Jason Bonthron- Cyclops (Album Review)

Cyclops (Album Art)

Cyclops (Album Art)

Jason Bonthron is a post punk musician from New Jersey. The work on this, his latest album, is strongly reminiscent of early 80’s post-punk English Rock band: Joy Division. Cyclops is an eclectic blend of both slow and fast paced futuristic sounds and melodies. Cyclops features Danielle Stauss as lead female vocalist and Jason Bonthron as the lead male vocalist. The album was written over a two year time period and has only recently been given the full green light. All of the songs on Cyclops are written/composed by Jason Bonthron.

Cyclops opens with the track “Am Radio”. Basic chords played with a string accompaniment complimented by Stauss’s smooth voice. In other words, a song that is both mellow and easy to digest because of its simplicity. Second on the album is Bonthron’s track entitled: “Not Today”. This time, the one-eyed monster mixes up some funk with some groovy ‘wah wah’ guitar effects. In addition, “Not Today” gives the listener their first taste of Bonthron’s vocal ability. Unlike Stauss, there isn’t anything very ‘smooth’ about Bonthron’s vocals. I’m no master vocalist/instrumentalist, but having played music my entire life I know when: 1) phrasing is off; 2) pitch needs to be corrected. In “Not Today”, Bonthron sounds like he’s rushing to the airport to catch a plane (i.e. he’s in a huge rush), making the shape and weight of the notes in his vocal melody: uneven. A couple songs later in “Jupiter”, Bonthron is repeatedly missing his target notes on a song which the vocal melody is simply too complex. Jupiter had Bonthron a little over his head with vocals, in my opinion. That being said, Bonthron does redeem himself at the end of Cyclops with his final song: Say Goodbye. Notes are perfect, Bronthron voice is clear, and the message of losing a loved one is visibly stamped in the lyrics.

All in all, Cyclops was an easy listen. A decent piece of ear candy for any day of the week. If you’re a fan of Sonic Youth or Joy Division then Jason Bonthron’s Cyclops is definitely worth a listen.

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The Gabriel Construct- Interior City (Album Review)

9f4b5a13e1a617a03255deb153dc968eInterior City is the debut studio album of the Chicago based vocalist and multi-instrumentalist: Gabriel Lucas Riccio. Interior City’s dark and atmospheric mood showcases, “one person’s tumultuous journey to regain their self respect and their ability to fully engage with the world around them, in the process revealing the darkest thoughts that drive society as a whole”. Feelings of anguish, paranoia, and escapism are the bread and butter of Riccio’s first masterpiece. Riccio’s careful combination and layering of several musical genres are what make this 10 track LP so unique. Uniting players from rock, metal, classical, and jazz backgrounds is what really allows this album to breath and convey its powerful message of the mind state that is: inner isolation.

Arrival in a Distant Land (opening piece) can be compared to a light rainfall. Atmospherically pleasant drops of the keys of a Grand Piano (here and there) paint a dark picture that I would argue in combination with Riccio’s high baritone vocal type is soothing to the listener (despite the messages/images of constraint in the lyrics). The second track on Riccio’s debut LP is entitled ‘Ranting Prophet’ and opens in a very similar way. This time, however, our light rainfall escalates to a strong torrential downpour mid-way through the course of the song. Classical music turned into a full-fledge heavy metal assault packed with electric guitars, drums, violins, and large choirs of dissonant vocal harmonies. The message is tragic and heart wrenching (especially if you’ve suffered and/or are suffering from depression) but the delivery of it is beautiful. Riccio’s vocals on this track (and a couple other tracks on Interior City) actually somewhat reminded me of Serj Tankian’s work as the lead singer for System of a Down. Both of them have this angelic type voice that just belongs in metal (never thought I would use the words “angelic” and “metal” in the same sentence…but these voices truly are rare).

That being said, there are some downfalls to Interior City. The first being that Riccio’s ‘rare’ voice is sometimes lost in the inconsonant sounds of his music. Although properly mixed and mastered, at times there is so much going on in a particular piece that the listener simply loses focus. Furthermore, as you dive deeper into the album I believe that some listeners will find it becomes increasingly harder to digest. For example, the song “Subway Cars”. What I believe to be screeches of subway cars in combination with some of the other background sounds make it extremely difficult for the listener to stay engaged with Riccio throughout the course of the entire song. Are these sounds intentional placed to add effect to a sort of ‘confused’ effect to the piece? They could be. Is it my opinion that they are distracting from the overall message? Yes.

Overall, Interior City is an excellent piece of avant-garde progressive ear candy. Even though I feel like Riccio gave away his baby (the song ‘Ranting Prophet’) a little too soon in the album and that then some of his other songs were a slightly over complicated and hard to follow. That being said, if you’re a fan of any of the following bands: Devin Townsend, Failure, The Mars Volta, Periphery, System of a Down; Interior City by The Gabriel Construct is definitely something worth checking out.

The Black Clouds- Better Days (Album Review)

Better Days (Album Cover)

Bill Gates, legal weed, apathetic punk music, and coffee. What do all these have      in common? I guess it could be a really buzzed out Bill Gates, but the more common answer is his birthplace- Seattle (Washington). “Grunge is dead” a widespread misconception since the face of grunge music, Kurt Cobain, died in 1994. Sure, the Seattle music industry did try and sign a bunch of phony punk rockers in a sort of post-grunge era in a desperate attempt to capitalize on the profits of its predecessors- but those efforts ultimately failed. But is grunge/punk long gone? Here’s a group of D.I.Y. musicians that not only share a similar sound as some of the ‘Seattle Greats’ (Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden), but also a similar sense of passion, urgency, and determination. A four-piece New Jersey punk rock band that is touring proof that ‘grunge is dead’ is only a hipster slogan.

The group is compromised of Dan Matthews (Guitar/Vocals), Rob Blake (Guitar/Vocals), Gary Moses (Bass), and Cory King (Drums). The Black Clouds music is written by these guys, produced and recorded by them, and their tour was entirely self-funded. These dudes are the epitome of D.I.Y. rock n’ rollers. Having played at SXSW in 2010 and with a 25 show US tour around the entire country (in 30 days) under their belt who knows what’s next for The Black Clouds (and I’m just scratching the surface on their accolades here). Their latest artwork entitled “Better Days” was released this past January. Here’s a general overview of what to expect when you press play.

The Sound: As I mentioned in the intro paragraph of this review their influences are definitely noticeable. In terms of vocals and guitar riffs if you listen to the songs “Again” and “I’ll be Gone” I don’t think anyone could disagree that they sound like something off of Nirvana’s debut album ‘Bleach’ (maybe this is Bleach 2.0.). But, ‘Better Days’ isn’t a total copy and paste project. In the songs “Fray” and “Stalemate” the scratchy vocals and screams are definitely a distinct Dan Matthews signature. The guitar and bass work is also pretty different from typical grunge. Where guys like Kurt mostly played power chords, these guys incorporate some hard-hitting-distortion-cranking guitar riffs with massive amounts of palm muting thrown in. That being said, The Black Clouds aren’t always serious throughout the course of ‘Better Days’. A little past mid-album they take a break with the song ‘Blue Blocker’ which is this really easy to digest riff accompanied with lyrics that are just as fun. It’s catchy, it’s neat, it’s different and I don’t think any of us were expecting that.

The Production: For what my opinion is worth, I would say this album is right on point with what the guys where trying to achieve in their artwork. I looked for maybe the one song on Better Days where the guitars or the drums overpower the vocals, but I just couldn’t find it. The drums were tight, and the layering of the vocals was spot on. All in all, this leaves me with little to say about the production aspect of this album except that these guys know what they’re doing.

Stream The Entire Album: Here.

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