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Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Reviews: Melvins, Andrew Stockdale, Oliva

Melvins: Hooray For Sausages (Ipacec)

The alt-metal masters’ return with their 19th album and this is a covers album that in true Melvins style mixes strange song choices with some odd arrangements. King Buzzo and co open the album with Venom's Warhead which is very true to Cronos' original, albeit with cleaner production. Much of this similarity comes from addition of Neurosis' Scott Kelly on guitar and vocals; yes this album features more guests and also sees the band perform as Melvins Lite on a few tracks much like they did on their previous album Crybaby. Next up is Queen's You're My Best Friend which is given an 8-bit makeover with the electronic keys at odds with the May-like guitar, which leads in to a percussive take on the rockers favourite Black Betty before a still trippy but more grungy rendition of The Scientists Set it On Fire which features Mudhoney's Mark Arm on vocals. The first elongated piece is Bowie's Station To Station which seems to be a perfect fit for a band like Melvins as it has the right element of weirdness as well as some sprawling soundscapes to encompass, and although it is the original arrangement they have made it more electric than the original with Osbourne providing some fuzzy guitar for the track and Australian J.G Thirlwell giving a suitably off-kilter and snotty vocal performance that Bowie would be proud of. The more progressive element is wiped clean on the next track which is a punky cover of The Kinks lesser known track Attitude which actually sounds like a Melvins track, the double bass driven Female Trouble comes next and has all the pseudo-sexuality of John Waters' original but just amped up a bit, what we get next is straight up version of hippy band The Fugs Carpe Diem, into more punk in the shape of the garage stomp of Timothy Leary Lives before the mood comes crashing down again on the sinister monologue of In Every Dreamhome A Heartache which was originally by Roxy Music, but this version features the ghostly vocals of Jello Biafra. This is great covers albums with some inspired choices that play to the bands strengths however it will have its detractors that will always prefer the originals but hopefully it will open up people’s minds to both the Melvins and the less well known bands they cover. 8/10

Andrew Stockdale: Keep Moving (Universal)

The man who 'is' Wolfmother has finally laid to rest his former band and set off on his own. After the period of uncertainty that followed his band's last release Cosmic Egg it’s nice to see Stockdale return albeit under his own name, however the name is all that's changed the music is still the same, Stockdale handles all the guitars and vocals and he still is stuck firmly in his 70's fuzzy hard rock groove topped by his helium fuelled sheep vocals. He has assembled a fine set of musicians with Ian Peres (who was the other final member of Wolfmother with Stockdale) handling the bass on all the tracks except two and also contributing Wurlitzer, Moog synth and Fender Rhodes on the other tracks, the album has three drummers contributing as well. Things hit the ground shaking with the first three tracks all rip roaring; hip shaking 70's rockers the title track also injecting some funk into the proceedings. The songs range from fuzzy garage rockers, to the Lizzy twin leads off Meridian, with some serious riffs and also some great solo's from Stockdale, who also adds some proggy and psych leanings to the songs too most notably on Ghetto which is drenched in Wurlitzer as well as some acoustic folk with Suitcase (One More Time) he also brings some bluesy mouth harp to She's A Motorhead. I will say that this album is good and has got some good songs however at 17 songs it also means it has quite a lot of filler too and flags towards the end going into too much experimental territory at the end a bit with a few less tracks this could be a killer as like I said a lot of the tracks are big stompy rockers that come straight out of the Wolfmother songbook as well as the odd folk thrown in but there are just too many of them for sustained listening. I conclusion the first half is excellent the second not so much which is a shame. 6/10   

Oliva: Raise The Curtain (AFM)

Jon Oliva is the mastermind of Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Jon Oliva's Pain. This is surprisingly Jon Oliva's first solo album and it harks back to the classic progressive rock era days right from the opening of the title track which features ELP like organ from Oliva and has a euphoric call to arms that is truly stuck in the era of big organs and capes galore. Oliva has numerous musicians contributing mainly on guitar and keys, most notably Iced Earth collaborator Jim Morris on guitar and Jon Oliva's Pain drummer Christopher Kinder hammering the skins however most of the music comes from just Oliva who naturally handles the keys but also the guitars and bass, this album is his debut as lead guitarist and obviously he provides every track with his amazing voice that usually sits as scarred scream but is capable of mimicking many vocal styles. Like I said this is not metal it is firmly rooted in classic 70's prog with Hammonds, Wurlitzers and Moogs galore all steeped in Oliva's flair for the dramatic, see the horn filled soul of Ten Years, the acoustic balladry This is a very personal project for Oliva as it is the final album to feature the unrecorded work of his brother Criss the former Savatage guitarist maestro who died age 30 in a car accident, so you this album is almost like Oliva exorcising the final demons of his past and he does it in fine style with every track different and the tracks penned by his brother are some of the strongest on the album, which is not to detract from Jon's writing at all but the Criss co-penned songs have that dusting of magic that was always present on the early Savatage albums. Personally I love Savatage and also TSO but Jon Oliva's Pain never really did it for me however this album merges the first two excellently and throws in a shedload of prog to boot! A classy album of dramatic, propulsive prog rock! 8/10  

 

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