Music Review: DANIEL AMOS – Darn Floor ~ Big Bite

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daniel amos darn floor big biteDANIEL AMOS
Darn Floor ~ Big Bite

The eight studio release for Daniel Amos – and also the final release of theirs in the 1980s – Darn Floor ~ Big Bite finds the band’s music going back to a more guitar-driven sound. The title, of course, is famously derived from an incident with Koko the gorilla, who was trained to understand limited amounts of American sign language. After an earthquake, Koko reacted by signing, “Darn darn floor bad bite. Trouble trouble.” So, the band used this as a way to highlight mankind’s oft-inadequate attempts to describe God.*

That previous bit of information is always included in pretty much every review I’ve read on this album; however, my friend Terry Glenn was the first one to inform me of this, and was far more entertaining in the delivery. Anyway…

The album starts with the song “Return Of The Beat Menace”, which seems to be it’s angriest song on the record. Not “angry” as in “loud and grating”, but more to do with the lyrics married with the more driven pace and guitar hook of the song. Like they had a bit of something to say about certain criticisms being lobbied at them. Or something. It’s a good song to kick things off, regardless. “Strange Animals” takes things back to a normal – for Daniel Amos, anyway – pace with a nice jangle pop hook; the title track “Darn Floor~Big Bite” is a bit darker, but has a good bass hook at the beginning before it settles into a nice groove; “Earth Household” continues things with a slower pace, one of those not quote a ballad, but with a dark, kinda Peter Gabriel style going on; “Safty Net” picks things up with a faster, punkish pace and an Elvis Costello kind of hook and an interesting guitar riff; “Pictures Of The Gone World” is upbeat yet melancholy, with a waltz beat and a more avant gard style; “Divine Instant” is more of a psychedelic, slide guitar, kind of Chris Issac style song; “Half Light, Epoch, And Phase” guitar style reminiscent of The Edge from U2; “The Unattainable Earth” has a nice psychadelic, dreamy hook with a good guitar progression; and “The Shape Of Air” ends the album with a lush, psychadelic ballad, not too bad there.

Overall, I found Darn Floor~Big Bite to be a very good, very multi-textured and very smart collection of gutiar-based alternative rock put out by a band that, by now, you would expect nothing less from, regardless of how modified they make their moniker. Listening to this was a pleasure, and probably one of my top favorites from Daniel Amos. I really do prefer the guitar based stuff rather than the keyboard and synth based stuff, but they never seem to disappoint no matter what they do. Recommended.

[* = while it doesn’t pertain to the album itself, I did play this in its entirety the night I learned of the recent death of Koko…rest in peace, pretty girl]


Music Review: TAKING THE HEAD OF GOLIATH – Taking The Head Of Goliath

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taking the head of goliathTAKING THE HEAD OF GOLIATH
Taking The Head Of Goliath
Rottweiler Records

Since teasing us with a live EP last year, the big expectation for this year was more or less the release of Taking The Head Of Goliath’s first proper studio recording. Also released on the Rottweiler Records label, their self-titled EP was released very recently, and being the dutiful metalhead that I am, I immediately purchased the download, and loaded it up in my media player to give it a listen or two. Or five. You know, to see if the wait and the hype was worth it.

My answer to that last part is GREAT GOOGLY-MOOGLY, this is freaking awesome.

After starting off with a brief kind of ambient instrumental named “Of Sin And Death”, which is mostly keys, synths and some percussion, the EP really rips into your earholes with “Oblivious Into Oblivion”, a straight-forward oldschool gutchurning Death Metal cut that sets to tone with what to expect. “The Expulsion Of Putrid Illusion” is face-blasting grinding with a great riff, while “Trenches” has a good groove with a start-n-stop rhythm going before settling into the standard Death Metal awesomeness. “This Present Darkness” — not a cover of the Deliverance song, in case you’re wondering (but you would know that already if you had the live EP) — is another straight-forward, grinding cut with a blasting brutal riff; “Audacity To Inspire” has kind of a deathcore riff going, then settles into a good hook; the final cut, “Unearthed / Iniquity’s End”, is a cover of the Crimson Thorn classic, ending the EP on a very high note.

Overall, Taking The Head Of Goliath is a brief yet very satisfying blast of much-needed heavy-duty Death Metal. I wouldn’t really call this Crimson Thorn 2.0, as there are some strives to get their own identity, but this does fill in a gap that was left when Crimson Thorn went on hiatus. Taking The Head Of Goliath has cemented me as a fan of the group. This release is highly recommended.

Music Review: ATOMIC OPERA – For Madmen Only

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atomic opera for madmen onlyATOMIC OPERA
For Madmen Only
Giant Records

Sometime in the early 1990s, from the same state that spawned King’s X and the Galactic Cowboys, came the band Atomic Opera. Over the years, I knew of the band, yes, seeing their releases in record shops and the music sections in the big box type stores throughout the years. But, I never really checked them out, despite the accolade they were getting from musician friends of mine. So, one afternoon recently, while doing some used CD hunting, I came across Atomic Opera’s debut release from 1994, For Madmen Only. So I bought it. Then I listened to it.

Why did no one tell me about this album? Especially back in 1994, when good, heavy hard rock with metal undertones part of the whole Grunge era was dying out along with their patron Saint Kurt Cobain.

It’s important that I bring up the whole Grunge aspect, here. Because, while taking in For Madmen Only, I was struck by the fact that, while Atomic Opera shared the same progressive style as King’s X and the Galactic Cowboys — tight, Beatle-esque harmonies, complex yet catchy melodies and hooks — the music on this release seems to draw heavily from the Facelift-era Alice In Chains and Louder Than Love-era Soundgarden — and hits you with a good foundation of thick, heavy guitar riffs and brooding pacing on most of the cuts.

The two standout cuts for me are the opener “Joyride”, which features a very heavy, thick guitar hook and a driving pace, and “War Drum”, which bit more progressive with a Holy Water-era Bad Company vibe going on. But really, the entire album itself is just a solid, track after track collection of heavy hard rock with a bit of a progressive streak. Songs like “Justice”, “Achille’s Heel”, “I Know Better”, “All Fall Down”, and “Blackness” feature some of the heaviest guitars I’ve heard, melded with some tight harmonies and set to a brooding but straight-forward pace, with vocals that complement the sound without resorting to a shiny production varnish. “December” is about as close you’re going to get to a power ballad, but it’s definitely not the run-of-the-mill radio friendly sappy variety. The final two tracks, “This Side Of The Rainbow” and “New Dreams” lean a bit to the psychedelic side of things, but still maintain that heavier vibe, with “New Dreams” being its longest and proggiest cut on the album.

Overall, For Madmen Only was a very pleasant discovery, getting some good, quality hard rock that wasn’t just a clone of the modern rock style that was clogging the airwaves of rock radio at the time. To think I’m just now discovering this after all this time. For those fans of the Galactic Cowboys’ Machine Fish and Long Way Back To The Moon releases, check this one out most definitely.

Music Review: DANIEL AMOS – Fearful Symmetry

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da-fearfulsymmetryDANIEL AMOS
Fearful Symmetry

The seventh studio album by Daniel Amos, and the fourth and final instalment in the !Alarma! Chronicles, Fearful Symmetry is also the first Daniel Amos album to feature the shortened DA form of the band’s name. A vast collection of useless information, that’s me.

The tone of Fearful Symmetry was a bit darker than the previous releases (although, the band could venture out into darker territory on the previous albums easily enough), utilizing a synthesizer-driven sound with lyrics that deals with pain and darkness. That’s not to say that the music is depressing and melancholy; far from it, really.

The album starts off with “A Sigh For You”, which features something of an upbeat hook that echoes that of The Pretenders from that era, kind of an electro-calypso thing going on. The following track, “The Pool”, has a rather driving beat with a catchy hook, while “Sleep Silent Child” is one of the darker cuts on here, a bit slower and utilizing a kind of melodic structure based on the James Bond theme. I rather like this, it may be my favorite cut on this album, really. Now, before anyone begins thinking that they sold out their sound and went more mainstream with the songs, it’s on the song “Neverland Ballroom” when the familiar experimental style that Daniel Amos is famous for really begins shining through. The hook from that song will stick in your head almost indefinitely. This continues on with “Strong Points, Weak Points”, “Instruction Through Film”, and the psycho-folk bluegrass with a power-ballad twist ending of “Sudden Heaven”. Yeah, I just wrote that out loud. I’d say it’s “different”, but this is Daniel Amos we’re talking about, here. “When Moonlight Sleeps” is a surreal bit that manages to be both melancholy and happy at the same time; “Shadow Catcher” has a good driving midpaced dark hook, while to album ends on “Beautiful One”, an acoustic !BALLAD ALERT! for those on the lookout for those kind of things.

Overall, Fearful Symmetry continued on with the development of the band’s creative music output, making something that was contemporary for the time it was released, yet maintaining their unique style and quality of songwriting. It’s dark, but it’s more contemplative kind of dark. It’s kind of hard to explain for those who prefer their Christianity to be bright and sunshiny; regardless, if you’re a fan of the electronic based pop rock custom-made for dancing and brooding to, Fearful Symmetry is recommended listening.

Music Review: SCARLET – Scarlet

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FnA Records

Hey, look. Just what we need. More obscure hair metal from the 1980s getting re-released in the second decade of the 21st Century. In this case, it’s the band Scarlet, a band that hailed from Florida in the mid-1980s, and recorded nine demo songs before calling it quits in 1988. The band and their demos remained obscure until FnA Records released all nine songs on CD in 2010. And since I’m a sucker for things like this, let’s review this thing, shall we?

The very first cut on this collection, “Right Reason”, more or less gives you an overall scope of what to expect, with a really good, driving hook and riff that’s on the upbeat hard rocking metal side of things, with vocals that go for melodic but are really in need of some vocal lessons to tune things up, with the lyrics going for the standard generic “rock for the Rock” cheese that seemed to be the standard for underground Christian hair metal bands from the 80s. Ah, memories. “Lisa” is one of those not-quite-power-ballad type songs that is mid-paced and heavy, with a melodic chorus and featuring a decent shredding guitar solo. “Stop Runnin'” has a decent mid-paced riff and a good solo, but doesn’t really go much of anywhere beyond that. Kind of a forgettable track. “We’re Gonna Rock” is another upbeat, anthemic rocker with the cheesy “rock for the Rock” lyrics going.

It was about this time, as I was settling down and bracing for five more cuts of the same, when “Armor” began with an acoustic opening, but then I was surprisingly caught off guard when some blistering, high-octane NWOBHM style HEAVY METAL ripped my face off with something actually good in this collection. Wow. Nicely done, album. Nicely done. The problem was, this actually raised my hopes that the band was merely getting warmed up, with some better cuts following. Alas, this wasn’t the case, as “I Declare War” is decent, with a driving heavy riff, but with the sound quality not being the best, like the source got a bit damaged between then and when it was transferred to CD. “Treasure” is more of a bluesy metal style, and it’s noticeable that they changed vocalists with this one. Still rather sub-par in the vocals department. “Beginning” decides to shed the whole “metal” thing and goes with a radio-friendly janglepop style that couldn’t end fast enough. But then, the CD ends with “Friends”, which thankfully isn’t a cover of the Michael W. Smith tune, but unfortunately is a !POWER BALLAD ALERT! that’s song by another vocalist entirely, this one more of the female persuasion, that’s just grating on my nerves, and features lyrics that sounds like an angsty 12-year-old wrote them attempting a free-form association thing.

Overall, Scarlet is really more of a curiosity than a must-have in terms of obscure 80s metal. The bright spots to this is definitely the guitar work, which shows some raw talent that I hope the guitarist kept up with after the demise of the group. Otherwise, the production is sub-par, and the vocalist(s) are just annoying. One and done with this one. Pass.

Music Review: SCANDINAVIAN METAL PRAISE – Scandinavian Metal Praise

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scandinavian metal praiseSCANDINAVIAN METAL PRAISE
Scandinavian Metal Praise
Metal Praise Records

As a long-time disciple of Christ Jesus, and an even longer \,,/METALHEAD\,,/, I do tend to gravitate towards praise and worship song styles that feature the scientifically proven music of AWESOME. Your standard Contemporary Worship stylings of Casting Crowns, Chris Tomlin or whatever version of Hillsong is big this month just isn’t going to cut it for your Uncle NecRo. As a matter of fact, I have a specific mix of METAL-centric praise and worship type songs on my phone, culled and cherry-picked from my extensive collection to listen to during the worship band time every Sunday. I like to pretend the worship team really is playing Mortification’s “The Majestic Infiltration Of Order”.

Anyway, in 2008, the Metal World was blessed with the release of an album by a group going by the name Scandinavian Metal Prais.e Hailing from Finland, the members of this group chose to remain anonymous, and released a self-titled collection of worship choruses done cast in METAL. So, of course this would become part of my music vault. Let’s see what’s inside, shall we?

To be fair, when I think of Scandinavian metal, I tend to think of epic power metal, or at least black metal. Technical melodic death metal as well. I would be remiss to not admit that I would expect at least some power metal influence going on before popping this into the media player to give it a few listens. Of course, as per usual concerning my preconceived assumptions, Scandinavian Metal Praise proved me to be a bit off. Okay, more than just a bit off, really.

The sound on Scandinavian Metal Praise features some very heavy and crunchy guitar riffs and thick rhythms that are more mid-paced hard rocking metal, with the guitar riffs themselves keeping things basic, yet still given some room to stretch out with the technical playing, incorporating bits of grunge and Djent in the mix at times, and achieving some fantastic technical styles and solos going. The singer is fantastic, but I couldn’t help but think that maybe she was holding back, coming close but not quite hitting things out of the park. She is very much capable of handing these songs, though, so don’t think this is a major criticism.

The album starts with “Great Is Power”, which has a good, heavy crunchy guitar riff and hook, and has an interesting Djent bridge. “When The Spirit Of The Lord”, one of my favorite praise choruses, has a faster technical riff, befitting this particular song. Of course, when I first heard the song, it was by way of the Petra version on their first Petra Praise release. This version here has a much more textured feel to it. “Praise Adonai” has a moody, almost grunge feel to the music, while “Worthy Is The Lamb” is a bit more commercial sounding, though still heavy. “Wonderful God” leans more towards the power metal side of things, with a fast guitar riff opening and maintaining a thick, crunchy hook throughout. “Take Me In” is a bit darker, featuring a mix of keyboards and guitars that brings out the emotional qualities of the song. Again, this is another song I first heard way back on the Petra Praise release. This one’s heavier, as you may have gathered. “We Sing Alleluia” features a very stark riff, with traditional keys and melody infusing the song; “Holy King” has a good power riff and is more somber; and “Laulu Suomelle” ends the album on an upbeat note, with a good technical and heavy riff and a bit of a faster pace. It’s also sung in the band’s native Finnish, in case you were wondering. I’m fairly certain you weren’t, but I do like to throw in useless facts that no one asked about on these things.

Overall, Scandinavian Metal Praise is a good, solid praise and worship album with some great renditions of the classics I grew to love while growing up in my faith. This is way better than those lame Maranatha! praise and worship releases that we were inundated with back in the 1990s. Highly recommended.

Music Review: CRUSHING THE DECEIVER – Crushing The Deceiver

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crushing the deceiverCRUSHING THE DECEIVER
Crushing The Deceiver
Roxx Records

Over the past few months, I’ve known about California outfit Crushing The Deceiver by way of Facebook. I’ve been following the various posts made teasing the songs for the upcoming self-titled debut release. So when it finally was released through Roxx Records, I picked up a digital copy on Amazon and immediately gave it a couple of play-throughs in my ongoing attempt to be more timely with my newer release reviews on here.

Having not knowing anything about the band or their music — I chose not to listen to the pre-releases song samples and just buy sight unseen, in a manner of speaking — beyond seeing their genre listed as “Thrash” and “Death Metal” on the Metal-Archives site, I didn’t entirely know what to expect. The cover art was fairly decent, so what do we have with the music?

The opening track, “An Angel’s Armor”, kicks off with battle sound effects and a guy admonishing the listener to stand for Jesus, so right off the bat there’s no mystery as to where the band is coming from lyrically. That’s always nice. Then there’s a thrashy guitar riff that happens, before it settles to a mid-paced metalcore plod along pace, with the vocals effecting a kind of grunt-shout typical of the hardcore/metalcore genre. But, this was merely the first track, not the best way to judge an entire album. “The Light Inside Of Me” is a bit faster riff, but I couldn’t help but notice that the production seemed a bit thin, with the guitar work being a bit sloppy, kind of a home demo-ish quality going. “Guide The Way To You” incorporates a Djent-style chunk-chunk riff, while “Pushing Back Hell” goes with a slightly different variation of the same kind of basic deathcore riff, while the drum trigger programming is far more pronounced and noticeable here.

So, here we are at the mid-point of the album, and I was beginning to think that the remaining four songs were going to be more of the same kind of mediocre metalcore. But, after the acoustic opening on “Crushing The Deceiver”, the song then surprised me by ripping into a proper thrash metal riff, keeping things fast and furious throughout, and while it seemed to lose cohesion a bit near the end, is actually a good thrash song. Fortunately, this isn’t just one fluke, as “Born Again” and “Forever Free” both keep up the thrashing pace, both decently good cuts, production quality notwithstanding. The final song, “Gabriel’s Song”, is just an acoustic guitar instrumental.

Look, I have to say that I normally go into these reviews wanting to like everything that I put inside my earholes. I’m really less of a critic, and more a metal enthusiast, truth be told. I say this because, overall, I found Crushing The Deceiver as kind of a disappointment. Kind of. I found that, out of the nine songs collected on here, there are maybe three decent cuts on here that actually got my attention. The production, as I’ve mentioned before, is not that great, seemingly missing some dynamic range in the mix, with the music itself needing some tightening up. I do believe that the band works best when playing the thrash metal, and if they focused on that as well as doing a lot of spit and polish on the music and production, they could release something absolutely mind-blowing. As it stands, Crushing The Deceiver shows promise, but isn’t something to rush out for.

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