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Monday 19 June 2017

Reviews: Nickelback, Bulletback, Edge Of Free

Nickelback: Feed The Machine (Sony/BMG)

Have Nickelback changed their sound? No, Will they ever? No, Do they need to? Probably not. However what we have on this ninth studio album from the Canadian band is not your atypical modern Nickelback record. Opening with the ominous riff heavy title track the album once again continues the theme of having hard rockers and mega ballads, unlike some of their previous albums though the rockier songs have more serious overtone than tracks like Something In Your Mouth and SEX with most of this album dedicated to lamenting politicians and the system.

There aren't any goofy throwaway numbers either so thankfully we don't have to endure another Rockstar or This Afternoon but what does remain are the ballads that have become the staple of US American radios. With eight albums under their belt on this record it sounds like the band are revisiting their past, there was period of after their previous album where Chad Kroger had to have surgery on his vocal chords, their tour was cancelled and they endured legal battles. This extra time and frustration has lent itself to the record being darker and angrier, like their breakthrough Silver Side Up and even their earlier records of State and The Curb.

The guitars are more down-tuned and heavier, Mike Kroeger's bass taking the lead on The Betrayal (III), Daniel Adair's drumming remains a key element of the band's sound and he really thumps away on this record, there's a renewed aggression to the band that means they can experiment with The Betrayal being a two song suite. Kroeger's vocals too seem in fine fettle as he shouts like the old days while For The River has a killer solo from Ryan Peake.

The things that made Nickelback an arena band are still here and it's these parts of their sound that have made them much maligned in rock circles After The Rain is the perfect example, but personally I'm liking the commitment to make this record harder like their first few albums. There will always be a fan base for Nickelback and they will always be counteracted by the people that hate the band, however you can't deny they are good musicians and they know how to write a song. For an older fan such as myself Feed The Machine is a throwback to the Nickelback I knew and loved. 8/10    

Bulletback: The Quest For New Horizons (Self Released)

Brazil is a hotbed of heavy metal, there aren't many countries that practically bleed metal, international bands get huge responses and as an offshoot the Brazilian metal scene is in rude health, bands such as Sepultura, Angra, Hibria and Krisiun all of whom rose to prominence outside of their native land, Brazilian metal bands are now tenpenny and Bulletback are here to make a statement. What a statement it is the three piece are wearing their influences on their sleeves, touches of Maiden, Megadeth and Accept creep in as the trio play distorted riff fuelled heavy metal, it's got modern heaviness to it with enough classic influences to please everyone.

Where Are The Angels is chunky riff with a big chorus, the title track blistering thrash as is Holy Words, while Faking takes a modern alt metal route. At the apex of the album Here I Stand is thrashy way to end in opposition to the dynamic Down And Out which opens it with hard rock hook. Raphael's vocals are as raw as his guitars with Aléxis and Fabio the powerhouse behind him. Bulletback are a really impressive band, considering this is their first album it's a mature, well crafted debut that screams quality, let's hope they continue this quality through to a second album then they can really make a splash outside of South America. 8/10

Edge Of Free: Edge Of Free (Digitally Sound Records/Kobalt Music)

The EPK that came with this record states that Edge Of Free is modern rock with a combination of acoustic riffs, heavy guitars and heart-felt lyrics. The band is the project of guitarist John Hussey and singer Scott Sneddon, the two men create dark melodies with soaring choruses that form songs that tackle depression, drug addiction and recovery with Sneddon singing of the pain these cause with a passion reserved for vocalists such as Chris Cornell and Layne Stayley. His anguished vocals are augmented by multi layered music of Hussey who along with producer Toby Wright (Alice In Chains, Korn, Tantric, Metallica) form the heavy rhythm section that sits under the lead acoustic guitar.

It's the acoustic guitar that takes pride of place on this record it makes the album stand out form the other alt/grunge bands out there, without it the Edge Of Free would be lost in the pack, however with it they are a unique presence in the scene. Pony, Higher and Pushin' The Needle are probably the best trio on this record but nothing really dips in quality with Sneddon's powerful vocals and Hussey taking the interesting step of letting the acoustic take the lead Edge Of Free is a record built out of damage, frustration and redemption, it's out of left field yes but it's interesting and heavy without having to be fully plugged in. 7/10

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