Album Review – Escalane / The Days Of Decay (2015)

A delightful album full of catchy riffs, sing-along choruses and endless electricity by an up-and-coming Pop Metal band from Finland, to at least end this tragic year on a high note.

Rating5

escalane_days-of-decay_640The Headbanging Moose has one last treat for you metalheads before this turbulent year finally comes to an end, and in order to lessen the pain caused by so many tragedies and bring some joy into our lives, let’s fly to the city of Jyväskylä, Finland and dance to the brisk and lighthearted music by Finnish Pop Metal band Escalane. In case you have absolutely no idea of how Pop Metal sounds, let me tell you that what this female-fronted four-piece group has to offer is a modern version of Heavy Metal with lots of Pop Rock influences, which translates into a sounding much heavier (and a thousand times better) than Paramore, but obviously a lot lighter than all the extreme music we’ve reviewed lately.

Formed by guitarist Juha Takanen in late 2013 and having released two promo singles in 2014, as well as having toured China for two weeks that same year, Escalane are now ready to spread their amusing fusion of heavy and pop music across the four corners of the world with their debut full-length album, entitled The Days Of Decay. Furthermore, the avant-garde album art designed by Finnish artist Simo Heikkinen already gives you an idea of what to expect from the music by Escalane, a torrent of catchy riffs, sing-along choruses and the charismatic performance by the sexy red-haired frontwoman Hanna Uimonen, so to speak.

If you turn on the radio and the song Waiting For The Sun by Escalane is playing, I’m pretty sure you’ll start smiling right away. It has some sort of “Babymetal” feeling but with more mature vocals, of course, which translates into lots of fun with Juha kicking fuckin’ ass through his heavy riffs and endless energy. Featuring electronic elements in the background but still more metal than pop, Singularity focuses on the smooth vocals by Hanna (with her Finnish accent adding an extra touch of beauty to the song) and her gentle piano notes; whereas Fading In, Fading Out brings to the listener pure Rock N’ Roll with elements from J-Pop. In addition, drummer Iiro Vuori and bassist Joonatan Jaakonaho let their metal side prevail, providing the perfect base for Juha to fire his solid shredding.

Promo_1Careless blends modern Metalcore with Pop Rock, with its keyboards spicing up the musicality, before the introspective ballad Seven Months presents a completely different mood from the rest of the album. In the end it works pretty well, increasing the album’s reach and showcasing another excellent performance by Juha. Reality is a good display of what can be called “progressive pop”, switching from heavier bass lines and guitar riffs to a gentle ambience and so on, while The Spiral is a great option for a special playlist to hit the road due to its exciting rhythm and electrifying riffs. Moreover, some parts of the song even feel like Power Metal and others like Alternative Metal so weird the whole thing is.

In This Disgrace, what seems to be “just” a ballad suddenly turns into high-speed Rock N’ Roll, and I bet you’ll be singing it together with the fiery Hanna without even noticing. And there’s even time for some headbanging with Escalane in The Map thanks to the solid synchronicity between Juha and Iiro, increasing the song’s heaviness. Lastly we have the title-track, The Days Of Decay, closing the album in an thrilling and metallic way, not to mention its extremely catchy chorus (“I don’t want your glow, I don’t want your crow, I don’t want it, no / I don’t wanna know about your flow, you don’t really have to show / I don’t want your glow, I don’t want your crow, I don’t want it, no / I don’t wanna know about your flow, I don’t want to know”).

Now that you have finally been exposed to some good Pop Metal, why not visiting Escalane’s Facebook page and give them a shout? You can also check more of their music at their YouTube channel, or purchase The Days Of Decay at the band’s BandCamp page, at the Inverse Store, or at Record Shop X. As this year might have been tragic and catastrophic for almost the entire world, at least let’s end it on a high note to the joyful music by Escalane, hoping for a better 2016 for all of us.

Best moments of the album: Waiting For The Sun, Fading In, Fading Out and The Days Of Decay.

Worst moments of the album: Reality.

Released in 2015 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Waiting For The Sun 3:23
2. Singularity 3:52
3. Fading In, Fading Out 3:23
4. Careless 4:37
5. Seven Months 3:59
6. Reality 5:31
7. The Spiral 4:25
8. This Disgrace 4:01
9. The Map 5:16
10. The Days Of Decay 3:27

Band members
Hanna Uimonen – vocals, piano
Juha Takanen – guitars
Joonatan Jaakonaho – bass
Iiro Vuori – drums

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Album Review – Bouquet of Dead Crows / Of The Night (2015)

Take a good listen at this classy rock album by a very talented British quartet and you might be able to understand what a “bouquet of dead crows” is all about.

Rating5

bodc_of the nightAlthough it might be a bit tough for most of us to imagine how a “bouquet of dead crows” would look like, a group of talented rockers hailing from Cambridge, UK can definitely help us in turning this difficult task into a pleasant Rock N’ Roll party, especially if you’re a fan of female-fronted bands. This is what you’ll find in the smooth and trenchant Of The Night, the brand new album by British Alternative Rock/Metal act Bouquet of Dead Crows.

Formed in 2013, Bouquet of Dead Crows truly know how to combine big riffs with big melodies, presenting a sequence of very consistent and rousing compositions led by lead singer Antoinette Cooper and guitarist Neil Bruce. Featuring an exquisite artwork by Stewart Harris Designs, Of The Night is perfect for a day on the road by yourself or with your significant other, a relaxing Sunday afternoon or any other situation where you need to soothe your spirit without giving up the electricity we all love in Pop Rock.

Instruments begin to arise from an acoustic intro in the opening track Everything Is Temporary until the beautiful voice by Antoinette Cooper fills your ears with passion and melancholy, followed by Epicentre, showcasing strong bass lines by Graeme Clarke and heavier guitar riffs by Neil to counterbalance with Antoinette’s voice. In other words, this nice tune proves how romantic and metallic the band can sound at the same time, which is also valid for Just A Little More, another great display of Alternative Rock/Metal with some progressive elements added to boost its pleasant rhythm. When this song is over, I’m sure you’ll be eager for more of it.

Graeme kicks off Without You with his resonant bass before it becomes a gentle ballad, focused on its touching lyrics about what true love is (“Hold me close, don’t let me go, because I just can’t go on without you…”). In my humble opinion, this charming song has all it takes to become a radio hit, it’s just a matter of it getting in the hands of the right people. The next song, Drownout, which by the way is another excellent choice for a rock n’ roll radio playlist, provides some “mystery” to the listener due to its elaborate bass lines and guitar solo, including a thoughtful chorus perfect for singing along with the band in a moment of reflection (“Rising up through the current / Must break free / Peaceful water laps at our skin / Letting us be”).

bodc_live 2015Then we have The Fundamental Flaw Of Solitude, a modern Rock N’ Roll chant with hints of Blues Rock and electric performances by Antoinette and Neil; and The Silent Path (Time Goes By), a minimalist but very effective song tailored for lovers of ballads with Folk Rock influences. And adding a good amount of horsepower to their musicality, Bouquet of Dead Crows fire pure Rock N’ Roll the way we love in Don’t Panic!, with the whole band providing Antoinette what’s needed for her to shine and turn this into one of the best songs of the album (if not the best), not to mention another great guitar solo by Neil.

Before Of The Night is over (and showing how well they master the art of switching between high-octane rock music and beautiful ballads), this talented British quartet still delivers the touching Like A Flower, with its poetic lyrics flawlessly declaimed by Antoinette (“The shadows fall away / Lost in the tranquility of the night / The sun warms the face / Tilted up like a flower / Sending the angst astray”), and Endless, a 7-minute rock journey with awesome guitar lines by Neil and another charge of catchy lyrics to sing together with the band, until it reaches its end on a high note.

In case alternative rock music is your cup of tea, you can get in touch with Bouquet of Dead Crows through their Facebook page, and obviously listen to Of The Night and purchase it at the official German Shepherd Records BandCamp page. Perhaps after taking a good listen to the entire album, all by yourself or together with someone you love, you might be able to create a good depiction of a “bouquet of dead crows” inside your mind to the sound of this classy rock band from the UK.

Best moments of the album: Drownout, Don’t Panic! and Like A Flower.

Worst moments of the album: Everything Is Temporary.

Released in 2015 German Shepherd Records

Track listing
1. Everything Is Temporary 3:29
2. Epicentre 3:08
3. Just A Little More 2:56
4. Without You 4:44
5. Drownout 3:47
6. The Fundamental Flaw Of Solitude 4:06
7. The Silent Path (Time Goes By) 2:51
8. Don’t Panic! 3:02
9. Like A Flower 3:50
10. Endless 7:04

Band members
Antoinette Cooper – vocals
Neil Bruce – guitars, ukulele
Graeme Clarke – bass, acoustic guitar
Andrew Coxall – drums, percussion, programming

Album Review – Trivium / Silence In The Snow (2015)

Don’t scream for me, Matt.

Rating7

Trivium_Silence In The SnowCan you imagine what would happen if Motörhead decided one day to stop playing their badass Rock N’ Roll to start focusing exclusively on electronic music, or if Cannibal Corpse suddenly started playing only acoustic songs, singing about butterflies and unicorns, without a single drop of blood in their lyrics? That’s something almost impossible to visualize, right? And the reason for that is because if those bands actually decided to do that, to completely change their music direction, they would simply lose their core essence, the main element that defines who they are. Once in a while we see our beloved bands following that horrible path, like Megadeth with their awful “Risk” and obviously Metallica with the worst “metal” album of all time, the annoying “St. Anger”. Now it’s time for American Heavy Metal band Trivium to leave an unfortunate scar in their solid career with the tiresome Silence In The Snow, their seventh studio album and by far their worst work to date.

And I’m not complaining exclusively about the fact that there aren’t any unclean/harsh vocals at all from neither Matt Heafy nor Corey Beaulieu for the first time ever in a Trivium album, which is already a huge bummer, but also about the fact that the music itself is too generic, tasteless and pedestrian, despite being still technical and harmonious. In other words, it lacks so much energy to the point no one is saying anything about this being their first album with Mat Madiro on drums, and we all know how much fans of the band like to chat about which Trivium drummer is or was the best. Besides, where are the rumbling and complex bass lines by Paolo Gregoletto? Some people will try to defend the band saying they already changed their musicality in their latest albums In Waves (too weird?) and Vengeance Falls (too Disturbed-ish?), that they are evolving, but we cannot compare those electrifying releases with this ode to monotony. I listen to In Waves almost as much as to Shogun, without skipping a single song, because after all is said and done it’s a fuckin’ awesome Heavy Metal album. But Silence In The Snow, oh boy, I’m pretty sure I’ll never listen to it again of my own free will. It’s not Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal or even Metalcore.

The Star Wars-ish intro Snøfall is relatively good, but the problem is that after listening to the entire album it made me think a lot about Episode I – The Phantom Menace, which we all know is strongly abhorred by everyone that truly loves Darth Vader & Co. At least the title-track, Silence in the Snow, has its good moments, and albeit not brilliant it has an epic vibe mainly due to Matt’s potent clean vocals. In addition, as I mentioned on the review to their concert here in Toronto last week, it gains a lot of vitality when played live. The same can be said about Blind Leading the Blind, which is Trivium without harsh growls (maybe some screams would have turned it into a classic), providing the listener their catchy and metallic riffs thanks to a great performance by all members, especially Matt and Corey. From this point on it’s just downhill, starting with Dead and Gone, which is almost enjoyable if it wasn’t for one minor detail: this totally feels like a SCREAMING tune, something we should be busting our throats off together with the band, where instead of a clean “Dead and goooooone!” it should have been “DEAAAAD ANNHH GAAAAAAHHHNNN!”, you know what I’m saying? There’s no punch!

The first few seconds of The Ghost That’s Haunting You are promising, before it becomes a feast of generic noises including boring drums, even more boring riffs and a huge amount of “nothing” in its lyrics. This song desperately needed some screams to become decent, with its guitar solos saving it from a total disaster. Pull Me from the Void is yet another song with a favorable start, as fast as it should be, with its instrumental parts living up to Trivium’s legacy. However, I can’t explain why but it never really takes off, maybe it’s because of its horrible chorus, but the overall result is no better than just average. Then we have the ballad Until the World Goes Cold, which I learned to enjoy, but the problem in this case is that if it was something like “Of All These Yesterdays” from In Waves it would have been a lot more efficient.  I mean, if it was a COMPLEMENT to a powerful Trivium album I’m sure even the most diehard fan of the band wouldn’t complain about it, but when an average ballad is one of the highlights of the album you know there’s something wrong.

TriviumI don’t know where to start so bad Rise Above the Tides is. This mediocre tune sounds pretty much like the biggest hit from a generic band that plays at a pop/rock radio station for a few weeks or months and then disappears forever. I hope Matt & Co. never EVER play this garbage live, because that would mean they wouldn’t be playing something a billion times better instead, therefore wasting some precious time of the concert. And for a band that has crafted such bestial tunes like “Insurrection”, “Through Blood and Dirt and Bone” and “Becoming the Dragon”, the following track entitled The Thing That’s Killing Me is 100% unacceptable. It’s one more tricky song that begins in an exciting way but quickly turns into nothing remarkable again. Well, they can have this song played on any pop/rock radio station in the world, but is that what they really want for their career?

Anyway, Beneath the Sun feels like a double-edged sword: add screams and we would have a more than awesome tune; keep it the way it is and you might listen to it once or twice, but will surely never want to make that same mistake again. Not even the instrumental pieces remind me of the real Trivium, it’s just a lazy version of some generic Alternative Metal band added to the album for a reason beyond my comprehension. Fortunately, in the excellent Breathe in the Flames it seems the “generic” virus hasn’t killed all their essence yet, sounding (almost) like pure Trivium, just with the screams (unfortunately) missing, of course, and together with “Blind Leading the Blind” it’s the only song worth listening in the future when the album is no longer a new release and the initial excitement of it is gone. In fact, it’s the only one that sounds truly metal and that I want to see them playing live in their future concerts.

And that’s the end of Silence In The Snow. Well, the special edition contains two other non-exciting tunes that don’t add anything worth mentioning to the album (albeit Cease All Your Fire has its decent moments), so let’s not worry about those. When the album is over, there’s a strong feeling of void, you don’t feel energized or anything positive, and all you want to do is any other activity, no matter what, as long as that doesn’t include listening to it again. This is definitely NOT a good Trivium album, far from that, which makes me wonder if it wasn’t a better idea for Matt to have released it as a solo project instead. Leastwise, if Matt had let Corey scream in most of the songs, we might not have been complaining so much about it, but that’s just a distant dream now that the album is already released. I understand Matt’s goal to evolve as a singer, not screaming anymore, and I respect that, but that doesn’t mean we are forced to enjoy this below-average pop/rock album just because it is Trivium. In the end, I will always love their music, their previous albums and their ass-kicking live performances. But Silence In The Snow? Thanks, but no thanks.

Best moments of the album: Blind Leading the Blind and Breathe in the Flames.

Worst moments of the album: The Ghost That’s Haunting You, Rise Above the Tides, The Thing That’s Killing Me and Beneath the Sun.

Released in 2015 Roadrunner Records

Track listing
1. Snøfall 1:28
2. Silence in the Snow 3:40
3. Blind Leading the Blind 4:25
4. Dead and Gone 3:41
5. The Ghost That’s Haunting You 4:03
6. Pull Me from the Void 3:50
7. Until the World Goes Cold 5:21
8. Rise Above the Tides 3:50
9. The Thing That’s Killing Me 3:25
10. Beneath the Sun 3:52
11. Breathe in the Flames 4:59

Special edition bonus tracks
12. Cease All Your Fire 5:00
13. The Darkness of My Mind 4:44

Band members
Matt Heafy – guitar, lead vocals
Corey Beaulieu – guitar, vocals
Paolo Gregoletto – bass, vocals
Mat Madiro – drums

Album Review – Cherry White / Staring at the Sun EP (2015)

Sit down, relax and enjoy this beautiful display of Blues Rock by an emerging British band destined to conquer the world with their elegant music.

Rating5

cherry white_staring at the sunSometimes we all must slow down a bit in our hectic lives, relaxing our minds before we go nuts with all the wildness surrounding us. In order to achieve that desired level of peacefulness, there’s nothing better than enjoying some soft and passionate Rock N’ Roll, and the music crafted by British Contemporary Rock band Cherry White has exactly what it takes to help soothe our weary spirits. However, do not think the music you’ll find in their brand new EP entitled Staring at the Sun lacks excitement. Quite the contrary, the EP emanates electricity, gripping your attention even during its smoothest passages.

Insired by life in London during its austerity era, encompassed by the greed of the wealthy, the six tracks in Staring at the Sun circle around an aspiration for this London-based four-piece band to reach higher and achieve their goals in the music industry and beyond. Blending the Soft Rock by Fleetwood Mac with the Blues Rock from bands like The Raconteurs, Cherry White seem to be in the right path to accomplish their mission, offering their fans high-quality rock music that sounds incredibly authentic and original, making you feel good while listening to it.

Despite never getting truly heavy, the opening tack Drifter can still be considered badass Southern Rock, starting in a groovy and catchy way with frontwoman Donata Sounds needing only a few seconds to show her exceptional skills as a singer. In addition, it’s when the rest of the instruments hit the music (especially the power of the harmonica) that things get really exciting without exaggerating on the dosage, making it the perfect example for the famous expression “less is more”. The next tune, Do It Better, sounds a lot more commercial, a mix of Alternative Rock and Pop Rock that could be played on any radio station in the world, with highlights to guitarist Russell Jones and drummer Felipe Drago for their superb job building the atmosphere for Donata to deliver her gorgeous vocal lines.

cherry whiteAngel is a smooth Rock N’ Roll ballad that will unquestionably become a fan favorite, and although the main focus is on Donata’s voice there’s room for all band members to shine. Pay good attention to the strong bass lines by Ralph Beeby in the background and you’ll see what I’m talking about, and also don’t forget to enjoy the melancholy in the last part of the song as it will touch your heart in a lovely way. Following that gentle music exhibit, we have the modern but at the same time very old school rock song 7 Days, where the dirty and exciting riffs sound totally inspired by the music from the 70’s, and there’s no way you won’t get thrilled with the song’s amazing guitar solo and chorus.

Then it’s time for Cherry White to sing the Blues in Blue Eyes, an introspective tune where all instruments sound so clean and polished to the point that, by just closing you eyes, you can perfectly imagine a scene at a first-class pub with Donata’s sexy performance in the spotlight while the rest of the band is wearing black suits and playing in the shadows. Moreover, some passages remind me of the classic ballads by Faith No More, and if you know how much I like Mike Patton and his crew you can have an idea of my joy while listening to this song. And closing the EP we have another delicate and progressive rock tune brought forth by these talented musicians, the title-track Staring At The Sun, a song full of passion and sorrow with a short but very enjoyable rockin’ ending that could work as a bridge or connection to their next release, if they haven’t thought about that already.

Cheery White can be found on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and SoundCloud, and if you’re a fan of softer and lively rock music and want to grab your copy of Staring at the Sun, simply go to their BandCamp page to do so. Now please excuse me because it’s time to relax and enjoy this beautiful display of Blues Rock by Cherry White, an emerging band from the UK that will soon conquer the entire world with their elegant music, no doubt about that.

Best moments of the album: Drifter and Blue Eyes.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2015 Independent

Track listing
1. Drifter 3:39
2. Do It Better 3:11
3. Angel 7:06
4. 7 Days 3:25
5. Blue Eyes 4:42
6. Staring At The Sun 6:16

Band members
Donata Sounds – lead vocals
Russell Jones – guitars, vocals
Ralph Beeby – bass guitars, piano, organ, harmonica, vocals
Felipe Drago – drums

Album Review – Ann My Guard / Innocence Descent (2014)

A very professional and vigorous album of alternative heavy music enhanced by an amazing feminine touch.

Rating4

AnnMyGuard_IDI’ll be honest with you and admit Alternative Metal has never been on my top picks whenever I want to listen to music. As I’ve said a couple of times here, I usually stick to the foundations of Heavy Metal. However, sometimes it’s interesting (and good for your brain) to listen to bands outside of this traditional world, especially when the band is as technical and pleasant as Hungarian “Doll Metal” band Ann My Guard, who have recently released their debut album, the energetic Innocence Descent.

This 4-piece band from the stunning city of Budapest, Hungary, took around six long years to thoroughly write the whole album, a process that might look too exhausting at first but that was definitely worth every second and penny spent in the end. Produced by the most renowned producer in their native Hungary, Gábor Vári, the album couldn’t sound more professional and ready for the absurdly competitive and demanding music market than that: Innocence Descent is a great mix of Alternative Metal and Rock with a huge focus on melody and harmony (something commonly done by most European bands), which will please fans of Evanescence, Hole, Kittie, H.I.M. and all other bands that are part of that more “delicate” side of heavy music.

As soon as the interesting intro Enchant begins, you can already notice all the band’s aforementioned influences, which becomes even clearer in Grey Witch, with its Alternative Metal riffs and the smooth vocals by Eszter. Moreover, its high-end production and the excellent chorus make it an excellent option for becoming a radio hit. Another important detail in Innocence Descent are the lyric themes, with pretty much every song talking about women, witches, sex and all other taboos present in the feminine world.

Getting back to the music, it seems the band loves deep key notes such as the ones found in Dark Sea Blue, a song that flirts with Pop Rock without losing that heavier approach from Alternative Metal, and the melancholic Ivory Ballad. Then we have the strong bass lines and nice drumming from Crush Honey, which sounds like some old songs from Hole, and the awesome rhythm from the powerful Morgana’s Song, another excellent example of how Ann My Guard took care of all details in their musicality to sound as professional as possible. Once again, I should say this song could easily be played in any Rock N’ Roll radio around the world.

AnnMyGuardThe next part of the album slows things down a little in a very introspective way, starting with the short acoustic ballad Hollow Red (which focus 100% on Eszter’s voice to enhance its atmosphere), followed by another ballad, My Lullaby, with beautiful lyrics and lots of harmony, and Easy, a melancholic tune with highlights to the good work done by guitarists István Tagcherer and Krisztián Varga both in the slow and the fast parts of the song. But it’s when the band accelerates their music that they hit the bull’s-eye in my opinion: H.K.A. Bitch has lots Punk Rock elements blended with Nu Metal, which together with its heavy riffs and acid lyrics turn it into a perfect choice for entertaining a more energetic audience during their live performances; while the vigorous Fallen follows a similar pattern as the previous track, boosted by some rhythmic variations and a delicate but strong chorus.

And lastly, Ann My Guard offer us the semi-acoustic ballad Gone, with highlights to the good guitar solo at the end of the song, and Circles, a unique Pop Rock track that gets heavier halfway through the song before fading into a melancholic rhythm to close the album.

You can take a good listen at the entire album HERE, and also support Ann My Guard by purchasing their official merchandise, or a digital copy of the album on iTunes or Amazon. As I said before, if you’re a fan of alternative heavy music with a feminine touch, Innocence Descent is indubitably one of the best new options in the market. I’m pretty sure all members of the band are proud of their “baby”, and you won’t be disappointed at all with the professionalism and vitality of their music.

Best moments of the album: Morgana’s Song, H.K.A. Bitch and Fallen.

Worst moments of the album: Dark Sea Blue and Gone.

Released in 2014 Smash Fabric Records

Track listing
1. Enchant 1:23
2. Grey Witch 3:11
3. Dark Sea Blue 3:48
4. Ivory Ballad 4:01
5. Crush Honey 4:15
6. Morgana’s Song 3:19
7. Hollow Red 1:19
8. My Lullaby 3:59
9. Easy 2:57
10. H.K.A. Bitch 1:55
11. Fallen 3:42
12. Gone 3:35
13. Circles 7:44

Band members
Eszter Anna Baumann – vocals, bass, flute, keys
István Tagcherer – guitars
Krisztián Varga – guitars
Joci Vadász – drums