Archive for the Album Reviews Category

Album Review – Judas Priest “Redeemer of Souls” 2014

Posted in Album Reviews with tags , , , , , , on July 21, 2014 by Lightning Slim

JudasPriestRedeemerSouls  When you’ve been in the business as long as Judas Priest, you have an opportunity to reflect upon and work with your longest-standing musical influence: yourselves. And so it is that Redeemer of Souls looks back and well as forward, ending up sounding Judas-Priesty as all hell, and all the more enjoyable for it. The overall feel is the same as what we’ve come to expect post-Painkiller, but there are also bluesy bar-rock riffs on the record that would be at home on Point of Entry, Killing Machine or even British Steel. It’s self-homage without resorting to self-plagiarism (one notable exception is the title track, which is essentially a reboot of “Hell Patrol”).

New guy Richie Faulkner admirably fills the K.K. Downing-shaped hole in the wall, matching Glenn Tipton’s dignified grace and power on the trade-off solos. He’s also heavily involved in the songwriting, which may turn out to be a secret weapon for the band. Having grown up outside the Priest bubble, he’s been listening to the competition. To wit, there are Maidenish touches here and there, especially on “Sword of Damocles”, which is a straight-up Brave New World-era Iron Maiden song that JP appropriate with aplomb.

One elephant in the room: the time of the Rob Halford shriek would appear to be over. We all knew this day would come. Halford does access his falsetto, but it’s during quieter moments, and when he does rage out it’s carefully and gently cradled by the mix and quickly spirited away as if to say “Nothing to see here; move on”. Considering he still has one of the most dynamic ranges around, and his midrange is passionate and full of power, it would be churlish to ask for more.

Be at ease, metalheads. It’s twenty-freaking-fourteen, Mark Wilkinson has yet to tire of painting messianic figures aflame under violet skies, and Judas Priest have gone back to the well to draw forth an album which will be the envy of bands half their age. 8.5 out of 10

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Album Review – Lacuna Coil “Broken Crown Halo” 2014

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , on June 11, 2014 by Lightning Slim

broken_crown_halo  After the somewhat-misunderstood pop stylings of The Shallow Life and the near-perfect synthesis of that with their core competencies in Dark Adrenaline, Lacuna Coil wisely decide not to try to top themselves, and so take a trip down memory lane instead. Broken Crown Halo is a more direct descendant of earlier records like Comalies or Karmacode, containing all the elements for which the band is known; the duet vocals, the oddly-admirable tenacious loyalty to the nu-metal bass guitar sound, the lush instrumentation. They’ve been working hard to expand their core sound for years now, so I think a momentary retreat and regroup has no shame in it at all.

You pretty much know what you’re getting here. If you’re a fan of the band, rejoice. It’s not broken so it didn’t get fixed, and Cristina Scabbia’s Instagram account remains as fetching as ever. 7.5 out of 10

Album Review – Mares of Thrace “The Pilgrimage” 2012

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , , on October 3, 2013 by Lightning Slim

335141  Any fans of Death From Above 1979, Rush or even Danko Jones know that we Canadians have so much angst in our souls that it only takes a couple of us to create a full-sized rock band. Mares of Thrace bear out this theory on The Pilgrimage, with only two young ladies on drums and baritone guitar making a hellish and compelling amount of noise.

Sonically, the album bears a good deal of resemblance to other prog/sludge acts like Baroness, with abrupt time changes, whisper-to-scream vocals and lyrical paeans to the uglier side of human nature (in the case of The Pilgrimage, the narrative framework is the story of David and Bathsheba).

Mares of Thrace will be ones to watch in the years ahead. Any band that can tour in a minivan and still have their own driver has the opportunity to cultivate a fanbase nationwide and beyond. 8 out of 10

Album Review – Amon Amarth “Deceiver of the Gods” 2013

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , , on July 15, 2013 by Lightning Slim

AmonAmarth-DeceiverOfTheGods  When Metallica followed up Ride the Lightning with Master of Puppets, an album that is virtually identical in terms of structure and songwriting, I don’t recall anyone at the time getting butthurt about receiving more of a good thing.

Why, then, is Deceiver of the Gods getting flak for its lack of forward momentum and the band’s entirely sane decision to not go about fixing the unbroken and popular sounds they’ve achieved of late? Personally, I look at it this way:

Twilight of the Thunder God = Number of the Beast; the definitive and instant classic.

Surtur Rising = Piece of Mind; the longer and more confident follow-up. Less oomph, but definite quality.

Deceiver of the Gods = (you guessed it) Powerslave; a top-of-the-game album. Safe choices, very clean production.

It’s a fun record with all the chops you would expect and influences written all over it. It has a Priest’s worth of double harmonies and a heck of a lot of old-school thrash. “Blood Eagle”, in particular just screams Kreator. I highly recommend the deluxe version, which includes an EP of original tunes written (absolutely perfectly) in the style of Priest, AC/DC, Mötorhead and Sabbath. Johan Hegg’s Ozzy impersonation alone is worth the price of admission.

If these past three records are where the Amon Amarth wants to plateau, I have absolutely no problem with camping out a while. Let’s just hope my Maiden analogy goes no further. 8 out of 10

Album Review – Black Sabbath “13” 2013

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , on June 26, 2013 by Lightning Slim

images  We live in a world with several fantastic Black Sabbath records, some indifferent ones, and a couple of complete dogs. With the arrival of 13, it would be easy to simply slot this reunion effort somewhere in the middle, say “good job”, slap these rapscallions on their wrinkly behinds and call it a day.

Not so simple. After a couple of listens, 13 is banging on the ceiling, perhaps even clawing at the podium. It’s a lusty, robust metal album by anyone’s standards, and a pretty great Black Sabbath album to boot.

Some folks have complained about overproduction, which is admittedly an unfortunate fact of life these days. I think in the case of 13, these people fall into two categories: those who a) have apparently never heard Death Magnetic and b) are still mad about Death Magnetic and want to blame all of the ills of the loudness war on Rick Rubin. This album shows tremendous restraint on Rubin’s part –  he stays the hell out of the way and lets Sabbath be themselves. Sure, he’s done the audio equivalent of whatever they used to do to Elizabeth Taylor’s photographs to Ozzy’s voice so that now the old dodger sounds stronger than he has in years, but so what? Iommi is speedy and vital as well, and Geezer in particular wields his instrument like a weapon against entropy.

The record is heavy as shit, sounding like a cross between The Devil You Know and something that was supposed to come out right after Volume 4. Long songs, stark and simple lyrics (“Alright now” makes an appearance) are kept afloat with massive, wobbling riffs that nobody else on the planet can create. Enjoy Tony while you can, we may never see his like again.

For various reasons (candidly discussed by the band in the liner notes) we almost didn’t get this record at all. The fact that it clawed its way into existence at all is amazing. The quality is the icing on the cake. If it’s all we get, it is a fitting coda to Sabbath’s long and tumultuous career. This 13 is lucky indeed. 8.5 out of 10

Album Review – Amorphis “Circle” 2013

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , on May 18, 2013 by Lightning Slim

AmorphisCircle.jpg  Twenty years and no bad records. I don’t know that there are many other bands in this scene that could claim the same, and I don’t know what else to say here besides: Amorphis has done it again. Circle might be their best yet, a powerhouse recording that combines the ferocity of Tales From the Thousand Lakes with the sophisticated direction they’ve been following since Tuonela.

The first thing you’ll notice is the album’s almost shocking heaviness. Producer Peter Tägtgren throws a wall of noise up in front of other sounds, and you’ll have to fight your way past the massive drums to find the folk-inspired guitar melodies for which the band is known. However, those melodies are most certainly still there (not to mention the best flute and sax solos you’ll find on a metal record this year), and Tomi Joutsen gives a true showman’s performance to bridge the space between the weight of the mix and the light touches necessary to tell the story of Circle. That story is an original, and not taken from the Kalevala, although it shares the Finnish Epic’s interest in death, rebirth and the healing power of music.

The band has always had a great ear for a catchy chorus and a good head for selecting a single. “Hopeless Days” is as good a choice as any – and I say this out of admiration, not ennui. Record companies need singles; the album doesn’t. Once it’s in your ears, Circle will become a compulsive front-to-back experience where each track makes the next even more necessary.

In this age of single downloads, Amorphis has produced one of the best full-album experiences I’ve heard in years. Circle is their heaviest, most tuneful and most addictive work. Baroness and Mastodon fans, why aren’t you this train yet? 9 out of 10

Album Review: KMFDM “Kunst” 2013

Posted in Album Reviews, FourFiveSix with tags , , , , on May 9, 2013 by Lightning Slim

KMFDM-Kunst  Like Zeno’s Arrow, KMFDM have been making each album for the past decade or so just a little bit worse than the one before, like an infinite series that never quite hits bottom.

Kunst comes closer than ever.

I’m a long-time KMFDM apologist, loving their if-you-don’t-like-it-you-don’t-get-it BS approach  to faking it until you make it. But this is getting tired. The band kicks things off with the title track, a KMFDM standard constructed lyrically from bits of random doggerel and the band’s own song titles through the ages. They do this every damn time, and the only new bit of life in “Kunst” is a throwback joke to the ancient controversy over the group’s mysterious name.

After that, things just kind of meander. The bands political hearts remain in the right places on “Pussy Riot”, and there are some interesting collaborations with the Morlocks and William Wilson (no surprise, allowing guest artists to steal the show is one of Sascha K’s better qualities) as well as “I ♥ Not”, a tale of obsessive love with samples by toddler Asia Konietzko. That’s right, it’s a family business!

A sausage factory entry from a band that can be angry, silly, audacious and infuriating, Kunst tries a bit of unwise unfamiliar territory by daring to be dull. 4.5 out of 10

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