DREAM THEATER – THE ASTONISHING (Review)

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Released in: January 2016

Number of Tracks: 34

The Astonishing is the thirteenth studio album by American progressive metal band Dream Theater. A concept album produced and written by John Petrucci, who is a fan of Games of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.

This record is a 2 hour and 10 minute story-telling sci-fi/fantasy rock opera. It has several short interludes, some very strong and marvelous orchestra performances, peaceful and inspiring ballads and of course the band’s very own progressive signatures. They added new materials in this record such as bagpipes in 1 track, a choir blending and harmonizing along with the orchestra.

I think this record is the band’s most challenging and experimental album they have made. There are a lot of tracks in this concept which I am contented and several tracks that are intriguing, captivating and enchanting at the same time. THREE DAYS has an interesting mixed on this track such as a short sound of a carnival at the end then transcends to a villainous and atrocious theme. I quite enjoyed that. This very soft rock ballad called WHEN YOUR TIME HAS COME has a very charming and pleasurable tune. Then inbetween the half track of the MOMENT OF BETRAYAL brings the band’s progressive signature rhythm which I find it pleasing to the ear. Lastly, THE PATH THAT DIVIDES has a sword clashing and gnashing of teeth in this track while engaging on a edgier motif. However, there are some tracks that find incoherent, uninspiring and unsuitable. James Labrie’s voice tries to enact all of the characters in this record. I think he nailed it quite well as each person he delivers has it’s own distinct persona.

Overall, I find this record a bit enjoyable, but I’m impress how Petrucci’s story-telling and music brings the band out of their comfort zones. Fans of DT will be challenged throughout this record. It’s not a heavy element comparing to their previous albums. Metropolis 2: Scenes From A Memory is still an essential album to this date.

Review Score: 6.5/10

Favorite Track Ever: THREE DAYS, WHEN YOUR TIME HAS COME, THE PATH THAT DIVIDES, MOMENT OF BETRAYAL

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MEGADETH – DYSTOPIA (Review)

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Released in: January 2016

Number of tracks: 12

Dystopia is the fifteenth studio album by American thrash metal band Megadeth and their return as a violent thrash once again. It’s the band’s follow-up to their fourteenth hard rock studio album Super Collider.

There are several greatness tracks in this record such as Dystopia which I love how the guitar rhythm are being handled wonderfully well here; the menacing and terrifying approach of the Post American World was harmoniously balanced, though my only gripe on this track is when Dave Mustaine’s voice tries to growl like a cold-blooded ferocious beast, but the result sounded more like a lion cub crying for it’s mother’s milk from her multipled nipple parts; Then we move on to Conquer or Die which has a really nice, soft, dark melodic acoustic guitar part on its first minute track then it escalates quickly to a more heavier, crunchier chuggah~chug riffs and adding a bell toll material to it. Other tracks are just okay. They’re not as solidly built and interesting. It feels like you’re listening to a same old pattern, same old style, nothing new, and heard-it-before tunes which I am tired of hearing over again.

I am very pleased that this Megadeth record has finally returned to their heavy pounding aggressive grooves, however the record itself isn’t quite enough to say that the band made a great comeback success. It’s not as the same level as Rust In Peace and Countdown to Extinction to name a few. Dave Mustaine’s deteriorated voice has gotten worse every studio album. It’s not as vicious, villainous and barbaric as it used to be back in his early years, but I’m sure Megadeth fans will enjoy this record.

Review Score: 7/10

Favorite Track Ever: Dystopia, Post American World, Conquer or Die

SIA – THIS IS ACTING (Review)

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Released in: January 2016

Number of Tracks: 13

This Is Acting is the seventh studio album by Australian singer-songwriter Sia. It is Sia’s follow-up to her sixth studio album 1000 Forms of Fear.The album is mainly an electropop album with soul influences.

After listening to this record, it gave me some mix feelings on some of her songs. There are actually good tracks such as the opening track of the record called Bird Set Free. Her Alive track is owned by a British singer-songwriter, Adele, who co-wrote the song, but rejected the track at the very last minute. It’s very appealing, it’s powerful and it definitely fits Sia’s voice. The Sweet Design has a catchy dance tune with a very familiar phrase where she borrowed it from Sisqo’s hit single, Thong Song. And lastly, the closing track, Space Between, has a gloomy and haunting atmosphere all around, which I find Sia’s vocal gave me chills, but very audacious, less tense or anxious and sturdy as she ascends her voice through every chorus. However, I find most of Sia’s other tracks in this record lack of strong features. They are just too bland, uninteresting and wearisome. Her latest single called Cheap Thrills is probably the most boring track in the album. The tune is weak, it’s flavourless and flat.

Overall, I find this record acceptable. I believe that her previous album was more creative, desirable and daring which brings her fame to a critical success. It’s more pop~ish and more commercialized than her previous material. Good record, but needs to be more bold and risky.

Review Score 6/10

Favorite Track Ever: Bird Set Free, Alive, Sweet Design and Space Between

DAVID BOWIE – BLACKSTAR (Review)

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Released in: January 2016

Number of tracks: 7

“Blackstar” is the twenty-fifth and final studio album by English musician David Bowie. It was released worldwide through Bowie’s ISO Records label on 8 January 2016, Bowie’s 69th birthday and two days before his death.

Bowie recorded the album in the midst of an ongoing battle with cancer. His illness was only known by those very close to him and that remained so until the news of his death became public, two days after the album’s release. It became apparent immediately after that many lyrics seem to come from a man who knows death is near.

I’ve been playing to this record since the day Bowie died and I cannot stop listening to it each day. Sometimes I played it twice. It’s a totally different project he had done. This isn’t the glam rock I thought it turned out. It’s more of an experimental rock with huge jazz influence. Before we wrap up this record, let us first review it’s tracks.

We begin with a 10 minute track called Blackstar. It has a strange, eerie and unnatural feeling through the first half of the track. You can hear Bowie’s unsettling chant throughout the verses. It’s like there’s a dark ritual mass taking place. Then once it reaches to the 2nd half of the track, Bowie’s vocal starts to deliver from the gloominess and unilluminating tune to a rather joyful and pleasing approach. He is telling a story about a spirit rose from the body and an individual took his place as his manipulating voice cries and echoed out: “I’m a Blackstar! I’m a Blackstar!” That literally gave me chills! The notes and the arrangements on this track is part weird and part catchy. Then the next phase namely ‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore was previously released few years back along with Sue (Or In a Season of Crime), but in this project, he added more materials to give it a little more gripping and compelling to listen. The horns performance was incredibly done as it starts to intensify on the beginning of the track. These two horns were battling and competing with each other if which one makes the noisiest sound. You can hear the left horn trying to scale it’s tone up while the right horn manages to be on top. Then we are being introduced to a slow, melodic, psychedelic with more jazz elements brought in it called Lazarus. The lyric in this song tells us that Bowie is sharing about his afterlife/death experience and his accomplishments while he was alive. The guitar screeching at some areas, the simple repetitive jazz drum rhythm, the breathtaking saxophone at the end was majestic and haunting while the bass gives a pleasing feeling. Listening to Sue (Or In a Season of Crime) feels more impatient yet so appealing and edgy at the same time. It’s like you’re having a heart racing adrenaline rush to survive a battle in a cold warzone and your uzi weapon is your answer to keep yourself alive. Then we move on to Girl Loves Me which I find the lyric so derange and confusing. Though I find the chorus where he sang “Where the fuck did Monday go?” an unreal coincidence to his death. He wasn’t able to reach Monday when the media announces his death on the internet Sunday night. However, the arrangements on this song didn’t really appeal to me, but it doesn’t mean that I find it boring to listen. It’s still a good track, but it lack something that would spark my interest to my ear. Dollar Days this song reminds me much to his comeback album “The Next Day”. It’s more of a soothing and relaxing rock ballad approach with a remarkable saxophone pulse. The last orchestral melody on this track leaves a long, epic end as Bowie’s final words echoes and dissipates slowly. He is finally accepting his death and starts embracing and welcoming death in front of him. As the song fades, it transits to our finale track, I Can’t Give Everything Away. The moment I heard the first beat to this song, I felt so much ill, sorrow and sadness both physically and mentally. This is the final goodbye to Bowie’s friends, love ones and his fans. He wished to give something more, but sadly time is running out for him. This is the best song to end a story of a true legend and a genius in the music industry. It delivers an eye popping candy with a graceful harmonica at the beginning while the saxophone and guitar also offering an outstanding tribute to a great and powerful musician there was. 

Overall, I find David Bowie’s final album refreshing, challenging and an awe-inspiring masterpiece! This record tells generally about his death since Johnny Cash’s farewell song. I enjoyed all the tracks that had made in this record and what a great album to end a singer-songwriter’s story. We will miss you Ziggy Stardust, but your music lives forever.

Review Score: 10/10

Best Tracks Ever: Blackstar, Tis a Pity She Was a Whore, Lazarus, Sue (Or In a Season of Crime), Dollar Days, I Can’t Give Everything Away

COAL CHAMBER – RIVALS (Review)

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Released in: May 2015

Rivals is the fourth studio album by the American nu-metal band Coal Chamber. It’s been 12 years since their last album was released. Dez Defara is also the frontman of the melodic death metal band Devil Driver.

I was hoping that this record would be a fantastic comeback from one of my favorite nu-metal bands in the 90’s, but after hearing all the tracks, I think it’s time for the band to cease making studio albums before they begin hurting themselves.

The beginning of the track called I.O.U Nothing was a good jump start of the entire record. Those vigorous distorted downtune guitars gave me a good affection, makes you feel you’re back in your youth 15 years ago where nu-metal was at it’s highest peak, but as the album progresses each track, it gets too dull, monotonous and uninspiring. Wait is probably the most tedious and laziest song I ever heard on the record. The chorus is absolutely the same as their previous song called “Something Told Me” then what horrified me was the last part where they stole the sound from Korn’s “Falling Away From Me” hard smashing intro. Then there are a few interludes being put on this record which I’m not happy about it. They’re so fruitless and you’re beginning to think that these interludes were pointless to add on a 13th track album. Though despite the record’s lack of art, lack of aggressive beats and Defara’s painful and ludicrous lyrics however, there is one track that I loved and it’s worth revisiting on this record which is Fade Away(Karma Never Forgets). This track has an impressive groove metal element feel and it blends perfectly well with Coal Chamber’s signature riffs.

Overall, this record didn’t live up to my expectations. I think Coal Chamber decided to play safe or not taking risks and be more edgy towards their music. Maybe they did it for the nu-metal fan service audience and they careless to evolve into something that would possibly make them rise up to fame again. Yes, this studio album blows in my opinion.

Review Score: 3/10

Favorite Track Ever: Fade Away(Karma Never Forgets)

RIHANNA – ANTI (Review)

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Released in: January 2016

ANTI is the eighth studio album by Barbadian recording artist Rihanna, released on January 28, 2016, through Westbury Road and Roc Nation. The singer began planning the record in 2014, at which time she left her previous label Def Jam and joined Roc Nation.

As executive producer, Rihanna collaborated with producers including Jeff Bhasker, Boi-1da, DJ Mustard, Hit-Boy, Brian Kennedy, Timbaland and No I.D. to achieve her desired sound. Their efforts resulted in a primarily R&B album; it features guest vocals from longtime collaborator Drake and new partner SZA.

After listening the entire tracks from the record, it turned out be a not-so-okay album for me. There are several tracks that are very repetitive and boring such as James Joint, Needed Me and Woo. Some 6 tracks are too barely listening to my ear, but somehow find a few materials being put in each track… interesting. Like the first single called Work features Drake and has a pretty good upbeat, but that continuous “work, work, work, work, wooork!” can be so stressful to my drum ear it turns me off! Then finally the last 4 tracks in this record has finally made a good to a very satisfying progress. There’s a good acoustic piece, a piano solo on the other piece, then we have Higher and Love on the Brain that are worth mentioning on this record. They had an awesome soulful vibe which delivers Rihanna’s voice to a much more smoothing and challenging role for her to take. It only shows that her voice does fits for a Soul/RnB genre.

Overall, I think this album has it’s bad flaws and disappointments, but there are few great tracks that are worth listening over again. Rihanna should look for a better singer-songwriters on her next project if she wanted to make a stand for her music and pleased her fans.

Review Score: 4.5/10

Favorite Track Ever: Love on the Brain, Higher

My Concert Experience #1: Up Dharma Down

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January 24, 2016. 11PM.
SM City Iloilo – Dinagyang Food Festival.

I went to my local mall just a week before the event and they have this list of activities being showcase near the mall’s main entrance door step. The moment I saw the band’s name, I was excited to see them once again after 2 and a half years! I got to meet them after the show last time. It was at a different venue and raining that night. The ticket cost somewhere P250 to P300. It was organized by the Philippine Red Cross. I think it’s a charity event from what I remembered. Good thing my friends handed me money to see the show. My wallet was cleaned out.

The show began late that night. 11PM. It was held outside the parking lot near the food festival kiosks. I was the first person ever who got inside. It was a cold and windy night. Thank goodness no rain! They let the people get in at exactly 9PM. I bought my tickets by purchasing 5 pepsi product cans that afternoon. That’s P175.00 per ticket. I took 3 tickets and the extra 2 tickets are for my friends. While I was waiting for my friends at the concert venue, I receive their text to meet them at Starbucks. I respond back by telling them that I’m on my way. It was too early and I had few more hours left before the show starts. After indulging on my favourite Starbucks caramel frappe, we decided to leave 30minutes before the show. It was a 3-minute walk from Starbucks to the parking lot area.

As we got inside the place, It wasn’t fully crowded yet and a local show band was still performing on stage, but after their 4 songs, it was Up Dharma Down’s turn to steal the show. Mostly of the set lists were from their CAPACITIES album record, I realized that Armi’s vocal performance sounds more energetic than the studio album as she serenades her voice with the audience. I was completely dumbfounded by just how many young generations went to see the show! They were screaming and singing along with the band track by track. And there I was thinking that only our local rock community appreciate this kind of music. I was glad that there are people out there who supported the band. The band also did a mashup song by Steve Perry’s Foolish Heart. It was really neat to hear a song cover using the UDD’s music power element. After their last song, Armi and Carlos made a thank you speech to the audience for coming to see them and they were very surprised by the numbers of individuals went to their show that night.

After their performance ended, I went near the stage’s rear side and asked UDD’s lead guitar player(Carlos) if they have any merchandises with them. Sadly, he replied that they didn’t bring any merchandises at all but I’ll have to order them at their website. He left right away the stage along with the other bandmates. A white van just near the stage was waiting for them. I was really bummed back then coz I was hoping to finally buy their physical records. Last concert, they brought all of their merchs especially a vinyl from their recent album.

Overall, I really had fun! I’ll be waiting for that day to see them perform once again in the future!