Super Saturdays, April 29th, 2017

Well folks, it's been a while. Super Saturdays is finally back! This week, we've got Sleeping Seasons, Drop Legs, and Downhaul.

Hailing from Memphis, TN, Sleeping Seasons is a really great example of solid indie punk. Encompassing various elements from bands in the scene. A poppy, upbeat yet sad song, "Better Than I Should Be" is sure to please the ears.

Australian reggae act Drop Legs have dropped their newest video, "Lizzy". The band mixes guitar, vocals, and brass well, leading to a nice blend that's easy on the ears and makes me want to go hang out at a beach.

Last but not least, Downhaul from Greensboro, NC, and their cut "How Things Worked Out". Though I'm not usually a fan of bands in this vein of indie/punk, this one stuck out to me. The country-esque vocals seem to fit the music quite well and resulted in a combination I like.

That's all for this week. Until the next Super Saturdays!

Metal Mondays, April 17th, 2017

Finally, we've got another batch of metal for the masses! This week sees the return of X-Vivo, as well as some bands new to Metal Mondays, The Heretic Confederacy and The Narrator.

German industrial band and Metal Monday favorites X-Vivo have dropped a new track, "Written in Stains". Since we've written about the band before, no other introduction is needed. Just get ready to bang your heads!

Political multi-genre band The Heretic Confederacy recently released their single "We Won't Stop". Check it out.

Another German band, The Narrator, is a hardcore group based in Essen. Their song F.A.I.R. is out now!

That's all for now, folks.

Live: Killswitch Engage

At 8:30pm, Killswitch Engage walked out into the Fillmore in Detroit to an Adam D’d version of Beastie Boys’ “Fight for Your Right” (and anybody who’s seen KSE before knows what I mean by that), and immediately jumped into “Hate by Design” from their newest record, Incarnate.

This was the fourth time I’d seen Killswitch Engage, and by god, they get better every show. Vocalist Jesse Leach powered through each song with little to no visible effort- clearly comfortable and in his element.

As the set progressed, the band had a little bit of something for everybody. Whether it was their singles such as “My Curse” and “End of Heartache”, or songs that more devoted fans would recognize such as “Alone I Stand” and “Numbered Days”, there was a part in the set for everybody in the room. Lead guitarist Adam D. made sure to hit us with his banter and constant demands for more circle pits, and the crowd gleefully obliged.

Towards the end of their set, the band made a nod to metal legend Ronnie James Dio with their cover of “Holy Diver”, with an extended outro featuring some mad shredding from both guitarists Adam D. and Joel Stroetzel.

To top it all off, the band closed with their song “In Due Time” from 2013’s Disarm the Descent, with the crowd screaming and singing louder than the band themselves.

Killswitch Engage have an entirely unique show. While many bands have planned gimmicks and scheduled movements, it’s clear that KSE just do what they feel is right- visibly noted when bass guitarist Mike D’Antonio fell off the stage after fistbumping a fan, and continued to play from inside the pit, even letting fans pluck a string or two. Through a discussion with him after the show, I learned that he had injured his foot in the fall, but watching him for the rest of the set, you’d never know it. A trooper through and through.

Jesse Leach made every song his own, including songs that were recorded during his absence from the band. His vocals were on point throughout the entire show, and his screams sounded better than ever.

I should let you know that drummer Justin Foley is a cyborg. There’s no way any human being could be as precise and on fire as he was through the entire show. Throughout the entire set, I caught myself watching what he was doing and feeling my mind explode a little because of how effortlessly he was nailing it.

If you haven’t seen this band before, you need to. Mark my words, Killswitch will go down in history as a legendary band in the same ways as Metallica or Judas Priest. Buy a ticket, go to a show, and get ready to rock the fuck out.

BEARTOOTH @ Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles

Mia Conte photographed Beartooth at their show in Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles

UNDEROATH @ Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles

Mia Conte photographed Underoath at their show in Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles

Sum 41

Sum 41 took a few years off how was it going back on tour?

M: Getting back on tour was nice. We were off for about 3 years, so you really get into home life again. But getting back in, all it takes is just a couple of practices, couple of shows and you’re right back into the circle of touring again. And now it feels like we never took the time off. It feels like we’re always on tour, playing shows so it feels good and the shows are going good and that’s all we can ask for really.


How Was the Response of the audience when you announced you were getting back together?

M: We started touring again last year, so 2016. We did some show in 2015. We came back together in 2015 but did only a few shows. It seems like the fans were really into it when we announced cause we were of so long. And there was uncertainty whether the band was ever going to play again and if the band was going to play again. So I guess when we announced that we were going to play again, it’s seems like there was a good response.


You left the band for a long time, Dave.

B: Yeah I left the band for about nine years and I was home, did my own thing and got back to collecting my head, gathering my thoughts together. I rejoined in 2015.


Did you miss being with the band, being on stage?

B: Yeah absolutely, for a good part of my twenties and my late teens this was what I was conditioned to be a part of. And of course I missed the people most of all but there’s a hole, which is kind of a voice inside of me that didn’t get filled until I like got back in the band.


What convinced you to come back?

B: Basically just Deryck and I talking. Cone and I got together for lunch and we all got to chat and talk about things we haven’t talked about in the past nine years. And it was really important for me. Then Tom and I got on the phone and it was just a good vibe. And I was like ok, let’s do it. I was a little bit hesitating at first because I didn’t know how the dynamic between everybody was but once I got to chat with everybody it was like yeah this is stronger than it’s ever been.


You have a new album out but you went on tour before it was released. Did you feel the need to go on tour before releasing new music to let the people know that you’re back?

B: Yeah that’s pretty much exactly it. We got a chance to do the entire world tour.

M: I guess it’s just one of those things that we haven’t played for a long time so that we just wanted to tour but it’s more about awareness, like hey we’re back. A lot of people do social media and a lot of people follow us on Facebook and stuff like that but not everyone does so it’s just the awareness that the band is back, come and see us play for an hour on tour and have some fun with us. It’s good just to do that kind of stuff, being with the band. Not just promoting a record but promoting your band like hey we’re back.


Is there a big difference between the festivals in the US and in Europe?

C: Yes because in the US you do like a festival one day or two days maybe but no one really stays over, the don’t camp out. Here it’s a camping thing so it’s a whole week, four or five days  full of just like camping and probably meeting a ton of new people and I can’t even imagine. I’ve never done that but when you see it in Europe  it just blows your mind.

B: There is the custom to it; Europe has been doing this for like 30+ years right, in the states maybe 15+.

M: Yeah and I don’t think people, maybe only on Coachella, that’s like the only one where people do some sort of camping. But even then people go get hotels and stuff.


What is the story behind your nicknames?

M: They’re just nicknames from high school really, we all went to high school together so it was just a stupid high school nicknames and some of them stuck.

B: Well yours and Deryck’s stuck, and then mine., I remember that I got during half hour power it was like oh you need a nickname and we just couldn’t come up with one. At one point it was going to be Black Magic but that could be interpreted wrong.

M: Yeah I’m glad that one didn’t come through.


What are the highlights that you’ve had with Sum 41 over the past years?

B: There have been a couple of things.

M: We did a Metallica Icon, an MTV thing so we had to play some Metallica songs in front of Metallica. We did a song with Tenacious D, which is really cool.


How are those guys?

M: They’re hilarious.

B: They’re just as funny in person like they are on stage.

M: That’s just the way they are, they don’t put on an act. They are funny just downtime, just writing lyrics, walking around the studio, writing lyrics and just fucking hilarious.

B: Well if they didn’t put on a show for us, but I think they weren’t, that’s just how they are.

M: I remember watching on TV, we had this channel Much Music, which is like MTV but from the US. I remember one of the hosts going to Reading Festival and we were thinking wow that would be so cool to play something like that one day and then we actually got to play it. So that was a big highlight. We played it with Metallica, which was awesome.


The new album is called 13 Voices, why did you choose that name?

B: It’s kind of like Deryck recovering.

M: Yes you’ve have to have him really explaining it but it was just about when he was getting in the hospital I guess. He was trying to recover and become sober, he had always voices in his head like people talking. Or just people in general telling him what to do and how to do it. He had always had people basically telling you what is best for you and I think eventually he came up with this title, 13 Voices. The first single, “War”, was also one of the most personal songs on the record. When you have an album you have always songs that you like and you should like them because it’s your album. It’s hard just to pick a single so you kind of like with your record company and your management and everyone else surrounding your band. It’s a kind of an open committee, you ask everybody “ok guys what do you think the single should be?” “War” was decided from everyone collectively so that was the strongest single to go with.

B: These days it’s nice because we’ve been a band for 2 decades now and it’s like as far as choosing a single we get to choose a song that means the most to us now. Which is a big thing and a big advantage as far as like really putting the album out there and letting people know what the record is about.

M: And sometimes when you’re in the band you can’t have a decision. It’s hard to have a perspective what the single should be, what the song on the radio should be. You can have your favorite song like I have a favorite song on the record but maybe it’s not good enough for the radio. So it’s good to have these outside opinions because they’re very close to the album, they helped recording it.


What is the next big thing for you then?

M: We’re touring, yes. The US tour with Peirce The Veil, some Canadian shows which we co-headline with Papa Roach. Then we’re going to do some festivals here and then we’re going to take some time off after the summer for a couple of weeks. Then we still have to go to Asia and Australia and probably come back to Europe again at some point.


Let’s close down with something you want to tell us, something aimed at starting bands, photographers, journalists, …

B: If you’re starting out and you’re working on something that you’ve dreamt about. It’s important to focus on that and not try to multitask. A Lot of people are telling that they can do these days. We’ve focused on Sum 41 and for me personally when my focus started straying into 2 bands I lost my way a little bit. So then being back in Sum 41 and focusing on 1 thing is really important. Put your time and your energy fully into something and it will, as long as it is your passion I will be something that is very rewarding.

Mastodon – Emperor of Sand

Atlanta’s prog-sludge masters Mastodon have followed their own muse wherever it’s taken them ever since their debut some 15 years ago, and each album in their catalogue has been a fun guessing game as to what path they’d take next: epic concept albums (Leviathan, Crack The Skye), straight-ahead rock/metal stompers (The Hunter), and riff albums that make guitar nerds the world over jizz themselves and their Orange amps in excitement (Remission, Blood Mountain). This free spiritedness has tended to split the band’s fan base into two camps: the purists who love their earlier crazy progressive side, and those who are partial to their more recent, “streamlined” output. Whichever side of the divide you stand on, seventh album Emperor of Sand will offer plenty of moments with which to tickle your fancy, as it’s chockful of hooky riffs while still being Mastodon’s most ambitious offering in years.

We’re treated to another concept this time around, based on the band members’ experiences with the dreaded specter of cancer: the main character is handed a death sentence and is sent to wander the desert, reflecting on himself and the meaning of his life. Lots of musing going on, and the band teams up again with Skye producer Brendan O’Brien (Stone Temple Pilots, King’s X) to paint a compelling picture, with warm drum tones and powerful guitars. Opener “Sultan’s Curse” starts things off in proper Mastodon fashion, a Leviathan-esque rager that has bassist Troy Sanders and lead guitarist Brent Hinds doing their classic lead vocal tradeoffs. By contrast, lead single “Show Yourself” is super-straightforward, clocking in at 3 minutes but packing a lot of memorable riffage and quality harmony vocals behind drummer Brann Dailor’s voice (and seriously, this dude can really SING). Dailor sings lead again on standout track “Steambreather”, with a mean groove and lyrics that ponder “I wonder who I am… I wonder where I stand/I’m afraid of myself.” And album closer “Jaguar God” is just amazing: an epic ballad that transforms into an all-out riff fest, with some of the best vocals Hinds has ever done. “It’s right in front of me/your malignancy” could be towards a mythical villain, a tumor, or probably both, but the delivery behind those lines is gut-punching.

Mastodon have never been a slouch in the instrumental department, and all of the members turn in stellar performances on Emperor of Sand: Dailor’s outstanding drumming isn’t as full of fills as usual, but his cymbal work is on point, and he’s really come into his own as a singer. Bill Kelliher’s rhythm guitar tones are fantastic, and Hinds is simply one of the most underrated soloists in recent years; the guy pulls a ton of emotion out of his instrument. And Sanders’ grinding bass and roaring tenor blends in perfectly with the proceedings.

Emperor of Sand is an album that, to beat a cliché to death, really does reward with repeated listens. Even now as I close this review out, I’ll probably think of other things to point out about it; but quite simply, this is Mastodon’s best album since Crack The Skye. It’s always hard when creativity is sourced from tragedy, but Mastodon captured the emotion and thoughts behind their individual struggles, channeled them into musical form… and delivered. Brilliantly.

K.Flay – Every Where Is Some Where

Illinois indie hip hop artist K.Flay is a name that has been thrown around heavily in the underground hip hop scene since 2009, but one that rarely seemed to be mentioned by mainstream radio DJs until recently. A successful debut major label album in 2014 led to widespread recognition and new connections. From here, she found herself opening on sold out tours for the likes of Twenty One Pilots and PVRIS, making her future look brighter by the day. Does Every Where Is Some Where live up to the hype? 

I'll admit that when I was approached to review her sophomore album, I'd never heard K.Flay before. Less than halfway through the first track of this album, I was already kicking myself for that oversight. Her sound combines the darker, hollow pop sounds of artists like Lights and Hozier while utilizing the hip hop production of acts like Twenty One Pilots. This combination makes for an unexpectedly fresh and rock-tinged pop record that's not to be missed. There wasn't a single moment during my multiple plays of this record that I wasn't engaged. The mixing and arrangements are minimalistic, but rarely ever allow the songs to feel empty. There's always a clear path and a reason for the songs to be the way they are. Anti-anthems like "Giver" and "High Enough", as well as rockers like "Blood In The Cut" beg to be performed live with their infectious melodies. The rap tracks like "Champagne" and "You Felt Right" interspursed throughout bring a passion and raw energy not found in the rap scene dominated by 'Future' and 'Drake' clones that seem all too happy to keep things mellow and fairly emotionless. The varying genre switches don't stop there though. Tracks like "Hollywood Forever" and "It's Just A Lot" evoke a feel similar to Switchfoot of all bands, reminding me of classic songs of theirs like "Stitches" and "Happy Is A Yuppie Word." I can't find a single major issue with this album, which is a testament to the production and performances of everyone involved.

This album can easily be considered a gateway drug to this darker brand of pop. From deep lyrical themes and infectious hooks to near flawless production, every song feels deliberately placed and there isn't a single song that I would label as filler. Every Where Is Some Where is out April 7th through Interscope Records and on all major digital outlets.

Standout tracks: Dreamers, Giver, High Enough, It's Just A Lot, You Felt Right

Rating: 9/10

Check out K.Flay on tour throughout Australia this may.