Posts Tagged ‘best’

Dream Theater – The Astonishing

While here at Heavy Blog we usually err on the “for its own merit” side of the album/career debate, choosing to focus on an album’s singular traits rather than its place within a band’s discography, this would be a mistake here. While  The Astonishing , one of the most anticipated albums of the year, is certainly a departure from everything  Dream Theater has been giving us in the past few years, it’s also a return to several key sounds from the beginning and middle period of their career. Even that departure requires an understanding of the bigger picture of their trajectory; to depart from something, you need to understand something. And so, the first thing that is immediately apparent when the first real track (that is, not the intro) of  The Astonishing begins to play is: this is a rock opera. When the second track begins to play, something else becomes immediately apparent: the main touchstone for this album within the extensive Dream Theater discography is  Six Degrees of Inner  Turbulence . That spring in the step, that hopeful and cheery outlook, screams of that intricate album, the closest the band have come to a rock opera in the past. Yes, OK, but is it  a good album ? That’s what we’re all here to find out. In two words: yes and no. In more than that,  The Astonishing  contains some amazing tracks, possibly the best the band have produced since the lukewarm  Octavarium  trickled into our ears. When the tracks are playing, it’s impossible to resist how downright energetic this album is. At these moments, the cheesiness is perfectly balanced with that old-school  Rush  feel that Dream Theater have always been famous for and things work. They work really well in several points: on “Lord Nafaryus” for example, LaBrie delivers the intricate villain role with brilliant precision, doing things with his voice that he never has, as far as register and delivery goes. The artificial strings blend perfectly with the over the top piano, accentuated by signature guitar bridges from Petrucci. This cohesion is perhaps one of the best marks of a good Dream Theater album: when they work together, instead of playing against each other, they sound best. The slightest, cheesy touch from Petrucci near the end really closes the deal, making this one of the best tracks on both albums. This track is followed by two more excellent iterations of this new-fangled sound: “A Saviour in the Square” is epic to the exact degree needed, with a splash of horns to spice things up. LaBrie returns to more conventional grounds and reminds us that, regardless of personal taste, he is one of the most consistently excellent singers in the industry. Personal note time: when “When Your Times Has Come” kicks in, the next track down the line, I get teary eyed. This song is cheese to the maximum degree, but Rudess has chosen old school synth effects, with a wink to Kevin Moore perhaps, and LaBrie executes beautifully. This is “Hollow Years” territory: you know it’s cheesy rock but it just touches something within you and it works. Which brings us to the major defect with the album. Honestly, what band can expect to release 33 tracks and get that perfect balance between emotional propensity and technical achievement? Even Dream Theater, one of the most veteran and influential bands operating today, can’t pull it off.  The Astonishing  is replete with filler tracks, songs that really have no right existing other than an obscure parts they play in this (rather underwhelming) story that the album attempts to tell. And that’s not enough: cliche guitar parts mix with over-sweetness in LaBrie’s voice and bounce off the most cliche lines that Rudess can make from his keyboards. And they’re repetitive as well. There’s no reason for “Act of Faythe”, one of the cheesiest songs ever made by Dream Theater, to exist when a track like “The Answer” exists as well. There’s supposedly a common theme being iterated upon here but it’s not interesting enough to carry the tracks forward. Nor are the ways in which the band iterate upon it interesting in anyway: they include shifting the mood just a bit to give it a lighter or darker spin and nothing else. All of these flaws extend to the second “CD” as well, and then some. “A Life Left Behind” for example is a track which could have come right out of  Awake but it’s successor, “Ravenskill” is completely pointless, taking too much time with its intro and failing to deliver when the main theme is introduced. Since the flow between the tracks, a famous trope of progressive records, has been completely abandoned here in favor of the “track by track” structure of rock operas, the second CD is hard to pin down and connect to the first. By the time you’ve reached it, so many filler tracks have gone by without a clear approach to thematization that the thread is almost impossible to grasp. The narrative has been completely lost and every track, even the good ones, start to sound the same. That’s no accident: even the good tricks utilized on this album are the  same old tricks  that we know from this album itself and from past entries in the Dream Theater discography. While the overall style of the album is new, in that it taps into tropes that were only lightly present in their careers so far, the track progression is the same tried and true method. OK, we’ve saved the best (worst) for last. Sharp-eyed readers might have noticed that we haven’t mentioned two current members of the band. The first, John Myung, might not surprise anybody; his absence, both in sound and words, from the band is a thing of legend by now. On  The Astonishing , or at least on the copy that we of the press received, he is almost 100% missing. Whether in the mixing or in the recording, the bass was completely swallowed by the other instruments and is completely absent from the final product. However, now we come, here at the end, to the most egregious and unexplainable flaw in this record: Mike Mangini. Throughout the album, Magini displays an almost impressive amount of disinterest in what’s going on around him. The drums line are not only performed in a lackluster way, they also sound as if zero effort was put into their writing. We  know  Mangini is a talented drummer but that talent is nowhere to be found here: obvious fill after obvious fill churn out under paper thin cymbals and pointless kick drums, ultimately amounting to nothing much. There’s literally no moments on the albums that are worth mentioning for their drums and this infuriatingly frustrating, given what we know of  his obvious ability. At the end of the day, when you put all of the above together, you get a disappointing album. If this had just been a bad album, we could have chalked it down to age, momentum and being out of touch. That’s impossible though, since when the album is good, it’s really quite good. If only it had been cut to about ten tracks and purged of the incessant repetitions, it might have been the best Dream Theater album in years. Instead, it’s a puerile attempt at a grand gesture that ultimately falls on its face, caught too close to the sun with wax spilling over, giving all its features the same, bland, indecipherable structure. ? Dream Theater – The Astonishing gets… 3/5

Shinedown, Three Days Grace + P.O.D. Devour Massachusetts With Rock Assault

Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com “You left me here like a chalk outline” – the chorus to the first single off of Three Days Grace latest disc ‘Transit of Venus’ rang out almost prophetic in nature as the band took the stage to ravage a rock-hungry New England crowd on a freezing February evening in Lowell, Mass., on Wednesday (Feb. 20). Shortly before the co-headlining tour with Shinedown kicked off, former Three Days Grace frontman Adam Gontier unceremoniously up and left the band without much notice, leaving them in a bit of a bind. Luckily, the music genes seem run deep in bassist Brad Walst’s family and he was able to recruit his brother, My Darkest Days frontman Matt Walst, to fill in on the trek. While this left Matt with some large shoes to fill and certainly sky high expectations, he seems to have settled into the role as the (temporary?) Three Days Grace vocalist with ease. The band erupted onto the stage looking as if they just crawled out of the wreckage of a post-apocalyptic showdown. With guns blazing in the form of behemoth beams of pyro, the band certainly showed no signs of only having recruited their singer a month ago, they played like a well-oiled machine. With one of the best bass faces in the business, Brad Walst performs alongside guitarist Barry Stock and drummer Neil Sanderson as seasoned vets on the stage. And while Matt Walst may be seeing some of the largest crowds he’s seen throughout his young career, you’d never know it. It’s hard to deny that many bands are defined by their lead singer and vocalwise, Walst’s voice has a lower register and overall sounds a lot cleaner than Gontier’s. There’s a lot less grit and grime and a bit more clarity fueled by his tenacity to deliver the songs in a manner where they still sound familiar. Of course, Gontier’s gritty vocals complement the often angst-ridded lyrics of Three Days Grace songs, but judging by the reaction of the crowd, Matt Walst was accepted with open arms. While the future of Three Days Grace seems a bit unclear at the moment, the band has truly embraced the rebellious spirit of rock and punched it into high gear to move forward wherever their path may take them. Shinedown were up next, starting off their set with a bit of a surprise. Drummer Barry Kerch walked onto stage solo and took his place behind the kit. As the music for their song ‘Enemies’ engulfed the arena, fans were searching to see where it was coming from. They only had to look back to the mixing board to see a separate smaller stage where vocalist Brent Smith, guitarist Zach Myers and bassist Eric Bass were getting the night started, rocking their hearts out. Halfway through the song, the three darted through the crowd and back to the main stage for a proper introduction to the near capacity venue. With something that has become part of a ritual at any Shinedown show, Smith encouraged fans to say hello to the people around them, engage a bit, and just have a good time throughout the night. It’s this all for one and one for all vibe that provides a lot of the backbone to their latest disc ‘Amaryllis’ and fuels such a solid connection between the band and their fans. Decked out head to toe in formal attire and looking like they’re possibly in the best shape of their lives, the sharp-dressed men of Shinedown didn’t let formality cloud their vision of getting down and dirty and delivering the best rock show in town. With a set that showcased their latest disc while still offering up some of the biggest hits of their career throughout, fans soaked up a retrospective of Shinedown’s full discography spanning from 2003’s ‘Leave a Whisper’ to their latest single ‘I’ll Follow You.” One thing Shinedown has mastered is seamlessly in a live environment is transitioning from uptempo rockers to more heartfelt ballads without losing energy along the way. This is something that has clearly come from years of experience. There’s a lot of fun going on up there too. Between Smith striking rockstar worthy poses centerstage, Myers and Bass swapping sides of the stage to say hi to the fans sitting on the sides, and Kerch’s hair flying to the beat of his own drum, the guys in Shinedown obviously love what they do, and that kind of infectious energy is the permeating kind. Although it seemed that their time onstage felt a bit short — Shinedown fans would probably feel that way if the set spanned three hours – the band delivered a jam-packed set that featured a slew of familiar chart-topping hits. Boom! P.O.D. got the night started with a short set that featured hit tunes like ‘Alive’ and ‘Youth of a Nation.’ Before their time was over, frontman Sonny Sandoval jumped off the stage and right into the fray to visit the fans in the front row and sing a song with them. After their hiatus, it’s great to see P.O.D. back in their element. It’s obvious that’s where they are at their best, so get there early to check them out! The Shinedown, Three Days Grace, P.O.D. tour continues through the end of March, check out all the remaining dates here . Photos of Shinedown, Three Days Grace + P.O.D. in Lowell, Mass.: Shinedown: Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Three Days Grace: Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com P.O.D.: Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com

Best Rock Songs of 2013 (So Far)

Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com / Kevin Winter, Getty Images/ Liz Ramanand, Loudwire There’s still plenty of time left in 2013, but the year is already off to a rocking start and we wanted to highlight the songs that we feel will remain staples in our playlists for the immediate future, as well as years to come. On this list, you’ll find a broad representation of the artists who’ve made the hard rock scene so special over the years, as well as some of the newer acts who offer such promise for the future of the genre. To qualify for this list, the song itself had to make its impact in the year 2013, whether it comes from an album that was released this year or in 2012. We’ll continue to update this list through the rest of 2013 as more great rock songs are released, but for now, you can start to check out the Best Rock Songs of 2013 (So Far) by clicking on the red button below: [button href=”http://loudwire.com/alice-in-chains-hollow-best-2013-rock-songs/” title=”See + Hear the Best Rock Songs of 2013 (So Far)” align=”center”]

Former Three Days Grace Frontman Adam Gontier Working on Solo Album, Wishes Band ‘All The Best’

Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com After what could be described as a tumultuous split with his former band Three Days Grace , Adam Gontier made his first solo debut since leaving the band at the ‘Rock For Recovery’ benefit show at the Gramercy Theater in New York City on Jan. 17. When Artisan News asked the singer about his departure from Three Days Grace and how he felt, Gontier had nothing but positive things to say. “I feel great about it; this is a new chapter of my life,” he said in the video interview (watch below). “Three Days Grace for me ran its toll. We were a band for 20 years and things don’t last forever. You have to move on and do what’s right for you and for own well-being. For me it was just the end of the road.” He didn’t leave it at that though; he took some time to wish the band well without him. “I wish the guys all the best,” Gontier said. “I wish them all the best and no hard feelings but for me it was time to move on and into a new chapter of my life.” These statements come in contrast to recent remarks by Gontier, in which he criticized the creative direction of Three Days Grace. As we reported recently, Gontier said, “The music really wasn’t coming from the heart. I can say that on the record ‘Transit of Venus,’ there’s maybe one or two songs that actually do come from my heart … Quite a bit of it just adds up to the fakeness of the whole industry and how you’re writing hits for other people.” That new chapter of Gontier’s life includes an upcoming solo album that is already in the works. Gontier shared that he’s already written many new songs for the disc that should be out some time in 2013. “It’s a matter of basically tweaking songs that have already been written and recording them, getting them done,” Gontier explained. “I would think within a few months I should have something done.” As Gontier continues to pursue his solo career, Three Days Grace are gearing up for their co-headlining tour with Shinedown. With Gontier gone from the band, Three Days Grace have recruited singer Matt Walst to sing on the tour, who coincidentally just happens to be the brother of bassist Brad Walst. The tour kicks off in February. Watch Adam Gontier Talk About His Solo Career and Split From Three Days Grace [button href=”http://loudwire.com/adam-gontier-criticizes-direction-three-days-grace-promises-release-health-records/” title=”Next: Adam Gontier Criticizes Musical Direction of Three Days Grace + More” align=”center”]

Best Shinedown Album – Readers Poll

Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Shinedown have enjoyed a successful career since arriving on the scene in 2003, releasing four hit-filled albums along the way. Now, we want to know which of their albums is the best. The group’s musical debut came with the 2003 album, ‘Leave a Whisper.’ Shinedown immediately caught hold at rock radio with ‘Fly From the Inside,’ a track that went Top 5. That was followed by three more Top 5 hits – the brutal rocker ’45,’ their cover of Lynyrd’s Skynyrd ‘s ‘Simple Man’ and the album’s biggest single, ‘Burning Bright.’ The band’s sophomore set, ‘Us and Them,’ arrived in 2005 with three more hit songs. ‘Save Me’ led the way, becoming the band’s first-ever chart-topping single. It was followed by the uplifting ‘I Dare You’ and the edgy rocker ‘Heroes,’ which also went Top 5 at rock radio. Shinedown’s third album, ‘The Sound of Madness,’ took them to new heights in 2008. The disc, which was the band’s first with a reconfigured lineup, launched with a trio of chart-topping singles — the hard-rocking ‘Devour,’ the rock ballad ‘Second Chance’ and the melodic title track. The song also spawned a fourth chart-topper, ‘The Crow and the Butterfly,’ which followed the heartfelt track ‘If You Only Knew.’ And then there’s Shinedown’s fourth and most recent album, ‘Amaryllis.’ The disc dropped in early 2012 with the rocking first single ‘Bully,’ followed by the moving track ‘Unity’ and the aggressive angst-ridden ‘Enemies.’ There you have it — four very successful albums from Shinedown. Which one is the best? You tell us by voting in the Readers Poll below: Sorry, you need to have javascript running to see this poll. [button href=”http://loudwire.com/three-days-grace-singer-swap-readers-poll/” title=”Previous Readers Poll: Three Days Grace Singer Swap” align=”center”]

Anthrax Guitarist Rob Caggiano Announces Departure From Band

Megaforce Breaking news from the legendary thrash metallers of Anthrax . Lead guitarist Rob Caggiano has left the band to focus on production work. Having joined Anthrax in 2001, Caggiano stuck with the New York thrash band until the group’s ‘Among the Living’ lineup reunited in 2005. However, Caggiano was brought back in 2007, remaining as Anthrax’s lead guitarist until now. The announcement comes as a big surprise, as Anthrax have been experiencing their greatest success in years on the heels of their critically acclaimed 2011 album, ‘Worship Music,’ which just yielded a Grammy nomination for the track ‘I’m Alive.’ Caggiano explains his departure in statement just released by the guitarist himself: I’m extremely proud of my time in Anthrax. Actually, that’s an understatement! We accomplished so many great things together over the years and I shared some of the best times of my life with these guys. As a band, we also weathered quite a few storms along the way. It’s been a wild ride (to say the least) from Day One and I wouldn’t change one single thing about the last 12 years. This is an extremely difficult and emotional decision for me to make but my heart is just steering me in a different direction right now. I’ve always been one to follow my heart in everything that I do and while this might be one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make, it feels like the right one for me at this time. Scott, Charlie, Joey, Frankie (and John Bush) will always be part of my family and this decision doesn’t change the way I feel about that in the slightest. I would also like to say thanks to all the amazing fans I’ve met and hung out with worldwide over the years. You guys always were and always will be the reason why I make music! In this day and age, being a musician isn’t always easy -also an understatement- but the fans truly make it worthwhile for me. I hope to see each and every one of you again really soon. The fact that Anthrax is at the top of their game right now and totally ‘out for blood’ after all these years is a testament to this band’s longevity and conviction! I’m truly honored to have been a part of their brilliant legacy. As for this future, the former Anthrax shredder will continue his career as an in-studio producer: I can’t wait to get back in the recording studio again! Over the years, I’ve been blessed with the privilege of working with a wide range of great bands/artists from Anthrax and Cradle of Filth all the way to Bruce Springsteen, and I look forward to a hopeful continuation of that side of my career while I figure out my next move as an artist. BTW in case anyone was wondering after reading all of this, I do FULLY intend to get back out there on the road very soon in some way shape or form….it’s in my blood! Anthrax have also released their own statement, wishing their friend the best on his new path: Rob has been an integral part of Anthrax for so many years, as our lead guitarist, in a production capacity, but most of all, as our close friend.  His contributions to the band have been enormous. While we are sad that he is leaving, we wish him nothing but great success going forward, and hope to share the stage with him again sometime down the road. With the Metal Alliance Tour on the horizon, we have been considering several lead guitarist options, and will be making an announcement on that shortly. Stay tuned for Anthrax’s decision on who will replace Caggiano on lead guitar for the 2013 Metal Alliance tour, along with Caggiano’s future plans as a producer. [button href=”http://loudwire.com/dates-revealed-2013-metal-alliance-tour-anthrax-exodus-municipal-waste/” title=”Anthrax – 2013 Metal Alliance Tour Dates” align=”center”]

Lars Ulrich Ponders Future of Metallica

Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com Metallica just keep rocking along, year after year, becoming one of metal’s most enduring acts. But with that longevity comes the possibility of complacency, which is something that drummer Lars Ulrich says he doesn’t think will ever happen. The drummer tells Metal Hammer that the band’s drive and ambition will keep them from ever breaking up, as long as they’re fit enough to keep on going. He explains, “I don’t think I’ll ever be bored of being in Metallica. I think that one of two things can happen. One, is the physicality of what we do — if we don’t have the strength to do it physically anymore. We will always have the strength to do it mentally, so I’m not worried about that. But if there ever comes a time when we feel that it’s not going on all 12 cylinders, then I hope that we have the guts to walk away from it.” Ulrich says the other thing that could happen is the evolution of outside interests. He ponders, “Is there a chance that when I’m 55, I’ll want to write a movie? Or that James Hetfield will want to make a country record? Or that Kirk Hammett will want to go surfing for a year?” While that is a possibility, Ulrich says he feels the band members will always find their way back to Metallica. He adds, “I don’t think I’ll ever wake up and go, ‘I’m bored of being in Metallica,’ because of the nature of who we are as people and the dynamics in our personalities. We always make it interesting for ourselves. That’s why we do crazy s— like ‘Some Kind of Monster’ and the 3D movies. We throw ourselves these challenges. It’s to make sure that boredom never sets in.” When asked what he thinks his 18-year-old self would think about what he’s doing now, the drummer explained, “I think he’d think that he’s alright. He does a pretty good job of keeping it real and dealing with all the things he does. I realized that I say one phrase quite often: ‘I’m doing the best I can.’ I think the 18-year-old would look at the 48-year-old and go, ‘He’s doing the best he can.’” [button href=”http://loudwire.com/many-faces-metallica-lars-ulrich/” title=”Next: The Many Faces of Lars Ulrich” align=”center”]

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