Family Entertainer SaulPaul Takes Top Honors In Phil’s Picks’ List Of 2021’s Top New EPs

Courtesy: Sugar Mountain PR

It’s hard to believe but 2021 is officially only four weeks from its big finale.  One can only hope that moving forward from here into 2022, that sooner rather than later, we’ll finally be rid of this COVID-19 crap and life can finally go back to what it was.  Time will tell.  In the meantime, this critic has checked over his calendar for the year’s waning weeks, and surprisingly, there are no more new EPs to go through for the year.  That means it is finally time to start in on this year’s “best of” year-ender lists.  Of course, as in every year past, the very first of those lists comes in the form of the smallest of the music releases noted.

This year’s list of new EPs features new releases from at least one relatively well-known figure and a number of others who are either up-and-coming or semi-established.  They run the gamut from family music to pop to rock and metal to even some southern rock/country.  These lists are never easy to finalize because even among the EPs there is so much to appreciate musically and lyrically.  That was taken into full consideration with this list, too.  Those who have followed this critic’s ramblings for years on end, know how the lists work.  For everyone else, they work as such:  Instead of just 10 new offerings, this list is composed of 15 titles.  The top 10 are the best of the best while the following five are honorable mention titles.  This is not a stab at those releases or the acts that released them, either.  Far from it.  The whole purpose is to give those extras their due credit, too.

So without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks Top 10 New EPs of 2021.

PHIL’S PICKS 2021 TOP 10 NEW EPS

  1. SaulPaul – OK To Be Different
  2. Gabriel & The Apocalypse – Alpha Transcendence
  3. Decent Criminal – Decent Criminal
  4. The Mercy Kills – New Rule
  5. Dirkschneider & The Old Gang – Arising
  6. Repentance – Volume 1Reborn
  7. All Hail The Yeti – Within The Hollow Earth
  8. Kulick – Sitting in a Quiet Coffeehouse
  9. Blue Eyed Christ – World on Fire Remixes
  10. Zero Theorum – The Killing II
  11. Sydney Sherwood – Headspace
  12. Christopher Shayne – Ten High
  13. 20 Watt Tombstone – Year of the Jackalope
  14. Post Death Soundtrack – Pathless Land
  15. Black TarPoon – The Thad

That’s it for this year’s top new EPs.  Thanks goes out to all of the firms that sent out this great music and so much more.  No offense is meant to any act left out.  For instance  Of Mice & Men released a trio of new EPs this year, but they ended up as the new album, Echo, so that album is up for consideration among this critic’s top new hard rock/metal albums of the year.  Even more year-enders are on their way as the last days of the year start to wind down, so stay tuned!

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Voltagehawk Premieres New Single, ‘Recrimination,’ Companion Video

Courtesy: TAG Publicity

Independent rock band Voltagehawk offered audiences a new preview of its new album last month.

The band premiered its new single, ‘Recrimination‘ and its companion video Oct. 27 through Ghost Cult magazine. The song is featured in the band’s forthcoming album, Electric Thunder, which is scheduled for release Jan. 21 through The Label Group/INgrooves.

The musical arrangement featured in ‘Recrimination’ is a heavy, driving composition. The fuzz effect that is incorporated into the song gives it something of a stoner rock edge alongside its modern rock sound. The juxtaposition and combination of those two styles and sounds here makes the arrangement engaging and entertaining in its own right.

The song’s lyrical theme is a social statement of sorts, according to a prepared statement from the band. The statement also addresses the song’s video, which was directed by Jarrad James.

“Cause and effect, effect and cause,” the statement reads. “Crime itself is often a byproduct of the environment created for the repeat offender by the systems of law. In this downbeat driven, fuzzed out dystopian Robin Hood tale, we follow a criminal locked in battle against recidivism. In a landscape of survival, it asks you what you would be willing to do. It asks you to take a walk in another man’s shoes, for when you point one finger, three point back at you.”

More information on Voltagehawk’s new single, video, and album is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Website: https://www.voltagehawk.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/voltagehawkband

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

Awaken Debuts New Single, ‘Fall Break Rise,’ Companion Lyric Video

Courtesy: The Label Group

Independent hard rock band Awaken debuted its latest single and its companion video this week.

The band premiered its new single, ‘Fall Break Rise’ and its lyric video Monday. The song is featured in the band’s recently released self-titled album. The record was released in February through The Label Group.

The musical arrangement featured in ‘Fall Break Rise’ is a heavy, melodic rock composition. The arrangement’s production gives the collective instrumentation and vocals such a power and richness. The whole gives the song a sound and stylistic approach that lends itself to comparison to works from the likes of Breaking Benjamin.

According to comments from front man Chad Griffin, the song’s lyrical theme delivers a message of hope.

“Our single, “Fall/ Break/ Rise” from our album Monsters & Machines is a story of redemption. It is about a person who has hit rock bottom and come to what they feel is their end… only to be found in a new light. It follows the process of what it is to be human and fail time and time again, right before we come to our breaking point. It can end up being the exact moment that makes us new… to live again for a better purpose.”

The song’s lyric video is presented in black and white and features imagery, such as a forest filled with fog, a fire burning, and the sun shining above that fog-filled scene. The visuals are meant to help translate the noted message and in the song’s lyrical theme and musical arrangement, using the noted scenes as metaphors of sorts for the thoughts and emotions that people feel in the noted situations.

‘Fall Break Rise’ is available to stream and download through Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon.

More information on Awaken’s new single and video is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Website: https://awaken2.bandzoogle.com

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

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

In The A.M. Delivers Message Of Self Confidence In New Single

Courtesy: Cowgirlzen Entertainment/The Label Group

Independent hard rock band In The A.M. wants audiences to take more pride and confidence in themselves.

That is the message delivered in the band’s new single, ‘Save Yourself.’ The band premiered the song and its companion lyric video Friday through v13.net. The song’s musical arrangement is a melodic hard rock composition whose heavy guitars, electronics and occasional rapping easily likens it to works from Linkin Park.

According to vocalist Alex Shimp, the song’s lyrical theme is meant to encourage audiences to not give in to what others think of them.

“This song is about people in your life trying to force you to be whom they think you should be because they think they know better for you than you do for yourself,” said Shimp. “Throughout my life, I’ve had to deal with a lot of b******* people telling me who and what to be. People who lied to me mistreated me, never respected me, and constantly took away from the amazing heart that I had as a kid. People who tried their best to manipulate me into something I didn’t want to be. And this song is me writing some of that pain out on paper and putting it into art through riffs and melodies.”

Added Shimp, “For the kids who may be going through the same experience. For the adults who may be going through a hard time in life. For everyone who gets their therapy through music.”

The song’s lyric video is a simple presentation. It features the song’s lyrics over various background settings, all of which are associated with the design of the single’s artwork.

More information on In The A.M.’s new single is available along with the band’s latest news at:

Website: https://www.intheamband.com

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

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

Life Renewed Takes On Tough Mental Health Topic In New Single, Video

Courtesy: The Label Group/Cowgirlzen Entertainment

Christian metalcore band Life Renewed debuted its latest single this week.

The band premiered its new single, ‘Vision/Revision‘ and its companion video Tuesday. The song is the band’s first new music since the premiere of its then latest single, ‘By Faith‘ more than a year ago.

The song’s musical arrangement is a heavy, emotional composition. The screams at times are likened to that of so many death metal vocalist, at others, like the delivery style of Whitechapel front man Phil Bozeman and at others still to that of Hatebreed front man Jamey Jasta. The clean vocals meanwhile create some strong harmonies. The instrumentation against those varied vocal styles make for even more interest with its own heaviness.

The lyrical theme featured in the single takes on the familiar topics of mental health while also encouraging those with suicidal thoughts to not give up or give in. Band founder Rob Volkoff talked about the song’s lyrical theme in a prepared statement.

“This single/music film is based on a real-life experience of a suicide attempt I had,” he said. “The video is bringing visually, my experience with the same person who was there for me at that moment. This song features Robert Short (Service of Shadows) on Harsh Vocals & Jarrett Booker (Eyes of Eli) on additional harsh vocals & clean vocals. Robert & Jarrett wrote the lyrics with the mindset of the struggles & hardships I have faced that I wanted to address in this song.”

“This song was written remotely without anyone being in the same room but coming together through online conversations to share this message,” added Volkoff. With the current state of the world & the experiences, everyone has had to deal with, there are more people struggling with depression, suicide, mental & physical health, stress, Anxiety, PTSD, being overworked, among others & this song visually & lyrically highlights those issues with a sense of hope I believe we all can achieve. Robert Short & Jarrett Booker both captured the emotion, intensity & meaning of the inspiration I gave them from my experiences to deliver a powerful, emotionally evoking song that we all hope has an impact on others, Just as they had an impact on me.”

The video for ‘Vision/Revision’ fully illustrates the message in the song’s lyrical theme. It does this as it presents a young man going through those debilitating thoughts of suicide, only to be saved by himself and his friend who cared enough to take the man’s words seriously.

‘Vision/Revision’ and ‘By Faith’ are both expected for inclusion in the band’s forthcoming EP, Launching From Ground Zero. The record’s official release date is under consideration.

More information on Life Renewed is available along with all of the group’s news at:

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/LifeRenewedBand

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/LifeRenewedBand

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

Hell & Hollar Premieres New Single, Companion Video

Courtesy: The Label Group/INgrooves

Independent hard rock band Hell & Hollar premiered its latest single and video last week.

The band premiered its new single, ‘Siberian Hunter‘ and its companion video Friday. The song features a heavy stoner rock-tinged stylistic approach and sound that is balanced well with a touch of 90s grunge influence for its foundation.

No information was provided about the lyrical theme featured alongside the song’s musical arrangement.

The video for ‘Siberian Hunter’ is presented in an almost video graphic novel hybrid type approach. It follows its titular character making his way through a forest and eventually meeting a wolf along the way. The result of the meeting will be left for audiences to discover for themselves.

More information on Hell & Hollar’s new single and video is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Website: https://www.hellandhollar.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HellAndHollar

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

Voltagehawk Gets Existential In New Single, Video

Courtesy: The Label Group Entertainment Group/INgrooves

Independent rock band premiered its new single, ‘Neon‘ and its companion video this month.

The band premiered the pairing June 9. The song, which comes approximately five months after the band’s then latest single, ‘Straight Razor,’ is featured in the band’s concept album, Electric Thunder. The album center’s on a young woman’s journey through space and time. During the course of her journey, the woman finds out she plays a pivotal role in the future of mankind.

The musical arrangement featured in ‘Neon’ is an interesting composition that blends the heavily fuzzed sounds of the stoner rock realm with an equally evident industrial metal sound to create a unique whole that is certain to keep listeners engaged and entertained. The lyrical concept that accompanies that musical content meanwhile gets somewhat existential.

It comes across as a sort of allegory about the contradictory nature of the human condition. This happens through the examination of the normalization of sex in society, and how that contradicts with how we as humans are far less accepting of ourselves. That is this critic’s own interpretation and should not be taken as gospel.

The band explained the song’s lyrical concept in a prepared statement.

“‘Neon’ is a vision of a dystopian skid row, a glimpse into the future through blurred white lines on neon-lit streets,” the statement reads. “The truth is we all have sex for money, sex for love, and sex to pass the time. In some way or another, we’re just like the woman in the song screaming in a final moment of frustration “Pay me my money and go!”, all the while fed up with whatever part of ourselves we’ve sold to get by in this life.”

The video that is used alongside the new single is meant to help translate the seeming message. Information provided about the video states: “Meet Kenzeon, a transdimensional sex worker on the Cosmic Highway just outside ‘The Land of No One.’ A vision of a dystopian skid row, she offers a glimpse into the future through blurred white lines on neon-lit streets, ripping through the fabric of space-time to be paid what she is owed. The weary version of this astral being reminds us that we have all had sex for money, sex for love, and sex to pass the time, fed up with whatever part of ourselves we’ve had to sell in order to survive the worlds we were born into.”

More information on Voltagehawk’s new single, video, and album is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Website: https://www.voltagehawk.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/voltagehawkband

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

Crashing Wayward Takes On The Political, Economic Establishment In New Single, Video

Courtesy: Crashing Wayward

Independent rock band Crashing Wayward premiered its latest single and video this week.

The band premiered its new single, ‘Disco Kills‘ and its video Tuesday through v13.net. The song features a musical arrangement that will appeal to any guitar rock purist.

The composition presents a sound and stylistic approach that shows influences from the likes of Stone Temple Pilots, Audioslave, and even Filter. Yes, that is a disparate mix of influences, but a close listen reveals the influence of all three bands, along with many others. The song was produced by MIke Gillies (Motley Crue, Metallica, The Cult).

The lyrical content featured in the song is meant as a sociopolitical commentary, according to front man Peter Summit.

“’Disco Kills’ was lyrically written as a metaphor about the politicians/big businesses who abuse their platform, disco being the metaphor,” he said. “It speaks in sequence to the effect that Disco music had on Rock in the late 70s, but its subject is a politician/big business who is enjoying the party. How about: It’s really a modern-day Marie Antoinette “Let them eat cake” story that takes on a duel meaning open for interpretation.”

The video for ‘Disco Kills’ puts the band — Summit, David Harris (guitar), Stacey Blades (guitar), Shon McKee (drums), and Carl Raether (bass) — into an empty building that perhaps was once either a warehouse or apartment building as it performs its new single. The video was directed by Vincent Cordero for Industrialism Films.

More information on Crashing Wayward’s new single and video is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Website: https://www.crashingwayward.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/crashing.wayward

Twitter: https://twitter.com/crashingwayward

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

Anaria Debuts Acoustic Take Of Its Single, ‘Leaving You Behind’

Courtesy: The Label Group

Independent rock band Anaria debuted the an acoustic take of its latest single last week.

The band premiered the acoustic take of its single, ‘Leaving You Behind‘ and its video May 14. Their premiere came more than four months after the band debuted the song in its original presentation.

The updated, acoustic take of ‘Leaving You Behind’ strips down the original work significantly. Gone are the punching drums, and powerhouse vocals of singer Jessica Jackson Salvucci in the case of the acoustic take. Her vocals are still strong in their own right while the strings featured in the original composition are more subtle in their presentation here. The heavier guitars are replaced by a more gentle sound from that aspect.

The lyrical theme presented in ‘Leaving You Behind,’ which focuses on the familiar topic of a broken relationship, becomes even more impacting in this case because of the toned down approach.

Salvucci addressed that pairing in a prepared statement.

“Anaria has always loved doing acoustic versions of our music,” she said. “Our studio work tends to be dense and jam-packed with all manner of orchestration. We like to occasionally strip away all the bells and whistles to the melody and chords. This allows us to really focus on portraying the heart of the piece and hone in on the lyrical content, too. The result is an intimate experience between us and our audience and we love being able to offer that experience in addition to a thoroughly produced work.”

The band in whole expanded on the new song and its approach in a collective, prepared statement.

“‘Leaving You Behind’ was the second single released off our 2020 album, the statement reads. “Lyrically, the song speaks to the feelings of regret in remembrance of a past lover. We wanted to strip this song down to just two acoustic guitars, some keyboard strings, and Jess’s unprocessed voice. What is left is a very raw and genuine sound that helps us to engage with the listener on a more intimate level. The video was filmed at our old rehearsal space in Manchester, NH.”‘

More information on Anaria’s acoustic take of ‘Leaving You Behind’ and its video is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Website: https://www.anaria.org

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

Twitter: https://twitter/com/anariaband

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

Gears Debuts New Single, ‘Game,’ Companion Video

Courtesy: The Label Group

Independent hard rock band Gears premiered its latest single and video last month.

The band premiered its single ‘Game‘ and its companion lyric video April 30. The premiere of the single and its video came more than a month after the premiere of its predecessor, ‘So What‘ and its lyric video.

As with much of Gears’ existing work, the musical arrangement featured in ‘Game’ is easily comparable to works from Sevendust. That accessible hard rock approach and sound plays over the song’s lyrics in the song’s lyric video. Those lyrics are paired with pictures of the band members performing and images of skulls.

The lyrical theme featured along with the band’s new single and video is accessible in its own right.

Front man Trip Six noted in a prepared statement, the song’s lyrical content focuses on the topic of making one’s name in the music industry.

“The most difficult thing that I have ever set out to accomplish has been to “make it” in the music industry,” he said.  “Gears has come a long way in a rather short amount of time and while I’m not sure if we will ever become “successful” in this industry so that we are able to make a comfortable living doing what we love, what I do know is that I feel most alive when I’m on that stage.:

Added Trip Six, “Watching the crowd not only enjoying the music but singing along right there with us, meeting our fans after the show at the merch table, listening to how much they enjoy our music. I love everything about it. The hugs, hearing how much our music has done for them, in some cases even saving their life. For me, that is success, point-blank. So for now, we will continue to play this game. The music will go on and not only because it’s my passion, but because of you, our FAMZ. Your happiness will always be important.” 

More information on Gears’ new single is available along with all of the band’s latest news is available online at:

Websitehttps://www.gearsofficial.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/gearsofficial

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/OfficialGears1

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