WITH ZAKK WYLDE
OZZY OSBOURNE is a multi-platinum recording artist, a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee and a three-time Grammy® winning singer and songwriter, who has sold more than 120 million albums worldwide. OSBOURNE’s career has spanned more than four decades (as both a successful solo artist and as the lead singer of Black Sabbath) and his music is as relevant today as ever, still being heard daily on TV, in movies, on radio and at stadium sports events. In 2011 OZZY reunited with Black Sabbath and in June 2013, after more than three decades of waiting, the band released their critically acclaimed 13 album (Vertigo/Republic), which entered the charts at #1 in 13 countries. Produced by seven-time Grammy-Award winning producer Rick Rubin, 13 features the original BLACK SABBATH: OZZY OSBOURNE, TONY IOMMI and GEEZER BUTLER. In 2014 the group won a Grammy® Award in the Best Metal Performance category for the album’s first single “God Is Dead?” In May 2014 OSBOURNE was honored with the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award for his dedication and support of the MusiCares MAP Fund at the 10th anniversary MusiCares MAP Fund® benefit concert. Later that year (November), OZZY was presented with the “Global Icon” award at the 2014 MTV Europe Music Awards in Glasgow. This year also marks 20 years since OSBOURNE created his name-sake hard-rock/metal touring festival, OZZFEST, which has had a hugely successful run across North America, Europe and Japan and will return to the U.S. this September. OZZY is currently on tour in Europe with Black Sabbath on their massive 2016 The End world tour, which will return to North America in August.
PROPHETS OF RAGE
PROPHETS OF RAGE
Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk of Rage Against The Machine, Chuck D and DJ Lord of Public Enemy and B-Real of Cypress Hill have lived the resistance from day one. So it’s no surprise that in the midst of 2016’s tumultuous election, the revolutionary musicians would join together as Prophets of Rage to combat the coming storm, whatever it may be.
While the fierce independence and enduring influence of their collective lineage is nearly impossible to overstate, these creative kindred spirits knew immediately this was a different beast. Set for release in September of 2017, Prophets of Rage, their explosive, self-titled debut LP, exemplifies the band’s commitment to creating a more decent and humane world. The 12 tracks, produced by Brendan O’Brien fuse the diverse styles, sonic firepower and hard-hitting social consciousness of the group’s previous work into an inventive and commanding new musical statement.
Last year, Prophets of Rage partnered with activists and social justice organizations during their electrifying inaugural North American tour contributing a portion of the proceeds to the fight against hunger and homelessness, galvanizing fans in cities along the way. This year the band’s world tour will include shows in South America, Europe and North America.
FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH
The darkest moments in history — those when fear and hate trump all else — are the times that define us. As politicians use bigoted rhetoric to gain power at home and abroad, and fringe groups creep from the shadows, it’s tempting to succumb to despair and defeatism. But Rise Against is challenging fans to create a bold new identity together: one that is stronger than these setbacks, and bigger than any election. WOLVES, their 8th studio release, is about recognizing the power within all of us; it’s a primal call for the prey to become the hunters.
“If you are in the wilderness and you hear wolves howling, what you’re hearing might be an animal lost or mourning,” says Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath. “But it doesn’t make you any less afraid. You know they’re there. And you know what this powerful pack of animals is capable of.”
For 18 years, Rise Against has kept its moral compass steady, using their international punk platform to speak out for social justice. The band cut its teeth during the George W. Bush administration and has released records across three presidencies, but today’s political climate forced the band to step back and rethink how they define themselves.
The record was originally titled “Mourning in America,” but after the U.S. presidential election that rang hollow. It felt somber and hopeless. Members of the band felt those emotions, too, but decided they needed to create an album that focused more on our potential than our failings. They knew it needed teeth and claws. The result is WOLVES, a soundtrack for the hunt.
“In many ways, a Rise Against show is a safe space for our fans,” McIlrath says. “But I realized that I don’t only want to create safe spaces, I want to create dangerous spaces where misogyny can’t exist, where xenophobia can’t exist. I want to create spaces where those sentiments don’t have any air, and they suffocate: where those ideas die. WOLVES isn’t about creating a safe space, it’s about creating a space that’s dangerous for injustice.”
The influence of the U.S. presidential election can clearly be heard in songs like “Walls” (“the monsters lost in history are now making their return”) and “Welcome to the Breakdown” (“ignoring the facts, intoxicated by the throne”). WOLVES is of course shaped by the new presidency, but it’s not limited to it. There is a spirt of resistance and optimism here that transcends our current crisis, and will outlast any politician.
Like all Rise Against records, the band tackles political struggles alongside personal ones, creating songs as complex as their fans. On tracks like “House on Fire” and “Politics of Love,” one can hear echoes of the iconic punk/folk songwriter Billy Bragg in McIlrath’s words; the personal is political, the political is personal, and it’s all rooted in a revolutionary, uncompromising love.
This evolution in Rise Against’s identity came against the backdrop of other changes for the band. For 11 years, they had worked closely with producer Bill Stevenson, of the Descendents and Black Flag fame. With Descendents on tour and Stevenson tied up, Rise Against stepped out of their comfort zone and began working with Nick Raskulinecz, the Grammy-winning producer who has partnered with Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains, and Deftones.
Recording with Raskulinecz meant moving to Nashville, Tennessee — far from the band’s familiar worlds of Chicago and Los Angeles, and a firmly red state where Rise Against has rarely played. Political yard signs and conversations around town were constant reminders to the band that they were in new territory. And even though Nashville is a music town, it’s country — not punk or hardcore. During the band’s five months in the area, these outsider feelings shaped the identity of WOLVES.
Living in the South transformed the record in some unexpected ways. “As people on the news are arguing about immigration and class warfare, we are driving down the highway and seeing Civil War battlefields and monuments,” McIlrath says. “When you tour these battlefields, you hear about what kind of muskets they used. But shouldn’t we be talking about what got us to that point as a country?”
As further evidence of the geographic influence on the record, it’s comprised not just of anthems of resistance, but also reconciliation. Living in Nashville drove home that we can’t just focus on our differences, McIlrath says. If we can stop and talk to each other, face to face, we might realize our common ground. We are all wolves in the same pack, circling at the gates.
“They say we’re divided, we are conquered,” McIlrath sings. “But our enemies have never been each other.”
Every living creature must face the will and judgment of time.
Ancient Greeks personified time in the form of the titan Kronos, father of Zeus, and Egyptians celebrated Heh as an abstraction of endless years. Famously, William Shakespeare lamented humanity’s immutable fate as “time’s subjects” in Henry IV. GRAMMY® Award-nominated hard rock band Mastodon ponders the nature of time on their eighth full-length album, Emperor of Sand, on Reprise Bros. Records. Threading together the myth of a man sentenced to death in a majestically malevolent desert, the Atlanta, GA quartet—Troy Sanders (bass/vocals), Brent Hinds (guitar/vocals), Bill Kelliher (guitars) and Brann Dailor (drums/vocals), and conjure the grains of a musical and lyrical odyssey slipping quickly through a cosmic hourglass.
“Emperor of Sand is like the grim reaper,” admits Dailor. “Sand represents time. If you or anyone you know has ever received a terminal diagnosis, the first thought is about time. Invariably, you ask, ‘How much time is left?’”
Since forming back in 2000, Mastodon have certainly made the most of their time. Most recently, their 2014 seventh offering Once More ‘Round The Sun bowed at #6 on the Billboard Top 200, marking their highest chart entry to date and second consecutive Top 10 debut following 2011’s The Hunter. Casting a shadow over pop culture, they received “Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance” GRAMMY® Award nominations in 2007, 2014 and again in 2015. Their music blasted through the Academy® Award-winning comedy The Big Short, animated blockbuster Monsters University, and sci-fi western Jonah Hex starring Josh Brolin—for which the group composed the score. After contributing “White Walker” to HBO’s Catch The Throne, Vol.2 mixtape, Dailor, Hinds, and Kelliher appeared as “Wildlings” in a popular episode of Game of Thrones Season 5.
Not only did they earn the appreciation of Time, Rolling Stone, Stereogum, Billboard, and more, but they also turned many peers into fans, including Metallica, Pearl Jam, Tool, Queens of the Stone Age, CeeLo Green, and Feist, to name a few. Performing everywhere from Coachella and Bonnaroo to Download and Sonisphere and nearly every major festival, they’ve headlined legendary venues such as Red Rocks and sold out shows around the globe. Emperor of Sand offers the next conceptual and instrumental evolution for these musicians.
“Since it regards enduring insurmountable odds, it’s a continuation of the Mastodon catalog,” explains Sanders. “That started in 2002 on Remission. Two years later, Leviathan was about hunting a metaphoric whale that could solve all of your problems, or it could kill you in the hunt. We took a journey up Blood Mountain and vaulted all of the hurdles that needed to be cleared for survival. Crack The Skye was its own deep and twisted concept. The Hunter was loosely based on dealing with death. Once More ‘Round the Sun was about being given an opportunity to do this one more time, one more trip, one more tour cycle, one more year, and one more birthday. Now, we’re reflecting on mortality. To that end, it ties into our entire discography. It’s 17 years in the making, but it’s also a direct reaction to the last two years. We tend to draw inspiration from very real things in our lives.”
A trying, turbulent, and tragic turn of events transpired as Dailor and Kelliher began writing music in the latter’s brand new basement studio. The guitarist received news of his mother’s brain cancer diagnosis during May 2016. He spent the next six months making regular trips to Rochester, NY before her untimely passing in September.
“When my mom became ill, it was really heavy,” Kelliher sighs. “She’s the person you know best. She’s the person who brought you into the world, nurtured you, and cared for you. No matter how old I was, my mom never let go of worrying about me, checking in on me, and trying to give me advice on life. It’s a sad and terrible thing when you have to watch your mother die. It’s something I think about every single day.”
Dailor recalls, “Writing was like a distraction to give Bill a release. There’s nothing you can do, but you can say, ‘Let’s go in the basement and see if there any riffs.’”
“One of the things I appreciate about my bandmates is we channel our current energy— although it may be dark—through the art we call Mastodon,” adds Sanders.
As jamming ramped up, a narrative took shape for Emperor of Sand. Dailor details it: “A Sultan in the desert hands down a death sentence to this guy. He’s running from that. He gets lost, and the sun is zapping all of his energy akin to radiation. So, he’s trying to telepathically communicate with these African and Native American tribes to get rain to pour down and kill it.”
In order to capture the vision on tape, the guys enlisted producer Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, Neil Young, Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc.) with whom they worked on 2009’s seminal Crack The Skye. For several weeks, the band recorded with O’Brien at The Quarry Recording Studio in Kennesaw, GA.
“Brendan is a charismatic and funny guy,” smiles Hinds. “He knows us so well, and it felt like like we picked up right where we left off. He adds all of these bells, whistles, and perks outside of being an awesome musician in his own right. Everything came together lickety-split.”
“I feel like we had an even better time with him,” says Kelliher. “We trust his opinion, and he’s super hands-on. He was always in the room with us, and he knows what we’re going for.”
Emperor of Sand commences with the unpredictable swell of “Sultan’s Curse.” A storm of muscular guitar riffs and a thunderous bellow rages amidst a deluge of acidic percussion. Opening the storyline, our hallucinating protagonist, “believes he’s being bathed by the Sultan’s daughters, but he’s being carried to his assassination by the Sultan’s men,” as Dailor says.
“It felt like a natural beginning,” agrees Kelliher. “It’s got traditional Masto elements, and it’s fucking rockin’.”
Next up, “Show Yourself” alternates between Dailor’s hypnotic croon and Sanders’ overpowering roar, trudging into one of Mastodon’s most chantable refrains.
“It’s about revealing your inner strength to power through a bad situation,” Dailor goes on.
“It’s outside the box,” Hinds comments. “That’s exciting for us to do things people don’t expect.”
Whether it’s the thought-provoking elegy of “Roots Remain” punctuated by a searing Hinds solo or the hammering “Andromeda,” which boasts a primal scream by Brutal Truth’s Kevin Sharp, the music ebbs and flows inside of an emotional hurricane awash in cinematic keys and mellotron, fret fireworks, and the push-and-pull of three distinct voices. On the latter half of the record, the venomous and vital “Scorpion Breath” upholds a tradition of cameos by longtime friend Scott Kelly of Neurosis. Conclusion “Jaguar God” hinges on a delicate acoustic intro by Hinds before climaxing in a head- spinning last gasp of crunching distortion and a polyrhythmic percussive flood.
In the end, Emperor of Sand siphons raw emotion through the framework of an immersive story and intricate musicianship, digging to the core of what defines Mastodon and all timeless rock ‘n’ roll.
“When people hear it, I want them to experience the spectrum of emotions that we put into it,” Dailor leaves off. “We’ve been through everything together. We still have the same four guys after 17 years. It’s been the wildest of rides. I love it, and I love those dudes.”
“If our songs can touch someone in a positive manner, that’s the magic of what music can do,” concludes Sanders. “I know for a fact that music is the universal language. I hope someone will find it touching. As far as the fan base we’ve built up over the years, I hope they’ll give it a listen and stay on this ride with us. It’s a marriage! At the end of the day, we’re four guys in a rock band. We navigate through difficult circumstances musically and in life as brothers. It’s the next chapter of our adventure.”
With “INTO THE WILD LIFE” Halestorm reach deep within and conjure their most engaging and eclectic songs to date. On “INTO THE WILD LIFE” they push their musical boundaries further than we’ve seen thus far in their catalog, crafting songs that rise from a whisper to a scream and back again, proving that there’s no limit to creativity. And nothing will stop them from realizing their artistic vision.
On “Sick Individual,” which opens with a drum solo and blends into a dramatic rock anthem, Hale sings, “I’m doing this thing called ‘whatever the f— I want, want, want.’” The attitude- laden lyric encapsulates the vibe and versatility of the record. Shards of metal, passages of pop and reams of rock – both classic and contemporary — abound throughout “INTO THE WILD LIFE,” the exuberance of which is only matched by the band’s passion and confidence.
“On the last record, we hit all these crazy milestones,” Hale says. “All of a sudden the world was aware of us so we celebrated unabashedly.” Indeed, “Freak Like Me” and “Love Bites (So Do I)” both reached #1 on Active Rock charts, making Halestorm the first ever female-fronted band to top the format’s airplay ranking. In addition, the band won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance for “Love Bites (So Do I).” The accomplishments didn’t stop there. Hale collaborated with “America’s Got Talent” star Lindsey Stirling on the EDM song “Shatter Me” and performed with country maverick Eric Church at the CMT Awards, demonstrating her versatile vocals mix with any genre. On top of that, Hale was honored by Gibson Guitars, which celebrated her accomplishments by creating a Lzzy Hale signature Explorer guitar.
“All of the attention was amazing and fueled our confidence,” Hale says. “So we decided to throw everything we were used to out the window and just go for it.”
Indulging every whim, Halestorm wrote songs that pulsate, pound and soar, as well as confessional, heartstring-tugging tunes and everything between. “Amen,” grooves to a chain- gang shuffle and sparse keyboards, featuring a verse reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac and a chorus that has more in common with Joan Jett. Then there’s “Mayhem,” a confrontational blast of adrenaline that builds from echoey seduction to full-blown euphoria.
“To me, this album is about independence and the bravery it takes to step into the unknown,” Hale says. “It’s not like we strayed from what we are, it’s just a lot more of what we are.”
In addition to experimenting with previously unexplored styles, Halestorm took an equally bold approach to recording. Instead of tracking all the instruments separately and then tweaking them later, Halestorm recorded everything live in the studio with the help of producer Jay Joyce (Cage the Elephant, Eric Church).
“It was literally the four of us in a circle in this church playing everything the same way we do onstage,” Hale says. “We had to play everything over and over again until we were all riding the same wave. Without making a live record, we wanted to capture the kind of chemistry and energy we have in concert.”
After Halestorm recorded the songs, Hale went back and redid some of her vocals to maximize their emotional intensity. And Joyce applied the same rigorous standards to her final vocal takes as he did to the band’s initial recordings. “If I wanted to do something over again, I strapped on the guitar and sang all the vocals from start to finish,” Hale says. “In the beginning I said to Jay, ‘Hey, if I don’t quite hit that note we can just fix it, right?’ And he said, ‘No, that’s not what you guys said you wanted. You gotta do it all over again.’”
As frustrating as the process sometimes was, by the end of every final take Halestorm were ecstatic. “It really brought out the best in us because we had to trust ourselves and literally be ‘on,’” Hale says. “It was hard, but the results were so much more rewarding because we didn’t try to compromise, and I feel like the excitement of that shows through all over the record.”
Instead of recording in a major studio in Los Angeles or New York, Halestorm created “INTO THE WILD LIFE” in East Nashville, and when they weren’t at the studio they soaked in the musical culture of the legendary city. “I’m sure a Southern bug crawled into my ear just from hanging out there for a while,” Hale says. “There are a lot of great musicians there, for sure, as well as a lot of great classic rock. That was a big part of this album. While we were doing it, I was listening to a lot of the same stuff that first got me inspired. I went back and listened to a lot of Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper and some Zeppelin. Our attitude was, ‘Let’s immerse ourselves in the things that got us excited in the first place. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel we
said let’s be the wheel and be the best wheel we can be.’”
The first single from “INTO THE WILD LIFE” is “Apocalyptic,” a bluesy belter about a turbulent relationship and amazing chemistry between the sheets. While Halestorm alluded to sex and decadence in past songs like “I Get Off” and “Love Bites (So Do It),” on “Apocalyptic” and “Amen” Hale drops the metaphors and tells it like it is. “I wanted some songs were a little confrontational and sexual,” Hale says.
The more acoustic-based songs on “INTO THE WILD LIFE” are just as revealing as the rockers. In the confessional folk-pop number about love gone wrong, “What Sober Couldn’t Say,” Hale sings, “Heading for a blackout, hurting like hell/finding my way to the bottom of the bottle.” And on “Dear Daughter,” she starts with spare, delicate piano chords and builds into a poignant ballad filled with pearls of wisdom: “Dear daughter, hold your head up high/there’s a world outside that’s passing by.”
“The last album cycle we did was the first time my mother didn’t come with us; for a long time both of my parents were working for us,” Hale says. “As soon as your parents are gone, at first there’s a stage where you go, ‘Whew, nobody’s going to tell me what to do!’ And then you think, ‘You know what? If it wasn’t for my parents’ support we would have never started the band as early as we did. And we probably wouldn’t have gotten to this point.’”
With “INTO THE WILD LIFE,” Halestorm have developed as a band without compromising their identity. From the start, they’ve had the conviction and songwriting skill to appeal to fans of both Heart and Metallica. Now, they’ve stretched their musical boundaries even further to come up with an album that exhibits a sheer joy for whatever style of music they chose to embrace.
“Doing this album reminded us that being in a band is still magical. And four people that actually love each other and can rock out with each other can experience this refreshing kind of creative freedom,” Hale says. “At the end of the day, we can laugh and turn to each other and say, ‘Look, guys. We are still here! For whatever reason, we still dig each other and we still love making music together.’ And now we can go out there and do whatever the hell we want.”
It has always been hard to put a tag on GOJIRA, one of France’s most extreme bands the country’s musical pallet has ever known. But then again, the band has never really sought out such a tag, instead letting the music do the talking, preferring introspection and intelligence over preconceived notions and preexisting tags. Ever since the 1996 formation in town of Bayonne in the southwest of France, GOJIRA has been an ever- evolving experiment in extreme metal ultimately built upon a worldly, ever-conscious outlook with roots firmly-planted both in the hippie movement and an environmentally-conscious, new age mentality. This time, with The Way of All Flesh, GOJIRA harnesses a spiritual consciousness as well, but still culminates in a sound wholly heavy.
Originally dubbed Godzilla, after the scaly, green film star with an equally huge reputation as the newfound band’s sound, the brothers Duplantier – guitarist/vocalist Joe and drummer Mario – and fellow Frenchmen Jean Michel Labadie on bass and Christian Andreu on guitar, quickly released several demos, ultimately changing the band’s name and independently releasing the first GOJIRA album, Terra Incognita, in 2001, offering up a brief glimpse into the giant GOJIRA would eventually become through persistent hard work and years of toiling in the metal underground.
After the 2003 release of the band’s follow-up, The Link, throughout Europe and the subsequent live DVD release the next year, of the aptly-titled The Link Alive, 2005 brought the release of From Mars To Sirius, the band’s breakthrough release, garnering high praise and a North American release through Prosthetic Records in 2006. Fans of not only heavy, extreme music took notice, but so did the intellectual world, thanks to Sirius’ thoughtful and expansive inner examination of the world at hand and the consequences of humanity’s struggle to coexist without harm. The metal world was amused and amazed: much of it hadn’t yet seen an equally intelligent and pummelingly heavy release that was as expansive and open as it was dense and concise.
Following the immense praise of From Mars To Sirius and recurring trips across the Atlantic for North American touring alongside the likes of Lamb of God, Children of Bodom, and Behemoth among others, GOJIRA established its stranglehold on the extreme metal spectrum with a linguist’s touch, a lyricist’s finesse, and a
crushingly heavy live show that left audiences astounded, establishing the band’s live performance as a spot-on recreation of the band’s increasingly adept and intelligent studio output.
While 2007 wrapped with GOJIRA again touring North America on the Radio Rebellion Tour alongside Behemoth to the best reaction yet, the dawn of 2008 saw a nearly 10 month wait for while the band assembled The Way of All Flesh, one of the year’s most anticipated records. This time revolving around the undeniable dilemma of a mortal demise, GOJIRA’s soundtrack to the situation seems fitting. Shifting ever-so-slightly from the eco-friendly orchestra of impending doom on From Mars To Sirius to the band’s new message of the equally uncontrollable inevitability of death, The Way of All Flesh melds the open and airy progressive passages GOJIRA has become famous for with the sonically dense sounds and bludgeoningly heavy rhythms that makes the band an equally intelligent force as it is unmatchably heavy.
Featuring a guest vocal spot on “Adoration For None” from Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe – one of GOJIRA’s most vocal supporters from their first moment making an impression in the Americas – and the now familiar Morbid Angel-isms of The Way Of All Flesh’s title track join the angular riffing more akin to Meshuggah on “Esoteric Surgery” and the epic, artful plodding of the nearly 10-minute “The Art of Dying,” showing that GOJIRA have indeed opened a new bag of tricks for The Way Of All Flesh, while not abandoning the sound that first showed a massive promise of potential on Sirius.
“It’s more inventive than From Mars To Sirius and at the same time more straight to the point,” GOJIRA frontman Joe Duplantier says of The Way of All Flesh. “The whole album is about death, death is like a step on the path of the soul. The mystery surrounding this phenomenon is just so inspiring, and death is the most common thing on earth.”
“This album is also a ‘requiem’ for our planet,” Duplantier continues. “We don’t want to be negative or cynical about the fate of humanity, but the situation on Earth is growing critical, and the way humans behave is so catastrophic that we really need to express our exasperation about it. It’s not fear, but anger. But we still believe that consciousness can make a difference and that we can change things as human beings.”
THE PRETTY RECKLESS
Between 2013 and 2015, The Pretty Reckless traveled the globe touring in support of their second album, the raucous, roaring, Catholic guilt-inspired Going To Hell. A bruising blend of ferocious rock and roll and inky blues, the album debuted in the Top 5 on the Billboard Top 200 and spun off three No. 1 Mainstream Rock singles, “Fucked Up World,” “Follow Me Down” and 2014’s most successful song at the format, “Heaven Knows,” which spent a total of 18 weeks in the top spot. Going to Hell’s success meant strong live demand for the New York City band, which is anchored by its songwriters, singer-guitarist Taylor Momsen and guitarist Ben Phillips, who have been making music together in partnership for ten years, and rounded out by bassist Mark Damon and drummer Jamie Perkins. The Going To Hell Tour sent The Pretty Reckless off on four separate jaunts across North America and three trips to Europe. Their explosive shows earned them legions of new fans at home and overseas.
Despite feeling physically and emotionally spent after returning from their two-year odyssey, Momsen and Phillips jumped right into writing the songs for their third album, the scorching yet soulful Who You Selling For, which will be released by Razor & Tie in October. “We had so much we wanted to say, it was like shaking a can of soda on tour, and then when we started writing we cracked the seal,” says Momsen. “The touring life is very isolating. You look at the world through a bus or airplane window. But music is the healing factor. It’s the one thing that is grounding and a true companion through the forest. It saved us — again.”
The necessity of music as a balm for the soul is a theme that threads its way through Who You Selling For, which finds Momsen and Phillips dealing with emotions ranging from confusion and frustration to depression and despair. “I think we felt a dire need to express those thoughts,” says Phillips. “And they’re things I think most humans feel on a daily basis but don’t always have an outlet to express. In the end we’re saying, ‘Don’t give up, your soul is all you have, so you’ve got to hang onto that.’” The album’s opening track, “Hangman” (which was inspired by a poem by Chidiock Tichborne written on the eve of his execution), tells a story of having control over your own mind and soul no matter what is happening to you. From there, Who You Selling For delves deep into the psyche of Momsen and Phillips — two artists who believe very much in the fiery redemptive power of rock and roll.
The album’s first single, “Take Me Down,” is a story of desperation, with Momsen delivering such lyrics as “I spend all night and day / How much harder can I play? / You know I gave my life to rock and roll?” “It’s about wanting something so much you’d sell your soul for it,” Momsen says, adding that she and Phillips were inspired by blues artist Robert Johnson’s song “Crossroads,” which some have interpreted as Johnson singing about selling his soul to the Devil in exchange for his musical ability. “Back To The River” is about the desire to get away from everything, to go where no one can reach you, while the strutting “Wild City” is influenced by being young and on your own in New York (“We wrote it while walking down Rivington Street on the Lower East Side,” Momsen says). The most aggressive song on the album is “Oh My God,” which Momsen describes as “self-confession right out of a journal. I think it speaks for itself.” And finally “Who You Selling For” testifies to music being a form of salvation and describes how the rest of the album reaches into all forms of rock and roll looking for “The Answer.” The song inspired the album’s title, asking listeners to take a look at their own lives with its provocative query. “For me, it’s a question that challenges what I’m doing with my life,” Momsen says. “It questions the meaning of my actions whatever they are. It also defines the record in a grander way by asking the listener to look into the meaning of each song past the obvious.”
Sonically, Who You Selling For alternates between blistering hard rock (“Oh My God,” “Prisoner,” “Wild City,” “Living In The Storm”) and gentler, more downtempo moments (“The Walls Are Closing In,” “Take Me Down,” “Back To The River,” “Who You Selling For,” acoustic ballad “Bedroom Window,” and closing track “The Devil’s Back”), giving Momsen a platform to showcase the power and versatility of her voice. She is one of rock’s most compelling contemporary frontpersons, capable of being both brash and confrontational and sultry and seductive, daring listeners to ignore her at their own peril with a fiery swagger that has only grown more fascinating as Momsen gets older. (She was 15 when The Pretty Reckless wrote and recorded their rock-grunge-blues debut album Light Me Up, which was released in 2010.)
Momsen’s voice sounds all the more intimate thanks to the unvarnished way that she and Phillips, along with their long-time producer Kato Khandwala, recorded the songs. “It’s the most natural recording possible,” says Phillips. “It’s all performance-based, nothing was fixed. If Taylor walked in and sang the song and it didn’t work, she’d walk right out.” When more than just guitar, bass, and drums were needed, additional musicians were invited in, including guitarist Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers), guitarist Tommy Byrnes (Billy Joel), and keyboardist Andy Burton (Ian Hunter), as well as backing vocalists Janice Pendarvis (David Bowie), Jenny Douglas-Foote (P!nk), and Sophia Ramos (Rod Stewart). “It was so great having that many musicians in a room playing together and just hitting the record button,” Momsen says. “It’s very gratifying to feel the players and singers represented as they are. It gave life to these songs that were written tucked away in a bedroom and it enabled us to really deliver the most honest performances possible. What you hear is what it sounded like, no frills. That’s it.”
It’s the band’s willingness to bare their souls that has earned them such a passionate fan base — people who identify with the raw candor of the lyrics and fearless way they are expressed. “I’ve had such a strange life,” Momsen says. “I’ve always felt on my own, running around the world on some mission that I barely understood. Our fans have been the ones who were really there for us. They have supported us through the good times and the bad. I owe them gratitude. They are the inspiration when things look too bleak to keep going. I know it’s been said a million times, but it’s true, I wouldn’t be here today without them. They make this all possible.”
Traditionally, the Day of the Dead holiday is all about remembrance.
Now, Hollywood Undead’s fourth full-length album, and first for Interscope Records, Day of the Dead sees the genre-hopping six-piece reflect in a different way. The group—Johnny 3 Tears, J-Dog, Charlie Scene, Danny, Funny Man, and Da Kurlzz—collectively channels the kinetic aggression and wild humor that captivated millions on their platinum-certified 2008 debut Swan Songs, yet they couple it with a wiseass wisdom and sharp songwriting honed over the course of nearly a decade on the road. It’s been quite the ride too.
Their most recent offering Notes From the Underground seized the #2 spot on the Billboard Top 200 upon its 2013 debut, while its predecessor 2011’s American Tragedy, another top 5 entry, quickly approaches gold status. The boys have sold out countless headline shows worldwide and toured with everybody from Avenged Sevenfold to Stone Sour, while appearing at global festivals including Download, Rock on the Range, Rock In Rio, Family Values, and more.
However, at the start of 2014, the masked madmen found themselves in a rather precarious, if not familiar, position when their previous record label folded.
“We didn’t actually have a label or a home that we knew of,” sighs Johnny 3 Tears. “It affected the record in a positive way though. Everyone was a little pissed off, so we went into the studio with a lot more to prove.”
“It’s really similar to how Swan Songs came about,” adds J-Dog. “We experienced this extreme frustration of being screwed over by everybody, and we filtered that into the music. We were like, ‘Fuck everyone. Fuck radio singles. Fuck making the label happy because we don’t have one. Let’s just fucking do Hollywood Undead.'”
The band hunkered down at home and began tenaciously writing and recording what would become Day of the Dead. Teaming up with longtime producers Griffin Boice and Sean Gould, they literally created each song together in the same room—for the first time in years.
“We started using our old Hollywood Undead formula of writing everything as a unit,” J-Dog continues. On the last record, each of us spun off and did his own thing. Day of the Dead truly was a group effort. As a result, it’s definitely different, but we pay homage to our old sound as well. We took a step forward, while looking backward.”
“I feel like we cut out more rules on every record,” says Johnny 3 Tears. “We let ourselves go a little farther, and we allow ourselves to write without walls. That’s one of the reasons we have a wider variety here.”
Shocked to life like a musical Frankenstein, Day of the Dead veers between an industrial metal stomp, a hilarious hip-hop bounce, a booze-fueled all-night dance party, and pensive street poetry etched inside bloody verses. By the time they completed recording, Interscope Records had inked a deal with Hollywood Undead. The titular single then introduced the masses to the album in late 2014.
“Day of the Dead” rises from a delicate acoustic flamenco guitar into a needling riff encased in a synth howl. Johnny 3 Tears delivers poignant bars before one of the band’s biggest hooks to date. Shortly after it dropped, the song amassed over 1.5 million YouTube/VEVO views, fueling fervor from the Undead masses.
“We wanted to get that one just right,” recalls Charlie Scene. “The melody and chorus actually hit me when I was taking a piss in the studio—that’s when all of my best ideas usually happen. I ran it by the fellas, and the song was finished within hours. It describes Hollywood Undead and our music. It’s got the vibe, creepiness, and heaviness. It’s an anthem for us and the fans.”
“It’s definitely a call-to-arms,” agrees Johnny 3 Tears. “This is an aggressive track with a lot of depth. It encapsulates what we feel like being members of Hollywood Undead, and it communicates that feeling to fans so they can be more a part of it. Beauty often comes from ugliness, and we pull this anthem out of darkness. This is geared to everyone who lives, eats, sleeps, and breathes Hollywood Undead.”
Meanwhile, Day of the Dead opens with the scorching cinematic verses of “Usual Suspects,” an ode to some of the band’s favorite pastimes.
“We were in the studio drinking as usual,” grins J-Dog. “We got Big Gulp cups of Ice from 7/11 and filled them with champagne and orange juice. We ended up walking around Sunset Boulevard with mimosas that bystanders thought were orange juice. People think we’re different now, but the band still acts the same way and does the exact same shit we’ve done since we started in 2005. So, we wrote a song about the moment.”
Then, there’s “Gravity.” A propulsive electro-punk beat gives way to a soaring refrain from Danny that immediately hypnotizes. J-Dog continues, “We wanted to write a rock song, and there was this concept of gravity. It’s something that holds you down. We talked about reminiscing on the past and how people can get stuck on that. That’s what the song discusses.”
“Everything flowed,” affirms Charlie Scene. “No one was trying to overthink anything. It’s one of those songs we knew we wanted to hear.”
In the end, Day of the Dead signals the start of something for Hollywood Undead. It’s their day.
Charlie Scene leaves off, “I’d love for this album to cover everything we do. I want people to use it to work out. I want people to put our records on when they’re pre-partying. I want everyone to get a feeling—whether it’s anger and aggression or the urge to open up a cold and party.”
“We put everything into this,” declares Johnny 3 Tears. “Of course, there’s that element of having a great time. Still, there are real words and messages in here. It’s our lives on tape again.” – Rick Florino, February 2015
IN THIS MOMENT
EAGLES OF DEATH METAL
OF MICE & MEN
When a band announces a hiatus, the news is generally met with a sigh from the fans and the sinking feeling that this is it; it’s all over. Perhaps the next time you see your favorite band will be years later during the now inevitable nostalgia tour cash-in. No new tunes, passion wrung dry. But back in 2012 when Thrice pressed pause on their collective career there was little doubt in singer Dustin Kensrue’s mind that this was the respite he needed personally, and that this would mean the band could eventually continue creatively. By this stage the quartet, who formed in Orange County, California back in 1998, were in a very different place to when they were kids in high school bonding over skateboarding and punk rock.
“My third daughter was on the way and I was really feeling like my family needed some time away from the kind of touring we were doing,” explains Dustin. “On top of that we had been touring, writing, recording; touring, writing, recording, non-stop, for 14 years or so, and I wanted a break from that and the space and time to pursue other things.”
So after eight albums including their emotionally resonate, pulverizing breakout third record, The Artist in the Ambulance, and the 2007/8’s ambitious duo of concept LPs, The Alchemy Index: Fire and Water and Earth and Air, Dustin called curtains, but no one in Thrice felt blindsided. It was during Major/Minor that the rst suggestion of a break began to lter through, then came a heartfelt letter from the singer explaining his reasoning, and in turn the guys adhered to their unspoken pact: if one of them wasn’t in, none of them were. There would not, and could not, be any replacements.
“Thrice is the four of us, and if we’re not all into it, there’s really no point in doing it,” explains drummer Riley Breckenridge. “Even so, when we stopped doing stuff, it was tough.” Apart from focusing on fatherhood, Dustin, who at this point was living up in the Pacific Northwest, released a couple more solo records, while the rest of the band engaged in a range of pursuits, musical and otherwise. Guitarist Teppei Teranishi (who’d also relocated near Dustin) launched a successful leather and canvas goods design company, not to mention continuing to be a father to his three boys. This year Riley also became a dad, but spent the time apart writing about sports and music as a freelancer, teching for Weezer and Jimmy Eat World, and in the most random of career segues, for a year he entered the corporate world and wore a three-piece suit as a sales rep for a high-end bespoke tailor—“I’m just not cut out for that world. It was a soul-sucking experience.” Meanwhile his brother, bassist Eddie Breckenridge, played with a few bands, and got back into furniture making, helping build the interior of Woodcat in LA’s Echo Park. (Which apparently boasts a revolving cast of touring musicians serving up your daily dose of caffeine).
It wasn’t till around Thanksgiving 2014 that Dustin red off a group text that would start to bring their lives back together. Sent after he and Teppei caught a particularly inspiring Brand New concert, the wheels were slowly set in motion. Due to their disparate living locales, the quartet began to share scraps of songs and ideas online, a process that’s commonplace for many, but somewhat foreign to a group used to thrashing out the majority of a record together in one room—and of course, they eventually did. In January and February 2016 Thrice reconvened in Southern California for a period of six weeks to lay down their ninth album, To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere, with the help of producer Eric Palmquist, who Dustin says “gave a just the right amount of feedback on the songs as we were writing; enough to challenge you but not sti e.” He continues: “We were pretty free in the studio. We built up the songs, but we hadn’t meticulously nailed everything down, so it was a good mix of preparation and spontaneity. It was a breath of fresh air.”
Compare the straight ahead punk rhythms of Thrice’s 2000 debut Identity Crisis, to the compositional complexity of 2011’s Major/Minor, and the sonic swerve is stark, yet traceable. Elements of post-hardcore remain—the riffs, the scorched Earth howl of dissatisfaction—but there’s a warmth here too, and the satisfying inclusion of pop melodies, a knack for which they’ve always maintained, no matter how heavy the music. It’s evident from the rst few bars of album opener “Hurricane” and underscored by its titanic chorus.
For this record the singer found he was variously inspired by Stephen King’s seminal book On Writing, philosopher Seneca the Younger, and his feelings on modernity’s relentless connectivity, not to mention the relentless updates of news at home and around the globe. Dustin calls To Be Everywhere… his most vulnerable and most politically-minded album to date.
“Eric and I were talking about how rock music has lost all its nouns whereas hip-hop has become a very vital force, and he was speculating that this was because it was actually dealing with things that are happening concretely, and for some reason rock has become more amorphous in terms of the language used,” explains Dustin. “So I was endeavoring to write a very noun-ful record, very connected to physical things, using metaphors, but really trying to make sure they were visceral and connected quickly, as well as engaging with what’s actually going on in the world.”
And so we have songs like the bleak “Death from Above” written from the perspective of drone operators and featuring the desperately furious chorus, “But I am never sure who I am killing / How many innocents are in the building / I drop death out of the sky.” Dustin’s consideration of the institutionalized violence and racism, both here and abroad, also ekes into rst single “Blood on the Sand,” with a drum stick in the verse clacking on the snare’s rim like a ticking bomb.
Elsewhere the ominous “Black Honey” considers the detrimental effects of deja vu foreign policy. “We keep doing the same things and expecting to get something good out of it,” says Dustin exasperated. “We’ve built problem on problem on problem, and now we nd ourselves with ISIS and people are like—maybe we’ll do more of the same! It hasn’t worked yet: so maybe we need more of holistic approach to what we’re doing.”
But there’s a ipside on which the Thrice frontman accesses his interior, absorbing Stephen King’s advice to push yourself to write freely—without being overly critical in the rst instance—and then be open to feedback afterward. “Because of that I was able to get to a more vulnerable place and I think that makes the songs more powerful,” he says.
One of the album’s most anthemic moments, “Stay with Me,” is an homage to one of Dustin’s favorite Josh Ritter songs “The Temptation of Adam”— about a couple who fall in love after taking shelter in a missile silo fearing the end of the world. Here Dustin imagines their above ground and post-apocalyptic analogue, but in both songs, the protagonist is haunted by what would happen to their love, should they nd “the war was over.”
Finally “Salt and Shadow” brings the lean album to its climax with a sprawling six-minute closer that subject-wise echoes the album’s title, tackling the issue we all have of being spread too thin. “Now we have the world in our pocket and it’s so easy to be disconnected from the people around you,” he explains. “Or even you know very little about a lot of things, as opposed to having a better grasp on a fewer number of things.” It’s Thrice at their most muted, exing their ability to communicate impactfully without ooring it. A piano line, which mirrors the bars of opener “Hurricane,” signifies the LP’s finale.
Is this a comeback? Does Riley, the self-confessed worrier in the band feel the pressure? “We have always just kinda done whatever we wanted to do and we’ve been lucky enough to have a core group of fans who trust us,” he says. And their trust is well founded. Soon they’ll be hitting the road, reconnecting with fans, and really working at interpreting not only their new record, but Thrice’s much beloved back catalogue too.
“It’s exciting,” says Eddie. “I mean, that’s what’s cool about music, it’s a living thing.” And just like their songs morph for the stage, so the band members have forged onwards, splintering for a time, before returning to each other.
“I remember bands when I was growing up, when they hit ten years that seemed just crazy to me,” says Dustin, “and now we are starting to come up on 20! We truly enjoy making music together and there’s something really special about the fact that we’ve had the same four guys in the band this whole time—growing up on the road and trying to gure out what that means.”
FALLING IN REVERSE
The fine line between genius and insanity, self-seriousness and self-deprecation, implosion and explosion: that is the phantom zone where Falling In Reverse thrives.
Falling In Reverse founder, frontman, and Machiavellian heroic supervillan / villainous superhero Ronnie Radke is the walking, talking, breathing, spitting, screaming, singing, fighting, loving, hyper-confident, sensitive, and vulnerable embodiment of a generation’s id. He’s the ego and super-ego in the classic Freudian sense, “slipping” all over the place with vicious bite and playful innuendo. With his music, art, and life, he is the living embodiment of broken homes, the frustrated contradiction of self-destruction, and everyday single-minded defiance against a world gone mad.
Coming Home is his latest reinvention, coming full-circle back to the start, reinvigorated as mad scientist conductor of soaring, transcendent, engaging alternative pop-rock with massive radio hooks and a still-beating heavy metal hardcore heart. ‘Broken,’ ‘Loser,’ ‘Hanging On,’ ‘I Don’t Mind’ and ‘Coming Home’ are shocking in their epic scope, vibrant authenticity, and unrelenting dedication to personal truth.
He shoved the world of Warped Tour kicking and screaming into the vintage decadence of the hard rock scene with the band he formed with his childhood best friend in Las Vegas. Then, even as countless bands followed in his wake, he was on the stylistic move, dominating the social media conversation and crowd sing-alongs with Falling In Reverse’s debut album, The Drug in Me is You, now based in Southern California.
As Revolver, Kerrang!, Alternative Press, and the rest of the rock and metal press anointed him the scene’s new king on the strength of playful self-examinations-turned-anthems like ‘Raised By Wolves,’ ‘Tragic Magic’ and ‘I’m Not a Vampire,’ Radke and his crew shook up conventions once again, dropping the ironically titled Fashionably Late years before the audience at large had any suspicions about what would hit ‘em.
What began as the “worst music video of all time” (according to media tastemaker VICE) turned into another 20 million YouTube views (for a band closing in on roughly 100 million views total) in ‘Alone.’ Like many parts of the eclectic album, it’s a rap-metal hybrid with a forward thinking step into modern electro beats. Like the best of Radke’s work, the song serves as both hyper masculine anthem and anxiety confessional. The press and fans followed the band’s every move, documenting each twist and turn.
Just Like You mined similar territory with even more precision, from the title track to undeniable metalcore bangers like ‘Chemical Prisoner’ and ‘Guillotine IV (The Final Chapter)’ to the poppy crowd-mover ‘Sexy Drug’ and heartbreaking ballad ‘Brother.’
Coming Home is the most focused Falling In Reverse album, thematically and artistically. Crafted once again with Michael “Elvis” Baskette (Alter Bridge, Slash, Trivium), who has worked on every one of Radke’s records going back to the now-classic debut album from Escape The Fate, the record sees the group at their most atmospheric. It’s the latest bold step for a frontman who has defined himself by a mixture of courage and vulnerability, of bravado and introspection. He’s tightened his personal inner circle and withdrawn from the antics of the past as he’s poured even more of himself into his art.
Coming Home is the album Radke dreamed about making as a kid, teaching himself to play guitar with Blink-182 and Green Day songs, rapping along to Dr. Dre and Eminem, skipping school, going to shows, and doing whatever it took to redefine his life beyond the hardscrabble circumstances of his upbringing, even when the obstacles were of his own design. Now it’s time to get Coming Home to as many people as possible.
Falling In Reverse continues to champion the outsider, the cast aside, the underestimated, making music to empower and inspire life’s underdogs.
SLEEPING WITH SIRENS
SLEEPING WITH SIRENS drive right to the core of the place inside that connects people through music. The band’s urgent anthems and earnest ballads communicate authentic, raw, transparent emotions through melody, a rhythmic punch and that intangible essence that makes one feel alive. Kellin Quinn’s intimate vocal revelations arrive drenched in a warm vulnerability that has stitched fans around the world to the band.
Guitarists Jack Fowler and Nick Martin, bassist Justin Hill and drummer Gabe Barham forge a vibrant collage via instrumental backdrop; always in service to the song and the powerful audience connection their songs create. The devotion of the SWS faithful is potent and palpable every time Quinn’s voice ascends to his signature banshee-wail, whether that’s on record, in videos, live onstage, or in collaboration with his peers.
Quinn’s angelic voice and the easygoing affability of all five guys endears them to a diverse audience, people more friends than fans in a sense, people who connect with the singer’s personal tales of childhood woe (“Free Now,” “Trophy Father Trophy Son”), tender love letters (“If I’m James Dean, You’re Audrey Hepburn”), and direct encouragements to seize the day (“Scene Two – Roger Rabbit”) and triumph over heartache (“Feel”) and pushback against the hater brigades (“Congratulations”).
Sleeping With Sirens have taken to referring to themselves and their fellow outsiders as Strays, a concept immortalized in the song of the same name on the band’s Epitaph debut. Produced by hit-maker John Feldman (5 Seconds Of Summer, Panic! At The Disco), Madness is an electric celebration of all that is SWS and everything they represent. It’s a reminder and an exclamation point as to exactly why so many consider this band to be the voice of their generation, a hilarious happenstance considering SWS humility and humble beginnings, not unlike Hayley Williams or Patrick Stump, in truth.
Wins and nominations for Artist Of The Year (APMAS 2014, Alternative Press 2013), Best International Newcomer (Kerrang!), Album Of The Year and Song Of The Year (APMAS) are all emblematic of the groundswell SWS built at what feels like a lightning pace. Facebook likes tripled to over 3 million since 2013; each of Quinn’s social media profiles has 1 million followers; Feel debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200; Alternative Press, Rock Sound, Kerrang!, Outburn and Blunt regularly feature them on the cover; they’ve been a main-stage act for Vans Warped Tour and UK’s prestigious Reading & Leeds. Quinn’s “King For A Day” collaboration with Pierce The Veil was certified gold. A few years ago, SWS was an opening band. In 2013, they sold out a 5,000 capacity club in London.
The band has sold over 720,000 albums across their catalog, but their earliest beginnings are vividly relatable to anyone who has been in a band. Quinn joined an early incarnation of the group in Florida even as its lineup was disintegrating. Barham and Hills were working restaurant jobs in their native Midwest when Quinn, who they had played with in bands before, asked them to join Sleeping With Sirens. They sold everything, strapped Hills’ bass cab on the top of a car and headed South with nowhere to live and no real plan. The three of them made SWS debut album together. With Ears to See and Eyes to Hear featured the old line-up’s guitarists, but Jack Fowler and Jesse Lawson were onboard in time for Let’s Cheers to This, which shook the scene in 2011.
The first two albums and relentless touring resulted in a solid profile as a top-tier band in the worlds of screamo and metalcore, but SWS had bigger aspirations. The subtle, down-to-earth acoustic performances they’d quietly assemble outside of clubs after their set started to draw more people outside than whoever was headlining inside. The intimate, communal vibe of these interactions with fans and the exploration of bigger melodic hooks led to the acoustic EP, If You Were A Movie, This Would Be Your Soundtrack. The group’s newfound comfort in their embrace of giant melodies was apparent with the massive crowd pleaser, Feel, which demonstrated a wide range, from debut single “Low” to their collaboration with rapper Machine Gun Kelly, “Alone.”
The Feel This Tour (SWS, Memphis May Fire, Breathe Carolina, Issues, Our Last Night) introduced Nick Martin to the fans. Martin’s tenure in Underminded and post-hardcore super-group D.R.U.G.S. lends sharp experience to the raw energy already present in SWS, resulting in the most potent incarnation of the band yet. No matter how large Sleeping With Sirens has become, Quinn and his cohorts haven’t backed down from their offering of only the most courageous examinations of what they are as people, expressed nightly on stages around the world through marvelously intimate songs.
There are a lot of bands who claim to wear their hearts on their sleeves, but for Texan quartet Nothing More that sentiment could scarcely be more literal. “When we first started, we branded ourselves on the arm after each year of touring, so we’ve all got these scars now, reminding us of the commitment we made to each other,” confides frontman Jonny Hawkins. To say that this is a band who are dedicated to their cause would be to understate the case somewhat.
Hailing from San Antonio, Nothing More is a four-headed musical hydra that runs on frenetic passion, unswerving DIY spirit and relentless sonic experimentation. Part schizoid System Of A Down weird-isms, part Mars Volta-esque prog rock freak out, part effortless pop nous, they seamlessly barrel from churning headbang to skyscraping chorus and back again in the blink of an eye. Capable of bombastic bounce that hits as hard as an uppercut to the jaw when they fancy it, the boys from The Alamo City are equally able to dial down their bluster into deft moments of crystalline beauty when the mood takes them. It’s a gut-punching blend made all the more powerful by a keen lyrical sophistication and philosophical undertone which both belies their years and marks them out from their contemporaries.
Forming initially as Middle school kids whose aspirations were as serious then as they are now, Nothing More’s early development took place against a backdrop of suburban boredom and rabid musical obsession. Having tasted the addictive elixir of rock ‘n’ roll the band realized they were at a crossroads when they reached college age. “Everyone was telling us to stay in school,” admits Hawkins “but for us that would have been settling. Having a plan B is a recipe for failure. We decided that we had to ignore everyone’s advice and totally dedicate ourselves to being in this band.”
And dedicate themselves they did. From fixing up their first tour van out of a derelict, raccoon infested RV to making their own stage rigs for their impassioned live show, the quartet literally built everything they have from the ground up. Those first tours, the ones that wrought the aforementioned scars, were formative in more ways than one. As the four young men saw and experienced more of the world, their spiritual and philosophical outlook began to evolve. “That period of growth was a real struggle for us individually and collectively,” confirms Hawkins “but 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.”
The drips of those new ideas eventually became a flood and the narrow lens of the western paradigm they were born into was soon replaced with a more holistic world view, striking a balance between rationalism, empiricism and their own intuitions. It’s the journey to find truth that has enabled them deal with the existential and the personal in equal measure, and, more importantly, rendered them a band with something to say and no fear of saying it.
“There’s an old adage which goes ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ That is basically what we are about,” intones the singer. “It’s not about us ramming our views on religion, or philosophy, or politics down anyone’s throats – it’s about providing the opportunity for people to explore things themselves and challenging their reality.”
That Nothing More have undergone a spiritual awakening of sorts ought not to distract from the fact that, in the live arena, they are absolute animals. Raw aggression crashing alongside precise riffing, thunderous bass and nigh on tribal percussion to jaw-dropping effect on a nightly basis. The dictionary definition of ‘get in the van and play until you’re dynamite live’, they’ve grown through the grassroots by dripping blood sweat and tears across America, challenging the stereotypes of what you might think a band like this can incorporate into their show. Four way drum battles? Three members playing one bass guitar? These guys push the limits in more ways than one.
Nothing More are that rarest of things, a band with the heart, the soul, the brains and the guts to capture your heart and spark your mind. A new generation of rock stars who are unconcerned with fabricated notions of how and where they might fit in or what the hottest trend is, but simply focused on making honest, passionate art with real intent. “We want to be a church for people who don’t believe the things that churches believe,” concludes Hawkins. “We want to connect people and connect with people.” And what better way to do that than with uncompromising music built on uncompromised principles, fought for and earned the hard way. Nothing More? Accept nothing less.
Collaborative creativity can produce brilliant results, but there’s something almost otherworldly about what emerges from the minds of remarkably talented artists, the types who’ve lived many lifetimes in a short period, left to his/her own devices.
As much as Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, The Cure or Foo Fighters (particularly on that first album) are considered “bands,” they brazenly exhibit the precision focused passion of a specific person; often a person bursting at the seams with something to say. BEARTOOTH began and in many ways continues to be such an artist, bubbling forth from the psyche, soul and complex emotions buried in multitalented instrumentalist and songwriter, Caleb Shomo.
Beartooth shares equal inspiration with brutal metalcore as with old-school punk like The Ramones and the bombastic theatricality of Queen. The end result is a back-to-basics hardcore stomp that would get the crowd moving at a Hatebreed or Terror show, interspersed with a steadfast determination to give equal importance to anthemic choruses.
“I made the whole thing by myself,” Shomo says of Beartooth’s debut album, Disgusting. “The entire record, front to back, is literally a reflection of my thoughts and my mental well-being at the time. The album captures every end of the spectrum musically and lyrically. I know this may sound strange, but I didn’t write these songs for anyone. I wrote just to write. All of the songs came about because I love writing Beartooth songs. That’s it. I won’t record a song unless I love it, unless I believe in it. I won’t do it any other way.”
Beartooth began as a way to blow off steam and add another dimension to Shomo’s genre-hopping creative output. He and his hometown friends started jamming; hanging out in his Columbus, OH basement studio and playing music for fun. They released an EP, Sick, and then hit the road, touring North America and Europe with genre titans August Burns Red, Memphis May Fire, The Word Alive and Of Mice & Men, among others. In between support slots the five-piece headlined everything from basements to club shows, building a strong and devoted following. The EP’s accompanying music videos for “Go Be the Voice” and “I Have a Problem” (both live and traditional) quickly accumulated over 1 million views, and set the stage for the band’s next endeavor, Disgusting.
While he’s still a very young guy, Shomo has lived a lifetime in music already. He had already dabbled in a project with Escape The Fate cofounder Max Green and Craig Mabbit (Blessthefall/The World Alive/Escape The Fate) when he was called up to play keyboards for Attack Attack! at the tender age of 15. The band incited polarizing dialogue around the world, as some jaded critics mocked the group’s “crabcore” while a new generation of fans followed the band’s every move. Shomo found himself thrust into the front man role following a series of lineup changes. The band’s self-titled sophomore effort debuted at #1 on Billboard’s independent chart.
Shomo was handling all of the vocals, programming and production duties by the time the third Attack Attack! album, This Means War, broke into the Top 10. The record sold 17,000 copies in its first week, debuting at #8 on the Billboard Top 200.
Battling the same type of depression, anxiety and overindulgence as many of his fans, Shomo bowed out of Attack Attack! to get himself together, and the songs on Disgusting reflect that struggle.
The closing track, “Sick and Disgusting,” is so personal that Shomo has trouble listening to it. It an intense exploration of the mental health issues he’s struggled with, not dissimilar from the raw truth found on Korn’s eponymous debut, or Reznor’s open confessions of drug addiction scattered throughout NIN. It’s a song where Shomo just hit “record” and let it all pour out.
“I almost didn’t put it on the record because I felt embarrassed about people hearing it,” Shomo confesses. “It is really intense for me personally. It’s hard to explain but suffice it to say, it’s a song about a lot of mental health things I’ve dealt with. If people listen to it and understand where I’m coming from and respect it, great. If other people think I sound like an idiot because I start crying in a song, I really don’t care. I know how much I put into that song emotionally. It’s one straight take, all the way through. I realized I’d be shorting myself if I didn’t put it on the record.”
Alternatively, a track like “Beaten in Lips” is written from Caleb’s experiences outside his own world: he wrote it from the perspective of abused kids with nowhere to turn. “I was just thinking about it one day, about how absolutely ridiculous it is that some parents abuse their children,” he explains.
The album’s opening track, “The Lines,” hits a lighter note. “We have been playing that song live before the record comes out. It’s just a fun jam. I wanted to write riffs that people can jump around and get wild to. People can sing at shows and have fun. I want people to sing along so they feel as much a part of the show as we are. I love doing house shows, shows without barricades, floor shows.”
There’s a beautiful authenticity in Beartooth’s music, which is the result of Shomo’s simple intention: to write songs for the sake of writing songs. There is nothing calculated, nothing crafted for mass appeal. It’s simply the truth of his experiences and emotions.
“Red Bull has been backing whatever I want to do musically which has been really refreshing,” Shomo says. “There isn’t any pressure to write certain types of songs or to have a certain sound. I don’t go into my basement thinking, ‘OK, I’ve got to write a pop song’ or ‘I’ve got to write a heavy song.’ The songs are what they are and are allowed to be whatever comes out of me. Beartooth ends up having a lot of dynamics that way, a lot of diversity. I never want to make a record that becomes boring.”
In the early hours of New Years Day 2013, a radio astronomer at the Allen Telescope Array in northern California discovered a mysterious signal emanating from a star within the Ophiuchus Constellation.
Contained within the signal was a Message–of human origin–foretelling the details of man’s imminent demise. The Message was brought to The Starset Society, who quickly realized the importance of its immediate publication.
Risking extreme danger, The Starset Society commissioned a group of musicians and scientists to assist them in spreading the knowledge to a broader audience. This group became known simply as STARSET.
Please hold. STARSET will begin the TRANSMISSION of the Message to the public shortly.
ignorance : slavery :: knowledge : power
NEW YEARS DAY
NEW YEARS DAY follow in the dark tradition of tragic high-drama and grand theatricality embodied by the hitchhiking ghosts of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, the churning emotional smolder of HIM, iconoclastic bombast of Marilyn Manson and the savage flamboyance of Motionless In White. Gothic vampirism, heady fantasy and an adventurous spirit akin to Alice tripping through the looking glass swirl within New Years Day, led by the charismatic thunder of Ashley Costello.
Strikingly confident, dangerously disarming and hauntingly beautiful, Costello grabs the mantle laid down by iconic larger-than-life performers like David Bowie, Amy Lee and Shirley Manson, belting out increasingly malevolent cries with power while maintaining a heeled boot-hold in the pop-punk catchiness of dark muses like Alkaline Trio.
New Years Day is heavy, bold and emotional, challenging social media bullies and championing gloominess and melancholy in an empowering way. Costello is a more confessional singer than ever, too, opening up about issues like family and self-worth. The songs swing and bounce with an almost radio anthem certainty, while eliciting head banging with crowd-moving crunch in equal measure. Catchy, gritty, primal guitar riffs collide with the electro-influx of neo-industrial rock like White Zombie and Marilyn Manson, all with an eye toward memorability.
There’s an immediate, jarringly authentic punk-rock chaos about New Years Day, an attitude of challenging, scrappy contrarianism against a backdrop of charming vulnerability. The sensitive melancholy in their music and imagery, coupled with a self-assured trumpeting of the pushed aside and the broken, has resulted in a new and unique tsunami that has thrilled crowds at Vans Warped Tour and in sweaty clubs with Motionless In White, Escape The Fate and Combichrist.
The band’s earliest work threatened to give Panic! At The Disco and Taking Back Sunday a run for their money, but ultimately, New Years Day was beckoned by darker callings. Songs like “Two in the Chest, One in the Heart” and “Let’s Get Dead” from The Mechanical Heart EP alerted the world to New Years Day’s burgeoning abilities, which were cemented by their first album for Century Media.
Produced and mixed by Erik Ron (The Word Alive, Motionless in White), Victim to Villain maintains a 5 star user rating on Amazon.com, and with good reason. Standout tracks like “Do Your Worst” and “Angel Eyes” pickup the blueprint laid down by the prior EP and supercharge it.
The Epidemic EP further crystalized New Years Day as a force to be reckoned with, pointing the way toward an even more triumphant future.
Costello has assembled a band around her that shares not only her artistic vision, but her steadfast determination to succeed against the odds, as well. The lineup exudes a glamorously inviting mystique with unique personas, not unlike the separate but unified characters played by the members of Kiss and Slipknot.
The New Years Day audience is heavily made up of all genders, including a legion of young women who identify with the balance of strength and femininity inherent in Costello’s overall stage presence and personality. Costello commands the overall environment as swiftly as she belts out her lyrics, delivered with deep feeling, the experience of someone who’s been singing since the age of 13, and a sense of yearning. She’s someone who had her favorite bands’ posters on her bedroom wall, just as her fans have her picture glowing from their smartphones.
As UK hard rock tastemaker Rocksound rightly pointed out, New Years Day is to be cherished for their “admirable bite and sharp hooks laced with a plentiful amount of scene pomp.”
British mainstay Metal Hammer cheerfully agreed: “They’re on a mission to make rock n’ roll theatrical again and have one of the most formidable young frontwomen in their ranks. Get ready for the unstoppable, spooktacular rise of New Years Day.”
COMIC BOOKS. BOREDOM. ROCK N ROLL. VIDEO GAMES. MISFITS. RAMONES. WEEZER. THE MIDDLE OF AMERICA. THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. NIRVANA. PIZZA. DAD’S RECORD COLLECTION. SKATEBOARDS. AFROPUNK. MORE PIZZA.
A QUEST TO END FALSE ROCK.
That, in a nutshell, is Radkey. Def: Rad-Key. As in: “The Key to Rad-Ness”.
That’s what you get when the needle hits plastic with Radkey. It’s the sound of rock sharpened to its primal essence. Blasted over 15 tracks, courtesy of the Brothers Radke (the band name is a spin on their shared last name): 23 year-old guitarist and Danzig dead-ringer vocalist, Dee Radke, 21 year-old bassist Isaiah and 19 year-old drummer, Solomon, Radkey’s Another Century debut, Delicious Rock Noise is the rare kind of power-riffing rock n’ roll phenomenon that literally explodes out of the speakers the minute opening track, “Dark Black Makeup” comes skulking in like a gang of disaffected teens on a goth-punk rampage.
Like any great rock band, the gas in Radkey’s tank has been a will to rock on their terms. As pre-teens growing up in the Nowheresville of Saint Joseph, Missouri, they enrolled in rock n roll high school as their ticket out. With music-obsessed dad-and-former Wal-Mart employee, Matt Radke as road manager, the brothers played their first show opening for Fishbone in 2011 and haven’t looked back since.
The family van thundered across the nation, chewing up tires and splatting insects on the windshield
as Radkey gigged with the likes of Red Fang, Touche Amore and Against Me!. In 2013, The Cat & Mouse and Devil Fruit EP’s took Radkey from sweaty backroom punk gigs to storming the UK’s Download, and the US’ Riotfest
festivals, where the backstory of three African-American brothers raised on their dad’s vinyl collection was eclipsed every night as the band left audiences breathless with a messy punk n roll riot of their own.
“The last couple years have been really crazy,” says Isaiah, the most outspoken Radkey. By 2015, things were at critical mass for Radkey, having toured the US with Rise Against and appearing at Coachella and Japan’s Punkspring Festivals. “Travelling in England and in Europe was really cool for us. It’s incredible – and such a weird feeling – that you are doing something that is actually important to people. I never thought our music would become a thing that could take us to all of these places.”
Enlisting Arctic Monkeys producer/mixer Ross Orton to translate Radkey’s several shades of pure rock fury,,Radkey went straight off the road into a studio in Sheffield, England, to record Delicious Rock Noise. The result is an across-the-board detonation of several shades of rock, punk and wild abandon. And riffs, riffs, riffs.
“[Ross] really showed us what our band was capable of doing,” says Isaiah. “Before making the record, it was all about playing fast and energetic.” Delicious Rock Noise is hardly a loud-fast-rules affair. Songs like “Romance Dawn” is punctuated with arena ready chants while “Love Spills” proves Radkey has a coolness and swing beyond their barely-out-of-their-teen years. And, of course, “Glore” is a full-throttle hardcore whirlwind that
proves Radkey can thrash with the best of ‘em. The video for “Glore” has become the trio’s calling card: a stop- motion, psychedelic headtrip intent on aurally and visually disemboweling pop culture itself featuring the stop motion avatars of the band playing video games and eating pizza. “We had no idea how perfect and how intense it was going to come out, says Isaiah. “It’s the sort of video you see new things in every time you watch it: crazy
things – and it’s completely us!”
“We wanted to show people that you can still make a proper rock record,” explains Isaiah. “Something that is both super catchy and super heavy. We want people to hear it and think: Fuck yeah!” The song “Marvel”, a cover originally done by long defunct firebrand Seattle rock band, The Lemons, found the band back in the studio: Fort Collins, CO’s, The Blasting Room, with Descendents drummer and Rise Against producer, Bill Stevenson. “That was really cool and fun as well,” says the bassist. “But it was also very demanding and intense to work with Bill. He pushed you hard to not screw up.”
Delicious Rock Noise is testament to rock’s ability to shatter preconceptions –specifically, those based around Radkey’s age, hometown and race. “Surprisingly, the racial thing has never been a factor for us,” says Dee. “Honestly, it’s never about that. Mostly, we get given a hard time about our age, but that’s also something we can’t really change. We might walk into a venue and feel like people are a little bit taken by surprise when they see us, but, usually, after we play, all that kind of stuff kind of goes away. We get a lot of questions about being brothers: like, do we argue? But the answer is no, we don’t really argue very much. And yes, we all write the songs together. Everybody writes. So, none of it is anything we spend that much time thinking or talking about.”
“Our only ambitions have ever really been to make a record that people will love and to be able to play as many shows as we can,” sums up Isaiah. “It’s also a personal journey. We’ve been living this for years now. This is literally all that we do and this record is evidence of that. I stop and think, man, I’m 21 years old and I’ve been doing this since I was basically 14. We’re still making the same kind of music we were when we started, but we’re better at it now. Thankfully, we’ve been able to go out into the world and experience some real things, which give us more to write about. We just want people to listen. And play it really loud.”
WHILE SHE SLEEPS
While She Sleeps have chosen a fitting way to celebrate their tenth anniversary as a band – by becoming totally independent. It’s a bold, impressive and powerful move that both reflects the decade gone by and hints at what the future has to offer. More than that, it demonstrates that age-old cliché is still true today – if you want something done right, do it yourself. Not only did they self fund their new album ‘You Are We’ with the help of their fans through a PledgeMusic campaign, but the band converted an empty warehouse in the heart of their native Sheffield into their own multi-purpose studio. It’s not the first time the band have had their own space – 2010’s debut EP ‘The North Stands For Nothing’ was recorded at a home studio called The Barn – but with this new space, which was built with the band’s own money, they’ve taken things to the next level.
“There’s always been a very DIY aspect to this band,” explains vocalist Lawrence ‘Loz’ Taylor, “so going it alone a bit more now just reiterates that to everyone. The Barn was a very important place for us – it’s where we grew as friends and it was where we hung out and could be creative – so the idea with this new space is that it gives us a lot more creative space. There’s a studio and live room, and we have space now to achieve what we want to achieve as a band. This place is going to house us for a good few years.” “We’ve all been skint for a while because of this place,” chuckles guitarist Sean Long, “but we’re hoping that it comes into its own. It’s already becoming a space for other bands, too. They can use it as a pre-production space or store their gear here, and it’s constantly busy with people coming here and working. It’s a nice positive space where we can all get creative and be the band we want to be.”
It’s also a place where the band – completed by guitarist/vocalist Mat Welsh, bassist Aaran McKenzie and drummer Adam Savage – aim to break down the barrier even more between themselves and their fan base. As part of the new record’s PledgeMusic campaign, fans were able to head to the studio and take part in the music video for ‘Hurricane’. “That was absolutely crazy,” beams Taylor. “I’m still aching from that! But the special thing is that every kid who came down for the video shoot actually helped make the album happen. And to that extent they made this warehouse capable of living.” “Now more than ever,” adds Long, “our fans know that it’s them making all of this possible for us. The divide between artist and fan is ridiculous, because there are no fans without the artist and there’s no artist without the fans. They go hand in hand together as one absolute thing, and I really like that we can see that in play with what we’ve been doing. It’s very reassuring to see that support right in front of us.”
That’s all the more crucial because of the experiences While She Sleeps have had with the music industry in their decade of existence, not least with previously being on a major label. They’re quick to point out that it’s not been all bad, but that it’s not been all good either, and that it’s their fans who have propelled them through both the good times and the bad. The same is true for their own personal struggles, especially when Taylor had to have surgery on his voice midway through making ‘Brainwashed’. Lesser bands might have given up the fight, but While She Sleeps pushed on through, encouraged by the loyalty, love and devotion of their fans. As much as that’s been made visible thanks to the new warehouse space, it’s also audible
on the band’s new record. Made with Carl Bown, who also produced ‘Brainwashed’, its songs are full of as much force, focus and determination as ever. The likes of ‘Hurricane’ and first single ‘Civil Isolation’ continue the band’s trajectory as one of the most inspiring, riotous and important voices in British music today, demonstrating both their continued musical evolution and their incisive social conscience. Yet while these are brutal anthems that paint a vivid picture of a post-Brexit Britain, they stand as both the most universal and most personal songs of the band’s career.
“I feel like these are some of the most powerful and relatable songs that we’ve ever written,” says Taylor. “These songs look at the world as a whole, but it’s also very much about us. We’ve all been through a few ups and downs over the past few years, and I think it’s important for us to express that, because our music is our healing and our therapy. There’s a lot of heartfelt stuff in there from our own personal experiences, but there’s also much more of a global view, too.” “We’re never not going to be singing about worldly issues and politics,” says Long, “because that’s what we do without even trying. But, as Loz says, on this album it’s all housed within very personal ways of dealing with those things. We’re not just screaming about all the problems in the world, we’re screaming about how we feel about those things. I’ve never been more connected to moments in the studio when I’m writing music than I have with this record.”
This album does more than bridge the divide between past and present. It establishes who While She Sleeps really are in unfiltered, grotesque and beautiful glory. It sets them up as their own driving force, as a band who operate on their own terms and conditions and write music the exact same way. It’s a record not just made in spite of the problems and pressures they’ve faced in the past, but one created out of them and brimming with the passion that has always propelled the band and clearly continues to do so a decade on.
“The main thing with While She Sleeps,” says Taylor, “is that we’re digging our own path and the longer we keep working at it, the more people will realise we’re not going anywhere. We’re just going to keep on doing our own thing. And if we can explore new sounds and styles and still sound like us; if we can progress but still hold onto the While She Sleeps sound, then that’s great.” “My mum even likes it,” says Long, laughing, “so I’m very happy.”
GRETA VAN FLEET
Firing twin barrels of arena-rock muscle and moving melodies, Greta Van Fleet is a modern rock & roll band rooted in the genre’s strongest traditions: super-sized hooks, raw riffage and the sweeping vocals of a front man who was born to wail.
The four-piece formed in Frakenmuth, Michigan, just outside of Detroit, where 20 year-old twin brothers Josh and Jake Kiszka began playing shows with their 17 year-old younger brother, Sam, and 17 year-old family friend Danny Wagner. Holding their practices in the Kiszka family garage and road-testing their songs onstage throughout Michigan, the four became a band of brothers whose songs mix classic chops with the thrill of teenage angst.
From sing-along choruses to fiery guitar solos, Greta Van Fleet rounds up a highlight reel of rock & roll heroics. These guys aren’t revivalists; they’re looking ahead, breathing new life into a sound that’s blasted out of car dashboards and living room stereos for decades.
FIRE FROM THE GODS
Heavy music deserves a heavier message.
That’s what Fire From The Gods deliver on their second full-length album and first for Rise Records, Narrative. Speaking from a platform cast in heavy metal power, hip-hop consciousness, and even a little reggae spirit, the Austin, TX quintet—AJ Channer [vocals], Jameson Teat [guitar], Drew Walker [guitar], Bonner Baker [bass], and Richard Wicander [drums]—urge for change through conveying a story that’s both personal and universal.
That story stems directly from AJ’s life. Born in the Bronx to a single mother of Jamaican descent, he spent his childhood moving between London, New York City, Los Angeles, Norfolk, and even Ghana where he attended middle school. Drawing from this diverse experience, he speaks with unmitigated honesty about the state of the world.
“This album is the personal narrative of a minority man living in major cities and being American,” he explains. “There’s a socio-economic theme throughout the whole record that carries from each song to song. It’s all about the underdog. We’ve all had to fight for everything we have in this band. The political climate in our country is quite racially and socially charged. There are a lot of issues and energy people are expressing along with misguided hate and anger. I want to channel this in music that can resonate. This is where we come from and who we are as a band.”
In order to properly capture this vision, the boys retreated to House of Loud Studios in New Jersey to record with David Bendeth [Paramore, Of Mice & Men, Breaking Benjamin]. They spent a month in the winter of 2016 tracking what would become Narrative.
“There’s no crying in Bendeth’s dojo,” laughs AJ. “He really pushed us, and we grew in a short period of time. The band takes on a life of its own with this record.”
That growth stands pervasive in songs like “Excuse Me.” The vocalist spits a frenetic and frantic verse over a buzzsaw guitar and seesawing groove before eventually breaking into an airy dancehall break complete with a reggae-style plea, “Excuse me, Mr. Officer…”
“The essence of ‘Redemption Song’ influenced the hook,” he goes on. “I’m speaking my mind about the fact that people judge you based on looks. Police will violate constitutional rights because of it, and the law of the land makes individuals submit.”
Meanwhile, “Public Enemy” lands a one-two punch of aggressive screaming and a soaring unshakable refrain. “It’s a call-to-arms to be heard,” sighs AJ. “I’m targeting the epitome of tyranny on the lyrics.”
On the other end of the spectrum, “End Transmission” sputters out into a celestial hum, balancing an airy hum with pummeling crash. “You cut off the tether to reality and imagine yourself flying amongst the satellites and stars,” he reveals. “We equate the heavens with tranquility and peacefulness although space is very stark and it’s cold. It’s not being a hero to save the world, but finding that hero within yourself.”
Fire From The Gods have quietly built a rabid fan base through tireless touring across the United States. They’ve shared national bills with the likes of August Burns Red and festival stages alongside Slipknot, Bring Me The Horizon, Judas Priest, Killswitch Engage, and more at KNOTFEST two years in a row and with Motionless In White and Underoath at South By So What. Now, their Narrative is on display in 2016.
“I want people to feel empowered when they listen to this record,” AJ leaves off. “Come out of the experience knowing somebody thinks like you. You’re not alone.”
In Humor and Sadness, the debut album from ’68, demonstrates the loud beauty of alarming simplicity. A guy bashing his drums, another dude wielding a guitar like a percussive, blunt weapon while howling into a mic somehow manages to sound bigger and brasher than the computerized bombast of every six-piece metal band. A splash of roots, a soulful yearning for mid century Americana and the fiery passion of post punk ferocity rampages over a record of earnestly forceful tracks like a runaway locomotive.
Josh Scogin wasn’t out of elementary school when the Flat Duo Jets laid their first album down on two tracks in a garage. But the scrappy band’s spirit of raw power, punchy delivery, tried-and-true rhythms and urgent sense of immediacy is alive and well in ’68.
Heralded by Alternative Press as one of 2014’s Most Anticipated Albums, In Humor and Sadness is a snapshot of a fiery new beginning for one of modern Metalcore’s most celebrated frontmen. Produced by longtime Scogin collaborator Matt Goldman (Underoath, Anberlin, The Devil Wears Prada), the first full offering from ’68 is a broad reaching slab of ambitious showmanship delivered with few tools and fewer pretensions. The scratchy disharmonic pop of Nirvana’s Bleach is in there, for sure. And while many associate the setup with The Black Keys, ’68 is more like Black Keys on crack.
“I wanted it to be as loud and obnoxious as it can be,” Scogin explains. “I want it to be in-your-face. I want people who hear us live to just be like, ‘There’s no way this is just two dudes!’ That became sort of the subplot to our entire existence. ‘How much noise can two guys make?’ It’s obviously very minimalistic, but in other ways, it’s very big. I have as many amps onstage as a five piece band. Michael only has one cymbal and one tom on his kit, but he plays it like it’s some kind of big ‘80s metal drum setup. It’s minimalistic, but it’s also overkill. We get as much as we can from as little as we can.”
Like many pioneers, North Carolina’s the Flat Duo Jet’s blazed a trail for more commercially successful people. They played rootsy rockabilly but with a punk edge. Band leader Dexter Romweber’s solo work was a fist-pounding celebration of audacity and disruption, which influenced the likes of The White Stripes, among other bands.
“I got excited when I thought about the distress, the chaos that this two-piece arrangement would create – one guy having to provide all of these sounds, with a bunch of pedals, with certain chords wigging out and missing notes here and there,” he says with excitement. “That alone makes up for the chaos of having five people up there.”
That idea of less is more, of building something big from something small, persists today at the top of the charts with The Black Keys, just as it’s lived and breathed in the bass-player-less eclectic trio Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, the rule-breaking early ‘90s destruction of Washington D.C.’s Nation of Ulysses, and in the two man attack of ’68.
“Jon Spencer’s records always sound like he’s kind of winging it and I love that,” declares Scogin, letting out an affectionate laugh. “In my last band, that’s how we tried to make our last record feel. The excitement and imperfection is something I love to draw from.”
Before paring (and pairing) things down with friend and drummer Michael McClellan, Josh Scogin was the voice, founder and agitprop-style provocateur in The Chariot, who laid waste to convention across a brilliantly unhinged and defiantly unpolished catalog of Noisecore triumphs and dissonant art rock rage. Recorded live in the studio, overdub free, The Chariot’s first album set the tone for a decade to come, owing more to a band like Unsane than whatever passes for “scene.”
Scogin was the original singer for Norma Jean and left an influential imprint on the burgeoning Metalcore of the late 90s that persists today, despite having fronted the band for just one of six albums. Whether it’s the genre-defining heft of Norma Jean’s first album or the five records and stage destroying shows of The Chariot, there’s a single constant at the heart of Josh Scogin’s career: a familiarity with the unfamiliar.
A new Metalcore band would be a safe third act for the subculture lifer, but Scogin isn’t comfortable unless he’s making himself (and his audience) uncomfortable. “I definitely wanted to flip the script a bit,” he freely confesses. “I’ve always wanted to play guitar and sing in a band, ever since I left Norma Jean. I needed the freedom of not having a guitar onstage, but now having done that for several years, I wanted the challenge.”
Creative problem solving has long been the name of the game for Scogin, whether he was hand stamping ALL 30,000 CDs for The Chariot’s Wars and Rumors of Wars album or figuring out how to pull off his ’68 song title concept in the digital age of iTunes. Each song on In Humor and Sadness was to be titled with simply a single letter, which when put together vertically on the back of a vinyl LP or compact disc, would spell out a word. However, it’s problematic to name more than one song with the same letter, which would have been necessary to spell out what he intended.
’68 is the forward thinking progress of an artist who finds satisfaction in the expression of dissatisfaction. There’s progression in this regression. Tear apart all of the elements that have enveloped a singer’s performance, strap a guitar on the guy and set him loose with nothing but a beat behind him? It’s a recipe for inventive, fanciful mayhem.
After a raucous debut at South By Southwest, a full US tour supporting Chiodos and many more road gigs on the horizon, Scogin and McClellan are propelled by the excitement that comes along with the knowledge that ‘68 is truly just getting started.
“We’ve just broken the tip of the iceberg. We’re really just exploring all the different things we can do,” Scogin promises. “I’ll get more pedals, we’re try different auxiliary instruments, whatever – the goal is to challenge ourselves and challenge an audience.”
Something happens when Badflower singer and guitarist Josh Katz steps up to the microphone. His primal, powerful, and passionate transformation is the most unmitigated kind of catharsis fueled by emotion and unfiltered intensity…
“The superhero version of myself comes out in the songs,” he affirms. “When I’m writing or performing, I go to this place that reflects the most emotional point I’ve hit at the moment. A lot of what’s being written is anger, lust, heartbreak, and all of that. Becoming an artist, I flip into this character I can’t shake or get rid of. I embrace it and keep writing in that direction.”
This approach stands out as Badflower’s calling card. It’s also a big reason why the group quietly became one of L.A.’s most buzzed-about rock ‘n’ roll bands. Since their emergence in 2014, the band—Josh, Joe Morrow [lead guitar, backing vocals], Alex Espiritu [bass], and Anthony Sonetti [drums]—has shared stages with the likes of KONGOS and The Veronicas, earned acclaim from OC Weekly, Loudwire, and more, and achieved a two-week run at #1 on KROQ’s Locals Only Show with “Heroin.” During 2016, fashion icon John Varvatos personally signed the band to John Varvatos Records. Little did he know, they had a big surprise up their sleeves.
“We actually had already started making a record without telling anybody,” smiles Josh. “After the deal was done, we were like, ‘How about this?’”
The boys cut the 2016 Temper EP [John Varvatos Records/Republic Records] in the garage of the Thousand Oaks, CA home which they share. Recorded during a blazing hot California summer, the sessions got so intense that their MacBook Pro often needed to cool down in the freezer. Wielding that energy, the music taps into a gritty and grunge-y gutter rock spirit complemented by jarring theatrical delivery and unshakable riffing, equally informed by Led Zeppelin and nineties Seattle as it is by film composers such as James Horner.
The first single “Animal” struts along on a distorted guitar shuffle before pouncing claws out on a refrain deifying a voracious femme fatale.
“It’s about an abusive relationship,” he explains. “I’m describing this girl as a predator type of animal and myself as the victim. Most people play that victim role. They don’t like to be accountable for the terrible things happening in their lives. It’s about being stuck in that place. You have the power to get out of it, but you are content there.”
Following the EP’s theme of unmitigated anger unleashed, “Drop Dead” hones in on the dynamic of a toxic relationship, while “Heroin” succumbs to its spell admitting, “She burns like heroin.”
In the end, Badflower’s ride remains raucous, raw, and real. “Music is all about emotions,” he leaves off. “This EP is very dark and temperamental. That’s what I put across. So that’s what I want people to feel.”
HE IS LEGEND
Belief can be a powerful thing. When shared even among a small group, possibilities remain endless.
That brings us to He Is Legend’s fifth full-length offering, few [Spinefarm Records]. The communal faith belonging to a cadre of musicians, artists, and fans brought the collection to life. That’s why the title, a nod to Madame Helena Blavatsky’s occult treasure The Voice of the Silence, feels so cosmically apropos for the Wilmington, NC quartet—Schuylar Croom [vocals], Adam Tanbouz [lead guitar], Matty Williams [bass], and Denis Desloge [guitar].
“This is dedicated to the people who supported us through everything,” declares Croom. “I was inspired by the words of Helena Blavatsky. She’s basically the godmother of the occult, and she dedicated one of her books to the few. Basically, that means the few that follow the way. I thought it was very fitting for what we do. It took just a few artists and a few thousand of our fans to come through and say, ‘Fuck yeah, we want you to do another record.’ We left it up to them.”
In 2015, He Is Legend wrapped up a marathon tour cycle for 2014’s triumphant Heavy Fruit with the likes of Maylene and the Sons of Disaster and Wilson. As songs like “This Will Never Work” cracked 370K Spotify streams, Heavy Fruit elevated the group to a new plateau with acclaim from Alternative Press, Revolver Magazine, L.A. Music Blog, New Noise, Ultimate Guitar, and many more.
Returning home, the boys allowed their audience to make a decision on what would become album number five…
“We started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo,” Croom goes on. “If we met the goal, we’d do it. If not, we wouldn’t. It was all or nothing. The response was pretty overwhelming. We found new life, energy, and creativity in this as a result.”
With unique incentives like smoking jackets, amulets, and action figures, He Is Legend impressively raised 124% of their goal. During December 2015, the band retreated to a remote cabin in Carrboro, NC just 20 minutes from Warrior Sound: the studio where they cut both Heavy Fruit and It Hates You. The snowy setting and isolation instigated inspiration within Croom.
“The cabin was really pivotal for us,” he says. “There was no cell phone service. The couple that owned it had dogs and cats roaming free. It’s this nice place literally in the middle of nowhere. Rather than turning on the TV at night, we’d be sitting around a fire to stay warm drinking wine. It brought an element of darkness out of me. I was in a strange place, dealing with some personal and family issues. I channeled that as I was stuck in the snow lonely. There was this longing for summer. In my eyes, the cabin had more to do with this music than we would readily admit.”
This time around, the guys produced few with Warrior Sound owner Al Jacobs. They amplified every element of their signature style. Summoning ghosts of White Zombie, Soundgarden, and Nirvana, the riffs hit harder, the lyrics cut deeper, and the rhythms stick longer.
“We tried to go for a minimalist approach,” he goes on. “We wanted to focus on all of the aspects we’ve ever brought to the table. There was a lot of anger and hostility in the music. That mainly came out of us redefining what we used to do really well. Our sound has changed a lot over the years, but that’s important for us to grow. Our fans expect us to morph a little. There’s a little bit of all our previous records in this.”
few takes flight on the hypnotic guitars and haunting harmonies of opener “Air Raid.” It quickly blasts off into a gut-punching slam and powerful chant, “I don’t know why she’s out of breath at the door of death.”
“‘Air Raid’ hits you like the fucking end of the world,” he exclaims. “It’s pretty self-explanatory as far as the lyrics go. It’s about how the earth wants humans to be gone. We’re a fucking cancer. It could shake us off like a dog shakes off flees. It’s as political as I’ve ever gotten.”
“Sand” snaps into a barrage of distortion and percussion before slipping into one of the set’s most unforgettable choruses. “It’s the shortest song,” he continues. “It’s a banger that gets in and gets out. Lyrically, it’s about personal issues in my life I’ve been facing for a while.”
Elsewhere, the psychedelic elegance of “Gold Dust” unlocks another facet of the fours-piece. “That might be my favorite song,” he admits. “There’s always one song that pushes where we are and shows where we could go next—or might not ever go again. I used a lot of imagery from a story that a friend told me. He ate mushrooms and had a spiritual awakening. I wrote from his experience and weaved some of my own into it. It’s about trying to see again what you’ve seen when you’re under the influence.”
Completing the album, He Is Legend found the right partner for release in Spinefarm Records. Now, few are about to become many in 2017.
“I want fans to feel like this album is theirs since they were ultimately responsible for it,” Croom leaves off. “We had to make it perfect for them. It’s important for us to hug them and say thank you as much as possible. We accomplished something great through having a cult following that wanted us to continue. I think it’s important for people to know that and see this came to life because of them.”
If you’re not pissed off, then you’re not paying attention. Heavy music is alive and DED is bringing back the aggressive spirit that is authentic to the genre. “There is an honesty and a “fuck you” about hard core music that I don’t feel as often anymore,” says lead singer Joe Cotela. DED is loud and aggressive – but it serves as a positive outlet: the band produces an unapologetic sound that draws from the art of fantasy and expressive screams.
DED was born in the music scene of Phoenix, Arizona and has been together for 2 years. Band members Joe Cotela (Vocals), David Ludlow (Guitar), Kyle Koelsch (Bass), and Matt Reinhard (Drums) developed a friendship and ultimately a musical partnership that mixes horror and dark imagery to develop a familiar, yet unique sound that sets them apart from other bands. Cotela says “With our music – we want to make the listener feel like how you feel after you’ve watched a really good horror movie – on edge, jittery… And very much alive”. They incorporate these volatile elements into their lyrics – with the hopes that it will breathe new life into the hard core genre. Imagine an inspired take on outward thinking that transcends screaming, and low tuned riffs. Their sound is meant to “be in your face and tell it like it is”, while paying homage to Korn and Pantera, who served as early inspirations. DED are also influenced by more recent bands like Slipknot and Bring Me The Horizon. This is modern hard rock & alt. metal that goes beyond anger – including themes like existentialism and ego in everyday life.
The band’s work ethic, drive, and dedication led them to record an EP that quickly made the rounds of the music industry, and started a buzz that opened doors. Using that as a springboard, the band hit the road and toured with Beartooth, Asking Alexandria, Atreyu, Every Time I Die, Upon a Burning Body, The Acacia Strain, John 5, Powerman 5000,and Insane Clown Posse among others.
Their touring helped grow awareness in the business and brought them to the attention of producer John Feldmann (Disturbed, Blink-182, Beartooth). Their collaboration with Feldmann culminated in the band signing with Jordan Schur @ Suretone Records – who discovered and grew the careers of platinum rock acts Staind and Limp Bizkit, among others. Suretone released their first track “FMFY” in December 2016, with their debut single “Anti-Everything” began to impact radio this February and is steadily climbing the charts. The band’s first full-length album MIS•AN•THROPE is slated for a July 21 release.
If HR Geiger’s art work had a soundtrack, it would be DED. Hard core music bands aren’t cannibals anymore and DED aims to shake fans out of stagnant silence and carve out the sound of today. The band has signed with CAA for booking, and will be hitting the road in early 2017 in support of the upcoming releases. Dedication and hard work have paid off – and the sky’s the limit for DED.
Never give up… Never give in… those words are the foundation of which Through
Fire was born. This four piece hard rock band hailing from Omaha, Nebraska
quickly caught the attention of several industry executive’s and they’ve recently
inked a deal with Sumerian Records. With anthems such as “Stronger” and
“Breakout”, Through Fire is here to make their mark in the rock world.
Comprised of lead singer Grant Kendrick, guitarist Justin McCain, drummer
Patrick Mussack and bassist Jesse Saint, the bands live show is sure to rally fans
throughout the world. Impacting radio along with their video premier for
“Stronger” in January 2016, Through Fire will debut their new record and tour
heavily making their statement in today’s music scene.
In this digital age of disposable razors, disposable relationships and disposable music, anything authentic seems more precious than ever.
Discovering the indigo denim of an old Levi’s jacket or an arrowhead in your backyard are some of the joys untold. Biters are a rock and roll band hailing from Hatecity and upon first listen you know they are the real deal. Steeped in rock tradition, this young group blends the alchemic mixture of louder than Hendrix volume with a heaping elixir of pure brutality. If Tom Petty was assaulted by the Sex Pistols while Stiv Bator was pouring the drinks, that scene would approximate the sound of the Biters. Their music winks and nods at tradition but reveals glimmers of future. Biters will take a chunk out of your ass and heart leaving you wanting more.” -Nico Constantine