Tag Archives: Album Review

Record Review: From First To Last — ‘Dead Trees’


In 2013, From First to Last launched a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of crowdfunding a new EP. After surpassing their initial goal of $25,000 and raising over $30,000, the band decided to produce a full-length album instead. This album, released on April 23rd via Sumerian Records, is called Dead Trees. Following the release of Throne to the Wolves in 2010 and then a three-year hiatus, Dead Trees is the product of some rough patches and fresh perspective.

Dead Trees introduces vocalist Spencer Sotelo of Periphery to the lineup, whose vocal skills are definitely accentuated in the new sound, especially in the theatrical and appealing “I Solemnly Swear That I Am Up to No Good,” which is one of my personal favorites on the record. The title song of the album was the first single to be released back in November 2014, and for good reason. It has a catchy chorus and showcases Sotelo’s vocal abilities quite well, switching between sing-a-long moments and heavier riffs that make you want to get in a fight.


“Black and White” is one of if not the most epic song off the record, shifting between a powerful chorus, a melodic bridge including whispers that build up into a deeper version of the final chorus and tense, off-kilter guitar riffs to close the song with a haunting tone. Following “Black and White” is “Back to Hannalei,” which continues and emphasizes the unnerving and almost melancholy vibe of the record. The song is almost exclusively clean, slow, and soft. It may at first seem out of place, especially after being followed by vibrant, loud, and reckless “Never in Reverie,” but it is a nice surprise. Another surprise is the last, acoustic song, “I Don’t Wanna Live in the Real World.” This track pokes fun at mainstream media, and, although I’m sure was added for humor, doesn’t strike a chord with the rest of the record at all and feels too left-field.

The album also boasts a few pleasant curveballs in the form of bonus tracks, most notably, the re-recording of fan-favorite “Note to Self” in celebration of the 10-year anniversary of FFTL’s Dear Diary, My Teen Angst Has A Body Count (2004). Other bonus tracks include “Ride the Wings of Pestilence” and “The Latest Plague.”

Dead Trees is, overall, a refreshing album. The vocal range of Sotelo is diverse, the lyrics are powerful and mesmerizing when combined with both the melodies of emo-rock anthems and the heavier bits that run into the hardcore genre. Dead Trees could arguably be called From First to Last’s comeback record, and, if that is the case, I couldn’t be more stoked for their next release.

Review by Kelly Fay

Four and Half Star Rating

Review: OPHEON – ‘As I Walk With Fire’

EP Cover

While modern metalcore seems to be gravitating more to the -core side of the spectrum, budding Birmingham ensemble Opheon deliver a refreshing and much-needed take on metalcore proper, where intricate guitar work and heavy symbol usage reign bloody and supreme. Though the vocals sometimes dip into melodic hardcore textures and they even work in their own take on breakdowns in “The Distance” and “A Portrait Of Self Hate,” it is the versatility and prominence of the guitars, the intensely varied and seamless syncopations, and the sheer speed of the work that put the ‘metal’ in ‘metalcore’ on this EP.

With the exception of the one slow song on the record (“The Answer”), As I Walk With Fire is the very definition of brutal. The EP hearkens back to the glory days of acts like Trivium, Bullet For My Valentine and Lamb Of God, reaching insane heights with the last song, “Lost In Undertow.” This song is the crowning achievement of the EP in terms of showcasing the virtuosity of nearly every instrumentalist. Between the catchy yet searing chorus, the almost inhuman double bass, and the masterful oscillation between devastating squealing and shredding and the slower, chugging grooves, there is so much dimension in this one five minute track it is practically impossible to believe most of the members are only around 19 years old.

Though the bass guitar tends to get lost and the vocals need to be tightened before slow songs become their strong suit, As I Walk With Fire demonstrates incredible talent and crushing tenacity. As yet unsigned, Opheon surely won’t remain so for long.

4/5 stars.

Four Star Rating

Review: Stick To Your Guns – ‘Disobedient’


Stream ‘Disobedient’ at AltPress 

A band that have been and remain socially conscious to a point of great inspiration, Stick To Your Guns deliver an album which ignites passion equivalent to the kind it took to make it, inciting thought, and greater still, action from beginning to end. Not only is it a well-crafted installment in terms of composition and sound, but it does what truly impressive hardcore records do—it interacts. ‘Disobedient’ is not just a product but a living, breathing tool of engagement. It creates a dialogue, it establishes connection in energetic, honest, and heartfelt terms. STYG have not only recorded songs but they’ve captured a spirit. This is the kind of record that is dismissive of the capitalistic demands of the music industry. It’s a record that sounds like it was made purely because there was a need for it to be made, and to borrow from “I Choose No One,” made from men, not machines.

Each track is not widely different from the others; a quality generally to the detriment of a record, but not here. Rather, each song builds upon the last as one sustained effort. ‘Disobedient’ reveals itself to the listener more as a speech being dramatically delivered by an activist at a podium (emphasized by the intermittent sound bites sampled from a 1974 conversation between Jiddu Krishnamurti and Dr. Allen W. Anderson, transcript HERE) than a standard album. Even the effects put on the vocals serve at points to make it sound as though Jesse Barnett were shouting through a megaphone.

The record opens with the chanting vocals and warlike drums of “It Starts With Me,” as if to prepare us to enter battle with STYG as our leaders–and you better be okay with that. “What Choice Did You Give Us,” “Nothing You Can Do To Me,” and “The War Inside” are declaratory and combustible, provoking a guilty conscience should your feet remain on the ground. “Left You Behind” offers a softer conclusion to the record, a poetic and symphonic gesture that begs the listener to start from the beginning again and take it all in, which this reviewer highly seconds.

5/5 stars.

Five Star Rating