Thursday, 12 December 2013

And so here we are the end of 2013 and it's probably time to decide on my favourite albums from the last 12 months ....

So here it is, the top 10 in alphabetical order.

  • Attrition - Unraveller of Angels
  • The Civil Wars - The Civil Wars
  • Cult of Luna - Vertikal / Vertikal II (have to be included as a pair)
  • Eden House - Half Life
  • Fish - A Feast of Consequences
  • In Death It Ends - Occvlt Machine
  • Insomnium - Ephemeral EP
  • Mogwai - Les Revenants Soundtrack
  • New Model Army - Between Dog and Wolf
  • Shovels & Rope - O Be Joyful (gets included as the UK release was in 2013)

Friday, 6 December 2013

It's been another fantastic year for live music and even though I don't seem to get to as many gigs as I like, these are the ones I remember most (in no particular order)

Acoustica @ the Exeter Phoenix

Fish @ Tavistock Wharf

The Cult @ Exeter University Great Hall

Norman Watt-Roy @ Yellow Room, Seale Hayne

Steve Hackett @ Colston Hall, Bristol

Public Service Broadcasting @ Exeter Phoenix

Phosphorescent @ Rise Records, Bristol

Some great memories in there - Heckling Rev Hammer in the Voodoo Lounge at Acoustica, Wilko Johnson appearing with Norman Watt-Roy, an impromptu Lavender from Fish....

One further special musical moment was sitting on the grass in Belmont Park with a beer in hand watching Don Letts playing some very heavy reggae at the Respect Festival. The sun was shining and all seemed good with the world.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Final review of the big three new releases and The Mission roll back into to town with three quarters of the original line up and the Album The Brightest Light

This starts off full of dumb rawk n' roll of the like that Electric era Cult produced. Everything but the Squeal thunders along on an almost glam rock drums  and Black Cat Bone swaggers with real bravado.

Unfortunately Wayne Hussey has always suffered from quality control issues and nearly all Mission albums suffer from being patchy in places. The Girl in the Fur Skin Rug and When the Trap Clicks Shut are totally unmemorable.
Elsewhere inspiration is sometimes too obvious - Born Under a Good Sign comes straight from the Rocky Horror Picture Show and Just Another Pawn is a blatant rip off of Maggie May.

There are high points though. The single Sometimes the Brightest Light Comes from the Darkest Place is a real classic Mission tune finding Hussey inspired with both his vocals and lyrics.
The album also end on a fantastic song. Litany for the Faithful builds slowly with Hussey recounting songs he has sung before admitting he can't say goodbye to the Mission fans. The acoustic guitar from Hinkler add some real feel to it as well.

This is nowhere near as good an album as the Aura album (easily the best since the original split) but while it doesn't enhance The Mission reputation it also doesn't disgrace it

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Second album of the month comes from the New Model Army.

Before Between Dog And Wolf was written the long serving bass player, Nelson, left the band and this signals a slight change to the NMA sound - whereas previous albums were bass led this is a sound of the drums coming to the fore. Layers of  percussive and tribal rhythms underpin the album

The opener Horsemen is a very understated start with the drums almost having that Adam Ant Burundi feel.

March in September could be a lost track from the Thunder & Consolation sessions with violin an backing woo-woo's , while Seven Times is more muscular with a memorable hook.

Justin Sullivan's lyrics are less political this time round with a world weariness to the likes of I Need More Time where he laments still having so much to say.

Qasr El Nil Bridge examines the Egyptian revolution and mixes the traditional NMA sound, sample of the rebellion and middle eastern influence to mesmerising effect.

The title track boast a chorus you can see a heaving mass of bodies shouting out loud in the live arena.

Yet for all the percussion, one of the stand out tracks contains no drums at all. Knievel is a heartfelt poem to the daredevil where Justin asks "did they come to see a man fall or to see him fly?"
A truly beautiful track

This is seriously the strongest NMA album since the Love of Hopeless Causes twenty years ago and for consistency even beats that.

A band of 30 years standing shouldn't be making albums this good but that they have should be fully celebrated

Friday, 15 November 2013

New albums from three of my all time favourite artists in one month is a lot to take in....

First up was Fish and the all new Feast of Consequences - the first new material in six years after a lot of touring the acoustic Fish heads trio.

This really is a fantastic package in places with the highlight being the High Wood suite about the first world war. A full blown 25 minute prog epic unfurls over five parts. From the thundering charge of Crucifix Corner to the reflective The Leaving this is Fish at his best. Whether spitting lyrics about the horror of the trenches or lamenting the futility of it all this has to be the high point of his solo career.

All of which begs the questions why have a couple of more tracks follow the plaintive call to "march into a brave new world...."

There are other highlights such as the slow building opener Perfume River which meanders through both old and new images of Vietnam and All Loved Up which deals the celebrity /social media lifestyle a caustic put down to music reminiscent of Incommunicado.

The Great Unravelling plays out like a duet with a fantastic vocal from the returning Elizabeth Antwi and her backing throughout out the album is a real bonus to the music.

Apart from the ordering of the tracks there are a few missteps - The lyric on Blind to the Beautiful is too Sting for my liking, "the planet is dying, save the trees etc." and there is a feeling the title track was rushed to meet a deadline. These though are minor points when lined up against the strengths of the album

The deluxe CD contains some amazing artwork from Mark Wilkinson who has excelled himself. The picture of the Tommy staring through his fingers is a direct descendant of that first cover of the jester on Market Square Heroes.

Whilst I still just prefer 13th Star, this album shows Fish still has plenty to offer and long may he continue....

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Now to one of my favourite albums so far this year and one that may not have happened - The self titled second album from the Civil Wars

After the duo imploded last year you couldn't see this coming but apparently the one issue they didn't have was musical differences.

Consider this to be the modern Rumours album where disintegrating personal relationships between the musicians lead to something special.

The music leans more to muscular Barton Hollow from the debut album rather than the delicate acoustic songs. The opening One That Got Away is a storming tune full of loaded lyrics such as "oh, I wish I'd never seen your face". When they do return to the acoustic roots then Oh Henry is the standout with it's catchy chorus and insistent strumming

There seems to be more of a band feel with drums, slide and other instruments added to other tracks and it's so easy to read meaning into the lyrics (whether really there or not)

To mix things up there's a cover of the Smashing Pumpkins track Disarm and a song Sacred Heart sung totally in French

This is a fantastic album where the tension between the writers really does add the extra sense of exhilaration but that same friction may mean this is the final recording. If that is the case what a way to end it.....
So NFD are back with a new mini 7 track album called Reformations but did anyone actually notice they had left? (it's been 5 years...)

As a band there is one huge white elephant in the room..... Whisper it but the singer sound very, very  like Carl Mcoy of the Nephilim. Once you realise other member of the band also spent time in various guises of the Fields this does look like a sort of odd tribute act

To be fair the music has a more straight forward 'rock' feel, there is no weird majikal lyrical mutterings and the songs all come in under 5 minutes.

The music is goth with a capital G and is more effective when the pace slows such as on The Unknown. The album finishes with a Pink Floyd cover from the Gilmour era. One Slip is an unusual choice for any band but is most odd in this case though not without merit.

So there we are  - a solid album to fill the void for goths while the Fields of the Nephilim continue to hibernate

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Very few times I buy a record because it features in a TV programme... (last time was when I discovered The Eagles had provided the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy theme tune)

However I had to purchase the Mogwai album Les Revenants after becoming hooked on the C4 show The Returned.

The programme is in French with subtitles and involves the dead returning, drowned animals in a lake and a village you cannot leave. It's surreal, eerie, sexy, unsettling and downright confusing.

The soundtrack reflects all of that. From the opening Hungry Face with its chiming xylophone and mournful cello to the more insistent Wizard Motor and its layered sounds this is a really atmospheric instrumental album.

Only one are vocals add to the sound. An odd rendition of what sounds like a hymnal from the deep south of America rather than from France, What Are They Doing In Heaven Today? provides a respite from the overwhelming melancholy provided by the other tracks

A fine album that provides absolutely no answers to the WTF questions raised by the programme but is well worth a listen on its own.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

I try not to review albums on here which I buy from Bandcamp but this is just an excuse to publish some stunning artwork

Jordan Reyne has just featured on the New Eden House album and her new album The Annihilation Sequence is out now. Recommend for those who enjoy the darker side of music with a bit of female angst in the same vein as Emilie Autumn

Secondly The Unraveller of Angels by Attrition. This is again is very dark but much more electronic. Lots of beats, female vocals that seem to come from Dead can Dance and male vocals to rival the sepulchral tones of Andrew Eldritch

For more of my from my Bandcamp purchases, follow the link below:

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

And so to the biggest disappointment since I started this blog.....

John Grant's debut album Queen of Denmark has to be of my top twenty albums of all time but the follow up Pale Green Ghosts won't get many repeat plays

Queen of Denmark was full of lush strings and the band Midlake lending warmth and feeling to some very witty and biting lyrics, whereas on the follow up Mr Grant has relocated to Iceland and gone electronica.

The cold backing has no soul and makes the lyrics feel like the self pitying whining of a man who feels the world is against him. Tracks such as Why Don't You Love Me Anymore and Sensitive New Age Guy don't bear listening to more than once.

A couple of redeeming songs can be found, the 7 min plus Glacier is the closest in feel to the stellar debut track I Wanna Go to Marz - all grand piano and orchestration. GMF is lyrically brilliant where John Grant explains in detail why he is the greatest mother f**ker you will ever meet.

And that song may well explain why this albums fails so spectacularly

Friday, 17 May 2013

I blame the Prog magazine but a couple of reviews of really obscure stuff piqued my interest....

Silver Pyre are a one man band from somewhere in the South west and the album AeXe is a peculiar little thing. There is a lot of electronica going on with just a touch of hippies dancing on ley lines about it. Half the songs clock in over 6 minutes but not overstaying their welcome. The vocals are very simple, no attempt to hit difficult notes and not designed to distract from the music.
The near instrumental opener Copper Findings draws you in with some very unusual percussion and rhythms while Calendar is a really weird tale of Mayan, Julian and Roman calendars spoken in an atonal manner over a stately beat created on some sort of xylophone

A very unusual album which is worth a listen in a darkened room sometime


Whereas Silver Pyre is a one man band Then Comes Silence are a mystery band who won't confirm whose in the band !

A Swedish band who have obviously listened to far too much early Joy Division and Bauhaus. This self titled debut album is very retro. Song titles like To the Bone (We are Doomed) and Death by a Frozen Heart tell you all you need to know about how this sounds. Some great crashing guitar and vocals to make Ian Curtis proud

This is old school goth for those in long leather coats and an aversion to daylight

Saturday, 20 April 2013

From a recommendation of a friend based on a recommendation to them....

Phosphorescent are a one man band and Muchacho is the sound of a man going to Mexico to recover from a bad experience with a woman.

There's a prevailing americana vibe with a downbeat view on love. The occasional splash of mariachi brass echoes the Mexican location and thoughts of Neil Young came to mind while listening.

It's a pleasant album but lacks that something that makes you want to immediately repeat the listening experience. The one stand out track is The Quotidian Beasts and no I don't know what it means either. This is a 7 minute epic featuring some great guitar work (both acoustic, electric and slide), horns and a chorus that goes 'Whooooooooo' and nothing much else. This is the track that does make me reach for the replay button

Worth a listen but can't really pass on the recommendation

Monday, 8 April 2013

Now this album won't be for everyone..... Sweden's Cult of Luna have created a black metal album based on Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

Vertikal is bleak and uncompromising piece of music. This is not a collection of song but a living breathing concept album. The sort of album that has to be done in one sitting. Songs titles aren't important but the 18 minute Vicarious Redemption sits of the heart of it, full of brutal vocals and pummelling guitars but with time change aplenty and short melodic bursts. In Awe Of shifts rhythmically through its 9 minutes but the feeling is this is more than the sums of it's part.

If you can live with the complex and unrelenting assault it give the senses then this could be The Wall for the black metal generation

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Two quick singles to review.....

Firstly the new offering from The Eden House. A two track taster for the forthcoming full album. The first track, Bad Men (on there way to do bad things) is a bit different to their usual fare. The song has the feel of early Berlin, before Top Gun and ends with a female spoken sections which echoes Madonna's Erotica ! It's a grower but takes time

The second track, Survival Instinct is much more in the style you expect. Building slowly before soaring vocals and guitar take you headlong towards the climatic finish. If this is only a B side then the album will be stunning.....

The second single also suggests interesting times ahead. Amorphis has released Hopeless Days as the first single from the album of the same name. The first thing to strike you is the music is MUCH heavier than on The Beginning Of Time album. The second thing is that the death metal growls have been ditched completely.

So the vocals have become more mainstream but the music is going the other way.... The album should be fun

Monday, 11 February 2013

Trying to view a release on I-Tunes but pushed purchase instead of wish list !

As it turns out a reasonable mistake - I've bought the new EP from Newsted.

To be honest, if you'd never have heard of Jason Newsted you would have guessed from this that Metallica were an influence...

Four tracks of bludgeoning metal reminiscent of ....And Justice For All. It's solid but not not hugely inspiring, very 80's post thrash sound

Four tracks is about right with the lead track Soldierhead being the pick. The EP is called Metal for a reason

Monday, 4 February 2013

A real find thanks to a free CD from Classic Rock !

Shovels & Rope are a male/female duo from the heart of the US of A - Now that may sound familiar but this is what the Civil Wars would sound like if they were both related and married to each other....

Acoustic guitars, harmonica and kick drum give the album O' Be Joyful a real spit and sawdust feel.
Songs a plenty about loving among the good ol' boys such as Keeper and then Hail, Hail adds in some riotous horns on a song extolling the delights of rock n' roll

The two minute blast of real country rock has one of the finest titles ever of Kemba's Got the Cabbage Moth Blues

The only low spot would be ending on the very downbeat This Means War but after the first ten songs it's a minor misstep

Though not yet released in the UK, get yourself some bourbon, a cousin you fancy and have yourself a hoedown with a truly great album

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Not so much a review but a recommendation....

Bandcamp is a site is a site set up to allow musicians to sell music directly to their fans. The latest development is to allow you to post reviews of your purchases and let others see what you like/dislike. There's a link below to my collection if you want a browse

There are some great discoveries to make and also some big names especially from the goth scene -Julianne Regan (AAE), Eden House, Peter Yates (FOTN), All Living Fear......

Worth taking a look

Free downloads don't show up in youe collection though and I can offer the following two bands as examples of great new music out there ans available for free

hAND are a female fronted prog metal band and the album Breathing  is rather good. The vocals are not the histrionics you get from the European scene (Nightwish et al) but a much more downbeat even goth like fee. The opening track Song Number B has a great chorus - even with the dodgy title

The second band is Lithium Dawn. Their album AION takes a more regular prog metal but with elements of Tool and a big dose of melody. It would appear to be a concept album but as with all the best concepts, make your own mind up about what it all means !
One worth watching

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Very late discovery last year but what a stunning find....

While the Alabama Shakes started my year with some top notch americana, Phantom Limb have possibly topped it with The Pines

Whereas Brittany Howard is more Janis Joplin, Yolanda Quartey is channelling Etta James over some gorgeous southern' R&B with more than a touch of soul

Hard to believe this band is from Bristol when dobro, swirling Hammond organ and banjo form the soundtrack.

Some songs like Laugh Like You're Mad have the sound of early Eagles pre checking into the hotel while Tumbling Down is achingly beautiful

Produced by Marc Ford of the Black Crowes this is an album you should really search out

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Time to look back over the last 12 months are decide on the albums that rocked and rolled....

So here it is, the top 10 in alphabetical order.

  • Alabama Shakes - Boys and Girls
  • Alcest - Le Voyage De L'Ame
  • Civil Wars - Barton Hollow
  • Crippled Black Phoenix - (Mankind) The Crafty Ape
  • Crippled Black Phoenix - No Sadness Or Farewell
  • Dead Can Dance - Anastasis
  • Eden House - Timeflows EP
  • Marillion - Sounds That Can't Be Made
  • Phantom Limb - The Pines (review coming soon...)
  • Smoke Fairies - Blood Speaks

In addition the best live release would be Fields Of The Nephilim - Ceremonies