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The Devil Wears Prada- Dead Throne

This record IS the reason why I can easily name The Devil Wears Prada as one of my favorite bands at the moment. Heavier than anything they have done before,Dead Throne takes you full circle on a head pounding journey with tales of faith and restoration all the way down the line to issues such as idolatry.

On Dead Throne, we get an album that really has everything. TDWP bring it all to the plate this time: the machine gun bass drums, the chugging riffs, Mike Hranica’s nasty scream, everything that makes TDWP really good, just turned up a notch. “Dead Throne” and “Born To Lose”, two of the best tracks on the album, pick up basically where the Zombie EP left off: dark, heavy songs with a powerful message. We even get a mellower yet perhaps more dark Mike Hranica on the song “Chicago”. “Holdfast” is the most openly Christian song on the album, a very Underoath sounding song, but very awesome at the same time.

TDWP are one of those rare bands. Rare in this sense: they are a very openly Christian band, and most of their songs deal with/profess their beliefs in some way, ye they make such great music and do it in a way that even someone who may not share the same beliefs as them will like what they hear. Gone are the days of odd song titles and the like. TDWP have grown up and you can tell it in their sound. On previous releases, they were good, but really sounded like any other metal core band. With Dead Throne, they are now THE band of the metalcore genre. This is as good as it gets, and The Devil Wears Prada doesn’t disappoint.

Devil Wears Prada - Dead Throne CD cover

The Flavor – self-titled

The Flavor CD cover

The Flavor call themselves a blues rock band, but – born of a wide array of influences – they fuse various sub-sounds of the blues rock movement into a sound altogether their own with their debut, self-titled offering.

“Hot Sauce” starts things off with a taste of bluegrass, with its twangy guitars, really grabbing your attention right off the bat and setting the stage for tracks like “Short-Haired Women” and the closing instrumental track, “End”.

“Goin’ Up North” plays as a much more straightforward blues rock track and the bulk of the disc really falls more into this camp. “Before You Let Me Go” channels some of those great southern/blues rock acts, opening with a riff that reminds one of classic ZZ Top. Tracks like “Hot & Bothered” keep that rocking vibe going and approach an almost rockabilly sensibility, really showing that these guys have some chops.

“The Truth” slows things down a bit, infusing a bit of scat-influenced broodiness into the disc. “Bleedin’ Soul” does the same later with a straight-up blues vibe. “Little Girl” keeps things slowed down, with a melancholy blues sound that really sets it apart as one of the standout tracks on the disc. The changes of pace aren’t always so flawless. “I’ve Lost Your Love”, in particular, rings a bit hollow and the vocals on some of the other moodier tracks are a bit weak, poorly supporting some otherwise great songs.

Speaking of those great songs, the songwriting also stands out. “Vertigo” is a bit long (and, personally, I think it could have been slowed down just a bit), but it and “Closer To You” really stand out both lyrically and in terms of their arrangement.

The other thing that becomes obvious right up front is that these guys are having fun with what they’re doing – it really comes across in the music (granted, sometimes better than others). “My Guitar” channels a scat sound, going for a light and playful approach, but comes across more silly than anything else – before ending on an admittedly strong rockabilly riff. “Odd Man Out” does a far better job at being irreverent.

Really, there’s a whole lot going on with this disc, but quality songwriting and musicianship really tie it together, giving the listener a little taste of lots of different flavors.

-Late

The Flavor

Rating by Larry McCloskey: 3.5 stars
***1/2

Hatecore Inc. – Rise Above All

Hatecore Inc. - Rise Above All CD cover

The first and most overwhelming impression the listener is going to take away from Hatecore Inc.’s Rise Above All is another Pantera ripoff. That’s dismissive of what’s actually going on here, but the sound is unmistakeable. It takes a couple of listens to really get everything that Hatecore Inc. is throwing at the listener, but even at first listen, there are worse impressions to get than “Pantera”.

“Wish You Were Dead” gets the disc off to exactly the sort of start you’d expect from a song with that title by a band named Hatecore Inc. Vicious drumbeats and choppy guitar shreds set the stage for an all-out assault the pretty much tells you where this band is from and where they’re dragging you to, kicking and screaming. It captures all of Pantera’s subtlety (which is to say, none) as well as their rage and is one reason that it’s easy to initially dismiss these guys. “Mind Control”, “Sooner Or Later” and “Nothing” are similarly straightforward thrashers. “Blame” falls largely into this same camp but stands apart because of a catchy-as-hell chorus that will absolutely have the listener smashing their fist into any handy surface while belching forth their own guttural howls in a vain attempt to channel vocalist James Barrett.

“I Kill You” is a bit more measured, playing with a slower groove before kicking up the speed before heading into the chorus. Still vicious and brutal, it has a more refined brand of rage that at times is capable of calling to mind early Slayer. “Bed Of Nails” is the same, but drags a bit and has a tendency to wander. “Too Far Gone” and “Laughing and Collapsing”, though, better turn that transitional quality into something special, hinting at something more under the surface.

“I Am My God” stands out a bit, playing with a definite Eastcoast hardcore vibe. Set against the Pantera and Slayer-riddled landscape of the rest of the album, the Hatebreed-styled track is a bit of a slap in the face, but once again proves that these guys know more than one trick.

Some will call this album a cheap knock-off of better bands. Some will call it an homage to those same bands. Still others, though, will see it for what it really is: a group of guys who are proud of their thrash influences and shout them from the mountaintop instead of trying to take them and mold them into something different. Hatecore Inc. isn’t reinventing the wheel or even breaking a lot of new ground, but they never really meant to. If you’re looking for the next new thing in metal, keep looking. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for someone bound and determined to keep straight, hard-nosed, brutal thrash metal alive, here they are, rising above – if not all – a whole lot of the rest of the impersonators out there.

-Late

Rise Above All

Rating by Larry McCloskey: 3.5 stars
***1/2

Vagrant Revival (demo)

The most obvious influence on Vagrant Revival’s all-too-brief demo is Jimi Hendrix; between the guitar solos (you mean there are still bands that believe in guitar solos?) and some of the riffs, I kept catching myself wanting to jump into songs I don’t know and just sing the lyrics to “All Along the Watchtower”. That’s not to say this is a Hendrix knockoff, this is to say that these guys have mastered the classic rock vibe in a way that too many other rock acts have failed to do. They don’t try to infuse it with anything other than straight-up musicianship…and maybe just a dash of blues.

“The Riddle of Baron Samedi” plays with a strong Deep Purple vibe (listen to the intro and tell me you don’t hear “Smoke on the Water”) before slipping into a bit of a southern rock mentality. The solo work is all well constrained within the riffing, so you get a taste of what singer/guitarist John Wallace can do without completely losing sight of the song.

“The Last Summer Sun” slows things down and showcases what the rhythm section of drummer Jeff Babinski and bassist Jon Kohout can do. A mellow toe-tapping rock ballad that will leave you swaying and joining in on the chorus after only a listen or two. “Lucian’s Passage” follows a similar tact – a stripped-down rocker that will call to mind the likes of Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull with its subtle complexities.

The biggest knock on this is that it’s too short – I wanted more! The band could perhaps benefit from a full-time singer to free up Wallace, whose riffs shine throughout but are often forced into the moments between verses. It’s hard to advocate messing with a formula this tight, though. Musically, these guys are what a lot of so-called rock acts are missing these days. Maybe there is a revival in the works!

-Late

Vagrant Revival (demo)

Rating by Larry McCloskey: 4.0 stars
****

Killingbird – Waste Another Yesterday

Killingbird - Waste Another Yesterday CD cover

An oldie but still a goodie, Killingbird’s Waste Another Yesterday oozes with all of the Hollywood sleaze that one would expect from a Skyla Talon project. Released in 2003 on the heels of their self-titled debut, Waste Another Yesterday takes everything up a notch but still somehow stays true to its gutter rock sound.

“Can’t Kill Me” wastes no time in going straight for the throat. It drips octane all over most of the rest of the album and calls back to the glory days of partying on the Sunset Strip. That raunch and roll mentality is smeared all over the rest of the album on tracks like “First Class Ticket” and “Dust it Off”. The other constant on the album is its party rock mentality. Tracks like “Bruise” and “Death of a Superstar” approach radio single territory and is a track that seems to be begging for a music video full of hot chicks with big hair and guys with flashy guitars and flashier cars.

The title track slows things down, but just barely – injecting a touch of heart into the album without sounding sappy or watered down. Along with tracks like the melancholy “Passing Through” and “Where in the World” and the edgier “Some Will Fade” it shows that there’s more to Killingbird than might originally meet the eye. The hidden track is worth sticking around for as well.

That’s not to say that there aren’t any throwaway tracks. “Drown” and “Sober Only Underground”, for instance, aren’t bad but don’t really distinguish themselves either – they’re throwbacks that don’t really do anything new. In the 90’s, they would have been edgy, but by the turn of the century they didn’t really offer anything that hadn’t been done to death. “Whatcha Want” falls further off the mark and plays as a tired retread.

About the best thing that can be said for Waste Another Yesterday is that it holds up well. It was certainly a lot edgier in 2003, but it’s still fun and still has enough teeth to be relevant – it’s a reminder of yesterday that certainly isn’t wasted.

-Late

Waste Another Yesterday

Rating by Larry McCloskey: 3.0 stars
***

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