Review: Frank Iero and The Violent Futures – Barriers

Frank Iero’s passion for rock music shines through his solo work more than the heavy mood would have you believe. Barriers, Iero’s third solo album, celebrates rock music. The album is moody and constantly blitzing with wild energy. He sounds raw—similar to some of the best emo releases of the mid-2000s. Barriers sounds like a lost masterpiece from a decade earlier, but isn’t dated in the least. Iero doesn’t have to work too hard to craft his own identity from past work with My Chemical Romance and Leathermouth. Barriers is an album that overcomes every obstacle to stand tall on its own, possibly as Iero’s best solo release.

You can buy or stream Barriers on Apple Music.

Each new interpretation of his solo career has refined his sound and not shied away from the gloom that helped define him as a musician. The guitars are fuzzed, but still release a hard melody. Iero’s writing channels the best aspects of rock and focuses it down to a grungy tip. It allows the album to be a cohesive collection while adding a massive variety to the sound.

Opener, “A New Day’s Coming” mixes blues and a gospel-heavy keyboard with heavy, raw guitars. The chorus of “Fever Dream” rages with simple power chords, reminiscent of classic-era Green Day. Meanwhile, “Moto-Pop” rages with metal inspiration from Black Sabbath. Iero and fellow guitarist Evan Nestor are clearly relishing their ability to play whatever they want.

Bassist Matt Armstrong (Murder By Death) provides a hard, dark mood throughout the album (“Medicine Square Garden”). Keyboardist and backing vocalist Kayleigh Goldsworthy adds just enough to crank the effect of Iero’s demons throughout the album. She hides like an angel or a demon haunting Iero’s highs and lows (“Six Feet Down Under”). Former Thursday drummer Tucker Rue adds an energy to the album that keeps the music charged even in more somber moments (“No Love”).

Where Iero impresses the most is in his vocals. The wild change in singing styles throughout the album keep each line engaging. The preference to get the emotion out, even if it means falling flat, lends a haunting urgency to each line. Clean, lazy singing on “A New Day’s Coming” is inspiring. Slurred, charged shouting during “Young and Doomed” channels a blend of AFI’s Davy Havok’s eccentricity and Thursday’s Geoff Rickly’s angst. Meanwhile, singing through gritted teeth, grunge whispers and hedonistic shouting, “Fever Dream” is wave after wave of unfiltered energy thrown at the microphone.

Barriers is a thick album. There’s certainly an argument that it could have benefitted from being a couple tracks shorter. However, Iero’s passion for music shines through each track. Although it’s hard not to compare him to a few legendary bands he was a key part of, Iero has forged a solo career defined by the freedom to lay waste to expectation. Barriers is Iero at his best—doubling down on a genre he helped forge and paying homage to rock music from every region of the genre.

4/5

Photo credit: Mitchell Wojcik

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and stepped in a puddle this morning. Now he is known as “Dumb ol’ Wet Foot.”

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Review: Coheed and Cambria – The Color Before the Sun

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Coheed and Cambria have always been a rather hit-or-miss type of band for me. Each album or song they release that is utter magic tends to feel marred by a few albums that feel phoned in, along with some songs that are too far lost in their own crazy mythology to rise to the epic heights we all know they’re capable of. They’re the band that I love to love, even though their last three albums haven’t captured me the way that their first few did.

You can buy The Color Before the Sun on iTunes.

You can buy The Color Before the Sun on iTunes.

That’s why The Color Before the Sun, and the first album that isn’t a part of their sci-fi epic storyline, feels so fresh and classic. It encapsulates everything that created the ravenous legion of fans who consider the band one of the best in the world, and captures the magic of the band’s beginnings while pushing forward sonically.

The Color Before the Sunis finally free of the constraints of story, and instead, explores itself. All of the ever-present themes you’d expect from Coheed (constant references to space and rolling songs about love) are there in spades. Depending on which type of Coheed fan is listening, this is either a godsend of a refresher or a road bump that has steered the band away from their main focus. It’s easily their poppiest and most concise album since Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One.

For me, the last decade has seen Coheed slowly grow further into a “jam-band” and away from the pop-metal that made me love the band to begin with. This return to form may not be the rock opera that fans were expecting, but the album is filled with new power singles that only boost their discography. It says a lot about a band that, when they release an album that sounds “stripped down” and not nearly as dense as any of their other work, it sounds like Fall Out Boy.

The Color Before the Sun certainly has potential to sound like a betrayal to longtime fans, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Without the setting of The Amory Wars to base the lyrics on, it’s the first Coheed album to be personalized by Claudio Sanchez with life experience. While this, in essence, sounds like the writing of any other band, this is Claudio Sanchez we’re talking about. If you weren’t aware of the fact that this album wasn’t part of his storyline, you may never know. His placement of words and expressiveness sets him inside of his own story, living it out just as deeply as any character he could have dreamt up.

While these songs don’t grind or play as intricately as past Coheed albums, they burst along at a brisk pace that feels neither rushed nor hesitant. Album opener “Island” opens with sizzling guitars and a mesmerizing bassline by Zach Cooper, gushing beneath an angelic chorus of Claudio’s cooing between verses. “Eraser” is reminiscent of past single “Juggernaut” in that it’s a harder rock song with a hidden pop melody. “Ghost” is one of the softest songs the band as ever written, with a clasping acoustic strum and whispering vocals before launching into wanna-be power ballad “Atlas”. Per usual, the album closes strong and heavy with rocker “The Audience” before toning back for another semi-acoustic song, “Peace to the Mountain”, with swelling violins and proud trumpets, the last two songs lasting almost 13 minutes.

Much like The Early November’s past efforts, many songs have segues near the end of the track that lead to the next one with little disruption to the flow of thought or sound. It’s that effort of connection that makes this album flow like a story and retain a classic sense of Coheed and Cambria.

Lyrically, much of this album tells the story of becoming a father and the anxiety and love that comes with it. While not to the focus of every song, there are hints and subtle nods throughout. For a storyteller like Claudio, this sounds like a terrible idea in theory, but in practice, it’s just another part of the story he writes, regardless of the character, and no less important or sincere. In “Eraser”, he sings, “Oh, middle aged bring me a crisis / What am I worth? Does the truth hurt?” before bursting into a chorus of “I never wanted to be this me / Show me back then the kid before the man, I don’t think this me is who I am”.

But with the imminent arrival of a child, he manages to wash away the worry and the middle-aged crisis with a respect for responsibility in “Atlas”. The song delivers some absolutely gorgeous lines, like a verse midway through the song, “Only now I’ve come to this moment in my life / Bits and pieces to a puzzle, with no regrets / …As you life’s surely about to change for the better half / Now on your mark, get set, clock starts to count / Cuz boy, everything’s about to go down”. It’s followed up shortly with “I’ve had my share of leaving this retreat, but never did it once feel like anything like you, you see / And if there’s any good thing that comes from my way / It’s that you won’t be anything like me”.

This is the first Coheed and Cambria album that feels different than their past few albums, and succinctly similar to their best efforts all at once. Depending on which of their styles you prefer, this album may be a disappointment. It’s also a perfect stepping stone for anyone who may have been intimidated from their vast discography and the mythos behind it all, and a breather from the dense layering of rock the band has warped for the last decade in favor of simpler harmonies that land just as favorably. Only a band like Coheed and Cambria could ever forge a new path while sounding so overwhelmingly nostalgic.

4.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and thought Coheed & Cambria were easily one of the highlights of this year’s Riot Fest. Fifteen years, and he’s only seen them the one time. What a douche.

Review: Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown

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This shouldn’t be happening. This is the point in a band’s career where things should be tailing off, the edge should be dulling, the fire should be dwindling. This is the time where we begin saying our goodbyes and living off the nostalgia. Right?

Now 16 years into their career, and seven albums deep, hardcore heavyweights Every Time I Die may have just released the most frantic, punishing, explosive album of their career.

From Parts Unknown is certainly the most rabid and angry release from the band since 2003’s Hot Damn!, which is truly saying something. Whereas their last outing, Ex Lives, was an experimental look at the band’s potential future path, From Parts Unknown is a shockingly explosive return to the dark, dirty, filthy rock and roll that put Every Time I Die at the top of the heavy music pack.

Over half of the songs on the new album clock in at around or under two and a half minutes, creating an urgency not found in most bands ten years their junior. Opener “The Great Secret” bursts down the door with its thrashing guitars, while “Pelican of the Desert” transitions to a hardcore punk/post-hardcore hybrid akin to Underoath in their heyday.

They’ve always been one of the best duos in the scene, but guitarists Jordan Buckley and Andy Williams push themselves further than ever on this new release. Relief comes in the form of sludgy passages on tracks like “Moor”, before the break-neck pace is restored on songs like “If There is Room to Move, Things Move”. This isn’t shredding for shredding’s sake – this is an artful display of technical talent, conveying every measure with purpose, even if it causes your head to spin.

Likewise, vocalist Keith Buckley turns in a performance for the ages. Long considered one of the best screamers around, Buckley’s work on From Parts Unknown is downright legendary. It would be easy to believe that many of his vocals were completed in one take – it can’t be easy churning up this kind of emotion for hours on end.

Buckley’s screams and shouts seem to come from a place of deep pain and anger, and as goofy as Every Time I Die tends to be in their live performance and on-camera demeanor, his lyrics sound the opposite – full of despair and frustration.

From his repeated opening cries of “Blow your fucking brains out” to his chilling lines of “And girl, you know I want to tie up a rope and crack my crooked spine” on “Decayin With the Boys” and “All I want is for everyone to go to hell / It’s the last place I was seen before I lost myself” on album closer “Idiot”, it’s clear that this isn’t the faux-angry metalcore angst that plagues much of the genre.

Like Architects’ stellar release Lost Forever // Lost Together earlier this year, From Parts Unknown digs to that uncomfortable, sometimes scary nerve with its blunt dose of painful reality. That blend of unstable emotion and a knack for crafting otherworldly crushing tracks to convey it makes for a toxic brew – one that’s much needed in a genre thirsty for something authentic.

Every Time I Die seem to defy logic. Not only has the band yet to release a forgettable album, they’ve continued to push themselves and their peers with every move they make. No one would fault the band if they began to fade away – everyone does eventually, no matter how great. If From Parts Unknown is any indication, Every Time I Die have no intention of releasing their iron grip on the scene any time soon.

4.5/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Comeback Kid – Die Knowing

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Comeback Kid have been a staple to the hardcore scene for several years now, blazing through walls of power guitar riffs and shredded vocal screaming. Their latest album, Die Knowing doesn’t disappoint diehard fans, but pushes little new territory for the band as a whole. While the album will keep fans satiated, it may be unlikely to draw in new listeners.

At its best, Die Knowing sounds like a partial sequel to Broadcasting…, the band’s first album featuring Andrew Neufeld on vocals. It’s a rampaging album with nonstop chugging guitars and incredibly fast drumming. While the songs are good, Die Knowing lacks the variety and melody that we know the band is capable of. Instead, the songwriting seems to focus on heavy riff after heavy riff at a base level. It ranges between hardcore punk and metal, and depending on your taste, can either sound wickedly powerful or generic at times.

That’s not to say that the album is without gems. “Should Know Better” sounds like a demented Green Day circa Insomniac, with an insanely catchy chord progression and screaming vocals backed by a haunting gang vocal. “Didn’t Even Mind” is perhaps the most layered and melodic song on the record. “Sink In” is a powerhouse of a closer and the longest song on the album by at least a minute.

While all of the songs are good, many tend to sound similar and mush together if you’re not paying attention. “Losing Sleep” is a fairly simplistic song that flows on a simplistic metal riff. If it were just this song like this, it would be more than fine, but several songs follow the same formula (“I Depend, I Control”)and makes them sound too similar at times for a hardcore album. What shines through is the fact that Comeback Kid knows how to write a good song, but it doesn’t feel like they were on top of their game this time around.

The vocals are as sharp as they’ve ever been. Andrew Neufeld proves once again that he is one of the screaming kings. He viciously belts out each line with reckless abandon and ferocity. However, this sounds like the same old thing that has happened for the last couple of albums. While his screaming should be commended, it starts becoming almost monotonous after a few songs in, as there isn’t a real shift in scale at all. Instead, there is the dismembering crash of shouted lyrics pronounced by the short gaps between breaths.

Die Knowing is a fun album that is sure to please long time fans. However, it doesn’t seem like an album that saw Comeback Kid pushing and fighting at their best. While there are several gems on the record, there are a few filler songs that are easily forgotten. Anyone paying attention knows what Comeback Kid are capable of, but will be disappointed depending on those expectations. Die Knowing will whet the appetites for anyone needing a batch of hardcore music, but will feel slightly empty in the long run.

3/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.