Foo Fighters: Concrete And Gold (RCA)
There was a time when the Foo Fighters were so impressive. Masters of the radio rock single, they could also really hand your arse to you live. 2014’s Sonic Highways made me yawn and the nicest man in rock, Dave Grohl appeared everywhere I looked. His pearly whites flashing all over the place. The band now attract a mainstream audience and the thought of seeing them live in some soulless arena fills me with dread. This is album number nine, a rock meets pop collaboration with a massive sound, guest artists falling over themselves to get involved and as a result another collection of stadium songs which have little to hold the interest. First single Run is dreary, The Sky Is A Neighbourhood overblown in a Sergeant Pepper/ELO manner whilst La Dee Da is throwaway, with a riff pinched from the Motorhead/Girlschool epic Please Don’t Touch (originally by Johnny Kidd & The Pirates - Birth of Rock N Roll Ed). Grohl’s screams irritate quickly, adding nothing to the tracks. The lounge room feel of Dirty Water at least changes the direction quite dramatically with the band’s reliance on harmonies at the fore.
Concrete And Gold is polished, it’s classy and it’s just the same as before. Despite its despairing view of the future of humanity and the desire for escapism which form much of the subject matter, it’s nothing new musically, not remotely dangerous and little to challenge the listener. It’s music for Radio 2, department stores and those dinner parties for people who think the Foos are a little bit edgy – you know, the event wankers, those that spend all their time in the main arena at Glastonbury and who have a festival on their ‘bucket list’. The arrival of Justin Timberlake on Make It Right doesn’t, whilst the husky drawl of Taylor Hawkins and the dull thud of Paul McCartney’s drums on Sunday Rain just rubber stamps McCartney’s ghastly sound that runs through it. It’s just a bit too safe. Maybe I’m kidding myself to expect anything else. After all, everyone loves Dave Grohl. He’s a nice man. The Foo Fighters are a band in his own image. He could put out an album of his bottom burps and it would sell thousands. The inclusion of Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman on the grindingly tedious title track which closes the album does nothing to improve a disappointing release. 5/10
Diablo Blvd: Zero Hour (Nuclear Blast)
Now as a South Wales based outfit, we all know that there is only one album entitled Zero Hour, the mighty third release from the best line-up of Triaxis. However, the fourth release from Belgian band Diablo Blvd runs it close, in a totally different way. A superb mixture of influences, from Sabbath to Killing Joke, from Type O Negative to Godsmack, Danzig to The Cult weave their way through this release. Vocalist Alex Agnew’s vocal style is akin to the American style of Sully Erna and Aaron Lewis, clean and warm but with an edge that always says metal. The riffage is solid and meaty, courtesy of Dave Hubrechts. Each track is different, and with the industrial edge on tracks like Demonize balanced by the more straight forward hard rock of Like Rats and the classical instrumental 00 00, Zero Hour makes for enjoyable and thought-provoking listening. At times measured, at other times racing like a roller coaster ride, the Belgians have produced a gem of a release which is well worth investing the time to give it a listen. 8/10
Blazon Stone: Down in the Dark (Stormspell Records)
It was a mere nine months ago that I reviewed Blazon Stone’s War Of The Roses, giving it a healthy 8/10 for it was a beautiful slab of heavy power metal. Time flies and Cedrick Forsberg has bashed out another album which continues in a similar vein. Relying on the same line-up as before, Down In The Dark retains the power metal style of previous releases and follows a nautical theme, a concept if you will, with some fine sing-a-long shanties; check out the high speed Watery Graves or the heads down Rock Out! In fact if you like your power metal at full throttle then every track on this impressive release will get your neck moving. Erik Forsberg’s strong vocals carry the songs with ease. It would be fantastic to see these Swedes in the live arena so let’s hope they get a slot at BOA soon. 8/10