Well, I intend trying to post the new CD reviews on-line before the they go into the printed zine, so that hopefully they'll be more uptodate. There's nothing worse than having a new CD early in the existence of a new issue that you want to shout about, and by the time the issue is finished, the CD is 3 months old. So this is to try and remedy it.
Got a shitload of stuff to review, so straight on with it...
New Wet Kojak - Do Things.
Ah, so they're still going. Unless I've missed something, this is the third release from NWK and fundamentally it doesn't divert from the blueprint of the previous two albums. Which is to say that you get just over half an hour of jazz tinged, lounge and drawl. Which just as the other two albums, is absolutely superb. Sure, if you're just used to heavy, then this will be heavy going in itself. But just let the sax wrap its seductiveness around you and pull you in closer, go on, you know you want a bit. But there are times when you need to try something else. There are of course a few times when some of NWK members day job band Girls Against Boys spring to mind, in the lusciousness of some of the bass sounds. And the lyrical suss of Scott McCloud. On the tile track he whispers seductively, telling you that "wherever you are, whatever you done, remind yourself, this is solid gold." It's like listening to some particularly wisened person who is so laid back and carefree about life that they could be telling you to stick your head up your arse and it would still sound like an obvious and good idea. There's a backdrop of string looping around. Slow, sleazy and seductive.
Then on Punxnotdead there's the revelation that "everybody's beautiful and everyones in love, cos baby, punxnotdead and Marilyn Manson's not a pussy, he's a rock god." Even in the whisper, you can almost taste the sarcasm and irony. Punk may not be dead, it's alive and well live in a basement jazz room. Delicious. And that's how the pattern continues. To pick standout tracks is a pointless task. This is one to just immerse yourself in for half an hour. Get a nice bottle of wine. Set the atmosphere. Lay back. Relax. All is good in the world. Superb.
Porc's Cutlet - I'll Shock You tomorrow.
Now there's a name to endear the band to the vegetarian rock audience. Hailing from Brazil, this is a 4 track offering. It kind of falls in between a couple of stools. The punky hardcore sort of thing without really commiting itself to either. Standout track is Raisin, and on Selfish vocalist Guilherme gets the chance to try and shred his vocals, which he seems to do quite successfully. It's one of those releases that's competant, but it doesn't stick with me and really catch the attention, though Under Water Breathing Through a Tube doe hint at better things in the future, managing to nicely combine the melodic and the abrasive. Interesting but not essential.
Contact: Porc's Cutlet, Cristovao Colombo 3024/ap301 Porto Alegre/RS/Brazil. firstname.lastname@example.org www.porcscutlet.cjb.net
LARD - 70s Rock Must Die. (Alternative Tentacles.)
Gather round my friends and let us face the facts. Whether or not you agree with the sentiments of Bon Biafro Scott on this one, this is utter, utter class. I mean, it is. It's as simple as the riff that opens. I knew from reports that this was going to be like an AC/DC pastiche, but I didn't quite expect this. I almost thought the shop had put the wrong CD in as Ministry and Lard guitar honcho Al Jourgenson cranks out one of the finest Angus moments. It can be described in no other way. You know what an AC/DC riff sounds like, then that's how this sounds. Jello does an impersonation of Bon Scott that may not be as good as the impersonations done by many of Mr Osbourne, but it's certainly passable. Though I've just been reading Fracture which reckons he sounds like Dio and the music is Aerosmith and Van Halen meets Girlschool. Each to their own, but that ain't what I heard. And the lyrics, well, like I said, whether you agree with them or not, they make for hugely entertaining reding and listening. And singing. Cos you will. You may not want to. But as that chorus of "well c'mon, c'mon, 70s rock must die" belts out, you will find it hard to resist the temptation to lift the air guitar, raise your fists to the air and punch it out with them. Which of course the po faced will say is the exact moronity and mentality that this lampoons. Others will recognise that hey, you know what, you can have fun, you can laugh at the sheer stupidty of everything, and something else, YOU CAN LAUGH AT YOURSELF. It's one of those where I go, "but I don't really even like AC/DC" yet this is great. Which of course means I must actually like them, I'm just in denial. Maybe LARD are as well. Haha.
The remaining two tracks, Volcanous 2000 (We Shape The World) and Ballad Of Marhsall Leadbetter are more of the usual LARD fair, simple in their execution, but damn effective and catchy. On that border of the industrial metal thing and with their fiercly biting and intelligent lyrics, it's strange but in many respects they pale this time with the sheer genius of the title track. It's an essential release, but as it's way, waaaaaay overpriced at 7.99, if you want an intro to the world of LARD then get the first album, The Last Temptation of Reid. Then get a few of you to club together to buy this. It does need to be heard.
Voivod Lives (Century Media)
Well, what can you say. I've said it before and will again, they are legends, and a hugely influential band. A live album? Well, with all the traumas they've been through, it obviously buys them a little time before the next studio release, but there's a part of me that can't help but think it's a little too predictable for such an unpredictable. But, that's the cynic in me. The reality of the situation is that I shouldn't have doubted them, because of course, as they always do, they've managed to pull it off with much credit. Of course I can sit here and pick the setlist apart - it's always the same with any live album or greatest hits selection. You can't please all the people all the time. And I would love to hear a live album from the Nothingface era, because it's my favourite and to my eternal disappointement, I never saw them then. Still, have to content myself with what's here instead.
Recorded at both CBGBs in New York and the Dynamo festival in Holland is perhaps cruelly ironic. The former is the small havens that they're still forced to play, the latter the sort of thing that truthfully they should've headlined on many occassions in the past, and even now. The selection does cover most of the span of their career, there's a number of tracks from vocalist Eric's time with the band, for instance Insect, Nanoman, Negatron and Project X, and some of the early tracks which ultimately over time have turned into classics, such as Nuclear War, Ravenous Medicine and Voivod itself, something few would've believed, including me to be honest, when they first started out. But they're a band that has constantly evolved and produced exciting music. Never have been to sure of the cover of Venom's In League With Satan, but it's here in all its glory. And highlights are there in the likes of Tribal Convictions and Cosmic Conspiracy. The like of Insect and Nonman fit well highlighting the bands return to a harsher sound in recent years. A fitting testimony to one of the most important bands to have emerged in the last 20 years, it'll of course go by unnoticed, failing to haul in a new generation of people to fully understand the true genius of the band. But that's others loss. In fact, it would've been great if they could've done a double album, one set of the harsh, thrashy, almost industrial at times music, and the other set highlighting the more melodic psychdelic and trippy moments. A total contrast that works in harmony, cos that's what Voivod is all about to me. Lovely stuff. Roll on the new studio album.
Pantera - Reinventing The Steel (East West)
Dunno what it is about me and Pantera. Saw them on the Vulgar tour and they were awesome. Then, let's face it, they tried too hard to be too macho and too hardcore, and released a couple of crap albums. Far Beyond was crap. They forgot all about the concept of songs. Trendkill was better, but in the long run, neither get any play from me. Maybe it was me getting older and realising that as great as metal and all music can be, it's also full of cliched crap. And Pantera tread that line more than most. Yet still I persever with them. A new albums out, I bought it. Dunno why. So what's this like? Well, to be honest, I probably ought not to write anything until I've had it with 6 months. Because initial reactions don't always bear relation to the reality those few months down the line.
And initial reaction for this wasn't good. The first time I played it, I almost took it off before the end. It's good, yeah, it's ok. But there's little new here. It's a bit boring to be honest. But, no, I've paid good money for this, so I'm going to listen a few times. And after a few listens it begins to embed itself. There is still that nagging feeling that there's nothing new here, but they've reinvented themselves back to the Vulgar era where although it may not be original, the songs come before the need to be hard. And it makes a difference. That plus Anselmo uses his voice a bit more. When he wants to sing, the man can sing bloody well. Though I personally wish to god that they'd abandon the habit of not overdubbing any guitar when there's a solo being played. It just means that you go from this thick crunchy sound to an empty hollow element. The rhythm section are tight yes, but you can't help but know that somethings missing. The guitar. It's annoyed me about the band for about the last 4 releases now. Oh, and the kick drum sound. It was new in '88 when Metallica messed with it on Justice, but now it's old and irritating. It dominates the sound too much, and with that lack of overdub means that their sound always feels like it's not balanced properly.
Anyway, Hellbound starts out, a spaced out riff that could even bring to mind an element of Voivod, the songs got a few twists and turns going on in it Goddamn Electric is one of those titles that I guess just highlights one of the reasons that me and Pantera kind of parted company. This whole "goddamn" "dude" and "motherfucker" business just gets boring and old quickly. It's an apt title for a song that seems to extol the virtues of being able to stay young by reliance on weed, whisky and Sabbath and Slayer. All a bit cliched really. The song has one of those strong pounding riffs that appeared for Walk on Vulgar and has reared its head on all subsequent Pantera albums. Yesterday Don't Mean Shit is the first of the songs that's more upbeat, pacey and using a fast riff. Which is more where I come in really, plus there's a decent chorus going on in there.
You've got To Belong To It continues the theme of "all you need is love". Well close. Music, weed and whisky. And it seems you just don't understand. Others need music, for Pantera it's their lifeblood. Comes a little too close to comfort to me to the whole "you need to belong to the scene or you're nothing" mentality to me. Wrong whatever musical style it's associated with. Revolution Is My Name has another of the predictable Pantera riffs, but it's also got some nifty time changes, and there's a few moments when they raise the tempo above that patented Pantera groove. The vocal even reminds me of John Bush of Anthrax on the Sound Of White Noise album (now there's one to get. One of the most underrated albums of modern times. It blew Metallica's Black album out of the water as far as I'm concerned. They've certainly not managed to better it since). It's good to hear him sounding like this. There's so much more character to the vocals than the harder than thou for the sake of it approach. Character and individuality. It means so much more. Easily one of the standout tracks on the album. As is Makes Them disappear. It's got a massive Sabbath doom feel, a chugger of a riff and also some more gentle shimmering atmospherics at the start. This is better. This is more like Pantera needed to be for the last 5 years. Even if the ghost of Pantera riffs past is lurking.
Not read all the blurb in the magazines about what the songs mean, but Death Rattle sounds like it may deal with some of Anselmo's well documented dalliances in the past. It's another mid tempo track, nothing really special or outstanding. Pantera doing what Pantera does. We'll Grind That Axe For A Long Time is another "metal, and man, we're mutherfucking proud" song. Rally cries for a rejuvenated scene? As long as it doesn't isolate. Another mid paced grinder, more of a bluesy Sabbath feel in the riff.
It's been said this album pays no heed to current trends. Which is true. But there again, is it really a bad move to make an album so entrenched in the roots of a scene which if the magazines reports are to be believed, is readying itself to make a comeback anyway. Especially when the current trend and scene is rapidly wearing itself out and bereft of ideas.
Got to say though, find it quite funny that a band this hard have the word shit spelled as sh** on the CD for the Yesterday don't Mean Shit track. Dunno about you, but I can't help but feel this something wonderfully ironic in it. A hard band are effectively nothing when it comes to the overall power a label can have over you. "We're hard we are!" "Yeah, ok if you say so, but you can't spell shit properly" "Oh, ok then." Or maybe it's just the power of America and their wonderfully conservative nature. Freedom of speech as long as it's what they want people to say.
At the end of the day? Well, it matters shit what I think anyway. It certainly doesn't matter to Pantera, and most of their fans, if not all of them, will make up their own mind. And the ones that disagree with what I think will probably say or know that I'm talking shit irrespective of anything else. At this early stage, it's undoubtedly the best Pantera album since Vulgar. How it'll fare in 6 months time is another matter. But for now it's the album they had to do.
Absolute - Obsessive
Hmmm, the honest reaction is that this does nothing for me. To the extent that I'm not really even listening to it properly. It caught the initial attention due to the female vocals, which are ok, but the music is so bland and boring that I keep switching off from it. Hard rock is the best description I can think at the moment, competant enough in its execution, but excitement it does not induce. 10 years ago it would've struggled to keep its head above water, at the moment it's redundant. I'm sure that doesn't matter to the band in many respects, because if they were doing it for the notion of some sudden success, then they'd have to play something which appeals to the current climate. And this isn't it. So I guess it's being done out of the love for the style, and that attitude, whether you like the music or not, deserves to be applauded. Unfortunately I can't find myself applauding anything else with it really.
Commercial Breakdown #2 - Various (Blank Canvas Records)
Quite rightly this has been getting some good reviews in the national press. And I'm not really about to fly in the face of such a trend. This deserves to be heard for a number of reasons. One, first and foremost, the music. Two, and this is close behind, because it's put out by someone whose had the energy, the drive, the motivation to get up and do something. For all the despair I sometimes feel at the apathy in this country, there are some people who are doing worthwhile things, and Blank Canvas, the label behind this is one of them.
Musicly. Well, it starts with Raging Speedhorn with the track Random Acts. It's been a few months since I listened to the demo, and listening to this track again now, for all the plaudits they're receiving, lets face it, it's Iron Monkey again. They're good at what they're doing, and all the best to them, but I guess I'm one of those in the minority at the moment in thinking that it's nothing revelatory.
100 Reasons on the other hand are doing something to make me sit up and take notice. And so it seems are a lot of people. They were first brought to my attention by Owen from Earthtone 9 when they were known as Floor (100 Reasons that is), who was using words like "this band is going to be the biggest thing this country has produced". Best part of a year later it seems that other people in the industry are begining to suss this as well. It's of course all held together by the vocals, but they've got the important sense of dynamics that are important to help set them apart. The possible influences and reference points have been signposted a few times now. Hints of Tool, Far, Deftones that sort of thing. Fortunately they're avoiding the nu-metal by numbers problem. They're two tracks on offer here, Different and Wireframe are probably the standouts of the entire album, given of course that the Earthtone9 stuff has been around and available for a while now. Watch this band go. Well, at least watch them prepare to go. The actual take off is down to interest from people in this country and the industry, the reliance of which scares the hell out of me for their future.
Juice are next. I reviewed the demo way back in something like issue 3. To clear up things here. Members of the band were in a band with Jon Davis of Korn, which can explain the reason for the soundalike status of their music to an extent. But it was too close for comfort back then, now as I become increasingly disinterested in the xerox machine copies of this style of music that is emerging (will someone please pull the plug on the conveyor belt, the Stars In Their Eyes nu-metal slot is now full), then this seems even more redundant. Bottom line. If you love Korn and their sound and can't get enough of it, then Juice are for you. If you don't, you're unlikely to find anything of real interest.
Tribute To Nothing remain one of those workmanlike bands for me. They're good at what they do, there's hints of Helmet in their take on the hardcore sound, but they just don't rattle my cage as much as they should do. Earshot on first few listens fit a similar mould in terms of being competant, but unspectacular. Dealing in a bit of the old nu-metal thing. There's a lot of bands of this ilk at the moment, maybe too many, you need something special to standout, not merely competant. Boghead offer a kind of techno rock mix on their two tracks, Disthard and And. Although not truly outstanding, they're interesting enough in their own right. Breakneck are perhaps the biggest disappointment on here. Their tracks, Youme and Fortress are ok, but I was expecting a bit more of a progression in their overall sound from the demo. They play the Fear Factory game, alternatinh harsh and clean vocals. There's time for them yet, maybe I had my expectations a little high really.
Earthtone9 supply Grind And Click and Off Kilter, and well, I've probably said more than enough about this band already. If it's your introduction to them, well, go buy the albums, and importantly, the new Hi Point EP. They're one of this countries finest bands in years, probably if I had to stick my neck out, my favourite band at the moment (and there's some truly great bands around). These songs highlight the heavy, in a way more obvious moments. Good as they are, there's even better lurking on the albums, with more texture and interest. And if the recent live shows are anything to go by, the best is currently lurking in the rehearsal studio waiting to jump on to album #3.
Vacant Stare finish the CD wth Come Face Up and Prognosis. Most reviews that I've read for this CD seem to like this band, and rate them highly as hopes for the future. It's more rap metal kind of thing, well done in its execution, but stale and somewhat boring to me. This kind of thing is being done so much by so many at the moment that I've just about had my fill. Come back in a few years when whatever the next thing is going to be has been done to death, and I'm sure it'll sound more vibrant and refreshing, but for now, it's a band with a future in the present.
So overall, there's some great stuff on here, some that doesn't totally do it for me, that's kind of what you expect. But the overall concept and it's execution is excellent, to be applauded, and more importantly, to be supported.
Blank Canvas Records, 5 Bessemer Rd, Norwhich, NR4 6DQ. www.blankcanvas.co.uk
Waste - Therapy demo
It seems there's something going on in Italy, as here's another band from that part of the world offering up 6 tracks of pretty brutal and unrelenting metal. Manhatemachine is first, simple but hard riff, pissed off vocals, makes you think it could be quite scary of Italians really are the great romantics when they sound like this. There's some nice metal riffs going on, but it's pretty hard to make out what's being spat out as the vocals haven't really got enough space. Still, with titles such as Last Day of Pain, and Lifedrain, it's probably a fair bet that it isn't saying what a wonderful world we live in. Tight, agressive and pissed off, sometimes that's just what you need. Not about to set the world on fire, but that's probably a good job all things considered.
Contact: Waste c/o Patrizio Pappalardo, CP 71 - 95021 Acicastello (CT) Italy.
Lacuna Coil - Half Life (Century Media)
I may have heard this lot on some compilations in the past, but if I have, well to be honest I've forgotten them, so this 5 track EP really is my first exposure to the band.
Starting with the title track, Halflife, I can imagine that they get lumped in as being slightly gothic, but that's simply due to some of the vocals, which are shared male and female, a nice change. But there's really very little, in fact, virtually nothing to musically tie them into that particular genre. It's more solid rock metal as far as I can tell. The second track, Trance Awake is an instrumental in the field suggested by it's title. It's kind of trancy, gentle, soothing. There's no real need for it, there again, it's really quite pleasent to listen to. Things return to the more "normal" state with Senzafine those slow sustained powerchords again looking to add to the overall atmosphere. Hyperfast isn't really (hyper or fast), but does offer some decent variations, the growled male vocals being completely outshone by the more melodic vocals of Cristina Scabbia. There's some interesting technology as well, but part of me thinks that although it's not really the same field, for this kind of male/female, dark broody kind of thing, Interlock have done it a lot better and more excitingly on their last demo. Final track is Stars, starting off the most melodic, there's a little hint of say Paradise Lost around the Draconian Times album in the opening riff and melody. It's melodic, and it's the best thing on here. It may have something to do with letting the female vocals dominate. More like that and they'd seriously have my interest. As it is, they've only half captured it, though probably enough to be interested in the album that's said to be released later this year.
Trenchfoot - The Human Business Model demo.
Trenchfoot nearly didn't make it by virtue of the CD sitting in the player and going "fuck you I won't play when you tell me" at me. Not an unreasonable thing in a way as that whole RATM, rap / nu-metal thing is where they're coming from. As it happens I took it to the other player and it worked.
But, well, I don't know. It's just another on the conveyor belt. Churning out the same old same old. I don't know whether I'm being unreasonable or whether I've just listened to too much stuff lately, but I just can't find many redeeming things about so many of these style of bands. And it's not just the nu-metal scene. It's all the scenes that I listen to with any sort of regularity. There was a time just recently where I used to kind of pride myself on giving all demo bands a fair crack at the whip. Realising that whatever they're faults are, they're still more talented than me, they're still at least doing something and should be applauded for that. Maybe it's cos I'm getting more and more stuff now, but it's hard to sustain that attitude. And that's something that worries me. I mean, there's almost a contradiction going on here. The UK scene is wonderfully healthy with a lot of great stuff going on at the moment. Yet perversly, there's so much identikit stuff around swamping everything. Making it boring. I guess thinking about it, it's the way it's always been and the realisation is only really hitting me. Maybe it's just this style is ageing so quickly. I suddenly realise why some zines actually filter what they review, trying to go only for the stuff that means something to them. I still want to avoid that if I can help it, but more and more it makes sense to me. It's pretty obvious really though. Of all the bands out there, we're only ever moved as indivdiuals by such a minute percentage. I mean, this isn't aimed at Trenchfoot in particular, it's just a general observation. Trenchfoot hit all the right switches, I'm sure live they've got all the moves, yet the three tracks on offer here, Sum Total =Zero, L'il Bone Evil and Lobotmize, are just uninspiring to me. If you want yet another rapcore numetal littleoriginality band, Trenchfoot are here and waiting for you. Me, I need something a little more vital, a little more inspiring.
Contact : JMG Agency
Violation - Aggression Download demo.
I remember seeing this lot the other year in Rock City with Lysis. I remember them being competant, but also being blown away that night. Anyway, that was then, this is now, and this is a 5 track release that I've been sent. I think it's an official release, it's certainly packaged well enough to be, full colour insert, lyrics, the works. A page of pictures of the band at work, and er, play, reminding me of the reason I love the tomfoolery of metal bands. So. Much.
The music is right in the field of the big name metal acts of present. Fear Factory, Machine Head, Pantera, Sepultura. That sort of thing. It's big competition to go up against. They try admirably, the production is fine but ultimately they don't quite pull it off. But that's not to say this is bad or a waste of time, far from it. If you like a nice bit of metal in the vein of those bands mentioned above, then this could well be worth your time checking them out. Things especially come together well on The Driven, driven as it is by the drums and sheet riffing and Worm finishes things on another high note.
One problem is the vocals don't quite do it, they sound a bit forced, not as natural as the other bands. It's most evident on opener Agression Download. The other of course, is coming up with that one killer hookladden riff that no one else has. I'd guess it's an almost seemingly impossible task, and one they don't manage, so although there's plenty of good ones here, there's nothing that's going to make everyone in Britain go "fuck yeah, Violation have done it". Violation are good, this is a good release, but is it enough?
Contact: Aggressive Management, C/O Paul Dairy Cottages, Wakefield Lodge Estate, Potterspury, Towcester, Northants, NN12 7QX.
Idlewild - 100 Broken Windows. (Food Records)
They've never really done it for me have Idlewild. Don't know why, but it's just never clicked. Maybe this will be the one?
It starts promisingly, Little Discourage is hook laden and has me interested already. Because we've never had a meaningful relationship me and Idlewild, I can't accurately recall all their old stuff, but this from memory sounds less frentic, more melodic. Much better. REM run through my minds, the vocals being the reason. I Don't Have The Map carries on, a nice tone to the guitar, a bit of an indie tone maybe, but that's ok. Michael Stipes name springs to mind again during These Wooden Ideas, which has another infectious chorus and guitar hook running through it. This is much better than I remember them, this is much more appealing to me. Maybe the connection is being made - poor sods.
I'm sure that a lot of the inkies gave the real low down on this album, investigated all that it stands for and waxed far more lyrical than I can. I'm not capable of that. It's a more basic thing for me. This is good music, good songs. Dunno what else you can say really. There's 12 tracks on here, and they all good. Simple as that. Rusty is a highlight, careering along before the bass leads it out, Mistake Pageant has a achingly familiar intro, Flyscreen are a band that did similar and spring to mind. The Bronze Medal is acoustic led to end the album, melancholic sounding, it highlights a maturity and strong songwriting suss . It isn't radical, it isn't cutting edge. It's comfortable and feels as though they're maybe at ease with themselves on this. The bottom line is this is a quality album, easy to listen to. Not really challenging, just good. And in this particular instance, that's enough for me thankyouverymuch. Connection made.
Mindjuice - 2 track demo CD.
Next are Mindjuice with their latest 2 track demo CD. Saw them a couple of days ago, which is one of the reasons I thought it was about time I actually dug out that CD and took a listen. The previous demo I had didn't really do much for me - I can remember the instrumental being the most interesting song.
Fortunately things have changed for the better on this effort. Benefitting from a meatier sound courtesy of the production of Dave Chang, my main gripe remains with the vocals, which sound a little flat and just not entirely suitable for the music. They're not bad, but there's a feeling that with something really classy on vocals, we could be talking business here. The music kind of straddles the line of fairly traditional metal and the more cutting edge of today, though thankfully without too much of the "nu" element. Autonomy in particular has a massive chug riff at the heart of it, a few nice time changes, good groove. The name Kill II This did pop into my mind a few times, though they go without the samples and electronica that KIIT are playing with. Redirest Reinstate Regenerate ... opens with a partial riff that brings to mind a little bit of the Kashmir riff by Zeppelin, though suitably beefed up to modern metal standards. It's a slower, grindier track that Autonomy, but retaining a good groove.
A better effort all round than before. My only doubts remain with the vocals.
Contact : JMG Agency.
Fragment - Flux.
Now, according to the blurb that accompanies this, this one dates back to '98. And I've got to be honest, it's totally different to what I was expecting. Don't know why, but I just had this pre-conceived notion that it was going to be another punky effort. Nothing like it. We're kind of dealing in say Fear Factory, Strapping Young Lad territory, with a little more noise thrown in there and some dischordant riffs. And it works for the most part.
the bio is full of bollocks of course. Tells me that they're a 3 piece from Switzerland. Fair comment. They write in their native French. Fair comment. The lyrics "assume a poetic aspect as the style is often more significant than the meaning." Er, ok. Just need to open the window a mo, strange whiff in here.
10 tracks on offer here, opener Chair sets the blueprint. Plenty of small double bass drum runs, harsh metallic riffing reminiscent of Fear Factory and various time changes. Plomb has a major groove towards the end whilst Vogue is more uptempo and in the face. Haven't got a clue obviously what they're actually going on about, but I'm sure it's poetic and thus not at all pissed off.
As things progress through the likes of Bave, Nerf and Cohorte Humaine, there's a feeling that there's not enough variety here to really retain the momentum, though Scorie and closer Fraction do stand out. They're a band with the sound and potential, if only they can get a little more variety to go in there as well.
Distributed by Copro Records
Silencer 7 - Directions on a Compass (Household Name Records)
Having seen them live again recently, and once more being impressed, I finally found a copy of the album, and as it was relatively cheap, the purchase was made. And it can be strange how the impression you get of a band live can be different to the one you get when you listen to the album. I mean, for me live I've not really detected much of the Sick of it All and co kind of thing. The album hints that it's there though. It could be partly to do with the production, making use of Dave Chang means it's got quite a heavy and chunky feel to it.
One of the elements that I like most about the band from their live gigs is that there feels like there's an element of variety and melody about them missing from a lot of their counterparts. And for the first few tracks, Wideyed, Counterbalance and Mathematics of Progress it's missing and a little bit of me is disappointed. The songs themselves are high paced, good, with chorus to reel you in, and in their own right there's nothing to be disappointed with. But I was expecting that little something more. It eventually arrives about half way into the album, with the likes of Avalon, Walk On Water and personl fave Bullets Vs You. Each of them follows the high speed singaong blueprint, but manages to also break things down, inject some more melodies, some lighter moments to counterbalance the full on aspect. At one point it does become a little worrying that maybe there's two styles to the band. The full on, and the throw in a gentle part. But maybe that's as much to do with the track order as anything else. Whichever way it is, it doesn't disguise for me that they are one of the best of the UK hardcore bands, the melodies, songwriting suss and delivery ensures that. The final track The Sounds Of Sunset on Distant Seas is my personal favourite of the lot. It's an instrumental, and the bass which live had been one of the standouts of their sound is to the fore. It's a little bit more of the diversity that they have that I wanted. Personally I'd like to see them take those elements and explore them even more on any future releases.
The 11 tracks are all over in under 28 minutes, so there's no hanging around anywhere. Good release from one of the bands that can show that the UK hardcore scene can be just as good as the US. Still think they can be even better.
Desecration - Inhuman (Copro Records)
Now, if I'm correct, this lot have had a few problems in the past in getting stuff distributed due to the sensitive nature of their packaging. Which may explain why this has a rather boring cheesy partial skull X-ray on the cover. Mind you, you've also got Another Obscene Publication and A Message To The Censor, which will always do a better job of getting the point across than simply relying on visual shock tactics.
I've never actually heard them before, so musically don't know what to expect. What I get is to me thrash, but with the death style of vocals thrown on top. It's not thrash, it's death. I know someone will be able to explain the technical differences between high speed distorted guitars and er, high speed distorted guitars. It's driven along by some controlled double kick drumming, occassionally dipping into the full on blast mode. It's not the fastest stuff I've heard by a long mark, but the riffs are played so fast that at speed it's quite difficult to distinguish between the main ones on Insane Savagery and Turning Black. It's when they slow down and throw in a bit of harmony guitar that the differences emerge. The music really isn't that bad. Certainly a few years I'd have been well happy with it. It chugs in the right places. The vocals aren't really extreme, but I tend to ignore them, cos they feel a bit cheesy. And there's some ok melodies and whatever, like on Dig Up, Dig In.
10 songs in under 30 minutes means it doesn't outstay it's welcome, which is a good job. For me this sort of music is best delivered in short sharp shocks. And it's best listened to like that as well. Not bad, it's listenable. But how many times will I do that? But there again, I'm not really big on this sort of stuff.
Oratory - Last Prophecy
Sometimes wonder what it must be like to live in a different country and be subject to the different culture, trend and everything when it comes to music. Because it often seems that the rest of Europe has a completely different musical taste to that of the UK. Oratory kind of are a band that show that. This is a 4 track EP I guess. The first song is an "epic" 8 minutes. And it's kind like Helloween sort of power metal, but with less power, lots more keyboards. Progressivey sort of thing. Light and then all of a sudden there's a quickfire double bass drum spurt. It's topped off with dual vocals, all pompous, and a female operatic style thing. And well, they sound like good musicians to me, but it's just nothing exciting. And at 8 minutes, the track drags on through more twists and turns than is good for it. The next one talks about some race from a different planet, a bit more to the point but still pompous. And the third track has a keyboard part at the start that brings to mind the theme to The South Bank Show. The sort of thing I can imagine some of the more dreadful prog bands of the 70s would do. This just really isn't my sort of thing. And the reason I say "tracks" is cos I have no tracks listed on the cover I've been sent. Unlikely to be challenging for the No 1 spot in the hit parade pop pickers.
Distributed by Copro Records
a silver mt.zion - he has left us alone but shafts of light sometimes grace the corner of our rooms. (Constellation Records)
Bought this on the strength of connections with godspeed you black emperor. And if you've heard of that particular lot then I guess it gives you an idea of what style this is.
There are 8 tracks, weighing in at 47 minutes. Those eight tracks, although they all have titles, seperate themselves into 2 main tracks, the first being "Lonely as the sound of lying on the ground of an airplane going down" and the second "the world is sickSICK (so kiss me quick).
The first of these opens with the 9 minute Broken Chords Can Sing A Little, a sparse piano piece that towards the end sees some spoken word over the top. Sit in the middle of three galloping dogs is a more string based piece, gentle and soothing, as is stumble then rise on some awkward morning. The final piece is movie (never ends), which sees the use of vocals for the first time against another sparse piano piece.
Yep, it can all be very pretentious. You've got to want to listen to this really. About a year ago I'd probably have dismissed it as arty bollocks, but as the stuff that I mainly listen to has become so utterly boring in the main, then I've been dipping my toes. It may well still be arty bollocks, but it's arty bollocks that I find relaxing and soothing. Which may be almost going against everything its meant to be. It can become background music very easily. Part of it feels like it's taking the interest that say New Wet Kojak or even Tribes Of Neurot generate for me to a more extreme conclusion. That's not to say either of them sound anything like this, cos they don't. But the more experimental, laid back attitude. It's the link that probably allows me to go here.
The second piece starts of with 13 angels standing guard round the side of your bed. The strings sweep once more as a gentle kind of plinking goes on around it, and things start to slowly build up. blown out joy from heaven's mercied hole plods along, looping almost on the few notes there are, some whispered vocals barely audible in amidst it all before the strings caress again. 11 minutes of joy. Christ, it does make you try and sound all arty and full of bollocks doesn't? Ok, it rocks, in a totally non-rocking manner. Yeah, that's better for someone of my understanding!
If you are interested in trying this sort of stuff out, I've seen it described as space music, well, personally I'd still recommend Godspeed as the starting point. In many ways even though it's inaccessible, it's more accessible than this because there's just a hint of a more obvious link to something resembling rock music. This doesn't have it, but it's still incredibly soothing to listen to. I've just spent best part of a day listening to various degrees of hard and heavy, death and hardcore. And this just feels so much better at the moment. It's that change, that variety that I personally find I need more and more. And it comes again in some great cardboard packaging. Most if not all of constellation Records output comes on vinyl, and I guess really this is something that to get truly the full effect, I ought to buy on vinyl. Relaxing and ambient for a person who normally ain't that relaxed or very ambient. Me likes.
I can see the Onibi of the Keike Over the sea, their voices of battle The sky above Dannoura turns blood red...
Well it does. So it proclaims on the back of the insert for this 8 tracker, just in front of the bloke dressed as Death. And it appears to be what the opening track, Grudge of Dannoura is about. This appears to be a Japanese four piece, which isn't the place I normally associate with this sort of epic death metal tinged stuff. It's pretty melodic, shame it's got those stupid vocals over it. But hey, it wouldn't be what it is without it. As is the way with these things the bludgeoning riffs are offset by the atmospheric keyboards, and there doesn't appear to be any new ideas contained within it. More than anything else, this whole death, black, scary, woooooo metal seems to be the sort that unless you really are into it, that it becomes your favourite style, then it really is hard to get enthusiastic about it, or to differentiate good from bad. I certainly can't. I dunno. I've got about a dozen of these CDs to get through reviewing, and the problem is that I really can't differentiate between them, identify the bands, say which is good or bad. So yeah, they tempo change, fast bit, slower bit, melodic bit, atmospheric bit, widdle bit their way through 8 lengthy numbers. They singularly fail to retain any interest in me. There's sometimes the odd interesting riff, say on Ghost Waltz and The God of Winter, but predictability usually catches it up again. Vice has a brutally fast intro before settling down to a more sensible pace, but they're all stretched out toooo far. Mind you, they do give you the chance to practice reading your Japanese in some of the lyrics. If you read Japanese that is. And are interested. 'Fraid I'm guilty of neither. And do I have to write any more? I know it's a crap review and bands don't really do that. But it's not like you're going to get anything sensible out of me at the moment.
Distributed by Copro
Shelter - When 20 Summers Pass. (Century Media)
Hmmm, this has got some dodgy reviews, which makes me think either everyone else is wrong or I am. Well it's not me is it?! Nah, personally, I think this is utterly superb. Start to finish, it's a classy, tuneful release. Ok, it may have more pop sensibilities in it these days than some people would like, but at the end of the day the core to it all, the most important thing, is that it's chock full of great catchy memorable songs. Starting out with the title track, one of the first highlights is the road anthem of In The Van Again, a tale of tours, the university of life and all that goes with it. There's actually even a hint of Nirvana on the riff of Crushing Someone You Love. But there's so many great, simple songs on here like Song of Brahna and Don't Walk Away and Killer of my Dreams, in which you can close your eyes and just instantly imagine it at the gig, mike being passed out, circle pit going.
Personal favourite is saved 'till last with Can't Change History. Another massive chorus, it starts with a simple chuggy verse before hitting in with "and whose to say I might have done it differently, and it hurts today because I can't change history." It's just 2 1/2 minutes of perfection. It's the only challenger earthtone9's Tat Twam Asi has at the moment for song of the year - for me. This is positive hardcore, melodic, with a message, with humour, done with class. Like I said, it appears to have received some harsh reviews, Fracture say stuff like "kind of bland ... lifeless, mid paced rock tunes. nothing special at all." Well, it feels like I've been listening to something completely different. Hell, if people are actually getting something from the banality of Blink 182, then this should get way more interest. It probably won't, but if you are interested in that kind of hardcore / punk with pop sensibilities, then why not take a listen to this. It's better than most if not all of them, and if you've not discovered them before, then you can work through Ray's other band Better Than A Thousand, and back to where it all started, Youth Of Today. He's been doing it longer than most, and on this release, Shelter are still doing it better than most. It's been on pretty much constant play for the last few weeks, which for me these days is pretty rare. Even managed to play it in work. Hey, that's a good recommendation as far as I'm concerned.
Fracture #11 (£free)
Picked this up at the recent Cameran / Redlightsflash / HHH gig. And if you've seen Fracture then you know what to expect. God knows how many A4 pages free, probably around about 72 at a guess. Loads of reviews, interviews and opinionated columns. The great thing, I've said it before, is that it makes you sit up. Some stuff you disagree with. But it's more than likely that it can and will open your eyes to some new band, some new release, because there's so much here. This time I raise my eyebrows at the LARD review (Jellos vocals sound like Dio? Come on, it's Bon Scott surely), chuckle at the NOFX review, and ponder the fact that Lightyear got a good review (I remember them as being pretty crap). As ever though, I've got a whole list of stuff I want to check out as a result if I ever, a) find the time, b) find the money and c) find the actual releases. There's interviews with Oi Polloi, Karl Fieldhouse (from Canvas), The 'Tone, Brezhnev and Month Of Birthdays. And there are the '99 poll results, which as with an poll results make for intriguing reading (one of the main men behind Fracture has Fu Manchu as his top release of last year, which is an interesting choice) and has Maiden's Piece of Mind in his current playlist. Me, I've been listening to Somewhere In Time and 7th Son again recently. Great stuff. There's an interesting letter from Cookie of Itchy Bum complaiing about the fact that there still exists this metal vs punk vs hardcore thing going on. Interesting replies in that one agrees , and although another agrees, makes the point that metal is apolitical with no regards to the whole DIY ethic which makes hardcore. And on that basis wouldn't want a pure "metal" band in the zine. To be fair he then goes on to say "well how do you define metal" which is true. I hear bands that to me are pure metal through and through musically, yet throw in a different vocal style, or some appropriate lyrics, and they suddenly aren't metal. It's a weird thing, an interesting debate of course. The bands that are metal its reckoned don't give a fuck about zines. Interesting. I'd say of course that there are some metal bands who totally give a shit, and conversely there's some hardcore ones that don't. It's swings and roundabouts. But it's the sort of opinionated stance that makes Fracture what it is. It can wind you up, but if at the end of the day you disagree, why not just do your own zine or your own thing. Like I said, it's the true worth of the zine that it does provoke discussion. Another one for me has always been the assertion that they will not accept ads from major labels but will keep the money anyway. For no reason other than it being a major label. Now, that seems a little too puritanical to me. You could for instance say, "we'll not run more than two major label ads per issue" or "major labels can only have half page at most", but rejecting purely because it's a major label just feels too holier than thou. But, its their choice, so you respect that. I've never even thought an indie label would want to advertise in YAZ, let alone a major, so I guess it's not something I've thought of in the same way they have. But whichever way you look at it, Fracture is still probably the biggest and most important hardcore zine in the UK.
Contact: Fracture PO Box 623 Cardiff CF3 4ZA.
Dilemm-ahhh! #5 (£ ???)
Was sent a copy of this zine, which is enthusiastic, but lacks a little in the depth of the interviews and reviews. Mind you, that's perhaps partly cos it seems a lot of the interviews are the old postal based ones, which relies totally on the amount that the band will write back to you. So it's a two way thing. The interviews in this issue are with Fear Factory, Monkey Boy, Charger, Tribute To Nothing, Snubnose32 and Inruin, so it's a fair balance between American and British and a reasonable number of reviews, including quite a few demos.
Dilemm-ahhh! 32 Newbroadway, Ealing W5 2XA.
Blindspot #3 (£1)
Duncan Blindspot gave me a copy of the new issue at the recent Kill II This / earthtone9 gig in Dudley, and although it's only on issue 3, he's alsready gone and got a colour cover on it. Bloody hell.
This time round there's some lengthy and interesting interviews with Breed77, Stampin' Ground, Tribute To Nothing and earthtone9 (in which the whole of the band actually speak!) Interesting to read Duncan's take on the My Ruin gig in Dudley as well! I'm saying no more there.
Fair number of reviews as well, could probably do with more demos, but it's the same old story init? It's all a two way process.
Blindspot c/o Duncan Wilkins 20 Bowater St, West Bromwich, West Midlands, B70 8AR
With Harmful Intent #2
Second issue of this new zine from Ireland has arrived, and it carries on pretty much from the first issue. Highlight for me is the article about Tower Records. To summarise, last issue they got a slagging from WHI for their rip off prices. Fair comment. But this time the guy had the balls to go to the store, take a copy of the zine, give it to them to read the article and comment on it. The responses make interesting reading, despite the sincerity Tower try to show they still reek of bullshit to me. They cost so much cos they donít order in bulk and itís all the distributors faults. Same distributors as distribute the same CD to the indie shops guys? The indie shops that manage to charge less. Maybe take a small profit. Course itís not just the shops and distributors at fault. More like the entire money grabbing industry that is music. But yeah, itís an industry. They have to make a profit. Fine, just means myself and many others can continue to justifiably complain about it. Itís part of the industry after all. Elsewhere there are some decent interviews with the likes of Neurosis, no Use For A Name, Bouncing Souls and Mixwitch. There's also plenty of fliers for other zines and small distros reproduced and generally gives the feeling that it could grow, and is growing, into something special.
50p plus SAE to Cormac Sheehan, 14 Antogher Road, Roscommon, Ireland. http://go.to/whi