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Thread: Album Reviews

  1. #161
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    From tha vaults: Entombed - Wolverine Blues (1993)

    Regarded as a classic by some, and loathed by others, it is hard to think of a metal record as divisive as 'Wolverine Blues.' For death metal purists, the Swede's movement away from landmark records 'Left Hand Path' and 'Clandestine' was treasonous. Those records had already spawned a sub-genre filled with copyists, however, and perhaps Entombed felt it was better to transcend death metal than repeat it. The result is a record which sounds somewhat like a jam session involving the MC5 and Chuck Schuldiner. Injcting punk and rock 'n' roll into into a foundation of extreme metal, 'Wolverine Blues' is crushingly heavy, very aggressive, but remains lots of FUN. 'Eyemaster' opens with drag-race simplicity, blasting rumbling riffs which were as indebted to doom as they were death. 'Heaven's Die' featuring some truly evil riffs and smashes Slayer into the Misfits, whilst 'Demon' is pure dirty, bass assault. This is a record dripping in blusesy tones and switching from sinister to savage - not overcomplicated for the sake of it (as much death metal can be), '..Blues' oozes groove. 'Contempt', for example, sprawls and swells around a series of riffs like a great blues band jamming about something dark and malevolent. Wolverine Blues? There has rarely been a more fitting moniker. Beg, steel or borrow.
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  2. #162
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    From the vaults: Gilby Clarke - Pawn Shop Guitars (1994)

    This was not a great record. Not by any means. It was, however, an interesting one, and one which contained some interesting moments. Very much a solo affair rather than a 'band' effort, with each song featuring a host of sunset strip misfits and bored Gunners killing time whilst the ginger one pissed time away. As such, it is a disjointed record in desperate need of identity: 'Shut Up' is ramshackle cow punk; 'Tijuana Jail' is an attempt at Social Distortion, and comes across more like a jam. For all the pick 'n' mix rock 'n' roll on display here, however, there is plenty to admire: opener 'Cure Me....Or Kill Me' is a sleazy blues built around a crunchy riff, taken up a notch or ten by Slash's subdued licks; and 'Skin & Bones' is a punky take on Americana with Stonesy leanings, demonstrative of Clarke's skills as a songwriter. These skills are most evident, however on the albums take on alt. rock: the twisted power-ballad 'Black' is pure Goo Goo Dolls, all jaded and broken, whilst 'Johanna's Chopper' sounds like the upper end of American indie. Here, it seems, was the sound that Motley Crue would strive for a few years later. 'Pawnshop Guitars', then, is worth exploring, even if it is a difficult record to love. It could have been so much more, however, if Clarke had had the sense to hire a singer - the songs are limited by his limitations as both a singer and a lyricist. That's a shame, as if we learn anything from this album it is how expressive he is as a player.

  3. #163
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    Fiction: Dark Tranquility - Fiction (2007)

    Dark Tranquility are one of extreme metal's most reliable bands, as well as the most accessible. Their sound is wholly unique - thrash and death metal riffage are overlaid with gothic electronic and piano, and Mokael Staine tops it all off which some mid-range gutteral vocals. There is nothing contrived about them: the songs are boiled down, with no fat or ego present. This make the sound direct and brutal, a vibrant darkenss which oozes with the confidence of a band who know how good they are. 'Terminus' and 'Blind At Heart' are far more twisted than anything the new wave of thrash bands could turn out, whilst the brutality of 'Empty One' effortlessly gives way to a passage of almost pious piano led lament. It is these flourished that make this music so emotive, so human: 'Icipher' is slower, crunchier and overlaid with orchestration and piano, complexities offset by sparse vocals. The best modern metal bands tends of hail from Sweden or Scandanavia, and Dark Tranquility are no exception. Injecting the typical Gothenberg sound with nuance and intelligence, their lyrics are far beyond the ceaseless and inane anger of most metal bands, and the confidence they exude in combining meaty riffs, taut guitar, and the tonal atmospherics of electronica is utterly refreshing. When it all comes together on epic closer 'The Mundane and the Magic', they achieve a sound which is at once monstrously heavy and impossibly beautiful. That is quite something.

  4. #164
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    Brijitte West & the Desperate Hopefuls - Eponymous

    Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, this a record set to run in old skool time. But it's not retro. By that, I mean it's not punk rock 'n' roll for the sake of mindless emulation, or in an attempt to recreate the past for its own merits. Rather, it's a record built around great songs. Simple as that. 'Mess of Myself', 'It's Not My Fault', 'Bleeding Heart' are perfect pop rock, but in a fucked up way. A heavy Johnny Thunders and Ramones influence pervades, as it does with so many bands, but the result is not plagarism of pedestrian. Sparse production allows for a human quality and openness in the songs, which breathe and pulsate, and the lyrics are drenched in simple and poignant imagery and an angry, defiant and world-weary outlook. 'Bitter & Twisted' has an understated country feel which renders it soft but sharp, and 'How To Be Good' (featuring Jesse Malin) is the sort of broken blues that grunge should have sounded like. All of this renders Brijitte West a cut above the sunset strip retro wannabe artists who pass for good time rock 'n' roll these days.

  5. #165
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    From the vaults: Rob Zombie - Hellybilly Deluxe (1998)

    A minor classic from the Alice Cooper of the digital age. The subtitle - '13 Tales of Cadaverous Cavorting Inside the Spookshow International' - says it all, for in true Zombie fashion this is a record resplendent with B-Movie cool, comic book imagery and pop culture vocabulary. It's a heady brew of fat riffs, industrial ambiences, techno beats and bass blasts which are the perfect vehicle for Rob's rhythmic vocal delivery, and the result is a lot of fun which really shouldn't be over-analysed. 'Dragula' is a crusty anthem, whilst 'Demonoid Phenomenon' and 'Meet the Creeper' are monstrously heavy. But its not all bluster: 'Spookshow Baby' is a mangled power ballad, and 'Superbeast' is pure gothic pop. At it's best - like most Rob Zombie records - this is a carnival of the bizarre with Beelezebub on the decks. There is a lot of filler, however, in the form of musical interludes. Moreover, with so many flavours floating around it can be overbearing 'The Ballad of Resurrection and Rosa the whore' feels like a series of disconected and partly digested ideas. These reservations aside though, 'HellyBilly Deluxe' is a fine example of rock 'n' roll at its most celebratory: pure schlock rock horroe kitsch for the damned!

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    Devildriver -Beast

    For all of their indebtedness to modern and extreme forms of the genre, in many respects Devildriver are a heavy metal band in the classical sense of the term. They are heavy, intense, but FUN. Their songs are not overthought or clever for the sake of being so, and on tunes like 'Bring the Fight (To the Floor)' and 'Hardened' we find little in the way of subtle introspection or a nuanced comment on the human condition, but rather the positive application of anger, which was always what metal was about. Many modern American metal bands could learn much from this approach. Indeed, for all the aggression, this is a thoroughly enjoyable and upligting experience. Opener 'Dead To Rights' is a frantic melee of riffs and time changes weighed down by punishing grooves and a huge chorus; and 'Shitlist' is as anthemic a blast of modern metal as you are likely to find. In many ways these songs epitomize the album as a whole: Devildriver absorb much of the inventiveness of extreme metal and make it palletable and accessible without weakening it. That's quite an achievement, and on moments like the Pantera-charged 'Blur' the sheer direct power of 'You Make Me Sick' the results are captivating. Following the success of their previous two records - 'Last Kind Words' (2007) and 'Pray For Villains' (2009) - the band are now on a three album run, but have succeeded in upping their game here by injecting some variety into the maddness. The slower, and often more melodic, pieces like 'Talons Out (Teeth Sharpened)' and 'Crowns of Creation' add shades to the darkness and make for a wholly more human quality to the band's sound. Where 'Pray For Villains' opted for directness and embraced a punk-like simplicity at times, 'Beast' demonstrates the band's musicianship, with duel solos resplendent and the God-like drumming of John Broecklin rampant throughout.

    Mirror, mirror on the walll, whose the most metal of them all? Lamb of God? Machine Head? Chimara? Devildriver must surely now sit in the big leagues of modern US metal bands. Long may they reign.

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    Crowbar - Sever The Wicked Hand

    Imagine the weight of a Deathstar. Throw in a couple of blue wales, add a solar system or two, and you're still nowhere near the sheer bowel moving heaviness of Crowbar. When Kirk Weinstein hits his first riff, astronomers have shown that the earth's orbit is altered - seriously, it's true.

    Like all other Crowbar records, 'Sever....' still sounds like Black Sabbath being tortured by The Melvins. There is a renenwed sense of purpose, and a more stripped down sound, this time around, however. Opener 'Isolation (Desperation)' has the sonic crunch and snarl not really seen since Crowbar's 'Broken Glass' era in the mid'90s and is undoubtedly the best song Weinstein has penned since the finer moments on 'Odd Fellows Rest'. His vocals sound much better now they're no longer drenched in studio magic, and his fractured larynx delivers those treacle like melodies with particular richness here, most noticeably on 'Let Me Mourn'. The power is, frankly, daunting: 'Liquid Sky & The Cold Black Earth' has a soul rumbling pressence, and 'The Cemetry Angels' crushes with riff after riff. Crowbar albums are often patchy affairs, and 'Protectors of the Shrine' does feel a little like filler, but overall this is their most focussed record for some time. Perhaps that is due to Weinstein's sobriety. The ambition is noble and noticeable - 'As I Become One' is expansive, loose, and experimental, and demonstrates that their is far, far more to this band than an endless possession of heavy riffs.

    Crowbar have long been one of metal's best kept secrets. They combine impossible heaviness with an uncomplicated approach that is infectious, and prove that you don't have to be extreme or tuneless to be powerful. This record is a stellar addition to their catalogue: it's no match for 'Odd Fellows Rest', 'Equilibrium' or their debut, but it deserves to last the test of time.

    None Fuckin' Heavier.

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    Romeo Must Die - Hardship's In Season

    This is the debut record from a band formed from the ashes of Stampin' Ground, the epically aggressive, biblically heavy UK hardcore noisemongers. It is something of a surprise, then, to hear that it opens with an acoustic - yes, an acoustic - guitar. It announces a record that, whilst combining some of the brutality of Stamin' Ground, is more melodic and expressive in its scope. The band have described the sound as 'Murder-pop-thrash-core', but they're clearly taking the piss, as there's no such artifice here, just finely crafted songs saturated with emotion. 'Breathing Fire' is an anthem in waiting. 'Let Them Hate' is pure hardcore rage pulverizing the listener through a series of slicing, tort riffs and sandpaper vocals. Sounds generic? Far from it, for what separates RMD from the pack is that their songs are memorable. 'Time...the Great Vivisector' is looser, a neck-snapping swirl of power chords and crunching riffage and time changes which descends into a melodic mid-section reminiscent of early Mastodon. The thrashing bruiser 'Survivor Club' recalls Strife and features some seriously warped guitar pieces, whilst 'Better Off Dead' is Prong-like staccato bombast with a hulk of a chorus. 13 songs maybe a little overkill, but it is indicative of the ambition, and talent, on display here: in a genre in which it is easy to sound generic, it is utterly refreshing to discover a band at once unique and charismatic. UK metal bands often fold all too quickly. Let us hope that RMD do not go the way of Earthrone 9, Iron Monkey or......Stampin' Ground.

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    Darkest Hour - The Eternal Return (2009)

    Darket Hour are a band who have carved out a place for themselves in the metal scene which is semi-legendary, and have gradually moved away from their metalcore roots. On 'The Eternal Return' they have stamped a sound which is essentially melodic death metal sprinkled with hardcore: stomping drums are overlaid with crisp guitar riffs, furious vocals and dark melodies. Everything is sharp, fast and crisp in tone, and it blasts out of the speakers at a Blitzkrieg pace. It doesn't feel as coherent as an album as 2007's 'Deliver Us', and much of the nuanced of earlier works - such as progressive interludes and slower tempos - have been eschewed here. But that's not the real problem here. The issue is, rather, that there are a thousand bands like this. DH maybe one of the best, but their impact is diminished by the scope of the field. So, despite the fact that 'No God' - the heaviest song here - is the sort of song which might put them in the big leagues of metal's frontrunners, the momentum is lost by moments of startling mediocrity like 'Bitter' and 'Blessed Infection'. Moreover, despite the fact that 'A Distorted Utopia' and 'Into The Grey' are classy and clever, and that on tunes like 'Death Worship', 'Transcendence' and 'Devolution of the Flesh' the band manage to weld extreme metal to melodies and time signatures that are genuinely catchy, it doesn't really matter. Why? Because it's all tinkling with a formula so familiar it is difficult to find it exciting. That's before we get to the paradoxical lyrics: promoting thinking for oneself in a world which in nonetheless hopeless.

    Don't get me wrong: DH are a hell of a band, and this will knock you against the wall if you play it loud enough. But will you remember it? Will you play it in 10 years time? It's doubtful. Bands like this are essentially engaged in a cult of At The Gates worship, and should you really want to be inspired checking out that band, Dark Tranquility, or early albums by The Haunted would be a much wiser move. what 'The Eternal Return' actually marks is an impasse for American metal - it is very, very good, but it is also constrained by the existing paradigm. Taking some chances is the way forward. Perhaps DH will be the band to do it: the soloing on 'Tides' or 'A Distorted Utopia' shows how adept they are as musicians, but the genre needs to expand lest it stagnate.

  10. #170
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    Accept - Blood of the Nations

    This really is how to return with a BANG. Pretty much what you'd expect from Accept this is anthemic metal played without a trace of overcomplication. From the moment 'Beat The Bastards' kicks in, you know what you're going to get: slicing, raw riffage and songs which crackle with energy and - crucially - FUN. Somewhere along the way metal lots that sense of fun, but it's here in bucketloads. Indeed, on 'Teutonic Terror', it even boarders onto the plain silly. Accept deliver their classic sound through a series of cathy anthems like 'Rolling Thunder' and 'Locked & Loaded', but that is not to say that this is a conscioulsy 'retro' album or one oozing with nostalgia. Far from it. Accept feel driven here, and their ambition makes for a far more welcome 'come back' record than anything Judas Priest have managed to conjure. Andy Sneep's crisp and ripped production strips the band's sound back and gives the songs a 'live' feel, and the band demonstrate time and time again that chugga-chugga riffage really is the best thing to headbang too (see 'Shades of Death' in particular.) It's a life affiriming listen which reminds you why you loved metal in the first place - hell, they even throw in a power ballad ('Kills The Pain') which, like every stab at sentiment recorded by an '80s metal band, is sentimental only in a moronic, drunken kind of way. It's done with such charisma, however, that you can't help but love it.

    This is certainly a life-affirming slab of power chords, but it is also a long record. At 13 songs and 70 minutes, you can't help but feel that the 'edit' button might have made the whole more powerful for being shorter. But, asking Accept to tone down the overkill is to ask too much. 'Blood of The Nations' is a great return. Anyone who thinks that they couldn't do it without Udo is in for a shock - new guy Mark Tornillo's raspy vocals are a perfect foil for Wolf Hoffman and Frank Herman's gritty guitar tones. It is Herman and Hoffman who are the hero's here, cementing just how underrated they are in metal's history: not only inspiring thrash metal (and consequently indirectly spawning much modern metal as we know it) their lead work is expemplary for its power and their ability not to overcomplicate the songs. In short, 'Blood of the Nations' is a record which you should take to your Metal Heart.

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    From the vaults: UFO - Mechanix (1982)

    UFO must rank as one of the most underrated hard rock bands ever. Given that I can think of few bands who've written so many winning songs, I regard that as a travesty. It is doubly tragic, however, when what little attention the band does receive centres almost wholly on the Michael Schenker years. They made some classic records with Schenker, who dazzled throughout his tenure in their ranks. But Mogg and Way wrote songs strong enough to survive without guitar hystrionics and, I would suggest, in many ways the band worked better as a group once mad Mikkey had gone.

    As case in point in 'Mechanix', UFO's 10th record and the first to feature Paul Chapman on guitar. This era of UFO was not as showy or as in your face as the '70s incarnation, but it had plenty to offer. The vibrancy of the songs here is dazzling. The band adopted a Springsteen-esque approach to arrangements and allow the songs to carry their energy in tangents and interludes, with wave after wave of guitar and keyboards making a sound that is truly energizing and invigorating for the listener. Neil Carter's keyboards never dominate, but act in a tonal capacity to complement the songs, much like the more prevalent backing vocals here. Opener 'The Writer' is a sharp and grooving rocker, the foil for the more expansive closer 'Dreaming' in which the band sounds like a rock 'n' roll orchestra washing over the listener in a sound that is truly cinematic. 'Terri' is a heartfelt ballad, featuring a beautiful vocal from Mogg, and on 'Back Into My Life' the band create something somewhere between Joe Cocker and John Taylor. I am trying to avoid using the term 'mature' to label the vibe here, because it makes this record sound dull. 'Mechanix' was more about class than bombast, however. The out and out rock 'n' roll fury might have been gone; but it was replaced by a texture and nuance which ultimately enchanced the band's sound.

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    From the vaults: Chimaira - Resurrection (2007)

    Of their five records, this (no. 4) is Chimaira's strongest. It is a case of triumphing in the face of adversity: in search of new band members - and a new label - Chimaira came back with a sense of purpose, and a point to prove. The result is a multi-layered modern metal record. The songs shift seamlessly from fast to slow, intense to epic, with a sense of fluidity and without a cluttered feeling. The term 'metalcore' is inappropriate. Chimara weld death metal, thrash and hardcore together, and are never over reliant on the breakdown like so many of their peers. Whilst previous self-titled album had felt over-thought and laboured, you get the sense of a band enjoying themselves here: more aggressive but also more precise, the band are happy to show off a little, soloing away in almost every song. Sure, it's far from perfect: 'Killing The Beast' and 'End It All', for example, are moments of treading water. But when it's good, it's really good. The title track is precise and powerful, whilst 'Needle' is thrash-tastic and 'Worthless' alternates from speed to mid-paced mosher. But it's the inventiveness that surprises. Despite the generic metal title, 'No Reason To Live' is a stab at social commentary, and 'Flame' tackles the subject of rape with startling rawness. That sense of progression is felt most clearly on 'Six', a nine minute epic which is Maiden-esque in its grandiose. This, combined with the keyboard driven and black metal tinged closer 'Empire', show what talent Chimaira possess. The problem with such diversity, however, is that it makes you wonder what band Chimaira want to be. This is certainly more focussed than their earlier records, but it smacks of a band trying to please everyone - they needn't be so apologetic.

    Chimaira might never make a classic record. That's fine, as few bands do. They might never be your favourite band, or displace Lamb of God from the top of metal's pyramid (for American bands at least.) But they would be a worthy addition to anyone's record collection.

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    Helmet - Seeing Eye Dog

    Album number 7 from Paige Hamilton's riff-laden alternative beast. There is no radical departure in sound here: we still get venomous, punchy riffs blasted over a crunchy rythm section. But that's not to say that there aren't a few surprises. Firstly, this is a lot more 'hooky' than we might expect from Helmet: kind of like being smacked in the mouth and crooned too at the same time. The decision to explore melody pays rewards. 'In Person' owes much to Foo Fighters power-pop rock, and 'LA Water' is reminiscent of Everclear at their ennui driven best (it also reminds me a little of Hamilton's Ghandi project.) Also encouraging is Page's decision to test himself as a singer, and here he alternates from shades of Billy Corgan to Andy Cairns (Therapy?). His limitations may be revealed on an otherwise explosive cover to The Beatles 'And Your Bird Can Sing', but the singing here is, for the most part, warm and crisp. Opener 'So Long' has a punky Cheap Trick vibe about it and reminds me of Helmet in their 'Aftertaste' era; the title track is packed with monstrously heavy riffs; and 'Welcome To Angiers' and 'She's Lost' show some real ambition, in all of their discordant glory.

    There's a lot to love here. Sure, its no 'Betty' or 'Meantime', but it was never going to be. Since being reformed, Helmet have been less of a band and more of a Page Hamilton solo outing. Henry Bogdan and John Stanier were one of rock's best rhythym sections, twisting and melding songs to make Helmet sound truly bestial. Without them, something has always been missing. On 'Size Matters', the distance from the band of old was glaring. Here, however, it is less so. Finally, Helmet sound like a band. This is no perfect record, but it is what Helmet have always been: concise, powerful, impossibly heavy, and truly unique.

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    From the vaults: Megadeth 'So Far, So Good, So What?'

    The runt of the litter in the eyes of many, this record is often seen as a stepping stone between breakthrough album 'Peace Sellls.....But Who's Buying?' (1986) and what many consider to be Mustaine's finest moment, 1990s 'Rust In Peace.' Sure, its not on a par with those two undeniable metal classics. It is, however, a chronically underrated record. People say that the new line-up (featuring Jeff Young on lead guitar and Chuck Behler on drums) didn't have as much chemistry as the Menza/Friedman or Samuelson/Polland lineup, and they're correct. People said that the production was muddy and darkened the whole record, and they're right. And when people said that by clocking in at just 34 minutes and including a cover song this was the sign of a band in turmoil, they were right again. But, this is an album which reeks of one thing which Megadeth albums have often lacked: emotion. For all of its imperfections, it is actually more human than much of the band's back catalogue.

    What sets this record in the Megadeth canon is actually the limitation of one of its players: Chuck Behler. His uncomplicated, punk-driven drumming was a long, long war from Gar Samuelson's jazz-infused style, which had allowed songs to spin and mutate almost at will into something gargantuan. Many bemoan the absence of that fluid snap here, but it actually creates its own aesthetic. The guitars are brought more to the forefront, and the rigid approach to playing actually adds the whole record a gritty vibe. Indeed, songs like 'Hook In Mouth' - an intelligently cynical slice of vitriol levelled at the PMRC which should have become a 'Deth anthem - and '502' - a brutally furious assault which deployed technical playing and melody in a very interesting ways - were given much of their bite and power by Behler's delivery. Indeed, that understated performance might be what makes 'In My Darkest Hour' so cuttingly powerful. Mustaine achieved here a matuirty which most metal bands never get close to: not only is the composition breathtaking, the lyrics (which deal with love gone awry) are poignant and powerful.

    Indeed, there was much here that pushed the envelope of what metal could be. They may have been surpassed since, but songs like 'Set The World Afire' were as technical as metal got in '88. This ode to nuclear warfare is structured around a series of haunting riffs which twist and spit, whilst the vocal trickery on the chorus made this tune truly dark and haunting. Erupting into something truly epic as Mustaine yells 'NO SURVIVORS!!!' you realize just how long ago 1988 was: the nuclear threat feels so much less immediate 23 years later. Equally ambitious was 'Mary Jane'. This disturbing tune could be about withcraft, or it could be about pot-driven halluncinations. Either way, it is truly unique: haunting melodies prove that Mustaine is writing truly beautiful music, and a series of off-kilter guitar licks make this a mezmorizing composition which is one of a kind in metal.

    It's not a perfect record, of course. The production really does rob the songs of power. Moreover, Jeff Young - whilst an adept guitar player - doesn't dazzle here like so many other axemen in Megadeth have. Perhaps its the relative lack of shredding that has rendered 'So Far, So Good, So What' the overlooked record. It may not be as precise, or as heavy, or as fast as Megadeth's other albums, but it is easily their angriest and perhaps most sincere record. The variety of the songwriting here is startling, especially when you consider that most of the bands peers made records governed by one-dimensional speed alone. Mustaine is a hell of a talent, and metal should be proud to have him.

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    From the vaults: Dio - Killing the Dragon (2002)

    This is something of a gem in Dio's back catalogue, and marked a return to reform of sorts. From the 'Dream Evil' era onwards Dio had become progressively slower and darker, and by the time of the sludgy (and frankly cumbsy) 'Angry Machines' it was clear that things had to change. The sci-fi concept album 'Magica' was certainly an ambitious (and nobel) failure, but it was 'Killing the Dragon' two years later that really saw Dio give the fans something they actually wanted: stripped back, good time hard rock/ heavy metal with the fun-o-meter on 10. There is plenty to explore here. The title track opens the record with a Maiden like gallop and sees Dio's vocals in fine form. 'Along Came A Spider' is typical of the tunes here is being noticeably more up-tempo than much of Dio's latter-day output, it's snakebite riff adding plenty of menace to proceedings. The more shinny 'Push' takes this template but adds a contemporary twist, whilst 'Throw Away Children' is an epic, dark fantasy and contains some of Dio's best lyrics - it really is a dark horse in his body of work.

    Sure, there are some tunes that back-fire. 'Rock 'N' Roll' is a blatent 'Kashmir' rip-off which stagnates, and the likes' of 'Scream' and 'Guilty' are little more than meat and potatoes metal (that latter sounding like the ugly sister of 'Breathe' from 'Last In Line'.) But these are not enough to de-rail the album. Fans of old school metal will undoubtedly love this album, which sees Dio, Bain and new guitar player Doug Aldrich in fine form - the latter shreds like a monster throughout, but his work on 'Better In the Dark' and 'Throw Away Children' is particularly noteable. This is a record any artist would be proud of - to retain this kind of fire into your 60s really is something.

    R.I.P

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    Oceansize - Self Preserved While the Bodies Float Up

    This band should be as big as their sound. Instead, however, they have decided to call it a day after this, their third record. That is a true shame, because you can't help thinking that Oceansize are a sort of 'Jeff Buckley' moment: an artist that everyone will cite as an influence 20 years down the line but who couldn't get arrested in his own time. Punchier than earlier releases 'SPWTBFU' is still staggering in its ambition. The sound here is majestic and cinematic in its scope and pregnant with immense possibilites, like the universe yawning at the birth of a new day. Imagine stoner rock overlaid with symphonic melodies, or a sound that conjures up Queens of the Stone Age copulating with Sonic Youth. This is heavy but not abbrasive. Rather, there has always been a warmth to Oceansize, their music acts like an all embracing cocoon for the listener, warm, welcoming and sumptuous despite being haunting. Opener 'Part Cardiac' is crushing, whilst 'A Penny's Weight' and 'Ransom' are hushed and fragile. Rock, strings and electronic merge into on glittering skyline on songs like 'Oscar Acceptance Speech', which moves from glacial beatuy to volcanic fury effortlessly, and the epic 8 and a half minutes of piano led 'Silent/Transparent' is truly transcendent, closing in a glorious crescendo. What separates Oceansize from the post-prog pack is that the manage to be spaced out and experimental whilst being accessible and devoid of pretension. That's an incredible achievement and on the explosive 'Superimposer' - which sounds like the thundering of an angry God - you really wish that more bands made rock 'n' roll as vital as this. A genuinely forward-looking musical statement.

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    Whitesnake - Forevermore

    A solid effort from DC and co. which is bound to make you smile. Building on the good work laid down by this line-up on 'Good To Be Bad', this time round they have gelled together more closely and the whole record feels more like the product of a band. Do I need to tell you what this sounds like? Big choruses, flashy solos and songs about broken and battered love all served up with a dollop of cheese and a whole lot of fun. As sophisticated as a chainsaw, and about as subtle.

    Opener 'Steal Your Heart Away' has the bluesy, funky vibe of early Whitesnake but its played through the sheen of the '1987' era. 'Love Will Set You Free' has a rattlesnake of a riff and 'Tell Me How' is an anthem in the making if they add it to the setlist. DC's voice is not what it once was, but it still suits the music - a little raspier than 20 years ago, and a little lower, he nonetheless brings a (not so) quiet cool to proceedings and is the perfect foil for the sizzling solos of Doug Aldrich, who is a bluesman on hyperdrive. All of this is fine and dandy, but hardly essential. These songs - as good as they are - hardly add anything to the band's legacy. But some of those on the record's second half certainly do: 'Dogs In the Street' (Aldrich's centrpiece) is a marvellous rocker, and 'Whipping Boy Blues' is a bombastic take on blues rock. Perhaps most impressive, however, is the title track - a delicate ballad which culminates in a Zeppelin-esque stomp, could it be argued that this is the most beautiful song DC has ever recorded?

    There is certainly filler on this album (what Whitesnake record doesn't have some?) 'Easier Said Than Done' is a formulaic ballad, and 'One of These Days' delves dangerously close to Chris Rea territory (ARRRGH!) But they don't taint the impact of the whole. Thanks largely to the rhythm section of Brian Tinchy and Michael Devin, 'Forevermore' grooves like a motherfucker. It is no 'Lovehunter' or 'Ready & Willing' but it is a damn fine rock 'n' roll record which will brighten up your summer no end.

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    From the vaults: Ozzy Osbourne - The Ultimate Sin (1986)

    There was so much untapped potential on this album which - despite many fans deeming it the double OO's worst effort - actually became his biggest seller. The mid 80s was the point at which Ozzy began to become a self-parody, the point at which he began to conform to the comic book villain image that the popular press had of him. As a result, style began to overtake substance, and some of the magic of the earlier records (I include 'Bark At The Moon' in that) was lost. Listening too it now, the enjoyment comes from a sense of nostalgia rather than an appreciation of timeless music. Some of the tunes here were shot-through with the sunset strip sound which was making record companies so many $$$ in the mid-80s: 'Never Know Why', with its cod metal chorus, sounds like a rip off of Twisted Sister's 'I Wanna Rock'; and, despite possessing a cool riff, 'Lightning Strikes' possess a Bon Jovi melody and lyrics which could have been written by Brett Michaels ('Rockin' All Night' for fucks sake!) Its not the disaster that many pan it as, however. The title track has a crushing riff and might be the heaviest thing ever to appear on an Ozzy record. 'Secret Loser' - whilst certainly a sign of the times - has an immense riff and a infectious energy. Two of the strongest tunes, however, suffer by being so dated to the time in which they were created: the first, 'Killer of Giants', is Ozzy's musing on the insanity of nuclear war and is a brooding and dark tune featuring some great guitar work; the second, 'Shot In The Dark', is pure pop metal in the '80s mould. They were both good songs in their day, but they are limited by their timeliness - one by its subject matter, the other by its sound.

    And perhaps that's the real story here. 'Blizzard...' and 'Diary..' are timeless heavy metal records that tap into the essence of what makes that genre so appealing. 'The Ultimate Sin' is no bad record, it is just one rooted firmly to its place in time both in the songwriting and production. The stale, rigid sound and loud drums do nothing to help the songs here, and rythym section robs them of much of their potential (Phil Soussan should have been shot for the pedestrian playing here.) Jake E Lee is, unquestionably, the most overlooked person in the Ozzy Osbourne story (shut up Bob Daisey fans!) The solos here are all dazzling, and some of the riffs are epic - 'Never' and 'Thank God For the Bomb', for example, are both songs which waste some of his work.

    This is not quintessentially Ozzy; nor is it a great album. That does not mean, however, that it should be overlooked. There are a handful of gems here which might have stood the test of time better if Ozzy had included them in his setlist in the intervening years.

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    The Haunted - Unseen

    You've got admire The Haunted, even if its increasingly difficult to enjoy their music. Formed from ashes of legendary death metal band At The Gates, The Haunted began life in the late '90s making albums which would make most of the 'new wave' of thrash bands run for cover. Consequently, the contemporary metal sound has been flooded with bands trying to match their early work, and coming up short. The Haunted have always been aware of the law of diminishing marginal returns, and began to evolve from their original sound with 'The Dead Eye' two albums ago. This resulted in a back lash branding the band as traitors to their roots. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course - those roots were founded on integrity, and whilst it may have been a departure in sound no-one could deny that 'The Dead Eye' was made with sincerity by a band which makes music only to follow their own hearts.

    And so it is with 'Unseen', album no. 7. The level of experimentation here is impressive, but because of this the record doesn't gell together. Peter Dowling's ability so many different styles of rock is admirably and impressive, and the fact that he's spoken out so vehemntly about the state of modern metal means that its doubtful that he gives a shit whether critics think this is any good. But the diversity here dillutes the whole. Opener 'Never Better' is a chugger possessed of a very melodic chorus and some Nine Inch Nails inspired interludes; second track 'No Ghost' is a southern rock boogie a la Clutch; and third tune 'Catch 22' is angular alt. rock. That's a difficult yarn to follow. And it keeps writhing around. 'Motionless' features post-hardcore vocals, and 'All Ends Well' starts out tinged with Queens of The Stone Age and evolves into something close to Alice In Chains. All of these songs are well written, but it is the sound of band that no longer knows what they want to be. They do offer us a gem, however: closer 'Done' is a mid-paced bruiser reminiscent of mid-90s Skinlab and conjures up an image of a tank going into battle.

    Perhaps that drive to expand and explore is more admirable than putting out a carbon copy of their debut every couple of years. Perhaps not. What is holding The Haunted back though is that they are thinking too much, making music with their heads rather than their instincts. Perhaps album number 8 could be called 'Cerebral'.

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    Quote Originally Posted by binnie View Post
    From the vaults: Ozzy Osbourne - The Ultimate Sin (1986)

    There was so much untapped potential on this album which - despite many fans deeming it the double OO's worst effort - actually became his biggest seller. The mid 80s was the point at which Ozzy began to become a self-parody, the point at which he began to conform to the comic book villain image that the popular press had of him. As a result, style began to overtake substance, and some of the magic of the earlier records (I include 'Bark At The Moon' in that) was lost. Listening too it now, the enjoyment comes from a sense of nostalgia rather than an appreciation of timeless music. Some of the tunes here were shot-through with the sunset strip sound which was making record companies so many $$$ in the mid-80s: 'Never Know Why', with its cod metal chorus, sounds like a rip off of Twisted Sister's 'I Wanna Rock'; and, despite possessing a cool riff, 'Lightning Strikes' possess a Bon Jovi melody and lyrics which could have been written by Brett Michaels ('Rockin' All Night' for fucks sake!) Its not the disaster that many pan it as, however. The title track has a crushing riff and might be the heaviest thing ever to appear on an Ozzy record. 'Secret Loser' - whilst certainly a sign of the times - has an immense riff and a infectious energy. Two of the strongest tunes, however, suffer by being so dated to the time in which they were created: the first, 'Killer of Giants', is Ozzy's musing on the insanity of nuclear war and is a brooding and dark tune featuring some great guitar work; the second, 'Shot In The Dark', is pure pop metal in the '80s mould. They were both good songs in their day, but they are limited by their timeliness - one by its subject matter, the other by its sound.

    And perhaps that's the real story here. 'Blizzard...' and 'Diary..' are timeless heavy metal records that tap into the essence of what makes that genre so appealing. 'The Ultimate Sin' is no bad record, it is just one rooted firmly to its place in time both in the songwriting and production. The stale, rigid sound and loud drums do nothing to help the songs here, and rythym section robs them of much of their potential (Phil Soussan should have been shot for the pedestrian playing here.) Jake E Lee is, unquestionably, the most overlooked person in the Ozzy Osbourne story (shut up Bob Daisey fans!) The solos here are all dazzling, and some of the riffs are epic - 'Never' and 'Thank God For the Bomb', for example, are both songs which waste some of his work.

    This is not quintessentially Ozzy; nor is it a great album. That does not mean, however, that it should be overlooked. There are a handful of gems here which might have stood the test of time better if Ozzy had included them in his setlist in the intervening years.
    Pretty spot-on review there.

    I recall listening to this album quite a bit in the first couple of months after it came out, then not bothering with it for years. Unlike, say, No Rest For The Wicked, this album didn't really sit with me any better later on when I gave it another listen.

    I'd certainly agree it is a product of the times rather than timeless. Yes, the title track is good and Lee comes up with assorted riffs here and there that are imaginative. Overall, though, the effort is lyrically slight (one wonders how much involvement Daisley had with the songwriting process on this one vs. No rest For The Wicked; not as much, I suspect, which would explain the rather generic verses and choruses). There really doesn't seem to be much in the way of purpose or ambition driving the songs, and the whole affair comes across as something undertaken to satisfy a recording contract and provide a reason to hit the road (back in the days when a new album was a prerequisite to toruing) more than anything else.

    I suppose considering the relative excellence of Ozzy's 1980s output the opinion that The Ultimate Sin is the weakest release of that period doesn't necessarily mean it is a total slog from start to finish. However, the passage of time since hasn't made it sound any better to these ears, either.
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    My understanding was that Daisley just did the lyrics on this one(apart from Shot in the Dark).

    As ever Terry has the same music taste as me. I would quibble with some of the things in the review but that is maybe more to do with my memories of it rather than how it sounds now.

    I've posted before that I was really disappointed with this album. Ozzy was my favourite band at the time and not only is it miles away from the first 2 in quality, I don't think it's any where near as good as BATM.

    It should be called 'Lets quickly throw something out because we have to'.

    I think what annoys me about it most is that it was just fucking lazy and the people involved underachieved.

    I bet if they were honest they would all admit that.

    A little anal sidenote on the guitar solo's.

    Jake E Lee was an extraordinary guitarist but on this album I think he had made up his mind to try and develop a unique personal style in his soloing based on a difficult technique he had come up with kind of breaking up chord arpeggios barring with his index finger. Any new attempt to be original is to be applauded but unfortunately it just wasn't very exciting or interesting to watch.

    Compare



    with

    Last edited by Seshmeister; 04-03-2011 at 11:42 PM.
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    I think that's a bit harsh, Sesh.

    Sure, it's not a great album as I said, but it's not a complete disaster. Rather than lazziness, I think the issue might have been them not really being a band, just a set of hired guns who didn't necessarily gell. Jake E Lee's contributions were pretty damn good, IMO. It's just that no one came up with any cool arrangements/melodies for his riffs.

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    binnie is spot on with the hired guns analogy, although I'd also agree with Sesh that there is a difference between what Lee was doing solo-wise on BATM vs. Ultimate Sin. Perhaps easier for a guitarist to hear than a non-playing fan...put it this way: just take the BATM title track and Lee's solos, particularly the outro. Flashy to be sure, but above all memorable. I can't think of one solo on Sin that was really memorable. I do recall reading a GW article around the time Sin was released when Lee was discussing his technique in detail, and the solos on Sin seem to be servicing said technique rather than the technique being used to craft anything that had any resonance.

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    That all changed with Badlands though. Maybe Lee was getting bored working with Ozzy in 1986...

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    Fuck Ron Nevison! He completely destroys everything he gets his hands on. The way he mixes the drums is a crime. Instead of having that crisp smack of the drums that should be in your face, he softens them to the point where they sound like they're coming from another room. And that signature keyboard sound that's in the background of everything he's ever produced is downright nauseating. It doesn't matter who he works with (KISS, Heart, Ozzy, etc.) or what material you give him, he'll mutilate it and turn it into some cheesy Giorgio Moroder-sounding disco crap. I can't figure out why any rock band would hire this guy or let him put his treatment on their music, he has no rock sensibilties whatsoever.

    I can't see any producer who could've helped Ultimate Sin or given it any life because most of it is total shit, but to hand it over to Ron Nevison is a fucking sacrifice.
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    It's not shit, its just average.

    If you want shit, listen to Ozzmosis - fucking clusterfuck.

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    From the vaults: Sepultura - Roorback (2003).

    This was the third album from the Sepultura era known as 'Max-less'. Even Sepultura stallwarts would have to admit that once principle songwriter and vocalist Max Cavalera left in 1996, Sepultura were never the same band. But that doesn't mean that there wasn't any value to their output in the intervening years. Whilst 'Against' (1998) and 'Nation' (2001) saw the band mixing tribal rhythms, hardcore and thrash in a mish-mash of songs, on 'Roorback' Sepultura 2.0 began to gell. This was certainly not the sound the band which had created thrash materpieces 'Schizophrenia', 'Beneath the Remains' or 'Arise', nor was it the band who produced the discordant and metal-boundary-stretching 'Chaos AD' and 'Roots.' Indeed, if anything Sepultura had ceased to be leaders and opted to become followers, and the sound here is heavily indebted to both hardcore and the 'nu' brand of metal. Slower, more thoughtful, and more inclined to experiment with melody, it automatically alienated those fans who rank their metal according to how fast and aggressive it is. But, realizing that they could not compete with their former selves, Sepultura made an album which, for all of its highs and lows, was well worthy of a look.

    As with previous effort 'Nation', much here is centred around Derreck Green's voice, and sees the band explore soft/heavy dynamics in a manner akin to many 'nu' metal bands. The results are mixed. 'Urge' buzzes and jangles, disturbing the listener into feeling the emotion on display; whilst ballad 'Bottomed Out', with its oddly Deftones sounding heavier moments, is more proficient than profound. Elsewhere, we gets some serious slabs of groove. 'More of the Same', with its Korn(y) riff and spoken interludes, is reminiscent of Spineshank; and the thunderessly heavy 'Godless' possess some odd rhythms and short, Sonic Youth inspired riffs. But it's perhaps at their most simple that 'Roorback' is most effective: the hardcore fury of songs like 'The Rift', 'Corrupted' and 'Leech', and the vitriol of 'Activist', make for a powerful and passionate disaply of aggression, and you can't think that Sepultura would have had a much easier ride if they'd re-invented themselves as a hardcore band rather than experimenting so boldy. Is any of it particuarly memorable? Not really, but it works well as catharsis. It is 'Apes Of God' which really shines though: underlining Iggor Cavalera's position as one of the best ever drummers in rock, its bouncy, discordant riff and pulverising rhythms make for an under-appreciated anthem.

    Let's be clear; no one would hail this as an under-valued classic. But it is worthy of exploration, and marked the point at which Sepultura began to feel like a band again, whether or not you liked their new sound or not. The absence of Max from these songs is glaring, however. The record was originally issued with an EP of covers, and when you compare the album with the sheer energy that Sepultura can produce when given decent songs, the difference is glaring. From the crushing take on Jane's Addiction's 'Mountain Song', the apocalyptic romp through Hellhammer's 'Messiah' or epic reinvention of trip-hop master's Massive Attack's 'Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos' (which sounds like God having angry make-up sex), the EP serves to remind you of how vital Sepultura were. Hell, on 'Bullet the Blue Sky', they even make U2 sound like they have a pair.

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    From the vaults: Love/Hate - Wasted in America (1992)

    'Something's gone wrong with the TV generation......'

    Oh, what could have been. Towards the tail end of '80s metal, there were a handful of really ballsy, bluesy bands that had the potential to put some fire back into a genre that was becoming increasingly poppy and flacid: alongside Badlands, Raging Slab and Salty Dog were Love/Hate, whose debut record 'Blackout in the Red Room' erupted from the speakers like a pitbull on heat. These bands might have hailed a return to substance for the strip, but grunge willed it not to be. Love/Hate continued to release great records regardless, however. Whilst on 'Blackout....' they sounded raw, ragged and dirty, like Faster Pussycat with songs, 'Wasted In America' was a more considered and powerful record. Part hard rock, part punk, funk and alternica, Love/Hate's music was a sonic stew of jagged riffs and swirling rhythm's topped off with Jizzy Pearl's raspy voice. The title track - a rant about broken America - kicks things off sounding like a more muscular Jane's Addiction on speed, whilst the gloriously dirty 'Miss America' and 'Cream' hold up a mirror to '80s excess before grinning straight back at it. Love/Hate were a band who proved that LA had some bite and some balls, that the Poisons and Warrants of the world were far from as good as it got in the early '90s: there is no overblown powerballad or airbrushed Slaughter induced 'hard rock' here: just a gritty, Johnny Cash inspired and outlaw driven 'Don't Fuck With Me' and the jilted riff and epic chorus of forgotten anthem 'Tranquilizer'. This was a band which sounded like no-one else, and possessed considerable variety. 'Yucca Man' was pure bombast, a raucous, sandpaper vocal and blistered guitar; whilst 'Don't Be Afraid' was delicate song indebted to the Cure and early U2. Love/Hate sit squarely in the 'should have been huge' category.

    Sure, there are duds. The melody on 'Social Sidewinder' doesn't work, and 'Times Up' is more a sign of the times than the band's own. This remains a lost classic, however, and proof that Love/Hate were about more than their debut record. In fact, I would suggest that 'Wasted In America' was both more ambitious and conistent than 'Blackout...' and perhaps the true statement of what this band was all about. Beg, steal, or borrow.

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    From the vaults: Saxon - The Inner Sanctum (2007)

    Like Motorhead, despite possessing some the band's best material Saxon's latter-day output is chronically overlooked. They'be been on something of a run since 'Unleash the Beast' (1997) and, like 'Lionheart' (2004), 'The Inner Sanctum' is the best of that era of good-tinme heavy fucking metal.

    That's not to say it's a throwback record. Opener 'State of Grace' takes back from the European power metal scene as much as Saxon gave to it. Drenched in melodies and hyperfast double-bass drums, its a modernization of a classic form. Brooding ballad 'Red Star Falling' (about the end of communism) sees Biff Byford at his best, and is as fine a performance of epic metal majesty you'll ever hear. But, its when they simplfy things that Saxon are at their best. Energetic and invigorating, 'Let Me Feel Your Power' is pure Painkiller-era Priest; whilst 'I've Got To Rock (To Stay Alive)' is an honest, unpretentious metal anthem which a band of this age has absolutely no right to be able to pen. People often bemoan this music for being unsophisticated, but whilst putting a big chorus and some power chords together sounds simple, on 'Going Nowhere Fast', Saxon prove that no one does it better. This is pure fun, and even the most reserved person would have to headbang. Saxon heark back to a time when metal wasn't all about ernest overkill but entertainment and celebrating life - on this album's epic moment, 'Attila The Hun', they deliver up a slice of riff-tastic melodrama which is the chrystalization of everything joyous about Heavy Metal.


    Still think that Saxon were only about 'Strong Arm Of The Law', 'Denim & Leather' and 'Wheels of Steel'? Think again.

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    Architects - The Here & Now.

    This lattest offering from rising British stars sees them taking a gamble, trying to broaden their sound for a wider audience without 'selling out.' Architects have the maturity to realize that competing to be the biggest, fastest and loudest is ultimately sefl-defeating because it limits the scope which a band can adopt. The range of musical styles on offer is admirably wide, taking in metal, prog, emo and even ambient influences. Certainly less full on than earlier releases, it is still a record with plenty of weight and power, and sees the band grow as songwriters. You might describe the sound as poast-hardcore meets prog. 'Day In Day Out' - featuring some remarkable drumming from Dan Searle - is anthemic, featuring sprawling arrangements which snap the song around almost frenetically; and 'Delete Rewind' is built around some odd time signatures and slashing riffs interspersed with some classic hardcore interludes. What separates this band from the pack is their capacity to couple fury with memorability: songs like 'The Blues' and 'Stay Young Forever' merge speed, aggression and melody and point to a band who might one day deliver something special. Sure, there are moments of conventionality here: 'Heartburn' is a twee love song, and 'Learn To Live' enters territory which Alexisonfire do much better. This might very well see them emerge from the underground into chart bothering territory. the songs are well written, well structured and boom from the speakers courtesy of Steve Evetts crisp, thudding production. But is it exciting? Not so much: it feels over-thought, even a little over-cooked, and is consequently a couple of notches short of classic. They may very well get there one day though.

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    From the vaults: Faith No More - Album of the Year (1997)

    The end of the road for FNM was met with awful reviews upon its release and has been held in an ambivalent regard by fans since. Not as quirky or ambitious as earlier releases, it retains that vital element which set FNM apart: the sound here is completely unclassifiable and is reminiscent of no-one else. Much of the reason for the record's 'dark horse' status, I would suggest, lies in the fact that it is not as guitar driven as earlier albums: John Hudson didn't seem to gell with the other members to the extent that Jim Martin had. But the songs here were stellar. Opener 'Collision' bleeds from the speakers, a pulsating bass line overlaid with fiesty punk; 'Naked In Front of The Computer' is a vicious oft-kilter take on internet pornography; and 'Ashes To Ashes' - with its immense riff and howling chorus - maybe see FNM at their most conventional, but it also sees them at their most powerful. It is perhaps the detours away from the metallic which prove most rewarding, however. The synth heavy 'Stripsearch' is a song of dark, delicate beauty featuring one of Patton's purest vocals; 'She Loves Me Not' is a heartfelt take on Mo-town; and 'Mouth to Mouth', with its funk rock and carnical organ, is the musical equivalent of a cynical cackle. So far, so FNM: unpredictable, visceral and gloriously out-of-step with everyone else. On forgotten tunes like 'Pristina', a broken ballad about the conflict in Yugoslavia which is almost structureless but impossibly beautiful, the band attain a truly transcendent level of playing. 'Last Cup Of Sorrow' is pure spasmodic punk, and sees Patton alternating from soring melodies to scatting the lyrics - this really is his album.

    More mature and restrained than earlier releases, and also noticeably darker, this is a long way from the street punk/funk of 'We Care A Lot', or the invigorating electric acid trip of 'Angel Dust', but 'Album of The Year' does not deserve to be overlooked. Listening to it today, you can't help being sad that FNM aren't here to give us some more genre defying battery. Indeed, 'Paths of Glory' sounds - rather appropriately - like a helpless lament for something dying.

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    From the vaults: Pearl Jam - Vitalogy (1994)

    The third album from grunge's biggest band saw them dangling their old success over a naked flame and tempting fate to burn it. For all of its failings, this was music on the edge, raw and unbroken. Less riff-driven than the stadium straddling rock behemoth of debut 'Ten' and the monstrous rush of adrenaline of 'Vs', the sound was smaller and less meaty and driven through with references to alt. rock kings like Husker Du. The change is clear from the second that 'Last Exit' noodles into life, anouncing the band's rather nonchalent, even resentful, take on fame. There are some moments of trite self-indulgence here, most clearly in closer 'Hey foxymprphandlemama, that's me', 7 minutes of unpleasant distorition and effects which rapes the name of funk, and the accordion led and otherwise aimless 'Bugs'. But the good largely outweighs the bad: the delicate 'Nothingman' is shimmering folk caressing naked vulnerability, and 'Better Man' is shattered take on the power ballad. At the album's more intense moments, 'Corduroy' is awash with jangly guitars and a huge chorus, and 'Not For You' is a blast of grinding chords offset by trippy interludes.

    This was the beginning of Pearl Jam existing solely for Pearl Jam: not playing the game in any way, touring where they wanted to tour, and consciously avoiding pop melodies as though penning a hit was a blow to credibility. Spitting in the face of fame cuts opinion down the middle: for some, it is the action of a bunch of petulent, ungrateful, flannel-clad primadonnas; for others, an expression of artistic freedom and a commitment to integrity. Which ever way you view it though, you can't denying that deliberately de-railing a multi-platinum status run takes some big balls, and that commands admiration, whatvever the musical results. Indeed, in many respects Pearl Jame have always been easier to admire than love. The lyrical hopelessness and unbridled anger here is projected outward rather than as a commanding form of introspection - that makes Eddie Vedder a somewhat sullen and uncharismatic figure, almost the anti-Jim Morrison. He'd probably like that.

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    "Better Man" was actually a song Vedder wrote and performed with his old band Bad Radio in the 80's.

    Hey Jackass! You need to [Register] or log in to view signatures on ROTHARMY.COM!

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    Quote Originally Posted by binnie View Post
    From the vaults: Love/Hate - Wasted in America (1992)
    Beg, steal, or borrow.
    Or just download for free from their website http://www.lovehate.com/

    My fave album from the 1990s.

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    Wow! That's a big, big statement. I wouldn't go that far, but as you can see I do think that it is chronically underrated. Probably Love/Hate's best, IMO.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FORD View Post
    "Better Man" was actually a song Vedder wrote and performed with his old band Bad Radio in the 80's.

    Cheers, I didn't know that. I often listen to the first three Pearl Jam records to remind myself that, before they crawled up their own asses, they were a damn fine band.

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    From the vaults: Motley Crue - Motley Crue (1994)

    Singers are the hardest band members to replace. The voice is not only the most identifiable element of a band's sound, it is also often the one that carries their attitude. Consequently, when John Corrobi replaced Vince Neil in Motley Crue during the mid-90s, they sounded like another band. With added rhythm guitar they were heavier, darker and, as a result of Corrobi's smokey, raspy voice, blusier. The bleached blonde party hard sensibilities left with Vince, and this record was a long way from the arena straddling, face fucking pomp of the band's '80s bombast. From the moment that the gargantuan drums and boulder size riff of 'Power To The music' kicks in, you know this is an altogether different Crue: greasier, more metallic, and striving to be more mature. Is it a good Crue record? No. Is it a good stand alone record? Absolutely.

    Sure the odd choice of imagery and artwork felt like a contrived attempt at re-invention; sure, it was too damn long; and, sure, on balance it was probably more Corrabi's record than it was Crue's. But songs like 'Hooligan's Holiday' - which slithers from the gutter like broken ambition - are how rock 'n' roll should have sounded in the '90s. 'til Death Do us Part' is a monster of a power-ballad which sounds something like Zeppelin humping Stone Temple Pilots, whilst, converesely, 'Loveshine' is a restrained and beautiful piece of americana. You can't deny that the band were striving for something new here. Sure, 'Smoke The Sky' was meat and potatoes rock; and the faux Alice In Chains melodies of 'Uncle Jack' didn't come off. But there is a lot to like here, even if you do have to forgo your assumptions of what Motley Crue 'should' sound like in order to do so. Certainly the last interesting record they made and - I would suggest - the one which contains the least amount of filler.

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    Children of Bodom - Relentless Reckless Forever

    Album no. 7 from Finland's metal masters will have you grinning like a cat that not only got the cream, but some tasty feline pussy too! Sampling every aspect of metal's illustrious and varied history from death to glam, COB have always been an entry level band for those looking to delve into a more extreme form of music: welding heaviness with pop sensibilities, they ride the listener through their particular brand of hyperactive madness with a sense of pure joy. This is metal which is aggressive, but not oppressive; heavy, but not harrowing. With Matt Hyde's crisp and crunchy production and that fact that - in contrast to their previous two studio outings - there's not much fat or filler here, we have a very good piece of modern metal.

    'Not My Funeral' is pure power metal. Think Helloween for the 21st century. Hyperactive riffs switch and twist the song around in a sound which dabbles in keyboards and melodic vocal lines. The band have always been at their best when playing fast and things are no different this time out: 'Ugly' is a ghoolish tune which arrives with neck-snapping pace and dazzling energy, and 'Northpole Throwdown' is music to crash your car too. The standout feature of the band has always been the epic guitar work of Alex Laiho and Roope Latvala (check out 'Pussy Fott Miss Suicide' and 'Shovel Knockout'.) They cement their status here as the Downing and Tipton of modern metal.

    Are there many classic songs here? Probably not. But 'Relentless Reckless Forever' works as an album and - like COB's earliest work - we might still be talking about it a decade down the line. Bang thy head.

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    From the vaults: Garbage - Version 2.0

    Garbage were one those bands who never really fitted in: not Brit Pop, not post-grunge, and not out and out rock, their heady brew of scuzzy guitars, samples and the saccarine-menace of Shirley Manson's vocals made for a danceable but oddly dark slice of industrial pop. Despite the unique nature of the music, it was really Manson's voice that sold it: sexy, menacing, vulnerable and honest, for all the production sheen, her emotion shone through. Whether its the fractured beauty and glistening saddness of 'Medication', the lush siren-call of alt.rock perfection of 'Push It', the stomp of 'Wicked Ways' or the twisted, nasty slab of a love song which is 'I think I'm Paranoid', her uncluttered and under-cooked vocal sticks it to ya. Sure, not everything here has aged well - the clunky electronica of 'Harmony In My Head' and 'Dumb' sound their age, for example - but this is still the sound of a band skewing the left-of-field into the centre ground. Pop darkness from Butch Vig anyone?

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    Annihilator - Annilhator

    Album number 246 from Jeff Waters and his revolving crew of metal junkies builds on the momentum of decent records they've put out inthe past decade or so, but its heavier and more aggressive. In fact, if truth be told this is one hell of a metal record that should have been hyped to hell but runs the risk of falling by the wayside. In many respects, the same could be said of Annihilator's entire career: they say Megadeth 's 'Rust In Peace' was ground zero for speed metal, but Annihilators 'Alice In Hell' might be a better place to start. Like Overkill, it seems that Jeff Waters might never get the respect he deserves.

    Opener 'The trend' allows 2 minutes of riffage before we even hear a vocal and is essentially a thrash-tastic piece of speed metal with a bitchin' hook. It sets the scene for the rest of the disc: the playing here is exceptional, huliking Hetfield riffs and technically dazzling - but eviscerating - solos boom out of the speakers. 'Ther Other Side'; is anthemic, and deserves to be a live stalwart; 'Payback' is crushing; and on '25 Seconds' the band give us a slab of 21st century metal in all of its disjointed, screamy, atmospheric glory. With all this on show, we can almost forgive the rather clunky version of Van Halen's 'Romeo's Delight'.

    In the past, Waters has often been guilty of over-thinking songs and records rather than just playing 'em. This is none stop balls out metal. Forget Forbidden, Forget Death Angel, forget Kreator and forgewhat's left of Exodus: the thrash revival starts here mothertruckers!

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