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.
Crashdiet in crisis
Crashdiet have issued a statement and a plea following the tragic death of their manager Michael Sunden in an awful accident last month. Sunden, a very respected professional, died after falling and hitting his head at Rock City music venue in Nottingham.
Following his death, the band have been left in a bit of a financial mess, as Sunden was the sole keeper of their money, transactions etc, and his passing has left them questioning how they are to carry on. The guys said in an official statement, “We have borrowed money from everywhere to be able to begin the tour as planned on Wednesday, but our situation is very insecure to say the least. It looks like we’ll be in debt for years to come. We have managed to get through rough times before, but this time we can’t do it alone.”
This is where you can help! Crashdiet have set up a support campaign right here where you can donate money to them in order to keep them on tour, and keep them together! They in return are offering ‘I Saved The Tour’ t-shirts, signed memorabilia and tour laminates valid for life, amongst other things.They have already managed to raise 168% of their target, but every little bit helps, and the campaign will run for another ten days.
Introducing…. Evilyn Strange
You know how we love to feature a new unsigned band every now and then for your listening pleasure? Well, say hello to Evilyn Strange!
Part English, part Swedish, they formed back in 2008 and have recently been in the studio working on their forthcoming debut Mourning Phoebe. Their music is a whole mixture of delights, heavy but packed full of melody, cracking riffs and a perfect hint of classic rock. The band have just released their latest single Everything, hot on the heels of the success of Love Finds You which found itself hitting number 4 on the Rock/Metal Hot New Release Chart over at Amazon.
Everything combines rough and gritty guitars with some sweet piano and synths to create a great heavy rock ballad. The solo is killer, and the vocals soothing, it almost sounds reminiscent of something by The Cult during the Sonic Temple era.
As i said previously, the band are getting ready to release their debut Mourning Phoebe, and Everything is a great taster of what they have in store. Check out more from Evilyn Strange over at www.evilynstrange.co.uk. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter!
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.
Suede - Alexandra Palace, London - 30.03.2013
After nearly a decade away, Suede have perfected the art of the successful comeback. Their 6th album, Bloodsports went top 10 last month and their announcement of a special concert at Alexandra Palace saw fans from far and wide come to witness their return. The surroundings of the Palace made it quite the spectacle, but the perfect setting to witness a band who have always been full of such grandeur.
From the second the band grace the stage, the tone of the evening was evident, it was going to be a lively one. Kicking off the evening with a trio of new songs, the crowd sing along lustily and the tracks already sound so familiar. Barriers is huge and the riff from Snowblind echoes throughout the venue. Brett Anderson delivers an exuberant performance from the beginning and remains the focal point throughout the night with his shaking hips and microphone twirling.
Moving effortlessly through their classics, Animal Nitrate, Metal Mickey, We Are The Pigs to name a few, they all still sound so strikingly brilliant and epic live. The crowd of course are pleased to hear such favourites, but are still as hyped up to hear the new tracks live, which sit along with the older material perfectly. Sometimes I Feel I’ll Float Away is simply beautiful and a breathtakingly long pause in the middle of the track, with the band frozen onstage emphasizes the atmosphere here tonight, we are hanging on every note.
Brett announces “It’s been twenty years ago yesterday since our debut album” and the band launch into Sleeping Pills, much to everyone’s surprise, followed by Pantomime Horse, it is safe to say the crowd are stunned. Both songs are so passionately performed, with all the might and drive they deserve, and they sound wonderful. We are treated to the likes of Everything Will Flow, So Young and the anthemic Trash, before finishing with Beautiful Ones and this all feels much more than nostalgia, it feels like this is a new chapter for Suede, a celebration of the old and new.
It has to be said that the band are at their best right now, they have managed to cement themselves an incredible comeback and show themselves to be an unbreakable force both live and in the studio. They are faultless, tonight, their dedication and excitement evident throughout the show. It just leaves us with the question, what’s next? Suede are most definitely back, and tonight is just the beginning….
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.
David Bowie - The Next Day
We’ve had Ziggy, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke, Major Tom, the Goblin King etc etc, it’s quite obvious that David Bowie is not a man shy of reinvention. The king of non conformity, throughout the 70s he rifled through many looks and genres without hesitation, from glam to funk and all inbetween, including a cocaine habit that nearly killed him but subsequently led to his fantastic Berlin trilogy. We were shown many faces, but he knew exactly how to wear them.
The following decades saw Bowie become less of a trendsetter and more of a trend follower as he reached stadium heights. Where the 70s were unpredictable, the 80s/90s became reactionary. In saying that however, where ageing rockstars could take the route of riding high on 30 year old songs to arenas full of nostalgic fans, Bowie didn’t. He could have, but thank god he didn’t.
In more recent years, albums like Heathen and Reality saw a little renaissance of Bowie’s career, but this was cut short in 2004 due to him collapsing at a show in Germany and having to undergo emergency heart surgery. Nearly a decade of silence followed, with many rumours of retirement or serious illness, the mystique surrounding his hiatus was rife. But, little did we know that for the past couple of years he has been secretly recording a new album, his 26th, with producer Tony Visconti, titled The Next Day.
The first single Where Are We Now came as a surprise, and with its wistful tone many thought this was the beginning of goodbye, and the album to follow could be Bowie’s farewell to music, but not at all. The Next Day is a record that is happy to look back over his staggering career, borrow from it and move forward from it, with much energy and vigour. Even the album sleeve is a hint of this, as the cover of the classic Heroes is defaced in a meme-like fashion.
The thing about The Next Day is, there is no sense of a need for radical reinvention, that perhaps there has been in the past. The songs here are new and exciting, stories full of aggression, character and comedy. The title track sets the tone of the album perfectly, a stomping rhythm and squealing guitar that builds to a crescendo of a chorus with an in your face attitude and Where Are You Now tells a tale of a man uninterested in revealing his true self, perhaps Bowie himself?
As a songwriter, he tells many tales. He sings of medieval evil, offspring of prison wardens and even a hint of Bob Dylan. The good and evil of fame and stardom is tackled as a subject for The Stars (Are Out Tonight), a theme that regularly shows up on a Bowie record, along with Dancing Out In Space with its trippy guitar and thrilling beat. Valentines Day and I’d Rather Be High are further standouts too.
The band are steered towards a real rock vibe, Bowie sounds refreshed and Visconti has done a great job as producer. The Next Day is bold, innovative, dark in places , but most of all it is perfectly creative and unexpected. Undoubtedly an album only David Bowie could make.