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The Fallout — CD Review

Hello ladies and ‘gents. I am going to use this opportunity to not only review my second CD on this blog — debut CD “The Fallout” by Crown the Empire — but also to rant really quick. So please ‘cuse the vent, but it has to happen.
Lemme start off with a backstory. A few months ago, I was lucky enough to go see one of my favorite bands, I See Stars. Little did I know that I would also be introduced to one of my favorite bands currently: Crown the Empire. They were opening for I See Stars and The Word Alive. I was hanging out in the back on the venue since I didn’t know of Crown the Empire yet and honestly didn’t want to get drenched in sweat before I saw the boys I came to see. Crown the Empire were pretty good, but then their song “Johnny Ringo” came on. I was talking to my sister and at the opening chords, complete with an eerie carnival number, my head immediately snapped over to the stage, intrigued. They caught my attention and have held it since.
They put forth one of the most energetic performances I have ever seen on stage, never once ceasing to stay pumped and keep the crowd off their feet. That definitely impressed the hell out of me. I was lucky enough to meet the band afterwards and found them all to be really outstanding, funny guys. So not only did they gain my interest, but also my respect.
Needless to say, once they announced their debut album (only had a stellar EP out prior), I was stoked. I was forced to wait with the rest of their fanbase and waited I did. Then, ’bout a week before the CD was set to release on November 20th, one of my favorite magazines, Alternative Press, released a review on the album. Always excited to get an early opinion, I hopped on over to read it, and was highly disappointed.
Cue rant:
The review, written by Jason Schreurs, was anything but a review. In two short paragraphs, he bashed the notion that due to this debut’s added use of synch and “dubstep-like elements”, it stranded too far from the metalcore label the band has acquired, making the album “sound misplaced and well, silly.”
Lemme be the first to tell you that statement is a load of bull. And if you don’t believe me, head over to altpress.com and check out the 40+ plus comments that agree with me.
Schreurs is entitled to his opinion, like anyone else, but he was supposed to write a review of the album, not a 300-word complaint of how new elements make it different from other music in the genre. He did nothing to review the album, but just — and please excuse my French — bitched about how it was so different from what it was “supposed” to be. My two cents on that idea:
I have listened to screamo music and all the subgenres that follow it, since I was in middle school. I grew up on classic rock and metal thanks to my Dad, so I have always been into or exposed to the rock-ier elements found in music. But one of the things I found I have loved about the screamo genre (and I’m using screamo really loosely and generally here) is how adaptable its boundaries are. You have some basic elements that compose the genre, but artists are always encouraged to take those elements to the farthest they can go; challenged to see what new elements they can bring in and make work; praised when they can blend creative and stereotypical elements together to make a completely new sounds that manages to find a place within the screamo genre.
That being said, Schreurs is basically saying that because Crown the Empire uses dubstep elements into their music, they are breaking the bonds of the metalcore genre (what is metalcore truly, anyway?), thus deeming their album as unreviewable. Which is bull. I applaud the seven members of Crown the Empire for taking risks with this album and finding what works for them, because sorry to break it to you, Schreurs, but it does work. It works really damn well.
Now, lemme tell you why.

They start out the album with the sound of a film projector going, a soft, simple piano melody playing along with Andy’s smooth vocals. It creates an eerie mood that builds as layer upon layer is added, with drums and violins and guitars, until it reaches the climax; here enters David and his chill-giving, deep-throated screams, the sound of glass shattering and thunder in the background as compliments. All of this goes down in exactly two minutes, creating an eerie, story-like narrative once you listen to the lyrics that excites and intrigues the listeners.
And that’s only the intro song.
Cue in ten more songs to follow, all of them heavy, powerful and unique to Crown the Empire. I truly believe they have found their style through this album, honing their skills and raising at least ten levels from their previous EP. The riffs are stronger, the drums more powerful and controlling to the tempo of the music; the keyboard is hot, there is no other way to say it, because it adds a whole other dimension to the songs. And don’t even get me started on the vocals! Andy’s clean vocals are so smooth and carry so well, flowing through the songs like a dream. Then David’s unclean screams and growls interrupt Andy, adding his own mixture to the song that is brilliantly done, always coming in at the right moment of the song. Both of Crown the Empire’s singers can carry their own and putting them together…well, you might want to sit down for that one, because it is quite something.
Add the new, riskier elements I completely adore, and you have a legit debut album that WILL get stuck on repeat. Personally, I love the dubstep like elements (are you sure we were listening to the same tracks, Schreurs, because I’m stuck on repeat for all eleven of these songs). They appear often enough in the album to add a common thread to follow throughout the album yet do not overload or take away from the band’s natural sound. The beginning of “Menace” is a great twist to throw into the middle of the album, using violins and bass to introduce the song before David rips the sweet melody apart. I also like how David has a more prominent role than Andy in this song; good way to mix it up and create a different sound from the song before and after, both just as great. The two singles, “Makeshift Chemistry” and “Memories of a Broken Heart” I had memorized within the hour they were released, they were so fantastic. (Sidenote, the scream of “Yeah” at 3:36 of “Makeshift Chemistry” has given me chills EVERY time.) And I LOVE how they honor the roots of their EP with the final song on the album, “Johnny’s Revenge”, serving as a single to one of my favorites, “Johnny Ringo.” Schreurs claims that the album “is pretty.” Just listen to the beginning of “Johnny’s Revenge” and tell me if that laughter doesn’t give you nightmares for weeks; that is anything but pretty.
And lyrically, this album is golden. It manages to tell a story and various messages that its listeners can relate to and learn from, which is much more important than whether the band stayed within the elements of their genre. That’s the purpose of music: creating something that the listeners can empathize with. Some of the best musicians and bands have done this, and Crown the Empire are on the rise to do the same thing.
So all in all, this album would easily receive a 4.5 out of 5 stars from me, just short of 5 because nothing can be perfect. It is unique, powerful and keeps me interested the whole time. Personally, I would recommend it to anyone who is fond of the genre or maybe even people who aren’t, because if any band will get them into it, it would be Crown the Empire. I am beyond excited to go see these guys in January again and this time, I will be in the front row amidst the mosh pits, not sitting the in back waiting for the next act. Keep on being risky and ignoring the elements of the scene, boys. It creates amazing songs from you guys.
“I’ve given more than what I’ve got, I’ve given all of what I’m not, I’ve watched this war consume all that we could become. If I die before it’s done, please take these words, my final thoughts, the only way to shine your light is in the dark. Never let life kill your spark!” — The One You Feed, track five off of “The Fallout”
Cheers,
Nicole

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Random Musings

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving.
A day of food. Lots and lots of deliciously fattening food, just the way food should be. A day of family. Both those you love and pretend to love, and those who don’t even get that fake courtesy. A day of friends. A day of football watching, constant feasting, pants ripping and buttons exploding, leaves falling and family gathering. A day off of work and school (three cheers for that!). A day created in thanks for food in the midst of starvation, meant to remind us to be thankful for what we are blessed with. A day of thanks.
Thanksgiving.
The next major holiday after Halloween and the last major holiday before Christmas. It is often overlooked by those over-eager souls desperate for the time to arrive where they can begin singing carols and stuffing their faces with cookies without receiving looks of disdain. And I’ll admit, I’ve not innocent of jumping straight from my birthday, which falls a few days after Halloween, straight into the spirit of Christmas. And while the turkeys are prolly grateful for my negligence towards this holiday, this year I wanted to actually take a second and pause and actually think and meditate about what I am truly thankful for in my life.
So of course I decided to blog ’bout it, to list a few things that I am truly thankful for and blessed to have, for I surely could never list it all. But who knows, maybe it will trigger your mind to ponder upon your ownblessings while you delight in the sweet potatoes you only get once a year.
I am thankful for my family. We’re not perfect, we’re quirky and we’re weird, but we are built upon love and trust and hilarity, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I often forget how lucky I am to be blessed with parents who have always loved each other and actually still do; who are going to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary in May; who love me and my siblings more than themselves or each other; who are great examples that I can look up to in every aspect of my life. I’m grateful for my two hilarious siblings, who have been a joy to grow up with and have taught me what it means to care more about the success of someone else’s future more than your own. And I’m grateful for my dog, who never ceases to provide entertainment and is a great listener.
I have the greatest friends a person could ever ask for. Just thinking about them makes me jealous for those who don’t get the chance to know them the way I have. I honestly wouldn’t be the person I am today and where I am today without such a strong, core group of people who love me and push me to always be better. I only hope I can be as great as friend to them as they are to me, and that they realize how much I truly cherish each of their friendships and how much I truly love them. You know who you are: thank you so much for blessing me.
I am thankful for my job, which has taught me so much and helped me grow so much. It has helped me appreciate an uninterrupted night’s sleep so much more. Plus, it has driven me to people who I have formed great relationships with and am so thankful to know, because I seriously have the coolest coworkers of any job imaginable.
I am thankful for my escapes from reality: music, reading and most importantly, writing. I live a great life full of blessings and opportunities, but knowing that I am able to escape from the difficulties and harshness that sometimes comes with that life is such a comfort, because not everyone can escape the way I can: through the steady rhythm of the guitar, the drop of the bass, the deep-throated screams of the singer at any screamo venue; into the pages of a book, where I can become anyone, do anything and experience everything; by writing my way out of reality and into the minds and lives of those born from my heart in the first place, hopefully one day creating an escape for someone else. Without these things, I would not remain sane.
Most importantly, I am thankful for my God. This life and my path is created through Him, who has blessed me with more than I deserve and given me the strength to get through more than I ever thought possible. His grace gives me hope when I am lost in the darkness and it is His Word that provides guidance through life and sets my path before me; His vision that has created me. Despite my numerous shortcomings, I am so thankful to be a daughter of Christ and hope that throughout my life, I can make my Father proud.
Those are just some of the things that I am thankful for, but the list could go on and on. And if you put a different spin on things, then you could expand your list even more. Many people are thankful for their health, as well as the health of their family and friends, as I am. But you could also be thankful for your sickness, because it reminds you what it is like to be healthy and that you have been healthy before. Be thankful for your lover but also be thankful when your single, because it helps you grow on your own and discover yourself, as well as making your taken relationship status that much more meaningful. Be thankful for the little things — the air you breathe, the clothes you wear, the food you eat, the things you own — for those are blessings denied to others. Be thankful for the pain and the tears, for they make you stronger. Be thankful for the memories that you’ve created. Be thankful for your talents and dreams, and the opportunities presented to you.
Be thankful for it all, because while there may always be someone who “has it better” or “has more”, there is definitely always someone who has it worse. And try to remember that though Thanksgiving is a day meant to recognize these blessings – and more – amongst food and family, that doesn’t mean you can’t be thankful for it every other day of the year.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
“‘I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say. You live in a great, big vast world of which you’ve seen none percent of. Even inside your own mind is endless. It goes on forever, inwardly. Do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, you don’t get to say, ‘I’m bored.'”
Cheers,
Nicole

Categories
Random Musings

No One Cares

“No one cares. It sounds so cold. It looks cold. But it wasn’t meant that way, not entirely. What I was telling myself was that if I failed, no one would care. If I was never published, no one would notice. If I never fulfilled my dream, it wouldn’t make a bit of diference to anyone else on the planet. ‘No one cares’ meant no one was watching, no one was keeping score, no one was judging. I was free.” — Dennis Lehane, from his forward in “your first NOVEL”.
As some of you may know — and many of you won’t — November is National Novel Writing Month. It is so official, they even have a crest (see below; pretty sick, yeah?). And anyone that knows me personally knows that writing a novel is one of my greatest dreams. I want to write a novel that is published and successful enough that people know about it and want to read it, because it carries a reputation of being a well-written, page-turning story that brings forth emotion when people read it, because it inspires them. A hefty goal, I know, but it is something I’ve wanted to accomplish ever since I can remember. It is something I’ve dreamed about and something I’ve prayed about constantly. And one day, I hope to accomplish it. And while I don’t think I’ll be able to crank out a novel this month (that’s college for you), I thought I’d take a moment in honor of NaNoWriMo and just share something that I stumbled upon a few years back that I know will help me when I do write my novel.

One Spring Break a couple years ago, some really good friends of mine and I traveled down to the Lake of the Ozarks. We went shopping one afternoon and naturally, I convinced them to stop by a bookstore (though, to be fair, I didn’t have to use much persuasion). It was an older bookstore filled with random books and not a lot of best-sellers that would line up the shelves of a place like Borders, for instance (may it rest in peace <3). Somehow amongst the clutter, I found a fair-sized hardback. It had a simple purple cover, patterned in dark purple dots and lighter purple diamonds. Then, in a pale green box, the title read as follows: “your first NOVEL: a published author and a top agent share the keys to achieving your dream.” I usually wasn’t one for buying how-to books of this manner, but I figured I’d give it a flip through. I was hooked by the forward, which I read in the store, which was scribed by Dennis Lehane, one of my favorite authors.
It is from that forward that I got the quote at the beginning of this post and the title for this blog; but not only that, I also got a personal motto that many friends know I use and advice that I will carry with me throughout my writing career. Something I always have struggled with is the perception that others view me in, especially when they look through my writing. I would spend hours writing a simple paragraph for a short story or trying to come up with the perfect stanza for a poem, not because I struggled with making the words flow, but because I spent so much time trying to figure out what words everyone else would deem adequate. I knew what I wanted to say, but I became so concerned with what would please others or worried that others wouldn’t like it, that writing became less of a passion and more of a chore. And that just didn’t fly with me.
I reread Lehane’s words in his forward over and over again, blown away by what he was saying and the truth that gave his words weight. When I write, it affects no one. The world doesn’t know what I’m writing, why I’m writing; it doesn’t care if I write or if I don’t; doesn’t care if I succeed or not, because the world won’t be affected if I succeed or fail, really. And it sounds harsh. Negative. Cold. But I found it liberating. When I write my novel, it would be silly to think about what everyone else thinks, because the world won’t know when I write it and it won’t be affected by it. Thinking with this “no one cares” mindset has allowed me to find more of my style as a writer and honestly, have the courage to write more. And the key to any great writer is to not only to write fearfully, but to actually write. And that’s what I’ve started to do.
I took Lehane’s advice and taped a small notecard with my new motto on my laptop. And more often than not, when people see the words “no one cares” taped on the laptop of someone who radiates positivity, they are thrown off-guard and confused by it, and naturally question it. But I put it there so that I can glance at it and remember when I’m getting discouraged that I am writing for me, for the fact that I cannot not write, and because God blessed me with this talent with words and I am not going to waste it. And I think that’s a pretty cool thing.
“You should write because you can’t not write. You should write because some stray scrap of your soul is trying to manifest itself verbally. You should write because story is your preferred method by which to make order out of the chaos we call existence. You should write because even though the process terrifies you, the absence of that process terrifies you more.” — Lehane
Cheers,
Nicole