Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

1000x1000Warriors Of The Road: The Saxon Chronicles Part 2 is a Live and Documentary combo release by the legendary British Heavy Metal pioneers Saxon. It features several concerts from 2012-2013 Festivals in the UK and mainland Europe on Disc 2, and a fairly lengthy documentary on Disc 1. There’s also a third disc, which is the entire 45 minute Steelhouse Festival set on CD. Disc 1 also has a few video clips from the Call To ArmsUnplugged & Strung Up era, such as ‘Hammer Of The Gods,’ an acoustic version of ‘Frozen Rainbow’ and more. Some of the videos are a bit silly looking but that’s part of the charm really.

The documentary is fairly interesting, not quite as great as their previous Heavy Metal Thunder documentary, but still entertaining. It is intercut with live footage of the Steelhouse Festival (with their infamous Eagle lighting prop) and features the band members in all sorts of settings covering topics such as about their time on the road and their touring work ethic, about the band members themselves and their influences and history before joining the band, about being in the studio and about The Steelhouse Festival etc. The whole feature is about an hour and thirty-seven minutes so its pretty good value for money. Its a bit loose and not very po faced. The narration is a bit off-putting for me however. It almost sounds like its going to be a parody, but it isn’t, its straight faced, but its got the wrong tone for it to be serious. There are comedic moments in terms of the band’s anecdotes though, such as when Nigel once did such a long drum fill the momentum carried him along and he fell clean off his stool and riser. Its good stuff, but not essential. While the documentary is what the product is sold on the strength of, for me the real joy of the disc is in the live sets.

The tracklistings are as following:

Download Festival 2012:

01. Heavy Metal Thunder
02. Hammer Of The Gods
03. Power And The Glory
04. 20,000 Feet
05. Strong Arm Of The Law
06. Denim And Leather
07. Wheels Of Steel
08. Princess Of The Night
09. And The Bands Played On

Wacken 2012:

01. Heavy Metal Thunder
02. Hammer Of The Gods
03. Power And The Glory
04. 20,000 Ft
05. Never Surrender
06. Dogs Of War
07. Motorcycle Man
08. I’ve Got To Rock (To Stay Alive)
09. Crusader
10. Rock The Nations
11. Drum Solo
12. Battalions Of Steel
13. The Eagle Has Landed
14. Wheels Of Steel
15. To Hell And Back Again
16. Denim And Leather
17. Strong Arm Of The Law
18. 747 (Strangers In The Night)
19. Princess Of The Night

Graspop 2013:

01. Sacrifice
02. Wheels Of Terror
03. Power And The Glory
04. Heavy Metal Thunder
05. Made In Belfast
06. Denim And Leather
07. Motorcycle Man
08. I’ve Got To Rock (To Stay Alive)
09. Stand Up And Fight
10. 747 (Strangers In The Night)
11. Strong Arm Of The Law
12. Wheels Of Steel
13. Crusader
14. Princess Of The Night

Steelhouse Festival 2013:

01. Sacrifice
02. Wheels Of Terror
03. And The Bands Played On
04. Conquistador
05. The Eagle Has Landed
06. Stand Up And Fight
07. 747
08. Crusader
09. Denim & Leather
10. Princess Of The Night

The setlists are maybe a bit too similar to sit and watch them all one after eachother but they are all worth seeing, even if you do it one at a time (I mean when you add it all up there’s over 230 minutes of live footage across these two discs, pace yourself!).  The band are a very consistent live act. Any one of these concerts is good enough on the band’s performance to be a product in and of itself. The overall theme of them is very good, its nice hearing the beefy new material like ‘Stand Up & Fight’ or ‘Made In Belfast’ mixed in with the all time hits like ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ and ‘Denim & Leather’ or the heavier faster old stuff like ‘20,000 Feet’ and ‘The Power And The Glory.’ In terms of recording and production, they are all fairly strong shows, although none of them are perfect. Visually there’s no complaints, its all very professionally shot and edited and looks fine on Blu Ray in 1080i. In terms of performance the band are energetic and enthused – they have that live feel and some songs are faster than their studio counterparts or whatever. The sound is probably the only thing you might find fault with… Some of the shows have one thing too quiet in the mix, such as the drums, or for example a not-heavy-enough guitar tone, there’s something you can pick out in each one. Some of it is produced quieter than the menu music which is a bit jarring. All that is minor stuff however. The main point is it is clear, well made and capturing a good performance by a great band. A release I really compare this to is Anyplace As Crazy As Anywhere Else by Motorhead… its several different festival sets from a two year period, with roughly similar setlist and standard of quality on each set.

At the end of the day, this release has a lot going for it. A long documentary, a lot of live footage, a few bonus video clips. Its a very good value for money offering. Whether you might like it or whether you should buy it really depends on how much Saxon you want and how much you already have. They’ve already released documentaries, they’ve already released live concerts (from all different eras, before and now even after this one). If you don’t have any Saxon video releases this is a damn good release to pick up. Saxon are such a great band, every bit as good as their peers in the likes of Motorhead and Maiden and Priest, and these sets, for example the Waken 2012 set are worth an Metal fan’s time. If you already have lots of Saxon video releases maybe there isn’t enough to make this one stand out, but for everyone else I’d definitely recommend giving it a shot. Live Saxon is always a good bet.

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220px-Blind_guardian_follow_the_blindFollow The Blind is the second full-length studio album by the legendary German Power Metal band, Blind Guardian. It was released in 1989 and sees the band in a bit of a transition period, much more advanced than their debut but not yet fully developed into the full on Power Metal style they would become famous for on the next half-dozen albums.

It also sees the band leaning more into a Thrash Metal direction than at any point in their career, with notable Bay Area Thrash influences in particular. If you like Exodus, Testament and Forbidden’s debuts, and you also like Power Metal then this album is a delightful middle ground. Its harder and more aggressive than future Blind Guardian records, and has also yet to develop the more progressive tendencies of their later period. What it lacks in scope however, it makes up for in sheer fury. I think this album would be a great introduction to the band and indeed to the subgenre for fans of Thrash who are maybe afraid of Power Metal due to its reputation as being a bit flowery and wimpy compared to other Metal styles.

On the downside however, for Power Metal fans especially, all that Thrash influence leaves less room for catchiness, melodies and variety as compared to their other work. That is not to say it is devoid of those qualities, just that it is a smaller percentage of the music than usual. Listen to ‘Fast To Madness’ for example… a brilliant Metal song, but you wouldn’t generate as big a sing-along as say ‘Time Stands Still at the Iron Hill.’ The title track does experiment with different tempos and balancing heavy and clean styles, but more in a …And Justice For All/The Years Of Decay way than in an Imaginations From The Other Side way. Both fine ways to be sure, just depends what mood you are in and what expectations you had when you bought the album in the first place.

In terms of songwriting quality, I think Blind Guardian’s albums sort of just got better and better up until about Nightfall In Middle Earth, and so I think this album is better than their debut but not yet as good as Tales From The Twilight World, or the classic Somewhere Far Beyond. That is of course not to say its poor, just that it isn’t as good as the really good stuff. In terms of production, its a bit noisy and harsh on the ears, and works better in small chunks than as a whole. Not unlike fellow Power Metal Pioneers Helloween’s Thrashy Walls Of Jericho album in that regard.

Speaking of Helloween, Kai Hansen makes some guest appearances on this album, both on guitar on ‘Hall Of The King’ and on Guitar and Vocals on ‘Valhalla.’ These for me are two of the best songs on the album anyway, and are made even better by Kai’s presence. The other main highlight is the excellent instrumental ‘Beyond The Ice’ which is one of the best songs on the album for me, very pummeling, quite diverse and with astounding guitar work… it really shows off what a force the band are musically with its bouncy toms and double kicks and the excellent range of riffs and solos.

Overall; Follow The Blind is an experimental album that sees the band trying to find their sound. It is arguably the hardest, fastest and heaviest of their records and arguably the least melodic and catchy. It is however a very decent album that no Blind Guardian fan should miss out on (how could you be a fan and deprive yourself of ‘Banished From Sanctuary’ or ‘Valhalla’?) and that would be a good starting point for fans of heavier music trying Blind Guardian out.

*Ps. The Remastered edition has two cover songs and four early demos to add some value for money. None worth upgrading over in and of themselves, but very welcome if you are getting em for free anyway. *

r-9299096-1481877844-1972-jpegWhen I first heard of Motley Crue I didn’t like them. I was young, Nu Metal was what the Magazines were saying was cool and anything Glam or Hair related was advertised as being terrible, cliched, sexist nonsense for old men who had all grown out of rock music now and were embarrassed to admit they used to like it. That’s what I was told anyway, and though it turns out that this idea was very much a caricature of the real situation I was fool enough to believe it an ignored the band for the next decade or so. Eventually a friend bought me their biography, The Dirt, and I read it since I usually enjoy a good band book and it was rather famous in and of itself as a book so I was tempted to try even if I wasn’t a fan of the band. Upon reading I instantly grew to dislike the band. Cheating, stealing, rude, ungrateful, disrespectful of other’s hard work and property, they didn’t seem like nice people (apparently I forgot about the whole Rock N Roll thing… because everyone else who read the book said ‘Wow, what a badass’ where I thought ‘You are the opposite of an upstanding citizen’). It did make me wonder why anybody liked the band, and that lead me to listen to their music.

…Oh. It all made sense now. Songs like ‘Bastard,’ ‘Red Hot,’ ‘Use It Or Loose It’ and ‘Live Wire’ all tapped into my love of Speed Metal and NWOBHM with their familiar sound… pounding drums, chugging guitars, shouting vocals. What do you mean they toured with Saxon in the early days!? ….That let me in the door and soon I discovered the rest and gladly so. Oh, songs like Don’t Go Away Mad are like an updated version of Kiss… it all makes sense.

Fast forward a few years and its time to review The End, the final concert from the final tour in the storied and legendary band’s career. Available in many formats, CD, Vinyl, DVD and Blu Ray, normal and deluxe editions, there’s many ways to buy this. For me it was standard edition Blu Ray.

Sonically; its very good. The music is clear, big and well-produced. Its got umph. The mix is just right. Visually; its a treat. The picture is excellent, the camera work is on point, the editing is well done (maybe I could loose a few of the slow motion shots but that’s just personal taste) and the actual content of the show is very visually interesting… there’s flames, a specially designed stage with spikes and pentagrams and the band’s name, there’s lazers and even a rollercoaster. The band tower above the crowd on cherrypickers a one point. Its a very big Rock N’ Roll show to match the likes of Kiss, Rammstein and Rob Zombie.

The setlist is quite strong, lots of material from the first four albums, Primal Scream, and a few from the more recent Saints Of Los Angeles. Basically, only material by the full ‘classic line up.’ More or less hit after hit. In terms of less-famous songs they even play my favourite Crue non-single ‘Louder Than Hell’ off of the underrated Theater Of Pain.

So; it looks good, it sounds good and they play good songs. Sounds perfect, right? Well… uh, here’s the thing. The performance is a bit patchy. Maybe even a lot patchy. I mean, Motley Crue are good performers as entertainers… the flame-thrower bass guitar and the crowd interaction and the first pumping excitement raising is all very good in terms of live performance. Its just, the key thing, y’know, playing the songs, where it falls down for me. There’s numerous musical fluffs and mistakes and missed ques. There’s questionable reworkings of classic songs that might’ve made ’em feel updated but miss the mark (‘Shout At The Devil’ I’m lookin at you!) and Vince’s vocals are very sloppy. I have a lot of good will for him and don’t want to slag him off unnecessarily, but man, he is so out of breath, misses so many lines, delivers so many lines in an inappropriate pitch or tone or volume, overall just does not sing these songs either as well as on record or indeed, very well at all.

You could probably forgive a few fluffed transitions and you can get over a few of the questionable moments like Vince doing a happy sexy dance to the word ‘rape’ if you keep in your mind its a concert and not everything would be absolutely perfect, but the singing is such a let down it really is a bit of a deal breaker for me. You can add a few more points if you are a diehard fan I guess, but you can also detract a few if you are a fan of any album between ‘Feelgood and ‘Saints.

I also find the drum solo very… um, well. Drum solos should usually be about showing how well you can play the drums, not just playing along to some dubstep. The rollercoaster was cool and I guess its difficult to play a virtuosic solo when you are upside down, but seriously who comes to Motely Crue wanting to hear dubstep? Maybe I’m nitpicking. Its interesting that they caught on film the one time it goes wrong and Tommy gets stuck in midair like an amusement park malfunction. Its just hard to imagine that it was pitched to the right audience maybe.

I go through two different moods when watching this. First, the cynical mood – ‘Wow, look at those passed-their-prime guys who all hate eachother showing up for the money and not even being on-point musically’ and then the more optimistic ‘Wow, look at those guys up there putting aside their differences to give the fans what they want, and so what if they don’t play perfectly as they put on a big enough spectacle to compensate.’ Sometimes it varies from viewing to viewing, and sometimes it varies from song to song in a single viewing, but I never have settled into deciding which way I feel definitively, and I never did stop viewing.

So that’s the concert. What about the bonus features? Well, there’s a quick four-minute feature about the Flamethrower Bass which is just Nicky talking about his history with pyro and why the one in this concert is the best. Then there’s a similar five-and a-half minute feature on Tommy’s drum rollercoaster and why visuals are important to a live audience. The best feature is a 35 minute interview section with the band where they answer all sorts of questions ans start reflecting on their history and how far they’ve come. None of these features are deal-breakers that you’d buy the disc over if you didn’t want the concert, but are welcome enough for a one-off watch.

Overall; There’s a lot to recommend this concert on – a setlist of mainly hits, a great sound and look, a big rock spectacle, historical significance etc. There’s a few bonus features to add some extra value for money. There’s also a pretty big downside however – the band and especially the singer don’t do as good a job as you’d hope. Whether you can put up with that is up to you. Or like me, maybe you buy it anyway and struggle to figure out if you can put up with it while still watching it a lot.

accept-restless-and-live-blind-rage-over-europeRestless & Live is a concert release from the veteran German Heavy Metal legends Accept. It was released on Nuclear Blast Records in 2017 on several formats; such as a CD set with tracks taken from different concerts across the touring cycle for Blind Rage (their third studio album since being reinvigorated by the joining of new singer Mark Tornillo). It was also released as a Blu Ray of a single entire performance at 2015’s Bang Your Head Festival. If you’ve got a bit more money to splash out you can get a set with the Blu Ray and CD versions, or if you prefer DVDs that’s also an option.

My personal preference for concert movies or albums is that they come from on single concert not a mix of shows, and if available preferably on Blu Ray, so for me this was the version I went for and am most happy with. (which this review will be focusing on).

In terms of specs: The Blu Ray version is in 1080p with PCM Stereo and DTS HD Master 5.1 options, Region:All. There aren’t any bonus features. There’s a booklet with some photos but no linear notes.

So the main reason you are buying this disc is for the concert; which is about an hour and forty-five minutes of blistering classic Heavy Metal. The 18-song tracklisting is pretty heavily focused on the three Tornillo-era albums, with a few of the classic ’80s crowdpleasing tunes added in as well. So if you’ve already got the DVD that came with Blind Rage its still worth checking this out for the different tracklisting and higher production values. (The CD version of Restless & Wild contains 27 songs and more of a mix of material).

The tracklisting is: 1. Stampede 2. Stalingrad 3. London Leatherboys 4. Restless & Wild 5. Dying Breed 6. Final Journey 7. Shadow Soldiers 8. Losers & Winners 9. 200 Years 10. Midnite Mover 11. No Shelter 12. Princess Of The Dawn 14. Pandemic 15. Fast As A Shark 16. Metal Heart 17. Teutonic Terror 18. Balls To The Wall

The performance is tight and professional but still has that ‘live’ feeling and energy, it isn’t all sterile but it isn’t loose and sloppy either, its just right. They all give it gusto and look pretty into it. There’s no complaints on vocals, musicianship or song selection for me. Wolf Hoffman’s guitar solos are as entertaining as you would expect and there’s a fun bass versus guitar trade off section at one point. The camera work, editing, sound and mix are all solid. Nothing jarring or out of place, no sync issues, all instruments audible and in correct balance. The songs sound clear and yet muscular.

Its a pretty simple and honest affair. There’s no gimmicks here; no big show with giant robot crabs on stage or band members catching fire or shooting lazers out of their eyes, and there’s no life changing documentary, no animations weaved into the concert or anything… but if you want to buy an Accept live concert and watch songs like ‘Fast As A Shark’ and ‘Balls To The Wall’ played well by the new line-up and competently captured and prepared for home viewing then it is an absolutely fine product and I highly recommend it to fans of the band, especially to fans of the newer three albums. For me, watching songs like ‘No Shelter,’ ‘Stalingrad’ and ‘Pandemic’ belted out enthusiastically are worth the money.

If you are new to the band, this is a very strong starting place, (if not entirely representative of the overall discography) and if you are a fan already its a worthy addition to your collection.

Machine Head - Bloodstone & Diamonds

Machine Head – Bloodstone & Diamonds

In 2014, Nuclear Blast records released the eight full-length studio album by the now-legendary Bay Area based Heavy Metal band Machine Head, entitled Bloodstone & Diamonds.

It was their first without longtime bassist Adam Duce (a huge part of the band’s sound) and the first with new bassist Jared MacEachern. This line-up shift leaves frontman Robb Flynn as the sole original member. Luckily long-time drummer Dave McClain is still on board as he has been for everything except the debut, and Phil Demmel is still there as he has been for the last three exceptionally good albums, leaving a feeling of consistency and cushioning the blow of such a big loss.

Produced by bandleader Robb Flynn & Juan Urteaga, mixed by Colin Richardson (with additional work from Andy Sneap and Steve Lagudi); sonically, this is an exemplary record. The instruments are crystal clear, the mix is crushing and well balanced, and this only serves to highlight the superb, passionate performances and some of the best vocals in the band’s history. Its a real treat for the ears, as violins swirl warmly around and the gorgeously-recorded drum kit hammers proudly across the spectrum.

When I first got into the band, public opinion had turned on them, every magazine and website claimed they were on the way out, people spoke of them either with contempt or with rose tinted nostalgia and an “only Burn My Eyes was any good” historic revisionism. It nice to see how much the band’s star is on the rise now. Every album keeps getting better. They keep getting the recognition they deserve from critics. Live shows are full of adoring fans. This even ended up being, to date, the band’s highest charting record ever.

It deserves it. This is one stone-cold gem of an album. Almost flawless. There’s no filler, no weak songs, nothing out-of-place. The choruses are memorable. The solos are scorching. The fills are impressive and satisfying. The album is chocked full of riffs that sound like all eras of the band’s history and still move things forward to the future. There’s a bouncy scrappy Hardcore-influenced sound to “Game Over,” a haunting epic feeling to “Sail Into The Black,” a melancholy melodic feel to “Damage Inside” a big dirty sludgy sound to “Beneath The Silt” and more rampant Blackening-esque Thrashy aggression to the likes of “Killers & Kings” and “Eyes Of The Dead.” The titanic 71-minute record is full to the brim with all different sorts of ideas and directions but still feels like one cohesive whole.

The quality of the songwriting tips everything over the edge. Its not just immaculately produced, furiously performed and stylistically satisfying… but its also just plain brilliant in and of itself. It stands up remarkably well to repeat listens. All the little clever structuring decisions, neat flourishes and all the orchestral extras reveal themselves more and more with repeat listens. There’s an immense depth to this one. I’ve seen over half of it live in concert and it absolutely crushed and felt “right” beside stuff from all positions in the band’s discography. It felt incredible even without the lush production and the extra orchestral instruments. These are just brilliant songs, plain and simple.

It must have been difficult to live up to the impossibly high standards the band have been setting themselves for the last twelve-or-so years, but somehow Machine Head managed it, once again. This is an incredible record that will stand up well against any Machine Head record you care to name. Get yourself a copy if you haven’t already!

Slipknot - .5: The Gray Chapter

Slipknot – .5: The Gray Chapter

When I first heard and read about American Metal band Slipknot’s fifth major label full-length studio album, .5: The Gray Chapter, I was very skeptical. When I was a teenager, Slipknot were just breaking here in the UK and I got incredibly captivated by them. Every generation has that one band that just seems extra important, be it Maiden or Metallica or Pantera. The band you pay extra attention to, buy extra merch for, read extra articles about, pick up books about even when it seems unnecessary. That one band you just care way more about than everyone else. For me that band was Slipknot.

With the line-up changes – the replacement of unique drummer Joey Jordinson and the death of founding member and key songwriter Paul Gray with faceless un-named fill-ins who the band wouldn’t “count as real members,” – I felt a bit put-off. Would the band sound the same? Would the emotions result in an overly quiet ballad-filled record? Then the very not-to-my-tastes album artwork was unveiled and I felt even more put-off. That’s what you want your new album to look like? Really? I then read the reports that the album’s lyrics were all going to be about Paul, well, these circumstances collectively made me feel that this wasn’t going to be a tasteful affair. Coupled with all my obsessive reading about the band early in their career where they said that none of them would ever do drugs (which killed Paul and allegedly lead to Joey’s departure) and that they would only release four albums (this being their fifth) and that if one of them ever died they’d quit because it was all about “the nine” and nothing else, well… even though I’m older and smart enough to know its unfair and unreasonable to hold someone to something they said, probably only in passing, over a decade ago, somehow I almost felt that the band were doing the wrong thing by carrying on. The wrong thing, done without taste? – Didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

Furthermore; upon actually getting the album, on my first few listens, I felt that this release was a bit of a cynical copy of the past two albums all over again – musically, and even structurally up to a certain point. You’ve got the intro (“Prelude 3.0”/“.execute.”/“XIX”), then that’s followed by the heavy opener (“The Blister Exists”/“Gematria The Killing Name”/“Sarcastrophe”), then the second heavy track with a clean chorus (“Three Nill”/“Sulpher”/“AOV”), then the first phase of the record is capped-off by the catchy radio single (“Duality”/“Psychosocial”/“The Devil In I”). All albums have an adventurous, slightly progressive weird track that appears clean but isn’t actually all that commercial (“Vermillion”/“Gehenna”/“Killpop”) and a heavy track late in the record to almost justify the lighter moments and defend against sellout accusations (“Welcome”/“All Hope Is Gone”/“The Negative One”).

The more I listen to it though, that sort of falls apart, and this album doesn’t feel like its trying to redo the previous two records. It feels more like its trying to balance them within the overall discography, and blend them with the first two records. “The Devil In I” may have the chorus and catchiness of a radio single, but the verses are slow dark and creepy, more akin to “Skin Ticket” or “Gently” than they are to “Duality.” The way some of the riffs work towards the end of “Skeptic” and “Lech” feel closer to the mechanics of the riffery to “New Abortion,” “Metabolic” and “My Plague” than anything more recent. “The Negative One” has that same blunt ugliness that made “The Heretic Anthem,” “(Sic)” and “Everything Ends” so good. “Custer” in particular feels like its trying to recapture some of the madcap energy of their debut, with vocal performances, screeching samples and keg-strikes that feel violent and wild. Even the sombre album closer, “If Rain Is What You Want” doesn’t feel like another ballad ala “Circle” or “Snuff” but rather, it feels like a menacing, creepy, atmospheric closer. Sonically, its nothing like “Iowa” of course, but it is somewhere close in spirit.

Its actually quite a neat idea the band have gone for here… rather than just redoing the winning formula that allowed them to headline arenas at last, they’re taking what worked about both the more aggressive roots and the commercial but still good “headliner era” and mixing the two together, making all of it fit together more cohesively. I really respect that. Ok; so the stylistic shift worries are no-longer a problem, and I realize that complaining about the album artwork is petty, and consequently have gotten over it. So that’s no-longer a problem either.

The new drummer also does a reasonably good job of copying Joey’s unique, flappy and skittery sounding drum style that previously seemed inimitable. Its not an exact match, but it sounds “like Slipknot.” That’s a major worry gone right there. Heck, they don’t even try and hide the bass. The bass is still prominent. People made sure it wasn’t too different, but not an exact copy. It works.

Just as I had read, the lyrics do certainly concentrate a bit on Paul and his death. Its full of lines like: “This song is for the dead,” “No one is bullet proof,” “Some of us are destined to be outlived,” “The world will never know another man as amazing as you” and “Life keeps taking things away” among others. At first, the chorus of “Skeptic” in particular made my nose wrinkle a bit, with its sweary sing-along tribute to the late Paul that felt needlessly cheesy and therefore a rather poor treatment for a fallen band-mate. Not so fast, nose! It really isn’t though. I don’t think the lyrics are anywhere near as cheesy as I feared. Listening to the intro track “XIX” on repeat, I came to the conclusion that the lyrics to this album are actually really heartfelt and honest, and do feel appropriate given how (Corey and Shawn in particular) the band do speak in real life. This feels like a very true-to-life, non-linear document of the confusion and contradictory emotions that grief and bereavement evokes in us, in real life. Thinking about it in this new light, the album has a depth and weight to it that is surprisingly impressive.

So; artwork nolonger a problem, line-up changes nolonger a problem, style nolonger a problem but rather an asset, lyrics nolonger a problem but rather an asset. My skepticism has melted away and all the barriers have been removed. I can enjoy this record without pointless mental baggage. Now, what about the most important (and ultimately the only important) question? “Are these songs any good?”

“Yes, very good!”

This album is full of catchy choruses, fun riffs, great dynamics, solos that don’t intrude upon the songs, memorable percussion all around, enough of the noisy electronics and DJ-scratches that you want from this band and best of all… conviction. This album is driven. It has a point to prove and is all the better for it. Anything that seems dumbed-down and mass-friendly is revealed to be darker, uglier, heavier and more complex than it first appears. Everything that could feel phoned-in instead feels intense. The album is full of hidden depths, interesting extras, and superb balance between fast and slow and light and heavy. Its not just a good album under the circumstances, or a good Slipknot album, it’s a good album period. Infinitely better than I cynically expected and a genuine “can’t put it down” type of exciting, that will rack up an enormous play-count in a short space of time.

Its hard not to feel excitement and satisfaction as the songs defiantly reclaim my waning interest in a band that used to be so massively definitive to my early music-listening years, and who played such a large part in the formation and shaping of my music-fandom. “The Negative One,” “AOV,” “Custer,” “Sarcastrophe” and “Lech” are cemented firmly in any future Slipknot playlist I’ll ever make, and it’d take a heck of a lot to get them out. Overall; It feels good to be able to say the new Slipknot album is fantastic.

Corrosion Of Conformity - IX

Corrosion Of Conformity – IX

With long-time frontman Pepper Keenan busy in the supergroup Down for so much time, the older trio line-up of Corrosion Of Conformity decided to reunite rather than simply wait for Pepper to be free and available. This started off with a nostalgia tour, playing material from their early 80s albums and EPs like Animosity and Technocracy. In 2012, they released a self-titled brand new studio album.

To the surprise of many, the music on this album was not in the original Hardcore Punk/Crossover Thrash style, but rather something new. It was a mixture of the slow, Doomy, Sabbathy leanings of the band’s then most recent album (2005’s In The Arms Of God) with a raw, powerful edge of Hardcore spirit, and occasional bursts of speed. This style was continued on their brilliant 2012 EP Meglodon, which was given away for free online.

In 2014; a full 30 years after their debut record Eye For An Eye, it came time to release more material, and the band, still in modernized trio mode released IX, their ninth-full length studio album.

Stylistically, IX carries on very much in the same vein as Meglodon and the self-titled album. There is a rawer, messier, noiser sound, attitude and performance style than on any of the Pepper-era albums, but also a slower, doomier, more stoner-rock influenced sound than on any of the early albums. The band mix the two styles seamlessly here. Its not even on a song by song basis, but within the songs themselves. Like the last two albums, there’s also a more somber interlude piece, this time actually called “Interlude.”

Highlights include the speedy “Denmark Vesey” and “The Nectar” as well “The Hanged Man” and indeed the absolutely phenomenal and catchy “Tarquinius Superbus” (about the Emperor of the same name, and not some sort of excellent tour bus).

The riffs are big, bendy and exciting. The mix of tempos keeps things exciting. The raw dirty production is incredibly charming, and there’s some genuinely great songs on here that should stay in the live setlist even when Pepper returns. Can you imagine how fun that riff from “On Your Way” would be live in concert?

The album is brief, to the point and filler free. There isn’t too much experimentation. This constantly shape-shifting band found yet another perfect new identity on their self-titled album, and this album is an even more focused realization of everything good about it. Don’t overlook it because its not in the 80s style or because its not got Pepper on it, this is one bad-ass C.O.C album that is absolutely worth your time!