2016
07.19

A selection of album and live music reviews from various publications from 2011 onwards. This post is subject to being updated.

 

 

GHOST 
Bloodstock Open Air, 12/08/17

The plaintive, oddly sinister choral music emanating from the darkened stage is at odds with this warm, revelrous summer evening and carries with it a sense of impending doom (metal). And that’s just the intro tape – now here come the Ghouls. When Ghost eventually emerge from the shadows to commence their Bloodstock debut – occupying the headliner slot, no less – Papa Emeritus and his masked cohorts quickly turn this night into their own black mass. Kreator’s glittering streamers still hang mockingly from the rafters, but do little to steal from a performance imbued with an air of twisted triumph. They’ve come a long way from their second-ever show at the London Underworld, and tonight feels like a true milestone in a career that’s already seen them pick up a Grammy. Alice Cooper-level theatrics heighten the experience, but they’ve built up quite the anthem arsenal too, be it the transgressively evocative Square Hammer or the sorcerous Mummy Dust. When they’re flanked by a choir of nuns as well as kids from nearby Belper Junior Musical Theatre for a finale of Monstrance Clock, however, it’s a truly spellbinding moment that closes what’s undoubtedly one of the finest performances this festival has ever seen.

IRON MAIDEN
The Book of Souls: Live Chapter

Iron Maiden have released more live albums than some bands do studio ones in their careers. No surprise, then, that last year’s lucrative world tour has received the traditional double-disc treatment, resulting in this twelfth record from the road. The legends are on good form throughout and while a cancer-free Bruce Dickinson has more of a bark than a bite these days – there’s quite a noticeable struggle on The Number Of The Beast – he can still pull off the operaticisms when it comes to the crunch, as evidenced by Blood Brothers, cut from their drizzly Download appearance. A storming The Trooper is a definitive highlight from their first-ever show in El Salvador. The aurality of 35,000 fans losing their Maiden virginity is a palpable one, although it was never going to be worse than their Tokyo set, which saw the frontman swashbuckle his way onstage armed with a Union Jack… but not a microphone. Japan’s capital does, however, see an inclusion here with The Red And The Black, nestled alongside endearing renditions of other recent tracks, making for a nifty release that immortalizes a time in which the Irons overcame adversity and emerged as ambitious as ever.

SLASH FT MYLES KENNEDY AND THE CONSPIRATORS
World On Fire

Much like the snakes that he uses symbolically and keeps as pets, Slash‘s professional life has been a long and winding one that has seen him repeatedly shed his skin and begin anew (while probably making some killer boots out of the remains). The Guns N’ Roses explosion and implosion is a legend that’s still a feverishly hot topic in rock culture almost 20 years after its occurrence, while Velvet Revolver looked set to take the crown for a few years before it became clear they were a – very, very bright – flash in the pan. The current stage of his… his… his serpentine career spawned from 2010’s debut solo album. A borderline gimmicky effort, it was a multicoloured jamboree that saw a star-studded cast join him to make some noise, even if some of them were the most awkward, awful choices in Hollywood. It provided a few memorable tunes but didn’t quite feel like fertile soil for a story arc to grow from, especially given the evanescent stabs at solo glory in the ’90s and persistent promises of a Velvet Revolver continuation. Continue reading on Drowned In Sound

GERRY RAFFERTY
Baker Street

From Drowned In Sound‘s Greatest Scottish Songs feature, during the 2014 independence referendum

The song that revived the proverbial saxophone market, ‘Baker Street’ got thousands of people and Lisa Simpson picking up the instrument. Not bad considering it was initially only a placeholder for a vocal hook. Mysterious and evocative, the tale of loneliness in a crowd and a Scot’s isolation in London – something apparently felt by half a nation nearly 40 years later – conjures up images of city lights, wanderlust, the fine line between ambition and reality, and that togetherness we feel in being alone. A sublime classic from the dearly departed Paisley Buddie.

GINGER WILDHEART
Albion

Only a musician as innovative, mercurial, uncompromising, stubborn and erratic as Ginger could suffer from Difficult Second Album Syndrome after countless records and a quarter of a century in the business.

To rate Albion as just another solo effort in his extensive curriculum vitae is only telling half of the story, if even that. The odyssey starts in 2010, following the dissolution of his band The Wildhearts – cult favourites and Nineties chart-botherers – when he found himself playing guitar for Hanoi Rocks’ blond bombshell Michael Monroe. Despite successful tours and a warmly-received co-written album Sensory Overdrive, creative differences and managerial issues cast him into the musical wilderness alone. With no band, no direction and no means to provide for a family, the towel was close to hitting the ring. It seemed that wild hearts could be broken. Continue reading on Drowned In Sound…

HARDCORE SUPERSTAR
C’Mon Take On Me

Something of a missing link between ‘80s glam metal and its recent resuscitation, Hardcore Superstar have, for fifteen years now, peddled such leather-clad sleaze with poignancy and nostalgia-laced honesty that sets them apart from both over-the-hill old-schoolers and modern day revivalists. More emotive than emulative, the Swedes are, like they’ve proven in the past, capable of comfortably stretching the bracket of the genre to more bittersweet extents like ‘Above The Law’ while retaining hard rock joviality. By largely avoiding the macho-isms of the serious Steel Panthers in today’s scene, they humanise a cocksure genre’s traditional excess into honest success.

THE BUNNY THE BEAR
Stories

For the volume of MySpace generation bands blending electronica with hardcore, it’s surprising how many fail to do it with any credible chutzpah. This is another one. There are quirky hooks that work well, but any enjoyment gained from them would probably be tantamount to satisfying the curiosity of putting two Siamese fighting fish in a pint glass together or using a sandpaper condom. At very best it’s guilty pleasure material but, mainly, it’s a nauseating exposure to the insidious movement trying to inflict rock ‘n’ roll with the hipsterish, UV-painted accessibility that spoils everything we hold dear.

RITES OF SPRING
Six Song Demo

In some circles, this is the sonic equivalent of finding the Holy Grail, for this is not just the first demo of any band, but of one that simultaneously broke and shaped the mould for the punk and post-hardcore genres. While these six ditties would eventually form parts of their later releases, here we find skeletal versions of the Washington, D.C. boys’ atonal tales of angst – the sound of them forging the line between aggression and fragility that would forever characterise such music. A window into the origins of a small band creating what would be a big influence some twenty-five years down the line.

KORN
The Path Of Totality

Korn have, in a way, always been fundamentally based on experimentation. Having kick-started the nu metal genre in the early ‘90s, they pushed heavy metal in a new direction by incorporating juxtapositions like rap into the framework. As a movement, nu metal came to be loved and loathed in equal measures, but its innovation and significance was – and still is – undeniable. Now, the influential Californians have expanded their bracket once more by incorporating the electronic phenomenon of dubstep into their tenth studio album.

Recent single ‘Narcissistic Cannibal’ was something of a red herring, as it did not depict the full extent of the change in sound prior to the release of this full thing, essentially sounding like Korn with a few sound effects over the top. It’s in tracks like opener ‘Chaos Lives In Everything’ and ‘Sanctuary’ that the band fully explore their musical sexuality. Chunky blocks of electronica duck and dive into each other, sometimes successfully entwining with the nu metallers’ trademark riffs, but often shadowing them completely. While Jonathan Davis and his band take to dubstep like metal did to tracksuits – with relative success – it’s in the repetitive structures and apparent loss of focus that the album fails to launch. It’s as though they rely on the gimmick of dubstep, without ever trying to take it any further, the end result sounding like Korn lost in an unfamiliar genre.

Alas, it would be ironic if fans were to abandon them for this attempt at diversifying, as doing so was essentially how they came to prominence almost twenty years ago. There’s enough here to keep die-hards at least mildly interested, but a large gateway for electro fans to get involved, showing that Korn have, if nothing else, once again bridged the gaps between genre and time.

HYRO DA HERO + MARMOZETS + ASTROID BOYS
Glasgow King Tut’s – 9/2/12

One has to hand it to Astroid Boys for having the balls to address tonight’s early arrivals like a packed arena crowd but, while their sometimes-clumsy grime gets the front row shuffling politely, it’s mainly in their kitsch banter that they provide warm-up entertainment. Marmozets have a small collective age but possess a big – if sometimes challenging – sound. Their music is like a maze, with hints of sombre Paramore-like melody lost between walls of mathcore complexity. It’s met with a mixture of appreciation and confusion, emotions that could both be considered a victory. Observation of the fully-assembled audience by the time Hyro hits the stage tonight suggests that the appeal in his music lies more in the rock than the rap. The live vibe lends a visceral heaviness even to the more straightforward hip hop moments, but it’s the punk bursts of ‘Ghetto Ambiance’ and ‘Attack Of The Average Man’ (sampling Refused’s ‘New Noise’) that are greeted with the warmest welcome by the frenzied crowd. ‘A Conversation With Hip Hop’, which sees him rant about the commercialisation of music, however, suggests that it’s authenticity and the sense of something important – something real – that speaks louder than genre.

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