Waking Hour (Progressive Metal)
Hollow Man (3/4)- 2007
Waking Hour is a band that should appeal to fans of Rush, Dream Theater, and other classic prog bands. Their influences are clear, but Waking Hour embraces them instead of strictly copying them. The band does an excellent job of combing various aspects of their influences to make the base of their sound. However, unlike most debut albums, Hollow Man adds some quality ideas to a proven formula, and they have enough variety in their influences to prevent the album from sounding overdone to begin with. That doesn’t mean Hollow Man is the most original album of the year, but it is a very strong debut from a band that should only get better with time. The musicians that make up Waking Hour are all very talented, and each of them have different influences that blend exceptionally well with one and other. Hollow Man certainly reminds the listener of classic Rush, Dream Theater, and even Nightwish at times, but it still sounds fresh and somewhat unique. If you can find it, Hollow Man is a solid debut that is well worth owning.
Weezer (Alternative/Pop Rock)
Make Believe (1/4)- 2005
It’s hard to understand just what Weezer were trying to do on Make Believe. Gone is their witty sense of humor, and in its place is seemingly random pop culture references. Combine that with even simpler music and some of the most annoying and repetitive choruses imaginable, and you have a train wreck of an album.
Weezer (Red Album) (2/4)- 2008
No matter how big of a Weezer fan you are, the latest self-titled Weezer album will disappoint. Most of the album is only a slightly more focused version of the band's atrocious Make Believe from three years ago. If you couldn't get enough of "Bevery Hills," then maybe this album is for you. However, for everyone else, this album is almost entirely forgettable. Weezer albums are supposed to fun, and with the exception of the absolutely brilliant rock opera parody "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived," nothing here is fun in the slightest. This is just a boring pop rock album, and it unfortunately signifies that Make Believe may not have been a fluke. Nine out of ten tracks are forgettable, and if it wasn't for "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived," the Red Album would be only a slight improvement over Make Believe. As it is, one phenomenal track elevates the album from bad to poor, and while even the most hardcore of Weezer should skip the full album, every music fan with a sense of humor should give "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived" a listen.
The White Stripes (Alternative Rock)
White Blood Cells (3/4)- 2001
While the music is ridiculously simple, White Blood Cells is a catchy and enjoyable album that dares the listener to not sing along. Catchy melodies and short pop songs are really all that makes up the album, and anyone looking for substance or staying power likely won’t find it here. Again, White Blood Cells is a simple and unremarkable album, but it doesn’t strive to be any more than that, and anyone looking for some dangerously addicting alternative pop should give it a listen.
Winds of Plague (Metalcore/Deathcore)
Decimate the Weak (2/4)- 2008
There's a huge difference between trying to be unique and actually making creative music. Unfortunately, Winds of Plague fits into the former category, as they have created an album that attempts to be unique for the very sake of being unique. There is no rhyme or reason to the constant style changes and meshing of metalcore and extreme metal, and the severely unpolished sound makes it rather obvious that Decimate the Weak is the band's first album. Instead of trying to first master basic metalcore and extreme metal conventions, Winds of Plague jump right into to trying to mix the two. Problem is, the band isn't particularly skilled at either of the genres they are attempting to combine, and the combination itslef feels forced. Winds of Plague have an interesting idea, and there are moments were the idea creates something moderately enjoyable and creative, but far too much of the album suffers from simply trying to do too much. It's clear that Winds of Plague are trying to do something new, and they deserve credit for that, but their first release is mostly a failure. Let's hope they try this again with their next album and achieve better results.
Wolfmother (Alternative/Hard Rock)
Wolfmother (3/4)- 2006
Wolfmother are clearly influenced by a small number of bands (namely Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Black Sabbath), but what’s sets them apart from their “retro-rock” contemporaries is that their classic rock-inspired sound is not a clone of any one band in particular. Wolfmother play their own style of classic rock, and while they don’t hide their influences, their sound is less of a tribute and more of a throwback to the rock sound of 35 years ago. That being said, Wolfmother isn’t nearly as good as most classic rock albums that are still relevant today, partly because the bands that didn’t stand out have long been forgotten. The lyrics are mostly awful, the complexity of the music is far closer to AC/DC than Led Zeppelin, and the vocals often sound like a sloppy mix of that of their three biggest influences. All things considered, however,, Wolfmother is a solid enough album that probably won’t be remembered ten years from its release, but it should more than please the many classic rock waiting for this type of sound to be resurrected.
Wolves in the Throne Room (Progressive Black Metal)
Diadem of 12 Stars (4/4)- 2006
Dark, heavy, atmosphere and beautiful, Wolves in the Throne Room's Diadem of 12 Stars is many things. “True black metal” may not be one of them, but anyone who judges this based on predetermined labels is going to be missing out on what is truly a masterful work of art.
Two Hunters (3.5/4)- 2007
Although it only has four songs, Two Hunters is one of the most complete and epic albums of 2007. On top of that, Wolves of the Throne Room have improved their already unique sound, and have created something truly spectacular in the process. “Unique” and “epic” are not qualities that are often associated with modern black metal, particularly from the United States, but Wolves in the Throne Room are not your usual black metal band. They come from the Northwest underground, and the story behind this album’s creation is fascinating. There are very little digital effects, and some may complain about the intentionally poor recording quality, but the incredible atmospheric sound of the band is something every metal fan should experience. Two Hunters is almost certainly the best black metal album of the year, and Wolves in the Throne Room have emerged as one of the best bands in the genre today.
Black Cascade (3.5/4)- 2009
While not quite as awe-inspiring as their last two records, Black Cascade is a challenging record that demands repeated listens. A few of the songs seem drawn out for the sole purposing of extending the length, taking away much of the cohesiveness that the band has excelled at in the past, but Black Cascade is still an outstanding record that ranks among the best albums of 2009.
Wu-Tang Clan (Rap/Hip-Hop)
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (4/4)- 1993
Wu-Tang Clan’s famous debut is simply one of the greatest rap albums of all-time. The influence this album has had on both mainstream and underground hip-hop is unparalleled, as the Clan masterfully merged hardcore and conscious rap on their first attempt. However, its greatness lies far beyond its influence. Enter the Wu-Tang is still a one-of-a-kind type of album, and it contains some of the greatest rap verses and samples in the genre’s history. Ghostface Killah opens the album on “Bring da Ruckus” with a verse full of flow and swagger, and the other Wu-Tang members trade exceptional verse after exceptional verse throughout the remainder of the album. The nine emcees each have their own unique style, all of which work well with the RZA’s signature production, and with each song showcasing four or five different verses, the music never becomes repetitive. While not all of the rappers have the same amount of talent (the barely used U-God comes to mind as a weak link), each one earns their right to be a part of the group, and the majority are among of the most gifted emcees out there. As a whole, Enter the Wu-Tang is a lot to digest. It’s the time of album that can be played again and again, with each listen being a new experience. This is one of hip-hop’s crown jewels, and it belongs in the collection of every music fan.
Wu-Tang Forever (3.5/4)- 1997
No amount of awful Cappadonna verses can keep Wu-Tang Forever from reaching greatness. Yes, the unofficial tenth Wu-Tang member is awful every time he touches the mic on this album, and it’s unfortunate that he has more verses than Ol’ Dirty Bastard and GZA. Still, Wu-Tang Forever is more of what made Enter the 36 Chambers so great, and while it’s far less consistent, it contains of the Clan’s best verses. The single “Triumph,” a nearly six-minute epic with eight verses and no choruses, is one of the greatest rap songs of all-time. Songs like “Reunited” and “It’s Yourz” come close to reaching that same level, and each and every song has at least one standout verse. The beats (mostly done by RZA, but True Master and 4th Disciple make a few appearances) are far more advanced this time around, and RZA will often make subtle changes in the track. This can sometimes result in a battle of “emcee against producer,” which works surprisingly well most of the time. However, Wu-Tang Forever’s biggest accomplishment is that it earns its 110+ minute running time. Unlike most double rap albums, the variety of the Clan prevents Wu-Tang Forever from becoming tedious. It should also be noted that “Dog Shit” is the single most ridiculous hip-hop song ever written. The fact that Ol’ Dirty can stay on beat and maintain his composure throughout the rant is proof of both his talent and serious mental issues.