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Sunday, 27 January 2013

Reviews: ZZ Top, In Solitude, Aeon Zen

ZZ Top - La Futura (American Recordings)

So 'The Little Ol' Band from Texas' return fresh with a new beard in the form of Super-producer Rick Rubin, and the man with the Midas Touch has done it again bringing ZZ Top back as a pressing concern rather than a nostalgia act. So Billy, Dusty and Frank have returned with their strongest material since Eliminator mixing their boogie blues past with modern production and electronics. The opening track I Gotsta Gets Paid shows this mix as it is bluesy cover of a Hip Hop track called 25 Lighters which has lots of funky guitars as well as a thumping drum beat from Frank Beard. The quality is strong for the entire album with Chartreuse full of ass swinging boogie (and a riff similar to Rainbow's Long Live Rock & Roll); Consumption is prime Eliminator territory with its off-kilter rhythm and phazered guitars. This all leads to the big ballad of Over You which is a triumphant desert break up song. Age has not mellowed the 'Top with an album full of dirty women, drinking and partying. Billy gives his classic half whispered, grizzled vocal performance as well as his great guitar playing, which is excellent throughout especially when it duels with James Harman's harmonica on Heartache In Blue. Beards drums keep the engine ploughing along and Dusty's bass lays on the funk thick with both his bass and backing vocals aiding long time buddy in their blues-rock domination (I noticed too that Dusty's voice is almost a dead ringer for Outlaw Country singer David Allen Coe). This is an album that ZZ Top have been threatening to make since their 80's re-insurgence, its bluesy, its rocking, it's got all the hallmarks of ZZ Top's musical career and most of all it makes you want get up have a party and shake your bones! 8/10

In Solitude - In Solitude (Season Of The Mist)

So the fact that I'm reviewing Swedes In Solitude's debut album 2 years after their second album was released shows how weird the music industry has become. This is the re-mastered and expanded version of their debut but it features the same Mercyful Fate meets classic Maiden sound of their second album and a sound similar to compatriots Ghost but with more galloping bass. Things kick off with the one-two punch of In The Darkness and Witches Darkness which has some changing time signatures and shows of frontman Pelle Ahman's expansive vocals which range from slight growling to falsetto screams much like King Diamond but with much more mid-range singing than the King's OTT shrieking. The guitars duel throughout both weaving their metal magic backed by a bass gallop. The album features lyrics of the occult increasing the Mercyful Fate and Angel Witch comparisons, but In Solitude manage to stop themselves from becoming a pastiche or a comedy act through good hard rocking songs and some obvious passion. If some people have the original copy what may make them part with more money is the inclusion of two bonus tracks and that the whole album has been re-mastered. This is a money spinning exercise of course but it will also bridge the gap until they release their third album by keeping their name in the music press. All in all a very good retro-occult metal album that showed how In Solitude began. 7/10

Aeon Zen - Enigma (Nightmare Records)

Multi-instrumentalist Richard Hinks returns with his third album from his band Aeon Zen and this time he reduces how much he contributes, only providing the writing, production, guitars and bass. This is because he now has a fully formed band with the keys, drums and extra guitars handled by other musician, this album also features a full time vocalist with the previous albums having a revolving line up of famous vocalists like Pagan's Mind's Nils K Rue, Spock's Beard's Nick D'Virgilio. Andi Kravljaca holds his own against these men bringing a powerful European style vocal to the progressive metal soundscapes Hinks produces. The whole album has elements of Symphony X, Pagan's Mind as well as some of the more modern  However Hinks also has some guests in the form of Atle Peterson from Prog-metallers Above Symmetry. Djent bands like Tesseract. This can be seen on Divinity which has some thrash riffs, blast beat drums, Gojira-like fret slides and some growled vocals from Hinks who is a capable vocalist in his own right and also on the down-tuned, palm muted Still Human This is a great album that in places reminds me of Devin see Turned To Ash and in others more prog rock with the piano based Eternal Snow being a showcase of this before it turns into a Machine Head song! This is an album that spans various genres and in places is heavy, progressive and majestic (sometimes all at the same time) and takes a few listens to unlock its mysteries however after a few spins you see that this is a great album that will please any fan of contemporary metal. 8/10

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