Saturday, December 31, 2011

Jason Charles Miller, "Uncountry"

Jason Charles Miller
Reviewed by Rob Acocella
Rating: 5/5

When you think of Jason Miller from Godhead, you probably don't think cowboy hats and Civil War memorabilia. However, as he explains in the album title track "Uncountry" there ain't nothin' uncountry about him. 

I'm not exactly the biggest fan of Country music, so the few bands and albums I do like have to really have that something special to make them stand out to me. Jason's version of Country isn't your Garth Brooks or Honkey-Tink this-or-that. Coming from a much heavier style of music, you are guaranteed it's going to have an edge, and an edge it has. I would liken Uncountry to Zakk Wylde's Pride and Glory. Even though Zakk was known as the monstrous young guitar player for Ozzy Osbourne, most fans were pleasantly surprised to hear what his softer, more, um, twangy song writing was like. The same goes for Jason Miller. You can hear shades of Pride and Glory on Uncountry, as well as moments that really reminded me of Vicious Cycle, which was my personal favorite Lynyrd Skynyrd album. You can hear Jason's signature Goth-Industrial vocals peering through at times, which is reassuring when the album goes a little deeper into the Country vibe.

There are a lot of stand out tracks, and my personal favorites are "Uncountry," "The River," "You Must Have Loved Me A Lot" and the stickiest song on the album, "The Devil." I dare you to listen to "The Devil" and not walk around singing or humming it to yourself all day. Hell, I haven't listened to the album in 2 days and this morning I woke up with it in my head out of nowhere. 

Megadeth, "TH1RT3EN"

Reviewed by Rob Acocella
Rating: 5/5

Megadeth are back, and this time it's BIG. Not only is this their thirteenth studio album, but it's also the return of David Ellefson to the band. David has always been such a huge component of Megadeth's sound that the albums without him really fell slightly flat for me. I may be a bit biased, being a a bass player myself, but without David it just wasn't complete.

That said, it's not just enough to have the correct lineup, you have to also have great songs and there is no shortage of them on this album. "Sudden Death" leads it off, and is a familiar track for anyone who has been keeping up with the world of Megadeth, as it was included in a Guitar Hero installment, as well as getting released as a single back in 2010, and is the first studio recording of Ellefson with the band since 2002. It's not the only song that will sound familiar to die-hard fans of the band. "Black Swan", "Millennium of the Blind", and "New World Order" are also a part of the Megadeth legacy and go back different spans of time in each instance.

"Public Enemy No. 1" is one of my favorite tracks right alongside "New World Order" "Deadly Nightshade" and "Fast Lane". Personally, with all the fast, crushing riffs, and especially the reborn older material that has finally received a proper release to the public, this is one of the most perfect Megadeth albums to date. I'm from the school of people that thought Rust In Peace was their masterpiece, and with TH1RT3EN being released right on the heels of the anniversary of Rust, it's only fitting for it to be such a powerhouse of  a record.

Steve Bello Band, "Go Berzerk"

Steve Bello Band
Go Berzerk!
Reviewed by Rob Acocella
Rating: 5/5

Ibanez-endorsed instrumental guitarist Steve Bello is back with his fifth and most anticipated studio album yet, titled Go Berzerk! (yes, the "z" is intentional)

The album starts off with the very popular lead single "Surfing To Venus" which had a video to accompany it while it was still in demo stages. You can see the video below, or by clicking here.
Following "Surfing" is a a track called "To Be Human Again" which gets you tapping your toes and snapping your fingers to the groovy little funk-infused intro before jumping right into a chunky lead riff that will take most by complete surprise. The title track is one of the strongest on here which not only showcases Steve's incredible lead abilities but bass player Joe Demott really shines through with his intricate bass fills.

On "Sometimes Hidden" we get to hear the softer side of Steve Bello with this warm acoustic track. It goes without saying that just about every instrumental guitarist includes an acoustic track here or there, and Steve is no exception, but this track just has such a nice flow and melody that it avoids feeling cliché. "Throwing Away My Skin" is at the top of my list of favorites on this album with it's Slayer-like groove. The guitar really takes on an almost vocal personality on this track. On "Chomp" we again hear Joe's incredible bass abilities. It's gotta be one of the funkiest Funk-Metal tracks I've ever heard.

I can't give Go Berzerk! album any less than a 5/5. Steve's been working at this for about as long as we've been working at Paragon and every album is better than the last. This is truly a work of art, incorporating so many different flavors without ever sounding out-of-place. It's availabe on or iTunes, and you can get a physical copy if you find him on Facebook and order direct.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rammstein: Made In Germany 1995-2011

Made In Germany 1995-2011 (Deluxe Edition)
Reviewed by Lisa Selvaggio

      For longtime fans or those who are new to the band, this 2-disc best of compilation encompasses highlights from Rammstein’s entire career.  Starting off with “Engel” and including their newest single, “Mein Land,” Disc 1 has a little bit off every album.  From “Du Hast” to “Mein Teil” and “Links 2 3 4,” all the songs the band has become famous for over the last 16 years are on one disc, proving how they’ve been able to keep it hard and heavy, never losing their signature sound.  There are 16 tracks on this disc, so it is packed to the brim with your favorites. 

      Disc 2 is a CD of remixes created by everyone from Laibach (“Ohne Dich”) to Faith No More (“Du Riechst So Gut ‘98”) and Devin Townsend (“Rammlied”), to name a few.  The remixes are innovative and give these classics a brand new twist, as any good remix would.  But if you’re looking for the heaviness the band is known for, the remixes lighten it up, sometimes way up, or even change the songs almost completely.  Townsend’s remix includes a banjo that is completely out of place and annoying.  Westbam’s remix of “Links 2 3 4” could easily be played at a club filled with guidos in Jersey---who would’ve thought you could do that with a Rammstein tune?  “Feuer Frei,” though not on Disc 1, is remixed on Disc 2, and it’s pretty good although it loses the speed and aggression the song is known for.
      You can purchase this release in its standard format, which would give you just the best-of disc with the new single, the Deluxe Edition which has the two discs I’ve just described, or the limited Super Deluxe Edition which has the two discs plus three DVDs and a 240-page booklet.  In any format, it is worth adding this release to your Rammstein collection. 

Rating: 5 out of 5

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Animals As Leaders: Weightless

Animals As Leaders
Reviewed by Steve Bello

Tosin Abasi is, without question, the "it" guy for Ibanez 8-string guitar, and creating interesting textures where most players would just stick to Meshuggah-inspired riffing (nothing wrong with that, of course). Those who are familiar with Tosin know that he was once in a band called Reflux that musically was great but vocally was very distracting. When news broke out that Tosin was doing a purely instrumental project, fans of his fleet-fingered work were excited.

Weightless is the second album for AAL and while it is definitely very diverse and a great workout for both Tosin and the listener, something troubles me a bit. Every song virtually starts off the same, with a clean guitar intro, as if to say "This is a false sense of security, I am about to bludgeon you now." Tosin clearly studied Jazz and Progressive music, which is evident on tracks such as "Somnarium," "Isolated Incidents," and "Earth Departure" (the only track not to have a clean intro). One can hear influences as obvious as Yes, Rush, King Crimson, and some not-so apparent like Mahavishnu Orchestra. Utilizing the 8-string to its fullest potential, Tosin wrings out some intricate melodies that aren't contrived or give the sense of "I have heard this somewhere before." Tosin approaches the 8-string from a fresh perspective, not just for brutal guttural riffing (but when he does, he can give so-called "heavy" bands a good run for their money!)

For guys like Steve Vai to praise Tosin up and down, that's high praise indeed! I do recommend this album for anyone that wants to break from the "heavy-for-heavy sake" metal that is out there today. Tosin is clearly ahead of the curve and at the top of the game. Some of us should be so lucky.

Rating: 5/5

Steve Bello is one of NJ's most famous instrumental guitarists, known for his speed and dexterity. With his latest album, Go Berzerk, he is finding worldwide recognition for his hard work and dedication to his music. Check out our video interview with Steve here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Puscifer: Conditions of My Parole

Conditions of My Parole

Reviewed by Lisa Selvaggio
From the opening track, it’s clear that Maynard James Keenan (TOOL, A Perfect Circle), has yet again given fans something that proves his immense talent, which he takes in a multitude of different directions on this album.  Puscifer has always been a project that is humorously experimental while at the same time containing lyrics that Maynard is known for: sometimes goofy, other times emotional or contemplative, and still other times puzzling.  In my opinion, each album is better than the one that came before, and, as such, this is my favorite of the three thus far released. 
Described as “danceable,” I cannot disagree (just listen to “Man Overboard” and tell me you don’t start moving).  “Horizons” even has a sort of Hip-Hop style beat to it.  “Oceans” is calming, soothing, somewhat in the same way as “The Humbling River” off of "C" Is for (Please Insert Sophomoric Genitalia Reference Here).  One of my favorites, musically and lyrically, is “Monsoon,” a song about the dry desert calling for help from the sky, in fact asking it to cry its emotions down to quench the thirsty earth.  Switching it up, “Telling Ghosts” is heavier, more aggressive, drums leading, marching.  “Tiny Monsters,” the opening track, actually starts off with “Tumbleweed,” the final song, playing at a very low volume, making the album come full circle.  
This is the strongest Puscifer album thus far.  If you enjoyed the first two albums, you’ll like this one too, and if you weren’t really feeling the first two, give this one a chance anyway.

Rating: 5/5

Friday, October 14, 2011

System Syn: All Seasons Pass

System Syn 
All Seasons Pass
Reviewed by Mike Ventarola
      For those with a penchant for dark dance electronic music, you won’t need to look any further than System Syn’s latest album, All Seasons Pass, newly released through Metropolis Records. This is more than your bevy of tracks slated for eargasm club candy. The recording is a concept album based upon a true story and the last days of a young woman who went missing in 2006 only to be found four months later, after the winter’s thaw, with a gunshot to her head. These songs manage to encapsulate the last days of her life and the emotions of those around her.
      In a dark music scene that has gone somewhat static as of late, it is something quite bone-chilling to enjoy these tracks so much and, in the back of your head, realize the impetus behind their creation. Lyrics fraught with angst, fear and desperation are interspersed with infectious foot stomping beats. These aren’t just random lines of poetic lyrics as much as they are a tribute to a nameless victim whose short life somehow affected this band enough to pour through the case files behind this crime. The complete story can be found on the band’s web page at 
      All of the tracks are constructed with detailed precision that, if one weren’t aware of the reason behind the songs, it would just appear as though the band had raised the bar on themselves to deliver the most comprehensive songwriting of their career. These really well written songs did not stoop to being overly mawkish and melodramatic, but aimed for introspection and psychological emotiveness. In less capable hands, the concept and lyrics could have easily veered into exploitive territory, but the band painstakingly avoided that from the collection we have on this CD.   
      Each song is enveloped with an otherworldly presence, clearly demarking this as a concerned and loving tribute to a young women none of us knew. The majority of these tightly crafted tracks will more than likely be in heavy rotation in your underground clubs across the globe. In essence, whenever we hear them on the dance floor, it will bring us back to ourselves to remember that life is precious and that a snapshot of someone’s life has been preserved eternally through this recording.

Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Anthrax: Worship Music

Worship Music
Reviewed by Rob Acocella

Anthrax is back with Worship Music, their first studio album of all original material since 2003’s We’ve Come for You All. It also marks the highly anticipated return of Joey Belladonna to the band. For an album that was originally started back in 2007, it’s safe to say it’s gone through a few revisions over the years, but the end result is one of their strongest albums of their career. It’s probably the album that everyone wishes they’d put out in 2011. It shows everyone that Thrash is still alive and well and that the older generation can still kick ass like they did when they first got started. The first song on the album is “Earth on Hell” which is a sonic assault of blast beats and ripping guitar tone. After that is the one-two punch of “Devil You Know” and “Fight ‘Em Til You Can’t” which are probably 2 of my favorite tracks on the album. “I’m Alive” finds vocals that are very reminiscent of Jeff Scott Soto on Yngwie Malmsteen's Marching Out album. The song that really is going to hit fans hard is “In The End” which was written about the deaths of Dimebag Darrell and Dio. There is also a song on here called “Judas Priest” which is obviously a tribute to the band of the same name.
        The production of the album sounds absolutely awesome, which is impressive considering that the band didn’t really record most of the album together; rather they all recorded near their own homes in different places around the country.  Overall, this is a powerhouse of a record for Anthrax, with amazing playing, signature vocals, and some of their most epic and anthemic songs. If only all bands could put out the kind of quality music that Anthrax did with Worship Music, the music scene and its community of fans and artists would all be better for it. Until that happens, we can rely on bands like Anthrax to reliably put out masterpieces, even if they do take a while in between them.

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Empire Hideous: The Time Has Come

The Empire Hideous

The Time Has Come

Reviewed by Lisa Selvaggio
            The sad news is this is the last album for The Empire Hideous, a band lead by the talented and controversial Myke Hideous.  If you’re into Gothic music, The Misfits, and especially if you’re from NJ and you haven’t heard of these guys, something is wrong.  Definitely check out his previous releases with The Empire Hideous, ‘cause you’re missing out. 
            The good news is this album does not disappoint.  It’s a throwback to the Goth of yore with polished production to bring out every instrument and Myke’s haunting vocals.  In other words, it’s indie Goth/Rock as it should be.  From “Dance Dead Rhythms” that you can certainly dance along with, to the melancholy “Pretty Faces,” from “Stand Off” which is reminiscent of songs off Victim Destroys Assailant—proving that here is a musician who holds true to his sound—to the ethereal “Sahara,” there’s variety here, in songs discussing loving and losing.  Every song has something unique to offer yet all of them come together perfectly.  My only complaint is there are a few tracks of soundscapes that, I feel, could have instead been more music from this engaging, versatile musician whose project we will sorely miss. 
As an independent artist all these years, Myke has struggled, but there is no doubt that he has acquired an audience that respects him for all that he has put out there of himself, and this music certainly will not be forgotten in the Goth/Rock underground. 

Rating: 5/5     

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Astral: Forever After


Forever After

Reviewed by Lisa Selvaggio
            Although Astral have been garnering a lot of attention since 2003, making quite a name for themselves with their debut album Orchids, I’m only now getting a taste of this band.  They’ve been consistently touring for the past few years, with names that include David J (Bauhaus/Love & Rockets) and Lisa Dewey (who recorded with Simon Raymonde of Cocteau Twins).  Their newest album, Forever After, comes out on October 25, 2011 and proves that the band will keep making new fans. 
            A lot of labels describe Astral, from Indie to Post-Punk, to Dream Pop and Dream Rock (whatever those mean), and this band has a pretty classic Goth sound.  They’ve also been compared to The Cure, and that’s a fairly accurate description, but a very narrow one as well.  Slow to mid-tempo tracks on this album are groovy and soothing (now I know why they’re called dreamy).  Check out the tracks “Fall Away,” “All is Said and Done,” and “Dahlia’s Falling” to get an idea of what they have to offer. 
A modern band with an old-school Goth vibe, here’s hoping they continue their climb.    

Rating: 4/5     

Friday, May 27, 2011

Shinedown: Somewhere in the Stratosphere 2CD/2DVD

Somewhere in the Stratosphere 2CD/2DVD
Reviewed by Lisa Selvaggio
As a big Shinedown fan, I have seen them live more times than I can count, so when I heard that a live DVD of not only their Carnival of Madness show but also their Anything and Everything acoustic set would be released, I was stoked. The 2 CDs in the package are the audio from the shows, and it goes without saying that the band sounds incredible live.

Carnival of Madness DVD: The footage of this concert is far too "produced." When I watch a concert DVD, I don't want to feel like I'm watching a music video, with everything from choppy, rapidly changing scenes to super-imposed backgrounds and lights behind the musicians, and slow-motion stop-and-go. Needless to say, I was a little disappointed by the way this video was put together. You can see that the audio sometimes doesn't match the performers' motions, and you even begin to wonder if backgrounds weren't the only things that were superimposed. Also, one of the best things about Shinedown shows is the inspiring messages Brent has for his audience, which weren't included here.

Anything and Everything DVD: This video was a lot more organic, and therefore a lot more to my liking. It was great to hear Brent explain all of the songs in the set. The bonus backstage footage was a pleasant surprise as well. And this is probably the highest-energy acoustic show you'll ever see.

Being that the band's been touring since the release of Sound of Madness in 2008, it's great to get some of it forever stored on video, and now we just have to wait for their next release.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Monica Richards: The Strange Familiar

Monica Richards
The Strange Familiar (EP)
Reviewed by Lisa Selvaggio

Monica Richards has released an EP entitled The Strange Familiar in anticipation of a new solo album coming this summer. These are five songs that show her at her best. Four tracks are brand new and the fifth is a remix of the beloved “A Good Thing” off the album titled InfraWarrior. Monica is ever evolving with a keen sense for poetic expression, and these songs reach to the depths of despair and to the heights of resurrection. Listen to the lyrics and you can actually feel the emotions that Monica puts into her songs.

As any true artist can, she’s created an eclectic mix of songs, from music that you can dance to, to a spoken word track that tells a tale that is personal yet relatable (“The Mighty”). “Armistice” is reminiscent of classic Goth, an upbeat song with pounding bass leading the way. “The Strange Familiar,” a personal favorite, sticks in your head long after it has ended. And “Oreiades” is haunting violin and Monica’s voice alone, “recorded in the caves of Castle Cottenau in Upper Franconia.” I cannot say enough that this is true artistry, true uniqueness. But it’s just a teaser for something even better to come. For a longtime fan, it’s great to see Monica get better and better. But we must patiently wait for more.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Haunted: Unseen

The Haunted
Reviewed by Rob Acocella

The Haunted are back with their highly anticipated new album Unseen. I'm going to come right out and say up front that I've never been much of a fan. I didn't hate the band, I just never got into them. I'm very happy to say that I went into this with no expectations at all, and came out really liking the album.

I'm not in love with the band yet, but I do like what I'm hearing on Unseen. I'm not sure what changed or what was done differently, but I'm actually catching onto some of the hooks and grooves on this album. There are some really great heavy moments that make me want to swing my fists around, and then there are  songs like the title track that are just so damn toe-tapping groovy that you can't get them out of your head.

Some of my favorite tracks would have to be "Unseen," "Catch 22," and "Them."

As a side note, I think that in the past The Haunted were almost too heavy for their own good, and not in a good way. I think their songwriting and production was always pushed a tad too hard, creating something that worked for a niche group of fans. Unseen has a more broad feel to it, closer to really Hard Rock rather than the brand of Metal that they are known for. Personally, I like that about this album, but I can see how some long-time fans might be a bit disappointed. But hey, everyone takes a turn that pisses off some fans from time to time. Anybody remember St. Anger?

Rating 3/5

TesseracT: One

Reviewed by Rob Acocella

One is the debut album by TesseracT, released on Century Media records. This album has a great vibe to it, and it combines melody and rage almost seamlessly into one tight little package. The songs have the feel of real music craftsmanship and each one takes you deeper into the groove of the album than the last. Listening closely to the instrumentation you can tell that this wasn't one of those albums that was rushed and put out just for the sake of putting something out. What you have here are carefully plotted rhythms with patterns that seem both simple and intricate all at once. The entire album has its own ambiance and it holds to it even when switching gears from melodic to heavy. That's a refreshing quality in a music scene where artists tend to blow their own albums apart at times by choosing the wrong combo of songs, or the wrong track list sequence, resulting in an interrupted listening experience.

In all honesty, I've been quite bored with the Prog scene for a very long time, but this kind of Prog Metal is exactly what has been lacking for years. TesseracT is a breath of fresh air in a musical atmosphere that was getting very stale recently.

TesseracT is currently on tour promoting One, and I'm going to be honest, if you miss out on their performances, it's your own loss. I have a feeling these guys are going to be making a much bigger name for themselves in the near future, so keep your eyes out for when they come to your town and be sure to get out and see them, and pick up the album.

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Alter Bridge "AB III"

Alter Bridge
Reviewed by Lisa Selvaggio

      Alter Bridge is one of my favorite bands, one of the few out there right now that are genuine in every respect.  Lyrically, the band has always been able to profoundly express an entire gamut of emotions, from hopeful to hopeless, inspired to indifferent.  They're one of the few modern bands who can write songs that mean something, that go above and beyond, to make you feel, whether it's the nostalgia that comes with "Ghost of Days Gone By," the sinking feeling of defeat with "All Hope Is Gone," or the perseverence found with "I Know It Hurts."  To say that musically they are a powerhouse of talent would be to state the obvious.  On the disc as well as in concert, these new songs are energetic and alive, pure Rock with a pinch of Prog.  It's all in their words and in their music, and on AB III, the group shines true and their energy is abundant throughout.  The listener is left wanting more yet satisfied with this final product all the same, as the band has put out yet another artful collection of songs that are flawlessly performed.

Rating: 5/5

Deicide "To Hell With God"

To Hell With God
Reviewed by Rob Acocella

Deicide is back with their 10th studio album, To Hell With God. What is there to say about Deicide that most of their fans don't already know? For one, it's another chapter of what I call "Hollywood Satanist" lyrics wrapped up around a big package of blast beats and furious guitar solos.

I've never been the biggest fan of Deicide, but I do have a couple of their albums from the old days. The technical ability that they display is key to appreciating the music. Death Metal often suffers from everything winding up garbled into one continuous tone, with limited chances to pick up on actual melodies aside from in the solos and song intros. Deicide is no exception here, and it's not like you're going to be making out much of the actual words here, which, as a side note, is kind of backwards since Benton obviously has a message to get across.

My own musical tastes aside, this album is great if you take it for what it is. It's a no-frills continuation of what Deicide does best. They may have strayed once or twice along their career, but their core fans got exactly what they knew they wanted from To Hell With God. As I mentioned earlier, the solos really do rip, and give the listener a much needed break from the audio onslaught of each track. Holding it up to older Deicide albums I'd say the quality of writing and playing is right up there with Legion and Once Upon The Cross.

Overall, for me personally, I give it a 3/5 but in this particular case, don't let me hold you back from checking it out if you are already a fan of Deicide's "tried and true" approach to their music.