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

Thursday, 19 January 2012


Enter Shikari- A Flash Flood Of Colour  

    Without a shadow of a doubt this is going to be one of the year’s biggest rock releases; Enter Shikari being a band that have achieved major crossover success and will be embraced as much by rockers as they will be by trendy types and chart lovers. Combining UK style hardcore and some metal elements with Dance rhythms and Drum And Bass crunch, becoming one of the Countries most popular bands, and all the best to them for it. I myself had never checked the band out before, but as I have gradually got in to Dubstep and to an extent Drum And Bass, a band that mixes it together with Hardcore and Metal should be right up my street right?

    Sadly it seems that A Flash Flood Of Colour is not the best place to start, or their best effort or...actually simply this is not a great album whatsoever. Too many things crop on occasion here that simply irritate me and do not feel necessary, or feel misleading. A brief listen to some earlier music from the band (especially from the debut) suggests that the band do genuinely mix hardcore and electronica to decent effect; here on the other hand they have not implemented them at all, instead it will be dance style beat, followed by slightly metal riff, hardcore breakdown, back to a dance like element. This is not implementing both styles together, this is merely playing both in the same song; it would be like a smoothie company saying that their product contains both strawberries and bananas, only to get it and find they aren’t blended together but separate in a bag. The song ‘Arguing With Thermometers’ is a good example of this and how disjointed and confused it sounds rather than truly bringing the different styles together to full effect.

    Despite this there are parts of songs that sound really good at times, some of the dance and drum and base parts are pretty catchy and work really well when they are not interrupted by a ill placed breakdown; for example ‘Stalemate’ has no real hint of hardcore whatsoever and is a considerably stronger song as a result. For me a bigger problem however is the vocals. Rou Reynolds is not the strongest clean singer by any stretch of the imagination and never seems to have been, but definitely fits in with the UK hardcore style, what is striking however is how weak his harsh vocals have become, sounding mostly very strained and at times even unintentionally comedic; they genuinely sound damaged rather than ferocious as perhaps expected. On the final track ‘Constellations’ he even sounds like Mike Skinner, if Skinner was struggling with his ‘vocals’ as well that is.

    Speaking of comedic, for me the biggest downer of the album and a genuine irritation is the frequent inclusion of what must be ‘in-jokes’ to the band. During ‘Sssnakepit’ for example they are heard talking about Louis Armstrong, before finishing the song with what is simply a stupid finish of silly voices followed by laughing...you can have fun in the studio by any means I’m not that tight, but the inclusion of this is simply pointless and not inclusive. Similarly during ‘Gandhi Mate, Gandhi’ the song is interrupted by them telling each other to calm down and remember Gandhi...Why? Completely unnecessary.

    It isn’t entirely bad however, there are some pretty decent moments here and there; ‘Search Party’ for example could be a great club floor-filler, and the drum and base parts in ‘Pack Of Thieves’ are particularly strong. But it is never great for long before something seems ill placed, needless or even just annoying. The political side of the band as well comes across as far too preachy at times. Rise Against is a perfect example of how a song can contain a political urgency and meaning, yet is not overpowered by it constantly if need be; here whenever politics comes up it is essentially shouting in your face to listen, like someone rudely yelling at you until you listen.

    Despite this fans will undoubtedly snap this up and enjoy it, and they will become even bigger news this year. For essentially a newbie to this band however, A Flash Flood Of Colour is too often stumbling and for much of it simply annoying.


Listen To: Stalemate, Pack Of Thieves.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Biggest Releases For 2012: A Fool's Picks And Predictions

    Happy new year everyone. It's officially that time of the year where we make (and possibly break already) resolutions, we look back over the previous year and then look forward to what the new year has to offer (or sit there tearing your hair out at the thought of dissertation writing for the next few months if you are like me). Part of this of course is looking forward to what great, or poor music we have to look forward to in the new year. That's where this entralling (HA!) post comes in.

    2011 was a great year for heavy music (check out my countdown of the year by the way!), but a quick look at just some of the expected releases from bands this year shows that this year may just top it, and that's not to mention what new bands will take the world by storm this year. So here is my top albums to look for this year, mostly from established bands, and the odd new curiosity ahead. Away we go...

Lamb Of God

    There has been considerable hype already around the new Lamb Of God album; which is due for release on 23 January, and with good reason; Lamb Of God. Fucking. rule. One of the truly great bands of this generation, the follow up to the blistering Wrath is expected to be a highlight for the year. The press have had the album and it has been seemingly unanimous praise for the band and a possible career best, and a contender for album of 2012 in the first month.

How They Sounded Last Time:

Alice In Chains
    Perhaps against the odds and certainly against the expectations of many, Alice In Chains returned in 2009 after their hiatus and the death of iconic front-man Layne Staley with a new singer, William DuVall; and my album of that year, Black Gives Way To Blue. A mesmerizingly powerful effort of some of the bands most memorable and crushing riffs as well as the most heartbreaking ballads of their career. Reports suggest that a new album is on the way in 2012 but otherwise there is little information. 

How They Sounded Last Time:

    With main-man Nergal winning his battle against Leukaemia last year, the metal world must have let out a collective roar of ecstasy when news emerged of Behemoth activity, with a headline spot at Bloodstock and a new album on the way. 2010’s Evangelion brought Behemoth to the masses and anticipation for a new album has surely never been greater. The latest effort for these blackened death-metallers will undoubtedly be one of the year’s most important releases, purely because it sees one of modern metal’s most popular, controversial and powerful personalities, Nergal.

How They Sounded Last Time:

Cannibal Corpse
    The world’s biggest death metal bands are also expected to return with their 12th studio album in 2012. With death metal (and Cannibal Corpse themselves for that matter) perhaps more popular than ever, and with the recent output of CC with 2006’s Kill and 2009’s Evisceration Plague being some of the bands best in years, excitement for this is very high indeed.  This (and their headline tour in March) will have you windmilling until your neck snaps.

How They Sounded Last Time:

    One of the modern era’s most truly cutting edge and brilliant of bands, Frances’ Gojira are expected to have their latest full album out this year. Following 2008’s spectacular The Way Of All Flesh and support slots with some band called Metallica in the following year, Gojira are on a tremendous rise and should soon be rightly cited as one of the modern era’s truly great and important bands.

How They Sounded Last Time:

    Speaking of Metallica, a new album from the biggest metal band on the planet is expected. Arguably  the band have not had a decent release for a long, long time; 2008’s Death Magnetic was ok but otherwise you will need to go back as far as 1991’s The Black Album for the last great release; and after the catastrophic response to the Lou Reed collaboration Lulu, a new album will be held under great scrutiny. But they simply have to release a great album once again soon, and with The Black Album anniversary shows under the way, including a massive headline slot at this year’s Download festival; Metallica may just pull it off. It’s fucking Metallica after all.

How They Sounded Last Time: (Ignoring Lulu as technically it is a Lou Reed and Metallica collaboration, on top of that it is poor)

    Not the biggest bands in all fairness, and one perhaps easily missed by others, but the new Dyscarnate album is supposed to be a monstrous effort. The follow up to 2010’s perhaps little known but nonetheless excellent Enduring The Massacre; 2012 should be a big year for the young death metallers wit the release of the difficult second album. However going by the press on the album thus far, as well as the released new song ‘A Drone In The Hive’ (http://snd.sc/wSCD5b), this should be a terrific and brutal slice for the new year.

How They Sounded Last Time:

    NEW KISS ALBUM!! YES! YES YES YES!!...Erm sorry about that, but that’s how much I bloody love KISS and how much news of a brand new album excites me. 2009’s Sonic Boom was a true return to form after a long period of precious few albums (which were not that great to be honest) and it blew expectations out of the water. New album, Monster is in the works and should be out this year at some point and will hopefully see the bands presence in the UK again. You’ll know if it does, you’ll hear me cheering miles and miles away.

How They Sounded Last Time:

Primal Rock Rebellion
    A definite curiosity package this one, and a very unexpected collaboration. Featuring Adrian Smith of Iron Maiden and Mikee Goodman of SikTh, this seems an unlikely pairing, but the announcement on the Second of January with a song free to download certainly pricked the ears. The album should see release on 27th February on Spinefarm Records, and should be a very interesting release.

How They Sounded Last Time: (Well now)

Killswitch Engage
    Just to start off, I am a big Killswitch fan boy. The band that got put me on the downhill road towards being a metal fan, they were the first metal band that I truly loved and became a fan of, so a new album from these guys would be great news for me anyway. Following last year’s heart string tugging release from KsE guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz’ alternate project Times Of Grace, 2012 should see the band refreshed and in fine form, and I for one cannot wait.

    [At time of writing it has emerged that front man Howard Jones has departed the band for unknown reasons. Gutted, but Killswitch Engage should still make a triumphant return, hopefully this year.]

How They Sounded Last Time: 

    Tech death metal overlords announced this very day (4th January if I don’t post this immediately) that a new album will see the light of day on 27th March, assumedly to a hearty chorus of burly cheering and roaring from across the globe. Recent years have seen a huge amount of ‘Shuggah influenced bands in the new Djent scene; this year Meshuggah should show the kids how it’s done.

How They Sounded Last Time:

    Tool releases seemingly come around as quickly as Hayley’s Comet, hell, evolutionary cycles in nature work quicker than Tool do in the studio. Thankfully Tool have yet to release an album any less than brilliant in their history and have a reputation as one of the world’s most popular metal bands and one of the most astounding visually, so at least the waits are worth it. Six long years since the release of their last album Vicarious, 2012 HAS to be the year Tool return, and it again should be nothing less than brilliant.

How They Sounded Last Time:

    One of the most vicious, dangerous sounding and universally praised bands currently, Converge are expected to release the follow up to the brutal Axe To Fall album this year. There is no doubt that this will be a great album, they have failed to make anything less thus far after all. Axe To Fall is a tough act to follow, but if anyone can do it, it’s Converge.

How They Sounded Last Time:

Black Sabbath
    The original lineup of the band that created metal and perfected metal in the first place? The first of this line up since 1979? Who ISN’T excited by this? It should be great as well; Iommi and Butler proved they are on fine form with 2009’s Heaven And Hell album The Devil You Know (R.I.P Dio) whilst Ozzy Osbourne seemed rejuvenated with his underrated 2010 release Scream.  This will be a massive release and, Rick Rubin aside, a great one. See you at Download.

How They Sounded Last Time:

    Not many bands can pull out their best album more than twenty years after their debut, but Testament seemed to pull it off with ease. 2008’s The Formation Of Damnation was a truly epic piece of work, a genuine classic encompassing the bands heritage and ability to push forward in to the future, being both of this day and yet classic and vintage; and the band are more than capable of matching it and even topping it. Do not miss this album, without a doubt this can be considered to become one of the year’s best albums without a note of music even being heard.

How They Sounded Last Time:

These are my top picks for the new year, with these releases expected, it should be a cracking year. Of course there are plenty of others as well as these so let me know if you think I have missed a genuine contender. Night all....Fuck forgot about Van Halen....