Tag Archives: rock

Planet Zero: Have Shinedown Finally Topped Sound of Madness?

Shinedown have been around for over two decades now. That makes me feel old. With seven albums now out, they have definitely experienced some highs and lows. They used to be my favourite band in my late teens, but their last two albums have certainly made them drop off from th

After a brief, electro-synth intro track that had my expectations worried immediately… we head into a punk/almost thrash track. ‘No Sleep Tonight’ definitely caught me off guard, but in the best way possible. It reminds me of a Volbeat track, that’s the closest comparison I can make. It’s not at all reminiscent of the last Shinedown album which is the best thing I can say, honestly. The chorus is catchy, the riffs are a heavy mix of punk and Metallica and it’s even got a surprisingly technical solo from Zach Myers. This easily makes the playlist, the best track the band has put out since Oblivion.

The album’s lead single ‘Planet Zero’ still doesn’t quite do it for me. There’s another fantastic riff or two from Zach and Eric Bass, but the vocal melody doesn’t hook me in. Brent Smith was my favourite vocalist for a long time, his lines on tracks like ‘Unity’ and ‘Fake’ are perfect. So comparing those to this, there is a clear lack of catchiness. Still though, it’s not a bad song, and it at least had me excited upon its release that Shinedown were to lean back into their rock side than the pop end.

Another short electrical interlude leads to the first slower track on the album, ‘Dysfunctional You’. Outside of the dreadful opening line, I enjoyed this song. It was still lead by the odd piano tone the band have used the last three albums or so, but there was enough guitar in there too to give it a rockier edge. Also, the lyrics were great, building on some of the best of Attention Attention. It doesn’t quite kick into that top gear I was expecting/hoping for, it stayed at a similar level throughout, but damn if the lyrics didn’t win me over big.

A heavy riff kicks off ‘Dead Don’t Die’ and Brent soon comes over the top with some of his rarely used these days attitude and swagger, giving a fantastically bouncy melody over the sludgy riff. It also explodes into a HUGE chorus that reminds me a lot of ‘Cut the Chord’ and ‘Devil’. I’m actually shocked this didn’t make the cut as a single as it’s the best track on the album so far. Zach channels his inner Tom Morello for his guitar solos, another huge, awesome highlight of the song. Playlisted.

Check out our review of Halestorm’s latest album here.

Interlude number three continues the strange, space themed concept of the album. I’m actually enjoying it. It’s tying the album together a lot better than most Shinedown albums are, and if they can keep this feeling throughout it’ll definitely be worth multiple back-to-back-listens. Plus, I’m curious to know where the story is going and what the meaning behind it is, so I’m not skipping a thing!

‘America Burning’ opens on some weird electronic-sounding banjo, if I’ve got that right. Between the effects on the instrument and on Brent’s voice, it’s definitely an odd intro. It EXPLODES into a huge pre and chorus, full of catchy vocals and backing jabs. I’m shocked, this album has been heavy so far and the album tracks have been the best part of it all. The solo is awesome, starting with an acoustic before the electric comes in over the top. The melody of it is infectious too; the noodling will be stuck in my head all night. Another fantastic song.

Another interlude leads to a second slower track ‘A Symptom of Being Human’. It’s so refreshing to hear a guitar led ballad by the band for a change instead of the constant leaning on electronic and backing sounds they have done since starting on Amaryllis. It makes them feel more like a rock band. And ALL of their biggest and best ballads have been guitar-based, in my opinion. It opens on just Zach’s acoustic and Brent’s vocals giving some more great deep-dive-into-depression lyrics. The piano comes in behind for the chorus but doesn’t overpower anything. Neither do the beautiful strings that come in after. The track builds perfectly throughout and is stunning, honestly. My favourite ballad since ‘I’ll Follow You’. Playlisted.

So we’re halfway through the album now and I just have to say… this is a really good album so ar. What the fuck, Shinedown? Where was all of this the last decade? They’re making a good case for jumping back up to being one of my favourite bands again.

Usually two slow tracks in a row would feel a bit meh on a rock album, but when it’s twenty tracks long I can let it go a bit. ‘Hope’ also feels like something ripped straight from Amaryllis in the best way. Heck, it sounds like the title track itself, which I love. It’s got that Bon Jovi/Nickelback (sorry for swearing) country-rock ballad feel to it and honestly it’s just a really good, uplifting song. 7/7 so far!

I’m sure you guessed it by now, but ‘Clueless and Dramatic’ is another very good track. A fun, bouncy riff opens it up and plays on and off throughout. The vocals aren’t quite as fun or catchy as some tracks on the album. I feel like it may be down to the lyrics trying to be slightly too complicated, taking away from the earworm-effect a little. Still, it’s a damn good rock song.

Arguably, in this writers humble opinion, the album should have finished.

”Sure is Fun’ is, well, it’s exactly that. Fun. However, it’s the closest thing to the Shinedown of the last two albums, and it’s really not my sort of thing. It’s the same with the following track and another single, ‘Daylight’. Both are good, very catchy tracks in their own right. But they are so very Imagine Dragons-esque pop ‘rock’ and just not the Shinedown I first fell in love with at all. It’s heavily indie inspired, between the simple instrumental, ridiculous, catchy vocal melodies and those wohs. As I said, neither track is bad and if you like it awesome, but this isn’t what I listen to Shinedown for.

At least we finally get some more heaviness for the final single, ‘Saints of Innuendo’. I LOVE this track until this chorus. The riff, verse and pre are all incredible (and heck, the chorus is great too). However, the chorus doesn’t fit the rest of the track at all. It sounds like two different songs pushed together. Still, it’s a damn good song and I feel like I’d love it live with that breakdown. It’s certainly better than the two tracks either side of it!

‘Army of the Unappreciated’ is okay and enjoyable. However, with Brent pulling an Ozzy Osborne and following the guitar melody with the vocals for the most part it screams album track. Then we reach the worst song on the album, the closer, ‘What you Wanted’. While yes, it does serve as a fitting end to the narrative after the interlude before, but I can hear this being on a mainstream pop radio station. It feels like a mixture between modern pop and a Broadway musical. It’s not a rock song at all, and a terrible way for a rock band to close a rock album. It’s well written don’t get me wrong, it’s catchy, the lyrics are good and it builds perfectly. However, this is the furthest Shinedown have gotten from sounding like their first album before, and it doesn’t do anything for me.

Overall: Definitely a tale of two parts. However, the first, better part was much longer than the bad parts, and there were even a couple of okay gems towards the end too. Tracks like ‘No Sleep Tonight’ and ‘A Symptom of Being Human’ will go down as some of the best songs Shinedown have ever written, while only two or three of the 13 official tracks aren’t really my sort of thing. I wouldn’t say they necessarily even dampened my enjoyment that much. They aren’t bad songs, just different. There is plenty of album to go around so if I don’t like them still after a few listens, I’ll happily just skip.

The Score: 9/10

New Music Mondays: Scorpions, Bad Omens and More!

Eight more rock and metal albums graced the scene this week, from all over the world. A lot of it is from some amazing newer bands too, while a few of the older ones still holding down the fort. It’s an exciting week for new music, so let’s get right to it!

Scorpions: Rock Believer

The German hard rock/heavy metal group are the oldest band on this list by a fair stretch, and with the release of this double album it takes them up to a whopping 19. It’s long, over an hour spread across 16 tracks, but it proves the band very much still have it. The opening track, ‘Gas in the Tank’ outlines my sentiments perfectly. The album is full of highlights but standout tracks include ‘Peacemaker’, ‘Seventh Sun’ and ‘Call of the Wild’. 8/10

Bad Omens: THE DEATH OF PEACE OF MIND

Another band to hop on the capitalise the album title trend are American metalcore band Bad Omens. The bands third album, much like their previous two, is on the lighter end of the metalcore spectrum, clearly inspired by Sempiternal-era BMTH. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does leave the album with a feel of ‘this has been done before’. Not every album needs to be ground-breaking, but I was hoping to get something a little heavier when I read ‘metalcore’. What a diverse, wide-spread sub-genre it is these days. Still, tracks like the opener and ‘Like a Villain’ are definite highlights. 6.5/10

Avril Lavigne: Love Sux

While primarily pop music, Avril‘s first album or two were definitely pop-punk, and with a promise of going back to that style with this album (alongside a fairly promising lead single), I thought it was at least worth checking out. I can confirm it is at least pop-punk. Whether it’s good or not… I’m not sure. It definitely has the same energy and feel as Let Go, but the issue I have, much like some of the other older pop-punk bands’ most recent albums is exactly that. She’s going on 40 now, and writing music like you are still 18, alongside spelling things like ‘bois’ and ‘Sux’, feels cringy. Plus, both MGK and Blackbear ruin their respective tracks. But Mark Hoppus kills it on ‘All I Wanted’, it being the best track he’s done since before Blink-182’s reunion over a decade ago. Plus, after his recent health issues, it’s really heart-warming to hear him back in music again.

However, despite all of the negativity, I cannot help but enjoy the album. Avril has definitely retained the ability to write one hell of a pop-punk chorus, and I’m going to again have3 ‘Bite Me’ stuck in my head for days now. An up and down album, but I think I can settle on a solid 7.5/10

Elles Bailey: Shining in the Half Light

Blues/NWOCR forerunner Elles Bailey released her third album on Friday, and it’s really good. It’s a Dorothy, American pop-rock sound but with enough blues and country edginess and twang to add some grit and darkness to it. Heck, opening track ‘Cheats and Liars’ perfectly encapsulates the sound, I would say, and is a damn good intro to her as an artist. Honestly though, if you are into the slower blues style, this whole album is one big highlight. It’s steady, chilled and full of great vocals and lyrics. Oh, and the guitars are enough for me to geek out over so they must be good! I would happily and highly recommend this album to anyone. Give it a list, you won’t be disappointed! 9/10

Corpsegrinder: Self-Titled

The Cannibal Corpse frontman finally released his much anticipated debut album over the weekend. To put it simply, it’s about exactly what you’d expect. I have become a rather medium fan of George Fisher due to the sheer amount of awesome guest slots he’s done on awesome tracks by other bands over the last couple of years. However, this didn’t quite measure up to ‘Take Your Pick’ or ‘Parpaing’. That’s not to say it’s bad by any stretch, though. It’s death metal through and through, and damn good death metal at that. Tracks like ‘On Wings of Carnage’ and ‘Crimson Proof’ were definite highlights for me, having me headbanging along from start to finish. And, I have to add, what an album cover! 7.5/10

Black Lakes: For All We’ve Left Behind

An awesome Welsh alt metal band, we had the pleasure of reviewing this album last week before it was released. It was good. How good? Read our review of it to find out for yourself!

Blood Incarnation: Timewave Zero

What the fuck was that? Am I being pranked here? I was expecting some death metal, not 40 minutes of ambient sounds. This is Devin Townsend’s wet dream and not my sort of thing at all. 1/10, I’m sorry.

Just a Ride: Self-Titled

Another band we reviewed ahead of time (we are on FIRE this week) is the debut from NWOCR’s newest band, Just a Ride. It’s good, and if you want to find out the score, you’ll have to check out the review for yourself here.

Another fantastic week, with the smaller bands really bring it this time round! Black Lakes and Elles Bailey in particular put out fantastic albums that are up there in the running for top of the year so far. The British music scene is really thriving right now! As always stay tuned for next week’s NMM and for the big one… Stereophonics!

Simon McBride: This is my evolution

Photo courtesy of Franz Schepers.

After the success of Hard Rock Hell’s ABC Weekender, Simon McBride is back with an explosive 13 date tour of his own in 2022 covering the UK and Ireland and a brand new album released on the 11th March.

Simon McBride tour

The northern Ireland guitarist has played for Ian Gillan from Deep Purple and played guitarist/co-wrote on Don Airey’s albums as well as toured with Joe Satriani, Jeff Beck, Joe Bonamassa and Grammy nominee Derek Trucks.

Simon enthuses about the tour, “I can’t wait! After such a long time off, I’m ready and all fired up to perform again doing the one thing I love. It’s going to be great to be back on the road again with two great musicians and my good friends, Dave Marks and Marty McCloskey…these two are an unstoppable force of nature when it comes to delivering a show. Get ready for the fireworks!”

What inspired your latest single, ‘The Fighter’? Was it inspired by the pandemic at all?

“To be honest that song was written before the pandemic. That song is really about having a goal in life and never giving up till you get there. Never stop fighting, keep believing in what it is you want to do in life and never give up and that’s really what it is. 

“It’s kind of like a little inside to my whole life. I never stopped fighting and never stopped searching for that ultimate end, whatever that is. I suppose from my point of view it’s just being in the music industry and keep getting more and more successful. That’s my goal. I say to people that I’ve been in this industry for say what, 30 years or a bit less? I was only a kid when I started, I was like 13. And I only signed to a major record label 4 years ago you know after 26, 27 years. It took me 26, 27 years to get there. Some people give up after 5. You’ve got to keep fighting for what you believe in and what you want to do you know. From my point of view, I’m just thinking that this is what I do and I don’t know how to do anything else. It doesn’t matter what I have to do, I’ll do it. So that’s primarily what it’s about. 

“I understand people are writing songs about the pandemic and stuff but I didn’t really want to do that. Not to belittle anybody else, but I always found that a little bit cheesy. There’s a lot more to life than talking about covid. It’s a bad memory and for a lot of people it’s something they’ll want to forget. Hopefully we’re on the right track to getting there.”

‘The Fighter’ has a slightly heavier sound compared to your previous singles and album – leaning more towards hard rock riffs than bluesy rock. Is that something you’re building on with your upcoming album?

“I’m at the age in my life and stage in my career where I just say to myself I’m going to play what I want to play and that’s it. Years ago when I first started with the guitar scene in England, the blues rock scene was the scene to be on because of the likes of Bonomassa. I don’t class myself as a blues artist or a blues rock artist. I’m an 80s child so I grew up in the 80’s hard rock, hair metal and all that stuff so that’s me through and through. That’s what I still listen to. The likes of ‘The Fighter’ they are a lot more hard rock than anything. I’m just playing what I want to play. 

“There always will be an element of blues no matter what you play in a rock sense because rock basically comes from blues anyway. You think early Led Zeppelin, they’re just basically you know alterations of old blues guitar riffs. Everything evolves into something so this is my evolution. I do like playing other stuff but rock, hard rock is probably my home. And plus everybody else that I’ve played with, Ian Gillan or Snakecharmer, it’s all hard rock. 

“People put people in categories of blues rock or rock blues. I did see that once, blues rock and rock blues, and I thought, ‘what’s the difference?’ I like the days when it was just rock, pop, classical, jazz, blues. Done! People put a title around me and I think that’s fine, whatever! People can listen to my music and make their own determination on what it is to them. Hard rock is what I do and probably what I know the best.”

Simon McBride

The last album you released was in 2012. After a gap, you released a string of singles in 2019 and 2020, followed by this upcoming album. What happened during your time away and why have you decided to release an album now?

“The funny thing is, people think that I haven’t been around because I haven’t been releasing my own stuff which is kind of true but there’s been a lot of things happening. I’ve done three albums with Ian Gillan, I’ve done three albums with Don Airey, one album with Snakechamer – so seven albums, I have done stuff! It’s just not Simon McBride at the front. I had a family and kids. I’ve been busy doing stuff. 

“This album was ready to go three years ago, so I wrote these songs four or five years ago, but then covid hit so we had to pull the reins. We had a chat about it and I talked about the idea of releasing it over lockdown and basically they said ‘you might as well drive down the road and throw it out the window.’ The only way to promote an album these days is to tour and if the tour’s not there then what’s the point. There’s a lot of people worse off than me within the music industry. I’ve been fortunate enough, I have my own line which keeps me busy so I do that a lot of the time and now with touring coming back hopefully things will be busier than ever.”

Are there any venues you’re looking forward to playing again on your tour this March are are they all new venues for you?

“I think I’ve played maybe one or two of the venues before. There’s not really one jumping out at me thinking ‘I can’t wait to play at that place’ because I’ve no clue what they’re going to be like so it’s always a new experience. I think over the years because I haven’t really done a UK tour in three years, I think some of the venues have fell by the wayside a little bit during the pandemic and stuff like that. But I like trying new places and new venues. I’m excited to play them all.”

You can see Simon McBride on his UK and Ireland 2022 tour this February and March.

Battle at Garden’s Gate: Can the world’s new favourite band keep up their momentum?

Greta Van Fleet is a young classic rock band from Michigan. Formed as recently as 2012, the band burst into the mainstream scene a few years ago with their single Highway Tune; a song loved for its old-school rock feel and singer Josh Kiszka’s vocals sounding eerily similar to one Robert Plant’s. Since then, the band has released two albums (including this one) and an EP and has only grown more and more popular, being one of the leading bands of the new music scene. I have to say, while I am not the biggest fan of the band in the world, they are all top-notch musicians and have put out some fantastic songs over the last four years or so. So, I shall remain as impartial as I can, as I really do like a hell of a lot of classic rock music so for all intents and purposes I should like this too, and also promise to mention Led Zeppelin as little as possible, due to the band not liking the comparison. Join me in checking it out!

Greta Van Fleet’s Official Facebook

One of the four singles, ‘Head Above’, starts things off. It opens on 40 odd seconds of synth as a drum roll builds up louder and louder. It then explodes out into a huge, slow, 70s rock-sounding riff. It’s surprisingly uplifting for a rock song, something that you don’t hear very often anymore. The acoustic coming in for the verse sounded nice too. Instead of Plant, Josh channels his inner Geddy Lee for his vocals, them soaring high and grating on me just a tad. This may be a long review. And I’m a big fan of Rush too, but I listen to them because the instrumentation is the main focus, not the incredibly high vocals. There are also times where he almost yodels, and while he can pull it off it was making me laugh just a little bit. This, if anything, gave me more Grateful Dead vibes than anything else, it’s all very upbeat and slow and light, nowhere near as heavy as I was expecting given the songs I am a fan of by them. It’s also a very strange choice for an album opener, unless (hopefully not) the whole album is this sort of style. It’s not particularly a bad song, it would make good, chilled-out background music, just like Grateful Dead. However, it isn’t exactly something I would choose to listen to, and if this is the future of rock then count me out.

Next up is the album’s lead single and the only one I have heard before this review, ‘My Way, Soon’. It opens better than the other, with a great classic rock guitar riff. However, the drums behind it are pretty slow and light, and that carries on through the verse. It again has massive Rush vibes to it thanks to Josh’s vocals and the fact that the song focuses a little more on some of the awesome riffs in it. The vocals themselves are catchier in this one than in the last too, both in the verse and chorus. In fact, the chorus on its own is fantastic, and one of the best they have written, in my opinion. We also get a great guitar solo from Jake Kiszka; pretty simple at times but channelling lots of swagger and emotion. This was good and made the playlist, but I’m already worried it will be my favourite on the album.

Their most recent single, ‘Broken Bells’, is up next. It starts with a slow, almost Dire Straits-esque guitar riff (nearly said it but found another band instead, clever I am!). Josh’s voice comes in over the top and ruins it just a tad for me, but it’s still tolerable. However, I have to say it: I’m sorry guys but this sounds A LOT like Stairway at times. It sounds good, don’t get me wrong, and suitably epic, but it’s so hard not to make that comparison sometimes with these guys. Maybe the internet has just ruined this band for me? I would probably be able to get into this song after a few more listens, but on this first one it didn’t do a whole lot for me. It’s so far all a little slower and lighter than I remember them being. I know that they aren’t always fast-paced hard rock, but so far we haven’t heard any of that and we’re 15 MINUTES into the album. The highlight of this song by far is another fantastic solo from Jake. The effect he’s using is a little like Kirk Hammett’s and I love it. A good song, but damn did it plod along for too long at six minutes.

Time for the first non-single, ‘Built By Nations’. It opens on an awesome blues riff, slow but sleazy. It’s actually my favourite riff by quite a way on this album so far. Said riff continues through the verse, with Josh reigning in his voice a little which was nice, saving his high screeching for the choruses instead where it makes more sense. There isn’t a great deal to the song, but it’s a little rockier than the rest so far and the added focus on the guitar has helped it out a lot in my eyes. The backing vocals accenting parts of the chorus were also great, adding a nice extra layer to the song.

‘Age of Machine’ immediately sounds like something from ‘2112’ when it opens, the clean guitar tones building up slowly more and more. It takes until a minute into the track before anything changes, and even then it’s just a case of Josh singing over the top. It stays pretty slow throughout again, though in my opinion isn’t as good as Broken Bells. Again, it’s not a bad song, but having already had a plodding song on the album and we’re not even halfway through… it isn’t doing much to hold my attention. The song is nearly seven minutes long and there isn’t much more I can say about it, honestly. It’s slow, steady, and probably every 70s rock and psychedelic fan’s dream song. However, as someone who is not too into Pink Floyd or the longer, drawn-out Led Zep (sorry) stuff, it just gets boring. At least Jake’s solo is awesome again, right?

The shortest song on the album, clocking in at just under four minutes (right?) is up next: ‘Tears of Rain’. It opens on a pretty slow but beautiful guitar chord progression. Josh’s vocals come in over the top and actually fit quite nicely over the top for a change. Maybe they’re finally growing on me? That or I’m getting Stockholm Syndrome. This is slow still but pretty beautiful in its basicness, mainly comprising of the vocals with either some slow guitars or piano behind it. The very small amount of drums in the first half was also a nice touch, so much so that when they came in it added even more awesomeness and great layers. However, that high note from Josh REALLY grated on me, over and over again. Still, I preferred this to the last song, and it was almost enough to make it onto the playlist. Almost.

‘Age of Machine’ seemed to have started something as it takes nearly a minute before anything happens at the start of ‘Stardust Chords’, too. However, the guitar riff is awesome when it finally kicks in, almost reminding me of an old-school Iggy and the Stooges riff. The whole song is built around this riff, even during the chorus we just get a variant of it. Makes sense with the song title, I guess! Again, I feel like Josh’s vocals fit in over the top of it all, for the most part. It isn’t the kind of vocals I’d have personally wanted over the top of this, he really has leaned fully into the Geddy Lee style of screeching, but it’s at least tolerable and a little more reserved for the most part on this track. It feels almost redundant at this point to say that the guitar solo is the highlight of the song, but if I’m honest Jake’s playing has been the main highlight of the album so far. Another good song, but it probably won’t be one that I go back and listen to very often.

‘Light My Love’ opens on some beautiful piano… which is almost immediately overshadowed by a mass of distorted guitar and big drum sounds. It drops back down again for the verse, sounding pretty nice and steady, but the piano is completely lost in the mix. I’d have preferred it being more of a piano and vocal-based verse, but either way, it is still beautiful. Again, though, that high notes he hits EVERY LINE OF THE CHORUS is killing me; it’s honestly giving me a headache. Who told Josh that was a good idea to do over and over again? I can’t imagine there are too many people out there that want to be wailed at on that regular a basis, right? Like, until their ears are nearly bleeding. Plus, were GVF always this slow…?

‘Caravel’ at least opens on a couple of pretty cool guitar riffs, but again outside of that, there isn’t too much I can say about the song. I’m sick of Josh’s stupidly high vocals and his yodelling. I’m sick of all the songs being plodding, similarly paced slow, Led Zep-esque ballads. I’m sick of the bass and drums being given very little to do except for hold a basic beat or follow the guitar line. I want something DIFFERENT. Something INTERESTING. Please, Greta. You’re supposed to be the future of rock music, y’all are like my age for god sake, but they’re writing like a 70+-year-old Robert Plant does now, slow and emotionless. Where’s the attitude and fire? Where’s the FUN? At least the likes of Wolfmother and Kingdom Come imitated the faster, more energetic side of Led Zeppelin, it wasn’t all just the first half of ‘Dazed and Confused’. Rant over. Moving on.

I’m running out of energy with this album so for the final three songs (still a further 18 minutes of the album!) I’ll try and summarise what I like and dislike and my thoughts more succinctly. The wah-filled guitar solo at the start of ‘Barbarians’ was nice. The ending solo for ‘The Weight Of Dreams’ was also awesome, though FAR too drawn out. It’s not like I was listening to ‘Free bird’ or anything. I listened to the whole of ‘Trip The Light Fantastic’ while having a conversation with my partner and I don’t feel like I missed a single thing while I was only half paying attention. And hell no, I am not going back and listening to it again. I didn’t like the sheer length of the final song, it didn’t need to be nine minutes long when it was essentially just THE SAME SONG AGAIN. I didn’t like that all three felt like they were around the same tempo and feel and drawn-out boring dullness. Damn, for a band that wrote ‘Highway Tune’, this album was the hardest slog I have ever had to listen to review.

Overall: Damn, that was a hard listen. If you are a fan of Pink Floyd or Rush’s extensive slower back catalogue, you will most likely love this. However, if not, if you are like me and prefer something a little more upbeat or concise, this probably isn’t the album for you. The musicianship was there, they are all clearly talented young guys, but the over-indulgence and constant slow pace was their downfall for me.

Overall: 3.5/10

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Death By Rock And Roll: The Pretty Reckless’ 4th studio album

‘Death by rock and Roll’ is the fourth album by rock band The Pretty Reckless.  Released February 2021, it peaked at number 1 on the UK Rock and Metal Singles and Albums Charts – breaking their previous album release at number 2 with ‘Who You Selling For’ and tieing with their first two albums which also peaked at number 1 with ‘Going To Hell’ and debut album ‘Light Me Up.’ As the first album released with the band’s new label Fearless Records, I don’t think anyone knew exactly what to expect – every album they have released so far had a distinctive sound and tone.

The team at Overtone has mixed opinions when it came to this release, so you’re getting a mix! This is a new structure for Overtone and isn’t something we think will happen often; let us know what you think…

Reviewer A:

The first of the four singles released before the album and the title track itself, starts us off. It opens on a HUGE, awesome guitar riff: big, fast, and heavy. It’s a great way to start the album and straight away I have to point out the insanely good production value; everything can be heard clearly and crisply in the mix. The instrumentation drops out each time Taylor’s powerful low vocals come in throughout the verse, a nice touch that adds some great dynamics. It was, however, almost the exact same melody and feel as one of their old singles, Heaven Knows, which did feel a little cheap. After a couple of times through the chorus kicks in, the guitars sticking mainly to power chords now but a subtle melodic lead part can be heard low in the mix behind it, getting louder towards the end of it. My only issue with it, and with the song as a whole actually, is that it just isn’t catchy. The riff is catchy, as is the verse, but the chorus feels a bit of a cop-out in comparison. It felt like something they put in just because they felt the song needed a vocal chorus. The title of the song is repeated in the verse, for crying out loud, it would have been fine to just go old-school like Sabbath and just have a guitar riff be a chorus. After the second chorus, we get an awesome little part where the riff keeps dropping out leaving room for a few quick drum fills/solos. The guitar solo afterwards was okay too, pretty basic but it fit the song well.  A pretty good start but that chorus left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Reviewer B:

The first track gets its name from the album title ‘Death by Rock and Roll’; this song is the album’s first single and created a lot of buzz and excitement for the tracks that followed. It’s a fantastic opener, breaking into a heavy guitar riff and Taylor’s famously powerful (yet low, chilling and almost mysterious-sounding) vocals that raises the hair on my arms. The instruments purposely drop back on each line which is a nice touch to add some clever dynamics and raise the impact of the chorus. You can immediately hear the quality production value – there is nothing out of balance in the mix. 

Reviewer A:

Next up is ‘Only Love can Save me Now’ (so many long song titles). This one features guest appearances from Pearl Jam’s Matt Cameron and Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil. Straight away Kim leaves his mark, the riff sounding very grungy and Soundgarden-esque; I love it! There is this weird, horribly high-pitched ringing in the background that they put in there for some reason (I paused the track and it stopped so I knew it wasn’t me!). Once I heard it, it was all I could hear, and it was starting to hurt by the time they finally get rid of it in the verse. The grungy feel continues throughout the verse, a simple guitar riff and drumbeat staying behind Taylor’s again low vocals. The tempo stays slow for the chorus but it’s 10x catchier and better than the previous songs, being pretty easy to sing along to, usually a good indicator that it’ll go down well live. We get another guitar solo, this one again better than the previous one, although it maybe overdoes it with the wah and distortion just a little. I enjoyed this a lot more than the previous one and feel like it would have maybe made for a better lead single. Playlisted.

Reviewer B:

Another track on the album, ‘Only Love Can Save Me Now’, features guest appearances from rock legends Matt Cameron, Pearl Jam, and Kim Thayil, Soundgarden. Kim immediately puts his stance on the song with the grungy guitar effect which lasts throughout the whole track and obviously influences the grungy way Taylor sings during the verses. A highlight for me is Taylor’s overdubbing and layered harmonies, especially during the chorus. It’s definitely a track I can picture being performed live with the audience getting involved. The guitar solo is where Cameron steps into the spotlight with the wah-wah, distorted sound which sounds out on the album. Although we get to hear more solos, there isn’t another with a grunge sound quite like this one. If you haven’t already, check out the music video – I’m here for the water aesthetics. 

Reviewer A:

The next song, ‘And So It Went’, features another guest artist, this time from one of the best and most interesting guitarists ever, Tom Morello. Opening on a solo, awesome guitar riff before it explodes into its heavy, distorted evolution sounds awesome and so far, the band is three for three with damn good riffs. The stripped-back opening riff continues through the first half of the verse and for a few seconds I love it. The key change for the second half wasn’t for me, however. I’m usually a big fan of them if they are done right (Livin’ on a Prayer, of course), but this felt awkward and out of place. Especially when they drop it back down again immediately afterwards. The dropped-down, stripped-back choruses were an interesting touch that I’m still trying to wrap my head around, to little avail. They sound good on their own, but are a very strange choice for a chorus and make the song sound even messier than it already was. The second chorus builds up to an even further stripped-back part too, another odd choice to goad the listener into thinking there’ll be a great riff or drop . Instead, it leads into some ‘Aqualung’-style vocals and clean guitar. At least after that we finally get a crazy guitar solo from Morello, just as odd and technically incredible as some of his best. Then, we get to maybe my most hated part of the song for me. Why does any band ever have the thought that kids chanting sounds good on a rock song? Manson barely pulled it off. Faith No More did it as an ironic joke. That’s it. All others, be it Pink Floyd, Bring Me The Horizon or now Pretty Reckless (TWICE) do it badly. Stop it guys, please. I can’t even keep talking about this song anymore. Outside of the solo and at a push the riff it is not good. Another bad choice for a single.

Reviewer B:

The third and final track with a guest appearance is ‘And So It Went’ with Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave and Prophets of Rage.) The first three opening tracks are definitely the heaviest on the album, with a major grunge-rock vibe similar to some songs on ‘Going To Hell.’ Building on a heavy riff before the track explodes, you already know this is one the crowd will be bouncing to – myself included. The eerie break in the middle and chants by children is very typical of The Pretty Reckless – both traits reminding me of songs like ‘Heaven Knows’, ‘Follow Me Down’ and ‘Bedroom Window.’ Not everyone is a fan of this style but for me it adds to the inclusiveness of the track and invites everyone to sing along. Everyone likes a rock chant to fist pump to, right?

Reviewer A:

‘25’ starts slow and quiet; a nice clean guitar riff and a simple drumbeat behind Taylor’s higher vocals. The chorus drops into a pretty heavy riff as the vocals ramp up, catchy and soaring and easily the best chorus so far. It’s short and sweet, soon dropping back down into the lower verse, this time with some added beautiful strings in the back. I love the slow, brooding, moody feel to this; it’s honestly shocking that the same band can write a song of this quality AND the last one. It goes into a slightly out-of-place ‘21 Pilots’’ ‘Ode to Sleep’-style part, all happy and bouncy and piano-y for a little bit, pulling out of the brooding mood a little bit. It soon gets back to the slower, moodier stuff that this song does so well; the final chorus leading to a long, great outro where each part slowly drops out one by one. This is my favourite song on the album by quite a margin so far, despite the questionable quality of the lyrics. Playlisted.

Reviewer B:

I could be the only one thinking this, but ‘25’ sounds like a heavy James Bond theme song to me. The low vocals perfectly match the eerie strings and scream seductive spy-thriller. Like the review above states, the short and sweet but powerful chorus bursts out before dropping back into the catchy and mysterious-sounding verse. Again, the slow and broody feel makes it feels like a dramatic movie opener. The occasional controlled screams combined with the soft vocal delay works together extremely well. It’s different to the first few grungy songs without taking away from the feel from the whole album.

Reviewer A:

Both ‘My Bones’ and ‘Got So High’ are more typical TPR songs. My Bones is heavy and brooding in the best possible ways, another slow, brooding track full of palm-muted guitars, soaring vocals through the chorus and even a close-to-thrash riff that carries the song through the second half. Oh, and the riff after that is somehow even heavier, making everything feel grandiose and epic.

‘Got So High’ is the complete opposite. It’s a slow, acoustic song that is very centered around Taylor. It reminds me of another of their songs and one of my favourites from them, ‘You’. The vocals are softer here and beautiful, some of them reminding me a little of the style that Layne Staley used to go for during his choruses. It also gives off a lot of American Indie vibes, especially during the choruses. I feared a little in the middle that it was building up to something different but thankfully they kept it as the stripped-back ballad. Both of these songs immediately made the playlist and are easily two of the best songs on the album by a large margin.

Reviewer B:

‘My Bones’ has a repetitive punch to it until around halfway through; the guitar riff and low, softer vocals (before the power note of course) remind me of ‘Sweet Things’ from ‘Going To Hell’ – The Pretty Reckless regularly use Taylor’s ability to create an eerie suspense to their advantage and give the song a whole new feel.

’Got So High’ takes me back to the band’s debut album with tracks like ‘You’ and ‘Nothing Left To Lose.’ I could easily sit back and get lost in this song. The lyrics are beautifully vulnerable and therefore makes this a stand-out track on the album for me.

The whole 38 seconds we get of ‘Broomsticks’ is a typical feature of The Pretty Reckless: ‘Dear Sister’, ‘Burn’ and arguably ‘Bedroom Window.’ The sinister “stepping stone” track is a cool transition song designed to sound uncanny before the punch of the next track.

Reviewer A:

‘Witches Burn’ opens on an awesome classic rock-inspired guitar riff, like a moody Boston or AC/DC. It keeps up the old-school feel through the verse with a similar guitar riff and a basic drum beat backing some more… interesting… lyrics from Taylor. The chorus is again good and catchy, keeping the simple feel to it like the rest of the song has, not overdoing it with another big chorus. The solo is maybe the most enjoyable on the album, simple but full of emotion, and fits the tone and style of the song perfectly. It heads out of that into a final extended chorus to close things out, with some very odd, very quiet soloing if you strain your ears hard to hear it (why was it so quiet?) before the song does the cardinal sin of fading out. Another good song on an album that so far has only had a couple of bad singles.

Reviewer B:

I agree that ‘Witches Burn’ gives me AC/DC vibes – which I’m not complaining about in the slightest. The steady drum beat and classic guitar riff is one you immediately nod your head to. The whole track is catchy; the lyrics aren’t a shock to me – the band have a history of leaning on the other-world, supernatural vibe. The combination of the classic rock sound with the band’s own ghostly lyric style works for me. It would have been nice to hear the track finish off nicely but I guess I’ll have to wait and see how they do it live for an answer.

Reviewer A:

‘Standing at the Wall’ is another slow acoustic ballad. It is a good, beautiful song, but is pretty similar to ‘Got so High’ and is ever so slightly worse in my opinion. I loved her vocal melody following the guitar one during the verses and the tone and mood are both fantastic for it, fitting perfectly to the lyrics. The second half when the drums and strings come in too only makes it feel even more epic, a really great rock ballad.

Reviewer B:

Similar to Reviewer A, this track makes a great acoustic track but I wouldn’t say it’s worse than ‘Got So High.’ Both tracks reveal a vulnerable side to the album and it becomes a stellar soft rock ballad with the build up.

Reviewer A:

‘Turning Gold’ is okay but at this point, it is nothing new on the album. Some good hooks and it has a good chorus, but nothing on it really stands out. That is especially annoying after how good the last song was.

The same can be said for the final two songs, ‘Rock and Roll Heaven’ and ‘Harley Darling’. Outside of the slight country twang to them they’re just two more slow, ballad-y rock songs. Both are still good songs, don’t get me wrong, but on an album with a couple of very good slow songs they both get lost in the shuffle a little bit. It also feels so weird to end a hard rock album with FOUR slow songs. It very quickly turned into a soft rock album after ‘Witches Burn’, something like Bryan Adams or Ted Nugent. It’s not bad at all, but when the first few songs on the album had such incredible, heavy riffs in them and then there isn’t a single one to be found during the last two-thirds of the album it feels a little badly arranged. Even though the softer stuff is far better, in my opinion, it would have been nicer to spread it all out a little more!

Reviewer B:

As the last heavier track on the album, ‘Turning Gold’ is another powerful and catchy song but for me it doesn’t sound repetitive. The first three tracks of ‘Death By Rock And Roll’ all have the grunge vibe but ‘Turning Gold’ doesn’t. Yes, the instruments are lower in the mix whilst Taylor is the main focus, but the sound and impact of the chorus hits differently.

‘Rock and Roll Heaven’ reminds me of ‘Here’s To Us’ by Halestorm and is a song I can imagine being played towards the end of the set as the audience wave their lighters; I like that it’s structured towards the end of the album as that’s how I picture it for a live concert. References to the passing of music legends in the 27 Club makes it even more significant. Taylor Momsen has arguably used some songs on this album as a lyrical diary – something I would love to ask her about personally one day.

‘Harley Darling’ has a country twang with the use of the harmonica – not something that I can recall being used in any other The Pretty Reckless track? Another softer tribute track to the band’s departed friend that I enjoyed and got lost in.

Reviewer A:

Overall: I enjoyed this album more than I thought I would. There were definitely some issues, but there was a lot of really great stuff too, especially the slower songs. For the first album by them I have listened to from front to back in one sitting, I maybe could have picked a better one. From what I have heard I believe their last album, ‘Who You Selling For’, was more consistent in its quality. However, it was still a good rock album that had more than a couple of songs that I will find myself listening to over and over. Good stuff!

The Score: 7/10

Reviewer B:

I can’t get enough of The Pretty Reckless and everything they release. Their sound is like no band – going from the the grunge and eerie to vulnerable ballads. It’s unparalleled. If they’re not creating rock hits, they’re producing other stellar, hearty tracks like ‘Rock and Roll Heaven’ and ‘Back To The River’ – you can’t complain.

So after reading our opinions, the question is: what’s yours? Let us know on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter who you agree with!