Unifier Exhibits Great Creative Depth On Its New EP

Courtesy:  Spartan Records

Courtesy: Spartan Records

North Carolina-based rock act Unifier recently released its latest EP Gutted. The five-track disc, released via independent label Spartan Records, offers audiences eighteen minutes of music that emo fans and of the noise rock genre will assuredly appreciate. They will appreciate the record both for its musical side and its deep lyrical content which, as front man/guitarist Aslan Freeman notes on the band’s Facebook page, is meant to reflect the band’s re-invention both collectively and as individuals. It is one of those listens that rather than instantly grabbing listeners’ ears, will instead grow on audiences with each listen. Freeman goes on to note that he and his band mates–Luke Rayson (bass, vocals), and Mike Kane (drums)–wanted to go in a “heavier and darker direction” as part of that re-invention. And in listening to each of the EP’s five tracks, it definitely did that, delving into the emotions felt with some not so happy situations. Simply put, the material included on this record is quite heavy in its own way both musically and lyrically. So it is not one of those records that audiences can just pop in and take in any time. It is one of those pieces that calls for listeners to be in a certain mindset if they are to fully comprehend and appreciate it. This is obvious right from the disc’s opener ‘Fall.’ ‘Break,’ the disc’s second song makes this just as clear as does its closing number ‘Forget.’ ‘Mend’ and ‘Sink’ each offer their own interest as part of the disc’s whole, too. All five songs taken together show that Gutted lives up to everything that Unifier’s members have noted of their new creation. That in mind, the depth and heaviness presented through the course of this record proves it to be a work that both the band’s original fans and those not so familiar with the band’s music alike will appreciate more with each listen.

Unifier’s new EP Gutted is an aptly titled release from the North Carolina-based band. The five tracks and approximately eighteen minutes that make up this new record successfully echo the sentiment of front man Aslan Freeman in regards to the emotions that it is meant to evoke. This is evident right from the disc’s opener ‘Fall.’ Musically speaking, it creates a certain, raw emotion among listeners right from its opening moments. The way that it builds to a climax before pulling back in those opening moments shows a real attention to detail and appreciation for the impact of dynamics in music. This is especially true as Freeman sings over his own reserved guitar line and Mike Lane’s time keeping, “It’s been wrong all along/throw them out/The thoughts you knew then/Wasted time/the place that you’d been/Changing minds and clothes again.” Freeman seems to go on to admit in the song’s closing lines that the uncertainties felt by the song’s subject are on him. At least that is this critic’s interpretation. That can be inferred as he sings in those closing lines, “Just a little less talk and a little more action/Now that you never walk/The blame has been all mine.” He even seems to express his own uncertainties about the presented situation as he sings in the song’s chorus, “Standing in the back/And watching as you take the fall/So what/A better way to say that I just wanna write you off.” Like so many songwriters across the genres out there, Freeman writes seemingly in metaphors. So even if these interpretations are incorrect, the sheer depth of Freeman’s writing in this case shows why it was such a wise choice as an addition to the record.

The raw, powerful emotion generated by the combination of ‘Fall’s’ music and lyrics makes clear why this song was chosen as one of the songs to be included on Unifier’s new EP. They show just as much why the song was chosen to open the EP. ‘Break’ the EP’s second track proves in its own way to be just as worthy an addition to Gutted. Musically speaking, this song could be argued to be the disc’s best song. It is the closest that the band comes to a radio ready single on the record. That is thanks to its relatively catchy hooks and choruses. Its thought-provoking lyrical content will have listeners talking just as much as Freeman sings, “Failed enough/I know it’s all for fun/Just a little closer/You know I’ll do anything/I’m ready to break/I keep holding on at times I should walk away/I can’t ask you to stay/But I’ll keep holding on/I’m holding on for/So much for right now/If I come down/Do you need doubt from everyone/Show up and get loud/Cause I’ll do anything.” Again, Freeman comes across as writing in metaphors again here. But the first inclination is that the song is rooted in relationship issues. That thought is raised as he writes, “I keep holding on at times I should walk away/I can’t ask you to stay/But I’ll keep holding on.” The tension in Freeman’s voice as he sings makes the song’s emotion all the stronger and in turn makes even stronger the argument in regards to the song’s lyrical topic. Regardless of the topic, one thing can once again be agreed upon in listening to the song’s lyrical and musical side: the depth of both its lyrical and musical side together makes clear why this song is another good addition to Unifier’s new EP and why it makes Gutted in whole a record that any of the band’s fans new and old alike will enjoy.

‘Break’ is a definite contender to represent Unifier on the band’s new EP. That is because of the depth of both its musical and lyrical content. The band members’ talents considered alongside the song’s thought-provoking lyrics will have audiences talking in the best way possible. It isn’t the disc’s only high point, either. ‘Forget,’ the disc’s closer, is just as much a candidate for a representative single, too. That is obvious right from the song’s first thirty seconds. Freeman, Rayson, and Kane exhibit what this critic feels to be direct influences from Jimmy Eat World in this case. Because of that influence, Unifier is certain to hold audiences’ ears not just through the song’s first thirty seconds but straight through its near four-minute run time. The song’s musical side managing to hold listeners’ ears, its lyrics will most certainly engage audiences just as much. This song perhaps more so than any of the EP’s others, comes across as echoing the disc’s title and the band’s explanation behind the title. Freeman sings in this song, “Tear it all up/Everything/You’re not a one in ten/You never were/You’ve never been/Can you live with it/They won’t call you anything/Is that what you intended/Never wrong, never right/Blending in/Are you fitting in?” Freeman comes across as addressing someone here. Maybe a former band mate or friend, considering the language and references used throughout the song. Or of course he could simply be writing in metaphors yet again, using the live performance imagery to get across another message. Once again, here is an example of Freeman’s attention to detail and that of his band mates, too. Considering the lyrical content that makes up most songs on mainstream radio and those songs’ musical side, a comparison of those songs to this composition and its possible lyrical message proves without doubt why this song is another positive addition to Gutted. It shows, too why this song along with the disc’s other songs makes Gutted in whole yet another solid work from Unifier.

‘Forget,’ ‘Break,’ and ‘Fall’ are each clear examples of how much Unifier has to offer audiences on its new EP. Each song exhibits quite the depth both musically and lyrically. The disc’s remaining songs–‘Mend’ and ‘Sink’–each exhibit their own value to Gutted, too. All five songs taken fully into consideration, they show collectively and clearly that while it may not be as well-known as certain other bands of its ilk, it still proves itself a band worth the listen with a new record worth at least one listen. Gutted is available now and can be ordered direct from Spartan Records’ official online store at http://spartanrecords.limitedrun.com/products/546661-unifier-gutted-ep. More information on Gutted is available online now along with all of the latest updates from the band at:

Website: http://unifiermusic.com

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

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.

Blackberry Smoke Holds All The Roses Among So Many Other Albums With Its Latest LP

Courtesy:  Rounder Records

Courtesy: Rounder Records

Atlanta, Georgia has been known for decades as one of America’s major hotbeds for musical talent. Much like Austin, Seattle, and Los Angeles it has produced some of the biggest names in the industry over the years. Those names come from nearly every genre of the music world. They include the likes of: Sevendust, Stuck Mojo, Collective Soul, Zac Brown Band, Black Crowes, and so many others. The list goes on and on. It could take days or even weeks to name them all. For the case of this review, the focus is set on the Southern Rock Band Blackberry Smoke. For roughly fifteen years now, the members of Blackberry Smoke–Charlie Starr (vocals/guitar), Richard Turner (bass/vocals), Brit Turner (drums), Paul Jackson (guitar/vocals), and Brandon Still (keyboards)–have been making music and touring. Of those roughly fifteen years together, Blackberry Smoke has released three full-length albums, the most recent of which–The Whippoorwill–was released on Zac Brown Band’s own Southern Ground Records in 2012. This past February, the band released its fourth full length album titled Holding All The Roses. The album was released via Rounder Records. For those that might not be so familiar with the band’s body of work, Holding All The Roses serves as a good introduction to the band. And it is just as enjoyable for those that are more familiar with its work up to this point. The sound spread across the album’s dozen tracks shows influences from some of the greatest southern rock bands of the 20th Century including: The Marshall Tucker Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Crowes, Doobie Brothers, and others of that ilk. While the influence of said bands is there from start to finish on this record, Blackberry Smoke still maintains its own identity in each song. That is evident right from the album’s opener ‘Let Me Help You (Find The Door).’ The same can be said of the album’s title track and the somewhat sexually charged ‘Rock and Roll Again.’ These three works in themselves more than exemplify what makes Holding All The Roses such a joy. By themselves they are just a minute fraction of what makes it such an enjoyable record, too. There are nine other tracks from which audiences will find their own favorite(s) on this record. Those songs, coupled with the trio noted here, prove Holding All The Roses in the end to be one of the best new rock and country records of 2015.

Blackberry Smoke’s fourth full length album Holding All The Roses is one of this year’s best new rock and country records. There are some issues here and there throughout the record in terms of its production values. But they are not enough to make HATR unworthy of being heard. From the album’s opener to its end, the songs that make up this album make it one of those rare records that audiences will actually want to listen to without skipping even one song. That is evident right from the album’s opener ‘Let Me Help You (Find The Door).’ On the song’s musical side, audiences will hear a clear influence from famed classic rock band Black Crowes throughout the song. It could even be argued that the song’s bridge, which features quite the guitar solo, bears a rather noticeable Lynyrd Skynyrd influence. Lyrically, it offers audiences just as much of a punch with front man Charlie Starr seemingly addressing certain types who simply don’t want to change their ways. Whether it be those musical acts that refuse to change and those that push said albums or the sheep that give in to everything that is fed to them whether in terms of music, politics, etc.–as front man Charlie Starr sings about in both the song’s first and second verse– it is a clear statement that hits quite a few chords, no pun intended. One could even argue that it even indirectly addresses those audiences that expected this album to be just like the band’s previous released. As Starr sings in the song’s opening verse, “Why’s it got to be the same damn thing/Same damn song and everybody wants to sing/Same sons of b****** still riggin’ the game/They sell the same old faces with brand new names/No matter if I’m wrong or right/I ain’t losin’ sleep tonight/I’ve heard it all before/I can’t take it anymore/If that’s all you got/Let me help you find the door.” The song’s second verse seems to address those sheep that believe everything that is fed to them, from music to news, to politics and more with Starr singing, “Here we go diggin’ the same damn ditch/Just line ’em up/Can’t tell you which one’s which/Standin’ in the back with a s***-eating grin/They were buyin’ it once/I bet they’ll buy it again.” Starr hits on so many subjects with so few words in this song. And he hits the nail right on the head, too. It’s a sharp, yet in an odd way, slightly lighthearted indictment of said subjects that ironically will in fact have Blackberry Smoke’s own fans singing along. One can only hope that in singing along, the band’s own fans will catch the message being presented by Starr and his band mates here rather than just taking the song for its musical side. Those that take both the song’s musical and lyrical side into full consideration will agree just how important it is both in itself and to the album in whole.

‘Let Me Help You (Find The Door) is a solid opener for Blackberry Smoke’s latest full-length record. Its statement urging people and bands who refuse to change to go away is sharp yet witty at the same time. And it ironically will have the band’s own fans singing along every time. One can only hope that said fans will catch the message embedded within the song and take it to heart in catching it. Those fans that do catch the message in question, coupled with the song’s infectious musical side will agree that it is just one part of the whole that makes HATR one of this year’s best new rock and country records. The album’s title track is just as important to the whole of the record. Much like the album’s opener, it boasts its own classic rock influences yet still continues to maintain the band’s own identity, too. The song’s driving, 2/4 tempo will instantly have audiences dancing and clapping along. Having hooked audiences with it musical side, Starr and company–Richard Turner (bass, vocals), Brit Turner (drums), Paul Jackson (guitar, vocals), and Brandon Still (keyboards) make just as powerful a statement with the song’s lyrical side. Starr sings in the song’s first verse about a subject overcoming all of his or her odds and coming out on top, fittingly “holding all the roses” just as a winner would. Starr Sings, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost/I don’t think it’s even gonna be close/Your rabbit’s foot and your four-leaf clover/Throw them all away and start all over/Here I am see me coming around/Swinging out wide with the hammer down/There I go watch me leave you behind/Holding all the roses on the other side.” The subject here is addressing those that called the odds against him or her, proving all those people wrong as he or she holds the proverbial roses of a winner. Speaking of those odds, Starr goes on to sing of overcoming the odds as he sings, “The odds against me were 20 to 1/Carry that weight like it weighs a ton/Ain’t no luck in a gasoline rainbow/Come on, drop that rag/Away we go.” He comes across as saying his subject is using the weight of those odds as motivation to keep pushing on to the very end. Such lyrics are words that will reach so many listeners and potentially have quite the impact. It will leave listeners saying if Starr’s subject can press on against all odds then so can the band’s fans. The song’s driving musical side added to the mix, the song in whole shows once more exactly why it is one more enjoyable and equally important part of the whole that leaves Holding All The Roses in fact holding all the roses on any critic’s list come year’s end.

For all of the seriousness of HATR’s opener and its title track, Blackberry Smoke isn’t all work and no play on its new album. It also boasts some fun moments, too. One example of that lies in the song ‘Rock and Roll Again.’ The song’s musical side shows obvious influence from The Marshall Tucker Band, The Allman Brothers Band and others of that ilk yet once again maintain’s Blackberry Smoke’s own identity along the way. Lyrically, it will put just as much of a smile on listeners’ faces as the music alone. Starr sings about a woman who definitely gets the subject going in all the right ways so to speak. He writes of said woman, “She knows me well and never fails/She knows just how to put the wind back in my sails/She’s got the key to set me free/It’s just so easy to see/The way she makes me rock and roll again/Put the dirty in my mind again/Ain’t nothin’ to it/But she pulls me back in/My baby made me rock and roll again/Yes, she made me rock and roll again.” The rest of the song goes on in much the same fashion, lyrically speaking, with Starr noting of that same woman putting a swagger back in the subject’s step, and gets him moving. The song’s musical side boasts its own swagger, which perfectly complements Starr’s lyrics. Both sides of the song taken into full consideration, they show that Blackberry Smoke can be just as fun as it can be serious. Because of this, it proves to be one more example of what makes HATR such an enjoyable work for every rock and country fan. Taken into consideration with the likes of the album’s title track, its opener, and those pieces not noted here, it proves to be one more piece of an album that again, holds all of its own roses among the masses so far this year.

Blackberry Smoke is currently touring in support of HATR. It is in the last leg of the North American leg of its tour, which wraps up May 24th in Monteagle, Tennessee. The band will take a few days off to rest and recharge after before heading overseas for the European leg of its tour, which kicks off May 29th in Munchen, Germany. After finishing off that leg, the band will return stateside again on June 19th in Alpharetta, Georgia. Fans will be able to pick up HATR at any of the band’s upcoming live dates. In hearing the band live and on its new album, audiences that haven’t yet heard the band’s music will agree, too that HATR more than deserves a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new rock and country albums come December. Fans can check out Blackberry Smoke’s latest tour dates online now, along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Website: http://blackberrysmoke.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/blackberrysmoke

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.

Ayreon Turning Classic Album Into New Live Stage Production

Courtesy:  InsideOut Music

Courtesy: InsideOut Music

Eleven years after it was originally released on CD, prog-rock band Ayreon will bring its concept record The Human Equation to life.

InsideOut Music announced today that Ayreon will present “The Human Equation Theater Experience” this fall. The once-in-a-lifetime theater production will be presented Tuesday, September 8th – Thursday, September 20th at the nieuwe Luxor theater. It is being presented by the production company Shadow Freaks, which is led by Aryeon founder Arjen Athony Lucassen’s former manager Yvette Boertje. The original list of vocalists tapped to perform on The Human Equation will also be part of the album’s live theaterproduction. That list includes: James LaBrie, Devon Graves, Heather Findlay, Eric Clayton, Marcela Bovio, Magnus Ekwall, Irene Jansen, Wudstik, Anneke van Giersbergen and Mike Mills.

Along with the record’s original cast of vocalists, the theater production will also feature Ed Warby, Johan van Stratum, Jeroen Goossens, Ben Mathot and Maaike Peterse, Marcel Coenen, Freek Gielen, Erik van Ittersum and Ruben Wijga. Joost van den Broek will serve as music director and arranger. The production will also feature performances from The Epic Rock Choir, which was assembled especially for the show.

Originally, “The Human Equation Theater Experience” was going to run only three dates. But those dates sold out so fast that a fourth performance on the afternoon of the 19th was added. At the time of this posting, tickets for that fourth showing were still available and could be purchased online at http://www.thetheaterequation.com/. More information on the show, including its full cast and more is available at this same website as well as via Facebook and Twitter at:

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/theaterequation

The story behind The Human Equation follows a comatose man battling his emotions within his own mind as he lays in his hospital bed. He also encounters memories both good and bad along the way that lead to some powerful revelations and hope-filled desires. At the story’s end, the man is left to choose: Does he wake up and live or does he die?

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.

Lawless Hearts A Band With Real Heart–An Interview With Lawless Hearts

Courtesy:  Pavement Entertainment

Courtesy: Pavement Entertainment

1) Lawless Hearts notes on its official Facebook page that “With Lawless Hearts, innovation is needed more than imitation. Our dream is to not stay in the past with our music but bring forth together our classic and new age appreciation to make something completely our own.”  Unlike so many other up-and-coming bands out there today, Lawless Hearts actually succeeds in its dream with its new EP Creatures of Habit.  The band clearly exhibits its classic rock influences yet still makes its own sound along the way, thus making its own identity.  What’s more, the incorporation of lyrics that are far deeper and more modern than anything from the 80s or even 90s, adds to that identity.  So considering that, I wanted to ask how hard was it in writing and recording this EP, to balance the band’s influences with its own material without crossing that line of just rehashing old songs?  Were there ever points in that process in which the band had to stop and step back so that the songs didn’t end up sounding like carbon copies of the music that influenced the band? 

“Michael”- To be honest these songs and all of our songs have come so easily some as simple as picking up my guitar and letting my emotions bleed through the notes i play. In past interviews I’ve discussed how the music of the new EP was born quite a crazy story i think you can find it in our “Metal Exiles” interview. Alex does most of the lyric writing and i create the majority of the music. with the “Creatures of habit” EP it was effortless i remember Creatures coming together in like 24 hours and in a very natural way. I came to her with the riff and some how she already had the lyrics for it… Sometimes we will rehash old tunes and make them fit with who we are now but my sister and i write so much that we like to move on with the story and we create new songs on a daily basis. 

The band never had to step back our sound comes from our hearts thats why i think people will relate to it 100%. We are not trying to feed the listeners some BS story that never happened rather drag them in with actual life scenarios we have had happen to us. We have actually tried at one point in time making our sound more relevant to make the industry finally care but that didn’t work either. 


We instead stuck to our guns and remained who we are and kept believing 

This is only the beginning for  “Lawless Hearts”  

2) Staying on the writing avenue, the songs’ lyrical content is really thought provoking.  As I already noted, I noticed that the songs’ lyrical content does a lot to maintain Lawless Hearts’ identity.  Both the EP’s opener/title track and its closer really seem to embrace the EP’s title, albeit in different ways.  The closer seems (at least to me) to be a commentary in regards to humans being creatures of habit by wasting their lives away worrying about things that there is no need to worry about.  On the opposite side, the EP’s opener seems to tackle humans’ less kind habits for lack of better wording.  I’d love for you all to talk about those two songs.  

Alex Marie- First of all I want to say how refreshing it is for someone to ‘get it’ you couldn’t of explained the song’s definition better than myself. But, to dive deeper still ‘Creatures of Habit’ I think encompasses the struggle of everyone’s Yin/Yang we all have our demons, that inner turmoil between what’s right and what’s real, and what being a good person really is. Bad habit’s are hard to break, and Karma (pardon my french) can be a real bitch.

As far as ‘The Fallout’ goes I think it really brings everything full-circle. It’s about standing up for what you believe in, and telling whatever is haunting you, that you aren’t afraid of it, when you get the chance you will have retribution. 

3) ‘If I Have To’ could be argued to take on the underlying theme that runs through both Creatures of Habits’ opener and closer, too.  It seems at least to me as painting a picture of humans’ positive habits in contradiction to those darker habits seemingly presented in the disc’s opener and closer.  Could you enlighten me more on that song?  Am I completely off base with this one or actually at least somewhere in the ballpark? 

Alex Marie- With ‘If I have to’ going back to the Yin/Yang we’re dealing with the other side, the side that has courage and hope. The side that will ‘lay it all on the line’ so to speak. 


4) Looking at Creatures of Habit from a larger view, what was the catalyst in the EP’s creation?  Did one of the band members just come in one day and say, “Hey, I’ve got an idea for this release” or was the process more organic?

Alex Marie- It was pretty organic, some of the songs were written around the same time frame, while others had been written sporadically months prior. We have so many songs written, we just picked the ones that would depict the story and message the best. When I write, it is always from personal experience, because I want the song to be relatable. I want that girl or guy to hear the song and feel hope that they aren’t alone. Because I think the world right now is lacking that ‘spiritual’ connection, and that’s what being human is. 

5) I wanted to switch gears for a moment and ask about Lawless Hearts signing with Pavement Entertainment.  How did the band’s deal with Pavement Entertainment come about?  And I don’t know if you can talk about it.  I understand if not.  But were there any labels on the band’s radar other than Pavement?  Or was Pavement the only one the band wanted?  On the other side of the coin, were there any other labels going after the band as it talked to Pavement?


Alex Marie- Michael can elaborate more on this topic, but we literally tried for two years trying to get any label to notice us; we were green for a while and made some hasty choices that ended up not working out anyway thankfully. But throughout the process we gained all possible knowledge on the different types of labels because we didn’t want to be naive about it. It’s scary signing a contract. When we were just about to give up we were finally contacted by Pavement who actually wanted to listen to us, and give us a fighting chance. It’s good to have a label that truly believes in you and doesn’t just put you on a shelf. “Michael”- yes in a nutshell i reached out to the label and thought wed get the same response but finally we got a company that wanted to help us make it to that next level! 


6)  I want to get back to Creatures of Habit now.  Doing research on the band’s body of work, this EP is really the band’s first official release unless I’m mistaken.  Lawless Hearts isn’t the first band to release an EP for its first release, as many acts do so each year to test the waters so to speak.  Though, most bands that release EPs first are typically signed to much smaller labels.  I wouldn’t personally call Pavement Entertainment a small label.  So what was the mindset among the band’s members in releasing this record first instead of a full length?  Was it to test the proverbial waters or was there another motive in doing so?


Alex Marie-Yeah since we are pretty ‘new’ to the industry we wanted to see if what we have to offer floats, because it really is sink or swim you know? We already had this EP in the works a year ago, we just didn’t have any real outlet for it. But, now that we have a label, we can finally make our full-length if the EP does really well.


7) Looking at the band’s tour schedule, Lawless Hearts only has two dates on tap.  And they aren’t until June.  Was this a self-imposed limitation on touring or are there updates that perhaps you could share in regards to audiences getting to see the band live?

Alex Marie- We are still pretty new and ‘unknown’ so to speak, so once we gain traction it will be a lot easier to be demanded for touring. People don’t know how hard it is to get on a tour unless you have thousands of dollars or you’re in high demand by the public. We are hoping it’s the latter pretty soon.


8) I want to go in a slightly different direction for a moment, but not too different.  It seems easier to find EPs in independent record stores than in the major chains.  April 18th is Record Store Day, the annual celebration of not only vinyl but of indie record shops in whole.  I can say from my own experience that the closest indie record store to my home is roughly 45 minutes away.  I’ve also read stories here and there in recent years about indie record stores and the big box stores alike becoming increasingly endangered because of digital downloading and streaming services such as Pandora, Spotify, etc.  Considering that and that indie shops are by and large where a lot of lesser known acts really get their grass roots bases, I wanted to get your thoughts on the growth of digital music and whether or not you think it could affect acts such as yourselves.  Where do you stand on the divide between the physical object versus the digital?  What do you all see as the future for music in physical form versus digital?

Alex Marie- Have you seen that video of Jim Morrison predicted the future of music he says and I quote “It might rely heavily on electronics, tapes, one person with a lot of machines, and electronic sets ups, singing or speaking, using machines.” There is so much EDM music out there now, and streaming, hardly anyone is selling Platinum RECORDS only Platinum SINGLES, but then again as history does repeat itself, that’s how The Beatles took off, was from selling singles. I think in this digital age, you really don’t make any money on music sales, only on touring and merch. I’m an avid vinyl lover myself though, and with the growing ‘hipster’ population they’ve actually increased the demand of vinyl records which is pretty cool in my opinion. However, I just want to see a real musician get ahead instead of a guy pushing buttons on a ‘machine’ you know?


9) Sticking to the matter of younger up-and-coming bands such as yourselves, are there any other bands either in the underground or even just under that mainstream radar that you all are listening to now?  Are there any that you would recommend for myself or anyone else?

Alex Marie- Heaven’s Basement, Heaven’s Basement, oh and did I say HEAVEN’S BASEMENT. haha

Michael- yeah Heavens basement or sixx a.m not young members but a great band 

10) I’ve got one more question before I close this out.  Thank you so much for your time.  I really appreciate it.  I wanted to ask an easy one in closing.  Now that Creatures of Habit is out, do you have any material in the pipe ready to go for your first full-length album?  If so, is there a timetable on that album?  Thank you again very much to each and every one of you.

Alex Marie- We are working towards getting in the studio very soon to start tracking our full-length. We are very excited to show the world more of the story. 

Michael Thomas- The tittle of the album will be “Hell and Back again” :)

The Bots Confirmed For Summer Tour With Deftones, Incubus, Death From Above 1979

Photo Credit: Elijah Dominique

Photo Credit: Elijah Dominique

The Bots announced over the weekend that it will join Deftones and Incubus on the road this summer.

Fresh on the heels of its own US tour with Australia’s The Preatures, the duo announced over the weekend that it will join Death From Above as a support act for Incubus and Deftones on their upcoming U.S. tour. The tour kicks off July 22nd in Clarkston, MI and runs through August 30th in San Diego, California. In also includes a stop in North Carolina on August 9th. before that though, the duo is set to perform live May 30th at the Sweetlife Festival in Columbia, Maryland. The upcoming performances are all in support of The Bots’ latest full-length studio effort Pink Palms, which was released October 14th, 2014. The complete schedule for The Bots’ upcoming tour with Deftones, Incubus and Death From Above 1979 is noted below:


05/30    Sweetlife Festival    Columbia, MD

With Incubus, Deftones, and Death From Above 1979

07/22 DTE Energy Music Theatre Clarkston, MI*

07/23 First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre Tinley Park, IL#

07/25 Riverbend Music Center Cincinnati, OH

08/04 PNC Bank Arts Center Holmdel, NJ

08/05 Nikon at Jones Beach Theater Wantagh, NY

08/07 Xfinity Center Mansfield, MA*

08/08 Susquehanna Bank Center Camden, NJ

08/09 PNC Music Pavilion Charlotte, NC

08/12 Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood Atlanta, GA

08/13 MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre Tampa, FL

08/14 Coral Sky Amphitheatre West Palm Beach, FL

08/16 Bold Sphere Music at Champions Square New Orleans, LA***

08/17 Austin360 Amphitheater Austin, TX

08/19 Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion Houston, TX**

08/20 Gexa Energy Pavilion Dallas, TX**

08/24 Red Rocks Amphitheatre Morrison, CO*

08/26 Shoreline Amphitheatre Mountain View, CA

08/30 Sleep Train Amphitheatre San Diego, CA^

* on sale April 25

** on sale May 1

*** on Sale May 8

# Death From Above 1979 not appearing

^ The Bots not appearing

Audiences can check out the video for its latest single ‘Blinded’ now online via Vevo at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJ7K1IO_k_c. Audiences can also check out a performance of ‘Blinded’ on NBC’s Late Night With Seth Meyers by clicking the picture below.

Courtesy:  BBGun Press

Courtesy: BBGun Press

More information on The Bots’ upcoming tour dates is available online now along with the duo’s latest news at:

Website: http://www.thebotsband.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/thebotsband

Instagram: http://instagram.com/thebotsla

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.

Slayer Confirms New Album Complete, Coming This Year; Announces Tour Dates

Photo Credit: Andrew Stuart

Photo Credit: Andrew Stuart

It has been four long years since the members of Slayer last released any new material. But that long wait is about to come to an end.

Four years after the release of its Grammy-nominated record World Painted Blood and two years removed from the passing of Jeff Hanneman, the current members of Slayer–Tom Araya (bass, vocals), Kerry King (guitar), and Paul Bostaph (drums)–have announced that the band will release its twelfth full-length studio release later this year via the band’s own label through Nuclear Blast Records. No title or official release date have yet been confirmed for the album. However, it is known that famed producer Terry Date (Miss May I, Smashing Pumpkins, Pantera) manned the boards for the record. And guitarist Gary Holt (Exodus) will handle guitar duties alongside King. The record marks the first time that Date has ever worked with the band. It is also the first time since the release of the band’s 2001 album God Hates Us All that Bostaph has recorded with his band mates. Audiences will be just as interested to note that there is at least one song penned by Hanneman included on the band’s upcoming record.

Nuclear Blast America General Manager Gerardo Martinez had nothing but good things to say of the upcoming album, saying essentially that it is some of the band’s best work to date. “Tom’s vocals are probably the best I’ve heard in two decades, and Kerry, Paul and Gary are playing their asses of with powerful, intense performances and riffs and beats that are absolutely lethal,” he said. Fans have already gotten to sneak peeks of Slayer’s upcoming album, the most recent being the Record Store Day release of the song ‘When The Stillness Comes.’ That song was released in a very limited quantity of only 500 copies s worldwide. It was released on a special seven-inch vinyl picture disc exclusively for Record Store Day but can be heard online now via Rolling Stone at http://www.rollingstone.com/music/premieres/hear-slayers-eerie-new-crusher-when-the-stillness-comes-20150416. The other sneak peek came in the form of the song ‘Implode.’ ‘Implode’ was offered as a free download last year following Slayer’s studio sessions last March. Audiences can hear the song now for free online via YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0gVs_UcxKY.

In anticipation of its new album, the members of Slayer have also announced that the band will embark on an extensive tour including dates on a number of major summer festival tours and its own “An Evening With…” Slayer-only dates. The band’s current confirmed tour schedule is listed below. It all begins this Friday in Birmingham, Alabama.

Confirmed Slayer tour dates:

24 Iron City, Birmingham, AL*
25 Monter Energy Welcome to Rockfille, Metropolitian Park, Jacksonville, FL
26 Civic Theatre, New Orleans, LA*

1 Lunatic Luau, Farm Bureau Live, Virginia Beach, VA
3 Carolina Rebellion, Charlotte, NC
22 Rocklahoma, Pryor, OK
23 Socorro Casino, El Paso, TX*

13 Bonnaroo, Manchester, TN
16 Paramount, Huntington, Long Island NY*
17 Paramount, Huntington, Long Island NY*
19 State Theatre, Portland, ME
20 Amnesia Rock, Montebello, Montreal

(Mayhem headline dates):
26 Sleep Train Amphitheatre, San Diego, CA
27 San Manual Amphitheatre, San Bernardino, CA
28 Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, CA
30 White River Amphitheatre, Seattle, WA

1 Idaho Center Amphitheatre, Boise, ID
3 Ak-Chin Amphitheatre, Phoenix, AZ
4 Isleta Amphitheatre, Albuquerque, NM
5 Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Denver, CO
7 Harrah’s Council Bluffs, Council Bluffs, IA
8 Eagles Ballroom, Milwaukee, WI
10 Kilpsch Amphitheatre, Indianapolis, IN
11 DTE Energy Amphitheatre, Detroit, MI
12 First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, Chicago, IL
15 Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Toronto, ON CANADA
17 Susquehanna Bank Arts Center, Camden, NJ
18 First Niagara Pavilion, Pittsburgh, PA
19 Xfinity Theatre, Hartford, CT
21 PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ
22 Meadowbrook (Bank of NH Pavilion), Gilford, NH
24 Jiffy Lube Live, Bristow, VA
25 Xfinity Center, Boston, MA
26 Nikon at Jones Beach, Wantagh, NY
29 Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood, Atlanta, GA
31 Whitewater Amphitheatre, San Antonio, TX

1 Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, Houston, TX
2 Gexa Energy Amphitheatre, Dallas, TX

* “An Evening with…” headline dates

More dates are likely to be announced. When those dates are announced, they will be posted online along with all of the latest news on the band’s album at:

Website: http://www.slayer.net

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

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 http://philispicks.wordpress.com.

Michael Schenker’s Temple Of Rock Succeeds In Its “Mission”

Courtesy:  inakustic

Courtesy: inakustic

Michael Schenker has had quite the storied career. He has recorded and performed with both UFO and Scorpions over the course of his decades-long career. He has also recorded and performed with his own band, Michael Schenker Group. The music that he has crafted with both UFO and Scorpions is considered some of the greatest in rock’s modern history. The music that he has crafted with his own band has proven to be just as enjoyable for his fans. Now with the recent release of Spirit on a Mission, the new album from his latest project, Temple of Rock, Schenker can add another mark to his already extensive resume. This album is a one more album that every rock purist should have in his or her own music library. The twelve-track album mixes the bombast of his former bands’ arena rock sound with something heavier and more focused. The end result of those sounds is a record that could potentially be another of this year’s best new rock records. The proof for this argument comes early on in the album’s second song ‘Communion.’ This is such an interesting song because its blues-infused rock sound is a direct contradiction to its lyrical content. Another piece that makes Temple of Rock’s new album so interesting is ‘Saviour Machine.’ Anyone that is a fan of Black Label Society will like the song’s familiar, heavier sound. The song’s lyrical side makes it just as interesting. The song’s lyrical content comes across as a personal commentary of sorts. Both elements together make it yet another example of why this record stands out in an increasingly crowded field of rock records. While both ‘Saviour Machine’ and ‘Communion’ each present their own proof as to what makes Spirit on a Mission so enjoyable for rock purists, they are just part of what makes this album stand out. The aptly titled ‘Rock City’ helps make the record stand out just as much. This full-on rock song throws back to the days of big riffs and even bigger hair with its musical side. Its lyrical side is just as classic with front man Doogie White’s subject singing to a girl that he’ll give her everything. Those classic lyrics and straight-forward, driving tempo will put a smile on any rock purist’s face as he or she sings along. Whether for this song, the others noted, or those not noted, audiences will agree in listening to Temple of Rock’s new album that Spirit on a Mission more than succeeds in its mission.

Spirit on a Mission is a solid follow-up to Michael Schenker’s 2011 album Temple of Rock. From start to finish, this twelve-track record succeeds in its mission as it will both entertain listeners and have them thinking with its mix of music and lyrics. This is made clear early on in the album’s second track ‘Communion.’ It is such an interesting song because Schenker’s blues-infused rock sound is a direct contradiction to the lyrics penned by front man Doogie White. The song’s lyrical content comes across as presenting the standard story of a broken relationship. The situation for the couple in this song seemingly starts out fine, as White sings, “Watch as the candle gives out the light/Show me the pages/On which the ink won’t dry/Tell me your secrets as the candle burns low/Whisper you love me/Then it’s on with the show.” It doesn’t take long for things to go south and White’s subject to end up alone. White sings in the song’s final verse, “Now that it’s over/I cried in my sleep/Woke in the morning/With the secrets you keep/Give you my best/I gave you a little bit more/A slap in the face when you slammed the door/I don’t belong here no more.” Considering these lyrics, one wouldn’t think this song would have the solid blues-infused sound that it boasts. It’s definitely not the pairing that one would expect when thinking about such lyrical topics. Having such an uncommon dichotomy, it more than proves itself on of the most notable of this album’s songs. Thus it definitely stands out as at least one piece that makes this record well worth the listen.

The surprisingly entertaining musical and lyrical dichotomy presented in ‘Communion’ makes it a clear example of just what this latest effort from Michael Schenker has to offer listeners. Considering that not many acts would take such a chance as that taken here says quite a bit. That the chance taken has paid off here says even more. It’s just one of the album’s many smaller successes that make Spirit on a Mission its own success in whole. ‘Saviour Machine’ shows in its own way why Spirit on a Mission is such a success. This song is one of a pair of pieces that displays a different side to Temple of Rock on this record. It is a much heavier tune than others musically speaking. Those that are fans of Black Label Society will especially enjoy its slower, heavier sound. Lyrically speaking, it is just as certain to have listeners talking. Written by Doogie White, Michael Schenker, and Wayne Findlay, the song’s lyrical side comes across as a commentary of sorts. This inference can be made `as the trio writes, “We passed the point of no return/We stood and watch as cities burned/The sound of laughter cuts the night/Destroyed your world with my despite.” The trio goes on to write in the song’s second verse, “The soldiers marching off to war/Wonder what the hell they’re dying for/So speaks the tongue of the liar/As mountains crumble to the seas/Their hearts are crushed by man’s disease/And now they bathe in the sorrow.” As the song’s chorus states, this is coming from the vantage point of a very cynical figure. The figure almost says with a grin, “Your world is shakin’ and I don’t hear you call/Just scream my name/Hail the saviour machine.” It could be argued that the message presented here is a commentary about people’s indifference to everything going on in the world until things get to their absolute worst. That’s when people seem to really turn to a higher power. As always, that interpretation could be entirely off. It is merely this critic’s interpretation. Right or wrong, it proves in the end to be a really heavy piece both musically and lyrically. Being so heavy both musically and lyrically, it shows clearly why it is yet another prime example of why any rock purist should hear both this song and Spirit on a Mission in whole even if only once.

Both ‘Saviour Machine’ and ‘Communion’ are important additions to Spirit on a Mission. They both exhibit a certain heaviness in their own way. The same can be said of the band’s full-on tribute to the golden days of rock that is ‘Rock City.’ This song will take listeners back to the days of big riffs and even bigger hair right from its first strains. Its straight-forward, driving tempo and classic lyrics about a man wanting to give a woman everything will put a smile on any listener’s face. In all honesty, anyone that knows their music history will instantly equate the song to Judas Priest’s hit song ‘Freewheel Burning’ thanks to those opening moments. This applies both to Schenker’s work on guitar and drummer Herman Rarebell’s solid time keeping. On the lyrical side, White sings, “Your broken heart, girl/Can still be mended/Stay with me until the morning comes/It’s a long road to nowhere/Believe me when I say you gotta give me some more/We’re gonna rock this city/This city of love.” Considering this and some of the song’s other lyrics, one would actually associate this song more with the classic love ballads of the 80s. But thanks to the juxtaposition of the song’s full-on musical side to these lyrics, it gives the song a whole other identity. The pairing of the two elements within the song makes the song come across as that of a man who really wants to make things work and make a woman happy. Compared to so many overly sappy, over-the-top ballads that were crafted by the bands of the 80s (and even 90s) a song such as this is a great contradiction to those songs. And it is also just as great of an addition to Spirit on a Mission. It is one more way that this album proves Schenker and his Temple of Rock band mates definitely succeed in their mission with this record, one of the best new rock records of 2015.

‘Rock City’, ‘Saviour Machine’ and ‘Communion’ each show in their own way why Spirit on a Mission succeeds in its mission of entertaining audiences. They do so through the combination of both their musical and lyrical sides. While all three of the note songs each show in their own way that Spirit on a Mission succeeds in its missions, the album’s other tracks should not be ignored in that argument. ‘Bulletproof,’ ‘Let The Devil Scream,’ and ‘Wicked’–the album’s closer–each could be used to make that argument, too along with any of the other songs that make up this album. Regardless of which song(s) one picks, the result is the same. Listeners will agree that Spirit on a Mission succeeds wholly in entertaining audiences from its first track to its last. They will agree, too that that same entertainment makes it a solid candidate for any critic’s list come December for the year’s best new rock records. Spirit on a Mission is available now in stores and online. More information on Spirit on a Mission or any of Michael Schenker’s other projects is available online at:

Website: http://www.michaelschenkerhimself.com/

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

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.