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Saturday, 22 September 2012

Reviews: Lynyrd Skynyrd, Down, Steve Harris

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Last Of A Dyin' Breed (Roadrunner)

In a career that has always been overshadowed by the plane crash in 1977, it nice to think that Skynyrd have finally come to terms with their legacy on this record. They are truly the last of a dying breed that have influenced every southern rock band that have come after them. This album differs from its predecessor God And Guns as that album was much heavier in its presentation (as is the way when any band that sign to Roadrunner) this one however is far more classic Skynyrd, and this change is for the better because Skynryd are bridging the gap between rock, blues and country adding everything in between from the slide based title track to the country picking finale of Start Livin' Life Again. There is a lot of boogie in the rockers and the guitar playing of Rossington, Medlocke and Cartellone is superb (as usual) as is Johnny Van Zant's gruff vocals. The band don't stick rigidly to the blues/country rock formula as Homegrown and Ready To Fly both have elements of 80's rock (also Rossington's solo material) and the very modern southern sound of Life's Twisted can be attributed to the co-writer credit from Black Stone Cherry's Jon Lawhon and Chris Robertson. Even the four bonus tracks are very good and add to the overall album rather than being just secondary add-ons. The production of Bob Marlette is superb also and brings a warm southern texture to the album. This is Skynyrd doing what they do best and if they do happen to be the last of their breed then they are going out fighting. 8/10 

Down: Down IV - The Purple E.P (Roadrunner)

So the kings of NOLA return with their fourth album and unlike their first three which were dogged by long gaps in between them (mainly due to the members other projects) this album however will be split into four E.P's with this one Purple being the first. From the slow, long intro to the opening tracks Levitation which builds up into a storming stoner metal showcase and is followed by the occult voodoo of Witchtripper which cuts through the haze with its heavy mysticism. It's from here that the concept of this album is revealed and that is the part of Down that worships at the altar of Sabbath with Open Coffin and The Curse Is A Lie both bringing the dirge and doom riffage with rampant changes of pace that are both exciting and disconcerting in the same breath. Both Pepper Keenan and Kirk Windstein keep the riffage loose and flowing but also very focussed and straightforward, with Jimmy Bower dictating the pace and new bassist Patrick Bruders adding his bewitching pulse to the proceedings the instrumentation is top-notch. All this is topped by Phillip's unmistakeably aggressive and powerful vocal delivery. As I have said before this album is the first of four and is mainly built upon Down's doom influence, what the others will hold is anyone's guess but I'm sure all four together will become Down's greatest work yet. 8/10 

Steve Harris: British Lion (EMI)

Steve Harris, the brainchild of British metal legends Iron Maiden, has been quietly working on this solo effort since the 1990's and it is his first foray away from the Maiden mothership. I assumed that the album would be different from Harris' day job and more akin to his influences. How wrong I was, with only the Thin Lizzy-esque Eyes Of The Young and Us Against The World which has both UFO and Maiden influences, the rest of the album is full of Alt-Rock tracks that feature 'Arry's distinctive bass sound over some very good guitar playing. However there are problems, one are the songs which despite being reasonably good, they are not Harris at the top of his game. Another is the production which is all over the place with the volume and clarity of tracks changing throughout the course of the record. The final and perhaps biggest problem is that the vocals of Richard Taylor, they are very poor; he has a scratchy, strained vocal delivery that ruins an awful lot of the tracks. This is a shame as I was looking forward to seeing what Steve Harris would do outside Maiden and I was expecting much more than this poor mid-nineties rock pastiche. Sorry Steve I love you but this is not good. 5/10 

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