Category Archives: Album Reviews

Sleepwalking by Cole Shway

By Matt Harrison

Sleepwalking is a four track EP that puts the musical talent and lyrical poeticism of Cole Shway on display. What listeners will find on this EP is a balance of gentle harmonies as he sings with authentic passion. Shway acts as master of the strings as he plays guitar, banjo, and bass in addition to singing on each track.

The soothing fluidity of Shway’s arpeggio guitar picking style makes this EP smooth and calming to hear. The album at times sounds as though it has a brush stroke of a psychedelic nature which further entangles listeners into these poems of self discovery. 

Of the four songs on the EP, the last track, Sleepwalking, stood out more than any other. The track begins with the gentle picking of a banjo. Shway tells listeners his story as best as he can while the gentle melodies flow under his voice.

“I feel great ‘cause I’m not scared anymore”’ Shway sings at the outset of the song. “To take on the world, to let it in.”

The chorus states simply as the gentle instruments crescendo under his voice, “I am sleepwalking.”

If what you seek is a mellow sound that you can turn up and tune out into, Cole Shway’s Sleepwalking is the next album for you. Shway tells his stories through poems that listeners can relate to and connect with through its great subtle moments. These songs will touch a silent part of your heart, leaving you looking for more.

The gentle melodies of this EP will take listeners by the hand and into the mind of Cole Shway. This aptly titled EP listens as though you are wandering through a dreamscape. The songs Shway writes are revealing but mysterious as he shares that which is caught in his heart and soul through his words and instruments.

The Word Alive – Monomania

By Mikey Jablonski – @mikey.photograph

Release Date: February 21, 2020

Genre: Post-Hardcore, Metalcore, Alternative Metal

Label: Fearless Records

Song Highlights: “BURNING YOUR WORLD DOWN”, “THANK YOU”, “NUMB LOVE (MISERY II)”, “MONOMANIA”   

The Word Alive, a metalcore/post-hardcore band based out of Phoenix, Arizona has released their anticipated sixth studio record, MONOMANIA. The band continues to try and make something different with each record, which they have done since their 2014 record, Real and they kept that promise still with, MONOMANIA. A major factor for this record is they went with a different producer than Matt Good, who produced The Word Alive’s last two records, Dark Matter and Violent Noise. This time around they went with Erik Ron who has previously produced albums with Godsmack, Dance Gavin Dance, and nothing,nowhere, to name a few. This album still gives the metal vibe that you know from the band with Telle’s amazing vocal range, catchy guitar riffs, and hard drum beats.

The album starts with the title track, “MONOMANIA,” giving that new Word Alive feel to the music. With the catchy chorus, hard guitar riffs as well as Telle’s hard scream at the end, it was a beautiful first track to the album. “NO WAY OUT” starts with a different vocal range from Telle than you’re used to, if you’ve followed the band for quite some time you’ll notice it easier. It does catch you off guard for sure, but one thing that I believe should be approved upon is how much they went through the chorus in the song, as much as they did.

“SEARCHING FOR GLORY” did give the same vibe as, “NO WAY OUT,” but didn’t give that much of a repetitiveness. What I loved a lot about this track was the acoustic guitar and Telle’s vocals near the end of the track giving the track what it needed to be filled. “ANOTHER YEAR IN THE SHADOWS” is that song you hear on most records that is the ‘arena rock’ type song, but for myself, I always love those type of songs and Telle used his entire vocal range on this track. “GREATEST ALMOST” is a hard punch song with Telle’s vocal range and high tone guitar riffs, but if you’re a fan of, Dark Matter, you will love the tracks, “THANK YOU,” “K.F.” and “NUMB LOVE (MISERY II).”

“THANK YOU” has some guitar riffs that you hear from hit songs from the Dark Matter record, but what ties the song together is Telle’s vocal projection into his screams. As for “NUMB LOVE (MISERY II),” I was very skeptical for the track as I loved the song, “Misery,” a non-album single from 2017. Trying to make a sequel to a track can go great or terrible. I think The Word Alive made a great track as that intro to, “NUMB LOVE (MISERY II).” It gave me goosebumps with that hard-hitting chorus and very great guitar riffs within the track. I believe, “NUMB LOVE (MISERY II),” could’ve been its own track rather than a sequel to, “Misery.”

“K.F” is a very enjoyable track in my mind from the band. Amazing screams and more great guitar riffs. “BURNING YOUR WORLD DOWN” and the records title track, “MONOMANIA” tie this whole record together. With some of the harder guitar riffs on the record as well with Telle’s passion in his vocals, with another catchy chorus, it makes them great tracks. “COMFORT & CHAOS” is a very different song on the whole record for sure. That outro tied that song together in my mind with Telle’s clean vocals and that acoustic guitar. “I’M SORRY YOU’RE SORRY NOW” sounds like a b-side to something off, Violent Noise. I prefer something new or something with more “grab” than something that sounds like it was made for a previous release.

Finally, it all comes down to the final track, “DEATH IS ONLY THE END IF YOU ASSUME THE STORY IS ABOUT YOU.” A long song title for sure, but they played around with the soft tones of the band and with the fast hard type of song, along with a very punchy bass. “DEATH IS ONLY THE END IF YOU ASSUME THE STORY IS ABOUT YOU” goes full metal closer to the end of the track to deliver one final blow to end it off right.

The Word Alive put together another good piece of work with, MONOMANIA, for fans that thought that the, Violent Noise record wasn’t heavy enough, this record is for you. As this record was bouncing all over the place between metalcore, post-hardcore, and alternative metal. I think for the next record they have to pick one side of their sound, either go full on heavy, or show their lighter side.

BRKN LOVE – Selftitled

By Samuel Stevens

Release Date: February 14, 2020

Genre: Rock, Hard Rock

Label: Spinefarm Records

The Los Angeles based rock band, BRKN LOVE, fronted by the twenty one year old, Toronto vocalist and guitarist, Justin Benlolo, have released their self titled debut eleven track effort, BRKN LOVE. Justin’s music career began shortly after he dropped out of high school at sixteen years of age with the encouragement of his friends and family and flew to New York City. Over the years of honing his craft in music while in NYC, he eventually went on to move to Los Angeles and form what is now, BRKN LOVE.

“All I could ever focus on was being on stage, screaming into a microphone, and playing my guitar in a rock and roll band for the world to hear,” says vocalist Justin Benlolo. 

BRKN LOVE’s debut album was produced by Joel Hamilton (Highly Suspect and Pretty Lights), which is a full circle type of occurrence for Justin and his band. BRKN LOVE was formed out of the emergence of bands in the likes of, Royal Blood and Highly Suspect, to name a few. These said bands were what inspired Justin to go forward with this project. Justin draws influence from other acts as well from, Led Zeppelin to Soundgarden as well, which can be heard throughout the band’s eleven tracks.

The album was recorded entirely live to tape to capture the band’s pure essence that flows within their sound and in their relatable and emotional lyrics. The band formed just last year in early 2019 and while still being relatively new to the music scene, the band have taken the United States by storm with a handful of tours and festival appearances under their belt.

Justin Benlolo and BRKN LOVE, tackle the lyrical subjects of love and loss on their debut self titled record. Perfect subject matter for an album released on Valentine’s Day. Throughout the eleven tracks on the album, Justin Benlolo speaks on his experience of love and loss of loss in various forms in friendships, significant others, and so forth. Despite the theme of love/loss, the entire album’s track list is full of upbeat, fast rock anthems, with a drizzle of a couple of slower rock ballads, that are all in their own ways, very well emotionally driven by Justin Benlolo’s lyrics.

The album opens up right out of the gate with the rock anthem, “I Can’t Lie,” a song about a friend who stabbed Justin in the back for no reason whatsoever. It sets the tone for the remaining ten tracks. The immediate second that Justin plays his first note on guitar and those vocal harmonies hit, a rush of electricity hit me. You can feel the true genuine, raw power of the song as if you’re in the room with the band as they were performing it live to tape. Effectively getting the true feel of the album as it was intended it, with no editing to the tracks in any shape or form.

“Shot Down,” has one of the most massive sounding guitar riffs on the entire album with Justin belting out the lyrics on top of it all. However this track is full of sexual innuendos, but take the track as you will. As Justin states, “It can be interpreted as a massive disaster song;” “My heart doesn’t bleed for you / I’m a dire wolf, gonna see it through / How long till your legs give out / Gonna be hard times, there will be no doubt.”

On the track, “Papercuts,” Justin’s falsetto shines bright throughout while tackling the topic of returning to a former lover, when you know it’s better not to; “You’re just a drug I love to take / You make me sick, I love the taste / Another wound I can’t keep shut / Another one, another papercut.”

The self titled album comes to a climax with the track, “In Your Hands.” The track is “an ode to life, that we’re going to ride the universe’s wave without worrying,” says vocalist, Justin Benlolo. Notably the song features one of the most remarkable vocal performances on the eleven tracks from vocalist, Justin Benlolo.

In conclusion, BRKN LOVE has a little something for every rock fan. Some catchy rock anthems throughout the album, a slight amount of slower rock ballads mixed between, quite the amount of tracks with a faster tempo, and most importantly, the guitars on the album remain consistently heavy for the duration of the album.

“The name represents who I am,” Justin leaves off. “You can honestly be a hopeless romantic and play tough music. Most of the lyrics deal with love and loss. That’s the vibe. You can share your feelings and still rock your face off at the end of the day. It’s what I’m going to do.”


Check out more from BRKN LOVE:

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Ever Since I Lost My Mind – SUSTO

By Matt Harrison

We were passing around a post-show doobie-joint in Louisville, watching the security guard of the neighbouring property drive the perimeter of his jurisdiction with a burnt out taillight. “We’ll play the new album for ya tomorrow on the way to Nashville” SUSTO frontman Justin Osborne said to me from the front passenger seat. I sat in my same back row seat the next day when we hit the road and I first heard Ever Since I Lost My Mind.

The sounds of silence hang momentarily before the sharp pattern of acoustic strumming brings listeners into the newest SUSTO album. “Homeboy,” the first track on the album, is a rhythmically fluid and lyrically evocative anthem of the rising tide among Osborne and those he’s come up around in the prolific Charleston music scene. It’s a catchy and inspiring track that causes one to consider their potential, be they a musician or otherwise.

Rolling in as a light alternative, “If I Was” will have you shoulder dancing along before the lyrics come in. “If I was a saviour,” Osborne begins, “I’d help all the people get saved/ Dunk their heads under water just to make sure that they’re all okay, they’re all alright.” The song carries on this theme of giving in the lines “If I was a writer, I’d try to suck you all in/ Put out some real page turners that you’ll never ever wanna put down again.

As the song comes to a close the instruments gradually drift and mingle, seemingly on their own. The band was sharing an LSD trip in the studio and the music took that wavelength for a ride. At the song’s natural conclusion those final notes hung together, floating along in an unchoreographed stream of celestial interconnectedness.

At the midway point is “Last Century,” a powerhouse track that puts SUSTO’s rock and roll aptitude on display. It’s the sort of groovy tune you’ll turn up every time you hear that first sliding note. In the latter half of the song the band drops into another gear, putting listeners under a psychedelic trance of slow-motion rock and roll euphoria before the tempo picks back up and roars into the closing chants; “Hey man, you got the last century, the last century right; Hey man, I’ll see you on the other side.”

You may have missed too many episodes of Dora to understand what “Está Bien” is about, so I’ve gone ahead and written up the drunken translation Justin gave me on the last night I was on tour with his crew in Macon, Georgia. Once you’ve read it, you’ll see how the song is not only aesthetically beautiful but deeply mantric. “I hope Esta Bien can be used as a tool to teach simple Spanish while sharing a positive message” Justin explained to me that night in Georgia, “something parents can share with their kids to teach them something good.”

After tiptoeing through the dreamscape of the seventh track, “House of the Blue Green Buddha,” you will be ripped back to reality when “Livin’ in America” comes on. This song captures the enjoyment of turning up the amps, subsequently pissing off your neighbours and scaring the dog. “It’s meant to come across as sarcastic,” Justin said while he, Van the Good and I smoked a 5 am joint in Macon. “America is fun as fuck. I mean, I get we’re fucked up, but it’s fun.”

And then you’re back, neck deep in the mellow, lost again in the serenity of the album. The title track, “Ever Since I Lost My Mind,” brings a fleeting scent of freedom; the equanimity of nomadity. “This is our fuckin’ hymn out there on the road,” Justin said, looking out the same windshield through which endless miles have passed him by. “You’ve just entered this life” he nodded to newly appointed tour manager, Van, “and you’ve sampled it,” he nodded back to me, “but this has been my life for 15 years.”

Before you know it you’re at the end of the ride. “Waiting on the rain to just stop/ I’m three weeks off cocaine and that’s rough” Osborne sings, shameless in his humanity in the final track, “Off You.” What many connect with in Osborne’s songwriting is his unrelenting and continual honesty. His lyrics offer personal insight that emboldens the understanding that those who struggle within themselves are not alone. “I can’t seem to get myself off of you” are the words the album closes on, shedding a final streak of light on that which Osborne still works to overcome.

Songs unmentioned here were cut for the sake of relative brevity. Among them is the third track, “Weather Balloons,” which was written the day after an acid trip during a Charleston snowstorm that shut the city down. Much of this album can be heard on repeat until your headphones give out. However, when listened to as a single entity, this album reflects the mind of an artist working through his pains who recognizes the beauty and bliss around him.

I was standing outside the door of Rialto Row on my last day in Charleston, still fairly stoned and about to head to the airport. SUSTO was inside for their first full band practice since recording the album. The peak of “Last Century” roared through the door with the same force found on the album. What the future holds for SUSTO remains to be seen but those last lines I heard through the door paint the picture of expectation; “Exercise in the early mornin’/ Let’s try and get one for the radio.”


Enter your email HERE to be notified when the full piece about my time on the road with SUSTO is published in summer of 2019

Support SUSTO with a purchase of Ever Since I Lost My Mind: HERE

Previously published work from the SUSTO Stories Tour:

Another Day on the Road

Aimlessly Wandering Through Chicago

Dead Swords – Enders

By Samuel Stevens

Release Date: March 8, 2019

Genre: Shoegaze, Ambient

Label: Human Blood Records

Dead Swords, the self described Doomgaze band based out of New Jersey have released their debut eleven track effort, Enders. The genre Doomgaze is a heavier form of the alternative rock sub-genre shoegaze. The band was formed in 2016 by the group’s two members Alex Rosamilia, the guitarist of The Gaslight Anthem, and Corey Perez of the bands Bottomfeeder and Let Me Run. Enders features an abundance of guest bassists, drummers, and vocalists throughout the album including Benny Horowitz, Alex’s band mate in The Gaslight Anthem on drums on the track, “Tonight.”

On the album’s two interludes, “Interlude 04” and “Interlude 05,” the poet Mischa Pearlman is featured. For those who may be wondering where “Interlude 01,” “Interlude 02,” and “Interlude 03” are, you can find them on the band’s previous two EPs, Skeletons and Broken Souls, as the band’s debut album is a continuation of what has already been written and released. Enders is also produced and mixed with the help of musician, Kevin Dye, of the fellow New Jersey band, Gates.

Enders focuses on Alex Rosamilia’s morbid fascination with death and everything surrounding the subject. The obviously grim lyrical theme is prominent throughout the entire album by not only touching on death, but also speaks of loss and what happens after you pass on. Despite the clear theme, the entire track list isn’t all gloom as the album does share a couple songs about love and hope. It’s no surprise with the albums lyrics and along with the band’s genre of shoegaze, that Enders makes for a very dark, emotionally driven album straight from the heart and soul of Rosamilia and Perez.

Do not let the albums average track length of seven minutes deter you from listening to Enders. The energy, emotion, and creativity pumped out by Alex, Corey, and their many musical guests leaves you with a strange euphoria through those eight-to-eleven minute tracks. What’s most notable is that feeling of the absence of time as you won’t even realize these tracks are so long.

Enders’ stand out tracks have to be “Fumetsu,” “Perception,” and “Ender.” “Tonight,” which is a little slower than the rest of the songs on the album’s track list, is also worth considering among the top standout tracks as it is easily one of the most emotional tracks on Enders. The topic of not fearing death is prominently found in the lines, “Do not fear the winding down / We all have been since the first round / A dimming light, a deafening sound; to become a simple earthen mound.”On the track “Perception,” Rosamilia questions his sense of purpose on earth; “Are we angel souls / Encapsulated in these bodies / Trying to go home?” The track, “Black” is about grieving and not being able to accept the death of a loved one. This seeps through in the lines, “I still won’t admit that you’re gone/ After all, after all that you’ve done.”

On Enders penultimate track, “Ender,” the constant overall theme of death hits a new height, when Rosamilia touches on it one last time. The song is about the last moments of thought before the end of ones life; “Before an eternity of white noise and black / Before an eternity of non-existence.”

“When I started Dead Swords, I really wanted to focus on letting the music be able to breathe,” Rosamilia says. “I have always been a fan of bands like Pink Floyd, My Bloody Valentine, or The Cure; bands that write songs that sprawl about over the course of seven-to-eight minutes. “Ender”, as well as the rest of the record, is my homage to those bands and those songs that take you for a 10-minute trip without you realizing how long you’ve sat there.”


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