Tech N9ne - The Storm

Tech N9ne may be a sort of meme in the hip-hop industry, but his new record The Storm may help him achieve more of a serious position as an artist, because, for the most part, it's a pretty solid record.

The Storm is a bumpy ride, but it has its promising moments. The record's start is fairly strong, 'Godspeed' opening up with some good ideas. The first verse is pretty funny, which doesn't really help solidify his position, but that's only a small fault. Much of the rest of the track actually goes pretty hard, filled with some drive and confidence. 'Need Jesus' featuring Stevie Stone and JL follows through, this one really bringing the best of Tech N9ne out. The flow has a Jamaican vibe to it, adding some color and taste to the track. The hook is dark both melodically and sonically. The song is overall just darker, and it pays off as Tech N9ne has a rock and metal past.

That past is referenced towards the end of the record in 'The Needle.' It's one of the two tracks that help bring the album back up from a low. There are plenty of name drops in this track, from Jimmy Kimmel to Slipknot and Deftones. This track is thankful, discussing the memorable moments of N9ne's career. It has a solid flow, too, really standing out from the rest of the record. The final track 'The Long Way' flows with some average pop hip-hop melodies, but the instrumental helps bring it all together, ringing sweetly and dramatically under the verses an chorus.

A lot of the record is unfortunately quite forgettable. There's not really a truly awful song on the record, but there's not much that stands out. Sandwiched between very solid tracks are many run-of-the-mill tracks that don't make any memorable mark while listening through it. There are tracks with promise, too, that don't quite live up to what they could. The most pristine example is 'Starting To Turn' featuring Jonathan Davis; Davis brings all the Korn vibes into play, creepy instrumental included. Tech N9ne sounds like he's back in his element to, being carried by the heavier instrumental. The song proceeds nicely, but after the first chorus, everything falls apart before coming to a very disappointing end. The brassy instrumental of 'I Get It Now' also feels like it could've been a lot more. There's nothing other than the brass elements making the song standout, which is really disappointing. There are songs that just feel uninspired, too. All that needs to be said for that is the lyric "I'm like the L in salmon / They can't hear me." It speaks for itself.

Tech N9ne has had a long career. It doesn't sound like he's quite ready to call it quits yet, though. The Storm has a lot going for it, and while it may be largely disappointing, there are promising moments. There's something. You can give it that much.

Favorite Tracks: The Needle, Need Jesus

Least Favorite Track: No Runnin To Ya Mama, Starting To Turn

Rating: 54 / 100

Korn - The Serenity Of Suffering

I'm sure the last thing you expected to see in 2016 was a nu metal revival. After the advent of Of Mice & Men's abysmal Cold World (read our review here), you'd figure that bands would've taken the memo that it wasn't going to work out. Korn may have proved that wrong, though.

Their twelfth record The Serenity Of Suffering is a return to their nu metal roots, the album cover even containing elements of their fourth record IssuesThe Serenity Of Suffering takes everything the band once was and combines those elements with what they are now, creating a familiar yet intense body that's new yet reminiscent of another time.

The trademarks of nu metal were the anger and riffs, and that's very much present on this record. Right from the start, you're faced with 'Insane,' destructively deep riffs with various levels of distortion hitting you hard along with Korn's signature creepiness and terrified vocals from Jonathan Davis. Davis' voice is as strong as ever, his ethereal, ominous timbre elevating songs like 'Everything Falls Apart' to unheard of levels of paranoia that other bands couldn't even hope of reaching. The verses are calm, but the choruses are frantic and panicked, begging the means of an end. The bridge is even more haunting, his spoken word sounding like chants as if become increasingly angered and possessed.

The band channels some other forms of nu metal here, too. Corey Taylor features on 'A Different World,' bringing the times back to early Slipknot. The tradeoffs between him and Davis are powerful and both vocals show off their prowess. Taylor's voice falls in the line between anger and calmness - both equally terrifying - as his poetic sense of melody and rage become one. His shouts above Davis' melodic singing in the final chorus give the song a big punch.

The crown jewel of this album is 'Rotting In Vain.' The electronic intro builds creepily but won't prepare you for what's to come. We reviewed the song upon its release, but in the context of Suffering, it becomes a whole new beast. The electronics show the progression from The Path Of Totality's dubstep influences, replacing what could've been another spidery guitar line. The balance is perfect, heavy metal and electronica coming together in a fantastic way. Nothing can prepare you for how massive the riffs are. This song would be huge if it was released back in the early 2000s or late 1990s, because this is truly a nu metal epic.

Unfortunately, not is all good with the record. As is the problem with nu metal, the album becomes repetitive. There's only so much you can do with the formula of big riff into slowly intensifying verses and confident chorus. The riffs all sound the same in the second half, too. 'Next In Line' is a lesser version of the song that precedes it ('When You're Not There'). Nu metal needs innovation to become a different monster altogether - thus is the success of Linkin Park. The end of the record is exactly the reason nu metal died out - it became repetitive and there were not enough ways to combat it.

Despite it being repetitive, Korn has given the genre a solid footing for a revival. The new decade has offered a lot of potential for the genre. It's offspring post-hardcore may overshadow it in many ways, but nothing really dies forever. Take the power of The Serenity Of Suffering and put it into one or two songs, then find a way to build upon that for different songs and nu metal is back in action. Let's see if the flag can continue flying.

Favorite Tracks: Rotting In Vain, Everything Falls Apart

Least Favorite Tracks: Next In Line, Please Come For Me

Rating: 68 / 100

Of Mice & Men - Cold World

If something in 2016 earns the privilege of being tagged as "nu metal", you know it's going to be a disaster. Of Mice & Men have done it. 2013's Restoring Force was a powerful and emotional record, full of anger and loss. You could feel its big moments bombarding you and you'd remember them vividly.

Their fourth album Cold World is not Restoring Force. It doesn't even sound like Of Mice & Men. It's a bunch of songs that bring to question where the line is drawn between "influenced by" and "copied from". It started with the lead single 'Pain' (see our review of it here), which basically ripped off the old sounds of Slipknot, probably so that they could appease the crowds of their opening slot with them. It only gets worse.

I've never heard an album where every song sounds like a carbon copy of a different artist. I'm really not sure what they were doing here. The album starts off with 'Game Of War', which is literally just a worse version of Puscifer's 'Grand Canyon'. It's an awful intro, too - it's four minutes long and incredibly underwhelming. 'Real' features Austin Carlile singing, which is cool, if it wasn't clearly trying to be a heavier version of Minutes To Midnight-era Linkin Park. Maybe the boys spent a little too much time with them on tour in 2014... There's also the complete mess of a Limp Bizkit song with 'Relentless'. It's the most nu-metal thing to be released since nu-metal died. That is not good.

To it's credit, it's not completely horrible. Just mostly. 'Like A Ghost', the one track on the album I can actually say has some substance. Aaron Pauley's singing in the verses are a bit odd (it sounds like he's trying to imitate Marilyn Manson), but Austin Carlile screams powerfully in the background as he sings, making those powerful accentuations that made a lot of the vocals on Restoring Force so great. It's the first energy with raw energy, too, but it's a bit too late. By the time you get to this song you've already lost hope in the album. At least the interlude '+' has nice strings.

When the band isn't copying another, the tracks are just painfully average. There is absolutely nothing special in songs like 'Down The Road' and 'Away'. They're boring. They don't even have the quality of another band for fans of that particular band to enjoy. The album ends on 'Transfigured', sounding like even they gave up on this record. Where is the soul of the album? What happened?

It doesn't feel right to assign blame to any band member; after all, an album has to be a team effort. But it's hard to ignore the overwhelming presence of Aaron Pauley on the album. It feels like he took this album over. It has his sweet singing parts that featured in a few tracks on Restoring Force (most of which were really great) and gives himself a part in almost every song. It feels less like an Of Mice & Men record and more like a demo CD of a solo Pauley record. His highlights on Restoring Force were so good because they were refreshments between brutal screaming and metal tracks. Now that he's in literally every song, it's hard to enjoy his voice, which is a true shame. Of Mice & Men has Austin Carlile for a reason, and it's not to make him sing. It's to let his screams make the music stronger and more vivid. Why silence him?

Cold World feels like a step in the wrong direction. It's hard to even call it an Of Mice & Men record - it sounds like Aaron Pauley featuring a backing band and a guest screamer sometimes. It's a sad and boring record. It's nu-metal moments don't help, either. Of Mice & Men had finally found their signature sound, and after building on it for a single album, they dropped it almost completely. The only response I have to this record is a question: why?

Favorite Track: Like A Ghost

Least Favorite Tracks: Relentless, Down The Road, Transfigured, Away

Rating: 52 / 100

Top 10 Albums Of 2014

Dylan’s Top 10 Albums of 2014

Seems hard to believe such a life changing year is ending, for me, anyway. Friends were made, lives were changed, dreams fulfilled. Who could care less, though? This is about music, not dreams. Well, in reality, the two go hand in hand. Music is made of dreams. 2014 was a great year for music on all fronts. Pop saw new efforts from Katy Perry, Ariel Pink and iamamiwhoami. Rock obtained new titles including Foo Fighters’ Sonic Highways and Slipknot’s .5: The Gray Chapter. Metal saw new releases from Epica and Skyharbor. I can’t name a single genre that didn’t see an exceptional release this year.

Among the hundreds of albums released this year, these are a few that stuck out to me. Keep in mind, it is nothing more than opinion. I couldn’t possibly name EVERY album I enjoyed (I’m too lazy AND I’d probably break multiple character limits), though there were a myriad of such. Without further adieu, here’s number 10:


10) The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die - Between Bodies

It’s hard to even generalize what these guys are all about. Combining a bit of punk, indie and emo rock into their songs, they bring a very notable sound to the table. This album is all about speaking their thoughts. It’s pretty evident that they couldn’t give less of a shit about what they’re doing; they’re doing it because they can. From the haunting recollections of ‘Lioness’ to the enraged chants of ‘Autotonsolarialist,’ this album covers a lot of ground. Upon the resonating drums and pulsating guitars, the vocals feel like just another instrument in this whole. The album feels perfect for both politically angry adults and middle-fingers-to-the-establishment teens, all the while making sure they don’t seem caught up in being overly dramatic. All in all, an incredible release from an exceptional band.

Favorite Tracks: Lioness, Autotonsolarialist

9) Slipknot - .5: The Gray Chapter

Truth be told, I wasn’t a fan of Slipknot until this year. I considered ‘Snuff’ one of the greatest works of art ever produced, and ‘Vermillion Part 2’ trailing in its footsteps, yet I never enjoyed their heavier material. That was, of course, until I heard this record. I remember hearing ‘The Negative One’ upon its release and being a bit uncertain of whether or not I would enjoy this album. It wasn’t until I heard ‘The Devil In I’ that I was sold on hearing this record. Despite not being a fan of Slipknot, I’m huge on Stone Sour, so this was a very inviting sound to me. The album is introduced with the eerie ‘XIX,’ in which Corey Taylor effectively claims that he has had enough. The album has its incredibly intense moments, namely ‘Custer’ and ‘AOV,’ but nevertheless delivers some truly meaningful moments that the band has proved they are capable of, namely in the chorus of ‘The One That Kills The Least’ and ‘If Rain Is What You Want.’ The satire of ‘Killpop’ and the brutality of ‘The Negative One’ keeps the album original every step of the way, as any good album should be. From barely being a fan to head banging along with the jams, this album has proven to me to be one of the best of 2014.

Favorite Tracks: The Devil In I, XIX, The One That Kills The Least

8) IAYD - I Am Your Destruction

Nowadays, it’s risky to venture into certain genres, especially one as presumed as chiptunes. 8-bit music has always been a minority in the overall gist of things in the music community, only shining within retro games such as Castlevania and most games in the early phases of the Mega Man series. The guy has changed the bar. I Am Your Destruction, abbreviated to IAYD, released his eponymous album this year, and made sure it packed a punch. Full of thick beats and huge drops, this album is Mega Man taken to the next level, no pun intended. The album opens up strong with ‘Intro AF’ and the monster that is ‘No Closure’, continues to bring the power with tracks like ‘Too Turnt’ and ‘Get Death,’ concluding it all with the journey that is ‘Dolores.’ In a questionable genre such as chiptunes, this album has proven to be one of the reasons why it should not be ignored.

Favorite Tracks: Dolores, Kurai Heya

7) Pianos Become The Teeth - Keep You

It’s always interesting when a heavier band takes it down a notch. Pianos Become The Teeth have toned down their post-hardcore sound to take up a more approachable, alternative rock sound comparable to a fusion of Incubus and Framing Hanley. While not being too big a fan of their earlier work, I can play this album on repeat for hours upon hours. Something about it is so infectious, I can’t exactly put my finger on it. Perhaps it’s the atmospheric, understated instrumentals that intertwine throughout the album, or the flowing melodies of Kyle Durfey. Alternative Rock being my favorite genre, it’s hard for me not to enjoy an album. It is similarly as hard for me to truly love an album like I do with this one. The album opens up with ‘Ripple Water Shine,’ one of my favorite tracks of the year. ‘April’ continues the minimalistic energy whilst all the while keeping my attention, which can sometimes be proven to be a hard thing (I tend to multitask whilst listening to music). Overall, an incredible release.

Favorite Tracks: Ripple Water Shine, April, The Queen

6) Issues - Issues

The hype surrounding this album upon its release was definitely warranted. Issues took the post-hardcore world by storm, essentially creating a fusion of pop and scream in an elaborate way. The album features hits like ‘Late’ and ‘Stingray Affliction,’ which are definitely some monster tracks. The seamless mix between Oli Sykes-esque screams and Justin Timberlake-esque vocals leave you questioning what you really think about this. After all, it’s almost like Justin Bieber over metal (before you get offended in some way, just listen to ‘Late’ - there’s SOME truth to it). When your jamming to the likes of ‘Personality Cult’ and ‘Sad Ghost,’ however, those thoughts will make little influence on the overall quality. They don’t forget to mix it up, either - ‘Disappear (Remember When)’ features a choir to conclude the album on a high note. The power the band displayed in this album earned them a guest spot on Linkin Park’s Warped Tour performance earlier this year in Ventura, California during ‘Faint’ - you can’t get much better than that!

Favorite Tracks: Personality Cult, Disappear (Remember When), Late

5) You Me At Six - Cavalier Youth

Everybody loves a good anthem. Cavalier Youth is packed with these. You Me At Six is known for their relatable songs, packed with a punch and tons of emotion. This album is no exception. The idea of this album is that you should never let age stop you. Always let that childish desire burn within you and never let it die. A powerful thing to know. With songs like ‘Fresh Start Fever’ and ‘Wild Ones,’ that passion won’t be too hard to achieve. Truth be told, there’s not much left to say about this one. This album brings all the power, motivation and happiness that it does in such an unfathomable yet undeniable way, which is why it deserves the number five spot in this list.

Favorite Tracks: Fresh Start Fever, Wild Ones

4) Elk Road - Waiting For Your Waves To Pass

Understated and sophisticated, Elk Road’s Waiting For Your Waves To Pass is probably the best dubstep album to be released this year. While receiving relatively big attention amongst the Soundcloud and underground-dubstep community earlier this year, this album has only gotten some of the rightful exposure it deserves. Combining elements of jazz, blues, and funk into infectious beats and intense drops in a magical way. After shutting himself out from music for 3 months, he comes back and manufactures all of this from scratch. A truly incredible record, definitely worth a listen if you haven’t already heard it.

Favorite Tracks: Diamond, Pool On My Mind

3) Royal Blood - Royal Blood

Forget Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea, Royal Blood is THE breakout artist of the year. They took the rock world by storm with their eponymous debut earlier this year, earning them rightfully deserved attention across the globe. The duo brings an interesting treat to the table - bass guitar as lead guitar. Questionable on paper but incredible in execution. Hailing jams like ‘Little Monster’ and ‘Ten Tonne Skeleton,’ this album ROLLS. One of the hugest rock sounds I’ve heard this entire year? ‘Better Strangers.’ In today’s day and age, in an industry dominated by pop, it’s very refreshing to see such a pure and experimental rock album such as Royal Blood reach the levels of fame that it has.

Favorite Tracks: Better Strangers, Ten Tonne Skeleton

2) Foo Fighters - Sonic Highways

Foo Fighters are probably one of the biggest, if not THE biggest rock bands to have ever existed. Well, maybe not as well known as the next, but I digress. They’re huge. This record is a testament to that. Recorded in eight different cities of musical historical importance, Sonic Highways explores the interconnectivity and stories behind certain themes and places. Each song packs its own punch - everything between ‘Something From Nothing’ and ‘I Am A River’ promises to be huge, and delivers in a perfect way. Truly bringing out the best of the Foo Fighters, this album will definitely be one for the records. It’s made a powerful mark in my books, and its sure to leave a lasting memory in yours.

Favorite Tracks: Something From Nothing, In The Clear

Before I get into my favorite album of the entire year, here are some albums that I adored that were released this year but didn’t quite make the cut, in no particular order. Definitely worth checking out.


iamamiwhoami - Blue

Anberlin - Lowborn

Banks - Goddess

Memphis May Fire - Unconditional

Of Mice & Men - Restoring Force

Hanz Zimmer - Interstellar: OST

Against The Current- Infinity EP

Within Temptation - Hydra

Panopticon - Roads To The North


1) Linkin Park - The Hunting Party

Ah, Linkin Park. The biggest rock band the world knows today. Whether or not you like them is out of the question - they are undeniably the biggest band on the planet. Everyone knows them, whether it be for ‘In The End’ or ‘Numb’, or ‘Burn It Down’ or ‘One Step Closer.’ The fact is - they still exist, and they still kick ass. The Hunting Party is a testament to the current ideology that “rock is dead.” If this year has proved anything, it’s that rock is certainly not dead. Rock is bigger and stronger than ever - The Hunting PartySonic HighwaysRoyal Blood and more all prove that. From beginning to end, Linkin Park lays down relentless walls of noise that melt your face off while leaving you with a pleasant aftermath of wanting more. Opening heavily with the distorted screams of ‘Keys To The Kingdom’ to the heavy chorus of ‘All For Nothing’ featuring Page Hamilton from Helmet, this album opens up huge. Heading into the monstrous six minute ‘Guilty All The Same’ featuring hip-hop legend Rakim, the energy does not let up until the short reprieve that is ‘The Summoning,’ which immediately bursts into the punk rock, Bad Religion-influenced ‘War.’ The energy gets you jumping with the powerful verses of ‘Wastelands’ which transitions into the giant ballad that is ‘Until It’s Gone’ (which has one of the best instrumentals the band has ever performed). After that, the band jumps straight in to the heavy demon that is ‘Rebellion’ featuring Daron Malakian from System Of A Down (characeristically the only Linkin Park song in Drop C tuning) and into ‘Mark The Graves,’ which will throw curveballs at you left and right. The last moment to recover from what bombs just went off on you from the massive noises you just heard: ‘Drawbar’ featuring Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, a beautiful piano-driven track which transitions into ‘Final Masquerade,’ arguable one of the best songs the band has ever written. The album concludes with the odyssey called ‘A Line In The Sand,’ exploding with riffs and powerful screams.

This album topped off the list because it exhibits the raw, distinct need that music needs today. Too many bands have begun to abandon their rock sounds in order to cater to the more accessible crowds of the pop world. While many of these bands do manage to pull it off, rock is undeniably the most influential genre out there, and Linkin Park will continue to be at its head for years to come.

Favorite Tracks: Final Masquerade, A Line In The Sand, Guilty All The Same, Rebellion

And so, my list has come to an end. Sorry for wasting your time, and I do hope you enjoyed reading my silly opinions. What did you think of 2014 album-wise? Next on my Top 10s list will be my top 10 songs of 2014, which will be followed by my top 10 songs overall. Until next time.