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Montgomery Gentry – Back When I Knew It All

Montgomery Gentry - Back When I Knew It All CD cover

You love them as one of the hottest duos in modern country music and now Montgomery Gentry tells you Back When I Knew It All. “The Big Revival” kicked things off with a scintillating sample of a preacher getting his congregation in a tizzy as the boys crank it out with high hats, guitars and banjo wrapped around sassy keyboards. This cut could definitely get you ready for church in a hurry as this speaks volumes about their faith.

“Long Line Of Losers” brought it down a notch as it told a good story of bad luck with sludgy guitars, twangy banjo, mandolin and drums talking loudly about living the high life. This one sounded like a ballad, but will get you laughing with tears in your eyes and rolling on the floor. Next is the first single and title track of this release which speaks a lot about being young and stupid. “Back When I Knew It All” has a tight rhythm and pounding beats with great lyrics to sing along while driving down a winding road.

“Roll With Me” perhaps may be the true ballad on this disc as it’s sweet and romantic with its stripped-down ambiance and laid-back style. Slight hues of keyboards and wonderful harmonies pull this one together extraordinarily. “One In Every Crowd” pumps it back up with their brand of country cool. This one has a great party atmosphere as Eddie and Troy make it sound more like they recorded this one at a local bar in Nashville than in a studio and inspires you to slam some shots of Jack Daniels and a pitcher of good beer. Speaking of a good party song, they do it again on “I Pick My Parties” as they make you rock out with tons of rolling piano, excellent licks and good drum breaks creating this booming honky tonk funk. Not to mention they break out a wicked piano and guitar duo on this track.

“It Ain’t About Easy” continued to give us more good feelings with their bright melodies, kickin’ guitar riffs and charming rhythms making this song sparkle. They finalize this one with “God Knows Who I Am” as this tear-stained ballad sends it off with a bang. Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry hit a home run with Back When I Knew It All and still gives us great drinking songs and beautiful memories.

Cancer Bats – Hail Destroyer

Cancer Bats - Hail Destroyer CD cover

Southern metal mavens The Cancer Bats come at you with Hail Destroyer. This album opens with its title track with immense rage in its vocals and musicianship. “Hail Destroyer” sounded like an old school thrash cut but had modern rhythms and brash lyrical quality.

“Harem Of Scorpions” continued this theme as the aggressive beats pounded deep into your skull with brooding force. They remind this critic of early Slayer or Lamb Of God with their punishing screams and blistering guitar work. “Deathsmarch” however could be one of the most melodic songs so far as it has this great dynamic of thumping double bass mixed in with some great chanting and heavy riffs threaded in nicely. The Cancer Bats get extremely sludgy on “Bastard’s Waltz” as they definitely show their influences of American Southern metal with the deep bass lines and macabre guitar licks creating this somber disposition.

“Lucifer’s Rocking Chair” continued this trend with slightly faster rhythms and great chords rocking loud and hard putting the fear of Hell into your veins. “Let It Pour” on the other hand, had differences from some of the other cuts on this release as it had harsher tones, intricate guitar work and tons of thrashing lyrics. “Pray For Darkness” could be this group’s quickest song as it’s full of classic metal guitar solos wrapped around a screeching lunatic and bombs were thrown by the bass and drums. This album comes to a close with a punk-like offering, “Zed’s Dead Baby”. The Cancer Bats delivered a powerful effort with Hail Destroyer.

Shooter Jennings – The Wolf

Shooter Jennings - The Wolf CD cover

Second-generation superstar Shooter Jennings returned with his third effort called The Wolf. He starts things off with its first hit single, “This Ol’ Wheel”, which is pummeling you with a great combination of country, blues, Southern rock and soul alongside twangy guitar, fiddle and great melodies. The legendary Doug Kershaw gave Shooter something sweet with this and their collaboration sounds like it will top the charts.

 

Jennings goes from rocking hard to showing his softer side on “Tangled Up Roses.” This beautiful devotional has a ballad’s body and a rock song’s heart. But it was this great country ditty that honored that lady that’s by your side with excellent harmonies, riffs that could make you bang your head and decent chord structures. Next up was a more traditional ballad on “Old Friend” as his eloquent tones meshed nicely behind sugary backing vocals, rich tones and an accent of mariachi-style horns creating this Old West charm. It was a great cover of an Oak Ridge Boys classic with his own twist. “Time Management” brought along honky-tonk that we don’t hear much in country music anymore and it was a breath of fresh air with its brilliant mixture of fiddle, brass, percussion and big melodies that had you at your collar.

 

He goes old school on “Concrete Cowboys” as it reminds us of that old western hymnal with muddy lyrics, harmonica, high hats and his teary-eyed way of singing. All of this makes this song something special and defines what classic country was and how modern country music should do it.

 

Shooter Jennings finishes off this album with the title track and “A Matter Of Time.” “The Wolf” has talented instrumentals, pounding bass and a slight hint of comedic personality. “A Matter Of Time”, however, is a modern ballad sounding like losing that special someone with its somber refrains and moody landscape. But this song gets out of its funk and turns into this great contemporary cut that makes you want to laugh. Shooter Jennings has something excellent here with The Wolf and his mama and daddy should be proud.

06.20.2008: Demon Hunter, Living Sacrifice, Oh Sleeper, The Famine and The Advent @ House Of Blues Cleveland

Two of Christian metal,s forefathers, Demon Hunter and Living Sacrifice brought their brand of biblical carnage to The House Of Blues-Cleveland. But before the damage could be done, newcomers on the metalcore scene, The Advent, The Famine and Oh, Sleeper took the stage. It was uncanny however, that all of the bands that were on the bill are Solid State Records label mates – making this feel like a company picnic during the summer, but of course, this isn’t your normal outing with the boys from work.

 

Winston-Salem, N.C. natives, The Advent, kicked things off to a surprising ovation from the audience and started pummeling away with “Blackout” getting the fans riled up. They then dedicated their next song, “Hanging The Giants”, too all of the hardcore kids out there in attendance. Although they sounded sluggish at first, the people didn’t mind what The Advent had brought to their first ever stop in Cleveland. Before they went on to one of their final tracks, “The Cross”, they announced an alternative Christian church being introduced to The North Coast with Cleveland Hardcore Church (www.myspace.com/clevelandhardcorechurch and www.clevelandhardcorechurch.com.). This got folks cheering and perhaps could be like Michael Sweet of Stryper’s Metal Church out in California. They ended their set with more audaciously loud hardcore before leaving.

 

Up next were The Famine. Unlike The Advent, they had more death metal and thrash influence in their style as they continued the raucous that was already started. They ferociously shattered the stage performing tons of cuts from their debut release, The Raven and The Reaping, including “The South Will Rise” and “Cut From The Stone”. The people were moshing and yelling for more, giving these guys a warm Buckeye embrace. The Famine gave us something different tonight and hopefully they will return to town for another tour.

 

Oh, Sleeper rattled the cages of the Cleveland faithful hard with their brute-force of post-hardcore destruction. They rocked loud and got the room shouting, clapping and chanting for more. This group almost knocked out everyone in town with their metallic assault on the senses and kept the heads banging and the fists pumping with stuff like “The Siren’s Song” and “Vices Like Vipers”. Oh, Sleeper had a better time than their previous voyage through The Rock and Roll Capital of The World and hopefully it won’t be their last.

 

We’ve been waiting more than five years for this moment and now they’ve arrived as Living Sacrifice reunited and brought everything from their long catalogue of music to the masses. It was great to see Bruce Fitzhugh, Rocky Gray, Arthur Green and Larry Garvin back together and embrace this metalcore brotherhood that started the maelstrom that we have currently. They played everything from their 1991 self-titled debut to their last disc in 2003, Conceived In Fire, and the people ate it up like it was going out of style. Fans were also shouting out requests and weren’t denied. Fitzhugh also plugged their Web site (www.myspace.com/livingsacrifice) to promote their upcoming tracks for their untitled 2009 release and asked everyone to get a taste of the new stuff. There was definitely no rust coming from this group as they battered everybody into submission.

 

Finally, Demon Hunter graced our presence and went straight ahead into a slew of new cuts from Storm The Gates Of Hell. Ryan Clark and the boys rolled out single after single from their latest album such as “Storming The Gates Of Hell”, “Lead Me There” and “I Am You”. It was more like an arena show than a small club concert coming from the feeling that was in the place. They continued on with the new tracks such as “Carry Me Down” and “Fading Away”. Everyone from children, teenagers and adults sang each note amazingly verbatim as the boys in Demon Hunter bellowed them exuberantly. Although they played a ton of new hits, they didn’t disappoint the die-hard old school fans as they brought out “The Soldier’s Song”, “Not I” and “Infected” from The Triptich and their self-titled first release, revving up the entire slightly packed House Of Blues. Demon Hunter gave us more than 110 percent of themselves tonight and how they have such a bond with their people is almost like a religious experience. They didn’t shy away from either old or new that came to see them and this is how a band should treat their audiences.

 

Demon Hunter and Living Sacrifice rose to the occasion holding the torch high and mighty for all to see as the keepers of Christian metalcore’s flame while newbies like Oh, Sleeper, The Famine and The Advent showed them that they should be passed this phenomenal task for the years to come.

Children 18:3 – Children 18:3

Children 18:3 CD cover

What more could we say about the blooming indie rock scene from the Midwest recently? We get another group that could shine or fade in Children 18: 3 with their self-titled major label debut. This sibling trio of brothers and sister kick things off with a trite little song called “A Chance To Say Goodbye.” The vocals set apart from the music as they are a full deep baritone backed by sweet cute pop melodies that confuses this critic immensely. It’s like taking the lead singer from Crash Test Dummies and having Green Day as the rhythm section.

They offer us a much better track on “All My Balloons” as it’s ferociously loud and has a great trio vocal presence. It still packs a ton of harmony, but not as cheeky and more old-fashioned Southern California punk rock. The addition of female backing vocals from the lone girl in the group accents it nicely and the higher pitches makes this better than its opening predecessor. They keep on rocking hard with “You Know We’re All So Fond Of Dying” as it’s strikingly aggressive, yet has this in-your-face do-it-yourself mentality in its chord structure. It seems that Children 18:3 are heavily influenced by The Offspring with the frenetic riffing, loads of feedback and crashing snares. The hints of female soprano tingeing the chorus makes a nice touch too. “Search Warrant” changes the pace a little as the girl of the band takes over lead vocals and they crank it up some more, creating this power-pop illusion cemented around melodic power chords, smashing drums and a barrel full of melody. It’s your typical post-punk ditty but with more angst in the middle of it all.

“Ditches” brings us to more sonically-induced refrains as they introduce some synthesizers, jazzing up their slick punk grooves. Combining all three voices: baritone, tenor and soprano into one amalgamate of beauty. It’s a slight reminder of mid-90s experimental alternative rock fusing synth pop, rock, funk and punk swirled together in an unusual brew. “Homemade Valentine” sounds like they’re trying a little too hard to be punk or screamo with the loud screams punctuated by the sappy harmonies. It isn’t as bad as their first track; “A Chance To Say Goodbye”, but it’s not a solid effort either. Children 18:3 return to something extremely catchy and extraordinarily fun to rock out on with “Mock The Music.” “Mock The Music” is a great female and male dual vocal filled with tons of excellent guitar licks, thumping bass chords and that brilliant indie rock vibe. They remind this critic extremely of Switchfoot, Superchick and Audio Adrenaline with their style and poise on this song.

They get severely old school punk with “Time and Wasted Bullets.” It’s protrudingly angst-filled and full of biting anthemic lyrics from both male and female vocalists. Definitely we can see the Orange County, California punk style flowing through this group’s veins from several cuts on this disc. Children 18:3 finish this album off with a remix of their second single, “All My Balloons”, on “Balloons Reprise” as it has choral singing and a piano added to the original composition. Children 18:3 have the right formula, but need to tweak some things before they become great amongst the punk and indie rock worlds, but not bad for a debut release and we should hear more from them yet to come.

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