War Gods of the Deep
This Chicago metal band feels truly special in rock right now. While other bands are comfortable taking no risks, or have settled for genre mash-ups, War Gods of the Deep look back to a simpler, more rebellious time in rock, when comic books were evil, heavy metal was clearly the work of the devil, and what made a song good was a fiery guitar riff—no introspective lyrics needed.
War Gods formed just last year and have already earned a dedicated following. Sites like Metal Injection and Metal Sucks sang the praises of its debut EP, “Monsters, Magic & Mayhem”; the band’s sophomore EP, “Robots, Rockets & Rampage,” which dropped in September, is an even more unapologetic love letter to the heavy metal and classic rock that influenced them. War Gods of the Deep sound like they’re from another time, telling you of their love for VHS, Kiss and horror movies without any irony. They’re a blast of refreshment in the current toxic political air.
Recommended song: “This Evil”
Thanks to artists like Chance the Rapper, Chicago is known for its rap scene. But the city’s punk-rock landscape has been reinvigorated with acts like Melkbelly. Formed in 2013, the band is a family affair of sorts; its members include husband-and-wife Miranda and Bart Winters, on vocals and guitar respectively, and Bart’s brother Liam on bass. Joining them is drummer James Wetzel, the sole member who’s no relation to the others.
Years after their debut EP, “Pennsylvania,” Lenny Gilmore released its full-length debut, “Nothing Valley,” in October. The first single, “Kid Kreative,” shows off Miranda’s cool, dreamy vocals and the band’s brash, yet controlled sound. While the fuzzy guitars, sleepy vibe and poignant lyrics may remind you of the days when MTV still played music, Melkbelly doesn’t sound like a carbon copy of bands from yesteryear. It’s more like someone captured nineties alternative music and let it loose on 2017.
Recommended song: “Kid Kreative”
Chicago music isn’t all about rap and rock; search hard enough and you’ll find some homegrown Americana—in the case of our next act, with a twist. After years of classical training, singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Teri Bracken decided she wanted something more raw from her music and teamed up with like-minded musicians to form Brontë Fall, a seven-piece band that mixes classic American rhythms with pop-rock, adding a hint of country and a dash of classical for good measure.
There are moments when the band recalls Dixie Chicks during their “Not Ready to Make Nice” phase. Compositions range from hard-edged to hauntingly gorgeous, Bracken’s voice is chillingly powerful one moment, sweetly crooning the next, and the way the players blend genres makes for a unique and gripping listening experience.
Recommended song: “Catches Fire”
Kanye West and Chance the Rapper may be among Chicago’s greatest exports, but another rapper quickly rising to the top is G Herbo. Born on the South Siide, also known as “Terror Town” for high levels of violence and gang activity, the twenty-two-year-old started his career with the single “Kill Shit,” which is closing in on thirty million views on YouTube. He released his first mixtape, “Welcome to Fazoland,” in 2014; four others would follow, along with two EPs, earning Herbo notoriety along the way.
What makes him stand out? Brutal honesty and brevity when it comes to Chicago violence, a topic on everyone’s lips both in and beyond the city. With tracks like “Red Snow,” Herbo waxes philosophical on what’s going on and what needs to be done. He’s not afraid to get gritty and raw, and he doesn’t sugarcoat anything. With political tensions at an all-time high, it’s refreshing to hear a rapper getting real and fearless about important issues we shouldn’t ignore.
Recommended song: “Red Snow”
Sleep On It
“Pop punk” has become a dirty term, and bands described as such aren’t seen as serious musicians; but Chicago natives Sleep On It show the post-punk label is nothing to be ashamed of. Lead guitarist TJ Horansky formed the band back in 2012 with Jacob Marquis (guitar), AJ Khah (bass), Luka Fischman (drums) and John Cass (vocals). The group released their debut EP, “Everything, All At Once” in 2014. Their follow-up, “Safe Again,” came a year later, during which time Cass left the band. Rather than slowing down, the remaining players pushed forward, writing new music and recruiting new lead singer, Zech Pluister. After its 2016 EP, “Lost Along the Way,” the band released its first full-length LP, “Overexposed,” on November 11. This is pop-punk at its finest. The music is bouncy, upbeat and full of sing-along-worthy hooks. An upcoming tour with label-mates and pop-punk favorites Waterparks should help “Sleep On It” break out of the local scene in a big way.
Recommended Song: “Unspoken”
Ashley Perez Hollingsworth is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, Chicago Music, Illinois Entertainer, Chicago Innerview, The Millions, and Reality-Comics. She also runs her own music blog, Radio Not Found. When she’s not obsessing about music or gushing over her favorite new bands, she likes spending her downtime reading, sewing, and getting way too frustrated at video games.