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Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Reviews: Faith No More, Helloween, Muse

Faith No More: Sol Invictus (Reclamation/Ipecac)

1997 remember that year? Seems a long time ago since Britpop loomed large and Tony Blair came to power, but 1997 was famous for another reason, it signified the release of what seemed to be the last Faith No More record. This seemed to be the end of the band as they went their separate ways, however after few reunion gigs here we go again with another record from the rock world's premium purveyors of off kilter, genre hopping, mind bending genuinely alternative music. The title track starts the album off as Mike Bordin's drums and Roddy Bottum's keys drive the song which is dark way to kick off the album as Captain Patton uses his entire vocal range to give the song gravitas, this song is more like an intro than a full track and it's only on Superhero that we finally get a 'proper' track with Billy Gould's bass playing taking centre stage as per usual underpinned by Jon Hudson's angular guitar riffs, this track moves along a fair pace in the verses Patton snarling like a beast before the chorus lends a sense of the grandiose with Bottum's keys and Patton croons merging brilliantly before Hudson gets a sublime lead break in the final part, Sunny Side Up paradoxically sounds like a funeral procession with an upbeat chorus, Separation Anxiety is the first real dose of weirdness on the album with a low dark almost schizophrenic opening that explodes into heavy rocker in the latter part. After only four tracks you can hear that the band are all playing at the top of their game add to this Bordin's great production and songs like the almost Western flavoured Cone Of Shame, the country/jazz influenced Black Friday and the gloriously insane Motherfucker. After 18 years it's quite clear that Faith No More haven't dropped a beat, they are still perfectly capable of producing an album of high quality alternative metal that soaks up genres and styles like a sponge, many publications have heralded this album as something akin to the second coming and while it's not quite that it is a an album that the band are obviously proud of this album and the rejuvenation it suggests; From The Dead is the most telling track on the album as it's the purest and most honest song on the album that sees the band reflecting on this their resurgence and reaffirm that Sol Invictus is indeed their declarative comeback statement. 9/10    

Helloween: My God Given Right (Nuclear Blast)

Since replacing Michael Kiske with Andi Deris  in 1994 Helloween have gone from strength to strength after the two lacklustre albums at the end of Kiske's tenure. However since 2005's Keeper Of The Seven Keys: The Legacy the band have hit somewhat of a purple patch with 7 Sinners and Straight Out Of Hell improving on the Helloween formula with thrashier guitars, huge synth swells, rampaging songs and Deris' grittier vocal delivery. This is also Helloween's first album on Nuclear Blast since 2003's Rabbit Don't Come Easy. Happily Helloween's 15(!?) My God Given Right (a hell of a boast) is more of the same as the crunchy riffs of Heroes kicks off the album in fine style as founder member Michael Weikath and Sascha Gerstner drivie everything with their great guitar work riffing like mad and filling the song with fleet fingered solos as Markus Grosskopf's bass adds flourishes underneath Daniel Löble's super fast drumming. Battle's Won is old school Helloween with huge vocal melodies and upbeat, glorious song writing, the title track is a ballsy, confrontational number that is followed by the hard rock of Stay Crazy. Yes the lyrics are not poetry Lost In America the incredibly silly Russian Roule which is the heaviest track on the album and the must-have-been a Kiss b-side If God Loves Rock N Roll. On the mega-ballad Like Everybody Else it underscores the importance of studio keyboardist Matthias Ulmer who helps to flesh out the songs with his synths, orchestrations and on the Deep Purple sounding Creatures In Heaven, the album sounds huge once again due to Charlie Bauerfeind's production wizardry. Yet another great addition to Helloween's latter-era re-insurgence and another power metal master class from the German legends of the genre. 8/10

Muse: Drones (Warner Bros)

So three years since Muse's 2nd Law and the band have come back into the public conciousness with a concept album called Drones, the album follows "the protagonist's journey from abandonment to indoctrination as a "human drone" and eventual defection" dealing with loss of empathy through modern technology, so a heavy concept indeed but nothing Matt Bellamy and co haven't touched upon before. What has changed since 2nd Law is that the band have stripped back their sound removing the orchestrations and indeed dubstep that was part of their previous hit-and-miss album and relying on the guitar driven rock of their early releases albeit with the progressive overtones of their latter period, in fact much of this album is pitched in the Absolution/Black Holes... style of rock. Drones kicks off with the synth driven Queen-like Dead Inside which features the Radio Ga Ga synth riff and huge backing vocals, which are also very prevalent on this record, possibly due to the involvement of Robert John 'Mutt' Lange the man that helmed Highway To HellBack In Black, Hysteria, Pyromania and Waking Up The Neighbours so he knows a thing or too about hit albums and does seem to have a Midas touch, in fact that touch is all over the mega ballad Mercy. Now older fans will immediately be back on board with this opening track and if not Psycho's glam-guitar riff driven rocker will have them listening intently, yes the riffs are back folks with Matthew Bellamy playing the guitar god as he riffs and solos on tracks like Reapers, while Dominic Howard keeps the pace behind the kit on The Handler and Christopher Wolstenholme provides the swaggering basslines on tracks like Defector. This album is a real return to form for the band who have filled it to the brim with the huge rock riffs of their early career, with some excellent tracks like the AOR meets Queen of Aftermath, the heavy Reapers, before the 10 minute The Globalist starts with an intro that echoes Ennio Morricone in the whistling and clean guitar lines. as Bellamy croons the opening part before the guitars kick in about halfway through leading into Bellamy once again takes to the piano to sing of loss and alienation as the finale flourishes swell to complete this amazing track that blends into the chanting in title track finale. Muse are back folks rejoice!! 9/10     


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