Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Review: Venom - Fallen Angels

  As someone who has never really managed to experience the birth of a musical genre firsthand, it seems strange when looking back at Venom's Black Metal and believe that it's left an incredible legacy and been influential on the majority of extreme metal, death metal and... black metal artists around today. I mean, it's a fucking great album and I'm really glad I took the time to listen to it but there's a considerable amount of silliness around it that I couldn't imagine any of the less-than-chirpy musicians of these genres to look at and be inspired by. However, the extreme and dark thrash metal stylings are simply fantastic. So, it's pretty awesome to see the group are sounding as solid as they did in 1980 on their thirteenth release Fallen Angels.

 Along with these evil punk riot, Fallen Angels brings with it also a storming run through of the modern heavy metal that they have helped to shape and doing it flawlessly and this is seen in no better place than in the relentless slabs of monumental riffing that makes up opener Hammerhead. Needless to say, the thrash and speed metal sound which they are loved so much for as as rhythmically intense as it's been from day one. The mad thrashing on Pedal to the Metal and Lap of the Gods proves this sense of power being maintained without much need for an argument. The crushing bass is crucial to this heaviness and really stands out on the likes of Beggarman and Punk's Not Dead.
 Damnation of Souls manages to show that even a band as traditional as Venom manage to seek out influences. I say this mainly because it's where the band sounds most like a more evil Motörhead, if such a thing is possible.
 Of course, the feeling of delightful evil that Fallen Angels wishes to stir up would never be complete without the madcap deluded growling of frontman Cronos. Sounding like the missing link between Lemmy and Rob Zombie, his battle-calls to all metal fans and talks of various satanic issues are emphasized and made so much more realistic as he screams with the voice of one possessed. Though these vocals are still being put to some fairly silly lyrics, it's actually made all the more delightful. It's more like an enchanting silliness to unite people plus none of the songs deal with anything like Black Metal's infamous Teacher's Pet.
 As albums go Fallen Angels is one of the stronger metal albums I've heard as of late. The band combine a wide range of metal to create an album that is a pure rush of intensity. This album makes Venom's apparent rise back to popularity a cause more worthy as it's up there with some of their finest pieces of work.

 Venom's Fallen Angels is out now via Spinefarm.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Review: Daughtry - Break the Spell

 Daughtry seem like a band that would be pretty easy to write off by most rock fans. Formed in 2006 by frontman Chris Daughtry, who rose to popularity that year as a finalist on season five of American Idol, the group have succeeded in joining the overflowing ranks of radio-friendly hard rock bands who are big on power-chords and not so big on creativity or originality. That, plus your credibility as a rock act really must be questioned if one of your biggest singles can be successfully covered and put to number two in the UK charts by generic boy-band Westlife. But let's not allow ourselves to dwell on the past and try and spread more light on the groups third release Break the Spell.

 Personally I wouldn't dismiss a band because their music is crafted for radio. A lot of radio rock can be quite cool, plus with their heavy riffs and occasional appetite for adrenaline, Daughtry represent the cooler side of radio rock which on UK radio where mainstream indie rock tends to dominate is fairly rare to come across. Opener Renegade is pretty effective in throwing listeners into this atmosphere of adrenaline and excitement as Brian Craddock's riffs emerge with an ferocious attitude and a speedy pace. If there's any time to headbang to something on the radio it would be during this song.
 Elsewhere the album uses this similar type of hard rock in a more uplifting and feel-good manner, like in the life affirming Louder Than Ever and the charming Outta My Head, which presents listeners with what is essentially danceable grunge. Similar to the kind of thing you might hear from Maroon 5 or OneRepublic. Only enjoyable. To contrast from that, the album features many moments that provide a more emotional impact like the acoustic led ballad Gone Too Soon or the tragic Losing My Mind.
 The album doesn't come without it's weaknesses, which happen to appear quite frequently. Many songs appear thin on substance and ability to hold a grip on listeners, like the dull and watery Start of Something Good which sounds as weak as it's title. As well as that Crazy and We're Not Gonna Fall are guaranteed to take listeners hurtling down the path of  the generic and formulaic.
 So if you're reading this in the USA, stuff from this album will be pretty easy to check out. Just flick over to your local rock music radio. They'll be bound to have some stuff on offer. Back across the pond, the main choice is to find and listen to the album in full. I probably wouldn't recommend it though. Break the Spell is very much a hit and miss album.

 Daughtry's Break the Spell is out now via RCA Records.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Review: Turbowolf - Turbowolf

 I've never really managed to give my self an opportunity to listen to Bristol rockers Turbowolf before but I've always sparked up a sense of interest whenever their name pops up in anything I read. It's probably down to the band name. I mean, come on... Turbowolf. A band with a name like that is destined to be badass. Listening to their self-titled debut album, it's clear that the band manage to prove that this is very much the case.

 Yep. Badass. That's the simple way of describing it. Because the band play a fairly straightforward rock and roll style but still manage to make it sound so fresh and produce such sweeping hooks just makes Turbowolf sound so damn cool! As the guitar feedback heard at the beginning of the album which builds into the albums introduction, it's clear that this album is going to be a blistering hard rock album with callbacks to the group's 1970s hard rock predecessors. This continues in Ancient Snake, Seven Severed Heads and Bag O' Bones, all of which pack a massive classic-heavy-metal-injected punch to readers, all tracks remaining fantastically catchy and gripping as Andy Ghosh's furious riffing and Chris Georgiadas' vocals both contain a punk-injected energy.
 Throughout the album various different music styles and group influences start to become more noticeable and shows a wide range of inspiration that the Turbowolf boys took with the making of this album. Read + Write contains a feel of emo crafted melancholy with extra synthesizer elements thrown in for good measure. The Big Cut then presents listeners with a grunge-fueled angst as well as skillfully crafted breakdowns, allowing for supreme moshing to take place whilst listening. Listening to the album I found many parts that seemed reminiscent to a wide range of predecessors. A Rose for the Crows with it's bouncy structures and metallic pounding wouldn't sound out of place on System of a Down's Toxicity, whilst the following track Son (Sun) sounds like a more depressed Red Hot Chili Peppers. While All the Trees has the main body of an emo inspired song, in the middle we are treated to some stoner rock riffing that the Truckfighters ("Probably the Best Band in the World") would be proud of. Out of these styles, due to the constant sense of anger, melancholy and angst contained in many songs, it is this heavy emo styling that dominates on this album. Combining this to classic sounding hard rock gives Turbowolf similar qualities to fellow rising brit stars Arcane Roots who managed to stun many with their fiery debut Left Fire in February.
 So Turbowolf's debut album essentially proves their music to be as awesome as their band name, as they cover a wide range of rock styles without losing any sense of focus or direction. It shows their is a real wildness and bright spark of uniqueness rising from the British rock scene. Turbowolf have clearly been taught well and hopefully will go on to prosper and become influential themselves. Seriously, more bands need to be like this.

 Turbowolf's self-titled debut is out now via Hassle Records. The band will perform at The Forum, Hatfield with The King Blues, The Skints, Hawk Eyes and We Are the Ocean.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Review: Whitechapel - Recorrupted

 Whitechapel are probably the most respected out of all the modern deathcore acts. Having performed at shows with acts of a more genuine death metal caliber and frontman Phil Bozeman recently collaborating with Chimaira, it's clear that the group have been the main deathcore group to gain any kind of notification from acts of the two genres that are seen as the parents of the style they practice. Unsurprisingly, the group are often finding themselves with an ever-expanding fan base so wether you've gotten into them recently, or have stuck around since The Somatic Defilement, it's worth your time now to check out their new EP Recorrupted, while the group work on a new album.

Only one new song appears on the collection, called Section 8 and it's worth checking out. With a haunting opening, the song builds into an array of crushing guitar pummeling, as a dwindling doomy spell of devastatingly heavy deathcore follows, complete with Bozeman's easily identifiable pig squeals, Section 8 has all the qualities of a traditional Whitechapel song.
 Elsewhere, the group effectively manage to really make their cover of Pantera's Strength Beyond Strength their own beast. With the same kind of fury and aggression that the original delivered, the group fill it with enough breakdowns and changes in pace to make it sound like the track was always made for deathcore.
 From there we are treated to two remixes from this EP. Fresh from making As I Lay Dying songs sound weirder on their tenth anniversary EP Decas, dubstep DJ Big Chocolate and Dillinger Escape Plan guitarist Ben Weinman are on hand to remix Breeding Violence and This Is Exile. Wether you've been taken in by the significant rise of popularity for the electronic sub-genre this year or not, the dubstep remix of Breeding Violence actually works really well. The synthesized backdrops add a greater sense of suspense and bleakness to the song and the electronic beats carry a forceful impact with them. Ben Weinman meanwhile turns This Is Exile into deathcore Nine Inch Nails. I've never really enjoyed his remixes so much, only found them interesting and this remix is an example of this.
 Ending the EP with an acoustic guitar rendition of End of Flesh is quite a cool way to wrap things up. It makes the song sound like a traditional spanish guitar song. It's an instrumental though, which is a shame since I was really looking forward to hearing what Bozeman's clean vocals sounded like.
 While not a full-on necessity, this EP is definitely worth checking out, if for any reason, because the one new song is epic. For the most part, this EP shows a little more versatility from the kings of deathcore and helps fans know they're still going strong. Promising for their next release

Review: Nickelback - Here and Now

 Without any question of a doubt, Nickelback are the internet's most hated band. Music websites, meme websites, Hell, even Change.org created an online petition to stop them performing at a Detroit Lions vs. New York Packers American football game which was signed by over 20,000 people. So it's clear that the world wide have had one or two negative things to say about the Canadian hard rock quartet. Personally, they've never bothered me too much and I've listened to a fair amount of their stuff without any sort of negativity, but I can see why many would have a problem with them. Musically and structurally, things get pretty repetitive after a while and I don't think I could ever buy more than one album by them. They're also largely hated because they've made some bad decisions in the past. Releasing Rockstar, one of the worst songs ever heard to mankind as a single, which then climed to the top of the charts was not a good move. Beyond that, their music stays formulaic, repetitive and crafted especially for drive-time radio. Just like on their seventh album, Here and Now.

 The sad thing about this album is a recurring feature in which the beginning of many songs carry with them a promise that they are going to be songs that will break the mould and then plunge back into monotony. Take opener This Means War for example. The intro has a real buildup which actually transcends into a fairly gripping grunge riff. The initial excitement with this is then quickly dashed as Chad Kroeger begins singing and Nickelback become the U2 of grunge in their blandness and dullness. From there, we are treated to a selection of songs that are what we've been hearing from Nickelback from a while now.
 There's nothing truly spectacular about them. Bottoms Up and Holding on to Heaven are songs that sound perfect for radio stations to play to justify that they play rock music, or to make things worse they will state these songs to be their "metal" songs and play these tracks alongside some stuff from Staind's self-titled album. Lead single When We Stand Together features some very strange vocal styles in the chorus from Kroeger and in my words, "weird" translates as "country influenced". But the Southern American attitude of Nickelback's music makes this something expected, so the inclusion of such an influence will hardly bowl anyone over in surprise, which judging by the song overall, seems to be an intention it had in mind.
 At the same time, there isn't anything on this album that could make it viewed as truly worthy of all our despise. Some riffs manage to be quite catchy. Midnight Queen features a fairly rough and classy hook. You almost forget it's part of this album, with the exception of the cringe-worthy lyrics which are trademark Nickelback lyrics. With such lyrical gems as "I'm in a bar full of bikers and a handful of junkies/ It's a fifty-fifty chance that they're planning that they're planning to jump me." and "Well, she walks like a model and she talks like a trucker/ Doesn't want a lollipop, but she showed us a sucker," Midnight Queen has clearly put decent music over any sense of class or decency.
 So, because Here and Now isn't lovable or worthy of genuine hate in any sense (apart from closer Don't Ever Let it End, where they've actually achieved what many thought impossible and made a song worse than Rockstar!!! Congratulations on achieving a new low guys!) so it just sits perfectly on the line of blandness and being easily forgettable.
 Really, the idea of expecting anything else would be preposterous. I can't fully complain about it's repetitiveness though. There are plenty bands I love who have been accused of releasing the same thing over and over again; AC/DC, Slayer, Disturbed, Five Finger Death Punch etc. but at least these bands and their ilk still manage to create a real sense of energy and passion with each release. Nickelback have always sounded tired, sloppy and emotionless from day one and Here and Now is no exception.

 Nickelback's Here and Now is out now via Roadrunner.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Review: The Birthday Suit - The Eleventh Hour

 As charming Scottish indie rockers Idlewild have now officially settled into their hiatus, more in the way of side projects are beginning to emerge. As frontman Roddy Woomble has started to give himself some solo folk rock experience, fans who are pining for the sweeping alternative rock sound with the occasional punk influence of previous can now find it in The Eleventh Hour, the debut from guitarist Rod Jones' new group The Birthday Suit.

 Essentially, this means you're not really going to find anything too revolutionary here. There are a fair amount that separates The Birthday Suit from Idlewild though. The differing vocal styles between Woomble and Jones is a considerable feature. While Woomble's smoother more melancholic vocals really characterizes Idlewild's emotional impact, Jones' vocals are similar to those of Damon Albarn and gives The Eleventh Hour a wilder and more fun atmosphere that is reminiscent to much of the music of the '90's and early '00's britpop era particularly with Blur and Idlewild's 100 Broken Windows in mind.
 This nostalgic feel of the album has an engaging sense of charm to it, no matter how the music is presented to us, be it in the soothing mellowness of The Say I Love You or the immediatley following speedier but similarly gentle On My Own. Actually, "mellow" is probably the best description for this album, though Hope Me Home and World Goes By will display the occasional grungey riff, though they are often overshadowed by strings and calming gentle basslines. However, it is this mellowness that comes out on top on this album, with Are You OK? having the kind of vocal harmonies reminiscent of R.E.M. the true godfathers of this type of style.
 So overall, though the differences between The Birthday Suit and Idlewild are subtle at best, Jones and crew have created a very strong collection of indie rock songs that carry a sense of class beauty and celebration. The Birthday Suit have created an album which shows all that was great about Britpop in the 90's. I guess.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Review: Angels & Airwaves - Love: Albums Part One & Two

 The last major album that simply had the title Love was the compilation album that featured remixes and new presentations of the various works of The Beatles. Created by producer George Martin and his son Giles Martin, the album attempted to make the music of the Fab Four sound more conceptual and flowing together by creating stretched out segues between songs, mashing up different parts from various songs together. The overall experience of the album made the work of The Beatles sound bloated, pretentious and a little unnecessarily built on grandeur. It's for that reason that it seems quite likely that Angels & Airwaves have taken something of an influence from this compilation as well as using the title.

 A few months ago, something of an outrage emerged when Blink-182 announced they were going to have to pull out of their UK tour to work on their comeback album Neighborhoods and one of the questions posed was why did the album still need working on when they had three years to record it. Well looking at this collection of music, an answer to that question can be found. Tom DeLonge has clearly gone the extra length in recording this double album as well as working on a film set to accompany the album.
 Indeed this album is a grand affair, as the band try and sound as massively overblown as they possibly can. This is seen from the very opening track Et Ducit Mundum Per Luce, a piano led spacey intro track that sounds like the music that would be used for the entrance of Julius Caesar into the Roman Colosseum to watch some gory gladiator fighting. Or something more exciting than this album.
 The beginning moments of this album is very unexciting as a matter of fact. The songs real opening track The  Flight of Apollo defeats the purpose of giving your album an opening track in that in the first minute of the song sees nothing happening. With the exception of some synthesizers buzzing around and DeLonge's bizarrely warped vocals, we are given nothing that suggests the real music has kicked in yet. Say what you will about the pretentiousness of 30 Seconds to Mars, but at least when they want to show they're getting into their full on rock groove, they do it pretty instantly. When The Flight of Apollo does kick into proper action, it's terribly anti-climactic, with some third rate punk riffs taking centerpiece. The rest of the song is basically Blink-182's Up All Night with some violins in the background. Of course, there is some 30STM influences here with former member Matt Watcher providing bass duties, it doesn't feel executed so well here and actually seems to carry an influence from the Mars material that Watcher wasn't part of, as Moon as My Witness tries to copy the material from 2009's This is War.
 The rest of the album basically sees AVA doing their best impressions of other bland stadium filler rock bands with Shove pretty much borrowing riffs from U2's Pride (In the Name of Love) and Epic Holiday and Hallucinations sounding like they're making use of some of the musical backdrops that were rejected from Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto. This overall sense of dullness is very much carried in the overstretched musical backdrops which lack in any sense of originality.
 In spite of all this, there is the occasional strength within it. Some Origins of Fire and Surrender features hooks that could be described as, dare I say, catchy and the rhythm section of Saturday Love and One Last Thing creating a fun pop punk vibe that listeners will have no choice but to lose themselves to after all the other painful material.
 But as you can see, these are only occasional and specific moments and when a double album that is 106 minutes long and the bad moments outweigh the good moments, then listening has clearly not been a worthwhile experience. Angels & Airwaves have tried to be original, engaging and exciting, but it's just not happening here. If you like your Blink-182 but don't really know your AVA a good way to imagine this album is to imagine 2003's I'm Lost Without You stretched out for an entire album. In fact if you're more familiar with Blink, then just keep things that way. Go and listen to Neighborhoods. There's a similar enough sound, but it's much more enjoyable and doesn't seem to last a goddamn eternity.

 Angels & Airwaves' Love: Albums Part One & Two set is out now via To the Stars Records.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Review: Snow Patrol - Fallen Empires

 It's always admirable to see a band change their style. It shows a sense of dynamism, a willingness to adapt and a wider range of versatility to their music. But just because it's admirable, it doesn't always mean it's any good. The most recent group to prove this are Irish Dundee based alt rock group Snow Patrol, a band that have won a place in the hearts of the UK and beyond after the release of their fourth album Eyes Open which was essentially a snapshot of everything that was perfect about the group. It was a passionate, heart-warming display of beautifully crafted alternative rock with a glossier pop influence as well. So successful it was, that it was a style they pretty much copied for 2008's A Hundred Million Suns. As a result, most of the songs were mostly thought of as the 2008 equivalent of songs from Eyes Open. If There's a Rocket, Tie Me to It was 2008's Chasing Cars, Disaster Button was 2008's Headlights on Dark Roads and Please Just Take These Photos From My Hands was 2008's It's Beginning to Get to Me. Consequently these songs were compared only to Eyes Open and really couldn't compare to it. So, they've tried something new. So now they've decided to display an electronic infused indie rock sound on their sixth album Fallen Empires where synthesizers act as the driving force of the songs. And though it's different, it's not a style that suits them at all.

Really, this kind of effect serves as a problem on Fallen Empires, because when listening to the synth led sections on previous albums, it's normally used as a means to reach a harder, riff led climax. On Fallen Empires, this effect is lost. This anti-climactic atmosphere is expressed best in The Weight of Love, which features a basic synthesized backdrop in the verses, with a vocal buildup that suggests a burst into a vast array of riffing and a wider burst into a passionate choral hook. This doesn't happen though. Instead the synthesized backdrop continues. It's dullness and ever-presence is horribly disappointing and just makes the song annoying after a while.
 In fact, guitar work seems to be kept to a minimum on this album, as the likes of Fallen Empires and In the End try to be more danceable and upbeat with their two bit synthesized backdrops that would sound more characteristic and better executed on an album from indietronic duo MGMT, who would probably create a more fun performance of the track. Gary Lightbody's vocals were not made for fun sounding songs. In fact that issue is tackled in The Weight of Love and Called Out in the Dark, badly. At various points Lightbody tries adapting his vocals so they reach a little higher. I don't know why, maybe it's to add more versatility, maybe he's afraid of sounding too monotone. But it doesn't suit him at all, it sounds desperate and cheesy.
 This overuse of synths effects the intended to be emotional songs really allows the performances to falter. Tracks like New York and The President sound weak as the background sound is a digital yawn with the occasional drum beat thrown in for good measure and it manages to strip the song of any power it may want to deliver.
 Lyrically, the styles that we have seen similar to Snow Patrol's previous work remain, which is a good thing, considering many songs have the kind of music suggesting we'd get some happy-clappy nonsense, with the most interesting set of lyrics provided in Lifening.
 Apart from that, there's nothing that could allow Fallen Empires to be thought of as a strong album. The synthesizer effects are dull, Lightbody's attempts to improve his vocals make them sound worse and nothing that has made previous releases so exciting and beautiful are present. I've tried to ignore the common belief by other critics that Snow Patrol are a dull band but with this album, such a claim will be hard to ignore.

 Snow Patrol's Fallen Empires is out now via Fiction Records. The band will tour the UK in January with Everything Everything.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Review: We Were Promised Jetpacks - In the Pit of the Stomach

 It's been a while since I was able to find any decent brand spanking new music. Seriously, I've been so in the mood to find something good by a fresh faced band that I've never heard of until the moment their music blasts into my ears. Finally I've found it in the form of Edinburgh's We Were Promised Jetpacks, whose second release In the Pit of the Stomach is a treat for sore ears.

 Their sound is a delightful selection of chilled out indie rock, which isn't afraid to get a little grungey and a little shoegaze inspired, best seen in the slabs of rhythmic distortion that make up much of Through the Dirt and the Gravel, which also knows how to use electronic and classical instruments for added effect in their songs, which you will hear in the dreamy yet melancholic Act on Impulse. The result is a dramatic, gripping and skillfully crafted set of hard hitting alternative rock songs.
 The execution of the music characterizes this perfectly, wether it wishes to do so in a fast and heavy style, like in Boy In the Backseat as Adam Thompson and Michael Palmer fling out grungey riffs in a rush of indie fueled energy, or in the bleaker dwindling bassline from Sean Smith that is the driving force in Sore Thumb, all are effective in creating a sound that manages to be so atmospheric and soundscaping, but still decent to headbang to at the same time, with the groups dealings of sweeping hooks and the tranquil vocals of Thompson, which in spite of their calmness still remain the engaging centerpiece even in the harder moments. His broad Edinburgh accent is also effective in capturing a characteristic sense of tragedy and despair, which makes up a fair amount of WWPJ's lyrics.
 So for an album that was essentially stumbled upon in looking for any decent new music, In the Pit of the Stomach is a really awesome display of Scottish hard indie rock, the kind of rock genre that we as a nation seem to be best at producing in this day and age. An engaging album that can manages to find a sense of beauty and grace within it's hard and noise-rock inspired walls of guitar distortion, We Were Promised Jetpacks are showing an effortless display of what modern Scottish rock does best.

 We Were Promised Jetpacks' In the Pit of the Stomach is out now via Fat Cat Records. The band will tour the UK in December.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Review: Four Year Strong - In Some Way, Shape or Form

 Many will have grown an attachment to Massachusetts' Four Year Strong after falling for the delightful hardcore pop punk that found a harder edge in it's blaze of punk riffs and juddering breakdowns, but also had a sense of charming quirkiness about them, along with an ability to laugh at themselves as they were going along which they displayed effortlessly on last years Enemy of the World. Cut to 2011, and the group are now looking to lose this sense of quirkiness that has gained them such a considerable following as their fourth offering In Some Way, Shape or Form sees the quartet looking to be taken more seriously and join many of their their peers in removing their pop punk element and becoming a genuine rock band.

 If you enjoyed FYS for their quirkier and more fun side, this may be seen as a turn-off, but it wouldn't be fair to dismiss it entirely, many songs here do increase their sense of fury, intensity and their desire to carry a serious message with it, but they do it very well and manage to redefine themselves from what they used to be. Something that's also been gained from the loss of synthesized effects and consequently, synth player Josh Lyford. Opener The Infected is an instant sign that the group are looking to become different, sounding fresh and exciting as Dan O'Connor and Alan Day produce furious and powerful hardcore riffs, taking listeners into a whirlwind of scuzzy and energetic hardcore rock with sweeping hooks and soaring vocals.
 These musical elements make up much of In Some Way, Shape or Form, be it in an angrier form like in Heaven Wasn't Built to Hold Me, or in a more uplifting form such as Just Drive, always showing the band produce a catchy melody and a remaining devotion to the more metallic element of their music.
 Showing a greater influence from modern rock bands, as opposed to punk acts, Stuck in the Middle has a familiarity and shows a large influence from the Foo Fighters, particularly with Wasting Light in mind. However, that's not to say that the punk spirit is forever lost here, Fairweather Fan is a strong punk song with massive spiked riffage, although don't expect to find their sense of fun in that song. Fairweather Fan is by far the angriest song on the album.
 With this is mind, their desire to become a more serious rock band comes at a cost. The album seems to be lacking a certain sense of enjoyment with the fun elements of previous on which they thrived and it's a little sad to see that fade away. It also means a loss of personality for many songs and less stand out moments. There are few tracks here that people would sing along to at shows, though mass yelling of "Don't fix it if it hasn't broken yet!" are likely to remain stronger than ever.
 Overall, In Some Shape or Form, despite being a solid collection of songs, does make it evident that if a band is looking to widen it's audience they may lose some of their original sparkle in the progress.n However, it is a very gripping listen and upholds a sense of catchiness and heaviness that FYS have become loved for. If you like your hardcore music, this will be enjoyable, as it's clear to see a sense of maturation within a band who have tried to show off the genre's poppier side. Perhaps the cynical view of pop punk coming to an end may be coming true after all.

 Four Year Strong's In Some Way, Shape or Form is out now via Decaydance. The band will tour the UK in January with A Loss for Words.


Friday, 11 November 2011

Review: Deaf Havana - Fools and Worthless Liars

 For me, Deaf Havana have been the perfect example of an up-and-coming British rock band that I keep reading about and seeing their names being referred in magazines and radio but do not feel any sort of care about them, until listening to their music, where my attitude changes dramatically. It's not the first time I've had this change of heart. The same thing has happened with The Blackout, Young Guns and Arcane Roots, all of whom have stunned me with their hard-edged rock music which has the tendency to visit metallic territory. Deaf Havana doesn't share the same style, their punk infused alternative rock is complete with sweeping hooks and has an upbeat rhythm, but on their second album Fools and Worthless Liars is more remarkable in the lyrical sense, as they present a real sense of bitterness self-loathing and tragedy.

 Not to dismiss the musical skills entirely, as I say, the album brings together mellow indie rock sections mixed with jagged punk hooks and breakdowns which gives the album a scuzzier effect. This really helps to characterize the anger and heavy emotion found on Times Change, Friends Leave and Life Doesn't Stop for Anybody, the fun sense of anger found on Filthy Rotten Scoundrel and the soft-but-prominent sense of bitterness and annoyance felt on The Past Six Years. The band show a real ability to make a catchy and streamlined rock sound, which still manages to carry with it a sense of emotion and pop-rock grace.
 More interesting is the lyrics the album provides in various songs, which sound like nothing I've ever heard before. At times the have the ability to be warm and uplifting. For the most part they manage to get quite heart breaking in their sense of self-tragedy and literalism, like in I'm a Bore, Mostly, as frontman James Veck-Gilodi sings in his melancholic vocals "So I try to drag my fragile frame through another day/ And another dose of caffeine in my veins/ My body aches and my mouth is full of sores/ And I've reached the verdict that mostly, I'm a bore." This sense of tragedy and self-hatred is seen best in the line in Anemophobia "I caught a glimpse of my reflection and didn't recognise my face".
 Elsewhere, a bitterness that the group have surprisingly showed is revealed in opener The Past Six Years, as Veck-Gilodi states "Through these cynical old bitter eyes the futures' hard to see", and the seemingly infamous lines "Mike's on daytime radio John played Reading & Leeds/ And I'm still play the Purple Turtle at New Year's Eve". With Mike and John referring to Mike Duce of Lower Than Atlantis and John being John Taylor of Young Guns and comparing their successes to Deaf Havana still being stuck doing new year shows in Camden, gives a clear sense of bitterness towards other bands who I would never care about previously and personally, my enjoying of Deaf Havana makes this more tragic since I never really managed to get into Lower Than Atlantis.
 In suggesting that it's all doom and gloom, there's a genuine sense of hope to be found in the beautiful I Will Try with the wonderful line "And I will try my best to find a smile/ And I will close my eyes and say I'm not afraid this time". This gives a genuine sense of optimism to the album and really manages to lift spirits.
 On the whole, Fools and Worthless Liars shows Deaf Havana giving their own sense of originality and passion to the ever-growing world of streamlined pop-rock. But it's not the type you could feel cynical about. Because it doesn't feel polished, or made for radio. It's just very enjoyable indeed. And it's got some of the most gripping lyrics I've heard for a while.

 Deaf Havana's Fools and Worthless Liars is out now via BMG. The band will tour the UK in December with Architects, Tek One and Heights.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Review: Dead By April - Incomparable

 Back in July, I really got into Yorkshire's metalcore representatives Asking Alexandria, and their fusion of solid  breakdown packed metalcore with danceable trance beats with a Euro-pop influence was pretty fascinating. It was like nothing I'd ever heard before. Since I've been hunting across the internet, trying to find other bands who will present a similar style as effectively as Danny Worsnop and Co. Sometimes, there's been successful results in this; other times, I've heard the kind of weak, overly pop inspired garbage that Swedish alt metallers Dead By April have to offer on their second album Incomparable.
What's sad about this album is that it doesn't sound lazy or uncared for at all. In fact, it's quite obvious that a lot of passion has been put into the making of this album, and the very opening of Dreaming the synthesizer use is actually quite promising, as it grips listeners in with the idea that the detail put into the pop element is going to be balanced out by the metal element. But this never happens. The album's poor production means makes it more of a task to identify any riffing meaning our main rhythm section comes from the synthesizers, which unlike on many art rock albums just gets irritating after a while. At this point I will give credit to drummer Alexander Sevenningson, whose drum-kit pounding is the only thing that gives this album any sense of power that a metal album should have. Lord knows, there's nothing else on this album where we're going to find it.
 The structure of many of the songs on the album takes things in a further chart pop-influenced realm, with many songs having the kind of structure one would be used to hearing in a dull, manufactured boy-band song. The only group I can think to compare Calling and Crossroads to would be Westlife, even during the moments featuring screamed vocals in their repetitive structure, big choruses and of course the supposed emotional softer bridge section. The only thing that's missing is the uplifting key change at the final chorus. Perhaps this is effective in symbolizing the lack of hope this band will face in time to come.
 Since the guitar work isn't of any real interest, with it being a collection of repetitive breakdowns that you wouldn't be seen dead headbanging to, the final issue of Incomparable is the shoddy vocals of Jimmie Strimell and Zandro Santiago. Strimell's screamed vocals sound like an unenjoyable version of Avenged Sevenfold's M. Shadows on Sounding the Seventh Trumpet and Waking the Fallen, which given the polished sounding pop metal on incomparable as opposed to the rough and relentless hardcore assault that A7X gave us, are hardly complimented by the music, however when they vocals do fit with the musical sound, Santiago gives us something much worse. His desperate, whiny tone and overuse of auto-tune means the only acts he could possibly be compared to are The Backstreet Boys, or Bro... Br.. Brokenc... Brok.. Brokency... the other "B Word".
 Basically, Incomparable is a horrible album. The songs are badly executed, the synthesized pop element outweighs the metal element by a considerable distance and it carries a very manufactured feel about it. I like the the concept of mixing pop and dance music elements with metal, but if the average sound that it produces is anything like this, it's probably time to give up on being optimistic about this type of music and hope that Asking Alexandria doesn't become an influential band for the next generation of metal musicians.

 Dead By April's Incomparable is out now via Spinefarm. The band will tour the UK in December with Marionette.

Review: As I Lay Dying - Decas

 Featuring three new tracks, an array of impressive covers and a selection of remixes as an extra little treat for the group and their devoted followers to celebrate ten years of their prosperous metalcore career, Decas is a must-have for any As I Lay Dying fan, for those less devoted, there's also some good stuff to be found, but this album is made for the fans above anyone else.

The three new tracks on offer continue to show AILD's immense talent and unbreakable sense of passion for making thrash-infused metalcore, with an overwhelming heaviness, as sweeping hooks from Phil Sgrosso and classy guitar fingerwork from Nick Hipa, both of whom, deliver juddering breakdowns thick and fast in From Shapeless to Breakable, whilst Moving Forward sees the frequently changing vocal ideals between beautiful and brutal from frontman Tim Lambesis. While showing AILD's real talent for making this thrashcore sound with lyrics questioning faith and a display of more uplifting ideals, none of these new tracks are really mind-blowing in any way. i don't actually know if these tracks are brand new for this collection or just some tracks that never made it onto 2010's The Powerless Rise, but there's a good chance it may be the latter.
 More impressive is the array of skillful covers on Decas. AILD manage to make their covers of War Ensemble and Electric Eye sound original to themselves, while still carrying a spirit of Slayer and Judas Priest within them. Meanwhile their cover of Descendent's Coffee Mug is just so unexpected, with the notion of a metalcore band covering a song by a band who effectively laid out the path for pop punk to follow. However, the cover is a total frenzy of blistering riffage and fun. Anyway, those who have heard Austrian Death Machine will have heard Lambesis screaming much stranger things than "Coffee Mug!"
 Decas' remixes are pretty interesting. The Innerpartysystem remix of The Powerless Rises' The Blinding of False Light transforms the slow emotion draining metalcore into something much funkier. And then it breaks into Dubstep. And listeners crap their pants in amazement. Similarly, the beautiful and oozing-with-passion Wrath Upon Ourselves from 2007's An Ocean Between Us is turned weird by The Dillinger Escape Plan's Ben Weinman, who's use of extra (loud) synthesizers and keyboards and decision to make Lambesis' vocals much quitter and static sounding turns it into... well I really can't tell. With that in mind, it's probably best not to get started on the gargled electronic mess that is the Big Chocolate remix of Elegy.
 Overall, as Decas is aimed largely at fans to celebrate ten years of As I Lay Dying, there's a lot on offer that will satisfy them. The new tracks sound great and are pretty much definitive of AILD, and the covers are awesome as well. If you enjoy this definitive sound of the group, then the remixes may not be for you, as they take away a lot of the characteristics and passion of the songs, but in return, present the song in interesting formats, including dubstep, the only form of dance music I can get behind. However, this album is meant as a means of celebration and there's clearly a lot of fun being had from the band, so there's nothing really bad that can come from this.

 As I Lay Dying's Decas is out now via Metal Blade.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Review: Mark Stoermer - Another Life

 Brandon Flowers, on more than one occasion has been thought of as being a modern day egocentric frontman. Perhaps there's some truth in this. His previously displayed sense of superiority as frontman of The Killers in the band on on the whole of the modern alternative rock scene has been enough for many to ask "Who the fuck does he think he is?". So if you're put off by the idea of listening to his overblown synth-pop solo album Flamingo but would like to hear more material from members of The Killers as their supposed hiatus seems only to be increasing in spite of reports stating it was soon to come to an end, you may be interested to know that bassist Mark Stoermer is starting has self-released his own solo debut, Another Life, which is a much more enjoyable experience.

 Because, alongside the three other members of The Killers, Stoermer has spent most of his musical career under the shadow of Brandon Flowers, many will know little of his vocal styles or musical influences and interests, so will be surprised to see that Another Life features a greater blues influence even a touch of folk music as well. His style really serves as a throwback to modern influential American songwriters, like Billy Joel, Tom Waits as well as having a reminiscent feel to the slower works of The Rolling Stones.
 His style is gentle, led mostly by acoustics and his songs are effective in conveying sense of warmth and emotion, best seen in the likes of Shadow In a Dream, which creates something of an unsettling atmosphere throughout, but is pleasant sounding enough to keep listeners drawn in. Tracks like Everyone Loves the Girl and No Time is a clear sign that Stoermer likes nothing more than to just kick back and make everyone happy, judging by the relaxed feel good nature these songs provide.
 For people looking to hear something closer to The Killers sound, Stoermer also has something to offer in the form of The Way We Were Before. It's closer to The Killers, albeit it's more like something that would be heard on 2008's synth heavy Day and Age, which is hardly the groups strongest album. However, Stoermer's soft vocals fit in well with the sound, helping to elevate the blissful nature of the song.
 If there's any problem to be found, it's that frankly a lot of these songs on Another Life are too short. They're enjoyable, but listeners are still as likely to get the same amount of enjoyment if the songs were at least a minute longer, listening to it I often thought I was getting to a track;s bridge only to have it end at that moment. In that sense the album is somewhat disappointing.
 However, many will be pleased wit this fresh sounding debut from someone who few people would recognize on the street despite playing in a band who have become a household name. His folkier and more tranquil, yet atmospheric material is sure to astonish many and shows a long-searched for sense of skill and modesty from someone from what could be the biggest rock band going right now.

 Mark Stoermer's Another Life is out now and available for free download on markstoermer.com.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Review: Funeral for a Friend - See You All In Hell

 Following the success of March's awesome Welcome Home Armageddon, Bridgend's finest Funeral for a Friend come bouncing back with an EP of new material, the lovingly titled See You All In Hell, and it's pretty much effective in displaying the almighty talent and confidence the hardcore quintet still possess in spite of what has an unexpected line up change following the departure of long time guitarist Darran Smith and a switch of position for bassist Gavin Burrough which saw him take to the six strings.

 As the one new track High Castles leaps into action with Ryan Richards doing some furious drum pounding, listeners are dropped into some rapid hardcore riffing which maintains a good hook. Carrying an overall upbeat-yet-angry attitude about it and featuring an impressive and gripping breakdown, High Castles is as fun as it is engaging.
 To my surprise, also enjoyable is the remix of the Welcome Home Armageddon track Medicated by fellow Bridgend resident LoveGadgetsHateGizmos, giving the track a more gentle and ambient atmosphere, which gives the track a more atmospheric and chilling perspective, as well as giving the song some qualities of the soundtrack of 1980s video games.
 These are probably the two main highlights of the EP, listeners will also find live versions of Sixteen, Broken Foundation, Man Alive and Front Row Seats to the End of the World, recorded at XFM, as well as acoustic versions of Old Hymns and Welcome Home Armageddon, where the power of the vocals of Matt Davies-Kreye take real control and their sense of power is beautifully revealed.
 However, the EP isn't all good and well. Their cover of Strife's Will To Die, is well done enough, however in comparison to the original, it's pretty weak. Mainly because the group don't really do enough to make it their own, and it doesn't pack the same punch of the original at all. Also Richards Matt Davies-Kreye sound like add to the feeling of unoriginality, as it sounds like they're doing cheap impressions of Rick Rodney and Chino Moreno's vocal efforts in the 1997 original.
 Other than that, See You All In Hell serves as a solid collection of decent hardcore songs played with much ferocity and power when live and with much soul and serenity when acoustic or remixed. It's simply a sign that FFAF are still standing strong in spite of any little slip up that gets in their way.

 Funeral for a Friend's See You All In Hell is out now via Distiller Records. The band will play at The Ballroom in Birmingham with The Subways on the 16th December.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Review: Florence + The Machine - Ceremonials

 Since the release of 2009's Lungs, indie songstress Florence Welch and her backing band that is The Machine have pretty much brought art rock to the forefront of mainstream music and as a group have become a household name, generating overwhelming approval from much of the British public and frankly from the rest of the world. The only people who do criticize are the proper art rock fans, who will complain about the group taking elements of the genre and giving it a more mainstream influenced polish which the art rock equivalent of death metal fans being critical of groups like Suicide Silence or Job For a Cowboy. Or not. I suppose the accurate names for this group of people who criticize Welch's music in that sense would be "hipsters". So looking at new album Ceremonials, it's clear to see that the group continue what has made them so loved in the past, wether it will shut up the small demographic who complain of their mainstream sound is less likely.

 As a pop album, Ceremonials is pretty fantastic and certainly a cut above the rest of world of mainstream music which has pretty much descended into an endless void of blandness and repetitiveness. The sense of darkness the group have been known to stir up is conveyed effectively in the haunting opening Only If For a Night and Isabella Summers' gentle synthesized backdrop of Never Let Me Go manages to stir a very bleak and doomy atmosphere that certainly manages to chill.
 There's also plenty here that will appeal to the kind of listeners who want their music more catchy and danceable, from which the pop inspired element really emerges. Shake It Out and Lover to Lover both succeed in carrying a sense of upbeat positivity as pounding drumbeats from Chris Hayden create a catchy and danceable rhythm. A sense of warmth is also found in No Light, No Light and All This and Heaven which are probably the epitome of feel good music, which is genuinely enjoyable. Needless to say, the vocals of Welch elevate this feeling in all the songs, be it a feeling of joy, melancholy, coldness or as an overall attempt to be haunting, Welch's ethereal banshee wails, soft more chilling moments, and graceful warm vocals all succeed in characterizing Ceremonials as the songs intend to be and really manage to give the album a further sense of beauty.
 My hipster-esque criticism of the album will come in a manner that will have a sound of extreme cynicism to it, but it is a manner of harsh truth. Florence + The Machine are lucky that they managed to become such mainstream names and such regulars on mainstream radio. Because of this, their more creative and and charming sound can be heard by many whose music taste is much more... narrow-minded. In that sense, as long as the group are able to make a musical sound that is pretty and pop inspired, which also manages to have a dark and quirky edge (so let's throw in some atmospheric synth backdrops and harp-playing) and doesn't sound like anything else on the radio (really not that difficult) they will remain successful. One gets the feeling that if they had never came across the extreme mainstream success that they have, they might have just been known of in the world of art rock. Though not the genre I have the most knowledge about, I imagine they wouldn't get very far in that world and would just be viewed as a group with nothing new to bring to the table. My minor delve into what else the genre has to offer has given me performers who possess a far greater sense of dynamism and ability to create atmosphere than what Welch has to offer, found most recently in St. Vincent's Strange Mercy and various tracks from Deerhoof, to name... two.
 So, if you don't mind a mainstream influence in your music, then Ceremonials is not an album that should be written off at all. It shows Florence + The Machine keeping with their creative and fresh creative indie rock rather than taking a turn for the poppier and making music which possesses real soul and grace. Ceremonials is a clear sign that the name of Florence Welch is not one that is going to be forgotten any time soon.

 Florence + The Machine's Ceremonials is out now via Island Records. 

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Review: The James Cleaver Quintet - That Was Then, This is Now

 Wether you know it or not, you're quite likely to have seen The James Cleaver Quintet playing before. And it pretty much defines the idea of a band making a bad first impression. In August, energy drink company Lucozade, released onto our television screens a horrendous piece of advertising featuring a bunch of "quirky" (i.e. twatty) looking indie rockers swiftly rolling down a hill on skateboards, go-karts and bicycles whilst covering Feeder's Buck Rogers displaying themselves as a weak, sloppy sounding, and pathetic rock band. But I felt secure watching it at the time, realizing that no band could actually sound that pathetic and willingly ruin such a catchy song, so it was clearly just a bunch of actors hired by Lucozade who didn't know the first thing about playing rock music. Guess what? I was wrong. The band from the awful Lucozade advert is actually real, and have just released their debut album, That Was Then, This is Now.
 Entering this album as a cynic is fun, because opener Golfing Pros, Bitches and Hoes shows that the actual music of The James Cleaver Quintet is the kind of music that will never be used on mainstream TV. The frantic hardcore assault shows a rush of pure energy and awesomeness.
 This kind of musical atmosphere goes on to define That Was Then, This is Now. It is a collection of off-the-wall, edge-of-your-seat hardcore punk songs that can have a poppier edge, but not to the extent that they can be considered pop-punk. It's seen in the catchiness that the rhythm section produce in the chorus of Trading Water as guitarist Maud E Licious produces a bouncy hook that will sound fitting at the party to end all parties. Of course, this isn't really the main sound the band create. For the most part, they're delivering a mad sounding energetic punk riot. The furious screaming of Jack Udon paired with Licious displaying his speedier picking on tracks like Don't Just Stare At It, EAT IT! and The JCWho which also pack a fair share of brutal breakdowns make these songs pretty much moshpit gold.
 The band seem pretty keen to distance themselves from the image that the TV advert portrayed them to be in because they make much of the music as weird as they possibly can. Be it in the complex, stuttering structure of Snakes or the odd-yet-atmospheric digital effects from At The Quark-In (I used to think the stage-names for Avenged Sevenfold were weird.) seen best in Chicken Shit (For the Soul). They're in full support of being thought of in such a regard. On their Facebook, they name their genre as being "Weird-Core", a genre that has been around for quite a while under other guises but will hopefully rise to the masses with this album.
 It can just take one song to change your opinion of a band, and a whole album for them to change completely from being lame to awesome, and The James Cleaver Quintet show this pretty effectively on this album. Along with Exit Ten, it seems quite likely that this band has the potential to become future leaders of a generation of British hard rock.

 The James Cleaver Quintet's That Was Then, This is Now is out now via Hassle Records. The band will tour the UK from the 6th-26th November with Turbowolf and Hawk Eyes.

Review: Steel Panther - Balls Out

 Were this a year ago, I'd probably write off Hollywood hair metal quartet Steel Panther without any thought. It was a time where I tried to prove to everyone that I was a sophisticated bastard and would have to show an understanding of pieces of art with designs that made no sense, and only allow myself to watch indie films that used a lot of symbolism and little of anything else. Then at some point at the start of this year. I just stopped, thought to myself "Lighten the fuck up!" and put on Twisted Sister's I Wanna Rock. So, now I'm up for some less-than-classy crude humour delivered in the form of some old school glam rock. So what better place to find it than in Steel Panther's second album, Balls Out?

 From listening to the beginning of the album, it's clear to see that Michael Starr knows a thing or two about cheap sex puns. It's best seen in Just Like Tiger Woods. There's a lot of golfing puns going on like "Remember when You're having fun/ Three holes are better than a hole in one", or "If you wanna be like Tiger Woods/ Filling all the divots in the neighborhood". That's probably the best example of the kind of wit based humour on the album. The rest of the humour from the lyrics are just from how unexpected the kind of things the band refer to are and it's pretty awesome. The best examples come on Tomorrow Night ("I'm going to a party -  tomorrow night/ But tonight I'm playing Angry Birds/ Like a million other nerds") and Why Can't You Trust Me ("Stop threatening the bitches on my Facebook page/ Or I'm gonna rip your head off in a cocaine rage"). Really some of the lyrics you have hear to believe. Those examples are intentionally not the best on the album. The way that they just come out of nowhere and hit you hard causes sheer hilarity. Unless of course your humour is more high brow than that kind of thing, in which case, why are you reading this?
 Because Steel Panther are aimed to be a comedy band, it can be hard to focus on the music itself, which is a great shame, because goddamn, these guys know how to play heavy metal. Guitarist Satchel makes some real hooks on this album which show a real homage and sense of inspiration from the 1980's Hollywood sleazy glam rock scene. Of course, in a sense there's a worrying sign for what has become of this type of music in the present day and age, if the only band who can do it well are a comedy band.
 Overall, Balls Out is just fun to listen to in it's lyrical craziness and decent playing of hair metal. As good as it is on first listen, it's probably the kind of album that would get a little less exciting with each listen. There's some pretty awesome stuff here, just lower your sense of sophistication and enjoy. Also the best phrase to describe Balls Out would have to be "NSFW".

 Steel Panther's Balls Out is out now via Universal Republic Records. The band will tour the UK in December with Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Review: Megadeth - Th1rt3en

 Probably the best example of how unconventional my journey of achieving my taste in metal was is the fact that Metallica was not the first of the Big 4 bands that I got into. Long before that I was finding joy in the likes of Rust in Peace and Countdown to Extinction, the masterpieces from the crazier and lineup-unstable rivals of the Bay Arena quartet, Megadeth. So, needless to say I've been excited about their new release Th1rt3en for various reasons. I could refer to the album title properly as Thirteen, but I'd rather have a chance to write using digits for letters, giving the 12-year old Bebo addict in me a chance to run riot. Also, I get another chance this year to see an awesome classic thrash metal band deliver show they still have the ability to kick ass after Anthrax's Worship Music. That's something that's been necessary as of late, especially after mental scars from listening to Lulu are still very much prevalent. Th1rt3en leaves listeners with a much sweeter taste in their mouth.

Over a career of 28 years and thirteen albums, there's been a noticeable change in the vocals of Dave Mustaine, along with 2009's Endgame, Th1rt3en shows Mustaine's vocals to be much deeper, however, as a consequence, this makes him so much more evil and it's much more suiting for this album. It is very evil throughout. Since tracks like Public Enemy No. 1 are essentially about killing everyone. This doesn't really let me down, I expected nothing less. Similar to Endgame, the main lyrics are largely about fighting, violence, crime y'know... anything that's bad pretty much.
 Musically, the album gives readers a dark and bold array of thrash metal, which though less intimate and intense than that found on Endgame make up for it in their hell-raising metallic pounding. Chris Broderick is showing a greater understanding of making riffs with a hook, best seen in We the People and Fast Lane, which shows Megadeth are pretty much on top of their game. If a sense of intimacy is to be found on this album, Mustaine's lead guitar picking manages to show it off with ease. Black Swan and Wrecker would prove this with ease. Th1rt3en also sees the long-awaited return of bassist Dave Ellefson, who manages to maintain a fiery and powerful rhythm alongside Shawn Drover who pounds the hell out these songs.
 If I were to point out any flaw in the album, it's probably in the one track Guns, Drugs & Money. There's nothing particularly wrong with it, it's just pretty lifeless, weak and generic as Megadeth songs go, thankfully, the unsettling intro filled with riff chugging and soulful lead guitar that makes up the following track Never Dead takes the boredom away instantly.
 Also worth mentioning is the albums closer 13. It's a theatrical, emotion driven piece of glorious heavy metal, made really as a song that shows the Megadeth are still going strong after all the shit they've been through over the course of thirteen albums. What also makes it significant is that it sounds a little similar to the kind of music heard on the Metallica and Lou Reed collaboration, only it's actually engaging and enjoyable.
 Overall, Th1rt3en is exactly what one would want in a Megadeth album. The band play with a raw power and create a sinister vibe throughout. It's certainly the best album that's come out from any group in the Big 4 collective this year.

 Megadeth's Th1rt3en is out now via Roadrunner.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Review: Iced Earth - Dystopia

 Iced Earth, despite their rich history are a band that my knowledge of is limited, and really therre's no point in trying to discuss the course of their 27 year career now. All I can say is that there's an entire Wikipedia article devoted to past Iced Earth members. So in 2011, Iced Earth features newcomer Stu Block on vocals, Troy Steele and Jon Schaffer on guitars, Freddie Vidales on bass and Brent Smedley on drums, and on tenth release Dystopia, this lineup is pretty much revealed to be their strongest to date.

Dystopia packs a serious punch of what is essentially some classic heavy metal. It's complete with gripping and intense duelling guitars from Steele and Schaffer, who is still managing to sound impressively fresh and energetic in his six string thrashing. One might have thought that being the bands final original member might have tired him out somehow.
 The duelling guitars, pounding drumming from Smedley that has the ability to get a little structurally, seen best in Boiling Point and the wild metallic screeching of Block carries a reminiscence to fellow classic heavy metal acts like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Blind Guardian. Of course that's unsurprising, considering Tim Owens largew amount of time fronting the band, as well as their considerable amount of work with the German power metal quartet.
 More surprisingly is the sign that there is clearly something of a modern influence on Dystopia and I say this on hearing Days of Rage. On hearing the opening riffs of the song, anyone who knows their Trivium will clearly be able to identify that they are playing The Deceived in a higher key. It either serves as a homage to the kind of groups they have influenced, or perhaps Matt Heafy has the potential to file a lawsuit against them. Either way, it's quite unexpected to hear that riff elsewhere.
 On the whole, Iced Earth have managed to deliver a solid and impressive display of kick ass heavy metal on Dystopia. It's nothing new, but it's still overwhelming in its power and it's a clear display of a band with a sense of pride and triumph giving their all.

 Iced Earth's Dystopia is out now via Century Media. The band will tour the UK from the 4th-6th November with White Wizzard and Fury UK.