28 August 2014
Arise, the leviathan! It is great that this band have gotten back to releasing music more regularly. After a break between 2005 & 2011 due to Kirk Windstein's activities with Down, the band have became more active again and Windstein has now left Down. What is Down's lose is the gain for the world as Crowbar are a special band when it comes to Sludge Metal. Over the years they have released some titian size records that have been breath taking. For a man who is such a giant in the American Sludge scene, it is great to find out that he is actually a Brit by birth. This is the band's ninth studio album and has been produced by Windstein himself. It was released in May 2014 and has been getting positive press around the globe; but this does not tend to influence us here, it is always the music that brings the results. Time to see how the Sludge behemoth sounds on this album.
Starting with "Walk With Knowledge Wisely", Crowbar are showing that they are still in business and business is heavy. Sounding like the waves of noise coming over you, it is a great introduction to the band if you have never heard them before. It is a swirling riff monster that goes round and round till it has rooted in your head like an oak tree and will be as difficult to remove as well. It is just a gigantic beast of a song which opens the album perfectly. "Symmetry In White" is next and the sludge worship is in full flow at this point. You are holding onto the side of your bucket heading towards hell, it is just a dark hymn to the bitter end and for sludge fans it will be a dark blessing in disguise. "The Taste In Dying" is another sludge dogma that sounds like it has been kept in bourbon and weed for many years before being released onto the world. It is a whirlwind of noise and riffs that keeps up the good work from the sludge legends. "Reflection Of Deceit" is the fourth song off the album which brings the mood down in the most delightful way. It is a slow burner in the best meaning of the words, it just toils across your soul like musical whips. Another sludge classic for the ages.
"Ageless Decay" is another brilliant slice of sludge that will have the faithful in rapture. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is so heavy that it feels like a brick being smashed against my face time and time again. It is one of those classic tracks that can define an album or period of a band's recording career. When the main riff drops, it is a good as anything from Crowbar's past. Next is "Amaranthine" which slows the mood down, in a sort of Black Sabbath "Caravan" type-way. It is the usual way of things with this sort of album; it is par of the course. It is nice and dreamy, might not be the most important song on the album but it does give it a bit of diversity. After this "The Foreboding" is like a slow relentless wave of ooze crawling over the land, it is taking its time to win the audience over and whilst it is not the most original of tunes it is still a brilliant song. "Shaman Of Belief" is the eighth track here and is more that same from Crowbar, much in the same way that you have with Motorhead. If it ain't broke there is no need to fix it; so whilst it sounds this intense. Starting off slow and building towards a speedy middle bridge, before heading back to the slow sludge that is the band's trademark, the song is classic Crowbar. It is done so simply and will be well received.
"Teach The Blind To See" continues the ground work that has been made on this album. As stated before, the wheel is not being reinvented on this record; they are not making work that would make the great unwashed run away from their x-fashion/Direction pop acts; but for those people blessed with the gifts of style and taste it will be like a refreshing drink on a hot summer's day. The more you listen to the music, the more hypnotic that the sound becomes. Which makes "A Wealth Of Empathy" a little bit disappointing to be honest. There is nothing specifically wrong with the song, but at this point it does feel like a filler track; no matter how well it is played it is not going to change your life. "Symbolic Suicide" is a manic track in comparison to most of the album; with double bass kicks that would be more at home in a trash metal act it certainly , it is used to contrast the sludge chorus that are dropped without warning. Ending the album is "The Piety Of Self-Loathing" which fades in from a sludge jam that has already been rumbling for years by the sounds of it. By this point, you will know what to expect and it does not disappoint. It ends the album in the best way for a sludge metal act, with a sound that will flatten mere mortals as they stand this is a really good instrumental.
Now, whilst I have been complementary, there are a few things on here I would like to mention. Overall, the main reason I like this so much is that I am a massive fan of this type of music. It connects to me in a way that I find truly mesmerising, but I do see that it is a very closed record in terms of appeal, I know that sounds weird but sometimes that is just the way of things. It is not a musical boundary cross-over record and it knows this. A few of the tracks whilst they are really powerful do start to merge with other tracks on the album. But it has took me a long while to make up my mind with this album and I have to say that it is a brilliant record that will have fan boys like me really pleased; but it does seem to be one only for the faithful
8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart
Top track - Ageless Decay
You can purchase the album from Amazon here
You can follow Crowbar's activity on their Facebook
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
Here is the link for our Deezer users
26 August 2014
Hyped bands - sometimes the hype is justified, sometimes the band turns out to be a pile of bollocks. Anyone remember Gay Dad or The Glitterati by any chance? Jackyl? Some bands that where pushed to the hilt and then disappeared with more speed than a politicians promises once they have entered office. For the last seven or eight months all I have heard about when talking to people about new bands is that I should be listening to Royal Blood. Formed in 2013, this band comprises of childhood friends Mike Kerr & Ben Thatcher. Gaining support from Artic Monkeys (don't hold it against them - and for the record I have no real strong opinions about them one way or another), they have spent the last year or so building their audience and generally making such a buzz about them that it is hard not to have at least have heard of their name. I think it also helps that they have one of the world's biggest labels behind them (Warner Brothers - it might be released by Imperial Galactic Limited, but there is still WB cash in there), so for some people they might come across as pretenders to the throne. Again, I don't hold that against them as once upon a time there was a band called Nirvana who had major clout behind them and conquered the world. What will make my decision is the quality of the music, so without further ado.....
Starting with their first ever single "Out Of The Blood", the band have a pipe bomb to unleash on the world. This is the sort of swagger than made Kyuss such a joy on the ears, also the lyrical delivery does has a hint of White Stripes on it; but not to the point where you scream that this is just a more grunge version of Mr & Mrs White. This has a groove that has been missing from music for a long time. That said, I think it is also one of the poorest songs on the album, and I think it is a stomping track. "Come On Over" is much more effective and another slab of garage stoner rock that will make their ever growing fan base quiver in excitement. It was the third single to be released from the album (there was four tracks dropped before the album came out) and it just have a massive hook that drags everyone along as if they were the unwilling (or willing at this point) victims towards their doom. "Figure It Out" is the third track (but the fourth single) off this album. This is a song that owes an awful lot to Queens Of The Stone Age, especially the album 'Rated R'. It has that classic groove about it that makes it very understandable as to why this band is so popular at the moment. Seriously that riff they unleash at the end is pure desert nirvana; I really can see that one going down a storm. The next number is "You Can Be So Cruel" and it is the first song on the album that does not quite live up to what has passed beforehand. It is still jumping, but much like "Out Of The Blood" is does not do that much for me.
"Blood Hands" is a sexy little number, it does once again bring to mind other bands that the band obviously have as influences (QOTSA, White Stripes, Soundgarden, etc) and that is not a bad thing on the debut. Also (and this is very, very, very fucking important), they make a sound that is unique to themselves. It does not sound like a glorified tribute to all those acts, it sounds like a band making their own way in the world and it is a brilliant number. "Little Monster" is next and was the second song to be released as a single before the album came out. This was the first song I heard a few weeks ago and it is another out of the block straight forward rock number; a bit slower than the album opener "Out Of The Blood", but this makes for a much more interesting number. "Loose Change" is one of my favourite songs on this album, mainly because it has a slow burning start before descending into a riff tidal wave that could drown many bands. Also, every time I hear the coins hit the ground at the end of the song I look on the ground to see if my wallet has opened.
"Careless" is a blues riff that makes you wonder where these guys are getting their ideas. It is not the most original of songs, the lyrics are pretty close to cheesy in a way that Def Leppard would be envious of; but the whole delivery just makes so much sense. It is a very simple song that does exactly what you would expect at this point; massive rock explosion for the new generation of rock fans. "Ten Tonne Skeleton" is an awesome strutting anthem that will cross both the rock and indie worlds. This song does have a bit of everything going on, a loose riff that is not too heavy to be judged for metal heads; yet not go light that it will make metallers think it is only for the interestingly quiffed of hair. Ending the album is "Better Strangers" which brings all the elements of the band's sound into the mix, the song is head and heels above the rest of the tracks here; it just has something else about it. It ends the album on an amazingly high point.
I have been told good things about this band and the album is a very good album indeed. There is a perfect storm forming around this band that will take them onto better things, this album is really good and just a shade over 30 minutes it is an incredible ball of noise from this two piece. The fact that this noise is only coming out of two people is another source of amazement/amusement (delete as per you own personal leaning). Now, whilst this album is really good that it is not the second coming that some people are saying that it is. There are a few moments which don't quite work for me, but there is a lot that does work as well. I have been advised by many people that have seen this band over the last few months that the racket that these two people can make live is amazing. A very good debut album, they are well placed to take over the world, let’s see what they do after this. Also, one of the few hyped bands which aren't a pile of bollocks as well.
8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart
Top track - Better Strangers
You can purchase the album from Amazon here
You can visit the Royal Blood website here
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
For our Deezer users, here is a link for you
Sometimes I am a day or so behind. At the time that I started writing this blog (23 August 2014), Mr Sanko had play Newcastle the night before hand. I found about this after the event as I had not read one of my friend's FB feed more carefully, missing a great show by the sounds of things. So after checking out his stuff, I thought I would give it a review as well. Myles Sanko has been making waves and getting some good radio play. This album (it is quoted as an ep but it is over twenty minutes and has seven song, so reviewing as an album) was released last year and that is all I can really tell you about it so far. So what does the album sound like?
Starting the album is "High On You"; unlike lots of modern R&B this has a very traditional sound. The horn section is on fire and Sanko's voice is as rich and sugary as a honey trap to an ant. The song is a brilliant opening to this album, keeping the pace steady and the rhythm is just beautiful. Next is "So Hard To Stop" which keeps up the energy, with a tale of not being happy in a relationship due to the constant demands of an over dominate partner. It has a rich vintage feeling, but not retro to the point that it is backwards looking; it sounds very contemporary and modern as well, just with a classic tone. Same can be said with "Distant From You" in terms of sound, with a much more gentle pace (but with no deduction in terms of class) you have a modern take on the old school R&B sound and it does not sound like a tribute. It sounds just perfect and so smooth that it will have people amazed at the timeless quality to the music.
"Come On Home" is slow burning number in more than one way. This number is a mournful song about missing your loved one who is no longer in love with you, a main part of anybody's experience on this planet. It is as old as the skies about is that type of song and is done incredibly well; it is not my favourite on here, yet I still found myself enjoying the music. "Don't Let Me Down" is a stomping number about not trusting the person you are with after they have been a bit of a dick/bitch. It is full with an anger that makes the delivery sound particularly vicious. "Goodbye Lady Goodbye" is the penultimate number on this album, it is an unusual song for me as it is a story about a man who has left his love for someone who was not worth it; the tone is heavily regretful, this music is almost mocking of the man and the delivery is just perfect. It is a wonderful number that builds towards a stomping ending. However, finishing the album is "Sea Of Fire" which brings the soul back to the album. I can see why this was the song chosen to end this record, but I think it would have been better swapped with "Goodbye Lady Goodbye". However, it is charming little number to end this first introduction to Mr Sanko.
This is a brilliant introduction to Myles Sanko; it is great to hear a brand new voice on the UK R&B scene that sound distinctive to quite a lot of what is going on around at the moment. It has a bit of everything for all types of audience, with tales of love, regret and all delivered in a sublime package. In the next few weeks, Mr Sanko will be releasing 'Forever Dreaming' which I will be looking forward to with interest. This is definitely a brilliant release and I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in R&B and soul. I just hope to be able to catch him next time he is touring.
7.5 out of ten - This is good and well worth a check
Top track - Distant From You
You can purchase the digital version of this album on Amazon here
You can visit the Myles Sanko website here
You can also follow his activities on his Facebook page
You can visit his Soundcloud page here
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
Here us the link for our Deezer users
24 August 2014
Well, I NEVER thought I'd be listening to this again! Prior to just now, the last time I heard this album was in 1999, I'd loaned it to an acquaintance who never gave it back. He did, however, start dressing like a member of the band so I guess it had some impact on him...oh well. However, after picking this up for the princely sum of £1 from a charity shop in Wallsend, I thought I'd give it a spin to see whether or not if time has been kind to it. And has it? We'll find out soon enough...
Released in 1997, it is the debut album by Coal Chamber, a band that had been going for a few years prior. It came at a time when the world was starting to go crazy over KoRn, Deftones, stuff like that. Those bands and this one ended up getting lumped together into what became known as nu-metal, which at that time was merely a byword for any band that played extremely down tuned guitars over the top of hip hop-esque drum beats. However, what set Coal Chamber apart from the crowd was - IMHO - their look. KoRn wore mostly sports apparel (most notably Adidas tracksuits), these guys wore goth/metal clothes and had a fuckton of piercings, hairdyes etc. This would end up being a weapon for their detractors who'd argue a case of style over substance. And while it is true that the band looked like an advertisment for Attitude Clothing (A UK-based clothing company), it was a bit of an unfair generalisation as this album IS quite good, all things considered. Mind, when you see lead singer Dez Fafara in Devildriver, rocking the sideburns and Motorhead tops - it STILL doesn't erase the memory of when he looked like a gothic scrapyard in candyland singing "LOCO!!! LOCO!!! LOCO!!! LOCO!!!"
Dez, eat a Snickers because you look a right clip when hungry. Better?
Anyway, on with the show...
The album cover ran with a common theme amongst nu-metal at the time, childhood imagery which hinted at darker sub-textures. That ice-cream man could've been a murderer or something!
Opening with the aforementioned "Loco", the album gets off to a great start! Fuck knows what the lyrics are about - it's like they've gone for the "White Zombie effect" of stringing together any old bollocks in the hope it sounds cool. And it works. It's the perfect 'metal club' song. Catchy, stomping rhythms, tight bass playing and an excellent riff. Marvellous. However, the same cannot be said of the next song, "Bradley". The intro rips Prong off to such an extent that Tommy Victor should have got a royalty - and it doesn't even sound that good. They've taken the riff from "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck" and tried to play it to the tempo of "Whose Fist Is This Anyway"! Mind, the rest of the song..., it's ok, I guess. "Oddity" follows with an atmospheric build-up in which Dez tells us "THIS IS THE WAY IT'S GOT TO BE!!!" before crashing into the kind of riff that KoRn popularised with "Blind". Mind, I reckon they stole that off a Fear Factory song called "Scapegoat" (This was back when Fear Factory were a genuinely great band and not two dicks and a drum machine who are trying to cling to past glories. And I say that as a fan). Again, another great song. "Unspoiled"...good song but we've pretty much hit on a formula. Seems that each song starts off with an awesome riff, verses are basically guitar fretboard wankery fed through an FX unit before resuming a riff for the chorus. Dez, meanwhile, alternates from singing to screaming, a style which has been done to death over the years. He also on occasion does a 'scat' - no, not THAT one - style of singing which consists of a rapid, fast form of delivery. "Big Truck" brings the pace down, slow and lumbering with attitude! Very good.
The next song is "Sway" which starts off with the "The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire, but we don't need no water let the motherfucker burn, burn, motherfucker, burn!" line which appeared on some rap song, apparently. A really shit band called The Bloodhound Gang also used it for one of their songs. It's another stomper, like "Loco" which would no doubt get you moving in the club or at the gig! Another fine example of a decent riff. "First" is the next song - the pace is slowed down and a low rumbling bass line and drum combo gives way to a roaring chorus. It makes a change to what has been heard so far. Mind, we have had a great time with this album although it's became apparent that the one thing holding it back is the vocals of Dez. Maybe he's found his niche with Devildriver but on here, they don't match the intensity of the music. "Maricon Puto" is one of those noisy samples in between tracks which isn't really worth a fart. "I" manages to restore the balance, even if it's a rewrite of "Loco".
"Clock" follows next and it's another stomper, although the lyrics are bizarre. "Clock - counting all my fears"? Erm..."My Frustration" is basically a mid-paced rant at whatever is bugging the band. "Amir Of The Desert" should have been left on the cutting room floor. It's obviously an in-joke between the band and engineer/mixer Amir Derakh (Who was in a band called Orgy and their singer - Jay Gordon - produced this album) but it sounds like shit as it's not even produced properly. And it may be racist too. Still, the home stretch restores balance - "Dreamtime" being a decent song with a storming opening riff and "Pig" showing some dynamics with it's grinding verses and stomping choruses. Shame about the rubbish pig impressions at the start, even Ned Beatty did better ones in "Deliverance"! The bonus track isn't worth writing about.
Well, there you go. Despite the band polarizing opinions for a long time, my honest opinion is this album is very good indeed. Further releases didn't quite have the same impact and in the end, the band split. Still, this album was good.
Top Track: "First".
8/10 - Oh you have my attention, and maybe my money, time and heart.
You can get this album on iTunes and Amazon (Click).
The Spotify for this album doesn't work but here is the link to "The Best Of Coal Chamber" instead (Click).
22 August 2014
Holopainen however hasn't completed ditched his connections from his band. First, for the orchestral arrangements, he's retained classical composer and conductor Pip Williams with The London Philharmonic Orchestra at his disposal, and for the Celtic folk pipes and related percussion comes one time Nightwish sessionist and now full time member Troy Donockley. Now the theme for his solo project is a curious one. It's based on the Disney character Scrooge McDuck and the album cover has his image looking out over what I can only guess is the Klondike Mountains at the height of the famed gold rush with a pickaxe in one hand and a sackful of gold nuggets in the other.
Seemingly, this is a musical biopic and in fact, the first couple of tracks almost instantly set the precedent of the album from the word go. Glasgow 1877 has the narrator and subject (Alan Reid) reflecting on his childhood and explaining how his adventures begin in his youth in Scotland, the musical is light orchestral before it fires into grandiosity and pomp, with Donockley on uilleann pipes in the calmer moments. The vocals complement the overture by two Finnish folk vocalists, Johanna Kurkela as "Glittering" Goldie O'Gilt (Scrooge's love interest) and Johanna Iivanainen as his mother singing in largely Scottish Gaelic. Next, it's Into The West as the intrepid McDuck begins his odyssey, brief vocals from Kurkela again, although the momentum now begins to gather pace and is largely dominated by banjo fretwork while harmonica closes the track.
Duel & Cloudscapes continues where its preceding number left off in the same key. Same beat as well, however, it's not for long as the rhythm gathers a little more energy still, with some interesting snippets such as glockenspiel and harp featured leads. Then, another instrumental in Dreamtime, with didgeridoo acoustics starting the ball rolling and Holopainen keywork lending a couple of loops to the orchestral group. It's gentle and just a sprinkle of snow dust, but it's just a touch too long and there's a danger that one loop too many could bring buffers to the proceedings. I admit I had to listen to it three times before I got the cut of the jib. Fortunately, there's more featured guests coming to the foray, on the next track Cold Heart Of The Klondike, is Sonata Arctica vocalist and storyteller Tony Kakko, and more emphatic beats joining right from the beginning. Definitely one of the better tracks so far, and we have been lacking some narrative in the story.
Nightwish fans expecting a carbon copy from Tuomas Holopainen should really shun away because you'll just be straining your ears for nothing. It is a heavy listen I will admit and like heavy listening you really need a lot of time for it, and some of the loops are just a little too dragged for me, though thankfully not enough to lose my attention. And yet it feels so ethereally enticing too, so in all beautifully crafted and arranged by our Finnish keyboardist, it kind of reminds me of Tim Burton's take on the Batman franchise. His 1989 film was certainly much darker and without a hint of humour or irony, and this to me has a similar take on it. Mind you, there's not a lot put into the Scrooge McDuck character. And with the emphasis on the music, no bad thing either. Still for Holopainen, it's back to the Nightwish rat race as I understand through my updates that they're currently in the throes of recording album number eight. I await with baited breath...
7 out of ten. This is good and well worth a check.
Best Track : Cold Heart Of The Klondike
Buy The Life And Times Of Scrooge here on Amazon
Listen to the album here on Spotify
Deezer listeners can click on this link here
Official Tuomas Holopainen Website here
His Official Facebook is on this link here
Titan is the ninth album by Greek Symphonic Death Metal band Septic Flesh, though only the third since they’ve been known as Septicflesh. The slight name change came about after the band split for four years and their sound had matured in that time apart. Understandable but a bit pointless.
Whereas the majority of Death Metal bands pummel at you with raw aggression, Septic Flesh always preferred to ease the pace, bleed in some atmospherics and create something a little more ominous.After reforming in 2007, they released Communion in 2008 which took this even further. It added some clean vocals and an 80 piece orchestra. While Communion was a really good album, they perfected the formula with 2011’s The Great Mass. It’s a near flawless album that drips with malevolence and doom. As a band they don’t really sound like anything else I listen to and it’s always a pleasure to discover something new.
Titan continues down the same path and, while it doesn’t quite match up to The Great Mass, it’s still a stupendous album. The orchestration, for the most part could stand on its own to the soundtrack of some Lovecraftian film. Added to the thudding menace of the band itself it creates a whole that’s both beautifully epic and insidiously evil.
Opener War In Heaven highlights all facets of what they’re going for. The orchestra fades things in until the band lurch forth with a slow, pounding riff and the whole ensemble let rip. Vocalist/Bassist Spiros' deep, rumbling roar makes itself known straight away along with a disturbing spiral of strings. All of a sudden, everything stops. One by one the instruments open start to pipe up again until Spiros bellows the title repeatedly. Towards the end a choir strike up to great effect.The song is as epic as such a title would suggest. There are twists and turns that are most definitely Progressive Metal in complexity. It’s a great choice of opener.
The next two songs, Burn and Order Of Dracul are more straightforward and heavy, though the time changes and lush orchestral passages are still present.
Prototype is slower, longer and focuses more on the strings. The choir also makes another appearance. When I say choir I mean like O Fortuna not Sister Act. It’s a really nasty song that makes you feel soiled listening to it. In a good way obviously.
Dogma sees the appearance of guitarist Sotiris’ clean vocals. They’re understated, creepy and shouldn’t unduly offend the “Sell out!” crowd.
Prometheus begins with some gentle guitar and piano before the strings and the rest of the band kick in. It’s another slower, doomy song and lets the brass section have their say. You’ll not believe the lowly tuba could sound so \m/ until you hear it here. The songs picks up pace but then drops it down again for a lovely middle section. It’s the light and dark of Septicflesh’s music that makes them so intriguing. It’s not just a wall of unrelenting tension. It lets things ease from time to time which makes the aggression seem even more so what it does get unleashed.
The title track and Ground Zero are like Burn and Order Of Dracul in that they’re just straight, heavy, Septicflesh songs. The four songs split the album well and keep it balanced so there’s plenty of less complicated songs among the more intricate and experimental tracks.
Confessions Of A Serial Killer has a throwaway title but is an unsettling song, mainly down to the harrowing and eerie string section throughout the song. Listening to it give me a feeling of deep unease which, I suppose, is sort of the point.
The final track is The First Immortal which is a lighter song and relies much more on the orchestra than the metal, though it’s still very much present. There’s also a children’s choir which is an effective touch.
Titan is a fantastic album and something original and a little different. That’s something to be applauded in any case but especially so when it works as well as this does. Septicflesh deserve to be heard.
Best Track: Prometheus
9 out of 10. Almost perfect. Almost.
Listen to it on Spotify HERE
Buy it from Amazon HERE
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- Crowbar - Symmetry In Black
- Royal Blood - Royal Blood
- Myles Sanko - Born In Black & White
- Coal Chamber - Coal Chamber
- Tuomas Holopainen - Music Inspired By The Life And...
- Septicflesh - Titan
- A Perfect Circle - eMOTIVe
- Judas Priest - Redeemer Of Souls
- Cannabis Corpse - From Wisdom To Baked
- Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Live From KCRW
- Modern Baseball - You're Gonna Miss It All
- Paolo Nutini - Caustic Love
- Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Hypnotic Eye
- Dragonforce - Maximum Overload
- Prong - Ruining Lives
- CJ WIldheart - Mable
- Ginger Wildheart - G,A.S.S Month 4
- Prodigy - The Fat Of The Land
- Thomas Truax - Trolls, Girls & Lullabies
- Nightwish - Wishmaster
- Camel - A Nod And A Wink
- Mastodon - Once More Round The Sun
- Epica - The Quantum Enigma
- Mayhem - Esoteric Warfare
- Jonah's Onelinedrawing - Me And You Are Two
- Prodigy - The Prodigy Experience
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- Michael Jackson - Dangerous
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