Review: For The Fallen Dreams – “Back Burner” (Rise Records)

I never realized until now how deep Michigan is as a place for modern metal bands. I send my apologies and respect to anybody I overlooked or offended by not realizing how kick-ass the bands from The Great Lakes State truly are. FOR THE FALLEN DREAMS is the latest in a long line of bands carving their own path, but playing a style everyone can relate to. For Back Burner they had to overcome the loss of founder and chief songwriter Andrew Tkaczyk, which might have sunk another group. Not these guys however, as the proved they were up to the task at hand.

By the one minute mark of “Say What You Will” I already knew this record was going to be great. Jangle-filled guitars and soaring melodies give way to brutal metalcore madness. Straddling the line of college rock and modern metal, this band has definitely raised the bar over their previous two efforts. Versatile singer Dylan Richards has the ability to sing the sweetest, hooky chorus parts and then drop down to the gutter for all the growling and grunting you can handle.  The a-b parts, heavy-not-heavy style carries out over the entire album the band is wise about where they inject melody and when to just let groovy parts ride out. They have overcome the loss of their former leader, done so easily and become better, more mature writers in the process. “Deep Down Inside” starts off with a harsh breakdown part, bring the sun up musically later on. “Complicate the Situation” is another bruiser that is just unrelenting and hard, until the slick along chorus comes in. There is some cool guitar stuff going on underneath done by Jim Hocking that just catches your earpiece and doesn’t let go. He is joined by Kalan Blehm who holds his end down and replaced Tkaczyk more than ably. “Only Unopened Arms” has “modern classic” written all over it. Tough and tender at the same time, its a song for dudes to mosh out to and their girlfriends to sing along to. Other standout tracks to take note of are “My Anthem-Like Symphony”, “Bottom Feeders” and “Fist Fight”. Even though there is a distinct formula at play here, I do like their musical sensibilities and their ability to milk with a riff that is working for all its worth. Pardon me now while I crank this album and do a one-man circle pit in my house.

RATING: 8 / 10
By: Keith “Keefy” Chachkes
Band Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/forthefallendreams

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Review: Sleeping With Sirens – ” Let’s Cheers To This” (Rise Records)

I am probably the last guy you want reviewing this record. I’m almost forty years old, grew up on classic and progressive rock, obsessed over thrash metal and later cut my teeth playing in metal and hardcore influenced bands in New York City as an adult. But on the other hand I am a well rounded music fan and a big-time sucker for catchy pop songs in any style. Lucky for you fans of NRP I took a blood oath to do my best on these reviews and dammit that is what I am gonna do. I believe in trying to find the merit in music for people who might be fans, even of the genres I may not be into on the chance that I can help someone. So let’s have at it!

Having never heard of SLEEPING WITH SIRENS (extra points for cool name) I listened to the first tracks off the album while I did some research on who they were. At first I was like “Whoa! This chick has a beautiful voice!”. But it turns out lead singer Kellin Quinn is in fact a dude. A dude with epic pipes! He does have the pitch and tone of a teenage girl, I’m not even gonna lie. But on the plus side his choice of melodies and range are fantastic. I’d say quite comparable with Haley Williams of PARAMORE or whatever else the kids are listening to these days. Songs like “Do It Now Remember It Later” and “If You Can’t Hang” just ooze syrupy pop rock and punk with a hint of occasional metal underpinning sometimes. I can easily visualize entire clubs of scene kids with terrible emo hair swearing this is the best band, like evvvvv-eeeeer! Or more maturely put, music for the Justin Bieber set when they grow up in a few years. Do you see and death, crust or kvlt bands selling with his numbers? Right. You don’t. The band does have an aggro side and flexes it on occasion. Songs like “Four Corners and Two Sides” keep the melodic element intact, but have lots of screamo screaming, breakdowns and clackity-clack sounding triggered drums for the mosh dudes, if any happen to show up. “Tally It Up, Settle The Score” is the other rager on the album. These guys are quite good at what they do so really it’s hard to hate on them. Other good tracks on the album are “Fire” and “All My Heart” which are radio ready, future hits. After hearing them I will now go check them out on the All-Star Tour this summer. Since I feel all warm and fuzzy and stuff I’m gonna go find a unicorn to strangle to death to get over it.

RATING: 8 / 10
By: Keith “Keefy” Chachkes
Band Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sleepingwithsirensband

Review: Legend – “The Pale Horse” (Rise Records)

Detroit, Michigan death-core merchants LEGEND are back with new album and I must say it’s as good as expected. With this release they look to separate themselves from the already deep roster of Rise Records. These road dogs are relentless in their music and attitude and their legion of fans eat it up like breakfast. They have turned in a surprisingly mature record that sees them staying true to their roots, but at the same time mine their style a little deeper this time out.

Diagnosis, Doom” opens the album like the soundtrack from a modern horror movie, all creepy and eerie. When the first riff kicks in it burns with the typical intensity and head nodding good stuff you expect. “Circle of Friends” is the proper first song and it rips with uptempo fervor that makes me wanna punch some one’s lights out. I see a lot of tough-guy deathcore bands who lack the musical backbone and chops to go with it and they should pay close attention to LEGEND. Taking a page out of THE ACACIA STRAIN’s book, the song goes through several shifts in mood and raises up the dynamic level dramatically. The next track “Shut Down” is equally aggressive with a tremendous main riff and stop/start rhythms sure to snap necks. Guitarist Aaron Bagby isn’t a one string, one note riffer like most deathcore axemen. He is a skilled player who adds all manner of intricate ear candy for the listener to grab on to. Dylan Shippey is powerhouse drummer and he is the glue that holds these songs and this band together. Bringing in an even more explosive tempo and another level of down-tuned guitars, “Parasite” just crushes big time. As on all the tracks here vocalist Chad Ruhlig shifts between a guttural growl and a hardcore yell. He does interesting pitch changes with his mouthpiece from song to song, giving each cut its own distinct flavor. One of his major strengths is you can always understand his lyrics no matter how hard he screams. “Parasite” also has the best breakdown on the album and even though the band doesn’t do it too often, the bass drop comes in at just the right time. All of the tracks have a degree of programming and sound effects running through them like a thread adding color, but not so much as to take away from the songs. That is the mistake many bands are making these days. You’d like to hear them change up the song styles a little more, but it’s hard to fault an album that sets a goal to kick teeth in and then does it with assassin like precision. Other notable tracks on the album are “Obey”, the single “Proven” and “Shadow Stalker”.

It takes a lot of balls to call your band Legend. I’m not sure they are there quite yet, but they are building an impressive resume with The Pale Horse.

RATING: 8.5 / 10
By: Keith “Keefy” Chachkes
Band Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LEGENDMI

Review: Memphis May Fire – “The Hollow” (Rise Records)

Coming back strong with their second full-length Texas based MEMPHIS MAY FIRE has delivered on their earlier promise with their new album The Hollow. Playing a blend of melodic metalcore among other influences they have a little something for fans of several different sub-genres of metal. They certainly are technical and heavy enough for the hardcore dudes and catchy enough for their girlfriends. In the end that is a lofty goal that many bands strive for, but few reach.

Opening with the “The Sinner” the band announces their intent to rock your package right off your crotch from the get go. After a few seconds of industrial ear candy the scorching guitars and drums kick in and just destroy. When the chorus kicks in Matty Mullins‘ splendid voice just soars over the chaos. The result is beautiful and chill inducing at the same time. The uptempo chug of the verses makes for a nice contrast to the half-time feel later on. There is also some interesting keyboards/programming going on through this track that give it an uncommon character for metalcore these days. Second track  “The Unfaithful” starts off with the chorus up front (mental note: I’ve been listening to so much extreme death metal, I almost forgot bands still do this) and is almost jarringly saccharine pop. Pretty soon the song gets down to business and the verse is sick! Matty truly has a gift for his flick of the switch heavy/not heavy vocals and he is ably backed by jack of all trades lead guitarist/singer Kellen McGregor. Delving slightly into modern rock anthem territory at the end the song, it took me a few listens to really feel it. Third cut “The Victim” might be the best of the bunch here with all of their influences thrown together in this kitchen sink-type affair. Usually this approach only works for a chosen few, but these guys actually pull it off. Credit also goes to  the production talents of Cameron Mizell (I SEE STARS, JAMIE’S ELSEWHERE) who manages to keep everything properly balanced in the mix and minds what I like to call “aural legibility”. On the fourth cut “The Abandoned” is another gem moment. The guitar work from both McGregor and Ryan Bentley is majestic and calls to mind the better work of THE HUMAN ABSTRACT. The drumming by Jake Garland on this track is also a standout and he is strong throughout. The song also has an excellent keyboard part that will remind you of WINDS OF PLAGUE or BORN OF OSIRIS.

At about the halfway point of the album it dawns on me that MMF is going for a concept album here based on song title structure and lyrics, but not so much connected musically. In fact the songs on the second half of the album start too sound repetitive in form. Aside from the almost-thrash moments of “The Commanded” most of the remaining songs followed suit like dominoes. There is no questioning their talents or inventiveness when it comes to putting a track together. They definitely avoid traps their peers do not like having too many breakdowns or falling into bass drop hell which I do appreciate. Still, there is no denying these guys will impress a lot of ears, light up a lot of stages and I feel like we will be hearing from them again in the future.

RATING: 8 / 10
By: Keith “Keefy” Chachkes
Band Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MemphisMayFire