THE MERCHANT’S TURNTABLE – Track 3
Once more, for the new readers: My name is Aiden Merchant and, under another alias, I write for several music magazines and websites. I have been doing this for more than a decade, and as such receive early promos of various albums. There are restrictions on when reviews can be posted, so those albums will be found under “Previews” until the O-K is given for anything of detail. This still allows me to give you all a heads-up on some promising release, though, so pay as much attention to that section just as the “Mini Reviews.”
Next month, “Also Stream” will become “This Month’s Playlist.” You’ll actually be able to go onto my YouTube profile and play the collection as I’ve ordered it. Look forward to that starting November!
Of Mice & Men – EARTHANDSKY // Rise Records // File Under: Screamo-Metal // Verdict: 3.5 out of 5
After losing Austin a few years back, Of Mice & Men returned with a sound that leaned more on bar rock than the frantic nature that had previously defined them. It didn’t work, ultimately. While the sound was fine, it did not feel like an actual OMM effort. Luckily, this year the band has returned to their roots with EARTHANDSKY. The album has plenty of breakdowns, thrashy sequences, and chaotic backdrops. This shift back to their base formula works wonders; this is more like the OMM we grew to love over the years. The singles, including “Mushroom Cloud,” come out on top (though “Mountain” is another impressive track that strikes a good balance between their blend of crazed and mainstream styles). Though EARTHANDSKY is not an Austin-level record yet, it’s still a definite step in the right direction.
Issues – Beautiful Oblivion // Rise Records // File Under: R&B Rock // Verdict: 3 out of 5
This is not the Tyler Carter you knew in Woe, Is Me. Issues show little heaviness on Beautiful Oblivion (with the exception of the addictive single, “Tapping Out”), but rather rely on Carter’s R&B swagger (which, granted, he owns) to get by. Tracks like “Find Forever” hint at his prowess early on, while others – like “Downfall,” “Rain,” and “Second Best” – nail it in place. Sometimes the pop and rap influences that seep through are annoying and distracting, though, but this is an otherwise solid outing if you’re in the mood to relax and gel. It just doesn’t bring enough “fuck yeah” moments to become a favorite.
Dayseeker – Sleeptalker // Spinefarm Records // File Under: Melodic Metalcore // Verdict: 4.5 out of 5
Haven’t discovered Dayseeker yet? They’ve got the ambient post-hardcore formula perfected. Their songs are well sculpted and hard-hitting, but also fueled by constant melody. The vocals are excellent (singing and screaming) and their arrangements go beyond the normal ebb and flow. This record plays like a story in its waves of highs and lows. “Already Numb” is intensely uplifting in its calming exterior, and “Starving to be Empty” features an unforgettable duet. Put this all together with a crushing end to the record, and Sleeptalker spells success.
Forgetting the Memories – Known Darkness // Independent Release // File Under: Death Metal Blend // Verdict: 3.5 out of 5
I have meant to review this one for the last two months and kept forgetting somehow. Sweden’s Forgetting the Memories blend metalcore with death metal, so their music is populated by shrieks and guttural growls more than anything. However, their metalcore influence shows in their clean vocal sections, several of which are excellent. “Heartfeeder,” “Cult,” and “Soul Drift” are the standouts, and (obviously) show the band at their best balance. The duel screams are complimentary and striking, the instrumentals are well structured and fierce, and the writing is strong. It’s too bad they ended the album on an even-paced instrumental that sounded out of place.
The Early November – Lilac // Rise Records // File Under: Nighttime Rock // Verdict: 4.5 out of 5
This is the best TEN record since The Room’s Too Cold. It’s the obvious predecessor, the record we should have received instead of The Mother, The Mechanic, and the Path. It’s elegantly quiet and soothing, the perfect dose for insomnia.
Grayscale – Nella Vita // Fearless Records // File Under: Pop Punk-Rock // Verdict: 4.5 out of 5
Grayscale have not only done it again; they’ve come back even better with Nella Vita. It seems as if the band sharpened their skills from just about every angle, making for a more cohesive and flowing collection of punk rock and pop-grit. Though the moments in which they get loud are the best, the upbeat sequences are also wonderfully addictive. There’s a comfortable spectrum of sound here, one sure to please fans of the mixed genres.
Sleeping with Sirens – How It Feels to Be Lost // Sumerian Records // File Under: Risecore Refresh // Verdict: 4 out of 5
The last SWS album was an enormous change for the band, one that didn’t pay out with longtime fans. Luckily, the band has returned to their roots with an album that feels right at home with their first two records (found between 2010-2011). Though this new collection is not as impressive or expressive as, say, Feel, it does rank right up there with the Let’s Cheer to This and With Ears to See and Eyes to Hear. The songs are loud, fast, and memorable. The second half of How It Feels to Be Lost also shows more exploration, and therefor comes out with the album’s best tracks. It’s so nice to have SWS back after that pop-glitzed Gossip album of 2017.
Thousand Below – Gone in Your Wake // Rise Records // File Under: Revitalized Screamo // Verdict 4 out of 5
With the exception of the singles (which appear at the start of this record), much of Gone in Your Wake is more focused on modernized rock styles than metalcore (as was their previous effort). That being said, the power and melody found here is top tier. “Fake Smile” is a bare-all kind of anthem; “Alone (Out of My Head)” is catchy, but without the extra sugar; “The Edge of Your Bed” is beautiful and calming; and “171 xo” solidifies the band’s shift into a category of soaring qualities. There are still some heavier moments sprinkled throughout the record, but they feel outnumbered by the softer edges that turn up time and time again. But I’m not complaining – I really loved the liquid vibe this one gave me.
Vinnie Caruana – Aging Frontman // Know Hope Records // File Under: Solo Standing Punk // Verdict: 3 out of 5
The title says it all; Vinnie Caruana (frontman of I Am the Avalanche and The Movielife) bears his soul on his latest solo outing. Listen to the opening track, “Better,” and tell me you don’t feel his years of experience bleeding through. Unfortunately, though, the collection is often slow and uninteresting. There’s not enough energy or gruff. Yes, it feels honest and real. However, it had trouble holding my attention.
Gideon – Out of Sight // Equal Vision Records // File Under: Hardcore // Verdict: 3 out of 5
It is safe to say that Out of Sight pushes Gideon out of the “Christian” metal scene. At times foul and outrageous (I mean that in a bad way), the band’s new record takes a sizeable step back in impressing me. Once an excited fan, I now find their music uninspired and often generic. The lyrics are sometimes painful, and the structures lack the intensity of their previous work. Ultimately, Out of Sight disappointed me frequently. This is not the Gideon I fell in loving with years ago.
The Devil Wears Prada – The Act // Solid State Records // Release: October 11, 2019 // File Under: Abstract and Dissonant Metal
I just received this one the other day, so I haven’t heard the whole thing yet. However, I’ve played at least 75% of the record and have been pleasantly surprised by the clean vocals and ambience throughout. The screaming is used sparingly (which is good, because I don’t care for it this time around) and no longer charging at the forefront. The single, “Lines of Your Hands,” shows the good and bad – the screaming is jarring and uncomfortable, whereas the chorus riles positive emotion. Other songs, like “Chemical,” show off the beauty the band is capable of, and there seems to be a lot of that in The Act. I look forward to finishing this one and reviewing it next month for you all.
Refused – War Music // Spinefarm Records // Release: October 18, 2019 // File Under: Grinding Punk
This is another one that I have only skipped around so far, but it sounds like the band will be delivering the goods once more. Their hardcore-influenced punk sounds very much like the 90’s scene that birthed the band in Sweden. Whether or not War Music will beat The Shape of Punk to Come is doubtful, but I’m sure the band will put up a solid fight. My review will come on our next Turntable sitting.
Locket – All Out // Fearless Records // Release: October 30, 2019 // File Under: Brooding Rock
I played through this one earlier and got what I expected. With the exception of a couple pleasant surprises (like “Out of Sight”), this one sounds a bit moody. However, there’s a time and place for this kind of music, and it sounds like Locket does a good job in that regard. I will listen to it a few more times in time for a review next month.
Varials – In Darkness // Fearless Records // Release: October 11, 2019 // File Under: Metal
I honestly don’t know if this one will see a review from me or not. I played through the beginning of the record and felt my focus slipping time and again. Though the band promises to push boundaries and follow their instincts this time around, it doesn’t sound like anything different or exciting. There’s only one way to find out; I will give it some attention over the next few days.
Like Torches – Love and Losses // Victory Records // Release: November 1, 2019 // File Under: Pop-Punk Influenced Rock
I really enjoyed the last Like Torches record, so I was excited when this promo found its way into my inbox. However, I’ve listened to the album twice now and it sounds as if the band dulled the edges with this one. Still, there are some catchy moments scattered throughout, so I’ll be playing it more before passing my final judgment.
Waterparks – “High Definition”
State Champs – “Real World (Cover)”
Ice Nine Kills – “IT is the End”
Bayside – “Interrobang”
Mayday Parade – “Turn My Back”
Our Last Night – “The Beaten Path”
Like Moths to Flames – “All You Lost”
City & Colour – “Astronaut”
Bad Wolves – “Sober”
Jimmy Eat World – “All the Way (Stay)”
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.