Album Review: Gore by Deftones

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Artist: Deftones

Album: Gore

Review Date: May 18th, 2016

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I started to listen to Deftones when I was a teenager and from the first moment they stood out from the crowded scene of Nu Metal. I used to discern almost unjustly among all the bands that were out at that time but this one had something different and I guess it’s not just my opinion because it can’t be by mere chance they are still making records and actually selling them.

Their first three albums were kept in the same line, they are somewhat similar but you can tell they were becoming more successful because each one had more production into the recordings but again staying very true to their then style. After that they have been on a curvy road, hitting some good spots here and there but I couldn’t say they made a great album again, sure they had some excellent singles but nothing extraordinary. This is something natural though, it is extremely hard to find a band and say they made 5 or 6 excellent albums in a row. Life happens and it affects all, they had to deal with Chi’s death, a divorce, drug addictions, time and whatnot.

Now they have Gore, a very professional album, you can tell they are not trying funny stuff anymore, just good old heavy music. They are now older, more experienced musicians so things sound a little different, in a good way. I’d say they are a bad who matured well.

With “Prayers / Triangles” as the first track, you jump right into the pit kicking and throwing punches into the air. Then “Acid Hologram” takes things very low, on what seems a hallucinating experience. I heard Chino Moreno on an interview explaining there was a natural order for this tracks but those first two don’t make it the best experience. “Doomed User” is back again loaded with speed, with melodic bridges were vocals are taken to the extreme ends in Moreno’s range. “Geometric Headdress” makes a seamless transition as this and the previous song were part of the same.

“Hearts/Wires” is my favorite track of the album, from the first notes in the intro you can tell it’s a depressive song, very depressive. This only builds up when lyrics open with Nothing can save me now, Is what I believe. So it’s one thing to listen to a teenage band, angry and singing about their problems, but when you spend a couple decades into the subject you realize they are very strong feelings and it’s easy to transpose the lyrics to many life situations of a middle age person. What makes me like this is song is the fact that it reaches the dark end of feelings but in the end there is hope:

Cut through

This razor wire

Mine ’til the end

Break through

Collect the wire

And dine on your heart

Mine ’til the end

 

Another song that caught my attention was “Phantom Bride” which talks about choosing the easy way or hiding away from life. It can even be about addictions that won’t let you fully live.

Waste your life… always

Attached to this poison… always

You will drain all of you

 

“Rubicon” ends the album with some highly appreciated heavy riffs.

 

I had the opportunity to see Deftones live almost sixteen years ago, sixteen! Such a long time but what matters the most is that it’s comforting to see them still kicking so strong. Time is merciless but it can also be an illusion, we can endeavor though life and brace ourselves to withstand the tides like it’s just a bit of dust in the autumn winds or we can drown blindly. I know that last part isn’t what you are expecting to read in a review but I left it in because this album is invigorating and full of energy. It makes you reflect about the dark feelings that linger in the soul but in a way that you want to crush them and power through.

 

This record will stay in my collection forever. Years will pass and I will come back and give it another go. However, I won’t be able to give it a high score, considering their skills and previous records I think their music could be more universal and reach a much wider audience, finding a niche is a very respectable strategy but I believe they are capable of much more without really sacrificing their proven honesty.

 

Overall rating 7.5 out of 10.

 

 


			

Album Review: The Book of Lost Souls By Iron Maiden

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Artist: Iron Maiden

Album: The Book Of Souls

Review date: April 13, 2016

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Iron Maiden has done their part contributing to heavy metal and music in general, they are a true monster, unstoppable it seems. Fortunately they have not settled and continue to produce amazing music in their very particular fashion. Many worried Bruce Dickinson’s cancer would diminish their strength or put an end to this band but they proved everyone they are still kicking and stronger than most bands out there half their age. I feel nostalgic just by writing this review about such a great band because simply there are none like them, once they are gone we will lose a huge part of metal.

Some critics say bands like Metallica and Iron Maiden are living of past success and for this I will quote Slayer’s Kerry King “I would say [IRON] MAIDEN and METALLICA, no offense, are living on past success.”[1] First of all here is a big f@#$ you Kerry, you are so very wrong. Anyone who believes in that statement has clearly not listened to The Book of Souls nor has seen the Book of Souls World Tour. I had the chance to attend to one of their shows a few weeks ago and it was amazing. They could have played all their classics and the audience would have been content but they took a chance and filled the set with new songs and guess what? people loved it. Secondly if they had such a big success in the past well of course they are not going to shy away from it, a band cannot hide the fact that they came up with some of the most iconic rock songs and albums of the past two or three decades.

The Book of Souls is the sixteenth studio album by the band and this time they went for a double album with 6 and 5 tracks respectively. It looks like they had some extra material as this is their longest album sitting at 92 minutes and it also includes their longest track Empire of the Clouds, 18 minutes. As the title suggests the album talks a lot about souls and their eternal nature, how people and civilizations decay and cease to exist but souls remain.

 

The album kicks off with If Eternity Should Fail which is a heavily produced song and it lets you know what the rest of the album is about, then at the end of the song it introduces a studio character, Necropolis the harvester of the soul meat. This song is followed by Speed Of Light which is a cosmic metaphor.

The Great Unknown starts with a bass predominance and a narrative type of singing, common in other Maiden songs, the chorus then cheers up, later adding a couple of guitar solos. There are many changes in this song but everything is very coherent.

The Red And The Black introduces an acoustic guitar to the story which continues to build on the natural and ancient subject of the album. When The River Runs Deep basically talks about the most difficult times in life and how “There is no use in crying” and “Got to keep on trying”. The Book Of Souls again has an acoustic guitar intro and it’s a rather slow song telling the story of sacred goods imprinting their souls “to the book of lies, when a civilization dies”. Bruce Dickinson uses the Mayan reference as an analogy to what happens in current times.

 

The second CD is entirely consistent with the first one, there are no live songs, collaborations, alternate versions of tracks or any of the typical filler songs included in double albums.

 

While you listen to this album you feel the undeniable quality of experienced musicians who know what they are doing and work really hard to produce a top of the line product. Iron Maiden has always stayed close to their characteristic style and this record follows that line, unmistakable rhythm and melodies, high vocal pitches and after life related lyrics. The one thing I could point out is that none of the songs really stands out from the others but I am aware how hard it is to stumble upon metal anthems like Run to the Hills or Fear of the Dark. That being said this album is one of those you should keep near through time, it won’t get old.

 

Overall rating: 8.5 out of 10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] http://www.blabbermouth.net/news/slayers-kerry-king-iron-maiden-and-metallica-are-living-on-past-success/#M2W5siEi3GBM9FEI.99

Album Review: To Be Loved by Michael Buble

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Artis: Michael Buble

Album: To Be Loved
Review date: 02/28/2016
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Michael Bublé says in the Bio section of his website “I know I sing better than I write.”[1] Now that right there gives you a glimpse into an honest man. That statement doesn’t take any credit away from his work nor from this album. He is an excellent performer and we know the world needs more people who take that job seriously, it shouldn’t be all about the leotards, grills on the mouth or 200 dancers on a stage. Some people out there want to see an artist who can sing, arrange songs and simply entertain with the content of the songs.

This album contains songs about friendship, hope but mostly love, which is why it made it into my February reviews.

When analyzing “To Be Loved” it would be simple to think he plays it safe by choosing great hits which have proven to be successful in the past. I think it is actually a very difficult challenge because the bar is already at the highest level, being able to perform those songs in a good fashion is something to admire, not just anyone can grab a Sinatra song and nail it. These old songs also stand on a very thin edge and they can either make it into the elevator music or dining room music, huge difference, but failing to land on the right side is very easy.

Besides the covers, there are four songs that Michael Bublé co-wrote for this record; It’s a Beautiful Day, Close Your Eyes, After All and I Got It Easy. For these songs he had the help of co-writers Amy Foster, Alan Chang, Jann Arden Richards, Bryan Adams, Steven Sater, Jim Vallence and Tom Jackson. In addition he has guest appearances by the Puppini Sisters, Bryan Adams and Reese Witherspoon, he might have had his reason for the later but I think she is the sloppiest part of the album, you can’t fully hear her voice, maybe it is because she isn’t the best singer. You can choose a point of view on that.

This record is perfect for your classic romantic dinner, date or even for hosting more people at your home; it’s very easy for the ear and full of popular culture classic content. There is one thing to bear in mind with this album though, it has two sides to it, big band and orchestra type of music and then contemporary pop music so this transition might be natural for some people or disrupting to the ones who love too much one or the other. I found it to be interesting because it keeps the mood going up and down allowing you to play the entire record for an evening without needing a playlist which I dread.

When scoring this album I had to take it down a notch because above anything I admire creativity and artistic work and since this album contains so many covers I must penalize it.

Overall rating: 7 out of 10.



[1] http://www.michaelbuble.com/bio

Album Review: Rose Ave. by You+Me

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Album: Rose Ave.

Artist: You+Me

Review date: 02/22/2016

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You+Me is a collaboration effort between Alecia Moore and Dallas Green, they sat down for moment of their lives and gave us Rose Ave. The two are very talented artist with very different backgrounds, Alecia Moore is of course super famous in the pop world as P!nk and Dallas Green was previously in Alexisonfire, a post hardcore punk band and is currently in City and Colour a Folk band, they blended very well and produced an excellent record that everyone should listen to.

 

The album is composed of 10 songs featuring the duo in a light mood environment mostly with a guitar and a few arrangements to fill in the background. This falls in line with the recent works of Dallas Green. All the songs are about romantic and complicated relationships with the exception of Open Door which is a song Alecia Moore wanted to do for her mother but in the end it is very similar to the rest because it surrounds a complicated loving relationship, this song also has a different sound it is the most country sounding of the list.

 

The first song Capsized talks about two people who are struggling and probably wandering in the sea that life represents, belly up, trying to survive, trying to help each other. This track basically lets you know what the record is about in regards to music and lyrics.

 

From A Closet In Norway (Oslo Blues) is a classic song for the broken hearted. The following lines define sufficiently “I would rather be any place but here / ‘Cause the highs are so high, these lows are killing me, killing me, killing me”. There is nothing that can be added to those words. However they do add so much emotion with the voices.

 

By the time you get to Love Gone Wrong you will get one of the very few noticeable changes in the album, this song is a bit punchier. Now the topic is about moving on and recognizing that certain cycles need to be closed.

 

You and Me stands out from the rest, this is the absolute romantic song that will make it into your “love related playlists” for the rest of your life. On a personal note, I sent this song to my significant other and she actually cried, if I was a crying person I probably would have cried too. This song is so strong it will bring out the best emotions in any warm hearted human.

 

Dallas Green has a very dynamic voice and Alecia Moore brings strong and emotional feelings every time she reaches her vocal boundaries, together they sound like a couple who has been working together for years which is not the case.

This is one of those albums you can keep handy throughout life, it’s a safe bet if you want a romantic dinner or it can even be a dense content record to appreciate any time you want to wind down and enjoy two great performers who discovered something very special.
Overall Rating 9 out 10.

Album review: Vulnicura by Björk

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Artist: Björk

Album: Vulnicura

Review date: 02/09/2016

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Björk. How hard it is to describe her, I sighed and pondered a hundred times over how to do this for the last week. She is a true artist, a woman who pours her soul onto her work. Consistently an artist’s work can be appreciated, uncomprehend or simply disliked, it is a matter of perception. What I want to convey is that she doesn’t put out records, she builds pieces of work to express herself in an artistic way.

 

Her creative career earned the attention of the MoMA.  “The Museum of Modern Art presents a retrospective of the multifaceted work of composer, musician, and singer Björk. The exhibition draws from more than 20 years of the artist’s daring and innovative projects and her eight full-length albums to chronicle her career through sound, film, visuals, instruments, objects, and costumes.”[1] The exhibit received unfavorable reviews but if you read them carefully they all are against the museum itself and how they did it and not the work of the artist which leaves her talent unquestioned even by snobby critics.

 

Vulnicura tells the story of her break up with Matthew Barney. Break up records are usually crowd pleasers, maybe because people love to torture themselves or because they want to find hope in knowing others have gone through the same feelings and endured them to become a stronger person. This one is exceptionally dark and I would describe it as the horror story version of a break up. She describes it as “a complete heartbreak album”[2]. Musically it is a delightful mix of string arrangements and electronic beats. The strings added a lot of dramatic expression to her voice which was fundamental to make every feeling stronger.

 

The contemporary rule of thumb might be to find a singer with a beautiful voice and have her or him scream as hard as they can how hurt they are. You won’t find any of that in this album, her vocal gifts are used gently. The entire composition of music, vocals and the content of the lyrics are what make it so strong.

 

Bjork documented her feelings before and after the break up, she was very meticulous about it and with a bit of subjectivity the record tells her story without sparing any of the feelings that come along. In Stonemilker she wants to synchronize their feelings but it’s “Like Milking a Stone”, then on Lionsong she is still uncertain of what will happen, “Maybe he will come out of this loving me” and in History Of Touches she understands it’s over “I wake you up/ In the night feeling/ This is our last time together.

 

I consider Black Lake as the strongest part of the record, she is by now torn apart. Below are two segments of the song which will reach the deepest bone of anyone who has suffered heartache.

“I am one wound
My pulsating body
Suffering being

My heart is enormous lake
Black with potion
I am blind
Drowning in this ocean”
“I did it for love, I honored my feelings
You betrayed your own heart
Corrupted that organ
Family was always our sacred mutual mission
Which you abandoned”

 

In the song Family she starts to mourn and you can see the healing process is taking place. However she is concerned because there is “no triangle of love” anymore.

“Is there a place
Where I can pay respects
For the death of my family”

 

Finally in Notget she realizes this whole process can only lead her soul to grow after a traumatic experience. If you are personally going through a hard time make sure you pay good attention to this song and don’t just stick with the eviscerating beginning of the album. Painful and hard experiences can give so much to your life if you know how to take advantage of them.

“If I regret us
I'm denying my soul to grow
Don't remove my pain
It is my chance to heal”

 

“Vulnus” means emotional hurt and “Cura” means attention or care in Latin. So what she did here was to transform all the experiences she went through into an artistic expression that transcends her personal relationship and becomes a very universal situation, broken feelings and the difficult healing process.

 

Overall rating: 9.5 out of 10

 

 

 

[1] http://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/1458

[2] http://bjork.com/#/past/discography/vulnicura

Album Review: What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress by Sara Bareilles

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Artist: Sara Bareilles

Album: What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress

Review Date: 02/04/2016

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Sara Bareilles is by all means a famous celebrity but maybe without the shiny nonsense that usually comes along with popular music and that is why I thought this album could be interesting, and it is.

This album contains the songs recorded for a Broadway musical, an adaptation to the previously released movie Waitress. I unfortunately have not seen the movie but this album tells you enough to get a high level understanding of the story. A waitress, of course, who is married and pregnant, falls in love with her doctor. She goes through some emotional challenges like anybody else would in a situation of this type. She is insecure, afraid and is cheating on her husband, she wants to find a stronger sense of purpose in the world. Afterwards she has her baby and “everything changes”, the waitress feels like she was born again.

The album covers some of the most universal love topics. Fear, excitement, affairs, love just happens, closure and some more.

In What’s Inside she oddly starts by taking the ingredients from the pantry but it later makes more sense in how she is just getting what she needs to go on in life. With Opening Up you get a glimpse of a monotonous life, without dreams. Door Number Three again describes a situation that doesn’t change, and she has been through it for far too long, now she is ready for a different adventure.

When He Sees Me is a perfect song to explain that everyone is scared of meeting new people because they might be different from us and everything could go wrong. But there is a deeper fear, what if you like the person but that person doesn’t like you the same way. Then she keeps adding sugar and butter in Soft Place to Land.

Bad Idea is faster song and it definitely stands out musically and lyrically from the rest. The other ones might be melancholic, a little depressive and at the end cheerful. This one is about cheating. A sweet sounding song about two married people who are cheating on their respective spouses. She is aware it’s a bad idea but she postpones dealing with it.

“Let's make mistakes
Let us say "so what?" and make worse what was already pretty bad
No reason to throw it away when there's love to be had”

She Used To Be Mine was my favorite track because it is the most emotional or soul tearing, she makes it so with her voice. It’s easy for anyone to find something to relate to in this song.

“She's imperfect but she tries
She is good but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won't ask for help
She is messy but she's kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up
And baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine”

Everything Changes and Lulu’s Pie Song give this story closure, even though we are not told what happened with the love story she finds her true purpose, being a mother, once she has her baby all her life straightens up. And yes, she adds more sugar and butter at the end, just like salt and pepper it can either please you or irritate your tasting buds/ears.

The quality in this album is there and you realize it from the beginning. It’s not only meant to make into the charts, radio or the sorts, it has a stronger feeling and knowing that the songs are made for a Broadway musical it all makes sense. The piano is also very good throughout the record. This album as whole was a pleasant surprise, however I don’t see myself coming back after a couple years longing to listen to it too many times because one of the strongest points it’s the history behind it and if you already know it then it doesn’t give you that much.

 

Overall rating: 7 out 10.

Album Review: Dawn of the Brave by Van Canto

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Album: Dawn of the Brave

Artist: Van Canto

Review date: 1/27/2016

 

Van Canto is an a capella metal band, by their own definition “Melodic metal songs, arranged for 5 singers and one drummer. All instruments that would be played by musicians in a regular metalband are imitated by our voices. Bass, guitars, solos, keyboard sounds. On top we put two lead singers, a male one and a female one. But we left the drums what they are, as we do not do disco pop.”

This band is very refreshing, something definitely different from most acts out there but being different isn’t what caught my attention it’s their skill and creativity. If you have a capella needs, Van Canto will give you more than a fix.

Their latest album is a progression from the last one, very similar in some aspects but overall with a more uniform and balanced sound throughout the songs. This might have been a deliberate effort to sound more professional or they just played it safe without mixing too many types of sounds as they had previously done it.

Dawn of the Brave is the first track and I don’t know if it’s technically correct to say it’s an “instrumental” song since the only instruments are the drums but there are no lyrics in it. If you haven’t heard the band before it lets you know you what they are about. It’s a very clever first track in that sense.

As usual they have a couple of songs with motivational subjects or inner strength as they call it such as in Fight For Your Life and Awakening, I will quote some excerpts to provide an idea of their content: “Imagine getting stronger; Instead of feeling weak inside; Fight for your life” and “The awakening of a morning dawn; Opens up the gate for times to come; To aims and beyond” respectively. Then they have a few songs that are more in line with traditional metal lyrics about epic battles like the material found in The Other Ones.

Their selection of covers in this occasion was very interesting, they have two songs from strong vocal performances from the eighties, Europe’s The Final Countdown and Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For A Hero, then they have Black Sabbath’s Paranoid and Annie Lennox’s Into The West. This gives you a very wide range of audiences and opinions. I think they did a great job overall but there are a few comments, they felt short against Europe’s Joey Tempest, his voice is amazing and he can’t be beaten at his own game. Then in the original version you only need 3 seconds to know that Holding Out For A Hero is a pop song from the 80’s, such a stereotype song but they made it something really cool. They also pulled it off with Paranoid even though it is more aligned with what you would expect from them. I left Into The West for last because I am a hardcore fan of Lord Of The Rings and they had me in their pockets as soon as I knew this track was included in their album and they aced it, it’s great. It’s not the first time they played LOTR themed song either.

Since the band has not one but two lead singers it gives you the opportunity to enjoy almost two bands in one because they are very different. I prefer Inga Scharf over Dennis Schunke, I just think her voice is beautiful and soothing for the soul, but that is probably a very personal matter and opinions might vary. If you listen to The Mountains you might be able to understand my point of view. The remaining members do and excellent job with what they have called before “Rakkatakka” or the sound they make to mimic traditional metal instruments, the guitar solos in particular are superb, for a moment or two you stop to think they must be cheating, humans can’t make those sounds but apparently they can.

What I like the most about this band and this album is not the exception is that it is actually fun to listen to them and that right there is enough to give them my appreciation and support.

 

Overall rating 9 out 10.