“Storm and Stress” by Still Life Decay

Artist: Still Life Decay
Title: “Storm and Stress”
Label: Unsigned
Release Date: 2004
Genre: Industrial/Gothic
Rating: Very Good

Still Life Decay is a band that I met at some dark NYC club gathering and after this encounter I could only say that they are as serious about their music as anyone could be. The scene of Industrial and Gothic music has a different audience than that of your standard Metal crowd yet as I listened to this album entitled “Storm and Stress” I felt it was safe to say that Metal fans would appreciate a lot of what is going on in the recording. Powerful riffs over throbbing drum patterns all laced with interesting samples and electronic themes make the feel very intense and above it all their singer Fade screams, growls and whispers to whatever degree the track merits. His delivery is solid and surely sets up a lot of the mood in this very deep recording. Fade not only handles the duties on the microphone but also makes sure that all of the necessary programming involved is just right for the music. This allows the band to bring you deeper into their world and make it an experience you will not soon forget. They also must know the right people as they are joined by Fear Factory’s Burton C. Bell on the track “Detach” which is among my favorites. “Align” was also a repeat listen for me as it brought a little bit of a Nine Inch Nails feel to the piece and I based it more for the creative samplings and steady electronics than a direct copy of NIN. I had felt that “Resuscitate” was a number that appealed to me most as a Metal listener and with that decided that there was a little bit of everything in this band that makes investigation into them a good thing to do. It’s a journey into despair and agony that you will most likely not recover from very easily.
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HIM @ The Electric Factory (11/23/2005)

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Artist: H.I.M.
Venue: The Electric Factory (Philadelphia, PA)
Opener: Skindred, Finch
Date: 11/23/2005
Label: Sire Records

I was invited by Friends who had an extra ticket for the Philadelphia show and figured why not go one more time. My main reasoning was that I had never been to the Electric Factory and it sounded like a cool place to check out a show. The truth be told it was very much that and we even began the trek by sampling authentic Philly Cheese-Steak sandwiches. Proving to everyone that even the staunchest New Yorker can be an inexperienced tourist. Anyway let me get back to the show; the Electric Factory reminded me a lot of Irving Plaza in NYC with it being a mid-sized venue with a sizable upstairs and balconies to hang out on. It seemed to be able to hold the same amount of people as this venue (1100). The main and only difference is that the bar is upstairs and this keeps it an older crowd up there while the folks under 21 remain downstairs. At this show I was able to see the opening bands and this time around Fireball Ministry was added to the bill. I had seen this band perform with Dio and Anthrax not too long ago and at that show I hated them but in the context of a H.I.M. show they were dead-on and fit perfectly. This time around I was able to catch both Skindred and Finch and I have to say that I felt both bands were severely lacking. Skindred mixes Reggae with Heavy Metal and I found the result a terrible thing to behold. It seemed like some folks liked it but the larger amount of the crowd seemed to be in my corner on this. Finch came up immediately after and they were just as unimpressive with their music being a cacophony of screaming notes and equally annoying vocals. The odd part of Finch especially with the lead singer seeming to perform mainly to the stage amplifiers and the drum kit. If he came to the front stage for a second it would be an understatement. I remember asking the girls behind me if the band realized we were there as an audience. Maybe I am missing something in both bands but I am hard pressed to think so. If this is what Emo is all about you can keep it and let me enjoy something else.
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“Cult” by Apocalyptica

Artist: Apocalyptica
Title: “Cult”
Label: Spitfire Records
Release Date: 11/6/2001
Genre: Classical Metal
Rating: 7/10

The influences of classical music and the use of symphonic elements has been very apparent in Heavy Metal music for a number of years now. One can find this when listening to the music of Nightwish and most specifically Therion. However, this is taken to different levels by Finland’s Apocalyptica for this band is not only classically trained but is also fronted by three cellists. If you had never heard of them before I can tell you that it is very interesting music and the overall presentation on the CD is something that merits a listen. The mixing of classical instruments in Metal has also seen its presentation in albums by Metallica and KISS who recorded live concerts with full symphony orchestras. This practice of being accepted by such major artists has led bands who do this the way Apocalyptica does be taken a little more seriously. That is a good thing for there is a lot of music out there and its all the more interesting when something unique is the case.
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“IV” by Zebra

Artist: Zebra
Title: “IV”
Label: Mayhem Records
Release Date: 6/28/2003
Genre: Hard Rock
Rating: 8/10

The Zebra CD “IV” was a long time in the making and the last time they recorded new music together was about 10 years ago. I was happy to see this released because I had been a long time supporter of the music and years ago this was one of my favorite area bands. With Zebra originally being from not so far Long Island the band used to play L’Amour all the time when it was the place to be. The group was originally a Led Zeppelin focused band until they got signed and released their self-titled album on Atlantic Records. The debut is something worth finding if you have some retailers that cater to more than just the Pop trappings of the day. The new CD is the bands fourth and it is a continuation from where they left off with several standout tracks such as “Arabian Nights” which has a very Zeppelin feel and that sort of groove that they were most known for. The three-member group of Randy Jackson (guitar/vocals), Felix Hanneman (bass/keyboards) and Guy Gelso (drums) are some of the most talented individuals around and this is proved to this day by the dedicated fans that still support them. Anyone who has seen or heard Randy Jackson especially will be amazed at how his voice as only gotten better over the years and not suffered a note as some other bands have. Other tracks that have a large impact on the release are “Angels Calling”, “Who Am I” and “So I Dance” each a solid song musically and lyrically. This was always a good band and it is a shame that they never established a larger amount of support beyond the cult status. Looking back, at least these supporters are the true fans and in the end that is all that counts.
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HIM @ Hammerstein Ballroom (11/18/2005)

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Artist: H.I.M.
Venue: Hammerstein Ballroom (New York, NY)
Opener: Skindred, Finch
Date: 11/18/2005
Label: Sire Records

This is will be the third visit of H.I.M. to the United States and the fourth time that I have been able to see them. The first time they arrived on our Shores the venue was smaller with about a 500 person capacity. At this show in the Bowery Ballroom the band performed for less than 400 people because due to tight venue restrictions anyone under the age of 18 was not getting in. H.I.M. has a large and young fan base so kids were crying and giving tickets away at the gate. It bothered me since the venue was not appearing to give refunds and I felt they could have used wristbands for the drinkers and solved the possible issues. The group returned a few months later for two sold-out nights at Irving Plaza and of these shows one was excellent while the other dreadful due to Ville consuming far too much alcohol. It was a blatant display of “Rock Star” syndrome at this one, and news of his antics had reached Finland within minutes of the shows completion. You have to love that Internet. The performance at the Hammerstein Ballroom would be special to be a part of as according to my research the venue holds about 3700 people and this show sold out in a couple of days. Not bad considering lack of radio play in the US on mainstream popular stations. The tour was part of “Viva La Bam’s” show and was appropriately titled “Viva La Bands” and it would place H.I.M. with openers Skindred and Finch. I started out my trek to the show doing the usual networking and since I was only interested in H.I.M. I decided to pass on the openers. As I arrived I did not hear much in the way of praise towards these bands so I was glad about my decision to miss them.
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Where Heavy Music & Pop Culture Collide

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