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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

"Celestial Elixir" by Haken

It certainly has been a long time since either one of us has taken to this forum to discuss our love of music. In the time since we last wrote a blog a lot of new and exciting music has come out. I know it's hard to believe with all of the rehashed mainstream music out there that there are still innovative bands creating a fresh new sound. Well last night both of us had the privilege to watch the band Haken perform live at Webster Hall. Haken is an English Progressive Rock band that displays complex rhythms and time changes. They were absolute perfection to watch. Ever complex change was nailed, the vocals were unbelievable and better than the studio albums, the stage presence was perfect. I just cant say enough of how great the live show was.

We were fully expecting the encore to be the 20 minute epic "Crystallized" but instead we were treated to the song "Celestial Elixir" which neither of us had ever heard. This song epitomizes the sound of Haken perfectly. Just listen to the rhythmic changes. This was one of the first songs Haken created for their first album and is a great starting point for the band that has grown into more complex song writing. Please enjoy this beauty of a song.

Friday, February 20, 2015

"Black Lake Nidstång" by Agalloch

When my weather app is telling me it's 2 degrees out but feels like negative 18 degrees, the only band I want to listen to in this situation is Agalloch. The dark, icy moods their music conveys is practically made for the coldest of winter days.  The album I'd be most inclined to get lost in would be their 2010 gem, Marrow of the Spirit.  Full of rich texture, dark imagery, and sparse beauty, this is the most atmospheric album in their masterful catalog.

I'm hard pressed to choose an absolute favorite Agalloch song.  They have too many slices of sheer perfection to choose from (good problem to have, right?).  But put a gun to my head and make me choose, I'm going to go with "Black Lake NidstÃ¥ng", the 17+ minute centerpiece from Marrow.

Each listen to this song is a journey through pitch black darkness with equal parts beauty. The images this song conjures up in my mind are as strong as reading a richly detailed fantasy novel. I picture myself walking through a forest. It's cold. No, it's freezing. It's 2 AM and I can't see. I have to feel my way through the trees. Each time I step on a branch and hear the crack, I panic and move along quicker. Where I'm headed I do not know. After walking for an hour, I finally arrive at my destination. A massive lake in the middle of the forest stares back at me with its black eyes. It's pissed off, it doesn't want me there, it screams at me to turn around and leave. I stand there frozen in a daze for what seems like hours.  The spell is finally broken and I'm able to move.  So eventually I leave, and I have a beautiful walk back, because though it's still freezing cold out, it's now 6 AM, the sun is beginning to rise, and I can see once again.

I can express many different reasons for loving Agalloch, but it's experiences such as these that continue to draw me to them. That music can be as strong a visual art as film or fiction novels is something I never really knew until I began listening to them.  Go on, take a journey through this track, get lost in it, create your own imagery.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Top 10 Albums of 2014

It's that time of year again.  The time in which I reflect on all the glorious music that has graced my ears for the past 12 months.  Like in previous years, I have discovered so many bands, some new and plenty old.  A whopping four of the albums on my top 10 list were released by bands I had never listened to until this year.  Without further ado, my favorite albums of 2014:

10) Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings - Give the People What They Want

Sharon Jones is nothing if not consistent.  Every couple of years she churns out another little gem and her latest is no exception.  She doesn't break any new ground here, but if you like your soul music when it's funkified (or your funk music when it's soulful?), then you will have a blast with this album.

Key tracks: "Retreat", "Get Up and Get Out" and "Making Up and Breaking Up (And Making Up and Breaking Up Over Again)"
Spotify link: Give the People What They Want

9) Wo Fat - The Conjuring

This is a beefy, sludgy, pummeling, stoner rock album that's sure to satisfy fans of Kyuss.  The riffs come at you hard from all different directions.  With only five tracks comprising the album, song lengths range from a modest six and a half minutes to a beastly 17 minutes.  This is headphone music to get lost in.

Key tracks: "Dreamwalker", "The Conjuring" and "Beggar's Bargain"
Spotify link: The Conjuring

8) Antemasque - Antemasque

When The Mars Volta called it quits a couple years ago, I was a little bummed out.  I wasn't a fan of their last album but knowing I would never see them live again was a bummer.  Fortunately, guitarist Omar Rodriguez Lopez and singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala formed a new band, Antemasque.  More in line with the post-hardcore/punk sound of their old outfit, At the Drive-in, and less like their prog/jam/psychedelic band, The Mars Volta, Antemasque's self-titled debut album sees Omar & Cedric rocking out and having a good time as if they were jamming in their garage.  And their live show is packed with plenty of energy.

Key tracks: "Providence", "4AM" and "In the Lurch"
Spotify link: Antemasque

7) Mastodon - Once More 'Round the Sun

These modern metal veterans have found a very nice sound on their latest after experimenting with various sounds over their past few albums.  Their 2009 release, Crack the Sky, saw them trying out a more progressive metal sound.  Their 2011 album, The Hunter, had a more straight-forward metal.  With Once More 'Round the Sun, they've expanded upon their straight-forward sound and have put together perhaps their most melodic collection of songs to date.  That's not to say they've gone soft, because this album is as hard as previous albums, but they have tightened up their songwriting and put a strong emphasis on melodies.

Key tracks: "The Motherload", "Ember City" and "Chimes at Midnight"
Spotify link: Once More 'Round the Sun

6) Opeth - Pale Communion

Returning three years after the extremely polarizing album, Heritage, Opeth continue with, not surprisingly, another non-metal album.  The difference between Pale Communion and Heritage though, is Pale Communion is a lot more focused and cohesive than Heritage.  Whereas Heritage felt like a lot of good ideas jumbled together to form mostly directionless songs, Pale Communion takes all those good ideas, mixes them with some of the trademark Opeth sounds that we all know and love, and creates a really solid eight song set.  All of Opeth's classic elements are here: jazzy guitar solos, proggy keyboards, beautiful clean vocals, and an ominous mood.  So there are no death metal growls.  So what?  When the songs are this good, you won't miss them.

Key tracks: "River", "Faith in Others" and "Eternal Rains Will Come"
Spotify link: Pale Communion

5) St. Vincent - St. Vincent

The Queen of Weird, St. Vincent, is a bit of an acquired taste.  It wasn't until I saw her perform with David Byrne a few years ago that I started to "get it".  I'm not familiar with her entire back catalog so I may be off base with this comment, but I feel this is her most accessible album.  The melodies are infectious, her voice is powerful as ever, and the mood conveyed throughout is so different from anything else out there that this demands repeated listens.  Oh, and she's a hell of a guitar player.  This album is a bizarre journey but one that should be taken by all.

Key tracks: "Birth in Reverse", "Severed Crossed Fingers" and "Rattlesnake"
Spotify link: St. Vincent

4) Anathema - Distant Satellites

I figured that after hearing about Anathema for the past 12 years or so, 2014 was as good a time as any to finally give them a listen.  I'm thrilled I did because their catalog is vast and it is damn good.  They are certainly "mood band", but luckily I seem to be in the Anathema mood quite often.  This album, like their previous few, is drop dead gorgeous.  The interplay between lead male vocalist, Vincent Cavanagh, and lead female vocalist, Lee Douglas, is too beautiful for words.  Lee's vocals are the best I've heard from her yet and they elevate the band's sound to a new level.  I also love some of the electronic elements they've introduced on this album.  The title track sounds like a lost song from Radiohead's Kid A.  I highly recommend listening with a good pair of headphones, while lying down on a grass field, with your eyes closed.

Key tracks: "Distant Satellites", "The Lost Song Pt. 1 & 2" and "Ariel"
Spotify link: Distant Satellites

3) The Afghan Whigs - Do to the Beast

Most comeback albums are sad attempts to get back into the limelight, to recapture prior glory, to make an irrelevant act relevant once again.  The beauty of flying under the radar, like the Afghan Whigs have somehow done throughout their brilliant career, is there is no glory to recapture.  It's all about the music.  It may have taken 16 years, but frontman, Greg Dulli, finally felt it was time to release a new Whigs album.  It's a hell of an effort and it's great to have them back.  I implore everyone to see them live, as they are truly one of the best live acts around.  I wrote a longer semi-review for this album back in May and you can read it here: What Have You Been Listening To?

Key tracks: "Algiers", "The Lottery" and "These Sticks"
Spotify link: Do to the Beast

2) Evergrey - Hymns for the Broken

This is a personal comeback album for me.  In Search of Truth, Recreation Day, and The Inner Circle is as good of a three album string as you can get.  And then Evergrey followed that up with Monday Morning Apocalypse, Torn, and Glorious Collision which was a rather average string of releases.  There were a handful of great songs from those latter three albums, but none of them came close to matching the greatness of the previous three, especially their masterpiece, In Search of Truth.  I'm happy to report that Hymns for the Broken is the best Evergrey album since The Inner Circle.  The band sounds fresh and rejuvenated, the songs are punchy and memorable, and Tom Englund's powerful and emotional voice is at the top of its game.  He sings with such passion in every song and doesn't waste a note.  This is dark, melodic metal done right.

Key tracks: "The Aftermath", "A New Dawn" and "Hymns for the Broken"
Spotify link: Hymns for the Broken

1) Ne Obliviscaris - Citadel

This is the defining album of 2014 for me.  Since it's release last month, I have listened to little else.  I'm not sure how to describe this Australian metal band's sound, as they seem to transcend all genre labels.  They mix elements of death metal, black metal, jazz, folk, classical - I'll just settle on progressive metal.  Their debut album, Portal of I, blew me away.  They introduced a key element I'd never heard before in this type of metal: violin.  The song "Forget Not" was one of the most original, beautiful, and amazingly epic songs I had heard in a long time when I first discovered them earlier this year (you can read my full song review here: Forget Not).  I truly didn't think that song would ever be topped by them, and if they did top it one day, I didn't think it would be on their very next album!  Well, they topped it with the first song on their sophomore album, a sprawling 3-track, 23 minute epic entitled "Painters of the Tempest".  This song is the culmination of everything from their first album but done even better.  Brutal death metal growls, gorgeous clean vocals, acoustic passages, violin solos, masterful basslines.  It truly has it all.  The remaining tracks are nothing short of remarkable as well.  What excites me most about this band is not the fact that they already have two legitimate masterpieces under their belt to begin their career, but it's knowing that they still have plenty of tricks up their sleeves and they have a long career ahead of them.  I cannot wait to see what these guys come up with next.

Key tracks: There are only three songs on the album, split into six tracks.  Every part of every song must be heard
Spotify link: Citadel

I hope you found something new by reading this and perhaps found a new favorite album of the year as well!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Temple of the Dog - "Say Hello 2 Heaven"

Temple of the Dog is the greatest grunge collaboration on the planet. Consisting of Soundgarden members, Chris Cornell and Matt Cameron, and Pearl Jam members, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Mike McCready, Temple of the Dog was a one shot record in the memory of Andy Wood, who was the lead singer of Mother Love Bone and Chris Cornell's roommate. After Andy's passing, Cornell decided to record this album in his honor.

"Say Hello 2 Heaven" is the only song on the album that is dedicated specifically to Andy. It is a gorgeous ballad about the afterlife awaiting Andy. I don't feel that it is going out on a limb to say that this is the most beautiful grunge song ever written. Even though this song was written for Andy it has a compelling message for anyone who has lost a loved one. It speaks of the sadness we encounter as the survivors, but talks of the new road ahead that we all must travel and how love can heal all wounds.

Life ends too short sometimes, but as long as the memories of that person remains in your thoughts and hearts they will surely never be gone.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Top 5 Scariest Songs of All Time

Halloween is quickly approaching. It is the time of year where ghouls, ghosts, and goblins come out to play and where scaring the living daylights out of yourself is the norm. Scares can come in all different ways. A scary movie, forgetting where you placed something valuable, that floating ball of light that keeps following you around, closing the bathroom medicine cabinet mirror and expecting an axe wielding murderer to appear behind you ready to pounce, well that last one not so much. Clearly I've been watching to many horror films. Nobody ever thinks of music as scary, however music plays with our emotions as well as any other entertainment. We are here today to give you 5 of what we believe to be the scariest songs we have ever listened to. Some of these songs may not seem scary upon first listen, but when you delve down into their message you will get creeped out, while at least 2 songs on list will give you an unnerving feeling. Anyways onto the list.

5. The Doors - "The End"

This song is an ebb and flow of creepy. It starts off with an Eastern European Riff with a tambourine keeping the beat with Jim Morrison singing about the end. The end in this case is not about death, but about a relationship ending. The song starts to get creepy after about six minutes into the song. Jim starts going into spoken word about the Oedipus complex and ends with Morrison screaming and going into a tirade of fucks and screams as the song spirals out of control.

4. Black Sabbath - "Black Sabbath"

Not only is this song creepy, but the cover work of the album is amongst the creepiest of all time. "Black Sabbath" is a song about a real life experience, Geezer Butler claims to have had. Geezer was into witchcraft and awoke one morning to see a figure in black floating around his apartment with glowing eyes. This song tells the story of that figure speaking to Butler and telling him he has been chosen by Satan.

3. Tool - "Die Eier Von Satan"

This song is very industrial. It keeps an unnerving beat through out the entire song and Maynard James Keenan speaks in what appears to be German. This is a very short song but will definitely play on your emotions.

2. Pearl Jam - "Hey Foxymophandlemama, That's Me"


Many consider this not to be a song. We however view it as a very experimental  song, but a song nonetheless. This song scares this shit out of 99/100 people who listen to it for the first time. Pearl Jam being our favorite band, we have listened to this song multiple times throughout the years and it is still as uncomfortable listening to it as the first time we did. The spoken words of this song are taken from a children's mental hospital recording session where the patient describes about how she feels love. The recording it self is creepy, but it is the random drumming and guitar feedback really adds a whole new level of creepiness to the song.

1. Suicide - "Frankie Teardrop"

I love this song for a multitude of reasons. It is by far the scariest song I have ever listened to and it inspired one of my favorite albums of all time, Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska". Everything about this song is scary. From the beat to the lyrics, it is a nonstop ride on your emotions as you become more uncomfortable as the song goes on. "Frankie Teardrop" talks about the a factory worked named Frankie Teardrop, who can no longer afford to feed his wife and child so he decides to commit murder suicide. After Frankie kills himself he descends into hell where the song goes into full on freak out mode with lots of unnerving screams. If you can make it through this song you have some balls of steel.

Enjoy these scary songs and let me know if you have any other scary songs you recommend.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Iron Maiden - "Powerslave"

If you came here thinking this was a write up of the song "Powerslave", I have to say you are out of luck. However, this is a write up of the entire album "Powerslave", so maybe your luck is changing.

This masterpiece of an album turns 30 years old today. For 30 years the songs from "Powerslave" have been staples at Iron Maiden shows all across the world. For 30 years this album had made many throw up the horns and head bang. I could take 30 paragraphs to describe how amazing this album truly is. However, that won't be the case.

"Powerslave" is easily a top 3 Maiden album and as I stated before it has been a staple in Maiden shows since 1984. The two staples are the first two songs of the album, "Aces High" and "2 Minutes to Midnight". Right away this album grabs you by your thrash balls and starts rocking. If you have ever seen Maiden live, and we here at atozappa highly recommend you do, chances are you have seen both these songs. The next song on the album is "Losfer Words" which is funny because it is an instrumental. "Losfer Words" is your quintessential  Maiden song. It gallops, it solos, and it kicks dick. The next two songs are both songs eluding to Bruce Dickinson's hobby of fencing. "Flash of the Blade" and "The Duellists"are song about sword fighting and honestly how awesome Dickinson is.

Side 2 of the album starts with "Back In The Village" which comes roaring in with an in your face rift that does not slow down throughout the entire song. The song ominously ends with a howl and a sinister laugh that leads into the title track "Powerslave". "Powerslave" is song about an Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh who thinks he is a God amongst man. However, he is only a slave to the power of death as the song ends with our Pharaoh being mummified. This leads us to the last track on the album. "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" stands over every other Iron Maiden song as it is their longest song ever written. Coming in at 13 minutes and 34 seconds "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is a direct reference to the poem of the same name. "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is an absolute masterpiece of a song and one that needs to be listened to in its entirety to appreciate.

This album is a true 10/10 in my opinion with every song ringing true as a Maiden classic. I hope this album and Iron Maiden continue to rock on for many many more years to come. It has been a great 30 years since this album came out and there should be many more great years to come. Above is the song "2 Minutes to Midnight" I hope you enjoy it as much as I do every time i hear it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Parlor Mob - "Tide of Tears"

Once upon a time Jack White met up with Andrew Stockdale in Red Bank, NJ and they made sweet sweet love to each other. Then Andrew became pregnant, and gave birth to The Parlor Mob*. On that fateful day, The Parlor Mob burst onto the rock scene with their first album And You Were a Crow. This album consists of guitar hook after guitar hook with catchy vocals to go with it.
"Tide of Tears" may not be the most poppy or contain the most hooks but it doesn't matter because this song stands out amongst its brethren. At 8:34 this is the longest song on the album. It has a slow catchy guitar riff with a slow bass keeping the pace of the song. The song builds ups into two solos. After each solo the song slows back into the melodic groove that consists throughout the entire song. This song just kicks too much ass to go unnoticed.

*Note - The origin story can neither be confirmed or denied due to the inability to  reach Jack White or Andrew Stockdale