Archive for the FourFiveSix Category

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

Album Review – The Sword “Apocryphon” 2012

Posted in Album Reviews, FourFiveSix with tags , , , , , on January 12, 2013 by Lightning Slim

TheSwordApocryphon  I often refer to The Sword as “Stoner metal so good you don’t have to be stoned for it”. Unfortunately, with the release of Apocryphon I may have to revise my opinion and reach for some chemical enhancement, as for the first time their output is merely mortal.

All the ingredients are present, but the mixture doesn’t seem to soar quite like before. Previous records have arrived via frothing steeds, the chariots of thunder gods and sleek starships, but Apocryphon sort of plods along, pedestrian in the literal sense. Single “Veil of Isis” has some swing to it but it’s no “Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians”. Oddly enough for such a riff-based band, some of the more rollicking moments are on “Execrator” and the title track, where the band pull out the synthesizers and party like it’s 2112.

Still miles better than many records of this ilk, Apocryphon nevertheless falls a bit short of the heavy-rotation status of its predecessors. 6.5 out of 10

Album Review – In This Moment “Blood” 2012

Posted in Album Reviews, FourFiveSix with tags , , , , , on October 18, 2012 by Lightning Slim

  OK, admit it. If you’re anything like me, you admire In This Moment and want them to succeed. But ever since Beautiful Tragedy came out you’ve been waiting for the sell-out.  The Dream arrived with its surprising pop influences, but worked on its own terms. Then, A Star-Crossed Wasteland merged the previous two styles with skill and taste, so everything was still going swimmingly.

The run ends here. Blood is the Hot Topic nu-metal album we were all terrified ITM would eventually make. It marks the turning point when the lush photo shoots and the idea of the band became more important than the music.

I know Maria Brink is definitely a feminist of some kind, as I’ve seen her mop the floor with sexist hecklers in live performances. So, as a modern woman, Brink has the right to portray, play up and undercut her sexuality  as she sees fit. That’s the most generous argument I could find to explain the following lyrical atavisms:

“I’m a dirty dirty girl I want it filthy”

“Make me feel like a god, adrenaline and sex, Adrenalize me”

“I wanna feel you all from deep within, swayin back and forth all night, let me see you move your bodies”

Not all the lyrics are this bad. But these are all from different songs, meaning there’s a lot of B. Spears-ism to go around.

Sound-wise, producer Kevin Churko uses a couple of different angles of attack here, neither of them involving him keeping his hands off the songs, and neither of them solid ideas. Some of the tracks use an 80’s Ozzy, power ballad heft that brings to mind Black Label Society trying to play a Coheed and Cambria album. Others bear the mark of a shiny, scattered, trendy electronic interference so choppy that I was scanning the liner notes to make sure Skrillex wasn’t hiding in there somewhere. All of it adds up to the most overproduced record I’ve heard in some time. It’s a damn shame, because Brink is giving her most nuanced performance to date, showing vocal chops that can adapt to any situation but aren’t attached to anything lasting. Blood just doesn’t have the songs; there’s no “Great Divide”, no “The Promise” and most definitely no “Beautiful Tragedy” here.

Pretty but empty, and heart-breaking in the wrong way. 5 out of 10

Classic Album Review – Saxon “Rock the Nations” 1986

Posted in Album Reviews, FourFiveSix with tags , , , , , , , on July 16, 2012 by Lightning Slim

  The New Wave of British Heavy Metal was always more of an umbrella than a straitjacket, with few in-scene penalties for exploring a variety of rock-based sounds. I like to think that it was in this ecumenical NWOBHM spirit that Saxon approached Rock the Nations, a record that someone in a more cynical mood might call 50 percent direct response to Defenders of the Faith and Pyromania, with another half dedicated to putting out some feelers towards the lucrative, burgeoning LA rock scene of the time.

The album roars out of the gate with the title track, full of Defenders-style bombast (and similar ridiculous drum recording), and keeps the ball rolling with rapid-fire historical number “Battle Cry”, a tale of the Battle of Culloden they can claim was theirs way before Braveheart was cool. The first half of the record also contains strong no-nonsense numbers “Waiting for the Night” and “We Came Here to Rock”.

And then things get a bit weird. “You Ain’t No Angel” contains a level of leering lechery unsustainable by anyone but Aerosmith, “Running Hot” is merely forgettable, and the record ends with two ballads, one of the “power” variety and one less so. Stuffed in there as well is the questionable curio “Party Till You Puke”, a Quiet Riot type number with piano by none other than Elton John!*

So yeah, that happened. Rock the Nations is half of a solid record, with a bit of attempted ocean-crossing showing through the cracks. 5 out of 10

The album has definitely made an impression on some, particularly Manowar. I’m not sure what their opinion of its sonic attributes might be, but they did steal the entire cover concept 20 years later:

*If you want to see where Elton’s head was at in this period, have a look here. As for the song itself, it’s harmless fun, and EJ gives it his all. It’s private theory of mine that it was playing in the room where Andrew WK was born.

Album Review – Fear Factory “Digimortal” 2001

Posted in Album Reviews, FourFiveSix with tags , , , , on June 13, 2012 by Lightning Slim

  I recently reviewed Fear Factory’s newest record The Industrialist, and declared it pretty damn good, and in so doing I cast some negative aspersions on this outing, Digimortal. Feeling a bit guilty, I decided to give it another spin to see how it holds up as a complete unit after a decade.

Ouch. Digimortal is weaksauce, made worse by its unfortunate, trendy flirtations with nu-metal and hip-hop. “Linchpin”, “Invisible Wounds (Dark Bodies)” and “Memory Implants (Never End)” are quality tracks, but the rest of the songs are  just the packing material surrounding these nuggets. “Back the Fuck Up” has a Judgement Night – style bounce to it, but I think we can 100% chalk that up to guest artist B-Real. 

Add to this a decidedly weak mix that underlines Dino Cazares’ phoned-in performance (songs often lack guitars in the verses altogether) and Burt Bell’s most inconsistent vocals to date and you have a mere collection of ideas, not a complete record. The B-side compilation Hatefiles would later bring to light some wildly different (but not better) mixes of this material that show a band flailing about for something to stick the landing.

Transgression gets a lot of heat from FF fans, but Transgression was a rush job. Digimortal is fully endorsed (at the time), band-involved product that happens to be awfully half-assed. It’s not the end of the world, but it does capture a moment in time where a band of one-time leaders took their foot off the gas and coasted. 4.5 out of 10

Album Review – Evanescence “Evanescence” 2011

Posted in Album Reviews, FourFiveSix with tags , , , , , on February 9, 2012 by Lightning Slim

  Evanescence, whose name really just constitutes a shorter way of saying “Amy Lee and the Whoevers”, continue to have difficulty recapturing the spirit of Fallen.* Evanescence the record (and aren’t we all a bit suspicious of mid-career self-titles?) plods down the predictable path of ponderous goth rock, a bland concoction of Lilith Fair and nu-metal that’s hard to screw up but even harder to bring to life, so to speak. I want to like this, and I’m not slapping it with a Do Not Buy, but I’m having difficulty finding anything memorable in the risk-free material.

Evanescence, band and album, aren’t horrible, but both do a piss-poor job of justifying their own existence, basically only succeeding at A) extending the lifespan of a fancy Latin word that most folks didn’t know before, and B) acting as a radio-injected gateway drug for bands like Lacuna Coil, who are doing this sort of thing so much better. 5.5 out of 10

*Of course, Lee’s former bandmates haven’t done well on their own, either.

Album Review – In Flames “Sounds of a Playground Fading” 2011

Posted in Album Reviews, FourFiveSix with tags , , , , , on February 3, 2012 by Lightning Slim

  Sounds of a Playground Fading is a bit like watching your favourite team’s Alumni hockey game. The skills are still there, the action is entertaining, but there’s no sense of urgency or stakes because the game doesn’t really count for anything.

The album has thirteen tracks, which seems about three or four too many, especially both (!) spoken word pieces. There are some portions around the middle where the riffing comes to life, but the record is all around quietly unremarkable.

The elephant in the room is, of course, the departure of founding member Jesper Strömblad, and whether the band would continue writing strong material without him. Personally, I don’t think that’s the issue. All of these songs are clearly identifiable as In Flames, but there is a malaise in the material that seems symptomatic of a creative slide that began some time ago. The band continues to emulate their heroes Iron Maiden in almost all respects, including some unfortunate self-plagarism and an tendency to rest on their laurels. “Fear is the Weakness” in particular seems pulled directly from No Prayer for the Dying, right down to the Nicko McBrain beat and the title itself.

This is two lackluster efforts in a row now from In Flames, and while I’m open-minded enough to refrain from immediately howling for a return-to-form record, I certainly wouldn’t find one amiss. 6 out of 10

Album Review – Samael “Lux Mundi” 2011

Posted in Album Reviews, FourFiveSix with tags , , , , , on January 12, 2012 by Lightning Slim

  Don’t get too excited. Samael seem to have rewound their sound close to the beginning and are now replaying it. In 2009 they released Above, an admitted throwback to their black metal roots that almost (and maybe should have) come out as a side-project. With Lux Mundi they continue their time-travel, this time landing about mid-career with a record that would fit comfortably between Passage and Eternal. Perhaps too comfortably.

The band’s signature style is definitely on display: industrial beats with martial orchestral flourishes march steadily through each track with the pomp of a Roman Triumph. Unfortunately, while Lux Mundi (along with its accompanying Antigod EP) capture the flavour of imperial majesty, they also contain something of a parade’s tedium and contrived artificality.

There’s nothing strictly wrong with the material, it’s just that what sounded revolutionary on Passage and confidently dominant on Reign of Light or Solar Soul now seems a bit tired and forced. It brings to mind the worrying notion that Xy and Vorph may not have any tools left, at least none that fit into the Samael toolbox. Panem et circenses! 6 out of 10

Album Review – Killswitch Engage “Killswitch Engage” 2009

Posted in Album Reviews, FourFiveSix with tags , , , , on March 9, 2011 by Lightning Slim

Monday: “Hey, chicken!”

Tuesday: “There’s some chicken left. That’s okay.”

Wednesday: “There better be some gravy kicking around.”

Thursday: “Unh, chicken again?!”

5 out of 10

Album Review – Delerium “Voice: An Acoustic Collection” 2010

Posted in Album Reviews, FourFiveSix with tags , , , , on October 18, 2010 by Lightning Slim

  The prolific Messrs Leeb and Fulber have given me much joy over the years, so it is with sorrow that I must condemn this shameful cash-grab. Presented as “acoustic” versions of electronic music tracks, these selections are designed to take full advantage of Delerium’s latter-day relationship with a number of female session vocalists and pop stars.

It’s an intriguing prospect, but it all falls a bit flat. The FLA family contains some of the world’s most skilled producers of lush soundscapes and multi-layered tracks, but they are not earth shattering songwriters. Stripping these songs of all that technical wizardry reveals most of them to be little more than passable cafe worldbeat jazz. Listeners may also feel a bit cheated in that the vocal tracks have largely been lifted directly from the source albums without re-recording them. It’s nice to hear worldwide mega-hit “Silence” unplugged but a bit of a bummer to have Sarah Mclachlan’s decade-old performance pasted onto it. Old chestnut “Flowers Become Screens” is the exception to this trend, with Kristy Thirsk providing an angle fresh enough to make us forget the lack of subterranean bass.

Three new full-strength electronic tracks are also included, more or less in the same lighter style as 2006’s Nuages du Monde, and therefore less than memorable. If any Delerium completists have room left on their shelves after the flurry of remixes, compilations and re-issues the band put out over the past few years, that may be the only chance Voice has to find a home.  4 out of 10

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