Single Review: Iron Maiden – Speed of Light

It’s been a busy year for Iron Maiden, especially for frontman Bruce Dickinson. After overcoming two cancerous tumors in his tongue and neck, then crash landing a plane in recent months, Bruce has narrowly avoided catastrophe. With a clean bill of health, Iron Maiden has returned to the studio and teased their upcoming album “The Book of Souls” with their latest single “Speed of Light.”

Being one of the shortest songs on the album, “Speed of Light” clocks in at five minutes long, but is jam packed with all the necessary amount of metal. It’s hard to believe that after thirty years, Iron Maiden can still create such high quality songs. Many bands have lost their luster over age, but these guys have continued to show their dominance in the metal scene, even in their prior album “The Final Frontier.” With that signature 80’s wail to start off the song, fans will immediately know that Iron Maiden is back after a five year break, and in full force. The rhythm guitar throughout is very catchy, a chord-heavy sound that has inspired so many current bands. Half way through the song is an amazing dual guitar solo, one of many I can foresee in this album. I’m excited about this song, and can’t wait to hear more.

If the song was amazing enough, the music video is a bonus treat. Mimicking some of the most popular video games, the entire video shows the evolution of gaming. Starting with a Donkey Kong-esque battle, the Iron Maiden mascot Eddie travels through dimensions and different videos games, ultimately appearing in a visually realistic game (most likely Doom). I really enjoyed the video presentation, especially the Mortal Kombat scene containing the song’s solo.

Overall, it’s a great single from a great band. I highly recommend checking out the song, and wait in anticipation of their newest album.

Check out the official music video for “Speed of Light” below:

The First Annual Keno Awards – Winners

The time has come: It’s time to announce the winners of this year’s Keno Awards! Without any delay, here are the winners!

Best Rock Album of 2014

“Hitchhiking to Byzantium” – Anubis

There are so many reasons why Anubis wins this category. 80 minutes of pure progginess, “Hitchhiking to Byzantium” has everything the listener wants in a rock album: fantastic guitar solos, soaring vocals, passionate drumming and bass lines. If you ever have 80 minutes to devote to some music, I definitely recommend this one.

Best Metal Album of 2014

“Restoration” – Haken

Although this pick for best metal album is an EP, “Restoration” has everything great about metal: wailing guitar, vocal range, a wide array of sound. Try and listen to this album without playing your air guitar; I guarantee you won’t make it through!

Best Musician of 2014

Tom Monda (guitar) – Thank You Scientist

I have determined this individual to be the best of the best in his  band. I had the chance to see him live last year, and was absolutely stunned by his ability. His guitar solos and quick-paced rhythms stole the show. I couldn’t keep my eye off of him.

Best Find of 2014

“The Tide, The Thief, and River’s End” – Caligula’s Horse

I can’t stop playing this album. Simple as that. I had never heard of this band until a few weeks ago, and I’ve already played this album more than some bands in my iTunes library that I’ve had for years. It’s a must listen, so please check them out!

There you have it, the winners of the First Annual Keno Awards. I can’t wait to do this next year.

The First Annual Keno Awards – Nominees

Hey everyone! I was bored one day while watching the Critic’s Choice Awards, and I thought in the spirit of award season I would create my own awards. So, here it is: The First Annual Keno Awards! I’ve decided on three categories with six nominees each, all contenders being albums or bands that I have reviewed on my blog. Without further ado, here are the categories:

Best Rock Albums of 2014

“Replacements” – Hibernal
“Countenance” – The Mercury Tree
“Phases” – Eden Shadow
“Through Art We Are All Equals” – Slaves
“Hitchhiking to Byzantium” – Anubis
“Aphelion” – State of Illusion

Each of these albums have stood out as great rock albums. Whether because of amazing vocals, guitar solos, or drum beats, these albums are the best of the best from my blog. Check them out and sound off below who you think should win.

Best Metal Albums of 2014

“Sound of Majestic Colors” – Fire Garden
“Once More ‘Round the Sun” – Mastodon
“Restoration” – Haken
“Curve” – Miroist
“Nebulae” – Hemina
“Maps of Non-Existent Places” – Thank You Scientist

Again, these are what I believe are the best metal albums on my blog. Check them out and tell me who you think should win.

Best Musicians of 2014

Jim Grey (vocals) – Caligula’s Horse
Richard Henshall (guitar) – Haken
Tom Monda (guitar) – Thank You Scientist
Tom Burgress (drums/synths) – Eden Shadow
Jonny Craig (vocals) – Slaves
Dave Turncrantz (drums) – Russian Circles

I have determined these individual musicians to be the best of the best in their bands. Listen to each of them, admire them, and sound off below!

Best Find of 2014

??? – ???

I’m keeping this one a secret that I’ll reveal when I announce the winners. The winner of this category is the album that I had never heard of before I reviewed them, yet cannot stop playing them. You can let me know what your greatest find is below.

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So there you have it: the nominees for the first ever Keno Awards. I’ll reveal the winners next week. Tell me who should win!

Update: Be sure to check out the winners here!

TesseracT – Altered State

This next album features a band that was included in this year’s Sonisphere lineup in the UK. After scrolling through the long list of bands in attendance, I came upon the band TesseracT. Before Sonisphere, I had never heard of them. After some basic research, I found out how renowned the band was in other countries, how they have been together for many years, and have released two albums. Being compared to bands like Periphery and Between the Buried and Me on other websites, I thought I’d give this band a shot.

This five-piece from Britain has recently released their newest album titled “Altered State,” their only album featuring vocalist Ashe O’Hara. Spanning close to an hour, this album features 10 songs broken down into 4 total movements. I can describe this album as progressive metal, but the sound that envelopes this entire album could help expand the genre into ambient or space rock. The vibe throughout the album is very interesting, and goes almost unnoticed between songs if one pays little attention to it. Over top this ambiance is the brilliant musicianship of the band as they perform one of my favorite albums I’ve listened to recently.

The guitar work is phenomenal, using djent guitar work for both bass and electric guitars. Acie Kahney and James Monteith on guitar, and Amos Williams on bass guitar do a brilliant job, mixing different styles of progressive metal throughout the entire album. The range of sound shifts dramatically, from deeper, palm-muted riffs in the song “Of Matter” to a much softer, delicate, and more ambient tone in the song “Of Energy.” Although featuring less solos than a typical progressive metal album, these guitarists more than make up for it in the beautiful sound they create, ranging from sounds like Animals as Leaders to Pink Floyd. Using effects like reverb and delay, the guitars are key components to the overall production, and become the driving force of the entire album, like violins to a symphony.

TesseracT - Altered State
Photo by Modern Drummer

Jay Postones does a magnificent job on the drum set. A change in sound from their last album “One,” Postones relies less on the double bass pedal and focuses more on crisp, clear hits on the upper half of his drum set. The song “Of Reality” shows the drums at its finest, as the drums display perfect timing and precision amongst the other instruments. The change in time signatures that so often accompanies progressive metal is present throughout the album, but the drum work helps to make the transition flow more smoothly, creating an easier listening experience to the audience.

Having only sung on this album, Ashe O’Hara adds “Altered State” as a highlight to his musical resume. O’Hara can truly belt out the lyrics with his talented voice, and easily proves his strength early in the album. His voice is best represented in the song “Of Mind – Nocturne,” as his range dives from lows to soaring highs. Unlike their last album, there is no scream or growl vocals, proving that metal can be just as great without it. Vocals would be pointless without meaningful lyrics, which TesseracT is able to surprise me with their complexity and significance. The chorus of the song “Of Mind – Nocturne” displays one of the most colorful and interesting of lyrics in the album:

“You’re the plague within my dreams / Soaring through an atmosphere of an adequate lack of strength (and we’re responsible) / The truth is that it will end here / Denial’s an impairment of your fear / Can we save us from ourselves? / Can we save us from ourselves? (This is the savior and its form)” (source)

That’s coming from the chorus. Touching on aspects of love, loss, and self-realization, one can only imagine the imagery of all that O’Hara sings throughout the rest of the album.

The one thing that stood out most to me in this album is its composition. When I listen to “Altered State,” I feel like I’m listening to two different albums at once. The first album is a progressive metal vibe, one with deep guitar rhythm, complex drumbeats, and vocals that set the overall mood and tone of the song. The other album I can hear is more of a musical score, featuring guest musician Chris Barretto on saxophone, and is full of ambient tones and spacey sound effects that layer below the instruments. As stated earlier, it is almost unnoticeable if you aren’t paying full attention to the album, meaning you lose an entire layer of what makes this album so great. Unlike their first album “One,” “Altered State” shows the band expanding into new territory, providing a much more ambitious and intricate album.

TesseracT - Altered State

“Altered State” is an album that you must clear your schedule in order to not only hear the album, but fully feel the album. One has to carefully listen to the album through over-the-ear headphones to trap out external noise that could interfere. I also recommend increasing the bass, which is necessary for this album due to their djent-like sound. Unlike typical progressive metal albums, this album is not one to mosh to or jump around to. I cannot use a statement equivalent to “if you like ___, then you’ll love Altered State” because of the uniqueness behind the overall sound. Attempting to make comparisons of other albums or bands to this album would only be suggesting contradicting styles of music. This album truly is a listening experience. So sit back in your favorite seat, get comfortable, click play, and enjoy your one hour musical experience! Please support this band on their website as they tour across the globe.

Check out this Youtube video of my favorite song off the album “Of Mind”:

Mastodon – Once More ‘Round The Sun

After looking over the different bands I’ve reviewed thus far, I thought I would change things up for this post. I decided I wanted to review an album that was in the hard rock/metal genre, so I thought it’d be perfect to review the band Mastodon, which is one of my favorite metal bands out there.

Mastodon is a four-piece from Atlanta, with Brent Hinds on lead vocals and guitar, Troy Sanders on bass and vocals, Brann Dailor on drums, and Bill Kelliher on guitar. Although the band has claimed in the past that they do not consider themselves metal, I like to think that Mastodon contains some of the harder songs in my iTunes Library. A mix of hard rock, metal, progressive metal and grindcore, Mastodon is one of the most interesting bands I’ve listened to. I was introduced to them during a music festival in San Diego a few years back, and have seen them two times since, each one better than the last. Their stage performance is terrific, consisting of dueling guitar, a variety of vocal ranges, and one of the best drummers I’ve ever seen live. Mastodon has just played over the weekend at Sonisphere, supporting their newest album “Once More ‘Round the Sun,” which happens to be today’s review.

When I first heard this album, I immediately felt that this album could be classified as “The Hunter, Part 2,” since so many of their songs have the same music style and influences as their last album. As all their albums, I love the different vocal styles that Hinds and Sanders brings, one being more of a traditional metal growl, and the other hitting the higher notes. They complement each other perfectly, as if two different people are telling a story in multiple voices. The bass guitar grooves along to the rhythm guitar, acting as a lower octave that cannot be reached by electric guitar alone. As mentioned earlier, I feel the drums are performed with more passion than many of my favorite bands.

Mastodon - Once More 'Round the Sun

My favorite thing about this album is the lead and rhythm guitars. I love the different techniques that Brent Hinds and guitarist Bill Kelliher use throughout their songs. What’s unique about their songs is the use of bango-like finger-picking styles. Evident in songs like “Aunt Lisa” and “Diamond in The Witch House,” it brings a new flavor of guitar that isn’t easily found in rock or metal. Mastodon also use a wide variety of guitar scales in this album. From harmonic to pentatonic minor scales, I can easily tell who I am listening to based on the guitar alone. In addition, no good metal band can exist without guitar solos, which Mastodon performs beautifully. This album is filled with excellent guitar solos, especially in songs like “Ember City” and “Asleep in the Deep.” I feel the power and energy Hinds has with his use of hammer-ons and pull-offs during his solos. I feel compelled to mosh around my living room when I listen to Mastodon. That musical drive that only so many bands can deliver is rare to me, and Mastodon is honored with being one of the few that move me.

If you are a fan of hard rock/metal, and are fans of bands from Black Sabbath to Pantera, you should definitely lend your ears to Mastodon’s “Once More ‘Round the Sun.” They are truly a unique metal band. If you are some of my followers that were expecting something a little more proggy, you should instead check out their other album “Crack the Skye,” which should satisfy your taste.

Check out their official music video for their song “High Road”