Archive for category Hard Rock
Red had big shoes to fill with the release of their fourth album, which followed the nearly flawless Until We Have Faces. Here’s why Release The Panic doesn’t even come close to the mastery of the band’s best work.
Following a rugged but surprisingly enjoyable debut, Breaking Benjamin returns with another heavy album, but for this sophomore effort, the band shows greater poise, variety and musicianship in crafting a superior entry. While the raw hard rock energy of Saturate garnered its fair share of fans, We Are Not Alone is superior in every way: the breakdowns are more refined and well-crafted, the melodies are simply infectious and serve as a much more effective method for balancing out all the aggressive energy and Benjamin Burnley’s vocals are more well-rounded than ever before. Between Burnley’s broad vocal range, Jeremy Hummel’s unrelenting drumming and blazing guitar riffs and bass hooks from Aaron Fink and Mark Klepaski, the masterful skill of this band seems limitless, but it’s combined with desperate lyrics, aggressive rhythms and upgraded production values, Breaking Benjamin delivers a timeless album for any hard rock fan to enjoy.
The brooding, heavy rocker “So Cold” opens We Are Not Alone on an aggressive and dark note that sets the atmosphere for the entire album. The quiet, twanging buzz of electric guitar starts it off as a pensive song, but it quickly escalates into a full-fledged headbanger accentuated by pounding drums and pulsating guitar riffs. Burnley’s sweet voice soon turns into gruffer shouts for the steady but heavier chorus. But more impressive is the dramatic bridge which simultaneously builds and unleashes tension for this terrific leadoff’s conclusion.
The buzzing resonance of electric guitars immediately sets “Sooner Or Later” apart from the rest of the album, while a surprisingly catchy chorus proves the band’s ability to balance heavy hooks and enjoyable sing-alongs for hard rock fans. Burnley’s fluctuation between pitch-perfect and coarse vocals is exemplary again, but the vocals shine all the brighter thanks to the amount of angry sincerity and intelligence in the lyrics: “Sooner or later, you’re gonna hate it / Go ahead and throw your life away / Driving me under, leaving me out there / Go ahead and throw your life away.”
Although “Forget It” is pleasant enough, “Rain” easily sets the bar as Breaking Benjamin’s best ballad. The acoustic guitar and Burnley’s crystal-clear voice ring out with clarity as the sound of trickling water enhances the song’s melancholy and contemplative tone. The following “Hidden Track” adds the twist of raising the intensity for a more dramatic rocker, but “Rain” is the superior version if only for the diversity and heartfelt presence it brings to We Are Not Alone.
From the thrashing drums and scaling riffs of “Believe” to the upbeat grooves of the catchy “Simple Design,” Breaking Benjamin offers fans a unique selection of tracks that proves itself to be the band’s most versatile and ultimately enjoyable work yet. The hard rock intensity is still largely intact, but Breaking Benjamin expands their range with more melodies and some infectious choruses that are too enjoyable to ignore. Fans of Three Days Grace, 12 Stones, Sick Puppies, 10 Years, Trapt, Chevelle, Seether and Evans Blue will be right at home with this terrific record, an instrumental one in shaping the face of hard rock and Breaking Benjamin as we know them. From improved composition to the band’s greater exposition of their skill, We Are Not Alone offers a melodic and hard-hitting experience enhanced even further by Burnley’s impressive vocals and songwriting. Saturate was memorable for its raw hard rock feel, but Breaking Benjamin’s sophomore albums hows how much more prolific a touch of melody can be for that enjoyable formula.
Final Score: 8.5/10
Rank: 2nd (four total albums)
- So Cold
- Simple Design
- Break My Fall
- Forget It
- Sooner Or Later
- Hidden Track
Sick Puppies is an extremely talented, hard rock trio hailing from Sydney, Australia with an undeniable flair for both their heavy arena rock anthems and impressively sentimental ballads. With their 2007 debut album, Dressed Up As Life, the band created an extremely balanced rock album, with some hard-hitting songs countered by slower, heartfelt songs. The lyrical depth and showmanship of this trio was immediately apparent with energetic and passionate songs that meshed well to give the album a nice and consistent flow. With the release of their sophomore album Tri-Polar, the balance seems to have tipped in favor of the aggressive, hard rock side of the scale. The ballads and aesthetically pleasing songs still make an appearance, but this followup largely favors heavier, angrier tracks both in their composition and lyrics. Lead singer Shimon Moore once again displays a knack for delivering crisp, soft vocals for the ballads as well as the rough vocals filled with angst and energy that dominate the heavy rockers. Moore’s guitar riffs, Emma Anzai’s deep bass and Mark Goodwin’s drums are all so vibrantly distinguishable that the entire record seems impossible for only three people to create. When all is said and done, Tri-Polar is another solid entry in Sick Puppies’ discography, even if its overindulgence with the heavier side of the rock spectrum fails to translate into a superior followup.
“War” immediately displays the new, harder side to Sick Puppies with a fist-pumping, arena rock anthem to kick things off. This blood pumping track is hard-hitting and its high octane energy makes it one of the most intense songs on the record, but this is the pinnacle of Sick Puppies’ heavier side. The thundering drums of Goodwin and sharp buzz of guitars helps give this track its aggressive feel, but Moore’s vocals are what elevates the intensity to a whole new level. Moore’s rough growls dominate the vocals and make the album’s opener even more formidable. Although the lyrical depth isn’t very extensive, the pure hard rock power of this song make it the best on Tri-Polar.
“You’re Going Down” follows the resilient but surprisingly upbeat “Riptide” with a completely contradictory tone, reestablishing the new hard rock alter ego of Sick Puppies’ music. In the same vein as the album’s aggressive opener, “You’re Going Down” opens with the deep purr of Anzai’s bass accompanied by forcibly restrained vocals from Moore before erupting into the head-banging, hard-rocking chorus. The theme of antagonization continues with Moore’s proclamation “It’s been a long time coming / And the table’s turned around / Cuz one of us is going / One of us is going down / I’m not running / It’s a little different now / Cuz one of us is going / One of us is going down.” This standout track contains one of the best guitar solos and breakdowns of the album, even if Moore’s coarse vocals may start taking their toll on more casual listeners at this point.
“Maybe” is the band’s biggest and most well-known single after making a successful splash on the airwaves. “Maybe” outdoes both the uplifting “Odd One” and the emotional lover’s plea of “Don’t Walk Away” to claim the title of the best ballad on the album. This hopeful and inspiring track focuses on the beautiful anxiety of changing and moving on to “reach for something more.” Moore’s softer, smooth vocals are well-suited for this lighter song filled with the doubt and excitement of chasing dreams. “Maybe” is not the most dynamic track on Tri-Polar, but for those who can’t stomach Sick Puppies’ new reliance on hard rock, it will undoubtedly be the best.
Sick Puppies couldn’t quite duplicate the mastery of Dressed Up As Life, but managed to deliver another stellar effort with the heavier Tri-Polar. Although the change in direction could prove to be the band’s downfall if the music continues to progress down this more intense path, the hard rock style of the Sick Puppies’ sophomore album itself isn’t unenjoyable. Some might even welcome this new style because there’s no denying that this talented trio can deliver some truly special tracks with fist-pumping, arena rock moments. Fans of Breaking Benjamin, Evans Blue, Three Days Grace, Red, Thousand Foot Krutch, 10 Years, Trapt, 12 Stones, Papa Roach and Seether will be able to appreciate both new and old Sick Puppies, especially because of their ability to produce quality material on both ends of the rock spectrum. The pure angst and raw rock energy of “I Hate You” contrasts with the inspirational, mellow-turned-epic closer “White Balloons,” and although these two styles are starkly different, somehow fit in the same album for better or worse. Tri-Polar suffers from a slight rehash of the same old aggression and angst through numerous hard rock tracks, but ultimately lives up to the name of Sick Puppies.
Final Score: 7.8/10
Rank: 2nd (two total albums)
- I Hate You
- You’re Going Down
- Odd One
- So What I Lied
- Should’ve Known Better
- Don’t Walk Away
- Master Of The Universe
- In It For Life
- White Balloons