Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Review: David Bowie - The Next Day

This has been some time coming. First of all, I never thought the time to review new material from David Bowie would ever come and naturally commenting on it is a clear obligation.

This obviously sounds like I'm being harsh and cynical and probably makes it sound like I'm dismissing Bowie as an artist. Of course not. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars is one of the greatest albums ever recorded and the list of amazing songs is never endings, and anyone that hasn't just laid down after a long day and had a Bowie session yet is just wrong. But when the announcements came on Bowie's 66th birthday that an album of new material was coming out for the first time since 2003's Reality and the lead single Where Are We Now? was released accompanied by a peculiar video of Bowie and wife-of-video-director Jacqueline Humphries face's placed together as they are joined in one puppet body (That made no sense whatsoever.), it was not instant, nor did it feel like something anyone could fall in love with straight away, as I previously had so so much of the man's back catalogue. And yet Bring Me the Horizon's Shadow Moses got me straight away, rendering me a disgrace to the face of real music reviewers. Only a full album listen could possibly rectify any possible doubts about one of the UK's biggest musical icons.

Before even elaborating on the music, it's clear that Bowie has wanted to turn heads simply by announcing new music. After he failed to make an appearance appearance at last year's Closing Ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics despite a huge buildup and montage of clips that suggested he would be there with the world watching, most people would have assumed that as the final sign that he was done with performing and writing music. And yet, here we are with his 24th album The Next Day streaming on iTunes five days before it's official release. What sparked this decision to record again? And will it satisfy those who thought they were going to be able to hear Starman performed live in front of millions of people worldwide?

That's a question I don't think I could answer fully yet. You couldn't really picture young people that wear T-Shirts depicting Bowie as Ziggy Stardust and only know Changes getting down to slow-burning jams like Dirty Boys and there's nothing that even comes close to having the kinetic energy of Suffragette City but if you're as in touch and experienced in the art of music, then there's no excuse for you to not find something lovable throughout The Next Day.

There's every right to feel cautious as you begin listening to this album, there's no knowing of how it could start of when the sounds are yet to pounce into your ears, thankfully perhaps it opens in an inviting manner on the warm melodies that ride across the album's title track, filled with richly textured melodies of the golden days of rock and roll. It would be too easy to say that vocal wise Bowie is past his prime and it is truth. The man himself is most likely aware of this and most likely cares not for the issues surrounding them because as he belts out the song, it's done with so much vibrancy and passion that he could get through the entire song without ever being hailed for being an influential musician and you would still want to credit his efforts. It's the performance of  a man that undeniably believes in what he's saying and could never have connotations of re-hashing material or not caring.

If you did have worries that this was going to be an album awash with mid-tempo nuisances you need not worry. Arguably, there's a balance, but where things pick up, the shimmering production and continuously rich textures makes each song feel like a fresh intake of new musical wonders that you can drift into without being fully aware of your musical venturing until some big melody like that in Love is Lost, the warm psychedelia of Valentine's Day or the energetic and hypnotic poundings of If You Can See Me. The most notable songs of the up-tempo moments is the heavier garage rock riff-fest of (You Can) Set the World On Fire which brings back memories of Tin Machine, the proper rock band that Bowie started near the end of the 1980's which seems to be a forgotten part of Bowie's career, even though the only album they released is seen as one of the early roots of the grunge movement that followed in the next decade.

And for all the bickering I've delivered about the slower material up to this point, it's actually highly substantial and is home to some of the most commendable moments of the album. Where Are We Now itself is a touching ode to Bowie's time in spent in West Berlin from 1979-1979 to cure himself of drug addiction where he would perform at late night sessions with Iggy Pop and record Heroes, Low and Lodger. From the lyrics, it's a song of the Berlin that Bowie knew back then and a tribute to how it's changed for the better as he did during his time there. The Stars (Are Out Tonight) also serves as a song recorded to be a feel good classic with a tone of sincerity and melodrama while You Feel Lonely You Could Die carries off the balladry in a tone reminiscent of Rock and Roll Suicide. And after so many songs of a similar vein, choosing to end the album on Heat is the final move to turn heads of the listeners. It's possibly one of Bowie's darkest and most intense songs recorded, taking the dirgy atmospheres of the Berlin trilogy into a new modern darkness. Clearly, the man still knows how to pen songs to emote proper emotion to widen jaws, even in his prime.

And that's going to be your ultimate reflection when you're done listening to The Next Day after numerous occasions. David Bowie is still a brilliant songwriter. After ten years and 24 albums into his career, we're all still living in Bowie's world and he continues to satisfy his subjects. Yes, we can't deny that like everything since Heroes this is not Bowie's finest work and with the joke of the album's artwork that sees the Heroes cover being blocked up by this new album sleeve, he's aware of this fact as well and the fact that all music critics will acknowledge this. But Bowie has already broken ground and he has no need to do it again. All we really need is a set of songs with a perfect tone of emotion and we're definitely treated to just that with this album. When something like new David Bowie material is announced, it's obviously an obligation to review it. But The Next Day is also a reminder of how much of a pleasure it is to do it as well.

David Bowie's The Next Day is out 11th March via Columbia.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Review: Bring Me the Horizon - Sempiternal

What's in a haircut?

It's saddening to think that in this modern day and age of metal appreciation, we've come to a stage where we have to ask this question to people who now judge bands solely on their appearance, particularly with their dress sense and, well, hairstyles. And no band has had to face the brunt of this more than Bring Me the Horizon. From their dress sense, to their hair, to their tattoos and the general personality of frontman Oli Sykes, everyone looking to judge the band seems to be looking at every quality apart from the music. And who can tell you if this is the right way to look at things. It might have been in 2006 when they started out with a dog-eyed cover of Slipknot's Eyeless and their gargled deathcore debut Count Your Blessings, yet as they moved on with 2008's Suicide Season and 2010's game-changing There is a Hell, Believe Me I've Seen It, There is a Heaven, Believe Me I've Seen It, the hi-jinks stopped and the music got more serious, yet the hatred continued and much of it still comes down to the fact that they wear trendy clothes and look like people that have actually had a shower in the past ten years.

And it only means one thing at the end of the day, the people that refuse to look past these things are the ones missing out. They could step into today's album without knowing anything of it and be impressed, however in a context like mine, looking at the band's fourth full length album Sempiternal as someone that's really come to know and love the music of BMTH over the years is an album examination that fills one up with a certain sense of pride. And that's because it tells you something about the band that once made you headbang mindlessly to Chelsea Smile when you were fifteen years old. Those Sheffield boys have finally grown up.

It takes a while to come up with some basic description of what has become of the band's sound on Sempiternal so I'll keep it simple at first and say that everything has changed. And opening on a song like Can You Feel My Heart is a big sign of intent that this is not a band concerned with being brutal and creating the meatiest breakdowns as they once were. With the departure of guitarist Jona Weinhofen and recruitment of keyboard and synthesizer man Jordan Fish, you could guess that this kind of thing was going to happen, but as the song itself opens with floodlights of grand synthesizer and the creation of warm spacious textures, it becomes apparent that the band probably don't even care if no one wants to refer to them as a metal band anymore. Of course, following an array of electronics that wouldn't sound out of place on a Crystal Castles album, the song moves into a main rhythm that brings pleasant memories of Deftones at their most tranquil. You should probably get used to the Deftones comparisons because the fact that BMTH have turned from Britain's answer to Job for a Cowboy to Britain's answer to Sacramento's modern metal pioneers is extremely remarkable.

Of course, one of the most remarkable things about the evolution that the band show is in Sykes himself. While the band's musical performance evolved for There is a Hell... Oli's raspy screams remained the same, and when they were last heard during his guest appearance on Architects' Even if You Win, You're Still a Rat, it became apparent that they were weakening, or at least hopelessly unable to compete with the similar stylings of Sam Carter. Thankfully, that much needed change has taken place and when he begins the album against this chilled backdrop, his ability to produce something melodic for the first time really takes you back. Much of this melody is executed in rough clean vocals that still lean towards screaming, a style that Corey Taylor has perfected over the years. However, when the opening track hits it's first instance of purely clean vocals, listeners like myself that have adjusted to BMTH's sound over such a long time won't really know what to make of it, or how to react. Against such a delicate backdrop, it's either the extreme tone of fragility and vulnerability they emit, the unmistakable sound of his own Sheffield accent or the fact that this is a style of singing that we've waited eight years to hear from Oli that triggers a powerful emotion response from listeners. And I never imagined that I could say Oli Sykes produced tears in my eyes without me being a teenage girl. As the clean vocals progress they become more dimensional and by the time they open And the Snakes Start to Sing, Sykes has turned from an unidentifiable death growler to Britain's Chino Moreno. I told you the 'Tones comparisons would happen.

Of course, all around the band's songwriting has sharpened up. They may not be concerned about trying to be the heaviest band around any more, but if the density that that Lee Malia and Matt Kean can summon up on guitar and bass is as heavy as it is without even trying, they are some of the most destructive musicians in modern metal. The grooves constructed on the likes of lead single Shadow Moses and Empire (Let Them Sing) are so tight and bouncy that the heaviness makes them utterly shatterproof. And with more production emphasis put on Matt Nichols' powerhouse drumming makes them hit you even harder. The immense heaviness proves just how vital a name in modern metal producers Terry Date remains to be. But once again, this is not an album that is about trying to be as heavy as possible in the same way that Suicide Season was. With all that weight also come memorable choruses and mass sing alongs. If you don't believe that Sleepwalking isn't going to have stadiums chanting out loud, you're wrong. Plus, Image of the Invisible, Part 2, I mean... Go to Hell, For Heaven's Sake has a chorus that truly defines why emo songwriting became such a phenomenon throughout the 2000's. Because it rips off Thrice. In the nicest way possible.

Obviously, this is a band taking themselves very seriously now, and there could never be any room for previous tricks like vocal "Dun dun dun's" and guest appearances from J.J. Peters of Deez Nuts telling us to "Party til you pass out" and "Drink til your dead!" but if you want a fun metal song, you're going to have a whale of a time with Antivist and it's crowd chants of "Middle fingers up, if you don't give a fuck!" and pre breakdown statemnet of "You can say I'm just a fool, that stands for nothing/ Well to that/ I say you're a cunt!", a statement that you know is made by Sykes and aimed at those who detract him and his music, most likely due to his tattoos. Of course things end on a serious and heart rendering note with the intense balladry and grace of Hospital of Souls that achieves all the grandeur that There is a Hell... achieved as an album in one six minute take. It proves that heavy music, whether you want to call it metal, or even post-metal, is still beautiful.

And Sempiternal is beautiful in it's entirety. It's still a little difficult to work out just how I can fully explain how I feel about this album. It's in the way that you could play Can You Feel My Heart beside 2006's Pray for Plagues and be totally unable to even identify that the same band is even playing. And personally, having discovered the band when I was aged fifteen and only wanting heavy bands I could headbang to, I feel like BMTH have now grown up with me and as I've come to appreciate more progressive and graceful music that owes it's dues to electronic music as it does downtuned guitars, the band have made that move to become a band that can provide that to be, and have become a band I can't look away from a disassociate myself from. And it's still such a shock to realise that you can now compare a band that used to be about making big breakdowns to the likes of Deftones, Thrice, Glassjaw, Tool and Marilyn Manson at his most sophisticated and dirgy and that they can make that step up that makes them a recognizable force on their own and make a massive step up in their own right that makes the musical evolution taken between Suicide Season and There is a Hell... look like AC/DC. This band has followed their own paths to make the musical album they want, without any care of it not being what the fans want or being heavy enough. And they've made something that they can put their hearts and souls into. And it's one of the most awe-inspiring demonstrations of what a band can achieve when they put their full minds and eclectic tastes to it and do it for themselves in the face of aggressive hatred and the demand to make an album just like everything else they've done before.

So to answer my original question, there's nothing in a haircut. It's more about the brains that lay beneath them. And Bring Me the Horizon's have caused them to write the best album of the year so far.

Bring Me the Horizon's Sempiternal is out 1st April via Epitaph. The abnd will tour the UK in from April to May with Crossfaith and will play at Reading and Leeds Festival from 21-25th August.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Oh My Days, I forgot to review everything that came out in February!

I promised this would happen. I promised you that I would turn eighteen, start going to parties, get a mass increase of University work and lose the energy to do blogging, so this has become all I can really offer to you nowadays. I know, life sucks.

Except it really doesn't. I've been having so much fun over the past few weeks with amazing friends that I can go drinking and watch films and stuff with. It really puts writing about music out of your mind. Yes, I feel guilty in the long run but, honestly, I don't think life has ever been better than it is right now. Life's good.

I should say that things in the world of rock music are going fairly swimmingly as well. One of the main events had to be the showing of Sound City in UK cinemas for one night only. Who knows if Dave Grohl knew that his song My Hero would become about himself in the eyes of many listeners when he wrote in 1996? After watching his documentary on one of the most infamous recording studios that hosted the recording of some of rock and metal's most famous albums, he and the rest of the Foo Fighters have probably gone beyond hero status and are now religious figures in my eyes. Plus, I may have had some sort of epiphany while watching Grohl jamming with Josh Homme and Trent Reznor. It's not like they haven't before, but watching it unfold in front of you on the big screen gives it this whole new sense of class. So very excited for when Sound City: Reel to Real comes out in March.

But until then, it's fair to say that we got some good music in February, even if I wasn't exactly around to talk about it. Expect that throughout 2013. Here's some albums worth shouting about.

Pure Love - Anthems (Mercury)
On first listen, I couldn't agree with Pure Love. What, Frank Carter has left his place as charismatic frontman of one of the most influential modern British punk bands Gallows and is making songs that sound like The Darkness without the extreme high pitch vocals while his former band become a black hearted hardcore beast? No this can't be right. But of course, upon listening to Pure Love's debut offering Anthems, it turns out Carter and former Hope Conspiracy guitarist Jim Carroll make a great job of writing uplifting punk songs that will unite punk and indie fans alike, thus marking a new chapter in the beginning of both gentlemen's ventures in making music where hardcore laced beatdowns and screaming about how awful life is is replaced by lush melodies and charming vocals. It's Anthems by name and anthems by nature. Frank Carter is back, but not as you know him.

Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse (Warner Music)
Damn, I was missing out all these years when people in my school told me that I needed the music of Selkirk quartet Frightened Rabbit in my life. However, it's now that the band show us what they're really made of with their fourth full length Pedestrian Verse, a set of songs that revel in the classic Scotsman tone of self-depreciation and poorness set inversely to rich musical textures and backdrops. There's room for optimism amongst all this typical bitterness however, which resembles some evolution from the band being a group of bitter young men for bitter young men. But rooted in pure honesty, with a refusal to show any love that they so well deserve towards themselves, this album makes itself the lovable fool that always loves to insult themselves in front of everyone when it's really one of the most talented works around.

Coheed and Cambria - The Afterman: Descension (V2)
I don't even think I wrote down a full length review of The Afterman: Ascension when it came out. Well, good thing no one takes this blog seriously, I guess. The Afterman: Descension sees Coheed and Cambria follow up in their most ambitious set of albums to date continuing in the story of the Amory Wars that documents the travels and experiences of the album's protagonist Sirius Amory. More importantly, as the character expands, so does the musical influences and grandeur of the band's performances. The emotion  that Claudio Sanchez packs into his vocals is nigh stunning, a highlight on it's own. As a whole, this truly is a diverse, intelligent and an all-round great album to get lost within.

The Courteeners - ANNA (V2)
After the world was exposed to 2010's Falcon, some changes were made in the world of modern indie rock, where it seemed that some bands were wanting to progress from being quirky lads making jangly songs with guitars to heartfelt stadium fillers that could be taken seriously and have a crowd that reveled in the immense emotion of that they said. With that ambition mastered, Manchester quartet The Courteeners return with their third album ANNA, that sees frontman Liam Fray's anthemic visions taken up to as full a notch as possible. The result is a grand display of pump along choruses memorable sing-alongs and just more heart sticking out than a lot of their contemporaries. Quirky indie pop is over. I wish.

Silverstein - This is How the Wind Shifts (Hopeless)
To some extent, you could say that Ontario quintet Silverstein got a raw deal during the entire rise of emo post hardcore and metalcore bands, having to watch more people pick bands like Atreyu and Escape the Fate over them probably because those two had darker album artwork.However, with sixth full length album This is How the Wind Shifts and new life being brought into the band with new guitarist Paul Marc Rousseau, the band seem to be picking up their momentum once more. New life breaks into the band with more chuggy breakdowns and tempo changes replacing standard verse-chorus structures and interesting conceptual ideas are found across the lyrics. And as the American post-hardcore of the early 2000's  becomes a less desirable proposition, this is the sound of it's practitioners moving on gracefully.

Ocean Colour Scene - Painting (Cooking Vinyl)
I'm confident that there's nothing revolutionary or mind blowing I could say about Ocean Colour Scene. They thrived on the success of Britpop in the 1990's and opened for the bigger bands that had made it in that time too. So with their heyday behind them they're always around to give us some jangly psychedelic rock song. Needless to say, tenth album Painting is hardly something that resembles a radical comeback in any way but there's something nice about settling into a recording done with assurance, confidence and a lifetime of experience. Much of it is awash in a truly British sense of spite and dourness, while also making a balance in toe tapping hooks and melodies. And I bet you've heard that kind of thing in every one of their album reviews. Here it is again.

The Bronx - The Bronx IV
Yeah man, this is how it's done. Although there will be some long time fans of LA punks The Bronx that will take displeasure in how less aggressive an album this is in comparison their their first three albums, there is so much about The Bronx IV that still makes it a fantastic rock album. Maybe it's as a massive Foo Fighters fan that I love the balance between aggression and melody. Matt Caugthtran's rough-clean vocals meld with massive riffs that collide into action at the perfect moments to lay into listeners with fullest enthusiasm and demands for heads banging and fists pumping. There will be a lot of people that view the abnd as selling out for doing an album like this, but those who don't will see them now as being one of the finest names in modern rock. Honestly.

Pissed Jeans - Honeys (Sub Pop)
When you see those two words "Sub Pop" on a CD, you know the next few minutes of your life are most likely going to be dangerous. And Pennsylvanian noise merchants Pissed Jeans absolutely nail this on their fourth full length Honeys, the album that is finally gaining them all the attention. It's a ferocious affair dealing with all the inner frustrations and inner rage of those that made it in a world where men can't understand woman and lose all their joy and hair, delivered through immense distortion, juggernaut drums and a sincerity in Matt Korvette's vocals and lyrics that can only come from the experience of real life. It's an intense ode to some of the most visceral names in alternative rock, with enough of it's own terrifying personality to be nothing but the twisted creation of frustrated aging men.

Johnny Marr - The Messenger (Warner Bros)
Indie kids, this man is your God - but you already knew that. A solo album from Johnny Marr has been a long time coming, what with so many growing tired of the constant controversy spread by Morrisey, it seems like the time that the more vital member of The Smiths takes his time in the limelight. And so, two days before receiving a "God Like Genius" at the NME Awards, he unleashes his debut solo offering The Messenger, which really sounds nothing like a Smiths record, but definitely hones the sound of a man that done much exploration of the modern world of indie rock and throughout continued experience has taken the form into his own hands and delivers stunning riffs through shining production with lyrics that contrast to Morrisey's, , displaying little time for drippy emotions and more on the business of modern life. And maybe hearing such thoughts from a man that much of modern rock's musicians have taken influence from is interesting, enlightening and highly entertaining. The God of indie is back.

Foals - Holy Fire (Warner Bros)
Ah, save the most hyped up for last. The amount of critical appraisal that Holy Fire, the third album from Oxford quintet Foals has meant that checking it out is essential. Which was a scary proposition at first, ever since I tried to get into them at a younger age for seeing them receive similar amounts of praise and probably being put off by the lack of hooks. But indeed this album is a big step up from the previous dealings in odd tempos and metaphors into the construction of choruses that blow the band's music into stratospheric heights. Yannis Philipakkis' falsettos command the listeners every move and lures you into the full captivating band performance as big riffs come out of nowhere. Once again, it's the sound of a band adapting their sound into a more mainstream format, but if that's selling out, then selling out has never sounded better than this.

Well, that's the best I can do for now. There are more brilliant albums out there that I will probably never get a chance to write about, but that's life. For now, I must return to the life of being a busy student and do some work. Or go back to sleep, sometimes I get the two mixed up. Most times however, I just sleep while working, man I'm so responsible. Anyway, this is probably what my blog posts will look like nowadays, I bet that's really disappointing. Man, this was easier while I was still in school. Oh well. Seeya. 

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Live review: The Kerrang! Tour 2013, O2 Academy, Glasgow

You might be looking at this progressively and think "Did he go to two gigs at the O2 Academy in a row, then go back home to Blairgowrie only to wake up at 5:30 AM the next morning to get a train to Aberdeen then get on a bus straight to Uni after he got there?" And I would say you think too much.

You probably know by now that I have a lot to thank Kerrang! for. It's shaped a good portion of my music taste today while I was slipping up on knowing what to get into, while also reminding me that bands that I thought were uncool to listen to still actually kick ass. But it was a few years back that I formed that opinion on the magazine. Since then, there's quite an obvious argument that the quality of what appears in those pages has, well, declined (Save for a quite exceptional Biffy Clyro interview.) and receives slander from everyone. Everywhere. All the time. And it's genuinely heartbreaking to see it constantly proving itself unable to get back up on it's feet and publish an issue that isn't just silly and will shut everyone up. It is why things will change when I achieve my dream job of becoming editor. Some will probably say it was a poor idea and it was unsurprising that we went bankrupt when I stopped putting You Me at Six, Paramore and All Time Low began putting the likes Turbonegro, Obituary and King Crimson on the cover for no other reason than I like them, but we will die with honour. Probably.

But tonight, I am supporting the magazine in it's current state and I'm being a spectator of the magazine's annual tour, that sees four bands they have a lot of love for touring the country and tonight's bill has a solid selection of bands, although some people lurking on the internet would gladly explain in great detail why they disagree with me. One reason I've really been keen to come to tonight's gig is that it gives me a chance to reunite with two very good friends of mine from school who are in fact still in school, that I haven't met up with in ages and one of those people's younger sisters who is also extremely good company. A lot of catching up is had in the queue which is perhaps one of the longest queues I've been in and thankfully, it goes by quickly thanks to my friends' effortless charm and humour and nothing else. No substances involved, nope.

Moving swiftly on, it's a massive relief to be back at the O2 Academy's downstairs standing section following the tenure of spending last night watching The Summer Set, Lower Than Atlantis and All Time Low in the balcony with a bunch of people that really didn't seem to display much care. There's a feeling of excitement in tonight's crowd right from the moment of entry. Of course, it helps that this excitement is coming from the fact that opening act Fearless Vampire Killers are already onstage. I never actually found the time to listen to the band when they were on the lips of this magazine constantly throughout last year, so this is my first experience of the band as they parade around the stage in their gothic steampunk-esque get up. And to be honest, we were left impressed. The musical performance was high on distortion and blasts of energetic guitar melodies that often hit a solid beatdown that were it a headlining show of theirs would be the kind of thing that ought to be inciting mosh pits. There's some humour in the onstage presence of frontman Laurence Beveridge as someone experiencing them for the first time. Pictures and interviews suggest that this band would be deadly serious in questionably mythical ways, but no. He stumbles about the stage like me on a night out. NA d not in a tragic way. He clearly makes it part of his shtick, making himself like the Johnny Vegas of gothic alternative rock. He asks the crowd to make their best sex noises while the rest of the band provide an old school porn film soundtrack. It must be a delight to those who came with parents and if you know the headliners of tonight, you know damn well that there's a high chance of parents being there. But with a solid set of songs and a spiked up and fairly unique cover of Elton John's I'm Still Standing, they leave here with a few more friends than they started with.

The next band I did take the time to listen to right as they were on the cusp of being massive here in the UK. Tonight Alive's debut full length What Are You So Scared Of? was obviously available for streaming on Youtube long before it was released in the UK, so I got a good chance to embrace their massive pop punk hooks and melodies some time ago. I guess that's why it was so disheartening to see the Brisbane pop punk quintet tonight not really seeming like they were giving their all. of course, with so much of the crowd here for the headliners, pop punk is the last thing on the majority of the crowd's minds tonight, but those who are in the mood for three chord fun lap up the crowd's performance as mini circle pits begin emerging. For the rest of us, I guess we're not specifically in the mood for having fun at this point and with little willing to move in any way, there seems to be some kind of fear of coming out as the pop punk sheep in the crowd. But even in the face of widespread rejection, the band refuse to let anything get in the way of their good time vibes and frontwoman Jenna McDougall makes herself a powerful stage presence and certainly becomes one of the only musicians of the night to jump into the crowd, which is of course always asking for trouble in Glasgow. It's a bit gutting really. Tonight Alive are killer on record but that reputation doesn't seem to come out tonight. Maybe if it was sunny day and they were playing outdoors, it would be a better show. And that's why I always said as soon as I first heard them that they are a band with "Warped Tour" written all over them.

In between Tonight Alive's departure and the appearance of the next band, there's a noticeable increase of people in the downstairs standing area. A lot of people coming to the Kerrang! tour have been waiting for this show for a long time. There was some widespread excitement when Craig Owens announced he was re-joining Chiodos as frontman. I mean, not Jesse Leach re-joining Killswitch Engage excitement, but excitement nonetheless. So naturally, the band that has had quite an underrated but notified influence on many American post hardcore bands today receive something close to a heroes welcome when they come onstage. Of course, many Kerrang! readers will be more familiar with Mr. Owens when his side project Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows, or D/R/U/G/S exploded over here and toured with tonight's headliners, and it's been good exposure for him at these shores and has made a lot of the crowd more familiar with the efforts of the band he has now returned to. And thus the likes of One Day Woman Will All Become Monsters and The Undertaker's Thirst for Revenge is Unquenchable get a highly enthusiastic comeback, while those less familiar with the band's material lose themselves in Pat McManaman and Thomas Erak's constant spiels of chuggy riffage. They're undoubtedly the heaviest band on the bill and it's that which makes them such a formidable highlight. I'm sure they'll be able to do their own headlining tour soon enough and it'll be like the upcoming Killswitch tour in a more compact form.

So, Chiodos exit the stage and all we need now is for the headliners to give it what they've got. Now, as good as all the bands have been, looking at everyone here and all the T Shirts being worn in the crowd, it's obvious that this is the only reason people turned up in thousands tonight. Its also the only reason that many people that haven't come out tonight will be instead finding any possible way to complain about the tour and mourn about how much of a sham the magazine hosting tonight's show has become. When it was announced that the Kerrang! Tour 2013 would be headlined by Black Veil Brides, it basically marked the moment that magazine pretty much stopped becoming Kerrang! and started becoming BVB Army Weekly. But when you see the size of tonight's crowd, it's clear why they do it. BVB sells, and everyone's buying. Of course, I managed to be quite the rarity in which I've managed to become a fan of the band, finding good moments in all their albums especially their latest bold opus Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones but it's the guitar work from Jake Pitts and Jeremy "Jinxx" Ferguson that has always been the highlight of the music, rather than the constantly prolific and constantly adored or slated figure that is their frontman Andy Biersack. It's what makes it so interesting and thought provoking to be in the same room as the man, to be so close to one of the most opinion dividing people in the room right now. But tonight he, Pitts, Jinxx, bassist Ashley Purdy and drummer Christian Coma are in the company of those that are showing them nothing but relentless amounts of love, which can easily be made out in the volumes of the screams from the crowd as they emerge on the stage and launch into a thundering rendition of I am Bulletproof. From there on, the screams remain at big volumes and massive hard rock riffs and hooks keep coming as they launch into a huge onslaught of new material and songs from 2011's Set the World On Fire as well as 2010's introducing single Perfect Weapon. Throughout the set we're treated to some ridiculously cheesy old school rock posing, I get the humour of wondering if many of the fans have any idea what the logo on Andy's Dead Kennedys T-shirt is meant to be, we're treated to the classic speeches of being proud of who you are and not letting anyone else get in your way, and there's even the very cool surprise of the band being joined onstage by Aiden frontman Wil Francis under his William Control guise during Shadows Die and the massive set closer of In the End. Many people came tonight knowing they were in for a great show and got it. I did as well, after a long time of not knowing whether it's respectable or not for me to admit to listening to them, I finally get the answer tonight. It is. They're a good band, no matter what the internet tries to tell me.

With that, we exit the Academy and I have some final chats with my friends and gather opinions on how they thought the show was. It's a positive response all round. And as I head home that night in preparation for an early wake up, I know I'll be seeing those crazy friends again. I need to more than anything. They're some of the most awesome people I know. The best part of this is I know that will actually meet again for a week at a Festival known as Download. And if a week with them can be as good as tonight, I'm probably the luckiest kid alive.

Live review: All Time Low - O2 Academy, Glasgow

As I began settling into life at university in Aberdeen and my sister began settling into her life at second year of uni in Edinburgh, we kind of realised something that we never really sussed out during years of living together in Blairgowrie. We missed each other. We were spending longer periods of time apart and it gets to a point where phone calls don't really do the job of spending quality time together. I knew that last weekend would be the first time that I'd get a chance to see my sister since leaving to start my second semester at the start of the year, and it meant I would like to hang out somewhere special, out of the norm for the night. Perhaps going to a gig for something very rare indeed. A gig for a band we both enjoy. And this is ultimately what prompted me to buy tickets for tonight's show. From our days of boredom spent watching Kerrang! TV, we both gained quite the affinity for Baltimore's pop punk sweethearts All Time Low, so when I found out they were playing at Glasgow's very fine branch of the O2 Academy, I knew I had to get a ticket.

Unfortunately, the timing taken to purchase said tickets results in us spending the night up in the balcony in the unreserved sitting section. Now, in case you weren't aware, I will advise you now, if you are passionate about going to gigs and seeing the crowd reaction, avoid unreserved seating tickets like supermarket meat. It will destroy your soul to see just how little care the majority of the crowd seem to have. And in some sense that will sound preposterous. I mean, they spent their money and stood in the major queue like everyone else, there's got to be some care somewhere. But as I manage to peer down on the people in the unreserved standing section, it's clear to see where the real fun is being had.

Before we focus solely on the gig details, it's worth examining the kind of reputation that All Time Low hold in their forms of touring, if you will. There's a divide in how they stand in your music collection. For some (me), they're like the glossier poppier band in a music collection championed by harder and rougher rock bands. For others (my sister), they're the rougher guitar playing band in a collection championed by glossy pop singers. Make sense? Maybe. In the US, the band clearly have a higher reputation of a band in the former position. More rock fans will see them as a relieving source of hooks and cheer. You just have to look at the fact that throughout April and May, they're embarking on a co-headline tour with Pierce the Veil, a band that are clearly made of harder stuff. Looking at much of tonight's crowd, I don't think they could possibly get away with something like that in the UK. We're in the latter category. We're a bunch of pop loving sissies. 

And so, tonight's lineup reflects the two ways that ATL's fans view them overall as a pop rock band. It means that the people that view them as the rock band in their pop collection go crazy for opening act The Summer Set hailing from Arizona, and not Somerset, to the surprise of my sister and I. 
Naturally, my sister falls for the sweet hooks and choruses covered in a radio friendly sheen, and much of the crowd manage to make some kind of effort to prove they're on the same page. But I am not like my sister and I can't really find myself falling in love with the band as so many around em effortlessly manage. In honesty, I had a bad start with the band as we arrived to them beginning a cover of Bruno Mars' Locked Out of Heaven and follow up with a performance of average pop rock songs leaving me thinking that this is nothing but really average and has me looking at bassist Stephen Gomez wondering "Is he even plugged in?" I mean, it's good for what it is, but hearing covers of Top 40 pop songs and hearing frontman Brian Dales' unleashing horribly forced lines of banter like "Hey, I got a hole in my shirt. I don't think it'll be the only piece of skin I have showing by the end of the night." isn't hearing the sound of a band that carries much ambition or integrity. But of course this is my life and that means everyone loves them and I am looked at a a boring bastard for not enjoying them. In fact they're so loved that later on, people fall over stairs for them. Fellow coursemate, if you are reading this, I'm sorry. I suck.

After the spread of giddying cheer that came from The Summer Set, the natural follow up is the band that will appease more to those that see All Time Low as the pop band in their rock collection. A less-than-happy reaction from fans came about when Lower Than Atlantis first announced on their Facebook page that they would be the main support on this tour. I mean there are obvious reasons for it. Some just can't get over the fact that they've gotten huge over the past few years and aren't playing in front of 40 people while supporting Architects anymore, which is an argument I can never really get behind, after all a band should tour with who they want if they want more exposure. The other argument is that it shouldn't be worth LTA's time to play a brilliant set every night only to be unappreciated by a crowd only wanting one band. And judging by tonight's crowd, this is an argument I can get behind. Obviously, opening for a poppy band, they're needing to pull out all the hits, so as they come onstage to a blinding Love Someone Else and my sister discovers what it's like to hear a heavy breakdown live for the first time, they establish that they're the real rock band of the night, whether the audience want it or not. And so, it's hit after hit after hit. If the World Was to End, Go On StrikeDeadliest Catch, (Motor)Way of Life all performed with much solidity and something of an awareness that they're the heaviest band here and a revolving thought on whether this is something worth being proud or self-conscious about. It's the best they can do with this crowd, but the real rock fans are left smiling, especially during Mike Duce's decent onstage banter and command for everyone sitting downstairs to take part in a faux-Slipknot crazy test as everyone sits on the floor only to jump up in a single moment of derangement. Which as you could imagine... is so much fun... to watch... from the balcony. Yeah. And as I look at the crowd losing there mind while those around me on the balcony blankly stare on and gaze at their phones. Indeed, they might not be getting into the music but it seems like some respect should be shown to them. This is just rude. I suppose we'll have to wait for their own headlining tour to see them get the appreciation they fully deserve.

Fuck me, I'm actually embarrassed by my photography attempts.

Of course, the crowd immediately put their phones away and begin cheering emphatically once the main backdrop is removed to reveal a massive "ATL" written on separate circles and indeed, four young men from Baltimore emerge onstage, ready to give the crowd the full display of Lower Than Atlantis' riff-lead punk belters laced in Summer Set gloss that the crowd has been demanding all this time. Much of tonight's set is a masterclass lesson in how to get a room of girls screaming above everything else. With every line of Alex Gaskarth's onstage banter which is fully improvised unlike some, Mr. Dales, the crowd are cheering along in the sheer recklessness and surprises of the moment. And then of course, there's the songs themselves. All Time Low couldn't write a small chorus if they tried and they prove it with their latest offering Don't Panic which has seen them going back to basics and back to their best. Naturally the likes of For Baltimore and The Reckless and the Brave fit in perfectly with a long line of previous tunes like Lost in Stereo, Forget About It and Six Feet Under the Stars. Personally, 2009's Nothing Personal is for me their best album so I revel in the moments in which works from that album are played and even have a full moment of sudden clarity when Alex introduces Stella as being a song about beer. Man, that was smart of me. Of course, the most triumphant moment of the evening is the double whammy closing pair of Weightless (which definitely isn't one of my favourite songs ever, nope.) and Dear Maria, Count Me In, the audience lap it up. And genuine headbanging unfolds for the first time, thankfully. Of course, up in the balcony things are much less awesome. I'm the most enthusiastic person by some distance beyond the odd drunk dancing girl and enthusiastic 12 year old whose parents look on without much concern. Plus everyone keeps shouting out for songs that I don't know as well, which is kind of annoying. Maybe I'll see them again when they announce they're playing Nothing Personal in it's entirety.

Of course, as I've stated this is a crowd that for the most part view ATL as the rock band in their pop collection, so the overall reaction is mostly void of enjoyable rock show ethics that Lower Than Atlantis were so desperately in demand for. But in the face of this crowd All Time Low still put on a performance worthy of a strong reputation of a rock band, that means they can be put on the bill for Sonisphere festival to the dismay of those who will go to watch a different band on at the same time as them. The kind of order and slick perfection that you'd see at the shows of many of the band s that this audience also listens to is not present. And with that extra chaos comes extra fun. Really, tonight All Time Low prove at times of having a constantly unsure reaction from the public that they really do belong in the rock crowd. Even if much tonight's audience doesn't realise it.

And with that, the show is over and done. And when the weekend finishes, I'm back to Aberdeen and my sister is back to Edinburgh. Who knows if we'll ever be able to have a meetup like that again. Well actually, I do know when we're next going to a gig together, but that's another story for another day. Either way, we spend tonight watching a band we both love and having a great time in our own ways. Ironically, we leave with our spirits at an all time high.

By the way, bad seating also means bad photography.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Review: Bullet for My Valentine - Temper Temper

Seems like this album is the only natural follow up with the ever increasing approach of Valentines day, and the fact that we've recently been immersed within a Bloody Valentine, so let's keep up the theme of love hearts and flowers by looking at a band everybody loves to hate: Bullet for My Valentine.

Now BFMV's story is hardly one that needs re-telling. Make accessible heavy metal albums, become arena filling giants of the genre, become hated by all the troo metal fans of the world. Personally, I was never able to agree with this because wouldn't you know I got into them when I was at a younger age and still unaware of all the real metal metal bands hidden in the corners of thrash land and... Norway. So, I have a prolonged love for the first three albums of the Bridgend quartet, The Poison, Scream Aim Fire and Fever even though I'm fully aware of why they generate so much hatred. But I will still stand for this band. I love those albums, I'll be watching them at this year's Download Festival (albeit, mainly so I can get a good spot for when Slipknot follow them up) and I was convinced that they were of a quality that could make them fly the flag for the future of British metal. Note the fact that the phrase "Was" just got used there.

Last year, the band released a single titled Temper Temper which later revealed itself to be the camp sounding title of their fourth full length album. As I listened to it while looking at recent news stories to come from my Facebook news feed, the song became the soundtrack to me learning that Mitch Lucker of Suicide Silence has been tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. Needless to say, the quality of the music wasn't exactly the main thing on my mind when the song reached it's end. But as I began to listen to that single and follow up single Riot, it became obvious as to why people were saying that Bullet had gone through a metaphorical death themselves.

So naturally, as you walk into the Temper Temper, what you're expecting is to hear Bullet's quality in great decline. You're expecting to hear them fall from the top of their game to something of a cheaper band that don't sound like they care at all. So, when you come to the end of the album, what you're left with is, well, a three quarters-letdown experience really.

So when the album's good, it's a good chunky piece of infectiously melodic heavy metal that is clearly made to rouse voices from arenas and main stages of festivals. And I know the likes of Leech still isn't going to make BFMV a abnd that will appeal to Darkthrone or Mayhem fans, but for a piece of melodic metal that takes influences from latter day In Flames, it's a refreshing rush of heavy metal that will get you singing along effortlessly. If you like choruses that is. It would be highly cynical to suggest that the best of Bullet's songwriting only comes through the chorus, but if that is the case then they're definitely making the best of it. As heavy metal balladry goes P.O.W. bleeds out the perfect amount of emotion and makes a truly enjoyable song as a result, perfecting upon Bullet's always prominent emo element that has been there since 2006's The Poison, while they reach their heaviest point during the mid section of closer Livin' Life (On the Edge of a Knife) which is the sweet payoff of a long time waiting.

Of course, you shouldn't expect any parts to be truly heavy on a Bullet album. And this might surprise some people who thought that frontman Matt Tuck's time co-fronting metal supergroup AxeWound with Cancer Bats' Liam Cormier would make him want to bring the more genuinely heavy grooves to the table with this band. But then after Tuck's statement that doing what he did in that collective would be Commercial Suicide for BFMV, it really did reveal that with this band comes a formula of songwriting that keeps them at a level of headlining stadiums, playing big festival slots and, well, making money.

In this respect you could excuse the band for working the majority of their songwriting in a "give the fans what they want" sort of way, but a lot of times on Temper Temper they take this too far and come out with songs that sound like re-hashed versions of songs they've already done better. The album's title track sounds like a cross between a cheap version of Fever's title track and a cheaper version of Yashin's New Year or New York. And if you don't know that song, check it out, because it's wicked and you'll see that it's probably not the kind of band Bullet would want to be compared to. Meanwhile, Truth Hurts sounds like a re-hashed Your Betrayal and Riot takes rhythms that sound like they'd be perfected by Newport metallers Skindred. Basically, much of Temper Temper can easily be triumphed by other bands or by their own previous efforts.

In fact, Bullet for my Valentine effectively prove this by themselves by choosing to call a song Tears Don't Fall, Part 2. Now for proper BFMV fans, 2006's Tears Don't Fall is surely a fan favourite. It's the song that got one of my very good friends into metal. In a world where gateway metal bands gain more and more respect, it's a song held in quite high regard. So the choice to give it a Part 2 only does the band the disservice in allowing fans to look at the original song, compare it to this and ultimately witness how much the band's efforts and quality have truly declined. Guitar melodies are less memorable, Tuck's screams have weakened and the sense of passion the first song bled isn't so notable this time round.

And along with that, a collection of weak lyrics (Saints & Sinners just opens with "Welcome to this fucked up world!" Great.) and questionable Bon Jovi impersonations (Dead to the World) and a constant letdown in vocals that feel devoid of any care, there's no easy way to get into Temper Temper as you so easily could with The Poison, Scream Aim Fire or Fever. It has it's strong moments, without a doubt, but for the most part it really feels difficult to identify a sense of passion or musical freedom coming through these stadium filler anthems.Only the sound of a band trying to break America, keep making money and try to headline festivals. And I hate that it sounds this way, I really want to enjoy it. But with the disappointment of AxeWound and the dismal follow up in this, it seems like Matt Tuck's golden days may truly be behind him, not even a decade into his career. I think you should stick with My Bloody Valentine. They can still sound great after 22 years.

Bullet for My Valentine's Temper Temper is out now via RCA. The band will tour the UK in March with Halestorm and Miss May I and will play at Download Festival at Donnington Park, Derby on 14th Jun.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Review: My Bloody Valentine - mbv

The early hours of the 4th were fun. I'm fairly confident that the words "403 Server is too busy" meant something to music fans the world over and there was some amazing reason for it. See, a few days ago, I was texting Patrick who hasn't received a reference on this blog for a while, but we were talking about our excitement of going to see one of the most influential bands on alternative music of the past 20 years My Bloody Valentine in Glasgow in March and I asked if he knew anything about the release of a new album yet, to which I was told back that they would probably just announce there was a new album shortly before it was released. And with that, we stopped talking and I got drunk.

Needless to say, Patrick's prediction came true late last night after the band posted on their website that they would be releasing their third album mbv, their first release as a band since 1991's Loveless, a true masterclass in guitar work, soundscaping and application of pure noise to create their own brand of pop music that you could dreamily sink yourself into and be lifted into new worlds as lead guitars joyfully scream in delight and pour all emotion into your senses. And any band that's made you feel that way ever since owes it's debts to Kevin Shields, Bilinda Butcher, Debbie Googe and Colm Ó Cíosóig.

Until the band announced their reunion in 2007, I don't think anyone was expecting to hear them record anything together again and after five years, lots of people had just given up hope, so as I write this we are still living in the aftermath of a great shock of an announcement. It's the ind of announcement that can only be fully resolved if the music is, well, as good as Loveless. And that's no easy ask.

So, they've come back with mbv an album filled with quirky lower case song titles and a false sense of civility that progresses into the madness that we love to receive from My Bloody Valentine. Seriously.

But descent into madness isn't the kind of thing that would be on the mind of any listeners. Mostly, the sheer excitement of hearing a new sound from this Northern Irish collective for the first time in 22 years is enough to make the opening of the album that of a bona fied classic. And she found now does indeed open the album in a style that does express the entire "We've been away for a long time, but now it's time for us to come back to life" style of songwriting without being obnoxious as the walls of distortion we love rise to action slowly, intertwined with Shields' rarely comprehensible vocals in a way that couldn't be mistaken for any other band. Imagine if Guns N' Roses could do the same thing. Hahahahaha!

With that, we are in for what is largely an experience of the musically stunning, that marks the gradual and gripping return to form from that band that gave us Loveless all those years ago and it's beautiful. Songs like only tomorrow and who sees you clearly aren't even written in a way that's meant exclusively create an emotional response, they're born from jam sessions. But the band's craft and entire guitar work that builds up uplifting melodies through fuzzy overtones make the songs sound less like the making of guitar jams and more like the making of dreamscapes. And sure enough by the time who sees you ends, the band has fully come to life and you are trapped in their world of wonder. And obviously, this builds up great rock songs, whether they're more in the vain of slow burning jams are are more dramatic and big headed like if i am and the demented guitar squeals that build up in another way that literally sounds like Kevin's lead guitars screaming out as they burn.

After that, there's no real knowing of what's to come after that. The band's use of electronics in previous work have always been more subtle, so allowing synthesizers to set up the main backdrop on is this and yes is an unexpected and welcoming foray into new alt music territories that while new isn't surprising from the band in the slightest. But the embracing of intense '90's dance music allows the album to end in a truly chaotic form as the pulsing beats of nothing is and kinetic dance punk of wonder 2 leaves listeners entrapped in a feeling of hot headed chaos, devoid of any kind escape. It's quite a dramatic shift of tone to what has mostly existed as a charming experienced of breezily textured vibrancy. But it would never be in the band's nature to end on a high note. That would be far to obvious wouldn't it?

So, being one of those albums you can't really describe with words, My Bloody Valentine have made what is a stunning comeback album with mbv. While you still can't fully make out Kevin Shield's lyrics, the music itself still speaks a thousand words and it makes out something delicate and very beautiful for the most part, with enough shifts in tone to keep you gripped in the entire spectrum. Yeah, it's awesome. It's a great album to listen to as an album for the moment, but if we put it into a wider context, questions need to be asked? Is this album set to be a guaranteed classic in the same way that Loveless is? Probably not, to be honest and I think much of the buzz about this album will always come from the fact that it is the first album in 22 years, and the extremely sudden announcement of it's release and the subsequent website crash. But I seriously doubt the abnd were all that concerned about making an album that silenced all the critics and made this album more out of love of performing together and to make themselves happy and I know that many fans will be fully able to embrace that with the band. This album's been along time coming and I suppose it's been worth the wait of 22 years and several hours of servers being too busy. And soon, I'll get to experience this comeback in a live setting. Where are my earplugs?

My Bloody Valentine's mbv is out now via Self Release. The abnd will tour the UK in March.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

January: Ten forgotten gems.

Hey there! How's February been so far? I should have written some words on this blog a long time ago, however, I've began my second semester at University now and as you could imagine, it's somewhat time consuming. That and on Friday night, I went to a party and have discovered the way of University parties which is after said party it takes a good 24 hours to recover. Have I cleared things up? No? Thought not.

Anyway, January proved itself to be a very good start for the world of rock music in it's releases. Both Biffy Clyro and The Joy Formidable unleashed absolute knockouts of albums with Opposites and Wolf's Law, albums that revealed an expert craft for massive stadium filling rock anthems that also showed off a progressive intelligence. Meanwhile Mallory Knox proved themselves new players in the ever-growing empire of great British rock with their debut full length Signals and the internet's sweethearts Black Veil Brides continued to tarnish my reputation as a respectable online music reviewer by releasing another enjoyable album with Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones.

Of course, as I said at the start of the year, I've been very busy and missed the chance to review a lot of fairly major albums of the year, so I'd like this time to make up for those missed albums in a miniature review form. Here are ten albums from January I never got to write full reviews of.

Funeral for a Friend - Conduit (Distiller Records)
The limelight faded a long time ago on Bridgend quintet Funeral for a Friend. Through various shifts in lineup and attempts to get big by abandoning their hardcore roots for stadium anthems, they really did lose the widespread attention that they so effortlessly achieved in the early 2000's. That said, if you are one of the people that still paid attention to them since then, you'll be in for a treat with their sixth full length Conduit, the sound of a band fully committed to delivering music once more with an emotional intensity and a set of claws attached to razor blade riffs and fiery drumming. While there's still hooks and anthemic melodies to be found, this album sees FFAF find themselves aware that their time as British rock's big thing is over and saying "Fuck it, let's make a wicked hardcore album then!"

Yo La Tengo - Fade (Matador)
In my veering journeys into more dreamy hipster music territory because I'm such a dude, New Jersey's Yo La Tengo have always had a place in my heart as being one of the first indie bands that make excessive use of distortion pedals and vibrant boards of sound that I really got into, embracing their ability to summon up a real feeling of beauty at a time when my music taste... wasn't exactly brilliant. And they manage it again thirteenth album Fade, which invites you to lay within it's slow burning sweeping melodies gently passed out with rattling percussion and delicate patterns of acoustic rhythms taken from the 60's and given a grand modern makeover. It really is quite lovely and not even a complex hipster fest as I used to think it was. Anyone can fall in love with Yo La Tengo.

Hatebreed - The Divinity of Purpose (Nuclear Blast)
It was never going to be an easy task to write a full length review of a Hatebreed album because let's not kid ourselves here. They're not Porcupine Tree. You know exactly what you're getting with a Hatebreed album and you know fine you'd be extremely disappointed if you heard anything more or less on it. And so we have  The Divinity of Purpose, the seventh album from the world's greatest crossover band right now. It's got anthemic scream-alongs and gang vocals, chunky riffs delivered in pulsing breakdowns and sees Jamey Jasta deliver the powerful vocals and lyrics that make you want to pump your fist in defiance and start a moshpit in your own room. Basically, it's an album you should learn before getting slaughtered by it live. Please don't tell us you expected more from them.

Bad Religion - True North (Epitaph)
I should probably be hung as a punishment for not giving my time to Bad Religion after everything that Greg Graffin and Brett Gurewitz have done for my music taste with their influence and record label owning. But indeed, they've returned with their sixteenth album True North that still shows them to be torchbearers for modern punk music awash with thundering hooks and sing along choruses battered out by crunchy riffs riding along blitzing basslines. Maybe a day will come when the band are well into their old ages and can't carry the kind of energy they have here, but until that day comes we can do nothing but celebrate what they're capable of summoning on albums like this one. And I'm sorry I never gave my full time to it. I suck at being a human.

Adam Ant - Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar Marrying the Gunner's Daughter (BlueBlack Hussar)
That's right! Adam Ant has new stuff out. You remember Adam Ant probably through people trying to impersonate his screams from Adam and the Ants' Stand and Deliver. And because of that, his legacy on many great names in alternative music today is greatly undermined and no one becomes aware of the fact that he can still release something brilliant today in the form of the dubiously titled Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar Marrying the Gunner's Daughter. Indeed the man returns after twenty years of music changing and receiving various forms of tabloid slander but he's still able to return with something wonderfully off-the-wall and purely chaotic in it's outlook. It's a charming and delirious statement from an artist you probably thought was destined for cheap imitation.

Blockheads - This World is Dead (Relapse)
No ladies and gentleman. Ian Dury's backing band haven't returned with their own project. Although if they have, it's certainly gone from Dury to Fury with them. This is grindcore with a heart of pure black in the vain of Pig Destroyer and on their fifth album This World is Dead the French crew are taking no prisoners with their wide collection of songs that choose not to pass the 3 minute mark and choose to obliterate listeners with the time that they have. This is effectively annihilation in musical form that has come from in influence of 30 good years of pain and brutality. Keep it coming boys, we need all the pain we can get! It makes a change from sex, drugs and rock and roll, right?

Foxygen - We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic (Jagjaguwar)
Looking for something groundbreaking? No? You may as well stick around with Californian duo Foxygen then, because their second full length We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic is basically the sound of your cool middle aged parents record collection coming back to life, as the band tear through their Velvet Underground and Rolling Stones influences, making a raucous noise as they do it. All they do carries a vibe of "tried and tested" yes, but as they go onward it's so gleeful and done with such a belief that they could get as big as the Brian Jonestown Massacre that you can't help but chill, smile and laugh with them as they go along. And chilling on the ground can sometimes be more desirable than breaking it.

Dutch Uncles - Out of Touch in the Wild (Memphis Industries)
Many reviewers have looked at the current state of alternative music and have realised to some extent, we're coming back to popularize that musical sound that existed in British music of the '90's when bands belonged to a ridiculous collective name based on where they come from. In the case of Dutch Uncles, the "Madchester" sound has been re-popularized albeit under a more subtle layer with a modern indie sophistication, as heard on their third album Out of Touch In the Wild. There's massive choruses built up around arty synthesizers and jangly guitars lifted to a higher level of grace by Duncan Wallis' airy vocals. It's the Madchester scene returning only the simple madness has matured. It's delightfully mad Chester. What??

Midnight Spin - Don't Let Me Sleep (Self Release)
This is probably my favourite out of the pack just for the reason that it's good to just have a proper example of a modern rock band around the place. Midnight Spin aren't a band that deal in bullshit. They're five guys from New York armed only with guitars drums, rough vocals and a lot of time spent playing in garages. And it reflects in the straight pilings of attitude and grit that goes into their debut offering Don't Let Me Sleep. It spits out servings of blistering punk venom through grungy distortion that only wants it rough while exploring enough themes and tones in their songwriting to make it a more diverse and thoughtful listen than having some cool riffs to headbang to. It's an album for late night times of restlessness, most likely written by those that experience late night restlessness. A good accompanying piece for Uni life I suppose.

The Plot in You - Could You Watch Your Children Burn (Rise)
We'll stick this one in at the end because Rise Records metalcore bands can be so much fun, even when they don't mean to. Bands like early Attack Attack! and Upon This Dawning have provided me with endless amounts of entertainment and amusement whether that was their intention or not. But Ohio quintet The Plot In You are leagues above those two with a real emphasis on making their stuff genuinely heavy fitted into their second album Could You Watch Your Children Burn which means the moshpits fitted to songs of personal anguish are going to be off the wall. What were you expecting? It's chuggy, the vocals are whiny, in the best way possible and the main parts of the song are always when the breakdowns kick in. And actually, that's cool sometimes.

Okay, that's ten good albums I would have loved to have written full reviews for from January but never got the chance to. Obviously there are lots of other albums as well, and I'm sure they'll all manage to make an appearance sometime, but I promise nothing. The idea is to do this every month because I'm guaranteed to miss several albums out per month. I've probably missed out several from February already. But after this, I'm going to make up for it.

I have to deal with the only Valentine that matters this month. My Bloody one.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Review: Biffy Clyro - Opposites

If you were to find yourself back in the spring of 2000 at The Practice Pad in Glasgow, what kind of reaction do you think you'd get when you found three young adults, Simon Neil, James Johnston and Ben Johnston recording Thekidswhopoptodaywillrocktomorrow, the first recorded material to come out under the name of Biffy Clyro and told the trio that in thirteen years time, they'd be regarded as one of the finest bands to come out of the UK in the past decade and that everyone was going out in their masses to buy their double album, Opposites? Chances are, they'd burst out laughing at you and try and get an offer of the drugs they assumed you were taking.

But as we all know, these far fetched fantasies of 2000 are the realities of 2013 that we can witness unfold throughout the progressiveness of the back catalogue of the Biff. From the deranged post-hardcore blasters that were unleashed from 2002's Blackened Sky to 2004's Infinity Land to 2007's Puzzle, the album that changed everything as it punched a huge dent in the face of mainstream rock and proved that off-the-wall songwriting still has it's place in a world where big choruses and melodies rule, to it's triumphant follow up of 2009's Only Revolutions, a masterclass of stadium rock grandeur that let the entire nation know what their name was, the entire body of Biffy Clyro is one that proves there really is nothing they can't do. And it should be fairly obvious, but they can tick making a double album off of that list as well.

I suppose we should start with the beginning of the album. The last time a rock double album managed to excite the world over, it burst straight into action on a song called Right Next Door to Hell, however things are dealt with a more graceful progressive manner here as the album's first part The Sand at the Core of Our Bones opens with Different People which rises to action with a grand rising of church organs that stick listeners straight into a cautious state, unknowing of what will happen next. As it happens, the rest of the song unfolds in a warm spirited manner, more delicate but equally as able to put a feeling of good hearted indestructibility within you as the instant anthem-structures of The Captain or Living is a Problem Because Everything Dies. But with a dazzling range of strong melodies and a band performance that highlights the delirium Ben Johnston puts into his drumming, it shows that Biffy are back and taking no prisoners.

From there on, the band let rip and do what it is they know best, constructing immersive works of music that covers a wide emotional spectrum and bringing in instruments and influences that show they work without any rules or constraints. Black Chandelier serves effectively as a grand retrospective of the band's full career, as it plays out as the grand stadium filler we know they are capable of that goes on to show no fear of throwing in a massive and fully heavy breakdown that harks back good memories of their post hardcore days, while the fusion of stadium filling strength and weird songwriting with irregular-time signatures rattled out by Neil forms through on the crunching Sounds Like Balloons, where's Neil's immense lyrical skills bursts out in his furious chants of "Ancient Rome, we built that fucker stone by stone/ Our fingers bled, our feet were worn/ but we stood strong and carried on."

Much of the emotion packed has a very extreme rawness. The immediate obvious tones of pain and regret that flows through Opposite as Simon announces "Baby I'm leaving here/ You need to be with somebody else" is let out with such a crisp simplicity that it can't really do anything except for break your heart, as does the niche delicacy that comes out Bliblical's tales of something beautiful reaching and end and The Thaw that weaves out pleasant memories of the early 2000's emo explosion. However, much of Opposite's songwriting trades tears for triumph. The album's second part The Land at the End of Our Toes opens with the monstrous Stingin' Belle, an opener that sounds like a heavier chuggier version of Foo Fighters' Long Road to Ruin that features riffs and basslines from Simon and James which explains why it is that they are allowed to play at festivals like Download and Sonisphere to the dismay of many metalheads. The immense melodies and sing along harmonies and chorus penmanship worked into the likes of the graceful Victory Over the Sun, which makes beautiful use of backing strings and the blazing riff fests of Pocket ought to make you feel little else but absolute joy. That and it will probably be difficult for me to find a piece of music this year that has made me smile like the outro of Picture a Knife Fight.

The music itself flows along in it's own sense of class that opts not to do the same thing twice. When the band choose to lay down on the guitars and drums they do it just right, with the likes of Modern Magic Formula, The Jokes On Us, Little Hospitals and Woo Woo are four songs that will slay live. But there's again further influences here that go beyond the band's obvious ear for the Foos, Nirvana and The Pixies. The Fog builds up to a demented outro with the droning ventures into unsettling noise that brings back vague Swans memories while the doomy Skylight builds into a territory that while spacey in it's full atmospheric backdrop carries an internal intimacy and a musical sound that is purely Nine Inch Nails-esque. On a different note, the blasts of brass backings on Spanish Radio and use of Trumpets and backings of people tap-dancing on Trumpet or Tap shows that amongst all the dramatic songwriting, there's still room for some fun. In fact the mixture of the fun and drama in those songs simply makes them more romantic. It's quite a frequent feeling on the album, it's one you can sink into and forget all the hatred that runs through the world.

But it was obvious that Biffy Clyro were more than able to make a song that could deliver that feeling of pure love without even trying. But here on Opposites, they are trying a whole lot and the result is something that puts previous work into perspective. They've cracked their effort of making in a double album effortlessly and in a manner that lies somewhere between the non stop banger collection that was heard on the previously aforementioned Use Your Illusion by Guns N' Roses while also having the ability to take you on a journey through spaces of emotions, memories and reflections of dark times gone by similar to the kind you could hear on Baroness' Yellow & Green. And that is one of the most remarkable thing to come from this. While in reality, this album is a collection of 20 brilliant songs, it feels like there's something more, like Biffy Clyro are more like the narrators of this mad music journey as opposed to just the great musicians that previous work has showed them to be. And that is a matter worth getting extremely excited about, that in this world of highly mainstream rock music, there is still room for that kind of musical ethos. And that one of the finest bands in the nation are the people to make it.

And I doubt that any thoughts like that were going through the minds of the young guys that stood recording in The Practice Pad thirteen years ago.

Biffy Clyro's Opposites is out now via 14th Floor. The band will tour the UK from March-April with City and Colour.