Asking Alexandria's eponymous record sees them prioritize melodies above intensity, but don't always make the connection they hope to make.Read More
The Black Parade defined not only an era, but a generation. It was part of everyone's soundtrack in the mid-2000s, whether it was the heartwrenching piano chords of 'Cancer' or the iconic piano intro of 'Welcome To The Black Parade'. It was revolutionary, powerful, and generally one hell of an album.
Its been ten years since it was released. With its tenth anniversary just a month away, The Black Parade memorabilia is coming through. Next week, My Chemical Romance will be releasing a double LP: The Black Parade / Living With Ghosts, featuring the album on one side and demos from the era on another. This week comes in the form of a dedication album. Rock Sound has brought together a number of big artists to cover songs from The Black Parade. It's a cool project, but not everything is as good as it may seem...
1) One OK Rock - The End.: Starting off fresh is perhaps one of Japan's most well established rock bands, One OK Rock with the opening track, 'The End.' It's a pretty great cover as an opener, but also a bit misleading. The song has great little subtle differences hidden in between the more notable ones. The song's performance adds electronic elements in between the cleaner moments, the contrast between the soft and heavy moments becoming that much greater. What's misleading is how original and good the cover is: having it at the start makes you think some new interpretations of these classic songs are coming, not completely changing them yet adding something new... (92 / 100)
2) Escape The Fate - Dead!: ...sadly, that isn't the case, as seen in Escape The Fate's cover of 'Dead!' It's pretty much an except copy of the original, without much change to it. It has a great guitar solo, but that's as much credit as you can give it. The vocals don't quite give it the same punch, either. It feels like a standard cover band cover, and nothing else. (74 / 100)
3) Creeper - This Is How I Disappear: On the subject of vocals, Creeper's cover of 'This Is How I Disappear' has perhaps the least-fitting vocals on this entire record. It goes in with the nature of Creeper - the vocals are trying to sound creepy and condescending, and it simply doesn't work with the song. The instrumental is incredibly weak, as well. The vocals are half of the mix, and the instrumental is barely any louder than them, making it have little impact. (51 / 100)
4) State Champs - The Sharpest Lives: In the same scenario as Escape The Fate, this song stays even closer to the original than 'Dead!' did. The little guitar punches in the verses aren't as spidery as they were in the original, being fatter and bassier, an subtle but odd difference. the guitar solo is great, and they nailed the bassline underneath it. (70 / 100)
5) Crown The Empire - Welcome To The Black Parade: It's impossible to create a cover that truly does this song justice, but Crown The Empire didn't even try. It's almost painful to listen to this cover. It's completely uninspired, drained of emotion, and takes away all of the original charm of the song. They couldn't so much as try and take out the hammers of the piano hitting the strings as they play the intro. It's worse than a cover band. It really makes you appreciates the small things in the original song that may seem insignificant, but really made the track what it was. They didn't even do the guitar leads in the intro! It's nothing more than a badly rehearsed cover by a cover band you'd see in a bar setting. (35 / 100)
6) Moose Blood - I Don't Love You: Moose Blood amassed a pop punk following leading up to their release of their debut LP Blush - read our review of it here - and brought pop punk back in a new yet familiar light. 'I Don't Love You' meets all the criteria to be a banging pop punk song, and Moose Blood took it and made it just that. With Eddy Brewton's reckless abandon in his vocals, the vocals worry more about emotion than hitting the notes, giving the song a fresh new revival in sweet and warm colors. (88 / 100)
7) Palisades - House Of Wolves: Another song that's received a rebirth in a brand new light. Palisades brings a great blend of intensity and electronica, the verses quite and choruses explosive. The original had an off-kilter, funky composure to it, while Palisades brought a groovier rendition on this cover album. It sounds very modern - if The Black Parade was released in 2016, this is definitely what 'House Of Wolves' would've sounded like. The massive chants of "S-I-N-I-S-I-N" bring a huge conclusion to the song. It's one of the most original covers on the record, without a doubt. (94 / 100)
8) Twenty One Pilots - Cancer: There wasn't a better band to cover this song. No one else but Josh Dun could capture the somber and accepting tone that Gerard Way sang the song in better. The song's a melancholy build of piano and a light drum electronic beat, while Dun's vocals dance a tragic dance in a symphony of vocoders and reverberating words through a cavernous atmosphere. Some would argue that the cover abandons the original's premise and mood with the electronic elements, but its subtlety makes it just as powerful in a different light. It captures all of the beautiful of the original while still remaining catchy, especially in the amazing part after the chorus where samples of Dun singing "I will not kiss you, lips are chapped and faded, call my..." as they echo and float away. The ending reprises it, and the final piano chord resonates and fades away, as if its acceptance and resignation of the narrator. It's truly beautiful. (97 / 100)
9) Ghost Town - Mama: 'Mama' was always a weird song. Ghost Town made their cover of the song weird, but a bit too weird. It's a cool cover, but it tries too hard to create the mood of the original by adding a bunch of different elements. The creepy keyboard part in the verses is cool, albeit overused. It's encouraged for a band to not stick too close to the original, yet Ghost Town sounds like they had to deliberately try to make something like they did. It explodes just like the original does at the end and has the same vibe, for what its worth. It's a good cover, just... a bit too much. (75 / 100)
10) New Years Day - Sleep: Female vocals! It's great to hear someone of the opposite sex tackling the classics on the album, especially when she brings a badass rendition of 'Sleep'. New Years Day's Ashley Costello sings and screams powerful atop soaring and heavy choruses, truly bringing out the best of alternative metal, resulting in a massive, melodic, and epic cover. The guitar solo combined with her screams are just excellent as they kick into one last explosion to end the track. An awesome cover, no doubt. (96 / 100)
11) Against The Current - Teenagers: Against The Current brings in more female vocals into the mix, their groovy and fun alternative rock vibes to record. Their debut album In Our Bones proved that they have the anthemic pop rock vibe nailed (read our review of it here). The intro starts dramatically before Chrissy Costanza's vocals kick in in time with the bass synth. The choruses are just as anthemic as the original's, big drums and sweet guitars not powering the song but acting as support for Costanza's warm vocals. The guitar solo is nailed, leading into a powerful final chorus complete with big gang vocals to emulate the rebellious composure of the song and a bright guitar lead. No one could've fit better into this song than her. (94 / 100)
12) Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! - Sleep: This cover of 'Sleep' just sounds like an overproduced version of the original. There's really nothing special about it that MCR's version doesn't do better. Just a standard cover. It's good, but doesn't provide anything new. (74 / 100)
13) Asking Alexandria - Famous Last Words: It would just so happen that my two favorite songs on the original album happen to be the worst on this cover album. Perhaps it just goes to show how My Chemical Romance absolutely nailed what they were working to accomplish. If you read our review of Asking Alexandria's album The Black, you'd know that I was already unimpressed in them. If you haven't read it yet - click here to check it out. They completely tossed out the energy of the original song, making it feel like you're listening to a weak rendition by a cover band. Where's the punch of the final chorus? Why is it shortened? Why is the instrumental so undynamic? It's overproduced, uninspired, and just plain weak as a cover to end the album. It's a sad listen. (38 / 100)
Rock Sound's compilation is hit or miss, really, though the sentiment is sweet. My Chemical Romance truly created something amazing, and to see all these different bands come together to say thank you to the music and bring this dedication to them. It's humbling, even as a fan, to see these artists perform these songs that are close to so many people's hearts. You can't recreate what The Black Parade made, but you can always pay respect to it.
Favorite Tracks: Cancer, Sleep, Teenagers, House Of Wolves
Least Favorite Tracks: Welcome To The Black Parade, Famous Last Words
Rating: 73 / 100
2016 is off to an extremely strong start. Here’s just a list of all of the new albums I’ve listened to from January to March and links to reviews, if applicable.
Doing it a bit different this time, doing it by rating, from greatest to worst. Alphabetical just seemed trivial.
5-Star Albums (8.5 - 10)
- AURORA - All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend: 10
- Panic! At The Disco - Death Of A Bachelor: 9.5
- Deftones - Gore: 9.5
- Dream Theater - The Astonishing: 9
- Foxes - All I Need: 9
- Daughter - Not To Disappear: 9
- Lacey Sturm - Life Screams: 8.5
- HÆLOS - Full Circle: 8.5
- Weezer - Weezer (White Album): 8.5
- LIGHTS - Midnight Machines: 8.5
- The Last Shadow Puppets - Everything You've Come To Expect: 8.5
4-Star Albums (6.5 - 8)
- David Bowie - ★: 8
- BANNERS - BANNERS: 8
- Savages - Adore Life: 8
- Kanye West - The Life Of Pablo: 8
- Jack Garratt - Phase: 8
- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - This Unruly Mess I've Made: 8
- Sia - This Is Acting: 7.5
- Grizfolk - Waking Up The Giants: 7.5
- The Drones - Feelin Kinda Free: 7.5
- Yeasayer - Amen & Goodbye: 7.5
- Kendrick Lamar - untitled unmastered.: 7.5
- Textures - Phenotype: 7.5
- Rihanna - ANTI: 7
- Megadeth - Dystopia: 7
- Hands Like Houses - Dissonants: 7
- Miike Snow - iii: 7
- BABYMETAL - Metal Resistance: 7
- The Jezabels - Synthia: 7
- Amy Lee - Recover, Vol. 1: 7
- Steven Wilson - 4 ½: 6.5
- Chairlift - Moth: 6.5
- Porches - Pool: 6.5
- Polyphia - Renaissance: 6.5
3-Star Albums (4.5 - 6)
- ZAYN - Mind Of Mine: 6
- Mogwai - Atomic: 6
- Låpsley - Long Way Home: 6
- Baauer - Aa: 5.5
- Asking Alexandria - The Black: 5.5
- The 1975 - I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It: 5
- Explosions In The Sky - The Wilderness: 5
- School Of Seven Bells - SVIIB: 5
- Krallice - Hyperion: 4.5
- Future - EVOL: 4.5
- Anderson .Paak - Malibu: 4.5
- Wiz Khalifa - Khalifa: 4.5
2-Star Albums (2.5 - 4)
- Killswitch Engage - Incarnate: 4
- Cozz - Nothin Personal: 3.5
1-Star Albums (0 - 2)
- None! :D
Top Albums Of 2016 (so far)
- AURORA - All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend
- Panic! At The Disco - Death Of A Bachelor
- Deftones - Gore
- Dream Theater - The Astonishing
- Foxes - All I Need
- Daughter - Not To Disappear
- Lacey Sturm - Life Screams
- HÆLOS - Full Circle
- Weezer - Weezer (White Album)
- LIGHTS - Midnight Machines
Top Songs Of 2016 (so far)
- AURORA - 'Murder Song (5, 4, 3, 2, 1) (Acoustic)'
- Panic! At The Disco - 'Emperor's New Clothes'
- Deftones - 'Hearts/Wires'
- Foxes - 'Better Love'
- Lacey Sturm - 'Rot'
- AURORA - 'Through The Eyes Of A Child'
- Deftones - 'Phantom Bride'
- Dream Theater - 'Moment Of Betrayal'
- Daughter - 'New Ways'
- Jack Garratt - 'My House Is Your Home'
Metalcore, and increasingly so, post-hardcore, has adopted the sound of a very distinct fanbase. As is the case with Asking Alexandria, soaring clean vocals above heavy, djent-core guitars following heavy, near-death metal growls define a good portion of their music. The Black follows that suit, but with more grace and a lot more color (despite the record’s title). Unfortunately, with several songs following suit of that very description, this record won’t be taking off with flying colors.
Asking Alexandria tried especially hard to be as edgy and relatable to their fanbase as possible, which, in retrospect, is a good idea. However, if you don’t identify with that, this’ll be harder to grasp. On top of that, a lot of the tracks are almost blatant rip-offs of other bands who make that sound work for them. ‘Undivided’ has the edginess that feels like it was stolen straight from an Enter Shikari song, despite it’s admittedly catchy chorus. The title track, ‘The Black’ is basically a Bring Me The Horizon song, and in its defense, is a pretty good track. The vocals a very much Oliver Sykes during the choruses, and the dark piano and atmospheric background really elevates it. The bridge and ending of the track are fantastic, providing a short reprieve for the intensity of the song. What drags it down is the disgusting screaming on it. This song and opener ‘Let It Sleep’ have that issue - the growls comes straight out of the realm of grindcore. ‘Let It Sleep’ would probably do well as a Cattle Decapitation song. The BMTH comparisons take a cliché turn on ‘I Won’t Give In’ with the gang vocals in the background, which is funny considering that band borrowed from Thirty Seconds To Mars there. If Fall Out Boy had more guitars, the product would be ‘Send Me Home’, but this song is probably one of the best on the record, as it actually feels meaningful and uses that to elevate the song. There is some struggle with grasping meaning on this record, like ‘Sometimes It Ends’, which has just been baffling me with every listen. Is there a meaning to it? Musicianship? An inner struggle? The interludes seem to contradict the deeper message the song may have. ‘Just A Slave To Rock n’ Roll’ is probably the track that makes the least sense. The title literally offers nothing to the song, and it’s more of a bastardization of rock n’ roll, if anything. The intro to the closure track, ‘Circles By The Wolves’, feels wholly unnecessary, not that without it it would be any better, since those screams are back to close out the record.
This album needed more moments like the song ‘Gone’, or at least the desperation and disposition of it. The song is the most stripped back one on the album, featuring only the harmonies of guitarist Ben Bruce over a sweet symphony and piano. He feels very knowing in his delivery, making the song feel actually meaningful as opposed to a lot of the other tracks. A similar moment is found during the bridge of ‘The Black’, where there’s a break from relentless guitars and instead features a tense and clean atmosphere.
Asking Alexandria’s fourth album leaves a lot to be desired. The good moments are few and far in between, while the rest of it is filled by edgy screaming and whining. Maybe there’s something I’m missing, behind all the guttural screaming, but at that point, I just don’t think I care. The band clearly isn’t incapable of fantastic material, like ‘Send Me Home’ and ‘Gone’, there just isn’t enough power in a lot of the tracks. Their next record needs more substance to surpass this one, which truly won’t have to be too great of a feat.
Favorite Tracks: Gone, Send Me Home
Least Favorite Tracks: Just A Slave To Rock n’ Roll, Sometimes It Ends