Thursday, 26 May 2011

Not Isolated But Part Of The Gang

    In case you were wondering whatever happened to Bath based Death Metallers Ignominious Incarceration (I spelt that first time perfectly! WOO HOO), look no further, II took a name change and became The Soulless. Certainly not an original name for a metal band, not at all, but an infinitely better name in my opinion, a name easier for fans to remember and much catchier. This is not about the new band name however, this is about new album Isolated.

    Technically the second album of this group then, Isolated firstly shows an increased melodic side than II's Of Winter Born, with perhaps an Unearth like influence upon the band now. There is an obvious shift from the more brutal death metal offerings of their début and at times it is almost like listening to a different band, which is not a criticism nor a compliment as such, just an observation.

    Some things have not changed however. Front man Andy Wardole still gives an impressively brutal vocal performance, and the rest of the band can certainly play that is undeniable. It has to be said however that there is nothing new here whatsoever. This is very much familiar melodic death metal which we have heard a lot of before and of which there is an abundance of, and done a lot more memorably by others. This is not to say that this album or band should be discarded at all however, Isolated is an enjoyable listen none the less and songs such as first single Earthbound, Unaltered and Clones will have you headbanging away. The Soulless are undeniably a good band and have the capability to make a fantastic album someday, this however is not it.


Listen to: Unaltered, Earthbound, Revelation                                                            

Friday, 20 May 2011

*Insert Confusingly Scientific Title

    Are you sat there craving some awesome melodic death metal right about now? Well even if you aren't the brand new Scar Symmetry album is very much worth checking out. If you have not heard this band before you simply must, and this is a great place to start.
    This is the second album since the departure of masterful vocalist Christian Älvestam and his replacement with growler Roberth Karlsson and clean singer Lars Palmqvist. Now whilst these vocalist's début album, Dark Matter Dimensions, was not quite as powerful as previous efforts with Christian and that it may have appeared that they could not fill his shoes even together, The Unseen Empire puts this to bed with a joint vocal performance that certainly matches and quite possibly surpasses even Christian's best. Roberth's growls may not be quite as formidable as Christian's, the linking between the two vocalist's is most impressive, such as on Seers Of The Eschaton which shows how much their chemistry has improved since DMD. It isn't just the improvement of the vocalists that deserves mention as the ever astounding guitarists Per and Jonas have written some of their most catchy hooks to date and still have enough shred to give Alex Lahlio and the lads a run for their money. 

    What The Unseen Empire doesn't have, unlike Dark Matter Dimensions is an instant anthem that stands above the rest of the album such as DMD's The Iconoclast. This is simply because TUE's songs are all of such a high and consistent quality that no single song stands out much further than the rest, although at a push it would probably have to be either The Anomaly or Illuminoid Dream Sequence. Fans of the band may have noticed that Scar Symmetry have also not lost their trait of naming songs with terms and words you will only understand if you are a either a leading scientist or Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory sitcom. 

    The Unseen Empire is another impressive album from this incredibly consistent and yet spectacular of bands, and further proves that these guys should be mentioned in the same breath as their peers Soilwork and even Children of Bodom. Finally a message to Scar Symmetry themselves. PLEASE come to the UK soon! I'll bake you a cake!


Listen to: The Anomaly, Illuminoid Dream Sequence, Alpha And Omega

Monday, 16 May 2011

Stand Up And Shout

    It has been one year since one of the great recent tragedies to befall the world of Rock and Metal, and music in general. One year since the great Ronnie James Dio passed away. One of the greatest singers in our genre, one of the greatest contributors to our music and our culture PERIOD. A year on and the feeling of loss for Metal music has not faded.

    I wanted to write up a memorial piece for Dio, his status as one of the true greats fully deserves one. Of course I am not claiming to be one of the only ones to do so as there are other great memorials from much better writers, and fans are showing their love for Dio whenever they put on his music and show that our thoughts are with him. Also I cannot give the perfect memorial as I have never met the man, nor have I managed to see him live, whether fronting his own solo work or Heaven and Hell (I nearly got the chance to see him live on his last announced greatest hits solo tour, but fate would change this). I can however give a tribute from the music he has created, music that is mostly timeless and perfect. This is a tribute to the great Ronnie James Dio from a fan.

    I wouldn't even dare claim that his loss last year was as major for me as it was for others. Someone who has not him even once, let alone has had him as a part of his life cannot do so, especially when he has left loved ones such as his wife Wendy (who of course thoughts are with on what must be a tough day for her), family, band mates, peers, even journalists and further; who pretty much always speak about as one of the nicest, respectful and genuine people you could ever meet. Ronnie James Dio has affected my life in another way however, as he would have done to all his fans even if they, like me, had not met him, and that is through his music.

    I still remember first hearing his incredible voice, on the truly timeless Rainbow In The Dark. Interestingly this for a long was my favourite Dio song, but is also a song that when first recorded Ronnie himself was supposed to have hated and nearly destroyed the tapes of until convinced otherwise. Now it is one of his most well known and beloved songs.

    This of course is just ONE of his truly great songs. The amount of truly great pieces of music that Dio has made in fact is simply staggering. Famous for singing on 3 definite classic albums (and with three different bands) in Rainbow's Rising, Black Sabbath's Heaven and Hell, and his own Dio's Holy Diver, these three albums are all different, yet are all true classics and all showcase his truly phenomenal voice. In addition you cannot forget the likes of The Mob Rules (Black Sabbath), The Last In Line (Dio) and 2009's The Devil You Know (Heaven and Hell). Not to mention that he is responsible for that universal symbol of metalheads across the globe, the Devil Horns hand gesture.

    Ronnie's death last year was a great loss for several reasons. Obviously the voice behind these classics was gone, but also the fact that The Devil You Know proved that Ronnie James Dio's voice was still as magnificent as ever, and with Heaven and Hell for sure there was the possibility that even more great music could happen. He was taken away long before he was finished.

    My thoughts today are with those who are still mourning his loss. We are lucky that he has left a truly great legacy of classic albums, the Stand Up and Shout charity, and for those who knew him, have experienced him live, or even just enjoyed his music with great memories. All we can do now, is to play his music loud for years to come (which it will be, people will be discovering Dio's music in years and years to come), raise the horns again and again, and remember the great one. Ronnie James Dio, gone but sure as hell not forgotten, Rest In Peace.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Y'all Want An Overview Say Fuck Yeah!

For all the readers of this blog I would like to answer one quick question, and be honest now!...Right here goes...Korn...What do you think of them?

Now I am under the impression that this is a band that will divide opinion about as much as Moses can divide a sea. Some of you may say that they are an awful band, a name that is commonly known, even amongst people not so familiar with rock and metal, but undeserving of wide acknowledgement. For the people who think this I ask a further simple question...why? 

For those of you who think that Korn are pretty good or even if you are a massive fan I would like to say I agree with you guys. Korn are an essential band to listen to as lovers of metal, END OF. This is of course opinion and I don't mind if you dislike this band at all, but to deny this bands importance to the genre is just being blind and stupid.

The Year is 1994. Metal music has been losing credit and sales due to the alternative and grunge scenes gaining huge success and attention. Metal bands began changing and fighting to bring metal back into relevance, titans such as Pantera, Fear Factory, Machine Head and Sepultura to name just a few. This year also saw a further progression of this new found sound, a sound that would influence one of the most controversial and opinion dividing sounds of the 90's and further and Metal in general....yeah that one....Nu Metal.

Korn released their debut in 1994, and alongside Deftones, created the hugely successful Nu Metal scene. Korn themselves combining the schizophrenic and unpredictability of Faith No More, with the aggression found in bands such as Pantera, and rap metal influences from Rage Against The Machine, FNM and even throw in a bit of Living Colour influence, and made a fresh new style of aggression which took the world by storm. Not as necessarily definitely Nu Metal as bands they have influenced (such as Limp Bizkit), Korn sit somewhere between the standard bone headed but enjoyable style of Limp Bizkit and the thought provoking elements of Deftones .Generating love and hatred in equal measure, here is an overview of a band which deserves your respect no matter what. So here is my guide to the Korn back catalogue, I hope this can help the undecided as to where they stand. If not, well I enjoyed listening to their albums and writing about them.

Korn (1994)
   The 1994 début of Korn, and there are very few albums which have had as immediate an impact as this gem of an album. With the influence of FNM and RATM, and together with Deftones, Korn's debut created a brand new branch of metal which immediately sounded new and fresh despite the common influences and bludgeoned peoples faces upon first listen. The impact of this album cannot be underestimated.
    With low tuned sounding guitars, brutal drum sounds and vocals that are a combination of rap, death metal, blended with a secret potion of which only Mike Patton knows and you have, at the time a very unique sounding force which would put metal once again back on the map.

     Kicking off with a massive statement of intent, Blind's riff is perhaps one of the most memorable and best riffs of the 90's, followed by Jonathan Davies' cry of 'Are You Ready' and this album instantly kicks off massively and has you headbanging like a nutter, and that is just the start. In fact this album remains at a pretty constant and high level and the fact that it isn't cited as an all time great more regularly is criminal.
    The likes of Ball Tongue, Faget and Helmet In The Bush are massive songs of huge quality, and the bagpipes in the intro to Shoots And Ladders is so unexpected, and followed by the eerie lyrics consisting of famous nursery rhymes sung in low tones to loud growls is genius. 
    If one song has to be heard on this album however it has to be the odd and creepy Daddy. A song written by Jonathan Davies about his experiences as a child where he was abused, this song is an example of how a song can compel, grip and yet make the listener so uncomfortable all at once. An absolutely amazing song with so much emotion behind it, portrayed in such an unorthodox and gut-wrenching manner, this song has to be listened to, and is a pure example of the raw power and feeling Korn can produce when firing on all cylinders.

Listen to:
Blind, Helmet In The Bush, Daddy

Issues (1999)
    Following the more rap tinged elements of 1998's Follow The Leader album (an album which had collaborations from Ice Cube and Fred Durst), Korn decided that they wanted their next move to move further away from Nu-Metal and towards more Alternative sounds. While not a huge departure from their core sound whatsover, there are much less hip hop parts, and whilst FTL was by no means a bad album, Issues is superior and at this point in time their best album since their début 5 years ago.
    Some of  Korn's best songs come from this album. The chilling Falling Away From Me, the incredibly dark Trash, and the mighty Make Me Bad. Much of the songs on this collection are absolutely brilliant.
    Emphasis on the word MUCH. Because as is a problem with many of their albums is that they lack consistency, and in this case with the hugeness of the songs mentioned, many of the rest do not have the same force at all. By no means bad whatsover, just not as memorable. This is still a pretty great album and one for fans and newbies a like.

Listen to:
Falling Away From Me, Trash, Make Me Bad

Untouchables (2001)
    When it comes to opening an album, it is good to have a track that immediately makes your jaw drop and have you wanting more, and I can think of very few examples as Korn did here. Opening with the unstoppable Here To Stay, possibly one of their heaviest songs ever, HTS will have you stomping and swinging your head as soon as it kicks in.
    After a series of album from their début that were not of the highest consistency, Issues improved the trend but still showed some inconsistency. In 2001 Korn ended that trend (for the time being) with an absolutely astonishing album and showed once again what they were capable of.
    Following from Issues, Korn once again stripped the Rap elements and had another more alternative sounding album, but at times much heavier than most previous output (especially on HTS). Untouchables finds Korn's anger and rage from the first album creeping up to its best for the first time since that benchmark album, Jonathan Davies especially putting on one of his best performances for years.

Listen to: Here To Stay, Hollow Life, Alone I Break

Korn III: Remember Who You Are (2010)

    It would be a long long time since Korn would again release a truly worthwhile album since 2003's Take A Look In The Mirror. By this point Korn could have been accused of testing fan's patience with following below par albums, uncertainties in the band themselves and even the relevance of Korn being scrutinised, they needed to pull a massive album to set things straight. Thank god that they did.
    Replacing David Silveria with Ray Luzier, and signing with Roadrunner Records, Korn seemed to have had a rebirth, the fire once again seemed to be lit and they set out and made one of their best albums (certainly matching Untouchables, possibly even their debut). III goes back to the rage present on their début and is much closer to the originial album sonically with fewer obvious rap elements than FTL and not as branching into alternative territories as Issues and Untouchables, and certainly taking away from the experimentation of Untitled, this goes back to album number one without sounding just like a rehash. 
    Ray Luzier's drum performance is strikingly good here and he has to be a catalyst for their rejuvenation. It isn't just Ray's presence however, as Davies gives his best performance in years and the work of Munky and bassist Fieldy are on excellent form. Oildale is one of the best songs they have written in years, as are the likes of Move On, Let The Guilt Go and Never Around, whilst Are You Ready To Live? harks back to Daddy on the original album in its un-comfortability but gripping appeal. Here is hoping Korn remain this good for years to come.

Listen to:
Let The Guilt Go, Never Around, Are You Ready To Live?

Criminally Underrated
Take A Look In The Mirror (2003)
    Korn admit that the making of this album was rushed due to lack of time to do so, and this album does divide opinion amongst fans. No doubt it is not their strongest album, but is by no means a bad album and is certainly worth a listen for fans, and does contain some great songs.
    This album according to the band marks a return to heavier territory, however this perhaps isn't that noticeable but does show a less depressive sounding to Untouchables.
    TALITM shows a return of the bagpipes on Let's Do This Now, which has not been a regular staple on albums for a while sadly. There is also a massive return of rap influences with a storming performance from Nas on Play Me. Throw in the awesome Right Now, Did My Time and a not bad attempt at Metallica's One as a hidden track and this album at times really does the business. It's inconsistency lets it down however as many other songs are instantly forgettable unfortunately, otherwise this album is well worth a listen or two.

Listen to: 
Right Now, Did My Time, Play Me

Unessential/Tread Carefully
Untitled (2007)

     Definitely the weak link in the Korn back catalogue, here Korn took a risk at experimentation which sadly failed. Insecurities in the band, with the departure of David Silveria and no replacement, may have contributed to the albums weakness but also this album just isn't great at all.
    The opening foursome of songs lull in to a false sense of security by being quite decent. Not as great as previous output, but Starting Over, Bitch We Got A Problem, Evolution and Hold On actually make you think that this album might be worthwhile. Unfortunately it ends there.
    The band seems to have taken an experimentation towards more mellow sounds sometimes, and by no means a wrong move as such, here it doesn't work and in reality we want full aggression from Korn. Also sometimes there is a distinct lack of rage and hunger it would appear which causes much of the album to lack that edge, and other than those four mentioned songs and perhaps Innocent Bystander, all the rest of the album is completely forgettable. It is a good job that III emerged because it would be a worry if Korn continued at this pace.

Listen to: Starting Over, Bitch We Got A Problem, Hold On

So here we are, another day another post. Well goodbye Wolfpack! until next time kiddies :)

Thursday, 5 May 2011

An angry nostalgia band?

    I assume I am right in thinking that many of you reading this will at least of heard of Rage Against The Machine. I am guessing many of you will be fans of them, and like me would have been jumping with joy at the rumoured news previously in the year that RATM will be writing new material. I certainly was for one thing. So we wake up to reports from Blabbermouth, through Metalhammer, that RATM will NOT be recording this year after all, ( Colon, Opening brackets all round then).

    RATM havn't recorded since 2000's patchy covers album Renegades, but since this have disbanded, reunited again in 2007, headlined numerous festivals across the globe, including 2008's Reading and Leed's festivals and 2010's Download festival, and even had a UK Christmas number one in 2009, not bad accolades.

    These are truly worthwhile accolades, and most importantly they show how important they still are to fans of this form of music, being one of this genre's greatest bands of the 1990's, with much to say and not being afraid to say it all, not being afraid to take action concerning the major issues of the time, and a long the way making 3 truly excellent albums and being very influential in the forming of the much popular for the time Nu-Metal genre period, and they still have a major fanbase and a huge demand for their live show 11 years after their last recording, and more so than their last original recording.

    With all this in mind, the fact that they still have no concrete plans to record a new album, for me, is just not good enough. This has not been billed as simply a reunion tour or shows (Faith No More split again recently but at least they were announced under a reunion tour and it didn't seem likely that new material would appear), this seems more as proper return, and the touring has been going for 4 years. Currently, with no original material seemingly on the horizon, and with the likes of Tom Morello still making original music with side projects, the RATM tours are now seeming to be just a trip down memory lane and nothing more.

    If anyone has seen RATM play in the last few years (for me, Download 2010, on my birthday, epic!!) you will know that they are on seriously good form live, with such a chemistry between them now that back in their volatile period before their split may not have been, they are playing seriously well and appear to be in some of the best form of their careers, so a new album from them would be more than welcome, and could easily match their previous material from an almost flawless back catalogue (The Renegades covers album doesn't completely work, but there is no faulting Evil Empire, The Battle For Los Angeles and of course their self titled début), so why the hell is it not happening.

    With them in seriously great form, and yet no plans it seems to record, it seems that RATM do not have plans to necessarily stop touring either. In which case this would make RATM nothing more than a nostalgia act at the moment, and the fans who have stuck with them in this whole time deserve to see their heroes prove that they can still back up their reputation with more stellar material, not just the same sets over and over again. Rage are undoubtedly one of the greatest bands in the metal genre, they are an incredible live band, have an amazing back catalogue and more importantly are in excellent condition and are proving with side projects that they still have creativity flowing. So please prove to your fans that you do still have it, don't just rest on your reputation and your back catalogue, prove that you still have a real place in the music scene, and teach some of the new kids a lesson in how to kick serious arse!