By Jeremy Sneed
It was back in 2012 that the world saw the debut album from Cleveland’s own Machine Gun Kelly (MGK). Lace Up being the title, getting the name from one of his popular mixtapes. Since then MGK has released two mixtapes: Black Flag (2013) and Fuck It (summer 2015). MGK has really grown as a rapper since releasing his debut album. On that first album, he had numerous big name features like Tech N9ne, Twista, Lil Jon and Young Jeezy. This time around MGK used only four features: Lzzy Hale on “Spotlight”, Kid Rock on “Bad Motherfucker”, Leroy Sanchez on “Gone”, and Victoria Monet on the lead single “A Little More.” General Admission as explained by MGK himself was a journey inside of his mind and the life he lives. Lace Up was definitely more of a mainstream, radio type album with club hits like “Wild Boy” and the self-titled “Lace Up.” But, I think I like General Admission better than Lace Up which is like having to choose between your two children.
I really enjoyed the serious tone and mood that MGK depicted throughout his sophomore album, with exceptions to “Bad Motherfucker” and “All Night Long” which were more positive tracks on the albums. While some reviews stated that the depressing mood got redundant and sort of annoying, I thought it was refreshing to see from MGK because a lot of bandwagon fans fail to realize that MGK has been writing serious songs about his life his whole career. Something else I would like to point out is that each song has its own story and meaning. I love that because it shows that MGK is an artist and not just rapper. It shows that he can write excellent stories and turn them into songs.
For example, “Story of the Stairs” was a about him figuring out if he wanted closure with his mom who left him when he was just a little kid. The song opens with his ‘aunt’ (apparently she isn’t actually his aunt, he just calls her that) who he lived with for a while growing up. She explains that his mom sent him a package of new clothes and toys and he refused to look at it. In personally my favorite song on the album, “Gone”, MGK talks about who scared he is of losing his daughter to the rap game like Eminem was in “Lose Yourself.” He also mentions how rocky his relationship has been throughout his life with his preacher dad. On the opening track, “Spotlight”, MGK talks about his struggles with dealing with fame. Yes, I understand that that is a redundant topic in rap but here are some strong lyrics from this song: “I think that fame’s a pre-cursor to death: Death of a friendship. Death of a family. Death of a man.” This is coming from a man who hasn’t figure out how to handle fame and has definitely struggled to cope with his new found fame. Lastly, there’s a song from this album called “Merry Go Round” that really showcases his writing skills. In “Merry Go Round” MGK tells a story about a heroine couple and all of the problems that come with it. He then explains about ‘Bobby’ going away to the military and his girlfriend (unnamed) hooking up with drug dealers and getting pregnant. The song conclude with Bobby coming home seeing his pregnant girlfriend dead so he kills himself and MGK kind of takes a shot at the military as if saying that if it wasn’t for Bobby leaving, they wouldn’t have all died. Depressing yes, but great as well.
To conclude, General Admission shows MGK’s range as an artist and his ability to write meaningful and purposeful songs. Despite the differences in his two albums, MGK is on his way to great things if he can combine his talents from Lace Up and General Admission. As a fan who has been following him since the early 2010s, I am excited for what MGK has in store for the years to come.
Between the Buried and Me – Coma Ecliptic Review
By Trevor Leavell
I’m now losing count of how many times that Between the Buried and Me have outdone themselves in terms of quality. In 2005, they released Alaska as their third effort and it was an album that deviated from their raw sound and made for a cleaner, and crisper sound; to follow Alaska, they released Colors in 2007, which today is considered a progressive metal masterpiece. The years to come, they haven’t declined at all. The Great Misdirect is considered to be on par with Colors as is Parallax II: Future Sequence, but both never seemed to have as much power; although they were pretty damn great, they weren’t as great when compared to Colors. With their seventh record releasing, fans were wondering: how would Coma Ecliptic hold up? As a long term fan of BTBAM, I can say they definitely have out done themselves. Coma Ecliptic not only exceeds everything they’ve done, but it blows everything else in the progressive metal genre out of the water.
Coma Ecliptic tackles a very different tone compared their previous works. The album does have a concept, but it stands alone from The Parallax I and II. In this album, the concept follows a man in a self-induced coma and he’s able to have visions of his past lives. He goes through them and finds his life incredibly mundane compared to them. He then contemplates whether to end his life, and move onto another, or live on with the one he has. The lyrics are smart, and clever, but no lines are really considered memorable; this isn’t exactly negative. The most memorable parts of the album lies all within the musical collaboration. Between the Buried and Me is able to shift tones in music so subtly and smoothly in Coma Ecliptic. One moment, you’re listening the some pretty heavy riffs and bobbing your head; then the next moment, you’re tapping your foot ever so slowly to the smooth jazz rhythm of the guitar of Paul Wagoner and Dusty Waring.
The vocals of the album are a huge plus too. Tommy Giles does incorporate more cleanly vocal work than previous BTBAM albums; however, his harsh vocals feel rawer, but they fit perfectly. With this perfect mix of vocal work, Coma Ecliptic feels more accessible, but without scaring off BTAM’s more hardcore fans. In fact, I feel the hardcore fans will enjoy this album most out of anyone else due to the fresh direction they take that doesn’t feel like “more of the same” feel that previous albums have suffered from. Returning fans may be disappointed in the finale at first, as it isn’t a 10 minuet plus epic like “White Walls” on Colors or “Swim to the Moon” on The Great Misdirect; but as they let the finale “Life in Velvet” sink in, they will find it as pleasing as previous albums’ finales.
Coma Ecliptic will probably be remembered as Between the Buried and Me’s magnum opus. It may be hard to believe, since Colors has held that title for the longest time, but this album is just so gripping with its sound that you wouldn’t want it to end ever. One “Life in Velvet” ends, you’ll be wanting to start all over again with “Node”.
By Brad Henning
Just in time for Halloween, the hard rock super-group Hollywood Vampires released their self-titled debut album last month and it’s everything a classic rock fan could hope for and more. Hollywood Vampires consists of Alice Cooper (the original “President” of the 70’s hard-partying group, The Hollywood Vampires), Joe Perry (of Aerosmith), Johnny Depp, and a long list of other classic and hard rock all-stars including: Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl, Slash, Perry Farrell, Brian Johnson, Robby Krieger, Joe Walsh, Kip Winger, and Zak Starkey.
The album begins with a haunting passage from “Dracula” entitled: “The Last Vampire” read by the king of vampires himself, the late Christopher Lee. This sets up the stage for the first of the two original songs written by the band: “Raise the Dead”. “Raise the Dead” cranks it up to eleven immediately with it’s booming drum beat and distorted guitars. Afterwards, the album changes direction and becomes purely covers of classic rock classics like Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta’ Love” featuring AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson, Badfinger’s “Come and Get It” featuring the song’s original composer: Paul McCartney, and “Manic Depression” by Jimi Hendrix.
The covers section of the album ends with a cover of one of Cooper’s own compositions: “School’s Out”. This version, however, includes an interlude into the Pink Floyd classic: “Another Brick in the Wall”, that makes it all the more better. And finally, the album is capped off by the second original composition entitled “My Dead Drunk Friends”, which is perfect homage to those rockers who were original members of the Hollywood Vampires that have passed on. Overall, the album has an awesome sound both production-wise and general feeling: you can honestly tell that all the musicians involved with this project were having fun while recording these tracks. In the end, I have to give this album a 9 out of 10: just because I wanted maybe one or two more original songs. But besides that, Hollywood Vampires is an excellent album and is well worth the listen/buy.
By Trevor Leavell
As their eighth effort, Coheed and Cambria produce their first album that doesn’t follow lead man Claudio Sanchez’s sci-fi narrative that has been present throughout their past seven albums. With this deviation from their concept, Color Before The Sun’s sound also deviates from the Coheed and Cambria sound that their fans are used to; however, Coheed and Cambria is able to use their different sound without intimidating their diehard fans. In fact, this album is more comforting than even their best albums. Once that riff from “Island” starts playing, you’ll have that feeling to stick around for the rest of the album, and surly you’ll have a great time. This album also has varying tones. “Ghost” and “Colors” carry a sense of somberness, while other tracks like “Here to Mars” and “Atlas” carry a much more sentimental tone. There are a couple songs that I’m sure diehard fans, like myself, will absolutely love and those are “The Audience” and “You’ve Got Spirit, Kid”. These two songs carry the sound that Coheed is known for. “You’ve Got Spirit, Kid” has the spunkiness that’s been present in previous albums such as No World for Tomorrow and Afterman: Ascension, while “The Audience” has the hateful tone that was present in Year of the Black Rainbow, Good Apollo Vol. 1, and has the funkiness in “The Hard Sell” from Afterman: Desension. The closing song “Peace to the Mountain” is probably their best closing song since “The Light and the Glass” from In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth 3. I feel like diehard fans of Coheed and Cambria will use this album as a gateway for people that are unfamiliar with the band. Not by any chance it is their best, but it is definitely not their worst.