30 September 2013

Osiah - Reborn Through Hate (EP)

A while ago I heard about a project one of my friend's was doing some live guitar work for Osiah, from reading into this is a side project for the guitarist Ricky Lee Roper from XIsForEyes.  To be absolutely honest I liked the Facebook page cause of my said friend was in them, and pretty much forgot about them; just the way of the world sometimes.  What has happened in the meantime is that Osiah have became a total studio project and have been put on the back burner for a few months whilst XIsForEyes has been Mr Roper's main focus.  Anyway over the last weekend there has been a little bit of a push in regards to this EP to give it a little more publicity.  So better late than never, it is time to listen to Osiah and find out what all the fuss is about.

What we have on this EP is some quality blast beats, mental guitar work and some of the best Grindcore/Death Metal that I have heard in quite a while.  Out of the seven tracks here, two of them are atmospheric build ups, whilst the rest is just is brutal metal that feels like a boot is kicking you in the head for the rest of eternity.  Out of the five full tracks on here, the best one for me is "The Blood Soaked Meadows"; it is that perfect mix of grindcore, death metal riffage and some fantastic blast beats that will have some people feeling as if they have shat in their pants with excitement.  

There is not one weak moment of this EP, from "Decomposing Vanity" to the brilliant "The Son Of Perdition" there is just quality metal on here.  Whilst it is a shame that they are now a studio project, if it is a to be the route they/he heads down then if this is a shape of things to come it will be an interesting ride; just like the EP, this review is a short sharp shock. 

5 out of five - I wish I had extra ears to love this more

There is no website, but here is a link to his Facebook page

You can listen to the EP on Bandcamp here (and it will be up for download here soon as well)

Here is a link to download the EP for free from Mediafire from the man himself

Here is a link to the Osiah YouTube channel

28 September 2013

Galactic Cowboys - Space In Your Face

I first heard of the Galactic Cowboys way back in my teenage mullet years when they contributed backing vocals to King’s X’s third album Faith Hope Love; An album, and band, I was fairly obsessed with. I was curious as to who they were and, as it was before the days of the Internet let alone Wikipedia, I was restricted to whatever I could find out in Kerrang!, Raw, Rock Hard and other oddly titled rock magazines.

When I eventually found a review of their first, eponymous, debut album I hunted it down and played it to death. I’ve followed them ever since, at least until their break up in 2000.

They had quite a lot of similarities to King’s X in that they had Beatles-style harmonies and joint lead vocals but, whereas King’s X played Hendrix inspired classic rock, Galactic Cowboys were very much a Metal band.

They mixed big, crunchy riffs with poppy choruses, the aforementioned harmonies, and sporadic bursts of acoustic guitar and harmonica solos. While they had a definite air of Progressive Metal to them there was also a sense of urgency and aggression to their sound.

Space In your Face was their second album and released in 1993, it refined their sound from their debut, as well as the sprawling, epic songs it featured several songs around 3-5 minutes. Also main vocalist, Ben Huggins voice had improved considerably and the production was much clearer.

What was the first side back in the day of cassette and vinyl features these shorter, more accessible songs and side two is made up of longer, more experimental songs.

 The first real track is You Make Me Smile which kicks off with a juddering riff and a snarled verse before giving way to the layered harmonies of the chorus. The next song is I Do What I Do which perfectly illustrates what Galactic Cowboys are about; Again it it powers in with a breakneck riff that abruptly becomes a mournful, acoustic verse and then a lush chorus that’s pure power pop. The juxtaposition continues throughout the song with time changes aplenty.

Circles In The Fields is a straightforward metal song about crop circles as the title might suggest. Next is the single If I Were A Killer which is the shortest and most immediate song on the album. The harmonies are muted and the song structure is fairly regimented. It’s a good catchy song and an obvious choice of single.

The first song of side two is Blind and, as mentioned earlier, it sees the band stretching out and breathing. It ebbs and flows throughout its 7 ½ minutes. It’s probably the closest thing on Space In Your Face to modern Progressive Metal and even has a touch of Djent to it in places, though still with a really memorable chorus.

No Problems is next and also 7 ½ minutes long. It's a pop metal anthem and the instrumental part halfway through is a breakdown of various riffs that reminds me of some of The Wildhearts’ loopier middle sections (like in Girlfriend Clothes, Do The Channel Bop or Destroy All Monsters).
About Mrs Leslie is a slower number, it tells the story of an abused wife who murders her and is built around an ominous chugging riff that picks up the pace suddenly for a tumultuous finish.

Now, back when I was listening to this album on cassette the final track on the album was Where Are You Now?, which sees bassist Monty Colvin reminiscing about a childhood girlfriend but, since buying the CD version I discovered it also had two hidden tracks that weren’t on the cassette. Ranch On Mars is another slow chugger that carries on a theme that runs through several Galactic Cowboys albums and the final track, Still Life Of Peace is all out prog rock that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Yes album (if it wasn’t for the occasional burst of crunching guitar).

They split briefly following the departure of guitarist Dane Sonnier but reformed with a new guitarist and released their third album Machine Fish which, while excellent, toned down their quirks and cranked up the heavy.

The albums that came after Machine Fish, such as The Horse That Bud Bought or Let It Go, brought back the oddness but unfortunately it was at the cost of the heaviness. They never really recaptured the magic of their first couple of albums.

Space In Your Face has dated a little in the 20 years since it came out but it’s still really worth checking out if you like Progressive Metal but want something different to the myriad Devin Townsend/Dream Theater/Meshuggah clones doing the rounds these days.

9 out of 10 Almost perfect… Almost
Space In Your Face doesn't seem to be on Spotify but some of their other albums can be found HERE
Buy from Amazon HERE
Visit the bands' website HERE
Watch the video for If I Were A Killer HERE

27 September 2013

Jake Bugg - Jake Bugg

As we approach the end of our Mercury 2013 reviews, I have been asked to pick this one up.  When this first came out at the end of last year, the Nottingham native made number one in the UK Charts and when it was eventually released in the USA, it made a respectable number 75 and for a debut album that is a good result for both him and his marketing department.  Over the last couple of years he has graced the stage at Glastonbury, been an a plethora of TV shows in the UK, released seven singles in the UK and had support slots with the likes of Noel Gallagher (ex-Oasis) and been on his own successful tours.  For someone who is only 19 at the time of writing this article, he has had a very good start to his career; but does that mean that this album is any good?

Musically, this man has owes a lot to a record collection from the 70's.  This man could not have his influences on his sleeves more unless he was a member of Oasis.  The Beatles, Johnny Cash, Donovan, The Everly Brothers; honestly it is not as bad as Oasis when they stole their songs like thieves in the day light, but it is hardly the most original music out there.  The songs here are of a gentle and easy nature, there is nothing that would offend the gentlest of souls (unless you find this type of music to be offensive in its lack of anything resembling a spine).  Now I love gentle albums at time, but this is not going anywhere in a hurry, it is unoriginal in origin and my deity it does nothing to make time move.  I can see why songs like "Broken", "Simple As This" and "Ballad Of Mr Jones" are popular, there is nothing wrong in the writing or the actual delivery; it would be better if there was something wrong with the delivery, I would feel better for the rest of what I am going to say.

When an album can make Badly Drawn Boy and Newton Faulkner look edgy and dangerous, there is something wrong with the world.  Trying to be retro is all fine and well, and I can see where this was going.  Some of the songs are ok; "Lighting Bolt" is a quirkily little number, "Two Fingers" is ok and "Taste It" is a little bit of a foot stomper.  But these are the first three songs out of a fourteen track album, and it get more monotone as the album goes on; there is no pick up and this is one of the albums that is being hailed as a forerunner for the Mercury Prize.  If that is the case, then the British music scene needs a drip and some medical attention, as it has just over dosed.  There is better stuff that this out there, a lot of it was not nominated and as much as I don't want to sound negative, this is a case of a creative management team doing wonders with the dull and lifeless.  

3 out of ten - Not for everyone but played well

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Jake Bugg website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here, which also has a live session at the end of the album

Here is the official video to "Lightning Bolt"

The National - Trouble Will Find Me

Artwork for an album is sometimes as important (sometimes even more so - see the career of every trash metal band ever) as the actual album itself.  So with 2013 almost over I would like to go on record as saying that the cover of this album is one of the best one's I have seen this year (narrowly beaten by Waheela and their release 'Amber').  It is a simple and strange image which can hypnotize the listener.  The natives of Cincinnati in Ohio have surely out done themselves with this cover for an album that reached number 3 on both sides of the Atlantic upon its release in May 2013.  As with all releases by this band, I tend to take my time with them - like Shrek, they have many layers (if you believe what the Ogre says), and a knee jerk reaction with this band has done me no favours in the past.  

Trying to follow the wave that had been caused by their last album 'High Violet', they took their time with this release and it also has some high profile guest appearances from members of Arcade Fire, Dark Dark Dark amongst others.  Multiple guest appearances always worries me as it sometimes makes me feel that the band was not happy enough with what they were doing themselves, so they need other people to make it sound better.  Other times it could be that they just wanted to work with their colleagues and friends.  On this release, the guests whilst still visible are sort of hidden in the background with the band taking the centre stage as it should be.  So on that front at least one possible distraction has been avoided.

With every release the band sounds more confident, on this album they sound like they know the world is there for the taking, and it does not hold anything back.  Their post punk soundings are hypnotizing and to the point of addictive.  When the opening acoustic guitar strum of "I Should Live In Salt" starts, it is obvious that they are on their way to perfect their already special brand of music.  This is not something for the happy days; it is for those moments when you need to feel that there are people out there who know exactly how you are feeling.  These guys just break your heart and repair it in some many ways.  Following up is the song "Demons" which should be put down as an anthem for the ages; I still have goose bumps when I hear it now as I did in May.  Then they speed things up (for them at least) with the album moving "Don't Swallow The Cap".  It is strange when you hear a band grow before you in an instant; I thought they had peaked on their album "Boxer"; it is nice to be proven wrong.

The thing about The National is that they have a power and heavy vibe without having to be too heavy.  Let me explain, when most people think of heavy music, it is usually either metal or grunge which comes to mind.  These guys do not use that, they are clever in their writing and there is no need for a grunge or metal break-down.  Songs like "Graceless" and "Heavenfaced" best showcase this and the further into the album, the better it gets.  I did not want this album to end when I finished listening to it, and I still feel that way now.  The brooding nature of the album means it is not an everyday work that I could listen to everyday, but whenever the mood takes it is one that I reach for each time.  This is a possible contender for album of the year.

9 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost
You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the band's website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

Here is the video for "Demons"

25 September 2013

Dream Theater - Dream Theater

Find me a time when I last felt like a 10 year old with puppy dog enthusiasm anticipating a new album to be released. Probably about two decades ago, when Queen released Innuendo though then as a seventeen year old I was rather naive and oblivious to the upcoming tragedies that were to befall the act. Moving on with tastes a few years down the line and this act, Dream Theater, from the East Coast  is one of my current and latest loves.

In their element Progressive Metal, The 'Theater are simply peerless. I accept it's a bold claim since I've heard only one album Awake, but on first impressions I was bowled over by its multi-layering of keyboard and guitars, both working well as a team. It's proof that the combinations can be greater than the sum of its parts which brings me nicely on to this latest release. Now at this point I should be telling myself to hang fire to avoid bitter disappointment (just in case), so let's delve straight into this record, released a day after the time of writing. That's how much I wanted to review it.

For DT, this is album number twelve and all five members have had a hand in the creative spawning of their self-titled release although most of the instrumentals were written by guitarist/producer John Petrucci, who's widely recognised as one of the finest around along with keyboardist Jordan Rudess. If there's one thing guaranteed from these guys you're going to be offered a cacophony of various string and digital crystal clear loops but don't expect pyrotechnics to fire in all directions right from the beginning. Its entrance to the foray is rather subtle but still evocative with a brief multi-string number in False Awakening Suite that suggests inspiration from Rick Wakeman. Recently appointed drummer Mike Mangini shows tireless dexterity that earned him the coveted call up to replace Mike Portnoy, but it's in the next instrumental Enigma Machine where he really shows why he's been the world's fastest drummer in five different disciplines.

There's a threat that Mangini's skinswork will preside over the album but thankfully there's so much going on with Petrucci and Rudess duelling frequently with their strings and keys respectively that there's almost very little room left for James LaBrie to utter in the vocals or John Myung's accomplished basslines. The bulk of the material here could be described as epic, however the Myung lyricised Surrender To Reason sounds like the most radio friendly track on Dream Theater and dares to be a standout from the remainder of the record with less layers than usual. However the instrumental on it sounds like the axemen has put a violin across his pickups, a-la Led Zeppelin's Dazed And Confused.

In all, the track listing numbers nine, however the final one Illumination Theory runs for 22 minutes and is divided into five sub sections which nowadays is accepted as the norm in any prog or symphonic metal act. Its introduction is grandiose and kaleidoscpoic before the introduction of the now familiar Petrucci/Rudess team effort with LaBrie filling in the blanks in between until a breather sets ten minutes in, then the same order of dexterity returns to the structure. There's hardly time for pause but like the opening track, it affirms itself in the utmost solid vibe then all seems to come to a philharmonic crescendo with three minutes to spare. Another brief total pause and then John and Jordan carry everything in the last few moments into fade with smooth and reflective tones.

The 'Theater have always set themselves high musical standards and as I suggested earlier, they surely are the finest progressive metal act ever to grace terra firma. So with this new album literally hot off the press, it's difficult to see how they are ever going to be upstaged. One of the most entertaining records I've heard in many a long time (not just saying either) and certainly my contender for album of the year. I promise you it is that good, it makes me feel like seventeen again.

10 out of ten. This is proof there is a God.

Listen to Dream Theater here on Deezer
Click on here for the band's Official Website
Buy the new Dream Theater CD here on Amazon

Ned's Atomic Dustbin - God Fodder

The name as strange as a green moon and that was originally took from an episode of The Goon Show, they were famous for have two bass players in their line up and for an indie band came across as more of a metal band with their fuzzy guitar and image which did not so much verge on, but was a direct prequel to the grunge fashion which was in directly responsible for them going tits up in the UK just a few years after this was released - ie once grunge exploded, magazines and the great unwashed were not interested in them and they split up in 1995.  Since 2000 they have been back together (the original line up came back in 2008) and have released one new song since then.  There has been the promise of new material, but nothing has come to the forefront, but that is not the reason for this blog.  On this occasion we are looking at their first album which comes with its own story.

Before this album was released, these guys were on a record label called Chapter 22.  At that point they were becoming one of the most popular bands in the UK; yet Chapter 22 could not keep up with demand and records (back when they were the original form of musical release) were hard to find.  This lead to frustration and the band leaving Chapter 22 and signing a distribution deal with Sony Records (via the Columbia label) to release their records on their own label Furtive - thus giving them the clout of a major label in distribution terms, whilst retaining that desirable independence which was hipper than a hipster's shoes in those days (still sort of true today, but it is more of a struggle).  With that support behind them in the background, they released God Fodder which peaked at number 4 in the UK charts and they were starting to make inroads in the USA as well.

Starting with one of their earlier number from the Chapter 22 days "Kill Your Television", the band come out with all barrels loaded and shooting from their hips. This was one of the biggest dance floor fillers for those alternative discos of the 90's.  Also on this album are previous singles "Until You Find Out" and "Grey Cell Green" which was released on their first ep 'The Ingredients'.  The stand out track of the album however is "Happy" which is also their highest charting single in the UK.  This track sounds as crisp now as it did back in 1991 when it first came out, it still sends people of a certain age into silly frenzies (I have witnessed this) and apart from their song "Trust" (which has only ever been released on compilations) it is also their stand out track. Whilst the other tracks might not match these songs, they are still of a high quality - take "Nothing Like"; bands such as The Wombats and Foals would kill for something this good, believe me it is much better than about 90% of the alternative music out there now.

So overall what you have a great piece of 90's alternative that whilst not losing any of its charm or durability, is probably going to be lost in the great mix of musical time; whilst the likes of the Happy Mondays (shite), Blur (shite) and New Order (better when they were Joy Division) will be remembered over this little piece of bouncing heaven.  Much like the Wonderstuff who they supported in one of their big breaks when they were starting out, they seemed deemed to be an also ran, and this album proves that they were more than this.  'God Fodder' is a brilliant album, one which some bands have tried to recreate charm wish, but have failed totally.  Not wanting to sound like an old fart, but it was done better in those days and not pro-tooled to buggery - Mon the Dustbin!!!

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

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Ned's Atomic Dustbin website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

Here is a link to the video for "Happy"

Past sermons

Greatest hits