Author: R.G.B. Robb

Rongeur
The Catastrophist & As The Blind Strive Demos
Aonair Productions
Street: 12.27.14
Rongeur = Helmet + Rollins Band + Faith No More + Soundgarden

Although not a pure "alternative metal" album, Rongeur and the release of their first two demos rolled up into the package known as The Catastrophist & As The Blind Strive does take the sound of many bands from the early ’90s, updates it, and comes out with a riff-heavy metal album that would do any of the aforementioned bands proud. The thing I love most about Rongeur is the groove that the music locks into, especially on “Le Rocher Aux Singes.” In fact, the musicianship of the band isn’t an issue. The only negative to the album is the vocals, which range from sounding like screaming Gollum black metal, to a generic yell that sounds like someone walking through the neighborhood looking for a lost pet. It’s worth a listen for the music, but I think with a different vocalist, Rongeur could do some really amazing things. –R.G.B. Robb

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Various Artists
Knowing Jesus
The Rock Music
Street: 11.22.14

The Rock Music =
Night Riots + Shania Twain + Angels & Airwaves

Although I am not the target demographic for an album whose music is syrupy-sweet Christian pop rock, I am a professional! So … why not? In clinical terms, the album’s production is amazing. Everything sounds crystal clear, and the levels are set to allow for a dynamic listening experience. The guitars are distorted and loud, the rhythm section is tight, and the vocals are extremely on-key. Yet, one man’s gold is another man’s garbage. I could see why this would appeal to a certain group of people. The chord progressions, although put together in such a way to gain optimal sweep on the emotional factor, are a bit generic and predictable, causing their music to lack many of the elements of rock that I enjoy (danger, edge, unpredictability). I refuse to discuss the lyrics. They are somebody’s beliefs, and who am I to judge? An album for some, just not me. –R.G.B. Robb

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Of Feather And Bone & Reproacher
Split 7"
Crown and Throne Ltd.
Street: 05.02.14
Of Feather And Bone/Reproacher = High On Fire + Crowbar

Split releases are a great way for a record company to get more music into the world. They are also great for fans to get exposed to a variety of bands. You know—more bang for your buck. However, it doesn’t work as planned when both bands sound almost completely identical (so much so that I had to make sure that the bands had a different vocalist … they do). With that said, it doesn’t mean this release isn’t any good. Of Feather And Bone, as well as Reproacher, use the dynamic of fast/slow in incredible ways. Their technical execution of high-octane death and thrash metal beats with speed-picked guitar parts is extraordinary, and the placement of the slower, down-tempo parts are very well thought out. Really, the only difference between the two is that Reproacher add more odd/dissonant chord progressions at times. Overall, great execution, but minimal originality. –R.G.B. Robb

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DulceSky
Spies Of The System: 03–14
Nueve Music

Street: 06.05

DulceSky = Depeche Mode + Alcest + The Cure +
 Echo and the Bunnymen

DulceSky and their “best of” album, Spies of the System: 03–14, encapsulates everything I love about rock that has a new wave/gothic feel to it. Although the band consider themselves to be shoegaze (and they do have moments that fit into that category), their use of melodic structure, clean vocal style and electronic elements definitely hearken back to a sound popular in the 1980s. This doesn’t mean that the album contains any of the cheesy elements of that time period. Considering that their songs do have a somber tone to them, the music and lyrics never get to be whiny or laborious to sit through. In fact, this is an album that would be perfect to listen to by a fire, with a nice bottle of red wine and a mood for serious introspection. If compilation albums are designed to attract new fans, then as far as I’m concerned: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! –R.G.B. Robb

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Advent Horizon – Stagehound
Advent Horizon – Stagehound

Advent Horizon
Stagehound

Self-Released
Street: 05.19
Advent Horizon = King’s X + Storm Corrosion + The Get Up Kids

In progressive rock and hard rock, there are two primary ways that bands separate themselves from the pack. The first is by incorporating very strange/dissonant passages and melodic changes that are extremely difficult, but have very little to do with the original theme of the song. The second is what Advent Horizon employ on their album Stagehound—integrating a multitude of styles played with an extremely high proficiency, while never deviating from the primary key or emotion of the song. By combining modern-sounding rock with a bit of the upbeat tunefulness found on some ’80s prog rock, as well as touching acoustic passages as the base of their music, elements of ’70s funk and R&B with a touch of swing, you’d think Stagehound would leave you with a musical mess. But no, instead you get musical brilliance that’s extremely enjoyable. –RGB Robb
Stearica 
Fertile
Monotreme Records
Street: 04.13
Stearica = Danava +
Green Carnation + 
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum
 
If you are a fan of progressive rock/metal, then the album Fertile by Torino, Italy’s Stearica is an album you cannot miss. Although it’s 98-percent instrumental—being broken up by an occasional spoken-word bit—Fertile never relies on the cliché of having guitar solos to cover the loss of vocals. Rather, they use sweeping musical passages that are complex with rhythmic changes and melodic structures that push the boundaries of rock. This, coupled with an extremely dirgey bass tone and unconventional chords and progressions, has the album constantly in a state of musical brilliance with much experimentation. Taking the production’s tonal quality, along with some of the synth parts and guitar composition, has Stearica easily transporting the listener back to the ’70s, yet they keep enough of a modern edge to never make it feel dated or “old.” One of the best albums of 2015, so far. –R.G.B. Robb 
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Drenge
Undertow
Infectious Music
Street: 04.06
Drenge = Truly + The Damned 
 
I missed out on the alt-rock explosion of the early ’90s. I mean, I was old enough to be there, sure—I just didn’t like it or care about it at all (my thing being shock rock a la KISS and Alice Cooper). However, had the band Drenge and their album Undertow been around, I am sure I would be singing a different tune. Combining elements of early ’90s alt-rock, played most unabashedly, with a nod to the first wave of British punk, Drenge have a sound that pounds and excites, yet includes enough of a respite with extremely spacey elements that allow the music to never sound tired. Additionally, those same elements never get so “out there” that you have to be stoned to enjoy it, either. I have some catching up to do, and I am extremely pleased to have Drenge as my guide. –R.G.B. Robb

 

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Squash
Self-Titled
Self-Released
Street: 12.08.14
Squash = Dave Brubeck + George Gershwin + Bernie Worrell +
The String Cheese Incident

Bitches Brew by Miles Davis was an album that changed the landscape of what jazz music could be seen as. Although the self-titled release by Salt Lake City’s Squash doesn’t sound like that record specifically, it too has also changed the terms of what jazz music can be. Filled with utter genius, especially on songs like “Lucky Zucchini Girl” and “Antannae,” Squash take elements of conventional jazz and combine them with a rhythm section (comprising bassist Jake Bills and drummer Chris Petty) whose playing borders between the traditional and a jam-band feel. Keyboardist Alec Jackson’s playing is breathtaking. He constantly walks a fine line between jazz, classical and elements of Hammond organ funk, allowing for a truly unique listening experience. If you love jazz music, then you must listen to this release and allow yourself a new look at this classic American art form. –R.G.B. Robb

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false witness art

false witness art

False Witness
Ascent To Chaos

Self-Released
Street: 03.28
False Witness = Avenged Sevenfold + Mudvayne + Sepultura

Upon first listen to False Witness and their album Ascent To Chaos, I felt that I was handed another generic melodic metalcore release within the “paint by numbers” realm. After the fourth listen, I realized that I was completely wrong. Although they are an extremely heavy band—incorporating intricate palmmuted chugging guitar patterns that are complemented by a talented rhythm section, along with vocals sounding like a chorus of demons let out of hell—they don’t fall into the trap of using the heavy elements to define them. Instead, they use fascinating riffs and passages that allow the musical experience to rise to the forefront, and even though you can discerne their influences, they have crafted a sound all their own. My only complaint is that the clean vocals sometimes get off rhythm at times, but with that being so minute, this is an album I must recommend. –R.G.B. Robb

matt vanaria matt vanaria album cover

matt vanaria matt vanaria album coverMatt Vanaria
Self-Titled

Self-Released
Street: 02.25
Matt Vanaria = Goo Goo Dolls + Hinder + Fuel

After listening to Matt Vanaria and his self-titled E.P. of rock music, I had the strangest feeling—ambivalence. I don’t hate the record, but it’s not that I exactly love the record, either. The talent level there is needed for this brand of rock (which is pretty commercial) the guitar playing fits well within the style, the rhythm section is solid and although Vanaria’s voice does have power behind it, there are points where it does become suspect. I know he’s in the right key, but there’s something “not right” about it—however, this doesn’t happen all that often. The one thing I know for sure is that there are moments where Vanaria showed signs of trying to break out of the realm of music that you have probably heard on the radio before, but he always seems to stop short of realizing those directions. Follow them. –R.G.B. Robb