When a melodic death metal band chooses a name that could represent a character from either DUNGEONS & DRAGONS or WARHAMMER, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. This is the case with BLACKGUARD, and though you'd be right in suspecting them to have emerged from somewhere in Europe, these guys (and girl) are Canadian.
I was working for the now-defunct Sam Goody a decade ago when THE STROKES burst onto the scene with their now-classic album IS THIS IT. The band was instantly compared to a host of acts from the 1970's, but aside from their lo-fi garage rock approach, I could never find a definitive link between them and any of the bands they were supposedly aping. What mattered is that THE STROKES had a sound that was drastically different from what everyone else was doing at the time, and the album rocked. Ten years later, the band has released ANGLES, an album that confirms what many have suspected: lightning does not strike twice for The Strokes.
AMON AMARTH have had the Viking corner of the death metal world on lock for years, and with the release of SURTUR RISING (out March 29th via Metal Blade), they're firmly planting their flag for the immediate future. Indeed, these Tolkien-core Swedes will be basking in the metal limelight for another couple of years...
With a quick rise and fall marked by a pair of Geffen-released albums, Alabama'sTRUSTcompany quickly dropped off the mainstream radar, announcing a hiatus in the Fall of '05. Six years later, the band is back with their first album for eOne Music. If you dug TRUSTcompany during their fast burn in the early 2000's, you may love their new album, DREAMING IN BLACK AND WHITE. It's exactly what I would've expected their third album to sound like, circa 2006.
Earthquakes. Tsunamis. Nuclear meltdowns. If the Mayans were correct in ending their calendar with the presumption that the world will end in 2012, then BECOMING THE ARCHETYPE have created the soundtrack for the coming apocalypse.
While countless bands have tackled the end of days scenario, never before has it been done with the level of skill and perfection displayed on CELESTIAL COMPLETION (out March 29, 2011 via Solid State). Maintaining an orchestral structure throughout, this is a true album, a presentation of sonic indulgence that must be consumed as a whole to truly appreciate.
When the Seattle titans from SOUNDGARDEN reunited in 2010 for a string of live dates that included a stop at Lollapalooza in Chicago, many wondered if the band would keep it together, or make the reunion short-lived. After their career retrospective TELEPHANTASM went Platinum (a bullshit, label-inflated chart skewing by including the set with Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock), the waters were tested, and it was clear that even though demand didn't exactly match the numbers in reality, listeners were hungry for more. While the band recently announced that they'll be recording a new album this year, a sure-fire way to keep the interest flowing is to release a live album, and that's exactly what we have with the release of LIVE ON I-5 (out March 22 via A&M).
BILLY JOEL is a true American badass. With four decades of musical output behind him, and a series of legendary personal exploits, there's little to be said about the Piano Man that would be a just summary of his artistry or career. The bottom line is that Joel rocks, and he knows it. If you like him, great. If not, he doesn't care. It's that attitude that makes watching LIVE AT SHEA STADIUM so compelling.
When I first heard that STAIND frontman AARON LEWIS was prepping a country record, my first response was to question whether it was genuine, or if he was following the money into more commercial waters. There's been so many occasions in the past where artists do the crossover thing just for a quick buck, it's often hard to separate the real deal from all the pretenders.
Having already been in release in their native New Zealand for quite some time, it's a wonder that KIDS OF 88's JUST A LITTLE BIT didn't arrive in the 'States sooner. The electro-pop duo of Jordan Arts and Sam McCarthy quietly saw the U.S. release of the JUST A LITTLE BIT EP/Single this past November through Dryden Street/Sony Independent Network, and it's just now starting to grow some legs.
If you need solid proof that the great pop-punk comeback of 2011 is in-progress, look no further than UNWRITTEN LAW. Their first set of all-new material in six years, SWAN presents a band that has not only grown musically, but one that sounds just as hungry after two decades as most hope to sound while just starting out.
Canadian tech-metallers NEURAXIS last hit the scene with their 2008 release THE THIN LINE BETWEEN. Since that time, their last founding member has moved on, but the band itself remains the same, serving up another batch of songs that will be far more impressive to fellow musicians than to the public at large.
From the moment I laid eyes on the morbidly beautiful cover for THE HUMAN ROMANCE, the seventh studio album from Washington D.C.'s DARKEST HOUR, I was intrigued. A fan of their earlier work beginning with SO SEDATED, SO SECURE (2001), and following them through HIDDEN HANDS OF A SADIST NATION (2003) and UNDOING RUIN (2005), I'd actually given up on the band, skipping their last two albums as I felt that with UNDOING, they'd fallen into the same "metalcore" trappings as many of their peers - it all sounded the same. Based on cover art alone, I was ready to give the band another chance.