500 Word Review: Jeff Caudill “Voice/Wishing Well”

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For those who might not be familiar with Jeff Caudill, he is the frontman for the notable punk band, Gameface.  Singing for the band since the early 90s, and also being apart of the group, Your Favorite Trainwreck, since 2012, Caudill has established himself as an accomplished artist within the punk scene for decades.  However, it’s the recent release of two tracks as a solo artist that has caught my attention.  The tracks “Voice” and “Wishing Well”, which are Sense Field and Black Sabbath covers, have been recorded to fit the style of Caudill’s solo material with all proceeds earned from the two singles being donated to the family of Jon Bunch.

Photo by Todd Fixler

After listening to the 2 song project entirely, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the instrumental tracks embodying a soothing and well recorded sound.  The vocals from Caudill himself are very clear in quality and intertwine well with these superb instrumental tracks.  Starting with “Voice”, in Jeff Caudill’s version of the song, the track starts off very bland, but begins to steadily improve as Jeff fleshes out the track further and further. The use of multiple electric and acoustic guitar tracks, keyboard, bass, and percussion tracks, and even doubled tracked vocal sections that slowly emerge as the song progresses truly strengthens the song. In a similar way to how Sense Field originally recorded the track, Caudill starts off with only a handful of individual tracks and builds upon this base gradually as the song goes on.  Even though Caudill’s version is very similar to Sense Field’s original recording, I actually like Jeff’s version a little better, as it is able to embody the distinct power that the original track features without bombarding the listener with noise.  The use of varying acoustic instruments and better recorded vocals give it a more fuller sound that is not heard on the original version. Essentially, “Voice” is a song that starts off simplistic and gradually adds different parts brick by brick until you hear the true, full sounding composition.

“Wishing Well”, the Jeff Caudill version that is, starts off in a very similar way that “Voice” does.  An intricately strummed acoustic guitar matched with a vocal track, that I have mixed opinions about, are the only two instruments heard when we initially hear the first few measures of the song. “Wishing Well” also fits “Voice’s” structure of gradually adding parts, but instead of constantly adding more layers of instrumentation, “Wishing Well” adds a single piano track, a single percussion track, and only double tracks the vocals in sections where Jeff sees that it is necessary to fit the delivery of the specific lines sung. The rhythmic flow of the song itself and the calm, melodic guitar riffs give the song a dreamy sound that I really enjoy in “Wishing Well” that also reminds me of mid to late 90s Bush material. This is slightly different from “Voice”, which has more of an upbeat, sing-a-long structure that is also something I’m fond of.  When comparing Jeff’s version to the original Black Sabbath track, it’s clear that the two versions are polar opposites, as the Black Sabbath recording is more harsh and in your face, and at some points, even reminds me of Creedence Clearwater Revival, which is fairly odd considering this song was written by one of the first metal bands to exist.  There are some notable similarities, however, as the chorus in Jeff Caudill’s version matches the melodic, close to anthem sounding, structure heard in the original and each version features a powerful delivery of the meaningful lyrics that make up “Wishing Well”.

Even though I am really not a huge fan of the vocal melodies heard on these two songs, how Jeff uses the powerful lyricism in the original tracks to relate to his personal life is fantastic and helps explain why he chose to cover these two tracks.  The purpose behind this project is to pay tribute to Jeff’s late friend, Jon Bunch, who was the vocalist of Sense Field.  After his death last year, Jeff Caudill has put together these two songs, which lyrically are dedicated to him, in order to pay tribute to the singer and close friend while also donating the profits made to Bunch’s family.  Hearing the somber, sincere sadness in his voice mix with the powerful lyricism in both “Voice” and “Wishing Well” elevates this project to something truly memorable.  Lyrics like “And I want to hear it again that it’s going to be all right” and “Look in the water, tell me what do you see reflections of the love you give to me” truly resonate with the listener and help connect with the emotions Jeff is expressing in these two tracks.

Overall, while I was not a huge fan of the overall sound of the covers, their meaning and how they were recorded are truly phenomenal.  I give the project a 7.5/10 and highly suggest that you take 6 min out of you day to listen to and appreciate this release from Jeff Caudill.  The songs are attached below and check back in later this week for more reviews due out very soon!

 

“Voice”:

“Wishing Well”:

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500 Word Review: Mastodon “Emperor of Sand”

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When “Once More ‘Round the Sun” dropped, I was still in shallow denial of Mastodon’s new direction. But after the release of “Sultan’s Curse”, I had to cast aside all delusions of bearing witness to the return of their unstoppable sludge. Those days are long gone, and it’s impossible not to hold them over what Mastodon has become.

Mastodon took nearly 3 years to put out this album since their previous release. During that time, the band was dealing with family issues, a problem that has never stopped them before. Instead they took a lousy situation and turned it into musical inspiration again. Despite that, my first impression of “Emperor of Sand” was that it felt rushed. More specifically, it sounds like the band barreled through the writing process and rushed on to recording and production. It has some telltale qualities of an album put out to satisfy the requirements of a record deal. There is filler at every turn. They kill time with uninspired guitar solos lacking class and containing too many pinch harmonics, reminiscent of the ostentatious shredding cherished by Avenged Sevenfold. Such douchery is available in “Word to the Wise.” There are two, or even maybe three respectable solos on the eleven-track album, but none of them are particularly memorable. In other cases, halfhearted guitar parts and mediocre verses serve as a vehicle for a more compelling vocal section or instrumental feature. “Roots Remain” fits that description well, containing two clunky verses sung by Troy Sanders backed by an unpleasant guitar riff and an acceptable solo to pad the rather excellent vocals of Brann Dailor. Unfortunately, this gives similar songs on the album the vocal driven, for-the-masses rock experience heard on albums like Queensrych’s self-titled 2013 release. These have the regrettable quality of predictable track structure. The lyrics should be well inspired, but there are plenty of lazy rhymes like in “Ancient Kingdom.” The narrative is hindered by offending lazy lyrics, but it still captures a mournful tone. The vocal delivery is inconsistent, ranging from passable to excellent, but they, along with everything else on the album, seem a bit artificial. This gives the drumming, the most consistent element of the album alongside the unfaltering bass guitar, a very subtle case of metalcore drum kit.

Returning to the idea that “Emperor of Sand” sounds rushed, I am reminded of problems with transitions and pacing. “Show Yourself” and “Precious Stones” begin abruptly, as if they had their first half spliced away. The rapid and awkward verse/chorus transitions, while not limited to these tracks, are distracting. When each song ends, something seems to be missing.

There are satisfying parts here and there, like the refreshing guitar lead in “Scorpion Breath” but a comparable number of poor sections. In “Andromeda” the band seems to mistake loud and ugly for heavy. Where “Crack the Skye” is elegant and “Leviathan” is powerful, ‘Emperor of Sand” is choppy and weak. To wrap things up, I thought the mixing was representative of the Mastodon experience, except for the volume of the lead guitar at times. While this was a critical review “Emperor of Sand” is still a decent album, I just happen to be disappointed with the lack of sludge metal.

 

Score: 7/10

 

Album Review by Zachary Norton, April 2017

“Emperor of Sand”:

Track of the Day Tuesday: ELDAMAR Winter Night

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Recently I was browsing through bandcamp’s metal section when I came across an album that I have slept on for awhile now.  Eldamar’s “The Force of The Ancient Land” has some of the most breathtaking album artwork I have ever seen and it’s appearance alone instantly caught my attention and remained in the back of my head as a constant reminder to listen to this project.  I’m not sure why I never gave it a listen until now, but I’m extremely glad that I finally did.

After listening to the entire full length record it is, to put it simply, impossible to pick my favorite track, or even the most memorable song.  Each and every song heard from the beginning of this atmospheric black metal album to the epic finish is captivatingly beautiful.  That being said, I decided to choose one of the longest tracks on the project, that way listeners who have yet to hear anything off “The Force of The Ancient Land” can obtain a near perfect understanding of how elegant these tracks are.  Coming in at exactly 11 minutes in playing time, “Winter Night” is without a doubt the track you need to listen to today.  Melodic and harmonious guitars and backing instrumental tracks lay a solid foundation as distant, yet piercing screeching vocals and a dreamy, remarkable synth lead trailblaze through the project as a whole, like a mythical creature graciously flying through an awe-inspiring landscape like the one depicted in the captivating album artwork.  The occasional string sections and choir like vocal sections only add to this bittersweet sounding, melancholic melody that does nothing but leave the listener at a loss for words for how beautiful this whole album is.

Even though it is unlike the traditional style of recording black metal, I truly enjoy the high quality of recording and overall sound.  Branching off from the traditional lo-fi style heard in some of the most influential releases in the genre’s brief history, “The Force of The Ancient Land”, in my opinion, would suffer greatly from having anything short of a high quality overall sound.  In a similar way to how my favorite black metal band of all time, Saor, uses high quality recordings to strengthen the truly inspirational and melodic sound heard on “Roots”, “Aura”, and “Guardians”, Eldamar simply would not be able to achieve such excellence in recording “The Force of The Ancient Land” without the use of this high quality recording style.

Personally, I only have two minuscule complaints about “Winter Night”.  For starters, I personally love the choir like section at 7:02, which features a simply gorgeous lead sung by a female vocalist.  The only problem I have with this section is that it is clearly obvious that the vocal parts, especially the girl’s, are computer generated and artificial.  Even though these parts are sung as perfect as one can possibly sing them, it results in a section that sounds almost robotic as it is completely flawless.  This, of course, is a ridiculous complaint to have, but part of me wishes these sections were recorded with actual singers.  However, that is an outlandish request, especially for a one man band that has already produced one of the best albums of 2016 with or without a live choir.  Lastly, I was also hoping that some soundscapes would be added to the track to further build upon its ambient and atmospheric roots.  Even a sample of the wind howling through the Norwegian mountains, where Eldamar is based out of, would greatly increase the experience that listening to “The Force of The Ancient Land” truly is.  Again, these are very, very minuscule complaints and this track is still absolutely breathtaking.

I wish I could go on and on about “Winter Night” and the other 7 phenomenal tracks that “The Force of The Ancient Land” encompasses, but to be honest, I’m at a loss for words at this point.  I’ve clearly said enough to convince you as to why this is the Track of the Day Tuesday, now it is your turn to experience this monumental album and hear for yourself why I’m completely blown away by it’s elegance.  The song “Winter Night” is attached below, and the full album stream for “The Force of The Ancient Land” is also attached, as I’m sure you will not be able to resist listening to the rest of the project after hearing “Winter Night”.  Let us know what you think of these Eldamar tracks, and of course, don’t forget to say what track you think should be next week’s Track of the Day Tuesday!

“Winter Night”:

 

“The Force of The Ancient Land”:

The Thursday Ten: 10/20/16

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It’s Thursday which means it’s time for one of my favorite segments to write on Erik’s Album Reveiws: The Thursday Ten.  You guys should know the rules by now; every album is listened to 1-2 times and given a numerical, whole number score out of 10.  This week I chose a bunch of 2016 (and one 2015) releases that I really enjoy, so the ratings might not fluctuate that much and might appear inflated to a new reader.  However, if you read last week’s “The Thursday Ten”, which also happens to be posted below, then you will know that I don’t always give ratings this high.  All albums mentioned can be streamed on any of the major music streaming and distribution sites.  Give them a listen and let us know what you think of the ratings and what albums we should rate next below in the comments!

  1. Show Me A Dinosaur – Show Me A Dinosaur: 9/10
  2. Chance The Rappers – Coloring Book: 8/10
  3. Hotel Books – Run Wild, Stay Alive: 7/10
  4. In Hearts Wake and Northlane – Equinox: 8/10
  5. Little Brother – Cleveland, OH: 8/10
  6. Michael Barr – Back Home EP: 9/10
  7. Darkthrone – Artic Thunder: 8/10
  8. WHENINROME – Half – Hearted: 7/10
  9. Wormed – Krighsu: 8/10
  10. Pity Sex – White Hot Moon: 8/10

Last week’s “The Thursday Ten”:

https://eriksalbumreviews.wordpress.com/2016/10/14/the-thursday-ten-101316/