Rock Music

Notable Releases of 2018

Disappointing Album of 2018:

Gravity – Bullet For My Valentine

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After hearing lead single “Over It,” my expectations for Gravity were pretty low.  Unfortunately, I was right to not get excited. This is radio friendly Bullet for My Valentine and it’s so bland. The fire and fury that normally drives their music are practically snuffed out. Songs like “Not Dead Yet” and “Under Again” all sound like every other rock band on the radio. The music is decent at best, but it never gives you that rush of adrenaline or burst of excitement. Bullet For My Valentine always pumps me up and gets my fist in the air. These songs just didn’t do that for me. The radio friendly vibe isn’t this album’s problem. It’s the uninspired songs.

The album is just so underwhelming. A few of the songs are pretty good, but the rest is tolerable at best. While I did enjoy some tracks like “Leap of Faith” and “Letting You Go” it wasn’t enough to save the album. The songs are lackluster. There’s nothing about them that sounds distinctly like Bullet For My Valentine.  And it’s such a letdown. The band has never been shy about tweaking their sound. After being in a band for over 10 years, you want to shake things up a bit. That’s fine. But they went in such a generic direction. Even the lyrics are subpar and fail to leave a lasting impression. In an attempt to find a larger audience, the band may have alienated longtime fans with this unremarkable album.

Surprising Comeback Album:

Kamikaze – Eminem

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Looking back, it’s clear that Eminem’s Revival should’ve been my pick for 2017’s Worst Album. I already talked about it, but let’s just say I wasn’t impressed. Luckily, Eminem’s surprise LP Kamikaze more than made up for it. It’s telling that the rapper is at his best when he’s seething with anger – just listen to his “Chloraseptic” remix released in response to Revival’s bad reviews. The fire that many thought was snuffed out was lit and burning once again. Here, he’s on the loose and no one is safe. He channels the days of Slim Shady when calling out rappers like Tyler, the Creator, Drake, and Joe Budden. And let’s not forget the whole probably fake Machine Gun Kelly beef.

Songs like “Lucky You” and “Stepping Stone” are filled with Eminem’s sick lyrical flow reminiscent of that found on The Eminem Show. Yet, the album isn’t perfect. Some songs don’t hold up like “Nice Guy” and “Good Guy.” They’re okay but are pretty weak entries. Still, Kamikaze was an album we didn’t see coming and it’s far better than the misguided Revival. Though I wouldn’t say it’s his best release. Let’s hope he stays on point for his next release.

Most Impressive Debut:

Tū – Alien Weaponry

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Alien Weaponry is one of metal’s most talked about bands and for good reason: they’re fucking good. Listening to their hard driving, yet catchy debut album it’s hard to believe these guys are only in their teens. Part of what makes the album standout is half of the songs are written in the te reo Māori language. The band have Māori ancestry and grew up listening to stories of the tribe, how they had to fight for their people and their land. The language is in danger of dying and in an effort to save it, the band uses Māori in their songs and even writes about the native tribes.

The album is filled with crushing songs like “Urutaa” and “Kai Tangata.” The songs are so good, I find myself singing along even though I don’t speak or understand Māori. Everything from the searing riffs to the throbbing percussion and the fierce sound riles you up and makes you go wild. Though Alien Weaponry are clearly influenced by thrash forefathers like Anthrax and Metallica, they bring something new the genre. They sound fresh, exciting, and ready to tackle the world with the spirit of Māori behind them. Do yourself a favor and check them out if you haven’t already.

Album I Couldn’t Get Into:

My Mind Makes Noises – Pale Waves

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Pale Waves is a phenomenon I still don’t understand. They grew a fan base of millions based on three singles. Many praised them as the best new band even though they didn’t even have an EP to their name. I’ll admit, their melancholic, 80s vibe can be catchy, but it’s nothing mind blowing. I thought their EP, All the Things I Never Said, was decent and had some bouncy songs, but it didn’t wow me. I hoped their highly anticipated full-length album would change my mind. It didn’t.

The album is fine, but it just didn’t do anything for me. Aside from a few of their singles, nothing stuck. All the songs had that same upbeat yet sad vibe to them. The music, mood, and sound of the songs are remarkably similar to one another. And it doesn’t help their case that they bare striking similarities to The 1975.  Even though I liked a few of the songs, like “The Tide” and “Television Romance” there was nothing about the album that made me want to revisit it. If you listen to The Cure or The 1975 then you’ve already heard what this band has to offer.

Underrated Album:

Criminal – The Soft Moon

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When The Soft Moon announced they would be touring with Nine Inch Nails, I decided to check them out. While their first few albums didn’t captivate me, I really enjoyed their fourth release, Criminal. I found myself listening to it repeatedly. Their mix of darkwave, post-punk, and industrial is hypnotizing. Listening to songs like “Young, “ILL”, and “Burn” felt like I was under a trance and hitting rock bottom with Luis Vasquez. Though songs like “It Kills” and “Choke” are oddly catchy, the album is bleak as hell. You don’t even need to hear the lyrics to know there’s some heavy shit going on. Vasquez addresses issues like his abusive childhood and his absent father.

All that frustration, pain, anger, and sadness is channeled here. This isn’t just an album you listen to; it’s an album you feel. Vasquez’s feelings are felt in every drum loop, every synth beat, every echoing bass line. Vaquez’s production really drew me in. There are so many layers and elements to the music you’ll hear something different each time. At times the music is menacing and violent, with notes clashing and screeching riffs. Other times, it’s melodic, yet fragile; the music is so gentle it’s eerie and leaves you with chills. Everything from the compelling music to the lyrics makes Criminal standout. If you’re a fan of Nine Inch Nails, Skinny Puppy, and Cabaret Voltaire, then this is an album you should pick it up.

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Best Album of 2018

Time & Space – Turnstile

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While searching for new music, one band I kept running into was Turnstile. I gave their second album Time & Space, a listen and holy shit did it blow my mind. Listening to songs like “Real Thing” and “I Don’t Wanna Be Blind” felt like I was being blindsided by their ferocity, intensity, and unapologetic nature. The album is 25 minutes of contained chaos on the brink of explosion.

Aside from Turnstile just being fucking awesome, they also don’t play by the rules. They don’t give a shit about hardcore’s strict boundaries. Rather, they blend their hard driving sound with elements of metal, groove, and psychedelic creating an album that never gets stale. “Bomb” is a weird fusion of lounge jazz and Muzak while “Generator” incorporates elements of grunge. A lot of what they include in their music is unexpected, like the soulful crooning on “Moon” and the easy listening vibe of their interludes.

Songs like “I Don’t Wanna Be Blind,” “Generator,” and “(Lost Another) Piece of My World” feature melodic hooks making the tracks oddly catchy despite how heavy they are. There’s also an undeniable groove to them thanks to the heavy bass that gets you moving beyond moshing. Their willingness to play with their sound not only makes them stand out, but it also shows how talented they are. It’s easy to be loud and aggressive, but it takes more than noise to successfully turn a genre on its head successfully.

Listening to Time & Space feels like you’re constantly being assaulted, yet you keep asking for more. Turnstile is a force of nature from how they attack their instruments to Brendan Yates’ screeching vocals bearing a slight resemblance to Rage Against the Machine’s Zach De La Rocha. This is a band that genuinely makes me excited for what they’re gonna do next. They’re not only great, but they inject new life into the hardcore scene with an album that hits like a cyclone.

Runner Up:

Knowing What You Now Know – Marmozets

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Marmozets’ second album, Knowing What You Know Now, is one of the most thrilling records I listened to this year. As soon as I heard the hard driving guitars and Becca McIntyre’s howling vocals on “Play” I was hooked. The album is full of high energy, catchy songs like “Major System Error” and “Lost in Translation” that gets your adrenaline pumping and make it impossible to sit still. They attack every song with ferocity, fire, and passion making them an irresistible listen.

What captivated me was how fun the album is. Songs like “Habits,” “Lost in Translation,” and “Suffocated” make you want to get up and jump around. You can picture being at a raucous show while listening to their songs. And after hearing the songs only a few times, they were stuck in my head for days. Clearly, the band is just having a good time being loud and rocking out.

Aside from their crunching guitar driving sound, McIntyre’s vocals left me impressed the most. Her voice is powerful, and, on this album, she shows off her impressive range. She not only screams with enough intensity to rip her vocal cords, she also has the ability to croon and hold a note as heard on tracks like “Run with the Rhythm.” She even sounds eerie like on “Insomnia” where she sings in a gentle, haunting voice. It left me with chills. And after listening to their past releases, it’s easy to hear how McIntyre has grown as a singer. She’s on her way to becoming one of the best singer’s in rock music.

Knowing What You Now Know is just a lot of fun to listen to. It’s full of blood pumping anthems that make you want to jump around and dance uncontrollably. Marmozets keep things from getting stale with ballads that still have the same drive, power, and energy as when they’re rocking out. The album is an unforgettable experience that proves rock music is alive and well.

‘Young & Dangerous’ – The Struts

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Release Year: 2018

The Struts live up to their larger than life attitude on their second album, Young & Dangerous. The highly anticipated follow up to their 2014 debut finds them doing what they do best: glam rock songs about having a good time. While you won’t find anything drastically different from their previous output, they do take the time to branch out. They shake up their established sound by experimenting with different styles and genres, yet never stray too far from their glam roots.

The album kicks off with “Body Talks,” which has all the elements of a great Struts song: a catchy hook, Luke Spiller’s sensual vocals, and a playful vibe. The remix with Kesha is decent, but she doesn’t add much aside from some random yelps. “Primadonna Like Me” is another high energy, fun song with Spiller playing the role of a rockstar that knows he’s hot shit. Their glam rock sound is bigger with raucous music and an infectious hook. Songs like these perfectly capture what the band is about and their over the top persona, which feels made for huge crowds.

Listening to tracks like “Bulletproof Baby” and “Tatler Magazine” it’s clear The Struts have their sights set on playing stadiums. The hooks are fun to sing, the songs capture their energetic air, and feel crafted with larger crowds in mind. And their frequent use of gang vocals gives the tracks an anthemic quality. Unlike other bands with similar aspirations, The Struts don’t comprise their established sound for something generic and safe. Instead, they push their feel-good vibe even harder, yet leaves room for some change.

Though they mainly stick with their glam rock vibe, there are a few moments where they get outside their comfort zone. “Who Am I” mixes their glam rock vibes with a healthy dose of disco. Similar to other tracks, the hook is catchy and fun while the music gets you moving. And of course, Spiller’s tongue in cheek wordplay is still intact making it an album highlight. Spiller throws you for a loop on “I Do It So Well” when he opens the song with his spoken word style that’s more like rapping. It’s a bit strange but ultimately works for the track. “Freak Like You” is a mini-musical. Clearly influenced by Queen, the band celebrates the outcasts, misfits, and freaks pulling away from their glam rock sound and playing around with their sound, such as the unexpected sax solo.

We even get to see the more serious side of the band on tracks like “Somebody New” and “Ashes.” The former finds Spiller lamenting the loss of a relationship while admitting he’s not ready for someone else. Rather than being flamboyant, he expresses a quiet sadness. He sounds bittersweet as he sings “It’s not that I don’t feel the feelings you do/It’s just my heart’s not ready yet/For somebody new” giving us a rare side of the singer. “People” is another moment where the band sets aside their wild attitude. Written about overcoming everyday struggles different people face, it’s meant to be an uplifting moment on the album. It definitely sounds like an anthem but isn’t as gripping as the rest of the album.

“Ashes” has a similar moody tone. Serving as the counterpart to the celebratory “Fire,” it’s another somber track about the consequences of living fast and partying hard and how someone’s life was lost in the end. Though it deals with a heavy topic, the band brings back their musical sensibilities with sections that change the style. One part it’s a serious ballad, the next it’s a bouncing cabaret. You definitely get some “Bohemian Rhapsody” vibes from it, yet it doesn’t sound like a Queen rip off. It’s a strangely fitting way to end the album as if to say life isn’t always one huge party.

Young & Dangerous is a blast to listen to. It’s more of the glitzy, glam rock goodness we love from The Struts. However, they do branch out trying different sounds to keep things from getting stale or sounding too much like their debut. Every moment is captivating from the high energy dance anthems to the serious reflective moments. Filled with infectious music, the band’s devil-may-care attitude and hooks made for stadiums, it’s a high-energy, feel-good album we desperately need right now.

13 More Creepy Videos that’ll Keep You Up at Night

Turn off the lights, grab some candy, and prepare to get spooky. Halloween is coming up and it’s time to once again, check out creepy music videos. These videos range from scary and disturbing to unnerving and chilling. So get comfortable and prepare for scares as we look at 13 more creepy videos. If there’s a video you don’t see that you think should’ve made the list, be sure to check out the previous list on creepy videos.

13. “Pinion” – Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails have some of the most notorious creepy videos, like “Happiness in Slavery,” and while this brief clip isn’t their most disturbing, it’s still pretty damn eerie. We start in a stark white bathroom unsure of what’s going on. We see a dark liquid being flushed and then we travel through the pipes. The tension begins building up as you’re not sure where this will end. Finally, we see a bound and gagged body hooked up to the pipes and twitching in pain. That image gets burned in your mind once you see it. The whole thing is so freaking ominous. It lets your imagination run wild wondering what’s waiting on the other side of the pipes. Just shows you don’t have to overly graphic to be scary.

12. “Sheena is a Parasite” – The Horrors

This video is short and simple, but effective. Directed by Chris Cunningham, the video stars Samantha Morton who convulses, flails, and dances as if she doesn’t have control of her body. It’s uncomfortable to watch, but it gets worse when the hook hits and Morton starts transforming. She spews her intestines towards the camera and her head loses shape, wiggling and morphing like an alien. It’s so weird, disgusting and unexpected you’ll never forget it.

11. “A Little Piece of Heaven” – Avenged Sevenfold

Everyone knows the story of boy meets girl, falls in love, gets rejected, and eats her heart. At least that’s what happens in this Avenged Sevenfold clip. The animated video has plenty of disturbing elements, like necrophilia, heart devouring, and murder but there’s also a sick sense of humor to it. The over the top violence and animated skeleton choir makes it more of a dark comedy and provides a perfect balance of gore and humor. On top of that, it’s a satisfying story of revenge that actually ends up as a romance. Boy kills girlfriend, she comes back and kills him, they bond over murder, and happily feast on brains as zombies. Ah, what could be sweeter? Despite its creep factor, it’s an entertaining video if you have a dark sense of humor.

10. “Feral Love” – Chelsea Wolfe

This video manages to be unnerving even if you don’t get what it’s about. Taken from the film Lone written by Wolfe and directed by Mark Pellington, a bunch of seemingly random scenes are thrown at you and you’re unsure of how they’re connected. Dead bodies, dripping blood, people convulsing in weird ways, creepy masks, bloodstained sheets, and innocent home movies with a sinister undertone make us this video. It’s like you’re watching the sequel to The Ring tape. The entire time Wolfe is singing while staring into the camera with pitch black eyes. It’s as if she’s trying to suck out your soul the whole time you’re watching. You want to pull away, but her stare is so intense you can’t.

9. “Mein Herz Brennt” (My Heart Burns) – Rammstein

Rammstein’s “Mein Herz Brennt” (My heart burns) doesn’t need lots of gore and violence to be creepy. Instead, it’s the sense of dread, misery, and tension that provides the scares. With a macabre tone, it deals with kidnapped orphans, weird alien-like creatures that make your skin crawl, and cruel child experimentation only to be topped off with Till Lindemann eating a human heart. All this is mixed with footage of the band playing stringed instruments while wearing bloody, faceless masks. The Gothic undertones give it an unsettling feeling similar to horror movies like The Orphanage. It’s a slow building horror that makes this video scary. Even if you don’t piece together the story right away, you know something is wrong and it is chilling.

9. “Kids” – MGMT

Remember when your parents assured you there’s no such thing as monsters? That’s not the case for the star of this video. A toddler is repeatedly frightened by monsters, bloodied zombies, and strange beings only he can see. His mother is too caught up in her phone to pay any attention and even lets him wander off into the woods to encounter the band at one point. It ends with trippy animation, vivid colors, and a disturbing wolf being. It’s like Sesame Street on acid. Not only are the weird costumes and bloody monsters enough to freak you out, but the sheer terror of this kid and seeing his unheard cries makes you tremble. Luckily, the kid was actually enjoying himself during the video shoot.

7. “If I Had a Heart” – Fever Ray

This is a bone-chilling video. The horror here is subtle opening with children crossing a river while people in strange masks look on. A sense of dread builds up and practically explodes as the camera pans across several lifeless bodies. Fever Ray sounds and looks like a menacing spirit covered in black and white makeup, her eyes completely devoid of life. The dark imagery paired with the haunting tone of the song create a horror that gets under your skin and unnerves you rather than makes you scream out loud.

6. “Sober” – Tool

Tool’s videos are nightmare inducing. They feature impressive visuals and animation, but are filled with disturbing imagery, trippy visuals, and are just flat out weird. “Prison Sex” is probably their most disturbing clip, but “Sober” isn’t any better. Filmed entirely in stop motion, it starts relatively tame showing a disfigured man obsessing over a locked box. Everything starts to spiral out of control the more he peeks into the box. He begins floating, his limbs shake uncontrollably, and he encounters strange, disfigured beings in his house. Gore is kept to a minimum, but it’s the weird imagery and sense of uneasiness that makes this one creepy. The animation is great, but it’s so damn uncomfortable to watch.

5. “Worlock” – Skinny Puppy

Skinny Puppy’s “Warlock” is not for the faint of heart. In the first 48 seconds, you’ll see eyeballs popping out of someone’s head, hands being stabbed, and lots of blood and guts. The video is a barrage of gruesome scenes from horror movies, like The Beyond, Hellraiser, and Re-Animator. It’s clear the violence isn’t real, but seeing so much blood, guts, and gore bombarding you every second is enough to turn your stomach. The whole video keeps you on edge since you never know what’s coming next. It doesn’t give you any breathing room; the violence and gore keep coming at you for five straight minutes. Unsurprisingly, it was banned, but not for gore. Rather, it was banned for violating copyright for the movie scenes. Best to avoid this one when you’re eating.

4. “Saku” – Dir En Grey

Nothing will ever top Dir En Grey’s extreme, stomach-churning “Obscure.” But that doesn’t mean their other videos aren’t as sick, weird, or disturbing. “Saku” plays out like a J-horror film starting with non-stop bloody and rotting imagery coming at you. As the band keeps performing the disturbing story begins to unravel: a boy comes home from school, murders his parents, and continues life as normal. He even eats dinner with their rotting corpses at the table. It’s not very gory, but well-placed shots of a bloody golf club and the kid’s eerie sense of calm after the crime make this video chilling.

3. “Bonfire” – Childish Gambino

What first looks like the set up of a horror film turns into a disturbing realization. Set at a summer camp, Gambino wakes up, a noose around the neck, and vomits blood. He’s lost until he sees campers in the distance. He’s relieved until he spots someone heading towards them carrying a knife and a noose. It seems like a typical horror movie scenario until Gambino reaches the bonfire to warn the campers and no one sees him. Turns out the guy wasn’t a killer. He was just the final act of the camp consolers tale about Gambino’s death. The video ends with Gambino waking up with a noose around his neck once again. It’s a shocking clip that goes beyond superficial horror and gets to the scary reality about racism and how the act turns from something to be upset about to something used for entertainment.

2. “Rubber Johnny” – Aphex Twin

Aphex Twin videos are always a bizarre experience. While “Come to Daddy” is the stuff of nightmares, there’s chilling and cringe-inducing about “Rubber Johnny.” Right from the beginning, you’re uncomfortable listening to this misshapen being make sputtering noises. The sense of uneasiness never leaves you throughout the video. As the music intensifies, Johnny’s movements grow more spastic and he begins splatting against the camera filling the screen with goo and guts. But you gotta admit, he’s got some sick dance moves. It’s one of those videos you’ll never forget once you see it, though it may haunt your dreams. Come to think about it, all of Aphex Twin’s videos are terrifying.

1. “Ready Err Not” – Flying Lotus

There’s all kinds of messed up shit happening in this video. You have deformed freaky people, cannibalism, implications of sexual assault, beheading, babies slurping the guts of other babies, and bodies being ripped apart. The amount of gore, blood, and guts coming at you is overwhelming and the surreal animation makes everything more disturbing. You want it to end, but you don’t want to stop watching. You want to see what messed up thing is coming next. The video feels like it was made to gross and freak you out. Mission accomplished. Then again would you expect anything other than grotesque and creepy from the creator of Salad Fingers?

Which creepy videos did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

Revisiting Blink-182’s ‘Neighborhoods’

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The disintegration of Blink-182 was a mess. Tom DeLonge was suddenly out of the band, but he never quit, yet he wasn’t coming back. It can be hard for a band to bounce back after such a public fallout, but Blink survived. No matter how you feel about their current output, you can’t say California isn’t a success. It earned them their first Grammy nod and debuted at number one in the states and in other countries. But the album isn’t anywhere near as ambitious, exciting, or progressive in sound as their comeback record Neighborhoods.

What’s most notable about the album is the continuation of the dark, mature sound found on Untitled. Lyrics tackle heavy topics like death, isolation, and personal demons. Even the upbeat opener, “Ghost on the Dance Floor” is depressing. It’s based on Travis Barker hearing a song that reminded him of the late DJ AM. “Wishing Well” sounds like something to dance to, yet the lyrics paint a bleak picture: “I went to a wishing well, and sank to the ocean floor/Cut on the sharpened rocks, and washed up along the shore/I reached for a shooting star, it burned a hole through my hand/It made its way through my heart, have fun in the promise land.”

They also experiment with their sound, with each member bringing in their own influences. DeLonge’s influence is the strongest with songs like “Ghost on the Dancefloor,” The Cure-esque “This is Home,” and the lackluster “Love is Dangerous.” Each has elements you can trace back to Angels & Airwaves. Whereas the intense “Hearts All Gone” sounds like a b-side from +44. For the most part, these different influences work together well and result in songs that ultimately sound like Blink-182. Though the lackluster “Love is Dangerous” is DeLonge all the way. It’s so bogged down in synth and New Wave sounds it doesn’t fit on the album.

But the record isn’t without its flaws. The band recorded most it separately and it shows. It feels disjointed and clunky in places. It just doesn’t recapture the spark they were aiming for. It’s more of a growing pains record. It seemed they still had some things to work out before heading back in the studio. But considering the record we got, it could’ve been worse. Also, some songs are forgettable like the terribly named “MH 4.18.2011.” It has the same high energy and quick pace of “Here’s Your Letter,” but otherwise it doesn’t manage to be that memorable. The song is okay, but it’s not as strong as the others.

Fortunately, the album is solid. The excellent “Natives” has a frenetic guitar riff and pounding drums that grabs your attention since it has more of a punk rock vibe. It sounds the most like a classic Blink-182 song and feels like something from their self-titled record. “Up All Night” is another satisfying track reminiscent of their older stuff. The music is hard-hitting and punches you in the gut. It’s an intense ride that gets into their dark side with the mention of demons and dying alone. “Snake Charmer” is another highlight with its slinky rhythm and pummeling riff. It has a hypnotic vibe that’s hard to resist. And the catchy “Kaleidoscope” blends dirty riffs with an upbeat, bright riff.

Similar to their previous output, the album divided fans. While some championed the mature sound, others balked at the lack of catchy pop-punk jams that made them famous. Rather than revisiting the past, Blink looked to the future and continued the mature sound they explored on their 2003 output. Did it work? Sort of. While there are several standout songs, it sounds disjointed and lacks some of the fun that made their other albums great.  Still, the experimentation and their continued mature sound showed they were at least trying to progress whereas California feels like a step backward. It’s generic and bland. At least Neighborhoods sounds like a band trying to make things work. It showed promise for a new chapter of Blink-182 that, sadly, we never got around to seeing.  We have a subpar version of them instead.