Best Albums of 2018


It’s the end of the year so, as I have for the past few years, that means it’s time for me to put together my list of the best albums of 2018.  As always, my picks are almost entirely of the rock/metal variety but there is one country album thrown in there.  And if you know me, you can probably guess which artist’s album that is!  Anyhow, I don’t claim to be any kind of professional music reviewer.  I’m just a hardcore fan of music- & an old school fan at that- who still buys actual physical albums (read: CDs).  As such, these are my picks for the best albums of 2018.  These are in no particular order, other than my absolute favorite is at the end (& that was hard to choose).

  • Disease by Beartooth: I can’t believe I initially forgot to include this album on here- but I guess that’s what happens when you’re rushing to compose an entire post during your toddler’s nap.  Anyway, the follow up to Aggressive is every bit as amazing as that album was, perhaps even more so.  The album starts with Greatness or Death which has to be one of the greatest album openers of all time.  It starts slow & quiet- & then suddenly bashes you in the face with heaviness. It’s simply genius.  It’s hard for me to pick favorites from this album because every song is truly fantastic but you definitely don’t want to miss the energy on FireBad Listener, & Manipulation.  It’s truly difficult to believe that lead singer & songwriter Caleb Shomo is just 26 years old- but he is.  This is one mature & talented young man for sure. beartooth
  • Reverence by Parkway Drive: The previous Parkway Drive album was entitled Ire but this album contains every bit as much ire as that one did- as well as a heavy dose of sadness.  I think Ire will probably always be my personal favorite Parkway Drive album but Reverence is still a great one.  It’s worth reading about the stories behind the songs to understand the pain that infused lead singer/songwriter Winston McCall as he penned this album.  Album opener Wishing Wells is heavy & dark & sets a great tone for the rest of the disc.  Prey has some fantastic guitar riffs & will easily get stuck in your head, as will Absolute Power.  Cemetery Bloom is by far the most inventive & unusual track on the album with its chanting medieval feel.  Another beautifully written song that you absolutely shouldn’t miss is melancholy album closer The Colour of Leavingparkway drive reverence
  • Vicious by Halestorm: If you know anything about my musical taste, you probably already guessed that this album would be on here.  Here lately I’ve been trying to decide if I could pick a favorite Halestorm album- & I swear I really can’t!  I love them all for so many reasons that it’s just impossible to choose.  In any case, as soon as I heard Uncomfortable I knew this album was going to be a good one (not that I ever had any doubts).  Overall this album has a darker grungier feeling than the band’s previous album.  Even the album artwork & Lzzy’s current outfits, hair, & makeup strike me as a bit darker, a bit more rock & roll than her softer, more traditional appearance during the last album cycle.  Lzzy is gorgeous no matter what she wears or how she does her hair but I for one am a big fan of this darker look that she has embraced lately.  Anyway, back to the music. . . . Other favorites of mine include Killing Ourselves to Live, the acoustic slow-burning The Silence, & the powerful Skulls (don’t miss the grungy part at 2:17 that is a bit reminiscent of Alice in Chains).halestorm vicious
  • Family Tree by Black Stone Cherry: Black Stone Cherry have definitely embraced a more bluesy southern rock feel on their last few albums but never so strongly as on this year’s Family Tree.  Songs like New Kinda Feeling & You Got the Blues perfectly exemplify this.  Other favorites of mine are I Need a Woman & James Brown.  I seriously don’t know how anyone could listen to this album & not end up with a smile on their face- & a serious desire to dance!  These guys have got some serious rhythm, not to mention a heavy dose of soul.  Listen & you’ll know what I mean.family tree bsc
  • Vale by Black Veil Brides: I’m not sure BVB will ever top Wretched & Divine for me because that album was just so amazing in every way possible.  However, this album, which is actually a sequel to that one & was co-produced by lead guitarist Jake Pitts, is definitely a great effort.  Songs like Wake Up (don’t miss the awesome leather jackets the guys are wearing in the music video) & The Outsider will get you pumped up while more ballad like pieces like When They Call My Name really showcase Andy’s powerful voice.  Also don’t miss the return of Jinxx’s strings on Dead Man Walking.vale bvb
  • Ember by Breaking Benjamin: Can Ben Burnley ever go wrong?  Probably not.  This album, the second with the new BB lineup, is every bit as good as the previous one.  It’s hard to choose a favorite but I think my top track is Feed the Wolf.  As I noted on their previous album, the backup vocals by bassist Aaron Bruch really amp up the heaviness on this album, especially on tracks like Psycho & Red Cold River.ember bb
  • Attention, Attention by Shinedown: Shinedown’s sixth album is a concept album about depression/mental illness, largely inspired by bassist Eric Bass’s own struggles with depression.  Some of the lyrics seem a bit cryptic at times but once you realize the basis of the album it all makes sense.  Don’t-miss tracks include heavy hitting Devil & Brilliant, the latter of which probably has the fastest drums & the most metal sound I’ve ever heard from Shinedown (don’t let the gentle beginning fool you).  Lyrically songs like Monsters & Get Up are especially strong.  My personal favorite is Special which encourages us to stop wallowing in self pity & take control of our own lives.attention shinedown
  • Disobey by Bad Wolves: Even if you don’t like rock music, you’ve probably heard Bad Wolves’s enchanting cover of The Cranberries’ classic song Zombie (if you haven’t you must check it out NOW!).  What you might not know is that the band was set to record with Cranberries singer Delores O’Riordan on the very day that she died.  The band has subsequently donated profits from the song to O’Riordan’s family as a way to honor her.  Most of the songs on this album are far heavier than Zombie but another easily accessible track is Hear Me Now.  My favorites among the heavier songs are No MastersLearn to Live, & Remember When, the last of which was inspired by singer Tommy Vext’s twin brother who almost killed him several years ago (no joke).  [P.S. In case you thought there weren’t any black men in rock, check out singer Tommy Vext.]disobey bad wolves
  • Evolution by Disturbed: Evolution is an appropriate title for this album because it definitely represents an evolution in the band’s sound.  Songs like Are You Ready & The Best Ones Lie are classic Disturbed without a doubt.  But there are far more ballads on this album than any previous disc, largely inspired by the success of the band’s The Sound of Silence cover from their previous album.  None of the ballads matches the pure magic of that song (not sure that anything ever could) but it’s nice to see the band expanding their sound & capitalizing on David’s amazing voice.  My personal favorite on this disc is David’s response to all the Social Justice Warriors in Savior of Nothingdisturbed evolution
  • Victim of the New Disease by All That Remains: If you’re familiar with my political beliefs you probably know that I’m a huge fan of fellow Libertarian Phil Labonte, the lead singer of ATR.  The last ATR album was good but it doesn’t hold a candle to this year’s effort.  Victim of the New Disease was largely inspired by Phil’s divorce & while I’m sorry for the pain he suffered because of that the world is definitely benefiting from the music he wrote while working through that pain.  Songs like F**k Love ensure that this is the heaviest ATR album in years.  But my personal favorites are some of the more moderate songs like Just Tell Me Something (which features Danny Worsnop of Asking Alexandria- brilliant!) & Broken.  The acoustic Alone in the Darkness is also a great listen.atr victim
  • Stranger Fruit by Zeal & Ardor: I have my husband to thank for introducing me to this band whom he discovered on Liquid Metal on Sirius XM satellite radio.  Zeal & Ardor are a Swiss band whose lead singer was born to a Swiss man & an African American woman.  If you ever wondered what it would sound like to combine metal + gospel + blues, this is it.  That sounds like an equation that is doomed to failure but strangely enough it’s actually damn good.  You won’t find much more unique, diverse music than this, I can guarantee you that.  Check out Ship on FireRow, Row, & Gravedigger’s Chant.  Better yet, just listen to the whole album.  I promise you will not be disappointed.stranger fruit
  • Firepower by Judas Priest: I first heard Evil Never Dies on satellite radio maybe a month ago & I immediately fell in love & knew I had to buy this album.  Judas Priest are a bit before my time & I have to admit I’ve never gotten into them before this album (shame on me).  But wow, what an album to dive into!  There isn’t a bad track on here but some of my favorites include the aforementioned Evil Never Dies, Lightning StrikeFirepower, & Necromancer.firepower
  • Desperate Man by Eric Church: You guys, I’m so out of touch with country music these days that I didn’t even realize until last week that my favorite country artist had released an album back in October.  I guess it doesn’t help that Eric Church has no real social media presence but I can’t complain because that is one thing I admire about him, that he guards his private life so preciously.  Anyway, Desperate Man is definitely Church’s most stripped-down album to date.  I’ll admit I miss some of the bombast of The Outsiders but there’s no denying Church’s lyrical genius is in tip top form on this album.  The title track is one you should definitely not miss as is The Snake, Church’s take on the current political situation in the U.S.  Other favorites of mine include MonstersDrowning Man, & Solid.desperate man
  • And Justice For None by Five Finger Death Punch: FFDP have never put out a bad album but this year’s effort proves they are at the very top of their game & is my choice for best album of 2018.  With Ivan Moody (as well as all the other band members) finally sober, the band is in better shape than ever.  If you’re curious about the unusual album title, guitarist Zoltan Bathory does a good job of explaining it here.  There isn’t a bad song on this album & picking a favorite is nigh impossible, but if I had to pick only one song to share it would be I Refuse.  This has to be one of the most emotionally powerful songs FFDP have ever written.  Even if you normally don’t like rock/metal, you MUST listen to this one- not only is it lyrically beautiful but the acoustic guitar solo by Jason Hook is a real winner.  Fortunately I CAN share more than one song so please also check out Fire in the Hole (which sounds like a metal pirate song), Will the Sun Ever Rise, & Sham Pain.  The last is a play on the word champagne & is proof that the band don’t take themselves too seriously.  Watch the video for a good laugh!  FFDP have done many great cover songs over the years & this album includes two great ones, my favorite of which is Blue on Black.  With a good mixture of ballads & more traditional heavier fare, FFDP created the perfect album that makes you want to just keep playing it over & over & over.  Don’t miss it!and justice for none

Rock Star of the Week: Zoltan Bathory


I’m finally getting back to this series.  Maybe I should entitle it Rock Star of the Month at the rate I’m going but Rock Star of the Week just sounds better so I’ll stick with that.

In any case, this week I’ve decided to honor rhythm guitarist & founding member of Five Finger Death Punch (FFDP) Zoltan Bathory.  In light of all the turmoil after the election, it seems appropriate to feature a man who so perfectly embodies the American dream.  Here is a man who grew up in Communist Hungary, built his first guitar partly out of a coffee table, moved to the US when he was 20 (not speaking more than a few words of English at the time), & eventually founded what has become arguably the most successful modern rock/metal band in the world today.  If anyone knows what it’s like to chase a seemingly impossible dream & to overcome what appear to be insurmountable obstacles, it’s this guy.  If his life isn’t the embodiment of the American dream, whose is?ffdp-zoltan-bathory

It’s not too uncommon for the lead guitarist to be one of the designated leaders or spokespersons for a band (think Ben Bruce from Asking Alexandria), but it’s less common to see the rhythm guitarist take that role. However, it has been obvious since the band’s breakthrough in 2007 that Zoltan has always been the biggest driving force behind FFDP, the man who holds it all together so to speak.  This is probably largely due to the alcoholism that frontman Ivan Moody has struggled with over the years as well as the past drug use & alcoholism of drummer Jeremy Spencer.  Now that Jeremy has been sober for several years & Ivan has started to recover as well, this is probably a bit less of an issue, but if you read Spencer’s autobiography he acknowledges more than once that Zoltan has often played the role of “dad” to the other band members when they allowed drinking, drugs, women, or other such temptations to distract them from the greater goal of the band.

On a more superficial note, how can you not love a guy with amazing dreadlocks like Zoltan’s?  I’ll be the first to admit that white people can rarely pull off great dreads, but Zoltan is definitely the exception to that rule.zoltan-hair

Outside of music Zoltan has many hobbies including martial arts, Monster trucks, cars, & yes, guns.  In fact he is one of the only civilians who is a trained weapons instructor with the US military.  In light of that, it’s probably not surprising to find that he is also an NRA member.  Regarding gun rights, Zoltan has stated: “The second amendment makes all the other ones possible. But let’s extend this; it’s not just about the rights that are given to you by a piece of paper.  When your life is in actual danger, you don’t care about any paper; you will just defend your life no matter what it takes.  It’s about defending yourself & your family. You should be able to do that.  Some people say that owning a gun is uncivilized & brute, but we can look at that issue from a completely different perspective; maybe gun ownership actually made us more civilized, since guns act as equalizers.  All of a sudden a physically superior person cannot simply abuse a weaker one, since the gun will act as a deterrent.”  You can read more about Zoltan’s thoughts on gun rights here.zoltan-gun-and-car

Of late, Zoltan has caught a bit of flack with the media for being one of the only major rock stars or celebrities to publicly endorse Donald Trump.  While I don’t exactly agree with that endorsement, I can’t help but admire a guy who has the guts to say whatever he really thinks even when he knows his opinion isn’t a popular one.

Regarding unpopular opinions, Zoltan has never shied away from defending the value of hard work.  As he has stated, “I became an American citizen.  I work my ass off.  I still work 12 hours a day.  Here, the possibilities are presented.  You can still get stuff done, but maybe you have to get off the couch.  Put down the pizza & beer.  But people don’t want to hear that.”  zoltan-bathory

Zoltan has often spoken of how his work with martial arts has influenced his work ethic in regards to the band & life in general.  “And martial arts, which I started soon thereafter, has helped me with guitar, because in martial arts there is this saying, ‘Don’t accept the position.’  In other words, you fail when you accept a position that would be unfortunate for you.  That’s when you see things go sideways.  The music industry is an extremely difficult place.  It’s one in a million who makes it here.  Martial arts gave me the education of, ‘Don’t take a step back, keep going,’ which I applied to my music career.  I was 20 years old when I came to America with a guitar on my back & a bag of clothes, not yet able to speak English.  But I never gave up.  (You can read more from that interview here.)zoltan-bathory-630x420

As I mentioned earlier, Zoltan’s first guitar was one he helped build himself.  “At age 13, I acquired a beat-up, secondhand guitar.  I removed the basically unplayable bolt-on neck & replaced it with one I made from a coffee table.  I painted it military green because we lived on an army base.  Eventually, I acquired a playable guitar, & once communism started collapsing I came to America.”  Regarding growing up in Communist Hungary, Zoltan has stated “When I lived in Hungary, I was always reminded that I could never become what I wanted to be.  Metal was, first of all, a sign of rebellion.  I remember I had to run from the police because I had long hair, so it was my way of showing society the middle finger.  It’s surreal because I’m doing now what they told me then that I couldn’t do.”  (Read more here.)  Furthermore he has said “I would say that since I was a tiny kid, I never had a doubt about what I wanted to do in my life.  I never had a doubt ever for a second that it was gonna happen.  The key to success really is you do have to have the unbending strength that you won’t accept defeat.  You just don’t accept no.  You don’t accept words like ‘impossible’ & you can’t connect to phrases like ‘can’t do.’  Failure is not acceptable.  Right?”  (Read more here.)
zoltan

With a history of such hard work & determination from such a young age, one can’t help but feel his espousal of the power of a good work ethic carries considerable weight.  When asked what advice he would give to someone trying to start a metal band, Zoltan said “Don’t give up.  Never give up.  There is an old saying that I read in a boxing club.  It said, ‘You become a champion by fighting one more round,’ & it’s a wise saying.  If you want to succeed, you have to keep going.”  (Read more here.)  When speaking of the FFDP video for My Nemesis Zoltan stated “In life everyone has a nemesis… it can be anything… a self defeating thinking pattern, a bad habit, an addiction, an adversary… something or someone that puts you in an impossible scenario, where you are presented with a fork in the road.  Sometimes there is no other choice but making a hard choice.  You can give up & just suffer the situation, or you can use your pain to overcome it, as pain is truly the wind in the sails of change.  We wanted to present a story about moving on, a story that probes & questions compassion & loyalty.  Those are beautiful notions, but remember you have to be loyal & fair to yourself as well, so will you sacrifice yourself for another or will you live with the guilt that you didn’t.”  (Read more from that interview here.)  zoltan-truck

Zoltan as well as his bandmates have garnered quite a reputation for supporting the military.  As Zoltan has stated, “. . . it’s about the individual soldier , what it takes to do what they do.  When they are called upon, they can’t run away, their job is to go there & handle the situation.  It takes a lot of balls to do what these people do, so we always connected to them, the individuals.  For us it was never about the political agenda, we’ve never advocated war itself.”  (You can read more from that interview here.)  Not only has FFDP played countless shows for the military over the years, including in war zones like Iraq, but the band also employs many veterans as part of their security & crew.  Furthermore, they have participated in several campaigns to highlight the plight of veterans once they return from war or active duty.  Specifically the video for The Wrong Side of Heaven shines a light on the homelessness, mental illness, & high suicide rate that plague American veterans.  (You can read more about that here.)ffdp-militaryIn summary, Zoltan Bathory is an all around badass.  There’s just no better way to put it.  You might disagree with his political opinions or his views on guns, but I don’t see how anyone could not admire his insane work ethic & ability to overcome the odds.

If you’re not familiar with his band’s music check out some of my favorites:

10 Best Rock/Metal Covers


To those who aren’t as obsessed with music, particularly rock/metal, as I am I realize my last few posts have all been about music, & today’s post follows the same theme.  Sorry but I’m not sorry.

Anyway, some time in the past week it occurred to me that it would be fun to create a compilation of my favorite rock/metal covers. This was probably inspired by hearing the awesome cover song on the brand new Black Stone Cherry album which debuted just ten days ago.  Without further ado, here are my picks for the best rock/metal covers.manson music magic

  1. The Sound of Silence by Disturbed: As much as I love the original Simon & Garfunkel version of this song, I was actually a little surprised to find how much I love this cover of the classic song.  But there is just no denying that David Draiman’s hauntingly beautiful voice combined with the unique instrumentation from his bandmates makes this song at least as good, & possibly better, than the original version of the song.  Perhaps part of the reason this song is so amazing is that it’s so unexpected from such a heavy band as Disturbed.  Whatever the reason, I’m thankful the band decided to record this on their latest album because it is truly a treat for the ears.immortalized
  2. War by Black Stone Cherry: As I stated above, this is the song that inspired me to write this post.  As soon as I heard this cover of the classic Edwin Starr song I was blown away.  The song is fresher & more powerful than ever with Chris Robertson’s soulful vocals leading the way.  It’s a perfect addition to their latest album.BSC Kentucky
  3. Sweet Dreams by Marilyn Manson: I’ve written about this song on the blog before.  It was the first song I ever truly liked by Manson.  I still remember driving to Blacksburg one night in college & hearing this song on the radio.  Instinctively I knew it had to be Manson & part of me didn’t want to like it because of that.  But I just couldn’t deny the fact that the song was both creepy & powerful.  In the ensuing years, as it turns out, I’ve actually become a big Manson fan, but it all started with this amazing cover.marilyn manson
  4. Tainted Love by Marilyn Manson: Trust me, Manson has plenty of amazing original songs too, but I would feel remiss if I didn’t also include his cover of this classic song.  Manson’s gritty voice somehow fits the vibe of the song perfectly, & when I listen to it I almost find it hard to believe that this isn’t the original version of the song.tainted love
  5. Bad Romance by Halestorm: I love the original Lady Gaga version of this song, but I must confess that I like the Halestorm cover of it even more.  The first time I heard it I was just amazed because I had never imagined that Halestorm would cover a pop song like this, but there is no question that they did a damn good job of it.  Just as a bonus, also check out Halestorm’s cover of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky.  LzzyHale
  6. Careless Whisper by Seether: When I first heard this song I had no idea it was a cover, as I was never familiar with the original version of the song by George Michael.  In any case the cover of this song by the South African band Seether does great justice to the song.  Seether - Careless Whisper
  7. Bad Company by Five Finger Death Punch: Here’s another song that I didn’t originally realize was a cover because I wasn’t familiar with the original song.  Ivan Moody’s strong voice coupled with the hauntingly beautiful instrumentation from his bandmates makes this song both enchanting & powerful.  As a bonus, also check out FFDP’s cover of The House of the Rising Sun (the song starts at 1:45 into the video).FFDPBadCompany
  8. Blank Space by I Prevail: This song has a fun story behind it because it’s actually this amazing cover of a Taylor Swift song that propelled this brand new rock band from Michigan into stardom.  I distinctly remember a friend from work showing me this song on YouTube one night, & I quickly delved into the band’s original songs after realizing how amazing the band really was.  The video quickly attained over a million views on YouTube & now stands at over 21 million views.  Not bad for a band just working on their very first album!I prevail
  9. Turn Down for What by Upon a Burning Body: I absolutely HATED the original version of this song, but when I found this amazing cover of it by the Texas heavy metal band Upon a Burning Body I was blown away.  As it turns out this song helped introduce me to more of UABB’s music of which I am now a big fan.  Warning: this song is NSFW (or children).UABB Punk Goes'
  10. Losing My Religion by Lacuna Coil: This is yet another cover song that helped introduce me to a band’s original work, in this case the Italian band Lacuna Coil.  I’ve always loved the original version of this song by R.E.M. so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about a cover of it, but as soon as I heard the interplay between singers Christina Scabbia & Andrea Ferro I was in love.Lacuna CoilWell, that’s all for today, folks.  Happy Monday, & I hope you all have a terrific week!

Things I Learned From Rock & Roll


A few weeks ago I wrote a post about things I’ve learned from country music & stated that I would be writing a similar post for each major genre of music.  Naturally my next post for this theme is about rock & roll since that is my favorite type of music.  I tried very hard to narrow this list down to five songs like I did for the last post but I just couldn’t do it, so I decided that since rock is my favorite genre it wouldn’t be too superfluous to choose a few more songs.  Besides unlike writing for school assignments, this is my blog so I can make the rules.  Ha!  😉

unity

Please do be advised that some of these songs are not totally G-rated as far as some of the words are concerned (but, hey, that’s rock & roll, right?).

These are in no particular order.

1. Unity by Shinedown: To anyone who thinks that rock & roll is all about drugs & “darkness,” please listen to this song.  In my opinion this is one of the most inspiring, hopeful songs I’ve ever heard.  I’ve seen Shinedown in concert twice & both times their live performance of this song has been incredibly powerful.  The message of this song to me is that no matter how scared or lonely you feel, you’re never alone & there is always hope.  And “your moment of truth is the day that you say ‘I’m not scared,'” which to me means not so much that you’re no longer afraid of the darkness but that you’re facing it anyway.  After all true courage is not the absence of fear but rather the willingness to proceed despite fear.  Perhaps the best way to sum up this song are the lines Brent Smith, the lead singer, says at the beginning of the music video: “We will not fall because we have each other.  We will not fall because we are brothers.  We will not fall because we have love.  We will not fall because we will rise above.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gVdi6sizeY

2.  Here’s To Us by Halestorm: If you aren’t familiar with the female-fronted rock band Halestorm please do yourself a favor & head to Youtube right this minute to check out their fantastic music.  This song is a great place to start, though it’s a bit softer than their average piece.  This is a song that celebrates the transience of life & the fact that mistakes don’t have to be our downfall.  Despite being somewhat softer in style, to me this song is the ultimate “I can do this” song.  It’s what I listen to when I feel like I’m just barely getting by in life, when I need a pick-me-up & a reminder that no matter what life throws my way I’m capable of not just surviving but thriving regardless of the situation.  The music video is also an awesome tribute to the past couple of decades of rock music (note the changes in clothes, makeup, & stage performance throughout the video).  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KC0DNLDXJW8

3.  Justice  by Rev Theory: I still remember the first time I heard this song; I was driving to Blacksburg to visit Jared.  As soon as I got to Jared’s apt I pulled out my laptop to Google the song & figure out who sang it.  This song was one of those “love at first listen” songs for me.  To me this song is just pure adrenaline & righteous anger.  It’s the perfect song to listen to when you feel you’ve been wronged by someone or when life just feels unfair, which is of course inevitable from time to time.  However, if you watch the video you get the feeling that this song was written about more than just the every-day injustices of life & more about the war crimes & crimes against humanity that occur throughout the world.  In any case, it’s a fabulous piece of rock & roll that you should seriously check out.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5N80tNDCGg

4. Weathered by Creed: This is one of those songs that speaks to the difficulties & sorrows of life & how sometimes we just feel like we’re barely holding together, barely making it from day to day.  We’ve all had times in life when we feel like that for whatever reason.  What makes this song so special to me is that it addresses those feelings without holding back, without trying to conceal how ugly & despairing we can feel at times, while also giving hope that there is more to life than this darkness.  My favorite lines are these:

Take all this pride/And leave it behind/Because one day it ends/One day we die/Believe what you will/That is your right/But I choose to win/So I choose to fight.”  These lines remind us that life is too short to stay miserable forever & that in order to succeed in life we must never give up the fight.   Sometimes that means laying down our pride, asking for forgiveness (from ourselves as well as from others), & pushing onward. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wu0VRsVCQ48

5. Wrong Side of Heaven by Five Finger Death Punch: If you’re not familiar with Five Finger Death Punch (FFDP) please do yourself yet another favor & look them up on Youtube immediately.  Ivan Moody’s brooding voice combined with the fantastic musicianship of the other band members makes for some seriously epic music.  I don’t think they’ve ever made a song that I didn’t like.  Though it’s difficult to choose, Wrong Side of Heaven is certainly one of their best pieces.  This song describes the eternal battle between good & evil that exists inside all of us.  The lyrics refer to God as a “she” so if that offends you, I’m sorry that you will miss out on such an amazing song.  Wrong Side of Heaven describes how as adults we are faced with the startling realization that right & wrong are often not as easily recognized as we would like them to be & that at some points in life we are all going to be disappointed with the choices we make (“What have I done, who have I become?”).  In spite of this though we cannot take the easy way out & blame the devil or anyone else for our bad choices (“I spoke to the devil today, and he swears he’s not to blame/And I understood, ’cause I feel the same”).  This song resonates so much with me because I feel like the battle between right & wrong is something each of us faces every single day & we are all at times “on the wrong side of heaven & the righteous side of hell.”  Perhaps another reason this song speaks to me so much is that I often feel like I am caught in the middle with my friends because I am more conservative than my liberal friends & more liberal than my conservative friends. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsCp3l815G8

6. All I’m Dreaming Of by Black Stone Cherry: Black Stone Cherry is an awesome rock band with a lot of Southern rock influences that are sadly not as well known as they should be.  Their entire album from which this song comes is fabulous.  All I’m Dreaming Of is a gorgeous song that speaks to the need for more love in the world.  I think the best way to show the power of this song is simply to share some of the lyrics, so here are some of my favorite lines from the piece: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I60g8Vfr0xs

Something about our world today
That makes me wanna cry
There’s too much anger and too much pain
Too much money and too many lies
If I could have one wish tonight
I would beg of us to forget our pride
If we could do just one thing right,
We could help each other to love our lives

All I’m dreamin of is good times, good friends, and somebody to love
All I’m dreamin of is no fears, no tears, and blue skies up above

7. It’s My Life by Bon Jovi: To me this song encapsulates so much of the traditional spirit of rock & roll.  This song celebrates the idea that life is short so we better make the most of it while we can.  Sometimes that means doing things our way & disregarding the opinions of others, even those who mean well but don’t agree with us for whatever reason.  I certainly don’t think that we should seek to have fun at the expense of others or disregard our work/school/family obligations in search of fun, but I do think we should seek to enjoy our lives as much as possible.  For after all if we don’t enjoy life, why are we here?  To me this song embodies the idea that instead of asking why we should do something we ought to be asking “why not?” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SKFwtgUJHs

I could write about so many more songs but then this post would be long & probably boring.  To me rock & roll encompasses the whole spectrum of human emotion & that’s what makes it so powerful.  Please check out some of these pieces if you’re not familiar with them; I promise they won’t disappoint.  As someone who once thought rock & roll was of the devil & generally grating to the ears, I can now say I’ve learned there is so much more to it than initially meets the eye (or should I say the ear?) & it’s well-worth your time to invest in some good rock music.  You never know, it might even become your new favorite genre, as it has for me!

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover


Yesterday I renewed my gym membership and in the process of doing so someone said something to me that I hear quite often which got me thinking that this could make for an interesting blog post.  So here goes.

After I paid for my annual membership, I told the gym manager that as a paying customer I thought he should consider changing up the music selection a bit because I’m tired of hearing Britney Spears every time I work out.  The manager asked me what I would prefer & I told him that to be honest a lot of the music I like probably wouldn’t be appropriate for the gym because a lot of people are much more easily offended than I am, but nonetheless a few hard rock songs here & there would be a refreshing change of pace.  The manager, who is a man probably in his mid 30’s, told me what I have heard so many time before.  “You just don’t seem like the kind of girl who would be into rock music.  You’re too nice & soft-spoken.”

[Ok, those of you who really know me should get a good laugh about the soft-spoken part of that comment!]

The real crux of this scenario is that I am often told I seem “too nice” to like rock music.  I just don’t understand where our society gets the idea that a “nice” person can’t like hard rock or heavy metal.  This is 2013 & yet people who like this kind of music are still invariably considered “weird, different, mean, angry,” and a whole lot of other generally negative adjectives.  Now let me give you a little background about how I got into this kind of music before I explain why it’s my favorite genre.

I grew up thinking rock music = devil music.  I had no interest in it & on the rare occasions that I actually heard real rock/metal I hated it.  I honestly couldn’t understand how anyone could like this stuff.  However, as I got into high school I started hearing a few more rock songs here & there, & I gradually, gradually began to realize that there is so much more than initially meets the eye (or should I say the ear?) with this type of music.  Once I got to college & finally had the freedom to listen to whatever kind of music I wanted, I gradually began discovering all kinds of music that I never even knew existed: European symphonic metal bands like Nightwish, American metal bands like Five Finger Death Punch, and so much more.  I soon realized that I loved this music, & I think after a solid six years of listening to rock/metal more than any other genre I am finally figuring out why this music appeals to me so much.

Anyone who has glanced at my iTunes collection knows that I like a little bit of everything.  My music collection spans everything from Alice in Chains to Godsmack to Toby Keith to Eric Church to Flo Rida to Lady Gaga to Beethoven to Mussorgsky.  In short, there really isn’t any genre of music I don’t like.  Some, like rap & bluegrass, aren’t my favorites but there are still certain pieces from those genres that I do really enjoy.  However, I think the reason rock music speaks to me so much is its brutal honesty.

By comparison, rap music so often celebrates an urban, party-it-up or “gangtsa” lifestyle that exists only in manufactured music videos.  Country music too celebrates a lifestyle that doesn’t actually exist in real life.  Trust me, I grew up in small town America & I can tell you from experience that the only country music singers who consistently tell the truth about rural life are Eric Church & Kacey Musgraves, especially the latter.  It ain’t always a pretty picture either.  The vast majority of modern pop music is so superficial & vapid as to hardly be worth mentioning.  (I’ll discuss classical music in another post some day.  As many of you know, I am a total classical music junkie.)

So that brings us back to rock music.  Yes, the stereotype is that rock music celebrates sex, drugs, & devil worship & generally seeks to push the envelope in every possible way.  Sure, there are a few groups whose music focuses largely on those things.  But would you judge all Christians based on Westboro Baptist Church or all Muslims on the 9/11 terrorists?  I certainly hope not.  You cannot make an accurate judgment about any group based on its most extreme members.  That is just unscientific.

People often say that rock music makes people angry or inspires people to commit terrible acts of murder & violence.  I say music is music.  Nothing more, nothing less.  If someone’s mind is so twisted & sick as to commit heinous violent acts, music isn’t to blame.  The person is.  I say music is perhaps the greatest form of therapy known to mankind.  If you listen to enough rock you’ll find that every emotion you’ve ever felt is covered in this music, from love to anger to jealousy to confusion to pain to joy.  It’s all there.  And it’s all expressed in an outlet that cannot possibly harm anyone.  We all get angry sometimes & experience other “negative” emotions.  That is not a sin.  Emotions are what make us human; they are what tells us we are still alive.  It’s what we do with these emotions that can be sinful at times.  (If you want to read more about this fascinating topic, check out Corey Taylor’s book “The Seven Deadly Sins.”  It is without a doubt one of the most intriguing & well-written books I’ve ever read.)  What better way to express your anger or hate than through a song?  It’s much preferable to actually hurting someone or bottling it all up inside so that inevitably you explode.  Besides, what other kind of music pumps you up enough to make you want to finish that grueling workout at the gym or to stay up all night caring for sick people?  On my way to work I invariably pop in a fist-pumping rock album & by the time I get to the hospital I am ready to face whatever comes my way.

So in summary, no, I don’t have tattoos or unorthodox body piercings.  I don’t dress in all black or wear dog collars around my neck.  I don’t give a crap if other people do those things but they just aren’t for me.  I am not an angry person who hates the world.  But I do love rock music.  I am proud to be a headbanger.  And some day I hope that the world will realize that rock stars & their fans are some of the kindest people in the world.  And more importantly I hope our society will learn the greater lesson here: don’t judge a book by its cover because we are all more than meets the eye.

So what do y’all think?  For those of you know me, is it really that surprising that I like this kind of music?  If so, why?  Or better yet, have you experienced anything similar to this where people are surprised to find out you like a certain type of music or whatever?

In the spirit of the post I’m including a link to one of my favorite rock bands, Pop Evil.  I have been following them religiously for a few years & own all three of their albums, so naturally I am very happy to see them finally getting some great radio airtime with their latest hit, “Trenches.”  (Ladies, google Leigh Kakaty & I promise you will thank me.)   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWdtN7pCZug