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Saturday, 18 October 2014

Reviews: Slipknot, Flying Colors, Sanctuary

Slipknot: 5: The Grey Chapter (Roadrunner)

The world's most dangerous band have been in turmoil as of late, with the passing of bassist/primary song writer Paul Gray in 2010, something that shocked the band to it's core and saw them on the verge of collapse. This feeling of loss has been doubled by the resignation of drummer Joey Jordison in 2013 meaning that this album, the band's fifth, has been gestating for six years. In the meantime the disagreement between Jim Root and Corey taylor around their other project Stone Sour has caused conflict between the two, however Slipknot have always been a twisted family and it is all of the members first love that they always return to. Because of this the release of a Slipknot album is always an event and .5: The Grey Chapter (title is a homage to their fallen brother) has been teased for months the full reveal coming with the video for The Devil In I which the band debuted their new masks, Taylors being the most radical change and also their new rhythm section. However the music is the same as it's always been, animalistic percussion from the new drummer, the twisted genius Shawn Clown Crahan and the gonzoid Chris Fehn, samples galore from the silent killer Craig Jones and the evil gimp Sid Wilson, murderous riffs from man mountain Mick Thompson and the Viking bearded joker Jim Root before the twisted master of ceremonies, Taylor, sings, croons, growls, barks the aggressive lyrics becoming the mouth piece for another slice of fervent rallying becoming a clarion call for the disillusioned and the angst ridden. The overall sound of the album is a mixture of the melodies present on Vol. 3 and the aggression and primitive nature of Iowa. XIX is a call to arms with just a single electronic sample and Taylor's scarred vocals showing the scars of their recent past before Sarcastrophe starts off subdued but as the guitars kick in they proceed to bludgeon just like the old days with everything going 100 mph, AOV kicks it up another gear with a riff meant to cause huge pits. The pace doesn't let up on The Devil In I which has more melody in it harking back to Vol 3 but still has enough bile and violence to ensure that you are still aurally beaten. Killpop slows things down and is a percussive violent love song before Skeptic takes things back to the boilersuits and blood of Iowa, with Taylor screaming his head off. The riffs are brutal, the percussion is bone breaking and Taylor shows why he is considered one of the best singers around, see the change between barks on Lech the croon on the electronic ballad Goodbye (a song that is heart breaking) and even the expletive filled machine gun spoken word delivery on Custer. The finale is in two parts, the first is Negative One which is Slipknot distilled and the second is the sparse, haunting, depressive If Rain Is What You Want. So even though they have matured and had their fair share of tragedy the nine man killing machine is still pumping out some of the most confrontational, influential metal music in the world. Lock up your loved ones, Slipknot are back whether you like it or not! 9/10    

Flying Colors: Second Nature (Mascot)

When supergroup Flying Colors relased their first album in 2012 expectation was high, here you had one of the leading lights in prog Neal Morse, his Transatlantic bandmate and frequent collaborator Mike Portnoy, joining forces with Deep Purple's Steve Morse and his fellow Dixie Dreg Dave LaRue, the only unknown being singer Casey McPherson. With the talent involved everyone a expected a prog extravaganza but what they got was a technically proficient, brilliantly executed mix of pop, rock, funk and jazz all brought together in one place with the immense musicianship of the the musos mixed with the pop voice of McPherson. However many felt the album didn't scratch their prog itch so Second Nature aims to redress the balance doing exactly what the title suggests, prog is in these men's blood so as the Transatlantic style opening of Open Up Your Eyes we dive straight in at the deep end with some airy keyboard fuelled majesty that then changes into a synth filled 13 minute stunner of an opener that echoes ELP and Yes, Neal Morse's fingerprint is all over the opener and as the song progresses we get changes in key, pace and style as LaRue lets his jazz side out, Portnoy turns from easy patterns into huge fills and Steve Morse solos like a demon in the middle eight and at the climax. Again it is McPherson's voice that is a revelation as he can really sing, his voice reminiscent to a cleaner version of Dave Grohl and his pop phrasing means that he hasn't got the overblown histrionics of many prog singers. Yes prog certainly is in this bands nature and they show this to full effect on this record with most of the songs over 4 minutes and the album is bookended by one 12 minute track and one 11 minute track the glorious finale Cosmic Symphony. In between we have Mask Machine which is big rock track followed by the orchestral backed power of Bombs Away and the Queen-like ballad of The Fury Of My Love which again is pure Neal Morse. The band gel so well on this record there is no self-indulgent nonsense, everything is for the good of the song, we are taken on a journey through the members influences from the Beatles-like A Place In Your World, the Celtic flavoured One Love Forever and of course the likes of ELP, Yes and even Floyd on the plaintive acoustic strummed Peaceful Harbour which gives McPherson ample opportunity to show off his impressive voice. This is a passion project from all those involved they created the songs, performed them and produced the album meaning that this album pips it's predecessor only because; one it is what is expected and two a true labour of love. So the prog is most definitely back and Second Nature is the sound of five men doing what they do best and doing it with style. 9/10      

Sanctuary: The Year The Sun Died (Century Media)

Move along Axl Rose your album Chinese Democracy took 14 years to make, well Sanctuary's last album, the excellent Into The Mirror Black, was released 25 years ago, and in the year 2014 it now finally has a follow up. This gap between albums is because the band broke up after their last album and only reunited again in 2010, this isn't to say the band faded into obscurity, frontman Warrel Dane and bassist Jim Sheppard formed Progressive metallers Nevermore with guitarist Jeff Loomis. Nevermore was a totally separate entity from Sanctuary, it was far more progressive with wider style and themes explored on their albums. Sanctuary on the other hand were smack bang in the middle of thrash (their first album was produced by MegaDave himself) so they managed to make strong aggressive but also progressive thrash/traditional metal albums. Now I don't have a preference, I think both bands are excellent so thankfully The Year The Sun Died has all the elements you would want from Sanctuary with the modern, mature touch of Nevermore. As the opening riff of Arise And Purify kicks it is clear the thrash is definitely back with Lenny Rutledge and Brad Hill proving some expert riffage along with the speedy gallop of Sheppard's bass and the frankly excellent drumming of Dave Budbill, obviously one of the major selling points of both Sanctuary and Nevermore was the amazing vocal range of Dane who shows his form off brilliantly here from the bellowing lower range croon on tracks like Let The Serpent Follow Me and the monolithic doom of Exitium (Anthem of the Living) to the ear piercing shrieks (not favoured in Nevermore) of I Am Low which is a surprisingly Nevermore sounding track as is The Dying Age which ends with cries of "Exterminate". The Year The Sun Died is glorious return from Sanctuary, it picks up where Into The Mirror.... left off and adds everything that Dane and Sheppard have been part of since, the songs are heavier, bolder and more mature than before and as the emotive and passionate title track ends the album perfectly I felt as if Sanctuary have continued their legacy by carrying on the sound of both the bands they are associated with, this is one for fans of the original Sanctuary and also happily for fans of Nevermore too. 8/10

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