There has been this stigma that has developed since the late 2000s that rock music is no longer relevant. This was further emphasized in 2014 when Gene Simmons of KISS fame said that rock was dead. Then just last year, Adam Levine stated in an interview with Variety that rock “was going nowhere.” Not only are these both incredibly ignorant statements, they couldn’t be further from the truth.
I can handle the Gene Simmons comment. I could write an entire column about all of the outrageous things that he has said over the years. But Adam Levine’s comments sting. As many of you may know, Levine fronts the pop group Maroon 5. They used to be more of a pop rock group. They used to play, you know, actual instruments in their music. Now they rely on computers to do most of the work for them. Autotune and sampling aren’t music. That’s just noise. Levine and his band sold out to cash in on what was trending. He has no room to talk smack about rock music.
With that out of the way, we can discuss the very talented bands and artists that are keeping rock music alive today. The only criteria I made for the bands that I chose were that their first album couldn’t have come out before 2009, as I am trying to put an emphasis on newer bands. There are many bands that one could list, but here are the ones that I believe are making a huge splash in the rock world.
Hailing from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, this trio has been making some noise with their blues-inspired sound and no cares given attitude. Their first album, 2015’s “Mister Asylum,” harkens back to the good old fashioned rock and roll of the 60’s and 70’s. The album features the single “Lydia,” which catapulted the band into the mainstream. The band also incorporates elements of hip-hop into their sound. This is very evident on their Grammy-nominated single “My Name is Human,” off their second album “The Boy Who Died Wolf.” This trio is keeping rock alive by taking the genre back to its bluesy roots, while also keeping things fresh by adding some hip-hop into the mix. Both tracks I already mentioned are essential listening for this band, but go ahead give “Claudeland” and “Little One” a listen as well.
Next up is a band that just released their debut album this past February. Badflower formed in 2013 in Los Angeles, California. After years of extensive touring, they were finally able to get signed to a major label and release their first studio album, “OK, I’m Sick.” This band’s sound is also very blues influenced, but leans more toward garage rock. Lyrically, this is a group that is very progressive. Frontman Josh Katz is very open about this struggles with anxiety and depression. The songs “Ghost,” “24,” and “x Ana x” deal with these topics. Other lyrical themes on the album include transgender relationships (“We’re In Love”), sexual abuse (“Daddy” and “Wide Eyes”), animal cruelty (“Murder Games”), and Katz’s distaste for our current president and people like him (“Die”). However, my personal favorite song on the album has to be “The Jester.” Katz’ voice carries this track. This dude has some pipes. I also love the main melody of this track. This is a great album overall, and I’m very excited to see what this band has in store in the future.
Onward, to a band that I’ve written about before. I reviewed their debut album “Strength in Numb333rs” a few months back, so I’ll keep this brief. Fever 333 is a rapcore trio from Inglewood, California. Their politically-charged and often curse-filled lyrics have many people labeling them as the next Rage Against The Machine. Lead vocalist Jason Aalon Butler has become infamous for getting very wild on stage (explicit warning). He channels that same energy in the studio. High energy tracks like “Burn It,” “Prey For Me,” and “Out of Control,” will make your jaw hit the floor. The band does have some surprises up their sleeve, so click the link to my review the find out about those. Or better yet, listen to the album.
I never thought I’d actually get the chance to write about my favorite band, but here we are. Ghost is a very hard band to explain to someone who’s unfamiliar with them, so I’ll let CNN do it for me. Don’t let the costumes and over the top imagery scare you, this band is surprisingly melodic and catchy, and even fun in some cases. Winning the 2016 Grammy for Best Metal Performance for their song “Cirice,” and last year’s fourth studio album “Prequelle” debuting at number three on the Billboard 200, Ghost is quickly becoming a household name. This masked group can bring the house down with barnburners like the aforementioned “Cirice” and “Faith,” while at the same time they can be fun and catchy with songs like “Rats” and the disco-inspired “Dance Macabre.” Ghost is a metal band at their core, but they are certainly not afraid to branch out into other genres. I know their lyrics can sometimes be…off putting. I know the imagery isn’t exactly up everyone’s ally. But just give the music a chance. Tobias Forge is creating something special here. The way he is able to write songs with very dark lyrics and make them super upbeat and catchy is unreal. The song “Witch Image” off of “Prequelle” is not only a great example of this, but it’s very underrated as well. One would not expect a band like this to blow up like they have. Heck, Forge himself didn’t even expect it. Ghost is just such a breath of fresh air that is so desperately needed in rock right now.
Rounding out my list is a band that had to work to get where they are today. Nothing More is a band that formed in San Antonio, Texas way back in 2003, when the band members were in middle school. Their first album that is even accessible to the public is “The Few Not Fleeting,” released in 2009. Before this album, current lead singer Jonny Hawkins was the band’s drummer. He decided is step in as the bands frontman starting with this album and as it turns out, he has one of the best voices in rock today. The band was independent for 10 years before finally getting signed to Eleven Seven Music in 2013. They released their self-titled album the following year, which featured their breakout single “This is the Time (Ballast).” Their next album “The Stories We Tell Ourselves,” released in 2017, earned the band three Grammy nominations. The band has become known for their thought-provoking lyrics, which are heavily influenced by British philosopher Alan Watts. They’ve sampled several of his speeches. Sonically, they mix elements of hard rock, alternative, and progressive rock. “The Stories We Tell Ourselves” saw the band add some electronic elements as well. I would check out the songs “Mr. MTV,” “Do You Really Want It?,” “Go to War,” and “Let ‘Em Burn” to see all that this band has to offer. Nothing More will be supporting Ghost on their “Ultimate Tour Named Death” this fall, which includes a show at the Deltaplex Arena in Grand Rapids on Oct. 14. The pairing of these two bands in certainly interesting, but nevertheless it’s a must-see show for any fan of rock music.
There are so many more bands I could have listed here. Rock is not dead. There are a lot of great artists out there keeping rock music alive. Sometimes you just have to go out and look for it, and you may not have to look very far.