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813 Days

BOMBASTIC MEATBATS RETURN WITH FIRST-EVER CONCERT SET, 'LIVE MEAT AND POTATOES'
 
That Chad Smith is one busy gentleman - having to balance his jammed schedule as both a member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Chickenfoot. And that's not even his full roster, as evidenced by Smith's funk/jam side project, the Bombastic Meatbats, who have just issued their first-ever live recording, 'Live Meat and Potatoes,' via Marmaduke Records, which is available as both a traditional CD and as a download, via the following links, respectively:
 
http://marmaduke.jeffkollman.com/

 

 

 


Consisting of drummer Smith, guitarist Jeff Kollman (from Cosmosquad), bassist Kevin Chown (Uncle Kracker, Tarja Turunen), and keyboardist Ed Roth (Coolio and Ronnie Montrose), the band first formed in 2008, and hails from Los Angeles.
 
The third record in the evolution of the Meatbats sound, 'Live Meat And Potatoes' captures the band in their most natural environment: in front of a live audience in an intimate setting. The band has found its sound after its first two studio releases, 'Meet the Meatbats' and 'More Meat.' LIVE is where they shine the brightest, featuring long extended jams that take the audience on a roller coaster ride of funk, rock and experimental madness of all sorts.

LoudTrax.com had the great pleasure of catching up with Chad Smith for a phone interview while he was in New York for a short break from the Red Hot Chili Peppers' tour before heading back out to Russia.
 
The Bombastic Meatbats is a very freestyle, jazz, and funk rock project.  So the conversation pointed itself on the topic of Jazz from the get go.   As Chad explains,  "Jazz being our only real American music, it's something we're proud of and are happy to be experimenting with."    The live record is as live as it gets, and when asked how much focus is put on keeping the original structure of the songs live, Smith quickly states "Very little!   We improvise quite a bit.  In the solo sections, there is no set thing and everyone gets to express themselves.  That's a big part of what we do and excel at.  With no singer, you can strectch it out a little more and take it places and be dynamic.  The arrangement kind of goes out the window!"



Chad then takes us into a Bombastic Meatbats recording session.  "It's similar to how we play live, all in the same room together, with minimal overdubs and such.  Modern recordings sometimes takes the performance out of making records.  We write the songs in my home studio in Malibu called the Tiki Room.   Many times it's just us jamming and it's very organic the way it happens. 

Between the Chili Peppers and Chickenfoot (which features Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony and guitar wiz Joe Satriani), Chad admits that he doesn't really write for the Bombasitc Meatbats until he actually gets it going with the other Meatbat members.  "It's important for me to have other musicians to bounce the ideas and grooves with.  I play a little but of guitar, but i do not write songs on the instrument."

"John Bonham was my favorite drummer"  says Chad.   "But I grew up in Detroit so I also had a lot of Motown influence."  However, the band also sites the legendary and mind blowing Return To Forever has an influence.  As Smith expands more on his influences, "Early on listening to all those english hard rock and blues bands like Led zep, Jimi Hendrix (his band was English), Deep Purple, Humble Pie and Queen.  Those bands all had really great drummers and were my early influences.  Once you get exposed to other music, everything comes into play.  As a teenager, you want to play a lot, you want to be like Neil Peart!  You go through that phase and you have fun to play.  After that you grow and mature as a musician and focus on becoming a musician and being musical.   The important thing is to have that personality that makes it you."

This live album was recorded at the "Baked Potato" club in Los Angeles in front of only 90 people.  A break from the packed arenas that Chad normally plays in. "It's fun to play in smaller venues.  There are some great venues to watch live music like the the Village Vanguard in NYC.  I've been in clubs in Japan where they were hard core jazz fans and they are into it!" 

Chickenfoot!

Being an avid and long time Joe Satriani fan, I could not resist asking Chad about his experience with playing with the Satch man.  "It's hard to compare the musicians I've played with.  John Frusciante is probably the best overall musician that I played with.  Dave Navarro is a great guitar player.  As for Satriani, he is really great.  As far as just technique goes, he probably has the most technique and is very impressive to watch.  It was really fun playing with him in a rock setting.  It was really easy for all of us and we had loads of fun, like being teenagers again.  I know he enjoyed just being in a band where he wasnt the leader and he could just play guitar and do his magic."
 
COMPLETE 'LIVE MEAT AND POTATOES' TRACKLISTING:


1. OOPS I SPILLED MY BEER
2. PASSING THE ACE
3. MOUNTAIN OF MEAT
4. THE GUNBOAT IS ON!
5. NIGHTSWEATS
6. TOPPS OFF
7. PIGS FEET
8. NEED STRANGE
9. DEATHMATCH
10. BATTLE FOR VENTURA BLVD
11. MOBY DICK
12. SHILO'S FORBIDDEN CITY BLUES
13. BREADBALLS
14. LOBSTER LEGS
15. INTO THE FLOYD


FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT: http://www.facebook.com/bombasticmeatbats

Cheers to Chip Ruggeri for hooking up this interview. 

 

 

 

 

 

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867 Days

 

The Nashville based band Fools For Rowanrecently released their new single, “Killed a Man Today” off their fourth coming album Who Killed Amanda Day?  Lead vocalist Erin Mullins shared a track by track description / insight.

Killed A Man- We started playing this song live a while ago just to test the waters.  We knew immediately that it was special.  The crowd dug it from the get-go and we loved the energy and excitement that it brought to us on stage as well!  It's just BIG and I don't think I'll ever get tired of performing it!  Now we have a music video for it and it's really kind of taken on a life of it's own.

Refuge- The entire band co-wrote this song, so that alone makes it special.  Beyond that though, it is high energy from note one and it has more of a pop feel overall than any of our other songs.  This one might be my favorite to just listen to!  I remember when the whole record was done and we got to listen down track by track, I wanted to hit repeat on this one!

Crave- This one is brand spankin new!  I'm really excited for the fans to hear it because we brought Ryan in on some lead vocals, so it's actually more like a duet...so cool!  Kinda like with Chameleon, we just keep trying new things so that our music is always evolving and the fans stay happy!

Chameleon-  This song has evolved a lot from when we originally created it!  It just kept wanting to grow and spread its wings.  We stepped outside the box when we added dubstep in the bridge, but that's the thing about good music, the good stuff always finds its way out of the box! 

You Can't Stop Me- This song is really personal to me.  When I'm singing this one I am literally proclaiming and believing it!  It is so powerful!!  I hope that other people feel the same way about it.. like they can do anything!

Leave- Totally stripped down, as raw as you can get, and completely emotional.  In the past, most of our songs have had me belting out the highest of notes but this song is the polar opposite of that.  It's completely lyrically driven and once again, is something new and different for us.

Thanks to Amanda Blide from LaFamos for hooking this up.

 

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997 Days

MARCH IS METAL MONTH 2012


EMI Music Label Services/Caroline Distribution is celebrating its fourth year of bringing metal to the masses with the March Is Metal Month (MIMM) retail campaign which kicks off in physical and digital music stores around the country on March 1.   LoudTrax.com is proud to be taking part and are offering some great metal albums, new and classic at this location.

To celebrate the "March is Metal Month" initiative, fans who download any featured album, or pick up any of the t-shirts included in the promotion will receive a Free March Is Metal Month 2012 CD sampler mailed to them.   The track listing is stellar and continues the tradition of working with the best rock labels to showcase top tracks from their roster of talent.  This year's sampler includes the tracks 'Undaunted' from Adrenaline Mob's upcoming album 'Omerta'; Swedish extreme metal band Meshuggah's 'The Demon's Name is Silence' and Five Finger Death Punch have added their previously digital-only release 'The Tragic Truth'. Fans of Southern hardcore metal band Corrosion Of Conformity are in for a treat with their track 'The Money Changers' also included - their first release in 25 years.   See full track listing below.

MARCH IS METAL MONTH CONTEST!

In addition to the sale items, Free CD, the kind folks at EMI USA sent us a truly metal package, full of prizes.  Contest ends March 31, and the lucky winner will receive:

Suicide Silence - Autographed The Black Crown 11x17 posters
Warbringer - signed Worlds Torn Asunder 11x17 posters
Winds Of Plague - signed 18x24 Against The World posters
Vampires Everywhere! - signed 18x24 Kiss The Sun Goodbye Posters
Five Finger Death Punch - War Is the Answer skate decks (obama art)
Five Finger Death Punch - mechanics shirts
Motorhead - The World Is Yours Blk T-Shirts
Eluveitie - autographed 35in (height) x 23in (width) Eluveitie posters ?(EXCLUSIVE for MMM!)

Enter contest here!

 

TRACK LISTING:

1.  Adrenaline Mob – Undaunted (2012 Elm City Music, LLC)            
2.  Lacuna Coil – Kill The Light (2011 Century Media Records Ltd.)                   
3.   Five Finger Death Punch – The Tragic Truth (© 2011 Prospect Park)                        
4.   Meshuggah – Do Not Look Down (2012 Nuclear Blast GmbH / Warner Chapell Publishing)               
 5.  In Flames – Where Dead Ships Dwell (2011 Century Media Records Ltd.)      
6.   Corrosion Of Conformity – The Money Changers (Abstract Sounds Ltd & Tanglade Ltd.)               
 7.  Iced Earth – Anthem (2011 Century Media Records Ltd.)             
8.   3 Inches Of Blood – Leather Lord (2011 Century Media Records Ltd.)                    
9.   Woods Of Ypres – Lightning & Snow (2012 Earache Records Inc)               
10.   Epica – Storm The Sorrow (2012 Nuclear Blast GmbH / Prophecies Publishing)                   
11.   Savage Messiah – Plague Of Conscience (2012 Earache Records Inc)                      
12.   Rise To Remain – The Serpent (2011 Century Media Records Ltd.)           
13.   Vildhjarta – Dagger (2011 Century Media Records Ltd.)                
14.  Sophicide – The Art Of Atrocity (Willowtip)                        
15.   Terrorizer – Subterfuge (2012 Season of Mist)                  
16.   The Devastated – The Devil’s Messenger (2011 Century Media Records Ltd.)    
17.   Insomnium – Meandering Through The Shadows (2011 Century Media Records Ltd.)    
18.   Lord Mantis – Perverter Of Will (Abstract Sounds Ltd & Tanglade Ltd.)  

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1042 Days

 

British band Enter Shikari combine hardcore metal, complete with riffs that make you want to jump up, memorable choruses, and unlike most metal bands, a large dose of Electronica, trip hop elements.  Their new album "A Flash Flood of Colours" is released Jan. 17 and their first single "Sssnakeput" is already gaining them much deserved attention and praise. 

Crank it up!  Here is the video of "Sssnakepit" by
Enter Shikari  



Download their album for only $7.99. 

We caught up with lead vocalist Rou Reynolds for an interview.  Hope you enjoy.

The single Sssnakepit is gaining lots of momentum and well received by fans.  Tell us about how the song came about and what it's been like playing it live so far.

Sssnakepit was one of the last songs to be written for the new album but it felt right for the first song to be released. It's obviously a real fast moving, feel good song, and hopefully an injection of positivity for any listener. The song came from feeling down in some sort of dip in your life, feeling like your surrounded by snakes only caring about making money or material things etc, it's about concentrating on compassion and treasuring friendships and bouncing back. It's been great to play live, not only for it's ferocity but it's a very visceral track lyrically too, so it's a great outlet.

There are 2 remixes of Sssnakepit on the release.  How much control do you give the remixers?  

If someone's remixing one of our tracks they have total control. I think it's quite important to let go at that point. Obviously we'll tell them if we aint feeling something but at the end of the day we only pick producers/DJ's that we respect anyway so they usually come up with the goods without any debate.

Has the band ever been asked to remix songs from other bands?  Would that interest you?

Well i have my side project 'Rout' which is more straight up Drum & Bass and Dubstep. I've been lucky enough to remix a whole host of bands and other producers/DJ's. I really enjoy it, there's obviously a little less pressure with things like these.

What other songs on the album are you expecting a crazy reaction on the live set?

I really can't wait to play every song on this album live. I think with a bit of work they're all going to translate really well to a live show. I think 'Gandhi Mate, Gandhi' will particularly send the crowd nuts though, as well as 'Hello Tyrannosaurus, Meet Tyrannicide'.

You have been touring with bands that have a slightly different sound and feel than Enter Shikari.  Can you describe the reaction of the fans between
yourselves and the other bands?

We've always felt slightly out of place on almost every bill we've played!

That's not something that's ever really bothered us though.  The reactions usually the same from the people that are there to see us, heaps of enthusiasm and energy. If people are watching us for the first time though it usually means a sea of confused faces almost to the point that they look slightly constipated, but we can deal with that now, it was a little strange at first. And if they truly were constipated, it's nothing a little of our sub bass couldn't help 'free up'.

Personally, I am a fan of certain electronica and acid jazz artists.  Can you touch on some of those artists that have influenced your sound, or that you simply enjoy listening to.   

Well obviously there countless artists but at the moment i'm listening to a lot of more chilled out stuff being at home and relaxing...
The outstanding progressive classical guitarist Erik Mongrain, some delicate clever electronica from Alphabets Heaven and some truly inspirational awesomeness from our favourite producers Noisia.


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1062 Days

Every once in a while, we offer the chance for fans to discover new talent in the metal community.  This time around, the band Thousand Year Rain is the featured artist.  We hope you enjoy the music, and the introduction to the band!  AM

Thousand Year Rain's Witchery and Bloodshed - song by song desciption.
By Thomas Sankt of Thousand Year Rain


When music is written with careful purpose, the meaning won’t be obvious; it will just be absorbed. That’s what transforms chords into moods. But when music is written with visceral abandon, the meaning can’t be denied. That’s what turns anthems into lifestyles.

For me that anthem was (and is) Slayer’s “Raining Blood.” There’s just no way to argue its homicidal magnetism. When Tom Araya barks, “Now I shall reign in blood!” you actually believe him. You’re not quite sure how he’s going to do it, but you know it won’t be pretty.

Pound for pound, no one else has been able to channel that kind of savagery with the same degree of blunt force. Which is what makes the precedent of Reign in Blood so significant. In the 70’s, Black Sabbath brought a sludgy horror-laden groove to the disaffected. In the 80’s, Slayer sped it up, fed it some Anadrol, and made it angry — really, really angry. And the only band that’s even come close since then is Lamb of God. Though just between you and me, Slayer is still way heavier \m/. Unless, of course, Randy Blythe is reading this right now; in which case, Resolution is a goddamn masterpiece!

That said, rage isn’t the only thing that inspires sweaty little outcasts to pick up Flying V’s. Sadness can be equally powerful, and the beauty is that it’s far more confessional — sometimes disturbingly so. Alice in Chains captured it brilliantly in the 90’s, and given what became of Layne Staley, it’s clear they weren’t faking.

So that’s where my second album, Witchery and Bloodshed, ultimately falls — someplace between Reign in Blood and Jar of Flies. Does it sound exactly like them? No. But that’s because I draw on influences, not formulas. And besides, it would probably make for one hell of a weird mishmash. Slayer in Chains doesn’t really roll off the tongue very nicely.

Or does it?

Either way, the following song-by-song breakdown gives a glimpse into the making of Witchery and Bloodshed. The actual stories behind the riffs and/or lyrics might take too long because I’d have to dial up the social lepers I call friends and ask them to remind me what I was thinking between gut-churning swigs of Boone’s Farm. And since I’ve yet to fully recover from the hangover, that kind of thing is going to have to wait until the next article.

So without further ado, here are my favorite tracks from the album:

Pale Morning
The first song I wrote for Witchery and Bloodshed. Knew right away that I wanted to start with something deceptively calm. At 2:05, I think it fits the bill without drifting aimlessly into self-indulgence.

Inherit Death’s Machine
Recorded a few days after the untimely death of a close friend. Helped to assuage the pain.

Contortion
Re-written several times before the final version materialized. As always, I was won over by the juxtaposition of driving rhythms and overstated guitars. Kind of reminds me of Nile for some reason.

Eyes Closed Under A Cold Grey Sky
Swaying acoustic melodies, intricately woven orchestral adornments — what’s not to love? Could’ve easily been written by The Cure. In fact, it probably was. I’m not all that original. But the harsh reality is that I lost another friend to cancer shortly after Witchery and Bloodshed was released; and this song reminds me of him. Rest in peace, K.D.H. You will be missed.

A Shadow No Longer Cast
The only thing I like more than grim, hard driving death metal is grimmer, harder driving death metal. Amon Amarth will be proud.

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1068 Days






Get yourself something for Christmas!  Browse our Holiday specials here


 
WANT METAL!?  LoudTrax.com Holiday Sale!
T-shirts $11.99 +
Swag $5.49 +
Killer metal albums $3.99 to $7.99! 


New to LoudTrax.com?  We are always here to assist with any purchase if needed.

Our specials include:

SYSTEM OF A DOWN :: CHILDREN OF BODOM :: BEATLES :: AC/DC, more!

T-shirts $11.99 +
Swag $5.49 +
Killer metal albums $3.99 to $7.99! 

Download albums by HIGH ON FIRE, CROWBAR, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY, HATEBREED, more!

 

See all sale items here

Sale ends Jan. 6, 2012

 


 


 










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1082 Days



FREE 15 song Metal Sampler from E1 Metal!   Download album here



 
WANT METAL!?  LoudTrax.com and eOne Metal are offering you a Free 15 songs Metal sampler.  Includes Killer trax from Black Label Society, Chimaira, Darkest Hour, Hatebreed, High On Fire and many more!  


Get your Free code on the LoudTrax.com sticker featured in the 100th Mega Issue of REVOLVER MAGAZINE

New to LoudTrax.com?  We are always here to assist with any purchase if needed.


 

See full page ad & sticker insert in the 100th Mega issue of REVOLVER Magazine. 

Pick up a copy today!

  Check out LoudTrax's Christmas specials here!     




 


 










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1133 Days

Courtesy of Nuno Ribeiro of HeavyHardMetalMania


Australian Blackened Metallers MEMORIA have today released their third full-length album entitled “Death Calls The Islands”, which the band describes as a “a guitar-driven album that is simultaneously beautiful and ugly”, via Daniel Vrangsinn’s Misantrof ANTIRecords.    The album will be available both in physical format as a CD, and, in keeping with Misantrof’s philosophy, as a high quality MP3 download , which can be downloaded free from the Misantrof website.

Following 2008’s experimental noise album “Memorioquia : Auradeutung”,  MEMORIA have prioritised the heavier aspect of their sound,  and “Death Calls The Islands” is a stunning, moving mix of black metal, death metal and classical guitar traditions.  Founding member Jonathan Carroll (guitars, vocals, sound design, synthesiser) says of the release: “I see this album as the very unique product of having immersed ourselves in European underground music… letting these influences exist in our minds and then creating without trying to emulate anyone or anything”. MEMORIA draw on a vast range of influences, from EMPEROR, ULVER, DHG and MINISTRY to the sound designs of DAVID LYNCH and the modernist fiction of CORMAC MCARTHY. The abstract, surreal lyrical content of “Death Calls The Islands” deals with isolation and alienation, themes which also find themselves manifested in the album’s unique artwork. Created by Australian artist Danielle Freakley from moulded octopus tentacles, the piece represents “the strange beauty and ugliness that reside within us as human beings, and the primal world from which we are not too far removed”.

The partnership with Misantrof ANTIRecords, founded in 2007 by Daniel Vrangsinn (VRANGSINN, CARPATHIAN FOREST, SECHT etc.) was a logical one for MEMORIA. Given that the band is experienced in producing its own material, Misantrof’s approach of letting the bands have full creative control of their own work proved to be a great fit.  “To be part of an evolving, independent artistic entity such as Misantrof fits perfectly with our values and was not a hard decision,” says Jonathan, “We create music because we love this art form and no one in MEMORIA wanted this tainted by the nastiness of financial or commercial considerations.  Misantrof surpasses pathetic considerations about how to sell things that are genuinely different”.  For his part, Vrangsinn is extremely pleased to be releasing “Death Calls The Islands”, and has high hopes that it will be received with as much acclaim as 2010’s breakaway Misantrof release, “Death Reclaims The Earth”, by Turkish Black Metallers EPISODE 13.


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1165 Days

 

Guitarist Dave Bates and vocalist Margarita Monet formed Edge Of Paradise in 2011, while working on another musical collaboration "for hire" with a producer in Los Angeles.  Dave has been writing music for some time, collaborating with talented songwriters, Robin Mcauley (MSG, Survivor) and Ryan Jones, which left the two with a vast library of music to pull from. With a little creative magic between Dave and Margarita, the sound of Edge Of Paradise was born.

We have the pleasure of being the only place online where Edge Of Paradise will be releasing their debut album entitled "Mask".  Below is an interview with Monet and introduction to the band. 

------------

 Tell us about the band.

We are metal. The music is aggressive, guitar driven, with powerful, melodic vocals. We like odd time signatures, but don't make it too obvious because we focus on the groove and catchy hooks. We call our sound, "industrial melodic chaos". The first CD "Mask", sets our soundscape. 

You guys formed in 2011, not very long ago.  How did you manage to get the album ready in such a short time?  Were the songs already written before the band formed?

Yes, we jumped right into writing and recording "Mask" after we played a couple of shows together, and decided that we want to take this band as far as it can go. "Mask" came together so fast because Dave has a huge collection of musical choices. He was writing material for a while, with Robin Mcauley and cutting edge songwriter, Ryan Jones. We  picked a bunch of songs that we liked and rewrote most of them to give them our feel. Then I had a lot of ideas that I wanted to contribute, and the process moved along very smoothly once the sound was established. 

You mentioned the magic between you and guitarist Dave Bates.  What was it about it that made it work, and more importantly, that you believe will make it work for the long term?

It was interesting, because we met, working with a producer on a song for hire, and he was trying to turn me into a pop artist, so it was a difficult experience, I think if we could make it through that, we can make it through anything. 

And Dave is a music making machine, he comes up with really cool riffs, can get any sound out of his guitar, throw in a virtuoso solo and put everything together with taste and style. It's really inspiring to work together, we feed each other ideas and build upon them together. We already have some really cool stuff in the works, so I'm really excited for the future. 

Any tour plans?  

Yes, performing the music live is what we love to do! Right now we're playing shows locally till the end of the year and promoting the album. We're planning a US tour for the beginning of 2012,  and look to expand to Europe and other parts of the globe from there, we want to play as much as physically possible. 

Will you be playing keys live or just lead vocals?

Mostly lead vocals. The only song I will be fully playing keys on is "Shredenstein", the others, not so much. I originally wanted to do it, but it would be physically impossible to play the keyboard and do everything I want to do while singing the songs. We might feature the keyboard more in the future, but for now, it was primarily used to give us the industrial edge. 

The song "Thrown It All Away" has a very sing along catchy chorus to it.  Tell us about that song, how it came about, etc…

Thank you! Dave had a riff to the song for a while,  him and Robin wrote the song together, tweaked it a lot and eventually came up with the right melodies. There was a lot of work and time put into this song, so when i came along, it was already complete.  It was actually the first song we recorded, and was the easiest to finish,  all we had to do was record the vocals, and just really polish the mix to get the sound that we wanted out of the song.

The album, in my opinion, is well produced and contains some solid tracks.  It has potential to make some noise.  What are your expectations for the band in the next 6-12 months?  And in the next 2-3 years?

Thank you! We worked hard on the CD. We spent a lot of time producing the tracks and making sure they are represented in the best possible light. We wanted this album to introduce the band and establish the sound. So in the next 6-12 months, we expect to play a lot, promoting the CD, and to release more material that we are already writing. In the next 2-3 years, we look to play and spread our sound globally, we hope to be an established band, like the big bands we grew up listening to, and continue to release more music! 

We really like Loudtrax, it's really cool that it specializes in our type of music! We look forward to releasing the music video for Mask in the next couple of weeks and are excited to see where this album takes us!

-----------

Download the debut album "MASK" exclusively on LoudTrax.com at this location

 

 

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1167 Days

 

 

Dream Theater: A Dramatic Turn Of Events

BY JAMES BINGHAM – SEPTEMBER 11, 2011. Courtesy of MetalBuzz.net

Download the album at LoudTrax.com

Dream Theater has got something to prove. They – and a million other bands – will swear up and down that everything they do they do for the fans. And while that’s true to an extent, "A Dramatic Turn of Events" (and how dramatic they’ve been) has got to be about more. With the departure of Mike Portnoy – who’s arguably been running the band for some time now – Dream Theater has got to prove that it can hang tough, that it’s not going disappear into the ether along with Betamax, the new Coke and other obscurities people only reference in reviews like this.

So the gauntlet’s been laid down. Actually, it was laid down a year ago when Portnoy first announced he was leaving the band. Well, the album is finally upon us and now it’s time for some straight talk. Dream Theater delivered the goods. And not only that, they’ve delivered their strongest album since "Scenes from a Memory," more than a decade ago. And the haters – true to their name – are going to hate that. "The band’s lost its soul! Portnoy was a founding member!" they scream, conveniently ignoring the fact that John Petrucci and John Myung are also founding members, and that James LaBrie’s been in the band for so long he might as well be grouped with the rest of them. Portnoy may have been the most active with the fans, but that doesn’t mean he was single-handedly writing the music.

But after only a single listen of this new album, it’s obvious he was pushing it very hard in a certain direction. And now that he’s gone, the band has returned to a fuller, warmer sound. It’s something that’s been missing for quite a while, and it’s not until you hear it again that you realize how much you missed it. There’s a lot to look out for, so I’d like to hit the highlights, what stuck out most to me in my first few listens.

The album opens with the new single "On the Backs of Angels " which any fan worth their salt has listened to already, so we’ll skip ahead to the next track, "Build Me Up, Break Me Down." If any track could be said to bridge the gap between the old Dream Theater and the new, this is it. With its electronic drumbeat intro and screaming chorus, this may be the album’s most "mainstream" track, although the sound is very distinctly Dream Theater. There’s a really great orchestral backup that builds to an eerie outro and the sound of galloping horses.

This is the beginning of "Lost Not Forgotten," and the first time the band really comes together and shines. It kind of took me by surprise, because when I listened to the minute-long clip that was released a few weeks back, it sounded more like "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" than anything else; something a lot like "A Nightmare to Remember," which is to say same old same old. And while the chorus is very driving, it picks you up and carries you along with it. The only word I can think of to describe it would be "soaring." The song’s also got a very proggy breakdown in the middle – think the very best bits of "Octavarium" and "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" – before picking up that chorus again and taking us out.

Things slow down a bit with "This is the Life." This song, "Far From Heaven" and "Beneath the Surface" I felt were all very much of a piece. Actually, you can separate the entire album between its down- and up-tempo tracks. And it seems like there’s just the right number of each. I think these slower songs will appeal to those who haven’t been too impressed with the band’s work in that arena these past few albums.

"Bridges in the Sky" goes slightly Tool in the beginning with a weird shaman-who-swallowed-a- didgeridoo-chanting intro. Dream Theater’s been writing music for close to 30 years that stylistically has all been very similar, so I won’t begrudge them going off the reservation a bit and doing something so weird. This song is kind of a microcosm for the entire album, in that it strikes just the right balance between hard and soft. We’ve got the driving double bass and hard guitar rhythms, which seamlessly move into these beautiful choruses.

"Outcry" is definitely ADTOE’s beat-you-over-the-head technical masterpiece, a song that’s really got it all. Syncopated rhythms. Crazy solos. You notice this with the lyrical sections throughout the entire album, but I think it’s especially true here: LaBrie’s solo projects have definitely rubbed off. There’s a very strong Leonardo vibe here, although this album possesses a warmth that album didn’t (which isn’t to say I didn’t dig it). As for the music, there’s so much crazy switching off between Petrucci, Rudess and Mangini that I can’t wait to see them pull this one off live.

For my money, "Breaking All Illusions" is the winner; this album’s "Learning to Live." It’s also the first song John Myung has written lyrics to since "Fatal Tragedy" on "Scenes." While "Lost Not Forgotten" and "Outcry" showcase some darker flavors, "Breaking All Illusions" hits the lighter side. There’s some great back and forth between the guitars and keyboards. The entire song has got a very strong YES and Marillion vibe, but it never feels like it’s wearing these inspirations on its sleeve. The whole things ends in typical DT fashion, very epic, lots of pounding drums. This particular song feels more like the end of a soundtrack than a rock album. But there’s still more to come.

The band has done something here they haven’t done since "Awake." They reel things in and end the album with the much lighter "Beneath the Surface." This one is like a ballad plus some with Jordan’s Moogy solo in the middle, a reminder that these guys take different musical styles and make them their own. It was kind of the perfect note to go out on, and displayed a quiet confidence that we really haven’t seen in a while.

So they did it. If we’re looking at the band post-"Scenes," I loved "Octavarium," but I LOVED this album. It’s bigger, it’s fuller, it takes the band in a new direction while paying homage to the old school Dream Theater we’ve all been eulogizing these past few years. And none of that is a knock against Mike Portnoy. He’s a great drummer, and with DT he accomplished great things. They made great music together and we’ll always have that. But I think it had just gotten to a point where he was holding them back. And if "A Dramatic Turn of Events" is the album they put out after he leaves, I wish he had left after "Octavarium." It’s something I never thought I’d hear myself say, but as the saying goes the proof is in the pudding. Dream Theater’s epic, proggy pudding. We’ve heard them say for years that they thought the band’s best years were ahead of them, but we never really believed it. But after this, I have a feeling they may be right.

Download the album at LoudTrax.com

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