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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NIRVANA Nevermind Album Cover Nevermind
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FOO FIGHTERS There Is Nothing Left to Lose Album Cover There Is Nothing Left to Lose
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FOO FIGHTERS Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace Album Cover Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
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NICKELBACK Curb

Album · 1996 · Heavy Alternative Rock
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martindavey87
I never really cared much for the term "post" being placed before music genres. "Post this" and "post that", it all sounded a bit pretentious to me. That is, until I heard Nickelback's debut album, 1996's 'Curb'. Often cited as "post grunge", it all makes sense to me now! Channelling their inner Seattle grunge scene, 'Curb' sounds a lot like a Canadian band poorly mimicking Nirvana or Pearl Jam a couple of years removed from the grunge genres mainstream peak.

Now, don't get me wrong, I actually like Nickelback, and don't understand the absolute scorn and contempt that is thrust upon them. But it's hard to believe the worldwide success they'd go on to have, considering the quality of this release.

I guess it's just a case of a young band trying to find their sound, but there's really nothing noteworthy here except a few half-assed watered down attempts at sounding like the aforementioned grunge bands. The musicianship is fairly average, vocalist Chad Kroeger (who'll go on to become one of the most hated men in rock music) has a good voice and an impressive range, but if you're going back to this album after hearing their later mainstream hits, it's apparent how much he's trying to sound like Kurt Cobain.

Still, it's not all bad. There's one or two moments where it's easy to hear where the band truly shine, and that's in the riffs department. 'Little Friend', 'Pusher', 'Detangler' and 'Where' are all innocent enough numbers. Nothing amazingly outstanding, but they have their qualities that make them listenable. Should I accidently stumble across them, that is.

But overall, let's face it, we only want to hear the bands 2001 mega hit 'How You Remind Me', and this sounds nothing like that band! This is a pretty bland and uninteresting (yet inoffensive if you do happen upon it) release. Wait for them to develop their own style and things will really start to fall into place.

NIRVANA Incesticide

Boxset / Compilation · 1992 · Heavy Alternative Rock
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Vim Fuego
“Incesticide” is a rare thing. For a rapidly thrown together record label stop-gap, it is actually a pretty good compilation.

“Incesticide” was made up of demos, b-sides, unreleased tracks, and other extraneous material recorded between 1988 and 1991. Released a year after the revolutionary “Nevermind”, it was intended to be a high quality version of material which was already circulating in bootleg form. Geffen Records decided not to promote it heavily, in case fans suffered Nirvana burn-out. Yeah, right Geffen, so why release the fucking thing in the first place then? Despite this, it still went platinum in the US, UK, and Canada.

So why did “Incesticide” do so well? Simply put, the album includes some of the best material Nirvana ever recorded. It shows off the breadth of Nirvana’s influences and the diversity of the band’s sound. Was Kurt Cobain a misunderstood genius or an overrated junkie slacker? Who the fuck knows. He made some interesting, noisy music, then blew his brains out, and left it up to the rest of us to decide his place in history.

First song “Dive” came from a recording session for Sub Pop which was intended to be for the follow-up album to “Bleach”, and was released as the b-side to “Sliver”. Of course, we know the follow-up didn’t come out on Sub Pop, and this song would not have fit on “Nevermind” anyway, with a feel closer to “Bleach”. The song has a fatter, warmer sound than the “Nevermind” album. Like all things Cobain, the lyrics are either cryptic or nonsensical, depending on your own interpretation.

Just to get things ass backwards, “Sliver” appears after “Dive”, even though “Dive” was the b-side to this single. Anyway, “Sliver” has the most memorable hooks Nirvana ever recorded, both in the bouncy bass line and the “Grandma take me home” lyric which constituted the song’s chorus. The lyrics are trivial, but engaging, seemingly taken from a child’s point of view, remembering an evening with grandparents.

“Stain” has a rougher edge than the previous two songs. It was originally released on the “Blew” EP. It’s a shouty punk song, with a great discordant noise solo, and is basically musical simplicity itself, both catchy and compelling.

“Been A Son” is a later song, recorded for the Mark Goodier radio show for the BBC in November 1991, with "(New Wave) Polly" and "Aneurysm" coming from the same session. It has another of those trademark vocal hooks, with Cobain slurring his vocals a little.

"Turnaround", "Molly's Lips", and "Son of a Gun", were recorded in 1990 for the John Peel Show for the BBC. “Turnaround” is a Devo cover, but is a surprisingly forgettable and unlikeable song. The next two tracks are Vaselines covers, and have a seemingly happy, bouncy feel to them, despite the reasonably grim subject matter of addiction on “Molly’s Lips”.

“(New Wave) Polly” shows the band made an excellent decision by sticking with the acoustic version of the song for “Nevermind”. While not a bad song, the shock value, and raw emotion present on the acoustic version of the song are not near as striking on this version.

"Beeswax", "Downer", "Mexican Seafood", "Hairspray Queen", and "Aero Zeppelin" all came from Nirvana’s first studio demo, recorded in January 1988. These show a young but focused band, playing like their whole lives depended on it, with a feel of determination edged by desperation. It demonstrated an early incarnation of the grunge formula of mixing garage punk with classic rock and pop sensibilities, with the added ingredient of emerging slacker cynicism. “Hairspray Queen” in particular fully demonstrated the musical weirdness which could emerge from such a mix, with a simple, yet effective three note bassline from Krist Novoselic, while Cobain’s vocals vary between Bobcat Goldthwaite rant, a subterranean grumble, and a crystal clear coherence. “Aero Zeppelin” is a straighter style rock song, and is really the first time on the album things seem to drag. While quite a powerful track, it seems too safe and mainstream compared to the rest of these demo tracks.

“Big Long Now” was recorded during the “Bleach” sessions. It would not have been too far out of place on that album, but was probably too slow paced. It is a dragging dirge, and feels like trying to emerge from a deep, deep sleep, but the grip of Morpheus is not ready to let go.

Final track “Aneurysm” combines the band’s noisier aspects with a driving punk beat. Kurt Cobain’s vocals are at their raggedy, melodic best, and the song has hooks big enough to catch mako sharks.

For such a diverse collection of recordings, “Incesticide” is surprisingly coherent. At the same time, it shows the breadth of vision of a group of young musicians, led by a reluctant mouthpiece, who didn’t care for the rules of how music should be created or sound, and wrote their own rules. Then they broke them repeatedly, and the outside world came to embrace their vision. Whether the outside world ever understood that vision then or now doesn’t matter. The resulting music speaks for itself.

JANE'S ADDICTION Nothing's Shocking

Album · 1988 · Heavy Alternative Rock
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Unitron
Usually credited for kicking off the alternative/grunge scene of the early 90's, Jane's Addiction unleashed their debut Nothing's Shocking with it's probably purposely shocking album cover in 1988. It has since influenced many artists inside and outside the alternative music world, and cemented itself as a hard rock classic of the late 80's, and for good reason.

While glam metal and grunge are often seen as polar opposites, Nothing's Shocking is an interesting blend of Guns 'n' Roses-esque glam with alternative rock and 70's hard rock/heavy metal elements that would help shape the grunge sound. Coupled with its massive arena production sound and quirky sense of humor, this cluster of contrasts create a unique record that has really never been copied, at least not successfully.

Most people who grew up listening to late 80's and 90's hard rock and heavy metal will probably know the slamming headbanger that is "Mountain Song". Opening with one of the most memorable intro basslines in rock, it's impossible to not want to stomp your feet to the crashing and massive riff that dominates the song. There's a ton of attitude here, with both Dave Navarro's pounding riffing and Perry Farrell's snide and nasally vocal performance. That sarcastic tone is contrasted with catchy melodic vocal hooks and guitar soloing that sounds right out of the 70's, as is the album's sound in general.

There's plenty of fantastic songs on here with the right amount of variety without straying away from the main sound. "Had a Dad" blends a killer groove that just punches you in the gut, with one of the soulful vocal melodies on the record. The experimental mini-epic "Ted, Just Admit It..." is an unsettling dirge that perfectly blends a wandering vibe reminiscent of 70's heavy psych and metal with the booming arena sound. The rhythm section of Eric Avery and Stephen Perkins really shines on the song, especially with the drums towards the end and the riffs that sound like Voivod playing funk.

My favorite on the album, as well as my favorite Jane's Addiction song has to go with the underrated deep cut of "Pigs in Zen". It really showcases all that's so great about the album in one song. The mixing of hard-edged guitar grit and soaring killer soloing, Farrell's sneer, deep bass, and the awesome 80's drum sound. Why not as many people talk about this song I will never know, what an excellent finale.

If you haven't heard this classic and love both arena rock and grunge, I highly recommend giving this album a listen. There's a little bit of filler, but nowhere near enough to take away from the abundance of high points. It's one of those legendary debuts like Boston's self-titled that the band could never top. It's a shame, but sometimes bands have one masterpiece within them, and for whatever reason can't come close to reaching the same greatness.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/03/janes-addiction-nothings-shocking-review.html

INCUBUS (CA) Morning View

Album · 2001 · Heavy Alternative Rock
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Necrotica
From time to time, you have that certain album that just defines you. Whether it’s from the standpoint of location, personal history, or correlation with friends, some music becomes an extension of our personalities and identity. And with this particular record, we’re talking about a piece of music that introduced me to an entirely new world (figuratively speaking). Not only is Morning View a beautiful throwback to my extensive history in California, but it was basically the impetus to alternative rock becoming one of my all-time favorite genres. This was a serious game-changer upon first listen, and every subsequent listen just revealed more manifold layers of meaning and technical prowess. Even today, it’s hard not to be impressed by how many levels Morning View entertains and impresses on.

But let’s backtrack for a second. Earlier on, I stated the album is “a beautiful throwback to my extensive history in California,” and that doesn’t just apply to my own history with the record. This applies to the sound as well. There’s a distinct vibe Morning View brings out, one of waves and sunny skies. Even in its most heavy and distorted moments (and there are several, as the album still warrants the “alternative metal” tag), a calm zen-like atmosphere still reigns supreme with this experience; it’s meditative and tends to ebb and flow like the aural representation of a quiet ocean. But that’s not a knock against the diversity that Incubus brings to the table… in fact, this might just be their strongest balance of soft and heavy elements to date. Whereas S.C.I.E.N.C.E. wore its eccentric influences on its sleeve (although in some incredibly cool ways) and Make Yourself still carried over some faint traces of the band’s nu-metal roots, Morning View just feels like a more centered and balanced piece of work. It’s often gorgeous, such as the pipa-driven ebbs and flows of the oriental ballad “Aqueous Transmission” or the delicate clean-guitar intro to the expansive power ballad “Just a Phase.” But these moments are almost always offset by the strident, heavy power chords that define many of the other numbers here. Opener “Nice to Know You” doesn’t take much time making itself known, storming the speakers with a crunchy Drop-D riff that really sets the mood for the album to come. “Circles” is even more intense, immediately diving into a groove that’s almost impossible not to headbang to - even in the most melodious moments of the piece. But when the fantastic power ballad “Wish You Were Here” comes in, we get a lot more perspective on the album’s strengths. Basically, it’s all a yin/yang thing. Both extremes are respectful of each other and don’t interfere with each others’ boundaries.

If anything, many of the heavy moments are used as building blocks on the quiet foundations, performing in a fashion not unlike a good deal of post-metal. There are certainly short bursts that come around, such as the metallic banger “Have You Ever,” but much of Morning View’s beauty lies in how the dynamics blend. It lies in how each volume level communicates with one other to get to the finish line, much like how instruments “talk” to one another in improvisational jazz music. Perhaps the reason this album was so resonant with me was because it taught me the importance of atmosphere and how it can be created. In both concept and execution, Morning View is a true cornerstone as far as combining atmosphere with songcraft goes. It simulates the crashing of the California waves and the serenity of an empty beach with its own interpretations, giving us powerful slabs of alternative metal with strong doses of melody and expansive arrangements. Even one of the tightest, funkiest songs on here, “Are You In,” compliments its catchy groove with a laid-back and peaceful vibe that fits the rest of the tracklist. And really, that’s what Morning View gives me every time I hear it: peace. Relaxation. Ease. It feels like a burden being lifted off the shoulders and into the ocean. It sounds like a spiritual and mental cleansing. And it plays like the best moments of one’s past returning in an overwhelming emotional release. This is musical rejuvenation.

MAD SEASON Above

Album · 1995 · Heavy Alternative Rock
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UMUR
"Above" is the debut full-length studio album by US, Seattle, Washington based rock/hard rock act Mad Season. The album was released through Columbia Records in March 1995. Mad Season was formed by guitarist Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) and bassist John Baker Saunders, when the two met at a Minneapolis drug rehabilitation center in 1994. When the treatment was completed they returned to Seattle and formed The Gacy Bunch, with vocalist Layne Staley (Alice in Chains) and drummer Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees), which soon changed name to Mad Season. The group was rather short lived as a combination of Layne Staley´s serious drug issues and conflicting schedules made them disband in 1996. John Baker Saunders had a relapse with heroin and died of a drug overdose in January 1999 and Layne Staley died in April 2002. Also as a result of a drug overdose.

So Mad Season was definitely an act with their fair share of drug experiences, and it rubs off on the music which is a type of laid back psychadelic tinged rock/hard rock. It´s often so stoned and laid back that you can almost picture these guys playing in a heroin haze. Which of course isn´t true since it was only Layne Staley who had those issues while recording "Above". They occasionally play some more punchy hard rocking parts, but the album is predominantly more mellow and laid back. The use of instruments like cello, marimba, and vibraphone, in addition to the regular rock instrumentation of guitars, bass, and drums, further enhances the soft and mellow sound of the music. Mad Season have also opted to include saxophone on "Long Gone Day", which is a real treat, and fits in perfectly with the song´s atmosphere.

The 10 track, 55:36 minutes long album is an organic listen, featuring a pleasant sound production and blues and roots rock influences. The material is relatively well written, but not necessarily that catchy upon first listen. "Above" is definitely a grower, but it never really grows beyond being a good listen. For that there are too many sections where not enough happens, and you as a listener are left listening to a couple of guys who obviously enjoyed playing together, but don´t always manage to channel that joy of playing to their audience. That´s probably a harsh choice of words, but although a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved, I still feel the need to voice my opinion on some of the issues concerning "Above" and not just the good things.

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