30 March 2014

Joan Osborne - Relish

Now whilst trailing through various articles about albums which are going to be released this year, a name jumped out that I had not heard for quite some time - Joan Osborne.  Brief history lesson for the people who are clueless to this woman (and I am sorry to say that it is done from the point of view of someone in the UK):  In 1995, Joan Osborne released the album you are reading about now called 'Relish'.  From this album came the international hit single "One Of Us".  This proved to be a very popular track and the album itself was nominated for a Grammy award.  After this though (at least in the UK), it has sort of been quite for Ms Osborne over here in England.  She has been releasing albums which have enjoyed mixed success according to Wikipedia in the USA, been nominated for more Grammy's (7 according to her website) but she has yet to have the same sort of success (as a solo artist at least) as she did with this first release. She has been nominated for another Grammy as part of Trigger Happy (not too sure if this is part of her seven nominations - she is proud of these I feel) which is still nothing to be sniffed at.  But seeing her name on the list of albums to be released this year made me wistful to hear this album again and try to figure out why I have never owned it.  So whilst doing it I might as well write up about it as well.

Starting the album off is "St. Teresa" which was the second single to be released in the UK.  It is acoustically driven affair, used to showcase Osborne's deeper vocal ranged.  Sort of like a folk "Black Velvet" from Alannah Myles, it is a decent opening but it is hardly life changing. Next is a cover of Bob Dylan's "Man In The Long Black Coat".  It is a very slow and again it is very pleasant on the ears; but it seems to go on forever like a dark long teatime of a broken Wednesday in April.  It is safe to say it is not one of the best Dylan covers out there.  Next is "Right Hand Man" which I thought was a Sheryl Crow song for a few moments. Again, it is not bad but it is hardly exciting either.  It not have any fizz or excitement either. So far, so dull..... "Pensacola" does nothing to change this momentum, the voice is in fine form on the song and the band is playing well yet I find myself in an Americana coma by the end of the tune."Dracula Moon" should be a hell of a lot more exciting given the title, but sadly it is not the case.  I find Osborne's vocals to be very powerful, very compelling; yet this is the musical equivalent of a cold egg sandwich.  It is alright, but you would not pick it up out of choice.  Then you have the big hit - "One Of Us".  Now this is a well crafted song and is truly genre crossing.  It was a deserved hit at the time and works very well now.  So at the half way point of the album we have only had one song that has any sort of passion (or pulse).

"Ladder" is a natural fold to "One Of Us", it has a similar sort of feel and makes the listener take more notice of the album.  It is a slow blues stomper, much better overall and plays to Osborne's strengths.  A clever and well played track.  Then they go back to the coma section of her song selection with "Spider Web", it bemoans the state of the world with MTV and other things keeping people in a coma.  I would like to add this song to the list of coma aids, dull as yesterday's dishwaters.  "Let's Just Get Naked" is another slow number which is supposed to sound sexy and dirty.  It sounds like someone singing on methadone and takes this album to a new low.  "Help Me" starts off with a harmonica which sounds promising but is nothing special, it is predictable and would have been much better as an instrumental.  "Crazy Baby" is an interesting number, it is a very slow number and like "Ladder" and "One Of Us", it is much better than the rest of the album.  That said, it is still not something I would want to hear too often. "Lumina" is much the same as the album, long slow and slightly disappointingly predictable.

I am beginning to remember why I have never owned this album at this point, it is pedestrian dull.  I like a few numbers from it, but much like the other albums that have been voted for album of the year at the Grammy's it does nothing for me.  What makes it more disappoint is knowing that the lady has a fine set of vocals and is talented.  I'm still gonna have a listen to her new album for the blog, but I am not expecting much if this is considered the peak of her career. 

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

Top track - One of Us

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Joan Osborne website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

Alternatively, if you’re a Deezer user you can listen to the album on this link

29 March 2014

Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden

From small beginnings, legends are born. And thus, this is the debut album by Iron Maiden, possibly the biggest and most successful metal band in the world. At the time, it was commended and the band then became standard bearers for what was then called the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, but no-one knew they'd eventually go onto become one of metal's proudest and most loved bands. Not a bad outcome for five lads from East London who'd spent the four years before this was released playing local dives the length and breadth of the land as well as experiencing the kind of line-up changes that would usually cripple a band. Indeed, only bassist Steve Harris and guitarist Dave Murray remain from this line-up.

The first thing you notice about this album is that it doesn't sound much like the Iron Maiden of today. Like most debut albums, it sounds like a band trying to find it's feet although there are hints at what would come, especially in terms of ambitious songwriting. The production isn't too good, it's very rough and while it may add to the general vibe, it could've been better. Having said that, this was the third attempt to make the album as the band had trouble with production from the off. The first producer made a crap mix so the fired him, and the second producer suggested to Steve Harris that he use a plec to play his bass instead of using his fingers! Naturally, he was fired too.

Kicking off with the quite frankly fantastic "Prowler", it sets it's stall pretty early. The first thing you can hear is the punk vibe to it, which then was considered off as a) punk and metal were two very seperate genres in those days and b) the band themselves have gone on record to say they actually hated punk. Then-lead singer Paul Di'Anno (real name Paul Andrews) has a very raspy voice, which I guess is where the punk vibe came from. The best thing about this song is that it mixes tempos without sounding forced. The mid-section sounding frantic as if it were a tramp who is masturbating in the bushes over some women he's just clocked. It's what the song is about. Seriously, check the lyrics! The guitar work is class, some tight rhythm playing over a wah-wah infused melody. This leads into the next song, "Remember Tomorrow". A slow, haunting song with a brooding atmosphere. It switches between quiet verse and loud chorus. Again, it's a top song which shows they have some variety. Next, we're onto the boogie of "Running Free". For some reason, this song reminds me of glam rock (Slade, The Sweet, Suzi Quatro and all that lot). This song also made it onto the seminal live album 'Live After Death', albeit for eight minutes long due to having a singalong section in the middle. It also contains the legendary "SCREAM FOR ME!!!" sentence that current singer Bruce Dickinson likes to shout whilst playing live. On here, the song is as rough and as unfriendly as the East London streets the band hail from. Curiously, it contains no guitar solo although there are plenty guitar melodies instead. This then leads to what I feel is the album highlight "Phantom Of The Opera". Loosely based on the book of the same name, it's the first song on this album that gives us a glimpse into the part of Iron Maiden that likes to write epic, almost prog-like songs. Usually, every Iron Maiden album has a song which is generally looked upon as an epic centrepiece. This song has it. The moment the guitar starts with a simple melody line, it then launches into a surging rock beat which doesn't let up - until the second section which is more mid-paced. This is basically the song in a nutshell, a few sections all spliced together. Whilst that may sound awkward, the band pulls it off. Easily the best song on here. UK readers of a certain age may remember the song being used in an advert for lucozade which also starred athlete Daley Thompson.

Side two opens up with an instrumental by the name of "Transylvania" which is another really great song. Some excellent guitar work - which leads (no pun intended) to the guiarists on this album. Dave Murry is one of them, as you know, and the second is a guy called Dennis Stratton who ended up getting sacked over musical differences after the subsequent tour. He played some great stuff on here, but Adrian Smith - his replacement - was much better. In fact, Mr Smith is the best guitarist in Maiden. They went to shit when he left. Coincidence? I think not! "Strange World" is up next and it's a slow song. Not that that's a bad thing but it's not the best song on here. It's a proper 'lighters in the air' moment though, which no doubt went down well live. "Charlotte The Harlot" restores order, detailing the story of a lady called Charlotte and her prowess at the 'oldest profession', the only song written by Dave Murray on his own. This ended up becoming something the band would revisit in later albums ("22 Acacia Avenue" on 'Number Of The Beast' being the most notable). Finally, we're only the blaze of glory that is the title track - "Iron Maiden"! It turns and lines up for the final home stretch before running home as fast as it can! Nice breakdown in the middle with an especially great bassline, it remains a live favourite even to this day. Not a bad way to finish an album.

The band would go on to bigger and better things (Until the 90's at any rate), that's a fact. However, as a cornerstone in the history of the band itself then it stands as both a dated and weathered cornerstone but an essential one at the same time. As mentioned, there are bits where it sounds like the band are still trying to find their identity but the sheer enthusiasm and energy involved makes up for it.

Top Track: Phantom Of The Opera. As if I hadn't made it clear enough.

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

Chris J.

Amazon link...
Spotify link...
(There were no actual music videos for this album, due to that particular medium not having been fully realised yet, but here is the band performing it on some TV show)

(And here is the lucozade ad with Phantom Of The Opera. The athlete is Daley Thompson)

24 March 2014

Masters Of Reality - Sunrise On The Sufferbus

Way back in 1991 I had an album on cassette that I listened to tons, it was an album sampler for Def American records called Til Def Us Do Part. It was first place I’d properly heard some of the artists on it, all of which I still listen to today. It featured 1 or 2 songs by: Slayer, The Black Crowes, The Four Horsemen, Danzig, Trouble and a strange, piano led, rock song about a fortune telling machine (like Zoltar Speaks in the film BIG) called Doraldina’s Prophecies. It was by Masters Of Reality who I had never heard of in my life. It gradually became my favourite song on the album. Thus began my love of the band.

Masters Of Reality is, in essence, one man:  Chris Goss. The rest of the band are very much an open policy, Like Queens Of The Stone Age (various members of QOTSA have played in Masters Of Reality at one stage or another, including Nick Homme).  Their musical style has always varied wildly, often album to album but the one constant is Chris’s voice. He has a very warm and relaxing tone to his voice that’s instantly recognisable whatever style of music he’s crooning over.

Sunrise On The Sufferbus was their second album and released in 1992. The line up on ths occasion was Chris Goss on Vocals and Gutar, Googe on bass and, bizarrely, Ginger Baker on Drums.

It was recorded at the renowned Sound City studios and that’s the main reason for this review. Eddie wanted us all to review some of the many many albums recorded there as a long term project. This was the first album I saw on the list that I HAD to review.

It opens with one of their most well-known songs, She Got Me (When She Got Her Dress On). It’s a lively, blues driven song that only features a couple of lines of words repeated. It’s infectious and the sort of thing you find yourself humming on the toilet.

Things wind down after that though with the next three songs:  J.B. Witchdance, a slow, bluesy song with mostly spoken word vocals. Jody Sings is a sixties style folk ballad and sounds like something by The Beatles. It’s a really pretty song and one of my favourites. After that comes Rolling Green, a summery, semi-acoustic pop song that evokes images of lush meadows and picnics.

Things pick up the pace a little with Ants In The Kitchen that, again, has a sixties feel to it but is more guitar heavy that Jody Sings. V.H.V. Is a slow, ponderous Stoner Rock song that reminds me a little of Yer Blues by The Beatles in places.

There are a few throwaway songs on Sunrise On The Sufferbus, such as Madonna and Bicycle which are sub 1-minute little interludes. And T-USA sees Gnger Baker reading a poorly written poem about how bad Americans are at making tea. It’s not very good.

100 Years (Of Tears In The Wind) is another of their better known songs and is a grand, sweeping Prog epic that’s laden with strings and atmosphere. Tilt-A-Whirl is the most upbeat and lively song on the album, excluding perhaps She Got Me. It’s an album highlight for me. Rabbit One slows things right back down again with some head nodding psychedelia.

The final two songs are Gimme Water and The Moon In Your Pocket. The former is another sixties influenced rocker with a nice undulating riff and the latter, and album closer, sounds like an old Elvis ballad that’s a nice if forgettable finale.

So Sunrise On The Sufferbus then, is a good album with some of the bands most well-known songs but when compared to some of their best albums like  Pine/Cross Dover, Deep In The Hole or their magnificent debut The Blue Garden it’s not quite good enough.

Best Song: Jody Sings

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

Listen to it on Spotify HERE

Buy it on Amazon HERE

22 March 2014

Tool- Ænema

It is refreshing to have a band that is playing the game by their own rules; albeit a frustrating set that they never share with anyone else.  Tool is a band which has divided the opinions of the ATTIWLTMOWOS people for many years.  There is one side who basically worship the ground that they walk on and there is the other side which saying things like 'But their songs are over 4 minutes long, how do you stay away'. I will admit to being on the side that loves this band (but I can get annoyed by some of their antics as well - Maynard, stop selling wine and Puscifer; we want a new album!!! This is their second studio album which was released in 1996.  They have never been the most prolific of bands, but they do spend their sweet time making music.  This was an international hit when it was first released, spawning 6 singles, videos on MTV and winning a Grammy award for best Metal performance of the title track.  But they don't like playing the game, they will perform under their own rules, their gigs are strange and wonderful events to behold, if they do festivals you better be prepared to be mocked and they are just strange in every way it can be possible.  So why is it that I love this band so much?  Well that is what I want to look into, which I will be doing starting here.

Starting with the hit "Stinkfist" you are thrown into a world of mystery from the beginning.  To this day I have not heard an opening that I can honestly say is one of the most powerful statements of intent to ever be laid down in a studio.  I can perhaps pick on one hand a few other tracks which have had as much impact in my life (it is not many, less than 4), it is just that good a song.  The work of Messrs Keenan, Carey, Jones & Chancellor (this is the bass player's first release with the band) is really strong from the beginning.  An epic piece of music to be followed by the almost Arabic "Eulogy", another slice of progressive metal with would have weaker mortals looking to the heavens for the angels and devils who are obviously fighting somewhere nearby.  Over eight minutes in length and over far too soon (I could listen to this song all day), you have the strongest opening duo of tracks that was to open an album in the 90's - this is not something to be debated, it is a fact.  Following on from this is "H." which to this day still sends shivers down my spine as much as the first moment that I heard those opening chords.  It does not take long for the passion of the song to flow and my deity it is wonderful, then middle bridge towards the end is especially amazing.

"Useful Idiot" is a brief interlude before "Forty Six & 2" - the album does have these break tracks which is needed from the intensity that is their full songs.  "Forty Six & 2" starts with a hypnotic bass line and simple guitar which is probably one of the most complex things going, having watched these men live I still cannot figure out how they do some of their songs; this is one of them.  It is softer (in a given degree of soft) then the opening trio, Keenan is sounding like a wounded saint bemoaning his lot against his creator and it is all chaos from the second minute onwards.  Sometimes you have to strain to hear the vocal which somehow adds to the beauty within; also it has an ending like an avalanche of cluster bombs raining from heaven.  After this is "Message To Harry Manback" is a strange voice mail interlude which leads onto "Hooker With A Penis" which is the band's response to a fan who accused the band of selling out after their first EP.  To say they are not being subtle here is an understatement.  Full of vile and venom with a riff hook that will have the soul snared in moments, it is one of the strongest moments in this album; this is a big praise for this song as the record is towering.  "Intermission" comes and goes like it should and we flow into the number called "Jimmy".  The main riff to "Jimmy" is used as the riff to "Intermission"; the song is about dealing with abuse and the band have been quoted as saying that it is a direct sequel to the song "Prison Sex" from their first album 'Undertow'.  It is a slow and disturbing number that is a little shorter than it should be, but it is very harrowing to say the least.

Next is "Die Eier Von Satan" which have a strange industrial beginning, it is a song that was released as a single; this is a really strange choice but it is interesting to say the least.  It is actually just a song in German for a recipe for hash cookies.  More of an experience other than a song, it is one of those moment that always make this band interesting to me.  They are not afraid to try something new, make it sort of light in nature and almost mocking in delivery.  It is not all doom and gloom here; but normal service is resumed with "Pushit" and the sound of a world literally gone to hell.  The mood takes a darker and sinister turn at this track and it is perfectly delivered.  This is the sound of a band hitting their collective stride and knowing how to take on the world.  "Cesaro Summability" comes next and it is another interlude with trippy effects and noise till we reach the end trilogy of noise from this monster of an album.

"Ænema" is just as perfect a song as you could have released in 1996.  It is a moment of genius that quotes the late Bill Hicks and his sketch about the destruction of Los Angeles and the possible creation of Arizona Bay if it ever sinks into the ocean after an earthquake.  I can see why they named the album after this track; it is a pulsing statement about the band's feelings mixed in with Mr Hick's statement as well.  It works on so many levels that I am running out of ways to praise this album.  "(-) Ions" is strange, it sounds like a storm going backwards with an electronic pulse.  I think that the band uses it to rest the audience and to also take the piss; sort of weird again but this what you come to expect with them.  Ending the album is "Third Eye" which does start with a sample of Bill Hicks talking about drugs, the song (and the album itself) is trying to open the audience open to experience and to get into position that the third eye is there to be experienced by everyone.  Whilst it is not the greatest ever ending to an album ever, it is still an amazing song.

This album is just amazing from beginning to finish, there is not one moment of this album that does not feel wasted, it all feels so natural and as if the album has been around since the dawn of music.  Yes it is very pretentious in places; yes it can be up its own arse further than David Cameron is up the arse of Satan himself.  This album is one of the most important records of the 90's; this is not open for discussion.  It is truly awe inspiring and if you do not have it already, you should get a copy of the album now.

10 out of ten - This is proof that there is a God

Top track - Eulogy

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Tool website here

Tool is not available on Spotify, Deezer or iTunes - basically, you have to purchase the albums as a whole: this is one of those times where that makes total sense.....

19 March 2014

Limp Bizkit - Gold Cobra

When a band has been on hiatus for a while, is it best to try something new for your comeback or just simply rehash your most successful album in the hope that people go for it? If this album is anything to go by, it's the latter option. Basically, the general vibe of this album is "The year 2000 just called and did it all for the nookie".

After forming in Florida in 1995, Limp Bizkit became the forerunners of the nu-metal scene thanks to a series of albums which combined hip-hop and rock with some alternative flavour and a novelty cover of the George Michael song "Faith" (Which would open the fucking floodgates for covers of 80's pop songs by other bands). This led to argueably their most successful period - the year 2000. A slew of hit singles as well as doing the theme for Mission Impossible 2 meant they were in the charts quite a bit. There was also the small matter of the song 'Rollin' being used as the Undertaker's entrance theme in WWF/WWE wrestling and the song 'My Way' being used as the theme for Wrestlemania XVII - Fred Durst also appeared as an unlockabale character in ps2 game Smackdown 3, so it's fair to say their media profile was quite high. As mentioned, they were part of the nu-metal scene but at a time when that particular genre seemed to change. Previously, it was a by-word for new bands that played significantly downtuned instruments but soon began to take on characteristics of hip hop due to the use of rapped vocals, DJ turntables and hip hop percussive beats. Rage Against The Machine as well as the soundtrack to a movie called "Judgement Night" proved that rock and rap CAN mix but it started to become VERY lowest-common-denominator, especially the guitar riffs which devolved into one-finger-one-string riffs and the raps were mostly about how everyone is a bastard and deserves a slap. This got a lot of teens into the band which I suppose was a good 'gateway' to decent stuff but when your frontman is the wrong side of 30 and he's acting like Stiffler on steroids while dressing like a Crips member, then you have to ask if it's art or if it's a severe case of arrested development. Sure, it could've been playing a role but David Bowie has been about five or six people in his career yet hasn't entirely turned into a nutcase. As for Fred Durst, he then became a bit of a media darling who shagged Britney Spears and then things went wrong but enough about that, what's the album like?

It's like 2000 never went away. It may as well have been called "Chocolate Starfish Part 2" as the general essence of that album serves as the template for this one. A development that's more arrested than anything from a KoRn lyric sheet. Wow, such regression, much teenage tantrums!

Seriously, there is a song on here called "Douchebag" which has a chorus that goes "Douche bag, I'm-a fuck you up! Fuck you fuck you fuck you up!" I swear down, I've never laughed so much at a lyric than when I heard James Hetfield say he was a table or a small town girl on that shit Lou Reed album. Besides, if Fred ever came at me, I'd knock his arse out!

There is not a lot I can say about the songs on here other than that they all follow a similar format to each other. Chunky riffs and beats while a grown man who is a millionaire the world over 'raps' very badly about being pissed off at something or other. It's all very interchangable, disposable and merging into one after a while. The band are talented misicians, but the frontman let's them down. If he dropped the act and - to quote one of his own songs - got some better beats and some better rhymes, it wouldn't be so bad. Sure, Lamb Of God are in their 40's and still get angry, but they sound like a war whereas Fred sounds like a stroppy teen. Other than old fans looking for a nostalgic trip, I cannot for the life of me think of anyone who would listen to this drek. If he did this album for the nookie, I hope he got the clap.

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

Chris J.

Amazon - Take it to the Matthews Bridge.
Spotify - A G-G-GENERATION!!!

Cannibal Corpse - The Bleeding

This, friends, is the first death metal album I can recall hearing. At the time, I was mostly listening to whatever was popular on Roadrunner Records until I read about these guys in a (very short-lived) metal magazine called Ultrakill. So I then saved my pocket money and got this as soon as I could. The 16 year old me at the time fucking loved it! It was everything I was looking for in a band at the time. Fast, brutal, likely to piss people off, class! I can remember try to convince a guy at school to give it a go but he refused. Mind, his favourite Testament album was 'The Ritual' which was their attempt at doing a 'Black Album' so what did he know? Actually, I'll rephrase that...what THE FUCK did he know??? Ahhhh...

Cannibal Corpse formed in Buffalo, NY and quickly became notorious - not just for their music but for the song titles themselves. They left absolutely no room for doubt as to what this band were about. Such gems as 'Meathook Sodomy', 'Addicted To Vaginal Skin', 'Necropaedophile' and the charmingly named 'Entrails Ripped From A Virgins Cunt'. Death metal has always been a genre where death is a major topic but this was as extreme as it got back then. Now it seems that any band can name a song 'Shitting piss fucking rape bonanza' or "I Kill Kittens Then Wank Using Their Fur" or somehing and no-one bats an eyelid. It's no longer shocking and the music has to stand up on it's own merits now.

This is the fourth Cannibal Corpse album and came right after the infamous "Tomb Of The Mutilated" which had artwork of two corpses having oral sex. My girlfriend at the time was horrified by that cover - as were the censors - but it's not like it was a real photo, like some covers I could mention. These days, it would probably be a cgi-photoshopped cover which would look good albeit with no soul. "The Bleeding" would be the last CC album to feature Chris Barnes who would leave over disagreements and form Six Feet Under - a band which continued the death metal philosophy found on here but with a hint of groove-metal in there too, as well as songs about politics and weed smoking. Maybe both at the same time, if you're a Canadian mayor.

Opening with "Staring Through The Eyes Of The Dead", it lurches in and provides to give you a beating. Chris Barnes' vocals sound particularly demonic as he tells the story of being prepared for embalming but he's not really dead. Surely a nightmare we can all relate to. That's one of the stand-outs on tihs album, the vocals. Typically growl-and-shriek which is common in Death Metal but Chris Barnes is great at it on here! These days, he sounds a little rough due to a combination of age and too much weed. Still good, but there are better vocalists out there. Then after this, we're onto the thrash-influenced "Fucked With A Knife". Two minutes and fourteen seconds of pure fury. As ferocious as it sounds, it's all over you like a serial killer. The next track is, for me at least, the album highlight - "Stripped, Raped And Strangled" (It goes without saying that the majority of song titles weren't printed on the back of this CD and instead were hidden in the inlay notes). The pace constantly switches between fast and slow on this song, which gives the impression of the hunt for a victim and the frenzy of the murder that follows. This song is a work of fucking genius. It builds on atmosphere. In fact, I can remember being impressed by a cover of this done by a local band called Dysfunction (They were from Wallsend, where I live). Afterwards, we're thrown into the breakneck speed of "Pulverized" which does what it says on the tin. "Return To Flesh" lurches in like the first track and although it has a nice riff, it's not as good as the tracks that preceeded it.

"YOU THOUGHT IT WAS OVER, IT'S NOT OVER, I'VE CAME BACK, I BROUGHT MY AX!!!" These are the first words of the song "The Pick-Ax Murderers". Another furious assault, there really isn't any let-up on this. "She Was Asking For It" follows - and after that, I doubt she'll be asking for anything again. Another savage blast, it flays the skin from you before breaking every bone in your body. I know, I'm sounding daft here but I cannot find any other ways to describe this. "The Bleeding" comes next and while not as fast as the others, it's still quite nasty. Not as nasty as "Force Fed Broken Glass" with it's (unintentionally hilarious) vocal sounds mimicking someone eating broken glass. "An Experiment In Homicide" follows and ends the album on a savage note. Just for a change. Although the bonus track is "The Exorcist", a cover of a song by a band called Possessed.

Well, there you go - my introduction to Death Metal! As a 16 year old it was the best thing ever but as a 35 year old adult? It's still pretty good but the shock factor has long gone due to me being older and wiser (albeit not by much) and the fact it all sounds a little dated. There was a time when the legend "Produced by Scott Burns at Morrissound Studios, Florida" meant you were going to get a slab of awesomeness but the production sounds dated now, although it's still good. That was the problem - pretty soon, every death metal band and their mother started going to him and in the end, everyone sounded like everyone else - albeit not as good - and it saturated the death metal scene for a while. But that can happen anywhere, I guess. The music is great, with some awesome guitarwork. One of the guitarists (Jack Owen) ended up joining Deicide and it really gave them a new lease of life, which just goes to show. The vocals that were once terrifying are now just a tad menacing. As has been mentioned, Chris Barnes is still going with Six Feet Under but his voice doesn't sound half as good as it used to. His replacement - George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher is still vocalist and he's definately the better vocalist. You'll have noticed the descriptions of the songs were quite short, that's because there wasn't really much I can say about them other than "they're fast and about dead stuff". The same year this came out, Obituary released 'World Demise' which managed to experiment whilst retaining the death metal qualities that Obituary had become famous for. My point is that experimentation CAN work and that maybe a bit of variety on this album would have sufficed? Nevereless, it's still good.

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

Top Track: Stripped, Raped And Strangled.

Chris J.


Deftones - Koi No Yokan

It's been a while since I posted on here, I've been away doing all sorts of things. Mostly involving the gym, work, fatherhood and Assassins Creed 4. I've also spent time trying to ingest this album. It's proved a bit of a struggle as although I like it, trying to find the words to put my feelings into print has been hard. This is easily the hardest blog I've ever written so far, hope you enjoy it.

Deftones are not a band I've ever been a great fan of but neither have I hated them. In truth, I've not really given them much of a thought, although I know they're very They've been out since the early 90's, coming to prominence with 'Adrenalin' in 1995 although it was 1997 album 'Around The Fur' which made them superstars. I heard that album on the recommendation of a mate at the time and wasn't very impressed. Sure, it had two good songs but I just wasn't very bothered by it. I think part of that was because they were lumped in with the (then emerging) nu-metal scene along with the likes of KoRn and Coal Chamber. But unlike those bands, they were able to break free from that tag. Mind, Coal Chamber only inspired people to look like a scrapyard in candyland so they probably don't count.

This album came out in 2012 and is their seventh studio album. It's the second album with bassist Sergio Vega, who replaced Chi Cheng due to the latter's accident (Unfortunately, he passed on in April 2013). And, it's a great album! I was given a copy of this by a mate who said "Just give it a go" as they knew I was never bothered about this band. I was certainly surprised.

The general mood of this album is one of heavy ambience. By that, I mean that it's equal parts heavy and equal parts ambient. I think a lot of it is to do with Chino's vocals. The man tends to croon over the music and with a slight addition of a couple of FX here or there, it certainly makes for an interesting sound. It's certainly a change from what is now a most common dynamic - alternating between growling and clean singing, which was big news at the time. Sounding both anguished one minute and defiant the next, it's definately something I could get used to. I'm guessing it's something he's been doing for a while as he definately sounds assured while doing this.

As for the music, then what can I say? It's very heavy but not in a 1000MPH kinda heavy. It's more to do with dynamics and groove (Although not groove metal). There are some awesome riffs in there, as well as some neat basslines. Production is awesome too, not all pro-tools but definately tidy. It captures the band perfectly - as Doge would say: Wow, such clarity, much power. For some reason, the album reminds me of Blade Runner, possibly to do with the very sci-fi looking front cover. Mind, you could imagine Deckard and Roy Batty knocking bells out of each other to this album. Then Deckard realises he is also a replicant and gets out of town straight away. What? It's been common knowledge since 1990 and is therefore hardly a spoiler any more!

Whether this album inspires me to check out more Deftones stuff remains to be seen. I've a feeling I'd be best off sticking to the new stuff if that was to be the case. For the casual listener - like me - I'd recommend this as it may change any preconceptions you have of the band.

9/10 - Almost perfect. Almost...

Chris J.

Top Track: Graphic Nature.

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18 March 2014

Queen - Queen

As the path to untold successes and worldwide recognition goes, this must rank as one of the most understated beginnings in rock history. Queen had only been formed with the four well known members two years earlier under various guises such as Smile and Larry Lurex before settling on the now famous and resounding moniker. All multi-talented musicians with strong education backgrounds plus a wealth of diversity, Freddie with his flamboyance and ability to turn on a sixpence with a captive audience, Brian with a unique and distinctive tones on his "Red Special", Roger with dexterous but interpretable drumwork and the quiet member in the bassist John. Thing is, when this debut album first came out, nobody got it, and apart from the die-hard Queen fans, the ten tracks on this album are virtually unheard of.

Back then Queen had concentrated on gigging in colleges and small clubs in and around London when an opportunity came to record some of their recently penned material at De Lane Lea Studios in Soho. Many legendary acts had plied their trade inside those walls, but for an newish act still confined to cutting demos, it was nowhere near the finished quality product that they wanted. Phasing (an audio effect like a wave) was one of the methods they wanted in this album which in years to come would be a regular feature, but with virtually no funds, Queen had to rely on using the studios during downtime after other acts booked had recorded there. It's a good bet that even with some good production wizardry by Mike Stone and Roy Thomas Baker, this was destined to be a hurried item.

Their very first track is the May penned Keep Yourself Alive, released as their debut single which never charted given the lack of promotion or airplay Queen were given. Nevertheless, as their stock began to rise, it would remain on their set list right throughout their career. It has its own unique and memorable riffs, a hookline chorus that any budding rock act would kill for, good harmonies and just the tiniest of hints of what this band would soon be offering to the listener. May's songwriting continues onto the next track, Doing Alright, although eventually it was revealed that pre-Queen member Tim Staffell had also contributed. The Red Special man is also doing gentle piano keying as the tempo alternates from gentle rhythm, and some Doors-related bossa nova (drumstick hitting the metal edge of the snare) to power chording a couple of times with some Beach Boys-esque harmonies.

Throughout most of their career, all four members were individually credited, but it's generally accepted that Mercury did the lion's share of the songwriting, and he's written six tracks of the ten on their eponymous album. The first of these is Great King Rat, the first of many storytellings the great man would pen and one I certainly never tire of listening to, chunky wah wah pedal arrangements with the occasional acoustic strings. My Fairy King is yet another fantasy narrative which is heavily influenced by Led Zeppelin although the heavy laden ivory keywork does keep it feeling original. Now onto side two (vinyl reference here) where single number two Liar comes in. A six minute energetic epic, and one of Queen's heavier tracks before any thoughts of metal were dispelled for good after Bohemian Rhapsody. Sadly, the US edit was so seriously abridged, effectively cutting the content in half, it's a complete affront to the album version. So far Freddie's done reasonably well in the tenor/countertenor range, but in The Night Comes Down, he opts for falsetto voice which personally I've never liked, and this is possibly the weakest track on the album, "Lucy was high..." he warbles, just one of a few May-admired Beatle hallmarks shown, but the chord structure does feel somewhat disjointed. It's the only real letdown here.

In albums to come, May and Roger Taylor would be singing most of their self penned tracks and the latter musician makes his vocal debut in the brief Modern Times Rock n' Roll, just a simple track charting the trends of the age. It's back to end-all-and-be-all riffs with Son And Daughter and the first hints of the now famous Queen harmonies running through before the Bible telling Mercury written Jesus is yet another enjoyable if heavy track. Now for the slight confusing part, Seven Seas Of Rhye which I must emphasise is NOT the chart debut (that would follow on the next album, Queen II), this was written and recorded as a brief instrumental with the memorable piano opener before the lyrics and bridges were added in Queen II. I can only guess that this was included at the eleventh hour despite the recording time constraints.

Rolling Stone Album Guide "two out of five stars", NME "#54 on the list of greatest albums you've never heard", Allmusic, "patchy but promising", Chicago Herald "Good listening is guaranteed in 'Keep Yourself Alive' and 'Great King Rat.'" Some mixed reviews here, and all trying to illustrate the various forms of impact that Queen album number one had made to the keen ear then. And it's difficult to imagine what it was like long before the days of BR, Champions and Crazy Little Thing. I didn't like it much as a whole when I first heard it 25 years only to see it mature respectfully. Imaginative and well thought of at its most basic level in my opinion. And at its best? A well cut diamond they never got to finish polishing off.

7.5 out of ten. This is good and well worth a check.
Best track : Liar

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The band are very much still active. Follow their activities here on their official website
Buy the album here on Amazon
Listen to the album here on Spotify
For listeners on Deezer, there's a few extra demos and bonus tracks

17 March 2014

Fanfarlo - Let's Go Extinct

Fanfarlo are a band I have stumbled onto upon accident.  The main man behind the project is Swedish national Simon Balthazar, but the band is based in London.  The sound of the band itself is best described as Power Pop and the band have natural colleagues such as Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Little Comets, Toxic Melons, Polyphonic Spree and Vampire Weekend.  The cover is a striking image from the vantage point of an astronaut in space seeing a dove fly past in the middle of the void we call the cosmos.  Now I really do not have much to say about this band in regards to their past, if I did it would be a rip of the Wikipedia page about them and you can head over there yourself if you wish.  What I can tell you is this is their third studio album, which comes after last year's EP release called The Sea.  This album is also loosely based on a concept about how bizarre the notation of being is and how even more bizarre the notion of other beings is.

Starting off with a bizarre vocal mash and guitar tone of "Life In The Sky", the song morphs into a joyful ode to the strange state of humanity.  It is a brilliant tune which takes you away and has a beautiful energy.  It is a slow build toward the euphoric moments of the song and the band seem to be on top of their game.  Next is "Cell Song" which was the first number I heard by them.  It starts with the haunting keyboards and a saxophone that gives way to the surf-esque guitar tone and talks about how things grow on this planet and how it is strange.  It is a beautifully broken piece of music that keeps the audience enthralled to the end.  If this had have been released back in the 70's it would have been a massive radio hit (and hopefully it will be sometimes in the future).  "Myth Of Myself (A Ruse To Exploit Our Weakness)" is about the sense of self and how strange it is to be here.  It does not quite match the opening two numbers, but it is still absorbing and well played. "A Distance" is harking back to a different age when music was a lot simpler, it is strange as it seems to have a mind to the future and for some reasons it is clothed in shades of musical past.  It is a great tune again, but I find myself more distracted on this one with sound that remind me of a certain band or period in my past; very strange to feel this from a 2014 release.

"A Distance" flows straight into "We're The Future", a much slower number that takes about how the world is just copies of the past moving forward to create more copies.  For a band that feel more retro as the album goes forward, that seems like a post-ironic statement, but the song is a glorious gem of a song which has that sonic sound of the 70's pop rock.  "Landlocked" made me laugh out loud when I first heard it, the beginning it just that shade too cheerful and make the band sound like they wish to be a more poppy Arcade Fire.  If anything it is not until the chorus that this song redeems itself, but it is a bizarre hybrid number that I am still not sure if I think it is insane or just genius by accident. "Painting With Life" starts with a haunting vocal and sound of wind before the toy keyboard sound kick in with the horns and string section join in as well.  It is a little more introverted that the other songs, but it works for me as it is a slight change to the last few numbers and feels natural.

"The Grey & The Gold" is an old school rock power pop song with a horn and percussion section that intrigues me, again talking about the state of the world and I am not too sure what this song is about.  The more I listen to it, the more theories I have complied in my head.  At the moment I am up to 15 different stories behind this song and climbing.  I love enigmas in pop music and this one is a charming number to boot as well.  "The Beginning And The End" is next with another piece of the more slow and stately side of power pop.  It does not need to grab you straight away, but it does have hooks that with aim for your musical soul.  Ending the album is the title track "Let's Go Extinct" which talks about how brief creation is in the grand scheme of things.  It is not the best song on off here, but it is well played.

I find myself getting lost in this music in a more retro way in places and forgetting that it was released this year.  It automatically feels timeless, I am not sure that is the best thing in a way but it still a charming album for the most part.  Whilst it does have a timeless feel about it, it does not have a presence that does not quite sit right with the music. There is something that makes the album both a joy and untrustworthy; I found myself not in love with it, but not hating it either.  It is well played, but I have heard this sort of thing done with more passion and flare as well; there is more here on offer and I am sure it is a grower, but by the end of the record I was just wanting to listen to the few numbers again and forgetting some of the later ones.  A good album, but no more than good.

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

Top Track - The Grey & The Gold

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Fanfarlo website here

Here is a link to Deezer to listen to the album

Or if you’re a Spotify user, here is a link for you

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