Thursday, 29 September 2011

Delight in the 10th anniversary re-release of Iowa

 I awoke this morning to discover that an album I have loved this the moment I heard any song from it is to be re-released to celebrate it's 10th anniversary. I am of course talking about Iowa, the intense, psychologically and emotionally demanding second album from Iowan legends Slipknot. To hear this news is wonderful, as Iowa is probably the least recognised of all of Slipknot's albums and over my long course of listening to the band has gradually evolved into my favourite. Really, a good way to think of Iowa is that in terms of just how into Slipknot you are, this is the album that really separates the men from the boys.
 Iowa is very much the darkest of Slipknot albums and puts the greatest of emphasis on a lot of the slower gentler moments of Slipknot's music. The type of moments I've reffered to in the past as the "suffering moments". These moments generally give off a real sense of despair and tragedy and gives the greatest viewe into the twisted and tortured lyrics of Corey Taylor. Of course as well as this Iowa is also the angriest Slipknot album by far with tracks like I Am Hated and New Abortion wild in intense rapid tear through of bold and intense fury. And of course there's the magnificent People = Shit, the official song I go to whenever feeling pissed off.
 It's the slow suffering songs that really seperates the men from the boys though. When I first heard this album, I could not tolerate the bleak dwindling Gently and of course the horrific fifteen minute epic that is the album's title track. Now I tend to listen with a greater sense of appreciation of the raw emotion thaqt they pack into these slower and bleaker moments. One can really feel the sense of tragedy that the music tries to convey. So it's cool that it's being identified and velebrated like this. Iowa probably shows Slipknot in their truest form.
 The 10th anniversary re-release is also going to contain a remix of My Plague and an extra DVD featuring concert footage and a film directed by percussionist Shawn Crahan filled with unseen footage of the band during the time of Iowa's release. This is awesome. I really appreciate Chrahn's directing of films like these. He can really identify moments that are amusing, serious and shows the kind of journey that the band has had to go through in throughout their musical career.
 So I'm ecstatic and overjoyed that my favourite Slipknot album is being celebrated like this. I think I'm gonna buy it as well.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Review: Switchfoot - Vice Verses

 A brief history of my experience with christian rock. Well for a long time I couldn't think of a more horrendous sounding phrase. When thinking of the idea of rock music that is specific to christianity, what I pictured mainly was... well, a church choir with a guitarist and drummer. Also when the idea of christian rock started to emerge to me, I had just gotten into Slayer. And though I don't worship Slayer's lyrics, the whole idea of songs about God being on the same iPod as well... "Enter the realm of Satan!" seemed odd. However, my attitude towards christian rock changed after I actually started listening to and bought some. At the time, I was looking at what people who enjoyed Bullet for My Valentine were into and a band that popped up were a band I never knew about before called Skillet. So I checked them out, and sure enough was impressed by their energetic alt metal sound and so I bought two of their albums Comatose and Awake. At no point in listening to those albums would I have guessed that they were a Christian band. Perhaps some lyrics would replicate it, however for the most part the lyrics of these songs were more romantic, or relating to self tragedy, or uplifting lyrics of self-freedom and self-belief. But there's really nothing on those albums that I'd consider typical of a stereotypical christian rock band. I wouldn't refer to Skillet as a christian rock band in the same way that I wouldn't refer to As I Lay Dying as a christian metal band. Although members of both bands are christian and the theme of christianity is ever present in both bands music.
 Anyway, after becoming fascinated by Skillet, I wondered if anyone I knew had any recollection of them, and I decided that the best people to ask would be some of my friends at school, Peter and David (think of this as a slick shout-out guys) who have more of a christian faith than me and go to church and stuff. They didn't seem too familiar with the band, however a group who they had a lot of good things to say about another christian rock group, and this group was the San Diego five piece, Switchfoot. They showed me a few tracks from them which left me overall impressed and an interest in the band is emerging again, as I've been invited to go and see them so I've been getting into them a little more by listening to their new album Vice Verses.
 
 Similar to Skillet, Switchfoot despite being branded a christian rock band, it's not something you would probably be able to instantly identify from their music. The kind of lyrics relating to self-discovery and life and living it as you want are the kind of lyrics that wouldn't sound out of place on a Foo Fighters album, and those guys really managed to annoy a church lately. The overall sound of the album is one that would be described as a warm friendly and welcoming, as their soulful drum and bass led rock sound runs through a range of different styles, such as the scuzzy grunge sound heard in Afterlife, the catchy Indie rock hook laden The Original and the awesome hip hop inspired Selling the News which reveals an influence to The Beastie Boys nonetheless.
 A band that it's obvious that Switchfoot listen to a lot would have to be U2 though. The vocals of Jon Foreman practically replicate those of Bono and some of the electronic backdrops heard on the album are reminiscent of the backdrops heard on U2's later albums. Of course this means Vice Verses can hardly be described as dynamic and could easily be thought of as bland. The alternative rock sound displayed is one that has been heard on a million other albums in the past.
 However, it's not to be dismissed entirely. Many of those albums have a clear lack of passion and such a statement could never be applied for Switchfoot. This is clearly a sound they've put their heart and soul into and the power of the music is an obvious way of showing this. Though drum and bass serves as the driving force, when guitar riffs intend to pummel they achieve it well. The intensity put into it shows they weren't just pissing around when making this album.
 So, while Switchfoot have hardly managed to reinvent alternative rock with this album it certainly shows that they can do it better than hundreds of other bands out there.

 Switchfoot's Vice Verses is out now via lowercase people. The band tour the UK in November.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Review: Blink-182 - Neighborhoods

 Considered to be the most anticipated rock release of 2011, Californian punk trio finally return after eight years with sixth album, Neighborhoods. They've gone through a lot over their time away and all that has occurred during the making of this album has been met with extreme negativity, wether it be pulling out of tours to concentrate more on the making of the album despite being given three years to do so, or delaying the release for some other material. So despite the fact that original delight spread when the reunion was first announced has long since faded away, it's now time for Tom, Travis and Mark to take back the joy and hysteria by offering their first release since 2003. And wouldn't you know, it's a pretty sweet album.

Much speculation has been put on this album as to the kind of style Blink would return with. Lead single Up All Night left many assuming that the new album would essentially rip off Tom DeLonge's part time group Angels & Airwaves, however the following release Heart's All Gone then delivered a rapid punk song that wouldn't feel out of place on 1997s Dude Ranch. And I think that kind of idea represents this album as a whole. Neighborhoods manages to combine every style that Blink have gone through but manages to reach a compromise with it. They create the kind of rapid adrenaline fueled punk heard on Dude Ranch without using any fart gags or lyrics about cow tipping and dog humping and also take the kind of electronic effects and experimentalism that was present on their 2003 self-titled album without using dwindling six minute epics or frankly bizarre duets. Robert Smith is nowhere to be found on this album.
 Neighborhoods as an albums does present listeners with a dynamic retrospective of all of Blink-182's previous work, redesigned and worked together to create a new set of unique punk rock songs all of which burst with a sense of energy and emotion. The dramatic and mature sound we last heard in 2003 is best demonstrated in tracks like Ghost On the Dance Floor and Kaleidoscope whilst Up All Night and Snake Charmer presents listeners with a style similar but combined with DeLonge's use of power chords which gave 2001s Take Off Your Pants and Jacket a much heavier sound. Elsewhere, the rapid fire punk assaults that were found on Dude Ranch are recreated with a sense of maturity and progress in terms of lyrics and vocal styles in Hearts All Gone and Natives while the catchy and glossy-yet jagged sound that made Enema of the State so popular is paid homage to in Wishing Well and This is Home sounding like the possible result of what would happen if more electronic effects from 2003 were added to the 1999 release.
 Obviously Blink-182 are looking to create an emotional and serious feel in their songs and this is achieved with many tracks having an overall romantic sound to them but at the same time remaining fun and bouncy and heavy in their pop punk glory.
 Neighborhoods on the whole is a really cool collection of pop punk songs, although it's questionable as to wether it's quite so fantastic enough to make up for the eight year wait and the festival and tour pullouts. Personally, this were never really issues I got to concerned about and so I like the album without having any of those issues in mind. There may be a few people who bought tickets to see them who may not feel that the album was worth the wait. But focusing on the songs alone, it's a really fun and enjoyable and engaging collection of songs that shows Blink-182 making a creative and original sound despite combining elements from their previous work and doing it with a great sense of pride and achievement. It's really good to see these guys back again. Let's just hope it's they release some more stuff, preferably before 2019.

 Blink-182's Neighborhoods is out now via DCG. The band will tour the UK from next June to July.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Review: Metallica and Lou Reed - The View

 While the Metallica and Lou Reed collaboration Lulu is still being met to mixed audiences, it seems that time has now come to present us with what's in store for the unbelievable collaboration. And so, as a fan of all types of rock music and being able to enjoy both artists it's time I listen to the first revealed track from Lulu, The View.
 One thing that can be said for the song is that it certainly lives up the the bizarreness that was going through many minds that was going through many minds when the collaboration was first announced. Reed's spoken vocals on top of the heavy riffs of James Hetfield and Kirk Hammet is indeed a curious and questionable sound, and well, it's not the best combination of styles I've ever heard. I suppose we have to look at it in the way it's meant to be. As a narrative to the Frank Wedekind plays about the album's namesake, Lulu, in which Metallica serve as background music to add a sense of atmosphere. And they do that, Metallica are sounding great, as they produce an eerie and doom filled backdrop which is the true driving force of the song. However, Reed's spoken vocals really doesn't combine well with this style and the overall effect is rather uncomfortable. As I say, the song is to be viewed as the narration to a play with backing music, and looking at the lyrics ("I want to see your suicide/ I want to see you give it up/ Your life of reason/ I want you on the floor/ And in a coffin your soul shaking"), an uncomfortable effect is clearly what was desired.
 I guess in that sense the song is successful for what it plans to be and the only thing I can say is if you actually want to hear what would be a simple track featuring the two forces combined, don't look here. Don't look at Lulu at all. I remain interested in the idea of the album's purpose to be the narration for a series of plays featuring background music to spoken narration though and for those who are interested in that, The View really serves as a sign of bigger things to come.

 Metallica and Lou Reed's Lulu will be released on 31st October.



Review: Thrice - Major/Minor

 With a overall laid back punk rock which sometimes verges onto hardcore but reaches normally onto a traditional rock and roll and emo sound, there's much that makes Major/Minor, the seventh album from California rockers Thrice an impressive and beautiful listen.

 A wonderful quality of the album is that though the songs share similar ideals and personalities, no two sound the same. Major/Minor is certainly an angry album, but the anger is much more subtle and in depth, and full attention has to be paid for listeners to truly connect with it, so they are not dismissed as a whiny emo band. The anger is subtle as the album remains largely laid back, which gives a refreshing and engaging feel overall, the grunge inspired punk riffs the band emit throughout are very pleasant and generally cool sounding, something that is demonstrated right from opener, Yellow Belly which in spite of it's laid back sound is bursting with attitude and anger. And while this quality is prominent, it's presented in a different way throughout, such as in the grungier Promises which feels reminiscent of Soundgarden or the funk rock vibe found in Cataracts which carries more of an air of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
 Other moments of the album are much more chilling and dramatic, such as mellow melancholic alt rock sound of Trading Paper or the harder hitting Call It in the Air which is simply packed with raw emotion. Overall, a dwindling emo sound is ever present on tracks like Listen Through Me or Disarmed.
 The overall effect on the album is to use these elements in a manner that is atmospheric and creating a serene soundscape which is overall very pretty.
 So the pleasance that Thrice offer in Major/Minor is something that must be admired while listening as listeners can identify the drama and negative emotion that is unleashed in this album, but still marvel at the overall beauty of the music. On the whole, it's very dreamy.

 Thrice's Major/Minor is out now via Vagrant Records

Review: Evile - Five Serpent's Teeth

 In 1991, Metallica released their iconic self titled "black album" which saw the Bay Arena titans take their musical style in a completely different direction, dropping their aggressive thrash metal fora bolder, brasher and traditional heavy metal style. Because of the mass popularity and Metallica's love for this more traditional sound, there hasn't been an album from then that's really continued in the style of their fourth release ... And Justice for All. So if the guys in 'Tallica aren't going to, it's up to another band to present us with an album that we can hear the musical style of and think of it as being ... And Justice for All Part 2. These are probably the kinds of thoughts going through the minds of Huddersfield metallers Evile when making their third album Five Serpent's Teeth.

 Five Serpent's Teeth presents listeners with a dramatic and griping and heavier update to the thrash metal of the 1980s, which serves as a perfect callback to it's predecessors. Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth... elements to all these groups can be heard throughout the album with some unexpected results on the way. 
 Guitar work from Matt and Ol Drake is effective in conjuring up the primary source of the album's aggression and intensity which with their jagged thrashy riffs and wild licks present a real sense of menace and evil, best demonstrated in the intensely evil thrash belter carrying a definite air of Slayer in Eternal Empire. And Matt's vocals sounding like the perfect combination of those of James Hetfield and Tom Araya helps emphasize this vibe of general nastiness. Surprisingly, some of the slower broken down moments and wilder single riff moments carry a resemblance to such loved death metal acts as Nile and Cannibal Corpse, best seen in Descent Into Madness featuring blast beats and distortion so brutal and pummeling, it may as well be taken directly from Cannibal Corpse's Tomb of the Mutilated. All this makes the album filled with thrashy energy and power which suits the similarly dark and menacing lyrics the album contains.
 In the past it's been claimed that Evile are simply a novelty act who make a traditional 1980s thrash metal sound for the purposes of nostalgia. This is something I could not agree with at all. Though there is some reason to believe this claim, as Five Serpent's Teeth features backing vocals throughout by comedian Brian Posehn, there's nothing on this album that would qualify as humour. It's a very serious and dramatic release, oozing with emotion particularly on the track In Memoriam, serving as a moving tribute to fallen bassist Mike Alexander.
 So overall Five Serpent's Teeth is a perfect example of thrash metal which really carries the traditional genre style into this modern day. Does it serve as ... And Justice for All Part 2? It's possible, but really it stands up without any thought relating to that. Another way it could be thought of if you really want to compare it to classic acts would be to call it the result of the combination between ... And Justice for All and Reign in Blood. Either way, it's pretty obvious that thrash is definitely thriving.

Evile's Five Serpent's Teeth is out now via Earache. The band are on tour in the UK now and will continue throughout October.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Can't think of a decent post to write to celebrate 20 years of Nevermind

 Sorry fellow rock fans. As the classic 1991 release of Nirvana's phenomenal Nevermind celebrates its 20th anniversary today, I really should have come up with some massive documentary post explaining how it changed the face of rock as we know know it with it's powerful and then unique grunge sound. But I'm really clueless of anything I could bring to the party table that hasn't been delivered before. It all seems a bit irrelevant. I plan to spend a lot of my day listening to the album though, as well as possibly popping up with the odd new review but I can't find anything new to say about it.
 I recommend Kerrang!'s mass feature regarding the anniversary in this weeks issue. That really documents the release of the album and the effect it's had on rock in general with some interesting facts that I was previously unaware plus some thoughts on the album from some of the biggest names to be influenced by the album.
 One point I will make about the occasion is as follows: Smells Like Teen Spirit is no longer in it's teens!!!!
 Also, my post about not being able to think of a good post to write is all to similar to how On a Plain was written. Wow, I'm so very able to connect.
 And so I leave you with my favourite non-single song from the album. Have a good day with Nevermind guys.


Friday, 23 September 2011

Review: The Subways - Money and Celebrity

 There really ought to be a lot more thought put into The Subways as a band. The Hertfordshire trio are a bunch of fresh faced indie rockers, who will play their music with a sense of hard ferocity and even have some time for the odd dose of scream vocals. Music and image-wise, they really do epitomize the rock star ideals. However, this is a group who have received much criticism in the past, and it's understandable. Their biggest hit Rock & Roll Queen ranks high as one of the blandest rock songs I've ever heard. Understandably not many are able to tolerate them after this. So maybe they've taken a more creative path on album number three Money and Celebrity.


 I constantly get the feeling that my expectations are constantly aimed too high. This album is just a bland generic get up and go party indie rock album. There's just so little in the way of originality and substance that the band. Throughout the album the band's basic indie rock sound sounds like a poor rip-off of The Futureheads without any kind of artistic or experimental charm that the Sunderland trio are capable of creating.
 It's difficult even to seek out a stand out moment from Money and Celebrity. All the songs find themselves cycling through a repetitive cycle of standard indie rock structures with some rapid and hard samey riffs, and all feature the same kind of get up and go and have fun lyrics with the occasional lyrics that talk about... oh I don't know, not needing to be a celebrity or be rich? How fitting. This album is unlikely to see them become either anytime soon.
 The thing is, I could have enjoyed this album due to it's overly summery sound were it released in June or something where I was just about to go on holiday and just wanted some catchy indie rock to lose my head to but the fact that they've released it close to October, a time when for me real preparation for the educational hardships of 6th year at school are about to begin just makes this sound so much more irritatring, and the smug sounding vocals of Billy Lunn only manage to fuel the bitterness in listening to the album.
 So, I really didn't enjoy Money and Celebrity. It pissed me off rather than entertained, it's generic, uninspiring serves just as the kind of release that makes me worry for the future of mainstream rock.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Review: Mastodon - The Hunter

 Having just listened to The Hunter the fifth album from Atlanta metallers Mastodon, I am transfixed in a mass state of speechlessness and awe. This album is simply breathtaking as it transports listeners to dreamy new worlds, where heavy riffs and classic hard rock and roll is king.


 Recorded as a tribute to the late brother of guitarist Brent Hinds, who died suddenly last year, The Hunter sees Mastodon creating a simpler pure metal sound with all conceptual notions and mass complexity that have surrounded their previous albums removed. This puts Mastodon in a position where the songs are more real and gripping as the feelings of the band themselves and their lives play a central role to the music, rather than having the band serve as complex storytellers. This combined with their relentlessly heavy stoner metal assault makes Mastodon sound like a more emotional Kyuss. And it's an amazing sound.
 As one would imagine, The Hunter features much in the way of a doom laden atmosphere heard in the relentlessly heavy guitar sludgery. It adds a further sense of tenseness and drama to tracks like Black Tongue and All the Heavy Lifting which are also aided by the frequently evil sounding vocals of Troy Sanders. Sanders vocals are more powerful sounding than ever and play a more central role on this album. His vocals cover a range of emotions, be it celebratory, concern, loss, general bleakness, or pure evilness.
 Mastodon manage to create a real emotional core on the albums title track though, the real track dedicated to Hinds' lost brother. With a softer sound and a guitar solo from Brent bursting with soul and passion, the track serves as an intense and gripping homage to a lost friend.
 Favourite tracks would have to include the wonderfully and devastatingly heavy and thrashy Spectrelight which really springs out of nowhere and hits listeners hard. The trippy and powerful Queens of the Stone Age like riffs found in Blasteroid are also particularly enjoyable. But the song I really love has to be The Creature Lives for the reason that it is exactly what a song from Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band would sound like had it been a heavy metal album. 
 All I can say is that the gripping and dramatic yet trippy and evil stoner metal that is heard on The Hunter is some truly epic metal and is the best album Mastodon have made to date.

 Mastodon's The Hunter is out on Tuesday. Eager fans can check all the songs out on the video below.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

R.E.M. Split up after thirty one years together

 Just this moment now, I've been struck with the sad and unexpected news that alternative rock heroes R.E.M. are to split up following thirty one years together.
 A statement on their official website reads "As lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of accomplishment at all we have accomplished"
 With a career spanning over three decades having released 15 albums including Document, Out of Time and Automatic For the People, it's obvious that they have left an irreplaceable legacy and will leave a big hole in the world of music that will be hard to fill.
 I hadn't quite managed to hear their latest album Collapse Into Now and was coincidentally promised it today but was fond of what I had heard.
 They're a talented group of guys and I wish them the best of luck with whatever the Georgian trio go on to pursue. For now, in a stake of surprise from hearing this news, I leave you all with my favourite R.E.M song.


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Review: SuperHeavy - SuperHeavy

 With a lineup featuring some huge names in music today, surprisingly little reaction has been made to the group that is SuperHeavy. A project that started following discussions by overall rock icon Mick Jagger, R n' B singer Joss Stone and former Eurythmics member Dave Stewart regarding collaborating together back in 2009. Following more discussions, reggae artist Damian Marley, youngest son of reggae legend Bob Marley and composer and Bollywood artist A.R Rahman were recruited and together, the five of them came up with a set of songs that have now been revealed to the public after much secret recording.
 On SuperHeavy no two songs are the same, as each member brings to the mix various elements of the genre they are famous for. Jagger brings in elements of blues and rock and roll, playing a gripping array of crunchy and laid back guitar riffs, and maintains the powerful rock and roll vocals we've grown to love him for using in The Rolling Stones. Stone's sassy R n' B vocals sound great when accompanied by Jagger's guitar playing and shows a more rock n' roll side to her musically. Both her and Jagger's vocals are fitting during the frequent moments in which Damian Marley and his rhythm section including bassist Shia Coore and drummer Courtney Diedrick take over, which also provides fun and laid back sections throughout the album and Marley's reggae vocals and rapping provide a similar feeling of positivity.
 Often,a dramatic song backdrop is provided by the composing of A.R Rahman who often provides non- English lyrics. His vocals and composing manages to give many songs an greater sense of depth and atmosphere, and also manages to create a similarly fun sound when a Bollywood inspired rhythm in any songs.
 Surprisingly, the most extreme moments of the album can be found when the main rhythm and backdrop making is controlled by Dave Stewart, who creates a techno inspired sound through the use of keyboards and synth drums. My favourite track on the album Energy sees this put best into action, where alongside Jagger's rock n' roll guitar and rapping from Marley and... yes Jagger, sees the creation of a really cool rap rock song.
 So on the whole SuperHeavy sees the coming together of various well loved musicians just doing what they all do best and blending all of that together to make a sweet collection of songs and the results of such a collaboration are very enjoyable.

 SuperHeavy's self titled album is out now via A&M records.

Review: Opeth - Heritage

 As an amateur music reviewer and constant reader of Kerrang!, I've come to be inspired by the various writers and reviewers the magazine employs. One reviewer I really look up to is Paul Travers. He has a very effective way with words and makes lots of good points regarding an album that many wouldn't put much thought into. This week, I've felt particularly inspired by Mr. Travers, since discovering our feelings on Heritage, the tenth album from Swedish prog practitioners Opeth are very much adjacent.
 First thing to say that this album is very much a must for fans of progressive rock of the 1970s. Heritage shows a mass influence to this era of music an influence to Rush, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple can be heard throughout. The guitar playing on Slither is reminiscent of Led Zeppelin's Babe I'm Gonna Leave You and Per Wiberg's keyboard and mellotron playing often has a familiarity to the kind of keys heard in Deep Purple's Speed King or Child in Time
This progressive style is very much laid back and relaxing but very emotionally demanding. Much of the music carries a feeling of tragedy and despair within it's mellowness which is very gripping, while much of the guitar playing conducts much awe and grandness, notably the guitar solo heard in Nepenthe. The relaxed jazz inspired sections are often eerie and melancholic. And so in terms of emotional dwelling, Heritage sets out to do Opeth's frequent goal and make listeners feel a little colder inside.
 However, there is a point to be made about Heritage and it is a big one. There is a crucial element that is missing on the album and that is the brutal and hard hitting death metal that Opeth's fans have come to love over the years. Now, granted this album isn't the first time Opeth have made an album not to feature any elements of death metal. 2004's Damnation was a critically acclaimed piece of work, however, Damnation was an album that served as a partner album to 2002's Deliverance. Between the release of 2008's Watershed and Heritage, frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt has spoken against death metal and it's wonderful to see Opeth doing what they're wanting. It shows an extra sense of passion. However, what the band like to do now is music we've heard on their albums before. Only on those albums, the laid back sections served as, to quote Travers "calm-before-the storm moments" before receiving a deathly pummeling that featured Åkerfeldt's wonderfully bleak guttural growling, rather than playing the centre role.
 As I say, it's great to hear Opeth doing what they want to do now and as a prog rock album, Heritage is really great and contains all the qualities that made the genre so good in the first place. However as a metal fan who has really come to love Opeth's melodic death metal sound, to hear this is a little disheartening, granted better than hearing a death metal album that had no passion to it. But I think many fans across the globe will feel a little upset when they hear this and realize that they're likely to stay with this sound. The Opeth we've come to love over the years may be gone forever.


 Opeth's Heritage is out now via Roadrunner. The band tour the UK in November.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Review: Enter Shikari - Sssnakepit

 The intensely played and extreme combination of features of hardcore and heavy metal with features of trance and dubstep music that has been found on the work of St. Albans hellraisers Enter Shikari is one that has left me in a perplexed state of entrancement and awe. To anticipate listeners for their forthcoming third album, new song Sssnakepit is now available for all.
 With an extended opening featuring only the electronic elements, many may start to worry about a loss of the harder edge. It is when a single riff from Rory Clewlow emerges from no where that really banishes those fears, and by the time the rest of the band kicks in, it's obvious that Enter Shikari are out on the warpath and hell bent for destruction.
 The scale of hardness at which this song is played varies. At points the sheer scale of brutality feels scaled down more to a Biffy Clyro level. It is during the mass breakdowns heard following each chorus, that it really escalates to genuine moshing material.
 Sssnakepit is weighted more to Enter Shikari's rock side. The keyboard and synthesizer work isn't really at its most dynamic, but frantic enough to show they still have the talent to create their own unique spin on electronic music. Which is a good way to describe this song in general. It shows that Enter Shikari have still got it.


Saturday, 17 September 2011

Attempting talking about songs in real life.

 This week, I was given a golden opportunity to deliver the discussing of music that I've gotten quite good at through blogging in front of real people. I discovered this last friday at my Boys Brigade session, where it was announced a number of guys there would have the opportunity to bring in our music playing devices (most manufactured by Apple) with the instruction to share a song with each other.
 We weren't to pick a song simply because it was our favourites. The idea instead was to think of a song that is very important to you, if it brought back a special memory or had a special meaning to you, simply a song which triggered a emotional response as it brought back a memory of some sort.
 I put a lot of though into it and came up with the thought to use a song and came up with the idea to use a song that was one of the first to get me into the heavier music that I idolize so much today. However, I also wanted to pick something that would really surprise the guys who were doing this music challenge with me, who frankly were expecting me to pick (sic) by Slipknot. I figured it would be better if I chose something that would really throw them off course, so I reflected further back on my life than my discovery of Iowan legends.
 I had to think of the first song I heard which introduced a more aggressive side of music to me, when I remembered what song that was, it was just the perfect song to use. When I thought more about the song I realized it was by a band that I've looked up to ever since and still go crazy for today. The fact that I still do after seeing the masses of criticism they've received over the years really helps put forward their underlying message not to let anyone get you down and not care about what anyone thinks of you. Because I decided the song I was going to use was the furious and adrenaline fueled piece of pop punk that is I'm Not Okay (I Promise) by My Chemical Romance.
 And so, with this in mind, I thought of some things I could say about it with all my thoughts of it in mind. However, as I discovered at BB, we could only play a minute of the song, de to the large amounts of people who wanted a shot. I figured I would start playing the song from the second chorus, therefore giving an opportunity to hear the life changing chorus in full, as well as Ray Toro's sassy guitar solo, and the eerie piano bridge followed by the first type of vocals I heard which bared some resemblance to a scream vocal, as Gerard Way violently screams "Kay". It seemed perfect.
 So, it was obvious I was going to come across problems. Starting with my iPod commiting temorary suicide that afternoon and being in need of a restoration. Now this would not be a problem for most people, but when your iPod contains 4758 tracks, that means uploading all your music takes that bit longer. It meant I had to use my older clunkier iPod Classic model, rather than my sleeker Touch which made me feel horribly unprepared and incredibly petty about the things I choose to complain about.
 But that was no real problem. I'd simply pop my iPod on those speakers and get some MCR playing to everyone. Which is where the second problem cropped up. My excitement in taking part in the activity was completely dashed after the instructor doing it with us revealed that they had not brought speakers, but assumed that everyone's devices had speakers attached to them. Suddenly having to take a different iPod does become a real issue. My iPod Touch has actual speakers. Granted they have a quality that sounds like you're listening to the song in another room, but it had speakers nonetheless. I had to rely on holding out my earphones, which thankfully were fairly loud, while everyone crowded in to hear the sound that emerged from them.
 And, so the time to came for me to offer my contribution to the collection of songs picked so far, which featured at this point numbers from The Proclaimers and of course the 'Knot. Everything was set up, though not the way I had imagined, and no one was expecting the choice of song that I was going to make. And so before playing, I spoke a little bit about the song, trying to replicate my blogging style. My speech went a little like this:
 "Um, yeah... this is a very important song to me. When I heard this back in 2004, my music taste was pretty much limited to whatever was on the radio. So, this was the first time that I heard something that was really aggressive and angry sounding, which is obviously the kind of music I thrive on largely these days. It's speedy and furious punk rock... uh... riffs were like nothing I had ever heard before. So, this band have really become a favourite in my eyes. I've really... looked up to them ever since and y'know... their music's gotten me through some... hard times. So this is were my journey to becoming a rock fan kinda... began. This is the fantastic My Chemical Romance with I'm Not Okay."
 As soon as the name of MCR was mentioned, I heard several people saying such phrases as "Aw no", "Aw, what the fuck?" and "Aw they're gay!" As the music tore through with it's rapid fire punk assault, many looked on wanting to start headbanging but resisting, to look respectable, others, myself including had lost it, I was headbanging slowly and deeply during Ray's solo and even found myself miming the lyrics, opening my mouth with particular force during Gerard's scream. All in all, it was a lovely experience which left many shocked and surprised with my choice.
 Anyway right afterwards, my friend James tuned to me and said out loud "Why didn't you play a death metal song?" and my friend Marc played Hammer Smashed Face by Cannibal Corpse out loud, claiming that it "cheers him up whenever he feels depressed." And that pretty much sums up my friends from Blairgowrie.
 So, that's the kind of thing that happens when I try and talk about music in front of real people. Personally I prefer writing but it was pretty cool to discuss music with fellow rock fans, which doesn't often happen at school. It was a pretty fun experience despite it's mishaps, and gives me more confidence in discussing the subject to crowds of masses.


Review: Evanescence - Made of Stone

 As the release for goth rockers Evanescence's self titled comeback album draws closer and closer, fans are treated to more anticipation in the form of new track, Made of Stone.
 From the start of the song, Made of Stone displays the kind of gothic nu metal sound displayed on 2003's Fallen, similar to single Going Under. Sadly, despite a similarity, Made of Stone seems rather lacking. It's not got the same passion and power that Going Under had, although it seems like it's really trying to live up to it, adopting similar characteristics to that song, such as adopting a short and sweet guitar solo and stripped down moments featuring only a piano backdrop. The best feature of the song would have to be central peace that is the powerful and entrancing vocal of Amy Lee, which really manage to captivate listeners and display Lee's self of gothic strength and independence and sense of overcoming times of strife and vulnerability. However, the song falters at the actual music itself, it's overused nu metal riffs feel lacking in substance and sounds like the instrumental for a song that was rejected from Disturbed's Believe.
 Hopefully, the rest of the album features less songs like this and more of the quality of lead single What You Want.

 Evanescence's third self titled album will be released on the 11th of October via Wind-up Records. The band will tour the UK in November.

Hear the track here.

Review: St. Vincent - Strange Mercy

 This is a review created largely on the behalf of Patrick, after relentless discussion on how much he loved this album and demand for me to listen to it and eventually come to review it. This album once again proves that... well, he doesn't exactly have a taste for anything that would appear on Radio 1 these days.
 On listening to Strange Mercy, the third album from art rocker Annie Clark, under her performing moniker, St. Vincent, one is left with an ultimate feeling of blissful serenity and a little bit of enlightenment. The atmosphere created throughout this album is one that is very much chilled out and calming with the mass amounts of synthesizer backdrop creating a gentle and engaging soundscape, however the synthesizers provide much more than a simple backdrop. The synth is crucial in setting the tone for these songs. Be it in the pleasant and calming tone set in Surgeon or the contrasting unsettling and doom laden tone seen in Champagne Year.
The album doesn't really use guitar to provide a main sense of rhythm, instead using the guitar simply for a wide range of solos. When played, with it's warm and fuzzy distortion setting, manages to further characterize many of the songs. When Clark does use the guitar in a more rhythmic fashion, the overall effect is extreme and rampant with a somewhat grunge-inspired sound to the music. This is best demonstrated in Hysterical Strength featuring an outro with a sound similar to when Arcade Fire play a song with some aggression.
 The gentle and pretty vocals of Clark are of course a marvel to listen to. Despite how relaxed and chilled out they sound, they still manage to remain incredibly captivating and if the song is bitter then you will definitely be able to identify it as soon as her vocals start, no matter how soft and sweet they may be.
 And so all these elements manage to combine to create a very interesting and engaging. The music is chilled out but there's real thought put into it as well. So that was Strange Mercy by St. Vincent. Once again, Patrick loving this album proves that I don't have the most obscure music taste at school. Not by a long shot.

 St. Vincent Strange Mercy is out now via 4AD. Clark will tour the UK in November.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Review: Megadeth - Public Enemy No. 1


 Things seem to be going well enough on the thrash scene this year, so now it's time for genre veterans Megadeth to offer the first of their grand contribution that shall arrive in full in the form of new album Thirteen, or TH1RT3EN to be more precise in November. To anticipate us they have released a new track, Public Enemy No. 1.
 As soon as the speedy adrenaline fueled riffs kick in to action, Public Enemy No. 1 sounds reminiscent of the bands work on 1990's Rust in Peace. And from there the song plays in a similar vein. It's an intense, sterile thrash beatdown that would make the perfect soundtrack to a killing spree, musically and lyrically. In fact on viewing the comment section for the songs Youtube video, a statement from user MinionOfDeth2112 reads "Hey anyone else have a sudden urge to play some GTA right now? LOL" Joking aside, that's actually a pretty good way to think of it. The song would probably make a suiting soundtrack to one of those Grand Theft Auto gameplay videos ("You won't believe all the things I've done/ And the killing was just for fun" Yup. Sounds like GTA to me.)
 The bands aggressive delivery of the song really helps emphasize the message of fury and insanity it contains. Dave Mustaine's recent deeper vocals make him sound much more evil, making his voice the perfect for the lyrics of a killer, plus the frantic guitar playing from him and Chris Broderick really brings together the feeling of wildness and madness. It's also great to hear returning bassist and founding member Dave Ellefson's bassline sounding as thunderous as ever.
 Public Enemy No.1 has the sound of a classic Megadeth song... because it sounds like a good song to kill people to.


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Review: Alice Cooper - Welcome 2 My Nightmare

 Creating an album set to be a sequel to 1975's critically acclaimed Welcome to My Nightmare was never going to be an easy task, however veteran shock rocker Alice Cooper took on the idea of doing so with 26th solo release Welcome 2 My Nightmare, and it's very much a hit and miss album.
 There are plenty of hit moments to be found, however and it does pain me to say this but the one person who does not create any of these moments is Cooper himself. It pains me to say it, since the guy is pretty much a rock and roll hero. His stage antics and rock anthem collections have become legendary. As Rob Zombie stated: "He's the guy who invented the Rock n' Roll show." But Welcome 2 My Nightmare really does not show him at his best. The musicians who do make the hit moments and believe me the list is long, manage to create a very gripping backdrop with some cool classic hard rock elements. These people include producer Bob Ezrin, various previous band members, including Michael Bruce on guitar, Dennis Dunaway on bass and Neal Smith on drums, as well as a range of guest musicians including guitarist John 5, bassist Piggy D, country guitarist Vince Gill, and backing vocals from Zombie himself. There is a collaboration on this album that I'm really not keen on, but we'll get to that later. These musicians with many others help add a sense of depth and sincerity to the songs on the album best demonstrated in tracks like When Hell Comes Home and The Congregation, but also manage to help elevate the insanity and over-the-top feeling on the tracks where such an effect is to be desired, such as Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever and Caffeine. However, even the musicians can sometimes have the tendency to spice things up leaving the songs sounding uninteresting with the feeling of an overall lack of effort.
 Bringing us to the performance of Cooper himself. God bless, Cooper's a great guy and has become a legend but perhaps he may be past it now. The only songs in which his guttural-melodic vocals suit on this album are in the songs intended to be over-the-top and ridiculous, the lyrics are very often questionable at best, the intended  sections of humour lead to confusion before laughter and the ultimate sign that he may be past it is in the constant use of auto-tune for his vocals. The auto-tuned vocals are incredibly distracting, annoying and takes away from the engagement of songs that the rest of the band manage to create. It really shows that Cooper is perhaps starting to lose his vocal talents.
 Speaking of lack of talent, overuse of auto-tune and generally being annoying, let's talk about the collaboration I'm really not keen on! The track What Baby Wants sees Cooper collaborate with chart pop superstar, Ke$ha. Having heard all her hit songs as they are horrifically pop up on the radio, I could write pages on why I hate her music, so naturally, I was put off when I saw that she was going to appear as a guest vocalist on this album. On What Baby Wants, her guest appearance does suit the overall vibe of the song. Of course the song is extremely annoying. it sounds like a cheesy party song from the 1970s and auto-tune is so prominent on the track, it's often hard to tell Cooper and Ke$ha's vocals apart when they sing in unison. It's as disappointing as the original concept of the song.
 So, while Welcome 2 My Nightmare has it's strengths, they are not coming from the right places. It's an Alice Cooper album, so Alice Cooper should be the star of the show, but is instead weak, annoying and feels overall out of place. Which is a really worrying sign.

Alice Cooper's Welcome 2 My Nightmare is out now via Bigger Picture
 

Review: Anthrax - Worship Music

 Let's be honest. Of the massive thrash collective that is The Big 4, the least recognized and popular group that forms the structure of the supergroup is NYC's Anthrax. And I'm not being judgmental for this, as I'd hate to be hypocritical. And that's a great shame really because as their new album Worship Music shows, this is a band who ten albums and thirty years into their career, this is a band who still possesses a fiery sense of passion for making music, and can really give it their all.
 I mean, they put their heart and soul into the music hear. They play their wild and gripping thrash metal as though their lives depended on it on this album. And listening to overall style and structure to these songs, one could be excused for thinking the band were in that kind of situation while recording. Jagged thrash riffs that Anthrax have come to be known for mixed with the traditional heavy metal sound, serving as a real nod to such predecessors as AC/DC, Black Sabbath and of course, Judas Priest are heard throughout Worship Music, and conjures up the kind of action packed scenes of such extremity and awesomeness where you could envisage the band fighting for their lives. Tracks like The Devil You Know and The Giant are played as though they were the soundtrack some some kind of fast and chaotic chase scene, while the more pumped up, slower paced tracks like In the End and The Constant fill listeners with a similar pumped up feeling of pure power and serve as the battle songs of the albums.
 And of course, the vocals of returning lead singer Joey Belladonna serve as the perfect battle cry. But as always, the guitar thrashing of Scott Ian and Rob Caggiano are what really create the albums sense of passion, brutality and overall insanity.
 A criticism I've seen many point out regarding the album is in the fact that it contains no standout tracks. No Madhouse or Caught in a Mosh, but when thinking of the amount of fun and awesomeness experienced when listening to the album as a whole, such a song does not feel necessary. Anyway, why complain about this with Anthrax? Everyone still adores Metallica, and Death Magnetic didn't exactly have what you'd call a standout song. I mean could you seriously imagine The Day That Never Comes being put up there as an all time Metallica classic alongside Master of Puppets and One? Exactly! Leave Anthrax alone!
 So if you need some crazy, over the top and brutal thrash that puts you completely in the mood for pretty much starting a war, then this has to be the perfect album for you.

 Anthrax's Worship Music is out now via Nuclear Blast.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Review: Coldplay - Paradise

 The latest single from London alt rock superstars, Coldplay Paradise, taken from their upcoming fifth album Mylo Xyloto has been revealed to the public for a day now and having listened to it, I feel a little unsure of why I'm writing about this for a rock music blog.
 I mean, I doubt I would talk about the music of Keane or MGMT on this blog, as I would never consider anything they've made in the past to be rock, and this single is very close to the style of those groups. I suppose Coldplay have played as a rock band throughout their eleven year recording career and once a rock band, always a rock band I suppose.
 Paradise carries little elements of a rock song. I can only point out a minimal use of guitar near the end of the song. However it serves as a good illustration of the direction in which alternative rock seems to be heading in terms of achieving a poppier sound. The song makes more effective use of piano (obviously), violin's and the fuzzy synthesizer sound that is cropping up on many songs taken from this new album.
 Like the music created by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, Paradise is a track obviously made for radio play. At least Coldplay manage to do this right though. The song is much more soulful and substantial and has an incredibly catchy chorus section.
 Paradise is a very pretty song which carries a sense of unique charm about it. It doesn't really inspire me to buy their new album though. Especially since it's likely I'll be hearing it on the radio for the next few months to come.

Review: The Devil Wears Prada - Dead Throne

 The feeling of anticipation one experiences on the tense buildup heard on the intro of the title track of Dead Throne the fourth album from Ohio metalcore sextet, The Devil Wears Prada, which is then proceeded by a gripping intense and brutal metallic beatdown, puts the immediate thought "Well, looks like I'm going to have an epic headbanging session" into the minds of most listeners. Which is always a good sign.
 On Dead Throne, it's obvious that The Devil Wears Prada are a band who have now matured in their career. The ridiculous song titles such as Dogs Can Grow Beards All Over and Hey John, What's Your Name Again? have now been replaced by simpler one word titles and the sense of passion and heart put into the album has clearly elevated too. Needless to say, the metalcore displayed on the album is absolutely insane. Breakdowns come thick and fast and keyboard effects are often freaky and suit the sheer brutality of it all, but amongst this, a real beauty can be found in this music as well, most notably in the instrumental Kansas, which presents a metallic atmosphere of sadness and lost hope and it is simply beautiful and captivating.
 This feeling is present throughout. Lyrically, the album's concern is that of the idea of false idols, and naturally, a sense of tragedy, suffering and pity is created. And this feeling is perfectly epitomized in the lyrics and vocals of Mike Hranica. His words are so genuine and performed in such a way that really shows he's putting his heart and soul into what he has to say. And just when listeners think the vocal parts cannot get any more beautifully impassioned, we are presented by guest vocals from AILD's Tim Lambesis on the track Constance, who gives it his all and adds an extra sense of wonder and genius to the track.
 Dead Throne is an album of true beauty and passion and shows The Devil Wears Prada at their strongest.

 The Devil Wears Prada's Dead Throne is out now via Ferret Music.

Review: Staind - Staind

 After the 90s, the genre known as "grunge" was one that really fell out the forefront of popular rock. Following the suicide of Kurt Cobain, the masses wanted a new type of rock sound to take to the forefront which was found in masses of nu metal and DIY pop punk groups, before they then fell out of the forefront to be replaced by indie rock and so on and so fourth... Anyway, in 2000, grunge had a less commercially successful but still significantly popular revival which continues to this day. The sound is much heavier and the bands who perform it are the most criticized in the world. And I can't think of a band who has demonstrates my statement better than Springfield's Staind.
 I've never seen so much shit thrown at one band before. Actually, there's always Nickelback and Creed, but that's another post, for another day. But the only place I've ever managed to find good things written about Staind are approval from fans in the comment sections of their Youtube videos, and even then all those comments really do are gang up on anyone who's gone and disliked the videos ("who ever disliked this is a fuckin queer!!!", Woah! homophobic, much?) I've never thought negatively of their sound. There's a real passion and talent in what they create. So I've had a fairly enjoyable time listening to their latest self-titled album.
 The music contained is extremely gripping, powerful and pummeling and carries a very genuine sense of feeling which helps project the suffering and fury of frontman and lead vocalist, Aaron Lewis. Feelings of anger, suffering, doom, loss and bitterness are excellently carried through the music itself, be it in Lewis' aggressive vocals, or the bleak, and doomy grunge riffs and occasional nu metal inspired assault, which is also aided by a very powerful bassline. Much skill is put into creating this moody rock album. And moody it certainly is. Staind have never been the cheeriest band around and if you'd like to hear grunge that has a bit more fun, it would be best to look to Seether. However, there is much substance found on Staind, with their aggressive grunge sound. This is not a band who need gimmicks such as I don't know, rapping, intentional humour, riffs that became overused during the 90s nu metal trend, or lyrics about masturbation. And if you've heard the album, you'll know where I'm going with this.
 You see, that is the one downfall of the album. It is a major downfall, that comes in the form of the song Wannabe. Originally intended to feature a cameo appearance from rap superstar, Snoop Dogg, this is a horrendous and non suiting track from the group. Using the phrase "Wannabe" could have been a cool way to connect to a more youthful audience, however it's not 1999 so the desired effect has been failed upon. Maybe ROFL might have been a better idea for a title. After the Snoop Dogg appearance was scrapped, the song basically sees Lewis putting on two different sets of vocals, making the song sound like an awkward version of Korn's All In the Family. It's pretty horrendous and really shows that Staind should stick to what they do best.
 All in all, Staind does do a pretty good job of showing the group making a relentlessly heavy and aggressive grunge sound, which does manage to stir up genuine emotion and really shows the group to be much more talented and worthy of approval than critics would have you believe. It's certainly worth a listen, just... just skip track four. It's for the best that you do.


 Staind's self titled seventh album is out now via Roadrunner.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Review: As I Lay Dying - Paralyzed

 Flicking through my Facebook News Feed finding nothing of real interest then... BAM! Metalcore titans As I Lay Dying have posted a lyric video for new song Paralyzed from forthcoming release Decas set for release on 8th November 2011.
 Packing an intense punch from the opening riffs, Paralyzed sees AILD doing what they do best. Thrashing out some brutal face-melting metalcore, that carries a real gripping sense of power, emotion and beauty. The music is the perfect way to accompany the wise and faith questioning lyrics of Tim Lambesis. ("The answers that I've found/ Are all the same/ They uncover questions that/ still remain) Lyrically, a real sense of personal loss and tragedy is covered, therefore the passionate and intensely powerful music manages to covey the emotions attached flawlessly.
 Paralyzed is a great place to see As I Lay Dying playing in a style they are loved for, and it certainly displays them doing it at top form.


Review: The Kooks - Junk of the Heart

 Being one of the few survivors of the indie rock bands who rose to fame in 2006, Brighton's The Kooks come bouncing back on album number three, Junk of the Heart, an album which sees the four piece going the same direction as many of their peers and ditching the stripped down rock and roll sound that graced their first album and experimenting more with synthesizers and keyboards.
 In spite of this, Junk of the Heart still carries the same kind of attitude and uplifting simplicity that the public first fell in love with The Kooks for. Be it in the chirpy experimental keyboard and acoustic guitar led tracks such as Rosie sounding a little like what might have happened if The Kinks had made new wave music and their public influence from The Kinks remains prominent on the slower more stripped Taking Pictures of You, which alongside other acoustic track Petulia are made incredibly heartfelt and mellow.
 Much of the album maintains the groups traditional style of playing some wild rock music that has a chilled out vibe to it, such as Is It Me which sounds chilled out, yet has all the qualities for a cool party rock song, also seen in Eskimo Kiss which sticks to the more traditional stripped down sound seen on previous albums.
 What Junk of the Heart doesn't have, however, is a truly standout song. There is no She Moves in Her Own Way, or Always Where I Need to Be on this album. I can't imagine any song from this album appearing as a single on the charts now, which shows how indie rock bands like The Kooks are starting to fall out the public eye, and also shows a sheer decline in quality for chart music. It's for that reason that I don't view this as a problem, as these tracks sound better as a collective anyway.
 All in all, Junk of the Heart is a pretty snazzy feel-good and chilled out listen. It shows that while The Kooks are able to get more experimental, they can also stick to their original style and personality. It shows the band on a return to form, and shows that there is perhaps some hope left for a genre which seems to be in serious decline.

 The Kook's Junk of the Heart is out now via Virgin Records.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Review: Kasabian - Velociraptor!

 Back in 2004, rock and roll managed to come bouncing back to the forefront of mainstream musical taste due to the numerous releases of new albums from various groups of slick, sophisticated groups influenced by the likes of The Stone Roses, Oasis and Blur. One of the first groups who started this modern craze was Vegas' The Killers, who stunned the world with their unique style of synth laden indie rock. However, in the UK, another group of lads from Leicestershire were starting out with a similar idea, but were far more experimental and essentially deranged. These guys were known collectively as Kasabian, and since releasing their self-titled debut, the public seem to have unexpectedly fallen in love with them.
 Now they return with new album Velociraptor! with another captivating and frequently bizarre collection of indie rock, which is fused with their brand of obscure and unsettling yet gripping electronic and synthesized beats and backdrops.
 On Velociraptor! the band, most likely under the guidance of producer Dan the Automator, put more emphasis on the digital synth effects, which become very complex and increasingly experimental at times. Various tracks demonstrate this, I Hear Voices is quite a notable example. While this shows off Kasabian's sense of dynamism and creativity, it means the general rock music effect is fairly simple and less excitement is stirred in that field of music in the album, which is a little sad, particularly with the feelings of anticipation and awe that many feel when hearing the opening riffs to 2009's single Underdog from West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum.
 Despite all the creativity found on this album another point is the lack of change heard from West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum, while 2009's release sounded like a mixture between the first two releases from the band, Velociraptor! feels more like West Ryder Pauper Part 2.
 However, the album has plenty of strengths. While the guitar work may not be its most powerful, it can certainly be argued that Ian Matthews' drumming is done with some intense force, whilst Tom Meighan's vocals  bursting with attitude and energy also contain a real sense of raw power. Also, the synthesizer effects are very enjoyable and combined with the drumming are great to move to, wether it gets you up on your feet doing some kind of weird dancing, or just makes you want to headbang. Besides this, the synthesizers also have the cool effect of being able to build up and anticipate listeners before then bursting into an insane electronic indie tune. This is best seen on Switchblade Smiles, a song that was the perfect candidate to made into the album's first single.
 So, Velociraptor! is not exactly the freshest album from Kasabian, however it's a great place to look if you want expand on your collection of slick and obscure electronic indie rock and roll.

 Kasabian's Velociraptor! is out on the 16th September via RCA Records. The singles for Days Are Forgotten is out on the 11th. The band will tour the UK from November to December

Review: Hawthorne Heights - Hate

 Hate is the first in a series of EP releases from aggressive Ohio emo rockers, Hawthorne Heights, and is a great place to look for a collection of furious aggression fueled and bleak hardcore emo anthems.
 To describe the songs on this EP, as much as it pains me to do so, I'm going to have to use the term "Screamo", because the tracks on Hate contain the melancholy and lyrical features of anger, solitude and of course, hate that is seen in Emo music which is played with much hardcore brutality making effective use of breakdowns and screamed vocals to make it that bit edgier than your regular emo, and there hasn't been any better term made for this style of music... so Screamo it is.
 Some tracks carry this feeling of hatred and anger in a slowed down, dwindling, bleak fashion such as Is This What You Wanted?. In other tracks the aggression is brought out in a furious hardcore pop punk assault, best seen in Wasted in NYC which has the musical properties of a brutal version of Paramore. However the best bands that Hate could be compared to are fellow... screamo bands such as Senses Fail and The Used. But most of all can be comparable to the bands earlier work.
 Overall, Hate is very much an EP that lives up to it's name. Hawthorne Heights deliver a crushing hardcore experience bursting with raw passion and emotion which dwells on many feelings of self-hatred and hatred of everyone else. It's a textbook example of... screamo music.

 Hawthorne Heights' Hate is out now via Cardboard Empire.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Review: Primus - Green Naughahyde

 Admittedly, my knowledge of Primus is limited, and I sort of get the feeling that was a mistake to make before listening to new album, Green Naughahyde their fist following a twelve year hiatus. It's pretty obvious that the Californian trio have an acquired taste, and are best suited for... lunatics. And Green Naughahyde is an album made for the lunatic fanbase, while leaving everyone else in a state of utter confusion and speechlessness. 
 Not that one who hasn't had previous experience of the band is entirely left out in the cold while listening. The funk rock found is extremely and catchy and listeners will find themselves dancing in some way while it's on, no matter who they are or how hard they try not to. But there's so much more to this than you'd find in the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers. 
 Elements of this album are far more trippy and the sheer contrast of sound between each song leaves one simply curious of what to find throughout the thirteen tracks. Though catchy and funky, a lot of the songs actually manage to create a contrasting feel to the structure as a brooding and often unsettling atmosphere is created, due to the stretched out, haunting basslines and often chilling, bizarre, rapid paced vocals from frontman, Les Claypool, which has a lasting effect on listeners. The combination of the these various elements has to be best demonstrated on the track Jilly's On Smack.
 Actually at times, a rather jolly atmosphere can be created, such as on Lee Van Cleef which mixed with the talent of Claypool sounds like the soundtrack to a very joyful get together of... stoned lunatics.
 Overall, while remaining one of the weirder albums I've heard in my times, the uniqueness and dynamism of Green Naughahyde has to be admired. It's not often that funk rock be used as a way to stir up emotion or a way to create an ever-changing soundscape which can often dwell on more negative feelings, which makes it so much more engaging than other bands of a similar genre who just create repetitive feel good anthems. As freaky as it is this album is actually a pretty cool listen. Wether I'll listen to any more of their stuff is a different matter. Of course I will. My friend Patrick loves them and has an iPod full of them. Tomorrow's bus journey's likely to be freaky one. However, for now, the lunatic fan base can hold onto them.

 Primus' Green Naughahyde is released on 12th September via Prawn Song Records

Review: Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn of Events

 Picture the scene: You've had a horrible day at school, everyone around you just wants to bring you down, they take joy from your misfortune and offer no help when you desperately need it. At home, you're brought down some more because your family want to tell you of the horrible times they have had at work. After being left alone with your bad thoughts of the day and crappy music playing on the radio, you are simply left with a dull and bleak feeling of isolation. All you want is to be away from it all. To be transported to a new world where you can lose yourself, in a realm of adventure and majesty, where anything is possible and no one can bring you down. With this being my state of mind for a large portion of the day, I found my gateway to a new and better world, in the form of A Dramatic Turn of Events, the eleventh release from prog metal heroes, Dream Theater.
 It's possible that the albums title may refer to the dramatic turn of events that occurred earlier this year, following drummer and founding member, Mike Portnoy's decision to leave the band after finding better company and hoping to spend more time in Avenged Sevenfold, for whom he filled in as drummer for their their 2010 release, Nightmare and for the Huntington Beach rockers remaining tour dates, as well as facing rejection from the rest of his group following a request for a five-year break. I'm not too sure of Portnoy's current situation, as he was rejected from becoming a full time member of A7X, and Dream Theater wouldn't take him back after recruiting new sticksman, Mike Mangini. It's actually a very sad story for Portnoy, and for one thing, it was certainly a dramatic turn of events.
 This seems more likely, as the music produced on the album does not suggest a dramatic turn of events. A Dramatic Turn of Events sees a further collection of epic dreamy, complex, often emotional, oddly structured and hard hitting prog metal, bursting with spellbinding guitar solos, complex basslines, and frequent usage of of atmospheric keyboards, synthesizers and samples. Did you expect anything more though? The work is absolutely captivating and marvelous in every sense. Dream Theater mange to do exactly as one would hope. Transport listeners into a new world where one can get lost in a realm of adventure and majesty.
 And having to leave that world at the end of the album is a little sad. A Dramatic Turn of Events manages to create an epic and majestic atmosphere into which one can escape from the burdens of everyday life. And on days like today, that makes it a winner.

 Dream Theater's A Dramatic Turn of Events is out on the 13th of September via Roadrunner. The band will tour the UK in February.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Review: Blink-182 - After Midnight

 Blink-182 just seem to keep popping up here don't they? Wether you like them or not, it's become pretty clear that the Californian pop punk trio's sixth studio release Neighborhoods will be the most anticipated rock release of the year when it comes out on the 27th. After everything, from the 8 years without hearing anything new, to the three years spent recording and the mass pullouts of UK tours to complete the making of the album. So far the tracks revealed from the album have kept to frontman Tom DeLonge's promise that Neighborhoods will combine elements from all of Blink's previous work and has increased the anticipation toward the album, so we have more to keep fans on their toes in the form of the second single released from the album After Midnight.
 After Midnight, is much closer to the work produced on 2003's self-titled album than the other track thus far, as it much slower and less hard hitting, with more of an emotional centre, but more catchy than the kind of slow emotional tracks found on 2003's album.
 All there is to say is that alongside the two other tracks released from Neighborhoods so far, Up All Night and Heart's All Gone, After Midnight manages to show that Blink-182 have been hard at work during their time away, and have made some catchy, well thought through and overall enjoyable rock music that has put even the cruelest of cynics (me) in their place. I can't wait to hear Neighborhoods in full.