Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Thrillkiller “The King of 1984”

Photo credit: Brent Seward

For those of us old enough to remember, do you recall the days when a new music video was a social event? How you and your friends talked about it at school all week, and then gathered together at the nearest television with access to MTV to watch the “world premiere”? How many of us who grew up in that time would listen to a song and dream up what that music video would look like, and then were let down whenever the video looked nothing at all the way you had imagined? How many times have we held a crystallized image of the perfect music video in our minds, and only hoped that someday, what we saw in our heads would come to life on the screen?

Because now, someone has made such a video, and it is Thrillkiller's latest tune, “The King of 1984”. With a title like that, it immediately conjures up certain imagery, and at least for me, I can finally see a music video play out almost exactly how I pictured it to be. From the moment those synths open up the track, a rush of ’80s nostalgia hits all the sweet spots in your brain, and you are transported back to a simpler time when Aqua Net could solve any problem, and a man could wear hot-pink spandex, purple eyeshadow and blue eyeliner, yet still be considered a hunk of red-blooded masculinity.

From the start, the video for “The King of 1984” fits right in with all that ’80s aesthetic; even the opening credits are in that space-age, futuristic-looking font that was used in nearly every sci-fi movie back then. As soon as vocalist Rob Bradley makes his entrance wearing a red leather jacket, it is a throwback to the classic Michael Jackson videos from the era, and as the video progresses, the references don't stop there. 

As Rob makes his way into a dim, smoky bar, we meet other characters that could very easily time-warp back to 1984 and look as though they belong there. We see punk rock girls dressed in black with closely-cropped hair; guys wearing skintight one-piece jumpsuits, big sunglasses, and an outfit that looks like a space suit designed by the Village People. It's so damn fabulous, and we aren't even a minute into the video yet.

While alternating with onstage shots of the band, we start getting into the video's concept, which in itself is a complete homage to ’80s videos. Looking like a cross between the “Beat It” video and Mad Max, the basic premise is of a bar fight gone bad...but there is much more to it than that! While Rob is chilling at the bar and minding his business, a cute blonde decides to buy him a drink. We also see that she hasn't been the only one in the bar who has been eyeing him; no sooner than another girl pulls the blonde away than the other guys in the bar (played by the other members of Thrillkiller)—including the space-age Village People guy, credited as the motorcycle punk—start to crowd around him.

Then as the funky bass solo begins, all hell breaks loose! Fists fly, bottles are broken...Rob manages to get a breather long enough to have another drink, and then back to fighting. As he delivers the final blow that leaves the motorcycle punk on his back, Rob yanks the sunglasses off his face, kisses the blonde, and struts out into the street, where the ultimate ’80s ride is waiting for him: a DeLorean, of course!

As Rob revs up and races off, the motorcycle punk is hot on his trail, and an epic chase begins. At this point, the video is pure tribute to Back to the Future (Easter egg: try reading the car's license plate!), and on a more subtle level, to Kung Fury (i.e., the greatest short film of the 21st century). As the motorcycle punk moves closer, Rob puts the pedal to the metal and gives us one last ’80s reference for the ages.

I have seen the future, and it is 1984.

For more information on Thrillkiller, visit their official website.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: The Spider Accomplice “User”

Band photo

One of my favorite newer bands to come out of the L.A. rock scene over the last couple of years, this is not the first time I have written about The Spider Accomplice, and I am pretty sure it won't be my last. A refreshing mix of alternative rock, quirky folk, and everything in-between, The Spider Accomplice beautifully captures the diverse and unique spirit of L.A.: a place that waves its freak flag like no other, and a place that any free spirit would be proud to call home.

When I listen to TSA's music, I do not feel homesick; immediately I am transported and VK Lynne's voice takes me on a beach cruise with the windows down and the temperature at a perfect 75 degrees. It is relaxing, unimposing, and inviting; much like the nature of Southern California. We don't ask for outside acceptance or approval; we just want to do our own thing.

The Spider Accomplice is all about “doing their own thing”, and doing it well. In fact, their new video for their brand-new song “User”, shows TSA in their element, and all the various ways in which they are indeed “doing their own thing”. We see them in the midst of their music-making process, as an occasional lyric scrolls across the screen. As we see, it isn't always a glamorous procedure: there are missed cues, there are technical difficulties, and a lot of waiting around. But even during the most tedious moments, they all appear to be having fun, and each have their own unique methods of stress-relief.

For more information on The Spider Accomplice, visit their official website.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Cradle of Filth “Heartbreak and Seance”

Band photo

One of the premier names in extreme metal, Cradle of Filth has been going strong for nearly 3 decades and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. Their unique blend of gothic, horror, and symphonic elements fused into a black metal visage, Cradle of Filth has survived every musical trend and silly fad, without ever compromising their trademark sound. Now embarking on their 12th album—Cryptoriana: The Seductiveness of Decay—Cradle of Filth is roaring back on the scene with that dramatic flair that is distinctly their own.

For the band's latest video (and Cryptoriana's first single), “Heartbreak and Seance”, there is no question you are watching a Cradle of Filth video from the start. The dark imagery that they are known for is all there: death and mourning to a snowy backdrop. Dani Filth's piercing scream cuts right through you, as he stands before a mic stand that looks like a cross between withered tree branches and antlers. A somber group of bereaved mourners stand beside a still and bloodied figure. Female vocalist Lindsay Schoolcraft is wearing a headdress fashioned like a skull, as she provides her heavenly vocals in contrast to Dani's harshness. More imagery of skulls and naked bodies, as the departed person is covered by a heavy black cloak and the grieving friends start playing on a Ouija board; all while a raven mentioned in the lyrics unobtrusively holds court.

The song's title is “Heartbreak and Seance”, so the theme of the video is plain to see. The attempt of the mourners to contact their departed loved one is not only shown with the Ouija board scene, but also with images of two naked bodies wrapped around a skeleton, and snakes slithering around the prostrate form of a woman in a white dress. The deceased returns again, this time painted completely in black—showing his ghostly state—holding the lifeless body of one of the grief-stricken women in his arms, as if offering a sacrifice.

For more information on Cradle of Filth, visit their official website.

Special thanks to Lindsay Schoolcraft.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Vintersea “Skies Set Ablaze”

Band photo

There is something about the Pacific Northwest that produces some of the best music. Many of my favorite bands are from Seattle (one of which I have written about on this blog more than once!). If you have ever been to the region, the aesthetic of its music scene makes much more sense: there is a dark loveliness to it; a dense forest washed by rain, where everything feels fresh and new, yet older than time. There is a vibrancy to the music from the Northwest, with a maturity at its core that sees far beyond its years. It sounds like nothing you have ever heard before, yet hauntingly familiar and comfortably identifiable. I truly believe that music is a product of its environment, and each corner of the world has its own unique imprint on the music it produces. The Pacific Northwest is no different, and no matter what genre of music its residents choose for artistic expression, that distinct mark shows through time and time again.

Oregon's Vintersea is a newer band on the scene that uses their brand of progressive metal to capture “the majesty of the Pacific Northwest”, and this is apparent in their very first video, “Skies Set Ablaze”. Some Rush-influenced guitar work opens up this 7-minute track with a wintry motif. Alternating between the conceptual side of the video, where vocalist Avienne wanders through a snowy landscape, and the performance side, where Avienne wears both a white and a black dress (white for “clean” vocals, black for growly vocals), and rocks out with the band.

Thematically, the video's story centers around a woman lost in the forest in the middle of winter. She tries starting a fire, she sleeps in a hole in the ground for shelter, and follows a small river until she is seen digging frantically in the snow for one small sign of life: a small crimson-red flower. As the river carries the red flower away, we are reminded of the fragility of life.

For more information on Vintersea, visit their official Facebook page.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Omnislash “Metalliation Revengeance (Slash ’em All)”

Band photo

“Conceived when the mighty cock of heavy metal spilled its unholy seed into an active volcano”, or so the legend goes as to the origins of Baltimore-based power-thrash band Omnislash. Quite a descriptive account at any rate, the band defines themselves as “historical power thrash”, or good-old fashioned heavy metal for those of you who aren't exactly sure what all these labels mean.

After winning over audiences across Maryland and beyond with their debut album in 2015, Omnislash is back with a second offering titled Slash ’em All, which promises to be just as brutal as the first record. The music is fun, and you can tell the band is all about having a good time and never taking themselves too seriously.

Proof of that is in the band's new video for the track “Metalliation Revengeance (Slash ’em All)”, a 7-minute throwback to the good old days of MTV (they even use the same white font that famously bookended the videos, letting the viewer know what they were watching). The video is filmed at a restaurant in the Baltimore area called Crabtowne, U.S.A.; and we start off with a bad-ass metal dude slowly walking into the diner as ominous-sounding music plays in the background. He enters a rec room area, where there are wall-to-wall old-school arcade video games, pinball machines, and everything else that sparks the nostalgia of an ’80s kid. Amid the beeps and whistles of the machines, he approaches one of them, opens a flask, and starts drinking his booze through a crazy straw. He puts a quarter into the machine and proceeds to get his game on.

The graphics are pure ’80s cheesy goodness as we see that the video game is the same title as the song. The hilarity ensues when there is a jolt of electricity, and the entire band shows up as an electronic video game theme plays in the background. Soon the band jumps in and starts playing. From there it cuts to live shots of Omnislash playing onstage to an enthusiastic crowd. This is some awesome power metal (with some funky bass to boot). Back at Crabtowne, the guys in the band are riding the little electric ponies and go-karts, dancing around the room, while the bad-ass metal dude at the video game machine continues drinking his booze, completely unfazed by the shenanigans taking place. One of the guys plays his guitar solo on the toilet. Props to the drummer, who is wearing an old-school Legend of Zelda t-shirt! Back to the live shots; the band has a very enthusiastic mosh pit! These guys look like they are fun to hang out with, but at the end of the video, the guy with the booze doesn't seem very impressed with all of this. He actually wants his quarter back!

For more information on Omnislash, visit their official website.

Special thanks to Jeremy Phoenix.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Insatia “Memory of a Sapphire”

Photo credit: Sean Mundy

As much as I enjoy scoping out new talent from different parts of the world for this feature each week, I especially love to shine a spotlight on rising stars from my own home country as well. Another rare pleasure is to review a band who are my friends as well.

This week, I get to do all three by reviewing the latest video from Insatia, the Canadian-American symphonic metal powerhouse fronted by the lovely (and super-talented) Zoë Federoff. I have known Zoë since before she joined Insatia, so I know she is not just talented, but a genuinely good person who would much prefer to let her music speak for itself—not to be viewed as some rock star, but as a regular gal who has the good fortune to live her dreams. But she has also used her music to do good; calling attention to causes that are dear to her heart, and actively involving herself in numerous musical projects and charity work. She takes the high praise she receives in stride, and is as generous with giving compliments as she is in receiving them. A down-to-earth mom with a penchant for chai tea, Zoë is the farthest thing from a “diva” as you will ever find, on this scene or any other.

After over 3 years since bursting onto the scene with their debut album Asylum Denied, Insatia's star has steadily been rising; opening for respected bands on the scene such as Delain, Xandria, and the queen of metal herself, Doro Pesch. The band has also seen a lot of changes, with Zoë's personal growth and musical maturity leading the way. Still determined to keep this a band that celebrates the friendly alliance between the U.S. and Canada, Insatia merges the heat of Tucson with the cold of Montreal to produce not just a diamond in the rough, but...well, a sapphire.

Fans have waited a long time for Phoenix Aflame, the highly-anticipated follow-up to their 2013 debut, and let me just say that they will not be disappointed! Insatia's brand of symphonic metal is something that very few other bands in the genre can claim: it is as catchy and hooky as a rock song, but with all the sweeping grandeur and elegance that you come to expect from a symphonic metal band, all within the span of 4 minutes.

The band's choice for their first video, “Memory of a Sapphire” (which features a guest appearance by ex-Arch Enemy guitarist Chris Amott), captures this perfectly. A lone sapphire is shown on the floor, as Zoë walks to it, picks it up, and looks at it for a moment. The quiet is just long enough so that the heavy riffs jolt you, and then Zoë goes from contemplative silence to headbanging all over the place! The entire band is rocking out: bassist Dave Ablaze is swirling his bass around his neck, as hair goes whipping around. If you are not instantly committing the earworm of a chorus to memory, or at least aren't singing along with Zoë's line, “memory of a sapphi-iii-irrre”, then you are just too cool for me; because I had this song stuck in my head after one listen!

The video itself is very straightforward with not many frills: Zoë is wearing a nice blue dress, while the rest of the band is dressed in black, or black-and-white. It consists mostly of performance shots, cutting occasionally to Zoë pondering over her sapphire. Perhaps there is meaning behind this, but the video itself does not tell. The most we see of the titular character is at the end of the video, where it is left where it was originally found, spinning like a top.

For more information on Insatia, visit their official website.

Special thanks to Zoë Federoff and Dave Ablaze.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Aggronymph “I Want You”

Band photo

One of my favorite newer bands on the scene right now, Aggronymph has a new video out and I can't wait to review it!

As I have written in past reviews, this band has a diverse sound to them, merging together all these different styles and fitting them together in such a wonderful way.

In the video for “I Want You”, there are some similarities to their previous video, “Moonlight”. There are shots of the band's hometown of Yichang, China (which has some very lovely scenery, I might add!). This time, there is daytime footage including the band's vocalist, Elain. She looks sad and pensive, matching the mood of the song as she walks down the city streets all alone. As evening comes, we see Elain among the busy city nightlife; sitting alone in a coffee shop, wandering aimlessly through shops, up stairs and down sidewalks, in the futile attempt to ease her loneliness. The video ends with Elain running through an empty field, as an aerial shot pans away to show the lone figure amidst the world that is still moving along.

For more information on Aggronymph, visit the band's official Facebook page.