Category Archives: Artist Spotlights

[ALBUM REVIEW] SixStringNoise – “Likewise”

New year, new email from up-and-coming band.  As with most submissions I have received thus far, Greek hard rockers SixStringNoise seem quite promising as musicians.

The latest release from SixStringNoise, Likewise, was a very enjoyable listen. As their band bio states and their music shows, SixStringNoise are heavily influenced by the “new U.S. hard rock scene.”

It is incredible how this band has fused together so many elements of various generations of American hard rock, not simply today’s scene.  For instance, the guitar solo in “This Time” brings it back to Appetite For Destruction-era Guns N’ Roses with vocals reminiscent of Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy. With a Pop Evil-esque song structure, “Everybody’s Gonna Turn Around” offers harmonies between lead vocalist Markos and backing vocalist Alex B. up to par with how Ozzy Osbourne and Zakk Wylde used to harmonize together. Even “Backyard’s Fence” sounds like a Black Label Society ballad.

Without knowing their home country, no one would know that these guys are not American.  SixStringNoise could easily fit in with the U.S. hard rock scene, especially with all of these freshly fused retro hard rock elements.

Song highlights from Likewise include “Busted!,” “On Childhood’s River,” and “Has To Be.”

For more information on SixStringNoise check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and stream Likewise on their BandCamp.


Artist of the Week [10/4/13]: Ra

Named after the Egyptian sun god, hard rock band Ra has been around for over a decade. Ra used to be somewhat of a household name for hard rock bands, but have since seemed to go off the map.  They are currently in the process of making their comeback.  Their new, fan-funded album, Critical Mass, is slated for an October 15th release.  The band previously released the album’s first single, “SuperMegaDubstep.”

Having owned all of Ra’s releases, with the exception of 2009’s digitally released B-side compilation, Black Sheep, since 2005 or so, it can be said that Ra’s music is well worth the financial investment.

It is very unfortunate that Ra essentially lost the fame they had gained over the lengthy span of their music careers.  However, it looks like they will fight for it back, and anyone who wants to win a war against the current state of the music industry should enlist on Ra’s side.

Anyway, the band is comprised of four very talented musicians, two of whom have kept very busy during Ra’s downtime.  Lead singer and band founder, Sahaj [Ticotin] released a solo record in 2012, titled Another Minute.  It was much softer and calmer than a lot of Ra’s material.  It leaned more toward singer/songwriter acoustic rock rather than hard rock/alternative metal. Sahaj also acts as a record producer, having recently worked with up-and-coming hard rockers Downstait.  As for the other members of Ra, guitarist Ben Carroll has his own side project called The Hollow Glow, who have seen moderate success among the underground rock scene.

Ra incorporate a variety of styles into their music, allowing for a diverse fan base.  For instance, on “Faulty Information,” from 2008’s Black Sun, Sahaj spits a brief rap during the bridge. They also provide an excellent cover of Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” on 2005’s Duality. With Sahaj’s unique and versatile vocals, Ra will be unstoppable once they resurface.  This should not be a problem, now that the original lineup is back in action together.

Fans of Shinedown, Alter Bridge, and Seether should definitely check out Ra.  Key focus tracks include “Faulty Information,” “Easier Than This,” “On My Side,” “Got Me Going,” and Ra’s cover of “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.”  The first two tracks are off of Black Sun, “On My Side” is from 2002’s From One, and the last two are featured on Duality.

For more information on Ra, visit their website and/or Facebook page.


Cover Song of the Month: September 2013

Georgia country band Seven Handle Circus has been chosen for the cover song of September with its live rendition of Daft Punk’s “One More Time.”  As stated in the band’s bio on its Facebook page, “Seven Handle Circus is a six-piece Georgia band that has been critically acclaimed as ‘bad-ass bluegrass’ with the ‘drive and energy of a rock band.’”  This description is evidenced by the video of the aforementioned cover, which can be viewed below.

Seven Handle Circus is comprised of the standard rock band instrumental section with the addition of orchestral instruments, such as violin and bass.  In the group’s cover of “One More Time,” the violinist is highlighted with playing lead while the guitarist plays more of a rhythmic role for a noticeable amount of time.

While the lead vocalist’s voice does not sound fully suited at times for this particular song, the banjo player’s counter-harmonies with the lead vocalist/guitarist make for an extremely catchy bridge and crowd pleasing moment.

Between that bridge and the jam session at the end, the last third of the performance is easily the most enjoyable part.  The best aspect is that the band members are clearly loving what they are doing, which shows in the musical output as well as their smiling faces.

Seven Handle Circus conquered that seemingly challenging song in every way.  Watch the video below and construct your own opinion.

If you or a musician you know has recorded a cover song that may be deemed worthy of the title of MusicTalker’s Cover Song of the Month, submit it to themusictalker@gmail.com.


Artist of the Week [8/23/2013]: The Chainsmokers

The Chainsmokers are a music production duo from New York City, specializing in remixing the music of up-and-coming indie musicians.  They classify their music as progressive house with an indie soul.  That is an exceptionally accurate description, which helps the listener’s brain to digest the magnitude of precision put forth in the duo’s remixes.

Discard any perceptions that all remix artists are not actual “artists.”  The Chainsmokers have consistently created great quality songs out of other musicians’ material, some of which sound better than the original versions.

The two-person team, comprised of Alex and Drew, is releasing its remix of Fenech-Soler’s “Last Forever” via Warner Brothers UK on September 16th.  As the duo’s latest and potential break-out work, The Chainsmokers are promoting their remix of “Last Forever.” According to Alex and Drew, The Chainsmokers had reached out to Fenech-Soler in hopes to remix the group’s previous single, “Magnetic,” just to learn that it had been exhausted of remixes. Instead, Fenech-Soler offered their upcoming song, “Last Forever,” for The Chainsmokers to show their potential.  The Chainsmokers definitely showed their potential, and then some.  One major highlight is the remixed vocal work after the 2:30 mark, which accents the “progressive house” feel and adds an extra psychedelic aspect to the song.  Overall, this remix is arguably an easier listen than the original version.  It is a slower, less heavy track yet a little more fun and more radio-friendly.

Other key tracks to check out are the duo’s remixes of Smallpools’ “Dreaming” and Phoenix’s “Trying To Be Cool.”  Both tracks are in the same boat as The Chainsmokers’ remix of “Last Forever” in the sense that all three songs are superior to the original works.

I realize that may come off as a very bold statement.  I am not saying that the original songs are bad, by any means.  I listened to each remix and its original piece and actually enjoyed each one. It seemed that The Chainsmokers poured more emotion into the tracks than the songwriters themselves.  The way Alex and Drew altered the songs simply affected the overall mood and tone of the music.

If you think I am not making any sense, listen to each remix and its original song and let me know your thoughts in the comments section here.

For more information on The Chainsmokers, visit their Facebook.

 

_MG_9375


Artist of the Week [6/28/13]: Revocation

Boston death-thrashers Revocation will release their new self-titled album on August 6, 2013.  They will also perform alongside The Dillinger Escape Plan, Animals As Leaders, Periphery, and others, on this year’s Summer Slaughter Tour.

With three full-length albums and one EP under their belts, Revocation seem to keep pretty busy.  The band’s third album, Chaos Of Forms, was released on Relapse Records in late 2011. About a year later, they put out the EP, Teratogenesis, via Scion A/V, initially offered as a free digital download.  Now, not even a year following Teratogenesis, Revocation will be on the market.  After hearing the new album’s first single, “The Hive,” it looks like the band is by no means getting careless or sloppy.  Bands that have been around for decades have a hard time releasing consistent, quality material every five years, never mind once per year, three years in a row.

Revocation seem to do everything right and are consequently receiving the recognition they deserve.  They are signed to an established heavy metal record label and seem to be making them happy with all of these releases and thus, money.  They are even playing on Summer Slaughter, and not just as openers!  They seem to be listed somewhere in the middle of the lineup.

Five Revocation tracks to check out are “Leviathan Awaits,” “Dismantle the Dictator,” “Conjuring the Cataclysm,” “Spurn The Outstretched Hand,” and “The Hive.”  The first two songs come off of 2009’s Existence Is Futile.  While “Dismantle the Dictator” utilizes an excess of technicality, “Leviathan Awaits” is straight-up brutal through and through.  “Conjuring the Cataclysm,” from Chaos of Forms has a phenomenal melodic guitar solo.  “Spurn The Outstretched Hand” is intense and sounds like lead vocalist David Davidson tried something different with his voice on Teratogenesis.  He actually sounds really creepy on this song.  As for “The Hive,” check it out, since it’s the single off Revocation’s forthcoming self-titled album.

For more on Revocation, visit their Facebook page.


Cover Song of the Month: June 2013

On their latest album, Unnatural Selection, Havok managed to slip a great cover of Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave” in with the new thrash material.  It was an intelligent decision to include such excellence.

While lead vocalist David Sanchez’s clean-ish singing may take regular Havok listeners slightly aback, it works with the song.  After all, Ozzy Osbourne did not scream in the original version, so why ruin a classic with out-of-place, guttural shouts?  It is impressive and gratifying that Havok put forth that manner of respect for the songwriters.

As for the instrumentation, the band offers its complimentary thrash metal influences while remaining within the boundaries of the song’s sound.  This version also has an extra raw and gritty feel that makes it that much better on the ears, ironically.

Havok out-did themselves on this cover.  They nailed every aspect of the original song and forged their own spin on it.  The best aspects of this version were arguably Sanchez’s singing and the guitar solo.

Performing covers of legendary bands’ songs is always a risky matter.  Havok were exceptionally ballsy by incorporating these new elements and attacking a Black Sabbath classic, but they seemed to succeed with ease.  These guys are sticking around, especially if they continue to pull strings like this.


Artist of the Week [5/17/13]: Orchid

Formed in 2007 in San Francisco, hard rockers Orchid have been referred to being “more Sabbath than Sabbath themselves.”  Yes, Orchid take a lot of the musical tricks forged by the heavy metal forefathers, Black Sabbath.  However, they also draw heavy influences from Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.  Furthermore, that statement is almost blasphemous as all of these retro bands would not be around if not for Sabbath.  Perhaps, it may be somewhat forgivable if the term “modern-day” was included in referring to the band in question.  That should be expected, though, seeing how the Sabs are all in their 60’s while Orchid are still young and fresh.

Anyway, this article is supposed to be about Orchid, not Black Sabbath.  While guitarist Mark Thomas Baker may play riffs heavily inspired by the great Tony Iommi, he does it with flying colors.  Keith Nickel and Carter Kennedy sound like Geezer Butler and Bill Ward, respectively. Theo Mindell sounds like a grittier, young Ozzy Osbourne with a much wider vocal range and with more vocal melodies incorporated into each song.

While they may currently sit in the shadows of the retro-Sabbath band category, it will not be for much longer.  With the recent release of their second full-length album, The Mouths Of Madness, Orchid are sure to continue their march toward the frontlines of the doom metal scene.  The band has yet to disappoint anyone, new and long-time listeners alike, with a release.

Fans of Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Electric Wizard, etc. need to check Orchid out.  Five focus tracks are “Wizard Of War,” “Mouths of Madness,” “He Who Walks Alone,” “Heretic,” and “Into The Sun.”  Honestly, though, every single one of their songs is worth checking out if you like this kind of music.

For more information on Orchid, check out their Facebook page.


Artist of the Week [5/10/13]: Wind In Sails

Spiraling away from Boston post-hardcore band Vanna, Wind In Sails is former Vanna guitarist/songwriter/clean vocalist Evan Pharmakis’ solo project. With Wind In Sails, Pharmakis takes a more folksy path, opening some doors for a more diverse listening audience.

Brighter Days, Wind In Sails’ debut full-length release, is filled with easily accessible musical elements for many different audiences.  Incorporating extremely catchy choruses, simple yet satisfying acoustic rhythms, and relatable lyrics, Pharmakis is sure to achieve great success with Wind In Sails with proper marketing.

The eight-song album includes Pharmakis’ former Vanna bandmate, drummer Chris Campbell, on a few songs, as well as Christopher Curran and Daniel Roth.

Wind In Sails rightfully portrays Pharmakis’ growing musical maturity and sincerity.  This project is arguably a better fit for his smooth voice.  With Vanna’s aggressive and heavy sound, his voice was only used to accent the screams of Chris Preece and later, Davey Muise.  His voice is meant to have center attention, as heard on Brighter Days.

Fans of 90’s alternative rock, modern indie rock, and acoustic music should definitely give Wind In Sails a good, easy listen.  Key tracks to check out are “Abandon,” “Live,” and “Breathe.”

For more information on Wind In Sails, check out the project’s Facebook pageBrighter Days can be streamed and digitally purchased here.


Cover Song of the Month: April 2013

Ronnie James Dio is known by many as one of the best metal vocalists of all time.  He was the lead singer for many groups, most notably of which were Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Black Sabbath/Heaven & Hell, Elf, and his solo band, Dio.  Dio is the prime example of a musician working his way from the absolute bottom to the insurmountable sky of success.  Songs from his doo-wop days can be found on iTunes.

Anyway, Dio left behind a legacy when he lost his battle to cancer on May 16, 2010.  Modern hard rockers Downstait have honored that legacy with their cover of Dio’s “The Last In Line,” featured on their latest album, With You In Mind.

As Dio had a one-of-a-kind voice, Downstait lead vocalist Daren Zack Call and guest vocalist Sahaj Ticotin, of Ra, stick with their own vocal ranges.  As expressed in previous articles, it is always better to personalize a cover song with your own brand and style.  Your fans will appreciate when you do not deviate from your own sound simply to pay tribute.  More importantly, if you do a good job on a personalized cover, you may acquire some new fans.

This was definitely a ballsy decision, but Downstait pulled it off.  While still respecting the original version, they transformed it into a song that fit in perfectly with the rest of the material on the CD.  With the addition of Sahaj’s smoother, more versatile vocals, Downstait’s cover of “The Last In Line” is a respectable tribute to the great Ronnie James Dio.

It may not have Dio’s voice or fit into the category of heavy metal, but it is a great cover.  Sahaj’s voice both by itself and in harmony with that of Call makes it work vocally.  Combined with the spot-on guitar work, especially including the near-perfect solo, this version is worth at least two listens.

Check it out here: 

Dio’s version: 

With You In Mind was released on April 23, 2013.  For more information on Downstait, check out the band’s Facebook page.


Artist of the Week [4/26/13]: Black Water Rising

After first hearing them when MySpace Music was still a thing, it is exciting to learn that New York rockers Black Water Rising are continuing to implement their well-honed, personal brand of hard rock.  Prior to the 2008 independent release of their self-titled debut, I remember wearing out “Brother Go On” on the MySpace music player.  It wasn’t until 2010 when the album was officially released through Metalville/eOne Records.  It was previously only available digitally on iTunes.

Black Water Rising are planning to unleash their sophomore effort in July.  Currently, the new album has yet to bear a title.  The first single, “Show No Mercy,” is available on iTunes and can also be streamed via this Blabbermouth.net article.  “Show No Mercy” picks up right where Black Water Rising left off.  While it doesn’t sound like it could be featured on the band’s first album, it undeniably has Black Water Rising’s signature watermark on it.

As the band’s Facebook page notes, Black Water Rising play “No Frills, Riff Raging, turbo charged, wall of pure kick ass Power Rock.”  It is pleasing to hear and know that this description has not changed.  As sort of an underground super-group, the band is comprised of members from Dust To Dust, Boiler Room, and Stereomud (Blabbermouth.net).

Band founder, mastermind, and lead vocalist, Rob Traynor, definitely has a knack for quality rock n’ roll.  His voice embodies the epitome of the grittiness of hard rock.  With the addition of heavy riffs and groovy hooks, Black Water Rising create a sound refreshing to rock listeners everywhere.

Upon listening to Dust To Dust, Traynor’s previous band, it can be said that Black Water Rising might show more promise.  The former offered a nü metal-oriented sound.  Although it sounded pretty good, nü metal is extinct, with the exception of Korn and Slipknot, and that is probably for the best.  With that said, the music of Black Water Rising is much more aesthetically pleasing and will hopefully explode into a larger listening base very soon.

Fans of bands like Black Label Society, Sevendust, and Down should check out Black Water Rising.  Five focus tracks are “Brother Go On,” “The River,” “Rise,” “Tears from the Sun,” and “Show No Mercy.”

For more information on Black Water Rising, visit their Facebook page and/or their website.


%d bloggers like this: