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Thursday 26 July 2012

Reviews: Baroness, The Gaslight Anthem, Shooter Jennings

Baroness: Yellow & Green (Relapse)

Having only recently got into Baroness (shame on me I know). I quickly bought their first two albums in preparation for this their third. Both of those albums are fantastic but no preparation at all for the aural experience of Yellow & Green. Split into two discs (Yellow and Green surprisingly) both feature 9 distinctly different songs that encompasses hard rock , Stoner metal see Take My Bones Away, folk, country, blues all wrapped in a psychedelic bow mainly on Yellow's Cocainium. The band have always been hard to classify in terms of genre and this is a good thing as the band keep it fresh on every track. There are reasons for why the band have been compared to Mastodon as singer/multi-instrumentalist John Baizley sounds astoundingly like Brent Hinds when he shouts but to make this comparison is lazy as Baroness have a far more melodic and varied musical palate than the Atlantan madmen. With their Red Album and their Blue Record they have set the bar high but on Yellow & Green they have created a magnum opus. Fantastic 9/10

The Gaslight Anthem: Handwritten (Mercury)

New Jersey's The Gaslight Anthem prove that there is more to the state than its well publicised shore. The band have continued with their mix of punk rock, merging the working man's heroes of Springsteen (see Mae as an example) and Tom Petty's discography. Brian Fallon has continued his tradition of strong title tracks with Handwritten being one of the strongest tracks on the album with Keepsake being pure Heartbreaker territory and the rest of the album just as strong. Fallon's voice is still brilliantly raw and heartfelt, the rest of the band are very skilful and bring authenticity to the bands modern retro sound, which is aided by Brendan O' Brien's superbly organic production. Yes the songs are very similar to that of their influences but they are performed with such exuberance and professionalism that they sound fresh. Another very strong rock album from a band that will soon be a global phenomenon. Mark my words 8/10

Shooter Jennings: Family Man (Entertainment One)

After his brief flirtation with pure hard rock on his previous album (albeit under the guise of Hierophant) Shooter Jennings has returned with a new album of 'pure' country and a new backing band called the 'The Triple Crown' (his previous outfit 'The .357's are now Hierophant) this album features a link between all of the songs this link being the country staple of family. First track The Real Me features the opening lyric "I wake up with my children, Right around the crack of noon" and from here Jennings spins his home-grown wisdom over ten tracks and the quality of the album rarely dips with all the songs great country yarns filled with regret, love and tales from both sides of the American Dream. The production is good considering this is Jennings’s first self-produced album it is rich and warm. Jennings will probably never achieve the success he has in America over here (due to country's stigma over here) but until then he will remain one of the top country acts that nobody knows. 8/10

Monday 23 July 2012

Reviews: Tremonti, Hellyeah, Periphery

Tremonti: All I Was (FRET12)

We all know how good the Alter Bridge/Creed guitarist is when it comes to six strings as he is both the main creative force behind both bands and also gives them the stunning riffs that the bands are famous for. However what becomes evident from his first solo album is that he is also a great singer as well as a guitar genius. This album has come at a time when Alter Bridge singer Myles is currently touring with the Slash and Creed singer Scott Stapp is also touring as a solo artist so it make sense for Tremonti to release this album now to exorcise some of the thrash and speed metal influences that were slowly creeping into Alter Bridge. This album starts off simple enough with Leave It Alone which is a Tremonti standard heavy anthemic track with some great solo's that would have fitted nicely on ABIII. However it is from here that the album puts its foot on the gas as the next few tracks pick up the pace by a huge margin with So You're AfraidWish You Well and Brains becoming full on thrash tracks filled with razor sharp riffs and face melting solo's. The middle of the album becomes more like Alter Bridge with a New Way Out which is a bombastic ballad on a par with Creed's One Last Breath before the metal kicks in again with Giving Up. This is heavier than both of Tremonti's day jobs and with the help of drummer Garrett Whitlock (who provides some serious blast beats) and Creed rhythm guitarist Eric Friedman (who plays both guitar and bass) Tremonti has created a beast of an album that shows why he is revered among guitarists (and also now surely among singers as well!)  8/10

Hellyeah: Band Of Brothers (ElevenSeven)

Hellyeah are and will always be the band of Vinnie Paul Abbot and because of that it will always be touched with a little bit of what might have been. But on the last two albums Hellyeah have been developed their own unique aggressive Southern Metal sound with songs based on hard living, southern bonhomie and good ol' rock n roll. On this third album very little has changed since Stampede the band still infuse the Pantera groove metal with country and blues, however this album does seem to up the volume and heaviness to Pantera/Damageplan levels. Guitarists Gregg Tribbett (of Mudvayne) and Tomcat bring the heavy riffs and solo's to the proceedings but it's the sledgehammer drumming of Vinnie and the groove laden bass of (Ex-Damageplan and Ozzy) bassman Bobzilla that bring the signature sound that Vinnie helped to create. As for the songs Rage/Burn has a heavy Walk-like riff before turning into a machine gun crescendo. The title track is a heavy tribute the bond this band and Drink Drank Drunk show that no-one can out do a Southerner at their favourite pastime. Chad Grey (also of Mudvayne) brings the anger in his vocals changing from a country croon on Between You And Nowhere to a snarl on Dig Myself A Hole. This is a solid album that doesn't do the band any harm as it continues to plough the furrow they have created but it doesn't do much new either. Grab a beer (or a Black Tooth Grin) and listen loud. 7/10

Periphery: Periphery II This Time It's Personal (Roadrunner)

Seeing as they are one of the originators of the Djent genre I was anticipating what Periphery would do next. I did think that their debut was a bit of a music explosion not taking it's foot off the gas until the middle of the album and there is really only so much down tuned palm muting and technical riffage that you can listen before it all gets a bit too much. On this album they have exercised one key ingredient: restraint. This is not their debut the songs are more structured the playing while technical is not oppressive and they now have some excellent melody as well (touring with Dream Theater must have paid off). They have also moved away from the whole Djent tag as they are no longer Mesuggah copyists but a fully-fledged progressive metal band in their own right. Mainman guitarist Misha Mansoor provides his technical playing on every song (he really is a genius) as well adding the superb programming and syths aided by his guitarist partner in crime Jake Bowen. With third guitarist Mark Holcomb the band have thick guitar sound that is well suited to the technical style of the band. The production from Masoor and bassist Adam Getgood is modern clean and provides the album with its technical edge. Spencer Soleto's vocals have improved and range from clean crooning to powerful scream. This album also has numerous guests with the most high profile being John Pertucci on Erised and Guthrie Govan providing his jazz licks to Have A Blast. This a good album and one that has lifted Periphery out of their Djent tag for good. 8/10

Friday 13 July 2012

Reviews: Ginger Wildheart, Million Dollar Reload, Panic Room

Ginger Wildheart:  100% (Round Records)

The Wildheart's mainman was going to pack it all in after his success with collaborating with Michael Monroe on still one of the best albums of last year. However this new album was funded entirely by fans through PledgeMusic. What resulted was a three disc album called 555% which was the completed collected work of this fan funded package and was only sold to those who pledged for it. This album is a single disc compilation of the 'best' songs from the project chosen by the pledgers themselves. Due to the fact that this is culled from a triple disc compilation means that the genres shift throughout but the majority is the amalgamation of punk, metal and glam rock filled with huge pop hooks. Internal Radio is a rapid assault that is an ode to his creativity, You're The One... is a techno pop Queen song, Taste Aversion is a twisted, jazzy, progressive masterpiece that features the immortal refrain "Fucked From Behind". Ginger himself plays most of the instruments as well as using his unmistakeable vocals and clever lyrics to spin excellent tales of Rock N Roll mayhem. As for highlights the aforementioned Taste Aversion, the RHCP disco bass sounding Just Another Spinning Fucking Rainbow which explodes into an electro country chorus and the epic carcophony of sound that is the final track Time that builds it's finale over the chimes of Big Ben. However to be  very honest most of the album is full of highlights with every track brimming with creativity and Ginger's sense of overriding fun. This is a great album full of excellent tracks and its well worth the investment that the fans made. 9/10

Million Dollar Reload: A Sinner's Saints (Frontiers)

Belfast's Million Dollar Reload return with their second album of no frills balls out Rock 'N F'N Roll mixing the swagger of the Stones, with the brass balls of AC/DC and some modern sleaze of Buckcherry. The album has big hooky choruses see Bullets In The Sky, killer guitar licks from B.A.M and Andy Mack and the fantastically gruff vocals of frontman Phil Conalane who evokes the spirit of Bon Scott from AC/DC and Dan McCafferty of Nazareth. Can't Tie Me Down has a distinctly Slashesque guitar solo and a massive shout-along chorus. The band seem to have expanded their palate a little on this album especially with super ballad Broken which has more than a whiff of Aerosmith about it and breaks up the rocking perfectly, before being followed by rocking I Am The Rapture which will kill in live arena. This is a great second album for fans of proper full on ROCK! 8/10

Panic Room: SKIN (Esoteric Antenna)

The most eclectic rock band in Britain rise again during the Mostly Autumn off season to release their third album and this stretches their musical palate even further adding electronica (Screens) and a classical quartet that features on most of the album, to their plethora of genres. They still have the very acoustic backing heavily featured on Chances on which guitarist Paul Davies gives a superb performance. other tracks like Tightrope Walking and the latter half of Chameleon both have a middle-eastern influences with other tracks like Nocturnal having more of a Celtic feel mixed with the Prog rock staple of a Floydian crescendo. This menagerie of styles couldn't be managed if the band were not supremely talented so it is a good job they are with the aforementioned Davies merging brilliantly with the keys and synths of John Edwards Gavin John Griffiths' drums and Yatim Halimi's bass cannot be overlooked either anchoring all of the songs (and showing off their jazz licks on Freefalling). It is the vocals of chanteuse front woman Anne-Marie Helder that is the bands major selling point (she is also the co-writer of nearly all the songs with Edwards) as her range is magnificent she is equally adept at breathlessly seductive as she is glass-shatteringly powerful. This is an album that despite all its stylistic changes seems less progressive than their last two albums, making this one seem far more accessible to non-rock fans. The intelligent lyrics and virtuostic playing meld to create a fantastic album of well-crafted music. 9/10

Thursday 5 July 2012

Out Of The Beyond 20

Jayce Lewis: S/T

The Welsh former drummer of an alternative rock band releases an industrial metal album and sells out arenas in India?  Sounds like a film script doesn’t it? Well it’s actually the career of Jayce Lewis the former of drummer of Losing Sun who shot to stardom in India with this solo album and you can see why. He seamlessly blends fantastic electronica with metal riffage, every track is based upon heavy percussive metal with huge electronic loops and synths that would be at home on an early Rammstein album, and this is mixed with razor sharp guitar playing and Lewis' great melodic vocals. This is a solo album in the truest sense as Lewis plays all of the instruments and also co-produced the album. In terms of the songs Solitaire is a cracking opener mixing metal and electronica perfectly, Electric Medicine is a fully electronic track that is heavy as any metal song. Icon is one of the best tracks on the album (and the one that made him huge in India) however it is not all full on power throughout the album as Eratone is an introspective acoustic track that’s shows off Lewis' vocals and adds another string to his already huge bow. This is a great album from an artist that is nowhere near as well recognised here and perhaps he should be. 9/10

Onslaught: Sounds Of Violence

UK Thrash band Onslaught has had a ragged history having a massive album before splitting and re-uniting in 2007. This is the second album they released since their resurrection and it's a stormer full of blitzkrieg thrash metal riffage from Andy Rosser-Davies and Nige Rockett, schizophrenic blast beat drumming and all topped by the snarling vocals of Sy Keeler who delivers a sterling performance. Kicking things off with a percussive militaristic intro before breaking into the ear-bashing Born For War which has some truly great drumming. This album has all the hallmarks of classic thrash metal on Rest In Pieces with some added modern touches especially in the production department, everything is crisp and bright bringing tracks like the chugging Code Black to glorious life. The album also has a great cover of Motorhead's Bomber which features Phil Campbell on guitar and Tom Angelripper on guest vocals and may be more aggressive than the original. This is a great album by a band that is certainly re-invigorated and I hope they produce more albums of this standard. 8/10  

Oli Brown: Open Road

Young Oli Brown is a something of a blues maestro this is his debut and was released when he was just 19 and it  shows why he has gone on to become one of the biggest blues/rock artists in Britain. He has all the trappings of blues greats such as Rory Gallagher, some Eric Clapton and lashings of Jimi Hendrix especially on soulful Can't Get Next To You. However the biggest comparison is Joe Bonamassa, Brow has the same chops as Joey Bones he plays the guitar with the same technical ferocity this is shown on Stone Cold and opener Psycho. Unlike most of the newer Bonamassa albums however this is far more blues than rock with the classic 12 bars weaved into every single track. This album is a competent debut full of great tracks (although another cover of Black Betty is not needed) that is a great starting point to discover Oli Brown. 7/10

Monday 2 July 2012

Reviews: Herman Frank, Heart Of A Coward, Ten Cent Toy

Herman Frank: Right In The Guts

The Accept guitarist releases his second solo album and it picks up where the bombastic debut Loyal To None left off bringing more of a Teutonic, speed metal attack than in his day job. The guitar playing on is fantastic but it's the song writing that is more of a surprise as Frank can still write great heavy metal songs. He kicks things off with the one-two punch of Roaring Thunder and the title track (which has some great riffage that makes up for some very dodgy lyrics). This album does feature a different vocalist (At Vance's Rick Altzi) than the debut (not that you can notice as they do sound very similar) they both have a voice not too dissimilar to Firewind's Apollo. This is a great metal album that also features the galloping bass of Running Wild's Peter Pichl which is very prevalent on So They Run and Kings Call. Mr Frank now has two cracking bands to take up his time and obvious expertise. However how much this band will be able to tour due to Franks commitment to the re-activated Accept, Pichl's to the also re-activated Running Wild and Altzi's commitment to At Vance remains to be seen. 8/10

Heart Of A Coward: Hope And Hindrance (Self-released)

A metalcore band that like to push the boundaries Heart Of A Coward have come as something of a revelation to me. I'm not usually a metalcore fan but they bring the off-kilter riffage of djent with the melody of Architects. The guitar playing is superb and both guitarists bring technical riffage that is buoyed by the tough heavy bass and smashing drums. The vocals are also great, mainly because I have liked Jamie Graham's work since he was in Sylosis. However HOAC do not sound like Graham's previous band as they do have more of a metalcore with Graham's vocals ranging from a clean sing, to a hardcore growl and then finally a guttural roar. The production brings to mind the wall of sound and with some great tracks like the battering-ram Around A Girl (In 80 Days) (which features a great guitar melody in the middle), the dreamy and melancholic Light which segues neatly into the heavy as rocks Shade and the progressive Break These Chains (Which may win a record for longest breakdown). This great album for those who like ferocity mixed with some great musicianship and a little experimentation. 8/10

Ten Cent Toy: Off The Grid (Self-Released)

Hailing from the forgotten wastes of Newport Ten Cent Toy have a distinctly futuristic flavour that sounds like a soundtrack to a Mad-Max movie. The band meld different kinds of modern metal to create an album of incredibly technical, mechanical, explosive metal. The band have some djent influences with the palm-muting of Jayu. They also have elements of sludge with the down-tuned riffage of Drone as well as a whole host of influences ranging from thrash (Contemptible) to industrial (Time In Memorial). The industrial is one of the most prevalent influences as the band have a distinct Fear Factory sound due to frontman Kev's vocals as well as the machine gun drumming from Fingerz. All of the guitars (including the bass) are also brilliantly technical and show great flair on all the tracks (there is also a cracking Bass intro on Last Word). In a word the band sound out from another time by fusing all of today’s modern sounds into one album. My only criticism is that the production does sound a little D.I.Y in places. This aside TCT are band of the future as they are playing the sounds of tomorrow today. 7/10