Saturday, April 18, 2020


(c) 2019 Rottweiler Records

  1. Sibling Rivalry
  2. Victim-Less
  3. Self Portrait
  4. Machaira
  5. Blue Flame
  6. Obsessed
  7. Fragile
  8. This Life
  9. Who Told You
  10. Water Vice
  11. Out Of Time
  12. When You Have Suffered
  13. Reckless Love
Michael Rowley--Vocals
Aaron Smith--Guitars
Thomas Wheat--Bass
Jamie Kucinski--Drums

Additional Musicians
Kyle Simpson--Piano, Keys, Programming
Jessica Wheat--Female Vocals

XIII Minutes.  (That's 13 Minutes for you non-Roman numerals folks.)  According to the band's bio page, every 13 minutes someone in America dies in a car wreck. Every 13 minutes an American commits suicide.  Every 13 minutes a woman dies of breast cancer.  It also says that 13 minutes is the time between when a tornado siren is sounded and the tornado hits.  I didn't do any independent research on those facts and figures, as I trust the band wouldn't put out a bunch of misinformation that someone would fact check them on.  Thirteen Minutes is also a surprisingly good independent movie about an actual assassination attempt on Hitler in 1939 (I'm a history teacher and a WWII buff...sue me!).  So with all of this information about 13, should it be any surprise that it took all of about 13 minutes for me to absolutely start to really dig this record?!  Well, it may not have taken even that long.

I have never denied the fact that I am a fan of metalcore...when it's good.  Personally, I LOVE big, stinking heavy breakdowns and hardcore vocals, especially if they are combined with clean vocals as well.  I also love big, fat, chugging rhythm guitar riffs and thunderous drums.  So, when I stumble across such a band being hyped as possessing such qualities, it is with great excitement that I usually dive headfirst into said band's album to see if they are worth the hype.  Let me tell you, XIII Minutes is worth it.

The album kicks off with "Sibling Rivalry", and immediately, it is evident to me that XIII Minutes is not your standard metalcore band, although that is what I have heard them categorized as.  For one, there is a smoothness to the riffing that belies a bit of the genre.  Guitarist Aaron Smith has a definite feel for this style of guitar work, and his rhythm riffs are tight and aggressive throughout the record, but they don't contain a lot of that distorted grind that a lot of metalcore bands seem to be incorporating lately.  That's a good thing on Smith's part!  The drums from Kucinski are also really good, punishing on the bottom end and not overly snare-happy, which some bands seem to be doing now.  Again, a good thing!  To me, there is definitely a modern hard rock style that is infused with metalcore elements, but if you are thinking that you will be getting old school Demon Hunter or a band like For Today, think again.  That is not what XIII Minutes is about.  On opener "Sibling Rivalry", all of the elements I previously noted come together really well musically, giving Rowley a solid foundation upon which to sing/snarl.  Rowley's strength is definitely in the ability he has to separate the growly/snarly side of his vocals, which are not dissimilar to what Demon Hunter uses, from his clean vocals, which are far better than what I hear from other bands; he never drifts into emo whining or anything like that.  As with a lot of modern hard rock/metal, the guitar solo isn't overly flashy, but it shows competence and understanding for the genre, with a lot of speed up and down the frets.  There are also some programmed effects in the mix here, but nothing that is overly obvious or overpowering.  Give it a listen here:

"Victim-Less" is an older song that had been previously released as a single, but XIII Minutes chose to incorporate it here.  Aggressive from the jump, "Victim-Less" is one of the more brutal songs on the track, with Rowley spending nearly as much time in full-growl mode as he does with his clean vocals.  There is a harsh breakdown with some tough, bottom-end rhythm riffing, then Smith goes off on one of his high-speed fret runs that pop up all over the place on this record.  Musically, XIII Minutes is very tight, and it really shows on a track like this, where the tempo changes and the stop-starts near the end can start to sound really sloppy if everyone isn't on the same page.  Fortunately, that is not the case here, and Kucinski's drums and Smith's bass are a big part of that crisp, razor sharp edge that is necessary to execute these tempo changes.

"Self Portrait" is an older track that was incorporated here, and while not a bad song, it definitely is not representative of XIII Minutes now.  The track starts off with a walking bass line, with the rest of the band joining in on a rhythm that really can only be described as "bouncy".  An odd effect is used on the first half of the guitar solo here, which makes it sound a bit like the guitar is being played underwater, and it doesn't really go with the track.  Rowley's vocals are exclusively of the harsh variety on this track, which seems almost comical when compared with the jangly nature of the track.  I've been told the band has moved on from this song in their set-lists, and to be honest, I can see why.  There is far superior music elsewhere on this album.

"Machaira" is another older song that also finds its way onto Obsessed.  Musically, the song is a bit more straight forward metal, albeit with a chunkier bottom end than most metal today.  Rowley's vocals again spend a lot of time in the harsher mode, although he does slip into his cleaner delivery in various spots.  One thing that is obviously different, at least to my ears, is the maturation of Kicinski's drumming on the newer material.  While definitely not bad, the drums on "Machaira" are pretty much just straight up rhythm-and-tempo time keepers and lack the flair that shows up in newer material, such as the next track, "Blue Flame".

"Blue Flame" is an example of a track where I really like the clean vocals that Rowley uses.  His clean voice takes on something of an alternative rock sound, while his growls remain in that Demon Hunter mode.  Heavy and chunky, the rhythm guitars are a big presence here, with a tight chugga-chug, chugga-chug tempo that is bolstered by the bass and drums, providing a really solid bedrock or the track to build upon.  Another rapid fire guitar solo scorches through the mid-section of the track, and overall I would have to say this is one of the best tracks here, and it is easy to see why this was chosen as a single, as it is also probably the most accessible for music programmers, as it will mix pretty well with just about any type of metal/metalcore.

If you are looking for something a bit faster, "Obsessed" is more your type of song.  A quick drum run opens the track and instantly the rhythm guitars charge to the front in one of the fastest songs on the album.  Right away the harsher vocals from Rowley are used, and they are the vocal choice for the verse sections, while he cleans up for the choruses, creating a nice interplay between vocal styles.  There is also a female voice that chimes in during the verse portions, which adds even more dynamic and dimension to the track, and there is a point near the finish of the track that Rowley really reaches down to death growl territory, countered by blackened screams that just show the full range of what this band can bring to a track.  Smith's fingers fly through a blistering solo, and the drums really kick in the speed and power on "Obsessed", which is probably my favorite song over all.

"Fragile" returns more to that mid-tempo metalcore stomp style and is the shortest track here, clocking in at 2:47.  Kucinski has some really nice patterns going on here, and as is the case with a lot of metalcore, he's not afraid to abuse his cymbals!  Smith tears through some big rhythm riffs, and Rowley again incorporates both clean and harsh vocals here.  Short and to the point, "Fragile" is definitely not a frail track, musically, and it features a pretty cool groove in the breakdown. 

"This Life" starts with an odd-sounding instrument...for all the world it sounds like muted electric ukulele to me!...but the punishing drums from Kucinski and the think, chunky rhythm riffs from Smith quickly blast you back from your distraction, and Rowley takes off from there.  Using a clean voice for most of the verses, he mixes death growls and blackened screams into the pre-chorus and chorus sections, again providing a really cool dynamic, and once again this is a track that I find myself really drawn to.  As with most of the record, "This Life" can't be labelled pure metalcore, especially with a breakdown section that includes strings, piano, and an atmospheric quality that kind of knocks me back and makes me go, "whoa".  Vicious drums and harshly barked vocals burst forth out of this section, before the song drifts back to this atmospheric style once more to close the track.  Musically brilliant, and again, one of my favorite tracks here, along with "Obsessed" and "Out Of Time", which I'll discuss in a moment.

"Who Told You" punches you in the jaw to snap you back to what XIII Minutes is for most of this record, and that is a tight, groove-laden modern, hard rock band with a metalcore edge.  I love the rhythm riff on this track a lot, and the bottom end is rock solid.  Much like "Blue Flame", there is an accessible quality about this track that should lend itself to being pushed as a single to places like and TheBlast.  Even Octane should be drooling all over itself to snag this track and shove it into rotation, as it really is that good.  Most of Rowley's vocals are of the clean variety here, although his aggressive snarl does make an appearance late in the track.

"Water Vice" is even more punishing than "Who Told You", and finds the band in full-speed mode here, pushing themselves as far into metalcore territory as they venture on this record.  A massive break-down section with those big, bowed guitar stretches is a lot of fun here, and Rowley is in fine form here, easily shifting vocal styles.  Wheat's bass is definitely a big part of "Water Vice", as well Once again, the drum patterns and the precision from Kucinski are superb, and with musical quality like this, I can't help but really find myself surprised that I haven't heard more about this band.  Where has XIII Minutes been and why haven't they been supported more or pushed harder?  I'm at a loss.

"Out Of Time" is the closest the band comes to a ballad, and it is a starkly different track than anything that has come before it.  From the moment Kyle Simpson's piano starts things off, it is clear that this song is a totally different type of monster.  Rowley's clean singing voice soon joins in, and most listeners would be excused for wondering if this track ended up on Obsessed by accident, as it sounds NOTHING like anything else XIII Minutes has done to this point.  In fact, forget the term "metalcore" for a moment, and just think "music".  Add in the gorgeous harmony vocals...and then lead vocals for verse two...from Jessica Wheat and you have a truly beautiful piece of music that should be all over and TheBlast!  This is potent, potent stuff!  And to make it even more amazing, I was told this was Wheat's first time recording.  What?!  Someone needs to take a trip to Oklahoma and see where she's been hiding and see if there are more like her, because this girl can sing!  Check her, and this excellent track, out below...


"When You Have Suffered" is an odd interlude here, and really doesn't fit the flow of the album, in my opinion.  Fortunately it is short (just over a minute), and if it really bugs you, I'm assuming you know how the skip button works.

The album closes with a cover of "Reckless Love", which has been done a couple of times, originally by Cory Asbury, and later by Barry Blair.  Basically a praise and worship song set to harder-edged rock, this is a nice end to the album.  Considerably harder here than in previous versions, the guitars are thicker with a punchier bottom end.  The group vocals on the chorus at the end are a nice touch here, and Rowley uses a clean vocal approach for the entirety of the track.

If modern hard rock with a good dose of groove, heavy chunks of corish vocals, and areas of surprising musicality sounds like it might be your style, XIII Minutes is definitely in your wheelhouse!  Just don't go in with an idea that you know what you are getting based solely on one song or one video, because this is a band that is seemingly throwing new elements at you, trying new things, and keeping the listener on their toes at all times.  Rowley's excellent clean/harsh separation is key here, as are the tight patterns and fills from Kucinski, and the guitar work from Smith, whether on rhythm, lead, or bass guitar, is of really good quality.  Color me impressed, especially on the new material here, which is top notch!

Available digitally from Bandcamp here.

Rating:  Surprisingly crankable!  Crank this to 7.5 as a whole, but I'd give this an 8.5 if based solely on tracks 1, 5-11, and the cover, track 13!

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