Death By Stereo-“Death Is My Only Friend” 9/10

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Death By Stereo, headed by their fearless leader, Efrem Schultz, have been one of my favorite bands for over 6 years. Their CDs are amazing, their live shows are insane, and they are a jolt of energy in an otherwise boring music industry.  They’ve never once sold out, and continue to tour, supporting bands that aren’t as technically proficient or as entertaining, but somehow have amassed more popularity. It’s sad, but also makes me glad that I am amongst the select few that hold this band in such a high regard.

Their latest CD, Death Is My Only Friend, is yet another worthy album to add to their already impressive catalog. It combines the old Death By Stereo hardcore from If Looks Could Kill, I’d Watch You Die, with the more melodic and better song writing from Death For Life. From the first song, “Opening Destruction”, they set the tone for the entire album. You get above average lyrics, combined with great instrumentation and vocals. Just about every track is great.

The only song I don’t care for is “D.B.S.F.U.” mainly because the lyrics read like something written by an angst-riddled 16 year old. Other songs like “I Sing For You” and “Welcome to the Party” are great. I’ve already seen them perform “I Sing For You” live, and it’s a definite crowd pleaser.  

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Each DBS CD seems like it has its own agenda. The first CD was just bat shit insane. The songs weren’t all that great, but parts of each song were ridiculous, so you forgave the overall mediocrity of some of the tracks.

Their second CD offers more musicianship, which ended up making the songs less entertaining. The CD was still very good, but something was missing.

Their third CD is my least favorite, mainly because it sounded a little too mainstream. I know they were dealing with a growing popularity, which might have made them skew their music towards a more generic outcome. It’s still a good CD, but isn’t up to their usual standards.

That all changed with their fourth CD. Not only is Death For Life my favorite DBS CD, but it’s one of my favorite CDs of all time. It is more metal than their previous records, but the production values and song writing are top notch.  

Death Is My Only Friend finds a happy medium between the first four CDs. It has the musicianship I’ve grown accustomed to, but doesn’t sacrifice the fun aspect of the band. All the elements combine for a truly memorable experience. It’s great to see that after a four year layoff, DBS is able to come out with such an impressive CD. 

 

9/10

Soulfly: Conquer review, 9/10

I’m a longtime Sepultura fan, and when Soulfly’s first CD came out, I thought it was good, but a little too nu-metal. I remained a fan of both groups as their paths took them in different musical directions over the following decade. After forgetting about both for awhile, I rediscovered them through Cavalera Conspiracy, which although good, didn’t have enough musical diversity to make me want to have repeat listens.

After reading a few reviews of Conquer on wikipedia, I decided to give it a chance. Man am I glad I did. This is the best CD I’ve heard from Cavalera since the Roots/Chaos A.D. era. Every single song has its own unique sound, and they all work together to make an amazing album. I haven’t felt this way about a metal cd since Machine Head’s The Blackening. Granted, I’m not the biggest metal fan anymore, but this CD had me from start to finish.

I haven’t watched the DVD yet, so I can’t comment on whether it is good or not. It was filmed in 2005, so it doesn’t have anything from this album on it. I own a Sepultura DVD of a live show they did, and the energy Cavalera brings on the stage is impressive. So I’m sure the DVD is worth paying a few extra bucks for.

The CD also comes with three bonus tracks. All of them are solid, but I can see why they left them off the regular cd.

I don’t really want to get into a track by track breakdown, because every song is great. It’d just be repetitive praise. Just know that the lyrics and vocals are great, the guitar work is fantastic, and the drums and bass fit each song perfectly.

If you liked Sepultura before Cavalera left, and have ever liked Soulfly, you should definitely buy this CD.

9/10

The Mars Volta: The Bedlam in Goliath Review: 9/10

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I have been listening to The Bedlam in Goliath nonstop for the past couple weeks. It is one of those cds that is so unique, that even though I’ve listened to it 20 or 30 times, I find something new to like after each listen. This also might be the cd that recaptures people that were put off by Frances The Mute and Amputechture. The songs are much more accessible this time around, with more of a rock element than their previous two releases.

I first got into The Mars Volta after hearing “The Widow” off of Frances the Mute, and I thought that song was great. I never listened to any of their music after that other than on the radio, and decided to buy The Bedlam in Goliath after listening to the samples on iTunes. Man am I glad I did. The best songs are “Goliath”, “Metatron”, “Ilyene”, “Wax Simulacra”, “Ouroborous”, and “Conjugal Burns”. Really though, there isn’t one bad song on this album.

I recommend this to anyone who is a fan of bands that like to push music in unique ways. All these guys are fantastic musicians, and although they don’t have the most accessible song structure, their creativity is so strong on each song that it just makes for a truly enjoyable listening experience.

This album was my introduction to The Mars Volta, and I have since bought their previous 3 full length LPs. Although I’ve heard their singles before, they don’t really show the complexity and talent this band exhibits. Sure their music can be self indulgent at times, but it doesn’t matter when 90% of it is absolutely mesmerizing. This CD is slightly behind De-Loused In The Comatorium, as my favorite The Mars Volta CD. Pick it up if you are interested in a band that plays music unlike anything you’ve heard before.

9/10

Rise Against: The Sufferer and the Witness Review 4.8/5

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Rise Against’s latest CD, “The Sufferer and the Witness”, which came out in July 2006, is their best CD to date. There is not one filler track on this album aside from The Approaching Curve. It shows growth both musically and lyrically, and is just plain fun to listen to. Here’s a track breakdown:

1. Chamber the Cartridge: 4.8/5 Starts out with a bang. Perfect opener for the greatness that ensues. Not as good as State of the Union but still a fantastic song. Meaty, raw, and surprisingly fluid.

2. Injection: 4.9/5 This is a song that will definitely grow on you with subsequent listens. The lyrics are fantastic, focusing on addiction (obviously).

3. Ready to Fall: 4.7/5 Their first single. I wasn’t too into it at first but after about 50 listens it definitely grew on me. Really heavy.

4. Bricks: 4.7/5 1:33 of raw freaking power. Reminds me of the Rise Against from “The Unraveling” days.

5. Under the Knife: 4.5/5 Another great song. Nothing that stands out too much, just a fantastic song throughout.

6. Prayer of the Refugee: 5/5 The song is so damn catchy it is scary. It starts out kind of lazily and then breaks into the chorus, which just obliterates the softness right before it. The vocal harmonizing during the last 20 seconds is amazing. It was released as a single and seems to be doing well on MTV2.

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7. Drones: 4.8/5 Starts out with a great beat and a fatty bass line. Again, the chorus just kills on this track. It is a perfect song for their concert. Great throughout.

8. The Approaching Curve: 3.5/5 This is the only song that really doesn’t work on the CD. The lyrics are completely spoken except for the chorus. They seem forced and too melodramatic, like something you’d read in the first three paragraphs of a romance novel. The chorus is fantastic but it cant save the song.

9. Worth Dying For: 5/5 This is my personal favorite and just an awesome song. It feels epic even though it is only three and a half minutes. The song structure is perfect and the music is infectious.

10. Behind Closed Doors: 4.3/5 Another consistantly catchy song. Nothing stands out too much but again, it is solid throughout.

11. Roadside: 4.1/5 Some RA fans might be turned off by this song, but I actually like it. I guess it’s the Swing Life Away of the album. Although it is one of the worst tracks on the CD, it is still worth listening to.

12. The Good Left Undone: 4.9/5 Catchy catchy bo betchy, banana fana fo fetchy.

13. Survive: 4.8/5 Great closer. Epic in scope and a nice way to close it out.

This CD has been in regular rotation on my iPod since I bought it over a year ago. Every song is in the Top 100 songs played on my iPod, because they are THAT catchy. Even though Rise Against has gained more popularity, I don’t think they will ever abandon their roots. This CD is arguably their heaviest to date, even though it has more accessible songs. It’s hard to dislike a band that can approach that boundary without ostracizing it’s core fanbase.

Note: If you ever get a chance to see them live, I highly recommend it. I’ve seen them twice, the latest just a couple months ago, and they were great.

Avenged Sevenfold: Avenged Sevenfold review 4.5/5

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Avenged Sevenfold has always been very hit or miss. Their first cd had about 2 or 3 great songs, and the rest bordered on mediocre to downright awful. Their next cd, Waking The Fallen, was brilliant. Every track was unique and showed their growth in song writing and musicality. Then came City of Evil, their mixed bag of metal/hard rock androgeny. Not only did it offer some great songs like “Bat Country” and “Beast and the Harlot”, but it also offered a sappy love ballad called “Seize The Day”. Now comes their self titled CD, which is a great step forward for the band. After City of Evil came out, I was worried that there would soon be a downward spiral into mediocrity and self parody. Instead, their 4th cd delivers the goods. Here is a track breakdown for the iTunes crowd that might only want to buy a song or two:

Critical Acclaim: 4.5/5 Their first single, which ironically didn’t receive critical acclaim, is actually pretty good. It is an ode to the troops, and although the rants throughout the song are annoying, the song is so good that it makes up for it. It’s no “Bat Country”, but it is still a great song.

Almost Easy: 4.75/5 Any singer that sings lyrics “I’m Not Insane” like a possessed James Hetfield has something going for him. This is their second single, and it is lighting up the charts. It’s fairly catchy and accessible for the casual hard rock/metal fan.

Scream: 4.5/5 No wonder they released the cd right before Halloween. This track is kind of silly, but it has a driving groove and is just a good all around metal song.

Afterlife: 4.6/5 This song would have been a 5 if it weren’t for the uninspired chorus. The rest of the song is great, but the chorus just doesn’t work.

Gunslinger: 4.75/5 The first minute and a half are straight country, with slide guitar and everything. Then M. Shadows realizes he is in a metal song, and unleashes hell. The song is great, and the intro fits in perfectly with the rest of the song.

Unbound (The Wild Ride): 5/5 I love this track. It sounds like it would be playing in the background during a chase scene in a movie. The continual 16th note piano works perfectly with the drum beat as they flow into the chorus. It’s a very aggressive song and usually makes me drive at least 10 mph faster when I’m in my car.

Brompton Cocktail: 4.75/5 Another very heavy track that is just straight forward metal. I have nothing bad to say about it.

Lost: 4.5/5 T-Pain? Peter Frampton? M. Shadows? This song is great, and then it goes all T-Pain on us. I actually have nothing against it, but I could see how others might. I like the effect and think it works well with the song.

A Little Piece Of Heaven: 5/5 It seems that Avenged Sevenfold is channeling their inner Mr. Bungle/Danny Elfman/Panic! At The Disco on this track. I freaking love it. The track is their Bohemian Rhapsody, and it has the symphony to prove it. The song switches tempos and styles every 20 seconds, and somehow it works perfectly. My favorite track on the album by far.

Dear God: 4.3/5 This is their countryish song that has many up in arms, but I actually don’t mind it. The song is well-written and flows nicely. It is a good closer to the album.

Overall: 4.5/5 This CD is great. It is what City of Evil should have been. Their song writing improved and the whole cd flows well together. Although it isn’t as good as Waking The Fallen, it is still much better than most metal out right now.