Music Review: RACKETS & DRAPES – Candyland

Leave a comment

rackets and drapes - candylandRACKETS & DRAPES
Candyland
Independent
1998

It’s amazing how, all these years now, and I have yet to publish my official review of one of the albums that was kind of a paradigm shift for me back in the day. You would think that would have been one of my first reviews of Rackets & Drapes’ discography. But, for whatever reason that eludes all logic in me, I have held off, put off, and subsequently never gotten around to doing a proper review of their very first full-length release, Candyland.Well, since this year–2018–marks the 20th anniversary since the release of Candyland, I figure better late than never.

Released independently at first, but then re-released through MCM Music after being signed to that label, Candyland was a rather ambitious and curious release at the time. The entire pop culture world was still reeling from the sudden rise of darker, scarier music from the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson and the new wave of Goth children. While the Christian music scenes did feature a thriving industrial and Goth rock underground of sorts, there had yet to be a genuine shock rock band to shake things up. Well, outside of Alice Cooper, who just had come out of the confessional closet as a Christian a few years earlier. Enter Colorado band Rackets & Drapes, and the release of Candyland.

While the band described themselves as “shock rock”, the music on Candyland is a dark and thick blend of industrial, punk, death rock and Gothic theatrics, with songs that tackle taboo and controversial topics with unblinking glee that makes normal Shiny Happy Christians (TM) a bit squeamish: abortion, child and domestic abuse, homelessness, child abducitons…yeah, these guys made it clear that they were scary for a purpose. And for me, this was a God-send, as I was exploring the darker expressions of my faith, through the Goth / industrial / black metal subcultures. I embraced Candyland with gusto, and it quickly became one of my soundtracks to my faith.

20 years later, and I still revisit Candyland frequently. It’s still has a raw punk aestetic, and the songs still pack a punch. One thing I never understood was why Rackets & Drapes were immediately slagged with the “Marilyn Manson rip-off” tag; even now I still come across it, which clearly indicates that no one really bothered to listen to the album. Regardless, I still hold the band and Candyland in general in high regard. If you can find a copy, pick it up and give it a listen, or twelve.

Advertisements

Music Review: DARKNESS BEFORE DAWN – Kings To You

Leave a comment

darkness before dawn - kings to youDARKNESS BEFORE DAWN
Kings To You
Bombworks Records
2009

Darkness Before Dawn was a death metal band that existed between 2004 and apparently only split up in 2017. Which is interesting, as I seem to recall them being listed as “split-up” on the Metal Archives site years previous. Maybe I’m remembering wrong. Either way, they only managed to release an EP and this full-length, Kings To You. Obviously, I’ll be reviewing the full-length release. They don’t call me Captain Obvious for nothing. Actually, no one calls me that. *sigh* Anyway…

Kings To You was released in 2009 on the Bombworks Records label. If you would grasp for a good catch-all subgenre label for the band’s sound, you could go with your standard Death metal, but it’s not quite adept a descriptor. I would say that the music on Kings To You leans more toward melodic death metal with some roots in the deathcore style, utilizing both atmospheric keyboards while throwing in a heavy breakdown here and there. The songs vary between mid-paced and furiously heavy, showcasing some very heavy riffs and technical rhythms that will churn your insides while chilling your soul with the keyboards darkening the textures up, with something of a Folk Metal style on “Material Existence”.

Overall, Kings To You is a good, solid collection of melodic death metal hybrid that, for some reason I can’t really put my finger on, comes close to pushing over the edge, but not quite. It is, however, a satisfying bit of death metal brutality that does the trick in a pinch.

Music Review: TRUE STRENGTH – The Cross Will Always Prevail

Leave a comment

true strength the cross will always prevailTRUE STRENGTH
The Cross Will Always Prevail
Independent
2014

When I first came across the band True Strength, I didn’t know much about them. I just noticed this debut release of theirs — The Cross Will Always Prevail — mentioned on one of the sites I check out sometimes to keep up with current releases. I presumed by the style of the album artwork and the classic metal sound of the sample clips I previewed that this was one of those long-lost obscure classic metal nuggets from the 1970s that finally got some re-release digital love. That’s why I bought The Cross Will Always Prevail.

Doing a bit more research on True Strength, I’ve come to find that, contrary to my assumptions, they’re a project that isn’t an old 70s outfit, but was formed in 2012 as a ministry-focused metal band that, among other things, dedicates all of their music sales to charities.

You could, however, forgive me for my original assumptions, because the kind of metal True Strength plays is a retro style throwback to the NWOBHM from the 70s and early 80s. After the brief, 38-second intro “Exorcism”, we get the title track “The Cross Will Always Prevail”, which features a classic metal riff and hook, melodic with a good guitar solo. “Christian Battle Cry” shows a bit more on the technical side, anchored with a nice galloping riff and another rather good solo; “Under The Scimitar” is more mid-paced with another good classic metal riff and hook; “Stave The Fires Of Moloch” is a 10-plus minute epic-length song that ventures into doom territory at times; “Michael The Archangel” is probably the heaviest song on this album, with an almost speed metal riff going on; “When We Meet At Armageddon” is a more straight-forward metal song, but seems to have a weaker chorus; and finally, “Key To The Abyss” ends the album with a good metal riff and hook to send you on your way. Whatever that means, it just popped in my head just now.

Unlike your standard high-pitched METAAAAAAAAL! vocals you would expect with metal like this, the vocals actually sound like Dennis DeYoung from Styx in the delivery, which is different but actually works in the music’s favor. There are some points, though, where the vocals get a bit sloppy, especially on “Stave The Fires Of Moloch”, which I notated while listening to this, that they sound more like the guy from Light Force back in the day. The production is a bit on the thin side, but for an independent released project, it’s pretty good, really. You get the sense that The Cross Will Always Prevail would sound fantastic on vinyl.

This was originally released as a digital only release, but has been picked up for distribution through Roxx Productions, so it’s in good hands. I picked my copy up on Amazon (naturally); overall, The Cross Will Always Prevail is very much worth a look for you old Righteous Rockers out there.

Music Review: GALACTIC COWBOYS – Long Way Back To The Moon

Leave a comment

galactic cowboys - long way back to the moonGALACTIC COWBOYS
Long Way Back To The Moon
Music Theory Recordings
2017

Seventeen years. That’s how long it’s been since we were graced with a Galactic Cowboys album. And really, the understanding was that the band broke up after their last studio release, Let It Go, and thus no further album was to b expected. But, here we are, and not only do we have a brand spanking new Galactic Cowboys album, but it’s also from the original lineup that recorded Galactic Cowboys and Space In Your Face. So, after all of these years, how does Long Way Back To The Moon hold up?

Short answer to that: pretty darn fantastic.

Oh, man, I got to tell you, when the opening chords of the lead-in song “In The Clouds” started, that unique tingly feeling you get whenever you’re listening to a genuine Galactic Cowboys album hit me, and I could stop grinning until the final song ended an hour later. You know what I mean. At least, I hope you do. Because it’s rather hard to describe using words and such. Ironic, no?

Anyway, the music on Long Way Back To The Moon finds the band not even skipping a beat, like it hasn’t even been that long between the last release. Meaning, we get the quality signature style of crunchy heavy metal and rock riffs and hooks paired with the mesmerizing Beatles-esque harmony and tongue-in-cheek sense of humor in the lyrics that the band is known for. I would say that Long Way Back To The Moon has much in common with Machine Fish, as the songs are quite heavy in the execution throughout the album, including the ones that my be considered their slower cuts. Songs like “Internal Masquerade”, “Next Joke”, “Zombies”, “Hate Me”, “Losing Ourselves” and “Agenda” have some heavy, driving riffs and hooks going, and the more mid-paced songs like “In the Clouds”, “Drama”, and the title track “Long Way Back To The Moon” don’t loose that heavy edge, giving things a darker tone. “Blood In My Eyes” kind of veers into Nu Metal territory with the riff, but it’s still a good, heavy cut. After the album proper, though, there are two bonus tracks that came with my purchase, “Believing The Hype” and “Say Goodbye To Utopia”, both being rather heavy, the former also leaning towards a Nu Metal riff, while the later a bit more upbeat yet still heavy with a slower mid-point.

Though I wasn’t expecting another release from the band, I’m not complaining. As a matter of fact, overall, I found Long Way Back To The Moon a rather enjoyable and satisfying release, seeing the band in top form. The only real strike against it is the production seems a bit…I don’t know, a scosh on the muddled side? Minor quibble, though. Go out and purchase this thing post-haste.

Movie Review: X-SINNER – Fire It Up

Leave a comment

x-sinner - fire it upX-SINNER
Fire It Up
Retroactive
2006

Fire it Up, the 4th release from gritty hard rockers X-Sinner, isn’t so much a studio release, as it was a complete re-recording of their second release, Peace Treaty. If you’re wondering what the purpose of that was, it boiled down to the band wanting to re-release their first two releases with a better remastering than what the originals had. Unfortunately, the rights to both the releases were tied up in so much red tape, the band decided to just re-record the songs from Peace Treaty, leaving out the ballad “Hold On” and replacing it with the newly recorded “Fire It Up”, and releasing it with that particular title.

As the lead off of the album, new song “Fire It Up” is what you would come to expect from X-Sinner: A crunchy, mid-paced three-chord hard rocker with a catchy groove hook. The vocals do seem a bit strained here, though not unexpected. I bring this up because, though the rest of the songs are toted as new recordings, the vocals don’t match the new song vocals. It’s like comparing James Earl Jones’ Darth Vader voice from 1977’s Star Wars with his voice from Rogue One. Which leads me to believe the note on the Firestream Music Vault entry that mentions that the vocals themselves were not re-recorded. Which is fine, really. Because the entirety of Fire It Up sound fantastic.

The re-recording of the music itself on the songs have seemed to breathed a bit of new life into them. The production is heavier, the sound thicker than on the original release. And really, the decision to keep the original vocals in (if that were the case) was a good one. Fire It Up is a solid, back-to-front release with some nice, heavy and crunchy hard rock stuffed to the gills. The riffs and hooks on the songs beg to be cranked loudly while driving with the window down, presuming the weather is permissible for that kind of thing. There is the more bluesy “Getch’ Ya”, and the power ballad “Don’t Go” that is pretty good for what it is. But, overall, Fire It Up is a great collection of hard rock goodness that needs to be in your collection.

Music Review: XL & DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR – Offensive Truth vol. 1+2

Leave a comment

xl & death before dishonor - offensive truth vol 1xl & death before dishonor - offensive truth vol 2

XL & DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR
Offensive Truth vol. 1+2
Independent
2016

XL & Death Before Dishonor. They are one of those bands that sadly never got the respect they more than deserved back in the day. They released their debut album, Sodom And America, in 1993, but instead of being recognized for being the genuine article as far as the burgeoning Rap/Rock hybrid that was emerging in the very early 1990s (before it got lumped in with the Nu Metal tag later in the decade), they kind of got lost on the wayside, while bands like Pillar and Payable On Death got more attention. Fortunately, main man XL kept busy, releasing other albums quietly both with DBD and as a solo artist. Then, in 2016, the group released a double album entitled Offensive Truth vol. 1 and vol. 2.

In case you’re not familiar with XL & Death Before Dishonor, and thinking they’re just another P. O. D. wannabe band…no. You can maybe say they’re a Rage Against The Machine clone, but they were contemporaries, releasing their debut a year after Rage released theirs. However, I would say, if you want to make a more apt comparison, Body Count is closer to the mark. Regardless, XL& DBD is awesome. So, enough of that, and on to the album. Or albums, as it were.

Vol. 1 opens with “In Need Of Therapy”, a nice rocking track with an infectious hook and groove, and a catchy melodic chorus, and you realize that XL & DBD haven’t skipped a beat, in a manner of speaking. The music is heavy, but has a variety going with hardcore, metal, rock and funk grooves that keeps things from going stale. Vol. 2 continues on with this, giving us 20 solid tracks of rap/rock hybrid that will get your head bopping along, no matter what the speed.

Mind you, XL and the gang are talented enough as it is (a fact pointed out in “Yeah, I Know Right”). What makes this double album even more awesome is some guest spots by Deliverance main guy Jimmy P. Brown II (“Devastated”, “The Wilderness”, “Daddy’s Too Friendly” and “Corporate Elite”), Oz Fox from Stryper (“Best Friend, Worst Enemy”), musical Jack of all trades, but remembered most from Poor Old Lu., Jesse Sprinkle (“Because Of This”), Crucified guitarist and Applehead guy Greg Minier (“Rapist”), the guy from Crystal Lewis’ band, Joel Goodwin (“The Wrath To Come”), Whitecross and King James guitarist Rex Carroll (“Methamphetamine”) and Jim Chaffon from The Crucified and The Blamed, among others (“My Hour Of Desperation”). Also, there’s a redux of the song “Armed For Battle”, which was originally from their sophomore release, Live From Nineveh, another release there’s hardly any information about online. Trust me, it exists.

Bottom line, if you happen to be one of the people who picked up Sodom And America and wore that down to a nub, here’s two more that you’re going to love. If P. O. D. is your only idea of rap rock nu metal whatever with a Christian message, you really need to pick up Offensive Truth vol. 1+2. They don’t mess around or mince words. Which…okay, I’m beginning to see why maybe these guys didn’t catch on to your standard CCM crowd. Highly recommended.

Music Review: BECOMING SAINTS – Oh, The Suffering

Leave a comment

becoming saints oh the sufferingBECOMING SAINTS
Oh, The Suffering
Rottweiler Records
2016

So, there I was, December of 2016, getting ready to meet some friends for some Korean barbecue and taking in a showing of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Because it was my annual Lament of my Day of Birth (what you normals refer to as your “birthday”), I thought I’d treat myself to a newer release from the Rottweiler Records family, from a band called Becoming Saints. This was a band that looked promising: They were advertised as featuring a former member of one of my favorite modern death metal bands, Soul Embraced. And Rottweiler has proven themselves to be pretty consistent as far as extreme metal goes, so I bought the album Oh, The Suffering and loaded it up on my media player to give it a listen on the way to meeting the Exalted Geeks at the Korean barbecue place.

Okay, so first of all, I do want to point out that the claim of having a former Soul Embraced member is correct: that would be Jeff Bowe, who played bass on the Dead Alive release. Not exactly a long-time or founding member, but you can’t say they’re lying, either. Also, Oh, The Suffering is their second release, having an EP titled Let This Not Be The End Of Me released independently the year prior. Now, on to the music…

I have to say, right off the bat, that I really wanted to like Oh, The Suffering. I was rather stoked by the description, and the album artwork seemed on target. Also, it was on Rottweiler Records, which has been fairly consistent with putting out the quality good stuff, as I mentioned earlier. But, after a few listens, I still couldn’t really get into the album as much as other reviewers seemed to have.

Mind you, lest you think I’m calling Oh, The Suffering garbage, I am not. I’m going to start with the positives, because I’m the type of guy who actually goes into reviewing albums wanting to like it and find something great about it. And, there are some bright spots on Oh, The Suffering: The production quality is excellent, and the music is pretty tight for what it is. Song-wise, there is a small handful of standout tracks that I liked, such as “Oath”, “Vox Mortem”, and “Unbroken”. The songs are not your typical deathcore type, as they really do try for something different and experimental, for which I give the band props for doing.

Unfortunately, though, I fear that it’s this very thing that makes it hard for me to really get into Oh, The Suffering. It’s kind of like they were going for a mix of Djent metalcore style mixed with the electronic indie rock that’s been prevalent recently with bands like Imagine Dragons. The result is like mixing clay with iron; you get a heavy yet basic variation of the Djent riff with breakdown beats and a shout-style vocals, then it suddenly shifts into the EBM indie rock with a rather mismatched melodic singing. It’s not exactly mixing genres, rather than abruptly shifting between two genres, back and forth. The aforementioned cuts that I did like stuck with a more straight-forward deathcore style.

There’s a couple of more ambient electronic instrumentals included: “Mother Teresa”, which features quotes from the famed nun, and “Deo Paso”. The album then ends with “Time”, more of a guitar-and-singing minimalist indie thing. And, I guess I would be remiss to not mention that Living Sacrifice’s Bruce Fitzbugh guests on the song “Lost”. Had no one told me, I wouldn’t have noticed.

So, overall, I’m afraid that I was rather underwhelmed with Oh, The Suffering. I get what they’re trying to go for, but there’s some work to be done. I actually do like the inclusion of electronics in the deathcore style, as War Of Ages have been employing it on the last couple of albums to good effect. I’m certain I’m in the minority, here, but I’m going to have to give Oh, The Suffering a soft pass for now. Maybe in the future I’ll dust this off and give it another look; but for now, I’mma move on to something else.

Older Entries