Week 7 Review

8 years prior to E. L. James’s unleashing the erotic juggernaut Fifty Shades of Grey that sold 100+ million copies, Staind showed up at #1 on charts with this week’s review: 14 Shades of Grey.  

Artist: Staind {Aaron Lewis (vocals, rhythm guitar), Mike Mushok (lead guitar), Johnny April (bass guitar), Jon Wysocki (drums)}
Album: 14 Shades of Grey
Year: 2003
Genre: Post-Grunge
Rating: 1/5

Worth Your Time? You’re better off experimenting with how to get your fist inside of your mouth. (Like this young lady or this young lady.)

Twitter Review: This album really needs to be renamed 14 Small Variations of a Shade of Grey. Who knew you could rewrite the same song 13 times and sell it?

Top 3 Tracks:

  1. Zoe Jane
  2. Layne
  3. Fill Me Up

Things to Look For:

  • Pete and Repeat Were in a Boat. The similarity in the structure of all the songs is unbelievable. It’s basically Aaron with unprocessed usually overly vague vocals followed by a wall of sound and Aaron’s usually even more vague vocals layered many times over so he can even beging to compete with the wall behind him. This repeats a couple times then the next song starts.
  • Pete Fell Out. I cannot believe how they used the same approach over and over again throughout this album. Essentially, Aaron does a verse with his voice unaltered and reasonable instrumentation followed by a heavily processed chorus with many layers of Aaron’s voice and this insane wall of sound. To add insult to injury, most song lyrics are so unclear that you barely care what the song was about.
  • Who’s Left? My mind cannot even begin to process how Staind could release an album that is packed with such similar sounding songs. It’s just 14 variations of Aaron switching back and forth between singing vague lyrics with his vocals unaltered intermingled with this ear fatigue inducing wall of sound that can only be taken on by processing Aaron’s vocals with layering beyond any reasonable amount.

High Points: There are far too many low points to discuss so I think it might be more interesting to talk about the high points instead. I listened to this album one final time before I started to write the review because I had such a hard time picking out individual songs. As I took notes on the tracks, my original score kept dropping and dropping until it got to one. I honestly considered giving it a zero out of five but there are some redeeming songs on here that let me put aside everything wrong with this album for a moment.

Let’s start of with Zoe Jane. This song is about Aaron’s relationship with his young daughter and probably his strongest song lyrically. (which really isn’t saying much unfortunately) I think it accurately captures that incredibly deep emotional bond that is created between a parent and child. It covers: unconditional love, the connection you get just by looking into your child’s eyes and having them look back at you, the need to want to shelter them from everything cruel in this world that you’ve experienced while trying to open their eyes to everything amazing around them and finally becoming so emotionally overwhelmed to the point of tears because you cannot always be there for them no matter how much you want to be.

The other song we need to discuss is Layne. It is actually a tribute to one of the gods of grunge: Layne Staley, the lead singer of Alice in Chains, who died alone of drug overdose in 2002 after years of dealing with depression and drug addiction. Tragically, his body was not discovered until two weeks after he died. He was only 34 and his death had immediate impact on the music scene which inspired many, including Aaron Lewis, to pay their respects to a man who had so much musical influence on their life. One notable aspect of this song is the beginning which opens up with Aaron vocalizing which reminded me of the Alice in Chain’s grunge classic Man in the Box.

Anything Else: So my wife and I do not have any children. We do not want children. We are never going to have children. So why did I connect so much with Zoe Jane on this album without being a parent myself? It’s actually a pretty simple answer: my friends. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by couples who are absolutely amazing parents. I’ve seen the most serious and reserved of my friends turn into the biggest goofballs just to get an extra smile or laugh from their child. It’s almost like in that moment the whole world around them disappears. To me, that speaks volumes of how intense the parent/child relationship is. The amount of effort and sacrifice my friends put into being parents is awe inspiring quite honestly. I’m happy I get to witness all of these beautiful little moments between them and their children. If you’re looking for examples of what awesome parents do, I would highly suggest checking out JAKE’s Place which is run by a friend and awesome parent, [J].

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Week 6 Review

This week I’m reviewing a recent album from 3 guys who started a band 13 years before I was born. I am of course talking about the return of Black Sabbath to the recording studio with their album 13.  

Artist: Black Sabbath {Ozzy Osbourne (vocals), Tony Iommi (guitar), Geezer butler (bass guitar), Brad Wilk instead of Bill Ward (drums)}
Album: 13
Year: 2013
Genre: Heavy Metal
Rating: 3.9/5

Worth Your Time? Especially if you’re behind on your monthly headbangs.

Twitter Review: Having been fed a healthy diet of nu-metal through all of college, listening to the band that inspired all of them was incredibly refreshing.

Top 3 Tracks: 

  1. Zeitgeist (if you watch only one video watch this one)
  2. Age of Reason
  3. God Is Dead

Things to Look For:

  • Geezer’s Lyrics. I don’t know what to say other than it felt like Ozzie was singing Sabbath songs just for me. I’ve been doing a lot of spiritual/intellectual self-examination lately so this album really resonated with me. I loved and appreciated Geezer Butler’s word play on this album so much.
  • Rocking out with the boys of Black. I had so much fun listening to 13.  It’s pretty hard to listen and not catch yourself doing some at least light headbanging as Black Sabbath rocks out. It reminds a lot of the joy I get from cranking AC/DC’s Back In Black or Nirvana’s Nevermind album in my car on the way to work in the morning.
  • Iommi’s Solos and Riffs. While they may not be his best work as he is one of the greatest of all-time with an incredible back catalog that would make a 16-year-old schoolgirl blush, I still enjoyed them immensely. Iommi kicks more ass in his mid 60’s than you ever did or ever will. That’s just a fact of life.

Low Points: Pretty positive review so far, right? So is there anything negative to say about this album? You betcha. The stuff I’m going to talk about didn’t necessarily limit enjoyment of the album but makes me wonder if this album could have been better. I wish there could have been a little less jamming on the songs and instead they had been tightened up some more. The majority of songs clock in over 7 minutes so it’s incredibly easy to get lost in the rhythms of rock and not be totally sure which song you are currently listening to unfortunately. Actually, if you’re not paying attention, you probably won’t even catch the start of the next song.  Part of the reason I think Zeitgeist was my top song was because it was so musically different from the other 7.

Anything Else: I often wondered if you’re old enough to have an AARP card, do you need to turn in your ROCK card?  While this may be true for some bands that held on to their cards to the point of being ridiculous, I think Black Sabbath showed me that they can still remain relevant even in 2013.

Finally and most importantly, anybody else think it’s weird that Brad Wilk (the drummer) and Bill Ward (the drummer he replaced) are one letter away from being anagrams of each other and that letter difference is K and L which are right next to each other in the alphabet? Seriously. That’s pretty random. About as random as my Facebook News Feed:

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