Code Orange - I Am King (2014)

Code Orange's I Am King is strange, devastatingly heavy and cohesive all at once. Being the band's sophomore album release, Code Orange has certainly stepped up its game in every way possible. You can think of the previous album (Love is Love//Return to Dust) as an energetic, pissed-off kid. However, I Am King is that same kid, now a few years older with a full suit of body armor and weaponry. Taking influences from bands such as Turmoil, Disembodied, Earth Crisis and Vision of Disorder, I Am King is truly a powerhouse to be reckoned with. Clocking in at about 32 minutes, the half hour of music is a total onslaught leaving very little room for recovery.

The title track, “I Am King,” will give you a sense of uneasiness – only to be completely decimated by the ending of the song. “Slowburn” is another song that creates total destruction. “Dreams in Inertia” is Code Orange dragging you into a haunting hypnosis, but you will soon be woken up by the full blown assault that is “Unclean Spirit.” The ending of this song is my favourite part of the entire album. Listen and find out why.

“Alone in a Room” and “My World” are two of the best songs, in which I think the members of Code Orange showcase the best of everything they have to offer. “Starve” is the only song where you are able to catch your breath, for, when it ends, “Your Body Is Ready...” is a full-on battery. “Thinners of the Herd” and “Bind You” are also two solid songs, but “Mercy” is where your life ends. It's an amazing song, and the ending is unspeakably devastating and obliterating.

Love it or hate it, this is Code Orange. “Out with the old. In with the new. No Mercy.” Taking elements from all across the spectrum of heavy music, I Am King is THE hardcore record of the year. Unafraid of criticism and naysayers, Code Orange has shaped themselves into a band that will not go unnoticed. The shattering guitar riffs, the unforgiving drumming, Goldman’s crazy bass riffs and the outstanding vocals of Jami, Reba and Eric create an album that is truly all that Code Orange wanted it to be.

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Exalt - Pale Light (2014)

Exalt, hailing from Ontario, is a band that will leave you with a sense of dark emptiness and blind aggression when listening to its music – especially with its second LP, Pale Light , as it's a force to be reckoned with.

“Death Is A Road” begins the album, and we soon hear a punishing riff, but that is only the beginning. Songs such as “Forsaken” and “Greying” are fast and you leave in the dust by the time the breakdown kicks in. “Deafen” is foreboding and a total ass beater all at the same time.

What I really enjoy about this album, though, is the differences in the songs. While many of the songs are a blistering whirlwind, a few stand out. The title track, “Pale Light,” has an eerie introduction, but when the song comes full circle, it sounds like something that would be in a medieval war film right before a grand battle. “Palmcarver” is a full-on noise track, and the vocals create an even more unsettling feeling. The lyrics “End all earth / Clean all skin / Fear all life” are drilled into your skull. “Feed” is the best of the best on this album, as Exalt truly shows all that it has. The intro riff makes me headbang vehemently, while the second half of the song is dark and mysterious, and it will leave you lost in a haze.

“Flesh to Ash” reveals the chaotic aspect that was more present on the first LP, but here we have it done better than ever before. “Fear Is the Hand” closes the album, leaving you with a sense of uneasiness and a sudden need to regain your balance after finally ending the shadowy barrage of anger that is Pale Light. Simply put, if you like unrelenting metallic hardcore with an evil and sharp tinge, this album is a necessity for your ears.

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Gallery: The Wonder Years' Fall Headliner (10/31/14)

The Wonder Years finished off its fall headliner in Bethlehem, PA this past Halloween night. About half of the 2,000 people in attendance were in costume (many of those being bananas) for the costume contest judged by The Wonder Years' merch guy. Hey Arnold took home the top prize, and Ron Burgundy and Jesus were runner ups. Gnarwolves, a punk trio all the way from the UK, kicked off the night. The crowd really got going as Modern Baseball took the stage as bed sheet ghosts. The very close to hometown crowd was the loudest of the night up to that point as the band rolled through 10 songs. The Story So Far came out as true rockers (except guitarist Will Levy who opted for the skeleton look) and ended the set with a massive instrument swap with other bands that included a saxophone solo. The Wonder Years finished off the tour dressed as breakfast while fans (including one dressed as Hank the Pigeon) screamed and crowd surfed for the duration of the long set. Check out some photos from the fun night below.


Modern Baseball

The Story So Far

The Wonder Years

Links: Gnarwolves - Modern Baseball - The Story So Far - The Wonder Years - Dieter Unrath Photography
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Gates - Bloom & Breathe (2014)

I have always wanted to come up with a word in the English language that specifically translates to coming across something exactly when you needed it, but for now I'll just settle with serendipitous. This is exactly how listening to Gates' latest full length, Bloom & Breathe, has felt to me. It is easily one of the smartest releases from Pure Noise Records I have heard this fall. Musically, it is as good as Gates has ever been and it is perfected by Kevin Dye's simple and unpretentious mastery of thematically connecting lyrics.

"Everything That Ever Has Been" is the instrumental number that kicks off the album with Gates' trademark ambient sound that provokes feelings of wonder and hope. It made me think of being out somewhere then hearing a really tranquil song come on, and next thing you know you are thinking about your entire life at 3 P.M., but somehow feeling okay with it – which is, consequently, precisely how this album will make you feel. "Bloom" pauses for a moment before diving in much heavier than the opener. It delivers exactly as a second song always should – captivating the attention of listeners. After the three-minute mark, there is a part that requires close listening because the muffled lyrics delineate the overall themes of the album.

"Persist in Delusion" is one of those songs that talks about being strong and letting go of the things we cannot control. Despite its positive message, the chorus is a little too generic; in my opinion, it's one of the few weak songs on the album, but the great drumming towards the end almost makes up for it. "Not My Blood" is easily the most commercially sounding track with its anthemic chorus – and that's probably why it's the song that got the music video. Don't take away Gates' street cred just yet, though, as this song is brilliant not just because of its sticky chorus, but it also has a hell of a good second verse.

"Light the First Page" falls rather flat compared to the rest of tracks, but it is ironic that Dye sings about being words on a page that no one will ever read and being sentenced to be free of any meaning considering how big this album could be for Gates and their listeners. "The Thing That Would Save You," presumably dedicated to a loved one with mental health or emotional problems, is one of the sweetest songs of the album. It's not one of my favourites, but it will definitely resonate with a lot of people.

While "Nothing You'll Miss" is one of the most mellow tracks on Bloom & Breathe, it highlights the only real critique I have of this album – which is the irritatingly low and indiscernible vocals. While the low vocals do effectively complement most songs, they also make it incredibly hard to properly make out the lyrics sometimes. It is a shame because of how much of this album's lyrics circulate as one theme and deserve to be properly noticed. "At Last the Loneliest of Them" is reminiscent of a lot of bands in the last 10 years; particularly, I hear Circa Survive and Underoath in this song, but the familiarity is appreciated because this is easily one of the most underrated songs on the album. The end is especially haunting with one of the best lyrical and musical climaxes on Bloom & Breathe.

"Born Dead" is not exactly a standout, but it weaves nicely to the theme of accepting mortality that has been building up throughout Bloom & Breathe if you closely listen to it. "Marrow" does the same thing as well and, despite being one of the musically tamest numbers on the album, it makes up for that with all the similar lyrics on the album finally coming in full circle. In short, the lyrics are about Dye, or at least the character he has been singing about and, despite he could be better, he accepts his mortality and the way he is. "Low" is wistful perfection; however, despite its depressing lyrics and tone, this song makes you feel anything but low for some reason. It shows Gates' growth because they have mastered how to evoke intense emotion, but somehow still make their listeners – or at least me – feel light.

"Again at the Beginning" is more of a grower than a shower. Compared to the last great half, it falls a bit short, but it's still good and it's a perfect segue into the closer. "Everything That Always Will Be" mirrors the opener – title and music wise – as a way to nicely round out the album. It also acts as a complete instrumental and is nothing particularly special, but it finishes just as the album started: on a hopeful note.

There are so many more things I could say about this album, especially of its existential lyrics and how they come together wonderfully. Almost every song on here deserves an extensive listen because, the more you listen to it, the more you realize why Gates has grown from playing tiny shows at The Court Tavern to opening up for Pianos Become the Teeth at Webster Hall. Bloom & Breathe is proof that Gates deserves that opportunity and that basing your band out of New Brunswick, New Jersey still upholds to its talented history.

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Xerxes - Collision Blonde (2014)

Xerxes' new album, Collision Blonde, is one that I have been looking forward to for several months now. The write up for this Kentucky four-piece band's new album that No Sleep Records put up on their site peaked my interest even more with every word. When I listened to the first single, I was immediately hooked and wanted more. With each passing day, Xerxes was moving further up my list of bands to watch out for. I finally got the opportunity to listen to and review the album and, while it doesn't live up to my high expectations, it is a good release. Collision Blonde is due to come out October 21 under No Sleep Records.

The opening track, "I Was Wrong," comes in with a steady drum rhythm and heavily distorted guitars layered with even more distorted vocals. This goes on for about two minutes until the next track, "Criminal, Animal," comes on and shows you what Xerxes has been doing under the hood for the past two years since the last full release, This Home Is Our Deathbed. Heavy rock guitar riffs, catchy bass lines and angsty vocal delivery fortified by persistently crushing drum beats makes up this track – as well as the majority of Collision Blonde. The fourth track, "Knife," is much more slower paced than the rest of the album, but it slays all the same.

The fifth track, "Use As Directed," is really bland and just layers screams over talking, much like the band's previous 7", Would You Understand?. The next song, "Chestnut Street," is easily the highlight of the album. With a guitar riff that will get stuck in your head for days, a faster pace and catchy hooks, this track is the one you will find yourself coming back to over and over again. The next track, "Collision Blonde," begins slow but soon picks up the pace as the vocalist tells his story.

"(but here we are)," the ninth track, is just made up of spoken vocals and reminds me of La Dispute. There were even some other moments on the album where I got this feeling, but not as strong as I did on "(but here we are)." This song tends to be the one I always want to skip, as it seems to drag on for a little too long and doesn't feel right compared to the rest of the atmosphere in Collision Blonde. The final track, "Nosedive," is an excellent track to bring this album to a close. It takes every new element that Xerxes has brought with this new album and throws it into one track to finish off Collision Blonde.

With a sound being compared to The Cure, Xerxes displays a monumental amount of growth from its previous release. My main gripe is the amount of filler tracks. Three of the 10 tracks don't feel like actual songs. For an album that is only 27 minutes long, 25 per cent of it feels wasted on these bland, lesser tracks. Collision Blonde's best three songs ("Knife", "Chestnut Street" and "Collision Blonde") were all released as singles, so I felt cheated when I finally got the chance to listen to the album in full. Other than that, Collision Blonde is a solid release. Going for a completely different sound was a bold move by Xerxes, but it was pulled off well enough.

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