31 July 2013

Katy Perry - One Of The Boys

The only reason I'm reviewing this is because the rest of the blog team had a vote and decided I had to do it. It may or may not have also been because I posted my dislike towards Katy Perry's music and public persona. I'm sure she's a great person in real life but fucking hell, her music is the equivalent of wallpaper. It's just there...

This album came out and marked a change for her as the first one was a Christian Rock album (Now THAT would be worth hearing)! This is more of a contemporary pop thing which...I'll be honest. I find this bland. Very bland. To me, it sounds like they were going for a quirky vibe, a bit like Gwen Stefani when she was the level of quirky people tried to aim for (Remember, this was before the she-beast known as Lady Gaga redefined 'quirky') with a bit of Pink-esque edginess but they didn't even come close to that (Mind, Pink isn't without her criticisms but at least she has a great voice on her). Katy Perry seems to think getting by on her looks and quirky personality is enough, but unless you have the voice then you ain't nothing. The album also has half a dozen producers which makes it sound uneven. The one thing I'll give Perry credit for is she writes her own songs. Granted, she had a little help but at least she isn't totally manufactured. Mind, not all of the songs make sense. I'm not sure if that's because they were trying to go for the quirky edge, or sound mysterious, or are just untalented, maybe some things aren't meant to be analysed and are just there because they're just there? I dunno...

I'm not sure what else I can say about this. I want to give it the kicking it deserves but the truth is, I just find it so safe, bland, vanilla, that I just cannot bring myself to do it. There is not one offensive thing on this album.

Which is why I rate it:

(There is probably a photo we're supposed to use for this but I cannot find it right now - and just to clarify, I am NOT in any way saying the fine gentleman in the photo is bland, but we use a photo of him when we cannot think of a score to give an album).

Chris J.

Yup, you can iTunes it.
Amazon it.
Spotify it.

Motörhead - March Or Die

Hot on the heels of the quite frankly awesome '1916' comes this little number. Back in the early 90's, Motorhead were regarded as something of a dinosaur, a relic from a bygone age where rock and metal were played and listened to by people who wore too much denim and leather, and who looked like they smelled of motor oil and car parts. Grunge was in full swing and tried to convince us it was a little more than people from Seattle mumbling incoherently about something they reckon is all deep and stuff but was usually a self-pitying exercise. A raging smack habit and a singing style which replaced all vowels with the letter 'A' was optional. Of course, that all finished in the time it takes to pull the trigger of a shotgun and soon, metal was back. How back? Well, you could buy band t-shirts in high street stores such as Top Shop, the most common one being Motorhead and their iconic skull design. The revisionists then went full-swing by proclaiming Lemmy as a God. It's true - he is, but the same people were, when Kurt Cobain was in, saying that people like Lemmy were past it. I don't know the man personally but I reckon that he'd be happy with this accolade - but would be more into a bottle of JD and a couple of nice women for company. Where was I? Oh yes. An album review...

This is Motorhead's tenth studio album and the last one to feature a contribution by drummer Phil 'Philthy Animal' Taylor who left the band/was sacked (depends on who you speak to) due to not being up to scratch, he played on a song called "I Ain't No Nice Guy" but more about that later. Drumming duties were handled by Tommy Aldridge who has also worked with Ozzy Osbourne, Gary Moore and Whitesnake amongst others and by the band's current drummer, ex-Dokken sticksperson Micky Dee (He did one song - 'Hellraiser').

The main problem is that it seems to lack the punch that the best Motorhead albums come with. It starts off well with opener "Stand", before going into a 'meh'-cover of "Cat Scratch Fever". Things get rocking again with "Jack The Ripper", "Hellraiser" (One of the album highlights. Better than the Ozzy Osbourne version as it's not as overproduced and Lemmy is a better vocalist than Ozzy). Like I said, it's all very good but without a bit of fire behind it, it goes flat very quickly. Worst track IMO is the aforementioned "I Ain't No Nice Guy" which is an acoustic ballad. Not that there is anything wrong with those but this was shortly after "More Than Words" by Extreme where it seemed like a fair few rock bands tried to grab a hit with the acoustic ballad formula. Mr Big did one and a (really, really shit) band called Nelson made a fucking career out of them! Nothing wrong with experimenting and spreading your wings but IMO it's not Motorhead. Hell, '1916' had ballads on it yet they sounded like they came from the heart.

Best track is the title track, 'March Or Die'. It's heavy as fuck but not in the usual sense. A looping industrial-esque drum beat and jarring cellos (or synths) create a wall of noise while Lemmy growls about how shit everything is and we're all going to hell when we die? Oh yes! This is one of the times when experimentation works. Sure, it would've been interesting if they'd went all techno and stuff but it wouldn't be the same.

So, there we go. Some songs hit the mark, others don't. A bit of pruning and it may have been a good album but at best, it's merely decent. Still, better than whining about nothing and everything all at once...

5 - It could have been a bit better.

Chris J.

You can buy this album off iTunes.
Buy off Amazon
Listen on Spotify

Palms - Palms

This is a project I did not see coming or hear anything about.  Formed in 2011, this is a side project for Chino Moreno from the Deftones with Jeff Caxide, Aaron Harris and Bryant Clifford Meyer from Post Rock legends Isis.  After Isis split up in 2010, Caxide, Harris and Meyer decided they still wanted to make music, Moreno had been noted as an Isis fan.  This album was produced by the band themselves and released on the Ipeac record label. The band have admitted that they wanted to move away from what they were know for before (especially with Isis) and to make an album which communicated more than their previous works, I'm guessing that they wanted to be a bit more accessible to an audience as Isis could be very hard work.  Also, Moreno's last side project - Team Sleep - had been viewed as a failure in some quarters and this was a brave move for him as the Deftones had been making new music, but were still in a flux situation in regards to their bass player Chi Cheng being in a coma at the time of this album being made (and he sadly passed in 2013).  So what is this album - is it ambition over the strengths of the people, or is it a marriage that helps mend the people from within.

First things first, when ever Chino sings, your automatically gonna have your prevailing feelings for the Deftones come to the surface.  He has one of the most distinctive voices in modern rock/metal, so this will make your decision on this band easy I feel; for me I have always had a love/hate relationship with the Deftones,.  Sometimes they have rocked my world to the core; other times they have made me so bored that I have been tempted to reach for the pencil headphones.  However, I have always enjoyed Chino's vocals, he is a good singer in my eyes and to Palms, he brings a certain warmth to the band which brings depth, yet slightly hinders it too. I do wonder how this would have work with a different vocalist (or even if it could have worked).  Songs like "Shortwave Radio" are very well put together, but it could have as easily been off the last Deftones album.  I don't really know if this is just me hearing Chino and making assumptions, but there is a lot more Deftones on this than Isis. 

But then again it is a lot different to DT.  This playing from Caxide, Harris and Meyer is really tight and powers each song along.  "Patagonia" and "Mission Sunset" are wonderful pieces, as is "Tropics" with the almost hypnotic guitars - in fact "Tropics" is the albums stand out track, perfect for a summers day be it rainy or sunny, just beautiful.  I can see where the band were coming from when they said this sounds nothing like Isis in a way, the mood is a lot lighter and more approachable.  But when I say approachable, you have to remember this is a six track album and the shortest song is just shy of seven minutes long.  But it is hardly challenging on the mind or ears - and I think that is the problem here for me.  Well, that coupled with the fact I cannot help but feel that the Deftones shadow falls on this too heavily for its own good.  By three quarters of the band trying to do something different from their past, they have strayed a little bit too close to the other members day job in certain way, especially their more ambient moments. If you are a fan of either band there is stuff here to be interested in, especially if you’re a Chino fan.  However, I feel there is more to come from these guys.  They sound good together and maybe with a little kick in the right direction they could be amazing.  But for now, they are just a shadow of what they could be and it is of their own making.

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

You can visit the band's website here

You can listen to the album here on Spotify

Aura Noir - Out To Die

Out of my own free will, I'm examining a field of metal I've never really got into before - Black Metal. For me, this is uncharted territory as Slayer, Cradle Of Filth, Bathory and Venom are acts that I haven't give a lot of time to listen to I ashamedly admit.

Now from the outset, there is a multitude of black metal bands concentrated around Scandinavia although in recent times they've received some negative publicity, namely the French arrest of musician, killer (no joke, sorry) and neo-Nazi Kristian "Varg" Vikernes. Several Norwegian churches were also burnt down too as the wave of Nazism swept throughout. However, most acts of the said genre do try to disassociate themselves from this type of extremism. So, to Aura Noir. They're a three piece act from Oslo which I came across on the off chance during a live set in 2012 at the Damnation Festival, Leeds University, and while some other headline acts were somewhat subdued, AN for me were a standout group and certainly one the highlights of that evening.

Aggressor (guitar, vocals), Apollyon (drums, bass, vocals) and Blasphemer (guitar) make up the band and their main themes centre on aggression, blasphemy and, well, just about everything below the surface, all typical traits in their field of music. Their influences are deeply rooted in thrash and black, Venom and Slayer amongst the styles The 'Noir have shaped in their act.

The vocals are shared between Apollyon and Aggressor, the former with gravelly snarls and Aggressor with enriched tones similar to Lemmy's. The music sounds very Motorhead, very old school, pacey and wouldn't have sounded out of place in the New Wave Of Heavy Metal 30 years ago. This fifth album isn't very long either, just 38 minutes altogether, but it feels more drawn out than the eight tracks on the disc. It's frenetic and full of aggression all the way although it feels very refined and well engineered throughout. No real standout tracks here, but I've enjoyed Fed To The Flames, Abbadon with its hefty beat and The Grin From The Gallows with its hint of irony and almost melodic guitars.

Out To Die does exactly what it says on the label, a scene setter, aggressive and lacking contrition in its message to the outside world. I'm still dipping my feet into Black Metal and Thrash, but I'm sure that it warrants a listen if anyone believes that the likes of Cradle Of Filth should never be prodded with a bargepole. M. Richardson 31/07/2013.

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

You can buy the album here on Amazon

You can listen to Out To Die here on Spotify

Aura Noir's activities can be followed on their Facebook page here

Druganaut - Druganaut

So, another album that has not been released to the general public. I feel spoilt a bit, but that is not talking about the album in hand - the debut from Druganaut.  Hailing from Newcastle, Drugnaut have been making a big noise for the last two years since their inception in 2011.  This album has been long in the works and it is soon to be released by the band (digitally at first, no word on physical releases.  Firstly I would like to thank the band for letting me review this before it is released; it seems weird to do on my behalf as this is not the most up to date and on the pulse blog, but thank you all the same.

What we have here is a re-recording of tracks from the band's first two eps with a couple of new tracks in the form of "Sex Face" and "Wretch".  Musically the album is more of the same from the eps, but with the sound beefed up a few notches.  Not that sound like much, but the sound quality has been massively improved from the first demos giving the songs a new depth.  Starting with "Smoke The Dead" you get the feeling that this band have been created with monumental levels of weed, whiskey and metal.  Pilling into "Sober Again", the band just keep on going, the ante is then brought up further by my favourite Druganaut track "Old Red".  Seriously, the riff from this is do good it rivals some of the sludge elite recent back catalogue.

Up next is the first of the new tracks "Wretch", a stomping little number which cuts the listen with the fast riff and quality work from the rhythm section, showing that the band is still writing quality tunes. After this, "True Story" comes to stomp all over your soul and beat you into submission before the ridiculous and truly awesome true of the old auto-erotic tale of "Carradine's Ghost".  Following hot on the heels of this is the last of the new numbers with "Sex Face" and you get all you need to know about the song with the title - the opening lyrics is "I bringing sleazy back", loving it!  It is another stomping song designed to make people move and drink as much as they can.

You might have noticed that I have not mentioned a ballad at this point, and I can confirm that I'm still not going to for the band's final two tracks on offer here - "Equestrian Dreams" and ""Denim Elliot".  The former is a slow and brooding number which has a punch and the later is an even slower, but it is heavy.  When I say heavy, I mean it is really, really heavy, and when they pick up the speed, it just shows how much this band has honed their craft. It has an intensity that I have not heard for a long time.  The performance from the whole band has improved in both terms of performance and sound.  As I have mentioned in the Arcite article, Newcastle upon Tyne has a vibrant music scene and the metal/noise crowd seem to be leading the way.  Druganaut have an important part to play here. As I type this, I know that on 4 August 2013, at Trillians is the next Doomsday all day show, which is being ran by the Drugnaut lads who are also performing.  If you are in the area, head down, it will be mint.  As for the album, I think the mark will say it all - and once it is out, do yourself a favour and get it.

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

Here is a link to the band's Facebook page

You can purchase the album for download from CD Baby 

You can purchase from iTunes here 

Here is a link to the Amazon page as well 

You can listen to the album on Spotify here 

Here is a link to the band's Soundcloud page

27 July 2013

Starz - Starz

It is funny how life works sometimes.  On my Facebook page, I made friends with Alex Kane from Anti-Product a while ago (cool guy and a great front man), and I ended up talking to a guy called Michael Lee Smith.  So I have been joking on with him and sharing some of his meme's that he does (seriously, this guy is funny and also one of the few American's that I know who gets football (or soccer for those who think football is rugby for wimps)), all the while not knowing that he was this singer of Starz.  For a quick history lesson, according to Wikipedia Starz were formed in the early 70's from the ashes of pop band 'Looking Glass' and despite not getting their commercial dues, 80's bands such as Poison and Mötley Crüe (as well as Ginger from The Wildhearts) have stated that Starz was a primary influence on their own work.  Even Kerrang magazine (when it was not the Smash Hits for the emo generation) back in 1989 had two Starz albums in the list of most important Heavy Metal albums ever.  Now, I will confess until very recently I had not knowingly heard Starz music.  Well, I thought I would change that I review their first album which was this self titled debut.

Now for a confession of age here, this album was released only a few months after I was born. Strange but true that this album has managed to escape me for so long, yet I have a feeling that this will be changing very shortly.  This album is crafted from the same cloth as the likes of Kiss and Cheap Trick, and this is a very good thing indeed.  This is truly a template for classic rock sound and I can see why it was an influence on the 80's rock scene that followed.  Starting with "Detroit Girls" this album starts off as one of the truly underrated classics from the 70's.  Using the standard 10 track vision of 70's albums (something I actually love when I see new releases), you go from the wonderful blues slow rock number of "Pull The Plug", the stomping "Boys In Action" to the sublime "(She's Just A) Fallen Angel).

This album is an under rated gem from a period when rock/metal music was coming into its own, the sounds were just starting to change in some ways and punk rock was just around the corner (as was disco, but less about that the better).  The production job by Jack Douglas (Aerosmith, John Lennon/Yoko Ono, Cheap Trick) is fantastic, very raw and catches the band that is on fire.  The performance on here is amazing and anyone who is interested in how rock should be played needs to get a hold of this album.  This is ten tracks which has no weak link, there is not a flaw in here, it is just good old classic rock.  It feels sort of strange to say I know someone who was releasing music when I was just a little one, but it also makes me smile to think that something this fun came out at the same time, even if he is a Manchester United fan. Go out and play this loud, you will not be disappointed.

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 the Starz website and purchase the album for a lot cheaper and it has other cool stuff as well

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

26 July 2013

Amon Tobin - Supermodified

This website as regular readers will already be aware is all about examining the sounds and various beats, loops, melodies, rhythms and the endless list of instruments used that want to entice us into their music and to be enthralled by its own personal awe. If people, say, 50 years ago could envisage the sort of music we would be listening to today, then this surely would a strong contender.

So, the fella in question. Originally from Rio de Janeiro, Amon Tobin is a musician, composer, electronica music producer extraordinaire. His samples and pieces have featured in many films, adverts, TV programs and trailers and yet have many of us heard of him? I certainly didn't until Top Gear began heavy usage of his music. Mr Tobin is also well travelled, having lived in Morocco, The Netherlands and The U.K. and has clearly been subjected to many audible tastes from all over the world which he brings to the table here.

Amon Tobin has eight albums to his credit in his 18 year career and Supermodified is his fourth. He started out cutting music based on electronica beats, beeps and tempo until the year 2000 release of this record, when he turned a major corner in his musical direction. Suddenly, a lot of the artificial material went out of the window and from there he went organic. On Supermodified the drums sound like he's recently tightened up a snare and a few toms on it, and the piano keys and wiring seem to have been well dusted down. It has an air of unplugged to it as demonstrated in Four Ton Mantis, a dark sprinkling over the ivories coupled with a couple of ominous horns and a death rattle for a sense of dark misgivings. By contrast Keepin' It Steel runs along a funky Camden Square theme, with assured guitar and glockenspiel accompaniments and the occasional Moog sifting in and out of the tune.

Chocolate Lovely says it all, personally it's a delight to listen to, the tom toms are an excellent introduction while the percussion sounds assured yet non intrusive to the keen ear. The fact that the synths flow with ease from a 'G' Minor to Major chord only puts the cherry on the cake. Other standout numbers are Get Your Snack On, a curiously titled song but reminds me a little of Bob Sinclar and Van Der Graaf Generator. At times very hurried and sometimes amusing. Golfer Versus Boxer is more evidence of breakbeats running riot, running along a typically tireless Buddy Rich solo.

I will confess that I often run a mile to get out of listening from DJ'ing and other related material, but having listened to Supermodified in full I'm now converted. Amon Tobin for me ticks all the boxes on how music should be played on a hot July evening when the heatwave shows no sign of easing up. You can use many superlatives to describe a piece of music, brilliant would certainly trivialise this, innovative is more appropriate for the end product.

9 out of ten. Almost perfect......almost.

Amon Tobin can be followed here on his official website

You can purchase Supermodified here on Amazon

You can listen to the whole album here on Spotify

23 July 2013

Earth Crisis - Slither

Someone emailed me the other day and asked why I have not reviewed Earth Crisis.  Now all I have heard from Earth Crisis is one song of a free CD from a rock magazine.  So I have no idea where to start, and have asked one of the other lads to pick an album at random.  The album that got picked was Slither, their 4th release.  It came out on 2000 and was their first release upon their return to Victory Records.  At the time of this release, Nu Metal was ruling the airwaves.  And like other band's before hand, these guys decided to try to incorporate a new sound with their own (hardcore and nu metal) to try to keep up with the in crowd.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't - this is one of the cases where it sort of works.

When two styles come together it doesn't always work, this is one of the cases when things are too close for the change in style to really take total effect and make a difference.  Hardcore and Nu Metal are both cut from a similar cloth - boys with angst trying to show the world that they are bigger than the world.  I don't mind either (quite a fan of a lot of stuff from both genres), but this sounds like the time when Machine Head tried to be Nu Metal; it just doesn't work.  For all the slow funk bass playing such as on "Biomachines" and the slow intense build of "Nemesis", the hardcore is just under the surface so to speak; and this album is too much of neither to make it any good for either set of styles.

The production job by Steve Evetts (who has also produced Symphony X, The Dillinger Escape Plan and Saves The Day amongst others) is really good here and does the best with the material that is on offer.  But for songs like "Agress", "Mass Arrest" and "Killing Brain Cells" to truly rise, you need delivery from the band as well.  This is not on evidence here, the one track I had heard from this band beforehand "Hair Trigger" is on this album, and to be honest I had to double check that it was the same song as it all sounds bland and uninspired on this record (it was not that hot in the first place).  I will have to try another of these guys albums as it would be unfair to judge their whole career on one record; I am sure they were proud of this at the time, but it is a very dull record which goes nowhere in a hurry and no amount of muscle flexing and posing is going to change the fact that this record is mediocre at best.  All the marks here are for the production job.

3 out of ten - If only there was some quality control

You can purchase from Amazon here

The band don't have a website, but you can visit their official Facebook page

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

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