Saturday, December 20, 2008

2008 Best of the Blog...

This year has been a year of discovery. After my favorite band, Evanescence, decided to go on hiatus at the end of 2007, I decided to start looking for new bands that don't necessarily sound like them, but give me the same feeling that I felt when I first listened to them in 2003.

There will be a lot of new artists on these lists that you probably don't know about, but hopefully will know more about in the near future.

Mind you, this is a personal list of favorites, but you should absolutely take a listen to any of these artists if you haven't.

Best International Artist:
5. Bloc Party (England)-Intimacy came out in 2008 and put the party back in the Bloc. They released an album with more electronica influence and have won critics over yet again.
4. Theory of a Deadman (Canada)-After six years of existing as a band, Theory of a Deadman finally got it right this year. They've always released decent music, they've just never found a way to make it popular until this year with "So Happy" and "Bad Girlfriend" burning up the active rock charts.
3. Muse (England)-They didn't release any new music this year, but that didn't stop me from putting them on this list because they put out one hell of a live album in H.A.A.R.P. They also created a buzz later this year by having "Supermassive Black Hole" on the popular soundtrack for Twilight.
2. All Ends (Sweden)-They re-released their debut album in 2008 with the new single Apologize and earned a new legion of fans this year, including me.
1. Freestate (Australia)-They are just now starting to make a name for themselves in their native country and their album deserves airplay here. Don't be surprised if you see their name again.
Hono(u)rable mention: Bullet For My Valentine (England)

Best Local Band:
5. Doubledge-Found out about their music not too long ago...holy crap, they actually come from the Bronx! Their placement reflects how late in the year I got to listen to their music. They might have placed higher.
4. Black Water Rising-Aside from putting out a bad ass EP this year, the single "Brother Go On" earned a lot of play on Sirius' Octane and brought Southern rock to NYC. They will own 2009 and hopefully finally have an album to show for it.
3. Rev Theory-They put out their first major album this year, changing their sound. It was a surprising change and was originally not welcome...but has since grown on me enough to put them at #3.
2. The Senate-I featured them in the blog earlier this year. It's not very common for me to feature bands that are not hard-rock, but for the unique qualities of this group...they were well worth it.
1. Charetta-I've been lucky enough to see this band live 8 times this year. I'd seen them in February for the first time and they're a completely different band. Transitioning this year from a four-piece to a five-piece transformed their sound into a potentially epic masterpiece next year. They went into the studio at the end of this year to produce their first album with Brett Hestla.
Honorable Mention: Patrick Droney

Best Live Recording:
5. Skillet for Comatose Comes Alive: This live set is actually the second live CD from Skillet in their long career. It features the band in their home state of Tennessee, a two-piece orchestra for their own mini-version of S&M, and their new young drummer Jen Ledger singing on "Yours to Hold". Having seen them in April this year, I know that the energy of their music is much better than that displayed on the DVD. It's much better to actually see them live.
4. Within Temptation for Black Symphony: This live CD/DVD features the band in their home country performing within their element, with an orchestra backing them. They brought out all the stops for this two-hour plus concert and cements their reputation as one of the best female-fronted bands in the world.
3. Paramore for The Final Riot: It's a part-documentary, part-concert and features the energetic band in Chicago. This live set will surprise cynics and validate Paramore for the amazing live band that they are. They released my favorite album all of last year, but surprisingly fall short with their live set.
2. Thrice for Live at the House of Blues: This two-hour plus, 3 disc CD/DVD set released just a week ago is good enough for me to put them close to the top. It spans almost their entire career and the music is as creative and diverse as its ever been.
1. Muse for H.A.A.R.P.-Features Muse from their Wembley weekend last year. Watch this DVD and you will become a fan instantaneously. It's not just because the DVD is from their homeland...the way that it's shot puts you into the action like no DVD I've seen before. If you can't see them live, buy this.
Honorable Mention: Lacuna Coil for Visual Karma

Best Cover:
5. Daughtry-Feels Like the First Time (Foreigner)-Interesting video for the song that was originally about losing virginity.
4. Bullet For My Valentine-No Easy Way Out (Robert Tepper)-Those of you who know me, know how much I love the Rocky movies...specifically Rocky IV, which featured this song after Apollo Creed went down for the count for the very last time. If he dies...he dies. You can't get better acting in any movie these days than Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago. Ever.
3. Sea of Treachery-Misery Business (Paramore)-Not the nicest sounding of covers, but the way that they reinterpreted this song to somehow fit metalcore is absolutely amazing.
2. All-American Rejects-Womanizer (Britney Spears)-I literally found out about this cover yesterday. I've never been a big fan of the All American Rejects, but this cover is really out of this world.
1. Framing Hanley-Lollipop (Lil' Wayne)-Lil' Wayne has been the musical story of the year, selling a million copies of his album Tha Carter III in its first week out. I don't particularly get why he's so popular and I don't like his style all that much...but the original Lollipop and its cover are undeniably catchy. The cover is pretty much straightforward with Framing Hanley implementing a bit of their own song  "Hear Me Now". I absolutely adore the cover...and the girls, too!
Honorable Mention: Say Anything-Got Your Money (Ol' Dirty Bastard)

Best Collaboration:
5. Alter Bridge feat. Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil-Watch Over You-How Universal didn't promote this single in the States as a duet is beyond me. It's a beautiful duet and while a lot of fans on both sides didn't particularly care for it, I could have seen it being huge.
4. Apocalyptica feat. Adam Gontier of Three Days Grace-I Don't Care-I love how this song takes the best sounds of both Apocalyptica and Three Days Grace and puts them together. This song is one of the most popular and most successful songs of the year on active rock radio for a reason.
3. Theory of a Deadman feat. Chris Daughtry of Daughtry-By the Way-This could easily be a single and be huge once again for Theory of a Deadman because Tyler Connolly's and Chris Daughtry's vocals work so well together. Daughtry's been a busy man this year.
2. Sevendust feat. Chris Daughtry of Daughtry-The Past-See what I mean? Sevendust's album was filled with collaborations and this one was the best. Unfortunately for Sevendust, they decided to release the single and Daughtry's record label wanted them to take his vocals off of the record. Very similar to what happened with the Santana situation a few years ago with Chad Kroeger and Alex Band.
1. Art of Dying feat. Shaun Morgan of Seether-Die Trying-The song hasn't even been officially released yet...this is part of a video that explained the story of how the song got put together and perhaps a somewhat finished copy of the song at the end, but it could be retooled because Art of Dying is working on a new album that will hopefully be released next year with this song on it.

Best Live Performance:

Best New Artist:
5. Patrick Droney-I have to give this kid a lot of credit. He's only 16 years old (Nick Jonas, eat your fucking heart out) and can shred like he's Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge. No wonder Ben Burnley of Breaking Benjamin and Chris Henderson of 3 Doors Down co-wrote songs with him. This kid is going to make some band very happy one day if he doesn't get famous on his own.
4. Daughters of Mara-Virgin Records wasted a huge opportunity by not releasing the gem known as I Am Destroyer. They finally decided to self-release it after much fighting to get it out in the first place and it will pay off. Someday.
3. All Ends-I feel that they will get an American record deal sometime next year, release their debut album for the third time and actually do more in this country than Within Temptation.
2. Charetta-These guys need to be signed to a deal by next year. It just has to happen. I'm excited because I've followed these guys very closely within the last year. 
1. Freestate-They're at last selling their music in the States thanks to some begging from anonymous sources (*Palin-wink*). Don't be surprised if you hear Necessary on the radio over here in the next year.
Honorable Mention: The Leo Project

Video of the Year:
5. Daughtry-What About Now-For being this huge rockstar, he's certainly getting his activism on as of late.
4. Red-Already Over-It's a strange, but visually stunning video. There's a part when the lead singer's lifted in the air that reminds me of Quantum Leap.
3. Seether-Breakdown-For this video, it's safe to say that Shaun Morgan has a lot on his mind.
2. Apocalyptica feat. Adam Gontier of Three Days Grace-I Don't Care-The idea of playing women like cellos or violins is a very sexy thought. It's also kind of rare to see choreography in a rock video.
1. Seether-Rise Above This-Same artist, same director, different result. Tony Petrossian and Shaun Morgan produced my favorite video of 2008. This video deals with a very tragic incident that occured after a Seether concert last year when Shaun's brother Eugene Welgemoed jumped out of the window of a hotel and killed himself. The video deals with the tragedy as to say that when Eugene jumped, it was as if Shaun jumped as well. This video deserves the recognition because it is authentic and if it saves just one person from making the same mistake, it's all the better for existing.
Honorable Mention: Sevendust-Prodigal Son

Best EP/Non-album Recording:
5. VersaEmerge-Perceptions-Now that you knoooowww...this Floridian band just signed on to Fueled By Ramen/Columbia and they're going to be touring the country in early '09. Perceptions is just a taste of what you can expect.
4. Black Water Rising-Brother Go On-Their EP is just a taste of their upcoming album next year. It's only a matter of time before they get signed.
3. Hello Demons...Meet Skeletons-Chills-This solo acoustic EP by Sevendust/Dark New Day guitarist Clint Lowery is a wonderful change of pace from the heavy, fast-paced, adrenaline rush known as Sevendust.
2. Ben Moody-Mutiny Bootleg EP-The EP (released just last week at a Hana Pestle show in Little Rock) marks a return of Ben Moody, co-founder of Evanescence and his first music project in nearly four years. It's been a long time coming and it's been well worth the wait.
1. Charetta-Charetta EP-Hearing clips of their unmixed and unmastered songs from their upcoming record has me very excited in their new sound. They recorded this EP as a four piece, so their sound is definitely going to change.

Headbanger of the Year/Best Metal Song:
5. Metallica-The Day That Never Comes-You just try playing those last three minutes on Guitar Hero on Expert.
4. Straight Line Stitch-Black Veil-Giving a new meaning to the term "black metal" (even though it's really metalcore). Jada Pinkett Smith's Wicked Wisdom has NOTHING on this band.
3. Walls of Jericho-The American Dream-Everything a metal song should be. It's cynical, aggressive, and will pound your ass into the ground. I can just imagine a Wall of Death for Walls of Jericho specifically for this song.
2. Trivium-Kirisute Gomen-This song has a wonderful Far Eastern influence to it and the intro is epic and sounds like it should be in a movie. For those of you who don't know what Kirisute Gomen is, it's an honor killing by means of decapitation. I'd say it's a headbanger, but after banging to this song, your head will slip from your shoulders.
1. Daughters of Mara-And Away-This song shoves metal down your throat, makes you shit it out, and then makes you eat that shit. Now that's hardcore!
Honorable Mention: Slipknot-All Hope is Gone

Song of the Year:
5. Sevendust-Prodigal Son-Growing to be one of my favorite Sevendust singles, this song brought them back to the melodic albums that made Animosity and Seasons so good.
4. Dark New Day-Fiend-This song leaked to the web earlier in the year and it never officially got released, but it is just so good and so catchy that it has to go on my list this year.
3. Art of Dying feat. Shaun Morgan of Seether-Die Trying-This song is, like Fiend was not released, but that didn't stop it from grabbing most of my attention this year.
2. Freestate-Necessary-This song is so well produced from the tribal drums to the strings to the chugging guitars. It just screams amazing.
1. In This Moment-Forever-Their first album would have been more along the lines of Straight Line Stitch and Walls of Jericho. Who knew she had such a beautiful voice?

Best Album:
Now for the big one. I've been waiting for this for the entire year. Last year, Paramore's Riot! earned my favorite album of the year.

5. Nine Inch Nails-The Slip-With Ghosts I-IV coming out just two months prior, Trent Reznor proves that he can release absolutely anything he wants and it can be both successful AND good. Considering that this album was done in merely three weeks, NIN released one hell of an that still has me nodding to "Discipline" and "1,000,000".
4. 10 Years-Division-After releasing one of my favorite albums of 2005 with The Autumn Effect, I didn't think they could possibly top it. I'm glad that I was wrong.
3. Freestate-Surrender-This album is a straight listen through and through. Track for track, it is worth your purchase.
2. In This Moment-The Dream-Maria Brink's singing really took this band to the next level this year. They may not have the admiration of their older fans, but people who hadn't been fans before have a new appreciation for them. This album is dynamic, every bit as intense as the first one and in my personal opinion, flat out better.
1. Sevendust-Chapter VII: Hope & Sorrow-Alpha was one of my favorite albums released last year. A little over a year after that, they put this album out that was a bit more collaborative with Myles and Mark from Alter Bridge and Chris Daughtry. It was also pivotal for the band because it brought Clint Lowery back into the fold after a four-year absence. 

What makes this album so memorable is that it is more melodic and more impactful than its predecessor. There are a lot of doubters of Sevendust as they've only had one gold album and no major radio hits. This album is proof that their careers as Sevendust is not near done. I feel that they will go down as one of the most underrated and perhaps just because, among the most celebrated hard-rock bands of our time.
Honorable Mention: Ra-Black Sun

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Review of Prisoner of Television's Art Obscene

Prisoner of Television is a self-produced, one-man project of James Mitchell. It is a project in which he does vocals, guitars, drum programming, bass, keyboards, and sampling.

It's a throwback to early 90's alt-rock in which you had Nine Inch Nails, Tool, Alice in Chains, Megadeth...all of these bands you can hear some influences with on this album.

The album starts off with an intro into Anti-Hate. It's heavily influenced by industrial rock and metal. 

The album does run the gamut of alt-rock...going from industrial on Anti-Hate and Hands and Knees to punk-funk on Swallow the Flame to acoustic rock...almost singer-songwriter on Glow and Columbus Ave.

The highlight of this album is Tide, which is reminiscent of Alice in Chains' "Get Born Again".

The biggest problem with the album though may indeed be Mitchell trying to be the jack of all trades. In taking on the challenge of being a one man show, it hurts both the production of the album and the overall vocals.

The songs have potential, but still sound like rough mixes.

The musical feel that Mitchell is going for is meant to have tight and slick production.

Even Trent Reznor, who's considered a one-man band, needs help from time to time.
Dave Grohl could be a one-man band...but even he needs the Foo Fighters.

Considering that this is a first effort, it's not bad at all. 

I just think that Art Obscene needs a team.

6 out of 10.