The Poison: Album Review

Jesus A. Lara

Bullet for My Valentine is a Welsh heavy metal band formed in 1998. The group is composed of 4 members since then and have had some former members as well. They started under the name of Jeff Killed John and started their music career by coverings songs from bands such as Metallica and Nirvana. While under the name of Jeff Killed John they recorded six songs that were never released. Fortunately, two of these songs were later worked on under the name of Bullet for My Valentine.

Bullet for My Valentine’s debut album The Poison, was released on October 3, 2005 in the United Kingdom and on February 14, 2006 in the United States. This album entered the U.S. billboard 200 at number 128 and considered certified gold for the Recording Industry Association of America. This band also toured with Rob Zombie at this albums release and opened for other bands such as Metallica and Guns N’ Roses in the summer of 2006, making them a big hit not only in the U.K. but here in the U.S.

Many songs in this album feature meanings that are important to the band and not only obstacles that they had to overcome, but advice they would love to give their loving fans to learn and grow from it. This album also features their hit song Tears Don’t Fall. During an interview regarding The Poison album, Matt (Lead Vocals and Rhythm guitarist) mentioned that he lost his voice near the end of the tour and talked about how heart breaking it was not being able to do his job. He took speech therapy and vocal coaching that got him back up from a hard downfall in his career. He described it as a psychological battle and inspired him to keep fighting and not giving up which was partly what the Poison’s album was about.

Personally I believe a band like this has gone through a lot but still stands strong and they keep fighting which tends to motivate the fans in their own personal lives to overcome obstacle that get in the way. They are definitely great artists that put their hard work in their albums and are a great inspiration to other similar artists within their genre.

Overall this particular album would be ranked 4.5 out of 5 stars considering they were at their peak of their career and won them a world tour. My personal favorite songs in this album are “Tears Don’t Fall”, “All These Things I Hate (Revolve Around Me)” and “Suffocating Under Words of Sorrow (What Can I Do)”. If this is an interesting album review you seem to be interested in, I would check out other similar bands that revolve around their genre such as Killswitch Engage, Avenged Sevenfold, and Trivium.

Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones, A Review

Jesus A. Lara

Black Veil Brides is an American rock band based in Hollywood, California. The group formed in 2006 in Cincinnati, Ohio and is currently composed of Andy Biersack, Ashley Purdy, Jake Pitts, Jinxx and Christian “CC” Coma.  Black Veil Brides are known for their use of black makeup, body paint, tight, black, studded clothing, and long hair. Which were all inspired by the legendary stage personas of KISS and Möetly Crü, as well as other 1980’s glam metal acts.

On October 8, 2012 the album cover art and album title: Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones were released. Their lead single in this album called “In The End” was also featured in one of the theme songs for WWE Hell-In-A-Cell, winning multiple awards. On October 31, a trailer was released, reveling that Black Veil Brides had planned to reveal a full-length-film, titled Legion of the Black, in 2013. Wretched and Divine is a concept album and the film is a visual depiction of the story within the album. On June 11, 2013 Black Veil Brides released the Wretched and Divine ultimate edition containing three exclusive tracks: “Revelation”, “Victory Call” and “Let You Down” along with the special Legion of the Black DVD.

The plot follows a young girl who is a big fan of the band, but no one understands her (“Wretched and Divine”). When she tries to fight back against everyone, she is placed  inside a mental hospital (“Lost It All”). The next portion of the album takes place in her mind as she tries to escape. A woman is running from a soldier of the organization called “F.E.A.R.” and is caught and killed (“I Am Bulletproof”). Andy, the band’s singer finds the girl and brings her back to his base camp, where “The Wild Ones” and the “Legion of the Black” hide (also “Lost It All”), and, along with the Legion, cremate her remains (“New Years Day”). The following night, soldiers of F.E.A.R. kidnap some of the members of the Legion (“Days Are Numbered”). Finally fed up with F.E.A.R., the group rallies together (“Resurrect the Sun”). Meanwhile someone gives the girl the key to her cell and she escapes to a church (“Overture”). They storm the tower where F.E.A.R. lays and rescue all their captives and defeat F.E.A.R.’s. Biersack tells that F.E.A.R. is an acronym which stands for “For Every and All Religion.”

Personally, many artists who incorporate a story behind their work and in their albums always seem to be much more appealing. Their music seems much more interesting especially with a theme implemented behind their work. This album shows a perfect visual representation of the story of “The Wild Ones.”

Overall I would rate this album a 4.5 star out of 5. Some highlights of this album and personal favorites are songs such as “In The End”, “Shadows Die” and “Days Ae Numbered”. This band is currently touring and will be in Chicago, November 20th, in the Resurrection World Tour. If this album review seems to interest you, check out these other related bands such as Falling in Reverse, Asking Alexandria, and Crown the Empire.


The Emptiness: Album Review

Jesus A. Lara

Alesana is an American post-hardcore band from Raleigh, North Carolina. They were formed in 2004 and are currently signed to the Revival Recording and Artery Recordings. They have a musical style shifting between light and heavy sounds. Some of their influences told on one of their interviews are other bands such as The Beetles. Their fan base grew widely after their third album release known as The Emptiness released in 2010.

“The story told by the eyes of a sketch artist”. This album was this bands first concept album and due to their success they decided to keep writing more music like so. This album is considered that of a rock opera because of its in-depth story. This whole concept was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s last poem “Annabel Lee”. The band stated that it’s said on the onset of the 20th century and is expounded greatly.

The central character of the story, a sketch artist known simply as “The Artist” wakes up one day to find his lover, Annabel, dead, lying besides him. Heartbroken and terrified, he buries her in his basement and flees. He wanders aimlessly until he comes to a tavern, where he hears the sound of merriment and laughter. He decides that if he can’t be happy no one can and slaughters everyone in the tavern. After wandering through many places and finding Annabel’s killer, “The Thespian”, at the end of the story The Artist finally comes face to face with him to fight to the death. He is stabbed in his side with a dagger and finds himself in a room with Annabel holding a dagger in hand. From here on the story’s point of view switches from The Artist to Annabel where she explains that The Artist had slowly been sinking into madness all this while, he has become more and more violent. Though she loved him, in the end she had to take his life in the attempt to defend herself from him.

Many will overlook the meaning of these songs and believe that they have no meaning, but what I love about these artists is that they tend to tell a story throughout the whole album that many of us can personally relate to in many different levels. Although this album is telling a story, each individual song has hidden messages we can all relate to.

Overall I would rate this album a 4 star out of 5. Some of the highlights of this album are all around. My personal favorite songs in this album would be The Artist, The Thespian, and A Lunatic’s Lament. If this is an album review you seem to be interested in, maybe you will like other artists such as Silverstein, Blessthefall, Eyes Set to Kill, and Escape the Fate.


Saturation 2 Album Review

brockhampton-saturation-2Noah Elmore

2017’s hottest new boy-band Brockhampton has struck gold twice in one summer with Saturation 2. As a slight aside, this album is hard to both review and digest without having listened to the original Saturation, which released on June 9th. Different from fellow August 25th releases LUV Is Rage 2 and Cozy Tapes: Vol. 2, this sequel demonstrates its relationship with its precursor easily.

Brockhampton has marketed themselves exceptionally well. The group formed initially in 2012 and has modified themselves from then. They debuted with All-American Trash (which is skippable) in 2016, and then exploded over the summer of 2017, capitalizing on internet hype from lead man, Kevin Abstract.

The volume of work released is the most distinguishing aspect of this group. Releasing two full-length projects is difficult, not to mention doing so only in the span of two months. They’ve also promised a conclusion to the trilogy with Saturation 2, to be released at a later date this year. Jennifer’s Tour, which they are bringing to Chicago on September 6th, kicks off soon, and their YouTube page is frequently updated with music videos. It’s truly astounding what they’ve managed to do in such a short time.

Sinking your teeth into this project is an emotional investment. With a runtime of 48 minutes and 4 seconds and 16 tracks, there’s a lot covered here in a short span. You have to pay attention to the album, especially with the pretty layered production, but it’s assuredly worth it.

Positively, this album has a ton going for it. Each member of the group has a unique personality that shines through their verses. Kevin’s unabashed sexuality is what most think of when covering him, but his phenomenal ability to create melodies and rhythms should be discussed too. Ameer Vann’s voice holds your attention and his perfect enunciation makes for some great verses. JOBA is one of the group’s most unique members, with the ability to bust into buttery vocals or an insane verse at a moment’s notice. Dom McLennon brings the most technical ability to the table. Matt Champion showcases the effortless “cool” that the band displays. Merlyn Wood’s wild delivery is one of hip-hop’s most unique. Bearface’s vocals are such subtle additions that improve the album immensely.

The production truly is top-notch. Finding new wave artists that aren’t smattering their tracks with hi-hats and trap 808s is a challenge, but Brockhampton demonstrates some of the most diverse production of any new artists. From the plucky “JUNKY” to the heavenly “TEETH” to the summery “GAMBA”, Saturation 2 has something for everyone, hip-hop fan or not.

Saturation 2 is a project that requires some serious nitpicking to find any fault with. Sometimes the lyrics can be a bit repetitive, but both Kevin and Ameer have demonstrated they’re aware of this, and it comes across as tongue-in-cheek. The split between true hip-hop songs and summer almost-ballads can be a bit jarring for some, but does not personally cause any strife for me. A main critique with the original Saturation was that it felt like they didn’t truly have a lot to say, even though they spoke a lot. Even then, that’s been directly addressed with songs like “FIGHT” and “JESUS”.

In totality, Saturation 2 is a step-up and progression on what was already one of the best hip-hop albums of the year. It’s absolutely something that I recommend for everyone. The conclusion to the Saturation Trilogy will be wildly anticipated, and I can’t imagine it falling short in any way. If they keep doing what they’re doing, Brockhampton is deservedly on the track to truly being the biggest American boy-band of this generation.

Rate: 9.5/10


The Autobiography by Vic Mensa: Album Review


Noah Elmore

Chicago rapper Vic Mensa’s long awaited debut album is an intriguing blend of rock sounds, hip-hop lyrics, and pop punk inspired vocals. Mensa’s well-received 2013 mixtape Innanetape and 2016 EP There’s Alot Going On set expectations high, and Vic meets most of them.

Fans of Vic’s spastic rapping that he flexed early in his career will probably be disappointed. Outside of a few songs, (“OMG” and “The Fire Next Time”) Vic mostly trades in his incredibly complex and technical rhyme structures for more personal and introspective bars. However, there are still plenty of moments on this album that are worth listening for.

The Autobiography features production from hip-hop legend NoI.D. and features from fellow Chicagoans Chief Keef and Joey Purp, as well as Ty Dolla $ign, Pharrell Williams, Saul Williams, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, and others. Sonically, there’s a lot to like. The integration of the guitar is a very nice touch at parts, and Vic’s vocals are pleasant enough for a rapper.

Songwriting is more of a mixed bag. The track “Heaven on Earth” features some of the best storytelling on a hip-hop track all year, but there’s also some clunky integration on lines like “I screamed like ‘Please stay in the bathroom / Whatever you do, do not leave the bathroom’ ”. There is definitely room for improvement, and Vic could do to leave out some of the simile lines that are plastered all over this album rather heavy-handedly.

Thematically, the concept behind The Autobiography is Vic’s story, and while all the tracks do focus on Vic, the idea for this album feels like something a rapper would do approaching the twilight of his career. Vic is only 24, and although he’s led an interesting life, it does mean some of the concepts can be repeated.

There’s a lot of touching honesty and vulnerability here though. Vic has always been a candid rapper discussing his life on his past releases; he’s particularly open on this album. He casts himself as somewhat of an anti-hero on this album: a redeemed soul who has struggled with cheating, drug abuse, suicidal thoughts, and depression. This is endearing, particularly from someone whose political views always portray someone who is attempting to do right, even if he makes mistakes in doing so.

Fans of There’s Alot Going On should definitely like this album, and it’s definitely something all hip-hop fans should check out, particularly fans of the “new wave Chicago” sound. The albums driving production is standout, and the lyrics are well intentioned, if a bit blatant. All in all, The Autobiography is a lot like Vic Mensa himself: ambitious, talented, but there are still some minor flaws present.

Steinmetz College Prep Spring Art Exhibition

Students from Steinmetz High School showed off their artwork in a gallery showing following a partnership between their school and Robert Morris University. Using the RMU-approved curriculum, students were able to gain college credit and received an opportunity to show off their work at the State Street Gallery. The pieces were on display from May 25 to June 1. Check out the slideshow below!

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More Life: An Album Review

Noah Elmore

Death, taxes, and another boring Drake release. These are the only certainties in life. Drake’s work, officially released on March 18th as a playlist, was played via OVO Sound Radio. A week after the release, I have had ample time to listen to, digest, and attempt to understand the 22 track, 1 hour and 21 minute long, More Life.

The highlights on this album are scattered for me. The production shines in some places, on songs like “Free Smoke”, “Passionfruit” “Glow”, and “Portland”. Additionally, the production is admirably varied, reaching into Jamaican dancehall and old soul samples. Some of the feature verses, notably Young Thug’s, are incredible. Sampha (whose debut album I wrote about here) and Skepta make two great appearances here as well.

However, that’s about all I have to say positively about this album. I haven’t been a fan of a Drake work since his 2013 release, Nothing was the Same, and this playlist pushes me further away. Drake continues to attempt to replicate the success of his smash hit “One Dance” from Views by venturing further and further into dancehall. While I can appreciate the attempt, it’s simply not good. It feels incredibly inauthentic; even though Jamaican influences have filtered into Toronto music since the 2000s, because Drake has notably claimed rep Houston and Atlanta.

Drake’s flow is astonishingly lackluster. It’s lazy and laid back, and while that style can fit other rappers, it comes off as blasé and monotone. Since I brought it up, Drake’s flow on the song “KMT” (which features the worst lines I’ve heard on a major album release since some of Kanye’s embarrassing bars from The Life of Pablo from Gibbs) is a complete rip off of Floridian rapper XXXtentacion’s flow on “Look at Me!”. It’s such a blatant bite, that it even features the same rhyme scheme, where Drake rhymes cans with advance, and XXXtentacion rhymes mans with pants.

The lyrics are so generically relatable, they sound like a bad horoscope website. They inspire no emotional connection at all because they’re so bland. The awful faux accent entirely removes any authenticity from Drake and his persona, particularly in a genre where authenticity, or at least the perception of it, reigns king. The best songs on this album have features, meaning Drake’s appearances are minimized. The uninspiring dancehall production sounds like a lazy attempt to create “One Dance, Part 2”. The many negatives outweigh the very few positives this playlist brings.

Overall, I’d score it 3 of 10. I won’t return to this album, save the few songs that feature other artists. My favorites off this album are: “Passionfruit”, “Portland”, and “4422”. While I wasn’t a fan, maybe you may enjoy this album more. It is available to stream on all major platforms.

Hysterical Fiction: A Book Review

John Hynes

Hysterical Fiction: A Review of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

This was a book that, at first glance, I really wanted to like. The cover was beautifully designed, with praise from some well-known authors. However, judging this book by the cover would be far too generous. As soon as you begin reading, you’re welcomed into a predictable, played out plot stolen from countless young adult novels, with characters much the same. Connie, our heroine, brings little to offer, only doing what is precisely expected of her by the reader: stumbling blindly forward, acting without any depth or substance, and shockingly little common sense, for an allegedly educated main character.

The writing, however, separates it from the painfully generic young adult novel it so desperately craves to be. Katherine Howe uses unnecessarily long, drawn out phrases with atrociously florid language, to describe minute and unnecessary details that add little to the quality of the story.

“At least,” you might be thinking, “she’s historically accurate, right?” You would be sorely wrong, my friend. The historic segments vary from ‘decently researched’ to ‘complete nonsense’ fairly regularly, only serving to push plot points home that had already been made obvious by the events in the present.

Ultimately, this first novel fails to live up to its literary praise, and utterly disappoints those in search of a strong or interesting female lead. Additionally, the plot and writing form up what is essentially an overdressed one-off teen novel, pretending to be a serious work of literature. Overall, I’d have to give it two stars, for effort.

Process Album Review

Noah Elmore

Sampha’s debut album Process was a project long awaited from fans of hip-hop, R & B, soul, and electronica. First springing into the mainstream in 2010 as a part of the electronic group SBTRKT, Sampha is a British singer-songwriter who has experimented in a distinctive blend of genres. Most well-known for his collaborations in the hip-hop community, Sampha has been featured on Drake’s “Too Much” and Kanye West’s “Saint Pablo”, the latter a song that is hailed among the best on the album, praised frequently for its moving outro, sung by Sampha himself.

Process begins with “Plastic 100°C”, a song that sums up the album well. Present with the dark and moody themes that prevail through the rest of this album, it’s sung with heart and power. Sampha continues to showcase his vocal prowess over perhaps his most popular song, “Blood on Me”. Explained by himself in a Genius interview, the song is about a dream-state where he is being chased for things he has done wrong. The regretful theme again is present here.

Continuing with “Kora Sings”, Sampha again exemplifies why he is an artist that is here to stay. His lyrics are poetic, and laced with metaphors and other intricate literary devices. Some soaring synths provide a nice break from the heaviness of the two previous tracks as well, showing diversity. The ballad “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” is perhaps the best track on this album. Stepping away from the confines of synths and drum rhythms, Sampha carries this song on his vocals and a delightful piano solo. This song is a true stand-out on an album full of other powerful songs.

The albums marches forward, albeit somewhat slowly, until “Timmy’s Prayer”. This song displays more versatility here, with the beginning of this song featuring a falsetto voice from Sampha in a faux-soul song here. The wide spectrum of genres that Sampha can dabble in is impressive, let alone how well he does each of them. However, the true defining moment in this song comes about halfway through as the beat changes from a slow drum pattern to an up-tempo synth filled track. Singing about all of his faults and mistakes, the emotion wields enormous power and conveys a true sense of who Sampha is, errors and all.

Overall, the album has few, if any weak spots. The only criticism, for me, is that around the middle of album it can be a little same-y. Some of the tracks can start to blend together, something that is very easy to happen when the high-pitched dream-like vocals and synths mesh. While that is the concept strived for, I still would’ve liked some more shocking punches to snap out of that trance, like the ones present on “Blood on Me” and “Timmy’s Prayer”. This album scores a 9/10 for me, and is definitely one of my favorite albums of 2017.

For fans of this album, I recommend: SBTRKT by SBTRKT , Nothing Was The Same by Drake, and LP1 by FKA Twigs.