Posts Tagged ‘Review’

I really enjoyed the 2001 debut album Through The Eyes from Kentucky Nu Metal band Flaw, they were always one of the more underrated bands from that particular subgenre and the quality of their debut is up there with any of their more famous peers. I saw them live in 2002 and they were really good. Maybe the market was just saturated, at the time, maybe they didn’t get the right exposure, who knows? Maybe the manager didn’t land them the right tour…who knows? All I know is it sure as hell wasn’t for lack of brilliant songs that they aren’t as big as they should be. The follow up, Endangered Species was pretty good, but it came out when Nu Metal was falling off the map and hardly anyone heard it. I wanted it but didn’t ever find it in any music stores at the time, and this was before the internet was an obvious way to get albums. I’m sure you could, but I didn’t think of it yet.

Cut another 15 years forward to 2019, the band have gone through line-up changes (Wikipedia lists 19 ex-members, that’s up there with Cradle Of Filth and Annihilator for turnover), solo albums, a self-produced album and a reunion/comeback. The second album since their comeback, Vol. IV Because Of The Brave is now out, and it reminds me once again what a solid and dependable band Flaw are. It reminds me what an excellent vocalist Chris Volz is.  It reminds me how entertaining Nu Metal can be when its done right.

It’s a decent album. 35 minutes, doesn’t overstay its welcome. Fair production job. Good solid songs. A typically excellent vocal performance from Chris Volz. There’s also a few surprises. ‘Wake Up’ for example sounds a bit more like Korn than Flaw. The album closer, ‘Lest We Forget’ is pretty interesting too. Its sort of mid paced alternative metal with spoken word kind of reminds me a tiny bit of what Queensryche were doing on American Soldier.

Highlights include the opening one-two punch of ‘Persistence’ and ‘Walk The Line’ as well as single ‘Conquer This Climb’ (which seems to be a bit more modern and almost slightly Djent flavoured for the first few seconds before it turns to the classic Flaw sound – but with a rather tasty guitar solo).

If you have any inclination to check out Flaw for the first time, then obviously, go for their by now classic debut first. This is good but its not as good as the first two albums. But if you are a fan you can relax knowing the band are still here, still putting out music, and aren’t disappointing. Overall; A welcome addition to the Flaw catalogue, if you are into that sort of thing (which I certainly am).  

I’ve said it before, but I don’t think in my life I have listened to any album more than Slipknot’s 1999 debut. I got into the band my first year of high-school and for my generation they were the biggest and most important band in the world, the way Metallica and Maiden were for people starting school in the ‘80s, or Pantera were for people starting school in the ‘90s,  or Zeppelin and Kiss were for people starting school in the ‘70s.

Slipknot were more than a band; they were so much more in my mind. I can’t count on two hands the number of pictures I drew of them, or discussions I had with school friends about them or magazines I bought just because they were in it. The first time I saw them live, on the Iowa cycle at Belfast Odyssey Arena, is one of the most memorable concerts I have ever been to. I don’t want to throw around terms like life-changing in my old and cynical age, but if I was to apply such an epithet to any band, Slipknot would be the one.

To some extent I like everything they have ever done. I am a bit of a lifer and so this review isn’t exactly going to be impartial or unbiased. But I am not 100% blind and unwilling to think critically either so I’d like to say you can trust what I say. I will admit All Hope Is Gone is not as good as the others. I’ll be happy to admit that there quite a few lyrics I dislike and sometimes Shawn’s video projects are a bit too arty and pretentious and that maybe a straighter take might do the band more favours.  I’ll even admit that some songs I like have choruses I dislike even if the rest of the song is enjoyable. (‘Sulpher’ for example has a chorus I always seem to resent, as it represents the band going a bit too far away from what made me like them in the first place). I did get a bit sceptical when a few too many clean vocals started creeping in and what were amazing and refreshing moments of clean (‘Me Inside’) amongst the heaviness became the norm and it started to seem almost every song had to have a radio chorus.

A lot of people aren’t so keen on the band’s last two albums, All Hope Is Gone and .5 The Gray Chapter, so you can expect the reviews for this will all certainly feature some kind of ‘return to form’ or ‘best since’ line or two. Now; as I said, I like every album Slipknot have ever made (and probably every song too, its just some parts I am not keen on)… but I both can and can’t see why this ‘return to form’ thing is going to be so prevalent.

Now; I think The Gray Chapter is brilliant. I’ve been reading a lot of negative things about it online in the build up to We Are Not Your Kind’s release. I don’t agree with the narrative that it was a rushed or undercooked or too much like Corey’s other band Stone Sour. Tracks like ‘Custer,’ ‘Sarcastrophe’ and ‘The Negative One’ are rabid and savage, and even though I sort of resent them, I can’t deny the radio moments like ‘The Devil In I’ are damn catchy… However; In the same way I initially hated ‘Psychosocial’ when I first heard it for the big clean radio chorus that felt like a change in what the band was trying to be and what they represented, I can see how the cleaner moments on the Gray Chapter would put people off. I mean in isolation I like almost every one of them anyway, but I just wish on principal that on the last three albums there were a few more ‘Disasterpeice’ and ‘Metabolic’ style choruses and a few less ones like those of ‘Dead Memories’ and ‘Before I Forget.’ I reckon a lot of other older fans feel the same way.

We Are Not Your Kind seems to be blowing a lot of people’s skirts up for its heaviness and brutality. There is plenty of it on here. ‘Orphan,’ ‘Red Flag’ and ‘Nero Forte’ all connect like a haymaker to the face. Corey did say in interviews while it was being written that it reminded him of Iowa and on these songs you can sort of see why he might have thought that if they were the ones he was working on at the time.

But this album has plenty of clean moments too. Hell; the first real song (track 2) on every other Slipknot album is always one of the fastest, heaviest, most brutal ones on the record, and yet here, track two is the big single ‘Unsainted’ with its absolutely huge radio chorus and festival sing-along intro. So the public’s different reaction to ‘Gray Chapter and We Are Not Your Kind can’t just be about heavy vs. clean.

One thing that is clear is that the songs on this, their sixth official studio, album are just really good. It might be that simple. The first distorted verse to ‘Unsainted’ is fierce as honey badger and the drums throughout are really impressive and energetic. The way Jay flails sideways into the china cymbal at unexpected times reminds me of what made the band’s debut so damn exciting.

You know what else makes this album so good? (Now; I’m not saying it wasn’t there on the last two albums, but…) on this album the amount of time given over to the band’s extra members and how high they are in the mix seems to be higher on this record. Lots of Sid’s DJ scratches. Lots of additional percussion from the two extra percussionists. Lots of samples and sounds from the mysterious Craig. It feels like this album really goes out of its way to justify having all nine members and revels in what makes Slipknot unique… After the massive success of Vol. 3 and its radio singles and ballads, it felt like on the follow up, All Hope Is Gone that the band were trying to be more of a ‘normal’ band instead of celebrating their uniqueness. Here they seem to shine a spotlight on them more often.

What else is great is that the band aren’t afraid to do new things. ‘Birth Of The Cruel’ for example sees the band discover ‘90s Groove Metal, and lean into the sort of riffs and drum beats that would fit on Burn My Eyes or Chaos Ad at times, with bendy riffs, and stomping jarring rhythms. Obviously through a Slipknot filter, but still…

I think the best thing about the album though might well be the fact that Corey isn’t holding back with his vocals so much. On the first album he screamed his head off so much that we were told he wasn’t allowed to talk between shows so he could rest his voice. By the time Vol. 3 came around he had to find a way to scream without damaging his voicebox and came up with the new voices that he has been using on that and all subsequent albums. It feels at times though that on this album (and maybe ‘Custer’ off of the last album… because as I said, I don’t get the hate for that one) that Corey is back to shredding his throat to pieces like back in the glory days. Some of the vocals on ‘Red Flag’ and the start of ‘Orphan’ could be straight out of ‘People = Shit’ or ‘The Heretic Anthem’ and that is the sound I fell in love with all those years ago. That was a big part of the initial magic that hooked me in and made me such a lifer for this generation defining band. Corey howling himself hoarse is just one of the best noises in all of heavy music and its nice to hear it so much again.

The production is also good, it keeps the mix clear without losing the frenzied and chaotic feel too much on the heavier tracks. You can hear each beater on the kick drum, you can hear the bass under the vocals, but you can also tune out and just be swept away in the energy of the whole thing. It doesn’t feel like the edges have been sanded down too much.

One little minor niggle against the album is the exclusion of the track ‘All Out Life’ (which was separately released back around Halloween 2018, but it contains the title line ‘We Are Not Your Kind’ repeatedly chanted). Admittedly; There was one bit I didn’t like in it, where they slow down and there is the spoken word ‘‘I will not…’’ section that was a bit similar to the intro of ‘Pulse Of The Maggots.’ Otherwise however, that track was quite a rager. I really love how driving the first verse is and when he sings that ‘’the horizon is coming like a hellbent killing machine’’ you really feel this sense of urgency and momentum. I have just added the track in as number 15 on my iTunes and phone so I get to hear it every time I hear the album (which has been pretty much non-stop since release). If you want it on CD though, you’d have to buy the special Japanese bonus track edition. Bit of a shame though that everyone doesn’t just get it as standard, because it’s a great song that I’ve really grown to love and it fits into the album well.

I feel it’s a bit weird to leave it out, as the biggest complaint I have about The Gray Chapter is that it needs just one more heavy song to balance the album out. It’s a bit frustrating to see them make the same decision again. I mean don’t get me wrong; I like ‘A Liar’s Funeral’ and ‘Not Long For This World’ and their atmospheric build ups. (Slipknot have always been the master of that, with the likes of ‘Gently’ and ‘Skin Ticket’ in the good old days, and ‘If Rain Is What You Want’ recently). But what right-minded metal fan wouldn’t want the majority of a Slipknot album to be flailing double kicks and gnarly riffs?

Now I don’t want it to be exclusively speed and power. Slipknot’s diversity is as big a draw as their ferocity. The band have always had a creepy experimental side (often driven by Shawn) to balance out Joey and Mick’s love of Deicide and Morbid Angel. All the way back to ‘Tattered And Torn,’ ‘Frail Limb Nursery’ and ‘Scissors’ from the debut and evolving into things like ‘The Virus Of Life’ and ‘Danger Keep Away (Extended Version)’ they have been balancing out the aggressive songs with nightmarish moments. They have also been experimenting with clean and subtle moments on recent albums like ‘Killpop’ and ‘Goodbye.’ So you can sort of see the legacy and evolution there and so it isn’t a total bolt out of the blue, when this album takes the cleans and mixes them with the creepy to come up with a new sound. I have read a lot of reviews of this record saying this record is dominated by experimentation. You can sort of see why. The album is full of creepy nursery rhyme-meets-experimental electronic tracks. ‘Death Because Of Death,’ ‘What’s Next,’ ‘My Pain’ and ‘Spiders’ for example come across at the same time as being both something that the band has never done before but also as a continuation in their long line of broadening the scope of their albums by adding in something more esoteric.

This album is certainly diverse; you have the four aforementioned quiet creepy ones, you have the two above-mentioned atmospheric ones, a selection of ragers as discussed prior, the huge big radio single with the surprisingly heavy verses and great drumming to open the proceedings. There’s also ‘Critical Darling’ which toes the line between radio and rager with its chorus reminiscent of Alice In Chains’ track ‘God Smack,’ and then there’s the album closer ‘Soloway Firth,’ which is a sprawling, strangely structured and winding song that goes in many different directions and which requires a good few listens to even pin down and follow what’s going on. Its not prog, but its certainly not three-chord trick, verse-chorus-verse, rock either.

All in all it is a very interesting listen (even without adding in ‘All Out Life’ for heaviness sake). I don’t want to go and say ‘’The best album since…’’ because I am really fond of all their albums, but it is certainly really good. Really, really good in fact. As a bit of an over eager fan it certainly satisfies, but objectively it is a damn fine record with a good flow, a good balance of different directions, a good sound and fantastic vocal performance. It not only meets my high expectations but exceeds them.

I am not the oldest Volbeat fan, I only discovered them last year at Download Festival 2018, but I have been listening to them absolutely non-stop ever since.

Volbeat cds for birthday and Christmas, Volbeat t-shirts under my work clothes pretty often, Volbeat on the car stereo during every road trip to visit relatives, Volbeat in the car ride to work almost every work day. Overall; I’ve listened to over 2,900 times in the past year. Something that few other bands can boast. Since records began in 2011 (when I started tracking it via LastFm), they are my 9th most listened-to artist. So basically; I’ve listened to them more in one year than I have some of my favourite ever bands, almost any other band in fact, in the last 8 years.

So you could say, that coming into this new album, which is the first new one to be released in my time as a fan (not counting the amazing live album, Let’s Boogie! Live from Telia Parken), that I was more than a little excited.

…So imagine my surprise when the first time I listened to it, I didn’t really care for it. At all.

Now, that was partially my own fault, first of all I was lifting weights on a red hot Summer’s day, with a noisy fan on while I did so, so maybe it wasn’t really hearing it in the best conditions. Additionally; I was beyond hyped, so I wasn’t really going in with realistic expectations.

Having listened to it a good few more times, some of them while driving, some while exercising and some just sitting there in a quiet room paying close attention, it has definitely grown on me more.

There are some stand out tracks that I am really happy to have in my Volbeat collection and which I would be excited to see live. ‘Die To Live’ is probably the best of them. I mean, how could it not be, featuring as it does guest vocals from the mighty Neil Fallon from Clutch. It is a jaunty up tempo rock n’ roller with tinkly piano reminiscent of Illusion era GnR and fun saxophone reminiscent of the Boomtown Rats but a basic bouncy pop punk structure for the rest of the song that wouldn’t be out of place on a mid period Green Day or Rancid album. Real fun tune.

There is also the singles ‘Parasite’ which is a 40 second punk statement with punctuated vocals and oodles of energy, and ‘Leviathan’ which is just an absolute sing-along anthem up there with previous gems like ‘Heaven Nor Hell’ or ‘Thanks’ or ‘Lola Montez’ in the Volbeat-sound-like-fun stakes. The band are always great when Jon gets pounding on the floor toms. It is the kind of smile-inducing big stadium shouter that makes you remember how fun Rock Music is when you are 13 years old.

Another great thing about the album is the lead guitar work, Michael and Rob’s lead guitar lines and solos are utterly majestic at times (think the Guitar solo from Anthrax’s ‘Safe Home’ and you’ll know what I mean)… the kind of magical guitar solo that transports you to another place.

That said. I don’t think I would be out of place in saying this is the band’s worst album. Well, if not worst, then, least good. The first point against it in my book is really subjective, but it is just not heavy enough. There’s maybe two Metal songs on it. ‘The Everlasting’ and ‘Cheapside Sloggers’ (with guest guitar from Exodus’ Gary Holt!) are the heaviest tunes, but they stand sort of alone in that front… and even ‘Cheapside Sloggers’ is only Metal in the second half once the guitar solo section kicks it up a notch.

The second thing against it is they re-use a lot of things from previous albums. Single ‘Pelvis On Fire’ for example will be real good fun if it is the first Volbeat song you ever hear but it is exactly halfway between ‘Devil Or The Blue Cats Song’ and ‘Sad Man’s Tongue’ and you kind of feel they are ripping themselves off a little bit. Haven’t I heard that vocal melody before? Hasn’t he done an Elvis voice before? That slow down speed up thing sounds familiar.

The third thing, again subjective, is that they do too much of the overly earnest big American radio rock style. On the previous album they did it a bit on tracks like ‘Goodbye Forever’ or on the album previous to that, with ‘Cape Of Our Hero’ but they did it really, really well and in small doses. Here they do it so much it kind of overwhelms the album. They do inject Volbeatness into those songs, but just not enough for my tastes. It makes the album sound a bit bland. Usually a Volbeat album is a rollercoaster going from sounding Psychobilly, to Pop Punk to Groove Metal to Stoner Metal to 1950s Rock N’ Roll to Metallica-Worship and back again, all in a seamless package where it all flows together and you don’t even realise its weird that bagpipes have entered the mix.

On this album it feels like a radio rock album with a few detours. Initially at least. The more I listen to it the more I get into it. I also feel like me saying they do too many radio songs is a bit like Millicent Stone in the TV show Bunheads telling the ballet dancers they are doing too much of a certain step (when she herself has no knowledge of dancing). And saying there isn’t enough metal is a bit silly when the tracks I have said where the best songs, ‘Die To Live,’ ‘Parasite’ and ‘Leviathan’ are in no way metal and are still brilliant. And some of my all time favourite Volbeat songs from across the discography like ‘Lola Montez’ and ‘Sad Man’s Tongue’ and ‘Still Counting’ aren’t metal either.

That’s perhaps a conflicted mess of a review. To summarise I would sum it up thusly, the gut reaction was negative but its a grower and although I would certainly not make it your first Volbeat album unless you love earnest radio rock, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a disappointment and it has at least 5 or 6 songs I am really happy with and will be happy to include on future playlists, and would be happy to see live. However; if all you liked about Volbeat was the heavier side of them, like ‘Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza,’ ‘Slaytan’ and ‘Wild Rover Of Hell’ …then maybe this album might not be an instant hit with you either.

I remember when Baroness first broke out, they were quite sludgy and while not inaccessible, certainly not quite radio-friendly either. Early albums like Red Album and Blue Record mixed Thin Lizzy clean guitar with thick stoner-sludge and swampy vocals. I remember also, when they dropped their double album ‘Yellow And Green’ and they went from a band I liked a bit due to a slight Mastodon similarity, to a band I really cared about and actively followed.

To date, I still think of Yellow & Green as an utter masterpiece and that it was one of the best albums by anyone I care about to be released that year. Its when the band really stepped out of any other band’s shadows or any one subgenre’s constraints and just went everywhere they wanted all at once…. The follow up Purple was near as good, trying (and succeeding) to condense the sprawling mix of styles, tempos and timbres of the very diverse double album into one single straight-up rock record with flavours from everything the band had done before but a focus on being succinct and accessible (without sounding too far from their more metallic roots of course).

With their new album, Gold & Grey, the band are leaning a bit back more into Yellow & Green’s experimental territories. There is a focus on diversity here. Succinct is not a word I’d use to describe this. This album seems to be reveling in the freedom to do everything and anything. ‘Seasons’ for example has spidery guitar lines that wouldn’t feel out of place on a King Crimson album, mixed with a strange lo-fi noisy production job that makes it sound like some Sonic Youth style art rock piece, but then there are also blast-beats in their briefly to bring back the metal. Sometimes it goes full prog, with ‘Sevens’ sounding like mid period Camel. ‘Broken Halo’ has some lovely bridges that I can see crowds loving when this material is toured live, but goes a bit Yes during the solo.  

There are also quite a few brief quiet, sombre, slow numbers across the album’s 17-track duration. ‘Blankets of Ash’ for example is a nice sounding acoustic guitar interlude over some creepy foreboding soundscape. ‘Crooked Mile’ is a jangly acoustic number that sounds more like an intro than a full blown tune of its own. ‘Assault On East Falls’ sounds like the music from a dream sequence in a Japanse videogame.

You can hear a bit more Radiohead and a bit less Red Fang in the DNA at times I guess (the intro to ‘Tourniquet’ or for example), but that being said there are still enough big fat choruses and catchy hooks to keep the sing-along feel of Purple. The album opener ‘Front Toward Enemy’ for example is just a foot down melodic rocker to get the blood pumping. The chorus to the single ‘Throw Me An Anchor’ is almost as catchy as something like ‘Take My Bones Away’ or ‘Shock Me’ from previous albums. ‘I’ll Do Anything’ sounds like it could be used to advertise the Olympics. Its like if Bon Iver took happy pills and wanted to inspire people to action.

Singer John Dyer Baizley’s rich voice really sets this band apart from the crowd, and when he really leans into the big melodies, it is proper 360 degree helicopter shots on a cliffside stuff. He has such a powerful and evocative voice that can make any line sound immensely meaningful and majestic.  

Considering the line-up change between albums, it still sounds totally like Baroness. You may not have had female backing vocals back on Blue Record but the way John and Gina’s vocals blend and mesh together just sound right.

The album isn’t without its flaws however. The production seems to be quite controversial based on all people I’ve seen complaining on social media. It is also a bit tough to swallow in one go, sitting somewhere between standard and double album length. (Its only an hour, but with 17 tracks there is a lot of different moods, directions and sounds to digest and so it takes up more brainpower than your typical 10-14 track album. If you just wanted an album of ‘Shock Me’ clones, something like ‘Can Oscura’ might be a bit off-putting for example). You couldn’t just slap this on in the background once and love it forever, it’s a grower that you’ve got to give a lot of attention to. That being said, these are minor flaws at the most. I didn’t really consider the production notable until it was pointed out to me by others, and usually an album being a grower at the start leads to an album you’re still loving years later rather than an album that would lose its flavour as fast as chewing gum if it popped right away.

Maybe if you were only into the band for the heaviness of the early days, this album won’t suit you. If you liked the last two albums though, this album is very much going to be right up your street. Its softer, proggier and more considered than it is bludgeoning and meaty. It’s a bit more ponderous than direct and rocking. But it is definitely worth checking out, sticking on repeat and loosing yourself in. It’s an odyssey of new worlds to glimpse, it’s a journey to get lost on. You might not want to head-bang, but you’ll never be bored.

I have been an Arctic Monkeys fan for a fairly long time. Basically, since the same month the debut album dropped. I have bought all their early singles and like all the B-Sides and deep cuts as much as the fan favourite stuff. I still liked the more controversial moments like their Humbug album and the trippy B-sides from the Suck It And See era singles.

Basically; I am not some casual fan who just cares about the big hits. Coming into this record, the band have basically done no wrong.

…And then we come to this album. To the moon. The Tranquillity Base to be specific. Now, I am not a fan of negative reviews. You may have noticed reading this blog, there are ‘its good’ and ‘its average’ reviews in abundance, but not many, if any ‘what a pile of shit’ reviews. I am very much of the ‘’If you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all’’ approach to reviews. That being said, this album is very possibly the single worst album I have heard by a good band in a long time.

Don’t take this for me just not liking the band’s change of direction. This album is a bit progressive, a bit psychedelic, a bit dreamy, and very low key. As I said though, I like the band doing all sorts of things. Its not like ‘’Your So Dark’’ from the last album’s B-Sides or ‘’Fire Side’’ from the last album didn’t work with the band being low key. Its not as if ‘’Pretty Visitors’’ and ‘’The Jeweller’s Hands’’ from Humbug didn’t work with the band being a bit Psychedelic. Its not as if I don’t like me a bit of prog now and again or the general sound of this album (sometimes I can pick up little flavours of Caravan here and there).

Its not even as if the theme of a hotel and casino on the moon, and songs from the perspective of different staff and visitors is too confusing or off-putting.  Just look at how many Mastodon, Dream Theater, Pink Floyd, Queensryche or Coheed & Cambria albums I own to know I am a big fan of concept albums.

No; the problem with this album isn’t the direction or the concept. Its not that it is a departure from previous styles. Its not that it is for serious fans only. The fan is that the songs are uniformly boring. The material uninspiring. The whole album is one-paced, uninteresting and forgettable. It is a samey sludge of un-music that is so dreadfully dull it may as well not exist. If you don’t have laser-beam focus on it you can’t tell when one song ends and the other begins (my wife has been heard to remark ‘’Is this still the same song?!’’ three songs later).

Okay, in fairness; When you do focus as hard as you can, its not all bad… You can hear some flashes of attempted hooks. For example, in ‘Star Treatment’ there is a line that goes ‘’who you gonna call, the Martini-police?’’ that is musically catchy (even if the lyric itself is a bit smug and pretentious). The bit on the title track where he says the title of the album is also good. The single ‘Four Out Of Five’ is kind of decent all the way through and is somewhat reminiscent of their better single from Humbug, ‘Cornerstone.’

But really; you shouldn’t have to dig so deep to apologetically try and find some small sliver of likeability. Compare that to their debut album, where it is literally as difficult to find something NOT to like as it is to name great moments from here, and you can see by just how far this once great band has missed the mark.

How do we explain this terrible dirge of an album? Maybe this album was a response to the huge success of the previous album AM. Maybe the band were sick of playing bangers like ‘Arabella’ for years on end and wanted to do something deeper. Maybe the band have always wanted to make this album and are only now in a position to risk it with near universal acclaim for a decade to buoy their confidence. Maybe they just took a bunch of drugs after hanging around Josh Homme too long and decided to get trippy. Who knows?

All I know is I have listened to this album so many more times than it deserved, constantly trying to get it to ‘click.’ Constantly trying to discovery its hidden depths. Constantly trying to find the good in it. I have tried across several months, in different contexts, with different kinds of music before and after, just wanting something good to happen.

The only thing that happened is that I finally felt allowed to give up on it. This is not a deep a profound work. This is not a slow burn. This is not a grower. This is not even one for hardcore fans only. This is, unfortunately, as much as it goes against my instincts to say so… a pile of shit.

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.

Intro

Now, you might have read part 1 of this blog and though ‘Jimmy, you’re full of shit!’ but while that may be metaphorically true, biologically I managed to do what I though would be the impossible. My wife joked before I left for the weekend-long festival, ‘Have fun holding it in for three days’ and after the bio-hazard that was the toilet facilities at Festival Zand, I thought she was right, it would be hard to take nature’s call.

Let me be real here for a second. I have a strong stomach. I’ve worked in hospitals for years. I have washed the infected feaces out of a 70 year old woman’s prolapsed vagina and then gone and ate my lunch straight afterward without missing a beat. I have washed cadavers who’ve passed by choking on their own vomit and bile without having to crack a window. I have had more than one person spray bloody diarrhea directly onto my outstretched arms. I’m not a baby when it comes to the grosser side of life.

The toilets in Festival Zand were horrific even to me. They were a hole in the portaloo floor, baking in the hot sun, with a thousand used tampons and 1,000 liters of booze-filled puke percolating for hours to create a stench usually only smelled by the denizens of hell itself. You could almost see the comic book stink lines. Revolting doesn’t cover it.

My scheme for the good Download drop down was, instead of getting up in the camp and queuing forever to climb in on top of 2,000 fresh turds, to instead walk all the way to the arena, which had been cleaned and restocked overnight presumably, and walk to the furthest toilets away from the entrance. Clean and pristine, no queue, no problems. What a success. I’d recommend this tactic to anyone else who isn’t going to be too drunk to care. To be fair though, the actual toilets they used were way more high tech and less gross in general. Quite high quality.

ANY OLD WAY….

Where was I ?

DAY 2, The Bands Part 2

Oh yeah. Parkway-Fucking-Drive! Live! Parkway Drive‘s Ire album is one of my most listened to albums of the last few years. Their new album is almost as good. They have some really memorable classic material before that. I could not wait to hear them live. I had tried to see them live before, and missed out. I was not going to let that happen again.

My excitement was almost fever pitched when they hit the stage. The setlist was fantastic with all of my favourite songs from the two newest albums.They even played the slow atmospheric moody stuff which was pretty spine-tingling with all the dry ice. When they played ‘Writings On The Wall’ they got up on risers and elevated up into the air.

Speaking of elevating into the air, at one stage, they had the drumkit rotate a full 360 degrees so it was fully upside down, like Joey Jordinson or Tommy Lee. They even set the drum riser on fire at one stage. Speaking of fire, so much. More than anyone else I’d saw on the second stage. It was quite the spectacle.

You know the best part though? The performance. They absolutely crushed it. When they sang ‘Crushed by the fist of god!’ you felt it. It was an absolute battering of a performance. So fucking chunky and satisfying. The drums were so hard, the riffs were so powerful, the vocals were so savage. An absolutely blistering set. Even when they were playing the less outwardly heavy and more catchy stadium stuff, it was so uplifting and energizing. I loved every second of it. If you ever get a chance to see this band live, jump at it. There’s a reason the podcast calls them the best live band of our generation. Sure, one part of it is the inflatable palm trees and fiery drum kits, but 99% of it is how phenomenally they play live.

Overly satisfied and having got my money’s worth so hard I could have gone home there and then and felt I’d spent my money wisesly, it was time to run over to the big event.

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Did I know where the fuck I was? I was en-route to the Jungle baby!

As anyone who likes rock music enough to read my stupid blog knows, this concert was a big, big deal. A legacy moment for the festival. They actually got Guns N’ Roses on their Not In This Lifetime Tour. The tour that has more ink on it than an octopus slaughterhouse. The most talked about tour of the past 5 years. Axl, Slash and Duff back together.

I decided there was no chance I’d ever get anywhere near the front, so instead of running straight there I stopped to get food, and right as I was handed my falafal, ‘Its So Easy’ came roaring out of the speakers. I turned, ate as I walked, and got as close as I could.

It wasn’t close. Last night, for the headliner, I could see the singer’s armpit hair. Tonight, for the headliner, I could see some red and white dots. I saw Axl and Slash with my own two eyes, but boy were they tiny.

Ever see the Father Ted segment about these cows being small and those cows being far away? That was what was going through my head. The previous day had reportedly had about 7,000 in attendance. With day tickets and all the 40-year-olds finally getting their chance to see GNR it was well over 10,000. The previous day, the crowd had been split between main and second stage. Tonight they closed the second stage during GNR. (Something that Bury Tomorow joked about during their stage banter).

It. Was. Swamped.

Luckily, they had giant screens, and fireworks and a big show to make you feel like you could see… something. Anything…

Oh well, I decided not to get too worried about it. I mean I listen to live albums, not just watch live DVDs. Music is music. So it was nice to get to hear (and sort of see) my first ever Guns N Roses concert. It was much talked about before hand. Other reviewers said the band were on fire. Everyone said Axl had his voice back, and more importantly actually showed up on time and didn’t piss everyone off with his antics. I was excited. I got a tour t-shirt before they even played a note.

You know how it was? It was ok.

There were some good points. They played ‘Shadow of your love’ and Velvet Revolver‘s ‘Slither’ which made it feel like they were doing something I hadn’t read about a million times already. They played ‘Double Talkin Jive’ which is one of my favourite songs and I didn’t expect them to play it. They played all the hits, with ‘Civil War’ and ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ being done particularly well.

They played a few songs of Chinese Democracy which I was grateful for at first. I love that album, I played it to death when I was losing weight after years of being the fat kid and it holds a special place in my heart. Oh but boy, Slash can not play those songs. Greatest guitar player ever? Hmmmm. I know he may have been trying to but his own stamp on it, or play it how he originally did in the ’90s before the albums million year long wait mutated it into something else, or whatever other excuse, but to be frank…he sucked. It sucked.

You know what else was a bit lame? They played a cover of Pink Floyd‘s ‘Wish You Were Here’ which was completely unnecessary since a) Avenged already did a better version last night on the same stage and b) they played a way too high ratio of covers to begin with. Who the hell wants them to play ‘The Seeker’ anymore?

I know they have some great covers, like ‘Attitude’ especially, which luckily they did play. I know some of their big hits are covers (the tedious to me but much loved ‘Knockin On Heaven’s Door’ and ‘Live And Let Die’ which I could really live without but am not so unrealistic as to expect them not to play, just like you don’t expect Anthrax to skip ‘Antisocial’ ) but when you are adding in new covers like ‘Slither’ do you still have to play ‘Black Hole Sun’ ? I mean as a Cornell tribute near the time sure, but when I am going to see stadium rock megastars Guns N’ Roses I don’t want a trippy depressing semi-ballad from a Grunge band trying to be psychedelic.

You can’t complain too much about setlist choice when they play for three and a half hours though. It was sort of Rock and Roll history, sort of, and it was great value for money, sort of and they did put on a good show sort of. Its just, with the anticipation and everything, the hype, it could never live up to expectations.

Guns N’ Roses were pretty decent. It was a good gig. It was not flawless or magical or life changing. Avenged were better. Parkway were better. Hell, even my last solo gigs from Saxon and Machine Head were better. I almost feel guilty about it, like it makes me a bad music fan due to the universal agreement that GNR are amazing. Unfortunately, it is not 1987. Its not 1992. Its 2018, and I don’t feel like I should have to make excuses for not thinking they were the best thing ever.

Admittedly, maybe if you liked the covers more, or if you had a better view, or if you weren’t sleepless and exhausted and in pain from standing for 14 hours and walking something like 15-20,000 steps two days in a row; then maybe you would have liked it more. I bet if I google reviews of the show I’m probably in the minority of not loving. Then again, its not that I thought it sucked or was a waste of time, it just wasn’t as great (except for how Slash played the Chinese Democracy era material)… It just wasn’t the orgasmic cosmic revelation I feel peer pressured into calling it.

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So that was it for day 2.

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NIGHT 2

On my walk back to camp this time, the route I walked the previous time was closed. I got herded down a different route. I walked about 20 minutes further out of the way. I found out what that weird fairground thing was… it was the download village. There were pubs and food trucks and amusements and shops and ATM machines and showers (holy shit!) and I bought a pillow on my way home. It was cheaper than a drink.

I then walked back to my tent through a bak route and found out that there was fresh drinkable running water I hadn’t noticed before and even more toielts. I was impressed by the sheer scale of this whole download situation.

I found my tent again, got in shut my eyes.

And I got a peaceful uninterupted…….AH HA HA NO!

‘AAAAAAALAN’ ‘ALLLLLLLLAN ‘AAAAALAN’

Five hours.

Whatever. Only one day left.

DAY 3 – THE BANDS.

I got up, had breakfast and headed off to my previously discussed ideal toilets. I then sat myself in front of the main stage as per my plan. I hadn’t heard of the first band. When they were setting up, their banner was put up. Inglorious. In a spikey font. Hmmm. What would they sound like. Looked like a Melodeath band from that logo. Would they be like Arch Enemy? They were in the post GNR hangover slot. Would they be any good, or is this where you hide the rejects?

The got up, kicked out some jams, and really, really converted me. Attention fans of classic rock. Attention fans of Glen Hughes. Attention fans of MK3 Deep Purple. You need to check out Inglorious. Do you know what Airbourne do for AC/DC? Inglorious are like that for MK3 Deep Purple.

They dropped a good mixture of fast and slow, bluesy and rocking, soulful and ballsy. They got a lot of people clapping and dancing. They really impressed me. I highly recommend them! Apparently they had a very popular album with the Planet Rock crowd. They got a ‘fuck Gene Simmons’ chant going in response to the rock is dead saga. It was all very entertaining.

 

In sharp, sharp, shaaaarp contrast to that funked out hard rock, came legendary British Gothified Extreme Metal merchants Cradle Of Filth. I was a big fan of them in high school but sort of fell away from them. I was excited to catch up. My best (non wife) friend is a gigantic fan and I wanted to see them almost on his behalf. Luckily, apart from one new tune (which was rather good actually) they played all material from the albums I own. They played literally each of my 3 favourite tracks: ‘Born In A Burial Gown,’ ‘Her Ghost In The Fog’ and ‘Dusk & Her Embrace.’ They were very enthusiastic, the sound-guys did a spectacular job with them, and the band looked the part. I never felt the need to go out and get tickets to a COF show on their own, but after this I might reconsider. They really nailed it. Even the vocals which I’ve read are patchy live, were pretty swish.

Then came Hatebreed. They were one of the bands I was most looking forward to all weekend. I saw them live before a few times and they utterly destroyed the place. I hold the band in extremely high esteem. A tween in the crowd turned to me and asked what kind of music they were as he only cared a out Manson and Ozzy, and I hyped the band up to no end.

They came on, there were a lot of crowd surfers. They dropped some of my favourite songs like ‘Proven’ and ‘As Diehard As They Come.’ They played a lot of new material. I did miss hearing some tracks like ‘In Ashes They Shall Reap’ …how can you skip that gem? But overall it was pretty good. I’ve saw the band before and it was better each time, so I guess this is technically the worst I’d ever saw them… and even at that it was still a 9.9/10 performance. This band are undeniable live. Jasta is one of the most enthusiastic and uplifting frontmen ever. They have some of the bounciest and most crushing riffs in the scene. I can’t say enough positive things about them. A band for sing-alongs and then some!

I’d never heard of In This Moment before, but on the second stage, German Thrash legends Kreator were on, so I ran over there and got there in time to catch the full set. They have released albums that were album of the year contenders for every release since way back of Violent Revolution, especially Hordes Of Chaos from 2009. Luckily, they played mostly new material live and they played the title track from Hordes Of Chaos (the best song on it by the way!). They had fire, the had banner and they got the biggest circle pit I saw all weekend (or in my life, but I am not an expert as I avoid them like the plague). They even had an unexpected confetti cannon. The crowd seemed really enthusiastic too. It wasn’t just some nostalgia crowd either all the kids were loving it too. I wish they had been given more time, they could have benefited from having the opportunity to drop some old school material live too (‘People Of The Lie’ would’ve went over really well). Apart from C.O.C (I still can’t get over how few songs they played!!!!) this was the most criminally short set of the weekend. Still, better an utterly perfect short set than no set at all. Man, I really got my money’s worth out of this fourth day already.

Then came the long, long wait for Manson & Ozzy. I had never heard Black Veil Brides or In This Moment, and I have heard and not liked Shinedown. I missed all but the last In This Moment song whilst off at Kreator so just saw the final track ‘Whore’ which the crowd really loved. Then figured out I had been dramatically sunburnt over the morning. I then put on a full length coat to hide my skin but it didn’t really help.

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Black Veil Brides looked like Motley Crue but sounded like a less interesting, less inspired version of Killswitch Engage. A lot of people got their tits out for them. A lot of people sang along. A lot of people seemed to really love them. It wasn’t my cup of tea but like Asking Alexandria you can’t argue with how much the crowd liked them. The singer seems to be some sort of sex icon and judging by the way people almost knocked me over to get closer to him when he ran up the side of the barrier. I’m glad there are bands like this bringing in more fans, but I won’t personally be buying any of their albums off the back of today (unlike Volbeat for example; who since I started writing this, I have streamed at least 60 times).

The set was rather long, and for me it is all time that would be better spent on the likes of Hatebreed or Cradle Of Filth, but Festivals are not made for one person. Then came Shinedown. Their singer looks like Jamie Lanister. They have a lot of confidence. They have no songs I enjoyed. I mean fair play to them, they put a lot of energy and confidence into their very bland lowest common denominator boring radio rock, and they don’t seem cynical or contrived, but their music is not to my taste. I feel like this would have been a good concert to a fan though. I got the distinct vibe that this was a very strong performance.

Then came Marilyn ‘roll the dice’ Manson, who can be both the best and worst live band every and it just depends when you see him. There are videos of him being a jaw dropping larger than life megastar and there are videos of him rolling around the floor missing lines and looking like an intoxicated mess.

I feel like he didn’t put on much of a show compared to previous videos and DVDs. Compared to the other headliners and sub headliners even. He sort of showed up and expected us to be grateful. He climbed around a pulpit and changed costumes a few times but so had other bands that day. He did play a fairly decent greatest hits set and not too many tracks of his new album which is the first one I’ve ever disliked. Oddly though, instead of closing strong with a hit, he petered out boringly with a fairly dull cover of a song off The Lost Boys Soundtrack.

There were some other good moments, like how bouncy ‘Disposable Teens’ and ‘Angel With The Scabbed Wings’ were. And after ‘Kill For Me’ he let a fan get up on the stage because she had a banner saying ‘I’d Kill For You’ which seemed human and grateful. The girls in the crowd were acting pretty crazy for him too. One barged past me and just bellowed ‘I’M SORRY BUT I’M IN LOVE WITH HIM’ and one got up on a guy’s shoulders and aggressively played with her breasts at him while making sexually suggestive faces for a surprisingly long time.

Manson’s vocals started off strong and got weaker as the show wore on. It was not a bad show, but it was pretty average. Guns N’ Roses were miles better than this. I have wanted to see Manson for years and years. I remember my non metal class mates in catholic school being disgusted and horrified when I did my French and Irish homework about him and had posters of him dressed in a corset and thong up on the classroom wall. I remember lifting a Marilyn Manson CD to view at age 11 and having two girls from my school tell me ‘Oh my god you’re going to hell.’ I remember buying his autobiography and the cashier saying ‘Why are you buying this, wouldn’t want to run into him in a dark alley.’ His autobiography is among the top 3 most read books I have ever read. I read it like twice a year every year for about 6 years after buying it and like once every two years since then. My first ever crush on a girl was on a girl who kept wearing Marilyn Manson hoodies all the time. Holywood is unarguably one of the best albums ever. His live album Last Tour On Earth is one of the best live albums ever. I got really jealous one summer when all my friends went to see him with Iron Maiden and I couldn’t go because of work.

Unfortunately, around 2005 onwards, people kept saying how much he sucked live and I stopped craving it so hard. Never the less, he is immensely important to my musical life and I was really glad to have got the chance to see him, even if it wasn’t the best.

One band to go. The one, the only Ozzy Osbourne. On his ‘No More Tours 2’ tour, his first ever appearance at Download outside of Sabbath. Reunited with the terrific Zack Wylde.

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Now; I’ve heard a lot of people over the years say Ozzy sucks. That he is past it. That he is a doddering old fool. I wasn’t expecting much. Certainly it was an event, but like Guns N Roses, it was an event due to age, and age isn’t kind to bands apparently.

Zack was visible on stage for a crazily long time before the show started, but once it did start, there was a little video of historical Ozzy footage, then he came on stage. The set was mostly Blizzard’ & No More Tears material and Sabbath covers, with a few extra ’80s hits like ‘Shot In The Dark’ and ‘Bark At The Moon’ thrown in for good measure and a very, very, very long guitar solo section with sections of Zack-Era songs like ‘Perry Mason’ hidden underneath all the soloing. Zack played the guitar upside down, on his back, with his teeth, all that good showmanship. He got out in the crowd and marched up and down the barriers. There were some issues with his cable but it was very entertaining.

Tommy’s super powerful druming made tracks like ‘Suicide Solution’ and ‘I Don’t Know’ sound so hard and heavy. The lighting and stage show was very well done, the most tasteful of all the headlinerrs. There were lazers. There were lights and video screens and a big set of steps and cross that had visualisations on them. For example they were all psychadelic during ‘Faries Wear Boots.’

You know what else, even if Ozzy isn’t very physical on stage, his voice was way better than I expected. I hear such bad reports about the Sabbath reunion. I wasn’t let down tonight however. Even when an incredibly drunk set of teenage girls suddenly barged in front of me, swigging wine with their backs to the stage talking shit and ignoring the show, but getting their gross booze-stained hair on my arms and drunkenly stumbling back and forth into me, it couldn’t detract too much from the show, such was Ozzy’s power. In hindsight; Why were they here? Who goes to an Ozzy Osbourne show and doesn’t watch Ozzy Osbourne? Who has a conversation at a concert?

Luckily they left after one song. The rest of the evening was perfect. The encore of ‘Mama, I’m Coming Home’ had such singing along. He closed with ‘Paranoid’ and the biggest firework show of the weekend.

I thought it was fantastic. This show was absolutely worth the money. I really enjoyed it. I’d recommend it. I thought it was better than GNR. I wish I’d bought an Ozzy shirt too but money was an issue by this point.

NIGHT THREE

So that was the weekend. 3 days, dozens of bands, two legends I’ll probably never see again. Two nights with hardly any sleep. A few good falafals. About £40 on cups of tea and bottles of tango orange. A few stealthy poops.

I walked the long walk back to the tent. The crowd were singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and The ‘Wheels On The Bus.’ I climbed into my tent, weary and ready to sleep.

‘AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN.’

….and that’s when I packed up my tent, walked about 20,00 steps to the car, and drove home for two and a half hours in the middle of the night.Ironically, when I got in bed I still heard someone yell ‘Alan’ but luckily it was just my neighbor’s wife getting his attention. Good night, download. Thanks for the memories.