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Amarok [HDCD]
Amarok [HDCD]
Offered by zoreno-uk
Price: 4.75

5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant, unknown record - no thanks to Virgin, 29 Jan 2014
This review is from: Amarok [HDCD] (Audio CD)
Amarok is one of Mike Oldfield's less-known works, barely cracking the UK Top 50 upon release in 1990. At the same time, it showcases him at his most brilliant.

The musical talent and spontaneous humour that went into this album are incredible, and this was certainly the one album where Oldfield didn't give a damn about convention and just let his imagination run riot. The result is one hour of continuous but constantly changing music that is intended both as a gem to Oldfield's fans and an insult to Virgin, Oldfield's label at the time. Virgin refused to promote this album purely because Oldfield didn't want to call it Tubular Bells II (he wanted to make a TBII, but felt this wasn't it). And frankly, more fool them. I think Amarok could have done all right in the UK, and perhaps abroad as well, had it been promoted properly. At a push, a single might have even been cut from it.

But forget the lack of chart success - you won't hear very many other contemporary music albums like this, ever. While Oldfield's playing is virtuoso throughout and produces some particularly catchy music in places, some of the "instruments" thrown in with his usual array of guitars, basses, keyboards and bodhráns are so ridiculous it's just funny. Mashed-up spoken-word samples, a broken glass, Ferrari, face slap and even "contents of aeromodeller's toolbox" are just a handful of examples. The tubular bells also make their traditional appearance towards the end of the record, but are credited in the liner notes as "long thin metallic hanging tubes". And if that isn't enough, a Margaret Thatcher parody, humorous "health warning" (intended as a snub at Virgin) and an explicit Morse code message (also intended as a snub at Virgin) are all included as well.

Admittedly, Oldfield was treading dangerous ground with Virgin by doing all of this, but his contract with them was due to expire anyway and they'd only wanted to call the album "Tubular Bells II" for the name and the recognition more than anything else. Oldfield's refusal to comply was right - he has insisted that the album was more like Ommadawn II than a sequel to the Bells. Which is a fair point - many guest musicians who featured on 1975's Ommadawn make a welcome return here. The most fondly reminiscent point comes at about 45 minutes in, when the African drummers from Jabula provide my favourite part of the whole album along to a brilliant, soaring chant from Clodagh Simonds.

If you like Oldfield's other well-known works and that's what drew you to Amarok, then I suggest that you get the album. If you like Ommadawn, then I would definitely get it. It will not disappoint, no matter how many times you play it. Just be prepared for a fast ride :-)

Von den Elben
Von den Elben
Price: 10.89

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not as bad as all that, 19 July 2013
This review is from: Von den Elben (Audio CD)
This album sparked outrage among Faun's long-time fans when it was released earlier this year, with accusations of "selling out" coming from left, right and centre. And it's true, the album is a clear departure from the band's previous albums. Gone are the otherworldly multilingual influences and the long instrumental sections, replaced by simplified German lyrics and condensed melodies clearly aimed at a commercial audience.

However, aside from the fact that this was a deliberate ploy by the band to drag more people away from mainstream music and back to real talent, the album's not all that bad once you get into it, which can be said of many albums you'll hear. There were a handful of songs that stood out for me straight away, such as "Diese kalte Nacht" and the lovely "Thymian und Rosmarin". Even the re-worked numbers from second album 'Licht' are well-done additions to the album - "Andro II" almost sounds like a remixed version of the 2003 original, while the beautiful German version of "Von den Elben" also grows on the listener. And of course, with time I have found myself getting into the rest of the album as well, or most of it anyway. "Schrei es in die Winde" is a strong cover of Eluveitie's "Omnos", while "Wilde Rose" is as moving as it is poignant and "Wenn wir uns wiedersehen" is another heartfelt, flute-led piece.

I'll admit that there are moments on this album that make me cringe, perhaps most of all the ridiculously cheesy lyrics to "Tanz mit mir", which was a major bone of contention for most fans of the band's older work. But despite the accusations that the band have sold their soul on this album, it still sounds nothing like most of the over-computerised, autotuned pop rubbish that infests the charts these days. This album hit the Top 10 in Germany, Austria and Switzerland when it was released, and if that goes some way to dragging people away from some of today's chart music and back to something more real and less superficial, then Faun will have been successful in their quest. All that remains for me to say, then, is get the album and give it a few tries, and if at all possible, go and see the band live! Despite the record deal with Universal and Valicon, the live performances have not changed, and are still a treasure to witness. And for that we should be very grateful.

Donnie Darko [Score]
Donnie Darko [Score]
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: 17.64

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deliberately minimalistic - and good!, 21 Mar 2013
This review is from: Donnie Darko [Score] (Audio CD)
A lot of the negative reviews/thumbs-downs on other people's reviews on here seem to stem from the fact that people either didn't take the time to check the track listing before buying the CD (and therefore were unpleasantly surprised when they found out that Echo and the Bunnymen, Duran Duran etc. were not on this CD), or maybe that people were expecting a grandiose film soundtrack. A grandiose soundtrack is exactly what Donnie Darko does not need. The music to the film is deliberately sparse and minimalistic, but music of this nature can be good and say just as much as a grandiose piece of work can, if not more. "Pink Moon" by Nick Drake is sparse, made by one man and a guitar, but it's still a top album. As is the soundtrack to "The Village" if you want another film example.

But to the Donnie Darko music itself - Michael Andrews is a guitarist primarily, and could not play much piano before he landed the job of composing the film soundtrack. So he taught himself to play piano, adapting what musical theory he already knew to create his own unique style. And that works perfectly with the film. Nobody can really listen to this soundtrack without picturing the film, the two go together inseparably and leave the listener with certain scenes and faces from the film in their mind, not least Donnie's himself.

An intelligent film, and a soundtrack that in being unique is also refreshing - just like the film. If you liked Donnie Darko, it's quite possibly because you're an open-minded person willing to be challenged. If you like music as well, give the soundtrack a try. My only criticism is that the music couldn't be a bit longer, but I'm not going to take a star off for that.

The Village [DVD] [2004]
The Village [DVD] [2004]
Dvd ~ Sigourney Weaver
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: 2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is it good? Depends on who you are, 18 Mar 2013
This review is from: The Village [DVD] [2004] (DVD)
When this film was released in the cinemas, it was spun to the public as a horror film/thriller. It does have the odd moment that makes you jump, but in truth, it's a story about escapism and love rather than a horror film. Which might explain some of the 1 and 2-star reviews here on Amazon, and why a lot of people may have felt let down or financially swindled when they went and saw it.

The negative reviews might also be explained by the weakness of the plot compared to the director's other films. The plot is admittedly quite easy to see through, and is not as gripping as the plots to some of Night's earlier films. But putting that aside for a minute, and now that the film is no longer in the cinemas and we can appreciate it for what it is, maybe we can see some things differently. The acting in the film cannot be faulted at all, especially from Bryce Dallas Howard, who is fantastic as Ivy. Joaquin Phoenix (Lucius), Sigourney Weaver (Alice) and William Hurt (Edward Walker) also slip into their characters with a lot of conviction. The actors also prepared for shooting the film by learning the tools and the trades of 19th-century rural life via several weeks of hands-on experience, something that also shows in the film. The camera work is better-done than most people care to notice, often using the surrounding countryside and woodlands to stirring, eerie effect, and the soundtrack (more on this later) is perfectly composed for a film such as this.

In my opinion, whether or not you'll like the film when you watch it depends entirely on what sort of person you are. If you have an outgoing, happy-go-lucky personality and like watching films packed with action and excitement, then you probably won't like it. However, if you see yourself as being a 'quiet' person who sometimes cherishes their own private space, then take a look because you might enjoy the film, or at least parts of it. I know of several people with 'escapist' attitudes, some of them good friends of mine, who have enjoyed this film tremendously purely because it offers you something to escape into whenever you've had a stressful or difficult day. It's true, The Village is sombre, reclusive and minimalistic, things you would not necessarily expect from a top director or a film promoted as much as this one was. But those three qualities do have their appealing side, believe it or not, and I would say the film is equal parts pessimism and optimism. Pessimistic because the villagers have chosen to run from the outside world, but optimistic because in so doing they are running towards something better, something more moralistic, instead of just giving up and dying.

So if you think the film could be of interest to you, my attitude would be to give it a try. If it does strike a chord with you, I would also recommend getting the soundtrack (also available on Amazon). You might watch the film and think "What soundtrack?", but as minimalistic as the music might seem, for those who like the film it's good because its sparsity matches that of the film perfectly. I couldn't believe it when one of my favourite musicians claimed that the soundtrack to The Village was his favourite soundtrack of all-time, but there it is.

The Village is not the best film you will ever see, and there are reasons for that. But I would be lying if I said that the film, and its storyline and message, don't have some appeal as well. I am drawn to it, and I have been ever since I saw it. Watch it and see how you feel.

The Village
The Village
Price: 14.51

4.0 out of 5 stars Reclusive, eerie and mysterious - just like the film, 21 Oct 2012
This review is from: The Village (Audio CD)
If you enjoy listening to mournful, violin-led music, then you probably won't need to have seen this film to be able to appreciate its soundtrack. However, I feel that in order to fully understand the meaning behind each piece, the listener should have watched the film a few times before buying the music.

In any case, the soundtrack is well-composed by James Newton Howard, who mainly bases it around a handful of memorable 'hooks' that the music expands upon but inevitably always returns to. Many of the pieces are led by Hilary Hahn's restless violin, although the piano also serves as a lead instrument in places. The soundtrack has its serene, melodic numbers (examples being "What Are You Asking Me?", "The Vote" and, of course, the centrepiece "The Gravel Road"), but be prepared for some poignant violin work on "Noah Awaits", the similar "Rituals" and "Will You Help Me?". Also be prepared for some tribal-sounding percussion on "Those We Don't Speak Of" and "It Is Not Real", both of which will make the listener jump. "The Bad Color" and "The Forbidden Line" will also have the listener on-edge, but for a different reason: the instrumentation during these two numbers almost sounds like a spine-chilling call from the wild.

For me personally, the strongest numbers on the soundtrack are "What Are You Asking Me?", "I Cannot See His Color" and "Race To Resting Rock". The first of these uses the most memorable violin hook of the soundtrack to stirring effect, the second features some surging violin runs that will make many buyers sit up and listen, and the third has a warm, summery feel to it and derives from one of the more fun moments of the film. I'll admit that this is not my favourite movie soundtrack, and that it didn't appeal to me immediately. But it keeps calling me back. And if you consider that music with an immediate appeal to it can sometimes lose that appeal just as quickly, then maybe it's a good idea to have a record amongst your collection that will stick around with you for a while.

A Garden of Dreams
A Garden of Dreams
Price: 7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A strong follow-up to Martino's debut, 20 Jun 2012
This review is from: A Garden of Dreams (MP3 Download)
"A Garden of Dreams" picks up where Martino Vergnaghi's debut album "Blue Star" left off and follows its style closely - ambient, atmospheric keyboard music that can be enjoyed whether you're looking for something to put you in a good mood or just something to relax to at the end of the day.

Some of the songs on the album are accompanied by Martino's vocals, which add to the ambience of the music rather than taking away from it. Like on "Blue Star", there are a number of tracks on the album that in particular stand out. Opening number "A Garden of Memories" is a strong beginning and quite reminiscent of Enya in places, while the scale work in following track "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" is more reminiscent of music from the Final Fantasy series. "Lady Charlotte's Tea Room" and "Chasing The Dream" are piano-only pieces, but these are also welcome on the album and can say as much as a fully-scored piece can (think "Moonlight Sonata" by Beethoven, for example). Some of the latter tracks also introduce light drum beats, which provides a change and gives the music a slightly more up-tempo feel to it.

The two songs on the album that really shine, however, have to be "Ora Et Labora" and closing track "Walk Young Pilgrim". "Ora" is written in a similar vein to the song "Miserere" from Martino's previous album, with the same bouncy quality, and vocals that even remind the listener of Sting in places... Lastly, "Pilgrim" was the first song from the album to be released on YouTube, and rightly so. This song has a warm and inspirational feel to it, with the message behind it being that people should stick together and help one another through times of difficulty, whether it be private, political, economic or other problems. The YouTube video, which works perfectly with the song, is recommended.

On the whole, a good follow-up to debut effort "Blue Star" and an album that showcases a very important factor (if not THE most important factor) when it comes to music - Martino isn't afraid to use his imagination and to ditch reality for a second. And that is something that any artist producing any type of entertainment should never forget. Everybody's imagination will take them somewhere different when it comes to music. Let's see where this album takes yours.

Four Lions - Special Edition [DVD]
Four Lions - Special Edition [DVD]
Dvd ~ Riz Ahmed
Price: 13.76

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rubber dinghy rapids, bro, 22 Mar 2012
When a controversial subject hits the media and gains widespread coverage, someone at some point will make a spoof of it to try and expose its funny side. In this case, the subject is terrorism - something that at first might not seem funny at all, but which is morphed into a good laugh here by director Chris Morris and a collection of excellent actors playing a gang of British jihadi terrorists whose worst enemy is their own stupidity.

Morris deserves praise for writing a film about such a near-the-knuckle topic, but he deserves particular credit for his patience and diligence when putting the script together, having spent several years researching the plot and interviewing people who knew their stuff. The plot in itself is strong too, with plenty of twists and turns and a speed that is not difficult to follow (despite what some reviewers will have you believe). The one concession I will make about the plot is that the ending does turn out to be quite sad, something that even the most ardent fans of the film will probably admit to.

But the actors all put on strong performances, and make their characters not only funny but also very believable. Omar is the group leader, and is the only halfway sensible member of the clan, armed with a no-nonsense and generally upfront attitude. Waj, apparently a relative of Omar's, is hilarious throughout with the thoughts of a eight year-old and barely a trace of any adult intelligence. Faisal isn't much brighter, attempting to train crows as suicide bombers and stockpiling combustible chemicals all bought from the same shop. Barry is an excellent addition as the only white member of the group, developing some absurd attitudes and practices for the other members of the group and using equally ridiculous reasoning to justify it. Hassan, the fifth and final member of the group, seems less stupid than the others but is addicted to using his camera and makes crucial blunders that force the group to completely re-write their plans.

In short, the humour in the film sounds like a lot of tired, drawn-out and pedantic excuses being strung together within the same argument, which is what makes some of the humour so ludicrous. The other style of humour that works particularly well comes up whenever Omar reverts to using Urdu, usually when having a go at Waj or one of the other members of the group. The translations, given in English subtitles, are incredibly coarse but for that reason alone a bloody good laugh. You can decide for yourself what the funniest moment of the whole film is - for me personally it was the garage scene with Faisal, Barry and Hassan shortly after Hassan is recruited, which had my friends and me laughing louder than anybody else in the cinema.

If you're an excessively politically correct person, you probably won't like this film. If you don't understand British humour (or better said, if you don't have a dark and slightly warped sense of humour), you probably won't like this film. If you pride yourself on being prim and proper and are averse to swearing and perceived "stupidity", you certainly won't like the film. Other than that, my recommendation would be to get the film and enjoy watching it. Four Lions isn't a stupid film made for stupid people. It's a stupid film made for people with a realistic, down-to-earth sense of humour. Sometimes it's in man's nature to be un-PC, and it's also in man's nature to be prejudiced, no matter how intelligent we might be. Plenty of Muslims have written positive comments on this film (largely since they know that the film isn't attacking non-extremist Muslims), just take a look at YouTube clips from the film if you want proof. And the fact of the matter is that people have been laughing about grim subjects, coarse humour and other people's misfortune for literally centuries, regardless of how it might not seem funny at all if it happened in real life. No-one would laugh if they saw a man in the street punch himself in the face. You can laugh when Barry does it in Four Lions.

P.S. if you liked this, check out Lance Manley's book "Stab Proof Scarecrows", another good middle finger to political correctness.

Price: 16.65

25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute belter of an album, 13 Jan 2012
This review is from: Imaginaerum (Audio CD)
During the long build-up to the release of this album, where fans were kept savvy by studio reports from the band and the occasional YouTube upload, I admit that a small part of me was unsure whether Nightwish were going to be able to make an album that would top (or at least match) predecessor Dark Passion Play, and where Anette Olzon would be able to pull off another amazing vocal performance that would hopefully help to lay the ever-present and nagging comparisons to sacked ex-vocalist Tarja Turunen to rest. But I had every confidence in Tuomas Holopainen's songwriting and imagination, in Anette's brilliance as a vocalist and frontwoman, and in the incredible musicianship and chemistry of the band in general to believe that the group were about to release another defining metal album.

I got the album, listened to it, and knew I was right.

This album is a record that delivers one great track after another, where there isn't a single dud on the whole album, and you can't ask for more than that. Whether it be the awe-inspiring and multi-faceted ideas that Tuomas pours into every album, the perfect dual vocal harmonies of Anette and bassist Marco Hietala, the slick guitar work of Emppu Vuorinen or the romantic wail of guest musician Troy Donockley's uilleann pipes, every song on here has something great and exciting to offer, regardless of whether it is soft or loud. The album also fits together very well on the whole, proof again that the band managed to think this record out without losing sight of its overall purpose.

To list the standout tracks from the album would be to list at least half the album, but a couple of my personal favourites are "Turn Loose The Mermaids", "Ghost River" and, above all, the pagan dancefest that is "I Want My Tears Back". "Mermaids" is a pleasant little number that slowly rises to a climax that will ideally have the listener's heart soaring to Anette's passionate vocals. "Ghost River" sounds like it would fit perfectly as the theme to a white-water ride at an adventure theme park (again echoing an underlying theme of the whole album), and from the first lick of Emppu's driving riff, you know you're in for an awesome ride. As for "I Want My Tears Back", just be blown away by the combination of Donockley's pipes and a metal rhythm section that of course enhances them rather than holding them back, and during the fast-paced mid-section, just get up and dance!

I loved this album when I heard it, and a month or two on still listen to bits and pieces from it nearly every day. Undoubtedly one of the top metal releases of 2011, I hope this album will encourage any older Nightwish fans to let go of Tarja Turunen and give Anette Olzon a chance. For all her unique vocal talent and stage persona, Tarja was a disrespectful band member. Hence the band's decision to continue without her. Tuomas has claimed that Anette brought a much-needed air of optimism and good humour to Nightwish, and I would agree with him on that one. She works better as a band member than Tarja did towards the end, and as a frontwoman is a lot more "bohemian" than Tarja was, who in 2004-5 just became too assured of her own apparent irreplaceability. Listen to Imaginaerum with an open mind, then have another listen to Dark Passion Play as well. Hopefully you'll realise that this is Anette's era now. You can have respect for Nightwish's past, but you need not live in it.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 26, 2012 8:38 PM BST

Nineteen Eighty-four
Nineteen Eighty-four
by George Orwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Special review for younger readers/anyone new to politics!, 30 Oct 2011
This review is from: Nineteen Eighty-four (Paperback)
I'm writing this review because this book is required reading in a lot of schools, with most people reading it at the age of fifteen or sixteen. Unfortunately, anyone without much understanding of politics isn't really going to know what it's about, and this happened to me and quite a few people in my class when we read the book and watched the film version (which by the way is highly recommended). I'd dropped History the year before, so that didn't help. But don't think that the book's boring - once you understand it and get into it, it's a book that'll make a deep impression on you and will probably last with you forever.

The book is about a world where the government controls literally everything. The story takes place in London, or at least what's left of it after the damage caused to it by World War II. The idea is that just after the war ended, Britain was taken over by a government referred to as just "The Party". The Party is made up of paranoid, greedy control freaks who make almost everything illegal. Relationships are illegal, sex is illegal, even saying what's on your mind and thinking for yourself is illegal and referred to as "thoughtcrime". Telescreens are present on every street corner, in every building and every flat and are used by the government to keep everybody under surveillance in case anyone is doing something the slightest bit wrong. Anything said above a whisper can be picked up by the telescreens. Police roam the streets and spy on the people day and night, even encouraging children to tell on their own parents. Anyone caught doing anything out of line is seen as disloyal to the Party and is arrested, tortured and killed, or simply "disappears". The worst thing about it all though is that the Party tries to convince the people of the nation that this is an ideal world to live in, where everybody is equal and everybody supports and serves the Party happily. In reality though, it is the worst kind of society possible. Just imagine living in it for a day, with all the things you're not allowed to do, and you'll understand.

The book focuses on a man named Winston Smith, who works for the government but secretly hates it and wants to rebel against it. His job involves editing newspaper articles that were written in the years before the Party existed, and he has to falsify the articles to say that the Party has always existed and was always right. Because of this, any official reports about what the government and the police are doing to its own people are immediately erased or edited so that no honest proof exists. And without any official proof, it is impossible to complain about the Party and what they are doing, because it's your word against theirs. Winston knows that the government and the world he lives in is based on lies and corruption, and he dreams of breaking away to begin his own life, a life based around freedom and what's real. Fortunately, he gets the chance to do this when he meets a girl named Julia, who also works for the government. At first, Winston hates her because he believes she is on the Party's side, but one day she secretly hands him a love note and his view of her completely changes. She and Winston manage to meet privately in the countryside, and there he finds out that she secretly hates the party too and also longs for freedom. Winston and Julia begin a sexual relationship, which as already mentioned is illegal, and sadly the police eventually find out and arrest the pair of them, torturing them separately before brainwashing them into accepting and loving the government. By the end of the book, Winston has become an alcoholic, neither he nor Julia recognise or love one another any more, and both of them are to be executed at some point in the near future.

The most important message in the book, though, is not the fact that the Party has got everybody under its control, and that it always gets its own way. It's not the fact that Winston and Julia's rebellion against the Party results in them both getting arrested, tortured and killed. The most important message is Winston and Julia's actual rebellion. In a world like the one Nineteen Eighty-Four is set in, they would have probably been arrested and killed sooner or later anyway for doing something the tiniest bit wrong. So that first scene where they make love in the countryside is the most powerful and memorable part of the book, and the message behind it is a slap in the face for any government in today's world that tries to control and manipulate its people. It is a message of freedom. We may need a government to run the country for us, but not one that's so paranoid and power-hungry that people's human rights are taken away. That message is a blow struck against any ruling authority that tries to abuse its powers.

At the time this book was published, my grandmother was in her twenties, the right sort of age to know about George Orwell and judge him for who he was. She has described him as a bit of an "oddball", an unusual man with ideas that most people didn't think of. But he saw and understood a lot of things that went over most British people's heads at the time. He fought in the Spanish Civil War, and it was his experiences there that largely inspired him to write this book, and to write his other well-known book "Animal Farm". Certain governments at the time were trying to create a new society just like the one Orwell describes in Nineteen Eighty-Four - a society that was supposedly free, equal and fair, but which in reality was the complete opposite. The book encourages the reader to not blindly believe everything that the government, police and any higher authorities tell you. Sometimes you might agree with them, sometimes you might disagree with them, but whatever you do think for yourself and come up with your own opinion about things that happen in life. The only other thing I'll say is that, once you've read the book, watch the film starring John Hurt, Suzanna Hamilton and Richard Burton. It's the best film adaptation of the book, and really brings out the emotions in it.

The Blackening
The Blackening
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: 4.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely one of Machine Head's best so far!, 25 Aug 2011
This review is from: The Blackening (Audio CD)
Throughout their history as a band, Machine Head have been known to move with the times and ring the musical changes when necessary, and they've stayed on that path for their sixth album "The Blackening". This has led to some criticism of the band as 'trend-following', but on The Blackening they're playing very well thought-out, technically proficient music in an age where untalented music rules the charts and any songs that don't get to the hook within 15 seconds are either heavily edited or denied airplay altogether. Are the songs on this album long? Yes. Are they boring? Not in the slightest.

Frontman Robb Flynn remains on top form vocally, armed with one hell of a metal scream and associated range that quite a lot of other metal singers do not boast. But Flynn also shows diversity by breaking the screams up with occasional clean vocals, most of which are very well done; for proof, listen to his heroic-sounding singing on "Beautiful Mourning", "Now I Lay Thee Down" and the epic closing track "A Farewell To Arms", arguably the strongest song on the album and definitely the most dynamic. On guitar, Flynn has said that he sees himself and co-guitarist Phil Demmel as "a guitar team". On this album, they sound nothing short of that, trading riffs and solos and often playing double-harmony lines simultaneously, for example during the mid-section of the famous Dimebag tribute "Aesthetics of Hate".

Lyrically, the album presents the band's views on a range of things that were going on in society and the wider world back then, and that are pretty much still going on now. The lyrics discuss everything from social prejudice ("Slanderous") and conspiracy theories ("Clenching The Fists of Dissent") to organised religion ("Halo") and wartime disenchantment and rebellion ("A Farewell To Arms"). The one notable exception to these 'social commentary' subjects is third track "Aesthetics of Hate", which as previously mentioned is a direct tribute to murdered Pantera and Damageplan guitarist Dimebag Darrell and a one-fingered salute at William Grim and his backwards-thinking Iconoclast cronies. To the band's credit, what the album does not talk about lyrically is uninteresting, superficial subjects like alcohol, drugs or cheating, which is perhaps another reason why radio stations playing bland songs about bland subjects refuse to play much metal these days.

The rest of the rhythm section is made up of Dave McClain and Adam Duce, with Duce contributing occasional backing vocals that work well with Flynn's lead. True to form, McClain recorded six of his eight drum tracks in the first day of recording and you couldn't ask for more solid metal drumming on this album, with plenty of double kick-pedalling and lightning-speed fills to split the record apart. Duce's bass-playing holds up the bottom end of the record, and some of his phrasing is very melodic in places, bringing the bass to the foreground in songs like "Halo" and "Now I Lay Thee Down".

On the whole, a very good metal album and one that hopefully Machine Head won't be too knackered from touring to match on their upcoming seventh release "Unto The Locust"! In an interview just before The Blackening came out, Flynn said that the band pushed themselves as musicians harder than they'd ever pushed themselves before. Listening to it and comparing it with previous Machine Head releases, I can well believe that. So if you're a modern metal fan, then get yourself a copy of this and give it a listen, regardless of any preconceptions you might have of this band. And remember: songs don't have to be 3 and a half minutes long to be good. "Hallowed Be Thy Name" was over 7 minutes long and no-one seems to criticize that one for its length! Music can be 10 minutes long and take you on an epic musical rollercoaster ride, so to anyone who's skipping tracks on this album, LISTEN TO IT PROPERLY!

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