The Nutwork Album Picks – February 11-February 25, 2014

Posted: February 23, 2014 in Music

pusa2Last issue we gave you a sample of a half a dozen or so albums that had recently been released, and the response – three text messages, 17 Facebook “likes”, and one drunken conversation at 3:00 in the morning – was so overwhelming that I thought I’d follow the trend and load you up with a few more of the latest and greatest releases over the last few weeks.

It may have been the shortest month of the year, but that didn’t stop it from having an avalanche of new releases from artists from every corner of the soundscape. There were quite a few “decent” records and a fair share of forgettable ones as well, but there were plenty of great albums from all kinds of bands. I’m only highlighting three here, but do yourself a favor and hit your favorite music store and check out all the new releases, as 2014 is shaping up to be one of the best years ever in music.

Adrenaline Mob – Men of Honor

adrenaline coverAdrenaline Mob was formed a few years back as a result of longtime drumming legend Mike Portnoy losing his day job with prog/metal icons Dream Theater. Portnoy joined forces with Symphony X frontman Russell Allen, guitarist Mike Orlando, with bassist Paul Di Leo and guitarist Rich Ward (both of Fozzy fame) filling out the roster. The band released a better-than-average effort dubbed Omerta in 2012, and seemed to be destined for a long run of success in the world of metal. And then came the monkey wrench.

Portnoy – almost inexplicably – quit the band abruptly in 2013, citing scheduling conflicts, and it seemed the Mob was gone before they even had a chance to get things started. After all, in a school of big fish, he was definitely the shark. Somehow, though, the remaining members (which now included Disturbed bassist John Moyer) rallied the troops, found a replacement for Portnoy (in the form of former Twisted Sister drummer A.J. Pero), and moved on like nothing ever happened – and somehow got even better.

Men of Honor (released February 25th) shows that Adrenaline Mob aren’t making any excuses, and – instead – are just making chest-pounding, bone-shaking rock and roll. The absence of Portnoy is noticeable (if you compare it to the first album), but almost in a good way. Gone are the technical fills and intricate patterns, replaced by the type of in-your-face anthems that define everything good about hard rock.

adrenaline mobTracks like “The Mob Is Back”, “Let It Go” and “Feel The Adrenaline” keep it simple, but still knock your teeth out with raw energy, The softer of side of “Behind These Eyes” and “Crystal Clear” bring back the glory of the power ballad, and the experimental “House of Lies” might remind you of early Foo Fighters stuff. All of it is very good on the surface, and making it even better is the emergence of Mike Orlando.

If Omerta was drumming showcase, Men of Honor is the absolute introduction to one of rock and metal’s best-kept secrets on guitar. Orlando absolutely tears this album apart. If you needed a new guitar hero, you may just find it in this album, as the fret work and solos are out of this world throughout. Which only adds to an impressive effort across the board, and makes me believe that if this unit can remain cohesive, we will be hearing lots from Adrenaline Mob for years to come. 8.5/10

Hatriot – Dawn of the New Centurion

DOTNC-cdFor most of you, experience with true American thrash metal is probably pretty limited, Outside of a few Metallica songs and being able to draw the Slayer insignia, not many followed the scene which was popularized by acts such as Megadeth and Anthrax in the late 80’s and disappeared back into the shadows shortly thereafter.

But thrash has been going strong all these years. While now more of an “underground” scene, some of the best albums over the past twenty years have been released by these bastard children of the more popular sub-genres of metal. Some bands, like Annihilator, Metal Church, and Testament (to name just a few) never put down their guitars the last thirty years, while newer bands like Toxic Holocaust, Municipal Waste and Skeletonwitch have taken the torch and brought thrash metal into the new age of metal. Somewhere in between the old and the new lies this author’s new favorite band, Hatriot.

hatriot-ps04xWhile not yet one of the most known bands in metal, Hatriot does showcase one of thrash metal’s most known alumni – vocalist Steve  “Zetro” Souza, who’s work with Exodus is legendary. Zetro is joined by shredder extraordinaire Kosta V (and apparently some younger family members) and delivers not only a definitive reinvention of his classic Bay Area style, but puts him right back on the map of the thrash metal scene. When this type of music is done right, it leaves a devastating path of destruction along the way, and this record is nothing short of a nuclear bomb.

From the opening riffs of “My Cold Hands” all the way to the pummeling conclusion of “Consolation For The Insane”, Dawn of the New Centurion is a thrash fan’s wet dream. Is “Honor In The Rise And Fall” every bit as good of a track as “Master of Puppets”? You bet your ass. And that’s only one song out of a list of a dozen that is executed with insane perfection, making you wonder why all thrash metal isn’t this damn good. If you pick this up, get the deluxe edition that includes a great bonus track – a cover of the classic Krokus track “Midnight Maniac”. 9/10

The Presidents of The United States – Kudos To You!

pusa-coverRemember the song “Peaches” from the 90s? Are you already singing it in your head? The song that made no sense, and was so overly hip that it ended up being one of the most annoying songs of all-time? The guilty party behind that song was Seattle’s The Presidents of the United States of America, whos self-titled album also gave us the eccentric “Lump”, the awkward “Kitty”, and somehow sold millions of records with their punk-meets-folk lo-fi approach to “alternative music”. Not unlike their brethren Cake and Weezer, The Presidents… made a career of often-confusing, tongue-in-cheek lyrics and thigh-slapping ditties that dug their fingers into your brain like a commercial jingle and refused to let go. Success was unfortunately fleeting, as the musical landscape focused more towards the serious “grunge” scene – and after the suicide of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, there didn’t seem to be much place for joking around in the world of rock and roll.

Not long after recording “Cleveland Rocks”, the theme for television’s “The Drew Carey Show” (yes, that was them), the band called it quits in 1998. Vocalist/bassist/songwriter/founder Chris Ballew wanted to spend more time with his family, and drummer Jason Finn sought out other musical avenues. After a decent layoff, the band reunited in 2004, adding Seattle area guitarist Andrew McKeag, playing a few shows here and there, and writing a new song or two along the way – but it wasn’t until the 2008 release These Are Good Times People that the band really seemed to truly be back. That album received great critical response, but failed to catch on outside of college radio, and the band was again in the position of asking themselves “what next?”

Fast forward to November 2013. The band wasn’t really planning on recording another album (and didn’t have the money to self-produce), but after a succesful PledgeMusic campaign (a program which artists are using these days to fund albums from donations from fans), decided to hit the studio with little to no expectations. What those sessions produced was pretty damn impressive.

pusaYou could never place an exact label on the style of The Presidents… and Kudos To You! is a glaring representation of this hodgepodge style.  There are songs about bugs (“Slow Slow Fly” “Flea vs. Mite”), the supernatural (“Crappy Ghost”), apathy (“Poor Little Me”), and all other sorts of simple-yet-nonsensical topics. The flow is all over the place, incorporating honky-tonk rockabilly, sensible pop/punk, alternative rock and everything in-between, yet somehow coming all together for 40 minutes of pure fun. While it lyrically is pretty simple and straightforward (my 5-year was singing along to most of the choruses on the first listen), the hidden depth of the verses makes it worth listening to over and over again.

I don’t want to claim the record is over-produced, but it is obvious that every detail on the record was spit-shine polished bright enough to match Bellew’s hairless head, and it’s this type of perfection that only makes a great listen even better. While Kudos To You! may or may not end up being the last album recorded by these guys, it would certainly be a fitting farewell, as it is undeniably their record, recorded on their terms, with a spirit that can’t be called anything but genuine. It probably won’t be the most popular album of 2014, but for my money, it is definitely one of the best. 10/10

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