Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Album Catch-Up Part 2

10 more extremely short "reviews" can be found in this entry. More of these will be coming soon, as well as a full written and audio review in the next few days.

Children of Bodom- Blooddrunk

In no way is Blooddrunk Children of Bodom at their best. However, as evidenced by Hatebreeder, Follow the Reaper, and Hate Crew Deathroll, Bodom's best is a hard standard to maintain. 2005's Are You Dead Yet? fell well short of that standard, but that's not to say it was a bad album. It was a more accessible, albeit much lighter, sampling of Children of Bodom's combination of power and melodic death metal, and the album as a whole was a rather mediocre experience. Blooddrunk is a moderately successful combination of Are You Dead Yet?'s accessibility and the more developed style of Hate Crew Deathroll. However, anyone looking for Bodom's earlier and heavier style will be disappointed with Blooddrunk. It may be just as much Hate Crew as it is Are You Dead Yet?, but longtime fans will find a Children of Bodom that's far more accessible than anyone could ever imagine, and not nearly as heavy or varied as they should be at this point in their career. Alexi Laiho's guitar work and vocals are still great, but for someone who has the talent of an iconic guitarist and has been one of the best melodeath vocalists in the past, simply being "good" here is certainly disappointing. Blooddrunk isn't a bad album by any means, and fans of Bodom's more recent material should be pleased with its accessibility, but it's more of a small step in getting back to greatness than an strong achievement.

Grade: B-

Jack Johnson- Sleep Through the Static

It seems like almost a requirement to be a rock critic is to hate Jack Johnson. Problem is, Sleep Through the Static is a difficult album to hate. No, it's not a creative masterpiece that's poised to set the world on fire, but there's something to be said for a simple pleasant album with soothing melodies and catchy rhythms. If that doesn't sound like your type of thing, then this isn't the album for you. However, compared to his often boring adult-alternative piers, Johnson's melodies are not soft simply for the sake of being soft. He knows how to write a melody and he knows how to soothe. Sleep Through the Static is the type of album that can relax any open-minded listener, and that's something worthy of praise. You don't need to be relaxed when you start, but you will be soon if you keep an open mind with this one. It's not earth shattering material, but there's nothing wrong with a simple upbeat melody every now and then.

Grade: B

Atmosphere- When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold

Taken from my review of the album...

"Atmosphere’s When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold is not only the group best album since Lucy Ford and God Loves Ugly, but it’s also one of the most intelligent, mature, and poetic albums to come out in some time. This is not only a crowning achievement of an album that is an example of just how great underground rap can be, but it’s an accessible and unique masterpiece that isn’t constrained by its genre. Regardless of how much or how little you enjoy rap, buy this album immediately. It’s spectacular from start to finish, and it has earned my highest recommendation."

Grade: A

Go here to read the full review

Fleet Foxes- Fleet Foxes

There has been a lot of hype surrounding Fleet Foxes' debut album. Thankfully, the album has lived up to the hype. Not only is this the best debut album released so far in 2008, but it's also one of the best indie rock albums of the year. Influenced from everything from Iron & Wine to Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young to Led Zeppelin, Fleet Foxes' beautiful brand of indie folk sounds incredibly polished for a debut album. There's a large amount of variety between the tracks, and some truly beautiful moments that rank among the best of the year thus far. Fleet Foxes is both accessible and beautiful, and it's one of the most enjoyable releases of 2008. Not all of it is perfect, but even the low points of the album would be highlights in the average indie rock band's discography. Fleet Foxes' debut is a special album, and it's scary to think that this is the only the start of the band's career.

Grade: A-

36 Crazyfists- The Tide and Its Takers

For a metalcore album, 2006's Rest Inside the Flames was outstanding. It may not quite have been masterful, but it was leagues better than most the generic metalcore releases of the time. 36 Crazyfists latest album, The Tide and Its Takers, is unfortunately regression for the band, but it still manages to surpass most other metalcore albums. The biggest problem with The Tide and Its Takers is that lacks variety. Some tracks have more melody than others, that's really all that separates one song from the next. Still, variety is an issue for most metalcore albums, and 36 Crazyfists deserve credit for having come close to mastering the style of metalcore that many bands in the genre attempt but rarely perform well. If a solid metalcore album is what your looking for, you'll find it here. It's not spectacular, but it's a far better option than most others in the metalcore genre.

Grade: B

Theory of a Deadman- Scours and Souveniers

Theory of a Deadman's Scars and Souveniers is a radio rock album. That's really all you need to know. There is nothing here to separate Theory of a Deadman from any of the many other post-grunge bands currently recieving airplay on active rock radio. In fact, the average radio rock album is much better than Scars and Souveniers, and in a bizzare way, it takes skill to be able to make a more boring and tired album than what has become the standard of the post-grunge genre. Theory of a Deadman have clearly spent time listening to what modern rock stations have been playing, and they've also clearly spent time trying to replicate the style of what sells. At least most post-grunge bands are actually influenced by grunge. That's not to say mimicing Nirvana and Alice in Chains makes for high art, but it certainly makes for a more tolerable sound than Theory of a Deadman's, which bears strong resemble to that of Nickelback and Godsmack. Much like the former of those bands, Scars and Souveniers sees Theory of a Deadman recycling old material that really wasn't any good to start with. There's no progression, and the passion of grunge music has been completely drained in this poor replication of Nickelback and other popular post-grunge bands' poor replication of grunge music. This, in essence, is one sad and pathetic album, and it ranks among the worst and most boring releases of 2008 thus far.

Grade: D

The Sword- Gods of the Earth

Gods of the Earth isn't exactly the most original album of the year. That is to say, not much has changed since The Sword's first album, which was a solid but unoriginal take on Black Sabbath's classic sound. However, unlike the Airbourne's of the world, The Sword does a commendable job of recreating Sabbath's sound without actually being a blatant rip-off. The Sword doesn't hide their heavy Sabbath influence, but they also don't take it to the point of stealing riffs and recreating the exact same songs that Sabbath recorded years earlier. Instead, The Sword sounds more like a Black Sabbath tribute band, and a very talented one at that. The riffs here are hard hitting and accessible, and even though Gods of the Earth lacks originality, it does have a number of quality riffs that come fairly close to mimicking Sabbath without being a carbon copy. There will certainly be some classic metal fans who will appreciate what appears to be a legitimate attempt to bring back Black Sabbath's style of metal without coming across as borderline plagiarism (such as what Airbourne has done with AC/DC's sound). Fans of early Sabbath might want to give it a listen.

Grade: B

Testament- The Formation of Damnation

When a band takes 9 years to release an album, it's nearly impossible to say it was worth the wait. For that reason, that cliche can't apply to Testament's The Formation of Damnation, which is Testament's first album in 9 years, and their first album in 16 to feature most of their original lineup. Still, this is Testament's best album in a quite a long time, and The Formation of Damnation is simply superb in every sense of the word. Fans of thrash metal are in for a treat, as this album is pure thrash from start to finish. Its heavy, brutal, and has just about everything a Testament fan could ask for. Even after all of these years, Testament sounds modern, and possibly the biggest surprise of the album is the progression of Testament's sound. The Formation of Damnation feels like the 2008 version of a classic thrash metal album, and it's very easy to recommend what could very well be an instant Testament classic to any and all metalheads.

Grade: A-

Disturbed- Indestructible

Indestructible is a perfect example of progression without altering a proven sound. There's no doubt that this is still the same old Disturbed, and yet much of Indestructible represents a change in the right direction for the group. Essentially, Disturbed has managed to tweak their sound just enough to sound fresh, but not to the point where they've become a completely different band. The progression from Ten Thousand Fists to Indestructible is comparable to progression from The Sickness to Believe and from Believe to Ten Thousand Fists. On each of their albums, Disturbed has improved their musicianship and lyricism, and even though they've run into many of the same problems this time around, they continue to strengthen what their good at, and even some of the band's initial weaknesses have turned into their strengths. Disturbed still straddles the line between heavy and melodic, metal and hard rock, and unlike most other "nu-metal" acts, Disturbed has developed a distinct sound that is instantly recognizable. The problem is, much like on their previous album, that this instantly recognizable sounds only progresses during the album's first half. Just like all three of their previous albums, Indestructible is front-loaded. Much of the album's second half is unfortunate filler, but the highlights continue to expand Disturbed, both as musicians and lyricists, and it's hard to believe that songs like "The Night" and "Inside the Fire" were written by the same band that wrote "Down with the Sickness" just 8 years before. Even if it's subtle, there is progression to be found here and that's enough to make Indestructible another solid Disturbed album.

Grade: B

Winds of Plague- Decimate the Weak

There's a huge difference between trying to be unique and actually making creative music. Unfortunately, Winds of Plague fits into the former category, as they have created an album that attempts to be unique for the very sake of being unique. There is no rhyme or reason to the constant style changes and meshing of metalcore and extreme metal, and the severely unpolished sound makes it rather obvious that Decimate the Weak is the band's first album. Instead of trying to first master basic metalcore and extreme metal conventions, Winds of Plague jump right into to trying to mix the two. Problem is, the band isn't particularly skilled at either of the genres they are attempting to combine, and the combination itslef feels forced. Winds of Plague have an interesting idea, and there are moments were the idea creates something moderately enjoyable and creative, but far too much of the album suffers from simply trying to do too much. It's clear that Winds of Plague are trying to do something new, and they deserve credit for that, but their first release is mostly a failure. Let's hope they try this again with their next album and achieve better results.

Grade: C

Thanks for reading! Whether you agree or disagree, let me know what you think of these albums and feel free to ask me anything about them.

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