Review Rundown: Famous Last Words, Secrets, Valise, Anthony Raneri & Kiros


This edition of the Review Rundown features five fresh, hot and tasty reviews of new releases from Famous Last Words, Secrets, Valise, Anthony Raneri and Kiros.

File Under: Metal
Famous Last Words – Pick Your Poison (InVogue): Employing a balanced mix of screamo, electronica and metal-not quite mall-core, Famous Last Words are able to create an enjoyable sonic experience with their but EP Pick Your Poison. Opening salvo “Labyrinth” effectively sets the table for what is one hell of a ride in Pick Your Poison, quickly showcasing the fact that while the band might use heavy doses of synth throughout, they are content with utilizing said synthesizers ala Bleeding Through to create sonic landscapes (peep the keyed up intro). In other words, the synths running rampant on Pick Your Poison aren’t overpowering everything else. The EP spends the majority of its running length engaged in driving track meets, brimming with bombastic riffing, focused breakdowns and tight melodies (“I’ll Get You Next Time, Gadget!,” “This Isnt Blackmail, This is War”). “Snowmageddon” represents the albums hardest hitter, a beast of a track that soars with towering aplomb, one that brings the heavy quite well without sacrificing anything in the way melody. While Famous Last Words might still be pretty green, Pick Your Poison has them sounding like anything but rookies.        
Grade: B
Go Download: “This Isn’t Blackmail, This is War”    

File Under: Post-Hardcore
Secrets – The Ascent (Velocity/Rise): Think of Secrets’ debut the Ascent as a snowball rolling down a hillside. The opening “Genesis” opens the proceedings well enough, but as the Ascent progresses, it builds and grows with powerful waves of forceful swells and progressive breakdowns, most notably with the destructive back-to-back combo of “the Heartless Part” and “40 Below,” though the Ascent isn’t all such pomp and circumstance. Secrets are a band at their very best when they kick things into a melodic gear and let their post-hardcore skills take center stage, as evidenced by popcore-esque tunes like “Somewhere in Hiding,” “Melodies” or “the Best You Can’t Be,” cuts that find the band flexing their dynamic muscles via soaring vocals and infectious hooks. Not to be overlooked are the production contributions of ex-A Day to Remember guitarist Tom Denney, and you’ll see why as you make your way through this slate of songs. For a band that’s been together for around a year, the Ascent is a quality first offering and just a glimpse of what this promising San Diego quintet is capable of down the road. (
Grade: C+
Go Download: “The Heartless Part”

File Under: Dreamy Post-Everything
Valise – Dreamcatcher: Combining dense post-hardcore atmospherics ala Circa Survive with haunting, ethereal moments ala Cave In, Dallas’s latest products Valise seemed primed to make an impact on the scene, and though their debut EP Dreamcatcher is only four tracks in length, it shows more than enough promise to get you excited about what this band could become. Vocalist Vince Penick channels Anthony Green time and time again, layering his airy, wistful vocal delivery over dreamy, shoegaze guitars (“Heartbeat”), Midwest, almost alt-country grooves (“Chains”) and crashing stratums of instrumentations (“Dreamcatcher”). While Penick is a true highlight across the board on Dreamcatcher, the lush sonic landscapes the rest of the band has created song in and song out cannot be overlooked. Holly Ann makes an appearance on the closing “Scary in the Dark,” adding yet another superb wrinkle to a wonderfully executed debut. (
Grade: B+        
Go Download: “Heartbeat”

File Under: Singer-Songwriter
Anthony Raneri – New Cathedrals (Gumshoe Records): Just as Chuck Ragan (Hot Water Music), Chris Carrabba (Further Seems Forever) and Ben Nichols (Lucero) have done before him, Bayside’s Anthony Raneri has stepped out of the spotlight fronting a band that pays his bills, into another spotlight, though this one is focused squarely on him, as New Cathedrals, his debut solo EP, finds the crooner introspectively waxing all sorts of alt-country and such, though there are certain elements to his game you’ll, as fans of Bayside obviously, find appealing. Yeah, remember when Staind frontman Aaron Lewis though he was a country singer with his pseudo-country album Town Line? New Cathedrals isn’t that, rest assured. This EP flows forth smoothly, playing as a natural extension of Raneri’s songwriting ability, showcasing some nice moments of down home Americana (“Sandra Partial,” “Please Don’t Leave”), tried and true Heartland rock (“the Ballad of Bill the Saint”), and peppy folk with some slight Ben Folds worship folded in (“Charleston”). Though Raneri is quite talented fronting his normal day gig in Bayside, New Cathedrals show he might be onto something with this whole solo singer/songwriter thing. (  
Grade: B+
Go Download: “The Ballad of Bill the Saint”    

File Under: Rock
Kiros – Lay Your Weapons Down (Ain’t No Grave): There’s potential here with Kiros’ debut long player Lay Your Weapons Down, thanks to a number of promising melodic rock endeavors that combine uplifting, faith-based lyrics with stellar guitars (“Broken State,” “Outlaws and Prodigals,” “Desperation Calls”), though as a whole, Lay Your Weapons Down is a bit lacking. The album features more than its fair share of filler – middle of the road rock outings that do little more than occupy space throughout the record (“One Thing,” “Good Intentions, Bad Directions,” “Found Me”). Kiros has some nice pieces in place, as evidenced by the brighter spots across Lay Your Weapons Down, mainly the quality songwriting and worthy guitar work, so it’s not like there’s nothing to like here. To be honest, Lay is a record that should appeal sonically to a broad range of listeners. (  
Grade: C
Go Download: “Broken State”