Alice In Chains - The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
The resurrection of Alice In Chains back in 2009 wa a momentous occasion for their fans.They were always a band who mixed the filth of grunge with the broodiness of metal, creating a dark unique sound. Their last album, their first with singer William DuVall was received greatly, and now they are back with The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here. The album the fans have been waiting for.
Kicking off with Hollow, we have that familiar plodding riff and vocal harmonies we are used to from Alice In Chains. It is heavy but beautifully melodic. Pretty Done again has that familiar sound of the early days, same with Voices, Chunky riffs and classic sounding. Lab Monkey is a great track, it is thick with bass and has that touch of Jerry Cantrell talkbox in the solo, again bringing back elements of who the band were, but showing what they have now evolved into. The title track is particularly great too, a thoughtful piece about religion and politics, aggressive with a new flavour about it.
It is obvious that the band have welcomed experimentation with this album. It shows they have grown musically and matured well as a band, comfortable enough to try new things which pays off, It is distinctive, risky but flows perfectly. A welcome return for an iconic band.
Todd Kerns - Borrowing Trouble
Over the past couple of years, the rise of Pledge Music has given us many great albums. More and more artists are turning on to this idea of getting the fans involved to help fund their records, thus creating their own little record labels. This makes the bond between artists and fans a special one, and nothing conveys this more than the new record from Todd Kerns. He went down the Pledge Music route, probably due to the influence of his good pal Ginger Wildheart, and decided to make a new solo album. The response was brilliant, Kerns reached 100% of his target in less than 24 hours and Borrowing Trouble was born, an acoustic album, something a little different to what you may expect.
Nothing Personal, the records opener, is a really catchy one to start with, but it’s juxtaposed with a dark tale of life’s choices and the outcomes you are faced with. It has a great piece of electric slide guitar in there which gives the track a gritty edge, much like its lyrical nature and the repeated line “Ain’t nothing personal, it’s just business” can be such a harsh statement, it really resonates with you. The Devil in Me is one of my personal highlights. There is something about the melody and the use of the electric sitar that along with Todd’s vocals has this really haunting feel about it. It would make a great big, full bodied, ferocious rock song, but stripped down like this it makes just as much impact. The same can be said for This Changes Everything. The song has so much packed into it and a lot going on, it is really not your standard acoustic track, but it is by no means too much. So many layers, with a collaboration of voices and harmonies and the use of different instruments, it makes for a very interesting listen.
Some of the best songs on Borrowing Trouble are the ones that are simply just Todd and his guitar. Tracks like The Maker and Its Always Been You showcase his voice perfectly, and they are so intimate and intricate that they feel personal to listen to, like he is singing directly to you, which can be a very hard thing to achieve, but it is done with such ease. So Scandalous is sweet and bouncy, performed just with a ukulele, and Hideous is a real interesting one, it has this big stomper of a beat running through it, and the guitars give me a kind of Sneaker Pimps vibe. You Can Always Go Home is particularly beautiful. Simple and delicate with such a strong sense of emotion in the lyrics, it’s a perfect closing track. It’s really difficult not to go into detail about each song to be honest, the album is so much more than just another acoustic album, each song has a different flavour about it, but put together they fit so well.
Borrowing Trouble is one of those records where every song is your favourite, there is nothing to criticise about it, and it’s pretty perfect to be honest. The themes that run throughout, preoccupations and worrying about things that may not even happen, and overcoming these feelings, realising that there is more to life than worrying is what makes it feel all the more personal to those listening. It’s stripped back, bare bones, guitar and voice and the storytelling in the lyrics is vivid, as you listen you can see each story playing out in your head. It is a special record for so many reasons; I sincerely hope there is more where this came from.
30 Seconds to Mars - LOVE LUST FAITH + DREAMS
30 Seconds to Mars have alway been a band associated with ‘epic’ music. Epic in the sense of grandeur, atmospheric, spacey compositions, big big songs. Since they released A Beautiful Lie back in 2005 they have been propelled into the mainstream, and their last release This Is War in 2009 only catapulted them even more. Now they are back with LOVE LUST FAITH + DREAMS, much awaited, but does it live up to its predecessors?
The grand opening of Birth introduces the album, leading you into Conquistador which is one of the strongest tracks here. A big drum beat and a strong riff, it seems to resemble previous work well and gives optimism for what is to come. Up In The Air, the first single is also a decent track, with some very strong points, although a little repetitive.
The band seem to have taken a more experimental route on this record, choosing a more electronic sound. Sadly, it hasn’t really done much in the way of creating an exciting album, and it does end up becoming somewhat predictable. There is a lot of instrumental, which is never a bad thing, but when it all begins to sound so similar, and is pretty much used to fill the album up, its not as effective. There is a huge use of strings and synth used as lead melody rather than a guitar, which is a cool idea and at first sounds good, but again, it is totally overused.
The songs themselves are good songs, Bright Lights, City of Angels etc, but they don’t seem to change. The level and the tone of the album stays the same throughout, it doesn’t move anywhere. Gone are the days of the more metal edge of their self titled debut, which i would personally love to hear more of in their recent stuff, instead it is replaced with overproduced ‘sounds’ to put it basically. There is however, towards the end a good track in the form of Do or Die which is very typical 30STM. Quick paced, big melodies and harmonies, the it uses the electronics effectively, leaving a brilliant sounding song. Sadly though, a handful of decent songs is not enough to save the record.
LOVE LUST FAITH + DREAMS had the potential to be a great album had the band combined the many elements and styles they have previously offered to create a unique sound. Instead it just sounds uninspired and its a real shame.
HIM - Tears on Tape
It’s hard to believe that HIM have been bringing us their ‘love metal’ sound for almost twenty years now. It seems like a lifetime since we last heard from them despite their last album only being released in 2010, but after a few delays and a change of record label, they are back with Tears on Tape, is it a return to form?
The first single, All Lips Go Blue is a furious mix of noisy guitar and tender vocals, a really great track to kick off the album. The same goes for Love Without Tears, melodic with romantic lyrics, proving the the same formula for gloomy, dark, gothic rock that the band have perfected over the years still works. Some tracks bring the metal element of the band to the forefront a little more, such as I Will Be The End of You, which has a great riff. The title track, Tears on Tape, is a little more on the poppy side, with some nice keyboard sounds and a big sing along chorus. The closing of the album with W.L.S.T.D and Kiss The Void form quite a finale. Dark and haunting synths with an epic scream from Ville Valo, again highlighting the heavier side of the band.
Tears on Tape gives HIM fans exactly what they want. Themes of heartbreak, obsession, the darker side of love, more of what they do best. If you are a HIM fan you will love it, if not, then this record doesn’t give you anything new to win you over, it is however still a very impressive album.
Rob Zombie - Venemous Rat Regeneration Vendor
A man of many talents, Rob Zombie has turned his attention back to his heavy metal, groove infused music with his fifth solo studio album.
A distorted teenage voice opens the album before leading into the dirty groove and pounding bass of Teenage Nosferatu Pussy take control. First single Dead City Radio And The Gods Of Supertown follows with an irresistible beat and stints of muffled spoken verse about the death of creativity on the mainstream radio stations. The brilliantly catchy rhythms accompanying the lyrics result in a very clever, addictive track. Revalation Revolution instantly has you hooked through sharp drum beats, off beat riffs and a memorable bridge into a bold chorus. Every track contains that unmistakeable Zombie character; slightly mischievous and full of charisma. A small interlude displaying John 5’s guitar skills breaks out from the norm of opening/closing the album and allows you to fully appreciate the musical brilliance after grabbing your attention with the opening tracks. Rock And Roll (In A Black Hole) takes a more industrial turn with a robotic drum beat and droning, gripping vocal line; new territory for Zombie as it is minus the usual dynamic delivery yet every bit as impressive. The ferocious Lucifer Rising will have you tapping along and personifies Zombie’s song writing talents from it’s brash chorus to pumping beats.
With many strings to his bow, Rob Zombie’s care of attention to detail in his music never falters and results in a highly engrossing, enchanting album packed full of punchy, enchanting tracks.
Songs I’d Recommend: Revelation Revolution, White Trash Freaks, Lucifer Rising.
Ghost - Infestissumam
Ghost (or Ghost B.C as they are also known after a recent name change for America) are back with one of this year’s most anticipated releases. They caused a stir in the metal community a few years ago with their incredible debut Opus Eponymous, which came as a breath of fresh air with its retro, occult rock sound. Alongside their anonymous presence in hooded robes and a twisted pope like frontman, its a surprise it worked so well in this day and age, but they have become one of the most talked about bands in the last couple of years with some very famous fans championing them in the process.
Infestissumam begins with a series of choral chants building up to an eruption of loud guitar and thunderous drums, leading to the second track Per Aspera Ad Inferni which is a faster, rockier sound that sets us up with that we can expect for the rest of the album. There is much more exploration here than on its predecessor, it expresses more of a prog rock feel and embraces huge arrangements and dramatic keyboard elements, crossed with an old school metal sound. The songwriting also seems more adventurous than before, while still sticking to the subject matter of Satanism, something they have no fear of straying from.
The music is a world away from what you would expect to hear based on the look of the band. Much more Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath with a hint of psychedelia. Year Zero has a big disco beat and a huge chorus, possibly the best track on the album. Ghuleh/Zombie Queen is more of full on piano ballad with a touch of glam/hair metal guitar in the solo, another of the best here. Other standout tracks are Idolatrine and Depths of Satans Eyes, which also adds a touch of new wave. The record closes in spectacular fashion with Monstrance Clock, heavy on doom and heavy on synth, very enigmatic.
The album appears to be over before you know it, but it leaves you wanting to listen again immediately. No new ground is being broken here, but it is refreshing to see such a band on the fringes of mainstream success in 2013. A lot of talk surrounds Ghost and their authenticity. Really their theatrical performance and ghoulish appearance/presence is a world away from the Satanic occult that their lyrics and visuality is filled with, but their music is brilliant, there is no question about that.
Obsessive Compulsive - Seculo Seculorum
For their second album Obsessive Compulsive have joined the ever growing legion of musicians who are using direct to fan platforms. In this case Pledge Music was the site of choice and after a rocky initial couple of months they reached their target and Seculo Seculorum (Latin for ‘Forever and Ever’) was go and thank God for that. I would like to think that this album would have emerged in one form or another even if their pledge campaign hadn’t been successful but I’m sure it wouldn’t have been the same and that would have been a crime.
With Seculo Seculorum, Obsessive Compulsive have made an album that borders on genius and is definitely a contender for album of the year (yeah I know it’s only April, it’s that good). Opening with a trio of hook filled riffalicious barnstormers, namely 'Sick Sick Sick', 'Regurgitate' and 'Stamp Your Own Path'. Each with an unobvious melody and tricky rhythms, if these songs don’t make you pay attention you’re already asleep.
It’s on 'Jardim Gramacho' however that Obsessive Compulsive really show us what they’re made of. The song sees the band slow things down and with it’s spooky melody and soaring chorus it also sees the band shine. The pace is upped again for 'Nail In My Coffin' before we get a double whammy of ominous beauty that is 'Float' and 'Soul Sucker'.On ‘Soul Sucker’ in particular singer Kelii’s vocals have a chance to let rip ranging as they do from lush harmonies to throat shredding rage filled howls.
Next 'Things Clean And Unclean' uses the standard quiet verse loud chorus template to fantastic effect and 'Fight Or Flight' muscles in with some lovely meaty riffs and a brilliant melody. As all good things come to end so must this album but it does so in the best way possible. Penultimate track 'No Logo' is a big ball of vitriol and punk attitude, declaring at is does that they won’t sell their soul to the corporations, and because of Pledge Music they haven’t had to. Featuring a tour de force performance from the whole band they could have stopped their and no-one would have complained but they don’t. What they do is surprise you and pull 'Swallow The Sound' out of the bag. The most restrained track on the album, it begins with a lone guitar and Kelii giving an astonishing vocal performance. It’s a cleverly arranged track that ebbs and flows and fair leaves a lump in the throat. It’s an amazing feat when the lyrics are sparse and the music deceptively simple but it works brilliantly.
Like I said at the beginning of this review, this album might not have been made without the fan funding model and that would be a shame. This album is crying out to be heard, but it when it comes out in June and say hello to your new favourite record.
Stone Sour - House Of Gold & Bones Part 2
After a blinding first part, the second half to Stone Sour’s story has arrived, can it match it’s predecessor?
The haunting melodies of Red City open this chapter, luring you into a false sense of calm before descending into heavier territory and a brutal vocal. Followed by the addictive riff and catchy beats of Black John, the irresistible groove is not a characteristic associated with the group but works extremely well. Part 2 is just as relentless, each track commanding your undivided attention. Stalemate is a great example with a soaring chorus matched by a ferocious riff; always keeping you on your toes with what’s around the next bend. Do Me A Favour is a proper foot stomping rock track with a brash chorus and bold rhythms, adding further to the musical growth of part 1, exploring new territories with their sound. The beautiful The Conflagration features delicate guitar accompanied by military drums patterns and swelling string sections, topped by a soulful delivery from Corey Taylor. Ending on the title track, it is powerful, electric and a compelling finisher.
Stone Sour won fans with their heavy, striking sound and continue to grow and expand by injecting new elements to their music resulting in diverse, captivating albums.
Songs I’d Recommend: Black John, Do Me A Favour, The House Of Gold And Bones.
Clutch - Earth Rocker
'I will suffer no evil, my guitar will guide me through'. A line from the title track from Clutch's tenth full length album, Earth Rocker. A prominent motto, an ideal sentiment from a band who show no signs of slowing down. Perhaps showing them at their heaviest, how does it measure up?
The album is predominantly guitar centred, crafted with ferocious tunes and memorable riffs. Groovy, thunderous, spacey, psychedelic, brilliant. The huge grooves coupled with the anthemic vibes and choruses is similar to their previous work, but still renewed and fresh enough for anyone new to the band. Crucial Velocity and the danceable Mr Freedom are both highlights, along with Gone Cold which takes a step away from the heavy for a few minutes to break the album up with its folksy feel. Neil Fallon's unmistakable raspy vocals keep this album rocking and rolling, as does his choice of lyrics, both of which are essential to Clutch's sound. A lot of the tracks have a gutsy fist pumping feel to them also, alike Motorhead for example, a very classic outlook.
Earth Rocker incorporates various themes and visions, packed full of personality. It showcases Clutch at the top of their game once again, and every song is a killer.
Heaven’s Basement - Filthy Empire
Five years after their creation and numerous line up changes later, Heaven’s Basement have finally managed to release their debut album titled Filthy Empire. Was it all worth it?
From the thumping opening of Welcome Home you are whisked into a whirlwind of punchy riffs, belting choruses and a charismatic performance by frontman Andy Buchanan. Those of you familiar with the unstable, disorganised sound from a few years ago will have all doubts immediately washed away by the tight, sharp tracks blasting out infront of you. First single Fire, Fire is a proper fist pumping rock track, featuring a ferocious riff and cries of fire you can’t help but shout along with. Each member contributes their own thundering part to each track, with great understanding of every role within the group creating dynamic, exciting music. The explosive Nothing Left To Lose and I Am Electric sandwich a beautiful vocal performance from Andy Buchanan in Lights Out In London; delivered with such passion he holds you under his spell. From the quirky Heartbreaking Son Of A Bitch to the stunning Price We Pay, Filthy Empire is a diverse, innovative debut and shows it was worth the groups persevering. Executioner’s Day is a brilliant ending and really showcases Sid Glover’s guitar skills with a blinding solo.
Heaven’s Basement have finally found their voice with this line up, a voice of pure, energetic rock at it’s finest.
Songs I’d Recommend: Fire, Fire, Nothing Left To Lose, Price We Pay.