Saturday, May 14, 2011

Show Recap: Stick to Your Guns / Close Your Eyes

The Stick Tight Tour came through Denver to the Marquis Theater featuring Terror, an iconic hardcore group thats been around for quite a long time. Supporting Terror were Stick To Your Guns, Trapped Under Ice, Close Your Eyes, and Your Demise.

Stick To Your Guns - This Is More breakdown

Your Demise opened the show with a solid set. The dudes are from England and have a good blend of melodic hardcore, mostly aggressive sounds with a few clean choruses thrown in. After that was Close Your Eyes, the Christian melodic hardcore punk group on the tour. The were definitely the odd band of the tour, not only because they have more of a punk sound and more melody, but also because they're outspoken Christians. They talked about their faith before playing their last song which was Song For The Broken. The crowd wasn't really into CYE but that didn't stop the band from being very energetic and confident. The crowd did get to the stage to help sing Song For the Broken "This is my worship, this is my life - to bring hope into this broken world!"

Close Your Eyes - Digging Graves

Close Your Eyes - new song

After that was Trapped Under Ice, a hardcore band from Baltimore that i have never really been into. i've seen them a few times and they definitely bring the energy and the crowd loves them, but they're just not my style. Stick To Your Guns was up next and they're always good. They sang most of their popular songs "Enough is Enough" and the singer talked about how seeing a girl he was friends with growing up, die from being hit by a drunk-driver. this incident pushed him to become straight-edge. During the song a serious fight broke out, and while the security was clearing everyone out, the band had to stop. The singer then talked about how hypocritical it is that straight-edge kids always seem to fight during that song. It was a good lesson, i wish kids would listen.

Stick to Your Guns - What Goes Around

Stick To Your Guns - Some Kind of Hope

We didn't stay long for Terror, but the place was packed and pumped up.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Album Review: Sevin - Finally Home

Artist: Sevin
Release: Finally Home
Label: HOG Mob Muzik
Release Date: November 2010
Reviewed By: BMer

01. Intro [2:17]
02. Dem Don Kno Me [4:00]ft. Dre & B-Rone
03. And Wut!! [3:47]
04. Involved [4:28]ft. Brotha Ruff
05. Starz [4:14]ft. Floe Montana
06. Show Me [4:07]ft. R.E.I.G.N.
07. Reel Game [2:57]
08. Let’s Take A Ride [3:55]ft. K-T & Ambassador
09. Live Wire [4:54]ft. Bliz & Bizzle
10. Tuch Tha Sky [3:57]
11. Past Lyfe [4:32]ft. K-T
12. I Need Tha Gospel [5:09]ft. Paul Washer
13. I Gotta Hav U [4:20]ft. B-Rone
14. Finally Home [5:06]
15. Kry Sometimez [4:36]
16. Safest Place (interlude) [1:51]
17. Hevin [3:17]
18. Itz In U [3:51]
19. I Feel Him Komin [4:34]ft. John McArthur

Sevin is a Christian MC from Sacramento, California. Finally Home, the latest in Sevin’s impressive catalogue, is released through HOG Mob Muzik. Sevin’s west coast rap style features bangin’ beats and a smooth flow that keeps you bobbing your head, and his edgy storytelling might be too colorful for a youth group, but strikes right to the heart of the listener.

Right from the get-go you get a sense of Sevin’s lyrical power, he’s a veteran of the rap game now and his non-stop flow on the intro track shows that he’s not following the typical playbook that most gospel rapper play by. On track 2, “Dem Don Kno Me” Sevin’s use of the n-word shows that he’s not getting caught up in semantics, his mission of bringing the Church to the streets will not be compromised because he chooses to use edgy words. These tracks are not designed for the Christian music festival crowd, they’re aimed at the lost on the streets, and one way to break through is to speak a language they speak. Sevin does not waste time proclaiming his faith though, track 3 “And Wut!!!” features the hook “but yea I’m a Christian and what?!”, repeated over and over then …”I bang, you won’t, Christ reigns, you don’t”.

Finally Home is long, 19 tracks featuring only one interlude and a handful of talented guests like K-T, Ambassador, Bliz, Bizzle, Dre, and Brotha Ruff. “Involved” featuring Brotha Ruff is a typical west coast track reminiscent of Xzibit or West Side Connection with it’s keys and driving bass. The title track “Finally Home” is a solid storytelling track where Sevin goes through his story of writing this album, battling through depression and demons “I ain’t sweatin’ all this threatenin’ economy, I don’t care if the terrorists are bombing me, cause all i see, what? is thisThrone of Grace, and the King that sits in it with a glowing face.” The best track on Finally Here is “Kry Somtymez”, Sevin’s singing on the hook is raw and passionate. The message of the song is something most hardened thugs would never admit; crying when times get tough. The lyrics are tough and honest, really showing the vulnerability that makes Finally Home such a solid album. Sevin doesn’t only admit to crying, he repeats it over and over as the hook of the song “Lord knows I cry sometimes, but although I’m hurtin’, I give You my burdens. I wanna die sometimes, but You say just trust Me, no one can love me the way You do.” He also made a video for the track.

OVERALL Finally Home is a powerful work, raw and emotional lyrics, solid beats, and a diverse delivery giving Sevin one of the better rap albums of 2010. Although the album is not without some weaker tracks, overall with 19 total songs there are definitely some standout great numbers like “Kry Somtymez” and “Involved”. The lyrics feature some words that might be considered offensive, just FYI.

Reviewed for

Album Review: Ironwill - Unturned

Band: Ironwill
Release: Unturned
Label: Blood and Ink Records
Release Date: March 2011
Reviewed By: BMer

Track List:

Ironwill is a melodic hardcore outfit releasing their debut full-length on Blood & Ink Records. Unturned features 8 tracks of fast-paced hardcore, which include high points like “Visionaries” “The Prodigal” and “Unturned”. This is what fast hardcore should sound like!
Although Ironwill’s sound has been described as metalcore, the foundation of their sound rests more in hardcore punk than anything else. The drumming is excellent, featuring very fast-paced chugging beats reminiscent of Comeback Kid and other punk-based bands while the fills are definitely less angry beating found in metalcore/hardcore and more smooth and flowing. The guitar-work is definitely less intense than the hardcore records coming out these days, with creative riffs that don’t take place on the lowest sounding part of the guitar, no open, drop-D strumming, no repetitive palm-mutes to match the double-kick, just simplistic riffing to keep the mood a little less dark. There are breakdowns throughout Unturned, but none that involve bass-drops or over-the-top tribal beating, just clean simple change-of-pace sections. After the instrumental track (#5 Sri Lanka) things slow down a bit, unfortunately, and begin to sound generic.

In fact, the only aspect of the band that really separates Ironwill from bands like Comeback Kid, With Honor, Close Your Eyes is the strained vocals and lack of clean vocals and gang vocals. The vocals are very strained, and blend of yelling and screaming, that comes off a little too intense and out-of-place for the rest of the sound. Probably the best comparison would be the vocal styles of Shai Hulud, in fact, there are quite a few of comparisons between Ironwill and Shai Hulud. Theme-wise the songs range from pleas for guidance from God “pour Your spirit into me; beathe the breath of life into my lungs.” (“I Am the Clay”) to critical introspective songs like “The Prodigal”: “I am the worst child that a father could ask for. Oh God, please forgive me for what everything that I have done.”

OVERALL: Ironwill’s Unturned will appeal to older fans who enjoyed fast melodic hardcore during the turn of the century, but the younger-generation of fans who enjoy dance-beats, screams, breakdowns, and an over-abundance of double-bass this won’t do the trick. Blood & Ink Records are having a great run of releases, bands that are focused on making passionate faith-based hardcore and leaving the gimmicks at the door. Ironwill is welcome addition to an already impressive roster at B&I.

Reviewed for

Friday, February 11, 2011

Life In Your Way reunited!!

So one of my favorite bands have decided to get back together, Life In Your Way is currently working on an album that they're going to release through Come & Live!

This is such good news that i decided to write a quick recap of the interesting way i became a Life In Your Way fan.

Back in 2007 i was slowly becoming a fan of heavier music than the punk/hardcore i was used to listening to. I discovered this band, Chasing Victory, that had a sound similar to Underoath and i was really into them. I went downtown to catch a Chasing Victory show at the Marquis Theater, i was flying solo. When i got in the venue it was nearly empty, maybe 50-100 kids at most. I didn't know any band on the lineup except Chasing Victory and they were playing 2nd to last. The band that was currently playing however, was solid, not amazing but clearly were good musicians.

The lead singer impressed me most, he was a big dude and full of confidence and conviction. I couldn't understand most of the lyrics but i liked the style, had some hardcore elements that i like (fast beats, simple effective breakdowns). But the moment i was hooked was when during a breakdown the guitarists starting singing "let it be a sweet, sweet sound, in Your ear." This song resonates to my early childhood as one of the first songs i ever learned, i remember singing it in little kids church. Anyway, i thought it was awesome how they band had incorporated that awesome song into a hardcore song, they did it very well. They said their name was Life In Your Way, and i was going to look them up when i got home.

I stayed for Chasing Victory, unfortunately because they were awful. I left after 3 songs. I got in my car and fired up the ipod and wouldn't you know, i had Life In Your Way on my ipod?! how did that happen!? A few days earlier a co-worker had given me a few albums that he thought i should check out, it was a lot of music and i hadn't got through most of it, but here was Life In Your Way. Of course i checked it out and was super impressed, love their melodic hardcore sound. Later i found out that a key member of Life In Your Way also played in With Honor which was another of my favorite bands at the time. crazy!

It was short-lived though, Life In Your Way broke up a few months later. The closest they had played to Denver again was Cheyenne, Wyoming, a show which i had planned on going to but a huge snow storm hit Colorado that day. They were playing with Means, another awesome band, and i called the venue like 10 times that day to make sure the bands made it safely, i wasn't driving through a snow storm to Wyoming to find out the bands couldn't make it. I never got confirmation so i wussed out. Had i known that Life In Your Way and Means would breakup in the next six months i obviously wouldn't have bailed on that show!

Life In Your Way is back, they're releasing an album through Come & Live! Records which means it will be free. Whether they will tour is still unknown, but i sure hope they do. Everyone should check these guys out!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Is being in a band really "Work"?

In the February issue of Hopecore Magazine there is an interview with the president and founder of AP Magazine; Mike Shea. The interview talks a lot about music labels and how the music industry looks today, and how it will look in the future. Below are two questions that caught my attention, I high-lited the parts that stood out to me:

What is your take on an organization like Come&Live! Which gives their artists’ music away for free and runs off of donations?

MS: The whole culture of free is exciting but it’s a scary world. It can blow up to everything before you know it. I was just thinking cynically the other night, if the culture of free really takes over and gets out of control, there will be no press outlets anymore or media outlets. Nobody will be able to make any money, there won’t be any Rolling Stone or New York Times or AP or Relevant, there won’t be anybody. All you’re going to have is a million music bloggers who have other day jobs. The culture of sampling, which was really what the music kiosks in chain stores were, were wildly successful then downloading hit and it became “Well, I want to hear the whole record first before I decide to buy it”. What happened was most people decided not to buy it and then the excuses started of “I don’t get paid enough, they’re on Interscope, the artists make so much money anyway etc”. The artists really got hurt and they’re really suffering now. We’re finding, as you guys probably hear of on your end, more and more musicians, not Britney Spears, not Lady Gaga, we’re talking bands who never made it on the cover of AP but sold 50-60 thousand units over a few records who are now needing to go get day jobs because the only way you make money is touring. When you have everyone touring because it’s the only way you can make money, it floods the market. There’s only so many nightclubs, only so much money everyone has every month to go see a band so if you really go talk to all the promoters they’ll tell you there are too many bands, to many shows. Everybody suffers.

The culture of free is actually destroying everything. The entertainment industry has been absolutely pathetic at how they addressed downloading. They should have pulled out Anthony Green, Aaron Gillespie, Stephen Christian and had them do PSAs online and in movie theater ads and commercials where they say “Look, we’re going to have to not tour. You’re not going to see us much anymore because every time your roommate goes and downloads are record and shares it everywhere, we don’t see any money and we can’t afford to tour anymore”. The label isn’t getting the money so there is no tour support. We’re seeing it with digital books now. The publishing companies are freaking out because there is now a black market for illegal downloaded books for Kindle. We already have problems where people scan cover stories or major features that show up in publications and put them up online so kids don’t have to buy anything anymore. Its one thing after another and soon there is going to be a massive collapse. What’s happening is all these websites are running around trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator and trying to gobble up everything and put these ad networks together and charge whatever amount of money so they can be one of the few websites left. Its very scary world and I don’t think that 95% of people who download music get it. I don’t think they understand that you have to support the artists.

Have you thought about that kind of thing for the future? It blows my mind that people waste their time scanning a magazine to put it online and share it with other people. How are you preparing for the future as things like this grow worse?

MS: I don’t think there is a way to fix it. When these things start up, you can try and stop it and go around to particular sites and tell them to take a record down but then another one pops right up. What you do is try and insulate yourself to it. The people that are pro-file sharing and downloading will sit there and say “Well, this is marketing and think about all the people who would’ve never known about your product or band”. Well, the bands could make money before and they can’t now. Your whole argument about branding doesn’t matter. You sit in your apartment b******* about how file sharing is okay when you have a day job somewhere else and you don’t have to worry about it. You go join a band, quit your job and join a band and talk to me in five months because you’ll be b******* too. That’s the problem is that a lot of the people running these file sharing websites don’t have to live off of the industry. Sooner or later we may end up like Europe where they’re coordinating with web providers and they’re shutting down ISPs. How else are musicians going to make their money? What are they going to do? I think it was one of the AFI guys who tweeted something about wanting to know the mindset of someone who watched us spend 11 months in the studio, working, writing music, putting it all together and they have no problem taking it within seconds and putting it up online for free. Who is that person? I don’t think the problem has been communicated correctly. It’s really sad to see the bands out there going under.

Now i'm not trying to take a side here, yet, but i'm wondering what people think about the music industry, or even the movie industry. Are they necessary? Do we need a million bands out there? When AFI talks about spending 11 months in the studio "working" do we really view that as "work"? Nobody is forcing these people to be in bands, there is no demand for bands and music, sure we all love music, but on a production level are they contributing to society? Sometimes it feels like a new bands starts up and demands to be paid, but just because you're in a band doesn't mean anyone owes you money right?

I'm not justifying downloading pirated music, or movies, i'm simply asking why people in the music industry have an expectation of being paid. I know plenty of musicians, and most of them work a "real" job because they know there's no money in music. Think about it, you don't make up a job and work it with an expectation to be paid - you go where there is work to be done, where there is a demand. Where there is a demand people pay for what they're demanding. It's hard for me to think that every single band in the industry today has exceptional talent, that they have enough talent to be paid for it. I know a lot of talented people (musicians, aspiring movie producers, book writers, athletes...) and they use their talents as a hobby, a passion, something to do for the love of the passion. they play on their own time, and don't expect to make a living from it.

If you can't afford to tour, then don't tour. If you're expecting to live easy off making an album, you're wrong. My opinion is that kids should stop throwing everything away to start a rock band only to find themselves in-debt at 30 yrs old and mad that they didn't make any money being in a band. Unless your goal is something besides making money (like spreading a message, ministry, off-season fun...) then no one is forcing you to be in a band, don't do it. if you do, don't complain about the lack of money you're not making.

is art important? yes! Is everyone and their mother an artist worthy of making $30,000+ a year? no!

When bands start quitting because they don't make money, maybe "fans" will be more impacted. For now though, when one band quits, five more pop up. Think about it, would you still work your job if there was no guarantee for income? There comes a time when you have to make a choice between pursuing something you love to do, and making a living. Most of us are working regular jobs for a living, stuff we don't love or have a passion for, but we understand responsibility, we understand that working a job is going to part of most of our life and most of us are thankful for our jobs (and if we're not we have the option of looking for a different job).

the dollar speaks. Basketball players make ridiculous money because fans are paying for tickets, cable-tv, merchandise, there's money there. MLS (US Soccer) players don't make much unless they are known talents, some kids who are graduating college get drafted by MLS teams but turn down the offer for a "regular" job that pays more. Rookie MLS players minimum salary is around $20,000/year. No one is forcing them to be soccer players, so they realize that they could make more doing something else. Maybe high school kids need to make the same decision before they start a hardcore band.

Best of 2010

I put together my Best of 2010 lists for and here they are:

Top Albums

1. Hundredth – When Will We Surrender
2. Haste The Day – Attack of the Wolf King
3. Robbie Seay Band – Miracle
4. The Ghost Inside – Returners
5. Norma Jean – Meridional
6. Close Your Eyes – We Will Overcome
7. Dave Barnes – What We Want What We Get
8. I Am Alpha And Omega – The Roar and the Whisper
9. The Chariot – Long Live
10. Counterparts – Prophet
11. Sovereign Strength – Reflections
12. Blank Page Empire – Sinners, Thieves, and Beggars
13. Nas & Damian Marley – Distant Relatives
14. Called To Arms – Peril and the Patient
15. Taylor Swift – Speak Now
16. Ascend The Hill – Hymns: Take the World But Give Me Jesus
17. Trip Lee – Between Two Worlds
18. A Plea For Purging – The Marriage Between Heaven and Hell
19. I, The Breather - These Are My Sins
20. Pigeon John – Dragon Slayer

Top 5 EPs

1. Killing The Dream – Lucky Me
2. Venia – I’ve Lost All Faith In Myself
3. Dependency – Convicted
4. Messengers – Anthems
5. The Devil Wears Prada - Zombie

Biggest Disappointments

1. Anberlin – Dark is the Way, Light is a Place
2. Corpus Christi – A Feast for Crows
3. Comeback Kid – Symptoms & Cures
4. War Of Ages – Eternal
5. The Audition – Great Danger

Top 5 Songs

1. Haste The Day “Dog-like Vultures”
2. Venia “The Call”
3. Robbie Seay Band “Crazy Love”
4. Hundredth “Willows”
5. Pigeon John “Buttersoft Seats”

6 “White Flag” – For Today
7 “The City” – The Chariot
8 “The Way That We Fall” – The Suit
9 “Blame the Architects” – Killing the Dream
10 “Dear John” – Taylor Swif

Top 5 Unsigned Bands

1. Blank Page Empire
2. All At RISK
3. The Suit
4. Hanover Saints
5. The Music Room

Album Review: Future - Endure

Artist: Future
Release: Endure
Label: independent
Release Date: October 2010
Reviewer: BMer

Track List:
01. Endure Intro
02. Go In ft. R-Swift, Thisl & K-Drama
03. Endure ft. Pastor AD3
04. Fight Klub Interlude
05. Fight Klub
06. Winners ft. Fitgerald
07. At His Throne ft. PRo
08. God Ain’t With You
09. Frontline ft. PRo & Json
10. Struggle No More ft. Fitzgerald
11. Never Back Down ft. Mike Real & Rio (KuntryBoyy)
12. Future vs. Pride ft. Bumps
13. Conviction
14. Hold On

If you are looking for some high-energy southern Christian rap then Future might just be that, the future! Although not on the level in popularity with other artists like Lecrae and Trip Lee, Future still features an all-star cast on his latest release titled Endure. Fellow “x-hustler” Thi’sl features a few times, as well as Flame, JSon, Pro, KDrama and quite a few more. This is the kind of in-your-face hip-hop takes on some serious issues, as well as some serious big-name rappers!

The theme throughout Endure is just that, endure. Just looking at the track list you get the idea that Future knows life is tough, but we need to persevere, with song titles like “Battle”, “Frontline”, Struggle No More” and “Fight Club”. One of the best tracks on the album starts the album off, “Go In” starts off with some horns and when the beat drops, it’s on! Thi’sl and K-Drama help set things straight throughout the track. Future delivers clear confidence and his flow never seems forced.

Other standout tracks include “Fight Club”, “Endure”, “Winners” and “Struggle No More”. There is quality effort to make the hooks and chorus stand up next to the smooth delivery of Future, something that often lacks on Christian rap albums. AD3 on “Endure” is solid when he sings “keep it moving, keep it Holy, keep it pure, Endure”. On “Fight Club” you hear plenty of sporting references, usually to leaders in their respective sports like Lebron James and the Florida Gators. One of my favorite sport references happens in “God Ain’t With You” where Future raps “you can be a star and still be Christ’s example – Tebow”. There are plenty of other clever references, like on “Never Back Down” – “I got a new heart from my daddy too, like John Q.”

The song “Winner” features a super-catchy chorus delivered by Fitzgeral “in this life I choose Christ so I’m already a winner, all because of Jesus I’m already victorious.” Future is relentless throughout the track with his lyrics, constantly promoting faith in Christ “I don’t believe in fate I believe in faith along.”. He also recommends that listeners don’t wait too long to turn to Christ because “you’re all sinners / never escape the heat like in Miami, all winter (so hot).”

The track “God Ain’t With You” could be considered controversial, you know instantly who the track is directed at with the opening line “you say your last names Ever, your first name is Greatest…” Yes, Jay-Z is the directed target, but this song could apply to just about everyone in the entertainment business. “You’re like a kid with tokens, and the arcade is open. You just bought a boat, but God controls the ocean.” The song touches on the exercise of most entertainers to thank God at their shows, yet you could question their validity by the way they live.

Endure is not without its weak moments, for example there is a staged rap-battle for track 10, “Battle”. The battle is between Future and pride, yes the characteristic of pride. The idea is creative, pride telling Future “I’ll have you thinking you’re effort’s great, trusting merits instead of grace” but the delivery is corny, with an MC and crowd cheering and other effects to give the impression that this battle happened in 8 Mile. This is a modern-day Screwtape Letters in some sense, so it worth it to read through the lyrics, considering the motives of pride. The best line though, from pride “I’m a big deal like Lebron to the Knicks, while you remain the Kwame Brown of all lottery picks.”

OVERALL Endure is a solid release from Future, full of credible performances from other rappers in the Christian rap genre. Each song has that anthem feel to it, each one would justify that towel you carry around at shows to dry off the sweat, you’ll be bouncing non-stop throughout Endure. Future puts his name on the map, for fans of straight-forward Christian rap with issues most of us can relate to, check out Endure.

Reviewed for Indie Vision Music

Future – Endure