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Amplified Man (Manchester)

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Funeral Mixtape
Funeral Mixtape
Price: £11.07

4.0 out of 5 stars Tell me, what is your condition Sir?, 28 Sept. 2008
This review is from: Funeral Mixtape (Audio CD)
Funeral Mixtape, essentially is an old school blues rock record but closer listens reveal The Pack A.D. bringing together various aesthetics from the past 50 years of music - probably without intention;

It has the swagger of the classic Mississippi Delta blues guitarists; the simple D.I.Y. garage revivalist edge of various modern bands like Kings of Leon and the Strokes and the anyone-can-make-music passion and sloppiness of late seventies punk. Yet it also has a classy pop undertone holding everything together.

Funeral Mixtape is the second album from The Pack A.D. who, when broken down to their seperate parts are Maya Miller on drums and Becky Black on guitar and vocals. Comparisons to the Black Keys are therefore inevitable, both being blues rock duos. However, The Pack A.D. have a fire and just about restrained passion that The Black Keys don't seem to possess. They seem more stoned and lazy, like the blues come natural to them, seeing them live kind of proves this. As a contrast; A.D. sound like they're working their arses off and are incredibly passionate and quite intense.

The music is based around very simple licks and almost-steady, not-quite-in-time, drumming. What sets them apart from bands like The Black Keys is Becky Black's passionate vocals. She has a raw bluesy twang on for the most part but she can really sing & belt it out. See `Shiny Things', `June' and `Worried' for proof.
It's a catchy album too, I've been singing the whole damn thing all week. No filler in sight. My favourite has to be the aching hypnotic grind of `Dannemora Blues'.
The lyrics seem to be more thoughtful and poignant than usually heard - which is definitely appreciated. Too many bands have awful, thoughtless lyrics like they're an afterthought to the melody.

There are a few downsides to Funeral Mixtape however. It's an incredibly simple album. Maya and Becky's sounds are fuelled on passion and the sheer joy of playing what they love rather than musicianship. Which, it has to be said is very basic and pretty sloppy on accuracy. This doesn't detract from the songs though, which it so easily could have done.

Also it's rawly produced - whilst everything is clean and crisp and not at all lo-fi - there's hardly any layering or overdubbing going on. Just drums, guitar and vocals. The odd harmony and complimentary guitar line now and again maybe. This gives the whole thing a quite naked, sparse feel. It suits the music well but there's hardly any depth to the sound - nothing to catch on repeat listens - what you hear the first time is what you get. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you listen to it all week long like I have done it can get too familiar very quickly.

Funeral Mixtape has been a great surprise for me. I'm not a huge fan of The Black Keys but I`m into a bit of blues & The Pack A.D. bridge a gap between the old school 50s acoustic blues and these garage revivalist bands of today. And it's a welcome bridge to cross. Recommended.

Death Magnetic Limited Edition
Death Magnetic Limited Edition
Price: £12.82

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Magnetised..., 6 Sept. 2008
Wow, how can any band live up to such immense pressure and hype.
With albums as genre defining and life changing as Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets lurking in your back catalogue how is it possible for a band to live up to them? Well, with hindsight, we can safely say it's not.

Metallica have been through some torrid times since the final riff on `...And Justice for All' - many fans disowned them upon hearing the Black Album yet it gained them legions of new fans of a more casual bent rather than their hardcore thrash fan base. Load and ReLoad, well, there's nothing to be said about those two that hasn't already been uttered.
Between 1997 and 2003 (the album we don't talk about) it was as if Metallica was almost afraid of releasing new material with a 2 disc covers album, a 2 disc live set with an orchestra and the Cunning Stunts film. And lets also not go into the whole Napster fiasco.

And now we come full circle. It's what we've been waiting for - and it's called Death Magnetic. 10 tracks, 74mins, shockingly bad cover art and not a soppy ballad in sight!

I can safely say Metallica have never sounded this intense, this up for it and this confident in 15 years or more. James sounds raw, utterly focused and incredibly lively for a guy pushing 50. Lars once again sounds like he's playing a drum kit rather than a variety of oil barrels. Kirk is soloing like a mutha and sounds like he's having fun. Robert Trujillo is unfortunately buried in the mix like Newstead before him. Back to the Metallica we all know and love then!

I won't review every track that would spoil it all - I'll just pick my favourites.
`That Was Jut Your Life' begins with an ominous heartbeat and cleanly picked guitar melody. The distortion enters 45 seconds in and builds and builds..... into possibly one of the best thrash riffs they've written. What's that? THRASH? Yes sir, I belive it is! Lars pick up the tempo and we're off to a flyer, unbelievable! Can't tell you the size of the smile on my face.... The chorus is a slow burner but it catches up with you - a few listens and you'll be singing it for days.

`The End of the Line' is possibly even better it just rocks..... hard. It's slower but no less intense. Those air guitars and air drums better be ready. Fantastic intense progressive thrashy chorus riffs which snap back into the groovy main riff, irresistable.

`The Day That Never Comes' and `The Unforgiven III' will undoubtedly be classed as ballads, yet they're not really that. Ballad in the sense that `Sanitarium' was a ballad rather than `Nothing Else Matters'. They're slower, more measured and feature melodic clean sections - which, in fact make for some of Death Magnetic's more memorable, catchier moments. And no, it doesn't go "You're unforgiven threeeeee..."

The final track, `My Apocalypse' reaffirms Metallica's new vigour. Just pure, straight, THRASH - you'll love it.

However, Death Magnetic is by no means a perfect album. The mixing isn't for my tastes; the bass is pretty much inaudible underneath the relentless riffery and Lar's drums are way too far up in the mix - but that's to be expected from the living ego himself. Also at 74 mins it's a tiring listen and due to the complex songwriting and structures the tracks do blur together slightly. For instance, by the time you reach the 10 minute instrumental; `Suicide and Redemption' what you'd really like is some subtle variation but it's just pummeling riffage for it's entire duration. Sure we all like pummeling riffage but that's not how Metallica have made instrumentals successful. If you listen to Orion, To Live is to Die and Ktulu you'll find tension and release, subler moments, melody and some beautifully arranged compositions, if I may say so. This time it's just a bit dull and repetitive - almost like James forgot to write any lyrics to this one rather than a considered instrumental. Its a mish-mash of riffs rather than a composition.
James' lyrics are still a bit dubious; "love is a four letter word". Yes I did cringe as you will too....

So, Death Magnetic. Holy crap, I think Metallica have finally cracked their 15 year creative block. It's a great record, a fantastic record even. Metallica fans will love it - it's pretty much what we've been waiting for from them for years. They've taken inspiration from their old classics and distilled it with all they've learnt in the past 15 years. They're sounding comfortable, confident yet incredibly focused.
Yet it's not perfect, it's overlong, very repetitive and lacks that expert arrangement and composition Metallica were so unbelievably good at in the 80s and ultimately lacks the bona-fide classic songwriting.
If Puppets and Lightning are 5 star albums and St Anger gets 1 star, Death Magnetic gets a healthy 4. (I still can't got over that horrible cover art though!)

I apologise for the long review but these things had to be said! Enjoy!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 17, 2008 9:13 PM BST

Age Eternal
Age Eternal
Price: £17.03

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern classic doom record..., 26 July 2008
This review is from: Age Eternal (Audio CD)
Middian is the latest brainchild of former YOB guitarist/frontman/songwriter Mike Scheidt. For all those who don't know YOB then stop reading this and go find one of their records right now. If you consequentially haven't been compelled to seek out the rest of their back catalogue then there's no point reading on.

If you're already enlightened in the mystical way of YOB then I will continue.
Since Mike Scheidt was the mastermind behind YOB and now Middian also, the two bands aren't, as you'd expect, going to sound too different. There's still Mike S' unmisakeable guitar tone and dual vocal attack, slow, plodding doom tempos and crushing riffs. Yet YOB's music was almost spiritual and mystical in some psychedelic textures and passages. Whereas Middian are just evil.

The opener, Dreamless Eye, whilst not being particularly fast, is far more brutally heavy and aggressive than anything YOB ever put out. Scheidt's vocals are backed up by Will Lindsay's hardcore screams who also handles bass. This sets Middian apart immidiately from YOB as a completely new and revitalised beast.

Whilst being heavier and much more aggressive than YOB, Middian have forsaken the subtle amount of melody which made YOB so special. There's somekind of spark missing somehow. It's difficult to pin down. Middian don't have the psychedelic mysticism which was quite an integral part of YOB's overall aesthetic and have forsaken it for brutality.
This will not be a bad thing for most and certainly doesn't hamper the power and skill behind the songwriting, don't get me wrong, Age Eternal still is a great album, there's just an awe that surrounded YOB, for me at least, that has been lost at the birth of Middian.

Age Eternal is what you'd expect from a Mike Scheidt band really, no argument about it and pretty much meets the standard set previously. The epic songwriting, the riffs, the guitar tone is all there in spades and will be appreciated by doom lovers everywhere, especially those who appreciated YOB.

Price: £12.05

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A safe situaltion..., 26 July 2008
This review is from: Situation (Audio CD)
I've had three Buck 65 albums prior to this and they're all radically different.

Vertex is an early, beat sampling pretty much straight hip hop album.
Talkin' Honky Blues is a lot subtler and cleverer and featured proper acoustic instruments and is a wholly more mature album. It's a fantastic album and is what got me into Buck and I still listen to it loads.
Secret House Against the World is a crazy eclectic amalgamation of American roots music, hip hop and whatever Buck felt like at the time. It hit was very hit and miss.

Situation I was excited yet fairly apprehensive about. Would it be classic Honky Blues type stuff or a bit too far left-field like Secret House...?

I can safely say it fits in right next to Honky Blues. It has the same kind of production & stready style. It doesn't take hold immediately and drifts by far too easily. However, repeated listens reveal some really good tunes. There's nothing on here that hits the highs that Honky hit, or even as emotional either but half of Situation are really great tracks.

1957 is an early high point with it's irresistable beat and typical Buck style catchy chorus of; "Like kshhhhh/no joke/hit the low note/we all go to heavan in a little row boat". Shutter Buggin' is my personal favourite at the moment. It really annoyed me the first couple of times bit it definitely has it's charm; "Flashy flash/watch the birdie/trashy trash/wash the dirty". Ho Boys, Way Back When, Mr Nobody and Benz are all standouts.
The rest of the tracks aren't bad by any means, they're just not quite as memorable as the ones I've mentioned.

I won't officially say Situation is a poor man's Talkin' Honky Blues because that would be selling it way short. It's a very good and incredibly enjoyable album; it just doesn't hit those highs that it probably should do.
Those into Buck already, you won't be disappointed, it`s a quality effort, and those who haven't heard anything by him better check out Talkin' Honky Blues first.

A Grave Is A Grim Horse
A Grave Is A Grim Horse
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £12.47

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Far from grim..., 21 July 2008
This review is from: A Grave Is A Grim Horse (Audio CD)
Everyone should know Steve Von Till as one half of the guitarist/vocalist combo from the legendary Neurosis. Both Von Till and Scott Kelly branched out into various folk based side projects in recent years - in turn, the influence of these have been fed back into Neurosis producing mellower, yet more textural and deeper work.

Von Till's previous album, "If I Should Fall to the Field" whilst being a decent album, was a bit in consistent and sparse. It possessed quite a bit of tension and you're expecting the rest of Neurosis to blast in any second - until you realise it's a solo album. In this respect it was a bit unfulfilling, but on "A Grave Is A Grim Horse" I think Von Till has solved the problem.

His songs and delivery seem infinitely more comfortable to me - there's less focus on tension and more focus on songwriting. It's an even more folky offering too - less keyboards and more traditional instrumentation. He has always had a very earthy Tom Waits-esque storytelling vibe about him. Yet where Waits sings about querky city characters, Von Till's songs conjure up contrasted sepia imagery of weather worn landscapes and gnarled skin.

A Grave.. is also a lot more consistent than his previous. The first 6 tracks are very memorable and actually a bit catchy, if you can believe that. There's also a Nick Drake cover in there, so you can't really go wrong. The compositions are lush; often incorporating strings behind the staple guitars, banjos, slide and occasional set of drums. There is a general ambience about this record borrowed from Von Till's Harvestman project which dealt with folk influenced ambient music. All this makes A Grave... quite a beautiful record.

The only downfall I can see is the monotony & pace of the songs. All are quite sombre and slow moving, no matter how lush the arrangements are it is still dark (yet not depressing) which makes it very much a niche record.

Out of the recent raft of Neurosis related side project albums - aside from Battle of Mice which was something special - this is creeping up to being my favourite. It has the arrangements and ambience of the Harvestman album and it's an easier and more enjoyable listen than Scott Kelly's Blood & Time & solo works. Recommended.

Given To The Rising [Limited Edition]
Given To The Rising [Limited Edition]

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's given..., 13 July 2008
Given to the Rising is Neurosis' 9th studio album. This you can tell; they've honed their craft to a razor's edge. The early albums; Pain of Mind and Word as Law were fairly primitive hardcore but they began to experiment and branch out on Souls at Zero. The following two albums; Enemy of the Sun and Through Silver in Blood were absolute monsters and two of the best heavy albums of the Nineties. Their journey took in more experimental and brooding forms with subsequent albums. Obviously their experimental drone alter ego - Tribes of Neurot was creeping into Neurosis' music more and more. 2004 album; Eye of Every Storm was a dark, more folk-tinged album than anyone was expecting and wasn't too greatly received and hell knows why; it's possibly my favourite.

Neurosis are one of those bands that pour their very life and soul into their work and you can really tell; the quality of the product; the attention to detail; the depth and rich emotional landscapes the music paints. Neurosis albums aren't something you can slap on when your friends come round, it has to be experienced, backed up by the fact that it takes at least three or four solid listens for anything to sink in and reveal itself.

Given to the Rising is basically a lesson in empiricism. They've taken everything they've learnt on the way boiled it down and seared it onto a small plastic disc for our pleasure. It's closest brother is probably Times of Grace. It has the brute force and riffage of that record but encorporates the atmospherics and soundscapes of Eye of Every Storm that they were flirting with on tracks like Away and Belief. The whole thing is much more varied and accomplished than Times of Grace however and a heckload more intense! It's pretty much a complete and rounded Neurosis experience in one sitting.

A track by track review would be pointless, describing Neurosis' music with words is pretty useless. Just turn out the lights put on your headphones, turn up Given to the Rising and listen to one of the best bands around playing one of the best albums they've created.

We Are Above You
We Are Above You
Price: £10.43

4.0 out of 5 stars They Are Above You..., 8 July 2008
This review is from: We Are Above You (Audio CD)
If, like me, you loved Clouds' debut released last year, Ledgendary Demo, you'd be eager to get your hands on this straight away.
For those new to Clouds; they are a damn fine heavy rock & roll band featuring Cave In guitarist Adam McGrath. They have a really rawkus 70s vibe about their songwriting & attitude. They're loving what they do and they're sure as hell going to share it with the world, nothing presented this more than the fantastic swinging riff in `New Amnesia' from the debut.

We Are Above You (great title by the way) is a more rounded and varied listen overall than Legendary Demo. Empires In Basements, the opener is quite a sludgy, Melvins-like riff and is alot more downtempo than anything from LD. The whole album has quite an anthemic, epic feel to it; huge harmonised choruses & big power chords.
The Bad Seat is a very melodic easy track that swings along led by the vocals; another great harmonised chorus. Slow Day is the closest I've ever heard to any band capturing the essence of Pink Floyd, it's quite uncanny. The epic, anthemic vibe, the chord progressions and espeically the vocals are reminiscent of David Gilmour wailing away. Yet heavier, of course!

You've also got the usual, rawkus tracks like Heisenberg Says, Motion in the Ocean, Horrification and Year Zero. All fantastic upbeat summer rockers. Although you get a sophisticated air from it too, rather than some braindead metal band playing as fast as they can; everything is measured and calculated whilst and also feeling very fluid and spontaneous. It's an exciting thing to hear.

Clouds came out of nowhere for me back in 2007 and I was again surprised to find another album out so soon after the last, surprised and damn well overjoyed.
I honestly can't find a major fault with We Are Above You, obviously it's not a modern classic or anything, lets not get carried away, but it sure will be up there in my favourite albums of 2008.
Recommended for fans of Torche, Scissorfight, stoner rock and even 70s rock. Brilliant music.

Welcome To Sky Valley
Welcome To Sky Valley
Price: £6.41

5.0 out of 5 stars Floored..., 6 July 2008
This review is from: Welcome To Sky Valley (Audio CD)
There are many people who consider this album to be one of (if not THE) best album of all time. I am indeed one of those people. So if you've come here for a fair & unbiased opinion you're not going to get one I'm afraid!

Kyuss are now a legendary underground band with a huge following. Countless imitation bands popped up a few years after they disbanded in '95 and yet, even the best of them couldn't come close to the magic captured on Blues for the Red Sun and Sky Valley. The 'stoner/desert rock' genre, record labels, even websites sprang up providing the hub of internet communities including people from all over the world combining to share their love of heavy music and indeed Kyuss. Ask the majority of people on which band it was that led them to discovering the site and the plethora of bands connected with and inspired by them.
Kyuss? I thought so. They were indeed something special.

Sky Valley is more focused and cohesive than Blues for the Red Sun, the jamming is more inspired and the songs are more to the point; therefore it works so much more as a whole. The tracks are even welded together in 'Phases" meaning the CD actually has only 3 skippable tracks housing 3 or 4 proper songs each.

Sky Valley houses my two favourite ever songs; Gardenia, the first track, which has an almighty swaying riff and a huge chorus. The jamming in the middle of this tune is fantastic.
And the last song; Whitewater. This song is simply wonderful, how is it possible to write something so perfect?
It begins with a lazy drum beat and an equally lazy guitar melody, but it sounds so purposeful; like it could erupt anytime. 57 seconds in, erupting is exactly how to describe it: a massive warm, fuzzy stoner riff with an awesome groove. Then John Garcia's vocals come in. What a voice!
3mins in, the song breaks down into drums and a guitar melody, the drums start marching and the guitar goes off on it's own accord. The solo builds and builds until it drops out for a moment then comes in a lot more mellow. This part gradually descends into a lazy jam with some if the best and most beautiful guitar work I've ever heard. Then it ends.

I'll end by saying this; this album should be experienced by eveyone. To simply spread the absolute pleasure those who already love it receive from listening, that is what music is for after all. Highest recommendation possible.

Moseley Shoals
Moseley Shoals
Price: £3.09

5.0 out of 5 stars Simply great pop music., 6 July 2008
This review is from: Moseley Shoals (Audio CD)
I hold this album close to my heart. It dosen't get a listen often but It holds a lot of memories for me from when I was but a youth. I used to listen to three albums religiously around 1997 and this was one of them. It is, in my opinion one of the best popular British albums of the nineties and certainly my favourite which gained mainstrem success.

The thing about this album that sets it apart from it's contemporaries at the time (Oasis, Blur, Stereophonics, Reef etc.) is the arrangements and musicianship. Whilst Oasis and Blur were duking it out and producing very bland stuff OCS were just doing what they do. I can imagine Oasis and Blur in massive arenas and sold out world tours but when I listen to OCS I picture them in a smoky pub with ambient lighting and no sound at all apart from the band with a captive audience. I think that's why I like them so much, the vibe that they create isn't tough or querky it's just them playing & loving it. They portray no pretense. It also helps that the tunes are absolute classics!

Who can forget The Riverboat Song, The Day We Caught The Train & Circle? Not to mention the rest. This is one of those albums that never lags towards the end or has a weak middle, it's all good all the time. You've got the upbeat rockers like the first three tracks, mellow more introspective tracks like Lining Your Pockets and Fleeting Mind, even riffy rocking tracks like You've Got it Bad.

Moseley Shoals will always be a memorable album, full of awesome, subtly magical tunes made by people who can actually play. Buy it if you haven't already got it, the only thing you could criticise it for would be being to `safe' and pedictable. But experimenting isn't what this album is about.

Price: £11.72

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just... bonkers!, 6 July 2008
This review is from: Mirrored (Audio CD)
This is Battles' 1st album proceeding a couple of E.P.s and all I can say is it's absolutely nutss! I've read quite a lot about Mirrored and everyone has a different opinion of what kind of music it is or where it should be pidgeonholed. I love it when music critics get confused!
Some people are classing it as `post rock' which would place them alongside bands like Explosions in the Sky and Godspeed. Way off.
Some people have christened it dance music. Eh? Nowhere close.
Some view Mirrored as a `math rock' album. Does anyone know what `Math Rock' is anyway?
Most stick it in the prog rock category, which is a lot closer than the others but still not quite there.
Whatever the opinion of what genre they belong all the professional reviews I've read are gushing over this album. However good it is I don't think it warrants quite so much praise; here's why.

Battles are one of those bands that genuinely defy categorisation and cannot be described under a general term. It's complex fairly cerebral music and incredibly hard to wrap your brain around on the first listen. Battles are drums, guitars, bass, vocals and keyboards; pretty standard rock group elements but what is produced is nothing like you've heard before.

The music is based around very short riffs and loops strung together with fills, runs and bridges many with awkward timings and odd rhythms. It's quite robotic and lacking in soul and the electronic elements; keyboards, samples, and effects emphasise this. The vocals are equally abstract; whistling, bizarre high pitched effects and odd chanting. It's weird stuff, and when all these elements are described it sounds really off putting. Yet it's a strangely compelling listen. The first listen is one of shock and awe; the quality of the musicianship; the lack of any traditional structure or melody. Yet it's these qualities that bring you back, it's kind of like slowing down for a car crash; you don't want to, it's wrong, but some morbid curiosity makes you go through with it.

After repeated listens it is apparrent that Mirrored does contain some melody, particularly in `Race : In', `Atlas' and `Tonto', and you'll just keep coming back for more. Mirrored is far too inaccessable and esoteric for Battles to get big but I wouldn't be surprised if they gained themselves quite the cult following.
Go on, take a chance and buy some brand new music that sounds like nothing you have heard and probably never will again, what big loss could it be? Whether you'll enjoy it is another matter...
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 21, 2012 6:26 PM GMT

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