‘Redemption’ Is A Strong First Outing For ‘The CEO’

Courtesy: Rat Pack Records

Hard rock band The CEO is scheduled to release its debut album this week.  The band, which features Sevendust bassist Vince Hornsby as one of its members – is scheduled to release its new album, Redemption Friday through Rat Pack Records.  The label is also home to King’s X member DuG Pinnick’s side project KXM.  The 12-song record is a positive first impression from the band.  Its success comes in part through its featured musical arrangements, which will be discussed shortly.  The lyrical content that accompanies the record’s musical arrangements adds its own appeal to the album and will be discussed a little later.  The sequencing of that collective content brings that content together and completes the album’s presentation.  It will also be addressed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation.  All things considered, they make Redemption a promising start for The CEO.

The CEO’s debut album, Redemption, is a positive first outing for the up-and-coming hard rock band.  That is proven in part through the musical arrangements that make up the album’s 45-minute body.  The arrangements boast an overall sound and stylistic approach that easily lend themselves to comparison to works from Sevendust, as well as The Veer Union and Alter Bridge.  That applies even in the album’s one softer moment, ‘Black Hearts.’  It should be noted that while the album’s arrangements bear the noted similarity to works from the aforementioned bands, the works here still boast their own unique identity.  That is due not only to the work of Hornsby, but also that of his band mates – Chase Brown and Beau Anderson (guitars), Mack Mullins (vocals), and Joseph Herman (drums). Case in point is the album’s closer, ‘Alone and Dead.’  The heaviness of the noted bands is on full display throughout this song thanks to the band’s work and that of those behind the boards.  At the same time, there is also a certain late 80s/early 90s hair metal sound infused into the arrangement in the verses.  The subtlety of that element alongside the heavier, modern hard rock sound here makes the song its own strong presentation.

‘Dirty Tragic,’ which comes just before the album’s midpoint, is another example of the importance of the album’s musical arrangements.  As with ‘Alone and Dead,’ the noted hard rock influences are on full display here.  At the same time though, the band also presents an evident blues-rock type sound and stylistic approach to pair with that hard rock influence.  It is comparable to works from the likes of Shinedown and Three Days Grace.  The whole of the arrangement is a rich, engaging and enjoyable work that does its own part to show the ability of the band to make its own unique songs, even with the evident influence of other more well-known bands.

‘Alive’ is yet another example of the expert fashion in which the members of The CEO balanced its heavier influences with its own approach.  The depth of the bass, guitars, and drums is on full display once more here.  At the same time, there is something in the staccato nature in which the group plays and the melodic choruses that give the arrangement even more of its own identity.  It is an interesting dichotomy of sound and style that because of its subtlety, makes the song just as notable as the others examined here.  When these songs and the others featured throughout the album are considered together, they make the album’s overall musical content reason enough for audiences to hear the album.  Of course the album’s musical content is only part of the reason that audiences will enjoy the album.  Its lyrical content is familiar and accessible, making for even more reason to hear the record.

The familiarity and accessibility in the album’s lyrical content is made clear in the album’s lead single/title track.  The song features what comes across as a discussion about the importance of taking accountability for the choices we make in life.  This is inferred right from the song’s outset as Mullins sings in the song’s lead verse and chorus, “Divide and conquer us in two/Feed the hate to the starved that you rule/Thy will be done/And now we’re done/Rise of the dead/The love, the hate, the sex, the truth/The jealousies that make us fools Redemption/Redemption.”  Here Mullins comes across as addressing how we separate ourselves and allow ourselves to be controlled by extraneous forces, which in itself plays into the choices we make.  The statement grows and evolves in the second verse, which finds Mullins singing, “Blind faith judgement is for fools (fools)/Control and trust are the enemies’ tools (fools)/Fake is the trend/This time it ends/Rise of the dead/The love, the hate, the sex, the truth/The jealousies that make us fools/Wake up this time/The choice, the chance, the last to lose Our legacy is our choice.”  That final statement, telling audiences to “wake up this time/The choice, the chance, the last to lose/Our legacy is our choice” is a strong reminder that we make our own decisions in what we do, and we need to hold ourselves accountable for those choices.  This is of course just this critic’s interpretation.  If in fact it is somewhere in the proverbial ball park, then that familiar theme will certainly resonate with audiences, in a unique fashion at that.  It is just one example of the importance of the album’s lyrical themes. 

The lyrical theme featured in ‘Black Hearts’ is another example of the importance of the album’s lyrical themes.  In the case of this song, it takes on the all-too-familiar topic of a broken relationship.  This is made clear right from the song’s outset as Mullins sings, “This was never good/And we knew/But I wasn’t built for goodbyes/I turn and walk away/Just for you/’Cause I know we won’t change our minds/We have to hold on/It’s time to go/Love doesn’t stay/Where it don’t belong/Meeting you was my first mistake.”  What is interesting here is the mournful manner in which these lyrics are delivered.  Normally, such content conjures thoughts of frustration, but instead, Mullins and company opted to present this in such more emotional fashion.  It presents the song’s subject as placing the blame for the relationship’s end on his own shoulders. The song’s subject even keeps the blame on himself here.  It really makes for an interesting approach to an all-too-familiar lyrical theme.  That it is presented more in a rueful fashion than the more fiery delivery that audiences might expect makes it that much more interesting.  It makes the theme just one more example of the importance of the album’s lyrical content. 

Along with ‘Black Hearts’ and ‘Redemption,’ ‘Alive’ is yet another strong example of the importance of this album’s lyrical content.  Not having a lyrics sheet to reference makes deciphering the song’s lyrics somewhat difficult.  However, just enough can be understood that it can be inferred that this song is meant to deliver an uplifting message of confidence and hope.  This is inferred as Mullins sings in the song’s chorus, “It don’t/Matter who you are/Believe and you’ll go far/When fear/You decide to face….”  Again much of the song’s lyrics are tough to understand without a lyrics sheet to reference, but this brief statement in itself to know this song is meant to be something positive.  The mention of dying with “memories/Not just hopes and dreams/You were born with all you need” adds even more to that interpretation.  Considering all of this, the more than likely uplifting nature of this song’s lyrical content serves even more to show the importance of the record’s lyrical themes.  When it is considered along with the other noted lyrical themes and those not directly examined here, the whole leaves no doubt as to the importance of the record’s lyrical content.  When the record’s lyrical and musical content are combined, they make for even more reason for audiences to hear this record.  The sequencing of that content brings everything together here and completes the record’s presentation.

Redemption’s sequencing is important to note because of its role in keeping the record’s content varied.  From beginning to end, the sequencing ensures the record’s lyrical themes change just as much as the stylistic changes in the album’s musical arrangements.  That in itself ensures listeners’ engagement and entertainment.  At the same time, the sequencing also keeps the album’s overall energy stable from beginning to end.  There are brief moments within certain songs in which the album pulls back, but those moments are very brief at the most.  Even in the album’s most reserved moment in ‘Black Hearts,’ the energy doesn’t pull back but so much.  Overall, what audiences get thanks to the sequencing is a record whose energy remains high and stable.  Keeping that in mind along with the album’s overall content, the album in whole proves itself to be an impressive addition to this year’s field of new hard rock and metal albums that deserves to be heard.

The CEO’s debut album Redemption is a positive start for the band.  That is proven in part through its musical arrangements.  The arrangements in question bear noticeable influence from some more well-known hard rock counterparts of the band.  The thing is that the band does not just rip off those bands’ sounds.  Rather it successfully blends those influences with its own sounds and approaches to make the record’s musical content in whole reason enough to take in the album.  The lyrical themes that accompany the album’s musical arrangements are diverse in their own right, and are also accessible.  That makes for even more engagement and entertainment.  The sequencing of that overall content brings everything together and completes the album’s presentation.  It ensures that the album’s content changes from one song to the next while also keeping the album’s energy stable from beginning to end, putting the final touch to the album’s presentation.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the album.  All things considered, they make Redemption a strong addition to this year’s field of new hard rock and metal albums.  The album is scheduled for release Friday through Rat Pack Records.  More information on Redemption is available along with all of The CEO’s latest news and more at:

Website: https://theceoband.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Theceoband

Twitter: https://twitter.com/theceoband

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South Of The Earth A Welcome Return From Iron Man

Courtesy:  Metal Blade Records/Rise Above Records

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records/Rise Above Records

The Baltimore, Maryland based four-piece known as Iron Man has been making music for a number of years, flying just below the mainstream radar all along.  The band has been classified as a “doom rock” band for most of its career. However, its new album, South of the Earth is more akin to the sludge rock sound of Black Label Society, Brand New Sin, and the band’s label mates in Horisont.  The only real link to the “doom” genre would be the lyrical side of the band’s new album.  That being the case, this new nine-track release is one that any purist metal head will enjoy no less with each listen.

South of the Earth opens solidly with the album’s title track.  Whether one is familiar with the band’s sound or not, it is a powerful first impression from the band on this record.  Front man Screaming Mad Dee’s vocals sound like a cross between King’s X vocalist/bassist dUg Pinnick and legendary Black Label Society front man/guitarist Zakk Wylde.  That is quite the statement for anyone that is familiar with either singer.  For those that aren’t so familiar with either vocalist, suffice it to say that Dee is a powerhouse vocalist.  That his voice can go from almost guttural depths to ear-piercing screams in the blink of an eye without sounding like so many cookie monster growling figures makes an even bolder statement.  Bassist Louis Strachan and guitarist Alfred Morris III add even more punch to this song with their full-on one-two attack.  Morris’ solos in this song are the stuff that young guitarists dream of doing one day.  And drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann’s performance behind the kit shows such control in this slower song.  That show of control also shows just how much talent he boasts.  And along with his band mates, the whole unit makes the album’s opener one that will have listeners’ horns high instantly.

The energy doesn’t let up once the album’s opener ends.  The band picks right back up and keep things moving in the album’s second track, ‘Hail to The Haze.’  When Dee sings in the song’s chorus, “How much longer/How much longer/How much longer inside/Can this monstrosity hide/How much longer/How much longer/How much longer/Must I wait/To release my hate” the power in his voice does quite the job of exhibiting his subject’s personal inner struggle.  Again, add in the musicianship of his band mates, and listeners get what is one more shining gem off of South of the Earth.

South of the Earth is loaded with songs from start to finish that any true metal head will appreciate.  It boasts, as noted, both slower, heavier songs and pieces that are more up-tempo.  For all of its hard-hitting songs, there is one song that stands out among them all.  That song is the instrumental break that is ‘Ariel Changed The Sky.’  This roughly two-minute plus acoustic piece is a total contrast to everything else on this record.  It is a gentle, airy opus that gives listeners just enough time to catch their collective breath before the band launches into its full-on musical assault again on the record’s second half.  It is a perfectly placed break.  And it is equally beautiful.  It’s one more show of talent from the band, and one more example of what makes South of the Earth a record that any purist metal head will appreciate no matter how old.

South of the Earth is available now in stores and online on Metal Blade Records and Rise Above Records.  The band will be playing a hometown show next Sunday, October 13th in support of its new album.  It will be performing at the Metro Gallery in Baltimore alongside St. Vitus, Pallbearer, and Hookers.  The band has more dates to follow.  Fans can check them out on the band’s official website, http://www.ironmanband.com.  Fans can also get more information from the band on its official Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Iron-Man-Band/146118265408361.

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Rundgren Re-Invents Himself Again On New LP

Courtesy:  Cherry Red Records/Esoteric Antenna

Courtesy: Cherry Red Records/Esoteric Antenna

If Beatallica’s new album, Abbey Load is the most intriguing album of 2013, then Todd Rundgren’s State is a direct runner-up to the title.  Rundgren continues his tradition of re-inventing himself yet again with this new album.  The album opens with what is best described as an ear-opening mix of Pink Floyd, Devin Townsend, and Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) in ‘Imagination.’  This is a fitting title for the song, especially being that it is the album’s opener.  Its mix of electronica and rock make it a song that will definitely get many listeners’ imaginations running wild with all kinds of images.  Rundgren’s vocals on this song sound like a mix of Devin Townsend and Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree).  Whether or not it was intentional, the prog influences are there.  And at over eight minutes long, listeners are sure to find their own connections.  Regardless of the connections made, what can be sure of this song is that Rundgren shows just how much ‘imagination’ and creativity he still has.

‘Imagination’ is just the beginning of Rundgren proving that he still has plenty to offer his listeners on this new record.  The album’s second track, ‘Serious’ is just as imaginative and creative as the album’s opener.  It boasts a rather interesting funky electronica/rock hybrid sound.  The backing choruses of the song sound rather familiar, too like a much older funk tune.  And his screams are solid.  They are reminiscent of King’s X front man dUg Pinnick, strangely enough.  That combined with the song’s mix of sounds easily makes this another highlight to this new album.  It’s not just another dance/electronica song.  It’s a bridge between two musical worlds that could potentially bring fans of both electronica and dance together if only for about four minutes.

It’s not until the album reaches just past its halfway point that Rundgren goes full on techno.  ‘Smoke’ is sure to be an instant club hit with fans of the dance/electronica genre.  This is one of those types of songs that will bring down the lights, and bring out the black lights and mirror balls in clubs around the country.  Its keyboard part and solid two-four beat makes it an easily danceable song.  Of course that electronica vibe doesn’t last long as he goes back to a rock/electronica hybrid in ‘Collide-A-Scope’ before eventually making his way back to a full on techno vibe with the album’s penultimate song, ‘Party Liquor.’  This is sure to be another club hit with its keyboard part and up tempo beats and crowd chants.  What’s really interesting about this song is that at times, one can actually hear a hint of a disco influence throughout the song’s bridge section.  Forget the fact that the song is seemingly about alcohol.  It’s the song’s music that fans will really hear.  And it’s that music that audiences will enjoy.  Though there are more songs from which listeners can choose for their favorite.  This is just a sample of what makes the album stand out.  It will be available next Tuesday, April 8th in stores and online.  The physical CD and digital can both be pre-ordered now.  It can be pre-ordered via iTunes at http://smarturl.it/STATEiTunes and at http://smarturl.it/DeluxeCD for the physical CD.

Todd kicks off a tour in support of his new album next month at the Infinity Hall in Norfolk, VA.  It all kicks off May 8th.  He will have eight U.S. tour dates before heading overseas for a European tour through most of June.  And on June 23rd, he will be back stateside for the second leg of U.S. dates beginning at the House of Blues in New Orleans, LA on June 23rd.  Fans can get a full list of tour dates online at Rundgren’s official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/toddrundgren or on his official website, http://www.tr-i.com.

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