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The Listening Room: Black Veil Brides, Dropkick Murphys and more...
Black Veil Brides
"Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones"
Ambition is one thing Black Veil Brides certainly isn't lacking on its third album. the Los Angeles group's first two releases courted headbanger favor with its glammy, metallic pomp a sound that's well-suited for the high-concept trappings of "Wretched and Divine." The album-film project brings us into a futuristic Orwellian society in which a group of rebels (the titular Wild Ones) do battle with a repressive religious political regime called F.E.A.R., with frontman Andy Biersack voicing both sides and guest vocalists such as The Used's Bret McCracken and William Control adding variety. Black Veil Brides also expands its sound with piano and strings, as well as blazing prog-metal dynamics that mark some musical advancement from its predecessors. Not surprisingly, defiant anthems such as "I am Bulletproof," "Devil's Choir," "Shadows Die," "Days Are Numbered," Nobody's Hero" and the particularly bombastic title track dominate the 19-track (including spoken interludes) set, but quieter counterpoints such as "Done Fro You" and the lushly swelling "Lost It All," are effective change-ups, melodic relief to the fusillade. F.E.A.R. is, of course, vanquished in the end (that's hardly a spoiler alert), but the villains vow to return -- a pleasing prospect it yields another album like this.
Dropkick Murphys, "Signed and Sealed in Blood" (Born & Bred) ***
After the impressive conceptual narrative of 2011's "Going Out in Style," this Boston-based Celtic rock troupe returns to rabble-rousing anthemry that's its stock in trade, and it clearly hasn't lost its touch. The Murphys mash together its brogues, bagpipes and bouzoukis with power guitars and punk rock propulsion on these dozen tracks, roaring through the likes of "Out on the Town," "The Boys Are Back," "The Battle Rages On" and the rootsy, Country & Western-flavored "Jimmy Collins' Wake," while "End of the Night" captures the last-call melancholy of those who call the corner bar their home. "The Season's Upon Us," meanwhile, is an ode to dysfunctional Christmases that still sounds good beyond the holidays. This is prime Dropckick Murphys, feral and ferocious enough to fortify us for the year ahead.
New & Noteworthy:
A Fragile Tomorrow, "Be Nice Be Careful" (Piewillie): The South Carolina power pop quartet gets help from Indigo Girls' Amy Ray and members of the Bangles and Cowsills on its fourth album.
Philip H. Anselmo/Warbeast, "War of the Gargantuas" (Housecore): A split-album release between Pantera/Down frontman's latest band and his first-ever batch of solo material.
Nels Cline and Elliott Sharp, "Open the Door" (Public Eyesore): Wilco guitarist Cline and multi-instrumentalist Elliott Sharp indulge their experimental leanings on this five-track collaboration.
Downes Braide Association, "Pictures of You" (Cherry Red): Yes/Buggles/Asia keyboardist Geoff Downes joins forces with singer Chris Braide on this progressive-minded debut set.
Hollywood Undead, "Notes From the Underground" (A&M/Octone): The third album by the masked rap rock troupe from Los Angeles includes on track produced by the group's own J-Dog.
The Living Sisters, "Run For Cover" (Vanguard): The folk "supergroup" quartet recorded a half-dozen covers -- including Dolly Parton's "Jolene" and Funkadelic's "Can You Get to That?" -- for its second release.
Joe Lovano & Us Five, "Cross Culture" (Blue Note): The jazz saxophonist adds guest guitarist Lionel Loueke to a core group that includes Esperanza Spalding, James Weidman and others.
Monolithe, "Monolithe III" (Debemurr Morti): The third album by the doomy metal group from France comes more than seven years after its sophomore effort.
Order of the Owl, "Order of the Owl" (Stickfigure): The debut release from the sludge new metal outfit led by former Zoroaster principal Brent Anderson.
Pere Ubu, "Lady From Shanghai" (Fire): The first set of new material in three years from the iconic experimental rock outfit from Cleveland.
Ben Sidran, "Don't Cry For No Hipster" (self-released): The onetime Steve Miller cohort weaves thematic musical stories about hip, beatnik-era culture on his latest solo album.
Sparrow, "How Ever Did the Wolf Get In" (Nubskull): The second album by the British art pop group whose 2011 debut "Playtime" won rave reviews.
Thorncraft Cobra, "Count It In" (Plaza Bowl): The debut outing from the Los Angeles group includes guest appearances by members of Sparks and Red Kross.
Chris Tomlin, "Burning Lights" (sixstep/Sparrow): Christian singer-songwriter Tomlin continues his devotional path with a dozen new songs and help from Kari Jobe, Phil Wickham and Christy Nockels.
Twenty One Pilots, "Vessel" (Fueled By Ramen): The Columbus, Ohio, modern rock duo's full-length debut was produced by Greg Wells, hitmaker for Adele and Katy Perry, among others.
Wooden Wand, "Blood Oaths of the New Blues" (Fire): The latest set of new material, including nearly 12-minute opening suite, from independent-spirited troubadour James Jackson Toth.
From The Vaults: Enoch Light, "Big Band Bossa Nova" (Sepia)
Soundtracks: Original Broadway Cast, "Chaplin: The Musical" (Sony Masterworks); Joseph Trapanese, "Tron: Uprising" (Walt Disney); Various Artists, "Bye Bye Birdie" (Sony Masterworks); Various Artists, "Girls Soundtrack Volume 1: Music From the HBO Original Series" (Fueled By Ramen); Various Artists, "Stand Up Guys" (Lakeshore)
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