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Amplified Man (Manchester)

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The Gormenghast Trilogy
The Gormenghast Trilogy
by Mervyn Peake
Edition: Paperback
Price: 12.24

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite book? Probably!, 10 Oct 2006
Gormenghast is a gothic fantasy of epic proportions yet it's a very dark and claustrophobic story. I honestly was too engrossed in the story to notice punctuation and spelling errors in the story that so many reviewers have pointed out. The way the plot is drawn carefully and deliberately throughout the first book only to explode out of control in the second is genius. The imagery and characters stay with you for months and years after reading. The dastardly Steerpike is one of the most evil and believable bad guys ever concieved. The way he slowly transforms from lovable rebel to evil mastermind is a spectacle to behold.

I found the book a joy to read even though Peake's prose is somewhat convoluted. I can definitely see how you could become aggravated and lose the plot. I reveled in Peake's writing style, I became completely engrossed and couldn't put it down. The wonderful character developments and relationships between them is unsurpassed in anything I've read.

If there was just one book I could recommend it's this.


Ruby Blue
Ruby Blue
Offered by claires_media_store
Price: 5.99

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ruby Blue, 31 Aug 2006
This review is from: Ruby Blue (Audio CD)
Moloko were absolutely brilliant when they wanted to be. The only problem was about a third of their material was weird experimental noodlings in very short self indulgent tracks. Their last album; Statues was by far thir most cohesive, focused album and therefore the songs were better. Much much better! If you haven't heard that album (of course you wouldn't be reading this if you hadn't heard Statues!) get it.

Roisin Murphy's debut solo album seems like the experimental noodling tracks that Moloko did but more realised and obviously more songy. It is a very experimental album; Matthew Herbert's production using many abstract techniques like gathering unusual sound effects to create beats and melodies. The way it all comes together fit's Roisin's playful smoky tones perfectly. It's an odd journey; traveling through many different styles and vibes.

Tracks like the obvious single If We're In Love just prove how good a songwriter and singer Roisin actually is and that she can still pull it off even without Mark Brydon's backing. Night Of The Dancing Flame is one that comes to mind that showcases Roisin's flamboyant personality in the obscurity of the melodies and rhythms whilst still being a catchy as hell pop tune.

Ruby Blue is by no means a perfect album however; the title track and Sinking Feeling seem to just drift by without recollection and it being such and eclectic record theres bound to be a track or two that you're not going to take to. Ramalama (Bang Bang) being my particular choice for least desirable track, it's odd bouncy tribal drum melody just irritating rather than invigorating.

Half of the album is very good; it's different, interesting and catchy. The other half either irritates or is quite forgettable. But hey, it's only the lass' first album, and we already know Roisin's capable of some outstanding stuff.

Moloko fans beware though, Ruby Blue is no carbon copy, the only connection is Roisin's vocals, the music is quite different. I think the experimental nature of Ruby Blue is it's only downfall; in that it's not going to get much airplay and i'ts not as danceable as Moloko. I've read many opinions of Ruby Blue and this seems to be universal statement but sod `em if they think it's too experimental! I love it!


The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw
The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Fire In Our Throats...., 31 Aug 2006
...Will Beckon the Thaw; a very long and intriguing title I think you will agree. In 2005, Pelican have expanded and broadened their sound; given their songs a little more variety. March Into The Sea, a shorter version than the EP appears here, which had a huge acoustic second half which was more experimental than cohesive, and the experimenting has payed off. The untitled track; `-' is entirely acoustic and is quite wonderful; filled with excellent picking and soloing. As for the rest of the album, well, you bought a Pelican album and you're going to get a Pelican album.

Long instrumental tracks that spiral, mutate and bewilder with heaviness and intricacy. The playing is indeed a lot more intricate on here; track six, Aurora Borealis is all flowing electric guitar melody and lacking the extreme brutal heaviness Pelican can exert. Autumn Into Winter, my favourite track at the moment, is more riff based chaos, and does contain some mighty riffs. There are two riffs in this track that sound too familiar; one is like a sped up version of that awesome riff from `Celestial (The Tower)' by Isis, and another is very similar to Drought from their previous album but again, sped up. The first track also has a familiar riff; the Red Sparrowes album released earlier this year, another instrumental band have a tune called `Alone And Unaware, The Landscape Was Transformed In Front Of Our Eyes' and their riffs are similar too. Is this the production of somekind of sumbliminal appreciation for other's riffs or a mere coincidence? 3 riffs in one album may be a little too close to call, especially as all three bands are closely related. I don't care really, even if they are `stolen' riffs , I like Pelican's take on them!

The lack of vocals in Pelican's music forces them to focus on instrumentation and arrrangement to keep the soungs interesting. They never fail to do so. Every song keeps you on your toes, you'd think an eleven minute song was repetetive wouldn't you? Well not here; each track evolves towards it's goal beautifully and efficiently without retreading ground or going off into self indulgence. Quite an achievement really. The closest band you can compare them to is Isis, without doubt. Isis' tracks evolve in a similar way and their sound is also quite similar,.Pelican are a lot quicker though and more intricate, whereas Isis tend to groove slowly and let their instruments breathe, Pelican never let you sit back unless a mellower section comes in, even then though the instruments are tightly wound.

The sound quality is obviously going to be good; all Hydra Head products are presented excellently and that goes for the artwork too. The guitars are amazingly clear, they are the focal point after all, the bass is mixed too low for my tastes and the drums sound great.

I'm definately going to have to let this album sink in with several thousand more listens. Like Isis' Panopticon album, it didn't grab be right away and took quite a few weeks to appreciate the intricacies and work that has gone into it

Listening to Pelican, it must take weeks and weeks to write their tunes; no riff is repeated and everyhting is different. I need to see these guys live to see how they pull it off.

Pelican are quite a special band; instrumental without being dull, heavy without being repetitive, intricate musicianship without being horrible and pretensious.


Obsolete
Obsolete
Price: 7.31

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Obsolete, 31 Aug 2006
This review is from: Obsolete (Audio CD)
I've had this album since it came out in 1998, its was one of my first ever heavy records along with Machine Heads' Burning Red. These were the bands my heavy roots were raised upon so they still hold a special place in me somewhere, aww. I thought I'd review Obsolete because it was my favourite record for quite a while and is, in my opinion the pinnacle of Fear Factory and indeed Machine Head's back catalogue. You see I've pissed off a few people right there because Demanufacture is heralded as FF's best, and one of the best heavy albums of the 1990s. I have always thought Obsolete was much better; first of all the production on this album is absolutely awesome; clear, heavy and has an incredible amount of depth. Secondly the songwriting on this album is far more consistent than Demanufacture, which I think gets a bit stale towards the end. Obsolete keeps me interested (save for the bonus tracks on my digipak which are a bit dubious.). Every song packs a punch and is far more varied than Demanufacture; Shock, the opener is an absolute monster of a tune and Edgecrusher is as catchy as you're going to get in this genre. Smasher/Devourer and Securitron are big tunes in my book; more subtly catchy and very deep sound. I think it's the whole vibe of the album that I like, the artwork is actually really good and has depth & texture (notice that word is cropping up a lot), and following the concept adds another twist on the songs and gives than greater meaning.

Hi-Tec Hate was the first FF track I ever heard and is possibly still my favourite song of their's. Resurrection is the big surprise on here though. It's extremely melodic without being cheesy or overly emotional, which is saying something for a metal band. (Ever heard Descend The Shades Of Night by Machine Head - horrible!). Resurrection has these really odd series of riffs that are pretty irresistable and Burton's voice sounds better than he has on anything before or after.

This is one of the only concept albums too, that come across without being self indulgent and aids, rather than hinders, the vibe of the album.

Yeah, I still really enjoy digging this one out and having a good listen, even though my friends take this piss for it. The hell with them! Man is obsolete!


Hex (Or Printing In The Infernal Method)
Hex (Or Printing In The Infernal Method)
Offered by MEGA Media FBA
Price: 8.74

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hexed, 31 Aug 2006
Earth, aka Dylan Carlson, basically invented the genre we know and love as `Drone'. Earth's second album, simply titled `2' was heavy, hypnotic, calming, soothing and intense all in the same contradictory sentence. It was quite unique, it has had an incredible yet subtle influence on the rock, metal and electronic music genres, evident by the Earth tribute album that came out this year.

Earth went through several phases after Earth 2. Thrones and Dominions was experimental yet lacked what made 2 so special. Pentastar was more or less a rock record, featuring a full rhythm section and vocals. 10 years after we come to Hex: Or Printing In The Infernal Method. It has been described as the soundtrack to a spaghetti western gone wrong, and that itsn't half accurate. It's a calm, mellow record yet it has undertones of despair and sorrow. You can imagine an American dustbowl with tumbleweeds and a lone mule trudging off towards the sunset with it's master slung across it's back.

The first thing you notice it the lack of distortion. I don't think I heard even a hint of distortion throughout this record. It's meat is shimmering clean guitars and ghostlike elaborate melodies, no drones, lots of sustain. Adrienne Davies, full time Earth drummer, provides the rhythms to these funereal dirgey, dreamlike soundscapes. I also noticed there is not much bass guitar here either, the mid-deeper tones are usually filled out by a baritone guitar which provides some really nice textures and tones. After all, this is what Earth is about really; texture, tone and ambience.

Hex, is a very odd record, considerably so when it's coming from a band like Earth. The western soundtrack comparison is apt, it does feel like a soundtrack as the whole thing flows really well. However, with albums of this type it dosen't vary much off it's original path. There are other instruments that make an appearance like wind chimes, a trombone and a lap steel which liven it up a bit, but the same funereal pace and mood can drag a bit.

Saying that, Hex is an extremely interesting progression for Earth, just makes me wonder what they will do next, anything is possible. Though Hex seems a logical step in their evolution; even just to fit in with the times; Hex reminds me a bit of a more sombre, less intense Explosions In The Sky.

Steve O'Malley (guitarist for Sunn O))) and Khanate) had designed the packaging for this album and it's pretty stunning. Black and white photos of early 20th Century rural America, they just seem to fit really well, and it's all presented on quality paper with gold type. Nice.

The last track is called Tethered To The Polestar. Dylan Carlson has a real knack at naming songs!


Phase V
Phase V
Price: 17.27

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Phase V, 31 Aug 2006
This review is from: Phase V (Audio CD)
35007 are an obscure, lonely band from the Netherlands; Holland to you and me. Why they are so unknown is a mystery to me. The stoner rock., prog rock and pschedelic music lover should be lapping this up eagerly. You aren't likely to forget such a weird band name either.

Phase V is similar to Liquid, their last album, but where Liquid was based upon quiet/loud dynamics Phase V is build around atmosphere and texture. There are a hell of a lot more guitar solos and more washes of keyboard and the lap steel plays seemingly a good part in most tracks.

35007 are instrumental jamming masters; theres lots of melody in these tracks underpinned by the quality rhythm section over which the guitars and other effects playfully interact. As I said in my review of Liquid; 35007 are all about ebb and flow and Phase V flows superbly over rocking, psychedelic jamming terrain perfectly for over 40 mins. There is a strong Pink Floyd influence running throughout 35007's work that is typified by how the keyboards, bass and guitars all interact and no elements are fighting for space. I definitely appreciate the addition of soloing and more obvious jamming elements compared to Liquid, occasionally that album became a little stale and decent solos add some life and soul into the music.

If you think an instrumental Pink Floyd that are a bit more freeform then you should have a good basis for imagining 35007's music, because it's pretty hard to describe! Its the type of music that is immediately likeable yet takes time to sink in as its intricacies unfolds with each listen, kind of like a Neurosis or a Melvins album in that respect or indeed a Pink Floyd album.

I have a strong feeling that Phase V will creep into my top ten albums of this year (2005) alongside my regular favourite artists like Clutch, Beck, YOB, & Sons Of OTIS, no small feat when I only actually bought anything by these guys a few months ago.

Step aside Pelican, and come forth 35007, for you are the newly crowned masters of instrumentalism! Awesome stuff, I could listen to it forever.


Beloved One
Beloved One
Price: 11.57

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beloved One, 31 Aug 2006
This review is from: Beloved One (Audio CD)
Lou Rhodes was the vocalist for electronic act Lamb, who seemingly only got any success at the very end of their career. Lamb evolved from a Potrishead-esque trip hop act to a more poppy, accessible affair; not quite as drastic as Kosheen, but the same kind of thing. Therfore, you'd think that Lou would go on to even more more poppy pastures. However, to my pleasant surprise, Beloved One is decidedly a folk album. Lots of acoustic guitars, percussion and folky rhythms. Lou's soft rasp is still as ever good as it was and remains the same on this album.

Beloved One, actually surpasses the Lamb albums in some respects; the main one being its absolutely consistent. The Lamb albums usually weakened round the middle or near the end but this is a proper all round experience, it's as if more thought and focus has gone into it. It's a nice easy, floaty listen, it sticks in your head and it's really quite pleasant. The music is well arranged and layered as not being too simple or too complex and there's even some nice string arrangements here and there.

My favourite track has to be Fortress, for the fact, however much I don't want to say it, it reminds me of Lamb. It has this quite forceful drum providing a backing that is reminiscent of a Lamb build up. But I like the fact that it dosen't erupt into a drum and bass frenzy.

This will, without doubt draw unavoidable Lamb comparisons and I think it takes real guts to do something like this and pull it off. I don't think you can compare it to Lamb, it's a completely different thing and you won't necessarily be into it if you like Lamb.

Beloved One is a great album, a really refreshing change from one of the most distinctive vocalists I've ever heard. The last thing I thought she'd do was release a folk album. I thought she'd do somekind of bland seemingly everpresent boring electronic fare. Hooray!


Nola
Nola
Price: 14.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NOLA, 31 Aug 2006
This review is from: Nola (Audio CD)
Where Southern metal is concerned, Down are THE supergroup that probably couldn't get any superer. They consist of (I'm going off their current line up here, not this album, Todd Strange, left..); Infamous Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo, Corrosion Of Conformity guitarist/frontmman Pepper Keenan, Crowbar guitarist/frontman Kirk Windstein, Pantera bassist Rex Brown and Eyehategod riffmaster Jimmy Bower on drums. Quite the line-up! It's a who's who of Southern metal genius, maybe if it was a perfect world Dimebag would be in there too (R.I.P.). Usually with the prospect of a supergroup, the product is far lesser than the sum of it's parts. Whereas with Down, you'd have a hard time finding an album that matches it in any of the aformentioned bands catalogues.

This album is what Southern American metal IS. It's soulful, it's bluesy, its heavy, it's grimy, it just kills. Anselmo's performance is one of his best and Keenan and Windstein crack out some amazing riffs; check out Lifer, Stone The Crows, Bury Me In Smoke and Temptation's Wings for proof. In fact, you'd have a strong argument of the inclusion of NOLA in the top 5 of THE essential metal albums of the 1990's it's that good.

Yes siree, living proof that the word `supergroup' isn't necessarily something to recoil from. Unfortuantely Audioslave aren't quite up there.......

I think the reason for so many people warming to this album, apart from the songs of course, is the lack of the hardman metal cliche Anlselmo usually carries around with him. This album isn't about that; it's very blues influenced, it's pretty soulful at times, especially in the trippy acoustic, Jail. There's a lot of stoner rock in here too, the riffs are swinging and grooving rather than grinding metal riffs.

If you're into any of the aforementioned bands, bar Audioslave, NOLA is a record you'll come back to again and again. Even if you forget it for a while, you'll come back to it and wonder why you had forgotten in the first place.

Essential.


Jaggernaut
Jaggernaut
Price: 20.85

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scissorfight, 31 Aug 2006
This review is from: Jaggernaut (Audio CD)
Good ol' Scissorfight haven't had a proper album out for 5 years, they've released a couple of E.P.s and a live album though, so you can't say they're doing nothing.

After hearing Mantrapping For Sport & Profit I was pretty well hooked. They have a huge chunky metal crunch but the riffs are more swinging and groovy than cold metal riffs. Jaggernaut, at this fairly early stage in listening at least, seems to be a step up in quality compared to Mantrapping. The riffs are tighter and more furious, the choruses are catchier and theres more variation between tracks. Mantrapping did seem to drag a bit towards the end but Jaggernaut is fairly consistent all the way down. Metal Mother and Funhouse Skull are pretty weak but there are some stonkers to make up for it. The first three are your set `em up and knock `em down style, awesome tunes. The Dredge has the best riff I've heard from them yet. Fang is a more intense bordering on metalcore track with a furious one line lyric; "The echo of my voice causes avalanches!". Appalachian Chain is another slight departure and features harmonica, acoustic guitar, mandolin and a banjo. That dosen't mean however that it's not going to be heavy! Mange is similar to Fu Manchu in style, even the way it's sung and I like it.

All in all a quality album. If you enjoy stomping no brainer metal this is for you, and we all enjoy a bit of that don't we!


Ultimate Destroyer
Ultimate Destroyer
Price: 6.40

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crushing!, 31 Aug 2006
This review is from: Ultimate Destroyer (Audio CD)
If you thought metal was dead then think again!!!

The Ultimate Destroyer is fantastic, it's an all out riff festival. The guitars are pushed right up to the forefront of the mix and they're almost too overpowering. They're heavy and extremely beefy. Metal hasn't seen anything like it before. Usually the focus is on the drums and vocals but not this time! It's brilliant to hear something like this. Riff after almighty riff comes crashing through the speakers, never relenting and leading to ultimate destruction of your ear drums.

It's the best example of how many amazing riffs you can fit on one album since Pig Destroyer's Terrifyer two years ago. But as Pig Destroyer are more of mood music for me, Lair of the Minotaur will get many more spins becasue it's slower, more vaired & less intense. If there were anything you should have to throw the devil horns up for it's this.

I can't get over how many great riffs there are in here. There's your thrashy riffs in the title track and `Hound of the Pit', there's your slower, more doomy riffs in `Behead the Gorgon' and `Cannibal Massacre' and you're bludgeoning pure metal pedigree riffs in `Juggernaut of Metal'. I could go on..........and on and on.

I'm sure the guitar tone helps the riff out an incredible amount; it's fantastic. It's the biggest guitar tone I've heard in a straight metal band. These types of guitar tone are usually reserved for doom and stoner rock bands, maybe that's why I'm so taken with Lair of the Minotaur.

The vocals aren't anything to scream about (yes, pun intended, sorry). They're gruff shouty/screamy vocals, not too guttural and not too high pitched. They fit perfectly with the destruction going on around them and you can't really hope for much more. The focus is definitely on the riffs, the vocals aren't that loud, aren't really intelligable and aren't catchy. It's all about those riffs my friend.

In conclusion then; if you like riffs and you like metal and you like an all out good bludgeoning then buy this, please do. If you don't like any of those things then you don't know what you're missing!


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