Saturday, 28 April 2012

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.

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