19 October 2016

Tarja Turunen - The Shadow Self

Hi, it's Jermyn, back again after a Mafia 3 binge. Good game, but slightly repetitive - mainly in the same way the first Assassins Creed game was in the sense that there really wasn't much variety or presentation in the way you do your missions, but it still entertains. Canny soundtrack too, especially if you like Creedence Clearwater Revival. Anyway, blog time...

Well, this should be good. Blogging an album by someone whose Day Job was never really part of my playlist. But I guess that's a good thing as if I blogged only my favourites, then it wouldn't be as much fun or as interesting. As we all know, Tarja Turunen was previously the lead female singer of the symphonic metal band Nightwish, who have had a lot of success in Europe. Since leaving - or was she pushed? - in 2005, she has since set up a successful solo career and continues to go from strength to strength. This is the fourth solo album and I've yet to hear it. As a classically trained singer, she can certainly feel the notes but is this going to be like Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera and...her out of Evanescence who are all technically gifted singers but would rather do vocal gymnastics that show off their range instead of genuinly interesting melodies? Let's find out...

1) Innocence - Big piano opening, creates images of people who dress like the movie "Amadeus". This soon gives way to a big drum and guitar intro which sound a bit gritty, then the vocals kick in...and, holy shit! Although they sound accomplished, they remind me a lot of the melody from "Listen To Your Heart", a song by (vaguely popular late-80's early-80's Euro pop band) Roxette. It's not too bad, I guess, but what really lets this song down is the mid-section which is an overlong piano solo. It amounts to nothing more than musical wanking and has no business here. It ruins the flow of the song so by the time it resumes proper, any effect the song had has now been dissipated. Oh well.

2) Demons In You - Funk guitar in symphonic metal? Weird intro but this gives way to some crunchy metal. Dual layered vocals create a good effect. Nice mid-section but the funk bit afterwards just doesn't cut it at all. It's like the first song - would be decent if they'd stuck to one thing and not fucked it up with some completely unnecessary bits.

3) No Bitter End - A gentle, very melodious opening gives way to...standard Euro metal stuff. Given the somewhat schizophrenic nature of the first two songs, I'm surprised it didn't go into a different genre altogether. Mind, saying that, the vocals have been really good up to this point. But, aain, given the aforementioned schizophrenic nature of the album, I'm expecting Tarja to rap next.

4) Love To Hate - Another dramatic piano opening, kind of reminded me of The Boomtown Rats but without a scruffy, sanctimonious bastard who wanted to save the world yet couldn't keep his Mrs on a leash. Musically competent with some nice mixes of the orchestral and electronic. Really good song.

5) Supremacy - A cover of a song by a band called Muse, it's ok. Pretty much another bands song played as straight-up symphonic metal. Should get the crowd going at Dynamo, Wacken or whatever the big Euro Metal Festival is these days.

6) Living End - Acoustic guitar with a vocal melody that's not only higher than a mountain goat, but the dog from three doors down is joining in with! Again, we have a competent song which isn't as overdone or have as many unwanted additions as previous songs. Sounds like there may be bagpipes on here, but instead of drowning stuff out, they complement things nicely.

7) Diva - The classical training really comes into it on here. Soaring opera vocals which sound cool. The rest of the song is very well done with orchestral effects and some really good drumming too. It certainly conjures up dramatic images. The music video to this would be an extravaganza, for sure.

8) Eagle Eye -  Competent rocker but a bit pedestrian compared to the previous two songs. Sounds like something that would get played at a sporting event or as the backing music on a sports show highlight reel. Heh, it might even make it into an aftershave commercial which would have been narrated by Tommy Vance if he was still alive.

9) Undertaker - Not a cover of the theme of the legendary WWE wrestler of the same name, but another competent slice of Euro metal for people who like their orchestras to have electric guitars. Not too shabby.

10) Calling From The Wild - Clean picked guitar opening along with some great vocal melodies soon becomes a crunchy guitar riff with some operatic-like vocal stabs. This is a really good song too. Not really much else to say about it.

11) Too Many - Twelve minutes long, oh hell...mind, there have been plenty songs which go on for long amounts of time and it doesn't do them any harm.  "2112" by Rush, "Autobahn" by Kraftwerk, and practically anything off "Hammerheart" by Bathory. It's certainly a grand spectacle, very well put together and more proof that Tarja and her backing band are extremely talented at what they do. But does it need to be over twelve minutes long? Yup, as there is a 'hidden bonus track' called "This Is A Hit Song" which is amusing enough.

So whilst this album wasn't as bad as I thought, it's certainly something that's not going to find it's way into my regular play-list, but anyone who likes their metal symphonic and their vocals operatic would certainly garner some enjoyment out of this. Some of the songs sound a bit disjointed like there's been some bits put in there that didn't need to be. Other than that, it's good.

7/10 This is good and well worth a check.

Chris J.

Top Track: Diva.

This album is available on iTunes.

Official Site
Facebook Page

6 October 2016

Anaal Nathrakh - The Whole Of The Law

Anaal Nathrakh (named after the Charm Of Making spell in the 80's movie 'Excalibur') are back with a new album, and if past efforts are anything to go by, it'll be extremely harsh, abrasive and satisfying. Fusing the best parts of Black Metal, Death Metal, Grindcore and Industrial into one sonic melting-pot of extremity, they've been going for quite a while now, since 1998. Not bad for a primarily studio-based project, although some live shows have occurred over the years. Hailing from Birmingham, UK (just in case you get confused with Birmingham, Alabama), they join the likes of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Napalm Death and Duran Duran as being examples of brilliant bands from Birmingham.

This is their ninth studio album and I'm guessing is named after a famous quote from Satanist junkie and sex maniac Alistair Crowley - 'Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be The Whole Of The Law'. I never really rated the guy as it seemed there wasn't much to him other than a nice line in patter, and even then it was more about shagging and snorting anything in front of him, sort of like an early 20th century version of Russell Brand but not as much of a cunt. Still, each to  their own. We are here to listen to some music - if you can call it that, and I mean that in the nicest possible terms, but Anaal Nathrakh albums generally sound harsh as fuck. It's been a good year for my old favourites so here is hoping this keeps that particular momentum going. This blog may or may not follow the regular format, I'll have to play it by ear.

Let's go...

1) The Nameless Dread - it's a minute long keyboard/noise thing. Whispered vocals in the background, reminds me of something from (90's video game) Nightmare Creatures. Guitars kick in and already we can hear the famed Anaal Nathrakh tension...

2) Depravity Favours The Bold - The first song proper, it comes hurtling at you with a scream that sounds like a parrot getting fucked off a sandpaper dildo. Operatic vocals/keyboard effects in the background. Alterrnating between fast and mid-paced, it's an excellet song. Vocals alernating between ear-splitting screams and clean, almost opera-like vocals. It's a trick as old as the hills but at least it sounds good here and not tacked on in the name of tokenism.

3) Hold Your Children Close And Pray For Oblivion - May as well, seeing as we're headed for war with the Reds, if the papers are to be believed. This one contains a fucking GABBA drum section! The type of Gabba drum section where the drum is so processed and clipped, it practically is a musical note in it's own right. I'm pretty sure they did the same trick with 2012 release Vanitas (for me, their best album). I love it as I'm also a fan of Gabber too - when it's done properly though. Got to be the hard stuff, none of this ethereal keyboards and sped-up song samples shite for me,,,

4) We  Will Fucking Kill You - Very cheery song title. Matches the music within which is extremely heavy without being 1000mph. Kind of a galloping rhythm to it. Nice electronic touches too. Almost Iron Maiden-like guitar melodies - speaking of which, we'll get to them later...Nice sample/keyboard interlude in the middle too.

5) So We Can Die Happy - Basically follows the same format of the other songs, tears you a new one with some awesome guitar work and mad drum patterns. There are only two members of the band, one does the vocals and the other does all guitars, bass, programming etc. This is a good song. Ends with a distorted childrens choir singing what sounds like a nursery rhyme.

6) In Fragrante Delicto - Electronic ear-candy opening before stuttering guitar and more ear-candy leads into standard harshness in all areas.

7) And You Will Beg For Our Secrets - Like a toddler having a hissy-fit in a wall of white noise, this one rushes right at you, demanding your attention. Some nice keyboards producing a choir-effect in this. Certainly adds contrast to the heavy guitars.

8 ) Extravaganza - Non-depressing song title? Ermagherd! Pulsing electronics and mental opening are the order of the day. Some nice guitar riffs in there too. Quite a snappy riff, in fact. The clean vocals on this are more tortured sounding than usual, which is nice. At one point, they reminded me of The Cure front-man Robert Smith in his more depressing, overwrought moments. Nice one!

9) On Being A Slave - Guitar feedback FX with electronically doctored vocal effects are the order of the day before launching into the patent Anaal Nathrakh style of ripping you god-damned face off with the heaviness. THE HEAVINESS!!! This is another great song and no mistake.

10) The Great Spectator - More electronics amid the usual madness of the guitars and stuff. This one isn't too bad but after coming off the back of the last song, is kind of stuck in it's shadow.

11) Of  Horror, And The Black Shawls - Song title sounds like Cradle Of Filth before they decided to update their sound (IE, go a bit commercial), which is fine but they were always better then doing the proper heavy stuff. No such fear here of things like that happening, this song is taking us to the end of the album in a sea of madness and pain. Better than the last sing, which is nice. Great keyboards and guitar too. Change of pace towards the end where it slows down...

One of the bonus tracks is a cover of the Iron Maiden song 'Powerslave' and it rules on so many levels!

All in all, that was a really good album. Only gripe is that it was a bit samey and that it sounds pretty much like the other Anaal Nathrakh albums as well. Mind, if you're a fan then that's more than likely what you're going to want, so why worry? Both newbies and long-time fans should enjoy this.

7/10 - This is good and well worth a check.

Chris J.

Top Track: On Being A Slave.

Oddly, only two of the songs are on Spotify (here and here) but the album is available on iTunes (which is where I got my copy).

Official Facebook Band Page

5 October 2016

State of Blog Address - Systems are still down.

Just a quick update - we (Eddie) are still down on the laptop front (currently I have a lend of a device just to type this).  So there is a little bit of a backlog with the review and submissions; I can only apologise, but life can do this to you sometimes.  Once everything is up to date, I will have a lot of stuff to tell you.  As for the others, to be honest there has been some health and family issues which they have to attend to which obviously have to take priority over the blog for now, which is something I am sure all of you will understand.

However - we will be back soon, we will have more reviews and I hope you are all doing well.....even Future of the Left.


Current listening's from Eddie

Scroobius Pip - Distraction Pieces Podcast
Volbeat - Seal The Deal & Let's Boogie
Led Zeppelin - Coda
John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman - John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman
Autoheart - I Can Build A Fire
Ryan Adams - 1989
Ben Folds Five - Whatever & Ever Amen
Pixies - Bossnova
Pearl Jam - Lost Dogs
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree
PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

28 September 2016

We interrupt this programme for a short service announcement

Just a quick note to say that due to unforseen technical issues (i.e. an out of service laptop), there may be a delay in dealing with submissions. Apologies and similar sentiments but we shall try to be back on top of things as soon as humanly possible.


22 September 2016

Thee Oh Sees - A Weird Exits

Ok, ok, I am reviewing it already!  Over the last few months I have been asked when am I going to review the seventeenth studio album by Thee Oh Sees.  It has been an aim to be honest, but there have been other things happening since and stuff for the blog; but I have done it so the emails can stop!  But enough about my life and let us have a quick look at who the smeg are Thee Oh Sees.  Originally named Orinoka Crash Suite, the band were originally formed as an off-shot of Coachwhips and Zeigenbock Kopf for John Dwyer and over time it has become his main band as the other projects split up.   Thee Oh Sees themselves have went on hiatus, lost member and at present are currently playing with two drummers – the full line up of the band is Mr Dwyer on vocals, guitars and keyboard, Tim Hellman on bass with Ryan Moutinho & Dan Rincon on drums.  The cover for this album is trippy and surreal, sometimes that is enough for me in an album.  But what of the music, what does this album sound like?

01 – Dead Man’s Gun

This song starts off with a tight bass & drum combo and the occasional drop of a single note from the guitar, lyrics are spat out with either angelic grace or terminal velocity and venom.  It erupts every now and then into a Garage/Punk explosion and it sounds like it has a lot of pomp and flair being handled with expert hand and in a demonic and playful way.  It is a subtle introduction to the band and album, it does the right amount of everything to get your attention and it is not just all out rock.

02 – Ticklish Warrior

Now this song sounds as if it is aching for a fight with a riff that could go on forever and ever, a drum performance that sounds like thunder and cannons, a bass that holds it all together and the total value of all these piece & the vocals that once again are shouted out with ferocity and command attention is a sure winner in my books – song of the album without a shadow of a doubt.

03 – Jammed Entrance

Starting with strange noises, the occasional drum roll and gaps of silence before it hits into another measured and direct garage punk combo that will have people in rapture when they hear it.  The guitar noises sound like they are being made by a host of machines and robots, giving this song a drone and mechanical feeling.  It is a song that you could easily be lost in as it waxes, peaks and troughs around the speaker and the listener.

04 – Plastic Plant

This song sounds as if it is aiming to become the long lost track from The Who, mixed in with some Kraftwerk as well; it is a perfect example of Kraut-rock in the modern era, with a driven and dynamic core and some rough garage edges the invite the listener to basically lose any cool they had in the first instance and smashing the shit out of the dancefloor.  A sonic twin to ‘Dead Man’s Gun’ with a large dose of attitude and a fantastic amount of noise, passion and soul.

05 – Gelatinous Cube

This is (to paraphrase Kurt Cobain when he was asked about ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’) sounds like they are trying to rip off the Cramps.  It is a noisy number, pure garage, rock ‘n’ roll adrenaline that the Cramps, Rocket From The Crypt, MC5 and others have done for years.  At the beginning, it sounded like we were going to get ‘Iron Man’ once more, as the tone was very Black Sabbath.  For all intents and purposes, this song is just a little number that is easily wrote off and it should be ignored at your peril and it is fucking fantastic at being an out & out, high adrenaline rock ‘n’ roll swaggering number that hits all the right spots.

06 – Under Wrap The Fiend Part 2.

Another instrumental track, this time it is a little gentler on the soul with just as much effect as other tracks on this album.  You lose yourself to the music and follow them wherever you may go and however the music will take you.  With long passages of noise, reverb, bass rumbles, sudden explosions and quiet contemplation, it really does tick all the boxes for me.  It combines both sides of this band in terms of volume and it has never gotten old or repetitive since I first heard it.

07 – Crawling Out From The Fall Out

The penultimate song on this album is also the longest song of the record as well, coming in at seven minutes and fifty-one seconds.  Starting with a light cymbal take and then gentle drums, strings and low reverb, ‘Crawling Out From The Fall Out’ is a track that is not going to be rushed.  It is taking its time to reveal itself to you and patience is as ever the virtue whilst listening to this song.  With long passages of drone, sporadic vocals every now and then, a slow drum beat the you can truly relax into, this song is one that is not going to be for everyone.  For some people, it might be a bit too slow and not have the excitement of other tracks; for me, I like it as it gives you a pause before the end and shows yet another side to this band.  It is not my favourite song on the album, but I do not dislike it either.

08 – The Axis

Ending the album with another droning number that is slower than the beginning of the record, this is something that I fully understand and it is in these moments that I find myself appreciating the band a hell of a lot more.  It is a song about leaving a person and moving on, the music is a slow and sombre affair, an organ is heavy in the performance and the noise at the end is as loud as any frantic riff you will hear on this album that helps the song come to a noises end for the guitars as everything else stays on the same beautiful path.  It shows that they know when to make it larger than life and when to keep it simple and graceful.  A brilliant ending to this album, just beautiful.

Thee Oh Sees have created one of the best Garage Rock albums of 2016 and it could be one of the best albums of this year.  It is one that does not hide behind any fashions, any false statements and it sounds like it would have been a blast to be around the band as they were recording this.  With two instrumentals, maybe one song I was not too into and a variety of styles, it keeps your attention and it gets better with further performances.  A dark horse for album of the year?  Maybe, but it has a lot of competition; however, it will be in the conversation for one of the best albums of 2016 and that is nothing to be ashamed about.

9 out of ten – Almost perfect, almost…..

You can purchase A Weird Exits on Amazon here.

You can visit the Thee Oh Sees website here.

You can follow the activities of Thee Oh Sees on Facebook here.

At the time of writing, A Weird Exits is not available on streaming services.

21 September 2016

Baby Scream - Life's A Trap

This is the second time I have reviewed Baby Scream after I had reviewed 'Fan Fan Fan' (review cleverly linked here) in January 2016, I found their sound to be really refreshing and I have actually returned to 'Fan Fan Fan' quite a lot when I have been wanting to listen to something that hits pop, sarcasm and innocence (bear with me on that one), which I am sure you will agree is a hard trio to get.  Power Pop act Baby Scream are from Buenos Aires, Argentina and have been going since 2002, their songs are sung in English and to be honest, I have been hoping they would release something else.  This EP is currently as of writing only available on the Baby Scream Bandcamp page, with the band aiming for a Harry Nilsson, Big Star type feel; have they achieved that aim?

01 - Life's Better When U R High

'Life's Better When U R High' starts the album with an ode to being medicated (prescription or self-purchased) and how it can sometime alleviate the pain of life and the boredom that can seep into the world.  It is a melancholy type of song, a sad lament with a beautiful solo and the sort of tune that Baby Scream seem to be able to go in their sleep.  The mournful lyrics are really clever, the music is beautiful and it starts off this song on a glorious (if not sad) moment.

02 - The Ballad of the Music Biz

This song is incredibly jaded, lyrically and it sounds all the better for it!  A tune about the challenging environment that bands can find themselves in and the hardships that can be felt when people put themselves out there and no-one is paying attention.  A symphony on acoustic guitars and lavished with strings and sadness.  It is a familiar tale that a lot of people experience, told with pain and good grace in equal measure.

03 - Climbing Down

This song made me laugh out loud with some of the lyrics, I am not sure that was the intent to be honest and I do not mean it in a disrespectful way; but the opening set of lyrics about being puked on, bodily fluids and hair pulling is a bizarre and fascinating.  But the music behind the lyrics is a luscious pop that should be played as loud as possible, a masterpiece of satire and pop perfection.

04 - We Can't Go Back to 17

A tale about not wanting to grow up, the pitfalls of adulting and all that sort of thing, losing your hair, family, loved ones and it generally sucks to have the years add up.  Again, it is a morbid set of lyrics that is added to some fantastic pop that feels familiar and new in the same moment.  It is the song that took a little longer to get into, this might be for the minor keys in the music; but overall it is still a great tune once you get into it.

05 - Wish You Were Beer

This is my favourite song of the album, a mixture of They Might Be Giants, Shadowy Men On a Shadowy Planet, Ren & Stimpy (Cartoon show) and old 70's sci-fi music.  It is a clever pop song, one that loops around your head for days and days as it tries to drain the old worn feelings out of their collective heads.  It is the nearest this song comes to a happy place and I love that, it is just a perfect pop gem that has me smiling every time I hear it!

06 - Jokes

'Jokes' is the shortest song on this album (and none of the songs can be described as lengthy) and it is one of the most heartfelt number that tells you not to give up, to speak to friends and to take those extra steps.  I love the solo on this, the guitars are splendid and the feelings are gorgeous; if I had to nit-pick, I just wish it was longer but that is just looking for problems.

07 - The Road Bends

This is the penultimate song of the album; this is a rock/pop song that grows as the song progressives into a fantastic song.  It is about not bending to life, having a destructive side and just trying to figure out what the deal with this mortal coil.  It has a great riff, a backing choir and it builds to a massive ending that feels like it is able to keep going and going. 

08 - Midnight Snack

Sadly all good things come to end and this album is no exception - but it goes out on a chilled out guitar tune about a midnight snack of beer and weed.  It is a gentle way to end this relaxing about, it ends it perfectly with a laid back attitude to the world and a smile hidden in the eye as well.
What a great little album, eight fantastic tracks that are gentle on the heart and ears, easy going and they just keep giving and it is one of the surprise releases in 2016 as it has been on my play list ever since Baby Scream were kind enough to send a copy.  It is gentle as breeze and strong as a hurricane, it does not give more than is required and each song is perfectly formed.  If there was one point of contention, it would be that some of the songs could have been given an extra moment or two, but I am just looking for bad points that are not really there.  I was asked by Baby Scream to also mention that he has released a song called 'Dave' and it was released under Baby Scream's real name Juan Pablo Mazzola.  It is a charity single that he wrote after a friend had lost her husband and to help families in similar situations and the charity is called music4charity.  I have placed a link for the website at the bottom of the page and I hope you check out the website, as well as checking out this album as it is a little stunner!

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

Top track - Wish You Were Beer

You can purchase Life's A Trap on the Baby Scream Bandcamp page here.

The digital version of Life's A Trap will be available on Amazon on 1st December 2016 - you can pre-order here (but why when you can get it on Bandcamp now!)

At present, Life's A Trap is not available on streaming sites; again go to the Baby Scream Bandcamp page and purchase it!

Here is a link to the music4charity website

Greatest hits