Album Review – “Dopamine Noir” by Pain In The Yeahs

Pain In The Yeah’s “Dopamine Noir,” was released in February, 2018, but many of the songs on this album have stayed with me and made me want revisit it multiple times and finally write this review.

There’s a lot of music out there about wild nights and living like there’s no regret, and then there’s Dopamine Noir. The album opens with a deep breath and hectic hi-hats on I Got Sick, a song that could soundtrack the blurred memory of my first house party where booze was involved (“I’m feeling like I don’t belong / I got sick”) and the energy crescendos all the way through All I Need Is Your Blood, a song that effectively made me feel as if I was being peer pressured into some sort of vampire-hipster hazing ritual.

But then this album does something very special. If the first three songs were intentionally crafted to weave a story of excess, bad decisions, and paranoia (and I suspect they might have been), Drinking With The Boys is that moment, late one night, when right before you try to sabotage an important relationship (again), it dawns on you that, maybe, too many of your problems are because of avoidable lifestyle choices and you can finally admit that you’re “Tired of bars/Tired of shows/Tired of d-d-drinking with the boys.”

While Drinking With The Boys is my favorite song (the chorus has become sort of an anthem of empowerment and empathy for me), Sick On A Sunny Day is also excellent and is perfectly placed right after it as, what sounds like, an enlightened hangover. James Wagner’s vocal sounds even more tired and sick than it does on the album’s opener and the instruments interrupt and almost stumble all over each other as the song progresses. It almost sounds like the drum machine is going haywire and the musicians haven’t even had their morning coffee yet, but if you listen closely, you realize that the craftsmanship and sonic storytelling here is extraordinary. Almost as if fed up with itself and its attempts at self-sabotage, the song tightens up near the end; the drums steady and a simple, but effective, synth melody hints towards some semblance of hope, resolve, and posture.

However, if there’s a narrative thread to be told on Dopamine Noir, it doesn’t end just there. The refrain of French Noir (“Well you might as well keep me around / and make excuses to come and see me”), the opening lines of Psychic Vampires (“…I don’t want you / and my body doesn’t want you / anymore than I do”), and the opening line of Exile On Colley Ave (“Hey, I know you hate me…”) suggest that resolving to avoid or abstain from destructive habits isn’t as simple as it sounds if your social life, and the people closest to you in it, can’t function the same way without them. If Drinking With The Boys and Sick On A Sunny Day are about recognizing a problem and resolving to correct it, these next three songs play like a tragic chronicle of the fallout from that decision.

The album ends with Flowers Will Wilt and Push Back The Touch, two slower and more atmospheric tracks that both sound, to me, like a hard and difficult farewell to toxic relationships with friends and, perhaps more importantly, to a toxic relationship with the self.

Only Black

I woke up this morning to stumble across an amazing video using my song, Only Black,” published on a YouTube channel by piperbrigadista. I was completely blown away by how well these visuals worked with my song and, after I wiped my tears away, immediately shared this on my social media. Huge thanks to Piper for sharing my music and for pairing it with such stunning visuals!

If you’re into this kind of music, definitely subscribe piperbrigadista’s YouTube channel to discover some other very cool acts, and if you’re feeling this video and the song, please feel free to share it around on your social media too!

“The Bad Ideas We Build Worlds” Release update

Now that “The Bad Ideas We Build Worlds is out, some really cool things have started to happen! Some of you have already started buying the album digitally or on CD and largely thanks to the support I’ve already started to get, I’ve been able to throw a little money at a limited T-Shirt run and I’ll also have Cassette tapes available in a month or two.

The best place to get these things will always be at shows if you can make it out, but merchandise is also available at so make sure to subscribe there or check back periodically as I come out with more stuff.

Below is a list of dates I’m currently confirmed to be playing live. Hope to see you at one of them!

April 13: Roanoke, VA. At The Front Row. (W/ Type Trauma)

April 17: Charlottesville, VA. At Goth Night. (Album Release Party rescheduled date)

April 22: Norfolk, VA. At Charlie’s American Cafe. (W/ Fad Nauseum, Unmaker, and Gothic Lizard)

May 12: Norfolk, VA. At 37th & Zen. (Live @ The Black Gala event by Aftermath: A Dark Revolution)

May 26: Chesapeake, VA. At Riffhouse Pub. (W/ The Cemetery Boys and Gothic Lizard)

Some Important Dates

I’m very very happy to announce that I’ll be celebrating my next album release as The Purge in Charlottesville on March 20th at its infamous Goth Night!

The Purge - Album Cover - The Bad Ideas We Build Worlds

Show Details!

The album should also go live for most online distributors on the 20th as well.

I have a new single from the album releasing on February 10th, as well. The song is “It’s a Bad Idea,” and if you’ve seen me play it live recently then you already know what it’s about. For those of you who don’t… Well, let’s just say that sometimes we try to do the wrong thing for the right reasons and cause ourselves grief for way longer than we should…

Bad Idea Cover Clean

The album will also feature the songs “Faith & Trust” and “The Danse.” There are 10 tracks on this album, so ultimately that means 7 of them are previously unreleased material and I’m very excited to share it all with you!

I took a very long hiatus from doing anything too serious with my music over the last few years, but I never really stopped writing and I never stopped recording. During that time I brushed up on my synth knowledge and built on a lot of the sounds and techniques I’d developed with my old band, Gutter Gloss. The result of that work is Nur Black:



I’m close to enough material for a full release with Nur Black, and I’ll be doing my first live performance very soon, on February 7th at Fallout with a couple of incredibly cool touring acts, Esoterik and Espermachine!

Please come out and support these hard-working artists and enjoy some great live music.

I know life is a hustle-and-a-half for most of us, and I appreciate every one of you who take the time to follow what I’m doing!

Much love,



My 2017 started, quite literally, with a bang. In January, I was hit by a car while crossing the street and, somehow, managed to avoid dying, developing long-term complications, or even breaking any bones!


I suppose it felt like, for the first time in probably forever, that I had a lot I needed to tend to and needed things to be okay. Just before the new year, I’d taken the step of buying my first house with my long-time girlfriend and the boy I’ve raised as my son since he was born. While I didn’t fully recover from the accident for many months (my right earlobe was shredded and a serious risk for infection and my right knee couldn’t bend from the trauma), I was determined to make things feel as close to normal as I could and was back at work in just under a week. I hope I never forget the look on the regional manager’s face when he came to visit and was spooked half-to-death when he saw what I was doing and in what condition! I don’t say any of this to brag about my work ethic because, believe me, I’m far from perfect there, but this year forced me to fight through things I didn’t know I could.

I was working full-time, raising a child, getting my M.S., and paying a mortgage. I had no time to seriously pity myself or even try to get physical therapy. I’m lucky that my job at Chipotle gave me such a physically demanding routine and all the fresh food I could eat! Without that, I’m not sure I’d have recovered half as well as I did.

My handling of the accident, it turned out, was important practice because, as traumatizing as that was, the worst was yet to come.


Life in the new house was mostly fantastic! Being around to read and play with my son was stupendously rewarding, but more rewarding still was the feeling that, yes, in fact, I was supporting a family. My partner, I would find out, was living a very different life.

She’d been working night shifts and taking all the overtime over weekends she could get. I was proud of her and how was knocking down her debts, but the situation seemed to be putting more strains on the relationship than it should have. What little time we did have together became distant and cold. Intimacy evaporated and it started to be too much, but when I confronted her she’d told me that her medications were mostly to blame. She was lying when she told me that, but I believed it and did everything I could to be supportive and cope with my own dissatisfaction until one day in late June, a week or so after both mine and my son’s birthday, she came clean: She’d been having an affair for months and had been trying to position herself financially as to not need my support anymore.

It’s important to say that I had not been a perfect partner and, roughly a year and a half or so into our relationship I had been unfaithful and it had been absolutely devastating to work through that, but we had. I’d gone so far as to arrange and pay for couples therapy and, by her own account, since then I had done absolutely everything right. 2017 taught me that’s not enough sometimes.

So, in August, I moved back in with my parents and the transition has been almost dementing (I love if you’re reading this, but I actually kind of like folding my own laundry). My commute to work became nonsensical and my emotions were, and really still are, all over the place. Being a year from my teaching license and degree, I applied for work a Teaching Assistant and got it and, to help cope with all the insanity, I leaned into my music in ways I really hadn’t for years.

Because of my relationship with music and my career path as an educator, it has literally been my job to reflect on my experiences during a year when all I wanted to do sometimes was give up or shut down or worse and, now that the year is really ending, I’m reflecting again.

Some of us have lost loved ones this year or had things go in directions they were never supposed to go. There’s no way to be glib about that, but I know for me, and probably many of us, this next year needs to be about healing. If you’re reading this and are someone who is still trying to make sense of it all, don’t feel rushed because of the season. Life is hard enough..

I’ve met so many people this year.. New and amazing people and reconnections with old friends. Through my job and through my music I’ve thrown myself into crazy situations and received more validation than my self-conscious little heart can handle sometimes. As I’m pretty sure Katt Williams once said, “My cup overfloweth and I ain’t even thirsty!” So, with that feeling, I’m trying to start 2018 off with a raised cup somewhere, probably filled with Coke Zero, and hoping that I can heal my heart the same way I healed my body in 2017.

The Cemetery Boys, An Album Review

Debut Album with bat. The flying kind. Not the baseball kind.

Debut Album with bat. The flying kind. Not the baseball kind.

Delivered in a plain paper sleeve, this ubiquitous black disc is the debut studio release of Edgar Graves’ brainchild, The Cemetery Boys. This minimal packaging is an extension of The Cemetery Boys’ minimal aesthetic, and theirs is a surprisingly welcome approach in an age where computer music has given artists almost limitless options for expression. Produced by Hampton Roads’ own Patrick Walsh, the only instruments besides voice you’ll hear on this album are drums and electric bass guitar. If the sound of that makes you feel a little skeptical, don’t worry. You’ve probably never heard bass guitar sound quite like this.


If you neglected to notice the absence of a guitarist credit on the label or have never seen the band live before, you may not even realize right away that there’s no guitarist. “At Midnite,” the albums first song, begins with what sounds like a distant guitar riff buried in radio fuzz, but it’s quickly revealed that there is some seriously impressive low end here as the introductory facade gives way to the actual song. This witch’s brew of distortion and tone that Mr. Graves has created for his bass acts as a glue in the mix, binding everything together without the need for complex harmonies or too many complimenting elements. I mean it when I say his tone sounds BIG!

You might think that such a small act would need to resort to virtuosity and showiness to keep things interesting, but that’s not really what you’ll find here. While Ed is an exceptional bass player with nigh impeccable timing, having written and performed with a drum machine for many years, this is good ol’ fashioned rock & roll songwriting and, while he indulges in the occasional solo when a song calls for it, his arrangements are absolutely void of pretension.

The Cemetery Boys performing at Zombie Wars.

The Cemetery Boys performing at Zombie Wars.

Speaking of, while the band’s overall sound is what’s most unique about them, what’s most refreshing about The Cemetery Boys are Ed Grave’s lyrics. Where so many bands who delve into doom and gloom for source inspiration try to walk that fine line between embarrassing pretension and great poetry, Ed Graves, wisely and with great affection, simply wears his love of old-school horror movies on his sleeve. From haunted hotels to the original Frankenstein movie, these songs are wrought with warm nostalgia and reverence for a time when the art of shock and special effects in cinema was just beginning to be realized.

Some potential problems do exist here. While these 9 songs are fun, they’re not particularly long. With an average run-time of only about two and a half minutes, the album reaches the benchmark for “number-of-songs-to-be-considered-an-album,” but you may still feel like it ends too soon. The final track, Transylvania, a slow hulking song that really takes advantage of the bass’s low range, ends on a somewhat tense note, which is good insofar as it leaves you wishing for more, but it’s also a little dissatisfying in that you feel a little surprised when you have to reach for the replay button. Once you’ve restarted the album, though, any grievance is quickly forgiven as the fun, catchy, and just-barely-over-the-top spookiness continues to put a smile on your face.

Edgar Von Graves playing bass.

Edgar Von Graves

It remains a legitimate challenge to see if Mr. Graves and “The Boys” can write a longer collection of material for another release without exposing too much limitation in their minimal approach and/or expand upon their sound without abandoning that practically trademark tone. With such a strong debut, however, the expectation for a follow-up seems like a good problem to have and, frankly, if Mr. Graves can keep in good standing with his muse (who I imagine might look a little like Elvira), a little “more of the same” might be all that’s required.

There’s still plenty more to write about in the horror lexicon, after all. I mean, I haven’t heard a song about zombies yet, *wink wink.*

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