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Unearth – III: In The Eyes of Fire

Unearth displays incredible musicianship and I am quite sure that fans of metalcore will not be disappointed by their intensity and earnest lyrical themes

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I have recently become a fan of Wikipedia, which has information regarding any damn subject you want to know about. And remember kiddies, knowledge is power. They define metalcore music as “A musical genre consisting of a mix between heavy metal and hardcore punk.” This hybrid of metal and punk was born in the 1980’s and proliferated by musical luminaries such as Nuclear Assault, Maximum Penalty, Biohazard and Raw Deal. According to Wikipedia, metalcore musicians trade traditional verse-chorus songwriting in favor of breakdowns “slowing a song down, giving the guitars room to play a set of rhythmically oriented riffs, usually on open strings to achieve the lowest sound for which the guitars are tuned.”

III: In the Eyes of Fire begins with “This Glorious Nightmare” that assaults the musical senses like a shock and awe air strike. The well-crafted lyrics are cryptically poetic in the vein of Edgar Allen Poe. Yet there is no discernable melody to accompany them and they are spewed out like diatribes from a schizophrenic who forgot to take his Thorazine. The musical parts of the song are played at high speed with machine gun drumming, thundering bass and super crunchy guitar all more than adeptly executed. “Giles” continues on in the same style with more Gothic lyrics and frenetic musical changes highlighted by superlative percussion parts contributed by Mike Justian.

Upon hearing the likes of “March of the Mutes” a thinly disguised political commentary and “Sanctity of Brothers,” a song possibly about youth gangs, I found myself being helplessly swept up into Unearth’s wall of sound as easily as dairy cow in a Kansas tornado. Though not my cup of Joe, there is no denying the band is tighter than a Swiss timepiece and they offer complex musical arrangements as epic as a David Lean film. From a musical perspective, “Unstoppable” is probably the most melodic track on the release. By point of comparison it sounds like Queensryche on amphetamines and with better chops. Unfortunately, lead singer Trevor Phipps never deviates from growling out his vocals in a traditional, jacked up punk style that wears thin after a few songs. 

On their new disc, Unearth displays incredible musicianship and I am quite sure that fans of metalcore will not be disappointed by their intensity and earnest lyrical themes. Though I am no expert on the genre, I cannot help but think how much more compelling their songs might be if they concentrated on developing more melody and less snarling in the lead vocal department. However, when it comes to playing intense metal at breakneck speed and precision, I doubt there are many rock musicians that could do it better. 

(Metal Blade)

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Crossed Keys – Saviors

Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds

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Crossed Keys Saviors

Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.

Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.

For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.

(Hellminded Records)

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Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”

A glorious sound of a time gone by

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Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.

I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).

To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.

Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.

While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.

Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.

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