Friday, 3 August 2012

Testament- Dark Roots Of Earth

    It has been four long years since the release of "The Formation Of Damnation", a monumental comeback album which saw Testament's return after trials and tribulations that could have and would have broken most mere mortals; including the thankfully successful fight Chuck Billy had with cancer. Rightfully given rave reviews, "Formation..." was hailed, worthily, as a outright modern metal classic. Finally, the much anticipated follow up, "Dark Roots Of Earth" is here, but can it live up to the undoubted great weight of expectation?

    Much like before, Testament take from both the old and the new within their repertoire. A lot of the guitar work for example has the old-school thrash feel to it but through a modern lense, whilst the presence of Gene Hoglan on drums sees blastbeats popping up, and the modern and precise production certainly moves them from being a nostalgia act.

   Opening with "Rise Up" it's pretty clear that they aren't going to take any prisoners. Very much a 'call to arms' number with the instantly memorable and effective mantra "When I say rise up...You say war" which should see this become a live favourite without a doubt. For the most part, "Dark Roots.." maintains a very fast pace; leaving behind some of the more mid-paced tracks "Formation.." had. The guitar work from both Skolnick and Peterson is absolutely sublime on both the thrashier riffs and melodic parts; whilst Chuck Billy's gravelly aggressive vocals are as forceful and powerful as ever.

    The elephant in the room thus far however is the inclusion of the near 8 minute long ballad "Cold Embrace" which has torn people thus far. Sadly it isn't the band's best ballad thus far and it is a real momentum killer considering it follows from the opening salvo of such consistently strong and fast songs. Definitely the only low point on the album though.

    An album which had a towering task to live up to its predecessor; "Dark Roots..." has thankfully lived up to the task and, whilst maybe not topping "Formation...", it certainly proves a match. The ever reliable and spectacular Testament roll on.


Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Slash- Apocalyptic Love

    So the travelling circus that is Guns 'N' Roses continues to intrigue and embarrass in equal measure. The recent fiasco of the rumoured original line-up performing at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame ending up being just a pipe dream, it looks increasingly unlikely that we will see a reunion of this classic line-up even if a bunch of pigs fly over the horizon whilst that horned fellow below has to get out his thermal undies. Simultaneously the Velvet Revolver vocalist spot is still open and has seen everyone from Corey Taylor, a possible returning Scott Weiland to David Cameron (possibly) being linked to it. If Slash can make albums this good though we could fair alright without.

    Slash's previous solo album was a pretty fun affair, and in the absence of VR, very welcoming to hear that guitar tone once again. It did have a feel of a bit of a vanity project about it at times though and was a bit hit and miss. Some excellent tunes and collaborations such as Ian Astbury on "Ghost", but some were pretty dull and some of the guest appearances simply looked like Slash showing off his celebrity mates. The new album, "Apocalyptic Love" instead sees a cohesive band, with Alter Bridge's talismanic Myles Kennedy on vocals. Having a fixed line-up means that this just works so much better than the previous album. It feels like a proper band and album rather than a project. The fact that this is a grouping that have played together extensively as well (on Slash's touring for the last album), you can tell that they are a gelled unit. 

    It cannot be stressed how much more this album feels like an actual band playing rather than like before, but it also even feels like a young and hungry band. With headphones on you can hear countdowns into many of the songs before they actually kick in, suggesting a rawness to proceedings. If it wasn't for how instantly recognisable both Myle's voice and Slash's guitar sound were you could think this was a bunch of young lads. Speaking of Myles, you can see why Slash was so keen on having him as his permanent singer, as his incredible range and ability only continue to cement his reputation as one of the very best rock vocalists around right now, arguably THE best. Such a strong singing voice and vocal range, but here he also shows a wide variety of delivery, from slower pace, long notes held, to even machine gun speed singing at times, whilst sounding incredibly cool and with swagger throughout. A possible show stealing performance.

   Of course it is Slash's guitar work and songwriting which is the real star of the show, with some of the strongest riffs he has written for some time, this album is full to the brim with real summertime anthems. It is all so fluid as well; whilst the first solo album had him trying to play differently to suit different singers, which would see him attempt eeriness with the Ozzy fronted number, here it is all fist pumping, good times bluesy rock which he is a master at. "Apocalyptic Love" is simply full of anthems just perfect for the sunshine and the hot weather. This is your summer soundtrack. Enjoy.


Recommended: Apocalyptic Love, Standing In The Sun, No More Heroes

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted- Hail Technology?

If you are a regular reader to this here blog, or shelter for incoherence and stupidity if you will, you may have cottoned on that I am a bit of a rock and metal fan mostly. So regular readers (all 1 or 2 of you) may be wondering why a picture of 2Pac is sitting on this post. Well for the record although I spend most of my time waffling on about bands with loud guitars etc, my music taste is a lot wider than I often make out. Hip Hop and R&B are such genres (I know there can be complicated overlaps with these two but I’m not going in to great detail for this post, so apologies) that I can be found listening to. Yes, after how I sounded there, this is hugely surprising but its true dammit! You really cannot fuck with a lot of 90’s Hip Hop and R&B, so many awesome songs. Besides what I’m about to talk about is huge news.

At Coachella Festival 2012, a massive performance from legends Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg saw the use of holograms to recreate the ‘live presence’ of gone but not forgotten greats 2Pac and Nate Dogg (the latter passing away last year). Both figures are of course huge parts of these genres of music, and so distinctive and renowned, as well as influential: Nate Dogg’s voice is such a presence on countless great (and not so great) songs from this period and beyond, whilst 2Pac is often cited as one of the greatest, poignant and heartfelt rappers of all time, sometimes considered to even be THE greatest. 2Pac especially is still such an iconic figure to fans to this very day and his legacy in Hip Hop almost unparalleled since his death many years ago. So the use of hologram performances of these two in an already massive show adds a great curiosity factor to it. How good an idea was it however?

My initial reaction when I heard this news was that this was quality news. So many people who live and breathe this form of music never had the chance to see 2Pac live, to never see such classics as “Me Against The World”, “Hail Mary” and “How Do You Want It”, whilst many people will of course be still mourning Nate Dogg’s departure (so this is not to be overlooked either). Watching the clips it has to be said that the holograms were incredibly lifelike and the technology was very strong and seemed to give what could be the closest many will ever get to seeing these guys live at all. As a one off event as well this could prove to be a truly iconic moment in music. I wasn’t there for the record, I have only seen the clips on YouTube so I can’t properly judge I guess (this maybe makes this whole post futile...but oh well we shall press on). My cynicism about the event begins to creep in here however. What if it isn’t a one off event?

That’s to say, what if the use of these holograms to bring back a performer ‘back from the dead’ and back to the live stage begins to get used more frequently? What if someone decided to use such holographic technology to bring back the likes of Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Kurt Cobain or Keith Moon back at the drop of a hat for what would surely prove to be major selling shows? Could the use of this technology prove to tarnish the legacies of such iconic musicians? If a music exec, or whomever organised such things decided to try and get a quick buck or two out of a hologram of Michael Jackson for an arena tour? I feel this could just be an insult to the artist and maybe even the fans if it proved to be a regular occurrence.
Going back to the actual performance of ‘2Pac’ as well; his stage moves and crowd interactions are programmed prior (obviously (I’m assuming that’s how it works, I’m no expert on technology)). This surely detracts from the live show itself in a sense by completely eradicating the spontaneity of the live show. His moves are not interactions. For someone who considers the uniqueness of each show to be part of the experience, this is a major factor in my opinion.

That being said, like mentioned before, as a one off event I still think this show was a really cool event, and I think it would have been pretty immense to have been a part of it. Especially seeing as how 2Pac and Snoop performed “2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted” ‘together’. That is bloody awesome. I just hope the use of this is not something that would get out of hand, and in the end, just tarnish the memories of such greats. Then again it can’t be worse than the amount of shoddy ‘2Pac albums’ released by producers who had no working relation to the guy whatsoever, just so they can make a name for themselves and make a couple of quid.

That’s my views at least. Now let it sink in that you have just listened to the opinion of a skinny, white, unshaven metal-head on his views on a Hip-Hop festival set...Sounds a bit unlikely doesn’t it? 

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Shinedown- Amaryllis

Shinedown- Amaryllis

    Around 2008/2009 a band from America started coming to UK shores, doing shows including an initial support slot for Disturbed before their own frequent tours, to some great reaction to fans. Turns out this band was already an arena selling act in America, and these tours were actually for their 3rd full length album ‘The Sound Of Madness’. You will have certainly heard one of their massive singles, which perhaps not as huge over here, often invade the charts in America. Yes of course I am talking about Shinedown.
For those who do not know, Shinedown fit into that category of modern arena rock bands, dominated by THAT band Nickelback

    Without going any further it has to be said that, yes, Shinedown are not a band that offer anything new whatsoever. Massive selling arena rock which you have heard before, with Metallica influenced fast paced numbers and clean and massive ballads in equal abundance. Yes you have heard it before. What separates certain bands like this from others however is a proper personality, and of course great songs, which Shinedown have in absolute abundance. Their songs are absolutely huge, instantly memorable, and will tap into your mind and stay there for a long, long time. What they have as well, which can be lacking in some of these kind of bands, is that they are genuine. You can really feel that singer Brent Smith bleeds and means every single word he says; whether he is telling you to stand up to bullies, looking out for your fellow human, or singing from a real place of despair.

‘Amaryllis’ is the bands 4th album, and the follow up to the gargantuan selling ‘Sound Of Madness’, and it is much the same, that is, songs that are absolutely huge and infectious. In my opinion, ‘Amaryllis’ is an improvement on its predecessor. The harder, faster songs have perhaps less of an edge to them; the likes of ‘Adrenaline’, ‘Enemies’ and ‘Bully’ aren’t quite as hard and without as much aggression as the likes of ‘Devour’ and ‘Sin With A Grin’ from ‘SOM’, but they are much more memorable and the choruses will be in your head from the start.

It’s the ballads where this album shows a vast improvement. Previously some of them wouldn’t quite hit the mark; ‘Crow And The Butterfly’ for example is quite hit and miss. Here the ballads are beautiful, fully heartfelt and quite simply just better. The title track, ‘I’m Not Alright’, ‘Unity’, these are songs that just cannot fail to make you feel better no matter what; whilst ‘I’ll Follow You’ has similarities to Elton John. Sometimes the mid paced songs aren’t as memorable and fall in to the background in comparison to some of the larger songs here, but in this case this a minor complaint.

This is a band whose music has touched me and helped me before (bit personal and soppy I realise), and in a time of stress once again with assignments, the new album is a truly uplifting and touching effort which puts a smile on my face every single time. Not cutting edge in the slightest, but completely truthful, catchy, and moving. 


Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Where Has Tippell Been?

Hello Internet peoples! I appear to be back after quite a while, and I apologise for that.

As of late once again, uni assignments have kind of got in the way of posting on here, but in addition I have been writing still, but for a Alternative Matter webzine, and now ThisIsNotAScene due to the two merging.

Just thought I would say that for the legions of readers (ok, maybe just me) I am still going to be posting on here on occasion, if not as regularly as before. I won't be so regular sadly (when were you you tit?), but this blog will still be active, and will still have reviews and the odd piece on whatever is occurring in our world of heavy and challenging music.

Tippell never left bitches :D

You can now also check my writings on here for future reference :D

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Live Review- Shinedown- London Roundhouse

Shinedown- London Roudhouse- 8/02/12

[This my first attempt at a live review, so any critiques are very welcome here. Also I realise I lack any pictures which prove I was there but my camera has decided to do walkies somewhere. I was there though, really.]

    After what seems like hours queuing outside in the freezing cold, eventually the doors open to allow us to queue for a further age or two. It’s the return or American rockers Shinedown we are waiting for; the first date on their UK tour and later on, according to the front-man Brent Smith on stage, the first place they chose to play since recording the brand new album Amarylis. Arena headliners in their home country, Shinedown’s popularity over here is not quite as big, as the size of the Roundhouse proves, but they are on a steady rise in the UK and the reaction from some is very euphoric. At this stage above the guys are undertaking meet and greets in view of those of us who chose not to invest; and once these finish they move past the shrieking, hysteric masses they met just enter the venue at our level to no reaction whatsoever, but this may be as I’m the only one who appeared to see them, therefore I am claiming that wave from Brent was for me and me alone!

     Eventually we are allowed to the stage area, and kudos to the stage staff that it is not long at all until opening act, Brummie rockers Liberty Lies [3/5] kick off proceedings, nor is there a huge wait between any of the acts. Undoubtedly youthful but unashamedly confident, these lads put on an infectiously fun show and manage to get much of the ever growing crowd jumping; sadly their songs are not the most memorable and are quickly forgotten by the time Halestorm [4/5] arrive. Halestorm play like their livelihoods depend on it and have pretty much the whole crowd gripped from start to finish. This is such a confident showing that you seriously have to remind yourself that these guys are not headlining the show. Front woman Lizzy Hale puts on an especially great performance and comes across much grittier in the live scene than on record. Drummer Arejay seems to be trying to steal the show from his sister with a very charismatic performance behind the kit, on the kit, through the kit, wherever the hell he wanted to be really. A drum solo (no surprises there) that includes the entire band still was a unique touch as well, before the band finishes and leaves the entire place with grins on their mugs.

     Grins only widened further when Shinedown [4/5] make it to the stage. Kicking off with the title track from previous album The Sound Of Madness the entire place is moving as we are pummelled with hit after hit. Other than the inclusion of three brand new tracks (one of which is first single ‘Bully’, which does sound a lot better live admittedly) this is quite a safe set with very few surprises, other than the really unexpected but very welcome cover of ‘Simple Man’ (a song the band had previously said would not be played again because of its association with an ex member) played simply by Brent and guitarist Zach Myers with an acoustic guitar, which proves a very moving rendition. Since the last time I saw this band live way back at Download Festival in 2009 it seems Zach has come on leaps and bounds as a player and as a showman, his playing tonight clean and tight, and several times throughout the night he goes centre stage and seems to try to wrestle the show from Brent.

    However, like at any Shinedown show it is Brent who will be most remembered, and he too appears to have improved hugely on stage. Before, between songs, he could verge too far towards preaching to the crowd, tonight however he is completely heartfelt and believable, and in the songs you know he means and bleeds EVERY word he sings, ‘Second Chance’ being a great example. When he asks the crowd to fulfil the band’s dream of having the crowd singing back so loud they can’t hear themselves play, you can feel the crowd’s hearts being tugged at before they dutifully oblige. Since the last time I saw these guys, Brent has developed in to one of the most genuinely thankful and heartfelt front-men around. The new album should see this band get even bigger over here, perhaps eventually pushing to arena status, and with a visibly vast improvement as a live band, fully deservedly so.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Never Felt Cheated

Lamb Of God- Resolution   

    Of this generation’s crop of Metal acts, Lamb Of God are certainly one of the world’s biggest, and most popular. Massive selling (well, as metal albums go) albums such as Ashes Of The Wake, Sacrament and Wrath have seen the Virginians rise to the top of the metal hierarchy. On the form of their previous albums, it was very unlikely that this would be a disappointment.
    If you are a fan of the band thus far then Resolution is not going to throw you off on a loop at all, you know full well what to expect as the band have followed a path of greatness yet with consistency and Resolution for the most part does follow this trend, with the rawer sound of previous album Wrath used rather than the more polished production of Sacrament. It does show Lamb Of God flexing their creative muscles to some extent however, with a couple of new tricks up their sleeves. Very misleadingly for example, album opener ‘Straight For The Sun’ has a very sludgey feel reminiscent of Crowbar. Otherwise the album is very familiar groove orientated metal which most would be familiar too, but with some extra elements involved: first released song ‘Ghost Walking’ starts off with a clean acoustic guitar line before the song truly reveals itself, whilst album closer ‘King Me’, as you may have already heard, uses orchestral parts to decent yet not overpowering effect.

    These particular examples however are not the album’s highlights, and mostly it is when the band is doing “meat and potatoes” style Lamb Of God songs without any new surprises that the album actually works best.  ‘The Undertow’ for example is a ferociously strong song with no new variations upon it whatsoever; it’s just the band sounding their strongest. ‘Invictus’ similarly hits hard after following the clean, almost melancholic instrumental ‘Barbaraosa’, whilst ‘Cheated’ is an almost punk-like ditty which tributes the Sex Pistols and sounds very similar to Wrath’s ‘Contractor’. It is in these moments where we see that the band members themselves are at the best forms of their lives.

    Much has been made of the improvement of Randy Blythe’s vocal performance here and with good reason. Whilst before he has been powerful but limited in range, Resolution sees him as a much bigger part of the mix, with a wider range of harsh screams and some clean singing in ‘Insurrection’ which comes off rather well. It isn’t just the Randy show however, as behind the drum-kit Chris Adler is phenomenal, they may have replaced him with Squiddly Diddly (...cartoon octopus? Anyone?...).

    There has been a tremendous amount of hype surrounding Resolution as a contender for album of the year already, but sadly it does not quite live up to this. Still a great effort from one of the most consistently hard-hitting bands on the planet, and on repeated listens the album does improve. Doesn’t quite beat Sacrament or Wrath in places however, but this is still a terrific work and very much worth getting. Whether it will be one of the year’s best is yet to be seen.


Listen To: The Undertow, Invictus, Cheated