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.

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Ava Adore “II” EP Review

Ava Adore

Ava Adore from Barcelona, Spain

Over the last few days, I’ve been introduced to several great bands from around the world. One of them is a female fronted band from Barcelona, Spain called Ava Adore. Although they mention most of the classic grunge bands as influences, their sound definitely falls towards the metal side of grunge with more similarities to bands like TAD, Gruntruck and Soundgarden than Nirvana or Pearl Jam. Their EP simply titled II rocks hard and will really get your blood pumping. Although vocalist/guitarist Paola Bailey has a great voice, she’s somewhat buried in the mix. This is something that would usually bother me, but for reasons I can’t really explain, it seems to make Ava Adore sound louder and heavier because of this mixing decision.

The EP begins with the song Nomads. It’s a heavy upbeat rocker with cool guitar hooks. The song briefly breaks down into a trippy, mellow classic rock section before crashing back into the rockin’ riffs that conclude the song.

Turning Black is next on the EP.   I could easily hear a stoner rock band performing this song. It reminds me of Black Sabbath with its slower groove, fuzzy guitars and awesome riffs. This one is probably my favorite track on the EP, but that is difficult to say because all four songs are great.

The song Hold On shows that Ava Adore is just as capable of delivering a straight-up punk tune as they are of metal riffing. The band switches up the guitar tones to a much more brash sound that works well to get across an angry, aggressive urgency. The blistering guitar solo betrays the simplicity of the song and shows that despite the punk feel, the band behind it is very skilled on their instruments.

The EP ends with How To Trust, a song somewhat similar to an upbeat Foo Fighters track. This is another song where music is more complicated than your average grunge song, once again showing that these musicians are quite capable.

My biggest complaint about the EP is that there aren’t more songs! I would love to hear a full-length album from this band. I strongly recommend checking out this bands if you like metal, heavy grunge, or classic rock.

Here’s a link to their page on bandcamp.

SABATTA “Middle Of The Night” album review

SABATTA

SABATTA

While I’m checking Facebook, I like to have music playing in the background. I typically play those ‘check out my band’ videos that independent artists post in the groups I follow. Most of the time I’ll listen to about a minute of a song. If I like it, I’ll let the whole song play while I respond to messages, etc.

Today an interesting post caught my attention. A band called SABATTA was pimping their limited edition cassette Middle Of The Night and they had a video posted for a song called Go And Be Damned, so I checked it out. It was good. It was real good! It rocked hard with lo-fi, fuzzy guitar and a bad-ass groove! I got totally sidetracked and started looking up more about this awesome band. Turns out the main guy is Yinka Oyewole, a musician from London, England. The band has a BandCamp page where you can check out their music, so I listened to the entire Middle Of The Night album. If you like music with a heavy, heavy groove, this is it!

Their bio describes them as Grunge Soul. That’s as good of a description as any. The bio also says they’re like The Stooges meets Sly Stone. I guess that’s a pretty good comparison, but after listening to the entire album, I’d say they’re like a mix of so many different influences that it would be a shame to try to boil it down to two artists. I will say that they have some songs with fuzzy guitars and some songs with clean guitars. Some of their songs rock and some of their songs swing. Some songs are upbeat and some are mellow, but EVERY song grooves.   I hear hints of Jellyfish, Lenny Kravitz, Madness, Santana, Black Keys, Stevie Wonder, Nine Inch Nails, The Specials, Cream, Bill Withers, White Stripes, and much more, all through the DIY filter of an earthy, intentional lo-fi quality which gives the entire album a warmth and honesty that helps to tie all of the ingredients together into one amazing soup.

Standout tracks are the above mentioned, lo-fi, fuzzy guitar Go And Be Damned, the excellent horn section on Let Off The Leash, the grunge/ska/funk title track Middle Of The Night and the almost Latin/grunge/groove song Always You.

Check out SABATTA on their Facebook page.

As always, support independent music!

Ganesa “The First Sigh” album review

Ganesa

Ganesa album “The First Sigh”

Although most of my reviews are for Grunge bands, Ganesa is a metal band from Petrozavodsk, Russia with some hints of grunge influence here and there. All of their song titles and album title are in Russian, so they have been translated here into English. Their album title translates to “The First Sigh.”

One thing that stands out about this album is the recording quality. The album was funded completely by the band without any record label support, yet the sound quality is superb. Every song except for one has the production quality of a major label release. The guitar tones in particular are amazing. The vocals display a wide range of emotions and volumes. Many independent bands have trouble making that kind of vocal fit into the song well, but on this album, they always fit into the song very well. If you are a fan of sludgy, brutally heavy guitars, it really doesn’t get much better than Ganesa!

The album begins with a slow, growling song called “One” which reminds me a little bit of the band Tool. The guitar parts are very cool, the vocals are passionate and the song really rocks. It’s a great opening track.

Things speed up a little bit with the next song “Poison.” This is a short song with more of a metal feel, but it’s still a very good song.

“Inhaling Pain” brings the tempo back down and offers a trippy and somewhat psychedelic vibe that makes me think a little bit of Alice In Chains if they had been around in 1968 with metal guitar tone. The bass guitarist has an opportunity to shine on this track with a very cool, busy bass guitar part. The elements combine to make “Inhaling Pain” one of the best songs on the album.

“Smeared” continues the trippy feeling started with “Inhaling Pain” but this time without the psychedelic vibe. Although very unique, there are elements of Marilyn Manson to this track – brutally heavy while making your head spin with dizzying guitar effects.

If there is a straight forward hard rock / punk song on this album, it would be “The Cult of Money.” Driving guitars and drums rev this song up about as fast as you can before it would have lost the groove. This is the kind of song I would expect to hear during a fight scene or action sequence of a movie.

“Hundreds of Days” begins with a wicked bass line and guitar feedback that instantly makes me think of White Zombie’s “Black Sunshine.” The drums keep rocking throughout the song while the guitars alternate between driving metal and haunting ethereal sounds.

There is a music video for Track 7 “Resin” to promote the album. I don’t know that “Resin” is the best song on the album or the best representation of the band. It’s a good song and it does display their ability to change direction within a song. It has an awesome bass line, very cool guitar, and is short enough that first time listeners wouldn’t be tired of the song before it’s over. For this reason, it’s probably not a bad choice for a music video, but I think several other tracks on here are actually better.

Up next is the very up-tempo and very short “Bile.” I wouldn’t say this song is punk, but it is very fast drum part that is similar to punk drumming through most of the song. Once again, the bassist is given a chance to shine with some awesome bass parts.

To my ears, “Farm” is the least impressive track on the album. There’s a cool guitar riff that happens a few times, but it doesn’t really fit with the rest of the song. The vocals don’t sound as interesting as the vocals in the other songs and it doesn’t feel like the song ends as much as just stops. The song isn’t terrible at all, but compared to the rest of the album (which is pretty damn amazing), this track doesn’t stand up to the quality of the rest.

The album closes by changing direction drastically with the song “Hell.” Musically it is a very cool, well-written song, but it seems to be a different style of music from the rest of the CD. Also, this song doesn’t sound like it was recorded in the same studio as the rest of the album. In fact, “Hell” is the only song on the album that doesn’t have professional recording quality. The song quality is much closer to what most independent bands albums’ sound like.   Maybe that’s why it’s at the end of the album.

In closing, I would say this is a great album. As I mentioned earlier, the sound quality is excellent on 90% of the songs. It really sounds professional. Additionally, the songs are more complex than most of the music out there yet the musicians’ performances are unbelievably tight.   They must practice a lot.   Personally, I think I would have enjoyed the album more if the vocals were in English. However, it didn’t take away from the music. And if I were Russian, I would probably appreciate being able to listen to such an amazing band singing in my native tongue.

If you are a fan of intricate metal, give Ganesa a listen on bandcamp.

Check Ganesa out on Facebook.

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

Plantation’s new EP Out of the Dark

Plantation Out Of The Dark

Although they bill themselves as a rock band, to my ears Plantation sounds very much a grunge band.   Not only that but they are one of the best grunge bands out there today! Hailing from Philadelphia, PA these four guys are carrying the torch lit by bands like Soundgarden and Alice in Chains and running with it. I also hear a lot of Black Sabbath in their sound, which is fine by me!

They recently released their first EP called Out of the Dark. It contains six great songs and I give it my highest recommendation! The first song on the EP called Painted Desert has a groove that reminds me a little bit of Stone Temple Pilot’s song Sex Type Thing, but with more of a Chris Cornell sounding vocal. It really rocks and is a great opener for the EP.   The second track is called Been This Far and it’s my favorite song on here. It starts out sounding like the guitar is playing on the radio and then the whole band kicks in and just wholly rocks out! Every member of the band is firing on all cylinders on this song. It’s the song that really shows it’s no one person that makes Plantation work but the entire team.   Singer Corey Presner is really laying it all out there with his passionate vocals. Drummer Ben Torpey and bassist Matt Williams keep a driving foundation that makes you want to start a pit or something. Even though I love the way the guitar sounds on all of the songs, I think Been This Far is where guitarist Patrick Fiore throws down some of his best guitar riffs and the guitar solo is flat out awesome! Things slow down with the next song Lost Dog.   This one’s a really good song too, but isn’t as energetic. One part of the song sounds a lot like Come As You Are by Nirvana and the other part is heavier but still slow. Even though this song doesn’t rock as much, the singing is still just as passionate as ever. The EP picks back up again with the next song called Slow Down, which has a badass guitar riff and is another one with hints of Stone Temple Pilots in the vocal melody. This is a very solid song. The fifth track on the EP is the shortest one and another slow song, but this time it’s slow and HEAVY like if Chris Cornell sung with Black Sabbath.   This is really another great song.   It might not be as much of a grunge song as the rest of the album even though it definitely has a Soundgarden influence. This one is more of a really great stoner rock song. The closing song on the EP is the title track Out of the Dark, which has a very heavy Alice in Chains feel with hints of Soundgarden and Black Sabbath.   Williams has a really cool bass line on this song and Fiore really shows his ability to use the guitar in a variety of different ways here. As he does throughout the album, Presner sings with such intensity that you just feel like he means every word he’s saying.

These guys are making such awesome music that I wish I could get everyone to listen to them and hear for themselves. Do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to go check out Plantation at http://plantation.bandcamp.com

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!