Quorthon was still alive in '92 but he'd publicly called it a day as far as Bathory was concerned (it didn't last, he came back with the Requiem (1994) album, but that's for another time) and so the plundering of the back catalogue by the record label began. Jubileum: Vol I is an uneven and messy compilation. As an introduction it fails; the tracks are all great but Bathory's pronounced evolution over the years means the songs fight each other when taken out of chronological order, which is how they're presented here. As if in apology, Black Mark included a handful of rare and unreleased material. As usual with this kind of collection, I'll link the new songs even though they aren't the best the album has to offer, because some fans may not be aware of them.
After several albums in a row were criticized by fans of their older work, Industrial pioneers Skinny Puppy make a return to form of sorts on 2013's Weapon.
Scaling back on the guitars, the act push the abrasive synths and broken but driving drumbeats to the forefront again, making a wonderful minimal backdrop for Nivek Ogre's distorted angry "European" Muppet vocals to glue everything together. It might be a throwback to their early days but it still manages to keep a melodic danceable tone to it that makes it a little more accessible than their earlier outings. Even with it's multiple weak spots, this album is still welcome in my Skinny Puppy collection.
Wu-Tang Clan's Ghostface Killah and multi-instrumentalist/producer Adrian Younge team up on the 70's slasher flick inspired 2013 concept album Twelve Reasons To Die.
Sounding like a funkified soul tribute to Ennio Morricone, Younge mixes the album in such a dry way it's quite effective as it warms the ears like the faded pastel colors of a giallo film. Deteriorated piano lines, waves of wobbly organ chords and soothing string sections confirms Younge is a master craftsmen. While GFK's delivery is on fire as always with his tongue in cheek lyrics that results in a fuckin' bloodbath by the end of the immensely entertaining album.
The promise to create three skaldic instrumental/electronic albums is fulfilled. Better twelve years late than never, right? I've been disappointed with his recent metal albums, so it was with a happy nod that I greeted Sôl austan.
It's a concept album, similar to Dauði Baldrs (1997) and Hliðskjálf (1999), that documents a descent into darkness followed by a redeeming ascent back into the light. Burzum fans will know what the 'dark' and 'light' represent.
It's reminiscent of the ambient tracks on his Black Metal albums, but without the contrast it all feels rather empty and samey. It's hard to shake the feeling that it sounds like an age-old video game soundtrack, not the modern film score that it's supposed to be (the film is ForeBears).
The El Boy Die sound has a skeletal underpinning of traditional folk and Neo-folk but is then layered with psychedelic melodies, acoustic guitars, tribal chants and even orchestral ambience. The parts fuse into an organic sound that shifts effortlessly from beautifully haunting and shadowy to serenely calming and whimsical. I could bombard you with similar adjectives for the next hour and not run dry. Just give the album a listen and see for yourself, but bear in mind that the only track I could find to link to isn't representative of the album as a whole.
Andrea followed up a wonderfully evocative début album with a half-assed E.P. that sticks to the pagan/neo-folk template for just two songs before descending into lazy dance beat remix territory. The remixes are appalling. Why she allowed that kind of crap to sully her beautifully stark and honest work is a mystery. Urd should've been a single, not an E.P. with 60% filler.
Of the two tracks that are worth your time, Wake Skadi was later re-recorded for the Volven (2000) album, where it sounds much better. So, really, all you'll need Urd for is the title track, and it's not even very good. It's more trance than tribal.
Like it says in the post title, this is a Best of... It's a good introduction to Tom's work and a great way for the fans who found him through the success of Into The Great Wide Open (1991) to develop an appreciation of his early years. He's been producing consistently good work since 1976.
For existing fans there's two new tracks. One is a cover of Thunderclap Newman's Something in the Air, and the other… The other is the one I'd pick as being the best damn Petty track I've ever heard. I've linked both below (even though there are better tracks than Something in the Air on the album).
Beck was the counter-culture beat poet of his generation. He's slipped in recent years, but back in the day he was unsurpassed. Odelay takes eclectic cues and influences from all over. There's folk, country, garage, atonal electro, hip hop, calypso, eastern percussion, Beastie Boys style rap and much, much more. It's the musical equivalent of a hazy but purposeful collage of colours and textures cut from magazines with crinkle scissors. You'd maybe imagine that would produce a jarring aural experience, but everything flows beautifully from one trip to the next, meaning the album should be enjoyed as a whole, not split for a playlist.
ANL are funny. The music is balls-out British Punk with real passion but the lyrics, covering everything from sexual perversions to self-defacing slogans with a ton of Fuck You, take the piss out of the things they love. It's anthemic tongue-in-cheek defiance delivered as a straight-faced offensive and it's glorious. It'll invigorate the youth, shock the middle-aged and make the aged titter. Their début album contains what's possibly the greatest punk love song ever recorded.
A collection of cover songs in the Helloween style. Some of the choices I'd have thought unsuitable to their cheesy power metal (ABBA? Really?) but they occasionally do interesting things with the works. Whereas others are less out of the ordinary; e.g. Bowie's Space Oddity was a complete waste of time. But, as usual, points for trying. The cover of Hocus Pocus (originally by Focus) is fun but not nearly daring enough, which is something that can be said for the majority of the tracks. Before you ask, yes, there's yodelling.
A remix album featuring songs from the Easy Listening for Difficult Fuckheads (2003) album in various states of deconstruction. Track titles are changed so you can't tell until you pop it in the player what the hell you're getting.
It's not all Dub like the title suggests, and in typical Pigface style it's not all good either. There's a stigma of laziness attached to remix albums that Dubhead doesn't completely shed, but it's Pigface, so we lap it up anyhow.
Google tells me that DJ Linux is Chris Haskett (ex- Rollins Band guitarist).
Songs of Note: Gospel of Thomas Dub; Dub Your Own Business
Prong's fourth album incorporated elements of industrial into the already hybridised sound, making them even harder to categorise.
It's filled with chunky guitar riffs similar to what Pantera were belting out, but Prong had that extra melody and Tommy Victor on vocals. Tommy's vocals never really lost the hardcore edge even when the music did, it's the thing that people seem to dislike the most about the band, but it doesn't bother me.
What makes the album less than great is the second half. It's not as varied nor as catchy as the first half and is, in truth, a little boring in places. Cleansing was the first release to feature Paul Raven on bass, bringing them officially up to four members.
Type O Neg are dark, we all know that, but there's always a lighter, mocking tone lurking in the background. They embraced Goth culture and all its trappings while simultaneously poking fun at its morose bastard absurdity. The knowing wink to self-parody is still evident (e.g. Creepy Green Light) but it's been lessened, and in its place the depression has flourished like a funeral lily.
Lyrically, its primary focus is death and the emotional agony that surrounds it like flies around shit. It's a mournful experience that's nevertheless an engaging one, but only if you're in the right mood. If you're not, it'll be a miserable crawl through distorted riffs and slow painful melodies imbued with sorrowful synergy.
The Red Shoes album seems to divide fans more than any of Kate's other more experimental releases. I find that odd because, while it's certainly a multi-layered work, it's not an overly complex album. It's layered in a very safe and organised way. The maturity in her arrangements, coupled with the confidence and belief in her own ability, give it the edge needed to overcome the 'Pop album' tag. For me, it's another strong release from a very unique talent. I heard it first during a turbulent time in my life, and even though listening to it stirs up those memories from time to time, it helps me to better appreciate them, too. Kate made a short film to accompany the album, you can read about it HERE.
Linkin Park's 2010 album, A Thousand Suns, was not well received when it was first released for being too different from what was expected of them. I'm guilty of not being thoroughly impressed with it either.
However after a few years, LP's second outing with producer Rick Rubin, has warmed up quite nicely. Each song, whether it be a straight up rocker, a dance floor thumper, Public Enemy-esque hip-hop or even spacey ambience, is constructed with care and passion. I think a lot of has to do with Rubin pushing the group to go that extra step they wouldn't normally go but it's apparent the band already knew what they were doing to begin with. Once a generic nu-metal/rap act, Linkin Park have mutated themselves into something more thoughtful and creative than their dwindling peers.
A collection of covers from two giants in their respective fields. It's mostly English born Plant up front vocally, accompanied by some lush backing from the blue grass gal from Illinois. The harmony between the two works beautifully.
There are some upbeat tracks, but mostly it's a warm and luxurious sound that's comforting; the kind of music best enjoyed alone, late at night, with a drink.
The stand out tracks are superb. Everything else lends support in its own unique way. To my ears, it's much better than a Robert Plant solo album, but not as good as Alison Krauss' own most recent album with Union Station.
When you get two unique artists like Dan The Automator & Emily Wells teaming up you get something as refreshing as 2013's trip-hop project Pillowfight.
With a little help from Kid Koala, Mike Patton and Lateef The Truthspeaker doing guest spots you're almost guaranteed some far-fetched, fascinating results. Unfortunately it never fully realizes it's full potential. Still, it manages to produce some memorable bits, filled with thick strutting beats, plucky piano hooks, wavering organ lines and muted brass sections all piloted by Wells' sultry vocals, that make me think of Billie Holiday and Amy Winehouse with a little more of an urban attitude.
The 2006 Oingo Boingo tribute album, Drink To Bones That Turn To Dust is the perfect example of how a tribute album can executed with grace and quality.
Instead of trying to please the youth of today by using modern pop-rock acts, we're treated to a variety of independent artists covering a plethora of musical genres, including bluegrass, country, jazz, hip-hop, punk, R&B, cabaret and even a piano ballad. Not every take is my cup of tea but they're all done with creativity and a passion for the original and sits fine with me.
With the promise of new Dixie Chicks material floating dead in the water for over 7 years, vocalist Natalie Maines releases her first solo album, 2013's Mother.
After stating she was tired of modern country music and wanted to record a rock album, one might have expected something with a bit of a rough attitude. Instead it's mostly polished, watered down pop-rock of both originals & covers, taking it's self a bit too seriously when it doesn't offer much in the way of character. There's a few strong moments scattered throughout the mix but considering Maines' habit of attracting trouble, you'd think it'd have more to it but in the end it's a huge missed opportunity to really rise to the occasion.
2 trained circus freaks out of 5
Songs Of Note: Mother; Lover, You Should Come Over
Swedish electronic duo The Knife burn all their safety nets and put on a brave face to compose something insanely creative and rewarding on 2013's double disc album Shaking The Habitual.
Despite having some catchy pop music sensibilities, this album couldn't be any further away from the genre and instead confuses, disturbs, challenges and fascinates with it's bizarre textures and tones that are placed with exquisite care and thought. Don't let the politically charged lyrics scare you away if it's not your thing, because this auditory work of art is worth checking out at least once to see if it's your thing. It's essentially pop music, dissected, distorted and disturbed into something virtually unrecognizable, yet creepily familiar.
When concluding the No Synth Trilogy, Stephen Merritt decided to go the opposite of the sonically distorted textures of Distortion and take in some acoustic folk sounds for The Magnetic Fields' 2010 album, Realism.
Merritt sounds right at home with simple & melodic plucky pop songs that allow him to gently layer the delicate, airy vocals over top of it all with great ease. As light and bubbly as the songs sound, Merritt always manages to sneak in snarky lyrics with a cold smile on his face. Unfortunately it really is an album that has me divided over the really great songs scattered throughout the half-baked, near irritating songs that are borderline kiddy tunes with a bit too much pep.
Against all the odds, Lawnmower Deth made a second album of crossover thrash, hardcore + punk piss-takes, and genre parodies. The addition of guitarist Baron Kev Von Thresh Meister Silo Stench Chisel Marbels KP (Kevin Papworth of Acid Reign) brought some quality riffage to the usual comedy of errors. It'll appeal to a very small crowd of weirdos and freaks, but if you're one of them, then I raise my chipped beer glass to you. Let's go get drunk and ugly.
The problem with creating a masterpiece early in your career is how to follow it up. Kate wisely waited some time (four years) before making the attempt.
The title of her sixth album isn't just referencing one track, it's relevant to the entire work. It has a passionate and sensual sound, filled with flowing melodies and an atmosphere that's dreamy but never wispy and ineffectual.
Its often overlooked, perhaps because of its lack of the typical Kate-esque experimentation, but it deserves recognition for giving her the chance to let her vocal soar with real heartfelt emotion. It's an impassioned, beautiful album.
England's other favourite sons of Doom collected together some of their early E.P.s for the Trinity compilation. Hearing them in order highlights the changes the band's sound went through, from the Death Metal (with violins) grind to the more recognisable mournful Doom (still with violins) sound they're better known for.
It's not a complete collection, there's some throwaway B-Sides missing, but what is included is an essential collection of previously hard to find work for MDB fans.
On Swedish metal act Volbeat's fifth record, 2013's Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies, they bring on ex-Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggiano as their newest member.
While they still mesh thrash metal, rockabilly and punk, the lines between the genre-hopping are less apparent as they all meld together quite organically now. It's as if they've finally found that spot of comfort and it shows with the enthusiastic performances and tight compositions on this album. I don't know why Volbeat always feel the need to write 1or 2 songs for each album that sound dangerously close to Nickelback or Creed but fortunately it doesn't take away from the insane enjoyment of the rest of the songs. In short, this album is feckin' great great fun.
Odd Future leader, Tyler, The Creator releases his third solo album, 2013's Wolf that continues his knack for being belligerently offensive.
Musically, Wolf is a huge step up from his previous albums. Before, he had a dirty, fuzzy jazz sound that didn't quite work and sounded nothing but sloppy. He's refined it now and while it still sounds distorted and dirty, it pieces together quite nicely. It was the lyrics that had me going back multiple times before I rated the album. Tyler's delivery isn't particularly great and his lyrics are bluntly offensive but never really seems to make a point or have a motive, unlike someone like Eminem who appears to be coming from somewhere when he spits out vulgarities.
Released less than a year after his first solo effort, The Madcap Laughs, former Pink Floyd frontman Syd Barrett's final album of original material, 1970's Barrett is a vast improvement than the former.
With Floyd's David Gilmour & Rick Wright on hand to smooth out things and fit all the broken pieces together, it's more finely tuned and textured this time around, mainly due to the guitars being pushed back into the mix a bit to hide the wonkier bits. The addition of keyboards brings a more lively sound to the progressively darker sounding material. Gilmour & Wright, after learning from the previous album's mistakes, did their damndest to keep Barrett's focus and it really shows.