Category Archives: Artist of the Week

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.


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.

 

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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.


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.


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.


Artist of the Week [4/20/13]: Boston

In light of the events in the city of Boston and its surrounding towns, the classic rock band of that title has been selected as this week’s “Artist of the Week.”  Although they lack a large repertoire, several of Boston’s song titles speak well in this situation.  The actual lyrical content of those songs may not necessarily fit perfectly, but bear with me.

Following the explosions at the Boston Marathon this past Monday, many people, visitors and residents alike, were severely injured, three of whom died.  It was a terrifying day as people outside the city attempted to reach their loved ones while all telephone service was turned off and Boston was on lockdown.  This awful day turned into a week full of varying emotions.  Identities of the people directly affected by the bombs were released.   There were many press conferences regarding the tragedy and its aftermath.  Eyes were peeled on the news as more details continued to arise each day.

Emotions heightened when FBI uncovered a surveillance video of two suspects.  Bostonians held their hopes high as all forms of law enforcement worked relentlessly to find the two Tsarnaev brothers.  Finally, on Friday evening, the younger brother, Dzhokhar, was found in a boat in a Watertown resident’s backyard.  Many people, especially Bostonians, rejoiced after hearing that “Suspect 2” was captured alive.  The news even showed a huge crowd partying near the State House.

While more information regarding the motives of this attack will hopefully be forced out through interrogation of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Bostonians and Americans elsewhere can be at a “Peace of Mind” for now.  This whole week offered “More Than A Feeling” and showed that perhaps there is a “Higher Power.”  It is a great thing that we can now “Cool The Engines” without too much “Foreplay/Long Time” having been involved.

For those who did not pick up on those last few sentences, those are Boston song titles cleverly worked into this situation.  The band Boston is best known for its self-titled debut album, released in 1976. Despite the band releasing a few more albums, Boston is the main effort that fans remember and cherish.  From start to finish, it can arguably be considered a masterpiece.  Almost all eight tracks have been played on commercial radio.  “More Than A Feeling” is the cliché Boston song that most music listeners know.

Like their contemporaries, Boston are not considered very relevant today, especially since lead singer Brad Delp died.  In 2007, Delp committed suicide by burning himself on charcoal. That was truly upsetting to hear for several reasons.  First, suicide should never be an option.  Life tends to act like a roller coaster.  As low as you may drop, you will eventually come back up.  Secondly, that is an extremely painful way to leave this world.  It is sad to learn that he felt the need to hurt himself that badly.  Lastly, he had a great singing voice which was one of the elements that set Boston apart.  That is probably a large reason that not many people seem to care about the band anymore.

With that said, if you are not familiar with 1976’s Boston, check it out.  All eight songs are focus tracks.


Artist of the Week [4/12/13]: Evile

Known as one of the leaders of the thrash revival scene, UK’s Evile have shown great promise to thrashers worldwide since the 2007 release of Enter the Grave.  Drawing from major old school thrash metal influences, especially that of Slayer, Evile breathe a fresh interpretation of the thrash metal of yesteryear.

With three full-length CDs under their belt, Evile are readying a fourth effort, Skull, to be released on May 27th.  The band seemed to have fallen off the face of the Earth after not touring North America recently and not promoting its third record, Five Serpent’s Teeth, very well.  That was a true shame, because it contained some impressive material.  However, it is extremely difficult to find, even online.

Anyway, the album teaser for Skull provokes a hope for a big Evile comeback.  With Earache Records on the helm again, perhaps Skull will receive the praise and acclaim which Five Serpent’s Teeth also deserved.

Five Evile tracks to check out are “Thrasher,” “Infected Nation,” “In Dreams of Terror,” “Descent Into Madness,” and “Cemetery Gates.”  “Thrasher” can be found on the band’s debut album, Enter The Grave.  It is the potentially the most well-known Evile song, appearing on a few compilation albums, such as Thrashing Like A Maniac.  Like the rest of Enter The Grave, “Thrasher” is heavy, fast, and extremely aggressive.  On the band’s sophomore effort, 2009’s Infected Nations, Evile sound more mature and rely more heavily on crunchy riffs and heavy, hard-hitting rhythms. “Infected Nation” has fast points but still follows the formula of the overall album on which it appears.

While staying true to Evile’s signature sound, “In Dreams of Terror” and “Descent Into Madness” come off a bit less aggressive than the songs on the band’s previous two albums.  Perhaps, this has to do with the loss of long-time bassist, Mike Alexander, who passed away shortly after Infected Nations was released.  Therefore, Five Serpent’s Teeth was the first studio release without Alexander.  With that said, Evile’s cover of Pantera’s “Cemetery Gates” is a phenomenal tribute to Pantera, the late “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott [of Pantera], and Alexander.

Judging from the Skull album teaser, Evile have rekindled their aggression, maintained the brutal thrash, and recorded an album worth endlessly promoting.

For more information about Evile, check out their website and look out for Skull next month.

Photo courtesy of earache.com


Artist of the Week [4/5/13]: Fitz and the Tantrums

Despite having a sound reminiscent of 80’s pop-rock (e.g. Hall & Oates), Fitz and the Tantrums easily appeal to today’s generation.  There seems to be a growing music scene that relies heavily on 80’s musical influences.  Although it is a strange occurrence, it is indeed refreshing to know that there is hope in today’s music industry.

Fitz and the Tantrums’ forthcoming CD, More Than Just A Dream, will surface on May 7th for North America.  Judging by the first single, “Out Of My League,” it should be an easy and enlightening listen.  The echoing lead vocals and gang vocal chorus combined with falsetto “ooh”s and an 80’s retro melody make for a catchy tune.

For Boston area fans, the group will perform at the Paradise Rock Club on Friday, June 28th.  After watching a live performance of Fitz and the Tantrums on Palladia, it can be expressed that this band will be worth the $25 ticket.  According to the video footage, they have fantastic stage presence and perfectly interact with their audiences.

Five songs to check out are “Out Of My League,” “Moneygrabber,” “Don’t Gotta Work It Out,” “L.O.V.,” and “Dear Mr. President.”  Excluding “Out Of My League,” all of these songs come off of the band’s debut full-length album, Pickin’ Up The Pieces.  While the new single sounds like an 80’s song, as previously discussed, the other four suggested focus tracks revert back to the 70’s. They all sound like something Kool & The Gang or Earth, Wind, & Fire might have written.

For more information on Fitz and the Tantrums, check out their website.


Artist of the Week [3/29/13]: Psychopathic Daze

Another Chicago band has made it into the MusicTalker books, and rightfully so.  Psychopathic Daze offer a refreshing melodic death metal sound, somewhat reminiscent to the legendary Death as well as early In Flames and Children of Bodom, despite the lack of keyboards for the latter.  Although, the band’s bio does not delve that deeply into the sound of Psychopathic Daze.  It does, however, inform the reader of the band’s impressive résumé. Apparently, Psychopathic Daze have shared the stage with better known bands like As I Lay Dying, In Flames, Lamb of God, Between the Buried and Me, Hatebreed, and Sylosis, among others.

For their song, “End of Days,” Psychopathic Daze released a music video in April of 2012. While it is clearly a low-budget production, it is interesting to watch.  As the screen fades up from black, the viewer sees a herd of zombies from which the band members walk away with ease.  The next scene portrays the cliché portion of a hard rock/heavy metal music video where the band performs the song in an empty room.  In this case, PD are in a caged room while a living human runs away from the zombie herd.  Again, despite the fact that it is obviously low-budget and that it is probably not the most original concept, it works with the band’s image and music.

As for studio releases, Psychopathic Daze’s third effort, titled Ride This Bullet Home, will drop in late April.  After hearing the new EP, it can be said that these guys should be more well-known.  They are playing better metal music than a lot of the bands in the forefront of today’s modern metal scene.

For more information regarding Chicago’s Psychopathic Daze, check them out on Facebook.  Their official website is www.psychopathicdaze.com.  Stay tuned on their media platforms for their forthcoming release.

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If you know of any worthy musicians for MusicTalker’s “Artist of the Week” segment, send an email to themusictalker@gmail.com with band information.


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