8 January 2017

Dropkick Murphys - 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory

The Dropkick Murphys always have a gang mentality and sound like a fight is going to start in any room that appear in, they are a fun band to watch live, but they also have a heart of gold to them as well.  The Claddagh Fund heavily influenced the album, this is a charity that the band set up in 2009 to help support addiction recovery as well as children's and veterans' organizations.  This is their ninth studio album and their first to be recorded outside of their home city of Boston, so they are branching out and trying something new, let us see how it has turned out.

01 – The Lonesome Boatman

This atmospheric opening is stepped in Celtic drama and mixed with punk overtones as well, the oh’s and chanting could be used to bring a sports team to the field as it builds into a great number that links into the soul.  It reminds me of some instrumentals I have heard from the likes of the Fureys and Wolftones, stirring up the traditional tones of the Irish sound with the band’s punk roots to maximum effect.

02 – Rebels With A Cause

As usual the band sound as if they are acting out their gang mentality here, a song about strength, determination and having the dedication to follow your ideas to the end, something which was inspired by their work with the Claddagh fund.  It is a solid enough number, possibly missing a punch behind the guitars for my tastes here, but it is not something that takes anything away from the tune.  A positive number that will motivate anyone who requires that extra pep talk which everyone requires every now and then, also one which gains deeper meaning after you find out what it is written about.

03 – Blood

The pipes are out in full force on this number, a song about the importance of standing up for yourself and being ready to fight when it is required.  It is a slow number, one that sounds as if it is ready for chanting and could be a battle cry when required.  It is also a grower and takes a few listens to show what it is all about, it is a nice change to be honest and one of my favourite from the record.

04 – Sandlot

A song about looking back on the formative years, getting away with all sorts of schemes and having the bottle to follow through with those ideas and enjoying the simple pleasures in life.  There is a bit of jealous in the mix as well and the song is decent enough, it is a lighter moment with a rock ‘n’ roll theme running through as the song is driven by the acoustic guitar.  It reminds me of Against Me in places and Green Day as well during their ‘Minority’ period, but it is not exactly setting the world a light or starting the party off, if anything it is towards the end of the party when memories come back into play and you bemoan how the good old days are gone.  A strange, but decent number.

05 – First Class Loser

A song about a selfish dick who you would cross moving traffic to avoid, this Celtic stomp is not hiding anything about the dicks in their life’s and it has a large dose of dark humour at the very centre of the song.  Musically it is still very gentle and the punk is taking a backseat once again, but it works so well on this number.  It is a funny and brutal number, definitely one of the best of the album.

06 – Paying My Way

When the drum beat started, I thought it was going to be a cover of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’; no, this is a song about paying your dues and making your own way in the world.  A song about never giving up and taking all steps to hang on in there is something to be admired, the message of the song is an inspiration which cannot be denied.  Musically though, it does not quite match the lyrical grandeur of the song.  It is not bad, it just feels as if it is aiming for epic and it sort of feels forced for the best part of the song; it gets its act together by the end of the song as you can imagine the crowd joining in, but the beginning parts are trying to sound the same and it does not click until those last few passages. Almost there, but still missing pieces of the puzzle.

07 – I Had A Hat

A song that sounds like a fight is forming from the opening chord and the party is happening as the fists are flying at a wake, a bar and everywhere else until the “hat” is returned to its rightful owner.  When the band are making this sort of song, it showcases their strengths for me; anarchic, mad as a box of frogs, full of energy and it could start a party by itself.  They have other facets, but this is the one which works the best for me and this is the best song of the album for me.

08 – Kicked To The Curb

A song about being dumped is a straight forward punk number with a rock ‘n’ roll bass line, changing the sound of the band once more on this album.  It is not one of my favourites to be honest, but it is one that I cannot help listening to; I guess it is a grower that I will love in the future, at the moment it is a little strange – nothing more, nothing less.

09 – You’ll Never Walk Alone

In the UK, this song from the musical ‘Carousel’ is most associate with Liverpool Football Club as it was adopted as their anthem in the sixties.  The band themselves have been hit with deaths of close ones and this song played as they were leaving one and it summed out how they were feeling.  It is something that is easy to associate with, people are losing the will to live and feeling so lonely in the modern age where we are supposed to be more connected than in previous generations.  I salute them for their cover, it is a beautiful version of this anthemic song.

10 – 4-15-13

Another song with a strong message, this time as a tribute to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15th, 2013.  It is a hard song to listen to in places, but as the bands are natives of that fine city who visited the victims in the hospital after the event and wanted to pay tribute to those men and women, instead of how it affected them.  I think they have done a fine job here, one that shows that whilst the city was wounded, it did not make them stand down – it made them determined.

11 – Until The Next Time

Ending the album is ‘Until The Next Time’, a song about the end of the night and those goodbyes as people sing songs of farewell.  It feels like a natural place to end things, it also feels like it is pulling you into reality after those two emotional moments that stirred so strong emotions.  It feels a little bit flippant after those moments, but to be honest I think it is needed as well.  You leave on a fun moment and wish each other well, job done on this number.

There are issues with this album, for me it is not as fluid as other records by the Dropkick Murphys and it sort of drifts a bit in places where the lyrical content is demanding a focused performance.  The band have always had lighter moments, sometimes it shows the best of the band; on here though, they rarely come together in a way that feels natural.  It does not quite make the bridge between their lighter side and punk side, which is something that they have managed to do before.  Now with that said, this song does have a stunning set of songs towards the end of the album, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, ‘I Had A Hat’ and the brilliant ‘4-15-13’ are as good as anything off their back catalogue and those songs along save the album for me.  I also applaud the community spirit and sentiment from the band, their work in their home city is something that makes them legends for another reason apart from their music.  But just like a bad pizza, an off-key Dropkick Murphys album is still something to enjoy; it is only in comparison that it sorts of falls down.  Decent and worth a listen, especially for those three songs named above.

7.5 out of ten – This is good and worth checking out.

Top track – 4-15-13

Sinatras - Drowned

It has been a while since I heard the Sinatras, so long since the release of the ‘Six Sexy Songs’ EP (our review linked here) was first sent to us and I have been awaiting this one with interest.  With all members of the band adopting the Ramones style surname (they are all called Sinatra), the band are influenced by a mixture of Entombed, Carcass, Hatebreed and Pantera.  The first EP was a good base to start, a bit rough around the edges, but heavy and to the point as you would desire from a metal band.  But has that translated to their EP, has the aggression and sound been extended to ‘Drowned’?

01 – Drowned

Starting with the sound of a storm and the washing of the waves on the shore, the music soon drops in and it comes in with a fantastic riff.  Thrash metal, blast beats and death grunts rain down on you with vicious intent as the band smash through your stereo and start this album with a very interesting and aggressive opening.

02 – 24-7

Following on with the same level of aggression and charming devilment, this song slips into the groove from an early stage and it adds a little bit of Slipknot & Pissing Razors to the mix.  The blast beats and noise are powerful, it has a great riff that once again aims for the jugular and it smashes around you with the same level of care as a brick to the face – job done for me on this one.

03 – Cockroach

Whilst still sounding like they could demolish a wall just by being in the next room, ‘Cockroach’ goes deeper into the groove metal territory and it is a four minute explosion of harmonics, thunderous drums and noise.  I like the slower approach that the band adopt on this one, the song has a subtler edge because of it and it makes a glorious noise for everyone to hear.

04 – Something to Hate

Now this is an interesting song, straight out of the blocks with a harsh riff and some great bass work, ‘Something to Hate’ rains down blow after blow of smash ‘n’ grab groove metal.  I am sure that this song could start a mosh pit in a room on its own, it is that loud and noise that it could not (and should not) be ignored.  This song is one that the band could make their name on, if I was them I would be sending it out to every metal station to play.

05 – Flow

‘Flow’ takes the momentum down a notch, but not the quality.  It still has some high quality and speed metal passages, but mostly it is a slower number that not only continues the fine form of this album, but adds a level of noise and power that makes it another of the stand out tracks of the album.  If I could compare it to anything, it is what I would imagine a group containing members of 90’s grunge act Paw, groove metal legends Pantera, Pissing Razors and stoners Kyuss would sound like if they had a jam – I like the mix on this song.

06 – You Spin Me Round

I will be honest, I have little to no idea why this song was covered.  It feels clunky against the rest of the album and something that would have been fun in the studio, probably fun in a live show as well, but it sadly does not translate well on to the album.  I have heard a lot worse, but it is still not the best.

07 – Los 43

Slowing down to a grind at the beginning, ‘Los 43’ soon explodes like a Strapping Young Lad number and hits the groove metal high points with relative ease.  It does not drop the pace and keeps on going for broke from beginning to end.  It is more hard-groove metal aggression that has been the calling card of this album and it sounds gigantic when played at maximum volume.  Also, the thrash style solos are a nice touch here.

08 – Miss Anthropy

It starts with the sound of crying and soon it is replaced with more metal, the song does not stop for a breath and it sounds as if someone is terminally pissed off here.  It does not drop the ball, it just keeps things going at a steady and blistering pace.

09 – Back in Frank

More thrash than groove, ‘Back in Frank’ is a smash and grab number.  It is up for a fight and it is not going to stop or let you off the hook.  It is good to hear a different tone on the album, it shows that the band have more than one weapon in the musical arsenal.  It also has the best solo of the record, hitting all those high notes and hitting it out of the park.

10 – Blind Fury

The shortest song on the album, it is a frantic number that is gone with the blink of an eye.  It is wham, bam, thank you mam in terms of being here and gone, it could have also been extended for my money.  But it is still a great number in my opinion.

11 – Spiral Hell

And we have reached the end of the album without an acoustic guitar in sight!  But seriously, it is another groove extravaganza on this song and it hits all the right spots for me.  It does not outstay its welcome, it keeps up that aggressive energy that has gone through every song and it sounds like Valhalla has emptied for war; I like this song a lot and it is brilliant modern metal number.

Sometimes you need something that is just basic and I do not mean that in a way that diminishes what the Sinatras have created here.  Let me explain – sometimes you want something that is all bells and whistles, something that has a million different things going on and is as complex as your average coding to send a rocket to space.  Sometimes you want something simple, to the point and that is a subtle as a kick to the groin.  This is a simple album, it is brutal and to the point; no time wasting and apart from the cover of ‘You Spin Me Round’, it is a brutal groove metal album that ticks all the boxes.  It is sort of akin to when AC/DC, Napalm Death or Motorhead released albums, you want something that does what it says on the tin – this is one of those albums.  I love it when this sort of record lands, it is just an unbridled joy of fury and aggression – viva la Sinatras!

8 out of ten – Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my time, money and heart.

Top track – Something to Hate

You can purchase Drowned on Amazon here.

You can purchase the album from the Sinatra Bandcamp page here.

You can visit the Sinatras website here.

You can follow the activities of the Sinatras on Facebook here.

You can stream Drowned on Spotify here.

You can stream Drowned on Deezer here.

You can stream Drowned on Tidal here.

Mutation - Mutation III (Dark Black)

As regular visitors for this page will know, the best percentage of the team enjoy the songs of Ginger Wildheart; the man has made some of our favourite albums, some bat-shit crazy work as well and some that is so offensive that he even denies writing it (but we all know that he was Howling Willie Cunt).  Out of all his projects though outside of the Wildhearts, Mutation is the one that I have found to be the most rewarding in a lot of ways.  Both 'The Frankenstein Effect' (our review linked here) and 'Error 500' (our review linked here) were albums that had an immediate impact and were just all out noisy feedback and contained many guest spots.  This time we still have many guest spots from the likes of Devin Townsend, Jon Poole, Phil Campbell and Givvi Flynn, with the album itself being co-wrote with Scott Lee Andrews.  It has been a long time coming and I had this post ready from 2015 when it was first rumoured to be started, so has the wait been worth it?

01 - "."

A brief spoken word sample all about depression, something which can happen to everyone.  Brief and it merges with the first song proper - 'Authenticity'.

02 - Authenticity

It is like being hit by a car from the side without warning, the impact is immediate and powerful.  It has an amazing riff, more guitar channels running through the song than your average band, distorted bass, lyrics, drums, noise and a mixture of noise somewhere between Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Strapping Young Lad and 'Endless Nameless' era Wildhearts. It is attention grabbing and exactly what this album required from the opening moments, an impact moment.

03 - Toxins

Without given anyone time to take a rest, 'Toxins' is straight out of the blocks with a riff that for the most part has a top-quality drone aspect to it as they let it run wild over the listeners until they drop the odd chorus bomb in close proximity of the listener.  The verses are as very powerful and lay bare the issues which Mr Wildheart has recently (and for a much longer period) been facing.  But most importantly, it does not let you off the hook as it drags you along with every sick beat.

04 - Devolution

This riff at time sounds like an anxiety attack in flux, the riff climbs up and down like a rapid heartbeat and then it drops into some falling riff & synth moment that could be about a kingdom falling to the ground.  The solo in towards the end is straight out bonkers, it is moving in so many different directions and has multiple facets of noise.  It might not be as demanding as 'Authenticity' or 'Toxins' in terms of sudden impact, but it is still a fascinating number none the less.

05 - Irritant

This was the first song to be released from the album, with the video being unleased on 06th January 2017.  Starting with the catchy chorus line "Fuck off you cunt, you are an irritant" will leave people in no doubt about what the patience’s level of the man and song at that given moment, it is direct and to the point with no shade of grey to the message.  It has a wonderful Geordie level of anger to the lyrical delivery which anyone outside of the Tyneside area will recognise as fully pissed off, from being from the region, I can confirm that the rag has well and truly been lost on this one.  But it is not all about the lyrics which hit so any bases, it is also about music and that is a perfect backdrop to the noise and smash 'n' grab metal from beginning to end - when you have the song on loop and the chorus links up again, it sounds like a mantra for life, just brilliant.

06 - Skint

The rising and dropping nature of the opening riff sounds like a million bees moving around as the lyrics deal with the dread and hopelessness that can come with financial issues.  The main riff is not as intense as that opening piece of music here, giving you a little small break from the ultra-intense riffs, but for the most part the sound is still as intense as anything you have heard on the record.  If anything, the lyrics are given more attention here, even with a level of distortion to the sound that has been placed over the number.  The demons are in full flight here and you are not allowed to rest for one iota, another nightmare vision which is fascinating.

07 - Hate

Out of all the songs, 'Hate' is quite possibly the nearest we get to a Wildheart number on here, this is something that I am gonna have to explain this one.  It is the song which would be a number that would fit in a Wildhearts set with ease if all the distortion was removed, it is also (for want of a better phrase) the gentlest song on the album and it is a rough as they come as well.  The riffs are relentless and remind me once again of the 'Endless Nameless' era of the Wildhearts, those riffs that sound like air has been made solid and could be used to start a riot.  The lyrics about not knowing hate, not understanding the inner working of the man, these are returning themes from this album and it fits so well into 'Dark Black' - it is another great song on this record.

08 - Victim

'Victim' on the other hand, is a contradiction for me.  The first verse has a melodic moment buried in them under all those effects, the second sounds like it is breaking down at the start and heads back into that melodic drone, the hooks go between explosive noise and internal damnation of one’s self.  It is quite possibly the darkest moment on the album for me lyrically, it is not easy for a lot of reasons, but it is one of the best songs on the album as well - that is quite an achievement for this record.
09 - Dogs

This song keeps changing like light shining through a diamond as hitting all those facets, it does not stay still for a moment and just when you are starting to get into a riff, it moves onto the next one.  It is a trip through a mania moment in my mind, so many highs, lows, screams and breakdowns that it feels as if the body could not take it any longer than the length of the song.  However, it is a number that could be stretched out in the live setting and would still sound glorious.

10 - Deterioration

Oh my giddy aunt, this song is so fucking relentless.  It does not give two fucks about the listeners’ body, hearing or soul as it starts the breakdown early, with a frantic riff that only gains speed.  The further into the song you head and the level of intensity just gets jacked up higher and higher, the screams start to increase and it feels like the fall down the rabbit hole is starting to reach terminal velocity.  By the time the biggest riff is distorting into a thousand different pieces with the level of guitar distortion being but through the speakers, the moment the song stops feels like a relief of sorts - hence why I have been listening to it more than once, just to reach that moment of dropping off the edge.

You are not given any level of comfort here as the vitriol is released and you know what, that is exactly what I wanted from this album.  The quality level is stupidly brilliant on here, it is short, sharp and to the point in terms of delivery and it does not outstay its welcome as you will quite easily just press repeat and listen to the sonic attack over and over again.  It is as far from The Wildhearts (for the most part), Silver Ginger 5 and Hey Hello! as you can get without changing styles.  You are not going to please everyone with an album such as this, but this is not an album for everyone either - it is only for people who enjoy music that is not easy to listen to, for people who find sonic attacks to be fascinating and cathartic, for people who have been in those dark moments where everything is not ok, it is for people who have been damaged and sometimes need something else to get them through.  I think this is a great album which is as subtle as an explosion and with as much impact as well - get it now.  Also, for my money it is still so much better than Hey Hello! (still not understanding that one).

8.5 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top track - Skint

The only place you can purchase or listen to the album at the moment is on the Round Records Pledge Music page, which I have linked here. You can also purchase various other Ginger Wildheart related noise as well.

The best place to keep up to date with Ginger Wildheart information is the 'All Things Ginger Wildheart' page on Facebook; warning - it is a closed group and you will have to be permitted to join, but it is a good group as well.

Any links for streaming links (if Mutation III 'Dark Black' is added to Spotify, Deezer, etc) will be added if or when it is made available through those channels; but do yourself a favour and get the album through the pledge.

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