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    Album Reviews

    Ok, here's a space for you to let rip with your album reviews. We have some knowledgeable fans on this site, so we should set the standard high.

    Albums could new release, old news, hidden gems, or black beauties. Post your views.

    I've posted quite a few reviews at rothfans.com, which I'll re-post here. Everyone should feel free to post though, I don't want to claim any ownership in this thread.

    Cheers


    CLICK THIS LINK FOR A FULL INDEX OF REVIEWS

    Last edited by Seshmeister; 08-21-2013 at 07:48 PM.
    Hey Jackass! You need to [Register] or log in to view signatures on ROTHARMY.COM!

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    Thin Lizzy - Still Dangerous: Live at the Tower Theatre Philadelphia 1977

    There's been a lot of hype around this release, with members of the classic Lizzy lineup claiming that this 'lost' recording is superior to the classic 'Live and Dangerous'. Well, it isn't. It is, however, a very, very fine live record: the performance of the band may well be on a par with 'L&D', with 'Soldier of Fortune', 'Jailbreak', 'Cowboy Song' and 'Massacre' crackling and bouncing out of the speakers ('Don't Believe a Word' is a little flat, however); and Lynott's smooth, unusual tones slowly draw you deeper and deeper into his tales of joy and woe. What hinders this from being a classic, however, is the absence of an electric atmosphere which used to be an essential part of live albums - what made 'No Sleep 'til Hammersmith', 'Metallic KO' and 'If You Want Blood' classics was not just the face melting recordings of their respective bands on fire, but the capturing of the atmosphere in the room at that time - those records ooze personality, and bottle up a moment. This one doesn't. Lizzy were an excellent band, and this is a damn fine record of a damn fine performance, but a couple of moves short of a pefect 10.

    A much better recording that last year's glorified bootleg of the '75 tour (although with a far less interesting track listing), this will be an asset in any fan of 70s hard rock's collection.

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    Chris Cornell - Scream

    You know when a toddler become frustrated with a jigsaw and frantically hammers together two pieces that aren't meant to join, ultimately resulting in a final product which resembles the picture on the box in the same creepy yet distant way that a lookalike resembles their celebrity? Well, that's sort of what's happened here, with Cornell's sombre lyrics and dark tones jarringly out of step with 'producer extraordinaire' Timbaland's up-beat hippoty-hoppety music. The result is a collage rather than a collaboration, and it falls short of satisfying in every way.

    Now, I have no problem with artists experimenting. When Metallic released 'Load', I thought 'different, but cool'; when Megadeth released 'Cryptic Writings' I thought 'Dave's a Cat Steven's fan? Who'd of thought it? But these songs rule...' and when Halford released 'Two' I thought.....ok even I'm not that open minded! But for experimentation to work it has to be done with a clear goal in mind, and still has to spring from the same essence that makes that artist great. In Cornell's case, experimentation with electronic music would have been better executed in a darker mould, a la Nine Inch Nails. That would have been from the same place as 'Superunknown', 'Badmotorfinger' or that criminally underated 'Euphoria Mornings'.

    Here though the hip hop experiment seems contrived. Cornell singing 'That bitch ain't a part of me' just feels like a man play acting, rather than pouring his soul out; and the meanderings which make up the music on 'Time' and 'Sweet Revenge' feel half-hearted and under-cooked. It's certainly not the case that there's no plus points here - despite the presence of Justin Timberlake (mercifully low in the mix), 'Take Me Alive' is a very interesting tune and the point where the collaboration of Timbaland and Cornell works best. Highs are painfully few and far between however - along with the mediocre rock-by-numbers of 'Carry On' last time out, it seems that what we are witnessing here is a frightening public midlife crisis.

    Cornell still has an outstanding voice, but on the evidence here you'd never know that in the early 90s this man wrote songs by which all subsequent rock music would be judged. It's a cruel irony that the super-talented often set themselves a bar that they spend the rest of their lives failing to clear. Listening to this will lead to frantic head shaking, not banging.

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    Supersuckers - Get It Together

    "I've been waitin' for a long time honey for the wrong side of the kiss...." (what a fuckin' lyric!)

    The Supersuckers make albums that instantly make life's stresses seem like distant problems; a band that manages to be a good time rock n roll band without being entirely dispossable. You know exactly what you're going to get: tales of bad men and badder women, beer, brawls and broken hearts all blasted out through shit kickin' riffs and 4/4 rhythms - there is nothing contrived here, just real life in all its beautiful ugliness. This is what The Ramones would have sounded like if they'd been a bunch of good ol' boys, music to fight and fuck to, music that makes you tap your foot, shake your ass and grin the groans away. Highlights include the punchy rhythm of 'Listen Up', the Lizzy-esque harmony of 'Something Good For You', the comic bravado of 'I'm a Fucking Genius', and the sombre blues of 'What It Takes' and 'Paid', which is good time rock played by those who have lived the bad times and the good. This is as good as The Supersuckers have sounded in a decade - may be not the heights the reached with 'The Evil Powers of Rock n Roll' or 'The Sacreligious Sounds of the Supersuckers', but a damn good spin nonetheless. Great songs, clever lyrics and a sense of humour - what more do you want from a rock record?

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    Cancer Bats - Hail Destroyer

    Put simply, this is a post-hardcore record that isn't boring. In times when it seems every band in this genre writes songs that exist purely for the mid-section breakdown, that is a mighty fine achievement, and a refreshing one. This band don't even have generic on the horizon: the greasy riff to 'Bastard's Waltz' deserves an king sized award; and the unnerving and unhinged fury of 'Sorceress' is about as purely emotional as music can get. All great music has a sense of melody, and an incessantly attractive rhythm, and this group understands that - unlike so many other bands of this ilk, each song on this record stands unique from the others but all contain the stamp of character that runs throughout the album. From the classic metal riffery of the title track and 'Lucifer's Rocking Chair', to the old-skool hardcore of 'Harem of Scorpions' and 'Let It Pour' the listener is presented with a melting pot of everything that has been great about extreme music for the past 25 years. The vocals aren't cookie monster, but are barked with vitriol in a style that's reminiscent of the criminally underated 90s band Strife, and are a perfect vehicle for lyrics which paint in various shades of anger, rage and despair. Closing with the souring 'Zed's Dead Baby', this is a band that feels it and means it - if they keep putting out discs like this, they may very well become legends. Not for the faint hearted, but pure catharsis on plastic. My neck hurts, I'm sweating, and my ears ache, but damn it feels good.

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    Pain - Cynic Paradise

    This is a side project from Peter Tagtgren, lead singer/guitar player in death metal band Hypocrisy and producer/editor of Dimmu Borgia, Celtic Frost and Immortal. But this ain't death metal. If you had to label it, 'Anthemic Industrial' would be nearer the mark, the record is stamped with a sonic boom nearer to Strapping Young Lad (the Devin Townsend influence is very evident), the sombre despair of early Nine Inch Nails, and the twisted concotion of sounds displayed by Ministry and Misery Loves Co. The quality of the songs marks this out as much, much more than a whim, the fate of many side projects. There is so much to love here: the solomn lament of 'No-one Knows', the riff-crushing despair of 'Feed Us', and the frankly schizophrenic opener, 'I'm Going In' are just a few of the highlights. Throughout, scuzzy guitars are at the forefront of a sound lifted by choral sections and keyboards which compliment rather than overwhelm the grungy sound, amplifying the massive hooks in the choruses to make the songs truly anthemic. Make no mistake, like Trent Reznor Tagtgren knows how to weld his dark poetry with pop senibilities - these songs stick in your head. This is quite a unique talent - dark yet uplifting, intense yet catchy.

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    The Answer - Everyday Demons.

    Following opening slots of AC/DC and Aerosmith, there has been a lot of hype around this Irish band, with many hailing them as the successors of the classic rock titans like Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, and Humble Pie. Well, they aren't. To be great, you have to be looking forward and strive for originality. The Answer seek to do neither.

    Not that that's a bad thing - on their debut record, the mix mash of 70s influences hadn't been fully absorbed, and the listener found themselves thinking 'so this one's the AC/DC song, this one's the Bad Company song.....' as each successive track displayed a different style and influence. On the softmore effort, however, the band have welded all of these influences into a unique stlye that is at once timeless and their own. The result is a damn fine record which is far more than the sum of its parts. Fully in the 70s blues-rock mold, but with songs perfectly crafted - there is very little fat here - the majority of songs have every drip of potential squeezed out of them. Opener 'Demon Eyes' is a full tilt smasher, all hooks, chord progressions and blues riffs asunder; 'Why'd You Change Your Mind' alternates from swamp blues to metallic thunk; 'Too Far Gone' boasts a kick in the teeth riff and climaxes as an epic of bombastful proportions; and 'Walkin' Mat', with its switch-scratch beat, is true sonic shamonry. At it's best, you'll sit their grinning like a fat kid with a birthday cake.

    It's not all killer, however. The albums' two softer moments display lazziness: 'Pride' is one idea rotated, and 'Comfort Zone' is formlaic and unimaginative - truly out of character here. But when faced with such energy and sheen it's churlish to focus on negatives. Guitarist Paul Mahon is a blues slinger straight out of the Perry/Slash school of 'belt em out' solos and is more subdued here than on the debut record - he does his job, taking the song up a notch but never meandering needlessly. The real star is singer Cormac Nelson - a soulful screacher who delivers a master class in intonation on 'Too Far Gone' and 'Why'd You Change Your Mind', and croons his way through the quieter moments. Like all great singers, he projects such character that you want to listen to the tired blues tales of bad men, badder women and wild nights. That's talent.

    One day they might deliver a truly great record - this will more than do in the meantime. A record to crank in your car all summer.

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    The Bronx - The Bronx

    Fact: The Bronx are better than your band. No question, there will be no competition. This is a band that can makes epic 2 and a half minute songs - such is their leanness - each one of which takes the listener on a journey that leaves a keenly felt impression. This is their thrid studio release, and their third eponymous record. Like earlier records, all of the great parts of punk and hardcore from the past three decades are blended together and smoothed out with the inestimable cool of rock 'n' roll and rolled together into one big clusterfuck - a giant, strangley attractive Frankenstein of a band that make the next 10 records you hear sound frankly irrelevant. Yes, that good. The intensity - most keenly displayed on 'Digital Leash' - is staggering, and I had to check a couple that they weren't actually playing this live in the room.

    It all starts with the greasy chunk that forms the riff to 'Knifeman', a song which epitimozes the album - for this is an ALBUM, not a collection of songs, there is vision and purpose here - huge chorus, a menacing groove, swagger, balls and metallic sheen all undercut with huge slabs of rumbling bass. This time the vocals are not all scream and bark, but fall somewhere between croon and shout, warmth and anger. The precise snap of 'Enemy Mind' is dazzling; 'Six Days a Week' and 'Pleasure Seekers' are anthems of aggressive dispossesion; and 'Ship High in Transit' has an instantly likeable swagger and scowl.

    The lyrics defy cliche: told with candidness, each personal tale alternates between edifying and disturbing whilst always been instantly poigniant. Undoubtedly too angry for some listeners, you have to be in the mood for this band - but when the time is right, by God is it worth it. Destined never to be a household name, but whose impact will be felt for decades to come. Just when you thought hardcore couldn't get any more generic, a band produces three records of this calibre. Outstanding.

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    AC/DC - Black Ice

    Like every album since 1981's 'For Those About To Rock....', this is billed as 'the best AC/DC album since Back In Black'. And you fall for it every time. You buy into the hype, go to the record store all excited, grab the CD, rush home, put it on the stereo and .............try and mask your disappointment. You find yourself saying things like 'that bass is really tight', 'ooooo, the snare sounds good there' or - if your really deep in self denial - 'that's like an out-take from Powerage'. Eventually, however, you give up, and quickly forget about most of the songs on the new album, safe in the knowledge that 'DC will only play one of them on tour before rolling out the same setlist from the last 20 years.

    And, for the most part, it's the same this time. Opener 'Rock 'n' Roll Train' is so AC/DC-by-numbers that it sounds like a tribute band that has decided to write it's own material - plodding, ponderous and flabby as it rotates the same idea over and over, it seems to go on forever. It sets a tone for the rest of this disk, and it is a trap that a lot of older bands fall into once they can no longer pull the trigger - thinking that quantity will be a ready substitute for quality. Indeed, there are 15 songs here. FIFTEEN. We are treated to every average ditty they had on file in what amounts too a gallery of mediocrity: 'Wheels' and 'Skies on Fire' are instantly forgettable, and 'She Likes Rock 'n' Roll' almost laughably falls flat on its face in an attempt to be anthemic.

    Indeed, it's only when the band stretch themselves that we get some gems. The slowed down 'Decibel' has a great hook and is seductively catchy; the bluesy 'Stormy Day' is a thriller, displaying Jonson's best melody which beautifully compliments the slide guitar; and the soft/heavy switch in 'Rock 'N' Roll Dream' works a treat. Had such boldness been injected into the other tunes, this album would have made for more interesting listening.

    The lyrics are as bad as any set the band have produced after Bon's notepad ran dry around 'Flick of the Switch' - most criminal are 'Big Jack', and it's when cringing through this number that you realize just how essential Scott's wit was to this band's heyday. History has taugh us though that expecting subtlety and tease in latter day DC's lyrics is like waiting for Kevin Costner to make a good movie. But Brian Jonson is on good form - his range is higher than on any record since 'Razor's Edge' and his unmistakable charisma is present throughout - easily the record's saving grace.

    Sadly, the same cannot be said of the guitars, which sound oddly flat. No-one had a more distinctive tone than Angus, but it's barely present here. The crunch of 'Powerage', 'Let There Be Rock' or even 'Flick of The Switch' seem a life time away. The bluesier tones of 2000's 'Stiff Upper Lip' are abandoned for a thinner, pastier sound which seems to rob the band of much of their undeniable power. Criticism must be levelled at knob twiddler Brendan O Brien who seems to do his best work with more introspective, darker bands - when handling out and out rockers, however, he leaves them sounding somewhat emaciated.

    And yet, for all of its flaws you can't help but like this record. That's the magic of AC/DC - even on a poor showing they leave you with a smile. That's surely the only reason that they can still sell millions of records after howler after howler of a record. Any other band couldn't get away with this. But then, no other band has the charisma of AC/DC.

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    Bible of The Devil - Freedom Metal

    An album of two halves this one. The first half is as METAL as it gets. It's like a trip back to 1984: a singer who can barely carry a tune (the wail on 'Hijak the Night' is laughable), Accept-like riffage that chuggs with all the regularity of an alcoholic during happy hour, duel guitar 'Hey Mom, watch this!' solos, anthemic choruses, and lyrics that could be lifted straight out of a file labelled 'generic' - you say cliche, they say classic. It's all tried and tested, and makes for warm listening, even if on 'Greek Fire' formulaic passes into stale. Given the sound of the drums, an educated guess would be that this was recorded on a shoe string budget, but it just doesn't matter. This is the type of band that the unitiated just don't get, the kind of band that are larger-than-life comic book villians. It doesn't set the world alite, but you can't help but smile and throw the horns. METAAAAAAAAAAL!

    The second half is a wholly different beast: on songs like 'Ol Girl' the band manages to form its own sound, which stays true that blue-collar metal they so clearly adore, but adds southern groove and flavours - the vibe is looser, and yet more epic. We are far from generic-town here: 'Heat Feeler' is no cheesy soft moment but an upbeat stoll through Skynrdsville that climaxes as a gargantuan epic. The Thin Lizzy harmonies add subtely, the lyrics become more adventurous, and the band opens up a little with it's time changes. It sounds like Maiden jamming with The Hold Steady - all bravado and cool blasted out as the day bleeds into night. If they have more tunes like this, the future would be promising; if not, well, there's always those devil horns!

    Moments of brilliance admist the solid if not spectacular.

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    Mastodon - Crack the Skye

    There are some albums where you remember the exact moment when you first heard them: 'Master of Puppets', 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath', 'Powerslave', 'Physical Graffiti', 'Rocks', 'Appetite for Destruction', 'Into the Pandemonium', 'Roots', 'Vulgar Display of Power', 'The Shape of Punk To Come'......for all their differences they all have something in common - they herald a raising of the bar. This is one of those records.

    Album opener 'Oblivion' begins unobstrusively, a slow tingling 'Vol.4'-esque riff inviting the listener in to what soon emerges as everything we have come to expect from Mastodon: the odd, unexpected time-changes; de-tuned riffage; moody chord progressions; duel guitar harmonies which are the melancholic bastard children of Thin Lizzy; and swirls of drums which drive each track with the carefree abandon of a cyclone, rather than the rigid, bullet speed track-train assault that is the choice of most modern metal bands. But you also notice the differences this time out. The vocals are cleaner, more audible and higher in the mix, and the unassuming sense of meoldy that this band has always possessed is much more to the forefront - this song's haunting hook is irrepressible. In typical Mastodon style, wave after wave of music wash over the listener in an experience which is simultaneously claustrophobic and euphoric. It's a presage of what's to come.

    The faster, frantic boom of 'Divination' ups the pace, snarling vocals and serene melodies mixing in a disturbing combination, as huge chorus and psychotic bulldozing riffs compete for the ear's attention. 'Quintessence' is a swirl of music, alteranting between the loose jazz of the verse and fuzzy punk fury of the chorus - imagine the Mars Volta in a bar fight. But it's on 'The Czar' that your jaw really drops. All 11 minutes of it. The sombre, brooding, dream-like opening section giving birth to a series of HUGE riffs and drum bombardments - a collage of musical parts which sounds gargantuan, and melodrama of operatic stature. This is the epic of Maiden powered by the gutteral bass pummeling of early Kyuss. It's the sheer quantity of the quality that baffles - like '....And Justice For All' Metallica, the songs contain riffs that most bands would give their left nuts for buried amongst other riffs of the same calibre.

    'Ghost of Karelia' begins with eastern harmonies and is interspersed with an eerie melody which swarms throughout the song; in complete contrast, the title track is all Unsane-eque riff chugg, a bowl lossening begining giving way to a hypnotic mid-section made up of multiple interwoven guitar melodies. This is complex without being overwhelming - the sense of song always being placed before any desire toward acclaim and viruosity. Closing epic 'The Last Baron' is a myriad of riffs and time changes, the most pedal to the metal song here - snapping into a spasmodic prog-rock masterpiece around the 8:15 mark, it closes with soaring, macabre guitar lines which complete a truly dazzling 50 minute musical journey.

    This band is as much prog as it is metal, as much King Crimson as Iron Maiden. The most obvious comparison in style would be Neurosis, but Mastodon have far more groove about them. Some will undoubtedly find Brendon O'Brein's production have robbed the band of some of the 'metal' evidence on previous records 'Leviathon' and 'Blood Mountain': the sound is layered, and much of the guitar crunch and thudding drums is buried - but this record is still as heavy as it is epic. Not a Friday night party album by any means, like most of the current crop of meta elite - Opeth, Tool, Kylessa, Lamb Of God - this band needs to be digested.

    The decision to persevere is a wise one. If I were a betting man, I'd stake my savings on this record being talked about in lofty tones 20 years from now - and you will still get the warm glowing buzz of reminiscence in your guts when you remember the first time you heard it.

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    From the Vault: Skid Row - Subhuman Race (1995)

    This record got panned when it came out, largely because it heralded a change in direction to a darker sound and one which largely avoided the hysterionics of earlier releases - what record companies sell as 'mature'. But it has improved with age to the ears of this listener: the heavier, post-grunge stomp of the meatier material - perfectly characterized on opener 'My Enemy', with its greasy riff and ominous vocal - are complimented with the delicately eerie softer numbers, like agonized lament 'Breakin' Down.'

    Producer Bob Rock has a habit of changing bands, and he certainly did so here: Sebastian Bach sings in a much lower key than on testosterone fuelled previous effort 'Subhuman Race' (1991), leaving his screams to compliment rather than dominate songs; and the guitar pyro-technics of Dave 'Snake' Sabu and Scotti Hill, whilst still evident, are curtailed in favour of the whole. The sound is fuller and bass heavy, adding to the record's brooding quality. 'Frozen' is a mesh of twisted riff and vocal torment; the buzzing bass of 'Beat Yourself Blind' is a kick in the face, a more twisted, Badmotorfinger-era Soundgarden-esque take on 'Slave to the Grind'; and 'Medicine Jar' is a scuzzy rocker, the dream of sunset strip turned into a nightmare. But it's the more melodic moments where the band surprise most - despite being formulaicly soft-heavy-soft-heavy 'Into Another' is beautiful and heartfelt, and Eileen is an alt-kilter melancholic tune unlike anything the band had done before which culminates in a monstrous riff.

    It would all end for Bach-era Skid Row after this, and for many 'Subhuman Race' was an odd note for the metallic titans to exit on. But almost 15 years on the strength of these songs is impressive. Every home should have one.

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    Heaven & Hell - The Devil You Know

    After the three storming new tunes on the 'Black Sabbath: Best of the Dio years' there's quite a bit on anticipation about this. Is it any good? That's all you want to know, right? Well, it certainly is.

    Is it 'Heaven & Hell' or 'Mob Rules'? No, but it was never going to be. It is considerably stronger than the patchy 'Dehumanizer' (1992) however, and the quality is more consistent throughout. From the slow boom of opener 'Atom & Evil' the tone is set - a Dinosaur heavy riff kicks in at Dinosaur pace, and their is a void of space between Iommi and Appice which makes the band sound cavenous. It's more personality than craft, however - if any other band were to cut this tune it would sound distinctly average, the holes would be all too clear, but the charisma and black sheen of Sabbath add a charm that you can't teach.

    Indeed, at its best on the Neon Knights style numbers like 'Neverwhere' and 'Eat the Cannibals' this record manages to recapture some of unique magic that separated them from Ozzy-era Sabbath: both are pacier and built around rolling-thunder riffs, with 'Eat....' souding thrashier, like Motorhead covering classic Sabbath. What it impresses most is the powerful ease with which Dio soars over the rumbling bass monster behind him. Outstanding. First single 'Bible Black' also stands out - Iommi's guitar trading off Dio's croon at the opening before opening up into a beast of a song, the sort of epic that metal's bread and butter 25 years ago but which have long since gone from view.

    It's not all shots of glory, however. At times the record plods and needs an injection of dynamism - I can't help thinking that the employment of the more creative Bill Ward on drums would have helped here, some of his ingenuity could have livened up 'Breaking Into Heaven' and 'Rock n Roll Angel', and on some of the songs a little self-editing might have helped - on the slower tunes, less is often more.

    But it would be churlish to end on a critical note for finally we are presented with a 'reunion' that has produced new music worth owning. The band are alive and kicking, and all performances are strong (Iommi's riff on 'Follow the Tears' re-defines 'heavy'.) But it's Dio who steels the show, making the like of 'Double The Pain' and 'Turn the Screw' the epics only he could. Not too sure that it lives up to the promise of 'The Devil Cried', 'Shadow Of the Wind' and 'Ear In The Wall' gave us two years ago, but its close. Real close.

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    Duff McKagan's Loaded - 'Sick'.

    A record that borders on the side of solid rather than spectacular, but one which all rockers will undoubtedly enjoy. At it's beating heart this is a punk rock band - taut guitars, punchy drums and minimalist vocals. Duff's voice is stella here - he's no long the Ringo that Guns 'N' Roses used to let sing - and is the attitude which drives the band. The melodies of 'Flatline' could have helped out the 1st Velvet Revolver album greatly, the punk-funk of 'Sleaze Factory' brought a wry grin to the face of this reviewer, and the 70s Brit-punk of 'The Slide' blows out of the speakers, complete with gang backing vocals. As for the album's softer moments, the alt-rock drawl of 'Mother's Day' works well, but the stab at quirkiness on 'Blind Date Girl' falls on its face. Ironically, however, the album's biggest shortcoming is its length - there is no need for 13 songs here, and the removal of ABC rock like 'Transluscent' and the cliche-driven AOR of 'IOU' would have left the band going with their A game. That being said, this a very enjoyable crank-in-your-car-on-a-summer's-day album.

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    Maylene & The Sons Of Disaster - III

    From the instant you hear the banjo which opens this record, you know it's indebted to the South. Unlike the slew of current bands peddling re-invigorated Southern rawk - led by the very capably but not particuarly exciting Black Stone Cherry - this isn't a spicing up of the old recipe. Whilst the intonations of this record - the blues tinged guitar tones, the imagery and reference points in the lyrics - is painted with the vocabulary of the past, the whole thing is contructed on a thoroughly modern foundation, with time signatures more indebted to post-hardcore than Skynrd, and vocals which, whilst not 'screamo', are barked rather than crooned. Managing to couple anger and melody effectively, this band sounds like bastard offspring of Molly Hatchet and a pit-bull - what really oozes out of the speakers though is not just the songwriting talent on display here, but the passion and sincerity of the delivery. This band means it.

    Much more full-throttle than previous outing ('II' in 2007), this intensity is staggering but fails to showcase the full range of the bands palet. The ball-breaking swagger of 'No Good Son' and slashing-scuzz guitar of 'Harvest Moon Hanging' best exhibit the group in mosh-making mode, whilst the thick groove of 'Last Train Coming' has a real swing to its heaviness. But it's not merely indolent rage - the ease with which Maylene switches from the brutal verse of 'Setting Scores By Burning Bridges' to its anthemitcally catchy chorus shows them to have made the most of their musical heritage, and their ability to sound epic in four minutes on 'Step Up (I'm On It)' is truly impressive.

    It's not all killer though. The stab at sentimentality on 'Listen Close' - completely with kitsch 80s chorus harmony - sounds uncharaterisically contrived, and the switch from Neil Young musings to brutal modern metal in 'Oh Lonely Grave' is the one point at which the group's typical welding of old-skool and new falls apart at the seems. But this is a small price to pay for an album which comes sandwiched between the rootsy beauty of instrumental 'The End Is Here...' with the sonic grandeur of 'Waiting on My Deathbed'.

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    Clutch - Strange Cousins From The West

    Imagine if Faith No More had been raised in the South and exposed to the tones of the local Baptist Church, if Jane's Addication had expressed their oddness through macabre funk rather than esoteric lightness, or if Kyuss had been amalgamated with Sly & The Family Stone. It is only then that you begin to comprehend the uniqueness with which Clutch present the listener - indeed, they literally present it, the art work for this record is littered with maps, UFOs and a host of arcane symbols. And yet, for all of this oddness Clutch have managed to balance being utterly unique with being instantly loveable. They have achieved this by ensuring that each song is crafted around the two things that provide the foundation for all great music - an infectious rhythm and irresistable melody. This then is reinventing the wheel for the sake of taking a famliar journey, but one made all the more mezmorizing for the effort.

    Take 'Let A Poor Man Be'. Just when you thought you couldn't hear another take on largely traditonal blues, you are proved utterly wrong by the cold slap of originality. Clutch's blues-rock is like Govt. Mule or a ZZ Top revelling in their quirkiness whilst being backed by a herd of elephants necessary to carry the weight of their grooves. This is schizophrenic stoner rock captured largely in the juxtaposition of the bands funk with vocalist Neil Fallon's dark vocals and wrapped around with guitars that often boarder on the eerie.

    Here is a band unconcerned with trends, airplay or increased record sales. A band who make music for the people who get it. The small group of devottees worldwide who want to take the journey this album offers. All of their records have been strong, but despite the weight of expectation Clutch somehow manage to exceed it. More stripped back than their last two albums, the band's performance is more forcefull and to the point. Neil Fallon's usual scat-like delivery has been toned down to allow the natural melody and tone of his voice shine in all of its richness, and the lyrics on opener 'Motherless Child' are even instantly comprehenisble, almost bordering on blunt. But the curve-balls soon come thick and fast: '50,000 Unstoppable Watts', 'The Amazing Kreskin' and 'Freakenomics' all possess the typical Clutch tone without ever veering into the realms of 'stock' - indeed it is only on 'Witchdoctor' that the band approach a by-the-numbers tune. But ultimately, this is Neil Fallon's record - his preacher-man ability to whip a song into a frenzy most evident on the impossibly chameleon structure of 'Abraham Lincoln'. Pefection made to look improvised.

    In a musical landscape increasingly grouped and penned in it is refreshing to be presented with something so un-catergorizical as Clutch, and joyous to allow your mind to be opened to their swamp-gravy grooves.

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    From the vaults: Badlands - Badlands (1989)

    The debut record from ex-Ozzy Osbourne guitar hero Jake E Lee's new band, featuring Eric Singer on drums (ex-Kiss and future Alice Cooper band) and the impossibly talented Ray Gillan on vocals (ex-touring vocalist for Black Sabbath.) In many respects, this record was the antithesis of the increasigly bloated hair metal that was been coughed out of an ever tired Sunset Strip - raw, under-produced, and bluesy, it was a beautiful counterbalance to the reverb-heavy, production lavished monstrosities that L.A was churning out in its final days before the rise of Grunge. The influences were obviously and unappologetically European - Led Zeppelin, Humble Pie, Jeff Beck Group, Cream and Deep Purple - and the delivery verges on primal. Album opener 'High Wire' featured a riff of gargantually-serpentine proportions that equals anything Jimmy Page ever penned, Lee's blues-hysterionics battling with Gillan's soaring vocals for the listener's attention. The blues dominates the record, with the frosty-kiss of 'Winter's Call' Zeppelinization of the power ballad, and 12 Bar explosion of 'Rumblin Train', which was Lee's showcase. Gillan returned the favour on the haunting epic of closer 'Seasons' his voice spinning from low, tender croon to testosterone wail, marking the song out as a stamp of sincere anguish in a sea of sacarine sentimentality populated by the rest of L.A at the tail end of the '80s.

    Indeed single 'Dreams In The Dark' is the only glaring sign of the times here, whilst 'Dancing On The Edge' and 'Hard Driver' keep up the full-tilt rawk angle that the likes of Raging Slab would up and run with in subsequent years, with 'Devil's Stomp' was the kind of hulk of a song beyond the hairspray and lip gloss of the likes of Pretty Boy Floyd and Slaughter.

    This was the high point for Badlands, who never reached their potential. Their second record - 'Voodoo Highway' - was a mixed bag cluttered with forays into James Taylor-esque MOR, and the death of Gillan due to A.I.D.S a year later meant that Lee, surely one of the most talented guitar players of the decade, was now a gunslinger without a cause. A sad end, but what a beginning!

  19. Thanked binnie for this KICKASS post:

    indeedido (10-08-2009)


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    Stonewall Noise Orchestra - Constants In An Ever Changing Universe

    What a band name, and one that perfectly fits the sound of a group who melt together the astro-jams of early Monster Magnet with the sonic boom of Rage Against The Machine in an album that balances the power and beauty that makes heavy music sublime. Heavy bass driven riffs cascaded by vocals with the tint of Chris Cornell roll out of the speakers to drive a band whose sound is truly biblical in proportions, most readily demonstrated on 'Skyscraper Moment' and 'Dedications'. All of your favourite 70s rock bands are in the mix here and forced through a blender of Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age with the excessive meanderings of latter noticeable absent. This is a band that manages to handle an impressive range - 'Hollow Parade' sways like a latino stripper during happy hour, whilst 'Dedications' manages to cement bombast to creepy in the way that Warrior Soul did during the early 90s - without ever losing the sense of purpose that makes this feel like a coherent album. The cavenous swagger of 'Clone Baby' climaxes beautifully in a piano refrain, whilst the nitro charge of 'Headlights' and 'Dynamo' take the album to a place that every Sabbath-worshipping band strive to find, but rarely do. No chinks in the armour here - one day they'll write a classic.

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    Wolf - Ravenous

    From the instant the crescendo of crashing drums and guitars which opens this record kicks in, embellished with the sound of picks sliding down necks, you know exactly what you're dealing with. Seconds later a burst of duel guitar harmony bursts in and suddenly its 1984 all over again. Yes, this is the sort of record that leaves the uninitiated dumbfounded and the converted edified, for what we have here is a bonafide Heavy Metal record. Songs like 'Curse You Salem', 'Love At First Bite' and 'Mr Twisted' ("tell me where's your miiiiiiind") only heighten the sense that this is a record from another age delivered by a band which sounds like the much loved offspring of Accept and Anvil, their buzz-saw guitars chugging behind a wail which sits somewhere between Halford and Udo. The band often thinks that a chorus is simply repeating the same line four times but it doesn't matter, because this isn't about finesse, it's about passion, and Wolf certainly can't be found wanting in that department. 'Voodoo' and 'Hail Caesar' may push formulaic into the realm of forgetable, but on barrage of drums and anthemic vocals of the title track, 'Blood Angel' and 'Hiding In The Shadows' this band has managed to craft tunes which sit alongside the best from the decade they so clearly long to revive by emulating. 2009's soundtrack to the 80s.

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    Devildriver - Pray For Villains

    "You ain't seen the last of me" barks frontman Dez Ferrah over and over on your new anthem of definace 'Back With A Vengence'. Well, 10 years ago the metal world was wishing it had as his previous outift - Nu Metal one-trick-ponys Coal Chamber - whimpered into oblivion. No-one gave Devildriver a chance, but they have slowly carved a place in the metal community the hard way largely off the back of a fearsome live reputation and the release of sreadily improving studio output. Devildriver's previous three records have passed from solid to good to verging on great, have they made the maelstrom of an album that's been rattling around in Dez's head all of these years? Yup.
    Opener 'Pray For Villains' encapsulates this record. Like flesh pulled tort over a muscular torso, tight guitars and crunching drums snarl with intent. What separates this band from nearly all other contemporary American Heavy Metal bands is that exude purpose rather than posture, so much so that there is no weak link here - the A grade is all that makes it. Chimera could learn a lot. 'I've Been Sober' and 'Teach Me To Deliver' veer into Lamb of God territory - the latter sounding like Virginia's favourite sons would if they had been raised on hardcore rather than death metal - but the parallel doesn't run too far. Devildriver sound like no-one else. Their's is a breed of nitro charged classic metal.
    The pace slows in the album's middle - the epically un-nerving 'Forgiveness Is a Six Gun' and unholly heavy 'Its In The Cards' - and elsewhere the switch and blast beats of 'Earth Stepped In' - laced with frazzled riffs - ensures that not everything is constructed around double bass patterns. Devildriver only paint in shades of brutal, but melody is often enjected subtely through guitar parts low in the mix to ensure that songs are memorable, and Dez's rhythmic vocal delivery presents an element of subdued catchiness. This is an epic record. To join the Gods the band needs to learn to break up the full throttle blasts. Even a band as heavy as Slayer know that slicing speed next to mid-pace makes things appear heavier by extremes, and Devildriver could learn a lot from a more dynamic injection of time signatures within songs rather than between them. But that's to nit-pick with a near masterstroke. Dez's roof might not be on fire any more, but their's a raging passion withing. The gaunlet has been thrown down - can any US band rise to meet it?

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    From the vaults: Kilgore - In Medias Es Res (1999)

    When this record came out in 1999 it was a saving light in a dark time. At that moment 'Nu Metal' was in full flo (sic) as the baggy pants briggade took over and the metal landscape was populated by whinge-rock or worse, frat-by bruisers who despararely wanted to be in Cypress Hill but chose to detract from the fact thay they couldn't rap by creating music that was of an even more flimsy character. Kilgore were the antithesis of both. And yet they made little impact, and remain criminally forgotten.
    'Steamroller' opens this record as a parody of rock-star self hatred so prevalent at the time: "Every time I see myself I choke down all the loathe inside/ It's so rock-star typical/ Can't you see why I'm cynical?" bark the vocals in a display of intellgence and wit which mark the album out to this day. Even a stalwart of metal subject matter - a critique of organized religion - is treated in a provoking, rather than provocative, manner in 'Never Again', a song which displays a brand of introspection refreshing amidst a sea of banal invective that has cluttered this topic since the mid-80s. It is this intensity and thoughtfullness which stagger ten years on - a lesson in songwriting.
    The band delivered smokey vocals over taut, pummeling groove in a sound which owed much to Pantera's sludgey blues and Voivod quirkiness. But it is the variety which gives this record its strength. Each song is unique yet stamped with a coherent band 'sound', the mark of a great album. 'In Search Of Reason', with its blues chainsmoker of a riff, is offshot by the alt-rock darkness of 'Introverted' and haunting Cohen-lullaby-meets-Tom-Waits-nightmare of 'Providence', whilst the intensity of the Rollins-esque monologue of 'TK-421' (featuring Fear Factory's Burton C Bell) is a long way from the 'Ultra Mega Ok'-era Soundgarden meets Metal Church of 'Lullaby For Your Casket'. And yet for all their individuality, each song sounds like the member of the same family.
    They only made one record (who knows why?) but what a debut. Ten years on, its still more original, more intense, and more inspiring than 99% of the metal out there. If an album this left-of-field came out tommorrow I would wet myself with excitment.

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    Therapy? - Crooked Timber

    Another installment from the wonderfully oddball world of Therapy?, Ireland's pleasant clusterfuck of a trio. Imagine if Bob Mould had joined Killing Joke and forced them to play Cheap Trick covers. Off-kilter doesn't come close, and opener 'The head That Tried To Strangle Itself' is a perfect example of Therapy?'s deconstruction of songs into a punk-industrial nightmare. By way of contrat, typically dispondent 'Enjoy The Struggle' is wonderfully formulaic, and the band remind the listener that they can pen a hook when they so choose, choosing to lay it over a rumbling bass and jaunty guitar wrapped around a riff that recalls Marilyn Manson's 'Beautiful People'. 'Clowns Galore' is the soundof the end of the 1st wave of punk before it finally died in the early 80s, an angry Joy Division on crack. Only a band featuring Andy Cairns superglue charisma could get away with being so bleak, his impact most prevalent on 'I Told You I Was Ill' which bridges the chasm between heartwrenchingly emotional and deliciously sardonic with ease.
    This record continues the band's late career rejuventation of previous outings 'High Anxiety' and 'One Cure Fits All', although the warmth of the production on those records is curiously absent here and this can be a jarring listen at times. Many still yearn or the pop sensibilites of 1994's masterpiece of angst-rock 'Troublegum', but those were different times and Therapy? are now different men. The bands have always sounded like a collective of broken souls, but whilst in youth their wounds were nursed with anger, in middle age they are bandaged in laments, most hauntingly in the celtic mist which drapes the mournful title track.
    This is far from perfect, however. 'Somnambulis' runs out of ideas, 'Exiles' drifts into a half-formed introspecitve jam and 'Magic Mountain' serves only to prove the fact that the nine-minute epci should not be the band's modus operandi. But when it all comes together, as it does on closer 'Bad Excuse For Daylight' you marvel at how gloriously ingloious Therapy? are. Long may they continue.

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    From the vaults: Lamb Of God - New American Gospel

    Bold title. Bold record. Especially considering when it came out (2001) few wanted to hear their Slayer-meets-Pantera-meets-Meshuggah brand of hate-metal, but the slow burn and set backs only served to make L.O.G the gnarliest pitbull on the block. For the current kings of metal - at least as far as the anglo-american variety - this was the beginning proper. Raw in a 'Kill 'em All' kind if way this is nowhere near as sonically impressive as the one-two KO combo of 2006's 'Sacrament' and this year's 'Wrath', but it is an impressive record on its own merits. Like many great metal bands, L.O.G took what was going on in the underground - the likes of Will Haven, Unsane and Meshuggah - and made it more paletalbe without leaving it emaciated. Opener 'Black Label' kicks off with a rolling riff and double bass attack that Fear Factory would be proud of before culminating in a slow crushing riff in the spirit of 'Burn My Eyes' era Machine Head. The guitars have a blues-kissed tone to them and melody is subtely injected into songs by the maestro work of Mark Morton. On 'A Warning' Obituary-stlye riffing is sped up three gears and laid over and impressively drum beat. Indeed, a death metal heritage shines through this record but it could never be confined to the parameters of that label - crunchier, less concerned with atmospherics, this is more Thriller than Horror movie. What has always impressed most about L.O.G is the quantity of the quality, and there is very little fat on these songs. Sections are not drawn out, and the listener struggles to keep up with changes of tempo as riffs are buried beneath riffs in songs so compact they ooze the benefit of a lifetime on the road, an effort that only amplifies their energy by making it seem earned.
    This is a long way from perfect though. Randy Blythe was not yet the complete package as a vocalist, often seeming lie a generic cookie-monster. The intonations of 'Wrath' and 'Sacrament' were not yet fully honed. Indeed, the band itself was not the complete synthesis of its influences. Often the songs seem to say 'here's the hardcore bit', 'here's the Machine Head bit', 'here's the Death Metal section', and the middle section of 'Black Pariah' is almost Meshuggah plagarised. But on 'Subtle Art of Murder and Persuasion', 'Pariah' and 'Black Dahlia' it is evident that some seeds had already sprouted with mezmerizing effects. The band have grown to be more comfortable with Morton's natural sense of melody and have learny to take their feet off the gas occaisionally so as not to overwhelm the listener. This, however, was the genesis - increasingly, it is looking like it may be the conception of a legend.

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    From the Vaults: Motorhead - Bastards (1993)

    If you wanted to define 'Rock N Roll' for someone who'd never heard it, Motorhead would be the best place to start. What band better encapsulates the sound, attitude, volume and FTW ethos? They're the standard bearers. It's odd then that so much of their catalogue is overlooked, especially that post 1990, but if truth be told in the post-grunge world they've released a slew of strong albums. Like 2004's 'Inferno' 'Bastards' was a late career high. The trademarks are all here - snake-hipped riffs, gravel vocals, witty lyrics and sledgehammer delivery - but the quality is decidely impressive and the record captures the raw energy of the band at its best. Indeed, this may be the best sounding 'head record since 'Ace Of Spades', and certainly contains the best set of lyrics that Lemmy's ever penned, performd with the understatedly rich tone of his voice in fine form.
    'On Your Feet Or On Your Knees' and 'Burner' are an arresting 1-2 opener and charge in with delicious rawness. 'Bad Women' is pure adrenelin, like Little Richard if he ditched the piano and developed some boulder sized bollocks - rock n roll boiled down to its fighting weight, de-nuded of all trimmings and grinning with direct intent. 'Death of Glory' possess a greasy anger amplified by infectious guitar licks and is outdone in the anthemic stakes only by 'Born To Raise Hell''s raucous abandon. Its on 'Lost In Ozone' and 'Devils' where the real rough diamonds are though. Showing a contemporay sound which remains quintessentially Motorhead, both songs are definitive proof that this band were never one-trick ponys, and that there's much more to Lemmy than birds and booze. The latter also possess a hell of a hook.
    There is a sticking point though. 'Don't Let Daddy Kiss Me' is not a bad song, but its hard to appreciate a tune about child abuse. To their credit, it avoids the melodrama or saccarine sentimentality of Aerosmith's 'Janie's Got a Gun' or Skid Row's 'In a Darkened Room', or the clummsily coy inappropriateness of 'Mr Tinkertrain' - the song is unassuming, heartfelt and clever, and perhaps something this unsettliong is a genuine tribute to Lemmy's skills as a songsmith. Many, however, will baulk at the subject matter.
    To these ears, this deserves to be viewed as one of the best Motorhead records from any-era, and it remains at testament to that band that 30 years in they can still wipe the floor with most of the younger pretenders. 'We Are Motorhead', 'Hammered' and 'Inferno' would continue the highlights in subsequent years.

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    Goatwhore - Carving Out The Eyes Of God

    Jeeeeeeeeeeezus. In a bumper year of cutting edge metal releases, this one stands out. Goatwhore maybe the nearest thing to pure aggression in the metal world. Featuring former members of Acid Bath, Soilent Green and Crowbar, this band is shot through with extreme metal know-how and an unassuming sense of the heritage which makes the music they so clearly love great. Tracks like 'The Passing Into The Power of Demons' and 'Lazor, Flesh Devoured' manage to perfectly balance brutal and palatable in a display of metallic might which places this band alongside the best of any modern metal band. Opener 'Apocalyptic Havoc' alternates between power chords and tight riffage, the guitars tuned with a deadly tinge of blues sludge that reeks of vitriolic intent - this is the sound that Phil Anselmo was aiming for with Superjoint Ritual, but Goatwhore have songs. Great songs.

    What impresses most is the ability to balance their musical virtuoisty with the power that only simplicity can deliver in metal: unlike so many modern death metal bands, dexterity is only displayed when needed. Thus the title track alterantes between impossibly complex sections which are reminiscnet of vintage Death, and trad metal riffage which injects a blast of rhythm into the complexity, dabbles of harmony and tinges of catchiness making the heaviness memorable. Similalry, whilst 'The All Destroying' is all blast beats and frenetic riffing, on 'Provoking The Ritual Of Death' the band eschews virtuosity in favour of brutal simplicity, laying down an indecently heavy swamp groove. Death, thrash, black, hardcore, trad, the band paints with all of these hues to create something utterly beautiful in its darkeness - 'Leckoning Of The Soul Made Godless' for example sounds like the offspring of Mercyful Fate and a pitubull, a slab of chugging guitar mere inches from the face of the listener. It's raw and its heavy, it's dirty and mean!

    What Goatwhore have presented the world with then is a record which was conceived from all of the strength of forty years of metal to deliver a concotion that is wholly their own. A near perfect slice of heaviness for 2009.

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    Grand Magnus - Grand Magnus

    People more familiar with Grand Magnus's magnificent 'Iron Will' - a record which encapsulates the past and present of Heavy Metal, deliciously lavished with intricate guitar, deceptively complex song structures, and harmonized vocals - might be surprised by the straighforwardly blunt power of their earlier work. What separates this band from most Sabbath-worshippers is their commitment to writing songs rather than simply jamming on riffs, switiching from fierceness on 'Legion' to a laidback groove on 'Generator.' This record is much closer to straighforward doom metal than 'Iron Will', huge riffs are delivered with underplayed performances and unclutterred production to create so much space that the sound is biblically epic. Songs like 'Gaunlet' display effortless heaviness and provide a showcase for vocalist JB's raw croon, and 'Coat of Arms' the sort of timeless tune that The Sword would kill to write. It's far from a complete record, however. 'Wheel of Time' and 'Black Hole' run out of ideas, and 'Never Learned's attempt at emulating Sleep feels ill-formed. Perseverance, however, yields some black beauties - the Danzig-esque blues of 'Black Hounds of Vengence' provides a taste of the talent here. A patchy affair, but fans of 'Iron Will' will not be disappointed.

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    Megadeth - Endgame

    Dangerous thing hype. It often raises expectations and forces preconceptions of an album that can only be a disappointment upon first listen. Much has been spewed about this record being a return to the technical thrash that cemented the Megadeth name in the late 80s. There is certainly some truth in this - 'This Day We Fight' is performed with breakneck savegry and sounds like it came straight out of 1985, and the crunching rhythms and snapping riffs which colide to make 'Head Crusher' may well deliver the most ferocious piece of music that Dave Mustaine has ever penned. But if truth be told, this is no Thrash record or retro-Megadeth album. Most of the material here sounds like beefed-up versions of the mid-paced metal displayed on 'Countdown To Exctinction' (1992) and 'Youthanasia' (1994) - packed with riffs and laced with some of the finest metal songmanship known to mankind? Yes. But fast? Not particuarly.

    But whilst 'Endgame' is no Thrash record, it is a heavy one. Monstrously heavy, in fact. The title track - a dystopian vision of a US populace enslaved by its government sometime in the near future - is everything that makes Megadeth great rolled into one. Multiple sections welded together by time changes which snap the song around at will, a ranting Mustaine vocal, intermitent solos, and relentless riffing all combine to make an epic wave of sonic battery. It sounds as fresh now as it did in 1990. Why? Because no one else does it this well. 'How The Story Ends' unfolds around a riff that could crunch a planet whole, before descending into a display of metal mastery that could only be delivered by Dave Mustaine. The frontman is on fine form throughout this disc, delivering his best ever collection of melodic choruses and most focussed display of songwriting since 'Countdown....' Indeed, of the Megadeth albums released since 1994, this is also the most consistent. Much credit must be given here to producer Andy Sneap, who has trimmed the songs down to hone their potency and delivered a powerhouse sound which is much more bass heavy than fans might expect.

    Even potential bananna skin 'The Hardest Part of Letting Go.....Sealed With A Kiss' - a power-ballad (eek!) descrbing a lover who kills his girlfriend a hides her corpse behind a wall - is dispatched with aplomb. Although unlike anything the band have recorded before, Mustaine's sombre vocal and twisting meloldy are a perfect fit with the album's macrabre vibe. Ultimately it is this completeness that makes 'Endgame' so invigorating, for what we have here is a BAND - Megadave is officially Megadeth again. As if to announce their newly solidified status as a band of brothers, the album kicks off with a showcase for new guitar hero Chris Broderick (ex Nevermore/Jag Panzer) in 'Dialetic Chaos', two minutes of guitar dueling between he and Mustaine. This serves to get the urge to widdle out of their systems, and the solos on the rest of the album always serve to inject energy into songs rather than dominate them. Brodderick is certainly impressively dexterous, but whether his solos will prove to be that memorable is something which only time will tell.

    Unpack the hype, and what we have here still delivers. Elements of all era's of Megadeth have been rolled into something which is far more than the sum of their parts. Picking up where 2007's 'United Abominations' left off, this is Mustaine's past and present, and hopefully a sign of his future.

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    The Wildhearts - Chutzpah!

    I've always thought as The Wildhearts as a British version of Cheap Trick, a band who manage to effortlessly combine outright oddness with instant accessibilty. No-one else sounds like 'em, but they write songs so good that they feel like old friends the first time you hear them. This record is a patchy affair, however. There are certainly plenty of plus points: 'The Jackson Whites' and 'John of Violence' typically combine bombastic rock with viscous melodies to forge a uniquely anthemic sound which is at once quintessential to this band without ever straining near to the territory of by-numbers. Similary, 'Plastic Jebus' displays Ginger's sardonic humour and talent to pen of killer chorus, whilst 'Tim Smith' and the titletrack err on the band's more metallic side, a maelstrom of furious riffs whirling underneath melodies of almost saccarine sweatness, schizo rock delivered in pop clothing. It is surprising then to find 'Only One' and 'You Took The Sunshine From New York' to be underdeveloped musically and twee in tone, and 'You Are Proof That Not All Women Are Insane' a letdown to a great song title. The band's decision to allow CJ and Scott to share lead vocals with Ginger often leads to an album whose character feels cluttered, and the attempt to mask this with vocal effects only further steals charisma. But it is perhaps the fact that this record is so heavily invested in dealing with New York (where it was recorded) that poses the biggest problem - the band, so wonderfully English, lose something as tourists. This is not a poor record by any means, and it is typical of a band that continually develops and experiments that it sounds nothing like the majestic metallic thump of previous outing 'Must Be Destroyed' and yet both sound utterly like only The Wildhearts could. Resplendent with highs but littered with lows.

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    Pearl Jam - Backspacer

    There's a point half-way through 'Gonna See My Friend' - the opening track on Pearl Jam's ninth studio record - that you are overcome with sheer glee, an overwhelming sense that they've finally crawled out of their own asses. Forever. With its switch beat, blues licks and pulsating bass this Stones-meets-The-Clash number is everything great about rock 'n' roll wrapped up in an incediary delivery. It's an opener that makes you feel that Pearl Jam have maintained the momentum garnered by 2006's eponymous record, an album of full tilt rock in which they finally seemed to achieve their life long ambition of sounding like an even more pissed off version of Crazy Horse. So 'Backspacer' is a great record then? Nope.
    It all comes crashing down on track 2, 'Get Some'. With a verse that sounds oddly like The Killers it is a song which, like most of the other tunes on 'Backspacer', meanders in search of a hook. We are suddenly back in the territory which marred Pearl Jam's mid 90s work ('No Code' and 'Yield') so terribly - the pathological fear of 'selling out' leading to an abandonment of anything which might make most of their songs memorable. One gets the sense that this band would like to write the perfect 'Anti-Hit'. The absence of chorus has the ability to render the most adventurous song here, 'Unthought Known', a perfectly crafted Springsteen-esque arrangment which sounds glacial, into sounding curiously incomplete.
    Pearl Jam haven't made a dud. Far from it, in fact. 'The End' is Vedder at his best, an exposed nerve of a song overpowering in its rawness; and 'Johnny Guitar', with its odd vocal line, sees swirls of guitar effortlessly wrapped around and impossibly tight beat. But for every moment of rejuvenation, theres one of aimless wandering - the performances are typically raw and powerful, the lyrics typically provocative, but with just a little more polish these songs could pass from good to great. Pearl Jam have always done things their own way - the weird little ditties interspersed throught 'Vitology', falling out with Ticketmaster, and spending most of the 90s creating music as un-marketable as possible. But intergrity is often one part admirable, one part frustrating.

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    Quote Originally Posted by binnie View Post
    Put simply, this is a post-hardcore record that isn't boring. In times when it seems every band in this genre writes songs that exist purely for the mid-section breakdown, that is a mighty fine achievement, and a refreshing one. This band don't even have generic on the horizon: the greasy riff to 'Bastard's Waltz' deserves an king sized award; and the unnerving and unhinged fury of 'Sorceress' is about as purely emotional as music can get. All great music has a sense of melody, and an incessantly attractive rhythm, and this group understands that - unlike so many other bands of this ilk, each song on this record stands unique from the others but all contain the stamp of character that runs throughout the album. From the classic metal riffery of the title track and 'Lucifer's Rocking Chair', to the old-skool hardcore of 'Harem of Scorpions' and 'Let It Pour' the listener is presented with a melting pot of everything that has been great about extreme music for the past 25 years. The vocals aren't cookie monster, but are barked with vitriol in a style that's reminiscent of the criminally underated 90s band Strife, and are a perfect vehicle for lyrics which paint in various shades of anger, rage and despair. Closing with the souring 'Zed's Dead Baby', this is a band that feels it and means it - if they keep putting out discs like this, they may very well become legends. Not for the faint hearted, but pure catharsis on plastic. My neck hurts, I'm sweating, and my ears ache, but damn it feels good.
    This is a real good CD IMO...saw them in a small club...outstanding show.

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    Cheers WACF. I'd heard they were great live, but I've never had the pleasure of seeing them. I've just picked up their debut album but not listened to it yet.

    'Hail Destroyer' hasn't gotten old yet though. Intense.

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    Great reviews Binnie!
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    Cheers dude! Glad you likey

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    Kick ass Thread, Binnie!
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    Gallows - Grey Britian

    Two things separate this band from almost all of their punk/hardcore peers: 1) they write songs about real problems, rather than conveying an aesthetic and invented sense of misery; and 2) they mean it. They REALLY mean it. Songs about broken Britain, the angry laments of a younger generation increasingly desperate, disenfranchised and despondant in the face of the world around them. This is the sound of a furious verve for life turned sour through the restrictions of barriers which they can do nothing about, expressed in lyrics which are both visceral and eloquent. This is a traditional British punk record. But it is one which is saturated with the musical inventiveness of a generation of post-hardcore, and consequently 'the vulture', 'the riverbed' or the epic 'crucifucks' deserve to become points of reference for every band working in heavy music. Imagine Discharge, but with a variety that can only betoken intelligence. The most important British band working today.

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    Slayer - World Painted Blood

    Do I need to describe what this sounds like? If you've been a fan of metal for five minutes, you've heard Slayer. They've influenced everybody for a quarter of a century, they've been mercilessly ripped off, and yet nobody sounds quite like 'em. All the unique parts of the Frankenstein are here: squeaky-slashy duel solos; impossible speed; pariah screamed vocals; lyrics about war, anti-religion and serial killers; and the sheer bluntal heaviness. The AC/DC of extreme music are back with another record and given that in 25 years they've only ever made one clunker - 'Diabolus in Musica' - this is well worth a listen.

    It's not great, however. It's not so much that its any less 'Slaytanic' than any other Slayers records, it's just that much of the material on here is a lot less memorable, criticisms that cannot be levelled at the bands other two records this decade, 2006's incendiary 'Christ Illusion' and 2001's later-career high, the criminally underated 'God Hates Us All'. The Kerry King tracks here sound decidedly rushed and uninspired - having a vibe similar to the 80s hardcore covers record - 'Undisputed Attitude' - tunes like 'Psychopathy Red', 'Unit 731', and 'Hate Worldwide' are almost like a Slayer tribute band that has decided to write its own material. Fast, brutal and heavy, yes, but painfully one-dimensional and almost self-parodic.

    It's only when the band step out of its comfort-zone musically - as they did with 'Jihad' on 'Christ Illusion' - that we get the real treats. The eerie chill of 'Human Strain' is unlike anything they've really done before; the bruised beauty of the melody on 'Beauty Through Order' is biblically epic; and 'Playing With Dolls' is as disturbing as music can be. Knowing that their fanbase is so unforgiving of anything that moves away from the formula, these are brave choices for Slayer, but they are succesful ones. Even the title track features an unusually melodic riff in the bridge that takes the song up a level from the relentless chugging riffs we've heard a hundred times before, and it's this song with its muti-parts and time changes which shows that Slayer can still take just about anyone in extreme music. For this isn't a poor record by anyone's standards other than their own.

    There's a lot of talk about a thrash 'revival' - well, on the evidence of this, 'Death Magnetic', and 'Endgame', the old guard are in little need of reviving. Is it going to be in your top three Slayer albums? No way. But is it still belligerant enough to have you playing every air instrument known to mankind? Yup - so much so your neck will snap.

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    Alice In Chains - Black Gives Way To Blue

    Great music leaves something unquantifiable with you. A feeling that soothes you, and is awakened every time you return to a great album. Several Alice In Chains albums have managed the seemingly impossible feat of touching countless numbers of human beings with whom the band have never personally interacted - 1992s 'Dirt' changed everything in heavy music, and 1996s 'Unplugged' is - no arguments please - the best album ever to feature that moniker.

    For what AIC do is make music which is impossibly melodic and incredibly heavy. Heavy, not just in a sonic sense, but in an emotional one. This is a band which always sang about real pain, real longing, a band which wouldn't know 'contrived' if it bit them. The death of Layne Stayley - the voice of the band - would seem to be a loss then that would prove to be as implossive as removing the keystone from a bridge. Not so, my friends, not so.

    What is amazing about new singer William Duvall is how natural he sounds on this record. He doesn't try to be Layne, to sound like him or replace him; nor does he make the mistake of many new singers in rock bands and try to make it his show, and to alter the band's sound to suit him. He just sings the songs. And, along with Jerry Cantrell, he sings them beautifully - if Layne is missed at any point here its only on the acoustic 'Your Decision' in which Cantrell's lead vocals seem to be missing the ying to their yang.

    This is a startling record. It's all there from opener 'All Secrets Known': the hauntingly dark melodies, huge riffs, slow, brooding bass undercurrent and the band's effortless twist from loose verse to tight chorus, a trick repeated on the melodic rumble of 'Acid Bubble'. It's gut-wrenchingly moving stuff: if the title track - Cantrell's hymn to Layne's final days - doesn't touch you then you must be dead inside. This is the classic AIC sound, but its not stagnation - 'Last Of My Kind' is more metallic than they've ever been, and 'Lesson Learned' is a timeless rock anthem. Sure 'A Looking In View' may be a little complicated and over-long, but you can forgive the imperfection in the presence of such power. This is more than a reunion. More than a peddling of the glory days. They've done it again - this album leaves an impression.

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    Quote Originally Posted by binnie View Post
    This is a side project from Peter Tagtgren, lead singer/guitar player in death metal band Hypocrisy and producer/editor of Dimmu Borgia, Celtic Frost and Immortal.
    Let us not forget Bloodbath!
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    Good to see you my friend - hope that all is well!

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    Yeah you too man. I'll be posting here more often now

    The site was down for a year or so, so I forgot about it because I got tired of checking to see if it were up or not

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