Archive for the ‘Music Reviews’ Category

220px-Marilyn_Manson_-_Heaven_Upside_DownIn 2017 the legendary Marilyn Manson released his tenth studio album (which was going to be called ‘Say-10’ as a sound-alike for ‘Satan’ before he changed it last minute) called Heaven Upside Down. It was produced by Tyler Bates and was their last album before once more losing Jeordie ‘Twiggy Ramirez’ White, even if he didn’t actually play on it.

Now, I don’t normally like to write negative reviews (as you can probably tell if you’ve read any of my other reviews, it pretty much 99% a love fest as I don’t like to denigrate things that take so much effort to make, so focus on the great albums and just don’t review the ). I am also a bit of a Marilyn Manson fanboy, and even though I’m not insane enough not to think that the Triptych (Antichrist Superstar, Mechanic Animals and Holywood) are his best material by a million miles, I am the kind of guy who likes his other albums, even ones that people in my peer group seem to all hate. There’s plenty of good material to be found in his whole discography.

Even I can’t love this album though. Since it came out I’ve been trying to be excited for it. I’ve gave it a really fair chance and tons of repeat listens, but I really can’t get into this at all. (…And this is coming from a guy that doesn’t mind Eat Me, Drink Me).

There are a few good moments here, I’m not saying its utter shit or anything. He’s still got a good voice and there’s a few fun stompers, like the catching ‘We Know Where You Fucking Live’ and ‘Je$u$ Cri$i$ ‘ but coming from The All American Antichrist, this is just a bit of a tepid, plain, dull album. For someone who made such remarkable lyrics on Holywood or such diverse incredible music on Antichrist Superstar or put on such a show for Mechanical Albums, its kind of surprising how polite and slightly forgettable this album is. Its all to polite. It isn’t some amazing progressive masterpiece. It isn’t even a fun collection of bangers like the less artistic but very instant Golden Age Of Grotesque. It just feels like background music for rich people.

Sure there’s some sleazy sexy bass lines, or some semi-interesting drum patterns, (‘Saturnalia’ /’Kill4Me’) and there’s some of those anguished vocals (‘Blood Honey’) but its all too little to really get your juices flowing.

If you want to listen to Marilyn Manson there are so many albums I’d recommend before this one. I can’t even recommend it for lapsed fans (Born Villain is the one for that). If you are a massive fan and have to own everything he does then, sure, you can get this one. For most people though, this is a listen to it a few times and shelf it kind of affair. Maybe its the fact that barely anyone you care about appeared on it, maybe its the fact that most of the music was written by the producer. Maybe its just the fact that all his other work is so good it fails in comparison, I don’t know. What I do know.. this one, I’m sad to say, is not for me.

s-l300Of all the Djent bands, Periphery are undoubtedly the biggest and most well known. Since 2005 they have been innovators boldly carving their own path through progressive and tech Metal styles, inspiring many in their wake.

Taking influences from mathy bands like Dillinger Escape Plan and Sikth, harder bands like the ferocious Messugah, the crushing parts from Iowa-era Slipknot, as well as taking the flowing guitar solo techniques from the likes of Dream Theater and mashing it together with the general sounds and clean/heavy dynamics of modern metalcore bands, putting that over the top of the bounce from the heavier Nu Metal bands and even peppering it with electronic and ambient bits that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Nine Inch Nails record, the band manage to meld all these disparate styles into one cohesive and entertaining whole.

I know some people get uppity about anyone using the word ‘Djent’ and argue its either not a real subgenre and its just Prog Metal or else its just a lot of people copying Messugah but both of those sentiments are reductive and inaccurate and time has shown this to be a legitimate and true subgenre (just look at the number of bands who do it now, or the amount a websites devoted to it). You know; In the same way Doom is a real subgenre and not just a load of people copying Black Sabbath and that Power Metal is not just Traditional Heavy Metal.

If you like bands like Tesseract and want something heavier, if you like bands like Monuments and want something catchier, if you like bands like Uneven Structure and want something bouncier, you also really need to check out Periphery. If you like Periphery, this is a particualrly must-have album and not one to pass over or miss out on.

Periphery III Select Difficulty, is, confusingly, Periphery’s fifth studio album (due to the Juggernaut Alpha & Omega albums which preceded it not being numbered). It was self produced and released in 2016. The music is a great mix of complicated awkward rhythms, soaring commercial choruses and spicing it up with shimmering guitar lines and the odd bits of electronics here and there. You get some great moments like clean singing over blast beats. There’s violins and trumpets and choirs too. Its probably their most diverse album overall.

There are a few awesome heavier tracks like ‘The Price Is Wrong,’ ‘Motormouth’ and ‘Habitual Line-Stepper.’ The band also try stretching their wings a little bit. There are a few newer ideas and more quiet moments, like the superb closer ‘Lune’ with its beautiful backing vocals, or the catchy and commercial ‘Flatline’ which could be on the radio as well as the Faith No More influenced ‘Reamain Indoors.’ There’s some great lyrics too. I’ve worked a lot in hospital and held a lot of people’s hands as they die in front of me, and the lyrics to Flat Line are pretty affecting. I particularly like the hook ‘He says send an angel to pull me from the hell below. This weight is far too much to own and this body doesn’t feel like home.’

I feel like maybe Periphery II This Time Its Personal is probably their best album overall for sheer impact and creativity at the time, and for how it broke them to a bigger audience, but for me this is a damn close second and their most cohesive and listen-to-on-repeat album to date. I like to leave this album on in the car and just play it end to end, over and over again. There isn’t one song on this I wouldn’t want to hear live and there are a lot on here that demands to be in compilations and play lists.

I also feel like this is also a great introduction point for people who don’t know the band or the subgenre. If you like A Perfect Circle or Cog or Rishloo ‘Lune’ is really likely to hit you. If you like Slipknot when they go a bit Morbid Angel influenced ‘Habitual Line Stepper’ is worth checking out. I  even feel like fans of Nu Metal and Rap Metal bands like Incubus and P.O.D and (Hed) PE might even get in on the bouncy bass driven ‘Catch Fire.’

Overall, this album is pretty superb and deserves to be heard by more people. If you like any of the bands or ideas I’ve mentioned above, take a shot and give it a listen. I doubt you’ll regret it.

ghost-ceremony-and-devotion.jpgIt took me a very long time to get into Ghost, I was really late to the party. For me, I couldn’t get over my expectations, I saw pictures of them and expected to hear something extreme like Darkthrone or something. Then I saw them being lauded as the next big thing and expected them to be catchy and industrial-lite like Rammstein or Marilyn Manson, and I heard them get called Doom Metal and expected them to sound, well, anything at all like Doom Metal. Also, for a band so heavily featured in the Metal press, you’d expect them to be generally heavier and more guitar driven.

Instead of hearing Ghost for what they were, with all the classic Prog leanings and Gothic theatrics, I was just hearing all these expectations, and the dissonance between what I got and thought I’d get was off putting. One day I just took a punt on them, and bought Meliora on a whim with no planning. The guy at the counter even tried to talk me out of it and said he didn’t like Ghost and couldn’t get into them and tried to get me to buy Iron Maiden’s newest live album instead. Needless to say, if I’m writing this review I obviously went with Ghost.

Over the past year, I’ve been getting more and more into the band, checking out all the different albums and EPs, hearing their evolution from quite straight-forward, to more diverse, to their newer more commercial direction, Everything they’ve put out so far has been worth hearing.

In 2017 it was time for a live album, and Ceremony & Devotion was released, with recording from the USA that year. At first I thought it was odd that this was audio only and not video, but actually it is quite clever as releasing a live album this damn good just goes to prove that although the band have a very visual nature, they are excellent musicians and songwriters and not just a gimmick band.

The live album features material from all their first three albums and the Popestar EP and kicks off with their skyscraper of a single, ‘Square Hammer.’ There is a nice range of tracks, from the harder stuff like ‘Con Clavi Con Dio’ and ‘From The Pinnacle To The Pit’ to the more diverse and interesting material from when they were temporarily Ghost BC, like ‘Ghuleh / Zombie Queen’ and ‘Year Zero’ and even the gorgeous Trick Of The Tail era Genesis sounding ballad ‘He Is,’ and the brief instrumental ‘Devil Church’ which sounds like it came right off one of the first two King Crimson albums.

Tobias is a pretty entertaining front man, with unique stage patter (‘do you like drinking blooood?’ ) and the track-listing is great, but the best thing about this album is the sound. The recording quality and mix are brilliant. Talk about crystal clear. Everything sounds amazing. The crowd are enthusiastic and the band are firing on all cylinders, and you can hear every cymbal, every riff, every bass line. You can hear those Camel-sounding lines, you can hear the creepy pervy vocals, which hold up really well live.

This album reminds me a bit of Kiss’ Alive album. It shows off a very visual band’s great live audio, it has serves as a best-of of the band’s first three albums, some of the live versions outshine their studio counterparts and its full of memorable on stage banter. This is a live album you can really get in to. Its a live album you can swear by (right here, right now, before the devil!). If you like the band this is a damn fine addition to your collection. If you are new to Ghost, this is absolutely the first album you should pick up. It is the band at their absolute best and there is nothing skip-able here at all.

Parkway Drive – Reverence Review

Posted: May 19, 2018 by kingcrimsonprog in Metal, Metal - Studio, Music Reviews, Review
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Parkway-Drive_Reverence_Album-cover_a75524b73dd30fdf8a05e59a507082edFor their sixth studio album, Parkway Drive had a hell of a lot to live up to. After absolutely perfecting their formula with the popular Horizons and Deep Blue albums, and utterly reinventing themselves on the astounding Ire album, the Australians would have a hard time releasing anything that good. What should they do? Return to the old formula? Try and repeat the triumph of Ire?

What they decided to do was a bit different. On Atlas, the great but less-popular follow up to Deep Blue they decided to try and balance their formula with new ideas like choirs, strings and DJ scratching with more variety of fasts and slows. The band weren’t going to limit themselves or stay in their own little box, they already did the perfect version, so its time to try some new ideas.

Reverence, to me, feels to Ire as Atlas did to Deep Blue. Its not a rehash of the past formula but a pushing of the envelope. Its taking that general idea but broadening it. There’s some pretty inventive and new sounds for Parkway on this album, from quiet spoken word bits, no almost Ghost-eque latin sounding chants (‘I Hope You Rot’), and film-score sounding orchestration. And while Atlas all sounded cataclysmic like a disaster movie, Reverence sounds epic and biblical.

Musical direction is one thing, but of course its all for nothing if the quality isn’t there. Fortunately Revereance is not only interesting, but it is also excellent. There are some absoltuely fantastic songs, amazingly catchy choruses and damn enjoyable guitar lines. There’s parts that’ll stick in your head for days (‘I’ve got the whole world swinging from the end of a chain,’ gets me every time). Some of those drum fills and leads are demading of a good air-instrumenting. Some of these songs will utterly crush live!

If you only want Parkway at their absolute heaviest and don’t want any clean singing, or any atypical instrumentation, then maybe chose a different album as your first. If you like the band, especially the shift in direction that started with Ire, then you don’t want to be missing out on Reverance. It is one hell of a record, strong all the way through, creative, interesting and thoroughly entertaining.

Highlights include the single ‘Wishing Wells’ as well as ‘Shadow Boxing’ and the dark ‘The Colour Of Leaving’

Its too early yet to rank it in their discography, but I can tell you right away from first impressions it certainly aint in trouble of being in the bottom half. I got this on release day (for some reason it was signed, which didn’t cost any extra, hooray!) and have absolutely pasted it every since. I can listen to this five times in a row and not be sick of it. It is a truly joyous album. If you are a fan don’t hesitate, get in on this ASAP.

I went to see An Evening With Machine Head last night in Cardiff, Monday 14th May 2018. There were no support bands and wasn’t much waiting around, just about three hours of Machine-Fucking-Head (as they like to be called).

After playing some Slipknot, Metallica and Killswitch Engage songs over the PA, and coming on to ‘Diary Of A Madman’ by Ozzy, the band took the stage. It was all decked out in cool mats and banners with the band’s iconography on it, there were no visible amps as it was all covered in screens which were white and blood stained, the drum kit was even white. I think at other shows the band might’ve been dressed white as well but they were dressed normal tonight.

The audience reaction was really great. I’ve seen Machine Head twice before and in the UK they are utterly beloved, so you can imagine how good the energy in the room was.

The night held a mixture of old and new, fast and slow, heavy and quiet. They played a decent chunk of their controversial (but excellent) new album Catharsis, which I appreciated as although I thought it was good on first impressions, it has been my car album ever since and in work that is the soundtrack to driving and I’ve really come to love it over the months. They played 6 whole songs of it, which is a pretty good showing for a new album. The audience reacted really well to the new material and the sing-alongs to songs like ‘Kaleidoscope,’ ‘Catharsis’ and even the controversial ‘Triple Beam’ were all just as good as fan favourites like ‘Bulldozer,’ ‘Take My Scars’ or ‘The Blood The Sweat The Tears.’ There was one typical meathead guy just shouting ‘Davidian!’ all night, but he was a small minority, the new stuff went over really well. Take that internet trolls.

The audience lapped up stuff of the classic albums like Burn My Eyes and The Blackening, reacted very well to material off my favourite album Unto The Locust and went mental for even stuff off the controversial albums like The Burning Red and Supercharger (yes even the much bemoaned rapping in From This Day, their late ’90s single which is often complained about by the bullet belt crowd. Hey, I love it and I showed up in a patch jacket full of Forbidden, Exodus and Testament patches). The only point in the evening was when it dipped was for the new ballad ‘Behind A Mask’ (which I loved and happily sang along to) but which seemed to die on its ass. One mosh-pit enthusiast turned to me and yelled, ‘this is why we have support bands!’ – meaning he didn’t like it. But to be fair the crowd might have just been tired from banging around for two and a half hours and just having heard ‘Davidian’ 19 songs into the otherwise crushing and energetic set.

There were all the songs I can’t live without nowadays like ‘Locust’ ‘Game Over’ ‘Killers And Kings’ ‘Aesthetics Of Hate’ and ‘Imperium’ (I think I’d cry if I saw Machine Head and they didn’t play all of those) as well as the old reliable tracks like ‘Old’ & ‘Ten Ton Hammer.’ They even threw in ‘None But My Own’ off the debut which they didn’t play either time I saw them before which was a nice change.

The way the lighting works, with green for Locust era songs, Orange for Burn My Eyes era songs and Red for Burning Red songs is really cool, and with occasional towers of smoke and a very enthusiastic band interacting constantly with each other and the crowd, it is a joy to watch. You catch little bits like Phil and Dave making faces at eachother or Phil tuning Robb’s tuning peg in the middle of a part for laughs and you can tell they’re having fun. Although not new anymore, the new-ish bassist Jared MacEachern has such a great stage presence and is a perfect fit for the band, just like how Phil was when he joined and now you can’t imagine the band without him.

As for the performances; pure flipping magic! Watching Dave McClain drum is like watching a science experiment on a voodoo ritual. The man comes up with some bonkers patterns and just the best fills, and its hard not to spend the majority of the concert air drumming. The guy is a beast.

The vocals from all three stringed players were great, and Rob really holds up live. He is a brilliant frontman, you get peaks of it on the old live at brixton DVD and the live CDs but in person its a whole other level, he is the perfect mixture of grateful and humble but also commanding and dominating. Its awesome.

Apart from one or two very minor technical issues, the music was amazing. (I think Phil either broke a guitar string or had faulty equipment once as he dissapeared off stage briefly once). The jaw dropping guitar solos are such fun and people were singing along to parts like you do for Megadeth. I was in such a good spot – second row from the front, just left of centre – so could see everyone perfectly and see every little detail of the fretboards and drum kit. The venue has the stage quite close and low to the crowd so you really get to see everything and it was visually the best concert I’ve seen for a band of this size. You could practically make out their nose hair it was that good a view.

Considering Machine Head don’t have that many short songs, and played long tracks like ‘Clenching The Fist Of Dissent’ and ‘Halo,’ having 26 songs live was incredible value for money. Considering how ridiculously good the band are live it was anyway, but the sheer quantity as well as the spectacular quality make this one of the finest live concerts I’ve ever seen… Sometimes I’ve seen bands I love and been underwhelmed by sound, setlist choice or performance (see Monster Magnet for all the that one time when I was in Uni, or Slipknot when they supported Metallica that one time back in Dublin where the soundguy fucked them over and they only had a very short set) but with Machine Head everything has been amazing. Like Saxon, I’ve never seen them anything less than amazing and been totally satisfied.

If you get the chance, see this band live!

Ps. Shout out to the Cardiff audience members in the That’s Not Metal merch, I love that show!

Tesseract – Sonder Review

Posted: April 29, 2018 by kingcrimsonprog in Djent, Metal, Metal - Studio, Music Reviews, Tech Metal
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sonder.jpgIn my mind, there’s no doubt about it. Tesseract are the undisputed kings of Djent. There are a lot of great tech metal and alternative metal bands around right now, a lot of bands who mix elements from Tool or Messugah or Nine Inch Nails with the lessons learned from modern metalcore. Some are good, some are even great, but for me none are as effective as Britain’s own Tesseract.

I’ve seen Tesseract a good few times live both with Ashe O’Harra and with Dan, (Never with Good Tiger’s Elliot Coleman sadly) and slowly fallen completely in love with them. Amos and Jay are the perfect rhythm section. The guitarists work so well together weaving through each-other and creating glorious shimmering melodies. To date, all their studio albums have been great, from the heavier debut One to the beautiful and haunting Altered State and the hypnotic Polaris. Even their live album Odyssey/Scala is cracking. With a track record that good something was bound to go wrong. No one can keep it up for so many albums in a row. No one can keep a hot streak alive forever. Sadly however…

…Gotcha! No, 2018’s Sonder is far from a disappointment. Sonder is a triumph! The album is getting some seriously good media attention now. Its not hype. Its not major label pressure on the magazines. Its because Sonder is an absolute barnstormer.

Its got some absolutely electrifying singing. Its got some damn catchy rhythms. It got some pretty classy lyrics (its a concept album exploring a profound sense of insignificance). It flows perfectly from beginning to end. It is expansive and progressive in one way, but is punchy and concise in another way.

Its too early to tell obviously, but a lot of people are calling this the band’s best ever album. As much as I’m skeptical of hyperbole, and think statements of that nature need longer to be sure, I don’t feel utterly resistant about it in this case. (I mean its amazingly hard to top Altered State, which is my personal favourite due to when I came on board, but it doesn’t seem that much of a stretch).

There are some terrific tunes on this. The second single ‘King’ is Djent perfection, that section where it goes ‘Bow. Down.’ is so strong. ‘Juno’ is one of the catchier numbers, up there with ‘Nocturne’ for their catchiest song to date. The lengthy ‘Beneath My Skin/Mirror Image’ is the album’s epic moment. To be fair, its all well and good picking highlights, but this is the kind of thing you have to listen to all the way through.

If you like weird time signatures, if you like emotional and evocative clean singing, if you like awkward polyrhythms and a band who can be technical but make it sound catchy instead of just showing off, Tesseract are the band for you. If you like Tesseract, there is no other option, you need Sonder in your collection now.

220px-JudasPriestFirepower18 studio albums in, and Metal Pioneers Judas Priest are still relevant. There are many bands from the past who are making great music nowadays. Kreator have been as good in the past 10 years as they ever were in the ’80s. You can add Saxon and Accept to that list. Queensryche since Todd joined too.

Priest’s best moments on Redeemer Of Souls and Angel Of Retribution were in that sort of sphere as well but not to the unquestionable level of the above mentioned renaissances. Judging from how magazines, podcasts, blogs and websites I care about have reacted to Firepower however, I was expecting seriously great things when pressing play for the first time.

I’ve been hammering this record non-stop in the car for about half a month now, repeat listening to it over and over again. Its taken a while to grow on me as I had such high expectations after the last Saxon album and also all the hype surrounding this, that it almost did more harm than good setting me unrealistic expectations, but after taking a good long time to really digest it and understand how I feel about it, I can definitely confirm Firepower is a bit of a banger.

There are a few moments of variety, such as the slower closer ‘Sea Of Red’ and the brief instrumental ‘Guardians’ but most of the material is just straight ahead well written classic heavy metal. Highlights for me include ‘Evil Never Dies,’ ‘Rising From Ruins,’ ‘Flame Thrower’ and especailly ‘Traitors Gate.’

That being said, its an album you can listen to all the way through, and its an album you can happily listen to on repeat. I once heard the phrase ‘an album you can get lost in’ and that’s exactly how I feel about Firepower. The performances pop. Rob’s vocals are more energetic than on the previous record. Travis’ drums are that little bit harder. The production is a lot sharper and more metallic as well. Everything sounds that little bit harder and heavier. Maybe its having that Andy Sneap involvment? Who knows, but everything rips. The band sound twenty years younger.

I wouldn’t go overboard and start heaping tonnes and tonnes of hyperbolic praise on this personally. I wouldn’t argue its better than Screaming For Vengeance or Painkiller. I like Angel Of Retribution and Redeemer Of Souls well enough already not to go down that ‘best album since Painkiller’ route, but I will say it is a worthy addition to the band’s catalogue and no disapointment whatsoever. A pedantic person may be inclined to argue it is a bit overlong, and that a few songs are a bit forgettable compared to the better ones, but those are arguments that can be made for pretty much every album nowadays. Iron Maiden fans are well used to it at this stage and it doesn’t stop us buying their albums.

After Nostradamus I thought this band may be hitting a downer period and after KK left the band it seemed quite unlikely they would be anything more than a nostalgia act but that’s two albums now they’ve proved that fear wrong. The band are arguably on an upward streak and they are starting to sound almost as fresh and relevant as the new Accept and Saxon albums have been. Considering by how long Priest pre-date those bands its even more impressive really. It isn’t just as amazing as I was expecting, but what I was expecting wasn’t realistic to begin with, but the more I play Firepower, the closer it gets to being a reality.

If you like Priest, get it. If you like Classic Metal, get it. Hell, if you like Metal at all, get it!