Our Stop At Warped Tour 2017

Warped Tour was an absolute blast. From the perspective of the average attendee, this experience is an incredible value. Not only do

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Metrocon 2017 – Convention Coverage

Metrocon - the event of my summer I look forward to every year. This year I had the opportunity to get more

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Metrocon Massive 6

Last month I got the awesome opportunity to attend Metrocon Massive 6, which is America’s largest convention rave that took place at

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Fall Of Man Hallways And Doors Review

Fall of Man is a rock/metal band from Los Angeles. After being an instrumental trio for 3 years, Mike Lane (drums), Giovanni Barile (guitar), and Ben Reiss (bass) found their vocalist, Erica Barile. Erica’s vocals really add some individuality to this band through their rich melodic intensity. And while Ben made his exit in 2013 and was replaced by the bassist Dan Scala, the band continues to thrive. They released their latest EP, Hallways and Doors, at the end of April last year, and it’s intense. These are the tracks that stood out to me the most:

The second track, Lullaby, has a very catchy guitar riff, solid vocals, and a very intense nature, but what really stood out to me was the janky rhythm mixed into certain riffs. This stuttering rhythmic effect is extremely fun to listen to, and adds emphasis to the lyrics and emotion of the song. Not a very common technique, but very well executed.

The third track, Leave Me Alone, begins with some bizarre vocal effects during the intro. As the song continues, we’re treated with another beautifully chunky and catchy riff, as well as some excellent vocal harmonies. We’re even given a very thick and tasty guitar solo as the song goes on.

My other favorite track from this album was Breathe. This song has a beautiful chord progression that allows for some extremely fascinating chord voicings, particularly with the vocal harmonies. In addition to that, it’s backed throughout by another thick and catchy guitar riff. The outro to this piece consists of some beautiful guitar chords intermixed with ghostly vocals.

Fall of Man is an extremely solid and established band. Erica has a very strong voice that lends itself extremely well to this style of music, while also giving the band a unique element. Overall, these pieces feel extremely powerful through their use of bold and chunky guitar riffs, dissonant chords, and strong vocals. If you want to feel powerful, you will definitely want to check out Fall of Man.

Like I Never Did by Emilie Brandt

We got the awesome opportunity to check out the new single Like I Never Did by Emilie Brandt early, and I’ll save you some time – it’s awesome. Emilie has an incredibly unique vibe in her music, and her voice fits that vibe perfectly.

Emilie will be releasing her album Freeform this Fall, and I’m stoked to hear it. Until then, let’s crack into Like I Never Did.

The piece starts out with lyrics and backing instrumentals that pull the listener right in, building up to an incredibly catchy hook about 30 seconds in. This hook has been stuck in my head for days, and I’ve personally listened to this track close to 50 times. The production of Emilie’s tracks has always stuck out to me as well in terms of quality. The song writing and vocal production really pull her art together. The drums layered in this track help to keep the listener’s attention and are offset by snaps, snare hits, and other effects. The use of space and pause in this piece also help to vary the sonic space enough to allow the catchy hooks to repeat without making the listener bored.

With incredible production, superb songwriting, quality hooks, and Emilie’s signature voice, I sincerely urge you to check out Like I Never Did on the 15th of this month, and to keep an eye and ear out for Emilie’s future releases! I know I will be!

 

 

Sea in the Sky – Everything All At Once Review

Sea in the Sky is a progressive rock band from Redwood City, CA. After releasing several EPs since 2013, they’ve finally put together a full-length album, Everything All At Once, and we got a chance to check it out before its official release on September 29th.

This album is incredible. It’s a beautiful mixture of catchy guitar riffs, and incredibly pretty soaring vocal lines meshed expertly with beautiful harmonies. As you may have noticed by now, I tend to pick out three of my favorite tracks on an album to discuss more in-depth. I can’t explain to you how difficult of a decision that was for me this time around – literally every track is incredible. However, I’ll do my best to choose:

Dreamer, the album opener is definitely one of my top songs from this album. It sets the mood for the rest of the album, and consists of some very nice guitar chugs with periodic moments of rest in order to create a very unstable vibe, before continuing onto a more consistent pattern and establishing itself. Amidst all the chaos of the instrumental intensity, the vocals keep everything grounded and relaxed in nature. Featuring several section changes, including a very jazzy sounding part, this song keeps the listener fully intrigued throughout.

Not Too Tall, Not Too Cool, the third track, was another favorite of mine. The part of this song that really grabbed my attention was the back and forth echoy vocal lines. It manages to create this wonderful sensation of the words flowing around the room and filling the sonic space. As the song ends and the catchy guitar riffs fade, this vocal back and forth is all we’re left with, and it is such a beautiful part.

The second to last track on the album, Overview Effect, really caught my ear because of the beautiful guitar riffs. These riffs flow around and play off the vocal line, more or less embellishing it. In fact, these riffs have a particularly beautiful flow of motion without the accompaniment of the vocal line, rising up to a bend and melodically flowing back down the scale. Close to the end of this song, there is an ambient section that builds and builds into an incredible burst of emotion. This particular part is one of my favorite sections on this entire album.

Everything All At Once is solid. For real, I will be jamming this album for the next few weeks – it’s fantastic. The slick, catchy, melodic guitar riffs will ingrain themselves into your brain, and the soaring vocal lines and harmonies will tickle your eardrums in a very pleasant way. I’m so impressed that Sea in the Sky was able to create such a chill atmosphere, while simultaneously incorporating all the elements attributed to heavy progressive music. Get stoked for Everything All At Once on September 29th!

 

Metrocon Massive 6

Last month I got the awesome opportunity to attend Metrocon Massive 6, which is America’s largest convention rave that took place at the Tampa Convention Center in Florida. This is my second year attending, and it just keeps getting better. The 100,000 sq. ft. venue is well suited for the large amounts of people that show up to dance to all the best hardcore DJs around.

In fact, I think it’s kind of funny to note that the majority of the rave goers were from the convention, which was awesome because it meant that the majority of the crowd was dressed up as random video game and anime characters. Watching all those people rave is an experience in itself, let alone the incredible music and lighting.

The raves started with the launch party on Thursday night. Since this was the first night and not yet the weekend, it had the smallest crowd, but by no means a weak lineup. Featured on Thursday was Hellroy, an EBM/industrial artists whose hometown is Tampa. Next was Cris Intensive, a drum and bass/hardcore artist from Miami, FL, and finally to finish off the night, Colby Boothman, a hardcore/dubstep musician from Rhode Island (this guy was also, surprisingly enough, a raptor handler in Jurassic World). All the DJs were super solid and set a great vibe for the following few days of raves. If you’re still fairly new to raves, much like myself, getting to go on Thursday night before things really start picking up is actually a great way to ease yourself in to the insanity to come.

Friday is when things really started to get rolling. The theme for this night was mad scientists, so naturally the dancers had lab coats and other such apparel on (anything Rick and Morty related was more than acceptable). Featured that night was Tamerax, a hard trance/freeform artist all the way from Montreal, Canada. Future Shock, a hardcore musician all the way from Glasgow, Scotland. DJ Scar, a hardcore artist from New South Wales, Australia, and last but not least Hardcore Plur, a classic hardcore artist from Naples, FL. As you can see, these events are huge. They’re literally shipping in DJs from all over the world, and it’s awesome.

And finally Saturday night. This night was monster girl themed, and it was absolutely insane. Saturday by far had the biggest and most enthusiastic crowd, and featured the incredible DJs Jimni Cricket, a hardcore artist from Seattle, WA, the power couple Zoe and Rob Vanwest, who were actually the ones to get this entire event off the ground, and DJ Scott Brown, the esteemed hardcore artist from Glasgow, Scotland. This was certainly a night to remember. From choreographed glow dancers throwing pool noodles into the crowd, to lazer lights that shot like rhythmic bullets through the fog-filled air, this night was one for the books.

Metrocon Massive 6 is an event unlike any other I’ve been to. Never have I been around such friendly and enthusiastic people, going crazy to literally some of the world’s most talented DJs that were able to create absolutely mesmerizing hardcore tracks. If you ever find yourself in Florida during Metrocon, you absolutely must check this event out. In fact, just book your hotel now, and I’ll see you there next year!

Our photographer had the opportunity to spend more extensive time with the djs, staff, and performers. Here is what he had to say about the event: “This was my third year attending metrocon, and my second year shooting it. This event is easily a huge highlight of my year in terms of creative control during the shoots, and also in terms of the incredible people I get to see, know, and hang out with. I loved capturing so many fun moments both on stage and behind the stage with such a positive group. I highly recommend this event to anyone, and I think each and every cosplayer, raver, and con-goer should make this journey at least once!”

Below, enjoy some shots of the various performers of Massive 6. You can view the more extensive collection of our shots by clicking HERE!

-Rob VanWest

 

 

 

 

 

-Tamerax 

 

 

 

 

 

-Future Shock

 

 

 

 

 

  • -Jimni Cricket

 

 

 

 

 

  • -Hardcore Plur

 

 

 

 

 

  • -Zoey VanWest with DJ Sc@r

 

 

 

 

 

  • -Scott Brown

 

 

 

 

 

DJ Hellroy –

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Intensive –

 

 

 

 

 

Colby Boothman-Shepard –

Silence Isn’t Golden By Figure It Out EP Review

Figure It Out sent us their new EP a few days before it will be released to the public, and I must say that I’m so stoked for everyone to hear it. Figure It Out is a pop-punk band from Phoenix, AZ that has managed to keep the genre alive by taking early 2000’s punk rock and mixing it with the pop music of today in order to create something catchy, but at the same time very emotional and relatable.

The opener, Second Best, starts with an extremely catchy vocal riff. This song has the perfect amount of speed and intensity, and it’ll definitely get you singing along in no time. I also particularly loved the background guitar riff at the very end of the song – it helps add another dimension to the piece as a whole.

The next track, Lullaby, has a more melancholy vibe to it. The beauty of this song is encompassed through the chorus, “So before we go sing me your lullaby/Your love’s a war that is worth fighting for.” The bridge of this song has some very pretty echo-y synths that help create this “lullaby” atmosphere.

Silence Isn’t Golden has a phenomenal chord progression that just conveys an immense amount of power. The chorus has some particularly heavy and driving drums, with constant cymbal hits and stabilizing kicks throughout its entirety. In fact, the drums were the thing that stood out most to me on this track – there are some very tasty fills. Overall, this is a phenomenal piece and was my personal favorite on the EP.

The final track, Sleep Without You, opens with some very pretty acoustic guitar playing and some very emotional vocals. As the song continues, a lead guitar is introduced, and the simple and pretty riffs that it fills the sonic space with builds such a great atmosphere. Then as the full band comes in, the high energy and emotion we’ve come to expect from Figure It Out is brought back to the foreground. This piece really ties together the experience and ends on a wonderful note.

Figure It Out created a beautiful EP, containing everything you could ever want from a pop-punk band in 2017. They’ve got the high energy fast-paced nature of pop-punk, but at the same time the catchy vocal riffs and production techniques of modern day pop. If you feel nostalgic listening to early 2000’s pop-punk, you’re definitely going to want to give this EP a listen on September 1st.

 

 

The Grand Spontanean By Telethon Album Review

This album is absolutely insane. Just to give you a little backstory, Telethon (a rock/punk rock band from Milwaukee, WI) is all set for their next major release, The Grand Spontanean, which they sent to us to have a listen to. And when I say major release, I mean major. This 30 track conceptual record contains over 80 minutes of phenomenal music.

“Do you ever worry the world is going to end thanks to some combination of
hypercaffeinated anxiety, extreme internet usage, and a constantly shifting
definition of what a “good American” is?”

That’s the topic (or should I say plot) of this record. It’s relatable, thought-provoking, and entertaining. And while every piece of this experience is quite good, I’ll be quickly going over a few of my favorites in more detail.

One of my favorite tracks, Apocalypse When, is a great feeling rock jam complete with some catchy guitar leads, a driving beat, and a very nice chord progression that helps to build tension and set up the vibe for the rest of the record. Another one of my favorites was The Paranoid Blur. It is a classic punk rock song, beginning with a synth lead, before jumping into the madness of the rest of the track. The speed and sheer amount of lyrics within this piece really help to create this atmosphere of fast movement and insanity, which is a common theme throughout the album. The last track I’ll mention specifically was Underture. This is an instrumental piece that I just found pleasant through its use of catchy lead guitars and pretty piano lines. It provided a good change up in the album.

I also want to draw your attention to something that Telethon did on track 27, entitled A Choice! However, I don’t want to tell you exactly what it is, because I don’t want to spoil the experience for you. Likewise, I won’t talk about two of my favorite tracks, track 28, Firebrand, as well as track 30, Fruit Bat, for a similar reason. No spoilers, but definitely listen all the way through this album.

What an experience this is. And while I specifically singled out my personal favorite tracks, since this record is conceptual in nature I whole-heartedly recommend you listen from start to finish, all in one sitting. You absolutely will not be disappointed, because even though this album spans the length of a movie, it doesn’t get old or repetitive. Props to this band for pouring such an immense amount of heart and soul into this record, and making it an incredible experience. You will absolutely want to check out The Grand Spontanean by Telethon on September 29th!

The band also created an incredible piece of art – dedicated as a playbill to accompany the album, and I encourage all the readers to check that out as well. Everything here is truly a masterpiece.

 

Ineffable By BODHI EP Review

We received BODHI’s debut EP, Ineffable, as an early listen. This progressive rock/metal record is an absolutely beautiful work of art, and the good news is that it comes out on the 25th of this month – less than a week away. So get ready to have your socks knocked off with this one. It’s going to be sick.

BODHI is the new instrumental side project of musician and producer Justin Seymour (of The Room Colored Charlatan). It is very melody intensive and filled with catchy riffs, long spanning solos, and intricate guitar work. In addition, it’s a complete one-man operation, so Justin gets full creative control over every aspect of the project. This type of setup is not very common, particularly in music as involved as this.

The EP opens up with Desire, which is a very emotional piece filled with a lot of guitar solos and some catchy licks for good measure. Backed by some electronic drums, delicate piano parts, and some very pleasing synth pads, this piece is a good opener for the rest of the EP.

Enamor begins with one of my favorite riffs on the album, a clean guitar playing some very pretty chords with some wonderful slides and intricate features. As the rest of the instruments come in, we’re treated to some more catchy riffs, as well as a ton more guitar solos. By changing up the drum beat and rhythmic patterns, Justin is able to keep the track interesting as well as intricate. The ending section of this piece really creates a very beautiful emotional vibe.

The next track, The Texture of Motion, opens with some fast-paced riffs that are very tapping heavy, which is a technique that I very much enjoy the sound of. These types of riffs are littered throughout the piece, as well as used by the rhythm guitar for the majority of the piece, and that does a phenomenal job of creating a strong forward momentum.

Sensations of Sound creates a similar vibe, very Animals As Leaders in nature, and it’s awesome. You’ll be banging your head to this track in no time. Midway through this piece is a very pretty jazzy section, filled with some incredibly pleasing solo work that does a good job to help pull you out of the madness for a moment before thrusting you back in. Another super solid piece.

The second to last track on the EP, Essence, starts off with some fast-paced guitar riffs and drum interplay that is incredibly pleasing to listen to. Between the chord choices and fast-paced nature of this piece, it truly feels like some momentous event is occurring. This feeling only continues to build as the song moves onward, particularly towards the end of the piece as the guitar parts start to go crazy with some more excellent solo work.

The final track, Ineffable, seals the deal for this album. It begins with some slow mesmerizing synth-like guitar sounds, before jumping into some very nice clean guitar work. Some more distorted guitar soloing is brought in, before once again being pushed into the background in order to let the clean guitar parts shine through. Shortly following, an absolutely beautiful piano riff is introduced which becomes the focal point for the rest of the piece before entering a short but oh so sweet lo-fi style section. After several minutes of some vibey slower-moving jazzy guitar solos, the song enters back in full force by reiterating that incredible piano riff from before. At this point all hell breaks loose, and it feels absolutely phenomenal.

This EP is awesome. Justin was able to create a short but sweet blend of heavily emotional and technical elements. In addition, every piece feels like it was compositionally given the polish that it needed to not get boring which is something that can easily happen in this style of instrumental music. Phenomenal work, Justin! I can’t wait to hear more from BODHI in the future. Definitely pick up this EP when in drops on the 25th of this month!

 

 

Metrocon 2017 – Convention Coverage

Metrocon – the event of my summer I look forward to every year. This year I had the opportunity to get more in depth coverage of the entire convention due to the kind folks in charge of this awesome convention. Granted press credentials, I was incredibly excited to dive into my coverage of the entire weekend.

My primary focus this year was shooting and covering the raves. The Metrocon Massive 6 raves are an incredible artistic opportunity to shoot, and you can find our in depth coverage of that event HERE – Coming soon. Spoiler: Everything about the raves was amazing, from the setup, to the DJs, to the behind the stage shenanigans!

Now, onto our thoughts and experiences of this year’s Metrocon! One of my favorite panels I attended this weekend was Voice Actors Unplugged. Ray Chase (the voice of Noctis) was an especially surreal guest to me. I walked in to the panel, and heard him talking when I thought to myself “Where have I heard that guy’s voice before?” I then realized I spent about 80 hours listening to his voice while playing one of my favorite games of this decade – Final Fantasy XV. The banter and chemistry between all of these voice actors was incredibly entertaining, and I found myself laughing so hard I almost missed shots during the panel! The questions from the audience were also surprisingly good, and the actors themselves did their best to get to every question, even including a “speed round” when answering the last set of questions to make sure they gave each and every fan there some attention. I definitely left the panel in a more jovial mood, and was so glad I was able to stop by to shoot it.

The cosplays this year were also incredible. I saw just about everything imaginable, and one thing I’ve always loved about Metrocon is the passion that the attendees show. Below, you can find some favorites of mine, but there were way too many to include everyone. The creativity is just off the charts, and inspires me to check out a whole slew of new anime every year when I fly back home. Additionally, the convention center itself is a great structure in hosting this event every year. There is tons of space, and the center is located right on the bay, providing plenty of space to walk around and hang out when not attending panels and events inside the center itself.

 

One thing that I also try to do each year is set up at least one personal cosplay shoot to do, which is always a ton of fun. This year the weather was ridiculously hot outside, but we endured, and had a lot of fun. Again, I’ll stress how awesome the location is that the convention center is located at. I’ve been able to find a lot of nice angles to do these shoots at – overlooking the water, high up on a platform section of the center, and even out on the docks of the bay. There’s also an incredibly massive stairway outside leading to an upper level, and that’s been another favorite location of mine to set up some cosplayers for poses.

 

 

If you stuck with me through this write up for this long, I’ll leave you with this brief summary: If you haven’t been to Metrocon, GO CHECK IT OUT! Seriously, Metrocon is an awesome time, and it gets better every year. They fly in awesome djs for the raves each year (again, that whole writeup is coming soon), the panels are really in depth with awesome celebrities from the industry, the artist ally features incredible talent, the dealers room features really unique merchandise, the staff is friendly and helpful, and the prices are good. Not only should you go for all those reasons (which are many), but you should also check it out because Tampa is a really cool place full of unique culture. I’m not going to append a local food critique/review to this article, but rest assured there are lots of good eats down there too. Well done Metrocon – I am already looking foward to next year!

Homecoming by Ledges Album Review

Ledges, an indie rock trio from Akron, Ohio, is all set to release their debut album on September 1st. We got the opportunity to check it out early, and are really stoked to say that it’s absolutely phenomenal! As a follow up to their 2014 debut EP The Indian Summer, Homecoming was intended to be an EP as well, however as the band continued to write and record demos, they realized that their stories needed to be told in the form of a full-length, and I couldn’t be happier about that. Every track on this album is well placed and helps to build this entrancing vibe of summers gone by.  

Every track on this album is very well written and well placed among the rest, however I’ll go into detail over a few that really stuck out to me. 

Nothing to say begins with a beautifully simplistic solo piano part that establishes the chord progression. Then, as the rest of the band comes in and the vocals begin to build up this piece, some heavy synth elements are added, as well as some very pretty and wonderfully harmonized “ooh”s. As the song continues to progress, the vocals continue to get more and more emphatic, almost reaching a scream. We’re then treated to a delicate and very pretty echoy guitar riff. This song was definitely one of my favorites on the album. 

The track immediately following, Teenage Daydream, was another killer. Opening with a very synth heavy lead part that is present throughout the song, Teenage Daydream creates its own unique identity on the album. Overall, this track has a very peasant vibe – one that reminds me of my youth. The second chorus introduces an additional vocal line that works in tandem with the first, and this unusual technique creates a swaying atmosphere that is quite unique. Another beautiful piece on the album.  

Indian Summer is the last track I’ll be writing in detail about. This song opens with some synth chords and the sound of someone seeking through radio stations. This, along with other subtle techniques (particularly the disco-like drum beat that makes an appearance at certain points) give this track an 80’s vibe. This piece has some of the prettiest guitar parts on the album, particularly the echoy palm-muted plucking that sits nicely atop the vocals. As is the theme for the rest of this album, this song is able to create a beautifully nostalgic vibe.  

This album was able to create a very strong vibe, and bolster it through each and every additional song. Since this album has a very storytelling nature to it, little additions like an intro track and subtle interlude-style parts help to tie everything together and further enhance the emotions felt throughout this experience. Get pumped for this release on September 1st! 

 

Resilience by Lightworker EP Review

Lightworker is a melodic metalcore band from San Francisco, CA. They recently released their debut EP, Resilience, and I’m happy to say it is awesome. We got the chance to interview one of their guitarists, Grayson Hurd, and inquire further about the release which as it turns out has quite an interesting timeline.

The EP was primarily written by their singer, Joe, and their old guitarist, Nick, before the band became a full unit. They had written and recorded five songs before the band even had their first practice, back in the spring of 2015. Not everything was completed at the time however, so they did a lot of finalizing work over the past few years. Grayson mentioned how it was really nice to finally get the EP out, and that it was a cool snapshot in time from about two and a half years ago.

During our conversation with Grayson, he mentioned to us an interesting fact that I just had to include in this review. As it turns out, every member of Lightworker works at Google. While that was completely unintentional, they often joke around saying “so do I have to work at Google to be in the band?” Interestingly enough, Grayson and the singer, Joe, are both in the same data analysis team, while their other guitarist, Dhruva, works in app development and their drummer, Kenny, is a phenomenal chef at a café at Google. Definitely an unusual group of people to form a band but hey, whatever works.

The EP opens with Requiem, a heavily emotional piece with some very pretty melodic guitar riffs scattered throughout the background. Lightworker writes some very nice guitar solos as well, usually on the shorter side but quite intricate and pretty.

The next track, Convalescence, is another solid track. About halfway through before the breakdown, there’s an awesome instrumental break with a very unique drum solo that aids in building tension. The breakdown itself is very nice as well, with another tasteful guitar solo immediately following.

The next track, Dysphoria, opens with some very pretty guitar arpeggios before jumping into a quickly moving guitar riff. Existing within the background of this piece are some very nice layered guitar parts that help to fill out the sonic space, almost taking the place of where orchestral elements might be. This song has a really catchy hook and a good vibe overall. Dysphoria is definitely among my favorites on the EP.

The second to last track, Myopic, features Shane Carroll (of For All Eternity). This song opens with some really fast guitar tapping riffs, sitting atop rhythmic chugs. Much like the last song, Lightworker included the use of some more simplistic guitar riffs to fill out the song and help bring out the emotional elements. This song also had a few sick drum riffs that break out of the mold of the rest of the piece. The guitar solo in this song is, much like the others, very well written and quite pretty.

The final track on the EP, Filthy Believer, is another solid jam. It is very emotional in nature, and that vibe is accentuated further due to the fact that it is the finale song on the record. With the catchy hook, “Faithless believer, can’t you see we’re more than the faults we’ve done? Filthy believer, can’t you see they’re more than flesh and blood?” this song provides a commentary on those who claim to be “believers”, but ignore and even condemn those most in need of their help.

The next release from Lightworker is already well underway, so it shouldn’t be too long of a wait for more music from these guys. They plan to try to get out further from their hometown and hopefully hop on some tours to promote the EP. Lightworker is a super solid band, and I definitely recommend you check out their debut record!