Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rick's Discoveries Volume XVI

In my unconscious (or, more likely, conscious) desire to be diverse, I have crafted this Discoveries article to be similar to the last, so you're going to see some hip-hop, some house, and some post-rock to go with the usual metal leanings. These "other" genre entries aren't here just to be tokens, however; they are genuinely enjoyable albums, so even if they're not usually your cup of tea, you still might want to try them out.

Face Candy - Waste Age Teen Land

The few reviews I read for this album paint it as a mess… which, well, I can actually understand. Like the first Face Candy album from 2006, Waste Age Teen Land is a 40 minute improvisational experiment. Recorded live, Eyedea, Kristoff Kane, JT Bates, and Casey O'Brien start with a blank canvas and improvise beats, rhythms, raps, and flows, going with whatever comes to mind. Much like the first Face Candy experiment, this is an odd beast all around. I think I'm partially drawn to it because this is one of the last things Eyedea recorded before he died, but even barring that, I admire the way these individuals go out on a limb and explore whatever road they decide to go down throughout the course of this album. For anyone who likes freestyle hip-hop, this is something to check out.

Sleepmakeswaves - Sleepmakeswaves

This is a busy post-rock band. Having released an EP in 2007, another in 2008, and a full length in 2011, they start off 2012 with this self-titled EP. These Australians aren't breaking any new ground in the post-rock arena, but they're executing on it flawlessly. Using the build-up, crescendo, come-down formula Explosions in the Sky made famous, interspersed with some louder Caspian moments, Sleepmakeswaves gives you exactly what you would want and expect from a post-rock album. It's not boring, yet it's not overly complicated or off-putting. They hit that post-rock sweet spot that so many other bands fail to even come close to.

Invisius - Changes

As I Lay Dying + newer Soilwork + some metalcore tropes + some Killswitch Engage = Invsius. I'm not sure I need to tell you any more, do I?

Cult Cinema - Iscariot

This is a brutal, little EP. Combining chaotic hardcore, the darkest Cult of Luna influences, and throat ripping screams, Cult Cinema utterly destroy you with the 5 tracks on this EP. Now when I mention "chaotic hardcore" I should probably temper that by saying "controlled chaotic hardcore" because even though there isn't one iota of slickness, and the band tip-toes so close to losing it, they have a firm grip on how to channel their chaotic tendencies to make songs that keep you wondering how they keep it all pulled together. What I wouldn't give for a full length by these guys!

Thira - The Ascension Construct

I was initially caught up by the song "Release" when I checked it out on the band's bandcamp page. It started as pretty standard deathcore with djent leanings, but in the middle of the song there was a bit of southern swagger added to the djenty guitar tones that reminded me a bit of a mix of Nemertines and The Showdown. Not content to just add a southern twang to their approach, Thira also has some industrial elements that provide even more variety to their djenty deathcore mix.

Dot Three - Antithesis

Whereas Thira went down the deathcore lane of djent-land, Dot Three are firmly planted on groove terrace. If your favorite part of any TesseracTsong is the thick, guitar lead then get over to bandcamp and buy this album. The full focus of this album is on the movements of the guitars; everything else just serves to back them up. The downside to this is that the djent guitar tone is so very obvious here and is so far at the front that if you're getting a bit worn on the sound, it may seem old hat and slightly uninteresting. However, I found it to be a solid instrumental entry utilizing the now popularized djent sound.

Dungeon Elite - New World Disorder

Man… I feel really dirty recommending this album, but I have to simply based upon how catchy it is. This is trendy nintendocore that shouldn’t be good, but the combination of bouncy, almost j-pop style song structures with mallcore metalcore elements, keyboards, and infectious choruses is simply too much to deny. This is the definition of a guilty pleasure album. Imagine Enter Shikari with male/female vocals, and that they listened to tons of pop music and grew up watching ungodly amounts of anime… if that doesn't turn you away instantly, then New World Disorder will easily keep you entertained.

Born to Suffer - The Rambler

I'm not completely sure if I like this album or hate it. The band has so many influences mixed into their songs, from Onward to Olympas toKillswitch Engage to Attack Attack! to Anberlin. It's an interesting mix for sure, but sometimes it feels haphazardly slapped together. I like the mix of metalcore, melody, and keyboards… but I also know I've heard this all before by other bands (and executed a little better)… so why did I listen to this album a couple of times instead of tossing it aside? I'm not sure, really, but since I did come back to it they must be doing something right!

Kaskade - Fire & Ice

I really like the concept of this double album. One disc, Fire, offers the clubbed up, house version of a song while the other, Ice, is a more subdued, trance version of the song. The Fire versions of the songs are very club oriented and have a strong focus on big beats, so make sure your sub can kick it. The Ice versions, for the most part, are a bit slowed down and more nuanced than their Fire counterparts, but some still have a big bass focus (like "Llove")… so I guess what I'm saying is this is a great double album to give your sub a workout, regardless of your mood.

No Trigger - Tycoon

On their third album (their first in 6 years), No Trigger have not changed one bit which, if you ask me, is the best thing they could have done. No Trigger play no frills hardcore punk in the classic EpiWreck style. Think A Wilhelm Scream meets Kid Dynamite meets Strike Anywhere to get your head in the right mindset. There's honestly not a whole lot else to say other than that they do this sound perfectly. They had this style nailed in 2006 with Canyoneer and they haven't lost a single step on Tycoon.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

There's a Reason Why Digital Comics Aren't Flourishing...

...and it comes down to one thing--price. But before I complain about it, how did I get to a point where the price on digital comics even mattered so much to me?

Only when we moved to our current home did I realize how many comic books, of the physical form, I actually owned. The picture on the left shows my collection after having eliminated about 4-5 long boxes of comics through Ebay. My collection was cumbersome and space-eating, and I really didn't need all these comics cluttering up the basement, did I? Probably not. So I decided to start selling chunks of my collection on ebay (which I'm still in the middle of doing). It's nice to see the number of boxes (slowly) decrease, but it's a battle that I'm not helping because instead of strictly selling comics, I still buy comics as well.

Just because I'm selling my collection doesn't mean that I've given up on reading comics. Quite the opposite! The older I get, the more I need that connection to a simpler day and a link to my youth. That and I absolutely love the visual storytelling medium that comics create.

But I don't need to have floppy versions of comics. I'm not in it for the collectibility or resale or anything like that--I just want to read the series and graphic novels that I like in the most cost effective manner possible. Ideally, it would make sense to just go completely digital like I'd started to do with my book collection thanks to Amazon and their Kindle app for my iPad. And I thought I could do the same with the Comics app from Comixology, but even though I occasionally buy comics through the app, I still don't use it as my primary way to buy comics.

The notion that I could have my entire collection on my iPad, which is smaller than my cat, instead of taking up a chunk of an entire room, is so enticing, but it still doesn't work on a price level.

If you think about it, digital comics should be cheaper than their paper counterparts. There's no materials costs, no shipping costs, no printing costs, and no warehouse costs. Yes, you'll have some costs related to various outlets (such as iTunes) taking their cut, but overall you'd think that companies should be able to price digital wares cheaper than their physical versions. This is the case for some comics, but for most it actually is not the case.

Marvel and DC have both jumped into the digital world, which is completely awesome, but they are pricing all of their new releases at the same price physically and digitally. So that new copy of Batman is $2.99 whether you get the physical floppy version or the digital copy. And the latest X-Men (or other Marvel title) will run you $3.99 for either version. Yikes. That's not persuading me to buy the digital copies at all.

If I can get the physical copy for the same price, and often less, then why opt for the digital version? I make all of my physical comic orders through DCBService, where everything is usually at a, to start, 40% discount. So instead of paying $2.99 or $3.99, I'm paying $1.79 or $2.39. I'm already saving money by going physical over digital. As a bonus, which is what I do now, when I'm done reading the physical copies I'll often sell them on ebay, allowing me to recoup some of what I did pay, so I'd say in actuality I'm paying probably $0.99 or so for each comic in physical format... so why aren't the digital prices there?

I'm not sure, actually. I can't possibly see any reason why digital prices should remain as high as they are and equal to print. Sure, there's sales every now and again, but only on very select titles. Also, some publishers have caught on and are pricing their digital comics a little less than print, but until the entire market, especially the big players Marvel and DC, gets to a point where digital comics are cheaper and easier to get than their physical version (they're already there on the easier part), it's just not going to work.

And if people really want to get their comics digitally and not pay the ridiculous digital prices, they'll just torrent them and use Comic Zeal to store them on their iPad. Heck, for portability's sake, I'll often torrent digital copies of the comics I own and buy physically just so I don't have to lug around big old trade paperbacks or a stack of comics. I want to buy comics digitally, but until they're cheaper, it doesn't make sense for me to move away from the physical format. Let's get with it, Marvel & DC. I guarantee you sales will increase if you bring that price point down a bit.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Believe It or Not, I Survived Another Year

Another year, another high school alumni basketball tournament. It's a bit hard to believe that it's been about 13 years since I was playing basketball as a high school student. What's even more hard to believe is that we keep coming back to play each year. As another tournament has come and went, we participated, we didn't get last place, and we all were a little more worn out afterwards. At least there were no injuries this year!

I think the main reason that our year, the class of 1999, puts so much effort into getting back together to play in the tournament is it is our way to remember one of our close friends--Mike Johnson--who passed away from cancer while we were all in college. Probably half a decade ago the annual tournament looked like it was going to fade away as the local high school coach didn't really care to organize it and no one else stepped up... until one of our players, Eaton, stepped up to get the tournament rolling again, putting the focus on fun, charity, and remembering the good ol' days. I find it interesting that as we finished yet another successful tournament, I ran across an article I wrote for the re-launch of the alumni tournament, when we branded it the Mike Johnson Memorial Alumni Tournament. I think it's just as fitting now as it was years ago, and helps to keep fresh a good friend's memory.

From the 2006 Mike Johnson Memorial Alumni Tournament launch:

It’s been well over seven years since the class of 1999 graduated and left the halls of Hayfield High School. I’m sure that for the majority of us it doesn’t feel like it was that long ago that we were still running around the school and going through the numerous senior year events we all remember so fondly. In hearing about this year’s alumni tournament and the mention that it would be in Mike Johnson’s honor, it stirred up many old memories, as well as a little bit of my competitive nature, more than I would normally let bubble up because, let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to win the tournament in Mike’s honor?

As we’ve grown up and become more immersed in our personal lives, our jobs, our families, and all of the other things that now mean so much to each of us, staying in the shape we were back in high school has, well, sometimes taken a back seat. I know it definitely has for me, so in trying to prepare for the upcoming alumni tournament, I decided I’d attempt to put in some miles on my parents’ treadmill while I was down to visit them over the Christmas weekend. However, I found I left my running shoes at home, no doubt because subconsciously I wanted to keep myself from doing any of that running nonsense. That competitive nature I mentioned before took over, though, and I found myself rifling through my closet in my old room and came across a t-shirt that was too small, some shorts that were too short, and my beat up basketball shoes from senior year. Somehow, some way, they survived and were waiting around for me to find them.

Armed with clothes and shoes that fit my body back in high school, but were a little tight around the extra pounds that the years have put on, I approached the treadmill tepidly. Before I could even get up to a full on jog, I found myself not only starting to breath heavily, but also awash in memories. These high school basketball shoes felt a little bit funny on my feet. It had been seven years since I’d worn them last, after all, but even though it was a little weird having these old shoes on, there was also a sense of familiarity and nostalgia that accompanied the sensation.

Once I got the treadmill and up to a running, the shoes felt right at home on my feet, just like I was back in high school at basketball practice. Everything seemed so fresh in my mind. It may have been five years since Mike passed on, but in the memories that have stuck with me he’s still right there poking away the ball as I try a lame crossover during practice. Instead of getting upset or angry for getting the ball stolen as I was prone to doing, when it was against Mike I couldn’t help but laugh instead because he wasn’t trying to make me look bad or show off -- he was just having fun. He didn’t need to make me look bad; I was doing a good enough job of that myself without his help.

It was that sense of fun that helped make basketball practice with Mike as enjoyable as it was. If it wasn’t the good natured playing on the court that got us all grinning, it was probably talking about the tomfoolery that went on before practice started or after it was done. I remember one time in particular when Mike and I had unscrewed the top of Mike Young’s cologne in his locker room locker and placed it just so perfectly above his practice jersey so that it would fall over from the slightest jarring. Once Young moved into position near his locker, we “accidentally” bumped him so that the cologne spilled all over his uniform. Listening to guys complain about guarding a sweaty, gross, and slimy players was pretty commonplace, but listening to everyone throughout practice ask Young why he smelt like he was going on a date while they were guarding him was priceless.

Chugging along on the treadmill, chuckling, I could still smell the overpowering stench of Aspen cologne in the air. Practice was always a fun time, but so were the games, mostly because I had prime seating for all of the games – right up next to the coach in the front row on the bench! I was never a starter and didn’t go into games unless we were either winning or losing by 20 points or more so on most nights I spent my game time cheering more than actually playing. Because of this, my high school basketball career was lived somewhat vicariously through the players on the court, and one of the many memorable moments that I now recall was watching Mike heave up a half court shot as the buzzer sounded, following it through the air as it glided by on a prayer, and then staring in amazement at the scoreboard after the ball magically fell through the cylinder for the last second win. How often does something that crazy happen? Not often, friends, not very often at all.

Much like that storied once in a lifetime shot, our memories of Mike are always with us. Our lives are busier than ever as we constantly make our way through this world, creating new memories and forging our own paths, but as we live our lives, we are often reminded of the memories we have already made. I know that I often fondly remember the time shared with Mike, not only on the basketball court, but also on the farm, in the fields, cruising through Rochester, playing back yard football, and just hanging out as friends. And those are just my memories. Combine them with the rest of the class of ’99 and you’d likely be overwhelmed with a cornucopia of stories to be told.

You are not forgotten, Mike, and you’re still an active memory in all of our lives today. Seriously, who else would manage to motivate me enough to throw on my old basketball shoes and torture myself on a treadmill for a few hours in a last ditch effort to get in shape for this tournament? Eaton? Not a chance. We’re thinking about you, remembering you, and playing for you, Mike, knowing that all the while you’re watching us from the best seat in the house and cheering us on.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Diet for the Whole Family...

This past weekend our dog, Tori, was having a bit of an issue with her back leg so we decided to take her in to the vet to make sure nothing was too wrong. She's getting up there in years (she turns 9 this year!) and has been a bit of an overweight lady ("I'm big boned!") for most of her life, so it's probably better to be safe than sorry. I should note, my wife is the more caring one as I had a bit more of the "Tori will tough it out, she doesn't need a vet!" attitude when discussing going to the vet. She won out, however, which was probably a good thing. I tend to dislike doctors of both the human and animal variety... so I'm usually colored in one direction when it comes to these decisions (and it is also no doubt why I ended up suffering from pneumonia for 6 weeks instead of a couple).  Anyways...

It turns out Tori is pretty good. They think it may have actually been an equilibrium issue since she was continually falling in one direction and was fine the next day. But while we were at the vet, we noted Tori's weight was creeping back up. We'd done a relatively good job of keeping her on a diet and getting her exercise, but the winter and Tori's sad eyes at the dinner table knocked us a bit off track the past couple of months. Since Tori has gained a bit of weight and she has notable arthritis in her back legs, the vet stressed that it would do her a ton of good to shed 10 or more pounds. So we're going to work on getting her slimmed back down the next few months, no matter how good she is at making puppy eyes a mealtime!

Then, as Kristi and I thought about it, we've both also gotten a bit lazy and haven't eaten as well as we should or exercised as much as we should. It probably wouldn't hurt for us to make an attempt to lose a bit of weight too. So the genius idea struck us to have all three of us (myself, Kristi, and Tori) try to actively lose some weight; we'll all shoot for losing 10 pounds.

Obviously Tori will have it the hardest being the lightest of the 3 and I should, theoretically, have it the easiest as I am the heaviest, but I think I also have the worst diet of the 3 and have next to no will power when it comes to snacks, especially chocolate ones... or Oreos... or ice cream... or chips... or pizza... crap... I'm starting to realize this is going to suck.

So, in order to keep me a bit honest in this whole process, I'm hoping to check in on occasion here on how my diet and exercise regiment is coming. I figure if we're forcing Tori to do it, the least I can do is try to do it with her. With that, my goal in the next couple of months is to drop from 215 lbs down to 205, with a stretch goal of breaking back under 200. I'm pretty sure I'm going to hate this. A lot.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Rick's Discoveries Volume XV

It's not even been 2 weeks since my last Discoveries article, but I've found myself enamored by quite a few recent listens. Whereas the last article leaned very distinctly to the heavy end of the spectrum of what I usually cover, this article resumes the more varied style that past articles had. However, for the first time in months there isn't a single djent album on the list, which makes me wonder if I'm now--finally--starting to tire of the genre. Even without a djent offering, there's a lot covered here from metalcore to dubstep to prog to doom to black metal, so there should be something to enjoy for everyone.

Chase & Status - No More Idols

I stumbled across this album on accident, but am very thankful that I did. One track by Chase & Status was on a comp I listened to earlier this month and I thought it was interesting enough so when I saw they had an album out from last year, I figured I'd check it out. What I expected was some decent drum and bass, but what I got was a stellar electro/dubstep/house album that not only had a significant variety of song types, but a plethora of guest vocalists. Nearly every track has a different vocalist which definitely influences the approach each song takes--be it hip-hop, R&B, or even pop (although the majority of the album has a hip-hop dubstep vibe). If you want some dubstep that's not just your standard dubstep, this is a choice release to give a listen.

Tea Break - Second Hand Hero

I don't know why the band thought "Tea Break" would be a good name for a post-hardcore band, but here they are. Upon first listen, you may just think you're listening to some Funeral for a Friend demos or B-sides from their Hours era. The driving hard rock and post-hardcore mix that FFAF pulled off so well is the bedrock that Second Hand Hero is built upon. Not nearly as dynamic as FFAF, Tea Break stick to a single formula throughout most of the album, which isn't all that bad except for the fact that this release is 15 tracks long. Still, all is forgiven since they manage to be very, very listenable throughout.

Lethian Dreams - Season of Raven Words

Remember when you first got dumped by someone you actually, truly cared about? Remember how heart-wrenching the experience was? You were stuck with this odd mix of feelings of sadness, listlessness, and apathy… but you also couldn't help but remember fondly the powerful memories of your ended relationship. You'd finally, fully experienced what it is to have a bittersweet memory... and it hurt. Lethian Dreams channels this feeling into their brand of doom and gothic metal. You'll not walk away from this album unscathed.

A Liquid Landscape - Nightingale Express

Starting your album off with a 13+ minute long track is a bit ballsy, especially for an alternative rock band with prog leanings. It's even more ballsy when you consider all of the other songs on the album run half as long or shorter. It almost makes it feel like this title track is its own little EP and the rest of the album is its own album… but anyhow, enough talking about balls. A Liquid Landscape remind me a bit of Karnivool in their proggy leanings, but there's also some nods to bands like Porcupine Tree and Dredg as well. The ambitiousness of some of the tracks on this album is really compelling and should hook in a lot of people looking for intelligent modern alternative rock.

Ceterum - Fathom

Need some Tool-lite to hold you over until we (possibly) get the next album from the prog greats? Then you might as well give Ceterum a spin or two. The influence that Tool has had on Ceterum is pretty obvious, so don't expect to see a lot of variation from their playbook, and I also wouldn’t expect songs quite at the same level as Tool, so maybe it would be more appropriate to categorize Ceterum a bit closer to, say, Earshot or Lucid. However you slice it, though, if you don't like Tool you won't care for Ceterum.

Necrocomiccon - Mjolnir For Nothing

Admittedly, this is not something you'll listen to more than a couple of times--maximum--but it is cute to listen to for those couple of times… if you consider listening to black metal covers of 80's pop songs cute. Cover songs aren't anything new, but hearing hits like "Billie Jean," "Who Can It Be Now?," and "We Didn't Start the Fire" done as straight-forward black metal songs is relatively novel. It's true that the album could have used some polish, but black metal in all its forms seems obsessed with having bad production (something I still don't understand to this day). Like I said, it's a fun listen once or twice through, but that's about it.

ShowYourTeeth - World Denier

I'm continually impressed by the output of Australia in recent years. I honestly think that it's one of the best regions for quality music nowadays and ShowYourTeeth are no slouch. The band's brand of metalcore trends very close to the output of I Killed the Prom Queen or Parkway Drive. The main difference between those bands and this one is in the vocal department. Unfortunately, the vocals are the one place where ShowYourTeeth are quite weak. The throaty yells have very little variation throughout the album, and they feel very forced, as if Michael Salemdoesn't naturally yell but is being told he has to for this album. Maybe this is something they can address in the future (hopefully!) because the rest of the band is rock solid.

Forty Fathoms - In/famous

Forty Fathoms are doing the melodic metalcore thing perfectly. Take the heavy moments from any Parkway Drive song and mix it with the melodic portions of any For the Fallen Dreams or Bury Tomorrow song and you have In/famous. There's absolutely nothing new being done on this EP, but Forty Fathoms are executing the melodic metalcore approach perfectly. If you even tangentially like the genre, you'll find yourself pulled in by this EP.

Spero - City of Tears

In my waiting for a new Trenches album, I found out a couple of guys who were in the band started up their own group--Spero. Wanting to get anything Trenches related into my ears, I tracked down this band and found out that they actually already have 2 releases and a collection of b-sides under their belt, with City of Tears being the latest. Now, if you're expecting something to sound like Trenches, holster those expectations because Spero instead plays a refreshing mix of rock that contains traces of Codeseven, Cave In, and Funeral for a Friend. If you long for hard rock that's not contrived or purposely created for cock-rock radio stations, this will satiate your hunger.

Kill the Noise - Kill Kill Kill

Since it's been a few articles since I've featured dubstep artists, here is your second offering in this round: Kill the Noise. What you'll find on Kill Kill Kill falls very much into the house and drop oriented form of dubstep that is either loved or hated by most. I found this album quite fun and full of energy. I'm sure I'll be kicking it on while I'm trying not to die doing my Insanity workouts and you should flip it on and let it get you moving as well.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Big Short by Michael Lewis Book Review

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday MachineWho would have guessed that a book about the financial collapse of the last half decade would be as compelling as this? This could have easily turned into a dry and boring, but deep, look into what cause the financial catastrophe that has us where we are right now, but since Michael Lewis focused his efforts equally between providing pertinent information and illustrating the characters involved, you not only become engaged by the despicable actions and utter stupidity of so many of the big financial institutions, but you latch onto the unique and interestingly described characters that see what was actually going on.

By now most people who have any interest in politics, finance, or economics understand the gist of what happened in the last half decade and the ramifications it has for so many people. What was so interesting to read was the perspective of people on what was happening as it was happening. You truly got a sense of what gears were turning, how misinformation fed more misinformation which led to such a false sense of security around various, nearly magical, money making tools.

As you slowly feel the pressure building, where our protagonists (that's how I like to view them) know things have to explode, you start to feel the lunacy of it all, the mind-boggling amounts of money being created out of seemingly thin air, and the mindsets of so many people that nothing could possibly go wrong.

Once you finally reach the conclusion of this particular recounting of the financial collapse, you feel simultaneously happy that at least a few souls noticed what was going on and infuriated that such a thing was able to happen in the first place. Then, as you think about it and remember where we're at today, the fury overwhelms any amount of "huh, that was interesting" feelings you may have. The big financial institutions are as big as ever, if not bigger, and there seems to have been no change at any of them, especially since they proved that there IS a safety net that will catch them when they screw up, regardless of how bad.

It's rare that I find myself this glued to a non-fiction book, let alone one whose topics are rarely uplifting. It makes me wish so much more that things would change and makes me even more irate that they haven't.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Rick's Discoveries Volume XIV

It's only the start of the second month of 2012 and already my list of new albums released in this year that I want to either listen to or have been asked to listen to has grown beyond 50. And what about the 75-100 albums from last year I never got around to yet? It boggles my mind how much music there is out there, so getting noticed amidst the myriad of competition today is something that every new band must struggle with. I'd love to give every band I listen to some exposure, but it's just impossible. Knowing that… here's a set of 10 albums that I think deserve at least a little bit of your time to check out.

Tears of Mankind is a one-man band consisting of Phil Skrobelin, who plays a form of doomy, depressive metal that wouldn't be too far removed from what you'd hear on a Swallow the Sun or My Dying Bride release. The album is quite moody as many tracks take on a somber, downtrodden feel only to be buffeted by the few tracks that push the album along at a, relatively speaking, quicker pace. You'll need patience with this album as its 10 tracks run over 60 minutes in length, but if you give it the proper attention, you'll definitely be rewarded.

The Jelly Jam - Shall We Descend?

If you loved mid-career King's X, then The Jelly Jam is the perfect band for you. Considering that the band is made up of King's X's Ty Tabor along with Dream Theater's John Myung and, of all people, Rod Morgenstein of Winger fame, Shall We Descend? is basically what King's X could have sounded like after Dogman if they decided to stick with their core prog-ish rock oriented sound instead of dabbling with other rock and metal genres in their later albums. This is a nice album that hearkens back to Ty Tabor's earlier work.

Eno - -t

It's hard to call this anything other than a mood album. Of the 7 tracks on the album, 4 are interlude-ish shorties that surround 3 epic ambient post-rock compositions (I find it best to ignore the shorties and focus on the epics). The first is 12 minutes, the second is 15, and the final one is 22. Each ebbs and flows in a slow, methodical, melancholic motion. If you lack patience, you won't be able to really appreciate the deliberate pacing of the album, but if you find yourself in a very peaceful, serene mood and want to enhance that feeling, this album will easily do it for you.

Ever Forthright - Ever Forthright

Holy batshit insane jazz-prog-djent, Batman! With 12 tracks spanning nearly 80 minutes, you'd figure this album would get old after a bit… but it never does. It's like someone put together a crazy mashup of Journal, TesseracT, After the Burial, and Between the Buried and Me to see what would happen. Yes, this is predominantly a djent and progressive metal album, but there are many free-form jazzy sections along with some very djent-core moments that keep you guessing as to where the band will go next. If you want variety in your djent, then here you go!

Pretender - Selflessness

If you've been looking for a happy medium between Misery Signals and Bury Your Dead, I think Pretender should fill that niche. They may tilt a little towards the Bury Your Dead side of things, but there's enough MS moments to keep the album spiced up. Hailing from Russia, they have taken on the US metalcore sound quite well with plenty of breakdowns and a lot of open chords to pepper their songs. The band has their album available for free download, so there's no reason not to check them out.

Fractals - Paradox

How am I not tired of djent yet? Most other trendy genres I grow weary of quite quickly and then only stick to the cream of the genre's crop. Maybe I'm more lenient with djent or maybe it's finally a genre where I tend to somehow avoid truly bad releases. Here we have a deathcore infused, mathy, djenty metal band. There are some very overt influences of Meshuggah to be found in the riffing, but the deathcore approach puts a bit of a different twist on things. If you lean towards the more aggressive side of the djent spectrum, (ie: Structures and Volumes) then this is perfect for you.

Secrets - The Ascent

For some reason I always feel dirty when I like bands on the Rise Records roster. It's the same feeling I had when I liked anyone on Victoryduring the last decade. Most likely it's because I know the label is signing bands predominantly to fill a popular niche, but even so there is the occasionally catchy band that somehow makes it onto the roster. Secrets are one such band. They definitely play in the trendy post-hardcore realm, but if you've been taken in by the likes of The Color Morale, The Air I Breath, or Ten After Two (whether you want to admit it or not) then Secrets will fit perfectly into that niche for you. We all need some guilty pleasures, right?

Mahal - Waves

I'm usually not a big fan of EPs, but in the case of Mahal's Waves, their EP is just the perfect length for their brand of post-hardcore influenced classic emo sound. Their mix of influences reminds at times of Thrice, Seahaven, and Saosin (although the last is very slight). They have a slightly rougher edge to them that is actually pleasantly different from most modern bands--it gives them a late-90s or early-00s feel, which is quite welcome by me. And since this is an EP, things don't tend to feel too same-y, although I could foresee that being an issue with a full-length from these guys. Hopefully they'll figure out a way to add just a few more dynamics to their approach by the time they get there.

The Last Word - Crashing

Ok, to start this off, if you hate bands like Asking Alexandria, Of Mice & Men, or Attack Attack! then just ignore this entry. If you do enjoy listening bands in this critically reviled (but popularly loved) genre, then The Last Word is a band from the UK you should be keeping your eye on. Their strong suits are their breakdowns and restrained use of electronics. Their harsh vocals are also pretty solid, but where they could use some work is in the melodic vocal department. There are times where it feels a little too strained, but I'm sure that can be worked through given some time and effort. Barring that, this may be the next trendy post-keyboard-metal-core band to watch for.

Escher - Escher

As much as we harp on bands for ripping off their influences, sometimes it is fun to hear a band paying homage to what inspires them. On Escher's debut EP, you can hear a lot of Between the Buried and Me throughout each song (mostly in the musical approach), but you'll also get tinges ofAfter the Burial, some classic progressive metal, and a bit of death metal (mainly in the vocal department). There's a good amount of potential bubbling under the surface that, if harnessed, could allow the guys in Escher to start to carve their niche in the metal realm.