The Merchant’s Turntable – Track 4 “All Hail”
It’s that time of the month again. Do you have a blank playlist prepared for the new music coming your way? I have some exciting recommendations this month. I will also be trying a couple of new things with this “track.” You may notice (by scanning below) that the format has changed. Whether or not this will stick remains to be seen, but I wanted to give it a shot. I’m also dropping previews, unless I have something I really want to hype ahead of time. Lastly, I mentioned last month that I would be doing my recommended streams differently starting November. So, as you will find below, I am now making playlists per blog cycle to coincide with reviewed albums, upcoming releases, and general, hot finds (singles, covers, and whatnot). Please do me a favor and leave a comment to tell us how you feel about this new formatting and if you have any recommendations for December.
When I last checked in at the Turntable, I had already played through some of these albums several times without actually reviewing them due to release dates. Let’s cover them first. // Norma Jean have always pleased me, and that seems to be the general consensus with fans. It’s hard to dissect their catalogue and pinpoint where certain things went wrong or right, because, well, they have consistently gone right. The band’s latest record, All Hail, is aptly titled, because the band represents a force that cannot be weakened by all appearances. This new record is monstrous, brutally crafted, and wonderfully chaotic. // Somehow, I forgot to review Blink-182 last month, so let’s remedy that real quick. If you’re a fan of the band’s self-titled “reunion” album of 2003, think of NINE as a callback. There’s also a California-vibe throughout (and no, I’m not specifically referencing the previous Blink-182 record, California), something like the band’s collab with Steve Aoki earlier this year. It’s wonderfully melodic and soothing. There’s also some of that Skiba influence prominent at times, like during the amazing “No Heart to Speak Of.” This is a fantastic record that warrants the REPEAT option. // The new Like Torches album came to me really early, sometime in August if I remember correctly. Knowing that I had time to hear it (due to a November release date), I had only gone through it twice up until this week. So, I circled my way back around to it to see if I was still feeling disappointed, having expected more after the love I felt for Shelter. For sure, Love and Losses feels more melodically inclined and pop/rock-influenced. I miss the grit that found its way through Shelter, but there are some undeniably catchy moments on here. Despite the lack of originality and depth here, Love and Losses is a good time that grew on me the more attention I gave it. // Locket was the last album of September/October that I had been spinning ahead of time. Their debut has a lot of heart and vulnerability, enough so to warrant the recommendation for any fan of progressive rock.
Next, let’s review last month’s previews that hadn’t yet been properly played. // I was excited when Refused appeared in my inbox, but the album, unfortunately, let me down frequently. Maybe it’s just that the 90’s post-punk sound isn’t as impressive as it used to be, or maybe it’s that the band needs a new revolution in their writing. Because, back in ‘98, “New Noise” was an amazing step forward that got everyone thinking. It influenced a lot of bands and directed music styles still popular today. War Music, however, feels tame and lacking originality. It has its moments, of course, but the overall impression is a tired one. I couldn’t get into it. // Varials is one of those bands delivered to me as shaping music to come, taking influence from such groundbreaking records as Sempiternal (Bring Me the Horizon) and Hollow Crown (Architects). However, I can’t hear it. In Darkness doesn’t make me think, “This is different. This is noteworthy. Why aren’t we talking about this?” Instead, it sounds like so many other heavy groups that pass my desk without leaving much of a positive impression. Now, to be fair, Mitchell Rogers (guitar) stated, “It’s a genuine and authentic representation of who we are. There’s nothing more that we could’ve done. This is all of the shit we had done before—just turned up to fucking eleven.” I hear that. I get that and I agree. This album is loud and angry. It shakes your speakers, growling like a gutter beast. So, if that’s your thing, go ahead and find this one. // The new Devil Wears Prada album looked problematic early on, thanks to the single, “Lines of Your Hands.” There was a lot to love about that track, but I also despised the screaming on it. Previously, the band relied heavily on their screams and it worked wonderfully. But on their latest record, those vocals are actually hindering the experience 90% of the time. The singing is spot-on, the writing is more dynamic, and the instrumental work is crisp. But whenever the screaming starts, I found myself cringing more often than not. Maybe it’s about time the band leaving that in the past, or at least not feel so compelled to utilize it – that was the impression I got from The Act.
Finally, let’s discuss my final spins, the albums I hadn’t really heard until very recently. // For fans of Waco, it’s been a minute waiting for their debut, Human Magic, to finally drop since its announcement in 2018. Being new to the group, I didn’t know what to expect of the album. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised. Human Magic crosses between punk rock and beach rock, creating a healthy balance between angst and cool vibes. It certainly makes for a great background soundtrack to chilling. // It took me a minute to realize why Saint Asonia sounded so familiar – it features members of Three Days Grace and Staind! Not only that, this new record has co-writes with members of Thirty Seconds to Mars, Starset, and Breaking Benjamin. If any of these artists are up your alley, then definitely pick up Flawed Design. It’s like a blast from the past. This is the kind of music I grew up on! // When Fake Figures were still new, the band was sending me their recordings here and there to hear my thoughts. I really liked them back then, and I really like them today (it’s been a few years since the last time I heard them). We are the Dead is their latest EP, and it’s both familiar and reimagined. It sounds like their punk influence seeps through a bit more on this one, and it works. The closer (and title track) is especially memorable and impressive. // The new Almost record, Fear Caller, is a slow burn. Gritty, but thoughtful. I would have liked more energy, but it’s impressively written and structured. // Like the previously noted Waco and Saint Asonia, American Grim is another band that I hadn’t really listened to previously. Their brand of rock features more of a gothic edge to it, making for heavier and more atmospheric sequences than the other rock groups reviewed this month. Ultra Black reminds me of a cross between Motionless In White and Linkin Park. Some of it is fantastic. Some of it is beyond my tastes. Overall, it’s a solid and varied release. // Toothgrinder cover a lot of ground on I Am. From the heavy (“The Silence of a Sleeping Wasp”) to the reflective (“No Surrender in the House of Leaves”) to the experimental and soft (“Shiver”), this record excels. I will be looking into this band further moving forward. // Though I enjoyed Narrative enough to place Fire from the Gods on my radar, the band’s latest work is a mixed bag for me. The rapping and electronic beats interwoven throughout bug me constantly, whereas the rock fusions screaming POD are quite memorable. When singing, AJ’s voice is mesmerizing. His screaming is minimal on this record, but that doesn’t pose any sort of issue. Really, it’s just the increased inclusion of rock and club elements that bummed me out. As a result, I found American Sun to be the kind of album I skip around for scattered moments of splendor.
Norma Jean – 5/5
Blink-182 – 5/5
American Grime – 3.5/5
The Devil Wears Prada – 4/5
Refused – 3/5
Locket – 4/5
Varials – 3/5
Like Torches – 3.5/5
Waco – 4/5
Saint Asonia – 4.5/5
Fake Figures – 4/5
The Almost – 4/5
American Grim – 3.5/5
Fire from the Gods – 3/5
Toothgrinder – 4.5/5
THIS MONTH’S PLAYLIST
Head on over to The Merchant’s Turntable Playlist for this month’s choice streams. Included, you will find “King” from Black Peaks, “Blood Wolf” from Dance Gavin Dance, “Heavier” by Slaves, “Friends” from Chapel, and other new goodies (including recommendations from albums reviewed this month). See you back here in December!
Aiden Merchant is an independent author of horror, suspense, science fiction, and more. Under another alias, he got his start as a critic for such music magazines as Alternative Press (AP), American Music Press (AMP), and Outburn Magazine. He currently has two story collections available — Dead As Soon As Born and Kill for Them — and has big plans for 2020. He is married, a father of one, and living in the Appalachian Mountains.
Dead As Soon As Born
There is evil inside us all, and no one lives forever.
In this debut collection of short stories from Aiden Merchant, you will bear witness to murderers, monsters, and other horrors.