Every week, the music-loving creative team at Geeks + Gamers check out their most-anticipated New Releases, listening to them incessantly over the weekend. Three reviews are compiled and brought to you, the faithful reader. This week, Jonathan Youngblood and Michael Kaye tackle three of the newest, biggest album drops in rock, pop, and everything in between.
Melodrama by Lorde
With the dynamic release of Pure Heroine in 2013, the sixteen-year-old pop singer/songwriter, Lorde, achieved star status almost overnight. Her massive hits “Royals” and “Team” were everywhere, with the former being declared by many as the defining song of the Millennial Generation. The musical and vocal maturity of such a young artist set this performer from New Zealand apart from the endless stream of substanceless, sugar-laced pop that makes up the majority of Top 40 rotating tracks. Four years is a long time to wait for a sophomore release, especially after a debut that reached such critical acclaim. However, with Melodrama, the now twenty-year-old Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor proves to fans that everything was truly worth the wait.
There is a certain level of chaotic beauty to be found in the juxtaposition of depth and superficiality in Lorde’s music. From the piano-driven start of Melodrama’s opening track, “Green Light,” a raw energy and biting wit infuses the album’s eleven tracks. There is a bitter edge to O’Connor’s vocals that carries listeners on a journey of misunderstanding, neglect, and lies. The dissatisfaction and rebellion that is epitomized in the career-highlight “Homemade Dynamite” is simultaneously developed and unapologetically immature. It nearly goes without saying at this point that Lorde is one of the most powerful, spine-chilling vocalists of her time. At this rate and, hopefully, with a shorter delay between now and Album #3, the twenty-something has every possibility of truly taking over the musical world.
The only possible criticism I have for Lorde’s Melodrama comes down to the tracks that accompany her killer vocals and raw lyrics. Musically, there is no new ground broken. Even more importantly, there is a steady stream of bland beginnings culminating in phenomenal conclusions on the majority of Melodrama’s tracks that, for the less dedicated, does not succeed in truly grabbing attention. A few times, I found myself zoning out the first (and sometimes even the second) verse of a song, only to be slowly lured back in by O’Connor’s razor’s edge seduction. All in all, however, this is one of the most intriguing releases of 2017 thus far and should serve to cement Lorde’s more-than-deserved stardom. Please do not ignore this one. – JY
Feed The Machine by Nickelback
I have a very unique relationship with Nickelback, the infamous four-piece rock band from Hanna, Alberta led by the equally-infamous Chad Kroeger. One of the first albums I ever owned was their 2003 record The Long Road, which led me to discovering other bands signed on to Roadrunner Records. This was before they became the laughing stock of the hard rock genre, and while I’ve joined in the occasional mocking, I don’t actually think the band is that bad. They have definitely made some bad albums, with Dark Horse certainly coming instantly to mind. However, my goal in this review is to give their ninth studio album, Feed the Machine, a fair chance.
Chad Kroeger has made some bold claims in interviews, telling Music Choice that “this album is definitely heavier, as a whole, than a lot of our previous records. . . We’re always stretching off in different directions and trying different things, but we definitely went with more of an aggressive sound on this record.” There’s a truth in there somewhere, but I don’t completely buy his line about trying different things. For better or worse, the title track of Feed the Machine is pretty awesome. I say “awesome” in a relative context, since Nickelback hasn’t really been this heavy since the early 2000’s. Still, the driving nature of this opener is fairly impressive. Tracks like this, “Coin for the Ferryman,” “For the River,” and “The Betrayal – Act III” prove that there is definitely talent among each of the band’s musicians, most notably Kroeger on lead guitar and Daniel Adair on the drums.
Here’s my problem with the album: those four tracks are really the only ones with “a more aggressive sound,” and to be honest, it is still nothing too different from previous efforts. As a fan of their earlier albums like Curb and The State, I almost feel lied to, because, as strongly as “Feed the Machine” seems to promise a return to form, Nickelback’s next single, “Song On Fire,” takes it all back. If that was their only ballad, I’d be a little more forgiving. After all, that’s been their bread and butter for most of their discography, putting out at least one radio-friendly song every time to reach the widest audience possible. But, as it turns out, Feed the Machine has more ballads than actual heavy tracks, which makes the listening experience feel like opening a bag of potato chips that is 75% air. Overall, I can’t necessarily hate this album, because the tracks that I liked are genuinely great songs. But, at this point in their careers, Nickelback is the Adam Sandler of hard rock. The band has loads of talent that they choose not to take full advantage of. – MK
Incorruptible by Iced Earth
Iced Earth is a heavy metal band from Tampa, Florida that was founded in 1985 by guitarist Jon Schaffer. Throughout their 30+ year history, the band has always made notable changes to their lineup, especially when it comes to lead guitarists and vocalists. Currently, the bands consists of Schaffer on rhythm guitar, Stu Block on vocals, Jake Dreyer on lead guitar, Luke Appleton on bass, and Brent Smedley on drums. Incorruptible is the twelfth studio album from the band. Schaffer’s confidence in the record is quite infectious, especially when he stacks it against their previous albums such as The Dark Saga, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Dystopia. Without burying the lead too much, this is my favorite album of the year.
There’s a lot to love about this album, starting with the killer opening track, “Great Heathen Army.” You know the album is going to be good when it begins with an epic choir, followed by some powerful guitar work from both Schaffer and Dreyer. The album only gets better from there. Picking a favorite track is difficult, because all ten of them are great in their own ways. The ones where vocalist Stu Block gets to shine the most are “The Relic (Part 1),” “Raven Wing,” and “Clear the Way (December 13th, 1862).” I know a lot of Iced Earth fans are still attached to Matt Barlow, who made plenty of great contributions to the band, but I have to give the edge to Block as my favorite vocalist.
One of my favorite things about Iced Earth in general is that they don’t necessarily put themselves in a subgenre box. This album is proof of that, giving you slower tempo tracks like “Raven Wings” and “The Veil” along with more thrash-influenced tracks like “Seven Headed Whore” and “Defiance.” The instrumental track “Ghost Dance (Awaken the Ancestors)” shows off more of the band’s progressive side, while everything comes to a head in the closer “Clear the Way (December 13th, 1862).” No metalhead should go this year without listening to Incorruptible, especially if you’ve been a fan of Iced Earth since The Dark Saga. – MK