MOGWAI – THE HAWK IS HOWLING

2nd November, 2008

ole-832-the-hawk-is-howlingMOGWAI deliver a post-rock soup which skimps on spices and other exciting condiments, but leaves a warm, full and satisfying feeling.

Mogwai are known in the post-rock world for not being content with constructing simple walls of sound. This Scottish four-piece produce walls of sound complete with barbed wire and graffiti ranging from pretty flowers and psychedelic colours, to political mini-rants and straight up abuse. Happy Songs for Happy people brought the world of minimalist not-quite-rock music the beautiful ‘Golden Porche’, whilst Come On Die Young served up rants against punk rock and ‘Puff Daddy/ANTICHRIST’.

The Hawk is Howling is no different. Which is good. Kind of. It’s Mogwai doing their thing, taking simple phrases and moving them through various crescendos and diminuendos, slowly elaborating on a main theme. It can be catchy (‘The Sun Smells too Loud’), moody and threatening (‘Batcat’), or all of those, plus strangely rousing (‘I Love You, I’m going to Blow up your School’).

But therein lies the problem. If you have any of Mogwai’s albums, or any of Explosions in the Sky’s, the new This Will Destroy You, and I could go on, then you’ve heard it all before. Mogwai’s latest adds nothing to the genre except another entrancing but ultimately slightly above average disc. Tracks such as ‘I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead’ are certainly captivating in terms of melody and dynamics, but if you’re looking for a post-rock band who are doing something new with their sound, then this isn’t the album for you.

But, if you want an undemanding one hour sonic voyage, or just love Mogwai and post-rock in general, then by all means, go get it.

7/10

Published in Student Direct, Noveber 2008 http://www.student-direct.co.uk/2008/09/mogwai-the-hawk-is-howling/


TENERBROUS LIAR – LAST STAND

31st October, 2008

LAST STAND is the sound of My Bloody Valentine’s melancholia epic Loveless desolately crawling into its last bar, ordering its final whiskey and drinking itself into a heartbroken oblivion.

And it’s bloody brilliant. Tenebrous Liar has created an album which deliberately slows down time to an agonising wasted stagger, and then ruthlessly strangles you. ‘One Way Lone’ and ‘All That You Know’ sneer at you as the devastating distortion and lonesome, what-the-fuck-is-the-point-of-it-all vocals mercilessly drag you into a state of total despair; ‘Pretender’ is the kind of blues-stained morose rock that you’d find in a dilapidated New Orleans garage; ‘Last Stand’s tortured screams and painfully tuneful feedback take a full eleven minutes to collapse into a sorry, lifeless heap of worthless nothingness. This kind of thing should come with a health warning.

9/10

Published in Student Direct, November 2008 http://www.student-direct.co.uk/2008/11/tenebrous-liar-last-stand/


TRIVIUM – SHOGUN

29th September, 2008

trivium-shogunMETALLICA WANNA-BEES with a fit lead singer continue to insult the metal legends with another offering of absolute tosh.

Call me picky, but I expect a lot more from my metal than some half decent pit riffs and a growl. I’m sorry. That’s the first reason why this is an avoid-at-all-costs release. The second, is Heafy’s voice, either sounding like Hetfield eating cheese graters, or the God Forbid guy trying to do black metal. In fact, this album is just terrible Metallica mixed with the best of God Forbid; bad for me, as I like both. But it does work on ‘Down From The Sky’, but that’s about it. The third is the overuse of shred. Technicality is great, but here it exists only for itself and those who enjoy masturbating over million notes a second shred. The fourth reason is that the songs are all too long, with nothing engaging enough to justify six plus minutes. The fifth reason…you get my drift.

2/10

Published in Student Direct, October 2008 http://www.student-direct.co.uk/2008/11/trivium-shogun/


THE AUTOMATIC – THIS IS A FIX EP

14th September, 2008

the-automatic-this-is-a-fix-443526THE AUTOMATIC’S debut album was essentially one track repeated twelve times, with a few week shrieks thrown in for good measure. Is This Is A Fix any better?

Well, no, it isn’t. The opening melody of ‘Steve McQueen’ has been lifted from ‘On the Campaign Trail’. The vocal rhythms vary little from song to song, and “if you’re looking for answers, if you’re looking, don’t look here” sums up the lyrical content on offer. ‘Make the Mistakes’ is nauseating, and ‘Secret Police’ sounds almost exactly like “By My Side”, just worse. The Automatic seem to be living off of three different ideas and their endless permutations. If Not Accepted Anywhere packed all the punch of a five year old, then This Is A Fix carries the force of a two month old baby’s tiny fist. And it isn’t even cute. It will satisfy anyone looking for the second coolest sound for the first half of this week, but for the rest, treat it as if it was a nuclear power plant about to explode.

0/10


ARENA – THE VISITOR

14th August, 2008

visitorConcept albums can be nothing short of disastrous (Styx’s Kilroy was Here???). Or they can be mind-blowing, timeless classics (Pink Floyd’s The Wall immediately springs to mind). Water’s focused on loneliness. Here, Arena hone in on pain, death, redemption, humankind’s purpose, and the nature of knowledge all with a religious slant, and are assisted by The Visitor, a metaphysical concept, or spirit being, travelling through time. So, a suitably epic idea from a consistent neo-progressive band; a recipe for another timeless classic. And the result?

As far as concept albums go, this one falls somewhere right of centre. On paper it overflows with potential, but tiny flaws hold it back from reaching total greatness.

Neo-prog gets slated for its more than intimate associations with Gabriel-era Genesis. Just one listen to this record and the references to Tony Bank’s keyboard style are unavoidable and sometimes become irritating, especially on ‘Pins and Needles’ and ‘Blink of an Eye’. Secondly, Paul Wrightson’s vocals might not appeal to everyone. His accent is very middle-class English, and he tends to emphasise some words in a way that doesn’t fit the song’s rhythm. His tone also makes lines which are meant to sound aggressive, sound almost sarcastic and comical, most noticeable on ‘(Don’t Forget To) Breathe’. Also, some tracks here are quite noticeably weaker than others, namely ‘Enemy Without’.

There may be a few problems, but for the majority of the time, they get in the way like a Stop sign gets in the way of a Panzer. If you want to be niggardly then fine, but here is a wealth of incredible material here. If you’re a Genesis fan you won’t care, and the issues with the vocals could be pedantry gone mad. With a concept album, album structure is thrown into the mix; relatively easy if the concept involves a story, but this is more of a musical essay. Across the fourteen tracks, pain, death and their friends are stylishly intertwined, expressed both musically and lyrically. ‘Serenity’ and ‘Elea’ break up the album but are by no means fillers, both being highly-charged guitar leads. ‘Running from Damascus’ ties everything up, paving the way for one of the best guitar solos I have ever heard; don’t play ‘The Visitor’ from 03:15 onwards near any glaciers. They will shatter in seconds. A grand ending to match the grand opening of ‘A Crack in the Ice’.

Song structure is equally impressive (‘Double Vision’ boasts time signature changes from through 5/4, 6/8 and 7/8, and what’s more, it works), and tracks such as ‘The Hanging Tree’ have been put together with an almost motherly care; quaint minor arpeggios, crushing suspended chords, rousing choruses and powerful guitar solos create a track not epic in length, but in sound. Most of the songs here are not the usual six plus minutes you would expect from a progressive rock band, but that is more due to the organisation of the album along the lines of “everything must work together”, rather than a lack of musical creativity, or longevity for the sake of longevity.

Aside from being a sophisticated and effective musical discussion of humanity’s darker aspects, one of the album’s greatest achievements is its ability to hide its flaws. Unless you’re naturally pedantic, or are reviewing the thing (or both), this is an hour long marvel.

10/10

Published on sputnikmusic, August 2008 http://www.sputnikmusic.com/album.php?albumid=20975


PETER WHITE – GLOW

14th August, 2008

Attempting a top-board dive into the rich waters of Spanish folk music, Glow smashes the bottom of the pool and bobs around lifelessly for a while. But manages to look pretty whilst doing it.

Peter White’s smooth jazz outputs are by no means stunning, but display a degree of consistency that a few artists within the genre should take note of. So, mixing Peter White’s dependability with Spanish atmospheres and Latin scales sounds quite intriguing. And it is, so long as you don’t listen to the album all the way through.

glowDon’t get me wrong, there are some real shimmers of sunlight here. ‘Who’s that Lady?’ is by far the best track on the album. A sexy, steamy, sax-led piece with a stalking beat, it features a melody which glides effortlessly between the provocative and the delicate, building to a sax solo straight out of the Richard Elliot (alto saxophonist) book of sophisticated seduction. ‘Glow’ can only be described as achingly quaint, and ‘Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)’ is reflective and free to wander though its four minutes of elegant phrasing.

It’s strange. So many albums start brilliantly and then tail of towards the end, like a painter who died during the creation of his masterpiece, leaving the world with a disappointment, and wonder at what could have been. Not so with Glow. Here, it feels as though towards the middle of the album, the artist just lost interest, almost gave up entirely, and then seemingly from nowhere managed to pluck three songs out of nothing that nearly met the high watermark of ‘Who’s That Lady?’

Independently, ‘Turn It Out’, ‘Bullseye’ and ‘Bueno Funk’ are great songs, with catchy melodies and laid back basslines, again with a Spanish feel to them. But when listened to consecutively, they sound almost exactly the same, and three tracks of Flamenco-but-in-reality-not-Flamenco is quite simply irritating. And ‘Pedro Blanco’ is quite simply an awful attempt at a bossanova.

It’s almost as if Glow was made with the shuffle function in mind. ‘When I’m Alone’ is pretty much a re-working of ‘Just My Imagination’, just as ‘Baby Steps’ is to ‘Chasing the Dawn’, except in the former there is the addition of strummed chords. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a terrible album; there are some memorable songs and some interesting melodies. Separately, it’s exciting, but together, it’s frankly a bore, becoming background music that wasn’t composed to be background music.

5/10

Published on sputnikmusic, August 2008 http://www.sputnikmusic.com/album.php?albumid=29757


CHIELI MINUCCI – WITHOUT YOU

9th August, 2008-12-02

An insatiable lust for melody and a more confident outlook make Night Grooves this award winning contemporary jazz guitarist’s finest work since Special EFX. This isn’t just a great new smooth jazz album; it’s a new smooth jazz yard-stick.

If smooth jazz is the embodiment of jazz tinged pop melodies, unconsciously contagious grooves and a whole lot of passion and atmosphere, then Chieli Minucci’s masterful fifth solo album, Night Grooves, is the physical embodiment of smooth jazz. Everything here is of a ridiculously high quality, but the most remarkable thing about this album is that there are still standout tracks.

minucci3There isn’t much here to boggle the mind, at least, not in terms of technicality, although some guitar runs are pretty frightening. ‘Night Grooves’, for example, is based around a simple three chord turnaround, upon which is built loose and effortless melodies and phrasing. Most tracks here seem to be made for a certain mood or situation, with this track’s being a midnight road-trip with no particular purpose through a glamorous city.

Even the album itself is arranged well. ‘Night Grooves’ flows into the funk driven ‘Foolin’ Around Again’, with ridiculously catchy syncopated rhythms, and intelligent duals between clean guitar and saxophone. It’s sister track, ‘Don’t Make Me Wait’ seems to attempt to emulate this, but even though it’s still good, it doesn’t even touch the relentless drive of its older and more sophisticated brother.

From funk to romance. ‘You’re My Reason’, is one of two tracks possibly inspired by Special EFX’s 2001 album, Butterfly. An acoustic number, its melody floats along with a charming grace, climaxing with a saxophone lead towards its end which relies not on volume, but notation. It’s perfect, but then again, ‘Without You’, sounding like a ‘Katalin Part 2’ is even better.

With ‘Without You’, you have the answer to the world’s renewable energy problems. If something were invented which could harness the power of raw human emotion, this track could power most of the globe without any trouble at all. In short, it’s the musical equivalent of the best sex you’ll ever have. Post-rock’s ability to create cataclysmic crescendos gets the smooth jazz treatment, rising from gorgeous acoustic melodies and arpeggios to entrancing, swirling, magical distorted guitar. Every single note, high or low, crotchet or quaver, is given its own very special meaning. Even the pauses and piano section are immaculately instrumented and timed. It’s impossible to describe adequately, but if you’ve heard Ralph Vaughan Willilam’s ‘The Lark Ascending’, you should know what I’m talking about. If not, then just thing of the most beautiful song you know, and multiply it, say, by infinity. Then add a bit more.

If you hadn’t guessed it yet, this is the ultimate introduction to the smooth jazz genre. Here you will find love, excitement, ecstasy, even mystery, with ‘Behind the Veil’, the detective, snoopy feel of ‘Mr Shady Eyes’ and the paradoxical nature of the final track, ‘Nasir di Nuevo’. It is very much an outro composition, but one that also creates a feeling of emptiness; the individual phrases seem to tail off towards their endings, almost as if the music is fading away in spirit, rather than if someone was turning the volume down. As the music becomes more coherent, the emerging melody furthers the sense of finalisation; a six minute paradox, and a perfect ending to a perfect album.

10/10

Published on sputnikmusic, August 2008 http://www.sputnikmusic.com/album.php?albumid=27699


CIRCUS MAXIMUS – ISOLATE

15th June, 2008

circus_maximusCircus Maximus have the technical side of progressive metal covered, having spent their earlier days covering Dream Theater and Symphony X material. It’s just a shame they didn’t pick up a few more songwriting tips…

This is by no means a bad effort from five undoubtedly talented Norwegians. Taking the positives first, ‘Abyss’ is clearly the standout track, with a rousing chorus and an insane guitar solo with freaky but useful harmonic minor scales. Whilst Espen Store’s keyboards sound as though he is desperately trying not to sound like Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess but failing dismally (not a bad thing, but it does seem to be an issue he is confronting throughout the album), ‘Abyss’ needs to be in any fan of progressive metal’s collection. The intro to ‘A Darkened Mind’ is immaculately eerie, building to an uplifting chorus and pounding guitar/drum riffing. Throughout the album the band display that they are musically tighter than an Olympic photo-finish, with plenty of ideas and a feel for melody.

Mouth of Madness’ needs its 12 minutes to showcase the band’s creativity, apparent in ‘A Darkened Mind’ and ‘Abyss’. Tempo and mood changes a-plenty and with a strong storyline, it’s quite a journey which doesn’t reach the heights of Isolate’s first two tracks, but is a good composition nonetheless. Sane No More’ is an angular instrumental packed with time-signature changes and ear-splitting solos, and lasting only three minutes, it avoids dragging itself into the realms of artistic egotism and listener boredom. Maybe it was designed to demonstrate just how good Mats Haugen (guitarist) is, but this is by no means a bad thing.

Now the negatives. Firstly, there is a lack of consistency. ‘Zero’ and ‘Wither’, whilst both being good arrangements (especially ‘Zero’s emotional singing and beautiful piano arpeggios) don’t seem to reach the heights of aforementioned songs. Of course every album has stand-outs, but the gap between seems to be bigger than usual. ‘Wither’ presents the second weakness; a need for the band to develop their lyrics (as does ‘Arrival of Love’; I can’t stand this track, but that is probably because I have a contempt for love-songs in general).

This is definitely a band worth watching. Whilst Isolate is a far from being a progressive metal classic, Circus Maximus have a mine of talent that should be producing many fine jewels for many years to come.

Published on sputnikmusic, June 2008

10/10


ZERO 7 – SIMPLE THINGS

2nd July, 2008

Zero 7 challenge AIR’s Moon Safari for the chillout album of the millennia with an elegant and enchanting debut.

Moon Safari was massive. With tracks like ‘All I Need’ and ‘Ce Matin La’, it set the benchmark for chilled electronica at a ridiculously high level. It still is your ultimate chill out fantasy. Times infinity. No other chillout CD has ever quite matched it, but Zero 7’s Simple Things isn’t far off. This album is more gorgeous than any girl/guy you can ever think of. Yes, it sounds as though it’s giving more than a nod to that beautiful 90s French album; you could even think of Simple Things as an up-to-date Moon Safari, or even, the British version. But don’t let that take anything away from it.

“Time goes so slow, days come and go.”

The beats, the bass, the lush strings arrangements, the acoustic guitars; everything here is blissfully effortless. The influences (other than AIR) are clear; trip-hop beats and jazz scales are masterfully scattered across the twelve tracks, as are several instrumentals, and those are where the duo really shine. ‘Red Dust’ and ‘Give It Away’ have enough grooves to prompt a romantic slow dance, but could induce feelings of sleepiness half way through; there’d better be some cushions on the dance-floor. The divine orchestral arrangements and guitar chord progressions of ‘Red Dust’ are typical of every track on this album, but work particularly well here with the song’s main flute melody. It’s a joy to listen to, as are the other instrumentals, ‘Polaris’ and ‘Lifukanele’s African influenced melodies.

zero-7“When I’m weak, I draw strength from you; and when you’re lost, I know how to change your mood. And when I’m down, you breathe life over me; even though we’re miles apart, we are each other’s destiny.”

Sia Quango’s contribution to the album is invaluable. Her voice perfectly fits the slow love songs ‘Destiny’ and ‘Distractions’, and turns the dreamy ‘In the Waiting Line’ into an enchantingly seductive number. And ‘This World’ is an absolute gem. Lyrically these songs are probably better than songs on Moon Safari; look no further than ‘Destiny’. But for smooth DX solos, check out the title track. Ethereal, smooth, sensual, call it what you will, it’s the album’s best track, with a super-cool jazz drenched finale solo and heavenly singing.

There are a few reviews knocking around claiming that Simple Things is nothing more than a cheap Moon Safari rip-off, a shameful attempt to beat the unbeatable. Don’t let them fool you. Simply put, this is a gorgeous album that should be in anyone’s music collection, regardless of taste; your ultimate chill out fantasy (after Moon Safari).

9/10

Published on sputnikmusic, July 2008 http://www.sputnikmusic.com/album.php?albumid=6833


THE BEAUTIFUL SOUTH – CHOKE

25th May, 2008

beautiful-south-choke-230277Welcome to the Beautiful South introduced the world to jangly indie-pop with a twisted lyrical edge. Choke continues this theme, and cements Paul Heaton’s reputation as an incredibly gifted song-writer.

‘Tonight I Fancy Myself’ sets the tone of the album perfectly. A song about a couple in denial set to ridiculously upbeat guitars and joyful trumpets, Heaton’s disturbing and bathetic lyrics are the main showpiece;

“Later in the evening, the sun came rolling down
And they talked about their fantasies and fears
Between the heavy breathing and those lighter licking sounds
I heard him whisper this question in her ear;
‘Would you still love me if I lost my legs?”

Vocal interplay between Briana Corrigan and Heaton intensifies the storyline, ending with the admittance that;

“With a choice between loneliness and love-sick QE2’s
Well tonight I choose – self-abuse”

And with that ends the template for the album, an album which seems determined to give Morrissey a run for his money. ‘My Book’s instrumental work might be refreshingly jazzy for an indie fan, but again the lyrics stand out, with “there was going to be a film but the camera person slipped”, “we’ve had some ugly babies but none were quite like you” and “it looks as if the nose and chin are definitely here to stay” being the highlights. The video’s worth checking out, too. ‘I Think The Answer’s Yes’ beautiful trumpet melodies and piano harmonies show that the band has more than one creative avenue, and their ability to compliment yet not distract from…

I’m walking through these pastures
I’m picking up sweet fruit
I’m shaking hands with people
That previously I’d shoot”

…is a brilliant display of restraint mixed with creativity. But this album isn’t all about grumpy-old-man English sarcasm.

The Beautiful South’s only number one hit in the UK, and possibly the best example of Heaton’s strong storylines, ‘A Little Time’ tells the story of the end of a relationship, perfectly presenting feelings of anger, indecision, hate and despair, all to the background of lush keyboard and guitar arrangements, with no clichés whatsoever. Seemingly written for Briana’s voice, the pair pull off a heart-achingly emotional performance, creating the best track on the album by far, and possibly the band’s best song.

Moving away from ruined lives and relationships, ‘I’ve Come For My Award’ enters the world of business and dodgy-dealings. The guitar lines sound very much like they were lifted from a Smiths album, and then given some of the band’s trademark jazzy swagger, and the lyrics, as ever, are exemplary; “I took on your free enterprise and your pretty little shops; walked in with empty bags, and walked out with the lot”.

Choke was a reference to the number of bands who put out a promising debut, only to follow with an absolute disaster. Perhaps this album was titled with a degree of irony in mind; The Beautiful South’s second offering does nothing of the sort. Three tracks from this album made the band’s first best of, Carry on up the Charts, and the album itself hit number two in England. A must for any fan, but also a great starting point too.

8/10

Published on sputnikmusic, May 2008 http://www.sputnikmusic.com/album.php?albumid=8478


DOES IT OFFEND YOU, YEAH? – YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE GETTING YOURSELF INTO

2nd March, 2008

ACCORDING TO NME, DIOFYY are ‘masters of energetic genre crunching pop songs that hit you like a battering ram, stay lock in your head and get the heart pumping’. Liars.

does_it_offend_you_yeah-_you_have_no_ideaAn apparently innovative band, DIOFYY are actually taking a dead-for-a-good-reason 80s craze and dressing it up in modern production and bland indie. There is nothing innovative about that. Tracks like ‘We Are Rockstars’ and ‘Let’s Make Out’ are clearly the products of copying every good electronica band from the past 30 years and stealing the sound of the frankly abysmal The Automatic. The only thing this album gets pumping for me is the part of my brain that is extremely irritated by hearing the same drum beat for an entire CD and would also tells me to commit multiple, brutal homicide. Why yes, this overly-commercial clubber-arse-kissing rubbish does offend me.

-10/10

Published in Student Direct, March 2008


PRIMITAI – THROUGH THE GATES OF HELL

24th February, 2008

GET PAST some of the, frankly dire, lyrics (i.e. ‘Lights Out’) and the “we-re going to rule the world with our adrenaline pumping, sing-a-long choruses” attitude, and you have here a very good record in your hands.

primitai-through-the-gates-of-hellImpressive and useful lead guitar is abundant, and even those of the “no solos” persuasion surely can’t help but allow their anti-technical-talent hearts to admire this. ‘Deathhammer’s angular, Exodus-esque rhythms (these guys have certainly picked the right influences) and powerful and energetic drumming combine with an awe-inspiring harmonized solo, which, again, actually contributes to the song to create a candidate for huge pits, despite the lack of heaviness which normally comes with a metal release. Great fun for those who just want to jump around and play air guitar, but those who prefer their metal to be more, well, intelligent, then this is best missed.

5/10

Published in Student Direct, March 2008


CLARE TEAL – CLARE TEAL

14th February, 2008

CLARE TEAL has been worshiped by Jamie Cullum, Paul Gambaccini, Michael Buble; even Sir Michael Parkinson. This, the eighth album from “one of the best vocal talents to energy from the UK in a long, long while”, continues much in the same vain as her previous releases; a collection of well selected covers combined with skillfully written new material to create a natural balance across the 49 minutes of many different moods and jazz styles.

clareOf course, Clare Teal will be venerated primarily in terms of her voice. But this isn’t what impresses me about this album; I’ve heard many great jazz vocalists, from Nat King Cole to Ella Fitzgerald, and yes, Norah Jones, (and I’d put her in the same category as those) so a beautiful voice for me is a necessity for jazz vocal. It’s the quality of the musicianship which impresses me here. This is jazz played with the utmost passion for the genre. ‘Breaking Up is hard to Do’ is performed with a rare graceful elegance, squeezing every bit of emotion out of each note. The re-interpretation of ‘The Very Thought of You’ actually sounds better than the original, its wonderful piano solo showcasing just how good this girl is.

She can do upbeat and bouncy too, and for someone who prefers his music to be melancholy at the least, these tracks would normally only get one play. However, they are conveyed with such a joyous innocence that they warm even the coldest of musical hearts. ‘Get on It Sam’, one of her own works, is happier than a manic clown on laughing gas and swings like a rope bridge in a hurricane. It’s brilliant, as is the 20s Dixie groove of ‘Cheek to Cheek’. In fact, this is the perfect place to start for any jazz-newbie, as everything is covered here. There aren’t many jazz albums that are not only an accurate summary of the jazz world, but are also accessible enough to not turn the listener off. A joy to listen to.

8/10

Published in Student Direct, February 2008


MELODY GARDOT – WORRISOME HEART

10th February, 2008

IT’S A shame that this review (if it makes the paper), wasn’t in time for Valentine’s Day. Even though it isn’t a collection of love songs, its pace, tone and pure warmth that only jazz can conjure up make it perfect for a snuggly night in. melody-gardot

It might be short (only half an hour), but Worrisome Heart sure is sweet. It flows with all of the grace of a brand new silk dress, and shimmers like the starlight in your beloved’s eyes. ‘Worrisome Heart’s beautiful lyrics light the candles, whilst ‘All That I Need is Love’s lyrical guitar groove runs the warm bath, and ‘Love Me Like a River Does’ leads you into the depths of the most exquisite, endless passion; upon the exquisite final note of ‘Twilight’, the most romantic evening of your life is complete.

8/10

Published in Student Direct, February 2008


MEXICOLAS – X

3rd February, 2008

IF YOU loved ‘No One Knows’ by Queens of the Stone Age, and longed for the rest of Songs for the Deaf to be like that song, then you’ll probably enjoy Mexicolas. Only probably, because aside from three great songs, X has some irritatingly average ones.

The band set the bar too high for themselves with ‘Times Infintiy’,Come Clean’ and ‘Shame’, and the remaining ten songs don’t even finish the run up. ‘Big in Japan’s lyrics are strewn with cringe-worthy rhymes, and songs such as ‘Evil’, which do have half-decent ideas, run out of steam very quickly. That said, if you just want something simple to jump around to, then this should be your first stop in 2008.

6/10

Published in Student Direct, February 2008


BIOMECHANICAL – CANNIBALISATION

3rd February, 2008

CRUSHINGLY HEAVY, technically astounding, monstrously epic, etcetera; Cannibalised is not for the faint hearted. This is progressive metal at its most deranged, and is quite simply mind-blowing. The riffs flow, the structures are interesting, drumming is insanely tight, the vocals are furious bordering on rabid.

‘Fallen in Fear’ begins with John K’s inhuman, screeching vocals, and the album doesn’t let up. Orchestral sections merge with the standard metal blast-beats and chugging riffs to show just how effective metal can be when it comes to instrumentation; ‘Predatory’s tempo-changes are a perfect example. Biomechanical have created a very special brand of Armageddon.

7/10

Published in Student Direct, February 2008


ALEC EMPIRE – THE GOLDEN FORETASTE OF HEAVEN

9th December, 2007

alecI’M NOT really sure what Alec Empire’s self-proclaimed “sonic vision” is. I know that my sonic vision is the most engaging, complex, rewarding, emotional epic of a track featuring cryptic yet meaningful lyrics and the best instrumentation since Oceansize’s new album.

Alec Empire’s “sonic vision”, as far as I can tell, seems to be the following: boring drum patterns, boring lyrics, boring bass lines, boring melodies, boring sound, and if you’ve been bored by reading this review, then that level of excitement is the highest you’ll ever experience in terms of this record. And just in case you haven’t got it yet; The Golden Foretaste of Heaven is boring.

2/10

Published in Student Direct, December 2007


GOD FIRES MAN – THE DARK EP

2nd December, 2007

‘I WANT everyone to stop pretending’. There is only so many times that you can repeat that lyric before it becomes justifiable to phone the singer, arrange a meeting and ram it down his throat, and after listening to the rest of the EP, a dictionary of rhyme as well.

‘Still’ also annoys me irritating; bashing an E powerchord for one minute does not make a good intro, and the vocals really do sound like he’s suffocating on something. There’s a lot of alternate picking for riffs on this EP, and for someone who wants to be challenged by music, this isn’t nearly enough. ‘Bombs’ is probably the most enjoyable on here; a decent lead, decent melody, decent riff. But that’s another problem with this, its components are either only decent or provoke wonder as to how they ever got off the production line.

1/10

Published in Student Direct, December 2007


SEVERE TORTURE – SWORN VENGEANCE

2nd November, 2007

FIRST THINGS first. It you don’t like death metal, this is not for you. Stay away. Move on. Forget it. However, if you are of the alternative persuasion, then pay very close attention.

Severe Torture are the new leaders European death metal scene. They’ve toured with Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, Desecration and Vader, and are heading on a full European Tour in 2008, showcasing Sworn Vengeance; 35 minutes of pure power and aggression. Blastbeasts on ‘Dismal Perceptions’ and ‘Serenity Torn Asunders’ are clearly defined; the riffs of ‘Redefined Identity’ provoke thoughts of death metal gods Nile. The instrumental ‘Submerged in Grief’ is pleasantly surprising in its mellowness and actually rounds the album off perfectly with a fading, chromatic riff. This is of the sort of standard that Morbid Angel, Decapitated and Vader have reached. This is the most violent circle pit ever, put to plastic. Awesome.

8/10

Published in Student Direct, November 2007


THE VINCENT BLACK SHADOW – FEARS IN THE WATER

17th October, 2007

YOU WOULDN’T normally associate morbidity with catchiness. That’s what makes this record so surprising, and dare I say, enjoyable. Drink spiking, bondage, and who knows what else is covered here – all to a backdrop of retro guitar riffs packed full of gain and melodic hooks.

‘Metro’ has shades of 80s rock and roll as it cheerfully sings about drug overdoses, and ‘Bullet on the Tracks’ features one of many wonderful sing-along choruses. Even the CD sleeve has apparently random stuff all over it, from exploding light bulbs to scalpels and octopus doctors. There are weak tracks that will doubtlessly be skipped over and forgotten, and ‘Broken’ really does let the album down with its Joe-average nature and poorly written crescendos, but that aside, drowning and breast surgery has never sounded so good.

7/10

Published in Student Direct, October 2007


MARK KNOPFLER – KILL TO GET CRIMSON

29th September, 2007

A BLISSFULLY peaceful journey from start to finish, this latest offering from Mark Knopfler, the voice and guitar of Dire Straits, is another showcase of the man’s Homeric ability to weave a fine tapestry of vivid storylines and colourful characters over a lush fabric of beautifully haunting music.

kill-to-get-crimsonThis album contains, without a doubt, some of Mark Knopfler’s best work. The ‘Scaffolder’s Wife’ tells the tale of a hard working yet gracefully ageing woman over the backdrop of gorgeous flute and guitar duets. The wistful ‘In the Sky’ floats along over 7 minutes with a beautiful saxophone lead. The more upbeat ‘Punish the Monkey’ features some heavily Hank Marvin influenced melodies and a surprisingly catchy chorus.

Each of these songs perfectly displays Mark Knopfler’s well-established gift for melody and, above all, rarely does this talented guitarist wander off on a tangent. Leads and solos are always constructed with the intent of adding something to the song, rather than simply displaying talent. His ability is instead displayed in the wide variety of musical inputs; the Celtic jig and accordion of ‘Let It All Go’, which tells the story of a painter passionate about colour, and the ‘Fish and the Bird’s fiddle, which combines with some beautiful crescendos and diminuendos to leave the listener tingling.

However, there is a distinct lack of variety here. Whilst many of Mark Knopfler’s albums are largely populated by downbeat numbers which skillfully avoid being melancholy, here the balance is tipped too far. Whilst it does have the result of forcing you to listen carefully to the intricate details in order to firmly establish the differences to the songs (not a bad thing), the base similarities can become tiresome.

Kill to get Crimson is one of those slow-burning albums that quietly creeps up on the unconscious mind, subtly establishing itself as soft, delicate gem. Variety may be a problem for some people, but for fans of the man, this is just an extension of an ever impressive and consistent catalogue.

7/10

Part of my application for the position of Music Contributor for Student Direct, September 2007

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