Demon Hunter “Outlive”

“Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.” – Dalai Lama XIV

For the band Demon Hunter, the above-mentioned quote defines the message behind their eighth studio album, “Outlive”.

In the three years between their last album, “Extremist”, and this release, the band has gone through their own set of trials and tribulations, yet through all that, the veteran Christian metal act came out of those tragedies an even stronger, tightly threaded unit. Nowhere does it show more than in the songwriting in the album.

Ryan Clark, the vocalist and founder of Demon Hunter, pours out his soul in the opening song, “Trying Times”, a song written about taking a stand and uncovering the truth behind our existence. The opening, which serves as a connecting gateway to “Jesus Wept”, shows the maturity the band has made with each passing album since their self-titled album in 2002.

Patrick Judge, who joined Demon Hunter as the lead guitarist back in 2008, was finally given a chance to contribute as a primary songwriter, and he made the best of it, contributing five songs to the record. If you’re a longtime fan of the band, you can tell the difference in songs like “Cold Blood”, “Cold Winter Sun”, and the single “Died In My Sleep”, where the guitar is among the most technical work in their entire catalog.

The songwriting has also taken a more personal approach for the band, as well. While Demon Hunter has always been known for their uncompromising Christian faith, the band has also grown, welcoming five children into the fold between “Extremist” and this album. The songs “One Step Behind” and “The End” are examples of how parenthood has made an impact on the band and their families. Whereas the former was written as a message from a father to his daughter (Ryan’s daughter, Ryan), the latter speaks of the struggle of being a first-time parent and always being concerned over the smallest thing.

The band also recorded their longest song to date, “Slight the Odds,” which, according to Ryan, they didn’t know whether it would be the closing track on the album until the end. The song, which talks about how the odds are stacked against those who manage to keep their faith strong, is a perfect ending to what is otherwise a cathartic release.

Overall, “Outlive” is Demon Hunter’s most personal and strongest album to date. With no shortage of inspiration for the album, the band stuck true to their roots while enhancing their message of hope and faith. If you are a new listener to Demon Hunter and this is the first album you have heard, then welcome. If you’re a longtime follower, then you will be pleased with the growth that this record shows.

Tracks to listen to: Cold Winter Sun, Died In My Sleep, One Step Behind, Slight the Odds

Sage The Gemini brings the winter to Sacramento

indexThe NorCal hip hop scene is amongst the most passionate in America, and no one knows that better that Dominic Wynn Woods, otherwise known to the public as Sage the Gemini.

A native of Fairfield, Sage the Gemini is prepping to bring his “West for the Winter Tour” to Northern California this month, with stops in Petaluma, Arcata and Sacramento. And for Sage, he sees this as a chance to makes this a big house party with him and all the hometown faithful.

“It’s amazing to be close to home,” Sage the Gemini said. “You always get the best reactions from people who know you. You kinda feel like Michael Jackson.”

While Sage is used to performing in front of his friends and family, he’s going to be bringing some new tunes to the stage. In December, he dropped the single, “Now and Later” from his upcoming sophomore album, “Bachelor Party”. In less than a full month, the single garnered over six million views; part of it was due to a unique marketing strategy that included a Snapchat filter for the song when it was released.

The tune, which he describes as one of his favorites, is an example of how Sage the Gemini has grown since his first album, “Remember Me”.

“Sometimes you gotta be catchy, and you gotta tend to people’s imaginations,” Sage said. “I’ve noticed that when you do that, it seems to get the job done. The Snapchat filter played a big part of it. When we released it to radio, it was just the right timing.”

While Sage the Gemini has been known for being one of the most unique artists out there due to his work ethic, he gives a lot of credit to his label, Atlantic Records, for giving him the creative freedom to pull off what he sees in his head.

“I’ve been working with this label since I was 18 years old,” Sage said. “We’re fully connected with the way they work, and they give me the space to do what I need to do. It’s like going into a classroom with the same friends from last year.”

Since his career took off in 2013 with the release of his first single, “Gas Pedal”, Sage the Gemini has become a nationwide success. And while he knows how to separate his stage persona from real life, he admits that it’s still something he is getting used to.

“I still don’t realize who I am sometimes,” Sage said. “I’ll be in Chuck E. Cheese attending a friend’s birthday party, and people will be like, ‘Oh my God’. I tell them, ‘I know, I’m too big to be in the ball pit’, and they’re like, ‘you’re Sage the Gemini’. It’s crazy.”

Coming back home for the “West for the Winter Tour” is special to him, especially the Sacramento stop, where he will be performing at Ace of Spades.

“Ace of Spades is my number one venue,” Sage said. “When I hear I’m performing there, I get excited. It always sells out, and they know every song. It’s like a hip hop ray of black waves.”

The “West for the Winter Tour” comes to town on September 23 at Ace of Spades.





Allegaeon – “Proponent for Sentience” CD Review

a1216811115_10To all the geeks and science fanatics: your new favorite band is here.

With Allegaeon’s new album, “Proponent for Sentience”, the five-piece brings forth an aural assault of seven/eight-string guitar mastery, six-string bass and drum symmetry that almost resembles a marching band, and vocals that range from the depths of the abyss to the highest gates of heaven.

While always known for their scientific lyrical content, what a lot of non-metalheads do’t know is that the group is also known for their classical guitar work, which is featured prominently on their single from the record, “Gray Matter Mechanics – Apassionata Ex Machinea“, which features exquisite flamenco guitar playing from guitarist Greg Burgess (for the exclusive flamenco-only performance, click here).

The band confirmed in interview that a lot of the lyrical content on this album comes from the idea that robotics are not just a novel idea, but an eventual future that may be too much to contain. In a press release from the band’s label, Metal Blade, vocalist Riley McShane gave a bit of insight as to what the album is about.

“With this record we’re bringing ideas to the table that corroborate the fact that at this juncture, robotics as a field is moving forward at an alarming rate,” explains McShane. “This story is dotted with examples of real-life scientific advancements, and it is also perforated with details of humanity’s flaws. Overall, the record tells a story that is still a bit too far fetched to be based in reality, but isn’t too far beyond the scope of imagination to see occurring within the not-so-distant future.”

That concept is explained in great detail in the three-part trilogy sprinkled in different parts of the album, with the magnum opus of the album being the end of the trilogy, “Proponent for Sentience III – The Extermination“, which features guest spots from Bjorn “Speed” Strid of Soilwork and Benjamin Ellis of Scar Symmetry.

The instrumental work speaks for itself on the record, but one of the main highlights actually comes from the vocal work of Riley McShane, the ‘new’ vocalist. Although he has been touring with the band since 2015, the new record is his first with the band. While longtime fans of Allegaeon are used to the low, guttural vocals of former vocalist Ezra Haynes, they need not worry: McShane has that covered. For fans of higher-pitched screams, I recommend you listen to “Of Mind and Matrix”. And, if you’re one of those “I can’t get into metal because it’s too rah-rah and not enough clean vocals”, the band has you covered.

For the first time n the band’s history, they incorporated clean vocals into their material, which is a positive considering McShane’s expansive vocal range. The cleans on “Cognitive Computations” will give you goosebumps. And if you’re looking for a song with nothing but cleans, their cover of “Subdivisions” by the legendary prog-rock band Rush will more than satisfy your hunger.

Overall, I recommend this album if you’re a fan of movies like “The Terminator” or “The Matrix”. And while this record has its chock of singles, it will make more sense if you listen to it from front to back. Prepare to put at least an hour and a half of your day aside; this record is going to put your mind to work.