Friday, October 28, 2016

REVIEW: RED'S "END OF SILENCE"

End of Silence is the 2006 debut album from Christian rock band Red. Though the genre may initially sound niche at the mere sound of the name, Silence blends spiritual lyrics with hard-hitting rock influences that make for a surprisingly strong listen that bridges all genres.

The Content:

Upon a first listen, End of Silence makes its mark sonically among bands such as Linkin Park and Breaking Benjamin. The deep, lurching hardcore sounds nearly perfectly marks Red’s status as a Christian Rock band, and in doing so can appeal to both demographics with vast success. Though, personally, calling them a Christian rock band may seem to be a stretch during their first impression. Without a deep reading of the lyrics, they could almost be considered within the same topicality as the aforementioned bands.

Breathe Into Me, as an opening track, does its job well enough. Hooking its listeners with a throaty, god-thirsty chorus and soaring symphonics, the rest of the album seems to blend in blandness in comparison. But, despite the disparity, the album still makes a lasting impression even to those who aren’t acquainted with 2000s rock (myself included).

And yet, during some of the slower songs such as Pieces (a fan favorite amongst many), I still felt myself wanting more. It has substance, sure, but it feels spread too flat as opposed to rooted in the depth it could possess. That is, Pieces feels as though it passes up a lot of missed opportunities.

Despite these setbacks, the album still feels cohesive and consistent with a full run-through. While listening to this album, I never have the urge to, say, skip a track here or there or repeat a song over and over again. On its own, front to back, End of Silence is perfect for a straight listen during a strong study session, its modern-rock vibes making for some strong focus music.

Overall, End of Silence is a strong first entrance for Red. For good reason, it remains a fan-favorite to this day with highlight tracks (Breathe Into Me and Already Gone in particular) that are still played live to this day.

The Impact:

Though End of Silence was the first album from a band performing in a somewhat niche genre, the album would go on to be RIAA-certified gold.

To this day, End of Silence, particularly its lead single Breathe Into Me, remains a hallmark for Christian rock fans and casual rockers alike. The song continues to be a live staple and, arguably, is synonymous with the band itself. 

However, the album wasn’t written with the intention of mainstream success. Said band member Randy Armstrong, “When we made that first album, we didn't know anything about radio, we didn't know anything about anything.”

The album would go on to pave the success for their sophomore effort Innocence and Instinct. Released in 2009, the album would continue the buildup that led to their No. 2 debut on the Billboard 200 with 2011’s Until We Have Faces.

The Future:

Red’s most recent album, Of Beauty and Rage, released in 2015. Currently, the band is touring in support of the 10th anniversary of End of Silence. Red also released a 10th anniversary edition of the album, with two unreleased tracks and four acoustic renditions of original End of Silence songs.


Next week’s review: Thirty Seconds to Mars’ “A Beautiful Lie”

Friday, October 21, 2016

REVIEW: BOX CAR RACER'S "BOX CAR RACER"

Box Car Racer is the first (and only) album from the eponymously named pop-punk band Box Car Racer. What originally began as a side-project in 2001 for blink-182 guitarist Tom DeLonge would eventually become a full-fledged band, complete with a 2002 tour intermixed with blink-182’s schedule. Even with Box Car Racer being a one-and-done thing, why do people still care today about its presence?

The Content:

For an album that starts off with a slow and melodic piano intro, Box Car Racer wastes no time in laying down grungy, raw verses and guitar breakdowns. Frontman Tom DeLonge proceeds to explore the dark and doom in songs like I Feel So, Tiny Voices, and Sorrow.

Though the album features two members of massively successful punk band blink-182, the side-project marks a huge departure from the happy-go-lucky sound the potty-mouthed punk rockers accustomed themselves to. Box Car Racer explores mature themes of sorrow (hence the aptly-titled track), isolation, and confusion.

While songs like I Feel So feel reminiscent of the sound that made blink-182 so popular, at the same time it’s the low-fi sound production that gives Box Car Racer it’s unique edge and charm. Perhaps one of the album’s highlights is the quick, rapidly paced My First Punk Song that serves as an interlude to the album’s grown-up themes.

And then there’s the maturity in Letters to God and There Is, soft power-ballads throughout the album’s second act. While the former evolves into one of the heaviest choruses on the album, it’s the softness of these songs that set Box Car Racer apart from other pop-punk contemporary acts.

The Impact:

Though Box Car Racer was only meant to be an unreleased side-project for Tom DeLonge to take time away from blink-182, the album eventually saw release in 2002 to moderate success. Singles I Feel So and There Is would go on to chart at #8 and #32 on the US Modern Rock Tracks Chart, respectively.

The album would be more notable, however, as its herald of the beginning of the end of Tom’s tenure with blink-182. Box Car Racer created a riff between DeLonge and blink-182 bassist Mark Hoppus, in which Hoppus felt betrayed by his two bandmates forming another band without him. “At the end of 2001 it felt like Blink-182 had broken up. It wasn't spoken about, but it felt over," Hoppus said.

Despite this split, blink-182 would go on to release a massively successful eponymous album in 2003 before a 2005 breakup. The breakup was caused by tensions between the bandmates stemming from the Box Car Racer project.

The Future:

Box Car Racer would come to be the only album released by the band before their disbandment. DeLonge and drummer Travis Barker would continue with blink-182 before their 2005 hiatus, 2009 reunion, and DeLonge’s 2015 departure from the band.

DeLonge, during blink-182’s hiatus, would later go on to form Angels and Airwaves, another side-band which he would describe as a continuation of the Box Car Racer project. Barker, meanwhile, would go on to join blink-182 bassist Mark Hoppus’ side-project, +44, before blink-182 reunited in 2009.


Next week’s review: Red’s “End of Silence”

Friday, October 14, 2016

REVIEW: MEGADETH'S "PEACE SELLS...BUT WHO'S BUYING?"

Peace Sells…but Who’s Buying? is the contentious second album from thrash-metal band Megadeth. Their major-label debut, it set the scene for a mainstream breakthrough for the band as they began to lay the foundation for the thrash-metal scene. But what is it about Peace Sells that stood out among the greats to lay that brickwork down?

The Content:

For an album that promises sheer and utter description with its apocalyptic album cover, Peace Sells surely delivers.

Right from the get-go, we’re treated with stupidly fast, yet traditional 80s thrash rifts reminiscent of the album’s rivals at the time; Metallica’s Master Of Puppets and Slayer’s Reign In Blood were also released in 1986. Yet Peace Sells manages to sound perfectly distinct from the aforementioned works – the bass feels heavier (sorry, Cliff Burton), the guitars are whinier, and the vocals, though subpar to other works of the era, feel uniquely styled to Dave Mustaine’s writing style. With some songs taking on spoken word bits while also blending in traditional thrash metal, tracks like Wake Up Dead and Peace Sells feel experimental, yet well worth the payoff.

Yet starting off the opening track, Wake Up Dead, with spoken word feels a tad jarring. While the song breaks down into a headbanger of a riff toward the song’s final act, songs tend to shift too often and too suddenly to feel cohesive or impactful. Bits of however – namely, the final breakdowns in the opening track as well as Good Mourning/Black Friday stand out as some of the album’s most kickass moments.

Does the album have its filler? Absolutely. Devil’s Island, in particular, doesn’t feel righteous among its fellow Peace Sells tracks, not to mention its similarity in vocal stylings. But, overall, Peace Sells, from the perspective of a new Megadeth fan, can stand pretty comfortably as a memorable piece of work with definite replay value.

The Impact:

Though Peace Sells was only the band’s second full-length album, it would go on to launch Megadeth into success both within the thrash metal scene as well as in the mainstream.

Peace Sells launched in 1986 alongside Metallica’s Master of Puppets and Slayer’s Reign in Blood, and all albums would go on to make a significant impact on the thrash metal era. These three albums helped to bring the genre out of the underground and would go on to help launch the bands into mainstream success; Megadeth would soon find worldwide prominence with 1990’s Rust In Peace.

The album would go on to be certified Platinum by the RIAA and charted at #76 on the Billboard 200. Though not a hot performance compared to artists of the day, for a barely-known genre it represented a major victory in bringing thrash metal to the public light.

While some songs off the album are still live staples today, such as Wake Up Dead or Peace Sells, some songs off the album haven’t been played live in several years due to Mustaine’s change in lifestyle. “being a dad, being a responsible person, being a musician who has influenced a lot of lives very positively,” Mustaine said. “I look at it and think ‘I don’t know if I would play that live.’”

The Future:

Megadeth’s latest album, Dystopia, released in January of 2016. The current lineup features Dave Mustaine on vocals/rhythm guitar, longtime bassist David Ellefson, lead guitarist Kiko Loureiro, and drummer Dirk Verbeuren. Currently, the band is touring the United States in support of the album.

Dystopia, the band’s fifteenth full-length album, was released to mostly positive reviews, and was cited as a return to form after the mixed reactions to their 2013 album, Super Collider.


Next week’s review: Box Car Racer’s “Box Car Racer”

Friday, October 7, 2016

REVIEW: GREEN DAY'S "AMERICAN IDIOT"

American Idiot is the seventh full-length album from legendary punk-rockers Green Day. Their first album after a four-year hiatus, it propelled them back into superstardom after 1994’s Dookie first brought them to prominence. American Idiot has since become synonymous with the band; that is, you can’t have one without the other making it what it is today. But what is it about American Idiot that remains so important within the context of Green Day?

The Content:

American Idiot is one of those rare albums where every single song has a purpose, a place, an unchallenged feeling of fervor as a representative of the album’s overall message. While the album is partly a political manifesto and partly fictional bildungsroman, songs on the album contribute to both facets while individually standing out as some of Green Day’s best work.

From the beginning riffs of the title track to the final outro of Whatsername, American Idiot never loses its charm or wit as it progresses through all thirteen tracks. The American Idiot track, in addition to Holiday, are more politically charged than anything Green Day has done before this, with lyrics such as “Television dreams of tomorrow/We’re not the ones who’re meant to follow” mirroring desensitization of the Bush-era in which the album was released.

Artistically speaking, American Idiot stands easily as Green Day’s magnum opus. Interwoven throughout the album is the story of the Jesus of Suburbia, a disenfranchised youth growing up in post-9/11 America. Frustrated with the broken state of his small town, he leaves to become his own man in the midst of political angst, told in the nine-minute epic Jesus of Suburbia. For more on the complete narrative embedded within American Idiot, check out IGN’s review of the album.

 Stadium rock anthems like Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Wake Me Up When September Ends, meanwhile, contribute heavily to the album’s anger while simultaneously feeling like singles. That’s not to say they stand out from the rest of the album in that way – on the contrary, they feel perfectly placed within the album’s story.

Apart from the album’s singles, each and every song feels like it has a story to tell. There’s the joy of returning home in Homecoming, another nine-minute track. There’s the pain of moving on from love in Whatsername. There’s the longing for validation and meaning in Are We The Waiting. Every feeling of anger, pain, happiness, sorrow, it’s all found in this album. And each song articulates those feelings with perfect execution.

The Impact:

To say that American Idiot is still a classic album would be a vast understatement. American Idiot remains, to this day, one of the greatest albums of the 21st century for a number of reasons.

Having released roughly six weeks before the 2004 Presidential Elections, the album made its mark as a vehement anti-Bush dialogue. Several songs from the album, most notably Holiday, explored the band’s political anger toward the Iraq War with inflammatory lyrics such as “Coming down like an Armageddon flame/A shame/The ones who died without a name.” In response to criticism about their music, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong would often clarify that “This song is not anti-American; it’s anti-war.” A B-side from the album, Favorite Son, would be featured in Rock Against Bush, Vol. 2, a compilation album from other punk artists.

“We were in the studio and watching the journalists embedded with the troops, and it was the worst version of reality television,” Armstrong said regarding the album’s topicality. “Switch the channel, and it’s Nick [Lachey] and Jessica [Simpson]. Switch, and it’s Fear Factor. Switch, and people are having surgery to look like Brad Pitt. We’re surrounded by all of that bulls–t, and the characters Jesus of Suburbia and St. Jimmy are, as well. It’s a sign of the times.”

Commercially, American Idiot would become the band’s first No. 1 album in the United States, and would go on to sell over fifteen million copies worldwide. The album also marked a comeback for the band after the commercial disappointment of 2000’s Warning and their subsequent near-split. With this comeback came a reinvention of sorts – a reinvention of sound, of image, and even of the band’s interpretation of punk rock; the band’s other major success, 1994’s Dookie, can’t claim to have nearly the sophistication nor the commentary that American Idiot offers.

The band would go on to further explore their political monologue in their follow-up album, 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown. Though it didn’t see the massive success of American Idiot, lead singles Know Your Enemy and 21 Guns still see their share of radio play today.

Twelve years after its release, American Idiot is still held in high regard. The album has left behind a currently-touring Broadway musical of the same name, a Kerrang! tribute album, and a currently in—progress Hollywood film.

The Future:

Green Day’s latest album, Revolution Radio, releases today alongside NOFX’s First Ditch Effort and Sum 41’s 13 Voices. Three singles from the album – Bang Bang, Revolution Radio, and Still Breathing  have been released.

Revolution Radio is the band’s first album in four years, serving as the follow-up to their UNO, DOS, and TRE album trilogy in 2012.


Next week’s review: Megadeth’s “Peace Sells…but Who’s Buying?”