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C. S. Caps (London, UK)
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All Or Nothing
All Or Nothing
Price: £8.92

3.0 out of 5 stars Return to from? Somewhat but not quite., 21 Aug. 2012
This review is from: All Or Nothing (Audio CD)
Along with Overkill's Electric Age, this is another album that I have struggled to review. However, the context is slightly different. While I love my punk and hardcore, I have always gone for the more classic sound rather than the later melodic hardcore style. Therefore, while I've enjoyed much of Pennywise's back catalogue, it has only been with a passing interest and not as an avid fan. I think it's fair to let people know this before they read on.

The earlier Pennywise stuff was simple, direct, rabble-rousing sing-along hardcore. It relied heavily on Bad Religion and Dag Nasty and was not at all adventurous but who cares? Solid stuff that would drive any decent punk wild when played live. The band slowly began to change - to grow up, I suppose is one way to put it - and their sound developed into something more subdued and less catchy. Loyalists, as they do with all bands that change (Offspring, AFI, Green Day as more commercial and, arguably, extreme examples), excused the changes and found something to take from the music; the rest of us sort-of switched off. And then, out of nowhere, Jim decided to quit on vocals and some shows were played before Zoli of Ignite was brought in. I was intrigued, even excited. Ignite have released some great hardcore albums and Zoli is a more varied vocalist and (I thought) a good lyricist. The songs heard prior to purchase sounded promising (one great, one okay). I saw it cheap in a shop and I thought 'why not?'

So, what's it like then? Musically, it is the return to form that any reasonable person could hope for. The band are older, wiser and their most intense days are gone. However, there are plenty of good riffs and sing-along catchy moments on the album. It's true to the old sound but it's hitting the ground running ten years on. It's not their best album music-wise but it's competitive. However, the songs suffer from a horrible attempt at lyrics. Jim was a solid lyricist, fairly generic but never cheesy, generally sincere. Zoli, like I said has written some interesting and strong stuff lyrically with Ignite. So, initially I was shocked at the poor quality of the lyrics. How did this happen? Easy answer: the lyrics weren't written by him. I guess he joined the band after they had the music and lyrics already written. The result is an album filled with cliched themes ('Revolution') and corny rhymes ("We'll never know until we try/The time is now it's all or nothing/We are alive, it's do or die/We must believe it's all or nothing"). Wrapped in the softer vocals, it all grates a bit - Stand Strong as a prime example, catchy but irritating as hell.

In conclusion then, the music would probably merit four stars and could have been boosted by a superior lyrical content to even a theoretical full five. However, the lyrics being so uninspired actually draws away from the music. I've had this album for a few months and while my initial response was positive, my overall feelings are of dissatisfaction. It will do the loyalists and it may convert a few that were lost on the way but this is not the new Pennywise classic that some have claimed it or hoped it to be.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 12, 2013 6:43 PM GMT


The Electric Age (Ltd. Cd+dvd)
The Electric Age (Ltd. Cd+dvd)
Price: £16.05

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another great slice from a reliably class thrash act, 27 July 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I have held back from writing a review for this album because it hit me with waves of different feelings. In other words, I have refrained from reviewing it because I didn't really know how to write a fair review. Ultimately, however, the simplest review is to say that Overkill have maintained their generally solid standard and remain on fine form. That's all you need to know but I will qualify that summary if you care to read on...

Ironbound, released two years ago, was a considerable return to form. It's not that Overkill had ever dropped the ball but, maybe, they started cruising a bit. Not so with Ironbound; it was filled with plenty of catchy and fierce riffs, a great production and enough energy to warrant a thrasher's undivided attention. I was considerably impressed and I knew it was a tall order to succeed. So, on my initial listen of The Electric Age, I felt myself underwhelmed. There were bits that were immediate but, on the whole, the songs flew by without hooking into me with any depth. It struck me as a reasonable album but little more. Like I said, I was underwhelmed.
However, writing a review at that point would have certainly been rash. The songs began to fit themselves into my psyche and to really grip me, the opener, Come and Get It, is a great start (in fact, I always thought that) and then there's Wish you Were Dead, Black Daze and the excellent lines of Old Wounds, New Scars ("Got a lot of mouth for a Jersey white boy"; surely about a certain TV show?). In fact, most of the songs have their merits. So, my second reaction was that this was a more subtle but equally excellent follow-up to Ironbound.
HOWEVER, again this would have also been rash. The album's good, arguably great. However, there is a reason it lacked the immediacy of its predecessor. Many of the songs are good and the album itself is solid; easily enjoyable in one sitting. However, compared to Ironbound, the song quality is not quite as high. Like I said, it was a real return and was going to be tough to surpass or even equal. And Overkill haven't quite managed it. Instead they have produced a strong follow up that is certainly worth a fan's time and could easily convert the uninitiated.

In conclusion then, I would certainly recommend this as a purchase. Obviously the deluxe package is a nice treat for not much extra in price (the longevity of the bonus dvd, though, is pretty minimal). However, I'd certainly recommend Ironbound as well and probably before. Whatever, this a great album by a great band that can really pull it out live and, despite some uncertainty, a wholly worthwhile purchase.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 8, 2014 5:58 PM BST


OFF!
OFF!
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £8.37

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fierce hardcore blast, 1 Jun. 2012
This review is from: OFF! (Audio CD)
Such a short album seems to deserve a short review. I mean, this will probably take me longer to write than it takes to listen to the damn thing! However, that is what classic hardcore is all about - getting to the point, quickly and directly in your face. Circle Jerks' Group Sex album did 14 songs in about as many minutes and Keith Morris is continuing that short, sharp shock style.

If you've heard their first CD collection, First Four EPs, then you should have a very good idea of what the band sound like. Alternatively, if you are familiar and appreciative with Morris' classic projects, then this shouldn't disappoint. Both OFF! CDs are similar in style - they have the same amount of songs and about the same running time. However, there are subtle differences. The first collection of songs were more raging. It's not that Morris sounds any less possessed on this second effort but the anger is a touch reigned in. At the same time, to its benefit, the eponymous second album has songs with a slightly more complex style, structurally speaking. And we're talking very slight - how much space is there for creative flair in 60 seconds? - however, there are a few more guitar licks and more riffs of note. Talking about stand out tracks is a bit redundant on something that can be happily sat through in quarter-of-an-hour but 'King Kong Brigade', 'Borrow and Bombed', 'Toxic Box' and 'Cracked' are all great moments.
As I complained in my review of Dead Ending on here, there is not really a lot of great, classic-sounding hardcore at the moment. There are still some bands worth checking out but the stylings of OFF! are so uncommon these days that it sounds both perfectly fresh as well as believably being a lost classic.

I think that suffices. From what I've said (and the review above) you should know what you're getting. Also, like the review above I would recommend their First Four EPs collection over this (hence four stars and not five) but this is by no means a step down, I just loved the angrier energy of the first. Get both and see them play. An awesome, vital band that are wholly deserving of any hardcore fan's support.


Grengus
Grengus
Offered by Japan-Select
Price: £25.04

4.0 out of 5 stars A great, varied yet consistently heavy album, 29 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Grengus (Audio CD)
I bought this after reading an intriguing review and checking out the title track. The immediate description that comes to mind is that it combines a brutalised sludge sound with the ugliest grunge. However, such a description is insufficient. Horn of the Rhino deserve that accolade of being a quite unique band. They are heavy, ferocious and their pace varies a good deal, from intense blasts to thumping heaviness. Never a grindcore blitz or extreme, moving-through-treacle slow but always damn, damn heavy.
The songs are all quite different and don't hold down to any particular style. The first song reminded me of Remission-era Mastodon but less complex and dirtier vocals and still far enough away to be its own style. The second track is a similarly intense heavy extreme metal song. It's after this the album begins to burst out a bit into new territory. The title track brings those Layne Staley styled vocals. The songs excellent, having a great chug-groove and a vocal line reminiscent of Ride the Lightning (and Skullkrusher by Overkill) before developing into an intense build up. And after that the cleaner vocals are given plenty of moments while the music remains fully monstrous, like an extreme metal band wholly informed with the filthiest sludge. Special mention must go to the 11 minute beast of a track, Brought Back. It clearly goes to show that clean singing is no less intense. Also, I'd like to credit the production which is proper dirty while completely clear and the drums are absolutely pounding.
Like I said it's a unique style and benefits from being both immediate (the first two tracks - Under the Hoof and Pile of Severed Heads - just spit in your face) and a grower. Highly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 7, 2014 8:59 PM BST


Dead Ending
Dead Ending
Price: £4.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Great hardcore EP, 22 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Dead Ending (MP3 Download)
First thing to do is lament about Alternative Tentacles. Their website apparently doesn't want my money. If they'll take your cash off your hands, however, I'd recommend ordering it from them because the vinyl is cheaply priced and includes the mp3 tracks for downloading for nothing extra. As it was, for only a few quid less, I had to make do with just the mp3s.

Still, what really matters is what the music is like. Anyone familiar with Vic Bondi's work should no what to expect - it's pretty hard and raging. I've listened to a fair dose of Articles of Faith and he's a man I discovered through his single that included a cover of Fortunate Son (Creedence Clearwater Revival). It was released in response to George Bush Jr's activities as President.
This is not too far away from the rage of his previous works. However, this could attract wider attention due to the inclusion of people from more mainstream acts such as Rise Against and Alkaline Trio. The music does not sound much like either of those bands though, it's Bondi-styled classic hardcore more than anything else. However, it is informed by modern styles and benefits from a fierce modern production. It doesn't just sound like leftover Articles of Faith tracks, it's more interesting than that. The pace is fast and furious, the vocals are vicious and the lyrics (though they take a little deciphering without a lyric sheet) are damn smart.

Really, there is not a lot of classic-styled modern hardcore done well these days (Cerebral Ballzy? Give me a break). There's Paint it Black but no one else immediately comes to mind. Now we have these guys and Keith Morris going nuts with OFF! It seems the old guard are once again showing and how it's done and, for that, we should be grateful. Like OFF! this is brief, powerful and leaves you wanting more. Great stuff!


The Black Chord
The Black Chord
Price: £13.95

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent advance from their debut, 18 May 2012
This review is from: The Black Chord (Audio CD)
This is going to totally mess up my Amazon recommendations, filling it with assorted modern prog that I have very little interest in! Generally speaking, my listening is punk and metal and when it comes to my prog-rock I generally like it traditional (as in from the original era). However, there are exceptions and a good album always needs praising. So far, this is probably my favourite release from this year and, I'll be honest, I was not expecting that. The Weirding was a very enjoyable prog-rock debut but, with hindsight, undeniably bloated. It was a little tough to take in one sitting and the songs laid-back style occasionally bordered on the complacent. Besides this, there was Pink Floyd all over it; loads of Pink Floyd. It would not be inappropriate to start a review for 'The Weirding' with 'Pink Floyd fans, Astra...' In contrast, then, this is much better.

About half an hour shorter, the fat is obviously trimmed. The longer songs are still lengthy and there are still lulling moments but the songs have a much greater vibrancy and better energy. The songs twist and turn much more, very much for the better. This makes the album immediate and it grabs your attention rather than letting itself wash over you. The guitar work is a lot more dynamic as well, it's more captivating. In every way, it just makes for a superior listen. What's more, the Pink Floyd influence has been mixed more fully into a unique sound. Other prog notables, such as King Crimson, rear their heads more. Besides that, while this is still classically influenced prog, it's wholly modern. It's contemporary and individual; while the band recognises its legacy, with this album they have truly come into their own. The result is a fantastic, spaced-out, energetic and controlled intergalactic jam. You cannot give a prog album much more praise than that, can you?

Is it perfect? Debatable but it's damn near close. The gift of the briefer, no-filler running time is the curse of leaving you wanting more. The instrumental introductory number seeps so nicely into the second song that they become almost one long but quickly-passing track. Quake Meat is briefer and trippier and also passes speedily. Then the next two songs almost get sucked up by their brevity compared to the grandeur surrounding them. This leaves the closing Barefoot in the Head which is excellent and closes so monumentally that you don't want it to end but, before you know it, it does. Truly, this is an album that does leave you wanting more and, in some ways, that can be a criticism. However, that's probably about as complementary as a criticism can get and there is always the recommended option of playing the whole damned thing again.

I very much wasn't expecting to feel so taken to this album or to feel compelled to award it such gushing praise. But when excellence reveals itself, you have to give it it's due. Highly recommended.


Utilitarian
Utilitarian
Price: £15.09

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Addition to ND's Impressive Catalogue, 21 Mar. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Utilitarian (Audio CD)
I really got into Napalm Death after buying their Enemies of the Music Business album back in 2000; an album that was rightly declared as a return to form and has, I think, informed every Napalm album that has followed it. Since then the band have maintained a quality that has kept them at the forefront of extreme metal. They seem to have hit a stride now where they are so accomplished, as individuals and as a unit, that they are unlikely to release an album not worth buying.
However, this album does not quite manage to get the five stars I really want to give. There are plenty of brutal, messed-up songs on here, possibly more than on any other recent Napalm release, but this increased savagery has meant that it has lost some of its catchiness (I know, a bit of a strange thing to note absent from an extreme metal album). Therefore, there are definite pros and cons with this album. The plus is the experimentation, perfectly measured. What is within this album is still absolutely contemporary Napalm but it has an increased chaotic edge with some mental riffs and, most obviously, the inclusion of Zorn's horrific (in a good way) saxophone on Everyday Pox. Also, the industrial influence has become more integrated with less of a Swans/Godflesh styled grinding number and more of a full-throttled Fear Factory/Strapping Young Lady/Ministry hint (a hint, mind, this is no industrial album) to certain tracks. This works really well and makes tracks like The Wolf I Feed instantly enjoyable.
The negative was equally as immediate to me as the positives. Sometimes with an album, something quickly becomes notable by its absence. I noticed, for example, on Down's third album that there was a distinct lack of solos. Not a problem in itself but it did reveal something not quite right in the mix. Still a great album but not amazing, something was missing and the omission of guitar solos evidenced a problem. With this album, it is the lack of slowed-down, grooving riff-work. In other words, the breakdowns. In fact, the closing track A Gag Reflex' crunching finish hits you for having the most immediate thumping breakdown on the album. Although, these parts are not all there is to Napalm, there is no denying that when they hit in tracks like The Continuing War on Stupidity and Puritanical Punishment Beatings that the beatdowns grab you and never let go. It's a shame that these mid-paced behemoths are limited on this album.
Still, a flawed Napalm album remains streets ahead of most of the competition. This album might lose a bit without having those slower riffs to hit you over the head but it gains a lot by increasing the intensity with a greater deal of raging chaotic screaming that claws at your face. Easily up with most of the albums since 2000 but not quite at the impeccable standard of Enemies... or Smear Campaign.


Corrosion Of Conformity
Corrosion Of Conformity
Offered by Leisurezone
Price: £3.79

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Unique Addition, 21 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Corrosion Of Conformity (Audio CD)
Corrosion of Conformity started out as a messy punk band, mixing Black Sabbath, Black Flag and Bad Brains into a ball of chaos. The band adapted their sound into full on Sabbath-informed metal with the addition of Pepper Keenan and there has been an increased Southern Metal influence ever since. With Keenan temporarily(?) out of the band, COC have returned to the Animosity-era line-up. Personally, Animosity is one of my favourite Crossover albums, easily up there with Cro-Mags' Age of Quarrel. However, I had read the reviews for the EP preceding this album and it was clear that this was not a return to furious, metallised hardcore punk, meaning I was not expecting Animosity mark II. And it isn't. Instead, we have a unique addition to COC's catalogue.
After a few listens I was surprised how much of the punk fury had returned, not least of all in the more-chaotic, thrashier solos. Tracks like Leeches, Rat City and, to some extent, The Moneychangers and What you Despise is what you've Become are confrontational, punky numbers. However, this is probably Sourthern-styled Sabbathy metal more than anything else. With these influences put together, the result is an album that is uniquely Corrosion of Conformity and unique within their discography. It's great, the songs are fairly immediate (although the vocals take a bit of getting used to) but they also develop and improve. After repeated listens, there is no doubt that this is an interesting albums as well as one that captures your attention. Almost all the songs have a combination of the first three bands mentioned but in a totally different style to Animosity, the exceptions being the subdued, slightly-trippy instrumental El Lamento de las Cabras and the grungier Weaving Spiders Come not Here. The two bonus tracks are not exceptional but fit in well with the 11 other songs on the album.
All in all, this album is definitely recommended for those who are a fan for all of the COC styles. For those who have a particular preference to a certain style, perhaps a bit of caution is necessary by checking out The Doom, Leeches or Time of Trials beforehand. Ultimately, however, the band has kept its integrity and added a whole host of songs to their live repertoire and my favourite from the band in years.


Eulogy For The Damned
Eulogy For The Damned
Price: £12.84

4.0 out of 5 stars Another Solid Effort, 21 Mar. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Eulogy For The Damned (Audio CD)
Orange Goblin have never been a band to change your life. Black Sabbath, Trouble and Kyuss all came before and did this sort of thing in a life-changing, revelatory way. However, once those bands have changed your life, Orange Goblin have been there to welcome you to the party with a bottle of red wine and jaegermeister. This makes Goblin sound like also-rans and that is unfair and untrue. They are an institution and have written a whole host of excellent songs and most their albums are highly enjoyable. Two albums before this, Thieving from the House of God, Orange Goblin appeared to be starting on a slightly different path, taking the rougher, punkier Motorhead-isms of Coup de Grace and mixing it with some nice stoner and sludgy riffing. This took a further step up on Healing through Fire, their career highlight, to make a filthy, rocking riff-fest that included a broadening of influences (Down and Celtic Frost/Sabbat - trust me, those bands are in there). With this album, Goblin appear to have adapted their sound and increased their inspirations again. This is an undeniably cleaner affair with a much more polished production. It takes away some of the grit that added to the previous albums but does not detract from an album that is a bit more polished in style anyway. In terms of new inspirations, it has been noted that Mastodon-style lead work appears to have filtered through. It's subtle but pronounced and works very nicely indeed.
So then, what of the songs? 10 tracks of proper hard-rocking in-your-face metal to get drunk to. Most of these songs are going to set crowds apart live, which is exactly where the drunken Goblin thrives. Red Tide Rising reveals the Mastodon influence most overtly and has thunderous pace; Stand for Something will have crowds singing as will the rampant The Filthy and the Few; The Fog, Death of Aquarius and The Bishops Wolf bring some nice extra-heaviness and quality guitar work; the title track starts with a riff that reminds me of Soundgarden and is a typical moody, lengthy closer. All the other tracks have their merits and, as you'd hope from a ten tracker, there is no real filler.
This album is almost a five-star effort because it is immediate, enjoyable and filled with quality. However, Healing through Fire was the same but had an even higher consistency and standard. Maybe it was the cohesiveness of the Great Fire of London theme, maybe it was the rougher edge but that was a true five-star contribution. This is probably second in Goblin's discography and certainly worth a purchase and repeated listens.


An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion
An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion
by Brian Davies
Edition: Paperback
Price: £22.40

2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Atheists beware., 16 Dec. 2011
I am not a professional philosopher or theologian but I have more than a passing interest in philosophy. My views on God do not need to be described in detail, suffice to say I am more atheist than anything else. However, I do find the ideas around religion interesting and, seeing the second edition of this text in a bookshop, I thought I would give it a go. Any agnostics or atheists that are not quite as fanatical as Dawkins may well consider giving this a read. I would suggest approaching with caution.

The problem is something that Davies alludes to in a sense and that is something I would describe as an 'unbridgeable chasm'. I can't exactly recall where he discusses the idea, it might be in the morality and religion section, that there are two contrasting views that cannot really be reconciled or have one idea supersede the other. I would say there is a similar chasm for atheists/strong agnostics and theists. The two groups can debate the fundamentals of religion - its value,its arguable flaws, its viability as a theory etc. - but once you start looking deeply at explicitly religious concepts, it can get tiring for the non-believer. Therefore, the first half has a relevance to the non-religious - the different arguments surrounding the ideas of God - are fine. They hold a clear bias and some ideas are given a bit of an easy ride while others bear a great deal of criticism. However, the critical reader should find the ideas stimulating though, most likely, not persuasive. It's probably worthwhile, at this point, mentioning that the discussions in this edition are somewhat out of date and I imagine that this could be a criticism laid at the latest edition. With the burst of the New Atheism, these ideas may well need reviewing in the light of arguments of Dawkins, Dennett and the like. If the 3rd edition was 2004, it was probably just as the New Atheism movement was really taking form and so another review is probably necessary. I would also hope the newer edition would consider in greater detail scientific theories regarding the nature and the origins of the universe, possibly considering multi-verse theories. Something perhaps to check before purchase.

It is with the second half of the book, looking at morality, eternity and the like, that the book becomes tedious. It assumes that we accept certain possibilities of God and so hearing various contrasting theories founded on suppositions that a non-believer would not suppose makes for tiring reading. I am not saying that there can't be discussions between the two groups - though I believe the arguments would be cyclical rather than conclusive - this book does not provide the forum of that debate. It is very much within the context of religion, of classical theism and, more specifically, Christian concepts. This is fine for a believer or a strong sympathiser of Christianity but, for anyone else, this is likely to often seem daft, if not irritating.

This is not meant to be a criticism of the book, as such. The book itself is reasonably well-written, although it does seem to sympathise with a logicistic (if that's the right term) way of thinking and structuring of argument. However, I think a casual reader or, more likely, a non-Christian one, may well consider looking at this subject and I would certainly recommend checking the other books available for a more even-handed read. For someone studying theology, the philosophy of religion, religious ethics or anything else along these lines, however, if they are sympathetic to the views of this book, they would do well to have it for total reading or even simply for reference. In conclusion, atheists beware.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 27, 2012 6:15 PM BST


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