Get (Into) What You Paid For – Volume 5, No. 2: ‘Tis The Season

Howdy; welcome once again to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For; a series in which I blog about the music and media I own, to distract myself from the fact that I am sworn off buying anything new for a month (or in this case, two months).

Its day 27, so that means I’ve made it 27 days without buying any cds, dvds, comic books or videogames. The man who started this blog four years ago could never have gone this long without consumerism. I’m pretty sure back when I worked my old job in 2010, I probably bought on average about two cds a week for the entire year at a minimum.

I haven’t actually posted much this time around because for the first 75% of the month, I’ve been super busy working crazy hours and having to fit in lots of academic work at home too for my final year. The other 25% of the month has been spent with loved ones and crazily poor internet signal. So, didn’t want to be rude and spend family time blogging, and didn’t have a good enough signal to do it much anyway, or at least do it easily.

Normally, going a month without buying anything would be quite difficult, but with the whole Christmas thing, I get to buy other people gifts and that sates the itch, so its been much easier. Also, you don’t know what you may receive as a gift and then buy nothing incase you’re gifted with it.

I’ve been really tempted a couple of times though, because, hey… I’m me. I saw Stratovarius and Accept albums in HMV this month and they never had them when I went looking for them. I saw Manowar albums on Amazon for between £1 and £3 that I’ve wanted for a while but are always more expensive. A lot of bands I like put out new albums and I’ve not gotten around to getting them (this year I’ve been so bad with buying new releases I can’t even put together an AOTY list!) even after seeing some of those bands live.

There’s also been numerous temptations within the world of comics. Just before starting this new fifth round of the GITWYPF challenge, I discovered Comixology. I mean I’d heard of it for the last two years, but Digital Comics seemed like a bad idea… I like reading physical books and laptops hurt my eyes and are the wrong shape for stories designed to be read in the shape of actual physical comics (unless you put a laptop on its side). So, for the two years I’ve been reading comics I avoided it, but the fact that so much is unavailable or only available on eBay for crazy prices, but available digitally for about £1 an issue (with no P&P because its digital) kind of won me over, and I can fill in gaps using this. Its not even poor to read due to the “guided view” feature, which zooms and readjusts the panels in order and blanks out the other panels, allowing you to watch the comic like a powerpoint or a slow cartoon. As a service, it’s a bit addictive though, and so a huge source of temptation. You the read two issues you want and then it makes you want to buy the ones before and after, or older ones of historical importance. Its too easy, too tempting, damn hard to stay away from.

Also, being in bookshops for getting others gifts makes me walk past lots of comic books and that makes you very close to just slipping one in there with the rest of the less-selfish purchases.

Videogames haven’t been a temptation at all, because I don’t have the time. It takes time to start up, time to shut them down or find savepoints, and your brain is abuzz afterwards so you can’t play them right before its time to sleep if you have to go to work in the morning. Compared to a book or comic book that you can just pick up and set down at a moments notice, its harder to fit them in. I got God Of War Ascension for my Birthday in the Summer and only managed to play it when Uni broke up about a week or so ago, and even then only for two days, and I still haven’t opened up Darksiders 2 which I got last Christmas. Theoretically I could now, but I don’t have a console with me at the moment, and by the time I get back to my term time address I’ll be hard at work again.

On the subject of God Of War Ascension, it was pretty good. I love that series, it is one of the most consistant and dependable series going. The combat is absolutely perfect, and its fun to see what vast-scale ideas they come up with next. It felt maybe like GOW 3 backed them into a corner and this prequel wasn’t just as impressive, but it was damn good regardless. I only got time to play one run-through of single player and no multiplayer, bonuses or second attempts, but on first impression it was very entertaining.

Anyway, the reason I right these things is to stop myself slipping up in the challenge. I may not have written many entries this time around, but I haven’t slipped up. I’ve stayed true, stayed the course (and whatever other “stay” phrases apply) and haven’t bought anything for myself since starting the challenge. Its been helped immensely by the Christmas presents.

I got the new Mushroomhead, Slipknot, Machine Head and Corrosion Of Conformity albums, as well as Helstar’s Nosferatu. I also got Spawn, Batman, X-Men and Spiderman comics. All delightfully nerdy gifts that stave off the “buy new stuff” urge very well. (Until I finish the comics and want the next in the series, at least).

Over the month, I’ve been really heavily listening to stuff I got for my Birthday, like the Tirivium, Judas Priest, Soundgarden, Helloween, Manowar and Savatage records I’ve already discussed on this blog ad naseum, in addition to Rishloo’s superb new album (of fucking course!) – because this year is going so ridiculously quickly that those still feel brand new despite being several months old – and in the last two days I’ve been blitzing those Christmas gift albums.

Did you know the Mushroomhead one has a cover of Adele’s “Rumour Has It” ? I had no idea until the chorus came in on my first listen through. Quite the surprise! Usually, I hate when Metal bands cover pop songs, especially if they aren’t particularly old. Covering a current pop song is a bit cheesy. But this works. Also, I’m way less snobby these days – Five Finger Death Punch covering “Moma Said Knock You Out” and nailing it will do that to ya.

The new Slipknot and Machine Head albums are good, by the way. Really good. The Machine Head one in particualt seems like a bit of a min-masterpiece in fact. If I heard enough new albums to do an AOTY list, it’d be damn tough choosing the top spot between it and Accept’s Blind Rage. Slipknot’s new album is interesting, beforehand I could not have been more cynical about or suspicious of. I was convinced it would be rubbish. It really isn’t though. Its strong. Damn strong. Stronger than the last one for sure. It seems to be a grower. Even all the lyrics about Paul’s death aren’t as cheap and cheesy as I imagined. I’d streamed “Skeptic” a few times because I’d heard that it was about Paul and I really cringed at the lyric “the world will never see another crazy muthafucker like you” – it just felt so dishonest and cheap, as if it was purely written to get sang along with and to make headlines, but the more I listen to it, in context, with the rest of the lyrics… I think its actually honest. Especially given how Corey and Shaun actually talk in real life.

The rest of that album is really good too. Its heavy, there aren’t any real ballads, the songs with poppier choruses never have as poppy verses as anything like “Dead Memories” or “Before I Forget.”

Not that heaviness in itself is good enough on its own. The thing is that the songs themselves are actually good. Memorable, catchy, the solos that feel more natural and less “look, I’m soloing.” There are some real fun, satisfying riffs on there and the new drummer actually keeps up Joey’s unique flappy, skittery style of drumming so it doesn’t sound like a huge departure.

I’ve also been listening to Machine Head’s older albums too. Inspired by the recent concert, and the new album, its always good to break out the ones I already own. Through The Ashes Of Empires has some of my absolute favourite Machine Head songs on it. “Vim,” “All Halls Down” and “Wipe Away The Tears” are the perennial favourites, and the concert made me reevaluate “Descend The Shades Of Night” and “Bite The Bullet” which I’ve overlooked in the past.

Then there’s Blind Guardian’s Nightfall In Middle Earth. Its like a mixture between Testament, Gamma Ray and oddly, Gentle Giant. I highly recommend checking that one out.

Being back with my family for the holidays I’ve also been exposed to my brother’s music. I’ve gotten to check out the new Animals As Leaders and Skyharbour albums. That is some seriously good stuff right there!

Check out the Animals As Leaders song “Physical Education” – such a fun tune!

I’ve also got access to my CDs again, because in my own place – half a country away – I don’t have the space to keep my CDs. My iTunes copies of a few Porcupine Tree and W.A.S.P. albums had glitches and faults in them, so being back here I was able to re-rip them. Its great listening to the songs properly without it skipping and cutting off short.

The rest of the time has been spent on romantic trips with my beautiful girlfriend, huge amounts of scrabble with the family, and watching all three seasons of That Mitchel And Webb Look and a series of Peep Show. I can’t go anywhere now without hearing Sir Digby Chicken Ceaser’s singing in the back of my head.

Its been an excellent break. The final one of this life as I’ll be qualified by the next one and go from someone who works to someone with a career – I forsee this will be my last Chirstmas day off for a while. I’ve been lucky in that my current job and my last job didn’t have me work on Christmas day (although I’ve done it before in previous jobs to that). Its been nice getting homework done and weights lifted in the same building as family instead of hundreds of miles away, its been nice having the time off work and its been nice having the free time to read so much. The crushingly slow internet was a tiny bit inconvenient but there’s only so many blogs about heavy music or Batman that a person can read in a month anyway.

Plus all this time in the middle of nowhere with no shops and too poor internet to access iTunes Store or Comixology well enough is pretty darn good for sticking to the challenge.

You can look forward to new album reviews and Amature Batfan articles too, as a result of all these lovely gifts. Merry Christmas, blogosphere!

I Went To Go See Tesseract and Animals As Leaders Last Night:

I went to go and see Tesseract last night (Wed 5th November 2014) at Sound Control, Manchester, with Animals As Leaders and Navene K as support acts. This is the third time I’ve seen Tesseract live… I saw them live without knowing their music last year and that caused me to get into them, I saw them again after getting into them, and now I’ve went to see them a third time with my Brother. My brother loves Tesseract like yo fat momma loves Big Macs.

The previous times I’d seen Tesseract they had Ashe O Hara on vocals, but this time, they’d lost Ashe and been reunited with original singer Dan Tompkins (no relation to fictional doctor Leslie Tompkins). I am a huge, huge fan of Ashe, so I was a little skeptical going in, but on this evening, I learned that Dan is an awesome front man, punching the air to all the Djenty rhythms and getting everyone psyched up. His voice was incredible, very talented dude. It was pretty much like Killwitch Engage getting Jesse Leech back and still being awesome even though I preferred Howard Jones. I prefer Ashe, but that in no way takes away from what an amazing singer Dan is (amazing being appropriate seeing as how he says the word “amazing” a heck of a lot in his stage banter.)

The setlist was more focused on Dan era material, and the heavier end of that, but still with all the great stuff from the Ashe era too. The band were as awesome as ever, with the band’s clear leader and genius Amos Williams rocking the house and keeping the ship afloat with sheer power and enthusiasm. Everyone else, as usual were superb musicians with great flair and kept up to their usual high standards. Great band. Really seem to love playing too.

It was a pretty great gig. Nice venue with good sound (I’d never been to Sound Control before, but I’d happily go back!). Some selfish-jerk crowd surfers started pissing people off but I never got hit by one so I didn’t get too annoyed personally, I just saw a lot of people being upset by them.

Oh yeah… the support bands. The opening act was one guy, called Navene K, on his own, with a mounted guitar and a drumkit, and he’d play one, then the other, switching between the two, playing a mixture of Djent and Dance music. It was really good and the guy was an astounding drummer. Very entertaining.

Animals As Leaders were incredible. I was skeptical of an instrumental band live. Can’t sing along. No focal point? But… nope, it was really good. And people went nuts for it. Circle pits and everything. They cheered for parts of songs. Parts. And multiple parts per song. Some of the music was so complex people cheered when they pulled it off without messing-up. Once they even sang along with the music. Literally sang ‘doodle—ooh, ooh, — dooodleoodleoodllle –ooh.’ It was charming.
They really won me over, and I’m very glad to have seen them.

Anyway, in summary, the support bands were good and the headliners were excellent too. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Tesseract concerts are an excellent way to spend your time. Get yourself on down to one… and P.S. Altered State is a masterpiece.

I Went To Go See Soil and American Headcharge (with Hed PE) Tonight.

I went to the Manchester Academy 3 tonight (Sat 25th Oct 2014) to see Soil and American Headcharge. You can probably tell from the reviews section of this blog that I like Soil and American Headcharge a lot and think they’re really underrated and unfairly overlooked. I mean, I’m not a huge uberfan with demos and a tattoo and all that stuff, but I have and enjoy most of their records.

I remember my first ever gig was the Irish Ozzfest in Punchastown Racecourse, where I saw American Headcharge (and also, a fucking brilliant Mushroomhead concert that was hand to God one of the best live experiences I’ve ever seen) back when I was around 13-15 (Its too late for maths).

I remember getting my name printed on the Soil Halo vinyl single and winning a Soil demo with a cover of Ramjam’s Black Betty on it. I remember always seeing both bands unfairly written off. I remember even being embarrassed to still like them when each of their second albums came out and everyone seemed to think less of you for still liking that sort of music.

Head PE I don’t much remember. I remember seeing the video for ‘Blackout’ a few times, but not getting their album or anything. My friend John told me they were awesome last year but I didn’t investigate further. Turns out I maybe should have…

But lets not get ahead of ourselves. The first band of the night were called 8 Foot Sativa according to my ticket, but according to all the bands, were called Wolf Born. Wolf Born (not to be confused with Wolfmother, Wolfsbane, Wolf or Power Wolf) sounds like quite a Power Metal name, sounds like it might be a Hammerfall type band.

They weren’t. They were a sort of similar style to Soil. Somewhere between the three worlds of Puddle Of Mud, Soil and Black Label Society (they had a song that sounded a lot like ‘Mass Murder Machine.’) They were a decent band, perfectly suited to this bill. If you like Soil, check them out.

Next came Head PE. I wasn’t expecting much. Their singer came out all hidden in a bandana and heavy coat and stayed hidden during the first song. Then took it all off and was a huge, brawny, built-like-a-tank Hardcore guy. I remember a skinny pretty boy with dredds and a red tracksuit. Anyway…

Turns out the band are amazing live. They were really powerful and confident and self aware that their schtick wasn’t cool anymore but that they were still good enough to pull it off in 2014 convincingly… like what it must’ve been like seeing W.A.S.P during the post-grunge years. They also have this whole Hardcore Punk side I never knew about, playing songs of short fast American Hardcore I never expected in amongst the creamy vintage rap metal. Oh… and a bizarre but very fun cover of “Ghost Town” that just made me think of Father Ted.

Next came American Headcharge who I was pumped about seeing… they played a weird set, a few hits from the debut, a few deep cuts from the sophomore record, and a few new tracks, but no singles from the new EP or sophomore album (I really, really wanted to see “Loyalty” live! And it was nowhere to be seen, but oddly, “Ridicule” was… still, they played “Dirty” which was nice!). I expected “Sugars Of Someday” to be their main promotional drive and they ignored it too.

The band were ok live, but the odd setlist of midtempo numbers and the singers almost mocking attitude to the crowd just didn’t set the place on fire. This must’ve been what it was like seeing Poison live during the grunge years.

Then Soil came on. Fuck me, people were pleased about that. I don’t think I’ve ever met a Soil fan who knew more than “Halo,” “Unreal” and “Breaking Me Down” but people were there, going ape for deep tracks from the new album and Redfine as well as almost half of the whole Scars album. The band played tremendously, the crowd ate it up, good times were had. During Halo, their singer just did the entire song from the center of the crowd (actual middle of the room, not just two people into the front).

I almost skipped going to this gig, I was bloated from dinner, I could really have used the time to do Uni work, I’m homesick as hell and could’ve used this weekend to visit relatives… but nope, I didn’t miss it, and it rewarded me. This was an excellent concert.

Go see Soil live if you like them. Check out Hed PE if you don’t know them. Don’t skip any gigs that you have tickets for, they might just be completely awesome!

Come to think of it, I saw Riverside and Baroness in Academy 3 too, and they were all awesome. Come to Manchester and see a gig in the Academy 3!

Next up on my gig calendar: Tesseract and Animals As Leaders…. Bring on the Djent!

Tesseract – One Review

Tesseract - One

Tesseract – One

Tesseract are a five-piece Progressive Metal band from England and 2011’s One is their debut full-length studio album. It was produced by Acle Kahney, Amos Williams, Francesco Cameli and released through Century Media.

The standard of musicianship here on this album is excellent, particularly drummer Jay Postones and bassist Amos Williams, who’s superb rhythm section forms the backbone of the record. The production job is flawless, and all instruments (and even individual bass strings, drums and cymbals) are clear and audible, amongst the textured guitar, vocal and electronic waves which float over the top.

There’s a nice balance of fast and slow, heavy and soft, straightforward and complex, and a cohesion and sense of purpose that makes the album feel like one, singular, well-considered piece of work.

Highlights include the catchy album closer “Eden,” as well as the lengthy multi-part “Concealing Fate” and the punchy “Sunrise.”

For fans of the band’s second album, Altered State its worth noting that Daniel Tompkins (of Skyharbor fame) provides lead vocals on this album, before their current singer Ashe O’Harra joined the band becoming the band’s fifth lead vocalist to date. Thompkin’s vocal style is in the same ball-park of lush, melodic and emotional clean singing, although different enough that you notice the change.

Musically, this album is noticeably heavier than its follow-up, and there aren’t any saxophones, but in general the band’s identity is more-or-less the same and if you enjoyed Altered State, you should easily enjoy One.

For newcomers to the band entirely, especially those skeptical of anything associated with the word “Djent” its worth noting that in the same way that Thrash Metal bands took the chugging of songs like Black Sabbath’s “Symptom Of The Universe” and spun-off on that idea developing entire songs and albums using that as a starting point from which to develop their own ideas; Here, you can hear the sort of guitar tones and complex rhythms that Meshuggah have been playing since the 90s used as a jumping off point.

Rather than the all-out punishing assault of Meshuggah and their progressive take on extreme Metal, Tesseract deliver that sort of rhythm mixed in with floaty melodic vocals in the vein of Tool and Rishloo, and subtle ambient electronics to create something else. It couldn’t have existed without Meshuggah, and it couldn’t have existed before Melodic Metalcore became a decade-long mainstay of the Metal world, but it isn’t one or the other.

If you are a fan of established bands like Dream Theater, Riverside, Opeth, Fates Warning, Tool or many other Progressive bands within the Metal spectrum, you will find little touches here and there that chime something with what you like already, be that in the use of dynamics or uncommon time-sigs, but updated and in a different shape. If you like bands like Sikth, Botch, Carbomb, Fellsilent, Dillinger Escape Plan, or anyone in the math-y end of the Metal spectrum you man find something you like, but updated and in a different shape, and well, the same goes for if you like Meshuggah. Its not impossible to like Meshuggah and Tesseract despite what a vocal minority may claim.

If you are a fan of bands like Periphery, Monuments, Circles, Animals As Leaders, Textures, Volumes, Structures, Intervals, Skyharbor, Vildhjarta, Miroist, Hacktivist, The Algorithm or The Safety Fire then you may recognize the shape already and enjoy another slightly different take on it.

Overall; Tesseract are a strong and interesting band and One is a strong and impressive debut that should keep fans of the band, fans of the subgenre and fans of the overarching genre happy. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking the band because of the movement they belong to, as you’ll miss out on some brilliant music if you do. This isn’t just a throw-away album from a flash in the pan trend, there’s a demonstrable artist weight to be found here.

Periphery – Clear EP Review

Periphery - Clear EP Review

Periphery – Clear EP Review

Clear is a 2014 EP by the American Progressive Metal band Periphery, released between their second and third full-length albums.

The twenty-nine minute EP features seven individual compositions, each creatively directed by a separate person, each of which contain themes presented within the opening track, ‘Overture.’

If you sit there and pick it apart you can appreciate all the nice progressive touches and experimentation, equally if you like you can just take it all at face value, as another set of top-quality Periphery songs. For only containing seven tracks, there’s quite a bit of variety to be found on Clear; there’s a piano driven intro, there are two instrumentals, some catchy-single sounding material, some heavy Djenty rhythms, some nice effects-laiden guitars and some electronic ambient stuff all in there. That being said, it isn’t a sloppy mish mash of different styles and it isn’t so experimental that it looses listenability, this is a very solid collection of great sounding tracks that all sound like Periphery.

Highlights include the catchy ‘Parade Of Ashes,’ as well as ‘Feed The Ground’ and the instrumental ‘Zero.’

Overall; Clear is a fine addition to any Periphery fan’s collection. I’d also recommend anyone who listens to Protest The Hero, Tesseract, The Safety Fire, Animals As Leaders, Monuments, Circles, Coheed & Cambria and Karnivool give it a shot too. This is a nice introduction to the band, covering sounds found from both their debut and sophomore albums, and with enough variety and personality to really sell what the band are about.

**Oh, and if you found this review by search engine, when you discover it again on Amazon it is me posting it. It hasn’t been copied and pasted off here by a stranger, I post my reviews on Amazon as ‘Gentlegiantprog “Kingcrimsonprog.”’ So please don’t unhelpful-vote it because you thought it was stolen from me.**

Get (Into) What You Paid For: Vol. 3. Day 34 – More Little Thoughts

Its day 34 of my third Get (Into) What You Paid For challenge. I’ve been adhering to the challenge and haven’t broken the challenge yet. To be honest it hasn’t been too challenging. Challenge, Challenge, Challenge. So; Christmas has came and went, and the kind people in my life have provided me with a brilliant collection of very-well-thought-out gifts, which has definitely taken the urge to buy myself stuff away for a while.

I’ve been given numerous biographies on bands I like (including Sabbath, Megadeth, Slipknot, Jethro Tull); Power Metal albums from Iced Earth and Gamma Ray; Prog Metal albums from Porcupine Tree, Pain Of Salvation and Tesseract; Thrash from Testament. Even a bit of Grunge in the form of the new Pearl Jam album. My listening habits from the last year are all very well served by this.

I’ve been given a massive load of comics from my friend Magnum, and I’ve been given the new Batman videogame. My gaming and reading habits from last year are all pretty well served by this too.

Pretty much, I’ve just had a massive influx of things I like and so that quells the urge to buy more things I like.

Another reason I’ve been doing OK with not buying things is that I’m completely and drastically broke. Its easier to exert some restraint when there’s more reason to do so. Maybe I’m fianlly an adult, now that I can confidently say I’d rather be able to pay my rent than buy myself something entertaining. I’ve got so bloody much stuff already anyway that its becoming easier to shrug off the itch to get more, I’m beginning to learn some perspective and tone down my overspending.

Taking this financial situation into account, and the fact that I didn’t blog as frequently on the subject this December as I had in the previous two GIWYPF challenge months, I’ve decided to extend this one into a two-month epic. That’s right. I’ll try not to buy any books, comic books, DVDs, Blu Rays, Band T–Shirts, Books, Music or Videogames for another month, making it a stretch from December 1st to February 1st. I don’t think I’ve ever went that long without buying something of this nature since turning 18.

But if I was going to break the challenge, what would I break it on?

Riverside’s debut, Haken’s whole discography, the two Psychotic Waltz reissues, some of the more famous Fates Warning albums, and DreamTheater’s Awake all spring to mind. As does Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff and Angra’s Angel’s Cry.

I’d also like to get the two most recent Batman collections, the Death Of The Family main story and side-stories books. Everything I’ve read from Snyder so far has been good and I’d like to be a bit more “In The Loop” with things, if it wasn’t so costly.

Oh. And there’s one new Arctic Monkeys B-side that’s came out during the challenge. I like to always buy those B-Sides pretty much as soon as they are released, this is the longest I’ve gone without getting an Arctic Monkey’s B-Side since the release of their second album.

To be honest though, I don’t think there’s much risk of me breaking the challenge. Having a massive exam schedule that requires serious, dedicated revision for, having no money, and having been given those excellent Christmas gifts should keep me busy and thinking straight.

So; today, having done my revision for the day, I’ll take a little break and do a quick little series of mini-reviews/thoughts of what I’ve been listening to lately. As you might imagine, most of it will be the gifts I got for Christmas that I’ve described above. Here goes:

I got a copy of Tesseract’s new album Altered State for Christmas. I went and saw them live about a month ago and was completely blown away by them. They were supporting Karnivool who I’d imagine were less big than them, but who weren’t. They had an annoying loud fan who wouldn’t stop screaming for songs they didn’t play (“Dead Man”) and making a clown’s horn noise. I wish that fan had kept their big mouth shut, but the concert was awesome. Tesseract’s guitarist is very tall… Anyway; This album completely lives up to my expectations. Its absolutely fantastic. Such incredible musicianship and utterly spellbinding vocals. I can foresee this band becoming huge, if there’s any justice. Also, there’s a Saxaphone solo. Always a plus for a Floyd/Tull/Crimson fan!

I think I’m going to be dedicating a heck of a lot of listening time to this record in the near future.

Keeping with the Prog theme, Porcupine Tree’s Deadwing. I’ve been craving Deadwing for quite a while now. Ever since I got into the band, Deadwing has been my number one, most-wanted album of theirs, although I’ve managed to get everything around it first.

Interestingly, on just one listen, I was able to tell instantly that is their best record. I’ve had about five or six listens now and am still firmly of that opinion. The title track and ‘Arriving Somewhere But Not Here’ are absolute gold, and ‘Lazerus’ is a haunting, magical ghost-ballad. If this had the three best songs of Fear Of A Blank Planet on it too, it would be one of the best albums of all time.

I think I might make some sort of Porcupine Tree best-of, with ‘Sound Of Musack’ ‘Drawing The Line’ ‘Normal’ and then the majority of Blank Planet and Deadwing on it.

What else have I listened to? I recently talked extensively about listening to Pain Of Salvation’s The Perfect Element album so I won’t go into too much detail about it again here. Anyway, I listened to it again while I was weightlifting and although I had understandably reduced-concentration on it, I really am impressed by this album. If you like any sort of Prog Metal you should really pick up a copy. Its only about £3 on Amazon.

Tesseract, Porcupine Tree and Pain Of Salvation are three very different bands, and they all scratch very different parts of my brain, but any way you look at it, Prog Metal is pretty well served by that trio of absolutely phenomenal records. What about Power Metal then?

I also got given Horror Show and The Glorious Burden by Iced Earth for Christmas. I’ve listened to them both quite a few times now. I like Iced Earth, they play 40% Judas Priest, 40% Testament and 10% Warning era Queensryche. Pretty well suited to me then. Both albums are great, as was Something Wicked, which I got given for my previous Birthday. The three of them together feel like one big album. There’s sort of a continum between the three of them. Its hard to explain.

On The Glorious Burden, there’s a nifty bit where the lead guitars play the rhythm of “Johnny We Hardly Knew You.”

Interestingly as well; The Glorious Burden has Tim Paper Owens on it instead of Matt Barlow, who at the time had left the band to join the US Police force in the wake of 9/11. He’s a perfect replacement for Barlow. Both are brilliant at high screams, both sing with manly authority and both do a fine impression of Forbidden’s Russ Anderson. I don’t know if its actually the guitarist doing those bits. Could be. They’re so similar across the two records. I’ve also got given their live Blu-Ray for Christmas, so I’ll have a look when I get a chance to watch it, and see if I can crack this mystery. Is Schaeffer the phantom Russ Anderson impersonator? Or do both Barlow and Ripper both have that one particular style really well honed?

This record makes me want to try out the two Ripper-Era Priest albums that I avoided. Tim is certainly an incredibly talented guy. Replacing Halford can’t have been easy. Just look Blaze Bailey. The fans really didn’t go for him even though he’s very talented. Also – Maaaaaaaan hunt. Maaaan, Hunt. Manhuntmanhuntmanhuntmanhunt.

In addition to the serious, Thrashy, USPM… I’ve been listening to the fun, bright, melodic German Power Metal of Gama Ray. I’ve been hammering their 2007 album Land Of The Free II recently; its met with mixed reviews, but I really like it. Its such a fun, energetic, and pleasant record. The guitar solos are magnificent. Kai is one of my favourite guitarists of all time. I read a lot of people complaining about stealing that bass-bit from Maiden’s Rhime Of The Ancient Mariner. Gama Ray frequently steal bits from Priest. They’ve even stole bits from Deep Purple. Its just something you have to deal with. Its still a good song. I don’t know, maybe I should be harsher, but, I just can’t help but love everything Gamma Ray do. Its difficult to listen to Gamma Ray and not just be put into a good mood. I’d absolutely love to see them live. I wish I’d been a fan when they did that tour with Helloween recently. That must’ve been brilliant to behold.

Also, after having listened to Tesseract, I had another listen to Periphery. Periphery’s album is such a shapeshifter. Every time I’ve heard it I’ve listened to it in a completely different way. Sometimes I hear it as a radio-friendly Metalcore record, sometimes I hear it as a crushing desne Messugah-influenced affair, and sometimes I hear it as a rapid-fire, all-over-the-place, highly technical, Protest The Hero style modern prog mish mash.

That’s happened to me before, with Machine Head’s Burn My Eyes. I’ve heard it in completely different ways at different times. Makes you wonder what your ears and brain are up to.

Its also interesting just how different it is to Tesseract’s album. Its like the difference between Anthrax’s Spreading The Disease and Megadeth’s Peace Sells But Who’s Buying. Both are defining albums of Thrash, but both sound vastly different. Same goes here. Animals As Leaders’ Weightless album is as vastly different as those two are from eachother yet again. Perhaps that’s throwing Slayer’s Hell Awaits into the second albums by Thrash bands analogy. If all those Djent bands are Thrash, then what does that make Messugah? Judas Priest?

Oh. Y’know what. I can add three more things onto the “to-do-list” / risk-of-me-buying-these pile. Skyharbour, Monuments and Circle’s new albums.

Anyway, there are some seriously brilliant songs on this record. I particularly love ‘Erised’ and the single, ‘Scarlet.’ The whole album is fantastic though; the musicianship and vocals are incredible. There are parts that are so heavy, parts that are floaty electronic dreams and a lot of memorable clean choruses. Periphery – Love that shit.

I forgot just how good Tool’s Undertow album is. I usually think of the subsequent three albums when I think of Tool. There are some seriously fun, memorable, enjoyable riffs on this album. Some damn catchy vocal parts, some interesting lyrics, and it’s a lot more succinct and serious than I remember. I guess having gotten into all the Tool-influenced bands recently also helped. And the grunge; there’s a slight bit of grunge about Undertow that I may previously have been put-off by.

Speaking of being put-off; I think the thing about the carrots made me forget about all the completely awesome songs on the record. Tool usually have one or two little comedy moments or unusual additions, so I don’t know why that particular one took over. Well, at least I know better now. Songs like ‘Intolerance’ and ‘Bottom’ are absolute gems. I can see this working its way into a much more regular rotation from now on.

Ok; that’s enough for one installment. I’m going to have to keep it up all the way through January. Let’s hope I stick with the whole financial-discipline thing a while longer, ey?