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–KING’S X: Live At The Music Factory, Battle Creek, Mich. 09-09-17

•September 14, 2017 • Leave a Comment

–wsg: Kings of Spade/local openers

Some special events in one’s life invoke extraordinary expectations. Whether it be a first date with that one perfect sweetheart, or the anticipation of a very first metal concert (Savatage, BTW), the sheer excitement level can be overwhelming. But what about when that date stands you up, or your favorite band storms offstage after three songs — or worse yet, cancels entirely? Is a precipitous fall of disappointment inevitable? Not in the case of King’s X, it isn’t. 

The Houston-based progressive hard rock trio has been one of my favorite bands for over 20 years. But for whatever reason –work conflicts, infrequent tour dates in the area, poor promotion, etc. — I had never had a chance to catch King’s X live before Saturday. That long spand of withdrawal time, coupled with the unique mystique of their music, cast an unyielding spell on me. Their music offers a rare combination of the best elements of progressive rock and metal — heavy, complex riffs; superb musicianship; high energy — with the beautiful vocal harmonies, folky arrangements, and uplifting lyrical vibes of the psychelic and hippie movements. Needless to say, that first King’s X concert is an experience I was unwilling to miss again. 

After soundcheck went a bit late, the show kicked off at about 7:30 with the first of two local acts. Without knowing who the bands were, it’s hard to offer much in the way of commentary. Both bands featured great musicianship and played some intriguing cover tunes from the likes of Simple MindsHendrix, and Zeppelin. I will offer this one piece of unsolicited advice: all bands, local or otherwise, should try to identify themselves visually while onstage. Whether it be investing in a small scrub backdrop, or even putting the band logo on the bass-drum head, it’s crucial to show potential new fans who you are. Trying to rely on people being able to hear you announce your band name over the din of crowd chatter is just not going to cut it. Why bother opening for larger bands if people won’t know who you are? Okay, soapbox dismounted. 

Kings of Spade, the national touring opener, undoubtedly surprised a lot of people this night. This intriguing quartet from Honolulu, Hawaii looks like a punk rock band; the visual centerpiece being the pink mohawk-sporting lead vocalist Kasi Nunes. But when Nunes sang her first line, she belted out a soulful melody that was not unlike a marriage of Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin. Throughout the Kings’ set, Nunes’ voice soared and sailed with power,  range, and emotion. Yes, Nunes is good, exceptionally good. Her bandmates are not too shabby either, and the Kings of Spade’s balanced mix of alternative rock, soul, and funk was highly entertaining, if also strikingly different than the headliner. Their stirring cover of Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” converted many a fan, myself included. Kings of Spade are well worth a second look. 

Then came the part of the show where one desperately works their way up to as close to the front of the stage as possible. I managed to worm myself over to about the third row, stage right. Finally, after a seemingly interminable wait, we heard Dug Pinnick’s unmistakable voice murmur quietly into the mic as the black curtain lifted. Pinnick, sporting all black and donning his trademark left-handed bass, rolled right into the monolithic riff of “Groove Machine.” Ty Labor’s uber-crunchy guitar promptly joined in, alongside the Bonham-esque deep pocket  of Jerry Gaskill. The harmonious King’s X groove party was on. 

Our heads bopped and feet moved almost in time to the heavy opener, as Pinnick directed the audience to sing nearly all the song’s lyrics. While I generally don’t approve of a singer passing off his vocal duties on the crowd, in this case it contributed to the inclusive and peaceful atmosphere. The band picked up the pace with the more metallic “The World Around Me,” off their 1992 self-titled album; they then deftly shifted back to the heavy grooves of the crushing “Pillow,” with us in the audience again singing the nearly  hymnlike chorus: “Tide underside my pillow/ willow thundering.” On “Flies and Blue Skies,” Tabor’s chiming arpeggios rang as clear and true as the haunting vocal harmonies. 

The hits and sublime moments just kept coming. At one point while Pinnick was tuning his bass, someone yelled out for “Cigarettes.” Pinnick calmly answered, “Yes, that’s what we’re playing next,” and King’s X indeed played the serenely melancholy ballad. Of course, veteran bands like King’s X have an extremely deep back catalog. But it just wouldn’t feel like a real show without them playing all the hits such as “Black Flag,” “Lost In Germany,” and “Summerland.” Thankfully, they played all these, as well as more obscure sing-a-long gems as “Pray” and the gorgeous “A Box.” 

All the while, Pinnick’s bass tone was downright filthy and his voice still soulful, though naturally lacking some of the range of his younger days. Tabor’s guitar solos were melodic and searing while never devolving into self-indulgent wankery. He’s also the happiest-looking musician one will ever see. As for Gaskill, he’s still an absolute monster behind the kit; it’s great to see him so healthy again these days too. 

During “Over My Head,” representing the joyous and loving soul of King’s X, Pinnick delivered his famous mid-song sermon. He decried the lack of empathy and division in modern society, imploring everyone to care for each other despite our differences. We all heard and sang the “music over our heads” with all the collective passion of a hard-rocking revival meeting. For the encore, the “Dogman” crushed our necks with abandon before the sublime, stripped-down rendition of “Goldilox” closed the show. We all sang every beautiful word, with Pinnick serving merely as conductor. I can think of no better way to conclude one of the greatest concerts I’ve ever seen. Faith. Hope. Love. 

“I stand behind you and I watch you from a mile away. / Wishing you could be the one but not here this way./ I got to know your name./ And I must know who you are, yeah. ”

–Approximate Setlist: 1.) Groove Machine 2.) The World Around Me 3.) Pillow 4.) Flies and Blue Skies 5.) Vegetable 6.) Cigarettes 7.) Pray 8.) Black Flag 9.) Lost In Germany 10.) A Box 11.) Looking for Love 12.) Summerland 13.) Over My Head 14.) Go Tell Somebody 15). We Were Born to Be Loved. Encore: 16.) Dogman 17.) Goldilox 

–Jonathan Kollnot 

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–Angra: Holy Land (Retro Review, 1996)

•September 11, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Angra: Holy Land  (Retro Review, 1996)

(Lucretia/LMP)

This review was originally published in Kollnot Music #3, Summer 1996. Occasionally I will be revisiting some of my old reviews that I recently found in storage. I figure it’ll be fun to see how opinions change over time and to take another look at some great 1990s releases. 

In KM #2 I declared Angra’s Angels Cry as one of the greatest albums ever made. I realize now I was slightly off the mark with that statement: it is THE best album ever made! Fans of that symphonic power metal triumph have been waiting seemingly forever for the release of Holy Land  (especially in America) with expectations of the second greatest album ever made. While I can’t go that far, I can say that this new Angra CD is a crowning achievement and shouldn’t disappoint fans of their debut masterpiece. 

 HL is not a carbon copy of their first; in fact, it moves further away from their pure power metal style vocalist/songwriter/keyboardist Andre Matos began when he was with Viper. While the classical orchestrations, speedy riffs, dazzling leads and beautiful vocals are still on fine display, HL introduces several new pieces to the Angra puzzle. Lyrically, this is a concept album, about the discovery of the South American continent, whereas was not. Native Brazilian wind and percussion instruments are utilized to bring the story to life on songs like “Carolina IV” and “The Shaman.” The different influences of the various members are being utilized now, as the jazz element can’t be ignored on the title track, with Andre Matos’ piano sculpting an unforgettable lick. They have slowed the tempos overall, and the abundance of mellow songs causes the album to lack the intensity of Angra’s previous effort. 

But the sheer beauty and grandeur of this album is undeniable. The CD begins with a mesmerizing chorale, “Crossing,” originally written in the 1500s, and then the vicious attack of “Nothing to Say” is unleashed. Andre’s voice is breathtaking and piercing here, and the band shifts between speed metal and classical music with finesse. “Carolina IV” is the album’s centerpiece, beginning with a tribal drum beat and proceeding into 10 minutes of power metal ecstasy. “Make Believe” is a beautiful ballad, while the somber “Deep Blue” is reminiscent of “Lasting Child” from AC. “Lullabye for Lucifer” is the peaceful conclusion, with an acoustic guitar and inspirational lyrics: “On the sand, by the sea/ I left my heart to shed my grief/ A vulture came begging me/ Feed me with this piece of meat/ I won’t give away/ something I need.” –4/5

–Jonathan Kollnot 

–Pantera: Reinventing the Steel  (2000, Retro Review)

•September 1, 2017 • Leave a Comment

–PANTERA: Reinventing the Steel (2000, Retro Review)

(This review was originally published in the Grand Rapids Press in June of 2000). 

The screaming chorus of opener “Hellbound” hits you with the subtlety of a diesel train careening into a big diesel truck. That’s the way Pantera likes it. 

Pantera’s fifth album is called “Reinventing the Steel,” and the title’s irony is obvious once its abrasive style of rock kicks into gear. Pantera is not reworking an old genre with this release. This is the same style of old-school heavy metal that bands like Metallica and Megadeth cultivated in the 1980s, only this is played even louder and with more aggression. 

The difference between Pantera and their contemporaries is that their music remains extremely heavy despite continued commercial success. 

Longtime Pantera fanatics will cherish the abrasive sound that dominates “Reinventing the Steel.” Guitarist Dimebag Darrell’s trademark brutal guitar riffs and singer Phil Anselmo’s guttural screams still paralyze, whiledrummer Vinnie Paul and bassist Rex’s intricate rhythms propel songs like the powerful first single “Revolution is My Name.” Pantera still knows how to shock, too, earning in spades its explicit lyrics sticker through an irreverent attitude and enough profanity to humble most new acts. 

This album will not likely convert new listeners to metal or Pantera, but die-hards will bang their heads with joy. ***–Jonathan Kollnot 

–Pantera Revisited/Mad With Power/Upcoming Reviews 

•September 1, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Hello, my fellow rockers and metalheads of all stripes and proclivities. I hope you all are enjoying a great week and start of a long, and (hopefully) musical, holiday weekend. I just wanted to drop a quick note to update everyone on what’s coming up soon on Kollnot Rock’n’Metal Reviews. 

Right now I’m checking in from my hotel in New Glarus, Wisconsin, where I’ve been hanging out with some old heavy metal buddies in the wake of a cool underground metal festival on Saturday. The Mad With Power Festival in Madison, hosted by Ty Christian and his amazing traditional/power metal band Lords of the Trident, will be off the hook. Tune in soon to Truemetallives.com for my full-length review of the fest, which also features Steel Iron, Inner Siege, Automaton, Conniption, and Droids Attack. 

Next up on this site: a Retro Review of Pantera’s Reinventing the Steel, which I originally had published in the Grand Rapids Press in Press back in 2000. Also, expect more full-length features on a diverse array of classic albums from the 1980s through the 2000s. For example, next week we’ll take a fresh look at R.E.M.’s darkest, and perhaps finest, hour from the 1980s. 

As always, cheers to you all, and rock on!–Jonathan Kollnot 

Westside Weekend Festival 2017: Grand Rapids, Mich.

•August 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Westside Weekend Poster

–Westside Weekend Festival: Aug. 11th-14th, 2017. Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill, Grand Rapids, Mich.  

There’s something innately special about local music. Whether it’s feeling the excitement of seeing your friends and neighbors performing live, or experiencing the adrenaline surge while playing onstage with your own band, local music enriches our lives tenfold. The musicians shed their blood, sweat, and (likely) many beers in the practice rooms, bars and clubs for little of the glory and a fraction of the pay of national acts. Yet, the musicians, promoters, club owners, and listeners do what they do because they enjoy it, and this pursuit is noble. Now, obviously every major city has its own unique music scene, and one scene is not inherently better or worse than another. But Grand Rapids is my hometown, and local West Michigan music is therefore what I’ll intermittently be choosing to focus on for Kollnot Rock’n’Metal Reviews.

Now that I’ve already overused the phrase “local music scene,” let’s dive right into the Westside Weekend 2017. This festival is the brainchild of Grand Rapids-based musician Joe Henry, vocalist/guitarist for several bands, including The Holy Warheads, The Westside Rebellion, and American Zombie Inquisition. Henry has teamed up with Ted Smith of the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill to create the inaugural four-day music festival. Westside Weekend showcases music from a diverse array of genres, but the overarching focus is on bands from West Michigan. That said, Henry also invited a few out-of-town bands to represent different regions, such as Red Stone Souls out of Detroit, Kalamazoo’s Drugs in the Carpet, and Tail Light Rebellion from Nashville, Tennesee. Westside Weekend also is geared especially towards blue-collar music fans, so cover charge was kept at a very reasonable $5-per-night, with the Monday Wrap-Up show being free.

Disclaimer: given that I couldn’t attend all four nights, and that my primary musical interest and focus is rock and metal music, unfortunately I’m unable to review every band that performed over the course of the weekend. I only will be reviewing Day 2: Saturday, August 12th, as well as the Monday finale show. However, I will be including Facebook/web links for all the bands I missed at the end of this review.

Westside Weekend Day 2

-Day 2: Saturday, August 12th, 2017: Vox Concussio/ The Alien Dogs/ Lucy Ernst of the Truffle Pigs/ The Holy Warheads/ Red Stone Souls/ Slumlord Radio.

It’s not exactly a secret that the heavy rock/metal scene here in Grand Rapids has been seriously hurting the last few years. With the demise of WGRD’s “Heavyweights,” competition, the relative dearth of rock-oriented venues, a reduction in the number and quality of national acts passing through, and top bands breaking up or relocating, finding good head-banging music in Beer City U.S.A. can be challenging. That’s not to imply that the scene is dead; in fact, many great bands are still jamming — and fighting valiantly for survival — beneath the surface. Westside Weekend gathered some of the area’s best punk and hard rock bands at the Tip Top for Day 2, and the billing proved to be an invigorating shot of sheer rock-and-roll power.

Kicking off the festivities at 8:35 p.m., local punk-rock quartet Vox Concussio played a short 20 minutes (tops) set. These guys (and gal singer) play a mostly mid-tempo brand of punk that is catchy enough, if a bit rough around the edges. But with more practice and live experience, Vox Concussio should make an impact with punk fans.

Up next was The Alien Dogs, a great band name if I’ve ever heard one. This trio of very young musicians warmed up the growing Tip Top crowd with an exuberant set of high-energy punk. Their sound was rugged and pristine, the tempos brisk but always controlled. As for well-known references in their music, I am no punk expert, but I hear a blend of Pennywise, early Offspring, Green Day, Sex Pistols, and yes, the almighty godfathers, the Ramones. The Alien Dogs are a fun time, as one might expect canines of the alien persuasion to be.

The music of Lucy Ernst is a bit enigmatic. Ernst, singer and guitarist of local rockers Truffle Pigs, teamed up with drummer Brent Riva of The Holy Warheads to form Truffle Sandwich for a special one-off appearance at Westside Weekend. Ernst’s music defies categorization: her guitar riffs are jagged and quirky, yet undeniably rocking; her voice blending the snarly grit of a Joan Jett with the introspective melody of a Chrissie Hynde. Song-wise, while the angst-fueled attitude of classic punk is certainly present, there’s also a nod to the hard-rocking grit of British Invasion bands, Motörhead, and perhaps even Crazy Horse-era Neil Young. Truffle Sandwich didn’t seem to lose any power due to the lack of a bass player, and Ernst’s smiling, gracious stage demeanor belied the irreverent rebelliousness of her music. She made an instant fan out of me and many others crowding the Tip Top stage this night.

One of the most anticipated acts of the weekend, fest organizer Joe Henry’s band The Holy Warheads always pack a nuclear-scale wallop. The band plays groove-based hard rock with a strong, gritty grunge influence. These guys sound like a blast from the early ‘90s Seattle scene, as if Soundgarden married Black Sabbath and then gave birth to some Dio-esque vocal melodies. Henry, with his long, blond deadlocks and serpent-like stage movements, is clearly the focal point of the Warheads’ shows. His unique voice captivates with his resonant, low-register tones and fantastic vibrato. Bassist Kevin Keefer, also of the outstanding instrumental trio Knives Are Quiet, lays down the straight-ahead grooves with confidence; he also possesses the most powerful and dirty bass tone in the area (see Dug Pinnick of King’s X for reference). Guitarist Ivan Hannah’s riffs sweeping riffs are a bit dissonant without sounding discordant; it all contributes to a mesmerizing atmosphere of equal parts aggression and melodic hypnosis on songs like “Telling Me Nothing” and “Slaves Unto the Master.” Judging by the energetic reaction of my fellow fans upfront, The Holy Warheads are gaining a holy following indeed.

Bands that plow the stoner rock/metal fields nationwide seem to be a dime a dozen. That is, discovering the best bands in that genre can be like finding the proverbial needle in that haystack (not to imply those bands are farmers, though there obviously would be nothing wrong with it if there were). Thankfully for Michiganders, we have one of the best stoner-metal bands around in Red Stone Souls. Months back I saw the Detroit quartet perform at Mulligan’s down the road in Eastown, and they blew me away. Saturday night’s show was no different; just after 11 p.m., we fans were greeted by a wall of sonic power and flying, head-banging hair. Red Stone Souls feature the weighty, blues-soaked, Sabbath-like guitar riffs and soulful vocals (of typical of the genre; what’s not so typical is the sheer quality and memorability of their songs. The harmonized guitar interplay and dynamic contrasts in the songs only contribute to the intensity of their performance. Their seamless, professional performance clearly earned them more fans this night, and deservedly so. Red Stone Souls are the real (full-meal) deal.

Finally, well after midnight and with endurance levels reaching their bending points, the mighty Slumlord Radio took the stage. This quirky and highly-entertaining heavy rock quartet always presents a fun show, with plenty of smiles and a few good laughs on hand. Introducing themselves, as usual, as “We’re Slumlord Radio from Stockholm Sweden,” by vocalist/guitarist Tommy “Capt. Hollywood” Erickson, this Grand Rapids-based band promptly launched into their inimitable brand of heavy punk/metal/power rock, er, whatever. If there is a band out there that sounds exactly like Slumlord Radio, then I promise to get my hearing aids switched out. These guys have the bludgeoning heaviness of Sabbath (another theme this weekend), the exuberant speed and catchiness of punk, and the tasty guitar wizardry of classic metal. They also know how to vary a setlist via an enjoyable mix of originals and covers. For example, when they brought a female fan onstage to sing Iggy Pop’s “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” the whole floor of the Tip Top was head-boppin’ and rolling. Likewise, when they played a rousing, audience-enhanced version of the Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right to Party,” for the penultimate song of the night, there was nary a non-singing pair of lungs in the place. Don’t miss seeing Slumlord Radio if you get the chance. They’re the best Swedish band not from Sweden you’ll ever get to hear.

Whew, what a night! When the ears are still ringing afterwards despite the earplugs, it’s a successful night of LOUD, heavy rock. But there would be more to come for Westside Weekend.

-Monday, August 14th, 2017. Westside Weekend Wrap-Up Show: Rust Bucket/Abram Gunther and The Bear-a-Tones/ Emma Loo/ JOE.

By the time Monday night rolled around, the Westside Weekend had already had nearly 15 bands hit the Tip Top’s stage. Those devoted faithful who stuck around for all of the first three days deserve some props and envy. Unfortunately, this fan needed some recovery time from Saturday night’s debauchery. So, trying to make Sunday’s matinee show featuring another of Henry’s bands, The Westside Rebellion, was not in the cards for me. Thankfully, we were given one more chance to celebrate with the Wrap-Up show on Monday evening. Many of us fellow musicians, fans, and open-mic family members were there to relax and see out what was a successful inaugural Westside Weekend.

Musical diversity was the unofficial theme for this show, beginning with the alternative-folk duo known as Rust Bucket. Rust Bucket is led by the singer/songwriter Acid Wizard on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, along with another young man accompanying him on banjo. Dubbing Acid Wizard’s music as “eccentric” would be the understatement of the year; he sings with an extremely nasally tone, his songs are simple to the extreme of including only one or two chords (I think I counted five chords as a maximum in one song), and his lyrics deal with zany reckneck sort of themes such as wrecking cars, as well as superheroes, riding bicycles, future societies, etc. Yes, Rust Bucket’s music may be unique, bizarre even. But it certainly is entertaining in the live context.

Abram Gunther has been steadily making an impact on the G.R. scene over the course of the last few years, including a recent stint as the Monday house band at the Tip Top. I had seen him and his band the Bear-a-Tones several times in recent months, and each time his music grows on me more and more. Generally speaking, Gunther’s mellow brand of bluesy, soulful rock (or rocking soul) is a bit too low-key for this angst-ridden, humming-bird heart-rated crusty rocker. But his beautiful songwriting and soul-fueled, Joe Cocker-like voice can melt the musical heart of any skeptics. Like always, the Bear-a-Tones — drummer Brad Golden, bassist Tyler Harry, and guitarist Eric Yoder — were joined by onstage by multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Sam Kenny on violin, trumpet, and backing vocals; their performances of the original material as well as their slow funk version of Supertramp’s “Breakfast In America” were rousing and locked-down tight.

Emma Loo Ancient

Those who have been paying attention to G.R. music in the slightest over the last few years should know about Emma Loo. Not only did she win two local Jammie awards this year, she and her boyfriend/musical partner-in-crime Sam Kenny perform frequently, not only in West Michigan, but on tour across the country. The lovely and talented keyboardist and singer/songwriter possesses an incredible voice with a powerful range, but that’s just the tip of her musical iceberg. Her style is unique, eccentric, and otherwise undefinable, though avante-garde rock/pop may best fit the bill; her lyrics and life philosophies and fashion are creative and mind-expanding. In short, Emma Loo is a one-of a-kind artist.

On this night Emma Loo was performing as her solo project, as opposed to her more folk/Americana-based project with Kenny, Emma Loo and Sam. Still, as always Kenny lent his sundry talents to many of the songs, alongside DJ and frequent Emma Loo contributor Dan Wall. Supporting Emma’s excellent 2016 debut album, Ancient, the trio provided an extra lushness and depth to such album standouts as “Cocaine in My Boots” “Poison,” and “Abduction.” Other tunes, such as the emotive new anthem “Westside Angels,” thrive alone on the strength of Emma’s plaintive synthesizer chords and gorgeous vocal melodies.

In a humorous moment later in the set, Kenny and Wall drew a curtain/blanket across the stage so Emma could make a costume change from her white dress. She emerged wearing a black one-piece outfit with a hood; more notably, she had fake blood dripping from her mouth and neck, Gene Simmons-style. She then launched solo into her 10-minute-plus, improvisational epic, “Bitch Ho,” which is always hilarious  and thought-provoking, in equal measures. The set concluded with Emma rapping over Kenny’s incredibly accurate beat boxing, all the while with Kenny, ever the proverbial Energizer Bunny, ducking back and forth behind Emma, then sidestepping rapidly across the back of the stage like a sixth grader who had consumed a few too many Pixie Stix. It was a phenomenal end to an absolute highlight set for the Westside Weekend.

JOE, the band formed by singer/songwriter Joe Rodriguez, appropriately wound down the fest with a literally winding down in a musical sense. A veteran of the open-mic scene, Rodriguez formed JOE back in 2014 as a full-band showcase for his plaintive and often somber songs. His voice is rich and full of vibrato, similar to a higher-ranging Eddie Vedder; his songs revolve around a simple-yet-catchy structure, with lyrics often dealing with lost relationships, emotional pain, regret, and also small peeks at hope: “What it means to be a kid/what it means to be a kid/to play in the rain” is one of my favorite lines and vocal melodies from his songs. JOE’s set was, as expected, mellow and melancholy, but it also was pleasant and necessarily relaxing after a long weekend of energetic and flamboyant music.

That’s it for Westside Weekend 2017. By all accounts, it was a rousing success for an inaugural festival, and Henry said that so far he is optimistic about his chances for putting it on again next year. It certainly featured the musical diversity and quality that appeals to a wider audience, but also had the concentration of heavier rock bands that this city so desperately needs. The good sound at the Tip Top and affordable cover charge, as well as the overarching theme of inclusion and tolerance in these incendiary times, really made the Westside Weekend a worthwhile festival. Here’s to all the Westside memories, and (hopefully) more to come soon.–Jonathan Kollnot

–WW Day 1 Bands: Head, EPCYA, Drugs In The Carpet, The Bitters, All Night Tigers.

–WW Day 3 Bands: The Westside Rebellion, 78 RevolutionsPerMinute, Bet On Rats, Tail Light Rebellion.

 

 

 

 

The Rose of Lilith: Soulless (2017)

•August 7, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Rose of Lilith Soulless

Hey all, I hope you all have been relishing a fun and pleasant summer. I’m breaking my absurdly long silence to gear myself up for another busy fall in music, but I also want to take some time to recommend a compelling new artist. The band is The Rose of Lilith from Florida, and their recent single is entitled “Soulless.”

Comprised primarily of the duo of Jack Hernandez and Josue Fernandez, The Rose of Lilith play what they refer to as experimental/symphonic metal. That descriptor is not inaccurate, though their sound is difficult to label or pigeonhole into a specific sub-genre — which is always a good thing, folks. On “Soulless,” elements of symphonic metal, extreme metal, power, progressive, and some avant-garde rock are fused together in a seamless stew. Reference-wise, I hear influence from bands such as Nightwish, Moonspell, Therion, Dream Theater, and some hints of Devin Townsend (Hevy Devy!)’s atmospheric weirdness. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that this song features notable guest vocals from Lance King (ex-Balance of Power, ex-Pyramaze, Nightmare Records) and Ralf Scheepers (ex-Gamma Ray, Primal Fear), among others.

What first struck me about “Soulless” are the impressive production values; this sounds as if it could have been released on a small indie label like Napalm as opposed to being self-produced. My only constructive criticism on that front is the rhythm guitars could have been pushed louder in the mix in relation to the drums and the orchestral synths. Indeed, I like my guitars loud and crunchy. As for the song itself, The Rose of Lilith have created extra intrigue by juxtaposing clean and extreme vocals in an interesting manner. This mid-tempo tune opens with a simple-yet-effective lead guitar motif, followed quickly by death metal growls over deliberate and staccato thrash riffing. The rather catchy choruses, by contrast, showcase soaring and emotive clean vocals over a lush and symphonic instrumental base.

“Soulless” may not be the fastest or most aggressive new metal single out there, but the infectious vocal melodies and unique stylistic approach make it a worthwhile listen. Check out The Rose of Lilith on Facebook or give it a whirl on Youtube. Until next time, keep it blasting loud and proud.–Jonathan Kollnot

Hey 2017 — Art is All (that is all)!

•March 13, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Hey 2017! Yeah, I am talking to you, this unpredictable and turbulent year that has found us all rushing to redefine what it means to be a free citizen — and free and unfettered artist. Regardless of one’s race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, socio-economic class, and political persuasion, no one can deny that these are inchoate and uncertain times. Speaking from personal experience alone, this omnipresent anxiety can do real harm to any sort of creative motivations whatsoever. And yes, right now I am trying to (once again) work through a major bout of writer’s block by posting more incoherent writings in my blog. My apologies.

Actually, sorry, not sorry. What I am finally starting to learn, and relearn, and internalize in my advancing middle age is that creating something new conquers all ails. I’ve found that most of my moods of melancholy, loneliness, anxiety, and a general sense of malaise can be, at least temporarily, alleviated by being creative. Whether it’s tickling the ivories or practicing my bass, writing a new poem or music review, tinkering with a new Lego creation or set, going to a concert, reading something for a good hour or so, or even watching an interesting new show on Netflix, being active in my artistic life always makes my day exponentially better.

So, whatever it is you like to do, or excel at, or simply appreciate passionately, I urge you all to just go out there (or stay home, if the case may be) and do it. And yes, while I believe it certainly is great to stay active in the community and work to make the world a better place, those important — indeed, necessary– altruistic activities are impossible without self care. After all, any individual’s life is kind of meaningless without the drive of creative passions that make it worth waking up each morning. Every song, book, movie, television show, painting, craft, sculpture, home-improvement project, etc. has the potential to enrich the lives of the enthusiast as well as the creator. Hell, even listening to a fantastic album (Riot: The Privilege of Power at the moment) at ridiculous volumes can brighten a frigid, frost-bitten afternoon.

All this serves as my wind-blown attempt at saying that it’s well-past time for me to get writing again. I’m feeling the inspiration, and I hope you are too in some way. Look for some new featured music reviews soon on this site, as well as more frequent missives on a sundry array of rock and metal-related topics soon. Cheers and best wishes to all!–Jonathan Kollnot

 

 
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