Archive for the ‘Rock Studio’ Category

Coheed & Cambria - The Color Before The Sun

Coheed & Cambria – The Color Before The Sun

The Color Before The Sun is the innovative American Prog/Punk/Rock/Metal hybrid band Coheed & Cambria’s eight full-length studio album, it was produced by the band and Jay Joyce (who also contributes some piano) and released in 2015.

That hybrid sound isn’t quite so pronounced this time around though. There’s nothing on here that’s as heavy as the band’s heaviest output, there’s nothing as progressive as the band’s most progressive moments, there’s nothing as fast as the band’s fastest moments. Nothing is so sugary or so lush as the band’s most grandiose ballads of yore. There’s no summery happy single. There’s no ‘Welcome Home’ or ‘No World For Tomorrow’ or ‘Domino The Destitute’ or ‘Sentry The Defiant’ type big smashing centrepiece either. Even Sanchez’s usually immensely emotional, evocative and expressive vocals are a bit more restrained. He’s usually singing about the most dramatic point in a character’s entire life, and Claudio can really make you feel that. Here he still has the talent and the signature style but the performance is a bit more held back, a foot off the gas pedal and less hair raising.

As an album; its very much Coheed on the ‘medium’ setting. As such, it took the album a bit longer to really click with me than usual… but click it did. I’ll admit, the very first time I heard this record in full I didn’t like it much and I could imagine it getting bad reviews from professional critics without the time to really let it sink in because of the fact its such a grower and it does take a bit of listening to reveal all its secrets and hidden depths. Its not even as if it’s a return to roots or going back to their early sound either because although its poppy and cheerful it doesn’t really sound much like Second Stage Turbine Blade either. It’s a bit more raw, honest, stripped back and realistic. The emotions are more human. If you’re willing to give it a chance, the quality’s absolutely there though.

The other big talking point about this record is that the lyrics are no longer conceptual or telling the Amory Wars story, but you’d be hard pressed to notice sometimes with all the mentioning of moons and planets and returning words and ideas the band always use like ‘home’ and ‘love’ etc. The band write about relationships, fatherhood, artistry and similar topics here, same as always in one way, just without the sci-fi angle. There’s some great memorable lines here, with ‘Ghosts,’ ‘Atlas’ and ‘The Audience’ being especially interesting.

The album also goes to town on lots of sing-along moments, there’s a real surplus of ‘woah ah ooooh’s and ‘da dada da’s. It seems like the band are compensating for the lack of power with pleasant smiley moments, and it works well. There’s also a few really sweet, enjoyable guitar lines that’ll stick in your head. Now, on top of that there are some seriously fun moments and memorable choruses; the opener ‘Island’ as well as the singles ‘Here To Mars’ and ‘You’ve Got Spirit, Kid’ in particular are all worth checking out. Another major highlight is the subtle and understated ballad ‘Ghost’ which has some different sounding vocals from Claudio.

Overall; this is a more mature, mid-paced, cohesive and restrained album from Coheed & Cambria. It isn’t as instant or dramatic or adventurous as some of the band’s back catalogue but it is enjoyable and it is worth your time. There’s just something very good about it, it is a real grower, its earthy and honest and it is just very well crafted and succinct with no filler and an absolute boatload of hooks. I recommend it to anyone who’s ever had an interest in the group.

Clutch – Psychic Warfare

Clutch have come a long, long way from their Hardcore roots, and if you do a side-by side comparison of the likes of the Pitchfork or Passive Restraints EPs, you’d scarcely imagine it is the same band. They’ve weaved their way from defining Stoner Rock, to becoming loose and jam focused, to exploring Blues territories. All the way through they’ve been inventive, impressive, consistent and a whole barrel of fun. Almost no band going can claim to have more charm, personality or dependability, and there’s barely been a group on this Earth with the same down to earth vibe and strong work-ethic for such a long, long time. I mean, what other band still has all the original members of its debut album’s line-up, ten albums later?

That’s Clutch for you. Always honest, always consistent and always excellent. They do what they want and they do it well and it always sounds good. With their previous album, 2013’s Earth Rocker, the band stripped away all the frills and delivered the most focused and electrifying performance possible, with arguably the most trim and electric collection of tunes to date. It was a damn good album, with a good direction for the band at that moment in time, and the press and the public stood up, took notice and started to realize just what an amazing band Clutch had been all along. Clutch concerts had bigger audiences, you see more people in the streets wearing Clutch shirts and Clutch get more mentions on podcasts and magazines and popular music websites than they have in a while. Altogether; a triumph, well deserved and long-earned, with no hint of compromise. The band’s public mindshare has gone up and down over the year but right now feels like a golden era.

Psychic Warfare now comes along, two years later in 2015, and follows the same formula. Clutch give a damn focused, lazer-beam version of their trademark sound, in a briefer, more succinct fashion than ever before. They speed up the tempos, they give an even sweatier more powerful performance, and they never compromise what makes them so good in the first place.

‘X-Ray Visions,’ ‘Sucker For The Witch,’ ‘Decapitation Blues’ and especially ‘Noble Savage’ are barrelling, fast-paced rockers. Hold on to something or the album might well knock you over. ‘A Quick Death In Texas’ is a funky ZZ Top-flavoured smile-inducer that recalls previous work like ‘DC Sound Attack’ in its funky midsection and ‘50,000 Unstoppable Watts’ in its uplifting chorus (and features amusing lyrics about a man in mortal peril after having seduced ZZ Top’s singer’s wife). Balance is achieved with the sublime ‘Our Lady Of Electric Light’ and ‘Son Of Virginia’ which recall the very best of the slow side of Clutch; think ‘Drink To The Dead,’ ‘The Face,’ ‘The Regulator’ and ‘Basket Of Eggs’ and you’re in the right territory… but damn, these two are particularly strong, evocative and entertaining. It doesn’t overdo the slow moments, it doesn’t overdo the instrumental noodling, and even with all the speed it isn’t repetitive or simplistic. It is a pretty perfect mixture that captures Clutch as they are in 2015 absolutely masterfully.

As always, the musicianship is otherworldly with some of the most subtly fantastic drums in the industry and bass and guitar lines that will stick in your head for years if history is anything to go by – no one’s showing off but everyone comes across like a virtuoso. Fallon’s superb vocals are as sharp as ever; full of story-selling conviction and passion as he screams, sings, bellows and worries his way through poplar music’s greatest lyrical adventures since Phil Lynott passed away. The man knows how to convey drama, that’s for sure! I want to single out a few choice lyrics every time I review a Clutch record, so stupendous are the band at creating memorable lines, but man, I’d just have the whole damn record’s lyrics down this time!

Album highlights? Every damn song! Don’t even bother with a tester. If you like the band, you’ll love this. Overall; If you like the band then you absolutely need this in your collection. If you don’t like the band then you’re seriously missing out on something special – maybe try again now and reevaluate. In any case; I don’t reckon it would be humanly possible for Clutch to have made a better album and I can’t imagine enjoying anything they could’ve come up with this time more. I know it goes against my Catholic upbringing, but I’m a sucker for this album.

Stone Temple Pilots – Tiny Music Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop

Tiny Music Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop was the third full length studio album by San Diego Grunge band Stone Temple Pilots. It was released in 1996 and produced by Brendan O’Brian. This third album continues their trend of not having two albums in a row sound much like each other. The first album was a weighty, almost Metallic mixture of Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam’s styles, blended together. Their second was a moody, mid-paced, thoughtful record that embraced “Alternative” more than Grunge specifically. This third album is a breezy, summery album, with pleasant melodies, jangly psychedelic moments and a bit more speed than Purple had.

The album is almost in two halves, firstly of enjoyable, slightly heavy Rock songs with enough bite to satisfy but simple and easily digestible enough to be memorable and entertaining, and the rest is more laid back, mildly trippy music that evokes Gentle Giant’s less complex moments, or indeed The Beatles. It’s a very good mixture that balances well together and makes for a strong record overall. Experimental enough to sound fresh but grounded enough to give you what you want.

Highlights include ‘Tumble In The Rough,’ ‘Lady Picture Show’ and the famous ‘Trippin On A Hole In A Paper Heart’ …three tracks equally as strong and memorable as anything off the excellent debut Core, and as separate from the styles of other bands as anything on Purple. These sit alongside the likes of ‘Dead And Bloated’ and ‘Sex Type Thing’ as some of the most fun songs the band have released, but without losing the artsy identity the band found for themselves with tracks like ‘Silvergun Superman.’ A best of both worlds, if no stylistically then at least in terms of quality.

Overall; Tiny Music has all the benefits of pleasant disposable summery fun music, but with the talent and backing to make it last. If you like this band, or this sort of music, its an absolute must. Its probably the band’s most fun and easily accessible album and its absolutely worth your time. Don’t let the headlines or anything put you off. Don’t miss out!

Rishloo - Living As Ghosts With Buildings As Teeth

Rishloo – Living As Ghosts With Buildings As Teeth

Living As Ghosts With Buildings As Teeth is the crowd-funded reunion album from the incredible Seattle Progressive band Rishloo. Its their fourth full-length album overall and sees the band back together now that singer Andrew Mailloux has returned to the fold and the other bandmembers changed their separate crowd-funded new instrumental band The Ghost Apparatus back into Rishloo. Its been an interesting wait as a fan, but I won’t bury the lead… that wait was well worth it!

Consisting of just eight tracks with no intros, outros or hidden bonuses, this is the bands most succinct and concise offering to date, but you can file that under fat-free and lean rather than skimping on extras.

Stylistically; if you haven’t heard the band before, they are often compared to bands like Tool, A Perfect Circle, Coheed & Cambria, The Mars Volta, Porcupine Tree, Soen, Dredg, Fair To Midland, Jurojin, Cog, Karnivool, Circe, The Mayan Factor and others. No single comparison there really does justice to what you can actually expect, but if you understand the sort of common theme between all of those bands you can at least expect the right ballpark. On top of that, Rishloo are also constantly developing and evolving, and no two of their albums sound that much alike because they progress and change over time (while always retaining a certain core identity where you can still tell its them straight away) so even their own catalogue doesn’t necessarily train you for what to expect here. This album is stylistically a million miles from their 2004 debut Terras Fames, but in a way that makes sense and feels logical.

In that spirit, Living As Ghosts With Buildings As Teeth is no simple retreading of their back catalogue, nor any attempt to sound like someone else. On this album Rishloo sound like nobody but Rishloo. Even the previous Tool comparisons bounce limply off this album like wooden arrows off a tank. Hints is all you get, the rest is new. This record sees the band mix things up even more and explore different sounds, textures and combinations. Drew tries out new voices and styles he hasn’t used before, such as the deranged sounding heavy vocals in the middle of ‘Winslow.’ There are guitar styles a past fan wouldn’t expect. Things that only came up once on a previous album are given more time.

The rhythms are more disjointed and jarring. There’s even more playing in uncommon time signatures and switching between tempos; opener ‘The Great Rain Beatle’ is particularly jagged, its unhinged and yet hypnotic like some psychedelic nightmare and makes Mars Volta comparisons more understandable… its like the most jagged parts of ‘Scissorlips’ made into an entire song. So too is the jazzier single ‘Landmines’ in its heavier sections. Although that being said, towards the end from the guitar solo onwards that kicks into some beautiful, straightforward head-banging energy.

There are also more hints of classic ‘70s Progressive Rock here than there have been on previous albums, to the point where (deep and hidden) you get feelings of almost Tales Of Topographic Oceans era Yes sounds at some stages (such as the middle of ‘Dark Charade’), and the intro to ‘Salutations’ reminds me a little of Pink Floyd’s ‘Hey You’ and ‘Don’t Leave Me Now’ updated through some Radiohead and Deftones filters. There’s also five-second bursts of King Crimson influence all over the place in spidery Fripp-esque guitar runs crammed in there every now and again by the underrated Dave Gillet. None of it is overt though, its subtle, bubbling under the surface. Hints.

Its difficult to pick album highlights in such a well-crafted, concise and consistent body of work; ‘Dark Charade’ for example has THAT riff, and afterwards kicks off into an exciting build-up that feels like the sequel to ‘Downhill’ off of the previous record and ‘Dead Rope Machine’ is just so unique, its like every song has its own identity and something completely singular to offer. Gun-to-my-head I’d have to recommend that you check out ‘Winslow’ (which people who followed the whole Ghost Apparatus period might recognize) and ‘Just A Ride’ as your tester-songs to see whether or not you’d like the album. Jesse’s drums on those two are particularly excellent. ‘Just A Ride’ is the absolute perfect ending to this roller-coaster of an album and features the defining lyrics of this whole saga. That said, the whole thing works so well as a single journey that I almost feel bad picking favourites.

There are some things you can always count on Rishloo for; Firstly – interesting, poetic, provocative, intriguing lyrics. Secondly – powerful, emotional, evocative vocal performances. There’s also always interesting, spiraling, unexpected music that will defy initial expectations but feel ‘right’ once you’re used to it. Furthermore you can count on a certain arty air of mystique and most of all, quality songwriting depth that means you never get sick of the tracks, they just get better and better with each listen. Considering all these aspects, this new album is no exception to the rule, no misstep and no weak one in the set. This album has it all; whimsy, brooding, passion, intensity, subtlety, power, aggression, chilled out moments, virtuosic moments and scaled-back serve-the-song-not-the-player moments. Its got a strong sense of diversity yet feels like one cohesive whole throughout and a single journey (or ‘ride’) from start to glorious finish.

If you are a fan of the band then you unquestionably need this satisfying grower of an album. That may be a bit of a redundant sentiment but it’s the absolute truth; I know that if you are an existing fan of the band then you probably crowd funded The Ghost Apparatus or pre-ordered the record already and got rewarded with early access downloads, so recommending it to you seems like preaching to the choir… but if you haven’t checked out the band yet, or were waiting for the reviews then by all means please do give this a chance. This album is just as good as their previous work and if you give it enough spins to reveal its subtleties and hidden depths you will be greatly rewarded.

Oh, and if you enjoy it make sure to go back and check out the rest of their records too!

*** Side note: If you are a regular reader of this blog and generally agree with most of my taste in music, or like any of the comparison-bands, you can consider checking out this band as a personal favour to me. That’s how much I recommend them! ***

W.A.S.P - The Crimson Idol

W.A.S.P – The Crimson Idol

The Crimson Idol is the fifth full-length studio album by the Los Angels based band W.A.S.P. It was self-produced by singer Blackie Lawless (with help from Ross Robinson) and released in 1992 through Capitol records. The album sees a personnel change within the band as guitarist Chris Holmes is replaced by Bob Kulic of Kiss/Meatloaf fame. It was originally going to be a solo album but record label politics changed that idea and it ended up as a W.A.S.P record.

This album is a concept album or rock opera which tells the semi-autobiographical life story of a fictional Rock Star named Jonathan Steel and his struggles with fame and the strains that this places on his relationships. There are some minor narrative similarities with Savatage’s 1991 release Streets: A Rock Opera (which tells the story of a fictional rock star too), and Pink Floyd’s The Wall, although each are different enough from each other so as not to cause too much outrage.

Musically there are a lot of recurring themes and variations on those themes, with parts switching from instrument to instrument, from overdriven to acoustic, from background to foreground etc.

On this album, Blackie really stepped up and improved greatly as a writer and performer. The vocals are much more impressive and emotional than before. There is also an incredibly enthusiastic and bombastic approach to the drums (courtesy of both Stet Howland, as well as former Quiet Riot man Frankie Banali who appears here and on their previous album The Headless Children), and a very cavernous, exaggerated production style, which gives the record a very unique sound and feel. Their previous album hinted at a new level of maturity and ambition, but this artistic and confident record is the fulfillment of that promise.

Highlights include: “Chainsaw Charlie (Murders In The New Morgue)” “I Am One” and the eight-minute “The Idol.” That being said, the record really works best when listened to as a whole.

Overall; The Crimson Idol is a really unique and interesting sounding album, with talented performances (especially in the vocal and drumming departments). It shows the band expanding their sound and trying new things. This really is a classic album, one that lives up to its hype, and I highly recommend that you check it out.

W.A.S.P – W.A.S.P S/T Review

Posted: July 15, 2014 by kingcrimsonprog in Metal, Metal - Studio, Music Reviews, Rock, Rock Studio

W.A.S.P - W.A.S.P

W.A.S.P – W.A.S.P

The Los Angeles based band W.A.S.P’s eponymous 1984 debut album is an absolute classic, filled with numerous memorable tracks that stand the test of time.

At the time of its initial release, you were more likely to read about the band for their non-musical antics than for the actual quality of their material, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that the band were all about shock, gore and perversion – with the music as a mere afterthought, because in actual fact the music on here is catchy, powerful, technically-impressive Hard Rock/Heavy Metal with a broad appeal; mixing elements of Kiss’ sound with the Power of Judas Priest. They were one of the heaviest, most bad-ass bands from their scene.

Singer Blackie Lawless has a lot of character in his voice and puts in a charismatic and loud performance with a lot of energy. The band play equally energetically and deliver powerful fills and memorable solos throughout. The whole album is packed full of anthemic choruses too.

Highlights include the concert-favourtie opener “I Wanna Be Somebody” which is immensely catchy, as well as “Hellion” and the very heavy and aggressive “The Torture Never Stops.”

Compared to other albums in their cannon, this is one of their most direct, powerful and passionate records. Its filled with the rebellious spirit of youth, scorching metallic playing and yet it still has an attuned ear for melody.

Overall; W.A.S.P’s first full-length studio album is a bone-fide classic which should not be overlooked due to non-musical reasons.

Pearl Jam - Lightning Bolt

Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt

Pearl Jam’s 2013 album, Lightning Bolt, was their fourth consecutive album with Matt Cameron on drums and Boom Gaspar on guest keyboards. It was the sixth out of their ten studio efforts to be produced by famed producer Brendan O’Brian. It was released shortly after all the celebration of the band’s 20th anniversary.

I was incredibly pleased with the band’s previous effort, 2009’s superb Backspacer album, and was slightly concerned initially that the band would perhaps not be able to follow up such a strong effort this late in their career. I needn’t have worried because Lightning Blot continues the trend of really inspired material and bright performances. While not just as upbeat and summery as its predecessor, it is equally well-written and enjoyable.

The album follows a nice journey, that begins a bit jangly, takes off into a solid rock flavor and ends in balladry. There’s a bit of variety, and you can here touches of different Pearl Jam eras from No Code-esque stuff to Riot Act style material, but it all fits together well.

The songs are fairly concise, and not overlong, mirroring the record itself… there isn’t much extra filler or any weird experimental outros. Its just half a record of the band rocking out and having good fun, and half thoughtful songwriters crafting meaningful pieces, a rather nice balance of the band’s two main directions anyway. Speedy, aggressive moments like “My Father’s Son” balance out contemplative, haunting moments like “Pendulum.”

Highlights include the sad yet jaunty ballad “Sleeping By Myself,” the powerful garage rock number “Let The Records Play,” the catchy single “Mind Your Manners” and the excellent Title Track.

Overall; Lightning Bolt is a strong and entertaining album, and I wouldn’t find it too unreasonable to claim that it was rated firmly in the top-half of their discography.