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Sunday, 19 April 2015

Reviews: The Prodigy, Katatonia, Nightwish (Reviews By Paul & Stief)

The Prodigy: The Day Is My Enemy (Take Me To The Hospital)

It’s been six years since their last offering but the sixth release by the metal world’s favourite electro dance outfit is well worth the wait. I'm going to nail my colours to the mast here. I've always had admiration for the Essex outfit who have delivered some absolute monster tunes since their first album Experience landed in 1992. Their music dominates my work out mixes and when it comes to the top track in my spin classes, well, they destroy all who attempt to get close.
The Day Is My Enemy is possibly The Prodigy’s most brutal and heavy release of all time. The title track kicks off proceedings big time, with loops and pounding bass hammering away. Nasty, the first single follows with Keith Flint’s snarling Essex tones combining with Maxim to accompany the huge synths and vicious drum beats. The whole album is laced with aggression, massive bass and drum and enough of an edge to transport you back to a time when this music was fresh and raw.

Highlights on an album packed with killer tracks? Well Destroy is going to do just that with an absolutely destructive back line as it builds slowly and then explodes to smash your head on the floor. Wild Frontier, the second release from the album will provoke carnage amongst the mosh pits and also contains some of the most addictive hooks The Prodigy have ever come up with; Beyond The Deathray has a real old school feel to it whilst Get Your Fight On, well, yeah! That! I just can’t fault the album; it’s relentless; ideal for barrelling along the motorway to, it pumps you in the gym and generally picks you up when you fall. It’s no calming influence, and the urge to punch a defenceless farmyard animal was strong, especially after Rok-Weiler had given me a clip ‘round the ear but then, what do actually expect from this lot? Overall, this is a much more consistent release than Invaders Must Die, and a glorious return for a band who still lead from the front with Liam Howlett and co. providing an album bursting with meaty hooks and riffs. An album with 14 tracks is always going to have a couple of weaker moments, but there are few stragglers on here and even those at the back of the herd will prove a mighty challenge for any predators wishing to pick them off. Roll on 8 May at the MIA. It’s going to be messy. 9/10

Katatonia: Sanctitude (Kscope)

Like Anathema, Katatonia have transformed from the chrysalis of their death metal origins into a quite sensational, beautiful outfit, totally comfortable with their evolving sound and direction. Sanctitude is a recording of their sold out acoustic show at the Union Chapel in London in May 2014 as part of the Dethroned and Uncrowned European Tour. I was fortunate enough to see Casualties of Cool at this venue last year and it is perfect for the type of acoustic performance that Katatonia delivered. The acoustics are captured spectacularly and really help to enhance the quality of the songs. The production is sensitive and top quality. The audience are respectful but hugely appreciative and the set list is nothing short of amazing. Old favourites such as Teargas and Sleeper mingle with tracks from Dead End Kings (The Racing Heart, Lethean) and rarities such as the never before played live Gone (Discouraged Ones), Day from Brave Murder Day and Unfurl from the July EP. The atmosphere of the evening is captured on the album, something that is rare in a live recording. The acoustic re-workings provide completely fresh versions of many of the tracks; One Year From Now being a super example. 

The band lost two members not long before the start of the tour, and Jonas Renkse makes sure that there is ample acknowledgement for Bruce Soord who delivers some beautiful guitar, keyboards and backing vocals and fantastic percussion from JP Aslund. They are ably supported by Renkse on vocals and guitar as well as Anders Nystrom and Niklas Sandin on acoustic bass. The album maintains your interest due to the quality of the performance and the variation in the set list as well as the genuine quality in the delivery. The percussion and guitar work are magnificent and Renkse’s vocals are ideally suited to the echoing venue. Although there are some rarities contained within the setlist, Katatonia ensured they finished with three of their more well-known tracks; the stunning Omerta, Evidence and conclude with The One You Are Looking For with guest vocals from Silje Wergeland. Sanctitude is a quite beautiful piece of work; captivating in its delivery and a clear demonstration of the power of quality composition. Katatonia have long been one of my favourite bands and this release further strengthens that bond. A work of sheer excellence from one of the best bands around today. 10/10

Nightwish: Endless Forms Most Beautiful (Nuclear Blast)

The first album in 3 years from Nightwish, and the first full length with new frontwoman Floor Jansen, Endless Forms... is a return to form, albeit a slight one, from the (mostly) Finnish band. Following on from album-cum-film score, Imaginaerum, album opener Shudder Before The Beautiful rings out with echoes of older songs, such Dark Chest Of Wonders, symphonic guitars, keyboards and strings adding the bombastic sound that we've come to know and love from the band. Jansen's voice fits perfectly with the rest of the band; whereas original frontwoman Tarja Turunen could hit the high notes, and Annete Ozlon had her clean vocals, Floor's vast vocal range allows her to take up the roles of both of her predecessors and it is this realisation that makes it slightly disappointing that we do not get a sample of Floor's operatic talents until very late in the album. Having heard her work with her own band, Revamp, as well as seeing her live, it feels as if Floor's voice is not being as utilised as it could be, the breakdown of Yours Is An Empty Hope being the only time we hear her using harsh vocals and growling.

This does however give the album more of an open feel than previous ones, the band allowing themselves to spread out a bit more creatively. Our Decades In The Sun had a very power ballad-esque sound, with Troy Donockley's pipes adding a folky touch without feeling too forced. Elan feels like a callback to The Last Of The Wilds and it's obvious that the band are constantly adding strings to their bow, Imaginaerum's film-score sound an obvious inspiration behind The Eyes Of Sharbat Gula, a slow build up with chanting from both band and the children, giving it a film credit feel. It wouldn't be a Nightwish album without an epic song, and The Greatest Show On Earth is just that, coming in at shy of 24 minutes, it gives us a taste of every facet of Nightwish's repertoire, from Tuomas Holopainen's keyboards, Jansen's aforementioned operatic voice (along with plenty of mid-range stuff too), the heavy drumming of Jukka Nevalainen paired with the thumping bass of Marco Hietala, who also supports Floor with his baritone vocals and some great solos from Emppu Vuorinen as well as Troy's pipes. There's even some narration from Richard Dawkins, along with a full chorus and orchestra. The song seems to drag in places, animal sounds being used as filler, obviously supporting the story being told, but feeling as if they go on a bit too long at times. Overall, Endless Forms... is a great album, but as mentioned before, doesn't seem to fully utilise the talent of the band, particularly their new frontwoman. Here's hoping the band realise this come the next album. 7/10

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