Archive for the ‘Metal – Studio’ Category

I remember when Baroness first broke out, they were quite sludgy and while not inaccessible, certainly not quite radio-friendly either. Early albums like Red Album and Blue Record mixed Thin Lizzy clean guitar with thick stoner-sludge and swampy vocals. I remember also, when they dropped their double album ‘Yellow And Green’ and they went from a band I liked a bit due to a slight Mastodon similarity, to a band I really cared about and actively followed.

To date, I still think of Yellow & Green as an utter masterpiece and that it was one of the best albums by anyone I care about to be released that year. Its when the band really stepped out of any other band’s shadows or any one subgenre’s constraints and just went everywhere they wanted all at once…. The follow up Purple was near as good, trying (and succeeding) to condense the sprawling mix of styles, tempos and timbres of the very diverse double album into one single straight-up rock record with flavours from everything the band had done before but a focus on being succinct and accessible (without sounding too far from their more metallic roots of course).

With their new album, Gold & Grey, the band are leaning a bit back more into Yellow & Green’s experimental territories. There is a focus on diversity here. Succinct is not a word I’d use to describe this. This album seems to be reveling in the freedom to do everything and anything. ‘Seasons’ for example has spidery guitar lines that wouldn’t feel out of place on a King Crimson album, mixed with a strange lo-fi noisy production job that makes it sound like some Sonic Youth style art rock piece, but then there are also blast-beats in their briefly to bring back the metal. Sometimes it goes full prog, with ‘Sevens’ sounding like mid period Camel. ‘Broken Halo’ has some lovely bridges that I can see crowds loving when this material is toured live, but goes a bit Yes during the solo.  

There are also quite a few brief quiet, sombre, slow numbers across the album’s 17-track duration. ‘Blankets of Ash’ for example is a nice sounding acoustic guitar interlude over some creepy foreboding soundscape. ‘Crooked Mile’ is a jangly acoustic number that sounds more like an intro than a full blown tune of its own. ‘Assault On East Falls’ sounds like the music from a dream sequence in a Japanse videogame.

You can hear a bit more Radiohead and a bit less Red Fang in the DNA at times I guess (the intro to ‘Tourniquet’ or for example), but that being said there are still enough big fat choruses and catchy hooks to keep the sing-along feel of Purple. The album opener ‘Front Toward Enemy’ for example is just a foot down melodic rocker to get the blood pumping. The chorus to the single ‘Throw Me An Anchor’ is almost as catchy as something like ‘Take My Bones Away’ or ‘Shock Me’ from previous albums. ‘I’ll Do Anything’ sounds like it could be used to advertise the Olympics. Its like if Bon Iver took happy pills and wanted to inspire people to action.

Singer John Dyer Baizley’s rich voice really sets this band apart from the crowd, and when he really leans into the big melodies, it is proper 360 degree helicopter shots on a cliffside stuff. He has such a powerful and evocative voice that can make any line sound immensely meaningful and majestic.  

Considering the line-up change between albums, it still sounds totally like Baroness. You may not have had female backing vocals back on Blue Record but the way John and Gina’s vocals blend and mesh together just sound right.

The album isn’t without its flaws however. The production seems to be quite controversial based on all people I’ve seen complaining on social media. It is also a bit tough to swallow in one go, sitting somewhere between standard and double album length. (Its only an hour, but with 17 tracks there is a lot of different moods, directions and sounds to digest and so it takes up more brainpower than your typical 10-14 track album. If you just wanted an album of ‘Shock Me’ clones, something like ‘Can Oscura’ might be a bit off-putting for example). You couldn’t just slap this on in the background once and love it forever, it’s a grower that you’ve got to give a lot of attention to. That being said, these are minor flaws at the most. I didn’t really consider the production notable until it was pointed out to me by others, and usually an album being a grower at the start leads to an album you’re still loving years later rather than an album that would lose its flavour as fast as chewing gum if it popped right away.

Maybe if you were only into the band for the heaviness of the early days, this album won’t suit you. If you liked the last two albums though, this album is very much going to be right up your street. Its softer, proggier and more considered than it is bludgeoning and meaty. It’s a bit more ponderous than direct and rocking. But it is definitely worth checking out, sticking on repeat and loosing yourself in. It’s an odyssey of new worlds to glimpse, it’s a journey to get lost on. You might not want to head-bang, but you’ll never be bored.

2018’s Unheavenly Creatures, (or to give it its full title ‘Vaxis – Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures’) is modern prog masters Coheed And Cambria’s  9th full-length studio album. It follows up from their 2015 record The Color Before The Sun, which departed from their Amory Wars concept album series, and Unheavenly Creatures sees the band return once more to their sci-fi comic book concept.

Don’t worry if you haven’t been following the story, which is already out of order with various prequels and side stories, as the songs are that catchy anyway you don’t have to follow the story as closely as some other concept albums. It’s a nice touch if you are paying attention, but the band have always been more than just a story, they aren’t a gimmick band and the music, vocals and sound have always been just as noteworthy as the concept.

Musically; The Color Before The Sun was also a bit of an evolution which saw some new territories covered, with big stadium rock riffs and bubblegum melodies. Unheavenly Creatures incorporates parts of that, while also leaning more on the style the band were going for on the two Good Apollo albums from 2005 and 2007.

The vocals, the production and lead guitars are all superb and continue the long tradition of interesting and memorable songs that are easy on the ear, but come across as progressive when you look at them more closely. The band have all the hooks of the catchiest pop punk bands, all the solos of the catchiest NWOBHM guitar masters and an ear for production that always makes them sound humongous. This album is no exception. Just listen to the powerful opener ‘The Dark Sentencer,’ when Claudio sings ‘‘Kiss your lover with that filthy mouth you fucking monster’’ you just want to scream along with it like you’re on top of a cliff in the November Rain video.

That being said, its not an instant album, in fact it is 79 minutes long, so there is quite a lot to get through and it can take a lot of spins to really sink your teeth in to, but there is a lot to love if you are willing to give it the time.

For a band who, in my opinion, haven’t released a bad album yet, it can be quite hard to make a recommendation to an outsider. That being said, the general public would seem to suggest Year Of The Black Rainbow and The Afterman Descension from 2010 and 2013 respectively are the band’s least impactful works, whereas the public would advise In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth 3 and the lengthily titled Good Apollo, Tonight I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes Of Madness (commonly just called ‘4’ or ‘Good Apollo’ for ease)  are the ones to check out first… at this point I can’t really imagine not loving a Coheed album, but just in case, I would say don’t pick this as your first one. Pick up 3, 4 and Afterman Ascension at a minimum before getting this one.    

Once you are an established fan though; this is not an album you want to miss. Some of these choruses will bounce around your head for days. Some of the guitar lines are as memorable as the average band’s choruses. The first four songs alone have more memorable moments than most albums.  In fact, take any four songs in a row, the first four, the last four, any four in between. Even the slower moments like ‘Queen Of The Dark’ pop on this. If you want to dip your toes in, some of the highlights include ‘True Ugly,’ ‘All On Fire,’ ‘Toys,’ and ‘Unheavenly Creatures.’

Queensrÿche have been on a hell of a hot streak since they got former Crimson Glory frontman Todd La Torre in and started a band called Rising West, playing material from Queensrÿche’s first EP and first 4 albums, following the departure of their long time legendary singer Geoff Tate.

When they changed their name from Rising West back to Queensrÿche, and released their self-titled album in 2013, (with great tracks like ‘Where Dreams Go To Die,’ ‘Redemption’ and ‘Vindication’), it was an utterly excellent batch of material and the ensuing live shows saw the band energised and revitalised in one of the best late-career renaissances in the history of Metal (up there with the likes of Kreator and Accept for later-year triumphs). The following album Condition Human was a strong follow-up that kept up the quality.

As you can imagine, their third album since this revitalisation, 2019’s The Verdict, is my most anticipated album of this year. When they dropped the pre-release tracks, such as ‘Man The Machine,’ ‘Dark Revierie’ and ‘Blood Of The Levant’ it was every bit as good, if not better, than Condition Human’s pre-release tracks like the excellent ‘Arrow Of Time’ and ‘Hellfire.’

With all these expectations I had built up in my head, I was fearful I had built it up too much and set myself up for disappointment.

After having listened to it both via streaming while I waited for the postman, and on CD repeatedly after delivery, I am happy to inform you that not only is it not a disappointment, but rather it is the best Toddryche album to date. Arguably the band’s best album in a very long time at all, Todd or no Todd.

Even from myself, who doesn’t dislike any Queensrÿche album, (even the controversial ones), this ranks easily in the top half of their discography, top quarter even! I hate statements like “it’s the band’s best album since…’’ but in this case, it really feels true.

The production, (once again by ‘Zeuss’) is brilliant. All instruments are clear and distinct, you can hear the bass at all times, you can separate each guitar from each-other and the drums sound fat and powerful. Speaking of drums; Now that singer Todd La Torre is also playing drums this time around as well as his singing duties while classic drummer Scott Rockenfield is on paternity leave, you also get some drum styles you don’t usually hear on a Queensrÿche album. (Have a quick listen to ‘Launder The Conscience’ and ‘Light Years’ and listen to the beats to see what I mean).

The press prior to this saw Whip telling everyone that this was their heaviest and most progressive album in a while. Usually statements like that are always wrong. Strangely though, again, in this case, it really feels true.

There are some nice heavy moments on here; such as the aforementioned pre-released tracks, ‘Man The Machine and ‘Blood Of The Levant’ as well the very crunchy ‘Inner Unrest’ amonst others, and furthermore, there are some great proggy moments; such as ‘Bent,’ ‘Portrait’ and ‘Inside Out.’ There’s moments that recall the middle-eastern vibes of their American Soldier and Tribe albums, there’s some of the bass-driven textured stuff like their underrated Operation Mindcrime 2 album, and there’s some of the trippy expansive stuff reminiscent of their Promised Land album.

As well as the heavy and proggy stuff, there is just loads of great, catchy, accessible Hard Rock meets Heavy Metal material that has been the core thing tying all of the band’s albums together to date. You can hear bits that sound like the last two albums, like calssic material such as Rage For Order and all sorts of new things as well.

There’s so much great bass guitar parts and lots of space for Todd to show off his impressive vocal range. Album upon album he pushes it further, showing off more and more styles and becoming more of his own thing and moving away from the Geoff Tate style, but still staying close enough that it always sounds quintessentially Queensrÿche. (Take that vocal style and mix it with those really distinctive guitar leads, and you’ve got Queensrÿche in a bottle.)

Overall; its yet another strong Queensrÿche album, but more than that, it is an interesting album, with a strong production, a great range of material, and some of their honestly best material in years, even if they have already been on a very strong run.

Monster Magnet – Mindfucker

Posted: November 21, 2018 by kingcrimsonprog in Metal, Metal - Studio, Music Reviews, Rock, Rock Studio
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375382aMindfucker is the tenth proper full-length studio album (if you aren’t counting redux albums and compilations). It was released on Napalm Records and released in 2018, 5 years after Last Patrol, which was the longest gap the band have had between albums to date, but the line-up stayed the same as last time.

To my mind, Monster Magnet have never made a bad album. Even their least popular album, 4-Way Diablo has my favourite ever Monster Magnet song (‘Wall Of Fire’) on it. But I do have to say that this album has been out for over half a year now and try as I might, I just can’t get into it.

Now there’s nothing majorly wrong with it per sae. It is well produced. The songs are pleasant. Nothing overstays its welcome. Nothing is bad or stupid. Nothing sounds wrong or doesn’t fit the band’s style. Everything is functional. But that’s it.

Usually, there are major moments to write home about. There are usually lyrics that make me want to tell my friends about. There are usually riffs that I want to air guitar to. There are usually inventive things the band haven’t done before. There’s usually more joy in the performance. Generally, there’s usually…more.

That’s not to say the album is worthless, ‘Brainwashed’ for example is very fun, and sounds like its tapping into the same jangly ’60s influence that ‘Dreaming Of You’ by The Coral is, only faster. ‘Want Some’ has some energy to it and would be your typical Monster Magnet rocker that they have pumping out since the fifth album. The opener and the title track are passable too.

The thing is though, its not enough. Its just an ok album. Perfectly fine. If it was your first Monster Magnet album you’d probably like it. But then when you get the other records, and you hear ‘Kiss Of The Scorpion,’ or ‘See You In Hell’ or ‘Black Balloon’ afterwards, then you’d probably shit a brick! ”Wow, how did that ok band release such amazing material!?” you would find yourself asking.

If you love the band and have to have everything they put out. Sure get it. If you just want to support the band and keep them on the road, get it. If you have limited funds and can only afford to buy the best, then maybe skip this particular entry in the history of the bull god. This band have released some of the best material in the genre ever, and you should start with their better material first.

 

Architects – Holy Hell review

Posted: November 18, 2018 by kingcrimsonprog in Metal, Metal - Studio, Music Reviews

220px-Architectsalbum8coverThis was always going to a difficult album. After the passing of Tom, who was the main songwriter, it was never going to be easy to make another record.

Last year however they dropped the excellent single ‘Doomsday’ which was one of the best singles of their career to date, and made this one of the most anticipated comeback albums of recent memory.

Think of albums like Nightmare or The Gray Chapter; when a band looses a member, especially a main songwriter, it always leaves a big mark. Holy Hell has such a mark on it. You can really hear the change in songwriter for example. The music is a bit less technical and a bit more direct. The structures are a bit more straightforward and a bit less expansive. Lyrically, there’s a clear impact. I mean, the opening track is called ‘Death Is Not Defeat’ which tells you everything you need to know.

Its not as heavy as the old Nightmare and Hollow Crown days, nor is it as light as the underrated The Here And Now, but it does it sonically somewhere between Lost Forever // Lost Together and All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us.

Like the aforementioned previous two albums, there is a big focus on melody and floaty electronics and like each album since the beginning, there are plenty of rhythmic breakdowns and a few of Sam’s trademark ‘Bleurgh!’ exclamations. It sounds pretty terrific, not just musically but also with a crystal clear production too. Highlights include the singles ‘Royal Beggars’ and ‘Modern Misery’ as well as the title-track. The best track by far though, is ‘Doomsday’ in my opinion, its one of the band’s best songs period.

It is obviously always going to be an important milestone in their career due to the circumstances of its backstory, but luckily it holds up musically. I wouldn’t jump into a sea of hyperbole and say its the best thing they’ve ever released, but it is a fitting continuation of the legacy and a very welcome addition to the catalogue. It would be a good jumping on point for a new fan and any existing fan would do well to add it to their collection. Skippable it aint.

 

 

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Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood is the third full-length studio album by the diverse Danish band Volbeat. While the band’s debut went by normally, the band had a big hit in their homeland with ‘The Gardner’s Tale’ and really raised their profile.

This third album then had a lot to live up to. Now; I’ve only gotten into Volbeat since this Summer, so I’m putting all that together from interviews and documentaries. But there’s one thing I do know, and that’s what I hear with my own ears. Luckily, they delivered. A beefed up production, more vocal confidence, better lead guitars. This record knocks Volbeat up into a whole new league.

Like the band’s debut album, there is a bit more of a Kyuss influence on some of the guitar lines than there would be on later albums (check out the title track). Like all their albums there is a lot of diversity. ‘So Lonesome I could Cry’ has a clear country influence (its a Hank Williams cover). ‘Wild Rover Of Hell’ has a bit of a Metallica vibe to it (well, in a song with the line ”Stereo pumping Metallica tunes, Ride The Lightning oh yeah!” what else could you expect?). ‘Back To Promp’ is less than two minutes long and sounds like a 1950s version of Blink 182’s ‘Dammit.’ There’s also the popular singles “Maybellene I Hofteholder” & “Mary Ann’s Place” which exemplify what the band are all about.

There’s basically a lot of different styles going on and a lot of things to like. Its good a good mixture of  slick hard rock, chunky metal and fun punk vibes, with that tiny little bit of country and early rock n roll flavour that Volbeat seem to always channel.

In terms of quality, its a lot better than the two albums that preceded it. The band really grew as songwriters and performers. The riffs are satisfying, the solos are fun. The vocals are superb too; clean, catchy and memorable. This is a turning point for Michael when he goes from being good to being great. To top it all off the production is just as good as it is on their next album Above Heaven/Beyond Hell.  Basically; if you like Volbeat, don’t be without this. Its definitely ranking among the top half of their discography.

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Five Finger Death Punch albums are often fairly similar in terms of quality, musical direction and performance. Most of them feature bouncy groove-metal riffs balanced with melodic modern-metalcore loud/quiet dynamics and easy on the ear radio friendly production jobs. Maybe a ballad or two for variety.

Not all their albums are absolutely identical, and for example their debut is faster and rawer than their fifth album, but there is a general similarity between a lot of them and the basic rule of thumb is that if you like one of them, you’ll probably like them all. They do have a distinct formula if we’re being honest here.

For me, their first two albums and also Got Your Six are the strongest, and up until this point, The Wrong Side Of Heaven’ 2 and American Capitalist are the weaker ones in the catalouge, as there are possibly too many ballads and light tracks on them and not enough fast songs for my own personal tastes, but to be honest that’s all if you are getting nit picky and there’s not too much difference between them unless you sit there and analyse them.

In 2018; two years after it was actually recorded due to some record company shenanigans and legal wranglings and after a gap filling greatest-hits compilation, the band released their seventh full-length studio album, And Justice For None. You can get it in a standard edition, or one with the new songs they added to that aforementioned greatest-hits albums, the catchy single ‘Trouble’ and the cover song ‘Gone Away’ which is a reworking of a The Offspring song (which to be fair they put on the standard edition anyway in the end), as well as two further bonus tracks from the same era, ‘Bad Seed’ and ‘Save Your Breath.’

Now; remember when I said there’s too many ballads and lighter moments on the albums I’d rate as being not their best? Well, this one has two lighter songs that are both covers. It also has the ballad single ‘When The Seasons Change’ preceded by the very good but still ballady ‘I Refuse.’   It even ends on a power ballad with ‘Will The Sun Ever Rise?’ It also has the strange lighter electronic tracks ‘Stuck In My Ways’ & ‘Bloody’ which feel like a play to get on TV advertisements and are a lot lighter and less powerful than my favourite songs by the band.

Hey; I am no ballad-phobic caveman. I love power metal for goodness sake, where you can’t move for ballads. Its just, when there’s one very good ballad on an album, it is a nice piece of variety. When its like two thirds of the whole record it sort of weighs it down and they loose their efficacy. If it had only been say, ‘I Refuse’  for example, that would be fine. If there was only one cover it might’ve been aright. If they only had one song experimenting with electronics, it would have stood out. As it stands, its all a bit too much and it feels like overkill.

There are some groovier, heavier and faster tracks here. ‘Rock Bottom,’ has a rumbling menace to it, ‘It Doesn’t Matter,’ ‘Fire In The Hole’ and ‘Top Of The World’ are the traditional Five Finger Death Punch sound and the opener ‘Fake’ is pretty strong. There’s stuff to like here for sure, don’t let me make you think its a complete departure. I guess the album is a bit overlong though, and a bit unfocused. It also hits the strange ‘make-your-mind-up’ sweet spot between staying too close to the old formula at times and experimenting with new stuff too much, without really committing to either. The problem is that they don’t really suit the new stuff. Again, ‘Bloody’ is an excellent example of what I did not expect from this band. Another song that doesn’t sound like the band is the controversial lead single ‘Sham Pain’ with its lyrics basically complaining about being on tour and sounding ungrateful.

When I first got this album, it really felt like a let down after Got Your Six, and I will admit that it has grown on me a lot more with each repeat listen. If I hadn’t bought it and felt guilty about the money, I might not have listened to it quite so often and allowed it to grow on me. Even with this appreciation-raising slow burn, this is easily my least favourite album from the group. It may be due to the circumstances in which it was written and recorded, burned out and before getting clean and with the record label woes, it may have all impacted upon the quality of the record. Maybe the next one will be great. Or again, maybe its just a natural dip from a band working that hard pumping albums out and touring so often. They dipped a little on the fifth album and rose higher again on the sixth. Maybe it is just a natural fluctuation. Either way, while I am still going to be listening to this album in full over and over again to try and feel like I got my money’s worth, I feel like I won’t ever like it as much as Way Of The Fist or Wrong Side Of Heaven part 1. If you aren’t an obsessive fan, don’t feel bad if you want to skip this one, and if you are a new fan or aren’t a fan yet, I’d advise you leave this one until last, and try something like War Is The Answer first.