A new magazine for modern grunge bands!

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Grunge Special Magazine, September 2016

It’s been almost two years since I started the blog.  I started the blog because I am a fan of grunge music and I was frustrated that bands from this genre rarely got much press.  Since I’m a writer by trade, I thought I could help fix that problem.  Along the way, I’ve found some great bands making very cool music and I’ve made some awesome new friends!

Because of the blog, I was asked to write for a brand new grunge magazine that was supposed to come out early in 2016.  It took a little bit longer than we had expected, but as of this week, the September 2016 issue of Grunge Special magazine is now out in stores.  My interview with Jason Cope of the band Pure Ed is the featured cover story and my article on the grunge scene in London (Is London the New Seattle?) is also mentioned on the cover. I’ve extremely excited about the release of this magazine!  I hope that the issue sells well and becomes a regular monthly magazine.  Even a bi-monthly or quarterly release schedule would be amazing.  So if you’re a fan of grunge music (and if you’re not, then why are you reading this?), you need to go out and pick up a copy of Grunge Special right now!

Ganesa “Voice” single review

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Ganasa “Voice” single

Last year I did a review of the album “The First Sigh” from the band Ganesa. The band is based in Petrozavodsk, Russia and they have returned with a new single called “Voice.” The song is brutally heavy and really well crafted. My first thought is a grungy version of Black Sabbath with a more modern bass and drum sound. There are also hints of Alice in Chains in there. If this song is any indication of the direction that the band is headed, I believe their next album will be very cool! Check out “Voice” on their bandcamp page HERE.

THIRTY SILVER “LOST SAINTS” EP REVIEW

Thirty Silver LOST SAINTS

Thirty Silver – Lost Saints EP

I have owed the band Thirty Silver a review for their “Lost Saints” EP since December of last year.   At the time, I had a long list of bands that I was checking out for potential reviews and I was really having trouble keeping track of them all. Then I ended up heading out of town for a couple of assignments and had to focus on my paying work rather than the music reviews that I enjoy writing.   Over the months, Thirty Silver’s guitarist / vocalist, Drew, followed up with me to see if I’d had a chance to check out his music. He was always extremely cool about it. It’s now about eight months later and Thirty Silver is poised to release their follow up EP “Dusk,” so I thought I had better get to work on this review!

Thirty Silver is a two-man band from Boston, MA made up of Drew Smith on guitar and vocals and Joe Z on Drums. Their “Lost Saints” EP contains some seriously good songs, but suffers from a lack of decent production.   After a few seconds of guitar feedback, the EP blasts out of the gate with my favorite of their songs, “Goat.”   It reminds me a little bit of the band Bush, but in terms of songwriting, I prefer “Goat” to anything Bush has released. The great guitar riff and excellent vocal melody make this song one of the better songs I’ve heard from any independent band. The performance isn’t bad, but could have been a little tighter. I think all of the songs would also benefit from having bass guitar, but this is still a great song.

The second, “Familiar,” has a hint of Alice in Chains influence. It’s not as strong as “Goat,” but this is another very solid song.   In terms of performance, the vocals are off pitch in a few spots and there are a few notes on guitar that don’t sound quite right, but the song is well written. I think the right producer could have taken this song up a notch.

Next up is the song “Someday” which makes me think of the band Hole with David Byrne from Talking Heads singing. It’s a decent song, but I like the verses more than the chorus. This one may have the most solid vocal performance on the album.

Track four, “Martyr,” has so much potential that I think it would be worth revisiting if the band ever decides to record a full-length album. It’s well written, the guitar and vocal performances are passionate and it seems like both Drew and Joe are rocking full out on this one.   Unfortunately, it feels like the groove gets away from them in spots and the momentum suffers from an overly long, self-indulgent drum solo near the end. It’s still a really good song though.

The EP closes with “Broken Wings.” This one feels kind like a throwaway song to me. There’s nothing particularly bad about the writing, but it’s just not very memorable.   Pitch problems with the vocals drag the song down even more. The coolest thing about this track is probably the feedback at the end of the song.   It connects to the feedback at the beginning of the first song, creating sort of a loop with the songs.

In terms of songwriting, four out of the five songs on this EP are great tunes. I think with the help of a producer, this could have been a much more polished EP, but these guys have still managed to get their ideas down in a way that conveys their potential as a band. After listening to the songs again, I’m looking forward to hearing the new EP when it comes out. By the way, guys, I am sorry I took so damn long to get this review written.   Thanks for being patient!

RECREATOR SELF-TITLED ALBUM REVIEW

Recreator

Recreator

If you’re going to start a band, it’s probably advantageous to be in a big city. Mount Gambier, South Australia isn’t London, New York, Los Angeles or Seattle. It’s a city with a population of around 25,000 and it’s more than four hours away from the two closest big cities in Australia. That’s probably not the best place for a band to live. The city is rainy and overcast most of the year. On average, there are only 40 clear days annually. That’s gloomier than Seattle, a city famous for gloomy weather. Mount Gambier, South Australia is also home to the band Recreator.   Despite their location, or maybe because of it, they put together an excellent album with a strong grunge influence, solid songs, and surprising audio quality. Both the forming of the band and the creation of the album were slow processes. Once their self-titled debut album was finally recorded, released and promoted under their original band name, Cornerstone, they were slapped with a cease and desist letter from a UK band that had already trademarked the name in the UK and USA. As frustrating as this was they moved on, changed the band name and album title to Recreator and began again with the entire release and promotion process.   When you believe in your music, that’s just what you do and Recreator has an album of music worth believing in.

The album begins with a relatively mellow rocker called Pretty Soul. The song suggests hints of Alice In Chains, Matchbox 20 and Stone Temple Pilots, but isn’t a copy of any of those bands. This is one of the more straightforward songs on the album and although it’s not a bad song, it comes across as relatively generic compared to the rest of the album. Maybe that’s why the band chose to put it first. Most of the other songs rock harder and are more unique. The band picks up speed with the next track, Intimate Odyssey. A quirky guitar riff gets things started before quickly kicking into a rocking groove under the verse.   By the infectious chorus, the band is really rocking! Intimate Odyssey offers one of the most solid choruses on the album.

Fans of the band Rancid will surely enjoy the song She Wants, She Needs. Although the song is a little slower, more rock and less punk than a typical Rancid tune, there are many similarities including the sound of the guitar and the vocal approach. This track and the next track are two of my favorites on the album. Next up is the very Nirvana influenced song Halo. The overall feeling evoked by this song is extremely similar to that of Nirvana’s song Drain You in terms of the similar melody, the way that the song builds, the screaming vocals, and the guitar sound. The drum part is very similar to Smells Like Teen Spirit. As a fan of Nirvana, I instantly liked this song!

Track 5 is the title track and the name of the band, Recreator. It starts off with a guitar riff that feels a lot like the beginning of Intimate Odyssey. In fact, the song structure throughout is similar to Intimate Odyssey. Even though the two songs are about equal in quality, they each offer something different. Intimate Odyssey has a better vocal hook in the chorus and Recreator is stronger musically, but both songs are solid. Despite their similarities, the songs are different enough to justify including both on the album.

Stay Silent kicks off the second half of the album. Every Recreator song begins with just guitar, then the drums and bass kick in after a few seconds. This usually works well, but I think Stay Silent (and the next track, The Party Song) would have benefited from changing their ways by having the entire band jump straight into the song right from the start. The guitar intro doesn’t really fit with the way the rest of the song rocks.   Aside from the intro, Stay Silent is another very solid, hard rock song.

Track #7, The Party Song, was a surprise. Once we get past the short, unnecessary guitar intro, The Party Song rocks!   It’s a great, fun rock song in the tradition of two other awesome Australian rock bands: AC/DC and Airborne.   The thing is, it sounds like it was written for a different band. There’s no hint of grunge or alternative here. The lyrics and music are 100% upbeat, feel-good, party rock. Even though it’s completely out of place on this album, it’s definitely an awesome song!

Nowhere to Run was the song that introduced me to Recreator several months ago. The Nirvana and Alice In Chains influence on this track hooked me immediately. It may just be because it was my introduction to the band, but I feel like Nowhere to Run is one of the strongest songs, if not the strongest song, on the album.

The fact that the next to the last track on the album is called End made me wonder if the final track was a bonus track or if the band had another reason for not using this as the last song. End really would have made a great final song. It rocks very hard. Everyone in the band is firing on all cylinders and delivering possibly the most intense performance on the entire disc. End is a very cool, hard rocking song.

The album ends with the song that was originally the band name and album title, the excellent song Cornerstone. With a strong Alice In Chains vibe, Cornerstone takes the listener on a trip through psychedelic verses into hard rocking choruses and back again. It’s a cool song, but a strange choice for an album closer.

Although Recreator is clearly influenced by numerous grunge and alternative bands from the 1990s, they manage to take those influences and spin them into something that sounds both new and familiar at the same time. Fans of the genre will instantly be able to relate to the sound, the songwriting and the passion. With the kind of tenacity that theses guys have shown, this may not be the last you hear from Recreator! If you like hard rocking grunge / alternative music, take a few minutes to check them out. You won’t be disappointed!

Here’s a link to their page on bandcamp.

Ramington Flashride “Back To Seattle” album review

Ramington Flashride back to seattle

With Nirvana’s release of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in 1991, grunge music burst out of the shadows and demolished the hair metal juggernaut that had cheapened popular rock music for the last decade. However, by the time of Kurt Cobain’s death in April of 1994, the major record labels had figured out a way to commercialize and sanitize grunge music just like they did with previous musical styles. Most people think that grunge died a slow, painful death from 1994 to around 2000, but that’s not true at all. Real grunge music has simply returned to the shadows where it can be made with the passion and creativity that it deserves – away from the control of record label executives who have no idea what the music is about. It is in these shadows that you can find amazing bands like Ramington Flashride.

Based in Dusseldorf, Germany, Ramington Flashride has definitely been influenced by the original grunge movement, but doesn’t try to mimic the top bands of the time. With their album “Back to Seattle” they have crafted superb, hard rocking album with solid songs that stand on their own and also work well together within the context of the album. The band is out of the gate rocking right from the opening instrumental “Open Your Door.” The theme of rocking, grungy songs in the tradition of a heavier Nirvana continue with Track 2 “Your Business” and Track 3 “Why Why Why.” Both are very solid, enjoyable songs.

The awesomely heavy song “Sure We Can” sounds like guitar fuzz sludge seeping out of your speakers.   This track seems to have more far in common with Black Sabbath than any bands jamming under the grunge banner.   This is definitely one of my favorite tracks on the album!

“Hope You Die” is an upbeat punk rocker that brings to mind the frivolity of The Sex Pistols and some of the early Southern California punk bands.

The musical diversity continues with the “M.O.F.” in the form of a nod to the punk-influenced commercial rock of the early MTV generation like early albums from The Cult and Billy Idol.

We’re back to grunge with “Protection Overlord,” but a more post-Nirvana commercial kind of grunge.   The song isn’t bad at all. It just reminds me more of The Toadies than Mudhoney.

“You Are My Fire” may be the most Nirvana sounding song on the album and even then, the band maintains a unique voice, plus the lead guitar section in the middle displays a level of hard rock / heavy metal tightness and technical proficiency that most grunge bands have rarely displayed.

The next two tracks are the low point of the album for me. The classic lyrical theme of being in love with a girl found in the song “Running Home” combined with its relatively straight forward music make this track feel like it doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the album. It’s not a terrible song, but even on a hard rock album, it would be nothing more than filler on the second half of an album.   Here, it’s more distracting than filler and I think the album would have been better off without this one. Next up is “Passing Away.” The chorus is great musically, but the music in the verses is just kind of annoying.

After two weak songs in a row, I was pleasantly surprised by “Burn!” This creepy track successfully blends Woodstock-era psychedelic rock with equal parts Alice in Chains and Nirvana.   I may have heard similar attempts before, but none have ever succeeded as well as this song! It may have stood out more if it weren’t placed after the two previous songs on the album. I think “Burn” is the hidden gem of “Back to Seattle.”

Closing out the album we have “Fascination Wins”- a slow, bluesy song reminiscent of Pearl Jam when they were invoking the spirit of Led Zeppelin. I don’t know that this song really fits with the vibe of the band, but either way it’s a very cool song. Using it as the closing track of the album feels like it gives the band the leeway to stretch out without ruining the vibe of the album as a whole.

In the end, I think “Back to Seattle” is a very good album with only a couple of duds. With this album, Ramington Flashride has definitely supported my statement that GRUNGE IS NOT DEAD!  Check them out on Facebook here: http://facebook.com/flashride

Grunge Is Not Dead – Violent Soho self-titled album review

Violent Soho self-titled album

Violent Soho self-titled album

If you need proof that grunge isn’t dead, all it takes is one listen to the Australian rockers Violent Soho. Their Pigs & T.V. EP dropped in 2006 and received positive reviews. After much live performing, they followed it up with their debut LP We Don’t Belong Here in 2008. However, it was their self-titled 2010 release that started to really catch the ears of music fans around the world. Although the album is made up mostly of re-worked and re-recorded songs from We Don’t Belong Here, it was this release that many consider to be their first true album.

The album starts out with the song Here Be Dragons, a very cool, heavy song that definitely has roots deep in the grunge of the 90s, but certainly isn’t the best that they have to offer with this album. The classic feeling continues on the next song Jesus Stole My Girlfriend only this time the emotion is cranked up to maximum intensity for a song that could easily have dominated the radio if it had come out in the 90s! Next up is Son of Sam with a catchy pop undertone hiding behind the wall of heavy guitars. My Generation follows and no, it’s not a cover of the song by The Who, although it does share a similar passion and has more of a classic rock sound than most of Violent Soho’s music. However, the next track, Muscle Junkie, is insanely grunge and insanely awesome! It’s songs like this one where the band really shines. After delivering such a great grunge song, the band changes directions sharply with the next track, Outsider. Outsider is a mellow song played on acoustic guitar and cello that reminds me more of the song Disarm by Smashing Pumpkins than anything. It doesn’t really sound like Disarm, but it’s more along those lines.   It’s a very cool song, but very different from most of the songs on this album. Slippery Tongue is up next. It starts out sounding a little bit like the previous song, Outsider, but builds up throughout the track. This song has a very cool sound and I’m surprised that it doesn’t get more attention than it does, but that could be because of the next song. After Slippery Tongue, the band cranks back up with the brilliant song Love Is A Heavy Word – my favorite track on the album!   This one’s got everything: a driving beat, cool guitars, emotional vocals, and wild dynamics! It’s a real rollercoaster ride! The ride continues with Bombs Over Broadway, which is almost as good as Love Is A Heavy Word. It has a similar sound to Smashing Pumpkins’ song Bullet With Butterfly Wings. It’s weird that they burry to such awesome songs near the end of the album. The last song is Narrow Ways. It’s a good song and kind of atmospheric. It’s different from the rest of the album. I don’t know that I would have chosen this one to end the album, but it is a cool song.

Almost everything I’ve read about Violent Soho compares them to Nirvana. While it’s true that they are clearly influenced by Nirvana, Violent Soho has so much more to offer than just being a Nirvana clone.   Their music is really it’s own thing, but I guess every musician is influenced by someone and every writer who writes about music has to find some point of common ground to reference when describing the music with only words. Yes, Violent Soho does play music that shares similarities to the music of Nirvana, so if you are a fan of Nirvana and classic 90s grunge, go check out Violent Soho’s music for yourself. You will be glad that you did!