10 Reasons Why Ronnie Radke is a Genius

It’s only in the past year or so that I’ve fallen in love with the musical genius of Ronnie Radke. I have to thank a friend, who actually doesn’t much care for Ronnie, for introducing me to him when he referenced one of Ronnie’s oldest songs with the timeless line “Why do good girls like bad guys?” When he said that, I realized I didn’t actually know that song- though I certainly recognized the sentiment- nor who Ronnie really was. Cue quick Wikipedia read-through, & I swiftly filed Ronnie away under the category of rock stars who are very much not my type (musically or personally). Why was I so quick to reject him? Well, his Wikipedia page discusses his imprisonment, drug use, accusations of domestic violence (never proven), & a myriad of other less than flattering situations, so can you really blame me for saying “No thanks, not someone I’m interested in learning more about or whose music I care to know”?

In any case, over the next few weeks for some reason I kept running into Ronnie’s name & decided to check out some of his music as well as some of his interviews. I soon came to realize that I had judged him far too quickly- & far too harshly. I still remember the first time I listened to The Drug in Me is Reimagined & asking myself “How is this the same guy I read about on Wikipedia & dismissed so quickly?” The gorgeous piano ballad that builds up into a serious rock opera is absolutely brilliant, & suddenly I knew I couldn’t ignore Ronnie anymore. Someone who could take one of his old pop-punk type songs & transform it- with the exact same lyrics- into a rock opera just HAD to be someone worth knowing more about. Then came the interviews Ronnie has done with Ryan J Downey over the years, & those REALLY changed my mind about him. These are not your typical rock star interviews- they’re more akin to therapy sessions than traditional interviews. Some date back as far as 2013- not long before his daughter was born- & others are as recent as 2021. You can find them all on YouTube, & I strongly encourage you to check them out if you want to have a better understanding of who Ronnie is. Or if you just want to hear the story of someone who has overcome some pretty insane obstacles in his life- some of which I will discuss below.

So, on that note, here are 10 reasons why I- a proverbial good girl- like Ronnie Radke- a proverbial bad guy- though I like to think these reasons are far less superficial than one usually assumes when someone uses that phrase.

  1. He can make almost any kind of music. I think the only thing I haven’t heard Ronnie do is a straight-up country song (though the closing song on Fashionably Late definitely has some country vibes). From the insanely fast rapping on his brand new song Watch the World Burn (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMXESlny4-I) to the piano ballad/rock opera of the aforementioned The Drug in Me is Reimagined (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2cbhYihBWY) & I’m Not a Vampire Revamped (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nWmBJxW9q0), the man is a true musical genius. You want pop punk? Check out Fashionably Late (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPoaKxm4wDg). You want more traditional rock/metal? Check out Zombified (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDDz1Er2IXA). You want rap + metal breakdowns with operatic vocals sprinkled in? Check out the aforementioned new song Watch the World Burn or Voices in My Head (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7_e_NY-f3g). I could go on & on, but if it weren’t for his distinctive voice, it would at times be hard to believe that the same man is writing & performing all these songs- but he is. How many other bands can lay claim to a singer with such versatile abilities? Not many. That’s not a diss on anyone else. But whatever you say about Ronnie, you cannot objectively say he isn’t talented.
  2. He has overcome an incredibly painful childhood. As is referenced often in his lyrics, Ronnie’s mother left him, his brother, & their dad when Ronnie was just a toddler, largely because of her drug addiction. He has had essentially no relationship with her from there on out. Obviously, this led to some major issues in his life- & probably still does. But he’s the first to admit that. In Just Like You he sings “You don’t wanna be too close to me ’cause you might see my broken heartI’m just a boy who’s angry at his mom.” In interviews & in his recently released autobiography (cowritten by Ryan J Downey, the interviewer I mentioned earlier), Ronnie has talked about how it took him a long time to learn how to have healthy relationships with women because of his relationship- or lack thereof- with his mother. It’s this kind of insight & willingness to examine his own past that has led to the more mature version of Ronnie we see today. Which leads me right into the next point.
  3. Despite a litany of toxic relationships– which no doubt inspired Bad Girls Club (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzLZN1K-PUE– side note: Ronnie now calls this song “cringey” but I must confess I have a soft spot for it- it’s a brilliant way to show that women can be toxic too)- Ronnie has now managed to establish & maintain what by all reports is a very healthy long term relationship. Since at least 2019 he has been in a serious relationship with Saraya Bevis- aka Paige of WWE. I gained a whole new respect for Ronnie when I watched an interview Saraya did in which she discussed their relationship & how he helped her achieve sobriety, took care of her after her neck surgery, & generally encouraged her to be the healthiest version of herself (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-wQ7hwGZ_M). Perhaps most impressive was the fact that after years of being good friends, she finally confessed to Ronnie her true feelings for him, but because of a recent breakup she had experienced, Ronnie encouraged her to wait a while before beginning a relationship with him because he didn’t want to hurt her, nor did he want to risk their relationship not working out because he wanted it as much as she did. Especially considering how absolutely gorgeous Saraya is, the fact that Ronnie had that kind of foresight & self control is impressive. And it paid off! Because after she took some time to heal, as he had suggested, they did end up together & have been together ever since. Maybe some people preferred the wilder, womanizing Ronnie, but I much prefer this version.
  4. As I’ve already referenced, Ronnie is not afraid to admit his past mistakes. Whether it’s confessing that he now finds songs like Bad Girls Club & Alone (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcbOfVKSMkA) “cringey,” calling himself an idiot for throwing a mic stand into a crowd, expressing extreme regret over the fight that eventually led to his imprisonment (see below), or admitting embarrassment about his past Tweets, this is a guy who is not afraid to say he’s made some major mistakes. Considering some of the things he’s done, I couldn’t admire him the way I do if he weren’t capable of such honesty.
  5. He overcame imprisonment. Yes, Ronnie went to prison. No, he isn’t a murderer as the internet loves to claim. He was involved in a fight in the desert outside Vegas in which someone else fired a weapon that killed another man. Because Ronnie was involved in setting up the fight & because he had brass knuckles in his pocket (that incidentally were never used), he was arrested for various charges. But what actually sent him to prison for 2.5 years was violating his probation related to the previous charges. This happened largely because of his drug use & the fact that he was touring with his band & inevitably missed parole check-ins. As you might expect, while he was in prison, Ronnie’s original band Escape the Fate fired him. I can’t say I truly blame them in light of the circumstances- after all Ronnie was an addict when he went to prison, so he was a mess all around. In any case, Ronnie used his time in prison to form a new band (Falling in Reverse) & write what would become their debut album The Drug in Me is You. Obviously that was no small feat & most people in his situation would have just given up on their dreams. Not Ronnie. He just used it as fuel to light the fire under his own feet. Oh yeah, have I mentioned that Falling in Reverse ended up being a way bigger band than Escape the Fate? Yep.
  6. Speaking of drugs, Ronnie has overcome opiate addiction. He used, or at least tried, other drugs too, but opiates, including heroin, were his drug of choice. Experiencing opiate withdrawal in prison was no picnic but Ronnie did it, & furthermore while in prison he realized that drugs weren’t making him more creative or fueling his artistic dreams. In fact, they were only having a deleterious effect on his life & career. Despite the many temptations I’m sure he has faced since his release, he has remained sober ever since. In fact, he cut out alcohol entirely a few years ago too, even though he had never had the same struggles with that as with opiates. But again, he realized it was an unhealthy distraction from greater things. I suppose some people like their rock stars to have crazy tales of drunkenness & debauchery- but not me. I prefer mine smart & sober. They make better music that way, & they’re a lot less likely to suffer an early death.
  7. He says whatever he wants & doesn’t bow to political correctness. Just check out the lyrics to Zombified if you want Ronnie’s feelings on cancel culture. He is someone who even the rock world has tried to cancel at times. After all, with his past he is very easy to vilify. It’s sad to see how even after being sober for years, the media has often continued to refer to him as a drug user- as if that’s all he’s ever been or ever will be! Are there times when I don’t agree with everything Ronnie says or does? Of course. But I don’t even agree with my own HUSBAND all the time. I can’t expect rock stars to always think the same as I do! That would be boring. I’ll give you a very timely example. On the recent Shiprocked cruise, Ronnie called out Atilla frontman Chris Fronzak. I’m not going to go into detail, but I found most of the “beef” between these two to be quite childish & silly. Having said that, I also don’t put it past Ronnie (or Chris) to have ignited this “beef” just to get their names in the headlines right before the release of the band’s newest song. I mean, it’s free publicity. I might not necessarily approve of the tactic- but I can’t deny the genius there because it certainly worked!
  8. Despite the original tension between the bands- very understandable of course- Ronnie has actually made up with his former band Escape the Fate. They have actually toured together many times. In fact, they’re on tour together right now. I’m seeing them both this weekend, & I can’t wait! (That is, if I can get over this miserable strep throat that has made me far, far sicker than I was with Covid last year. Sighhhh…)
  9. Ronnie is proof that we CAN escape our fate (yes, that’s a reference to his original band’s name). Here’s a man from a broken family- whose MOTHER abandoned him- who ended up addicted to opiates & in prison by the age of 25. And yet, here he is- at almost 40- more successful than he’s ever been! He’s co-headlining a tour with Papa Roach for the second time in the past few months & they’re selling out arenas left & right. His last 3 singles have all hit #1 on rock radio, despite being very much outside of the typical rock radio format. His latest music video hit 1 million views in 24 hrs (maybe less). He’s published his autobiography. He has stayed sober for over a decade, & despite the fact that their relationship ended poorly, he has maintained a healthy, working relationship with his daughter’s mother & has always been a part of his daughter’s life, regardless of any issues between him & her mother. Whether you like Ronnie or his music or not, you can’t deny that he has truly turned his life around. There are so many points in his life when Ronnie could have just given up & consigned himself to his natural “fate,” but he never has. And THAT is inspiring!
  10. As a natural follow up to the last point, Ronnie is proof that people CAN change, that we can in fact evolve into better versions of ourselves, regardless of our past or the obstacles we face. I think it’s fair to say that the Ronnie of the past decade or so is not the same Ronnie the world knew in his Escape the Fate days, or even his early Falling in Reverse days. (I wouldn’t even like him if he hadn’t evolved.) He has changed so much about himself- everything from his hair/fashion to his on-stage persona to his musical style. Watching his old videos, it’s hard to believe that the Ronnie of the 2020s is the same man as the 2006 Ronnie with Nikki Sixx style hair & eyeliner. It wasn’t a bad look, especially at the time, but I much prefer the more natural look he’s going with these days. The long black hair- that isn’t teased up like the 80s- the much plainer clothes, & the blacked out tattoos all serve to showcase his Native American features that make him naturally gorgeous (e.g. the shape of his eyes, his high cheekbones, his elegant skin tone- he is part Blackfoot Native American). Ronnie will be the first to admit that his older appearance & even some of his older songs make him cringe. But hey, who among us doesn’t have parts of our past that make us cringe? On a more serious note, while Ronnie has incorporated various music styles for most of his career, it’s in the past decade that he has really perfected the ability to blend everything from rap to metal to rock opera. He is equal parts Eminem, Corey Taylor, & Freddie Mercury. I realize some people find that disconcerting or confusing, but I find it inspiring. Most importantly, Ronnie has learned how to apologize for his past mistakes, how to analyze his own behavior, & how to better control his temper. No doubt all of these things have contributed to the greater & greater success he is now seeing. He still makes mistakes, as we all do. But at the end of the day, he is continually learning, growing, & trying to be better. Combine his messy past with his current success, & it’s safe to say that Ronnie is one of the most relatable rock stars of the day. It’s so easy at times to condemn him, but when you really think about it, most of the time he’s likely no worse than the average person- he just gets a lot more media attention for his mistakes than most of us do! After all, as his own song says, “I am aware that I am an asshole/I really don’t care about all of that though/I’m living my life the way that I want to/And you can’t deny/That honestly I’m just like you.”

Best Albums of 2022

It that’s time of year again- time for my annual album hall of fame post. As usual, these albums are almost entirely rock/metal because that’s the majority of what I listen to. Also, I’d like to add that I am by no means a professional music reviewer. I do not have access to every album that is put out- I don’t even have Spotify or Apple Music! All I have are a TON of CDs & YouTube. And Octane/Liquid Metal when I’m riding in my husband’s vehicle. I’m old school & that’s just all there is to it. Plus, I feel like musicians get ripped off by streaming services so I’d rather support them by buying their physical albums as well as their merch, & of course concert tickets when I can. Be prepared- this is a long list because there were SO many good albums this year. I tried to cut it off at 20, which is more than I usually do, but I just couldn’t. And I’m sure I still forgot some worthy albums! As usual, other than the first few, these are in no particular order. So, without further ado, here are MY choices for the best (e.g. my favorite) albums of 2022.

Fever Dream by Palaye Royale: Oh man, there is so much I could say about this amazing album. It is a true opus for the Palaye brothers. The title track (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6sMdysAYNk) is arguably the most epic song they’ve ever created, which is saying a lot considering their incredible catalog of music. Between the touching lyrics, the stunning guitar solos, & the brilliant music video, it’s the culmination of everything Palaye have ever done. Line It Up (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5ZxO2YnFOE) is a gorgeous duet with LP in which her voice & Remington’s blend absolutely perfectly. Lyrically it’s a song I think almost everyone can relate to in the sense of wanting to escape the drudgeries of everyday life & wanting something different than our parents. Then there’s Oblivion (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FgGWmKg49A) with its haunting lyrics & video, not to mention the stunning Punching Bag (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WzprXZGoLs). And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the more upbeat, almost pop-sounding No Love in LA (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qePhiiz7dtc)- which also has a fantastic music video & lays bare the superficiality of Hollywood & the whole LA scene. Lastly be sure to check out the gorgeous Broken (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrUM4tVpmRc) & the accompanying video which, along with Oblivion, was filmed in Prague. I could go on & on about this album but suffice it to say that it is most deserving of the title Album of the Year.

Scoring the End of the World by Motionless in White: I fell in love with MIW the first time I heard Reincarnate & I’ve been a diehard fan ever since. With every record the band has matured & progressed in new ways & this album is no exception. From the “softer” songs like Masterpiece (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbFaVDfkI00) & Porcelain (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19_OhhHXWdk) to the crushing heaviness of Slaughterhouse (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbVXWcB5xAg), this album proves that the MIW boys can do it all. Furthermore, the lyrics on this album are some of Chris’s best ever. From more introspective songs like Masterpiece to more social commentary songs like Slaughterhouse & Red, White, & Boom (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bowj8NkSX4Q) Chris held nothing back this time. I also can’t fail to mention the 80’s inspired Werewolf which even my kindergartener loves. It has a terrific video too (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzojuv9zMGA). Lastly, I must mention Cyberhex (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmjQVRtxS4E) with its soaring vocals & touching lyrics which Chris described as a love letter to the fans.

Holy Fvck by Demi Lovato: I actually already wrote a whole post inspired by one of the songs on this album, but yet again I must say that if you had told me earlier this year that I’d have Demi Lovato on this list, I’d have laughed. But the joke’s on me because this album is truly amazing, & I’m so glad that I was willing to overcome my own biases & check it out. It’s not the heaviest rock album of the year by any means, but it’s no pop album either. Regardless, it rocks. Lyrically Demi has blown me away with the raw outpourings of her heart in tracks like 29 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bEQv1uf5v0) & Happy Ending (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usKh7fLTjj4). The former is written about a relationship she had with a 29 yr old when she was just 17. It’s not one I can personally relate to but I know quite a few women who can. In fact I probably know more women who can relate to it than I even realize because this is a subject people often don’t speak on. The latter, Happy Ending, contains what might be my favorite lyrics of the entire year: “Sure I’m sober now & everybody’s proud, but I miss my vices/And I tried to be your hero/I lent you my voice/ I was your poster child, it was working for a while/But it didn’t fill the void/Am I gonna die trying to find my happy ending?/And will I ever know what it’s like to be fine without pretending/That my skin isn’t crawling/My demons aren’t calling & tearing me to shreds?/Am I gonna die trying to find my happy ending?” Whew, if that doesn’t touch your heart, I don’t know what will. Yet on some level I think we’ve all felt this way at times, even if we haven’t experienced the vagaries of celebrity & fame like Demi has. Another favorite of mine & the one I wrote about recently, is Eat Me ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSmvW2sZ3ZU) which is an incredibly fun song that is all about claiming your own identity instead of conforming to the whims of those around you. Lastly, I want to mention Skin of My Teeth (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgrC_h8-2FM) & Substance (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzUKeGZiEl0), both of which touch on Demi’s substance abuse struggles in the past. It’s so easy to dismiss celebrities with drug problems as spoiled brats who don’t know how good they have it, but tracks like these make you realize how similar these people are to everyday folks who struggle with the exact same issues. This album has made realize even more than ever that there is nothing about celebrities’ lives that I envy. Even if you’re a hardcore rock/metal fan who never listens to anything else, I implore you to at least check out a few of the tracks from this album. Demi doesn’t have to be your new heroine (she isn’t mine either), but I think you’d be short sighted not to give this album at least one spin.

Back from the Dead by Halestorm: Considering Lzzy Hale is one of my all-time favorite rock stars it should come as no surprise to see this album here. From the soaring title track (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srT0pgC_yto) that speaks about defeating the demons of depression to the incredibly fun Wicked Ways (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaV7WY3_6Hk&list=RDzaV7WY3_6Hk&start_radio=1), this album starts off with a real bang. This is a fantastic album for any woman (or man) who has ever felt suppressed, ridiculed, belittled, or generally “othered.” Take Strange Girl (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKqPIpVT_FY) which was written about Lzzy’s bisexuality- yet it’s done in such a way that anyone who has ever been viewed as “strange” for any reason can relate. The self-empowerment of tracks like My Redemption (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjHwC3Kg8DE) is also a joy to behold.

Of Kingdom & Crown by Machinehead: I’ve been listening to rock & metal for my entire adult life & yet somehow I never got into Machinehead until this year. Oops! Anyway, this year I found myself listening to vocalist Rob Flynn’s podcast on YouTube because he has interviewed many of my favorite artists like Andy Black, Spencer Charnas, & Brent Smith. Because of this, YouTube recommended the song No Gods, No Masters (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgSHazBbDNU) from this album. From the very first listen I was blown away by Robb’s voice & the guitar & vocal melodies & harmonies. I had to hear more. Next, I found Choke on the Ashes of Your Hate (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxyxGqLm8fU), which is considerably heavier, & I knew this was an album I needed to hear from top to bottom. As it turns out, it really is best listened to that way because it’s a concept album that was actually loosely inspired by the anime Attack on Titan that Robb watched with his sons over quarantine. He was inspired by the anime to write a record where there’s no clear protagonist or antagonist. Both of the main characters do really bad things but in their minds feel that they are heroes because they feel justified in their wrongdoing. If that’s not a summary of human existence, I don’t know what is! Needless to say, it makes for a brilliant album. From the epic 10 minute opener Slaughter the Martyr (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rc0s9Q9WROI) to the ending track Arrows in Words From the Sky (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-g_QIia-50), this album does not disappoint. I’m particularly impressed with the harmonies between Robb & bassist Jared McEachern. Needless to say, I’m now making my way through Machinehead’s back catalog, but I daresay this is their best album yet.

Spirits by Nothing More: Arguably their heaviest album to date, Spirits does not disappoint. From the stirring opener Stand in the Fire (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbWr515vhkw) to the rousing closer Spirits, this album is musically high energy & yet lyrically incredibly introspective & philosophical, as one expects from the brilliant Jonny Hawkins. Perhaps my favorite track is Valhalla (Too Young to See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awRxMSs1vRc). Lyrically I can relate to it so much, which is often true with this band, perhaps because of the similar background Jonny & I have, having grown up in conservative religious households in the South. Also be sure to check out You Don’t Know What Love Means (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ll8aJ5IiEP4) which Jonny has stated was inspired partly by his father saying those exact words to his sister years ago when their mother was dying of cancer & his sister was struggling with drug addiction. It’s an excellent treatise on how we often abuse the word & concept of love because we don’t understand what love actually is. Lastly, I must mention The Other F Word (Call Out the Fake: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpIXbUVGyL4). In a world where social media & political correctness rule, this is exactly the kind of wakeup call we all need from time to time.

Love, Drugs, & Misery by Eva Under Fire: If you love strong female vocalists like Lzzy Hale or Taylor Momsen, then Eva Under Fire is for you. The album starts off with a bang with Blow (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7A5XMG5fUo) which features Spencer Charnas from INK. Other highlights include Another Shot Through the Heart & Misery, both of which- like most of the album- have incredible 80s rock vibes. Also be sure to check out the powerful ballads The Strong (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjfFOnvAl3Y) & Heroin(e), the latter of which is extremely personal to vocalist Amanda Lyberg as both of her parents were opioid addicts (her mother has recovered but unfortunately her father did not survive his addiction). Heroin(e) was also featured in the movie Sno Babies which is about the opioid crisis (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smnkcKe52Ic). Overall, this is one of those albums that is truly great from start to finish.

True Power by I Prevail: I remember when I Prevail first burst onto the scene with their epic cover of Taylor Swift’s Blank Space, & it’s been a lot of fun to watch their rise to fame from such humble beginnings. Despite loving their initial EP & LP, I actually wasn’t a big fan of their second album Trauma. However, this year’s album is another story. Both lyrically & musically it is an incredibly well written album. My favorite track is the hard-hitting Body Bag (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEzYKLLUAI4) which is a fantastic song for getting your mind out of the excuse zone & into the “let’s get it DONE” zone. Other stand-out tracks include FWYTYK (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASr-WjLZs7U), There’s Fear in Letting Go (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2PYtvIYDHE), & Visceral (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1t9h-bugGrU).

AfterLife by Five Finger Death Punch: FFDP are one of those bands that metal elitists love to hate but I couldn’t care less. I’ve loved them for over a decade now & I’m not about to stop. Lyrically there is no doubt that this is Ivan’s best work, which is clearly influenced by his sobriety & overall improved mental health. It would probably be fair to say that musically this is the band’s “softest” work to date, but the subject matter of the lyrics is anything from light. Opening track Welcome to the Circus (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xD0E_Gj9xMk) is probably the most “traditional” FFDP song on the album & it doesn’t disappoint. Judgment Day is arguably the most experimental song the band has ever done & was inspired by Ivan’s near-death experience that preceded his final trip to rehab when he finally achieved long term sobriety. Thanks for Asking (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tfTLvsXQmQ) is another favorite of mine. This is one of those records where I glean something new every time I listen to it.

Planet Zero by Shinedown: If we had to suffer through a worldwide pandemic, at least we got some amazing albums out of it, one of those being this album. Shinedown have been very open about the fact that the pandemic & all the things that happened as a result of it were a direct influence on this record. The title track (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IipnUpoW-58) is one of my all-time favorite Shinedown songs, & it’s definitely my favorite song inspired by the pandemic. Lyrically & musically it is simply perfect. The emotionally charged Daylight (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oE5qvvhvORQ) is another great one you don’t want to miss. Back to the heavier side, check out the snarky Saints of Violence & Innuendo (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghrrjUz0qNw) & America Burning (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrLguoBRj9k).

Ego Trip by Papa Roach: Could Papa Roach make a bad album if they tried? Probably not- they’re just that good. Anyway, the album starts off with the heavy-hitting Kill the Noise (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_90GB5T73XI) & continues for a total of 14 songs which cover the entire realm of the band’s diverse capabilities. Don’t miss the emotional ballad Leave a Light On or the title track with its incredibly fun music video that was shot in Mexico City (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtHNtA2Fn90). Dying to Believe (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0s_xIEDnAw) & Cut the Line are my other favorites here.

Impera by Ghost: I guess I’m late to the party, but I was never into Ghost before this album. Frankly, I just thought they were kind of- well- boring. But earlier this year I read an article about this album in Revolver magazine & I knew I had to give it try. I immediately fell in love with the epic opening track Kaiserion (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gu32wkmix9k) & even more so with the 80s-sounding Spillways (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9DV1eHQpcA) which remains my favorite on this album. Other highlights include Hunter’s Moon (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtkaUZvMaG8) & Griftwood (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6WA06fNscc&list=RDd6WA06fNscc&start_radio=1), both of which have some insanely catchy guitar riffs. I’m also happy to report that I’ve gone back & listened to some of Ghost’s older music & now appreciate it a lot more (especially Rats- how had I missed that one?), but I still maintain that this is their best work yet.

Gifts From the Holy Ghost by Dorothy: I saw Dorothy open for Halestorm back in 2016, & I’ve been in love with her incredible voice ever since. However, her second album just didn’t really stir me the way her first one did. This year’s album though feels like a return to her original style & is incredible. From the rousing Black Sheep (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRs8olywhS4) to A Beautiful Life (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SqPWW7cr18), this is an album that never fails to pump me up & make me smile. Close to Me Always (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gu32wkmix9k) & the title track are also ones you don’t want to miss.

The Death of Peace of Mind by Bad Omens: Considering this band is originally from my home state of VA, I must confess I am late to the party here also. The title track (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouW_RCAI0sg) caught my attention on Octane this Spring, but when I really fell in love with it was when I heard it played between sets at the Trinity of Terror tour in late April. Not sure why but hearing it then just cemented to me how truly epic the track is. Once I got the album, I realized how incredibly talented Noah & his bandmates are. From heavier tracks like Artificial Suicide (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBcUkTXAwbw) to more melodic pieces like Nowhere to Go (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4a8CogWA3-Y) & Just Pretend (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekU1dQjMsOQ), there isn’t a wrong note in this whole album. Considering how young Noah is, I am especially impressed with his lyrical & musical maturity & can’t wait to see what else he creates for us in the future.

Welcome to the Chaos by Fame on Fire: I know of this band thanks entirely to seeing them open for the Trinity of Terror tour. They really grabbed my attention live with Plastic Smile (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3Te8RLeL98), & thus I looked them up on YouTube not long after the concert. I soon realized this is a very talented band who can cover a large variety of musical territory. They remind me a bit of fellow Floridians A Day to Remember, in that regard. Anyhow, other favorites include the title track (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGj5HdQruQE), which features Spencer Charnas from INK, Emo Shit (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ub8rixwLuSw), & Lost in Doubt (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTJjQ3QX3Y8), but there seriously isn’t a bad song on this entire album. Well worth a listen from top to bottom.

How To Let Go by Sigrid: Yes, I do in fact have a pop record on here. And this is it! I know of Sigrid, who hails from Sweden, entirely thanks to the duet Bad Life (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4552tadeuM) she did with Bring Me the Horizon. I came across it & figured it was worth a listen since BMTH were involved. Immediately I fell in love with Sigrid’s gorgeous voice & the inspiring message of the song. Thankfully I decided to explore this album a bit further because I found the absolute gems of Burning Bridges (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udRAIF6MOm8) & It Gets Dark (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4j7LGMc9ZGU). Everything about Sigrid is exactly what I wish had been popular when I was a teenage girl. Here is a young female pop star with a phenomenal voice who also plays piano, dresses fairly conservatively- a far cry from the Britney Spears of my youth, that’s for sure- & writes lyrics that have actual substance & aren’t just about being a sex toy for much older men. How refreshing! Consider these lyrics from Mirror (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7lr7pU9fYA): “It took me walking away to really know/I love who I see looking at me/In the mirror, in the mirror/Nothing compares to the feeling right there/In the mirror, in the mirror/I needed loneliness to know there’s nothing I can’t turn into confidence.” Pop songs I can listen to with my 6 year-old daughter & know that she’s getting an uplifting message? Say what? Yes, I love it!

Rakshak by Bloodywood: If you know me in real life or have been following this blog for a while, you may know that I have a bit of an obsession with Indian culture- everything from food to Bollywood- so it should come as no surprise that I was thrilled to discover Bloodywood, an Indian folk-metal band. These men have found a way to combine traditional Indian music with metal & rap- bloody genius! My favorite track is Dana Dan (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a65A626Ed20) which became even more powerful for me once I realized the song is a stand against sexual assault & rape. Listen to the song & Google the lyrical translation (some of the words are English but some are Hindi &/or Punjabi) to grasp the full weight of the message. Gaddaar (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a65A626Ed20) is another highlight, but really the whole album is a journey that shouldn’t be missed.

Dark Sun by Dayseeker: Apparently this is Dayseeker’s fifth album but this year is the first they’ve come across my radar. I’m so glad they finally did because this record is a real treat. From the heaviness of the opening track Dreamstate (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7abxfS42lqs) to the acoustic Paper Heart (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x63lP7wK5Ic), this is a band that knows how to convey powerful emotions across a wide variety of musical landscapes. Furthermore, much like Noah of Bad Wolves, vocalist Rory Rodriguez has one of those perfectly smooth voices that can make just about anything sound good. Crying While You’re Dancing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x63lP7wK5Ic) might be my favorite on this record, with its touching lyrics about the superficiality of life as well as the lovely guitar solo near the end. It’s either that or Neon Grave (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mg7SUe8nOik) which Rory wrote (along with much of this record) about the death of his father. Anyone who has ever lost someone they love will be able to relate to this touching song, which feels especially relevant at this time of the year when family means so much.

Pain Remains by Lorna Shore: Ah, Lorna Shore, a band I’d probably never heard of prior to the past few months. But here lately their name is everywhere- & rightly so. Most bands don’t survive having a lead singer leave once. Yet here is a band that is now on their THIRD lead singer & is now bigger than ever. With the captivating & energetic Will Ramos at the helm, it seems this ship is finally on course. The album ends with the Pain Remains trilogy, the first of which (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIw4vAXikgg) is probably my favorite as it’s the one that initially caught my attention & made me say “Holy crap- what is this? I like deathcore?!” As so many other reviews have said, this is deathcore that is so much more than “just” deathcore- it’s deathcore that deserves to be played in an opera house.

Explosions by Three Days Grace: This album starts off with a banger with So Called Life (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ViIny2YZH0), a song that perfectly encapsulates the angst of living through a worldwide pandemic. On a much softer token, check out Lifetime (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IToGQoIKgr8) which is another great song that anyone who has ever lost a loved one will strongly relate to. The touching music video was filmed in Mayfield, Kentucky, the site of a horrific tornado in December 2021. Guitarist Barry Stock lives not too far from there & the band wanted to dedicate this to the community & those who were lost. Also be sure to check out Neurotic (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7e-k9oJn-kI) which includes a great feature from Lukas Rossi.

The End, So Far by Slipknot: No compendium of albums of the year for 2022 would be complete without mentioning the latest effort by Slipknot. From the eerie The Dying Song (Time to Sing) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INi3qP1oWlY) to Yen (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FnG9lGLyEM) to Hivemind https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIw4vAXikgg) & many others, this album proves once again that Corey Taylor & his crew always have a lot to say, &- like aways- they say it well.

The Mourning by Black Veil Brides (EP): I don’t usually include EPs but BVB are one of my favorite bands, & these 4 songs are excellent examples of their brilliant musicianship, so I felt compelled to include this. Savior II (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXPvviSqFYk) is a follow up to one of their much earlier songs, & really showcases Andy’s voice. Lyrically it speaks on trying to live up to being the role model that he has inevitably become for so many. Also be sure to check out Devil (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0cRT1ehiSM) which is heavier & has a fun music video shot in Mexico City. Also, can we talk about how perfect the album artwork is?

I Rise by Cory Marks (EP): Canadian Cory Mark is flying the flag for country rock & he’s doing a hell of a job of it. He just wrapped up a tour with rock titans Five Finger Death Punch & he’s on Better Noise Music which is a label that’s almost entirely dedicated to rock/metal. This man has found a perfect way to blend the two genres, & as someone who enjoys aspects of both, I love it. An excellent example of this is In Me I Trust (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nGcOc19kz4) which is a fantastic ode to self-empowerment. Burn It Up (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-09GAXe1Mc) is also lots of fun.

Rotoscope by Spiritbox (EP): I’m once again a bit late to the party with Spiritbox but none of their previous music really grabbed me the way this EP did. Obviously Courtney has an excellent voice, but for some reason it wasn’t till this EP that the band really made me stop & give them my full attention. The title track (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wpl28kp5WVA) is borderline danceable & a true pleasure to listen to over & over.

I’ve never done this before with one of these posts, but I’d also like to give a shout out to a handful of singles that will appear on forthcoming albums or EPs that really spoke to me this year.

First, I must mention Zombified & Voices in My Head by Falling in Reverse. Prior to this year I had only a vague idea who Ronne Radkie was, & what little I knew about him didn’t endear him to me. However, after watching many interviews with him (especially the very insightful ones with Ryan J Downey), watching some of his Twitch, & really delving into his lyrics, I must admit that he’s won me over. Do I agree with everything he says or does? No, but I could say the same for almost every rock star (or human being in general) that I like (or actually know in real life). At the end of the day, he’s found a way to completely turn his life around & has written some incredibly brilliant music in the process. I could write a whole blog post about him- & likely will once I read his book (which should be shipping out soon). Anyway, all that to say that Zombified is one of the best songs written about cancel culture & the dangerous groupthink that seems to have taken hold of society these days. It also has a fantastic music video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDDz1Er2IXA). Voices in My Head, which also has a phenomenal music video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7_e_NY-f3g), was written about Ronnie’s struggle with hypochondria but can be applied to many different scenarios in life. It’s also a great song for showcasing the wide variety of musical styles that he & his bandmates are capable of covering.

Lastly, we need to discuss 1984 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7OTUNqAIwY) by Russian deathcore heavyweights Slaughter to Prevail. This song was written in opposition to the war with Ukraine. I believe the video was actually filmed in Russia which was an extremely gutsy thing to do considering the circumstances in the country right now. Vocalist Alex Terrible has been very open about the fact that he & his bandmates are open to fines or even jailtime due to their vocal opposition to the war. Thankfully the band has been able to make their way to the US recently, but they still don’t know how long they’ll be able to stay here & if they will eventually face serious repercussions in their home country for their stance against the war. Lyrically of course the song is very important, but I must also congratulate the guys on their incredible guitar work in this piece. It’s absolutely stunning & makes me very anxious to hear what else they create for us in the future.

I’m sure I’m forgetting someone but I have now provided you with literally HOURS of excellent music to explore, so I hope you will check out at least a few of these, even if they aren’t your typical style. I for one am already excited for some of the new music coming for us in 2023. Speaking of which, my most anticipated albums for next year include Avatar’s Dance Devil Dance (coming in February), Godsmack’s Lighting Up the Sky (also coming in February), & hopefully the already completed but not yet released album from the guys in From Ashes to New (a new favorite band of mine this year).

5 Traits of Successful People

As some of you know, I am an avid reader & have been for basically my entire life. Here lately though, in addition to reading, I have also gotten into podcasts a bit. Because I’m old school & don’t have Spotify or Apple Music, or whatever other platforms people use for podcasts, I just find them on YouTube- you know, the “old fashioned” way. Ha! Anyhow, as far as books, I do love fiction & still read more of that than anything. But I also really enjoy autobiographies & memoirs, particularly from rock stars I admire. So it should come as no surprise that a lot of the podcasts I enjoy are also essentially interviews with my favorite rockstars.

Obviously I enjoy reading/hearing about the lives & backgrounds of musicians whose work I enjoy, but beyond that I also really enjoy hearing about their struggles to find success & how they managed to do so, particularly at a time in history when being a rock star is nothing like it was back in the 70s or 80s. The people living the old school “rock star” lifestyle aren’t actually rock stars now- they’re rappers, pop stars, or even country singers. Rock & metal are arguably more “alternative” & outside of the mainstream now in the 21st century than they were in the 20th century. The point of this is that anyone who finds a way to make a living doing this kind of music nowadays (really any music, but especially rock/metal), whether you like the music or not, is worth a second look. Because, believe me, they haven’t gotten there by pure chance or luck.

Having said all that, between the various books, interviews, & podcasts I’ve consumed about a variety of bands, as well as a handful of athletes that I find interesting (Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Gronk, Baker Mayfield, Arian Foster, to name a few), there are certain trends I’ve noticed in these people. Just about all of them will acknowledge that some of their success is due to luck or genetic factors over which they have no control, but lots of other people have those same factors or experience the same type of luck & don’t achieve the same kind of success. So- what sets these people apart? Let’s take a look.

(Keep in mind that most of my examples here will be musicians but that doesn’t mean these traits aren’t applicable to other fields- even those of us “regular Joes” with normal jobs.)

  1. Successful people have unwavering, unshakeable self-confidence. This kind of confidence may even come across as arrogance sometimes, but the fact of the matter is, if YOU don’t believe in you, why should anyone else? It might not be fair but that’s just the way the world works. In a recent podcast Aaron Rodgers talked about how he envisioned being an NFL quarterback long before it actually happened. That might sound ridiculous, but as the host of the podcast (Marcus Aubrey) stated, Rodgers would never have made it there if he hadn’t first believed he could.
  2. Successful people do not embrace a victimhood mentality, even when at times it might be justified. Instead, they embrace a “no excuses mentality.” Look at Lzzy Hale. She could have said “You know what? Female rock stars rarely make it. Screw this.” But she didn’t. Diamond from Tetrarch could have said “I don’t see any other black female guitarists in metal bands. This is going to be too difficult. Forget it.” But she didn’t. Ronnie Radke could have said “I’m stuck in prison & my band fired me. I’ll never make it now.” Instead, he formed a new band & wrote an entire album while in prison. And he was performing on the main stage of Warped Tour within a few months of his release (& it’s only been up from there)! From Ashes to New could have said “Man, we lost our singer. No one cares about nu-metal anymore. Forget it.” But they didn’t. And they’re doing better than ever now! Leland Melvin could have said “I don’t know any other black guys who are astronauts or scientists. Forget this.” But he didn’t. Tom Brady could have said “Damn, I was a 6th round draft pick. I’ll never be a star.” But he didn’t- & now he is arguably the best quarterback to ever play the game. Zoltan Bathory of Five Finger Death Punch came to the US knowing almost zero English. His first guitar was made out of a wooden coffee table. No excuses- he made his dreams come true. And the list goes on & on . . .
  3. Successful people are willing to suffer & take risks to achieve their goals. They know that the route to the top doesn’t come easy & they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get there. If that means touring in a crappy van & barely making enough money to buy Ramen or food from the McDonald’s dollar menu (hello, Motionless in White), they’ll do it. Palaye Royale used to tour the country in their mom’s SUV with guitarist Sebastian doing the vast majority of the driving. How he survived, I’ll never understand because there is no way he was getting more than a few hours of sleep each day. Andy Biersack/Black of Black Veil Brides dropped out of high school as soon as he turned 18 & moved from Ohio to Los Angeles to pursue his dreams. At times that meant living in his crappy, old car that barely even worked. But he did it. The guys in Lamb of God used to come off tour & go straight back to being dishwashers & construction workers. It wasn’t glamorous, but that’s how they could pay the bills & continue to pursue their musical dreams. Asking Alexandria moved from England to the US & lived in an RV in a Wal-Mart parking lot in their early days. It wasn’t glamorous either, but it’s how they eventually got the success they have today.
  4. Successful people work harder than anyone else in the room. They don’t count on talent alone to make them successful because they understand that “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Ice Nine Kills just opened up for Metallica- the biggest metal band in the world- but one of their guitarists (Ricky Armellino) went straight back to work on his other band’s music after the show. Could he have basked in the glory of his accomplishments? Absolutely. But he knows that the constant grinding is a large reason why he’s achieved what he has so far, so why stop now? Long before their current success, Ice Nine Kills frontman Spencer Charnas used to sell his CDs at Warped Tour. His band wasn’t even playing the show! He was just wandering around talking to people & somehow convincing them to buy his music. And he set an insane goal- I think it was 1,000 CDs a day or something like that. And as one of his bandmates recounted in an interview, he never left until he met his goal. Talk about dedication! And talk about an insane belief in yourself to even attempt such a thing! Hats off to you, Spencer.
  5. Successful people are willing to adapt & admit to their own mistakes. A lot of the musicians I’ve listed here have struggled with drug &/or alcohol addiction at some point in their lives. Yet all but maybe one of them are now sober & thriving. Why? They realized their addictions were ruining not just their careers but their lives. And they were willing to do the hard work of addressing why they were using those addictions as coping mechanisms in the first place so they could come out on the other side bigger & better than ever. On a less serious but still important level, think about the bands (or even TV shows) that have really stood the test of time. Most of them don’t sound the same now as they did on their first record. Why? Because they grew & evolved & experimented with new ideas over the years. And people appreciate that because that’s what we as human beings should do- we should grow & evolve & experiment with new ideas over time. And even if we never have to overcome something as crippling as heroin addiction or alcoholism & the gamut of problems that accompany such substance abuse, we should all be “big enough” to admit to our own mistakes & constantly strive to do better.

I talked about this in a previous blog post, but it seems like nowadays people feel like they have to tip toe around their successes for fear of making others feel bad. There is also a lot of focus on self-help books & prayer but not a lot of focus on getting out there & doing the real dirty work that actually leads to success. As I also discussed in the same previous post, we all have a different vision of what success looks like to us, & there is nothing wrong with that. For example, as much as I love rock music & reading/hearing about the artists behind the music, I have absolutely zero desire to live that kind of lifestyle. I’m very happy to be a “regular Joe” (or perhaps I should say Jane?). But I still find a lot of utility & inspiration in hearing about the struggles my favorite artists have faced. My challenges in life may be very different but the mindset I need to overcome those challenges needn’t be so different. And the same is true for you.