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Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Reviews: Rob Zombie, Tremonti, Universal Mind Project

Rob Zombie: The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser (Universal)

The Electric Warlock... is the master of schlock-horror-rock's six album with his solo band, this may seem odd considering how long Zombie has been doing this but when you think he had a career with White Zombie, as well as numerous films, collaborations and world tour's as well as everything else under sun it's a wonder he has time to release anything at all.

This six release comes off the back of 2013's Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor which saw Zombie meld the horror roots rediscovered on Hellbilly Deluxe 2 while maintaining the hard rock edge brought in on Educated Horses. The Electric Warlock...sees Zombie go way back with his beginnings with an album of short sharp songs full of stomping industrial riffage, drenched with horror imagery and B-Movie inserts, Zombie calls it his heaviest album to date and there's no denying that his band made up of the sledgehammer rhythm section of Piggy D and Ginger Fish are key to this contributing the marching power to the Satanic Cyanide! The Killer Rocks On! 

John 5 riffs with the backroom but also adds his trademark obscure flourishes to the songs while Zombie still has his reverbed howls telling tales of vampires, killers, zombies and UFO's who on this record are a little more amorous than they have been before according to the twisted bluegrass of Well, Everybody's Fucking In A U.F.O. I said that Zombie has gone back to his early day on this record and thats never more evident than on The Life And Times Of A Teenage Rock God which sounds remarkably like More Human Than Human.

This album goes by in a bit of a blur really clocking in at just over 30 minutes Zombie obviously wants to get his point across as quickly as possible, A Hearse That Overturns With The Coffin Bursting Open is a little intermission before we are thrown back into the organ drenched The Hideous Exhibitions Of A Dedicated Gore Whore which is destined to become another anthem for every tattooed Goth chick. We get more classic Zombie swagger on In the Age Of The Consecrated Vampire We All Get High which has a nu-metal-like breakdown to it and John 5 showing off his skills. The Electric Warlock... is Zombie bringing back that sound he pretty much invented and he is all the better for it. 8/10

Tremonti: Dust (Fret12)

Last year Mark Tremonti released his second solo album Cauterize to widespread critical acclaim, Tremonti is a recognisable as the guitarist and primary songwriter of both Creed and Alter Bridge but his solo records blend more of his own influences to the records which has always meant that this is more than Alter Bridge part 2. His third record Dust was written and recorded around the same time as Cauterize but since then there has been on a tour and started writing another Alter Bridge record (probably due to Slash having his hands full with Axl meaning Myles is finally free).

It opens in what can be seen now as traditional Tremonti style with a faster more thrash sound than his day job, I've mentioned in previous reviews that Tremonti's voice is good (so much so that it makes you wonder why he has ever bothered with singers) but it's worth mentioning as the next time you praise Myles Kennedy there is a guy next to him that is equally good, however it's on the six strings that Tremonti shows his true calling, his guitar playing is superb, I'm sure guitar nerds can explain why but for the casual listener it's because not only can he write a catchy riff he can also solo like the virtuosos of old effortlessly, with the fret wanking not taking precedence over the songwriting, see The Cage as an example the song builds into the frantic guitar section that just adds that little extra to an already excellent track.

He's aided and abetted by the same team as on the previous records with Gary Whitlock blasting away at the back showing his worth on Once Dead, while Wolfgang Van Halen adds the groovy bottom end that works in unison with Eric Friedman's rhythm playing giving this album it's heavier touch and also lets Mark himself peel off solos at will, everything is once again produced by Michael "Elvis" Baskette meaning that it retains the familiar sound of all of Tremonti's projects.

Dust is not all speed and fury though the title track slows everything down with massive muscular arena ballad and Never Wrong is pure Alter Bridge distilled, still it's on these tracks that Tremonti's vocals are at their best. Dust is the ideal follow on from it's predecessor with the right mix of melodic modern heavy metal tracks (Catching Fire) with the odd slower song (Unable To See) interspersed throughout, on this third record nothing has changed but it's all the better Tremonti continues to produce quality music. 8/10 

Universal Mind Project: The Jaguar Priest (Inner Wound)

OK Universal Mind Project is yet another metal opera concept release, but the question is always the same on any album that is like this; can it hold it's own against Ayreon and Avantasia which are possibly the most successful metal opera's around. Well from a personal standpoint anything that features the amazing vocals of Darkwater's Henrik Båth is enough to gain my attention, but add to this the siren song of Greek goddess Elina Laivera and a host of guest vocalists in the shape of Pagan's Mind man Nils K Rue, Epica/Mayan grunter Mark Jensen, original Dream Theater singer Charlie Dominici and Diego Valdez of Argentinian metal band Helker mean vocally at least the band have some serious clout. Happily musically they are also superb with incredible guitarist Michael Alexander (co-founder of the band with Laivera) creating some seriously impressive symphonic/progressive metal that combines the sound of Epica, with the a bit of Rhapsody, some Dream Theater and the electro-metal of Amaranthe all part of the mix.

Alexander has recruited a number of high quality musician's to form the band, in the engine room providing the galloping rhythms and kick drum galore are Symphony X's Mike LePond on bass (on two tracks at least) and Luca Trulli's Rhapsody's Alex Landenburg behind the kit (although Vision Divine's Alessandro Bissa, plays on 5 of the tracks) the keys are supplied by Astra's Emanuele Casali and Johan Reinholz from prog metal band Andromeda is there to help out Alexander on the six string front. With these band members their is a lot more scope of the whole album becoming live concern and on the record it means that there is more of band feel than this just being an Alexander solo project. The record opens with the uplifting Anthem For Freedom which is a strong start to the record with twisting, turning track that sprints to the finish opening the album by showing all the band in full flight, Anthem For Freedom and first single Truth display the multiple vocal approach with the trademark grunts of Mark Jansen used as a counterpoint to Båth and Laivera giving the track light and shade before Alexander cuts in with some mouthwateringly intense guitar playing exhibiting his virtuosity on this track and throughout the record.

Nils K Rue can be heard soaring above the other two vocalists on The Bargain Of Lost Souls and Dominici still has the commanding yet melodic vocals he had all those years ago on When Dream And Day Unite the dark horse though is Valdez who stirs my interest in listening to Helker as his Dio-like vocals are powerful and blend so well with the two main vocalists. With an album of top notch progressive/power metal I hope there is scope to bring this album alive on the stage as with an interesting Science Fiction story and serious cast of characters all adding their stamp to the songs making each one interesting and different, the two middle tracks veer into AOR, Seven has a massive melodic chorus in it bolstered by twinkling keys and A World That Burns is a showcase for Laivera's vocals complimented by just a piano.

These two tracks build up into the final three songs on the album two of which are over 8 minutes long and fulfil the albums progressive quota perfectly, with the title track especially changing pace and time signatures at will. UMP is a terrific concept with some top class musicians, yes it doesn't have the star power of Avantasia or Ayreaon but that's not really the point it's about the quality of the songs as part of an album and The Jaguar Priest is quality from beginning to end. 9/10   

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