27 May 2014

Def Con One - Brute Force And Ignorance

Def Con One are a band who need no introduction. They've been going for fucking ages - with various line-ups over the years - up here in Newcastle, although in the last few years they've started to make waves across the UK with their own brand of thrash influenced groove metal, gaining rave reviews in the process. All the hard work has started to pay off and the band seem destined for a bright future.

This EP was released in 2013 as limited edition green vinyl before being released on CD by popular demand. It serves as an appetizer between 2012's awesome "Warface" and 2014's even better "II" (blogs to both these albums are in the link here, click to read). Opening with a fantastic riff, the new song "Brute Force And Ignorance", the band proceeds to smash your face in with some very heavy rhythms and guitar work. The drumming in particular, is very tight and prescisioned whilst the vocals are spat out with much vehemence. A perfect EP opener.

The next three tracks are re-recordings from the debut EP (Something I am yet to hear but if someone can furnish me a copy, that'll be great). Next track up is "Caving In" which is an exercise in downtuned brutality. A whispered intro over some heavy, wah-wah infused riffs builds up into a crescendo of blurring drums and bass, thrash influences are prevelant. The vocals sound both melodic and harsh, providing the perfect narration.

After this, we're onto "Weapons Of War" which is a slower, more grinding song. It's not too bad although the band have better songs than this. Good guitar solo, however. Not really much to say about this song.

Last track is "No More Hate" which starts off ominous, IMO. A whispered intro over what sounds like a riff fed through an FX unit, it reminds me of Slipknot for some reason, but I needn't have worried as it then blasts into a heavy as fuck section which is the perfect amalgamation of both thrash and groove metal. This, for me, is the best song on the EP.

So, there we go. A short and sweet blog, pretty much like the EP itself. The new song is awesome and carries on from "Warface" superbly, and the other three songs are great as well. However, as I mentioned before, this was pretty much an appetiser between albums. The material on "II" was a bigger step-up and superior to the EP. Still, as far as appetisers go, it's a tasty morsel which leaves you wanting more.

4 - This is really good, just short of perfect.

Top Track: "No More Hate".

Unfortunately, this EP isn't availbale on iTunes, Spotify or Amazon due to it's Limited Edition nature, but you may be able to get a copy off the bands official website (Click here). Dunno how many are left though...

(Sorry for the poor video, it's the best I could find linked to this EP).

Judas Priest - Painkiller

This is quite possibly the most METAL album I've ever heard! From the awesome cover art right down to the songs, everything about this album screams METAL - and then some...

'Painkiller' was released in 1990 and is the twelfth album by seminal British metallers Judas Priest. This album was looked upon as a comeback of sorts, partly due to the band having been embroiled in a court case over subliminal messages in records which inspired two teens to kill themselves (The case was thrown out of court) and also because the last two albums ('Turbo' and 'Ram It Down' respectively) weren't very well received from a critical standpoint, accusations of commercialising their sound by adding glam and pop elements to their songs. I've not heard 'Ram It Down' so I cannot comment but from what I've heard of 'Turbo', I can see their point. You should also check out their stage clothes for the 'Turbo' tour - multi-coloured bondage gear! That, plus the fact that the thrash bands who'd originally been inspired by Judas Priest were now conquering the globe meant that Priest were being viewed as a band who were past it. Something needed to be done in order to get their star back, and this album is the result...

Opening with 'Painkiller', it shows off the skills of new drummer, Scott Travis (Formerly of Racer X) with a formidable drum pattern before the song kicks off with a riff that sounds like Slayer. Rob Halford's vocals are a high pitched scream throughout which adds to the songs intensity. Lyrically, it's about how a messiah known as 'The Painkiller' will banish evil and save mankind. Real "Boy's Own"-type stuff, athough some of the lyrics seem a bit camp ("Faster than a laser bullet, louder than an atom bomb..."). Nevereless, I suppose it's a change to hear how we're all fucked and going to hell...

Next song is "Hell Patrol" and whilst it may conjure images of demons conquering the land, Rob Halford claimed it was inspired by the U.S Air Force during the first Gulf War - he missed out the bit where they shelled their own fucking side, however. Maybe it's a comment I've read too much into but when I hear this song, it sounds like the incidental music of an air force movie from the late 80's, something along the lines of 'Top Gun' or even 'Iron Eagle'. An awesome headbanging tempo as well as soaring leads and vocals, it's fucking brilliant. "All Guns Blazing" is the next song on here and it takes no prisoners, another up-tempo number, you can really hear the band answering their detractors who'd reckoned they were a spent force. Great solo too, but Priest always did have great guitarists in Glen Tipton and KK Downing. "Leather Rebel" opens up with a fast, almost buzzsaw-like riff before settling down into what I guess would be a more traditional Priest song, some great drumwork too. The most inappropiate display of fret-wankery opens up the next song, "Metal Meltdown". It's a fine song, a personal fave of mine but it's ruined by that intro.

A synth-intro heralds the start of "Night Crawler". Nope, not the dude off The X-Men but a beast who comes into town to fuck shit up then leaves. This is, for me, the best song on the album. There is not a thing wrong with it. Great rhythm, solo...everything, really. If there was any doubt that Priest were back in business then this song removes those doubts. "Between The Hammer And The Anvil" is next and is another exercise in METAL! While we're here, I'd also like to mention that the production on this album is flawless. It actually finds the right balance between making the band sound heavy as fuck but also clear enough to make a dent in the charts. This is what "Turbo" should've done instead of going for the glam dollar. "A Touch Of Evil" sounds like a power ballad and let's the pace up a bit. To be fair, we've had SIX songs in a row of awesome METAL, it's not gonna hurt to drop the pace a bit. In fact, variety is the spice of life. "Battle Hymn/One Shot At Glory" brings us back up to pace with the type of song that sounds like it would be right home in a training montage from an 80's sports movie. Come to think of it, I'm surprised that movie producers didn't get more Priest songs for their soundtracks! Anyhow, this song has a great solo and afterwards, we're back into power ballad territory for the final song, "Living Bad Dreams". Synthy intro before a clean guitar passage and you can sense a thousand lighters being held aloft when the band plays this live. It's a slow number but it's so good, it doesn't matter. Sometimes it's best to have the last song on the album as a slow number as it let's you wind down from the main assault.

So, all in all - this album is excellent. As mentioned, the production is flawless and each band member sounds like they've discovered their fire. The songs are all timeless and serve as a good introduction to Judas Priest. They certainly showed that they were ready to take on the best that thrash metal had to offer - unfortunately, Rob Halford would leave the band amid much internal strife and form the groove-metal band fight (More on that later, maybe...) whilst the rest of the band recruited his replacement from a Judas Priest tribute band. It's a story that made the silver screen as the (alright, I guess although it could've been better) movie "Rock Star". Still, this album rocks.

10/10 - This is proof there is a (METAL) God.

Top Track: Night Crawler.

Link to purchase on Amazon...
Link to listen on Spotify...

25 May 2014

Destiny Potato - LUN

I listen to a fair bit of Progressive Metal but, as much as I enjoy it, I have found there to be very little female presence in the genre. All the bands I’ve come across that do have a female singer tend to err towards the more Gothic/Power Metal side of it. It was nice then, to find that Serbian band, Destiny Potato not only have a female singer but keep well away from Nightwish and have much more in common with bands such as Periphery, Porcupine Tree, TesseracT and so on. There’s a large Djent influence obviously but there’s also a touch of Industrial and even Nu-Metal in places too. The musicianship is excellent and vocalist, Aleksandra Djelmas, has a melodious, emotive voice and, when she chooses to show it, some power behind the beauty too.

Things begin with The Build Up, a short intro track before Indifferent kicks off. Straight away the Periphery influence is obvious in the opening guitar line and the subtle electronics. There’s a clinical feeling to the production that adds to the resemblance. It's good song and showcases what the band can do before the more experimental tracks begin.

Take A Picture starts with some clicky, stop start guitars and a repeated vocal line. It all sounds very 90’s Nu-Metal, but once it gets going it’s much better. The chorus is nice and Aleksandra’s voice soars in it. It’s also the first song on the album to feature some screamed vocals. Machine is a short acoustic song with some drifty ethereal male vocals, presumably from guitarist and band leader David Maxim Micic. It’s okay but not really essential.

Lead single Love Song begins hauntingly before the main guitar riff of the song kicks off along with some synthesised vocals. The melody of Love Song, both the verse and the chorus are engaging and infectious. They intertwine perfectly with the music and it’s easy to see why it was picked as the single. There’s a great bit about halfway through where Aleksandra roars the last line of the chorus ‘I’ll never let you go’ and the music drops out to some gentle atmospherics. It works really well.

(L-R Dusan Vanja Andrijasevic, Ana Maglica*, Davd Maxim Micic, Aleksandra Djelmas, Milan Jejina Yeqy and Bojan Kvocka)
*Ana Maglica was a second vocalist and also a violinist but left the band during the recording of LUN.

It’s hard to keep up with the time signatures and whatnot in the aptly named Lunatic, it’s all over the place, though wisely levels out for the chorus. The accordion that pops up every now and again throughout is a nice touch. Wall Of Thoughts brings down the pace and offers some calming respite before finishing off with some Devin Townsend-esque guitar noodling.  Blue Sun and U.Y.M. are both fairly standard mid paced songs, both good but reasonably unremarkable, the chorus of the latter pleasantly nod alongable. I can’t figure out what the acronym stands for though.

Lost Dream is the one song that heads of towards the gothic prog as it sounds like it could be something by Stream Of Passion, the one-time ‘proper’ band of Aryeon mainman and guitarist, Arjen Lucassen. House Of Lies features a string section and is the only out and out ballad on LUN. It could be a straightforward pop song if wasn’t for the wailing guitar solo and crunching outro. Final track Addict has some Eastern flavour to it (perhaps even a Bhangra?) though the churning guitar is always present throughout.

LUN flits from one musical influence to another but still flows as a whole and nothing sounds out of place or tacked on. A strong sense of cohesive song writing and keen pop sensibilities ensure it’s a very accessible and listenable album. It was a very pleasant discovery for me and I’m sure it’ll place highly in my personal albums of the year come December.

The name! I can’t believe I got through the whole review without mentioning how ridiculous the name is! I don’t know if it’s a peculiar sense of humour or that it’s lost something in translaton but it’s odd one whatever. It reminds me of early 90’s funk metal bands and their desperation to be… zany. I’m sure that’s not the case and anything I say about it the band have already heard. It gets them noticed I guess.

8 out of 10 – Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Best Track – Love Song

You can listen to LUN on Spotify HERE

You buy it on Amazon HERE

Deathmøle - Permanence

I’m not sure whether Deathmøle qualify as a real band or not. They’re a heavy, Post-Metal instrumental band, consisting of Martin, Amir and Hannelore who met and formed the band in 2005 in Northampton, Massachusetts. They have self-released several albums since then such as, Moletopopolis, Long Songs, Absent Gods & Creatures Foul, Advances and Meade’s Army among others.

The reason they might not qualify as a real band is that they aren’t actually real people but web comic characters. All feature in Questionable Content, a comic written by Jeph Jacques about a bunch of folk that hang around a coffee shop, talk about music, video games and each other's various issues and love lives.

                                                (L--R Martin, Hannelore and Amir)

Jeph started recording music for fun using the Deathmøle moniker, he wrote, played and recorded it himself using his own computer. He released it through various websites before settling on Bandcamp, where every album is now available. Permanence differs from those albums that came before it in that t was recorded in a proper studio. Last year Jeph launched a Kickstarter campaign with this goal in mind. He set a respectable target of $9,500 to fund it but has received well over $140,000 so far. Not bad going!

It’s immediately noticable what difference a proper studio makes. The sound and feel of Permanence is excellent. Whereas previous releases sounded like they were made on a PC and had a sort of tinnyness to them, Permanence sounds warm and full. The drums sound like actual boomy drums and not a programmed tish tish bum. The improved sound quality means Permanence sounds much heavier than anything before it. And it’s joyously heavy. You can hear the fun Jeph had playing each mountainous riff. College starts off fairly mellow and atmospheric, it’s typical Post-Rock. It gradually increases in tension until a huge, thrashing riff flies in and takes over.
No Thanks comes in next and dispenses with all that light and shade nonsense, it’s a full on, face grimacing, horn throwing, head banger. If people still do that sort of thing these days. Snow In Sun is the same but Nothing Is Permanent, Distance Bursting Distance Into Clouds and Everything Is Permanent favour the quiet loud dynamic. Whichever approach they take, all are fantastic.

                                                                                 Jeph Jacques


They all lead up to the final track on the album, Acceptance. It’s over twelve minutes long. It’s starts gently and full of sorrow. A slow undulating riff is underpinned by some nice, wistful pluckery. Again, it gradually builds in tension and atmosphere until a lone, sparse bass line ushers in a slowish riff that increases in speed until it’s powering along. It’s a breathtaking end to an intense album.

I do have one, small, gripe with it however; I know the songs are all pretty long on Permanence, the shortest is still over five minutes, but I’d have liked to have seen a couple more than seven tracks. It’s not as if the album is short at all though so it’s not a major issue.

Best Track – Acceptance

9 out of 10 -  Almost perfect.... Almost

Buy  and/or listen to Permanence from bandcamp HERE

Read Questionable Content HERE

22 May 2014

Suicidal Tendencies - Suicidal Tendencies

I've been away for too long, so I'm doing this album in order to get into the swing of things again, get some creative juices flowing and otherwise getting my blog skills sharp enough again to tackle other albums that I wouldn't usually listen to. I promise to get round to that A Perfect Circle album sometime...

Top Track: Institutionalised.

Right, now I've got the obvious out of the way, let's go...

Suicidal Tendencies were one of the first 'crossover' bands. The term 'crossover' is, as the name suggests, the combination of two styles into one unit. The most common one being the amalgamation of thrash metal and hardcore punk. This basically sounded like punk with solos and metal song structures or metal with punk song structures etc. A lot of bands became synonimous with tapping into this but only a few actually ran with it head-on, Suicidal Tendencies being the main ones for a while. I say for a while as future releases would have them experimenting with alternative rock, more metal and even pop. It was about this time the band became fucking gash and I tuned out. To be honest, you may as well stick with this and "Join The Army".

Formed in 1981 in Venice Beach, CA, Suicidal became known as a 'party band' while at the same time, having to deal with controversy. Rumours abounded that members of the band plus their family and friends were involved with gang activity, citing lead singer Mike Muir's blue bandanna as well as violence at gigs as evidence. It turned out that the brother of the bassist Louiche Mayorga was involved with a local gang known as "V13" (Venice 13). I've no idea if any of this is true but who gives a fuck? We're here for the music.

Most of the songs on this album are quite similar in that they are minute and a half bundles of whirlwind fury. The band play some smash-crash-bang rhythms while Mr Muir vents his spleen over the top of them. Subject matter tends to focus on alienation, despair, depression, non-conformist politics and, erm, finding someone's dead mother. That's the song "I Saw Your Mommy". A slow, grinding number with a hypnotic and much-plagarised riff (L7 used it on "Pretend We're Dead" and pretendy-grunge cunts Puddle Of Turrd used it for "She Fuckin' Hates Me" on their album 'Come Clean' Link to that blog here. It was done by Father Marc Richardson), it's basically Mike Muir going into great detail about the state of a corpse he's found, realising it's someone's mum and generally going off on one in a frantic chorus. It's possibly not to everyone's taste, but for those with a sick sense of humour like me, I guess it'll hit the spot.

The first song which introduces us to this little jambouree is "Suicide's An Alternative/You'll Be Sorry". Maniacal laughter and discordant guitars lead into the type of thrash/punk that'll start an almighty circle-pit. It then breaks down into a bouncy, almost jaunty rhythm while Mike continues his rant. It's not a bad opener, it set's it's stall early and leaves no doubt about what you're in for. "Two Sides Politics" is a minute long fury blast, which leads nicely into "I Shot The Devil". Apparently, the song was originally called "I Shot Reagan" after the incident where Crazy Ronnie Reagan was shot. It also mentions the shooting of former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. However, FBI intervention saw the song title changed. This is one of the best songs on here, more unbridled fury - or just Mike Muir gobbing off. Either way, it's an awesome slab of hardcore thrashpunk. Alternating between slow and fast, it's possibly the most layered S/T have been at this point, prior to going tits-up. "Subliminal" is up next, a rant about governmental control. It follows a near identical structure to "I Saw Your Mommy". I guess they liked that type of riff so much they replayed it twice. I've done that before. Many, many times. This song also appears on the hardcore punk station featured in the video game "Grand Theft Auto: V", which isn't the first time that an  S/T  song has featured in pop culture. We all know what song I'm talking about. I'll get to it in a second. Literally, as next song "Won't Fall In Love Today" is over as quickly as it begins! It's got a nice main riff, but it's pretty much a typical song of this band. Not really much to say other than it's great...

Right, the moment we've all been waiting for - "Institutionalised". This is *the* song where the whole "All I wanted was a Pepsi, just one Pepsi, and SHE WOULDN'T GIVE IT TO ME!!!" thing came from. The story of a young man who ends up getting committed just because he was having a bad day. Alternating between a jaunty verse which not only contains some great guitar leads but also speeds up towards the chorus as the vocals - which are in a spoken word format for the verses - get more aggressive and wound up, then it's hardcore time in the chorus! This song ended up reaching pop culture status by being featured in an episode of Miami Vice as well as an epsiode of "Beavis & Butthead" where Beavis starts ranting along and Butthead lambasts him because "Once a year they play something cool and he has to talk to it"...it's easily the best song on here by a country mile.

Right, we're now onto "Memories Of Tomorrow" which is another fast hardcore punk song. Tbh, there are more than a few on these and it's good, although I am becoming a bit hard-pushed to find other adjectives to describe these types of things. "Possessed" is next and has a guitarline that initially reminds me of Dead Kennedys although for the most part, it's more hardcore stuff. Then we're onto "I Saw Your Mommy" which we've already discussed. "Facist Pig" is next which deals with the punks favourite subject - police brutality! Whilst not as good as, say, "Police Truck" by Dead Kennedys, it certainly kicks up a fuss! "I Want More" is a rant about minimum wage and "Suicidal Failure" is about a guy who cannot roll a 7 no matter how many times he tries!

So, all in all, it's a good album - but as you can tell from the blog, there is a distinct lack of variety in songs. But who cares when it's this good? Fans of punk and thrash especially should make this album top of their list if they haven't done so already. Casuals should still give it a listen. You won't regret it.

This album was rerecorded in 1993 as "Still Cyco After All These Years" and whilst it had the better production and musicianship (Only Mike Muir remained from the line-up that recorded this album), this album wins hands down for capturing the moment.

9/10 - Almost perfect. Almost...

Chris J.

Amazon link...

Spotify one...

Puddle Of Mudd - Come Clean

I see Wes Scantlin's found himself in deep doo-doo very recently, and very possibly adding to a long list of misdemeanours given that I'm not very knowledgeable on the Puddle Of Mudd frontman. Aside from this album cover which clearly depicts a child aged perhaps 5 years taking a leak in the bushes, I think it's a fair representation of Scantlin's outlook on life, which on first impressions and a couple of listens of Come Clean leaves me wondering if he is ever going to sort his head out and finally grow up.

By the time this came out in 2001, the Kansas City rocker was nudging on the door of his thirties long before a succession of run-ins with the law, along with personal and marital woes (very possibly of his own doing) threatening to untangle him of his musical career. I guess a few years earlier Oasis were doing the same more or less - alcohol related kerfuffles and when they weren't bitterly falling out over the most trivial of things, they had a habit of making the occasional bit of music that endeared themselves to most of the listening public. And it's the same premise with Scantlin - he's the last remaining founder member of Puddle of Mudd and it's hardly surprising that the high personnel turnover can be attributed to musical differences between himself and the other members in succession.

Come Clean is album number two for PoM, where they first achieved major success although just this morning I discovered that a number of tracks on this were also on their previous outing. Ok, so they might be re-recordings but that's not really excusable. Opening track is Control and is an indicator of what we might expect from Scantlin, the riffs are good, very grungey and memorable and the lyric? Very suggestive and very probably disturbing as this could be a condonement for domestic violence, it's perhaps a fair indication of what goes on in his private life, as if we really needed to know. The next song Drift And Die is where Wes Scantlin seems to be contrite in his past sins and willing to move on, again reasonable guitar notation and seemingly written with a straight head. However, Out Of My Head writes off his previous guilt with what I'm sure is an acid trip.

The mood swings are further evidenced in Nobody Told Me, it's a real cold turkey, and fourth track into the album, has anyone else noticed that so far all songs have been played in a C# key? Thankfully the guitarring rhythms take a different direction with Blurry, it sounds full and very original but again the PoM public face really has an axe or two to grind with what I'm certain are his ex's. To his credit, what he states about having what is taken from him, he makes no real reference to his son. Next, is probably his most memorable write She Hates Me (or rather She Fuckin' Hates Me if you want to remain faithful to his text). My beef is that once again Scantlin is bearing a massive chip on his shoulder, but it's not helped by a few other flaws, excessive use of la la la's and the vagueness behind the theme. What kind of lie has he been living and why he's included 'trust' in the chorus? Not even the music can redeem it for God's sake!

She Hates Me (Censored Version)

Music wise so far, it's been marginal, lyrically it is a serious downer, little wonder Scantlin's made a second home in the cop shop. Now onto the second half of Come Clean, and oh shute...Bring Me Down has verse structure that sounds like Suffragette City. Has David Bowie listened to it yet? I suspect a plagiarism lawsuit would be forthcoming although the riffwork further on does improve I will admit. More evidence of sampling in the underlying bass with Never Change, where Nirvana's Come As You Are is heavily borrowed even though the chorus is an original sounding piece.

The harmonies are a slight redeeming feature, likewise in Basement but again, very lyrically dank and despairing and this time the overtly repetitive chorus suggests that all imagination has gone missing. I don't hate it at all, but I'm not really getting much listening enjoyment out of the record so far. Ironically it feels very enriching on a musical note, but in Said it's another cocaine fuelled story, very disturbing for the straight edged outsider while closing the album is the acoustic laden Pissing It All Away which threatens to be a forgettable tune.

Normally I would've said kudos to Wes Scantlin for putting himself in the firing line in all of his songs instead of speaking as a third man, but this is where the problem lies. Yes, we all know that you've had a rather crappy life on the whole, but rolling up your newspaper and shouting all your woes to the world simply does not do anything for me nor many other listeners I would hasten to add. The other issue I have with Come Clean is the heavy sampling which sadly is becoming prevalent. On a final note, you might want to know that it was Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst who, on hearing a demo, managed to get this album off the ground and shift over five million copies. Just a piece of mindless trivia you might have wanted to know but don't mention Durst if you chance to meet Scantlin as there possibly may be some bad blood between these two children....

4 out of ten. Well, it is alright, but still...
Best track : Drift And Die

Come Clean is available on Amazon

Lumbar - The First And Last Days Of Unwelcome

This is a review of a project that may only have one release; this sometimes happens in sludge and metal, you get bands that come together for one moment and may never tour, yet they leave behind an album that will either be some important that people will wish they would come back for more (see Shrinebuilder) or you just wish they never bothered in the first place (see Neurotic Outsiders).  Lumbar is the project of Aaron Edge of Brothers of The Sonic Cloth amongst others, Mike Scheidt from Yob and Tad Doyle from Tad, Brothers of The Sonic Cloth and Hog Molly.  If you know who these guys are, I have a feeling you either a) already own this album, b) have heard the album or c) you can hear it in your mind already.  For one of the most striking art works I have seen in recent times, I have to be honest that this album is one that I missed from 2013 but it was released quite late on; however let us get down to the album itself.

Opening with a disturbing and brilliant sample from an episode of The Twilight Zone called The Little People is "Day One", the sledge hammer of sludge is released onto the world with a reckless abandon and destruction; this is the power behind the band all brought in with big riffs, devilish noise and a tone that could be used to drill holes in a concrete wall.  "Day Two" starts with the rumbling bass and has brief noises in the background like fleeting shadows yet out of the line of vision, then hell comes to town with barbed verses to torment the weaker willed and to annihilation the world.  "Day Three" is a cloud of feedback, drone and screams, over far too soon for my personal tastes.  Lucky "Day Four" brings the terror and bone crushing noise back. Again the only problem here is that is it over far too soon.

"Day Five" is another atmospheric track, with white noise, background explosions and the feeling that something bad is going to happen at any second. That 'something bad' is "Day Six" and when I say back I mean good.  Opening with a sludge riff rolling over and over, the band drop the metaphoric bomb on the world around half way through and doesn't it do its job well.  Sounding like the bastardised offspring of early Black Sabbath and Boris, the band nails the sludge sound to the wall and makes it their own.  Ending the album is "Day Seven" and the band is not giving up the ghost easily. It starts a little weak compared to the rest of the album but the feedback towards the end is beautiful (for a certain point of view), making it the perfect ending to this all too brief album.

Just like the project, the album is far too brief.  I love the sound and energy that comes off the album, when you get that sort of talent for noise/sludge/drone in one room it is going to be explosive (just like Shrinebuilder); I can honestly say the only reason I want more is that I am slightly selfish at times when it comes to music.  Obviously I will have to say this may not be for everyone (I cannot see the shopping bag of a person buying this album also having the latest Beyonce or One Direction album as well), it is harsh, bitter, twisted and violent. But my deity when it flexes it muscle, it shakes the world.

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

Top Track - Day One

You can purchase the vinyl (or there is an extra link for the MP3 version) of the album from Amazon here

You can purchase directly from the Bandcamp page here

Here is a link to the Facebook page here

Here is a link to the album on Spotify

Or if you’re a Deezer fan, you can listen to it here

21 May 2014

Marillion - Holidays In Eden

Over the years I have heard lots about Marillion (both good and bad), but I will be willing to admit that I have not really heard anything of Marillion outside of the single.  Not a bad thing or a good thing, just a fact in my musical life.  The main reason for doing this blog is that one of the newest members of the team (and head honcho of Alternation on NE1.FM (the show which I also appear on)) Barry Wilson is off to see a Marillion tribute band in the next few days.  So for that small fact alone, I have decided to pick an album at random.  The one I have picked is the one from which I know at least one song - Holidays In Eden.  This is their sixth album over all and their second with singer Steve Hogarth.  It was released in 1991 and had three singles released from it.  It was a top ten hit album in the UK and was also re-released in 1998 with an extra disc.  The version on Spotify is the two disc version, but I will be only looking at the main album and not the extras. 

The album starts with "Splintering Heart" which has a very progressive opening, slow keyboards, pulsing bass, minimal drumming, floating guitars and then the vocals drop in.  The build is something that has been emulated/used by other acts over the years (Nine Inch Nails, Dream Theatre, etc) to great effect.  As opening tracks go, it is just setting out the stall.  The music is well played and I can see why Marillion have always had a loyal following.  Next is the single "Cover My Eyes (Pain & Heaven)", which is a re-working of a song called "Simon's Car" from the singer's original band - How We Live.  It was a top 40 hit back in the day and is the more obvious attempt at a modern rock hit. Even after twenty years, I still get little shivers up my neck with the song and whilst it is an obvious choice for a single (and slightly cheesy) I still find it very enjoyable.  Following next is "The Party", a tale about underage drinking and the effects of the night on the person.  It is an interesting song, with a great guitar and drum solo in the middle.  It is purposely build for drama; it is also well crafted and delivered as well. 

After this is "No One Can" which was the second single released from this album.  I have memories of watching this performed "live" (i.e. mimed) on a garden show where there were no speakers or wires in the middle of a garden.  It is a slow ballad in the typical 80's modern rock style.  It didn't really do anything for me then and that has not really changed in the intervening years.  A decent song, yet it is not a song that I would put on out of choice. "Holidays In Eden" is the fourth track on the album, it is straight out of the progressive rock book and very catchy.   For the life of me, I cannot see why this one was not released as a single and that "No One Can" was picked ahead of it.  It is not the obvious track, but for that reason it is a much better option.  "Dry Land" is next and it was the third single and yet again you can tell why it was released as a single.  It is an obvious attempt at the AOR market that does not sit well with the more progressive material on this album.  You cannot deny it is a prog band making the music, but the obvious attempts at taming that side of the band does not work for me.

"Waiting To Happen" is a slow acoustic driven ballad that morphs into a pure prog classic and it does not come a moment too soon for me. To begin with I thought it was going to be another exercise in AOR beige, but it became a lot more than that.  I love the performance on this song and it is one of the highlights of the album.  "This Town" starts off with sirens and has a more hard rock mood to what has been played before.  It is another track which is a little by the numbers, but I cannot fault what the performance on offer here or the track itself.  It is very enjoyable and does not have any pretence about it.  Together with "Cover My Eyes (Pain & Heaven)" and "Waiting To Happen" it is one of the best tracks on the album. "The Rake's Progress" is a natural coda to "This Town". It is the slow decent and ending of the story which began in the last song; which brings us to the end song - "100 Nights". The last three songs are all interlinked into one song if the truth be told.  There is no gap between them and if it was released as one song I have a feeling it would tremendous.  But they are all good in their separate parts, "100 Nights" is the best of them and ends the album on a progressive high.

The conclusion I have came to whilst listening to this album was that I found that the singles (apart from "Cover My Eyes (Pain & Heaven)") spoil what could have been a brilliant prog album.  Take two of them out of the equation and it would have elevated this good record to higher levels, it is a shame that it was released just as grunge started to take over the world ;probably one of the reasons why it was not the international hit that the band (or their record label) wanted at the time.  But with being said, this is not a bad album, it is quite a decent record and after I get my crash course CD from the band (if you go to it, they will send you a CD with random songs from their back catalogue for free) I will be looking at more of their records.  In prog we trust.....

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

Top track - Cover My Eyes (Pain & Heaven)

You can purchase one of the versions of the album from Amazon here (including some box sets with it in)

You can visit the band's website here - it also has an excellent webstore!

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

Here is the Deezer link for the album

The Black Keys - Turn Blue

As part of my recent celebration of another lap of the planet I was given a few albums.  I have already done a review of one of them - 'Burnt Weeny Sandwich' - and will soon be looking at the other very shortly.  But I thought I would look at this one first.  This is the eighth release from Akron natives and their third album that has been made with Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton who was responsible for the mash-up album 'The Grey Album'.  It follows on from the Grammy monster release 'El Camino' and is their second release with Nonesuch.  These guys have been going since 2001 and slowly they have been getting bigger and bigger until they have became arena giants - sort of like The White Stripes but without the suggestion of an strange and freaky relationship.  Now whilst I have been trying to get a blog done on their first album for a while, I have been able to get this one out obviously a lot quick.  But how does it sound?

The band start with the very retro and slow "Weight Of Love", this is not the expected stomp to attention that has opened most of the Black Keys albums I have heard, it is an six minute epic that might have a few of the casual fans reaching for the door.  But this track should be given the full attention that it deserves, starting with the solo and descending into a moody and painful number of heart break and love. It does feel like a natural progression from 'El Camino' and it is a very brave opener which may be talked about for years to come.  "In Turn" hardly sets the fires burning either in terms of energy; it is cut for a similar vein of rock that "Weight Of Love" was forged from.  It is a good song which keeps the interest fixed on the album, but will this be a common theme for the album?  If "Turn Blue" is the answer, then yes - it is another slow number with minimal guitar work, some strange electronic noises and relaxed drumming as well. The album has opened with an after party feeling and the chill out vibe is particularly effective on this track.

Next is lead single "Fever" which picks up the pace a bit, it reminds me a little of Danger Mouse's other band Gnarls Barkley and their classic "Crazy" in style; however as that is one of the best pop songs I have ever heard due to its simple nature, that is really not a bad thing.  It seems to lose its way before the end of the song, but it is a stomping number.   "Year In Review" is a number that I cannot decide what to make of it, it have energy and the playing is top notch; but there is too much empty space for me to really fall head over heels with the song.  I just cannot make up my mind with it, I have a feeling in years to come I will love it as I have been thinking about it for days on end.  It is just an enigma to me and for the reason alone it is an interesting addition to the record.  "Bullet In The Brain" brings the chill back to the album, slowing down whatever energy that it had until the 50 second mark where the drums come back into effect.  Much more straight forward and very positive (apart from the title and lyrics obviously - boy was the band on a downer when they wrote this).  "It's Up To You Now" starts off with a tribal drumming pattern that makes the listener want to start to jump around and will be a brilliant addition to their live set when they tour over the next year or so; especially the blues breakdown in the middle of the song - sometimes you cannot keep a good blues band down.

"Waiting On Words" is a slow number on the end of a relationship and not knowing what is going to happen.  Again, it is very low energy but it is not low in quality. This is just a beautiful little song and makes the hairs on my neck stand to attention.  But I am wishing for a little more energy at this point and the band delivers this in the form of the funky and slutty "10 Lovers".  The groove is on during this song, whilst not being the most bouncing of numbers it is a quality song on the album.  "In Our Prime" starts off with a slow piano, then comes in the drums, guitars and the broken heart lyrics that make this album follow down that particular river that it has been heading down from beginning to end.  But there is a sideways shift and all of a sudden you are in a Beatles tribute with the bass line bouncing around, then comes the organ and you have the most diverse track of the album.  Again I am not sure if I like it, love it or hate it; but it is another track that I have been focusing on, all the hallmarks that this album is a grower and not an instant classic.  However before I reach a conclusion, there is still the small matter of the ending track "Gotta Get Away".  It is a fun track, but it sounds strange next to the rest of the album.  Not exactly sure how it made it onto the album, but there you go.

So what conclusions can we make from this album then?  Well, someone had their heart handed to them on a plate that is for sure.  This has breakup album written all over it and it really affect the album to its core.  The band and producer are obviously very comfortable with each other, the sound is rich and this album will probably deserve a higher mark than the one I am about to deliver.  It is very good, but it has grower stickers placed all over it - much like a lamp post in Camden, London.  I sort of wonder what this album would have been like with a different man at the helm with the band on production duties.  But that is for a drunken conversation around a pub table with my friends.  This is a good record, but don't expect to be bowled over by it.  This album is in it for the long game.

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

Top Track - Weight Of Love

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Black Keys website here

The album is not in Spotify and Deezer.  You will have to purchase the album to hear it!  There is a page for it on Spotify, but it shows that The Black Keys have decided not to put it on Spotify (I can understand why and why not to have your albums on there, but it is not my place to judge either band or Spotify - here is a link to the page.

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