Saturday, January 7, 2017

Album Review: Teenage Metal Princess, Moriah Formica: Bring it On!


Bring it on is that all you have for me? Bring it on I'm strong now Bring it on you cannot move me anymore Bring it on i wanna see your face When you find out that I broke you


When most teenagers with great voices and musical skill decide that they want to try to become a music sensation, they try shows like American Idol. Or, they try to attract the attention of a musical producer, and if it happens, they are perfectly fine with singing songs that someone else wrote. But a few of them decide to do it the honest way, as in putting in the work and learning how to play instruments, sing, and write original songs, and fighting for exposure in the trenches. Albany NY's Moriah Formica fits this description. She began learning how to play the guitar by ear at only 6 years old! 

I first heard of Moriah last month, when I saw a video on YouTube of her joining Stryper on stage to sing To Hell With The Devil with them. Everyone knows that song is extremely difficult to sing, and she absolutely nailed it. So, I decided that I would get her album, and review it. I got it last night, and WHOA! This young lady has some pipes, and she wrote every song on her 6 song EP, titled Bring It On. Very appropriately titled, if you ask me. This album doesn't seem like it was written by a teenager. Its better music than a majority of what you hear on the radio these days.



The album starts off with the song, Slave. A gritty mid paced tune that has an emotional verse progression, and a catchy chorus. A great tune to kick off the album with. It leads into Lovestrong, which was the first song Moriah ever wrote, and it made it to the album! Its a cute and catchy song with a commercial pop vibe, but actually has a kind of a Stryper feel to it. These first two songs are the ones with commercial (as in radio ready) feel. The other 4 songs are deep, darkish, and technical. Broken Soul with an acoustic intro with Moriah singing with it. It then punches into an extremely well arranged metal anthem. The guitar in this song could knock a hole in a wall. Back Off is an interesting song, and my favorite on the album. It starts off with a solid paced groove for the intro, but the verses change tempo in a very unique way. It doesn't just go from fast to slow with one beat. Its a gradual change, and I imagine that song would be difficult to get tight at first. It goes back and forth like that, and ends on a fast note, with a sassy chuckle from Moriah to finish it off. I can't ever remember hearing that type of tempo change before. Like I said, Very interesting. Save Me is a very deep song, with licks that remind me of greats like Judas Priest, and Evanescence. This song, and the final song, the title track, Bring It On are the most technical on the album. Once again, some Priest feel. Like maybe something that could have been on Painkiller! 

I didn't really mention the musicianship in these songs, because I would just be repeating myself. The guitar is spectacular. Its loaded with harmony soloing, blistering leads, and rhythms that blow the mind. The rhythm section is tight, with the bass and drums playing as one unit. The drummer is amazing. There's a reason for this. Moriah has indeed gotten noticed. Michael Sweet of Stryper does a guitar solo and backup vocals on Bring it On.  (He also had Moriah guest sing on his current album, One Sided War) Jack Daley of Lenny Kravitz's band plays bass, and Jason Bittner of Flotsam & Jetsam is the drummer! The 2 guitarists are Jay Rodgers and Dave Messick. Keyboards are done by Dustin DeLukeMoriah Formica has put together an all-star lineup!

Moriah killing it with Stryper!

Pure and raw Talent like this doesn't come along very often, especially in this day and age of instant gratification. Moriah Formica has one thing that these cookie cutter American Idol singers do not. Longevity. She will be dominating the metal scene for years to come. Her voice is stunning, beautiful, and powerful. Her range is through the stratosphere. I, for one am looking forward to her next album. I'm looking forward to hearing her growth as a songwriter and musician, although her debut is one of the best debut albums I've ever heard. And, she is only 16 years old! I also hope she comes in concert to Orlando, because I will be there!

This is my first post of 2017. What a great way to start off the year! I'm hoping that its a sign of things to come. A nice and refreshing surprise that tells me that rock and metal will be in good hands. Hopefully, 2017 will be a great year for Moriah, and everyone else!



You definitely need to get this album.

Get it on Amazon, Itunes

Moriah's
website
Twitter
Facebook
YouTube





Thursday, December 29, 2016

Ironic Tie of Fisher/Reynolds Deaths to Star Wars Movies


RIP, Carrie Fisher and
Debbie Reynolds

I'm not sure if anyone has noticed this yet, but I did, and as far as I know, I'm the first to come up with it. If someone else did before today, no plagiarism was intended. Anyway, I'm a little emotional as I write about this striking example of life mimicking art. 

This will be a short post, and here we go. What happened with Fisher and Reynolds, who if you don't know were mother and daughter. They had a very close relationship. When Carrie died, the very next day, Reynolds died after suffering a stroke. One of the last things Reynolds said was "I want to be with Carrie." And, its been said through the media that she died of a broken heart.

Now, in Star Wars: Episode 3, at the end, when Padme was giving birth to Luke and Leia, she died shortly after childbirth. The droid doctor said (paraphrasing) "I cannot explain it. She has lost the will to live.She died of a broken heart" 



Reynolds was Carrie's mother. She died the day after her daughter (Leia) died. Leia's mother (Padme) died giving birth to Leia. BOTH died of a broken heart. I know the conditions are different, but the similarity is ironic, especially when Episode 3 came out more than a decade ago. And, when you look at it that way, Carrie/Leia lost 2 mothers, one fictional, one real to a broken heart. 

That blew me away when I made that connection. Yeah, I am a sci fi nerd. I've admitted it many times on this blog. I avoid spoilers to movies like the plague, but I did see something suggesting that all of Carrie Fisher's scenes in Episode 8 have already been filmed. I hope this is true.

I also hope that Leia gets to
take out a bunch of stormtroopers
in Episode 8.

Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds were loved, and will continue to be loved. Carrie is now one with the force, and will be with us always as we rewatch these beloved movies for years to come. Once again, RIP, and Fuck You, 2016!


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Movie Review: Rogue One


The question is...
Is the best Star Wars film 
of all time??


Holy crap, people! Rogue One is incredible. Its better than the prequels, the original trilogy, and it blows The Force Awakens out of the water. Is it better than The Empire Strikes Back? I haven't decided yet, but I am leaning that way. Truth be told, it is amazing, and you need to see it in the theater. Now, that's done, let's get down to the review. Ready? Here we go!!


                                         Warning: Spoilers!


The movie starts slow. For about 20-25 minutes, its giving a back story, which is necessary because the film is introducing you to characters that you've never seen before. But the remaining 90+ minutes is nothing but gripping action.


There is no text crawl at the beginning of the movie, and I was ok with that for a couple reasons. One, it is a Star Wars story, not an actual Star Wars movie. Two, you already know what was going on, especially if you've been watching Star Wars: Rebels, and The Clone Wars. The word gets out that the Empire is building a doomsday weapon, and they have to find a way to stop it.


Rogue One answers several questions that Star Wars fans have had for years. One, How did the design flaw in the Death Star get there? Two, Does the Death Star have a hyper drive? And, Three, Can Darth Vader fight as well in the suit? Well, the design flaw was put there by a scientist, Galen Erso who was forced to work on the project. He put it there as revenge on the Empire for forcing him to work on the weapon, which does have a hyper drive. And, yes Vader can fight in the suit. He is absolutely brutal. So brutal and deadly that it is now obvious that he was just toying with Obi Wan in Episode 4, and with Luke in Empire. Not so much in Return of the Jedi though.


Years after Erso was kidnapped, his daughter, Jyn Erso is liberated from an Imperial work camp by Cassian Andor, a rebel captain, and taken to Saw Gerrera, a rebel that even the rebellion doesn't like because of his crazy ways. You may remember him from The Clone Wars.

Jyn Erso in the final battle




He has a message for Jyn from her father. The message states that he did in fact put the design flaw in the Death Star plans, but before he could explain exactly how to exploit it, the Empire arrives with the Death Star, and obliterates the city. Gerrera stays and meets his fate, but the others are able to escape to Yavin 4, where the rebel base is. The rebels actually decide to surrender because of the power of the weapon, but Jyn, Andor, and a group of rebels, including an Imperial pilot who has defected take a captured freighter to go and infiltrate an imperial base to steal the Death Star Plans. When they arrive at the base, and are able to get in, the rest of the rebellion shows up and the fight begins. The rebels ultimately get the plans, and a familiar ship blasts its way out of the system in the nick of time.


Right off the bat, the Death Star in Rogue One is down right terrifying. You get a chill the first time you see it with its weapon being installed. And, its appearance at the end of the movie is spine tingling as well. 


That's no moon!

This movie is extremely well done. The characters are brilliantly developed, and you actually care about them, especially knowing they are on a suicide mission. The story is riveting, and you're on the edge of your seat the whole time. There is some comic relief, that comes from a droid, K-2SO, an imperial droid that has been reprogrammed to serve the Rebellion. His lines are pure sarcasm, yet genuinely funny. It isn't forced, annoying, and childish like another character who shall remain nameless. There is nothing for kids in this movie. 

K-2SO..Possibly my new favorite talking droid


The CGI is damn near perfection. In fact, there are 2 characters from Episode 4 that are in the film, and they are completely 100% CGI, and you'd never be able to tell the difference. The landscapes are spectacular, and everything looks dirty and gritty, as it did in Episode 4. The point of view is incredible as well. You see the AT-AT walkers as if you're on the ground, looking up at them. The battle scenes? Spectacular. The space battle scenes are not only the best in Star Wars, but likely the best in all of Sci-fi. And, the point of view from the Death Star? We see the blasts from the planet instead of space.


It also follows the theory that the Empire was using the Death Star in secret. After the first city was destroyed, they made mention that the propaganda story was that the city was destroyed as a result of a mining accident. Although, it won't be secret much longer!


Since the Jedi are gone, we also see a force user who isn't a Jedi, but he uses the force in other ways. He's blind, but can see. He's also a master at martial arts. There are so many great characters in this movie. 

Not a Jedi but can wield the Force as well as any


There are also plenty of Easter eggs in Rogue One, but they aren't out in the open and obvious like they are in Episode 7. You see the 2 jerks who were giving Luke a hard time in the Cantina. You see the Hoth monster, and come to the conclusion that the one on Hoth must be a hermit that chooses to live in seclusion. There are others, but they are used sparingly. Even Darth Vader is used sparingly. Everything is done just right.


Speaking of Vader, I have to tell you about Vader's fight scene. At the end, his star destroyer captures a Rebel cruiser. A captain gives an order to form a boarding party. We see the rebels from their side of the door, and as it is broken down, we do NOT see a bunch of storm troopers. We see Darth Vader in the doorway, and nobody else. He then activates his light saber and mows down about 20 rebel soldiers like they were nothing. Intense!



The movie ends literally where if it kept going, the very next scene would be the opening scene from Episode 4. This is the best movie I've seen in a very long time. Is it the best Star Wars movie? I don't know if its better than The Empire Strikes Back, but it is definitely better than Episodes 1,2,3,4,6, and 7. It blows Episode 7 out of the water.


So, Gareth Edwards, you hit a grand slam! Thank you! You owe it to yourself to go see this movie. And, if this is what we can expect from Disney owning Star Wars, and from Episodes 8,9 and the upcoming spinoff movies, then SIGN ME UP!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Album Review: Greek Metal Gods, Wardrum: Awakening


Forward never homeward 
On and on towards vast horizons 
Giving life a meaning 
Forming words through enlightened thoughts 
Till the road that he's onto leads to the dream

I've waited for this for several years. Since 2013 in fact. After being blown away by Thessaloniki, Greece's masters of power metal, Wardrum, and their last album, The Messenger, I have wanted to hear more. MORE! Well, I got it. The Awakening continues the band's lesson to all of us about what power metal is. Its a natural progression from their previous works and it shows growth in every aspect of the band from song writing, musical ability, and vocal ability. That's what happens when a band that is rock solid and tight keeps doing what they do best, and get along as a brotherhood. Something that is missing in lots of bands these days.

Have you ever heard double bass accompanying classical acoustic guitar? You will at the opening of this great album. The first song, The Unrepentant begins with a beautiful interlude from guitar virtuoso, Kosta Vreto. Its playing, then a machine gun barrage from drummer, Stergios Kourou blasts you into the song. Its a heavy blast that will get the pit moving in an instant. The vocals from singer, Yannis Papadopoulas are especially brutal. High, aggressive, and unforgiving unrepentant. And, like on the previous album, the incredible opening song is just the tip of the iceberg. 

The second song, Right Within Your Heart is another assault on the senses. Fast, and aggressive, but we get to hear the melodic side of Yannis's vocals as well, and of course his sky high vocal range. We are also treated to a twin guitar harmony solo from Vreto and guitarist, J. Demian. That's actually in most of the songs, done to perfection.

Like big vocal harmony? Virtues of Humanity is for you. I love BIG vocal harmonies, and this song has them in the verse progressions, as well as the choruses. The harmonies in the verses are dark and haunting. 

While all the songs showcase the elite rhythm section of Kourou and bassist, Kostas Scandalis, it is featured prominently in Medusa. Scandalis is machine gun fast, right along with Kourou's drums...and Vreto's blistering guitar....and Yannis's vocals....I could literally say this about every song. However, this song shows a side of the band that I haven't heard in their music yet. Its a blend of thrash metal, with Boss caliber leads that will remind you of names like Malmsteen, Vai, Gilbert, etc. The song's rhythms are more intricate than some modern mainstream band's entire leads. Not to mention another wrinkle of different styled backup vocals.

Yannis Papadopoulas, Kosta Vreto, J. Demian, Kostas Scandalis, Stergios Kourou

In a kind of departure from the power and aggression of the album, On Skies of Grey starts off with a ethereal guitar and vocal duo. We hear a the softer side of Yannis's voice, but its an intro. It shifts into a driving and anthem like ode to the 80's style of metal...done in Wardrum's unique style, with a blistering guitar solo. 

All the songs are heavy, aggressive, and the album as a whole will captivate You won't be able to stop listening to it. I know I won't be able to!

I'm hesitant to say that this album is better than their previous works because I still after 3 years listen to The Messenger at least 2-3 times a month. Its a great album. But, there is a very noticeable leap in the cohesion of the band. Its heavier, and more technical, but the songs are every bit as memorable. Like Nigel Tufnel said in This is Spinal Tap, where do you go after 10? You go to 11. The Messenger is 10, Awakening is 11. I don't think there's a power metal band out there anywhere that can hang with Wardrum either. They are the total package both in the recording studio and live in concert. While they are not progressive metal, as in epic 10 minute songs with 6 different progressions, they are extremely talented, and their songs display that talent in grand fashion. At the same time, someone who isn't musically inclined will enjoy them as well. They are the true definition of power metal in my humble opinion. If there's a better band out there, I haven't heard them. 



You NEED this album. Buy it here:

Just a random note...This album cover has a phoenix rising from the ashes. Is the phoenix a representation of the previous album transitioning into this new masterpiece? There is a song on the previous album called Phoenix. Things that make you go hmmmm....


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Crimson Glory Reuniting With New Singer?



"When we live to die fighting

for all the things we believe

wishes come true" 

You may have just read the quote above, and thought to yourself "What is that? Those aren't Crimson Glory lyrics!" Well, you're absolutely right. They are not Crimson Glory lyrics. I'll get to who those lyrics are in a minute. Just bear with me.

We all know that replacing Midnight, the legendary singer of the incredible metal band, Crimson Glory is not an easy task at all. He was arguably one of the greatest metal singers of all time. After his death, the band struck gold with Todd La Torre. He could sing Midnight's vocals perfectly, from the stratosphere blistering high notes, even down to the soul striking and haunting beauty of the voice, which made Midnight unique. But, unfortunately, the band went on hiatus, leaving La Torre to seek other work. We all know the end of that story, where La Torre went on to replace yet another metal legend, Geoff Tate of Queensryche.  The band hasn't done anything really since. There have been rumors of them finding a new singer, but nothing concrete. 

That all changed last week. Yannis Papadopoulos, the incredible singer of Greek metal superstars, Wardrum announced that he had been contacted with a proposal from none other than Crimson Glory about recording an album with them. I reviewed their previous album, The Messenger a few years ago, and I had Yannis as a guest on the radio show, then called The Will and Thunder Show. Yannis is a truly gifted singer who could easily step into the role of singer with Crimson Glory.  Don't believe me? Check this out. Its Yannis covering Eternal World.  And, here's another of him singing my favorite Crimson Glory song, Masque of the Red Death. Does he sound exactly like Midnight? No. Not exactly. But, close enough. But he is a better singer than Wade Black, who sang on the band's album, Astronomica. His voice is also a little more on the aggressive side. But, like I said, he is close enough, and he has the power to perfectly hit those notes that Midnight is famous for. With possibly even more power than Todd La Torre had, and that is saying ALOT.

Here is a screen shot of Yannis's announcement:





That quote at the top of this page? Its from the title track of Wardrum's previous album, The Messenger. I have been hoping for not only a Crimson Glory reunion and new album/ tour, but I ALSO wanted the band to recruit Yannis. That wish came true. Hopefully, they actually do it!

Of course, now the elephant in the room is Wardrum. I would hate to see that band break up, get put on the back burner, or for them to replace Yannis. So, I have a solution! When Crimson Glory tours, bring Wardrum on the road with them, as the opening act. That would be an EPIC concert. And, yes, Yannis would be opening for himself, but if any singer is good enough to pull it off, Yannis is. And, it would be a dream concert for me personally. 2 of my favorite bands together? Sign me up. Plus, the United States needs to have a chance to meet Wardrum! They are INCREDIBLE!

Looks good to me!

This needs to happen, folks!  Hell Yeah!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Album Review, Metallica: Hardwired to Self-Destruct


We're So F**ked
$hit out of Luck
Hardwired to Self Destruct

Let me first say that I was not impressed with Metallica's Death Magnetic album. It seemed to be an attempt at a prog metal album, but it turned out to be just long. I gave up hope on that return to form thrash metal album that we had been waiting on for 20+ years. When I heard they were recording a new album, my first thought was 'Meh.' I wasn't expecting much, and they were pretty tight lipped about it. Then, came the first video from the new album, the title track, Hardwired. I was cautiously optimistic because that song freaking rocked! I thought about doing a blog post about how that song gave me hope, but I decided against it. What if the tune was a fluke? Then came the next song, Moth Into Flame. That song was incredible. A 6 minute juggernaut that would have easily fit on Master of Puppets. My cautious optimism turned into cautious hope, not only that this was the return to form album, but also the best album since Puppets? Maybe? Dare I hope? Read on! (I didn't really like And Justice For All. The songs are great, but I like bass in my metal.)

What can I say? This album is badass. Review over. Just kidding. First of all, there is no filler on this album. Every song is incredible in its own way. Metallica displays elements from all of their good albums from Kill Em All all the way up to Load and Reload, while having its own stand alone style. One thing that stands out is the harmony guitar between James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett which is back in a big way. Its featured in quite a few songs, most notably Atlas, Rise. One thing I never thought I'd hear again was James's vocal ability being on par with his voice on the first 5 albums. That was a very welcome surprise. Vocal harmonies are tight too. 

We're BACK!!!
One thing that really stands out and makes this a return to form album is the fact that Lars Ulrich and Rob Trujillo are extremely tight. Much moreso than on Death Magnetic. Trujillo is such an incredible bass player, I believe that he brought out the best in Ulrich on this album. In the song, Now That We're Dead, there is a Judas Priest type chug opening, with a thick double bass part. Its not as fast others like One, and anything off Puppets, but the song isn't that fast either. My point is that I doubt we would have had a double bass part on a song like that if the album had been released a year or two after Death Magnetic.

All the fast licks in the songs are back. Fast, heavy, brutal. And, while I hate to keep going back to Death Magnetic, I have to. That was their last album, so it needs to be compared. As I mentioned before, the DM songs were just long, with a bunch of different licks that didn't necessarily need to be there. On Hardwired,  there are 6-7 minute songs on this album with a bunch of different licks. The difference? They all fit.

There are no ballads on this album, but there are some acoustic intros. The acoustic guitar sound is the same sound that was used in Fade to Black, and Sanitarium. Murder One (among others) is a good example of this, yet the song slams into a really heavy yet slow groove that will make you want to break something. Another slow yet brutally heavy song is Dream No More. If The Thing That Should Not Be and Sad But True had a child, it would be this song. It also has the vocal harmony that was present on Load and Reload. This song is a perfect example of James still having his vocal ability from years past.

In classic sounds, the song Confusion, it has a vintage Metallica feel. Think Am I Evil. But while this song is badass from a musical perspective, its lyrics are powerful. Emotional. And, so is the video. Its about a soldier returning home from war, and suffering from PTSD. I won't spoil the video for you, but it is INTENSE. I lived near Ft. Bragg for a while, and I have seen how horrific PTSD can be to a soldier. Watching the video made me tear up a little bit. 

But, I know you all want to know, which song compares to Battery or Damage Inc. While Moth Into Flame could fit on Puppets OR Ride the Lightning, it isn't the heaviest song on the album. That designation belongs to Spit Out The Bone! Not only is it fast and heavy, it also has a distorted bass break. 

Is that a Miami Dolphins logo over Lar's left eye?


Basically, this is the Metallica album that we've all been waiting 20+ years for. Its the album that should have followed Master of Puppets. Was it worth the wait? I think so. It shows that the most influential metal band of all time next to Iron Maiden still has what it takes to grab us by the throat and not let go.

On DM, there is a song called The Day That Never Comes. Well, that day finally came today. Metallica is BACK with a VENGEANCE!!!! Buy this album! You will not be disappointed!

Prediction: Hardwired to Self-Destruct will debut on Billboard at #1. Metallica won't be self destructing any time soon.

And, while you're here, check out my review of Through the Never.

 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Geezer Blasts Doors Off Nursing Home With Volume II


They got me
Feelin Freakie! 

Following the 2015 release of  Geezer's self titled first album, the retired rockers from Miami stormed back with the follow up. I'm told that much planning, debate, and consideration went into the naming of the band's sophomore effort. The name they decided on was Volume II. What wisdom. An elegant name that reminds of how great life was before the internet, and when we had to replace a set of encyclopedias every couple years. We could all learn a lesson from them. 

Volume II picks up where the self titled album left off, and chronicles the band's growth as musicians and song writers. The first track, Feelin Freakie is a punk anthem that would make The Ramones proud. They also do a superior version of the Katy Perry hit, I Kissed a Girl. Perry, in a 'hot mic' moment was heard considering hanging music up after hearing Geezer's version of her song. Other incredible covers are She's The One by The Ramones, and We Are The Road Crew, an amazing tribute to the late great Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, who Harvey once babysat. We also get to hear Leonard Geezer on vocals in Boom Chicka Pop. He rules the mic. Smile Sara Smile is a driving groovy tune, and when I hear it, I know everything is okay.

Everybody loves Geezer

Guitarist, Leonard Geezer is emerging as a guitar icon. Bassist, Calvin Sizemore has been taking lessons from Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, who he considers a cool kid. It shows in his budding ability. And, of course, singer, Harvey Geezer, the enigmatic frontman is is crunk as ever. Unfortunately, drummer Victor Farnsworth has passed away. The official story was that he was chasing a bunch of teenagers who were searching for Pokemon Go off his lawn, and he fell into traffic. That is true, but he wasn't trying to chase them away. He was trying to give them Geezer CDs! The band is currently seeking a replacement, but they aren't letting this slow them down. They aren't a Sad Banana about it, and are still playing shows with guest drummers until a suitable replacement can be found. 

This is one of the best sophomore releases that I've ever heard from a band. If you want a bunch of high energy tunes that will make you feel good and freakie, than Volume II by Geezer is for you, and get their CDs and awesome merchandise! Find them on tour, and on social media:

Cassette tapes!

The band's Facebook page
Harvey's Facebook
Calvin's Facebook
The band's blog
The band's Twitter page