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Wednesday 18 September 2019

Reviews: Iggy Pop, Michael Schenker Fest, Wage War, Coldrain (Paul H & Liam)

Iggy Pop: Free (Caroline International/Loma Vista) [Paul Hutchings]

This one appeared a bit out of nowhere but that’s probably because although I’ve always enjoyed his work, I wouldn’t class myself as a mega fan of the mighty Iggy Pop. His most recent release, Post Pop Depression was a classy high end piece of post pop. Free is his 18th release and whilst there are moments which mirror Post Pop Depression, it doesn’t have quite the same cohesion or quality. The Godfather of Punk is on fine form on Loves Missing, his deep rich vocals working in unison with the urgent guitar work. The album features a series of reflective and laid back songs and poems, the majority of which were written by jazz trumpeter Leron Thomas and shoegaze guitarist Noveller, with Pop declaring that “he lends his voice” to music that others have made.

Highlights include the superb James Bond, which features some superb saxophone and the velvet tones of Glow In The Dark with its jazz breakdowns. Elsewhere, Sonali is passable, whilst the lyrical content Dirty Sanchez adds little. There is enough to enjoy here however. We Are The People features lyrics written by Lou Reed in 1970 and first posthumously released in 2018. Chillingly accurate and relevant, accompanied only by Thomas’ saxophone and single piano chords, Reed’s words echo prophetically. Pop’s recital of Dylan Thomas’ Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night is impassioned and cannot fail to stir and The Dawn is a haunting conclusion. It’s a little fragmented, and the combination of poems and music leave the listener a little disappointed. At just over 30 minutes its over quickly and it may be that living with it for a few months will allow greater appreciation. It does feel more as if Pop is guesting here. 7/10

Michael Schenker Fest: Revelation (Nuclear Blast) [Paul Hutchings]

Forging on with album number 2, Schenker and his merry band continue on the gravy train of melodic hard rock a mere 16 months since Resurrection, 2018’s album that featured all four of MSG singers alongside the now deceased Ted McKenna, Bodo Schopf , rhythm guitarist and keyboard player Steve Mann and drummer Simon Phillips. Revelation boasts another biblical album cover, with Schenker hoisted high in crucifixion style on his Flying V whilst the rest of the band fight with Roman centurions in a crass recreation of Golgotha which will no doubt upset the religious nutters across the globe.

Opener Rock Steady is a bit of a plodding track to introduce a new album, a rather mundane and routine song which is totally overshadowed by the thumping Under A Blood Red Sky, which allows Dougie White to demonstrate why he is the best singer that Schenker has ever worked with. Full of melody, Phillips battering drums, thick keyboards and a sweet piece of guitar work, it’s one of the best songs here. White soars vocally, his clean delivery always a joy. The boogie feel of Silent Again is muted by McCauley’s average vocals, whilst Sleeping With the Light On, one of three tracks featuring all four vocalists doesn’t do much except highlight that White and Graham Bonnett are superior singers. Bonnett proves his mettle with a belter on The Beast In The Shadows, once more his fantastic voice blots out what an utter dislikable fellow he was when I last saw him live. This track really rocks mind you, with another driving rhythm and some chunky riffs.

I’ve written many reviews for Schenker and his various line-ups. Some of his music is utter guff, but there are at least a few rockers here which get the pulse racing. Behind The Smile is a song that would have been brilliant for Ronnie James Dio. A dipping and diving vocal with a solid backing track reminiscent of Rainbow in parts. How I would have loved to hear the much missed Elf frontman give his all on this. White gives a great performance mind and it’s another highlight. I’ve not been a fan of Gary Barden’s weak vocals for a long time and Crazy Daze demonstrates exactly why. Played in a lower key to compensate for his limited range, plenty of harmonies on the choruses mask some of his deficiencies whilst the song is bland and featureless. McAuley gets another go on Lead You Astray, a song which you yearn for Glenn Hughes’ vocal prowess to command and control. A similar pattern emerges, with repetitive rhythm and riffs.

As if four vocalists aren’t enough, We Are The Voice features Ronnie Romero, and is a reasonable song. I’m not overwhelmed by his slightly raspy delivery, and the song itself is unremarkable. Barden disappointedly returns on Headed For The Sun, which once again repeats the formula which is by now exasperating. Every song sounds the same, just with varying quality of singing. At least the style changes to a hard rock stomp on Old Man, the third song to feature all four singers. Another average track, it has elements of Neil Young on the chorus, but that’s about it’s only redemption. Penultimate song Still In The Fight stars Bonnet but it doesn’t get close to his earlier offering. In fact, the best track for me is the instrumental Ascension which closes the album, with Schenker in full flow doing what he does best: shred. Full of melody, pace and power, this is what I love about Metal Mickey. A blur of the fingers, high speed classic hard rock drumming and bass, with added depth from lush keys, this is what we want. Unfortunately, the highlights are few on an album which doesn’t actually disappoint, because I wasn’t expecting that much from the start. 6/10

Wage War: Pressure (Fearless Records) [Liam True]

I’m in two minds about this album. On one hand it’s generic, predictable and been done a million times before it. On the other, it’s a superb album that blends the soul crushing breakdowns together with the angelic and demonic vocals of Briton Bond & Cody Quistad. It’s nothing new at all, but it’s the way the band creates the sound and puts it together to create Pressure. It’s not something that can be explained, but when you hear the album, you’ll know exactly what I mean by this. If anything, there’s not really a stand out track, but Who I Am or Prison come to mind as the best. It’s just an album that I'm in two minds against. Listen to this for yourself and give your own opinion. I’m just conflicted about it. 6/10

Coldrain: The Side Effects (Warner Music Japan) [Liam True]

I was excited for this album as the previous two albums have been pretty damn good. But I was left disappointed and flat at the end of the album. The album is decent, but nothing morel. There’s a few decent riffs, but nothing more. There are a few good breakdowns, but, you guessed it. Nothing more. It’s not a terrible album, but it’s not their strongest effort. It almost feels like a rip off of Bullet For My Valentine’s Gravity. The vocals sounds exactly the same. The writing is almost similar and the production is just blegh. Everything about the album just feels stolen, copied and blatantly ripped off from other Metalcore artists. I felt let down and lied to with this album. Shame really because the band are actually very good. Just listen to the previous two albums. Leave this to it’s fate 2/10

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