Archive for January, 2010

Review: Atlas The Atom Smasher

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on January 27, 2010 by Ryan

Artist: Atlas The Atom Smasher
Album: Doubletree Demos

Download it here

Atlas The Atom Smasher is a progressive punk / skacore band based out of Massachusetts. Doubletree Demos is a set of demos recently recorded by the band and released free to the public. The band hopes to record a full length album in the near future.

For this review, Ryan and I (Jeff) will be doing back to back takes on each of the songs individually.

“Josh Tracy Vs. The Rebel Alliance”

Ryan: This is a pretty standard introduction to the album, nothing too special about it. It starts everything off with a Star Wars sample which is pretty neat and then goes on to about thirty seconds of thrash. It’s heavy and would be enjoyable live but there’s not much else to say about it.

Jeff: Epic opener in my opinion. A dissonant rant introduced after a Star Wars sample. Loud, fast, epic. Not much of a song really.

“Yankee Ingenuity”

Ryan: Probably one of my favorite songs of the set. The transition from the sudden stop at the end of the first song works well into transitioning to the subtle bass intro of this song. Structurally, the verses are pretty straightforward but the guitar behind it is interesting and catchy, while the lyrics take a interesting stab at one being a good person means. The chorus is very catchy as well and is supported by a very tight trombone line. As the song progresses through the bridge, intricate trombone and saxophone parts come together to create unique melodies and to help build to the end of the song. This one constantly stays in my head.

Jeff: A very differently structured song with no clear chorus or verse, but rather two parts that mesh into one another at the middle of the song. Trombone parts are really well written and (DISCLAIMER) yes it’s hard to hear them because IT’S A DEMO. Not all the songs are very well recorded and they aren’t meant to be. That said the songwriting and overall style is brought to the forefront. The solid horn lines really add flavor and the hits that bridge the two parts of the song together do well to create tention and release it in the final part of the song. A very well crafted song.

“American Youth”

Ryan: The verses and bridge of this song begin to stray away from the dark feel that has already been established in earlier songs. Again, straightforward verses but full of thoughtful lyrics. The chorus is catchy as hell with gang vocals echoing over the entire thing. The song is pretty simple but definitely a good listen, building up to a calm ending. Parts of this song seem over developed, such as random piano in one part, and gang vocals rather than a single vocal over the chorus. However, it’s still a decent song.

Jeff: A great song in my opinion. The chorus is catchy and you can never tell if they are in a major or minor key which creates an uncertain feel. Of course singing about Katrina victims and bigoted CEO’s helps with that too. The ska bridge turns into a musical odyssey leading back to the chorus riff. The rambling chords remind me of Fatter Than Albert. Ends with a really great trombone line that you heard in the chorus hopefully. Ignore the synth line after the first chorus. Why is it there? Aaron Hibbert knows.

“Too Tall”

Ryan: Probably the slowest and most laid back on the album. That’s not a bad thing, but of all the songs it appeals to me the least. The song plays with interesting feels and time signatures and flows very well, but the overall sound is too eerie and almost, in some ways, too “whiny” for me. I don’t have much to say about it, but you’ll probably either love or hate this track.

Jeff: The first time I listened to this song I really didn’t like it. Awkward time signatures, dissonant lines and a really strange chord substitution in the chorus. Then I heard them do it live and everything meshed pretty well. It’s hard to listen to though. Love/hate relationship with this song.

“The Snowmiser Suite, Part II: Heatmiser”

Ryan: The fast gripping verses, heavy breakdowns, melodic lines by the saxophones and overall tightness of this song really appeal to me. The song rips through with hard hitting lyrics and harsh guitar parts. It switches from hardcore punk to just plain hardcore / metal and the transitions are done very well. The song also includes an interlude designed to go to the next song which is also put together well. The feel of an interlude is achieved, but the guitar solo that goes over it feels generic at points. But the traditional blues solo feel might be on purpose. I’ve been informed a Part I to this suite will be written eventually.

Jeff: Brutal melodic hardcore-thru-megaphone punk. Excellent lyrics here too. Not much to say other than it’s the second part of the “Snowmiser Suite”. Motifs include screaming “WE’LL BE OK!!”. I heard part one the other day. Pretty awesome.

“The Snowmiser Suite, Part III: Mother Nature”

This is my favorite song on the album and my go to song to make me feel better for the past couple months. It’s dark, it has its negative feel, but it also has a sense of optimism to it. It’s a linear song, no repetition to verses or chorues but it all works well and everything, between guitar parts and memorable saxophone lines, stays in your head and works to create a somewhat sad, but optimistic feel. A high energy finale comes right before the outro, yelling “We’ll be ok,” and I only wish this part had been developed to go on longer. The end of the song slows down in a similar way to “American Youth” and fades out to a calm ending.

Jeff: This song is one of the best songs on the album. Steps right off with a solo guitar playing the verse progression. This is one of the more positive songs they’ve written and it really shines. Hopes for the apocalypse and raining fire is some of the imagery conjured from the depths of Mister Hibbert’s soul. But those are only the consequences if we do not learn to put aside our differences and learn to cherish our time on earth and to cherish the time with each other. That’s what I got out of it at least. Of course the choral-style  vocals while singing “We’ll be ok, we’ll be alright” makes the song’s scale feel large. I don’t know any other way to express that but it’s a larger than life song. A great closer for the Snowmiser Suite.

“Soundtrack”

Ryan: This is my second favorite song on the album. From the start, the band plays with different time signatures and feels. The vocals come in packed with a punch, tackling opinions on religion. A heavy guitar part lines the verses as well which adds to the almost urgency of the song. The song continues, rising at points, slowing down but never that much until after the second chorus. After a short interlude, a dramatic bridge comes in with passionate vocals backed by tight drumming and just a solid chord progression. It all works up to build back down, but then crescendos to a final outro. The song hits every high and low it can in five minutes and wraps the album up very well.

Jeff: This is my favorite track on the album. Every time I listen to it I get emotional. It’s five minutes of soul wrenching poetry dealing with atheism and confronting yourself and the need for salvation when you know it won’t come. The build from the guitar plucking to “Stars fall” is simply amazing and the part that follows is very well  done. All the tension built up from the whole album is released finally ending with “Take me down, take me home” in the style of “We’ll be ok”. I’m not a huge fan of the fade to acoustic thing but it rounds off the song nicely.

Final Thoughts

Ryan: This is a very satisfying demo. Yes, it’s a demo, the quality could be improved, not everything is totally clear, some edges are rough, but that’s all fine. Although it is a demo, the energy and passion of the band seem to be expressed very clearly still. All the parts of the songs work together to bring together dark tones and high optimism; deep despair and a search for a higher understanding. The lyrics tackle topics of morality and to me that adds to the depth of the album. What is being said is backed by the music and there’s a point to it. I highly suggest listening to this set of demos. I hope there’s more to come in the near future.

Jeff: This is definitely a band to watch and see live. They don’t play out often but keep your eyes peeled. Overall these demos were really impressive. These guys have great song-writing skill. The thing is they don’t really fit in with either the hardcore or ska genres. I would call them melodic hardcore but it’s different from most bands like that. They are by no means generic and  will surprise with dissonance and with beautiful melodies. It’s not really fun music  but it’s got artistic merit and emotional merit. Can’t wait for new songs and more shows.

We’ll be ok.

~Jeff/Ryan

Review: Venetia Fair

Posted in Reviews with tags on January 19, 2010 by jeffathearingaid

Band: The Venetia Fair

Album: The Circus

Insert crazed scream here.

So I saw this band a year ago, last summer and I was taken aback by their style and their stage presence.  The whole band gets into the performance and throws everything they have into putting on a good show. And that’s precisely what it is. The lead singer was absolutely crazed on stage, twirling the mic and wrapping the cord around himself. The facial expressions were priceless. Not enough to make you want to leave but just enough to make you want to stay.

Speaking of a good show, their new album, The Circus, came out recently and a few days ago they put it up for free on their PureVolume page, so I jumped on the opportunity.You should too (apparently it’s only free until Wednesday).

Here goes. The album opens up with some crazy wailing guitar and organ riffs, cut by the talented vocalist, Benny Santoro. So about a minute in I’m already going “what the…” And then the chorus starts. A catchy pop chorus out of the chaos that was the (for lack of a better term) “verse”. It seems like someone’s enraged mind in music form, and the singer’s psychotic tremolo only reinforces this imagery. The wave of chaotic chord changes and start and stop is unpredictable. As soon as you’ve lost all bearings the chorus comes back as a safety net and you think that maybe there is some structure to this. This break-neck pace doesn’t cease but for a moment in the beginning of “Let’s Just Forget About This”, and then resumes again.

And this is just the first half of the album. They split up the album in half so the first four songs have the theme of lost love and the final six songs are part of The Circus saga. The sinister riff that opens up “The Ringleader” chimes the starting bell for another musical ride full of synthetic trumpet lines and screaming vocals.

It is definitely an interesting idea to write a narrative, or a whatever they have here, about the circus, and it definitely fits their sound. They’re a circus of their own, talented and willing to put on a show with a freakout factor. I enjoy all of the songs in the Circus, blending math rock, gypsy and power pop into a neat, but chaotic package. “Gullinkambis’ Return” is a good example of this with walking bass lines and screamy vocals and syncopated guitar lines. All of the songs are worth a listen just because of the lead singer. Not that the band is boring but his erratic vocals add character to the songs and a level of feeling to them. And it’s seamless. It’s always believable.

My major complaint with this album is that some of the songs sound empty. Especially the ones where the melody is in the synth. It’s a production issue but some songs sound just plain synthetic and it sort of clashes with the vocal style. Also synths are no replacement for a horn section! It sounds trasparent when they try to imitate a fanfare or a counter-melody. The chorus in “The Sideshow” is a perfect example of this. A real trumpet would make this epic line sound 100 times better.

So all in all this is a solid album. However it’s not for everyone. The erratic changes of pace and the genre mixing may be a turnoff to some. I think think it’s worth it just for the vocals and the ridiculous songwriting. Pick up the album if you’re into gypsy music, but can stand to listen to bands like Fall of Troy (maybe I meant that the other way around). Like I said. Not for everyone.

If I had to rate it I’d give it 3.5 Freaks out of 5. And I don’t give out 5’s so it’s more like a 3.5/4.

~Jeff