Monthly Archives: June 2014
Seether’s much-anticipated sixth studio album – Isolate and Medicate – will be released tomorrow. Ahead of the release, the first single – “Words As Weapons” – has already been making a radio impact. For the past six weeks, the song has been steadily rising towards the top of the Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown.
Despite the fact that their sound deviates from the “norm” of modern hard rock, Seether is one of the most popular bands featured on Octane, and with good reason. Shaun Morgan’s instantly-recognizable vocals help Seether to stand out amongst other alternative, post-grunge acts; his ability to harness his smoldering rage into catchy, melodic songs is unique, and the trio’s undeniable chemistry gets better with each album.
Like the rest of the songs on Isolate and Medicate, which was recorded over a 16-day period, “Words As Weapons” has a mature, stripped-down quality to it. Because the album was recorded so expeditiously, any temptation to “smother the tracks with overproduction” was resisted. The end result of this approach is a song that is as memorable for its spacing as it is for its melody or Morgan’s delivery of very personal lyrics (he describes the entire album as a “collection of diary entries”).
“Words As Weapons” is a shining example of what a power trio can accomplish when each members’ parts contribute equally to a song. Dale Stewart’s strong bassline holds down the rhythm; John Humphrey’s tribal drum beats build intensity while letting the song breathe, which allows Morgan’s dynamic guitar playing to set the tone and ideally accent the mental picture that he creates with his hauntingly emotive vocal delivery.
Seether has released some stellar songs throughout their career, but “Words As Weapons” might be their best one yet!
Octane Big ‘Uns Countdown for the week of 6-28-14.
The 6-28-14 Big ‘Uns Countdown playlist can also be found on www.HardRockDaddyNetwork.com (the HRD YouTube channel), in addition to archived playlists dating back to 2013.
#15 – “High Road” – MASTODON
#14 – “Hater” – KORN
#13 – “Bloody Angel” – AVATAR
#12 – “Denial” – WE ARE HARLOT
#11 – “All Rise” – WOVENWAR
#10 – “Carnivore” – STARSET
# 9 – “Hunter Eats Hunter” – CHEVELLE
# 8 – “Pittsburgh” – THE AMITY AFFLICTION
# 7 – “Painkiller” – THREE DAYS GRACE
# 6 – “1000hp” – GODSMACK
# 5 – “Room To Breathe” – YOU ME AT SIX
# 4 – “Torn To Pieces” – POP EVIL
# 3 – “Would You Still Be There” – OF MICE & MEN
# 2 – “Words As Weapons” – SEETHER
# 1 – “This Is The Time (Ballast)” – NOTHING MORE
If you listen to SiriusXM’s Octane, you have undoubtedly heard Nothing More’s “This Is The Time (Ballast).” The song has been sitting atop the Big ‘Uns Countdown for the past two weeks, and before emerging onto the countdown, Nothing More was featured as an Octane Accelerator band (designed to help break new artists). To call Nothing More a “new artist” is a bit misleading, given that the band has actually been together since 2003. However, the self-titled album that just came out this week is the band’s first label release after a long and arduous journey that began in the suburbs of San Antonio, TX in middle school.
Getting to this point in their career would not have happened if the band didn’t have the fortitude to buck conventional wisdom and ignore the admonitions of those close to them to stay in school when they reached college-age. According to frontman extraordinaire, Jonny Hawkins, “staying in school would have been ‘settling,’ and having a ‘plan B’ was a recipe for failure, so we decided to ignore everyone’s advice and totally dedicate ourselves to being in this band.”
People tend to throw around terms like “dedication” and “commitment” so loosely nowadays, that the words often times ring hollow. However, the members of Nothing More literally have the scars to prove that their words are not just lip service. When the band first started, they branded themselves on the arm after each tour as a reminder of their commitment to each other. They would need this commitment to persevere through less-than-ideal conditions.
Their first “tour bus” was fashioned from a dilapidated, raccoon-infested RV, and they made their own stage rigs to use during their dynamic live shows, taking the DIY concept to an entirely new level. Hawkins credits Nothing More’s early struggles for the band’s evolved spiritual and philosophical outlook…“it made us a lot more open to other ideas and gave us a deeper faith in our own instincts. I think that reflects in our music.”
With self-awareness, wisdom and a philosophical mindset that goes well beyond their years, Nothing More has channeled their early struggles into a musical and lyrical masterpiece with their debut label release.
If the term “thinking man’s metal” (which has been associated with the likes of bands like Rush, Queensryche and Dream Theater) enjoys a renaissance in modern times, it isn’t hard to imagine Nothing More being at the forefront of the movement.
The band’s debut album certainly has its “metal moments,” but what makes them rise above the din is a unique style which is an amalgam of a variety of genres that doesn’t adhere to any preconceived notions of what hard rock should be, and thus, they cannot be pigeon-holed into a neat, marketable package. Yet, it is easy to see how this complex collection of songs will have as much appeal to the masses as it does to audiophiles and fellow accomplished musicians.
The album begins with the familiar refrain from “This Is The Time (Ballast)”…
When did we become these sinking stones?
When did we build this broken home?
Holding each other like ransom notes
Dropping our hearts to grip our brother’s throat
The moody, psychedelic opening lines are actually from the first track, “Ocean Floor.” It isn’t until the refrain repeats with Hawkins’ impassioned delivery that “This Is The Time (Ballast)” actually begins, though there is no separation between the two. The song about being enlightened enough to know that change happens from within has generated a nice buzz for the band, but it is merely the tip of the iceberg of a musical journey that takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions, and makes you think deeply about the world that we live in today.
It doesn’t take long for Nothing More to turn conventional wisdom on its head by questioning those who speak in absolutes about what is right and wrong in the eyes of structured religions. “Christ Copyright” may anger those who believe that there is no room for gray areas in religion, but it will give food for thought to those who believe that questions serve a greater purpose than unquantifiable “absolute truths.” With influences that range from the electronic style of The Prodigy to the soaring vocals and progressive sound of Coheed and Cambria, “Christ Copyright” shows that Nothing More is not confined by other peoples’ boundaries, musical or otherwise.
Back when MTV was relevant to rock artists, few (if any) bands would ever speak out against the channel and what it represented. “Mr. MTV” is a theatrical song that features Hawkins’ incredible vocals and a powerful, enlightened message that is often times lost on the “me generation”…happiness comes from within, not from buying material things to “keep up with the Joneses.” This song offers the first glimpse that Nothing More is ready to carry the anti-establishment torch that was held by Queensryche for so many years before the original members parted ways.
Life is filled with good days and bad days, but the bad days always seem to come in waves. “First Punch” is about surrounding yourself with positive people to help you weather the inevitable storms that come your way in life. As the saying goes…“life is not about waiting for storms to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” The message is complemented by an infectiously melodic chorus that leaves you feeling uplifted.
The subdued, textured “Gyre” provides a beautiful, acoustic interlude beneath the calming voice of Alan Watts, allowing you to catch your breath before the intensity of “The Matthew Effect” kicks back into high gear. Once again, Nothing More seamlessly blends a variety of influences and musical styles to create something unique. Mark Vollelunga’s guitar versatility shines through as he vacillates between mood-setting airy notes and dirty, crunchy chords that hit you like a punch to the gut.
“I’ll Be OK” is emotive, passionate, melancholic and energizing all at once. Hawkins’ vocal range is on display as he effortlessly transitions from a smooth, lower register to soaring high notes and back, just as Geoff Tate did in Queensryche’s halcyon Rage For Order days.
One of the most straight-forward songs on the album, “Here’s To The Heartache” would make an ideal follow-up single to “This Is The Time (Ballast).” Beautiful vocal harmonies, an infectious melody and nuanced layers give the song depth while being easily accessible to the listener.
Many people spend their lives bemoaning the mistakes that they’ve made and wishing for a “do-over,” instead of treating the mistakes as teachable moments. “If I Were” once again shows a maturity beyond Nothing More’s years as they embrace past mistakes as a valuable part of life. This powerful, melodic anthem would also make a good future single.
Paul O’Brien was the one drummer that met the incredibly high standards set by Hawkins (Nothing More’s original drummer). Even though he turned over the drumming duties to O’Brien, Hawkins still uses technology to create drum parts while writing. On “Friendly Fire,” Hawkins created drum parts that no human could replicate, but rather than relying upon machines to produce the sound, the band embraced the imperfection of the human element, resulting in one of the most intense songs on the album.
“Sex & Lies” features an eclectic mix of genres and influences that most bands would never think to combine. The band shows off their prog rock chops with an incredibly tight song that fuses Daniel Oliver’s heavy groove bass (reminiscent of “Higher Ground” by Red Hot Chili Peppers) with the unique vocal structure of Queen’s “Bicycle Race,” and the overall sound of classic Queensryche mixed with Coheed and Cambria.
Just when you think that Nothing More couldn’t possibly get any tighter, they take it to another level with “Jenny,” a song about a drug addict’s downward spiral to rock bottom. A layered guitar sound (a la Stanley Jordan) provides the backdrop for Hawkins to deliver the emotional opening verse that sets up Jenny’s story. Textured electronics increase as the intensity starts to build before the song reaches a climactic crescendo of anger and frustration with crushing guitars and Geddy Lee-esque bass lines. The driving rhythm fuels Hawkins’ heartfelt vocals, which are nothing short of brilliant. Lyrically and musically, “Jenny” is like a kick in the teeth, yet you can’t help but feel a rush of adrenaline as you crank it up to maximum volume.
The intensity is dialed back a bit at the outset of “God Went North,” a song about the loss of a mother. Anyone who has suffered a similar loss will feel the pain all over again, but also take solace in the fact that others can empathize with their plight. If ever there was a song that encapsulated every stage of grief, “God Went North” is it. From the melancholic opening to the tortured pinnacle moment in the middle to the calming chant at the end, the song runs the gamut of emotions felt by anyone who has sustained a painful loss. The abrupt end to the chanting is symbolic of the abrupt ending that comes with life’s final breath.
The musical journey that is Nothing More’s self-titled, debut album ends with “Pyre,” a 10-minute, electronic soundscape featuring the voiceover of Alan Watts sharing his philosophies. It is not necessary to buy into Watts’ philosophies to appreciate his contribution to the album, which is both painfully real and cathartic at the same time. His influence on Nothing More contributed as much to the brilliance of the record as the musical influences that permeate each song.
Is there another band out there that would end an epic debut album the way that Nothing More did? Is there another label like Eleven Seven Music that would give a “new” artist the creative freedom to do so on their debut album? The answer to both of these questions is…probably not.
Albums like Nothing More’s self-titled debut are few and far between. It may sound hyperbolic, but with the passage of time, it will likely be considered one of the greatest hard rock debut albums in the history of the genre.
The mark of a good cover song is one where an artist or band incorporates their unique style into the original version to make the song their own. The mark of a great cover song is one that makes you forget about the original version altogether. Five Finger Death Punch’s rendition of “House Of The Rising Sun” falls into the latter category.
Though most music fans believe that the song was written by Eric Burdon & The Animals (because their version is the most well-known), it is actually an old folk song whose origins are unknown. No disrespect intended to Eric Burdon, but Five Finger Death Punch injected new life into the song and gave it an intensity that simply didn’t exist when The Animals released it in 1964. Of course, Five Finger Death Punch is no stranger to creating inspired versions of other peoples’ songs (most notably “Bad Company” & “Mama Said Knock You Out”), however, “House Of The Rising Sun” takes their penchant for making covers their own to a whole new level.
As one of the top acts in hard rock today, Five Finger Death Punch marches to the beat of their own drum.
It takes a special kind of bravado to put out two studio albums four months apart during a time when overall record sales have greatly diminished for all artists. And with the MTV days long since replaced by the instant gratification of YouTube’s on-demand videos, FFDP took a step back in time and created a piece of cinematic artistry for “House Of The Rising Sun” (off of The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell, Volume 2).
Set in Nevada’s High Desert, the video begins with what looks to be a muscle car version of The Munster’s Koach speeding through the desert like a scene out of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. The band (cast) members are introduced as the rage-filled “You” (off of The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell, Volume 1) sets the tone amidst video clips reminiscent of a modern version of Caligula. The minute or so of “You” feels like a violent storm that passes in the night. As the band awakens the next morning, there is a calm-after-the-storm feeling as “House Of The Rising Sun” begins.
As they did with “Bad Company,” FFDP altered the lyrics of “House Of The Rising Sun” to make them their own, changing the location of “the house” from New Orleans to Sin City (ostensibly meaning Las Vegas).
The video for the “House Of The Rising Sun” feels so much like a movie with music playing in the background that you tend to forget that its purpose is to promote the song and the album, not a short film. The video leaves room for interpretation, which makes you hope that the band takes the concept and turns it into a full-length movie in the future.
Few bands are able to leave you wanting more from a video, but Five Finger Death Punch has done so with “House Of The Rising Sun.” Check out the official video below…
Billboard Hard Rock Albums Chart for the week ending 6/28/14. Top 15 albums ranked by sales data and compiled by Nielsen SoundScan.
THIS WEEK’S TOP 15:
- HELLYEAH – Blood For Blood
- TESLA – Simplicity
- THE AMITY AFFLICTION – Let The Ocean Take Me
- THE WORD ALIVE – Real
- ARCH ENEMY – War Eternal
- BEARTOOTH – Disgusting
- VARIOUS ARTISTS – Vans Warped Tour ’14: 2014 Compilation
- BODY COUNT – Manslaughter
- NIGHT RANGER – High Road
- AVENGED SEVENFOLD – Hail To The King
- THE WHO – Quadrophenia: Live In London
- CHEVELLE – La Gargola
- WOLVES AT THE GATE – VxV
- THE PRETTY RECKLESS – Going To Hell
- FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH – The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell: Volume 2
Chris Jericho is known by the masses as a professional wrestler, but hard rock music fans think of him as the frontman of Fozzy. Lest anyone think that Fozzy is just a novelty project by a professional wrestler. The band has been around since 1999, and will be releasing their sixth studio album, Do You Wanna Start A War, on July 22nd of this year. With a world-renowned wrestler at the helm, and the aforementioned album title, you would think that Fozzy would be all about aggression, but the first single off of the album – “Lights Go Out” – shows that this fighter can also be a lover, or at the very least, a man of passion.
Hard rock and dance music are rarely mentioned in the same breath, but with “Lights Go Out,” Fozzy has blurred the lines between the two, creating a unique hybrid and the perfect song for the one place that these two worlds collide with regularity – strip clubs! Without even knowing the lyrics, the vibe of the song from the first listen conjures up visions of scantily-clad women writhing around on stage and showing off their gymnastic prowess on the brass pole. It’s possible that this was the exact intention of the song.
Jericho describes the song as “dark, sexy, sleek, dirty, heavy and catchy as fuck!” According to Jericho, “It doesn’t matter if you dance to it in a club or mosh to it in a pit, ‘Lights Go Out’ will make you move!”
Channeling the Prince of Darkness, Jericho’s vocals put the “Ozzy” in Fozzy as he wails…
“When the lights go out, the walls come down, we sound just like animals…inhibitions lost, and lines get crossed, you get me off when the lights go out.”
With Fozzy hitting their creative stride, poised to make their mark in the hard rock world, it’s no wonder that Jericho’s wrestling career is taking a back seat to his music and acting pursuits.
“Lights Go Out” has been getting regular airplay on SiriusXM’s Octane, and while there is no actual proof, it is quite likely that the song is in heavy rotation in strip clubs everywhere. If you want to experience “Lights Go Out” in a “glitter-free” environment, check out the lyric video below…
Three For Throwback Thursday featuring: Cinderella, Motley Crue and Dillinger. The theme of the week is revealed below the last video.
This week’s “Three for Thursday” songs:
SONG: “Coming Home”
ALBUM: Long Cold Winter
RELEASED: May 21, 1988
ARTIST: Motley Crue
SONG: “Home Sweet Home”
ALBUM: Theatre Of Pain
RELEASED: June 21, 1985
SONG: “Home For Better Days”
ALBUM: Horses & Hawgs
RELEASED: August 13, 1991
This week’s Three For Thursday theme is…
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!
Like a number of modern hard rock bands, Framing Hanley has had to overcome their fair share of challenges on their musical journey. A falling out with their original label left the band in flux as they had to work traditional jobs to pay the bills. Unable to finance their latest record, they reluctantly turned to their fans to help fund the album through a Kickstarter campaign. The goal of $40,000 to record the album and video for the first single, “Criminal,” was easily reached and then some, finishing at over $60,000. With some very creative incentives, Framing Hanley had more than enough money to make the long-awaited follow-up record to 2010’s, A Promise To Burn, which featured their hit song, “You Stupid Girl.”
“Criminal,” the first single off of their latest release, The Sum Of Who We Are, has been getting regular airplay on SiriusXM’s Octane, and is likely to be featured on Octane’s Big ‘Uns Countdown before long. One of the catchiest, melodic hard rock songs of the year so far, “Criminal” features a tight musical backdrop that allows singer, Kenneth Nixon, to shine as he seamlessly transitions vocally from a smooth, modern-rock sound on the verses to a higher register on the powerful, anthemic choruses.
Framing Hanley never planned on having to rely upon their fans to crowdfund their album and video, but judging by the overwhelming support of their Kickstarter campaign, and songs like “Criminal,” there is no doubt that it was the right decision. The long layoff between Framing Hanley’s sophomore release and their latest release is certainly not how the band envisioned their career, but as the saying goes…“anything worth having is worth waiting for.” With the release of “Criminal,” Framing Hanley has proven that you don’t need a record label to make great music in this day and age.