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Friday, July 27, 2012

Album Review: Hellyeah – Band Of Brothers

The Texan supergroup, Hellyeah, have been around for several years so we’re probably all up to speed by now with who they are and where they come from, so for the uninitated, I’ll be brief. They consist of members from Mudvayne, Nothingface, Damageplan and Pantera and when I spied them first on stage at Download 2007 I loved every second of their high-intensity, groove-laden set. With cowboy hats, long leather coats and bandanas everywhere it set me in mind of a hard rock-backed Western movie and I found myself glued to the incredible stickwork of Vinnie Paul for most of the time they pistoned around the stage. They had, at times, an almost laconic, bluesy roll to their music, so when their latest opus Band Of Brothers landed on my desk I was taken aback by just how monstrously aggressive it was. It’s shedloads heavier than previous efforts with a real volatile kick to it.

The title alone hints at just how important the project has become to them and a clear willingness to reveal those close bonds they have formed over time. The component parts, from Chad Gray’s raucous howl through Greg Tribbett and Tom Maxwell’s crushing chugs and howling riffs, to the thundering bottom end of Bob Zilla’s bass and Vinnie Paul’s incredible percussive skills, all come together in a marriage of awe-inspiring assuredness in their ability to raise that collective flag into position time after time. Their impressive focus refuses to let them wander too far from their original design though, so the decision to “metal up” their sound is about as far as we will probably ever see them pushing the boat out.

Laying down the first marker, “War In Me” speed-chugs its way into oblivion with a dark fury, ingesting a solid beatdown and a fist-pumping anthemic quality, whilst for “Call It Like I See It” they slam down a foot on the accelerator and wind down the window to gob vitriol at passers-by. The vocals play just as big a role as the effortless selection of paced groove by rising from the spoken passage to a scouring yelp that scythes down all before it. Most menacing of all, “WM Free” (a reference to the metal-loving / “devil-worshipping” West Memphis Three, imprisoned for murder after a coerced, error-filled confession had been extracted) is a suitably hate-filled crush of a track that, musically, seems focussed on the exact point where Chimaira hits Lamb Of God.

Taking things down a notch the title-track sucks at the Pantera teat to swaggeringly ram its point home – “I got your back and you got mine, as long as we stand together, we’ll be fine” – and “Bigger God” lightens the rhythm, rocking itself up in the verses only to unload in the chorus. Oh, and they’ve still got time for a ballad – “Between You And Nowhere” submerges itself only to reappear at a point somewhere between Alice In Chains and Seether.

Never being ones to upset the applecart, they’ve always had a tendency to become a little predictable and there is an over-reliance on f-bomb fullstops and their rather obvious choices of subject matter. That’s the whole point of their bloody single-mindedness at sticking to their guns though, isn’t it? The alcohol-abusing, rabble-rousing “Drink Drank Drunk” is far less interesting than the introspective musings of “Dig Myself A Hole”, but it’s obvious which one you’re gonna be yelling along and fist-pumping to at their shows. Hellyeah are a riot and the colossal power within Band Of Brothers kicks your arse and hands it back to you on a bin-lid. They clearly have no intentions on slowing their roll at this time and I, for one, am right there with them riding the wave.

Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2012/07/hellyeah-band-of-brothers-eleven-seven-music/

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Album Review: The Treatment – This Might Hurt (U.S. Release)

With , and all releasing new albums in July, over the past few weeks I’ve been immersed in a world of mathematical metal, desperately trying to either decipher oblique lyrical threads, to latch onto layers submerged under evasive polyrhythmic changes, or to ride on the malleable back of some seriously intricate riffwork. Sometimes you just need to get away from all that calculus and sink your teeth into something that feels less computer and a lot human. Like Florence Nightingale bursting in to save the day, loaded down with metaphorical bandages and imbued with one hell of a bedside manner, I give you the reassuringly familiar four-four beat-bothering, verse-chorus-verse antics of rock n’ roll classicists, .

These UK boys, who happen to hail from in and around my neck of the woods in Cambridgeshire, were virtual unknowns a year ago. That all changed when they released their debut album on Powerage Records. One blink later and they’ve secured a frankly overwhelmingly important tour spot on the / Motley Crüe U.S. merry-go round and have secured a deal with Spinefarm to release their debut, Stateside, for the first time to coincide. Having never heard the album before, and you’re going to have to take my word as an honest Limey for this, now seemed the perfect time to give it a spin.

From what I can pick out, having heard this through a few times, This Might Hurt, is roughly divided into two styles. On one hand there’s your blues-loaded swaggering grooves – “I Fear Nothing”, “Winter Sun” and “Stone Cold Love”. Here, the music echoes the sentiments and stylistic lilt of bands like , and – bands with a strong heart and plenty of ideas. In the other hand you’ve got your sing-a-longs, like “The Doctor”, “D***k F**k F***t”, “Shake The Mountain” and a cover of ’s “Road Rocket”, which should go down a treat with your average and Motley Crüe fan. Being so chorus-geared, with plenty of emphasis on the builds, you get smacks of gang chanting and endless recycling of lyrics. These tracks pretty much speak for themselves – they’re catchy as fuck with plenty of gusto (braggadocio as the Italians say) and nary an innovative twist in sight.

My personal favorites come when they manage to meld both styles and come up with some meets smooth cruisers like “Lady Of The Light”, “I Will Be There”, and “Just Tell Me Why”. The slight vibrato and strong, coarse vocal that Matt Jones piles out on these beauties is immense. Combine that with music that is soaked in blues, dripping with feisty emotion and drenched in soul, and you have a team that I simply cannot wait to get in my car stereo. With these bad boys pumping out into the cool air, that night-time drive home will get a hell of a whole lot easier. Live the cliché, man!

Of course I must mention the little niggles. Sadly, the acoustic version here of “Just Tell Me Why” is rendered completely useless by its mismatched production values – in simple terms, the playing speed and vocal tone leave it feeling far too much like a tack-on. There’s no getting away, either, from the fact that a good chunk of the songs, and in particular “Nothing To Lose But Our Minds” (is it just me who hears “God Gave Rock n Roll To You”?), wear their influences a little too obviously, but neither can you deny that the foot you are surreptitiously tapping and the head you are subconsciously bobbing to those same songs aren’t factors here.

There are times when your little world just can’t handle any extra complexity; at these points in time, simplicity is everything. In these moments you might just crave music like this. ’s songs do just what they say on the wrapper. They’re sugary than a honey-dipped, Cornflake-encrusted Mars bar but they still r-o-c-k.

Alson online (with samples) @ The NewReview =  http://thenewreview.net/reviews/the-treatment-this-might-hurt-u-s-release

Sunday, July 22, 2012

EP Review: Monsterworks – Man: Instincts

I was reading some beer tasting notes the other day (similar to a wine tasting list only more socially acceptable) and came to the conclusion that what I was reading was mini-reviews. I wondered if I could get away with writing one for this miniature three-tracker, but came to the conclusion that you, the reader, would need to do a lot of deciphering to understand it, so you may thank your lucky stars when I bailed on the idea. But, I digress.

Wainuiomata (New Zealand) natives, London (UK) residents’ Monsterworks have spawned 9 albums in 14 years (discounting 1999′s 4-tracker), which is a hellishly prolific output by any stretch of the imagination. Yet I’m racking my brains to recall how I know this band’s name. It could be I’m getting confused with the Dreamworks’ film Monsters, but then Sully had way more (blue) hair than this lot. Man: Instincts, it seems, is just one in a series of “digital releases” whose origins lie in this year’s Monsterworks full-length offering, Album Of Man.

They have labelled themselves as purveyors of “progressive thrash supermetal” but diving in, it becomes apparent that they haven’t stopped there at the genre-crossing. There are elements of black, doom and death metal in here too and their music comes covered in dollops of bluesy, earthy groove. “The Creation Dream” starts out with a sweet acoustic lick and comes accompanied by a smile and a good deal of head-bobbing. That is until the wince-inducing twin vocal attack of foreground-bothering low-end growling and distant, detached, falsetto howling. The disembodied howl thankfully dips into a more instinctive mid-range for the choral lick. It’s a cosmic piece that digs its nails beneath the skin. The scrawling collision of vocal paucity over thick bass and heavily-distorted guitars, the kind that lurk in the brief shocker “All Suns Die”, rather show up the weak spots in the mix, and neither this track nor the scatty, lurching structure of “Free Will” fail to hit the mark in the same way which is a shame.

Generally, everything feels a little rushed here in the way that these feel like eight-minute tracks crammed into half the running time. On this evidence the album may provide a better insight into the vision that Monsterworks have for their concept.

Now, just for those who do share my odd sense of humour, my Monsterworks tasting notes would read as follows: Nicely-aged with a smooth, earthy body and cloyingly thick, spicy, dark fruit bite. Innate effervescent quality on the tongue builds to reveal surprisingly thick, lingering, sharp notes at the finish.

Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2012/07/monsterworks-man-instincts-mortal-music/

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Album Review: Feed The Rhino – The Burning Sons

It’s pretty apt that these Medway beasts, from Kent, UK, have a song lurking on their new album, the lead single release from it, that is entitled “Left For Ruins”, because that’s pretty much how you’re meant to feel after you’ve witnessed their live show. I’ve felt it and I’m pretty sure there must be plenty who are there with me by now; they seem to be a non-stop touring machine. Quite where they found the time to squeeze out this sophomore album is a wonder and that’s exactly why I’m worried about it.

It’s been said before, but the well-known industry term, “difficult second album”, is a phrase that so often rings true. A band’s first long-player has usually been pieced together over several years, fine-tuned in the pubs and clubs, before the band hit the recording studio. That second effort, whilst they’re stampeding through the wonders of their biggest ever tours, has to be whipped up at a moment’s notice with a label monkey constantly riding their back. So have managed to lay waste to venues, ignore the hype and the pressure, and found time to write another marvel to sit alongside their crushing debut, Mr. Red Eye?

Well, let’s give The Burning Sons a good going over. First up, be aware that this thing charges at you every bit as hard as their debut did – at least initially. Opener “Flood The System” is a heads-down trampling machine whilst “Nothing Lost” is a sharp dig in the ribs, followed by a swift karate chop to the windpipe. Both display hints at the condensed riffing and rapid stick-shifting to follow, but the lyrics counterbalance this structural two-step by burning with a direct intensity – from the effectively simple “We won’t stop, won’t stop, no we won’t stop” to the looped, gang-blasted mantra of “Now you’re lost, now you’re lost”. Wonderfully, the sharp-tongue of “Kings Of Grand Delusion” finishes off what the title-track promises to do, yet doesn’t – the latter may be a thundering mood piece that paws the ground and paces in circles around you, but it never fully switches up to attack mode.

If you’re looking for highlights they come when the band fully hit their stride. “I Am The Curse, I Am The Cure” and “Song Of Failure” (you’ll scream yourself hoarse at “We fought, we lost, we tore ourselves apart”) both find a neck-snapping groove; a new dimension of power that comes interlaced with some truly crushing riffs. “Razor” and “Tides” are, naturally, the watering holes in this parched savannah. The gently-plucking meets -esque drift of “Razor” and the piano-led “Tides” are sweetly-sung, melodic beauties; the latter’s softer belly is threaded with a subtle, darkly euphoric brooding that changes tack to explode in a shower of caterwauling; a deliberate, affected sound strongly reminiscent of Mr Red Eye‘s exploratory dips into the reverb-heavy gloom.

have shifted weight here; rather than focussing on the swaggering hardball tactics of bands like , and , they have inveigled this passion with the bleaker neuroses of , and . It’s punked-up, hardcore-pitched rock that glues its chaos to your cortex. Yes, unsurprisingly, with so much going on in such a tight space, there are tracks that miss the mark, songs that feel shorn of the same layered potential as their neighbors. “Fountains”, “The Compass” and that initial taster, “Left For Ruins”, all come up some way short, but gurning blasters like “Death Of The Swine” should settle the stomachs of any fans who bought into the grittier tones or rougher mix of their debut.

So let’s recap. This band have not only delivered a solid batch of fresh tracks here, they’ve found time to fine-tune their sound to one that retains their penchant for graft and power, whilst adding both precision and grace. “Difficult second album”, my ass. It’s time to , my friends because, on this evidence, the longer you wait the hungrier he gets, the more likely it is that he’ll bite your whole sodding arm off.

Also online @ The NewReview =  http://thenewreview.net/reviews/feed-the-rhino-the-burning-sons

Monday, July 9, 2012

Album Review: Periphery – Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal

Meshuggah-worship comes in many forms. Front of the queue, bowl in hand, was a young Misha Mansoor. Naturally, he went on to start his personal project, Bulb, and form the band Periphery and the kind of math-heavy, palm-muted power chords that marked the band out as the djentleman who owe most to Fredrik Thordendal and company. Their eponymous debut album was bulging with jagged, heavy syncopation and angular battery fused with, first, the kind of yobbish yelps of derision that only seem to come from those whose vocal cords haven’t yet been fully broken in and, second, Spencer Sotelo’s whining cleans that turned so many potential fans away from the band.

Their follow-up is the cringingly-titled Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal. Yes, I thought it was a joke too. It’s a work that’s led me to wonder if, after their forthcoming concept release, Juggernaut, the next album will be called something equally tacky. Perhaps Periphery III: In Your Face or Periphery III: The Real Deal. Well, apparently the answer is “yes”. In a brief comment made by Mansoor recently, which includes the information that the lyrics in II actually reference III, their next album will be called the horrendously gimmicky Periphery III: Third Time’s A Charm. But, I digress.

This sophomore album sees the whole band taking on songwriting duties, as oppose to the one-man show of their debut, yet it still contains a number of reworked Bulb demos, so it’s a bit of a mixture and that does come across. As the title suggests it is, in general, less abrasive than their debut with much more of a melodic, colourful approach to tracks. The production values have been tightened a notch and the vocals have been thrust more to the forefront. Of course this brings Periphery into line with current trends for a more textured, ambient approach to the genre and the latter half of the album, especially, dangles its legs deep inside that concept. The first half is more of a patchwork quilt of chaos and order; battering groove and demonstrative lulls; hard-hitting roars and growls that dive into the kind of clean singing that is mostly pitched at the top-end – just the zone where Sotelo’s whine comes fully into play. Those who ducked for cover last time will be doing so once more.

The introductory posturing on “Muramasa”, for instance, is short and sickly sweet and quickly pitches us head-first into the crush barrier of “Have A Blast”. The spasmodic, mathy nature of the music here goes a long way to focussing our minds on the g-spots of each chorus and this pattern is followed deep into the album. A gnarly, pop-up electro-beat backed by reverb-heavy strings feeds into the jerky hammer of “Ji” and, at last, Sotelo rediscovers that tone that suits him best with some dark, throat-ripping growls and mid-range cleans. There’s a beautiful, cosmic wash lurking in the background here and some impressive stickwork from Matt Halpern that seeks to plug the gaps.

With other tracks creating gateways, like the hook-laden “Scarlet”, the chameleonic “Ragnarok” and the ambient layering and simplified structure of “Erised” sucking us in, and surprises such as the instrumental “Epoch” and all the craftily-integrated guest solos, the album stands a thousand times more accessible than their debut. Yet, there is far too much that simply passes by without ever finding its feet, and, ultimately, you’d really have to question if, at any point, Periphery hit the addictive bounce and lightness of touch that the most recent releases by Vildhjarta, Uneven Structure, Skyharbor and, even, Textures feature. All these albums simply hit harder and sink deeper into our psyches.

In the cold light of day, 14 tracks and 69 minutes (their debut topped 72 minutes) is a heck of a lot of material to wade through when so much of it ceases to shock and awe to anything like the degree that their debut so clearly did. But then, apparently, “this time it’s personal”, so perhaps we should allow them some leeway; some selfishness in their experimentation. Let no-one say you don’t get value for money with Periphery. Whatever the effect that this softening of the edges has had on their fanbase, they can be pretty proud of the fact that they’ve successfully managed to build another interesting level on their already solid foundation. We can only hope that, in the future, their talent for album titles remains so asymmetrically opposed to the quality of the material that lurks inside them.

Also online @ Ave Noctum =  http://www.avenoctum.com/2012/07/periphery-periphery-ii/

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Album Review: Baroness – Yellow & Green


Only a visual artist would name his band’s opuses Red Album, then Blue Record, then have us all guessing as to what colour was to follow. Go on. We were all guessing, weren’t we? The artist in question, of course, is John Dyer Baizley. He’s the man responsible for his and so many other bands’ artwork so, following the thought process that a painter’s primary colours would be blue, red and yellow, I plumped for Yellow. I certainly didn’t expect him to pull Green out the hat aswell. Of course, upon spinning this double-disc, I was naturally assuming Green to sound like a mix of Yellow and Blue Record, but I was wrong there too. Yep, have been experimenting… wildly.

First thing you’re going to notice is the vocals and you may balk at this information. There’s little to no snarls or roars (Baizley’s trademark bellowing howls of derision aren’t welcome here), the usual slathering of reverb has fallen away and a strong, doleful delivery has been brought into play. All these things bring the singing more into line with ’s clean, doubled-up approach. In fact there are several tracks that make parts of the album’s two halves work as neat brothers to ’s latest rumbler Harmonicraft. There’s no “Rays On Pinion” here, no “The Sweetest Curse”. Yes, it’s a shock. I’m playing it through right now for the umpteenth time and my face still looks like Janet Leigh’s when the knife cuts through her shower curtain.

So let’s start on Yellow. There’s plenty of old school influences here with a spot of in “March To The Sea”, a dousing of Yes flamboyance and crude Sabbathian warble that licks around the languid psych of “Cocainium” and I’m even getting a influence every now and again. It’s pretty dour fare for who previously have leeched innate joyfulness amidst their expansive constructions. If you’re looking for some of their signature clanging riffs and hearty passion, the closest you’re going to get is in the addictive yet crassly repetitious chorus, sweeped, looping effects and heavy fuzz of “Take My Bones Away”. In general terms, you’ll find a lot more clean notes here than ever before. There’s a dose of 60′s pop backing effects that walk alongside the folk acoustics of “Twinkler”, we get some 90′s indie-flecked shoegaze that punches its way through “Little Things” reducing it to a pretty uninspiring, insipid gloop, and there’s even a punkish gloom, a sonic curiosity that early albums boasted, in the driven pop of “Sea Lungs”. On the plus side, there’s plenty to dig on the rhythmical, rumbling gallop and reverse vocal effects of “March To The Sea” and in the dark underbelly of the 7-minute dream-pop of “Eula”, including a brazen, finger-powered wah-wah effect and a collusion of drum and bass aggression.

Turning to Green we find a work littered by space and plenty of witty, folk-fuelled pop. There are a couple of stars in “Board Up The House” and “Collapse”. The former is pure with plenty of dirty fuzz, a kick-ass riff and a wired, dialled-in dual vocal whilst the latter is ripped with a dark acoustic grunge that softly squeezes layers of emotion through a backdrop of sub-aquatic, groaning effects. “Mtns. (The Crown & Anchor)” sways into view with a heart of bluesy pop and a fizzing effect on the vocals as, from here, carefully mark out Green‘s territory. Whether or not you are able to buy into the padding, languid pace of “Foolsong” or the sharply-plucked, instrumental lump of acoustic driftwood that “Stretchmarker” floats upon, will probably decide where you stand on ’ softer side and genre-crossing freewheeling. For those who don’t, there’s a startling, pop-punk, twin-vocal attack (“Psalms Alive”) and a jagged, hit of -esque alt-rock speed (“The Line Between”) to further confuse you.

I’ve always associated with bands like , and , simply for their focus on a long-game of rampant melody and lavish structure. They have this uncanny ability to work from a subtle build to finish with a blood-pumpingly strong climax. Very little of that is left here. But to constantly look for what isn’t there would be criminal when what is there is so much more important. Here, they’ve created intuitive music that weaves in and out of moods, track by track. There is no plan, no desire to make do creating one style of music. It makes the album feel like a collection of lost songs; like they were created a long time ago but never quite suited ’ style so never saw the light of day. Honestly, I wouldn’t have guessed the band in a million years had I heard this blind.

Ultimately though, the music feels exactly that – old. It’s intuitive music because it’s been heard before. have a good crack at seeking out an understated level of simplicity. Consequently, so many of the tracks emerge with just one trick up their sleeve. You can pretty much hear each attempt to focus on that one lyrical hook that defines the song. That, to me, shows the kind of naïvety that I never thought possible of a band whose past ingenuity has left me with goosebumps on my arms and a desire to immediately pick up a guitar. For those tracks here that do punch their way to the fore or, alternatively, simply refuse to be hurried along with their brethren, they break the mould.

seem to have gone through their entire palette creating Yellow & Green, their bravest and most honest work to date, but the end result is surprisingly lacking in colour.

Also online @ The NewReview =  http://thenewreview.net/reviews/baroness-yellow-green