As an effort to get everything rolling again, here’s something that should have been written up back in April but instead was thrown together yesterday. Woohoo!
All of these are albums that I’ve come across in the past few months or so, with one exception that I’ll actually explain. Enjoy!
Gavin Harrison – Cheating the Polygraph
Genre – Jazz fusion
While his playing can be heard on countless albums from various artists, Gavin Harrison is best known as the drummer of progressive rock band Porcupine Tree. The band’s music is often comparable to a more contemporary twist on Pink Floyd with a dash of metal, but Harrison’s drumming carries a strong jazz influence. For this solo album, he took that influence further – it is his reimagining of several Porcupine Tree songs for a jazz ensemble.
From the perspective of someone familiar with the original songs, this album is a very interesting adaptation. For many, the results of the new arrangements nearly sound like entirely new songs, but others are clearly recognizable.
Where guitar, bass, and keys filled in on the original songs, Harrison’s new versions feature woodwinds and brass, which by itself changes the entire tone. Even the drum and bass guitar parts have been adjusted, sometimes offering slight variations, and other times completely altering the feel of the songs. The final result is a very cool mix of tracks, enjoyable whether or not you’ve heard the originals. The arrangements are solid, and Harrison clearly has what it takes to lead a jazz group.
Recommendation – Cheating the Polygraph / Mother and Child Divided, The Pills I’m Taking (From Anesthetize), Futile
Times of Grace – The Hymn of a Broken Man
Genre – Metalcore, heavy metal, post-rock
I don’t remember how I found out about this album, but I’m glad I did. At some point, I know I’ve made a comment along the lines of “an album rarely clicks for me on the first listen.” That’s still true for the most part, and this album is one of the exceptions. As soon as I finished it, I knew it would be getting plenty of attention.
While the musicians behind this album are better known as members of metalcore band Killswitch Engage, this album has similarities to their other work, while also standing distinctly apart. This album neatly combines the energy and aggression of metalcore with more expressive post-rock elements. Well, I’ve seen it described as post-rock, but rather than that influence running the full length of any songs, it acts more as interludes for the most part. That probably doesn’t make sense.
Either way, it is a rock-solid album from beginning to end, with more metalcore-ish opener Strength By Numbers sharply contrasted by others such as the emotional The Forgotten One. The singer, Jesse Leach, is also pretty awesome, doing an excellent job with both clean and dirty vocals. Nifty stuff. I’m also not too familiar with Killswitch Engage, so I’ll be looking into plenty more of their stuff.
Recommendation – Hymn of a Broken Man, The End of Eternity, Worlds Apart
Sugarcult – Lights Out
Genre – Alternative rock, punk rock, pop punk
In 7th grade, I received a 2 gigabyte iPod Nano as a Christmas present, and soon began to expand my music library. It was also a time when I was forming my musical tastes, so many albums would come and go as their limited appeal wore thin or I just needed to make room on my iPod. One album I came across around this time was Sugarcult’s Lights Out, fueled mainly by a single song – Los Angeles. For some reason or another, it ended up deleted, and I only recently rediscovered it and gave it a proper listen.
Extremely simple relative to something such as a jazz fusion album, Lights Out is the type of alt-rock that proliferated in the dawn of the 21st century. Driven by a simple and steady rhythm section and powerful but straightforward guitars, it has plenty of energy before bringing the vocals into the picture. While nothing mindblowing or unique, it is very successful at what it sets out to be. For people that like to bob their heads and sing along, it will certainly do the job.
Recommendation – Dead Living, Los Angeles, Hiatus
Windmills – Broken Record
Genre – Hip-hop/rap
Hip hop is not normally my cup of tea. Rapping as a vocal style is often fine in moderation, but it tends to lack the variety I listen for – not surprising when I view vocals more like an instrument than a tool for delivering lyrics. In some way, Windmills manages to do something different than most other hip-hop groups I’ve heard before, and the result makes for a surprisingly enjoyable listen, even if the length of the album doesn’t quite work in its favor.
The backing music is pretty simple fare, most often focusing on the atmosphere rather than activity. This leaves plenty of room for the vocals to take center stage. The vocals themselves are clear and consistent, providing oomph, but not anger. Lyrically, I honestly don’t pay attention much, but a few of the songs include different types of social critique. Even without focusing on the actual words spoken, the flow of the rapping is excellent, particularly on the song Regular Handshake. Instead of a clear verse/chorus format, the song simply flows from beginning to end, almost in a stream of consciousness type delivery, carried by the vocals through every measure. The attack is sharp and to-the-point, but also pleasant to sit back and take in. It’s a good album.
Recommendation – Regular Handshake, Get Up, Moving On
BABYMETAL – METAL RESISTANCE
Genre – Heavy metal, J-pop
While plenty of people complained about it for being a gimmick or an “affront to metal,” I liked the first Babymetal album. I certainly didn’t like all of it (*cough* Ii ne! *cough*), but the full package left a good impression, and there were definitely some banging tunes. Metal Resistance is better, but still lacking a bit in consistency.
While main vocals are still covered by the same three young girls, Metal Resistance cuts out a lot of the more questionable elements such as bad rapping, a cruddy dubstep breakdown, and plenty of overly idol-esque moments. It’s heavy, catchy, and the songs are generally rewarding listens. Only two songs stick out as sore marks (Meta! Meta-Tarou and Sis. Anger), while nearly everything else is very enjoyable. One of the songs that stands out the most is Tales of the Destinies, which was completely unexpected. Clearly influenced by progressive metal bands such as Dream Theater, it’s a bit erratic, but also shows off what the backing musicians can pull off. It’s kind of disjointed, but still very interesting – as my friend put it, “It instrumentally sounds like Dream Theater on crack.” THE ONE is a more successful and far tamer approach at a relatively progressive song.
Altogether, this is a huge step forward from the debut album. Songs are more deliberately put-together instead of Frankensteined into existence, and although the metal subgenres covered on the album are wide, transitions from one song to the next are pretty smooth. I hope this group (and whoever’s actually writing everything behind the scenes) sticks around for a while, because now that they’ve gotten the juvenile nonsense out of the way with the self-titled, they’ve shown that they can truly put together a great record.
Recommendation – THE ONE, KARATE, Road of Resistance
If all goes according to plan, the next Taking Out The Trash post should be up on August 10th, and then I’ll keep releasing them monthly, as originally intended.