music, Music Reviews, New Music, New Releases, Rock Music, Rock'n'Roll, The Warning, Villarreal Sisters

The Wait is Over! ERROR, the Latest Full Album by The Warning Is Here!

Recorded in 2020, the release of ERROR was delayed for two years due to the pandemic leading to a late 2021 release of the MAYDAY EP comprising six of the tracks that are included on ERROR. The new album includes the brief instrumental “INTRO 404” as well as the bonus track “BREATHE” plus six other tracks, beyond the recently released single “MONEY”, the title track and newest single, “ERROR”, “AMOUR” – which features a verse sung in French, “KOOL AID KIDS”, “REVENANT”, and “23”.

If you haven’t yet heard of The Warning (or haven’t read my previous review dated 1.18.22 for their MAYDAY EP) the band consists of three hard-rocking sisters from Monterrey, Mexico who have been performing together for over ten years. They began as children recording videos of music covers from such bands as Metallica, Muse, Foo Fighters, Twisted Sister, and more, several of those videos have long since gone viral. They are currently under contract with Lava/Republic Records. ERROR is their third studio offering, the two previous albums – XXI CENTURY BLOOD and QUEEN OF THE MURDER SCENE were independently produced and financed by their ever-growing legion of fans. They have released two EPs: ESCAPE THE MIND and the aforementioned MAYDAY. Their discography also includes NARCISISTA, a stand-alone single performed in their native Spanish, and ENTER SANDMAN, a reimagining of Metallica’s chart-topping single. The Warning’s version features Grammy Award-Winning artist Alessia Cara and was included on last year’s 30th Anniversary Black List tribute album.

Dany (Daniela Villarreal), 22, the band’s lead guitarist who also plays piano, is the lead vocalist on the new tracks: “MONEY”, “AMOUR”, “ERROR”, and “KOOL AID KIDS”. Her range is well established from their previous releases. She has a powerful Rock voice! Think Lzzy Hale level. She has that sort of ability and still, I think there is potential to grow. She is always busy on the stage, crafting the guitar sound with her pedalboard between stretches of “Dany Dancing”, hopping around, and engaging the crowd with her self-deprecating humor and energetic stage presence. She is a human dynamo that powers the band on stage, not that her sisters aren’t contributing their energy to one another, but you can see the difference whenever she is under the weather, as she was for a couple of shows during the recent Mayday Tour.

Pau (Paulina Villarreal), 20, who is the band’s regular background vocalist as well as the percussionist and occasional pianist, serves as lead vocalist on three of the new tracks -“23”, “REVENANT”, and “BREATHE”. Although she sings lead on other tracks from previous releases and all of them are fan favorites, I find her voice raspier and perhaps more emotional though her range as a belter hasn’t compared to her sister, Dany – or at least not until this album. “BREATHE” is a simple but powerful and emotional acoustic track featuring Pau’s talent on the keys, the same piano on which TW composes their songs. I think the three tracks featuring her voice will introduce her to the wider world as a gifted lead vocalist.

Ale (Alejandra Villarreal), 17, the youngest of the sisters, is the bassist and background vocalist who anchors the instrumental elements of the band, consistently laying down the rhythmic foundation with inventive runs around the chord sequences. Listen to “KOOL AID KIDS” for a great example of what she does to compensate for the lack of a rhythm guitar. Also, listen to the driving bass lines of “Z” that carry the song while the guitar is absent under the lead vocal. She is the perfect complement to her sisters for the power trio concept. The Warning would not be as hard-hitting without her. Her work on “ANIMOSITY” is also worth a listen. For whatever reason, the bass is sometimes subdued in the overall mix on this album – meaning you have to listen for it. But if you pay attention you will quickly appreciate Ale’s ability to drive the songs.

My Take:

Many if not most fans of The Warning will claim they are the greatest Rock band ever. Despite the hyperbole, they may have that level of potential. The fact is they write great songs, consistently. Some comment that they are still so young, as if that is some kind of curse, or that their abilities are so impressive because of their youth. Historically, most recording artists have achieved their best work well before age 30. So, I rather think they are just now entering their prime creative years. The composition process usually starts with Pau at the piano in their house. She also serves as the band’s primary lyricist. Dany and Ale contribute in the collaboration with their instrumental parts before the trio debates any changes to adjust for nuance to refine the song. You see, they each have specialties though they are multi-instrumentalists. There are some amusing videos out and about on the Internet of each of them attempting to teach their sisters how to play a different instrument. I wouldn’t count any of them out at mastering another instrument, at least enough to perform on stage for a song or two, but none of them are there quite yet. But I think it is a good exercise, learning to appreciate the subtleties of crafting a song on a different instrument.

The band is certainly gaining attention and frankly, I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. Will these ladies ever write a bad song? Well, they have over 50 in their current discography and a solid case can be made that there isn’t a single filler tune in the lot. They are adventurous and ambitious, having composed and recorded a ‘rock opera’ when the eldest member of the band, Dany was 17 or 18 years old. A music video that accompanied the title song of their debut album, XXI Century Blood won awards. It’s debatable whether anything they do is groundbreaking except to say that they are rare as an entirely female rock trio, and rarely yet that they don’t overtly play up to the hypersexuality one might expect from marketing an all-female group. They let the quality of their music become the featured selling point and it is for this reason I eagerly look forward to their future. They have four more albums remaining in their current contract and I bet there will be plenty more after.

Obviously, The Warning didn’t have much of a choice about when to release these songs. Not only did the pandemic intervene to thwart their efforts for a smooth process, but it also twice delayed their North American Tour in support of the release of their MAYDAY EP before finally realizing a successful start earlier this year. Since the EP songs appear on ERROR, they have been performing half of the new album’s songs live as they have traversed the US and eastern Canada, meeting their fans and performing to adoring crowds. Several of their appearances were sold out.

Of the new tracks, ERROR and AMOUR are likely the most commercially viable candidates for immediate airplay. They feature Dany’s powerful voice and follow the tradition of their earlier singles CHOKE and EVOLVE. However, I find the new tracks that feature Pau’s vocals most intriguing. They are a bit more subdued that the usual fare I’ve come to expect from The Warning. Pau’s voice has always been always a refreshing change-up from her sister’s, lending a husky rawness that stands out. But here Pau’s voice presents a level of softness that we haven’t heard before. Even though the role of her vocals is more often to blend and harmonize, her performance on the three tracks that feature her is a stunning example of her potential for a front person, something I’d love to see more of in the future. Also, having two lead vocalists in the band (as Pau has performed in the lead role on several of their past songs and occasionally substituted for Dany in a pinch whenever her sister was ill) allows Dany’s voice to rest during a concert. As the band’s tour schedule expands in the near future to become even more rigorous, this ability to change things up with the vocals will become increasingly important. Even Ale, who rarely sings lead, has pitched in to help out from time to time. Those unicorn moments are revered among faithful fans and fan musicians who understand the complexities of being able to play an instrument while singing, especially singing lead while playing bass guitar. That must require the use of two different parts of the brain.

There is a special feeling about the ERROR album that belies its lyrics. It is a concept album in the truest sense, though not as overtly as its predecessor, Queen of The Murder Scene. The songs share a thread of continuity and an overall theme. The ladies readily borrow elements of style from their musical influences, but what they produce is distinctly their own take on Rock music – a reinvention of what is possible in the genre. Several of the new songs have the potential for airplay and even reach the mainstream pop charts. Will that happen? Who is to say? The music industry has been trying to bury the genre since at least the mid-1990s. But what is more Rock’n’Roll than coming back from the dead as a new generation adopts the rebelliousness that allows for the greatest possible freedom to express? The Warning has all of that in spades. Don’t be deceived by their youthful cuteness or diminutive sizes. They are predators, albeit disarmingly attractive ones, aiming to take the world, one song at a time.

We can expect more great things from The Warning as their fanbase continues to expand based on the exposure their music is now receiving through airplay and featuring at sporting events. I can’t wait to see what they do next. With over fifty tracks in their current discography, I have yet to hear a song I don’t like. That’s pretty rare. Their lyrics are never ill-guided or meaningless fluff. These young women have something to say and being multi-lingual, they’re more than able to communicate to the masses on a level that is rare in Rock music. Yes, most of their songs are composed in English, but their command of the language is impressive considering their ages. They have very slight accents that are easily overlooked. And in concert, there are a lot of native English speakers venturing a few words of Spanish as they sing along to MARTIRO and NARCISISTA and beg ‘otra’ when it’s time for an encore.

Rumor has it they are working on a tour of the UK and Europe for next year. But closer to home, this Summer they are touring with Halestorm, The Pretty Reckless, Lilith Czar, and later in the Fall, they will be touring Canada with Three Days Grace. With this level of exposure before larger crowds, expect future US and Canadian tours to be on a grander scale in much larger venues. If you didn’t see them on this tour, you may have missed your chance at catching an intimate performance in a small club.

For more information: THE WARNING BAND

Mexico, Monterrey, New Music, Rock Music, Rock'n'Roll, Uncategorized, Villarreal Sisters

Finding Inspiration: A Review of Rock’s Latest Power Trio – The Warning

Remember when Heart was a novelty because they had sisters as the lead singer and the lead guitarist? Remember The Runaways featuring Joan Jet? What about The Go-Go’s, The Bangles, The Ronettes, or The Supremes? You didn’t know there were that many female bands in the classic rock period 60’s, 70’s, and Early 80’s? Don’t feel alone. It was a rarity to be sure. The industry seemed determined to package the Rock’n’Roll lifestyle embodied in male vocals often singing in falsetto with males playing the guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards. There were some exceptions like Fleetwood Mac or the Talking Heads, where women played keyboards or bass guitar while also singing, but it was far from the norm.

The music industry has changed a lot since then. I was about to say it’s evolved, but in many ways, it’s devolved into its current state of overhyped, autotuned, commercial tripe. Supposedly, Rock died around 1996. At least that’s when I first heard someone proclaim that. At the time, I thought it was an uninformed opinion. You see, Rock music has always been rebellious and at least initially counter-cultural, distinct from the mainstream, even when it dominated the music charts and was considered the principal money-making vehicle for the industry. I believed it was wishful thinking on the part of tone-deaf executives looking to create a factory system to churn out cookie-cutter pop stars that they could exploit while ever cashing in on the latest trend. But then came Napster and later on Ipods. Music became more portable than just a CD or cassette player you could walk around with while you rocked out to tunes pouring into your ears through earbuds. It could be digitally converted into a compressed format suitable for sending and receiving over the Internet and storing en masse on a disc drive for easy playback.

I think a certain branch of Rock music actually did die around 1996. It was the sort that was heavily rooted in the Blues, the sort of stuff that Clapton and Page played, the kind of music that continued to live through Stevie Ray Vaughn until his untimely death, yet hangs on even now because it is essential and evokes a visceral response. Much to the detriment of the overall Rock genre and its many splintered sub-genres going off in different directions, along unusual tangents, its soul was anchored in the past to The Blues to which the up and coming artists rarely paid homage. Modern Rock became abstract, disjointed, and disconnected from the gut-punching emotion that has driven it from the mid-fifties until the nineties. Continuing forward as a viable medium depended on adopting some of the very things that were killing it.

Meanwhile, the Grammies began snubbing Rock bands, pushing their awards into the lower tiers of importance, not even worth a mention on the awards broadcast. Oh well, it had been a while since anyone in Rock took those awards seriously anyway, perhaps since Jethro Tull was picked as the best Heavy Metal band over Metallica, much to the surprise of anyone who followed either group and the chagrin of both bands. And being a Rocker from way back, I frankly never gave a crap about the Grammies. Only occasionally did they ever get things right in my estimation, about as often as the proverbial blind squirrel finds the elusive acorn. As proof, how many bands currently enshrined in the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame never won a Grammy? But then again, The Hall of Fame’s credibility is often suspect as well. They seem notoriously slow to honor some of the greatest bands of all time.

I mention all this because long ago I sold my collection of vinyl albums. It was cumbersome to transport and I had entered a period of nomadic existence, exploring the world. Now, I pay monthly for the immediacy and portability of Spotify because I can take it anywhere, even if I only listen to it whenever I’m writing or editing. As important as music has always been to me, things have changed so radically over the past twenty-five or so years that very little about the current environment excites me. Certainly, there are some talented bands that stand out as exceptions, but you have to dig through the multiple layers of superficial crap on top to get to them because I’m convinced, the music industry does not want to give you and me anything truly fresh and original. They want to keep regurgitating the same tired tropes in the same mundane genres that already pollute the commercial airwaves of our corporately controlled world.

But then a band came along, a new power trio that serves as an inspiration, countering the prevailing narrative, bucking the system, maintaining artistic integrity, and all of a sudden it feels like there is a chance for a resurrection of Rock, performed the way it should be, the way it should have always been. They connect with their fans directly via social media on a regular basis and members of their ‘army’ have traveled from as far away as Europe, South America, Canada, Australia, and from all across the US to attend their live shows. And maybe – just maybe – you, too, are about to be warned.

The Warning: Alejandra (left), Paulina (center), Daniela (right).

A few months ago I discovered (or rather rediscovered) The Warning, the trio of Villarreal sisters from Monterrey, Mexico. The band is bi-lingual, singing most of their songs in English. Daniela (Dany), the eldest at 21, plays the lead guitar and sings lead on most of their songs. Paulina (Pau), at 19, pounds the drumkit and sings backing vocals except for several times when she takes over the lead. Alejandra (Ale), at 17, is the youngest but curiously the tallest of the three, though she claims she is also short. She plucks and slaps the bass while she also sings background vocals. All three play piano, having taken lessons from an early age. In fact, all three compose their original music on the same piano in their home where they learned. Some of their songs utilize the keyboard and when performed live, one or another of the trio switches from their primary role.

Like a lot of people, I first heard of The Warning in 2015 when they appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. At the time they were a curiosity – a novelty of some note, mind you – because they were so young (Ale was 9 at the time) and yet already so professional. Their schtick was doing competent covers of metal songs like Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, Guns and Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine”, and AC/DC’s “Back in Black”. But the fact that they could play real instruments with such a high level of skill should have served as my warning to keep a closer eye on their further development. You see, they took advantage of every opportunity beginning with a YouTube video gone viral. They leveraged the flash-in-the-pan fame of millions of views to launch a Kickstarter to fund their first recording sessions and live performances. And with the help of Ellen granting them a summer course at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, they were primed to focus on a career as professional songwriters and musicians.

Seven years, two EP’s, and two albums later, they have become an inspiration to a lot of young girls who dream of one day following in their footsteps to become rock stars, or at least learning how to play an instrument or two and experience the beauty of creating music. And it’s about time for that to become the norm in music. The sisters have crafted a system for maintaining control over their art, having released all but their most recent EP with only the organic funding from their fan base’s purchases of their albums, clothing items, and swag on their website as well as the loyal support of their followers on Patreon. And over the past few years, they have opened for such legendary acts as Aerosmith, Def Leppard, and Alice Cooper and plan to open for The Foo Fighters for a show on their upcoming tour.

In August of 2020, following lengthy negotiations spanning several months, The Warning signed a contract with Lava/Republic Records to produce the first of five albums for the label with multi-platinum award-winning producer David Bendeth while the band retained an almost unprecedented level of control over the process. Now, along with a growing handful of youthful bands, The Warning is already at the vanguard of Rock’s resurrection.

Their debut EP with Lava/Republic, titled “Mayday”, which was released on October 8, 2021, features six original songs. I’ve heard that its release resulted from a compromise with the label that wanted to delay the release of a full album due to current market conditions caused by the resurgence of the pandemic. The band had already begun launching and promoting singles since May of 2021 in anticipation of a tour, and they wanted to maintain the momentum they’d already achieved from the popular songs and music videos that had created a buzz throughout their growing fanbase, including a number of reaction channels on YouTube.

The EP’s first track, “Disciple” is a driving rocker warning us about our dependence on social media and the influence of those wanting to control us. “Choke” is about the feeling of being stifled and dominated by others. “Animosity” is a rage song that is ostensibly about breaking up with someone but written in such a way as to be construed in a number of other ways. “Z” is about being born into the world of Generation ‘Z’. “Evolve” is about overcoming expectations to become yourself. And “Martirio”, the final cut on the EP and the only one sung in Spanish, is about Martyrdom where some live a life dedicated only to the sacrifice of self. Additional material is expected later this year as either another EP or a full album comprising the original songs along with the previously unreleased material. I don’t know which is the official plan as I’ve heard rumors of both.

The Warning was also slated to begin a North American tour back in 2020 which was first delayed but then canceled due to the spread of Covid. A new tour was scheduled to begin this month but has also been delayed due to the surge of cases. Expect new dates to be announced for later this year when, hopefully, things get back to normal and we can all enjoy live music performances again. But until then we have “Mayday” and the back catalog of their first EP, “Escape the Mind”, and their two albums, “XXI Century Blood” and “Queen of the Murder Scene”, along with solo single releases of “Narcisista”, their first single performed in Spanish which serves as a response to those who complained about them singing only in English, and “Enter Sandman” (featuring Alessia Cara), a track from “Metallica Blacklist”, a Thirtieth Anniversary tribute to the Black album’s release comprising covers performed by over fifty artists.

The Warning Band’s website