The Drab Four must have shut themselves away from sunlight for a year to come up with this opus. It's a gothic masterpiece that crawls into your brain like viscous blood seeping into your ear canal. The fuzzy slowed down Black Sabbath bass sound perfectly complements Peter Steele's drawn out vocal delivery. The guitars are low in the mix. Along the way there are some beautiful pastoral moments that by contrast heighten the gloom. Then they throw in an upbeat happy tune with keyboards and you know that the full spectrum of grief is to be explored. Play it at a funeral for extra good times.
With drummer Tre Cool firmly intact, making up the Green Day line-up that we know today, the pop-punker's second album Kerplunk is a step closer to that defined sound that would catapult them into the mainstream two years later.
Billie Joe Armstrong's perfected the snotty vocal delivery and friendly guitar crunch, while Mike Dirnt's bouncy basslines and harmonizing back-up vocals are coming into their own. It's teetering back and forth between the fast to-the-point radio pop songs of Dookie and lyrically bloated, weaker songs of 1,039.
Not quite there but it's so damned close it can't help but be noticed as good, foot-tapping, head-bopping fun.
You know the rock music genre is in a bit of trouble when the best "rock" album to come out in 2010 was a joke album by a fake rock band, Infant Sorrow fronted by comedian Russel Brand.
Serving as a soundtrack of sorts to the film, Get Him To The Greek, Brand is pompous Brit-rocker Aldous Snow who is trainwreck hybrid of Jarvis Cocker (one of the album's co-writers), Liam Gallagher, Bono and Mick Jagger. Playing it straight, Brand is hilarious, yet emotionally effective, spouting out inane lyrics about "furry walls" and "bangers, beans & mash". It's not an instant classic by any means but it's great fun with some good chuckles and catchy tunes front to back.
Rising hip hop architect Clams Casino's compilation of instrumentals can't help but leave me in awe of the genre.
Clams Casino makes use of standard hip-hop beats, then layers them with dreamlike atmospherics and hazy wordless vocals, conjuring up therapeutic emotions filled with sadness, wonder and serenity that's perfect for rainy weather daydreaming. Like his hip-hop instrumentalist peers Blue Sky Black Death and Araabmuzik, I could bear to hear more of Clams Casino's work without any lyrics. Lets hope his future projects are as effective as this wonderful little compilation.
Experimental hardcore hip-hop act Death Grips 2011 debut, Exmilitary is admittedly a difficult listen.
Channeling the old-school sounds of Black Flag and Suicidal Tendencies mixed with industrial like hip-hop beats that are constantly changing tempo and fractured samples that would be out of place in any other hip hop project, Death Grips isn't for everybody. The hardcore punk aggression is captured perfectly with the brutish like vocals and grungy production that would probably make a Slayer fan think twice about entering a Death Grips moshpit.
It's a little too different for it's own good. Excellent production and composition are overshadowed by the intense anger that seems a bit much at times.
Pink Floyd's 1967 debut album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn is a force to be reckoned with.
Nightmarish and simultaneously charming, Piper is a psychedelic classic filled with lyrical allusions to Lewis Carrol and teetering on the brink of madness. Showcasing the undeniable genius of troubled frontman Syd Barrett, this album is a rarity in the psychedelic genre. Instead of the usual positively uplifting lyrics & sound of the psychedelic age, Barrett & the Floyd took a more frightening route and rattled the brain with horrifyingly dizzying sound effects and lonely lyrics about isolation and outcast misfit characters.
Perhaps one of the best debut albums of all time, Piper is an experience that will remain with me and many others for the rest of time.
A sequel that's better than the original. 0_0 The same speedy rhythms, dramatic vocals and extravagant guitar solos that made the first part so good are once again firmly placed herein, and there's some wonderfully enthusiastic drumming beneath the furore, if you care to listen. Though it may be too long for some people, for me the thirteen minute titular track is a masterclass in lengthy orchestration that I never tire of. It's Helloween's best work. The two parts of Keeper of the Seven Keys are the only power metal albums I class as essential.
Released in 1990, 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours is widely considered to be pop-punkers Green Day's first studio album when in fact it's a collection of previously released E.P.s on the recently defunct record label Lookout! Records.
Raw and not quite refined, Green Day's first "full-length" isn't an instant classic but a blueprint of what was to come. It's catchy and melodic but is missing that punch n' crunch that would catapult Green Day into the multi-platinum mainstream. An interesting listen to where the boys from Berkeley started out but never really goes much further than that.
The unique sound of the first Sisters album is a love it or hate it thing. Somewhat similar in tone to Joy Division or Bauhaus, it's infused with a gloomy repetitive atmosphere that'll depress or elate the individual, and only really works in the correct environment. It's solely responsible for the gothic tag that dogged the band for years afterwards. It's nihilistic 80s Rock music that engulfs the listener in a fog of self-reflection. If you can embrace that, it'll never leave you.
Leonard the poet. He's 77 y/o and his soul is still a thing of beauty that shines through in every word he speaks. Expect simple guitars in support of his voice like the early days, heartfelt piano, lazy-day drums, dreamy female backing vocals and a feeling of drifting through redemptive waters on every track. There are no surprises, it's Leonard by numbers, but they're numbers we like. There's a little piece of Leonard's life in each of us and we're all the better for it.
The riffage is back! The heavy blues is back! The soaring chorus is back! Lock up your virgin daughters, because the hamster of evil is back!! His voice is aged but still strong; it sits beneath the guitar sound which is a shame because it really deserves to rise above it like the days of old. The music is heavy but not violent and abrasive like before, it's closer to Danzig II and III than anything since those glory days. If the production had been handled better it would be a top scoring album. As it stands, it's almost essential and will no doubt please the fans of old.
It's electric hillbilly, Buck Satan style (Ministry's Grandpa Jourgensen ). He's aided by Rick Nielson, Tony Campos and Mike Scaccia. If you've heard the Revolting Cocks album, Sex-O Olympic-O (2008), then you've heard most of this. It has the same sound and lazy riffing but somehow works a lot better. Add some fiddles and banjos and it begins to make even more sense. It shouldn't but I'll be damned... it does. Expect songs about drugs and innuendo that raise a chuckle. If the production hadn't been so slick sounding, I'd have liked it a lot more.
Marilyn Manson clone band that fails to do anything unique or original. Think of all the bad MM songs and put them all on one album, you'll have something like Candyass. Its saving grace is a cover of New Order's Blue Monday. It's such a classic song that it'd take a real idiot to screw it up. It's played the same (because to do it any differently would require creativity, which they lack) but it's on distorted guitars and it works beautifully.
Helloween basically invented European Power Metal on Keeper and its sequel, but I can forgive them because they did it properly. The much-maligned bollocks revival that happened a few years back isn't worthy to wipe Helloween's collective asses. Their music is frantic and melodic, with choruses that you can't help but enjoy. It's packed with varied twists and turns, which leave little room to get bored. It's peppered with widdly solos that work - a rare thing, in my book. Vocalist Michael Kiske has a unique voice that's part operatic and part Bruce Dickinson. The album is just under thirty-seven minutes long, but it has a vitality that means it lingers in the mind for much longer.
Streetcleaner is over twenty years old but still kicks the shit out of most of the Industrial music around today. It's as powerful as a force of nature - a storm of sludge and grit and glass that eats into your brain and shreds your veins. A drum machine pummels along beneath a wall of lo-fi guitars and bowel-rattling bass while Justin K. Broadrick vocally releases his inner demons.
I'll never forget the first time I heard it and the life-changing impact it had on me. It's a masterpiece and as important to Industrial music as The Beatles were to Pop music. Yes, I did just compare Godflesh to The Beatles and I stand by it.
For the record, the 2010 remaster is a successful update, it makes everything a little clearer but loses none of the original's crushing power.
The difficult third release got the duo a number one album but it wasn't as good as the previous one. Typical. It tries to sound more grown up by adding more layers to the musical formula, but it just draws more attention to the synth aspect instead. It has quiet piano moments, an accordion and some occasional strings. The lyrical content is as scathing and passionate as anything they had belted out before. It's still a great album despite its flaws. It even has a kind of ballad, Carter style.
A two-disc set collecting unused material, rare tracks, B-sides and some previously unheard covers from the years 1988-2004. Up until 1994 the Evil Elvis was still churning out 5 Star albums, so some of this is really worth having.
Even if there's something very wrong with you and you preferred the later albums (V-VII) there's something for you on TLT. With 26 tracks in all, you can ignore what you don't like and still have a regular album's worth of new classic-era Danzig!
Released on the often-criticised but always interesting CRASS records, the first K.U.K.L album is post-punk at heart, but it's Björk, so it's experimental bat-shit crazy as well, and has a lot of genre-bending. Expect bells, flutes, pipes, guitars and drums, with vocals shared between her and Einar Örn that range from a whisper to an anguished scream. It sounds like PiL in places, and Sugarcubes in others (both Einar and Björk were in the 'Cubes). If you like weird, and don't hate the outspoken Icelandic pixie, you might find something new in The Eye.
Neo-folk! I love it. Ian Read (Current 93/Sol Invictus) formed Fire + Ice to express his views on "…magic lore, runes, tradition, renaissance medievalism, Nordic mysticism and other esoteric and occult mysteries." Phew. That'll work. It's typical of the genre, with slow acoustic moments and traditional skin drums played in a very harmonious, ancient, pagan way. Part of the album is a runic poem; the lyrics are multi-faceted and will take knowledge of Runes and an age to decipher.
If hippies and pagans give you the fear, then you should probably avoid Rûna. But if you like the genre, then it's certainly worth seeking out.
FBD sold by the bucket-load on the strength of the previous album, but it's not as good. Diamond/Dimebag Darrell's down-tuned chug is slowed way down in places and sounds like Fear Factory in others; Fear Factory are boring. The drums are savagely heavy-handed and impact upon the sound of the whole album a little too much. It's still as heavy as a bag of spanners, but has less to set it apart from the era's Pantera clones. Although, there's a rather fine cover of Black Sabbath's Planet Caravan at the album's end that deserves a mention.
I've already described the Katatonia sound as best I could, without penning a short story about it, in a previous review, so I won't go over it again here. I'll just add that Viva Emptiness is more of the same and is hailed by many in the metal press as one of the finest gothic metal albums ever made. I prefer the previous album, but I can't fault VE in any way, despite the band's misgivings about the production. The atmosphere of uplifting sadness is uninterrupted, as is the formula they created and perfected. I also love how, since their musical reinvention, each one of their album covers is like a self-contained story waiting to be written.
The last PiL studio album was neither very good nor very bad. It sits somewhere in the middle, ignored most of the time by everyone. It's dogged by the curse of almost every song sounding the same. It's the sound of a band with nothing left to give, perhaps as a consequence of the earlier experimentation, Lydon had nothing left to say. The Public image has passed into the realms of the bland. It's for the best that he put it to rest after this. Death is a project... Do yourself a favour and go back to the very beginning.
Andrew Eldritch and Doktor Avalanche were all that was left of TSoM after the first album. And seeing as how Doktor Avalanche doesn't have a body, Floodland is basically an Eldritch solo album. It sounds like it was conceived to be played in a sunken cathedral, as you float along in a current of shadows, hell-bent on dragging you into a ruminative atmosphere... It's a soundtrack to the opening of your eyes to the bastardry of love and the reason the world is all wrong, until it all crumbles around you. Get the extended version for extra sparkly bonus track goodness, including a twelve minute version of Neverland.
An acoustic version of a track originally on Amorphis' Elegy (1996) album, two previously unreleased tracks and two new covers make the E.P a must for fans of the guys from Finland. The E.P is less metal than the album was but the song writing is no less interesting. It's a lot more folk and poetically driven than they were originally known for. Strangely, I prefer this version, it has a beauty that the original lacked. The two covers I mentioned are a Hawkwind song, and a Kingston Wall song. If you liked the experimental progressive folksy metal of the Elegy album, then the chances are good that you'll like My Kantele, too.
Mix Alice in Chains' sludge with Type O Negative's atmosphere and you have A Pale Horse Named Death. It's the brainchild of former Type O Neg drummer Sal Abruscato, so it's only natural it would sound similar to the Drab Four. The AIC element was a surprise. It's pretty amazing. A drummer taking the guitar/vocal duties is rarely a good thing (people who know me will know what I mean when I say, "Hi, Dave!"). but APHND's post-grunge grunge is a success. I very much doubt it'll still be giving me the jollies a year from now, but today I've got it on repeat.
From Avant-garde art to Pop to Dance… I have to give Lydon credit for having a career so diverse, but this incarnation of PiL leaves me bored and unsatisfied. It's a half-breed dribbling poodle, not a pedigree wolf with bite that it used to be. It's almost the same line-up as the previous album, which was a first for the revolving door band, and while it's better than that previous effort, it's still sub-par for the PiL name. Expect bland Pop tunes that no longer stand apart from the norm, with the exception of Lydon's voice.
The amphetamine-fuelled third album has the brothers finding a compromise between the distortion-heavy sound of their first album and the quieter, more sombre sound of their second. It took me a while to really warm to it.
The inclusion of a very obvious drum machine and synth bass is a shame, because live instruments would've given it an extra dimension, but when hidden behind the guitar distortion it's tolerable. Ultimately, it's another great release from the Scottish band who were their own worst enemy.
Jim Bob and Fruitbat did it again with their second album, only they did it even better. It's the BEST Carter album, by far. In fact, it's one of the best early 90s Pop-punk albums, period. Recorded in twenty days on an old 8-track, it's still just a programmed drum machine and sequenced backing tracks, with the two guys on guitar, but when it's this good, who cares! They played almost all of the album the first time I saw them live and I loved it like Elvis loved a burger.
Believed to be the first ever Folk Metal album, Martin Walkyier's post-Sabbat band never really found a target audience; no one was ready for it at the time of release, so it fell by the wayside. You can hear the Sabbat Thrash in there, but the Folk elements come to the fore a lot in the melodies and instrumentation. It has Walkyier's usual hurried vocals but the Folksy shanties and mandolin, fiddle, and acoustic moments give it a very schizophrenic identity.
Heavier than most Folk fans like and Folksier than most Heavy fans like, it's an anomaly that nevertheless still sounds amazing twenty years later.
Dreamweaver is a concept album based on the book The Way of Wyrd: Tales of an Anglo-Saxon Sorcerer (1983) by author and psychologist Brian Bates. It has Andy Sneap shredding the guitars with speed and precision, and the wonderful Martin Walkyier on vocals (does he ever breathe?). Those two artists together made music so creative and vibrant that it was never bettered by either man separately. Chock full of Thrashy riffs and occasional weird Maiden-esqe musical changes that take a few listens to make sense of, the album is a genuine timeless classic.
Songs of Note: Advent of Insanity; Do Dark Horses Dream of Nightmares?
I have friends that like dance music. With very few exceptions, I don't like the genre. I look through their CD collection, and they look through mine, and after shaking our heads for twenty minutes we discover that the only similarity is Kraftwerk. Autobahn is music for everyone, or no one. It's also is a masterpiece. Track one is twenty-two minutes long and simulates a drive on the German expressway. I'm not kidding. It has whooshing cars, horns, Moog bass, synth that actually works and happy vocoded vocals. It's soothing and very catchy. The remainder of the album is equally as odd, but is the template by which all electronica is measured. You'll be singing the chorus on your first listen.
It's similar to the first one but more Eastern sounding due to the subject matter. With less obvious synth it sounds fuller, darker and more accomplished. However, when the synth does creep in it falls apart like before. Elsewhere there are organs, strings, percussion and ethereal chants. It's classical music for people who long to sit under trees in graveyards on stormy October nights and wait for demons to rise and offer Faustian pacts. If that sounds like you, I'll see you there.
Songs of Note: Overture Winged Night Demon; Shiddin
Joy Division: a cavernous sound, fuzzy bass, repetitive electronic guitar and drums that sound like sadness personified. Blessure Grave: a cavernous sound, fuzzy bass, repetitive electronic guitar and drums that sound like sadness personified.
Some say rip-off, I say homage. Whatever the correct response, the musical description stands. But while Joy Division managed to avoid being monotonous, Blessure Grave don't. They also inject some of The Cure's sound into the mix, which is interesting if not entirely successful.
British punk. The real deal, uncompromising both lyrically and musically. It's percussion heavy with twangy distorted guitars and screamed vocals that at times can't even be clearly discerned. They arguably can't play for shit but that's not the point, it's a statement, a musical expression of what it meant to be working class in late 70s Britain. If you've occasional anger issues and hate your government and everything they stand for, then it's the perfect music to make you feel less alone. Crass were too short lived but the music they gifted us is ever-relevant.
PiL used to create art. Then they made pop art. This is as close to regular boring Pop as you can get and still be Lydon. And it really sucks. Lydon still sounds like the kid that doesn’t get picked for the school choir (that's a good thing) but the music is generic, bland, devoid of innovation and above all, safe. PiL shouldn't be safe. There are hints of the old buried in the mix, Save Me, and the bass line of Fat Chance Hotel, but not enough to sustain any lasting interest. Happy? No, I'm not!
If the Watershed (2008) album didn't alienate most of Opeth's early fans, then Heritage surely will. It's prog rock with small doses of avant-garde in the song structure. There's piano, keyboards, flute, mellotron and no growls. If you listen carefully, the shifting song structures are the same as always, but without the death metal masking them they seem more obvious and very awkward. I've never been much of a fan of prog, so 90% of the album didn't click with me. However, it was recorded on analogue, so it at least sounds warm and cosy.
The second album from the Glaswegian quartet. It follows the same formula as before but is more aggressive in places while somehow seeming less punchy, perhaps due to over-familiarity setting in already. The pounding rhythm section is amped-up at the expense of the groove. The rehash stuff can't compare to the first album, so it's left to the new additions to be the thing that defines it. Unfortunately, that's a few ballads, which will either hit or miss for most individuals. Still sounds like Blondie at times... and now Pulp. If you're new to FF, I'd recommend the first album as a better entry point.