Thursday, 22 November 2012

Review: Crystal Castles - (III)

 Been waiting a while to write about this one, frankly it's taken me this long to find the words to describe it. But after a recommendation, or rather demand from a friend to check out and review the new Crystal Castles album, I couldn't exactly refuse. It was an eventuality that I check them out anyway with mass critical acclaim surrounding their simply titled third album (III). And in a world where gaining critical acclaim is by making an album that turns heads the world over, this is definitely a deserving album.

 It's not exactly an album of the rock music variety but with the band's name emerging in crowds of fellow indie bands, there should be an association but on my first full time of listening to the band, the music doesn't have the cool indie vibes I was expecting. What the album does is serve as a beginners guide to industrial dance music, without having the simplicity of many "beginners" bands. And it keeps you constantly gripped in utter suspense.

 Opener Plague sets the musical ideal of the album as a rise of synthesizers upholding a soulful tone that plunges straight into darkness. And within this shift of club-friendly synthesizers into a much more blackened grinding atmosphere, the imagery immersing within one's mind is that of a grim reality of life, particularly in regards to the whole idea of clubbing, which I'm sure you'll know becomes less and less glitzy and glamourous the more the night goes along. The contrast between the poppy basslines and harsh industrial soundscapes is the musical equivalent of that popular film/TV show advertising technique where the uplifting good-times scenes are harshly disrupted by the quick shots of random civilians being hacked up by a faceless stranger in front of a burning building. Or something.

 The rest of the album continues in the vein of distressing dance music with your attention constantly focused on the beats and scathing backdrops produced by the band that sound reminiscent of names like Ministry and Godflesh. With it's range of broken samples, the likes of Kerosene and Pale Flesh uphold the undead nightclub imagery where all the pleasure of dancing is grounded to a chilling halt. And the haunting performance of Alice Glass really serves as the iron plated icing on the cake.

 Often, Glass' performance actually succeeds in making the album a dreamier affair. Siren-esque if you will, as she willingly drags you closer to her voice before realising you've walked into the undead nightclub. Affection's performance sounds positively framed for a shoegaze band with synthesizers adapted to match it. Even in the horror, her vocals are a source of immense charm, expressed best in the moments where production is at it's most sparkling on the likes of Wrath of God and Telepath.

 But the prime focus of this album is certainly set on having a trick up it's sleeve delivered through intense trance beats and horrific industrial soundscapes, reaching the height of it's intensity on Sad Eyes, a song that would be easy for me to describe as an industrial take on the Big Brother theme tune, but would therefore reveal an insultingly low knowledge on dance music as a whole. And yet ending the album on the deceptively warm Child, I Will Hurt You, perhaps the most shocking moment that effectively turns around all you've heard of the album so far, sounding like a far more delicately woven effort from the band which actually seeks to uplift. Except it doesn't. It leaves you stunned.

 As the album ends and you crawl out of the undead nightclub covered in cuts and mental scars that will never leave you, you realise how engaging an album (III) is. In many ways, it's contradictory in it's statement as Crystal Castles take the beloved style of mainstream dance music, a style of music designed to resemble escapism from the grind of real life, particularly in the context of a club, and slam it together with this cold industrial soundscaping that re-instate the grim reality of life and horror that goes beyond that. It's an album to mess with your perceptions, haunt your dreams and leave you feeling uneasy. And there's nothing more exciting than an album like that.

Crystal Castles' (III) is out now via Polydor. The band are on tour of the UK now.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Review: Cradle of Filth - The Manticore and Other Horrors

 I'm almost too much of a Cradle of Filth fanboy to let this review happen, but needs must so let's go for it. It's no secret that Suffolk's main icon have long since lost their shock factor and immense profiling. Once a time came when they were the public eye's first guide to an extreme metal band, being name-checked in all aspects of mainstream culture. They were referenced on Coronation Street, The IT Crowd and the immortal internet cartoon Burnt Face Man and managed to cause a stir in the public's eyes with the release of their "Jesus is a Cunt" T-Shirt. But these days are long gone and since then they seemed to have entered a low stage of their career, with the release of last year's Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa being the first time I felt disappointed listening to an album back in my fifteen-year-old state of "Oh, I listen to Slipknot and Cradle of Filth. I'm so dark" atrocity.

 So, now that the band isn't the same band I viewed as icons in my confused teenager days (Wait, I still am a conf-) hearing the announcement of the release of their tenth album The Manticore and Other Horrors isn't nearly as exciting as it may have once been. And going into the album with that state of mind means you're only going to come out thinking the same about the music.

 It's not a complete lull in any way though. It starts off promising enough, with The Unveiling of O actually having an intro track once again, the staple of a Cradle of Filth album,  something that Venus Aversa was painfully lacking in. And as this grandiose opener bursts straight into the massively sized opening of The Abhorrent, signs of Cradle regaining their extremity can be heard, as the perfect mix of heavy riffage and showmanship meet with Dani Filth's new vocal style continuing to sprawl in a dirty narrative tone, showing that this is a band that still wants to uphold it's theatricality.

 That said, references to riffs is important for The Manticore, as this album finally allows guitarists Paul Allender act as the driving force on several songs. For Your Vulgar Dedication and Manticore, his riffs actually manage to be catchy and take on a greater crust punk and rock and roll influence. And  with this album being promised to be a more rock and roll release from the band, hearing them slightly more stripped down is enjoyable.

 And that's one reason you'll leave this album disappointed because that moment of a stripped down Cradle of Filth is actually very rare. Across the album, the band continue to churn out overblown extreme metal works practically leaking symphonic and choral effects that just don't make any real impact on the songs. Plus, Dani's attempts to bring as much theatricality as possible loses it's charm very quickly. Frost on Her Pillow is painfully unscary and melodramatic, while his narrative on the simple opening of Palid Reflection effectively ruins what could have been a very cool rock and roll opening. By the time you get the usage of digital vocal effects on Succumb to This, it's difficult to keep oneself listening to the album.

 With that, it's difficult to know what Cradle of Filth can really do from here because The Manticore and Other Horrors sounds like blatant evidence that their days of recording classic albums are probably behind them. I could see Dani working well as a producer, maybe. Either way, they probably should find something new because I really don't know how much longer I can go on with hearing a band that I have so much confused respect for do something so lacking in quality or substance. They try to put on a more rock and roll signature to their work, but it has little bite and makes you realise how much better a band Goatwhore are. Even when there's so much going on in the background with orchestras and choirs, the songs are still unremarkable. All you can see here is a band that was once ferocious within the public eye officially marking out their fall from grace. It's agony. Fifteen-year-old me is crying in the corner right now.

Cradle of Filth's The Manticore and Other Horrors is out now via Peaceville. The band will play at The Forum in London on the 19th December

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Review: Hacktivist - Hacktivist

 To look at the debut EP from London quintet Hacktivist is to take a real examination on the way that all forms of music has advanced in the past few years. You have to examine the youthful, more richly textured take on progressive metal that has formed in the beloved "djent" scene and you have to look at the way that electronics and hip hop has been bubbling in the UK underground scene to give the grime style an extreme edge that would never get any artists that practiced it in it's true form a spot in the singles charts. The idea of bringing together a union of the two styles seems ludicrous. But this isn't a band that thinks so.

 Now obviously, the idea of rap metal isn't new and in the constant wave of new deathcore bands, there has been some evidence of certain bands with frontmen choosing to throw us back ten years by unleashing their inner Fred Durst *coughs* Emmure *coughs* Deez Nuts *coughs*. But Hacktivist are truly putting something new and fully extreme on the table here. Formed by former members of Heart of a Coward, a band doing the rounds for genuinely heavy progressive metal in Britain, meeting with vocalist J Hurley an aspiring grime artist, the band have fused their styles together as you can immediately hear from the start of New Age, a hopelessly apt title expressing exactly what bands like this are trying to introduce, which opens with a tensely toned backdrop crafted on airy synthesizers creating misty atmospheres of sorts, before the intense djent breakdowns slam into action accompanied by the intense rapping between Hurley and Ben Marvin. And with heaviness coming from both aspects and backed by the overwhelmingly powerful backing texture weaved together by the guitar and electronic arrangements by Timfy James, the music does really send you beyond the feeling of being sat down in earphones.

 Throughout the album the band effortlessly reveal their ability to be on top of their game in all they do. Hurley and Marvin's rapping on Unlike Us and Cold Shoulders is spat out with a razor edged ferocity and speed that perfectly compliments the sharp grooves of James. And with a scathing attitude from their rapping, it almost sounds as heavy as the Meshuggah sized guitars and basslines of Josh Gurner. Cold Shoulders in particular is a fine demonstration in just how dramatic and awe-inspiring the band's songwriting can be as the rapping and soaring melodies from James are carried off with a sweat-inducing urgency and breathtaking sense of woe as the band's lyrical assaults on society reaches it's peak.

 While Blades and the band's eponymous track are also similarly breathtaking but overall do little to divert from the style of the rest of the EP, being similarly awash within in-your-face rapping, immersive backdrops and blasting electronics that break the riffs apart to emphasise how heavy the entire music really is.

 But a problem of repetition with music like this really isn't that big a problem because the entire EP is an immense gathering of something entirely new, fresh and a spectacular representation of the advancement of UK music in fields of metal and hip hop. It's heavy in both the powerhouse crushing of progressive grooves and the pulsing vigor of Hurley and Marvin's energetic rapping. And with this combination of filth, immersive wonder and headbang-inducing blasting, Hacktivist really are taking us into the future.

Hacktivist's Hacktivist is out now via self-release.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Review: Motionless In White - Infamous

 I remember about this time last year, I had built up some kind of desire to make a post which would basically comprise of em talking about how I disliked Scranton sextet Motionless in White as they appeared to be on the cusp of becoming the next big thing in the world of metal. It was on my first listening, I couldn't get into it, their music seemed to lack structure, felt disjointed and the melodic moments just left me longing for the return of the much richer sounding Eighteen Visions. But that probably would have been a bad idea because 2010 debut Creatures turned out to be one of those albums that need to be listened to several times to get fully into. And when you did, there was no going back. So now we come to the group's second album Infamous their first release as a fully recognised bad who have some reputation of taking brutal metalcore beatdowns and bringing in giant influence from a gothic metal point of view to darken up the edges that other breakdown-heavy bands were relying on. And does the music live up to the group's reputation of being truly infamous? You fucking bet it does.

 What basically seems to have happened is that with Creatures, the band took the world of metalcore by storm. The people who loved their meaty breakdowns writhed in moshpits to the immense density of Abigail and Immaculate Misconception and with that they became the band that could turn this state of metalcore into something much more interesting and theatrically brutal. But Motionless in White didn't have time for that scene and the idea of staying in the same group of bands as For All Those Sleeping, Make Me Famous, I am King and many many many, oh god so many more didn't seem right. And with this reputation from being a fearsome metalcore band the band have gone on drop the main principles of what they achieved on Creatures and done their very own thing for Infamous taking their influence from somewhere that could never touch the metalcore world. And I know five words that could effectively sum up where a large proportion of their influence seems to have been taken from: The Golden Age of Grotesque.

 I know that the band have on countless occasions talked about their love for Marilyn Manson, but the overall performance on Infamous takes it to a whole new level. Some of the heaviest sing-along choruses can be heard on the massive A-M-E-R-I-C-A the band's bitter examination of Hollywood and how icons are made there and the structure is so Golden Age-esque you can hear shades of Manson in every section of the song. Likewise, the jaw dropping rush of The Divine Infection is highly reminiscent of mOBSCENE and Hatefuck is a perfect reflection of Slutgarden sounding as fresh as the original song does nine years on. Even the tense balladry of Sinematic sounds like it fits perfectly within Manson's less-than-accomplished 2007 effort Eat Me, Drink Me while still being carried off with the band's raw heaviness.

 But there's all kinds of influences across this album from the darkened performers that gave the 1990's and early 2000's that stopped being the godly figures you thought they were as soon as you got halfway through sixteen. And when you hear these songs it suddenly makes those bands a whole lot cooler again. The rumbling rock and roll melodies accompanied by blasting electronics that form Devil's Night that show off a startling Rob Zombie influence to their songwriting, while the bleak piano opening that is immediately triggered into a jaw-dropping extreme metal riff-fest from Rick Olson and Ryan Stickowski that opens the album Black Damask (The Fog) was clearly constructed with a Cradle of Filth influence on mind, which continues onto If It's Dead, We'll Kill It in which frontman Chris Motionless manages to out-Dani Filth Dani Filth. At his melodic moments, Motionless obtains his Eighteen Visions reminiscence but has also taken what sounds like influence from early HIM releases, bringing in an extra sense of gothic bleakness. Even traces of Disturbed can be heard with the grooves that open synthetic love with an opening growl of "AH-HAH" from Motionless that would make David Draiman proud.

 But this is no album that shows a band falling fully into a realm of recording commercially successful alt metal. Motionless in White are a tight band make no mistake. The grooves of Burned at Both Ends sounds closer to Machine Head in their songwriting while Puppets 2 (The Rain) proves there's absolutely no reason to lose faith in them as a metalcore band just yet. The breakdowns are slammed down to create a venomous brutality while Underdog delivers the grooves with gritted teeth and a spaying of "Fuck yous"'s that immediately conjures up Pantera imagery that proves that Motionless in White are so much more than a band in white make up and dyed hair. This really is an band not to get on the wrong side of. These people are genuine rockstars.

 But most of all, what this album does is make me think of when I was fifteen years old and possessed a music collection that I'm now glad I've gone beyond. That music taste only really featured alternative metal and groove metal and metalcore bands. My taste has moved beyond that and become much more in depth but surely there was a time when I was happy to just listen to that. Infamous is an album that proudly wears it's influences from the likes of Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie and Cradle of Filth on their sleeves and still use them to create a collection of songs that sees Motionless in White move on from the beatdown after beatdown formula of the other bands that Creatures put them on the same stage as and become more mature, more accomplished and more real musicians than their first album could ever have set them up to be. And in their intense performances with these influences, you're reminded of how good albums like The Golden Age of Grotesque really are and it definitely puts you in the mood to listen to those albums with a smile on your face and realise just how indestructible the mainstream sounding metal that got big at the start of this century really was. And this time last year, I was going to tell you not to believe the hype of this band. No, believe it. This is an album that makes The Golden Age of Grotesque the coolest album in the world again while being a masterpiece on it's own.

Motionless in White's Infamous is out now via Fearless. The band will tour the UK in January with Asking Alexandria, While She Sleeps and Betraying the Martyrs.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

New Found Power: Cold Summer

 With enough luck, I should be able to let this new feature to my blog take off. I've always wanted to have the chance to interview members of up and coming bands from across the world, so with enough luck I can interest some bands and make this at least a monthly thing, with the title of "New Found Power" because the world really doesn't have enough Damageplan references.

For my first interview of this feature, I've been lucky enough to pose questions to Wakefield quartet Cold Summer, who I got to know in June with the release of their second full-length EP Wake, a collection of bold songs bursting with hardcore energy, giant hard rock melodies and a wide outburst of emotion throughout. It was the follow-up to their debut EP Transitions released in January, the first steps of a young British rock band bursting with grated potential to be leaders in the country's current rock music scene where bands like Young Guns and Lower Than Atlantis reign with their ability to craft songs with intoxicating hooks while displaying progressive and post-hardcore influences off as well. But I haven't looked at the band since June, so it seems like time we did some catching up...

Last time you were featured here was when I looked at the stellar Wake EP in June, which feels like ages ago since I was still at school. How has life in Cold Summer camp been since then? 

Not too bad really, we’ve been busy writing some new songs to add to our set and since that’s taken a lot of the time we have around working full time and everything else in life, we haven’t unfortunately spent a lot of time on the road . I wouldn't say we’ve neglected it but we haven’t been out there as much as we’d like to be. Our last show was back in August supporting Lemuria and it’s just come to my attention and I was sincerely in absolute shock it had been 8+ weeks since we’d played a show. However the shows we have done have been pretty great so we’re now looking forward to a few more of them in November / December playing some new tracks as well as the ones off of Wake.

As you said, one of the big stories is that you guys are in the middle of recording some new songs. Is the material on Wake a good indication of what to expect? Or will there be some unexpected curveballs thrown in there?

Wake was our first release we were happy with. We’d previously released a demo with our old vocalist in the early stages of the band and Transitions was discarded to some extent. I think people could see we were still developing but the way they were executed and factors involved didn’t work for us so I’d say yeah Wake is a reference point and a good indication of a fairly new band finding our sound so yeah, I mean there will be some characteristics people will perhaps hear on our new songs, but will no doubt see other ideas/inspiration coming into play now we are in this supposed comfort zone of finding the bands sound with a settled group of people involved.

Are there any further plans for a full album in sight yet?

Well, a big factor for us is with continuing our recording partnership with Bob Cooper (Hawk Eyes, Watch Commander, Burn Daylight) we’re really set at our next release being a full album, it's going to include songs from both the Wake session (with additional mixing, mastering, vocal takes) and the 3 songs we've just recorded now, we had some limitations with time and money before so we felt a tiny bit under whelmed only releasing a 5 track EP because we were really happy with those songs but had several we were still working on that we didn't have finished in time to record, let alone the money together to get them down in the studio.

I was happy to see more things being done with A is for Arson with it gaining radio play and having a music video made, which is seriously awesome because it's definitely one of my favourite individual songs of the year. Are you planning on doing anything further with it like including it on further EPs?

Yeah, we felt that was the best one to work with as a music video. It was the most suitable song to build visually around the music and lyrics we’d created using implicit and sub textual connotations with the help of a friend acting and the set we put together, though I think literally ‘burning buildings down’ would have got us in a lot of trouble! Having radio play is something completely new to us and we were quite appreciative that these all came off the back of pretty much reviewers like yourself and who just happen to work at a radio station. If all goes to plan, yeah all the songs off of ‘Wake’ will make it onto our debut album, it is a bit of shame though that the music video is currently offline due to some red tape legal issues between us and the production company who filmed it, so we’re looking at filming another one soon for one of the new songs especially if this isn't resolved.

When you toured with Lemuria in August, did you win yourselves some new fans at those shows? And how's the turnout for your local shows, do the people of Wakefield come along for some post-hardcore?

Well yeah I think to say we’ve not been on the road as much as we would have liked, things have gone really well, we always seem to get a good turn out at shows wherever we play, I guess this is a combination of good luck and we try our best to help promoters out with promoting the shows too. One thing that excites me is we get to play a variation of shows with slightly different styles (but all in the punk / hardcore realm I guess!) like when we played with Lemuria & our friends Hearts & Souls we were pretty much the heaviest band on the bill, the week before we had played in Wakefield with some heavier bands (Foundations, Anchored by Avarice) so it definitely works for us being able to play these different shows and not sound out of place, have someone who’s never heard of us before listen to our record when they get home.. or worst of all clear the room.

In Wakefield it’s a very weird predicament. It’s a very healthy musical city, you can name several high profile bands that have come from this place, you can name some bands that have toured and toured for a decade from here and you can no doubt be here all day naming bands from here that are currently active, what there seems to be though is something you could call a music scene, well for for our style I guess. I have to fully back the indie music scene as there seems to be some form unity or scene as you will.  Like any place it’s clicky I guess. We’ve actually not played Wakefield that much apart from like our first show, there isn’t that many venues putting shows on, our practice rooms sometimes host DIY shows where we’ve played one, but usually they are down the straight forward hardcore route.. so we’ve not been asked to play one of those yet, once we add some two step parts I can see that happening. I saw a friends band who did face a few confused faces and folded arms when they did! The Hop is a good venue but we’ve had a few invitations to play that we’ve had to decline due to clashing with other shows we’ve had booked but our fourth ever show  there is our next one this coming Saturday, so at least when we do play it’s a special one and we’re supporting a great punk rock band called The Cut Ups who are on their UK Tour.

Looking on your Facebook description page, the list of bands that influence you is amazing as well as fairly diverse, going from Queens of the Stone Age to Tool to A Day to Remember. How do you manage to look at the style of this giant list of bands and manage to do your own thing with it? And what's your collective favourite band out of them or favourite band ever? I'm tragically into talking about just bands.

Yeah I guess that list can be a bit of a misleading one as I’m sure some of those bands don’t particularly mix that well and it is a diverse one, we just put it together as bands most of us listen to on a regular basis with varying taste and I guess a bit of tolerance as well. I don’t agree with it being a source of validating a bands sound or genre specific, I’m confident one or two boxes are firmly ticked in that we’re a band passionate about writing our own music and bands who put out records we love, I think that’s our outlook as a band so we aren't really into being too tied to rules of what you can and can’t listen to if you want to be classified as a genre specific band, having said that I think if we’re to be given a tag, the post hardcore tag suits us fine, we’re influenced by bands of that genre, we like heavy, aggressive, emotional music but we also like to write melodic, structured songs that sometimes that style of music can’t delve into without sounding like another band.

Well, it's not the first time Facebook's been misleading. Coming from Wakefield in West Yorkshire, is there some kind of bursting wave of underground bands worth checking out that no one knows about? Who are the other local heroes?

West Yorkshire is quite active and its encouraging stuff we have some really great bands around us that have a similar outlook but with us all not really sounding that alike at all. For me an underground band that have threaten to surface as of late are Marmozets, they are from Bingley and have been lucky enough to play a few high profile tours and festivals this year, they put so much energy into their playing, and then coupled with the fact they are very good musicians it opens so many doors for their song writing especially on the EP ‘Vexed’ and single ‘Good Days’ that has just come out, for me they have The Perfect Beverage of passion and progression. My friends play in a band called Curses who make a bit of unholy racket they put out an awesome EP a while ago but as of late have been a bit quiet despite in the past playing Ghostfest and supporting bands like La Dispute and Touché Amore. They’ve been hard at work writing some new songs and they have a bit of a line up shuffle so they should be back playing shows very soon. Again on the heavier side of things we have our friends in Armgeddin’ Outta Here who have put out a great first demo as of a late and we’ve played with a couple of times, really good dudes and they are awesome live. Our friends in Hearts & Souls well like a lot of bands I like to talk about do what they do in a similar fashion to us, they really do their own thing and despite our two bands sounding very different we still play shows with these now and again, and it has been pretty interesting hearing this bands sound evolve further when we’ve heard their new stuff live over the past couple of months.

 Big thanks to the guys in Cold Summer for their words. Do yourself a favour and listen to and buy Wake. It's definitely worth it, especially if it's a sign of what's to come for this band. They're really cool guys who know what they're doing and what they're talking about. And it's always great to get the words of other people on this blog.

If you are a singer or member of a rock and roll band and would like to have some kind of interview, you can contact me, by finding me on Skype at "andyrfdavidson" or finding me on Twitter at @AndyrfDavidson or finding me on my Facebook page. After all how cool would it be to introduce the world to some New Found Power, right?

Cold Summer's Wake is out now via Self-Release.

Live review: Architects, The Garage, Glasgow

 I've heard the saying "Take the risk, reap the reward" used one or two times before but I've never really known who the quote is acknowledged to. Either way, I got a little taste of the quote for myself last night. See, you'd think that when you have long day at university in Aberdeen starting with a lecture at 9am, the last thing you'd want to do on the night before is get a train to Glasgow and go and see one an evening of some devastatingly loud groups including two of Britain's finest current metal bands with a friend you hadn't seen in ages. Yet, when my friend Mark who still has to endure several months at the High School of Dundee asked me if I was interested in getting tickets to see Architects, I knew I was there.

 I've installed some trust in the Glasgow Garage as a good place for a live show ever since seeing While She Sleeps live, a show that still stands out as one of my finest gigging experiences and tonight certainly doesn't fail to disappoint. Walking towards the venue, we pass the Glasgow O2 ABC, where the Rock Sound Riot Tour 2012, headlined by the similarly brilliant Billy Talent is taking place, but at The Garage, we have louder, meatier, more brutal and far more intense proceedings ahead of us.

 Walking up the stairs to the main stage, we can already feel our bodies shaking from the immense growling of the bass that comes from opening act The Acacia Strain, undoubtedly the bleakest names in the world of deathcore, who allow their selection of breakdowns to be slowly churned out one after the other with enough of a doom plated atmosphere for frontman Vincent Bennett to yell out lines from Black Sabbath songs and tell the crowd not to fear death. It's some onstage banter. As solid an effort as they put in the only real crowd reaction they receive is from the... (groans)... hardcore dancers. I have no idea where this trend came from but they were all over the place distorting their bodies all over the room looking like rejects from 28 Days Later, yet the overtly bleak deathcore of The Acacia Strain somehow soundtracked the tomfoolery perfectly. But if that band did anything they served as an instant reminder of just how loud the music is at gigs and some bands and their fans still strongly believe in using only brutality to communicate art.

 What we need then is a band that can harness that same kind of immense brutality and heaviness that The Acacia Strain possesses and use it in the process of writing genuine songs. Thankfully, the stunning Bury Tomorrow knows just what they're doing there. As we approach the front of the stage, the band emerge with a heroes welcome and triumphantly open to everyone's sheer delight with Lionheart, a song that truly boasts out the fresh direction that metalcore is travelling in to make it's triumphant return to the spotlight of all things respectable. It also means the entire crowd is leaping with delirium within seconds displaying nothing but ultimate love and admiration for this band. And as they play a short but memorable comprising largely of songs from this year's spectacular The Union of Crowns, the crowd fall head over heals for the dominating stage presence of Daniel Winter-Bates and soaring melodies of guitarist Jason Cameron sounding as awe-inspiring live as it does on record. Winter-Bates' most commanding moment comes out near the end of the band's set when the audience is commanded in a Slipknot-Spit it Out live-show way to get down on the ground and only leap up upon his command. I'm sure at one point, I jokingly shouted out "Not until I say 'Get the fuck up!'" and gaining lots of love from everyone. And it's done with absolute perfection, proving the beginnings of a life in bury Tomorrow that could take them towards the main stage of several festivals. And as they leave with a bigger reaction than The Acacia Strain and the act that follows, my faith in metal is restored.

 I left for the gig with the knowledge from a previous attender of a gig in which they performed that Deez Nuts are terrible live, but it was my turn to make my opinion on what the Brisbane rapcore crew are made of. At at first case it seemed like most people in the crowd were told that the band were terrible live and don't want to show any affection. And sure enough as they first appear on stage, the audience keep their feet firmly rooted to the ground with the occasional head bobbing a bit. The entire band are on monstrous form with the riffs and basslines from Matt Rogers and Jon Green sounding truly gnarly and one of the loudest features of the evening, but when you're in a group billed as a rap-influenced hardcore band, everyone wants to hear frontman JJ Peters doing some rapping and hear what kind of verses he can bust out, but it's often impossible to hear him over the rest of the band. It's a slow start, however, once the band see that they've gained enough of a crowd to satisfy their assaults they become more comfortable and gain a much larger reaction from the crowd. And as that happens, JJ becomes a far more engaging and welcomed frontman, gaining crowd affection as he recites lyrics to Tupac's Hail Mary to a riff-laden backdrop and dedicating new song Popular Demand to the late great Mitch Lucker. And so, they leave the stage with the admiration of the hardcore kids in baseball caps and gaining some love from the more sophisticated audience members.

 But the affection gained by all these bands tonight cannot even begin to compare to the cheering that soundtracks the jubilant welcome onstage to tonight's headliners. It's hard to believe that a band that formed in 2004 could already do something that could be considered a "greatest hits" set but Architects have delivered such a high quality with all their work that so many of their songs dominated by technical mastery and simultaneously catchy melodies have the sound of what you could consider a greatest hit. Opening with the monolithic and dramatic Alpha Omega from their highly acclaimed Daybreaker shows a lot of pride and rightful belief that they hold in their latest work. As they go on, they prove that in spite of their efforts to make a heavier album to put people's minds off of it, they still hold a lot of pride in last year's The Here and Now dropping Day in Day Out and Learn to Live early on in the set. And it's followed up with a large output of material from Daybreaker and 2009's legendary Hollow Crown meaning the grooves laid down by Tom Searle and touring guitarists Josh Middleton (There is still nowhere online to listen to Sylosis' Monolith online) and Adam Christianson gain such an immense reaction that the ground is practically left shaking from the massive jumping laid down to Dethroned, Follow the Water and the incredible Early Grave. I certainly haven't ever jumped so high in my life but the commanding presence of Sam Carter demands for a crowd to be on their feet at a constant rate. No excuses for anyone to not be feeling energized. And with the end of a show, a refreshed crowd have effortlessly screamed their lungs out to a greatest hits set of spectacularly written metalcore songs. We are watching a constantly underrated band that always had an ability to become leading forces in metal today take on another step in their continually growing plight to becoming the commanding forces they've long deserved to be. And what a beautiful sight it is.

 It was undoubtedly a spectacular gig back at The Garage with four amazingly heavy bands giving us a bangover of stony proportions. From the sludgy deathcore of The Acacia Strain to set everyone up for immense loudness to the hard-partying rap rock of Deez Nuts to the true evidence of a new generation in British metal letting out two of their finest voices in the form of Bury Tomorrow and Architects. Even if our leave is a little early, it is a wholly satisfactory one and we leave with smiles on our faces and it definitely feels like I've been rewarded for taking a massive risk to watch some metal. Of course their is the follow up to the gig today, which involves missing trains to Aberdeen, most of my day at University and also involving walking through Aberdeen at -1° C wearing only the beer-drenched T-shirt I wore at the gig on my upper half, but that's another story that shouldn't be delved into because I like to try and make myself look reasonably intelligent on this blog.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Review: Soundgarden - King Animal

 I want to fall head over heals with the fact that Soundgarden have finally released new material. I want to have been able to be completely engrossed with the band's reuinion at the start of 2010 after twelve years apart, but my music taste was far too based on worse glossier bands to know anything about the respectable history of rock music and when  finally got into them, I was so adjusted to the golden age of their sound that further new releases, footage of fairly disappointing live shows including this year's Download and Hard Rock Calling Festival and most recently a preview of what they might sound like through the release of the watered down Live to Rise that appeared as the lead single for The Avengers soundtrack this year. In the time it's taken for me to appreciate Soundgarden, it seems like they've lost their shine and it's difficult for me to see them as a perfect band no matter how brilliant they've constantly proved themselves to be.

 And so it brings me to King Animal. Now when a band comes to release a highly anticipated comeback album, you do want to love it, especially when it's been as long as sixteen years. But, I made the choice not to step into this album with any high expectations knowing the kind of form Soundgarden has been on recently. And with their sixth studio album, I sadly can't come out the other side with the blown mind and shattered expectations I was hoping I might have.

 Which isn't to say it doesn't have it's moment. Opening on the painfully self-aware Been Away Too Long, dirty grunge riffs are unloaded like it's 1993 again which blast straight into an enthusiastic state of action through roaring hooks lit up by a genuinely immense wail from Chris Cornell that shows that the band haven't loss any passion for making music as ferocious and passionate as they can. It's a bold statement by a band whose best days have quite clearly gone by that there is still some fight left in them, a moment that makes you say that they've matured rather than say they've aged. Even through the likes of Non-State Actor and Blood on the Valley Floor, (A better floor for blood to lie on than the Dancefloor, right?) Cornell proves himself to still be a truly entertaining performer with much charisma, while the distinct Eastern style lead guitar of Kim Thayil on the likes of Attrition and Taree is as breathtaking display of modern gripping rock and roll that treads the line between monstrous grunge and trippy stoner rock guitar work it ever was. There's no possible way that Soundgarden can't still be a great rock band and powerful emotional songwriters.

 But even in the strongest of Soundgarden's albums, they've always been albums that go maybe one or two tracks over the line. Superunknown could easily lose three or four tracks and still be a great if not better album but you can easily forgive it for the strongest moments being absolutely golden. With King Animal, the ultimate impression of the album is that if you got the strongest tracks on the album... it would be an EP. The likes of Bones of Birds and Halfway There are pleasant enough but Badmotorfinger and Superunknown have no room for pleasantries and becoming older shouldn't be a reason to do it either. I feel genuinely worried when Cornell says "Promise something/ kill me right away if I start to get slow" in the opening lines of Black Saturday. I couldn't bring myself to kill someone. It's tracks like these that Soundgarden immediately sounding aged. Cornell's vocals sound staler in the same way that Ozzy Osbourne's became stale after the '90's. And I'm confident that the band really is trying their hardest. And that just scares me, frankly.

 With that, I personally find myself walking away from King Animal feeling once again more unsatisfied with Soundgarden than I really should be. It undoubtedly has it's strong moments and many a moment to prove the band to be a group of accomplished songwriters, but these moments don't come in high numbers and the amount of songs sounding as tame as their recent festival performances are sadly plentiful. If this is how I feel, then I can't imagine how the people that were fully gripped by the news of the band's comeback in 2010 must feel about the kind of overall performance on this album. It means I'll probably never have the chance to consider myself a full-on Soundgarden fan that I'd love to be, but if the overall quality of their albums are like this in my time of being into them, can you really blame me?

Soundgarden's King Animal is out now via Universal Republic Records.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Review: Deftones - Koi No Yokan

 So, what kind of things can I talk about when dealing with the most consistently brilliant and underrated bands in metal? Many modern metal and alternative bands have taken time to become absorbed within the likes of Deftones' White Pony, Around the Fur and Adrenaline. All albums have found their way to becoming massive points of influence within some of the best names in metal and alternative music today and I can think of no band more deserving as being fully seen as a group of individuals who inspire others to make art like they do themselves.

 Now, everyone was left begging for more after the blinding return to top form that came with 2012's Diamond Eyes, the band's first full album after bassist Chi Cheng tragically went into a coma following a car accident in 2008 and even at that time, it was startling enough that the band were willing to bring out a new album, never mind bringing out one so amazing. So, you can never be too demanding when expecting a new Deftones release. But man, a new album from them is always worth getting excited for and if seventh album Koi No Yokan doesn't have you feeling that way, I can only offer my sympathies because this album really is the sound of divinity recorded.

 You hear bands claiming that they have it all. They can bring together the best of all kinds of music and it works for lots of bands, but Deftones truly is on another level. They could honestly make an entire album filled with jaw-droppingly heavy riffage and make a full on metal album and it could still be one of the best metal albums ever heard. Just look at the intense pit-stirring riffage that opens the album of Swerve City, a powerhouse blaze of chunky guitars from Stephen Carpenter and the drilling basslines of Leather from current bassist Sergio Vega, a nailing performance that proves Vega to be more than just a stand in for Chi Cheng. And as Poltergeist slams into it's main sections, the combination of bizarre guitar switches and blasting bass is a sign of the band sounding at their most punk-like and youngest, sounding like Deftones-meets-Dillinger.

 But as proven through various side-projects, Deftones could also make an album that focuses only on creating lush textured soundscaping and it would still be a constant wonder to listen to with musical passages that you can lose yourselves in with every breath of keyboards. Tempest boasts the perfect fresh atmosphere's that you can simply sink into while the beauty of Rosemary in it's state of synthesizer led tranquility is a moment more jaw dropping and eye opening than some other bands can manage with their album's heaviest moment.

 But the fact that the entire album is made of the union of these two musical styles once more makes this album a feast of beautiful alternative metal, refreshing in the band's ability to still make music that keeps you guessing what's coming next. And it's tied together so finely in the gripping wonder that is the vocals of alt metal icon Chino Moreno, whose seamless transitions between soothing melodic vocals and frenetic screams boasts the kinds of emotional tone that can convey a man having a breakdown. And the depth reached on the likes of Gauze and the effortlessly simple What Happened to You? is made of star reaching wonder. It makes you fall in love with the world, with life and with music.

 Can I say any more about how beautiful this album is? Can I say any more about how wonderful, influential and powerful a force in music the Deftones are that they can still make what is a very pure piece of artwork that stuns, shocks and amazes in all they do, whether it's crushing heaviness and absorbing electronics and bring it together in a form that ranges from boastful to intimate. And with six powerful albums behind them, they still have the creativity and strength to make something as beautiful as Koi No Yokan. They truly are one of the most consistently great, influential and underrated bands of all time. And now that the blog name of "Ramblings" is truly living up to it's name, this is one of the finest metal releases we've heard in a long time.

Deftones' Koi No Yokan is out now via Reprise. The band will tour the UK in February.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Review: Issues - Black Diamonds

 The amount of people I hear speaking across the world who firmly believe that metal and pop should be segregated like night and day is frankly unreal. We should be more open to varying tastes today and this clear barrier between style of music should not exist. You can't just not like a style of music because it's pop music, right? There's so much close-mindedness in the metal community that sometimes it's little wonder that many bands begin to sound the same and you're naturally drawn to those that think outside the box. The kind of band that would, say, take as big an influence from pop music as they would metal music when writing their songs. A band like Atlanta quintet Issues, made up of several former members of the awful Woe, Is Me finding new feet in the world of music, who are quite literally making us ask what the point of genres are.

 With nowhere to turn as a means to describe this band, the term "Rn'B metal" has been coined to sum up the band's mixture of crushing metallic breakdowns and viscous growling with soaring pop melodies and club friendly electronic backdrops. Many have already come to experience this with lead single King of Amarillo from debut EP Black Diamonds. As massive breakdowns awash with furiously bitter lyrics that point towards the music industry, twisted love-lives and even a dig at their former bandmates in Woe, Is Me (We might have a whole new Metallica/Megadeth type feud on our hands people!) this is clearly a band with a clear ability to make hard hitting metalcore on their hands. And within the backdrop of the song massive synthesized backdrops build up that sound completely unlike anything else that... most of Rise/Sumerian Records have managed so far. Most of all the synthesizers have their own identity and style that sounds fresh in the realms of pop and the electronic metalcore scene. And with a combination of rapid-fire DJ scratching and the powerfully glossy vocals of frontman Tyler Carter, the buildup in pop friendly tones becomes more and more apparent. It reaches the final conclusion as the song's mid-section fades into synth-infused actions as a sly Rn'B beat rises up and the electronic-led mid section sounds akin to something taken from Justin Timerlake's Justified before the seamless transition into a monolithic breakdown takes place. It's a performance that defies all songwriting logic and a breath of fresh air within the realms of pop and metal music.

 The rest of the EP continues in a similarly thrilling vain as The Worst of Them charges into action with the structure of a conventional Rn'B chart topper backed by a blasting of bulked up riffage from AJ Rebollo and the instant pulse of Princeton Ave's gripping hardcore chug-along. It's mid-section could well be in the charts and the emotion in Carter's melodic choruses is in terms of mainstream Rn'B singers at least of Jason Derülo quality. Yeah, I just appreciated a mainstream pop musician like that. Meanwhile Love Sex Riot sees the band in unafraid party-mode with big Rn'B rhythms while the massive dubstep poundings of Her Monologue shows the band completing the motion with the one musical moment that unites pop with metal music these days.

 Now, if you really do hate pop music and the idea of the charts is purely vomitory and subsequently hate the idea of such a union with metal coming together, I can't even try and make this album appeal to you but if it's a union that you'd be willing to see happen, you're unlikely to find any better source of pop/metal mixture than on Black Diamonds. Every breakdown pulses with rabid energy and every vocal is passed down with passionate emotion whether it's smoothly sung by Carter and Micheal Bohn's screams. And every work of pop friendly electronica is delivered with gleaming production of club-friendly coolness. With so many bands attempting to mix modern pop with brutal metal together, Issues have managed to make their pop mixture just as potent a force in their songwriting rather than a background gimmick. And it works really well. And in a world where so many people still believe that pop and metal should be segregated like night and day, Issues are on hand to prove so many wrong.

Issues' Black Diamonds is out on 13th November via Rise.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Review: All That Remains - A War You Cannot Win

 All That Remains seem like a fairly easy band to judge right. They've seemed to be at the butt of various jokes made by the "more-metal-than-thou" community in the face of some brilliant albums that have displayed much passion, soul and nothing more than some textbook American metalcore, while serving as a great gateway band for those just getting into metal in a missing link between Bullet for My Valentine and Lamb of God sort of way. And if having well-crafted songs makes you a joke in the world of metal, then I guess the naysayers have a lot to laugh about. And in a world where you can jump the shark in music as well as TV shows, I''m going to take the side of the naysayers when looking at their sixth album A War You Cannot Win.

 I think this album is a valuable lesson that when you are dealing as a melodic metalcore band that write songs with big choruses mixed with breakdowns there really is a limit on how far you can take your music before you're unable to wow anyone anymore, no matter what you try. Because that is definitely the case with All That Remains and it's made all the more tragic as they're clearly aware that they've so far made very similar albums so far and are trying to do some things differently, yet the only good parts of the album are the furious breakdowns of You Can't Fill My Shadow and Sing For Liberty and you have four albums for better breakdowns you can look at.

 The most ironic thing about the performance of frontman Phil Labonte on this album is that looking at tracks like A Call to All Non Believers and Just Moments in Time, it's clear that Labonte is trying to stamp out his very own identity on these tracks to a greater extent than he's ever done before and these tracks come off as being the All That Remains tracks with the least personality ever displayed. This is quite possibly the sound of commercial heavy metal at it's blandest.

 I can only go on to say that this album is officially the sound of a band becoming officially watered down. You probably officially recognise that sound when you heard Killswitch Engage's second self-titled album from 2009 and know that Killswitch have always been heavier than ATR. Some of the signs of the band being watered down is unreal, with Asking Too Much sounding less metalcore and more like Stone Sour. Of course when considering House of Gold and Bones, Part 1 that remark should be nothing but a compliment but it even makes the Iowa quintet's Through Glass sound like Sepultura in terms of heaviness and extremity. And then of course, they have a shot of writing a ballad in the form of What If I Was Nothing, which listening to reminds me of the first time I listened to Def Leppard's Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad. Yes, painful.

 With those two songs being powerful examples of All That Remains' venture into more commercial territory, most other parts just make you ask why of them like the immense poppy intro of Not Fading and the album's title track trying to build up a post hardcore influence in it's intro. It's so needless.

 And I'm afraid to say that this is the ultimate impression this album leaves on me. I do love All That Remains and firmly believe they have a stellar back catalogue and this album does some some good moments. Even in it's poppiest, there are some good hooks and when they do nail out the metalcore performance we know them so much better for it's still solid. But I really don't know what's gone on with this band overall. Are they really becoming another band that will rely on getting their songs played on the radio to make it big? It certainly sounds like it on a lot of these songs and their attempts to venture into crafting post grunge melodies and balladry. It goes on to make me worried about so many of these gateway metal bands in a similar vein of All That Remains and if they can survive this gateway band territory with six albums. Probably not. They either need to get heavier again or concentrate more on writing hooks because right now they're in an aimless middle section and the naysayers are pissing themselves with laughter.

All That Remains' A War You Cannot Win is out now via Razor & Tie.

Review: Green Day - ¡Dos!

 So, if Green Day wanted to leave us on a high in late September following the release of ¡Uno!, the first installment of their three albums of charged up pop punk, they failed pretty hard. As if it wasn't easy enough to take us away from the set of bland pop rock songs and horrendous attempts of being The Rolling Stones, the only thing anyone was talking about is Billie Joe Armstrong's expert way in promoting the album by smashing his guitar up onstage, telling the audience that he's been around since nineteen eighty fucking eight and entering rehab for substance abuse. Good ane!

 However, the show must go on and as Billie Joe continues his tenure in rehab, the album cycle continues with ¡Dos! Even though Green Day have shunned away any concept crafting for these albums there's some metaphorical suggestions that could be made with ¡Uno! That album featured a picture of Billie Joe on the cover. It turned out he was in an awful state and the album is awful. With ¡Dos!, bassist Mike Dirnt is clearly in a much better state of health because this album is a notable step up in quality. Even with the state of irony that opens the album with Billie Joe's overtly upbeat solo opening of See You Tonight to the irony of acoustic closer Amy, a beautifully written tribute to the late soul revivalist Amy Winehouse with Armstrong's sincere lyrics of how he'd like to meet her and be her friend, which looking at Billie Joe now... I guess he did go to rehab.

 But in between these two slices of irony flavoured bread, there is a surprising selection of massive pop punk bangers. Straight from Tré Cool's bold drum beat on Fuck Time the band start throwing serious punches in their their entire pop rock assault and the driving hooks of Stop When the Red Lights Flash and Makeout Party. On guitar, Armstrong obviously constructs the same riff over and over again but somehow gives each song a new sugary coating of freshness and energy and by the time we hit the grooves of Lady Cobra the Green Day mojo that had been drained on ¡Uno! has managed to rush back.

 As well as truly rocking out with this album, Green Day just sound so much more like they're having fun on this collection of songs that doesn't just fall under the pop punk formula. Stray Heart is lushly delivered with the good-boy charisma of Buddy Holly with a swinging melody that you can't really do anything but dance to. Even the more emotion driven songs are perfectly headbang-worthy as the melancholic tone of Lazy Bones is a perfect show of life affirming power pop.

 While a notable step up from it's predecessor, ¡Dos! is still far from being the perfect album that I'm building it up as so far. By the time we get to Wow! That's Loud, I will be impressed if you haven't become frustrated by the constant amount of times that Armstrong notably sounds like he's just doing Iggy Pop impressions in his vocals and once again the time when they try to do something different is largely shoddy. In this case, it's Nightlife which sees the band use a form of songwriting used in the kind of songs that topped the charts in the late 90's and early 00's. A slowly paced seductive club anthem I guess. It's another one of those things Green Day shouldn't try even in their attempts to use this style to project lyrics about the darker sleazier side of partying. But for such a wonderfully upbeat album that spreads a lot of emotion, this is just unpleasant listening.

 With  these exceptional qualities, ¡Dos! actually makes the prospect of three new albums from Green Day finally something worth looking into. The melodies sound sweeter, the riffs sound bigger and the thought put into the songwriting and lyrics seems far more fulfilled. Again, it's no sign of pure perfection from Green Day and there are a good amount of moments where the quality slips, but when considering the state of ¡Uno! and the current state of Billie Joe Armstrong, it's relieving more than anything that pop punk's main inspirations can still deliver the goods at such a late stage into their careers. And if ¡Tré! is able to deliver anything better, we're sorted.

Green Day's ¡Dos! is out on 9th November via Relapse.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Review: Hildamay - Miles Away

 It was one of those few moments of instantly falling in love with a band with one song when I first heard Hildamay's This House Became Our Home on Scuzz TV last year. I wasn't even sure how to possibly explain it. It so so sludgy but at the same time sounded so fresh in the same way that it could compete with the constant range of new post hardcore bands that were coming out with the promise of getting big last year. And last year's mini album We Loved We Lost was enough to top many other new bands coming out at the same time. However, with their debut full length album Miles Away, the band's time to shine has fully expanded out into the spotlight.

 Throughout your listening to the album, you're left travelling through pounding seas of massive riffage, tight boastful production and top class songwriting to come to a conclusion that leaves you realising the full range of emotion and tone that individuals are able to write with and the ability to do that displaying the passion for making rock and roll that we are so desperately in need of.

 This album opens straight away with this shade of talent on the emo-esque melodies that open the album on The Dark as guitarists Ollie Jeffs and Chris Carvell tear into massive post hardcore riffage with Thrice influences worn on their sleeves. These ripping melodies can be heard blitzing across the likes of Changing Key and the emotively tragic Diminuendo packed with massive post hardcore melodies and gigantic sized breakdowns that feel more like Refused in their overall rush of anger and melancholy.

 But having experienced that across much of We Loved, We Lost it's surprising to hear some more uplifting material across the album. Broken Records opens in characteristically heavy fashion but has a far more upbeat tone, sounding like a beefed up New Found Glory. Even the sludgy vocals of frontman Tim Lawrence carry out in a warmer style for this song and reach a cleaner melodic style for the shimmering title track with that carries off big hooks and a unshakable beauty.

 The amount of mellower moments on Miles Away has also notably increased and show a more sensitive side of Hildamay. Letters Like Bullets and Consequence are the first two songs that give Hildamay the impression of being something resembling an emo band as Lawrence pours out a display of internal emotion that keeps you completely hooked. And as the album goes out on the lashing Because I Cannot Sleep I Make Music packed with dense basslines, you've gone through a wide spectrum of emotions that surpassed far more expectations than were ever imagined.

 It's difficult to think of how to describe Hildamay. They play powerful post hardcore music filled with massive grooves beatdowns and solid rock riffing and play it with a powerful emotion just like so many of their contemporaries. But you're so unlikely to find a band that sound so complete as they do this year. They convey the full range of emotion even when sounding fully beefed up on hardcore grit and can sound furious while boasting a velvet laced production. And that makes listening to this album a true privilege. Definitely one of 2012's finest releases.

Hildamay's Miles Away is out now via A Wolf at Your Door. The band will tour the UK in December.

Review: Neurosis - Honor Found in Decay

 I think of the way in which my personal taste in music has constantly evolved over such a quick period of time with so little experience at the same time. And when I think of the way it is now, I'm a little disgusted with myself that Neurosis aren't the first ever band that I fell in love with. Imagine a band that takes techniques of every kind of dirty style of rock music you love and blast it together. There's shades of hardcore punk, doom metal, industrial metal and experimental art rock in all their stellar releases of the past and every experimental metal band that has come out since will happily cite them as an influence, particularly when you consider the most dramatic phrase recently used about them "No Neurosis = No Mastodon". And of course in the usual case of a long going underground metal band, they can still release works that far outshine the bands that have overtaken them. And so we examine tenth album Honor Found in Decay. One of the most stunning crafts in heavy music heard for a while.

 In all the music Neurosis manage to craft they do it in a way that simply bleeds emotion and beauty, no matter how grim it may sound. And as the album opens with the shimmering sound of glowering synthesizers on We All Rage in Gold it's clear that the band don't want their listeners to feel comfortable. They want listeners on edge, never knowing what's going to come around the corner and they manage it so well as riffs and basslines from Steve Von Till and Dave Edwardson build into a massive set of sprawling riffs that create a mammoth sized melody with the massive emotion of crying giants. The sheer amount of grandeur that picks up the wonder of the doom filled riffage gives the song an extra spaciousness and intensity that you can invade as it invades you.

 The intense guitar work of this pair and moderately iconic frontman Scott Kelly really serve as the driving force behind the album. The spidery guitar on My Heart for Deliverance manages to be purely hypnotic before blasting into a horrific burst of godly distortion that shows the true nature of the band as it rolls out in a much more triumphant form that serves as tear-rendering-ly uplifting. Meanwhile All is Found... In Time instantly rushes out in an intense bombing of guitar-led chaotic depravity before coming down to a greater show of uplifting grace.

 However, no matte how heavy and adrenaline packed the guitars can get, it still doesn't manage to be the most intense moment of the album. I'm not sure if I've ever felt the way I do when listening to Scott Kelly singing. Against the moments free of monolithic riffs, Kelly's weathered vocals are the most convincing vocals that carry the sound that the bleakest of blues musicians wished to carry out. And on Bleeding the Pigs, it feels like there is no gap between the listener of Kelly, as vocals seem to haunt you directly and make you feel like you are being dragged into Hell in an all too realistic way. By the time the song reaches it's follow up on Casting of the Ages the vocals are a much more welcoming features and become very beautiful in a hopeless no tomorrow sort of way. It becomes the kind of performance that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It becomes comforting.

 Even if this is your first Neurosis album, Honor Found in Decay is a breathtaking album listening experience that will give you a full experience of the band and will leave your jaw wide open. It's filled with some of the group's darkest crafts in crafting mammoth melodies made up of doom riffage, industrial synthesizers and all sorts of intimate backdrops that gives each listen a different result. It's one of the most sincere heartfelt albums from a band that have never been anything short of serious and have made it one of their prime goals to craft something unique that pushes at the boundaries of metal. And without a doubt this is it. This is the work that proves that dirty rock music can be made truly beautiful and just extremely real. And it's work that have come from a group of underground heroes.

Neurosis' Honor Found in Decay is out now via Neurot Records. 

Review: Aerosmith - Music From Another Dimension!

 The idea of a long-established rock band coming back at a modern time and releasing new material amongst a range of newer bands used to be a really cool idea that you could instantly get behind and claim to be a victory for classic rock and roll. And then as you grow older and realise them strength of many new bands, you have to look at long-established rock bands making a comeback and all you can really see is an inability for these names to keep up with the bands they've inspired. And it just gets a bit sad. It's already happened with KISS and Lynyrd Skynyrd this year. Maybe the young-blooded bands are just doing better than the bands that everyone in the public knows one or two songs from this year. So when I discovered that Aerosmith were to be releasing their 15th album Music From Another Dimension! today, their first album since 2004, I was cynical and not really expecting it to be some grand comeback. After all, in between then, Steven Tyler's turned 60, become a judge on American Idol and broken his teeth while in the shower. All classic signs of becoming a mellow old man right?

 So does Music From Another Dimension give heartless bastards like me a reason to be cynical? Well, not really. The Bad Boys from Boston were clearly aware that their age was going to attract such cynicysm and have really made an age defying collection of blues-ridden hard rock songs that will leave you dancing and banging heads. With it's science fiction inspired opening featuring a voice over that will promise to move your senses, the opening hooks of Luv XXX actually manages to deliver it's promises as gutsy guitar work from Joe Perry and Brad Whitford gives us hook after hook. The pair are effortless in delivering solid solos and riffs after one another giving the likes of Out Go the Lights and Legendary child that fun loving spirit of good times rock and roll that rocked the 1970's.

 Of course, it's Steven Tyler that provides the album of it's main source of charisma as always. Even on some songs where there seems to be an apparent amount of auto-tuning being used to support his vocals, he still boasts through his bold domination on these songs. The narrative styles of Street Jesus makes his performance all too gripping, while he manages to unleash a surprising amount of anger on Lover Alot, a performance that really does defy age and that youthful passion can still exist. On closing track One Last Goodbye, Tyler unleashes the full extent of his vocal techniques and it's a nice reminder that what he can do is essentially superhuman.

 Of course One Last Goodbye is one of the cheesiest most cringe-worthy ballads I've ever heard and man, are Aerosmith a band that love their ballads. A lot of the ballads on this album are probably top notch, but you know that once again, I'm a heartless bastard that hates ballads. So songs like What Could Have Been Love and Can't Stop Lovin' You featuring guest vocals from country pop star Carrie Underwood are painful at best. The worst on offer is undoubtedly We All Fall Down, a ballad devoid of anything rock and roll that sounds like Tyler taking influence from people he judged on American Idol. And of course, the band insist on presenting this stomping hard rock song/weepy ballad dichotomy across the album, so there's an equal balance between the good and the lame.

 I guess this means Music From Another Dimension! is not an album for heartless bastards. But if you like your rock and roll and you can handle your ballads in full force, then Aerosmith have returned with another stomper of an album. It's no Rocks and no rap rock bangers featuring Run-DMC are to be found anywhere but this is definitely a solid collection of songs that satisfy a good release from a long-established rock band releasing new material amongst a range of newer bands. And when a band can make songs as solid as this so late on in their career, maybe age is just a number.

Aerosmith's Music From Another Dimension! is out now via Columbia