30 April 2013

Erica Nockalls - Imminent Room

Reviewing this album is sort of a joy/torture moment in some ways.  The joy is getting to talk about an album I have been excited about hearing for a long time.  The torture is I have befriended the artist on Facebook and when I put this up I will at least be honest - and I always get this sort of thing when reviewing people I have seen live and met (it is like telling your friend's what you think of their shoes - something I also find hard to do).  But I will be brave, I will be brave.  This is the debut of Erica Nockalls, current violinist in The Wonder Stuff and she has also played with Fink, The Proclaimers (yes, the 5,000 miles band) and The Ting Tings.  This album was co-produced by Erica with George Taylor and features guest spots from Jeff Wayne of Carcass, as well as Wayne Hussey and Mark Geminin Thwaite of The Mission.  Now when some people hear the name The Wonder Stuff, I bet half of you reading this have either got 'Size of A Cow' or Dizzy' in your head.  But this is now what you should be doing, as this is quite far away from that relam of music.

Musically the sound is a lot darker, more brooding than Erica's day job and a wonderful mix of rock, the more bass sound of Portishead, and the poptastic sensibilities of Ladyhawke.  The thing I love about this album is that it does not just settle on one style of music - "Lover 51" sounds nothing like "I Am Me, This Is Now" but it could not have been done by anyone else correctly in some way.  Even the wonderful little strange opening of “Neon Crucifix” cannot stop this album being anything other than fantastic.  The album is a fluid stream of moments and songs that are just mesmerising.  When I first heard that this album was coming I was expecting a lot of tracks like "It's Killer, Darling" - with an emphasis on the violin, what with it being Erica's main instrument (it is also quite possibly one of my favourite off the album).  However, it is more than that type of album.  It is a like a living person - there is more than one side to it and it does not rest on one facet of the person.

Usually at this point I try to balance the review with something I did not like about the album, mainly so I do not seem like a massive fan boy.  However on this occasion the only thing I would like to say is that I wish the album was longer, and then there would be more music to enjoy.  But this is just a personal thing for me - from the opening of "Manikin" to the gentle ending of "Goodbye Spider", this is a really good album which I have no problem recommending to any who is blessed with the gift of hearing.  It is much better than the Lana Del Ray's of the world, and the injustice is that it will receive not even a 10th of the press when it deserves it more. So not a pain at all, just joy from the beginning to the end.

8.5 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

You can purchase from Amazon here

You can visit Erica's website here

You can purchase directly from Erica's website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

Museum - Traces Of

Sometime in 2012 , on my Last F.M. account I received an email (a rare occurrence I can tell you for that page), inviting me to check out a band, and politely apologising if I turned out not to be interested.  Now I don't know if it was the fact I was a little merry at the point, but I decided to give it a check out.  The track was a demo version of a song called "The Law".  So, whilst listening and wondering how this band from Hamburg in Germany had wondered into my life and thinking about how random life can be, I made a decision to catch up with any album they would release. Which brings me to today’s blog and to the following crux - is the album any good?

What comes across with this album is their love of 'Interpol', 'Placebo', 'Depeche Mode' and 'The Smiths' - whether this is true or not it is there in buckets.  This band have sound that is so rooted in the sounds and textures that it could have came from no other place than that angsty-Anglo rock sound that the American's such as 'Interpol' were creating a few years ago.  This band sound so un-German it is unreal in some ways, but I also hear a lot of fellow Teutons 'Kent'. Over the course of the 11 tracks we get a variety of sounds from the grand opening of "A Feast Is A Feast", the superior "The Law" (which was in the ATTIWLTMOWOS top tracks of 2012), the indie stomp of "Eden" to the closing bravado of "Uncorrupted".  It is a very polished and a good debut.

However I don't know why, I find it hard to fall in love with this album in the way I wanted to.  I do like it, but maybe I was expecting more after the glory that was "The Law", and whilst the other tracks are good the rest of the album did not live up to that track for me.  With that said, I would like to add this is still an amazing album which should be making bigger waves around Europe and the rest of the world.  How it has not been picked up in the UK is beyond me and it is much better than half the rubbish which is currently being shown as the Emperor’s New Clothes.  For people blessed with the gift of hearing and taste.

7.5 out of ten - This is good and well worth a check

You can purchase from here

You can visit their website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

27 April 2013

Guns N Roses - Use Your Illusion 1

In 1991 the music scene was a lot different to what it is now.  Hair metal was still ruling in America, Faith No More were still in love with the Chili Peppers, Nirvana were just another random punk band trying to make it and Madonna was a slut. Ok, maybe one of them is the same but back then, Guns N Roses were still called the most dangerous band in the world.  This is something that I have always had a problem with, yes they know lots of swear words, yes they had a cool edge - but the only thing that might happen was Axl might throw his toys out of the pram again. I find it hard to be scared of a man who wore white legings with roses.  But when this album came out I was very excited.  This was the first of two albums which were both at the top of the UK charts and probably did the same around the world.  I will be reviewing both separately and will give my overall thoughts of the whole project at the end of UYI2, but how was the first one - did it live up to expectations or not?

As an album this record has some of GNRS finest moments.  They had really upped their song writing game for this project. With songs like "Don't Cry", "November Rain" (I will get back to that song later), "Coma" (the stand out track of the whole project) and "Dead Horse".  Also you the classic cover of the Wings Bond theme "Live & Let Die".  When this album soars it is a great record.  But due to this being part of a double album project it also suffers from having too much on offer and quality control.  Some of the songs on this album have just never stacked up for me.  Even with Alice Cooper appearing on the track "The Garden" just drags like a bad Sunday afternoon, as much as I personally like "Don't Damm Me" it is hardly an essential track and could have easily been a decent b-side to a single (if you are too young to know what a proper single is, ask your parents) and "You Ain't The First" is a joke that belongs in the rehearsal room at the best.

Certain songs have improved with age it must be said.  When I was younger I did not like "Bad Apples" with its blues, funky piano and to be honest at the time I thought a generic solo - but now it is a great little number which has grown in charm.  I wish the same could be said with "November Rain".  Maybe it is over familiarity, but I cannot listen to the beginning of that song (it was the same with "Sweet Child O' Mine" from 'Appetite For Destruction') without wanting to throw the nearest object at the cd/mp3 player. It is over the top and dull as dish water after a Sunday lunch, but once it get to the bridge for the end it transforms into this amazing song which can still send shivers down my spine.  This is the only reason I have not deleted it from my memory. With half of the album not exactly being above decent, it is hard to remain excited about this album.

Overall the first part whilst have a small smattering of greatness it could have used quality control.  But that said it is still an improvement in range and style for 'Appetite For Destruction', they were brave in some ways which is commendable (something rarely aimed at GNRS).  It is worthy of a decent mark, but I still have that gut feeling that will not go away.  I will speak about this more on the next review for part 2......

7 out of ten - This is good and well worth a check

You can purchase the album from here

You can visit the website here

You can listen to the album here on Spotify

Overkill - The Electric Age

I think I may have picked the wrong album to review here.  Some music is just supposed to be reviewed by Chris Jermyn (our resident Lord of Trash), but this is where I ended up on my random choices this week so I have to pick up the gauntlet of trash for the team and plough straight into the first Overkill album I have ever listen to in my life. Brief history lesson - formed in 1980 in New Jersey, only singer Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth and bassist D.D. Verni remaining from the original line-up, this band has had many line up changes and at one point Dan Spitz from Anthrax was amongst their ranks.  Also, like a proper trash metal band they have an iconic logo mascot in the form of "Chaly", a skeletal bat with a skull-like face, horns, bony wings, and green eyes which is on most of the albums.  Whilst never setting the world media on fire, they have always been popular in the metal magazine (well, before they turned into Smash Hits - ala Kerrang).  Now here is the chance for Overkill to impress someone who has always been curious as to what they sound like.

Now if you are looking for ballads, serious songs about the environment or metal with a dubstep influence, I recommend looking elsewhere.  You are not going to find it hear and you may need your ears cleaned out anyway if you want dubstep influenced thrash metal.  This album is as honest a thrash metal album as I have ever heard.  This does mean that they are not exactly reinventing the wheel - like most sub-genres of metal there is little room for change because the audience does not expect of want this. So from the beginning the band has trouble in making a wider audience interested.  But what if that is not their aim.  I personally think that this is an advantage that they do care what the rest of the world wants and have kept to what they want to do. This is their strongest card and my deity do they play it well.

From the beginning of this album to the end, there is no let up in the speed or guitar solos.  This is where all the solos from Metallica's St. Anger went to be appreciated.  I love the fact that this is an amazing piece of thrash metal that does not try to keep up with the in crowd.  Opening track "Come And Get It" starts things rolling with its brooding opening and from there to "Good Night" (the only track to have the acoustic guitar opening before the trash comes back in (a trash metal album must)) you are rarely below the speed manic.  Only "Old Wounds, New Scars" dips the quality of this record.  Whilst not a world changer, it is certainly a game changer for me at least.  Overkill, you have impressed me and I can also report that Mr Jermyn is impressed too.  If you are even curious what modern trash would sound like by legends of the genre, this is the record to start with.

9.5 out of ten - Almost perfect....Almost

You can purchase it from here

You can visit the band's website

You can listen to the album on Spotify

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