Archive for Reviews

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

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Album Review – Dethklok “Dethalbum III” 2012

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , on November 28, 2012 by Lightning Slim

  In online discussions about Metalocalypse I’m always troubled by the number of folks who claim no interest in the show, but call themselves Dethklok fans.* I disagree; in fact I think the exact opposite: I’m a Dethklok fan only insofar as I’m a Metalocalypse fan. I don’t really judge the music against other metal bands because a) it’s a satire and b) the band doesn’t actually exist. For me, the albums are good when they serve the needs of the show, and that’s the reason I loved the hilarious excess of Dethalbum while the sequel left me cold. Fake bands shouldn’t make real records, no matter how skilled the masterminds might be, lest it ruin the joke.

Dethalbum III splits the difference, producing ridiculous treats “I Ejaculate Fire” and “Crush the Industry” alongside “real” Dethklok tunes “Skyhunter” and “Rejoin”. Nathan Explosion is back to sounding like himself (a bone I had to pick with the second effort) and still lyrically obsessed with Deth, gore, and his fear of female genitalia. Production and musicianship are as solid as ever.

I’m sort of pissing into the wind here anyway; if you have any connection to Metalocalypse you’ve heard this record already. It’s good when it’s good, and better when it’s not afraid to be as dumb as its own premise. 7 out of 10

* Same dudes call Arch Enemy “derivative and generic”. Putting that assessment aside for now, am I alone in thinking that Dethklok’s guitar sound is heavily based on AE? Besides, Skwisgaar and Toki are the Amott brothers, no doubt about that.

Album Review – Danko Jones “Rock and Roll is Black and Blue” 2012

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , on October 22, 2012 by Lightning Slim

  There’s merely more of the same and then there’s heck yes more of the same. Danko Jones have never been ones to reinvent a properly spinning wheel, but whereas 2010 effort Below the Belt seemed a little bit tired, Black and Blue attacks the same ideas with a touch more pep. Perhaps it’s the inclusion of new blood behind the skins with Atom Willard, or maybe the fresh attention the band is getting from docu-pic Bring on the Mountain. I’m not going to speculate, since the Danko Jones ethos discourages over examination in any case.

Thematically, things stay pretty close to home. Danko the man likes women and their constituent parts “Legs”, this horndog obsession is a blessing and a curse “You Wear Me Down” and “Terrified”, and he intends to outlive his enemies “Conceited”. Pick up the expanded version for bonus track “In Your Arms” and the most Danzig of caterwauls you’ve heard all decade.

Energized and friskier than we’ve heard in a while, Rock and Roll is Black and Blue puts another solid volume into the Danko Jones library. Heck yes. 8 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 – King Diamond “Abigail” 1987

Posted in Album Reviews, Perfect Tens with tags , , , , on September 5, 2012 by Lightning Slim

  People who were already into Mercyful Fate or had heard Fatal Portrait might have had some advance warning, but the rest of the world was unprepared for the beautifully weird Abigail. Helmed by King Diamond, he of the KISS-angering makeup and laserlike falsetto, this concept album fires on all cylinders and marks a particular moment in metal history.

LaVeyan.

Litigious.

Abigail tells a story of cruelty, infidelity and supernatural revenge so potent that it  pisses on Twilight from space, but lest you think that it’s all Grand Guignol smoke and mirrors, rest assured that there is a bedrock of serious classic metal underlying the whole affair. Every solo is letter-perfect, the riffs are heavy and plentiful, and the drumming is of a calibre that may have gained Mikkey Dee his steady job. For the curious seeking proof-of-awesomeness, look no further than “The Family Ghost”, a tour-de-force featuring King doing all the voices in the narrative,  as well as some impressive guitar work from Andy LaRocque and Michael Denner:

Those unafraid of epaulettes and blurry 80’s camera work can see the official video here.

All in all, Abigail is massive metal that builds on the foundation of Mercyful Fate and stands as a pillar of serious musicianship. It’s the perfect, quintessential King Diamond record. 10 out of 10 

Album Review: Battlecross “Pursuit of Honor” 2011

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , on August 23, 2012 by Lightning Slim

  Geez, what a fun thrash record. Battlecross make a fantastic case for filling the void left behind in American thrash by the untimely departure of Himsa, and would slide neatly into a bill with Lazarus AD and Skeletonwitch. Severe guitar wizardry meets oddly poignant lunch-pail working class anger in these songs, with few wasted moments. A band to watch, for sure.

Highlights: The single “Push Pull Destroy” which may start its own dance craze, “Man of Stone” and “Better Off Dead’, the latter a classic hating-peoples-guts song that no thrash band should be without. 

Lowlights: Frequent and suspicious use of 909 kick-drum drops, which I suppose an old geezer like me is going to have to get used to.

Full marks also for putting what appears to be an ersatz “Sargent D” on the cover. 7.5 out of 10

Classic Album Review – Godflesh “Selfless” 1994

Posted in Album Reviews, Perfect Tens with tags , , , , , , , on July 8, 2012 by Lightning Slim

  Selfless occupies a sweet spot between Godflesh’s sludge industrial and drum ‘n bass periods, and it contains an embarrassment of riches. “Xnoybis” sounds like a child’s pot-and-pan marching band as interpreted by construction machinery, “Crush My Soul” is as infectious as it is twitchy, and “Anything is Mine” is still a perennial contender for Heaviest Riff Ever Made. Don’t believe me? Here it is:

All this is capped off with “Go Spread Your Wings”, a mammoth dirge of terrifying empty landscapes containing nothing but a Hitchcockian level of dread.

It’s obvious what charms this album had for a younger me, what with its bottomless pit of nihilism and whalloping sound, but it wasn’t until very recently that I figured out the secret at the dark heart of Selfless: It’s a stoner rock record.

Sure, it’s what stoner rock would sound like if Stanley Kubrick got hold of it. The guitars hold no fuzzy warmth, only loose-stringed snarl, but the riff-based construction and reliance on trance-like repetition are tried and tested weapons of the druggy doom set. And I think that’s the real magic of what Selfless did for us back in 1994, it showed us a new way to be heavy. Heavy didn’t have to be bombastic, it could also bleak, or trippy, or even uplifting (Justin Broadrick’s post-Godflesh project Jesu leans even further in this direction, creating almost worshipful sounds from the same instrumentation).

Selfless is truly a special record. Do yourself a favour and give it a listen, and if you come across the accompanying EP Merciless, so much the better. It is also a work of genius, but for me pride of place must go to Selfless for making an album-length statement of earth-shattering heaviness. 10 out of 10

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