Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thrice: The Artist in the Ambulance [2003] — Album Review

Dustin Kensrue: Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Teppei Teranishi: Lead Guitar
Eddie Breckenridge: Bass
Riley Breckenridge: Drums
Produced by Brian McTernan

1. Cold Cash and Colder Hearts – 2:52
2. Under a Killing Moon – 2:41
3. All That's Left – 3:20
4. Silhouette – 3:06
5. Stare at the Sun – 3:23
6. Paper Tigers – 3:59
7. Hoods on Peregrine – 3:31
8. The Melting Point of Wax – 3:29
9. Blood Clots and Black Holes – 2:49
10. The Artist in the Ambulance – 3:39
11. The Abolition of Man – 2:46
12. Don't Tell and We Won't Ask – 3:59
Vinyl Bonus Track:
13. Eclipse – 3:21
Total Runtime: 39:34/42:55

First off, let me start by saying that I'm sorry I missed last week's scheduled review of The Room's Too Cold, I'll get around to it eventually. Now back to your review: Ahh... and so we come to Artist. Thrice are a post-hardcore/emo band who, unfortunately, are on hiatus—though at the current time (October 2015), they're playing shows but nothing seems to be planned after those few shows. Their last album was Major/Minor in 2012, with Anthology coming out as their last release (it's a live album). The Artist in the Ambulance is Thrice's third album, and major label debut, after departing Sub City/Hopeless following The Illusion of Safety.
Artist starts with Kensrue shouting "They are sick/They are poor" which is the memorable opening for "Cold Cash and Colder Hearts", a very well-crafted song. Next is "Under a Killing Moon", which was featured on the 2003 Warped Tour Compilation. The guitar in the beginning just sounds epic. "All That's Left" comes in with its eerie feedback, and lays down another solid tune.
"Silhouette" is the first song on the record to really showcase Kensrue's screaming capability (besides the end of "Cold Cash"), which is terrific.
"Stare at the Sun", our fifth song, has some of the most amazing-sounding guitar work I've ever heard. Riley's drum work is equally as excellent. "Stare at the Sun" bleeds into "Paper Tigers", a song where all of Kensrue's vocals are screaming. The guitars sound great, and the lyrics are perfect.
After "Paper Tigers", we have what I call the "leading up to "The Artist in the Ambulance" trilogy". Because they're the three songs right before track 10, which is my favorite. In this we have "Hoods on Peregrine", a strong effort, "The Melting Point of Wax", a cool song with some great imagery, and "Blood Clots and Black Holes", another good song.
After the trilogy, we have easily the best song on Artist, "The Artist in the Ambulance". This is honestly my favorite Thrice song. The vocals are catchy and awesome, and the guitars are freaking great.
Following our high point, is probably the low point of the album, "The Abolition of Man" isn't all that amazing of a song. It's just okay. But picking it back up for a decent closer is "Don't Tell and We Won't Ask".
On the vinyl re-release, we have bonus track "Eclipse", which is quite a decent addition to the album. (Also, it sounds like the vinyl tracks don't seem to be the same versions as the CD, as the mastering seems to be different and the way Kensrue sings on "The Artist in the Ambulance" is quite audibly different.)
The Artist in the Ambulance is a classic album, and a staple for the hardcore and post-hardcore genres. It has some flow issues, but overall it sounds great.

Cold Cash and Colder Hearts: 9/10
Under a Killing Moon: 9/10
All That's Left: 9/10
Silhouette: 7/10
Stare at the Sun: 10/10
Paper Tigers: 8/10
Hoods on Peregrine: 8/10
The Melting Point of Wax: 8/10
Blood Clots and Black Holes: 8/10
The Artist in the Ambulance: 10/10
The Abolition of Man: 6/10
Don't Tell and We Won't Ask: 8/10
Eclipse: 8/10

Subtotal: 100/120 108/130
Bonus Points:
A+ Guitar Work: +2
Total: 102/120 110/130
Score: 8.5 Excellent (8.5 Excellent)

Genres: Post-hardcore, Emo, Hardcore

Last Week's Review: The Room's Too Cold by The Early November
Next Week's Review: Through Being Cool by Saves the Day
Next Thrice Review: All That's Left [Single/7"]

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Hawthorne Heights: The Silence in Black and White [2004] — Album Review

JT Woodruff: Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Piano
Micah Carli: Lead Guitar
Casey Calvert: Screams, Rhythm Guitar
Matt Ridenour: Bass, Backing Vocals
Eron Bucciarelli: Drums, Percussion
Produced by Sean O'Keefe

1. Life on Standby – 4:11
2. Dissolve and Decay – 3:44
3. Niki FM – 3:59
4. The Transition – 4:04
5. Blue Burns Orange – 3:19
6. Silver Bullet – 4:03
7. Screenwriting an Apology – 3:41
8. Ohio is for Lovers – 4:04
9. Wake Up Call – 4:02
10. Sandpaper and Silk – 3:36
11. Speeding Up the Octaves – 4:09
Total Runtime: 42:53
(No, I'm not going to review the re-issue)

Hawthorne Heights are one of my favorite bands of all time. Their debut, The Silence in Black and White, just so happens to also be one of my favorite albums of all time.
Silence has a lot of strong points, such as opener "Life on Standby", closer "Speeding Up the Octaves", and tracks like "Ohio is for Lovers", "Silver Bullet", and "Niki FM", all with great screams from Calvert and excellent vocals from Woodruff, as well as great instrumentalism.
Woodruff's writing ability is showcased on songs like "Blue Burns Orange" and "Ohio", with awesome lyrics like "Spare me just three last words./"I love you" is all she heard./I'll wait for you, but I can't wait forever." from "Ohio".
Silence starts on "Life on Standby", which has some great guitar work, awesome lyrics, and Calvert's screams sound great. "Dissolve and Decay" is a catchy, fun tune. "Niki FM" is one of Hawthorne Heights' more popular songs, and I can see why. The lyrics "I'm outside of your window/With my radio" really can hit home (though every time I hear it, I think of the video for "The Best of Me" by The Starting Line).
"The Transition" is a heavy-hitter, reminiscent of "Life on Standby", with great lyrics, and is followed by a song with even better lyrics: "Blue Burns Orange", which is yet again followed by another song with even more stellar lyrics: "Silver Bullet". "Silver Bullet" is probably my favorite song on Silence, with its awesome lyricism and excellent guitar work.
"Screenwriting an Apology" is the song I always forget's there (as well as "Sandpaper and Silk", but let me get there first), it's just not a very memorable track.
"Ohio is for Lovers", which I'm pretty sure is a play on words of Virginia's state tourism slogan "Virginia is for lovers", is Hawthorne Heights' most popular and well-known song. It's easily the most well-written on the record, with absolutely stellar guitar work and perfect lyricism. Everything about it works just right.
"Wake Up Call" follows, and no, it's not a cover of Relient K's song, it's another song entirely, which, probably only 'cause it follows "Ohio", feels like it falls short (The Artist in the Ambulance by Thrice has this same problem), but it's not a bad song. "Wake Up Call" just doesn't live up to "Ohio". "Sandpaper and Silk", as I mentioned before is also a little forgettable, but not as much as "Screenwriting an Apology", the guitars are decent and the lyrics are good.
Our closer, "Speeding Up the Octaves", is one of the best on the album. The vocals mesh expertly with the guitars, the drums are great as well, everything again just works great.
Overall, The Silence in Black and White is a freakin' amazing album, which you should definitely check out. Hawthorne Heights have a lot to live up to on their second effort.

Life on Standby: 8/10
Dissolve and Decay: 7/10
Niki FM: 9/10
The Transition: 7/10
Blue Burns Orange: 8/10
Silver Bullet: 10/10
Screenwriting an Apology: 6/10
Ohio is for Lovers: 10/10
Wake Up Call: 7/10
Sandpaper and Silk: 7/10
Speeding Up the Octaves: 10/10

Subtotal: 89/110
Bonus Points:
Awesome Screaming!: +2
Killer Choruses: +2
Total: 93/110
Score: 8.5 Excellent

Genres: Post-Hardcore, Emo, Pop-Punk

Last Week's Review: Life is Not a Waiting Room by Senses Fail
Next Week's Review: The Room's Too Cold by The Early November
Next Hawthorne Heights Review: If Only You Were Lonely

Friday, November 13, 2015

Halifax: A Writer's Reference [2005] — EP Review

Mike Hunau: Lead Vocals, Bass
Chris Brandt: Guitar, Vocals
Kevin Donlon: Bass
Tommy Guindon: Drums
Adam Charles: Guitar

1. Sydney – 3:12
2. A Writer's Reference – 4:07
3. I Hate Your Eyes – 3:51
4. Broken Glass Syndrome – 3:35
5. The Next Two Weeks – 4:25
6. Scarlet Letter, Pt. 2 – 5:10
7. Sydney [Acoustic] – 4:35
Total Runtime: 28:55

"Sydney" was the first Halifax song I'd ever heard, on the 2005 Warped Tour Compilation. My friend had told me that Halifax was probably his least favorite Drive-Thru Records band at the time, so I didn't look into them much, until I bought the '05 comp and heard "Sydney" (as well as many other bands, the '05 comp is great). That song sold me this band. A Writer's Reference is their first EP (and just to be clear, I'm only talking about the Drive-Thru re-release here), and it has some pretty solid tracks on it.
As I said, "Sydney" is awesome. That guitar at the beginning sounds so cool. "Sydney" is about Hunau's grandfather……… Second is our title track, which isn't as good as "Sydney", but it's still a good song.
"I Hate Your Eyes" is better, with some great lyrics and guitar work, as well as "Broken Glass Syndrome". "The Next Two Weeks"......... "Scarlet Letter, Pt. 2", which, I'm pretty sure is named after Nathaniel Hawthorne's shitty novel, is a billion times better than that turd. It has some nice guitar, and the lyrics are pretty good.
We end where we started, with an acoustic rendition of "Sydney", which sounds very nice on acoustics.
Overall, A Writer's Reference is a pretty good EP from a band you might not've heard of.

Sydney: 9/10
A Writer's Reference: 6/10
I Hate Your Eyes: 8/10
Broken Glass Syndrome: 7/10
The Next Two Weeks: 6/10
Scarlet Letter, Pt. 2: 7/10
Sydney [Acoustic]: 8/10

Subtotal: 51/70
Bonus Points:
Total: 51/70
Score: 7.3 Great

Genres: Pop-Punk, Emo

Last EP Review: I'm Sorry I'm Leaving by Saves the Day
Next EP Review: 1998 EP by Jimmy Eat World
Next Halifax Review: Not sure.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Senses Fail: Life is Not a Waiting Room [2008] — Album Review

Senses Fail - Life is Not a Waiting Room.jpg
Buddy Nielsen: Vocals
Garrett Zablocki: Backing Vocals, Lead Guitar
Heath Saraceno: Backing Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Jason Black: Bass
Dan Trapp: Drums
Produced by Brian McTernan
1. Fireworks at Dawn – 2:10
2. Lungs Like Gallows – 3:21
3. Garden State – 3:39
4. Family Tradition – 3:34
5. Wolves at the Door – 3:27
6. Hair of the Dog – 3:50
7. Four Years – 4:16
8. Ali for Cody – 4:02
9. Yellow Angels – 3:42
10. Chandelier – 3:41
11. Map the Streets – 3:27
12. Blackout – 4:55
UK Bonus Tracks:
13. Life is Not a Waiting Room – 3:19
14. DB Cooper – 2:59
iTunes Bonus Tracks:
13. DB Cooper – 2:59
14. Coming Up Short – 2:14
Total Runtime: 44:04/50:22/49:17

Life is Not a Waiting Room is the third album by Senses Fail. And boy, what a step up it is from Still Searching. Not that Still Searching is a bad album in any way, but it wasn't exactly a step up from 2004's Let it Enfold You. Plus that album art is hideous. Life is Not a Waiting Room (while not only having a substantial upgrade in the cover art department) is sure to please any Senses Fail fan, unless, like with every band I seem to cover, you're stuck on their first album and think everything afterwards is trash (I'm looking at you, "fans" of Saves the Day).
Life is Not a Waiting Room starts out extremely strong with the slow, somber notes of "Fireworks at Dawn" which bleeds right into the powerhouse that is "Lungs Like Gallows". Nielsen's screaming on "Lungs Like Gallows" sounds perfect, and not even close to as eerily-high-pitched as on "Irony of Dying on Your Birthday" from Let it Enfold You.
Then the album takes a turn for Senses Fail's other strong suit—pop-punk—for "Garden State", which has some awesome guitar work. Continuing with the awesome guitar work is the opening and the rest of "Family Tradition". "Wolves at the Door" and "Hair of the Dog" are good but not much to note from them, besides the lyric "I'm more yellow than my own piss" in "Wolves at the Door" which kinda concerns me. Buddy, if you're reading this, please drink more water.
Then we get the fucking amazing-sounding guitar riff that is the intro and verse for "Four Years", and a great song to boot. "Ali for Cody" is a great follow-up, and then we take a turn for the slow in "Yellow Angels", bringing in some nice piano and repeating the outro of "Four Years": "Wake up, you're sleeping, wake up, you're sleeping behind the wheel".
Again, with the amazing riffs is "Chandelier" which is honestly one of the cooler songs on the album. Bringing back the pop-punk is "Map the Streets" which is another great addition. Closing out the standard CD is "Blackout", which is rather okay, not exactly noteworthy.
On the UK version of Life is Not a Waiting Room, we have two more songs. First, the title track, "Life is Not a Waiting Room", which has a killer guitar intro, which plays throughout most of the song. Second, we have "DB Cooper", a decent song, but nothing that's gonna make anyone buy the UK version.
On the iTunes version, we also have two more songs, first, the aforementioned "DB Cooper", and "Coming Up Short", which is again, just a nice little bonus.
Life is Not a Waiting Room is my personal favorite Senses Fail album, and that's because it's just so good. The album is very cohesive and flows nicely. Nielsen's screaming sounds great and so do his vocals. The guitars sound amazing, and are quite intricate.
Fireworks at Dawn – 9/10
Lungs Like Gallows – 10/10
Garden State – 10/10
Family Tradition – 8/10
Wolves at the Door – 6/10
Hair of the Dog – 7/10
Four Years – 9/10
Ali for Cody – 8/10
Yellow Angels – 8/10
Chandelier – 9/10
Map the Streets – 9/10
Blackout – 7/10
Life is Not a Waiting Room: 9/10
DB Cooper: 7/10
Coming Up Short: 7/10

Subtotal: 100/120 116/140 114/140
Bonus Points:
Killer Choruses: +2
A+ Guitar Work: +2
Total: 104/120 120/140 118/140
Score: 8.7 Excellent (8.6 Excellent) (8.4 Excellent)

Genres: Pop-Punk, Post-Hardcore, Emo

Last Week's Review: Static Prevails by Jimmy Eat World
Next Week's Review: The Silence in Black and White by Hawthorne Heights
Next Senses Fail Review: The Fire