Simplicity And Originality Make Dirt Road’s End One Of 2015’s Best New Albums

Courtesy:  ArenA /eOne

Courtesy: ArenA /eOne

Sugarcane Jane is one of the music industry’s best kep secrets today. The duo–Anthony Crawford and Savana Lee–released its first album in 2009. Six years later, it has already released its fourth full-length studio effort in the form of Dirt Road’s End. It is safe to say that in listening to its ten total tracks, Dirt Road’s End is one of this year’s best new albums overall. One could just as easily place it on the list of the year’s best new country albums, too. But even that would be unfair. That is because it exhibits more than just country elements. There are also elements of folk, bluegrass, and even the blues throughout the record’s thirty-seven minute run time. The combination of those elements conjures thoughts of Bob Dylan and Tom Petty just to name a couple of artists. The record’s opener ‘Ballad of Sugarcane Jane’ displays the record’s blues influences. ‘San Andreas’ comes early in the album’s sequencing. It exhibits the record’s more folksy influences. And then there is ‘Not Another Truck Song’ in which Crawford and Lee put on display their country roots. These are just a few songs that exhibit Sugarcane Jane’s various influences on its new record. Each of the album’s seven remaining tracks could just as easily be used as examples of why it is so enjoyable. Whether for those songs or the pieces more directly noted here, there is no doubt in listening to each of the album’s compositions why it is one of this year’s best new records overall.

Sugarcane Jane’s new album comes in at only thirty-seven minutes long. Considering that it is composed of ten tracks that really is not very long. Even having barely topped the half-hour mark, Crawford and Lee offer their audiences so much throughout the course of that time. Both through the album’s various musical stylings and its original lyrical content, Dirt Road’s End shows great depth from beginning to end. It exhibits this right off the top in its opener ‘Ballad of Sugarcane Jane.’ Musically speaking it shows its own depth thanks to its hybrid bluesy/country sound. The sound in particular is classic blues and country right down to the harmonica, dual harmony, and twang from its dual guitar approach. It’s a sound that is sadly very difficult to find among today’s blues and country acts. So to hear that sound here is refreshing to say the very least. Lyrically speaking Crawford and Lee have crafted a song that is just as classic. The duo sings about its roots through the course of the song’s barely five-minute run time; 5:09 to be exact. The pair sings, “I’ll follow my dreams to the land of the crow/All the way to the music row/I fell in love when I heard her sing/I’ll pack my bag and my old six-string/Headed south in an all-out run/To the arms of a woman and her daughter and her son/Built this house at the dirt road’s end/That’s just how this story begins/With no regret to the past I claim/Started a band called Sugarcane Jane.” Crawford and Lee go on to sing about everything that has happened since the they formed their act. The story in question will keep listeners engaged and even singing along thanks to its simple, infectious chorus of “She sang la-la la la la/La-la la la la la la la/La-la la la la” set against the twang of the pair’s guitar work. Listeners will even find themselves singing along happily with Crawford and Lee as they tell the rest of their story in the rest of the song’s body. In doing so, listeners will agree yet again that even in the case of just this one song, Dirt Road’s End exhibits so much depth and substance even in its simplicity; so much so that it shows itself to be a clear example of why this record is one of the best new albums of the year.

‘Ballad of Sugarcane Jane’ is a clear example of why Dirt Road’s End is one of this year’s best new albums overall thanks to its simplicity. The simplicity of its lyrical content along with its equally simple yet catchy musical content makes it just one of so many hits included in the record. It’s just one example of what makes Dirt Road’s End such a hit, too. ‘San Andreas’ is another clear example of what makes it such a hit. Considering the song’s lyrical content, in which Crawford sings about life on the San Andreas fault line, one would think that this song would have a little more heaviness about it in terms of its musical content. But that is not the case. It is in fact a gentle tune that conjures thoughts of Bob Dylan’s greatest works thanks to Crawford’s vocal delivery and the song’s use of harmonica, banjo and guitar. For those wondering, Crawford sings the praises of life along the infamous fault line singing, “Life along the San Andreas/Is beautiful throughout the year/The weather she remains a constant sixty-five/And they say if God had a home/She’d be livin’ there/Standin’ on the cliffs above the ocean/The view along the one will take your breath/To turn aorund and see the golden, rolling hills/Where the eagles and the redwoods make their nest/Though sometimes she may get angry/Break a dish/Shake a tree/Crack the road/It’s a small price to pay/For heaven on Earth/San Andreas/San Andreas fault line.” Crawford goes on to sing about the rest of the sights along the fault line that make it not so bad including the small town of Pescadero, its people, and plant life. Yet again Crawford and Lee have crafted a song that is so simple both musically and lyrically. What’s more the duo has crafted here yet another song that is entirely original lyrically speaking in comparison to anything else that is out there today from acts of any genre. That simple yet original lyrical content coupled with the song’s equally simple musical approach serves even more to show why Dirt Road’s End is one of this year’s best new albums overall.

‘San Andreas’ and ‘Ballad of Sugarcane Jane’ are both clear examples of why Dirt Road’s End is one of this year’s best new albums overall. They both serve as clear examples thanks to their simple musical and lyrical approach, and for their original lyrical content. They are just a couple examples of what makes Dirt Road’s End such a standout album. ‘Not Another Truck Song’ also exemplifies the album’s positives. The positives in question are the same as those in the prior noted songs–its musical and lyrical simplicity, and its lyrical originality. Musically speaking, ‘Not Another Truck Song’ is a simple, old school country song. There is no other way to put it. There is a guitar, a banjo, and a two-part harmony from Crawford and Lee. The lyrics are just as simple and original. That is evident as the duo sings, “This is not another truck song/Or some hard time outta luck song/This is a love song for you/Who needs another old truck song/I have to listen to them all day long/There’s only one thing we can do/Let’s let the top down/Head on outta town…Forget the radio/I’ll hum a song I know/A song to make you feel alright.” The duo goes on to playfully poke fun at all of the stereotypical classic country songs that have been crafted over the years. The very fact that Crawford and Lee would use a classic country musical approach as the backing for this piece makes it even more enjoyable and proves even more the song’s originality. It’s one more example of what makes Dirt Road’s End another one of this year’s best new albums overall.

‘Not Another Truck Song,’ ‘San Andreas,’ and ‘Ballad of Sugarcane Jane’ are all excellent examples of what makes Dirt Road’s End one of this year’s best new albums. All three songs serve as such clear examples of why this record succeeds because of their musical and lyrical simplicity, and the originality of their lyrical content. The simplicity and originality exhibited in these three songs is just as prevalent through the other seven songs that make up the rest of the album’s ten-track body. Whether for those songs or for the ones more directly noted here, all ten songs presented in Dirt Road’s End show clearly what makes it one of this year’s best overall albums. They show clearly why it will remain a favorite among fans for years to come, too. Dirt Road’s End is available now in stores and online. It can also be purchased at any of the band’s upcoming tour dates. More information on those dates is available online now along with all of the latest news from Sugarcane Jane at:

Website: http://www.sugarcanejane.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/sugarcanejane

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Fifteen Years Removed, Crowbar’s Equilibrium Still Hits As Hard As Ever

Courtesy:  eOne

Courtesy: eOne

Fifteen years ago Crowbar released what has since gone on to be one of the band’s most pivotal albums when it released Equilibrium. The album, which was released originally via Spitfire Records, was officially re-issued late las tmonth via Entertainment One in all of it’s heavy glory. For anyone that is perhaps unfamiliar to Crowbar’s body of work, Equilibrium proves to be a good starting point with its heavy southern sludge/doomcore sound and thought provoking lyrics. It does so right off the top in the album’s opener ‘I Feel The Burning Sun’ and again in the equally pummeling ‘Command of Myself.’ These two tracks are but a couple examples of why Equilibrium remains such an important part of Crowbar’s body of work in whole. The more punk oriented sound of ‘Uncovering’ and its associated lyrical content is one more example of why audiences new and old alike will enjoy this record should either one not already own it. By themselves, each of the songs noted here show three different reasons that Equilibrium remains one of Crowbar’s most pivotal albums to date. Collectively and alongside the albums other seven songs, the whole of Equilibrium proves to be just as enjoyable for Crowbar’s fans today as it was fifteen years ago in its original release.

Crowbar’s 2000 full length release Equilibrium is one of the most important albums that the band has released to date among its now ten total albums. The main reason for this is the way in which the album mixes together the sound of its older albums with the occasional more punk vibes. Those punk vibes were present in the band’s previous albums. But even in those albums they were not so evident. They are much clearer here. And the band’s heavier side seems even heavier here, too. That heavier side grabs listeners right off the top in the album’s opener ‘I Feel The Burning Sun.’ Listening to this song, one coul almost make a comparison to legendary thrash metal band Pantera thanks to the work of guitarist Sammy Pierre Duet, drummer Sid Montz and then bassist Todd Strange. Front man Kirk Windstein’s vocal delivery remains as much of a powerhouse as ever as he screams, “Beneath the ruins of man/I’ve learned to take my time/You may not understand/The things that burn my mind/Before I’m gone/Conquer it all/Hope still not gone/Conquer it.” Windstein’s powerhouse delivery partner with the song’s defiant yet hopeful lyrics to paint a vivid picturefor listeners. Add in the song’s title and listeners get the image of someone that has faced great odds but refuses to give up no matter what. The line “Beneath the ruins of man/I’ve learne to take my time” could easily be interpreted as Windstein saying he stands atop all that mankind has made miserable, or simply all that man has in fact ruine or destroyed rather than letting himself become part of those ruins. It is really a positive message despite its forceful delivery. The forceful delivery actually adds to the song’s “oomph” for lack of better wording. The delivery of the lyrics presents a feeling of determination. And that sense of determination coupled with the song’s powerhouse music makes the song in whole that much more powerful and that much wiser a way to open this record.

‘I Feel The Burning Sun’ proves, in considering Equilibrium’s body in whole, to be the right choice for this album’s opener. That is because of the song’s pummeling southern sludge/doom sound and its equally powerful yet positive lyrics. ‘Command of Myself’ presents much the same mix of heaviness and heavy yet positive lyrics. While it has that same heaviness as the album’s opener, audiences will especially appreciate that it still boasts a sound different from that of ‘I Feel The Burning Sun.’ The band’s trademark southern sludge metal sound takes on a new life here. Its slower pace matches its lyrics, too as Windstein sings, “I’ve been pushing so hard/I’ve been pushing so many years/Still that fire will always burn/Count on me until I die.” Windstein continues on in the same positive direction with the rest of the song’s lyrical content. The song’s closing line sees Windstein screaming, “To myself I’m always true/My reflection I see with pride.” The positive message presented in these words are made even more impactful when set against the song’s slower, yet still pounding musical side. When both elements are set against the rest of Equilibrium’s songs, they show even more why ‘Command of Myself’ is such an important addition to this record. In turn the song, when partnered with the album’s opener, shows even more the importance of Equilibrium as part of Crowbar’s body of work in whole. The songs together are fleeting moments of light among some very emotionally deep opuses. They show that even in the face of so many emotionally difficult situations, it is possible to be optimistic. Speaking of those emotionally difficult situations, one of the most interesting of the most interesting of those emotionally difficult scenarios presented across Equilibrium is the punk-influenced ‘Uncovering.’

‘Uncovering’ is one of the most intriguing of the album’s deeply emotional moments. It stands out among Equilibrium’s other deeply emotional songs because much like the album’s opener, it presents the subject overcoming a very tough emotional situation. As Windstein writes here, “Left me all alone/Pushed me until I explode/I’ve got to find a way/Thought I could count on you/My faith will pull me through again.” The overall message that is presente here is positive. Windstein is saying there has to be a way, and reminds himself that he will get through it. He goes on to write, “Feel myself burning inside/Finally realized no more compromise/Now I can break away.” He is saying again that he is not going to let himself be held down. The song’s heavy, punk-influenced sound set alongside such determined lyrics, makes it yet another key example of what makes Equilibrium a record that any Crowbar fan should have in their collection.

‘Uncovering’ proves in its own way why Crowbar’s newly re-issued album Equilibrium is one that any Crowbar fan should add to their library if they don’t already have this record in their collection. It’s only one of the songs that make this argument, too. Both the album’s opener ‘I Feel The Burning Sun’ and ‘Command of Myself’ add to that argument, too. The same could be said of the album’s other tracks not noted here. All things considered, the whole of Equilibrium proves in its new re-issue that fifteen years after its original release, it is an album that any of this stalwart band’s fans will appreciate whether they are fans new or old. Equilibrium is available now in stores and online. Crowbar will hit the road beginning next month in support of Equilibrium alongside Battlecross and Lord Dying. The tour kicks off May 28th in Shreveport, LA. The band’s full tour schedule is available online along with the latest news from the band at http://www.facebook.com/crowbarmusic. 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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

BTBAM Debuts Coma Ecliptic’s First Song

Courtesy:  Metal Blade Records

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records

Between The Buried And Me has released the first song from its upcoming album Coma Ecliptic.

The band debuted ‘Memory Place’ today online. It can be heard online now at http://www.metalblade.com/btbam. The near-ten minute song builds on the music crafted for the band’s most recent album The Parallax II: Future Sequence (2012). Coma Ecliptic will be available in stores and online on Tuesday, July 7th. The band’s seventh full length studio release, it can be pre-ordered online now at http://www.metalblade.com/btbam.

Between The Buried and Me will launch an early spring tour this Sunday in support of Coma Ecliptic with support from The Atlas Moth. the tour kicks off at The Orange Peel in Asheville, North Carolina and then moves to Charleston, South Carolina next Monday April 6th. From there, the bands will make their way south to Florida before heading to Louisiana and then Texas for a pair of dates on April 10th and 11th. Both of its shows in Texas are festival shows. The second half of the band’s 12-date tour takes them up through the midwest and into the northeast, rounding out on April 19th in Lancaster, PA. The full schedule for BTBAM’s tour with The Atlas Moth is listed below:

BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME

Tour w/ The Atlas Moth

04/05 Asheville, NC The Orange Peel

04/06 Charleston, SC Music Farm

04/08 Pensacola, FL Vinyl Music Hall

04/09 New Orleans, LA The Howlin Wolf

04/10 Austin, TX Empire Garage Texas Independence Fest

04/11 Dallas, TX The Bomb Factory Atomic Music Festival

04/13 Lawrence, KS The Granada

04/14 St Louis, MO The Ready Room

04/15 Indianapolis, IN Deluxe @ Old National Centre

04/17 Worcester, MA The Palladium New England Metal and Hardcore Fest

04/18 Portland, ME Port City Music Hall

04/19 Lancaster, PA Chameleon Club

After taking some much-needed down time to recharge, BTBAM will head to Manchester, Tennessee for this year’s annual Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival from June 11th – 14th. The band will take some more time off after Bonnaroo to recharge once more before heading back out on the road on July 7th alongside Animals as Leaders and The Contortionist for a 32-date tour that will take the bands well into September. That tour includes a pair of dates in its home state of North Carolina as it winds down. The first of those dates sees the bands performing at Ziggy’s By The Sea in Wilmington, NC on September 9th and at Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem, NC on September 14th. The full schedule for BTBAM’s tour with Animals as Leaders and The Contortionist is listed below.

Tour w/ Animals As Leaders, The Contortionist

07/07 Athens, GA Georgia Theatre

07/08 Tallahassee, FL Sidebar Theater

07/09 Orlando, FL Venue 578

07/10 Ft. Lauderdale, FL Revolution

07/11 Jacksonville, FL Freebird Live

07/13 Houston, TX Warehouse Live

07/14 Little Rock, AR Juanita’s

07/15 Oklahoma City, OK Diamond Ballroom

07/17 Grand Junction, CO Mesa Theater and Club

07/18 Las Vegas, NV Brooklyn Bowl

07/19 Tucson, AZ Club X’s

07/21 Santa Ana, CA The Observatory

07/22 San Diego, CA Observatory North Park

07/23 Santa Cruz, CA The Catalyst

07/24 Sacramento, CA Ace of Spaces

07/25 Boise, ID Knitting Factory Concert House

07/27 Salt Lake City, UT The Complex

07/29 Des Moines, IA Wooly’s

07/30 Joliet, IL Mojoes

07/31 Columbus, OH Newport Music Hall

08/01 Grand Rapids, MI The Intersection

08/02 Bloomington, IL The Castle Theatre

08/04 London, ON London Music Hall

08/06 Buffalo, NY The Town Ballroom

08/07 Pittsburgh, PA Stage AE

08/08 Norfolk, VA The NorVa

08/09 Wilmington, NC Ziggys by the Sea

08/11 Clifton Park, NY Upstate Concert Hall

08/12 Providence, RI Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel

08/13 Sayreville, NJ Starland Ballroom

08/14 Winston-Salem, NC Ziggys

08/15 Nashville, TN Marathon Music Works

All of the latest updates on BTBAM’s upcoming album and tour dates is available online now along with the latest news from the band at:

Website: http://www.betweentheburiedandme.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/btbamofficial

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

BTBAM Announces New Album Release, Tour Dates

Courtesy:  Metal Blade Records

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records

There’s big news from prog-metal band Between The Buried and Me this week.

Metal Blade Records and the members of Between The Buried and Me announced this week the release date for the band’s upcoming album and its supporting tour. The band–Dan Briggs (bass), Blake Richardson (drums), Tommy Rogers (vocals, keyboards), Paul Waggoner (guitar), and Dustie Waring (guitar)–announced this week that it will release its next full length studio effort Coma Ecliptic this summer. The album, the band’s seventh, is currently scheduled to be released Tuesday, July 7th via Metal Blade Records. The album’s lead single has not yet been announced. However, it has been announced that it will be released Tuesday, April 3rd. Pre-orders for Coma Ecliptic open the same day.

Along with the announcement of the information for the album and its lead single, it was also announced that the band will launch a tour in support of Coma Ecliptic on the same day of the record’s release. The Contortionist will join Animals as Leaders as support acts for BTBAM’s upcoming tour. The thirty-plus date tour runs through August 15th and includes two dates in its home state of North Carolina. The first of those dates will see the band performing live at Ziggy’s By The Sea in Wilmington, NC on August 9th. The second brings the band to Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem on August 14th.  Before that tour kicks off, BTBAM will hit the road alongside The Atlas Moth beginning April 5th for a twelve-date tour to build excitement around Coma Ecliptic.  The tour’s opening date is at The Orange Peel in Asheville, North Carolina.  BTBAM’s current tour schedule is available online now along with all of the latest updates on Coma Ecliptic at:

Website: http://www.betweentheburiedandme.com

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

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

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 https://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 https://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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.