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NINE INCH NAILS
Formed in 1988 in Ohio by Trent Reznor, the creative force behind the music, Nine Inch Nails are known for all things dark, from their intense and alienated lyrics to their controversial music videos.
The band have released eight studio albums to wide critical acclaim, including the multi-platinum Pretty Hate Machine(1989), the uncompromising seminal album The Downward Spiral (1994) and With Teeth (2005), which hit Number One on the US Billboard 200.
They have won two Grammys for Best Metal Performance and sold more than 30 million records worldwide, with hit singles including ‘The Hand That Feeds’, ‘Only’, ‘Every Day Is Exactly the Same’ and ‘Survivalism’.
Nine Inch Nails bring their incendiary live experience, hailed by the New York Times as a ‘musical, visual, emotional sensory onslaught’ to Louder Than Life Festival, the weekend of September 29th-30th 2018.
Twenty years ago, nine inspired musicians from Des Moines, Iowa, shattered the scope of what was possible in rock music.
From the moment Slipknot emerged in 1999 with their self-titled debut, it was clear they were like nothing the world had seen before, but were everything they needed. Where a similarly creative act might have burned out or lost their relevance chasing mainstream acceptance, Slipknot has only proven that an enduring commitment to hard work, constant evolution, their craft, and their fans can allow a rock band to not only continue- but to actually push the envelope on what defines heavy metal, and rock in general.
With “We are Not Your Kind,” Slipknot’s first new album in five years, the band deliver when they are needed most. In an increasingly claustrophobic psychic landscape, “We Are Not Your Kind” brings back the violence, to meet the darkness blow for blow. The band’s creative strength and vision propelled “We Are Not Your Kind” to a #1 debut on the Billboard Top 200 chart this past August. Always a global band, the album also debuted at #1 in United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Japan, Russia, Mexico, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium, Finland, Spain, and in the Top 3 in Germany, France, Norway, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.
Meanwhile, Slipknot’s annual Knotfest festival has evolved into the biggest hard rock and metal festival in the world, expanding to four continents, with new cities announcing in 2020. Over 550,000 fans have attended these massive festivals, which are as much cultural as they are music-based, mixing heavy rock with hip hop, world music, visual art, experiential installations, and much more.
Recorded music and live performances aside, Slipknot has always permeated mainstream culture in ways that defy expectations. Recently, Slipknot partnered with Amazon Studios’ advertising campaign for their smash hit “The Boys”, and have launched Slipknot No. 9 Whiskey as a partnership with Cedar Ridge Distillery (American Distilling Institute’s “2017 Distiller of the Year”).
Multi-platinum, record-breaking band Shinedown – Brent Smith [vocals], Zach Myers [guitar], Eric Bass [bass, production], and Barry Kerch [drums] – has sold more than 10 million albums and 10 million singles worldwide, earned 14 platinum and gold singles, 5 platinum and gold albums, 16 #1 Active Rock hits, and amassed more than 4.5 billion total streams. Each of Shinedown’s 27 charting singles on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Songs Chart has reached the Top 5 – an unparalleled achievement – and they hold the record for most Top 5s ever on this chart. Their hit songs “Atlas Falls,” “ATTENTION ATTENTION,” “GET UP,” “MONSTERS” and “DEVIL” bring their total to 17 #1s on the Mediabase Active Rock Chart and 16 #1s on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Songs Chart, breaking the record for the most #1s ever in the history of the Billboard chart. Shinedown was also recently named #1 on Billboard’s Greatest of All Time Mainstream Rock Artists Chart.
Shinedown’s film ATTENTION ATTENTION, directed by Bill Yukich (Beyoncé, Metallica, Wiz Khalifa), is a cinematic experience of their 2018 studio album of the same name and is out now via Gravitas Ventures. The film features theatrical performances from the band, Melora Walters (Magnolia, Big Love, PEN15), and Francesca Eastwood (Old, Twin Peaks, Fargo), and is available on digital and cable VOD in the U.S. and Canada on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, Comcast, Dish Network, Verizon Fios, and Mediacom, among others. ATTENTION ATTENTION is a visual journey that brings to life the story of the band’s acclaimed chart-topping sixth full-length and latest album which ushered in their biggest and boldest chapter to date. Shinedown’s distinct mix of explosive rock ‘n’ roll spirit, thought-provoking lyrics, and melodic sensibility on ATTENTION ATTENTION (Atlantic Records) has accumulated more than 622 million global streams, debuted Top 5 on the Billboard 200, simultaneously hit #1 on Billboard’s Alternative, Top Rock and Hard Rock Albums Charts, led to five iHeart Radio Music Award nominations for Rock Artist of the Year (2019, 2020, 2021) and Rock Song of the Year (2019, 2020), and major media acclaim. From life’s lowest lows to the highest highs, what emerges from the film is a powerful and enduring statement about humanity, overcoming struggle, the importance of mental health, not being afraid to fail, and the resolve of the human spirit.
Hailed for their high-octane live shows, Shinedown continues to engender diehard love from millions of global fans and has racked up countless sold-out tours and festival headlining sets as well as numerous national television appearances. The band is playing to sold-out arenas in the U.S., backed by their biggest, most eye-popping production yet and propelled by the undeniable power of front man Brent Smith’s voice.
Rob Zombie achieved great success in the music industry, first as a member of the multi-platinum band White Zombie and later as a solo artist with even greater results collecting numerous multi-platinum and gold albums along the way including Hellbilly Deluxe, The Sinister Urge and Educated Horses. In 2013, the seven-time GRAMMY® nominee released his fifth solo album, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, on his Zodiac Swan label through UMe. The album debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 and spawned two Top 10 Active Rock singles, “Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Super Town” and Zombie’s spin on Grand Funk Railroad’s anthemic “We’re An American Band.”
Rob Zombie’s first concert film, The Zombie Horror Picture Show, was released May 19 2015 by Zodiac Swan/UMe. The feature-length film held the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Music DVD chart for two consecutive weeks. Recorded live over two sizzling nights in Texas, The Zombie Horror Picture Show captures Zombie’s elaborate, multi-media production of mind-blowing SFX, animatronic robots, pyrotechnics, oversized LED screens and state-of-the-art light show combined with his powerhouse band featuring John 5, Piggy D and Ginger Fish.
In April 2016, Zombie released his 6th studio album, The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser. The album debut at number six on the Billboard Top 200 making it the sixth consecutive release to debut Top Ten. Produced by Zeuss, it was recorded and mixed at Goathouse Studios. A full return to form by the rock icon, The Electric Warlock… features John 5 (Guitar), Piggy D (Bass) and Ginger Fish (Drums).
October 2020 saw the release of the first new Zombie track and video in over four years — King Freak: A Crypt Of Preservation And Superstition off of the latest full-length album entitled The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy. A classic Zombie album through and through with high-energy rages like The Eternal Struggles of the Howling Man and Get Loose to heavy-groove thumpers like Shadow Of The Cemetery Man and Shake Your Ass-Smoke Your Grass. This new slab of Zombie madness released in March 2021.
Bring Me The Horizon
And it was all going so well.
In early 2019, Bring Me The Horizon released amo. As frontman Oli Sykes said at the time, with their sixth album the band set out to be deliberately disruptive. The message was: “Whatever you might think or imagine about this album, don’t make up your mind until you’ve listened to it from start to finish. It’s not just heavy songs, it’s not just commercial hits, it’s not just mad electronic music, it’s not a full-on art piece It’s got bits of all of that.”
So, nothing was off the table, everything was up for grabs, and let the chips fall where they may. Sixteen years into their life, the Sheffield five-piece had earned the right and the space to, well, fuck things up.
“Shit that’s never happened to our band before,” replies Sykes now. There was a BRIT Award nomination, for Best Group, and two Grammy shouts, for Best Rock Album and Best Rock Song for Mantra. “We definitely felt like amo took us to some new places,” he adds, and he means that literally as well as figuratively – BMTH toured the world with amo, then toured some more. They had to: with amo debuting at Number One in 17 international territories, there was global hunger like never before for the multi-platinum-selling quintet. They even did a beautifully affecting cover of Billie Eilish’s when the party’s over for Radio 1’s Live Lounge.
Then, while on a run of Eastern European festivals last summer, they got the call for which songwriter Sykes – a computer game fiend, the band’s video director and co-producer, a man with 360 vision for what this band could be and where they could reach – had been waiting forever: would BMTH write a song for Death Stranding?
“That had been talked about for nearly as long as the game has been talked about,” recalls Sykes, a fan of the blockbuster computer game since long before its initial release in 2019. “But nothing ever came of it – until literally a week before the deadline.
“And this was Monday, and we had absolutely nothing. But Hideo Kojima who made Death Stranding is my favourite video game producer of all time – our song Shadow Moses is an ode to Metal Gear Solid, another of his games – so we had to try.”
He and keyboard player, co-producer and engineer Jordan Fish set up studio in hotel room, and dived into the lore of the game. “Hideo has a thing about this word ludens– Greek for man, the player, and this ethos about how human creativity is what makes us survive, persevere and prosper.”
This dovetailed with this long-term vegan doubling down on his interest in climate change and a shitty grab-bag of geo-political crises, all of which pushed him to wrote a song that’s “hopeful but devastated about the state of the world”.
Smashed out in five days in ad hoc hotel-bedroom studios across Madrid, Moscow and Kiev, with drums added in Bologna, Ludens was the result. Released last November, it’s a rhythmic, martial stomp with a dirty techno backbeat – and it’s the sound of BMTH popping off. Sykes’ video, too, was equally bracing, the images of a moshpit of placard-wielding protestors declaring “You Abused The Power” and a masked drummer leaping from the screen as the singer wonders: “How do we form a connection when we can’t even shake hands?”
As a way-marker for the next phase of their band, Ludens was perfect. As 2020 dawned, BMTH gathered in their Sheffield HQ and put their shoulder to the wheel for their next thrilling phase. And then…
“With Ludens, I thought I was writing about the distant future,” the frontman reflects wryly. “But in reality it was just around the corner.”
When lockdown bit, BMTH were scattered: Sykes, guitarist Lee Malia and drummer Matt Nicholls were in Sheffield. Fish was in “down south” in Newbury, Berkshire. Bassist Matt Kean was in Los Angeles.
Plans to write and record together were hastily scrambled and reassembled. The anti-socially distanced band had to find a way to coalesce and cohere, both in the songwriting and production processes, and round a new sense of meaning to their music.
Another pre-existing song offered a way forward. A sketched out version of a track called Parasite Eve was already in existence. But even in its rough form, like Ludens, it felt bang on the money and eerily prescient. Outraged, angry, emotional: Parasite Eve would be the perfect opener for a narrative EP Sykes envisaged as soundtracking these chaotic times.
Its title would tell it like it is.
Post Human: Survival Horror.
“To start the story, we knew we needed something darker, angrier, to reflect this period. And Parasite Eve became that song. Its name comes from an old survival/horror video game and, like Ludens, it was a mixture of our old sounds but then coupled with what we’ve been doing in more recent times: heavy but with the pop sensibilities we’ve learnt over the years.”
A sample of Erghen Diado from Bulgarian folk choir album Les Mysteres des Voix Bulgares was the perfect opener for Parasite Eve, like curtains parting to reveal a very real, very now horrorshow.
“It just encapsulates the idea of a pandemic – they way they sing those scales just makes you feel disquiet. It’s the sound of the zombie apocalypse,” he smiles.
“And that became the centrepiece of the record – songs that were reactive to the times, which was initially pure coincidence,” he continues. “Then that became exciting. What if we can record this music right now and get it out while people are still feeling this shit? What if we can do it at home?
“What could be more relevant, and what could be more meaningful?”
The creative taps now fully open, out poured Obey. As the band wrote, the songs’ heavier edge became paramount. “I wanted all the lyrics to feel dystopian, cyber-punky, with a doomsday video game feel to it. That was the brief for every song, and I think Obey has that most. The point of references came from Blade, The Matrix and films like that.
“And then I’d say the verse, the vocals took a bit of a Britpop turn. It just felt like something that Yungblud could do really well. We’d hung out a couple of times and got on really well. I saw myself in him when we were just starting out, speaking out, being himself, polarising people, people loved him, people didn’t get him. I thought he was just a real genuine kid.”
At the suggestion of Fish, Sykes sent the demo to his fellow Yorkshireman in LA, “and he texted back literally five seconds later: ‘I’m in. I’m going to the studio now!’”
Sykes jumped to it and stayed up all night online with Yungblud, working on the lyrics.
“And he just fucking killed it. You can hear the energy in the song, how immediate it was. By the next morning we had a completed song, that had come together in an organic but such an energetic way.”
Then, the creative torrent turned to Teardrops.“It just feels like a classic, proper
Bring Me The Horizon tune,” offers Sykes of a song that’s both giant and intimate, enraged and soulful, singalong and head-banging, “without feeling like anything we’ve done before. I think a lot of our fans value the emotion and connection they feel with our lyrics. I’ve always felt that in songs like Can You Feel My Heart and Sleepwalking – they just speak to so many people. And I think Teardrops is one of the best things we’ve ever done.”
Sykes recently completed filming of the video, including one day shooting himself underwater in a water tank.
“It’s me falling into a hole of depression, using the underwater scenes as a representation of how it feels to be lost or trapped in your own thoughts, to be weighed down by the burden of your mind.
“The song as a whole is about how much our society is toxic and harmful – which has been amplified even more this year – but we’ve all been oppressed… Then there are people who’ve really been oppressed, by police brutality in America. We’re getting beaten over the head every day with new news headlines, or social media. It’s really worrying for the generation that’s growing up into this, lost in their screens all the time.
“We’ve been traumatised by paranoia and fear – and now we’re numb to it. So the song is about all that, to be in that place.”
These songs – Parasite Eve, Teardrops, Obey, Ludens – are, chronologically, instalments in the nine-chapter narrative that is Post Human: Survival Horror.
Let’s not give away the full plot right here… not least because none of us know how this story is going to end, right? But we can introduce the other characters.
Helping with Sykes and Fish with production is Mick Gordon. He’s worked on “some really big video games like Doom, so he brought that element to it”. He also served: Zakk Cervini, who mixed the tracks in LA.
Step forward, too, Babymetal on the ferocious Kingslayer. “They made it sound like an anime theme tune, to be honest!” laughs Sykes. “Which is exactly what we wanted. And with it being the heaviest song on the album, definitely vocally, the contrast of going from this super brutal heavy verses, into this super melodic and cutesy Japanese singing just gives it a vibe like nothing we’ve ever had before.”
Then, on 1 x 1, we have Nova Twins, an act Sykes discovered on Spotify in lockdown. He had no idea who the London female duo were or where they were from. But he saw that they followed BMTH, so messaged them – and mutual love abounded. He thought they’d be perfect for the track, sent it over, “and Bob’s your uncle,” he grins. “Their vocals have an attitude that really fitted with the track.”
Finally, closing the album, we have the ultimate BMTH song – and song title: One Day The Only Butterflies Left Will Be In Your Chest As You March To Your Death.
“I’ve had that title, or a version of it, for ages,” admits Sykes, “but it was ‘butterflies in your stomach’, which is a bit more of a suggestion of love. And every time I wrote a song I’d try to get it in there, and Jordan would always say: ‘Nah mate, it’s not gonna work…’
“But then with this it finally worked, with the butterflies in your chest suggesting fear.
“I wanted the song to feel like a love song ballad, but it’s actually about our relationship with the planet. And Amy’s vocals represent Mother Earth, and I represent mankind.”
Amy is none other than Amy Lee, Evanescence’s inimitably glorious and powerful vocalist. “That song had a big operatic, classical feel, and she was perfect for it.”
This then is Post Human: Survival Horror.
It’s a record made in lockdown, of lockdown. A set of songs constrained by pandemic, but also inspired by pandemic. A necessarily home-made nine-track EP, but one with true global reach and relevance.
A Bring Me The Horizon record, and then some.
“This is the first record we’ve written where the lyrics aren’t just directly about me and my experiences,” notes Oli Sykes. “That’s probably partly because I’ve always had something fairly traumatic to write about, whether it’s drug addiction or a break-up and divorce.
“So I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved, and it’s really exciting to be putting out a record that’s much bigger than myself and is about what’s happening now, in the world, to all of us, in real time.”
Because, as the man says, “when walking out your front door is potentially deadly, I don’t think it’s over-the-top to say it is survival horror.”
Yes, it was all going so well. Then it all went to shit. But Bring Me The Horizon, true to defiant, inventive, up-for-it form, have alchemised proper gold from that shit.
Alice In Chains
On September 15, 2009, Alice In Chains shot to No. 1 on the Billboard Rock Chart with “Check My Brain,” a song Spin magazine hailed as “one of the catchiest songs of Alice In Chains’ history.” ”The track, which appeared on Black Gives Way To Blue, became the 12th Top 10 hit for this iconic rock band. While it’s always gratifying to top the charts, what made this particular achievement extra special was the fact that it was Alice In Chains’ first new single and album in more than 10 years.
“This feels like a new beginning,” said guitarist/vocalist Jerry Cantrell at the time. “It takes a lot to face up to your past and even more to face up to your future. We didn’t have to do this. Nobody’s getting kicked out of their house, or giving away half in a divorce for the third time. Our legacy is intact. There’s a bigger motivation at work here, and that’s all of us coming to terms with how things were and how they can still be.”
In the months that followed, Cantrell and bandmates William DuVall (vocals/guitar), Mike Inez (bass) and Sean Kinney (drums) garnered two Grammy nominations, scored a second No. 1 hit with the song “Your Decision,” debuted Top 5 on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart, played a plethora of sold-out shows around the world, saw their album certified Gold for selling more than a half-million copies, and drew critical acclaim from critics and fans alike. In other words, Alice In Chains had picked up right where they left off.
Over the course of their remarkable career, the band has garnered multiple Grammy nominations, sold more than 20 million albums worldwide and amassed a diehard international fanbase whose member’s number in the millions. Alongside Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, Alice In Chains were one of the Big Four to emerge from Seattle in the 1990s and went on to change the sound of modern rock.
Alice In Chains remain one of the most successful and influential American rock bands of all time and are currently gearing up for the release of a much-anticipated new album.
Alice Cooper pioneered a grandly theatrical brand of hard rock that was designed to shock. Drawing equally from horror movies, vaudeville, and garage rock, the group created a stage show that featured electric chairs, guillotines, fake blood and boa constrictors. He continues to tour regularly, performing shows worldwide with the dark and horror-themed theatrics that he’s best known for.
With a schedule that has included six months year in and year out on the road, Alice Cooper brings his own brand of rock psycho-drama to fans both old and new, enjoying it as much as the audience does. Known as the architect of shock-rock, Cooper (in both the original Alice Cooper band and as a solo artist) has rattled the cages and undermined the authority of generations of guardians of the status quo, continuing to surprise fans and exude danger at every turn, like a great horror movie, even in an era where CNN can present real life shocking images.
As he finally heads back out on the concert trail in 2021, Alice insists he’s still motivated to continue touring and recording albums, as well as making time for other projects, including most recently, Alice’s widely praised 2018 performance as King Herod in NBC-TV’s live production of “Jesus Chris Superstar” on Easter Sunday.
Released in February, 2021, his latest album “Detroit Stories,” (produced again by Bob Ezrin) is inspired by the garage rock music of Detroit in the late Sixties, including several classic covers of Detroit hits from that era, recorded in Detroit with all Detroit musicians. It entered Billboard’s album sales chart at #1 the week of release, and also charted high upon release on the album charts in the UK, Germany, Australi, Sweden and other countries.
As if that wasn’t enough, “Nights With Alice Cooper,” Alice’s nightly radio show, continues to air in nearly 100 cities in the USA, Canada, Australia, and the UK. The five hour long show features his favorite classic rock songs along with his insider anecdotes about many of the artists.
Cooper was born in Detroit Michigan, and moved to Phoenix with his family. The Alice Cooper band formed while they were all in high school in Phoenix, and was discovered in 1969 by Frank Zappa in Los Angeles, where he signed them to his record label. Their collaboration with young record producer Bob Ezrin led to the
break-through third album “Love It to Death” which hit the charts in 1971, followed by “Killer,” “School’s Out,” ”Billion Dollar Babies,” and “Muscle of Love.” Each new album release was accompanied by a bigger and more elaborate touring stage show. 1974 saw the release of a “Greatest Hits” album, and then Cooper, in 1975, released his first solo album, “Welcome to My Nightmare” in 1975, accompanied by the legendary groundbreaking theatrical Welcome to My Nightmare concert tour.
Associated with that album and tour was the ground-breaking network TV special Alice Cooper: The Nightmare. Other film and television appearances include The Muppet Show, Mae West’s last film Sextette, Roadie, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearst Club Band and appearances on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson and Tom Snyder’s Tomorrow Show. The original band also made an appearance in the movie Diary of a Mad Housewife in 1979, filmed the full-length feature film Good To See You Again Alice Cooper, and Alice appeared in a 1972 episode of The Snoop Sisters.
Alice’s solo career skyrocketed in the late 1970’s, with a succession of hit singles, including “You & Me,” and classic albums, including “Lace And Whiskey” and “From The Inside,” and bigger and even more elaborate concert tours.
In the ‘80’s Cooper explored different sounds, highlighted by the new wavish album “Flush The Fashion,” the heavy metal “Constrictor” and “Raise Your Fist And Yell,” and then 1989’s melodic hard rock album “Trash,” which featured the massive hit single “Poison” and became his biggest selling album and single worldwide. During this period Alice also appeared in the horror films Monster Dog and John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, and recorded songs for the soundtracks to Roadie, Class of 1984, Friday the 13 Part VI: Jason Lives and Wes Craven’s Shocker.
Cooper’s most memorable movie appearance was as himself in Wayne’s World in 1991. He also played (fittingly) Freddy Krueger’s wicked step-father in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, and appeared on Gene Wilder’s TV series Something Wilder as well as on That ‘70’s Show. The 90’s also saw the release of the albums “Hey Stoopid,” “The Last Temptation,” and “Fistful of Alice,” a live album.
1999 saw the release of the definitive historical 4 CD box set “The Life & Crimes of Alice Cooper,” from Rhino/Warners.
Twenty-plus years into the new millenium, Cooper continues to be very productive and busy, writing, recording and releasing the albums “Brutal Planet,” “Dragon Town,” “The Eyes of Alice Cooper,” “Dirty Diamonds,” “Along Came a Spider,” “Welcome 2 My Nightmare,” 2017’s “Paranormal,” and 2018’s “Live at L’Olympia Paris,”plus “Old School 1964-1974,” a limited edition box set celebrating the original band. 2021 also has seen the DVD/blu-ray release of the live video of that “Live at L’Olympia Paris” concert.
He also wrote and published a memoir, “Golf Monster,” in 2007, which tracked his life from childhood to rock stardom, and his journey from alcoholic to golf addict, and was featured in the Tim Burton film “Dark Shadows” in 2012.
Alice, Dennis, Neal, Michael, and the late Glen Buxton (posthumously) were inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame in March, 2011.
2014 saw the release of “Super Duper Alice Cooper,” a documentary detailing the arc of Alice’s rollercoaster ride in the world of rock superstardom. Directed and produced by the same team from Banger Films that delivered the award-winning Iron Maiden and Rush documentaries, it premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival in NYC, and has since been released on Blu-Ray and DVD by Eagle Rock Entertainment.
Though his 2020 worldwide concert tour, dubbed “Ol’ Black Eyes Is Back,”was cut short by the pandemic, he looks forward to continuing to bring his iconic brand of rock & roll to fans on five continents now in 2021, 2022 and beyond.
With his influence on rock & roll and popular culture long since acknowledged, there is little that Alice Cooper hasn’t achieved in his remarkable career, including platinum albums, sold-out tours and any number of honors and career achievement awards.
Novelist Henry Miller once wrote, “One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.” Since their formation in 1991, iconic multiplatinum Los Angeles rock band Incubus have consciously and continually shifted their perspective with each subsequent album, preserving the spirit that initially drove them and simultaneously challenging themselves as artists and human beings. Their eighth full-length, the aptly titled 8 [Island Records], proudly upholds that tradition for the quintet—Brandon Boyd [vocals], Mike Einziger [guitar, piano, backing vocals], José Pasillas II [drums], Chris Kilmore [turntables, keyboards], and Ben Kenney [bass].
“As a band, we’re collectively interested in challenging ourselves and hopefully finding new, innovative ways of writing music,” asserts Boyd. “That ethos has kept things interesting for us.”
It’s also kept things interesting for listeners everywhere. By 2017, the band’s sales exceeded 23 million worldwide, while landing four Top 5 debuts on the Billboard Top 200 and one #1 album. They’ve graced the stages of festivals everywhere from Lollapalooza and Air + Style to Download Festival and Pinkpop in addition to touring alongside the likes of Linkin Park, OutKast, Moby, Jane’s Addiction, Queens of the Stone Age, and many more. After the release of 2015’s Trust Fall (Side A) EP and a packed summer amphitheater tour with Deftones, the boys once again treaded uncharted territory. They collaborated with a dynamic talent behind the board as 8 would be co-produced and mixed by Skrillex [Justin Bieber, A$AP Rocky, Lady Gaga]. In January 2016, Boyd and Einziger holed up in a Venice Beach shack, building “Much of the musical framework in a weird man cave,” laughs Boyd.
By fall, the five musicians regrouped to flesh out ideas, recording at Jim Henson Studios and at Einziger’s personal studio. As the vision came into focus during early 2017, Incubus added another level by enlisting the perspective of longtime friend Skrillex for co-production and mixing. Einziger had spent the past few years, exponentially expanding his personal musical palette. Not only did he oversee production for The Internet’s Feel Good and produce three songs for Tyler, The Creator’s chart-topping “Cherry Bomb,” but he also co-wrote Avicii’s six-times platinum smash “Wake Me Up” and served as musical director and performer for a much talked-about 2016 GRAMMY® Awards performance of “Where Are Ü Now” by Skrillex, Diplo, and Justin Bieber. After lunch one day, Einziger played Skrillex some mixes, and “a whole new world opened up” as the producer added his magic to 8.
“It evolved organically out of my friendship with Skrillex,” Einziger elaborates. “Incubus is all about friendship. We transferred the synergy of working together into what the band was doing. As we put the final touches on everything, Skrillex brought another level to the album.”
As a result, the eleven tracks comprising 8 assemble a mosaic reflective of the band’s current mindset. Unease translates to unpredictable guitar riffs that blur the lines between time signatures as cosmic rhythmic transmissions orbit around an epicenter of combustible emotion. Each lyric encodes a parable or what might be a hidden message. The first single “Nimble Bastard” leapfrogs from a rattling guitar snap into an anthemic refrain. “Loneliest” echoes with an existential rumination on solitude over an airy beat and hypnotic guitars. “Undefeated” struts along via a bombastic stomp before culminating on an uplifting chant, while the spacey “Familiar Faces” instantly enchants.
The soothing instrumental soundscape of “Make No Sound In The Digital Forest” illuminates their cinematic side with delicate chimes, simmering drums, and warbling tones. A dial-up modem signals the explosion of “Love In A Time of Surveillance” as the one-two punch of “No Fun” and “Throw Out The Map” tap into a tsunami of distortion and punk-y freedom. “Glitterbomb” represents the glorious push-and-pull of 8, teetering between heavenly harmony and a dramatic twinge.
8 arrives at a significant milestone for Incubus—releasing exactly 20 years since their major label debut S.C.I.E.N.C.E. landed back in 1997. A little older, a lot wiser, quite tighter, but equally ready to challenge themselves and rock music at large, Incubus change their perspective once more in 2017.
“All the time, I hear from fans that our music was the backdrop of their first experience with love or important in getting them through a hard time,” says Einziger. “That’s the highest compliment.”
“When we finished 8, we were flooded with this wave of gratitude,” Boyd leaves off. “The fact that so many people are willing to come on this weird ride with us is really humbling. We’re filled with this sense of awe around it. We’re very happy to share this record with everyone, and we hope they like it.” — Rick Florino, March 2017
Evanescence is the multi-platinum, two-time GRAMMY-winning rock band comprised of lead singer-songwriter and pianist Amy Lee, bassist Tim McCord, drummer Will Hunt, lead guitarist Troy McLawhorn, and guitarist and backing vocalist Jen Majura. The group’s 2003 landmark debut album Fallen laid the foundation, spending 43 weeks on the Billboard Top 10 and selling more than 17 million copies worldwide. Several sold-out world tours and chart-topping albums later, this year Evanescence released their newest studio album and first of all original music in a decade, ‘The Bitter Truth.’ About the power of pushing through tragedy and finding the light after the darkness, ‘The Bitter Truth’ opened at #1 on the Current Rock chart and on the overall iTunes charts in 22 countries. Selected songs include “Wasted On You” & “Use My Voice,” both of which were nominated for MTV Video Awards, “Use My Voice,” HeadCount’s 2020 voter-registration theme song, and “Better Without You,” a Top-10 charting song at US Rock Radio.
Lamb of God
“For millions of headbangers, Lamb of God are simply the most important contemporary metal band in the world.” – Guitar World
Demagoguery, divisiveness, unrest, desperation, poverty, exploitation: if ever there were a time for a definitive mission statement from the modern standard-bearers of extreme music fury, that time is now. Thankfully, for the anxious and restless around the world, LAMB OF GOD delivers.
It’s not an accident that the latest album from the internationally acclaimed metal institution arrives with nothing more than LAMB OF GOD as its title. On their eighth studio album, the prime architects of the explosive New Wave of American Heavy Metal assemble ten songs of unrelenting might, encompassing every aspect of what they do best. The Grammy-nominated titans, beloved around the world with the same devotion as spiritual forefathers and touring comrades Slayer and Metallica, enter the new decade with an uncompromising new testament.
The band’s first album in nearly five years is a bold declaration of identity and intent, backed by the sharpest weapons in their renowned arsenal, from the invigorating dynamic anthem “Memento Mori” to the breakneck pummel of the penultimate album closer, “On the Hook.”
D. Randall Blythe is as angry, insightful, and informed as ever, contextualizing and harnessing a subcultural born angst with an everyman venom no politician could possess. Guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler riff as if they may never riff again, injecting the album with a mountain of thrash, groove, shred, and stripped-down aggression in equal measure, demonstrating more than ever before why Guitar World hails them for their eclectic “wizardry.”
The formidable and fluid bass playing of John Campbell looms large as a rhythmic shadow, making use of every fingertip with the same aggression found on the Burn the Priest demo tape in 1997, finetuned by more than two decades of experience in clubs, theaters, arenas, and festival stages. Art Cruz, who rose to prominence as one of the genre’s top touring drummers with Lamb of God as his favorite band, makes his recorded debut with the band with a whirlwind introduction. Like the historic additions of Bruce Dickinson, Jason Newsted, or Paul Bostaph, Cruz commands his position with passion, sweat, and expansive dynamics, reenergizing Lamb of God’s overall sound.
Twenty years prior to the release of Lamb of God, the Richmond, Virginia born quintet gave heavy metal a violent shove into the new millennium with the prophetically titled New American Gospel. Kerrang! called it the “dawn for the most brutally aggressive band since Pantera.” As the Palaces Burn (2003) made the Rolling Stone list of the Top 100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time.
Ashes of the Wake (2004) was the first Lamb Of Gold album to be certified gold by the RIAA, a feat all but impossible for a contemporary extreme metal band. Sacrament (2006) went gold as well, on the heels of its Top 10 Billboard 200 chart debut. Instant classics “Walk with Me in Hell” and “Redneck” contributed to Sacrament’s Album of the Year status in Revolver Magazine.
The raw and organic malice of Wrath (2009), which began the band’s enduring relationship with producer Josh Wilbur (Gojira, Avenged Sevenfold, Korn), earned Lamb of God the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hard Rock, Rock, and Tastemaker charts, with a No. 2 position on the Billboard 200. Those No. 1 positions were repeated with the boundary-smashing Resolution (2012), which swung effortlessly between thrash, traditional metal, sludgy doom, and flashes of crust punk with swagger and bravado. Like its predecessor, VII: Sturm und Drang (2015) debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. It was voted Best Metal Album of 2015 by the often difficult-to-please Metal Sucks, and the single “512” received a Grammy nod for the “Best Metal Performance”, their fifth nomination.
Multiple cover stories over the years, published by the likes of Revolver, Metal Hammer, Kerrang!, Rock Sound, Rock Hard, Decibel, Outburn, and even the Indian edition of Rolling Stone, demonstrate the massive interest in what Randy Blythe has to say. And there is no shortage of topics on Lamb of God, delivered through the author and photographer’s most famous medium. There was no shortage of riffs, either, the result of multiple sessions spread over several months.
Lamb of God was even more collaborative than recent records, where the track listings could be broken down more easily into “this is a Mark song, this is a Willie song.” As Morton explains, they began to consciously move back toward a more mashed up approach with VII, hearkening back to the days of As the Palaces Burn. “It started on the last record and continued on this one.”
“We both had a lot of material going into this album, but we made an effort to really have each other’s back,” Adler confirms. “We wanted to get back to the way that we used to do it.”
“I heard the demos from the writing sessions soon after they were done,” Blythe recalls. “There’s Willie’s demonically prolific output, along with Mark’s, and it came in waves. It was alarming.”
The guitarists got together several times to sort through songs and collaborate, in different locales, alongside Wilbur at The Halo Studio in the South Windham historic district of Maine or at a studio in Virginia Beach, about 90 minutes from Richmond. Work on the instrumental demos was broken up by the group’s main support slot on Slayer’s “The Final Campaign”, providing distance from the works-in-progress as they played their best-known songs. “I was really stoked on that aspect of it,” Adler says. “Moving forward, I would vote to do it the same way again.”
Morton agrees. “Normally it’s preproduction and then straight into the studio, but the way this one was fragmented and spaced out – sometimes by months – was really beneficial.” Once the band came together in Mark’s detached garage, where they rehearse, the songs came together as well. As Campbell notes, “Resurrection Man” is “a song that came together in that room, in preproduction, as opposed to the songs Willie and Mark had worked up beforehand.”
Blythe came armed to disrupt, demolish, and rebuild in all of the ways only aggressive music can, taking a page from the revolutionary self-starting personal politics of early punk, with an atom bomb sized disdain for current affairs. There aren’t any songs about any specific individual. Instead the record examines the state of the world and looks to the root causes of our problems.
“You try to pick the lesser of / but evil doesn’t come in twos,” Blythe warns in “Checkmate,” the second song on Lamb of God. “Make America hate again and bleed the sheep to sleep.” In “New Colossal Hate,” he laments, “the melting pot is melting down.” The epidemic of addiction is another target of the singer’s ire, as he links the opioid crisis to crack cocaine, to the Vietnam War, the Iran-Contra scandal, and of course, to Park Avenue. “Reality Bath” takes an unflinching look at mass shootings, with extra venom reserved for perhaps the vilest of them all: in schools.
“It’s addressing this whole generation, my daughter included, that’s growing up learning to hide in active shooter situations,” says Mark. “The second verse is about the rainforest disappearing. It’s talking about real things, very current subject matter, but it’s also a throwback to me, in a sense. It reminds me of when I was coming up as a teenager, when thrash music was very topical. I learned about a lot of issues and had a lot of conversations through music. Whether it was Sacred Reich or Megadeth, thrash metal was very political. This album has a lot of that.”
“Everything is shifting so swiftly, it’s impossible to put your finger on any one topical issue, since it’ll change tomorrow, so I chose to write this record about the global mental environment that has allowed this fucked up situation to occur,” Blythe explains. “I wrote down a list of topics I wanted to address. ‘Where did all this craziness start?’ The societal sickness from whence everything stems. I believe all of our problems stem from the creation of consumer culture, starting with the Industrial Revolution. And that’s what inspired the song, ‘Gears.’”
“Distraction flows down an obsessive stream / rejection grows into oppressive screams.” “Memento Mori” observes seeing the dangers inherent to a constantly “connected” culture. But it isn’t delivered without hope. “A prime directive to disconnect / reclaim yourself and resurrect.”
“Memento Mori” opens the album, but it arrives at the middle point in the lyric sheet. “There are two sequences,” notes Randy.” There’s the musical sequence, which is the flow of the album, and then there’s the lyrical sequence. In the lyric booklet, the lyrics are printed sequentially. I start by pointing out several glaring problems, the most important ones in my mind, and the root of them. Then it moves into a feeling that you can resist this stuff, to a feeling of hope. I could sit here and be a negative Nancy, and just write a completely 100% nihilist record, which I might have done if I were still 27 years old and drinking. It was important for me to have positivity in here, to keep the PMA, as the bad brains have taught us, which starts on an individual level.”
Even in an age of streaming and shuffling, sequencing remains of paramount importance to all five men of Lamb of God. “Albums are meant to be listened to front to back,” declares Adler. “We are privileged just to be able to release an album into the world. [But] you can have a bunch of great songs but if they’re not in the right order then an album just isn’t what it should be.”
“Every time we put out a record, we’ve had many somewhat heated discussions about [the song order],” Campbell says. “We very much look at it as an album more than a collection of songs.”
“This album is very representative of everything that Lamb of God does,” Morton declares. Which comes back to the decision to call the album, simply, LAMB OF GOD. “The whole vibe within the camp at this moment just lends itself to it,” Adler says.
“We feel very strongly about this record and about who and what we are,” Campbell agrees. “Putting our name on it is a statement,” Randy says. “This is Lamb of God. Here and now.”
Jack Black and Kyle Gass make up the Greatest Band in the World: Tenacious D. They started playing together in Kyle’s studio apartment on Cochran Ave in Los Angeles. No one could have ever dreamed of where the band’s genius would take them, but take them it did…
The band had a variety series on HBO that aired in 1999. Their self-titled album was released in the fall of 2001 with Epic Records and was quickly certified at Gold-selling status, and has since been certified Platinum. The duo completed their first feature film together – Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny – for New Line Cinema, which was released in November, 2006. The album Rize of the Fenix followed in 2012, receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album.
In 2013, Black and Gass founded and hosted Festival Supreme, a music and comedy festival in Los Angeles, CA. In its first four years, Festival Supreme boasted acts such as Adam Sandler, Sarah Silverman, Flight of the Conchords, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Patton Oswalt, Die Antwoord, Amy Poehler, Workaholics, & many more.
In 2014, Tenacious D won a Grammy in the category of Best Metal Performance for their cover of Ronnie James Dio’s “The Last In Line.”
On November 2, 2018, Tenacious D released Tenacious D in Post-Apocalypto – an animated film, with each frame hand-drawn by Black and every character voiced by Black and Gass. Alongside the film, the band also dropped the album Post-Apocalypto. Together, they created a genius addition to the D’s already scintillating catalogue of rock greatness.
In September, 2020 – with great excitement – Tenacious D released the final piece to the Post-Apocalypto universe: the graphic novel.
After more than two decades together, numerous top-charting releases, and countless worldwide tours, CHEVELLE—the outfit consisting of brothers Pete Loeffler [guitars, vocals], Sam Loeffler [drums]—have confidently sailed through decades of uncharted waters and have emerge with a sound that is equally intricate as it is intimate. Now, the understated musical powerhouse, who have consistently delivered rock anthems, will unleash their ninth full length album, NIRATIAS, on March 5th, 2021.
After almost 5 years between studio albums, the band felt despite the musical landscape growing more uncertain during unprecedented times, the time was right to unleash the new collection of songs.
“We decided that pandemic or not, we are a rock band. Writing and releasing music is just what we do,” the band says. “Even for our mental health, it’s reason enough to put NIRATIAS out and feel some normalcy and pride in what we have been working on. As music fans, we appreciate this from the bands we follow, and we hope our fans will appreciate it, too.”
NIRATIAS draws upon Pete’s fascination with space travel, simulation theory and a healthy distrust and skepticism of the unknown. NIRATIAS was recorded over 2019 and 2020 with longtime producer Joe Barresi.
The album builds upon the pair’s impressive discography. To-date, Chevelle has achieved Multi- Platinum, Platinum and Gold certifications across 8 studio albums and 7 number one hits, with 17 songs reaching the Top 10 on the Rock charts. The band has sold over 5 million albums in the US, and more world-wide. Their extensive body of acclaimed work includes the 2002 Multi-Platinum selling genre staple Wonder What’s Next and the 2004 Platinum selling follow-up This Type of Thinking Could Do Us In, which debuted #8 on the Billboard Top 200. The releases that followed held their own against the ever changing faces of popular music: 2007’s Gold record selling Vena Sera reached #2 on the Billboard Rock Albums Chart while 2009’s Sci-Fi Crimes debuted #6 on the Billboard Top 200 and #1 on the Alternative Chart. 2011’s Hats Off to The Bull (#5 on Billboard Top 200), 2014’s La Gargola (#3), and 2016’s The North Corridor (#8, #1 Rock) built upon the success. In 2018, Chevelle released a B-sides and rarities collection entitled 12 Bloody Spies while they wrote and recorded the new album.
With no signs of this Chicago alternative rock staple slowing down, their numerous chart topping releases have certainly earned this band their place in American rock music history. NIRATIAS will be sure to add another chapter to the extensive catalog of this successful music career.
“You don’t want to repeat yourself,” affirms Sam. “We want to seize something different with each song. Every record has to take on its own identity. As an artist, you have to progress and evolve.” As they continue to master their craft, Chevelle take on the critics and prove time and time again that they are a force to be reckoned with.
Self-doubt and depression clawed at the edges of Lzzy Hale’s mind when it came time to pen Halestorm’s fourth album, a follow-up to 2015’s Into The Wild Life. The musician didn’t feel like she was where she needed to be, both professionally and personally. When she and her bandmates, Arejay Hale, Joe Hottinger and Josh Smith, began writing, Lzzy wasn’t even sure who she was. “I kept thinking, ‘Can I still do this?’” she says. “I went down a lot of rabbit holes, and I’m my own worst critic. I needed to get over a lot of internal hurdles during this writing and recording process. This record was about overcoming inner demons.”
The band began writing, but the first batch of songs didn’t feel quite right, so Halestorm scrapped it and started over. And in the end, Vicious represents Halestorm’s most personal and most inventive album, a deeply lived-with collection of songs teaming with genuine heart and soul. It’s also how Lzzy got her groove back. “I don’t think there was any other way for me to get through that difficult time than to write about it,” she says. “This record was like therapy.” The album was recorded with producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Alice In Chains and Rush) at Nashville, TN’s Rock Falcon recording studio, and the producer, with whom the band had previously worked with on their 2017 covers EP ReAniMate 3.0: The CoVeRs eP, pushed each musician to a new place musically. Each song went through five or six versions, and ultimately carry the listener on a journey, emphasizing the band’s strengths while revealing a dynamic evolution.
“Nick pushed us from 10 to 11,” Lzzy says. “He pushed us mentally and physically. There are some things on this record that I didn’t think were physically possible for both myself and my bandmates. It was really exciting to see that happen for the first time in the studio. To be able to still surprise each other like that – and to surprise yourself – is no small feat.”
One of the main goals in the studio was to capture real, human moments within the music, the sorts of unexpected instances that occur onstage. In recent years, Halestorm has introduced improvised flashes into their live sets with the idea of creating controlled chaos between the more orchestrated songs. The music on Vicious embraces this sensibility. The musicians worked to ensure that every song had its own dynamic feeling, both overall and within each verse. “It wasn’t just about looping the same thing over and over again,” Lzzy notes. “The idea was: Where can we take this that’s not predicable?”
The resulting album, which was culled from over 20 recorded tunes, solidifies everything Halestorm stands for as a band. It’s about empowerment, an ideal that the musicians have encouraged for years, and the songs urge you to be unapologetically yourself. Ultimately, it’s not just about being strong and taking on the storm – but also about how you rise above that storm. The album’s title comes from “Vicious,” a gritty, surging rock number that was written during the last moments of studio time. The song features the line “What doesn’t kill me makes me vicious,” a rallying cry to overcome any obstacles. “It’s about being strong and fierce,” Lzzy says. “The climate of the world right now is always seeping in, so we wanted it to feel really positive and empowering.” “Uncomfortable,” one of the first songs written for the album, has a similar tone, featuring a rapid-fire verse and impressive vocal licks on the chorus. “You can’t please everybody as much as you may want to try,” Lzzy says of the song. “By being yourself you may make people uncomfortable. I saw a lot of our fans struggling with that. This song is saying that it’s okay to not make everyone happy all the time. You can be yourself and that’s okay. And, in fact, you should be proud of that.”
References to Halestorm’s fans and Lzzy’s constant interactions with them online or on Twitter thread through the album. The musician, who calls the band’s fanbase “our comrades in this crazy life,” wanted to drop Easter eggs into the lyrics, reminding longtime listeners of past conversations or instances in Lzzy’s personal life they’ll likely remember. “I feel like our fans deserve that type of openness from us at this point,” she says. “The love they’ve given us comes full circle.”
Since their inception in 1998, Halestorm have toured extensively with a diverse variety of artists, including Eric Church, Avenged Sevenfold, Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, ZZ Top and Evanescence. They’ve played around 2,500 dates around the world to date, and performed at festivals like Taste of Chaos and Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival. The band scored a Grammy for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance in 2013, and Lzzy was named the “Dimebag Darrell Shredder of the Year” at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards in 2016. Both Halestorm and The Strange Case of… were certified Gold, further evidencing Halestorm’s massively supportive fanbase. Halestorm have also made history: “Love Bites (So Do I),” the hit single from The Strange Case of… ascended to No. 1 at Active Rock radio in the U.S., making Halestorm the first-ever female-fronted group to earn the top spot on the format.
Today Halestorm exists as a beacon of hope and inspiration for musicians, particularly female musicians who want to brave the challenges of the music industry. Lzzy has been a pioneer in rock and proven that women have a place on the stage. Every night on tour, women – and men – in the audience can look to her and realize they too have the power to carve out their own path. Younger musicians admire her the same way she grew up admiring artists like Joan Jett and Stevie Nicks. “They helped me feel like I could do it, and I hope I’ve done the same for women today,” Lzzy says. “Trying to be my best self and not trying to be anything I’m not and being unapologetic feels like a good message. I feel a lot of responsibility to keep upholding that. I’m just trying to be the best me.”
Two decades into an accomplished career, Halestorm represents the results of true passion and hard work. The band has out-survived many of its peers and the musicians are still having fun after all this time. Vicious is evidence of a group of artists who refuse to ever plateau.
“This music chose us and we’re just hanging on,” Lzzy says. “Our greatest accomplishment is that we’ve been the same members for over 15 years and we’re continuing to make and release music. We want to always try new things. We’re still extremely hungry and open to opportunities, and we’re hungry to prove we deserve to be here. We’re so lucky to still be a band and have people care about our music. And there’s still so much more to do.”
Death is inevitable. Time is a precious, finite resource. Regret springs solely from our collective inability to square these two truths. A friend suddenly passes away and you’re left to think about all those times where you could have said how much you appreciate them and didn’t – because you figured there would always be a next time. A partnership collapses and you’re left to reflect on the moments you took for granted, the ways you could have been more present. A band lacks the foresight to predict that touring will cease to exist for two years and doesn’t leave it all on the stage that last night; or, think of the fan that doesn’t stick around for the encore because they wanted an extra half hour of sleep.
These concerns were not hypothetical for Mastodon. The core lineup has been in place for 21 years, an eternity in the highest echelons of metal, where even the most legendary band names eventually become brands staffed by a rotating cast of hired guns. And yet, Brann Dailor, Brent Hinds, Bill Kelliher, and Troy Sanders experienced enough individual and collective tragedy to threaten their adamantine bond – the death of their longtime friend and manager Nick John after battling pancreatic cancer, a devastating global pandemic that put their faith, families, and livelihoods in jeopardy. Mastodon’s decades of success and the brotherhood between its four members had not made them any more immune to the possibility that it could all splinter tomorrow. Mastodon had a glimpse of the end and committed to a new beginning – and Hushed And Grim does not take a single moment for granted.
And there are more of these moments than on any previous Mastodon release. It initially feels reductive to simply describe Hushed And Grim as Mastodon’s ninth album – at 88 minutes, their first double LP boldly defies conventional assumptions about attention spans in the streaming era. With the expanse of a studio film, the texture of a novel and the breadth of a Greatest Hits, Hushed And Grim is Mastodon paying tribute to John by building an eternal monument. “He’s always been an influence when he was alive,” Hinds wistfully states. “And he’s even more of an influence now.”
Consider why double albums are frequently called “monumental.” Mastodon is very much aware of what this format says about their legacy in heavy music. Dailor recalls his formative teenage years absorbing every note of world-building epics like The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Physical Graffiti, and The Wall, milestone works from bands whose inspiration and craft have simultaneously reached a zenith. “It takes some balls to put out a double album these days or takes some ovaries,” Dailor quips. “I’ve been trying to say ovaries because I think it’s more powerful.”
Mastodon fundamentally altered the course of 21st century metal on 2004’s classic Leviathan, and every album thereafter continued to shape the genre in their image. In 2018, five-time nominees Mastodon won their first GRAMMY®, with “Sultan’s Curse” earning Best Metal Performance. Arguably more impressive was Emperor of Sand being nominated for Best Rock Album, with lead single “Show Yourself” hitting
the top five on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart. Without sacrificing an iota of their intensity and intelligence, Mastodon’s imprint on pop culture has spread from Adult Swim to late night network television, from the History Channel’s Counting Cars to HBO’s Game of Thrones, from DC Comics Dark Knight Metal to Bill and Ted Face the Music.
But as Sanders points out, “the most solid representation of us is when we get in our cycle and craft a wholesome, dynamic and beautiful record from top to bottom. That’s what we ultimately thrive on.” Hushed And Grim only emphasizes what the band’s many accomplishments has expressed to this point – Mastodon have transcended genre of any kind, animated by an unwillingness to compromise that results in their most expansive and accessible release yet. There are no interludes, no filler, none of the stereotypical bloat that accompanies even the most revered double albums. With the spirit of Nick John coursing throughout its entirety, “every song has a place in our hearts,” Kelliher stresses.
Throughout, Mastodon travel through time and space, through memory and imagination, drawing on their experience and formative influences to open new portals. On “Pushing the Tides,” they exist at the thrilling intersection of metal and post-hardcore, “The Beast”’s heaving Southern rock, replete with a countrified contribution from guitarist Marcus King, creates an alternate history of the Allman Brothers sharing a bottle of Jack Daniels with Black Sabbath, “Had it All” features a guitar solo from Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil and some classical French Horn by Jody Sanders, Mother of Troy, reimagining Mastodon as a band intermingling with the monsters of Headbanger’s Ball. It’s all overseen by the legendary producer David Bottrill now including Hushed And Grim alongside his prior progressive pop landmarks from Peter Gabriel, Tool and King Crimson.
Yet for all of their technical mastery and ambitious musicianship, the most daring aspect of Hushed And Grim comes from the voices of Mastodon themselves. It’s not just in the tremendous growth all members have made as vocal performers, exemplified in the explosive shouts of “The Crux” and the aching refrain of “Skeleton of Splendor”; there’s an unmistakable expressive grit that cannot be coached, that takes years of endurance and pain to unlock.
As Mastodon’s music continues to expand outward, each member traveled inward, more deeply to unearth their most emotionally transparent lyrics yet. “One thing I’ve noticed about longevity is that you kind of eliminate layers of bullshit and become more honest,” Sanders muses. In the past, Mastodon albums were so memorable in their metaphorical heft that it threatened to swallow them whole – they’re the Moby Dick band, the Rasputin band, the guys who wrote about wolves and skulls. “We pull authentic emotion from our life experiences,” Sanders explains. “And we channel that through the art that we call Mastodon.” And the themes of heartbreak, of joy and hope that have always underpinned the band’s most referential work are pushed to the fore on Hushed And Grim.
Look, they’re still called Mastodon – the metal is here, Kelliher and Hinds’ riffs are still massive, Sanders’ bass can level a mountain and Dailor’s drumming is every bit as dazzling in its intricacies. Yet, the towering “Had It All” was originally built from Sanders’ simple acoustic strum, Kelliher and Hinds’ interplay impresses with a newfound, nimble sense of melody and Dailor’s restraint is as thrilling as his blinding fills as “The Beast” brings a slow Southern shuffle to their repertoire. But Hushed And Grim dares you to see Mastodon as what they’ve always been – four friends from Atlanta who are subject to the same struggles as you and I. “I’ve turned the grief to medicine,” “I feel the pressure,” “death comes and brings with him sickle and peace,” “leaving you behind is the hardest thing I’ve done,” these are their refrains, to be shared between Mastodon and the listener as equals. “My love, so strong/The mountains we made in the distance/Those will stay with us” – these are Mastodon’s parting words on the closing “Gigantium,” and we is all-inclusive, to themselves, to the fans that have stuck with them throughout the years, and the new ones to come. And to Nick Johns’. Our time together can’t possibly last forever and, inevitably, Mastodon may one day be no more. Hushed And Grim will remain.
Over the past 3 years, YUNGBLUD has built a huge and devoted following of young people from all corners of the world that he considers a community rather than a fanbase. Bound by a love for his brilliantly outspoken and genre-bending version of 21st Century rock-and-roll music, that community has witnessed YUNGBLUD’s rise from a struggling musician living in a Northern England council flat to a global superstar hailed by Rolling Stone as a “pop-punk rebel on a mission.” But toward the end of touring behind his 2019 EP the underrated youth the 23-year-old artist felt suddenly overcome by a massive wave of insecurity.
“I realized that even though I’d been telling everyone for years that it’s all right to be who you are, I had no idea who I really was,” says the singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist otherwise known as Dominic Harrison. “I was a nervous wreck and overcompensating all the time, so I decided to just stop everything and check myself.”
Within days of that revelation, Harrison wrote what would become the title track to his new album weird!: an urgent and soaring anthem that redefines individuality for the modern day. “That song is me saying it’s all right to feel like you’re 12 different people at once,” Harrison explains. “There doesn’t need to be any kind of cohesiveness in the way you think or look or behave—cohesive is for a textbook. So it’s okay to be completely full of contradictions, because that’s the nature of being a real human being.”
The second full-length from YUNGBLUD, weird! emerges as his most emotionally complex work to date. “It’s a story of coming-of-age and self-acceptance and liberation, in terms of sex and gender and drugs and heartbreak and all the other twists and turns we go through in life,” says Harrison, who refers to weird! as a “Skins” episode in album form. Doubling down on the raw vulnerability first glimpsed on his powerhouse debut album 21st Century Liability, weird! also looks back on moments of major upheaval that he’s endured in recent years. “I fell in love and got my heart broken, and when that happens it forces you to figure out who you really are—it just obliterates every single guard you’ve put up,” he says. “Making this album was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, because I really had to look inside myself, but it’s also the most fun I’ve had in my entire life.”
True to YUNGBLUD’s refusal to box himself in, weird! embodies a wildly eclectic sound: Queen-inspired harmonies, Beatles-esque chord progressions, elements of dance-punk and glam-rock and hip-hop and metal. Working with his longtime producers/co-writers Matt Schwartz (Cold War Kids, Bullet For My Valentine), Zakk Cervini (Bishop Briggs, Machine Gun Kelly), and Chris Greatti (Poppy, Grimes), Harrison recorded at several studios in London and L.A., but also embedded the album with moments spontaneously captured on iPhone voice memos. “I love imperfections, and how they feel so real and pure and magic,” notes Harrison, naming hyper-creative and boundary-pushing musician/producers like Jeff Lynne among his key influences on weird!. “This record really taught me that there’s no limit to where I can go or what I can do with my music, as long as I completely believe in what I’m creating.”
On songs like “mars,” YUNGBLUD reveals the rare balance of conviction and sensitivity he brought to his songwriting and performance on weird!. With its delicate storytelling and tender vocal work, the acoustic-guitar-laced track shares the narrative of a young trans women Harrison met while playing Warped Tour in 2018. “She told me how her parents had come to the show with her, and how seeing our community helped them to understand that her coming out as trans wasn’t just a phase—this is who she really was,” he recalls. “It made me cry to think that we could have that kind of impact and change people’s perceptions, just by being ourselves.”
Another full-hearted celebration of self-discovery, “cotton candy” delivers a dreamy meditation on sexual liberation, unfolding in airy textures and impossibly sweet melodies. “To me sex and sexuality is about freedom and the idea that you can to lose yourself in other people of all genders, of all shapes and sizes, to find yourself and figure out who you truly are,” says Harrison, whose co-writers on “cotton candy” include the hitmaking duo Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter. Meanwhile, “strawberry lipstick” presents a delightfully warped portrait of all-consuming lust, its fuzzed-out riffs and explosive vocals giving way to a gloriously chaotic intensity.
One of the most poignant tracks on weird!, “god save me, but don’t drown me out” rides the line between desperation and defiance, gradually building to a transcendent moment of radical self-acceptance. “I wanted to paint a picture of what depression really feels like—where everyone can be screaming at you, but you just can’t hear anything at all,” says Harrison. “I wanted this video to ignite a resemblance or a spark of self-love to highlight the idea that if you ever feel like you can’t go on, it can get better.”
Originally from Yorkshire, England, Harrison first started using songwriting as catharsis at the young age of ten. After picking up a guitar at just two-years-old, he later moved on to bass, piano, and drums, independently releasing his debut single “King Charles” in spring 2017 and landing his record deal by that summer’s end. With 21st Century Liability arriving in July 2018, he’s since scored major hits with the gold-certified “11 Minutes” (with Halsey feat. Travis Barker) and the platinum-selling “I Think I’m OKAY” (a collaboration with Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker that garnered a 2020 Billboard Music Awards nomination for Top Rock Song). Along with releasing the underrated youth (a top 10 debut on the UK Official Albums chart), YUNGBLUD put out Live In Atlanta—a 12-track effort showcasing the joyfully hellraising live performance he’s brought to sold-out crowds in countries around the world and to leading festivals like Lollapalooza, Reading and Leeds Festivals, and Austin City Limits. Endlessly prolific, YUNGBLUD has also created two graphic novels: The Twisted Tales of the Ritalin Club (his acclaimed 2019 debut) and The Twisted Tales of the Ritalin Club Volume 2: Weird Times at Quarry Banks University (its 2020 follow-up).
In the making of weird!, Harrison kept his community of fans at the forefront of his thought process behind every track. “When I finally get to play these songs live, I want to walk out to a crowd of people who feel liberated and happy and accepted, and feel like the reason we’re put on this Earth is a good one,” he says. So, while much of the album delves into painful subject matter, it ultimately telegraphs an undeniable sense of hope. “My first album was severely bratty because I was so angry at the world, but this album is about finding a community of people who understand me, and about figuring out who I am from a place of love and acceptance,” says Harrison. “I hope it makes people feel like it’s okay to feel out of place or twisted or weird, because life is weird—but that’s what beautiful about it. So don’t ever try to live it as someone else. Live it as you.”
In This Moment
Throughout history, art rejoices and revels in the wisdom of women. Within a deck of tarot cards, the High Priestess serves as the guardian of the unconscious. In Greek mythology, the old oracles celebrate the Mother Goddess. William Shakespeare posited portentous prescience in the form of MacBeth’s “Three Witches.” On their sixth full-length album Ritual, In This Moment—Maria Brink [vocals, piano], Chris Howorth [lead guitar], Travis Johnson [bass], Randy Weitzel [rhythm guitar], and Kent Diimel [drums]—unearth a furious and focused feminine fire from a cauldron of jagged heavy metal, hypnotic alternative, and smoky voodoo blues.
It’s an evolution. It’s a statement. It’s In This Moment 2017…
“It’s like we’re going into the next realm,” asserts Maria. “I had a conviction of feeling empowered in my life and with myself. I always write from a personal place, and I needed to share that sense of strength. I’ve never been afraid to hold back. Sometimes, I can be very suggestive. However, I wanted to show our fans that this is the most powerful side of myself and it’s without overt sexuality. It’s that deeper serious fire inside of my heart.” “What Maria is saying comes from deep inside,” Chris affirms. “This time, we had a bunch of ideas started before we hit the studio. There was a really clear direction. It’s different.” The group spent two years supporting their biggest album yet 2014’s Black Widow. Upon release, it seized their highest position to date on the Billboard Top 200, bowing at #8. Simultaneously, it clinched #3 on the Hard Rock Albums chart and spawned a series of hits such as “Sick Like Me,” “Big Bad Wolf,” and “Sex Metal Barbie”—all cracking 8 million Spotify streams each and topping Rock Radio. Meanwhile, the band’s signature smash “Whore” crossed the 20-million mark.
Furthermore, the title track off In This Moment’s 2012 album, Blood, has been certified gold by the RIAA. A remarkable accomplishment, the companion music video for “Blood” has been viewed over 27 million times.
Between headline tours, they incinerated stages everywhere from Rock On The Range to Download Festival. In March 2016, Maria and Chris commenced writing for what would become the new record with longtime collaborator and multiple GRAMMY® Award-nominated producer Kevin Churko [Five Finger Death Punch, Ozzy Osbourne] at his Las Vegas compound. Following a high-profile summer 2016 tour with Korn and Rob Zombie, the duo began writing. Then, Maria visited Salem, MA for the very first time with all of the women in her family quite appropriately during Halloween.
“We were really tapping the energy there,” she says. “We were honoring each other. I was seeking inspiration and experience to inspire me in this album. I was trying to find a lot of truth in myself. I loved Salem. I was blown away by how visually beautiful it is. The history of the witch burnings is fascinating. It was a special ceremonial journey.”
Galvanized and inspired, Maria and Chris returned to Kevin’s stronghold to complete recording. In an atmosphere of candles, crystals, incense, and a cackling fireplace, they expanded their aural palette once again, welcoming a doom blues bombast into the sonic fold. “We love Black Widow, but it was very electronic,” Chris explains. “This is a little more organic, emphasizing guitars, bass, drums, and vocals. We slowed down the groove a little bit. I got to play some slide guitar, and I’ve never done that. There’s a bluesy side, which we’ve also never had.”
“We always want to grow and evolve,” Maria adds. “It was a chance to get a little more serious.” That progression shines through the first single “Oh Lord.” A minimal drum and handclap echoes as Maria’s wild incantation takes hold. Guitars shiver and shake as the frontwoman delivers an undeniable refrain.
“The meaning of ‘Oh Lord’ is central to the album,” she reveals. “I should be able to have a relationship with what I perceive God to be. For me, it’s this strength and light. When I was younger, I felt guilty for thinking of these things. I’m not supposed to touch an oracle card, a tarot card, or these beautiful things, because they’re ‘bad.’ I had these fears in me for a long time like, ‘Is this wrong?’ I realized I don’t have to be afraid anymore. There’s a lot of learning and an awakening in that one.”
Inverting everyone’s favorite Billy Idol nuptial anthem, “Black Wedding” sees Maria walk down the aisle of musical madness with none other than Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford. Cowritten with Stevens, it’s an explosive and enchanting duet.
“I can’t believe that happened,” beams Chris. “Maria hit up Rob and asked if he was interested. He jumped right on it. I can’t believe we got him.”
“Who doesn’t love ‘White Wedding?’,” laughs Maria. “We wanted to do a spin-off that’s creative. It’s a question-and-answer between me and another voice. The chorus essentially says this isn’t going to be the opposite of a happy ending! You’re becoming empowered by heartbreak.” Chris breaks out the slide on the raging “River of Fire,” while “Witching Hour” dances around the flames to a new wave-inspired groove and midnight lore as Maria recants, “This idea of me being burned as a witch in a past life for teaching people to be free.” Elsewhere, “Roots” practically opens up the earth with its sheer seismic force.
“Sometimes, I have to go through pain in order to forgive and let go,” she adds. “I love to thank the hate in people. It’s that sort of energy. I’ll be okay, hold my headstrong, push forward, do what I’ve got to do, and prevail.”
Simultaneously, In This Moment breathe a dark new life into the Phil Collins’ classic “In The Air Tonight.”
“We can’t reproduce what he did in a million years,” she says. “It’s one of the best songs ever. We did our own interpretation and made it a little more sinister like our ritual.” The ritual has begun, and In This Moment ignite a brighter fire than ever before here. “When fans hear this, I want them to feel the music, whether they take away sadness, anger, or happiness,” concludes Chris. “As a kid, I remember listening to records and putting them on repeat over and over again. I’d love for the world to listen and absorb this as a piece of work.” Maria leaves off, “I want everybody to be unafraid of who they are and not worry about what the rest of society says. Be strong. Be loud. We love our fans deeply. I hope everybody feels that love and powerful in who they are.”
THE PRETTY RECKLESS
Rock ‘n’ roll is a religion.
It’s a commitment to an ideal, a belief system. The lifestyle and trappings may appear to be glamorous and romantic, but the road isn’t easy. It requires staying power and an enormous amount of faith. The Pretty Reckless—Taylor Momsen [Vocals], Ben Phillips [Guitar], Jamie Perkins [drums], and Mark Damon [bass]—are truly a rock and roll band, as evidenced by their 2021-released fourth album Death By Rock And Roll (Fearless Records). The critically-acclaimed record landed at No. 1 on multiple sales charts, including Billboard’s Top Albums, Rock, Hard Music, and Digital Charts, upon release.
The album and band were met with near-universal praise from top-tier media, including American Songwriter, Alternative Press, Bustle, CNN, Consequence of Sound, The Daily Beast, Forbes, Guitar World, Hustler, Loudwire, SPIN, V Magazine, Paper, Revolver, Women’s Wear Daily, and more.
The Pretty Reckless’ unbelievable 12-year journey has quietly brought them from sweaty small gigs to successive number one hits, platinum plaques, and some of the biggest stages in the world—unprecedented for a rock act this century.
Formed in New York City during 2008, the musicians and late producer Kato Khandwala initially made waves with their 2010 debut, Light Me Up. After countless gigs, they lit a fuse to burn everything down on Going To Hell in 2014. Not only did the record crash the Top 5 of the Billboard Top 200, but it also ignited three #1 hits—the Platinum-certified “Heaven Knows” (the biggest rock song of 2014), “Fucked Up World,” and “Follow Me Down”—a feat that had not been accomplished by a female-fronted group since The Pretenders in 1984. Meanwhile, their third offering, Who You Selling For, saw them return to #1 on the Mainstream Rock Songs Chart with “Take Me Down,” which cemented them as “the first band to send its first four singles to #1 on the chart,” according to Billboard. Praise followed from Vogue, Nylon, and more as the quartet lit up television shows such as Letterman and Conan. With over half-a-billion streams, they headlined countless sold out shows and toured with Guns N’ Roses and many other heavy hitters.
However, 2017 set off a series of events that shook the group to its very core, yet ultimately cast Death By Rock And Roll in the kind of fire, tears and blood that doesn’t ever wash off…
“There was no way to hide from this,” exclaims Taylor. “There was no running from what happened. I didn’t have to ‘write’ it; it was just infused into what we’re doing.
As the story goes, The Pretty Reckless landed a prestigious tour in 2017, opening for Soundgarden in packed amphitheaters across the country. Then, following a rapturous gig in Detroit, Chris Cornell tragically took his life. The aftershocks reverberated throughout popular culture and left a scar on The Pretty Reckless. They retreated, cancelling most of their touring and disappeared from the public eye. It got even worse eleven months later, when The Pretty Reckless’ muse, friend and longtime producer Kato, had died in a motorcycle crash.
“It sent us into a downward spiral.” Ben reflects, “We fell apart. It turned into a world of depression and substance abuse. At that point, we had to try and figure out how to continue making music. It was either death or go forward.”
So, Taylor and Ben turned to writing songs to channel the emotional toll, and in late 2018, The Pretty Reckless returned to the studio to record. For the first time, Taylor and Ben co-produced with longtime friend Jonathan Wyman. And the results are inspiring on so many levels. The sessions took well over a year in the studio, and the band introduced the album with the track “Death By Rock and Roll.” The song starts hauntingly with a recording of Kato’s footsteps leading to a bold bluesy riff that snakes through the distortion. The din subsides on a solo vocal as the frontwoman croons, “On my tombstone when I go, just put, ‘Death By Rock and Roll’.” Her howl takes hold in between the massive beat and fiery fretwork.
The song quickly ascended to No. 1 on the rock charts, marking the band’s fifth chart-topper to date. It’s a feat that has not been achieved by any female-fronted rock act in the chart’s history, turning “Death By Rock and Roll” into a true “moment” for The Pretty Reckless.
“It has our whole mentality in the lyrics,” she goes on. “It’s not a morbid song. It’s, ‘I’m going to live my way; I’m going out my way’. That’s the rock and roll ethic. It’s empowering.”
Elsewhere, Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello lends his axe to the rambunctious and raucous “And So It Went” which became the follow up single and also went straight up the radio charts, giving the band consecutive No. 1 singles.
Bringing the trip full circle, The Pretty Reckless joined forces with Matt Cameron and Kim Thayil for “Only Love Can Save Me Now.” Tracked at the legendary London Bridge Studio in Seattle, it marked the first time Matt and Kim recorded at the space since Soundgarden’s Louder Than Love. Nearing the six-minute mark, it trudges through detuned bliss and an off-kilter time signature before Kim conjures a slippery psychedelic solo as Taylor admits, “I want to be saved from the sound,” over Matt’s percussive wizardry. “Lyrically, it goes with the world now,” Taylor adds. “It references what we’re all going through.”
And as the third single from the album, it too, topped the charts, making it a back-to-back-to-back run of No. 1 singles.
The track was yet another watershed moment, as it marked three consecutive No. 1s at rock radio from two different albums and served as the band’s seventh No. 1 overall. Ultimately, TPR racked up the most No. 1 singles at the format by a female or female-fronted band ever.
Then, there’s “25.” Her gravelly timbre quakes above an ominous funeral march and echoes of strings. She screams, “At 25, all hope has died and the glass of my intentions turns to sand…shatters in my hand.” Meanwhile, “Got So High” bleeds into a heavenly stoned refrain as an acoustic guitar rings out. After the nostalgic “Rock and Roll Heaven,” the record sails off to Valhalla on “Harley Darling” ushered along by harmonica, the sound of an engine revving and a devilish dedication as she sings, “Oh, Harley darling, you took my friend, you took everything and now I’m alone again.”
The Pretty Reckless sound more alive than ever…
“We lived this” Ben leaves off. “Rock and roll means everything to us. Taylor sacrificed everything for this record. I think it shows.”
“We stuck to our ethics,” she concludes. “We built this up over time. Either you throw it all away or go for it. It’s cliché, but rock and roll saved our lives.”
In November 2018, Architects stared grief in the face on the remarkable album Holy Hell: a stark picture of the darkness and despair that lay at the heart of losing a brother, band mate and best friend in Tom Searle, the group’s founding guitarist who two years prior passed away following a private three-year battle with cancer.
The album, which bravely laid bare the band’s emotions with a vulnerability that few would ever publicly open themselves up to, forged such a deep connection with fans new and old as to see the quintet – vocalist Sam Carter, drummer Dan Searle, bassist Ali Dean and guitarists Josh Middleton and Adam Christianson – headline arenas the world over, and move in excess of 200,000 equivalent album units. This was the band finding a voice for their, and their fans’, innermost pain, and in turn cementing their place as one of rock music’s most critically revered and commercially successful talents.
Two years removed from that journey, though with its lessons and spirit embedded in the fabric of their being, Architects have applied that same soul-searching introspection to their highly-anticipated new opus, For Those That Wish To Exist. An examination of the part we are all playing in the world’s slow destruction, the band’s ninth studio record tackles the biggest questions facing the future of our planet with their grandest, most ambitious work to date.
“This album was me looking at our inability to change to a way of life that would sustain the human race and save the planet,” summarises principal songwriter Dan Searle. “The human race has become out of control; the world is dying and it is all our fault. It’s a manifestation of our collective behaviour that is running rampant, and at this moment desperately needs to be altered.”
Such concerns have long been prevalent in the music of a band who have continually championed and shared their platform with causes such as Sea Shepherd, are outspoken critics of barbaric exercises such as fox hunting, and who have fixed a focus on sustainability in everything from their travelling tour scheduling to the recently launched Architects Merch Co..
It is through such a position of personal accountability that the universal themes of For Those That With To Exist are uniquely approached.
“In writing the record, I felt a great accountability for our own actions, and the part we are playing as individuals,” Dan begins. “I wanted to look in the mirror and ask ourselves the question of what are <we> going to do, as opposed to trying to point the finger at politicians. Change has to start on a personal level. The world has developed a culture of wanting someone else to deal with it, when we need to take our own responsibility. It has to start there.”
Disdain for such communal apathy is writ large across For Those That Wish To Exist’s 15 tracks. ‘When the clock runs down to zero / We’ll all stand up and take a bow / So quick to play the hero’ bemoans the song An Ordinary Extinction; ‘We can say how we all wanna be saved / But it’s easier to follow’ spits Carter elsewhere on Little Wonder. Album opener Do You Dream Of Armageddon? confronts that reality with a simple question: ‘Will we ever learn our lesson?’
It is one of many presented without answer throughout the record’s hour-long journey of self-examination. These songs hang in a limbo between energising positivity that it is not too late to correct our collective course, and a paralysing negativity of defeatism; where hope and despondency are bed-fellows triggered daily by the simple act of existence. Neither wins out; come the swelling grandeur of album-closer Dying Is Absolutely Safe, listeners may feel anything from a crushing weight of hopelessness to an uplifting sense of newfound determination. When the world today so often leaves you feeling numb, Carter admits he is “so proud that we can stir such conflicting emotions.” Such a reflection of the human condition, and the exhausting highs and lows that come it, is perhaps For Those That Wish To Exist’s purest, and most absorbing, achievement.
“The album is its own beast,” Carter reflects. “It’s a piece of art that is there to allow people to take what they want from it. It’s a big question mark. There’s some big questions being asked in it, and I think the answer to each is different depending on your own circumstances. Sometimes you feel reasons to be positive. Sometimes you don’t. It reflects how we all feel in life, from day to day.”
Written across the past 24 months – shaped by experiences both professional and personal, including Searle’s changing outlook as a new father – and recorded at a multitude of locations throughout 2020 (including at Devon’s Middle Farm Studios and at home in the band’s birthplace of Brighton), For Those That Wish To Exist sees Architects channel such bigger-picture thinking into their most expansive sonic offering yet, which builds upon the band’s hallmark post-metalcore and layers a burgeoning influence of electronics and orchestral strings, horns and choirs. Guest spots from Parkway Drive’s Winston McCall, Royal Blood’s Mike Kerr and Biffy Clyro frontman Simon Neil punctuate proceedings, bringing their own changes of pace and “unique tones”, as Carter – whose own vocal performance, shaped by an “unhealthy” drive for perfection, moves into dynamic new territory – puts it. The result is a rich tapestry that transcends the limitations of genre and rewards exploration and immersion in its journey.
To what destination said journey leads is uncharted. Creatively, it means that Architects remain not only countless steps ahead of their peers, but in an entirely different lane of their own making altogether. Thematically, both Carter and Searle return to the album’s title as evidence that evolution, of challenging established models and striving for a collective betterment, is something we all must rise to.
“For me, the album title is speaking to the people who are ready to drag themselves through the shit, and help drag other people through it too, in order to fight the good fight,” Carter says.
“The title speaks to those people who want to live, who want to live in a better world, who want to make a difference,” asserts Searle. “For anyone who thinks that creating a world that we can live in, and that our children can live in and our children’s children can live in, for anyone who thinks that’s important, this is for you.”
Mixing elements of trap, rap, rock, industrial, and heavy metal, Ghostemane is a genre-destroying project from the mind of Eric Ghoste. Over a multitude of LPs, EPs, collaborations, and monikers, the Florida-born artist has carved out a bracing signature style that pairs grisly, glitchy imagery and pummeling production with a guttural deadpan rasp. The 2020 album, ANTI-ICON, finds Ghostemane at his darkest and most personal – a kinetic, cathartic journey through the depths of heaven and hell.
That music exists as an expression of the inner mortal psyche is one of life’s more practical theorems. One’s musical output can turn into an infinitely captivating adventure when creation is placed in the hands of a singular breed of enigmatic perfectionists. In the form of an equation:
(Ability x Curiosity x Imagination100) – Rules ÷ Conviction∞ = Genre-Defying Music
In lay-speak, don’t even try to argue with MESHUGGAH’s mathematics.
Formed in the college town of Umeå in northern Sweden in 1987, MESHUGGAH have spent the last twenty years and cumulative thirteen releases developing, exploring, and redefining their complex, inimitable approach on the art of expressing the music they hear in their heads. A group that has not sounded like anyone else in over seventeen years, MESHUGGAH are one of the few purely and honestly lateral-thinking forces genuinely dedicated to pushing the boundaries of extreme music simply because doing so comes naturally to them. Unafraid to take risks and tackle new experiences, they create albums you can listen to a decade later and discover things you never noticed before. The mystical lore surrounding them pertains to the musical calculus of their odd-cycle time signatures shifting around common 4/4 time; therefore, it isn’t shocking to see some of metal’s biggest names standing in the wings at MESHUGGAH shows, shaking their heads at the band’s down-tuned, groove-laden, and precisely performed polyrhythms that never veer out of control. Devotees include Tool, The Deftones, Kirk Hammett & Robert Trujillo of Metallica, Rob Halford of Judas Priest, and John Petrucci of Dream Theater. Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music and Hollywood’s Musicians Institute both incorporate MESHUGGAH’s back catalogue into their curriculum because it is such a crucial element in any modern musical education. The band’s humble, self-assured beginnings could have never guessed their music would lead Rolling Stone magazine to rank MESHUGGAH as one of music’s “10 Most Important Hard and Heavy Bands” or that they’d create a sonic legacy equivalent to Stephen Hawking’s contributions to theoretical physics.
In 1989, with a line-up that included Jens Kidman on vocals & guitar, Fredrik Thordendal on guitar, Peter Nordin on bass, and Niklas Lundgren on drums, MESHUGGAH’s self-titled thrashy, virgin release (which came to be known as Psykisk Testbild due to the album’s artwork) was self-released on vinyl and limited to 1,000 copies. Every copy sold. In 1991, their full-length debut album, Contradictions Collapse, heralded the arrival of drummer extraordinaire Tomas Haake and the band’s obvious nod to vintage Metallica was a potent indicator of the barely-contained violence fermenting within. But it was in 1995 – a significant year for Sweden in terms of influential releases – that the myth of MESHUGGAH gained momentum. Produced by a 21-year old Daniel Bergstrand at Soundfront Studios in Uppsala, Sweden and consisting of equal parts instinct, inspiration, and natural talent, Destroy Erase Improve provided positive proof that the band had tapped a truly multi-dimensional, divergent vein. Joined by rhythm guitarist Mårten Hagström in 1994 for the recording of the None EP (freeing Kidman from those duties) and marking the beginning of the band’s own identity, DEI was released to the sound of dropping jaws among their growing number of fervent followers and was a literal showcase of how far the band could push their ideas. Subsequently, it has been lauded as one of heavy metal’s most masterfully evolutionary albums and hailed as MESHUGGAH’s finest hour. Drum! Magazine praised it for its “ridiculous, driving, brutal insanity.” Ranking #12 in Revolver Magazine’s “69 Greatest Hard Rock Albums Of All Time,” it recently became the 21st album inaugurated into Decibel Magazine’s pantheon of extreme metal – The Hall of Fame: “These mad scientists have obliterated the existing paradigms of death, thrash, and prog metal, upping the ante for heavy music to a level of mathematical profundity. A mind-bending masterpiece.”
When Peter Nordin developed an inner-ear nerve problem in 1995 that prevented him to continue with the group, MESHUGGAH recruited Gustaf Hielm to take over bass duties on 1997’s The True Human Design EP and 1998’s Chaosphere. The latter’s manic, bludgeoning rage collided head-on with blistering skill (“five technically virtuosic Scandinavian ogres using jackhammers to smash other jackhammers” cited Spin Magazine), and the result was a masterclass in aggression. In 1999, MESHUGGAH performed at the Milwaukee Metal Fest, played a week of dates with Cannibal Corpse, toured supporting Slayer, and were then hand-picked to play eleven shows as direct support for Tool’s U.S. arena tour in 2001. In a serendipitous, Hollywood-styled turn of events, music from Destroy Erase Improve aired during prime time television on MTV’s reality series The Osbournes courtesy of Jack Osbourne to torment a neighbor’s obviously weaker musical constitution. While the Swedes prided themselves in not being a commercially accessible band, they were invited to be featured guests on Ozzfest 2002’s 2nd Stage. MESHUGGAH accepted, and the race was on to complete the new album.
After pushing the limits of heaviness with Chaosphere, there was only one place left to go: even heavier. Thordendal & Hagström made the leap to custom built 8-string guitars and thereby inherited a new musical vocabulary to work with. Abandoning the use of chords and almost exclusively utilizing single notes and slowing their pace to sub-aquatic meanderings, the subdued result was a lethal dose of self-professed “concentrated evil,” Morse-code solos courtesy of Thordendal, and a lot of low-end. Completed just two days prior to the band leaving Sweden to join Ozzfest, the darker, more sinister, and all-encompassing menacing vibe of Nothing was doused in accolades. “The magnum opus of controlled insanity,” wrote Terrorizer. “One of the most inventive metal albums to arrive in some time,” praised Guitar One. “Nothing,” boasted Tool drummer Danny Carey, “is another prime example of MESHUGGAH’s musical expertise and unique compositional style that continues to evolve and change the way people listen to music.” In light of the showers of praise, the Swedes were still not prepared when news broke of Nothing landing on the American Billboard Top 200 chart – one of the most extreme albums ever to achieve that feat at the time. Following their participation on Ozzfest, MESHUGGAH once again hit the road with Tool, and sold over 110,000 copies of their fourth full-length recording. It would be three years before the next studio album surfaced, but in the interim, kudos for the band kept coming. In 2004, Alternative Press voted MESHUGGAH “The #1 Most Important Band In Metal. MESHUGGAH have carved out their own niche as one of the most innovative and challenging extreme acts of our generation.” That same year, Fredrik & Mårten ranked #35 in Guitar World’s list of “100 Greatest Metal Guitarists.” “Over the polyrhythmic percussive madness of drummer Tomas Haake, Hagström & Thordendal create crushing, machine-gun riffs that are convoluted rhythms in themselves, as well as fluid, sublime, Allan Holdsworth-style solos.”
Such furiously mesmerizing music obviously requires its share of discipline. Each year without a release became inversely proportional to the climbing expectations among MESHUGGAH fans for the band to out-do themselves. Tackling a dark musical landscape while addressing the subjects of contradiction, paradox, negation, and the clashing of opposites with all the tension that results from it, MESHUGGAH’s studio offering for 2005 was a 47 minute-long “uni-song” divided into four quasi-movements (or thirteen suites, depending on your personal interpretation). An audio exam in patience and endurance, Catch Thirty Three offered a reward only to those who were insistent on completing the journey through this warped, metaphoric dream state. Obviously mastering the 8-string guitars that were prototypes on the previous album, MESHUGGAH tapped into the hypnotic power of repetition, suggesting a lot of visual imagery and movement. Proudly cold and emotionless, this “concept album without a concept” with seemingly stream-of-consciousness vocals had the feel of a philosophical journey through life and death, not excluding the soul-gutting ponderings. Again, the praise was incessant. “Catch Thirty Three could be the soundtrack to the darkest, strangest, heaviest movie never made,” held Revolver. “Catch Thirty Three lifts MESHUGGAH’s work to unreachable levels,” commended Guitar World. “One of the most brilliant metal discs in recent years,” raved Guitar One. It went on to become Terrorizer Magazine’s Album of the Year for 2005. What’s more, while the band’s discography underwent scholarly analysis at the 34th Annual Meeting of The Music Theory Society of New York State in 2006, MESHUGGAH re-mixed and re-mastered Nothing at their own Fear And Loathing Studio in Stockholm, Sweden and re-offered it to fans sounding “the way we always wanted it to!” In the latter half of 2007, the article “Re-casting Metal: Rhythm and Meter in the Music of MESHUGGAH,” appeared in a volume of Music Theory Spectrum, a North American journal of The Society for Music Theory.
The sonic detonation that was 2008’s obZen debuted at #59 on the American Top 200 Billboard chart and clinched the #14 spot on the iTunes Top rock Albums chart. To date, the album that shook the foundations of convention has sold over 82,000 copies in the U.S. alone. The eccentric genius & abrupt ferocity intrinsic to MESHUGGAH’s music was once again fueled by the percussive gymnastics of Tomas Haake, voted the year’s Best Drummer by Blender Magazine. “He’s so far ahead of the pack,” they wrote, “it’s unfair to even shackle him to metal anymore.” Again, the praise poured in: “A thundershower of hammers raining from the sky,” warned Guitar World. “A band at the top of a game they practically invented,” praised Bass Player magazine. “Math-metal’s undisputed champions,” declared Revolver. “obZen dares any other metal band to write a more ferocious album,” observed The Onion. Who better to rise to this challenge than the band themselves?
After releasing Alive in 2010, the first live DVD of the band’s career which debuted at #8 on the Nielsen SoundScan Top Music DVD Video chart, MESHUGGAH have returned in 2012 with their contribution to the no-show apocalypse: the 10-track KOLOSS. This album – which features 3-D art by Luminokaya.com – not only preserves the band’s long-time relationship with metric insanity, but rightly crowns the band as apex predators in a scene fraught with well-intentioned imitators whose aspirations will once again be deflated. “Truly, a band with no equal,” declared Outburn Magazine. ModernDrummer.com called KOLOSS “an undiminished sense of power and complexity.” SPIN.com hailed MESHUGGAH as “one of those rare bands you have to hear to believe.”
With the highest chart debut & first-week sales of their career, MESHUGGAH roared into the American Billboard Top 200 Albums chart at #17 with 18,342 copies sold. In Canada, KOLOSS debuted at #24 on the Top 200 chart and at #4 on the Hard Music chart. Other Billboard chart action includes #2 on the Top Independent Albums chart, #3 on the Current Hard Music Albums chart, #3 on the Top Hard Music chart, #9 on the Current Rock chart, and #16 on the Top Current Albums chart. In Europe, the band experienced a career first on the German album chart: a debut at #48. Celebrating the band’s two and a half decades of existence & deviance in 2014, MESHUGGAH will be performing a few select “25th Anniversary” shows in both Europe and North America.
In the realm inhabited by MESHUGGAH, it’s clear that something incredible is always waiting to be known, to be shown. With an innate belief in their own curiosity and imagination, MESHUGGAH strive for complete understanding of their musical universe. By doing so, they stand as stark reminders of why humanity exists at all: to question what we know and to continually wonder at the life that surrounds us… which ultimately challenges us to defy the very limits of how far the human spirit can soar.
A raunchy, cylinder-shaped ginger of Eastern European ancestry might not be the first dude you’d peg for rap stardom, but that’s exactly the mantle Action Bronson is on the verge of possessing. Over the last few years, the 28-year old Queens native has become one of hip-hop’s most charismatic and colorful new characters, thanks to his wicked sense of humor, a buffet of impressive releases and the rare knack for updating cherished East Coast aesthetics into indisputably modern music.
In 2011, The New York Times hailed Bronson as “one of the most promising prospects in New York hip-hop.” That formidable potential is now being realized. When Bronson gleefully tossed slabs of meat from Peter Luger’s famed steakhouse into a wild-ass crowd at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, the mosh pit of skaters, knuckleheads, rap purists and young women was evidence of his ever-widening appeal.
Born Ariyan Arslani, Bronson grew up in Forest Hills, Queens, the son of an Albanian immigrant father and a Jewish mother from Brooklyn. He was an only child, but the population of the two-bedroom apartment swelled to as many as 13 inhabitants due to cousins, aunts, uncles and refuges from ethnic strife in Kosovo.
It was in the family restaurant that Bronson developed his enduring fascination with quality eating. After studying in the Art Institute of New York’s culinary program, he took jobs ranging from busboy to sous chef. Consequently, songs in his discography often read like menu items: “Roasted Bone Marrow,” “Pouches of Tuna,” “Jerk Chicken,” “Ceviche.” Rolling Stone, appreciating the theme, described Bronson’s music as “the ultimate in comfort food, with a contemporary twist.”
While Bronson was a ravenous musical connoisseur who grew up admiring artists like Kool G. Rap, Cam’ron and Mobb Deep, he never contemplated rapping himself. But a few years back, he penned a satirical song over a Southern beat CD and the results were improbably impressive. With an oversized personality, intricate wordplay and the cagy charm of an outer-borough striver, he was a natural. And after a broken leg forced him out of the kitchen, Bronson began writing seriously. In 2007, joined with Mayhem Lauren and Jay Steele to release the Last of a Dyin’ Breed: Volume 1 mixtape under the collective name “The Outdoorsmen.”
Bronson’s insistent delivery and penchant for flamboyant phraseology initially drew some comparisons to other rappers, but he has long since matured beyond such superficialities. In 2011 alone, he released Bon Appetit….Bitch!, The Program EP, Dr. Lecter and Well Done. 2012 introduced collaborations with artists like Earl Sweatshirt, Riff Raff and SpaceGhostPurp, as well as Blue Chips, the brilliant street album produced by Party Supplies. In awarding the effort a lofty 8.1, Pitchfork called Bronson “one of the most hilarious and creative writers in rap” who savagely captured the essence of New York’s seedy soul: “It is what a Weegee photograph would look like now.”
In August of 2012, Bronson signed with Vice/Warner Bros Records. With the leading youth media company’s multi-platform power now backing him, forthcoming projects like Rare Chandeliers with Alchemist, Saab Story with Harry Fraud and Blue Chips 2 will find countless new listeners. His debut LP on Vice/Warner Bros. Music is scheduled for 2013. For Action Bronson, this accelerating rise to greatness may just persuade him to put off “laying back, eating poutine” for a little while longer.
After extensive national and international touring in 2014, Bronson released his debut studio album Mr. Wonderful in March 2015. The work received critical acclaim from Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, and more, debuting at #7 on the Billboard 200. To date, the four album singles racked up a cool 45m plays on Soundcloud alone. Mr. Wonderful boasts an all-star cast, from features by Chance The Rapper to production by greats like Mark Ronson, 40, Statik Selektah, and The Alchemist. Living up to the hype, SPIN says of the project, “It’s the rare rap album that actually rewards its mixtape following.”
In March 2016, Bronson powerfully continued his meteoric rise with the cable television premiere of F*ck, That’s Delicious. As host of the series, Bronson plays the rap game’s Anthony Bourdain, marrying his passion for food and music. Each episode is nothing short of an immersive culinary adventure documenting Bronson’s globe-trotting lifestyle and exquisite palette. F*ck, That’s Delicious debuted on Munchies, Vice’s food online food channel in May 2014. Driven by Bronson’s unparalleled wit, charisma, and authenticity, the series quickly became a fan favorite, generating tens of millions of YouTube views. The explosive popularity of F*ck, That’s Delicious was undeniable and it was ordered to series on Viceland, Vice Media’s
new cable network, as a premier flagship network program in early 2016. Since the series premier this spring, F*ck, That’s Delicious keeps on trucking – its continued popularity and draw has it renewed for a second season to air later this fall.
Since proving his chops as a host and entertainer, Bronson is set to take the reins and add a new twist to the massively popular, cult favorite TV show Ancient Aliens. With a nod to the classic Mystery Science Theater 3000, the new series entitled Travelling the Stars: Ancient Aliens with Action Bronson was also adopted by Viceland. On the show, Bronson combines two of his favorite things: watching Ancient Aliens and smoking weed along with insightful and often ridiculous commentary. Bronson will host the first season along with special guest friends such as Tyler, The Creator, Schoolboy Q, Too Short, Earl Sweatshirt, and Eric Andre to name a few.
In March 2016, Bronson announced that he would be releasing his own cookbook, titled Fuck, That’s Delicious: An Annotated Guide to Eating Well with Abrams Publishing, stirring excitement throughout the hip-hop and culinary worlds. The book is currently being written and is schedule for release in fall 2017.
While the name Action Bronson might be new to some, he’s been shaking up the worlds of food and music, two massively powerful New York City institutions, for years. But this is just the beginning for the Bronsoliño. Whether he’s grilling octopus with Seth Meyers, hanging out with his celebrity chef friends like Mario Batali, or performing at music festivals around the world, Bronson is determined to make his mark.
They say rock’n’roll is a young man’s game. Imagine what they say about punk.
Bad Religion never worried much about what “they” say, and neither should you. Go by the energy, go by the intent, go by the WORK – of which this classic, groundbreaking hardcore band could never be accused of avoiding.
Aside from essentially defining the California half-pipe punk blueprint, Bad Religion has defied the usual trend-shifts or values-ditched ubiquities of the usual punk band storyline and morphed along with challenging album after challenging album amid astoundingly consistent touring, retaining their core audience while roping in subsequent generations of anxiously energetic kids.
The band has long settled into the current lineup who have arguably enacted to most muscular Bad Religion to ever grace a stage: Greg Graffin (vocals) and Jay Bentley (bass) join Brian Baker (guitarist since ’94), guitarist Mike Dimkich (9 years in), and drummer Jamie Miller, who’s already been with the band for seven years.
Bad Religion is in an almost singular position in the history of punk. Having formed right on the heels of the original explosion, they led the west coast arm of hardcore’s birth, adding their melodic riffs, zooming harmonies, and viciously verbose lyrical punch to the basic bash of hardcore. Then the band continued to expand their template through the ‘80s and into the indebted “neo-punk” sound of the early ‘90s, and weathered the questionable dichotomies of the “alternative rock” era by doing what they’ve always done – releasing explosive album after album to consistent acclaim from fans and critics.
And if you’re positive there is no way they could keep doing the same thing all these years, you’d be right. They haven’t. They’ve continued to throw songwriting and production wrenches into the works so’s not to bore themselves or their never-diminishing following.
The re-rejuventaion started around 2007’s New Maps of Hell, with its titular nod to their classic debut album (How Could Hell Be Any Worse), matching that youthful fire with a deeper burn born of growing up though all the actual pain you worried might happen when you were a teen.
The Dissent of Man (2010) had the increasingly active professional author Greg Graffin unleash all the verbal venom he could most freely spew with his beloved punk band; while musically the band delved into some varying tempos. Then, with True North (2013), Graffin got even madder and the band followed suit. Then they immediately followed up with an album of rabid runs through holiday classics, Christmas Songs (2013), because why the fuck not. When Bad Religion is often described as “intellectual,” that doesn’t mean just their lyrics, it means their musical choices, like whipping up a completely unexpected and heartfelt Xmas record.
Six years passed, and one might’ve worried the band had been beaten down like every other good thing during the Trump years. But no! on 2019’s Age of Unreason, they gathered together 15 tracks of some of the best material of their career, adding a wee more production gleam suited to amping up the songs to get through all the dispirited noise of that time, and mixing their perfect balance of dystopian dread and future hope into Age of Unreason.
Not that they had gone anywhere for those six years, except on tour, a lot. The current seven- year-running lineup can flesh out any of the band’s eras, but they seem perfectly suited for the band’s latter day catalog that’s so vehemently fueled by the third-gear aggression of a punk band who is still out there playing with, gathering energy from, and inspiring the newest punk bands — keeping these elder statesmen of punk sharp, incensed, and ready to go forward.
The band’s rep as socially aware thought-provokers can obscure the fact they’ve remained one of the most viscerally powerful live bands on the planet, remembering it’s the beats and riffs that get your ass off the couch in the first place.
Of course, being stuck to the couch was sometimes inescapable during our last terrible years of COVID fear. So once again leaning into their smarts, Bad Religion concocted an online run of eight, chronologically curated, streaming live show docuseries, recorded at the Roxy in Hollywood as COVID reared its ugly ass. Two seasons of career-highlighting, fan-thanking ballyhoo, featuring jaw dropping reminders of the band’s development in the face of often simplistic skate punk pigeonholing.
When he’s not stomping on some festival stage in front of thousands somewhere, singer Greg Graffin is a professor and author who has released numerous books on history and personal survival. He even garnered the prestigious Rushdie Award for Cultural Humanism from the Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy in 2008.
And in 2021, Bad Religion released its own long-awaited autobiography, Do What You Want: The Story of Bad Religion, credited to, of course, the whole band. While propped up on the band’s egalitarian legend, its focus is the long and moshing road of a band who probably would’ve laughed if you’d told their 20-something selves they’d be celebrating their 40th anniversary. Laughed, then strapped on their guitars and jumped out on stage again.
If you get to see Bad Religion – as they plan upcoming tours and festival shows by the end of the year – you’ll see that snotty 20-something is still kicking its way out.
“Humans are animals, pretty much in denial of just how savage we can be,” declares Body Count singer Ice-T. “The songs on Carnivore play out that theme in different ways. It’s not about a diet; it’s about being bloodthirsty creatures.” Carnivore is the pioneering metal band’s seventh album since forming in 1992 and skyrocketing to infamy thanks to the “Cop Killer” song controversy. Carnivore is also the most melodically hardcore and lyrically articulate BC album to date. It serves up eight originals, including the poignant “When I’m Gone,” featuring Grammy-winning guest vocalist Amy Lee of Evanescence, along with the call-to-arms of the edgy, rapid-fire “Bum-Rush,” and the primal roar of the title track/first single. Prestigious musical guests–friends and fans excited to work with BC–include Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta and Riley Gale of Power Trip. Additionally, “Colors 2020” and “6 In Tha Morning,” two iconic Ice-T rap cuts, get re-done, metal style, with Slayer’s Dave Lombardo guesting on drums. Body Count pays homage to Motorhead with “Ace of Spades,” while political punk provocateur Jello Biafra makes a cameo, further cementing Carnivore’s 11-song collection as an album for the ages.
Longtime BC bassist and musical director Vincent Price observes that Carnivore is the culmination of Body Count’s ever-increasing power, starting with 2014’s Manslaughter into 2017’s Bloodlust, with Carnivore completing the unholy trinity. Produced by Will Putney from the band Fit for an Autopsy, BC are proud they’ve upped their game: “We’re satisfying ourselves first before we satisfy others,” Price says. “Back when we were rehearsing a tour for Manslaughter, Ice said to me, ‘How are we gonna top this album?’ I’m like, ‘Well, Ice, don’t worry. We got it.’ I look at myself as ‘the fan’ too, and this is our best yet.”
In “Bum-Rush,” one of the key lyrics is “we’re woke,” and Ice-T lays it bare in the lyrics. “A lot of times, people can’t see through the bullshit,” he says. “My job as an artist is to kind of break down the confusion that the media and the press and government try to put in our way to keep us separated. On this album, just like in ‘No Lives Matter,’ [from Bloodlust] one of my main focuses is that unity is power, and that most of us have the same issues, same enemies and the same problems.”
“Bum-Rush,” the follow-up single to “Carnivore” is a metaphor for likeminded people joining to create power and change. And with today’s world changing so quickly, one of Carnivore’s songs has now taken on two meanings. “When I’m Gone,” where Ice-T is joined by BC fan and platinum-selling Evanescence singer Lee, was inspired by the murder of L.A.-born activist, entrepreneur and rapper Nipsey Hussle, says Ice. “It’s a wake-up call, saying that we have to take advantage of our friendships while our friends are still around. And now, with the loss of Kobe Bryant…” Ice adds: “’When I’m Gone’ is another song that kinda transcends metal, and having a woman sing on it—the first time we’ve ever done that—is just the growth of Body Count.”
While Ice-T has spent two decades portraying NYPD Detective/Sergeant Odafin Tutuola on NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Body Count is never far from his mind: he brings music in progress to the set, playing it for the crew and cast. Hearing Carnivore, his TV family got an earful: musically, the band has raised the bar. Price explains that he and guitarist Juan Garcia are mutual fans and longtime friends, and “I always try to have both Juan and Ernie C. play solos. I think it’s more interesting. On ‘The Hate is Real,’ there’s a part where they trade off on solos and then do a harmony at the end, which was another first for Body Count.”
There’s no stone left unturned in Carnivore’s creation, and that includes cover art by renowned Polish artist Zbigniew Bielak. His ultra-detailed, visceral line drawing of venomous-looking gang-banger ramps things up to another level. As Ice explained: “We made the ‘Carnivore’ video just by animating the album cover, which is so intricate. It’s probably the best piece of art I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some great work on my album covers. I think this is a masterpiece.”
Equally cool are the re-imaginings of 1988’s “Colors” (the title track to the film of the same name) and 1987’s “6 In That Morning” from Ice-T’s legendary hip-hop/rap classic Rhyme Pays. Turns out a lot of Body Count’s fans also dug Ice-T’s raps. “But Body Count is a live metal band, so it’s not like I could throw on a backing track for ‘Colors’ and do it,” explains Ice. BC had fun cutting the songs metal-style, and of the Body Count tour, Ice says: “if the set provides the time, we can give fans an old-school Ice-T cut.”
Indeed, over the years, Body Count has played prestigious festivals, including Wacken Open Air, Ozzfest/Knotfest, and the Vans Warped Tour 15th Anniversary show in LA, where they shared the stage with Katy Perry, NOFX, Pennywise and Bad Religion. Plus, they’ve opened for friends and influences Guns N’ Roses, Slayer and Metallica, with TV appearances including the Tonight Show and Late Late Show. BC’s 2020 schedule in support of Carnivore will be no less intense. As Ice-T concludes, “we’re always looking to make it better. The worst thing is to put on an album and have someone say ‘the last one was better.’ No way will that happen with Carnivore.”
DANCE GAVIN DANCE
Dance Gavin Dance fully indulges the extremes of creativity. They mine the outer reaches of the rock music landscape with thrilling abandon. Their ambitious blend of heady progressive rock and post-hardcore became something uniquely their own.
Dance Gavin Dance fans have streamed “We Own the Night” nearly 12 million times on Spotify alone, with staple catalog anthems “Chucky vs. the Giant Tortoise,” “Young Robot,” “Inspire the Liars,” and “Deception” accounting for another 30 million streams on top of that. Their albums regularly chart in the Billboard 200, each of the last three progressively higher than the last, from Top 40 to the Top 15.
An international touring act for over a decade, Dance Gavin Dance has done Vans Warped Tour three times, toured with the likes of Underoath, A Day To Remember and Pierce The Veil, performed at major festivals, and headlined sold out club tours.
Where most bands erroneously claim wholly distinct identities, Dance Gavin Dance truly defies categorization. The Sacramento based outfit possess the kind of artistic compass shared with broadminded but heavy metal and hardcore-punk rooted iconoclasts like The Mars Volta and Coheed & Cambria, but use it to diverge wildly, charting a new course that incorporates the melodic screamo of Thursday or Taking Back Sunday, with a taste of the earnest pop melancholy of Death Cab For Cutie.
The current and most definitive incarnation of Dance Gavin Dance is responsible for half of the band’s albums, including their most recent effort, Artificial Selection. The new record is the strongest and most wondrously diverse showcase yet for the lauded post-hardcore experimentalists, equal parts intense, melodic, and unbound.
There’s the angelic and R&B infused highs of the sweet voiced Tilian Pearson; the unhinged guttural growls and chaotic screams of cofounder Jon Mess; the dizzyingly unpredictable arpeggio-led guitar crunch of cofounder Will Swan; the soulful poly-rhythmic backbone of longtime bassist Tim Feerick; and the mind-blowingly powerful nuanced foundation laid by drummer and cofounder Matt Mingus.
It’s all even bigger than ever on Artificial Selection, brought to life by close collaborator and producer Kris Crummett (Sleeping With Sirens, Crown The Empire, Issues). Dance Gavin Dance’s ambitious adventurousness and experimental spirit continues to differentiate them from the pack, from the funkier slow jam of “Count Bassy” to the heavy screamo of “The Rattler.” There’s a throwback to the Death Star era of the band’s sophomore album, “Shelf Life,” complete with former singer Kurt Travis. “Midnight Crusade” and “Bloodsucker” are guaranteed crowd pleasers. “Son of Robot” goes on an epic musical journey, from mournful to vengeful full stop.
As the Boston Globe astutely observed, “Dance Gavin Dance resists pigeonholing… heavy, ambitious, and sometimes witty rock that seizes on the past few decades of edge-dwelling music, places it all in a blender, and puts the speed on high.” (There’s even Motown, funk, pop, dance, and heaping helpings of indie rock in that blender.)
Now more than a dozen years on from their inception, Dance Gavin Dance celebrates an insurgent career, in the tradition of iconoclastic artists from Frank Zappa to Nirvana who did what they wanted, how they wanted, confident that an audience would catch-up. Eight studio albums deep, a thriving fanbase champions the band’s irreverent diversity and propulsive power.
MCID. This is the slogan tattooed on bodies across the world, four letters that hold so much meaning, a mystery to anyone who is not in the know. Highly Suspect members Johnny Stevens and twins Rich and Ryan Meyer had not only been playing music for eight years before topping radio charts, garnering Grammy nominations, and selling out tours- but they also had been gradually accruing a cast of comrades that orbited their star, friends and chosen family that would travel the world with them, move cross country with them, and become pet parents with them. The growing community of companions have a name, and it is MCID.
Originally from Cape Cod, the three band members played covers in dive bars and moved to a studio apartment in Brooklyn together. In 2015, they gained national recognition after the release of their debut album Mister Asylum on 300 Entertainment and their singles “Lydia” and “Bloodfeather” topped the rock radio charts. The next year they performed at the Grammy Ceremony, receiving two nominations for Best Rock Album and Best Rock Song. In 2017 the band traveled to Bogota, Colombia to record their second album, The Boy Who Died Wolf. It was released in November 2016 and the success of hits “Little One” and “My Name Is Human,” earned the band a third Grammy nomination for Best Rock Song.
And now the band is ready to release album three, a manifesto full of lead singer Johnny Steven’s private confessions, packed to the brim with themes of self loathing, body image issues, substance abuse, addressing his complicated past and trying to change his future. There is also a sprinkle of his outspoken anti-Trump political stance, and stories of heartbreak and hope. It’s not surprising that his most vulnerable collection of songs is addressed directly to his chosen family, his followers, and his comrades- the title of the album is MCID.
MCID is packed with surprise major hip hop features, a collaboration with the metal band Gojira, some Swahili versus, and a lead single, “Sixteen”, that is completely guitar free. The lyrics describe the true story of Stevens falling in love at sixteen years old, fostering a relationship for seven years, and feeling elated when she told him she was pregnant with their baby. The song describes his instant devastation the moment of the birth when he found out that the baby wasn’t his, the baby was a different race. Though a wild story, the lyrics capture the gut wrenching feeling of first love lost, betrayal, and regret. Other standout songs are his collaboration with Young Thug on “Tokyo Ghoul”, and “Canals” which captures his frustration with the Trump presidency, saying that his rage feels like “someone took a crack pipe, lit it with a torch light, and threw it on a gas line- there is fire everywhere”.
MCID is not just the third full length project from three guys who approach the rock genre with a hip hop ethos, but it’s a family meeting and an apology from singer Johnny Stevens whose lyrics demand accountability from himself and urge him to be more honest and to conquer the demons that made him who he is.
A recent addition to the band’s lineup is one of their lifelong friends, Matt Kofos. Kofos has been touring with them for years, has lived with them, and completes the puzzle in Highly Suspect’s unbroken journey to translate their music from record to stage. This is what MCID is, it’s a family, a movement, and one hell of an album.
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.
Beyond the instantly identifiable riffs and equally recognizable vocals, Jerry Cantrell will always be known as a songwriter, first and foremost. Those songs comprise his influential catalog as co-founder, vocalist, lead guitarist and main songwriter of the iconic Alice In Chains and as a solo artist whose music resounds across culture. He penned two classic solo albums—Boggy Depot  and Degradation Trip Volumes 1 & 2 —and appeared on chart-topping records by everyone from Metallica to Ozzy Osbourne, Glenn Danzig, & Deftones. His music can be heard in the films of Academy® Award winner Cameron Crowe and Judd Apatow in addition to blockbuster franchises such as John Wick and Spider-Man. Throughout his career, he’s garnered eleven GRAMMY® Award nominations, logged multiple #1 hits at radio, sold north of 30 million records, and received the 2020 Museum of Pop Culture Founders Award as a member of Alice In Chains. Not to mention, Guitar World cited him as one of the “100 Greatest Guitar Players of All Time. ”Additionally, he received the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award from MusiCares in addition to supporting numerous charities over the years. However, he continues to put the songs first on his third full-length solo offering, Brighten, released on October 29, 2021. Led by the singles “Atone” and “Brighten,” these tunes are a worthy addition to Cantrell’s repertoire and the larger American rock ‘n’ roll
With the release of their highly anticipated 12th studio album, the gloriously titled “Book of Bad Decisions”, it would be easy to suggest that legendary Maryland rockers Clutch have made their finest record to date. This may even be true. You see, the thing about Clutch is that ever since their 1993 debut Transnational Speedway League they’ve been in the business of writing stone cold classics, and even the most rabid fan would have trouble picking just one. “Book of Bad Decisions” won’t make that task any easier. Rest assured, it’s another classic.
Recorded over three weeks at Sputnik Studios in Nashville, “Book of Bad Decisions” was produced by four-time Grammy winner Vance Powell (Seasick Steve, The White Stripes, Arctic Monkeys, etc.), a man who apparently knows that a one degree angle change in microphones makes a difference to how an instrument sounds. Interestingly, his name first came to the band’s attention via country star Chris Stapleton.
“It started with my brother-in-law, who’s a huge Chris Stapleton fan,” says drummer Jean-Paul Gaster. “He and I would listen to The Traveller quite a bit, and one thing that stood out was that it didn’t sound like any other country record that I’d heard. Shortly after that I was on Spotify, and a song by The Dead Weather came up. It just blew me away and I could tell that whoever produced that record was doing things a different way. I looked it up and there was Vance Powell’s name again, so something was telling us that this is a guy we should reach out to.”
“Even though Chris Stapleton does music that’s not too much like our own, the sonics of the record are pretty great,” says frontman Neil Fallon. “He has a very different approach to recording; he comes from the school of live recording and engineering, and the songs, on tape, are not gonna sound that much different from what we do live.”
No stranger to the road, Powell spent three days on tour with the band in order to get a feel for what they do best, watching first from the front of house and then from the stage, checking out the live sound and how Clutch connect with their audience.
“I never go into a record having an idea of how it’s gonna sound,” he says. “But after hearing them live, I had an idea of how they could sound. I’m a big live recording fan, so I like when bands play together and I didn’t wanna get into that manufacturing a record concept. I wanted it to be real organic.”
Indeed, ‘organic’ is a word that comes up a lot when talking to Clutch about the new record, Powell taking great care to get guitar tones right and making sure that each song had its own identity.
“Vance is all about vintage guitar sounds,” says guitarist Tim Sult. “I probably had more amplifier options than on any other album we’ve done. It was like going back to a music store in 1960! This was the first time I’ve ever recorded with amps from the ’50s and I ended up buying a couple of ’50s amps while we were in Nashville.”
“I felt really good about the gear that I was bringing into the studio,” concurs bassist Dan Maines, “but Vance had this 1974 Ampeg and I’m so glad that he recommended that. As soon as we plugged it in, it sounded like Sabbath! We ended up using it alongside one of my amps, and I loved it so much that once we were done recording I scoured the ads for another one. What I really like is that each song has a different tone to it, and I think that’s Vance Powell’s style.”
With each band member contributing riffs to the album – including Jean-Paul who has added mandolin to his repertoire – there was no shortage of material, each song road-tested long before it reached the studio. Hell, with 15 songs, “Book of Bad Decisions” could easily pass as a double album! Always wary of repeating themselves and retreading old ground, there is even – for the first time on a Clutch album – a horn section that swings like James Brown’s pants!
“The third night I was watching the band,” says Vance, “they did this song that at that time was called Talkbox, which is now In Walks Barbarella. While Neil was singing, I was thinking to myself, “wow, there’s a horn line here!” And while he was singing, I was humming it to myself. I brought it up to them, tenuously, and they were like, “okay, let’s do it!” This is as Parliament, Funkadelic as it gets, maybe even a James Brown vibe!”
One thing, however, that is entirely as expected, is that as arguably the greatest rock lyricist of modern times, Fallon, as always, has provided some interesting subject matter, everything from poets to presidents and recipes to rock ‘n’ roll. You may have to Google some of it, because Fallon is nothing if not a clever bugger, and likes to keep his audience on their toes.
“Most of the time I have no idea what he’s talking about,” laughs Jean-Paul, “but the lyrics completely inform how I’m going to play that tune. Whether or not I understand exactly what Neil is singing about is not important. I listen to the way Neil sings those words and I think about what those words mean to me, and that, ultimately, informs how I’m gonna play drums on that song.”
“I think I probably second guess myself into doing that,” says Neil of his lyrical style. “I would rather not be able to answer all the questions, just to keep it interesting for myself. Sometimes a rhyme sounds awesome and I don’t know what it means, but I’ll go with it anyway. It’s become more difficult to write lyrics now that I have Wikipedia at my fingertips, because you can go down rabbit hole after rabbit hole and not get anything done! Not too long ago you’d have to spend months in a public library trying to find out the things you can find in a couple of keystrokes.”
Elsewhere, however, you’ll find a more straightforward approach to lyrics, A Good Fire relating the memory of hearing Black Sabbath for the first time – something that everyone can relate to – while Sonic Counselor pays homage to Clutch fans. Indeed, it’s fair to say that Clutch fans – collectively known as Gearheads – are a breed like no other.
“I’ve always loved rock songs that just celebrated rock ‘n’ roll,” grins Fallon, “but that song was a bit more about the people who come to our shows, that make it as exciting for us as hopefully it is for them. My favorite shows that I’ve seen bands do is like going to church, especially when everybody’s in sync with each other and you walk out with your jaw on the floor. I feel incredibly grateful that people have walked out of our shows and felt the same way. It’s a tip of the hat to them.”
“We’re exceptionally lucky to have the fans we have,” Jean-Paul agrees. “They’re diehard, and because of that, we take this that much more seriously. We do not take this for granted. We know that those folks could be anywhere else, and they’ve chosen to spend the evening at a Clutch show, so we’re gonna do the best we can to provide them with the best musical experience we can. I think that translates to the records, because at the end of the day, all you have is your records. When this whole thing wraps up, those are gonna be the things that go down in history.”
After enduring a year like 2020, no one could have possibly expected Al Jourgensen to stay silent on the maelstrom of the past 12 months. As the mastermind behind pioneering industrial outfit Ministry, Jourgensen has spent the last four decades using music as a megaphone to rally listeners to the fight for equal rights, restoring American liberties, exposing exploitation and putting crooked politicians in their rightful place—set to a background of aggressive riffs, searing vocals and manipulated sounds to drive it home.
As Jourgensen watched the chaos that befell the world during the height of a global pandemic and the tensions rising from one of the most important elections in American history, he seized on the opportunity to write, spending quarantine holed up in his self- built home studio—Scheisse Dog Studio— along with engineer Michael Rozon and girlfriend Liz Walton to create Ministry’s latest masterpiece, Moral Hygiene (out October 1 on Nuclear Blast Records). Anchored by last year’s leadoff track “Alert Level”—which asks listeners to internalize the question “How concerned are you?”—the 10 songs on this upcoming 15th studio album cover the breadth of the current dilemmas facing humanity, while ruminating on the sizable impact of COVID-19, the inevitable effects of climate change, consequences of misinformed conspiracies and the stakes in the fight for racial equality. And most importantly doing so with the lens of what we as a society are going to do about it all.
“The one good thing about taking a year off from any social activity is that you really get to sit back and get an overview of things as opposed to being caught up in the moment,” says Jourgensen, “and what became inevitably clear is that the times are changing and this past year has been a wake up call—and that’s a very good thing. Because society as we have known it the past few decades has needed to change,” he continues. “Ever since Reagan and the girth of Wall Street, we have become too close to the belief that greed is good. Society has really taken a dark turn and now we are bearing the fruit of that that misdirection driven by the idea that it’s all about me and not other people and to take care of yourself and fuck everything else. We now more than ever need moral hygiene. It’s what we have to return to in order to function as the human species on this planet.”
Moral Hygiene comes on the heels of Ministry’s acclaimed 2018 album AmeriKKKant (hailed by Loudwire as Jourgensen’s own “state of the union” address) that was written as a reaction to Donald J. Trump being elected president—though Jourgensen says this new album is more informational and reflective in tone. “With AmeriKKKant I was in shock that Trump won. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I had to do something. Because I believe if you are a musician or an artist you should be expressing what’s going on around you through your art. It’s going to happen whether you do it consciously or unconsciously. Moral Hygiene however has progressed even further into a cautionary tale of what will happen if we don’t act. There’s less rage, but there’s more reflection and I bring in some guests to help cement that narrative.”
In addition to recruiting long-time cohort Jello Biafra (Jourgensen’s partner in the side project Lard) for the quirky earworm “Sabotage Is Sex,” other guest appearances include guitarist Billy Morrison (Billy Idol/Royal Machines) on a rendition of The Stooges hit “Search & Destroy.”
There’s also the riotous track “Good Trouble,” inspired by the message of activism and social justice in John Lewis’ posthumously published essay, released by New York Times after the Congressman’s passing last July.
“I remember watching the coverage of his death and the next day seeing this entire letter from him come out and thinking not only is John Lewis a Civil Rights icon but he was so astute to think of how that legacy could fit into the progress of the future,” says Jourgensen. “That letter was so heartfelt and his words were so much aligned with my own ideals I just immediately knew I wanted to dedicate a song to him. That track really is the moral backbone of this album.”
Another standout track is “Believe Me,” featuring a throwback vocal style from Jourgensen that harkens back to his singing on Twitch and cult classic “(Every Day Is) Halloween.” The song came out of a jam session with Morrison, Cesar Soto and sampling from Liz Walton, and reminded Jourgensen of his formative days at Chicago Trax Studios where communal ideas were constantly informing early Ministry records. “’Believe Me’ had such an old school vibe I wanted to bring back old school vocals.
…It’s funny how things come back to you,” says Jourgensen, also reflecting on Ministry turning 40 in 2021.
Though there have been other side projects over the years including Revolting Cocks and Surgical Meth Machine, Ministry remains Jourgensen’s lifetime passion project, and was first established in Chicago in 1981 through a relationship with legendary Wax Trax! Records. In its earliest days, Ministry was identifiable by a synth-pop style in line with the new sounds and technology that were being developed in the ‘80s, no moreso than on the infamous LP With Sympathy released by Arista Records in 1983. Yet as time progressed, so did Ministry, quickly developing a harsher and more stylized sound that found the band and Jourgensen heralded as the godfathers of industrial music amidst the release of seminal albums Twitch (1986), The Land of Rape and Honey (1988), and The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste (1989) that became cultural cornerstones. With Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and The Way to Suck Eggs (1992), Ministry hit an all time high in the mainstream and received its first of six lifetime Grammy nominations.
Eight more albums would follow before an indefinite break in 2013, only to be unearthed again in 2018 with AmeriKKKant.
With the release of Moral Hygiene, Jourgensen is more positive than before. “This may sound crazy but I’m more hopeful about 2021 than I have been in two decades at least,” he says. “Because I do see things changing; people are starting to see through all the bullshit and want to get back to actual decorum in society. We could just treat each other nicely and be treated nicely in return. I never thought Ministry would be in the position of preaching traditional values, but this is the rebellion now.”
Theory of a Deadman
Songs make statements at just the right time. Born at the intersection of insurgency and inspiration, music props up a sounding board for the people to be heard. Theory Of A Deadman amplify this voice on their seventh full-length offering, Say Nothing [Roadrunner Records/Atlantic Worldwide]. The award- winning multiplatinum Los Angeles-based Canadian band—Tyler Connolly [lead vocals, guitar], Dave Brenner [guitar, backing vocals], Dean Back [bass], and Joey Dandeneau [drums]—flip the pulse of the world into scorching songcraft, integrating experimental vision, rock ‘n’ roll attitude, and clever pop ambition.
In the midst of this storm, Connolly and Co. speak up like never before.
“This album allowed me to say all of the things that were on my mind earlier, but I was too afraid to say,” the frontman admits. “Our previous material was pretty much all relationship-driven. Everything was about me being unhappy. This one was about what’s going on in the world, the state of American politics, and everything else. It was a completely different way of writing for us. I remember Dave asked me, ‘Hey dude, did you watch a lot of CNN or what?’,” he laughs.
A whirlwind two years awakened this feeling in the group. After nearly two decades together, Theory landed their biggest career hit in the form of “Rx (Medicate)” from 2017’s Wake Up Call. Not only did it receive a platinum plaque, generate 100 million-plus streams, and become their third number one on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, but it also received a nomination in the category of “Rock Song of the Year” at the iHeartRadio Music Awards.
The musicians quietly reached this high watermark by remaining consistently prolific. To date, their discography encompassed the double-platinum single “Bad Girlfriend,” platinum single “Not Meant To Be,” platinum album Scars & Souvenirs, and gold singles “Angel” and “Hate My Life.” Plus, they notched two Top 10 debuts on the Billboard Top 200, namely Truth Is…  and Savages , as well as eight top tens on Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks Chart. In addition to selling out shows worldwide, they’ve toured with everyone from Alter Bridge and Bush to Stone Sour and Big Wreck and more.
In 2018, Connolly turned his attention towards the next chapter. It started at a Los Angeles dinner with
Wake Up Call producer Martin Terefe [Jason Mraz, Yungblud].
“I went out to dinner before Halloween with Martin, began discussing the record, went home, and had a panic attack,” recalls Connolly. “After ‘Rx (Medicate)’, there was a lot to figure out. It was really fantastic, but I don’t think we had a lot of time to live in it and digest it. There was pressure. I was like, ‘Okay, I have to get to work’. One day when I woke up, I knew what I needed to communicate. I was motivated to talk about things I want to talk about and not just write about girls. It’s not where I was 15 years ago, but here I am now.”
“What makes this record important is the content,” Brenner elaborates. “Tyler approaches some really tough topics like domestic violence and racism. We never did that in the past. ‘Rx (Medicate)’ opened the door though. This is almost a continuation. There are real discussions happening in the tracks backed by heavy stuff to make you think.”
Once again, the group hopped a plane to London and worked out of Terefe’s Kensaltown studio. Staying in an Airbnb for six weeks, they pushed themselves creatively like never before, incorporating new sounds and sonics.
Theory introduce Say Nothing with the single “History Of Violence.” Finger-picked guitar by Brenner brushes up against the singer’s searing snapshot of a woman afflicted by abuse at the hands of her husband. Between sweeping strings and airy solos, Connolly sings, “She need a sedative to get her straight, ya know she need a cigarette, she got the shakes, put them sunglasses on her, hide her face, such a waste…maybe the way out is a .38.”
“It’s a story about a woman who gets beat by her significant other, shoots him, kills him, and goes to jail,” he explains. “Even though she’s in jail, it’s still a better place to be than being imprisoned in real life by this man. It’s very similar to stories we hear in the news all the time, unfortunately.”
A pilgrimage to Abbey Road Studios left its fingerprints on “Ted Bundy.” Swaggering piano and boisterous horns resound beneath a Sgt. Peppers-gone-Silence-of-the-Lambs story.
“We did a private tour of Abbey Road, and I got to play on The Beatles piano,” recalls Connolly. “We went up to the room where they played ‘A Day in the Life’. When we got back to our studio, we were so inspired. We put tuba on ‘Ted Bundy’. After six albums, we don’t want to be complacent or stale. We try different things. Lyrically, it’s funny. I watched a documentary and got inspired to write about Ted Bundy falling in love.”
Elsewhere, a gospel choir kicks off “Quicksand,” adding yet another dimension to the aural palette. Meanwhile, the orchestration on “Black Hole Of Your Heart” moves in lockstep with an arena-ready beat punctuated by creaky guitar, nodding to Silverchair’s Diorama.
“All around, we really pushed ourselves in terms of the sound,” adds Brenner. “It’s like we finally fit the square peg in the round hole here!”
In many ways, “Strangers” encapsulates a pervasive feeling and strikes a chord with its powerful and provocative prose.
“It’s about what’s going on in America with politics,” says Connolly. “You have to pick a side. It’s interesting how people stick to their party and forget the country. We’re all like strangers now. It’s gotten too nasty.”
However, Theory’s music might be something everyone can ultimately agree on.
“I look at the record as a microcosm of our current era,” Brenner concludes. “It’s a reminder to look inward at what’s happening and what we’re becoming. I hope everyone dives into the words. At the same time, music is still an escape. Maybe we can give the world a little solace and encourage everyone to treat each other better.”
“We just want to write what speaks to us,” Connolly leaves off. “The best thing is when people sing lyrics back to you, or if a song gets somebody through a tough time. There’s something we all might be able to dig here.”
Under any and all circumstances, brothers depend on each other. Maintaining an unspoken, yet unbreakable bond for nearly three decades, Sevendust draw strength from one another on their thirteenth full-length and second release for Rise Records, Blood & Stone. The GRAMMY® Award-nominated Atlanta quintet—Lajon Witherspoon [lead vocals], Clint Lowery [lead guitar, backing vocals], John Connolly [rhythm guitar, backing vocals], Vince Hornsby [bass], and Morgan Rose [drums]—weather anything the world throws at them as a unit.
Not only do they stand strong together, but they also come out swinging as a raw, real, and relevant force.
“At this point, we’ve gone through all of the shit you can imagine,” Morgan remarks. “We’ve been beaten down to the ground, left on the verge of bankruptcy, and robbed blind by people who were supposed to be taking care of us. We’ve dealt with divorces and addiction. However, music has been our way of leaning on each other through all of it. We find a way to work through everything. This band means more to me now than it ever did, because we built something really special and still put on a show worthy of being in the game.”
“This is a bunch of guys who share a mutual respect and love,” adds Lajon. “We grew up together. When we go in and write, it’s a cool and magical experience. It was relevant then; it’s relevant now. We always consider our fans family. Hopefully, Blood & Stone helps them.”
Sevendust built a legacy out of records and stages left soaked in blood, sweat, and tears. Since their formation in 1994, they delivered three classic gold-certified albums—Sevendust , Home , and Animosity —and sold upwards of three million records worldwide. Seasons , Cold Day Memory , and Kill The Flaw  each bowed in the Top 15 of the Billboard Top 200. The latter’s lead single “Thank You” received a nomination in the category of “Best Metal Performance” at the 2016 GRAMMY® Awards, representing a career first. Along the way, they sold out countless shows around the globe and lit up iconic festivals such as Sonic Temple, Woodstock, OZZfest, and Shiprocked! 2018’s All I See Is War earned some of the best reviews of the group’s career as Associated Press claimed, “The band does what it wants and deserves as many ears as possible.” Energized by a particularly prolific period, Sevendust reconvened at Studio Barbarosa with Michael “Elvis” Baskette [Alter Bridge, Trivium, Slash] during late 2019. Fresh from All I See Is War and respective solo outings, Clint and John literally fired on all cylinders.
“John had just done a bunch of writing for Projected, and Clint had just recorded his solo album, so they were both in writing mode,” recalls Morgan. “The riffs were developed. It had already started to take shape very early. With those guys being so prepared, the writing was seamless. Instead of getting tapped out, they got even better.”
Sevendust throw a curveball by introducing Blood & Stone to the world with a haunting, hypnotic, and hard-hitting cover of Soundgarden’s “The Day I Tried To Live.” It preserves the spirit of the original while bringing a sense of stark soul.
“I have no idea why in the fuck we tried to bite that one off,” laughs Morgan. “Chris Cornell is arguably the greatest singer of many generations, and we’re all big fans. Overall, we did our homework and stayed close to the original, but Lajon killed it.”
“Clint and I actually went to see Soundgarden right when Sevendust was starting as a band,” recalls Lajon. “It was an experience I’ll never forget. Chris Cornell had a fearless energy live. It was just incredible. They’re an inspiration to all of us and people everywhere. I came in with a humble heart and just did what I do.”
Meanwhile, the album opener and single “Dying To Live” tosses and turns between crushing distortion and harmonic squeals before Lajon carries one of the band’s catchiest choruses to date. Tight grooves give way to whispers on the bridge before screams take hold again.
“It’s one of those heavy-hitters,” grins Lajon. “With what’s been going on in the world, it’s a song that really punches.”
“‘Dying To Live’ has everything the band embodies,” adds Morgan. “There are songs like ‘Denial’ we all agreed on. ‘Dying To Live’ is another one. It’s exactly what we’re about and might be the most profound tune we’ve come up with in a long time. There are hooks all over it!”
Clean guitar slips into a head-spinning bounce on “Blood From A Stone.” The track subsides on a sweeping refrain, “Sorry for the things that I have done. You took it from me like blood from a stone.”
“It’s any relationship where the other person wants to suck every drop out of you,” Morgan continues. “It’s something everyone has been through.”
Elsewhere, an airy guitar lead resounds as “Criminal” runs towards a striking vocal run culminating on a question, “Who’s our hero now if I’m so criminal?” From the bludgeoning “Love” to the delicate delivery of “Kill Me,” Blood & Stone highlights the scope of Sevendust’s signature style. “Wish You Well” leaves off on a unified statement, “We pull together through the worst.”
“We wanted to end with something powerful,” affirms Lajon. “It felt like the perfect conclusion.”
In the end, the brotherhood at the heart of Sevendust burns brightly.
“When we do anything, it’s real, and it’s from the heart,” Lajon leaves off. “We mean every word we write. I can’t wait for the Sevendust family to hear Blood & Stone. I hope it opens more doors. I never take this journey for granted. I can’t wait for what’s next.”
“We have the most loyal base of supporters I’ve ever seen,” Morgan concludes. “They’ve been here for so long. We delivered a solid record. We’re a blue-collar band, and we’re going to grind it all the way out. I know our loyalty will keep us where we are.” — Rick Florino, June 2020
Formed in Derby, England, in 2012, The Struts have found themselves massively embraced by some of the greatest icons in rock-and-roll history. Along with opening for Foo Fighters, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Guns N’ Roses, the UK-bred four-piece band was handpicked by Mötley Crüe to serve as the supporting act for their last-ever performances. Releasing their debut album Everybody Wants in 2016 and sophomore album YOUNG&DANGEROUS in 2018, they’ve toured incessantly since their formation, including worldwide headline shows and major festivals like Lollapalooza, Governors Ball, and Isle of Wight. When COVID-19 brought touring to a halt, The Struts created their third album Strange Days over the course of a charmed and frenzied burst of creativity. Within just ten days, the band laid down nine original tracks alongside their masterful cover of a KISS B-side.
Checking in at six feet one inches and over 350 pounds, not to mention covered in tattoos, it’s impossible to ignore Jason “Jelly Roll” DeFord in a room. And that’s before his booming country-twanged voice enters the conversation. “I’m just a regular fat piece of white trash with some real people that relate,” he loudly explains with a wide grin, sending everyone else within earshot into riotous laughter. For the 27-year-old Jelly, a nickname he picked up from his mother and kept to honor an incarcerated friend, humor has always been a way to cope with the struggle he would go through in life. Growing up in the rougher areas of Nashville, TN, particularly the Southside city known as Antioch, Jelly got an early taste for street life and fast cash. “I’ve always joked that Antioch is the cultural melting pot the government uses to test how different ethnicities live together in a lower and middle class area,” He laughs referring to the city’s racially diverse, albeit economically bleak make up.Captivated by the gritty rhymes of local legends such as Pistol, Quanie Cash, Haystak, and Kool Daddy Fresh, it wasn’t long before the music would mirror Jelly Roll’s personal life. Catching his first case at age 14, Jelly would endure an ongoing cycle of incarceration until 2009 which would include intent to distribute cocaine charges and multiple probation violations.Continuing to soak up the sounds from southern artists such as UGK, 8ball & MJG, Three 6 Mafia, Chamillionare and Paul Wall, it was during these particularly dark times that Jelly would turn to crafting his own rhymes as a therapeutic means to deal with his trials and tribulations: “My music is all based on emotions and stories from my life as well as people around me. I want to convey to people the power of faith and perseverance and I hope that it helps them to find a light in whatever darkness they may be going through in there life.” In the summer of 2010, Jelly Roll’s “Pop Another Pill” collaboration with Memphis luminary Lil Wyte would go on to garner over 1 million YouTube views. This viral sensation lead to the SNO group album Year-Round released on Hypnotized Minds in April 2011, a project executive-produced by Oscar winners DJ Paul and Juicy J. Jelly continued his successful 2011 campaign by releasing Gambling On A Whiteboy 4 during the summer and combining his talents with Haystak for the successful Strictly Business joint-album in November. His unique combination of introspection, melody, and punchlines has struck a chord with an ever-growing nationwide fan base and continues to impress. In between new projects, Jelly still finds time to volunteer at and provide financial backing for the local SuCO Boxing & MMA gym to help provide disadvantaged youth with a place to take part in positive activities. “My ultimate goal is to touch and reach people and have a voice of influence with the youth of today, he reveals. “I know that sounds like the opposite of what I’m aiming for by the content of some of my bigger songs, but the real purpose will shine through in the end. Helping people and life in general is a marathon, not a 40-yard-dash.” Spoken like someone who has truly been through the fire, its evident Jelly Roll is on a path to even greater acclaim- and that means a greater change for the world.
Some musicians take a while to build an audience and connect with fans. For the Los Angeles-based quartet Dirty Honey, success came right out of the gate. Released in March 2019, the band’s debut single, “When I’m Gone,” became the first song by an unsigned artist to reach No. 1 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart. Their second single, “Rolling 7s,” went into the Top 5 and was still headed up when COVID changed everything. That same year, Dirty Honey opened for The Who, Guns ’N Roses, Slash, and Alter Bridge and was the “do-not-miss-band” at major rock festivals such as Welcome to Rockville, Rocklahoma, Louder Than Life, Heavy MTL, and Epicenter. On its first U.S. headline tour in January and February 2020, the band sold out every date.
When it came time to record its self-titled full-length debut album, the band—vocalist Marc LaBelle, guitarist John Notto, bassist Justin Smolian, and drummer Corey Coverstone—wasn’t about to mess with what was already working. Teaming up with producer Nick DiDia (Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam), who also produced the band’s 2019 self-titled EP, Dirty Honey again captured the lightning-in-a-bottle dynamics and energy of their live sound.
“As a guitarist, I’m always inspired by the everlasting pursuit of the perfect riff,” says Notto. “I also wanted to extend the artistic statement that we had already made. We weren’t looking to sound different, or prove our growth, necessarily. It was more about, ‘Oh, you thought that was good? Hold my beer.'”
“Because of the pandemic,” added drummer Coverstone, “we had a lot more time to write and prepare, which was great. It meant that we were able to workshop the songs a lot more, and I think it really made a difference.”
Dirty Honey’s album indeed builds on the band’s output to date, with airtight songwriting that plays up their strengths: sexy, bluesy, nasty rock’n’roll, melodic hard rock, and soulful 70s blues-rock. On “The Wire,” LaBelle reaffirms his status as one of contemporary rock’s best vocalists, while “Another Last Time” is a raunchy, timeless ballad about a toxic relationship that you just can’t stop saying goodbye to. “Tied Up” and the album’s lead single “California Dreamin,’’ both feature smoking guitar solos bookended by massive riffs and hooks.
“‘California Dreaming’ was the last song we wrote,” said bassist Justin Smolian. “We finished it about two weeks before we recorded it, so the song was still so new, and we were trying out different things, so every take was a little different. But there was that one where we just captured it, and it was magic.”
Although each band member started playing music as kids—at the age of eight, Notto’s parents even bought him a red-and-white Stratocaster—each one brings eclectic influences to Dirty Honey’s sound. For example, drummer Coverstone has studied with jazz and L.A. session drummers but loves heavy metal; Notto grew up listening to ’70s funk and R&B as well as rock ‘n’ roll, and bassist Smolian has a bachelor of music in classical guitar and loves Tom Petty and The Beach Boys.
LaBelle meanwhile, takes cues from his songwriting idols (to name a few, Robert Plant, Steven Tyler, Mick Jagger, Chris Robinson, and the late Chris Cornell) when coming up with lyrics. As a result, the songs on the Dirty Honey album hint at life’s ebbs and flows—shattering heartbreak, romantic connection, intense soul-searching—while giving listeners space to draw their own conclusions.
“Sometimes, if you just let lyrics pass behind your ears, they sound like cool shit is being said,” LaBelle says. “And then once you dive in, you realize, ‘Oh, that’s really thoughtful.’ But it still doesn’t have a meaning that’s easy to pinpoint. There’s an overarching idea that is really cool, but it’s not necessarily on-the-nose.”
Although the Dirty Honey album may sound effortless, its genesis had a bumpy start. The day before the band members were due to fly to Australia to track the album, Los Angeles entered lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and traveling was off the table. However, Dirty Honey was still eager to work with DiDia, so they devised a Plan B: recording the full-length in a Los Angeles studio with one of DiDia’s long-time engineers, and the producer beamed into the proceedings via the magic of modern technology.
“He was able to listen to what we were laying down in real-time, through this app,” says LaBelle. It was like he was in the room with us. It was surprisingly seamless the way it all went down.”
Having to switch gears delayed the start of recording slightly, although this extra time ended up being a boon. Dirty Honey rented a rehearsal space and demoed the album’s songs in advance, meaning the tracks were in good shape when DiDia came onboard. Notto mixed and recorded these workshopped tracks himself, which helped him rediscover one of Dirty Honey’s biggest strengths: being well-rehearsed while not over polishing their work.
“I’ve learned just a little bit more about what people might mean when they say, magic—you know, ‘This one has the magic,'” he says. “We would do two and three different demos of a song, so there would be a few versions. On a few occasions, the version that people kept going back to was the sloppiest, if you look at it from a performance standpoint.”
LaBelle agrees. “It’s just about getting the performance right and not thinking about it too much. I never like to be perfect in the studio. None of the stuff that I really liked as a kid was. I don’t really see myself getting away from that too much in the future just because I think you lose the soul if you do it too many times, if it’s too perfect.”
Notto also admits that the creative process isn’t necessarily always all fun and games. But for him and the rest of Dirty Honey, pushing through those tough times and coming out stronger on the other side is worth it. “When you finally come through on those moments, that’s where the real magic comes in,” he says. “What makes all of our songs fun to play and listen to is we don’t allow ourselves to stop short of getting the best possible results out of each one of them.”
Music bestows a voice upon the voiceless. It provides a mouthpiece for the unheard to be heard. It amplifies the cries of the downtrodden in the face of oppression and tyranny. It’s the last line of dissent….
“Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” – Howard Zinn
Since unleashing their seminal 1996 debut Die for the Government, Anti-Flag has empowered and emboldened the listeners of two generations beset with
a new millennium stricken by war, racial upheaval, and financial collapse. The Pittsburgh, PA quartet—Justin Sane [vocals], Chris#2 [bass, vocals], Chris Head [guitar, vocals], and Pat Thetic [drums]—has consistently embodied a timeless punk spirit over the course of nine influential offerings, including The Terror State, For Blood and Empire, and most recently, 2015’s American Spring. The latter boasted appearances from icons such as Tom Morello and Tim Armstrong and yielded the anthem “Brandenburg Gate,” which cracked 1.3 million Spotify streams and counting.
They’ve incinerated stages on tour alongside Rage Against The Machine, Sick of It All, Billy Talent, The Offspring, Rancid, and more in addition to festivals ranging from Coachella to the Vans Warped Tour. A cultural institution, they have spoken out on behalf of movements such as Occupy Together, Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd, and Amnesty International between launching their own label A-F and ANTIFest.
As the world changed again with the controversial 2016 presidential election, the time felt ripe for Anti-Flag’s tenth and most definitive offering yet, American Fall [Spinefarm Records].
“There’s a focus on politics right now for obvious reasons,” says Chris#2. “When that happens, our band gets more attention. Being our tenth record, we wanted to make sure that we were true to ourselves. It had to sound like Anti-Flag. At the same
time, London Calling is my favorite by The Clash because they took risks. Since they were in front of more eyes than ever, they didn’t play it safe. We wanted to push the envelope so we had a reason to put out another record when everyone was watching.”
Writing back home in Pittsburgh, the signature sound naturally evolved with slower grooves, tighter songcraft, thicker guitars, and bigger melodies. It provided the perfect musical counterpoint to the incendiary and inflammatory subject matter.
“Because we’re living in very divisive and dark times, we wanted to deliver our message in a way that wasn’t overbearing and oppressive to listeners,” adds Justin. “Getting a little more melodic makes the pill easier to digest. It became more impactful and simple.”
“Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple.” – Woody Guthrie
Kicking off 2017, the boys traded snowy Pittsburgh in January for sunny Southern California where they would co-produce American Fall with Good Charlotte’s Benji Madden. His personal perspective proved indispensable in the studio.
“He understands that we know how to do this, but he also added a fresh take,” Chris#2 goes on. “It was cool to have him around on these songs, because many of them are structurally and sonically pretty catchy punk rock. We embraced the idea of writing singalongs and big hooks. We were all on a similar page going into this.”
“He had a great sense for feeling where something was heading and pushing it in that direction,” adds Justin. “That was a really impressive skill that he brought to the process.”
Introducing American Fall, opener and first single “American Attraction” hinges on a hulking drum beat and hummable guitars before snapping into an explosive chant. It’s quintessential Anti-Flag as far as the subject matter goes…
“We were definitely interested in talking about the politics of distraction on that one,” Justin exclaims. “The politics of distraction lead people to make choices that aren’t in their best interest. They follow leaders who are just using them and don’t care to actually do something positive for the country. When you live in a society that glorifies guns, drugs, and war, you become susceptible to those politics—while the individuals in charge are only worried about re-election. They don’t care about you.”
“Sooner or later, the people of this country are going to find out the government doesn’t give a fuck about them. Government doesn’t care about you. All they are interested in, is keeping and expanding their own power.” – George Carlin
Elsewhere on the record, “The Criminals” gallops ahead at full speed driven by a performance soaked in blood, sweat, and tears and pure punk fury. The acoustic guitar
and chant of “When The Wall Falls” gives way to a buoyant groove, and “Casualty” caps everything off with a fitting middle finger, proclaiming “Try to shut us down, but we won’t be another casualty.”
Speaking directly to those in need, the lyrics to “Casualty” are accompanied by phone numbers for Trans Lifeline, Suicide Prevention, Domestic Violence, Crisis Text Line, and Trevor Project Lifeline. Moreover, the booklet includes essays, quotes, and writings of Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, Peter Montgomery, Ryan Harvey, and more.
American Fall heralds another era for Anti-Flag as their impact remains as palpable as ever.
“We were on Warped Tour THIS summer,” recalls Pat. “Three-to-five trans folks would come to the booth and say hello to us every day. These same marginalized kids were at the shows 20 years ago, but they were afraid to express themselves. The fact that they are NOW empowered to be who they really are is incredible…the fact that they know they are welcomed by our band and community is awesome, the same goes for so many others who are feeling alienated and they are receiving that message loud and clear.”
In the end, American Fall does what Anti-Flag has always done—it inspires change.
“I want everybody to realize they’re not alone,” Chris#2 leaves off. “These conversations we’re having are ones that others are having too. Four kids from Pittsburgh don’t have all the answers, but we’re looking out the same window and realizing that the color and the shape of things isn’t what we want. However, we can band together with some likeminded individuals who feel the same way and turn it into the thing we want.”
“After all this, won’t you give me a smile.” – Joe Strummer
The Joy Formidable
The discography of Welsh alternative rock band the Joy Formidable consists of three studio albums, one live album, three extended plays and 15 singles. Their debut extended play, A Balloon Called Moaning, was released in December 2008, followed by their debut studio album, The Big Roar, in January 2011, which reached No. 31 on the UK Albums Chart, and produced the singles “Whirring” and “A Heavy Abacus”, which reached No. 7 and No. 25 on the US Alternative Songs Chart, respectively. Their second studio album, Wolf’s Law, was released in January 2013 and reached No. 41 and No. 51 on the UK Albums Chart and the US Billboard 200, respectively. Their third studio album, Hitch was released in March 2016. Their fourth studio album, AAARTH, was released on 28 September 2018.
“Spiritbox is where serene art-rock and metal savagery meet.” – Loudwire
The existential dread of isolation and the wondrous alchemy of artisans, ensconced in a self-imposed enclave of creativity, have converged in the music of SPIRITBOX. Part post-metal band, part art collective, SPIRITBOX makes magic in the musical and visual mediums, evoking spirits like that other type of “medium.” Not unlike the arcane occult technology of their namesake, SPIRITBOX communes with people all around the world, via broad emotional outbursts of sound.
Conjuring spirits through music and video as do-it-yourself artists from their remote place of worship, the burgeoning arts community of Vancouver Island, the husband and wife duo of Courtney LaPlante and Mike Stringer inspired a cult following from their first emergence in 2017. It wasn’t long before bassist Bill Crook was baptized into the fold, expanding the outfit to a trio.
A self-titled EP introduced SPIRITBOX to the world, enchanting an even broader spectrum of the esoteric minded sort. Singles Collection, the five-song set that followed in 2019, documents LaPlante’s struggle with depression, while emphasizing the band’s genre-transcending musical prowess. From melancholy to madness, from hopelessness to redemption, SPIRITBOX is a complete extension of its creators. As Revolver Magazine pointed out in a glowing profile, the band’s 2020 breakout single, “Holy Roller,” is both “insanely catchy and totally crushing.” Most strikingly perhaps, like everything SPIRITBOX, “Holy Roller” was fashioned free from compromise.
There is nothing pandering or remotely insincere about this band. That authenticity is what attracts its religiously devoted adherents, an ever-growing “denomination” of diverse people. The obsessive nature of the burgeoning fandom is a testament to the immersive quality of SPIRITBOX. As the ghostly phrase from the late ‘80s baseball movie goes, “If you build it, they will come.”
The Blood of Gods Mythos:
The story of GWAR is carved across the history of this barren and hopeless planet, but GWAR themselves are not of this world… their story begins in the deepest reaches of outer space. Long ago, the beings who would become the rock band GWAR were part of an elite fighting force, the Scumdogs of the Universe. For eons, they served as thralls to a supreme being known only as the Master. But one by one, each future member of the band earned a glaring reputation for being an intergalactic fuck-up. And so, they
were banished, sent away on a fool’s errand to conquer an insignificant shitball floating in a dark corner of the universe; the planet Earth. Once here, GWAR shaped the face of the globe, destroying and rebuilding the natural world, and giving rise to all of human history. Aliens to some, gods and demons to others, our erstwhile Scumdogs fucked apes to create the human race, and this fateful unplanned pregnancy would prove to be truly disastrous!
Their new album, “The Blood of Gods” is nothing less than a sacred text chronicling the rise of humanity against their makers, and the massive battle between GWAR and the forces of all that is uptight and wrong with the world. Along the way, the band challenges the sins of their great mistake, from politics, pollution, and organized religion, to fast food, and factory farming. Humans are shown as what they are; a parasitical disease that must be eradicated before they suck the planet dry. Born of adversity, “The Blood of Gods” is a sonic scar…a question asked and answered…Death cannot kill GWAR. Nothing can. GWAR LIVES MOTHERFUCKERS!
Grammy-nominated exploratory rock band Baroness return with their most ambitious work to date, fifth album Gold & Grey. Set for release on the band’s own Abraxan Hymns, Gold & Grey spills triumphantly past genre barriers, their anthemic alt-metal hooks ricocheting between the circuitous twists of prog and jazz, the moody swirls of space-rock and noise, and the hypnotic pulses of trip-hop and 20th Century minimalism.
“This is the most clear representation of the artistic vision I have for the band that we’ve ever done,” says Baroness vocalist, guitarist and founder John Baizley. “I’m surprised that we got as far with it as we did.”
Baizley sees the diverse, adventurous album as a “lateral step” from the streamlined, immediate guitar-rock of the band’s last release, Purple, championed by Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and L.A. Weekly as one of the best metal albums of 2015. Gold & Grey works like a melodic puzzle, melodies and harmonic ideas borrowed, repurposed and reinterpreted across three sides of vinyl. Lyrics are full of sonic Easter eggs; unorthodox prog is hidden inside the most accessible songs; tunes emerge from swirling chaos and dense layers of sound. The album is given color by strings, glockenspiel, tubular bells, piano, synthesizers and even field recordings of the chaos after a transformer blew up outside of the recording studio.
“The term I kept using was that I wanted to create something that was more kaleidoscopic than our former records,” says Baizley, who embraced the wide lens and limitless journeying of artists like Pink Floyd, Neurosis, Massive Attack and Scott Walker. “We were trying to say something new with our instruments, with our sound intact, with the spirit of the band intact, but not applying the typical conventions when possible.”
For the first time ever, there’s a spotlight on Baroness’ powerhouse rhythm section – driving-and-spilling drummer Sebastian Thomson (Trans Am, Publicist) and jazz-honed bassist Nick Jost. Bustling with rhythmic complexity, the band occasionally swerves into highways of math rock, post-rock, krautrock and various strains of electronic music. In addition, the band has absorbed Gina Gleason, a gifted guitarist whose résumé includes playing with Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas and jamming with both Smashing Pumpkins and Carlos Santana. Gleason’s voice harmonizes with Baizley and Jost, bringing new tone to the band.
“It’s great for me to have such a full-bodied trust in the other musicians in the band because they play at such a high level,” says Baizley. “I never, ever in a million years thought I’d play with musicians of that caliber and now I’m surrounded by them.”
Like Purple, the band recorded with prismatic, Grammy-winning producer Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, MGMT, Mercury Rev) at his Tarbox Studios. “There were so many split second decisions and just weird ideas that got used,” says Baizley. “I credit Dave for a lot of this because he was never one to say ‘No, that’s insane.’ It was like almost the more out there the idea, the more likely he was to encourage it to be developed and grown.”
“We went outside, in front of Dave’s studio, on one of his off days, we miked up a wooden post and hammered a nail into it,” says Baizley. “There’s so much hidden in there. There’s also some audio samples of some of my friends. I literally did the Pink Floyd thing. I set up a little booth in my basement. I said, go down there, you got five minutes, tell me the toughest thing you want to tell me. And boy, it was tough to listen to. I pulled those quotes, effected them and they popped into one of the tracks.”
Lyrically, Gold & Grey plumbs similar depths of emotion. On previous albums, Baizley has sung boldly and openly about his mental health and the recovery process from the traumatic bus accident the band and their crew suffered in 2012.
“Where Purple was me lyrically trying to work out how to adjust to a new normal, I think Gold & Grey is a more grown-up and more subtle collection of words that reflect how I am trying to deal with the longer term effects of having experienced so many terrible things,” says Baizley. “There’s a mental component. There’s a physical component. I choose to use the band as a place where I can take all of this stress, pain, anxiety, all these realities, and make them something good.”
Nearly 15 years since releasing their first EP, Baroness are finding a way forward by reveling in chaos.
“We’d listen to playback and there was a general sense of confusion,” says Baizley of the Gold & Grey sessions. I couldn’t figure out how Gina was making that sound. I didn’t understand how the rhythm that Nick and Sebastian were playing worked with what I was doing – but it did. It was a really exciting to feel like we were maybe on the edge of just falling apart. We didn’t want to know what was going on. We wanted to be always a little bit surprised by ourselves.”
At this point, IN FLAMES are less of a band than they are a musical institution in the heavy music world. Since helping create Sweden’s legendary “Gothenburg Sound” three decades ago to their current status as melodic metal monoliths, the act have constantly eschewed trends in order to forge their own musical path. This is evident on their 13th full-length »I, The Mask«, which sees them reuniting with multi Grammy-nominated producer Howard Benson (MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE, MOTÖRHEAD), who also produced 2016’s »Battles«, in order to further redefine their sound. “I think it’s very difficult for IN FLAMES to be something we’re not and that dichotomy of melody and aggression will always be at the core of our identity,” vocalist Anders Fridén explains from a tour stop opening for DEEP PURPLE in Mexico. “We are always open to new ideas and don’t let anything limit us,” guitarist Björn Gelotte adds. “We just ask ourselves if we will love playing this stuff live… and as long as we feel that, nothing can really touch us.”
Unlike previous recordings, this time around Fridén and Gelotte holed up in Los Angeles for three weeks prior to the production of »I, The Mask« and came up with a bulk of the songs during those sessions. “For »Battles« I wrote a lot of the material at home first but for this one, Anders and I really wanted to just get in a room together and see where it would take us,” Gelotte explains, adding that Benson would frequently drop by and act as a filter for their creativity. “I think this process worked really well because a lot of the lyrics fed off the music or Anders would come up with a really powerful line and it would inspire a riff, so there was a lot of symbiosis between us in the songwriting.” From there the duo fleshed out the arrangements with guitarist Niclas Engelin, bassist Bryce Paul Newman and previous drummer Joe Rickard and then spent two months tracking the songs. (»I, The Mask« is also the last recording to feature Rickard who was subsequently replaced by Tanner Wayne who played on the track ‘(This Is Our) House.’) Finally, the album was mixed by Chris Lord-Alge, who has worked with everyone from CHEAP TRICK to LINKIN PARK and mastered by Ted Jensen (PANTERA, EAGLES, GUNS N’ ROSES).
The result is a massive-sounding album that showcases why IN FLAMES are one of the biggest metal bands in the world. From the way acoustic guitars give way to to anthemic riffing on the power ballad ‘Call My Name’ to the relentless riffing on ‘Burn’ and sweetly syncopated groove of ‘I Am Above,’ »I, The Mask« sees the band stretching out musically and crafting music that’s as catchy as it is crushing. As the driving force behind the act, it was important for Fridén to challenge himself on the album and take vocal lessons three days a week in order to expand his own arsenal of abilities. “I wanted to do something new and take things to another level when it came to the vocals,” he explains. “I know what I’m capable of and I feel more confident today taking higher notes and being able to push my voice in a higher register, so that’s something I really wanted to explore as well.”
Lyrically, »I, The Mask« is in many ways a social commentary on the state of the world when it comes to isolation, loneliness and the way technology has subverted our need for genuine human connection. “Instead of being connected we divide ourselves into all of these little groups and if you scratch the surface most people’s lives are miserable,” Fridén explains. “I thought about that and how we all carry a mask around and how in our striving to become better, I think we’re actually going backwards.” However there is also a level of hopefulness that’s inherent in the sentiment of »I, The Mask«, which is showcased in songs like ‘(This Is Our) House.’ “That song is a call to arms and it’s saying, ‘We need to unite because we’re going in the wrong direction,’” he explains. “We might have ten years to stop the pollution of the planet. We aren’t going to die on the 11th year but we can’t turn it back from that and it’s a slow process of rebuilding our house, so I think it’s a strong lyrical theme and one that is unifying as well.”
Admittedly if you listen to 1996’s »The Jester Race« next to »I, The Mask«, there are marked musical differences, but through the course of IN FLAMES’ output you can trace their evolution and hear how they managed to remain relevant by never getting complacent. “The way we write music is super challenging but it’s also super rewarding,” Gelotte explains, adding that as the band have improved as musicians it’s opened up countless sonic and creative possibilities. “We’ve never been the type of band who likes to show-off but we like to have fun making music and working with Howard [Benson] was one of the first times where we actually listened to someone from the outside – and I think it was his first time working with a band like us, too,” he adds. “The instrumentation on the album is pretty straight-forward on this album, but there are so many layers in a lot of these songs that if you’re interested you can really dig into it and it will live on for a long time.”
That said, ultimately IN FLAMES are a live band and they can’t wait to get back on the road and share this new collection of songs with fans, whether they’ve supported the band for decades or are recent converts to their sound. “I love the act of creating something from nothing and then getting to travel the world and play these songs and see how they affect people,” Fridén summarizes. “It’s extremely rewarding to hear how a certain song moves someone and then you talk to someone else and learn that it affected them in a profoundly different way. The dynamic between the creator and the fans and what they bring to the table is such an amazing feeling, so that’s a big part of our drive. To make something and share it with the world, that’s what we were meant to do.”
Dorothy Martin’s life changed forever when she was forced to face death on her tour bus some three years ago. After her guitar technician had taken an overdose, and the light began to lift up and out from his body, Dorothy instinctively began praying for his survival. While he may have temporarily died, the technician was astonishingly, miraculously restored back to life as Dorothy and her crew formed a prayer circle near his body. It was this moment that seemed to bring Dorothy to life too. She was gifted a rebirth with a divine intervention that caused a radical and spiritual awakening in the singer, the result of which can be heard on Gifts From The Holy Ghost, Dorothy’s third studio album as front woman for the pseudonymous, blues-rock band Dorothy.
Gifts From The Holy Ghost is the album she’s always wanted, and has perhaps been destined to make. Born from a sense of divine urgency, it is Dorothy’s most bombastic and gloriously, victorious rock and roll work yet. Each song built on triumph—the unshackling of chains, the slaying of demons with a sword of light—the album is a healing and remedial experience, made to unify listeners and point them towards a life full of purpose. It is Dorothy’s greatest gift yet. “This album had to get made, I felt like I had a mission,” she said.
While the band’s first, irreverently named album ROCKISDEAD, was made on a combination of whiskey and heartbreak—inspiring Rolling Stone to name them one of rock’s most exciting new acts, and Jay-Z to sign them to his label Roc Nation—Gifts was built on recovery, health, and holiness, in a way that reverses the clichéd ‘good girl gone bad narrative’.
With the combined powers of Keith Wallen, Jason Hook, Scott Stevens, Phil X, Trevor Lukather, Joel Hamilton and the legendary ear of Chris Lord Alge, Gifts From The Holy Ghost is made from a musical palette which seems to encompass each of the musician’s influences, as well as many of the essential sounds of rock music’s history—from swampy blues to ‘90s alternative — in a way that makes the case for rock and roll itself. Not only is the genre alive, but it’s more invigorated than ever.
“I think this album is going to speak to a lot of people, it’s meant to be healing, unifying, eye-opening, ear-opening, heart-opening and celebratory,” Dorothy said, adding: “I wanted to make the realest album I could make, and I went in with the question does this make me feel alive? Does it make me feel free? If a song didn’t give me chills or make my heart soar, then it didn’t make the cut.”
Born in Budapest, Hungary, Dorothy has always been an instinctual writer and artist. Throughout her life, she’s been asking the big questions, both in and outside her art: ‘What’s the meaning of life? Why are we here? How are we here?’ When she couldn’t find the answers to those questions, she’d numb out the empty uncertainty with drugs and alcohol. She was eventually admitted to rehab and a new chapter was opened in her spiritual journey. Now, with angels whispering in her ear and the spirit moving her steps, she’s found her answers. “I’m just here to impart inspiring messages to people while having fun and rocking out!”
You can hear Dorothy’s powerful resilience across the album, particularly on “Big Guns”, which finds the singer at her boldest; sauntering over slide guitars as she steps into combat. Anthems like “Rest In Peace” bring a sweeping cinematic scope to the album, whereas “Black Sheep”, a rallying cry for unity, explodes with layered gang vocals: “we are blood, we are family,” Dorothy breaks curses, going toe-to-toe with the blistering guitar riffs.
The album’s lyrics are a perfect balance of specificity and generality, so that the listener can attach their own darknesses and triumphs to the songs, while still getting a sense of Dorothy’s own. “We are all one human family.” she declares.
Does that mean Dorothy has overcome all of her own adversities? “It’s a journey and it’s about progress not perfection,” she responds. “I’ve had a lot of deep revelations about my life, stuff I hadn’t been able to cope with until now. Now I’m learning new tools.” With Gifts From The Holy Ghost, Dorothy identifies her purpose as an artist. She conquers darkness with light, numbness with feeling, disharmony with unity—all while delivering one of this year’s most fun rock & roll records.
In less than 12 years, four-piece progressive groove metal wrecking machine JINJER has taken the world by storm, emerging as one of the biggest burgeoning names within heavy metal and a rags-to-renown success story. Hailing from the war-torn province of Donetsk, Ukraine, the musical oddity has excelled against all odds since fleeing in 2014, never ceasing to push forward in an ever-changing musical landscape. Officially marking the start of the band with awe-inspiring vocalist Tatiana Shmayluk joining in 2010, the band launched with cult-embraced albums Inhale, Don’t Breathe and Cloud Factory, before skyrocketing to fame and viral acclaim with the game-changing single and video for “Pisces” from 2016’s breakout King Of Everything – which maintains its status as one of the most reacted-to metal videos on YouTube to this day. With their anticipated 2019 follow-up Micro and its groundbreaking successor Macro, JINJER climbed further – achieving massive benchmarks in international touring, charting, streaming and media recognition, while snatching radio #1’s at NACC and SiriusXM’s Devil’s Dozen in the US. After releasing their first live album Alive In Melbourne a year later (filmed just days before the pandemic hit in March 2020), JINJER triumphed again with their most personal offering yet, 2021’s Wallflowers. Boasting 20 international magazine covers, countless sold-out international tour dates and multi-millions of cross-platform streams on first singles “Vortex” and “Mediator” within just weeks, the album landed at #1 on both the US Billboard Top New Artist Album chart and Canada’s Hard Music album chart, #2 on the US Hard Music album chart, and within the Top 10 in several additional countries. Wallflowers is a sonic pressure cooker of technical musicianship and emotional fury, and JINJER promises to bring this energy and more to the stage upon their return to North America in 2022.
Cell-0 represents the core of everything. For us it is a particle that symbolizes the essence of all. That is to say, where everything comes from and where everything ends up…” Apocalyptica are true explorers, always seeking new frontiers and uncharted territories in which to express themselves. With Cell-0, their 9th studio album, the ambitious and electric quartet have not simply returned to their non-vocal roots, they have traveled deeper and further into the universe of instrumental music than ever before. That first love and passion which fueled Apocalyptica to form during 1993 in Helsinki now carries richer layers of knowledge and experience, which in turn have led to the band to a fundamental realization and creative path.
Royal & The Serpent
The most visionary output yet from Royal & the Serpent, IF I DIED WOULD ANYONE CARE transforms one of the lowest periods of her life into a high-concept and deeply immersive body of work. “I’d been struggling with depression and feeling like there was no more purpose for me to be here, and I decided to depict that as a state of purgatory,” says Royal. “It’s a place where I’m just one step away from being able to interact with the outside world, but I’m stuck there alone and can’t connect to anyone. To me that’s a pretty strong metaphor for what depression feels like.”
Accompanied by a series of darkly cinematic and daringly morbid visuals, IF I DIED WOULD ANYONE CARE kicks off with “BETTER”—a shout-out-along-ready anthem whose opening lines perfectly embody the EP’s ultravivid confession (“I haven’t washed my hair in two weeks/Been getting mental-health texts from my friends to check if I’m alright/They never show this shit in movies”). As the six-track project unfolds, Royal explores everything from anxiety and lack of self- worth to the brutal pain of unrequited love, ultimately arriving at the defiant self-acceptance of “I’M NOT SORRY.” “That’s my ‘I don’t give a fuck anymore’ song,’” she notes. “It’s me deciding I’m just gonna be who I am, and walk through this world without caring what other people think.”
True to the wild complexity that’s always animated her music, the sonic landscape of IF I DIED WOULD ANYONE CARE shifts from frenetic and blistering to moody and delicate, tapping into such disparate genres as hyperpop, pop-punk, and experimental alt-rock. And as Royal reveals, that unrestrained sound reflects a heightened confidence in her artistry—as well as a newfound clarity on her overall mission. “Instead of making music I thought other people would like, I focused on making something I really loved,” she says. “It’s the first time I fully let my walls down and got completely honest, which hopefully is helpful for anyone who’s going through something similar.
Depression isn’t something to take lightly, and I hope these songs remind everyone to be gentle with themselves and with the people in their lives, and to take good care of each other.”
carolesdaughter aka Thea Taylor has already struck a chord. After buzzing with previous releases, “cold bathroom floor” and “my mother wants me dead,” carolesdaughter wrote viral success “violent” over a somber beat laden with 808s and creaky acoustic guitar. She uploaded it to Soundcloud, and it quickly racked up two million streams. Now, the track has over 230 million streams across all platforms.
carolesdaughter transmutes turbulence into strangely soothing alternative pop anthems awash in lo-fi glitch, bedroom acoustics, and gutter goth elegance. Like a fairy tale heroine with facial piercings and D.I.Y. spikes affixed to her shoes, the 18-year-old Southern California singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist born Thea Taylor immediately captivates without fear or filter. An outsider since birth, she grew up as one of 10 kids in a strict Mormon household. After seeing a tattoo of the iconic logo, she researched Black Flag online and unlocked the worlds of punk, hardcore, and goth.
Bouncing between five different high schools, she started doing drugs, falling down a rabbit hole and taking multiple trips to rehab. On the last trip, she made a promise to pursue music upon returning home and ended up making major waves with the single “violent.” Amassing millions of streams independently and landing a deal with Arista Records, carolesdaughter makes an immediate connection on a series of singles and her forthcoming 2021 debut.
NEW YEARS DAY
Appropriately enough for a band named New Years Day, their stunning new Unbreakable album signifies a new outlook—as well as a high-water mark for the Cali-bred lineup. Yet it was a rocky road to Unbreakable, as singer Ash Costello explains: “If I had to look at my life like a timeline of colors, when I wrote our last album, Malevolence (2015), it was pitch, charcoal black. But in the last couple years, the band cut off toxic people, built a new business team, and we’re stronger than we’ve ever been. So when we went to make Unbreakable, I wanted the process to be fun, to reflect our renewed vibe and energy,” she says. “We set out to write the poppiest metal album, or the most metal pop album.”
On Unbreakable, that mission is accomplished. It’s a dozen intense, boundary-melding songs that may touch on metal or goth, but are ultimately undeniable modern rock ‘n’ roll tunes, no-holds-barred, done the New Years Day way. The public got its first taste of Unbreakable in November 2018, with the booming, ultra-dynamic “Skeletons.” The song surpassed 1 million worldwide streams, the first proof that Unbreakable was going to be unbeatable. “Shut Up,” with ultra-melodic, breathy vocals and a hardcore message, plus the dark taunt and industrial grind of ‘Come For Me,” with its irresistible chorus, capture a young band in its creative prime, and a singer solidly in charge of her vision.
Costello, raised in Anaheim, grew up worshiping the powerful voice and presence of another local girl: No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani. Like her childhood idol, Costello was singing in bands by high school. But it wasn’t until a few years into NYD’s career that everything gelled. “I feel like New Years Day was really born when our EP Epidemic (2014) came out; it was the first taste of who we really are,” Costello says. “Everything before that feels like a different band, and technically was. Then Malevolence came out, it was sort of our punch in the dick to the music industry, and we did our first headlining tour in 2015.” Malevolence hit #45 on the Billboard 200, thanks to the radio hits “Defame Me” and “Kill Or Be Killed.” In 2017, the band headlined the Vans Warped Tour; did a month-long festival run with Halestorm; and appeared on the Punk Goes Pop compilation, covering Kehlani’s “Gangsta” from the movie Suicide Squad.
Unbreakable showcases a New Years Day stripped bare—literally. The “boys in the band” left behind their white face makeup, which all admit was somewhat of a “safety blanket.” Likewise, Costello stripped down her songwriting. “I used to think lyrics needed to have metaphorical veils and be super-dense and paint a picture but leave it up to the interpretation.” But for Unbreakable, she says with characteristic forthrightness: “I was, ‘fuck that, I’m literally going to say exactly what I want to say.’ Yeah, there’s some metaphorical stuff, but this is me moving into a more literal direction.”
Songs like “Shut Up” blend a musical vulnerability with tough lyrics, not an easy task. But thanks in part to doing covers—of Kehalni, Pantera and others—New Years Day discovered their own versatility and creativity. “We made those songs work for our band, and that was the first time I realized we could go that direction in our own writing, make the super-melodic and the dirty, ratchety stuff work together. ‘Shut Up’ was written in a day, which just doesn’t happen. I was going through some heavy personal stuff, and I was just, ‘don’t tell me what I want, shut up and give it to me!’”
If “Shut Up” was nearly instantaneous, “Come For Me” took a year to write. It’s truly a fight song– “If you have a problem with me, I’ll put you on the guest list, come for me; we’ll fight it out,” offers up Costello. But? “It also sounds dirty,” she laughs. “I’m just trying to write songs that strippers can strip to: a good beat and some sexy-ass lyrics!”
The dichotomy between Costello’s two sides—embodied in her red and black hair, and even her tattoos (one side inked, the other not) has coalesced in the songs on Unbreakable. But the painful part of the creative journey to Unbreakable began long before “Skeletons” was written. Before writing “Skeletons” in 2018, NYD did an album’s worth of songs…. then threw them out. Literally.
“It wasn’t someone who else told us they didn’t like our record. It was US, the band, saying ‘THIS IS NOT IT,’” Costello recalls. New Years Day weren’t feeling that elusive “it” midway through the process. Yet Costello “was trying to be hopeful and stick it out.” The turning point came in 2017 when NYD listened to their effort from start to finish with their old business team, and it didn’t feel good or right. So, in a moment of bravery— “a very scary moment,” NYD canned the record and their business affiliations. “I trust the universe,” says Costello. “And it took us where we needed to go. That door was meant to close that day. That group of songs are gone. But Unbreakable came out of it, and also our new label and management. “It was about taking control of our art. We did, and everything good followed.”
A couple of those good things were writers/producers Mitch Marlow (All That Remains, In This Moment) and Scott Stevens (Halestorm, Shinedown). Each were writing with Costello, but she brought the pair, who had never met, together. “Both became producers and ended up splitting the album, which is unheard of. But they were super passionate about me as an artist and the band, the record, and what we have built,” Costello says. “They fit like puzzle pieces. Marlow brings the blood and guts, Stevens the melodies. “You put the two guys together, and I’m the person who embodies both sides, musically. I’m a little horror, a little blood and guts, and a little ‘I love Mickey Mouse’ happy. It’s a little ugly, it’s a little pretty. Now the music is finally reflecting that. “
The risk New Years Day’s took has earned them copious rewards, and those “pitch, charcoal” days—which were equally daunting times for guitarist Nikki Misery and bassist Frankie Sil—are in the rear view. There were times when Costello felt she might not survive—”and it shows in Malevolence. But the past couple years, the communication among the band is incredible. We’ve got this shit. We’re tight. We’ve lifted ourselves out of the dirt.”
The reignited band unity and honesty boosted the creation of Unbreakable, resulting in an album that tough critic Misery calls “groundbreaking.” There were the times when Costello would “call Nikki or Frankie, looking for a pep talk. I don’t ever want to be stagnant; I wanted to push myself vocally, in my writing, better melodies, everything. So I put the pressure on myself.”
Misery, in keeping with his rebellious punky energy, is a “tough love kind of person.” But he had his singer’s back. “He can pick me up. There aren’t a lot of people I’ll listen to in this world; I’ve learned so much on my own, school of hard knocks, but Nikki can tell me the truth and I’ll listen,” says Costello.
Ditto Frankie, who describes two his band mates as “best friends. It’s a Mick Jagger/Keith Richards sort of relationship; they have this insane chemistry.” With lead guitarist Austin Ingerman bringing his multi-faceted musicality to NYD (he cites everyone from Randy Rhoads to Slash to Stevie Ray Vaughan as influences) the members of New Years Day finally feel “Unbreakable.” Bascially, title track says it all: “I stepped on broken glass / Walking through the past / Feeling every cut that crippled me / Been through it all before / Won’t go back anymore / I’ve gone too far … You can’t shatter me now / I’m Unbreakable.”
Helmet is an American alternative rock band from New York City formed in 1989 by vocalist and lead guitarist Page Hamilton. Since 2010, the band has consisted of Hamilton, drummer Kyle Stevenson, guitarist Dan Beeman and bassist Dave Case.
Helmet has released eight studio albums and two compilation albums. After releasing their debut album, Strap It On (1990), on Amphetamine Reptile, Helmet signed to Interscope Records and released three albums for the label, including the highly successful Meantime (1992), Betty (1994) and Aftertaste (1997). Helmet broke up in 1998, but reformed in 2004, and has since released four more albums ― Size Matters (2004), Monochrome (2006), Seeing Eye Dog (2010) and Dead to the World (2016).
In June 2021 the band released via their website only a limited edition box set entitled “Move On” featuring 4 x 7” singles including the following covers and live tracks:
Move on (David Bowie) w/ More Bad News live
Mercy (Wire) w/ Rollo live
ETI (Blue Oyster Cult) w/ Blacktop live
I’m only sleeping (The Beatles) w/ Crisis King live
Amigo The Devil
On his new album Born Against, Amigo the Devil – the artistic moniker of Danny Kiranos — has established himself as a multifaceted artist with a kaleidoscopic vision. The new record follows Kiranos’ beloved 2018 debut Everything Is Fine, an album that was chock full of violence, mayhem, and despair — and one that augmented his long-gestating cult following. Kiranos’ new collection of songs reveals him to be more than a one-trick pony stylistically as he opens up the creative channels and delves deeply into thematic and musical influences as august as Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, and Fiona Apple.
“Every new record is an opportunity to sit and think about how much has changed in your life and the world around you,” Kiranos says. “It’s a new opportunity to bring in both new and old influences. I really wanted to dive into ideas that I’d either been avoiding or ignoring within myself and figure out ways to align them with music I grew up listening to. Influences that may have been set aside in our older recordings.”
Kiranos, who grew up in Miami in a multicultural household but now lives in Austin, decamped to Dallas to record the album at the venerable Modern Electric Studio with Beau Bedford (Texas Gentlemen). This marked the first time Kiranos had explored some of the world music he’d had long loved, including Eastern European folk and Australian country (“It has such an amazing sound to it,” he says of the
honky-tonk of Down Under. “The rhythms are so dry and brutal.”) Kiranos felt Bedford was the only producer who could draw those sounds out of him. Together they entered the studio with merely the skeletons of the songs Kiranos had written. One by one, they fleshed them out in wildly inventive fashion. To say they threw the kitchen sink at this album would be an understatement; these guys threw the whole damn shack. From plucking the strings on the back of the piano to dropping heavy objects on the floor to create odd-sounding crashes, clicks and clacks, Kiranos doesn’t deny there was a bit of Rain Dogs-era Tom Waits worship involved.
As for the songs themselves, Born Against finds Amigo the Devil embracing a more widescreen narrative form in his writing, moving slightly away from the dark-night-of-the-soul diaristic tone of the first album. Whether it’s getting revenge on a daughter’s murderer, a final love letter from a death-row inmate, or an ode to one’s own flaws and mortality, the songs on Born Against pack an emotional wallop and manage to accord dignity to the darker aspects of humanity some of us would rather turn our eyes from. But at the end of the day, Kiranos understands that’s it’s stories – even the darkest of ones – that connect us through it all. And he’s worked hard to get better at telling those stories.
“It’s been a goal to become more efficient writing songs,” Kiranos says, adding that “this was a very conscious attempt to promote imagery over sentiment.”
Once Covid began to take root, Kiranos says the pangs of cabin fever set in. His entire professional life over the last decade has revolved around touring, and he was feeling boxed in. He was suffering creatively and having trouble tapping into the old wellsprings that had previously birthed songs. Writing in the third person allowed him to immerse himself in other characters’ stories, which he presents on the record in first-person for more immediate effect. These are vivid, sepia-toned snapshots of lives on the brink. Mini-movies, if you will. And they have a horrifying familiarity in the year that was 2020.
“There was a girl at the bar/ She overdosed in a photo booth/ Nobody found her body until last call/ The pictures all showed her terrified and a loner/ while everyone cried what a great friend she was,” Kiranos sings on “Quiet As A Rat.”
The new writing approach proved to be fruitful, and one Kiranos hopes his fans will embrace. Since he began touring nearly ten years ago (often playing sets in bathrooms at music festivals), Amigo the Devil has steadily amassed a fanbase whose devotion to his music is unstinting. Kiranos says he knows of 1,200 fans who have Amigo the Devil tattoos. There is also a Facebook group that grew out of his coterie of fans that has now become a sort of community support forum for those suffering from things like mental illness, addiction, and grief. “The energy my fans bring to the shows is incredible, and the fans are what make the shows good. Sometime, I can’t even hear myself over the system because [they’re singing the lyrics so loud].”
As is the case with any artist who has great success with a certain sound or specific album, making a shift to something new can prove daunting. But it’s a step Kiranos feels he has to take as an artist. “I hope this album can start to shift the lyrical expectations and people just don’t consider me ‘the death guy’ and ‘the serial killer guy,’ and that people can start to see different avenues and opportunities. I hope it opens up the project of Amigo the Devil so that people understand it’s not a specific sound-based project, and that we can go in different directions and it’s okay.”
The artistic strength of Born Against let us know that Kiranos’ new direction is more than “okay.” It’s a major mile-marker for a creative soul whose work will only continue to evolve and grow.
For the past 20 years, the Queens-based, BAYSIDE, has represented a lifestyle, a counterculture, and a deeply held conviction, diverse in thought and background but united by a shared desire for authentic expression. At their core, BAYSIDE is a band that has constantly proved that music is not about gimmicks and ephemeral trends, but a timeless reflection of our lives and our times. It is through this timelessness and consistency that BAYSIDE continues to cultivate a cult-following that lives and breathes everything the band creates.
After 2018’s hugely-successful melody/arrangement-driven, acoustic album and tour, Acoustic Volume 2, BAYSIDE explored what a BAYSIDE song could be. These weren’t “stripped down” versions of BAYSIDE songs so much as they are completely new discoveries, refashioned and broadened by possibility. The shows were not “quieter” or “mellow” affairs, but raucous sing-alongs that stretched the bands’ musicianship and vocal chords and invigorated the band as they headed the studio to record their eighth studio full-length, Interrobang.
Interrobang is a punctuation mark that combines an exclamation and a question mark. For Anthony Raneri, BAYSIDE’s frontman/lead vocals/guitar, the title represents the feelings the album invokes from the listener. “We wanted the record to feel exciting and new, but also sound like a natural progression for the band,” Raneri explains, “We just wanted to keep the listener on their toes – there is a ton of information being thrown out – and if you want to take it all in – you can’t stop paying attention for a second.” The result is the heaviest rock album of the band’s career juxtaposed with the most catchy, melodic hooks the band’s ever created.
On the title track, “Interrobang,” Raneri along with lead guitarist Jack O’Shea, bassist Nick Ghanbarian, and drummer Chris Guglielmo focused on opening the album with a song that was equal parts exciting/fun and wild/unpredictable. “It has always been important to us to sound like Bayside, but always shake it up with each record. We tried to think outside the box and take things further, Raneri adds. With big echo-y rock drums and a classically haunting guitar solo, the song spins the listener in a few different directions, while planting its feet firmly with Raneri’s smooth vocals.
Working with acclaimed producer, Cameron Webb (NOFX, Motorhead, Alkaline Trio), BAYSIDE embraced the eclectic resume of Webb and pushed the boundaries of what a Bayside song could sound like. “Cameron (Webb) has worked with a really wide range of artists, from NOFX and Lagwagon to Kelly Clarkson to Motorhead and Megadeth,” Raneri shared, “We thought it would be perfect to work with (him) because we see ourselves as sitting somewhere in between all of those artists.”
BAYSIDE has always focused on creating songs that are relevant to people who want substance, rather than being relegated to one genre. With Interrobang, the band has put together an eclectic, inspiring, and bold collection of songs. Raneri shares, “Love it or hate it, we wanted the record to invoke something in people. We said with this record we either wanted to create something great or fall on our faces. Negative or positive, we just didn’t want the record to be ‘fine.’” While many bands would coast on their past success, BAYSIDE rejects the premise and proves with Interrobang, that the best is yet to come.
Crown The Empire
A sweeping self-awareness and expansive creativity are at the heart of CROWN THE EMPIRE, the modern post-metalcore anthem makers who embrace their dirty rock roots and
stadium-ready melodies with bold courage. Swift to adapt to the rapidly mutating landscape yet steady in their convictions, Crown The Empire were born in the belly of new technology, generating songs and music videos online before they’d even played a show.
Now of course their stage performances are the stuff of subculture legend and electric buzz, crisscrossing the globe in clubs, theaters, festivals, and the Vans Warped Tour, with elaborate high-energy showmanship in spades. What began as high-school pals posting clips on YouTube has grown to over 60 million views on the platform alone; endless streams of songs like “Machines,” “Retrograde,” “Hologram,” and “Voices”; and several Billboard 200 accomplishments, including a Number 1 debut on the Top Rock Charts.
Alternative Press anointed them as Best Breakthrough Band and with good reason. Praised enthusiastically as “thrilling,” “progressive,” and “dynamic,” by tastemaker genre publications like Rock Sound, Kerrang! and Outburn (who, like AltPress, put the band on their cover), Crown The Empire climbed to the top of an emergent style by jettisoning the scene’s most formulaic traits.
As the roadmap for garage bands all but disappeared, Crown The Empire brazenly chose their own path, driven with inspired purpose and identity. Across three full-length albums – The Fallout (2012), The Resistance: Rise of the Runaways (2014), and Retrograde (2016) – Crown The Empire challenge convention placing equal emphasis on grandiose theatricality and dirty grime. Even their colorful clothing put them at invigorating odds with their peers and friends on the touring circuit, injecting whimsical anarchy into the hegemony.
These are musicians inspired as much by classic movie filmmakers and prestige television as Linkin Park, Slipknot, and My Chemical Romance, the sum total of their sonic, visual, and lifestyle experience. A cinematic sensibility permeates each chapter in the band’s story, from the epic thematic darkness of their earlier work to the sci-fi dystopian ambience of new songs like “20/20.”
Borderline industrial, yet far from mechanical, Crown The Empire are the musical equivalent of a practical effects driven film that knows when and where to use digital enhancements without sacrificing its raw authenticity. Unrelenting energy collides with sonic adventure to make captivating songs.
This is a musical collective grappling with life’s bigger mysteries, the quest for knowledge and meaning, and an urgent examination of the decisions that led humankind here. This band of brothers have reached a level of nonverbal communication on stage, the type of rapport shared only by true sojourners.
Even with these heady aspirations, Crown The Empire never forgets the celebration. Everything the band has poured into the living, breathing, evolving entity they’ve created live and in the studio amounts to a cathartic, revelatory experience for the group’s members and the audience they share.
Super-intense and high-energy songs will always remain a part of the Crown The Empire mission statement. There are no pretensions, no “sellouts,” no concessions to falsely inflated expectations beyond their own creative ambition. It’s a journey that’s been marked by growth at every turn, coalescing into the modern incarnation of Crown The Empire, a band that’s built to last.
We Came As Romans
East Coast born Ill Niño became the epitome of Latin Rock Music in 2001 with their monster debut album “Revolution…Revolución.” 22 months of touring had them share stages around the globe with the likes of Linkin Park, Disturbed, Guns & Roses, Korn, P.O.D., Avenged Sevenfold, Godsmack, and Sevendust.
Strong airplay for first single ”What Comes Around” and slots on major festival tours, helped the album sell nearly 430,000 units worldwide. In 2003 their sophomore release ”Confession” manages to surpass their debut sales, selling over 530,000 copies Worldwide. The success of Confession also spawns the top 10 single ”How Can I Live” which became the featured single onthe ”Freddy vs.Jason” soundtrack and film.
In 2020 Ill Niño returns with a revamped line-up and prepares to drop one of Loudwire’s Most-Anticipated Rock/Metal Albums of 2021! Their explosive new single “Mascara,” featuring AJ Channer from Fire From the Gods and fresh off multiple weeks as #1 on the SiriusXM Liquid Metal Charts, prepares Ill Niño to unleash new album ”lllmortals” in Autumn 2021.
Cherry Bombs bring an entire new way to experience rock and roll music – combining daredevil arts with feminine power, fearless and dynamic performances feature dance, fire, aerial, grinding, stilt walking, and so much more.
Cutting their teeth in the world of motorcycle rallies, they soon climbed the ranks of live entertainment by being the first group of its kind to bag a national tour with Buckcherry and Black Stone Cherry in 2016. Since then, Cherry Bombs have appeared in performances and tours nationally and internationally (Stone Sour/Steel Panther, Corey Taylor, KnotFest Mexico, ForceFest Mexico, KnotFest Colombia), on television (AEW), and in numerous music videos (Corey Taylor, 21 Savage, Fozzy, Moonshine Bandits).
2019 saw the premiere of the YouTube docu-series titled, “Girl Gang”, which pulled the curtain back to reveal what it takes to put on such a unique show. The series has been met with overwhelmingly positive reception for its raw storytelling and willingness of the performers to show vulnerability. Episodes focus on the inner-workings of Cherry Bombs, including the adventures, challenges, and triumphs they experience.
Like many in the industry, the pandemic of 2020 forced Cherry Bombs to cancel their tour. However, they adapted quickly, and filmed their headlining show, “Macabarét” – a story of karma wrapped in temptation, action, and danger around every corner. This “eyegasm” of a movie was streamed worldwide and met with rave reviews, cementing it to become an annual event every October.
For 2021, Cherry Bombs will get the chance to finally tour “Macabarét”, on their first headlining run.
Some buildings have a soul. They breathe and sweat and pulsate, holding memories and stories and songs and laughter in their walls. RCA Studio A in Nashville, Tennessee, is such a place…
The photos on the walls of the ‘Music City’ recording facility testify to its illustrious history, with Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison and Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, architects of rock‘n’roll and country music, smiling down upon visitors. Elvis and The Beach Boys recorded here, as did B.B. King and The Monkees, and Joe Cocker and Tony Bennett. In 1973, Dolly Parton recorded ‘Jolene’ and ‘I Will Always Love You’ in the 5,000-square-foot studio in a single day.
For Airbourne to bowl up to 30 Music Square West in April of this year with no songs cast in stone, just a pocketful of riffs and a burning desire to make the truest rock‘n’roll record of their 16 year career, took a certain chutzpah, then, and a lot of balls. But history shows Airbourne never have backed down from a challenge…
In the early days, in their native Australia, Joel & Ryan O’Keeffe’s band would load their guitars and amps and drums into a station wagon and drive for 24 hours to play in the sort of bars where the patrons had prison tattoos, more fingers than teeth, and a dangerous lack of interest in having their drinking time spoilt by strangers. The boys would inevitably be met at the venue doors by a man whose only records were criminal ones…
“We’d be told, ‘If you guys are gonna make a heap of noise I better fucking like it!’” Joel once recalled. “These were the kind of people who wanted a good Saturday night, and if they didn’t get it, there was gonna be trouble.”
It was a tough apprenticeship, but it instilled a fearlessness and a focus in the O’Keeffe brothers. Their dream of escaping their hometown of Warrnambool, Victoria, was underpinned by one simple motto: Rock‘n’Roll For Life.
It was their unshakeable allegiance to this basic credo that brought Joel & Ryan O’Keeffe, Matthew Harrison and Justin Street to Nashville in early spring 2019. Waiting for them in RCA Studio A was six-time Grammy Award-winning producer Dave Cobb. Best known for his work with country superstars Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile and Sturgill Simpson, Cobb had, for some time, been itching to record a full-tilt, earth-shaking, balls-to-the-wall hard rock band, the kind of band which had set his pulse racing as a teenager growing up in Savannah, Georgia. Within minutes of Airbourne setting up in his studio, the 45-year-old producer knew he’d found his men.
“Cobb is a rock ‘n’ roller at heart,” says Joel. “When he was growing up, he was learning the same AC/DC and Led Zeppelin riffs that I was learning growing up, on the other side of the world. He was adamant that he wanted to make a pure rock‘n’roll record, which is exactly what we were there to do. We really wanted to work with a producer who could bring out something different in the band. He was our dream choice.”
Cobb’s vision for the album was breathtakingly simple: to tap into the spirit, energy and excitement of vintage rock‘n’roll recordings; to get Airbourne to write and record an album right off the studio floor. In the Australian quartet’s catalogue – from their 2008 debut Runnin’ Wild, via 2010’s No Guts. No Glory. and 2013’s Black Dog Barking, through to 2016’s Breakin’ Outta Hell – he heard a band in the grand tradition of AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Motörhead, and The Who, a death-or-glory rock‘n’roll outfit with fire in their collective belly.
The mission for the weeks ahead, therefore, was to fully capture this raw, feral, live energy on tape: to make a completely unfiltered, unprocessed, uncompromised, pure fucking rock‘n’roll record. The band had barely unpacked and plugged in before their new producer informed them that he had the tapes rolling…
“Normally, In the past, it’d take us three weeks to get a guitar tone,” laughs Joel, “but with Dave, we got into the room and it was, ‘OK, let’s go!’ He wanted to make a record the way that records were always done in the old days in that studio.
There’s a reason he has all those platinum discs on his walls, and that reason is that there’s no-one better at capturing raw performances. It’s not rocket science, but it’s a craft that’s been lost in so many modern recordings. He wanted old school, one take recordings, no messing. He told us that’s where the true magic is.”
Cobb’s methodology took some adjusting to. Ryan laughs as he recalls how, at the end of one take early in the sessions, he confessed to speeding up in a track’s pre-chorus only to have the producer respond with one word: “Good!”
“I said, ‘What do you mean, good?’ And he said, ‘No, that’s great, that’s how it is, it’s real, that’s the take’. He’d bring us into the control room and play back the track and it would sound amazing. We’d be like, ‘How did you get that?’ And he’d say, ‘You played it, not me’. We had to learn to trust ourselves as much as he trusted us. It was cool, like having a fifth member of the band.”
As the sessions progressed, Airbourne began to get more comfortable with their new working methods. Songs were constructed from the ground up, the musicians playing on instinct and intuition, all in one room, locked into a single groove. Joel would use a hand-held mic to record his vocals, screaming over the PA, his voice bleeding into the sounds shaking Studio A’s walls. They knew they were getting somewhere when, during one particularly intense take, Cobb cut the sound and screamed, “You guys were built to rock!”
The result of this creative collaboration is ‘Boneshaker’, the most immediate, visceral, spontaneous and thrilling album of Airbourne’s career. 10 songs in 30 minutes, raw, alive and bristling with attitude and intent.
From the thunderous opening riff of the title track through to the raucous, roaring, bad bad boogie of ‘Rock‘n’Roll For Life’, it’s a celebration of life lived loud – no shame, no surrender, no regrets, no wasted moments. There’s lust and aggression and rage and defiance, tales of messy nights and broken hearts, excess and abandon, brotherhood and love and community. If you listen closely, you might even detect a little country ‘n’ western twang in ‘Burnout The Nitro’.
Joel has never been one to explain his lyrics (“We want people to hear the songs and make up their own mind and create their own memories as to what they’re about rather than us guiding their listening”), but titles such as ‘Sex To Go’, ‘She Gives Me Hell’ and ‘Backseat Boogie’ shouldn’t require too much decoding.
‘This Is Our City’, a love song of sorts to the band’s old stomping ground, Melbourne, finds the vocalist singing “Shout it out, scream it loud. Turn it up, rock the house!” Back when they shared a house in the city, the O’Keeffe brothers would watch classic AC/DC and Iron Maiden and Metallica videos and wonder where things had gone so badly wrong in modern rock.
Their solution was to play the kind of music they wished they could hear, rock music delivered from the fucking heart. And with Boneshaker, the quartet have finally made an album that sounds exactly like the music in their heads. Dave Cobb wanted to title the end result ‘This Is A Real Fucking Rock‘n’Roll Record’, but he’ll have to settle for that being the sticker…
One thing is certain: Boneshaker is the sound of a mission accomplished for both band and producer.
“We’re not in the music business, we’re in the Airbourne business,” says Joel with a laugh. “As kids, Ryan and I had one dream – to be the best rock‘n’roll band in the world, and to travel around the globe proving that night after night after night. There was never a Plan B. And now we’re doing it, and we’re fucking loving it. The last song on the album says it all. Rock‘n’Roll For Life. For us, there is no other life.”
“More is more, that’s the whole vibe,” says Kevin Comeau of the powerhouse Canadian duo Crown Lands. “We joke around, what if the White Stripes covered Rush? We’ve really focused on adding to the instruments and roles we play within the band. We don’t want to do the stripped-down, raw, bluesy thing. We want to sound as big as we can be with just the two of us.”
The release of Crown Lands’ upcoming, self-titled debut album—produced by six-time Grammy winner Dave Cobb (Lady Gaga, Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, Rival Sons)—marks the arrival of a major new force in rock and roll. Raised in Southwestern Ontario, Comeau (guitar, bass and keys) and Cody Bowles (vocals and drums) are bringing together a range of influences and, drawing on their own intense personal chemistry, creating something unique and fresh.
“We’re really inspired by the town we came from,” says Bowles. “Oshawa has this really specific kind of sound. People would describe it as ‘blackgrass’—like a dark bluegrass. But we were always massive prog fans, so we wanted to blend the two of those things together.”
The two musicians met six years ago, when Comeau came home for Christmas from Los Angles, where he had been playing in a reggae band. Bonding over their shared obsession with Rush, they became “instant best friends” and started jamming together in a local barn, switching up instruments, but never straying from a two-piece set-up.
“We got ambitious really fast,” says Comeau. “We started booking shows—we called them ‘401 Runs’ because we’d drive a few hours on the highway east or west. When I bought a mini-van, we had room for more members or more gear and we had to make a choice. I like vintage amps, big amps, and vintage synthesizers, so we took all the seats out and filled it to the roof, and we would actually sleep on top of our gear.”
In 2016, Crown Lands released their first EP, Mantra, and accelerated their relentless touring schedule, which has seen them open for such major acts as Jack White, Coheed and Cambria, Primus, and Rival Sons.
Their second EP included “Mountain,” a significant song for the duo not just musically, but ideologically as well. “It’s about the horrors of Canada’s colonization,” says Bowles, whose own heritage is half Mi’kmaw, an indigenous tribe from Nova Scotia. “The mountain that the song refers to is a metaphor—a physical manifestation of hope for my fellow Indigenous Canadians.”
The group’s name is also indicative of its identification with marginalized people and interest in the troublesome history of Canada; “Crown Land,” also known as royal domain, is a territorial area belonging to the monarch—or, as Bowles puts it, “Crown Land is stolen land and we are reclaiming it.”
Crown Lands’ musical ambition extends into their lyric writing and the weighty subjects they tackle in their songs. “People are going to listen to you, so you may as well say something that matters,” says Comeau. “I don’t play rock and roll to talk about rock and roll, I play to talk about things that matter to me. I don’t need any more ‘Hey Mamas’ in my life.”
They point to the song “End of the Road” on the new record as emblematic of their intentions. “The song references the Highway of Tears,” says the guitarist, “an infamous highway in North British Columbia where a lot of Indigenous women go missing.” Cody elaborates: “There’s been no recourse and no follow-up. It’s systemic in Canada—there are so many roadblocks that prevent any progress from happening or any reconciliation moving forward, so we’re trying to raise awareness that this is happening in a country that claims to be very progressive and safe for threatened, vulnerable people.”
Working in Nashville with the legendary Cobb (who they met through Rival Sons) has helped the duo in both refining their writing and following their gut. “Dave pushed us to listen to ourselves and really trust our initial instinct with a song,” says Bowles. “The first couple of times we would play through a song, he’d be like ‘OK, we’re good’—if you beat it over the head too much, you lose the spirit and the feel is totally gone. So he allowed us to listen to ourselves and identify that spirit, and I think we’ll really take that with us moving forward.”
They both agree that “The Forest Song” may be the track that best defines the band right now. “The sonic architecture of it feels so Crown Lands to me,” says Comeau. “We were writing in a cabin, and that song showed up on the last day out of nowhere. It’s very epic for its short run time, it’s got every musical element that excites us—pastoral 12-string guitar passages like Genesis but with a Zeppelin drumbeat. The lyrics paint a beautiful picture of an ancient woods, and hanging out in the woods is Cody’s whole vibe. So that song just feels like us.”
*With plans for another record later in 2020, Crown Lands’ explosive live show continues to evolve and progress, propelled by added inspiration from the legends they’ve been touring with. “The level of showmanship that they display every night, what they do with their audience, we really want to try to have our music come across in that same way,” says Bowles.
“We struggled with the rigidity of our set for a long time, playing the same songs night after night,” adds Comeau. “We learned from Jack White and Primus how to be more fluid and change it up.”
Working as a duo —especially one that aspires to the scope of its psychedelic heroes—has the advantage of efficiency, but comes with obvious challenges both musically and personally. The members of Crown Lands maintain, though, that the intensity of their collaboration has only reinforced their creative relationship and their friendship.
“We have such great chemistry already, only strengthened by the ups and downs of being on the road,” says Comeau. “We have a really special bond—pretty much like brothers, but more. Cody is like my life partner, basically. I think that connection comes through in our performance. There’s something special about the two of us getting together and turning up to ten, the sound waves that hit people. I’m a fairly little dude, a soft-spoken guy, so when I plug in my gear, I want to become a wall of sound on my own to have Cody’s voice soar on top of.”
“When we’re listening back to our performances now,” he continues, “the sound I used to hear in my head is now coming out of the speakers. So we just have to keep pushing ourselves even further.”
DED has been turning heads as one of rock’s most promising newcomers since the release of their 2017 debut album Mis-An-Thrope, which racked up more than 34 million streams and spawned two Top 20 rock hits “Anti-Everything” and “Remember the Enemy.” In 2021 they returned with their incendiary and powerful sophomore album School Of Thought with their hit single “Kill Beautiful Things” leading the way with their highest charting positions to date (currently #14 BDS #16 Mediabase). Originating from Phoenix, AZ, DED embodies elements of rock, alternative and metal, with pop melodies, hooks and choruses, cloaked in some of the densest, most histrionic, headbanging music on the planet. But when you dig beneath the aggressive surface, DED’s unexpectedly soulful music is about bringing hope, relief and self-awareness of the things we consume and the way we act so that we can strive to be the best we can be for ourselves and others. Helmed by powerhouse rock producer Kevin Churko (Five Finger Death Punch, Ozzy Osbourne, Disturbed), School Of Thought takes on the fury of their debut and deepens the emotions with a compassion for humanity and a thought-provoking consciousness. Joe Cotela (vocals), Alex Adamcik (guitar), Kyle Koelsch (bass), and Matt Reinhard (drums) are building a community by offering comfort in times of despair, positivity by exposing negativity, and clarity through suffering. The band’s roaring and explosive new single “Kill Beautiful Things” displays DED’s dynamic songcraft and bold message.
With Mis-An-Thrope, DED took the rock world by storm, generating 34 million U.S. streams and 6 million YouTube views while the album hit #1 on Billboard’s Alternative New Artist chart, #3 on Billboard’s Top New Artist Albums chart and Top 10 on Billboard’s Current Hard Music Albums chart. Singles “Anti-Everything” and “Remember the Enemy” reached the Top 20 on the Active Rock Radio chart and were featured prominently on playlists across all major streaming services, including Spotify’s Viral 50, Apple Music’s Rock Hard, Amazon Music’s Top 50 Rock Songs, and Pandora’s New Rock lists. With their current new hit single “Kill Beautiful Things” they have hit their highest radio charting to date (#14 BDS #16 Mediabase #9 Indicator chart) and gathering over 1 million streams and counting on Spotify alone. SiriusXM Octane named DED “Artist Discovery of the Year” and “Anti-Everything” landed in the station’s Top 10 for 2017. Loudwire named Mis-An-Thrope one of the Top 25 Hard Rock Albums of 2017 and nominated the band for Best New Artist, while Google Play Music tapped them as a Rock Artist to Watch. DED was also a special guest on Korn and Stone Sour’s “Serenity of Summer” tour, lit up festival stages including Aftershock, Download, Louder Than Life, Rocklahoma, Carolina Rebellion, Rock on the Range and Ship Rocked. They toured with such acts as Yelawolf, Skillet, Insane Clown Posse, Beartooth, P.O.D, Motionless In White, Wage War, Pop Evil and have just wrapped a huge 3 month US tour w/ In This Moment and Black Veil Brides.
DED, who are quickly becoming one of rock’s most exciting torchbearers, blaze their own trail as they cathartically stare down various beasts – both existential and innate – proving that there’s a way to live through the struggle and come out stronger, happier, and more aware of how we look after ourselves and each other.
“You best get familiar with the name right now!” – Loudwire
If there is one thing TETRARCH can unequivocally claim, it’s that they are quite possibly the most tenacious heavy band on the planet. Over the course of several harrowing months in which many bands were forced to hang up their hats or slam to a screeching halt, TETRARCH accepted the challenge and manifested their most successful year to date. Now, with the impending release of their sophomore album Unstable looming, the Los Angeles four piece has the world standing at attention.
Fierce individuality and an outsider’s mentality aren’t just at the heart of TETRARCH – they form the band’s sonic mission statement. Formed in Atlanta, Georgia in just their middle school years by vocalist and guitarist Josh Fore, lead guitarist Diamond Rowe, bassist Ryan Lerner and drummer Ruben Limas, the band has proven themselves to be a powerhouse inspired by their outcast roots – equally defined by not only their metallic power and melodic hooks, but their outspoken embracing of all those who deem themselves oddities, misfits or even simply misunderstood. Their unfiltered, inclusive image, consistently unabashed and angst-ridden sermon to the misjudged masses, and anthems of acceptance in a time of palpable division are what sets them apart as one of the brightest stars of hard rock’s future.
Sonically, TETRARCH seamlessly blend technical chops and aggressive ferocity with menacing groove and massive choruses while respectfully nodding to the heavy rock genre’s powerful past – and this is what makes them downright addictive. As evident on bangers like “I’m Not Right,” “Pull the Trigger,” “Oddity,” and “Freak”, TETRARCH emphasize breathtaking prowess and skill with Fore’s ambitious and diverse vocals, Rowe’s much celebrated soloing and songwriting chops, and the persistent pulse of Lerner and Limas’ pummeling rhythm section.
TETRARCH made their mainline metal debut in 2017 with their debut album Freak, blasting onto the scene with unapologetic intensity. Produced by the renowned Dave Otero (Cattle Decapitation, Allegeon, Khemmis) – dubbed by Kerrang! as “underground metal’s premiere producer” – and the members of TETRARCH themselves, Freak was built on a foundation of punishing heaviness while still maintaining the wide-reaching accessibility of hard rock’s most commercially successful acts. Freak produced an Active Rock Top 50 hit via its uplifting and empowering title track while garnering huge support from major Sirius XM stations Octane and Liquid Metal.
During the Freak promotional cycle, TETRARCH more than made their mark – receiving passionate accolades from major press outlets such as Alternative Press, Grammy.com, Loudwire, Modern Drummer, Revolver, and She Shreds (and have since garnered attention from the likes of Pollstar, Billboard, Kerrang! and more). “Tetrarch is taking heavy metal into a new era,” raved Red Bull’s music-oriented site in an enthusiastic feature. In a glowing profile of the band, Guitar Girl Magazine even dubbed TETRARCH as “poised to become one of the biggest bands in contemporary metal.”
Furthermore, guitarist Diamond Rowe went on to reach a major milestone at a remarkably early point in her career, becoming the first African American female lead guitarist of the heavy metal genre to be featured in major guitar publications like Guitar World, Guitar Player and Premier Guitar. Guitar World wrote, “The songs on Freak are built to bludgeon. Between its mix of concrete-heavy beats and lead guitarist Diamond Rowe’s armor-piercing thrash leads, none of us are safe.”
Hot on the heels of their debut full-length’s success, TETRARCH next took their explosive live show on the road – uniting open-minded fans across the heavy music spectrum while sharing stages with the likes of Avenged Sevenfold, Korn, Alter Bridge and DevilDriver, among others. The band went on to perform blistering sets on major American festivals such as Epicenter and Exit 111, reaching countless new fans with their potent auditory assault while proving to their peers just exactly what they’re made of.
Soon after their unrelenting Freak touring schedule came to a much-needed rest, the band immediately put recharged energy into tracking their next full-length. Once in the studio, Dave Otero again helmed the board alongside the band for the mighty, diverse set, emerging as their sophomore full-length, Unstable. The offering shines not only as a natural step forward for TETRARCH, but a giant leap ahead – an even more focused effort combining bright flourishes, dense low-end and soaring choruses – forming a bonafide collection of heavy rock and metal hits.
In 2020, amid an inarguably dark year, TETRARCH dropped a cut from Unstable for their fans – a track that would, almost entirely independently, become their most massive hit yet – “I’m Not Right”. The profound, riff-rooted banger gave fans exactly what they were waiting for: gut-punching grooves, searing leads and hooky, melodic vocal lines backed by a gripping story-driven music video.
The success of the track was immediately evident. By the close of the year, “I’m Not Right” had not only reached the Top 30 on the Mediabase Active Rock charts and held fast on SiriusXM Liquid Metal’s “Devil’s Dozen”, but clocked in at over 1.5 million streams across all platforms, including YouTube. The band was even hosted on several Spotify and Apple Music tastemaker playlists, including a cover feature on Spotify’s popular New Blood playlist.
Now, with the powerful push of their new label, Napalm Records, boosting their already charged trajectory, the band is poised to explode with Unstable and the release of its intoxicating singles. If only one thing is certain as we enter the unknown void that is 2021, it’s this: TETRARCH is this new decade’s breakout metal star.
All Good Things
All Good Things creates cinematic epic rock that celebrates the underdog, lifts the fallen, and all out gloats in victory.
Pairing post apocalyptic pump-up rock with powerful lyrics, AGT crafts a massive, bombastic sensory assault of anthemic heavy rock, summoning vistas associated with gaming or blockbuster movies.
In a masterful feat of reverse-engineering, the LA-based collective has become a potent musical force in the opposite fashion from how most groups get their start. “We were just having fun writing monster rock songs that got us hyped, hoping they might get used in games and movies,” says Dan Murphy (vocals, guitar).
AGT has since been featured in thousands of TV shows, games, films and ads worldwide. When music started being released online, increasing numbers of dedicated fans fell in love with the fist-pounding, high-energy rock anthems and demand grew. “That’s when we said ‘Wow, people are really into this,’” says Andrew Bojanic (guitar, vocals). “The music is inspirational and motivational,” adds Liz Hooper (bass, keyboards, vocals). “Our fans kind of honed that whole aesthetic, theme and imagery just with their feedback.”
AGT’s relationship with their fans is fully apparent on their forthcoming album, an epic collection tied around a common theme of surviving the apocalypse. It was inspired by the many games and films that AGT have placed their music, paying homage to the escapism those worlds provide listeners, one that’s more important today than ever.
As pre-teens growing up in small-town Saint Joseph, Mo., brothers Dee, Isaiah and Solomon Radke enrolled in rock ‘n’ roll high school as their ticket out of Nowheresville. The brothers played their first show opening for Fishbone in 2011 and haven’t looked back since. In 2013, the Cat & Mouse and Devil Fruit EPs took Radkey from sweaty backroom punk gigs to storming the UK’s Download Festival and Riotfest in the U.S. They continue to tour nationally and internationally supporting bands such as Jack White, Rise Against, The Damned, WIZO, Descendents, Local H, and recently joined Foo Fighters on their 26th Anniversary Tour.
Radkey enlisted Arctic Monkeys producer/mixer, Ross Orton, to produce their debut record, Delicious Rock Noise. The result was an across-the-board detonation of several shades of rock, punk, and wild abandon – and riffs, riffs, riffs.
Radkey partnered with MasterCard in January 2018 for the #StartSomethingPriceless campaign featuring SZA. The campaign included a docuseries that premiered on The Ellen DeGeneres Show while commercials aired during the 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards televised broadcast.
2019 brought the release of No Strange Cats, produced with Bill Stevenson (Descendents) at The Blasting Room where Radkey’s sound continued to expand and mature, reflected in the sleek guitar and growing bass.
The 2020 self-release of Radkey’s third album, GREEN ROOM on Little Man Records has been described as “A rock album for the 21st Century” (Atwood Magazine) made up of thick, slick rock and roll sounds built on power chords and hypnotic vocal melodies. It’s a testament to the future of music, and Radkey is primed for rock and roll glory.
“By playing a retro style of hard rock/punk (while adding newer layers like sludge), the band is able to tune into an overall feel that hasn’t really existed since the dawn of Nirvana: seriously good rock that doesn’t take itself so seriously.” (New Noise)
The Warning infuse rock music with a much-needed shot of adrenaline.The Monterrey, Mexicotrioofsisters—Daniela“Dany”[guitar, lead vocals, piano], Paulina“Pau”[drums, vocals, piano], and Alejandra“Ale”Villarreal [bass, piano, backingvocals]—charge-forward with head-spinning riﬀs, unpredictable rhythms, stadium-sizebeats, and skyscraping vocals.They stand out as the rare presenceequally at home on network television and on stage at Heaven & Hell Festival. After exploding online with one viral moment after another, The Warning par- layed this momentum into a series of independent releases, including Escapethe Mind EP, XXICentury Blood, and Queenof the Murder Scene. They graced a stacked bill at Mother of All Rock Festival as the only Mexican band and opened up two sold out Monterrey shows for The Killers and for Def Leppardin Mexico City and Guadalajara. Afterquietly amassingover 120 million YouTube views and 10 million streams, they’vealready surged to the forefront of hard rock on their LAVA Recordsdebutsingle“CHOKE”which Rightoutof thegate,“CHOKE”cracked 1 million-plus streams. Not to mention they might be the only group in history to earn the respect of legendary rock tastemaker Matt Pinfield who hosted them for an interview and their musical peers Olivia Rodrigo and Willow praised Pau’s drum coversoftheir songs “brutal” and “transparent soul” on TikTok. The Warning was selected by Metallica to cover their classic“Enter Sandman” with multiplatinum pop superstar Alessia Cara for The Metallica Blacklist that was released in September. Shortly after, the band released their LAVA/Republic 6-track MAYDAY EPon October 8th that features additional tracks“EVOLVE”,“Z”,“ANIMOSITY”,“DISCIPLE”, and“MARTIRO” (delivered in their native Spanish). In the upcoming months, they will perform at the Welcome To Rockville Festival, openfor The Foo Fighters who chose The Warning as oﬃcial support for their 60,000 person Mexico City show at Foro Sol, and a two-nights old out run at the Trouba- dourin January 2022.
“Death is the one thing everyone’s super afraid of, but it’s the only thing we are promised. I’m choosing to celebrate it instead of being sad,” POORSTACY explains. For the South Florida native, the last few years have been some of his hardest, but they also have given him purpose and conviction like never before.
With his upcoming album Party At The Cemetery, the rock artist pays his respects to his friends who passed away. Self-admittedly, he’s lost really “all [his] original friends,” in one tragedy or another, and the music reflects that. Forged in equal parts pain, apathy and celebration, POORSTACY tells a nuanced story of life and loss with a level of understanding that can only come from someone who has seen it all.
For Stacy, born Carlito Milfort Jr., making a rock album like Party At The Cemetery is not a trend, designed for clout. In fact, he “doesn’t give a fuck” about that kind of thing at all. This is the music that soundtracked his life. Growing up in West Palm Beach, Florida, Stacy fell in love with music by hanging out in the crowds of local shows. “I’ve been going to shows since I was 12 or 13. Slam punk, metalcore, death metal. Lots of satanic shit. I also went to a lot of raves where there was a ton of drum and bass growing up too,” he says.
Though the rock and electronic music that he gravitated towards as a kid once seemed like two very different scenes, they both thrived on a true DIY sensibility which Stacy loved. By his late teens, he began releasing his own songs to SoundCloud, in hopes that he could capture that same DIY spirit native to South Florida. Part of the early wave of emo-rap talents on the platform, Stacy penned underground hits like “make up” which gained millions of streams and ushered the subgenre into the mainstream consciousness.
His influence on the streaming platform led him to a deal with Elliot Grainge’s 10K Projects where he began releasing songs with labelmates like producer Nick Mira of Internet Money and iann dior and other talents like Travis Barker and Whethan. With his acclaimed crossover project The Breakfast Club and single “Choose Life” (a nod to the film Trainspotting), Stacy showed his penchant for storytelling and allusion, something which he cements as one of his artistic signatures on Party At The Cemetery.
Even his name is an homage to one of his favorites (skateboarder Stacy Peralta) who inspired POORSTACY with his craftsmanship and his ability to play the long game. “Stacy Peralta himself was not shown a lot of attention at the start, but he ended up being one of the biggest legends in skateboarding in the end. I always loved the idea of that, of doing your own thing and having it pay off.” Just like Peralta, POORSTACY isn’t making music for short term accolades and fame, he’s doing this for the art and legacy of it.
With this boundless interest in pop culture and art, POORSTACY’s first fully fledged rock record Party At The Cemetery is an eclectic collage of the stories, films, friends, and subgenres that have captured his attention and inspired him throughout his life. “I want to incorporate it all into my art. I love ballet. I love Stanley Kubrick. I love Tim Burton. I love Victorian architecture. There’s so much I draw on,” he says.
What’s next for Stacy? Directing, screenwriting, and maybe even a little modeling. “I’m interested in writing films right now, and I’m directing my own music videos for the new album,” he says. For Stacy, Party At The Cemetery is a moment to stop and pay respect to his life so far and to edify it through art, but he assures that he has a lot of plans for the future. “There’s a lot more coming,” he promises.
Lilith Czar arrives with the force of an otherworldly thunder, arising in visceral rebirth from an untimely grave of surrender and sacrifice. Her voice is the sound of supernatural determination, summoned with a confessional vulnerability and unapologetic authenticity. The girl who was Juliet Simms – her dreams discouraged and dismissed, her identity confined and controlled – is no more. In her place stands Lilith Czar, a new vessel forged in unbridled willpower and unashamed desire.
Her motivation is simple: if it’s truly “a man’s world”? She wants to be King.
Created from Filth and Dust, the debut album from Lilith Czar, is an evocative invitation into her bold new world. It’s aggressive music with warm accessibility; huge hooks with driving hard rock—the new larger-than-life icon channels the fierce combativeness of Fiona Apple and Stevie Nicks’ seductive witchery. Lilith Czar arms herself with sonic power, theatricality, and confidence. It’s a sound where the pulse of Nine Inch Nails, Halestorm’s songcraft, and the libertine spirit of David Bowie converge, all in service of a ritualistic ache for a more just and equitable world.
Lilith Czar is more than music. Her songs – like “King,” “Bad Love,” and “100 Little Deaths” – are anthems. She sounds both larger than life and hauntingly intimate, baring all in the ballad “Diamonds to Dust” or unleashing hell with the banshee wail of “Feed My Chaos.” As much as Lilith Czar’s music is perfectly suited for modern rock radio, it’s simultaneously timeless. Thanks in no small part to Czar’s rich voice, Created from Filth and Dust wouldn’t sound out of place in any significant rock era.
“I know who I am now, completely,” the singer declares. “I’ve found my purpose, creating art to inspire others to stand up for what they believe, to fight for their dreams, and to never give up.”
She summarizes the Lilith Czar origin story like this: “When you find yourself beaten down by the world, in those times you can either let it destroy you or let it create you.”
Created from filth and dust, destined to be King… Lilith Czar.
Los Angeles born guitarist Nita Strauss has become a force to be reckoned with in the music world, dazzling audiences across the US, UK, Europe, South America, Asia, Australia and Africa. Most fans will recognize Nita as Alice Cooper’s touring uitarist of the past 5 years, but she has also played with R&B star Jermaine Jackson, early MTV darlings Femme Fatale, video game supergroup Critical Hit and popular tribute band The Iron Maidens. Her skill, xuberant stage presence and love for all things about her instrument have earned her a stellar reputation in the music industry and endorsements including Ibanez Guitars, Marshall Amplification, DiMarzio pickups, Monster Energy and more.
In January of 2018 Nita was officially announced as the first ever female Ibanez signature artist with her own model guitar, the Ibanez JIVA10. She also released her signature pickups, the DiMarzio Pandemonium. April saw Nita playing WWE Superstar Shinsuke Nakamura’s entrance music at Wrestlemania in New Orleans in front of an audience of 78,000 fans and millions streaming worldwide, and in the same month she launched a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign for her debut solo record Controlled Chaos. The campaign reached its goal in two hours, doubled it by the end of the day, tripled the following day and ended up over 800% funded. Nita produced the record herself and did the majority of the engineering, as well as playing all the guitars and bass on the record.
After the record was completed, Nita signed with Sumerian Records to release and distribute the album worldwide. The first single “Our Most Desperate Hour” was released in September of 2018 along with. pre orders for the record on both CD and vinyl, with the vinyl completely selling out before even bring release. Her record CONTROLLED CHAOS made a huge debut on the Billboard charts at #1 Top New Artist, #3 Label Independent, $4 Top Hard Music, #8 Top Rock, #8 Top Internet, #20 Top albums, and #7 on the iTunes Rock chart. The album’s second single, “Mariana Trench” was chosen by WWE as an official theme for NXT Takeover: War Games. Nita immediately followed the release with a successful co-headline tour with modern guitar virtuoso Angel Vivaldi.
Nita has been featured on the covers of worldwide print magazines including Guitar World and Guitar Player, and on dozens of albums, trailers, and soundtracks, including Heroes Of The Storm (Blizzard) and Grammy-nominated Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (Konami/ Platinum G)
Nita has been featured on the covers of many worldwide print magazines and on dozens of albums, trailers, and soundtracks, including Heroes Of The Storm (Blizzard) and Grammy-nominated Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (Konami/ Platinum Games); and is the author of the Guitar World column “Like A Hurricane”. Nita was also the official in-house guitarist for the LA KISS, the arena football team owned by Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of KISS. She is one of the most sought after clinicians in the industry and has done extensive clinic tours across multiple continents. Her consistent touring schedule has shown her to play in front of over a million audience members per year consistently for the past several years. Nita is also extremely passionate about health and fitness, and uses her wide social media reach to inspire and educate people about maintaining a healthy lifestyle while traveling on tour.
The new project from Maggie Lindemann, Paranoia, is the sound of an artist fully coming into her own and happily shattering all expectations. After breaking free from a challenging record deal—and enduring a terrifying incident while touring in Malaysia in 2019—the Texas-bred 22-year-old spent a year rediscovering her voice as a songwriter, flooding her lyrics with an unapologetic honesty about her anxieties, obsessions and deepest insecurities. In a dramatic departure from the crystalline pop of her 2016 multi-platinum hit “Pretty Girl,” the resulting new forthcoming EP embodies an unpredictable alt-rock sound that perfectly mirrors Lindemann’s inner world: expansive, enigmatic, wildly alive and ever-changing.
This new freedom establishes Lindemann as a self-possessed artist along with a level of creative control that extends to full ownership of her masters. Paranoia took shape from a prolonged period of playful experimentation. With the help of fellow Texas native Cody Tarpley ( Lennon Stella, flor, and Noah Cyrus), Lindemann assumes a new boldness in her sonic approach, inventively collaging together elements of music she loves most: punk, metal, and underground hip-hop with each song remaining centered on the spellbinding vocal presence she’s shown in performing with artists like Khalid and Troye Sivan. The EP also draws its dynamic energy from kinetic guitar work and ample use of live drums—a choice partly inspired by Lindemann’s collaboration with Travis Barker on her 2019 single “Friends Go.” “I couldn’t go from having Travis Barker on one of my songs to just programming all the drums,” she notes.
Lindemann’s greater clarity of vision and the decision to embrace total freedom on Paranoia was a direct response to a touring experience in Malaysia that left Lindemann feeling very vulnerable and ultimately grateful. During her first stop on a June 2019 tour, Lindemann was pulled off stage by immigration officers and taken to a nearby detention center, where she and her team were questioned regarding their lack of a professional visa pass (an oversight on the part of the venue and local promoters). After spending 24 hours in jail and five days on house arrest in Kuala Lumpur—as well as standing trial twice and facing the possibility of a five-year prison sentence—Lindemann headed back to the U.S. with a whole new perspective on the world around her. “I was born in the US, so I’ve never had to worry about the idea of being deported, like so many people who come here to start a new life,” she says. “It was an incredible eye-opening experience and taught me so much about how it feels to be helpless and to have no control. I became so grateful for what I do have and realized that I needed to embrace myself, my life and all that it has to offer.” From that point on, Lindemann decided to never again take her freedom for granted, in any aspect of her life or work.
Within a week of returning home, Lindemann came up with what would prove to be a major breakthrough in her growth as a songwriter, a gorgeously haunting track called “Different.” The song also marks Lindemann’s debut as a producer. “Different” unfolds in mercurial rhythms and gauzy guitar tones, gracefully channeling the desperation she felt in that jail cell. “I was in the studio talking about what was going through my head at the time: the feeling of panic and having no idea what was going to happen,” she recalls. “Writing “Different” was basically like a therapy session for me. It turned into this song that I loved and wanted to play on repeat the whole way home from the studio—which is something that had never happened to me before.”
From there, Lindemann moved forward with the making of a new body of work infused with a fierce, honest vulnerability. To that end, the EP takes its title from the fearful delusions she’s experienced for most of her life, a struggle she vividly documents on the EP’s lead track “Knife Under My Pillow” (co-written with acclaimed singer/songwriter Alex Lahey). “I lived in this house for a few years, and I was always paranoid that there was someone in the house with me,” says Lindemann of the song’s origins. “It was sort of driving me insane, to the point that I started keeping a knife under my pillow at night, so this song is very literal.”
While “Knife Under My Pillow” emerges as a raw but radiant piece of alt-pop, songs like “GASLIGHT!” let Lindemann’s most outrageous impulses shine. Made with boundary-breaking indie artist Caroline Miner Smith (aka Siiickbrain), “GASLIGHT!” is a thrilling collision of crushing rhythms and fuzzed-out riffs, with Lindemann and Smith delivering throat-shredding vocal performances that are massively exhilarating. Another track built on supremely heavy production, “Scissorhands” merges snarling guitar work and dizzying effects. The sonics are a hypnotic backdrop to Lindemann’s tender confession of loneliness. “I was thinking about the movie Edward Scissorhands and how he can’t get close to anyone without hurting them, how he feels like an outcast in this perfect pastel world,” she notes. And in its endless testament to Lindemann’s complexity as a musician, Paranoia also offers the heart-meltingly gentle, acoustic-guitar-driven “Love Songs.” “That one’s the most natural song I’ve ever done,” Lindemann says. “At the time I just felt like writing a love song to my boyfriend, so I went in and started freestyling. I wasn’t even thinking about putting it on the EP: it was just my way of sharing what I was genuinely feeling in that moment.”
Paranoia taps into the delicate sensibilities Maggie first started honing by writing poetry as a child. “Poetry was always really important to me, especially when I was in a dark place,” she says. “I’m a shy person, but writing about what I’m going through always helps me feel better.” A lifelong singer, Lindemann was discovered by her manager on Instagram as a teenager and moved to Los Angeles at the age of 16, then made her debut with “Knocking On Your Heart”—a 2015 single that immediately shot to the top 20 on the iTunes US Alternative Songs chart. Lindemann saw her profile rise with songs like “Pretty Girl,” “Obsessed,” and “Would I,” but felt little control over the direction of her career. “I was so young and didn’t really know myself yet; I had no idea what I wanted to be,” she says. “I got stuck in this cycle of being afraid that if I didn’t do what I was told, everything would just crash and burn.”
As she shook off that fear post Malaysia, Lindemann also continued to build her name as a multi-hyphenate creator. She has launched her own fashion brand SWIXXZ (now sold via multinational skate apparel chain Zumiez), and her own podcast, swixxzaudio. The podcast is a charmingly off-the-cuff outlet for her everyday musings. “I started the podcast in quarantine because I just wanted somewhere I could talk,” she says. “It’s mostly me talking about my paranoia issues, singing songs, and sharing whatever I’m going through at the time.”
In reflecting on her creative transformation over the past year, Lindemann points to a certain paradox she found in bringing her new music to life: the incredible joy she felt in shedding light on the darkest parts of her psyche. “It’s so amazing to make something that’s authentic to who you really are, and it makes me even more excited to keep making music,” she says. As she begins to share tracks from the EP, Lindemann hopes the audience might ultimately feel the same sense of possibility she unlocked in creating Paranoia. “If people hear these songs and relate to struggling with mental illness or feeling like a loner or a bit lost, I hope it helps them feel like someone understands them,” she says. “And I hope it helps them see that things can change, and that a lot of good things can come with growing older and really starting to know yourself.”
The storyline seems obvious: The Missouri hard-rockers assembled this project during a global pandemic that debilitated the entire music industry. “Hard” has kinda been universal lately. But the road to Rebelator was even rockier than the band expected: natural disasters, logistical nightmares, an extreme case of collective writer’s block. “We struggled the whole way,” Hunt adds with a gruff baritone chuckle. “It was an interesting process for sure.”
Every creative step seemed to be hampered by an outside distraction—or even act of God.
“A tornado ripped through our town, 2 miles from our studio, leveling everything in its path” recalls guitarist Josh Hamler. “Luckily, no one was killed. Everything can be rebuilt, but we completely lost our creative vibe following the tragic event”.
“There was so much stop and go,” adds Hunt. “There was a flood. We’d have something scheduled, so we’d focus and be locked down for like a month at a time. Then somebody would have to go home, and it would be three weeks later before we’d start up again.”
“Or we’d run out of money,” Hamler adds with a laugh. “It was like Murphy’s law at one point—like, Jesus, what else is going to go wrong in the making of this record?”
Luckily, they had time on their side. After a couple grueling years of touring behind their last album, 2017’s Red Hands Black Deeds—a stretch that included numerous major rock festivals and runs opening for Nickelback and Seether—Shaman’s Harvest were creatively and personally drained. “You try writing on the road, maybe go to the back of the bus and come up with an idea,” Hunt says. “But it’s hard to be inspired when you’re tired. We were like, ‘Let’s just take the time off we need to make the record.’ We didn’t want to half-ass it.”
So founding members Hunt and Hamler, along with guitarist Derrick Shipp and drummer Adam Zemanek—hit the reset button hard, clearing out six months for demo construction at their Jefferson City rehearsal space. This meticulousness marked a distinct change from their usual methodology—instead of slapping together outlines before entering the studio, they treated their first takes with a new level of sensitivity, fleshing out the pieces until they knew them intimately.
“We usually have a really rough idea going into the studio—maybe it’s a verse, maybe it’s a thought,” Hunt says. “But we just write it on the fly and try to catch the magic. This time we wanted to approach it with some intention. We saw the demos all the way though, and that took a good, long pieces of time.”
The process was fairly haphazard at first, as the band tried to regain their footing. With everyone on-hand (the non-Missouri residents were staying in the space itself), they’d all wake up and try to churn up ideas—though it was slow going for a bit. “We’d just sit there and noodle until the spark [was lit],” the frontman admits. “The first songs—some of them made the record, and some of them didn’t. Some of the stuff wasn’t up to par. We were sending stuff back and forth to the label, like, ‘What do you think of this?’ Just going from tour mode to creative mode, I had quite the block. I know everybody was like, ‘I don’t have anything.’ Then it just erupted.”
An early breakthrough was “Wishing Well,” a signature rocker that pairs a detuned metal chug with a twangy, soaring chorus and subtle yet eyebrow-raising flourishes like fingerpicked acoustic guitar and experimental vocal effects. The ideas just kept flowing from there, with the band encouraged by producer Kile Odell, who joined them for a month to offer his feedback.
Shaman’s Harvest were working with any musical seeds they could plant—like Hamler’s droning guitar on “Bird Dog,” which sprouted into a desert wasteland atmosphere of mouth harp, group percussion and deep, growling vocals. Hunt calls the final result a “weird mixture of things,” blending its dust-blown textures with bits of Metallica and Queens of the Stone Age—the perfect backdrop for his almost post-apocalyptic lyrics.
“It’s definitely a cinematic thing—if nothing else, it’s a color or just one little scene in my head,” he says. “In my head, I was envisioning a lot of these small towns, like a railroad town or a farm town where people don’t want to farm anymore. And it just goes to shit, and then you have the opioids come in and everyone becomes a zombie.”
When they arrived at lead single “Voices,” a graceful balance of light and shade, the band instantly knew they’d written one of their best—a feeling cemented by their mutual celebration. “Once we had it all laid out and had a rough demo,” says Hamler, “we listened back to the first time, and we all looked at each other and busted out laughing, like, ‘Fuck yeah!'”
“It’s one of those things that wrote itself,” adds Hunt. “It needed an anthemic hum-along vibe. Everybody saw that song, which is pretty rare.”
Though they ultimately found their momentum, some of the darkness from this era wound up informing their lyrics—though often indirectly. Breakup song “Flatline” documents an unspecified doomed relationship that, Hunt says, “just keeps on corroding” past its natural shelf life. “Wishing Well,” the “epic of the record,” zeroes in on the “predatory” and manipulative nature of some men. The band’s own creative challenges even added to the overcast themes—”Just the frustrations of trying to make a record,” Hunt notes with a laugh, “when the universe did not want you to make a record.”
Shaman’s Harvest persevered, of course, and wound up with their richest, most well-rounded album to date—a natural progression from Red Hands Black Deeds, 2014’s Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns and 2009’s Shine, which featured the breakout single “Dragonfly.”
In keeping with the spirit of those last three albums, the band aimed to, in Hunt’s words, “de-genre-fy” their music—aiming beyond the rote contemporary rock-metal formula to add sublet arrangement quirks.
The loose yet professional atmosphere in St. Louis’ Sawhorse Studios, where they hunkered down for a month with house engineer Jason McEntyre, helped them in that quest for experimentation.
“We were able to stretch our legs a little bit,” says Hunt. “That’s kind of a dying thing: people renting out whole studios, because it’s expensive as fuck. The piano was [featured on an] Ike and Tina Turner record, and we were able to pick up on the vibes from that. Jason knew all the tricks of that room to experiment, Like using the talkback mic on the drums or using old tape machines.”
A good example of their trial and error is “Lilith,” a sonic jigsaw puzzle that pairs an Allman Brothers-style slide guitar with a distorted, drop-tuning riff and a tender piano outro.
“That song in particular has a Southern rock vibe in the slide, but there’s also an industrial electronic feel in the percussion,” Hunt says. “There’s the acoustic vibe at the end with the piano. There’s a lot of weird warbles going on. Especially in rock and roll, people seem to be afraid to add a fucking banjo or a mandolin under there. But when you think about the mix when it’s done, those are the things that pop out. I think it’s important that we de-genre-fy the rock culture and sound.”
“We don’t want to feel limited when we’re in the studio,” Hamler interjects. “We want to try things or take something that’s out of the ordinary and find a way to make it work.”
“Otherwise, how are you going to get anyone to pay attention these days?” Hunt adds. “Or even get yourself to pay attention? We’re all artists, and nothing destroys art like monotony.”
Get ready for PLUSH! PLUSH is an all-female rock band with a mission to bring rock back to the forefront of the music industry. PLUSH is composed of four talented women, under 21, whose accomplishments and talent eclipse their age. This female rock force is fronted by singer, songwriter and guitarist Moriah Formica. Drummer Brooke Colucci, guitarist Bella Perron and bassist Ashley Suppa round out the lineup.
Moriah skyrocketed to national recognition when she auditioned for NBC’s “The Voice” at 16. She became one of the youngest competitors in the show’s history to turn all four judge’s chairs and the only NBC’s The Voice contestant to get all four chairs performing a rock-based song. Her performance of Heart’s “Crazy on You” garnered viral fame and lauded the 4’11” star as a “pint-sized powerhouse” by judge and Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine. Miley Cyrus referred to her as a “Rock Goddess”.
Brooke Colucci, known by her moniker Rock Angel, has several viral videos of her own as well, generating over 14 million views.
Lead guitarist Bella Perron is a freshman at Berklee College of Music and a guitar virtuoso. Bella adds to the band’s ferocious melodies with amazing backing vocals and a no holds barred brand of uncompromising rock.
Bassist Ashley Suppa, hailed as the “female version of Cliff Burton”, adds an undeniable bass undertow that must be seen as well as heard to be believed.
PLUSH’s debut song and single “Hate” has generated a Billboard Top 40 Mainstream Rock hit, which has launched the band rapidly into the fans of the rock music world. Furthermore, their YouTube rendition of Alter Bridge’s “Isolation” exploded virally, generating much praise by fans and the actual band themselves. PLUSH is currently in the studio with Grammy nominated producer Johnny K to record their debut album for the label Pavement Entertainment.
The mission of PLUSH is to bring the heart of rock back to the mainstream with a new fresh spin on the sounds you already love. PLUSH hopes to inspire young women everywhere to follow their dreams, regardless of whatever challenges may lie in the way.
Mothica is the music project of Oklahoma-born McKenzie Ellis. Like a moth, nocturnal yet drawn to the light, her lyrics balance clever wordplay doting on intimate and often dark life experiences. Mothica self-produced her first EP called Mythic in 2015. Her somber song about self-empowerment, “No One” reached No.6 on the US Viral Spotify Charts. Remaining true to her DIY ethos, she continued releasing music independently for six years, a video of her unreleased song “Vices” went viral on TikTok, gaining 17 million streams organically and thousands of new followers. She continued to engage her fan base with merch giveaways, music videos, and interactive releases based around mental health. In 2020, Mothica released her debut album “Blue Hour” which hit #1 on Apple Music’s pop albums. Shortly after came the EP, “Forever Fifteen” in March 2021- which tells the story of her suicide attempt at that age.
5 musicians from Des Moines Iowa looking for world domination. Doing the unachievable, using their new creative sound and style.
VENDED was established in February of 2018 and consists of Cole Espeland (Lead Guitar), Griffin Taylor (Vocals), Simon Crahan (Drums), Jeremiah Pugh (Bass), Connor Grodzicki (Rhythm Guitar) – With a rhythm section that uses the trifecta of speed, power and precision. Ferocious and driving guitars with soul crushing solos. Relatable vocals that portray hardships and the reality of life. VENDED has a unique sound that is the start of a new era and generation.
WELCOME TO VENDED
Taipei Houston are a 2-piece rock band from San Francisco, featuring brothers Layne (Lead vocals, Bass) and Myles (Drums, Guitar) Ulrich. With influences spanning from Alternative, Indie and Hard Rock, the band has garnered attention for their energetic, out-of-control sound and duo live setup. After a recent move to Los Angeles, the group has been performing around the Southern California area while they record their debut album, with a release slated for Spring 2022.
‘Don’t You Feel Amazing?’ is a snarling, swaggering arena rock album that sees St. Albans mob Trash Boat explode from the underground world of anthemic post-hardcore. “We’ve got everything to win and nothing to lose,” starts vocalist Tobi Duncan. “That’s the energy of this music.”
“I want to make everyone feel the way this album makes me feel, which is amazing” he continues. The record’s 13 thundering tracks might deal with pain, addiction, sexuality, politics and absolute fury but there’s a scrappy sense of hope to the whole thing. “It’s about bringing all these topics into the realm of the normal,” he offers, wanting to change things for the better.
Despite the attention-grabbing nature of Trash Boat’s third album, they’re not interested in just making headlines. “I want conversations,” Tobi explains and ‘Don’t You Feel Amazing?’ is the starting point.
Formed in 2014, Trash Boat’s debut album ‘Nothing I Write You Can Change What You’ve Been Through’ saw the band wanting to play as fast as possible while 2018’s ‘Crown Shyness’ expanded that world of pop-punk inspired post-hardcore. “I just love that feeling of standing in front of 1000s of people who are all there for the same reason,” says Tobi and for years, Trash Boat provided the perfect soundtrack to chaotic shows that existed “as close to violence as humanly possible while knowing that everyone is there to take care of each other”.
With countless sold-out headline tours and festival slots, “we achieved what most couldn’t,” starts Tobi. “We were very much a successful band but I think we got as far as we could go with that sort of music. And it wasn’t enough.”
Rather than a continuation, ‘Don’t You Feel Amazing?’ is a “clean slate. We didn’t want to deviate away from what came before because we’re embarrassed. This stuff is just objectively better.” It’s not directly inspired by anything in particular but there are flashes of the music Tobi’s older brother used to play while he was driving him to school in his beat up Volkswagen Golf – Muse, System of a Down, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails. “We wanted to explore different vibes, we went with our gut and we ended up with tracks that make us feel more than anything we’ve done before.” Take the title track, a hefty, hedonistic unapologetic disco-rock song, “it’s just so groovy, thick and sexy. Every time I listen to it, I can’t believe we wrote it.”
Work started on ‘Don’t You Feel Amazing?’ two years ago and a bulk of it was recorded during an intense two-week stint in the studio but the band were still putting the finishing touches to it when ‘Silence is Golden’ was released in April 2021.
“The whole point of this album is to be bold,” explains Tobi. They didn’t want to regress, rather forge ahead wherever the urge took them which resulted in tracks like the firestarting, nu metal stomp of ‘Alpha Omega’.
Lyrically as well, Tobi was craving a more direct path to his audience. Instead of filling the songs with cryptic metaphors and references to literature like Trash Boat’s first two records, ‘Don’t You Feel Amazing’ sees him deliberately honest, succinct and bold in three words or less.
There’s the furious ‘Alpha Omega’ featuring an appearance from rapper Kamiyada+. The track was written about an injury Tobi sustained as a 15-year-old kid that ended his dreams of being a professional athlete and left him with open nerves rubbing on bone (unfortunately as painful as it sounds). A crippling addiction to Oxytocin followed once he found out how severe and permanent the damage was. In the future, he’ll probably lose his leg and because of it, every aspect of being in this band causes him physical pain. “That song was just frustration. I want people to be able to vent in ways that they know they can’t in real life,” he explains.
With a similar explosion of pent-up rage, ‘Science Is Golden’ is an emotional reaction to overwhelming political turmoil. He doesn’t want Trash Boat to be Rage Against The Machine but “I see such blatant and disgusting infringements on human rights,” that he couldn’t stay silent. A toe in the water, “it’s an attempt to give the political element of our daily lives a bit more of a voice.”
‘He’s So Good’ on the other hand, is a “fucking cool punk rock song that just happens to be written by a bisexual man, that is unapologetically bisexual.” In interviews, Tobi will often get asked leading questions about being the victim of homophobia but, as he points out, “I’m at 6ft, 170-pound confident, white Southern English guy,” so of course he hasn’t. “I’ve walked through my life with the utmost confidence in my sexual expression. What difference does it make to anyone else on the planet how people present or who they love?”
Still, he understands that there’s not many queer frontman in rock so is happy to take on the mantel of “an LGBTQ+ punk icon, if people want to follow my energy. I’m confident that no one can tell me who to find attractive, so I’ll wave the stop giving a fuck/do whatever you want flag. I feel that’s the right way to be.”
He hopes that blistering track makes people “feel included, heard and confident in their gender expression or sexuality.” Its message of “just express yourself and do whatever you want,” is echoed across the album. As Tobi explains, “there are no rules to this game”.
‘Don’t You Feel Amazing?’ is a very different Trash Boat album but as with everything the band have done, it sees the band being as honest as possible. As Tobi explains, “people put on performances all the time because they know it will give them clout and money, but it’s all an act. This album is just who we are. It’s real, it’s raw, it’s vulnerable, it’s bold and it’s sexy.”
Trash Boat started in the aftermath of sweaty hardcore shows at London’s The Underworld. Tobi “saw the chaos and I was hooked.” He wanted some of the action for himself.
And while the ambition has grown, that initial spark is still the driving force behind Trash Boat. “I just want to be part of something bigger than myself, that makes it not about me,” Tobi says. “We just want to play the sweatiest, most energetic shows possible. We want to reach the biggest audience possible and we want that audience to feel something real.”
“I want ‘Don’t You Feel Amazing?” to be the biggest album ever,” he continues with a grin. “I want to pack out stadiums. I want to be a big fucking rockstar… but I’m not going to change myself just to do that.”
When you think about Alternative music Oxymorrons undoubtedly come to mind. The New York-based boundary-pushers have made a name for themselves in the spirit of change – building a movement from years of being told they were too rock for hip-hop, too hip-hop for rock. They boldly committed to creating music that defies arbitrary rules of classification, cementing the band as early pioneers of the modern genre-blending revolution.
Oxymorrons began as a collaboration between Kami (K.I.) and Demi (Deee), two Queens-bred brothers profoundly touched by the power of music at an early age. “From my dad playing Lionel Richie to Phil Collins, to our older brother playing Biggie to Metallica, I was definitely an MTV baby,” recalls K.I. “I would watch videos from acts like Soundgarden and Nirvana and pretend to be a rock star, even breaking my bed a few times, lol.” Meanwhile, their neighborhood was always full of hip hop stars like Onyx, Lost Boyz, AZ, 50 Cent and Nicki Minaj, and seeing their successes let K.I. and Deee know what was possible. Still for the two brothers it was always about finding a way to think outside the box as an artist and carving their own path. “It was acts like NERD, Jay-Z, The Diplomats, Kanye West, Outcast, Jamiroquai, Lupe Fiasco and Kid Cudi that really influenced us the most,” says Deee. “They inspired us to be ourselves.” The lineup expanded with the addition of drummer extraordinaire Matty Mayz who seemingly fell from the sky into their laps at just the right time. “Matty was an intern at a management company we used to work with early on and he overheard how our drummer at the time had just flaked on an upcoming gig,” recalls K.I. “He immediately told us he could play and so we gave him 8 songs to learn in just 2 days. He crushed it and has been with us ever since.”
Guitarist Jafé Paulino was a well known musician/vocalist from the underground NYC music scene who made a name for himself playing with a wide variety of local Brooklyn- based acts. So when a mutual friend showed Deee a video of Jafé doing his thing, he was extremely impressed. “We met up for coffee and quickly realized there was a lot of synergy in what we all were doing and stood for,” says Deee. Jafé immediately became an intricate part of the band and the lineup was finally set.
Oxymorrons are no stranger to the big stage. They have toured and shared the stage with the likes of Lupe Fiasco, Fever 333, Fishbone, Gym Class Heroes, OutKast, Envy On the Coast, Foxy Shazam, Waka Flocka, Rihanna and more. They have also graced the stage at notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Afro Punk, Firefly, SummerFest and Funkfest to name a few. Their high energy performance and versatile sound makes for a potent combination that never disappoints.
Yet it’s not just the live show where Oxymorrons have left their mark. They have received co-signs from Billboard, Kerrang!, The Fader, Alternative Press, Complex, Hypebeast, Ebro of Beats 1 Radio, Daniel Carter BBC1 Radio and many more. Their larger than life songs have been used in ads for ABC’s ‘The Mayor’ and Converse, and featured on ESPN’s First Take. They have also found synergy in brand partnerships with Dr Martens, HUF, Microsoft, Taco Bell, Hot Topic and beyond. As the newest addition to Jason Aalon Butler’s (Fever 333) Artist Collective ‘333 Wreckords Crew’, Oxymorrons have expanded their sound with their first release “Justice”, putting forth a powerful message during these tumultuous times. “We have a lot to say with ‘Justice’, and it’s more than just the lyrical content, it’s about the actions behind it,” explains Matty. Jafé adds, “We have chosen to designate all profits from this song to grassroots organizations that are fighting for social justice with their boots on the ground. It aligns us with the movement of time, regardless of the times.” Never shying away from using their voices for social change, they have also used their platform to give back to causes they support including Jed Foundation and Hip-Hop Hacks.
Although 2020 was the year of the pandemic, it was still a very productive year for Oxymorrons as they solidified their base, finished a new album and are in prime position to bring the noise in 2021. Be on the lookout for their next single “Green Vision” to drop at the top of the year….you have been warned.
Combining elements of legendary nu-metal/ hard rock groups such as Rammstein, Nine Inch Nails, Limp Bizkit & Korn with modern trap/ electronic elements, American rapper & producer, Mike’s Dead, has paved his own lane as a multifaceted artist. Launching his brand in June of 2018, he quickly amassed hundreds of thousands of followers across social platforms leading him to now over 1.5 million followers across platforms and 20 million independent streams.
In 2021 he joined the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Seether, A Perfect Circle, and many other legendary acts at Shelter Music Group. Shortly after, he joined the likes of Breaking Benjamin, Motionless In White, Black Veil Brides and more at Sound Talent Group – creating a promising touring year to come. With successful headlining tours under his belt and a “cult-like” fanbase at his side, we see an exciting 2022 for Mike as he rolls out his new sound & inevitably his first album (cont.) Growing up just outside of Washington D.C., he dropped out of college and at the age of 20, moved to Los Angeles to study audio engineering and music production. After years of relentless studio work, he crafted his unique sound; blending elements of hard rock with crushing bass lines and elaborate synth work. Vocally, he combines hard rap lyrics matched with raw emotion and ghostly melodies. He is “…a voice for the unheard.”
If I Die First
When it comes to pivotal life moments, having the mighty Nick Cave snatch a balloon out of your hands when you’re seven years old before smirkingly stomping on it is going to make you do one of two things. 1) Run off crying and forever commit to a quiet life or 2) Decide to be just like the big tall man who gets a kick out of scaring little kids. When it happened to Lia Metcalfe, she wisely decided to do the latter.
Still only 20 years old, the Mysterines’ imposing frontwoman melds together more than her lifetime’s worth of experiences with the kind of deep, impassioned vocal you won’t forget in a hurry. In her songs and stagecraft you’ll see and hear everything from PJ Harvey’s raw and ragged stomp to the crazed carnival energy of Tom Waits and eviscerating poetics of Patti Smith. The first great British rock band of the post-pandemic era, the Mysterines let us in on Lia’s unfiltered look at life, the universe and everything, complete with serious riffs and an unflinching honesty.
Though currently based in Manchester, Lia was raised in Liverpool, born to parents only just out of their teens who raised her on the road and in and out of festival VIP areas – hence that unforgettable run-in with Nick Cave. Both were – and still are – music obsessives, bringing her up to the sounds of Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age, The Strokes, Motown classics and Bob Dylan, who remains her songwriting icon.
Lia never remembers not singing. “I didn’t really know any different,” she explains. “Growing up around someone who was always making music and always writing, it just seemed like the natural thing.” Since the start her voice was a cut above, a bassy, deep thing even when she was just a kid. But what really hooked her into making music was lyrics. “I still don’t really see myself as a singer,” she explains. “First and foremost I’m a writer, that’s my main passion.” By her early teens she was already gigging locally. At 16 she decided to throw herself fully into music. “I went to college for a month, but I got kicked out for smoking in the non-smoking area,” she shrugs. A couple of months later she was off on tour anyway with her band the Mysterines. “I never wanted to be solo,” she says. “I knew my songs weren’t gonna be acoustic, they needed to have a big and full sound behind them.” The idea of a band also fitted into a classic set-up that Lia loved. “I wanted to have a gang-like atmosphere,” she says. “I thought it was cool when Blondie and the Pretenders did that – having a woman in charge.”
The rest of the Mysterines naturally coalesced around Lia. George the bass player she met when she was 14, standing outside a branch of Home Bargains. “I thought he looked like a bass player, and he was. So he’s been with me ever since,” she explains. Lead guitarist Callum and drummer Paul she met a few years later at a Psychedelic Porn Crumpets gig in Liverpool. She’d forgotten her ID and the bar refused to serve her, despite the fact that she’d just turned 18. Callum helped her out by offering Lia a warm can of beer from out of his backpack. The rest, of course, is history.
Spending lockdown covering everything from the Waterboys to Radiohead on social media for the Mysterines’ growing fanbase, Lia showed off not just her own incredible vocal range, but also her wildly varied influences, which run the gamut from Captain Beefheart and Dua Lipa to Smokey Robinson and director Alejandro Jodorowsky. It’s the darker side of things though which has always fascinated her. Her nan was the first person to give her a Tom Waits record, sensing that the young Lia would find a kindred spirit in his particular form of sonic voodoo. It almost worked. “I put it on and it scared me to death,” she laughs. “Then I tried again a few years later, and heard ‘Clap Hands’ and fell in love with it. He’s definitely had an impact on the way I execute certain things.” That moody bleakness is deep in the bones of all the writers Lia loves, from Captain Beefheart to beat poet Allen Ginsberg. “I like controversial, almost explicit stuff. People who are always trying to push boundaries and themselves,” she states. “I’m still trying to find the balance, but it’s fun to explore what I can say, stuff that’ll make people think ‘that’s hilarious but also really scary.’”
The Mysterines debut ‘Reeling’ – set for release in early 2022 – was made under the watchful eye of acclaimed producer Catherine Marks (Wolf Alice, The Big Moon, PJ Harvey). Going back and forth from her west London studio, Assault and Battery, over three weeks in between lockdowns, it was recorded live to capture the intensity of the songs. “It’s a pretty ambiguous title for most people, but for me ‘Reeling’ sums up every emotion of the album in just one word,” says Lia. It also reflects the emotionally draining process of making a 13 track record, Lia’s biggest challenge to date. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” she explains. “But Catherine was fucking great. She turned into one of my best friends and really just believed in me and what I wanted to execute. She was super calm throughout the whole thing. Well, until you piss her off…”
When it comes to lyrics, Lia calls her style of writing “creative divination”. She explains that her meticulously crafted songs are “either predicting something that’s going to happen or about something that already has, but in the way that Tarantino reinvents history in his own films, I’m reinventing what I would have wanted to happen.” Written just two weeks before they went into the studio, the album’s ferocious first single, ‘In My Head’ is a perfect example. “Superficially it’s a love song but really it’s a reflection of me looking at myself like Leonard Cohen’s ‘Avalanche’ – you think he’s talking about someone who he was with and fell out of love with, but really it’s about himself.”
Grief, self-destruction and heartache run heavy through the record, but all are brought together by the blackest of humour. The dirty desert blues of ‘Life’s A Bitch’ was actually meant to be the first single, “but it turns out I say ‘bitch’ too much on it,” chuckles Lia. Other tracks run the gamut from the grunged-up country of ‘Old Friends, Die Hard’ to the giddy, free-falling ‘On The Run’, Lia’s unique take on the tale of the teenage runaways in Terrence Mallick’s iconic Badlands. Then there’s the creepy, cultish ‘Under Your Skin’, which is The Doors by way of The Manson Family and the Stooges-esque ‘The Bad Thing’, of which Lia says: “It’s the most fun to play, and the words I find really funny as well – I’m digging someone up from the grave that I used to love.”
Somewhat prophetically, Lia has already had a Number 1 album of sorts. When supporting Miles Kane in Brighton, his mate Paul Weller came down to a show. Lia and Paul bonded over the fact he had a daughter called Lia and after fish and chips on the front, he invited The Mysterines to his studio to write. Over lockdown he WhatsApped her and asked for some lyrics. The track, ‘True’, features on ‘Fat Pop’, Weller’s sixth chart-topping album. “I can’t really say it’s my Number 1 album,” offers Lia. “I’ve only got one tune on it, it’s definitely not down to me.” If you ask us, it’s more than a good start.
Superbloom is Brooklyn’s latest entry into the alternative rock scene. Their debut album, “Pollen” is a 12-track love-letter to heavy alternative music that spans infectiously bouncy hard rock, instantly nostalgic acoustic songs, sing-along choruses and undeniable hooks.
While the album’s feedback-laced instrumentation is hard-hitting at every turn, the band’s sonic signature is embedded in the vocal performance that fills each track with complex layering, earworm melodies and lush harmonies that deliver discoveries of nuanced detail with each listen.
“Pollen” is available on all streaming services.
This is Archetypes Collide. Hard-hitting vision with melodic direction. In 2014 they released their first EP, Foundations. Enlisted Hiram Hernandez (Dragged Under). The EP was preceded by their aggressive single, “Hollow Ground”.
In 2016, they released the heart-pounding single, “Fractures”. After touring in support of their EP and new single they returned to the studio to record a follow-up as well as releasing their massively successful cover of “Too Good At Goodbyes”.
In 2018 their sophomore EP was released featuring the melodic anthem, “Reminiscent Life” and the heavy-hitting jam, “Well Wasted”. Later in 2018, their second cover “Ocean” was released and Archetypes Collide were finalists in 98KUPD’s radio competition Playdio.
2019 brought new songs and more shows. After the success of “White Noise”, they released “One More Night” and the band were finalists again for 98KUPD’s Playdio.
“Forgive Me” kicked off 2020 as Archetypes Collide headed to Ohio to record with Producer Nick Ingram and Oshie Bichar of Beartooth. Despite quarantine slowing down the music industry, Archetypes Collide has continued to build in 2020. Archetypes Collide started their online shows, The Digital Sessions, and released one of their hardest-hitting songs, “Your Misery”. With more to come in 2021, Archetypes Collide shows no signs of slowing down.
“Bloodywood is a metal band from India known for pioneering a sound that seamlessly fuses Indian folk instruments with metal to devastating effect. Expect to hear the percussive power of the mighty Dhol, the melancholic flute, the single stringed Tumbi and several other uncommon, yet distinctly characteristic sounds from India. A combination of thunderous Hindi/Punjabi choruses and meaningful yet unforgiving rap verses along with the ethnic instrumentation makes Bloodywood a truly unique experience. “
The Luka State
AEIR Is an Alternative Rock band from Columbus, Ohio, formed from band members of The Turbos, Coya Hill and Personal Public. With the world facing uncertainty regarding the global outbreak, the newly formed group did not sit idly by, but instead got straight to work. During the major lock-downs across the world, the band wrote 40+ songs. They narrowed it down to 8 of their favorites for an upcoming release in the Spring of 2022. The album delivers songs of angst, awareness and feelings of despair, along with rhythmic and melodic intent, notable hooks and powerful vocals. When speaking about the bands newest single release, Lucas Esterline, the bands vocalist states, “We wrote ‘Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em’ during the midst of the pandemic. The song is a take on the smoking guns of American politics, big pharma, the oil industries and big corporations, as well as the collective feeling of defeat experienced by a majority of Americans at the time.” Their new single “Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em” was tracked and mixed by Jakob Mooney and mastered by Mazen Murrat at Katara Studios.
The Dead Deads
“THEY’RE CHERRY-PICKING EVERYTHING GOOD ABOUT GRUNGE, HARD ROCK, INDIE, CLASSIC METAL AND PUNK, AND CREATING THE MOST MEMORABLE AND FUN ALTERNATIVE MUSIC WE’VE HEARD IN DECADES. THEY ARE THAT “UP-AND-COMING” BAND THAT OTHER TOURING ARTISTS HAVE NAMED AS A FAVORITE FOR YEARS, WITH A LIVE SHOW NOT TO BE MISSED.”
– TOURING ROCK MAGAZINE
Nashville-based rock band The Dead Deads are cherry-picking everything good about grunge, hard rock, indie, classic metal and punk, and creating memorable and fun alternative music for rock fans across generations and genres. They are that “up-and-coming” band that touring artists have known and loved at first sight. They’ve been named by many of their own heroes including Paul Stanley and Eric Singer (KISS), Lzzy Hale (Halestorm), Tom Petersson (Cheap Trick) Corey Taylor (Stone Sour/Slipknot), and Shaun Morgan (Seether) as one of the most refreshing new bands touring today, and they have conjured a wildly engaged fan club—The Dead Corps. With X’s painted over their eyes, the band and fans conjure a rebellious return to fun, freedom and true fandom.
McQueen on drums, Daisy on bass and Meta on guitar are a power trio with monster tone and raw rock energy. Heads bang as classic metal and grunge riffs are coaxed into pop hooks. Innocent child-like vocals are interrupted by screams and the occasional brutal growl, as finely crafted wordplay forces unexpected stops and odd time signatures into submission. The unexpected becomes the earworm.
The Dead Deads explore sounds from 90’s bands like The Pixies and Sonic Youth, to modern rock like Cage the Elephant and The Killers, all while keeping their grunge/punk rock roots. They name Failure, Bjork, Led Zeppelin, Blue Oyster Cult, NOFX, Pavement, Pink Floyd, Queen, Weezer, Helmet, Cream, Beck and The Pixies in amongst their hugely diverse list of influences.
In a relatively short time, the band has played 4 cruises, done over a dozen US tours, two Canadian tours, and enlisted thousands of faithful Dead Corps fans. Seether, Bush, Chevelle, Stone Sour, Halestorm, Skid Row, KISS, 10 Years, and many others have invited The Dead Deads on tours as support.
The band is currently promoting the singles from their forthcoming full-length due out in August 2021. Notable past releases include both a live and a studio album, and 7″ split. The live album called The Dead Shall Dance, was recorded at The Cowan in Nashville, TN creating such buzz that Dead Corps flew in from all over the world to have their voices heard on the record which turned out to be the best example to date of the range, skill and growth of one of the touring world’s favorite rock bands.
Also of note is their studio record Sketches and Animation released in early 2018. This double EP includes five fully-produced bangers with Matt Mahaffey (sElf) on the controls, as well as stripped-down acoustic versions of the same songs produced by Brian Carter. Easter eggs for fans abound in this inventive sampler. The single “Ghosts” was added to Spotify’s New Rock playlist.
Named by The Nashville Scene as a band to watch, they’ve stayed busy in the southeast as well. They christened the new Nashville venue, Basement East, played a live on-air gig for WRLT at legendary listening room 3rd & Lindsley, broke crowd number records at Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga, played a sold-out hometown show with Evanescence on their triumphant return, and headlined Murfreesboro Pride Festival.
In the fall of 2020, while the world was deep inside a pandemic, The Dead Deads began turning heads with the release of their first single, “In For Blood” from their forthcoming album, “Tell Your Girls It’s Alright”. The song landed them on the cover of “New Noise” Editorial Playlist on Spotify, as well as being featured on multiple other editorial playlists including the “Rock This presents The Best Rock Songs of 2020”. Their follow-up singles, “Hey Girlfriend (feat. Julia Lauren of The Foxies)” & “Deal With Me” were released just a few short weeks after and have accumulated the band more 3 million streams collectively.
As the summer approaches, the next single featured from their album, “Murder Ballad II” featured Slipknot / Stone Sour front man, Corey Taylor, who co-wrote the song with the band. If that wasn’t enticing enough, Corey was also featured in the music video with the band, which premiered on May 21st 2021. The single gained multiple editorial playlist placements, features in Kerrang!, Revolver, Loudwire, Blabbermouth, among several others.
The band’s new album, “Tell Your Girls It’s Alright” was released in September 2021 on Rumble Records. The album was greeted with great critical acclaim such as the “Top 25 Albums of the Year” in Classic Rock Magazine, a ‘4 out of 5’ review in Kerrang! Magazine, and even a cover feature article on Underground Nation Magazine.
2022 has the band poised for a strong start with a 3 month tour of U.S. & Canada supporting The Darkness starting in March.
Ego Kill Talent
“We all develop a self-image that we want to show to the world. We make decisions and actions that feed that image and in the attempt of making it real we end up believing that is what we are. (EGO) Little by little, our frantic and desperate effort to keep this illusion gradually blinds us to what we truly are. (KILL) Our true self is a silent witness of our essence, completely independent of the character, and with full potential for anything. (TALENT)”
Google identified Ego Kill Talent’s vibrant debut album as one of the twenty (20) most relevant artists of 2017. It became a Top 50 Viral Spotify release in the UK, France, Portugal and Brazil. It also attained Spotify “Playlisting” in the U.S., Canada, France, Mexico, UK, Portugal and Spain, racking up over 20 million plays on streaming platforms.
Formed by, Jonathan Correa (vocals), Jean Dolabella (drums and guitars), Raphael Miranda (drums, bass), Niper Boaventura (guitar, bass), and Theo Van Der Loo (bass, guitars), Ego Kill Talent (an abbreviation of the saying “too much ego will kill your talent”) toured Europe for the first time in 2017, playing Download Festival Paris, the legendary Arènes de Nîmes supporting System of a Down and the iconic Melkweg in Amsterdam. In addition, performed at premiere festivals in South America, including Rock In Rio, Planeta Altantida and Santiago Gets Louder (Chile).
From the beginning the band has connected with the preeminent and iconic artists of Rock and Roll. 2018 included stadium tours with the Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age in Brazil, followed by a European tour with Shinedown and another supporting the Dutch band Within Temptation.
Ego Kill Talent received great reviews from European press on each tour including a 5 “K” rating from Kerrang! UK magazine for the Download Paris performance. The Dutch press (Aardschok, 3FM and Smash Press) compared the band’s sound and performance to Foo Fighters, Stone Sour and Royal Blood.
As we roll towards 2020, the band recently wrapped their second album at the famed 606 Studios, owned by The Foo Fighters which will feature 12 tracks with special guests John Dolmayan (System of a Down), Roy Mayorga (Stone Sour) and skateboarder Bob Burnquist (13 times X Games Champion).
EKT are also in the final stages of completing a global recording deal that will be announced shortly. The first single is slated to be released in April and full album, mid-June, 2020. Again, EKT will have the fortune of touring Brazilian stadiums with Metallica and Greta Van Fleet in April. Then, make their U.S. debut in May before heading back to Europe in June for Festival Season. Other significant happenings include joining C3 Artist Management and William Morris Endeavor for global booking.
“When Rock music is made with emotion and truth, it really touches us. I believe we have captured something that encompasses all of these feelings”, says Theo Van Der Loo regarding the messages featured within the album. “All the lyrics and musical creation are part of a questioning process. The intention is to use these questions as paths to free ourselves from anything that causes us pain”, he adds.
SOLENCE is the musical antidote to what ails the brokenhearted and downtrodden. As they summon a soaring celebration of life-affirming positivity, the Swedish foursome’s diverse songs demonstrate the strength found in a community defined by shared passions and goals. Multi-instrumentalist melody makers bonded together at a young age in pursuit of artistic inspiration and connection, SOLENCE quickly amassed 100 million streams across all platforms. Deafening, the band’s eclectic and invigorating sophomore album, is a watershed work of possibility, perseverance, and positivity.
“In a hard rock world that can be pretty dark and depressing, we try to make things a little brighter and encourage our fans to believe in themselves,” explains frontman Markus Videsäter. To “follow your heart’s compass” is the SOLENCE mission statement, a strong sentiment shared between guitarist David Strääf, keyboardist Johan Swärd, drummer David Vikingsson, and singer Videsäter.
Is SOLENCE a hard rock band with electronic elements or an electronic band with a rock infusion? It depends on the song. Already drawing favorable comparisons to I Prevail, Palaye Royale, and Bring Me The Horizon. They developed their sizeable worldwide audience from a shared living space in Stockholm, first emerging with heavy renditions of well-known pop hits. But none of those videos were as popular as the band’s own music. In 2020, they broke into the Active Rock Radio Top 50, as “Animal in Me” (6 million views on YouTube) became the most played track on SiriusXM’s Octane.
Like 2019’s Brothers, Deafening is a massive leap forward. Imagine the aggressive but catchy wallop of In Flames masterpiece A Sense of Purpose colliding with the melody of The 1975, the pop sensibility of hitmaking maestro Max Martin, electro pulse, and a bit of Avenged Sevenfold shred. “We are still carving out our musical identity,” Markus says with excitement. There’s no singular moment for this band or, by extension, their audience. It’s all about the journey. Get ready and Enjoy the SOLENCE.
Dropout Kings are a generational evolution of rap infused rock bands such as Linkin Park, fusing together heavy metal sounds with the progressive rhythms of hip hop and trap music. Dubbing it as ‘Trap Metal’, DOK prides themselves on pioneering and molding the genre, crafting unique soundscapes that feel familiar yet fresh and innovative. Songs like ‘Scratch & Claw’ feature impactful and introspective rap lyrics and haunting yet passionate vocals over polished, metal inspired, instrumentation, while ‘Going Rogue’ pushes the creative threshold of what a band can excel to be. Dropout Kings, formed in 2016, have already garnered millions of streams from their debut album, AudioDope, which was released August 10th, 2018. AudioDope went on to receive rave reviews, being herald for its refreshing yet nostalgic sound while blurring the lines between rock and hip hop. In 2021, Dropout Kings inked a deal with Suburban Noize Records and released the GlitchGang EP. After releasing the EP through the label on April 6th, 2021, their single “Virus” was considered for a Grammy nomination and spent 12 weeks on the Billboard Top 40 Mainstream Rock Radio Charts.
Eva Under Fire
If you think rock n’ roll fairy tales are a thing of the past, you haven’t met Eva Under Fire. These Detroit rock upstarts got their start five years ago and instantly began cutting their teeth in the underground rock scene, building an enthusiastic fanbase the old-fashioned way. However, the band’s trajectory shifted toward the stratosphere when they sent an unsolicited demo to Better Noise Music, who recognized the band’s hybrid of rock, metal, pop and classic rock as something wholly unique. Inspired by everyone from the Deftones to Duran Duran, Love, Drugs & Misery combines soaring melodies and relentless riffing with the powerful pipes of vocalist Eva Marie, who passionately spreads the band’s inclusive message of hope during these uncertain times.
That said, it took a lot of hard work for them to get to this point. The group’s roots go back to 2015 when Eva, guitarists Chris Slapnik and Rob Lyberg, bassist Ed Joseph and drummer Corey Newsom, decided to get together and write music that represented their diverse set of influences. The chemistry clicked and after releasing a well received full-length and two EPs, the band signed to Better Noise and spent the past two years working on Love, Drugs & Misery, their most ambitious and fully realized release to date. “We really wanted to challenge ourselves with this record and focus on melodies and writing the best material that we could come up with,” Eva explains. “We really came up with the best of the best when it came to our songwriting. Some songs are fun, others are more emotional.”
For Love, Drugs & Misery, the band once again teamed up with local collaborators BJ Perry (I Prevail, Escape The Fate) and John Pregler, whose collective attention to detail helped the band fine-tune their sound. “BJ and John made sure everything was really focused and the best it could be, especially the melodies,” Eva explains. That laser focus allowed the band to create an album that is as creative as it is authentic. “My biggest influence is probably Deftones because they have such an innovative mix of sounds,” Chris explains, “and Eva’s voice is so powerful that she can sing anything. The album is basically a mix of everything we all listen to from classic rock to modern metal.” Eva, who got her start singing along to show tunes and pop music before discovering acts like Evanescence and Breaking Benjamin, agrees. “It’s really a combination of a lot of different influences from all ends of the musical spectrum.”
From the syncopated, distortion-drenched groove of the opener “Misery” to the palm-muted riffs and massive hooks of “Blow” (feat. Spencer Charnas of Ice Nine Kills) and explosive anthemics of “Unstoppable,” Love, Drugs & Misery has plenty of moments of guitar-driven grandeur. However that aggression is balanced by gripping ballads such as “The Strong” and “Give Me A Reason,” which are as inspiring as they are impactful. Then there’s “Heroin(e),” an electronica-infused, arena-ready rocker that holds special resonance for Eva. “I wrote that song from a personal space and the music was built around the lyrics,” she explains about the song, which deals with the experience of drug addiction within her family. “I was so grateful that the story could remain intact because it was so powerful, but it was so close to me that I wasn’t sure if it should go on the record or not.” Once the label heard the song they not only embraced it but included it in the upcoming Better Noise film, Sno Babies.
That balance of style and substance lies at the core of Eva Under Fire. For that reason they weren’t scared to try new things on Love, Drugs & Misery, whether that was using Talk Box guitar effects, integrating shredding guitar solos or putting their stamp on the 1987 U2 hit, “With or Without You.” Simply put, this collection of songs couldn’t have come from anyone else. “There’s a lot of grit in the vocals on this album and that’s because the aggression, anger and sadness are real,” Eva explains. “In the studio I was able to tap into those real emotions on demand because I knew that this was important. This is our platform where you need to show how real and true it is—whether you’re having a blast in the moment or you’re on the verge of tears, that’s what you want to convey. I think our producers did a great job of making us feel at home.”
“I’m really happy because this album isn’t twelve songs of the exact same style, there’s a variety where you can hear the different influences and that’s important to me,” Chris summarizes. “We wave a flag of humanity and I think this record is encouraging in the sense that whoever listens to this record will find something that will speak to them in its own way,” Eva adds. “We worked so hard to get to where we are today, but we made it. I think this album will really bring a lot of people together and that’s so needed now,” she adds. “I can’t wait to see what that will translate to when we’re finally about to get out there and tour again.”
The Native Howl
With influences ranging from QOTSA, Black Sabbath, and Rush to Herbie Hancock and The Meters, The Alive is a California based rock band launched between surf & skate sessions in 2018. They’ve played Eddie Vedder’s Ohana Fest, Lollapalooza Chile, Kelly Slater’s Wave Ranch, Boardmasters England, Bowlpark Chile, Surf Music Friends Fest Spain, ISA World Surfing Games, Pipeline Hawaii, Wonderbus, and Shaky Knees Festival. They opened BottleRock 21’s Main Stage for Jimmy Eat World, Black Pumas, Cage the Elephant, and Foo Fighters. Other performance highlights include opening for Surfer Blood, Ron Artis ii, closing BottleRock’s JamPad stage (following Dave Grohl), and Sold Out support sets for Taylor Hawkins’ Chevy Metal, Jimmy Eat World and The Hives.
Featuring Bastian Evans (17) on guitar & vocals with brothers Kai & Manoa Neukermans (17 & 14) on drums and bass. The Alive have been skating, surfing and playing music together from ages 6 and 8. They were named one of Stab Magazine’s 30 Under 30 Culture Shifters of Tomorrow and the boys have been featured in Whalebone Magazine NY, Santa Cruz Waves, Riff Magazine, Surfline, Guitar Player, Soundwaves TV, Blurred Culture, and on NPR. Combining their passion for surfing and music, they’ve performed benefit shows for Surfrider Foundation, Surfers Against Sewage in England, Sustainable Coastlines in Hawaii and Save the Waves. They are a BYOBottle artist committed to reducing single use plastics.
As You Were
Based out of Fort Knox, KY, As You Were is a rock band from the United States Army Recruiting Command. As You Were has recorded and toured the country showing music fans that the Army has
much more to offer than they might think. As You Were averages over 150 days a year on the road performing at clubs, theaters, high schools, colleges, sporting events, national conventions, and at major music festivals. Made up of highly skilled professional musicians As You Were specialize in performing all the most current chart-topping rock and pop hits interspersed with their own original songs.
All talented musicians before they joined the Army, As You Were, is made up of lead singer and guitarist Tom “Kat” Katsiyiannis, drummer Ryan “Cleveland” Kaluza, bass player Chris “Chester” Cabrera, and recent addition on guitar Austin West. The band and the songs they perform tells the Army story through the experience of music, opening the eyes of potential future Soldiers to unexpected ways to serve their country. A fully contained self-sufficient touring machine, As You Were has opened for musical acts such as Flo Rida, AJR, Tones and I, Lewis Capaldi, and were an official opening act at the 2020 iHeart Music Festival.
You can follow them @aywmusic on FB/IG, and get all of their latest updates at www.aywmusic.com, where you can also download their two albums “Set Yourself Apart”, and “What You Desire” for free.
POP EVIL is the bridge between life-affirming hard rock hit-making and the burgeoning new frontier of genre-bending postmodern playlists. A crowd-pleasing band unafraid to embrace the heaviest and most melodic ends of the spectrum, with a seemingly endless stream of No. 1 hits veering between fist-pumping anthems and timeless power ballads. POP EVIL delivers their most ambitious rebirth yet with a jaw-dropping sixth album.
“Let the Chaos Reign” and “Work” arrive as a twin assault of invigorating readymade hits for 2020, from an album filled to the brim with a dozen tracks each worthy of a dedicated spotlight. “Let the Chaos Reign” is the heaviest single the band has ever dropped, a rousing fight song of self-determination and rising to meet any challenge with courage and strength. By contrast, “Work” puts its heavy guitars atop grooving rhythmic punch and EDM flourishes, as it champions the working-class heroes struggling to persevere across all industries today.
“We won’t bore people with the same song over and over,” assures charismatic frontman and bandleader Leigh Kakaty, who co-founded the band in Michigan. “When you come to our live show, we feel like there should be an ebb and flow, peaks and valleys, that are similar to real life. Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down. We like to take people on a journey when they listen to our music or come to see us live.”
Pop Evil has been a staple at major festivals and in theaters and clubs for nearly two decades, despite the group’s relative youth. As they’ve ruled the roost with No. 1 Billboard Rock singles like “Trenches”, “Deal with the Devil”, “Torn to Pieces”, “Footsteps”, and “Waking Lions”, they’ve taken their inspired message to the people, on tours with modern rock titans and veteran acts alike.
One listen to any of the songs from the impressive body of work laid down by the band on Lipstick on the Mirror (2008), War of Angels (2011), Onyx (2013), Up (2015), and the self-titled smash Pop Evil (2018) confirms exactly how Pop Evil built such a diverse fanbase.
On their go-for-broke sixth album, the group doubles down on the yin-and-yang at the heart of their sound. There’s no other band that bounces between a song like “Waking Lions” and “A Crime to Remember” or “100 in a 55” so effectively and with such overwhelming success.
How are Kakaty, longtime guitarists Dave Grahs and Nick Fuelling, bassist Matt DiRiot, and powerhouse drummer Hayley Cramer able to flip the spectrum so seamlessly? “If my voice sounds good on it, the hook is catchy and memorable with a single listen, and it will go over well live, we’re not afraid to draw from any genre that we see fit for inspiration,” says Leigh.
Even for a Pop Evil record, that contrast and fearless genre-defying cross-cultural pollination have never been stronger than on album number six. The preproduction process yielded close to 30 songs, whittled down to the most potent 12 that represent everything Pop Evil is about.
Songs like “Inferno”, “Breathe Again”, and “Survivor” sound equally destined to take their place in the pantheon of Pop Evil signature songs that mean so much to devoted fans and casual listeners alike. Each is just as poised to conquer new genre formats.
No. 1 smash “Waking Lions” was designed “to remind our fanbase that we’re not afraid to turn up the guitars. Just because we’re Pop Evil, don’t forget about that ‘evil’ element.” The new LP builds on the foundation laid by that 2018 album specifically, springboarding with melodic heft and hook-filled heaviness blending hard rock, alternative, and pop with punch.
The band bunkered down in Los Angeles in the winter of 2019 to put the finishing touches on the new record, working with new creative teams of producers and collaborators, each enlisted to emphasize the uniquely varied aspects of the band’s sound. “We worked with multiple producers that fit each song’s dynamic,” the band’s hardworking singer explains.
Collectively, Pop Evil’s previous five albums account for over a million copies in worldwide sales and over 600 million streams.. Lipstick on the Mirror found its way to listeners via a major label
re-release, despite the business trouble that resulted in the band tearing up their major label contract on stage, in what Spin Magazine called one of the Ten Best Moments of Rock on the Range. War of Angels brought Pop Evil to a worldwide audience.
Up debuted at No. 25 on the Billboard 200 and produced no less than three Top 5 Mainstream Rock singles: “Ways to Get High”, “Take it All”, and “Footsteps”, which went to No. 1. This was on the heels of the three No. 1 Rock singles from Onyx. Pop Evil debuted at No. 5 on the US Top Rock Albums chart. “Be Legendary” was one of the Top 10 most played songs of 2019.
Pop Evil combines the bigger than life bombast of Mötley Crüe or KISS with the earnest warmth of Pearl Jam, mining the same depths of creativity and emotion found within the cosmic riff foundation of legendary active rock, hard rock, and modern rock acts like Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. The Pop Evil faithful are a broad and dedicated group of fans around the world, people whose support was earned, one by one, show by show.
This is a band that unapologetically flies the flag for their chosen form of creativity. Rock n’ roll music is as American as apple pie. It’s particularly important in the Midwest, where Pop Evil was born. Fans who are living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to support families with a 9 to 5 gig, rely on the music made by bands like Pop Evil to help them endure the daily grind.
The signature Pop Evil elements of the past are found in the music they make today, amplified and sharpened like never before. The utmost respect is paid to the fans; part of that respect is in making sure to never simply repeat what’s come before. The “Evil” will move the crowd. The Pop embodies groove, vibe, and atmosphere, extending a warm welcome to all comers.
“We’ve got loud and heavy guitars while staying true to the groove we’ve had with songs like ‘Take it All’ and ‘Footsteps’. We have that ‘Pop’ and that ‘Evil’ just as we’ve always done. And with this record, we’ve taken another big step into our own definitive sound and identity.”
“That’s our thing,” Kakaty declares. “People know they’re going to get that Pop Evil.”
Vocalist – Leigh Kakaty
Bass – Matt DiRito
Drums – Hayley Cramer
Rhythm Guitars – Davey Grahs
Lead Guitarst – Nick Fuelling
The atmosphere is full of chemicals and tension. Cynicism and mistrust are at a record high. The whole societal order is teetering on the brink of collapse. What better time could there possibly be for a new Ho99o9 (horror) album?
When the duo of Yeti Bones and theOGM kicked in the doors of the music industry in 2014 with an iconically off-the-rails set at the Afropunk festival, they set a noisy new standard for industrial-grade, punk-influenced hip-hop, colliding the DMX and Bone Thugs they grew up listening to in Jersey headfirst with bands like Bad Brains and the Ninjasonik that they absorbed after discovering the NYC DIY scene. With a steady stream of mixtapes, EPs, singles, and their 2017 debut LP United States of Horror, they’ve continued to raise the bar for sonic chaos, drawing critical raves, building a cultishly devoted following, and earning the respect of iconic audio anarchists like Mike Patton (who invited them to open for Mr. Bungle and Dead Cross) and The Prodigy (who featured them on the 2018 single “Fight Fire With Fire”).
In 2019, a mutual friend introduced them to Travis Barker, and a get-to-know-you studio session quickly resulted in the pummelling track “Suge Knight.” Soon after, the pandemic hit and the world turned upside down, but the trio kept working off and on over the course of 2020 and 2021, with Barker on drums and production duties. As the situation outside the studio got more tumultuous, Yeti Bones and theOGM got rawer, finding new ways to channel the rage that’s always animated their music—rage that the rest of the world was feeling more and more every day—and peeling back what little pretense they had to reveal their most unapologetically honest selves. Eventually, they realized that they had an album on their hands. Taking inspiration from an Ice Cube b-side, they named it Skin.
Skin is the sound of Ho99o9 finding new levels to their talents, then crashing through them to go even higher. It’s somehow even noisier and more aggressive than their earlier work—mosh pit music for the end of the world that keeps the needle buried deep in the red—but there’s also a fresh focus to the chaos. If listening to early Ho99o9 was like getting jumped by a mutant street gang, Skin is like facing off against a couple of martial arts masters who know precisely where to land each blow to cause maximum impact. Lead single “Battery Not Included” pivots effortlessly from breakbeat industrial mayhem to hardcore breakdown to a completely unexpected soothing interlude—before going right back to beatdown mode. The slow-grind “Speak of the Devil” spotlights the newfound emphasis on melody that the pair bring to the table. The album also brings together Yeti Bones and theOGM with some of their biggest influences and most illustrious supporters: “Slo Bread” sends Houston rap into a nightmarish new dimension with help from H-Town trailblazer Bun B; “Skinhead” brings together street punk and poet Saul Williams; and the merciless “Bite My Face” gets a brutal vocal assist from Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor.
Skin is a searing document of a world on fire, distilling all of the turbulence and free-floating confusion and anxiety of our present moment into 12 tightly wound tracks that signal a new era for Ho99o9 and the sonic movement they’re spearheading. If it doesn’t make you want to throw a brick, start a riot, and burn the whole system to the ground, you’re not awake.
Mark “Kaz” Kasprzyk started Redlight King as a vehicle for his songwriting a decade ago, after moving down from Hamilton, ON, Canada to Los Angeles, and soon recorded 2011’s Something for the Pain, which included the Rock/Alternative hits “Old Man,” (a tribute to his dad featuring a vocal sample granted by Neil Young himself), and “Bullet in My Hand” and 2013’s Irons in the Fire, highlighted by “Born to Rise,” a song that played over the end credits of the 2014 Kevin Costner film, Draft Day. He later release an EP featuring the popularity streamed song “Boneshaker”, which he wrote and produced independently.
Mark worked on new material for three years and unveiled the third full-length Redlight King album, with Parts + Labor Records, teaming up with its co-founder and house producer Jimmy Messer (AWOLNATION, Kygo, Kelly Clarkson). On songs like the first single, “Lift the Curse,” which channels ‘70s era Aerosmith and AC/DC, and “Nobody Wins,” borrowing a Motown bass line and “Sympathy for the Devil” percussion, Mark’s new direction doubles down on his blues roots and moves away from the hip-hop/rock hybrid he’d become known for. “Where I’m from, You had to come with the goods,” said Kaz. “You didn’t show up until you knew how to do it.”
Mark’s childhood interests ranged from judo – he was an alternative for the Canadian Olympic team for the Summer 2000 games — to auto racing, which he picked up from his dad, and continues to be involved in as a TV personality and supporter.
In 2022, Redlight King is set to release their 4th studio album “The Wheelhouse” with AFM records. With longtime member and guitar player Julian Tomarin, Randy Cooke on drums, it is a straight ahead rock record that’s exciting and powerful to listen to. Redlight King isn’t about smoke and mirrors, it honest, and it hits hard.