Heavy Alternative Rock

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Heavy Alternative Rock, also known as Alternative Hard Rock, is a catch-all sub-genre used to encompass the various alternative rock artists that play heavy music that don't necessarily descend, at least directly, from the traditional hard rock spectrum. It notably includes grunge and post-grunge bands, both of which can be heavy but of a different heritage to traditional blues based hard rock acts, but it may also include actual hard rock acts and releases that borrow heavily from alternative rock to create a fusion sound. Some examples of this include Nickelback (hard rock/post-grunge), Dizzy Mizz Lizzy (hard rock/alternative rock) and Foo Fighters (hard rock/alternative rock/post-grunge), at least on some releases, such as Wasting Light (2011).

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NICKELBACK Here and Now

Album · 2011 · Heavy Alternative Rock
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martindavey87
2011’s ‘Here and Now’ is the seventh studio album by Canadian rockers Nickelback, and yep, you guessed it, it’s similar to their previous few releases. But is that such a bad thing? The band have sold millions of albums and toured the world over, so they must be doing something right. They have a winning formula and they’ve stuck with it. Radio-friendly enough for the casual listener yet rocking enough for metal fans. Those willing to give the band a chance, that is. As is usually the case by now, the band can be hard and heavy enough for rock fans, yet some softer ballads allow the band to garner radio airplay. The production is top-notch, giving the band a full sound which really makes the rockier songs heavy as hell and gives the soft pop songs a warm, vibrant feel.

The lyrics, as always, range from the usual rock debauchery to more introspective and reflective themes. Sex, women and parties are usually at the top of the bill, but there are themes of unity, suicide and dependence too. For the most part, they’re usually a fine old slab of cheese, but anyone willing to dig a little deeper can see that occasionally the band can have something meaningful or poignant to say.

While Nickelback will never be known specifically for virtuoso musicianship, there’s no denying their penchant for writing catchy and memorable songs, and with beastly guitar riffs and pounding drums aplenty, there’s an abundance of quality material here. The likes of ‘This Means War’, ‘Bottoms Up’, ‘Lullaby’, ‘Kiss It Goodbye’, ‘When We Stand Together’ and ‘Trying Not to Love You’ are all exceptional rock songs that are certainly worth a listen or two. And while ‘Here and Now’ may not be anything groundbreaking or innovative, the truth is, it doesn’t need to be. This is good, quality hard rock at its finest.

NICKELBACK Dark Horse

Album · 2008 · Heavy Alternative Rock
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martindavey87
By 2008, Nickelback were undoubtedly two things; one of the biggest rock bands on the planet, and also one of the most hated. Despised by metal fans and too heavy for pop fans, Nickelback are one of those bands that have their audience and knows what works for them. And so here, with 2008’s ‘Dark Horse’, we see the band continue to tread safely with what made them one of the biggest bands on the planet.

However, take heed, for “treading safely” doesn’t mean they’re coasting and resting on their laurels, because ‘Dark Horse’ is arguably one of the bands best albums. With consistently strong tracks throughout, this album is brimming with highly energetic rock anthems and catchy, radio-friendly ballads that are incredibly easy to listen to. It’s this simple, yet infectious, songwriting style that make Nickelback so easy to get into.

Of course, haters will hate, but if you give the Canadian quartet a chance, there’re some absolutely solid tracks here that sound great! Driven by heavy, beefy guitar riffs and a thumping rhythm section, Nickelback’s formula is simple, yet, in a world where musical virtuosity is running amok, sometimes you need to strip it all down and stick to the basics. Dirty, raunchy songs with dumb lyrics that primarily focus on love, sex, parties and occasionally a meaningful, introspective ballad, sometimes less really is more.

And this is never more evident with the likes of ‘Something in Your Mouth’, ‘Burn It to the Ground’, ‘Next Go Round’, ‘S.E.X.’, huge hit ‘If Today Was Your Last Day’, ‘Gotta Be Somebody’ and one of my personal favourites, ‘Just to Get High’. With excellent performances by all involved (as always, Chad Kroeger is incredibly underrated as a vocalist), ‘Dark Horse’ is a powerful album packed full of hard rock goodness. Flying by at a brisk 44 minutes, it’s easy to digest and is a great example of why Nickelback shouldn’t be judged merely by their unfair reputation.

NICKELBACK All the Right Reasons

Album · 2005 · Heavy Alternative Rock
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martindavey87
Following on from the success of 2001’s ‘Silver Side Up’ and 2003’s ‘The Long Road’, it’s now 2005, and Nickelback are unarguably one of the biggest bands on the planet. Appealing to rock and (some) metal fans, while also endearing themselves to pop fans and casual radio listeners, the band were at a point where they’d been able to establish a sound, as well as a name and reputation, that would keep them in the spotlight.

However, while I found their albums to continually improve with each subsequent release, 2005’s ‘All the Right Reasons’ doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor. But there’s really not any particular reason, other than the songs just don’t seem as good. The sound is the same, the production is the same, sure, there’s probably a bit more emphasis on soft radio rock here, but it’s still not that different than what the Canadian foursome did on ‘The Long Road’. But overall, the songs just aren’t as good.

Which is kind of weird, seeing as how this album features some of Nickelback’s biggest hits (outside of 2001’s ‘How You Remind Me’), ‘Photograph’ and ‘Rock Star’, both of which were huge radio hits for the band. There’s also some great rockers such as ‘Animal’, ‘Next Contestant’, ‘Someone That You’re With’ and the emotional and thoughtful ‘If Everyone Cared’. But yet, there’s just something about this release that doesn’t resonate with me as much as what came before it.

But don’t be deterred, as it’s still a good album! The performances from everyone involved are of a high standard, and the band clearly knows what works for them and how to get the most out of it. By 2005 Nickelback would be known more for their hits than their albums, and as it stands, this probably won’t appeal to everyone. And while I don’t think it’s as good as 2003’s ‘The Long Road’, ‘All the Right Reasons’ is still a solid, hard rock release with some good songs that definitely won’t be amiss in any collections.

COHEED AND CAMBRIA Vaxis – Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures

Album · 2018 · Heavy Alternative Rock
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Kingcrimsonprog
2018’s Unheavenly Creatures, (or to give it its full title ‘Vaxis – Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures’) is modern prog masters Coheed And Cambria’s 9th full-length studio album. It follows up from their 2015 record The Color Before The Sun, which departed from their Amory Wars concept album series, and Unheavenly Creatures sees the band return once more to their sci-fi comic book concept.

Don’t worry if you haven’t been following the story, which is already out of order with various prequels and side stories, as the songs are that catchy anyway you don’t have to follow the story as closely as some other concept albums. It’s a nice touch if you are paying attention, but the band have always been more than just a story, they aren’t a gimmick band and the music, vocals and sound have always been just as noteworthy as the concept.

Musically; The Color Before The Sun was also a bit of an evolution which saw some new territories covered, with big stadium rock riffs and bubblegum melodies. Unheavenly Creatures incorporates parts of that, while also leaning more on the style the band were going for on the two Good Apollo albums from 2005 and 2007.

The vocals, the production and lead guitars are all superb and continue the long tradition of interesting and memorable songs that are easy on the ear, but come across as progressive when you look at them more closely. The band have all the hooks of the catchiest pop punk bands, all the solos of the catchiest NWOBHM guitar masters and an ear for production that always makes them sound humongous. This album is no exception. Just listen to the powerful opener ‘The Dark Sentencer,’ when Claudio sings ‘‘Kiss your lover with that filthy mouth you fucking monster’’ you just want to scream along with it like you’re on top of a cliff in the November Rain video.

That being said, its not an instant album, in fact it is 79 minutes long, so there is quite a lot to get through and it can take a lot of spins to really sink your teeth in to, but there is a lot to love if you are willing to give it the time.

For a band who, in my opinion, haven’t released a bad album yet, it can be quite hard to make a recommendation to an outsider. That being said, the general public would seem to suggest Year Of The Black Rainbow and The Afterman Descension from 2010 and 2013 respectively are the band’s least impactful works, whereas the public would advise In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth 3 and the lengthily titled Good Apollo, Tonight I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes Of Madness (commonly just called ‘4’ or ‘Good Apollo’ for ease) are the ones to check out first… at this point I can’t really imagine not loving a Coheed album, but just in case, I would say don’t pick this as your first one. Pick up 3, 4 and Afterman Ascension at a minimum before getting this one.

Once you are an established fan though; this is not an album you want to miss. Some of these choruses will bounce around your head for days. Some of the guitar lines are as memorable as the average band’s choruses. The first four songs alone have more memorable moments than most albums. In fact, take any four songs in a row, the first four, the last four, any four in between. Even the slower moments like ‘Queen Of The Dark’ pop on this. If you want to dip your toes in, some of the highlights include ‘True Ugly,’ ‘All On Fire,’ ‘Toys,’ and ‘Unheavenly Creatures.’

SHINING Animal

Album · 2018 · Heavy Alternative Rock
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Kev Rowland
Jørgen Munkeby (saxophonist and guitarist, a graduate of the Norwegian Academy of Music) has long been the driving force between Norway’s jazz-metal collective, Shining. Over the years they have broken down musical barriers and have refused to be categorised into any particular style of music, as they mixed progressive, technical metal, jazz, avant-garde and experimental sounds. But now he is back with something different “I was tired of doing the same thing,” he explains. “I was done with ‘Blackjazz’ and wanted to create something new and exciting. I needed a change. I’m finally at the point where I have nothing to lose and everything to win. We had 360 degrees to play with so we could’ve gone in any direction. This new record is more Muse than Meshuggah, more Ghost than Gojira, and more Biffy Clyro than Burzum!”

It is all over the place as one might expect from the quote, and given Shining are known for having the sax as a key instrument it is somewhat surprising for one not to make any appearance anywhere on this! Devin Townsend has been an obvious influence, as have Linkin Park, and it is when the guys are really pushing the envelope with downtuned guitars and stacks of groove that they really make the listener stand up and take notice. It is mainstream for the most part, and it will be interesting to see how hardcore fans view this, as while it is an okay album, it is never really much more than that, and certainly not one which would be expected from him/them. It is almost a case of treating this as a brand-new band, and while the sound is very modern and powerful, for some reason it feels as if it as all been produced at the same level and consequently there just isn’t enough drama for it to be consistently interesting.

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