All posts by SuziH

Lacuna Coil – Delirium

Century Media

By Suzi ‘Elfie’ H

amazon_badgeAlright then Lacuna Coil. Everyone remember when they broke my heart by producing an album of such utter bilge that I literally cried?  It wasn’t as bad as that godawful Linkin Park album, but it was a close run thing.

Basically in my mind, Lacuna Coil haven’t released an album since Dark Adrenaline I refuse to accept any other idea about their discography.  They released Dark Adrenaline and then they went and took a nice long holiday to think about their art.  Then they released Delirium.

As you might imagine, I was *quite* anxious about Delirium.  It took bribery and threats a small about of persuasion from our illustrious Editor to get me to listen to it.  And then of course the question was – is it any good?

Before the waffle, let’s do the technicalities; Delirium  is the seventh  eighth studio album from the Italian maestros of Gothic Metal.  It’s their first self produced album.  Marco Coti Zelato, the bassist took over producer duties.  It’s their first concept album, and is widely touted as being their heaviest album to date.  Due to line up changes, Cristiano ‘Criz’ Mozzati and Cristiano “Pizza” Migliori  don’t feature on the album and don’t appear to have been a part of the album’s inception.  There are 14 tracks, all written along a theme of mental illness, and the running time is 57:20.

First up is House of Shame which opens with a deceptively calm choral overture and then, WHAM!! Andrea Ferro starts growling and then invites you to burn him and oh my god, Lacuna Coil have released a track which is like being punched in the face by an angry werewolf!  Until Cristina does that vocal wafting in thing that she does and all of a sudden the darkness lifts and you’re listening to a track that is almost transcendental in it’s beauty and melodic perfection.  It’s a pretty damn good start, and that’s putting it mildly.

Next up is Broken Things which again is opened by Andrea and look – it is not often that I am gobsmacked, but this track leaves me gobsmacked.  Mostly because when it starts playing, I cannot do anything sensible because the ethereal force of Headbanging takes over and that’s it for the 3:59 run time of glorious, absinthe-flavoured Gothic Metal Loveliness.

From there we segue into the title track Delirium opened by the wonderful Cristina.  There are not enough good things for me to say about this track.  It’s everything I want in a Lacuna Coil album wrapped up with a ribbon and with glittery sprinkles on top.

Moving swiftly on, we hit Blood Tears and Dust which has got a bit more zing to it than previous tracks, but still keeps up the hard and heavy pace that has been set.  At this point, it’s fair to say that Ferro and Scabbia are doing the best harmonic vocal work they have ever done.  Given they’re one of the best duo vocalists out there, that’s saying something.

(Side note- due to the departure of Pizza, the band had to use guest guitarists Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge)  features for the guitar solo on Downfall, with Marco Barusso ( Heavy Metal Kids) featuring for the solo on House of Shame and Alessandro La Porta (Forgotten Tears, Arms Like Anchors) featuring for the solo on Claustrophobia)

After Blood, Tears and Dust, we have Downfall with the glorious Myles Kennedy guitar solo.  Which by itself is a thing of beauty.  When you combine it into the general Lacuna Coil sound of the album, it becomes iridescent.

At this point we’re a little under halfway through the album and I’m sure you’re wondering when I’m going to stop with the effusive praise and start criticising the album.  The problem is, I can’t. Certainly not at this point.  5 tracks in, and this is rapidly looking like an Album of The Year.  And that feeling doesn’t dissipate with the eerie and frankly, fucked up, intro to Take Me Home.  It’s creepy, and reminiscent of Lordi and Rob Zombie and then WHAM in come Andrea and Cristina and it’s a new, somewhat twisted, version of Lacuna Coil.

I had to take a break at this point in the review because I keep drifting away listening to the music.  So by the time I looked up again I’d got through You Love Me ‘Cause I Hate You (we’ve all had that relationship at some point.  If you haven’t yet, don’t worry, it will come), Ghost In The Mist (a gloriously angry song, complete with thudding drum lines, and Scabbia  providing a melody that just gets you right in the gut).  I came back to myself somewhere around the middle of My Demons and only then because I had to go break up a fight between a teenager and a six year old (us journos have well glamorous lives).

I should probably mention that lyrically this album is incomparable:

And I don’t know what to say
I’m thinking about you
It’s hurting without you
I never learn from my mistakes
I’m thinking about you
I’m choking without you
And I don’t know what to say

And that’s one track (My Demons).  The entire album is full of gorgeous refrains and suckerpunch lyrics.  This is a true masterpiece, and really does deserve the title of Concept Album.

Claustrophobia continues the standard of excellence laid out by the previous 9 tracks.  It also has Alessandro La Porta‘s guitar solo in it, which, I’m not ashamed to say, brought a tear to my eye.  I’m a sucker for a good guitar solo I really am.  From Claustrophobia we swing into Ultima Ratio which is 4 minutes of headbanging glory, and then  Live To Tell  which begins rather creepily with some form of synthed intro keeps up the pace.

With two tracks left of the album you’d almost be expecting Lacuna Coil to drop the pace or at least shift down a gear or two.  Oh no, my friends, that’s not what you get.  Instead you get Breakdown which still contains the swooping melodies that Ms  Scabbia has made a name for herself with, juxtaposed against the angry growling of Andrea Ferro.

The grand finale is Bleed the Pain.  And it’s perfect.  I’m not even exaggerating.  It is SHEER PERFECTION.  When it finishes, ending the album, you’re left with a sense of loss, and the sense that you just witnessed something truly magnificent manifest itself.

This album isn’t a sprint.  This is an album you can listen to on repeat for weeks.  Which is what I did after the first listen through.  At no point is there a track that you want to skip through, or a point where you want to switch off.  This is a MASTERPIECE.  I even tried listening to the Lacuna Coil back catalogue to see if I was just being hyperbolic, but I’m not.  Delirium is not only the best Lacuna Coil album produced so far, it demonstrates a growth and maturity, a serious undertone that has been lacking in their other albums. Furthermore, 8 months into the year, I’ve found my Album of The Year.  It’s this one.

I’ll forgive Lacuna Coil for the almighty clusterfuck that was Broken Crown Halo because their follow up in Delirium is so good.  It not only confirms their place as leaders in the Gothic Metal genre, it cements their place as a truly iconic band.

Verdict: 10/10

Trivium – Silence In The Snow (Special Edition)

Trivium- Silence In The Snow

Roadrunner Records

Review by Suzi “Elfie” Horsley

amazon_badgeTrivium. As ever I’m late to the review party, but given I’m supposed to be at a Trivium gig *right now* and instead I’m laid up with actual ‘flu (I’ve had a fever for five days now, so what I write might be total shite), what else can I do but listen to Silence in the Snow and therefore review it?  Nothing it seems.

Here, therefore are my feverish ramblings on the subject of one of my favourite bands.  Anyway.  I’m listening to a digital Special Edition of the album (legitimately obtained via Groove Music, so pipe down in the back please. I pay actual monies for my music).  It has 13 tracks (you get two bonus tracks from the standard release) and kicks off with Snøfall a glorious and evocative instrumental introduction.  It does rather set the scene, and in my head listening to it you’ve got an abandoned landscape covered in snow, with bare trees and mountains and eagles screeching……… where was I? Oh yes, anyway, it’s a lovely start, and then the album segues right into the alarmingly catchy Silence In The Snow.  It’s a bit odd really – Trivium have cleaned their act right up for this album, and dropped all of their growling, but initially it seems  they haven’t lost depth by doing so.  Anyway, this is a catchy track, easy to headbang too, and I’ve been singing it for three weeks now, so it clearly isn’t terrible.

Then, the guitars get heavier and a little more vintage Trivium and we get Blind Leading The Blind.  This is the bit where I have to have a rapturous moment describing the loveliness of Matt Heafy‘s voice.  Seriously – he’s a good growler but give that boy some clean vocals to do and he’ll bat them out of the park.  This is another very catchy track, and I can see why Wyrd Ways new boy Nathan says this is his favourite Trivium album. He isn’t a massive Trivium fan though, so that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Next up we get Dead and Gone.  I should point out that at this point we’re three vocal tracks into the album and so far there has been *no growling*.  Yes, you read that right – there’s lovely melodies, and some awesome clean vocals, and guitars filthier than my mind after three pints, but there is NO GROWLING.  I’m thoroughly enjoying the album so far, but we’ll just file that bit of information away for later.   Anyway, Dead and Gone is another excellent track, nice to headbang too and with memorable lyrics.

It’s followed by  The Ghost That’s Haunting You, which is slightly heavier than the more melodic offerings of Silence In The Snow so far.  It also utilises a weird vocal thing I mostly associate with 80’s Glam Metal.  Actually, I think that’s what this album is – it’s Trivium‘s glam metal moment – the guitars on this track are well guitar wanky as well.  I don’t know.  There’s still nothing wrong with this track, although at this juncture I’ve got a horrible suspicion that’s it’s just all a little bit too… pop-ish?

Pull Me From The Void is till rather radio single-ish but it does distinguish itself with some excellent drumming . There’s still only clean vocals to be found.  Until The World Goes Cold doesn’t do much to dispel the growing cold feeling I’m developing about the album.  There’s nothing bad about it and it’s perfectly enjoyable, it’s just a bit… safe.  And commercial.  I mean my 12 year old (currently attending the aforementioned Trivium gig) has gone Taylor Swift > Black Veil Brides > Trivium but doesn’t like Ascendency and loves Silence In The Snow. 

Rise Above The Tides is more of the same: melody, melody, clean vocals, wanky guitars…  I might be running out of patience.  Luckily The Things That’s Killing Me starts with some heavy guitars, and some thrash drumming. And then Matt opens his mouth, and the vocals are still clean with harmonies (but A SWEARWORD!!) and it’s all just a bit blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, safe listening for work or whatever.

Beneath the Sun is track 10, so on the standard edition is the penultimate track.  Look, lyrically it’s a lovely song but again BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.  Luckily for everyone who had the standard edition Breathe In The Flames  is a bit less blah, but only a bit.  It’s just still all very safe.  It does have some very nice guitar solos in it though.

BONUS TRACKS TIME: right so first up you get Cease All Your Fire and now thank you, we are talking.  Why is this a bonus track?  I’d have stuck it in and not put in Rise Above The Tides.  It’s much heavier, clean vocals not withstanding.  This is a track that has some of that Trivium grit that I so approve of.  I am utterly bemused as to why this got slapped onto the Special Edition as a bonus and wasn’t put on the standard release.  Bizarre decision making there Trivium.  After that you get the last track of the album The Darkness Of My Mind  and WHAT DO YOU KNOW?  It’s really good as well, and not as samey as the rest of the album.  This was a bad call on Trivium‘s part, in terms of picking out tracks for the final cut.

Alright then summary: this isn’t a *bad* album per se.  I’ve been happily listening to it on and off for a few weeks, so it’s got listenability, it’s identifiable as Trivium in terms of both the instrumental content, and the vocals. Although, I may well demote Trivium from my favourite bands list if they persist with the refusal to growl.  It is however, a very commercial and safe album.  I’m not going to criticize them for that.  At the end of the day, musicians need to eat and pay bills too, and if it means my previously pop-obsessed 12 year old listens to more Metal I’m all for it. It’s just not likely to appeal to long standing hardcore Trivium fans because it is just oh so very safe. Overall I’m going to give it a slightly disappointing…

Verdict: 6/10

Elfie Goes To Bloodstock Day 3

Ah Bloodstock, you are a world away now given the grim winds of Winter are nipping at my heels and so on.

Anyway.

Day 3 of Bloodstock.  Also known as Saturday.  Or Day with No Headliners Who I find Exciting Argh What Shall I Do Day.  Saturday at BoA ’15 was an absolute scorcher and in the morning, after fortifying myself with a cup of de-caff tea and a bacon butty I ventured forth to listen to ye music.

Wandering through the New Blood Stage I was able to listen to Amethyst who kicked the morning off with a nice bit of Thrash, in a surprisingly crowded tent.  So after happily bopping along for their set I did a bit more of a wander around.

Saturday wasn’t my ‘listening to bands day‘ if I’m honest.  Even a festival the size of Bloodstock isn’t going to manage to cater to everyone’s tastes on all four days, so that’s where the market and meeting people come into their own.  The only Saturday band I was mad on seeing were the mighty Korpiklaani, and for the most part I was tired and in a whole ton of pain, so my plan was ‘Do lots of sitting‘ and so that’s what I did.

I did however, manage to see some of the bands – I thoroughly enjoyed 1349, who were new to me and have happily listened to them since BoA and then of course it was time for Korpiklaani who were one of the reasons I’d got a ticket in the first damn place.

SLR_5016_Korpiklaani
Folkin’ ‘ell! It’s Korpiklaani!                                                           Photo credit: Sabrina Ramdoyal

Now happily for me that morning whilst wandering around I’d bumped into Korpiklaani and the lovely Jonne and Kalle who were more than happy to pose for a photo.  Which was nice of them (and I didn’t scream, not even when they put their arms round me.  So chill…)

Anyway, the Korpiklaani set was an absolute belter and with a large crowd of Polka-ing fans I found myself wondering again why the Folk Metal this year got relegated to afternoon sets?  It’s pretty much my only complaint about BoA but, I get that the team can’t keep everyone happy.  Anyway, Korpiklaani were as amazing as they could be with a short set in the hottest part of the day and I was a happy little camper.

After all the excitement myself and the lovely Sarah of Colli Decoris: Here be Dragons fame repaired to The Motley Brew to drink our 800th cup of tea of the weekend and sit in some shade.  We may also have engaged in some crochet.

I did also go and see one of my favourite bands – the mighty Morass of Molasses who were busy showing the Jaeger Stage exactly how one does stoner grunge and precisely why one should do it.  Anyway after a set that was entirely too short, I managed a quick chat with the lovely Bones (so did I!  Expect to hear the interview in a future Wyrd Ways Rock Show – T’Gaffer), and Elliot of Desert Storm who was attending in support and then retired to my tent with every intention of getting an early night.

Luckily for me, one of the gang I was camped with decided that early nights were not to be so we tromped on back to the arena in time to see Within Temptation.  Now WT are not my cup of tea.  I like Symphonic Metal rather a lot but they’re just so *pop* and I can’t be doing with it.  There isn’t enough darkness there.  It’s Symphonic Metal for Taylor Swift fans.

SLR_8698_Within Temptation
Within Temptation – surprisingly good!                                   Photo credit: Sabrina Ramdoyal

HOWEVER, that being said I’ll credit where credit is due and give full props to Sharon Den Adel and co for being able to put on an astonishingly good show and (unlike Trivium) keep the crowd engaged despite technical problems.  They’ve got showmanship in spades, and as the many, many screaming people around me demonstrated a very solid fanbase, and a long history with Bloodstock.  Not my cup of tea at all, but a good Saturday night headliner, who were entertaining and did a fine job.

With all that done I shuffled off to bed to try and sleep some more…..

Elfie Goes To Bloodstock – Day 2

After a disastrous night’s sleep in Midgard (note to self: next year, camp in Hel!), Friday kicked off with some gloriously depraved Death Metal from Bristol-based Mortishead.  Given that it was stupid o’clock in the morning, they managed to whip up a fairly respectable circle pit.  Although it only really kicked off properly when the bassist got fed up with the lacklustre crowd response and jumped off the stage to create a pit himself!

From that point on, the New Blood Stage tent was very messy indeed!

After that rousing wake-up, I headed off to the Sophie Lancaster Stage to watch Silas.

Silas are an excellent Metalcore band and once again I find myself wondering where the industry bigwigs have been looking for all these great new bands they claim don’t exist.  Clearly they haven’t tried looking at Bloodstock.  Anyway, Silas threw out an energetic and fast-paced set and are definitely remaining on my “bands to keep an eye on” list.

Following Silas, I took advantage of the rather nicely laid out market area and went and picked up three patches for my battle jacket, including a very nice vintage Motörhead  one and… joy of joys… a long sleeve Korpiklaani shirt actually in my size!!

Death Metal legends, Belphegor... a bit dull?
Death Metal legends, Belphegor… a bit dull?                                   Credit: Sabrina Ramdoyal

Anyway… I’d heard good things about Belphegor, but after five minutes of their set, I was just bored, so I headed back over to the New Blood Stage to watch the mighty Mutagenocide rip BOA a new one.  The band turned up in my Top 10 albums of 2014, so watching them play to a respectably-sized crowd at the same time as Belphegor was fantastic.

They did a damned fine job of it, too.

Over on the Ronnie James Dio Main Stage, Overkill were next up for me, and were a pleasant surprise.  On a bill where the day’s highlight was Sabaton, they had fantastic crowd interaction which, mixed with some good tracks, means that Overkill have been added to my (very long!) list of bands I need to listen to more.

SLR_8878_Overkill
Overkill – The Gaffer’s little boy, David, loved them!                     Credit: Sabrina Ramdoyal

 

Once Overkill were done, it was time for the main event as far as I was concerned: Sabaton.

The Swedes jumped straight onto my favourite bands list back in 2014 when I accidentally saw them while trying to see Týr.  As promised, Joakim and the lads had brought a tank(!!) with them, and from the opening bars of their intro tape, fellow Swedes, Europe‘s, The Final Countdown, to the confetti cannons firing blue and yellow confetti (to a chant of “I-ke-a!  I-ke-a!”, much to Joakim’s amusement) finale, Sabaton gave a headlining performance.  They were funny, they worked the crowd and every note was on point.

Ikea! Erm... Sabaton!
Ikea! Erm… Sabaton!                                                                                   Credit: Sabrina Ramdoyal

Sadly, they were followed by Trivium, who put on a show completely unworthy of a mainstage headline slot.  Now, before you class me as a “hater”, I LIKE Trivium a lot.  The last time I saw them at the Manchester Academy with Killswitch Engage, I loved them (here’s the evidence!), but after three songs, I was so bored, I wandered off and went to bed in a vain attempt to get a decent night’s sleep in before Saturday…

Trivium... oh dear. But then again, apparently Suzi did leave before they got their technical problems sorted out - Ed.
Trivium… oh dear. But then again, apparently Suzi did leave before they got their technical problems sorted out – The Gaffer.                                        Credit: Sabrina Ramdoyal

Elfie Goes To Bloodstock – Day 1

Regular readers and listeners will be aware that in the last year I’ve been rather ill and recently had some fairly hefty surgery with more promised next year.  All of this means that so far 2015 has been a gig-free year for me.

But before the extent of my illness was revealed, Mr Elfie had purchased me a Bloodstock ticket as an early Christmas present.  If you think eighteen tablets a day and major surgery four weeks before Bloodstock Open Air was going to stop me going to my very first Bloodstock…well… you’ve not come across me!

Once I’d done the whole “get coach, arrive, pitch tent“-schtick, it was time for things to kick off, which they did on the Sophie Lancaster Stage, lead by the almighty Reign Of Fury.

Reign Of Fury BOA 2015 by Alison Richards
Reign Of Fury BOA 2015 by Alison Richards
Reign Of Fury BOA 2015 by Alison Richards
Reign Of Fury BOA 2015 by Alison Richards

Reign Of Fury have had an excellent year since the release of Death Be Thy Shepherd,  and their set, which kicked off Bloodstock in an impressive style, proves that the threefold increase in Reign Of Fury t-shirts in my local isn’t due to a fluke.  The band tore up the stage, whipping the crowd into a frenzy and leaving us with the promise of an immense weekend to come.

Reign Of Fury were followed by Metaprism and Desecration who I heard from afar and seemed to do a reasonable job.

BOA 2015 by Alison Richards
Metaprism BOA 2015 by Alison Richards
Desecration BOA 2015 by Alison Richards
Desecration BOA 2015 by Alison Richards

My second pick of the night were Red Rum who, with a set full of silliness, proved that whilst Pirate Metal is excellent, it is slightly ridiculous.  Anyway, it was a lot of fun and the crowd were in fine form with jigs-a-plenty and several crowd surfers (one of whom kindly kicked me in the stomach.  Thanks for that).  After that I repaired to bed – although it transpires that trying to go to bed early in Midgard is a silly thing, but all in Day 1 of Bloodstock Open Air was a good omen for the rest of the festival.

BOA 2015 by Alison Richards
Red Rum BOA 2015 by Alison Richards
Red Rum BOA 2015 by Alison Richards
Red Rum BOA 2015 by Alison Richards

Ensiferum – One Man Army

 

Metal Blade Records

Released February 24th 2015

Review by Suzi H

This review is extremely late. One Man Army – which I have been eagerly anticipating since September 2014 – landed in my inbox for review at the end of January.  Unfortunately I was extremely ill at the time and after eventually landing myself in hospital, and having to spend a week on bed rest, followed by another month and a half of doing not much more than my day job I’ve only just managed to get round to writing it up.  So to colleagues and readers, I’m dreadfully sorry, because really you guys should have read this months ago and been rampaging your way around the world listening to this album since.

Anyway, enough with the pity party and excuses and onto the music. Ensiferum are my third favourite Finnish band of all time – of course Turisas are first, Korpiklaani are second, and my Bloodstock 2015 ticket was purchased on the strength of the Ensiferum announcement. So, yeah, One Man Army has been hotly anticipated in the southern tower of Wyrd Ways Castle for quite some time.

I’m never much fussed about the *how* of music being produced – if sitting under a waterfall wrapped in a bullhide gets your juices flowing and leads to a kick arse album that’s fine by me.  Similarly, I couldn’t give any body part of a monkey if your preferred production method is to binge on Red Bull and blue Smarties and bash it out in one take.

Ensiferum have made much though of the production for this album as they tried to move away from digitally produced songs towards arrangements where every instrument actually got played.  The result is, I have to say, staggering.  Kicking off with March of War you are first gently grabbed by the music – the intro is all a bit Game of Thrones, full of penny whistles and strings and sweeping epic arrangements that are all evocative and bring to mind imagery of an army yomping through the forest renaissance stylee.  But then Axe of Judgement begins and you are bodyslammed into the front row and commanded to mosh and pillage until it’s all over.  Axe of Judgement is all brimstone and fury and catchy sing along “woahhwoaaah!” choruses, and if it doesn’t get played at BOA I’m going to lead a one woman riot in protest.

Moving on, you get carried along slam bang into Heathen Horde which has about the folkiest opening I’ve heard in 2015.  With lyrics like: “All heathen hearts/ Answer the call/ God of thunder bless our swords”, it’s full of fighting talk and promises a good punch up against a side fuelled on righteous fury and blessed by the Gods.

At this point I should point out that my attempts to actually write up my review have been significantly scuppered by the headbanging it engenders.  I’m not sure it’s especially hardcore to be sat at your desk, waving a pint of water around bellowing along, because my study is not a longhouse, I can’t quaff for shit (waste of good booze is quaffing) and being of a female persuasion, all my attempts to grow a beard have failed spectacularly, but this album doesn’t allow for sitting still. You have to just give it some and pretend that really your charging across the Northumbrian coast with a shield and axe and not sitting at home in your onesie.

Anyway, Heathen Horde is followed by One Man Army which is the traditional point where my attempts to say something sensible have degenerated into desk moshing.  So you can gather that the album’s title track is *rather good*. It’s all rousing vocals and epic instrumental sweeps and a screamy howley end. I like that in a song. Burden of the Fallen is a bit calmer.  It’s a ‘water break’ sort of track, but it’s also hauntingly beautiful and an all too brief glimpse into the softer side of the Finnish warriors.

Warrior Without A War is another heads down and mosh it out type track.  It is a little bit samey, however that doesn’t detract from it being thoroughly enjoyable.  Cry for the Earth Bounds changes things up again with a sort of medieval monasstic chant opening that really does make me think of soaring cathedrals, and solemn occasions.  It’s also got a rather awesome guitar riff in the middle.  Plus it’s 7 and a half minutes long, and I do like it when you get a decent saga condensed into a single album track.  Happy Days.

Two of Spades starts off faster paced than most of the album, with some fantastic drumming and for a folk metal track it’s a bit thrash really and is, I assumed at first, a tribute to Motörhead.  I’m not sure about the weird Viking Disco in the middle though.  It’s a bit too Saturday Night Fever for my liking. Anyway, from the discotheque we swiftly barrel into My Ancestors Blood where normality is restored, and all is well with the world again, as we return to sweeping riffs, epic vocals and a tune catchier than chlamydia on an 18-30 holiday.

The album rounds out with the doom laden intro of Descendants, Defiance, Domination  which picks up pace as it goes on, has an excellent spoken word section, and has one of the few clean male vocal tracks that I noticed. I mean, it’s only about 20 seconds in an 11 minute long track, but it stood out. There’s also about a minute of female vocals which are so Games of Thrones-esque I had to check I didn’t have another window open playing the theme tune.

I’ll be honest: the last non-bonus track Neito Pohjolan is the only one I didn’t like on the whole album. It was just… a bit strange and it didn’t quite fit, which is a shame because it had awesome vocals and I’d have liked to like it more.

There are four bonus tracks – a cover of Rawhide, Warmetal, Candour and Lies, and finally Bonus Song. They’re all good, although a little weird –  Candour and Lies is basically a country song and Bonus Song is Ensiferum Does A Glam Metal Track.  It’s quite good.  It reminds me of W.A.S.P!

All in, this is a superb album.  This has been one of the most time consuming write ups in my time at WWRS becuase I kept getting distracted with the desk moshing. Which is fun, but doesn’t get a review written. Even if you don’t like folk metal you’ll like this album. Of course, if you already like Ensiferum then you *should* love it, and I’ll see you down the front at Bloodstock!

******/5

They get a bonus star for having so many bonus tracks.

Richie Ramone – Entitled

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DC Jam Records

Review by Suzi H

The Ramones. One of my gateway bands into Metal and Punk. I think I was about 15 the first time I heard them, and from the minute the first notes of Somebody Put Something In My Drink filtered down my adolescent ear canal I was hooked. Fast forward more years than I’m happy numbering for you lot, an email lands in my inbox telling me that Richie Ramone, former Ramones drummer, the man Joey famously credited with ‘saving the band‘ and the author of my aforementioned favourite Ramones track, is releasing his debut solo album.

Well that was an exciting day in my house I can tell you. What makes it even more exciting is that Richie’s lead guitarist just so happens to be the mighty Alex Kane, who for the uninitiated was in Anti Product my most favourite Punk band of all time ever. And Claire from Anti Product? Yeah, she’s in Ritchie’s band too. Basically, this album is the product of Punk royalty. But does it live up to it’s pedigree?

Entitled primarily contains new songs, but there’s also re-recordings of Smash You, I’m not Jesus, I Know Better Now Humankind and if you buy the LP you get the iconic Somebody Put Something In My Drink. As it is, I only have the digital copy of the album, so no Somebody for me.

Entitled kicks off with Criminal. Now I’ll admit my first reaction to this track was not a good one – I wasn’t expecting Richie’s vocals; I was expecting Joey’s and so it was a shock.  Anyway, by the second listen through I was thrilled – this is some hefty old school New York Punk right here, but with modern guitars and those riffs are… just… well, they’re soul-pleasingly beautiful.

One gloriously old school track is a good start, and then we get the first re-recorded Ramones track with I Know Better Now.

Entitled is the title track of the album and it’s smoother than a 20 year old single malt. It’s very Easy Rider with a bass line that promises dark clubs, lots of eyeliner, smokey dance floors and lots of sex. Entitled  is a sexy, sexy track which always surprising on a Punk album – Punk for me is aggression, rage and sticking two fingers up at the establishment, not something that can be pole-danced to, but if anyone’s going to manage to break new ground in a genre that hasn’t changed much since 1979, then it would be Richie.

Take My Hand is not a Ramones track, but it sounds like one. It’s the first hint of a song on this album which demonstrates the history behind the album – Joey and DeeDee would have been proud of this one. It’s fast and aggressive  and punchy and reminds me of Somebody in a way I can’t quite explain. Next up is Smash You and then we have Better Than Me.

Better Than Me  has a gloriously blues-y opening and is again some super smooth bass-y music with an eerie melody and if you aren’t swaying by the end of the first verse then you’re missing some Soul somewhere along the line.

Someday Girl  is raw and poignant. It’s got stripped down guitars and haunting lyrics and it’s just… sad. But fucking brilliant. Absolutely and utterly brilliant. I want the video to have some Debbie Harry lookalike running down a New York street with a fur coat flying off her shoulders, while the band plays the track on a Manhattan rooftop and Richie scowls at the camera with a fag hanging from the side of his mouth and oversized sunglasses on. It’s evocative and brilliant.

Into The Fire changes the albums pace and we go from Thoughtful Nostalgic Ritchie to Angry Telling You To Fuck Off Richie. It’s punchy and rough and lends itself well to some energetic headbanging and fist pumping. It’s followed by the re-recorded I’m Not Jesus and Humankind.

Entitled rounds out with Vulnerable and Forgotten Years both of which stand up nicely as original tracks and leave this debut effort making it clear this might be the first solo work, but this is not Richie’s first rodeo.This album is very old school, but he’s managed to make it modern enough that it has real day relevance and there’s about to be a whole new generation of kids getting their rocks off to Somebody Put Something In My Drink but now they’ll be listening to Richie’s version and not the Ramones version.

The European leg of the supporting tour hits the UK at the start of December – I’d like to recommend you get yourself down there.

Hammer4

 

Nickelback – No Fixed Address

 

Republic Records

Review by Suzi H

Buy the CD HERE and the MP3 HERE

Alright, Nickelback.  Lots of people hate them (hello! – Ed).  I’ve been publicly mocked on more than one occasion for liking Nickelback, but like them I do and have done since I first heard How you Remind Me more years ago than I want to think about, and The Long Road and All The Right Reasons have been in my personal top ten favourite albums since forever. Anyway, I’ve donned my flame retardant blanket in preparation for this review. (flame-thrower… ready! – Ed)

And that’s just to save me from my colleagues!

Hyperbole out of the way and let’s get down to business. No Fixed Abode is Nickelback’s eighth studio album, and their first release on Republic Records following their split from Roadrunner Records. It kicks off with the aggressively cheerful Million Miles An Hour. The opening riff is classic Nickelback and then there’s some weird synth dubbing effect going on which represents how the band might sound if they were in an 80’s cartoon. Anyway it’s a bizarrely pleasing combination and by the time the album’s segued into Edge Of A Revolution I’m headbanging away at my desk quite happily (what?! – Ed).

Nickelback are not known for their political lyrics. In fact they’re normally  heavily criticised for singing too much about sex, strippers, drinking too much and young male violence and posturing.  Edge of a Revolution is an amusing pot-shot at capitalism from a band who are routinely accused of being utterly unoriginal and mass produced (that’s what they are! – Ed).  Anyway, the riffs are rather enjoyable, and the lyrics made me giggle, so it’s a win as far as I’m concerned.

Next up we have the disgustingly commercial What Are You Waiting For. It’s like Bruno Mars Does A Big Rock Single. In fact, you know that week of every year of the X Factor where they do ‘Rock Night’ and spend the evening murdering perfectly good songs, who never did anything to deserve it? (*shudder* – Ed)  That’s what What Are You Waiting For is and frankly, Chad and co. should know better. D- for that one boys (that’s more like it, Elfie! – Ed).

She Keeps Me Up is a dirty sexified rock song, mixed in with some really funky 70’s style beats.  I like it.  It’s classic Nickelback with a hint of Motown, and of course they’ve gone back to what they do best (definition applied loosely, mayhap? – Ed), which is singing about sex (…which is the nearest the majority of Nickelback fans will ever get! – Ed). I know people criticize Nickelback for the amount of time they spend singing about sex – more accurately about the fact they aren’t getting any or that when they are they shouldn’t be sleeping with the people they are – but really they’re very good at it, and they should just play to their strengths.

Make Me Believe Again, Satellite  and Get ‘Em Up are standard middle of the album filler tracks (you’ve just summed up their entire recorded output there, m’dear! – Ed).  There’s nothing wrong with them (so you say! – Ed), but as a long time listener I could match up the riffs in them to previously released Nickelback material and that’s a bit sad.  I swear hand on heart that the opening of Get Em Up is the same as the opening of Something in Your Mouth  from the Dark Horse album.

The Hammer’s Coming Down is the first moment where Nickelback break the mould on this album (can’t we just break the album? – Ed) – there’s a piano, and some strings and an opening that isn’t reliant on the sort of riffs that cowboy bars from movies are founded on.  It quickly peters out into another generic pop-rock song, with some vaguely uplifting orchestral bits.  Sadly it’s immediately followed by Miss You which my 11 year old, Bruno Mars obsessed daughter will like, and which I, not a fan of whistly chirpy tunes, dislike intensely.

No Fixed Address draws to a close with Got Me Runnin’ Round and Sister Sin which is exactly the sort of funked up, dirtied down commercial rock song I like for light listening. Until it gets half way through and then there’s a weird-assed rapping section that fits the song but is annoying. The final track Sister Sin is probably my favourite  from the album – it’s got a feel good beat (why has the image of Hugh Dennis popped into my head? – Ed), some nice backing vocals and lends itself to a nice groove in a dark club.

All in all No Fixed Address is exactly what you can expect from a commercial band like Nickelback. These guys aren’t trying to produce the best or most exciting rock music, they’re making commercial pop rock so that radio stations can play something that’s edgier than Taylor Swift and isn’t hip-hop. It’s not a terrible album – I’ll probably play it regularly for background music that won’t lead to my non-Metal husband and kids muttering about “all the growling and screaming”. It’s a bog standard, not very exciting release, and for that I am going to give it a boring, but respectable 2.5 stars out of five. If you don’t like Nickelback, you shouldn’t listen to it, and if you do, you’ll think it’s alright.

Although next time lads – stop listening to Bruno bloody Mars!!!

 

Verdict: 2.5/5

(Who’s this Bruno Mars, by the way? – Ed)

Linkin Park – The Hunting Party

Warner Brothers

Released June 2014

Right.  Let’s get this over with shall we?  Regular readers will remember what happened the last time I reviewed a Linkin Park album.  Despite my longstanding love of the band, their 5th studio album evoked a sense of such utter hatred in me that it took me three weeks to listen to The Hunting Party, because, quite honestly, I couldn’t bear the thought of them having released something that godawful again and every bit of promo I saw was Chester talking about how this time they’d “done something different“.  Given last time they did that I had to break out the brain bleach, I was not optimistic.

Anyway, the album kicks off with The Keys to The Kingdom and ……. it’s alright.  You’ve got Chester screaming, some heavy guitars, fantastic drum beats  and then Mike does his rapping thing and loads of synthy synthy stuff going on and yeah, it’s an interesting track that made me think ‘ok, maybe this won’t be so bad after all‘.  Then the album moves (via some weird little soundclip things) to All for Nothing and again, it’s an alright track.  It’s quite catchy and elicits a head sway, and by the time I was on my third listen I was sort of singing along.  It’s not a fantastically strong track – there’s a very clear delineation on the album between tracks that are Singles and everything else, but it’s definitely listenable.

Then we have the first big single from the album Guilty All The Same.  It’s a catchy track with riffs a plenty, rapping from someone called Rakim and it’s  track that is worthy of a goth/nu-metal club night.  It’s again an alright track.

But hold on a minute.  I’m three tracks into an album and so far the best description I can come up with is ‘yeah it’s alright‘? Where’s my ANGRY Linkin Park?  Where’s the perfect coalescence of agony and rage that made Hybrid Theory and Meteora such epically brilliant albums?

10 seconds later my question is sort of answered by War.  Which has a bit of old school Chester screaming, but it seems a bit forced really.  As if  he’s not really angry any more and is just trying to remember what it felt like.  The guitars however are excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed them.  It’s another track that would be alright for a club night.  From War we move onto Wastelands which is rather mundane and repetitive, and then it’s time for Until It’s Gone, the second single on the album

Until It’s Gone is again, a fairly alright, track.  There’s nothing WRONG with it, there’s just nothing special about it.  There’s some interesting synth going on and some generically heavy guitar and it’s…… JUST SO BORING.

I’m bored.  Halfway through this album – the exact half point in fact and I am SO BORED I could chew my own foot off for the entertainment factor.  This is not an album to put on for a reason, this is an album to put on because silence is unbearable and you want to fill it with something that isn’t too engaging or oppressive.   Because of this very quality however, it’s going to be wildly successful and annoying people who don’t like Rock or Metal will listen to it and be all ‘oh yah, Linkin Park, love them‘ and then stare at you blankly when you play Crawling. 

Forgive me my Nu-Metal Hipsterism, but my point is proven by the boring pop-ishness of Rebellion and then Mark The Graves, which is just pure self indulgent creative wankery.  There are lengthy instrumental sections that are… well…  guitar wankery, and then it’s followed up by Drawbar  which is like listening to James Blunt with a more exciting drum line and no vocals and then there’s Final Masquerade which is all poppy upbeats and heartfelt lyrics and emphatic guitars and just………. *vom*

Finally, the album draws to a close with six and a half minutes of A Line In The Sand and with that Linkin Park‘s opus to mundanity ends.

In summary, there are four listenable tracks on this album, three of which I wouldn’t object to hearing at a club night as a bit of filler between sets and the rest of it is a perfectly mundane and boring pop-rock album.   I’ll be honest, if this is the first Linkin Park album you’ve ever heard and you don’t mind poppy rock with synths then you’ll probably like it.  If you liked Linkin Park in 1999 you probably won’t.  I’m going to give it 2 stars because there’s nothing actually wrong with it and I wasn’t mentally scarred by listening to it, but it won’t be going in my personal music collection.

**/5

Taking Over

Evening All!

Not content with invading Shock of The New on the podcast I’m also taking over the blog! You can expect to see videos from the bands we feature, little bits of news about them and ever so occasionally my ramblings, rantings and pleadings to send music/beer/Rob Flynn/pictures of kittens… you get the idea.

So to kick things off, here’s a video from one of my favourite up and coming bands. They featured on the show a while back and I had the great pleasure of reviewing them when they went on tour with Black Star Riders.

Ladies, Gentleman, Minions and Fiends I give you Western Sand

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