Archive for the ‘Metal – Studio’ Category

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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.

 

 

American Headcharge – Tango Umbrella Review:

Posted: September 29, 2018 by kingcrimsonprog in Metal, Metal - Studio, Music Reviews

americanheadchargetangocd_420.jpgBack in the good old days of Nu Metal, one of the heavier and more credible bands, without the Hip Hop moments, sexually aggressive lyrics and overly simplistic music, was American Headcharge. Influenced by the likes of Ministry and Marilyn Manson, but not very derivative, they carved out a unique path on their two sublime studio albums, The War Of Art and The Feeding. Literally one of my favourite songs by anyone ever is their 2005 banger of a single, ‘Loyalty.’

I have very fond memories of catching them at the Irish Ozzfest in the early ’00s, even though I wasn’t a massive fan at the time and they were more my brother’s thing back then. I saw them again about a decade later when I went to see Soil when I was in Uni. (Memorable as singer Martin Haycock kept holding onto the building’s pipes in a very distracting way that made him look like a heavy metal plumber.)

I was quite impressed with their first single from their reunion, 2013’s ‘Sugars Of Someday’ which while not very heavy was still catchy and memorable. You can imagine then, with nostalgia and hype, how excited I would be for their proper reunion album. 11 years after their last one.

Unfortunately, Tango Umbrella is not exactly a breathtaking life-changing masterpiece, kicking down the doors of Heavy Metal and earning the band the respect and audience that they would deserve based on the quality of their 2001-200 period. Now, I am loathe to mug-off a band that have written one of my all time favourite ever songs, and you can probably notice from most of my reviews I’m reluctant to post a bad review of anyone at all most of the time, definitely coming from the ‘if you can’t say anything nice’ school of thinking. However, this album didn’t live up to my wide-eyed expectations.

Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t suck. Its not bad. Its just that, like Bay Area Thrash legends Forbiden‘s comeback album Omega Wave; its more of an OK album that shows great potential for what can come next, rather than an absolute barnstormer in and of itself. On first listen it comes across as functional but nothing special. Admittedly, it gets better the more you listen to it and it has grown on me a lot since I first got it, but it still doesn’t sit tall beside the older material. It doesn’t even hold up that much as a great album in and of itself, being a bit repetitive and overlong.

There are some great moments here however, such as the depressing but majestic ballad ‘A King Among Men.’ There’s also several decent tunes, like the opener ‘Let All The World Believe’ and the noteworthy ‘Perfectionist’ and ‘Suffer Elegantly.’

The problem is, it isn’t all very memorable, some of it is good but some of it isn’t quite up to the same standard. Also; on the whole… It isn’t very aggressive, it isn’t very biting and it doesn’t really make you want to move. Their debut had songs like ‘Americunt’ that could strip the paint off your walls. This is all a bit more mid paced and tame. I imagine it was quite a cathartic album for the band, but it isn’t necessarily very fun for the listener. It is by no means bad, but is definitely not their strongest record either and I can’t see it winning over very many new fans.

It is not so much for-fans-only as, if you want to support AHC and keep them going, and get to have a few more songs from them along the way, then don’t avoid it. It feels more like an excuse to keep going rather than a career defining artist statement. I’d advise you buy it, but only so they don’t break up before making the next one which’ll probably be better. If you aren’t a fan yet however, start earlier. You wouldn’t get Holyweird as your first Poison album or Generation Swine as your first Motley Crue album and this is the same kind of thing for the next generation of once popular now maligned metal subgenres.

220px-Vol_cover.jpgMy whole Summer this year has been about Volbeat. I started off with Outlaw Gentlemen’ and moved on to Seal The Deal’ and the next album I got was 2010’s Beyond Hell/Above Heaven as a very appreciated birthday gift.

The album is notably less slick, sheened and stadium sized than the two albums that followed it, but is on the way there. There is some really heavy material on here, such as ‘7 Shots’ and ‘Evelyn’ which have guest appearances from Kreator’s Mille Petroza and Napalm Death’s Barney Greenway respectively. The best song on the album in my opinion is undoubtedly the muscular groove metal track, ‘A Warrior’s Call’ which is totally crushing and memorable, a real fist pumping song if ever there was one. The chorus even sports the line ‘Let’s Get Ready To Rumble.’

Its not all heaviness though, Volbeat are famously diverse. The catchy single ’16 Dollars’ for example sounds like country music was the prime influence, and ‘Magic Zone’ could be a Green Day song. Its a very interesting album in that regard. There’s several songs that could be by totally different bands but somehow it all flows together seamlessly.

The album closer ‘Thanks’ is pretty noteworthy, sounding as it does a bizarre mixture of Rancid, Metallica and the theme tune from King Of The Hill. Its memorable ‘woah-oh-ah-oh’ lines and lyrics about being in Volbeat make for one seriously entertaining listen.

As with all the band’s albums I’ve tried so far, you can listen to it over and over again. A long drive or a week of commuting can be pleasantly enlivened with this record on repeat. If you have any interest in the band, don’t delay, get up on this and get ready to smile.

Clutch – Book Of Bad Decisions Review

Posted: September 10, 2018 by kingcrimsonprog in Metal - Studio, Music Reviews, Rock, Rock Studio
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SharedImage-81725Clutch at this point can unarguably be seen as something of an ‘old reliable’ at this point. It can be argued that the band just do not release bad albums these days and pretty much if you’ve liked any of the band’s recent albums, you are probably going to like this one.

That being said, they aren’t too repetitive and they do evolve over time and each album has its own identity and each cluster of albums has a certain flavour.

The last two albums; Earth Rocker and Psychic Warfare have been two of the bands hardest, most streamlined, direct albums to date and this time the band seem aware that this may not have been what fans of the older albums like Elephant Riders and the self-titled wanted, so this time around instead of battering you over the head with the hardest songs straight away, they open up with some more laid back Stoner Rock song. Its a bit more armchair than thrill-ride for the first three tracks, for those of you who were missing the band being more hazy. Combined with the less polished, looser production style (that hi-hat sound and muddier guitar tone has something in common with their Jam Room album to my ears).

That’s not to say it is a full return to the old days; its more of a balancing act between that, the recent material and also pushing new ground. There are a few tunes on here which retain the breakneck rocking and clear focus of Earthrocker; ‘Weird Times,’ ‘Paper & Strife’ and the Tony Iommi wetdream of ‘A Good Fire’ keep things direct and punchy.

In terms of newer ideas, ‘In Walks Barbarella’ sounds exactly like its most memorable lyric ”weaponised funk” – it is full of full on 1970s Starskey & Hutch sounding funk overtones.

Lyrically, the record is just as fun and interesting as ever, with some brilliant lines, such as in the pre-released ‘How To Shake Hands’ where Neil tells us that when he becomes president, ”First thing I’m gonna do is go for a ride on a UFO, put Jimmi Hendrix on the $20 bill and Bill Hicks on a 5-note,” as well as ‘Hot Bottom Feeder’ which is basically a recipe and when the Neighbours in ‘Paper & Strife’ are reportedly ”clearly raging communists.”

The last few albums have had man-of-the-match awards for drummer JP Gaster and Frontman Neil Fallon, but the real hero of this album is guitarist Tim Sult, who seems to on a mission to display as wide a range of styles of guitar solo as possible. There’s so many different vibes to his leads and solos on the record, from melodic to flashy to effects-laiden and everything in between.

Because Clutch are so consistent, it is really just a matter of personal taste which albums are your favourites. This album is no disappointment. For my tastes, its somewhere in the middle, better than for example Jam Room but not quite as transcendent as say, the last two albums, or the fan favourites like Blast Tyrant, but fairly close and absolutely worth checking out.  There are many songs on here I really can’t wait to see live and wouldn’t ever want to make a Clutch playlist or compilation without ever again. If you aren’t sure if the album is for you, check out ‘Ghoul Wrangler’ – the music, production, eccentricity and lyrics should give you a good idea what you are in for.

 

Seal_the_Deal_&_Let’s_Boogie.jpgVolbeat, the interesting Hard Rock/Metal/Country/Whatever-else hybrid band from Denmark, released their 6th studio album, Seal The Deal & Let’s Boogie, in 2016. It is their second album with former Anthrax lead guitarist Rob Caggiano.

Whereas the previous album leaned a bit harder on the country twang, this album is a bit more polished, commercial and stadium rock sounding. It is a bit less eclectic but it is tight and focused. The production job is very big, befitting the band’s crowds size nowadays and the vocals sound stunning. It may not be the heaviest moment in their catalogue but it is pretty gigantic.

Other interesting things about the album include that it features two cover songs (‘Battleship Chains’ by Georgia Satellites and ‘Rebound’ by Teenage Bottlerocket) but to be honest if you didn’t know they were covers they would seem like originals. There is also the fact that you can get the one track in two versions, either in English as ‘The Bliss’ or with a Danish chorus and guest Danish singer Johan Olsen as ‘For Evigt’ depending on which version you buy.

Highlights include the catchy opener ‘The Devil’s Bleeding Crown’ which has the same sort of stadium stomp as Nickleback‘s ‘Burn It To The Ground’ and has such great vocals, especially the bit where Michael sings “Down, down, dooooown” …as well as the insanely good ‘Goodbye Forever’ which has such an enormous chorus hook and great backing vocals, and finally of course ‘The Loa’s Crossroad’ which has a great stoner-rock riff that could be on a The Sword album if it wanted to.

Its a remarkably consistent album and the kind of thing you can listen to over and over again. Its full of massive music for massive stages, with all the best things about polish and perfection without sounding contrived or overly simplistic. The album prior will probably always be my favourite as it was my introduction to the band, but this one is a superb follow up. It has inspired me to get more Volbeat and I heartily recommend it to anyone who likes rock music. You could like this if you were a Green Day fan, a Guns N’ Roses fan or a Pantera fan. It covers so much ground its bound to please a very wide cross-section of fans. If like me you were late to the Volbeat party, I recommend you immediately rectify that, and then let’s boogie.

Outlaw_Gentlemen_&_Shady_Ladies_Album_CoverYou know an album is good when you listen to it every day for an entire month. I had not been a Volbeat fan up until this point, but early this summer I had caught them at Download Festival between bands that I did know. They played a song that was introduced as being ‘about a shady lady called Lola‘ and it really struck a chord with me. Not least because the guitar solo, played by former Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggiano reminded me of Anthrax‘s ‘Safe Home’ which is a song that I love so much I had it played at my wedding.

If you aren’t too familiar with them either, the simplified description you hear bandied about is that they are supposedly a mixture of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Danzig and Metallica. I mean, that is what people say but obviously the reality won’t be exactly what people say as it never is with these things, but that is the kind of thing people say about them and gets you in the right head-space of roughly what to expect.

This is my first Volbeat album; and normally before reviewing a record I’d know a lot more about the band first, have a lot more research, know more of the discography, but I have been absolutely hammering this every day all month, and I can’t really wait to spooge my approval of it all over the internet.

Now; because I have some kind of obsession with ‘Lola Montez’ as you can guess from the above anecdote, I keep starting the album at track 9, as if that is the beginning. The song, a summery and anthemic Hard Rock tune about a historical dancer and her famed ‘spider dance;’ begins with some gentle chugging and a very melodic lead vocal. Any time I hear it I am instantly transported back to that field at Donnington. I find myself loudly singing ‘the love of your life, yeah-eah eah’ and ‘Lola’s spider daaaaaaa-aaaa-ance’ in the car every single time.

That is followed by ‘Black Bart’ which by contrast is almost a Speed Metal tune. It has the same talented melodic vocals but the guitar and drums are significantly stylistically different.

Speaking of different, this is again followed up with ‘Lonesome Rider’ which has a sort of country or rockabilly feel to it.There are guest vocals from Sarah Blackwood who gives it an even more country twang. Normally, I don’t like too much novelty in my music. Recently, bands like Ghost have helped me loosen up a bit and with how well Volbeat blend all their disparae styles it doesn’t feel like a novelty but just a fresh combination of elements.

The legendary King Diamond, who I’ve grown more accustomed to over the year since getting the boxset of his first five albums, shows up on the tack ‘Room 24’ as another guest star. The track is actually written in a style suitable for him and has the band playing darker, heavier and more bombastic stuff to fit in with the King’s unique style.

Other highlights include the enormously catchy groove metal song ‘Dead But Rising’ and the very stadium sized, Avenged Sevenfold-esque ‘The Nameless.’ (When he says ‘Six feet under and still alert,’ I get real Matt Shadows vibes).

It is a very varied album. It is a very interesting album and it is a very fun album. It is the kind of album you can listen to all the way through over and over again. It is remarkably polished and well produced. It is full of more hooks than a fisherman’s equipment store and it has some intriguing lyrics about genuine historicalcharacthers that may lead you on to further reading.

I can’t tell you how it compares to other Volbeat albums. Maybe it is their best, maybe it is their worst. I’ve got more coming my way in the future so I am happy to find out, but let me tell you this, as a first Volbeat album it is an absolute winner and it has totally sold me on this band hard. ‘Lola Montez’ is absolutely my song of the summer. If you don’t know them, I highly recommend you check them out. Maybe a bit of whoa-lbeat is just whats been missing in your music collection.

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.