Throwdown’s First Full-Length Record In Five Years Proves Throwdown Is As Strong As Ever

Courtesy: eOne Music

Courtesy: eOne Music

Veteran California-based hardcore band Throwdown has been making music for the masses for nearly two decades.  The band originally formed in 1997 and released its debut album Beyond Repair only two years later through independent label Indecision Records.  Since the release of that album, Throwdown has gone on to release six more albums despite a number of changes in lineups and labels.  And each of those subsequent records has been met with praise from critics and fans alike.   The band’s latest full-length studio release Intolerance is no exception to that standard.  From start to finish, the album’s mix of musical and lyrical content have proven Intolerance to be some of the band’s best work to date.  Right off the top, front man Dave Peters and bassist Matt Mentley prove along with studio drummer Jarrod Alexander and studio guitarist Dave Nassie just why this album is deserving of that acclaim.  ‘Fight or Die’ is a pummeling opener.  Its mix of semi-social commentary and full throttle musical side instantly conjures thoughts of Hatebreed.  The album’s third track is one of the best of the album’s tracks thanks to that same driving tempo.  Peters’ declaration of his continued dedication to the Straight Edge lifestyle set against that pummeling musical side makes this song one that is perfect for any live performance from the band.  And then there is the slightly slower but still just as hard-hitting ‘Suffer, Conquer’ which offers its own social commentary.  Each of these songs in their own way proves why Intolerance is the best material that Throwdown has released to date.  That is not to take anything away from the other eight songs that make up this record.  Each of those songs offers its own extra element of enjoyment for audiences, proving once again why this is some of the best material that Throwdown has released to date.

The members of Throwdown prove right from Intolerance’s opener that even having gone five year since its last album, it hasn’t lost a single step.  Musically speaking, ‘Fight or Die’ instantly conjures thoughts of fellow hardcore band Hatebreed.  That should come as no surprise especially considering that the album was produced by ZEUSS.  ZEUSS is also known for having produced records for both Hatebreed and Shadows Fall among others.  Lyrically, its semi-social commentary adds even more punch to the song.  Peters writes in this song, “The life I knew is but a memory, a better time corroded by a harsh reality/What have we let ourselves become/A mercenary culture doomed to burn/So tell me what it’s gonna be when fire lights your city’s streets/Fight or die/It’s your only choice to survive/Fight or die/When fear and chaos collide/What the f*(& has thsi world come to/I just don’t know/What the f^*) are you gonna do when the lights go black.”  This comes across as a rather scathing indicment concerning the current state of both the United States and the world in whole.  He asks blatantly, what has this world come to?  He goes on in the song’s next verse noting that people’s rights are being infringed on and that people need to stand up for said rights.  That intensity in Peters’ delivery coupled with the song’s musical intensity makes this song the perfect first impression from the band in its return after a five year absence.

The musical and lyrical intensity established by Throwdown in Intolerance’s opener doesn’t let up a single bit after that song ends.  It is just exhibited in different ways throughout the course of the album’s remaining ten tracks.  One of the most noticeable ways in which it varies is exhibited in the anthemic ‘Avow.’  Those that know the history of Throwdown know of its links to the straight edge culture.  Peters directly addresses the excesses commonly associated with the music world (specifically rhe punk) in this song, writing, “A poison tide, corrosive and alive/Rising to obliterate the weak/Anchored in spite, an unpolluted mind/This covenant, I’m sworn to keep…’cause I avow/I avow…to this straight edge.”  He goes on to write that he has stuck to that straight edge lifestyle throughout the course of the band’s life despite everything that has happened to the country’s culture.  He writes, “Twenty years, and everything has changed/A culture suffocated beneath the lies/Twenty years and I still remain/My allegiance never f&^$)* dies…Never dies/I avow…to the straight edge.”  Sure it comes across as being a little bit self-congratulatory.  But when taking into consideration the number of bands that have suffered losses among their numbers over the years, or have broken up as a result of the excesses tied to the music industry, it becomes far less self-congratulatory.  Rather, it becomes a reassurance to Peters himself and to Throwdown’s fans saying, “Hey, I’m still here.  We’re still here as a band despite our lineup changes and label changes.  We’re still here.”  It becomes a piece to really take in even more seriously when thinking about all of that.  And when really considered, audiences will see just how important of an addition ‘Avow’ is to the album in whole, especially being the number of years that have passed between this album and the band’s last full-length release.

Both ‘Avow’ and ‘Fight or Die’ are solid additions to Intolerance when considering them both by themselves and as part of the album in whole.  The 1-2 punch of the songs’ lyrics and music make them both excellent examples of what makes this album work as well as it does.  There is at least one more song that audiences will agree serves as a good representation of the album’s strength if not more.  The song in question is ‘Suffer & Conquer.”  Much like the album’s opener, it is marked by some very Hatebreed style guitar work and vocals on its musical side.  Its lyrical side is just as strong.  Peters writes in this song, “You want respect because you put in your time/Entitled and indignant, you resign to a lie/Now I’m not saying that it’s time to concede/But in your disillusion you forgot what it means to/Suffer, suffer to succeed.”  Everybody knows at least one person like the one described in this song.  Said person is a gloryhog who is reality rather lazy but thinks the world owes him or her everything.  This is someone that has become all too comfortable and perhaps even complacent in his or her situation.  Peters’ verbal assault on said figure continues through the course of the song.  Such ability to relate to audiences and continued intensity makes this song one more of this album’s highest points.  Together with the likes of ‘Avow’ and ‘Fight or Die,’ it exhibits even more why Throwdown is just as strong as ever almost two decades into its life.  They collectively exhibit, too why Intolerance is a welcome return from Throwdown after having released its last album five years ago.

‘Fight or Die,’ ‘Avow,’ and ‘Suffer, Conquer’ are all excellent examples of why Throwdown’s fans will want to hear this album if they have not yet heard it.  They are merely the songs that this critic personally felt best represent Intolerance.  Audiences will find their own favorites among the album’s remaining eight tracks not noted here when they hear this record for themselves.  The album is available now in stores and online.  All of the latest updates from the band are available online at http://www.facebook.com/throwdownOC.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Symmetry In Black Is A Welcome Return From Crowbar

Courtesy:  eOne Music

Courtesy: eOne Music

2014 has been quite the year for hard rock and metal.  New releases from the likes of Anti-Mortem, Fozzy, and Wovenwar have already highlighted an already busy year.  And new releases on the way from Machine Head, Exodus, and Slipknot before the year lets out are giving metalheads the world over even more reason to be excited.  If that’s not enough reason for the metal masses to be happy this year, then perhaps the latest full length studio release from Crowbar will excite some members of the metal nation.  The band released Symmetry in Black late this spring via eOne Music.  This latest record, the band’s ninth, presents some of the band’s best material to date.  One reason for the quality and heaviness of the songs on this record is the full focus of guitarist Kirk Windstein.  Having put his other projects on the side so as to give full focus to Crowbar, he sounds at the top of his game.  And along with his band mates—Matt Brunson (guitar), Tommy Buckley (drums), and Jeff Golden (bass)—the work of the New Orleans-based four-piece presents a band that is at the top of its collective game.  The songs on this album are impressive not just for their heaviness, but for their lyrical content.  The album’s opener ‘Walk With Knowledge Wisely’ is proof of that.  The same can be said of ‘Teach The Blind To See,’ which comes late in the album’s run.  ‘A Wealth of Empathy’ offers its own interesting lyrical content set against some rather heavy riffs, too.  The combination of this trio of just these three works shows how much Crowbar still has to offer audiences even today.  There are nine other songs on this record from which audiences can choose their own favorite(s).  In listening through those tracks and the songs noted here, audiences new and old alike will agree again that Symmetry in Black proves to be Crowbar’s best full length studio release to date.

Crowbar’s ninth full length studio release is some of the band’s best work to date as already noted. That is evident right off the top in the album’s opener ‘Walk With Knowledge Wisely.’ This song is a pure, heavy slab of southern sludge metal. Vocalist/guitarist Kirk Windstein is at the top of his game here, having put his other projects on the back burner for the time being. That pure, heavy sound set against the song’s thought provoking lyrics make it a hard-hitting return for the band. Windstein writes in this song, “My will cannot be broken/Cause when I rot I crawl back from the dead/I am the living proof/That you can right what is wrong in your head/The weak can always overcome/But only if they burn with desire.” Those few lines alone are empowering to say the very least. Their juxtaposition against the song’s dark, heavy sound makes them even more impactful. They become two polar opposites that together make a clear statement of determination and its payoff. As if that wasn’t enough of an example of the song’s message, Windstein goes on to write, “I am the living proof/That a soul can burn a thousand times/Accept what God has given you/And you’ll find the answer all around.” Don’t mistake that lien for Crowbar being a “Christian Band.” That’s hardly the case. It is simply Windstein and his band mates hammering home the fully positive message that it is possible to overcome so much of life’s negativity and difficulty. What better way to return after three years than with such a powerful musical and lyrical statement?

‘Walk With Knowledge Wisely’ is a powerful first statement from Crowbar on its new release. That’s because of the mix of its heavy sound and empowering lyrics. On the other side of things, a song such as ‘Teach The Blind To See’ will raise just as much conversation. That is thanks in large part to its lyrical content. Windstein writes in this song, “So many years so many words/Bringing honesty to you/Just follow me/You won’t regret/It’s what I do/I don’t forget/I’ll lead you to the truth.” One the one hand, one could argue that this is meant to be a social commentary of sorts. It could potentially be aimed at religious leaders whether they come from organized religion or from cults. The message would pretty much be the same regardless in that case. Making for even more conversation, Windstein goes on to write, “Know I’m not the enemy/I can teach the blind to see/Too many tears too many wounds/Bringing healing to the ill/Just follow me/You won’t regress/I’m giving life, I’m giving breath/At times it’s hard, at times I’m blind/But I bring new life to you/And in the end/That’s what is real/Cause agony will make you feel/Into freedom I lead you.” It goes without saying that this makes for even more discussion. It would be interesting to know for certain the inspiration for this song. Regardless, the fact that it has the potential to create so much discussion combined with its pummeling musical heaviness makes it one more of the best pieces on this album.

Both ‘Walk With Knowledge Wisely’ and ‘Teach The Blind To See’ are important in their own right to Symmetry in Black in terms of its overall presentation. Musically, both songs are extremely heavy. Lyrically speaking, they couldn’t be more opposite from one another. One is empowering. The other seems something of a commentary. So both songs present their own value to the album in whole. They just do so in their own way. The same can be said of ‘A Wealth of Empathy.’ Much like the album’s opener, this song presents a rather positive message of hope set against a rather heavy musical side that directly contrasts its lyrical side. Windstein writes in this song of overcoming all of the negativity thrown out in life. One could actually argue in the case of this song that it is in its own right a companion to ‘Walk With Knowledge Wisely’ as that song discussed trying to overcome said difficulties and negativity in life. This piece goes more in an introspective direction, with Windstein looking back on those difficulties and negativity, declaring that he has overcome them. He writes here, “I can’t explain my suffering/But I have lived through misery/My faith will pull me through/And bring to me new life/No need for sympathy/I’ve overcome/My strife/No longer feeling cold/The mind grows wise as we grow old.” That is quite the hopeful statement. And as with the album’s opener, such statement set against the song’s foreboding musical element, it makes for an even more powerful statement of personal emotional strength. That overall impact makes this song one of the highest of points on this record. Together with ‘Walk With Knowledge Wisely,’ ‘Teach The Blind To See,’ and the album’s remaining nine tracks, they make up an album that is one that any long-time fan of Crowbar will thoroughly enjoy.

Whether it be for the album’s more inspirational songs such as the pair mentioned here or for others that make up this record, every fan of Crowbar will find their own reason to enjoy this new record. It is available now in stores and online. Fans can get more info on this and other releases from Crowbar as well as the latest updates from the band online at:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/crowbarmusic

Twitter: http://twitter.com/crowbarrules

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Overkill Doesn’t Need New Tricks, Sounds To Impress On Its Latest LP

Courtesy:  eOne Music

Courtesy: eOne Music

Veteran thrash metal band Overkill has been making its own brand of rock for nearly forty years. Ever since the band released its debut album way back in 1984, the New Jersey-based band has built its fan base by sticking to what it knows best. Typically, producing the same kind of record with every release is a formula for a band’s demise. But somehow, Overkill has managed to disprove that formula with every release. That includes its latest full length studio effort White Devil Armory. This album, the band’s seventeenth (yes, seventeenth) presents a band with just as much drive and fire within its members as when it first started out all those years ago. Every one of the songs included in the recently released deluxe edition of White Devil Armory exemplifies just how much this band seems to still have in its tank. Collectively, they show that this band still has plenty of fuel left in its tank. It is definitely a candidate for a spot on this critic’s list of the year’s best new hard rock and metal albums.

A close examination of White Devil Armory reveals that this band still has plenty left to offer the metal community in whole. The thrash sound that audiences have come to know on the band’s previous releases is just as prevalent here as in those records. One of the best examples of why that sound makes this record works comes in the form of ‘Pig.’ This full throttle rocker will make any true metalhead proud. The full-on assault of guitarists Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer is the heart of this song. It displays what once made metal great. It is just solid shredding. Period. There is no down-tuned, crunchy sound here (or anywhere throughout the album). It’s like taking a musical trip back to a better era of music. And vocalist/found member Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth’s vocals are just as strong as he sings, “Listen to the horn blow/Up against the night glow/Someone left the bodies in the garden of the war show/Dig a grave or foxhole/Pile up the dead souls/Someone saw the bodies/Call damage control/Better get to know my name.” That first section of the song’s opening verse comes across as a not so lightly veiled commentary about the war in the Middle East. That could very well be wrong of course. It is, as always, just this critic’s own interpretation. The second half of the verse strengthens that argument, though. Ellsworth sings in the verse’s second half, “The big celebration is getting me high/Feel the sensation of just getting by/Don’t know the answer/But I know the game/Treat them well/Give them hell/Buy and sell/Welcome to the rodeo-Pig.” It almost comes across as making commentary about politicians orchestrating everything as he sings, “Treat them well/Give them hell/Buy and sell.” That line alone makes one think about the backhanded politics and politicians that lead the wars into which American forces are thrown. The ferocity of the song in its own way adds even more fuel to that fire. Again this is just one critic’s own interpretation of this song. It would definitely be interesting to learn whether or not that was what the band was trying to get across to audiences. Regardless, it is without a doubt one of the best moments on this album because of that ability to create such discussion regarding its lyrical content and its balls-to-the-walls sound.

‘Pig’ is one of Overkill’s moments on White Devil Armory. That is thanks to its combination of thought provoking lyrics and no nonsense music. The band presents even more of that no nonsense, full throttle sound in what is another of the album’s high points in ‘Where There’s Smoke.’ This song is another that harkens back to the golden era of speed and thrash metal. It conjures thoughts of classic Anthrax and Metallica with its musical side. On its lyrical side, the song Ellsworth and company create just as much discussion as Ellsworth sings, “Did a lot of damage in a little bit of time/I was running out of smiles/With two feet inside the crime/Finger pointing at me in the name of good and right/When I’m standing in the darkness/Turn on the f&%#!&% light.” He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “I was solid locked and loaded/Ready for the brawl/Standing in the killing field/Just outside the wall/Caught the scent of devil/Burning in the night/So I’m waiting in the shadows/Turn out that f&%#!&% light.” There is almost a sense of introspection about Ellsworth’s past here. The lines “Left the trouble back there in Jersey/Left the rubber just below the chrome” makes the song feel as if Ellsworth is saying his past is his past and he’s only looking straight forward. It’s almost like he’s saying, “Yes, these are things I did. But that’s the past.” This could again be a completely incorrect interpretation. It is just this critic’s own interpretation. Right or wrong, it proves in the long run to be one more excellent example of what makes White Devil Armory just as solid as any of Overkill’s previous records.

‘Pig’ and ‘Where There’s Smoke’ are both key examples of why White Devil Armory deserves to at least be considered for a spot on this and every critic’s year-end list of the year’s best new hard rock and metal albums. One more song that easily qualifies this album for said list is the album’s lead single and semi-title track ‘Armorist.’ It’s no wonder that this song was chosen as the album’s opener and its lead single, too.   Ron Lipnicki’s machine gun-fast drumming and the solid shredding on the part of Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer make this song an instant hit. On a random note, any Doctor Who fans out there will laugh at the fact taht Bobby Ellsworth sounds a lot like one of the Daleks here. The band produced this album itself and was joined by Greg Reely for mixing and mastering. Regardless of who was responsible for this aspect, that effect is a nice touch in this song. Audiences can check out the song’s official video online now via YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_c3GBrWsao. It is a solid opener for the band on this its latest album. And for those that might be new to the music of Overkill, it is just as solid a first impression from what is one of the most legendary bands in the metal community.

‘The Armorist,’ ‘Where There’s Smoke,’ and ‘Pig’ are each great additions to White Devil Armory. Each song proves in its own way why Overkill is still one of the most revered bands in the metal community. They are only a small collective handful of examples of why Overkill is still so popular. The deluxe edition of White Devil Armory includes a total of thirteen tracks. That leaves ten more songs from which audiences can choose as their favorite(s). Regardless of which track(s) audiences choose as their favorite(s), the one thing on which every listener will be able to agree in listening to this album is that it definitely deserves to be included on any critic’s year-end list of the best new hard rock and metal albums. The band is currently wrapping up the North American leg of its tour in support of its new album. It will wrap up the U.S. leg of its tour with a pair of dates at the Palladium in Worcester, MA next Thursday and Friday, October 16th and 17th before taking some time off to recharge in preparation for the European leg of its tour. That leg begins Thursday, October 30th in Barcelona, Spain. Audiences can get a full listing of the band’s tour dates as well as the latest updates from the band online at:

Website:   http://www.wreckingcrew.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/OverkillWreckingCrew

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Tesla’s Tenth Album More Than Lives Up To Its Title

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Veteran rock band Tesla has maintained its place in the pantheon of rock for nearly three decades. Throughout the course of that time, so many other bands have come and gone leaving little to no mark on the world.  Tesla meanwhile has continued to create memorable songs on its own terms with each one of its albums, increasing its fan base with each album thanks to that continued display of talent and ingenuity on each record.  The band’s latest album, Simplicity, proves that continued ingenuity once again, providing listeners with songs that perfectly match the album’s title both in terms of its music and its lyrics from start to finish.  The album’s opener, ‘MP3′ is proof of that.  The song uses the seemingly endless stream of technological advances seen each year as the basis for a commentary about how technology has done more harm than good for the world.  The equally socially conscious powerhouse rocker ‘Time Bomb’ proves that this band can still hold its own with today’s younger bands and do so with ease for that matter.  Those that might want something softer but still holding some substance need look no further than the moving but still thought provoking ‘Life is a River.’  It’s one more example of how Simplicity more than lives up to its title with its mix of gentle music and inspiring lyrics.  Each one of the songs noted here proves in its own way why Simplicity lives up to its title.  Each one also proves why Simplicity could be a contender for a spot on this critic’s list of the year’s top new rock records.  And that isn’t to discount the album’s other songs, either.  Every song on this record proves those arguments, too.  Together with the songs that are noted, this album proves to be very much a sleeper hit of a record.

Tesla’s new record Simplicity–its tenth overall full length studio effort–is a sleeper hit of a work.  The album mixes deep and thought provoking lyrics in every one of its fourteen total tracks with music that will have fans both on their feet rocking along at some points, and almost shedding tears of joy in others.  The album’s opener, ‘MP3′ is one example of that balance of substance in its lyrics and music together.  Front man Jeff Keith sings in this socially conscious song, “Reachin’ out to a friend in need/Is more important than a text from a cell phone screen/All these sounds of complication/In the cloud communication/Oh my god it’s taking me/From the phonograph record to the MP3/All the world is overrun with technology/Oh my God it seems to me/We gotta get back to simplicity/It’s plain to see/Rewind now!”  Keith makes no bones here about the topic being raised.  He is saying that technology has done more harm to the world than good.  He isn’t necessarily trying to preach and say technology is bad.  Don’t misinterpret that.  What he is saying is that humans have allowed technology to control their lives and the end result being a drastic depersonalization of people’s relationships on every level.  That Keith would present such a deep concept in such a simple (there’s that word again) makes the song the perfect choice to open this album.  The song’s equally simple and accessible musical backing adds to that argument, too.  Both aspects together make ‘MP3′ just part of the argument as to why Simplicity is an aptly titled release and also one of this year’s sleeper hit records.

Tesla’s members–Jeff Keith (vocals), Frank Hannon (guitar, vocals, piano, bass), Dave Rude (guitar, vocals, bass), Brian Wheat (bass, piano, vocals), and Troy Lucketta (drums and percussion)–prove right from the beginning of this record why it more than lives up to its title and why it is one of the year’s sleeper hits, thanks to ‘MP3.’  The combination of the song’s simple to understand yet still deep lyrics alongside its equally simple, accessible musical backing make it the perfect first statement from the band on this record.  Just as strong of an argument in support of Simplicity is ‘Time Bomb.’  This hard rocker is one part social statement and one part call to arms.  Keith sings in this song, “It’s like the lights are on but nobody’s home/There’s no other choice/Just one solution/So load up your guns/Cause freedom is won/It’s time we’ve begun a revolution/We’re ready to fight to save our lives/And willing to die/Oh no.”  He goes on to sing along with his band mates in the song’s chorus, “Let’s go deep into the fire/Screamin’ hell no we ain’t gonna run/Let’s go united all together/Cuz I know divided we’re done.”  He comes across as saying that Americans have got to put all of this political and other turmoil aside; that there are much more important things that unless we band together, will most certainly take us all down thanks to our division.  Just as with ‘MP3,’ that lyrical and musical simplicity serves once again to prove how much Simplicity lives up to its name in more ways than one.  Even more, it proves once more why this record is one of the year’s sleeper hits within the rock world.

Tesla proves throughout the course of Simplicity’s fourteen total tracks just why it lives up to its name with plenty of hard and hard-hitting songs.  That’s evident in the songs already noted and in the likes of the equally socially conscious ‘Flip Side!’   For all of that heavy lyrical and musical content, Simplicity proves that it can be hard and hard-hitting without actually being hard, too.  Case in point is the moving inspirational song ‘Life is a River.’  This song epitomizes the statement made years ago by Black Label Society front man Zakk Wylde when he noted that a song can be heavy without actually being heavy in terms of its music.  It presents the message that just because someone sees something one way doesn’t necessarily make it so.  As he notes in the song’s second verse, “What you think is just a dog/Is one of my best friends/What you see as sawed up logs/Is the house that I live in/What you call a pile of stones/Is the foundation of my home/And we all know there’s nothing sweet as home sweet home.”  He is saying that everything in life is a matter of perception.  And that one’s perception is never the same as another’s.  From there, he gets to the core of the song, telling those listeners that might be suffering emotionally for whatever reason, their perception of life being worthless is their own perception and that life is so much more beautiful than they think.  He sings, “You’ve been left out once again/Standing in the rain/Now you feel you’ve reached the end/And you just can’t stand the pain/Even though you still remain/You’re God’s creation/This I know/Cuz’ life can be so beautiful.”  The ballad-style song perfectly builds up to that conclusion, making the song’s lyrical content so hard hitting even in its simplicity.  Once again, there is the argument as to Simplicity more than living up to its title.  The lyrics are simple to understand. And the music is so powerful in its own simplicity.  The two elements together make for one more outstanding statement from Tesla on this sleeper hit of a record.  Together with the previously noted songs (and those not noted directly), Tesla’s members have shown that they still have plenty of fire and that they, too have one of the year’s most surprisingly enjoyable rock records.

Simplicity shows from start to finish just why it more than lives up to its name.  The lyrics and music that make up each of the album’s fourteen tracks are simple in terms of understanding them and understanding what message they are conveying.  Each of the songs on this record are just as enjoyable thanks to their simple yet wonderfully entertaining music.  That combination makes for so much depth and substance.  That’s something that one can rarely say about albums churned out by today’s younger bands and artists.  Keeping that in mind, it proves Simplicity to be one of the year’s most surprisingly enjoyable records and potentially one of the year’s best new rock records.  Simplicity is available in stores and online now. The band currently is scheduled to perform as part of the Monsters of Rock Cruise Miami next spring from April 18th – 22nd.  While fans wait for spring to return, they can keep up with all of the latest tour updates and news from Tesla online at http://www.TESLAtheBand.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

 

Bee People Will Leave A Sweet Taste In Viewers’ Mouths

Courtesy:  Truemind/Entertainment One

Courtesy: Truemind/Entertainment One

Entertainment One and Truemind released this week what is one of this year’s more standout documentaries in a piece titled Bee People.  The presentation follows the work of Gregg McMahan aka “The Bee Guru” as he works to spread the word about the importance of backyard beekeeping.  He explains through his various activities the importance of saving bees because they are still very much in danger even today.  He uses a mix of education and bee rescues and relocation in his efforts to help bolster the bee population.  He’s sort of the Billy The Exterminator (see who remembers that show) of the bee world.  Staying on that tip, this is actually the central point of this documentary’s success.  It’s more reality TV on DVD than documentary.  Though there is some documentary element of sorts with the trivia segments that are thrown in.  Another reason that audiences will enjoy this program is that being more of a reality TV style presentation than a documentary, it doesn’t come across as just another preachy, overly done presentations that paint a picture of doom and gloom.  Rather it points out all the positives of bees and bee keeping and that anyone of any age can do it, even kids with proper guidance from experienced adults.  The DVD’s bonus segment “Extracting Honey” only runs sixteen minutes.  But it adds its own share of enjoyment to the whole presentation.  It feels like a deleted scene, again adding to the presentation’s feel of being more of a reality show on DVD than an actual documentary.  That’s not a bad thing, either.  If anything, it serves to make this presentation even more enjoyable for audiences.  It makes the presentation that much more enjoyable and worth checking out regardless of whether or not one is that much into the world of bee keeping.  All three of the noted aspects of this presentation do their own part to make it a work that any viewer will appreciate in one way or another.  And together, they make Bee People a “documentary” that will leave any viewer *ahem* buzzing about it in the end.

The core point of success in Bee People—its presentation in general—is also the most noticeable.  The presentation is being marketed primarily as a documentary.  But the reality of it is that it is anything but.  If anything, it more resembles the likes of so much of the reality TV series currently dominating the television spectrum.  The difference is that unlike those series in question, this piece is actually worth watch.  It is so much more enjoyable than most of the reality series out there right now primarily because of its content.  Audiences that might be familiar with A&E’s short-lived series Billy The Exterminator will make an almost instant correlation between the two series.  Billy actually did handle some bee infestations in a couple episodes of his series.  Gregg Mcmahan aka ‘The Bee Guru” is the star of this program.  And he has much the same energy and personality as Billy The Exterminator.  The only difference between the two is that Billy boasted a more outrageous outfit and handled more than just bees.  Other than that, the similarity is nearly a mirror image.  Maybe that’s why it made it so fun and easy for this critic to watch.  Anyone else that is a fan of Billy The Exterminator will find themselves enjoying this program just as much.  It’s a nice breath of fresh air both when compared to all the useless reality TV series out there today and so many other more pure documentaries out there, too.

Bee People stands out both when compared to the mass of reality shows across the television spectrum today and among the other, more pure documentaries that are out there right now.  That sole factor makes this presentation well worth the watch by viewers of any age.  Making the program even more enjoyable for viewers is it doens’t try to paint the picture of doom and gloom that so many documentaries out there paint.  So many documentaries are in reality no more than overly preachy activist films.  This piece doesn’t do that.  It presents the perils that the world’s bee populations face.  But upon doing so, it shows the concerted efforts being taken by average, everyday people in their efforts to help work with said populations. And even those people don’t try to preach to audiences.  Add in the educational segments here and there, and what audiences get is a presentation that is more real than any reality TV series or any documentary film out there.  Simply put, it’s more substance than schlep, making it even more enjoyable for audiences of all ages.

Bee People stands out among this year’s documentaries because it is a documentary that isn’t one.  Its use of areality TV series format and its overall content both make it a surprisingly *ahem* sweet presentation (bad pun fully intended.  It’s anything but preachy.  And there’s no foul language at any one point, either.  This all noted, there is still one more aspect of the presentation worth noting that makes it so fun.  That last aspect is the DVD’s bonus deleted scene.  The bonus deleted scene included with the documentary shows the actual process (albeit by a backyard beekeeper) of how honey is extracted from the honeycomb.  It’s difficult to point out what exactly it is about this process that makes it so interesting.  But it is just that interesting.  And seeing an average person “harvesting” the honey in the heart of New York City is makes the process even more awe inspring.  And that sense of awe combined with the program’s general content and its premise collectively make Bee People one of this year’s most underrated documentaries.

Entertainment One and Truemind have together offered up to viewers what is a standout presentation in Bee People.  The film stands out as it isn’t what one thinks of in any way when one thinks of standard documentaries.  From its general premise to its overall look and its bonus deleted scenes, this DVD will leave quite the good *taste in viewers’ mouths.  and yes, those bad puns were fully intended, too.  Bee People is available now on DVD in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from Truemind’s website at http://disinfo.com/product/bee-people/.  More information on this and other releases from Truemind is available online at http://www.truemind.tv.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Broadchurch Outshines Almost All Other Crime Dramas In Its First Season

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Crime dramas are all the rage on American television. Each one of the “Big 4” has more than its fair share of gritty crime dramas. Even the cable networks are becoming overloaded with their own crime dramas. Even PBS has its own crime drama series in the forms of Endeavour and the newly resurrected series Inspector Lewis. Considering all of this, it goes without saying that fans of the crime drama genre have more than their share of shows from which to choose. The problem is that save for perhaps PBS’ Inspector Lewis and Endeavour, the majority of the crime dramas that fill the broadcast spectrum today are relatively formulaic. Now thankfully, eOne has offered American audiences a series unlike any other crime drama out there today, including those on PBS. And that is saying something. The series in question is Broadchurch. The series’ first season is available now on DVD. And this debut season of the British import is nothing short of spectacular. Yes, it is a serial. But the show’s writing more than makes up for that. That’s just the beginning of what makes this first season a hit. The use of original music at the right moments will keep viewers’ just as much on the edge of their seats from episode to episode. The same can be said of the acting on the part of the cast. This includes not just lead actors David Tennant (Dr. Who) and Olivia Colman (The Iron Lady, Hot Fuzz, Locke), but to the cast in whole. Their acting, along with the wisely used music and even smarter writing together make Broadchurch: The Complete First Season a truly surprising first impression from this British import. And it gives quite a bit of hope for the series in its second season. Audiences that give this season a chance will largely agree with that sentiment when they purchase or order the box set for themselves.

Broadchurch is not the first imported drama or even crime drama to make its way to America’s shores. The series, as a matter of fact, has been adapted for broadcast on the Fox network this fall. Before audiences even begin to watch that Americanized ripoff, they would do well to check out Season One of Broadchurch if only for the show’s writing. That is the most important factor to the success of this season. Any viewer that is the parent of a small child will agree that this season’s story hits hard because of its reality. It’s a sad reality that children die in this country (and other nations) every single day at the hands of rather sick individuals. That reality gives so much depth and believability to this season’s story. Fair warning, it’s difficult to watch and will make any parent want to hold their child even closer by the season’s final minutes. Even more so, any viewer that is left dry-eyed after watching this season’s story simply isn’t human. Even this critic will admit to tearing up quite a bit by that time.

The emotional depth and believability of the writing is just the starting point of what makes the first season of Broadchurch such a surprise of a series. Audiences will appreciate just as much the twists and turns that are included over the course of this season. They are just enough that they will keep viewers watching on the proverbial edge of their seats right to the season’s end. The twists don’t just include the characters, either. There are minute details on which the camera focuses at random points that keep viewers thrown off the track right up to the shocking season finale. The finale won’t be given away for the sake of those that have yet to see Season One. But it is most definitely unexpected, though sadly very much a reflection of life. To that extent, it makes this season’s story all the more gripping and worth the watch.

On an even deeper level, the writers responsible for bringing Broadchurch to life are to be applauded for the manner in which the series’ first season was constructed. Rather than have eight separate episodes, the writers used the model from Fox’s 24 in establishing each episode. Whereas each episode of 24 is one hour, each episode of Broadchurch’s first season is a continuation of the previous episode. So, all eight episodes of this season comprise just one storyline. And each episode has been written so well (unlike 24), that audiences won’t be left feeling like they need a program to figure out what’s going on. It’s the final touch to the series’ writing that makes the writing the cornerstone of this first season.

The writers behind Broadchurch are to be highly commended for the painstaking efforts put into making this series’ first season the gripping first impression that it proves to be in the end. Just as worthy of applause in Season One are those responsible for the show’s music. Yes, the music in this series plays just as important a role in its success as the writing. This is hardly common in most American television series. Audiences will note in the series’ first season that unlike so many other shows out there, it doesn’t rely on popular songs or music put in just to be there. The music incorporated in Broadchurch: Season One plays directly in to the series’ writing. The smart use of dynamics and overall placement from scene to scene within each episode heightens each episode’s emotional depth. Whether it be the season’s more pained moments as when Danny’s mother saw him lying dead on the beach, or even the more tense moments of the search for the killer, those charged with music placement went above and beyond the call of duty. It’s one more factor that makes the debut season of this gripping British crime drama worlds better than its countless American counterparts.

The music and the writing behind the first season of Broadchurch are by themselves integral parts of the season’s overall success. Together they make Broadchurch a fully gripping and engrossing series in only its first season. There is still one more aspect of this first season that proves Broadchurch to be the standard by which so many other dramas should model themselves. That final factor is the acting on the part of the cast. That applies not just to lead actors David Tennant and Olivia Colman but to the entire cast. Each member of the show’s cast expertly interprets the show’s script, making it even more difficult to figure out who is the killer until said person is revealed in the season finale. On the other hand that expert acting also pulls in viewers on a deeply emotional level, too. That expert acting on both sides of the coin adds one more level of depth, thus making this season of Broadchurch even more gripping. That final factor, set alongside the season’s writing and music, makes the presentation whole and wholly of the best first impressions from any new series in recent history. It makes the first season of Broadchurch one that any fan of dramas must see at least once this year.

Broadchurch: The Complete First Season is available now on DVD in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Broadchurch-Season-1-David-Tennant/dp/B00HGE90Z4/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1403311459&sr=1-1&keywords=broadchurch+the+complete+first+season. More information on this and other releases from Entertainment One is available online at entertainmentone.com/home. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Little Ones Will Love eOne’s Latest Wheels On The Bus DVD

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

The latest collection of episodes from eOne’s series The Wheels on the Bus is another fun time for children, parents, and teachers. It’s a good fit for toddlers and pre-school age children. That’s thanks to the mix of music and lessons shared throughout the three episodes contained on the disc. That’s just part of what makes the DVD another piece worth watching. The total run time of the DVD is roughly thirty-six minutes. That makes the run time of each of the episodes about twelve minutes total. That’s just about right for the attention span of the program’s intended viewers. That aspect along with the combination of songs and lessons in each episode makes this DVD all the more fun for young viewers and their families.

The main factor that makes The Wheels on the Bus: A Day at the Farm another fun DVD from eOne and One Happy Child is the combination of more musical numbers and lessons spread across the DVD’s three episodes. The songs included in each episode include even more new verses to the beloved children’s song. The new verses written for each episode don’t necessarily apply directly to the episodes themselves. That doesn’t take away anything from the verses. They’ll actually have younger viewers singing and dancing along just as much as the song’s original verses. And the songs written specifically for each episode’s given story will have younger viewers singing and dancing along just as much. This applies even in the end credits sequence for each episode. Each episode has its own outtakes during its end credits. And along with the outtakes is another original song that makes the viewing experience even more enjoyable.

The musical numbers included within the context of each episode are just part of what makes the DVD in whole enjoyable for younger viewers. The lessons shared throughout the episodes add to each episode’s enjoyment. There is a lesson about the importance of healthy eating in one episode. Another teaches about service dogs. It teaches how they are trained from their puppy years up through their adult years. The DVD’s opening episode teaches a lesson about the different animals on the farm. This short lesson is a good starting point for both parents and teachers in discussing the different kinds of animals that live on a farm. It could potentially lead to a field trip of sorts to a farm. The lesson about healthy eating is a great starting point in a discussion for teachers and parents alike to discuss healthy eating habits. This is especially the case considering the epidemic of childhood obesity in America. It’s one more positive to the DVD’s overall viewing experience.

The lessons and the music contained in the episodes on The Wheels on the Bus: A Day at the Farm make up a big part of what makes the DVD in whole enjoyable for children and adults. There is still one more factor to consider in the overall enjoyment of this DVD. That factor is the total run time of the three episodes together. The total run time of this DVD is roughly thirty-six minutes. That puts the total run time of each of the DVD’s three episodes at around twelve minutes tops. Considering that the target audience age of the series is kids ages 1 – 5, a twelve minute run time is just right. Given, the attention span of most viewers in that age range is not that long. But the use of the catchy tunes and lessons taught at the level of said viewers will keep the attention of those viewers just long enough. Keeping this in mind, the DVD in whole becomes all the more enjoyable whether used in the classroom or the living room. It becomes a piece that parents, teachers, and students should give at least one watch.

The Wheels on the Bus: A Day at the Farm is available now on DVD in stores and online. It was released this past Tuesday, June 3rd. It can be ordered online from Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Wheels-Bus-Day-at-Farm/dp/B00J5BCV5M/ref=sr_1_8?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1402243779&sr=1-8&keywords=The+Wheels+on+the+Bus. More information on this and other releases from Entertainment One is available online at http://entertainmentone.com/home. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.