Ah yes, The Union Underground. I absolutely loved these guys when they first came out, and I still enjoy listening to them today. Granted, I have to do it via Music Unlimited nowadays due to the fact my copy went missing years ago, but the important thing is I still enjoy the album.

Union Underground were labeled “new metal”, but as memory serves, I think it had more to do with the industrial sound they were going for as opposed to the whiny white kid movement that would eventually create the emo subgenre. Maybe Union weren’t exactly intellectual, or guitar virtuosos, but compared to a lot of the stuff that got labeled “new metal”, these guys have actually aged pretty well.

Maybe it’s because a lot of these “new metal” bands abandoned what brought them to the dance in favor of staying relevant and part of the mainstream (Papa Roach, for example). Or maybe it’s because Union Underground broke up a couple years later. I’ll believe either one, honestly.

It was a real bummer knowing that Union Underground broke up. I vaguely remember reading it had to do with the lead singer being a drughead, but I had yet to realize that anybody could edit Wikipedia, and thus Wikipedia is rarely if ever a valid source of information. Although when it comes to music and video games and the like, it tends to be pretty reliable.

It’s been fourteen years since we were given “An Education in Rebellion”. Has the curriculum withstood the test of time, or has it become obsolete and a relic of the past like those homework books from the 1800s you find in restored plantation houses designed specifically for tourist trap sakes? And why do I keep bringing those up lately? Well the latter is going to have to remain a mystery for the next hour or so. Till then, let’s… Uh… Log on to Music Unlimited, and give it some play!

ALBUM ART: B

the album art for The Union Underground's "An Education in Rebellion"

TRACK LIST

1. An Education in Rebellion
GRADE: N/A
I’m kind of noticing another thing with albums from this era. A lot of them have really weird intro tracks that really don’t seem to contribute much to anything.

2. Drivel
GRADE: B
Intereting fact: when I first heard this track, I had thought for sure I had picked up a Marilyn Manson album by mistake. This reminds me of a lot of early 2000s Manson tracks: the way the vocalist sings, the way the instrumental sounds, etc. But no, this is Union Underground. And once you get over the weird similarities previously described, it’s not bad.

3. South Texas Deathride
GRADE: D+
It’s not bad, but I got to say, it’s not one of my favorite songs on the album. I have no problem with songs that were written for the sake of headbanging and nothing more… But it’s pretty obvious that’s what they were going for. It’s various obvious when you consider the corris of the song is “Come on, come! Come on get up, get up! South Texas Deathride, you mother fuck!”. Scott must’ve stayed up all night trying to write that one.

4. Turn Me On Mr. Deadman
GRADE: A+
This was the first single from the album, and it’s easy to see why they went with it. While not exactly complicated to play, it’s a very fascinating track that actually pokes fun at the whole rockstar image. The “Turn me on, Mr. Deadman” thing is apparently a reference from the Beetles. Specifically, the era where they got all psychodelic. And to some, the era when they started to suck. If you get nothing else from this album, I highly recommend this track.

5. Until You Crack
GRADE: B+
It’s hard to follow an act like “Turn Me On Mr. Deadman”, but this one is pretty good in its own right. The beat is a little mechanical, but it works. It’s probably the most industrial thing on the entire album thus far.

6. Killing the Fly
GRADE: A
This was the second single from the album. While it didn’t chart as high as “Turn Me On Mr. Deadman”, I still like it. Pretty sure the term “killing the fly” is a drug reference, but I’m not entirely sure about that. I’m also not entirely sure if that’s an up to date reference, either.

7. Natural High
GRADE: B+
I’ll admit, it’s catchy in its own little way.

8. Revolution Man
GRADE: A+
The third single from the album, and probably the one the critics hated the most as memory serves. In typical fashion, I had to be part of the minority, and absolutely love this song. It’s probably the closest thing to a ballad you’re going to get on this album. If I could explain why I absolutely love this song, believe me, I’d be explaining it right here. For now, I’ll just give it my recommendation.

9. Trip with Jesus
GRADE: A-
I like this one a lot as well. The corris has a real brainworm quality to it, and the instrumental, in all it’s simplicity, hooks my attention instantly.

10. Bitter
GRADE: B+
The instrumental started off like a remix of “South Texas Deathride”, but once the song actually gets to the lyrics, it becomes a lot better. The corris of “I will be… I will be… I will be… A bitter man.” might not be the most imaginative, but it works better than the one for “South Texas Deathride” personally.

11. The Friend Song
GRADE: B+
The guitar sounds strangely like the precurser to The Eagles of Death Metal in this song. Except despite that detail, it actually sounds metal. Unlike The Eagles of Death Metal, who fucking suck out loud. It’s a lot different from the other songs we’ve gotten before, and it’s an interesting way to end the album.

OVERALL GRADE: B+

It’s really too bad these guys had to break up so suddenly. I would’ve loved to have another Union Underground album. Or at least an uncensored version of “Across the Nation”.

2014 is really starting to look like a bad time to be affiliated with my childhood. Dave Brockie passed away a couple weeks ago, and now, John Pinette passed away.

Yeah, I’m a little late getting to this one. I spent most of the day of his passing listening to his various standup albums on Music Unlimited, paying tribute and remembering the man. This guy was probably one of my comedic inspirations. Perhaps not an intellectual comedian, but he made me laugh like crazy. Also, guys like Dennis Miller and David Cross tend to get the label of “intellectual comedian”, and those guys are more boring than funny anymore. Especially Cross.

Back when Kansas City had FUNNY102.5, John Pinette’s bits were played rather frequently. I could hear that guy tell the same jokes over and over again, and still find them amusing. I don’t know if it’s because they’re genuinely funny, or if it’s because I’m a midwestern hick who thinks that thar New Yorker accent is funny, but what’s there is there.

I find out after he passed that Pinette apparently had a bit of a history with pills. Not sure if there’s any validity to that claim at this moment, but if it’s true, I can’t say I’m shocked. A lot of the good comedians tend to burn out like that: Mitch Hedberg, Greg Jeraldo, etc. Like Lewis Black once said, “The good die young, and pricks live forever.” You got a better reason for why the greats die in their forties, and unfunny hacks like Bob Saget are still alive… Other than that Bob Saget’s mere existence is evidence that there truly is no god, and everything I learned in Sunday school was a fucking lie, of course.

Pinette also suffered from weight problems, but you’d have to be blinder than I am, and deaf on top of it not to know that. Hell, being fat and loving food was around half of his act!

Either way, his death truly left my life sucking that much more, and I’ll miss the guy. Rest in peace, John Pinette. I hear Heaven has an excellent buffet.

Oh goody, another 5 Finger Death Punch song. I guess the dead horse representing Halestorm was starting to resemble mush at this point, so now I have to beat this dead horse instead . I hate my life.

On one hand, they haven’t quite played this one into the pavement nearly as bad as… Well, literally every other god damn 5DP song currently on the air. On the other hand, this is another example of the fatal flaw of 5DP in a nutshell.

5 Finger Death Punch (as of this writing) has four albums, and a grand total of three songs stretched out between them.

1. The super heavy angry song.

2. The extremely bitchy emo song.

3. The cover of that other guy’s song with the lyrics changed for no explainable reason.

“House of the Rising Sun” is number 3. I’ve never even heard the original, but this song has a serious cover tune vibe to it. Especially since I’m very familiar with 5DP’s style, and this song doesn’t sound like 1 or 2 in the slightest. It’s way too dramatic, and not quite as bitchy as number 2 usually ends up being.

I had to take this to someone more familiar with the source material than me. You should’ve heard my roommate’s reaction to this song. She practically lost her fucking marbles over the fact “New Orliens” got changed to “Sin City”. While I’m not familiar with the source material myself, I wondered why they felt it was necessary to change that.

Louisiana is a pretty good setting for gloomy noir kind of stories like this. Aside from New Orliens, it’s pretty much nothing but swamp, old time plantations being maintained for the sake of being tourist attractions for yankees, and Gator Boys references that almost make me feel a little more proud of the fact my state is associated with The Wizard of Oz. Then I remember my state is also associated with creationist nonsense that got that whole Flying Spaghetti Monster thing started, Sam Brownback picking fights with seventeen-year-old girls on Twitter and attempting to cut funding to public schools on the basis teaching is supposedly the easiest job ever and a trained fucking monkey could do it, and that spanking bill that’s clearly the cover to distract the masses while some seriously crooked shadow legislation that pushes our country even further into Jennifer Government country is passed behind our backs. Our bruised, thoroughly paddled backs. You know, suddenly, Gator Boys isn’t sounding so bad by comparison.

Yeah, I know I’m trailing off. It’s not even because I don’t want to talk about this song. I don’t, but that’s not why.

Really, there’s nothing to say that hasn’t already been said at this point. 5DP is repetitive, derivative, and overplayed as fuck. And the fact they’re the co-main event at this year’s Rockfest only makes it worse. Because the one rock station that plays music past 1992 around here needs a reason to overplay 5DP.

I suppose it could be worse. It could be more “I Remember Everything”. Good god that song was horrible!

Normally, I post a quick heads up on here when I decide to do something, however, the entirety of this week has been at friends’ houses and/or the movie theater. Plus a lot of my free time before work has been spent writing things I’ve been obligated to write like Jade Blade Legacy, so I never got around to it then, either. So try not to be too surprised when I announce that today begins one-hit-wonder month here in What’s in Thomas’ CD Player.

For those who don’t know, one-hit-wonder month… Ought to be self explanatory. Every review this month will focus on a band that was, in short, a one-hit-wonder. And today, we kick things off with a trip down memory lane. At least, it’s a trip down memory lane for me. The way my research into this one went, I won’t be surprised if I’m among the extreme few who remembers Thrust.

If you’ve never heard of the band Thrust… Yeah, I don’t blame you. I’ve tried finding information on these guys, but it hasn’t been easy. For crying out loud, they don’t even have a Wikipedia article! You want to talk about the band that time forgot, Thrust is looking like they fit that bill perfectly.

Though in hindsight, it’s probably not hard to see why. To put it bluntly, these guys sound like a lot of other bands that were popular in the early 2000s. I wouldn’t even use my “red shirt in a sea of blue shirts” comparison here. If anything, I’d say they were more of a “light blue shirt in a sea of regular blue shirts”. It clearly did enough to stand out to me as a kid, but that doesn’t change the fact that not only is it the same style of shirt, but it’s still a blue shirt.

Here in 2014, I’m listening to this album, and I really have to wonder who the fuck the engineer was. Virtually every track’s vocals have a ridiculous amount of echo in them. I can’t decide if that’s a sign of a crappy mic, or a crappy recording studio, or a little of both, but my advice is to get used to the echo. The drums are also pretty weak in this album. Black Oxygen had a similar problem, but in their case, it had more to do with things being over polished than anything else. In Thrust’s case, it leads me to believe that the band was recording on an exceptionally low budget.

These are the immediate observations I come up with upon relistening to this album for the first time in years. But how does the album hold up beyond these technical details? After all, Metallica’s “Death Magnetic” supposedly had a really lousy engineer, and it’s actually the best thing they’ve put out since “Reload”.

Well, there’s only one way to find out. Put it in the ol’ CD player, and give it a twirl!

ALBUM ART: C

the album art for Thrust's "Parade of Idiots"

I got to say, blue-violet was not the color scheme I was expecting when I laid eyes on this the first time. I suppose it gets its point across, though.

TRACK LIST

1. Parade (intro)
GRADE: N/A
A pretty haunting intro from an otherwise pretty tame album. You seriously expect something horrifying with an intro like that, and instead, you get… This album.

2. Skrape
GRADE: C+
It’s an okay track, but in terms of starters, I’ve heard better. On top of the echo in the vocals, the vocalist apparently decided to record his parts in a fish tank as well. If you have a better reason for why the dude sounds like he’s under water, I’d like to hear it. Well okay, this was actually a common, all be it pointless effect that was used pretty often in the industrial scene of the time. However, not everybody can be Rob Zombie. That drum part would be a lot more intense if the drums themselves didn’t sound so weak.

3. Parade of Idiots
GRADE: B+
Now why exactly was this not the starter track? Remove that weird effect in the beginning, and it might actually fit with the intro track. They even have a lot in common in the title! Oh well. It’s actually a pretty catchy tune.

4. Smack
GRADE: A
This was the one single they put out for this album, and it’s not hard to see why they went with it. True, it’s probably not as hard as everything else, but it’s got a kickass beat, and the corris, in all its simplicity, is a serious brainworm. If you get nothing else from this album, I recommend you give this a listen.

5. P.F.K.
GRADE: B
I have no idea what that stands for, and I haven’t been able to find lyric sheets, so I can’t confirm I’m hearing right when I listen to the vocals. Still, It’s heavy, but it paces itself. Then again, a lot of bands from this era were all about the swing in the beat. Some were more interested in showcasing the hiphop influence than others, but it was definitely there.

6. M.F. Move
GRADE: a-
I wonder if there may be some Disturbed influence? The well timed “YAH! YAH!” noises lead me to believe this may be the case. Either way, it’s another of my personal favorites from this album.

7. Dose
GRADE: B
On one hand, it’s at this point where I can’t help but notice all the tracks are starting to sound pretty similar to one another. I’d call this a cliche of the new metal scene, but those bands usually centered around the A-chord. These guys, however, seem more interested in the E-Flat-Chord. Of course, I’m just guessing by trying to match the notes on my synthesizer that I haven’t played with in years till this point. Sue me, I’ve been busy! The point I’m getting at here is that Thrust is kind of starting to sound like a one-trick-pony. But damn is this trick awesome!

8. One For the Bottle
GRADE: C+
I almost don’t want to give it such a low grade on the basis it sounds like nothing else on the album. The rhythm, the chord they centered on… Hell, if it weren’t for the fact the vocalist loves to shriek at random points like he does, I’d find myself wondering if this is even the same band! But at the same time, this really struggles to hold my attention.

9. 00 Burn
GRADE: B-
Ah, there we go. This is sounding familiar. Granted, it doesn’t quite have the swing to it a lot of the previous tracks had, but I believe this is a Thrust song.

10. Wasted
GRADE: D+
I’m sorry, but this song is just hilarious. And it’s hilarious for what I assume is the entirely wrong reason. The riff they went with sounds like a pretty generic doom sort of riff, which to me contradicts the sounds of bong hits all throughout the song. Unless these guys belong to the group who believe marijuana should be demonized, this is just confusing to the ear.

11. R.P.M.
GRADE: B-
Boy these guys really love abbreviations. Either way, it’s a step up from earlier. There’s definitely a sense of speed in the instrumental. Like they wrote this song with all the intent of it being that song you blast while driving down a long stretch of road with your windows down. Then again, I suppose the fact the title of the song is “R.P.M.” kind of gives that away.

12. Inside
GRADE: C+
It has an interesting start, but by the time the lyrics kick in, I find my interest fading. I know they’re trying to exit with a bang, but I just can’t get into this.

HIDDEN TRACK: Demolition
GRADE: B
Ah yes, I forgot this came out in 2002. The late 1990s early 2000s were notorious for the hidden track fad. I’ll give Thrust props for not making me wait through seven minutes of dead fucking silence to get it, but it still puzzles me that bands like this used to do this. Wouldn’t it just be easier to make a track 13? Of course, none of this tells you how the song is, so I’ll cut to the chase, and say this should’ve been the true final track. It’s better than the track 12 they went with, that’s for sure. A far better way to end the album.

OVERALL GRADE: B-

There was definitely room for improvement, but for what it was worth, you could do a lot worse than Thrust in the early 2000s. I recommend taking a look at this album for yourself if at all curious.

I’ll say this much right off the bat: I don’t hate The Pretty Reckless. The name of the band is a bit clunky, but I’ve heard worse. I genuinely feel like there is potential here, and as long as Ms. Momsen doesn’t suddenly decide she misses the misery, I’d like to think these guys are going places.

However, there’s a lot of things working against them at the same time. For instance, this song.

I don’t hold it against Tayler Momsen that her only claim to fame prior to this band was having a part in the Jim Carrey version of The Grinch. That movie sucked out loud in hindsight, and dare I say, that movie may’ve marked the beginning of the end for Jim Carrey’s relevance. And if it wasn’t that, it was probably The Number 23. There are a lot of people who accuse her of trying to cling to fame with this band, but I refuse to believe that. Hell, my favorite musician, and music god during my high school years, Rob Zombie, went into film after being a musician. Why can’t it work the other way around?

No, I don’t hold Momsen’s filmography against her. Instead, my grudge is with the sound of her singing voice.

I don’t expect anybody to understand this, because honestly, even I don’t entirely understand why this is. However, Momsen is one of many people out there who seems to pronounce the S sound as the SH sound: a condition I’ve sense begun refering to as “Herbert’s anomaly”. Herbert is the name of the elderly pedophile from Family Guy who not only does this exact same thing, but actually manages to take it to the next level by whistling whenever he does it. Momsen isn’t quite this bad, but the SH sound is there. Petty as it is, it still drives me fucking insane when I hear this.

As for the song…

I’ve heard other selections from this album, and it puzzles me that they went with this song. Okay, I guess I understand why they went with “Heaven Knows”. They want a song that offers all sorts of crowd participation, and “Heaven Knows” is ripe with opportunity right there. That being said, it still puzzles me.

Granted, I haven’t heard the entire album just yet, but from some of the other tracks I’ve heard, The Pretty Reckless has far better songs that should’ve been put on display. Further convincing me that on top of the vocalist’s Herbert’s Anomaly, they also suffer from a serious case of Stone Sour Syndrome: the rare condition where good bands put their absolute worst tracks on the radio as singles. Stone Sour did it with “Bother”, Hellyeah did it with “Hell of a Time”… I’m pretty sure there’s other examples, but they escape me at the moment. It’s a really unfortunate condition that has a tendency to discourage some from buying the album.

Admittedly, this song isn’t as annoying or bad as it could be. I only ever feature it here because Rockfest is coming, and The Pretty Reckless are on the bill. Therefore, the only rock station who isn’t stuck in a time warp and perpetuating the belief that rock died in 1992 is playing these guys into the fucking pavement. Granted, their overplay isn’t as bad as Pop Evil or 5 Finger Death Punch at the moment. Hell, Korn is the headliner this year, and as much as I love those guys, even I’M getting sick of them anymore. And because Pretty Reckless’ vocalist as a vagina, that apparently means instant fame in the Kansas City area. Which doesn’t explain why Otep failed to get a foothold here, but I have a feeling the whole poetry metal thing was a little too ambitious for a city that demands AC/DC be played every ten minutes.

Overall, this song doesn’t really suck. I don’t like it, but I don’t really hate it either. And Momsen’s case of Herbert’s Anomaly is more of a personal pet pieve than a legit complaint, I know, so I try not to hold it against her. If nothing else, I’m just really tired of this song.

As a mostly blind individual, I encounter a lot of morons in my day-to-day life. I encounter people who speak exceptionally louder in my presence than they would to, say, the person next to me. I encounter people who ask the person guiding me questions instead of asking me like I speak a fucking second language or something. I’ve encountered people who think I can tell the difference between dollar bills in my wallet by smell. And my personal favorite, I’ve encountered people who try to use sign language with me. Bottom line: people are fucking idiots. And yet, all of this is child’s play compared to the kind of people I’ve been getting on a rather alarmingly regular basis as of late: the amateur faith healer.

Let’s just get this much out of the way: I’m not a christian. Sure, I was baptized and confirmed Presbyterian, but I was baptized as a baby, and my parents ended up making it a bit of a shotgun-confirmation. There is just so much bullshit involved in christianity, and a lot of it has less to do with the actual religion, and more with the self-righteous pricks who preach it. You know the ones I’m talking about. After years of searching for the perfect religion, I’ve come to the ultimate conclusion that science is the only true religion, and Carl Sagan’s Cosmos is the bible. Although sadly, there doesn’t appear to be an audio copy on Audible.com for whatever reason, but I digress.

Science just makes sense. The theory of evolution, while not exactly perfect, still has more validity to it than anything I’ve heard the creationist crowd come up with. Science has fossils. Science has diagrams. Science has answered several questions we’ve been asking since we figured out how to make language. Christianity has a book. A book that has caused more death, dismemberment, and genocide than any other group in human existence. And all because people refused to believe in the idea that a magic man could turn water to wine, heal the impaired, and hated them gays for some reason.

And as of late, people like me can barely go to the fucking mall without some god damn bible monkey coming up to me, and asking if he can heal me thanks to that book. Because apparently, if you believe in god a whole heck of a lot, he’ll give you super powers! And you can use those super powers to perform miracles! Just like Jesus! Or that guy who founded Jonestown.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but according to your religion, god made me blind for a purpose. Knowing how modern day christians tend to think, it’s probably to punish my parents for making fun of blind kids their entire lives. Or maybe he’s punishing them because they aren’t the right kind of christian. Or maybe they just didn’t attend church enough. Anything’s possible, but the important thing is that I’m blind for a reason. And while god continues to refuse to answer me when I ask what that reason is, I have a pretty good feeling that it’s not so you can come along and heal me in the middle of the fucking mall, dingus.

The slightly more rational of this group don’t try to heal me. Instead, they try to recruit me into the fold. Yeah, uh, no. You can give me the whole speech of how “Jesus gave sight to the blind”, but I don’t believe a word of it. If Jesus were to come down from his kickass mansion in heaven and use some of that magic mud on my eyes, then maybe I’ll believe you. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure that’s supposed to be a metaphor for wisdom.

It amazes me how often I attract this kind of individual. Apparently, if I’m blind, I haven’t committed to any religion yet, which means I’m fair game for recruitment or something. If you have a better reason for why the crazies congregate around me, I’d like to hear it. And I’ve already dismissed the cult leader theory, because that would imply they’re seaking my wisdom, and not use something they read in a book to try and save me from blindness or something.

I’m not entirely afraid of pissing off the christian readers of this blog. Considering I review, and tend to speak highly of black metal acts like Cradle of Filth, you probably should’ve known this sort of thing was coming in the first place. Also, some of my friends are christians, and this thing I’m describing is the kind of thing that even they frown upon. But just for the record, if the bible works for you, fine. But it doesn’t work for me. I’m a guy who needs evidence. I can’t just put my faith in something that, for all we know, doesn’t even exist. And I really don’t appreciate it when I’m waiting for my cab, and some guy decides to randomly start quoting bible passages and trying to convince me he has the magic touch.

The news has been traveling across the internet like wildfire. Dave Brockie, better known to the bohabs as Oderus Urungus, has passed away.

I’d known about Gwar since “Ragnarok” was the newest thing off the presses. I’d be lying if I said I was a militant bohab ever since, but I knew who they were, and I knew what they were about for the most part thanks to the Beavis and Butthead game for Sega Genesis. I didn’t actually become real interested until “War Party” was the latest album, and even then, I was more of a casual fan. When it came to undying loyalty and fanatical devotion, I’m afraid I was more interested in being a “filthling” for Cradle of Filth at the time.

I had owned a copy of “War Party” for years, but never really put any thought into seeing what else they had until about 2012. Two years later, I’m a loud and proud bohab, and the rest is history.

By the time I had joined the party, Pustulus Maximus was replacing Flattus Maximus as lead guitarist in canon, and Brent Purgason was replacing… The name of the guy who portrayed Flattus Maximus escapes me at the moment. In real life, the guy portraying Flattus had passed away himself, and rather than give Brent the character like they usually did when someone left the band, they decided to give him a new character.

Somewhere on my schedule of things to do, I was planning on reviewing “Battle Maximus”. But now that Dave Brockie has passed away, I find myself in a similar boat for why I refuse to touch Damageplan’s one and only album. If you absolutely have to know, Battle Maximus is kind of a disappointment to me, and only so much of it has to do with getting used to a new guitar style. There were a lot of other little nitpicks that kept me from enjoying it, but now that this tragedy has occurred, I find myself wanting to bite my tongue on the matter.

It’s still way too early to tell for sure what’ll happen next, but there’s popular speculation at the moment that this might be the end of Gwar as we know it. It annoys some guys I know on Facebook that people start making these claims whenever the lead singer or lead guitarist dies, and yet the drummer or bass player are more like having a thumb or a hand amputated at absolute worst. However, if you’ve followed music like I have, you start to notice that the existence of an entire band has a tendency to be a matter of whether one guy wants to keep going or not. It’s not always the vocalist, but it usually depends on that one guy. The more I read up on Gwar, the more I couldn’t help but think that the band as a whole was pretty much The Dave Brockie Show.

Never the less, the death of Dave Brockie is truly a sad day in metal. Hearing the announcement on The Johnny Dare Show has thoroughly ruined my Monday (like it needed any help). It figures that the moment I start getting into a band, the band starts falling to fucking pieces. It happened with Sabaton, it appears to be happening with The Agonist, and now it happened here. And after things looked like they were starting to pick up after a previous tragedy.

Rest in peace, Oderus Urungus. May you kick open the gates of heaven, and tell god to get off your fucking throne like I always imagined you would.

This album right here was the first thing I had ever heard from the band Moonspell. I hadn’t truly become a fan of theirs until “The Antidote”. And as I’ve expanded upon my Moonspell collection over the last couple years, I’m beginning to find that these guys are the ultimate definition of hit and miss. When they hit it, they hit it hard. When they miss, boy do they miss! For every “Irreligious”, there’s a “Butterfly Effect”. For every “The Antidote”, there’s a “Memorial”. But sometimes that’s just how bands are. Sometimes they try something new, and the new thing ends up not working.

From what I’ve read, “Darkness and Hope” was actually a bit of a change of pace for Moonspell at the time. Sure, they had songs where Frenando Ribeiro sang, but they weren’t quite like this. Compared to a lot of the earlier Moonspell, this album actually sounds… Mellow. It’s far from the beautiful depression of bands like Tristania or Theatre of Tragedy (before they turned all techno), but it’s got an interesting vibe to it.

There’s really not much else I can say here that doesn’t make me sound like I’m repeating myself from previous reviews. Yeah, it’s been a while, but still, I’d much rather listen to this album than try and pad this out. Join me, won’t you?

ALBUM ART: B

the album art for Moonspell's "Darkness and Hope"

If I read correctly, this was the first album to feature the now signature Moonspell trident. Pretty straight forward album art that gets the job done. Lord knows when Music Choice started posting album art along with the song they were playing, it definitely grabbed my attention.

TRACK LIST

1. Darkness and Hope
GRADE: A
It’s seriously songs like this that make me wonder why Frenando feels obligated to shriek. Other than the fact he’s been doing it since 1994, obviously. The dude has a great singing voice, and it’s interesting to hear someone with a baritone style like this as opposed to the usual power metal soprano. The song is very atmospheric in its slow pacing, and choir that sounds suspiciously like a keyboard sound. I really enjoy this song, and it makes me wonder why I didn’t get into this band sooner.

2. Firewalking
GRADE: B+
The spellcheck is going to hate me, but for some reason, Moonspell appears to be as fond of compound words as I am. I don’t know if that’s a Portuguese thing or what, but I’m letting you know ahead of time that for once, that’s not me.

Anyway, the ending of “Darkness and Hope” leads into the beginning of this song, and yet they still feel like two completely different songs. This one is a far heavier song in just about every regard. The pace is faster, the instrumental is heavier, Frenando gets a lot shriekier in spots… And it’s actually pretty good.

3. Nocturna
GRADE: A-
I have no idea what’s making that really high-pitched tone throughout the song, but you end up forgetting it pretty quickly. Aside from a bit of a growly whisper in the corris, we’re back to Frenando singing. Again, I love this guy’s singing voice. I got nothing against shrieker vocals, but seriously, this guy is doing a lot better as a singer in this album.

4. Heartshaped Abyss
GRADE: B+
The title sounds more like it belongs on an H.I.M. album somewhere, but whatever. I thought for sure that this was “Firewalker” when I heard it the first time, but the track list specifically labels this as “Heartshaped Void”. Go figure. All I know is this track is pretty good.

5. Devilred
GRADE: C+
Once again, I find that the band is trying, but it’s just not holding my attention like the others. Frenando’s vocals take on a quieter quality in this song, which unfortunately means I need a lyric sheet to understand most of the verses. At this point, I’m used to his accent, but aside from the corris repeating “She was devil red”, it sounds more like he’s mumbling in harmony than singing here.

6. Ghostsong
GRADE: A-
I almost know what makes that noise you hear in the corris, but for some reason, my brain is drawing a blank on what you call it. I want to say the saw? Either way, it’s a nice little touch that brings a B+ song into A-country.

7. Rapaces
GRADE: C
It’s far from a bad song, but I just can’t get into it.

8. Made of Storm
GRADE: B
Made of storm? Is that the Portuguese equivalent of Engrish, or is that anything like the concept of being made of awesome, or being made of fail? Either way, it’s one of the more interesting songs on here, that’s for sure. He shrieks during the verses when the instrumental is quiet, and sings when the instrumental is heavy. Usually it’s the other way around. So yeah, points for thinking outside the box I guess.

9. How We Became Fire
GRADE: C+
This is where the songs start to get a bit lengthy. They don’t quite make it up to the six minute mark, but they come pretty close. I got nothing against long songs, but when they’re a bit on the dull side like this… Yeah, I kind of have to be in the right mode for it. I don’t know why, but for some reason, I’m just not feeling this one.

10. Than the Serpents in My Hands
GRADE: B-
The title sounds like some more good ol’ Portuguese Engrish, and the song has a serious “heard this already” kind of feel to it. In fact, I can’t help but feel like I’ve heard this earlier in the album! And yet, for some unexplainable reason, I like it. Probably because I like the other song it kind of sounds like? It nearly clocks in at six minutes, but I can’t help but feel like it could’ve shaved a few seconds off the intro.

11. Mr. Crowley
GRADE: A
This track is exclusive to the American version of the album, and I got to say, it’s one of the best on the album. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the boredom from the last couple tracks, and I got to say, Moonspell’s take on this Ozzy Osbourne classic is probably the best I’ve heard yet. Dare I say it, it might actually be better than the original! It may not fit very well with the rest of the track list, but screw it, it’s an awesome track, and a decent way to end the album.

OVERALL GRADE: B

Ultimately, some tracks are better than others, but for what it’s worth, it’s a pretty good album. Well worth your time to check it out.

I didn’t know Escape the Fate even existed until last year when they suddenly took Kansas City radio by storm with “You’re Insane”. According to my research, they’ve actually been around since 2006. I’ve also found out that they’re actually quite the polarizing band. Worst case senario, they’re a lot like The Smashing Pumpkins in the sense people love the music, but hate the lead singer. I think the lead singer is the one who pisses people off in this band, anyway. It usually is, and if it isn’t him, it’s usually the lead guitarist.

Escape the Fate was formed around the time when emo was a popular subgenre of alternative rock. And to a similar extent, “screamo” was a popular subgenre of metal. I love the wordplay, but I hate emo with a passion. Screamo isn’t much better, although I’ve noticed Killswitch Engage really cleaned up their act since 2004 and have actually become listenable.

As for Escape the Fate themselves… I’m not going to lie, I’m currently having a really hard time deciding if I like these guys or not. I suppose one can’t be irrationally spiteful of a genre forever, but still, for a screamo band, I was expecting a lot worse. Granted, there’s still songs on here that annoy the piss out of me, and said songs might’ve cost this band my fandom in the longrun, but they do have songs I like.

The only way to truly decide where to go is simple. We must plug in “Ungrateful”, their most recent album as of this writing, and give it a listen. Join me, won’t you?

ALBUM ART: B-

the album art for Escape the Fate's "Ungrateful"

TRACK LIST

1. Ungrateful
GRADE: B
Wow. That is officially the second most jarring first track I’ve heard in this series. Escape the Fate clearly decided to come out swinging, and I get the feeling they might even be headhunting with a beginning track like this. Fast paced, shrieky, and heavy as fuck, with just a tiny little pinch of industrial thrown in for the hell of it (I suspect). It sets the bar pretty high. Whether or not the rest of the album lives up to the standard will remain to be seen, but right now, I’m loving it.

2. Until We Die
GRADE: B
This track features a lot more singing in the verses, but it’s still pretty heavy. I like how the end of “Ungrateful” leads into the beginning of this track, yet this track still feels like its own song. They feel connected, yet at the same time, one can stand on its own without the other. Also, the song itself isn’t half bad. The corris is catchy enough, and the pianno in the bridge is an interesting little bit I wasn’t expecting the first time I listened to this.

3. Live Fast, Die Beautiful
GRADE: A-
“She flicks her cigarette, burning holes in her clothes. Just like some fucked up version of Marilyn Monroe.” Uh, yeah. Dude’s not exactly Shakespeare, but I suppose it gets the point across in the longrun. Clunky lyrics aside, this song is ridiculously catchy. It’s got that “Hollywood Whore” theme going for it, which has yet to get as tiresome as the “bad Girlfriend” thing in my humble little opinion. Definitely worth a listen.

4. Forget About Me
GRADE: C
I know it’s trying, but this track just can’t hold my attention. I don’t know if it’s the fact the vocalist is really trying to hit the high notes in the corris, or if “Live Fast, Die Beautiful” is just a difficult act to follow, but I’m just not feeling this one. It’s not bad by any measure, but it’s just not doing it for me personally.

5. You’re Insane
GRADE: B+
This is the first single from this album, and it’s the song that caught my interest. The corris has a real brainworm quality to it, and the guitar riff they went with… Maybe not the work of a true guitar virtuoso, but it catches my attention. It kind of helps I grew up listening to grunge and Korn, so really, I grew up with the KISS principle. KISS, by the way, is short for “Keep it simple, stupid.” Just in case someone out there thought I was talking about Gene Simmons. What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, Escape the Fate. Good song. Can definitely see why they went with this as their single.

6. Chemical Love
GRADE: A-
This is hands down the most… Interesting, of the tracks. We’ve had some pretty hard, pretty heavy, very fast paced tracks up till now. This one decides to slow things down, and kick up the industrial factor to at least ten or eleven on the dial. It actually sounds kind of creepy when it’s just the drum machine and the pianno. It’s an interesting change of pace, and not a bad one, either. It’s one of my absolute favorites on the entire album, and I highly recommend it.

7. Picture Perfect
GRADE: F
UUh… Wow. It’s clearly the ballad of the album. I have no problem with ballads by default, but holy fucking hell does this song suck! This sounds more like something Marune 5 would write if they had a heavier instrumental. As it turns out, though, this song was co-written by one Patrick Stump of Fallout Boy. Boy does that explain a lot. I’m not going to be one of those guys who claims Fallout Boy is poison, and turns everything they touch into shit, but they certainly killed the momentom of this album dead.

9. Risk it All
GRADE: C+
On one hand, this kind of sounds like “You’re Insane”, but it kind of doesn’t at the same time. Like they had the same thought process going in, but changed up the structure enough to where it sonds more like it was influenced by than ripped off from. On the other hand, it’s such a wonderful change of pace from that shit from earlier that I’ll take it.

9. Desire
GRADE: B
I don’t know why I like this song, but I do. The corris has a brainworm quality to it, the instrumental has quite the urgency to it. It does include that skipping voice trick that is really popular in the pop genre right now. It seems hypocritical to criticize it in pop, but not mind it in rock… Then again, I tend to hate a lot of The Tea party based on the fact they’re The Tea Party, so who the hell am I to be unbiased.

10. One For the Money
GRADE: F
Okay, this is just sad. Clearly, at this point in the album, the band was suffering from some serious writer’s block. I showed this to the other person living with me at the moment to see what their reaction is (because as much as we hate each other lately, we can at least agree on music), and they pointed out this kind of lazy-ass song writing is a bit of a thing in country right now. Let’s take an old saying like “One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to go.” and make it into the corris of our song,. The voice skipping I mentioned in the previous track is here, too, but it’s significantly more annoying here. I don’t know why that is, it just is. Long story short, this song fucking sucks.

11. Fire it Up
GRADE: C
Once again, I hear hints of “You’re Insane” in this song. Specifically in the corris. Which is too bad, because it sounds like they’re trying really hard to go out with a bang. I just can’t get into this song. I’m kind of surprised a song called “Fire it Up” is at the end of the album. I’d have put this at the beginning if I were the one arranging the track list. Then again, nobody ever listens to me.

OVERALL GRADE: C+

In short, this album has it’s good points, but I honestly don’t see myself joining the Escape the Fate fan club any time in the immediate future. It’s got songs I like, and songs I don’t like. That’s the best, and the worst I can say about this album.

The album art for GWAR'S "Violence Has Arrived"

I’ve been told that GWAR suffered through some pretty tough times during the mid-to-late 1990s. “Ragnarok” was pretty much the beginning of an epic downward spiral for the band, and “We Kill Everything” was apparently the point where the band hit rock bottom. After realizing that this current direction wasn’t working out, and after having to deal with a few lineup changes, they decided to go back to the basics.

I hadn’t rediscovered the true awesomeness of GWAR till I found a copy of “War Party”, but there are many loyal bohabs who insist “Violence Has Arrived” was the true return to glory. After finally getting around to buying a copy, I’ve spent the last month or so including it into my regular listenings. Considering the Ghost kick I’ve been on lately, it’s difficult to grab my attention. “Violence Has Arrived” makes like Raj Ahten in The Brotherhood of the Wolf, and not only grabbed my attention, but grabbed my attention by the dick, and ripped it clean off!

I’m not going to lie: “War Party” has set the standard pretty high. Considering “Violence Has Arrived” came first, it’s probably not a very fair comparison. Still, while it’s a good album, I can tell there was room for improvement.

First and foremost, I’m pretty sure the bass guitar isn’t supposed to be as loud as the rest of the band. Things like the lead-in to “Bile Driver” are okay, but I noticed it immediately in songs like “Battle Lust”. It’s something you can easily look past after a listen or two, but the first time around, I really couldn’t help but notice that.

Compared to a lot of GWAR albums, there really isn’t a story, or even a core concept. The most I can say for sure is that the theme this time around is to be as needlessly violent as humanly possible, and that’s pretty much it. Nothing wrong with simplicity. Hell, compared to “Battle Maximus” trying to tell two stories at the same time while interjecting an occasional track that serves no purpose to either story, simplicity is good.

Oh believe me, “Battle Maximus”: your day is coming. But I digress.

I hesitate to call it great, but I’ll definitely agree that it’s a good album. If you want a good starter album, “Violence Has Arrived” is one that I’d definitely recommend.

OVERALL GRADE: B+