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Wednesday 21 January 2015

Reviews: Marylin Manson, Shattered Skies, Another Perfect Storm, Subterranean Masquerade

Marilyn Manson: Pale Emperor (Hell Etc.) [Review By Paul]

What can you say about Marilyn Manson? From the shock and outrage that he created in the 1990s when his notoriety reached a peak with Antichrist Superstar to the more recent substandard performances at Download and 2012’s poorly received Born Villain, Manson always provokes a reaction. Now, I’ll lay it straight here; I'm by no means the biggest Manson fan in the world. He’s disappointed me in the live arena, and I find some of his music relatively tedious and formulaic. However, he has written and performed some absolute ball-breaking anthems and intellectually has a lot to say which is worth a listen. His no-nonsense, couldn't give a fuck attitude along with his ability to remain relevant in a disposable world are inspiring.
So, what about the ninth long player from Manson, Pale Emperor? Well, I have to say it’s pretty strong. Opener Killing Strangers is classic Manson, heavy industrial tones with his familiar drawl provide you with a taster of the next 65 minutes. Deep Six is a rollercoaster of aggression, with some tasty riffage and a harder edge to his vocal delivery. The musicianship throughout the album is excellent, with Tyler Bates who delivers all of the guitar work particularly impressive. Third Day Of A Seven Day Binge returns to the snarling, disaffected Manson of old, equal levels of inspiration and disaffection evident. The Mephistopheles Of Los Angeles veers sharply towards his dark side, whilst the God Of Fuck reminds us of his angst and twisted side during Warship My Wreck. This is Manson's best album for many years, with the industrial side of his music being allowed to the fore without the shock which was so evident on his earlier works. My only complaint about this album is that it never completely climaxes. The absence of the one killer track that grabs you by the throat and screams “I'm still fucking here”. However, his song writing remains of the highest quality and the majority of tracks on here are solid slabs of the dark, sinister and cinematic style industrial delivery that he has trademarked over the years. The Devil Beneath My Feet is a classic example of this. Pale Emperor, dedicated to his mother, who passed away last year after a long battle with cancer, suggests that Manson is still a relevant and important artist in the rock world. A welcome return to form. 8/10

Shattered Skies: The World We Used To Know (Hold Tight)

Hailing from Wicklow, Ireland by way of Southend On Sea, Shattered Skies are the most modern of metal bands with down tuned, palm muted riffs, technical bass playing, punchy songs and electronic elements throughout, I'm not a fan of the djent tag but Shattered Skies fall under it. What sets them apart from their peers is that frontman Sean Murphy sings with a great clean vocal delivery which gives them style similar to that of Tesseract and especially Brit proggers Haken. The World We Used To Know is their debut album and it is a strong showing with the intricate basswork of Jim Hughes anchoring every track from The End And The Rebirth through to the final title track; while Ross McMahon's drums are technical, jazzy and provide the flashes of ferocity that blur the rock and metal boundaries, he also handles the mixing too which is crisp and ensures everything is equal in terms of sound meaning that Ian Rockett's guitars can bring the chunky riffs thick and fast but also he can provide the laid back playing on the beautiful Elegance And Grace and a move towards more traditional progressive fair on Show's Over. Despite being referred to as djent in their press, as I have said the band actually have more akin with the classic progressive rock and metal of Haken, with only their palm muted guitars linking them too the djent scene. Much of this Haken comparison comes from Rockett's expressive use of keys, see As The Sea Divides and also from Murphy's impassioned vocals. So yes Shattered Skies are a modern progressive band that mix heavy metal and progressive rock perfectly but they are not overblown like much of the genre they inhabit, the band create concise musically dextrose music played with intense passion and flair. A truly impressive debut of epic, intelligent, modern, melodic progressive music. 9/10     

Another Perfect Storm: S/T (Self Released)

Another Perfect Storm are an American alternative rock band formed by Ben Draiman; this unfortunately is all I know about the band members as there seems to be no information at all about any of the musicians other than Ben. Still there is a lot about Ben so we'll concentrate on that for now; now if the name sounds familiar it could be because Ben is the brother of Disturbed singer David and as such his vocals are powerful and emotive but different enough to his brother to set this record apart. His piano playing is also a key part of proceedings especially on the ballads like Trust, but for the most part this album is full of American Alt-Rock in the vein of Daughtry, Three Doors Down, Evanescence and the relatively unknown RA who APS share a lot of similarities with. This is a good album with some chunky guitars, songwriting with pop radio baiting sensibilities and if you like any of the aforementioned bands then you will find yourself singing along to These Wrongs, Mister Mister, Covet while marvelling at the mix of influences present here from the acoustic feel of the title track, the electro stomp of Burden and the bombastic orchestral finale Conversation. As I've said if you love American Alt-rock then you will love Another Perfect Storm and hopefully the strength of this album will do a lot to increase the profile of Ben Draiman in the UK and elsewhere. 7/10 

Subterranean Masquerade: The Great Bazaar (Tanklit Music)

The Middle East seems to have  habit of throwing out great bands in the last few years, bands that carve out their own niche with their own style of music, called 'Oriental Metal' by the major magazines. Hailing from countries such as Tel Aviv, USA and Norway Subterranean Masquerade follow in the footsteps of countrymen Orphaned Land by playing metal fused with Middle Eastern influences and a dash of prog rock thrown in. The two bands do seem intrinsically linked as they also share a drummer in the shape of Matan Shmley who does a sterling job similar to the one he does in Orphaned Land. The comparisons don't end there though as the band have the right amount of metallic crunch in Tomer Pink and Or Shalev's guitars and Kjetil Nordhus' guttural vocals, however the two guitarists can also deliver clean, mellifluous tones that work in tandem with Shai Yallin's keys and organs on the more progressive tracks like Reliving The Feeling which mixes Genesis or Yes with jazz touches and obviously the Middle Eastern touches, these at the forefront on pastoral instrumental Nigen which features some great acoustic playing and lots of wind instrumentation, the Blanket Of Longing is proper prog and is a chance for Paul Kuhr to show off his pipes and allows the band to indulge in some Jazz Odyssey before the searing guitar solos shoot in towards the end. The album is rounded off by a conglomeration of all their influences in the nine minute plus masterpiece Father And Sun. Subterranean Masquerade are yet another band drawing influences from their culture into their music and creating some truly unique sounds, much like Orphaned Land Subterranean Masquerade are a band with their own identity and here's hoping they don't wait 10 years to release another album!! 9/10      

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