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!

Grunge Music

Mainstream music in the 1980s had become a parody of itself.  Hair metal bands were all over the radio and MTV with groups like Warrant making videos like “Cherry Pie” that I can’t imagine anyone taking seriously.  The entire rock music landscape was worn out and people were sick of it.  They were ready for something new that reflected the way they felt at the time.  Everything changed on September 29, 1991 with the first showing of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video on MTV.

Grunge music had been around for a while already, but it wasn’t until that day that the mainstream knew about it.  Once Nirvana cracked open the door, it was the people watching MTV and listening to the radio that forced it open wide with their flood of calls requesting more.  Overnight, the hair metal bands were out and grunge had taken over.  In addition to Nirvana, bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden were also all over the radio and MTV.  Before long you had bands like Alice in Chains, Screaming Trees, Temple of the Dog, Candlebox, and Silverchair on the Top 40 charts.  For a brief time, grunge was everywhere!  But nothing lasts for long in mainstream culture.

Kurt Cobain died on April 5, 1994.  Just two and a half years since “Smells Like Teen Spirit” had changed the music world, the man who had reluctantly led the charge was gone.  Although the music was still around, it was as if that day was the end of the grunge renaissance.  Once again, everything had changed.

Whenever the subject of grunge music or grunge bands comes up today, I am told that grunge music is no longer made.  If I ask people about grunge bands, the list they can give is usually no more than Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains.  Even if I ask about modern grunge bands, I’m told to listen to the bands from the 1990s.  Sometimes people will reference The Melvins, Mudhoney or The Pixies.  All three of those were bands that influenced Kurt Cobain, but they were all around before Nirvana.  It feels like no one knows that there are still bands out there making grunge music…but there are.

Sure.  It’s no longer on the Top 40 charts.  Yes, MTV no longer plays music videos at all, much less new grunge music videos.  That doesn’t change the fact that there are still bands making grunge music today.  The torch is still being carried by amazing underground bands like Violent Soho, Valentiine, Pure Ed, Yuck, The Grither, and Treetones.  Even some mainstream bands like Queens of the Stone Age, Stone Sour, and Chevelle have a strong grunge influence.  If you like grunge music and want to find more grunge bands, they are still out there.  Grunge is not dead.