Back in the 1970s Status Quo were big hitters in the world of heavy rock. Multiple high selling albums and singles, sold out tours and a cocaine habit to rival all those around them, the fantastic four dominated. Their sound, dismissed by critics as simplistic, was distinctive and unique. You can recognise a Quo song instantly. It’s not the 1970s anymore though but Quo remains a big favourite, mainly with their fans from that era. The Quo Army is older and possibly not much wiser than those halcyon days of Quo Live from the Glasgow Apollo (still one of the best live albums of all time by the way). Of course, there is always a split of opinion, and there is a large faction for who Quo ceased to exist when Coughlan and Lancaster left the band. The death of Rick Parfitt in 2016 added fuel to that fire, with many stating that the band should have called it a day. But regardless of the doubters, Quo remain and with Francis Rossi at the helm, they have in my humble opinion, every right to continue.
Backbone is album number 33 is the first album without Parfitt. The line-up comprises Rossi, keyboard player Andrew Bown (a member of the band since 1976 – that’s 43 years folks), bassist John ‘Rhino’ Edwards, drummer Leon Cave and 2016 appointed rhythm guitarist Richie Malone. It’s fair to say that things don’t start well. Waiting For A Woman is one of the weaker tracks on the album and the rather slow tempo doesn’t get the pulse going. Maybe a good thing given the age of some of the band and the average age of their fans. However, Cut Me Some Slack is much better, the distinctive guitar riff which opens the track immediately gets the foot tapping and the pace a lot quicker. And from here this is a rather decent album. It’s the Quo at the end of the day, and a band that can now play comfortably alongside Westlife, earn the album of the week on Radio 2 are not going to crush craniums with pulverising riffs. Instead, we get gentle rock and roll which follows the classic formula.
Those three chords are put to good use over 47 minutes and 13 tracks. I See You’re In Some Trouble, Backbone and Better Take Care all work well whilst Get Out of My Time harks back to the pace of Piledriver and Dog Of Two Head. The best track on the album, and one of the best songs they have written for years, this is a stomping rocker which demands you search for the double denim and place those hands on the hips. Sure, there is the odd weak track, but overall Backbone is a quite splendid album which I thoroughly enjoyed. There is still life in the old dog yet and whilst Francis Rossi feels that the band is worth continuing, long may they do so. 8/10
Korn: The Nothing (Roadrunner Records) [Paul Hutchings]
Three years after The Serenity of Suffering, album number 13 from Bakersfield’s Korn finds the band and singer Jonathan Davis in a dark place. Davis’ wife died from an accidental drugs overdose in August 2018 and the emotional hell that Davis has been in since that time has shaped the lyrical content here. Produced once more by Nick Raskulinecz, the instantly recognisable sound of Korn is present from the start, with the angst ridden Cold following the bagpiped lament intro The End Begins. It’s immediately apparent that there is plenty of emotion in this album, Davis’ weeping before the stark electronic riff kicks in to commence Cold. Fieldy’s thumping bass lines and the chopping guitar of Munky and Head contrast with the melody on the chorus, Davis in fine form with his clean vocals and adding the typical rapping nu metal delivery that Korn started way back quarter of a century ago. You’ll Never Find Me sees Korn in familiar territory, a classic style of song with the layered programming, staccato time changes and raging sections segueing into moments of tranquillity, Davis repeatedly calling out “I’m lost, you’ll never find me”.
With the tracks carrying such emotional baggage, this may well have been a rather cathartic process for Korn and Davis in particular. Reading that he recorded all the vocals separately from the rest of the band at the Bakersfield studio makes this album more impressive given the coherence and connectivity that emerges. Finally Free explores the pain and suffering whilst the hurt remains through Can You Hear Me. The Nothing gets stronger in the second half of the album, with Gravity Of Discomfort, H@rd3r and This Loss (which sees some of Davis’ most impressive vocal performance for some time) some of the better more classic Korn style songs. Korn have always attracted a massive following. I’ve always enjoyed them live and rated their last release. This may not reach the heights of that album, but it is still a decent release. If you don’t like the stomp and churn of the band, then this won’t be for you at all but if you like the groove this band produce then you’ll be eager to get involved. 7/10
Grande Royale: Take It Easy (The Sign Records) [Matt Bladen]
Does the world need anymore foot stompin' rock n roll that owes a debt to The Rolling Stones and The Black Crowes? Jangly, bluesy swagger is bolstered by snot-nosed punk and infused with slide playing (Out Of Gas) and some Southern sunshine, it's a combination that has been done before, mainly by Swedish bands come to think of it, Grande Royale are also Swedish so you know that the quality of the music will be high but does it really do anything to stand out in a ever-increasing scene, fusing the sounds of Detroit with their own country's 90's heyday there are glimmers of gold here with Hands Up a pretty good duet, Sweet Livin' is a cracking Southern rock song made for singing back while suppin a Bourbon, Decelerate has a filthy bassline giving a bit of dirt especially when the organ comes in. Take It Easy doesn't take it's own advice with much of the album built on thumping rockers that bring some gospel, soul and even funk on Baby You're A Fool. Will it set the world alight? No in truth however it is a stylish rock n roll record that sticks to it's influences, leading to a very enjoyable listening experience, put on when you've got some buddies round and have a good time. It's only rock roll but I like it. 7/10
Verheerer: Monolith (Vendetta Records) [Matt Bladen]
Verheerer is German/Dutch for Devastator and it's a pretty accurate description of this illusive German five piece, who are led by BST (vocals) and SMN (guitars) have upped the ante with their sophomore album allowing LKS (guitars), KRZ (drums) and MYR (bass) share more of the songwriting duties, they went into this album with idea to strip it back as much as possible and as such this a pretty raw slab of unrepentant black metal. The atmosphere is dark and brooding, the vocals are aggressive and the songs are awash with tremolo fretting and blastbeats, but some may say this isn't pvre black metal as there are a lot of death metal sounds that creep in. This for me is not a problem as I do struggle with the truly cvlt BM bands. Here though there is an interesting balance that keeps your ears keen as the opening title track ominously drags you into Verheerer's void, The Eskapist is a throat riffing BM masterstroke, while He Shall Reap A Thousandfold is a brooding piece marching you mercilessly towards extinction, albeit via some more dramatic mood breaks. Yes folks there are no smiles here just, nasty extreme metal made to abuse rather than entertain. Monolith is an album as daunting as it's title, an unyielding occultist hunk of extremity, not one for your grandmother! 7/10
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