Tool’s greatest breakthrough was to meld dark underground metal with the ambition of art rock. Although Metallica wrote their multi-sectioned, layered songs as if they were composers, they kept their musical attack ferociously at street level. Tool didn’t. They embraced the artsy, bohemian preoccupations of Jane’s Addiction while they simultaneously paid musical homage to the relentlessly bleak visions of grindcore, death metal, and thrash. Even with their post-punk influences, they executed their music with the aesthetic of prog rock, alternating between long, detailed instrumental interludes and lyrical rants in their songs.
Tool had a knack for conveying the strangled, oppressive angst that the alternative nation of the early ’90s claimed as its own. So, Tool were able to slip into the definition of alternative rock during the post-Nirvana era, landing a slot on the third Lollapalooza tour in 1993, which helped their first full-length debut album, Undertow, rocket to platinum status. By the time the band delivered its belated follow-up, Ænima, in 1996, alternative rock had lost its grip on the mainstream of America, and Tool’s audience had shaped up as essentially metal-oriented, which meant that the group and the record didn’t capture as big an audience as their first album, despite debuting at number two on the charts. After a co-headlining slot with Korn on Lollapalooza ’97 wrapped up, Tool remained on the road, supporting Ænima until well into the next year.
During the band’s usual extended hiatus between albums, Maynard James Keenan decided to use his downtime productively by forming a side project, dubbed A Perfect Circle. The band’s 2000 debut, Mer de Noms, was a surprise hit, while the ensuing tour was a sold-out success as well. With Tool breakup rumors swirling, the band put the speculation to rest by re-entering the recording studio and issuing the stopgap B-sides/DVD set Salival late the same year. Finally, May 2001 saw the release of Tool’s third full-length release, Lateralus, which debuted at the number one position on the Billboard album chart and became the band’s biggest hit. After the obligatory several-year sabbatical to pursue other projects, the group returned with another chart-topper, 10,000 Days, in 2006.
Since forming in 1993, the iconic hard rock band KORN have sold nearly 40 million albums, toured the world dozens of times, and set records in the process that will likely never be surpassed. Originally from Bakersfield, CA, vocalist Jonathan Davis, guitarists James “Munky” Shaffer and Brian “Head” Welch, and Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu on bass ushered in the new wave of metal music in the ’90s with their self-titled debut in 1994 and 1996’s Life is Peachy, but have ridden that wave to even greater success and higher artistic water marks. The band have battled personal demons and addictions but have found their way through to the other side. And now, highlighted by the force of drummer Ray Luzier, a return to a dual-guitar dynamic and some of Davis’s most inspired moments of self-reflection and expression, the new album The Serenity of Suffering finds KORN harnessing all the anger, power, and trademark balance of darkness and light that made their name all those years ago.
As a rock icon and filmmaker with a unique vision, 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 seven feature films with a worldwide gross totaling more than $150 million.
Rob Zombie has achieved great success as a solo artist with several multi-platinum and gold albums 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 T-Boy Records/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.”
This past winter he released his first live album in over eight years called SPOOKSHOW INTERNATIONAL LIVE. Filled with nineteen tracks recorded during his critically acclaimed US tour in 2014, the record became an instant fan favorite. Rob has also been spending more time in the studio as of late and will be releasing a new full-length album soon.
In terms of his film career, Zombie’s Halloween, released in 2007, earned the No. 1 spot at the box office in its opening weekend, and his first two films House of 1,000 corpses and The Devil’s Rejects have become cult favorites among critics and fans. Rob Zombie’s seventh feature film, the highly anticipated 31, will be making its world premiere this month at Sundance Film Festival. Last year he also released his first live album in over eight years, SPOOKSHOW INTERNATIONAL LIVE, which is filled with nineteen tracks from the highlights of Rob’s critically acclaimed US tour of 2014. Zombie’s seventh feature film, 31 made its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival before its theatrical release on September 1.
Rob Zombie’s first concert film, The Zombie Horror Picture Show, was released May 19 2015 by Zodiac Swan/T-Boy/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 of his 6th studio album, The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser. 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). This album marks Rob Zombie’s first solo studio album since 2013’s Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor.
A door opens. Footsteps lead to a chair inside of a nondescript room. A person sits down and exhales.
As the breath releases, this protagonist experiences a physical, mental, and emotional journey that stretches from life’s lowest lows to life’s highest highs. Throughout the trip, anxieties dissipate, doubts dissolve, and demons disappear. You might expect everything in between to transpire over the course of some blockbuster Netflix series. However, this story belongs to Shinedown’s sixth full-length album, ATTENTION ATTENTION [Atlantic Records]. The record-breaking multiplatinum rock band—Brent Smith [vocals], Zach Myers [guitar], Eric Bass [bass, production], and Barry Kerch [drums]—once again uproot convention and deliver a personal, poignant, and powerful body of work that evolves from ruin to reclamation to revelation.
“As we wrote the songs, they showed me that they were all related to each other during a very early stage,” Brent explains. “It’s one complete thought, because it’s a cohesive story. A lot of this is about me, but it’s also about Eric, Barry, and Zach. It was born from the last four years of our lives. I’ve always said, ‘You’ve got to fall in a hole to figure out how to get out of it.’ We start off at the bottom. This person fights to build back up, realizes he or she isn’t perfect, accepts that nothing in this world is just handed over, and unlocks the resolve to take everything on. You’ll see this shift and change as it progresses down the tracklist. Finally, the character becomes confident again. It’s meant to be listened to from beginning to end. We wanted to do something that wasn’t traditional.”
Leading the charge for 21st century rock by uncompromisingly challenging themselves and occupying the cutting edge, Shinedown engenders diehard love among millions of global fans. The band’s unmatched domination of multi-format rock radio commenced with their 2003 platinum-certified debut Leave A Whisper and its gold-selling 2005 follow-up Us and Them. 2008’s Billboard Top 10, double-platinum LP The Sound of Madness remained on the Top 200 Chart for a staggering 120 consecutive weeks and made rock history with six #1 singles including the gold “Devour,” platinum “If You Only Knew,” and the triple-platinum breakthrough “Second Chance,” igniting a mainstream crossover and soaring to #1 at Hot AC and Top 3 at Top 40.
After contributing the gold-certified “Diamond Eyes” for The Expendables film and “Her Name Is Alice” to the album Almost Alice inspired by Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, the band seized #1 on the Billboard Top Rock Albums Chart and #4 on the Top 200 with 2012’s gold-certified Amaryllis, which launched three #1 Active Rock anthems —“Bully,” “Unity,” and “Enemies.” 2015’s Threat To Survival marked their third straight Top 10 debut on the Top 200, arriving at #5 while also debuting at #1 on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums Chart and bringing Shinedown’s total count of number one rock singles to 12 thanks to hits like “Cut the Cord” and “State of My Head.” Every one of the singles released over Shinedown’s nearly two-decade career has ascended to the Top 10 – a feat unmatched by any other rock band, now or ever before. Beyond sold out headline gigs worldwide and numerous festival headlining sets, Shinedown has sold more than 10 million albums worldwide, has 11 platinum and gold singles and four platinum and gold albums, and averages more than 3.3 million monthly listeners on Spotify as one of the most-listened-to rock bands on the platform with over 600 million streams, contributing to their more than 1 billion total overall streams to date.
While on the road for Threat To Survival, Brent found himself mired in darkness. Never one to pull any punches, this period provided a bedrock of inspiration for the writing process.
“In order to make something truly and purely Shinedown, we had to talk about what we know, which is each other,” he admits. “I’ve had to battle certain situations, when it comes to substance abuse and addiction. That reared its ugly head. I basically had fallen from grace, because I’m not perfect. I had to pull myself together and build myself back up. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if it wasn’t for these three other gentlemen. So, I wrote about it all. This is probably the most truthful thing I’ve done in the last decade. I have a tattoo on the top of my left hand that says, ‘Your pain is a gift.’ That’s how I feel. It’s what made me who I am.”
“From a lyrical standpoint, I knew what the story was,” says Eric. “Brent was so open and honest. I grew up listening to a lot of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, and I love that cinematic element. Brent’s lyrics give you visuals, but the music can to. That was the basis for this.”
Given the deeply personal nature of the record, the musicians went in-house for production, enlisting Eric to produce and mix an entire album’s worth of material for the very first time. Working at his Ocean Industries Studios in Charleston, SC, they devoted the bulk of 2017 to recording what would become ATTENTION ATTENTION. Throughout that time, Eric expanded the sonic palette dramatically, bringing cinematic heft to the core.
“We knew that we probably wouldn’t be able to get an outsider to come in and make this the way we wanted to,” says Brent. “It had to be Eric. He did an unbelievable job.”
“I didn’t want it to feel safe,” adds Eric. “I wanted it to feel dangerous and real. My goal is always to try create something that will perk people’s ears up when they hear it and naturally draw attention to itself. We had to go digging in the dirt, searching, and finding. From the beginning, I had a scope of what this record could be. Songs can guide you and let you know how they want to sound and what they want to be. I wanted to shake things up as much as possible. I think we achieved that.”
The group introduce the record with the opener and first single “DEVIL.” A rush of unpredictable rhythms and robust, roaring, and raw guitars gives way to an ominous, yet overpowering refrain, “I was sent to warn you the devil’s in the next room.”
“It’s the beginning of the story, but it’s also a way to come back and make sure the rock ‘n’ roll community understands that we haven’t abandoned them by any stretch of the imagination,” the frontman grins. “It’s a very universal song, because of its intensity. It’s all about being terrified and afraid. You have to accept the fact you can’t pretend you’re not scared. The only way to get stronger is to respect that certain situations are terrifying. The devil might be you. You need to learn how to readjust and get out of your own way.”
On “KILL YOUR CONSCIENCE,” airy synths and the crack of a whip snap into a percussive march and snarling refrain instigated by the pitfalls of social media. Elsewhere during “GET UP,” lush piano chords underscore a lyrical ode to Eric and his struggles with depression as Brent assures, “Take it from me, you’re not the only one—who can’t see straight. If you are ever in doubt, don’t sell yourself short, you might be bulletproof. Hard to move mountains when you’re paralyzed, but you gotta try.”
The track “THE HUMAN RADIO” culminates on a choir comprised of the producer’s sisters and mom. It reaches heavenly heights on the back of energized distortion tailor-made for sports stadiums.
“The world is calling to the person in the room as a reminder that there are other people outside fighting for survival, truth, and just to stay alive,” he goes on. “The human radio is your heartbeat. It’s an undivided song and a symbol of the human spirit.”
For the vocalist, it hints at a larger message and optimistic social implications. Brent elaborates, “This whole record lets the public know we have each other. We may not always agree, but we’ve got to respect each other.”
“BRILLIANT” closes out ATTENTION ATTENTION with a gallop of guitars, screeching leads, and an intense vocal crescendo. It concludes on an inspiring proclamation, “It’s my day to be brilliant!”
“That song holds a lot of weight with me,” he states. “It’s designed to hit you like a flood of emotion. In the story, the person stands up. It’s time to get moving. That means literally run for your life. It’s the moment the individual becomes fearless.”
Shinedown too remains as fearless as ever as they kick off what promises to be their biggest and boldest chapter yet. Ultimately, the band delivers an engaging, powerful and enduring statement on ATTENTION ATTENTION.
“I want this to feel like a journey,” concludes Eric. “I hope it catches listeners’ attention. Throughout the process of listening to it, the hair on their arms stands up and they become invested in this creation. That’s what I would love for people to take away.”
“I want everyone to know we will always go to the next level,” Brent leaves off. “There’s no ceiling. We’ll continue to push ourselves not only as musicians, but as songwriters and as people. I feel like this is a record the world needs right now. It’s about celebrating the will we all have inside of us. To me, this band means giving up is not an option. That’s why we never say ‘Goodbye’; we say, ‘Until next time.’”
There are few heavy metal bands that have managed to scale the heights that Judas Priest have during their nearly 50-year career. Their presence and influence remains at an all-time high as evidenced by 2018’s ‘Firepower’ being the highest charting album of their career, a 2010 Grammy Award win for ‘Best Metal Performance’, plus being a 2006 VH1 Rock Honors recipient and a 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination.
Judas Priest originally formed in 1969 in Birmingham, England (an area that many feel birthed heavy metal). Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing and Ian Hill would be the nucleus of musicians (along with several different drummers over the years) that would go on to change the face of heavy metal. After a ‘feeling out’ period of a couple of albums, 1974’s ‘Rocka Rolla’ and 1976’s ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ this line-up truly hit their stride. The result was a quartet of albums that separated Priest from the rest of the hard rock pack – 1977’s ‘Sin After Sin’, 1978’s ‘Stained Class’ and ‘Hell Bent for Leather’, and 1979’s ‘Unleashed in the East’, which spawned such metal anthems as ‘Sinner’, ‘Diamonds and Rust’, ‘Hell Bent for Leather’, and ‘The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)’. Also, Priest were one of the first metal bands to exclusively wear leather and studs – a look that began during this era and would eventually be embraced by metalheads throughout the world.
It could be said that Priest simply owned the ’80s as they were second to none as far as pure metal goes, releasing such all-time classic albums as 1980’s ‘British Steel’, 1981’s ‘Point of Entry’, 1982’s ‘Screaming for Vengeance’, and 1984’s ‘Defenders of the Faith’. Once more, these titles spawned countless enduring metal anthems including ‘Breaking the Law’, ‘Living After Midnight’, ‘Heading Out to the Highway’, and ‘You’ve Got Another Thing Coming’. The ’80s were also a decade where Priest became a global arena headliner, offering show-stopping sets at some of the world’s biggest festivals, including the first-ever Monsters of Rock Festival at Donington Park (1980) in the United Kingdom, the US Festival (1983) in the United States and Live Aid (1985) in the United States.
The remainder of the ’80s saw Priest embrace more melodic hard rock sounds on 1986’s ‘Turbo’ and 1988’s ‘Ram it Down’ (in addition to their second live set, 1987’s ‘Priest…Live!’) before releasing arguably the heaviest release of their entire career, 1990’s ‘Painkiller’ (which saw the arrival of Scott Travis on drums). Judas Priest were special guests on the 2004 Ozzfest, appearing alongside Black Sabbath, before issuing ‘Angel of Retribution’ a year later.
2008 saw the release of the double-disc concept album, ‘Nostradamus’, which peaked at #11 on the Billboard 200, and a year later ‘A Touch of Evil: Live’ was issued (which led to the group’s aforementioned Grammy Award win due to a killer rendition of the classic, ‘Dissident Aggressor’).
In 2009, Priest began a celebration of the 30-year anniversary of the release of their classic ‘British Steel’ album, which included a tour that saw the group perform the album in its entirety, and was followed up by an expanded double-disc version of ‘British Steel’ in 2010, plus a DVD of their live show.
By 2011, Downing announced that he was exiting the band. With a still-burning desire to continue flying the flag of metal, Judas Priest decided to continue on, by enlisting newcomer Richie Faulkner on guitar. The move seemed to have reinvigorated the band, as evidenced by a show-stealing performance on the ‘American Idol’ TV program, that also served as Faulkner’s debut performance with the band (also in 2011, as was the release of a new compilation ‘The Chosen Few’, which included Priest classics selected by some of metal’s biggest names) and the ‘Epitaph’ concert DVD in 2013. Priest’s next studio effort would arrive in 2014, ‘Redeemer of Souls’, which scaled the U.S. charts to #6, and was supported by another strong tour.
In 2017, Priest received a nomination for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the following year, issuing their latest studio album, Firepower. Co-produced by Tom Allom and Andy Sneap, the 14-track album has become one of the most successful of the band’s entire career – landing in the top-5 of 17 countries (including their highest chart placement ever in the U.S., at #5), and scoring their highest charting commercial rock radio single in decades with “Lightning Strike.” After wrapping up a highly successful winter/spring tour of North America in 2018, Judas Priest then proceeded to rock across North America with some true heavy metal Firepower in the summer and fall – on tour with fellow rock legends Deep Purple. And Priest continues to go from strength to strength, including tour dates throughout the world for the remainder of 2018 and well into 2019, plus Euro dates with metal’s prince of darkness, Ozzy Osbourne.
Modern popular culture is a tourist trap. It seduces us to walk the easy path, to embrace the safely recognisable and to gorge on the unchallenging, endless, streams of homogenised mass-market pulp. See the sights, hear the sounds and always take the predefined route until those streams become stagnant pools and nothing means anything anymore.
The Prodigy has never taken the lazy tourist route. Since their inception in the heady rave days of the UK’s last truly oppositional subculture, they’ve eschewed the obvious and followed the path less trodden. Not for them rehash after reboot of their biggest hits. Not for them the bandwagon jumping, sales chasing genre shifts of so many of their contemporaries either. Each and every turn in their story has been one of determined independence.
The Prodigy is one of the most culturally significant bands of the last thirty years. Main man Liam Howlett and vocalists Maxim and Keef Flint have soundtracked the midnight hours with iconic tracks like ‘Charly’, ’Out of Space’, ‘Firestarter’, ‘Smack My Bitch Up’, ‘Omen’ and ‘The Day is My Enemy’. Their albums have dominated charts all over the planet. While others have followed the corporate whoring cash cow and delivered their souls to the mainstream machine, The Prodigy trio have stayed defiantly underground and remained true to themselves. They dominated the illegal rave scene, challenged anti-rave legislation and redefined the whole idea of what a band should be like. They brought UK electronic music to the US heartland and took no prisoners with their raw and incendiary live performances. They took the poison to places where other bands feared to tread and became the first of their generation of bands to play in Russia, Romania, Serbia and Macedonia. They turned metal kids onto raving and ravers into metalheads and put out genre destroying record after genre defying record. From the very start The Prodigy were renegade revolutionaries. Put simply, The Prodigy are no tourists – and never were.
‘No Tourists is ultimately about escapism and the want and need to be derailed and not to be a tourist and follow that easy set path,’ explains Liam Howlett in his North London studio. ‘In these times we live in people have become lazier and forgotten how to explore. Too many people are allowing themselves to be force fed, with whatever that may be. It’s about reaching out further to find another alternative route where the danger and excitement may be to feel more alive… not accepting that you can just be a tourist. That’s what the title is about for us.’
No Tourists is the band’s seventh studio album. A ten-track attack of cut and destroy euphoria that screams ‘we are The Prodigy, champions of London’, it is unashamedly forged from the sounds that they’ve made their own. The cacophony of chaos, the structure destroying b-lines, the sensory attacking beats – the foundations of The Prodigy sound. It’s an album of contorted and violent production that sees Liam Howlett once again turning expectations inside out. From the opening jackhammer impact of first single ‘Need Some 1’ to the closing 303 acid house thunder of ‘Give Me a Signal’, No Tourists takes you on a journey through the twisted, party-hard psych of a band that has resolutely followed their own route through the underbelly of popular culture since day one. It’s every inch a Prodigy record and it’s their most direct, concise and pure statement yet.
‘The whole album draws on the best elements of the band,’ Liam says. ‘It was important it felt fresh but at the same time drawing on our history and sound without being retro. Fuck retro, there’s no future in retro!’
The single ‘Need Some 1’ opens the set with its two minutes and forty-five seconds rush of Lolletta Holloway sampling ferocity. It is a fierce and slow swagger of a tune that brings the irresistible force of old skool rave into a collision with the darkside of an analogue synth attack.
‘It’s always important for me to write music that has that certain tension and danger – that’s what I’m about,’ says Liam.
What follows is the violent acid rock of ‘Light Up the Sky’ in which guitars combine with a classic attacking Prodigy riff and acid 303 mayhem. Throughout, Maxim’s spitting vocals wrap around an uplifting chorus from long-time contributor Brother Culture. ‘Light Up the Sky’ has the danger.
‘We Live Forever’ brings together both Keef and Maxim on vocals over an sinister ascending riff that keeps coming at you until erupting into a violent energy only Howlett knows how to bring. A Kool Kieth vocal hook interjects in between Keef and Maxim. This is the sound of evil rave
Next up, the title track ‘No Tourists’ comes in with Beastie Boys-style swaggering drums, an epic Bond-like anthemic soundscape laced with Maxim’s vocals. The message is direct – ‘No tourists, no ride is free’.
‘Fight Fire with Fire’, a collaboration with new jersey’s finest noise crew Ho99o9, is a down tempo, heavy grooved sure fire banger.
‘This was the first track I wrote for this album,’ says Liam. ‘As far as doing a collaboration, the Ho99o9 guys were the main band I wanted to work with and this tune has so much danger embedded in it. It’s the best collaboration we have done.’
If ‘Fight Fire with Fire’ is the sound of Liam playing dirty in New Jersey, then ‘Timebomb Zone’ finds him deep in the early 80s New York club scene sampling Alfonso in a tune that takes us back to the roots of the Prodigy sound. Like ‘Need Some 1’ it fuses tension with an uplifting vibe and a slice of bad acid alchemy.
With Keef and Maxim’s dueling vocals, ‘Champions of London’ already sounds like a classic Prodigy tune. All of the band’s live elements are present on this urgently uptempo ferocious rocker. It’s pure fire.
Next, we’re straight into the cut and thrust of ‘Boom Boom Tap’, which may be one of Liam’s most off kilter tunes yet. Hypnotic and out-on-the-parameter, the tune encapsulates a twisted humour whilst delivering a punch to the ribs.
‘Resonate’ melts lysergic fairground melodies, evil ambience and another slice of reggae vocal hook gold dust. It’s a sure fire banger which gives way to the stunning album closer ‘Give me a Signal’ featuring Barns Courtney on vocals, an acid house 303 climax that is pure flashback for the rave generation and Keef leading the charge with a challenge to ‘ride on the edge’ with his iconic snarling vocal.
No Tourists offers ten tracks of pure fire, dark side danger that simply don’t fit with lazy and passive culture. But then again, The Prodigy don’t fit either. They don’t do what’s expected of them. They don’t walk the obvious paths. They’re a burned out car in the countryside, a fox in the city at night, a night bus to oblivion. They’re renegades, outsiders, outlaws – always hiding in plain sight. They’re the most important act of their generation. In these times of bland, mass produced, homogenised fodder, they’re more relevant, more needed than they’ve ever been.
The Prodigy ain’t no tourists.
Novelist Henry Miller once wrote, “One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.” Since their formation in 1991, iconic multiplatinum Los Angeles rock band Incubus have consciously and continually shifted their perspective with each subsequent album, preserving the spirit that initially drove them and simultaneously challenging themselves as artists and human beings. Their eighth full-length, the aptly titled 8 [Island Records], proudly upholds that tradition for the quintet—Brandon Boyd [vocals], Mike Einziger [guitar, piano, backing vocals], José Pasillas II [drums], Chris Kilmore [turntables, keyboards], and Ben Kenney [bass].
“As a band, we’re collectively interested in challenging ourselves and hopefully finding new, innovative ways of writing music,” asserts Boyd. “That ethos has kept things interesting for us.”
It’s also kept things interesting for listeners everywhere. By 2017, the band’s sales exceeded 23 million worldwide, while landing four Top 5 debuts on the Billboard Top 200 and one #1 album. They’ve graced the stages of festivals everywhere from Lollapalooza and Air + Style to Download Festival and Pinkpop in addition to touring alongside the likes of Linkin Park, OutKast, Moby, Jane’s Addiction, Queens of the Stone Age, and many more. After the release of 2015’s Trust Fall (Side A) EP and a packed summer amphitheater tour with Deftones, the boys once again treaded uncharted territory. They collaborated with a dynamic talent behind the board as 8 would be co-produced and mixed by Skrillex [Justin Bieber, A$AP Rocky, Lady Gaga]. In January 2016, Boyd and Einziger holed up in a Venice Beach shack, building “Much of the musical framework in a weird man cave,” laughs Boyd.
By fall, the five musicians regrouped to flesh out ideas, recording at Jim Henson Studios and at Einziger’s personal studio. As the vision came into focus during early 2017, Incubus added another level by enlisting the perspective of longtime friend Skrillex for co-production and mixing. Einziger had spent the past few years, exponentially expanding his personal musical palette. Not only did he oversee production for The Internet’s Feel Good and produce three songs for Tyler, The Creator’s chart-topping “Cherry Bomb,” but he also co-wrote Avicii’s six-times platinum smash “Wake Me Up” and served as musical director and performer for a much talked-about 2016 GRAMMY® Awards performance of “Where Are Ü Now” by Skrillex, Diplo, and Justin Bieber. After lunch one day, Einziger played Skrillex some mixes, and “a whole new world opened up” as the producer added his magic to 8.
“It evolved organically out of my friendship with Skrillex,” Einziger elaborates. “Incubus is all about friendship. We transferred the synergy of working together into what the band was doing. As we put the final touches on everything, Skrillex brought another level to the album.”
As a result, the eleven tracks comprising 8 assemble a mosaic reflective of the band’s current mindset. Unease translates to unpredictable guitar riffs that blur the lines between time signatures as cosmic rhythmic transmissions orbit around an epicenter of combustible emotion. Each lyric encodes a parable or what might be a hidden message. The first single “Nimble Bastard” leapfrogs from a rattling guitar snap into an anthemic refrain. “Loneliest” echoes with an existential rumination on solitude over an airy beat and hypnotic guitars. “Undefeated” struts along via a bombastic stomp before culminating on an uplifting chant, while the spacey “Familiar Faces” instantly enchants.
The soothing instrumental soundscape of “Make No Sound In The Digital Forest” illuminates their cinematic side with delicate chimes, simmering drums, and warbling tones. A dial-up modem signals the explosion of “Love In A Time of Surveillance” as the one-two punch of “No Fun” and “Throw Out The Map” tap into a tsunami of distortion and punk-y freedom. “Glitterbomb” represents the glorious push-and-pull of 8, teetering between heavenly harmony and a dramatic twinge.
8 arrives at a significant milestone for Incubus—releasing exactly 20 years since their major label debut S.C.I.E.N.C.E. landed back in 1997. A little older, a lot wiser, quite tighter, but equally ready to challenge themselves and rock music at large, Incubus change their perspective once more in 2017.
“All the time, I hear from fans that our music was the backdrop of their first experience with love or important in getting them through a hard time,” says Einziger. “That’s the highest compliment.”
“When we finished 8, we were flooded with this wave of gratitude,” Boyd leaves off. “The fact that so many people are willing to come on this weird ride with us is really humbling. We’re filled with this sense of awe around it. We’re very happy to share this record with everyone, and we hope they like it.” — Rick Florino, March 2017
Bring Me The Horizon
English rock band Bring Me the Horizon made a steady progression from their death metal-inspired grindcore debut to melodic metalcore, maturing into a pop-savvy headline act by the end of their first decade together. With each subsequent release — from 2006’s caustic Count Your Blessings to 2013 mainstream breakthrough Sempiternal — they dialed back the blood-curdling screams and injected more melody until capturing an alternative-metal balance on their 2015 international chart-topping effort, That’s the Spirit.
The group was formed in 2004 from the ashes of several Sheffield-based outfits, with the 2003 Disney film Pirates of the Caribbean serving as the inspiration for the band’s name. Singer Oliver Sykes, guitarists Lee Malia and Curtis Ward, bassist Matt Kean, and drummer Matt Nicholls initially established their own label, Thirty Days of Night, to release their debut EP, 2005’s This Is What the Edge of Your Seat Was Made For. Upon signing to the higher-profile label Visible Noise (whose roster also included Bullet for My Valentine and Lostprophets), they reissued the EP to a wider audience. Bring Me the Horizon’s full-length debut, Count Your Blessings, appeared in October 2006, with an American release following one year later courtesy of Epitaph Records.
With their second album, Suicide Season, Bring Me the Horizon moved in a more accessible direction and wound up cracking the U.K. album charts. Not everyone approved of the new sound, though, and Ward left the band in early 2009. His temporary replacement was Jona Weinhofen, formerly a member of I Killed the Prom Queen. Weinhofen ended up staying with the band as a permanent member, and the group returned to the studio with producer Fredrik Nordström in March 2010 to begin work on a third album. The resulting There Is a Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It, There Is a Heaven, Let’s Keep It a Secret was released during the latter half of 2010, several months after the band wrapped up its engagement with the Warped Tour.
A fourth album, the critically lauded Sempiternal, arrived on Epitaph in 2013, and peaked at number three on the U.K. albums chart. Released in 2015, the loosely conceptual That’s the Spirit saw the group dropping some of its metalcore tendencies in lieu of a more melodic, alt-metal approach, capturing mainstream ears with the singles “Happy Song,” “True Friends,” and “Avalanche.” The set topped charts across the globe, peaking in the Top Three in their native England and in the U.S. Backed by the Parallax Orchestra and Simon Dobson, the band set its hits to orchestral backing on 2016’s Live at the Royal Albert Hall. In the summer of 2018, Bring Me the Horizon returned with the pop-leaning single “Mantra” from their sixth full-length effort, Amo.
Over the past two decades Papa Roach have established themselves as true trendsetters in rock music: They’ve been nominated for two Grammys, toured the globe with everyone from Eminem to Marilyn Manson and crafted the nü metal anthem “Last Resort,” which is still in heavy rotation on rock radio seventeen years after its release. However, the group’s ninth full-length Crooked Teeth sees the band returning to their humble—and hungry—roots. The album was recorded in a cramped North Hollywood studio with up-and-coming producers Nicholas “RAS” Furlong and Colin Brittain, who grew up listening to Papa Roach and inspired them to revisit some of the traits that personally endeared the band to them, most notably frontman Jacoby Shaddix’s remarkable rapping technique. From the instantly infectious nature of the title track to the atmospheric sheen of the ballad “Periscope” (which features Skylar Grey) and the hip-hop rock mashup “Sunrise Trailer Park” (which features an impassioned verse from Machine Gun Kelly), Crooked Teeth displays the various sides of Papa Roach and illustrates why they’ve managed to remain relevant while musical trends ebb and flow. Crooked Teeth also sees Shaddix pulling no punches lyrically, as evidenced on intensely personal tracks like “Born For Greatness,” produced by Jason Evigan (Jason Derulo, Demi Lovato, Kehlani, Madonna), which sees Shaddix getting sentimental about his three children, or “American Dreams” where the lifelong pacifist begs the listener to ask, “have you ever thought war was a sickness? The album’s acclaimed track “Help” debuted as the #1 Most Added at Active Rock and quickly became the #1 rock song in the country. Crooked Teeth is out May 19 via Eleven Seven Music.
“We stand undefined, can’t be drawn with a straight line/this will not be our ending, we are alive.” -“Imperfection”
For EVANESCENCE’s singer/songwriter and frontwoman AMY LEE, most of her best creative ideas are inspired by dreams, and with SYNTHESIS (BMG), the band’s long-awaited fourth studio album (and first since 2011’s self-titled release), it was a case of turning a long-held vision into reality.
Not simply a “greatest hits” album, SYNTHESIS takes a selection of EVANESCENCE’s three previous studio releases along with two new songs, and reimagines them with brand-new recordings. SYNTHESIS is an amalgamation of LEE’s masterful singing and piano playing, supported by her band, a full symphony orchestra performing arrangements by long-time collaborator David Campbell as well as an array of electronic music programming and effects engineered by co-producer Will Hunt–not to be confused with the band’s drummer, of the same name–and mixer Damian Taylor (Björk, The Killers, Arcade Fire) who also collaborated with the band on the album.
Living up to its name, SYNTHESIS is a combination of organic and synthesized sounds, classical and rock, old and new, reinterpreting the past while giving a glimpse into the future, an old-fashioned concept narrative that takes the listener on a journey from darkness into light, offering AMY LEE’s classic inkling of hope in the midst of despair.
“I tend to dream very big,” says AMY LEE about the project. “The whole idea came from thinking about how cool it would be to do new versions of songs with strings and programming, and it just evolved from there. With the skill and experience we’ve developed over the years, plus all of the great minds who came to be involved in the project, it snowballed into something very big, very quickly.”
As their evolution continues, the band will embark on the “Synthesis Live” tour, performing the record start-to-finish with a live orchestra and electronic programming in each city. “The recording is very much tied to the live experience we want to create,” says AMY. “I’m anxiously excited to play some much more involved, challenging piano for the show, and to focus on singing live more like the way I do in the studio.” Members of the band won’t just be accompanied by the orchestra, but will be embedded in the joined ensemble as a single unit, a presentation that marks the performance as a true theatrical event, again synthesizing the experience of seeing a classic orchestra in a theatre and a band.
The first track to be released from SYNTHESIS was a surprising reinvention of EVANESCENCE’s biggest hit, the Grammy-winning “Bring Me to Life,” which eliminates the original rap interlude sung by 12 Stones’ Paul McCoy, substituting an epic wide-screen full-color classical take that proves how AMY LEE’s voice has grown into a world-class instrument far removed from the tentative 20-year-old who originally sang on the demo.
“This offered a great opportunity to do the song in the way it was originally intended in some ways,” she says. With vocals recorded at co-producer Will Hunt’s Spaceway Productions studio in Fort Worth, TX, and the full orchestra at Ocean Way in Nashville, SYNTHESIS isn’t so much an abrupt stylistic departure, as it is a flowering of EVANESCENCE’s original approach as a band, which can be heard as far back as Fallen’s “My Immortal,” The Open Door’s “Lacrymosa” (based on Mozart’s “Requiem”), and, from the band’s most recent self-titled album, Evanescence, “My Heart Is Broken” and “The End of the Dream”–which all featured David Campbell’s string arrangements now supplemented with a full orchestra.
Adds LEE, “These songs all have a life beyond the initial studio recordings, so it was really satisfying to go back and sing them as a 35-year-old as opposed to a 20-year-old (some of them). To be able to incorporate some of those elements that have developed over years of playing them live, and to show ways I’ve grown as well was a beautiful opportunity. I had to not only make each these new versions better in some way, but also preserve the core of what made the initial performance so great. I really challenged myself.”
With those patented distorted grunge-era guitars and acoustic drums now replaced with a full symphony orchestra and various triggered programming effects, SYNTHESIS now spotlights AMY LEE’s incredible voice, truly one of the most distinctive in all of rock, in a way they’ve never been before.
“There’s something beautiful about the intimacy of vocals on this album,” she admits. “The arrangements now make room for those bigger emotions. I used to be afraid to put my singing too far out front, always preferred it pretty deep in the mix. I was a kid when we started, with a lot of insecurities. I never felt I was good enough, but I’ve really become comfortable with my voice. I wanted to try to see how intimate and up-in-your-ear I could get. It’s a challenge not to hide behind anything, but I welcome that. I really look forward to doing the album live.”
As for the rest of the band–guitarists JEN MAJURA, TROY MCLAWHORN and TIM MCCORD and drummer WILL HUNT–each had to fit their own skills into the final product, with MAJURA taking up the theremin, MCLAWHORN and MCCORD experimenting with different sounds, and HUNT triggering a collection of synthesized sounds through an electronic kit.
“This wouldn’t be an Evanescence album without my amazing band,” says LEE. “They’re all extremely versatile, talented, open-minded artists. It was up to them to figure out how they melded, blended and created their home in this new world. What can your instrument do that you didn’t realize it could?”
SYNTHESIS is not just about updating the past, but offers plenty of future possibilities. The album includes three, newly created interstitial instrumentals as well as a pair of new tracks in the previously unreleased “Hi Lo”–a decade-old song that was the very first collaboration between LEE and producer WILL HUNT–and the single, “Imperfection,” an EDM-infused funk/hip-hop track that represents EVANESCENCE’s future.
“’Imperfection’ is the most important song on the album for me,” says LEE. “The song had to fit into our body of work, but at the same time, be a classic in its own right. When the lyrics started pouring out of me, I realized it was speaking to all those people we’ve been losing through depression and suicide. I sang it from the perspective of the person left behind. It’s a plea to fight for your life, and that we all need each other as humans. We’re all imperfect, and it’s precisely those imperfections that make us who we are, and we have to embrace them because there’s beauty in those differences.”
SYNTHESIS traces the common thread in EVANESCENCE’s catalog, as AMY puts it, “Even in our darkest moment, when we simply say, ‘I hurt,’ hope always exists. It’s about not accepting defeat. Never give-up, never stop fighting for your life.”
As she sings on “Imperfection,” “Don’t you dare surrender/I’m still right beside you/And I could never replace your perfect imperfection.”
With SYNTHESIS, AMY LEE and EVANESCENCE have gone Back to the Future in a way only they can.
CHEVELLE is the understated musical powerhouse who have continually delivered rock anthems for the past 24 years. 7 number one hits, 17 songs reaching the top 10 charts, over 4 million records sold in the USA and many more world wide. Platinum and gold albums across their 8 studio records and successful live CD and two live DVD releases completes their extensive body of work to date. Its all credit to their continuing dedication to be true to their craft, the genre and their fans. Chevelle’s last two Album releases, La Gargola and The North Corridor both debuted #1 on the Billboard rock charts and #3 and #8 respectively, on the Billboard top 200 charts. With no signs of this Chicago alternative rock trio slowing down any time soon, their numerous chart topping releases have certainly earned this band a place in American rock music history.
After more than two decades together, numerous releases, and countless world wide tours, the
outfit consisting of brothers Pete Loeffler [guitars, vocals], Sam Loeffler [drums], and brother in-law, Dean Bernardini [bass, vocals] have confidently sailed through decades of uncharted waters and have emerge with a collection that’s equally intricate and intimate.
Certainly it builds upon the group’s impressive foundation, including the 2002 platinum-selling genre staple Wonder What’s Next and the 2004 gold-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 for the time. 2007’s Vena Sera reached #2 for Rock album on the Billboard charts. 2009’s release Sci-Fi Crimes reached #6 on the Billboard Top 200 and #1 on the alternative charts. 2011’s Hats Off to The Bull reached #5 on the Billboard Top 200, 2014’s La Gargola debuted #3 on the Billboard Top 200. Most recently, 2016’s The North Corridor album debuted #8 and soon reached #2 on the Billboard Top 200. La Gargola and The North Corridor both debuted #1 on the Billboard rock charts with The North Corridor vinyl release reaching #7 on the Billboard top 25 Vinyl charts.
“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 a force to be reckoned with.
When The Cult were preparing to hit the stage at Coachella in 2014, few were expecting the fury that the band delivered. As the festival goers milled about, packing in the field in front of the stage, Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy were building up to a crescendo, of which, when the smoke cleared, Rolling Stone would hail as “the Messianic moment of Coachella”. Critics have hailed the band as incendiary, ground-breaking, and transcendent, but the band themselves choose to look forward… and in a lot of ways, prefer to be seen as survivors… marginalized and vulgarized, much in the same way their song subjects have been. And it was on the ride home from this performance in the desert that the roots of their tenth album Hidden City began to take root. And it was then that the Astbury realized he was ready to begin putting together the final chapter of a trilogy – one that hadn’t been not, until then, fully realized… one that, with the release of Hidden City in early 2016 would complete a circle that had been forming a long time before… one that, when complete, would encompass their acknowledgement of the global community within a metaphor for our spiritual lives, our intimate interior lives… one that spoke for those with voices who are not heard… those who live in outside of the public eye, within the “Hidden City.”
Hidden City isn’t an album as much as it’s an environment… a world of layers that, when peeled away, you begin to discover the wild spaces that The Cult inhabits. “I find today’s gurus are trying to peddle some cure, product or insight as if it’s a new phenomenon,” Astbury explains. “My place is to respond, not react, to observe, participate and share through words and music. There is no higher authority than the heart.”
It is this intense internalization of concepts and invented realms that builds Hidden City – its framework built of tightly woven stories of experience and visions with underlying themes of redemption and rebirth, and its façade – The Cult’s visceral and textured music.
More specifically, the name “Hidden City” stems from the Spanish phrase “La Ciudad Oculta” which is essentially a ghetto in Buenos Aires, Argentina. There is unfathomable poverty in the hidden city, a town the Argentine government turns a blind eye towards while highlighting the cosmopolitan and European flair of the more proper sections of the city. They “hide” the evidence of the deep social inequalities present in Argentine society. “Hidden city” became the perfect metaphor for revolt of the self and soul, and the framework for Cult’s third record of three in nine years, aptly titled Hidden City.
The closing chapter on the album trilogy the band had built with 2007’s Born Into This (“The Fall”) and 2012’s Choice of Weapon (“Dark Night of the Soul”) preceding it, 2016’s Hidden City (“Rebirth”) features Astbury’s signature baritone and blood-soaked lyrics paired with Duffy’s smouldering, textured guitar tones, creating a musical environment that is fearless and peerless. It is within this archetype that their music takes shape and learns to breathe.
Produced by Bob Rock and written by Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy the team has collaborated on what has turned out to be the brutal and beautiful masterpiece Hidden City.
As you descend into their world, The Cult ask but one thing: Defend the beauty of Hidden City.
The social and political awareness that drives Flogging Molly’s music is never more prominent than in their upcoming new release LIFE IS GOOD – a strikingly powerful album and it arrives at a strikingly key time. The sixth studio album by the renowned Celtic-punk rockers now in their 20th year is mature, well crafted, equally polished and almost aggressively topical. It is filled with rousing songs that are timeless in their sentiment, but directly related to today’s most pressing concerns: Politics, the economy, unemployment, planned boomtowns gone bust, immigration policies gone awry, and much more.
For singer and lyricist Dave King, it may be the lyrical couplet contained within the surging “Reptiles (We Woke Up”) that points toward the album’s central theme. “We woke up,” sings King, “And we won’t fall back asleep.”
“The thing is, there are things changing,” says King. “That’s why I wrote that line, ‘Like reptiles, we’ll all soon be dust someday.’ It’s quite scary, especially for somebody who has children these days–bringing up family in this environment of who’s welcome and who’s not welcome. I’m talking about the cultures in America and the UK–especially American immigration.
Life Is Good thus serves as a wake-up call to those who have simply stood by while far-reaching political decisions were made that had serious impact on them. And, significantly, it also serves as notice that the time for action is now.
And people are indeed taking action, adds King, which is a crucial point.
“I think especially with things like government–I think we all tend to fall asleep a little bit when it comes to other people that are making decisions for you. I think we should be the ones influencing the government to make these decisions. It’s a great thing that we’re now taking to the streets again. And it’s a positive thing.”
Imagery abounds on Life Is Good, and one of the most memorable images might be found in “Adamstown,” the saga of a planned community west of Dublin that came to a halt in mid-construction a decade ago when the Irish economy crashed–and left little more than a ghost town in its place.
“It had a huge negative connotation to it,” King says of the eerie, unfinished settlement. “But now it’s starting to turn again, people are starting to move there, businesses are starting to open, and there is hope.”
Thematically, hope and inspiration are a major part of “The Hand of John L. Sullivan,” a rollicking track about the legendary “Boston Strong Boy” who was the first ever heavyweight champion of gloved boxing from 1882-1892. Sullivan was a hero to many, and his story has a cultural significance that fits squarely within the story Flogging Molly want to tell with Life Is Good.
“He came from an immigrant family to Boston, and they brought their family over to try to make the best possible world for them,” says King. “We live in an environment right now where that doesn’t seem to be what should be allowed to happen, you know?
Recorded in Ireland and produced by multiple Grammy Award winner Joe Chiccarelli (U2, the White Stripes, Beck), Life Is Good is by any measure a formidable return from Flogging Molly, an assessment with which Dave King fully agrees.
“It’s been a tough few years for a lot of us in the band. Dennis (Casey, guitarist) lost his dad, I lost my mother, and there have been certain issues, pertaining to sentiment, in a lot of the songs. But we just try to do the best we can. We’ve always had fun getting together and coming up with the new songs, and it’s still that way.
Here we see what’s uniquely distinctive about Life is Good, as the gravity and weight of these themes never overshadow the sheer fun and exuberance felt in each song. For the message is delivered and built on the backs of boisterous and barreling live touring.
“We’re known for our live shows,” says Dave King. Writing albums has always been a vehicle for us — it’s been a means to get people onto the dance floor. And that’s kind of the way we’ve always approached it, no matter what.”
“The one thing we are is a positive band,” adds Dave King. “When people come and see our shows, it’s a celebration–of life, of the good and of the bad. And we have to take the good and the bad for it to be a life.”
In just a few years, The Struts have found themselves massively embraced by some of the greatest icons in rock-and-roll history. Along with opening for The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Guns N’ Roses, the U.K.-bred four-piece was hand-picked by Mötley Crüe to serve as the supporting act for their last-ever performances, while Dave Grohl praised them as the best band to ever open for Foo Fighters. After making their full-length debut with 2016’s Everybody Wants, The Struts now return with YOUNG&DANGEROUS — a sophomore album that cements their status as one of the most unstoppably passionate and endlessly thrilling bands making rock music today.
On YOUNG&DANGEROUS, The Struts let loose with the sing-along-ready and riff-heavy sound they’ve brought to stadiums and arenas all around the world. Working with producers like Butch Walker (Weezer, Panic! At the Disco) and Sam Hollander (Fitz and the Tantrums, Neon Trees), the band adorns that sound with deeper grooves and more inventive textures, dreaming up a majestic glam-rock revamp that’s unabashedly fun but full of pure heart.
The lead single from YOUNG&DANGEROUS, “Body Talks” brings that dynamic to a bluesspiked track capturing what Spiller calls “that moment when you mosey on over to someone on the dancefloor, and the music’s blaring so loud you can’t even talk to each other.” In creating an alternate version of “Body Talks,” The Struts amped up the song’s seductive power by enlisting Kesha to lend her soulful growl to a fiery duet with Spiller. The Struts also infuse some social commentary into YOUNG&DANGEROUS sending up selfie culture on the falsetto-laced epic “In Love With A Camera,” taking on trolls with the swampy and smoldering “Bulletproof Baby,” and pondering identity with the sweetly melodic “Who Am I.” And for the soaring and glorious “Primadonna Like Me,” The Struts brilliantly turn the lens on themselves. “It was written about my stage character, my alter ego,’” notes Spiller. “It’s this completely deluded guy
running around his small town, all dressed to the nines—a full-on 21st century dandy going around saying, ‘Don’t you know who I think I am?’”
Formed in Derby, England, in 2012, The Struts almost instantly drew a major following with their outrageous live show, and later made their debut with Have You Heard (a 2015 EP whose lead single “Could Have Been Me” hit #1 on Spotify’s viral chart). Before they’d even put out their first album, the band opened for The Rolling Stones before a crowd of 80,000 in Paris and toured the U.S. on a string of sold-out shows. Known for his lovably swaggering stage presence—the very factor that gave The Struts their name—Spiller soon inspired legendary designers like former Queen costumer Zandra Rhodes to custom-create his lavish and glittering onstage attire. As the frontman points out, that heightened element of spectacle is all a part of the band’s mission of making an unforgettable impact on the crowd. “We believe in giving our absolute all every night, because that’s what our fans deserve,” he says. “The goal is always to get everyone dancing and screaming and shouting, and to make sure they leave dripping in sweat with huge smiles on their faces.”
With the release of YOUNG&DANGEROUS, The Struts have undoubtedly met another of their main ambitions as a band. “One of the things we most want to do with our music is inspire young people to pick up a guitar again,” says Spiller. “We live in a time that’s very much dominated by hiphop and dance music, and that’s a great thing, but we want to give the world a big reminder that there’s something else going on out there. This album is our way of saying, ‘If you feel a little out of place, there’s always an electric guitar—and just look at what you can do with it.’”
If you take for granted that music exists as an expression of the inner mortal psyche, life can turn into an infinitely captivating adventure when musical creation is placed in the hands of a singular breed of enigmatic perfectionists. When those graced with the rare gifts of astounding technical abilities and songwriting prowess are also fueled by a sacred trinity of creativity, originality, and self-belief, the results will always steer clear of any sub-genre categorization.
Formed in the college town of Umeå in northern Sweden in 1987, MESHUGGAH have spent the last twenty years and cumulative thirteen releases developing, exploring, and redefining their complex, inimitable approach on the art of expressing their collective Id. An entity that has not sounded like anyone else in over thirteen years, MESHUGGAH are one of the few purely and honestly lateral-thinking forces genuinely dedicated to pushing the boundaries of extreme music simply because doing so comes naturally to them. Unafraid to take risks and tackle new experiences, they create albums you can listen to six years later and still discover things you never noticed before. The mystical lore surrounding them pertains to their mathematical execution of odd-cycle time signatures shifting around common 4/4 time. As a result, it isn’t shocking to see some of the biggest names in metal standing in the wings at MESHUGGAH shows, shaking their heads at the band’s majestically demented, down-tuned, groove-laden, and precisely performed polyrhythms that never veer out of control. Devotees include Tool, The Deftones, Kirk Hammett & Lars Ulrich of Metallica, Rob Halford of Judas Priest, James LaBrie of Dream Theater, and Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music, which incorporates MESHUGGAH’s back catalogue into their curriculum, fortifying the belief that such perfectly calibrated music adds a crucial ingredient to a modern musical education. While the band’s self-assured beginnings speak plainly, they had no idea their future contributions to music would be the sonic equivalent of what Sir Isaac Newton did for the development of calculus.
In 1989, with a line-up that included Jens Kidman on vocals & guitar, Fredrik Thordendal on guitar, Peter Nordin on bass, and Niklas Lundgren on drums, MESHUGGAH’s self-titled thrashy, virgin release (which came to be known as Psykisk Testbild due to the album’s artwork) was self-released on vinyl and limited to 1,000 copies. Every copy sold. In 1991, their full-length debut album, Contradictions Collapse, heralded the arrival of drummer extraordinaire, Tomas Haake, and the band’s obvious nod to vintage Metallica was a potent indicator of the barely-contained violence fermented within. But it was in 1995 – one of Swedish metal’s most significant years in terms of influential releases – that the myth of MESHUGGAH gained momentum. Produced by a 21-year-old Daniel Bergstrand at Soundfront Studios in Uppsala, Sweden and consisting of equal parts instinct, inspiration, and natural talent, Destroy Erase Improve provided positive proof that the band had tapped a truly multi-dimensional, divergent vein. Joined by rhythm guitarist Mårten Hagström in 1994 for the recording of the None EP (freeing Kidman from those duties) and marking the beginning of the band’s own identity, DEI was released to the sound of dropping jaws among their growing number of fervent followers and was a literal showcase of how far the band could push their ideas. Subsequently, it has been lauded as one of heavy metal’s most masterfully evolutionary albums and hailed as MESHUGGAH’s finest hour. Drum! Magazine praised it for its “ridiculous, driving, brutal insanity.” Ranking #12 in Revolver Magazine’s “69 Greatest Hard Rock Albums Of All Time,” it recently became the 21st album inaugurated into Decibel Magazine’s pantheon of extreme metal – The Hall of Fame: “These mad scientists have obliterated the existing paradigms of death, thrash, and prog metal, upping the ante for heavy music to a level of mathematical profundity. A mind-bending masterpiece.”
“Intelligence,” states theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, “is the ability to adapt to change.” When Peter Nordin developed an inner-ear nerve problem in 1995 that prevented him to continue with the group, MESHUGGAH recruited Gustaf Hielm to take over bass duties on 1997’s The True Human Design EP and 1998’s Chaosphere. The latter’s manic, bludgeoning rage collided head-on with blistering skill (“five technically virtuosic Scandinavian ogres using jackhammers to smash other jackhammers” cited Spin Magazine), and the result was a masterclass in aggression leading Rolling Stone to rank MESHUGGAH as one of music’s “10 Most Important Hard and Heavy Bands.” In 1999, MESHUGGAH played at the Milwaukee Metal Fest, a week of dates with Cannibal Corpse, toured supporting Slayer, and were then handpicked to play eleven shows as direct support for Tool’s U.S. arena tour in 2001. In a serendipitous, Hollywood-styled turn of events, music from Destroy Erase Improve aired during prime time television on MTV’s reality series The Osbournes (albeit for the sole purpose of tormenting their neighbors of obviously weaker musical constitution), courtesy of Jack Osbourne. While the Swedes prided themselves in not being a commercially accessible band, they were invited to be featured guests on Ozzfest 2002’s 2nd Stage. MESHUGGAH accepted, and the race was on to complete the new album.
After pushing the limits of heaviness with Chaosphere, there was only one place left to go: even heavier. Thordendal & Hagström made the leap to custom-built 8-string Nevborn guitars and thereby inherited a new musical vocabulary to work with. Abandoning the use of chords and almost exclusively utilizing single notes and slowing their pace to sub-aquatic meanderings, the subdued result was a lethal dose of self-professed “concentrated evil,” Morse-code solos courtesy of Thordendal, and a lot of low-end. Completed just two days prior to the band leaving Sweden to join Ozzfest, the darker, more sinister, and all-encompassing menacing vibe of Nothing was doused in accolades. “The magnum opus of controlled insanity,” wrote Terrorizer. “One of the most inventive metal albums to arrive in some time,” praised Guitar One. “Nothing,” boasted Tool drummer Danny Carey, “is another prime example of MESHUGGAH’s musical expertise and unique compositional style that continues to evolve and change the way people listen to music.” In light of the showers of praise, the Swedes were still not prepared when news broke of Nothing landing on the American Billboard Top 200 chart – a first for a band on Nuclear Blast’s roster and one of the most extreme albums ever to achieve that feat at the time. Following their participation on Ozzfest, MESHUGGAH once again hit the road with Tool, and ultimately sold 100,000 copies of their fourth full-length recording.
It would be three years before the next studio album surfaced, but in the interim, kudos for the band kept coming. In 2004, Alternative Press voted MESHUGGAH “The #1 Most Important Band In Metal.” “MESHUGGAH have carved out their own niche as one of the most innovative and challenging extreme acts of our generation.” That same year, Fredrik & Mårten ranked #35 in Guitar World’s list of “100 Greatest Metal Guitarists.” “Over the polyrhythmic percussive madness of drummer Tomas Haake, Hagström & Thordendal create crushing, machine-gun riffs that are convoluted rhythms in themselves, as well as fluid, sublime, Allan Holdsworth-style solos.”
Such furiously mesmerizing music obviously requires its share of discipline. Each year without a release becomes inversely proportional to the climbing expectations among MESHUGGAH fans for the band to out-do themselves. Tackling a dark musical landscape while addressing the subjects of contradiction, paradox, negation, and the inevitability of clashing opposites with all the tension that results from it, MESHUGGAH’s studio offering for 2005 was a 47 minute-long “uni-song” divided into four quasi-movements (or thirteen suites, depending on your personal interpretation). An audio exam in patience and endurance, Catch Thirty Three offered a reward only to those who were insistent on completing the journey through this warped, metaphoric dream state. Obviously mastering the 8-string guitars that were prototypes on the previous album, MESHUGGAH tapped into the hypnotic power of repetition, suggesting a lot of visual imagery and movement. Proudly cold and emotionless, this “concept album without a concept” with seemingly stream-of-consciousness vocals had the feel of a philosophical journey through life and death, not excluding the soul-gutting ponderations. Again, the praise was incessant. “Catch Thirty Three could be the soundtrack to the darkest, strangest, heaviest movie never made,” held Revolver. “Catch Thirty Three lifts MESHUGGAH’s work to unreachable levels,” commended Guitar World. “One of the most brilliant metal discs in recent years,” raved Guitar One. It went on to become Terrorizer Magazine’s Album of the Year for 2005. What’s more, while the band’s discography underwent scholarly analysis at the 34th Annual Meeting of The Music Theory Society of New York State in 2006, MESHUGGAH remixed and remastered Nothing at their own Fear And Loathing Studio in Stockholm, Sweden to finally re-offer it to fans sounding “the way we always wanted it to!” In the latter half of 2007, the article “Re-casting Metal: Rhythm and Meter in the Music of MESHUGGAH,” appeared in a volume of Music Theory Spectrum, the journal of The Society for Music Theory.
Mercifully, the wait for the sixth installment in MESHUGGAH’s quest to a) continuously experiment; b) avoid predictability; and c) offer a dose of consistency will only clock in at 1,015 days. Recorded and mixed at Fear And Loathing Studio and featuring artwork by Joachim Luetke (Dimmu Borgir, Arch Enemy, Kreator), 2008’s detonation of consciousness, obZen is an unapologetic statement of where the Swedes stand now as a band, and there simply aren’t enough adjectives, expletives, or theories to describe the album’s enthralling, auditory physics.
With stand-alone lyrics worthy of their own book of prose (which include the band’s latest contributions to the English language), MESHUGGAH play with the same jagged, abrupt ferocity intrinsic to their eccentric genius. Fueled by the percussive gymnastics of the drummer’s drummer Tomas Haake (whose talent can simply be described as ‘Neil Peart on peyote’), the long, enrapturing bent notes of Thordendal & Hagström’s 8-string guitars hover like predators while the ceaseless rumblings of Dick Lövgren’s commandeering bass work are fodder for Kidman’s authoritative and handsomely corroded vocals. The unmerciful pummelings of “Bleed” and “obZen” are yet another ode to the band’s rhythmic eccentricity; the howling precision & apocalyptic aggression of “Combustion,” the compounded prog-matism of “Dancers To A Discordant System,” the hypnotic soul-searching of “Pineal Gland Optics,” and asymmetrical signatures of “Pravus” & “Electric Red” all attest to why the band are massively influential among their peers, and why fans of this extremely aggressive rhythm-based genre of metal pledge their support to the ongoing evolution of a discipline that shakes the very foundations of convention.
Change breeds change. Change fosters growth. Growth is life. MESHUGGAH’s music may never be known for its instant appeal, but it will forever maintain its long-time love affair with metric insanity. obZen has widened, expanded, and improved the road MESHUGGAH have been traveling on since their inception. Dedicated to the continual exploration of the infinite structures and (di)versions of the 4/4 standard, obZen’s emotive contemplations have the ability to infiltrate the psyche after repeated listens to flip an inner-switch triggering an epiphany, lulling you into a deepening quandary of existential explorations. An expression of a duplicitous serene/violent consciousness, obZen can be used as a meditation to travel deeply within or leave your body behind as you listen to it; it can become your permission slip to deviate from the chains of mortal predictability, to change, to grow, to evolve, and show evidence of life. Like the thunderous pulsations of the heart incessantly beating to get us through this menial existence we call life, MESHUGGAH excels at revealing that all paths leading to syncopated bliss are paved with arrhythmia.
Skillet lets their music speak the loudest. That’s how the quartet has cemented its place as one of the 21st century’s most successful rock bands. Selling over 11 million units worldwide, the Wisconsin quartet—John Cooper [lead vocals/bass], Korey Cooper [guitar/keys], Jen Ledger [drums/vocals], and Seth Morrison [lead guitars]—have
received two GRAMMY® Award nominations and won a Billboard Music Award for the platinum-certified Awake. Their double-platinum single “Monster” is “the eighth most streamed rock song of 2015” with a total of 57 million plays (and counting) on Spotify and would earn the distinction of becoming “the best-selling digital single in the history of Christian Music.” 2013’s Rise bowed at #4 on the Billboard Top 200 upon release and received resounding and eclectic acclaim from the likes of USA Today, New York Times, Revolver Loudwire, and more. The group’s ninth full-length album, UNLEASHED [Atlantic Records/Word], sees them turn everything up louder, amplifying all aspects of their signature hypnotic sound. Channeling an intense muse, John immediately commenced writing just months after Rise hit shelves.
“By the time Rise came out, I could take a little bit of a breather and experience it,” he explains. “I remember thinking, ‘this feels important to me, but I need something a little more urgent.’ I didn’t want whatever we did next to be so emotionally heavy. I wanted to make a record that made people feel the music – an album that would connect people to the music as well as to each other. An album, like some of my favorites, that’d be like a party to listen to – where people could sing along – together.
That idea solidified as Skillet toured Europe in 2013 with Nickelback. Night after night, John watched the non-English speaking audience sing every word back to him. It left an indelible mark on his writing process. “It struck me, how music is much bigger than a language,” he affirms. “There’s a universal feeling. We wanted to get that emotion across more through the music than with the words. I aimed to write songs people could easily relate to anywhere and everywhere.”
Getting off the road in 2015, John headed to Los Angeles to begin recording what would become UNLEASHED with producer Brian Howes—who helmed the 2006 platinum selling Comatose and co-wrote the platinum No. 1 smash “Awake and Alive.” Cutting half of the album with Brian, John tapped the talents of multiple producers for the first
time in Skillet history, working with both GRAMMY Award-winning producer Seth Mosley in Nashville and Kevin Churko [Five Finger Death Punch, Ozzy Osbourne, Disturbed] in Las Vegas.
“Comatose was a very special album for a lot of reasons,” he continues. “We wanted to record with Brian again and when the chance came up we were both ready to go. I’m also a huge fan of Kevin Churko, and it was amazing to have the opportunity to write with him. When I met Seth we just clicked. The entire process with each of them was such a great experience.”
The first single “Feel Invincible” explodes to life on a swinging guitar chug transitioning to sweeping electronics and a theatrical vocal call-and-response. Everything culminates on a towering chant that’s impossible to shake just as a melodic guitar lead takes off. “It’s a fight song,” says John. “Sometimes, everything in the world makes you want to give up. This is a reminder not to. I think, ‘This is my life. This is my family. I can’t go around being scared all the time.’ I have the strength to face what’s happening.” On the other end of the spectrum, “Stars” shines with a passionate and poetic refrain, “Here I am, lifting up my heart to the one who holds the stars.” Amidst the shimmering electronics and orchestration, it carries a message that John hopes will be easy to understand.
“It goes along with wanting to speak to as many people as possible,” he continues. “On a deeper spiritual level, for those who may not believe, it’s saying that there’s something bigger out there—whether it’s your community, family, or friends. Basically that we’re not, and don’t have to be alone.”
Whether it’s the snapping crunch of “Burn it Down” or the skittering crash and burn on “Out of Hell,” the record exudes a propulsive energy that can speak to both sides of the band’s audience, whether they’re sharing a bill with Disturbed or Lecrae. “It’s been an amazing journey,” John leaves off. “The fans, the Panheads, means everything to us. They’re the reason we’re here. They make our shows what they are. We wanted to give that energy back to them in UNLEASHED.” Ultimately, this is Skillet at their most potent, pure, and powerful.
In This Moment
Throughout history, art rejoices and revels in the wisdom of women. Within a deck of tarot cards, the High Priestess serves as the guardian of the unconscious. In Greek mythology, the old oracles celebrate the Mother Goddess. William Shakespeare posited portentous prescience in the form of MacBeth’s “Three Witches.” On their sixth full-length album Ritual, In This Moment—Maria Brink [vocals, piano], Chris Howorth [lead guitar], Travis Johnson [bass], Randy Weitzel [rhythm guitar], and Kent Diimel [drums]—unearth a furious and focused feminine fire from a cauldron of jagged heavy metal, hypnotic alternative, and smoky voodoo blues.
It’s an evolution. It’s a statement. It’s In This Moment 2017…
“It’s like we’re going into the next realm,” asserts Maria. “I had a conviction of feeling empowered in my life and with myself. I always write from a personal place, and I needed to share that sense of strength. I’ve never been afraid to hold back. Sometimes, I can be very suggestive. However, I wanted to show our fans that this is the most powerful side of myself and it’s without overt sexuality. It’s that deeper serious fire inside of my heart.” “What Maria is saying comes from deep inside,” Chris affirms. “This time, we had a bunch of ideas started before we hit the studio. There was a really clear direction. It’s different.” The group spent two years supporting their biggest album yet 2014’s Black Widow. Upon release, it seized their highest position to date on the Billboard Top 200, bowing at #8. Simultaneously, it clinched #3 on the Hard Rock Albums chart and spawned a series of hits such as “Sick Like Me,” “Big Bad Wolf,” and “Sex Metal Barbie”—all cracking 8 million Spotify streams each and topping Rock Radio. Meanwhile, the band’s signature smash “Whore” crossed the 20-million mark.
Furthermore, the title track off In This Moment’s 2012 album, Blood, has been certified gold by the RIAA. A remarkable accomplishment, the companion music video for “Blood” has been viewed over 27 million times.
Between headline tours, they incinerated stages everywhere from Rock On The Range to Download Festival. In March 2016, Maria and Chris commenced writing for what would become the new record with longtime collaborator and multiple GRAMMY® Award-nominated producer Kevin Churko [Five Finger Death Punch, Ozzy Osbourne] at his Las Vegas compound. Following a high-profile summer 2016 tour with Korn and Rob Zombie, the duo began writing. Then, Maria visited Salem, MA for the very first time with all of the women in her family quite appropriately during Halloween.
“We were really tapping the energy there,” she says. “We were honoring each other. I was seeking inspiration and experience to inspire me in this album. I was trying to find a lot of truth in myself. I loved Salem. I was blown away by how visually beautiful it is. The history of the witch burnings is fascinating. It was a special ceremonial journey.”
Galvanized and inspired, Maria and Chris returned to Kevin’s stronghold to complete recording. In an atmosphere of candles, crystals, incense, and a cackling fireplace, they expanded their aural palette once again, welcoming a doom blues bombast into the sonic fold. “We love Black Widow, but it was very electronic,” Chris explains. “This is a little more organic, emphasizing guitars, bass, drums, and vocals. We slowed down the groove a little bit. I got to play some slide guitar, and I’ve never done that. There’s a bluesy side, which we’ve also never had.”
“We always want to grow and evolve,” Maria adds. “It was a chance to get a little more serious.” That progression shines through the first single “Oh Lord.” A minimal drum and handclap echoes as Maria’s wild incantation takes hold. Guitars shiver and shake as the frontwoman delivers an undeniable refrain.
“The meaning of ‘Oh Lord’ is central to the album,” she reveals. “I should be able to have a relationship with what I perceive God to be. For me, it’s this strength and light. When I was younger, I felt guilty for thinking of these things. I’m not supposed to touch an oracle card, a tarot card, or these beautiful things, because they’re ‘bad.’ I had these fears in me for a long time like, ‘Is this wrong?’ I realized I don’t have to be afraid anymore. There’s a lot of learning and an awakening in that one.”
Inverting everyone’s favorite Billy Idol nuptial anthem, “Black Wedding” sees Maria walk down the aisle of musical madness with none other than Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford. Cowritten with Stevens, it’s an explosive and enchanting duet.
“I can’t believe that happened,” beams Chris. “Maria hit up Rob and asked if he was interested. He jumped right on it. I can’t believe we got him.”
“Who doesn’t love ‘White Wedding?’,” laughs Maria. “We wanted to do a spin-off that’s creative. It’s a question-and-answer between me and another voice. The chorus essentially says this isn’t going to be the opposite of a happy ending! You’re becoming empowered by heartbreak.” Chris breaks out the slide on the raging “River of Fire,” while “Witching Hour” dances around the flames to a new wave-inspired groove and midnight lore as Maria recants, “This idea of me being burned as a witch in a past life for teaching people to be free.” Elsewhere, “Roots” practically opens up the earth with its sheer seismic force.
“Sometimes, I have to go through pain in order to forgive and let go,” she adds. “I love to thank the hate in people. It’s that sort of energy. I’ll be okay, hold my headstrong, push forward, do what I’ve got to do, and prevail.”
Simultaneously, In This Moment breathe a dark new life into the Phil Collins’ classic “In The Air Tonight.”
“We can’t reproduce what he did in a million years,” she says. “It’s one of the best songs ever. We did our own interpretation and made it a little more sinister like our ritual.” The ritual has begun, and In This Moment ignite a brighter fire than ever before here. “When fans hear this, I want them to feel the music, whether they take away sadness, anger, or happiness,” concludes Chris. “As a kid, I remember listening to records and putting them on repeat over and over again. I’d love for the world to listen and absorb this as a piece of work.” Maria leaves off, “I want everybody to be unafraid of who they are and not worry about what the rest of society says. Be strong. Be loud. We love our fans deeply. I hope everybody feels that love and powerful in who they are.”
No matter the climate, KILLSWITCH ENGAGE makes trend-resistant, timeless heavy music that feeds the soul, touches the heart, and strengthens the mind. Their anthems and live staples like “My Last Serenade,” “My Curse,” and “In Due Time,” have the staying power that appeals to all generations of rock and metal fans worldwide, along with a message that serves to unite, enlighten, and entertain. Having shared the stage with acts ranging from Rise Against to Slayer, the diversity and versatility of their touring is unparalleled and a true testament to their reach.
The band’s seventh studio album, INCARNATE, possesses a stack of new KILLSWITCH ENGAGE anthems certain to set the heavy music world ablaze once more. As cofounders of KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, guitarist/backing vocalist Adam Dutkiewicz, rhythm guitarist Joel Stroetzel, bassist Mike D’Antonio, and Leach (who returned four years ago after a decade-long absence) together with longtime drummer Justin Foley employ unrelenting determination to continually release powerfully potent work.
Leach wears his heart on his sleeve like never before, coming out of the experience of making INCARNATE a brand new person. It’s an album of reclamation and redefinition, from a band that still rules the scene.
The reckless abandon of creative passion, the search for higher truths and personal justice, and the authentic reality of the duality within all people – the light, the dark, the playful, the deadly – these are the components that comprise KILLSWITCH. They are the elements of KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, INCARNATE.
Modern bands often seem faced with the choice between being challenging and being accessible. These ideas tend to be presented as opposite poles, two irreconcilable objectives that cannot co-exist without one taking precedence over the other. The time where unabashedly unconventional bands could engage the masses has long since past and those heavyweights have been relegated to the shelves of “classic rock,” with high concepts and grandeur replaced by irony and painful self-awareness. But for Circa Survive there exists another option, one where huge ideas and unbridled imagination can commingle with nuance and vulnerability. In their world, this dichotomy is not only achievable, it’s essential, and it fuels the band’s dauntless sixth full-length, The Amulet.
From the release of their 2005 debut, Juturna, to their 2010 major label release, Blue Sky Noise, to today with The Amulet, Circa Survive has made a career of turning all of the things that make them difficult to categorize into their greatest strengths. The word “progressive” is often used to describe their sound, and while this term doesn’t really do justice to the band’s distinct identity, it does conjure the scope and ambition of those iconic bands from decades ago, the ones that managed to capture the attention of mainstream audiences without sacrificing their esoteric tendencies. On The Amulet, Circa Survive continues this legacy, but filtered through the unique lens of their punk and alternative roots. Drawing on the raw power of punk and post-hardcore, the
earnestness of emotional alternative, and the unrestrained experimentation of art rock, the band effortlessly creates a sound that can be compared to very few, but appeal to many. The Amulet’s mix of intricate guitars, muscular bass, and interlocking drums creates a dynamic foundation for vocalist Anthony Green’s unparalleled voice; however, the magic of Circa Survive isn’t just technical skill, it’s an ability to blend that technicality with undeniable sense of melody and hooks. It’s this focus on uncompromising yet satisfying songwriting that compels listeners, no matter their genre-of-choice.
Circa Survive’s sonic palette isn’t the only thing with which the band fearlessly experiments. The band’s use of overarching lyrical concepts from album to album has become just as pivotal to their identity. For Green, no idea is too big or too small, and everything can be explored with the same mix of wonderment, dark fascination,
harrowing honesty, and hope. The Amulet pushes this approach to a demanding new level as Green examines parallels between the world ending, our chaotic social and political climate, and the very intimate strain of personal upheavals. A loss of innocence ties these drastically different threads together: a sense that certain events can irreparably change our perspectives and make it impossible to view our world, our governments, or our personal lives through the same rose-colored glasses. Although many of the album’s themes are dark and formidable, there is a sense of hopefulness that shines through The Amulet. Death is tied to birth, unrest is tied to revolution, emotional pain is tied to personal growth, and the only way to reach catharsis is to first
lean into the storm. The Amulet is meant to be a tangible manifestation of that catharsis, the kind of relief that comes from accepting the pain of loss—personal, socio-political, and cosmic—and moving forward. These themes even apply to the band itself with Green saying, “the way the band was when it started is dead and this
record feels like a bit of a rebirth in a lot of ways. Time has just weathered us, we got through the hard times and came out the other end, and I feel like this is the pinnacle of the band personally and creatively. It’s the most clear and concise version of what we are.”
After 13 years as a band, Circa Survive are no strangers to pushing sonic and lyrical boundaries, yet The Amulet still finds the band diving even farther into the deep end, pushing themselves to create brand new sounds, and taking on ideas that stretch from the universal to the most personal. In a musical landscape that seems predisposed towards instant gratification, Circa Survive may appear to be made from a mold that no longer exists, but fitting with modern bands or icons of the past has never been their goal. Circa Survive dares to ask more of themselves and their listeners—old and new—and in return they offer a soundtrack for the bold, the sincere, and the inquisitive.
Tom Morello is living proof of the transformative power of rock’n’roll. As the co-founder of Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave and Prophets Of Rage, and through collaborations with everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Johnny Cash, he has continually pushed the limits of what one man can do with six strings.
But on his latest album The Atlas Underground, he’s transformed his sound into something even he could not have anticipated, blending Marshall stack riff-rock with the digital wizardry of EDM and hip-hop to create the most ambitious artistic effort of his storied career.
The Atlas Underground includes collaborations with Marcus Mumford, Portugal. The Man, the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA and GZA, Vic Mensa, K.Flay, Big Boi, Gary Clark Jr., Pretty Lights, Killer Mike and Whethan among others. “The riffs and the beats led the way, but the extraordinary talents of the collaborators set my creativity into uncharted territory,” says Morello of the project, which will be released October 12th, 2018 by Mom + Pop Music.
Assembled over the last two years in a variety of studios, The Atlas Underground is what Morello calls “a clandestine sonic conspiracy of artists working in disparate locations toward a shared goal of creating a new genre of music.” The lyrics often take the form of “social justice ghost stories,” and on tracks such as Bassnectar, Big Boi and Killer Mike’s “Rabbit Revenge” and the RZA/GZA-featuring “Lead Poisoning,” they convey the experiences of those less fortunate who were unable to speak up for themselves.
“This record also afforded me the opportunity to divest myself of my natural Type A controlling character,” admits Morello, whom Rolling Stone has recognized as one of the 100 greatest guitar players of all time. “After initial conversations with the collaborators about theme and lyrics, I made it clear that there was no ego stake in these songs and that the only goal was to make something we all loved; something that was fucking powerful with no preconceived notions other than the freedom of taking a blank sonic page and letting our freak flag fly.”
Morello knew some of his collaborators beforehand, particularly the Wu-Tang members, with whom Rage Against The Machine shared an infamous U.S. tour bill in summer 1997. In other cases, the connections were serendipitous, such as when Morello heard K.Flay on the radio and cold-called her, only to discover they were both from Illinois and “shared that suburban angst.”
Morello took great joy in sending batches of riffs and guitar noises to collaborators such as Bassnectar and Knife Party, who would send back “smashing tracks” that scrambled everything together. Just as rewarding were in-person jam sessions with artists such as Clark, where songs were built verse/chorus/lyrics from scratch. And in the case of “Find Another Way,” Mumford and Morello teamed up for early-morning Skype sessions in-between their parental duties.
“I’ve been devoted both musically and as an activist to fighting injustice at every turn,” says Morello. “Amid this heightened sense of impending doom, it’s now time to rally the troops in a last-ditch effort to save the planet, and our artistic souls. By challenging the boundaries of what music is and has sounded like before, you can open peoples’ eyes to changing the status quo in society.”
In tandem with acclaimed multi-media artist Sam Durant and director Sean Evans, who staged Roger Waters’ “The Wall,” Morello is planning an innovative live presentation of the music on The Atlas Underground, which won’t be reliant on fill-ins to replicate the guest artist’s contributions. “We’re assembling something that’s more of an art installation than a show, which is different than anything anyone has ever done,” he says. “It will be a challenging piece in non-traditional venues that will bring the ideas on the album to life — a last big event before we all go to jail.”
Mark Lanegan Band
Mark Lanegan is an American alternative musician and singer-songwriter. Born and raised in Ellensburg, Washington, Lanegan began his musical career in 1984, forming the grunge band Screaming Trees. He now has a career as a solo artist.
There’s a singer with a voice 50 fathoms deep and the consistency of vitrified teak, who has been known to go to extremes in search of a song. Across continents, over oceans, through multiple time zones. From West Hollywood to… Tunbridge Wells. A long way – but Mark Lanegan knows the directions.
Early in 2016, Mark was at home in Los Angeles, working on some ideas for what might turn into his next album. He wasn’t too thrilled by what he was coming up with. Then he got an email from a friend, an English musician named Rob Marshall, thanking Mark for contributing to a new project he was putting together, Humanist. The pair first met in 2008, when Marshall’s former band Exit Calm supported Soulsavers, who Mark was singing with at the time. Now Rob was offering to write Mark some music to return the favour.
“I was like, Hey man, I’m getting ready to make a record, if you’ve got anything?’” Mark recalls. “Three days later he sent me *10 things… !”
In the meantime, Mark had written Blue Blue Sea, a rippling mood piece that he thought might be a more fruitful direction for his new record, and had the idea for a song called First Day Of Winter that felt like an apt closer. “It’s almost always how my records start,” he explains. “I let the first couple of songs tell me what the next couple should sound like, and it’s really the same process when I’m writing words. Whatever my first couple of lines are tell me what the next couple should be. I’ve always built things like that, sort of like making a sculpture I guess. Start with the raw material and let that point me in the direction I want to go. So, once I was pointed in that direction, the music that came from other sources, from Rob, I just went for the ones that helped me build this narrative that I had started already.”
Within an hour, Mark had written words and vocal lines for two of the pieces Rob had cooked up at Mount Sion Studios in Kent and pinged through the virtual clouds to California. Rob’s music fitted perfectly with the direction Mark had been pondering: in essence, a more expansive progression from the moody Krautrock-influenced electronica textures of his two previous albums, Blues Funeral and Phantom Radio. Eventually, Rob Marshall would co-write six of the songs on the new Mark Lanegan Band album. “I was very thankful to become reacquainted with him,” Mark deadpans.
The remainder of the album was written, recorded and produced by Lanegan’s longtime musical amanuensis Alain Johannes at his 11 AD base in West Hollywood. Everything was done and dusted within a month, unusually fast by Lanegan’s recent standards. Both Blues Funeral and Phantom Radio unfurled at leisurely pace over several months. But this time Johannes had only a fixed window of opportunity due to his ongoing touring commitments as a member of P.J. Harvey’s band. But Mark was sufficiently happy with the material to move swiftly, a reflection of contentment with his abilities as a singer and writer, which have now produced a huge body of work spanning a period of more than 30 years: whether it be his own solo records, or collaborative recordings with others, or going back to his legendary first band, the Screaming Trees.
Yet Lanegan hasn’t always felt so comfortable in his own skin, or with his profession.
“I definitely feel like I’m a better songwriting than I was 15 years ago,” he says. “I don’t know if I’m just kidding myself or what, but it’s definitely easier now to make something that is satisfying to me. Whereas when I first starting making my own records, it was difficult to write them, it was difficult to record them, it was difficult to make something that was satisfying. Maybe I’m just easier on myself these days, but it’s definitely not as painful a process, and therefore I feel I’m better at it now. But part of the way that I stay interested in making music is by collaborating with other people. When I see things through somebody else’s perspective it’s more exciting than if I’m left to my own devices.”
By his own admission, as a young man Mark Lanegan used to drive himself crazy when it came to writing songs. Then again, the younger Lanegan lived a crazy life. He grew up in the small Washington State farm town of Ellensburg, in and out of jail for various offenses– aged 20 a doctor told him he would be dead by 30 unless he addressed his alcohol intake. Lanegan would joke that his subsequent hard drugs addiction saved his life. He saw more violence in the Screaming Trees than in any correctional institution: the band he joined in 1984 whirled around a vortex of sibling strife as its songwriting brothers punched their way through a succession of progressively more engaging albums, until 1992’s Sweet Oblivion brought the Trees a modicum of commercial success to match the respect they had earned among Seattle scene peers like Nirvana.
Parallel to the Trees’ turbulent journey, Lanegan began releasing a succession of solo albums, primarily acoustic, which revealed a stentorian voice and commanding persona at which the Trees’ florid rootsy psychedelia barely suggested. His debut, The Winding Sheet (1990), grew out of an aborted attempt by Lanegan and Kurt Cobain to record an EP of blues covers. Lanegan’s treatment of Leadbelly’s Where Did You Sleep Last Night survived (and indeed provided Cobain with the template for Nirvana’s subsequent version), but it would be the masterful follow-up, Whiskey For The Holy Ghost (1993), that confirmed Lanegan’s credentials as a truly unique artist.
Another 10 years elapsed, however, before he made an album that pricked the Ghost’s aura. Bubblegum (2004) saw Lanegan emerge from the wreckage of the Screaming Trees and his on-off struggles with addiction to create a new template for the blues: part-acoustic, part-electro-rooted contexts mostly produced by Alain Johannes, with a floating cast of helpers, some illustrious (Josh Homme; P.J. Harvey) others not. Seven years of collaboration followed before Lanegan, now a paragon of clean living, delivered the towering Blues Funeral (2012), with its Harmonia curlicues adding new colours to his molasses thick canvas of ongoing doom.
In 2014, Phantom Radio built on the same foundations, produced again by Johannes, and with Lanegan’s voice intoning deep truths hewn from the bleakest realm. And now his latest offering, titled Gargoyle. While sharing roots with its two predecessors, there’s a significant up-shift in the swaggering powerlode of such keynote songs as Nocturne and Beehive, while the lyrics’ tonal palette is more varied. Beehive, for instance, is a thrilling replicant biker anthem, riffed up and reverberant to the hilt, but you can sense Lanegan’s eyebrow arched throughout as he intones “Honey just gets me stoned”, or the priceless couplet, “Hanging down from above/Everywhere I look it’s a bummer.” The album title comes from a lyric in Blue Blue Sea – “Gargoyle perched on gothic spire” – and was chosen for its hint of self-deprecation.
“I don’t know if ‘whimsical’ is the correct term,” laughs Mark, “but it seemed fitting. I’m most proud of the songs that are atypical to stuff that I’ve done in the past. So I really like Old Swan, because it’s an expression of positivity, which is completely anti-anything I’ve done before!” He laughs. “Y’know, I haven’t played this record for too many people yet. I played it for Greg Dulli, who played on some of it, and he was like, ‘Wow, I had to listen to it twice – it sounds like he’s having a good time…’ So for that same reason I like Beehive, and Emperor…”
Emperor is more startling still: a psychedelic music hall ditty, featuring Josh Homme on backing vocals and heavily redolent of the Kinks.
“Oh, I love the Kinks,” says Mark. “I listen to the Kinks probably every three days or so. I also love that song because Josh is singing on it, and I always love singing with him. But really, I like all three of those songs because they’re… I guess ‘light-hearted’ is not the right term, but just less dark than what I’m normally doing. And there’s nothing wrong with that either, but for some reason those three came out that way and I’m more psyched about them.”
Old Swan is Gargoyle’s perfect finale: a pulsing incantation, an epic hymn to the life that’s lived – and She who provides it. The lyric feels like Lanegan’s most personal – even spiritual.
“Clean/Through the eternal/Through dead seasons/Sail to the sun/My mother and my queen/Honest and serene.”
There’s a chuckle from the author of these words as he hears them read out loud. It’s been a long journey travelled, not always easy, but in 2017, at the age of 52, he’s got the look of permanence about him. Like that gargoyle on the gothic spire.
“Clean, through the eternal…” Mark Lanegan? With his reputation?
He chuckles again… “So far so good.”
Beartooth began as an emotional exorcism. Conceived, constructed, and unleashed by one man in a basement studio. Now, even as the band has grown to become a headlining festival act; cracked Billboard’s Top 25; lit up SiriusXM radio; and were crowned Breakthrough Band at both the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards and Loudwire Music Awards, Beartooth’s music and message remain intensely personal.
The fierce dedication to honesty, authenticity, and raw fury demonstrated by Caleb Shomo is at the center of everything Beartooth represents. The music he’s crafted in his darkest hours transcends, connecting with the broken hearted and isolated around the globe. Songs like “In Between,” “Hated,” “The Lines,” and “Sick of Me” have been streamed hundreds of millions of times. These are anthems for the downtrodden and disconnected, celebrated with sing-alongs on international tours; supporting Slipknot, Bring Me The Horizon, or Pierce The Veil; on the Kerrang! Tour with Don Broco in the UK; at major festivals like Download and Rock on the Range.
What began as artistic self-medication for a single multi-instrumentalist and producer, with no career aspirations or grand plans, quickly caught fire. The Sick EP (2013), Disgusting (2014), and the sophomore-slump shattering Aggressive (2016) comprise a blunt audio journal, chronicling Shomo’s battles with his own demons.
As Beartooth became a fully functioning band, bringing these intimate musings to the masses, that purity remained, via a consistently isolated creative methodology.
The stark look inward further intensified with September 28, 2018’s Disease.
The third full-length album from Beartooth is a painstaking, riff-driven examination of the unshakeable throes of depression. While there are moments of positivity, this isn’t the sound of triumph. This is music about survival.
“The album is a whirlwind of emotion,” Shomo explains. “Crazy highs, crazy lows, and lots of intensity. This record isn’t about winning anything. It’s about trying to even begin to learn how to deal with things. It’s hard to process just how dark you can get, what you can really put yourself through with expectations. It’s like starting from the beginning all over again. At the end of the day, it is a very dark album.”
Even as Shomo and his bandmates played to sold-out crowds across Europe, the battle against mental illness and childhood issues returned, and the seed for Disease was planted. The title track was the first song written for it, setting the overall tone.
As always, Shomo recorded vocals, guitars, bass, and drums, and mixed the album himself with assistance from an engineer, now with executive producer (and Grammy winner) Nick Raskulinecz, who has worked with Foo Fighters and Rush. To further enhance the emotional realism Beartooth champions, the third full-length album was tracked in a brand new environment, with an old-school urgency. After crafting the songs in his usual basement domain, Shomo made the trip from the familiar comfort of his equipment and isolation in Ohio to Blackbird in Nashville.
“When I make a record at home, I feel really safe there,” Shomo confesses. “Going into Blackbird, there was a lot of fear. Thankfully, going into that environment just brought out the best. It made the songs feel even more real. It was all worth it.”
The famous recording studio was the birthplace of pivotal work from a massive list of legends, tastemakers, and up-and-comers; like Alice In Chains, Taylor Swift, and Greta Van Fleet. Determined to challenge himself in new ways, Shomo kicked aside his drum samples and digital guitar tones in favor of rich analog vibes, banging out take after take, to capture the feel of classic favorites like AC/DC and Motörhead.
Ten to twelve hour days, six days per week, sweating and screaming through performances, resulted in gargantuan surefire Beartooth bangers like “Used and Abused,” “Manipulation,” and “Enemy,” easily among the strongest songs in the catalog. “You Never Know” was written in collaboration with producer and songwriter Drew Fulk (Fit For A King, As I Lay Dying), after several hours of conversation in a coffee shop. The album closer, “Clever,” was written in an afternoon at the studio, a fittingly sorrowful bookend to Beartooth’s darkest album.
“Depression is something that’s just ‘in your head,’ there’s no reason for it, so it ‘should’ be easy enough to just get over, but I can never do it. It’s something unshakeable. I can’t make it work,” Shomo says. “I wanted to write an album about that. Disease really encompasses everything emotionally that I wanted to convey.”
Shomo’s commitment to raw and personal truth will always define Beartooth. “It’s very important that I stay honest with every song that I write. I didn’t even mean to start this band. I wrote a couple songs and I felt way better afterward. Especially with this record, there are no compromises. It is exactly what I wanted to make.”
With Beartooth, what begins each time as the personal expression of one man is shared with his bandmates, then through the power of musical inspiration and connection, is given to the world then returns to its creator, to begin the cycle anew.
Architects, the Brighton-based outfit Kerrang recently awards the title of “Best British Live Band” and The Guardian said feature “gloriously crafted anthems of defiance,” return with their eighth album, Holy Hell.
Holy Hell marks the band’s first release since the untimely passing of Tom Searle, Architect’s founding guitarist, principal songwriter and twin brother to drummer Dan. “In those first months after Tom’s death, I didn’t deal with it at all and I felt so unhappy and anxious,” Dan explains. “I’d ignored it and just tried to cope. But I knew that at some point, I had to learn from it.”
“It’s at times like that you ask yourself, ‘What is left?’” adds vocalist Sam Carter. “As a group of friends, we had to find something.”
“Ultimately, there were two choices,” Dan says. “Feel sorry for yourself, and believe the world to be a horrible place and let it defeat you. Or let it inspire us to live the life that Tom would have wanted us to live. I was very worried about people taking away a despondent message from the album. I felt a level of responsibility to provide a light at the end of the tunnel for people who are going through terrible experiences.”
Finding a way forward, the band spent six months from the Fall of 2017 through the Spring of this year recording what would become the 11-song album, with Dan and guitar player Josh Middleton handling production. “For me, broadly speaking Holy Hell is about pain: the way we process it, cope with it, and live with it,” Dan offers. “There is value in pain. It’s where we learn, it’s where we grow.”
Black Label Society
Black Label Society bandleader Zakk Wylde wields his guitar like a Viking weapon, bashing out thick riffage and squeezing out expressive squeals as if the glory of his Berserker brotherhood depends upon every single note, which of course, it does.
Charismatic beast and consummate showman, Wylde puts his massive heart and earnest soul on display with unbridled, unchained, animalistic passion in Black Label Society, whether it’s a crushingly heavy blues-rock barnstormer or a piano-driven ode to a fallen brother. Each Black Label Society album is another opportunity to top the one before it, but like AC/DC or The Rolling Stones, BLS isn’t here to reinvent the wheel. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s a brand we can trust.
Mighty missives like “Damn the Flood,” “In This River,” “Stillborn,” “My Dying Time,” “Queen of Sorrow,” and “Blood is Thicker Than Water” have amassed millions of downloads and streams. They are the soundtracks to sweat-soaked revelry, jubilant evenings that descend into bewildering mornings, and adrenaline-fueled sports.
Grimmest Hits, the band’s tenth full-length studio album and follow-up to Billboard Top 5 entries Catacombs of the Black Vatican (2014) and Order of the Black (2010), Black Label Society submit new anthems like radio single “Room of Nightmares,” the bluesy “Seasons of Falter,” and Southern-fried “The Day That Heaven Had Gone Away” to the BLS faithful; 12 unstoppable tracks to add to that lifestyle soundtrack.
While members of esteemed rock and metal institutions like Alice In Chains, Metallica, Type O Negative, Clutch, Danzig, and Megadeth have passed through the band’s ranks, Black Label Society has consistently been defined by Wylde’s unmistakable voice and signature guitar sound and the steady rumble of bassist John DeServio. BLS is rounded out, in the studio and onstage, by guitarist Dario Lorina (since 2013) and powerhouse drummer Jeff Fabb (since 2012).
This is as much a band as it is a symbol of strength, honor, commitment, and diehard “society,” as evidenced by the legions of supporters who proudly donned the Black Label Society colors years before motorcycle culture was back in fashion.
Black Label Society are vigilant keepers of the hard rock n’ roll flame, protecting its sonic characteristics and vibe while engaging in reverent study of its chief architects. Given that Wylde’s kids’ are named Hayley Rae, Jesse John Michael (named after his Godfather, John Michael “Ozzy” Osbourne), Hendrix Halen, and Sabbath Page, it’s clear that he takes his study of rock n’ roll’s greats very seriously.
To many, Wylde is synonymous with pinch harmonics as much as Chuck Berry dreamt up the duck walk. Zakk’s signature Les Paul Bullseye guitar hangs in the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame. His infamous leather bellbottoms hang in the Grammy Museum. His handprints are on Hollywood’s Rock Walk of Fame. He’s performed the National Anthem at major sporting events. He wrote the 2013 Major League Baseball theme for ESPN. He even momentarily joined Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff in Guns N’ Roses. He is a playable character in the Guitar Hero games.
A lifelong disciple of Black Sabbath and the longest serving guitar-shredder for the Ozzman himself, Wylde co-wrote modern Ozzy Osbourne classics like “No More Tears,” “Mama I’m Coming Home,” “Road to Nowhere,” and “Miracle Man.” Together with Ozzy bassist Blasko and drummer Joey Castillo (ex-Queens Of The Stone Age), Wylde pays faithful tribute to the forefathers of metal as frontman for Zakk Sabbath.
Before he graced the cover of every meaningful guitar magazine on the planet, Zakk Wylde was a kid in New Jersey who picked up his instrument before he’d even hit high school. He was still a teenager when he got his demo tape into Ozzy’s hands. Together with the man he affectionately calls “the Boss” (and whose wife and manager, Sharon, he calls “Mom”), Wylde was part of the biggest selling album of the legendary Black Sabbath singer’s solo career, No More Tears, as well as the double-platinum Ozzmosis, and earned a Grammy for the live recording of “I Don’t Want to Change the World.”
One part invading horde and all parts traveling carnival party, Black Label Society traverses the world powered by caffeine and cacophony. BLS engages and inspires audiences everywhere they go, on every radio dial they burn, inviting all comers to join in and participate in their brotherhood and sisterhood of hard rock and vigor.
Now ten studio albums deep, with solo records, Ozzy shows, and Zakk Sabbath tours all kicking ass simultaneously, Black Label Society rides ever forward, fist held high.
The very day Yelawolf was born, his teenage mother strapped him into a stroller and rolled him around the mall. The first week of his life, she took him to house parties, and by the time he left high school, the family had roamed to so many towns that Yelawolf had attended 15 different schools.
“I really never ever stopped moving,” he says while driving around Nashville, his home of the past three years. “That’s my life story in a nutshell.”
With his latest release, Love Story, perhaps he can finally downshift. Since 2010’s Trunk Muzik, his career has been on the fast track. His appearance—his tattoos include a catfish swimming down his forearm and “Heart of Dixie” stamped on his stomach—and raps about Appalachian meth dealers might’ve made him a novelty act. But his rapid-fire delivery and intense live show ensured no one considered him a joke. As Pitchfork marveled, “Yelawolf is a powerful new rap voice, one that draws from all over the map without sounding much like anyone else.” Interscope Records agreed and within three months, he had a major label deal. Later that year, the tape was re-released as Trunk Muzik 0-60, and Rolling Stone praised him as “an MC whose liquid flow breathes life into genre clichés.” In January 2011, he signed to Eminem’s Shady Records, and his fan base grew even more rabid. Yet Wolf wasn’t satisfied.
“The mullet and Three 6 Mafia. How do you make that work?” he says. “What I’ve always been trying to do is figure out how to make that into a good mixture of music.”
Yelawolf was born Michael Wayne Atha in Gadsden, Alabama, where his two musical loves grew organically. His mom dated a sound engineer, and Wolf remembers being onstage at age six with Dwight Yoakam, and Run DMC coming by his house to party after their local show when he was seven. “I woke up in this trailer park and figured out what was ironic about who I was and where I was from wasn’t that what I was experiencing was new. It was just that I recognized the extreme of it,” he says.
After being homeless in Berkeley and working on a ship off the coast of Washington state, Yelawolf landed back in the South and started making mixtapes. He was purposefully rowdy, wearing head-to-toe deer hunting camouflage and gold teeth. In Atlanta, Wolf and his friend Malay (the producer who later won a Grammy for Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange) started a “futuristic country hip-hop rock band” that included both a DJ and a black fiddle player. Their self-described “arena rap” became popular in Atlanta, pulling huge crowds as well as the attention of Lil Wayne and L.A. Reid. But their idea was ahead of its time and fizzled.
Wolf was poor, and his now ex-girlfriend and their child were still living in Gadsden. Running out of options, he returned to Alabama with producer WLPWR. “We got an 8-track recorder in the back of this shitty house in this factory neighborhood worthy of any Harmony Korine film, and we wrote Trunk Muzik front to back,” he says. He hustled back to Atlanta to record it, and the tape that set his career ablaze and resulted in his working with legends like Bun B and Big Boi was completed in all of a week and a half.
“I became that shit. I saw the power in it. [And] I felt fulfilled,” he admits. “But I always knew, ‘Wait ‘till they hear the shit I did with Malay.’”
At long last, they’re listening, and the response is as positive as he always believed it would be. Recorded entirely in Nashville’s Blackbird Studios and executively produced by Eminem, his passion project—fittingly titled Love Story—is a rootsy, country-tinged rock album brimming with strong lyricism. Finally, he’s struck the right balance.
“I’m not reinventing the wheel. It’s nothing Kid Rock hasn’t done,” he says. “But what is new is my deep appreciation for lyricism in hip hop, [my desire] to be a great lyricist. And a deep appreciation for outlaw country, for raw classic rock. I started to learn how to blend concepts together.”
Indeed he did. The album’s first single, “Till It’s Gone,” is a driving barn burner of a song elevated by Wolf’s melodically sung hook. Radio friendly without sacrificing its soul, it’s an undeniable smash that’s in line with the country’s recent obsession with the culture of rural American life. In fact, “Till It’s Gone” premiered last September on the wildly popular FX drama Sons of Anarchy.
“It might be simple, but when I decided to put down sneakers and throw on some boots … it feels like I’ve come full circle … riding Harleys with my Dad … it all makes sense, ” he says. A smile enters his voice. “It’s the biggest exhale.”
Every lasting legacy remains rooted in an undying urge to grow. After two decades at the forefront of all things guitar, a GRAMMY® Award win, 40 million-plus units sold between Alter Bridge, Creed, and his eponymous Tremonti, and countless other accolades, Mark Tremonti once again summited an uncharted creative peak in 2018…
For the very first time, the guitarist and singer crafted an immersive concept and accompanying novel for Tremonti’s fourth full-length album and first for Napalm Records, A Dying Machine. As passionate about authors like Gene Wolfe and George R.R. Martin as he is about hard rock and heavy metal, the multitalented musician architected a big screen-worthy tale amplified by his most cohesive sonic vision to date.
“I’ve never done anything like this,” he admits. “I had the vision in mind the entire time. Some songs directly relate to the narrative, while some of them are more ambiguous. Even with the concept, it’s very personal. At it’s core, this is a human story, but with a twist.”
Since emerging in 2012, he and his bandmates—Eric Friedman [guitar, bass] and Garrett Whitlock [drums]—have built the foundation for such an ambitious statement. Their full-length debut All I Was and the follow up records Cauterize and Dust have earned the band a very strong following. The band has supported these records with extensive headlining gigs and festival appearances everywhere from Rock on the Range to Shiprocked.
In the minutes leading up to an Alter Bridge show in Hungary, the idea for this opus serendipitously arrived.
“I was warming up on guitar, and I just started writing this chord progression and singing over it,” he recalls. “The words, ‘You’re a dying machine’ came out. I thought about the subject matter throughout the night.”
That story unfolds as an emotionally charged narrative, spanning obsession, unrequited love, and destruction. The plot takes place at the turn of the next century, and the plan is to have the novel available at the same time as the record release.
Once again, he joined forces with longtime producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette [Slash, Alter Bridge] for recording in Orlando during late 2017. Beyond generating a pristine tone on Tremonti’s signature PRS MT-15 amp, the guys approached the sessions “more prepared than ever in the past.”
Fittingly, the band introduces this body of work with the title track “A Dying Machine.” Muscular and mechanized riffing spirals out towards an airy hook and hypnotic fingerstyle solo.
“I felt like ‘A Dying Machine’ was the perfect way to invite listeners into this world,” explains Tremonti.
The album itself kicks off fueled by the speed demon six-string death march of “Bringer of War.” A melodically massive hook underscores the apocalyptic landslide of down-picking and fiery fretwork.
“It’s about a warmonger with no pity who is just hell bent on destruction,” he elaborates.
Tremonti explores a new guitar tuning on the track, “Trust”.
“That’s a sound we’ve never embraced with the tuning and chord voicings. There’s a new mood to it.”
The crystalline blues-style tones of “The First The Last” belie a raw intensity of a different nature as the band “gets away with writing an emotionally charged song, because it’s in a fictional landscape,” laughs Tremonti. “You could liken it to somebody losing everything they ever cared about.”
The conclusion “Found” represents the biggest departure as it ends the album with an instrumental industrialized hum evocative of Massive Attack. It literally replicates the sound of A Dying Machine.
Meanwhile, the first single “Take You With Me” hinges on an airtight thrash gallop before an expansive and entrancing chorus.
He adds, “It’s basically saying, ‘Be proud of who you are. Be proud of whatever scars you have. Don’t ever forget where you came from. Stand up for yourself, and I’ll help you do it. You’re smarter and stronger than you’ll ever know. It’s someone trying to raise somebody up.’ “
With extensive headline runs on the horizon and a European tour supporting Iron Maiden, Tremonti continues to grow into an ambitious hard rock force.
“This is an emotional record,” he leaves off. “I want fans to get a lot of emotion out of it. I’m very proud of the lyrics. I hope they stand out as much as anything else on the record.”
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.”
F*ckin’ REIGNWOLF is invading the streets unleashing throaty soulful howls, bleeding guitars plugged into smokey half stacks, and stomping on a vintage Ludwig bass drum. Joined by the low end of brother Stitch, and drum destroyer, Texas Jo.
The Reignwolf experience is best summed up by one of his lyrics – “I gave you my soul, and I can’t give you anything more”… and onstage Reignwolf undoubtedly gives “it all”.
STARSET is a multimedia, modern rock band that emerged in 2014 when their debut album TRANSMISSIONS broke through on radio, sales and streaming charts, driven by the hit song “My Demons.” Their highly-anticipated sophomore album VESSELS was released worldwide in January 2017, debuting at #11 on Billboard’s Top 200, and the first single “Monster” was the #2 most played song of the year at rock radio. Setting the band apart is the unique vision and goals of founder and frontman Dustin Bates. A PhD candidate in electrical engineering, he has done research for the U.S. Air Force, taught at the International Space University in France, and is dedicated to promoting science to a wider audience. Through their cinematic music, sci-fi concept, videos, novels, websites, and unique live concerts, they offer fans an immersive experience unlike any other band today.
Something happens when Badflower singer and guitarist Josh Katz steps up to the microphone. His primal, powerful, and passionate transformation is the most unmitigated kind of catharsis fueled by emotion and unfiltered intensity…
“The superhero version of myself comes out in the songs,” he affirms. “When I’m writing or performing, I go to this place that reflects the most emotional point I’ve hit at the moment. A lot of what’s being written is anger, lust, heartbreak, and all of that. Becoming an artist, I flip into this character I can’t shake or get rid of. I embrace it and keep writing in that direction.”
This approach stands out as Badflower’s calling card. It’s also a big reason why the group quietly became one of L.A.’s most buzzed-about rock ‘n’ roll bands. Since their emergence in 2014, the band—Josh, Joe Morrow [lead guitar, backing vocals], Alex Espiritu [bass], and Anthony Sonetti [drums]—has shared stages with the likes of KONGOS and The Veronicas, earned acclaim from OC Weekly, Loudwire, and more, and achieved a two-week run at #1 on KROQ’s Locals Only Show with “Heroin.” During 2016, fashion icon John Varvatos personally signed the band to John Varvatos Records. Little did he know, they had a big surprise up their sleeves.
“We actually had already started making a record without telling anybody,” smiles Josh. “After the deal was done, we were like, ‘How about this?’”
The boys cut the 2016 Temper EP [John Varvatos Records/Republic Records] in the garage of the Thousand Oaks, CA home which they share. Recorded during a blazing hot California summer, the sessions got so intense that their MacBook Pro often needed to cool down in the freezer. Wielding that energy, the music taps into a gritty and grunge-y gutter rock spirit complemented by jarring theatrical delivery and unshakable riffing, equally informed by Led Zeppelin and nineties Seattle as it is by film composers such as James Horner.
The first single “Animal” struts along on a distorted guitar shuffle before pouncing claws out on a refrain deifying a voracious femme fatale.
“It’s about an abusive relationship,” he explains. “I’m describing this girl as a predator type of animal and myself as the victim. Most people play that victim role. They don’t like to be accountable for the terrible things happening in their lives. It’s about being stuck in that place. You have the power to get out of it, but you are content there.”
Following the EP’s theme of unmitigated anger unleashed, “Drop Dead” hones in on the dynamic of a toxic relationship, while “Heroin” succumbs to its spell admitting, “She burns like heroin.”
In the end, Badflower’s ride remains raucous, raw, and real. “Music is all about emotions,” he leaves off. “This EP is very dark and temperamental. That’s what I put across. So that’s what I want people to feel.”
The Damned Things
With a lineup consisting of members of Anthrax, Fall Out Boy, and Every Time I Die, the Damned Things seem like one of rock’s unlikeliest supergroups. The project began when Scott Ian and Joe Trohman met and, after hitting it off, decided to start a project to fill some of their free time. Rounding out the lineup is Anthrax’s Rob Caggiano, Fall Out Boy’s Andy Hurley, and Every Time I Die’s Keith Buckley. While the group members cover a wide range of sounds in their day jobs, they’re able to pull together the best parts of everything as the Damned Things, utilizing the powerful riffage of Anthrax and the driving, hook-laden pop of Fall Out Boy to create an infectious thrash/classic rock hybrid.
With the release of their critically acclaimed “Black Diamonds” EP last November, ISSUES has seen a tremendous amount of success thanks to their innovative sound and constant tour schedule – opening for acts like A Day To Remember, Of Mice & Men, Pierce The Veil, Memphis May Fire,
Sleeping With Sirens, Crown The Empire, and a stint on the Vans Warped Tour. Their unique aesthetic is more reﬁned than ever, and after a year of incredible touring, the band headed back to producer extraordinaire Kris Crummet (Sleeping With Sirens, “Black Diamonds” EP) to create more genre-bending tracks, combining heavy rock and melodic choruses spirited by dueling vocalists Tyler Carter and Michael Bohn. All of this is complemented by the infectious unique scratching and synths brought by DJ Scout. Carter and Bohn sound better than ever, with Tyler delivering his signature, beautiful soulful soaring vocals and Michael crunching onto the track with his ﬁerce hard-hitting screams.
ISSUES have taken the ground-work built on “Black Diamonds” and created a fully realized album that is guaranteed to set them up as major players in the scene for years to come.
This debut full length 100% delivers on the promise shown through their debut ep. It’s self-titled because it embodies everything that ISSUES is, that the fans have come to love.
The Glorious Sons
The Glorious Sons’ second full-length album, Young Beauties & Fools, is all about honesty. More specifically, it’s about exploring the adventures (and frequent misadventures) of main songwriter Brett Emmons in the truest way. It’s also an album where The Glorious Sons — rounded out by Brett’s older brother Jay Emmons (guitar), Chris Koster (guitar), Adam Paquette (drums) and Chris Huot (bass) — capture all the listlessness and confusion of young adulthood in 10 doses of modern rock.
“It’s basically the story of a 24-year-old kid,” says Brett. “They’re simple songs about alcoholism and the mostly autobiographical story of my life. The whole thing is derived from the thoughts, actions and feelings of a kid who doesn’t really know himself and the consequences of those actions.”
Glorious Sons’ hardscrabble tales come naturally. A high-spirited rock band with blue collar roots, they truly found themselves when Brett quit school in 2013 to join them as lead singer. Subsequent years of hard touring and hard partying — sometimes in places so sketchy, as Brett puts it, “There was no electricity in the building” — provided fuel for the songs on Young Beauties & Fools.
“It’s me writing about the things I’ve done, the things that have happened to me and my family, and the things that I think about,” says Brett.
Whether it’s the rock ‘n’ roll bender “My Poor Heart,” the not-so-classic boy-meets-girl story of “Josie,” or the deeply embarrassing punch-up at a wedding tale “Everything Is Alright,” Brett’s songwriting deftly explores the imperfect humanity of both himself and the many characters he introduces over the course of the album.
It wasn’t easy to capture that realness. The band wanted to range further, to grow and evolve from the successes of 2014’s The Union album. That record was an immediate hit on the Canadian radio rock landscape. Glorious Sons scored seven consecutive Top 10 rock radio tracks, won two SiriusXM Indie Awards (Group of the Year and Rock Group of the Year) and received a Juno Award nomination in 2015 for Rock Album of the Year.
Eighteen months of recording fits and starts led the band to Los Angeles to work with production team Fast Friends (Frederik Thaae, Ryan Spraker, Tom Peyton). It wasn’t until they started exploring a collection of old voice memos on Brett’s phone that they had their eureka moment. The subsequent creative outburst resulted in an album written in 12 days and recorded in 14.
“It was our first time working with these guys in the studio and we were still kinda feeling each other out,” says Brett. “There were times when it almost felt like a blind date. And we had been in the studio with a couple of other producers prior to that and went home empty handed. So after a few lukewarm conversations about ideas, I said to them, ‘Boys, can I show you something?’ I took out my iPhone and played ‘Josie’ and they just went fucking nuts. They wanted us to challenge ourselves as players and songwriters and pushed me to write from personal experience. After that, the hardest part of recording was choosing which songs to keep for the album. I’m forever grateful to them for teaching me to trust myself as a writer and help find that voice.”
There should be lots of opportunities to see Glorious Sons play the songs from Young Beauties & Fools. By their count the band has driven across Canada “at least 10 times” and played upwards of 300 shows to support their last album.
“You don’t know what you’re going to get night to night from us,” says Jay. “It’s something you have to see and it’s interesting and powerful.”
“It’s also an inch from either side of falling off the tracks every single night,” adds Brett.
Which is perfectly fitting for a band living young and foolish.
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.
Martin recently put together a new, high level, and powerful band including guitarist Owen Barry, guitarist Leroy Wulfmeier, bassist Eliot Lorango, and drummer Jason Ganberg. Dorothy is releasing their second full-length album 28 Days in the Valley on March 9th.
“This was a spiritual journey and very healing, and because of that it’s an unapologetically honest record,” says Martin of the new album. “Somehow Linda [Perry] knew I had more to give as a singer and writer. I used to hide behind the tough girl sound, but she taught me that there is power in my vulnerability and that’s what you get on this record.”
28 Days in the Valley still has the in-your-face bluesy, gritty rock and roll fans loved on 2016’s ROCKISDEAD, and their recent 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 thunder and alt-rock guitar crunch.” But, added to that thunder this time around are more layers of emotion fueled by less metal, more California desert rock vibes. The lead single “Flawless”, a fearless yet vulnerable anthem, is out January 19th.
Critics have compared Martin to some of the greatest female artists of our time, such as Amy Winehouse, Patti Smith, and Grace Slick, even calling her “a revved-up Adele teetering on the brink of chaos.” The band is managed by We Are Hear and represented by Roc Nation. Dorothy is currently on tour. For more information, visit dorothytheband.com.
Black Pistol Fire
Black Pistol Fire is a high-octane rock duo based out of Austin, Texas by way of Toronto, Canada; composed of Kevin McKeown on guitar/lead vocals and Eric Owen on drums. Drawing inspiration from blues, R&B and rock greats such as Led Zeppelin, Chuck Berry, Nirvana, Buddy Holly and Muddy Waters, BPF’s gritty and dynamic performances are fueled by undeniable musicianship. Dubbed the “next big thing” by Huffington Post after SXSW 2013, BPF has developed a reputation for their untamed live performances. Described as “Pure fire on stage”(Degenrefy), they are quickly becoming festival veterans, including performances at Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, Sasquatch Music Festival, Shaky Knees and Governor’s Ball, among others. After Lollapalooza 2015, Yahoo Music described Black Pistol Fire as “a power duo that can almost match the power and intensity of the massive rock sounds of the likes of Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac… in a breakout set.”
Black Pistol Fire has shared the stage with acts like Gary Clark Jr, Weezer, Heart, Wolfmother, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Band of Skulls. Their signature sound has been featured throughout television and entertainment. Their single, “Show Pony” was featured in the Ted 2 official trailer and they performed their song “Blue Eye Commotion” in a national T-Mobile TV ad. Their music can also be heard in Madden ‘15 and Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 video games and in numerous TV shows including Sons of Anarchy, Castle and About a Boy. “Black Pistol Fire… were, by far, the best band that played LouFest… This was the craziest I’ve seen any of the crowds at the festival… Drummer Eric Owen, shirtless and wrists wrapped, pounded the skins like he was summoning a devil. McKeown stomps so hard during his rough and intricate dirty blues, you thought he would make a hole in the stage… A must see.” – KDHX (St Louis), Loufest 2014
While She Sleeps
“We’ve let our hair down and we’ve got our bollocks out. I’m not fucking about. I’m not cutting corners. I’ve been writing like this will be my last album.”
Some bands play it safe when it comes to taking their next steps. But then, While She Sleeps have never been “some band”. The Sheffield quintet have made a career out of confounding expectations, be it through their dizzying blend of crushing metal, guttural hardcore and arena-worthy hooks, or the way they’ve carried themselves over an explosive, 13-year career. Their last album, 2017’s ‘You Are We,’ was a testament to the power of self-belief and determination; crowdfunded and released on the band’s own Sleeps Brothers label, it earned them award nominations from the likes of Metal Hammer and a Best Album win at the Heavy Music Awards, as well as landing them in the top ten of the UK album charts. Now, they look to build on that success with the release of fourth studio album: ‘SO WHAT?’
“You Are We got us to this special position, and it’s given us a platform,” continues guitarist Sean Long. “For us, it’s like, ‘What can we do to really stick this in people’s faces? What can we put out there that we’re buzzing off?’ I don’t want to be following everyone else; I want people to follow us.”
“You Are We was us learning how to really listen to ourselves,” adds fellow axeman Mat Welsh. “This record is us knowing how to exercise that. You Are We was basically a demo for this record.”
With the ‘You Are We’ cycle wrapped up, the band decamped to their self-built Sleeps Audio studio complex in Sheffield, where they’d spend five months recording their next chapter. Putting all their energy into making the best album they could, Sleeps decided that when it came to naming album four, typically, they weren’t going to play along with the usual music stereotypes.
“‘SO WHAT?’ is about how easily we all judge everything before we actually know anything about it,” explains Mat. “If we put a really elaborate title on a record with a really elaborate cover, that could give you the option of deciding what you think of it before you’ve listened to anything on it. The one thing we’re putting every bit of our creative juice into is the music.”
Recorded with producer Carl Bown, ‘SO WHAT?’ promises to be another defiant step forwards. “It’s going to blow your mind!” promises Mat, and if first single ‘Anti-Social’ is anything to go by, he isn’t kidding. An explosive, relentless four-minute anthem, it takes everything you know and love about While She Sleeps – clattering riffs, bruising breakdowns, snarling lyrics and big-ass singalongs – and sticks them in a blender. It’s punk, it’s heavy metal, it couldn’t be any other band but them, and yet it sounds unlike anything you’ve heard from them before. It’s the sound of While She Sleeps reborn. “It’s still very different – as much as it still sounds like While She Sleeps,” agrees Sean. “You get a taste of this new area that we’re flowing into. Even though it’s still really heavy, you get this twinge of what’s to come.”
“We felt excited about Anti-Social,” notes Mat. “It’s such a heavy tune, but it’s a different way of heavy than we’ve been before. It feels like you want to be out and drunk, throwing beer over your mates while it’s on. In a world where everyone expects you to be softening up or getting more generic, I think it’s fun to just throw out a song that’s just, like, ‘Nope! We’re not doing that!’”
Set for release on Sleeps Brothers in collaboration with metal mega-label Spinefarm, ‘SO WHAT?’ sees While She Sleeps working with a major label again for the first time since 2015’s ‘Brainwashed’, and the band are at pains to point out that this won’t mean there’ll be any compromise in their vision. “We got approached immediately by a bunch of labels, but we turned around to all of them and said, ‘The only way we’re going to do anything is if you let us release it on Sleeps Brothers, but you house that on your train, and we make the decisions behind everything,” Mat explains. “I fucking loved releasing You Are We ourselves, but at the same time, I played more on my laptop than I did on my guitar for the whole campaign. This release is a partnership between Sleeps Brothers and Spinefarm, but no one is breathing down our necks about the record we’re making or the singles we’re putting out.”
With a bigger platform to get their music into the world and a firestorm of a first single released, 2019 is shaping up to be the year of While She Sleeps. For a band that have spent over a decade redefining modern metal, it seems the best is yet to come.
Emerging from the gritty north of England, YUNGBLUD brings an explosion of raw energy and thought-provoking lyrics. He has created his own blend of alternative rock: poetry, guitar-hooks and break-beats with a fierce determination to make a dent in pop-culture. Dangerously sexy, startlingly bold yet emotionally grounded YUNGBLUD drops a grenade on his audience members imprinting himself in their minds.
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.”
High On Fire
Universally recognized as one of the most potent acts in music today, HIGH ON FIRE creates dynamic metal that merges primal fury and aggression, hesher bombast and hall of fame heaviness. Described as “a supersonic exercise in conquest by volume,” HIGH ON FIRE has rewritten the hard rock rulebook since its formation in 1998, forging a style and sound that is both critically celebrated and absolutely unique. The group features vocalist and cult guitar hero Matt Pike — also a founding member of the famed underground band SLEEP — along with powerhouse drummer Des Kensel and talented bassist Jeff Matz. HIGH ON FIRE’s most recent studio album, Luminiferous, was released on June 16, 2015.
ZEAL & ARDOR
By now, Zeal & Ardor’s performance at Roadburn 2017 has become the stuff of legends, the kind of thing you had to be there for (or were gutted to have missed)—but it almost didn’t happen.
The sound blew out twice during the 50 minutes Zeal & Ardor was allotted, leaving Swiss- American bandleader Manuel Gagneux and his backing musicians to troubleshoot as best they could on a silent stage facing hundreds of expectant faces. After the PA had sputtered out for the second time, Gagneux turned to the audience, his slight frame and clouds of black hair silhouetted against the blue lights and mounds of gear, an apologetic grin upon his face. Then, up from the crowd, came a ragged handful of voices, singing the chorus to the chills-inducing title track for his breakout album in unison: ”Devil is fine.” He leaned forward and answered them—”Little one better heed my warning”—in that booming, bluesy voice of his, and the audience finished the couplet for him. He sang back the next line, and back came the thunderous chorus, rising from several hundred throats.
That call-and-response only lasted a few seconds, but its impact reverberated through the rest of the festival. Word of mouth is crucial for a band like Zeal & Ardor—a bedroom project-turned-juggernaut that rose to hyped-up prominence in a matter of months and is sustained by fan interest instead of major label machinery—and those 50 minutes in that church cemented the band’s reputation as The Next Big Thing in Metal.
“Having such a potentially devastating moment turn into such a supportive one is only a testament to the crowd of that festival,” Gagneux demurs, selling himself a bit short as is his habit. Lest we forget, Gagneux possesses an incredibly powerful, versatile voice, as well as a thoroughly original sound and the chops to pull it all together seamlessly. At the main event, despite all the setbacks and pre-show jitters, Gagneux and his crew did just fine, and really, it shouldn’t have come as any big surprise.
After all, he’s got the Devil on his side.
Having such a potentially devastating moment turn into such a supportive one is only a
testament to the crowd of that festival,” Gagneux demurs,
Like nearly everything else about Zeal & Ardor, Gagneux’s discovery of his remarkable vocal style was a happy accident. His approach to songwriting now isn’t quite as unorthodox as it was in the beginning when he was idly whipping up joke songs to appease his fellow music nerds (and to mess with trolls) on online cesspool 4Chan’s music board. As a result of a racist comment, he stumbled onto a winning combination: a purposefully unholy conflagration of African-American spirituals, chain gangs songs, the blues, and Satanic black metal that drew lines between Scandinavia and the Delta, summoning both the blasphemous evils of the North and the bloodstained history of the South. Radicalis Records in Switzerland offered to release the project’s debut full-length, Devil Is Fine, in 2016 (with the Netherlands’ Reflections Records handling a limited vinyl release), and things snowballed from there.
“I think there’s a connection between the two [genres]; it’s a form of rebellion,” he said back in July 2016. “Even if slave music isn’t exactly defiant, it’s still like the triumph of the will of the people. I think there are parallels with, say, Christianity being forced upon both the Norwegians and the American slaves, and I kind of wondered what would’ve happened if slaves would’ve rebelled in a similar fashion to Burzum or Darkthrone.”
Since the release of his breakthrough album, Devil Is Fine, he has been the subject of much attention in the metal world, ranging from fawning praise to damning grumbles about trends and “fake” metal. As a biracial Swiss-American—born to a white Swiss father and black American mother—he falls so far outside the narrow profile of a stereotypical black metal musician that he’s even been accused of “appropriating” black metal, which is even funnier when one considers where all heavy metal and rock ‘n’ roll came from in the first goddamn place: black musicians.
The past year has been a whirlwind for Gagneux and his band, with invitations to play massive festivals like Reading and Leeds colliding with offers to open for Prophets of Rage and Marilyn Manson. He’s assembled a crack music industry team of high-octane publicists and booking agents who coordinate with his manager and record labels MVKA in Brighton, UK and Radicalis in Basel, Switzerland, who have helped guide him through the pitfalls of unexpected stardom. Zeal & Ardor made its debut North American appearance at Psycho Las Vegas 2017, with a short run of tour dates tacked on, including a NYC date at heavy metal haven Saint Vitus. Now, he’s preparing to take Zeal & Ardor on the road.
“This year is mainly going to be us touring and me writing where I find the time to do so,” he explains. “We get to play festivals that we couldn’t afford to go to, so all in all that’s pretty goshdarn neat.We haven’t toured extensively yet, only had legs of 4 to 7 days, so we’re trying to get accustomed to the thought of the vagabond lifestyle. I, for one, am very excited.”
With everything he’s been juggling, it’s a mystery how Gagneux had time to get down to the business of writing and recording his next album—but, he pulled it off, and the result, Stranger Fruit, is a tour de force in the making.
“I try not to have an audience in my head, because I think that’s what made the first record mean something. For Stranger Fruit, the thought was to have the two elements contrast each other, but also have them homogeneous at times,” he explains of the album’s genre- hopping. “There was more leaning into the extremes of the two genres this time, so at times there is a greater discrepancy and at times they congeal in interesting ways. I wouldn’t say it was hard, it’s the most interesting part of making this music, but it did take a lot of trial and error as well as iteration to get it to a point that I liked.”
“I did the writing myself, but had producer Zebo Adam help me out with guitar sounds, micing etc. the only other musician on the record is Marco von Almen who also provides his drumming to the live band. Finally, Kurt Ballou mixed the record and unsurprisingly did a stellar job at it.”
Stranger Fruit, is a masterful blend of the darkest Delta blues, soaring gospel, and ice- storms of blackened metal. On this album, Gagneux has refined his genre-spanning sound into an utterly cohesive signature, one that transitions seamlessly between its elements and embraces even more outside influences, electronic and organic alike. Devil Is Fine was a welcome surprise, but Stranger Fruit is a full-fledged manifesto, down to the provocative title that recalls jazz icon Billie Holiday’s unforgettable, smokey tribute to the Black lives stolen on Southern soil. On Stranger Fruit, Zeal & Ardor has found its soul.
Though Gagneux says he hates the word “responsibility,” now that his work is so well- known, he’s been forced to reexamine it through a different prism, and to understand how it fits into the conversations about race and culture and metal and how they all intersect that Devil Is Fine sparked.
“It’s not a bad outcome,” he mused. “I’ll put it this way: if this had happened five years ago, I don’t think I would have had the experience to approach it the right way. [Now], if that’s what I get to do, I should do it, but I have to do it in the right way. That’s why I have to think about what I stand for. I can’t afford to fuck up—people actually listen to me now.”
“Black metal is very protective of their culture because it used to be a dear and secretive thing,” he says, a faint smile curling his lip. “Now it’s in the open to a certain degree. It used to be the most aggressive and extreme thing, [but] it isn’t anymore. It has to evolve—and I don’t know how exactly—but we should fucking try at least.”
That commitment to change is something, at least—a glimmer of light in a world that so often intentionally plunges itself into darkness.
With over five years of unmatched determination, the culmination of five Florida musicians’ effort is ready to be unleashed. Guitarist/vocalist Cody Quistad and guitarist Seth Blake met in high school when they discovered that they shared musical interests, and started jamming soon thereafter. In 2013, the duo encountered vocalist Briton Bond and, shortly after, bassist Chris Gaylord and drummer Stephen Kluesener were incorporated into the mix. The line-up alone of Ocala, Florida’s Wage War sheds a more-than-welcome light on the importance of a solid foundation built upon evolving musicianship. Wage War marks their territory with from-the-heart lyrics and thrashing beats that transcend to a community who understands the trials and tribulations of growing up all too well.
In fact, Wage War IS that community, as Quistad explains, “A lot of the themes in our songs are about growing up to be a productive person, and dealing with the real things that can happen in life and coping with circumstances that could be problematic,” says Quistad. “The first single we’re releasing, ‘Alive,’ is an anthem to all the naysayers out there that are always talking about our generation being a bunch of losers.”
Blueprints, the band’s debut album co-produced by A Day To Remember’s Jeremy McKinnon along with Andrew Wade, resounds with all of the tension and ingenuity of its creation. The band delivers 11 tracks of uncompromising multi-dimensional metalcore, filled with high-intensity rhythms, battering drums and blazing guitars, tempered with tuneful vocal passages. Crushing breakdowns alongside a combination of roaring and melodic vocals prove powerful enough to level a small village. Yet, Wage War aren’t focused solely on destruction.
“The goal of Blueprints was to establish a foundation,” Quistad says. “It’s our first record and our first chance to show people what we’re about. So we really went all out to deliver the best songs we could possibly write and play them to the best of our ability. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised.”
Hands Like Houses
Riding high from their most successful two-and-a-half years together yet, Hands Like Houses return with -Anon., their most determined release to date.
-Anon. takes the unique sound Hands Like Houses have been cultivating over the past 10 years and injects it with a big dose of fresh, modern rock’n’roll. The most charismatic album of their career, their fourth record marries who Hands Like Houses are as individuals into an assured yet fun collection of songs that begs the audience to take a deeper listen.
Recorded at Steakhouse Studios in Hollywood with producer Colin Brittain (5 Seconds of Summer / All Time Low), conceptually “-Anon.” is a statement on the duality of the creative process – the idea that music can be shared or heard in passing and can still resonate with people even when the artist is unknown to the listener..
“I think our strength is in parallel values of art. There’s what we create, and there’s us,” says Frontman Trenton Woodley. “When people know who we are, it adds an extra layer of meaning and significance to the concept, but when they don’t, the song still stands up on its own.”
Like an anonymous poem with no author, it doesn’t matter who created it, as its strength lies in its relatability. -Anon. is Hands Like Houses giving a lyrical voice to other people’s stories and musically creating atmosphere and emotions within the listener to be shared for years to come.
“Separating from my sense of self to create something that could stand on its own was the thought process that planted the seed for ‘-Anon.’s title and concept explains Woodley. “I still take my role as a storyteller seriously, so each day we wrote, we sat down and talked about different people, different experiences, different ideas – then we chose one of those threads and followed it down the rabbit hole.”
“We had the most time off the road since writing our first album” adds guitarist Alex Pearson, “so we didn’t feel restricted or pressured to make the album sound a certain way. We had time to experiment and expand on what did and didn’t define us as a band and create something unique.’
The band felt a freedom of responsibility that allowed each song to have its own atmosphere and story – there’s fatalism and optimism, self-reflection, realism and fantasy, politics and personal journey. In the context of the album, each is its own anonymous piece to relate to – each is built around a shared human experience or perspective.
Born and bred in Canberra, Australia, Hands Like Houses – comprising of Trenton Woodley (vocals), Alexander Pearson (guitar), Joel Tyrrell (bass), Matthew Parkitny (drums) & Matt “Coops” Cooper (guitar) – are one of Australia’s biggest rock exports. The band has sold an impressive 100k+ record sales worldwide, boasts 85 million combined worldwide streams, and embarked on 15 full US and nine UK tours on the books, and three back-to-back sold out headline tours across Australia. Their critically acclaimed third album Dissonants impressively debuted in the Top 10 Billboard Independent Albums, Hard Music Albums, Alternative Albums and Rock Albums charts and #7 on the ARIA Chart (Australia).
During their decade together, the band have spent their time thrilling epic crowds at home, playing packed arenas with Bring Me The Horizon and A Day To Remember, and as one of the headliners on UNIFY 2018. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Hands Like Houses have played to tens of thousands of people across Download Festival, Rock on the Range, Carolina Rebellion and Northern Invasion, alongside legendary acts The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Deftones, Alice Cooper and Disturbed.
Music and emotion share a timeless physiological, psychological, and spiritual bond. A chord, a melody, or a lyric can lift spirits and inspire. Movements achieve that sort of reaction on their full-length debut, Feel Something [Fearless Records]. Threading together spacey guitars, evocative and introspective lyricism, ponderous spoken word, and tight songcraft, the Southern California quartet—Patrick Miranda [vocals], Ira George [guitar], Spencer York [drums], and Austin Cressey [bass]—immediately connect by opening up…
“We want our listeners to hear our music and feel something deeper than the everyday run-of-the-mill emotions,” exclaims Patrick. “We want our listeners to know that no matter what they’re going through there’s someone out there who understands. We want them to know they aren’t alone in their struggles, and no one should have to suffer alone. We don’t care if our music makes you feel sad, happy, angry, confused, or anything in between. All we care about is that it makes you Feel Something.”
That musical empathy quietly launched Movements on an upward trajectory in 2015. Formed by longtime friends, the group landed a deal with Fearless Records after just one local gig. Produced by Will Yip [Tigers Jaw, Title Fight, Turnover, Citizen], their debut EP, Outgrown Things, became a fan favorite. Acclaimed by the likes of Alternative Press and New Noise Magazine, songs like “Nineteen” and “Kept” each respectively amassed over 800K Spotify streams and counting as they have toured nonstop. Along the way, the boys started working on what would become Feel Something before returning to the studio with Yip in February 2017. In the sessions, their signature style crystallized and coalesced.
“We wanted to define what Movements is on the record,” he goes on. “There were a lot of different styles on the EP, because we were still trying to figure out who we wanted to be. For the full-length, we were all on the same page. Everything matured. We solidified our identity as a rock band. Our guitar tones are more complex. The spoken word parts are there, but there’s hardly any screaming. We wanted to write a cool fucking rock record with a song for everybody.”
Bolstered by intricate instrumentation and explosive vocal delivery, these 11 tracks signify the musicians’ evolution. On the first single “Colorblind,” hummable clean guitars volley between arena-size rhythms before snapping into a vibrant admission, “Cuz you were gold, but I’m colorblind.”
“It’s a relationship song,” says Patrick. “I’m colorblind, and I use that as an analogy for love. After going through some bad breakups, I’d meet people and fail to connect on a deeper level. I’d lose interest and walk away. Even though these girls had so much to offer me, I couldn’t see it. No matter what, I couldn’t see these relationships through, and I didn’t know why.”
“Deadly Dull” explores the effects of Alzheimer’s from a powerful firsthand perspective that’s nothing short of tear-jerking. “My girlfriend’s grandfather has Alzheimer’s,” the frontman sighs. “When his wife died, he was distraught, screaming, and crying. Twenty minutes later, he didn’t know she died. He keeps asking to see her. The family tells him that she’s gone, because he doesn’t remember. That crushes me. Every time, he gets sad, cries, goes outside, and sits on the back porch and doesn’t talk to anybody. He goes to bed, it’s all erased, and he wakes up with the same questions. I wanted to tell that story.”
Meanwhile, “Daylily” offers up a musical reminder that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. “It’s about my current girlfriend,” he reveals. “We connect so deeply because she understands what I’m going through. She’s had severe anxiety, depression, and an eating disorder. Her therapist would call good days, ‘Pink cloud days.’ No matter how many bad days you have, you will have more ‘Pink cloud days.’”
Ultimately, Movements bring emotion to life in each note. “When people hear this, I want them to think it’s impactful,” Patrick leaves off. “I want them to hear the record, feel it, and continue to experience it.”
There was a time when rock radio was dominated by great riffs. From Deep Purple’s “Smoke On the Water” and Derek And The Dominoes’ “Layla” to Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” and Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name Of” it was all about that unmistakable guitar sound that instantly identified a band or song. The members of Crobot have united to bring that back.
Blending funk, blues, metal and good old-fashioned rock and roll into a howling vortex of Yeagley’s vocals and Bishop’s guitar, Crobot have crafted an album of endless good time rock hooks that sound as inspired today as they would have on AOR radio in 1974.
“We grew up with the same riff rock and it’s seemingly lacking in today’s music. We really seem to like the rock of old and felt that was missing,” Yeagley says.
Crobot is a band that can rock at all tempos. Whether it’s the slow-building groove of “Skull Of Geronimo,” a methodical sludge-rocker that calls to mind Soundgarden in the chorus or the more up-tempo funkified “Nowhere To Hide,” a track that sounds like the Black Crowes driving a Camaro, Crobot display stellar musicianship and lyrical depth.
For example, on “Queen Of The Light,” the powerful closing track of Something Supernatural, Yeagley sings the story of a girl yearning for a new life. “She lives the darkest life/but all she wants to be is the queen of the light,” he sings against the plaintive wailing of the slow-moving melody. It’s one of the songs destined to strike a deep chord with fans in the same way the single “Nowhere To Hide” has become a good-time anthem.
“Nowhere To Hide” is one of the songs Yeagley cites as getting his feet wiggling. And he promises that on Something Supernatural there will be plenty more grooves to get fans moving, as those who’ve experienced Crobot live have already seen.
“’Night Of The Sacrifice’ is one that’s coming out off the full length and that always gets me excited to play,” he says. “It’s usually the introduction to the funkier side of what we do in our set, it’s usually the first funky track that we play. So it’s really exciting to switch that mode from more riff based stuff towards to the classic metal sounding stuff with the heavier side of things and to flip flop and see people’s reactions when we totally hit the other end of the spectrum with the funky stuff.”
Musically, “Skull Of Geronimo” is one Yeagley sees as being undeniably representative of Crobot. “That’s a little on the heavier end of the spectrum, but it’s still got that funkiness to it,” he says. And lyrically, “Wizards” might be the Crobot statement song.
“It’s an epic tale of two wizards. One is on the side of wizardry and technology while the other is the side of natural spiritual wizardry and it’s a clash of funkiness and classic metal too in the same sense. So it’s a battle of epic proportions on all sides,” he says. “It’s just a song that fulfills all the ends of the spectrum of what Crobot is.”
Then there is the storytelling ability they show on a song like “La Mano De Lucifer,” a Biblical tale that starts off, “A failed rebellion/against the one creator/exiled to the fire.”
As another side of the band, Yeagley is a devout sci-fi buff. Asked what one film Crobot does the score for, he replies without hesitation, “2001: A Space Odyssey. That movie has its own special place amongst the sci-fi world.” And for contemporary sci-fi he picks Ender’s Game. “I’m such a huge fan of that series and to see that come to life on film was really cool. It’s got battles of epic proportions and everything you love about sci-fi, just nails it,” he says.
A modern rock band with a sense of humor, as well as their own hot sauce, CROBOT has already been making their mark among peers with their wild live performances. But for Crobot, at the end of the day, it is all about the sound.
“All I care about is that people walk away after hearing the album thinking, ‘Man, Crobot is the funkiest, heaviest band I’ve ever heard,’” Bishop says.
WILSON – TASTY NASTY
After almost a decade long of global fuckery, Wilson has done the opposite of what every other band seems to do—they stopped taking shit so seriously! In the process of their, “personal awakening” they forged a new path for themselves and their sound by combining their brand of in-your-face rock n roll with the influence of Hip-Hop and all things 90s. Tasty Nasty is fresh, exciting, and most importantly fun! And it all started with a hit of acid.
Wilson’s vocalist, Chad Nicefield, took a trip to Asia with his friends to pursue happiness. Once he experimented with acid he had a revelation about his life and his outlook on the band’s music changed everything. “I just kind of realized who we are as people and our DNA was that of a bunch of lovable, silly dudes, that love to make music,” says Nicefield. “The world needs to know that about us. That needs to be in transparent our music.”
Now with no worries or inhibitions holding them back, the guys in Wilson embark on a journey through nostalgia and endearing nonsense on eleven brand new tracks. The opening track, “Dumptruck” is a sonic punch to the face as it kicks in with gang vocals chanting, “This shit bumps, this shit fucks, this shit dumps like a dump truck.” Followed by roaring guitar riffs and a chorus that really does “fuck”, the opener is a perfect dose to set your mind up for the next 35 some-odd-minutes. “Wrong Side of History” follows a Bizkit-ish path, leading you straight into the fever.
From that moment on you’re on their ride. With hints of the decade that shaped their musical tastes, combined with slick production and big singalong choruses, Tasty Nasty is equal parts self-deprecating and hilarious. This acid is one hell of a drug, as the fever dream truly kicks in, songs such as “Like A Baller” “My Hustle” and “Summertime Treat” are there to prove it! It’s not until track ten do you get a throwback to the old, heavier side of Wilson with, “House of Fuckery.” But that’s not what this record is about. It’s about looking ahead, not staring in the rearview mirror. And that, my friends, is Tasty Nasty.
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.
For the press release, I basically just wrote down my experiences going into and my purpose for this record and same thing, use it as you please or if you want me to do something else entirely, let me know. I know Kevin wanted me to dig deep and get personal so I did.
“I got tired of seeing people overcomplicate what they feel, or worse, ignore it altogether. Amigo The Devil started as an outlet for the brutal honesty that people didn’t feel comfortable discussing. More than create, I listened. At a bar, while eating dinner, at the DMV. Call it creeping if you want but it’s a pass time nonetheless. Even in the music being released about it, people used metaphors to dance around and avoid mentioning the dark thoughts people have and that just isn’t enough to shake you from the daydream, or a fever. It had to be simple, direct and honest. At the start, it seemed logical to learn this process by taking the worst people and trying to find the humanity in them. I wrote some songs about serial killers and realized that no matter how despicable their crimes were, everything was still rooted in the human condition with the same basic need to be needed, to feel valued, to have worth. Through this learning process, I realized there was actually something so much more dangerous than the people committing heinous crimes and it was stained so deeply into the fabric of our daily lives. Doubt and the depression it leaves us stranded in. Every experience is clearly different but for me, all of a sudden, it felt like I was living in a well so deep that if I shouted up for help, it would be lost on the way and never heard. It’s terrifying when it feels like you’re alone down there and there isn’t enough light to look around to realize how many people are there alongside you. For some reason, I refused to talk to my friends and family about it. It was shameful or irrelevant or any other excuse I can come up with to avoid bringing it up and when they would notice and ask, I caught myself repeatedly answering “everything is fine” or any variation of it in that moment. So this record was born. I started listening again, realizing it wasn’t just me. I saw people around me falling into the well but as I started paying attention, I saw people climbing out of it too. These are the stories of leaving the burden behind, whatever that may be and hopefully along with it the realization that carrying them for any period of time doesn’t break us, but makes us stronger than we ever were.
This is where Ross Robinson comes in. He allowed me to become and guided me towards being the best vessel I could be to filter these stories through. We sat there and accepted what wanted to come through, what wanted to be heard. It was the first process of recording that ever made complete sense with absolutely no filter or veil to compensate for the sounds. Recording in a studio untouched since the 70’s with all the original gear, straight to tape. Everything, recording, mixing mastering, to tape! It was absolute and pure brutal honesty, what I’ve been trying to achieve since the start of this thing. Then Brad Wilk added his pulse to it and it felt like together we had given life to these stories that otherwise are sounds and lyrics filling space. Everyone involved dove head first into a pool without water for this one and I’m unbelievably grateful to be in there with them.”
Boston Manor formed in 2013 in Blackpool UK; the band quickly began making waves in the underground punk scene & started touring nationally. In 2015 the band signed to renowned US indie label Pure Noise Record releasing their label debut, an EP entitled ‘Saudade’. The following year they released their debut album ‘Be Nothing.’ & after a string of sold-out shows in the UK began touring North America with bands like Moose Blood & Knuckle Puck as well as a full summer on the Vans Warped Tour. The band released their Sophomore effort Welcome To The Neighbourhood in 2018.
Pretty Vicious have a tale to tell. It involves bidding wars and nightmare migraines, the Welsh valleys and the Nashville skyline, music GCSEs and gigs with heroes (in one day), a cult fashion designer and Taylor Swift, punkish ambition, high hopes, and dreams dashed…
…and only after all that did Pretty Vicious really get started.
Not bad for a band with an average age of 20. Pretty Vicious – Brad Griffiths (vocals/guitar), Elliot Jones (drums), Jarvis Morgan (bass) and Tom McCarthy (guitar) – have lived, fast, super-fast, already. And now they’re ready to fly.
Three short years ago, Pretty Vicious were four schoolmates from small-town Wales. They played in covers bands with typically woeful names – The Hanging Monkeys of Babylon, anyone? – and a set list derived from their teenage tastes: Iggy’s I Wanna Be Your Dog, Oasis’s Fucking In The Bushes, Kings of Leon’s Molly’s Chambers, Arctic Monkeys’ Crying Lightning. And the Spongebob Squarepants theme.
But frontman Brad had songs bursting to get out of him. He played Tom, Jarvis, and Elliot a couple he’d written, It’s Always There and Cave Song – “which I’d had for years,” he shrugs. The boys were blown away. Here were tunes bigger than they were, and big enough to match their aspirations: to get the hell out of Merthyr Tydfil and make it all the way… to Cardiff, at least.
Scraping together 60 quid, they booked a session in a local studio and recorded three songs: Cave Song, Black Sheep, and Just Another Story.
Tom: “We wanted to play a bar in Cardiff or Merthyr, so we thought we should get some songs out there. So we put Cave Song up on Soundcloud.”
Jarvis: “We didn’t expect anything. We just put it up for a laugh.”
Elliot: “And we only put that one up ’cause it was the shortest. We were saving the other two songs.”
Jarvis: “Cave Song was just a waste away song for us. We didn’t care about it. But it turned out that other people did.”
Too right they did. Pretty Vicious posted their first song on 3rd November 2015. “And the next day it had had something like 30,000 listens,” remembers Brad. “It had gone viral. Within a couple of days, we had all these record companies contacting us on our Facebook page.”
This gang of unruly teenagers had to move fast. They had two so-called gigs under their belts, one at a GCSE results party and one in a paint shop – and albeit under another unfortunate name: Ambien. “We knew it was a drug, but not a sleeping pill,” says Tom ruefully.
With Huw Stephens lending early and enthusiastic support at Radio 1, it was time to step up. The fourpiece booked a show in a Merthyr pub, The Red House, on DATE? December. With a capacity of 200, Brad estimates that 150 of them were music industry figures. What could possibly go wrong? Well…
“I had just started playing bass so I couldn’t work out how to turn on my amp,” admits Jarvis.
“I used to get blinding migraines and I got one in soundcheck,” chips in Elliot. “I had to then go home and lie down for six hours. Came back, five minutes before the show, got onstage, still dying.”
Gear calamites and medical challenges aside, Pretty Vicious smashed it. An old-fashioned record company bidding war broke out. “Everyone offering us everything,” marvels Brad. “Elliot was given a bass drum pedal! I got a new guitar! And all this money… And we were used to living on pennies.”
By January 2016, two months after making public their first song, Pretty Vicious had to signed to Virgin, the deal sweetened by the offer of rare copies of the Sex Pistols original contracts.
Great gig offers came thick and fast: supporting Manic Street Preachers at Cardiff Castle, for one – which, for Elliot, then 17, involved bombing straight from his music GCSE.
“Before that, the biggest show we’d done was a club show in Koko. We’d only done about 20 shows total. And this one was 10,000 capacity. So I drove straight down to Cardiff after the exam and set up on stage. I failed that exam – I got a D.” Although, he’s keen to stress, “I did pass music overall with an A as I got 100 percent in composition.” That’s alright then. As you were.
There were more giant shows, with Stereophonics and Noel Gallagher, the latter a hook-up courtesy of Oasis/Noel manager Marcus Russell, a fellow Welshman who took the youngsters under his wing.
“He was too busy to manage us,” says Brad, “but Marcus told us that we reminded him a lot of the excitement around Oasis. That feeling of something great going to happen. We hit it off straight away. And he’d worked in a lot of the same places my family members had worked, in the steelworks.
“It was weird playing such big venues so quickly,” adds a singer with classic punk howl and roar to his voice. “Being valley boys, we’re all quite down to earth. So it didn’t hit me till after. ‘Boys – we just played a football stadium. We were playing in the pub the other week!’”
A debut single, It’s Always There, was released via Russell’s Ignition label, for Record Store Day. Three [OR FOUR?] more singles were lined up. With that momentum, and with Brad already armed with a couple of dozen bangers, it was time to make an album. What could possibly go wrong? Well…
To cut a messy story short: throughout 2016, Pretty Vicious attempted to record their debut. Still, frankly, wet behind the ears, they tried out a handful of studios and producers. A near-complete album was recorded with Owen Morris, famed for his work on Oasis’s legendary early – not to mention chaotic – recording sessions. But nothing gelled.
Brad, in particular, felt downhearted. “It obviously never went crazy big because we were still a small indie band. But I was getting nagged after that – ‘My vision’s always been, I don’t want two songs sounding the same. I want to have ten different songs. And that’s when it started getting a bit turbulent.
“We did probably overstep; we grew up too fast,” he admits, acknowledging their youth and inexperience and, perhaps, just a touch of partying excess. “But you can’t help growing up too fast.”
By mid-2017, Pretty Vicious their debut album unreleased. As Brad sees it, “Some people wanted us to be a young guitar pop band. But my love and passion is rock and punk. And I don’t want to be faking it. In the end, you’re only gonna get down and depressed. And that’s what happened – we went down to nothingness.”
What could possibly go right? Well…
Back home in Wales, back being an unsigned band, Pretty Vicious took stock. They had £40,000 left. They could count their losses, split the cash and go their separate ways. Ten grand each is a lot for valleys lads barely out of their teens.
Or, they could remember what had got them here in the first place: punkish enthusiasm, dogged determination, killer tunes and the brotherhood bond that had made them, already, a ferocious live band.
“I did go into depression, really,” admits Brad. “My family noticed it, that I’d be putting this mask on. I had this constant feeling of loneliness. And because I loved these songs so much, it was hard to feel that everyone thought these things that were my babies were crap.
“But through that depression, I did channel it and write a lot more songs. I’d take a little notepad out with me everywhere I went and put down ideas. Or be humming melodies into my phone in the pub toilet. And I rewrote songs I already had with a really focused mind. That was my escape. Every time I picked up the guitar, I’d be happy.”
“So eventually, I said to the boys, let’s give this another crack. We’re too good to be down, or to give up.”
So, under their own steam, to their own specs and schedule, Pretty Vicious threw themselves, and their 40 grand, into recording a brace of adrenalized rock songs – into the debut album they’d always wanted to make. They sought out producer Dan Austin, whose work with Twin Atlantic, You Me At Six and Pulled Apart By Horses they’d loved.
Tom: “We went to Monnow Valley and started recording with Dan, an unsigned band. We did it off our own backs. There was no one coming in to tell us what to do.”
They were armed, too, with a new manager. His brainwave: “Why don’t we go over to America and give them a story they can’t ignore in Britain?”
That initiative led to Nashville, to the offices of Big Machine. Founded by Scott Borchetta, the label – best known for being the home of Taylor Swift – had just entered into a partnership with rock’n’roll-loving fashion designer John Varvatos.
As it happened, Varvatos and Big Machine Group A&R exec Julian Raymond had seen – and loved – Pretty Vicious on the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury 2016. Hearing that the band were again unsigned, and getting hold of some of the songs from the Dan Austin/Monnow Valley sessions, Big Machine/John Varvatos Records jumped quickly. The deal was inked in London this spring, the American label signing on to wholeheartedly support an album that was already done, dusted and delivered. Already it feels like a brilliant new start for the band.
Pretty Vicious – collectively, still, barely older than 20 – are here, again, but properly this time. First single Move, a millennial grunge stormer, was released this summer. It tees up an album that bristles with howls of smalltown frustration (No One Understands), an anthemic account of fighting for what you believe in (Something Worthwhile) and does-what-it-says-on-the-tin sex’n’drugs’n’rock’n’roll (Lost In Lust).
For sure, Pretty Vicious have a tale to tell. But there’s going to be a whole more to talk about.
“Our story shows that the four of us got here by sticking together,” concludes Brad. “Last gang in town, innit?” he grins.
Three-piece alt/psych rock band Demob Happy formed in their hometown of Newcastle, U.K. in 2008, but it wasn’t until they moved their operation south to the creatively open city of Brighton, in 2011, that they began to flourish. Operating out of the Nowhere Man Café that they partially owned, Matt Marcantonio (bassist, lyricist, lead singer), Tom Armstrong (drummer, vocalist), and Adam Godfrey (guitar, vocals) set about gaining a reputation for their raucous live shows and freewheeling spirit.
In 2015, with a wealth of material accrued since their formation, they took a break from city life and isolated themselves in a wi-fi-free Welsh cottage. During that time they tightened up their existing material and wrote additional tracks, which formed the basis for their debut album, Dream Soda; they claimed it was a concept album based on a theme of consumerism. To release the album they partnered with label SO Recordings and ventured to Eastbourne’s Echo Zoo Studios, where friend and producer Christoph Skirl took care of the final mixes. In support of Dream Soda, they embarked on a European tour and the U.K. festival trail, which included a slot at the Reading and Leeds Festivals in August 2015.
cleopatrick is a heavy alt-rock duo from the tiny town of Cobourg, Ontario – yup, the ‘c’ is lowercase.
Best friends since kindergarten, frontman Luke Gruntz and drummer Ian Fraser have an enviable connection that translates into a powerfully unified expression of sound. With a bastardized bass amp and split signal, Gruntz simultaneously commands the range of bass and guitar topped with provocative blues grooves and take-down breakdowns.
In early 2016, the pair recorded their first EP 14 in its entirety in a single studio session and was later dubbed one of the most promising acts for 2017 by 94.9 The Rock’s “Generation Next” program.
Now piling all of the torment and rhetoric of chasing big dreams within the limits of a small town, cleopatrick’s brand new single “hometown” gives a tasteful hint of growth and raw revelation expressed in their upcoming sophomore EP the boys (Fall 2018).
Los Angeles’ rock collective Dirty Honey are an unstoppable force.
Their music delves into the pillars of rock & roll to deliver a refreshing modern take on a classic sound.
The band features dynamic frontman Marc Labelle, guitar slinger John Notto, bassist Justin Smolian & drummer Corey Coverstone.
Skillful, creative musicianship paired with undeniably magnetic energy set Dirty Honey apart from their contemporaries.
Catch their electrifying live show regularly in LA & follow for upcoming tour dates and music.
The Dirty Nil
Sure, playing 350 shows over the past three years all over the world was pretty impressive. Opening for The Who in front of 50,000 people? Not bad for a couple of loudmouths from the quaint, quiet valley town of Dundas, Ontario. And, sure, winning the Juno Award for Breakthrough Group of the Year made the parents proud. But of all the accomplishments that Hamilton-based power trio The Dirty Nil have ticked off their bucket list since coughing up their debut single, “Fuckin’ Up Young,” in 2011, nothing tops the honour that was bestowed upon them back on March 23, 2015.
“If you go on Reddit,” drummer Kyle Fisher begins, “a video that we had on our Instagram made the top listing of the WTF page! We were staying at a hotel in East Dallas — which we later found out was not a good place to stay. The only room available was a smoking room with that shitty plastic covering on the mattress. And it was a weird night there, with police and drug dealers out in the halls. But when we woke up in the morning, and opened the door, there was a huge, long trail of ants going from one end of the hallway to the other end!”
Like any group of true artists, The Dirty Nil channel trauma into their music… and on the band’s second album, Master Volume, the harrowing experience of seeing the inside of America’s most disgusting hotels, night in and night out, manifests itself in the song “Super 8.” “I’m halfway to hell/ It’s called Super 8 Motel,” Luke Bentham sings, stretching out the words with the palpable pain of someone who’s struggling to catch some precious between-gigs shut-eye on a mattress riddled with bed bugs and stains of dubious origin. But for The Dirty Nil, the effects of non-stop touring go way beyond translating one-star Trip Advisor reviews into song.
The Dirty Nil didn’t just spend the past few years on the road in support of their debut album, Higher Power and companion collection of early singles, Minimum R&B. They spent of much of it opening for — and, more importantly, studying — the greats: Against Me, Billy Talent, Alexisonaire. They’re bands who, like the Nil, cut their teeth for years on the punk circuit playing the dingiest of dives, but now aind themselves playing arenas and headlining festivals. With Master Volume, The Dirty Nil are ready to make the same leap — not by polishing their sound for radio, but by bulking it up to aill the stadiums and open aields of their most vivid rock ‘n’ roll fantasies.
Says Luke, “I think the experience of playing with bands like Against Me — bands that can put on a proper fucking rock show — and seeing what works in a big space deainitely crept into the way we think about songs, and how to sound powerful. A lot of the times, when you play blitzkrieg-fast, it has a way of sounding awesome in a club. But when you’re playing in a giant space with some sound guy who’s never seen you before mixing you, it can be a roll of the dice.”
Adds Kyle, “Everyone says, ‘a good song’s a good song no matter how it’s recorded.’ But a good song can’t be a good song if nobody can hear it properly!”
Produced by veteran alt-rock architect John Goodmanson, Master Volume is an album that crunches and grooves where the band once smashed and thrashed, unleashing the Nil’s undiminished raw power in more controlled waves to better target the back rows. “It’s less of a sprint and more of a strut,” Luke says, and he credits a great deal of the tempo shift to the arrival of Ross Miller, who replaced original bassist Dave Nardi in early 2017. While Ross was already a longtime friend of Luke and Kyle, his pedigree includes playing with everyone from Wanda Jackson to Single Mothers.
“I’m a big fan of the drums,” Ross says, “so my intention on the bass is to make the drums sound the best they can — Kyle always comes up with cool grooves and I don’t want to fuck that up. I want there to be lots of space so everything shines through.”
Adds Luke: “It takes a lot of conaidence to play slower and have a discernible pulse, and Ross totally bounces! And Kyle plays hip-hop style drums when he’s in his natural element, so it was fun making songs around that. I would come up with some chords and lyrics and melodies, and they would be totally moulded around what the fuckin’ Funk Brothers were laying down over here.”
Now, we should be clear that The Dirty Nil have not transformed themselves into a shirtless, bass-slappin,’ Chili Peppered punk-funk unit… not that there’s anything wrong with that. After all, the band were stoked to work with Goodmanson not because he’s produced Sleater-Kinney or Bikini Kill or Blonde Redhead or any number of highly respected indie-rock acts; they were more impressed by his mosh- friendly credentials. Says Luke, “We just fucking punished him the entire time for nu- metal stories. ‘Death Cab for Cutie? We don’t give a shit! Tell us about Saliva!’ I think one of the most important and liberating things about the climate in which we made this album is that we celebrate white noise and Sugar Ray and everything in between. We don’t give a shit. We like all rock music, even terrible rock music. We’ll listen to Kill Em All and My War and then we’ll just listen to Aerosmith and St. Anger.”
And they’ll also shamelessly steal song titles from The Beatles (“Please, Please Me”) and Cheap Trick (“Auf Wiedersehen”) just for shits ‘n’ giggles. (“We’re improving them,” Luke says with an unsubtle grin.) But the joy and bravado with which the Nil deliver Master Volume’s pummelling power-pop missives bely the often grim narratives embedded within. The airst two songs alone — “That’s What Heaven Feels Like” and “Bathed in Light” — aind Luke dying in two different car crashes, alying through smashed windshields and talking to his deceased grandma in heaven; “Always High” sees him eulogizing an ill-fated driver lying on the roadside with their head split open. (“What can I say, most of the rock ‘n’ roll I’ve consumed in my lifetime has something to do with fast cars, as Van Halen as that sounds,” Luke reasons. “And we’ve deainitely seen our share of roadside carnage travelling in the Southern states.) “I Don’t Want That Phone Call” is an even more brutally frank treatise on impending death, with Luke pleading to an addict friend to get help and spare him the inevitable call from the morgue. And sure, the album has two songs that could practically qualify as ballads, but the airst one (“Auf Wiedersehen”) unleashes its ache in a throat-shredding chorus of “FUCK YOU,” and the second (“Evil Side”) builds to an atomic, noise-blasted climax that, when the band perform it in concert, is liable to trigger an earthquake that swallows up the circle pit.
“I don’t ever sit down and say, ‘I’m going to write about a song about this today,'” Luke explains. “I just open my mouth and start playing… and some pretty heinous shit comes out! I deainitely enjoy morbid subject matter of all spades, but I like to try to alash a smirk in there with it, because I think it’s important to paint with different brushes. And listening to certain writers I love, like Townes Van Zandt — he has that sort of bleakness, but also with a little bit of humour with it.”
Loaded with steady-grooving songs about living fast and life-afairming anthems about dying young, Master Volume ultimately ampliaies The Dirty Nil’s most essential quality: their refusal to be deained. They’re too melodic and muscular to be purely punk, but too raucous and unhinged to pass as straight pop; too cheeky to be overtly political, but still acutely in tune with the unsettled, anxious energy of the times in which we live. Whether you aind catharsis in a crowd-surf or a street protest, Master Volume captures the ecstatic rush of getting swept up in a communal moment… and the frantic fear that it can all come crashing down at any second.
Luke concludes with a laugh “we don’t really have a label for ourselves other than just… the best band. That’s our genre!”
HYDE debuted as a member of L’Arc-en-Ciel in 1994 and released numerous mega hit singles. He kicked off his solo career in 2001 and presented the world of uniqueness and sereneness, much different from the group.
Together with K.A.Z on the guitar, he formed the rock unit VAMPS in 2008. VAMPS performed not only in Japan, but internationally with tour dates across Asia, North and South America and Europe. It was announced in December 2017 that VAMPS would cease all activities.
June 2018 saw HYDE resume his solo activities with the single “WHO’S GONNA SAVE US,” the first release in 12 and a half years, followed by “AFTER LIGHT” (August) and “FAKE DIVINE” (October). The releases were supported by a Japan-wide tour consisting of 33 shows.