Album Review: Soundgarden ‘King Animal’


king-animal

Soundgarden – King Animal
Genre: Rock
Label: Republic Records

Soundgarden, perhaps known as “that band that did Black Hole Sun”, left a big mark in rock music worldwide in the 90s in the rise and peak of grunge fascination. Although the band did get caught up in the whole Seattle grunge scene, along with the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Screaming Trees, etc., Soundgarden had a big southern rock and metallic influence with their dirty approach to rock music.

Despite starting in 1984, it was only in 1991 that they experienced international success with undeniably great “Badmotorfinger”, and furthered that success with the fan favourite album “Superunknown” in 1994. Both albums launched the band to the front of music magazines around the globe, and gave the world rock anthems like Jesus Christ PoseRusty CageSpoonman and Fell On Black Days. However, the follow-up album, “Down On The Upside”, didn’t quite live up to the standards of the previous two albums, although achieving Platinum sales in the US, Canada and Australia. Tension in the band and clashes for future motives and directions of the music then culminated in their break-up in 1997.

This led to a series of new projects for each member; the most popular being vocalist Chris Cornell with Audioslave and his solo career. Guitarist Kim Thayil went an underground route, working with the likes of punk legend Jello Biafra, Dave Grohl’s collaborative project Probot and even featured on the Sunn O))) and Boris album “Altar”. Bassist Ben Shepard worked with another grunge idol Mark Lanegan and Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi, while drummer Matt Cameron momentarily joined The Smashing Pumpkins and eventually joining Pearl Jam full time.

Many years later, this leads us to now. In 2010, the guys decided to put past disputes aside and have reunited to give us their sixth album, finally releasing a new album “King Animal” in 2012. As expected, pressure is always on for a band that has built its own legacy and popularity worldwide, left and to return well over a decade with new material… and Soundgarden has done well.

The first track and single, Been Away Too Long, a title well chosen, starts the album in fourth gear and borrows a huge influence from Led Zeppelin with its guitar-driven sound and Chris Cornell’s signature raspy, old-school rock voice has aged a little, sounding a little coarser, but this only adds to the atmosphere. None-State Actor starts with a skipping and sliding bass, sounding a lot like something you might expect from a psychedelic stoner band, and is a lot more prominent in the overall mix than the guitar. There’s also the use of an organ keys and the good ol’ cowbell, furthering the old rock’n’roll vibes.

By Crooked Steps returns to a heavier sound that Soundgarden were known for before and features perhaps the most memorable riff; highlighting Thayil’s pretty intricate guitar within overlapping layers. It’s the nearest to their old song that you get on the album, and it’s great! On the other hand, the following track A Thousand Days Before is cleaner, and again its the skipping guitar lines that steal the show; however the rest of it can be a little forgettable.

Unfortunately this is the case for a few songs on the album, either due to forgettable lyrics/vocals and predictable song structures – something that Soundgarden had previously been known for being experimental in. Blood On The Valley turns out to be the prime example of this; just being a tad monotonous with its slow jam approach, and while it is relaxing it is ultimately skippable too. However, sixth track Bones Of Birds turns it around completely, despite being another slow song. The slightly distorted, lethargic guitars along with Cornell’s vocals creates a nice mellow yet thoughtful atmosphere that really grabs your attention without trying.

Taree continues the ballad section of the album, but dips back to the same dryness of  Blood On The Valley, which is disappointing considering the heavy feel of Bones Of Birds. Thankfully, Attrition picks up the pace of the album again with a seductive ZZ Top-like groove, Cornell’s vocals floating soothingly over the top of the driving instrumental. Black Saturday sees the band mostly acoustic, and it hooks you in with opening’s bongos and lines “Promise something / Kill me right away if I start to get slow / Don’t remember / How to separate the worm from the apple / Don’t wait ’til tomorrow”. Although the subject matter sounds dark, the delivery of it feels nothing but enlightening; easily making up for the previous dud tracks.

Then Halfway There is probably the most up-beat sounding song on the album, especially with lines like “Sometimes when you’re shooting an arrow it can fly across the sky so proud”. The guitar tone that appeared on their hit Black Hole Sun also emerges on this track, which works well with the reminiscent feel of the track. Tenth track Worse Dreams opens with low guitar sweeps as a lead drones on top; soon drums and the bass comes in with Cornell coming in last, slowly swelling into big rockin’ chorus. The track just has a real playful feel to it.

Eyelid’s Mouth starts off mellow with guitar effects and a jamming drum, before the the guitar settles into a lead groove backed by the bass, with backing vocals supporting Cornell on “Who let the water run down / Who let the river run dry” – making the track brooding yet enjoyable. The final track, Rowing, stands out in comparison with the rest of the album and an odd choice for a closer: the drums have an electronic yet live feel to them, with a low, fast-rolling bass (in very short bursts) but the vocal melody resonates the blues – it’s almost as if the band are prisoners working on building a railway in the warm sun. The track then fades out the same as it started, leaving you unsure of what you’ve just heard.

Overall, this seems like the lighter direction that Cornell had been fighting for towards their break-up all those years ago, because this album in comparison to the likes of “Badmotorfinger” and “Superunknown” is a big shift to a more mainstream sound; but it isn’t the bad thing. Yes, Soundgarden seem to have lost the grit and edge that made their music so impossible to turn down on “King Animal”, but they’ve proven that they can master the the more softer aesthetics of rock music just as well. Perhaps this is just a sign of the band warming up and cracking their knuckles for the future.

As I said, some tracks do come across as a bit linear and boring, but overall the album is pretty good as a whole. The experimental side is lacking, and again, it isn’t as heavy as some of their earlier material, but it’s a promising return for Soundgarden and certain tracks more than make up for the forgettable. For 13 years of being apart, this is a pretty solid release.

6.5/10
Favourite tracks: Black SaturdayBy Crooked StepsBones Of Birds.

Review by Rich Reviewz

Album Review: Deftones ‘Koi No Yokan’


Deftones – Koi No Yokan
Genre: Alternative Rock/Metal
Label: Reprise

Deftones, a name that has undeniably made its way into the life of a fan of rock or metal in general, for better or for worse. Going through the band’s history would require an essay twice as long as this review will be with all the rumours, addictions and the additions of members as years passed. All you need to know is that Deftones are known for never making the same album twice: constantly evolving their sound into something else with every release… is “Koi No Yokan” a step in another direction again? Yes.

It felt an age since Deftones released anything new, but it’s only been over two years when they released “Diamond Eyes”. Two years prior to the 2010 release, a horrible car accident left bassist Chi Cheung in a coma, and instead of putting their talents to rest  the band continued (while garnering moral and financial support for Chi and his family) with the help of Quicksand bassist Sergio Verga, who makes his second album with Deftones via “Koi No Yokan”. However, music is the business here…

To put it bluntly, Deftones have really managed to pull some astonishing feats on this album. Several songs sound like short soundtracks to crumbling of old statues that have finally fallen from time or stars ploughing into cities that have stood through thousands of years of civilisations; like nature the resetting of a score. Then others are some of the most sincere love ballads with a punch that you’ve heard in years. The overall sound is titanic, huge, colossal and any other synonyms for ‘big’ I haven’t included: it’s just massive.

What’s different? Well, Stef’s toned down the obvious Meshuggah-influenced riffs that appeared often in “Diamond Eyes” and has leaned back to style of the hard-hitters on “Saturday Night Wrist”, and it seems that Sergio’s presence is a lot more prominent too, and that his role in the band is a lot more relaxed and creative. Probably the most surprising thing in consideration of the overall sound is that Chino rarely screams on this album – possibly cementing it as the most vocally clean album in their discography to date. Otherwise, Abe and Frank provide their usual attributes to the sound, the former giving his standard powerful and catchy drums while the latter adds keys and moments of ambience to the mix.

Opener Swerve City starts at full pace – no soft introduction, no build-up, just a guitar riff that inspires nothing but high jumps immediately, but then smoothly transcends into an almost drive-at-night soundtrack with its smooth flow and Chino’s alluring vocals. The track just prepares you for what to expect for the rest of the album. Romantic Dreams has an old school alt rock feel, not far from the likes of their favourites Jawbox, and teasingly progresses into one of the catchiest choruses that Deftones have ever penned; which will no doubt have audiences at live performances weeping along to “I’m hypnotised by your name / I wish this night would never end”. Just a powerful track so early into the album that makes you wonder how can they possibly keep the it up.

Leathers starts of softly with some tingling ambience between a clean guitar notes and keys, almost promising a break from the energy of the first two tracks, but then the whole band jumps in and throws a heavy slab of aggressive riffs and generally one of the more metal sounding moments on the album, before dropping into a melodic chorus with the haunting “Shedding your skin / Showing your texture / Time to let everything inside show”. The song could easily have fitted in on “Saturday Night Wrist” too.

Next is Poltergeist, which opens with claps and a rumbling bassline, letting you know that you can expect the same high energy as the previous tracks. In fact, this track feels like it would be at home on “White Pony”, despite the polyrhythmic style of the guitar at parts. Entombed however is the first time where the band mellows out, reminiscing the mood and style of Sextape (from “Diamond Eyes”) with its seductive melody and eloquent chorus, featuring a nice play between synth-keys and drums during the outro.

Sixth track Graphic Nature returns to the aggressive style ,with jarring and slightly disjointed guitars, yet the melody is plentiful. Tempest is the first track to reach to over the 6-minute mark, filled with those driving-through-the-night feeling riffs while mystical lyrics flow over the top, especially with the chorus haunting “Turning in circles / Caught is a stasis / The ancient arrival / Cut to the end”. It’s just hypnotic in its delivery and oddly soothing even with the distorted guitars.

Gauze is yet another track that charges in with aggression as Chino sings warning messages over the top, but there’s no simpler way to describe the following track Rosemary other than if there was a song to describe the beauty of the Universe, this would be it. The sound is on such a grand scale that it feels like it weighs more than the Earth, which peaks with the enormous chorus of “Time shifting / We discover the entry / To other planes”, playing heavily on atmosphere.

Goon Squad, though starting with soft scrapes across clean chords, is full of spiteful aggression – especially with Chino’s opening line “I carve my name across your town when I’m set” and the later “Before we get down you should prepare your heart strings / To cut all the ties and watch the trends begin”. Final track What Happened To You? provides a smooth ending to the album, sounding like a hybrid between the styles of “Saturday Night Wrist” and “Diamond Eyes”, and Sergio’s bassline embeds itself into your memory, as Stef’s guitar sounds more complimentary than being the focus to the overall sound (which isn’t a complaint).

In the end, this may be the most consistently pleasing album since “White Pony”. Every track is memorable and addictive, and there’s nothing that spoils the album or seems out of place in the slightest. Instrumentally, Deftones have tightened the screws since the fairly rough “Diamond Eyes”, and it feels like the band may have been keeping their best riffs and grooves during the last ten years and saved them up for this album alone.

There’s no reason for the hardcore Deftones fan to be disappointed by this. In hindsight, after listening to this album, you might just question what they’ve been doing during the previous few releases, and not because they’re bad, but because you wonder why this album is so much more satisfying than the last few.

It’s been worth the wait.

9.3/10
Favourite tracks: Romantic DreamsRosemary, Leathers, Goon Squad.

Review by Rich Reviewz

Time to Hit the Road: Undertaking the 1st international tour


The 2nd in a series of posts from our friend Jason Lekberg; frontman of metal band IKILLYA and VP of Digital Marketing and Strategy for the Eleven Seven Music group, where he tells us his experience of taking his band from New York to the United Kingdom.

Touring is probably the most complex part of being a musician. It’s simultaneously the most fun, most expensive, most effective and most difficult part of growing as a band. I think I can speak for all of you that the thought of your job being cruising from place to place with your friends to play music is one of the main reasons we started playing in the first place. It’s a blast and the feeling of working for yourself is really irreplaceable. You know your songs and how to execute them so you don’t wake up in the morning stressed about getting your job done or having to put up with some asshole boss who makes everyone else’s life hell because they hate their own. You get to play for people who (hopefully) dig your music and are looking forward to seeing you. You sell music and merch and begin to build a base of people who enjoy and maybe are even moved by your music. It’s the next step in your career and as a musician in heavy music, it’s the only real way to make yourself known. You can put out music and you might get some accolades for it, but if you have any hope of becoming more than a weekend warrior local band, you have to tour.

That’s all the good stuff. The bad is that it costs far more than you’ll ever make starting out and you’ve got to do all the work of booking the gigs and finding food and lodging on your own. For many people the intersection of “old enough to make money to support your band” and “too much responsibility to quit your job and hit the road” comes very early. When you’re young you’ve got no real money to support a tour and by the time you do, how you make that money doesn’t allow you to take time to go on tour. It’s a tough place to be and many bands never make it past the discussion stage at that age. I’ve been in bands on both sides of the coin and have learned a few things that may hopefully help you when it comes time to make that choice yourself.

It goes without saying that your band has to love to play more than they love money to survive but you still have to figure out how to eat. I’m sure most of you are already playing cities in your local area that you can get to by car or train on the weekends so we’ll jump right to touring somewhere you need time off to get to. When IKILLYA decided to go to the UK (we’re from NYC) to tour last year I booked the whole thing on my own. It’s just like booking your own city, kind of.

Once you’ve decided to tour, the first thing you need to figure out is how you’re going to get there and how you’re going to get around while you are there. Figure out flight costs, van costs, gear rental, gas, hotels/lodging and food in advance and then add 30% (cause there are going to be expenses you don’t expect) and if you can’t afford all of that, stop now. If you’re reading this you’re likely a band looking at one of their first tours so there probably won’t be a lot of money to be made from the door or merch. My advice would be to expect that you are going to make no money at all and if you do, view it as a bonus. If you’re going to another country, research the Musicians Visa process and prepare to file. Most countries won’t let you even file until you have a tour routing, but you’ll need to know that countries laws and be as prepared as possible so you can file quickly once you’re done. I think the show “locked up abroad” should convince you it’s not worth the risk of sneaking in. Once you’ve got all that done, you can start booking.

I started by using Facebook, Google, and ReverbNation to find other bands similar to my own in the UK and then looked at where they were playing. ReverbNation has an amazing tool called Gig Finder that lets you put in a location and shows you venues played by other RN members in that area. I began building an excel document of each venue, it’s address and booking contact information, and the same for any promoters I saw putting on heavy music shows there. I also began reaching out to bands to see if any of them would be interested in either helping us set up a show or introducing us to their local promoter or club. Most bands were not helpful, but a few were and we got some great shows from them. I was also fortunate enough to receive an old promoter and club contact list from a friend in the industry. It needed to be gone through as many of the clubs and promoters listed were no longer operational but after combining that list with mine I had a great starting point. I’ll be honest, we’re talking about a week+ of late nights putting this together.

Once I had my list, I began personally emailing each contact with a short letter I put together that gave an overview of my band, our achievements (specifically those that would show we had the possibility to attract fans in the UK) and links to our music, video, EPK, how much $ we were looking for and what dates we were looking at. I thanked them all for their time in advance and worked hard to be very honest about the level my band was at. At this early stage you are building relationships and the last thing you want to do is have a promoter/club book you on false pretenses and then be pissed after your show. The industry is very small and if you want to come back (which you need to and should be planning to if you’re going this far) you’ll need friends and professionals who speak highly of you. If they’re not interested in taking a chance on you, you don’t want them to anyway so don’t get upset when you don’t hear back.

I haven’t counted exactly but I estimate I got responses to about 5% of the emails I sent. Some of the responses were people being kind enough to let me know that they were not interested, some were people kind enough to give the contact of those who could help me and a very few were actually interested in booking us. I logged the dates when I emailed each contact in my excel sheet and also their responses. I then took the new contacts sent to me and emailed each of them as well. As I began confirming dates I built a google map marking the locations of potential and confirmed shows so that I could schedule the dates in the best way possible. I’ll be honest though, the end result did have us doing a bit more traveling than I would have liked, but at least we had shows.

Once I had the semblance of a tour together I sent one more email to those on the list who never responded letting them know which dates were still open and asking if they could help fill those. This actually got some responses as I’m sure many people read the first note and thought “these guys are never going to get themselves over here so I’m not going to waste my time”. As soon as it was apparent we were coming either way I’m sure they saw less risk. Eventually I had a whole routing together, but I’ll be honest – it took nearly 4 months. By the time I was done I had been passed on to someone else so many times that my excel was almost 3 times as long as when I started, and we had to move the whole tour 2 months to make it work.

Once your dates are solid you can submit for your Visa, buy your flights, rent your van and gear and start promoting. If you don’t already have them, make up posters and ship them to each venue at least 3 weeks before each show. I also bought super targeted facebook ads through ReverbNation for each show. They cost $25 each and just ran to the people in each specific town targeted to those who like the magazines we had gotten features in. Of course you’re going to promote it on your sites and if you have a publicist have them release a press release and begin reaching out to local press in each city for interviews and show reviews. If you don’t have a publicist, hit up google and make yourself a new excel. Put together a list of the local press and reach out to set up coverage.

Simple right? Now all you have to do is get your ass there and play the shows. haha. I have a few last tips for you though. Before you leave, make a tour book that lists each show, it’s address, the address of where you’re staying, the location of hospitals close to both, the promoter/venues phone number name and any other info you may need about it. You have no idea how good your cell service will be and who knows if your laptop battery will survive so print that stuff out and give everyone in the band a copy. If you have confirmed press, put that in there for each day too along with what time you need to leave each city and arrive at each venue. Next, remember that most countries will charge you tax for bringing merch to sell into the country. You can either find a local merch distributor to print stuff for you in that country or pack it in your suitcase. If you’re the size of my band you likely won’t have enough merch to arouse suspicion or really be worth taxing so I think this is an acceptable risk.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, be a professional to the clubs, promoters and other venues. Show up when they ask, thank them for their time and effort and roll with the fucking punches. There are going to be lots of them. If the venue doesn’t have a good PA, make the best of it. If they don’t want to let you soundcheck, deal with it. If the other bands play too long, roll with it and cut your set a song or two short. You want to leave there with everyone wanting you to come back as soon as possible. Hopefully, you won’t have to deal with any promoters that try and screw you out of money they promised, but if they do, remember that you don’t want to go to jail in a country you’re not a citizen of. If you properly budgeted as I described above then you don’t need the money anyway so go about your business and when you get home, make sure everyone knows never to deal with them again. We were very fortunate to not have any of those issues and in general found everyone we dealt with to be pleasant and willing to go out of their way to help us. I expect you’ll find the same 99% of the time.

After all that, it’s all about the music. If people dig it, next time you’ll be able to ask for more money and eventually, you might not be losing money on the tour and that’s really all we can ask for isn’t it?

METAL

Jason Lekberg
www.IKILLYA.com
http://www.facebook.com/IKILLYAofficial

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Disney Acquires Lucasfilm; Fans Are Concerned


The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Aladdin… and Star Wars? It may seem like a game of “which of these things is not like the others,” but now that The Walt Disney Company is acquiring Lucasfilm, this means that all of George Lucas’ creations, including Star Wars, will become a part of Disney’s big family.

In addition to acquiring the rights to the entire Lucasfilm catalogue, Disney will also gain the rights to use any of the technologies that Lucasfilm has used to create sound and visual effects, as well as the merchandise that comes along with the films. Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm’s co-chairman, will take over as president of the company and executive producer of any new Star Wars episodes. George Lucas himself will stay on as a consultant.

The announcement of the $4 billion deal has sparked both interest and controversy, mostly from fans who are concerned that the merger could lead to a watering-down of both brands. With a new Star Wars film in the works, there’s also a lot of speculation as to the details of the production, and who might be brought in to direct the film.

There has been some talk of relative newcomer indie director Colin Trevorrow, who directed Safety Not Guaranteed, coming forward to take on the next few Star Wars episodes. Although it may seem like an odd choice, Lucas met with Trevorrow earlier in the year and discussed possible projects, though it is not known for certain if Star Wars in particular was on the table. Some bigger name directors have also been mentioned, including Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, and David Fincher.

As for George Lucas, he assures fans of Star Wars that he has left the franchise in good hands with the Disney takeover, and that it was always his plan to pass the company on while he could still control the direction of its evolution. Lucas didn’t just want to leave it for others to decide in the future, so the Disney deal allows him to have the greatest amount of say in the future of Lucasfilm and its creative endeavours.

Episode 7 of Star Wars is not slated for release until 2015, which gives Disney plenty of time to get organized and work out how they’re going to go about the production.

Written by — Brynn Alexander lives and breathes all things music. When she’s not ditching work to catch her favorite artists, she’s writing about entertainment for up-to-date-events.com and others.