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Wednesday 24 August 2011

Reviews: Simon McBride, Marshall Tucker Band, Charlie Simpson

Simon McBride: Since Then (Nugene Records)

There is a list of new Blues Rock players that have followed the legacy of the greats; Walter Trout, Popa Chubby, Ollie Brown and of course Joe Bonamassa. Well it's time to add Irishman Simon McBride to that list, he possesses the chops and licks that equals or are superior to the others on the list. His playing is great both understated and equally technical, he produces light and shade mixing acoustically melodic blues with great hard rocking guitar lines and speedy soloing. McBride's voice is also very good there are elements of Bonamassa (as there is in his playing style) but he has a gruffer voice that melds Cormac Neeson of The Answer and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. However despite McBride's technical chops this album is built upon solid song writing the opener Take My Hand is pure heavy riff rock, The Promise is a great blues ballad filled with emotion drenched guitar playing. The highlight of the album is Devil's Road which has an almost trance like vibe that backs McBride's guitar playing, the lyrical content features the well-worn tale of Robert Johnson's supposed deal with the Devil but the song is a great almost trance/blues boogie that moves into the last track which is an instrumental work out. This album is more than just a good blues rock album this a great straight up rock album that doesn't limit itself to convention. Top Class. 9/10

Marshall Tucker Band: Greatest Hits (Ramblin Records)

The Marshall Tucker Band are American music legends whose popularity was never felt this side of the Atlantic. However mainly because of Black Stone Cherry's cover of Can't You See on their new album the band are experiencing a boost in popularity. This Greatest Hits features just that and is the first to be readily available in the UK. The band are not the Southern Rock you would think they were, they are more of an amalgamation of The Eagles, The Allman Brothers and Jethro Tull. They are equal parts folk, country, blues and rock. The majority of the songs come from their first few albums and the majority are driven by the subtle guitar of Toy Caldwell and the vocals of Doug Gray. Many of the songs are based on a country style beat that is then expanded with horns, Saxes or flutes from hidden gem Jerry Eubank. This is a great collection of songs that are equal parts rock, country and everything in between. It would be well worth seeking out this band and discovering why they are so popular across the pond. 8/10

Charlie Simpson: Young Pilgrim (NUSIC)

Charlie Simpson is the vocalist and guitarist of melodic, prog influenced Post-hardcore group Fightstar (and former member of pop muppets Busted) this however is his first solo album. Taking a break from his heavier day job this album is mostly acoustic and is in the singer-songwriter style. The album is equal parts pop and folk, however unlike other Singer Songwriters there is an overarching sense of gloom that comes through the poppy melodies. Simpson's voice is as ever heartfelt and wrought with emotion and his playing and song craft is beautiful. This maybe a departure from what he's known for but it is great in its own way. 8/10       

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Reviews: Trivium, Outloud

Trivium: In Waves (Roadrunner)

Trivium have always been given the tag of the 'new Metallica' whether or not this is true is debateable but despite this they have done something similar to what Metallica did with this their fifth album. Whereas 'Tallica's was the Platinum selling 'Black Album' Trivium's is In Waves and it has the same features that that seminal album had. It incorporates the melody and aggression of their first 3 albums and marries it with the technicality and mature nature of their last album Shogun. I also have to say that I am reviewing the Special edition of the album that features 5 bonus tracks, two of which being Shattering The Skies Above which originally featured on the God Of War III soundtrack and the Sepultura classic Slave New World. The album starts out with a small instrumental intro that opens up into the crushing first single and title track. This track gives a good idea of what is to come which is a more mature but still melodic album, the next two songs are the already leaked Inception of the End and Dusk Dismantled, both of which are prime slices of Trivium's sound. The playing on the album is superb with new drummer Nick Augusto matching Travis Smith's style and improving on it tenfold. The dual guitars are equally great and Matt Heafy's voice has returned to its former glory. All of the tracks are very well written and incorporate different styles, some have a more death like sound e.g. A Skyline's Severance and Chaos Reigns some are more Djent (the title track especially), some are have a classic metal sound like Watch The World Burn and Forsake Not The Dream and others are introspective like the final two tracks Of All These Yesterdays and Leaving This World Behind. This is a fantastic album that has the right light and shade to make it as popular as Ascendency but also has the technical chops and strong brutal song writing that will make people re-evaluate the kiddie metal tag that went with Trivium before. They have released their 'Black Album' that is to say an album that is going to make them huge. But please don't follow this with a Load or Reload. 9/10

Outloud: We'll Rock You to Hell and Back Again (Frontiers) & Love Catastrophe (AOR Heaven)

Outloud are a band formed by Greek Guitarist/Keyboardist Bob Katsionis who is most famously plays that role in Greek Power Metallers Firewind. However Outloud is a different beast, it still retains some of the hallmarks of Bob's day job but this has more of a melodic vibe. The lyrics feature love, lust and partying and the guitars are sleazy and rocky with the keys bringing an 80's vibe. The tracks are well performed with great performances all round Katsionis and his protégée Tony Kash give a great harmonic guitar attack, the drumming of Mark Cross (also a Firewind alumni) is superb as always but the real star is vocalist Chandler Mogel who's smooth as silk delivery and substantial power is a pleasure to hear. Both albums are chock full of rocking anthems and great ballads but the band sound more polished and professional on second album Love Catastrophe which proves that this band are not just a one-off flight of fancy away from the Firewind mothership, they are truly a great band in their own right. Now they just need to be able to tour, so when's Ozzy making his next album? 7/10 & 8/10 respectively

Saturday 6 August 2011

Out Of The Beyond 7

Dirty Americans: Strange Generation

Dirty Americans come from the USA and are signed to Roadrunner records. They play blues infused heavy rock that is dripped in psychedelia. You can hear that they're influenced by some of the great 70's style rock bands but still maintain a modern edge. If I was to put pigeonhole their sound a mix of Audioslave and Monster Magnet would cover it, they have heavy riffs and the echoplexed vocals of Myron sound very similar to Dave Wyndorf. The band writes big powerful tunes and have enough soloing the biggest of shred head. The one thing that brings this album down is that it maybe a little too 'American' for some and another shame is that the band have not released any albums since, only some EP's which are only available in the USA. If you’re a fan of big, ballsy, riffed up retro-styled psych rock then you will love this album. Great stuff indeed! 9/10

Glenn Tipton: Baptized In Fire

Known as the founding guitarist of legendary and influential metal band Judas Priest, Glenn takes influences from more modern bands on this solo outing. All the guitars and vocals are performed by Mr Tipton who is backed admirably by a band of rotating session musicians. The sound of the album is more akin to bands like Pantera and 90's Megadeth's. Glenn vocally sounds very similar to Mustaine and his playing is obviously fantastic throughout. This album can be seen as similar to what Priest frontman Rob Halford was doing with his band Fight after leaving Priest. As an album this is a good set of modern sounding heavy metal songs but are not classics that he has written with Priest but they are solid enough to maintain the album. Despite Tipton's voice being strong it is a bit of an acquired taste however if you can get past that then you will have a very good metal album from an immensely talented musician. 8/10

Reckless Love: S/T

Coming from Finland Reckless Love obviously believe that music ended in 1989 so they have based their entire career on the blueprint of Motley Crue and Van Halen. They are one part AOR, one part sleaze and one part glam. The band play 80's style anthems that feature crystal clear guitar riffing, falsetto lead and harmonious backing vocal choirs that encompass the greats from that genre (frontman Ollie Herman is a dead ringer for David Lee Roth). If you’re a fan of melodic AOR style rockers with overwrought power ballads then you’re on to a winner here, if you like something with a bit more bite then you may have to give this a miss. 7/10

Dirty Americans: http://youtu.be/bXaCIwkE-LM
Glenn Tipton: http://youtu.be/zvU3P_Hdzxc
Reckless Love: http://youtu.be/Qy6NpF2V2xg         

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Live & Dangerous 8: Iron Maiden & Airbourne

So then my favourite band play Cardiff again and the capital is full of metal heads showing their support for the metal legends. On entering the Motorpoint Arena who can feel this was going to be special; Maiden had not played Cardiff since 2006's controversial A Matter of Life and Death tour. The stage was set for openers Airbourne, being and opening band for a band like Maiden must be a daunting task but Airbourne did well playing a rocking set that didn't vary much from the one they played at Sonisphere. Even though the set was the same I thought Airbourne were better in Cardiff as there was no break in the set for Joel O'Keefe to do his Spiderman routine, this left more time for rocking which is always a bonus. 8/10

With their set done there was just the waiting game to play, 20 minutes later the familiar opening strains of UFO's Doctor Doctor found the crowd in fine voice before a pre-recorded version of Satellite 15 complete with Sci-Fi video came across the big screens. This gave way to first track The Final Frontier which is a big, powerful and intricate track that encompasses what the current incarnation of Maiden are about. This was followed by another newie the single El Dorado, then came the classic 2 Minutes To Midnight which really got the crowd going before the epic The Talisman ebbed and flowed encompassing light and shade giving a musical break from the relentless Maiden gallop. After some Bruce banter with a returning solider that led into the patriotic Coming Home this was then followed by the melodramatic and still Spinal Tap-esque Dance of Death that resulted in a mass jump-along. The Red jacketed Eddie appeared and the barrage of The Trooper had the crowd going mental before the Brave New World duo of The Wickerman and Blood Brothers had the faithful rocking and emotional respectively. The new and suitably epic Where the Wild Wind Blows was the final track from the last 10 years that Maiden played. The set was then rounded off by Iron Maiden classics including the mass sing-alongs of Fear of the Dark, Hallowed Be Thy Name and the classic punky stormer of Running Free. Yes these were the same final songs that Maiden have closed with for a couple of years now but you can't argue with quality. Again Maiden show why they are the biggest metal band on the planet and also why they can sell out a venue like the Motorpoint Arena with ease, next time Maiden return they should follow Bruce's advice and give them a bigger shed to play in, because they'll probably sell that out as well. 9/10