27 June 2013

The Killers - Battle Born

This band is one of those acts who court controversy in my group of friends.  A few of them think they are alright, a few love them, a couple want to wipe them from the planet for taking the Manchester indie sound and making it their own via Las Vegas.  I have my own thoughts, but let’s look at the band first.  The band was formed in 2001 and took their name from a fictional band in the video for "Crystal" by New Order.  They have made released four albums and are now considered one of the biggest rock acts currently on tour, selling out arenas and headling festivals across the globe.  This is their fourth release which was unleashed in 2012, and whilst some more refined blog teams might start at the beginning of a band's career, here at ATTIWLTMOWOS we tend to have a happy go lucky approach to this type of thing.  So, to start at the latest release and are the band ready for this battle?

Now when making this album, the band worked with five producers due to conflicting schedules - Steve Lillywhite, Damian Taylor, Brendan O'Brien, Stuart Price, and Daniel Lanois - which does make this album slightly disjointed in places. There are 14 recording staff credits on this album, some of the producers working on the same song. How did the band ever make a decision on this record!!! The songs might flow, but the overall performance and focus of instrumentation changes too much to make it a smooth and easy record that is The Killers usual standard.  Another thing which the band seems to have forgotten on this one is their ability to have at least 4 songs per album that will be single and standards to their lengthily show sets.  There is more filler on this album than on any of their other releases which have came beforehand. 

Now there is some shining moments here - all three tracks produced by Brendan O'Brien are the best tracks on this album - "Runaways", "The Way It Was" & "Here With Me" - just proving that this man still has it (even if "Runaways" has another two people working on it as well"), and I think that "A Matter of Time" is another attempt at a stadium moment, with the big hook ending.  The thing is that a stadium rock album should feel natural, it is not rocket science and it does not have as many people behind the desk.  By the time I got to the end of the album, I was left deflated by the album; it was not what I was looking for and just feels emptier than it should.  This does not work on the level that it is aiming for; it just falls short and as a Killers fan I find it disappointing. Hopefully it is a blip and they will get there gold touch back.  Only time will tell on that one, but the hiatus that they had between the last album and this one with their solo careers has not worked for them. It has just made them average.

5 out of ten - It could have been a bit better

You can buy the normal version here from Amazon

You can purchase the deluxe version from Amazon here

You can visit the band's website here

You can listen to the album (deluxe version) here on Spotify

26 June 2013

Symphony X - Iconoclast

I'll let the whole world into a secret. Ever since I heard Symphony X's Paradise Lost, it was about this time when their music was getting heavier than before, and less relative to their fellow peers like Dream Theater and Shadow Gallery, and I loved every minute of it. From that moment on, many amazing pieces of music have been recorded by way of The Dungeon. It's the recording studio of Michael J. Romeo which his band  have invested heavily in, the majority of the outlay spent on the orchestral and symphonic processes. Without the need for an expensive or time consuming orchestra it means boundaries can be pushed even further in the search of an epic piece.

This whole concept may seem like processed food in a way, but the sound of Symphony X feels raw and visceral and they've kept true and simple to the format of Prog Metal with neo-classical overtones. However, this eighth album release is much darker and heavier than their previous offerings and many original fans were threatening to disassociate themselves. Where their previous release Paradise Lost ran through a biblical theme, Iconoclast tells a straightforward tale of machines taking over the world and you only have to look at the album cover to gauge an idea of what's going on here. The artwork is down to Warren Flanagan (The Incredible Hulk, 2012) with the idea of all 5 band members assimilated into an apparent machinery order.

To the album. The title track is an frenetic pacey 11 minute opus telling of a computer apocalypse and the clear message Russell Allen sends to the world never to lose spirit.  All of them have been written with the machine theme in mind, and apart from the final track, the piano and classic guitar led When All Is Lost, they run on small variations of beat and rhythm, while Romeo's exhaustive fretwork and Michael Pinella's equally tireless keyboards complement each other. My personal favorite tracks on Iconoclast are Electric Messiah and Heretic which are the heavier and pacier content of the tracklist. Other tunes however like Bastards Of The Machine and Prometheus (I Am Alive) don't fully light the blue touchpaper for me despite the apparent edge on proceedings.

Sometimes I await with baited breath for certain albums, some I delight to while others I feel a slight disappointment towards and Iconoclast feels very purposeful and blatant in its own right. It's not going to create the sort of ripples that Paradise Lost did, and it does threaten to suggest that the creative boundaries are pushed to the edge here. Nevertheless Iconoclast is very engaging and a worth an hour of your listening although the Special Edition version with its three extra tracks would certainly help to push up its mark up further. M. Richardson 26/06/2013

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

You can buy the album here

You can listen to the album here on Spotify

You can follow all the band's activities on their official website

Nicke Borg Homeland - Ruins of A Riot

I have no idea how to start this - so I will do the usual background thing first then I will discuss the album.  Nicke Borg was the singer and rhythm guitarist in the glam metal/punk band Backyard Babies.  Between 1987 and 2009, these guys were one of the more exciting prospects coming out of the glam metal world with fantastic album like "Making Enemies Is Good", "People Like People Like People Like Us" and the awesome "Total 13".  After 2009, the band released their greatest hits album and have since gone their separate ways. This is Mr Borg's third release and first album since the hiatus of the Backyard Babies.

Ok, let me cut to the chase - this is awful.  This is sub Avril Lavigne before she dropped the skater chick look and went all out pop.  This makes Nickleback look like Discharge.  It has more in common with Simple Plan and that genre of pretend rock/alleged punk rock than the glam tastic metal/punk that came before hand.  As I have stated beforehand I love a well crafted pop song, and if pushed I would say that "End of The Rainbow" is the best contender for song of the album with its nod and wink to the wonder "Beautiful Day" by 3 Colours Red.  But it is a candle in an ocean of vanilla thunder.

Songs like "Out of Line" which start off with a great riff descend into utter bland nothingness quicker than an American Spy Network descends into chaos when it is exposed.  I came into listening to this album not knowing which direction this guy would go for, now I know and I will not be returning.  Come back Black Spiders - all is forgiven.

0 out of ten - This is proof there is no God.

You can pay over the odds for the Japanese import here on Amazon here

You can pay a cheaper price for the MP3 album on Amazon here

You can visit his website here

You can listen to the album here on Spotify on this link

Behold! The Monolith - Behold! The Monolith

It is never nice when tragedy bring to light a band that you had not heard of before.  On the 23 June 2013, singer and bass player Kevin McDade from Behold! The Monolith passed away after a traffic accident two days earlier.  I am not going to lie and say I had heard of them before and listened to the potential greatness before hand, they might have been making waves but they had not reached me.  But like most other people when someone who is in the art world (be it either music, literature, films, etc) passes away, I finally heard their name and went to have a listen to their work.  This is the first release, some people call it an EP, but it is over 30 minutes - by that standard, it is an album - this was released in 2011. 

The musical line that is being treaded here is a path that was first dug by Black Sabbath, and then taken deeper by the likes of Mastodon and High On Fire. The sub-Sabbath trio whilst not playing anything that I have not heard before do play their music well.  With only one track below the four minute mark and the rest varying between 7 to 13 minutes, this is an album is one to expand one’s mind to, if you get my meaning.  Like lots of music of this genre it is more about the spaces between the words where the groove and instrumental interplay powers the album on.  This is best shown on the triple names "Guardians of the Abyss/Primal Extenuation/Rise of the Brohemoth" which is the best example of what these guys could do.  It swims between all different aspects of this genre and as the end track of the album is its greatest trump card.

Unfortunately the overall album is not as high in quality as on the end track. Opening with the brief "Battlestagg" the album drifts from song to song without really making much of an impact on this listener at least.  However, whilst not being the most exciting or original of material, it is a decent record. Not every piece of music has to be a breath taking discovery.  This is the musical equivalent to a ham and cheese sandwich.  It is basic, but it does what it says on the tin - it does not try to be anything else and whilst not blowing me away, it is ok.  It is just a pity that the death of Mr McDade had to bring them to light for me.

6 out of ten - Now I see where you were going, but not quite there

You can buy the MP3 version of the album on Spotify here

You can visit the band's website here which has links to their bandcamp page and store

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

24 June 2013

Miracle Of Sound - Level 3

Miracle Of Sound is the pseudonym of Gavin Dunne, an Irish songwriter who creates music based on games, films, comics and various other aspects of geek culture. He also releases a video for every song, usually footage from the game or film the song is inspired by.
He usually releases the songs one by one, every couple of weeks and once he has enough he compiles them into a full album that’s available on Bandcamp.

Level 3 is, rather unsurprisingly, his third collection of songs and was released this April.

Musically it starts from a base core of catchy Industrial rock but the music is tailored to fit the theme of the song.  For example, Breaking Down The Borders (Borderlands 2) is a country blues song that brings to mind tumbleweeds and dusty roads; The Spy Who Survived (James Bond: Skyfall) is all strings and a curiously familiar refrain. His Father’s Son (Assassin’s Creed III) kicks off with Native American chanting which gives way to a flute led American folk song that perfectly evokes 18th Century America.

Highlights for me include Roll Out (Transformers); a song that sounds like it could have been the theme song to an 80’s cartoon. It has a massive, Michael Bay-baiting, chorus that you’ll sing  enthusiastically for the rest of your life.
The Best I Can (The Walking Dead) is a haunting ballad written from the viewpoint of a Father protecting his Daughter in the wake of a zombie apocalypse. It’s genuinely moving.
“Innocence is wasted and I’m so sorry that you never can replace it”.

The majority of the songs are fairly serious in their tone but there are a couple of comedy moments at times as well. Wigglesticks is about the awful controls and camerawork in Resident Evil 6, The Call Of Duty Circus is about the various folk you encounter in CoD online multiplayer and Medal of Honor: Doorfighter is self-explanatory.
Other subject bases include The Dark Knight Rises, Game Of Thrones, Halo 4, Dishonoured, Tomb Raider, Bioshock: Infinite and Dead Space 3.

One of the main strengths of Miracle Of Sound is Gavin’s songwriting skills. Even the songs that are about a subject you might not be particularly familiar with are still really enjoyable and can be appreciated in their own right. That he churns out songs with some regularity is further testament.

8/10 - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart


Polkadot Cadaver - Last Call In Jonestown

Polkadot Cadaver are an avant-garde metal band formed in 2007 when Todd Smith and Jason Stepp’s previous band, Dog Fashion Disco split up. They mix up a variety of genres including Jazz, Cabaret, Psychedelia, Electronica and Metal and spew them out as a cohesive whole. Both Faith No More and Mr Bungle are a big influence on their sound.

 They released their first album, Purgatory Dance Party, in late 2007 and their second, Sex Offender, in 2011. Last Call In Jonestown was released in May 2013.

The title is a reference to the Jonestown massacre of 1978. Jonestown was a commune in Guyana occupied by over 900 members of an American ‘religious organisation’ called Peoples Temple.  On November 18th 1978 almost all of them died in a mass suicide by drinking Flavor Aid laced with Cyanide. In total 920 people died, including 276 children.

The title track is the opening song and it’s the most direct metal song on the album. It kicks in with a frenetic riff that lets off briefly for the first verse before pounding in again when the chorus comes in. The songs obviously refers to the above event and, towards the end of the song, features a sample of the infamous ‘death tape’, a speech recorded by, Peoples Temple founder, Jim Jones in the last 45 minutes of the mass suicide. It’s a macabre thing to listen to.

Macabre is one thing Polkadot Cadaver do really well. All of their albums have an uneasy feeling of menace about them; Not in a chest-beating machismo sort of way but a brooding sense of danger and creepiness. The kind of music the ghost of a serial killer might make.

Tracks such as Impure Thoughts, Sheer Madness and Rats And Black Widows are guitar heavy bruisers, though they still have the creepy atmospherics and samples.
Touch You Like Caligula, Phantasmagoria and Animal Kingdom are slower and more sinister.

Transistors Of Mercy starts with some electronic beeping and erratic guitar bursts. It also features a surprising guest vocalist in the form of Neil Fallon from Stoner Metal titans, Clutch.

Last Call In Jonestown is, perhaps, less quirky than previous albums and more of a, relatively, straightforward metal album. It takes a few listens for the songs to sink in but once they do they’re kind of nice to have around.

7/10 This is good and well worth a check.


You can listen on Spotify here

You can buy from Amazon MP3 store here

23 June 2013

Thomas Truax - Why Do Dogs Howl At The Moon

I remember the first time I heard about Thomas Truax.  I was down in London Tawn (something us Northern folk have to do when talking about the places in the South of England) and I was off to see System Of A Down for two nights in Brixton.  On the morning of the first night I got an over excited text to ask if I want to come and see one of the most exciting people live that my friend had ever heard about. This was a man who had moaned at me for a few weeks about seeing Serj Tankan and co in London, but this was obviously important. I promptly told him to fuck and watched some decent gigs.  Then I saw Mr Truax in a gig about 8 months later. To say his show was entertaining is to say that George Bush Jr was just mis-understood and was really a good candidate for President of the USA and did not buy his Presidencies.  I was blown away as I have been every time I have seen him live.  So now I am putting my foot into reviewing his studio work which if I am honest has not excited me as much as his shows - he is more of an experience than anything else. So how did this (his third album) do in the face of what has gone before hand...

One thing I have always found is that some of Mr Truax's music does not translate well to the studio - it’s not that the recordings are poor, it is just the live versions are soooo good. This was his third release, and it broke that tread.  From the opening "Stranger On A Train" which details Mr Truax's love affair with the British Rail network, following this with the beautifully haunting "Sea Creatures" there is a fantastic mix of the show and the studio band which just bring the best out of Mr Truax and his Hornicator - this is a homemade music instrument that looks like a gramophone which has various mouth pieces, strings and other attachments and he uses it with a looper to make the songs grow.

Mr Truax also goes on to discuss his feelings about his home country in "Alien In America" and a conversation he has with his dog - in the wonderfully crazy "Why Do Dogs Howl At The Moon Part 1" and "Why Do Dogs Howl At The Moon Part 2" which has a hook that will stay in your memory and hopefully you will not be singing down the phone to random strangers on the phone - that never happened to me, honestly, never at work, almost.....anyway, it is really catchy as is this whole album.

Whilst this album is very enjoyable and from the beginning to the end track of "A Notice Of Eviction To A Closet Full Of Skeletons" Mr Truax has made a wonderful piece of art, it still does not quite match his live shows - honestly this man needs to be seen to be believed and he regularly tours the UK and his new home base of Germany. He is an event more than an act, but this album is still a joy to hear.  You will be caught under his spell and singing his songs randomly to people. It's like a cult but with better instruments.

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

You can buy directly from Thomas via Big cartel here, and it is better for him too

You can purchase from here and Amazon

Here also has a bandcamp page here where you can purchase this album on, as well as his other works...

Please visit the website here

You can listen to the album here

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