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Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: Wings of Valkyrie “Exploding Hearts”

San Antonio, Texas-based Punk Rock band Wings of Valkyrie came together as a band back in 2010. Choosing their name because of liking what the Norse legend of the Valkyries was about, the band created a sound that incorporated many different elements into the band’s Punk Rock music. And with bands such as Green Day, The Misfits, Taking Back Sunday as well as No Doubt and Red Hot Chili Peppers all being musical influences, you can tell that the band’s sound is not going to be boring. And with The Misfits and the elements of Horror of that band’s music being included in the influences to the music of Wings of Valkyrie, it comes as no surprise that the San Antonio band would create a few songs within their playlist of original material that also contain a strong Horror influence. But that horror influence is only a small part of the band’s overall writing style.

The original lineup for Wings of Valkyrie came together back in 2010. Through the years that have followed, several lineup changes have hindered the progress of the band. Because of ever-changing lineup of the band, Wings of Valkyrie have only produced a total of two albums in the years since 2010. The latest album from Wings of Valkyrie, the eight-song release of Exploding Hearts, was released earlier this year in April. For this release, founding members Valdeezy and MiK! settled on creating the album on their own, bringing in another member to play the bass when the band performs live. As a result, the band’s Exploding Hearts album features Alex “Valdeezy” Valdez on Drums and Mikael “MiK!” Lopez on Guitars/Bass/Vocals.

Exploding Hearts from Wings of Valkyrie begins with the track “Restless”. The track features a rather laidback musical approach for the first thirty seconds before the band launches the song into full throttle. The track’s music is fully punk-flavored with only a little Pop flavor added in. The lyrics of the song is where the track separates itself from most other Punk Rock songs. Within the lyrics, Mik! sings of coming out of the grave and trying to make his way in a world that has since passed him by. The song of “Restless” is radio-friendly while still containing enough harshness to satisfy any hardcore Punk music fans.

For the track “Where Were You?” Wings of Valkyrie adopts more of a straight-forward Punk sound for their song. That more straight-forward Punk flavor on the music matches up well with lyrics that contain a great deal of angst as well as anger towards the world. The track’s lyrics deal with the singer coming to terms with the fact that no one was there when he was down and out and really needed the help. “Where Were You?” is a great Punk track that contains a no-nonsense vocal delivery from MiK! as he tries to release his anger before it gets the better of him.

Sometimes, the influences that appear in the music from Wings of Valkyrie are very apparent. On the song “Goodnight Moon,” the band launches into a song that has the same sound and feel of something that could easily have come off of an album from Green Day. In fact, the Punk music on “Goodnight Moon” as well as the Pop-like approach of the music itself would easily have fit onto any of Green Day’s albums. The track begins with a light touch on the music before the band bumps up the energy and the song really takes off. The track is a nice mix of Pop feel and Punk mentality. And to add to that Pop feeling, the song also features the background vocals from Jenny Luna, the same woman who contributed the artwork to the album. “Goodnight Moon” is one track on the Exploding Hearts album from Wings of Valkyrie that will definitely feed your desire for Punk music.

If you create a band that makes Punk music, you need to create songs that draw from the real Punk mindset. With the track “Revolt,” Wings of Valkyrie definitely do that. The track features lyrics about the call to action that comes from a need to take a stand. The music and the lyrics on this particular track bring to mind the earlier bands like The Ramones or The Dead Boys who were known for their no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners attitude. While “Revolt” from Wings of Valkyrie may contain a slightly slower pace than most Punk tracks, but the Punk attitude is overflowing on this track. This track is definitely an anthem for today’s generation!

Just like the song “Revolt,” the song “Chicago” from Wings of Valkyrie also brings up anger from motivation that comes out of hatred. “Chicago” is a tribute to a city that has seen its share of anger, hatred and utter chaos in the last few years. While the track is a tribute to the city, there is absolutely no energy loss in the music in the song as the band’s musical approach still contains plenty of energy.

Following track after track of powerful moments created by the Punk music from Wings of Valkyrie, the band’s Exploding Hearts release comes to an end with the track “I Surrender”. The track finds Mikael “MiK!” Lopez singing about the pains of life and how they have started to weigh on him. The track’s lyrics are may seem rather depressing at times, but that simply means that Lopez is dealing with life the best way he can- through music.

Throughout the nine tracks that combine to create the Exploding Hearts release from Wings of Valkyrie, the band splits the time between serious subjects and lighter musical fare that come across as a lot more upbeat. And even though the entire album was created by only two musicians (Alex “Valdeezy” Valdez on Drums and Mikael “MiK!” Lopez on Guitars/Bass/Vocals), the resulting release feels fully developed and leaves the listener feeling completely satisfied; proving it’s not the number of band members, it’s the talent they possess.   

For a taste of the music from Wings of Valkyrie, check out their song “Restless” off of their Exploding Hearts release.

For more information and to check out more music from Wings of Valkyrie, check out the band’s Bandcamp account.

Also be sure to check out the band’s album cover designer (as well as manager), Jenny Luna.

To purchase a copy of Exploding Hearts from Wings of Valkyrie, click on the album cover below:

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Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: SixTwoSeven “Some Other’s Day”

What happens when a band parts ways? Some people go on with their lives and some decide they want to continue with creating music. Seattle-based musician illfunk (Greg Bilderback) was one such musician who wanted to stay on the path to musical enlightenment. After his last band called it quits, illfunk decided to create music on his own terms…or so that was the plan. What happened was the formation of a new musical ensemble called SIXTWOSEVEN.

Together with musicians bassist MK Ultra (AKA Mike Knapp), Rhythm/Lead Guitarist  J Danger (AKA Jason Bilderback) and the Machine (AKA Matt Bilderback) on keyboards and backup vocals, and DC (AKA Dave Cook) on drums, illfunk created a new group in SIXTWOSEVEN that seems to have decided to create music that carries on the traditions of bands from the nineties. The band’s sound borrows its Alternative style from groups like Nirvana, Foo Fighters and even Queens of the Stone Age. The heaviness in the music from SIXTWOSEVEN’s various musical influences shines through in their own music. About one year ago, SIXTWOSEVEN released a four-song EP. That release is entitled Some Other’s Day.

Some Other’s Day from SIXTWOSEVEN begins with the track “Wreckless Soul”. The song’s musical base has a large amount of Weezer’s sound for starters. The Alternative Rock track also has some other influences as well, which help to add more body to the music. “Wreckless Soul” is truly a classic Alternative Rock song, especially when comparing it to the early days of Alternative Rock. The track would have seemed rather out of place in commercial radio playlists from the mid-nineties but would have fit right in on the early Alternative Rock formats that were popping up throughout the country. “Wreckless Soul” is the perfect track for those looking for the “good ole days” of Alternative Rock when it was more about the music than fitting in on radio.

The second track off of Some Other’s Day from SIXTWOSEVEN is the song “Joshua’s Song”. Like the track before it, this song finds the band in a very nostalgic mood as the band once again borrows their sound from one of the best Alternative Rock bands. With the track, the band launches into a track that brings to mind the Red Hot Chili Peppers; more specifically, that band’s song “Californication”. As the listener makes their way through the track, they’ll notice the driving nature of the guitars as well as a very strong thumping bassline. While the track has plenty of SIXTWOSEVEN influence, ultimately, the track feels like old-school Alternative Rock. And just like the track before it, “Joshua’s Song” keeps the spirit of that style alive rather nicely.

Changing things up for the next track, SIXTWOSEVEN goes from Alternative Rock to Old-School Punk. The track “Top of the World” contains a title that is rather misleading. While the title suggests something rather upbeat, it’s something totally different that the listener encounters as the band performs a Punk tune about how fast things can from one moment to the next. Like the first two tracks, the band uses their musical influences rather well when creating their music. The resulting Punk track in “Top of the World” borrows more from bands like The Ramones than from Punk-pop bands like Green Day. When looking for an “anthem” of sorts, the listener should look elsewhere as the track is about a man who is down on his luck. If looking for a powerful Punk track that never eases up, “Top of the World” from SIXTWOSEVEN is definitely something to check out.

illfunk and the rest of SIXTWOSEVEN bring their 2016 release of Some Other’s Day to a close with the song “One Single Night”. While the previous track on the album contain plenty of energy, SIXTWOSEVEN comes at the listener “with everything that they’ve got,” to paraphrase the band from a lyric contained within the song. “One Single Night” contains strong guitars and keyboards that blend together to create a track that feels much like a three and-a-half minute jam session. The band feel tighter on this track than any of the other three tracks. Of any of the four songs contained on Some Other’s Day, SIXTWOSEVEN chose the right one to end their newest release with as leaves the listener wanting more.

Some Other’s Day from SIXTWOSEVEN is a four-song EP that is just what you want: A strong release from a talented band that knows how to make use of their musical influences. While the band uses influences from bands that were at their peaks more than twenty years ago, these influences help SIXTWOSEVEN to create a release that blows many of today’s bands away.

To check out some of the music from SixTwoSeven, check out the video to “Wreckless Soul“.

For more information, check out the band’s PR firm, The RMG Media Group.

To check out Some Other’s Day from SIXTWOSEVEN, click on the album cover below:

627 Some Other's Day

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Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: Chickenfoot “III”

Sammy Hagar’s supergroup vehicle Chickenfoot is back with
their second record called “III”. Didn’t some other band in Hagar’s history
release a record of that same name? Hmmm…anyway, “III” is the follow up to the self-titled debut from 2009. It is nice to see these veterans of rock out of
the coop and ready to take another swing at saving rock and roll. For the uninitiated, Chickenfoot is composed of one half Van Halen (Sammy Hagar and Mike Anthony), guitar wizard Joe Satriani, and Red Hot Chili Pepper drummer Chad Smith.

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Features

16-year-old soul, forty-five years later

Most of us first met this latest in a long line of Fifth Beatles on or soon after April 11, 1969 with the release of a self-described little “song to roller-coast by” called “Get Back.” Never before, you see, had the Fab Four shared sacred label credit with anyone other than themselves. But there it was, printed right atop that bright green revolving Granny Smith: “The Beatles… with Billy Preston.”

However, much prior to his musical roller-coasting, William Everett Preston already enjoyed a proud and prodigious career, launched from his mother’s lap where, at age three, he began playing the family piano. Soon he was performing with James Cleveland, Andraé Crouch and Mahalia Jackson, and in 1958 portrayed W.C. Handy (alongside Nat “King” Cole) in the film St. Louis Blues. Barely into his teens, Billy was on the road with Little Richard (first running into the Beatles in Hamburg, Germany) and Ray Charles when he was hired in 1963 to perform on the Sam Cooke album Night Beat. His organ work throughout those sessions – on the version of “Little Red Rooster” therein especially – lead to his immediately being signed, on the spot, to Cooke’s fledgling SAR label.

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Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: Nektare “Apocalyptic Butterfly”

Trials and Tribulations is a character builder. After a two-year hiatus, I have returned to give awesome reviews of great rising heroes of Rock!

In my time in L.A., I’ve seen many concerts of talented bands. But there is one classic rockin’, psychedelic sounding, awesome band that stands above the rest. Nektare is the name. The driving force behind this band is Naomi Nektare. This petite lass, with a deep powerful voice, is an Arizona native who began writing songs from the age of three and has not stopped since.

Nektare consist of Naomi , vocals, Brandon Criswell, bass, Rich Vaccaro, guitar, and Todd Nosek, drums. The bands sound is inspired by rock legends like Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, all the way to The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Lenny Kravitz added with a little blues. Nektare has toured all over Southern California in well-known venues such as The Roxy, Viper Room and The Hard Rock Café.

I recently had the pleasure of listening to Nektare’s upcoming album, Apocalyptic Butterfly. There is a lot of rock, heart, life experience, and passion in each track of the album. “American Dream”, written by Naomi Nektare and Rich Vaccaro, is about the struggles of following your dream. No matter how much you are pushed down, dust yourself off, get up and keep on trucking. It is a very inspiring song about tenacity. “Cruelean Blue”, written By Naomi Nektare and Brandon Criswell, is a touching story of love and loss. You can feel Naomi’s broken heart cry out. This song speaks to me the most. “Cruelean Blue” represents a painful part of life we all go through. The title track, “Apocalyptic Butterfly,” written by Naomi Nektare, is a very fast paced, classic rock sounding with religious symbolism popping out here and there. The song is about Revelations and the second coming of The Messiah. Talking about epic symbolism, imagine the apocalyptic destruction is a cocoon, and the symbolic butterfly, rising from the ashes, is The Messiah returning. What better way to symbolize the second coming like the title of the song?  If the end is coming, it takes a BIG brave person to ask forgiveness. And it equally takes a BIG person to set aside differences, accept the apology, and renew ties of friendship. Life is too short to hold grudges. (WINK, WINK). But I digress. Apocalyptic Butterfly will be released later this year.

I did have the pleasure of seeing the band in concert. Nektare’s live show is a spectacle. “Naomi sees herself as the shaman, her band as the sweet soul medicine and the audience as the tribe – uniting together to rise to a higher consciousness through music.” As said on her website. It was a magical experience I will never forget.

(Editor’s Note: Check out the video for the title track from Nektare‘s upcoming release Apocalyptic Butterfly as well as other songs by the group here.)

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Artists and Bands

Electric guitar master Joe Satriani talks about his 14th studio album, shares thoughts on fellow guitar legends and reveals Chickenfoot’s future

Electric guitar legend Joe Satriani is releasing his 14th studio album, Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards, on October 5. With over 10 million album sales and 15 Grammy nominations to him name, Satriani’s upcoming release is certainly an anticipated one. R&RR’s very own Aaron Kupferberg recently had the chance to talk to Satriani about the new record, everything to do with guitars and Chickenfoot – Satriani’s band with Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony of Van Halen and Chad Smith of Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Q: I wanted to ask, since we both grew up on Long Island, you went to Carle Place High School, right?

A: Yeah, Carle Place High School.

Q: Do you remember the name of your very first band in high school?

A: Yes, the very first band was called “Mephistopheles”  and it was quickly followed by a band called “Tarsus.”

Q: What type of music did you play?

A: We were doing Black Sabbath, Stones, Zeppelin, The Doors and Spirit. I attended St. Bridget’s Catholic School till they threw me out, [then] I attended Carle Place High School.

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Artists and Bands

Hot Hot Heat get candid and explain what rock and roll is all about, and how it got effed up

You may not know it yet, but Hot Hot Heat might just be the band that saves Canada’s rock scene. The group’s latest record, Future Breeds, hit shelves (physical and virtual) on June 8th, and proved that the darlings of rock have done it again. First appearing on British Columbia’s music scene in 1999, Hot Hot Heat may have gone through a lot of changes over the years, but one constant has always been their signature quirkiness, stellar musicianship and intoxicating sounds.

I had the chance to sit down with drummer Paul Hawley and bassist Luke Paquin at Toronto’s Red Bull Headquarters during the NXNE festival, as Hot Hot Heat prepped for an exclusive performance at the intimate, loft-style locale. What follows is not a typical Q&A interview, but rather an open conversation that allows one to gain a glimpse into what Hot Hot Heat is all about, and what the band members’ personalities are truly like.

Luke: Once you hit play [on your recorder], I’ll get serious so …

Paul: Well, if you hit play we’re going to hear some other interview you did.

Me: You’ll probably hear Alice Cooper then.

Luke: What, today? Where? Was it a phoner?

Me: Yeah, he apparently doesn’t like to do interviews in person.

Paul: Really? I don’t like to do them on the phone. I like to do them in person, but I’m also like, half his age.

Luke: Well, the thing about Alice Cooper is; he’s a pretty big deal.

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Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: Chad Smith’s Bombastic Meatbats “Meet The Meatbats”

meetthemeatbats“A journey through funk, punk, and beyond”…welcome to Chad Smith’s Bombastic Meatbats. Most of you know Chad Smith as the drummer for Red Hot Chili Peppers and Chickenfoot. As if that weren’t enough diversity for one resume, he is back with a completely new project that I can’t even classify.

Introducing the Meatbats: guitarist Jeff Kollman, keyboardist Ed Roth, bassist Kevin Chown, and of course Chad Smith (on drums, duh!). Do they sound like Red Hot Chili Peppers? Do they sound like Chickenfoot? Do they sound like Red Hot Chickenfeet?