Posts Tagged ‘Review’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KiIncarnate2016llswitch Engage are one of the biggest and most beloved of all the bands that came from their scene, and have consistently released top quality material since their inception, staying more or less successful and critically acclaimed throughout, with only a few dips.

After previously estranged frontman Jesse Leach returned with their previous album, 2013, their star has risen arguably even further and they are constantly called things like ‘the best live band in the world’ online and in the press. That album was amazing and the tour for it was great. When Incarnate came out in 2016, it wasn’t met with the same unending praise and I was a bit too skeptical to pick up a copy initially from people I respect telling me it wasn’t up to scratch.

When they came to my city on tour supporting this record I realized how silly I had been. Live, tracks like ‘Strength Of The Mind’ and ‘Hate By Design’ absolutely smashed it and sold me completely on this record. I got myself a copy and still to this day find myself wondering what the heck that negativity was about.

Incarnate is a damn fine album. It starts strong, it has strong singles and the deep cuts are all strong. The production is excellent, the vocals are excellent, the choruses are memorable. Some of the lyrics are amazing. There is a good mix of light and heavy, a good mix of adventurous and straight forward. It is very much the ‘As Daylight Dies’ to Disarm The Descent’s ‘The End Of Heartache’ – the comparisons are many – its not just as instant but still has amazing singles, the opening track takes a while to get going, there’s a flow-breaking slow track halfway through, and its not the big talking point due to a singer change anymore… but its still a damn fine album. Don’t make my mistake and miss out on it if you heard someone else say its not as good. Being almost as good as Disarm The Descent but not quite is still better than almost anything else.

For me; tracks like ‘Until The Day,’ ‘Quiet Distress’ and ‘The Great Deceit’ are amazing and up there with the best material on any Killswitch record. The three singles; the bouncy ‘Strength Of The Mind,’ the typical Killswitch single ‘Cut Me Loose’ and especially the amazingly catchy ‘Hate By Design’ are some of the band’s best singles yet and I couldn’t imagine a Greatest Hits or Live album without them now, and the album works more or less perfectly from start to finish with basically nothing worth skipping.

If you like this band; Incarnate definitely deserves a place in you collection. Its not only a decent album, its more, its a damn good album. If this was your first KSE album and you didn’t have to compare it to all their legendary material, I can’t imagine you finding it anything less than astounding.

kreatorgodsofviolencecdKreator are an amazing band who have made some astounding and important music over the years; from their 1986 Extreme-Metal-influencing classic Pleasure To Kill, to their infectious politically aware genre-defining Thrash albums Extreme Aggression & Coma Of Souls, to their 2001 renaissance Violent Revolution, the German legends have been a positive force for top quality Metal.  In the last 17 years they have only been getting stronger and stronger with albums such as 2009’s frankly breathtaking Hordes Of Chaos arguably even better than either anything they released in their ’80s glory-period or indeed anything younger bands from today are producing.

Back once more, in 2017 on Nuclear Blast, produced by the excellent Jens Borgen (Amon Amarth, Opeth, Soilwork); Frontman Mille Petrozza, drummer Jürgen “Ventor” Reil and at this point long time guitar and bass associates Sami Yli-Sirniö and Christian Giesler have released the fourteenth official Kreator studio album, and boy oh boy is it a good one.

The album opens strong with the thrashier material such as ‘World War Now,’ ‘Satan Is Real’ and ‘Totalitarian Terror’ competing with other ’80s Thrash bands still at the top of their game such as Exodus and Testament for who can put out the highest quality material the latest into their career. This hard, heavy and fast material gets the blood pumping right from the get go.

Unlike many albums however, it isn’t frontloaded. Rather than diminishing returns, this one just gets better and better as the record goes on, with some of the later songs being the best, just check out the ridiculously catchy ‘Side By Side’ or ‘Hail To The Hordes.’ And continuing on that theme, it just gets better and better the more you listen to it. Its a real grower that rewards repeat listens and scrutiny.

There’s a lot of variety on this disc, from the all-out brutality of the first few songs, to the acoustic moments such as the intro of the Title Track and Lion With Eagle Wings. From the shout-along fist pumping anthemic parts you wouldn’t have found in their ’80s stuff to the crazily good guitar hero soloing with jaw dropping speeds, tapping, tricks and all that flashy stuff that manages to still stay tasteful. There’s neat little touches here and there such as harps, choirs and even bagpipes but there’s still furiously quick double-kicks and buzzsaw guitar lines… There’s also a huge amount of melody.

The last decade saw the band take influence from Melodeath into their thrash mix (and boy can Jens Borgen make that sound good), but there’s guitar lines here that go beyond that, even towards Power Metal or Trad Metal territories at times. Its a fine balance that adds infectious feel-good smiles from the sheer quality of the guitar work without loosing the balls or heaviness. There’s also groovy memorable riffs that could rival the catchiest moments of Coma Of Souls at times to balance that all out and stop it feeling one sided, just try listening to ‘Fallen Brother’ without wanting to headbang or windmill! Lyrically there’s a lot of great moments of variety too such as where they talk about ending homophobia one minute and about flying a Lion With Eagle Wings the next.

All the orchestral arrangements, diversity and balancing of the Thrash legacy with not being repetitive make this a very strong and memorable album, and the quality of the musicianship (especially the riffs and solos!) drive it even further up the scale towards being one of the band’s most impressive releases to date. If you like Kreator, especially their recent work, you really owe it to yourself to give this one a listen.

emperor_of_sand_coverAtlanta Prog Metal legends Mastodon return in 2017 with their seventh proper full-length studio album, Emperor Of Sand. Speaking of returns; frequent collaborator Scott Kelly returns for yet another guest vocal performance and producer Brendan O’Brian returns as well, having last done their fourth album, the 2009 masterpiece, Crack The Skye. Also returning is the concept-album format. Leviathan, Blood Mountain and Crack The Skye had all been story-driven concept albums that also served as a metaphor for the band’s lives and Emperor Of Sand continues that tradition after a break into more traditional territories with The Hunter and Once More Round The Sun.

The concept on this record is of a man being handed down a curse/death sentence and wandering the sands of the desert to his ultimate death and or salvation. The band haven’t been shy in interviews of describing the fact that story serves as a metaphor for cancer and especially guitarist Bill Kelliher’s mother’s death from brain cancer. There’s even a dedication to her cleverly hidden in the artwork on one of the creature’s shields.

When you get told that information before hand, you immediately analyze the lyrics for clues. Is this about a biopsy? Is this about a scan? Does this represent the prognosis? Is this about the stages of grief? Does this represent the loss of cognitive function associated with illnesses of the brain? Is this line about a donation? Is this one about a family dispute? Does this character represent the doctor? Does this one represent cancer itself? …We do know for sure from the documentary that sand represents time. Sometimes it isn’t even so hidden at all; the album ends with the line ‘Its right in front of me, your malignancy.’ It all gives the album such a layer of depth, not unlike Crack The Skye had with Brann’s family tragedy. It feels a bit distasteful going into it so much, but then again if they didn’t want us to it wouldn’t have been released and promoted in such a way as to make it so possible.

Background aside, the main thing that sticks out about this album is the lead guitar. Now, Mastadon have always been musical virtuosos, innovators and masters of distilling broad and extreme influences into a cohesive singular whole, but still, even when we get used to excellence from the musicians, the guitars here are especially strong. There are some really stand up and take notice leads, some very crack a smile solos and some screw up your face and nod riffs on here.

It really is a guitar-centric record. Even with the story, Brann’s superhero drumming, all the bonus keyboards and studio touches, and the team approach to vocals… man those guitarists sure are on damn fine form here.

In terms of direction; this one seems to be an attempt to merge the Crack The Skye formula into the most mainstream moments of the most recent two albums. The first half of the album is all more sing-along, catchy, easily accessible stuff, and the second half drops down the prog. Tracks like ‘Show Yourself’ and ‘Precious Stones’ have radio appeal, then tracks like the magnificent album closer ‘Jaguar God’ are a trippy journey through a dozen speeds, tones and moods with bonkers Robert Fripp-esque guitar noodling meeting metal meeting acoustic meeting big beautiful wailing solos. The middle of ‘Clandestiny’ sounds like it could be on a Yes or Genesis record, something they’ve always talked about but I’ve never heard so litterally before.

With Emperor Of Sand it feels like they’ve taken all the lessons they’ve learned with big vocal melodys, hit appeal and targeting a wider audience, and applied it to the slow-burn, grower, hear something new on every listen nature of Crack The Skye. It doesn’t sound anything like that record, but the second half has the same spirit, ethos or vibe as it did. Its all about the repeat listens, the new discoveries, the changing attitudes. I mean, it doesn’t sound like my favourite album, Leviathan, and that is always an adjustment, but when you get over it, like you do every new release you realize that the band can still be amazing even when they are doing a different style.

On first listen, I wasn’t keen on this album, the next time I wasn’t sure, I felt a bit negatively about this but I was sure one more listen would prove whether there was something good going on here and then from there it built and built for me until I was a bit positive to satisfied and now I’m very impressed. Its got big ideas, its got big ambitions, and its undeniably Mastodon. Some of these songs feel one way, then they hit the halfway mark and morph into something else. There’s all these neat subtle touches in the background (listen in depth to ‘Steam Breather’). There’s such badass little drum parts (hey there, Ancient Kingdom’s midsection!). There’s such sticky vocal parts. From all the singers. They’re working together even better than before, blending better. Its a team approach to vocals and it works really well. Then you get all the different takes on the album. Sit there with the lyric book in an empty room and the album feels one way, listen to it on a sunny walk and its very different again. Listen concentrating on one instrument and it feels like a different record than concentrating on another, or the vocals.

For me; my favourite tracks would have to be ‘Roots Remain,’ especially towards its end which has a Cysquatch feel to it, as well as aforementioned album highlight ‘Jaguar God’ and the most Remission-like track ‘Andromeda’ with its jagged caustic riffs and awesome guest vocals from Brutal Truth’s Kevin Sharp… but hey, if the weather improves I can see it being the singles ‘Show Yourself’ and ‘Sultans Curse.’ Pretty great for an album I initially had a negative impression of, ey?

A grower. An exceeder of expectations. A Mastodon album.

61IBNuh6dgL._SS500I don’t know if I am fully equipped to review this album really, but I have a really strong urge to add my praise to the pile. This feels like an important album. I don’t know if its just because I’ve been brainwashed into liking it by Hill & Beez from the That’s Not Metal Podcast I subscribe to, (Hey, it worked for Marmozetts!) or if its because of the positive reviews I see everywhere, or if it is just genuinely that impressive, but something about this record just really makes me sit up and think, hey, this is a big deal!

Creeper are a British band from the Punk side of things, and this is their major label debut full-length album. Interestingly you can buy it on Cassette should you want. It was released on Roadrunner Records this year (that’s 2017 if you read back on this in the future).

Musically, the album is a bit of an eclectic mish-mash of different styles. Just go look at the band’s Wikipedia page and see all the different genres its listed as; there’s stuff in there from Hardcore, Post-Hardcore, Goth Punk, Pop Punk and more, heck, one song is even described as Country. There’s talk of diverse influences from as far afield as The Cure, Meatloaf and Metallica, then there’s the interesting underlying concept-album story about a paranormal detective who goes missing and the weird viral marketing surrounding that which feels like Trent Rezonor’s Year Zero campaign. The band have stated they want to add flamboyance to Punk. Hey; I like Queen and The Offspring, but I never imagined a mixture of the two before, because that’s what my inexperienced brain conjures up when I hear that mission statement. Maybe I don’t own enough AFI albums?

There’s a lot to consider when you start paying closer attention to Eternity, In Your Arms. Hell; when I put the album on, the thing opens with an intro that would fit seamlessly onto any of Cradle Of Filth’s ’90s albums. Not even kidding. From there, I hear such a wide variety of things. The male singer is some bizzare mix of Glen Danzig, Davey Havock, Roddy Walker, Matt Skiba, Jim Lindberg and god knows who else. The chorus to ‘Black Rain’ sounds like the end of a Coheed & Cambria album, the ‘I’ve Been Cheatin Death For Years’ line and accompanying music from ‘Darling’ is the best Alkaline Trio rip-off I’ve ever heard, ‘Poison Pens’ has backing vocals that wouldn’t be out of place on a Sick Of It All album, but it also has this cool solemn mid-section that feels like Biffy Clyro when they’re being melancholic… or at least that bit on Gallows’ Grey Britain track ‘Graves’ with Biffy Clyro’s singer on it.

I mean; how do you even reviews this thing? ‘Misery’ isn’t the usual Pop-punk ballad, the tone is just differnt. ‘I Chose To Live’ isn’t the typical Horror Punk album closer. ‘Crickets’ sounds like the music on the sad montage in the middle of a film where someone’s marrigage is in trouble, y’know only its on this album instead. I think there’s a violin in there. The chorus of ‘Suzanne’ sounds like a completely different band to its middle eight with that whole ‘set the hostages free’ thing, and that again is so different to the verses, and the almost Hatebreed-esque build-ups where they scream ‘now’ over heavy music.

Then after that, the next song is this summery Alkaline Trio thing that could be in a late ’90s rom-com soundtrack during the verses, but with haunting, emotional and weird vocals elsewhere and an early Emo mid-section. Am I happy to be hiding with the boys? He crys off the very last line of the song like a singer songwriter from the Juno soundtrack. They do that a lot actually, change at the end. ‘Room 401’ starts off as a fun up-tempo skate punk number and ends like the acoustic bits off of Protest The Hero’s Kezia record. These song structures aint exactly basic. The band do a masterful job at taking the songs on unexpected journeys without sounding confused or ill-designed. They do a great job of adding extra instruments without

Hey, ‘Down Below’ sounds like Rancid, through a Jimmy Eat World filter… y’know until that chorus, that is more like Interpol or something. I know from interviews there’s also a My Chemical Romance influence. Oh hey, pianos. This got moody… I mean why even bother describing this? As I’ve said, I’m a bit ill-equipped.

This album might be a little outside my usual area of understanding. I mean; I’ve spent the rest of the month juggling between Edguy, Stratovarius and Blind Guardian. I bought it in a two-for-one deal with the new Kreator album. Maybe I don’t know whats going on exactly since I can’t trace it back through the usual routes like Accept to Rainbow to Deep Purple or whatever, but this album is awesome.

If like me you aren’t Mr. Punk and don’t have all the background knowledge, don’t let that stop you. This album is so good it would be an utter crime to miss out. There’s not one dud song, not one dodgy transition, not one questionable second. I don’t know how anyone wouldn’t like this, no matter what type of music they usually like. Y’know when something is just that good you have to stop and take notice? Its just so diverse, interesting, well constructed, charming. Those stop-start duhn-duhns in ‘Winnona’ make me want to get Creeper’s name in a heart tattoo. I mean, and then it sounds like bloody ‘Aces High’ for a second, then ‘Blood Red Summer’ the next, then ‘Everybody Knows You Cried Last Night’ for a further second. And what a lyric, ‘Its breaking me to see you so happy, I just want the worst for you, so selfish and so typical of me’ in like, the flipping happiest sounding song I’ve heard all year.

The album is over in about half an hour or so. You wouldn’t think it though. A creepy-cheesy intro, three affecting ballads and a dizzingly fun and fizzy eight songs that blend all the popular punk subgenres together. Occasionally way too heavy for the radio. Occasionally way too syrupy for the punk-police. Occasionally silly, Occasionally dead serious. A cool background story, interesting and intelligent lyrics. A brain teasing mixture of emotions. Vocal diversity the likes of which you don’t hear very often (Not even taking into account the differing genders of the two main singers). I mean, this album has a bit of everything.

It doesn’t have to be a puzzle either though. If you sit there and dissect it, its got depth for days. But if you want to switch off and put it on, its as instant as instant can be. I’ve rarely heard a band that can make something so immediate and yet so crafted at the same time. In the review I may have over-stated the baffling nature of its pool of influences, don’t let that make you think this isn’t just the catchiest damn thing going though. The complexity does not take away from the end product. Its not hard work. Playing ‘guess what band that section reminds me of’ is very fun but its just one small part of listening to the record. Its just genuinely lovable in and of itself.

My personal favourite track has to be ‘Suzanne’ followed closely by ‘Poison Pens’ and ‘Crickets.’ Followed by them all, because seriously, there’s not a wasted second on this disc! (or Cassette, if you prefer).

If you have any interest in good rock music, or like any of the bands I’ve alleged it sounds like then you really ought to check this out. I mean, to your ears it won’t sound like any of those bands anyway because I’m always getting told that my comparisons are a stretch. But what it will sound like, is a rollercoaster ride, a damn good time, something to think about and a lasting impression.

Get up on this!

20160818_193928_7549_939483Metallica albums are so hard to judge. To me, Metallica are so absurdly superhumanly important. They are so larger than life. Each album release is not just an album, but an event. It is a climactic shift for my whole culture. I feel like Metallica releases are as significant to me as major life events like first kisses or first drinks or going to university for the first time. Metallica are as close to a religious leader as I’ll ever experience in my life time. As such, objectively judging them is somewhat impossible.

You are talking to an avid, ardant St. Anger defender here. You are talking to someone who could spend twenty-five minutes talking about ‘The Judas Kiss’ on a first date should you let him. You are talking to someone who feels like a chink in Metallica’s armour is a worry almost able to spoil a whole day over. When Metallica do Metallica well, its otherworldly levels of special and when they disappoint its a talking point for months. I don’t know how the hell I’m supposed to judge or review them, then, given that this band wrote Master Of Puppets, which I do honestly and with all the sincerity in my soul, think I might feel about the same way devout religious people probably feel about their holy books. I don’t mean that to sound disrespectful, but its important for the context behind the review to convey how truly disproportionately this group affects my sense-of-self, worldview and culture. Ever seen a grown man cry when his sports team loses a game? That same ludicrous thing is what Metallica taps into in me.And I don’t even consider myself that big a fan compared to a lot of people I’ve met. You’ll never see me scoffing at someone and saying I’m a bigger fan, or getting jealous and competitive about another fan. And yet…

When I hear tracks like the first three singles; ‘Hardwired’ ‘Moth Into Flame’ and ‘Atlas, Rise!’ then, considering everything I’ve just written about this band and its cultural and emotional significance to me, I am suddenly filled with a sense of hope, excitement and the feeling that everything is all right with the world. This is the feeling of being a teenager, I can still feel the green sofa on which I first really got into ….And Justice For All, can still see the swings in the park when I roared the chorus of ‘Blackened’ at the top of my lungs out in, to amuse my equally excitable teenage friends. I can remember being younger than that and feeling genuinely frightened by the darker moments on the Black album. Feeling like I might go to hell for listening to it. I can see the movie I was ignoring when choosing to inspect the Black Album closely for the first time on headphones instead of engaging with the family movie night. (What Dreams May Come). I can still feel the rattle of the cheap bus windows the first time I realized Kill ‘Em All wasn’t old fashioned, it was charming. I can smell, see and taste things when I listen to Metallica. I have super clear memories of almost any time someone insulted St Anger when I was in the room. These three singles bring all those memories back faster, harder and clearer than Lulu, Beyond Magnetic or ‘Lords Of Summer (First Pass Demo)’ were able to, or indeed any live broadcast since about 2004 could.

Metallica were undoubtedly in a bad place before they dropped ‘Hardwired.’ They had whittled away a boatload of goodwill with LuLu, with the failed 3D movie and with ‘Lords Of Summer (First Pass Demo).’ The Metallica who were unstoppable to me seemed to be gone. People were stopping to care. Metallica were becoming a joke. What fans from the ’80s felt around the time of the ’90s eyeliner or ’90s fans felt around the time they watched Lars slamming doors on the documentary, its was starting to feel like the only feeling that could be felt about Metallica. That feeling, or worse still, ambivelance. This is the most important band in the world for the love of all things sacred… being ambivalent towards them feels unnatural. It feels tantamount to defeat. To depression almost. It was with a great sigh of relief then, that ‘Hardwired’ was equal to, if not better than even, the weaker moments on St Anger or Death Magnetic. We can never expect them to follow up the first six albums, that way sheer unbridled madness lies, but if they can keep up with the best half of their latter day albums and not turn into ‘Lords Of Summer – The Band’ then all would be well. As long as they sound like they, y’know, give a shit.

Then comes ‘Moth Into Flame.’ Pow. Same again. Its like Death Magnetic with better production, better vocals, and more concise songwriting. Oh, what’s that? ‘Atlas, Rise’ ? Just as good. Oh thank goodness. Its going to be good, I can feel it. I can feel it in my bones. Its going to be… uh, oh, ok, nevermind.

Yeah, its nice, its nice to try and capture the vibe of C.O.C’s ‘Heaven’s Not Overflowing.’ Its nice to capture the vibe of ‘Devil’s Dance’ again. Its nice to have two six track discs each ending with a lengthy closer. Another song about Cthulu is a good idea. You’ve had success with that before. Its nice to do a tribute to the fallen Lemmy condsidering the specific impact he had on Metallica and vice versa. I mean Lemmy outright praises, thanks and accredits Metallica more than once in his autobiography and covered ‘Whiplash’ …Metallica covered numerous Motorhead songs and shared the stage with Lemmy. Sure. Its not going to be just another hollow tribute by any other band, its going to be personal and meaningful, yeah?

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Lemmy & Metallica share the stage

Well; here’s the thing, that Heaven’s Not Overflowing on the silly-title-of-the-month award winner ‘ManUnKind’ moment is fun and awesome, but the song doesn’t fit the mood of the rest of the record at all, really sits out like a sore thumb and probably could’ve served better as a B-Side. Just because something is fun doesn’t mean it fits. The awkward, complex drum pattern just reminds me of that section in the Some Kind Of Monster documentary where Lar’s father recommends they ‘delete that’ …is it an attempt to redeem awkward beats or is it another moment someone should’ve saved them from themselves. ‘Murder One’ for all its potential is a forgettable, skippable, unnecessary addition to the album. Was the best way to pay tribute to the man really by writing the most boring song of the album, and just adding in some of Lemmy’s lyrics? Is that what Lemmy would want. Is that what Lemmy’s fans want? Is that what anybody wants? With the accompanying music video I get the Lemmy tribute aspect comes across more, but hey have you ever read Lemmy’s autobiography? I bet that a better tribute would’ve been just to cover a track off of one of those albums like Bastards or We Are Motorhead that he felt didn’t get the recognition they deserved.

When I’m on the subject of niggles… why have a song called ‘Am I Savage’ with no Diamond Head relation, but then have a direct Diamond Head reference in the intro on Confusion? Not just any Diamond Head reference but an ‘Am I Evil’ one specifically. Like. What are you trying to do. Surely, those two things are supposed to go together?! Where they initially together and got separated later in editing? Are they two separate similar shout outs to the same song? ‘Am I Savage?’ ‘Am I Evil?’ or Am I reading too much into this?

I like the two disc closing tracks ‘Spit Out The Bone’ and ‘Halo On Fire,’ …but they’re clearly on the wrong discs! Disc one is much more focused on Thrash. Disc two is much more focused on the Load style. Swap the two disc closers around and you’ve almost got themed discs. Might have flowed better. ‘Spit Out The Bone’ for me is arguably the best song on the album, maybe even of the last four albums. It could do with having a shorter build up time. It could do with sitting closer to ‘Hard Wired.’ It and ‘Hardwired’ are like the focused and expanded evil twins of eachother. They bookend the album. They’d bookmark a disc of the thrashier stuff even more strongly though. A disc each of each direction would be cool and you could pick which disc you were in the mood for.

I wonder what happened to the rest of Metallica’s catalogue though. Metallica were more than just Thrash and Load. I can hear lots of Kill ‘Em All. I can hear lots of Load. I can hear lots and lots of Death Magnetic. What about The Black Album or Ride The Lightening though? Or even poor misunderstood St Anger. Well, upon repeat listens actually I can hear some Black Album on ‘Here Comes Revenge’ and ‘Am I Savage’ actually. Initial gut reaction underplays that. You just feel like its Here comes Death Magnetic band trying to play more like Kill ‘Em All… you like that? Ok, well then here’s some Death Magnetic band trying to play Load a bit heavier.  Uh…what?

I have to say. On first listen, tracks like ‘Am I Savage?’ and ‘Confusion’ really missed the mark for me. They bored me. Had me questioning the band’s choices. Was this really on the same album as ‘Moth Into Flame’ ? Repeat listens have revealed more depth. Have highlighted the swinging in-the-pocket grooves. Have allowed me to forget my expectations and just let the album be its own thing. So, maybe ‘Here Comes Revenge’ isn’t just a poor man’s ‘Broken Beaten Scared’ after all, and hey, that vocal during the guitar lead has an almost ‘Outlaw Torn’-esque emotive quality to it. A watered down, middle-aged version of it, but a version of it none the less. Repeat listens are this album’s friend. Its a grower. I bet much of its reputation is already formed, and all of our initial ‘Yay’ or ‘Yuck!’ gut reactions will stick around for decades, but to be honest I hated over half this stuff on first listen and now I like a good three quarters.

This album is a bit of a difficult one to get straight in my head. UK journalist Terry Beezer once said Millionaires can’t make Thrash Metal. When hearing ‘Spit Out The Bone’ I’m happy to report he’s got it wrong but then ‘Murder One’ and ‘Dream No More’ have me knowing in my gut he’s dead right. I mean, stacked up against the worst songs on Metallica’s worst albums, maybe they kind of pass, barely, but against the best moments of those albums, not even close to being close to close. And the mythical quality of the best Metallica albums? Not even visible on the horizon. I mean, would you honestly want to see half of this album live if you knew what else you’d be missing out on. Even if Metallica did a show with no hits and no fan favourites, I’d still want to hear the deep cuts off of everything else prioritized over the deep cuts on this. Or would I? Hmmm. Its like a war inside my head (and not the PTSD war in my head of the ‘Confusion’ video). First impressions say I’d skip this stuff when choosing a live setlist, but repeat listening to the vocals in ‘Now That We’re Dead’ …hmm, I’m not sure anymore. Hmmm.

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Could use more ‘Spit Out The Bone’ …doesn’t even need a pun.

Ok, Ok. Let me think… So yeah. I’ve had some criticisms of this album, especially on the very first listen. That all being said. This is no bad album. Not even close. The band just get judged so much more harshly due to their significance. The intro to ‘Now That We’re All Dead’ ? Amazing fun. Who could possibly not enjoy that? The best riffs in ‘Here Comes Revenge’ and ‘Confusion’? Yes of course they put a smile on my face, of course I’d want to learn them on guitar. This is Metallica we’re talking about here, James Hetfield knows a thing or two about writing memorable riffs! Increasingly though, they don’t seem to know how to edit themselves, how to cut out the flab, how to be concise. The best thing about this album is that, on those first three singles, it felt like the band had finally worked out how to be concise again, and that’s probably where a lot of disappointment on my part came from, the realization that it was not to be. Should’ve guessed… it was a double album after all. Its hardly a medium known for its focus and discipline.

Then again, the best song on the album is 7-minutes long, so being concise isn’t everything. Just ask …And Justice For All. One things for sure. Metallica dodged a bullet with this album. They were about to slide into the ‘I don’t want to hear anything new ever again’ folder along with the likes of The Rolling Stones, but with the best moments of the record, they’ve dug their nails into staying relelvent. Of course, this isn’t a perfect record. I strongly wish they’d record firier, angrier, more personally invested performances. I wish they’d sound more excited. I wish they’d be livlier and convey more energy. I mean, if Exodus and Testament can still do it, at the same age from the same background, then we know it is physically possible. Have you heard the title track to Blood In Blood Out? It can be done.

Anyway; Despite the one or two filler tracks. Despite the slighly flow-diminishing running order. Despite the surprisngly unfitting tribute to Lemmy. Despite the performance not rocking the hell out. Despite any niggles or nitpicking, this is an album I’ll be listening to in five years time. Its an album that gets less dissapointing with each listen. Its an album that whether its a sane or rational thing to happen or not will inform a disproportionate amount of who I am as a person. I’ll never be objective about this so I won’t even pretend to be.

If history is anything to go by, I’ll have a different oppinion on this in a month, quarter and year from now. I’ll probablly have a different opinion every time you ask me. This review is by no means the last you’ll hear from me on the matter. But overall; I’m glad Metallica made new music and I’m very glad to own an album with ‘Hardwired’ and ‘Spit Out The Bone’ on it.

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What a good song!

….

Thought that was the end? Think again. This is a Metallica album. Initial gut reactions are one thing, measured multi-listen reviews are another. Even later revalidations are also required. Having absolutely hammered listening to this now, I’ve more left to say. I’ve listened track by track as they were released, all together as a piece of work, in custom orders of my own choosing, accompanied by videos or all alone as audio only, focused or in the background, and all that has melted together in my mind into one whole where I now have a much better grasp on my feelings.

Overall; I think this is a strong album. In all honesty, perhaps a single disc of all the Thrash stuff and a disc of the Black/Reload stuff six months later would’ve worked better, but overall, there’s nothing poor here. Well, maybe ‘Murder One’ for my personal taste… but that’s about it (and I’m sure there’s people out there who are throwing cheetos at the screen screaming that its their favourite song, so live and let live). Tracks like ‘Confusion,’  ‘Am I Savage’ and especially ‘Halo On Fire’ all have really strong endings and work better on repeat listens and in album context. When you deconstruct them or try and guess what they’re going to do, instead of just letting them exist, sure they don’t live up to the standards of your own imagination, but they do work the way Metallica planned them and you just have to accept that your hypothetical perfect version does not exist. Like my Andy Sneap produced, non-brickwalled version of Death Magnetic, it doesn’t exist but that doesn’t stop ‘That Was Just Your Life,’ ‘Judas Kiss’ or ‘All Nightmare Long’ from being bad-ass.

What also becomes apparent after all the dust has settled is how right my gut was on the positive matters. ‘Hardwired,’ ‘Moth Into Flame,’ ‘Atlas, Rise,’ ‘Now That We’re Dead,’ ‘Here Comes Revenge’ and especially, especially ‘Spit Out The Bone’ are my favourite tracks. They are all exactly what I want from the band, and proof that they can still do amazing things even with all the fame and money and age and expectation and conflicting fanbase demographics. These songs, each and every one, I WOULD love to see live.

On repeat listens; I also really connect to parts of other songs, the end of ‘Halo On Fire’ once the guitar lead comes in is priceless, the harsh vocals later in ‘Here Comes Revenge’ are really exciting, the clever mid section of ‘Confusion’ is good. The guitar solo on ‘Dream No More’ is like the best stuff on Reload and I can see now how the ‘you turn to stone’ section is trying to channel The Black Album’s slower tracks. That main riff in the admittedly-still-out-of-place ‘ManUnKind’ is pretty infectious. I mean, they aren’t as great as the best moments on the best albums, (but then, what is?), however they do still warrant attention and respect. More than that even, genuine warmth.

On the matter of the special edition bonus tracks; firstly, the new version of ‘Lords Of Summer’ is a huge improvement. The production, the performance, the attitude, the arrangement, and especially the guitar solos. It all just works so much better. It feels more vital and less like medicority eating Metallica alive. Its celebratory lyrics even put me in a good mood.

The Maiden and Deep Purple covers we’ve heard before, sure but its nice to have them all the same, and the Ronnie medley in particular is pretty great. Their guitar tone on these songs works really well, almost like a history lesson or through-line. Then there’s a ten-song live set: A Diamond Head cover, songs exclusively from Ride The Lightning and Kill ‘Em All and then ending with a live version of ‘Hardwired’ from another concert, ten live tracks, three covers and an extra Metallica song… overall its a pretty substantial bonus. On the Rasputin Music show; the performances and banter all seem happy and grateful and fun, and it all has a great jovial atmosphere. Its a nice addition. I don’t think I’d buy it on its own or anything, there’s plenty of alternative Metallica live shows (especially on their extensive website) to choose from elsewhere, but it is by no means a let down and is actually really rather good indeed. If this was your first Metallica album and you got this on the end too, it would really rule.

Ok. A bit of a fractured review, but it matches my fractured reaction to the album and the fractured way in which I initially consumed it. To summarize: My initial reaction to it, especially disc 2, was disappointment but it really grows. It is not perfect and could easily loose two or three songs, or each song could easily loose thirty seconds to a minute each. The running order could be slightly different [and for my own future listening I am listening to it in the custom order in the appendix below the review]. ‘ManUnKind’ doesn’t fit no matter how good or bad it is or not. ‘Murder One’ is my least favourite track despite Lemmy being amazing and specifically important to this band, directly.

…All of those niggles aside, and they are just niggles, this is pretty damn good. The songs each have something good about them (Hello daaaaarkness, say good-bye), and the aforementioned half or so of the album that I really like, well, I really really like it now! Those songs each have something to love about them. They are very good indeed, and really keep Metallica alive and relevant and live up to all my expectations.

This band are too gigantic, larger than life, and both culturally and emotionally significant for me to have any sort of detached, logical, impartial idea about the objective quality of the record, but in my guts, when I hear ‘Spit Out The Bone’ I know that everything is right with the world; at least for today (despite what the dystopian lyrics would have you believe). Lords of Summer undenied indeed.

 

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Custom track order:
1. Hardwired. 2. Moth Into Flame. 3. Atlas, Rise. 4. Now That We’re Dead 5. Here Comes Revenge 6. Spit Out The Bone

1. Confusion. 2. Dream No More. 3. ManUnKind. 4. Murder One. 5. Am I Savage. 6. Halo On Fire.

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220px-anthraxforallkingsAfter a brief cinematic-sounding instrumental intro, the East Coast Thrash Metal legends Anthrax’s eleventh full-length studio album kicks into gear with the stompy upper-midpaced ‘You Gotta Believe’ calling to mind the longer tracks on their Persistence Of Time and State Of Euphoria albums; the clicky drum production serves to balance the modern with the classic, the repetitive but not hypnotic song structure harkens back to State Of Euphoria even further, but when the lead guitar kicks in it is apparent that Dan Spitz and his unique and singular style are nowhere to be seen, nor can we hear the warm feel of the excellent Rob Caggiano. New man and former Shadows Fall member Jon Donais has some big shoes to fill.

Joey Bellandona, back for the second studio album since rejoining the band, sounds a little more at home here than on 2011’s Worship Music, which makes sense since the songs weren’t written with someone else in mind first. He still tries a bit more of the Bush-aping choruses which were a weak point on Worship Music since the two very different vocalists had different strengths, but there’s a bit more umph to the verses this time. A bit more of a spitting delivery. A bit more bite. Ironically, on this one he sounds more like he has something to prove, incumbent though he may be.

So far so good. The end of the songs when a few more double kicks let fly and the guitars get a bit busier are always good. The guitar solos are always entertaining. The musicianship is great in general on all the instruments all the way through. The mix is good, and you can really separate the bass drum for the bass guitar or concentrate on whatever you chose, be that a ride cymbal or an individual guitarist’s part.

There’s a few pretty damn enjoyable songs worth pointing out too, such as the speedy politically-charged closer ‘Zero Tolerance’ as well as the aggressive ‘Defend/Avenge’ and the complex and entertaining album highlight ‘Blood Eagle Wings.’

Sounds like a good album to me. The only problem is that it lacks a wow factor. It’s a bit repetitive, a bit unadventurous, a bit ploddy and a bit dull. The song tempos could use a boost. There could be a bit more variety (especially in the vocal department, the choruses sort of blanket over the tracks and make them feel a bit too safe, too samey and too slow). The song lengths could do with a trim. Heck, some of the songs could do with being trimmed altogether… there’s value for money and there’s quality control. ‘Suzerain’ is a perfect example of the whole album, it has a great verse recalling the best parts of the likes of ‘What Doesn’t Die’ or ‘Discharge’ but then the chorus comes in and you just start planning your groceries, looking out the window at the fat guy with the interesting shirt or checking your phone messages. Not even on purpose. Its not like its even bad, its not like you want to lose interest, its just that musically and vocally For All Kings just isn’t special enough to keep your attention. Where’s the choruses like ‘Fueled’? Or ‘Metal Thrashing Mad’? Or ‘Lone Justice’? Where’s the drama of ‘This Is Not An Exit’ or ‘Indians’ ? Where’s the damn excitement?

Its one of those albums where no song is bad and there’s nothing actually even bad or objectionable on there, but overall its just not that great. I like the album, but I don’t love it. Much like the recent Slayer or Megadeth albums, you don’t initially want to compare them to the past, but they just don’t have the same spark and you can’t help but feel that no-matter how objective you would prefer to stay. Its more an album of ‘Ooo, that’s a cool drum part’ rather than ‘Ooo, that’s a cool song.’ Its more, ‘wow, this is slick’ than ‘wow, this is awesome.’ Its good, but its good in the wrong way. It doesn’t grab you. It doesn’t speak to you. I don’t hear too much on here I’d love to hear in concert. I don’t hear too much I want to run out and show my friends. I don’t hear too much to even discuss at all. It one of those classic 6/10 albums that you’ll have in your collection, but never actually love, you might even listen to it more than an actual great one to try and get something more out of it. Overall; It feels like Anthrax are on the right path, but they just haven’t gotten all the way to the desired destination.