Sunday, June 16, 2013

Anthrax: Anthems

Reviewed by Rob Acocella

Anthrax, like many Metal bands, are no strangers to paying homage to their inspirations in the form of cover songs. This is why when Anthrax announced Anthems, it was no surprise that it would be a collection of cover songs, though some may find the bands they cover to be a surprise.

The first track is their cover of Rush's "Anthem"which is done solidly and is a testament to the drumming abilities of Charlie Benante. The middle of the album is my favorite, though, featuring covers of AC/DC's "TNT," Boston's "Smokin'," and Journey's "Keep On Runnin." Having grown up on a steady diet of Classic Rock that included Journey, Boston, Styx, AC/DC, Foreigner, and the like, it's easy to see why these 3 songs got me the most excited. "TNT" and "Smokin" are done so true to the originals that you almost can't believe these are covers. The band does inject their own signature vibe into them, but they are just so well done that it kinda blows your mind a little. The band also brought in keyboardist Fred Mandel (Alice Cooper, Queen, Elton John, Cheap Trick, Supertramp) to handle keys on "Smokin'," and I believe this is a big part of nailing that signature Boston sound on here.

Their cover of Thin Lizzy's "Jailbreak" is another standout track. The only thing I wasn't crazy about on Anthems was the inclusion of 2 versions of the song "Crawl" which was previously released on the band's last studio release Worship Music. I know that this was probably done as a B-side tactic, but most Anthrax fans already have the original song, and I feel like the remix is good, but it really didn't need its own release. Don't get me wrong, "Crawl" is a good song, but an album that is meant to be all covers should have remained all covers. What they could have done was cover one of their own songs and have Joey lend his vocals to a track that had been previously recorded with John Bush. That, of course, is just my own 2-cents. Speaking of Joey, he nails every song on Anthems, which is proof of what an amazing range he has as a singer.

Overall, though, this is a great album of tunes made famous by other bands, and made slightly Thrash-ey by Anthrax.

Rating: 4/5

Sevendust: Black Out The Sun

Black Out the Sun
Reviewed by: Rob Acocella

I feel that at this point in Sevendust's career, it is fair to say that you pretty much know what you're going to get from them when you pick up a new release. You're going to get the same awesome pulse-pounding drum patterns, grungy riffs, and the combo of smooth and aggressive vocals that the band consistently delivers time and again. You know that as long as there wasn't some massive unexpected change in the inner workings of their songwriting, you're going to be happy with the results. Before I even started listening to Black Out The Sun (ok, I had already heard "Decay" and "Got A Feeling") I knew it was going to be classic Sevendust.

There is only one time that this can be a problem, and that's when you're a journalist trying to come up with descriptive words that you haven't used a hundred times already. It's difficult when you have nothing to complain about, but also don't have fresh new synonyms for expressing how a song sounds or how much you like a particular set of lyrics. Anyway, it's not a bad problem to have, so I'll give it a shot:

Black Out The Sun opens with a melodic, and almost symphonic, arrangement called "Memory," and just when you think the album is going to go the way of an Yngwie Malmsteen CD, the audio assault of  "Faithless" hits you in the face like a ton of bricks. This song can be a bit bi-polar with frequent changes between heavy and soft, but it's that main riff and the chorus hook that makes it an aggressive powerhouse to start the album off. "Till Death" is one hell of a rally cry song, with layers of aggressive vocals ranging from LJ's signature sound to something a little more Death Metal, as well as Morgan Rose's unmistakeable yelling from behind the kit. "Mountain" and "Cold As War" pick up the pace with a more uplifting vibe and then give way to the title track, which brings things down to a more mid-tempo pace temporarily.

A few songs later, we find the single "Decay," which harkens back to early Sevendust. It's a more vintage-style song for the band, and it sounds as though they went back to their first few albums for the inspiration on this song. It's an obvious choice for a single and that would explain why there was a video made for it. (Click the link here or scroll down for the video.)

When it comes to slow-tempo, my favorite Sevendust track had always been "Angel's Son" but on Black Out The Sun they tucked in a little gem near the end of the album called "Got A Feeling" which just tied neck and neck with "Angel's Son" for my favorite semi-acoustic Sevendust song. I'm a sucker for a good acoustic melody and harmonized vocals and they really knocked it out of the park with this one. I'm not going to lie, as a photographer and budding videographer, if there aren't already plans in place for a video for this song, I'd love to someday help with creating that. Yeah, I like it that much.

The album closes with "Murder Bar" which brings us back to the grungy riffs and schizophrenic drum patterns that you come to expect already. The song fades out the end of the album with a spacey treatment that eases you out into nothingness, or right back into the album opener (if you've got your CD player or iTunes set to repeat).

A solid effort that I can't really find any flaws with. I can always rely on Sevendust to put out quality songwriting and not stray too far from the band's signature vibe that made me love them in the first place. I haven't caught them on tour for this album yet, but I have no doubt in my mind that some of these songs will fit their aggressive, high-energy live show perfectly, and I look forward to catching them soon.

Rating: 5/5

Monday, June 10, 2013

Megadeth, "Super Collider"

Super Collider
Reviewed by: Rob Acocella

By this point in my life, I think I'm finally able to use the term "lifelong fan" without worrying about how I didn't know about the band when I was 5 and technically it hasn't been my whole life. I've been a fan of this band ever since I became a fan of Metal back in junior high, and I've stuck by them through all the highs and lows since. And, like every lifelong Megadeth fan, I was curious to see how they'd follow up 2011's TH1RT3EN.

Super Collider opens with what you would think would be the obvious single, "Kingmaker." While it didn't make it as the first single, I can tell that this song will be a big hit in the live set, as it's one of the few anthemic tracks on the album. It's got a classic Megadeth vibe with a more modern personality. The second track is the title track and lead-off single. I have to be honest and say that when they previewed this track online I thought it was a very bad sign of things to come, but it's a grower, and now that I've heard it a few times, I don't mind it as much. It's just odd for Megadeth to have a title track that winds up being one of the less aggressive songs on the album. It honestly feels like Dave decided to try writing a Classic Rock tune with this one. Considering how long the band has been around (this is NOT an age joke, by the way) it makes sense to put out at least one track that could possibly appeal to another range of radio stations to get more airplay. Nothing wrong with doing that, and it's still a good song if you're open enough to the fact that they're not going to be putting out a second recording of Killing Is My Business any time soon.

"Burn!" and "Built For War" aren't bad songs, but I feel they're just the run-of-the-mill album filler. They have their place on here, but aren't really standout tracks. "Off The Edge" and "Dance In The Rain" are reminiscent of World Needs a Hero and the sound the band went for on that album. "Dance In The Rain," in particular, is, lyrically, one of my favorite songs on here, focusing on the plight of a middle-class worker struggling to get by in an economy that doesn't allow one to thrive. And, as you could expect, there is the expected social and political commentary from Dave on this one.

"Beginning of Sorrow" is another strong track and an obvious favorite with an awesome bass intro and bitter, brooding lyrics about an unwanted teen pregnancy. At this point in the album, you can imagine that the listener has already picked up on the vast array of Megadeth flavors peppered in. But if you're anything like me, when you get to "The Blackest Crow," you're first thought will be "...fucking banjo?!" Believe me when I say this, give it a chance, because even though the intro is deceiving, the ganjo (not a typo, ganjo is an actual instrument, apparently) actually fits this dark song pretty well.

"Forget to Remember" picks up the mood again with a more lively energy and plenty of radio-friendly hooks, making it a great Rock song, if not slightly depressing, as the song is about a battle with Alzheimer's Disease. The Jazz style jam that introduces "Don't Turn Your Back" quickly slides into a pulsing riff with double bass drums with a vibe that could have easily put this song on Cryptic Writings. The album then closes strongly with a cover of Thin Lizzy's "Cold Sweat" that is done pretty true to the original, if not a good bit heavier in classic Megadeth fashion.

Super Collider is a collection of songs that covers a gamut of style ranges for the band, and provides some thought-provoking messages. It's a solid follow-up to TH1RT3EN and, even though some songs may need to grow on some people, I feel it will ultimately earn its place among some of the band's best recordings. The musicianship, as always, needs no description. If you don't already know what a talented lineup this is, then I question why you're even reading this.

Rating: 4/5