Saturday, August 27, 2005

Review: Broken Hearted - Broken Hearted (2005)

Broken Hearted
Broken Hearted
(2005)
self-released

From north-eastern Italy comes Broken Hearted, an atmospheric Goth metal band that places significant emphasis on creating the perfect ambiance to lure you into their musical world and hold you captive - only to release you and leave you begging for more. Formed in 2002 in Bolzano by drummer Mirko Montressor and guitarist Roberto Sieff, Broken Hearted has enlisted the talented singer Roberta Staccuneddu (Evenfall) to give voice to their lyrics, a task she performs superbly.

Containing 5 tracks, Broken Hearted's debut is an enjoyable blend of atmospheric doom metal and melodic metal, awash with lush keyboards and driven by meaty riffs. The chorus of "Close Your Eyes", the lead-off track, illustrates this point but it is "For You" that combines the best that the band has to offer. Written in memory of a friend lost to a tragic accident, the emotion is palpable as the sorrowful piano passages accentuate Roberta's passionate vocals. The song progresses through phases, including a wistful interlude featuring Roberta in a duet with clean male vocals, as it explores a journey of loss and remembrance. Roberta is joined by guest vocalists Stefan Fiori (Graveworm) and Claudio Pisoni (Skanners), who unleash a series of death growls and blackish rasps as Mirko pummels us with a crazed piano riff and thundering double-kick. The song is closed by a peaceful acoustic riff, and the listener is left with a glimpse of the loss experienced by the composer. "I Know What I Feel" holds the most "Gothic" feel of the demo due mostly to the addition of a cello and some spacey keyboards. Bassist Simone Faraon lays down some pretty hefty lines on this track, making his presence felt and increasing the intensity of the riffs. The demo is wrapped up with "Memories", a song that is more melodic than Gothic but retains the sense of loss that pervades the other four tracks. The ending of a friendship is the subject matter, and once again Roberta convinces us that she truly feels the words she's singing, allowing us as listeners to fully relate to her hurt. Mirko provides some interesting beat patterns, and the keyboards increase the overall feeling of sadness.

This demo shows that Broken Hearted is a band that knows what musical direction they wish to take and proves that they have the musical talent and songwriting ability to stay the course. It is not clear whether Roberta will remain with the group or not, but the impact would be significant if she chooses not to. Fans who enjoy atmospheric Gothic metal with plenty of melody, similar to bands like Beseech and Leave's Eyes, should not hesitate to visit Broken Hearted's website and listen to their audio clips.


Track Listing
1 Close Your Eyes 4:13
2 For You 5:32
3 I Know What I Feel 4:21
4 Forget 3:21
5 Memories 4:28



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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Review: Overloaded - Hail The Kingdom (2005)

Overloaded [ Website | MySpace | Facebook ]
Hail The Kingdom
(2005)
self-released

Embracing the raunchy, indulgent era of metal excess (also known as the '80s), Detroit's Overloaded resurrect the wild side of rock 'n' roll not only in sound but in spirit as well. Having come together in the summer of 2004, the band has already opened for many of metal's notable acts (Slaughter, White Lion, and Skid Row just to name a few). They've now packaged their alcohol-fueled sound into Hail The Kingdom, a debut that drills you right between the eyes and leaves you begging for more.

Overloaded waste no time and get the album started at full throttle with "Beaver Fever", a song that would have Ted Nugent, the Motor City Madman himself, howling in approval. Guitarist Erik Kluiber's style resembles that of Uncle Ted, though Erik is a bit restrained in comparison. His form works perfectly well, however, both in tandem with rhythm guitarist John Sullens as well as when he's unleashing a wicked lead or volatile lick.

The voice of Overloaded is Chris Gillen who, simply put, has an awesome set of pipes. Sounding like a mix of Sammy Hagar and Sebastian Bach, Chris has significant range and plenty of grit to fit well with wherever the music takes him. A good example is my favorite track, "Feeling Overloaded". High-energy from start to finish, the dual-guitar riffs have tons of groove for Chris to lay the lyrics over. The masterful bass playing from Michael Massie and the immaculate beats from drummer Lorenzo Gonzalez deepen the song's impact.

Another highlight for me is "King of the Landfill", a song which adds a twist to Hail The Kingdom and proves Overloaded's versatility. Furious riffs from Erik and John give a clear indication that the band has lit the afterburner and serve to give the song a sound that's a mix of The Offspring and Bad Religion. Erik has said of himself that he's not a flashy guitar player, but the solo he unleashes on this track defies his humble statement. His most expansive of the album, Erik drops the reigns and lets his six strings fly.

Hail The Kingdom is pedal to the metal rock 'n' roll from beginning to end. The ride is never interrupted by the power ballads or acoustic moments often used to mix up the pace of '80s metal albums, which in itself is a breath of fresh air. Professionally packaged, the album was mastered at Morrisound in Florida and the production is crystal clear. Fans, like me, who love the hard rock and melodic metal from bands like Def Leppard, White Lion and Mötley Crüe must add Overloaded to their list of favorites. I have.




Track Listing
1Beaver Fever3:34
2War of the Worlds2:48
3Feeling Overloaded3:36
4Where Are You Running To?4:40
5King of the Landfill3:11
6Cyclone3:38
7Sick3:06



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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Review: Aspire - Quest Eternal (2005)

Aspire [ Website | MySpace ]
Quest Eternal
(2005)
self-released

Power metal bands are often referred to as having either an "American" or "European" sound as a boilerplate for comparison, and such references are warranted because there is indeed a distinct sound to the music coming from either side of the Atlantic. Aspire, a band from Brooklyn, New York, defies such a standard by having adopted a distinctly European flair. Having said that, the band does not neglect their American metal roots and so Quest Eternal, their debut full-length, does indeed offer plenty of power.

At the time Quest Eternal was recorded, Aspire was comprised of only Al Candello (guitars, keyboards) and Ryan Metzger (vocals). Yes, the rhythm section was programmed. Be that as it may, the instrumentation is tight and the album is quite solid. With the European influences being predominant, the keyboards are integral to the structure of every song. They are not, however, overstated to the point of being frilly or distracting. The one exception occurs with "All Ahead", a song which tends to lean towards the "happy metal" of the Italian kind. Rest assured, though, for the remainder of the songs (including the ballads) stay far away from that territory. In addition to his fine keyboard contributions, Al plays quite a mean six-string. His riffs have plenty of crunch to satisfy fans of Helloween and Blind Guardian, while his solos are very crisp and fit seamlessly into place. "Lost Forevermore", for example, blends both of Al's strengths and as a result is one of the highlights of the album. An energetic keyboard overture gives way to heavy riffs that are subtly reminiscent of Judas Priest. A classic guitar solo, followed closely by a furious keyboard passage lends considerable balance to the composition.

Frontman Ryan Metzger sings with a smooth tenor, and delivers in a style resembling that of a troubadour. He has an expressive voice and projects the proper emotion with each verse. His weakness, however, lies with the higher notes. Sounding a bit strained when reaching above his normal range, Ryan is at his best when he remains in his comfort zone. A track of epic proportions, "The Liberator" perhaps holds Ryan's best performance as quick-paced passages and somber interludes showcase his vocal versatility. Al also comes through with some meaty riffs and wispy solos, not to mention setting the mood with keyboard parts that range from graceful to frenzied.

Power metal fans who prefer bands such as Dark Moor and Helloween over the pomp of Stratovarius or Rhapsody will find Quest Eternal to be an enjoyable listen. Aspire has grown with the addition of James Orlando on bass and drummer Eddie Red, promising an even fuller sound on their next album. A refreshing addition to the power metal genre.



Track Listing
1 Living In A Dream 5:18
2 Lost Forevermore 5:38
3 All Ahead 6:11
4 Riding With The King 5:14
5 As Many Years (Go Passing By) 5:40
6 From The Shadows 5:33
7 The Liberator 8:59
8 Final Serenade 6:05



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Friday, August 12, 2005

Review: Aroarah- Aroarah (2005)

Aroarah [ Website | MySpace | Facebook | Twitter ]
Aroarah
(2005)
self-released

Only a year out of high school, the members of the all-girl rock outfit Aroarah  have been making quite a name for themselves in their native California - and beyond. With two previous demo EPs and a spot on The Van's Warped Tour in San Diego, Aroarah has now unleashed their third recording for mass metal consumption. The band sparks comparisons to Kittie and The Donnas  with their mix of grrl-punk attitude and the occasional snarls from frontwoman Lydia Gavin, but there's a quite deal more to be heard on the 4 tracks of this EP.

"Open Eyed", my favorite track, gets the EP started and serves as a fine showcase of what the band is all about. A sultry lead gives way to a plucky riff before Lydia hits the mic with her polished voice. With just a hint of Avril Lavigne in her style, Lydia displays significant versatility and range as she progresses from a no-nonsense, alternative rock style to angered shouts (well-supported by the other members of the band). The rhythm section of drummer Mackenzie Knoester and bass player Chelsea Baker lay down a catchy groove, drawing you in and keeping the song cemented in your head. The next track, "Summer Lies", comes off a bit deceptively as Lydia lures you in with a very popish vocal style before unleashing violent shrieks as guitarist Morgan Knoester punishes you with some heavy riffage. Another highlight for me was the opening riff of "My Shoulders to Yours". Both wistful and sexy, the piece serves as a perfect introduction to lyrics of hopeless romance. The backing vocal harmonies during the choruses lend the song, for me at least, an air of a Motown ballad - juiced up with weighty riffs and Lydia's emotive style.

Aroarah remind me a lot of bands like Veruca Salt and L7 in the way that they can be both sensual and driven without coming across as disjointed or inconsistent. The girls take their ability to a higher level from start to finish on this EP, and should do well for themselves in the modern rock scene. Besides their indisputable talent, the band also shows a flare for promotional innovation by offering, on the enhanced EP, the means to download a bonus track. Thinking outside of the box and backing it up with quality music is a sure-fire recipe for success.


Track Listing
1 Open Eyed 3:18
2 Summer Lies 3:31
3 My Shoulders to Yours 2:35
4 In Dreams 3:16



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Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Review: 286 - Profiled (2005)

286
Profiled
(2005)
self-released

Los Angeles has long been known for churning out great hard rock acts, particularly in the '80s and early '90s. Names like Mötley Crüe, Guns 'n' Roses, and Van Halen immediately come to mind when thinking of the L.A. scene. Thus it comes as no surprise that 286, a young rockin' outfit founded by the Verry brothers (originally from Argentina), calls Los Angeles home.

Together with drummer Pete Pace and vocalist Adam Joad, the Verry brothers have unleashed an innovative rock sound that is well showcased on Profiled, their debut EP. The title track brings to mind the best of bands like AC/DC and Rose Tattoo with wild hooks, screechy licks, and pounding bass. Frontman Adam Joad belts out the lyrics with plenty of attitude, doing justice to the energetic riffs. The memorable gang choruses impress the tune further, leaving it to stick with you long after the CD has ended. "Record Store Prophets", the final track on Profiled, begins with a great bluesy riff and incorporates all the elements of the lead off track to result in another high-octane rocker. A frenzied solo from Martin caps off this great album closer.

Now, I did mention that Profiled was an innovative release. This creativity manifests in the form of Adam's vocals. On the first and last tracks, he sings in a fairly straightforward hard rock style. His background, though, comes from fronting east coast punk and hardcore acts. And so beginning with "68'", Adam goes back to his roots and adopts a very hardcorish style. His style has, in fact, more in common with nu-metal screamcore bands than older hardcore, which results in the combination of two quite different styles of music on this EP. I am not a fan of screamcore (or any other *core, for that matter), so Joad's vocals serve as more of a buzzkill for me than enhancing the listen. Despite great bass lines, raunchy guitars, and even some good ol' Southern swamp licks, "68'", "Broken Peace", and "Dark Carnival" come across to me like a mixture of fire and ice.

The band does deserve a tip o' the hat for their ambition and creativity. In fact, I'm optimistic that 286's unorthodox formula will introduce to screamcore kids what real rock sounds like. Profiled should definitely be on your radar if you're in the mood for something off the beaten path.




Track Listing
1 Profiled 3:10
2 68' 3:02
3 Broken Peace 3:36
4 Dark Carnival 4:36
5 Record Store Prophets 3:13
Total Runtime17:37