Review Rundown: The Warriors, Aiden, Emmure, Dr. Acula, Blackguard (Powered by Victory Records)

This edition of the Review Rundown is brought to you by our friends over at Victory Records, as we spotlight five reviews of new releases from Victory artists the Warriors, Dr. Acula, Blackguard, Aiden and Emmure. Who would have thought that a mere 29 editions later (Review Rundown 8 was powered by Metal Blade Records); the Review Rundown would again be sponsored by one of the best labels in the business.

Purchase - See How You Are
File Under: Dynamic Scream-y Hardcore
The Warriors – See How You Are (Victory): Judging by the Warriors first three releases, all signs pointed to See How You Are, the bands fourth and latest release, being their crowning achievement. Well, those signs were correct. From the initial stanzas of the opening title track, listeners are introduced to the many talents of frontman Marshall Lichtenwaldt, who has the ability to sound something other than monotone, an attribute not many other vocalists of bands of the Warriors ilk can boast. A mere two songs in and you have the albums best cut, “the War Unseen,” which might just be the best representation of the Warriors aural onslaught that See How You Are has to offer. This album is full of spry, strenuous grooves that give way to some dynamic flashes (“Where I Stand”), though See How You Are isn’t without its cut and dry moments (“Here We Go Again”). The Warriors have the innate ability to take the often one-dimensional genre of hardcore and somehow elevate it to the next level, adding layers and noticeable textures, a sonic trait that should make them the envy of their peers. With See How You Are, the equation is easy – press play and start the circle pit. (
Grade: B+
Go Download: “The War Unseen”

Purchase - Slander [+Digital Booklet]
File Under: Deathcore
Dr. Acula – Slander (Victory): If at all possible, Slander, the latest from deathcore merchants Dr. Acula, finds the band having outgrown the ‘party grind’ billing they had long been known for. Now, for anyone familiar with this group of guys, they might be taken aback by that first statement, but the contents of Slander are somewhat slower moving and more guttural than they’ve been in the past. Although the bands traditional movie and television samples remain as prevalent as ever, it’s clear that the music this Long Island quintet is currently putting to wax is much more than a joke. Slander combines the deathcore roars Dr. Acula have come to be known for with moments of speedy pop-punk and even some death metal (“Pure and Immature Goon,” “Who You Gonna Call?”), a sound that trends closer to that of labelmates Emmure. The band doesn’t forget the party synth sound that brought them to the dance, though Slander on the whole is a record that should push them past the gimmick label they spent so many years trapped under. Perhaps it is time to respect this band. (
Grade: B- 
Go Download: “Who You Gonna Call?”

Purchase - Firefight [+Digital Booklet]
File Under: Epic Power Metal
Blackguard – Firefight (Victory): Blackguard’s Firefight is metal as epic as it comes, though contrary to what many people may tell you, this leans closer to power metal than it does folk, or really anything else for that matter. Firefight is a thoroughly well-produced effort, one full of a combination of impressive, marathon-like leads, galloping drum work, soaring choruses and furious vocal work, all delivered with furious aplomb, that constitutes Blackguard’s signature sound, though on the whole Firefight shows a pretty good amount of Children of Bodom worship. Throughout the album there are elements of thrash, speed and mostly power metal, though for the most part those genre fundamentals are amassed in one glorious metal moment after another (“Firefight,” “Farewell,” “Cruel Hands”). The band doesn’t just do things fast (since this isn’t an Impellitteri album), they also do things heavy, as evidenced by the face-melting heft of “the Fear of All Flesh.” Firefight is an album that could just as easily lead warriors onto the battlefield, as, you know; incite a robust mosh pit at your local venue, or hell, you’re bedroom right now. (  
Grade: B-
Go Download: “Farewell”

Puchase - Disguises [+Digital Booklet]
File Under: Horror Punk
Aiden – Disguises (Victory): To call Aiden’s Disguises a sonic culmination of everything they’ve released up to this point – frontman William Francis’ solo work included – would not be an overstatement. The horror punks fourth release sounds like a melding of both what the band has done musically up to this point and what Francis has thus far accomplished with his side project William Control, and the co-mingling of those two unique sounds works better than you would think. The piano-fueled cover of Alkaline Trio’s “Radio” serves as a commendable bookend to Disguises, an album that provides heavy blasts of riff-centric punk rock (“Horror Queen,” Malevolent Creation”) as well as earnest, yearning moments where Aiden opens things up a bit, showcasing a different side to themselves (“A Portrait of An Artist,” “Hysteria”). Though the execution throughout Disguises isn’t always perfect (at points the album gets a bit lost and comes across as confusing), it still serves as a great representation of the bands abilities. While it might not go down as their best body of work thus far, it should please all fans of this band, both new and old. (
Grade: B
Go Download: “Piano”   

Purchase - Speaker Of The Dead
File Under: Deathcore
Emmure – Speaker of the Dead (Victory): There was a reason fans didn’t take well to 2009’s Felony – it wasn’t the Respect Issue or Goodbye to the Gallows, and fans looking to the band’s latest, Speaker of the Dead, as some sort of resurgence should look elsewhere because unfortunately you won’t get it here. While the album does offer the same unrelenting persistence Emmure has come to be known for, as well as waves of brutality, scads of breakdowns and guitars that can switch from shredding to melodic in an instant, which, when combined, make for some decent moments (“Children of Cybertron,” “4 Poisons 3 Words”), those moments of grandeur are far too fleeting. For the most part, Speaker of the Dead is mundanely repetitive and juvenile, an album that features mostly below-average writing with forgettable lyrics, that, in the end, fail to make any type of a lasting impact. Sure, the point could be made that Speaker of the Dead is an upgrade from Felony, and as close to a renaissance as the band has come yet, but honestly, it’s not great, and even that might be a bit too generous. (
Grade: C-
Go Download: “Bohemian Grove”