30 November 2016

Lacuna Coil - Delirium

Image result for lacuna coil delirium

Lacuna Coil are one of my favourite bands and have been for many years, so I have been a bit remiss in not reviewing this until now, but such is life. Studio album number eight and I was wondering where they were going after the heady heights of "Broken Crown Halo". After a rocky start, "Delirium" needn't have worried me.

The album kicks off with "The House of Shame", a grab you by the testes intro that drops you straight into a loud, pushy and confident opener. The familiar style is present and correct, with a hefty punch that really does wake you up. 

"Broken Things" has a bit if a quieter start but within seconds, the volume is back right up there and doesn't stop. So far, so good, and a confident start to the album.

Next up, the album title track, "Delirium", which calms things down a bit, but only slightly. The track is slower, with a heavier vibe in the chorus that switches nicely with the lighter verses.

"Blood, Tears, Dust" has a more electronic intro, before heading into standard heavy metal then rising into a lovely chorus that lifts the song out of generic mediocrity. Honestly, this is probably the weakest track on the album, and it's not all that bad.

Next up, "Downfall", another slower track in the familiar LC style, slow vocals and heavy bass, so kinda preaching to the converted but extremely well done. The song builds to a sweeping guitar solo then a plateau til the fade out at the end. Rather good it is too.

"Take Me Home" starts with faux children singing a rhyme before the power kicks in again, and as with some of the earlier tracks, it doesn't really stop until the very end. Some might say it's a bit bland, but not me. It's also something LC can do well, so why stop?

"You Love Me 'Cause I Hate You" slows things down again, lulling you until the chorus smacks you about the chops. After that, back to the slow build up again, then the chorus. The third is a powerful demonstration of why LC are so good at what they do.

"Ghost In The Mist" starts off quickly, short, sharp drums leading to a steady beat that leads the song all the way through. The vocals are cracking and I would love to hear an acoustic version (pretty please???)

Three tracks left and "My Demons"falls almost back in the average territory that mid-album tracks tend to have in LC albums. I say almost, it's still rather good but you get the feeling you have heard it before.

"Claustrophobia" bolsters up  the tail end, with another strong track, and I dare you not to let your head bop in with the beat. Yep, it's one of those.

Finally, "Ultima Radio", and I think the best was saved til last (not the first time I have thought that about an LC album). There is an energy that seems to say, "Yep, we're at the end, but we'll leave you wanting more!". There is a sense of style and verve that neatly punctuates the album as a whole.

There are three more tracks on the deluxe digipack edition, "Live To Tell", an absolutely cracking cover of the Madonna track, "Breakdown", another strong, sweeping chorus-style track, and "Bleed The Pain", which slightly sullies the album in heading back towards a generic style.

Overall, this is an album I really enjoyed, though as stated above, there is a hint of "playing to the galleries" about a couple of the tracks that (hypocritically), I both like and dislike. Should I penalise the album because of this? I am not sure, after all, what Lacuna Coil do well, they do very well. Hmmm, it's a tough one. But as it is, an Eight. 

My favourite track: "Ghost In The Mist"

You can follow Lacuna Coil here, and grab the album from Amazon, iTunes and stream the album from Deezer.

The Pineapple Thief - Your Wilderness

Image result for the pineapple thief
So, Your Wilderness, the latest album by The Pineapple Thief, and one that was recommended to me. I wish now it hadn't been. 

Here is the track list:
"In Exile"
"No Man's Land"
"Tear You Up"
"That Shore"
"Take Your Shot"
"Fend For Yourself"
"The Final Thing On Your Mind"
"Where We Stood"

Why the track list and not a talk through review. Well, I have listened to this twice from start to finish, and that's 90 plus minutes I am not going to get back, so I ain't wasting too much time on the review. The tracks are listless, the tone vapid, the lyrics boring and when you find a song that seems to be getting somewhere, it takes 9 plus minutes to say absolutely nothing at all. 

What I can say is that, by all means, give it a go. It's out there on Deezer here, iTunes here, Amazon here and they have their website here.

I am open minded enough to listen to their other albums if I come across them, and will give any new stuff a try in future, but honest to whatever-deity-you-choose, this collection of insipid songs did naff all for me.

On the plus side, they can play their instruments, so not a total disaster.

One out of Ten 

29 November 2016

Virtual Symmetry - Message From Eternity

Virtual Symmetry have finally came to gestation, after starting out as a singular project in 2009. This, their first album, is a collection of songs that were written in and about that time. There's no Wiki page just yet, but according to the band's official website (click here), the band started off with a multi-instrumentalist called Valerio Aessi Villa. He does the guitars on this as the rest of the slots are taken up by Mark Bravi (keyboards), Alessandro Poppale (bass) and Davide Perpignano (drums). A couple of the songs contains keyboard solos by Jordan Rudess, the keyboardist of top Prog Rock band Dream Theater. I'll be honest, this has put me on high alert as I'm not the biggest fan of prog, although I do enjoy "2112" by Rush.

The band site also describes the band as Progressive Rock, with their sound containing elements of ambient, fusion, pop and contemporary. There is also particular attention paid to creating a mix between technique and melody whilst creating an atmosphere akin to something cinematic. I've no idea what this is like as I've yet to hear this band, so let's get started...

1) Darkened Space - A synth passage which sounds like the sound effects from an 80's sci-fi TV show. Reminds me of Vangelis, slightly. Not too bad.

2) Program Error We Are The Virus - Quite keyboard heavy, reminding me of the 80's again. Nice intro though, more keyboard effects before a very well produced guitar, bass and drums kicks in. The song takes an interesting turn as after a mood-setting passage which sounds like a ballad is going to start, it soon speeds up into something approximating metal. It's rather good, like Iron Maiden meets Heart during their power ballad phase. The song is just over ten minutes long, and the last few minutes of that are an excellent guitar solo. We're off to a good start.

3) Soul's Reflections - Pretty much the same kind of intro as the last one, not too bad. A bit shorter than the last one, this one has another 80's vibe to it, quite AOR in places. You'd expect the music video to have something like billowing curtains and dresses, like Bonnie Tyler or something. The song is not too bad. Hey, at least it's not Whitesnake!

4) Pegasus - Keyboard and bass intro lead into something sounds almost like Power Metal. Seems so far this album has been combining that with the more AOR side of music. The official website wasn't kidding when it said these guys dip their toes everywhere. This song has some fine guitar-work on here, and not just the solos either. Very good.

5) You'll Never Fail Again - Heavy piano intro which sounds like a left-over from the Tarja album (Her that used to be in Nightwish). Mind, we're back into AOR territory so it fits rather well, I think. This sounds like it could be in a montage for an 80's movie. Possibly one of those family comedies where the montage shows the people in the movie having fun or something (kind of like the one in Three Men And A Baby after the drug dealers get arrested, but I digress). Thumping rhythm guitar sounds slightly out of place but is ok. Nice solo towards the end.

6) Silent Sweetness - Has anyone checked with Tarja Nightwish to see if she's missing any melancholic piano instrumentals? As we've got one right here. No doubt there is a lot of heart and soul in this but throw it to the fucking sharks for all I care. Mind, if they'd done a Spinal Tap and named it 'Lick My Love-Pump' then that would have been cool!  The outro of one-key-every-ten-seconds is a pisstake as well.

7) Message From Eternity - And to absolutely no-one's surprise, we've got piano/keyboard intro with a whiney synthesiser that reminds me of the riff from War Of The Worlds when the journalist returns to London and sees the martians are all dead. It's not too bad, really. Definitely a lot of talent has gone into this song. As we've now gone onto a bit with acoustic guitars and some more keyboard stuff. The electric guitars come back into it as things progress. This song also has a decent instrumental section towards the end. It's all very good but at twenty-three minuts long, feels a bit much. The best bits of this song could have been edited into two, maybe three shorter songs. But like their promo said, the band were looking into cinematic soundscapes here. And they certainly succeeded.

Well, there we go! That wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. The only gripe I had was that the two long songs could have been edited into shorter songs. Less is more and all that. Still, what was there was certainly well crafted and put together, the band are certainly a very talented band and are sure to have a lot of success in the future.  We wish them well.

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

Chris J.

Top Track: Program Error We Are The Virus.

This album is available on iTunes.

Facebook Page For The Band

Kings of Leon - WALLS

The band, lead singer Caleb Followill, his brothers Nathan (drums) and Jared (guitar), and cousin Matthew Followill (bass) have a very recognisable sound. It's the soaring yet slurred vocal style, the repetition of phrase, and jangly guitar over a rock beat that could be a difficult combination, but somehow works. And it's this combination, commitment to each other, and work ethic that's continued to work for them the world over for 16 years. Walls is their 7th Album. 

Kings of Leon conjure up vivid mixed memories for me. 10 years ago, in the space of a year I had experienced several stressful life events, which resulted in intense exhaustion and depression. 

A new work mate kindly gave me lifts, and took me around to see the area in her car. She often had Kings of Leon playing. 

I enjoyed the music and her company, and appreciated her kindness. So, when I listen to Walls I'm in an ambivalent frame of mind. But that's what music is, it's powerfully emotive.

"Waste A Moment"   
"Around the World"  
"Find Me"  
"Conversation Piece"  
"Eyes on You"  

Fast forward to October 2016 when Walls was released, and I honestly couldn't tell the difference when the first track 'Waste a moment' started. It’s pretty much exactly as the title suggests, and sounds the same as their work did back in 2008.

The second track 'Reverend' was a different beast, slower and slightly more reflective. Now and again you can hear a truly beautiful voice come through, a substantial skill.

I'm ashamed to say I then got a little bored and absent minded through the next few tracks until one caught my attention 'Conversation Piece.' 

'Muchacho' is a nice change of pace and so is their title track Walls. Walls and Conversation piece shows what this band is capable of should they veer away from their respective style. And I'm interested in how they develop.  Good stuff.

I'd definitely have these guys on my car iPod, and they sound like they have an infectious energy, relentlessly pummelling their music out, so perhaps they would be worth a watch live. They are one of the world's biggest rock bands after all.  

7 out of 10 – This is good and worth checking out

Favourite Track: 'Conversation Piece.'

You can purchase WALLS here on Amazon.

White Lies - Friends

White Lies have always been a band who have intrigued me, when they first came out onto the scene it was with the album 'To Lose My Life...' in 2009.  The follow up 'Ritual' in 2011 was a fantastic release and contain the song 'Bigger Than Us' which was one of my favourite songs of that year.  After that, I sort of lost track of what they were doing and did not realise they had released a third album called 'Big TV'.  Their fourth album 'Friends' which we are reviewing here was released on October 2016 and almost drifted by me again, but I wanted to see what has happened to the Ealing band since I last listened to them.

01 – Take it Out of Me

Starting the album is a song that is different to the darker sound of White Lies, it is a song about wanting to be used by someone, just so the person can connect with someone and slightly getting off on being a doormat.  Being played over a song that would not be out of place on a Killers or New Order record, it is almost sunshine for this band.  It is slightly disconcerting, but the lyrical content keeps those fears at bay; but the fade out finish was unexpected, again it was out of place and this is just the first song of the album.

02 – Morning in LA

A song about being in Los Angeles, in pain and needing to talk to people on the other side of the world, feeling isolation and lost in the city of dreams.  It is a dark number, one that is covered over by the sound of the music which is once again a ray of sunshine; it is all quite subverted and out of context, I like it as it is not your straight forward sound and they are no longer just darker than dark synth pop straight away.  Interesting, but is it actually moving the sound of White Lies forward?

03 – Hold Back Your Love

Now this one is very surreal, when it started I thought it was Go West or some other 80’s band as the sound is so retro it is starting to hurt.  A song that is about wanting to deny love, to see if you can cope without it is a strange beast at the best of times – this one is a massive contrast of style and content and it is once again going again both pop and indie sensibilities, it is a strange one that does not make much sense in places for me.

04 – Don’t Want to Feel it All

Slow and moody, ‘Don’t Want to Feel it All’ is a song about having your own problems and then having relationship issues at the same time, about not having the capability to deal with everything at once and being scared that you will lose everything.  Musically, it is more 80’s synth and a change from their earlier style, but it is a song that reminds me of ‘Bigger Than Us’ as it aims for the heart and tries to explain a complex situation.  Definitely one of the better tracks of the album.

05 – Is My Love Enough?

Heavy electronic bass, light and dancing synth and a Pet Shop Boys desire to make pop music dark again, ‘Is My Love Enough?’ is a song that reminds me of the sound that Fun were peddling a few years back; the thing is, I was not a fan of that band and the same can be said for this song.  It is trying a little too hard to sound like the original deal, it does not reach that goal and it is definitely a poor choice for the album.

06 – Summer Didn’t Change a Thing

Another of the better songs of the album; a tune about time not making things better, the band are in moodier territory once again and it seems more natural and organic on this number.  It does not feel forced and even with a synth heavier sound, the music is still a black heartbeat.  Only thing that takes it down a mark or two, another sodding fade out ending, hated them as a kid, not liking them any more as an adult.

07 – Swing

I will make this one brief – a song about swinging from left to right and being unable to control how you feel about love, musically for the most part it is high end synth that almost got the worst song of the album; the ending rising bridge saves it though as it digs into your brain, but this is the only saving grace on this number.

08 – Come On

The band are saying there is something wrong, they are not lying on that one.  It is a number that is just far too calculated and light as well, imagine ‘Battle Born’ Killers with more guitars and you are about there.  Not a song that works for me, so I will more onto the next one.

09 – Right Place

The penultimate song of the album is ‘Right Place’ and it is a song that has self-doubt at the beginning of the number and at this point it is starting to feel like a self-fulfilling number, saying how they are not going to miss it when it stops, I am feeling the same as well – sorry, but this is another filler track by the standards that White Lies have set themselves with their other releases.  Time to more on again.

10 – Don’t Fall

Ending the album is a slow and clunking ‘Don’t Fall’ that once again does not feel nature to these ears.  It is a song about being given support and help, a message which is good to hear for obvious reasons.  However, the music does not match the lyrics as it feels like another 80’s rehash and it ends this album on a low note.

What happened here?  Here is an album I should be loving as it is a synth album and I am struggling with it, it feels a little false and too calculated.  Lyrically it is still as black as midnight, but musically it is like a Black Metal band releasing an album of lute covers.  Now, regular readers of this blog will know I love 80’s synth, I love indie synth, I really like White Lies as well; but for a lot of this album, it feels force and not natural, as if they are chasing something and it is long past.  In some places, it really does work, such as on tracks like ‘Don’t Want to Feel it All’ and ‘Summer Didn’t Change a Thing’ are really good songs, but other tracks are average at best and some are just poor.  It is not an album that I would recommend, there has been better releases in this genre as well and it feels a little bit throwaway.  File under – disappointing.

4 out of ten
Well it is alright, but still....

Top track – Don’t Want to Feel It All

You can purchase Friends on Amazon here.

Opeth - Sorceress

File:Sorceress Album Cover.jpg

This is the twelfth studio album by Opeth and one that I was keen to review as I have had a soft spot for this band for quite a while now. And let me tell you, I was not disappointed.

"Persephone"starts the album off softly, a gentle guitar based intro that leads into the more lively "Sorceress", an electronica whirl that soon settles into a steady, riff driven melody that grabs you and doesn't let go. It might be a little on the slow side for some, but it's effective. "The Wilde Flowers"is a more... whiny track? No, not whiny, but it has that edge to the style of singing that tends to grate a bit. Definitely the weakest of the main album tracks.

Things improve massively with "Will O the Wisp", a western vibe'd track that has more than a hint of Tubular Bells in the key changes. This track, I really liked, putting in mind something like a return of Firefly (if only the TV Gods were so kind). This was my second favourite track.
"Chrysalis" brings us back to earth with a loud, confident cracker of a song, and at over seven minutes long, it manages to hold your attention throughout as it changes to a lovely long fade out at the end.

"Sorceress 2" is another slow, guitar led track that has a haunting feel, one that the lyrics and singing style back with in spades. It's a one tone track, but that's to it's strength.

"The Seventh Sojourn" is my favourite of the lot. This middle eastern-cum American western-cum whatever track is the strongest on the album. Listening to it on the bus, it reminded me of a cross between the Modern Warfare series of game soundtracks and anything you might have heard from the Bourne film series. It has a sense of style that, although hinted at throughout the album, comes to the fore here. The delicate ending is a treat in itself.
"Strange Brew"begins slowly, but not for long, a discordant, jarring song follows for 8 and a half minutes of style, power and changes in tone that bring to mind Sigh at their best. Another good addition to the album.

"A Fleeting Glance" is a softer, more whimsical song, though not without it's own punch here and there, and rather uplifting with some cracking guitar work towards the end.

The penultimate track, "Era", starts with light piano work before the quickly paced main section kicks in, building to a crescendo that doesn't let go, before switching into the final track, Persephone (Slight Return)", which bookends the album rather well.

Overall, I really enjoyed the album, and it's a very simple matter of giving it a 9, even with the dodgy "The Wilde Flowers". As you already know, the best of an admittedly good album is The Seventh Sojourn.

Bonus Tracks - yep, there are five bonus tracks, "The Ward", "Spring MCMLXXIV", "Cusp of Eternity (Live)", "The Drapery Falls (Live)" and "Voice of Treason Live)". The three live tracks are corkers, "The Ward" is fairly generic yet "Spring MCMLXXIV" is simply superb! Head boppingly good, it has more than a touch of mid Pink Floyd, which is no bad thing, yet it has it's own voice.

So, you can follow Opeth here, grab the album from Amazon here, and on iTunes here.

Warpaint - Heads Up

To be honest, I almost dropped reviewing this album.  This might seem like a strange way to open a review, but after their 2014 album 'Warpaint' (review aka slating linked here) I was not really overwhelmed by some of the music on offer; to be honest looking back on it, I was a little rude in some ways.  But it was an album which was so lacklustre that I could not keep honestly say it was a decent album, let alone a good one.  So, after having such a low opinion of the band, why am I reviewing another album?  Well, I like to see if my first impression was right or wrong; it is always best to test your own believes on a band or you will never move out of your own little world.  So, it is time to test my own resolve - is this an improvement on their last record or not?

01 - Whiteout

'Whiteout' is a heavier creature to those found on their last album, the bass is deeper on this one and it has a darker vibe with a lot more substance from the opening.  The vocals mix better on this song, it does not sound as breathy or deliberately faint.  However, it is a number that still feels a little too empty for its own good in places and whilst I hear improvement from the beginning, it is a cold track in places.

02 - By Your Side

It is back to the minimalist music with 'By Your Side', a song about a liar who is being called out and the mood is increasingly darken with the feeling of not being alone.  There is a Radiohead influence to the song, a sound that is akin to the darker elements of Nine Inch Nails and at some points it really works.  But it is still a little too empty for me in places, by the time it starts to gather momentum it has lost my interest and it feels like too little, too late.  Still a vast improvement on anything from their last album though, so it is small steps once again.

03 - New Song

The first song to be released from this album and it could not be more of a contrast from 'By Your Side', 'New Song' is a happier, busier song that has indie hit single wrote all over it.  It is one that has been following me around for weeks and I can totally see why it has been getting a lot of attention.  It has attitude, it has spirit, it gets the mix right; if there was more of this, it would totally change my view on Warpaint.

04 - The Stall

But alas, we are back to the slower, moodier music that was the main theme of 'By Your Side' which takes so long to gain any really traction.  'The Stall' is a song about hitting bottom and continuing whilst having someone watch out for you, it is a decent and the music (to be fair) is not bad at all.  But after that ray of sunshine that was 'New Song', even with its supportive lyrics, it feels like everything is back to black once again.

05 - So Good

Now this is an interest number, there is a slight change to the beat and everything moves along with such a groove that it is ends up sounding like an indie disco classic already.  The bass and drums are the winning keys on this song, driving those guitars and dream-pop vocals along and grabbing the audience by the hand, taking them elsewhere.  It is such a good song, definitely one of the best on the album.

06 - Don't Wanna

A song about not wanting to be labelled, this song falls back to that moody, predictable slow indie electronica that can sometimes work, but sadly that is not the case here.  It just drifts by so slowly that it drags on for far too long, but it does have an interesting bass line; so, without wanting to be mean, I will move onto the next song.

07 - Don't Let Go

I can see what they were aiming for here, I truly can; it is a song that is about wanting to let go, but still wanting the connection at the same time and not truly being able to make that final move.  But the main guitar riff which stars the song and is the holding pattern of the song it also the weakest link here; the rest of the song, the vocals and the rest of the guitars are really good - but that main riff is just weak sauce and put me off once again.

08 - Dre

A song about falling in love, not about the Dr who everyone is after, 'Dre' is a throwback to the 'Warpaint' album for me.  I am not saying it is bad, there are some good little sounds from the guitar here and there, the vocals sound as good as they have done in this album.  But the overall effect is poor and it just drifts by far too slowly and it does not add up to a good listen.

09 - Heads Up

There is something of a Fleetwood Mac feeling to 'Heads Up', as if the band have taken a bit of HAIM and made it their own.  Of course, it is mixed in with their own mixture of minimal sound in places, but there is enough on here to make everything sound interesting to say the least.

10 - Above Control

'Above Control' is all about seeking independents from one's foes, this song seeks to sound epic within the confides of the Warpaint style.  It must be hard at times when your style is minimalist and the style is the most important thing.  This sort of hampers the song, but I can see the potential behind the song and it just needed a little more behind the guitar for it to work as it is too light for the music for me.

11 - Today Dear
Ending the album is 'Today Dear', a solemn and acoustic lead song that sounds painful from the beginning.  There is pain on this song, it is ingrained to the very bones of the number and it does something that none of the other songs have done; it does something different.  Is it perfect?  No, but I like that it is not perfect.  Is it something they should follow?  I am not sure, I reckon that they should follow their own path and do what they want, but it is good to hear something new from the band.

Ok, I can see what the general aim of Warpaint is, what the general sound is for this album and how they are trying to distinguish their sound in this world.  They are doing well; this album was a hit in a few countries around the world and they have been gaining good press.  So, I will get my negatives out of the way first: there is far too much style here for its own good, Warpaint are very good at making a moody piece of music and it can work against the grain for me.  I love music when it is dark and mysterious, in places this just seems to be moody for brownie points.  Positives - this is a sonic leap for me ahead of 'Warpaint', the improvement is fantastic and when they hit that indielectronica groove, they are world beaters.  Songs like 'New Song' and 'So Good' standout like hills in a flat land for me and it keeps things interesting.  So, it is an improvement to their sound, something which I had not been expecting and is most welcome.

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

Top track - New Song

You can purchase Heads Up on Amazon here.

You can visit the Warpaint website here.

You can follow the activities of Warpaint on Facebook here.

You can stream Heads Up on Spotify here.

At the time of writing, Heads Up was not on Deezer - here is a link to the Warpaint page on Deezer, it will appear here once it is on the stream service.

You can stream Heads Up on Tidal here.

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