Find us on Facebook!

To keep updated like our page at:

Or on Twitter:

Or E-mail us at:

Friday 20 September 2019

Reviews: Alice Cooper, Borknagar, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, One Hour Hell (Paul & Val)

Alice Cooper: Breadcrumbs EP (earMusic) [Paul Hutchings]

Let’s face it. The legend that is Alice Cooper hasn’t made anything that takes your breath away since about 1975. His work with the Hollywood Vampires is routine and uninspiring and except for 2017’s Paranormal his last studio offerings have been pretty limp affairs. It’s in the live arena, with the backing of his 1970s back catalogue where Cooper earns his status. Cooper, like many of those of his era clings desperately to the good old days, even though most of them are well over 40 years ago. Most of his interviews recite long gone times, with similar stories recycled ad nauseum. At times this gets a bit much for me, the alter ego of Vincent Furnier more cabaret than shock rock these days. In advance of his promised new album we get the latest offering, a six track EP paying homage to his hometown Detroit and the garage rock heroes of the same era. Four covers, a reworking of Detroit City from his 2003 album The Eyes Of Alice Cooper and a new song, Go Man Go, co-written with MC5 man Wayne Kramer. The latter is by far the best track on the album. A rocky fiery number which has the raucous punk edge that the MC5 were renowned for.

Listening to Cooper swapping licks on Devil With A Blue Dress On, the Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels song is painful. No 71-year-old man should be reciting such lyrics. He just comes across as a pervert. Bob Seger’s East Side Story is reasonable, Cooper singing well with his instantly recognisable rasping vocals, but Suzi Quatro’s Your Mamma Won’t Like Me fails badly. At least the MC5 cover Sister Ann allows Kramer to let rip with some chunky guitar work. It’s well produced as you’d expect with Bob Ezrin at the helm, but it reeks of yet another cash cow. Cooper’s popularity remains high, his forthcoming sold-out Cardiff arena show testament to this. Musically, this is painting by numbers and playing it safe. Clearly, at his age, Cooper doesn’t have to do anything he doesn’t wish to do. I can’t blame him and whilst people continue to throw money at him, good luck is all I can say. This latest release won’t have me rushing out to grab a copy though. 5/10

Borknagar: True North (Century Media) [Val D'Arcy]

Prepare yourselves for True North, Borknagar's 11th album and a masterpiece in progressive black metal. Like anything deemed or proclaimed to be progressive I approach it with a degree of caution as is wise to do, after all, rules are scarce and you can't be certain of what you'll encounter. That said, my curiosity piqued a few months ago when they released their first single from the album The Fire That Burns. At the time, founding (and last remaining original) member Brun commented that they had chosen to release this song as it conceptually embodied the album as a whole, rather than any other reason. Having experienced the whole album now I can sympathise with that rationale, the notion of True North, the singular truth of direction and purpose is both the cornerstone of this record lyrically and thematically, but also reflects the evolution of Borknagar. I personally discovered Borknagar relatively late in the life of the band around 2004 with the release of Epic. As an impressionable teenager still finding my feet with black metal at that time it was an instant hit. I remember seeing them not long after in Norway and being blown away by how full and energetic their sound and presence was on stage. 

Admittedly over the years I've struggled to always buy into the progressive cause to which, they have remained firmly dedicated. In fact they really lost me for a bit when they released Origin, but I seem to recall Opeth doing something similar around that time so I passed it off as a phase. 2010 saw their affirmative return and with it Vortex back in the band; someone I've always been a huge fan of and sorely mourned over since his departure from Norwegian neighbours Dimmu Borgir. This album is very much the creative child of Vortex and those legendary vocals are at the front and center of True North. For anyone concerned over the departure of Vintersorg, let me put your minds at rest. Indeed where a lot of albums I listen to the vocals are there, as a distinct and constant layer, here they are much more. Vortex alone gives a career defining performance in both clean and harsh singing, but coupled with the backing of Nedland together they create something truly special. Transcending far beyond lyrical and melodic delivery, the vocals on True North conduct the orchestration whilst being a symphony in themselves. Musically, well, despite me already having referred to this album as black metal once, everyone knows Borknagar have long since departed that realm. 

Nonetheless there are clear black metal influences throughout True North that lay the foundations of this sound. Beyond that there are moments throughout the record where it reaches beyond that to the very surface in tracks such as The Fire That Burns and Tidal. Over and above that Borknagar have perfected what feels like the final evolutionary form of their progressive style. It's as if all roads laid by their previous musical endeavours have led to this destination. Threads of folk, melodic death metal and hard rock are masterfully woven over an icy carcass that is cold and black at its heart. It's fair to say few albums achieve the same level of emotive impact as True North when it comes to conjuring the images synonymous with its name; as a listener you are transported to snow covered mountain ranges, to the desolate rocky foothills and tranquil frozen lakes, battling the elements, palpable, bitter winds pierce the veil and envelop you. Am I now a prog convert and devotee? No of course not, but safe to say I'm a firm believer of the new Borknagar. The new lineup clearly work very well as a band and have come together behind the creative force of ICS Vortex to create what will surely be one of the musical highlights of 2019. 9/10
Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell: Very Uncertain Times (Rise Above Records) [Paul Hutchings]

The fourth album from the greasy biker rockers from Hastings, and their first since Keep It Greasy sees the trio in imperious form. Johnny Gorilla, Louis Comfort-Wiggett and drummer Serra Petale (who makes a blistering debut) blast out 35 minutes of typically gritty and confident dirty rock n’ roll. Now entering their second decade, the Admiral have released arguably the best album of their career. Kicking off with the title track, a barn stomping, booze fuelled monster, easing back with the bluesy psychedelic stomp of The Third degree which sees Gorilla adding some sweet guitar over the locked down rhythm section and the heads down rock n’ roll of Mr Freedom, a track which echoes The Ramones and Motörhead in spades, this is an album to drive hard to, to drink beer to and to have a good time to. The essence of the band’s live show is captured here, and if you’ve ever seen them live then you’ll know that this is a compliment. There is nothing to dislike here. It’s fast, it’s grubby and greasy but it’s also bloody good from a band who are consistently excellent. Get this album, get slippery and enjoy some quality rock and roll. 8/10

One Hour Hell: Voidwalker (ViciSolum Productions) [Paul Hutchings]

Swedish melodeath has never been my favourite style of music. One Hour Hell from Stockholm have been in existence for over a decade, first releasing their debut album Product Of Mass Murder in 2008. Voidwalker is their third release and it’s a bruising piece of melodic death which will appeal to many. Intricate structures, raging guttural vocals and complex guitar and bass work create a feel which provides a mixture of the extremity of Meshuggah and the melody of In Flames. Hall Of A Thousand Minds provides the perfect example; a pounding six minute plus runaway ride which combines the driving bass lines of new man Teddy Moller and the repetitive guitar structures of Kristen Andersen and fellow new guitar player Ludvig Âgren. The haunting atmospheric Within with added keyboards and ethereal backing vocals changes pace and style but retains the thunderous approach. Clean and guttural vocals mix in traditional style. It’s a bit repetitive and unwieldy at times and I struggled to maintain listening enthusiasm throughout the challenging 50 minutes. If you love your melodeath with a touch of Djent, then get on board. This should be some ride [but I think I’ll pass for now]. 6/10

No comments:

Post a Comment