Review Rundown: Alesana, New Regime, Phantom Communique, Day of Fire, April Smith & the Great Picture Show

This Review Rundown takes looks at new releases from bands the likes of Alesana, the New Regime, Phantom Communique, Day of Fire and April Smith and the Great Picture Show.

File Under: Screamo/Post-Hardcore
Alesana – “The Emptiness” (Fearless): If you do not think Alesana has made strides forward with their latest release “the Emptiness,” you’re not listening close enough. Because if you were paying close enough attention, then you would realize there is a definite air of maturity here, although it’s not immediately evident. Some of that surely has to do with the recent departure of vocalist/guitarist Adam Ferguson, since replaced with Jake Campbell. Vocalist Shawn Milke grabs hold of the mic full time on “the Emptiness” and the songs are better for it. Although “the Emptiness” is robust in stature, the band has spent more time crafting their hooks, and the infusion of more melody from song to song only strengthens the bands work overall. The album is loosely based on the idea of time travel and is said to take place at the onset of the 20th century, but the overall concept doesn’t muddy the albums improved songwriting. The help of Fear Before’s Adam Fisher and regular contributor Melissa Milke doesn’t hurt either, yet adds another ominous wrinkle to things. Alesana was smart to release actual singles as well this time around in ‘To Be Scared by an Owl’ and ‘the Thespian,’ because what could be smarter than using two of the albums better songs to sell itself. In the end ‘the Emptiness’ is a concise 11 tracks of forward thinking screamo that offers up just as many moments of clarity as fits of rage, a record that will surely have you singing along as often as running for the pit. (
Grade: B
Go Download: ‘Annabel’

File Under: Intelligent Rock
The New Regime – “Coup:” All things considered, the New Regime should sound something similar to Lostprophets and Nine Inch Nails. By all means it would have to given the fact that the bands founding member, Ilan Rubin, currently plays drums for the latter and used to man the kit for the former. But now he is the sole proprietor for the New Regime, and showcases his multi-instrument abilities on their debut album “Coup.” Rubin handled everything on the record, from all instrument and vocals down to the production. With “Coup” what you get is a masterful display of Rubin’s jack-of-all-trades dexterity, leading to an overall textured record that straddles the thin line between Queen (‘Time Erase’) and Muse (‘The Credit “We” Deserve’) influence. It’s mostly a dark and intellectual affair, but Rubin does not forget to pay homage to those who currently sign his paychecks (N.I.N.) on songs like ‘Haunt My Mind’ and those that made him a star (Lostprophets) on ‘Tap Dancing in a Mindfield.’ “Coup” is full of big building waves of sound and ever-sweeping crescendos that never fail to entice and entertain the listener. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a track you won’t like. (
Grade: A
Go Download: ‘All These Changes’

File Under: Very Talented Agg-Rock
Phantom Communiqué – “Phantom Communiqué” EP (American Voodoo): Sometimes it’s easy to judge a book by its cover, but in the case of Phantom Communiqué, it’s a bit tough. Their eponymous debut EP is a blank canvas so to speak, emblazoned with the bands name and logo set a top a black background, so it’s easy to not know what to think. From the get go, the band comes off as somewhat of a combination of Avenged Sevenfold, Aiden and the Confession, although it’s hard to exclude Bleed the Dream (frontman Brendan Thomas’ former band) from that afore mentioned list due to Thomas’ vocal efforts. The EP is a hard hitting showcase of what the band can do at a brief clip, and it’s easy to imagine the blissful damage PC could do with say, a double digit palette of songs, and not just four. But with just four songs to go on, PC holds nothing in reserve. This EP is succinctly and tightly packed, full of songs easily described as damn good, driven by slick, underlying drum work, massive guitars and soaring choruses that will have you singing along in no time. There is an air of honesty, a presence of grit and a certain realness scattered throughout the EP, and it’s hard to ignore the driving, progressive elements the band brings to the table. Even though it’s only four tracks long, there is not one moment on this debut lacking in emotion, every little piece of this EP is excellent. So, to sum it up, a long story short, in conclusion, or however you want to put it, Phantom Communique and their debut EP are very, very good. Do yourself a favor and get on the bandwagon now – there might not be room for very long. Expect big things. (
Grade: A
Go Download: ‘Crosshairs’

File Under: Gritty Nu-Rock
Day of Fire – “Losing All” (Razor & Tie): Certain bands exist today that gives the whole hard/nu-rock genre a bad name – bands that only exist single to single and would more than likely shrivel up and wither away without radio play. Yes, Buckcherry, Nickelback, Saving Abel – we’re looking in your direction. Thankfully a band comes around every now and again looking for more out of their music, and Day of Fire is one of those bands. These guys are attempting to make the maligned genre something more than a shallow pit with their latest record, “Losing All,” and they’re succeeding. Aside from the records opening track, ‘Light Em’ Up,’ an awkward street infused, gritty rock affair, which doesn’t fit with the rest of the disc, “Losing All” is teeming with raw aggression, songs overflowing with honest songwriting and noticeable passion. Most of the record is Burn Halo-esque nu-rock goodness that would work just as well played in a smoky bar as it would under the bright lights of an arena stage (‘When I See You,’ ‘Airplane,’ ‘Hey You’), but there are some more traditional rock ballads scattered around (‘Hello Heartache,’ ‘Long Highway’). Album closer ‘the Dark Hills’ contains the records best songwriting from frontman Josh Brown, who interestingly used to handle those same duties for Full Devil Jacket (a gold star if you were a fan of that band). Although you have to wade through 12 other tracks to get to the best tune, go ahead and enjoy the ride. (
Grade: B
Go Download: ‘The Dark Hills’

File Under: A Good Ol’ Ragtime Band w/Striking Vocals
April Smith & the Great Picture Show – “Songs for a Sinking Ship” (Little Roscoe): Throughout “Songs for a Sinking Ship,” there is a certain air of cool, a measure of confident swagger, which lingers about like freshly sprayed Febreeze; you can feel it surrounding you. You know it’s there, and you can’t help but pay attention to it. The bands approach on this record is simple and minimal, but effective. And that’s just it, these songs aren’t overtly flashy, but they manage to come across grandiose at times due to the bands efficient use of various instruments, including trumpets, cellos and accordions, but April Smith’s voice is the true centerpiece, and this record is not shy about that fact. Smith has the ability to soulfully croon one moment (‘Drop Dead Gorgeous,’ ‘Dixie Boy’), then emote in a devastatingly heartbreaking fashion (‘What I’ll Do,’ ‘Beloved’), all while not forgetting how to swing and bounce between all things ragtime and vaudeville (‘Colors,’ ‘Wow & Flutter’). ‘Songs for a Sinking Ship’ is a stunning example that you don’t have to sound like everyone else to be successful, you just have be yourself. If you have yet to hear April Smith and the Great Picture Show, you will. And if you’ve yet to hear songs from ‘Songs for a Sinking Ship,’ you should. It’s just as easy as that. (
Grade: A
Go Download: ‘Beloved’