19 October 2016

Tarja Turunen - The Shadow Self

Hi, it's Jermyn, back again after a Mafia 3 binge. Good game, but slightly repetitive - mainly in the same way the first Assassins Creed game was in the sense that there really wasn't much variety or presentation in the way you do your missions, but it still entertains. Canny soundtrack too, especially if you like Creedence Clearwater Revival. Anyway, blog time...

Well, this should be good. Blogging an album by someone whose Day Job was never really part of my playlist. But I guess that's a good thing as if I blogged only my favourites, then it wouldn't be as much fun or as interesting. As we all know, Tarja Turunen was previously the lead female singer of the symphonic metal band Nightwish, who have had a lot of success in Europe. Since leaving - or was she pushed? - in 2005, she has since set up a successful solo career and continues to go from strength to strength. This is the fourth solo album and I've yet to hear it. As a classically trained singer, she can certainly feel the notes but is this going to be like Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera and...her out of Evanescence who are all technically gifted singers but would rather do vocal gymnastics that show off their range instead of genuinly interesting melodies? Let's find out...

1) Innocence - Big piano opening, creates images of people who dress like the movie "Amadeus". This soon gives way to a big drum and guitar intro which sound a bit gritty, then the vocals kick in...and, holy shit! Although they sound accomplished, they remind me a lot of the melody from "Listen To Your Heart", a song by (vaguely popular late-80's early-80's Euro pop band) Roxette. It's not too bad, I guess, but what really lets this song down is the mid-section which is an overlong piano solo. It amounts to nothing more than musical wanking and has no business here. It ruins the flow of the song so by the time it resumes proper, any effect the song had has now been dissipated. Oh well.

2) Demons In You - Funk guitar in symphonic metal? Weird intro but this gives way to some crunchy metal. Dual layered vocals create a good effect. Nice mid-section but the funk bit afterwards just doesn't cut it at all. It's like the first song - would be decent if they'd stuck to one thing and not fucked it up with some completely unnecessary bits.

3) No Bitter End - A gentle, very melodious opening gives way to...standard Euro metal stuff. Given the somewhat schizophrenic nature of the first two songs, I'm surprised it didn't go into a different genre altogether. Mind, saying that, the vocals have been really good up to this point. But, aain, given the aforementioned schizophrenic nature of the album, I'm expecting Tarja to rap next.

4) Love To Hate - Another dramatic piano opening, kind of reminded me of The Boomtown Rats but without a scruffy, sanctimonious bastard who wanted to save the world yet couldn't keep his Mrs on a leash. Musically competent with some nice mixes of the orchestral and electronic. Really good song.

5) Supremacy - A cover of a song by a band called Muse, it's ok. Pretty much another bands song played as straight-up symphonic metal. Should get the crowd going at Dynamo, Wacken or whatever the big Euro Metal Festival is these days.

6) Living End - Acoustic guitar with a vocal melody that's not only higher than a mountain goat, but the dog from three doors down is joining in with! Again, we have a competent song which isn't as overdone or have as many unwanted additions as previous songs. Sounds like there may be bagpipes on here, but instead of drowning stuff out, they complement things nicely.

7) Diva - The classical training really comes into it on here. Soaring opera vocals which sound cool. The rest of the song is very well done with orchestral effects and some really good drumming too. It certainly conjures up dramatic images. The music video to this would be an extravaganza, for sure.

8) Eagle Eye -  Competent rocker but a bit pedestrian compared to the previous two songs. Sounds like something that would get played at a sporting event or as the backing music on a sports show highlight reel. Heh, it might even make it into an aftershave commercial which would have been narrated by Tommy Vance if he was still alive.

9) Undertaker - Not a cover of the theme of the legendary WWE wrestler of the same name, but another competent slice of Euro metal for people who like their orchestras to have electric guitars. Not too shabby.

10) Calling From The Wild - Clean picked guitar opening along with some great vocal melodies soon becomes a crunchy guitar riff with some operatic-like vocal stabs. This is a really good song too. Not really much else to say about it.

11) Too Many - Twelve minutes long, oh hell...mind, there have been plenty songs which go on for long amounts of time and it doesn't do them any harm.  "2112" by Rush, "Autobahn" by Kraftwerk, and practically anything off "Hammerheart" by Bathory. It's certainly a grand spectacle, very well put together and more proof that Tarja and her backing band are extremely talented at what they do. But does it need to be over twelve minutes long? Yup, as there is a 'hidden bonus track' called "This Is A Hit Song" which is amusing enough.

So whilst this album wasn't as bad as I thought, it's certainly something that's not going to find it's way into my regular play-list, but anyone who likes their metal symphonic and their vocals operatic would certainly garner some enjoyment out of this. Some of the songs sound a bit disjointed like there's been some bits put in there that didn't need to be. Other than that, it's good.

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

Chris J.

Top Track: Diva.

This album is available on iTunes.

Official Site
Facebook Page

6 October 2016

Anaal Nathrakh - The Whole Of The Law

Anaal Nathrakh (named after the Charm Of Making spell in the 80's movie 'Excalibur') are back with a new album, and if past efforts are anything to go by, it'll be extremely harsh, abrasive and satisfying. Fusing the best parts of Black Metal, Death Metal, Grindcore and Industrial into one sonic melting-pot of extremity, they've been going for quite a while now, since 1998. Not bad for a primarily studio-based project, although some live shows have occurred over the years. Hailing from Birmingham, UK (just in case you get confused with Birmingham, Alabama), they join the likes of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Napalm Death and Duran Duran as being examples of brilliant bands from Birmingham.

This is their ninth studio album and I'm guessing is named after a famous quote from Satanist junkie and sex maniac Alistair Crowley - 'Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be The Whole Of The Law'. I never really rated the guy as it seemed there wasn't much to him other than a nice line in patter, and even then it was more about shagging and snorting anything in front of him, sort of like an early 20th century version of Russell Brand but not as much of a cunt. Still, each to  their own. We are here to listen to some music - if you can call it that, and I mean that in the nicest possible terms, but Anaal Nathrakh albums generally sound harsh as fuck. It's been a good year for my old favourites so here is hoping this keeps that particular momentum going. This blog may or may not follow the regular format, I'll have to play it by ear.

Let's go...

1) The Nameless Dread - it's a minute long keyboard/noise thing. Whispered vocals in the background, reminds me of something from (90's video game) Nightmare Creatures. Guitars kick in and already we can hear the famed Anaal Nathrakh tension...

2) Depravity Favours The Bold - The first song proper, it comes hurtling at you with a scream that sounds like a parrot getting fucked off a sandpaper dildo. Operatic vocals/keyboard effects in the background. Alterrnating between fast and mid-paced, it's an excellet song. Vocals alernating between ear-splitting screams and clean, almost opera-like vocals. It's a trick as old as the hills but at least it sounds good here and not tacked on in the name of tokenism.

3) Hold Your Children Close And Pray For Oblivion - May as well, seeing as we're headed for war with the Reds, if the papers are to be believed. This one contains a fucking GABBA drum section! The type of Gabba drum section where the drum is so processed and clipped, it practically is a musical note in it's own right. I'm pretty sure they did the same trick with 2012 release Vanitas (for me, their best album). I love it as I'm also a fan of Gabber too - when it's done properly though. Got to be the hard stuff, none of this ethereal keyboards and sped-up song samples shite for me,,,

4) We  Will Fucking Kill You - Very cheery song title. Matches the music within which is extremely heavy without being 1000mph. Kind of a galloping rhythm to it. Nice electronic touches too. Almost Iron Maiden-like guitar melodies - speaking of which, we'll get to them later...Nice sample/keyboard interlude in the middle too.

5) So We Can Die Happy - Basically follows the same format of the other songs, tears you a new one with some awesome guitar work and mad drum patterns. There are only two members of the band, one does the vocals and the other does all guitars, bass, programming etc. This is a good song. Ends with a distorted childrens choir singing what sounds like a nursery rhyme.

6) In Fragrante Delicto - Electronic ear-candy opening before stuttering guitar and more ear-candy leads into standard harshness in all areas.

7) And You Will Beg For Our Secrets - Like a toddler having a hissy-fit in a wall of white noise, this one rushes right at you, demanding your attention. Some nice keyboards producing a choir-effect in this. Certainly adds contrast to the heavy guitars.

8 ) Extravaganza - Non-depressing song title? Ermagherd! Pulsing electronics and mental opening are the order of the day. Some nice guitar riffs in there too. Quite a snappy riff, in fact. The clean vocals on this are more tortured sounding than usual, which is nice. At one point, they reminded me of The Cure front-man Robert Smith in his more depressing, overwrought moments. Nice one!

9) On Being A Slave - Guitar feedback FX with electronically doctored vocal effects are the order of the day before launching into the patent Anaal Nathrakh style of ripping you god-damned face off with the heaviness. THE HEAVINESS!!! This is another great song and no mistake.

10) The Great Spectator - More electronics amid the usual madness of the guitars and stuff. This one isn't too bad but after coming off the back of the last song, is kind of stuck in it's shadow.

11) Of  Horror, And The Black Shawls - Song title sounds like Cradle Of Filth before they decided to update their sound (IE, go a bit commercial), which is fine but they were always better then doing the proper heavy stuff. No such fear here of things like that happening, this song is taking us to the end of the album in a sea of madness and pain. Better than the last sing, which is nice. Great keyboards and guitar too. Change of pace towards the end where it slows down...

One of the bonus tracks is a cover of the Iron Maiden song 'Powerslave' and it rules on so many levels!

All in all, that was a really good album. Only gripe is that it was a bit samey and that it sounds pretty much like the other Anaal Nathrakh albums as well. Mind, if you're a fan then that's more than likely what you're going to want, so why worry? Both newbies and long-time fans should enjoy this.

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

Chris J.

Top Track: On Being A Slave.

Oddly, only two of the songs are on Spotify (here and here) but the album is available on iTunes (which is where I got my copy).

Official Facebook Band Page

5 October 2016

State of Blog Address - Systems are still down.

Just a quick update - we (Eddie) are still down on the laptop front (currently I have a lend of a device just to type this).  So there is a little bit of a backlog with the review and submissions; I can only apologise, but life can do this to you sometimes.  Once everything is up to date, I will have a lot of stuff to tell you.  As for the others, to be honest there has been some health and family issues which they have to attend to which obviously have to take priority over the blog for now, which is something I am sure all of you will understand.

However - we will be back soon, we will have more reviews and I hope you are all doing well.....even Future of the Left.


Current listening's from Eddie

Scroobius Pip - Distraction Pieces Podcast
Volbeat - Seal The Deal & Let's Boogie
Led Zeppelin - Coda
John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman - John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman
Autoheart - I Can Build A Fire
Ryan Adams - 1989
Ben Folds Five - Whatever & Ever Amen
Pixies - Bossnova
Pearl Jam - Lost Dogs
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree
PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

Past sermons

Greatest hits