Review Rundown: Rains, Heart-Set Self Destruct, Razer, Alborosie, Ziggi Recado

 Review Rundown V.46 features reviews of the latest releases from Rains, Heart-Set Self Destruct, Razer, Alborosie, and Ziggi Recado.   

File Under: Rock
Rains – Stories: Stories, the debut from Indiana’s Rains, is a record that toes a very dangerous and thin line between commercial viability and relative obscurity, showing that, at times, this young band could be successful on the big stage, though there are instances that show this band could easily be swept asunder and forgotten in an instant. It’s not to say that Stories is an uneven record, though it does offer up more catchy modern rock ballads that you can shake a stick at (“Five Minutes,” “Hurricane”), which is not to say that Rains isn’t perfectly capable of turning the amps up to eleven and rocking out (“Look In My Eyes,” “Pressure”), though one of the glaring problems with Stories is that those latter moments of anything other than radio-built tracks are too few and far between. Lead single “Liar” is the sheer standout of Stories, and plenty proof this band has chops, though one song an album does not make. Frontman Jeff Rains is the albums redeemer, as his voice and personal songwriting style is able to create lofty melodies, leading the vast majority of these tracks to be very hook driven. And while that’s not truly a bad thing, Stories’ structures are ultimately predicable, causing the album to tire and fade down the stretch. It’s not a bad listen on the whole, but you could easily find yourself skipping around from song to song rather than listening straight through. On the bright side, this is only Rains’ debut, and there is room to grow. (    
Grade: C+
Go Download: “Liar”       

File Under: Polarizing Rock
Heart-Set Self Destruct - Of Nightmares (Soundmine Musicworks): There must be something in the water in Chicago because the Windy City is quickly becoming a hotbed for high quality rock bands – Fall Out Boy, Janus and now Heart-Set Self Destruct. OK, that first one might be pretty arguable, but there’s no arguing the fact that Heart-Set Self Destruct deserve to be in the conversation and now that they’re armed with Of Nightmares, their latest full length, they are ready to ascend to the ranks of the undergrounds rock scene’s elite. Of Nightmares is a sleeping giant waiting to be awoken with each press of the play button, a record full of potential singles led by one of the albums standouts in “Monster,” which features one of the most immaculate hooks you’ll hear in sometime. Of Nightmares is a powerful and engrossing affair, a record fraught with palatable emotion that bleeds passion at all times, and no matter if you’re listening to any one of Of Nightmares’ massive, yet refined, modern rock soirees complete with soaring hooks (“Lie to Me,” “Collapse,” “Burn the Sky”), or diving through crashing waves in an emotional sea created by the bands polished brand of balladeering (“Rain,” “Divide,” “Remedy”), Of Nightmares  is both polarizing and impressive, two adjectives that can also be used to describe the vocal work of frontman Dave Naruszewicz. Heart-Set Self Destruct are ready to take the next step, thanks in large part to Of Nightmares. ( 
Grade: B+
Go Download: “Lie to Me”

File Under: Hard Hard Rock
Razer – Dark Devotion (Blind Monkey): Sounding something akin to the bastard offspring of Desentitized-era Drowning Pool and pretty much anything written by Rev Theory or Burn Halo, Razer’s Dark Devotion hits like a concrete slab of hard rock infused with just the right amount of metal. First though, a word of advice – when you see Dark Devotion on store shelves, Razer is not a goth band, despite the vampire themed artwork. And boys, just because Atreyu was able to pull it off with their sophomore album the Curse, it doesn’t mean anyone can do it. OK, now back to your regularly scheduled program. From the initial stages of Dark Devotion’s opening track, “Do You Want It,” this album rarely slows, hitting hard early and often like a straight-ahead runaway train as the band shreds its way through one steamrolling track after another, full of a powerhouse twin guitar assault from Jeromy Graves and Paul Sullivan accented perfectly by the gruff vocal bellow of frontman Chris Powers (“Superpaun,” “Cold War,” “Right Kind of Evil,” “Save the World,” “the Broken”). While “Never Understand” plays close to what you would call a ballad, its booming riffs and thunderous atmosphere has it playing out like the polar opposite of most touchy-feely modern rock ballads you end up hearing on the radio every five seconds. Suffice to say, Razer really only knows one speed and that’s pedal to the floor and balls to the wall, and honestly, do you really want it any other way? Razer’s Dark Devotion is sonic proof that the cavalry is on the way and that hope looms on the horizon for rock music, a genre that won’t be dead anytime soon if Razer has anything to say about it. (
Grade: B+
Go Download: “Cold War” 

File Under: Dancehall
Ziggi Recado – Ziggi Recado (VP/Greensleeves): Hailing from the Netherlands by way of the Caribbean island of St. Eustatius, Ziggi Recado owns a sound so deeply rooted in the islands that you’d never thought he left, and latest self-titled album, his third full length to date, is the best proof of what he is sonically capable of we’ve seen yet. Ironically, this new album was recorded in Holland and not the Caribbean, a fact that becomes more and more surprising the deeper and deeper you get into listening. The opening track “Get Out” sets the bar high and the tempo even higher via some well-placed pounding dancehall rhythms, a sound that carries into the subsequent “New Day,” though the rest of this eponymous work is far from more of the same. Rather than stay at home through repetitive phrasings and looped beats, Recado decides, smartly, to move outside his comfort zone as it were and try some new things from song to song, like Indian percussion that leads to some almost ethereal moments (“Mr. Everything”) and even some Motown-era R&B soul (“Real Talk”). With Ziggi Recado, there’s really something for everyone to like, from dancehall to hip-hop to soul, and regardless of the track, there’s a good chance you’ll be dancing sooner rather than later. (
Grade: B
Go Download: “Get Out”

File Under: Roots Reggae
Alborosie - 2 Times Revolution (VP/Greensleeves): Diversity is the name of the game when it comes to the sophomore release from Alborosie, 2 Times Revolution, a powerful record with a purpose. It seems that Alborosie isn’t content with playing the same song over and over, something that becomes prevalent across the first two tracks. On the opening “Rolling Like a Rock,” deep bass thumps abound before giving way to a steady hip-hop flow on “Respect,” which features Junior ‘One Blood’ Reid. The vocal interplay is seamless here, which leads you to hoping these two cats join forces in the future. While “Who You Think You Are” pretty much steals the show early on, there is a lot to sonically indulge in over the course of 2 Times Revolution, including some Spanish guitars and horns (“La Revolucion”), reggae-hip-hop fusion (“Ragamuffin”) and even some opera, yes, opera (“International Drama”), which finds Alborosie paying homage to his native land of Italy. Etana guests on the beautiful standout track “You Make Me Feel Good,” while the album’s best songwriting lies in the heartbreaking closer “What If Jamaica,” a track that pensively reflects on a nation devoid of the trials and tribulations that have plagued it for some time. 2 Times Revolution is the best album Alborosie has set to wax yet, one we should all cozy up with in the very near future. (
Grade: B+
Go Download: “Soul Train”