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Saturday, 12 May 2012

Reviews: Storm Corrosion, Jack White, Huntress, Astra

Brief intro: I've been doing this for a year now. Thank you to everyone who reads comments on and discusses these posts. I set this up purely for my own sanity and to have many of you actually wanting to read it warms my cynical soul. I'll continue to write these reviews, as well as the Out Of The Beyond's, Live And Dangerous' and a may even do some Historicas soon.

Cheers everyone!

P.S (By the way if anyone wants me to review or give opinion on something they've bought that's not featured here then feel free to email, message or comment)

Storm Corrosion: S/T (Roadrunner)

So Hell has frozen over and the end of days is here as finally two of the best musicians in modern rock/metal have released their collaborative effort. Messer’s Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) and Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth) have released the final part of their album trilogy that also encompassed Wilson's solo album Grace For Drowning and Opeth's last record Heritage. But the clincher is whether it's any good and the only answer to that is a resounding 'Yes' but it has nothing to do with their other bands. This is a whole other side to the two men's psyche and one that looks to but doesn't tred on their other ventures. If anything it is more PT than Opeth with Wilson taking most of the vocals except on the opening track Drag Ropes which is a doom laden dreamscape which is followed by the epic orchestral title track that blends acoustic picking with woodwind instrumentation before turning into a dark voodoo percussive beast that fly’s into an almost painful crescendo and back to its beginning lilt. Hag is a trippy PT extra that comprises mainly bass, piano and Wilson's restrained vocals whereas the finale features the jazz drumming of PT alumni Gavin Harrison (who drums throughout). Happy is the complete opposite of its title and features Wilson's superb mixing and production skills to create a haunting effect. Lock Howl is an acoustic instrumental that becomes electronic in the middle 8 and the album ends with Ljudet Innan which is a 10 minute epic in the style of Echoes era Pink Floyd. This is not metal but it is very heavy, involving, thought provoking and suitably brilliant record from modern music's two most forward thinking musicians. 10/10

Jack White: Blunderbuss (Third Man Records/ XL Recordings)

So after hiding behind the dark blues/folk of The Dead Weather and the retro rock of The Racontuers, Jack White finally releases an album under his own name and after the White Stripes ended many wondered what this musical chameleon and modern day bluesman would come up with on a solo record well the answer is a White Stripes album in all but name (albeit with actual bass guitar). The album follows on from the sonic expansion featured on Get Behind Me Satan and Icky Thump. The album features a many musicians with a multitude of influences with White handling vocals, guitars, piano, bass and drums with others taking their places when White isn't. The opening bars of Missing Pieces and its electric piano is reminiscent of Dusty Springfield’s Son Of A Preacher man before Sixteen Saltines sweeps in with its White Stripe riffage and strangled cat guitar solo. Love Interruption is an acoustic soul track featuring the gravel laden backing vocals of Ruby Amanfu, however the majority of the album features Jack's new/old blues shtick with varying levels of authenticity Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy is a by-the-book blues number and one of the weaker tracks. White has also sprinkled the album with folk, soul and country. Only a track like Freedom At 21 throws a curveball with its analogue electronica backbeat (listen to it and you will see what I mean). This is a good album and one that brilliantly meets but not defies all expectations. 8/10

Huntress: Spell Eater (Napalm Records)

Fronted by former Playboy Model and opera singer Jill Janus (who is a pagan and insists on wearing very few clothes) Huntress were always going to cause a stir in the macho world of heavy metal however would the music match up to the image? Firstly the album starts up with the fierce and pummelling title track and the pace rarely lets up. The riffage of Blake Meahl and Ian Alden has a mix of thrash and black metal with an overall lashing of NWOBHM. The drums and bass are also technical and powerful providing a heavy backing. Janus' vocals are outstanding however they are quite an acquired taste as she mixes Dani Filth style growls/screams with King Diamond's soaring vocals. The lyrical content features the occult, death and paganism (but not necessarily in that order), the album is filled with good songs and the playing along with Janus' vocals are very professional however over the course of  11 tracks the relentless bulldozer riffage and hysterical screaming can wear a little thin. The best tracks on the album are Eight Of Swords, Snow Witch and the title track but the majority of the album has a similar vibe. The album is very good and the band are great however are they the saviours of true metal they are being touted as, well no, but they could be. 7/10

Astra: The Black Chord (Rise Above Records)

How do you follow up an album that is steeped in 70's prog drenched with ethereal vocals, long instrumental passages and lashings of Hammond and Moog? Well Astra have just multiplied everything by ten and made an album that is possibly 'more-prog' than its predecessor. Firstly this album has fewer tracks than its predecessor and is slightly shorter all round which means that it is more concise than their debut. The album opens with the instrumental Cocoon which is filled with all of their hallmarks and segues nicely into the 14 minute plus title track which features vocoadered vocals, huge repeating synths and features a stunning solo from guitarist Brian Ellis at the end. The psychadelia is ramped up in all aspects as well with Quake Meat having a Hawkwind vibe (and vibe is the appropriate word). This is a trippy, rocking prog album that will be best enjoyed with a kaleidoscope and possibly other things that I'm not allowed to advocate. 8/10

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