Archive for the ‘Rock Studio’ Category

Against Me! – New Wave Review

Posted: April 28, 2019 by kingcrimsonprog in Music Reviews, Rock, Rock Studio

2007’s New Wave is the fourth full-length studio album by Florida Punk band Against Me! It was produced by Butch Vig (Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins, AFI), and saw the band get both a huge boost in audience and a huge backlash from their early fans. The story of it is really interesting, and I’d recommend reading their singer Laura Jane Grace’s autobiography, ‘’Tranny.’’

I haven’t been with the band since the beginning, in fact, I read the aforementioned autobiography first based upon reputation alone and worked backwards, so I am completely immune to all this backlash, and to my ears, this album is not only a stone cold, unarguable classic but also, in the short time I have had with it, one of my absolute favourite albums I have heard by any band, no caveats. That is huge praise from me, becuase I usually have a thousand caveats to every recomendation and like to catagorise things to death.

The lyrics are absolutely phenomenal. So clever, biting, insightful, and interesting …not to mention catchy) and are such a good mixture of personal, political and punk. There are pre-coming out lyrics about the conflicted feelings about identity, there are Bush era political lyrics about America’s place in the world and there are punk perspective lyrics about the music industry. Regardless of what they’re about, the way they’re written, the way they flow and are delivered is just fantastic.

Then there’s the songs; from the ramshackle punk road trip feel of ‘’Americans Abroad’’ to the almost Franz Ferdinand vibes of the insanely catchy ‘’Up The Cuts’’ to the trippy and loose ‘’The Ocean’’ there is a real diverse range of style explored. The quality of the songs is outstanding, each setting out to do something different and each absolutely nailing it.

I don’t know if it is the passion, the production or the way they were penned, but almost every song on this is an absolute 10/10.  The album feels more like a greatest hits compilation than a single album. ‘’White People For Peace’’ is so explosive, ‘’Piss And Vinegar’’ is so fun and danceable, and the famous ‘’Thrash Unreal’’ is so emotional (especially in hindsight after its unintentional sister song ‘’Because Of The Shame’’ was released).

I am no writer, so I have a very limited way of recommending this album that really doesn’t do it justice. Masterpiece, Classic, Genius, these words all seem too generic and inaccurate to describe how good this record is and how highly I’d recommend it to you, (”but I just can’t help but think that there’s comparison.”) I wouldn’t even do a ”for fans of…’ becuase I just purely recomend it to everyone. No caveats.

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.’

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.

 

 

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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.


Transgender_Dysphoria_Blues_cover_artI recently read (or listened to, as it was on Audible rather than a physical book) Against Me!’s singer’s autobiography. I hadn’t been a fan previously, didn’t really know the band. I got curious about it as their former drummer Jay Weinberg (who actually turns out wasn’t that big a part of the story) became the new drummer in Slipknot.

That book had everything; class war, betrayal, bereavement, record industry inside information, conflict, relationship drama and a really intelligent and well spoken author delivering an insightful and interesting story of self-discovery and identity. Couldn’t have asked for a better rock biography.

That obviously lead me to try out some of the band’s music, like the raw and political debut album, and the angry anti-music business conceptual third album, the commercial and controversial White Crosses. Then of course; I heard this album.

I don’t know if there is such a thing as a perfect album. Its all subjective, every lyric, every note, every drum beat, the production, the running order, the ratio of familiarity to innovation. Its all incredibly subjective and you can nitpick anything. That being said…

This album has such a perfect length, perfect lack of filler, perfect production job that’s big but not over polished, perfect running order and such excellent lyrics. Now I know its all highly political and if you are strongly anti-Trans you are never going to like the album anyway, but let’s just pretend such people won’t be reading some Irish nerd’s music blog and move on.

I may be a bleeding heart liberal; but that isn’t what makes the album good. You could be talking about these issues and write bad songs. You could mishandle the tone and have hamfisted lyrics. You could have a terrible production job that spoils good music. There’s nothing like that here.

The lyrics are so brilliantly honest, biting and insightful. Laura’s lyrics are really top-drawer stuff; up there with the best lyricists out there, like Dave Wyndrof and Neil Fallon. Coupled with vocal delivery that ranges from vulnerable to snarling to explosive, they really take on a life of their own and paint such an evocative picture. I don’t know if it is due to having had already read the book, but you can just picture everything in your mind’s eye.

‘Black Me Out’ for example, when she snarls ‘I just want to chop those brass rings off your fat fucking fingers, as if you were a kingmaker. Black me out.’ and ‘As if you were my pimp, as if I was your fucking whore’ the sheer raw emotion in the vocals are just breathtaking and you feel like you are right there in the room with them. During ‘Two Coffins’ the gentle tone of the vocal can almost make me cry. Furthermore in ‘True Trans Soul Rebel’ there is a breakdown dynamic to the music where she wails ‘you should have been a mother, you should have been a wife’ which sounds so wounded it is almost touching.

Brilliant lyrics, brilliant vocals. On top of that, as above, it sounds fantastic. It has the perfect mix of rawness and polish, you can really hear the power of the guitar differently depending on how hard the strings are hit. There’s a drum fill in the jaunty shuffling title track and you can hear the toms and cymbals so clearly you can literally picture the exact direction the cymbal is vibrating in.

The musical direction is nice and varied. With folsky twang one minute, indie buzz the next, alternative rock leads after that and punk power following that. ‘Unconditional Love’ even sounds like Warning-era Green Day. There’s something for everyone here. Its the kind of album that literally every track is a must hear song. There isn’t one you could cut, not one you could skip, nothing that needs extending or shortening. It seems pretty much the perfect length.

Overall; this is pretty much as good as a rock album can get. There’s great music, a great sound, there’s honest and depth, and best of all there’s no wasted time or unnecessary fat. If you haven’t heard it, check it out.

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.