Thursday, 28 April 2011

Warning warning warning, may make head explode!


    By now you will have heard (unless of course you have been living under a rock for a considerable amount of time) about the legendary live show of Skindred, a band thought to be unparalleled on the live stage. It is possible however that you have missed that they also have a quite impressive back catalogue under their belts as well. Well they do, however each of their previous albums has just been topped.
  
    This is the first Skindred album to be produced in the UK (previously choosing to record in the U.S) and it is certainly noticeable, and by the sounds of it, about time too. Kicking off with the most unique and catchy renditions of God Save The Queen (with differing lyrics) you will have heard (does the Sex Pistols' classic count? Probably not), this is an album that wears its British heritage on its sleeve in flashing neon colours. Their dub-step influences being so much more prominent than on previous output without straying away from their punk and metal elements, this is perhaps their most 'in your face' record to date, in fact if it could this album would probably jump from your player and grab you by the throat if it could.
  
    Lead single Warning is guaranteed to rule rock and metal club floors everywhere, and features an inspired cameo from Papa Roach's Jacoby Shaddix highlighting their metal/hard rock credentials. Doom Riff shows their dub-step influences through and through to staggering effect, whilst Guntalk sounds like hard dancehall/reggae, showing frontman Benji's unbelievable diversity to full effect. Every song on this album is impressive, with no weak point whatsoever, each and every song is more than capable of ripping dance floors apart.

    The huge dub-step elements on display here show that Skindred that cross over appeal of bands such as The Prodigy, and are well and truly capable of being embraced by a wider audience. Skindred remain in a league of their own, but on the evidence on here, they would crush all comers anyway.

[9.5/10]

Listen to: Warning, Cut Dem, Death To All Spies
  

Monday, 25 April 2011

You wanted the best!...well I'll try my best

    Very few bands I know have the 'marmite' factor amongst my group of friends and further as far as I can see. One of the greatest rock bands on the planet, or simply money grabbing posers, most people will have an opinion on the band. I would just like to point out now however that those people who think that Kiss aren't great, or maybe even awful...well you guys are both AND stupid (it's ok, we all make mistakes sometimes). Kiss are responsible for some of the greatest rock anthems of the last few decades, one of the most exciting and talked about live shows, and Gene Simmons dresses as a demon!! What more do you want? And frankly if you haven't found yourself ever listening to Crazy Crazy Nights and NOT singing your head off even if you're sober you don't know how to have fun.
  
    It has to be said however that, ok, there are a few reasons to not like Kiss. With a need to have a brand of merchandise of, it seems, every single kind, it can be a bit over the top and irritating, and it has to be said Gene Simmons is known to be a bit greedy but we can forgive him for that I guess. We can't forgive him for discovering Little Fucking Chris (spits at the floor) however. This is a band that has tested it's fanbases' patience as well with a couple of diabolical albums (I love Kiss through and through but Psycho Circus is shit). Also when it comes to the make up and characters, yes we have The Demon, but we also have the fucking Cat. Peter Criss,  couldn't you have picked anything cooler than The Cat? At least Eric Carr had The Fox and it looked a bit cooler.

    Despite all this however, Kiss are one of the greatest bands on the planet, period. This band are a heated topic of debate in my house between me and my mate Tom (as I said in a previous blog he suffers broken ears as he cannot see the quality of this band!). So following the success of my Maiden overview (I know at least 3 people read it) here is an overview of the mighty Kiss. You wanted the best!...and well I'll try my best.

 Essential
Destroyer (1976)


    Usually cited as the fan favourite album, and during the bands creative peak of their early albums, this their fifth album is one of the quintessential rock albums and simply must be owned by any fan of this band or this type of music. Look how happy they are on the cover, and listening to this album when in a party mood and you'll be just as happy as them.
    Opening with the impressive classic, Detroit Rock City the Destroyer party is opened with a bang (ironic considering that the song is about a high speed car crash) and is one Kiss' main anthems which will have you singing away after the 1st, 2nd, 3rd even 450th listen, and it isn't even the best song on the album.
    Gene Simmons takes centre stage menacingly on the dark and twisted God Of Thunder (a unique sounding song in the Kiss repertoire, yet still undeniably Kiss), the hugely fun Shout It Loud see's Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons having vocal trade off's and Beth is one of the best ballads Kiss have ever written, Peter Criss doing a heart wrenching rendition.
    Of course it wouldn't be Kiss without something making you wonder 'What the hell were they thinking?' and in this case it is the god awful Great Expectations...seriously what were they thinking? Otherwise this is a brilliant album, an excellent party album. Make sure the booze is cold, put this on loud, you will not be disappointed.

Listen to: God Of Thunder, Shout It Out Loud, Beth

Recommended


Kiss (1974)


    Debut albums do not come filled with so many genuine rock anthems than Kiss' first outing. All though they did not achive huge success until the Kiss Alive album rocketed them into space, the albums that preceded that milestone are of huge quality and it's a testament to how many songs from these albums (and number one in particular) still stay in the Kiss setlist and are still capable of rocking your socks off.
     Seriously how many bands right from the off can right such tunes as Strutter, Black Diamond, and Deuce? These are all songs guaranteed to get any party going strong, and it is not a perfect Kiss set list without at least 2 or 3 of this albums' classics.
     I havn't even mentioned the unstoppable Firehouse, a song famous in the Kiss live show for being Gene's moment of fire breathing (which cannot get old as a spectacle, and being able to witness that moment would allow me to die a happy bunny). Even without that spectacle the song just rules! Kiss is an incredible debut album, in fact it could have easily been the essential album, but it isn't quite as in your face as Destroyer, although it doesn't have a dreadful 'Great Expectations' moment, seriously Kiss why did you start making shit songs like that when you obviously can write consistent classics as this album proves.

Listen to: Strutter, Firehouse, Black Diamond

Love Gun (1977)



     Now this is starting to get difficult, some great albums are going to have to get missed now, if possible I would have a lot more than just 3 under recommended, but where we would we be without some rules (how rock 'n' roll of me). You just cannot ignore the mighty Love Gun however, and it is impressive how quickly in succession Kiss managed to release albums in their first few years and still have each one sound so mighty, and Love Gun is no exception.
    Once again full of perfect party anthems, it kicks off with the timeless I Stole Your Love, if that song doesn't want to make you have an awesome time then nothing will. This album is also noted for the first song to feature lead vocals by otherworldly guitarist (well he is the space ace, he IS from space) Ace Frehley on Shock Me. And not forgetting the mighty Christine Sixteen, Plaster Caster, Tomorrow and Tonight and quite possibly the greatest title track ever Love Gun. You know the pattern by now, shove this on loud and your night will be awesome.

Listen to: I Stole Your Love, Christine Sixteen, Love Gun

Sonic Boom (2009)


    After the final recording of Carnival Of Souls (of which we shall not mention again) Kiss reunited in 1998 and underwhelmed everyone with the hugely disappointing Psycho Circus. Despite high profile tours afterwards it was beginning to look like that the best had passed and Kiss would remain a nostalgia band. Then out of nowhere this beauty came along.
     11 years after Psycho Circus it would have been hugely worrying if they had produced a shocker, considering their work rate of the 70s which saw classic after classic, but a line up overhaul which saw Messrs Tommy Thayer on lead guitar and Eric Singer on drums, and Psycho Circus is forgotten, Kiss are alive (no pun intended) and well and truly kicking. The instantly timeless Modern Day Delilah has shot its way into the list of all time great Kiss songs and is now a regular set opener for the band (where hopefully it will remain for years to come, it is seriously brilliant).
    In fact most of the songs on here are instantly anthemic and sit well amongst any they have made before. Never Enough will also sit in the list of all time great Kiss songs. This album is the best Kiss album for a very long time, and hopefully will see its place in time as the point where Kiss got their mojo back and started making classic after classic again.

Listen to: Modern Day Delilah, Never Enough, Say Yeah

Criminally Underrated


Creatures Of The Night (1984)
    This album should be close to most Kiss fan's hearts simply because it showed that Kiss weren't going to make a Songs For The Elder MkII! But aside from this Creatures Of The Night is a gem of an album which doesn't get too much mention over other albums (perhaps with good reason judging by the quality of a lot of their work), but should be held in a higher acclaim.
    Quite possibly the hardest of Kiss' output this album marked the beginning of an unusual period in Kiss' history, a period of very decent albums, but a period which would soon see them unmasked (they previously released an album called unmasked which was not only unmemorable but also didn't have the band unmasked...not sure of that title choice then).
    Opening with the mighty title track which still remains a set list gem, many of the songs on here are darker than previous output (not quite dark to Slayer standards obviously but still noticeable).  Songs such as Killer, War Machine and Saint and Sinner showing a harder edge to the band than previously shown, even ballad I Still Love You isn't as soppy as say the likes of Beth. Perhaps the best album of the Eric Carr era, it is also perhaps his career best performance, showing a level of drumming that classic drummer Peter Criss couldn't match, this is certainly the best album to remember the mighty Carr by, and is certainly worth a listen to. R.I.P Eric Carr

Listen to: Creatures Of The Night, Keep Me Comin', I Love It Loud

Unessential/Tread Carefully
Music For The Elder (1981)
    Despite all the classic albums that Kiss have made, they are also responsible for some truly awful albums. I said I wasn't going to mention Carnival Of Souls again and I hate that I have to but it is a pretty bad album, and the return of Kiss afterwards deserved much better than the dreadful Psycho Circus. None of these however come close to the truly horrible Music For The Elder, an album that words cannot do justice with describing how awful it is.
    A concept album (seriously a Kiss made concept album? Just the idea of it sounds shit) made in an effort to make Kiss out as serious musicians (From the band that previously wrote songs as tongue in cheek and beyond serious as Ladies Room, Room Service and Love Gun??) this album did nothing more than alienate fans at the time.
    Usually even bad albums may have at least one highlight to pick from which at least is worth listening to if the rest of the album isn't. Not here, in fact Kiss impressively managed to write a whole album of songs that weren't unmemorable, but horrific to listen to. Seriously the only attempt at Kiss songs I have heard that is worse than this was when Glee tried their hand at Shout It Out Loud and Beth (for which they must die horrible, HORRIBLE deaths). They should actually be given a medal for how awful they managed to make this album, Jesus even Psycho Circus had one song worthy listening to (the title track in case you were wondering).
    There are simply no songs worth listening to on here. Even the album artwork is dreadful, its a fucking door knocker! I was tempted to change the name of this category to 'Must be found and burnt' because avoid doesn't do it justice. Thank *insert deity here* for Creatures Of The Night!

Listen to: Another CD!! Seriously!!

So there you have it, a fool's guide to Kiss' back catalogue, and the fool hopes you enjoy it.








    


Saturday, 23 April 2011

Believe the Hype

Foo Fighters- Wasting Light

    In the months coming up to the release of the Foo's latest album there has been a lot of hype about how this is album is going to be amazing, this album is their best album yet, it's going to be one of if not THE best album of the year. So lets cut to the chase now and put some things to bed: Believe the hype, this album IS amazing and is quite possibly their best album yet and the best album of the year (certainly thus far).

    This album more than lives up to the hype that has surrounded it for several months before it's release. Teaser track, the stellar White Limo easily being the heaviest track on the album and only hinted at how great, and instantly memorable and anthemic the rest of the album is. Album opener Bridge Burning kicks proceedings off to a flying start, showing the whole band playing at full force at the top of their game, Taylor Hawkins especially giving a career best performance behind the kit, and from the opener to the closer, Walk the album doesn't let up the good times whatsoever.

    Unlike previous albums where there maybe more memorable songs that stand head and shoulders above the rest (usually the singles), Wasting Light doesn't have just a handful of memorable songs, each and every one will have you singing away hours later and pretty much every chorus will happily be embedded into your memory after approximately 2-3 listens. The songs are of such a high quality as well, the aforementioned White Limo is quite possibly the heaviest song this band has ever made, Arlandria and These Days are perfect for the arrival of the UK summer and Dear Rosemary is a contender for the best song Dave Grohl has ever written, and that is saying something.

    This album will have you singing away listen after listen after listen, and will not fail to put a smile on your face, especially as you chill in the sun, with a cool beverage with your mates, this album should be the soundtrack to your summer. This album RULES! End of! Album of the year? Quite possibly. Best rock album of the 21st Century? Likewise.

[10/10]

Listen to: Dear Rosemary, These Days, Bridge Burning
 

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Overview of the Beast

    When it comes to discussions in my student household, we are almost constantly debating and arguing; whether it being about films, games, news, life in general or interestingly music. Music is mostly debated about by me and my housemate Tom ( a while ago I discovered that Tom's ears don't work properly, I discovered this when he said that Kiss were crap whilst I was listening to the Destroyer album). One band which we both agree is beyond awesome, yet argue on which albums deserve more merit than others is the mighty Iron Maiden. This got me thinking on an ideal blog topic, on which of their albums are the best, which is criminally underrated and which is not so worthy of recognition. Hopefully this will be the first of many of this kind, but firstly, up the Irons!

Essential
The Number Of The Beast (1982)

     Picking Iron Maiden's number one, essential album was a very difficult task, the sheer quality of their best work makes some of their albums so hard to choose from. In fact this accolade could have easily gone to the Powerslave album, however I'd say TNOTB just pips it to the post. The d├ębut recording of former Samson frontman Bruce Dickinson, replacing former front man Paul Dianno, the Irons immediately showed just how truly great they could be with a much more versatile and well fitting frontman. TNOTB is such a consistently good album and of such a hig quality and loaded with essential maiden anthems such as the title track, Run To The Hills, Hallowed Be Thy Name and the slower Children Of The Damned.
    No song on the album is unmemorable, nor does any member of Iron Maiden not make an astounding musical performance. The show is inevitably stolen by the presence of Bruce Dickinson, an infinitely stronger vocalist than his predecessor in every conceivable way, sometimes reaching notes so powerful that he must have made a pact with the devil himself (maybe thats why he is involved so much on the album.) This album isn't just an essential Iron Maiden album, but one of the essential metal albums (heck even just general albums) out there, and as a metal head, if this is missing from your record collection you have a hole bigger than the one the iceberg gave to the Titanic!

Listen to: Hallowed Be Thy Name, Run To The Hills

Recommended


Powerslave (1984)
  
Closely following TNOTB is the almost equally impressive Powerslave. Released just two years after TNOTB (with the epic Piece Of Mind released the year in between) it is striking how great and consistent their albums are in the early period of Bruce's reign.
    Opening with the stonking Aces High, one of the greatest album openers of all time, and the ultimate set opener for the Irons, what follows is a collection of epic and near faultless metal classics. 2 Minutes to Midnight, Powerslave, Flash Of The Blade, these songs need no introduction, they are examples of pure class, and the album closer, the epic journey of Rime Of The Ancient Mariner is a fantastic story based on the classic novel and manages to remain exciting for the full 13 minutes of its duration (Iron Maiden starting to show signs that they are not afraid to write long epics as well as punchy 4 minute classics). Not the perfect album however, Back To The Village not being the most memorable of songs and not matching most of the rest of the album, while instrumental Losfer Words (Big 'Orra) whilst containing impressive musicianship is a rather dull affair and perhaps could have been done without. These are the only reason why this is not sitting at the top of the pile here.

Listen to: Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, Aces High

Iron Maiden (1980)





    1980 has to be one of the great milestones in metal history. The year of Priest's British Steel, Motorhead's Ace of Spades, Ozzy Osbourne's debut The Blizzard of Oz as well as the age of NWOBHM thriving. Arguably most notable of the NWOBM albums is this corker of a debut by Iron Maiden.
    Before Bruce Dickinson there was Paul Dianno, a man who, despite almost no vocal talent whatsoever and an impressively limited range would give a menacing and classic vocal performance. Backed with an instantly tight band of musician's, Steve Harris' signature bass rumble, and staggering twin guitar work this album was an essential NWOBHM classic (even though they would drift away from pigeon hole and branch into more epic and progressive sounding territory).
    Chock full of anthems, each song is an instant anthem much like TNOTB, although not all of as high a quality, Paul Dianno adding a more punky vocal sound to the band which perhaps shouldn't have worked so well.

Listen to: Running Free, Transylvania

Brave New World (2000)


   Any doubts that the second coming of Bruce Dickinson perhaps wouldn't live up to the past were quickly dispelled with the arrival of this awesome and underrated gem. What was more of an experimentation into more Prog schools of metal through their 80s heyday, becoming more prominent on later efforts such as Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, this would now become their niche, with them becoming a much more progressive band in the 21st Century.
    Opening with The Wicker Man, an instant anthem with the in your face wallop of yore, the vast majority of the rest of this albums songs sit above the 5 minute mark, yet not being so long as to become tiresome and dull, including Ghost Of Navigator and The Nomad. The Mercenary being of similar ilk to The Wicker Man, another instant punchy anthem, showing that this band is still more than capable of making snappy, enjoyable classics as well as longer, more challenging but thoroughly enjoyable epics.

Listen to: The Ghost of Navigator, The Mercenary

Criminally Underrated


The X-Factor (1995)




    Replacing a figure as widely revered by fans as Bruce Dickinson is as enviable a task as being the Incredible Hulks anger management consultant. Perhaps this is why the albums released during his departure are mostly overlooked. Which is very unfair on both those albums and vocalist at the time Blaze Bayley, because not only is Blaze Bayley one of the finest (and criminally underrated) vocalists in rock and metal, but The X-Factor is an absolute gem of an album that deserves your time as much as most of the rest of Maiden's back catalogue. Opener Sign Of The Cross immediately puts you at ease that things were still good in the Maiden camp, and Blaze shows of his impressive set of pipes with a range almost on par with Bruce's, although the song is excessively long and begins to tail off in the middle.
    Whilst no match perhaps for the classic era of Maiden in the 80s, with songs not quite as memorable as on those albums The X-Factor does have some definate gems, The Man On The Edge and Lord Of The Flies have to be heard. This album is as worthy of your time as anything that followed Somewhere In Time, overlooked perhaps by the lack of the messiah, his apprentice still does a sterling job here.

Listen to: Man On The Edge, Lord Of The Flies

Unessential/ Tread Carefully


Virtual XI (1998)
    It may seem hippocritical  that after saying that the albums in the Blaze Bayley period are underrated and worthy of your time, that his second and final Iron Maiden effort should find itself at the bottom of the pile, but choosing Iron Maiden's weakest album is such a difficult task as well due to the high quality of the whole back catalogue, and compared to other efforts Virtual XI isn't as strong.
    This album is by no means an awful album however, and is certainly worth hearing. Opener Futureal is arguably the best song to come from the Blaze era, featuring one of the greatest Iron Maiden solos of their entire career, and a mighty vocal performance. Unfortunately this is the most memorable song by a country mile, as the others do not ignite anywhere near as much as much of the rest of their repertoire. By no means a bad album, but this is an album you might listen to once every few months at best. There are 14 Iron Maiden albums you should get before you get this.

Listen to: Futureal, Lightning Strikes Twice


So there you have it, my brief overview of one best back catalogues I have heard, a back catalogue with no obvious weakness, and as near to perfection as you can get. Now if you excuse me, I expect some disagreement from a certain Tom.