Review Rundown: Stealing Heather, the Scorpions, Son of Aurelius, I Am Abomination, Dan Black

This edition of the Review Rundown takes looks at new releases from Stealing Heather, the Scorpions (yes, the Scorps!), Son of Aurelius, I Am Abomination and Dan Black.

File Under: 90’s Pop Rock in 2010
Stealing Heather – “Your Mistake” (Audiolot): The songwriting is good here on “Your Mistake,” the latest from Los Angeles’ Stealing Heather, and while some of the songs could easily be classified as generic, they are above reproach for the most part. The textbook pop rock song structures pull the album out of the muck more than once, and song after song they prove “Your Mistake” is mainly driven by two things – solid guitar driven hooks and the vocal presence of frontman Joshua Aaron. Aaron’s ability to pick a song up and aptly carry it on his shoulders is admirable, and his ability to pour forth emotion gives this record an endearing quality. His vocal offerings bring to mind that of Derek Nicoletto (Telling on Trixie, Derek & the Darling) for those in the know, and if you don’t, look Nicoletto up sometime. ‘Breathe Out,’ ‘Motive’ and ‘Conspiracy’ are just a small sampling of the highlights on “Your Mistake,” and honestly, the first half of the record is where it makes its money, and unfortunately by comparison, the second lacks a bit. The songs down the stretch are by no means bad songs; they just wear on the listener. Stealing Heather sound rock solid whether they are engulfed in full on mid-90’s pop rock euphoria ala Third Eye Blind or Tonic (‘Evaporate,’ ‘My Arms’) or leaving a little piece of themselves on wax via a ballad laden with a rock radio sheen (‘Memory,’ ‘We Belong’). The bountiful use of synth at times is a bit suspect, though the band does a nice job of not completely overdoing it, not allowing the album’s mood to be ruined by the ambient noise. “Your Mistake” will surprise you; all you have to do is give it the chance. (
Grade: B-
Go Download: ‘Conspiracy’

File Under: The Scorpions
The Scorpions – “Sting in the Tail” (Universal Music): For all hard rock bands from the 1980’s thinking about releasing a new record for a chance at a career revival, pick yourself up a copy of the Scorpions “Sting in the Tail,” and listen closely. This is how you should go about your business. If the Scorpions had released “Sting in the Tail,” say, 20 years ago, it would be one of the biggest records around. Hell, if the band released this album in 2010 it would still be a good record. Oh wait, they did release it in 2010. So yeah, “Sting in the Tail” is a good record. The Scorpions have been completely shelled by critics in recent years past due to their inclusion of far too many ballads and not enough hard rocking, but “Sting in the Tail” should be enough to stuff a sock in the mouths of those critics. With songs like ‘Raised on Rock,’ ‘Sting in the Tail’ and ‘Slave Me’ leading the way on ‘Sting in the Tail,’ the Scorpions are out to prove they still have the chops to hang with the big boys, a truth that doesn’t even need a full song to prove. For those in the market for the Scorps doing what they have done the best for the past 45 years (we know you’re out there) - pen uber-emotional ballads like no other – you won’t be able to pull the lighter from your pocket fast enough when songs like ‘the Good Die Young,’ ‘Sly’ and ‘the Best Is Yet to Come’ hit your speakers. It’s clear that even though they want to call it a day, the Scorps probably have a lot of years left talent-wise, evidenced by ‘Sting in the Tail,’ one of the best rock records to come down the pipes yet this year. With “Sting in the Tail” the bands last entry into the hard rock world before riding off into the sunset, the band surely knows how to go out on a high note. With how very good “Sting in the Tail” is, it might be hard for us all to say goodbye, but as the old saying goes, all good thing must come to an end. Thank you Scorpions for the wild ride these past 4+ decades, good luck, and farewell. (
Grade: A
Go Download: ‘Sting in the Tail’

File Under: New Kids on the Tech-Death Metal Block
Son of Aurelius – “The Furthest Reaches” (Good Fight): Santa Cruz’s Son of Aurelius have barely had a cup of coffee together, having been a band for barely 365 days, yet they find themselves in league with Good Fight Music, the new project from former Ferret founder Carl Severson and industry wise man Paul Conroy, armed with one of the labels debut releases (along with the Cancer Bats) in “the Furthest Reaches.” Those accomplishments speak volumes to bands work ethic as well as their sheer talent, both of which Good Fight is comfortable hitching their wagon to, a heady decision which should pay off for them both sooner and later. If you’re going to hang your hat on a release, it might as well be a good one, which Son of Aurelius supply in spades with their latest, “the Furthest Reaches.” From start to finish this disc is exhilarating and exciting through its use of fresh faced, layered tech-death theatrics, helmed by vocalist Josh Miller. His ability to transition between nightmarish bellows and visceral bile spewing is effortless, and when coupled with the bands fearless employment of melodic, soaring and epic guitars it’s near impossible to not get amped up over the bands sonic aesthetic. Oh, and the song writing on “the Furthest Reaches” is some of the best the genre has seen in recent memory. With ”the Furthest Reaches,” SOA sound like a band well beyond their years, well, year, and while it could be a bit premature to say, these guys seem primed to begin their ascension to the throne of heavy music right now. “The Furthest Reaches” is an album that most assuredly puts them in the middle of the conversation. (
Grade: A
Go Download: ‘A Good Death’

File Under: Wonky Pop
Dan Black – “((Un))” (Polydor/The:Hours): A promising and hopeful debut from the sundry UK pop merchant, “((Un))” is a record that succeeds in weaving together rich layers of lenient pop with an air of distant quirkiness, though the album spends most of its time alternating decadent dance/funk ditties (‘Symphonies,’ ‘U+Me’) with uninspired platitudes (‘Life Slash Dreams,’ ‘Let Go’). While it’s more the former, the latter moments of “((Un))” spend more time dragging the record through the mud than helping in the end. “((Un))” is unabashed in its quest to have fun (‘Yours,’ ‘Pump My Pumps’), a characteristic that saves the outing from falling into the insipid abyss. Make sure you hit off the bonus tracks in order to hear Kid Cudi lend his vocal charm to ‘Symphonies.’ (
Grade: B
Go Download: ‘Symphonies’

File Under: Technical Post Hardcore
I Am Abomination – “To Our Forefathers” (Good Fight): The sound on “To Our Forefathers” is steeped in crisp progression, an undeniable quality of the record overall, though sometimes the progressive element wanders too far, leading some songs to sound too similar and bleed together. That may have something to do with the record being a bit overproduced, but the band brought in Joey Sturgis (the Devil Wears Prada) in order to help mask those types of deficiencies, a feat he accomplishes throughout “To Our Forefathers.” The albums layered, progressive indulgence is close to the level of a band like Protest the Hero, and while that statement could come off as a tad lofty, listen up before you judge too quickly. At times this record is a sheer wall of sound, one both immense and refreshing at the same time. There are admirable tech moments, fueled by the slick, razor sharp guitar/drum tandem of Zach Felps and Paul Smith, a tag team whose talents will constantly wow you. Toss in the rich and textured vocal work of Phil Druyor and “To Our Forefathers” ends up sounding more like the Bled and Alexisonfire than I See Stars and Attack Attack. Pick up a copy of this disc and start doing your homework on I Am Abomination before all of your friends do the same. (
Grade: B-
Go Download: ‘Since 1776’