Classic Album Review :: & You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead — Source Tags & Codes

I fought with myself for a time about which one of the 10+ albums to write about. Minus one album, I fucking love everything this band has released, and the one album is not bad. It just doesn’t hold a candle to everything else this band has done. So, I thought I’d write about the first album that I picked up from this band. Unrelated, but this also stands as my favourite from this band.

On top of having the longest name of any band I revisit on a regular basis, & You Will Know Us By the Trail Of Dead (from here on referred to as Trail of Dead) is one of the most reliable bands that I have ever come across. They brilliantly fuse punk and folk, without sounding too pirate based. Somehow, their recording tone is always huge — larger than life, really.

For just being three main musicians on the recording, it’s a bit amazing. Yes, this album boasts having over 13 musicians in the studio, but the band was only a 3-piece at the time. And, regardless of how many people were in the studio: the drums are what make everything so bombastic. The kick drum in particular permeates every noise layered over it- almost like it is defying anything to try to drown it out.

Guitars are a beautiful drone. Yes, there are probably many layers of distortion and lead riffs, but they are used to create a beautiful miasma that guide the orchestrations from part to part. “How Near How Far” is a brilliant demonstration of this. Though the bass slides up and down the scales, and the guitars jingle through several notes, it creates this level of noise. Yes, there is definition. You need to find it, however. Rarely does an album challenge the listener this much to realize just how beautiful it is.

Now, when I saw challenge the listener, I am not saying that it is off-putting or not pleasant. I am simply pointing out how from afar it seems like a simple pop-rock album with strained vocals. It’s when you sit down and listen deeper that you notice the nuance and complexity that comes with this recording.

Second favourite opening for an album ever, by the way. The only album that takes it over is the album So Divided that Trail of Dead released 4 years later. The intro track is only 1:29, but it complexly disarms the listener before the chaos starts. If you wanted to discredit that track as the intro, the first song (It Was There That I Saw You) kicks the listener in the face right away. It is nothing short of an assault on the senses. As hard as it kicks in, the song moves into a lull by the 1:00 mark. It is an amazing piece, the the song as a whole has an almost classical orchestration.

I could gush over every song individually, but I should really think about wrapping this piece up. My end thoughts on this recommendation are as follows: if you know the band, this album is nowhere near surprising. If you don’t already have it, I question your taste in music. If you DO NOT know this band, do yourself the greatest favour ever and listen through this masterpiece.

Also, you’re welcome.

HEY! Did you know that I have released a book?

It’s a reedit of You’re Not Dead with a bunch of other short stories all wrapped up. The length has ballooned out to a nice 205 pages. It’s really inexpensive, and available most places that you would order a book from! Links here, but let me know if you find more and I will update accordingly!

Classic Album Review :: Alexisonfire — Self Title

I just noticed that this album was almost 20 years old. I was in grade nine when then came out, I was just discovering scremo/emo, ska, and skate punk, I was very embroiled in the metal scene. Then, when watching some music video program way too late at night, I saw the debut for Pulmonary Archery. I did not get it, but Holy Fuck I loved it.

What’s absolutely brilliant about this album is how simple everything is if you remove the guitars. Yes, the guitar lines are incredibly ornate and demonstrate what can be done in punk music, but everything else is simple and fantastic! The bass drives the songs and keeps the structures attainable, the drums do little more than drive the beat, and the singing is just simple enough to get melodies trapped in your head forever. Even the screams are perfectly placed to ensure that you notice them.

Now, let’s get back to those guitars.

My prime example of how incredible the guitars are is the song Counterparts and Number Them. The parts individuly, though weird, are not difficult. The impressive part is in knowing they were ever not entwined. They bounce between being lead and rhythm every bar, and they never leave the listener bored. The best part about the guitar is that nothing, not even the drums, cast the dullest shadow.

There is something magical about how simple the drums are. They just compliment the music and never become overbearing. I think every not-real drummer in my high school could play Pulmonary Archery. Not as a slight! It just leant itself to being replicated.

Now I sound like an arrogant asshole so MOVING ON.

I started to write this, decided against it, and then discovered that they were inspired by Quicksand. I love that band to no end, but never hear anyone talk about them. I was forced into writing this because of that fact alone.

Seeing as there has been nothing this hard hitting in the punk-scene since Refused, and this is a fantastic tribute. I recognize that there have been other near-hits in regards to this sound, but nothing is near as iconic.

Music Review :: Yell the Burden — Lost & Found

I know I usually write about stuff that came out forever ago, but this album just got noticed. It may have just been released.

Anyway, this band is fantastic. I played with them several times, and they are bred from Krhaemer. Krhaemer being one of the first bands that I ever saw. What’s amazing about this band is how they make being ridiculous sound normal. I am getting ahead of myself.

This album has some of the cleanest vocals this band has produced. The vocals are like a less annoying Choke. In fact, this band is like a less annoying several things. Take the best things that the classic punk scene could produce, and distil it all together. That’s right: the best of all the best. Now make it better.

Dillinger Escape Plan meets Belvedere meets Choke meets Fall of Troy. That would be the easiest way I could describe this band.

OH! AND SINGLE KICK! somehow. Seriously, how? The drummer is literally inhuman. When listening to the EP knowing that it’s single kick, you can fathom it. If you had no idea, you assume he used double. To substitute the potential extra hits, his hands strike toms between beats. His hands are so bloody fast.

Have I mentioned the bass yet? One would be put to talk to find jazz with bass this complicated. For the best example, listen to Leaving Shippinsburg and thank me later. The entire thing is just scales and melody’s that shouldn’t be possible.

…and you know that ever part of the band is fantastic if I talk about the ridiculous guitar player last. Considering he is the lead vocal last I saw them, I have a hard time wrapping my mind around playing and singing the songs.

At the end of this short review where I don’t point you to a song but beg you to enjoy this 20 min EP, I am reminded why I usually stick to writing about classic albums. I can delve into political movements and the greater ecosystem that is the music industry. I can examine trends and maybe recommend a track that was ignored by charts and fandom’s. It doesn’t change the fact that if you are a punk fan OR a math-metal fan, you need to listen to this album. You need to explore this bands full back catalogue, but this album is a fantastic place to start.

Download or just listen here.

Classic Album Review :: Thursday — War All the Time

Happy new decade! Yes, I am aware that there was no year zero, thus next year is the new decade. I like 0’s, though: so you have to put up with my excitement for a bit.

This is the best “emo” album ever created, and I have no regrets saying that.

It’s a bit unfortunate that everyone just associates this album with the political climate of the early 2000’s: specifically in response to the “war on terror” and the invasion of the middle east. This album puts a spotlight on the financial situation that we are still plagued by. Everything from a priority put on finances to the abandonment of happiness in a pursuit for the advancement of financial gain.

I digress, let’s start with the music.

I don’t think I have ever found a better intro for an album. “For the Workforce, Drowning” starts this album off with seven of the most abrasive hits that have ever been composed. The entire song highlights the musical prowess of this band. Beautifully harmonized guitars, tasteful drum lines, and an almost off-key singer. I am ready to be proven wrong; but, at least from my personal plunge into music, this marks the first time a bass was used as more that just rhythm. From the 1:52 point until 2:32, the guitar takes a back seat to beautifully composed bass-lead that eases the listener from the barrage that just occurred. It only last for about 30 seconds before the slap-in-the-face that is the ending. It almost creates a false sense of calm before the climax of the chaos.

I use the first song as a kind of beautiful depiction of the album as a whole. “Sleep Ascending” starts a reprise before the brutal sincerity that is “M. Shepard” to the end of the album. This is one of the few albums in my collection where the vocals match the desperation of the music.

I feel out of my depth. I find it very hard to talk about this album without gushing about the vocals which, I have made clear, I am terrible at talking about. I’m a drummer, not a vocalist. I know enough to know that the singer is NOT a good singer. Much like The Cure, I could not fathom this band existing with a different singer.

Long story short, I love this album. Definately for fans of punk and emo from the turn of the millenium. I cannot even say that this album is musically fantastic, but I find it one of the most important releases of my life.

On a personal note, I have been let down three times by this band. Since the first Taste of Chaos Tour in 2005, they have canceled every show that I have tried to see them in. Yes, they always had valid reasons, but teenaged-Jay was disappointed anyway. If you have seen them, let me know how fantastic they were.

This review was written after a discussion with my old bass player, Caitlinn. She brought up the fact that she just found a burned copy of this album, and I reminded her that I made that for her forever ago.

Classic Album Review :: The Beastie Boys — Ill Communication

I love this album, but it is so hard to write about.

As a punk album, it is a fantastic mix of everything possible in the genre. Especially the old hardcore scene from Chicago and New York that was breaking up around the time of the albums release back in ’94. The do not do the scream/squeal that so many bands from that scene did. Instead, the vocalist on those tracks tends to just yell into the mic as hard as he can. The lyrics are non-sense, the tracks are hard hitting, and strangely well composed.

THEN GET IT TOGETHER COMES UP.

It is, by far, my favourite song on the album. Smooth, brilliantly orchestrated, calmly delivered, and contains the most interesting loops found in hip-hop at the time. Featuring Q-Tip throughout the entire track. Feels very different from modern mainstream hip-hop where the guest has a verse. It was clear he was in the studio when this track was cut.

And then, you have the almost-funk interludes. The three members of the band were actually brilliant musicians who just happened to find an audience in hip-hop.

Everyone rants and raves about Paul’s Boutique or Hot Sauce Committee as being their most brilliant album, but I will contend that this is gravely underrated. It holds my credit as being one of the greatest albums of the ’90s, and arguably one of the greatest the Beasties ever released.

As previously mentioned, Get It Together is my favourite song on the album. To ignore the rest, however, is a mild travesty. Get your hands on this gem and love every track.

Found Footage

Filmed by
Allastair Keddy

The bass player in this footage came over today. I have seen him once since I got out of hospital, and that was two years ago. It was nice to see him. He filled me in that this exists. Minus the sound quality, it is actually decent footage of this show.

The premiss was that we had to cover a band that influence us. I was never a huge Underoath fan, especially no the album these songs are from, but I was concede the fact that they were a huge musical influence on what we did.

The last song was original.

I hope you enjoy!

Halloween: why it matters

I’m going to start this article by saying that “A Nightmare Before Christmas” is overrated. I think the movie itself is perfectly fine, but I can barely calculate how many of my peers seem to think that it is the perfect example of a Halloween movie. IT’S A CHRISTMAS MOVIE.

Anyway.

I am not vocal enough about holidays. I worked retail for far too long and now I hate most, if not all, important days of the year. I do have a soft-spot for Halloween, however. Even if, by definition, it is not a holiday.

I consider it a far better marker for the season. To me, a perfect fall day is met with pumpkins and candle light. To slot those into one day seems petty, but I fully understand why it happens.

To have pumpkin shit available all year would cheapen the experience. The charm of late-October being inundated by Jack-O-Lanterns is quite novel. As far as the rest of the “Spooky” stuff, I never understood why it was given its own day. Skeletons and spiders and demons are a daily occurrence in the metal/punk scene, and to designate a day where it becomes “mainstream” seems counter-counterculture.

With the prior rant out of the way, I want to state that I have nothing against Halloween. I think that it’s perfectly fine and, fine. I don’t understand the fan-fare, but whatever.

Classic Album Review :: Circa Survive — Juturna

I find this album very hard to write about simply because I think that it is very close to perfect. It contains the very definition of musical genius while still remaining absolutely beautiful. Somehow, it defies stereotypical constraints of music cliché’s while staying completely attainable and comfortable.

Listening again to write this review, there is no recognizable hook minus flourishes on guitar. The melody is carried by the intense and soulful vocals, and the driving bass carrying any semblance of continuity. Even the drums, while they do carry a constant beat that does tend to repeat from time to time, define syncopation as they flit from time signature to time signature with a deft hand.

Let’s go back to the vocals for a moment. Anthony Green has a range matched by few. His voice is high. I am challenged to find many with his range. Somehow, it strays from being squeaky or overbearing. “The Glorious Nosebleed“, which is also my favourite song on the album, showcases his possible range beautifully. Though he never gets very low, the jumps in what he can hit are incredible. Especially from the 2:00 mark to the end.

Really, this album and the one subsequent (On Letting Go) I declare as my personal picks. Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s just the absolute shock that a band like this existed when they did, I will always love them.

Enjoy.

Have You Not HEARD? Metal Edition

I pretty much started writing this as soon as the last was posted. I am no fool: I know metal is not everyones cup-of-tea, but it contains some of the best musicianship you will ever hear. Some of these albums have warped my mind for years, and those I just found “recently” will warp my mind for many to come.

I will warn you: some of these albums are very-much not metal. The main intent of this list is to point to albums that, I think, should be acknowledge by the community.

Invent, Animate :: Everchanger
An example of one I found recently, this band blows my mind every time I listen to them. Aggressive, beautiful, fast and complicated. If you do not have this album, rectify that instantly. NOTE TO DRUMMERS: The fuck…? People can do that?
The link in the band name is the first track on the album Everchanger called Sol. It is a song that gets in my head, and stays there for days.

Structures :: All of the Above [EP]
You may notice a trend in the metal albums I recommend: they all have ridiculous drumming and general song structure. This EP is no different. I will confess, I have not listened to their full length that came out a few years ago. The vocals are a bit trying, but any musician can appreciate what they do on this.

Straight Reads the Line :: The Author
What does this album do differently than most? It has amazing lyrics and incredible dynamics. I have had the pleasure of sharing the stage with these boys many times, I must say they NEVER disappoint.

Sleigh Bells :: Treats
I can almost hear the cries of disbelief. Yes, I put a pop band on this list, but SERIOUSLY: listen to this album. It is the guitar player from Poison the Well and is so barely pop. The only thing that keeps it in that category is the use of a drum machine and the style of vocals.

Melt-Banana :: Bambi’s Dillema
The best way to describe this album is “What?” quickly followed by smashing someone’s head into a concrete wall. This album is the definition of ridiculous.

Hail The Sun :: Wake
Shown to me by the beautiful Stephen Correa, this album hurts me in all the right ways. Think Circa Survive, but more complicated. Seriously, the drums on this album are damned near impossible to follow, yet make perfect sense.
BONUS POINTS! The drummer is the lead singer! You can find some live videos online.

Buried Inside :: Chronoclast: Selected Essays On Times Reckoning and Auto-Cannabalism
Seriously, with a name that unnecessary, you know the album will be amazing.
This album is unfair with how fast it is at points. From Canada, this band broke up in 2010. I cannot decide if it is too bad they broke up because they could have done amazing things for metal or fantastic because now this album will not be corrupted. With that said, I do have their other two albums. They are good, but not this good. Seriously: how do people’s minds work this fast?

Counterparts :: Prophets
I can hear eyes rolling from friends of mine. I played with this band several times back around the release of this album in 2010. It’s fast, angry, and beautiful. I personally loved the guys in this band, and felt that they always put on a fantastic live show. This band contained, at one time, one of my favourite drummers in the punk/metal/hardcore scene in Ontario.

The Contortionist :: Language
Funny story: I discovered this band about two years before writing this. I had only heard this album up until a month ago. I only like their sound on this album. That is NOT to say that I don’t hear the talent on their prior recordings, but I am a huge fan of the band Tool: this album shares a lot with Tool’s Lateralus album, which was my favourite album up until a couple of years ago. Combine that with my inability to comprehend some of the writing behind the progressions and you have a recipe for me to love every minute of this album.

The End :: Within Dividia
I harp to my friends about this album all of the time. Not prior to this recording, nor after, have I found something more complicated. More visceral. More amazing.
Definitely for fans of The Dillinger Escape Plan, but much less punk. The drummer is nothing shy of a beast. I got the pleasure of seeing this band on a tour for the album after this one, which was much different, but the event was more like a religious experience as opposed to a concert.

Well, that was fun! My attention has been less on metal as of late, so nothing here is very new. I hope you found something new that you love.

Punk.

I have always enjoyed Punk (the subculture) through the lens of an outsider. I barely listened to conventional punk music, I had a mohawk out of convenience more than a statement, and I have always carried my political views close to my heart but out of the ears of others.

Why do I mention political views? The punk scene has a large history of standing up to social issues and government rules.

The mohawk was fantastic, but I never wanted attention for it. I never wear the damned thing up, choosing to go with more of a combover look. The best part is that I can do it myself opting out of going to a salon or to a professional. My fiancé hates it. I tend to get hair all over the bathroom and I never seem to clean it well enough, if I do at all. The ‘hawk was paired with the 15 piercings I had at one time. I did all of this, but I recoiled in fear every time someone drew attention to it. I felt like a poser: I did not think of the statements that were attached to what I was doing but given the chance, I would do it all again.

I say “conventional punk music”, but I use the term lightly. Some would argue that there is a specific sound/mood to what punk should be. That (somewhat ironically) goes in the face of what punk is and stands for.

Looking at what punk used to be, it was a generation of people who couldn’t play their instruments protesting in broken song against the established mainstays of the music industry. It picked up momentum in the ’70s and ’80s, and broke into several sub-genres. In the ’70s, you had bands like The Clash and Exrospecs thrashing their instruments, and their voices. The ’80s saw the rise of Deathrock, Goth, and New Wave. All very different, all having a mainstream band for introductions for the masses.

Pop-punk in the early ’90s brought bands like Green Day, Offspring and Blink 182 into a revival of the punk feel. The message was kind of gone, but the formula of the writing was refined. The underground landscape changed and became both more complicated and more mainstream as time went on. With bands like Propagandhi and Choke carrying the Canadian scene, while NOFX concocted their own sound.

The 2000’s were both interesting and depressing. The Emo sound started to reign king and Pop-punk became more Pop than Punk. Not to be outdone by their more commercial counterparts, Skate Punk poked its head up around this time being fuelled by the video game market. ‘Screamo’ started to become more mainstream, as well: even though it really got it’s huge push by “The Shape Of Punk To Come” by Refused in 1999 and bands like Quicksand in the early ’90s.

This is roughly where I came in. I was never a huge punk fan until about 2007, and my “poison” was the atmosphere of Emo with the edge of Screamo. Bands like Farewell to Freeway and Caulfield in the underground paved the way for my love of Alexisonfire and The Reason (who was my first show around the release of Ravenna).

The explosion of acoustic instruments being used and abused in modern punk excites me to no end. There is also no-end to the labels that have been applied. One thing remains constant, however: punk is a protest with no clear goal. Some are ‘punk’ to rebel against social, political, and institution views. Others are just rebelling the state of music in todays mainstream. Regardless, the one thing I have learned from punk is love each other and respect each other.

GUESS WHAT DOESN’T MATTER?!
Fashion. I fucking hate that people hold it in such regard. Is there a Punk fashion? I guess, but it really just comes down to “wear what you want” most of the time.

I should probably state that I have no research put into this. That is probably clear.

I put the question of “..what does punk mean to you?” to FaceBook out of curiosity what people would say. If you follow me, I recommend reading what others have put. A couple of people just listed bands, which is always awesome, but Linda M. put a fantastic personal account of the classic Punk Scene and how everything used to be.

Also, Kyle W. put a fantastic definition up as well. Read those.

Actually, if either one of them are okay, I would like to post the comments on here in either a comment or as an edit. Let me know.