Monday, 30 April 2012

Review: Marilyn Manson - Born Villain

 This review may be a little more difficult to write as accurately as possible due to certain circumstances. At a younger age, as cliched as it seems, the music of Marilyn Manson saved my life. It changed the person that I was forever. At the time, I had emerged from a long spell of bullying and other various personal problems outwith school. It led to a state of self-loathing and dissatisfaction with the way my life was being led and my main focus in life became music and a desire to start listening to that which no one else was. Having heard the name of Marilyn Manson in the past due to constant snickering of how much of a freak he was and some of the dreadful rumours about him, I figured I'd be giving a giant middle finger to everyone around me if I actually started listening to the band's music. Not long after, having listened to every album from 1994s rampaging drug fueled stomp Portrait of an American Family to the melancholic grandeur of 2009s The High End of Low, I was totally immersed. At the time, listening to Manson felt more like a statement and I realised quickly that it was so much more than that. Albums like Antichrist Superstar, Holy Wood and The Golden Age of Grotesque are filled with fist-pumping anthems that through their angry outlook are bursting with a sense of positivity allowing listeners to celebrate their individuality in their passionate sense of fury. And of course afterwards, my love for for Manson swayed me to listen to a whole new range of bands. I've never been the same since. And I've never been happier.

 So a few years later, my so-called depression days are behind me and though my music taste has advanced since my love for the double M has remained prominent. So I'm a little more reluctant to speak of their recent efforts in the way that many others have in terms of live performance and of eighth album Born Villain.
 The album is once again an enjoyable display of Manson unleashing his more dynamic mature artful range of music. It's an understandable sound for Manson. As he reaches his middle age, creating an album simply designed to be a collection of aggressive adrenaline pumped rock songs would undoubtedly sound forced in a Metallica Death Magnetic sort of way.
 But Born Villain still has that touch of Manson darkness. From the suspenseful opening of Hey, Cruel World with it's grim tone of guitar and subtly pulsing electronics, that launches into pounding chorus that conveys Manson's rich sense of refined fury, the darkened atmosphere of the album is all too real. This same kind of gripping darkened atmosphere can be found everywhere, from he gothic tinted industrial metal of No Reflection, the rapid fist pumping frenzy of Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day and the doomy feedback drenched riffs that make up Lay Down Your Goddamn Arms.
 This sense of atmosphere is more prominent on this album than before. While Manson's earliest work was a matter of using samples in the midst of songs, such techniques on Born Villain are used more for the purpose of soundscaping, which gives Overneath the Path of Misery and The Flowers of Evil that extra terror. In fact at one point of The Flowers of Evil, one is reminded of the twisted sampling that made 1995s infamous EP Smells Like Children as spine-chilling and terrifying as it remains today.
 But this is something to consider. The creation of the correct atmosphere is the only thing that gives this album any sort of terror. While Manson remains as creative and dark as ever, Born Villain is a sign that the shock factor has disappeared. Manson just doesn't have the ability to frighten listeners naturally anymore. His demeanor has become so much less chilling. It's like an older relative still trying to use a toy spider to scare you. While once terrifying you, it's just not doing the trick even though it's still as hairy and creepy as ever. What am I talking about? This is probably best summed up whenever he tries to whisper in your ear or intentionally sing in a disturbing manner a Capella. It's not scary now, but it seems like you should scream to it sarcastically just to keep him going.
 But, even if Manson can't shock now, he often makes up for it by being effortlessly cool. His spoken word verses on The Gardener are filled with such sly charisma that it makes the song intense and gripping enough on it's own and that's without mentioning the spell-binding chorus. And this coolness is displayed in the performance and overall nature of the bonus cover of Carly Simon's You're So Vain. Manson's darkened industrial take on the song once more displays his rousing performance and major hooking performance. Not even having Johnny Depp play drums on the song can steal from Manson's limelight.
 So, that review may have had some bias within it, I'll let you decide. But Born Villain is an undeniably strong effort from Marilyn Manson. Even as the venom that spiked his earliest work fades away, the album still packs several big punches, and obtains a major darkness and frightening charm throughout it's tenure. What's more is that it's a constantly interesting, dynamic and fresh effort across the album. It should be a fan pleaser, but if not it's definitely one that will please people who have managed to hold on to Manson's music in every phase. Such as myself. And as I make the choice to stop writing music reviews for the next few weeks as a means to put more focus on studying for exams and I think of how without the music of Marilyn Manson, I'd probably not be nearly as satisfied, fulfilled or have experienced any kind of escape or sense of uniqueness throughout the years that have led me to these important events. In extreme thoughts, who even knows if my life would exist today had it not been for me starting to listen to the double M. Yes, the music of Marilyn Manson is something I've been thankful for throughout my life and Born Villain means my praise can keep coming. Bye.

 Marilyn Manson's Born Villain is out now via Cooking Vinyl. The band will play at the O2 Academy, Brixton on the 5th of July with Lacuna Coil.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Review: Pennywise - All or Nothing

 As a misguided child, one of the main ways I gained access to new music was through the playing of video games and listening to the soundtracks while playing along. If you played Burnout 3: Takedown, you may remember that as well as the game itself, the soundtrack was kick-ass. I actually learnt a lot about the musical genre that I love so much today through listening to music while making rival drivers crash their nicely modified cars to score points and the more a song put me in the mood to cause destruction, the more attached to it I grew. Pennywise's Rise Up was not one of those songs, so my love for the Californian punks never really continued. Of course now I have managed to give them a try so I don't just recognise them as one of those bands that had a song on the greatest racing game ever.

 Of course, a lot has happened since they were placed on that video game with The F-Ups, Go Betty Go, Letter Kills and a bunch of other alternative rock bands that aren't together anymore. Most notably, the departure of original frontman Jim Lindberg in 2009 and so, as they return with new singer Zoltán Téglás, an already accomplished musician around the California punk scene, being the leader of hardcore heroes Ignite and collaborating with The Misfits and Motörhead. And with Pennywise, he knows exactly where he stands and allows the band to revel once more on their tenth album All or Nothing in glorious punk style.
 While the proper skate punk enthusiasts will look on the recruitment of Téglás with disapproval with claims that with no Lindberg, there is no Pennywise, fans of rousing hook-filled punk rock that carries a much greater sense of genuineness without time for goofing around will look on the band's decision to go on and release an album with gripping thought-provoking songs with powerful melodies and sing-along choruses filled with enough "Woah" chants to keep an entire Warped Tour crowd yelling along will revel in this album. In a world where Rise Against have become some of the biggest names in punk music for their ability to captivate audience with melodic power and songs with a fist pumping sense of anger and concern attached, Pennywise have once more hit the formula right on the head. Wither it's in rush of uplifting fiery punk melodies that make up Waste Another Day and X Generation or the genuinely beautifully rousing and uniting Let Us Hear Your Voice, the band effortlessly deliver their messages of socio-political distress and their message to unite together to make a change with scorching energy and passion.
 And with Pennywise's vision as focused and the band's performance sounding as strong as ever, All or Nothing presents itself as a punk album of great relevance and gripping intensity. And the fact that the lead singer has changed makes little difference. Even if many long time fans will be devastated over the loss of Lindberg, Téglás' recruitment as frontman is one of new power and passion. And with that, Pennywise move on with a new positivity. With a set of songs that mean much more to listeners than songs that would sound cool when you achieve a Double Takedown. I really should have gotten into this band straight away as a child.

 Pennywise's All or Nothing is out on Tuesday via Epitaph. The band will tour the UK in July with The Flatliners.

Review: Saint Vitus - Lille: F-65

 Since their 1978 conception, LA's Saint Vitus have cast a dark shadow of influence over the world of doom metal as we know it today. Alongside the likes of Witchfinder General, The Obsessed and Candlemass, the band reached a cult status with their message of depressant fueled woes and toils of how they were ruining their own lives to appeal with other listeners who were ruining their own lives. They're awesome!!! And now, they return with Lillie: F-16, an album named after the drug on which they were once hooked. It's their first album in seventeen years and in that time, doom metal has only gone on to become more of a cult phenomenon. This album is very much a hell-raising comeback that sees them take back their place on the skull crafted throne of doom.

 It's because everything is as it should be for this album that makes everything come together so spectacularly. It's got the perfect lineup with Scott "Wino" Wienrich delivering the vocals with his bleak throaty cackle which gives such extra flare and potency to Let Them Fall and The Waste of Time, plus the presence of the classic Saint Vitus sound is to be found all around the seven track collection across it's simple half hour long run.
 Despite it's surprising shortness for a doom metal album it is a very poignant short run. There's often a constant dynamic in tone across the album even though the trademark sense of gloom is always lurking. At points like the monolithic closer Withdrawal, the music takes on a more delicate and touching form which really emits the sense of hopelessness and imprisonment the band try to create, which by the time latest recruit Henry Vasquez crashes in with a gargantuan drum solo, you'll feel musically entrapped to the tearful somberness - there's no hope, no freedom and no more joy to be found ever.
 On the other hand there's also the bands performances on The Bleeding Ground and Blessed Nights, some of the most rock n' roll contributions to the doom metal scene ever. Aided by a selection of chilled stoner riffs and hyper swinging guitar solos, one could look at The Bleeding Ground and say that despair has never sounded so cool, while Blessed Nights uses it's monolith guitars and crunching bass as a means to summon the hounds of hell and all spirits of doom upon the world as the intense heaviness and drawing riffs pull up the roots of the earth. Yeah.
 And it's with this combination of song techniques that you find the resulting album is packed with doom metal perfection and doom metal is quite a perfect style of music. As Saint Vitus make a superb return, it's clear that they're sounding as grimy, gloomy and willing to make the sound for people to drown their sorrows in as ever. It is a happy time for everyone.

 Saint Vitus' Lille: F-65 is out now via Season of Mist. The band will tour the UK in June with Acid King and Sardonis.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Review: Torche - Harmonicraft

 The sense of eclecticism when considering the formation and backgrounds of Miami metallers Torche is quite incredible. It's seen the bringing together of four people who have played in sludge metal bands, grindcore bands and screamo bands to create the perfect mix of heaviness and melodies. Having released three albums now, they've used this balance of heavy riffs and film songwriting to make themselves artists capable of delivering some of the perfect music for rock fans, so in that sense they're quite underrated. However, now that they've returned with Harmonicraft, an album with one of the best album covers ever it's now time for them to really make a name for themselves and move up to the big league.

 Torche have always been very much a stand out band in the realms of stoner rock and though it's not known very well right now, they're the stoner rock band that will have the most appeal to fans of more pop based rock music since Queens of the Stone Age found themselves a permanent fixture on MTV. Or MTV Rocks as it is these days.
 So rather than focusing on the often doom and gloom factors that come with the sludge metal that Torche so effortlessly manage to perfect, Harmonicraft actually carries a more uplifting atmosphere across it's thirteen tracks, seen from the very opener Letting Go, a song that remains incredibly upbeat through it's delivery of hardened riffs dripping with distortion and fuzzy feedback delivered by guitarists/vocalists Steve Brooks and Andrew Elstner. This kind of performance makes it way across the album in Kicking's spacey atmospherics and the pummeling levels of sweetness that comes from the guitar work of Snakes Are Charmed, with emphasis on the "charm". It's the most poppy and joyous that sludge metal has ever sounded and while that's a concept that many sludge enthusiasts will disagree with, the inclusion of hooks and more pop friendly charm is a much more pulsing feature on the album that really gives it it's own spicing flare.
 It's actually pretty amazing how strong this upbeat nature is. It's there in the frantic songs that simply tear away, seen in the rush of ecstasy of Walk it Off and Sky Trials or the spaced out sludge of Roaming and the extraordinary Solitary Traveler  that in their delicacy and textured guitar work make the listening experience more grand and beautiful than words can describe.
 So, as I say, it's time for Torche to move into the big league because Harmonicraft is an album that everyone needs to listen to it. The performance is magnificent with songwriting standing strong at levels of perfection with adrenaline filled and chilled out moments creating a constant dynamic. But it's so much more than that. So intense is the levels of positivity and unconfined happiness, that when you listen to the album, there is no pain. There is no suffering anywhere in this world. There's only beauty, warmth and memories of happier times in life, of friendships and childhood wonder. Any band can make a brilliant album but on Harmonicraft, Torche have taken things a step further. A band that has come from sludge metal, grindcore and screamo backgrounds have made an album that makes life worth living.

Torche's Harmonicraft is out now via Volcom Entertainment.

Review: Various Artists - Avengers Assemble: Music from and Inspired by the Motion Picture

 Well, I've always enjoyed the kind of films that put actual genuine screenwriting and real focus on characters, their personal traits and how it sees them through the situation they're in. And I also dig a bit of kick-ass action every now and then. It's for this reason that Marvel's The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble here in the UK, to avoid confusion with 1960s spy show and subsequent 1998 movie release, a much weirder and more annoying film) is one of the most enjoyable superhero films in recent years. it's got the perfect combination of the two. This is really no place for movie reviews, which is good because I'd be kind of going over my head to do so. But there's been some soundtracking to go with the film and to go alongside the actual film score is a pretty rock n' roll soundtrack to go with things. It's understandable. As Metal Hammer explains, the Avengers are "metal as fuck." Tony Stark listens to AC/DC while fighting and wears a Black Sabbath T-Shirt, (A tribute which is subtle as a brick.) both Iron Man and Thor are two of the most metal film characters of recent times and of course, the Hulk is the last guy you'd want to meet in a moshpit. Anyway, with many songs for the soundtrack being made for the soundtrack alone, it's a collection of music worth looking at. Rock n' rollers assemble!

1. Soundgarden - Live to Rise: After the news of the reunion of majorly influential grunge masters Soundgarden delighted most fans of alt rock, grunge and stoner rock as we know it today, the band clearly had to find some way to create another major impact with their return once actually making new music. And what better way for them to have done so with the release of Live to Rise, the film's lead single. Soundgarden are back and their chilled alt rock performances which yet manage to emit much emotion through the irresistible vocal delivery of Chris Cornell shows them to still have that dusted yet powerful sound about them. It's chilled out but Live to Rise still has an anthemic quality about it. And what's a superhero film without an anthem?

2. Shinedown - I'm Alive: You'll find that a lot of this soundtrack is filled with contributions by some of the biggest names in American hard rock. The kind of bands that actually find their place on the radio every now and then. Maybe, this is off-putting as it makes you think "Meh, they just have lots of radio-fodder rock songs!" Actually Marvel Music have been pretty impressive for the most part here and while lots of bands are those that will find themselves on drive-time radio, it's mainly efforts by the bands that are actually worth listening to outwith the drive home. Take Shinedown for example. As they craft I'm Alive for the soundtrack, filled with hooks driving riffs and a sense of soul throughout the atmosphere of carnage they create, they show once more that they are a band that carries lots by way of strength and substance.

3. Rise Against - Dirt and Roses: If any frontman has the ability to take a message of concern and turn it musically into something alight with a gripping performance to reveal the extent of the passion they feel about their concerns, it's Rise Against's Tim Mcllrath. And on Dirt and Roses his now iconic-amongst-modern-hard-rock/punk-fans melodic screeching highlights the sense of the intensity and willingness to fight on felt within The Avengers. It's a song of hope on persistence; ideal for the situation guaranteed to make power flow through your veins. It's a fighters song and it's got the touch of Rise Against passion all over. 

4. Papa Roach - Even if I Could: Having evolved from making emotional rap rock and nu metal songs to making sleazier and hookier hard rock with a hint of the 1980s glam rock scene about it, Papa Roach seem like a good band to record a song for a humongous thrill packed film like this. And sure enough, their soundtrack contribution Even if I Could has the kind of pounding nature that you could imagine some enormous brawls taking place to while also sounding like something that would fit snugly on Getting Away With Murder or Metamorphosis with a few more thrilling twists among the way.

5. Black Veil Brides - Unbroken: The Black Veil Brides have clearly been having the time of their lives over the past few months. They've reached the point now where the amount of hatred they receive isn't what's gaining them the most notoriety, rather fan devotion and frequent radio-play and getting to appear on soundtracks like this. It seems that with every release they've had their sound seems to beef up that bit more and on their soundtrack contribution Unbroken, things are no different. As the music takes on a darker atmosphere, it's juxtaposition with the uplifting vocals of Andy Biersack make it a song where some light can be found in darkness. Is there any more fitting way a song can be written for a superhero film?

6. Scott Weiland - Breathe: Having played in Stone Temple Pilots, a band with a massive influence on lots of today's rock band and fronted hard rock supergroup Velvet Revolver for a period, Scott Weiland has had a career of highs. However, often his solo career hasn't been so representative of those high points. While gaining critical acclaim a lot of albums have been a commercial failure and well, there's been some disputes regarding the nature of him releasing a Christmas album last year. However, his performance on Breather for the soundtrack sees Weiland on form. His song is much warmer with a more ballad-like composure. And sometimes you're film has to have a warm ballad moment. Thanks Scott.

7. Redlight King - Comeback: This is my first experience of hearing Canadian radio rocker Kazzer under his moniker of Redlight King and if I'm honest, it really doesn't encourage me to return to what he has on offer any time soon. Featuring synthesizer heavy verses with a more melodic rapping then some guitar brought in for choruses, Comeback has the sound of a limp Linkin Park. Sorry, but this is probably the most disappointing track. In an album filled with bands that have wide mainstream popularity, this is the song most suited for radio in it's watered down nature. This song's clearly intended for any parts in which The Avengers get their asses kicked.

8. Bush - Into the Blue: Bush have always been an okay grunge band. The UK's own contribution to the scene, they've always paled in comparison to the likes of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden but have their own fanbase and have gotten pretty far in terms of recognition. On Into the Blue, the band uphold that kind of sound they've come to be known for. Catchy post-grunge with a smug smoothness all around. And of course frontman Gavin Rossdale still has the bloated voice of a worn out pub singer that could only come from London. If I'm honest I didn't really like this one either.

9. Evanescence - New Way to Bleed (Photek Remix): Oh god! How am I meant to deal with a track being a remix? I never heard the original, I didn't have the money to splash out on the deluxe version of the album it appeared on. However, New Way to Bleed sees the continuation of the sound which inspired much of Evanescence's fantastic third album released last year. The verses are atmospheric in their brooding tone put on by sweeping synthesizer backdrops and the vocals of Amy Lee which are as always... awe-inspiring. And as monolithic guitars are introduced for the chorus, it's a clear sign of the band doing what they do best. Epic gothic music designed for action.

10. Pusherjones - Count Me Out: They're hard rock's answer to Damon Albarn's Gorillaz, Pusherjones is a cartoon rock band made by Velvet Revolver guitarist Dave Kushner and features members of Scars On Broadway, Weezer and Queens of the Stone Age. They're naturally awesome. And on the strength of their single and soundtrack contribution Count Me Out, their riff orientated hard rock is as effortlessly powerful as it is effortlessly cool. I hope we see more from these cartoon rock avengers. This is one of the highlights of the soundtrack.

11. Buckcherry - Wherever I Go: Truly the sound of the genuine well thought out sunset strip, Buckcherry return with their sleazy hooks and headbang inducing rock belter Wherever I Go. That being said, the performance is actually a lot smoother than some of Buckcherry's previous anthems with a more delicate and subtle take on the verses. But with one of the most feel-good choruses heard in recent times, the songs perfect for the intense pack of feel-good punches the film offers.

12. Five Finger Death Punch - From Out of Nowhere: I've heard FFDP's more stomping and aggressive take on this Faith No More classic a few times now, with it's appearance as a bonus track with 2007s The Way of the Fist. It's got a massive stomp to it with massive riffs from Zoltan Bathory. It's one of the soundtrack more hard hitting offers and it works well.

13. Cherri Bomb - Shake the Ground: Is there any cooler way to end than with some swinging heavy metal from Los Angeles all-female rockers Cherri Bomb. Their own song Shake the Ground is bursting with the kind of sweet melodies and rock n' roll swagger to make sure that any soundtrack can go out on a high note. They play with the spirit of 1980s hard rock without the extra burly sense of obnoxiousness but with all the venomous attitude required. It's a song that's as feel good as the entire film itself.

 So, Marvel once more create an impressive soundtrack to go with an even more impressive film. I still thin the coolest song on offer is the debut song from Pusherjones and I'm excited to see what Dave Kushner, Frankie Perez, Scott Shriner and Joey Castillo go on to do under this moniker and cartoon personalities. While not all these songs appear within the film, they have the same kind of nature of the film, with all the adrenaline, massive punches in the form of riffs and hooks and uplifting power the film has as well. So, a blockbuster film with a blockbuster soundtrack. Seems pretty sweet.

Avengers Assemble: Music from and Inspired by the Motion Picture is out now via Marvel Music/Hollywood Records.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Review: Feeder - Generation Freakshow

 If you've read anything on this quiet little music blog that really delves into my musical taste as a whole, you may have guessed that I was left in something of a state of despair and disarray when discovering that Atlanta stoner metallers Mastodon pulled out of this year's mammoth T in the Park. With an already incredible lineup, I have to say that seeing them would have been my highlight of the festival, the entire summer and probably all of 2012. But I'm continuing to look at things in a positive way. For example, Welsh alt rock giants Feeder are performing and given the performance on their eighth album Generation Freakshow seeing them is an incredibly exciting prospect.

While Feeder have ability to play massive packed venues and headline the 2005 Download Festival, there's still a prominent argument that they are an extremely underrated band. It's because they've always been regarded as that one-hit wonder band that had a massive song a few years ago but have gone away and not really done anything ever since. It's a little sad when really considering that they have as wide a back catalogue as they do and have made such a big impact and influence on the world of modern rock as they have, the people I know from school who also see them during their show at Balado Airfield in July and much of the other audience members will be doing so just so they can shout "Player-player-player!" and if we're lucky "I think we're gonna make it" when they play their mega-hit Buck Rogers.
 Generation Freakshow sees the band return once more with a blistering set of summery alt rock anthems that effortlessly have audiences singing along to the massive choruses on tracks like Oh My and Tiny Minds being songs with tender melodies and irresistable hooks.
 There's some criticism to rise from this obviously. Much of Generation Freakshow is well crafted for the kind of massive venues in which Feeder have so frequently managed to play. The simple verse-massive chorus-verse-massive chorus is a frequent occurance throughout the album, but when the melodies and power pop choruses play out to effortlessly reveal the strength that they have, you're most likely to find yourself being totally immersed within the life-affirming anthemic qualities that come with the likes of Borders and Generation Freakshow. As it pans out every song becomes a new favourite.
 There's also touches of lihter moments to support their enormo-stadium rock. The mixture of subtle and anthemic in tracks like Quiet and Fools Can't Sleep have a touch of Coldplay at their most charming about them. It's a blissful listenign experience, while some advancement in ability to create a genuinely gripping emotional song can be seen on Sunrise.
 However, the inclusion of thirteen songs on this album may have been a bit of an ask for the band. Things start to go a little downhill during the closing tracks Miles Away and Children of the Sun that proves that Feeder ahve given the best of what they have to give at this point and signs of blandness begin to appear. It's a little bit of a disappointing drag-along end to what is otherwise an album which is very much a rush of ecstacy.
 With the exception of that, Generation Freakshow is a very solid effort once more from Feeder. With a selection of strong stadium fillers, it's a style that we've come to know from the band bulked up to more exciting levels. I'm sure they can fit songs from this album into their T in the Park set. It would go down a storm.

 Feeder's Generation Freakshow is out now via Big Teeth Music. The band will play Play Fest at Eccles Hall, Quidenham in June, Isle of Wight Festival on 22nd June, T in the Park 2012 at Balado Airfield, Kinross on 6th July, Kendal Calling in July and will tour the UK in November.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Review: Job for a Cowboy - Demonocracy

 Have you any idea as to just how difficult it is to get into Job for a Cowboy? I have listened to their debut EP Doom and albums Genesis and Ruination in full several times now and I still find it difficult to work out just what's going on. Not to say I dislike it, it's just that, well Entombment of a Machine isn't exactly what you'd call a hum-along tune. Maybe this sense of inaccessibility comes from the unpredictable growl/shriek frenzy of frontman Jonny Davy, or the ever-testing manner of their songs which means listeners are left attempting to work out if the songs have come to an end yet. However, there has been a progression throughout these albums from pre-pubescent deathcore into much more hard hitting death metal. And they've been respected enough within the world of death metal to tour with Cannibal Corpse, so they can't be doing too badly.

 Their latest offering Demonocracy shows the band's continuation in death metal territory, but at the same time manages to be their most accessible yet, without any kind of return to their deathcore sound. As of 2011, Davy remains the final original member of JFAC and the new recruits of the band have clearly succeeded in solidifying the groups sound for this album as the technical performance from new guitarist Tony Sannicandro is extremely impressive and easy to appreciate, particularly on tracks like Children of Deceit and Fearmonger. Sannicandro's playing style gives Demonocracy a much richer tone than much of JFAC's previous work. And with the overall mixture of fully charged death metal riffs, blistering solos from Al Glassman on leads, annihilating fist-pumping breakdowns heard on the likes of Imperium Wolves and Black Discharge and the overall greater focus on melody throughout the complex juddering, the guitar work on Demonocracy is that of a pretty stellar standard.
 The main celebration of Demonocracy is the way in which the band have now managed to soup up their traditional sound once more to a greater maturity and brutal grace. What an oxymoron. However, that's all that's really achieved on this album. There's little sign of JFAC stepping out of their comfort zone for this recording and have now settled into a definitive sound which carries a strong sense of routine about it. Davy continues his traditional switching between death growls and piercing shrieks. You can pretty much work out how a song will pan out. And yet, I don't really want to view this a s a problem when considering this album. It would be lame of me to crack open the phrase "You can't have too much of a good thing" but in the case of Demonocracy I may have to. It is the Job for a Cowboy sound but in this case, it's very much sharpened to a tee. They can expand their sound later. Right now they've nailed the sound we've come to love them for.
 And so, I'd like to think of this album as the Definitive Job for a Cowboy album. They're still not on par with their death metal peers in Deicide, Nile and Decapitated, (Maybe they're an improvement on Cannibal Corpse now given their disappointing performance on Torture.) nor are they even on par with their often close melodic death metal buddies in The Black Dahlia Murder, but this album is still undeniably brilliant. It's a sound that is well recognised by fans, yet it is still made to sound completely fresh and re-vamped. It's the Job for a Cowboy sound that has also become brutal, fist-pumping death metal. Maybe next time, there will be greater experimentation but for now all is well.

 Job for a Cowboy's Demonocracy is out now via Metal Blade.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Review: Municipal Waste - The Fatal Feast

 Since their 2001 conception, Virginia's Municipal Waste have been a band with one main mission statement: shred. As a result, they've found themselves one of the most successful classic thrash revivalists, playing for thrills and singing songs of partying, getting drunk and mutant attacks with such classics as Drunk As Shit, The Thrashin' of the Christ and Headbanger Face Rip. With this heightened level of musical sophistication, they've managed to gain tours with the more widely celebrated metal types of At the Gates and Suicidal Tendencies. Clearly, even playing for laughs can get you far sometimes.

 And with their fifth album The Fatal Feast, there's some sense of progression from the past few releases. There's an increase of songs that last over three minutes and there are a few seconds of synthesizers in one or two songs but otherwise, the band are here once more to shred things up like it's 1986.
 The Fatal Feast is jam packed once more with a collection of relentless thrash metal songs that rip out and fly by in the blink of an eye. Tracks like Repossession and New Dead Masters and... every other track on the album strike out in a full-on, in your face assault of full scale thrash that also features influences from more streetwise hardcore bands, which in terms of snarling ferocity are right on par with their predecessors in Anthrax and Nuclear Assault. Jagged, rapid-fire riffs from Ryan Waste are played with much viscousness and are in such frequency across the set of seventeen songs that listeners have no choice but to lose themselves within the shredding party tunes and allowing the band to achieve all that they stand for.
 The roughened production as opposed to the more icy precision based musicianship more sophisticated acts thrive on allows Municipal Waste's more punk based side to emerge as well. And with the vocals of frontman Tony Foresta occasionally resembling a warped battered version of those of The Offspring's Dexter Holland and the guitars on Standards and Practices and Residential Disaster actually creating hooks during their choruses to create fist-pumping thrash anthems, well, it's just obvious that the band have their phaser set on fun for this album.
 So, Municipal Waste pretty much worked out their winning formula a long time ago and there's clearly no sign of them slowing down. They're more of a band for real thrash enthusiasts for whom shredding is the only option. It's heavy on rapid riffs and action. It's everything we've come to expect from Municipal Waste and it's relentless as ever.

Municipal Waste's The Fatal Feast is out now via Nuclear Blast.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Review: High on Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis

 After stoner metal legends Sleep came to an end and going out on a high note with the release of the sprawling hour long stoner epic Dopesmoker, the most recognized and widely-regarded band to rise from the ashes has been guitarist Matt Pike's High On Fire, which has seen Pike up the tempo and pace from his previous group's dwindling manner but keep Sleep's almighty monolithic crunch overwhelmingly intact. Of course, being almost fifteen years since Sleep said goodnight, (Make some kind of pun out of it.) High On Fire have come into their own aura and hold their own legendary status over the world of metal today. And it's with this status and sense of ambition that they've created their sixth album De Vermis Mysteriis, a concept album based around the time traveling twin brother of Jesus Christ, who according to Pike: "lives his life only going forward until he finds this scroll from an ancient Chinese alchemist who derived a serum out of the black lotus and then he starts traveling back in time. He can see the past through his ancestors’ eyes, but his enemies can kill him if they kill the ancestor that he’s seeing through at the time. Basically, he keeps waking up in other people’s bodies at bad times." I think I'll write a review where I talk about riffs.

 Needless to say, it's the kind of album where the performance itself is every bit as important to talk about. Quite simply, it's a breathtaking display of varying metallic riffs played with an air of seething grimness. We move from the juggernaut stoner grooves that make up Bloody Knuckles and Spiritual Rights to the cataclysmic jagged thrash riffing of Fertile Green to the much gloomier and mournful King of Days a song that is very much rooted in total bleakness. So we're pretty much taken from the sound of Electric Wizard, through to Corrosion of Conformity through to Saint Vitus. And much like with UK stoner representatives Orange Goblin's Ben Ward, the resemblance between the vocals of Pike and Lemmy Kilmister is undeniable and shows off High On Fire's devotion and influence from the metallers that rode before them.
 While even after several listens the concept of the time travelling sibling of Jesus is still a bit difficult to get one's head around, the full-throttled passion and strength identified within the band across the album in delivering their concept is very much apparent. Wither it's in the atmospheric grandness heard throughout opener Serum of Liao or the overwhelming fury of the album's title track, the entire album clearly features the sound of a band unleashing the fire dwelling within their hearts and guts and creating a musical soundscape that is thunderous as a result. While violently charging through the more furious moments of the album, the band are also unafraid to use tracks like Madness of an Architect and Romulus and Remus to create music of dwindling pace and an atmosphere of unrelenting bleakness with which readers can revel within the bitter chaos.
 Consequently, De Vermis Mysteriis reveals itself to be the full stoner metal package. Packed with a selection of monolithic slabs of heavy riffs, a major atmosphere of twisted aggression and doom and a fronting performance filled with charging passion that really drives the songs and the concepts home no matter how off-the-wall they are. This could well be one of the albums that Matt Pike has put the most effort into making and it's certainly paid off.

 High On Fire's De Vermis Mysteriis is out now via E1 Music. 

Review: Emmure - Slave to the Game

 Due to having a lot of friends at my school who have a strong love for any kind of music that one could describe as "br00tal", I have come across the works of Emmure prior to this. To say I enjoyed it would be like saying I have the most intriguing time when listening to The Fray. Who? I've found Emmure to be the type of band that specializes in mixing moshing wit mindlessness; breakdowns with brainless lyrics. Basically the kind of band that wants to make music to be used specifically for video game killing sprees. Essentially, if you enjoy subtlety and sophistication in your music, stay a million miles away.

 So, let's keep that whole video game ideal intact when considering their fifth release Slave to the Game which is made entirely with a video game theme surrounding it. It's clearly a sign of Emmure playing to their strengths and not progressing in any way. And so listeners find themselves once again with an album that is essentially a collection of constant breakdowns. Breakdowns within breakdowns even. To be fair, this is a sign of Emmure playing to their strengths because a lot of the breakdowns are actually quite good. Songs like Protoman and Bison Diaries have quite a pulsing nature as riffs slam into action. War Begins With You even features the kind of breakdowns that give Emmure the image of a poor man's Bury Your Dead, a step up by any means.
 But not even Emmure can rely on breakdowns to make an album worthwhile. While all the ingredients for a dynamic and interesting metal album are there; monolithic slabs of riffage, an engaging selection of background and even foreground electronics and a clear sense of passion writhing inside of frontman Frankie Palmeri, the band have once again failed to use it to the best of their ability and instead create a range of songs most effective for virtual slaughters and endless moshpit endurance. And at times, particularly on the likes of I Am Onslaught and Cross Over Attack, this just doesn't stand up and the music drags on, even getting lost in the floundering walls of distorted and electronic pounding with the output of little substance.
 I'd like to think of other ways they could improve what they do but it would mean they'd have to cut their main musical gimmick, the biggest turn-off about the band. When I first saw the video for the group's 2011 hit Solar Flare Homicide on YouTube, the top comment stated that Palmeri was "The Fred Durst of deathcore." Sadly the comment makes so much sense. And the vocal pattern that features throughout Slave to the Game is at times laughable due to the frequency of Palmeri's faux-gangsta-rap vocals unleashed, followed by an attempt to sound more aggressive by using death growls. It's not a feature that works in any circumstance and it diverts Emmure from being taken seriously.
 While we've seen metalcore bands do great things with heavy riffs and electronics in the past, (There is a Hell, Believe Me I've Seen It, There is a Heaven, Let's Keep It a Secret will probably become a modern classic despite it divided opinion that lies over it and it's creators.) Emmure have effectively managed to use this combination as a means of regression on Slave to the Game. It would be cool to see some kind of major step-up in their style, but it's been five albums and things have only become less mature. Sometimes, you need to be more than just "br00tal" to actually be impressive.

 Emmure's Slave tot he Game is out now via Victory Records. The band will play at Download Festival at Donnigton Park, Derby on 10th June and Ghostfest 2012 at Leeds University Union on 1st July.

Review: DragonForce - The Power Within

 From the distance of which I've happily been able to keep from this band, the main conclusions that London-based power metallers DragonForce are the most lame metal band in existence. Their over-use of widdly guitar solos and fantasy based lyrics and constant creation of fast songs that last over seven minutes, mixed with an inability to unleash a fully heavy sound and instead add a water-downed sound to their music has never convinced me to try and get into them. To me, this style of playing plays out to the more pre-teen listeners who can listen to their songs and feel epic and from there move onto better bands, but I couldn't imagine anyone from that age and onward wanting to listen to them. But hey, I want to make myself seem relevant by covering the biggest of rock and metal releases so today I've found myself with the joys of listening to their fifth release The Power Within and have discovered that I still can't find myself warming towards their sound.

 But, before elaborating on that, I will say that if you have been into DragonForce in the past, this album is an absolute treat. Many fans will have been left unsure about the band's future following the departure of founding member ZP Theart in 2010 and I can only imagine that like myself many fans will have found the simple hiring of new vocalist Marc Hudson simply by watching him doing some vocal covers of DragonForce songs on YouTube to be a dubious action that really questions just how big the band's levels of devotion and proper care for their music is. However, the elevated wailing that opens up the album on Holding On from Hudson suggests the complete opposite. The result of Hudson's recruitment is very much that of a band re-charged and ready to dominate, as his vocals pierce their way through the likes of Cry Thunder and Die By the Sword which every now and then top the performance of Theart by some distance. Hudson's vocals are definitely the most gripping feature of the album and it fits in with the sound of DragonForce perfectly.
 Of course, the sound of DragonForce itself is far from perfect. There is definitely a definitive structure to many DragonForce songs and it's always a groan-inducing sound of clattering drums and widdling solos and rushed chugging from pre-teen guitar icons Herman Li and Sam Totman. While the performance of the album's big hit Cry Thunder and Seasons does divert a little from this continuous structure, the overall thought when hearing the battle metal marching is that there isn't really much on offer that couldn't be heard from Turisas and Sabaton. (Even if the lineup for the latter has been totally re-vamped.) Furthermore, there's little on The Power Within to suggest their music is being aimed for more sophisticated ears and there are a lot of moments where the maturity and sophistication levels of DragonForce make listening to Black Veil Brides feel like listening to Gojira.
 It's obvious that DragonForce have gained a considerable fan base over their thirteen year career and certainly if you are a fan, then this is a crucial album to purchase, showing another step up being brought to their sound to further hone it to perfection. But if you're a major cynic that dislikes them like myself, it's just another album of similar sounding songs by that band that are well known for having that song on Guitar Hero III. Honestly, they're well known because Through the Fire and Flames has been called the hardest songs to play on any Guitar Hero game. I'd love to see some Necrophagist songs making an appearance in those games. Then where would DragonForce be?

 DragonForce's The Power Within is out now via Essential Music. The band will tour the UK in September with Alestorm, The Defiled and Cavorts.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Review: Flying Colors - Flying Colors

 Poor Mike Portnoy. Following his major public departure from prog metal legends Dream Theater and subsequent attempt to re-gain entry to the band after his tenure in Avenged Sevenfold didn't last as eternally as he had hoped. The whole surrounding drama is far from over though. We now reach the less apparently dramatic phase in which Portnoy has fully unleashed his side projects Adrenaline Mob and Flying Colors, devised purely as a way of saying "Well, screw you guys I don't need you anyway." And of course, they're both pretty awful. And so, we examine the self-titled debut from Flying Colors, what should be a fairly promising supergroup comprising of Portnoy, Deep Purple guitarist Steve Morse and many others. The resulting album is something that should be epic and results in being a very much hit and miss album.

 I'm sure it would be a lot of fun to continuously poke fun at Portnoy after all his desperate headline hogging witnessed across the likes of UltimateGuitar and Blabbermouth last year and say the album is terrible purely for his appearance on it alone, but frankly it's the performance from him and Morse that really makes the album and when drum and guitar solos are fully unleashed on this album in the likes of All Falls Down and the twelve minute epic Infinite Fire which sees the full talent of both musicians being released as scorching picking from Morse and frantic drum smashing from Portnoy make some of classiest and most gripping moments on this album and reveals both musicians prog rock talent to still be intact to a blazing extent.
 But across this album, this intense prog performance performance is basically balanced out by a musical element much more turgid. See, the musical dynamic behind Flying Colors is to incorporate elements of prog rock with more mainstream pop rock. It's actually a pretty dynamic idea which shows Portnoy and Morse stepping out of their comfort zones, which is quite admirable. While the warm Blue Ocean and Shoulda Woulda Coulda shows that the creation of gripping hooks are achievable from the band, the overall thoughts on this section of the album are that the poppier elements could have been greatly improved upon. They could have had a more pounding pop punk element behind it but instead the pop rock comes in the form of (groans)... adult alternative music. I've never had a very enjoyable time with the kind of bands that carry the term "adult alternative" (a ridiculous enough name alone) and on Flying Colors, it's no exception. Needless to say, this introduces a whole new set of irony regarding the bands name because Portnoy and Morse at their most active introduce the flying colour. The rest of the album remains pretty flat and bland. At certain points of Love Is What I'm Waiting For, Better Than Walking Away and Fool in My Heart, it sounds more like I'm listening to Take That; a true sign that the songwriting carries an overly radio-friendly ring about it that carries little soul and little swagger.
 So, the result of the result of the album shows that prog rock is still awesome and adult alternative music is still pretty pathetic. I don't think I needed a whole album to tell me that. It's a bold attempt to do something a little different in giving prog rock a poppier twist and it's quite an admirable idea being someone that enjoys a good hook in a song every now and then but it has to be done in a way more exciting than this. Sorry Mike. Once again, you continue to present Dream Theater to be doing better without you.

 Flying Colors' Flying Colors is out now via Mascot.

Review: 3 Inches of Blood - Long Live Heavy Metal

 3 Inches of Blood are one of the few bands that have been able to resurrect the classic heavy metal sound in this day and age with a shredding middle-finger pointed to the practicing of breakdowns, electronica and djent and sound genuinely convincing while doing so. I was seriously surprised to discover their debut album Advance and Vanquish was released in 2004 rather than the mid 1980s. Many will say there sound is therefore dated, but when the band receives so much respectability amongst fans of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, you've got to think the band have pretty much accomplished what they aim for and with their position of one of the best modern day traditional heavy metal bands intact, it seems only right for them to come and pummel listeners once more on their fifth album Long Live Heavy Metal.

 Truly, a prime rule of classic form of heavy metal is that if it's not broken, don't fix it and 3 Inches of Blood know this too well and use it to the best of their ability. So once more, Long Live Heavy Metal is jam-packed with maniacal duel-guitar attacks on the likes of My Sword Will Not Sleep and the particularly pulsing performance of Leave it On the Ice, there's also the unmistakable vocal performance of frontman Cam Pipes, sounding akin to a coked up Rob Halford with the piercing nature giving Dark Messenger that extra measure of intensity. That and the rare spout of scream vocals that give Leather Lord and Storming Juno that extra piece of 3IOB's unique strike of twisted venom injected into the already fiery array of flaming aggression.
 The ability to write the perfect heavy metal song is laid down to a tee on this album as well. The band manage to create achieve the verse-chorus-verse-chorus pattern with much ease with the striking opener Metal Woman and Men of Fortune being finest examples of rapid fire riffs and galloping basslines in verses being balanced out by massive choruses with a gripping selection of hooks.
 While this thrashy array of powerfully written heavy metal is the main offering , one stand out moment on the album is the short and sweet closer One For the Ditch, which manages to be one of the most atmospheric songs they've created in it's acoustic led mellowness. In many ways, it is fully epic.
 So, that's all that really needs to be said about this album. If you know about 3 Inches of Blood, I'm pretty confident that you know the sound of traditional heavy metal inside out. This album is certainly made by a group of gentlemen that do and for a genre that has been unchanged since at least 1983 or so, it's sounding as enjoyable and thrilling as ever. Long Live Heavy Metal!!!

3 Inches of Blood's Long Live Heavy Metal is out now via Century Media. The band will tour the UK in May with Goatwhore, Angelus Apatrida and Havok.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Review: Jack White - Blunderbuss

 Using the simplest of means and a punk mentality, Detroit-born rocker Jack White has made himself a modern icon in the realms of classic rock and roll. The effortlessly simple and hard hitting riff on 2003's mega-hit Seven Nation Army gave this century one of it's first major rock hits that even the truest of classic rock enthusiasts couldn't resist and made the smooth blues rock of The White Stripes some of the most critically acclaimed music today which along with White's further work in The Racounters and The Dead Weather would go on to influence the likes of Band Of Skulls, Blood Red Shoes and The Kills. Having also gone on to collaborate with The Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck and Bob Dylan, and getting awarded the title of "Nashville Music City Ambassador" in 2011, it's clear that White has left a considerable impact on rock and roll as we know it.

 Blunderbuss sees White step out alone for the first time in recording with a collection of songs filled only with his own musical ideals and with his position as a modern rock great fairly well solidified, it's obviously an album where ideas on creating as swaggering a collection of songs as possible flow through with every sprawling blues riff, every rollicking bassline and every gracefully weathered vocal performance.
 Even in the eclectic range of musical styles that plays throughout Blunderbuss, this firm attitude of bluesy rock is ever poignant. Wither it's in the ripping punk performance of Sixteen Saltines where White's buzzsaw riffs and White's Jagger-esque shrill gives the song an extra rich texture to the gentler title track, a dusty country ballad. Even his rapid vocals throughout Freedom at 21 in accompaniment to the song's slick drum beat suggests White may have some kind of influence from his work with Wu-Tang Clan rapper RZA.
 Much alike The Stones, the songwriting on Blunderbuss swings between the more genuine lamenting likes of the all-acoustic charmer Love Interruption ad the earthly folk rock of On and On and On and the more fun playful swagger of Trash Tongue Talker and I Guess I Should Go To Sleep.
 So, Blunderbuss is pivotal in it's sheer ability to remain engaging throughout it's entire tenure. It's one of those albums where no two moments are the same and with White seeking out influences from classic blues bands, punk and garage bands, folk artists and the occasional piece of Vaudeville and making them all his very own creation, surprises to be found on every corner of the album maintaining a spirit of rock n' roll in even it's softest moments through it's earthly production and passionate performance. Jack White's mission to resurrect classic rock in this modern day and age has gained a subtle new level of power.

Jack White's Blunderbuss is out now via Third Man Records.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Review: Graham Coxon - A+E

 2012's proving itself to be a year of highs for members of Blur. The britpop heroes have had major performances from the Brit Awards (which was brilliant, I don't care what all the Adele sympathizers around me say) to the London 2012 Olympics closing ceremony, set to be the band's massive final show. As well, as that, frontman Damon Albarn's been gaining major praise with his entrancing opera Dr Dee and has seen his epic major-selling musical project Gorillaz end for now on a high note and has raised eyebrows in a positive manner with his further side project Rocketjuice and the Moon legendary Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea. As respectability for the Londoners truly hits an all time high, you'd imagine lead guitarist Graham Coxon might be feeling a similar sense of positivity to all who adore him so much. However, judging by the performance on his eighth album A+E, it seems as though Coxon's songwriting isn't penned in such a jolly state of mind at all.

 A+E finds itself rooted in a fairly bleak state of affairs where the tone on the likes of opener Advice and Bah Singer is encased in bitterness. Even on the songs that have a selection of hooks on offer like lead single What'll It Take are angry in their overall state of mind, as Coxon yells out "What'll it take to make you people dance?" and then providing a song that effectively answers his query. Well, I'd be disappointed if the song didn't cause some movement within you in some way.
 Coxon's musical craft is crucial for creating the atmosphere across A+E. While the kind of buzzsaw guitar riffs that gave Blur an extra sense of grime in their post britpop and more lo-fi based releases are a present feature, sounding perfectly grim and dirty on the likes of Meet and Drink and Pollinate and Running For Your Life, the atmospheric created from A+E's use of traditional synthesizers and drumbeats is also a prime features of giving the album an extra dark outlook. The electronics are raw and dirty sounding and it gives the songs an extra industrial thickness. The sound of City Hall and Seven Naked Valleys reveals this perfectly as electronic backdrops breathe heavily through steel plated teeth.
 That's not to say that atmosphere is achieved through electronics alone. The effect of the natural music is equally as gripping as The Truth with it's ominous tone and dirty rolling basslines reveals itself to be a furious anthem for the legions of dark lo-fi enthusiasts to pump fists to. Plus, the major wall of sound built up on Knife In the Cast effectively manages to be one of the most disturbing alt rock songs heard in a long time.
 So, it's grim; it's grimy and at a time of great positivity is surprisingly downbeat and it's a brilliant work of classic lo-fi indie rock come to life. Coxon has never really stuck to one definitive style of music and is constantly evolving throughout his eight solo albums, but this extremely raw and ominous release is a perfect setting for the dark and mischievous musical attitude that has made Coxon so well loved by Blur fans. It's an album where dirty punk riffs intertwine with haunting synthesized backdrops to create an atmospheric spacey sound. Simply, it's an album to be immersed within.

 Graham Coxon's A+E is out now via EMI. Coxon is on tour of the UK now and will tour in September with Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Review: The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet

 Wasn't the reforming of At the Drive-In meant to be one of the most talked about goings on in the world of rock music this year. I must say, I see no such evidence of such a fuss being raised regarding the issue. As far as I know, all that's come for the group is some tour dates in America and a cute little spot on the NME stage at this years Reading & Leeds festival. Not that that's bad or anything, but they're meant to be a legendary post-hardcore band and they seem to be on par with The Maccabees and dance duo Justice. Again, shouldn't more fuss be made?

 However, the lack of mass anticipation surrounding the ATD-I reunion has meant guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López and vocalist Cedric  Rodríguez-López  have been able to focus more on their more accomplished and more widely recognised prog-rock outfit, The Mars Volta and with this they have delivered their sixth album Noctourniquet and it is just a beautiful listening experience.
 Textured and layered with a mixture of slick and funky guitar riffs and shimmering, electronic backdrops with lush ethereal tranquility, the sound of the album is that which hits hard while keeping up a high level of chilled subtlety.
 Obviously the album has many moments of genuine strength and stand out moments such as Bixler-Zavala's sonic wailing of "I'm a landmine, so don't just step on me." and the instantly gripping swinging riffs that play across Lapochka is leveled with anticipation throughout.
 Though, boasting some of the bands most innovative work so far the extra lightness on Noctourniquet makes the album also one of the group's most accessible attracting more people who like their Radiohead and big choruses that would attract the most devoted Muse fans are also much more available on this album. Combining this with a greater sense of experimentation and charming songwriting makes this an album of flourishing success.
 So, it seems strange for a conceptual prog rock album to be made by two men who should be spending all their time right now bigging up the post-hardcore band that everyone is getting excited for this summer, but the focus Rodríguez-López and Rodríguez-López have put on this album truly pays off. It is every bit the work of art.

The Mars Volta's Noctourniquet is out via Warner Bros.

Review: Cancer Bats - Dead Set On Living

A general viewpoint of rock music in this day and age is that the most celebrated bands are those that sound the most real. While there has been a considerable rise of bands that have been mixing riffs with synthesizers and gone on to achieve major success, it's still the Foo Fighters that are winning big at the Grammys. It's Mastodon's The Hunter that topped the best album of the year list in Kerrang! and on my own happy little blog. It's because some of the best bands play with a sense of real purity, even if that means riffs have to come off sounding rough and rustic. And with any kind of digital trickery out the way, the only other way to give this style any extra substance is the addition of pure unrefined emotion. And with their frenzied hardcore assault sounding rougher than the post-show throats of most death metal singers, Toronto's Cancer Bats have been celebrated to no end for their perfect execution of such a musical performance.

 Their fourth album Dead Set On Living with it's original promise to have a more uplifting vibe than their previous records being turned upside down due to the near death experience of a friend of the band manages to be their roughest sounding album to date. And it's a perfect sound to highlight the overall theme of the album that celebrates the values of life with a wide emotional spectrum. While the group have been happy to let themselves fall into a world of hallucination fueled darkness, this album sees them creating a major atmosphere of darkness then searching for a way to the light across the set of twelve songs on offer.
 As a result the kind of tone and emotional impact of each song differs. And while an injection of wild positive rock and roll velocity is injected into tracks like Old Blood and Bricks & Mortar, darkness lives (To quote Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones) on the battered hardcore opener R.A.T.S and the chill inducing doom metal structure found on The Void. The band even manage to achieve the unthinkable and evoke a sense of melancholy and sympathy through playing roughened hardcore riffs on Road Sick and New World Alliance with their tones of hope and desperation.
 Needless to say, the performance of these songs are breathtaking. The unrefined growls of frontman Liam Cormier match the rest of the album in his roughness with a voice that ranges from spoken vocals with a pinch of bitterness to joyous screaming when covering happier ground. There's also a musical progression as well and on a much greater extent for this album, stoner grooves are unleashed at full force giving an extra pulse to the likes of Breathe Armageddon and Drunken Physics. So I fell in love with the album pretty instantly for that. The stoner groove is probably the best thing invented... ever.
 So, rougher and more lovable, it's clear that Cancer Bats have made a storming return on this album. Dead Set On Living is pretty much the exact kind of album that defines the type of rock music so it so widely celebrated. Their time has come to join forces with the bigger ranks in Mastodon and the Foo Fighters. Albums like these are the reason rock music is at it's best when substance is put over style.

Cancer Bats' Dead Set On Living is out now via Distort. The band will partake in the Pentagram Tour of London on 21st of April, play at Hit the Deck Festival on 22nd April in Nottingham, play at the Slam Dunk Festival across the UK in May, play at Download Festival at Donnington Park, Derby on 8th June and play at Reading and Leeds Festival  on 24th-25th August.

Review: Halestorm - The Strange Case Of...

 All of the sudden, Pennsylvania's Halestorm have made a sudden ascent in the world of mainstream rock music and have decided they're going to be the biggest band in the world. It's a terrifying leap from being a band that has gotten airtime for their music every now and then to becoming what seems to be a band of pivotal importance as we know it in the world of hard rock today. And fair enough. Along with Shinedown and Black Stone Cherry, the quartet acquire the skill of crafting hard hitting rock song filled with infectious hooks and sing-along choruses but have enough extra power and sense of soul to avoid their music simply becoming American radio fodder. It's a powerful skill to have as a rock band, and on their second release, The Strange Case Of... the group have it nailed to a tee.

 As heard on February's Hello It's Mz. Hyde EP, Halestorm are allowing their twisted aggression and sense of desire and passion for playing rock n' roll be the driving force on this album as the magnificent Love Bites (So Do I) opens up proceedings on this album. Driven by a pummeling force of jagged riffs fueled by energy and testosterone, it sets the tone for an album of grimy and sultry hard rock.
 However, the band deliver more than just speedy rock music and the performance of tracks like Mz. Hyde and Rock Show have a much greater sense of atmospheric depth gleaming across the performances making them even more captivating as the textured lead guitar skill of Joe Hottinger remain bedazzling and captivating.
 More captivating throughout the album is the incredible and adaptable performance of frontwoman Lzzy Hale. Indeed, it seems a cliche now for female fronted rock bands to have their frontwoman totally analysed and dissected with not much room to consider other band members, however, in the case of Lzzy Hale, such a thing must be done. Her voice is perfect for the range of songs across the album changing from a twisted and deranged rocker performance on the likes of I Miss the Misery and Daughters of Darkness to having the sense of wild insanity elevated to more epic gothic levels for Freak Like Me. More importantly, it is in the shining ballads of The Strange Case Of... where the true beauty of Hale's vocals are revealed as Beautiful With You and Break In both manage to be captivating and touching in their emotional impact. Reading this paragraph back, I realise I was being creepily complementary. But I really couldn't think of any other way to explain the voice of Lzzy Hale. I guess I seem like a creep now.
 Really, The Strange Case Of... is hard rock perfection. Halestorm manage to nail down all the perfect ingredients to make a perfect rock hit and make it their own thing entirely. And if they do become the biggest band in the world, I will not be in protest of such a thing at all.

Halestorm's The Strange Case Of... is out now via Atlantic. The band will play at the Download Festival at Donnington Park, Derby on the 9th of June.

Review: Lostprophets - Weapons

 I have to stop going abroad. I have missed a ton of major rock and metal releases so that I could go abroad to Tenerife and get sunburn. My logic is ridiculous. However, I've made my return and with no plan to leave the wonderful UK for the rest of the year, I'll try to make sure I'm never to far from any major release. So, to begin my desperate comeback, my best choice of what to do right now i to review what has probably been one of the biggest selling albums since my departure. I don't actually know if it has been biggest selling, but it's a band that people at my school have actually heard of and my school's not exactly filled with hipsters, so it's highly likely that it was. Let's look at Weapons by Lostprophets.

 Without a doubt, Lostprophets are a band that have tasted the victory of being at the forefront of the British rock scene. With countless stadium filler anthems like Last Train Home, Burn Burn and Rooftops under their belt, it's clear that they've left a major impact on the world of modern rock as we know it. However, in recent years, the Pontypridd sextet have seen this leading position decline and in 2012, the Prophets are living in the shadows of the Biffys, the Shikaris and the... Yous Mes at Sixes. It's little wonder that their fighting attitude is still present even on their fifth album Weapons.
 As the mass buildup on opener Bring 'Em Down explodes into the heart-pounding array of frenzied riffs and pulsing electronics, the fighter attitude is unleashed and heard across the album, as the band chant the likes of "If you bring a gun, then we'll bring an arsenal/ if you think we're done, we'll bring it, we'll sing it" on We Bring an Arsenal or "Adversity has become part of my destiny/ I'd rather die on my feet, than ever live on my knees." on the uncontrollable rap rock assault of Better Off Dead.
 This attitude is the main tone of weapons and the result is mostly a collection of gutsy hard rock song. Needless to say, aggression isn't always at the helm of the mind of frontman Ian Watkins. Jesus Walks is definitely the most feel-good hit that Lostprophets have created as gentle atmospheric synth backdrops heighten the warm sweetness the song provides. Sweet enough for the other songs aimed to divert listeners from wanting to start wars in their own backyards don't really stand up in comparison. While still perfectly enjoyable, the performances on A Song For Where I'm From and the collection of "weepie" ballads Somedays, A Little Reminder That I'll Never Forget don't stand up quite as well in comparison. Somedays in particular is quite hilarious if you're not easily swayed by ballads and are a cynical bastard like myself.
 Overall, Weapons is a brilliant comeback effort from Lostprophets. Their sense of fighting spirit and anthemic glory that took them to the top of the rock scene in the first place lives within them and they're still very much capable of crafting songs that are genuinely epic in their sense of grandeur and furious performance. Well, it's fantastic to see these boys back. Even if they don't see themselves becoming modern rock legends again, their sense of ambition gives them the right to have such a title.

 Lostprophets' Weapons is out now via Epic. The band are on tour of the UK with Modestep.

Monday, 2 April 2012

An explanation for my silence

 Good afternoon to you all. I have no idea if this blog has viewers who actually come back after reading more than one post, wither I have any kind of devoted following or not. Probably not. Anyway, in case I'm wrong and you are a recurring reader of ROARF, you may notice I've been rather absent of late. I have a good excuse for this this time. I've been on a history trip for the past four days and it was incredible. It was an emotional trip to various areas in Europe which saw major action during the First and Second World War and it must be said, the trip was very emotional and educationally beneficial in regards to the issue. We spent two nights in the Belgium town of Ypres attending various memorial services and discovering the history of the town. There was something of a bleak outlook across the town and we often felt it as well. After visiting the town's woods with rough bumps across the entire ground descended entirely from droppings of shell and trailing through the dense underground caverns, it certainly became obvious why the late David Gold decided to name his blackened doom metal band after such an area in the world.
 But there were enjoyable times as well. Greater friendships were made, laughs were shared and more relevantly to this section, music was shared and loved. The friends I shared a room with, Mark, Donald and Alister are all very much music enthusiasts with our tastes all varying from different places. It meant that there was a wide range of artists being played over the past few days, from Australian metalcore heroes Parkway Drive, to late hip hop royalty Tupac, to classic dubstep producer Benga, to Swedish stoner rock masters Truckfighters and almost everything that comes between. It allowed us all to walk away with a greater expansion in all our music tastes on genres we may have had lesser knowledge on.
 So, from a musical view, the trip had many perks. And as we know, some time away from home is beneficial to everyone. Which brings me effectively onto my next point. For the next week and a bit, I'm going to continue to find myself away from all you wonderful regular readers. (If you exist. I'm not going to come up with some collective fan base name because I'm not an arrogant cult-leading twat.) I'm going to spend the rest of my spring holidays wisely somehow and basically relax in the most popular Canary Island, Tenerife. I go with my family pretty often, at least going for once a year. My basic plan for the holiday is to take long strolls on my own through the various towns on the island listening to any album I want on my iPod and walk past miserable English families who are all choked up together and hating their supposed dream-like family holiday destination due to large amounts of cockroaches and getting sunburn. Why didn't they see it coming? So, the main plan is to walk past people like these with a big smile on my face and possibly some big riffs in my ears.
 And I also plan on doing lots of studying for my Advanced Higher exams when they tragically emerge in May, which in a relaxed and peaceful setting will probably be way more effective than staying in rowdy old Blairgowrie. So, the plan for the next few days is to do things that in no way involve using the internet. Which is useful because there's never any internet connection in Tenerife. Although, there was a mysterious appearance of connection in 2010. Seems unlikely to happen again. So it's most likely that you're probably not going to hear any reviews from me for ages, which is really awkward because there's loads of new releases I want to check out appearing all over the place.
 So, to conclude, if you thought I was being a lazy bastard in terms of blogging, I'm not. I'm just going places and learning for my exams. Will probably see you in a long time and then try and write six reviews in one day in an attempt to seem current. BYE.