Posts Tagged ‘Review’

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.

I went to see An Evening With Machine Head last night in Cardiff, Monday 14th May 2018. There were no support bands and wasn’t much waiting around, just about three hours of Machine-Fucking-Head (as they like to be called).

After playing some Slipknot, Metallica and Killswitch Engage songs over the PA, and coming on to ‘Diary Of A Madman’ by Ozzy, the band took the stage. It was all decked out in cool mats and banners with the band’s iconography on it, there were no visible amps as it was all covered in screens which were white and blood stained, the drum kit was even white. I think at other shows the band might’ve been dressed white as well but they were dressed normal tonight.

The audience reaction was really great. I’ve seen Machine Head twice before and in the UK they are utterly beloved, so you can imagine how good the energy in the room was.

The night held a mixture of old and new, fast and slow, heavy and quiet. They played a decent chunk of their controversial (but excellent) new album Catharsis, which I appreciated as although I thought it was good on first impressions, it has been my car album ever since and in work that is the soundtrack to driving and I’ve really come to love it over the months. They played 6 whole songs of it, which is a pretty good showing for a new album. The audience reacted really well to the new material and the sing-alongs to songs like ‘Kaleidoscope,’ ‘Catharsis’ and even the controversial ‘Triple Beam’ were all just as good as fan favourites like ‘Bulldozer,’ ‘Take My Scars’ or ‘The Blood The Sweat The Tears.’ There was one typical meathead guy just shouting ‘Davidian!’ all night, but he was a small minority, the new stuff went over really well. Take that internet trolls.

The audience lapped up stuff of the classic albums like Burn My Eyes and The Blackening, reacted very well to material off my favourite album Unto The Locust and went mental for even stuff off the controversial albums like The Burning Red and Supercharger (yes even the much bemoaned rapping in From This Day, their late ’90s single which is often complained about by the bullet belt crowd. Hey, I love it and I showed up in a patch jacket full of Forbidden, Exodus and Testament patches). The only point in the evening was when it dipped was for the new ballad ‘Behind A Mask’ (which I loved and happily sang along to) but which seemed to die on its ass. One mosh-pit enthusiast turned to me and yelled, ‘this is why we have support bands!’ – meaning he didn’t like it. But to be fair the crowd might have just been tired from banging around for two and a half hours and just having heard ‘Davidian’ 19 songs into the otherwise crushing and energetic set.

There were all the songs I can’t live without nowadays like ‘Locust’ ‘Game Over’ ‘Killers And Kings’ ‘Aesthetics Of Hate’ and ‘Imperium’ (I think I’d cry if I saw Machine Head and they didn’t play all of those) as well as the old reliable tracks like ‘Old’ & ‘Ten Ton Hammer.’ They even threw in ‘None But My Own’ off the debut which they didn’t play either time I saw them before which was a nice change.

The way the lighting works, with green for Locust era songs, Orange for Burn My Eyes era songs and Red for Burning Red songs is really cool, and with occasional towers of smoke and a very enthusiastic band interacting constantly with each other and the crowd, it is a joy to watch. You catch little bits like Phil and Dave making faces at eachother or Phil tuning Robb’s tuning peg in the middle of a part for laughs and you can tell they’re having fun. Although not new anymore, the new-ish bassist Jared MacEachern has such a great stage presence and is a perfect fit for the band, just like how Phil was when he joined and now you can’t imagine the band without him.

As for the performances; pure flipping magic! Watching Dave McClain drum is like watching a science experiment on a voodoo ritual. The man comes up with some bonkers patterns and just the best fills, and its hard not to spend the majority of the concert air drumming. The guy is a beast.

The vocals from all three stringed players were great, and Rob really holds up live. He is a brilliant frontman, you get peaks of it on the old live at brixton DVD and the live CDs but in person its a whole other level, he is the perfect mixture of grateful and humble but also commanding and dominating. Its awesome.

Apart from one or two very minor technical issues, the music was amazing. (I think Phil either broke a guitar string or had faulty equipment once as he dissapeared off stage briefly once). The jaw dropping guitar solos are such fun and people were singing along to parts like you do for Megadeth. I was in such a good spot – second row from the front, just left of centre – so could see everyone perfectly and see every little detail of the fretboards and drum kit. The venue has the stage quite close and low to the crowd so you really get to see everything and it was visually the best concert I’ve seen for a band of this size. You could practically make out their nose hair it was that good a view.

Considering Machine Head don’t have that many short songs, and played long tracks like ‘Clenching The Fist Of Dissent’ and ‘Halo,’ having 26 songs live was incredible value for money. Considering how ridiculously good the band are live it was anyway, but the sheer quantity as well as the spectacular quality make this one of the finest live concerts I’ve ever seen… Sometimes I’ve seen bands I love and been underwhelmed by sound, setlist choice or performance (see Monster Magnet for all the that one time when I was in Uni, or Slipknot when they supported Metallica that one time back in Dublin where the soundguy fucked them over and they only had a very short set) but with Machine Head everything has been amazing. Like Saxon, I’ve never seen them anything less than amazing and been totally satisfied.

If you get the chance, see this band live!

Ps. Shout out to the Cardiff audience members in the That’s Not Metal merch, I love that show!

BLS-Grimmest-hits-CackblabbathBlack Label Society are very much ‘old dependable.’ Every album is worth owning. For me I do have to admit preferring their Metal side to their Rock side and consequently thinking the first four albums and also Order Of The Black are the best, but even with that being said, nothing they do it bad.

2018’s Grimmest Hits (a studio album, not a greatest hits, in case you didn’t know) is their tenth proper Studio album. If it is your first BLS album, then you’ll probably love it, if you already own a few, then you’ll probably like me enjoy it, but not think it is the best. Like AC/DC or Hatebreed or Motorhead, the band do have album on album variation, but they always sound distinctly themselves and a causaul person may say ‘heard one, hear em all.’

Its pretty much the usual fayer here, with a bit more Sabbathy and a bit less Groove Metal than some of their other work, but still very much more of the same. A few great ballads, a mix of fast, slow and mid-tempo Metallic rock songs with incredible guitar solos and vocals that owe a lot to both Layne Stayley and Ozzy Osbourne.

Highlights this time around include ‘Seasons Of Faulter,’ ‘A Love Unreal’ and the very catchy southern ballad ‘The Day That Heaven Had Gone Away.’

Its the kind of album you have on in the car and listen to over and over again without realizing how much you actually listen to it. You wouldn’t call it your favourite ever album but you certainly get your money’s worth in the end. Recommended, not a disappointment, but not their greatest. If you are a new fan try something like 1919 Eternal first, move on to this when you’re already a fan.

Machine-Head-Catharsis-Artwork.jpgTo say this album is controversial is an understatement. To understand it, you really have to look at the psychology and recent history of the band and it’s frontman, Rob Flynn. When Machine Head first arrived on the scene in the early ’90s with their almost universally loved debut album and its follow up they were the hot new thing. By taking Thrash Metal, slowing it down, adding in lots of groove and Hardcore they ended up creating something unique that genre pedants still can’t agree on (Groove Metal or Post Thrash or just a weird version of Thrash, the arguments are endless). After that, when Nu Metal was popular and still new and exciting, the band who had always been talking about Hip Hop and Rap since their early days introduced Rap and Hip Hop elements into their music and changed the production and guitar styles, in so doing they made something altogether different that garnered both huge success and then huge backlash for their next two albums. After the backlash and all the constant criticism, the band almost broke up and their popularity plummeted drastically, but instead of throwing in the towel, they changed paths again and then released what can only be described as four of the best albums in the entire history of Heavy Metal… their stellar run from their return-to-glory Through The Ashes Of Empires to Bloodstone And Diamonds are four straight up faultless masterpieces, crowned by their beyond-popular The Blackening which is hailed as a classic by more people than there is time to list.

For the two albums after The Blackening though, even though they were incredible, it did not get the band the Festival Headliner status they justly deserved. Furthermore, after touring the material from those four albums, most of which is so lengthy and diverse that it absolutely ate up all the time they would get on festival slots thereby letting them only really play 4 or 5 songs… the band decided to start doing ‘An Evening With Machine Head’ shows where they could play multiple hour sets (often without a support act, although I’ve seen them twice, once with support bands and once without).

When doing those ‘evening-with’ shows and now having room to play more than just 4 or 5 of the newer era songs, they were able to drop in material from all over their career. Even tracks from the Nu Metal period that many people claimed to hate, but which the band are now getting nostalgic for and people seemed to be loving live.

So here we are in 2018; after four albums of absolute perfection, melding progressive flair, blistering thrash, flashy technicality, beautiful dual guitar melodies, and diverse mixtures of fast, slow, sludgy and groovy… the band needed to try something else to make a play for their absolutely-earned but frustratingly elusive festival headliner status. Full of nostalgia for the Nu Metal era and feeling no reason to be tied to a formula that isn’t giving them the success they deserve, Machine Head entered the studio and came out with Catharsis. The name has been explained as describing the writing process. Instead of having to hide away new ideas like incorporating poppy keyboard sounds that Rob is listening to on the radio, or delving back into the in their eyes unfairly overlooked Nu Metal stuff was cathartic for the band. Even though it is superb, they don’t want to just repeat The Blackening fifty times. It wouldn’t be fun as musicians. So back come the bouncy riffs and street-level lyrics, and newly incoming are the Jordan Fish sounding keyboard sections. That gets mixed in with the successful formula from the previous four albums, and the resultant mixture is what we have here on Catharsis.

Now; there’s two things that can make a certain time of metal fan do a spit-take. One of them is a Heavy band going Nu Metal. Another is anything that sounds like Bring Me The Horizon. So naturally; there has been a hell of a lot of negative reaction to this album. Not helping that is the world being so much more right wing now, people are complaining constantly about the socially conscious lyrics of this as if its a new thing. As if they weren’t singing about this all the way back on Burn My Eyes. As if the universally praised The Blackening didn’t have ‘Slanderous’ on it. As if Metal fans haven’t been praising bands like Anthrax and Nuclear Assault for being socially aware all the way back in the ’80s. As if music fans haven’t been praising bands like Dead Kennedys and Rage Against The Machine and the hundreds of other bands (I mean, there are so many more left wing or liberal rock and metal bands than its even worth counting, why is this even a topic of discussion?). I mean, its not as if Rob Flynn has ever guest starred on an Earth Crisis album or something is it? Oh wait…

Ok. So that’s the broad strokes out of the way. On to the specifics. It is almost an album of two halves (its almost two albums its that long, over 70 minutes… how does that compare to Unto The Locust getting pettily criticized for being too short?). The first half shows off the more experimental stuff. Songs like ‘Kaleidoscope,’ ‘California Bleeding,’ ‘Triple Beam’ and the album’s centerpiece ‘Bastards’ is where the real diversity and controversy lies. If you haven’t heard it or about it yet, ‘Bastards’ has been described as a folk song; four chords that have been around hundreds of years etc, and it climaxes with a shuffly drum beat that could be Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphies. It is a very surprising move from the band and sounds like nothing they’ve done before. ‘California Bleeding’ has that same style of lyrics that the much criticized ‘American High’ off of Supercharger had. ‘Kaleidoscope’ and the Title Track have touches of keyboards that have that Jordan Fish BMTH sound. There is a slight Slipknot influence on opener ‘Volatile.’ ‘Triple Beam’ despite having an absolutely brutal sledgehammer riff in it, is much-hated by people for being a very clear Nu Metal nostalgia moment. I think bands like Cain Hill and King 810 coming out, and bands like Coal Chamber reuniting, as well as fans at ‘Evening-With‘ shows enjoying the Burning Red material so much can explain this. This type of music was important to the band at one point and it must feel fun to write like this again and not have to feel ashamed of it. (Well, until now when the inevitable backlash came).

The rest of the album however is a bit more traditional. Its nothing you’ve heard before but if you really think about it, it is within expected limits of Machine Head. I mean, this whole album’s titular catharsis was them rejecting and pushing against those limits and that’s why the first half is the way it is. So of course, sure there is a bit of diversity in the second half too, with ‘Hope Begets Hope’ having a slight System Of A Down influence in the quiet guitar parts, and the odd melodic pre-chorus on the Motorhead tribute ‘Razorblade Sigh’ are a new addition but its all within the limits of a between-albums jump in their last four albums run.  They were never four exactly identical albums and there was a reasonable jump between each, but the second half here is very much suitable for anyone who has loved the band’s renasiance period. Don’t let people who don’t like all the change in the first half let you miss out on the quality stuff at the end. There are riffs as crushing as anything on ‘Locust or ‘Diamonds, there are guitar solos as good as the stuff on The Blackening and there are vocals as good as anything on ‘Empires. I mean ‘Heavy Lies The Crown’ opens up with violins, but so did ‘Now We Die.’

Even though the heavier moments are what we all come to Machine Head for, one of the highlights is ‘Behind A Mask;’ a semi-ballad that sounds like a superb mixture of ‘Darkness Within’ and ‘Descend The Shades Of Night’ but with an almost Bon Iver backing vocal, some tasteful electronic snare sounds, and absolutely and a stunningly simple but beautiful guitar solo.

Now; I don’t think this album is anywhere near as deserving of criticism as it is getting. (Really?! Your review was so impartial thus far, how shocking!). That being said, I do have some personal-preference issues. I for one am not a fan of the lyrics. Not the political stuff, I actually like that. Its the poor-taste vulgar stuff that feels out of place. I don’t want to hear ‘sucking dick’ or ‘getting head’ or ‘eating pussy’ or ‘a boner for miles’ from the same band who wrote the excellent lyrics to ‘Locust’ and ‘Clenching The Fist Of Descent’ …that is not to my personal taste. I also am not a fan of the weird effects on the drums at times. Sometimes, the music will cut out and Dave will be about to drop a really powerful drum fill but the production job will put an effect on it and make it sound strange and toy-like and detract from the impact. I also don’t like the decision to use less rhythm guitar and do the dual leads over only bass. It sounds a bit empty compared to previous albums some how. Lacking a certain power. Not album ruining but a little niggle worth pointing out.

Is it going to topple Unto The Locust as my own personal favourite Machine Head album? No. Is it going to topple The Blackening or Burn My Eyes as the band’s most known and loved classic album in the public opinion? No. That being said; It is the travesty people have been hyperbole-gushing about? Hell no. Is it a return to Nu Metal? Not really no, there are tiny amounts only. Is it a betrayal? No, don’t overdo it now guys. Is it even a bad album? No.

There are a few aspects that aren’t to my taste, there are a few aspects that will have more militant bullet belt wearing fans crying foul. The majority of the album however is still the same thing Machine Head always do: Unique drums. Heavy riffing. Interesting solos. Rob Flynn’s voice. There is an absolute load of good moments on the album, and the lesser moments have been greatly blown out of proportion.

PS. Another really great reason to check this album out? The bonus disc! If you get the right version you get a full length ‘An Evening With’ show live in San Francisco in 2015. It has 21 entire songs performed superbly and well captured. It has all the MH livery and banners and the good light show. The band are firing on all cylinders. The crowd seem pretty into it. The camera work and editing aren’t annoying or distracting like some concert DVDs. Heck; The DVD is good enough to be a full price release on its own merit. I highly recommend you check it out. Even if you’ve heard ‘Kaleidoscope’ or ‘Bastards’ or something and are skeptical about the new album, how can you argue with live renditions of tracks like ‘Game Over,’ ‘Aesthetics Of Hate,’ ‘Imperium’ and the like?