Category Archives: music

Getting Psychedelic with Scott Yoder

Some bands when they’re experimental try to emulate other bands. Some bands when they’re flamboyant lack the musical substance to match their flare. This isn’t the case with Scott Yoder.

The psychedelic and experimental nature of Scott Yoder’s music will enchant the audience and lure them into another world of rockstars depicted with distortions and and atonal vocals matched with the pitfalls that come with that world, marked with break downs that were syncopated or polyrhythmic. While sometimes the lyrical content was a bit lacking I think that’s only a problem on my part. Otherwise when the mics for backup vocals were up (more on that in a moment) the blend was amazing and added much more depth to the music. There was a lot of thought put into both the music and the performance.

There was equal thought placed in the stage effects as there was with the music. At times, though, I felt it was too much for such a small stage. Even though the fog was a bit overpowering at times (but at least it smelled a bit like cotton candy and not the usual dust smell) it complimented the psychedelic elements of the music quite well. The strobe light effect also added to the performance, I personally don’t care for them. That said I won’t count it against them, just as I’m not counting the issue with the back up vocal mic. It doesn’t seem the sound engineer wanted to pay attention to back up vocals in anyone’s set and this is no exception. The audience ended up liking it anyway. It took a while for the audience to warm up, but with the help of some of the people involved with the band that happened. It probably would have happened eventually but it helped give the extra push.

With an influx in the revival of experimental and psychedelia Scott Yoder is a shoe in to rise to the demand. It will be interesting to see musically where this artist goes and grows .

Technique-3.9

Presentation-2.7

Audience Interaction-2.6

Brownie Points-0

Total-9.2

Advertisements

Druids Evokes a Performance that’s Raw and Delightful

Druids came on during the second half of the showcase and helped establish the trend of less doom and psychedelic and more intensity. Out of Des Moines, Druids offers a welcome change to flash in the pan effects and de-emphasized those aspects to focus on a show that put the focus on where it belonged: the music.

It was also a nice change from the barrage of doom and relatively slow tempos in other sets. They immerse the listener in a blend of fast tempos with dark undertones. When the music gets to frantic tempos that peak it brings it back down with break downs and soothing prog and psychedelic elements. The raw screams added a nice touch to things, but at times didn’t pair well with the psychedelic elements. I get it was aiming for a contrast, but sometimes contrasts clash too much to work.

At the very least Druids seemed to want to be there to show us their cool music. Everyone seemed enthused to be there and showed off what they could offer. I think what I also appreciated was how they were able to do it without anything that gimmicky be it an attitude or literal flashing lights. It reflected well and that enthusiasm was infective. The audience loved it through and through. Even in the second song people were headbanging, screaming instead of cheering, and moshed hard. Their intensity matched the intensity of the music and the enthusiasm the band expressed.

I don’t have much to say about Druids, but what I do is rather positive. Their music offers a lot of texture and energy and they bring it with them to the stage. It goes to show how sometimes the old fashioned way of putting on a show is to make sure the music is good.

Technique-3

Presentation-2

Audience Interaction-3

Brownie Points-0

Total-8

Orphans of Doom Rocks It Live

Next up on the showcase is Orphans of Doom. As some of my secret fans will recall I reviewed their latest album a few months back. Seeing them live wasn’t too much of a difference musically and there are some variants performance-wise, but that’s about it.

I suspected Orphans of Doom was opening as some of the music sounded familiar, so I do need to rescind some of my earlier comments about their music being indistinguishable from other stoner metal songs in the genre. However it seemed like some of the songs they played live were songs I mentioned as being their standout songs, so that’s why I only partially rescind. That said there’s not much I can add that I haven’t already said about the band’s music before. Those who are into stoner metal will enjoy their music as they are mostly standard with some songs where they explore slow tempos and prog elements to create a stoner-prog fusion. To this end, however, it’s explored in a separate way.

Orphans of Doom love to put on a light show, and in this case there were strobe lights at the most intense parts of the songs (thank you, Granada, for posting warnings). It certainly intensified and added to the extra energy and tenacity that wasn’t captured on the album. While I wasn’t able to observe how the audience reacted specifically to the light show there were people enjoying it, and as the set went on the audience’s adoration grew, albeit not as intense as it could have been. I can only assume it was effective even in a small amount.

Orphans of Doom bring an intensity that wasn’t observed in the album. Other people enjoyed it as the band allowed it to be extreme tempered with slow tempos. I feel like if the band didn’t try to hide their intensity they will give a more genuine performance onstage and on the album.

Technique-2.5

Presentation-2

Audience Interaction-2

Brownie Points-0.5

Total-7

Stone Grower Ramps Up the Crowd During the Showcase

Wow, I really got walloped by the showcase put on by The Company! I have some thoughts on it as a whole, but that will come after I put up all the reviews. Since I’ve got seven of them it’s gonna be a minute.

First up was the band Stone Grower. My amateur behind managed to be late, so I’m giving them some leeway. Despite my tardiness I am able to glean something from the band.

Stone Grower offered up a mix of psychedelic music and dynamic tempos. At times with the dynamic tempo and long drawn-out notes with some atonal singing were reminiscent of Iron Butterfly or Jefferson Airplane. There are lots of stoner metal elements too, but it mostly complimented the psychedelic themes in the music. This was further complimented by a mostly on key falsetto, though I’m not convinced that when the lead was off key if that was accidental. It was at least a throwback to earlier eras of psychedelic music.

If the music didn’t charm people the lead singer’s goofy antics certainly did. His enthusiasm is a welcome change with psychedelic music brought something with its off kilter antics that was at times enjoyable and at times made me question the lead singer’s sobriety. This was further questioned when it seemed like most of the time it was only the lead singer that enthusiastic and the others were either concentrating or seemingly elsewhere. I’m not certain the stage performance hindered it, based on how the audience responded.

Stone Grower took a minute to grow on the audience, but it did happen. Oddly enough it doesn’t seem to be releated to enthusiasm. It actually seems like the more about the music line up than anything else. There were a few more songs closer to the end of the set that seemed less psychedelic inspired than the rest, which seemed to work in their favor.

I think people who are in to psychedelic and stoner music will find Stoner Grower fun to watch and enjoy the music. They provide some entertaining stunts on stage for those not into that type of music so they can enjoy it too. With that said here’s the rating:

Technique-2.5

Presentation-2.5

Audience Interaction-2

Brownie Points-0.5

Total-7.5

The Soundtrack: February 2018

It’s that time again where I release 4 songs that best describe this month. Those who are new to this I pick 4 songs from music released in the particular time, in this case February of this year. These 4 songs I feel capture the emotion of the month. I don’t look at which songs I like, or genre, or anything of the sort. It’s all about the music and capturing the mood.

Now that I got some of that out of the way, here’s what I picked for this month.

Rhye “Song for You”

Yeah, there are going to be some sappy, bittersweet love songs in here. February seems to be the month for heartbreak so I thought I’d roll with it.

Alele Diane “Yellow Gold”

This is another sappy love song, and admittedly I thought with the title it could tie into other events of the month. It doesn’t but, hey, sappy bittersweet love song for Valentine’s Day.

Pop Evil “Waking Lions”

In America students are marching and protesting for gun control after the umpteenth mass shooting. While gun control is a divisive issue no one can deny how these students, some of whom were running from gunfire just days before, gathered the strength to fight for their beliefs. If that’s not admirable I don’t know what is, and I feel this song captures their spirit.

Don Diablo “Echoes”

This is another one that I felt captured the indomitable spirit that humans possess. Whether it’s competing against the world in a sport of lifelong dedication or fighting to fix a broken system I think this song captures that feeling quite well.

If you want to check out what I picked last month you can check out this post or go to my YouTube playlist.

Elantris Review: “This Sacrifice”

Well folks, I’m back in the saddle again and I’m finally reviewing again. What better way to ease back into things than an album review? This review already starts off interesting, or at least interesting to me.

Elantris, formerly Blackthorn, is a symphonic metal band out of Ohio that formed in 2014. One of their noteworthy points is how they recently toured with Lacuna Coil. The band’s new name is possibly taken from a novel of the same name, but that’s speculation on my part. What I can confirm is “This Sacrifice” is their debut album released sometime recently. I can’t seem to find anything else about them. I actually came across them in a Facebook group and they were looking for reviews to post. Naturally I’m drawn to bands with bits of mystery and thought I’d bite.

Here’s something that was interesting for me about buying this album. I searched for this album to purchase on iTunes (yes, I know you’re judging, and it’s OK. I am disappointed in myself too) and review only to find it wasn’t under their current name. It was still listed under their old name. If I recall you can find it under Elantris on Spotify and other platforms. Despite a minor incident, though, I finally got the album and gave it a listen.

The album kicks off with “Ellie”, and it barrages the listener with rhapsody of heavy tones tempered with a smooth synthesizer. One thing I really appreciated about the intro is how is gradually changes into a more complex time signature and gradually brings the listener into a battle march. I’ve come to expect many things to happen in symphonic metal, which includes complex meter, lots of bravado, but I didn’t expect other things from this song. The female vocalist was one of them. I’ll admit I’m pretty sheltered when it comes to symphonic metal but I’d grown accustomed to hearing vocalists with operatic or at least classical vocal training. The female vocalist has more of a pop star style. It is certainly different and while it jarred me at first I see how the style pairs well with the lyrics. The lyrical content was another aspect I didn’t expect. It felt like lots of angst came out with lines like “you don’t know me, you don’t know anything about me”, but again I see how it all comes together to something that foreshadows how the dark tones of the song are completely alluding to a dark nature. This dissonance carries throughout the album and adds elements that invoke doubt about the genuine nature of what’s presented without fully jeopardizing the composition of the songs.

Next up is “Ascension”, and it’s interesting to me in how it creates dissonance that’s ultimately cacophonous. It opens up with some black and heavy metal aesthetics of blast beats (though sometimes it slightly throws off the tempo), extreme vocals, and some shredding, but at times it seems to hearken back to the symphonic metal elements. At times it’s problematic as clearly the symphonic elements feel a little carelessly thrown in, though it’s clearly meant to bring a calming element to the song and allude to the lyrics about moving past terrible things. One moment where it’s problematic is when the transition from black metal to symphonic –or vice versa –prove slightly awkward as the blast beats either are a hare off or they drown out the vocals. When the same rhythm is transferred to other instruments it makes the other chord progressions awkward and feel thrown in to display skill rather than add to the song itself. Regardless of the problems I feel anyone can appreciate the powerful build ups and the earthy, aggressive tones of the instruments that pair with an airy, dolce voice. It’s as if the idea of whether the speaker can rise above the past is brought into question due to the speaker’s integrity.

Speaking of integrity I felt some parts of “Denied” may have lacked some of that. Each particular movement provides something powerful and provocative, but when placed together lacks anything cohesive to tie it together. One movement will have a powerful breakdowns paired with raw vocals and blastbeats, but other times it tries to take a legato turn with bittersweet tones. Sometimes there’s an attempt to transition between these movements with blast beats or with the synthesizer or arpeggios, but it ends up feeling out of place. I definitely see these things matching the lyrics where they sing about being broken or living moment to moment, but instead of fully conveying these ideas it feels like an awkward juxtaposition of things that were awesome that should make a song with no real agreement how to bring it together.

This disjointed composition seems to continue with other songs. Throughout “Forgotten” there are lots of things that, while cool, don’t cohesively mesh. I feel the lyrics, while superficially dark (and given the theme of things forgotten fitting) demonstrate why I personally don’t like end rhyming. Most people tend to place the end rhyming at the end of a line, and paired with the tendency for native English speakers to speak in an iambic rhythm, end up often with rhythm structure of “ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum-ba-dum baaaaah”. I personally feel that particular rhythm is generic and a go-to when writing on the fly. It doesn’t add anything to the song other than leave me grasping at straws to justify the composition. I feel, however, there is a lot of potential with this song as I do notice an attempt to tie things together. The spoken part meant to bridge back into the vocals, while falling into the trappings of end rhyming, allude the most lyrically to the feelings conveyed about forgetfulness and being forgotten. The synthesizer seems to be arbitrarily thrown in, but that’s because while there is a theme and variation with the rhythm it’s marred by the lyrics and the barrage of blastbeats. Everything feels like it’s built around them, though I’m guessing it was intentional as the things pointed out are overdone and make a song forgettable.

Following such a cliché song is a more redeeming song:”Project 000”. The composition is more complex and more cohesive and more to what I’m accustomed with symphonic metal. Overall this is a song that provides the listener with more of everything. There is a more fluid transition between the blastbeats and breakdowns in the song and the chord progressions not only compliment these moments fantastically but really emphasize the mood of the song. The harmonies even help convey some sort of humanoid creature in more blended vocals than previous tracks. The synthesizer is more purposeful with its contribution to the song. While the lyrics are still lacking it feels like turning this into a disjointed duet emphasizes the internal conflict of promises from an unknown versus the promise granted, more so than other tracks. This is a song that, if I had to pick a song for radio play, would top the list.

If “Project 000” was a promise of a more complex turn in the album it wasn’t a good one when followed by “Odium”. That’s not to say that it’s a bad song, but it starts off deviating slightly from their other songs and eventually succumbing to their formula. As with the previous song, it starts of with a slow tempo, but doesn’t jump in with blast beats. However it does go into the usual pattern of having screaming vocals paired with faster rhythms and the clean vocals paired with more legato themes. It also fell back into lyrically bludgeoning the listener with end rhymes, albeit it didn’t always fall into iambic rhythm. The clean vocalist wasn’t hitting the hitting all the notes when she needed to jump up in pitch, and I suspect has to do with the fact much of the time it was lyrically when it needed a strong emphasis on the consonants at the start of the word. This is a common issue with singing, which is why many pieces tend to compose pieces where lyrically the high pitches coincide with an emphasis on vowel sounds. It provides an easier jump between high and low pitches because it’s easier to do with sounds that are more “open” and have less to push through.

The next song completely deviates from the rest of their album, let along symphonic metal, by invoking sea tunes and djent in “Seas of Torment” in the first few minutes. It does goes back into their trademark blastbeats and screams followed by melodic, clean vocals, leaving their venture into pirate metal short lived. I understand why they’d invoke those elements with a title like that but as I said with other songs it didn’t seem cohesive, even with their album. I feel like everything else with this song I’ve covered in other songs so I’ll move on…

The next few songs I feel actually go together in some fashion so I’ll deal with “Strings of Silk”, “Dawn”, and “Captivate” together. “Strings of Silk” seems to be the expected fanfare from the album with the violin setting on the synthesizer until I heard “Dawn”. The first song sets a theme that is carried into the second. The dolce voice paired with the piano really lets not only the vocalist, but the band shine. We see lyrics and composition noted of symphonic metal but also the strengths of the band as a whole. This, in turn, segues into “Captivate”. It opens up to deliver all the punches in the form of blastbeats, screaming vocals, driving tempos, and clean vocals that only warn of more to come. The lyrics talk about leaving this as a standard at one point, and I couldn’t agree more. This is the climax and standard for the album.

The album finishes with the eponymous title “This Sacrifice”. It delivers the grittiness that we saw in previous songs paired with oftentimes ballad-eque movements and a fitting conclusion lyrically and musically to the album. Rather than being disjointed and sacrificing cohesive composition it seems this was thoughtfully pieced together, knowing full well this was to end the album. The ending brings everything together in an epic piece fit of the genre and leaves me hoping that Elantris continues in this direction for other albums.

Overall Elantris promises symphonic metal but delivers something out of the norm for the genre, be it breaking from traditional vocalists or surprising elements from other genres. The big problem this serves, however, is the tendency to lean towards what sounds cool rather than bringing everything together to make the song contribute something new to the genre. Instead of sounding like symphonic metal with other elements at times it sounds like people from several metal backgrounds coming together to try out symphonic metal and creating a hodge podge of a song. Once the band does commit to being a symphonic metal band, though, the results are amazing.

3.0/4

Soundtrack for January 2018

One of my secret fans contacted me and told me how much they loved the idea of a soundtrack for the year and suggested I have one for each month. I thought about it, and not one to be above puff pieces and fodder of the like, decided to go forward with it.

Those of you who aren’t bots reading my blog will remember that, rather than picking favorite or least favorite songs, I go with the songs I feel best describe the time. I don’t look at genre, I don’t consider the song’s popularity, nor do I consider my personal tastes. This is the about the music and mood. The only thing I consider is whether or not it was released at a certain time, in this case it’s January 2018. For the time being I’m going to have four songs a month, because why not? I gotta be lame and have my themes, after all.

Jeff Rosenstock “YR Throat”


I felt this month had an element of feeling suppressed simultaneously with the vocal expression going on, or saw some consequence to expressing oneself as I also saw this month.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club “Little Thing Gone Wild”


Some are probably thinking about correcting me about how this song was technically released last year. The video was released last year, but the album on which it belongs was released this month. At any rate I felt it captured how some things did, well, get a little crazy this month. This song captured it quite well.

Joe Satriani “Energy”


I feel this song really captures the, well, energy of this month. If it isn’t the zeal that comes from the start of a new year it’s the zeal to set out to right wrongs, fight against longstanding oppressions, and political figures who epitomize hatred.

Watain “Sacred Damnation”


This was another song where the video was released before the album. That aside I felt this was another song that meshed well with public outcry for change and finally having a voice in those issues.

I also decided to start a playlist on YouTube of the songs I pick for this year. If you want to check it out feel free to do it.