Thursday, November 20, 2014

Quick Movie Reviews: Birdman, Interstellar and Whiplash

Birdman: As far as technical filmmaking goes, Birdman is the gold standard. The cinematography makes it seem like the entire movie was filmed in one continuous shot and the audio mix  is more reminiscent of a live theater production than a film. It was surely excruciating for everyone involved in the production to make the film seem so natural, but that effort pays off big time as Birdman sets a new bar for behind-the-camera wizardy in Hollywood. The acting is equally impressive with Michael Keaton perfectly capturing the desperation and psychosis of a washed-up actor who is desperate to get back into the spotlight in the present day after starring in a string of hit superhero films in the early '90s. The parallels between Keaton and his character Riggan Thomson's career are obvious (Keaton played Batman in the first two Batman films directed by Tim Burton and has been reduced to nothing but supporting roles since then) and Keaton brings every ounce of pain from his real-life acting struggles to this character. Edward Norton and Emma Stone are just as impressive in supporting roles. Norton plays a celebrated yet wildly arrogant Broadway actor who is brought in at the last minute to star in Riggan's comeback play. Norton hasn't had a role this juicy in years and he absolutely kills it here as a character who, just like Norton himself, is full of hubris and an absolute pain in the ass to work with. Stone is easily the biggest surprise in the whole film as Sam, Riggan's recovering drug addict daughter. Stone has never tackled a role like this before and she more than rises to the occasion with an understated yet powerful performance. Where Birdman kind of hits a wall is with its narrative. It tries to cover way too much different ground in a relatively short amount of time and as a result, a lot of the subplots that don't involve Riggan's battle with his inner demons are poorly developed. While the uneven storyline and obnoxiously ambiguous ending prevent Birdman from amounting to the masterpiece it strives to be, it's still a technically-dazzling and brilliantly-acted film that is essential viewing for anyone out there that considers themselves a film nerd.
4/5 Stars

Interstellar: For the first time in a long time, Christopher Nolan failed to deliver. Nolan's latest film, Interstellar, plays out more like a tedious science lesson than a sci-fi blockbuster. The theories on wormholes and time warps may be sound and scientifically accurate, but it's not even remotely interesting to watch these characters have seemingly endless conservations about them for at least half of the film's nearly three hour runtime. The human drama isn't that much more compelling as Nolan centers the film around a father (Matthew McConaughey)/daughter (played by Jessica Chastian, Mackenzie Foy and Ellen Burstyn over various stages of the film) in relationship and how gaps in the time space continuum can't ruin their deep love for one another. The two main themes of Interstellar converge in a ridiculous, inorganic way in the final act and it brings the already heavily-flawed space adventure down to earth at warp speed. The movie is visually-stunning and McConaughey and Chastain turn in solid performances, but that isn't nearly to overlook how hollow and dull this film is overall. If you love science or modern tributes to 2001: A Space Odyssey then Interstellar is your wet dream. If those things don't excite you, Interstellar is a joyless slog to sit through. Seriously Nolan, you're much better than plodding crap like this.
2/5 Stars

Whiplash: All I had to say about Whiplash once the credits rolled was wow. On paper, Whiplash doesn't sound like anything special. The film focuses on a young jazz drumming prodigy (Miles Teller) at the Shaffer Conservatory of Music in New York City who falls under the tutelage of a respected but  band instructor (J.K. Simmons) who pushes him to the brink both physically and mentally. What makes Whiplash stand out is the fact that it plays out more like a thriller than a coming-of-age music drama. The scenes between Teller's Andrew and Simmons' Terance Fletcher are chock-full of tension and suspense. Simmons, who turns in a Oscar-worthy performance, is largely responsible for setting the film's tense tone. Watching the beyond intimidating Fletcher break down his students with insults was equally amusing and horrifying. There are brief glimpses of kindness to his character, but he mostly piles on the intensity and throws human decency to the side in an attempt to make his band the most disciplined and precise in the country. This is the role that longtime character actor Simmons needed to finally get a shot at being a leading man. While Simmons is the undeniable standout, Teller manages to turn another quality performance to add to his impressive and rapidly-growing resume. Teller is able to play the role of a kid who has sacrificed his social life and mental/physical well-being to be the best drummer possible with an incredibly level of authenticity and heart. Not only does Teller deliver as an actor, he also shows off some impressive chops on the drums. Just about every drum beat in the film- including the lengthy solo at end of the film- was played by Teller himself, which only adds to the film's remarkable realism and heavy emotional payoff. Don't let the unconventional subject matter turn you off, Whiplash is an absolutely brilliant crowd-pleaser of a film that demands to be seen by the masses.
4.5/5 Stars  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

2014 Week 11 Fantasy Football Winners and Losers

MVP: Aaron Rodgers (Packers)
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense streak of inhuman offensive play continued on Sunday versus the Eagles. Rodgers picked apart the weak Eagles secondary all day on his way to a 341-yard, 3 TD performance. With his recent output, Rodgers is now challenging Andrew Luck for the most valuable fantasy quarterback of 2014 and his current run of utter domination is in little danger of ending this week when he goes up against a Vikings secondary who just got destroyed by Jay Cutler.
Honorable Mentions: Jay Cutler (Bears), Russell Wilson (Seahawks), Andy Dalton (Bengals)

LVP: Matthew Stafford (Lions)
Matthew Stafford certainly isn't the most reliable quarterback to start in fantasy, but his Week 11 performance was even disappointing by his standards. Stafford failed to get going at all on Sunday afternoon against the Cardinals, finishing with just 183 yards, 0 touchdowns and an INT. Stafford's got a brutal schedule (when he isn't facing the Bears) for the final portion of the season, so his owners might want to look elsewhere for a starting QB for their potential playoff push.
Dishonorable Mentions: Robert Griffin III (Redskins), Colin Kaepernick (49ers), Matt Ryan (Falcons)

Running Back
MVP: Le'veon Bell (Steelers)
After a few down weeks in a row, Le'veon Bell returned with a vengeance in Week 11. Bell was able to bail out a mediocre passing attack with a career-high 204 yards on the ground in the Steelers comeback win over the Titans on Monday night. Bell has easily been one of the best RB1's this season and he should continue to deliver the goods once the Steelers return from bye in Week 13.
Honorable Mentions: Jammal Charles (Chiefs), Eddie Lacy (Packers), Matt Forte (Bears)

LVP: Andre Ellington (Cardinals)
With Drew Stanton replacing Carson Palmer, it seemed like the perfect time for Andre Ellington to become the centerpiece of the Cardinals. While Ellington got ample touches this week, he picked up just 66 yards (42 rushing, 24 receiving) on 23 touches. The Lions are admittedly a tough matchup for any running back, but with Palmer out for the season, you're going to need to get better production out of Ellington if you want to remain at the top of the NFC. The sledding doesn't get any easier for Ellington as the Cardinals face the Seahawks tough run D in Week 12.
Dishonorable Mentions: Mark Ingram (Saints), Jerick McKinnon (Vikings), Steven Jackson (Falcons)

Wide Receiver
MVP: Mike Evans (Buccaneers)
Buccaneers rookie wideout Mike Evans has been playing out of his mind for the past month, but that was just a warmup for his career day in Week 11. Evans made the most of his 7 receptions picking up 209 yards and a pair of TD's against the Redskins on Sunday. Evans appears to have taken the Bucs number 1 wideout job from Vincent Jackson and has officially solidified himself as a weekly must-start for fantasy purposes.
Honorable Mentions: Brandon Marshall (Bears), Alshon Jeffrey (Bears), A.J. Green (Bengals)

LVP: Calvin Johnson (Lions)
With an elite corner in Patrick Peterson shadowing him for the entire game and a poor performance from Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson just couldn't get anything going this week against the Cardinals. Johnson's 5 catch, 59-yard performance may not look overly bad on paper, but with Johnson being who he is and the fact that the Cardinals secondary have a relatively vulnerable secondary, this performance was highly underwhelming for his fantasy owners. Johnson has another rough matchup lined up for Week 12 as the Lions are set to face the incredibly tough Patriots secondary
Dishonorable Mentions: Julio Jones (Falcons), DeSean Jackson (Redskins), Pierre Garcon (Redskins)

Tight End
MVP: Coby Fleener (Colts)
And the surprise performance of Week 11 award goes to...Coby Fleener! Fleener made the most of Dwayne Allen exiting the game early with an ankle injury and gassed the Patriots strong secondary for 144 yards on 7 receptions. With Allen's status unclear for this week and the strong chemistry he has with Andrew Luck, Fleener should be a solid TE1 for at least this upcoming week.
Honorable Mentions: Rob Gronkowski (Patriots), Larry Donnell (Giants), Heath Miller (Steelers)

LVP: Travis Kelce (Chiefs)
Travis Kelce has been a surprisingly solid fantasy tight end this season, but given the fact that he is a member of the notoriously conservative, run-heavy Chiefs offense, he's going to put up some stinkers from time to time. Week 11 was one of those times. Kelce had just 37 yards and a rare fumble against the Seahawks on Sunday. Kelce has a decent chance of rebounding against the Raiders this Thursday night.
Dishonorable Mentions: Kyle Rudolph (Vikings), Vernon Davis (49ers), Antonio Gates (Chargers)

MVP: Green Bay Packers
The hit-or-miss Packers defense was very much a hit on Sunday against the Eagles. The team finished the afternoon with 3 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 INT's, 2 defensive touchdowns and a kick return touchdown. The Packers have another solid matchup against the Vikings this week, so they could be in line to have a rare string of solid outings in a row.
Honorable Mentions: San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, San Diego Chargers

LVP: Denver Broncos
What the hell happened to the Broncos on Sunday? The Broncos suffered a shocking loss at the hands of the middling Rams on Sunday. While their offense deserves a lot of the blame, the defense didn't really do much to help matters. The Broncos picked up just 3 sacks and failed to get a takeaway against a Rams offense that has been a godsend to fantasy defenses this year. The Broncos defense has cooled down substantially in recent weeks, so they're nothing more than a mid-level defensive start at this point in time.
Dishonorable Mentions: Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Cleveland Browns

Friday, November 14, 2014

Movie Review: Nightcrawler

Every so often you'll come across a film that is culturally relevant and is essential viewing for anyone who wants to understand a certain aspect of society at a certain period in time, no matter how positive or bleak it is. Dan Gilroy's Nightcrawler is one of those films that perfectly encapsulates a time period and provides a startlingly truthful look at the practice of sensationalist journalism in the 2000's. 

Nightcrawler focuses on an opportunistic sociopath named Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal). Bloom is a low-level thief who is desperately searching for an employment opportunity that rewards him financially. That opportunity falls right into Bloom's lap as he's driving past a grisly accident scene on the Los Angeles freeway and sees a group of cameramen capturing the aftermath of the accident with the intent to sell the footage to a local news station for their early morning broadcast. Bloom is inspired about what he witnessed on the freeway and soon buys a camera and a police scanner for his car so he can enter the freelance video journalism business. Before long Bloom is able to establish a business relationship with the news director of the lowest-rated news station (Rene Russo) in LA, who gladly purchases Bloom's most graphic footage to try and get ahead in the ratings. After a few sales, Bloom hires an assistant (Riz Ahmed) and quickly becomes the most well-known "Nightcrawler" in LA thanks to his willingness to cross any ethical boundary to get footage and eliminate anyone that poses a threat to his exploitative video news empire.

Nightcrawler is a Hollywood thriller doesn't feel fake for even a second; which makes it especially unsettling to sit through. There are people just like Louis Bloom currently among us making a living off of filming fatal car accidents and murder scenes for a paycheck from news stations across the country. Even when Bloom's decisions become more rash and he goes to more extreme lengths to get the perfect shot for the news, it never loses its sense of authenticity and that is a big part of why Nightcrawler is such an unshakable and impactful piece of film-making.

The scenes between Bloom and Rene Russo's Nina are rooted even more in the truth than Bloom's scenes "Nightcrawling" around Los Angeles. At the end of their first meeting, Nina encourages Bloom to go out and capture more brutal work for the newscast by asking him to think of her newscast as " a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut". Nina's sentiments are perfectly representative of how television news operates in the present day. The only news stories most people care about are gruesome events that end in at least one fatality, especially when they happen in affluent neighborhoods where brutal crime doesn't typically occur. Gilroy often uses a satirical tone to address the subject, but his message is very serious and monstrously affective. The comparisons to Sidney Lumet's 1976 classic Network are unavoidable, Gilroy has just updated that film's anti-media message for the digital age. Nightcrawler delivers such a scathing and accurate portrayal of the modern, sensationalist-driven news industry that it's almost nauseating to watch.    

Underneath all the commentary on sensationalist journalism and capitalism, Nightcrawler is a character study about a man who is desperate to succeed in life by any means necessary. Jake Gyllenhaal is masterfully manipulative and downright creepy as Bloom. He rips through the film's long monologues with an endless amount of sleazy confidence and bravado. When he's selling the other film's characters on his agenda, you can't help but buy into the shit he's selling. Despite his psychotic tendencies and blatant disregard for human decency, Gyllenhaal grounds the character with a stunning level of humanity. No matter how fucked up Bloom's actions or motives are, you never find yourself truly hating the character. Gyllenhaal has quietly become one of the most reliably great actors in Hollywood over the past few years and his work here is certainly in the conversation alongside Donnie Darko and End of Watch for the best performance of his career thus far. Gyllenhaal's unhinged yet commanding performance really drives home the force of Nightcrawler's biting social commentary. Nightcrawler is a vastly important film that serves as a potent condemnation of modern news and the capitalist attitude that dominates the American business landscape.

4.5/5 Stars  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Album Review: Job for a Cowboy-Sun Eater

There is arguably no other band in the modern metal landscape that has spawned more internet and in-person verbal fights than Job for a Cowboy. They picked up a steady group of passionate followers and detractors when they released their debut 2005 EP Doom and the arguments have only gotten more intense over the years as they've drifted further away from the deathcore sound that first got them noticed. If anything is going to silence the legions of Job for a Cowboy detractors out there, it's going to be their new LP Sun Eater,  which is not even remotely similar to anything the band has done in the past.

Sun Eater is much more reminiscent of foreign atmospheric death metal a la Gorguts and Morbus Chron than the contemporary American death metal they tackled on 2009's Ruination and 2012's Demonocracy. The technicality the band has brought to the table on their past few releases is still very much present, there's just a more of a focus on establishing a mood than constantly bombarding the listener with mind-numbing speed. The more expansive approach to the songwriting on Sun Eater allows the band to dive into the most ambitious, sprawling material they've ever produced.

Album opener "Eating the Visions of God" will more than likely take back anyone who's ever heard Job for a Cowboy before. The majority of the riffing is subdued, there's prominent bass throughout, the moments of technicality are unexpected and exciting, and there's an overwhelming aura of dread throughout the six-and-a-half minute runtime. Cuts like "Sun of Nihility", "The Synthetic Sea" and "Buried Monuments" only build upon the strength of "Eating the Visions of God". All of these songs have a distinct structure with dynamic instrumentation and moments of nuanced gloom that build organically into beautiful extreme metal bedlam. Even the more straightforward tech-death affairs on the record ("The Stone Cross", "A Global Shift") feel more fluid and dense than anything they've crafted in the past. There's room to breathe on the compositions on this record and those moments of subtlety allow this record get under your skin in a way that most releases in this genre only dream of. 

The change in sound on Sun Eater also brings a lot more attention to the vast amount of talent Job for a Cowboy possesses. This is a band that has gone through a revolving door of members since their inception a decade ago (vocalist Jonny Davy is the only founding member still in the band,) and this incarnation of Job for a Cowboy is light-years ahead of any of their previous lineups. Guitarist Tony Sannicaderio evolves to the next level as a player with the most intricate riffs and solos he's ever written, session drummer Danny Walker (Intronaut, ex-Exhumed) seamlessly integrates himself into the fold and Davy delivers yet another strong, unabashedly evil vocal performance. However, the MVP of Sun Eater is bassist Nick Schendzilos. I have absolutely no idea why Job for a Cowboy waited so long to unleash this beast on the world. The flawless tone and finesse of the bass plays an integral part in helping establish the haunting atmosphere that runs through Sun Eater. The rest of the metal world needs to listen and take notes on how bass is used on this record. Bass is criminally underutilized in metal and Sun Eater serves as a perfect testament of just how effective it can be when its prominently featured in the music.

The constant shifts in sound Job for a Cowboy have made throughout their career have all culminated with Sun Eater. If Davy wasn't the vocalist, it couldn't even be identified as a Job for a Cowboy album. The variation of the songwriting and excellent musicianship throughout makes this album monumentally better than anything they did in the past. While there are times the record becomes meandering ("The Celestial Antidote", "Worming Nightfall"), the overwhelming strength of the rest of the album is more than enough to forgive the couple of missteps along the way. There will undoubtedly be some people out there that will dismiss Sun Eater simply because of the band's early reputation as the kings of pig-squaling, breakdown-laden deathcore. But for those open-minded listeners who are willing to overlook the days of "Knee Deep" and "Entombment of a Machine", you'll be treated to one of the most rewarding and dense death metal releases of 2014.

4/5 Stars
Standout Tracks
1.Burning Monuments
2.The Synthetic Sea
3.Sun of Nihility            

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

2014 Week 10 Fantasy Football Winners and Losers

MVP: Aaron Rodgers (Packers)
The only thing more satisfying than throwing 6 TD's in a game, is throwing 6 TD's against your arch rival. Aaron Rodgers got to experience that feeling of nirvana on Sunday night as he carved up the abysmal Bears defense in primetime on Sunday. The devastation probably could've been worse, but Rodgers was pulled from the game after the first series of the second half. Rodgers is in inhuman form right now and he has another chance to go off this week against a terrible Eagles secondary at the friendly confines of Lambeau Field.  
Honorable Mentions: Peyton Manning (Broncos), Tony Romo (Cowboys), Russell Wilson (Seahawks)

LVP: Andy Dalton (Bengals)
I'm not going to lie, I'm picking Andy Dalton over Colin Kaepernick and Ben Roethlisberger for the worst QB play of the week because he screwed over one of my teams this week. Dalton had the single worst game of his career on Thursday night (86 yards, 0 TD's, 3 INT's, 2.0 passer rating) against the Browns. Dalton had next to no zip on the ball and was consistently inaccurate for the duration of the game. The Browns have a good secondary and haven't allowed a lot of fantasy points to quarterbacks, but that still doesn't excuse just how woefully horrible Dalton was in this game. Dalton is only a desperation start for extremely brave owners for the rest of 2014.
Dishonorable Mentions: Colin Kaepernick (49ers),  Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers), Cam Newton (Panthers)

Running Back
MVP: Marshawn Lynch (Seahawks)
You see what happens when the Seahawks let Marshawn Lynch run free? Beast Mode was back in full force this week as the Seahawks took on the Giants on Sunday afternoon. Lynch made the most of his 22 carries, picking up 140 yards and 4 TD's on the day. Lynch is about as deadly of a running back as there is in the NFL and if the Seahawks continue to give him the ball at a high rate, he'll be a top-flight RB1.
Honorable Mentions: Justin Forsett (Ravens), Jammal Charles (Chiefs), Eddie Lacy (Packers)

LVP: Jeremy Hill (Bengals)
What a difference a week makes. A week after his breakout performance against the Jaguars, Jeremy Hill was all but completely silenced in Week 10 against the Browns. Hill got a measly 13 touches (12 carries, 1 reception) for 61 yards and lost an ugly fumble in the second quarter.  Hill fell victim to the Bengals terrible offensive performance and total abandonment of the run once the second half rolled around, but considering the quality of the matchup and absence of Giovani Bernard from the lineup, this performance is still a major disappointment.    
Dishonorable Mentions: Lamar Miller (Dolphins), Ronnie Hillman (Broncos), Matt Forte (Bears)

Wide Receiver
MVP: Dez Bryant (Cowboys)
No one was happier to have Tony Romo return to the lineup than Dez Bryant. Bryant bounced back big time from his terrible performance against the Cardinals in Week 9 with Brandon Weeden under center with a 158-yard, 2 TD performance against the Jaguars on Sunday in London. Bryant will have more off-weeks than your typical WR1, but when he's on, there's few that can come close to matching his production. 
Honorable Mentions: Jordy Nelson (Packers), Martavis Bryant (Steelers), Emmanuel Sanders (Broncos)

LVP: A.J. Green (Bengals)
A.J. Green was yet another victim of Andy Dalton's abysmal performance against the Browns. Green finished with just 3 receptions for 23 yards on the evening. If its any constellation for this terrible performance, Green looked 100% healthy in this game and should be back to his WR1 form once Dalton gets back on track. 
Dishonorable Mentions: Sammy Watkins (Bills), Steve Smith (Ravens), Jeremy Maclin (Eagles)

Tight End
MVP: Jimmy Graham (Saints)
Week 10 marked the first time all season where Jimmy Graham has looked truly unstoppable. Graham looked like the 2013 version of himself as he picked up 76 yards and 2 TD's on 10 receptions against the 49ers on Sunday. Graham's day would've been even better if he didn't get flagged for pass interference on what would've been his 3rd TD at the end of regulation. With Graham appearing to be back in top form, he should be in line for a dominant run down the stretch. 
Honorable Mentions: Julius Thomas (Broncos), Jared Cook (Rams), Mychal Rivera (Raiders)

LVP: Larry Donnell (Giants)
Oh Larry Donnell, how you continue to disappoint. Donnell failed to take advantage of a banged-up Seahawks linebacking group and finished the game with just 26 yards on 4 receptions. Donnell is simply not the great fantasy option he appeared to be in the early stages of the season. Even with his typically lackluster production, Donnell is still a low-end TE1 due to the sheer amount of targets he gets and his ability to get in the endzone at any given time.  
Dishonorable Mentions: Owen Daniels (Ravens), Heath Miller (Steelers), Vernon Davis (49ers)

MVP: Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles defense is just stupid this season. After a couple of slow weeks in a row, The Eagles D came alive once against in Week 10 as they suffocated the Panthers for 60 minutes. The Eagles put up absurd numbers across the board finishing the game with 9 sacks, 3 INT's, 2 fumble recoveries, a kick return touchdown and a defensive touchdown. The Eagles are not going to be without their down weeks, but when they're on, they are a top 5 fantasy defense.
Honorable Mentions: Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals

LVP: Pittsburgh Steelers
This was a difficult week to find a worst fantasy defense because no defense with a good matchup grossly under-performed. That being said, it's hard to deny that the Steelers put up the weakest performance of the week. The Steelers picked up 4 sacks and zero takeaways against a Jets squad that has been turning the ball over at an alarming rate this season. The Steelers are a banged-up unit that doesn't take the ball away very often, so they're aren't exactly the most valuable fantasy defense at the moment.
Dishonorable Mentions: Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Album Review: Unearth-Watchers of Rule

The past couple of years have not been kind to the forefathers of metalcore. God Forbid, Chimaira and Bleeding Through have all disbanded within in the past 18 months and Shadows Fall is about to go on an indefinite hiatus after one last world tour in 2015. In an age where most bands from the era have either broken up or are just a hollow shell of their former selves, Unearth is a notable exception. The Massachusetts quintet's sixth-full length, Watchers of Rule, confirms that they will be not following in the path of their peers anytime soon.

Watchers of Rule is easily the most relentlessly heavy release Unearth has ever put out. Unearth has never been a particularity cheerful band, but their past records have had sporadic clean vocal lines and moments of melody to break up the heavier sections. Watchers of Rule is a 35-minute blast of pure sonic fury that doesn't let up for even a second. There's an almost death metal level of intensity that runs through that this record and makes Unearth's trademark onslaught of crushing riffs and breakdowns that much more satisfying. There are a few tracks on this record ("To the Ground", "Trail of Fire", "Lifetime in Ruins") that go way above and beyond what I thought they were capable of from a heaviness standpoint. Even as a longtime fan of the band, the sheer force of this album blew me away. You would have to look long and hard to find another 2014 album that's as packed to the brim with pure, unadulterated rage as Watchers of Rule.

What always gets lost in the shuffle with Unearth is just how skilled they are as musicians and that proficiency has never been stronger than it is on this record. Guitarist Buz McGrath once again manages to exceed his previous performances and step his playing up to the next level. The leads on Watchers of Rule are easily the most dynamic and technical he's ever written. The sheer speed of the solos on the title track, "From the Tombs of Five Below" and "Never Cease" in particular make them outright bonkers to listen to. McGrath has long been one of the most underrated guitarists in the metal community and hopefully the barrage of blistering solos he lays down on Watchers of Rule finally gets him the respect he deserves.  

New drummer Nick Pierce is also a beyond welcome addition to the fold. Pierce- who joined the band shortly after Darkness in the Light was released in 2011- has an explosive playing style that perfectly fits the fierce tone of this album. Unearth has had a lot of great drummers in their ranks since their inception, but Pierce could very well be the most well-rounded and flat-out skilled player to ever play in the band.

Watchers of Rule is a beast of a record that simply can't be ignored by the metal masses. It's evident that the band had a serious chip on their shoulder during the writing process for this record and that fire led them to craft a collection of songs that hits harder than any of their previous material. Even for a band with a remarkably consistent discography like Unearth has, Watchers of Rule is a hell of an accomplishment, especially at this point in their career. Watchers of Rule is exactly the shot to the heart that metalcore needed to be revived.

4.5/5 Stars
Standout Tracks
1.Never Cease
2.To the Ground
3.From the Tombs of Five Below 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

2014 Week 9 Fantasy Football Winners and Losers

MVP: Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers)
Ben Roethlisberger astounded the football world with his 6 TD performance in Week 8 against the Colts. So what did Big Ben have planned for an encore this week? Another 6 TD performance of course! Roethlisberger was money from the second quarter on, spreading the wealth to pretty much of all his receivers and decimating the injury-plagued Ravens secondary on just about every drive. Roethlisberger honestly hasn't looked this good in years. He is throwing the ball with uncharacteristically high accuracy and getting excellent protection from a resurgent offensive line right now. The Steelers have another friendly matchup on this schedule this week when they go up against the trainwreck otherwise known as the New York Jets, so Big Ben's reign of terror on opposing defenses is highly likely to continue.
Honorable Mentions: Tom Brady (Patriots), Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins), Andrew Luck (Colts)

LVP: Phillip Rivers (Chargers)
What the hell happened to Phillip Rivers this week? Rivers- who has been excellent for all of 2014- was repeatedly turning the ball over (3 INT's and a fumble on the afternoon) and missing his targets all afternoon in the Chargers embarrassing 37-0 loss to the Dolphins. Rivers heads into the bye with 2 poor performances in his last 3 games and has a bitch of a schedule including matchups against the Ravens, Patriots, 49ers and Broncos down the stretch. Rivers is stable enough, but he's far from the best QB1 option for a team looking to make a deep playoff run.
Dishonorable Mentions: Colin Kaepernick (49ers), Cam Newton (Panthers), Russell Wilson (Seahawks)

Running Back
MVP: Jeremy Hill (Bengals)
Rookie running back Jeremy Hill stepped up big time in his first career start versus the Jaguars in place of the injured Giovani Bernard. It didn't start off particularly noteworthy, but Hill's huge second half led to him finishing with 154 yards and 2 TD's on the afternoon. Hill is expected to start again on Thursday against the Browns terrible run defense, so we could very well be looking at another dominant performance from the promising rookie.
Honorable Mentions: Marshawn Lynch (Seahawks), Matt Asiata (Vikings), Mark Ingram (Saints)

LVP: Ben Tate (Browns)
Ben Tate's 2014 campaign has been a roller coaster ride and his performance in Week 9 was a new low. Tate picked up a mere 3 yards on the ground on 10 carries against a Buccaneers run D that has struggled all year long. Tate was able to add 29 yards on 4 receptions to slightly salvage his afternoon, but it was not nearly enough to make up for his terrible day on the ground. With Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell frequently cutting into his carries, his long injury history and general inconsistency, Tate will be a high-risk RB2 for the rest of the year.
Dishonorable Mentions: Branden Oliver (Chargers), Jerrick McKinnon (Vikings), Ahmad Bradshaw (Colts)

Wide Receiver
MVP: Jeremy Maclin (Eagles)
Jeremy Maclin was able to follow up a dominant performance in Week 8 with another explosive performance in Week 9. Maclin put up 158 yards and 2 TD's on 6 receptions in the Eagles hard-fought victory over the Texans on Sunday. Even with Mark Sanchez taking over for the injured Nick Foles at quarterback, Maclin remains a weekly top-end WR1.
Honorable Mentions: Mike Evans (Buccaneers), Antonio Brown (Steelers), DeSean Jackson (Redskins)

LVP: Andre Johnson (Texans)
Longtime superstar wideout Andre Johnson just hasn't gotten going this year. Johnson's struggles in 2014 are best evidenced by his lackluster 12-yard performance against a very burnable Eagles secondary on Sunday. It's very bizarre to see the Texans not try and get Johnson more involved with the offense. He may not be the full-blown stud he once was, but he's a sure-handed, dependable wideout who can get the job done when called upon. Johnson is nothing more than a mid-level WR3 given his current usage in this offense.
Dishonorable Mentions: Kelvin Benjamin (Panthers), Dez Bryant (Cowboys), Andrew Hawkins (Browns)

Tight End
MVP: Rob Gronkowski (Patriots)
In a seemingly recurring theme for Week 9, Rob Gronkowski followed up his dominant Week 8 performance with yet another one this week. Gronkowski picked up 105 yards and a TD on 9 receptions in the Patriots shockingly lopsided victory over the Broncos on Sunday. As long as Gronkowski doesn't get injured after the Patriots bye week in Week 10, he's going to dominate for the remainder of the 2014 season.
Honorable Mentions: Jimmy Graham (Saints), Travis Kelce (Chiefs), Charles Clay (Dolphins)

LVP: Zach Ertz (Eagles)
Zach Ertz continues to be the most frustrating tight end in fantasy football. Ertz got just 4 yards on his lone reception against the Texans on Sunday. Ertz is a touchdown-dependent TE1 who will put up just as many stinkers as he does solid performances.
Dishonorable Mentions: Vernon Davis (49ers), Antonio Gates (Chargers), Greg Olsen (Panthers)

MVP: Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins defense is suddenly becoming quite a formidable defense. The Dolphins picked up 4 sacks, 3 interceptions, a fumble recovery and allowed 0 points to the Chargers. The Dolphins don't exactly have the easiest matchups for the last 2 months of the season, but they'll remain a solid fantasy option in most weeks.
Dishonorable Mentions: Houston Texans, St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks

LVP: San Diego Chargers
How the mighty have fallen.... The Chargers defense has gone from one of the best to one of the weakest fantasy defenses in a matter of a month. The Chargers got lit up once again by the Dolphins for 37 points and failed to register a sack or takeaway. The Chargers are now droppable in just about any 10-12 team league.
Dishonorable Mentions: Denver Broncos, Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs