETH met up once or twice a week to work on what became their self-titled debut album. A year later, an indie label in Toronto offered them a deal. As part of the contract, Mincolla stipulated that the album be released in limited edition on vinyl, which the record company was initially against.
“At that point, I didn’t know I wanted to be in a band and tour,” he says. “I just knew I wanted to have an album on vinyl so when I was 50 I could hold up the record and say, ‘Hey, look what I did.’ Because I remember my older brother saying to me, ‘It’s not final until it’s on vinyl,’ and that phrase stuck with me. The label said, ‘We don’t do debuts on vinyl. It’s costly and we’re small and we don’t want to lose our shirts.’ And I said, ‘Guys, if we produce this vinyl, I promise I’ll make sure it all sells.’ They agreed and I started creating all this memetic culture around the band and the visuals. It caused all this hype and the pre-orders started flying. The next thing I knew, we started getting offers for shows. We didn’t even have a manager at that point.”
Adopting a DIY approach, Mincolla served as the band’s manager, booking agent, publicist and frontman. 3TEETH’s first show was at an L.A. club called Complex and the place was packed. Somehow, the band’s second show was at a small summer festival in Canada in front of more than 2,000 people. “We absolutely fucking smashed it,” he says. “It was super kinetic and we had so much fun,” Mincolla said. “Everyone was going ‘Where did these guys come from? What’s going on? It doesn’t make any sense.’ Ever since then, we’ve never looked back. I booked shows in week to two-week long runs whenever we had the time.”
Shortly after, Mincolla met Tool guitarist Adam Jones when the two were groomsmen at the wedding of a mutual friend. During the downtime, the two rockers nerded out about video games, and when the wedding was over, they exchanged information so they could play games together over the internet. The whole time, they never talked about Tool — one of Mincolla’s favorite bands — and the singer never mentioned he had his own group. About a year after the wedding, Jones and Mincolla were hanging out when Jones mentioned the inevitable.
“Hey Lex, why didn’t you tell me you had a band?” Mincolla recalls Jones saying. “Well, because you’re Adam from Tool. I’m sure everyone’s like, ‘Hey, look at my fuckin’ band.’” he responded. “Well, you’re right,” acknowledged Jones. “But I just saw a video you guys did and it was really awesome. I’d love to see you play live sometime.’”
It was a pivotal moment for 3TEETH. Jones attended one of the band’s show at the Viper Room in L.A. and had a great time. Jones then played 3TEETH’s self-titled album for his bandmates, who also dug the industrial vibe of the music. In the end, they agreed to invite 3TEETH to open for them and Primus in early 2016. Suddenly, 3TEETH went from playing for crowds of about 500 to performing for 20,000 ravenous Tool fans in sold-out arenas. “Before we went out with them, I was psyched, but I just didn’t feel prepared at all,” remembers Mincolla. “I didn’t even know what an arena sounded like from the stage. Did we have to switch gear or use monitors? I just knew nothing. But it’s one of those things where you don’t go, ‘Hey, sorry man. I’m not ready. Can we try it next year?’ You just fuckin’ do it. You get thrown into the water and you sink or swim. We did 30 dates and somehow, we didn’t get booed. The crowd liked it, and once you get a taste of that arena blood and what it feels like to get applause in that environment, you’re all, ‘Cool, I only want to play arenas from now on.’”
When 3TEETH returned from the road, they went back into the studio and wrote their second album,
As they began the process of writing their third album, 3TEETH strived to write heavier, more aggressive songs with strong hooks that would appeal to arena audiences as well as club dwellers.
“I knew it was time to kick this thing into overdrive, “Mincolla says. “In my mind, this was our first official record. I knew I wanted the songs to have strong messages, but at the same time, I wanted to make an album that could appeal to 20,000 people who all wanted to rock out at the same time. I purposely didn’t want to be so heavy-handed that it wasn’t fun. I wanted there to be a certain amount of mindlessness in the music because I think mindlessness in mindfulness. They actually make very good bedmates. If you’re gonna say something really important you don’t want to come across as preachy.”
From the slow, brooding intro to “ALTÆR” to the moody, electronic pop-tinted “SURRENDER,” 3TEETH touch all the pleasure points for fans of metal, industrial, EBM and even new wave while injecting sobering, prescient themes about megalomania, media overload, and mass rebellion. 3TEETH’s reliance on pop culture tropes to overload and overthrow is especially evident in their cover of Foster the People’s mega-hit “PUMPED UP KICKS,” which is manipulated, twisted and abused until it’s an ugly transmogrification. And yet, it’s still fully recognizable to fans of the original.
“You might love it or you might hate it,” Mincolla says. “The point is to formulate your own opinion because you’re never going to get anything at face value anymore. We live in a post-information age where there’s a mutation chamber of identity politics that’s so pungent it’s next to impossible to extrapolate any real information about anything.”
“Our whole thing is about condemning our eyes in so many ways,” concludes Mincolla. “We’ve gotten to the point where even if you see something with your own eyes it doesn’t mean what you’re seeing is real, or maybe it’s just one side of reality. In the end, I think I just want people to think harder and to realize that if you’re not contradicting yourself with whatever you’re doing, you’re probably not thinking hard enough.”
21-year-old Philly native Zero 9:36, brings his angsty, power-fueled spirit to a roaring peak in his debut EP, You Will Not Be Saved available now on all streaming platforms. Growing up in the city of Brotherly Love, Zero 9:36took to music at an early age. He entered his first studio at 10 years old and never looked back. The alternative artist has since amassed over 10 Million streams and collaborated with artists such as Tory Lanez, PnB Rock and grandson. Defying genre lines and norms, Zero 9:36 toes the line of alt-rock and hip-hop. When asked about this new iteration in his career he says “This project represents a major transition in my life. Going through this process taught me that, as both an artist and human being, you have to take risks and be willing to fail in order to truly understand who you are.
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.”
The world may seem like a pretty strange place right now, but if nothing else that’s forced us into realizing that being human is a shared experience. That sentiment lies at the core of Earth Is A Black Hole, the second full-length from the Los Angeles rock act Teenage Wrist. The album also marks the group’s first release since the departure of former bassist/vocalist Kamtin Mohager last year and sees the duo of guitarist Marshall Gallagher stepping up as frontman, with longtime drummer Anthony Salazar backing him up in spectacular fashion. “As soon as we found out Kam was exiting, I just started writing,” Gallagher explains. “I wanted to keep this band going and we didn’t know exactly what that would look like, so I wrote two songs and demoed them myself to see if everyone was still on board.” Those songs turned out to be the jangly power ballad “Yellowbelly” and spacey rocker “Wear U Down”—and with that, a new era of Teenage Wrist was born.
The artistic liberation of this lineup change, coupled with the past two years the band spent touring alongside genre-smashing acts such as Thrice, allowed Teenage Wrist to expand on the shoegazing sound that helped establish them as one of the most exciting rock bands around today. While they are still influenced by bands like Swervedriver and My Bloody Valentine—most evidently on the swirling anthem “Silverspoon,” which showcases Salazar’s drumming prowess — Earth Is A Black Hole sees the band shifting their songwriting focus to a more modern sound that showcases the limitless potential of the band. “With this record we wanted to incorporate some more expansive elements such as synths, drum samples and electronica,” Gallagher explains. “When we started making music in 2014, we found ourselves in the middle of this grunge revival which was really cool. But for this record we felt like we needed to push past that in a way and get a little more aggressive. We wanted to be more of a rock band this time around.”
In order to capture this sound, the band enlisted Colin Brittain (Basement, A Day to Remember), whose production style merged perfectly with what Teenage Wrist were trying to accomplish with this album. “Before Colin signed on as the producer, we had worked with him in a co-writing capacity and turned out two pretty cool tunes,” Gallagher explains. “We thought, ‘We’re obviously vibing with this guy from a writing standpoint, so maybe he should just produce the record.’ He works really quickly; we like his philosophy and he added quite a bit to the writing process as we were working together in the studio.” Although Teenage Wrist had never worked with outside writers in the past, this experience allowed them to broaden their songwriting perspective, a fact that is evident on Earth Is A Black Hole. Since Brittain was such a close collaborator with the band, he was also able to analyze the best ways to record these songs and push the dynamic range of the album into bold new sonic territory.
From lush, guitar-driven songs like “Taste Of Gasoline” and “High Again” to the atmospheric ambience of “Stella” and syncopated aggression of “Earth Is A Black Hole,” any of these songs could crossover into the mainstream without alienating Teenage Wrist’s fervent fanbase. “I feel like a lot of modern rock music is trying to be something between pop and hip-hop and that’s not what we wanted to do at all,” Gallagher explains. “We wanted to make something big and aggressive that also had melody and immediacy,” he continues, adding that he hopes explosive experiments like “Taste Of Gasoline,” “New Emotion” and “Wasting Time” will inspire future mosh pits.
Gallagher started writing the lyrics for Earth Is A Black Hole prior to the pandemic, however as issues like the Coronavirus and racial justice started coming to the forefront of our collective consciousness, those ideas also became embodied in the writing. “It’s funny because we started writing these songs and reality started to develop around them; it was a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he explains. While in some ways these songs catalog the transformation that Gallagher has made in his personal life, it’s more than a postscript to 2018’s Chrome Neon Jesus. “The difference between these two albums is that our last album was more nostalgic in the sense of growing up and starting to see the world the way it was—and this album is more about attempting to push through to something new and better.” The band also want this Earth Is A Black Hole to challenge the way their lyrics have sometimes been misinterpreted as apathetic because ultimately these songs are about the potential that we all have to transmute our past into something positive.
This concept is paralleled in the collage-style artwork that accompanies Earth Is A Black Hole, which acts a visual representation of the album’s central theme. “The idea for the title came to me during lockdown while we were in the recording process and what initially felt nihilistic started to feel more transient in the context of my life and this entire record,” Gallagher explains of the seemingly bleak-sounding title. “Everything will eventually disappear into nothing and that can make you feel small and insignificant. But that same fact should be motivation to tell the people who are important to you that you love them and savor these beautiful moments in your life because they’re never coming back,” he summarizes. “All we have is this moment and that’s the most important thing: To be present and be positive and transcend the black hole bullshit because it’s all going to end one day.” That dichotomy between hope and hopelessness is what lies at the core of this album—and it’s part of what makes Earth Is A Black Hole such a satisfying listen.
All Good Things
All Good Things creates cinematic epic rock that celebrates the underdog, lifts the fallen, and all out
gloats in victory.
Pairing post apocalyptic pump-up rock with powerful lyrics, AGT crafts a massive, bombastic sensory
assault of anthemic heavy rock, summoning vistas associated with gaming or blockbuster movies.
In a masterful feat of reverse-engineering, the LA-based collective has become a potent musical force in
the opposite fashion from how most groups get their start. “We were just having fun writing monster
rock songs that got us hyped, hoping they might get used in games and movies,” says Dan Murphy
AGT has since been featured in thousands of TV shows, games, films and ads worldwide. When music
started being released online, increasing numbers of dedicated fans fell in love with the fist-pounding,
high-energy rock anthems and demand grew. “That’s when we said ‘Wow, people are really into this,’”
says Andrew Bojanic (guitar, vocals). “The music is inspirational and motivational,” adds Liz Hooper (bass,
keyboards, vocals). “Our fans kind of honed that whole aesthetic, theme and imagery just with their
AGT’s relationship with their fans is fully apparent on their forthcoming album, an epic collection tied
around a common theme of surviving the apocalypse. It was inspired by the many games and films that
AGT have placed their music, paying homage to the escapism those worlds provide listeners, one that’s
more important today than ever
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 think so. Since well before they released their debut album Tū in 2018, fans, bloggers, the music industry and the media worldwide have raved about Alien Weaponry’s unique blend of thrash metal and Te Reo Māori (the native language of New Zealand).
Brothers Lewis de Jong (guitar and lead vocals) and Henry de Jong (drums) formed the band in 2010 when they were 8 and 10 years old. Ethan Trembath (bass guitar) joined in 2012 to complete the lineup; although he retired in 2020 after struggling with the extensive overseas touring schedule that he could see was “only going to get more intense as the band grows.” Trembath was replaced by Tūranga Morgan-Edmonds, a former schoolmate of the de Jong brothers.
The three-piece from Waipu, New Zealand, deliver emotionally and politically charged stories of conflict and grief with a warrior-like attitude. Drummer Henry de Jong says,
“Our musical style and messages have a lot of similarities with haka, which is often brutal, angry and about stories of great courage or loss.”
The de Jong brothers are of Ngati Pikiāo and Ngati Raukawa (Māori tribal) descent; and began their schooling at a kura kaupapa Māori (full immersion Māori language school), where singing waiata (songs) and performing haka were a daily routine. Also ingrained in their early learning were stories of New Zealand history told to them by their father, who, alongside the story telling, played them music from Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, Anthrax, Ministry, Red Hot Chili Peppers. It is this combination of music, language, history and socio-political commentary that underpins the band’s sound and ideas.
New bass player Tūranga Morgan-Edmonds is also of Māori descent, with Ngāti Rarua, Ngāti Wai and Ngāti Hine tribal affiliations.
In the past 2 years, Alien Weaponry have supported Slayer, Anthrax, Ministry and Black Label Society across Europe and North America, as well as opening for Prophets of Rage in Auckland, New Zealand. They have sold out headline shows in New Zealand, Australia, all over Europe, the USA and Canada; and played main stage sets to record crowds at some of the biggest and most prestigious festivals around the world. These include Wacken Open Air and Summer Breeze (Germany), Download UK and Bloodstock Open Air (UK), Hellfest (France), MetalDays (Slovenia), Download Sydney and Download Melbourne (Australia), Tuska Open Air (Finland) and Copenhell (Denmark), where an impressive crowd of 6,000+ Scandinavian fans welcomed the band to the festival stage with a pre-rehearsed haka.
In New Zealand, Alien Weaponry has won multiple awards, starting with their double win at Smokefreerockquest and Smokefree Pacifica Beats in 2016. In 2017, they won the APRA Maioha Award for their song ‘Raupatu;’ and were finalists in the APRA Silver Scroll Award (‘Urutaa’); the Waiata Māori Awards for Best Music Video (‘Rū Ana Te Whenua’); and the Vodafone NZ Music Awards for Best Māori Artist. In 2018, they were finalists in the Vodafone NZ Music Awards in six categories, taking home the Tui for Best Rock Artist, while the producers of Tū won the Best Producer award.
Following the release of their debut album Tū, Alien Weaponry’s single ‘Kai Tangata’ rocketed to no.1 on the prestigious ‘Devil’s Dozen’ countdown for the Liquid Metal show on New York-based Sirius XM, where it remained for 13 weeks. The video for ‘Kai Tangata’ was the ‘Most Added Metal Song’ for June 2018 on US Cable Channel Music Choice (delivering to 50 million households) and has had nearly 6 million views on YouTube since its release.
More recently, Alien Weaponry found their songs and album on countless ‘Best Of The Decade’ lists by various publishers and in December 2019 the readers of Finnish Magazine Tuonela voted ’Tū’ all the way to the top of their ’The Best Albums of the Decade’ list – with Gojira’s ’Magma’ and Tool’s ‘Fear Inoculum’ in at second and third respectively.
“The debut album sounds like a new breed of crossover, replacing speed by groove, but [still] remaining deeply rooted in the thrash metal scene,” said Tuonela Magazine of Tū.
Currently working on material for their sophomore album, 2020 is promising to turn into another groundbreaking year in the band’s career. Lewis de Jong says,
“We’re so excited to be returning to Europe and the UK for our third summer – we’ve always got such an awesome reception from fans there. We’re also massively looking forward to unleashing some sonic mayhem with our new album later this year.”
The band is managed internationally by Rick Sales Entertainment (also representing Slayer, Gojira, Mastodon and Ghost); and has a worldwide distribution deal with Napalm Records. They are represented by Pinnacle Entertainment (also representing Slayer, Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie and Noel Gallagher) in North America and UK-based K2 touring agency (also representing Metallica, Iron Maiden, Mastodon, Ghost and Gojira) in the rest of the world.
Joyous Wolf is a Rock band from Southern California formed in 2014 by vocalist Nick Reese, guitarist Blake Allard, bassist Greg Braccio, and drummer Robert Sodaro. Reese and Sodaro met on their first day of 6th grade during student orientation. They went to different high schools where Sodaro would go on to befriend Braccio. During that time Reese, by chance, met Allard in the acoustic room at Guitar Center where they would jam CCR’s “Born on the Bayou”. There was an immediate dynamic between the two that ultimately led to an exchange of information. Months later Reese reached out to both Sodaro and Allard with the interest of starting a new project with them. Braccio would soon follow suit. In the waning months of 2014 early jam sessions would yield the foundation of what Joyous Wolf has become. Fusing together influences ranging from Heavy Metal to Delta Blues, Joyous Wolf creates an expressive, high-energy fingerprint that separates themselves from their contemporaries in the realm of Modern Rock.
Fame On Fire
Exploding out of Seattle, WA, hotly-tipped hard rock five-piece AVOID have been rapidly making a name for themselves thanks to their electrifying live show and an unabashed experimental approach to their music. The result is an alchemistic audio dose of heavy hedonism the stamp of a young act unafraid to equally embrace both their innovation and individuality.
Forming in 2017, AVOID’s Revival Recordings debut album ALONE (2018) has garnered over 1.5 million streams, debuting at #3 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Pacific Chart.
With new release The Burner, the band are poised to truly make their mark. Having already secured two new AVOID tracks – “Song For James” and “HEAT” – in video game NASCAR Heat 5, it’s a kickstart to a creative campaign incorporating impressive partnerships that at once pays homage to the legacy rock acts of the Pacific Northwest and paves the way for AVOID to take their place in the new wave of great heavy young acts.
Dead Poet Society
Blame My Youth
Blame My Youth is Sean Van Vleet – a name you might not be aware of, but unknowingly heard in your headphones, in a store or on a television. As a former principal songwriter in Chicago indie faves Empires, Van Vleet expanded into the world of songwriting and syncs, providing music for major artists, ads worldwide. Blame My Youth is Van Vleet’s return to the band format, bringing all of the earworm-y grandiosity that permeated his quietly complicated pop gems.
Blame My Youth debuted with “Right Where You Belong” which was written and recorded exclusively for the soundtrack to Bill And Ted Face The Music. The track plays during the film’s closing credits as well. “Fantastic” marked the first proper single – a song that arrives with a bang and drips with positivity– discussing daybreak and reemergence from the night with a blazing sun peeking over the horizon. It’s emotional, muscular, triumphant and – much like the artist’s Chicago upbringing – showcases Van Vleet’s perseverance as a singular, compelling voice amongst a sea of mediocrity. With “Fantastic,” Blame My Youth have created a perfectly-crafted modern rock banger– smart enough for the indie set but with the brawn, sheer audacity and pop hooks found amongst the arena rock greats of yesterday.
With a raspy and muscular vocal that teeters on the precipice of breaking, Van Vleet’s dramatic and soaring centerpieces range from whisper to full on scream. The lyrics and the band name itself provide a glimpse into his past battles with alcohol and substance abuse while detailing a positive and confident march toward a better future – the emergence from darkness into the blinding sunlight with a hopeful hangover. It’s this positive outlook that permeates through Van Vleet’s timeless, pure pop– devoid of gimmicks and bursting at the seams with hummable and utterly inescapable hooks. It’s the sort of songwriting that works just as well whistled as it does blasting out of a pair of earphones. Produced by the esteemed Joey Moi (Morgan Wallen, HARDY, etc) and arranged on an amalgam of traditional instrumentation ranging from synths to guitars and on, it all adds up to an overwhelmingly feelgood approach that nods to Andrew WK’s brazenly positive big bang and Post Malone’s inescapable pop sensibility, all with touches of darkness and vulnerability throughout. It’s music meant for maximum volume while recovering from a life on maximum volume, yet so earnest, singular and inescapable that it relates to anyone who has fought through any sort of adversity.
Sean Van Vleet came up in Empires, a Chicago based indie band formed in 2008, releasing two LPs and three EPs during a successful seven year run. The band had incredible success amongst the indie set, playing Late Night and massive fests like Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and more during tours with Death Cab for Cutie, Deerhunter, Alkaline Trio and others. And while the middle 10s were seemingly their moment, internal differences led to the band eventually calling it quits in 2015.
Soon thereafter, Van Vleet joined Josh Ocean (NVDES) for a period of spiritual and artistic awakening across Europe in cafes, bars and amongst the nightlife, reinvigorating his inner Hemingway and sparking inspiration in the meantime. This period not only led to an impenetrable bond between the pair but a similarly strong musical partnership, one that has seen their bombastic and dramatic “laptop punk” find its way into placements amongst the likes of Samsung, Google and Apple iPhone advertisements.
“Spending the last few years writing and traveling around Europe with Josh was absolute magic,” smiles Sean Van Vleet, pensively. “We both got out of long term projects at the same time and found a real chemistry for stumbling upon crazy experiences together as well as a special creative flow in Paris/Berlin. NVDES was always Josh’s project, but he brought me along as a collaborator/friend and together we entered in what felt like a honeymoon period of our careers in music, despite the fact that we had both been at this for a minute. This freedom we found is what propelled me into the early ideas of Blame My Youth.”
And while Van Vleet’s new team ventures were thriving, he never forgot about his time in Empires and some of the people that he worked with along the way – linking with a crew of folks mostly renowned for their time in Nashville to help with his rock-focused venture. “I met [the rest of the] Big Loud Rock crew Seth England, Craig Wiseman and Joey Moi, 10 years ago,” recalls Van Vleet. “Seth and I stayed really close all this time. Not only are we really good friends, but I think we all knew that we would eventually work on something awesome together. It’s just about the right timing.”
On Black Sheep, Austin Meade delivers songs and stories that, like the young singer/guitarist himself, are contradictory yet cohesive. His influences—musical and otherwise—are as varied and rich as the small-town Texas soil that nurtured his talent, yielding 12 stellar songs ranging from the insinuating multi-layered musicality and storytelling of “Déjà Vu” to the dark alt-pop of “Happier Alone,” and on further to the new-age, Sabbath-inspired “Dopamine Drop.”
Thanks to his metal- and classic-rock loving dad, Meade got to see bands like Judas Priest and worshipped Whitesnake. In junior high he related to the intense emo-rock of Paramore and Fall Out Boy, and the power of songwriters like John Mayer. Yet, thanks to plainspoken but deep heartland songwriters like Tom Petty, and cutting his teeth touring in the Texas and Oklahoma Red Dirt scene, Meade’s music overflows with wide-open soulfulness. He was a drummer for years, even teaching to pay the bills, but Meade found his true voice when he began playing guitar as a teen in his pastor-father’s church. Those experiences lend both a gravitas and rebelliousness to Meade’s songs and self.
The songs on Black Sheep, produced by Taylor Kimball (Koe Wetzel, Read Southall, Kody West) are instantly memorable, but far from simplistic. Meade challenges the status quo, both musically and lyrically. “I like to question those standard math formulas,” he explains. “What if we just add two more lines and make somebody feel uncomfortable here,’ because the song itself is about being uncomfortable?” And within a song—and video—like “Déjà Vu,” Meade explores the cyclical, Groundhog Day-like nature of a month—or lifetime—of Sundays.
Throughout school, “I was one of the weird kids who actually liked writing class. I would describe ridiculous stuff, and in elementary school I was a Harry Potter nerd. I’d get lost in those books,” he remembers. Soon, though, records became his new sanctuary. “I started to hear songwriters that were telling stories in three to five minutes; concepts and ideas that were not only spanning just that one song. One of my favorite lyricists is Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys; the way he describes things, you can almost touch it or smell it.”
Likewise, on Black Sheep, Meade’s vivid descriptions are palpable and immersive. They paint a picture the listener can step into, like taking a journey through “two-lane highways and speed-trap towns” that Meade traverses in “Déjà Vu.” “That’s my goal,” he explains. “To make people feel like they’re in the room with the stories in my songs; they’re within that experience.”
Meade’s carefully crafted songs manage to be profound and provocative, sonically suited for both dive bars and arenas. From the seismic guitars and painfully honest lyrics of a song like “Dopamine Drop” to the mournful, lilting nostalgia and hard reality of “Settle Down” and on through the fantasy of “handwritten letters, candle-wax seal, Midwest American feel” in “Cave In,” it is clear Meade’s ambitions and dreams are weighty.
The songs are ably aided on Black Sheep by his band, longtime guitarist and creative partner David Willie and drummer Aaron Hernandez; newest member bassist Jordan Pena isn’t on Black Sheep. In recording the LP with producer Kimball, Austin committed to exploring and experimenting with new ideas. “I wanted to put more pedals and crazier sounds on Black Sheep… I want to be constantly changing and morphing as an artist,” Meade says, “making sure that I’m opening myself up to new opportunities and new tones.”
The closing song that gives the album its title is self-referential and accepting. “‘Black Sheep’ is me realizing that, ‘fuck it, I don’t have to change what I’m doing, I don’t need to feel like I have to fit in.’ Just because I’m playing in Texas and Oklahoma doesn’t mean I have to play more country, or only an acoustic guitar. I own who and what I am.”
Further expounding on the record Meade notes, “I like to break people’s hearts at the last minute, sometimes unsuspectingly: ‘Comfort is a hard drug.’” While not immune to the appeal of a white-picket-fence future, he wants more… for himself, and others. “I want people to look at lyrics like that and figure out if it challenges them to move or challenges them to make themselves a better person. To do what they want to do with their life and achieve their dreams, rather than just letting everybody else tell them what life is ‘supposed to be.’”
To that end, he’s been following his muse and paying dues for most of his young years. Playing every dimly lit restaurant stage that would help pay bills in college. (At Texas A&M he studied for agricultural economics, which he terms “a business degree, just a little bit more Texan.”) Meade’s also spent the last six years honing his songwriting skills on two indie EPs and two albums prior to making Black Sheep. And his talent has not gone unnoticed, the Dallas Observer writing that Meade’s “rich guitar-driven melodies and tone call back to times when Tom Petty and Jimmy Page ruled the stage. … His songwriting prowess is beyond his 26 years, with lyrics and characters acting as conduits into the mind of a young man trying to sort out his feelings as the state of the world smacks him in the face.”
Black Sheep was written and recorded in late 2019, and meant to be released independently–until Snakefarm got a hold of it and immediately signed Meade. The frontman is well aware that the hard work that’s led to this point is just the beginning. After all, he lays it out in “Black Sheep”: “Comfort is a hard drug … do you ever want to leave this town?” For Meade, placid hometown comfort is in the rear-view—or will be once touring starts up again, as he boldly sings his statement of intent: “I am the black sheep / running til I’m six feet.”
Lines still stretch around the block at clubs, warehouses, and theaters on a nightly basis worldwide. Amplifiers still blare out of suburban garages everywhere. Guitars, drums, and bass still translate the emotion and energy of a generation better than anything. No matter what prevailing opinion may be, rock music still maintains its foothold just behind the pop culture curtain—as if in the wings waiting to return.
BRKN LOVE carry on this tradition, while evolving it. Toronto singer and guitarist Justin Benlolo envisions a fresh future for the genre on the band’s 2019 full-length debut for Spinefarm Records produced by Joel Hamilton [Highly Suspect, Pretty Lights].
“When I first thought about starting a band, it needed all of the elements of rock ‘n’ roll that I respond to—big guitars, big drums, and big vocals,” he explains. “I didn’t want it to be too complex. It had to be something everybody could digest in a short and sweet format. It’s alternative, but it’s also heavy. I try to get right to the point. There are so many of these kids still showing up to shows and moshing to real rock music. That’s refreshing. There’s still a place for something authentic. That’s what I want to provide.”
Born and raised in Canada, Justin cut his teeth by obsessing over the likes of Soundgarden and Led Zeppelin in his youth, while learning how to write music. With the advent of bands such as Royal Blood and Highly Suspect, he recognized the potential for a “different kind of band—that’s not too macho and slick, but edgy enough for the punks.” Justin started tracking demos for BRKN LOVE and shortly after determined that Joel Hamilton was the perfect producer. Joel responded to the tracks by inviting him to Brooklyn to record at Studio G. Together, they cut the 13 tracks that would comprise the album as the band landed a deal with Spinefarm Records after a New York showcase.
Recorded live to tape in the studio, the sound preserves “a raw, real, and alive” feeling in the riffing tempered by “relatable and emotional lyrics.”
Now, the first single “Shot Down” hinges on thick guitars before Justin’s howling takes hold. It seesaws between dirty blues verses and a skyscraping refrain as he chants, “Landslide, shaking the crowd…Shot down in the bottom of a valley!”
Written at the infamous Mate’s Studio in North Hollywood, CA, it captures all of the seedy, glorious grit of the San Fernando Valley.
“It’s got a lot of sexual innuendos,” he goes on. “On the contrary, it can be interpreted as a massive disaster song. There’s a landslide shaking the ground, and we’re in the middle of the valley. The world’s ending as we’re playing away. You could also interpret as about a girl.”
The airy harmonies and syncopated riffs of “I Can’t Lie” take dead aim at West Coast fakery and “friends who stabbed me in the back for no reason” with a hypnotic and heartfelt chorus. Everything culminates on “In Your Hands,” which slides from a clean intro towards a wall of fuzz and his most impressive vocal performance. The latter serves as “an ode to life that we’re going to ride the universe’s wave without worrying.”
In the end, BRKN LOVE represent a new era for rock music that’s as powerful as it is emotional.
“The name represents who I am,” Justin leaves off. “You can honestly be a hopeless romantic and play tough music. Most of the lyrics deal with love and loss. That’s the vibe. You can share your feelings and still rock your face off at the end of the day. It’s what I’m going to do.”
Hero The Band
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. It’s not what they say, but what they do or, in the case of Hero The Band, what they sing…
The Georgia quartet of blood brothers each born a year apart—Justin Barnett aka Ocean [vocals, lead guitar], Jerramy Barnett aka Goku Love [vocals, bass], DJ Barnett aka BamBam [vocals, drums], and Nick Barnett aka Nicky Jupiter [guitar, keys]—emerge at a sonic crossroads between galactic arena rock, experimental alternative, and swaggering R&B.
“We want to show the world everybody’s their own hero,” exclaims Jerramy. “We come from the same spiritual realm, but physically we’re put here on this planet equipped with different powers and special abilities. It’s about being your own unique individual and embracing who you are.”
“Our parents raised us to just do our best in whatever we do,” adds DJ. “That’s all it takes to be a hero. It’s not about getting notoriety at the end of the day; it’s about leading by example. You never know who you might be inspiring.”
“It’s also about a sense of bravery,” Nick elaborates. “You literally have four black brothers from Decatur, GA singing rock music. Everybody looked at us like we were crazy as hell when we first decided to do this. It’s simple though. We do what we love with conviction.”
They started doing so back in 2010. Growing up in a highly musical family, the boys sang in an R&B group in between playing sports. However, grandma bought them a karaoke machine, and its myriad stations caught their attention. First inspired by Coldplay’s “Clocks,” they soon fell down a rock ‘n’ roll rabbit hole, going from Queen to Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, The Beatles, Rush, and The Fray. Picking up instruments, they brought Hero The Band to life. Buckling down alongside producer Donovan Jarvis in an Atlanta studio, they honed a signature sound throughout three independent releases—Goldn Hearts , Bleach , and Heroshima —and logged 350-plus shows everywhere from Super Bowl Live to AfroPunk. Not to mention, mutually collaborating with the likes of Big K.R.I.T., Childish Major, Trinidad James, Jack Harlow, and many more.
As a movement quietly formed around them, LAVA Records/Republic Records signed the group in 2019. Now, they ignite their rise on the major label debut single “Back To Myself.” Produced by Pete Nappi [Meghan Trainor, Kesha, Thirty Seconds To Mars], the song pairs a steady beat with earthquaking guitars and a sweeping and soaring chant, “I’m getting back to myself.”
“It’s about arising out of a place of feeling down and suffocated or having negative thoughts in your head,” explains Justin. “You’re constantly battling yourself. So, once you move past those feelings, you come back to who you’re meant to be. It screams. It’s an anthem for anybody who feels lost, insecure, or like an outcast. Know you can overcome whatever you’re facing.”
In the end, this uplifting spirit defines the group’s upcoming project and overall message.
“We want to give people a sense of being more independent and trusting themselves. It’s also about remaining open to the world. You can spread love and use it to heal your own scars and wounds and others. Life is beautiful. It’s about constantly healing and keeping it real. That’s what we’re here to give.”
Eva Under Fire
If you think rock n’ roll fairy tales are a thing of the past, you haven’t met Eva Under Fire. These Detroit rock upstarts got their start five years ago and instantly began cutting their teeth in the underground rock scene, building an enthusiastic fanbase the old-fashioned way. However, the band’s trajectory shifted toward the stratosphere when they sent an unsolicited demo to Better Noise Music, who recognized the band’s hybrid of rock, metal, pop and classic rock as something wholly unique. Inspired by everyone from the Deftones to Duran Duran, Love, Drugs & Misery combines soaring melodies and relentless riffing with the powerful pipes of vocalist Eva Marie, who passionately spreads the band’s inclusive message of hope during these uncertain times.
That said, it took a lot of hard work for them to get to this point. The group’s roots go back to 2015 when Eva, guitarists Chris Slapnik and Rob Lyberg, bassist Ed Joseph and drummer Corey Newsom, decided to get together and write music that represented their diverse set of influences. The chemistry clicked and after releasing a well received full-length and two EPs, the band signed to Better Noise and spent the past two years working on Love, Drugs & Misery, their most ambitious and fully realized release to date. “We really wanted to challenge ourselves with this record and focus on melodies and writing the best material that we could come up with,” Eva explains. “We really came up with the best of the best when it came to our songwriting. Some songs are fun, others are more emotional.”
For Love, Drugs & Misery, the band once again teamed up with local collaborators BJ Perry (I Prevail, Escape The Fate) and John Pregler, whose collective attention to detail helped the band fine-tune their sound. “BJ and John made sure everything was really focused and the best it could be, especially the melodies,” Eva explains. That laser focus allowed the band to create an album that is as creative as it is authentic. “My biggest influence is probably Deftones because they have such an innovative mix of sounds,” Chris explains, “and Eva’s voice is so powerful that she can sing anything. The album is basically a mix of everything we all listen to from classic rock to modern metal.” Eva, who got her start singing along to show tunes and pop music before discovering acts like Evanescence and Breaking Benjamin, agrees. “It’s really a combination of a lot of different influences from all ends of the musical spectrum.”
From the syncopated, distortion-drenched groove of the opener “Misery” to the palm-muted riffs and massive hooks of “Blow” (feat. Spencer Charnas of Ice Nine Kills) and explosive anthemics of “Unstoppable,” Love, Drugs & Misery has plenty of moments of guitar-driven grandeur. However that aggression is balanced by gripping ballads such as “The Strong” and “Give Me A Reason,” which are as inspiring as they are impactful. Then there’s “Heroin(e),” an electronica-infused, arena-ready rocker that holds special resonance for Eva. “I wrote that song from a personal space and the music was built around the lyrics,” she explains about the song, which deals with the experience of drug addiction within her family. “I was so grateful that the story could remain intact because it was so powerful, but it was so close to me that I wasn’t sure if it should go on the record or not.” Once the label heard the song they not only embraced it but included it in the upcoming Better Noise film, Sno Babies.
That balance of style and substance lies at the core of Eva Under Fire. For that reason they weren’t scared to try new things on Love, Drugs & Misery, whether that was using Talk Box guitar effects, integrating shredding guitar solos or putting their stamp on the 1987 U2 hit, “With or Without You.” Simply put, this collection of songs couldn’t have come from anyone else. “There’s a lot of grit in the vocals on this album and that’s because the aggression, anger and sadness are real,” Eva explains. “In the studio I was able to tap into those real emotions on demand because I knew that this was important. This is our platform where you need to show how real and true it is—whether you’re having a blast in the moment or you’re on the verge of tears, that’s what you want to convey. I think our producers did a great job of making us feel at home.”
“I’m really happy because this album isn’t twelve songs of the exact same style, there’s a variety where you can hear the different influences and that’s important to me,” Chris summarizes. “We wave a flag of humanity and I think this record is encouraging in the sense that whoever listens to this record will find something that will speak to them in its own way,” Eva adds. “We worked so hard to get to where we are today, but we made it. I think this album will really bring a lot of people together and that’s so needed now,” she adds. “I can’t wait to see what that will translate to when we’re finally about to get out there and tour again.”
Reach 454 was a pummeling post-hardcore combo based in New York City. Formed on Long Island in 1996 by ex-Sick of It All bassist Richie Cipriano, who switched to guitar for the new project, Reach 454 also included vocalist Rene Mata, bassist Dan Martinez, Drummer Dante Renzi, Guitarist Nick Cavagnaro . The band was active on the New York scene, gigging frequently with future heavy rock notables like Papa Roach and System of a Down and playing festivals like the Warped Tour. Reach 454 finally caught a break when Lava/ Atlantic president Jason Flom signed them after a strong performance at a label showcase. The band entered the studio in 2002 with producer Jay Baumgardner (Papa Roach, Evanescence), and emerged in summer 2003 with their self-titled debut. The album showcased Reach 454’s dynamic melodic shifts and hard-hitting guitars, and was possessed of the stylized, radio-ready burnish favored in the existing nü metal scene of the early 21st century. The band disbanded in 2004 after being dropped from label. But the story goes on…
Before Singer Rene Mata was signed to LAVA, he had gotten LA based band “Karas Flowers” signed to burgeoning record label Octone records. The band changed their name to ‘Maroon 5’ right before releasing their mega debut record “Songs About Jane”. After Reach disbanded and was dropped from their label, Rene found out his wife was pregnant with their first child. His close friend Matt Pinfield got him his first A&R job at Columbia Records and this kicked off Rene’s new career behind the scenes. From then on Rene went on to work at various label and record companies as well as managing producers at AAM, his current home base.
Rene was instrumental in getting record deals for lovelytheband, Dreamers, Albert Hammond jr, POD, Bass Drum of Death, Nevrlands, Ocean Park Standoff, Des Rocs and more. When Rene wasn’t working in music, he was working nights as the head door man at infamous NYC hotspot Cabin Down Below.
Throughout the years, one of Rene’s closest friends Chester Bennington expressed to Rene how important it was for him to keep playing music and was always encouraging him.
The last time Rene and Chester were together in NYC, they held a large dinner get-together with Jacoby, Tobin, and Tony from Papa Roach, Matt Sorum, Marcos of POD, and Rob from Volbeat. It was an incredible night of good times with a bunch of close friends. Chester presented the idea of wanting to put together a tour for the following year with Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Korn, Deftones, System of a Down, and Papa Roach and wanted REACH as an opener. Chester passed away that July. Rene fell into a dark depression.
Rene went on in Chester’s honor to A&R and executive produce Chester’s first band called “Grey Daze”. Rene also secured a record deal for the band with Tom Whalley at Loma Vista Recordings, but he was still suffering deeply from the loss of his friend.
Just last year in 2019, his two goods friends Dante Renzi (drummer from REACH) and Marcos Curiel (guitarist from POD) encouraged him to put the band back together and open for POD in NYC. It was the bands first show since 2004 and it quickly rekindled their friendships and their love of music.
Their love for creating music as well as the importance of friends and family reinvigorated their lifelong friendship. In 2020, Reach signed a deal with the Orchard for their EP titled “Back From the Dead” their first release under the same title is set to premiere October 9th, 2020 and features long-time friend Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach. The EP was mixed by Jay Baumgardner and mastered by Howie Weinberg in Los Angeles. The Debut single drops 10.9.2020 with the EP to follow in 2021.
Survive The Sun
Crafting a unique mix of retro influences with contemporary flair, WHIT3 COLLR catapulted onto the music scene
in April 2021 with the release of their debut single “16 Sweet.” Featured in Alternative Press (AltPress)
Magazine’s “New Artists You Need to Hear” (May 2021), the band’s rock sound is a nod to greats like Van Halen
and Guns N’ Roses, while their infectious hooks and melodies reveal modern influences such as KALEO, The Black
Keys, and Greta Van Fleet (AltPress). WHIT3 COLLR’s thrashing drums and gritty electric guitars combine with raw
rock vocals that “are reminiscent of Ozzy Osbourne circa 1982” (Pancakes and Whiskey). According to California
Rocker, “[t]heir original material is very hook-laden and catchy with bright, irresistible melodies.”
Seventeen-year-olds Will Sawyer (songwriter/lead vocals/guitar) and Donovan Hess (drums/backing vocals) with
15-year-old JT Sawyer (bass, no relation to Will Sawyer) regularly play iconic Southern California venues including
the Viper Room, Whisky a GoGo, and the Coach House. Out of more than 3,000 bands, WHIT3 COLLR recently
won That Space Zebra Show’s “Battle for the Big Stage” to play the main stage at the Welcome to Rockville
festival in Daytona Beach, Florida in November 2021. Will Sawyer is the only six-time champion of Danny
Wimmer Presents’ guitar competition, “Riff Wars: King of the Hill.”
WHIT3 COLLR’s singles have been featured on editorial playlists by Spotify’s Global Head of Rock Alli Hagendorf:
“Pure Rock and Roll” and “New Noise.” WHIT3 COLLR just wrapped up a recording session leading to two
upcoming EPs. Will Sawyer shares, “We are making music and playing live because we love it, and we just want
to project that energy onto our fans.”