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Once More Round The Sun
Once More Round The Sun
Price: £7.98

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Possibly Mastodon's 'Black Album'..., 27 Jun 2014
This review is from: Once More Round The Sun (Audio CD)
I have been a fan of Mastodon since Remission. In fact, you should be able to find my Leviathan review from 9 years ago on this site. In that review I expressed my slight disappointment with the transition and I remember my hopes at the time that the follow up to Leviathan would combine that second with Remission. It's clear that didn't happen and Mastodon have continued to develop any which way they damn well please. Which is absolutely fine but, since Leviathan, it has meant that I have had to adjust my expectations and accept that Mastodon are not going to necessarily produce my album of the year. And so it continues...

I didn't mind The Hunter. It took me by surprise, with some short songs and a far hookier edge but I still found it fairly enjoyable. I found myself - and still find myself - listening to it like some guilty pleasure. That being said, I think Once More Round the Sun is my step too far. This is still heavy, technical and, generally, well constructed metal but - to my ears, at least - this is the ultimate push into the mainstream. The songs are structurally simple by Mastodon standards and the aggression is really reigned in too. Hence, I would compare this to Metallica's Black Album.

Make of that what you will. Some people loved the change and respected the move into the mainstream, others were left with a bad taste in their mouth at the perceived compromise. With me, it has left a bad taste. A saccharine taste.

It hits me with the second track (The Motherload) just how poppy Mastodon can go. The chorus of 'This time, this time, things'll work out just fine...' is something I could imagine hearing at a Metal club (if I was still young enough to attend) or on a music channel and responding with 'what sort of pop nonsense is this?' It's the bridge too far to me. I mean, my purchase previous to this was Eyehategod's latest effort and where before you could place them in the same musical spectrum (albeit far apart), now you cannot. The album has a fair few moments where the music sits - for me - on the wrong side of Metal. The light side.
There was a time when the 'what on earth' moments on a Mastodon album were the crazy, heavy and technical guitars. Now, though the technical prowess is still no doubt there, they aren't the bits that shock and they are replaced with questionable explorations. Most notably the cringing chanting at the end of Aunt Lisa (which, for some reason, I thought was going to be an emotive tribute) just makes you wonder what the band were thinking. It reminds me of the vocals in Faith No More's Be Aggressive but without a slither of the humour. And this, though, the worst moment, is not a stand alone moment of ball-dropping to my ears.

That being said, this is not a complete disaster. The songs are catchy. The music is still powerfully and proficiently played. The first song, though still a bit light, actually sucked me in and I was completely thrown by the almost-Jaz Coleman vocal. Likewise, I found High Road a guilty pleasure in the vein to The Hunter's work. It's classily done and would have been fine if it had been the poppiest work on the album. Also, the solo in Halloween is a definite triumph for me. Great ear candy, a homage to Metal. Ultimately, though, I can't deny the album mostly falls flat.

In the title track, the band borrow a line from Thin Lizzy's Cowboy Song though it's almost unrecognisable in its new context. Likewise, though there is plenty of classic stuff in hear - classic Mastodon and classic Metal - it has come out as something completely contemporary and I fear, ultimately, disposable. But I'm sure there were many hardcore music fans that said the same when the Black Album came out and looked what happened there. Just as long as the next album isn't Load...
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 1, 2014 1:24 PM BST


Fever Hunting
Fever Hunting
Price: £8.15

5.0 out of 5 stars Banging modern (life is war) hardcore, 17 May 2014
This review is from: Fever Hunting (Audio CD)
Listening to this album again today and got caught in it's energy once again. Felt compelled to write a little review.

First time really experiencing MLIW. I had listened to the odd track from their earlier albums and I was aware of the high esteem in which they were held but never bothered properly checking them out. I hasn't realised that they'd split up until I read a review or two of Fever Hunting. So I checked it out and youtube and decided to make a purchase.

And I'm really glad I did. Although I have little to go on it seems to me very much in the vein of what they were about before. It's energetic, often anthemic and filled with great burning, fighting passion. The album starts with a chanting refrain of 'Old Fears, New Frontiers' and then it's forward all the way. The band vary the pace but it's always brimming with emotion and intensity. Lyrically, I was aware they had a bit of a reputation, and there is some great stuff on here. Occasionally socio-political but mostly sincere, talking-about-life stuff with a positive slant, frequently done with wit and intelligence.

If you know Modern Life is War, then you'll know the sound. It's a hardcore sound that is comparable to the Deathwish hardcore style, pretty darn heavy. There is an awareness of classic and melodic hardcore in there too for sure. In some of the melodies I recall Black Sails AFI, pushed even more into the psyche with the link between the intro chanting style of the aforementioned 'Old Fears' and 'Strength through Wounding.' Basically, it's a banging hardcore album to rage to.

Yeah, pick it up.


White People and the Damage Done
White People and the Damage Done
Price: £12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jello Biafra in an absolute return to form, 1 Oct 2013
The Guantanamo School of Medicine began as Jello's back up band in celebration of his 50th year. Afterwards they became a new project and Jello's first time with a band that had no musical legacy outside of the pairing. Having previously worked with various other bands to provide the musical backdrop to his post-DKs political rantings, this was the first time that it would be wholly Jello. Everything the band has done has been good but this is their first essential release.

The Audacity of Hype had some great songs and it was great to hear Jello singing again. However, the songs were a bit awkward, which I can only put down to the political timing of its release. Obama-fever had stormed the US but it was too early to really see what he was going to do or where the nation was going to go. This left Jello singing posthumously (if only literally!) about George Bush Jr as well as pulling some songs out of his earlier work as part of the No WTO Combo (Electronic Plantation and New Feudalism). At 9 years old, regardless of the quality of the songs, the could hardly be called of the zeitgeist. This was followed by an EP, Enhanced Methods of Questioning. Again, a good release but the songs felt, to me, a little bloated, in spite their reasonable length. In fact, in almost complete contradiction of myself, the highlight of the EP was the bonus near-20 minute jam of a Deviants cover (apparently, never checked out the original) while the rest struggled to grab me. What's more, the politics, while interesting, had seemed to localise itself somewhat. Their was fire in Jello's belly, but the flames had burned more fiercely in the past and had been of a wider scope.

Now, such an accusation I cannot direct towards this album. Having had time to see what Obama's hope and change looks like, Jello's ready to tell us exactly what he thinks of it. All the material here is new (bar one track) and it is the angriest he has been since... I'm not sure when. Sometimes funny, sometimes sarcastic but always righteous. It's satisfying. The album explodes into action from the off with The Brown Lip Stick Parade - the lobbying professionals and those lobbied are torn a new one. The musical accompaniment is also a total revival and this makes it the most exciting thing to listen to in a long time. The music is varied, taking in many of the diverse styles Jello has played with before and the band sound fantastic. There is a gleeful-venom in Jello as he shouts at the 1% ('too big to fail sure don't mean too rich to kill' on Werewolves of Wall St) and the cultish obsession and self-obsession of celebrities ('instead of drugs and rehab, why don't you just die?!' on Hollywood Goof-Disease). Musically, the album is punky but inevitably more than punk and is a good combination of the Guantanamo School's stylings so far. From the non-stop raging of Road Rage to the casual mickey-taking of Crapture, the music is as enjoyable as the lyrical contribution.

Points of criticism, none. However, there are points to reflect on. Burgers of Wrath is a resurrection from the Mojo Nixon join up and is fairly faithful to the original. It's nicely done and I guess Jello's trying to show how it is relevant once again, indeed now more than ever. Still, it does seem a bit of a strange one to include. Also, Mid East Peace Process probably raises more questions than anything else. It almost avoids political commentary and ends with an impassioned plea for peace. There is some controversy regarding Israel and Palestine with Jello (when isn't controversy related to that region?) after his intention to play a show in Israel, in contradiction to the boycott. This led to internet uproars and then the band deciding they were unhappy to play (I don't think this caused any ill will with in the band and I am not suggesting that but, as far as I am aware, Jello wanted those shows to go ahead). Considering this, it is a commendable move to confront such a complex issue but the conclusion is wholly unclear.

Still, you don't have to agree with every action of Biafra to enjoy his music, appreciate his sentiment and get swept up in his passion. He has been indefatigable since the demise of the Dead Kennedys, constantly striving people to act either through his music or spoken word. The music here is up with the best of his works and the lyrics also. That alone means that this is likely to be my album of the year. This should also make it a must listen for others, especially those that have fallen off the Jello radar and those that have been underwhelmed so far with the GSoM. Pick up the vinyl (preferably from the AT site or your independent music shop) and you get all the bonus tracks that are on the CD in the free download as well as a lovely vinyl and awesome lyrics sheet. The package is excellent. I cannot recommend this any more highly.


Burn The World
Burn The World
Price: £15.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Blistering hardcore, 25 Sep 2013
This review is from: Burn The World (Audio CD)
Most people will be pulled towards this band because of the Refused connection, courtesy of Dennis Lyxzen but this band probably has more connection with DS-13, another band that lends a member. DS-13 were a band that I was introduced to over a 'bizarre genre-labels discussion'. They were described as 'Thrashcore', which apparently means 'very fast hardcore'. AC4 are not super-fast but they are not slow either. They are nowhere near as experimental as 'The Shape of Punk to Come' but they're not meant to be. They're just top-quality fast, classic hardcore.

Some songs such as the opener, 'Curva Del Diablo', and 'Diplomacy is Dead' rely on a catchy, sing-along style while other tracks have a greater focus on nice guitar licks and flourishes over the full-pelt punk. In either sense, this is energetic, memorable and enjoyable stuff. Musically, it is a combination of classic US styled hardcore (your Minor Threat/Negative Approach type stuff) mixed with European bands such as DS-13 and Vitamin X. It's great. And as a huge bonus you have Dennis over the top of it, raging with an energy and prowess few hardcore vocalists can match. 16 songs in about 30 minutes, it doesn't stick around and it's catchy and powerful enough that you'll quite happily hit that replay button.

The band legacy of this band creates an expectation of quality and it delivers. It's not original but it makes no claim to be anything other than sincere and serious (yet fun) hardcore. It should make you happy. Heartily recommended.


Dancing On Spikes [Explicit]
Dancing On Spikes [Explicit]
Price: £5.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Citizen Fish Staying Strong, 26 Oct 2012
Citizen Fish hit an excellent return a few years back by holding up the stronger side of a split with Leftover Crack. Since then the band have become more prolific than their related band, the classic Subhumans. This is their second release in the last year or so and the band are touring fairly heavily (soon to be supporting The Levellers - what must end up being the biggest stages the band have played on). So, having found a new momentum after Deadline, this EP keeps the band moving forward.

Goods last year, is probably the best album that I've heard from Citizen Fish. A great collection of punked-up ska, catchy, bouncy and varied. This EP is a more straight-forward affair but does not suffer from it. The songs are immediate (I think I was singing bits of Unemplode and HD Riot after the first listen), enjoyable and righteous. If there is one thing to note about these songs, it's how current they are - Unemplode is obviously about the current recession; HD Riot about the riots that spread across the UK in Summer 2010 (when Citizen Fish were playing Rebellion); Beyond Belief while an anti-religion song is still in the context of the world today. The last three songs are a bit more broad in their political scope but remain wholly relevant amongst the chaos of the depressed modern world.

In summary, then, what you have is catchy songs with poignant lyrics. For fans of the band or fans of classic-sounding, brass-backed ska, you can't go wrong. Also, the CD being released on the band's label with Active Distribution means it's a bargain from the AD site. Highly recommended. My brother said there is never a reason to listen to ska. I reply 'au contrare, mon frere', which I believe is French for 'you don't know squat'. Pick it up.


Failed States
Failed States
Price: £13.61

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great release by Propagandhi, 12 Oct 2012
This review is from: Failed States (Audio CD)
Propagandhi's second period remains firing on all cylinders. The transition album was Today's Empire, Tomorrow's Ashes - an album that brought with it a stronger metal influence, a more intelligent politicised style (not that the politics was ever lowest common denominator)and a greater musical complexity (perhaps from the metal influence, perhaps from a prog influence). These qualities have become more and more integrated into their sound and the apex of this style so far, for me, was the 2009 effort Supporting Caste. So enthusiastic was my response to what was - really - a purchase on a whim, I topped up my collection of the band's discography and, upon hearing about the upcoming Failed States, pre-ordered my copy, complete with pre-release download and t-shirt (as a vegan and a thrash fan, I am well chuffed with my tribute to Razor T).

Upon multiple listens, my opinion is that this is a follow-up to Supporting Caste that is very similar in style. There are differences but they are subtle. There is a little less melody (only a little, though) and a touch more metal. Some people have gone as far as to call Propagandhi a thrash act - I don't see that. It's one of the fantastic things about this band - their sound is fairly unique. I'd probably place the roots as melodic hardcore but they have expanded the influences to fantastic effect. Anyway, this slight increase in metalisms has led to a more frantic sound overall. The result is a great, fierce collection of songs.

There are no songs that I'd describe as filler because all the songs are enjoyable, though with the pace, it does take a while for each song to individualise itself. The opening track has a fantastic, emotive build up that remains nice and heavy through out. The title track flies by and is a great speed number. The next highlight of the album for me is the tracks 6-9: Status Update bursts out it's frustration as inane social networking; Cognitive Suicide comes in the middle with it's metallic chug opener, before bringing out some crazy guitar parts, some of the most emotive singing of the album and finishing with the thrashiest solo of the album; Things I Like is another fast number with a slightly more positive spin with some nice praise for The Supremes and Propagandhi's hockey team of choice, as well as a great riff; finally Unscripted Moment which is extremely catchy, still heavy but greatly emotive. However, there are no weak links in the album and I'm sure other people will have their own preferences.

The lyrics remain political as ever and fiercely intelligent. Propagandhi appear incapable of writing a song without throwing in a bunch of references you wouldn't think of or may not even be aware of. The lyrics are obviously an important part of the band and it's great to have a band whose lyric sheet is more than just learning the words but are worth fully studying in their own right to establish the full political content.

My praise for this band is almost unending. By comparison to Supporting Caste, I would probably put this slightly behind it, but that may just be because I'm more familiar with it and because the album took me by surprise. This album is almost 15 minutes shorter which allows less time for hooks, especially considering the pace. However, this album is not a drop in quality, it's just current preference. If you're familiar with what Propagandhi are up to these days and you're considering a purchase, I wouldn't hesitate. If you've been unsure since Tomorrow's Empire, you'll probably have the same reservations. If you are new to the band, this release is wholly worthwhile if you like melodic hardcore and you don't mind structural complexity or metallic riffing and solos. A near peerless band continuing to do what they do very, very well.


Down Iv Part I - The Purple Ep
Down Iv Part I - The Purple Ep
Price: £9.57

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid. But this is Down! Who wants solid?, 2 Oct 2012
Enough reviews have already explained the set up for this release - Down have decided to complete four EPs instead of an album. This is the first instalment and it offers little in surprises. It's heavy US metal informed by Sabbath and the NOLA-stylings of the musician's other bands and of Down's history. It's a good release but it doesn't deserve too much hype or praise. Once again, I am offering an alternative view amidst the praise. Let me explain...

Album number III was a bit of a drop in quality. When I saw Down (I think, at High Voltage) he introduced Over the Under as 'the album no one likes'. I stated my reasons for believing it was a drop in my review on here so have a look if you want the full story. It doesn't matter, it is generally admitted that Down's last album, as solid as it was, was not as good as their previous work. (In fact, the only album that is considered an indisputable classic is the first (some consider the second album bloated, too long - I'm not so sure myself, though I understand the view)). Anyway, Down had regrouped after the third album and organised their writings into four EPs.

This first was apparently meant to see Down returning to their first album. There had been the mentioning of Sabbath in interviews, along with Witchfinder General and Trouble. Good references, promising stuff. Then you have the fact that Phil had been hanging around with Witchcraft on tour (as seen on the Down DVD) and referencing to classic sounds. Then the footage came out of Down jamming Breaking the Law on stage. In my head, I have this NWOBHM/Doom infusion mixing with Down's own style. Down producing a slow behemoth of an EP. It's not. It's Down being typically Down. No more, no less.

Which is fine. But who wants fine? This is the band whose first album was talked about as a cult classic. This was the definition of a super-group. They shouldn't be playing good metal it should be (excuse the campness) super. Levitation starts with a good build up but then plods into a strong if unremarkable riff; Phil sings in a slightly restrained style. The song works through and finishes. There's no major build up. No real crescendo and no killer riff. In fact, the styling is fairly consistent feature of the release. Witchtripper is catchy enough but the riff, again, is simply fine. Open Coffins is okay but the outro doesn't really go anywhere - it almost feels unfinished. The Curse is a Lie is better starting with a heavier style in the guitar, possibly warranting the St Vitus name-drop that also occurred in interviews. The Curse is a Lie is a genuinely good song but still can't compete with the best of the first album. The other great song on this EP is the closer Misfortune Teller which comes in with the sort of riff you'd hope for on a Down release.

I am not trying to say this EP is poor. Perhaps I should have measured my expectations more. However, if the band are going to invoke imaginings of pure doom and metal then I am allowed to be a tad underwhelmed with what is, ultimately, 'just another release'.

To be honest, I preferred the Corrosion of Conformity release this year by a notable degree. Far more (notable) riffs than here and nicely varied. I can't shake the feeling that by the end of the releases we will probably have two hours of Down music that will be hit by half moments that are unremarkable and half moments that are excellent. Maybe they should have collected their work into one one-hour classic, like NOLA was. I hope the future releases are good enough to have my doubts truly blown out the water. Time will tell...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 9, 2012 9:57 PM BST


Decomposition
Decomposition
Price: £16.11

5.0 out of 5 stars Punk album of the year?, 21 Sep 2012
This review is from: Decomposition (Audio CD)
Cross Stitched Eyes are old guard. Most significant is their lineage to Zygote, which was an off-shoot of Amebix. They released a some EPs and an then album 'Coranach' a few years back. Their output has been consistent and is all worth picking up. This is no exception.

The bands mentioned above are useful indicators of their sound as are the comparisons you'll read in other reviews - Rudimentary Peni (lovely, tormented gothic style) and Killing Joke (more of their post-punk influence than the industrial feel). The result is a riff heavy album with some lighter flourishes (and some awesome, gothic keyboards!) with an evil and crusty sincere vocal style. The songs are generally short and there is a definite theme of, unsurprisingly, decomposition. The album is wholly enjoyable with no dips in quality but also with many highs. The righteous lamenting of the contemporary punk scene is excellently backed up by one of the fiercest musical contributions in the song Animated Corpse. The misanthropic rage of Suffocation is another notable highlight. Finally, the musical outpouring on the closer Sluglord is also worthy of note.

Being a huge fan of all the bands mentioned as comparisons above, Cross Stitched Eyes remain a dream concept fantastically executed. If you have a love for Rudimentary Peni or Amebix, then this band should feel almost like an old friend. The music is wholly classic but remains very much contemporary. It deserves attention. Pick it up and then hope they come play near where you live. It can also be picked up for less than a fiver at Active Distribution because that's how they roll. Punk as...


Harmonicraft
Harmonicraft
Offered by davehopetrading
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure heavy joy, 19 Sep 2012
This review is from: Harmonicraft (Audio CD)
My first experience of Torche's music was when they supported Isis, around the same time they released Meanderthal. I was aware of the band but this was the first time I had really listened to their stuff. It was a good introduction and I can attest that Torche can produce a gloriously heavy live show. However, at the time I neglected to pick up the album and the band largely escaped me until Songs for Singles. Not a terrible EP but none of the songs really grabbed me like I had hoped they would. I wondered if the live environment was where Torche were best heard. Then some friends started talking about Harmonicraft (one said album of the year so far) and I gave them another chance. Glad I did.

Like I said, Songs for Singles wasn't bad but every song on Harmonicraft surpasses any on the preceding release. It smashes into action with Letting Go and immediately grabs you. All the songs are little nuggets of weird, heavy yet accessible joy, each enjoyable on their own, all working together in perfect unison. Torche's style is fairly unique and the 'sludge-pop' tag does cover it well, bizarre as it sounds. Riffs of varying pace but consistent quality, a fairly unique but wholly listenable singing style and regularly, layered with full-pelt, rocking solos.

I would put closest comparison as Melvins but it's more in mindset or style than a simple sound comparison. Torche have removed all the challenging weirdness and replaced it with something that your parents are not likely to find unlistenable. I could imagine Melvins fans perhaps not liking Torche for their easiness to enjoy but I conceive the scope for the Torche appreciation society to be massive (and I'm surprised it isn't). Another band that comes into my head is Foo Fighters. I hate the Foo Fighters - they seem to be the height of middle-of-the-road, background pointlessness. I don't care if Dave Grohl is a 'legend' (because of Scream, yeah?) and I appreciate he is a nice guy but Foo Fighters is not good commercial rock. THIS is good commercial rock. I can't believe this is not played everywhere and beloved by all. But maybe the fact that it isn't is what makes it so special.

Kicking, Reverse Inverted, Roaming, Kiss me Dudely (best song title)are all excellent songs. In fact, the whole thing is great. It blasts past in thirty-odd minutes and leaves you grinning and ready to go again. I'm not sure that I agree with my friend that it's album of the year so far, but then I'm not sure I disagree either. Whether it is or not, it's obviously damn close and so certainly worth your time. If you've been unsure, stop your hesitation. Whole-heartedly recommended.


All Or Nothing
All Or Nothing
Price: £10.81

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


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