Reviews, interviews, articles, and other blather about music from the mind of Yugoboy

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Album Review - Divides' Brokentooth

Yeah... of COURSE Chicks can Rock.

Divides - Brokentooth

Female-fronted metal acts shouldn't be newsworthy anymore, but the publicist for Divides felt the need to alert me to the presence of singer CJ Marie when rolling out Divides' debut album Brokenttooth.  Of more interest to me is the band's origins in Alaska.  Currently based in Portland, Oregon, Divides migrated south from the 49th state for the greater range of opportunities and possible attention they could garner outside of their home state.  Good move, y'all, good move, indeed.

Brokentooth proves Divides capable of producing a tremendous range of styles, from the very radio-friendly softer drums and keyboards-led "Sails and Anchor" to the Heart-like crooning over harder guitars of "Echoes Fade" to the almost death metal-heavy "Siren" shouting, screaming, guitar-god riffage and attack-dog drums.  Joining CJ Marie on her southward journey from Alaska, guitarist Bryan Calhoun, bassist Joe Jackson and drummer Corey Rainey somehow found Paul Anderson who adds another guitar and some back-up vocals. an absolute necessity for the heavy metal tunes on this collection.  Just as Divides crosses genres at will, not all Brokentooth's tunes can be easily categorized either.  "Alpenglow" spends a significant portion of its 3:45 softer and slower than most of the songs before bursting forth with straight-up heavy metal, for example.

Since the days when Doro Pesch fronted Warlock and Joan Jett and Lita Ford cranked out Runaways tunes, female-fronted hard rock/heavy metal acts get attention for the fact of the women being there.  While the statistics continue to show women as minority participants, it should no longer surprise anyone that they can grind out moshable and melodic guitar-heavy music.  Divides proves no different.  CJ Marie only adds to the sound, bringing a fresh sound and really driving the sounds the others produce.  Each and every one of these tunes would be far different if the lead voice was Charles Marie.  That would be very unfortunate, as we are lucky to have Brokentooth and the terrific songs Divides will continue to bring us.  Let's all hope Divides remains a name and not an action.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

They Are Who We Thought They Were

They Are Who We Thought They Were

Bug Jar, March1

Between the second set and the headliner's, I posted the following to my Facebook page:

"Am shooting and reviewing a concert tonight. Headline act is 'Mutilation Rites.' They're next. One of middle act Ancalagon's guitarists' shirt featured a band called Goat Whore. Their closing song was 'Incestuous Incantation.'

Not sure why I forgot to invite my mom to be my +1."

Aside from the zinger line, the description pretty effectively sums up the evening's experience. I went in with low expectations, fully prepared to shoot and leave early. I enjoyed the show far more than I thought I would, and stayed to the end.

Opening act Enthauptung's half hour of grind and scream rhythm and drums featured local musicians Daniel Drexel (vocals/guitars), Joe Leising (guitars), Jason Roman (bass) and Dan Malanowicz (drums) who use maybe a bit more feedback distortion than makes for a good show - they spent a significant amount of time facing the amps behind them at the back of the stage giving the audience more of their back than could possibly entertain any but their girlfriends. The foursome's songs featured many tempo changes and some creative song-writing. Fortunately, the night's sound engineer kept the vocals under control and did not allow them to overwhelm the band. This stayed true for the duration of the show.

Of the three acts, Atlanta-based Ancagalon most closely fits the styles of metal I enjoy. Ajran's vocals could use some cleaning up, but it's not my band, and the screaming fit the night's theme. Ancagalon plays a brand of metal closer to thrash than death or black metal, sounding at times like early Annihilator, Slayer or Metallica, with plenty of other influences thrown in. Drummer Aladron, lead guitarist Kvasir and rhythm guitarist Gilmor craft a decidedly reminiscent style, while maintaining originality. Their songs, although screamed, did feature vocals closest to singing, with actually perceptable lyrics (at times.) The fact that when they announced the last song of their set was "Incestuous Incantation" nobody laughed conveys much about the band and the audience.

MutilationRites, the headliner whose album Harbinger I reviewed plays a black metal so fast that a lot of talent is lost when heard as an album. This music benefits from being experienced live. The skills of the George Paul on guitars and vocals, Justin Ennis on drums, guitarist Michael Dimmit and bassist Ryan Jones show through the frantic music much better than on the album. This may have been in part due to the engineer's mixing. On the album I reviewed the vocals were much more prominent. It was an experience hearing each band warm up. When the vocalists did their mike checks, the sounds they produced must be heard to be believed. If an asthmatic rhinoceros cleared his throat in a caverous tiled bathroom, he'd come close to approximating these sounds. I may have been the only person to find humor in this. Pretty much everyone else took it in stride.
Mutilation Rites' music features relentless speed, followed by more relentless speed at a different chord, backed by drums you'd swear could only come from a guy with three arms, followed by a new chord of more speed. Unlike their opening acts, they slowed rarely, if ever, for a skills break or to play with tempo. This style of music does encourage the development of a "pit" which featured the same 10 or so tall skinny dudes bouncing around and crashing into eachother with abandon at times. One of the prominent moshers was the lead singer/guitarist for opening act Enthauptung. Bearing a camera (insured) and lens (not insured) I couldn't participate; not that I could anymore. I'm old. At one point during the show I was fairly convinced the sound waves had shaken a couple kidney stones into places that caused pain. I'm just glad they didn't stay there.
All in all, the show was fun, if late (MR didn't go on until after midnight) and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. The skill and passion of these musicians cannot be denied, and, while it's not for everyone, a good time was had by all.

Concert Review - Mrs. Skannotto with Keaton and Sexy Teenagers

Concert Review 3/20/15

As the evening grew later, the music got more... what's the word I'm looking for? ...respectable? eh. ...organized? not exactly. ...accessible? hmm. Well, let me explain. In short, The Sexy Teenagers opened the show with an almost straight-up punk set. Keaton followed doing the power punk thing, while Mrs. Skannotto headlined with their awesome punk ska sound. Not sure what word describes that progression, but I'm certain it exists.

As is my habit, I arrived at the announced time, eight o'clock. It still hasn't kicked in that the shows don't start until nine-ish, but it does give me time to get my camera settings, find good angles and potentially meet band members and talk to them ahead of the show. I also usually get a couple/few shots of the band tuning up in better light than during the show. I did get to meet Mrs. Skannotto's trumpeter Justin Lloyd and enjoy a tasty beverage (Killian's Irish Red) before evening began. Flower City Station doesn’t have a lot of beers, but they do have Guinness and Killian’s on tap, which makes up for a multitude of brewed sins (anything by Coors or Anhueiser-Busch, for example.)
Mrs.Skannotto, despite being a national act, touring with acts like The Toasters and other ska or punk acts, is local to me, hailing from Rochester, NY. Rochester may not be Nashville or Austin, but we've got a thriving music scene and some excellent facilities. Metallica recorded Kill 'Em All here, Lou Gramm of Foreigner calls Rochester home, and our International Jazz Festival is a pretty big deal. Mrs. Skannotto is spending some time at home not only to rest, but also to record a new album, to hopefully be released in June-ish (look for an advanced review on this site.)
Anyway, once the show got started, it got going good. The Sexy Teenagers put on a fun show. They may not be teens, and I don’t know if they’re sexy (that’s for their girlfriends to figure out, I suppose), but they play some entertaining punk, I’ll tell you. Along with the music, they enjoy dishing out some truly crappy jokes – it’s part of their charm.
Keaton, another local act, cranked out the power punk and really got things hopping. These guys know their audience, and know their licks, and ratcheted up the fun factor, getting the crowd involved and moving, hopping, and yes, even a bit of moshing to the beats. As a guy toting a nice Nikon around, I had to be a bit careful, but I didn’t mind; the show was fun. It was nice being at a well-attended show for once.
Once Keaton finished, Mrs. Skannotto took the stage and cranked out about 45 minutes of pounding, bouncing, hopping entertainment-first ska. Between older songs and new, they churned out a ton of ska, but the highlight of the show had to be “Phantom Pain,” a tune that rocks and will get an entire room moving. I’m not entirely sure what all I expected, never having attended a ska show before, but I got the fun I expected, even if I was surprised at how few members of the band there were. (I guess I also expected zoot suits or matching skinny-tie suits or something that screamed “swing.” I didn’t get that, but that’s OK… it feels like only survivors of the 80s glam era give a crap about that sort of stage-show thing much anymore – at least outside the world of Top-40, that is.) That much sound, I expected more people on stage – more guitars, more horns. That six guys make that much musical noise is impressive. That the music is that good, even more so. Whether you know the tunes or not (and you should get to know the tunes – Mrs. Skannotto makes some awesome tunes) a Mrs. Skannotto show should not be missed, if you get the opportunity. Being among the few active, touring ska bands left, missing out would be a wasted skapportunity.

Classic Rock for People Bored with Classic Rock

HotLunch - Slappy Sunday EP

Conceived in a haze of cannabis, bell-bottoms, long hair and pork chop side-burns Hot Lunch produces hard rock that bleeds tie-dye and acid-fueled psychedelic light shows. Hot Lunch's Slappy Sunday EP is the ultimate party album for a room full of people who think they know their rock history. The five tracks on Slappy Sunday EP contain enough traces of different acid/psychedelic rock, early heavy metal and post-Beatles British rock a classic rock fan will lose themselves for hours digging out the different hints and influences included.

The second time I started this review, my initial assessment described this collection as "what The Doobie Brothers would sound like if they wanted to share the stage with Black Sabbath and steal Steppenwolf fans." A few more listens and that assessment lacks depth and nuance by significant orders of magnitude. In four listens I found traces of The Who, The Doobie Brothers, Alice Cooper, Kiss, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and a ton more. A guitar riff here, a vocal there, this bass line and that drum solo, each second recalls a different artist from the days and years after Woodstock, when music turned darker and the term "heavy metal" became a thing.

Starting with the title track, "Sunday Slappy" is a stupid name for a song that really rocks. Vocals come out somewhat Gene Simmons-ish, while the guitars and bass recall a more Steppenwolf vibe. Loud and fast, the only reason this would get picked up as a classic rock poseur is the length; at 2:37, it's about 4 minutes too short for a true classic rock song. The same can be said of the next two tracks - not enough of a good thing, and really lacking in the rambling jams that made the rock of yesteryear so mesmerizingly awesome. Also, DJs love tunes like "Free Bird" or "Stairway to Heaven" because they can go out for a cigarette during the incredibly long tunes. "Expectations" has some identifiable sounds, but I'm blanking on exactly who I'm hearing. There's definitely some Who in there, but there's so much more, maybe some Bachman Turner Overdrive. It's an engaging tune that, like the preceding song, really needs more space to stretch out and let the guitarist and bassist go nuts jamming and riffing. "China Banks" totally sounds like The Doobie Brothers' "China Grove" played a bit faster. About 2/3 of the way into the song, the sound gets more "acid-y" and again limits itself to under three minutes.

"Pot of Gold" finds band members Eric Shea, Aaron Nudelman, Rob Alper, and Charlie Karr giving themselves more room to stretch out and get all psychedelic. Clocking in at nearly five minutes, there's enough room to develop the guitar riffs and cut loose with the most Who sound yet, while "Living the Nightmare" pays undeniable homage to early Alice Cooper, among others. These San Francisco-based musicians do nothing to hide their roots, and thank God for that. This album is a breath of fresh air, even if that air is hazy with burned pot and patchouli, and a true treat for anyone who has spent at least 10 minutes listening to a Classic Rock station in the past year. Now, if they can resurrect the Fu Manchu they'd be heroes to many.

THIS is How Growler-voiced Metal Should Sound

DeadstarAssembly - Blame It On The Devil

I have spent more than a little time bemoaning the state of metal vocals these days, being that it seems the majority of bands look for vocalists who sound more like somebody moving a desk in the room above you than an actual singer. I call it "growler metal" because that's the major characteristic I can hear. Deadstar Assembly, has a growler vocalist, but instead of being an incoherent mess, Dearborn is way closer to Dickie Barrett of Mighty Mighty Bosstones than Lamb of God or Lacuna Coil. Best "growler metal" I've heard in a bloody long time.

Hailing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Deadstar Assembly's Blame it on the Devil brings everything that's great about heavy metal to the party - killer guitars, a drummer with about thirty-eleven different speeds, a bassist with the chops to keep up with everyone else, and a vocalist who is definitely metal, but also communicates the lyrics as passionately as anyone, without resorting to the soaring falsetto of hair metal or the classical notes of Bruce Dickinson. There's also the electro-digital hints that keep the sound as fresh as the smell of burnt rubber on pavement. It's not exactly unique, but it's close and it's the next best thing: high quality and listenable repeatedly. This is a fun album if you're a metal fan.

"Blame it on the Devil," the title track brings the heavy early and often, while "Overdose" begins with definite flavors of AC/DC'c "Thunderstruck" before settling into the signature melodic crunching and growling that saturates this record.

Mystical/horror imagery permeates this record, reflecting not only the usual tropes of metal since Black Sabbath chose the name Black Sabbath, Vincent Furnier decided to name himself after the witch Alice Cooper, and the PMRC decided to do its best to freak out over "dangerous" lyrics. From the album/opening track name, through "into the Light," "Will Not Die," "Dirtier Than Sin" to the final track, "Devil's Reprise" this album is a veritable playlist of everything Bible Belt-types hate.

Deadstar Assembly displays serious musical chops, from DreGGs's guitar licks, to drummer Kriz D.K.'s percussive mastery, and the rhythms provided by The Dro and Mubo on bass and keyboards respectively. DSA fails to help reverse the sad decline of the guitar solo, keeping their style closer to Godsmack and Papa Roach at their heavy best than Skid Row and Iron Maiden. This shouldn't detract from the enjoyment of the record, but I'd sure love to see more bands let their players soar some during the tunes.
Deadstar Assembly's Blame it On The Devil cranks and could easily find space in literally any metal fan's collection.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Album Review - Sumo Cyco, Lost in Cyco City

In response to the question no one anywhere ever asked, "What would it sound like if Avril Lavigne joined hed(pe)?" comes Sumo Cyco and their debut album Lost in Cyco City, a blistering and vicious assault as awesome as anything released by Powerman 5000, hed(pe), or Limp Bizkit at their fiercest and most productive. Sever's vocals make music already mind-numbingly awesome sublimely awesomer.
The Avril Lavigne comparison comes easy and early. Sever's vocals sound remarkably similar, but Sumo Cyco crunches harder and longer than anything Lavigne has produced in ages. Some of the Lavigne attitude shows up, but very little of Lavigne's relationship tropes appear. A significant amount of boasting and aggression do show up in tunes like "Fighter" and "Like a Killer," but the level of violence in Sumo Cyco's lyrical content puts anything in Lavigne's library to shame. Despite the inherent threats in "You won't survive it/Let's start a riot!/Cry cry cry cry Murder/Cry cry cry cry Murder" the tunes come across as ridiculously anthemic with catchy hooks and lyrics that stick in your skull long after the album's ended.
Leaving the comparison behind, a look at Sumo Cyco's Lost in Cyco City on its own merits still leaves me in awe. I am in love with this album, from the vocals of former pop star Skye Sweetnam (now Sever) to the power drumming of Andy Joseph (aka The Wolf), the driving bass of Ken Corke (Thor) and the melodic supporting rhythm guitar work by Matt Drake (MD). Not one song in this album lets up, and the only time to catch a breath is between tracks.
Lyrics like "Condition is dire/like a guillotine wire./All my desire/Come on fuel my fire" don't always make a ton of sense beyond their poetic sound (guillotines have ropes, whereas garrotes depend on wire for their impact, and "garroting wire" fits the space, but I guess more people know guillotine than know garrote.) It must be remembered, however, that the line "I pack a chainsaw/and skin your ass raw" from "Break Stuff" by Limp Bizkit makes about as little sense and that tune was one of their biggest hits.
Before founding Sumo Cyco as an effort to gain more control of her career and move to a more rock/punk/metal sound Sever recorded two pop albums of a style and quality to earn her a spot as opening act for a Britney Spears tour. Personally, I'm a much bigger fan of her current sound with its reliance on strings and drums, high-quality production values and very little reliance on digital wizardry and synthesizer. Given the probable trajectory of a pop career, the move to punk and metal assures Sever/Sweetnam a longer career, more independence and more artistic integrity.
Given the quality of Lost in Cyco City, I can only hope that career, independence and integrity continues, pushing Sever to keep punching out singles and albums. We'll all benefit, and maybe Britney Spears will take some advice and do the same - it would certainly be better entertainment than watching her shave her head.

Album(s) Review - Two Albums, One Concept, All Metal

Two Albums, One Concept, All Metal

Conceived of as a two-disc concept album, Periphery's Juggernaut Alpha and Juggernaut Omega cover a tremendous amount of ground musically and lyrically. Tine-wise, the seventeen songs of these two albums clock in at nearly and hour and a half. Musically, Periphery demonstrates tremendous range musically, ranging from quiet electronic passages to the heaviest of hardcore thrash. My only quibble with the albums (besides the decision to sell them as two separate albums instead of one pricey double-album) is the lack of "connective tissue" sounds or dialogue that would make the story more clear. It worked spectacularly well for Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime, and Alice Cooper's recent Along Came a Spider incorporated several, making an album that could have simply been another batch of Alice Cooper shock-rock tunes became a story of murder and redemption. Juggernauts Alpha and Omega, like One-Eyed Doll's Witches really could have used a bit of this.
Enough criticism. Periphery's spectacular range emerges within the first two tracks; from the quiet opening of "A Black Minute" (a feature of recent concept albums, it seems) and strong melodic metal to the screaming thrash of "MK Ultra" (a reference to the hopefully defunct CIA program aimed at developing and perfecting mind-control through drugs and other means.) Deeper tracks reveal influences such as Linkin Park and their contemporaries, as the sound veers between melody and thrash with such force as to demand the strictest attention if the story is to be sussed out; bring your ritalin, as much as I enjoyed the experience, I could not really drag much of a story out of the songs. Between the album art and some of the snatches of lyrics I could latch onto, it seems to be a sci-fi tale incorporating some psychological exploration of the self. The press release announcing the albums says that Alpha focuses on backstory and character development, while Omega "focuses on some pretty serious and gut-wrenching events[.]"
Despite my difficulty in grasping the concept part of this, I found much to appeciate and enjoy in these two albums. Where "Alpha" and "22 Faces" display the band's debt to Linkin Park and Papa Roach, the instrumental "Four Lights" demonstrates that Slayer is also among Periphery's muses. The set's least thrashing song -"Priestess"- includes classical/Santana-inspired guitar and earnest singing; easily the most radio-friendly tune of the seventeen. Almost every guitar solo on the records is more classical than classic. Obviously a result of the guitarist's training, and it gifts the tunes a rather unique sound. I'm much more used to the Yngwie Malmstein/Randy Rhodes/George Lynch school of guitar solos, and I generally find classical guitar to be very somnolescent, but in this environment the sound fits the mood quite well (not to mention the excessive rhythm guitar and bass pretty much preclude most notions of sleep.)
Periphery's full spectrum of sound comes from a full six full-time members, including three (3!) guitarists, the requisite bass and drums, and a vocalist who apparently does both the crooning and the screaming. Guitarists Misha Mansoor, Jake Bowen and Mark Holcomb deliver the sonic punch, however Mansoor seems to be the lead, having been a Guitar World cover boy. Bassist Adam Getgood and drummer Matt Halpern have also appeared on the covers of Bass Player and Modern Drummer respectively. Vocalist Spencer Sotelo rounds out the group with his incredible range. Obviously, the members bring exceptional skills to the enterprise, showing that more than garage band enthusiasm helped to shape Juggernaut's two discs of metal. Juggernaut Alpha and Omega may be this year's ultimate metal album, bringing together so many influences, sounds, and moods in such a dense collection that no one who loves metal can afford to ignore these albums.

The Heavy Metal Historian

Heavy Metal Historian Podcast

Opening each episode with major riffage, and closing each with a song Australia-born Greg Davies feels solidly encapsulates the point of that week's episode, the Heavy Metal Historian podcast fills the 45-60 minutes in between with an encyclopedic knowledge and densely filled narrative of that week's metal history lesson. No matter how thorough you consider your knowledge of metal to be, there will be bands, acts, and songs you never heard of used to illustrate the theme of the week.
Davies covers specific topics chronologically from their predecessor influences to the most recent examples each week in discrete chunks such that enjoyment of one episode generally isn't predicated on having listened to previous episodes. This is intentional - "Heavy Metal Historian was a concept I had bubbling in the back of my mind for several years: to explore the overall genre with a historical perspective. I heard several metal podcasts dealing with new music or news, but nobody was exploring the history. It ended up being a situation where I wanted to create the podcast I always wanted to hear." Occasionally, such as the Elizabeth Bathory episode, when the topic explores the origins of song content, elements of traditional documentary slide in. Probably the first 15 minutes of the Bathory episode retell the Countess' life and the subsequent transformation of her story after her death. Then the heavy metal part kicked in and the rest of the episode was all about the music.
The topics of four of the first five episodes are not indicative of this trend as the first two tell the story of the origins of heavy metal from the earliest days of Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Led Zeppelin and others all the way into the solidly early metal days of the late 1970s. Episodes three and four tell the history of "Shock Rock" as a subgenre of metal from the very pre-metal days of Screaming Jay Hawkins and even going as far back as France's Grand Guignol theater and its prudery-defying expositions of the goriest of stage shows and shocking sexuality. The "subgenre of metal that pre-dates metal" gets a full treatment climaxing (as it were) with modern acts from Gwar and Slipknot and death/black metal acts that seemingly exist solely to poke a finger in the eyes of convention and common decency. When asked about dealing with ridiculous song titles as he had to deal with in that episode, he says "After writing the script, I do the entire read in one take with mistakes and all, and edit them out in post. So, in truth, I don’t avoid losing my calm when recording – it just gets cut out afterwards!"
Other, episodes cover such topics as the Origins of Thrash Metal, Jack the Ripper and the aforementioned Elizabeth Bathory, Vampires and Metal Tape Trading of the Metal Underground. At the time of this writing, 34 episodes exist and "there’s no end in sight. There’s so much more to come for Heavy Metal Historian." Each episode features more than a slice of metal history. Davies "envisioned the podcast [before starting which] allowed it to come out kicking and screaming from Episode One. I always anticipated the inclusion of regular segments like 'Prehistoric Mosh' and 'Metal News', so those features came naturally as I went."
This "labor of love" takes Davies about a week to research, write, and produce. "I usually start with a skeletal outline based on my own knowledge and flesh it out from there. As I progress, I use a variety of sources on the web for additional information and research – so the end result is a combination of both my own knowledge and research." When queried about his source material, he says Encyclopaedia Metallum ( is "an incredible resource that all metalheads should check out;" also various bands' Wikipedia entries help.
Exploring the wide spectrum of metal, Davies is open to an incredibly inclusive definition. So far only one episode covers Punk, "Punk is most certainly a genre that stands on its own, but sonically, it’s close relationship with Metal should not be ignored. Both styles influence each other, and they continue to do so." And, although no episode covers the glam/hair scene yet "for the purposes of the podcast, I try to be as 'all-encompassing' as possible – because every person has a different perspective."
Unlike some podcasts, Davies pursues his for the love, not the money, which allows him to utilize pretty much any clip or whole song under fair use, which exposes listeners to more variety than they otherwise would get were he forced to pay ASCAP or BMI for permission. Other podcasts produces include Blendover and TARDISblend, the second being a Doctor Who show cogitating on various episodes when the show is in season.
Download episodes of Heavy Metal Historian from iTunes: or Stitcher: or do like I do and simply use the browser of your favorite Podcast App (I use Rat Poison: or .)

Since I wrote this article, I have enjoyed significantly more episodes of the podcast.  I will at some point write part 2 of this in response to those.  Keep your eyes open.

EP Review - The Grape and the Grain - At Home EP

For those who didn't read my previous review on The Grape and the Grain's self-titled full length debut album, it's probably time you did so, then come back for this. All four songs on this EP are acoustic versions of "The Hudson," "BurntBy The Sun," "The Devil and the DEA," and "If Godis Love" from that disc.
While the tunes are definitely recognizable as acoustic versions of their electrified doppelgangers, the different pace and mellower vibe give these tunes an entirely different feel. "The Devil and the DEA," an story-song about a DEA raid changes tone remarkably. The original version's urgency felt frenetic, like a video soundtrack for an episode of COPS, plays in real time; whereas the acoustic version's speed flows like a pot-hazy memory. More than unplugged versions of the tunes, these re-tooled tracks achieve a radically different feel.
The original disc rocked loud, hard and in your face. Compared to the rush-hour grip of the original "Burnt By The Sun" and "If God Is Love" their At Home counterparts enjoy a Sunday drive through wine country. This comparison pre-supposes a lack of hatred for your commute, of course. As an electrified track, "The Hudson" doesn't quite have the same in-your-face pace of the other tracks covered here, thus its acoustic twin becomes really mellow and bluesy.
These four unexpected sonic gems add a new flavor to the band as well as their original tunes. The At Home EP should win some more fans for a band that needs to break big. This acoustic rendering of tunes sheds light on why acoustic versions exist in a way other "unplugged" collections fail.

Concert Review - The Devil Wears Prada - Zombie V Tour

The Devil Wears Prada - Zombie V Tour with Secrets, Born of Osiris, The Word Alive
Rochester Armory Basement, Rochestern NY

Waiting in line for this show I realize how much and how little metal has changed over the years. The last major metal act I saw live was Megadeth over 15 years ago. Fans at that point still tended to long hair, denim and leather. Tonight's crowd features far more colorful hair and parent-preferred lengths that I associate more with Rob Halford than I do with the metalheads I grew up with. Once the concert started this energetic crowd, mostly young certainly moshed, thrashed and banged their heads like proper metal fans should, short blue and pink hair or not.
Opening act Secrets got the crowd going with some fun tunes and dual vocalist delivery. As opening acts tend to do, the mosh pit stayed small and needed encouragement. The music cranked out by the band certainly kept the crowd entertained, and despite being new, they received very favorable reactions from those who arrived on time. Given that my experience with them comes from their recent acoustical release, I was not exactly prepared for the tunes, but they did well, and certainly deserve this spot on a national tour. Hopefully someday they’ll move up the billing so as to not be the filler for the ticket-taking time. The lighting in the Armory Basement sucks bad, but the sound is crazy good. The stage is barely elevated and the flat floor limits visibility to snatches between arms. This problem would not get better throughout the night. I eventually managed to get a security guy to let me to the side stage area for a few minutes for the last two acts, a privilege I opted not to abuse. I still can't get over the sound, it was pretty darn good for a room that used to hold munitions and arms for the local arm of the National Guard.

The Word Alive got the concert proper off to a good start, bringing an enthusiasm and attitude to the show that overcame the venue's deficiencies. At one point they encouraged the pit to mosh around one of the room's many support poles. I guess I'm old, but the first thing I thought of was the potential for grievous injury. The music managed to continue to be entertaining, and the enthusiasm of the crowd grew as the band chugged out over half an hour of loud obnoxious death metal.

As a major label act, Born of Osiris knows how to get a crowd going, playing a variety of their fans' favorites from most of their albums. The crowd responded energetically, moshing with an enthusiasm they had not displayed previously. Two guitarists and two vocalists means a lot of noise, screaming and death metal incoherent singing. The venue surprised all night with an audio quality that compensated somewhat for the extraordinarily lousy lighting. The skill set displayed by BoO's musicians impressed me greatly, relying less on pure grind and crunch, and mixing that sternum-crushing element with solos and more "musical" elements. The rare appearance of the synthesizer served mainly as a respite and bridge between heavy-duty eardrum ruination.

Headliners The Devil Wears Prada demonstrated their live performance experience with a lingering, anticipation-heightening long intro before launching into a clinic on death metal and how it can bring several hundred people together into a seething mass of arms, fists and cellphones. The pit positively exploded as the band churned out a bunch of their fans' favorites as well as a few new tunes. One of the elements promoted by the band for the show and tour features the fact that TDWP play the entire Zombie EP during the course of the concert. The lights for these guys were somewhat better, but the venue design meant that they were back-lit more than anything. As a photographer this presented nearly as many issues as the underlit opening acts did. Stage-diving continued nearly unabated during the show, although the crowd-surfers tended to be the same few brave souls over and over again. TDWP, by virtue of cranking up the volume to 12 (it was already at 11 for the openers) managed to produce a worse sound quality than their openers. The music and vocals were muddier and less distinct than those of The Word Alive, Secrets and Born of Osiris. After the cleanliness and quality of those bands, to have the headliner sacrifice that quality for volume was a bit disappointing.
The Zombie V Tour continues for these guys and hopefully the venues will improve. The entertainment value for the average death metal fan stayed quite high, and those prone to moshing and crowd-surfing and stage diving (as I was once, when I was young) should find themselves thoroughly satisfied with the show each band puts on. And hopefully the sound guys resist the temptation to push the sound past the quality mark for the sake of volume.