Friday, 16 December 2016

Break out the celebratory beer - Not only is this my fifth 'best of' list it's also my 100th post !!

Easily the best year for new releases since I started doing this blog, so here are the top ten (in alphabetical order as always):
  • Alcest - Kodama
  • Blueneck - The Outpost
  • Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas - Mariner
  • Goatspsalm - Downstream
  • Marillion - Fuck Everyone And Run
  • Myrkur - Mausoleum
  • New Model Army - Winter
  • Secrets for September - Insert Title Ear
  • Shovels & Rope - Little Seeds
  • Ulver - Atgclvlsscap

Special mention should also go to Tusks and Placebo for some excellent EP's and Public Service Broadcasting for their Live at Brixton set which is one of the best concert footage DVD's I've seen in a long time 

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Blueneck have released The Outpost and another fine slab of post rock misery it is too....

The opening track is has to be one of the best songs of the year. From Beyond is built around the rhythm of a ticking clock and for a while it looks like being the most electronic orientated song they've done but the guitar crescendo at 5 minutes in is enormous. It has all the fury of modern day Killing Joke and is an amazing opening number.

Ghosts then quietens down the noise and takes you deep into familiar Blueneck territory with some gorgeous melody and piano but that is possibly the downfall of the album

Swathes of keyboards permeate Hive and the vocals are higher in the mix (I can actually hear lyrics!) but there is no sense of progression or doing something new apart from the opening track.

It's a good Blueneck album but lacks the wow factor you got when first hearing the earlier albums Fallen Host or King Nine

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

December already and still two more reviews of fantastic late releases to do.....

First up it Alcest with their new album called Kodama. It's really impossible to review an Alcest album as they sound like nothing else - a heady mix of post rock, prog, shoegazing, black metal and whatever else you want to throw in

Where this differs slightly from the previous release Shelter is they've rediscovered their black metal roots and woven them back into the sound, something that Shelter lacked. Examples are the screaming vocals on the second track Eclosion which are a bit of shock after it starts like a beefed up Coldplay style chart anthem and the drumming in the central part of Oiseaux de proie is as brutal as any white faced church burning Scandinavian can manage

The vocals still seem to convey some idea of hope and belief though as they are still in French the subject matter may not be that cheerful but it's that glorious indescribable musical noise they make which is heart of the appeal

This release ranks up there with their masterpiece of Les voyages de l'âme from 2012 and is surely one of the albums of the year

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

A bit of a rediscovery next….. Tusks is the pseudonym of a young woman called Emily Underhill whose music I had previously bought off bandcamp.
Now signed to the One Little Indian label she has released a couple of vinyl EP’s and the latest is called False
The opening track For You is all twitchy electronica and the closest sound I can think of is the band Grice with maybe a bit of Portishead thrown in
The title track False is a more traditional sounding rock song and maybe closer to what I originally heard her do on the Ghost single from a few years back but my favourite track would be the ballad, Ivy.

There is an accompanying EP of a remix for each song which is interesting but hardly essential.
All four tracks are self-compositions and show a lot a talent which hopefully won’t take too long to produce a full album

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Oh dear.... The Mission return with Another Fall from Grace and I an find very little to say about it.

Three original members and a support cast list to die for (Gary Numan, Julianne Regan, Martin Gore and Ville Valo) but it's all so unmemorable.....  I couldn't even guess which track Numan was on until I read the sleeve notes and even now I'm not sure he's actually on it

It's meant to be the album that follows First & Last and Always and in a way you can see that with Adams' bass to the fore and Hussey adopting a very low register on most of the vocals but that doesn't necessarily mean it's a great Mission album - more a Sisters curio

There are a couple of great tracks though
  • The first is the big dumb sing along of Met-A-Morphis which contemplates old age and the death of Bowie with a nagging chorus.
  • The second is Jade which is a glorious slow burning classic in the traditional Mission manner
With 12 tracks and only the two mentioned (and the title track) showing any signs of staying power in my memory it's not a great return - It may get better with repeated listens but for now it's a disappointment

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Two short reviews for two short albums.....

To celebrate 20 years, Placebo have released a six track EP. First up is a cover of Life's What You Make It from Talk Talk. Sensibly it keeps the original guitar lines but replaces the deep mournful piano chords with big squelches of keyboard which sort of works.... The other big difference is obviously the vocals and you either enjoy the whine of Mr Moloko or can't stand it so this won't change any opinions. The nominal single is a new track called Jesus' Son which is a bouncy blast very reminiscent of what they sounded like circa Nancy Boy.  There are also two inconsequential B sides but the gems are two live versions of Twenty Years. This is probably my favourite Placebo track so one full live band version recorded in France and a piano led acoustic version recorded in Russia are all the reason I need to make this purchase

The new Winterfylleth album is only five tracks long but no covers or live tracks here. Where some extreme bands are off diversifying their sound (hello Opeth and Ulver) this is the sound of a band who know what their strengths are and are happy to stick with the formula. The title track, The Dark Hereafter, is only 4 minutes long and might even be considered an attempt at mainstream metal. Rapid drums, a hint of melody and almost straightforward. After that the tracks get longer, more complex and darker. Green Cathedral is a 13 minute epic, much slower and with some very interesting choral effects. A bit like Placebo though, you either like what this band does or you don't and this new album won't change your mind either way.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Saw a review claiming September 1991 was the greatest month in rock for new releases but I disagree - the last six weeks have been the best I can ever remember for releases.....

We have had (in order) - Myrkur, New Model Army, Marillion, Insomnium, The Mission, Winterfylleth, Alcest, Placebo and Shovels & Rope

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Album 18 and Marillion give us the F.E.A.R....

All Marillion albums are great (bar the woeful Somewhere Else) but it's been a long time since they released back to back albums I fully adore and now for the first time since Brave and Afraid of Sunlight we have that

The album consists of 3 multi part epics, a couple of shorter stand alone tracks and a coda which refrains an earlier track. The stand out track is four part The New Kings  which berates bankers, worries about Russian oligarchs and considers conspiracy theories of 9/11

This is being called an angry  and political album but it's a stately anger along the lines of King of Sunset Town from the first album with Hogarth rather than fist in the air calls for revolution.
(As an aside it's taken them a long time to catch up - NMA were singing about refugees in 2005 on Carnival and I was listening to Miserylab singing "too big to fail" in 2012 so well done on finally tackling the big issues)

Steve Rothery unleashes soaring guitar solo's throughout and album which is full of sumptuous keyboards. Lyrically this is up there with any post Fish album and musically there is a feel of Misplaced Childhood. Check out The Leavers v: One Tonight with the plaintive piano notes being picked out and the drum run up to the chorus - It's really just Lavender 2.0 !!

As ever with this preorder albums the packaging and artwork is magnificent  and worth the extra money

This month has to be one of the best ever months for musical releases and this is up near the top of the pile.

Friday, 30 September 2016

A very short review..... Insomnium have just released Winter's Gate and below (in full) is the track listing as taken from the album cover:

1: Winter's Gate (40:02)

Yep, that's right, one track based on a Norse Viking saga. So what do you think it sounds like?
Think Tubular Bells with way more guitar and death metal growling - This is just absurdly epic

As an aside  it appears the best format to listen to such excess is the CD.

The CD allows you to hear the whole 40 minutes in one track as it should be whereas the vinyl, for obvious reasons, has to be split in to two tracks. I-Tunes however take this even further and in their stupidity have the album listed for download as seven separate tracks, all under 7 minutes. The rationale I guess is that the sort of people who only download have the attention span of a goldfish and therefore can't comprehend the idea of a lengthy piece of music but that is their loss.....

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Now this is weird.... I have a new album from the New Model Army nd it's not my go to album of the moment. This says more about the abundance of fantastic albums around rather than a comment on how good Winter is

I think also the last album Between Dog and Wolf was the best ever sounding NMA album. For that recording they broke with tradition and utilised a studio fully with multi tracking of drums and a full on sonic polish from Joe Baresi (Tool, Apocalyptica). For this album they have resorted back to a band in the studio recording and whilst there is a live energy to the music it just sounds flat compared to Dog and Wolf

But to the music - the opener is helpfully called the Beginning and stretches to nearly 7 minutes which in NMA terms is a lifetime ! It builds slowly but never drags before the crescendo. Burn the Castle is the most direct political song they have done for a while, Vengeance for the 21st Century with a chorus that just needs to be shouted.

Echo November is a short 3 minute blast of melody with added female backing vocals but the absolute jewel is Born Feral... What seems to be a brooding tale of what it's like to be the hardest man on an estate who can see the end of his supremacy. It builds on a loping beat before turning into a pulsing tribal rhythm and is easily the highlight of the album.

Lyrically it's as good as anything Justin Sullivan has written in the last 22 years - check out the acoustic Die Trying and it refugee tale

I still think 13 tracks is still too long for an album and  if it had cut 2 tracks for use as B-sides the album wouldn't be any worse for it. However that is just nit picking and what is just another fantastic set of NMA songs done in their own inimitable style.

Friday, 2 September 2016

So you walk into the boss of your Record Company and announce you want to record an acoustic black metal album. With a female choir. In an unlit tomb. And live……
Normally such thinking would be laughed out of hand but thankfully an executive somewhere though “why not” and so Myrkur got to record Mausoleum
It shouldn’t work but it is utterly, utterly captivating.  Firstly the sound – You can actually hear it’s recorded in a cavernous mausoleum, all echoes and reverb.
There are only nine tracks with just two  lasting 4 minutes so it’s more of an EP than an album but it suits the stripped bare nature of the music 
The first few tracks are played only on piano and are reworked tracks from the debut album. The massed female voices work brilliantly and there is a delicious chill to the sound
Towards the end of the album the piano is replaced by an acoustic guitar (courtesy of Ulver) and it possible get even better – The Bathory cover of Song to Hall Up High and  Dybt I Skoven end the album in triumphant fashion
The black metal traditionalist will probably hate this but it is a simply breathtaking piece of music

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

So thirty years on and I'm still buying Doro albums.... The latest is a live album called Strong & Proud. It looks promising from another fantastic cover (with links to the legendary Triumph and Agony artwork) but it's only when you look at a bit closer at the track listing that you realise this is a cut and shut job

Some tracks are taken from an gig with an orchestra, two from the Wacken outdoor festival and the rest from a standard gig. Even weirder the tracks are all mixed in together rather than all the tracks from one gig running concurrently

That said there are some gems on here - the duet with Blaze Bayley on the Iron Maiden classic Fear of the Dark (with orchestra !), very early solo tracks such as Save my Soul and some classic Warlock such as a rampaging Hellbound.

I could do without the Accept cover just because Udo's vocals really grate and All we Are has been too many times before but on the whole this is another fantastic slice of headbanging metal so flash those devil horns and sing along

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Sometimes you just hear something and it's like "dear mother of all things dark and disturbing..."

Goatpsalm come from Russia and the album is called Downstream. It is very unsettling but also possibly brilliant.

Here's where I have problems explaining myself. It's the closest I've ever heard a band get to the feel of the Fields of Nephilim but it doesn't sound like the Nephilim.
The songs are allowed to slowly build (in the case of opener Grey Rocks it's starts with the sounds of the forest before instruments arrive one by one) and there is a recurring use of a mouth harp that gives the album that western field that the Nephs achieved with the harmonica.

The vocals are very much the deep sepulchral growl you would expect but there is no throbbing bass line to it.... Very atmospheric but not recommended if you want a party.

If this is what the youth of Russia are listening to we should be afraid. Very afraid 

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Sometimes you know things are a bad idea such as remixes but you still go along and buy it....

Public Service Broadcasting have just released the Race for Space Remixes and whilst not an absolute stinker there is nothing here that betters the originals. Most of the remixes at least keep some samples or themes from the original track so that you can at least identify the source

It interesting to hear the songs reordered and for Korolev to have a place in the track listing but it's really not essential (however it has to be said the 'Agent Orange' coloured vinyl looks fantastic !)

What is a great big steaming turd of an album is the Meds: B sides by Placebo.

I love Meds, it's one of my favourite albums ever but this companion piece is awful. There was only one B side called YOUNEEDMEMORETHANINEEDU which is a decent track, slightly on the dark side of most Placebo output.

The rest of the album is remixes, live tracks and a demo. The live track of Meds sounds like it was recorded at the back of the festival on a mobile phone. It's so muted and muffled you have to turn the volume up and then of course the next live track of Infra Red is recorded properly and suddenly your ears burst if your wearing headphones

The remixes are woeful especially the Rain and Tears remix of Song to Say Goodbye. My favourite song off the original album but over the course of an exceedingly dull 10 minutes remix I completely fail to spot any of the original song.

If you are a Placebo fan buy the one original song but avoid the album at all costs

Saturday, 25 June 2016

hmmm..... just purchased the new Gojira album and it's a bit of a disappointment

The opening track of Magma sounds like Tool in places and the vocals are all dispassionate and spoken. The trick with the spoken vocals is repeated again during the album and is a real mistake as it robs the relevant tracks of emotion and feel

The second track Silvera starts with some furious drumming but falls back into a chugging groove instead of kicking on

The Cell is my favourite track with a thrash metal feel and vocals straight out of the Sepultura songbook

Yellow Stone is a complete filler of bass noises and the closing track Liberation literally contains nothing !

There are glimpses of a great band and the interesting keyboards used in Stranded should be explored more but overall this won't be an album on repeat

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Cult of Luna recordings should be treasured.... 3 years ago they released Vertikal and went on an indefinite hiatus, before releasing Mariner earlier this year. At which point they announced their intention not to tour the album and have gone back on hiatus

The first thing to note is the joint credits to Cult of Luna and Julie Christmas. This is no 'featuring' where the lesser artist is hardly heard, this is a full on collaboration

There are only 5 tracks on the album (from 8 to 15 mins) and it's a concept about the earth's population preparing to evacuate the planet for outer space. For all hitchhikers fans not a dissimilar story to the Golgofrincham's B ark but without the laughs

Opening track A Greater Call features the usual wall of noise and screamed lyrics but counterpointed with the sweeter melodic vocals of Ms Christmas.
The white noise created by Cult of Luna will put some off but if you listen long enough it contains plenty of keyboard and melody woven in and ebbs and flows to crescendo's and troughs. It is something very special

On the next track, Chevron, it's Julie Christmas taking lead vocal and you suddenly realise she is not there to soften the mood. Her screams and shouts are very unsettling and reminiscent of the delight Ms Tarrie B who stalked the metal scene in various guises through the 90's

The Wreck of the SS Needle follows a similar patter of female lead vocals being taken to the limit and is the best track on the album. Approaching Transition is almost instrumental and much more atmospheric and slower. Finally listening to Cygnus you get a feeling the album doesn't have a happy ending but it does have a guitar solo and clean sung male vocals!

As long as the hiatus only last 3 years again this band will remain one of the most innovative and progressive metals band out there

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Somewhere deep in central Europe there is a whole tribe of people who have never heard the words 'grunge' or 'Seattle'. They still believe leather jackets should be covered in studs, the only way to drink Jack Daniels is to swig directly from the bottle and every bar should have a stripper in fishnets. These people have a goddess and her name is Doro.

I know all this as I've just watched the latest video from the aforementioned Metal Queen called Love's Gone to Hell. Co-written with Andreas Bruhn (formerly of the Sister of Mercy) it sounds exactly like you expect it to.

The EP also features her last duet with Lemmy and a couple of live tracks, best of which is Save my Soul from the solo debut album.

Go on, pretend it's still 1998 and indulge in some classic heavy rawk !

So you wait for over a bloody decade and then without fanfare the Fields of Nephilim suddenly release new material...... Admittedly it's only a one track single but having waited 10 years, small mercies and all that.

What we have here is a track that barrels along in the style of Phobia rather than any nine minute Floyd-like epic.

It sound like the Nephilim which is the best compliment you can give it but I do think the lyrics are rather weak compared to previous efforts. However at about 3 minutes in there comes the most glorious bass rumble and all is right with the world.

Hopefully an album is round the corner soon.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

The Anchoress is the pseudonym of Catherine Davies who has just released her debut album, Confessions of a Romance Novelist, on Kscope.

The music press are raving over her as a new Kate Bush or Tori Amos but that's fairly far from the truth. The songs are very pop orientated and the voice is nowhere near those aforementioned artists.

The biggest influence I can hear is Mansun from their album Six which is no surprise as Paul Draper of that band is heavily involved. Strangely the voice reminds me of modern day Berlin (though as the only person buying their albums still it's unlikely anyone else will notice)

One for Sorrow is a an excellent pop song and has a nagging chorus which I've heard before but can't place.

Ms Davies has been touring with Simple Minds and there is a lovely piano led cover of their song Rivers of Ice (from the Real Life album) ending the album

A sturdy debut album but don't believe the hype.....