Posts Tagged ‘Rock’

Kingcrimsonprog’s Albums Of The Year 2015

Posted: December 21, 2015 by kingcrimsonprog in Uncategorized
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I’ve said it a lot this year, but its been a very good year for music to my tastes!

1. Parkway Drive – Ire

What an album! Crushing beatdowns, catchy fun memorable sing-alongs, twin guitar widdly joy, it’s a surprising and bold move from a band who already perfected their formula, but now seem somehow even better. I didn’t even fully expect it to be my AOTY but it just grew on me and grew on me and grew on me. Monumental!

Highlight moments: The music, vocal delivery and lyrics of the part ‘Tell me motherfucker how the hell do you sleep at night’ as well as ‘Now snap your neck to this’ and ‘…and we all go to heaven in a little row boat.’

2. Bring Me The Horizon – That’s The Spirit

Chocked full of catchy and memorable moments that I’ll remember for years, this album sees the band further distance themselves from the past but in an organic and logical way. This thing just sticks in your head. Its masterful.
Its surprising how well Ollie can sing nowadays. Also, I don’t care if they’re childish, the lyrics to ‘Throne’ are awesome.

Highlight moments: The whole of the songs ‘Doomed’ and ‘Throne.’

3. Clutch – Psychic Warfare

“Oh… I hope Clutch stay focused after Earth Rocker” I found myself thinking…. ‘av some of that Psychic Warfare replied as it slapped me in the chops with exactly what I wanted. Razor sharp, not a wasted second, just as good as always but never-been-tighter focused, Psychic Warfare is the right move at the right time and I hope it pays off for the band like the last one did.

Highlight moments: The music, vocal delivery and lyrics of the part ‘It goes against my catholic upbringing, I admit it…’

 

4. Fear Factory – Genexus

Their best, most exciting release in years. The very opposite of bland; Genexus just gets everything right and perfectly blends everything the band do, creating a real career highlight, possibly their second or third best ever!

Highlight moments: The first few seconds of ‘Soul Hacker’ smashing you in the face.

 

5. Tesseract – Polaris
I was always going to be harsh on this because I loved their previous singer Ashe O’Harra so much, and because Altered State is a genuine masterpiece and in my eyes one of the best albums of the last decade. Even with the weight of those unreasonable expectations Tesseract still managed to make an album this good. That’s talent!

Highlight moment: The chorus to ‘Hexes.’

 

6. Coheed & Cambria – The Color Before The Sun

Is it just me or is the guitar to the verse in ‘Island’ straight off of Permission To Land? What’s all that about? Anyway…dropping the sci-fi doesn’t seem to have harmed the band one bit… As usual, if Coheed release an album its one of the best albums anyone released that year.

Highlight moments: The music, vocal delivery and lyrics of the part ‘Where’s My Life-saver When I’m Screaming Danger’ and the drums to ‘The Audience’ as well as the lyric ‘And if there’s one good thing that comes from my away it’s that you won’t be anything like me, and so better for it you will be’ and the music to the intro of ‘You’ve Got Spirit, Kid.’

7. Queensryche – Condition Human

Was Toddryche’s debut a fluke? Was it fuck!

Highlight moment: ‘The Arrow Of Time’ in its entirety, the guitar solo In ‘Bulletproof’ and the ending to the title-track.

 

 

8. Baroness – Purple

Maybe not as earth-shattering and game changing as its predecessor Yellow&Green (and how could it be, reasonably?), but Baroness’ attempt to create a better version of Mastodon’s Once More Round The Sun is a damn strong album, those Lizzy-esque guitars make me weak at the knees!

Its maybe a bit unfairly placed seeing as how recent it was, so I’ve not listened to it anywhere near as much as the others on the list, but I was always disappointed that Mudvayne’s self titled album missed many AOTY lists due to its late-in-the-year release, so I won’t let that happen here.

Highlight moment: The entire song ‘If I Have To Wake Up (Would You Stop The Rain?)’ in every way.

 

9. Helloween – My God Given Right

Its arguably just another Helloween album… so in my eyes that means its an absolute gem! All Hail the pumpkins, as they say in Germany (I assume).

This makes up for their previous album missing out on my AOTY list when I got it too late.

Highlight moment: Deris’ vocal performance on ‘If God Loves Rock N Roll’

 


10. Periphery – Juggernaut Alpha

I still don’t feel like I’ve fully gotten into this album, plummed all its depths, or really had it click with me yet, but the fact that its still here shows you how good it is. I haven’t researched the concept behind it, or seen songs live and both of those things always make me like an album more so you definitely haven’t heard the last from me on this! This, this weird jazzy, proggy, deathy, emoey, unpredictable melting pot. What, me wearing a Periphery t-shirt to work regularly… never! (shifty eyes).

Highlight moments: The music and vocal delivery of the parts ‘As the water beats upon the window turn the sad song up on the radio” and “Fuck me I am dying for sleep!”

I couldn’t fit some interesting records like F5DP and Lamb Of God’s newest efforts (or Periphery’s other album from this year, two-album-releasing blaggards!), and I haven’t even heard some pretty important ones like Maiden, Saxon and Faith No More’s latest so its not maybe what the average listener’s Top 10 may be… but this is my blog and I’m me, so you didn’t come here to ask what I thought other people’s top 10 might be (presumably).

Also, I thought my number 1 would be Rishloo’s latest but they changed the official release date to its early pre-release date of December 2014 so it didn’t technically come out this year. I was torn over whether to include it anyway or not. So, I’ll retroactively name it my number 1 of last year, because …that sort of thing totally matters to anyone, obviously.

What surprised me was that The Libertines and The Fratellis both had new albums and neither made my Top 10. The Libertines are one of my favourite ever bands and I was an absolute obsessive at one point on all the forums and fansites listening to every single demo, scratch track and live bootleg ever, I’ve been a member of bands that cover their songs, I’ve had a poster of theirs on my wall for years (until this year when I finally moved into my I’m-an-adult apartment with my partner, as a matter of fact) but yeah, this new album didn’t make the top… guess the rest of the years releases were just too good. You’re ok, Anthems Of The Doomed Youth, but you aint no Psychic Warfare! …The Fratellis is trickier, as I think I’ve listened to it more than most of my Top 10, and I think really it might have a good claim to edge Periphery out but the choruses of its two best songs are soooo good they elevate the album as a whole crazily high. Still… ‘(Imposters) Little By Little’ is a song that I’ll never grow tired of. Such a difficult choice.

Top 10s of the year are just top 10s of new releases though….and I didn’t just spend the year listening to new releases…. My actual yearly top 10 would have Stairway To Fairyland, Shout At The Devil, Out Of The Cellar & Detonator, Smash, and several other non-2015 releases in it. I mean, I spent almost the entire spring and summer listening to Slipknot’s newest album almost every day on the way to work.

Hey but at least I’m not broke and can afford some new releases, last year I was so broke I only bought about four new releases and couldn’t make a top 10 list. Anyway, for further reading see my previous year end articles:

2014
2013
2012
2011

FIRST IMPRESSIONS, Volume 78: Yngwie J. Malmsteen – Trilogy

I think my usual long intro for these articles is too long so I’ve condensed it from here-on to this simpler version:

Forward 1: This is not a review, but a stream of consciousness written as I hear something for the first time. It’ll be subjective, personal opinions and un-researched speculation. The tone goes for fun rather than informative.

Forward 2: If you wonder what I’m talking about you can stream anything I reference on websites like Spotify nowadays and read about anything I reference on databases like Wikipedia.

Forward 3: Everyone is a nerd about something. Maybe its Heavy Metal, maybe its football, maybe its beauty products and grooming tips but we all get our nerditidy from somewhere, whether or not society currently thinks its nerdy or not right now.

So; today I find myself listening to the third studio album by Yngwie J. Malmsteen, a nine-track record from 1986 entitled “Trilogy” with very Targarian looking album art and featuring in the line-up not only the titular Swede but also the very talented Jens Johansson who later went on to join Stratovarius to awesome results.

I have no idea what to expect… I have heard the name Yngwie Malmsteen bandied-about before (was he the guy who said “you have unleashed the fucking fury” on an airplane??) by people citing great guitar players, and I half-remember that he helped popularize the neoclassical guitar style in Heavy Metal (alongside of course Ritchie Blackmore and the late Randy Rhodes) but other than that I’m a blank slate.

Is it instrumental? Is it heavy? Is it Rock or Metal? …I have no idea. Let’s find out together…

[Play]

“You Don’t Remember, I’ll Never Forget” energetically bursts the record open, with bright shiny ’80s keyboards and some chugging NWOBHM-esque guitar stabs. Seconds later and it sounds like I’m listening to Dio’s classic Holy Diver album. Hey…speaking of which, the vocals (ah, so there ARE vocals?) come in and what’s this? The guy sounds massively like Ronnie himself! Is that Ronnie?

Hmmm… a quick sly look on Wikipedia reveals its someone called Mark Boals…. My oh my, I feel like I did when I heard Eric Adam’s name for the first time.

Oh hey! A guitar solo kicks in… hmmm that IS a nice guitar solo… and I’m a sucker for a good guitar solo…oh and hey before the end there’s plenty more guitar soloing.

Then Foghat’s ‘Coming On Down The Line’ plays because I forgot to unselect ‘shuffle’ in my iTunes. Its got a nice boogie, I have to admit, but its not strictly relevant so I’m going to have to stop listening to it and get back to the matter at hand.

Next comes ‘Liar’ which opens up with one of those great gallop parts like ‘Aces High’ by Iron Maiden or ‘The Needle Lies’ by Queensryche. When the vocals come in there’s a sort of feel like Rainbow’s ‘Stargazer’ (oh Hey… DIDN’T DIO SING ON THAT?) but with a nice NWOBHM-y chug underneath. This song is right up my alley. Then hey, when he says the word ‘Liar’ the song jumps a bit into a syrupy Power Metal mould for just a second and the whole mixture together is intoxicatingly perfect. I imagine this album was probably an influence to some of the early Power Metal pioneers for sure. Wow… its like listening to Tygers Of Pan Tang’s ‘Gangland’ along with ‘The Needle Lies’ and ‘Stargazer’ at the same time, and then at the break when all the neoclassical guitar heroics break in its like a big slice of Stratovarius pie as well! Then when the actual guitar solo follows it sounds so fresh and unique and unlike anybody else that I feel all nice and warm inside.

The next song comes on and its is pure shimmering 80s Dio. Are we sure iTunes didn’t shuffle again and actually stick on Sacred Heart? Nope? OK. This one is called ‘The Queen Is In Love’ and its amazing. I feel like I’ve heard it before. It sounds like it would’ve been on Grand Theft Auto Vice City.

Guitarwise, I think Yngwie is even further down the neoclassical spiral than Randy or Ritchie are. A lot further. Its cool that its on such a nice ’80s Metal record though. I thought it might’ve just been pagganini lines on an electric guitar but not actual songs and not heavy or catchy on the rhythm section. I like how they throw in double-kicks for the last verse of the song, I always like when a song will do that.

‘Crying’ comes next and really reminds me of Dream Theater ballads for some reason. Will it be a ballad? There’s some nice clean guitar. It’s a bit softer. The keys remind me of Hammerfall album closers, especially ‘Glory To The Brave.’

Two minutes in and still no vocals. Not a ballad per sae but rather a slightly softer instrumental. Not brushes-instead of drumsticks levels of soft though. It sounds like the music in a movie’s credits. Vague as that could be literally anything… but its what the song makes me visualize.

Then next he unleashes the fucking fury so to speak, in as much as the next song is called ‘Fury.’ It starts off with a nice ‘The Needle Lies’ sort of drumbeat… but the music sounds a bit more like Iron Maiden’s ‘Invaders’ than ‘Aces High’ if you need a Maiden reference point (because of course you do, right?). The keyboards dampen the heaviness a bit, and the vocals, though still Dio-esque are a little less biting so it feels like a laid back kind of heaviness. Then the guitars and keyboards dual in the way great Power Metal often does and it is delicious. I like this drummer, wonder who he is?

Hey hey, wait up… the drummer is Anders Johansson out’ve Hammerfall? Well I’ll be a son of a paladin! I had no idea. That is a nice bit of business. Hey, this record has members of Stratovaris and Hammerfall on it? If I’d known that I’d probably have tried it out quicker!

Next up is ‘Fire’ which is very much the kind of song that is the most-commercial song on a Dio album. It REALLY sounds like the 80s due to the keyboard sound… it feels like it’d be in the soundtrack to an 80s movie and by extension sounds hugely like GTA Vice City again. I can imagine competing against the rich preppy kids as a poor but determined underdog in a Ski Tournament in a montage to this song. Side note: A lot of these songs just fade out and don’t have a specific ending.

‘Magic Mirror’ follows. I’m getting more Dio, it’s a mix between the Speed Metal ones and the commercial ones. It doesn’t have the Maiden/Queensryche thing of the other two I mentioned. Its Still pretty Dio sounding though. And yes, after a period there’s a nice fat slice o’ neoclassical. The guitar solo in this one is wonderful, if brief, sort of that Black Label Society paradox where the band famous for guitar would be expected to really have mostly guitar solos but it isn’t the case. Nice song though, catchy, fun, easily digestible but Metallic enough to satisfy that urge as well. Its like a halfway point between Cacophony’s Speed Metal Synmphony and Ozzy’s first four solo albums.

Next up is ‘Dark Ages’ and it’s slower. I don’t know if its going the ‘epic’ route or the doomy route. I think it might be a bit like ‘Egypt (The Chains Are On)’ where it’s the ‘epic’ route without the bells and whistles, and only a regular length. A similar example would be Exodus’ ‘Like Father, Like Son’ which you imagine lasts ten minutes but it really doesn’t… or a modern example would be Trivium’s ‘And Sadness Will Sear.’
Its not an especially memorable song, but towards the end, when the song starts fading out, there’s a really nice guitar part that is pretty entertaining.

The album closes with ‘Trilogy Suite Op 5’ which has an unwieldy title but a nice guitar intro that actually reminds me of the aforementioned Speed Metal Symphony, up until the drums kick in with a sort of shuffle that reminds me more of Saxon’s ‘A Little Bit Of What You Fancy’ and ‘This Town Rocks.’ This song seems to be 7 minutes of solid guitar solos (and instrumental, and much more neoclassical focused) and in that respect is exactly what I expected from the album (I never figured all that Dio stuff would be on it, but lots of guitar solos is exactly what I predicted).

Side note, the drums are excellent, all the fills and little touches with the ride’s bell are right up my street. Oh wait, what’s this… it goes the ‘2112’ route and stops the rock in the middle for some quiet acoustic guitar! Its remarkably well done. At 2.51 it comes back to rock and boy what a fun riff! Nice and bouncy! At this point its not too dissimilar from Michael Schenker Group at times but then there’s also great heavy guitar that’d be happier with Dave Mustaine than Mr. Schenker, but again the keys dampen it so you wouldn’t notice if you weren’t looking.

I really like this last song. Heck, I like the album rather a lot… Its like if the Europe song ‘Ninja’ was a whole album… but that album wasn’t The Final Countdown.

No… I don’t know what I’m talking about anymore… I’m going to bed.

Rishloo - Living As Ghosts With Buildings As Teeth

Rishloo – Living As Ghosts With Buildings As Teeth

Living As Ghosts With Buildings As Teeth is the crowd-funded reunion album from the incredible Seattle Progressive band Rishloo. Its their fourth full-length album overall and sees the band back together now that singer Andrew Mailloux has returned to the fold and the other bandmembers changed their separate crowd-funded new instrumental band The Ghost Apparatus back into Rishloo. Its been an interesting wait as a fan, but I won’t bury the lead… that wait was well worth it!

Consisting of just eight tracks with no intros, outros or hidden bonuses, this is the bands most succinct and concise offering to date, but you can file that under fat-free and lean rather than skimping on extras.

Stylistically; if you haven’t heard the band before, they are often compared to bands like Tool, A Perfect Circle, Coheed & Cambria, The Mars Volta, Porcupine Tree, Soen, Dredg, Fair To Midland, Jurojin, Cog, Karnivool, Circe, The Mayan Factor and others. No single comparison there really does justice to what you can actually expect, but if you understand the sort of common theme between all of those bands you can at least expect the right ballpark. On top of that, Rishloo are also constantly developing and evolving, and no two of their albums sound that much alike because they progress and change over time (while always retaining a certain core identity where you can still tell its them straight away) so even their own catalogue doesn’t necessarily train you for what to expect here. This album is stylistically a million miles from their 2004 debut Terras Fames, but in a way that makes sense and feels logical.

In that spirit, Living As Ghosts With Buildings As Teeth is no simple retreading of their back catalogue, nor any attempt to sound like someone else. On this album Rishloo sound like nobody but Rishloo. Even the previous Tool comparisons bounce limply off this album like wooden arrows off a tank. Hints is all you get, the rest is new. This record sees the band mix things up even more and explore different sounds, textures and combinations. Drew tries out new voices and styles he hasn’t used before, such as the deranged sounding heavy vocals in the middle of ‘Winslow.’ There are guitar styles a past fan wouldn’t expect. Things that only came up once on a previous album are given more time.

The rhythms are more disjointed and jarring. There’s even more playing in uncommon time signatures and switching between tempos; opener ‘The Great Rain Beatle’ is particularly jagged, its unhinged and yet hypnotic like some psychedelic nightmare and makes Mars Volta comparisons more understandable… its like the most jagged parts of ‘Scissorlips’ made into an entire song. So too is the jazzier single ‘Landmines’ in its heavier sections. Although that being said, towards the end from the guitar solo onwards that kicks into some beautiful, straightforward head-banging energy.

There are also more hints of classic ‘70s Progressive Rock here than there have been on previous albums, to the point where (deep and hidden) you get feelings of almost Tales Of Topographic Oceans era Yes sounds at some stages (such as the middle of ‘Dark Charade’), and the intro to ‘Salutations’ reminds me a little of Pink Floyd’s ‘Hey You’ and ‘Don’t Leave Me Now’ updated through some Radiohead and Deftones filters. There’s also five-second bursts of King Crimson influence all over the place in spidery Fripp-esque guitar runs crammed in there every now and again by the underrated Dave Gillet. None of it is overt though, its subtle, bubbling under the surface. Hints.

Its difficult to pick album highlights in such a well-crafted, concise and consistent body of work; ‘Dark Charade’ for example has THAT riff, and afterwards kicks off into an exciting build-up that feels like the sequel to ‘Downhill’ off of the previous record and ‘Dead Rope Machine’ is just so unique, its like every song has its own identity and something completely singular to offer. Gun-to-my-head I’d have to recommend that you check out ‘Winslow’ (which people who followed the whole Ghost Apparatus period might recognize) and ‘Just A Ride’ as your tester-songs to see whether or not you’d like the album. Jesse’s drums on those two are particularly excellent. ‘Just A Ride’ is the absolute perfect ending to this roller-coaster of an album and features the defining lyrics of this whole saga. That said, the whole thing works so well as a single journey that I almost feel bad picking favourites.

There are some things you can always count on Rishloo for; Firstly – interesting, poetic, provocative, intriguing lyrics. Secondly – powerful, emotional, evocative vocal performances. There’s also always interesting, spiraling, unexpected music that will defy initial expectations but feel ‘right’ once you’re used to it. Furthermore you can count on a certain arty air of mystique and most of all, quality songwriting depth that means you never get sick of the tracks, they just get better and better with each listen. Considering all these aspects, this new album is no exception to the rule, no misstep and no weak one in the set. This album has it all; whimsy, brooding, passion, intensity, subtlety, power, aggression, chilled out moments, virtuosic moments and scaled-back serve-the-song-not-the-player moments. Its got a strong sense of diversity yet feels like one cohesive whole throughout and a single journey (or ‘ride’) from start to glorious finish.

If you are a fan of the band then you unquestionably need this satisfying grower of an album. That may be a bit of a redundant sentiment but it’s the absolute truth; I know that if you are an existing fan of the band then you probably crowd funded The Ghost Apparatus or pre-ordered the record already and got rewarded with early access downloads, so recommending it to you seems like preaching to the choir… but if you haven’t checked out the band yet, or were waiting for the reviews then by all means please do give this a chance. This album is just as good as their previous work and if you give it enough spins to reveal its subtleties and hidden depths you will be greatly rewarded.

Oh, and if you enjoy it make sure to go back and check out the rest of their records too!

*** Side note: If you are a regular reader of this blog and generally agree with most of my taste in music, or like any of the comparison-bands, you can consider checking out this band as a personal favour to me. That’s how much I recommend them! ***

Fair To Midland - Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True

Fair To Midland – Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True

The major label debut by the Texan Progressive/Alterative Rock band Fair To Midland; 2007’s cumbersomely titled Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True, drew public attention to the underground band when it was released on System Of A Down frontman Serj Tankian’s Serjical Strike record label.

The album; produced by David Bottrill (of Tool, Muse, King Crimson, Dream Theater and Mudvayne fame), sees the band in an experimental mood, mixing touches of electronic music, Progressive Rock, Metal and hints of country music and bluegrass, with large doses of Alternative Rock, and turning it all into a single, cohesive whole. For the most part they manage to squeeze all this into succinct yet multifaceted four-minute tracks that work as catchy rock songs on one level and display hidden depths on closer inspection.

The lyrics concentrate on fairytale themes, old sayings and a general feel of poetic antiquity. The vocals are a mixture of soft melodic singing with harsh Metallic roaring in moderation, very much in keeping with the band’s spirit of mixing it up. Then the toms will starts coming in as heavy singing overtakes them and suddenly keyboards or pianos will appear. Tones range from whimsical, artistic, angry and bittersweet, often within a single track.

Highlights include “Kyla Cries Cologne,” “April Fools And Eggmen” and “Walls Of Jericho.” That being said its all fairly consistent and there isn’t much in the way of filler.

This is a record with a pretty broad appeal, and would suit fans of bands like Coheed & Cambria, Cog, Rishloo, Dead Letter Circus, The Mayan Factor etc., as well as bands like Linkin Park, Flaw and Disturbed, or indeed bands like Muse, Placebo and Radiohead. It’s a grower, and isn’t quite as instant as its superb 2011 follow-up Arrows & Anchors, but is definitely worth your time and will reward repeat listens.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 70: Living Colour – Vivid

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 70: Living Colour – Vivid

Hello, and welcome to my Blog. Why is it called KingcrimsonBlog, the official Blog of Kingcrimsonprog?. Good question; It is called that, because I am called Kingcrimsonprog (or Gentlegiantprog). Well, I’m not. I’m called Jimmy. But, I’m called either Kingcrimsonprog or Gentlegiantprog on most websites and forums. (You know, in the way you have to choose a name or “net-handle” when you register?).

Back when this Blog was first devised, it was sort of a hub “digest” of all my various internet output, under one easy “roof.” So people could then tell that my things were not stolen from elsewhere on the internet, I kept my net-handle in the title. The name of my net-handle was simply chosen because I enjoy the Prog band King Crimson (and Gentle Giant) and is not in fact my real name. Forget about the name. Imagine its called “Music Nerd Blog” instead. You’ll get the idea.

I’ve been obsessing about music since about the year 2000. Over this time I’ve bought what must now be nearly 1,000 albums, and heard hundreds more through friends, relatives, streaming services and whatever else. I’ve also watched over a decade’s worth of music videos and heard countless individual songs on the radio, free covermounted CDs, websites and whatever else. All that, as well as read years and years worth of music magazines and websites.

I’m a nerd. Basically. Only, instead of Real Ale or French Cinema, its Music that I obsess about. Lots of people are nerds and don’t even realize it. Sometimes its obvious; trainspotting, stamp collecting etc. Sometimes its less obvious due to presentation. Some (make that many) football fans’ depth of knowledge about players and transfer costs and club histories would make many tram-enthusiasts seem normal by comparison. The amount of information that some people know about Reality-TV celebrities and their sex-lives would easily overpower my knowledge of bands, or the most dedicated art-lover and their knowledge of Vincent Van Gough. Everyone has a thing they get nerdy about, whether or not they realize or admit that it is similar to the more famous nerdy things like Star Wars. I don’t particularly like Football or Reality TV or Vincent Van Gough. I like Heavy Metal music. That’s my one thing. That’s what this Blog is all about.

Welcome to my First Impressions series of articles too, incidentally. In this series I (or sometimes my friends, or readers) pick an album for each entry that I will listen to for the first time. I then write in depth about what I know about that album or the artist that created it and the genre and subgenre to which they belong, before describing the experience of listening to it in real time, in a sort of semi-stream-of-consciousness way intended for entertainment purposes. I also enjoy writing reviews of albums, but when I write reviews my goal is to be helpful and provide you with information with which to aide your decision about whether to try out an album or not. When I write a First Impressions article however my goal is purely to entertain the reader, explore how much I know about music and be my own psychiatrist in the process.

I may go into some very specific detail and assume you have heard everything I’ve ever heard and perceived everything in the manner I’ve perceived it, and call out very specific sections of music and draw comparisons between things that the casual listener may find completely unrelated. Don’t worry, most of these songs are on Youtube and most of the terminology is on Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary anyway, so if there’s anything that goes over your head, you can always get clarification in a second web-browser-tab (or ask about it in the comments).

According to the aim of the series, the albums are considered by the public and music critics knowledgeable about the subject to be Classic albums within Rock and Metal, or at least within their own Subgenres. Classic albums that I’ve somehow missed out on, despite my nerdly need to hear and understand almost every piece of recorded Metal music ever.

If you have an album that you’d like to read a KingcrimsonBlog First Impressions article about, please suggest it in the comments, I’m game, I’ll give anything a try.

So that’s the preamble out of the way, on to the article:

This is the seventieth entry in the series (wow, I didn’t imagine I’d be doing seventy of these when I first started, especially when I thought it was going to be all Black Metal and Death Metal albums at the start).

This time I’ll be listening to the debut album by the American band Living Colour, (interestingly spelling colour with a ‘u’ despite being American).

This is one of those albums that’s pretty unique and so you can’t really fit it into a true subgenre. Sure its got rap, but its not really Rap Metal in the Limp Bizkit sense. Sure, its got a lively bass player, but it doesn’t really fit in with Primus or indeed with Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Sure its got a big 80s production, but it doesn’t fit in with Warrant or Poison.

I can’t really talk about the genre then. My formula for these articles is usually to discuss the genre, but I think these guys are in a genre of one, really.

Maybe I could talk about Penguins then? Apparently they don’t really mate for life like most people think. What? You don’t want Penguin trivia? Fine…

I guess I’ll talk about the band. I don’t really know about the band. Apparently they were a big deal at the time. To me they are a one-hit-wonder. I only have one Mental Post-it Note about them, and all it says is: “Living Colour. Cult Of Personality. 80s Production. Funk Bits. Rap Bits. Influential To Nu Metal?” – That’s probably because I’m too young to have seen or heard of them when anything other than ‘Cult Of Personality’ was on offer. Wikipedia says it was one the most popular albums of 1988, the year I was born. Apparently a lot of people know about the band then.

What else is interesting is that apparently the album was produced by Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones. I didn’t know or suspect the two bands had any connection. I don’t want to dwell too much on the race issue. Much like the ‘can we please stop thinking of women in Metal as WOMEN in Metal’ thing. Sure a bit of background and context is educational, but at the end of the day, leaning too heavily on that context is a bit reductionist.

With that being said, let’s just have ourselves a listen to the music itself then:

[Play]

The album opens with the main single, and the band’s biggest hit ‘Cult Of Personality.’ I do remember seeing the video on Kerrang and MTV2 a few times but I never watched it, if you know what I mean. Apparently it was in GTA San Andreas too (as was Alice In Chain’s ‘Them Bones’ and Soundgarden’s ‘Rusty Cage’ – but I don’t remember ever hearing any of them there, just ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ and ‘Pretend We’re Dead’ on an endless loop).

The production reminds me a bit of Faith No More’s The Real Thing. I guess they came out around the same time and were a sort of mixture of funk with the bright, trebly Metal of Hair Metal and Van Halen/Randy Rhodes influenced bands.

The main riff and vocal pattern is quite catchy. The tone of the snare drum really reminds me of Vinny Paul for some reason. There’s a guitar solo, but it’s a bit noisy and un-musical. A bit more Kerry King than Eddie Van Halen.

Towards the end, it gets pretty interesting, with extra fills and that fast bit at the very end.

Then comes ‘I Want To Know’ which sounds to me like a mixture of Van Halen, with Kiss and Extreme. Especially with that ‘Hey Kids’ opening line. There’s some occasional funky bass pops. The chorus reminds me of 80s and early-90s pop music actually, as well as Yes’ ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’ for some reason. The bit with the word ‘dream’ being repeated reminds me a bit of Queen. Again, there’s a guitar solo, but not a very pleasing-to-the-ear one.

‘Middle Man’ comes in next with quite a punky riff, but then it slows down into a grungey pace that really reminds me of that nickles-and-dimes referencing song that is the opening song to the movie Clerks. It’s a bit more of a lively track than the previous one. The drums are quite bouncy and satisfying. It has the whole rock-meets-funk thing down, but actually is good as well and not just a good idea. There’s a brief solo. Again, same thing. He has a definite style of lead guitar that isn’t quite to my own personal tastes. The drummer on the other hand, is pretty entertaining with his beats and fills.

The big breakdown where most of the music cuts out is quite entertaining, and then when the music all comes back its extra energetic. I always enjoy that sort of thing. Then its over.

Next comes ‘Desperate People’ which opens up with a weird sort of early Greenday sound, y’know the Kerplunk and Slappy stuff, only, with double-kicks and overly funky bass. Its sort of a noisy mish mash, then it kicks into a riff that reminds me of ‘Back In Black’ with a sort of Kiss’ ‘I Love It Loud’ production. There’s also something of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Heartbreaker’ about it. Its pretty entertaining at this point. The vocals actually remind me a bit of Mike Patton here. There’s a middle-eight that reminds me of 80s-Genesis. There’s another guitar solo that doesn’t really do it for me.

‘Open Letter (To A Land Lord)’ opens next, it starts off with a soulful (yet Spice-Girls-esque intro) then it morphs into a funky part that reminds me of the Ghostbusters theme tune. The intro comes back but with guitar and drums and it kind of reminds me of Use Your Illusion’s cheesier moments. At about 2.50 it kicks into a much harder funk part, and has a lot more energy. It reminds me of the colourful purple and green animations from the TV Show “Movies Games and Videos.”

Overall, this song isn’t really doing for me though. Again, the drummer is pretty interesting, but the main parts of the song don’t really do it for me.

‘Funny Vibe’ comes next. It starts with some jazzy filler, before a sort of faster punky bit comes in, its vaguely reminiscent of Faith No More and even King Crimson in the way the guitar seems to be working, then it morphs into pure funk. It sounds like the advertisement a clothes shop would put on for summer parties. Then they start putting in samples. The way the vocals work remind me a little of Faith No More’s ‘We Care A Lot.’ Then an alternative funk bit which might have some DJ scratches (or it might just be the echo from the Hi-Hat) and a guitar solo. Then that part that vaguely, distantly sounds like King Crimson comes back. It also, in no real way that I can explain, reminds me of ‘Duke’s Intro’ by Genesis.

It has a false ending, then they play the fast bit again.

‘Memories Can’t Wait’ opens up with a part that could be Rage Against The Machine (but at the same time, is actually quite similar to Motorhead’s ‘America’ in a weird way) and has a guitar solo as soon as it starts. There’s a few really Faith No More reminiscent vocal parts, and another guitar solo once that RATM-sounding part comes back. Good drums again. This is probably my favourite track so far. There’s a vocal part that reminds me of that song ‘I’m Going Deeper Underground.’

Then there’s this massively Radiohead sounding middle-eight that seems a bit out of place. It goes in and out, with a faster, punkier part in the middle of its departure and return. They start adding proggy guitar effects over the top of it the second time and the song starts freaking out into a sort of psychedelic fade-out.

‘Broken Hearts’ comes next, with a loud sampled intro, then a big cock-rock standium anthem drum beat, that is surprisingly offset by guitar parts that are like a mixture between The Bends era Radiohead with a Lynyrd Skynyrd ballad.

Its weird. It reminds me of underwater and beach levels in Mario games. Its slightly sleepy, with a definite Seagull vibe. There’s a nice bass solo that reminds me of Banjo Kazzooie. Then a brief guitar solo that reminds me of November Rain, and horses.

Could you call this song a ballad? I don’t know. It’s a sort of slow, more contemplative number than the previous tracks, but its not really a ballad. Its not exactly ‘More Than Words’ by Extreme, even if it does have love-forgiveness-song lyrics.

I don’t really dig it at all to be honest. Nothing about this really speaks to me.

‘Glamour Boys’ opens up next. It has a sort of happy Jamacian vibe. It sounds like a Megaderive game’s Jamica level. After a while they throw in a distorted riff, but mostly, its this fun, beach-party music with Phil Collins style vocals. When the distorted riff comes in the second time it really makes me smile, the same way Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ does, every time I hear the line ‘You gotta roll-roll-roll with the punches!’ – For a song called ‘Glamour Boys’ I expected one of two things, either something that sounds like ‘Talk Dirty To Me’ or something that sounds like ‘Big Dumb Sex’ – this super happy, beach barbeque wasn’t ever something I imagined.

‘What’s Your Favorite Color? (Theme Song)’ comes next, it opens with a big does of energy, then starts again as a really calm funk piece that sounds like low background music in a sofa advertisement or a birthday party in Saved By The Bell. If it was four times as energetic, it would remind me of the music that makes McLovin start dancing in Superbad. Its not though. You know what it does remind me of though? ’13 Flavours’ by Sacred Reich. When they ‘break it down’ its actually really entertaining. There’s probably just a bit too much repetition and not enough energy for the rest of it.

‘Which Way To America?’ opens up sounding like a Motorbike level in a megadrive game, its got energy and speed. The vocals are a bit Pattony. There’s a nice distorted chords bit, then a nice guitar rise. Hey, this song is pretty badass.
I think the speed and energy really pay off here. The guitar solo is just as noisy and Kerry King-esque as before, but it suits the more lively music. If more of the album had this much energy I’d really be interested. There’s a good middle part, there’s a few samples. After that he really starts throwing powerful shouts into it. This is great! Where was this passion the whole rest of the record?

Ok. That was the whole album. It was bookended by its two strongest songs, and there were a few interesting or even fun parts, but overall, it was a bit of a dull listen. There was variety yes, but it was such a slow, polite record that it did’t really have the power to keep me interested. I’m not a person who really gets excited by the idea of adding funk or adding rap on its own. I will really respond to them if they are added with the power and passion of good Rock or Metal, but just their mere presence isn’t enough to make me think its interesting.

I’ll give it this; it’s a very unique record. The basis of it isn’t hard rock, hair metal or alternative music you’ve heard before, and even if the only band I can compare them to is Faith No More, that’s only the barest of surface similarities. There’s no other record I’ve ever heard like this, and that’s before you even factor in all the stuff they mixed into it like the funk, soul and rap. The actual basis of it is darn unique too.

It hasn’t won me over though. I‘m glad it only cost me a penny. I’m glad to have heard it, and to now understand how it fits into the musical landscape, but much like MC5, its not really for me. I can’t really ever foresee any of these songs being a personal favourtie.

If you were to ask me if its worth checking out, I think I’d say either ‘only if you buy it for a penny’ or, just to buy ‘Cult Of Personality’ ‘Middle Man’ and ‘Which Way To America’ because that will give you all the best moments and save you all the filler. I think it has a gem to filler ratio about equal to White Zombie’s Astro Creep 2000 album.

[Side Note: I’ve been listening to the album a second time while finishing typing this and checking all the grammar, and I have to say, ‘Middle Man’ is very good. ‘Desperate People’ aint half-bad either actually. I’m enjoying it all a lot better the second time around. Maybe it’s a grower. Its just a minor shame that the sort of last two thirds of the record (excluding the excellent album closer) is so boring.]

Have you heard it? If so, drop me a comment.