RATM’s Second Coming Will Hopefully Continue In The Coming Years

Courtesy: Fantasy Records

The end is near!  The end of the year that is.  The end of 2017 is only 48 hours away at the time of this post.  With time quickly ticking away, there is still a lot of work for this critic to do with year-ender lists.  Considering this, we’ll get right into it with one last list for the year’s new albums in the form of the year’s top new albums overall.  This list was perhaps the most difficult of all for this critic to assemble.  That is because of the amount of top quality material released across the musical universe this year.  From punk to pop to jazz, world, rock and more, there were a lot of great records released over the past year.  Keeping this in mind, coming up with this was no easy chore, to say the least.  It was finally accomplished, though, and includes titles from the worlds of rocks, jazz, country and even world music.

Leading off this year’s best new album — in this critic’s ears and mind — is Ala.Ni’s debut album You & I.  This record is a beautiful work that despite being marketed as jazz, could just as easily fit into any adult contemporary pop radio station’s rotation.  Also included in this year’s finale are new releases from country music superstar Chris Stapleton, New Orleans-based singer/songwriter Marc Broussard, emo-punk band Young Fox’s new album and much more.

As with every previous list, this list features this critic’s Top 10 choices as well as five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15 titles.  Without any further ado, here for you is Phil’s Picks 2017 Top 10 New Albums.

PHIL’S PICKS 2017 TOP 10 NEW ALBUMS

  1. Prophets of Rage — Prophets of Rage
  2. Ala.Ni — You & I
  3. Jazzmeia Horn — A Social Call
  4. Diana Panton — Solstice/Equinox
  5. Fer Isella — Art of the Possible
  6. Nova Collective — The Further Side
  7. Scale The Summit — In A World of Fear
  8. Mike Mangioni & The Kin — But I’ve Seen The Stars
  9. John 5 & The Creatures — Season of the Witch
  10. Dishwalla — Juniper Road
  11. Project 86 — Sheep Among Wolves
  12. Chris Stapleton — From A Room Vol. 2
  13. Young Fox — Sky Beats Gold
  14. Gary Numan — Savage (Songs From A Broken World)
  15. Marc Broussard — Easy To Love

That’s it, folks.  As noted, this was not an easy list to assemble by any means.  Trying to determine which albums likely would have a certain amount of longevity through through musical and lyrical messages was a tough task.  One cannot ignore the fact that what with the nation’s current political climate, the second coming of Rage Against The Machine was one of this year’s most important and standout efforts.  In the same breath, the gentility and beauty offered by Ala.Ni, Jazzmeia Horn and Diana Panton makes their albums certain to stay in peoples’ minds and ears.  Fer Isella’s new album, while instrumental is like the soundtrack to any major Hollywood drama such as Bridges of Madison County and other similar movies.

The jazz fusion feel of Nova Collective’s debut record and the prog rock of Scale The Summit’s latest record stand out just as much.  Mike Mangioni & The Kin may stay under the radar, but that’s just fine with this critic.  The group’s new album is a great independent offering.  Dishwalla’s new album is a wonderful return for the band while John 5 & the Creatures’ new album is yet another example of how truly talented the guitarist truly is and that he made the right decision leaving Marilyn Manson’s band.

It is easy to go on and on about every album noted here.  Regardless of the band’s fame, the fact of the matter stands that each album listed here is one that this critic feels is impacting and important for the given act and for the music community in whole.  That being the case, this list stands as this critic’s best new albums of 2017.  Now with all of the music stuff out of the way, it’s on to a handful of DVD/BD titles including best new box sets for families and for grown-ups, best new DVDs/BDs for families, and even best new documentaries.  So stay tuned for all of that!

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Project 86 “Among” Rock and Metal’s Best On Phil’s Picks 2017 Top New Hard Rock & Metal Albums

Courtesy: Project 86/TAG Publicity

For those about to rock, we salute you!

Yes, everyone knows that phrase from AC/DC’s classic song by the same name.  As popular as it is, it is more than just a song lyric and title.  It is a statement of honor for the acts and audiences who span the rock community.  This year, as with every year prior, there are so many bands to honor as the year nears its end, including hard rock and metal bands.  In case it hasn’t become clear by now, this article focuses on this critic’s choices for the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.  As with every list before, compiling it was not an easy task.  New releases from Project 86, Arch Enemy, Iced Earth, and so many others made this year’s field of new hard rock and metal albums very crowded.  That is putting it lightly.  Between well-known mainstream acts and their lesser-known independent counterparts, the two sides collectively offered so many impressive new albums.

Topping this critic’s list of the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums is Project 86’s latest album Sheep Among Wolves.  The band’s 10th full-length studio recording in 20 years, this record takes all of the best elements of the band’s past — both musically and lyrically — and uses them to craft a work that is just as memorable and engaging as its predecessors.  Also on this year’s list from Phil’s Picks are new albums from — as already noted — Iced Earth and Arch Enemy — as well as new offerings from Overkill, Act of Defiance, Prong, Adrenaline Mob, Blacktop Mojo and others. As with every list, this list presents this critic’s Top 10 titles plus five additional titles for a total of 15 records.  That being noted, here for you is Phil’s Picks’ 2017 Top 10 New Hard Rock & Metal Albums.

PHIL’S PICKS 2017 TOP 10 NEW HARD ROCK & METAL ALBUMS

  1. Project 86 — Sheep Among Wolves
  2. Prong — Zero Days
  3. Act of Defiance — Old Scars, New Wounds
  4. Overkill — The Grinding Wheel
  5. Iced Earth — Incorruptable
  6. Blacktop Mojo — Burn The Ships
  7. Adrenaline Mob — We The People
  8. Marty Friedman — Wall of Sound
  9. Corroded — Defcon Zero
  10. Dragonforce — Reaching Into Infinity
  11. The Haunted — Strength In Numbers
  12. Doyle — As We Die
  13. Demon Hunter — Outlive
  14. 36 Crazyfists — Lanterns
  15. Arch Enemy — Will To Power

That’s all for this list.  Again, it was not an easy list to compile.  Acts the likes of Eve To Eve to Adam, Marty Friedman, Sepultura, Annihilator, Mastodon and so many others all deserve their own share of credit.  With that in mind, it becomes easy to see why no disrespect was meant to any one act or another here.  Every noted act released its own impressive album.  Only so many spaces were available, sadly.

2018 is already shaping up to be an interesting year in its own right, with new material from Ministry on the way alongside new albums from Judas Priest, Saxon, Machine Head, Corrosion of Conformity, Tool, Clutch and lots more.  Stay tuned for all of that in the new year.  To keep up with all of 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.

‘Sheep Among Wolves’ Is Anchored By Musical, Lyrical Depth And Power

Courtesy: Project 86/TAG Publicity

Project 86 has, over the course of some two decades, churned out nine albums and garnered countless legions of fans the world over. It has done so all the while staying largely under the mainstream radar and going through so many lineup changes along the way. That continued success has come by taking new risks and giving audiences something new with each album both musically and lyrically. From full on fist-pumping hard rock to brooding, heavy works to more experimental works such as those presented in the band’s 2007 album Rival Factions and beyond, Project 86 has always worked to test its own boundaries. That willingness to take those risks, along with presenting deep lyrical themes is just as prevalent in the band’s latest full-length studio recording, Sheep Among Wolves as its predecessors, proving over the course of its 10 song, 35-minute body that after 20 years, why Project 86 is still so popular and at the top of its game. This statement is supported right from the album’s outset in the form of ‘MHS.’ It will be discussed shortly. The album’s closer ‘Metempsychosis’ is another of the featured songs that serves to support that statement. It will be discussed later. ‘Copper Wish,’ which comes a little more than midway through the album’s run, is yet another example of how this record shows Project 86’s continued strength. It is hardly the last of the album’s songs that could be used to support that statement, too. When it is set alongside the other noted songs, and those not noted, the whole of the album proves to be a work that is among Project 86’s best work to date.

Project 86’s 10th full-length studio recording Sheep Among Wolves is by far among the band’s best work to date. Considering that the band has been making music and fans for now 20 years, all while handling label and lineup changes, and working largely without mainstream radio support, that is a strong statement. It is a statement that is supported right from the album’s outset in the form of ‘MHS.’ This song is, musically speaking, everything that audiences have come to know and expect from Project 86. It is a solid, driving composition that harkens back to the band’s 2003 album Songs To Burn Your Bridges By and its followup, 2005’s …And The Rest Will Follow. That is evident in its bombastic guitar line and equally powerful drum line.

Lyrically speaking, it provides just as much depth as it does musically. Vocalist and founding member Andrew Schwab sings in this song, “Light up the beacons/I’m sending out the signal/Because tonight your revolution ends/The lampstand removal of unholy ritual/For violence the sirens will wail/Enough/I’ve heard enough/Of all your promises/Your deeds have made my stomach turn/Enough/I’ve had enough of all your crusades/Your throne is swallowed by the earth.” He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “Your secrets unearthing/Your barriers are peeling back/To reveal your devilry/In blood runs the writing/On walls that are crumbling/So what will it take/For the sheep to say/Enough/I’ve heard enough/Of all your promises/Your deeds have made my stomach turn/Enough/I’ve had enough of all your crusades/Your throne becomes a crater in the earth.” Schwab seemingly is addressing someone who is not all that he or she seems to be as he states, “Your revolution ends” and “your secrets unearthing/your barriers are peeling back/to reveal your devilry.” That seeming statement is hinted even more in the song’s third and final verse as Schwab sings, “No mercy is shown/When mercy’s not given/Your halo will hang you instead.” He seems to be saying that the person claiming to be so good will do himself/herself in by his/her own lies and deception. This is of course only this critic’s interpretation of these lyrics. It could very easily be wrong. So it should not by any means be taken as gospel. That aside, Schwab has definitely crafted lyrically in this song a work that is just as certain as Project 86’s previous works to get listeners thinking and talking. When it is coupled with the song’s powerhouse musical arrangement, the whole of those elements makes this song a solid first impression for the band in its latest outing. It also makes the song just one example of what makes this latest album another standout effort from the band. It is not the only one of the songs that makes this album a solid work, either. ‘Metempsychosis’ is another of the record’s most notable works.

‘Metempsychosis’ is worth noting in large part because of its musical arrangement. The brooding, mid-tempo arrangement is unlike almost anything that the band has ever turned out in its previous recordings. It is driven in large part by a subtle keyboard line and drums. Those two lines are in turn joined with Schwab’s equal subtle vocal delivery to make the song even more engaging. The song starts very subtle, eventually growing in its presence, but never gets too loud. Considering the attention given to that part of the arrangement along with its instrumentation, the whole of those elements makes the song’s arrangement one of this album’s most powerful works. That is because it shows that for all of the hard-driving works that the band has ever crafted, it can create a song that is just as heavy without being heavy. Keeping this in mind, the song’s arrangement is only one part of what makes it stand out. Its lyrical content, when set alongside the song’s musical arrangement, shows even more the song’s power and importance in the album’s bigger picture.

Schwab sings in the song’s lead verse, “I float by/Apparitions/Emotions/So invisible/In search of/Some assurance/Hinging everything on a gesture/I’m taking every measure/To escape this rejection/Begging for a soul/To hear the cry for help behind the whisper.” He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “In hate with my reflection/I’m changing my complexion/My hope will lie in this/Metempsychosis/I’m taking every measure to escape this rejection/begging for a soul to hear the cry for help/Behind the whisper.” On a side note, metempsychosis is in fact a real word. According to Merriam-Webster, it is “the passing of the soul at death into another body either human or animal” (I.e. re-incarnation of sorts) Keeping this in mind, it makes these verses all the more in-depth and contemplative. It is possible that Schwab is using the term in a metaphorical sense here as if to sing from the standpoint of that person who feels invisible in society, wishing that he or she could become someone or something else. While this is not the only interpretation, it would seem to make some modicum of sense. If indeed it is what Schwab is trying to communicate, it is definitely an original way to approach an all-too-familiar topic in music both mainstream and otherwise. When it is considered alongside the song’s brooding musical arrangement, it would seem to make even more sense, and to make the song in whole all the more powerful. All things considered here, it becomes fully clear why ‘Metempsychosis’ is such a strong addition to SAW. Add in the fact that the band has rarely ever crafted anything along the lines of this work, and it becomes even stronger of an addition. Even as important as it is to the whole of this record, it still is not the last of the album’s most important works. ‘Copper Wish’ is yet another of the album’s most standout works.

Whereas ‘Metempsychosis’ maintains its brooding nature from start to finish, ‘Copper Wish’ leans more in the direction of the heavier, brooding works that Project 86 has crafted in years past. What’s truly interesting to note of this song’s arrangement is its easy comparison to works included in Drawing Black Lines (2000), Truthless Heroes (2002) and …And The Rest Will Follow (2005). That is evident in the balance presented in the song’s heavier and more subtle moments. That balance makes the song’s arrangement itself a solid strong point here. Its lyrical content, when set alongside that arrangement, makes the song even stronger.

Schwab sings in this song’s lead verse of draining the water “to drown the guilt” and “to flee the scene of our mistakes.” These are short, simple lines, yet boast the same depth that the band’s fans have come to know of the band. Not having a lyrics sheet to go by, it is difficult to decipher what Schwab screams at other points in the song. Even without that aid as a resource, what little can be deciphered solely by ear, it would seem that Schwab is perhaps addressing the sometimes extreme lengths that we as humans go to in order to try to escape the past. He even makes mention of “the great escape” and being “made the purpose from the pain” late in the song’s four-minute-plus run time. Regardless of what he is trying to convey here, it goes without saying that once again, Schwab has crafted a song that lyrically is just as deep as it is musically. Add in the fact that while such a style of arrangement is not rare, but also not overly common for this band, and the song becomes that much more impacting. When it is set alongside the other songs noted here and those not noted here, the whole of those songs shows completely why Sheep Among Wolves is such a solid new effort from Project 86 and in all honesty some of the band’s best work to date.

Project 86’s latest full-length studio recording Sheep Among Wolves is easily one of the band’s best albums to date. It is a 10-song collection of new music that boasts arrangements and lyrical themes that both by themselves and collectively will be equally appreciated by new and old fans alike. That is evidenced both through the songs noted here and those not directly noted. When they are considered together, they make this record not only some of Project 86’s best work to date, but also one of this year’s top new hard rock and metal offerings. It is available now. More information on Sheep Among Wolves is available online along with the band’s latest news and more at:

Website: http://www.project86.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/project86

Twitter: http://twitter.com/project86band

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.

NYVES’ Debut LP Is As Sharp As A Knife

Courtesy:  Spartan Records

Courtesy: Spartan Records

Ryan Clark and Randy Torres have spent the better part of their careers making some of the most intense music that the Christian music community has heard with Demon Hunter and Project 86. Now the pair has teamed up for a new project called NYVES (pronounced knives) that released its debut album Anxiety early last month. The music that makes up the body of Anxiety is unlike anything that fans of Demon Hunter and Project 86 have ever heard. At times it sounds like something straight out of the 80s new wave movement and at others like something akin to Daft Punk and others like a mix of both. Even with such sounds, Anxiety still maintains its own identity separate from its influences, resulting in eleven tracks that both electronica fans and those of Demon Hunter and Project 86 whose minds are open enough will enjoy. In listening to it, those listeners will agree that Anxiety is one of this year’s best new independent albums.

NYVES’ (pronounced knives) debut album Anxiety is one of this year’s best new independent albums. The side-project of Demon Hunter front man Ryan Clark and ex-Project 86 member Randy Torres, it is unlike anything that either musician has created. That is evident right off the top in the album’s opener ‘Fall Behind.’ In terms of its musical content, ‘Fall Behind’ sounds like something that could have been part of the soundtrack to Disney’s Tron or its sequel. Clark’s clean vocals placed over top of that sound makes it even more interesting. Listeners that are familiar with Clark’s vocal styling established in his time with Demon Hunter will enjoy it just as much here if not more so. That is because presented in this scenario, the deep tone of those vocals, with their powerful yet restrained sound give the song a wholly different emotional depth all its own. That is especially the case considering the song’s full-on metaphorical writing. Clark writes in this song, “When they have come to bleed us out/And the panic ascends/You take a look beyond this cold/For the light to blind/Unto a calm beyond our means/In the final divide/Where every hope collapsing in/Is a vibrant white/All I see is silhouettes/Try to close the distance/Hear your voice a fading thread/Don’t fall behind.” Even without a full, clear interpretation of the lyrics, Clark’s delivery gives the song such emotional depth. The lyrics taken into consideration, that depth is increased even more. It is just this critic’s own take, but this verse alone comes across as a statement similar to what Demon Hunter’s fans have come to know from that band, too. It almost seems as if Clark is commenting on a person looking for that sign of hope amid the most tying of times. The song’s second verse strengthens this argument as Clark sings, “If there’s a way to see this through/For the ever alone/To be a grave for our descent/I will find the way.” This critic could of course be entirely wrong here in interpretation. Right or wrong, the fact that its lyrics manage to generate so much discussion shows why it is such a great example of what Anxiety has to offer audiences. The combination of both the song’s lyrics and its musical content exhibits this even more. And it’s just the album’s opener, too. Audiences can hear the song for themselves online now via YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQFV-ENL8g4. There are other equally impressive works throughout this record that show just as much what Anxiety has to offer listeners. One of those examples is the album’s second track, ‘Something Divine.’

Anxiety’s opener ‘Return’ is a great first impression from Ryan Clark and Randy Torres on the debut of the pair’s new project. The depth of emotion communicated through Clark’s vocal delivery coupled with the depth of the song’s lyrical and musical content makes it a song that is one of the record’s strongest moments. It is only one of those moments, too. ‘Something Divine,’ the album’s second track is just as impressive. In terms of its musical content, ‘Something Divine’ is the polar opposite of ‘Return.’ The sound established by the keyboards in this song is something more akin to works from Nine Inch Nails than anything from the 80s. Clark’s vocals set against that sound gives the song even more of an impact. In terms of its lyrics, it is just as deep as the album’s opener with Clark singing, “I want it all/The blood, the flesh, the soul/Give me the time/The guns, the peace, control/I wanna see/The tide begin to rise/Let me believe/The world within your eyes/Give me a sign/Something divine/I wanna feel there is something real/Down inside/Bring me the light/The words to bind the night/Keep me alive/To show the rest to die.” It is almost as if Clark is singing from the vantage point here of someone looking for that positive among all of life’s darkness and difficulties, much as with the album’s opener. He seems to be saying, “give me something to hope for. Something about which to feel good.” Again, this is just one person’s own interpretation. It could very well be incorrect. Hopefully it isn’t incorrect. Even if it is incorrect, such deep, thought-provoking lyrical content yet again shows just how much Anxiety has to offer audiences. That material set alongside the song’s musical content makes it even more of a standout work. And one more example of just how much Anxiety has to offer listeners. Audiences can hear the song for themselves online now via YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhxMrlxOWao.

Both ‘Return’ and ‘Something Divine’ are prime examples in their own right as to just how much NYVES has to offer listeners in its debut record. Both songs exhibit true musical and lyrical depth that will have listeners talking quite a bit amongst each other. They are collectively just a glimpse into what makes this record such a surprisingly interesting collection of songs. ‘Idle Thoughts,’ is the penultimate song in this eleven-track record. But it, too serves as one of the best examples of how much it has to offer listeners. Just as with ‘Something Divine,’ this track sounds musically similar to something that one might hear from Trent Reznor. And that isn’t a bad thing. The fact of the matter is that despite the similarities, it still maintains its own identity separate from Reznor’s work and that of other industrial/electronic greats. The same can be said just as easily of the song’s lyrical content in which Clark sings, “When the call is all I feel/And the end it’s all I need/I embrace the coming bleed/In the void of disengage/I escape into my grave/Where the dream is all I save/Don’t let me violate your time/I will exhaust before you fade away/Fade away into the night/I was wrong to bring you here/But I can see/There is a place beyond the light for you and me.” He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “I await the silent draw/The erase of every wall/I embrace the coming fall/I’m afraid of all I’ve seen/In the darkest I have been/the eclipse of all I need.” From here, Clark goes back into the song’s chorus. There is one more verse included in the song. But there is no need going into that verse as it echoes the same sentiment echoed throughout the song’s first and second verse. The sentiment in question makes for just as much discussion as the song’s musical content. That same metaphorical language used in the album’s other songs is just as prevalent here. And once again it is the combination of that metaphorical language and equally interesting musical content that makes this song its own intriguing addition to Anxiety, proving once more why Anxiety is such an interesting and welcome release both for fans of Demon Hunter and Project 86 and for those that are fans of electronic music. Audiences can hear this work online now via YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvTkir-EXrI. Together with the songs noted previously and those not noted, all eleven tracks that make up Anxiety show it to be in the end one of the best of this year’s crop of new independent albums and potentially even one of the year’s best new albums overall.

NYVES’ debut album Anxiety is one of this year’s best new independent albums, hands down. It could potentially be considered one of the year’s best new albums overall, too. That is taking into consideration the fact that it stands completely apart from anything that either Randy Torres or Ryan Clark has crafted in the course of their career. The songs noted here clearly exhibit that difference, too. They also exhibit–along with the album’s other eight tracks–the thought and time put into each song. The result of that thought and time is an album that will grow more on audiences with each watch. In growing on audiences, those same audiences will agree that Anxiety is without a doubt one of this year’s best new independent albums and potentially even one of the year’s best new albums overall. Anxiety is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from Spartan Records’ online store at http://spartanrecords.limitedrun.com/products/550575-nyves-anxiety. More information on this and other titles from Spartan Records is available online now at:

Website: http://spartanrecords.limitedrun.com

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

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Wait For The Siren Another Success For Project 86

Courtesy: Team Black

Orange County, California’s Project 86 is firing on all cylinders on its new album, “Wait For The Siren.”  The band has taken the best of elements of all seven of its previous albums this time out to make what is one of its best releases period, and one of the year’s best hard rock/metal albums. 

“Wait For The Siren” opens with the song, ‘Fall Goliath Fall.’  It opens with an interesting slow build, backed by of all things a dulcimer and the cadence of a snare drum before launching full force into the song.  This song comes across as using the biblical story of David and Goliath as a metaphor for facing fearlessly, all obstacles in one’s way.  Front man Andrew Schwab sings in the song, “With our backs to the wall, we’ll respond to the call.”  He goes on to sing, “We fight for a reason to die.”  What he means is without a reason to fight, there’s no reason to give up.  It’s about being strong and facing every obstacle both mental and physical.

Where ‘Fall Goliath Fall’ leaves off, ‘Sots’ picks right up with even more ferocity.  The song brings in Bruce Fitzhugh of fellow Christian rockers, Living Sacrifice.  His vocals add a whole extra level of depth and intensity to this already hard rocking song.  The song sounds like it easily could have fit easily into the band’s sophomore release, “Drawing Black Lines” or even “Songs To Burn Your Bridges By.”  Just as heavy in its own right is ‘The Crossfire Gambit.’  The band brings former Korn guitarist David “Head” Welch in for this track.  Welch’s guitar work mixed with the band’s music and Schwab’s vocals make this one of so many hugely high points for this new album.  It’s one more song that given the chance would make huge waves on any true hard rock radio station across the country.

The tracks offered here comprise just a small sampling of what fans can expect from “Wait For The Siren.”  Every track on this album offers something different for fans.  It has plenty of the intensity from the band’s previous releases.  There’s even some stuff that could be considered experimental by most standards.  And even those experimental pieces also offer something interesting from the band.  All combined, they come together to make another album that is one more successful release from Project 86.

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