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.
Rival Sons - Leeds Met, 13.04.13
Rocks latest rising stars Rival Sons have certainly created quite a buzz and are shooting up the rock ladder to bigger venues at a rapid rate. A mere 18 months ago, the quartet made their first visit to Leeds to play to 120 people on one of their first visits to the UK. Fast forward that 18 months and we find ourselves watching them at the Leeds Metropolitan University. Where next, the new arena Leeds is expecting?
Starting the night are Ulysses, whilst they’re fairly enjoyable through some catchy riffs, their music fails to capture your full attention until their final song (the name of which I didn’t catch). The Graveltones follow receiving a great reaction from the audience, however, those familiar with The White Stripes may notice similarities so close to the duo, that originality appears to have gone out the window.
On to the evenings main event and one by one the the Californian boys stroll on stage to mesmerise tonight’s enthusiastic gathering. Kicking off with the irresistible You Want To, the crowd instantly get involved, clapping and dancing along, hooked on every beat the band produce. The set features a great mix of the groups catalogue with earlier tracks receiving a slight revamp to keep older fans on their toes. Torture contains an extended, dreamy break down section before bursting back into the main vocal melody. Slower tracks Jordan and the beautiful Sacred Tongue showcase Jay Buchanan’s mesmerising voice, and whilst he is a little under the weather tonight, his charming tone still has the audience under his spell. After dedicating Face Of Light to his son back home, the group leave to deafening cheers for one of the shortest encore gaps I have ever experience. Drummer Mike Miley had barely set foot off the stage before he reappeared to assume his position behind the drum kit for an energetic solo ending on a comical cymbal tap. Back for the bold Burn Down Los Angeles, the night ends on Soul, complete with Jay’s small speech about the importance of staying true to yourself.
As Jay said ‘It may not sound like the record, but it sounds like tonight,’ and everytime you catch the Rival Sons, the experience is a special one.
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.
Toadstool - The Visitors
With a list of huge greats as their influences, Toadstool utilise a little bit of everything. From the blues hooks on the guitar to the glam edge to Alex Macaskill’s vocal, combined they create enchanting, intriguing tracks.
From the punchy opening riff of The Visitors, Toadstool rope you in with bold choruses, neat guitar work and charming vocal melodies. Something To Prove features a tasty groove, a nod to their Zeppelin influence no doubt, as well as a striking guitar solo which leads into a tense build up into a ferocious finish. The vocal line and guitar of Blood Of The Sand bounce off each other in playful, catchy style whilst the heavier, snappy opening to Last Night On Earth has a distinctive Sabbath feel. Containing a compelling middle section held together by a bewitching riff, Last Man On Earth also displays Nick Ingram’s guitar skills with stunning solo that rises above the vocal commanding your attention.
Toadstool’s clever use of varying techniques merged together form tracks which sound pleasantly familiar, yet completely new at the same time; they’re sure to reel you in.
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.