Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Review of Hollywood Drive-By's Debut Album: The Diagnosis

Hey guys, Dana here. Happy New Year! I hope 2017 is treating you well so far and you're not too bummed out from returning to work/school, or any other place you needed to return to. For me personally, I'm happy to be back in the writing realm less than a week after my last blog post of 2016. I'd like to begin 2017 with a local band CD review! I know, it's been a while since I've done one, and it's really refreshing. Hailing from Huntington, NY, let me introduce you all to Hollywood Drive-By!

Founded in 2011, Hollywood Drive-By consists of MC/lead vocalist Vijay "Vendetta" Ramcharitar, rhythm guitarist/vocalist Josh "J-Flo" Berger, lead guitarrist Chuck "CL5" McNally, bassist Cheynnyne "Chevy" DeLorenzo, and drummer Adam "Kap" Kaplan.  Their influences include, but are not limited to, Rage Against The Machine, Eminem, Tupac, Incubus, Linkin Park, Godsmack, Audioslave, Tool, Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc. 
On November 25th, 2016(Black Friday...) Hollywood Drive-By released their debut album, The Diagnosis. Due to family obligations, I couldn't come out to Amityville Music Hall that night to support them, but I still wanted a CD. Chuck McNally is a friend of mine, and when asked me to review this album, I immediately said yes. Without further ado, let's dive into The Diagnosis! *insert applause here*

Let's take this track-by-track, shall we?

Track 1: The Diagnosis

This self-titled track begins with a piano introduction, followed by Vijay's hip hop vocals that join shortly afterward. Now, that is something you don't see in a lot of local bands these days. Anytime I hear hip hop and rock/metal combinations, I think about Korn, Linkin Park, Rage Against the Machine, Hollywood Undead, or any other rap/metal bands that are signed to major record labels. I've been to several local band showcases, and every metal band either has either melodic or hardcore undertones, but never hip hop. This song is nothing but hip hop vocals with a piano accompaniment. What I like the most is that the words are pretty much telling the media and pop culture icons like the Kardashians to drop off the face of the earth. That's the kind of music I can listen to. Great opening track, let's move on to the next...

Track 2: Human Condition

Human Condition begins with an opening guitar riff and then is joined in by Adam's drums. Shortly afterward, Josh begins to sing and then the rest of the bands joins in. Shortly after, Vijay raps a verse, and then Josh sings the chorus. The way Josh and Vijay switch off the lead vocals between verses and the chorus reminds me of how Linkin Park was back during their Hybrid Theory and Meteora days. I've seen many local bands in my life, and it's usually just one vocalist, or if there are dual vocalist, there's harmonies. I've never seen a vocalist that straight up sings, and the other raps. That's definitely the most unique thing about Hollywood Drive-By; I don't know of any other local bands that have that kind of sound.

Track 3: 6 to Midnight

This was the first track I've ever heard from Hollywood Drive-By because over the summer, Chuck McNally messaged me to check out his band's first music video, and I was immediately hooked. 6 to Midnight pretty much screams Red Hot Chili Peppers, especially during the verses. The funky bass line, Vijay's hip-hop vocals, Josh's soothing voice during the chorus, it makes me want to dance. The message behind the music video is really heavy, by the way. Check it out here:

Track 4: Over My Head

This track has a very reggae type rhythm that makes me bop my head back and forth while writing this sentence; almost like 311 since Josh sounds a lot like Nick Hexum. "Over My Head" is different from any song I've heard so far because it begins with a drum and bass groove, and then a syncopated guitar riff that reminds me of something you would listen to while lying on the beach on a hot summer day. Vijay comes in and raps while Josh's faint voice sings accompanies Vijay with backing vocals. Definitely one of my favorites on this album; there's nothing better than listening to an album with songs that don't sound just like the other.

Track 5: Shoot First

I'm usually not a hip-hop kind of gal because I tend to associate hip hop with garbage "artists" like Kanye West, Wiz Kalifa, Lil Wayne, or anyone else that writes mindless, shallow, superficial lyrics to show the world. But this is the complete antithesis of any other hip hop song I've listened to(excluding Eminem, haha). This is definitely one of Hollywood Drive-By's heavier songs; not because of the sound, but because the meaning behind this song is so true and so real, and pinpoints everything going on with our country. Vijay raps about politics, the presidential election, discrimination, America's feud with other countries in the world, how disgusting the media portrays people; it's the epitome of a reality check. What's a better way to expose the wrong in the world? Through music.

Track 6: Knuckle Up

Like the second track, it opens up with a guitar riff, followed by drums, and then the rest of the guitars and bass come in for an instrumental introduction. Josh comes in and is pretty much telling the listener that everything is going to be okay as the opening lyrics go: "Breathe in slowly; there's no need to worry now. I can make it, take my chances, I will show you how." Rage Against the Machine is one of their influences, and you can definitely hear it in this song; especially the way Vijay raps like Zach de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine during the choruses. Yet at the same time, I hear a lot of Linkin Park influences with the way Josh sings; as if Rage Against the Machine and Linkin Park collaborated with each other.

Track 7: Invictus

What you don't see in most local bands these days is an interlude/instrumental break between tracks in an album. When I hear an instrumental song with no vocals, it's usually an intro/opening track to an album, and then the rest of the album is your typical verse/chorus/verse layout until the CD ends. Invictus consists of nothing but a guitar solo; no bass, no drums, no vocals. It's actually kind of refreshing to hear 6 tracks back-to-back-to-back, and then a quiet lone guitar riff; very unique.

Track 8: Master of My Fate

Although there is a bit of silence between the end of "Invictus" and "Master of my Fate," the song begins with another opening guitar intro, followed by crashing cymbals and then Vijay comes in. What's interesting is that the majority of this song is hip hop, yet it's accompanied by guitars and drums instead of a looping backtrack that you'd typically hear in most mainstream hip hop songs. Chuck's guitar solo is quite memorable here, it compliments the main melody of the chorus; how most guitar solos should be. Solos shouldn't be based on how fast you can shred or how complicated it sounds. Very well done here, for sure.

Track 9: One Man Army

"One Man Army" is another favorite on this album based on the message of this song. When you hear the words "One Man Army," that pretty much means that it's you against the world, nothing on Earth can take you down, and you have the strength of a thousand troops. No matter how many hardships you face, no matter how much "bullshit" comes at you, giving up is the last thing on your mind. What a great, positive message to give to your fans; the world is ugly enough as it is, and hearing a song like that can give you the inspiration to keep your head up when life is hard.

Track 10: Light in the Darkness(Year of the Hitman)

This song in particular has one of the most unique sounds I've heard from a local band. The song begins with a drum intro, Vijay jumps right in, with bass and drums accompanying him without any guitars. However, when Josh sings the chorus, the guitars join in so it's a fuller sound. Then when the song reprises the verses, all you hear Vijay, drums, and bass. You can easily distinguish the difference between both parts of the songs; far too often are the verses and choruses near identical, yet this song is quite the exception. Later on, Chuck plays this really melodic guitar solo that leads into the final chorus and an abrupt ending; closing the album.

I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed every single track from this album. I loved the variety of sounds; the different time signatures, different keys, pure talent. These guys have great potential, and I'd love for my band to share the stage with them in the near future.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my review of Hollywood Drive-By's The Diagnosis. Listening to this was a pleasure, and I truly believe that these guys have a lot of talent; very solid musicians with great chemistry. If this bands seems like something you would like to know more about, please check them out on Facebook,  Twitter, Reverbnation and Soundcloud. Once again, thank you for reading, and I'll return to the wrting realm soon. Until then, enjoy the rest of the week!

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