Nut Suite. Mini reviews of albums old and new. Minimum words. No fuss. No spoilers [?]. Occasional smugs.

Friday, August 31, 2012

ALICE COOPER / A Fistful of Alice (1997)

A live album recorded at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The set-list is mostly classic Alice played very straight; some variation would've been nice because as fans we've heard these many times before. The newer material includes two of the worst things he's ever written. I'm not clear on why they were included, but they serve to highlight how much better the older tracks are.
The album ends with a studio track called 'Is Anyone Home?' that was recorded specifically for the release. I've included it in Songs of Note simply because it's new, and some folks might not have heard it before.

Songs of Note: Welcome to My Nightmare; Is Anyone Home?

3 helping hands from Slash and Zombie out of 5

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

DIABOLOS RISING / 666 (1994)

The first album from the Darkwave/Industrial outfit, made up of only two members, Mika Luttinen (Impaled Nazarene) and Magus Wampyr Daoloth (Rotting Christ, and N.A.O.S.), is seven songs about Satanism and misanthropy that are somewhat sinister and somewhat comical. I'm not sure if the latter ingredient was intentional, but I'll take the added entertainment value. It sounds like a Black Metal version of early Ministry in places, which is kind of fun.

Songs of Note: Give Me Blood or Give Me Death; Sorcery - Scientia Maxima

3 sons of Cain out of 5

Monday, August 27, 2012

MAYHEM / Wolf's Lair Abyss E.P. (1997)

The first Mayhem release without Euronymous, who died at the hands of a paranoid and stabby Varg. Maniac is back on vocals and he does well; there's nothing yet as bad as what the following album would spit at us. Against the odds, considering the damage to the band structure, it's damn good.
It's a lot more technical than what came before, the bass is louder, the guitars are crisper and Hellhammer pounds the living shit out of his kit.
The production is on a whole other level. It's the last of the essential Mayhem.

Songs of Note: I am Thy Labyrinth; Fall of Seraphs

4 Nietzschean screeches out of 5

Saturday, August 25, 2012

KATATONIA / Dead End Kings (2012)

Dead End Kings is the biggest shake-up in the Katatonia sound since Discøuraged Ønes (1998). It's more mellow than usual - there's even cello and piano.
Don't worry, though, despite the changes it's still unmistakably Katatonia at heart. It has the majestic melancholy and decaying beauty that we've come to expect from them firmly placed, it's just more refined.
New bass player Niklas Sandin gets his sound high in the mix; he fits in well. The swelling guitars are still evident but less predictable than usual. It's the same but different and, frankly, I'm very pleased with that.

Songs of Note: Buildings; Leech

4½ concrete skies out of 5

Saturday, August 18, 2012

MANOWAR / The Triumph of Steel (1992)

It's easy to laugh at Manowar, but the fact remains that they're unsurpassed at what they do, with a technical ability that leaves me in genuine awe.
TToS opens with a majestic twenty-eight minute Homeric epic (Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy in Eight Parts) chronicling the fight between Hector and Achilles. It has a guitar solo, a piccolo bass solo, a drum solo and Eric Adams doing his warrior thing. It almost makes me wish I had a uterus, so that I could feel it shudder.
The remainder is split between aggressive and quiet but is always 100% Manowar.
It’s arguably the most adventurous album they ever made. It was also drummer Rhino’s only Manowar album; having it on his CV means he'll never be out of work.

Songs of Note: The Demon's Whip; Master of the Wind

4½ marching orders for wimps and posers out of 5

Friday, August 17, 2012

HEADLESS HEROES / The Silence of Love (2008)

An album of covers that, I'm ashamed to say, I picked up because I fell in love with the art. I know… but it turned out to be half-interesting. It features songs by The Jesus & Mary Chain, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, I Am Kloot, and several others.
It has a delicate, dreamy, non-threatening, mid-sixties folksy sound that reminds me of Nancy Sinatra at times. Vocalist Alela Diane has the potential to shine if she finds the right collection of songs and backing musicians.

Songs of Note: True Love Will Find You in the End; Blues Run the Game

3 wild gambles out of 5

BLACK SABBATH / Heaven And Hell (1980)

Ronnie James Dio's first album with Black Sabbath gets everything right from beginning to end. The Iommi/Butler/Ward sound is less doomy than the Ozzy era but no less melodic. Ronnie's voice projects more than Ozzy ever could; that opened up new avenues for Sabbath to venture down. Lyrically it's more Dio than Sabbath, but I fail to see that as a criticism. It's produced by master knob-twiddler Martin Birch, who finds the perfect pitch and balance to give everyone equal footing. Albums rarely achieve such perfection. H+H is a classic.

Songs of Note: Children Of The Sea; Heaven And Hell

5 endings are just beginnings out of 5

Thursday, August 16, 2012

SHIT AND SHINE / Ladybird (2007)

Four drummers. Two bass players. One toy keyboard. One killer industrial riff that goes on for 41 minutes. What's not to like?
If you want to further increase your enjoyment of this release, google for pictures of the band members.

Song of Note: Ladybird.

4 bunny suits out of 5

Monday, August 13, 2012

KING DIAMOND / The Eye (1990)

Album number five saw King turn his attentions to the French Inquisition (1450-1670) and the atrocities performed by the 'servants of God'. The music is typical King Diamond. The biggest difference from previous works is the greater use of keyboards, but, happily, they add a gothic, eerie church vibe to the sound that works beautifully with the story. You'll be horrified to learn that it's almost all factual, except for the mysterious 'Eye' of the title.
Andy LaRocque's guitar work is again exceptional, and to the fore. In contrast, the bass is a little too low in the mix. New drummer Snowy Shaw lacked the power of his predecessor. But despite those few niggles, it's another strong KD album.

Songs of Note: Eye of the Witch; Two Little Girls

4 flames will soon devour out of 5

Thursday, August 9, 2012

KOJI KONDO / The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Original Soundtrack (1998)

Musical score from the N64 game. If you've played LoZ: OoT, then you'll probably already be in love with much of its music. Hearing it again will flood you with memories of characters and locations, and make your hands itch to pick up a controller. The music was reliant on the N64's limited sound capabilities, so some concessions had to be made. It's not orchestral CD quality, it's MIDI files that to some ears may sound flat by today's standards. Nevertheless, Koji's skill produced audio that's bursting with emotion, danger, pastoral beauty and unbridled fun. It's not an exaggeration to say that I absolutely adore it.
If you've not played the game, should you care? Probably not. Shame on you.~

Songs of Note: Hyrule Field Main Theme; Lost Woods

5 stories of heart and courage out of 5

BJÖRK / Debut (1993)

Björk is strange. I like strange. Debut is split between electronic dance tracks that occasionally subvert expectations and off-the-wall experimentalism that put her far ahead of her peers. I can skip the dance tracks and still find enough material embedded in the softer rhythmic tracks to keep me excited. She uses harp, brass, dreamy jazz rhythms, African style percussion, trip-hop beats, and weird blips and squeaks to craft something that'll bring as much hate as love from listeners. It may take some time for you to see the world as Björk does, but the effort is worth it.

Songs of Note: Human Behaviour; Play Dead

4 sprinkles of pixie dust out of 5

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

CHARGED GBH / City Baby Attacked By Rats (1982)

A fantastic début album from the Brummie punks. It fused elements of metal and hardcore into the traditional Brit punk formula, producing an exciting hybrid that was musically angry but lyrically focussed. Expect two and a half minute bursts full of raw, aggressive guitars, pounding thrash-style drums and enthusiastic vocals. It sounds primitive now, and it lacks diversity, but it was instrumental in helping to launch the UK 82 scene. A worthy addition to any Punk collection.
They later dropped the 'Charged' part of their name and became simply G.B.H.

Songs of Note: Time Bomb; City Baby Attacked By Rats

4 bones spat out of 5

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

THE FLAMING LIPS / The Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs with Henry Rollins and Peaches Doing The Dark Side of the Moon [2009]

For their lucky 13th album, psychedelic rockers The Flaming Lips decided to take on Pink Floyd's classic Dark Side Of The Moon album in it's entirety.  
With a little help from Stardeath & The White Dwarfs, The Lips make the album all their own while still sounding strangely familiar but never bloated as other artists might do.  I laugh with excitement every time I hear Henry Rollins' voice reenact the dialogue samples from the original album, however as impressive as Peaches' vocal abilities are I just need to turn down her contribution.  As a Lips fan it's a unique addition to their catalogue but as a Floyd fan it's borderline offensive.  

3 extreme hit & misses out of 5

MARK LANEGAN / The Winding Sheet [1990]

Briefly pulling over from his ride in the now defunct grunge band The Screaming Trees, Mark Lanegan tones it down and goes solo on 1990's The Winding Sheet.
Nearly void of electric guitars, the album is carried acoustically sounding like a rainy campfire album for the grunge era.  Lanegan can't sing worth a damn but the passion he puts in his Waits/Cobain-esque voice tells an intimate story all it's own.
It's not a perfect solo effort but it certainly is a hint that Lanegan can carry his own records for many years to come.

3½ Leadbellys out of 5

Songs Of Note: Wild FlowersThe Winding Sheet

Monday, August 6, 2012

FAITH NO MORE / Live At The Brixton Academy [1991]

Recorded in London on their world tour in support of The Real Thing, Faith No More's only official live album Live At The Brixton Academy is more miss than hit.
Even though the sound of the recording is absolutely dismal, most of the performance is filled with enthusiasm and precision.  Well...with the exception of vocalist Mike Patton's obnoxious bratty attitude in some brief moments here and there.  Tagged with two previously unreleased studio recordings leftover from The Real Thing sessions, this album is pretty much for fans only.

2 New Kids On The Block out of 5

Songs Of Note: War PigsZombie Eaters

ZERO KAMA / The Secret Eye Of L.A.Y.L.A.H (1984)

Zero Kama play occult, ritualistic, tribal music on bizarre sounding instruments that the insert states: "…were exclusively made from human bones and skulls by the hand of Zero Kama." I don't know if that's true, but it's certainly possible. It's percussion-based with the occasional wind-style instrument (hollowed out femur?) to accompany and lift the repetition. You'll need an appreciation of tribal rhythms and the sound of rattling bones to even make it past the first track.

Songs of Note: Atavism DreamWinged Eye Hadit

3 Inaugurations into the obscure out of 5

SKYCLAD / Tracks from the Wilderness E.P. (1992)

A Thin Lizzy cover, two non-album tracks unavailable elsewhere, and three live tracks recorded during '92 at the Dynamo-Open Air in Eindhoven make up this rather average E.P. Walkyier and crew, with their violin and fervent sense of timing, manage to make the TL cover sound like Skyclad through and through, but the first new track is unexciting; part acoustic and part boring. The second reminds more of Sabbat. I liked it best. With the exception of the TL song, there's little on the E.P. that will appeal to anyone other than existing fans.

Songs of Note: Emerald; When All Else Fails

2½ unfulfilled wishes out of 5

Sunday, August 5, 2012

THE BEAUTIFUL SOUTH / Blue is the Colour (1997)

The soulful Pop music, the beauty of Jacqueline Abbott's voice and the soft lull of Paul Heaton's may make you think that you're hearing songs about sunny days on the beach; delve deeper and you'll find lyrics filled with bitter sarcasm, cynicism, and unabashed pessimism, with subject matter you can only appreciate fully if you've experienced it yourself. It's typical Beautiful South, but this time at max level. It's some of the most uplifting songs about misery you're likely to find.

Songs of Note: Don't Marry Her; Mirror

4 blonde and beautiful is dull and dutiful out of 5

Saturday, August 4, 2012

PANTALEIMON / Heart of the Sun (2008)

Pantaleimon blend simple, acoustic Folk melodies with a fragile, dreamlike, Lynchian drone. It's the sound dew makes as it drips from graveyard flower petals. Or, if you don't like this kind of thing, you can call it boring hippy music.
It's slightly haunting in places, but Andria Degens' voice, the warm harp, piano, and cello keep it from becoming too dark.
Heart of the Sun is a "remixed and realised" version of the Mercy Oceans (2007) album, by a number of guest artists. It also adds four new tracks (5, 8, 10 and 14).

Songs of Note: At Dawn (Vogel); All the Birds (Melting Canvas)

3 remixed Idyls out of 5

Friday, August 3, 2012

XERATH / I (2009)

A Metal band that attempt to merge "film score style composition with syncopated guitar rhythms." What that translates to is chug-chug riffs with some piano and string interludes scattered throughout. It's not a new idea, Celtic Frost did something similar decades ago, and Sigh are the current masters of it. (I'm not saying Xerath sound like CF or Sigh; they don't.) The orchestral moments are interesting and complementary to the structure but the generic Metal grunts they mask don't offer anything we've not heard a thousand times before.

Songs of Note: Intrenity; Abiogenesis

2½ needs more strings out of 5

FUDGE TUNNEL / Hate Songs in E Minor (1991)

The first (and best) album from the wonderfully named Fudge Tunnel deals in fuzzy, heavy handed, down-tuned alternative rock that should appeal to fans of Helmet, Head of David, Godflesh, or The Melvins. I know that's a mixed bag, but what they have in common is a thick, gritty guitar sound, which is something that FT is equally known for. It'll give your speaker drivers a chunky workout. The album includes a great, sludged-up cover of Cream's Sunshine of Your Love.

Songs of Note: Hate Song; Sunshine of Your Love

4 doses of gut rot out of 5

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ô PARADIS / La Boca Del Infierno (2005)

La Boca del Infierno (Hell's Mouth) is an experimental Neo-folk album that takes the listener through a dark, dreamy, dreary and majestic journey into a world of sound and implication. It has the usual instruments that Folk relies upon but uses them in a very odd and reserved way; it weaves in electronic loops, voices, sound effects and haunting  percussion that isn't music but is nevertheless essential to the experience. If Neo-folk is something you enjoy, you should maybe try it - but keep an open mind and be prepared for something that defies convention.

Songs of Note: La Sangre; Nuevo Mundo

4 recondite pleasures out of 5

ALICE COOPER / Raise Your Fist and Yell (1987)

Often overlooked by critics, unfairly, in my opinion, Raise Your Fist built upon the groundwork laid down in the previous album and really nailed the merger of traditional rock with traditional heavy metal that Alice would return to some years later, while lyrically it covers the usual ground: rebellion, freedom, lust and, of course, murder. The trilogy of songs that close the album, about a mentally disturbed serial killer and his fascination with prostitutes, raise it well above average - they're reason enough to have the album in your collection.

Songs of Note: Gail; Roses on White Lace

3½ symbiotic functions out of 5

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

WOVEN HAND / The Threshingfloor [2010]

Woven Hand has come to be known to use Old Testament Christianity as a way to invoke fear, wonder and self-doubt and on 2010's The Threshingfloor, Dave Edwards and the boys dig deeper and explore old Indian, Celtic and Middle Eastern folk as a tool of dread.
This is WH at some of their most hypnotizing and compelling yet, captivating the listener with a vast array of ethnic instruments used in such an organic way you might not even notice them at first. 

4 Red States out of 5

LARD / The Last Temptation of Reid (1990)

Lard is one of the better side projects put out by members of industrial band Ministry (when they were still good). It benefits from having the outspoken and arguably insane Jello Biafra on vocals. It sounds exactly like you'd hope: Industrial Jello and Punky Ministry. Its repetitive beats, heavy guitars and satirical rants won't appeal to everyone, but fans of both artists mentioned will most likely appreciate the aural assault. It descends into silly mediocrity at the end, but there are enough punchy classics prior to that to warrant a purchase.

Songs of Note: Forkboy; Mate Spawn and Die

4 voyeur dentists out of 5

MAGNET / The Wicker Man (1973 / 1998 / 2002)

Alongside the usual film score incidental music, The Wicker Man also contains the songs written for the film, some of which are sung by the cast members. While that may sound like a bad idea, if you've experienced the film, then you'll understand why they deserve to be included. Musically, it's dark and beautiful pagan Folk that will either lull or repulse you. One word of warning, though: some key tracks contain samples of spoiler dialogue, so it's best if you watch the film first.
I should explain the dates in the title. It was written in 1973, released in 1998 and subsequently released again with superior sound in 2002. The 2002 release had less tracks and some minor changes elsewhere but is still the best version to get if all you want are the songs in the best available quality.

Songs of Note: Corn Rigs; Willow's Song

5 large, large nails out of 5