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.
The Skints - Newcastle Academy, 23.05.13
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.
Walking Papers - The Garage, 04.05.13
When Guns N’ Roses legend Duff McKagan was brought in on bass duties for Seattle group Walking Papers, a ripple effect was triggered as to who this new group were. Upon their second jaunt to the UK, they have gained critical acclaim from fans and reviewers alike for a stunning debut album, and with more performances under their belt, we head out to see the difference live.
Once again Welsh quartet Buffalo Summer have joined them for the ride and there is a noticeable difference in their performance. A little bit bolder and braver than the last time, their tasty blues riffs and pounding beats have added extra snarling attitude from before, delighting the London crowd. Andrew Hunt bounces about the stage, the only thing missing is that hint of that rock n roll gravel in his vocals.
On to tonight’s main event and there is a great air of anticipation in the room as Walking Papers take to the stage. From the opening chords the audience are held under their spell as they are whisked through a set of powerful blues licks, hypnotizing rhythms and of course some fierce bass lines. Jeff Angell looks like a completely different person onstage, swinging his hips and engaging the crowd with his every move. His new found confidence gives him great stage presence to compliment his charming vocals. The Seattle foursome have perfectly clicked together and produce a gritty, tight sound from a combination of blues and grunge. The dirty grooves and crashing cymbals of Independence Day are a great example and topped with Jeff’s floating vocal, it is irresistible, easily encouraging the crowd to dance along. In contrast, the psychedelic, soft tones of The Butcher are mesmerizing and features some dramatic pauses in which Angell doesn’t even move. A beautiful rendition of Already Dead with it’s delicate, chiming keyboard melody cements the evening as a special one with a very special band. Walking Papers really have it all covered with each track standing on it’s own as a clever, charismatic piece of work.
Whilst the lure of Duff McKagan may have drawn people in, as soon as the intricate melodies enter your ears, both live and on CD, Walking Papers become a different entity entirely; one of musical prowess and brilliance.
Crashdiet/Jettblack - Rock City, 26.04.13
Glam rockers donned their animal print, back combed their hair to ridiculous heights and put on their chains to head down for a night of sleaze down at Rock City. Uncertain as to whether the gig would go ahead, understandably their was a sombre atmosphere surrounding Swedish outfit Crashdiet after the death of their manager at the very same venue one week previous. All credit to the quartet for their appearance which was of course dedicated to Michael Sunden.
Londoners Jettblack took to the stage for their headline set first and their enthusiasm for tonight’s set was clear from the opening words of Two Hot Girls. Leading straight into Less Torque More Thrust, the quartet ripped through a high energy, fun 45 minutes. The crowd didn’t need much encouragement to get involved, jumping around and clapping along throughout. Black Gold shows their more delicate side but still packed with a killer guitar solo and bold chorus. The anthemic Raining Rock brings their stint to an end with roars of Jettblack as they vacate the stage.
There is an air of excitement and anticipation as 9 o’ clock hits and Crashdiet walk onstage. Before they begin their set they give a heartfelt message about their tragic loss with the crowd responding to show their support. Their set is short but powerful and whilst it’s a difficult performance for the group, they deliver with great passion and sound tight. California is a particular highlight with Simon Cruz’s vocal soaring over pounding riffs with the frontman taking a second to thank the crowd for their never wavering belief and appreciation for them. Old favourites Riot In Everyone and Generation Wild get the audience pumped up before finishing on the dirty grooves of Cocaine Cowboys. The latter sounds brilliant live with it’s blues hooks and brash chorus.
Tonight was filled with varying emotions, but also plenty of gritty, punchy rock. The combination of the both bands makes for an excellent evening!
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.
Jettblack - Alter Ego, 20.04.13
Reunited with Will Stapleton after his spell in the touring War Of The Worlds, Jettblack are back out on the road for a couple of headline dates before their joint tour with Scandinavian glam rockers Crashdiet.
Black Water kick the night off with some punishing riffs but don’t really bring anything new to the fold and as the set wears on, their generic sound gets a little dull. Local lads The Goddamn Electric follow bringing a good following with them. Powering through the first three songs of their set with great enthusiasm, a slight disagreement with the sound man brings their set to an early finish, much to the disappointment of the crowd who try all they can to keep the quartet onstage.
On to these evenings main event and Jettblack burst onstage and straight into Two Hot Girls much to the crowds delight.On to a trio from their latest album Raining Rock including the brilliant Prison Of Love featuring a mighty crowd sing along. Black Gold is a highlight of the night and really showcases the dynamic vocal tones of Will Stapleton. Old favourites such as Get Your Hands Dirty really fire the crowd and after successfully pumping up the crowd for Motherfucker they add cheeky hidden bonus of The Rolling Stones Paint It Black. The material from both albums work really well together, creating an electric set that keeps you on your toes. The energy and passion from the band is reflected in the crowd with every person in the room thoroughly is enjoying every single minute. Ending on the bold Raining Rock, complete with audience participation, the cheers for more mean that the band barely even attempt to leave the stage before resuming their positions for a killer rendition of Dangerzone.
An evening with Jettblack is always guaranteed to be a great one filled with energy and charisma. Don’t miss them out on the road with Crashdiet this month!
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.