Saturday, 20 December 2008

SINGLE REVIEW: BUCK-TICK - HEAVEN


"Heaven" is a little bland really which is disappointing coming from the legendary Buck-Tick. The song is a quasi-ballad that sounds like a happier "Gensou no Hana" or "Rain". It doesn't really catch the imagination or stay in your head. In fact, it actually becomes a little boring.
The B-side, "Makka na yoru" is better. It has a cool riff and its a faster rockier song that hints at the attitude of old BT.
The single is a pretty mediocre release i'm afraid, a little lacking in ideas and more of a paint-by-numbers BT song. Maybe wait for the album due out in February. It should be better.
Verdict: *** (3/5)

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

ALBUM REVIEW: FALL OUT BOY - FOLIE A DEUX



Fall Out Boy get bad press from a lot of people. Mostly unfounded. They aren't an emo band, let's get that out of the way. They are more of a glam-rock band. My Chemical Romance are an emo band. Last year's "Infinity on High" was an anthem-packing behemoth. It was hook-laden, instantly memorable song after song. "Folie a Deux", isnt as instantly memorable but there are still some fantastic tracks on here.

The album flows quite well with the arena-rocker "Disloyal Order Of Water Buffaloes" opening proceedings. The lyrics come across strongly right from the off with the line "Nobody Wants To Hear You Sing ABout Tragedy". The song then leads into the next, the single "I Don't Care" which is a solid hit.

The real gems on the album are the unweildly-titled "Headfirst Slide Into Coopestown On A Bad Bet" and "What A Catch, Donnie". The former is a dancey, club anthem in the offing. The second is a grandiose pop ballad with a star-studded sing-along at the end including Elvis Costello.

Its a good album, if not quite up to the standard of the last one. Fall Out Boy are still undeniably catchy rock.

For the iPod Playlist: "Headfirst Slide Into Coopestown On A Bad Bet", "What A Catch, Donnie".

Verdict: **** (4/5)

LIVE REVIEW: DUKE SPECIAL @ ST.GEORGE'S MARKET, BELFAST - DECEMBER 2nd 2008


Duke Special has changed. I remember seeing him play in 2006 on the first date of his five nights at a sold-out Empire in Belfast. The intimacy and showmanship was magical. Two years on and our beloved Vaudevillian piano-man has wandered a little from the trail. The new album, "I Never Thought This Day Would Come" wasn't the album I hopd for: a breath-taking evolution of his previous one. Sure Duke can still craft a catchy tune but the heart was gone. There were no real tear-jerkers, only a constant flow of grating jazz-folk and ska. Duke Special has become a clone of fellow Northern Ireland vaudevillain Black Sookie.
The show opened with a nice rendition of new song "Mockingbird Wish Me Luck" but it descended into ego worshipping as Duke unveiled a self-congratulating backing band (including some ridiculous Dio-looking twat on custom percussion). The best bit was honestly when Duke performed a solo piano version of "Freewheel" (ok he had a guitarist too). It was moving. Then the band performed a cover of The Specials' "Ghost Town". That one song summed up the entire night. Gone is the angst-ridden spectre behind an old piano or accordian, he is now bloated and bathing in the macabre waters of ska. The problem is Duke Special has almost lost touch with the fans. His merchandise didnt fly off the stalls and he constantly reminded us throughout the concert how much he was enjoying himself. No number of guest stars (of which there were many) could distract from a misguided preformance by Duke Special. Ditch the backing band dude. Get back to basics.
Verdict: *** (3/5) - Glimmers of what we love scattered amongst some failed experimentation.

LIVE REVIEW: PENDULUM @ THE KING'S HALL, BELFAST - NOVEMBER 24th 2008


We got free tickets to Pendulum outside Queens Students Union the day of the concert so decided to check them out. The Perth drum n' bassers cooked up a hell of a set that had so much energy and sound that there were many occasions where I found myself laughing in disbelief. These boys know how to put on a show. The crowd was eclectic, mixing emos with chavs in one euphoric, sweating mass of bodies. "Slam", "Tarantula" and "Propane Nightmares" were all performed perfectly and the massive countdown timer before the Encore was inspired.
Great concert but I wonder why there were tickets just being given away. Poor sales? I hope they come back anyway, I'm sure they made a lot of new fans.
Verdict: **** (4/5)

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

ALBUM REVIEW: GUNS N' ROSES - CHINESE DEMOCRACY


I can't believe I'm reviewing this. After all this time, Chinese Democracy has finally been released. I picked up my copy when it went on sale in Ireland last Friday and ever-since I have been listening, nay studying the album in great detail. Forget the leaks that surfaced during the summer. Forget the live versions you may have heard. All that matters is the physical CD in my CD player. All of the hype surrounding the release will prevent it from ever living up to expectations but I will give it a fair and honest review because I for one have not given up hope on Axl Rose and his new band.
Lets get the obvious out of the way: This is no Appetite For Destruction. Anyone hoping for that would be a fool. Is it on par with the Use Your Illusion twins? Hmm... no, probably not. Is it an unashamedly grand album that still rocks like a motherfucker? YES.
Chinese Democracy is a complex, rich album with so much going on that its hard to really describe so much of what you will hear. There are industrial touches, Queen-style pomp and Aerosmith-style bombast. At the heart of this however, is Axl Rose. His voice is still one of the most impressive things on the album. Years have not faded its ferocity and instead we have a meaner, more introspective Rose who's anger now has added weight from age.
The title track is powerful, riff heavy and has a low growled vocal delivery from Axl and leads into "Shackler's Revenge", a pounding industrial anthem that features a typically complex Buckethead solo and a soaring chorus. Awesome. "Better" is a schizophrenic pop-rocker that again hits the spot before the ballad (the first of many) "Street of Dreams". Originally known as "The Blues", "Street of Dreams" is an Elton John style song. Rose's voice is a little incongruous in his ballads but the song features many melodies so I still like it. "If The World" is a funky, Spanish-guitar number that unfortunately doesnt work for me. It's a little to "bad porn soundtrack" for my liking. Its the only real mis-fire in my opinion.
"There Was A Time" and "Catcher In The Rye" are epic ballads, the former sounding like a Bond theme song and the latter an old-school, major-key rock ballad. Both are good, if a little over-produced (but then again, what song on this album isn't?).
There are throwbacks to classic GN'R in "Scraped" and "Riad N' The Bedouins". Both are awesome. The lyric's "Don't you try to stop us now" pretty much reignite the old attitude we love and missed so much in the 17 years since Use Your Illusion I & II.
"Sorry" is a slow-paced, doomy ballad that spews anger rather than love. Its vintage GN'R. The next track is I.R.S. which is another hard-rock punch to break up the ballads. It's also quite classic GN'R in its composition. The final 3 songs are all epic ballads.
"Madagascar" has been floating around in the ether since at least 2001 so to hear it now in all its glory, finished is quite a treat. It features brass, guitars and a grooving drum beat and had this been played with the original line-up, would have undoubtedly been hailed as one of their masterpieces alongside "November Rain" and "Estranged". It features an awesome Buckethead solo set against the backdrop of samples from Martin Luther King and Platoon.
"This I Love" is a moody, piano and string orientated song sung by Rose, probably mourning the collapse of his relationship with Stephanie Seymour. Its impressive and for once on the album, shows a little fragility underneath the anger. The orchestral backing is beautiful and the rather epic guitar solo is wonderful. the album closes with "Prostitute", a slick ballad that features an aggressive chorus. Its a re-affirming song to close a re-affirming album. There are a few over-indulgences on the disc. In particular, every song is produced within an inch of its life. There is sometimes too much going on. Its a flaw that was found on the Use Your Illusion albums and one that we had no right to think would be reversed here. At its heart, its magic. For all the digital messing about, Axl knows that every good song centres on a good tune and he delivers in spades.
I loved Chinese Democracy. I honestly do. Its not the Guns of old but thats not a bad thing. AC/DC churned out an album that bored me with its lack of ideas. Axl Rose certainly doesnt lack ideas. His album is an acquired taste perhaps, but one which you can savour for a long, long time. I'm going on a limb here with a 5 star review but, it's been a while since I have been so happy that an album I have been waiting for for so long, surprised me in a good way. t's a triumphant return. My faith in him has been restored. Thank you, Axl.
For the iPod playlist: "Shackler's Revenge", "Better", "Riad N' The Bedouins", "Sorry", "Madagascar". Hell, throw on "This I Love" too.
Verdict: ***** (5/5)

SINGLE REVIEW: GACKT - JESUS


Love it. Cool Gackt is back. The song "Jesus" is hard rocking and expertly delivered by the multi-talented Gackt. The digital trickery of the Diabolos era is gone replaced by a smoother quasi-metal sound. His vocals are top-notch and the small snippets of English are sang well for a jrock vocalist (unlike Kyo's mumbled gibberish). This is a great song that was long overdue.
The B-side is a new version of "Sayonara" which is fine but the original is better.
Verdict: **** (4/5)

SINGLE REVIEW: THE SMASHING PUMPKINS - G.L.O.W.



"G.L.O.W." is a heavy track from chicago duet The Smashing Pumpkins (because truthfully thats all thats left of the band if you look at the credits). Billy Corgan is a difficult artist to follow as his musical indulgences are plentiful and his curiosity or flights of fancy are never reigned in. On the one hand this gives rise to masterpieces such as 1995's Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness but the flipside are Machina I & II and the rather soulless (if still awesome in my opinion) Zeitgeist.

I am a fan of the Pumpkins. I loved their Belfast gig in February of this year and I would consider seeing them again if they returned but despite this, there is a palpable coldness from Billy Corgan that resonates with every new release. Its almost as if he will do what he wants and we should like it regardless. It's off-putting and alienating and if the reports from their recent 20th Anniversary shows are to be believed, the fans have maybe had enough (lots of fans walked out and Corgan mocked them, the following night, another fan told Corgan on stage that last night's show "fucking sucked".)

"G.L.O.W." is standard and average and completely what I expected from the current iteration of the Pumpkins. Its heavy but soulless, like a Zeitgeist B-Side. Its not bad but its nowhere near the standard we know they are capable of.

The second track is the much-hyped and oft-played live "SuperChrist". Its a long, rambling track, full of bombast, with riffs that sound like the start of "Doomsday Clock" which isnt a bad thing. Live it sounds awesome. However, the vocals are annoying in their delivery and the constant back-beat is also grating. There is one nice bit in the middle with acoustic guitars and strings but its a fleeting moment of inspiration in a largely dull track.

I wanted to defend the band so much but its really beyond that now. Nostalgia only gets you so far. I'll always be a fan but I just want some inspiration again and less of Corgan's musical ego. Don't follow every idea you have man. Let it go, let it go...

Verdict: ** (2/5)

Monday, 24 November 2008

LIVE REPORT: SIGUR ROS @ ALEXANDRA PALACE, LONDON - NOVEMBER 21st 2008


Micheál caught the train to London to bring back a slice of Iceland. Here's what he had to say:
-----
More Suited to the fringes…

As the magnetism of Sigur-Rós’ most recent album had just begun to fade away and the listening endlessly began to grow tiresome and as the album takes its place among all those other greats that have preceded then it was time to revitalise my enjoyment and sheer awe at one of the most elemental bands in contemporary music. No better way to do this than engage in, what was for me, a quasi-religious, aesthetically perfect, well measured, supremely balanced night of entertainment.
Sigur-Rós’ potential to inculcate wonder and awe in their presence is largely undisputed yet, that still does not mean that one is left aghast at their overwhelmingly beautiful command of the live concert. Sigur-Rós entered into the rapturous applause of a crowd clearly hanging on in eager anticipation at what marvels would await them and indeed Sigur-Rós did bestow upon us an abundance of delights right from the off. For their first numbers Sigur-Rós played Sevn-e-glar and Ny Batterí proving that their older (and less mainstream) material holds just as much credence as the music that has propelled Sigur-Rós to fame within the last few years. This was simply a treat to listen and it only grew more enthralling with every alluring sonar ping and every violent stoke of Joní’s bow on his guitar. It was also extremely tactically placed, as from this moment Sigur-Rós were able to command the temperament of the crowd to ensure that it was totally in line with their disposition. With this power in hand Sigur-Rós opened the gig up to their more mainstream music with Við Spilum Endalaust, Hoppípolla Með Blóðnasir and Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur. It was at this point that one could notice, in spite of the vigor and energy that these songs were played with, Sigur-Rós were more comfortable with their more epic soundscape and while it was still a treat to hear these great tunes, it was possible to see the fragility and vulnerability of Sigur-Rós if they are pushed into the mainstream and that is why, in this authors opinion people should stop doing it.
The magnanimity of Sigur-Rós was soon to return in E-Bow and Sæglópur which also included the best visual element of the night, a huge water screen falling from the ceiling with images then blending into this ‘magical rain’. It was one of the design features, like many others, that gave itself so well to the music. Sigur-Rós finished the night with Festival, Hafssól and Gobbledigook and in the end it was the humorous, joyous, parodic and eccentric Sigur-Rós that left us demonstrating that they are truly capable of taking diversity to new levels of extreme. For the Encore we had All Alright and Popplagið. In the end despite its atmosphere, its well polished and brilliantly executed design and even its music, it was the personality of Sigur-Rós that won the day demonstrating that their character complexities, their artistic integrity and their musical ingenuity will remain sovereign lest anyone try to sell it off to the nearest wishing to push them into the ‘mainstream’.


ALBUM REVIEW: THE KILLERS - DAY AND AGE



Meh. Thats my honest opinion. It's not quite great, it's not quite bad either. There was a time when I hated The Killers. I was more snobbish than usual, despised their bland jock-rock sound and unfairly lumped them in with the vile, disease-ridden Kaiser Chiefs in a bucket of musical fail. However, reappraisal came a couple of years ago when I found myself liking a couple of songs here and there, particularly the rocking "When You Were Young". The Killers were saved from the bucket and dried off. "You're ok" I told them. I listened again to "Hot Fuss" and decided I had been a fool to dismiss them so easily.

However, I honestly and unbiasedly didnt like their new single "Human" when I heard it. Over time though, it grew on me. Its quite endearing in an 80s new-wave way. Even the much debated lyrics: "Are we human?/Or are we dancer?" didnt bother me as it seemingly has bothered the rest of their fanbase.

Disappointment spread like a dropped ice-cream at Disneyland when I listened to "Day And Age". Its just...meh. "Human" is undoubtedly the strongest track which is worrisome considering that it took so long to grow on me. The other tracks are instantly forgettable if not bad enough to make me condemn this album outright. I quite liked "A Dustland Fairytale" but maybe it stood out so much because the previous track "Joy Ride" was so mind-numbingly awful, it's space-reggae sounding like an even worse version of Dexys Midnight Runners' "Come On Eileen".

But look! REDEMPTION! Somehow, the final track on the album (well, if you don't count the now-mandatory bonus tracks) "Goodnight, Travel Well" manages to break out of the blandness and is genuinely as beautiful as it is brilliant. It's slow and gloomy, dripping with despair and angst. It certainly made me smile after sitting through so many sub-par tracks.

As for the aforementioned Bonus Tracks, they are better than most of the main album songs. "Forget About What I Said" in particular is quite good. In conclusion, its a disappointing album but maybe it will grow on me in time. For now though, its their worst album so far. Please inject some emotionality into the music guys. "Goodnight..." is so good because it has genuine emotional punch, like their early material. Its just vacuous stadium pop now.

For the iPod playlist: "Human", "Goodnight, Travel Well."

Verdict: ** (2/5)

LIVE REPORT: DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE @ ST.GEORGE'S MARKET, BELFAST - NOVEMBER 12th 2008


Death Cab For Cutie brought their West-coast melancholy to Northern Ireland for the first time with a well-chosen set focused primarily on their latest album "Narrow Stairs". Opening with the medium-paced "Bixby Canyon Bridge", its ending riffs led into fan favourite "The New Year" from their seminal 2003 album "Transatlanticism".
They didnt speak much, Ben Gibbard in stoic mood all night, save for one slightly worrisome moment (for us in the audience at least) when he addressed a random scumbag in the crowd who threw something at him. They quickly stormed through their set which, although impressive and cd-perfect, felt slightly empty as though nerves had taken over. It was afterall, the first date on their European tour.
The band played all the big hitters such as "I Will Follow You Into The Dark", played by Gibbard alone on an acoustic guitar, and finished with the epic, lighters-in-the-air "Transatlanticism".
All in all, a perfectly fine show but its hard not to feel slightly cheated by the lack of interaction. Maybe they'll feel more comfortable next time.
Verdict: *** (3/5)

Thursday, 13 November 2008

SINGLE REVIEW: THE GAZETTE - LEECH



"Leech" rocks like a motherfucker. Grooving bass and drums, low-end guitars and some funky vocal work from Ruki and the GazettE backing singers. It sounds like a mix between "Hyena" and "Filth In The Beauty" - always a good thing in my book. Great single.

The B-Side is "Distorted Daytime" which is a grungy metal track with angry shouted vocals and a rough melodic chorus. It's nice and heavy and another top notch B-Side from the band that never fob us off with live tracks or poor remixes.

Lastly, those of you who purchase the Auditory Impression of the single will get a third song called "Hole". Its bass heavy and funky. There is some psychedelic guitar going on but there are some bits that are a little too similar to the previous track. Perhaps more variation would help in future.

Nothing much to say overall, its a great single. "Leech" is obviously the highlight on the disc and its well worth your money alone.

Verdict: **** (4/5)

Friday, 7 November 2008

ALBUM REVIEW: DIR EN GREY - UROBOROS


Forget 2007's metalcore oddity that was "The Marrow of a Bone", the real majesty of Dir en grey has returned in the form of "Uroboros", one of the finest albums of the year. After doubting the band's continued descent into western screamo mediocrity (that they no doubt picked up from America when they went on tour), Dir en grey have returned to their roots to deliver an album bristling with ideas. Screams and riffage merge with mandolins and acapella singing and the result is one of the most defiantly oriental metal albums I've ever heard.
The disc opens with the moody, "Sa Bir" which is reminiscent of second album Macabre's "Deity" and sets the mood for "Vinushka", a 9 and a half minute tour-de-force that will rock you back in your seat. It contrasts from soft, semi-acoustic passages to all-out metal and some vocal pyrotechnics from Kyo. It is awesome from start to finish.
"Red Soil" is another Macabre-era sounding ditty that rocks hard between detuned jangly verses. "Doukoku to Sarinu" follows and is very heavy, Marrow-style but makes up for where Marrow's songs failed: melody. Its chorus is great.
Possibly my favourite new track is "Toguru". It is a slower, atmospheric groover with alt-rock guitar and smooth crooning vocals. Epic song. "Glass Skin" has been altered from the single version in that it now features English lyrics but I think the bass may also have been mixed louder too which adds to the song's greatness because its one of bassist Toshiya's best moments on the album.
The album lulls a little in the mid-section with "Stuck Man" and "Reiketsu Nariseba" providing decent if forgettable harshness to the albums sound. Although kudos to "Reiketsu Nariseba" for its quiet Oriental pause and Buddhist feel. We then come to the ballad "Ware, Yami Tote..." which isnt one of their best but still provides a needed repreive from the heaviness of the previous two tracks. It is followed by "Bugaboo" which is an ominous, grungey, trudging song that chainsaws riffs, allowing Kyo to growl against backing singing. Very impressive.
"Gaika, Chinmoku Ga Nemuru Koro" starts softly but turns into a quasi-thrash song with a great chorus. It preceeds single "Dozing Green" which is still awesome despite first being released a year ago.
The album closes with "Inconvenient Ideal", a powerful and moving ballad with beautiful vocals and arrangement, a stunning closer for a brilliant album. My faith has been rekindled. Dir en grey are back and better than ever.
For the iPod playlist: "Vinushka", "Toguru", "Glass Skin", "Dozing Green", "Inconvenient Ideal".
Verdict: ***** (5/5)

ALBUM REVIEW: GIRUGAMESH - MUSIC


Girugämesh's new album "Music" is confused and disappointing. For a band that had so much promise with their last album, they have decided to give up the direction they were going and instead become a GazettE cover band. With its DJ scratches and odd burst of rapping (the horror!), Giru have decided to load a revolver and put it in their mouths to see what happens. They have dodged the bullet this time but this is not the direction they should head in. I suggest they go back to the drawing board and begin to eliminate any traces of the words: DJ, Linkin Park, rapping.
The GazettE got there first and do it way better than this. Their album "Stacked Rubbish" was released last year and it rocked. Girugämesh's "Music" in contrast feels dated. "Break Down" has some nice verses but then the rapping and horrific poppy chorus rip through the song like a knife-weilding rapist. "Ultimate 4" is its ugly bastard child.
"Angry Juice" is an electronic experiment that sometimes works but frequently descends into structureless, forgettable dross. "Evolution" features awful vocal bursts of "evolution!" but it features a good chorus and the onslaught of effects make it an aural assault. One of the better tracks.
There is a brief instrumental interlude on Track 7 that again misses the mark. It has some pretty piano but its horrendous dance-beat makes it sound like a leftover from the Matrix soundtrack. It leads onto the dancey and bearable "puzzle".
"Ishtar" is ok. A little uninspired perhaps. Closing track "enishi" is fine too. Damn. The overall feeling of this album ranges from "Ugh" to "Meh". Sorry girugämesh but, MUSIC is a mis-step.
For the iPod playlist: "Evolution", "Puzzle"
Verdict: ** (2/5)

ALBUM REVIEW: KEANE - PERFECT SYMMETRY



Fuck, what is the world coming to?! I like this album?!

Believe it or not, Keane have actually impressed me with an album so unashamedly 80s and cheesy that it rocks. Lead single "Spiralling" is an inspired, retro-pop anthem that sets up the whole album and whilst the other songs can't match it for quality, they do put up a pretty good attempt. "You Don't See Me" is a dark song dressed as an 80s power ballad. Its filled with synth and piano but packs an emotional punch that is totally unexpected.

There are some clunkers: "Pretend That You're Alone" is a bit Dexys Midnight Runners and for that reason, unforgivable. Also, some of the songs are just disposable in that they just roll out filler-style. But for every moment of doubt, something happens to reaffirm the good points in the album. Its the cheesy record modern 80s lovers reminisce about. And for THAT reason, it gets a thumbs up from me.

For the iPod playlist: "Spiralling", "You Don't See Me".

Verdict: **** (4/5) - Against my better judgement, I can't help but love this album.

ALBUM REVIEW: RENTER EN SOI - MEGIDDO



I'm shocked. I actually like this. Rentrer en Soi (or RENTRER EN SOI as they like to be called after going to the DIR EN GREY school of Caps lock) were never a band I had much time for. I found their major label releases to be Diru clones and one of their recent singles was absolutely awful.

Then they decided to disband. As a send-off we are getting a greatest hits package and this rather brilliant mini-album called "Megiddo". Its heavy and melodic in all the right places and damn if I didnt have a smile on my face throughout. "Crusade" has perfect melancholic passages interspersed with growling and chunky riffs and an angelic chorus. "Baptism" is a v-kei style sinister growler and its great. "Damnation" starts with pounding drums and then a funky riff which cements the track in groove territory and those little cascading guitar licks are orgasmic. Vocally, they've never been better. The choruses are awesome and there are harmonies to rival even Kyo's.

Its still Diru-lite but now they have a better voice of their own. Its more like Luna Sea meets Dir en grey. Fantastic.

For the iPod playlist: Put it all on, its only a 5 song mini-album. And its their best.

verdict: ***** (5/5)

ALBUM REVIEW: SNOW PATROL - A HUNDRED MILLION SUNS


Snow Patrol are one of those bands you either like or you hate. Some people despise the melancholic pop-rock of our home-grown heroes but even the cynics can admit they have the odd catchy hit. In saying that, even the most ardent fan can admit that they can be as bland and as boring as MySpace.
We're in familiar territory with A Hundred Million Suns. Its chock-full of radio anthems to inspire quiet singalongs to those stuck in traffic. Its what they do and they're good at it. You just wish they would push themselves a little. That said, I found myself enjoying a few of the songs here. I enjoyed the odd beat and arrangement of the poignant "The Golden Floor". Its almost Radiohead-esque. Note: Almost.
The quieter songs are very much in the vain of Bell X1. They have a dark, if slightly passive mood and are quite enjoyable.
The last track is...unusual.
At 16.19 mins long, "The Lightning Strike: Parts I, II & III" is both spectacular and over-indulgent. It features beautiful piano movements and Coldplay style guitar chords and whilst interesting, one can't help but feel that it overstays its welcome. But it certainly is epic and fair dues to a band that I had thought incapable of stirring things up a bit. It should be quite impressive when / if they play it live.
I quite like A Hundred Million Suns. Overall its well written and if you can handle the slightly irritating boredom of their faster radio songs then the quiter songs on the album offer a nice reward.
For the iPod Playlist: "The Golden Floor", "The Lightning Strike" (if only for its epicness).
Verdict: *** (3/5)

ALBUM REVIEW: AC/DC - BLACK ICE



Sorry I havent posted anything in a while. I've been quite busy. However, I have had time to listen to quite a few new releases so its time for a review party.

First up is the long-awaited new album from hard-rock veterans AC/DC. Black Ice is everything you would expect from an AC/DC album. There are chunky, simplistic riffs, vocal-chord-damaging screeches and the type of bawdy lyrics that ooze good ol' fashioned hedonism. Angus Young said that rock n' roll was just about going out and having fun and getting your dick wet. That pretty much sums up the album. Its good fun but its also nothing we havent come to expect from AC/DC. Its pile-driving road-trip rock at its most predictable. Sigh... Its also, dare I say it, kinda boring... Apart from "Rock N' Roll Train" there arent many decent hard rockers on the album. Its just song after song of the same, not-quite-good-enough AC/DCness.

Preaching to the converted. But then again, the converted can populate a small continent.

For the iPod playlist: "Rock N' Roll Train", "War Machine".

Verdict: ** (2/5)

Friday, 10 October 2008

PV REVIEW: THE GAZETTE - LEECH



I LOVE IT. The GazettE look awesome in the Leech video. The song rocks but I'll talk about that next month in the single review. For now, lets just take in the visuals. The costumes are great. I love Ruki's new haircut. The camera work for the band parts is aggressive and jumpy just like the song. Great video for a great song.





Verdict: **** (4/5)

SINGLE REVIEW: NoGOD - MIDORI NO KAZE



Another nondescript VK band to review. NoGod are passable. They are better than a lot of indie VK bands out there but never impressive enough to make it big. NoGod's new single "Midori no Kaze" is ok. The first track, "Dou" is bland sugar-rock and catchy for all of 5 minutes. I guarantee you'll forget it before you even leave the room. "Seshuuka" on the other hand is a Phantasmagoria / D style gothic aggressive metal track that features listenable melodies and, good vocals and killer guitar solos. The track is worth a download. "Tsubasa" is fine too. Its a nostalgic summer track but not as annoyingly poppy as "Dou". Its more Laraku-esque.

Not bad. Worth a listen.

Verdict: *** (3/5)

ALBUM REVIEW: OASIS - DIG OUT YOUR SOUL


There's no need to beat about the bush. You can spend hundreds of words on an Oasis review or you can be direct and to-the-point. Oasis' latest studio album is actually quite good. Not great, but good.
More than ever, the Beatles' influence is heard throughout and though the songs are listenable, the lack of originality is grating. However, let it be said that track 7: "Falling Down" may be one of Noel's greatest songs. Its moody, pounding and also beautifully powerful with its orchestral backing and lamentful vocals. John, sorry Liam's song, "I'm Outta Time" is a Lennonesque ballad that is genuinely sweet proving that the boys work best when they are sensitive song writers.
There are some experiments in the form of the stoner sitar ditty "To Be Where There's Life" and the pseudo-psychedelia of "Bag It Up" and to be fair, they are pretty good.
Its not going to win awards. Oasis are never going to rekindle the fire of their mid-90s heydey but this effort at least halts the downward spiral they appeared to be on. Give it a listen. You may be surprised at the quality of most of the songs. I know I was.
For the iPod playlist: "Falling Down", "I'm Outta Time", "To Be Where There's Life".
Verdict: *** (3/5)

LIVE REPORT: OPPENHEIMER @ STIFF KITTEN, BELFAST & @ THE SQUARE PEG, WARRENPOINT - OCTOBER 3rd & 4th 2008


Oppenheimer have returned to blustery Norn Iron for a domestic tour. I caught 2 shows: a blistering performance at premier alternative club Stiff Kitten in Belfast and a not-so-well-recieved show at sea-side tavern, The Square Peg in Warrenpoint.
Both sets were pretty much identical featuring an evenly split mix of old classics and songs from the band's latest (and superb) album "Take The Whole Midrange And Boost It". Part of the appeal of Oppenheimer's live shows is the sheer charisma of the Belfast duo. Guitarist Rocky flails about their usually small stages with his enormous light-up guitar and sarcastically banters with drummer Shawn Robinson through his voice-changer microphone. Shawn on the otherhand, is a calm, soft-spoken man who lends a unique innocent charm to many of the band's songs.
In Stiff kitten, the band were immediately at home. A slight technical failure during the first song, "My Son, The Astronaut" was taken in stride with the band holding a light-hearted vote as to which song they should play. Highlights included a fantastic, energetic rendition of "Saturday Night Looks Bad To Me" from their debut album and the free gift of a 7" vinyl containing their new single.
In Warrenpoint however, the band played to an audience so tepid and braindead they may as well not have shown up. The Square Peg is infamous for its tolerance of underage drinking and as such the place was filled with idiotic drunken 15 year olds and cheeky country bumpkins who hadn't a clue who was on stage. This wasnt the case for too long as a police raid soon emptied the bar leaving only a dozen or so people to watch the band finish their set. One guy at the front messed with Rocky's equipent leading to short flare of rage from the Oppenheimer guitarist and an angry walk into the crowd, his guitar flying wildly. Professionalism won out and in the end, he returned to the stage and continued to play. I genuinely felt sorry for them. They deserve bigger and better crowds than this.
Support at Stiff Kitten was provided by The Dudley Corporation (decent) and Not Squares (so bad they should be locked in a box and thrown into the ocean).
Verdict:
@ Stiff Kitten: **** (4/5)
@ Square Peg: ** (2/5) - NOTE: This is not the band's fault. It was the audience & the venue.

Friday, 3 October 2008

SINGLE REVIEW: PARAMORE - DECODE


In the emo scene there are two types of bands: good ones and shit ones. For every good band like My Chemical Romance there is a bowel troubler like Elliot Minor. Paramore however are quite good and this single from the upcoming Twilight OST is moody and gothic in all the right places.
It sounds like the song "Let the Flames Begin" from the band's most recent album "Riot!" but its still a great comeback single from a band who are really coming into their own. The song has some great wailing guitars and Hayley Williams' voice is impressive (as always). For such a young band, they really put most emo bands to shame (where some should really stay).
Verdict: **** (4/5)

Saturday, 20 September 2008

ALBUM REVIEW: KINGS OF LEON - ONLY BY THE NIGHT

I'm a little shocked by some of the mixed reviews this album has recieved. Yes its a little different from their previous albums but dont let that put you off. "Only By The Night" is a superb album. Many of the songs here are slower paced than expected but they are interesting experiments that showcase the wealth of talent these boys possess. The lead single, "Sex on Fire" is a 5-star song that perfectly reflects the type of gripping sexuality in so many Kings of Leon tracks exude but it is not reflective of the album which is thoughtful and deliberate, perhaps even pop / quasi-shoegaze in places (The spacey "Manhattan" is full of echoing guitars and floats along like a typical U2 song).

The album opens with the brilliantly claustrophobic "Closer", which flirts with industrial beeps and guitar effects like a poppier Nine Inch Nails song before shifting up a gear with a chunky riff in the next single "Crawl". "Use Somebody" is undoubtedly a stadium anthem for years to come with its Coldplay-esque backing vocals and bittersweet lyrics. Its a moment of sincerity from a band who often conjure imagery of girls wetter than New Orleans. Contrast that with the aggression and pride of "Be Somebody" and we have a song that hits all the right notes and succeeds at all its ambitions.

The slow pace of the album isnt a flaw. The songs dont overstay their welcome and the CD clocks in at 42mins, in fact it arguably contributes to the rich flavour of the album as a defiantly bold step from a band rocking festivals on both sides of the Atlantic. Its not perfect, there are some inevitable lulls but they dont last long.

I loved it. Sure a few more obvious "hits" would have been nice but you to admire the bravery of Kings of Leon. They dont care how the world judges them, they arent afraid to evolve their sound. It takes balls and as we all know, Kings of Leon know how to use them.

For the iPod playlist: "Closer", "Sex on Fire", "Use Somebody", "Be Somebody".

Verdict: **** (4/5)

Monday, 15 September 2008

NEWS: X JAPAN'S UPCOMING SCHEDULE

アジアプロモーション前日


Yoshiki (above), unveiled a few of the things planned for X fans today. TheOtherEast reports that the following announcements were made:

-The countdown live has been announced, more info coming over the next two weeks.
-World Tour dates to be announced over the next two weeks
-New BEST album will go on sale on 29th October
-The Paris live was re-confirmed.
-A Christmas LIVE concert
-X Japan song in the game Rock Band. (Likely on the Japanese port of the first Rock Band which hasn’t come out yet which would then likely come to other regions via DLC
-In 2010 a movie involving the deceased Akira Kurosawa will be released in the states with Yoshiki produced music.
-A new “intense” song by X!
-Re-confirming of the 3 Days reunion coming to DVD
-A Violet-UK release


I'll keep you updated. Thanks to TheOtherEast for the info, I swear, Lee Miller is like a gold mine of X info.

NEWS: PRAISE THE LORD! RADIOHEAD ARE BUSY!


Radiohead are working on album number eight. Speaking to BBC6 Music, Colin Greenwood said: "We've finished the main bulk of it and we're off to Japan in a couple of weeks to finish it off".Guitarist Ed O'Brien added: "We're still talking about doing some stuff and we're really excited about it. First we came off tour to do some writing and we wanted to just carry on doing it because it was so brilliant".

There is a God. And he likes Radiohead.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

ALBUM REVIEW: METALLICA - DEATH MAGNETIC


"T-Rex doesnt want to be fed, he wants to hunt"
- Dr. Alan Grant, from Jurassic Park

When a band of metal dinosaurs barges into the room, you tend to notice. "Death Magnetic" is the new album from the king of dinosaur bands, Metallica. Now, if you've seen Jurassic Park (and if you havent then you shall be first against the wall), you will know that dinosaurs produce quite a bit of shit. In Metallica's case, this was 2003's "St.Anger", a turgid pile of crap that has only festered over time. If anything was to be salvaged from the burning carcass of that album, it was the culling of the band's inflated egos.

So, what we have in "Death Magnetic" is the sound of a band reborn?

Er....not exactly.

This is the Metallica we all know. Its still the gnarled, raw metal band we have come to love. The songs are a throwback to their heydey, full of lightening solos, pounding drums and chunky riffage. James Hetfield does his signature growl /elongation of words and all in all its a standard Metallica album. Its a whole different stratosphere from "St.Anger".

However, by deciding to return to traditional Metallica standards, the band have exposed the problems that have always dogged their music. At times the songs are focusless and descend into over-long bouts of soloing and bars that are carried out more times than necessary (apparently some cheeky fan has edited the album into a shorter, tighter package and released it online).
Most of the songs coast over the 8 minute mark leading to an overall feeling that producer Rick Rubin should have edited the hell out of the band's babies.

But then would it be the Metallica we wanted? Maybe part of the reason we love their particular brand of metal is because of its faults. Maybe we really want solos that last for a good 5 minutes. Undoubtedly the fans will be pleased. I can appreciate that sometimes we cant be hard on a band that decides to revert to the good ol' days. Hetfield & Co. know what works. It took a shit album and a lot of therapy to get this far but now we have the band we remember. Jurassic Park made us remember how cool dinosaurs were. "Death Magnetic" is a reminder of how good Metallica are. But like the dinosaurs, the evolution stops here.

For the iPod playlist: "The Day That Never Comes", "The Unforgiven III", "Cyanide".

Verdict: *** (3/5) (Its not their best but its fun at least)

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

SINGLE REVIEW: KAGRRA, - UZU




Now we're talking. I love Kagrra, but I will also be the first to admit that sometimes their songs sound the same. Its also hard to deny that their recent albums, especially "Core", lacked the inventiveness of older albums liked "San". However, new single "Uzu" is a solid stab at mixing things up. Its a darker single for the band, and yet its still very oriental in its use of koto (played by guitarist Shin) and its Ghost in the Shell-style backing synth-choral chants.


Isshi is still an incredible vocalist with an extreme vocal range allowing him to hit high notes with his impressive falsetto and yet still deliver capable middle range verses. Lets not forget the blistering guitar solo and koto breakdown that adds a bajillion awesome points to an already awesome song.


"Hozuki" is a mellow, relaxing koto / acoustic guitar track with a soft, yet beautiful chorus that becomes an orchestral power-ballad in the last third. Its understated for the most part and a lovely addition to the Kagrra, song catalogue.


The 3rd song on the single is "Shigatsu tsuitachi", the bouncy pop number that previously appeared on "Core". It was one of the best tracks on the album and its inclusion here is to mark its use in a new tv show.


Well done Isshi & Co. Its the best Kagrra single in years.


Verdict: **** (4/5)




SINGLE REVIEW: DIR EN GREY - GLASS SKIN


Its been a long, long 11 months since Dir en grey released their last single, the explosive yet melodic "DOZING GREEN". Their new single is a medium tempo ballad reminiscent of their earlier stylings with its clean vocals and intricate, delicate guitar which soars rather than crunches thus distancing itself from the last ballad Dir en grey released (2003's "Kasumi"). Interestingly, the liner notes reveal that singer Kyo is responsible for this song. Last year's album "The Marrow of a Bone" was a raw, angry album with little or no time for poignant musings or delicate flights of fancy such as "GLASS SKIN". Even its ballads were claustrophobic and oppressive in order to maintain the clenched-fist darkness of the album.

"GLASS SKIN", like "DOZING GREEN" before it, is a step in a new direction. No Dir en grey album is the same and the singles from the upcoming "UROBOROS" are definitely quite far removed from the scream-infested quasi-thrash of "Agitated Screams of Maggots" or the progressive, cascading wall of noise that was "Ryoujoku no Ame". "GLASS SKIN", unsurprisingly, has a glassy feel to it. The piano-led intro and echoing, wailing guitars are crisp and cold sounding creating a fragile, brittle song that beautifully pricks the melancholy we have greatly missed in recent Dir en grey songs. Kyo's singing is soft and gentle but rises to a more depairing tone at the end, which although obviously causing a massive strain on his voice (he's downright out-of-tune at times near the end), doesnt detract from the emotion he packs into his performance.

Shinya relies on a lot of off-beats in his drumming and Toshiya's bass is almost drowned out which is a shame because he is without doubt one of the best bassists in Japan right now. Although arguably, a louder bass would possibly take away from the delicate sound the band is going for with the song. If I had to fault the single, the song isnt too inventive in terms of its composition. Kaoru mentioned that "UROBOROS" would be a very experimental album but honestly this song doesnt stray very far from the usual ballad formula. Heck its not even close to the epic "Aint Afraid To Die" (to date, possibly Diru's greatest and most beloved song).

The B-sides are unusual. Track 2 is a remake of the song "undecided" from 2002's album "kisou". Written by guitarist Die, the remake bares all his trademark flourishes only this time the semi-acoustic track has become fully acoustic and is infused with a classical spanish guitar sound. Kyo's singing is perfect. He doesnt strain for high notes and his soft, beautiful tones are soothing, especially when accompanied by the silky, intertwining guitars and haunting choral backing. Its unusual that a B-Side is just as good, if not better than the A-side but "undecided" is a stunning reminder of just how good Dir en grey can be when they dont get bogged down by western standards of rock music.

Also on the disc is an unplugged version of "Agitated Screams of Maggots". Yes you read that right, "UNPLUGGED". I really dont know what to make of it. They have taken the song, one of Diru's most violent, disturbing songs and reinvented it with a classical, almost vaudeville-style piano. Kyo's screams are now filtered through radio static and backed by a ghostly choir. Its still extremely harsh-sounding but at least its something different from a band who were in real danger of becoming stale last year. Its an oddity if nothing else.
Finally, the limited edition of the single closes with a solid live performance of "Ryoujoku no Ame". Its a pretty decent single from the japanese heavyweights and it makes the anticipation for "UROBOROS" almost unbearable. Roll on November!

Verdict: **** (4/5)

SINGLE REVIEW: D - YAMI NO KUNI NO ALICE



D are a band that despite their attempts, havent really captured the imagination the way PS Company's catalogue of bands have. A few years ago, D were my vote for big success but bands like the GazettE and D'espairsRay have stolen the spotlight. Instead, D decided to stick to their vampiric image and create music that repels as much as enthralls with its baroque composition. The new single "Yami no Kuni no Alice" is typical of D's work. Its defiantly "indies" sounding in terms of production and Asagi's vocals still sound like a poor Gackt. I wont lay into Asagi though because I actually quite like his singing. The chorus of the song is catchy and the melodic harmony of the word "Alice" is really nice. There is some chunky GazettE-esque riffing in there and structurally its all over the place, thereby never going stale. All in all a success for the relatively unsuccessful D.

The b-sides arent as good: "Hamon", "Mad Tea Party" (or "Rosarium" if you picked up the other version of the single) and a voiceless version of the A-side are very much the side-salad to the "Alice" steak. You can eat it or leave it. The chef wont care.

Verdict: *** (3/5)

Friday, 5 September 2008

NEWS: DIR EN GREY NEW ALBUM TRACK LIST REVEALED!



The track list from Dir en grey's 7th studio album "Uroboros" has been unveiled on the band's official website:


01. SA BIR

02. VINUSHKA

03. RED SOIL

04. DOUKOKU TO SARIME ("Lament & Leave")

05. TOGURO ("Coil")

06. GLASS SKIN

07. STUCK MAN

08. REIKETSU NARISEBA ("Cold-bloodedness")

09. WARE, YAMI TO TE… ("My darkness")

10. BUGABOO

11. GAIKA, CHINMOKU GA NEMURU KORO ("Victory, The Silence Of Sleep")

12. DOZING GREEN

13. INCONVENIENT IDEAL


I love some of those song titles. "Sa Bir" is most likely the arabic word "sabir" meaning "patience" and "Vinushka" is hindi for "Deciever". Can't wait for this album to drop. Also, the previously announced song "Third Time Does The Trick" has been renamed "Stuck Man". The website also hints at english versions of "Dozing Green" and "Glass Skin". Interesting...

SINGLE REVIEW: FALL OUT BOY - I DON'T CARE


Fall Out Boy have put their new single up on their website and its quite good indeed. It doesnt push the envelope too far but its a solid groover with a biting guitar. Lyrically its clever (as to be expected) and it has the typical FOB underlying sleaze factor that made previous singles so delicious too. Expect this one to get people on their feet in rock clubs everywhere.

Verdict: *** (3/5)

Thursday, 4 September 2008

NEWS: X JAPAN - THE FUTURE ANNOUNCEMENT



(This info comes courtesy of TheOtherEast.com)


As the world's biggest X Japan fan, I felt it my duty to report that on September 15th in Tokyo, Yoshiki will address fans on the future plans of X Japan (a.k.a: Best. Band. EVAAAAAAAR). The first 3000 fans to arrive with proof of their fandom (like a cd of poster) will recieve an exclusive X Japan "World Tour Start Commemoration Street Army" T-Shirt.


I want one. I want one now.


Nikkan Sports also reports that an X Japan concert will be held in Japan before the end of the year. Cool I guess but they just had 3 mega-fuckin-amazing gigs this year, the big news is the World Tour. There is a strong chance that I may see my favourite band of all time. If it happens, then I will be the crying, screaming mess of a man in the front row. And you can thank Yoshiki for that.


More news as it happens. For now, here's the video for their last single "I.V."



Tuesday, 2 September 2008

SINGLE REVIEW: KINGS OF LEON - SEX ON FIRE



"Sex on Fire" is the first single from the new album "Only By The Night" and it proves beyond doubt that Kings of Leon are one of this decade's mega-bands. The song effortlessly carries the southern swagger and big-hearted yowling of vintage Kings but with a power that mirrors the jack-hammer these Tennessee boys are taking to the current rock scene. With a howling guitar and driving bass, the song flies through its short three and a half minute run-time while Caleb Followill delivers yet another powerhouse vocal performance. His trademark yokel-croon is more than capable of running through a myriad of emotions. Its definitely another classic track from the band and one that only heightens the anticipation for the new album and UK stadium tour.

If this is a sign of the future, then I guess we must bow down to our new masters, the Kings of Leon.

Verdict: ***** (5/5)

Monday, 1 September 2008

PV REVIEW: DIR EN GREY - GLASS SKIN

Well the PV finally surfaced on YouTube and its great. The song is a return to greatness for Diru and I look forward to reviewing the single in the next 10 days but for now, lets just study the video.



The band are finally visible again after a couple of years of hiding their faces. There is a LOT of slow motion but it works well with the snow-covered beauty of the landscape. The whole video has a CG-finish to its visuals but its better than the huge number of bland "performance" videos these days. Its a winner.

Verdict: **** (4/5)

Single Review of "Glass Skin" coming soon!

Saturday, 30 August 2008

ALBUM REVIEW: THE VERVE - FORTH


The Verve played a blinder at Oxegen this year (promise we'll get a live report soon) and its on the crest of this magnificent wave that they release a new album "Forth". Featuring the standout anthem "Love Is Noise", its fair to say this one was quite highly anticipated.
What a pity then that "Forth" trudges through enough shite you'd think it was Charlie Dimmock. You see what most people fail to remember is that the best album by The Verve is their greatest hits. Apart from the stunning singles they put out in the nineties, The Verve are truthfully just an average band. They are also painfully dull.
"Forth" doesnt buck the trend. Dont get me wrong, I really like the new single "Love Is Noise" with its pounding beat and unusual hook and I think the opening track "Sit And Wonder" has a smouldering Jim Morrison vibe to it that works really well but for the most part the album just drags itself along, going through the motions. There is a spaced-out stoner gloss on the songs that tries its best to remove the band's association with football terrace anthems. They've decided to leave that to The Fratellis it would seem (Editor's Note: The Fratellis latest album is actually really good!).
All in all its a rather bland and boring return from Richard Ashcroft and his not-so-merry men. I can really only see the huge fans (or the extremely stoned) enjoying this album or even listening to it more than once.
To quote track 5, "I See Houses": "I get the feeling I've been here before..."
For the iPod playlist: "Sit And Wonder", "Love Is Noise".
Verdict: ** (2/5)

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

SINGLE REVIEW: L'ARC~EN~CIEL - NEXUS 4 / SHINE


L'Arc~en~Ciel has had an amazing run of high quality singles over the past year: "Seventh Heaven", "My Heart Draws A Dream", "Daybreak's Bell", "Hurry Xmas" and "Drink It Down", all of which were 5-star songs in my opinion, so its with a little disappointment that the new double A-side single "Nexus 4 / Shine" doesnt quite reach those highs.
"Nexus 4" is a messy, over-produced song that just doesnt cut it. It has its moments and its undeniably catchy but its not one of their better singles. In fact just before the solo, it almost runs out of steam, not quite knowing where to go musically.
"Shine" however, is much better. Its not brilliant but right from the start its much more sure of itself with a synthesizer intro morphing into a laid-back, summer anthem. Its quite "Jojoushi"-esque only cheerier. Hyde's singing is also stronger on this track, reminiscent of older-L'arc songs.
Its obvious that neither song was strong enough to be a single in its own right (moreso in the case of "Nexus 4", "Shine" might have had a chance) so a double A-side was really the only way to go for a band who in all likelihood wont be releasing an album in the next 3 years. They would have served better as album tracks but I guess we can cut Laraku some slack. They are just coming down from a stellar year of five 5-star singles and a 5 star album. They've earned their break. Lets just hope when they eventually come back (2011?) that they return with a stronger single.
Verdict: *** (3/5)
You can watch the videos of "Nexus 4" and "Shine" here:






I quite like the videos actually. "Nexus 4" doesnt really take any chances. The whole skyscraper idea is nice but the making-of footage inserted into the video is a tad boring. "Shine" has an awesome video though. Its very "Zephyr Song" (Red Hot Chili pepeprs) but the cg-lushness is in-keeping with the song's style. Its gorgeous to look at too.

ALBUM REVIEW: SLIPKNOT - ALL HOPE IS GONE


"All Hope Is Gone" is the 4th album from the masked Iowa nine-piece. I'm not a Slipknot fan and honestly sometimes they remind me of Dethklok but even a non-fan can appreciate some of the songs on here. Its all very heavy but its still quite interesting. "Gematria" may be a bit generic but songs like "Psychosocial", a pounding, grooving rocker, and "Dead Memories", a straight-up conventional rock song are listenable and help brake up the stale metalcore formula.
"Gehenna" is a slow, quasi-grunge track that stands out for showing that the Des Moines boys have more up their sleeves than nu-metal. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the presence of a power-ballad. "Snuff", like Vol.3's "Vermillion, Pt2" is an angsty, clean-sung wrist-cutter and whilst it sounds almost a little too similar to Vol.3's softer songs, at least changes the tone of the album.

The bonus tracks are: the almost pop-rock "Child of Burning Time" (which is actually really good!), the dirge-like "Till We Die" (which is also really good!) and a remix of "Vermillion, Pt2".
I definitely recommend getting the version with these bonus tracks because they are highpoints for sure.

For the iPod playlist: "Psychosocial", "Dead Memories", "Child of Burning Time".

Verdict: *** (3/5)

Sunday, 24 August 2008

ALBUM REVIEW: DANNY ELFMAN - HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY OST


Danny Elfman has created some great scores. Lets face it, he is the composer of choice for gothic slendour and Hellboy II is a fine offering indeed. Recalling the beautiful choral arrangements of Edward Scissorhands and Batman Returns, Elfman has crafted another gem of a score. Guillermo del Toro's film is a fantastical feast for the eyes and it needed a score capable of matching the visuals.
Fans of Marco Beltrami will be disappointed that none of his music from the first movie returns for the sequel. There are no obvious character themes but it matters not as the soundtrack flows quite well, telling a story all on its own. There are many different trademark Elfman flourishes that pop their heads. The bombastic, eccentric side of Elfman surfaces in "Hallway Cruise" and "A Troll Market" while the grandiose, romantic stylings we loved in his earlier works such as "Edward Scissorhands" are alive and well in the majestic track "The Last Elemental". If you have seen the film, you will understand the beauty of the track even more.
For an action movie soundtrack, Elfman's music is unashamedly beautiful and delicate in places. "A Big Decision" is quiet and moving and easily displays Elfman's penchant for childhood innocence in thematic composition. He will jerk the tears out of your eyes if need be. Subtle he aint but damn if he cant tug on those heartstrings. Yet his approach is not formulaic or stale. While other film composers such as Hans Zimmer simply take a score out of the freezer and microwave it to give a flavourless, processed soundtrack, Elfman always makes an effort to surprise. Hellboy II is not dominated by a main theme or frequent reprises of melodies. Instead it takes a more complex, darker gothic route more akin to "Sleepy Hollow" than "Batman" using a strong male choir to heighten the sense of forboding in this dark fantasy soundtrack. His string section is quite low and haunting as in "Sleepy Hollow", not soaring as in many superhero movies.
Like the film, the soundtrack is a magical, grand and outlandish creation. It showcases the best of both sides of Elfman, the carnival-esque and the heartbreaking. Its golden.
Verdict: **** (4/5)

ALBUM REVIEW: NINE INCH NAILS - THE SLIP



Trent Reznor is back and his latest offering is certaninly no slip. His band (well, really its just him) Nine Inch Nails have been sitting pretty on top of the industrial rock throne for years now. Can the aging dinosaur still rock with the newer kids on the block?

Simply put, yes. In fact,"The Slip" still puts all other imitators to shame. There is something undeniably authentic about Reznor's music that all its poilitical and social commentaries feel honest and meaningful. His lyrics are still angst-ridden and furious but none of them feel forced or misguided.

The album is quite brisk even at 43 mins with the sound fluctuating from fuzz-laden groovers like "1,000,000", the disco-noir of "Discipline" to the despairng, isolated piano of "Lights in the Sky" the ambient brooding drone of "Corona Radiata". Its all very bold and whilst a few songs are just standard NIN, you cant help but applaud Reznor's unfaltering vision.

It should also be noted that the album has been offered for free download from the official site. Trent Renor is typically anti-label and even has gone so far as to release "The Slip" with a Creative Commons license, letting fans remix the album as they see fit, share it with their friends, or even broadcast it as part of a podcast.

Nine Inch Nails have always been at the forefront of innovative rock and "The Slip" is no different. By turns claustrophobic and punch-packing, the album lingers in the mind. A haunting and disaffected return from Trent Reznor.

You can officially download the album for free here: http://dl.nin.com/theslip/signup

For the iPod playlist: "1,000,000", "Lights in the Sky".

Verdict: **** (4/5)

Friday, 15 August 2008

GUEST REVIEWER MICHEÁL: ALBUM REVIEW: JAKOB DYLAN - SEEING THINGS


Escaping that Shadow.


Having been introduced to this album by the maestro Ken Bruce as he selected it as Radio 2’s Album of the Week, I was keen to check out Jakob Dylan’s latest musical venture into the realm of solo post-folk. I am pleased to report that his contribution is totally in the affirmative.
The Album “Seeing Things” exudes the type of confidence that this listener has come to associate with the subtly, complexity and more importantly depth that is commanded of the ever aggrandizing indie/folk genre. The album from the start appears a type of retrospective exposition both musically and lyrically, and one cannot ignore the obvious influences on this songwriter’s style (he is after all the son of one of the undisputed heavyweights of folk). Musically it is quaint, if not borderline idiosyncratic, folk. It forgoes any real level of complexity and productive value meaning that due respect and prominence is granted to the lyrics, and it is in the lyrics that this listener found the real fruits of this album. Edgy, philosophical and quietly political, Dylan brings melancholic sentimentality, romanticism (particularly in This end of the Telescope) and profundity to a genre that in my opinion was beginning to lack in all of the above
However, with all this positivity, one cannot help to note the unfortunate trap that Dylan has fallen into and that is summed up best by the old cliché that “The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree”. Indeed the album is laced both musically and lyrically with traces of Bob Dylan, and as much as I respect him, it his here that we can see the album becoming an increasingly fragile endeavour.
As a result of his attempts at nostalgic folk the album could be construed in parts as being bland and unimaginative. However, if one is able to see past all of these small inadequacies, mainly if one is able to look past the ‘Dylan’ brand, then the rewards will be plentiful. They will be lyrical depth, baptismal ingenuity to a sinful genre and most importantly an Album that just sounds really nice.

For the iPod Playlist: "This eye to the Telescope" and "Costa Rica"
Verdict: **** (4/5 )

Saturday, 9 August 2008

PREMATURE EVALUATION: SINGLE REVIEW: MUCC - AGEHA



Hey, got an early review here of MUCC's new single called "Ageha". I just thought I would review it because the PV has been floating around on YouTube for a while now. What can I say, I ADORE this track.

I am not a follower of MUCC's work, I only know a handful of songs (although i picked up the Gokusai album when i saw it in my local HMV) but I must say, this song rocks my little heart. Its produced by Ken (of L'Arc~en~Ciel) and it is an assault on the ears. From its grinding rock-out riff to its melodic chorus and synth-infused Middle 8 (i'm not sure if you can call it a middle 8 but heck thats what i'm calling it), it is balls out awesome and I'm ready to sing its praises for finally giving me something good to listen to in a summer void of brilliant jrock releases.

The single isnt out yet but when it is, pick it up for sure.

Check out the video here:



Verdict: **** (4/5)

SINGLE REVIEW: SADIE - GRIEVING THE DEAD SOUL



Oh hey I'm sorry but I didnt order any of the generic growling visual kei music. Seriously, how to Sadie's fans not see that their fave band is nothing more than a girugamesh tribute band? In a scene populated by Diren grey, girugamesh and Rentrer en Soi, why the hell to we need Sadie when their releases sound like this? "Grieving the dead soul" (another tour de force in bad engrish) is what happens when a band has no sound of their own. The bass is cool, no question, but everything Sadie does has been done better by so many other bands. The growling vocals are just bland, the chorus is boring and the whole things smacks of "hey lets make our song sound like "Volcano" by girugamesh". Sorry Sadie, but you should have called your single "FAIL".

Verdict: * (1/5 - either do something original or get the fuck out)

SINGLE REVIEW: D'ESPAIRSRAY - KAMIKAZE


For a while I really was quite fond of D'espairsRay. They had a couple of interesting albums (MIRROR was undoubtedly one of my faves from last year) and I applauded when they released the controversial single "Squall" which marked the advent of a more radio-friendly D'Ray.

Sadly, this style has stuck. "Kamikaze", like the last single "Brilliant" is just another paint by numbers D'Ray song and unfortunately, is another one that lacks the bite of songs like "TRICKSTaR" and "Screen". Is it too much for a less formulaic approach. Sure the filtered vocals are a nice touch but its just another release to put on the "meh" pile. Good, but uninspired and ultimately forgettable.

But hey, at least the cover artwork is outstanding.

Verdict: *** (3/5)

Monday, 4 August 2008

NEWS: DIR EN GREY - NEW ALBUM "UROBOROS"


Dir en grey will release their seventh studio album on November 12th. This latest offering from the Osaka 5-piece is entitled "Uroboros" and will be made available in 3 editions: a single-disc regular edition, a limited edition with bonus unplugged disc, and finally a much more expensive Deluxe Edition which includes the bonus disc, sticker, extra making-of dvd and 2 LPS.

The album will include the band's last single "Dozing Green", the upcoming single "Glass Skin" and the newly announced, "Third Time Does The Trick".

I have mixed opinions about Diru's last album, "The Marrow Of A Bone". I loved some of the tracks, particularly the ballads, but on the whole it felt rushed and generally lacking. About half of the album rocked whilst 3 or 4 songs felt uninspired or lazy. Not to mention it was a frickin' metalcore album. I still liked it but i am glad they have changed direction again. I feared they would descend into metalcore mediocrity but "Dozing Green" was a breath of fresh air and if the descriptions of "Glass Skin" are anything to go by, "Uroboros" may be the bands best album yet.

I have faith in Kaoru.


P.S- The updates have been a little slow lately, so i apologise. I promise the Oxegen report is coming and i will post it eventually!

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

SINGLE REVIEW: VAMPS - LOVE ADDICT / TIME GOES BY


I'm getting a little tired of Hyde's grunge-wannabe style. As much as I loved "Faith", his forced rasp that he adopts for his hard rock songs is annoying. Hyde can sing well, just listen to his L'Arc~en~Ciel work and previous solo stuff, so I cant see any reason for his deliberate vocal sabotage.

Personally I had been holding out for a return to the style of "Roentgen" but alas it looks like those days are well and truly over. "Love Addict" is a by-the-numbers rocker with a catchy riff. End of story. Is it too much to ask for a little inspiration? The first time I heard "Jesus Christ" on the "Faith" album I thought Hyde was destined for rock stardom. Instead this hope is fading.

I hate to write this because I am such an uber-fan of L'Arc~en~Ciel but Hyde's solo work is not cutting it. The other member of VAMPS is Kaz, formerly of Spread Beaver. He's finally stepping into the spotlight after remaining mostly in the shadows of Spread Beaver and even Oblivion Dust. I just wish he had picked a better song to start with.

The other song on the disc is much better. "Time Goes By" has better vocals from Hyde and isnt as monotonous as the first track. Overall, not the best start from VAMPS, but who knows, maybe the album will be great. Heck I may even like this single eventually. I have been wrong before...

Verdict: ** (2/5)

Monday, 30 June 2008

LIVE REVIEW: RADIOHEAD - Manchester - LCCG, Old Trafford - 29th June 2008


Radiohead are one of the greatest bands of our time. I could finish the review there but i'll continue because this show was full of so many memorable moments that they should be discussed at length.

After a heavy morning's rain (so torrential that it leaked through the roof of our bus), we expected a wash-out but amazingly, prophetically, the sun came out. The LCCG is a great venue. HUGE. Arriving at 4pm, the time the gates opened, we were lucky enough to be greeted by a smiling Thom Yorke who waved at the incoming crowd from a private box in one of the stands.
The Greenwood borthers also popped there heads out from time to time which was another surreal moment. They seemed equally has happy to see us.

Support was provided by young electro-rockers MGMT and the rather pretentious BAT FOR LASHES and both managed to get a positive response from the crowd. We spotted Thom Yorke dancing from his private box during MGMT's song "Electric Feel" which provoked more of the crowd to start gyrating to its funky pulsating rythm.

Ok, frig all this build up, lets get down to business: RADIOHEAD came out at 8.15pm and blew everyone away with a set that featured 26 songs from across multiple albums even going as far back as "The Bends".

Opening with the trip-hop infused "15 Step" from last year's "In Rainbows" the Oxford boys held the crowd from start to finish, barely pausing for breath in the full 2 hours. The moment that will live on forever in my memory was the double punch of my two favourite Radiohead songs played back to back: "Everything In Its Right Place" and "Fake Plastic Trees". I felt my eyes well up as "Fake Plastic Trees" reached its crescendo after the soaring guitar shred. Thom sang perfectly and his fragile, touching lyrics remain in my mind.

"She looks like the real thing, She tastes like the real thing... My fake plastic love..."

The main set ended with the guitar-laden "Bodysnatchers" and the band walked off to chants of "we want more" from the crowd. As expected the band came back for an encore. And what an encore. Opening with a hauntingly delicate version of "Videotape" they then moved into the edgy "Myxomatosis" which ended with Thom bowing to the adoring shouts of the crowd and recieving their applause with his arms outstretched. They left the stage again after remarkable performances of their "OK Computer" classics "Paranoid Android" and "Kharma Police"

And then they returned. There was an audible gasp from the crowd as the opening notes of "Pyramid Song" echoed over the speakers. Micheal, who was also at the gig, named this moment as his favourite of the night and only at a concert jam-packed with memorable moments could anyone argue with him. The second encore finished with "Idioteque" which caused a mass rave to erupt in the crowd as Thom danced like he was having a seizure on stage. It was a wonderful end to a wonderful gig and as I looked around i saw thousands of smiles staring up at the stage. a

The lights went out and then, to the roar of the crowd, the band returned once more."We still have time left before we turn into pumpkins. Or mice or whatever the fuck it is," Thom muttered, getting a laugh from the 20, 000 people in front of him. The band played one last song for the adoring crowd, the aptly named "Lucky".

It was a concert that obliterated my high expectaions. I found myself staring in sheer awe at the spectacle in front of me: 5 multi-talented artists performing 26 of the most beautifully written, original songs in recent history to an army of fans accompanied by a world-class light-show and stage set-up.

To quote the lyrics of the song "Videotape",

"No matter what happens now, You shoudn't be afraid, Because I know that today has been, The most beautiful day I've ever seen..."

Setlist

15 Step
Airbag
There There
All I Need
Nude
Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
The Gloaming
The National Anthem
Faust Arp
No Surprises
Jigsaw Falling Into Place
Reckoner
Just
Bangers ‘n Mash
Everything In Its Right Place
Fake Plastic Trees
Bodysnatchers

1st Encore
Videotape
Paranoid Android
Myxomatosis
Optimistic
Karma Police

2nd Encore
Pyramid Song
2+2=5
Idioteque

3rd Encore
Lucky


Verdict: ***** (5/5) - Did you expect anything less?

Sunday, 22 June 2008

ALBUM REVIEW: SIGUR RÓS - MEÐ SUÐ Í EYRUM VIÐ SPILUM ENDALAUST


It's here, it's finally here. "Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust" is the 5th album from acclaimed Icelandic post-rockers Sigur Rós and it sparkles with a magic befitting a band of their calibre. From the up-temp opening tracks of "Gobbledigook" and "Inní mér syngur vitleysingur" to the majestic "Ára bátur" and the haunting loneliness of "Fljótavík", the album soars with a beauty that in terms of emotional grip, holds the listener like very few other bands are capable of.

Each song holds its own and although some of them arguably stick to the tried and tested formula from Takk... it is clear that this is a band who show no signs of losing their power to produce top quality music. I think Micheal's review (see below) has already said what I mostly want to say but I think its for the best. I could rant on endlessly about "Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust" and it would still not do it justice.

A few weeks ago I wondered which band would live up to the hype: Coldplay or Sigur Rós. As a fan of both i hoped for an even tie but it is clear now that the Icelandic quartet have delivered an album that quite easily blows Viva La Vida out of the water. Go buy it now.

Verdict: ***** (5/5) (Editor's Choice: June 08)

SINGLE REVIEW: SLIPKNOT - ALL HOPE IS GONE


Personally, Slipknot are a little too heavy for my blood. I never got into their claustrophobic, nu-metal thrash hybrid and to be honest, this new single doesn't really do it for me either. That's not to say it isnt good, I can certainly appreciate what the band do and to be fair, the new single introduces some interesting elements to their trademark sound. It has been over 4 years since Slipknot's last album Vol.3 (The Subliminal Verses), and this new single shows signs that the band are further expanding their arsenal with new sounds just as Vol. 3 shook things up with its acoustic guitars and melodic singing.
"All Hope Is Gone" is the title track from the forthcoming album and its heavy hitting and fast paced. The drumming from Joey Jordison is very impressive with its pounding black-metal punch and stands out above all else on the song. Its standard 'Knot fare and fans will lap it up even if it wont win any new fans. Personally i'm looking forward to the more experimental side of things on the new album. "Vermillion Parts I & II" rocked my socks, as did "Duality". But we'll save this discussion for the album in August. As for this single, its preaching to the converted.
Verdict: *** (3/5)

Friday, 20 June 2008

ALBUM REVIEW: COLDPLAY - VIVA LA VIDA OR DEATH AND ALL HIS FRIENDS




After 3 long years, the kings have returned. X&Y, their last album, was a worldwide smash success but nevertheless it was arguably flawed, peppered with too much filler. For every Square One or Fix You there was a Swallowed By The Sea. The formula was wearing thin and not a band to sit on their laurels, Coldplay went into deep hibernation. Over the past 3 years they have travelled the globe seeking inspiration and rejuvination. Bringing in frequent U2 collaborator Brian Eno to produce the new matrial, Coldplay have attempted to inject a freshness into their sound and to a certain degree, it has worked.



Lets begin by stating that Viva La Vida is unmistakably Coldplay. Those expecting a drastic departure will be disappointed. There may only be one "anthem" so to speak (the title track) but apart from that, its very much the album you'd expect. It begins with the nice instrumental "Life in Technicolor" before sliding into the solemn "Cemeteries of London". So far so good but unfortunately the following tracks "Lost!" and "42" fail to hit the mark, mired by poor lyrics and rather bland composition. With the amount of tracks apparently on the cutting room floor, you wonder how these two made it onto the album. "Lovers in Japan / Reign of love" is the first of the albums much talked about double-tracks. Essentially 2 songs stuck together to make it better value for iTunes customers, they add a bit of variety to the pack. However, "Lovers in Japan" is another by-the-numbers track and the tinge of disappointment with the album is becoming more apparent.



But fear not, for the rest of the album picks up somewhat. "Yes / Chinese Sleep Chant" is much more interesting. With Chris Martin's low vocals, "Yes" becomes almost a deliberate counterpart to the standard Coldplay fare. Its edgy and cynical (as edgy and cynical as you can get for Chris Martin) and when it gives way to the shoegaze fuzz of "Chinese Sleep Chant", you begin to feel that maybe they are capable of breaking out of their stereotype.



The singles "Viva La Vida" and "Violet Hill" follow next and are the best tracks on the album. The title track soars with a contagious energy and synth pulse that propels the song through its orchestral crescendoes and church bells. "Violet Hill" is a starkly contrasting song which is by turns aggressive and fragile. Guitars wail like bomb warnings and add a satisfying crunch to Martin's rather impressive (for once) lyrics. The delicate piano outro of the song adds a tragic beauty to the preceeding anger and places the song in the upper echelons of Coldplay's work.



Strawberry Swing is a chirpy, upbeat song with a laid-back atmosphere that lends itself so well to the lyrical themes. If ever a song made you think of lying down on the grass on a summer's day this is it. Martin sings with a smile on his face and it shines through on the track. The final track "Death And All His Friends / The Escapist" starts slow as a piano ballad but then builds into a typical Coldplay anthem which would rock stadiums everywhere if it wasnt for the fact that its short run-time and album-closer composition deliberately and smartly removes this mandate. The hidden track "The Escapist" features the same instrumental as the opening track only this time with added lyrics. It is very short but a nice little epilogue to the album.



So all in all? Well its a good album. Heck in some respects I may love it. It rewards repeat listens and when taken in its entirety, is a much more varied album than previous efforts. There are moments of greatness on here but they cant disguise a few misfires that unfortunately prevent the album from becoming the revolution it sought to be. There is something missing. Songs like "Lost!" should not have made the cut, especially when compared to the singles. Taken on a song by song basis, its easy to see the faults but Coldplay dont want you to listen to individual songs. They crafted an album for album-listener and in that respect, its a success.



Verdict: *** (3/5)