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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THE SMASHING PUMPKINS Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness Album Cover Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS
4.57 | 24 ratings
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PEARL JAM Ten Album Cover Ten
PEARL JAM
4.28 | 61 ratings
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COHEED AND CAMBRIA The Afterman: Ascension Album Cover The Afterman: Ascension
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4.54 | 12 ratings
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COHEED AND CAMBRIA The Afterman: Descension Album Cover The Afterman: Descension
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THE SMASHING PUMPKINS Siamese Dream Album Cover Siamese Dream
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4.39 | 15 ratings
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PEARL JAM Vs. Album Cover Vs.
PEARL JAM
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SOUNDGARDEN Superunknown Album Cover Superunknown
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COHEED AND CAMBRIA Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness Album Cover Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
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4.11 | 44 ratings
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NIRVANA Nevermind Album Cover Nevermind
NIRVANA
4.03 | 67 ratings
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COHEED AND CAMBRIA Year of the Black Rainbow Album Cover Year of the Black Rainbow
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FOO FIGHTERS There Is Nothing Left to Lose Album Cover There Is Nothing Left to Lose
FOO FIGHTERS
4.11 | 14 ratings
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FOO FIGHTERS Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace Album Cover Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
FOO FIGHTERS
4.12 | 13 ratings
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heavy alternative rock Music Reviews

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.’

THE SMASHING PUMPKINS Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness

Album · 1995 · Heavy Alternative Rock
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Necrotica
One of the best traits Billy Corgan has always had as a songwriter is that he’s incredibly skilled at making mountains out of molehills. Much like Bruce Springsteen, he has the ability to take the mundane and transform it into the most grand and sweeping thing you’ve ever heard. Back in the 90s, he took the genre of alternative rock and injected it with a sense of artistry and grace that immediately set The Smashing Pumpkins apart from the majority of their grungy, down-to-earth peers. And let’s be clear here: it’s not like the band were strangers to grunge or alternative metal themselves. Songs like “Cherub Rock,” “Zero,” and “Quiet” are all infused with a murky, dirty tone and downtuned guitar work that act as a piledriver to the ears. However, as pretentious as Corgan might have been (let’s be fair here, he was… and still is), he knew that adding a heightened level of grandeur to his chosen genre would make his band stand out. Gish and Siamese Dream were already building up to the peak of this evolution, especially the latter which would become known as a classic in its own right. And even through the group’s inner turmoil, the classic lineup remained (Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlain, James Iha, and D’arcy Wretzky) to cut their second - and arguably their final - classic. But back then, was anybody really prepared for a full-blown 2-hour double disc by these guys?

I’d imagine not. Even as double albums go, 2 straight hours is a lot to ask of someone’s time - especially when hearing Billy Corgan’s nasally whine throughout that duration. So it’s quite astonishing, then, that nearly every moment has an important place in Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Granted, it should probably go without saying that - with a duration as long as this - there’s really no stone left unturned. Alternative rock, progressive rock, symphonic rock, art rock, shoegaze, psychedelia, grunge, and heavy metal are all fairly represented at different times, altogether sculpting one of the most eclectic works of the 90s. But the artistic growth of the band (or more specifically, Billy Corgan, considering he wrote the vast majority of the record) doesn’t stop there. Much like a play or a film laced with intermissions, Mellon Collie is separated by two different acts: Dawn to Dusk and Twilight to Starlight. A number of songs play into this concept as well, such as “We Only Come Out at Night” naturally appearing in the second disc to represent the twilight or the beautiful piano-driven opening title track lifting the figurative curtains to signify the coming of dawn. As for the lyrics themselves, each song acts as a specific little vignette or a small puzzle piece; this isn’t really a concept album in the traditional sense (there’s no actual arc or storyline), but rather a grand jigsaw puzzle composed of miniature stories that correlate in some way to their respective discs.

As such, the relationship between tension and release is one of the biggest draws of Mellon Collie. Because of the wildly varying dynamics, the album constantly goes back and forth with its bipolar nature like a seesaw as it traverses through every facet of the band’s experimental tendencies. “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans” and “Thru the Eyes of Ruby” like to swell and build their dynamics to satisfying conclusions in a progressive rock fashion, while tunes like “Tales of a Scorched Earth” and “X.Y.U.” present the band in its ugliest form with pummeling metal riffs and furious blasts of guitar feedback. Likewise, there are plenty of delicate ballads that help mitigate the intensity of the propulsive rockers, as one might expect on such a long-winded journey. Notably, two of these are the only songs not written by Billy Corgan himself: guitarist James Iha wrote the album’s closers, “Take Me Down” and “Farewell and Goodnight,” both of which close out their respective sides in a serene manner. But that’s not to say they’re the best ballads on offer; in my mind, the gorgeously layered dream pop number “By Starlight” easily wins in that regard. “Cupid De Locke” is another highlight, using unorthodox percussion in the form of saltshakers to propel its easygoing rhythms and flighty tempo. As I mentioned before, tension and release is what makes Mellon Collie so consistently fun to listen to. It’s all about the different yins and yangs of volume and style, all countering each other in fresh new ways. If you want the best showing of this, listen to “X.Y.U.” and “We Only Come Out at Night,” which play back-to-back and yet contrast each other in every way. The former is a brutal Melvins-esque jab of sludgy alternative metal, and the latter is a quaint ballad with a light swing rhythm. How the latter follows up the former so well, I’ll never know.

I’ll be completely blunt about this: I’m not normally a fan of double albums. With so much content to pack into one recording, it almost seems like a guarantee that you’ll encounter something that should have stayed on the cutting room floor. It’s a problem that’s plagued quite a few albums in the past, including (in my opinion, at least) The Beatles’ self-titled White Album and Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. This is the way I see things: if you’re going to stuff your record with more than one disc full of material, you’d better make sure to bring your A-game and take special care in every track to make sure it has a purpose. There might be a few weaker cuts on Mellon Collie (“Love” and “Beautiful” come to mind), but there was never a time that I thought they actually crippled the album in any severe way. Considering this is a 28-track record with 121 minutes to its runtime, it’s insane to think that even the throwaways are still as well-written as they are. If you gave “Love” and “Beautiful” to an album from a lower-tier alternative rock band from that era, they might have been considered highlights; think about that.

There was once a time when I thought Siamese Dream was The Smashing Pumpkins’ true peak, with Mellon Collie at a close second. However, that opinion has been slowly reversing with the passage of time. The more time I’ve given this album to grow and cultivate in my eardrums, the more its phenomenal consistency and emotional potency have also grown. Moreover, Mellon Collie just feels important. Alternative rock needed something this grandiose and diverse, whether the practitioners or listeners of the genre wanted to dispute that or not. Such a fully-realized masterwork only comes around once in a lifetime, and you’d be wise to lend an ear to its timeless tunes if you haven’t already.

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