The Rundown: Michael Olivieri Band, A Hero A Fake, Staind, Baroness, For All Those Sleeping

This edition of the Review Rundown takes looks at new releases from the Michael Olivieri Band, A Hero A Fake, Staind, Baroness and For All Those Sleeping.

File Under: Rock and Roll
Michael Olivieri Band - M.O.B. (Olivejar Productions): First off, if you recognize the name Michael Olivieri, he was once a part of 80’s metal band Leatherwolf, but it’s clear that particular chapter of his career is truly behind him. From the outset of M.O.B., an album title short for the band’s given name Michael Olivieri Band, pervasive themes of love and loss flow forth via frontman Michael Olivieri’s soulful tones, with the opening tandem of “More Than I Do” and “Letting Go” effectively setting the pace, but the album truly begins to hit its stride on “Dead Man Crawl,” a moody piece featuring piano and harmonica flourishes. The Michael Olivieri Band boasts a whopping seven members among their ranks, and it shows thanks to layered instrumentations scattered throughout M.O.B. (“Tuesday Down,” “Old Souls”). Keep in mind, there’s no metal to be found here, but there’s enough rock to go around on M.O.B. to at least keep things interesting.
Grade: C+
Go Download: “Halo”

File Under: Deathcore
A Hero A Fake - The Future Again (Victory Records): On A Hero A Fake’s The Future Again, the sonic dynamic is a bit backwards. It’s the guitars and keys that shine, time and time again overshadowing the vocals, which in and of them self are somewhat an anomaly. The clean vocals don’t do much to counterbalance the heavier moments, which they should in theory, and end up coming off a bit too nasally. But the guitars truly are the highlight, and along with the right amount of ever-so-subtle electronic trappings, the inner quirky goodness of The Future Again is able to shine through (“Dead and Done,” “Port Hole”). Still, problems persist throughout the record – the drumming is a bit too perfect (seriously, anyone else think this might be a drum machine), and the same can be said for the production - it’s just a bit too much. Sure, those are just words in essence, but it’s that ultra-slick production that leads to eight tracks that ultimately sound like one. There’s not really much to discern these tracks, and the fact that they are crammed into a 28-minute window really doesn’t help matters. Still, regardless of some of the album’s shortcomings, The Future Again is still worth popping into your CD player. And if you’re not sure exactly what a CD is anymore, just queue this up on your iTunes playlist. No, A Hero A Fake didn’t reinvent the wheel with The Future Again, but at the very least they do enough to make you think you’re not listening to just another deathcore record.   
Grade: C
Go Download: “Port Hole”

File Under: Good Old Fashioned Heavy
Baroness - Yellow and Green (Relapse): Yellow and Green is a trip, and honestly, there might not be a better way to explain it. On paper, Baroness is a metal band, and by all respects, there really are one, though with Yellow and Green it appears the Atlanta-based band are ready, willing and more than able to break free of the sonic shackles that genre classification has bestowed upon them. And in order to digest all of that, simply press play, and find your senses launching into a word that effectively melds booming sounds, thunderous claps, moody landscapes and big choruses. Yellow and Green offers literally (yes, very literally) something for everyone, an aural arsenal that includes new wave (“March to the Sea”), darkwave (“Little Things”), 80’s worship (“Board Up the House”) and folk (“Twinkler”), though there are still tracks such as the opener, “Take My Bones Away,” to please those fans who enjoy things heavy. But rest assured that Yellow and Green isn’t really about being heavy, it’s about being stylistically creative, though this massive leap into the expansive deep end doesn’t always work, leading to tracks that ultimately fall flat on their face (“Collapse,” “Psalms Alive”). When compared to their past, Isis-aping canon, Yellow and Green is surely a long, strange trip, one that will almost assuredly gain the band a new crop of fans while alienating some other along the way. And for as different as this release is, only time will tell if goes down as a botch or a success.
Grade: B+
Go Download: “Little Things”

File Under: No Sophomore Slump
For All Those Sleeping – Outspoken (Fearless): To get a quick idea of what Outspoken, the sophomore release from For All Those Sleeping, envision their debut Cross Your Fingers, only heavier, and perhaps, a tad more pissed. Gone is poor lyricism and laughable songwriting, with songs about zombies since replaced with passionate songs penned about real world issues such as backstabbers and abusive step-fathers. FATS’ core structures still persist, and though the clean vocals are catchy now and again, those instances mostly pale in comparison to the piss-laden intensity found in the album’s breakdown strewn heavier moments. And if you can forget about the album’s unmemorable use of dubstep, Outspoken offers up a few noteworthy tracks, including the best song the band has written to date, “Follow My Voice.”  Though Outspoken isn’t perfect, it’s not so bad that you’d this a sophomore slump.
Grade: C
Go Download: “Follow My Voice”

File Under: Live Hard Rock
Staind - Live From Mohegan Sun (Armoury Records): Though Staind’s Live From the Mohegan Sun is about as good a setlist as you could possibly expect from this band presently, though as you’ll realize throughout this live offering, there is something a bit off. Frontman Aaron Lewis’ voice is a bit lacking, especially when he delves into his (formerly) trademark growls and screams, most notably on classics (in the Staind fanboy pantheon) like “Spleen” and “Crawl.” Those tracks make up two-thirds of the trio of such included off of the bands brilliant debut Dysfunction, along with set closer “Mudshovel.” It’s criminal that the band didn’t include the unbelievable “Just Go,” but beggars can’t be choosers. The old material is balanced smartly by some of the bands best new cuts (“Throw It All Away,” “Eyes Wide Open,” “Paper Wings”) as well as the obligatory throw-ins (“It’s Been Awhile,” “Outside”). Aside from some issues with Lewis’ voice here and there, the rest of the band sound spot on as they clamber through many of their best songs. With live releases, different people are going to want different things, and Staind’s Live From Mohegan Sun release is no different. Chances are high you’ll probably want different tracks to be included, but no matter what type of fan you are, it’s really hard to argue with the song selection here.
Grade: B-
Go Download: “Spleen”