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Mace and Crown | May 24, 2018

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Monarch Music Minute: Niall Horan, Darius Rucker, We Came as Romans

Adam Flores | Senior Writer

Niall Horan – ‘Flicker (Deluxe)’ 💿💿💿💿💿 

Courtesy Neon Haze Music

Irish singer-songwriter and One Direction member Niall Horan has released his first solo studio album, “Flicker.” Preceding his inaugural collection, “This Town” was released as the lead single. “Slow Hands” and “Too Much to Ask” followed after and reflect a fun, creative enclave spirit incorporating a wealth of talent from the industry.

Horan’s individual talents have now come full circle, thanks to his boy band upbringing and shortly after his 2010 audition and exit from “The X Factor.” The British show found Horan as the fifth and final installment for One Direction, who found fame in their own right with five commercially successful LPs, with four world tours and from garnering numerous musical awards.

The breakout success and critical acclaim of singles “This Town” and “Slow Hands” should be no surprise since Horan teamed up with One Direction producer Julian Bunetta. Bunetta formulated Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson’s absconding solo successes.

Influenced by classic rock approaches of Fleetwood Mac and Eagles, tracks such as “Seeing Blind (feat. Maren Morris)” and “Since We’re Alone” complete an updated FM sonic vibe while background Eagles-eque vocal harmonies stand out throughout the new record.

Horan’s “Flicker” is a welcome change of direction from One Direction’s quiet man.

You can stream the album on Spotify here.

Darius Rucker – ‘When Was the Last Time’ 💿💿💿💿💿 

Courtesy UMG Recordings, Inc.

Darius Rucker’s fifth country studio release, “When Was the Last Time,” sees the singer-songwriter continuing to blaze new trails with smart lyricism infused with classic and contemporary country accompaniments. Singles “If I Told You” and “For the First Time,” released July 2016 and 2017 respectively, foreshadowed what appears to be yet another strong set of down-home tracks from the multifaceted Grammy Award-winning musician.

The Charleston, South Carolina native and former Hootie & the Blowfish frontman’s first country album, “Learn to Live,” was released in 2008. It yielded “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” which earned the No. 1 top spot on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. This made him the first African-American artist to achieve this milestone since Charley Pride in 1983.

Rucker effortlessly captures the heart of country music with infectious lyrics, seasoned vocal delivery and by venturing into life narratives that listeners can relate to. Serving up various Nashville Music City soundscapes throughout the record, Rucker musically demonstrates critical attention to detail in every nuance and inflection.

With tracks such as “Bring It On,” “Don’t” and “Hands On Me,” Rucker’s “When Was the Last Time” is another welcome set with a live feel that stands apart from the electronically induced, tempo precision of a pop music world.

You can stream the album on Spotify here.

We Came as Romans – ‘Cold Like War’ 💿💿💿💿


“Cold Like War” is the fifth studio onslaught from metalcore and post-hardcore group, We Came as Romans. The Troy, Michigan sextet continue their rampage of hard driving metal. Infused with cinematic textures, they carefully navigate and attenuate through the sonic force field they create.

WCAR’s industrial impetus derives from melodic passages, industrial and orchestral soundscapes and elements of hardcore and screamo. Each track on “Cold As War” brings to mind the combined eclectic influences of Linkin Park, Avenged Sevenfold, Bullet for My Valentine, Periphery and Nine Inch Nails, yet focuses on themes of positivity, such as purpose and hope.

Lead track “Vultures with Clipped Wings” incites the new compilation with its soundtrack aesthetic. Other tracks, such as “Lost in the Moment,” “Learning to Survive” and “Wasted Age,” drive the set by inflicting razor-sharp guitar riffs over thundering bass and drums foundations, all while supporting a variety of frenzied vocal treatments.

“Cold Like War” demonstrates WCAR’s nonstop ability to deliver a relentless mix of metal rudiments. “If There’s Nothing to See (feat. Eric Vanlerberghe)” and “Foreign Fire” borderline on the progressive-metal threshold. A full-on exploration into deeper musical elements would have set this album apart from the norm of today’s metalcore.

You can stream the album on Spotify here.

Rating System:

💿  – Face palm.

💿💿  – Eh…

💿💿💿  – We’re getting there.

 💿💿💿💿 – I’ll listen to it twice, even.

💿💿💿💿💿  – Hell yes!