31 October 2013

Lou Reed - Berlin:Live At St. Ann's Warehouse

March 2 1942 - October 27 2013: Lou Reed is no more, this is a sad thing for the music world; yet the man himself did not like the 'rest in peace' phrase.  To be honest, Lou Reed is an artist I admired for his attitude more than his music at times.  The Velvet Underground were a strange pack of dogs, most of his solo stuff just confuses me and as I have stated elsewhere - I am sure I am the only man in the UK who loves the collaboration he did with Metallica 'Lulu' (cleverly linked here).  But his attitude, his desire to go down his own path no matter what it takes and to hell with the rest of the world is just one of the most amazing things I have ever seen in the music business.  He wanted to do things his way or not at all - also the man had a knack of doing an album that was hated upon release, yet a few years or decades later it would be herald as a lost classic - point in case here is with the album 'Berlin'.  When it first came out, Rolling Stones magazine called it a "disaster"; yet in 2003 it made the same magazine's top 500 albums ever released. Maybe there is hope for 'Lulu' in the future.  This was a live recording of the album doing in 2006 and released with a live film of the concert in 2008.  I could have started elsewhere, but I decided to start with something that I have no idea of what I think about it at first, there is no preconception to what is going on here, I am going in blind and I think that might have appealed to him; someone to listen without any prejudice.

When this was released it was the first time in 30 years that the album had been played as a whole and the tour and film were a success; as I said it was a start contrast to the original flop and this concept album about a doomed couple, and stories of drug use, prostitution, depression, domestic violence, and suicide.  It is a harrowing tale which has not real hope; there is no salvation for the audience at the end of the record.  Yet there is a beauty here.  Yes it is broken, songs like "The Bed", "Sad Song", "Lady Day" and "Oh Jim" are (and I am being honest here) some of the darkest pieces of music I have ever heard.  This album would make the happiest man in the world start to doubt himself, it is just heart breaking, desolate and without redemption.

Yet from beginning to end, I love this work.  It is an amazing piece of music which was beyond it's time when it was released and has a timeless feel now.  The fact this recording is down with a full chorus and backing band which rivals the albums original team just works for me.  After the original failure, Lou Reed would not visit this album too much; I can see why in one way - would you want to be reminded of what was perceived as a failure?  But over the years it was shown to be a fantastic piece of music and is now held as a classic.  This live recording is a beautiful side note to that original record, as live recordings go.  I find it beautiful and well done.  It has served the purpose to perked up my appetite for more here.  I will be honest; my next mission is to listen to the original release and probably to cry myself to sleep.  If only Mr Reed could be around for when 'Lulu' gets the recognition it deserves; we will miss you Mr Reed, glad you were a one of a kind.

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

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can go to the Lou Reed website here 

 You can listen to the album on Spotify here

Agharti - Change

I stumbled onto this band by accident whilst on one of my many jaunts through the underworld of the internet. They looked like they might be my sort of thing so I gave them a listen. From that listen I thought I’d review the album for this blog. So I did.

Agharti are a young Croatian band and Change is their second album, though first through a major label. Musically they purvey a familiar brand of symphonic, female fronted, gothic metal; the kind that bands such as Nightwish, Epica, Lacuna Coil, Within Temptation, The Gathering etc.  It’s a genre of music that’s become very generic over the years and, by and large, bands sound quite similar to each other. There’s a lot of clichés inherent to the genre also.

It takes a lot for a band to stand out from the throng and forge a unique and recognisable sound of their own.

 Have Agharti managed that feat? Well, not really. Yes the guitars have a bit more crunch than usual and there are some genuinely great riffs that pop up on Change, vocalist Tina has a strong, clear voice and the keyboards are entertainly parpy, in a pseudo-classical kind of way.

On the whole the songwriting is decent too. Many of the songs have good, strong choruses and there’s an interesting theme of sorts running through the album too, carried along by the three interludes: The Voice Of Freedom, The Voice Of Compassion and The Voice Of Change.

The main problem with Agharti is one of the clichés of the genre I mentioned earlier and it’s the male vocals of (I think!) guitarist Alen. They aren’t great and feel a little superfluous.
Maybe it’s a personal foible but it irks me when bands with a perfectly nice female singer insist on having a chap impersonate a hippopotamus giving birth all over the top of everything.
I get the juxtaposition thing, the light and shade, beauty and ugliness etc but it just sounds forced and passé  to me these days. I can’t honestly think of a band, of this ilk, that the Female/Male vocals works well with; A band that wouldn’t sound better with just the one vocalist. Even the big hitters like Lacuna Coil, Nightwish, Leaves’ Eyes and early Within Temptation are let down by the male vocals.

So then, Change isn’t really anything new but at least Agharti at least do it really well.  I’m sure that, given the chance, they’ll improve and develop as time passes and become something special.

6 out of 10 - Now I see where you were going, but not quite there.

View the band’s website HERE

Listen to Change on Spotify HERE

Buy the CD from the band HERE

26 October 2013

Tom Jones - Praise And Blame

Sometimes I'm a real glutton for punishment. All the acts that we love to hate, yes, yes, yes! I am referring to the overproduced bubblegum burst pop acts that saturate our airwaves and one of our bloggists Chris Jermyn has on several occasions been the unfortunate "volunteer" of reviewing artists most of us secretly loathe. Right now, I want you to imagine a throaty cackly Vincent Price laughter with evil forebodings from The Editor when he chose me to review an album by Tom Jones. Secretly between you and me, it's a good thing he hasn't seen the list of songs that I just abhor passionately. And trust me, I really do react to that kind of music with a few allergic adversities and wishing that the radio station would be switched.

So, onto the great man himself and while I'm not very knowledgeable of one of Wales' finest exports, I'm sure that Tom Jones is worthy of all the accolades he's earned in his 50 year career as well as collaborating with many fine acts like The Art Of Noise, Robbie Williams and Stereophonics. In fact I did hear parts of his 1999 album Reload which was what I thought was a reasonable effort but probably not one to set the world alight. And Praise And Blame is another covers record although this one feels perhaps more bluegrass and gospel orientated.

It's a good bet that if asked what was his most important selling point, then we would all say his voice and as you might expect it dominates the whole of this record. Strange Days is perhaps the most defining of Praise and Blame, originally recorded by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, it's kind of gospel/blues fused and probably the most notable of the eleven tracks here. I do enjoy listening to the John Lee Hooker cover Burning Hell, where the chord structure is rather more than the usual three and the slide guitar acoustics have some interesting distortions. The Johnny Cash inspired If I Give My Soul is a stripped down track preceding the Elvis Presley type Don't Knock, likewise the Willie Johnson (from the 1920s) offering Nobody's Fault But Mine. Again, the instrumentation is very limited and gives you an idea of how it must been a challenge to cut a record back then ninety years ago.

Some honky tonk piano work accompanies the great man's voice on Didn't It Rain before the preacher written Ain't No Grave with some soft backup vocals and the obligatory gospel references. Run On closes the album with some Muddy Waters overtones which secretly I do like and could envisage listening to with a glass of Jack Daniels in one hand listening to the boy from The Valleys.

The album is not a bad effort and in some cases better than Reload, however for me, it's rather stripped down excessively and there's not many other instruments running throughout the whole program. Not enough activity in the songs that hold my full attention. It's easy to identify with the tracks that hold very close to Mr. Jones' heart bearing in mind he started out in life doing rock n' roll before the successes came with Delilah and What's New Pussycat. But this is the new Millennium and terms of retro feel Praise And Blame goes, well I won't say too far for my tastes, but certainly not enough.

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

Buy Praise And Blame here on Amazon
Official website here
Listen to the album here on Deezer

Iron Maiden - The X Factor

This is the tenth studio album by Iron Maiden (Which I guess is where the 'X' comes into it as 'X' in Roman Numerals is '10) and it's also the first one since 'Killers' which doesn't have Bruce Dickinson on vocals. He'd left after the 'Fear Of The Dark' tour to persue a solo career. In his place, the band hired Blaze Bayley (Formerly of Wolfsbane) and began about writing and recording the material which would make up this album.

Released in 1995 to a lukewarm response, it's possibly the darkest album the band have created, due in part to band bassist and leader Steve Harris going through a divorce and grieving over the death of his father. As far as Maiden fare goes - it's business as usual. Seriously. Songs about books and movies? Check. Galloping basslines? On a couple of songs, check. Duel guitar leads? Check. Epic centrepiece? Check. Soaring air-raid siren vocals? Nope, Blaze has a lower range. That was really the only change for this album. Well that, and the cover art which wasn't a painting this time round but a photo of Eddie getting dissected or something. It's shit, to be honest hence why I've used the alternative cover here.

Let's get the elephant in the room out the way - Blaze Bayley's vocals. Honestly - he's a good vocalist. Nothing spectacular but he does the job. At least on the albums he plays on. He just couldn't cut it live as his voice cannot match up to the Dickinson-era. The stuff on this and Virtua XI (A really shit album, Maiden's worst) perfectly suits his voice as it was written with his vocal capabilities in mind. In a roundabout way, it reminds me of Sylvester McCoy as Doctor Who in the sense that both were actually quite good in their roles but with the odd exception (You be the judge) the material being written for them just wasn't up to speed. For every 'Sign Of The Cross' there was a '2am', for every 'Lord Of The Flies' there was a 'Look For The Truth'. The rest of the band weren't much better. They go about their thing with typical Maiden fashion but there is no energy there whatsoever. I doubt that's because the majority of the material is slow, they just sound disinterested. Seriously, listen to Powerslave and then this, you will see the difference. Granted there is 11 years difference between those albums but that's not the point. Having said that, the 90's were not a good time for Maiden. Nothing to do with changing music demographics but that Maiden were seriously off the boil. Fuck, I reckon you could make a CD of all of Maiden's highlights from the 90's and you'd be lucky to get TEN songs. Be honest, you know I'm right. Instead of going through the motions, they should've taken time out and taken stock of the state of the band and what direction they wanted to go in. Steve Harris is also notorious for his quality control - did he seriously think this was good enough for a band like Maiden? If he did then he was so fuckin' wrong. Mind, he's only a poor little Hammer so what does he know? Only kidding Steve! But yeah, fuck West Ham!!!

Opener is 'The Sign Of The Cross' which at 11 minutes or so long is the longest song Maiden had written by this point (The first being 'The Rhime Of The Ancient Mariner'). This is possibly an example of a Maiden curveball as prior to this, the first song on a Maiden album was usually a fast, rocky number. It's a good song but it seems a bit of a lumbering number to open an album with. As mentioned, Blaze's voice really suits this song. 'Lord Of The Flies' quickly follows before we hit the second highlight of the album - 'Man On The Edge' which is based on the movie 'Falling Down' (Possibly one of the best movies of the 90's) and tells the story of a man struggling with life in the 90's - kinda like Maiden themselves I suppose. This is the song that should've opened the album, and frantic pace and duelling guitar leads. It's no 'Aces High' but it does the job!

Then...nothing, for about 40 minutes. At this point, the songs tend to merge into one as they all start off in a similar format. Clean into with a guitar melody over it before launching into some maudlin about something or other. Actually, that was a bit strong, there are some good songs here - namely 'The Aftermath', 'Blood On The Worlds Hands' and 'Edge Of Darkness' which is about 'Apocalypse Now' (That would've been a great movie but Marlon Brando ruined it with his shit performance). However, I can try and big it all it likes, it doesn't hide the fact that it's just a continuation of the downward trajectory Maiden were on at the time. '2am' is abysmal but at least it's not 'The Angel And The Gambler'.

At least the production by Steve Harris is well done. No consolation though. Maiden are a band with a rich history so one stinker is allowable - but three in a row (Five if you count the 'A Real Live/Dead One' live albums - I wouldn't know about 'Live At Donington' as I've never heard it) is inexcusable. It just shows that the band were running out of ideas and steam at an alarming rate. Some time off was definately needed. I'd also go out on a limb and say that even with the return of Bruce and Adrian, they're still not as good as they've previously been (Since the return of Bruce and Adrian, they've done something like FOUR studio albums and FIVE live albums as well as reissue Maiden England - lose money in the 90's lads?). I'm probably gonna get a lot of shit for this but it seems like a band who were out to have a laugh now seem to be chasing lost revenue - and what better way than by releasing live albums with your most popular vocalist doing all the classics?

1/10 - You really are touching the bottom of the barrel.

Chris J.

You can buy this album on iTunes.

Pearl Jam - Vitalogy

So here we are at the 500th posting - never thought it would get here so fast, yet here we are.  Sometimes pages pick a special artist or a monumental album which to look into as some sort of statement.  Not us, apart from me telling the others that the 500th blog was mine, I've gone for something that is not looked upon too fondly by some areas of the music press when it was released.  Back in 1994, Pearl Jam was laying their collective claim for being one of the biggest rock bands in the world.  Released about 5 months after the death of Grunge figurehead Kurt Cobain this album is wrongly seen as some sort of tribute to the fallen singer, when the fact remains that 'Vitalogy' was a reaction against grunge itself and what the band had made from their success with their previous albums 'Ten' & 'Vs'.  It was also an album formed by conflict within the band with singer Eddie Vedder taking the final decisions for the first time, drummer Dave Abbruzzese was sacked and guitarist Stone Gossard thought about quitting.  Even producer Brendan O'Brien said there was some imploding going on.  So what sort of record came from this conflict?

Starting with "Last Exit" this record is probably the most diverse that the band have released.  There is a fire from the off with the opening followed by the insane "Spin The Black Circle" which sounds more like a pray to an elder deity rather than a ode to the joy of listening to a song on vinyl.  After this comes the brooding and aggressive "Not For You" which is just aggressive without ever needing to hit the accelerator. You can feel the tension coming out more with "Tremor Christ" and its hypnotic playing.  Then the band turn left with the heart breaking ballad "Nothing Man" about someone who is trapped in the shell of a relationship after the other has left. To this day it can still bring a tear to my eye.

Next is the punky "Whipping" which is just standard album fodder and could have been on either of their earlier releases if the truth be told; it is ok, but nothing very special which at the time was out of place for the band.  They were going around with the golden touch at that moment.  Then comes the short instrumental-ish "Pry. To" which is just a small jamming track placed in the middle to break up side one form side two (for the CD or download generation, records used to have sides on tape and vinyl) - again a little throw away.  Then come the towering "Corduroy" which bring the album back on track, going on about how the singer is a mess (in my mind, the band sounds like it was).

Then it goes a little strange with the Tom Waits-esque "Bugs".  For years I could not figure out if I love this, hated it or both.  It is still that way to this day, but my deity the song is still interesting.  "Satan's Bed" follows with its S&M undertones, but is probably a barbed-song about what the band thought about the music industry.  "Better Man" (the natural companion to "Nothing Man") is the next song which is shown from the side of a lady in a loveless marriage who wants to leave but still comes back to what she knows.  Tragic and glorious in one swift motion. Come up next is another break in the album with "Aya Davanita" which works better than "Pry. To" as a short break, it is short and to the point, it is also very hypnotic as well and is sometimes stuck in my head for day.  Then comes the album's last official track in "Immortality" which is your standard Pearl Jam that makes the heart soar and is crushingly beautiful.  Until recently I did not know it was released as a single (it was only released in the USA, Canada and New Zealand), which is not about the death of Kurt Cobain.  In fact the band has gone on the record to confirm that the majority of the work here was finished before his death.  What does not need disputing is the fact it is a brilliant song and closed the original release so well, but newer releases now have "Hey Foxymophandlemama, That's Me" or "Stupid Mop" as the end track.  This track is just a noise piece which I personally love, it just goes off in a totally different direction which pissed off a lot of people and I think the band needed to do this, just to show they were in control and would not do 'Ten' or 'Vs' part 2.

For a lot of people this is where Pearl Jam stopped being relevant, for me it is where they became more relevant.  It is a flawed record, but it is still my favourite record by the band to this day.  The packaging is stunning, the mood is darker than a winter's night in the Artic circle and it is not welcoming in the slightest.  It was born in conflict and is spiky to the end.  Maybe that is why I love it and find it so fascinating; the internal war is there for all to see, and an internal fight has never sounded so beautiful.  The album has aged gracefully and is well worth revisiting, not quite perfect; but that is what makes it more special.

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

You can purchase one of the versions of the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Pearl Jam website here

You can listen to the album here on Spotify

The band was having a ban on videos at the time, but I'm sure YouTube has live performance of their work at the time up there.

Manic Street Preachers - The Holy Bible

Another entry into the Manics themed blogs that we;re running with, I got this one. My first choice was actually "Generation Terrorists" on the basis that is the only MSP album I've heard (Before this one. I've yet to hear other Manics albums. Not sure I'd want to as they seemed to get boring once they got into their "Top Shop" phase), but that was already selected. I'd heard this album was incredibly angry so I thought I'd give it a listen. And is it an incredibly angry album?

Oh yes. How angry?

Very. I'll get to the anger in a minute, but first - a bit of backstory...

This is the third Manics album, recorded and released in 1994. It sees the band mark a return to their roots of being an angry little punk band. "Gold Against The Soul" was too 'stadium rock', apparently - I've never heard it but a quick scoot around the interwebz shows that's what a few reviewers at the time reckoned. This album was the last to feature Richey Edwards who disappeared in 1995 and is - at the time of doing this blog - still missing, although it's presumed he committed suicide. It's a well-documented case and one could argue that this album is a window into the fellows mind at the time - and it doesn't look good. Plagued by depression, alcoholism, self harm and eating disorders, he even had a stint in The Priory (The detox place, not the shit TV Show) before the tour that promoted this album. It was also commented by band members that his contribution at the recording sessions was to get drunk, cry then fall asleep. Mind, Edwards wrote the vast majority of the lyrics for this album and they're incredibly bleak. The music itself it very stripped down with a harsh, raw production, reminiscent of early punk albums, maybe even post-punk! But, it's perfect and compliments the lyrics perfectly. One of the songs off this album ('Faster') actually caused a bit of a kick-off when the band performed it on Top Of The Pops (A really shit UK music show which would play the Top 10) as the singer, James Dean Bradfield, wore a SAS mask with his first name written on it and the rest of the band wore military fatigues. Not sure exactly how or why that caused a furoe, but there you go.

When I first started listening I didn;t think I'd like it as the first two songs are in my opinion, nothing special. Mind, "ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayitsworldwouldfallapart" is a fucking great song title! Once we get to 'Of Walking Abortion' then it all kicks off, big style. Everything between that song and PCP (The final track) is a goddamn fucking masterpiece and a work of art. 'Archives Of Pain' is possibly my favourite song off the album - it sounds like the sound of a mental breakdown (Which I guess it was, kind of...). '4st 7lbs', 'She Is Suffering', 'Archives Of Pain'...all of them. I cannot find the words. It's a shame that I missed out on this album at the time, mind I probably would've hated it as I was listening to Sepultura, Pantera, Biohazard and stuff like that back in '94. It's also a shame that we'll never find out what happened to Mr Edwards as one thing is for sure: When he left the Manics, everything that made them great - the fury, the fire, the passion, the anger, the bite, the venom, the balls the sense of urgency in their music - all left with him. Not bad for a guy who was practically miming when he strapped on a guitar,

9/10 - Almost perfect. Almost...

You can buy this album on iTunes.

Buy on Amazon

(For some reason, probably legal, Youtube won't let us post the official videos for any Manics songs off this album so here is the aforementioned TOTP performance of 'Faster').

25 October 2013

Manic Street Preachers - Everything Must Go

I just had to do a little more research on the Manics' early discography before listening to Everything Must Go for the first time in about fifteen years. Their previous offering before this was of course The Holy Bible and it's widely acknowledged to be one of the bleakest records released. Lyrically, just like the first two albums, the content is of sharp observational wit yet the music belies the themes and shouldn't really go hand in hand with the writings of Richie Edwards and Nicky Wire. I won't go into too much detail here but there were quite a few tracks that I found rather unnerving and yet I found it all so strangely addictive and compelling largely because of the real life ironies they tell us as well as the remarkable lack of tackiness in The Holy Bible.

Most of you reading this I'm sure were brought up in the Britpop era where Oasis and Blur ruled the airwaves, with the likes of Kula Shaker, Supergrass and Suede propping the up the basis of Cool Britannia, and MSP slotted in nicely with their anthemic A Design For Life as well as their title track. Trouble is, I can't help but wonder if the Manics chose to follow the same format with heavily backed string arrangements. Has Everything Must Go been diluted in the same way that Phil Spector "ruined" Let It Be? Or perhaps then the Welsh quartet were tiring of their anti establishment leftish views and were threatening to go mainstream and ditch their glam punk roots? This of course all occurred at a cornerstone in the band's career where lyricist and occasional guitarist Edwards had inexplicably vanished. Those closest to him maintain that this was completely out of character although his self harming and constant bouts of depression tying together what I suspect indicate what he was capable of. Richey Edwards at his brilliant best at his and destructive worst.

"Libraries gave us power" is one of the most resonating opening lines I've heard, it takes its inspiration from a slogan from a library close to their home. A Design For Life explores the social and economical gulf between the classes at a time where there was so much indifference then, and still holds true seventeen years on. It feels ageless and I like it still to this day, but my personal favourite is Kevin Carter which tells the story of a prizewinning photographer who took one of the most evocative and chilling snapshots of a dying African child with a vulture close by. Just briefly straying a little away from this album, I dare any discerning and sound minded person to see the photo and not be moved by it. It also showcases drummer Sean Moore's rare but accomplished trumpet work.

As with their previous works, EMG runs on variations of themes, as mentioned above and also of various other biopics. The absence of Richey Edwards on the front cover may be an acceptance by the other three that possibly he would never reappear but any evidence that he's has been erased from the Manics' mindset is quickly dispelled by Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky, yet another challenge for James Dean Bradfield and Moore to wrap the music round his lyrical contributions. It's a rather cookily acoustic/harp arrangement and rather enchanting at times I'm almost ashamed to say. In the mid section of the album, there's more evidence of Manics mellowing with the Simple Minds-ish Girl Who Wanted To Be God while Removables keeps up with the order although the closing riffs have a Nirvana feel about them. Probably not their best effort but Nicky Wire's lyricism keeps things interesting.

Seems at this point we're dabbling with the Peter Gabriel side of things at the business end of the album with Interiors (Song For Willem Kooning), a tribute to a Dutch abstract impressionist although there's a rather slight threat of going mainstream with Further Away, Australia and No Surface All Feeling with the former track having guitars akin to that of Johnny Marr's and the latter bringing some memorable Britpop-esque six string structure if we ever thought MSP were going to tuck proceedings into bed quietly. For me it's all so strangely compelling and catchy.

OK, granted that with the disappearance of Richey Edwards the Manics have left behind some lyrical punch and have concentrated more on the music as a trio, but Wire's done a reasonably sterling effort with the wording. However on this occasion, it's the JBD/Sean Moore musical output that dominate Everything Must Go and certainly it's much more user friendly than Generation Terrorists and The Holy Bible. So much so I personally prefer this to the other two albums as well as probably Gold Against The Soul. A change in direction was most likely what the Welsh fellas were looking for in the mid 1990s and compared to the other rock acts doing the rounds at the time, this was always going to be one of the meatier albums going. Even seventeen years later, its importance can never be underestimated.

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

Listen to Everything Must Go here on Deezer
Buy the album here on Amazon
Follow the Manics' activities here on their official website

24 October 2013

Exxasens - Satellites

A little while ago, I made a blog about the last Exxasens album 'Eleven Miles' - cleverly linked here - which discussed how I first heard about this band and their excellent album.  I did note the repetitive nature of the music, but as I said it was very enjoyable and I was looking forward to their next release.  Well boys and girls that time is upon us.  Currently available on their bandcamp and on general release (in the UK at least) from 28th October 2013, 'Satellites' is released onto the world.  When it comes to Post Rock I have a lot of time for songs to build and for letting the passage of music develop, this sort of music is not for people who want instant gratification and a short sharp kick.  The songs build the come to you in stages and ask for further attention.  So is this album a quality example of this genre (like the last album)?

Mixed and Produced at Nov-25-Studios, Sant Andreu, Exxa-Studios, Garcia & Whatabout Studio, Hospitalet by the band and Sergio Picon, with the mastering being done at Ultramarinos Costa Brava (Sant Feliu De Guixols) by Victor Garcia this album consists of 8 tracks which starts with the introduction "The Launching".  This is like an introduction to a concert and it will be very effective in a live show and is good at building the anticipation in the first track proper - "Rocket To The Sky".  A soaring piece of music, they hit the ground running here; the hook riff is kept simple and effective, the floating guitars to a minimum and the structure is very solid as well.  After this you have "Mass of Pluto" which keeps the pace up with its vortex of imagery and at times has a lot of Sigur Ros and Muse about it. 

Following on we have the title track of the album, and it is also the longest piece of music on this album at 11 minutes - possibly a nod to their last album?  Anyway, starting off with a simple drum beat, guitar strumming and keyboard trickery; this song is not for the toe tappers who want to have their bite sized moments in one go, it is for the people who want that moment of euphoria to be delivered in waves and moment throughout the song. At the one minute, thirty seconds mark when the first bridge kicks in I was a little worried that it might have tried to peak too soon.  This is not the case; it is just one of many moments in the song that give the audience that moment when they and the music can become one.  Yet it is not as if the song follows one pattern only, it changes and snakes to a returning hook which shows the band have gained a new level of maturity understanding.

So at the halfway point already and we enter the soft opening of "Sputnik" which despite being shorter than the title track has a more epic feel about it.  The guitar work and keyboard playing here just mesmerises me that I had to keep listening to this track on loop so I could finish writing the sentence - seriously I could get lost in this album for a long time. Which brings me to the almost industrial beginning that is "Arida" - upon first listening of this record it felt a little bit out of place in some ways; it is more harsh than the rest of the album (or it appeared to be so at the time), but the more I listened to it the more it made sense.  To the point where I now feel it is the stand out track of the album in its perfect little prism of joy and wonder.  After this is "Last Song Over The Horizon" which starts off with a countdown and then propels itself into the same waters as the opening two tracks, it is a return to a theme in the playing and it is beautifully done.  It does not feel forced or repetitive at all, it feels natural and in keeping with the album's overall vibe.  And finally we have "The Falling (Sin Outtro)" which gives the album closure starting with a mournful keyboard and strings that give way a brooding and powerful bridge (what else do you call a vocal-less chorus) that makes the hair on the back of my neck tingle with the way the music has taken me on a journey and the sample taken from live feeds of space flight make it more special.

To say this album is good is an understatement - it is properly spectacular and mesmerising.  It is an album that when I saw the track listing I was scared it might be a little short, but it is perfect in length.  It is not too long to get repetitive, and it is not too short to make you frustrated.  There is definitely a bigger prog influence on this album (whether it is by design or not is a different story) which lends to a greatly satisfactory listening experience.  I am blown away by how much the band have improved since their last record, for the second time in a week I feel like I have heard a brilliant piece of work.  It is making this year's album of the year compilation a hell of a lot harder, but this is definitely a contender.

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

You can purchase the album from Amazon here (from 28th October) - MP3 version

Alternatively you can purchase the album from the band's Exxasens Bandcamp page here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

Past sermons

Greatest hits