Review Rundown: Seasons After, Signs of Betrayal, God of War, the Hush Now, Four Year Strong

File Under: Precise Modern Nu-Metal
Seasons After – “Through Tomorrow” (Dirtbag Records): You don’t have to spend much time with Seasons After’s latest offering, “Through Tomorrow,” to realize just why these Kansas boys have a laundry list of accomplishments, including being selected to play both the Rockstar Mayhem and Taste of Chaos festivals, as well as appearances in Revolver and Metal Edge magazines. The bands firm grasp of turn of the century nu-metal pays homage to some of the oft-maligned scenes heaviest hitters (40 Below Summer, From Zero, Flaw) and when coupled with their obvious aptitude for infusing more of today’s aggressive rock (Sevendust, Five Finger Death Punch) into their songs, “Through Tomorrow” ends up refreshing in sound. There’s a driving, never-say-die element to these songs; songs filled with crunchy guitars, angular riffs, soaring melodies and radio ready hooks led onto the battlefield by ambidextrous frontman Chris Schlichting, whose bark is as vicious as his bite. His ability to seamlessly transition between booming screams and commercially viable clean singing offers as many intense instances as moments of clarity on “Through Tomorrow.” The band’s cover of George McMann’s and Michael Mainieri’s ‘Cry Little Sister’ adds an air of intrigue to the back end of the record while putting to shame other modern attempts at the song (Ventana, Aiden). Covers aside, there’s no shortage of songs on “Through Tomorrow” that are unworthy of your wear immediately. This album sounds like Seasons After are primed for the big time – lets all sit back and enjoy shall we? (
Grade: A
Go Download: ’11:11’

File Under: Melodic Hard Rock/Metal
Signs of Betrayal – “Symbols:” “Symbols” is a lesson in effective time management, a clinic in precise brevity if you will. Signs of Betrayal efficiently utilize these seven tracks, showcasing every facet of their abilities while leaving nothing in reserve, a literal emptying of the arsenal of the Phoenix, Arizona products, as they deftly tow the line between polarizing, melodic hard rock with a hint of natural progression (‘Divide,’ ‘Soul Surrendered,’ ‘Quid Pro Quo’) and sludgy ballads laced with Godhead-esque atmospherics (‘The Audience’). It’s no question that “Symbols” is built around towering, monstrous hooks, and there’s also no denying the bands unique enigmatic sound is a product of the sheer vocal bravado of frontman Dave Williams. It’s a wonder why Signs of Betrayal have not yet been scooped up by a major label after two solid releases and countless shows, but still, the fact is they remain rock music’s best kept secret, and “Symbols” is nothing short of stunning proof. (
Grade: A
Go Download: ‘Soul Surrendered’

File Under: An Epic Soundtrack for an Epic Game
Various Artists – “God of War: Blood and Metal” (Roadrunner): The God of War video game series is one that kicks ass first and takes names later, so why should its accompanying music be any different? “God of War: Blood and Metal” makes for a great complement to the much anticipated game, and considering that half of these songs are from big-time players like Killswitch Engage, Trivium and Dream Theatre, you could say that this six song collection is much anticipated as well. KSE kicks things off in a rousing fashion with their latest opus, ‘My Obsession,’ a song that’s as much a nod to the Jesse Leach days as it is a look to the future. This is one of the bands songs that makes it hard to imagine anyone else but Howard Jones fronting this band, yet that’s exactly where the band finds themselves nowadays in light of Jones’ recent developments, but let’s move on. With ‘Shattering the Skies Above,’ Trivium do they what they do best – inject a considerable amount of windmilling, soaring guitars with an epic flair – before Dream theatre get in the drivers seat with the built-for-video-game score ‘Raw Dog.’ Honestly, who better than these guys to anchor an epic gaming score and after listening you might want these prog-rock legends to solely become a video game band. With the exception of the somewhat out of place Opeth track ‘Throat of Winter,’ each and every song from “God of War: Blood and Metal” just gets better. Taking Dawn (‘This is Madness’) and Mutiny within (‘the End’) utilize their takes on modern thrash to round things out fittingly, and if you’re yet to spend time with these acts, you’re depriving yourself. A good place to start is with these two songs. If this EP for God of War III is this good, there is no telling just how good the actual game will be. (
Grade: A
Go Download: Taking Dawn – ‘This is Madness’

File Under: Dreamy Indie Pop Shoegaze
The Hush Now – “Constellations:” Sometimes life’s best surprises are born out of tragedy, and such is the case of Boston’s the Hush Now, who were formed shortly after vocalist Noah Kelly crashed his car into a church. It was that near fatal incident that caused Kelly to look to pen and paper as a form of therapy. Well, that was then and this is now. Fast forward two years to “Constellations,” the bands second record in as many years, and as much as it is an attempt to look to the future, it is squarely rooted in the bands past. “Constellations” is mostly a record entrenched in wistful shoegaze, although there are measures of Brit inspired dream pop and elements of 60’s fuzz embedded in along the way. Kelly’s vocals find themselves on either side of the proverbial tracks here, alternating between nasally bedside lullabies (‘Carousel’) and rougher edged, garage pop inspired echoes (‘Hoping & Waiting’) but he almost never fails to quietly, and most subtly, produce entrancing hooks and endearing melodies. While some of “Constellations” is effective in its execution, some of the record falls short, and ultimately fails to captivate completely. Some of the material is too middle-of-the-road and at points you will find yourself slogging through valleys before reaching the peaks. It’s a good, not great, record, so it’s pretty much worth the trip. (
Grade: C
Go Download: ‘Smokescreens’

File Under: Perfectly Executed Pop Punk
Four Year Strong – “Enemy of the World” (Decaydance): “Enemy of the World” is unrelenting, a sonic wave that continuously crashes over the listener, one that is unwavering in nature and rife with overwhelming passion. So, suffice to say, strap in when hit the play button because it is going to be a wild ride. This disc offers plenty of opportunities for audience participation, moments perfect for feverous hand-clapping and multiple sing-a-longs, but honestly, could it really be a proper Four Year Strong release if you couldn’t get in on the action? The boys play up their happy hardcore billing very well this time around, through a well-timed duel vocal blitz, churning guitars that don’t seem to have an off switch and drums that are not afraid to drop the bottom out, leading to powerful breakdowns and one dazzling anthemic overture after another. “Enemy of the World” is very easily the bands strongest record to date and that is really saying something seeing as how they recently streeted a 90’s covers disc. Hey Scott Heisel, does it still suck to be Four Year Strong right now? In short: It must really suck to be Set Your Goals right now. (
Grade: A
Go Download: Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride