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Amplified Man (Manchester)

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White Silence
White Silence
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £12.43

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Black noise..., 24 July 2011
This review is from: White Silence (Audio CD)
Cave In have always been an enigmatic band; their jump from raging, complex hardcore to soaring psychedelic rock in the space of one album was unexpected and stunning back in 1999/2000. Releasing only two albums and a couple of EPs between then and 2011s `White SIlence' further deepened the sense of mystique and longing for more music by the band.

I think the key to understanding Cave In and thus, what `White Silence' sounds like is following the actions of the band when they weren't doing Cave In records. Seeing as though 3/4 of the band can, and do, front other bands; their other ventures must influence the greater whole when they reunite as Cave In.

Stephen Brodsky always seemed to be the band leader in the old days; his guitar and hardcore yell were at the forefront of early recordings. It also seemed as though his influence mellowed the band through his passionate melodic voice when they suddenly transgressed into spacy, melodic, psychedelic rock on the brilliant `Jupiter' album. His flirtations with acoustic gigs and poppy solo albums pretty much proved this and account for the softer and more melodic tracks on `White Silence'

Caleb Schofield, Cave In's bassist went completely the opposite direction to Brodsky and formed Old Man Gloom with members of Isis and Converge who played utterly crushing sludge/hardcore interspersed with ambient samples and drones. He also formed his own project Zozobra & getting rid of the ambience of OMG, just went for utterly crushing sludge/hardcore instead! His monstrous, distinctive hardcore vocal and huge distorted bass presence is now an integral part of Cave In's sound.

Adam McGrath, Cave In's second guitarist, fronted a band called Clouds for a few years before they broke up in 2011. Clouds released one album and two EPs but they're some of my favourite Cave In-related music which shows how stupidly talented these guys are. Clouds were a swinging melodic rock band who incorporated elements of punk, stoner rock, hardcore and classic rock and during their brief stint, were criminally underappreciated. I suggest you check them out right now. McGrath's style is different once again; a clean and confident singing tone contrasting & complimenting Schofield's massive roar and Brodsky's sweet croon.

Drummer JR Connors briefly joined Doomriders when Cave In went on "indefinite hiatus" in 2005. His forays ouside of the main band are closer attribiuted to the basic style of Cave In as Doomriders play a kind of energetic, melodic hardcore. It's safe to say that Connors is the least prolific and active of Cave In's members.

OK, now things are more in perspective, it's pretty easy to understand every track on `White Silence' as it is, without that perspective, a fairly confusing record. Moreso than their other three albums, they jump around several styles of music whilst also touching upon an overall sound that no previous Cave In record has possessed. `Serpents' and `Vicious Circles' are lead by Schofield and could easily have come from any Zozobra or Old Man Gloom record. The riffs are led by his huge, distorted bass tone and aggressive roar. It's hard not to give in & shout along with "DEAD RIIIIISE!! DEAD RISIIIIIIIIING!!". But maybe that's just me! They're by far the most aggressive and energetic tracks from `White Silence'.
`Centred' and `Iron Decibels' are lead by McGrath and are more rocky and swinging yet are still saturated with huge riffs and that epic bass tone from Schofield. Lead by McGrath, these tracks could have easily come from the Cloud's album from his distinctive voice and riff-writing style that completely contrasts Schofield's contributions.
`Summit Fever' `Heartbreaks, Earhtquakes' and `Reanimator' are clearly Brodsky's tracks; being infintely more melodic, including acoustic guitar and catchier choruses; esecially in the case of `Summit Fever' which is the catchiest chrous on the album.

These three songwriters have such distinct styles that `White Silence' could easily have become disjointed, messy and feel like some sort of Cave In-related compilation album. However, the album has been recorded with a unique overall aesthetic and production feel which binds every track to the greater whole magnificently. Instead of the genre-hopping being irritating and bad juxtaposing, it makes that album intriguing, thrilling and highly enjoyable.

The tracks I've mentioned are all great indiuvidually and, even if they're not each member's specific contributions; it does sound that way when coming to `White Silece' with the knowledge of each member's other bands. But when they merge; when they sound like one beast; like Cave In; rather than musicians who have left and returned; is where the magic happens.

`Sing My Loves' is the third track on `White Silence' and is, at 8 mins, twice as long as any of the other songs. It builds fairly slowly with guitar effects and drum hits before bursting forth with the most monstrously heavy and satisfying riff the band have ever written; for themselves or for any band they've been in. It's a doozy. The way Brodsky and Schofield trade-off lines of vocal is fantastic and the refrain; "Sing my loves / sing my enemies / sing my sorrow / we all sing / sing together" has been inexorably lodged in my head for weeks. It's a refrain that is repeated over and over from 4 & a quarter mins into the song until it finishes at 8 min 18 secs. This might sound nauseating and could easily have become dull and overly repetitive, yet the hypnotic effect it creates is breathtaking. The glorious repetition of it is indescribable as the guitars underneath swell and intertwine. I have to say that this track is possibly the best thing I've heard in months and months. I absolutely love it.

I realise this has been a long review but to the uninitiated, `White Silence' may seem confusing and jarring; hopping from syle to style. I hope I've put it into more of a context and given a bit more of an understanding to the album as I feel it's easily one of (if not the) year's best albums so far & definitely worth perseverance. Even after dissecting `White SIlence'; Cave In still sound enigmatic and are equal to the sum of thier awesome and diverse parts. May they long continue to shock and awe!

Snakes For The Divine [Digipack]
Snakes For The Divine [Digipack]

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Frost Hammer!, 31 May 2011
On hearing the opening bars of 'Snakes for the Divine' I was initially disappointed. I have been an avid fan of High On Fire since their debut, 'The Art of Self Defense' came out in 2000. It was an absolute monolith of a stoner rock record; propelled by massive mid-tempo riffs and stomping drums. High On Fire, through out their discography, have slowly been speeding up and getting more an more furious. On the opening title track on Snakes for the Divine, our protagonist, Matt Pike kicks off with an uber-cheesy progressive metal lick that made me cringe. How can this be the same band that gave us the slow bludgeon of '10,000 Years' and 'Thraft of Caanan'??

But because it was still High On Fire, there's an unstoppable, elemental force compelling you to listen. After listening through a couple more times, I realised; why the hell am I bothered if it's cheesy or not? What does it matter? Once this thought has settled and you can listen to this album without an objective viewpoint or without preconceptions (yes the cover art is cheesy, yes it's pretty much as "metal" as you can get but;) it's one of the most enjoyable albums I've heard in years.

The whole album is a perfectly executed exercise in displaying pure and unashamed disregard for subtlety. High On Fire pummel you with monster riffs for 49 minutes and 53 seconds. The title track is just immense - 8 minutes of frenetic, adrenaline fueled madness. That cheesy metal lick builds up with the rest of the band in an explosion of chugging fuzz and tribal drumming. It's utterly cathartic.

The whole reason people listen to metal - as with a lot of types of music, including dubstep & drum & bass - is for transcendence; for the music to take you somewhere else or to make you feel & respond to it in some way. The most effective music does this easily. Metal is meant to evoke a primal reaction; it doesn't need to be clever or complex or subtle to be effective; but the best metal does all of this. Think of 'Master of Puppets' by Metallica; it's an 8minute long progressive masterpiece. The complex structure; the mellow harmonised guitar section mid-way through, and it has that riff... THAT riff. That riff which makes the hair stand on end every time you hear the opening attack; "DA! DA, DA, DAAAAAAA.....". High On Fire, with Snakes for the Divine, have touched upon this magic formula that seemingly only a few bands have found. Power, adrenaline and a hint of restraint which makes the heavy bits all the more effective.

Nothing demonstrates this more than the third track; 'Bastard Samurai'. After the pulverising you're received from the opening salvo of the title track & 'Frost Hammer', B*stard Samurai begins a lot slower & more menacing rather than steamrolling your ear drums. The verse has a more contemplative delayed guitar line and allows the band to breathe and Matt Pike actually sings the verses. This builds up until Pike roars; "son of a bitch will bleed a whiiiiiiile!" and all hell breaks loose. It's utter, simple catharsis & is all the more effective because of the first two tracks. These simple, yet clever dynamics make B*stard Samurai one of the highlights of the album, and indeed High On Fire's back catalogue. How Dark We Pray is also a more stripped back number in contrast to the body of the album's frenetic stampede of riffs & drums. Here, Matt Pike demonstrates some great melodic guitar lines which serve to further break up the album and make the heavy parts all the more forceful.

Snakes for the Divine is a massive surprise for me as I was beginning to write off High On Fire as morphing into just another metal band. But with this new album they've reinvigorated my interest and appreciation of quality heavy music. Even if you're not really into metal; give this album a chance and even at it's basic level; simply have a damn good time listening to it.

Nah Und Fern
Nah Und Fern

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Drums from the Deep..., 31 May 2011
This review is from: Nah Und Fern (Audio CD)
GAS is the brainchild of Wolfgang Voigt, owner of influential electronic music imprint Kompakt. With countless records under different pseudonyms plus owning various record labels in the past, Voigt is considered a bit of a legend in the field of ambient techno. Nothing exemplifies this more than his GAS project.

Nah und Fern (which translates as Near and Far) collects together the 4 hard-to-find albums released by Voigt under the GAS psudonym between 1996 and 2000. Basically if you're looking for essential ambient techno then you stop here.

I feel that viewing the four albums as a whole makes them feel more substantial than if the albums were re-released separately, which was a great choice to begin with. The albums are presented in a box with card sleeves which serve to portion out the tracks in their respective albums. It's one body of work with one goal, one presence with only tiny dynamic and stylistic shifts to separate them. There is no need to separate them.

GAS is utterly transcendental music. Heavily processed strings, piano, guitar and I imagine a whole host of other sounds and eerie soundscapes comprise the murk of GAS' overall sound. Each wave of sound threads into another and warps and flows in and out of consciousness creating a dense, soothing cotton-wool atmosphere to immerse yourself into. Half of the tracks are pinned down by an unrelenting techno pulse that really does sound like a heart beat emanating from a vast murky cavern.

It is creepy music but it's somehow calming and soothing at the same time - it carries you off. It also occasionally provides a blank canvas for whatever emotion that surfaces, takes it and carries it away with the atmospheric lava-flow of pulsing beats and cotton-wool soundscapes. The best example I've found that resembles GAS' murk, dread and atmosphere is that scene in the mines of Moria in Lord of the Rings, when they hear the "drums from the deep" before the fiery balrog creature emerges from the caverns.

I haven't heard anything quite like GAS before or since. Other ambient electronic music like Basic Channel, Aphex Twin's first album, Monolake or Echospace don't quite capture that otherworldly vibe and atmosphere conjoured by GAS' four monumental albums. They're all dwarfed by the sheer scale and weight of the material. Echospace sounds positively cheerful and childlike when juxtaposed with track five from Zauberberg, the second GAS album, for example.

I will say, for the record - and you'd probably guessed this from reading the review anyway - that I can't stress enough how utterly inaccessible this music is. It's debatable even if you can call it "music" at all. It's like the audible representation of gravity or tectonic plates or something - not "music". "Music" is melodious and you can hum it. Can't you? Also - it's definitely for certain moods - you can't just stick it on anytime; it'll clear a party in seconds.

If you're looking for something a bit different, try some GAS. There's nothing else quite like it. Astonishing stuff.

The King of Limbs
The King of Limbs
Price: £8.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Weird Fishes..., 31 May 2011
This review is from: The King of Limbs (Audio CD)
Radiohead's previous album; 'In Rainbows' was focussed, direct and their most immediate album since 'OK Computer', 'The King of Limbs' sees them slip back into the shadows once again. Aesthetically, all Radiohead's albums have a unique to them and are slightly different stylistically and 'King...' feels musically very bare and skeletal. Phil Selway still delivers his skittish, glitchy drumming they've been known for since Kid A shocked and delighted audiences in 2000, yet the melodies hung over the top are more haunting and dreamlike than ever.

'King...' stacks up the most lively tracks at the beginning of the album. Which climaxes in the highlight 'Little By Little' which has the most insistent set of melodies and the most discernable hook in it's chorus; "Little by little by hook or by crook, never get nervous, never get judged". Then things take a turn for the strange in 'Feral'. Radiohead have never been shy in showing electronic music is a big influence on them and perhaps 'Feral' is their bravest attempt to date. It's a choppy, beat driven track, scattered with Thom Yorke's cut up, almost wordless vocal and repeating synth patterns and effects. It's a strange affair that doesn't really have any kind of melody or seem to serve much of a purpose. However, it breaks up the album very effectively. It almost works as a diversion to separate the three lively tracks at the start of the album with the final four which close it off.

'Lotus Flower' is Thom Yorke's best performance of the album; putting that emotive falsetto of his to proper use. It's a haunting song, once again driven by Selway's skittish, nervous drumming creating the sense of unease and dread they conjure so well. 'Codex' is arguably Radiohead's most beautiful song yet. It's a piano driven ballad in the vein of 'Karma Police' and 'Pyramid Song' but it's calmer and more melancholy (more melancholy you say?!). Less of a sing along, it drifts, dislocated in a haze of reverb drenched brass; it truly is gorgeous. 'Give Up the Ghost' and 'Separator' close out the album in Radiohead's infuriating way of crafting memorable tracks that somehow can't never sing along to or even discern the lyrics, but they stick in your head no less.

It's definitely doesn't hit the stratospheric heights of 'OK Computer', nor does it possess the desire for worthwhile progression and experimentation as 'Kid A' did but 'The King of Limbs' is a consistent and enjoyable set of songs. That might not seem like glowing praise but it seems like Radiohead have hit a bit of a comfort zone here in the fact that their sound and limits to what they can create have been stretched so many times, they've come back down for a bit of respite. I can't figure out if this is a compliment or not but 'King of Limbs ' made me want to dig out my other Radiohead albums. In fact so much so, I've even bought a couple I didn't own.

Take Care Take Care Take Care
Take Care Take Care Take Care
Price: £13.03

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Those Who Tell the Truth..., 31 May 2011
Whereas Explosions In the Sky's first record; 'Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever' often explodes into cathartic maelstrom and 'The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place' builds tension and apprehension into crests of pure release, 'Take Care' seems almost content. They're simply playing what they know with their hearts and as a consequence, the music therein sounds utterly effortless and each segment flows beautifully into the next with ease and classy precision.

That chiming guitar interplay and rising anxious string work is unique to them and is played out beautifully throughout the album, yet they don't rely as heavily on it as they have done in the past. 'Take Care' is more varied; 'Human Qualities' uses an electronic drum pattern at the beginning, 'Trembling Hands' is much faster and more frantic than anything they've written, 'Be Comfortable, Creature' uses an ebow to great effect. All these new and varied elements serve to make 'Take Care' Explosions' most varied album and therefore up there with their most memorable work.

Explosions have once again crafted a beautiful instrumental rock album. It's not as cathartic as their first and it's not going to top '...Cold Dead Place' as their "go-to" album but there are genuinely no other bands that are as good as Explosions at what they do and any new music by them is received as a breath of fresh air.
'Take Care' isn't a perfect album mind you, and critics would argue that they're somewhat a one trick pony, but when the trick is this mesmerising, I don't care in the slightest.

Gnod Drop Out With White Hills II
Gnod Drop Out With White Hills II
Price: £13.54

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Diminished Capacity..., 31 May 2011
I once saw Gnod play in a strange disused building in Manchester about four years ago as a friend's, friend's band and it was quite an experience even then. It was nothing short of ketamine fueled madness involving several drum kits, guitars, effects and a lunatic reading a crazed mantra from a piece of screwed up paper. From this early onslaught on the senses, Gnod have no doubt been through lineup changes, countless gigs, touring, jams, recording sessions and the like and my word does it show.

I'm not sure of the who-did-what on this album being both Gnod and White Hills collaborating, but I like to think of it as a huge hazy jam session with a dozen musicians playing off each other & zoning out. Because that's as sure as hell what it sounds like. This is very much a psychedelic rock record; glorious repetition, driving basslines, lots of textures, hazy vocals, and marching drums. The album revolves around some of the most solid and zoned out bass playing I've ever heard.

Drop Out consists of 4 epic jams (5 if you have the bonus track that comes with the reissue) interspersed with a few shorter tracks. The first proper track is 'Run-A-Round' and it's catchier than syphilis. Whether it's the bassist from White Hills or Gnod (most likely both together!) they probably play these lines in their sleep they're so damn... insistent! I can't get them out of my head! Drumming and and bass frequencies just force you to move; I challenge you to stay still for the duration of this tune. No chance matey.

'Spaced Man' sees more White Hills influence with a relative orthodox two note riff and even a chord change or two! But that massive dirge-like riff is irresistible and forms a solid base for the swirling psychedelic effects blanketed over the top. The track drops out at the end of 7mins and is bathed in a warm sea of synth effects for the rest of its 5min duration. This drone segues into 'Well Hang', which is a more tempered affair but the tension is ratchetted up a notch. Drums are forsaken for blocky percussion and the track is led by spooky layers of keyboard. 'Well Hang' serves beautifully to break up the insistence of the bass frequencies and brutal repetition of the epics either side of it and it's actually pretty damn melodic too.

The entire record burrows itself into the subconscious & fragments of music will pop into your head now & then & you'll realise they're from this album. Making a mostly instrumental album memorable is a mean feat but making bits actually stick in your head is astounding. Also something you'll notice here, which is glaring, is the absence of meandering guitar solos. Usually when psychedelic rock is mentioned all there is to think of is endless fuzzy guitar leads. Yet Gnod & White Hills are all about the transcendental nature of repetition; wanky guitar solos would break up their mantra and you know what; I don't miss 'em at all.

Obviously, as you've probably gleaned from my descriptions, this record is an acquired taste. I seem to have gone a bit overboard on the positive superlatives here but Drop Out came just at the right time when I wanted something fresh and exciting and for me at least, Gnod and White Hills have delivered in spades. Because of the nature of the music it's not going to be a classic album or anything but it's a mighty fine effort that everyone should check out and is certainly one of my favourite discoveries in a long while.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 7, 2013 9:48 PM BST

Life on Earth
Life on Earth
Price: £14.70

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Snake In the Grass..., 30 July 2009
This review is from: Life on Earth (Audio CD)
Tiny Vipers, a.k.a Jesy Fortino, plays music for a certain state of mind. At the risk of sounding utterly pretentious, that mind state is one of an introspective melancholy.

Jesy's music is simple - just using a lone acoustic guitar, vocals and that incredibly useful tool - reverb. She picks her strings very deliberately and rarely resorts to full on strumming. The melodies are sparse and delicate and just creep up to the edge of prettiness then break away again before she reveals too much to the listener. She has a Neil Young-esque twang that is confusing at first but becomes part of the charm of the overall vibe of the record.

Life On Earth has one of the best record covers I've seen in a while - not because it's eye catching or original or even technically brilliant - but because it captures the very essence and soul of the album.

It is a simple photograph of Fortino looking windswept and almost forlorn, it has blurred forms in the foreground and sparks from a fire spitting upwards and struggling against the wind. The sky is a dappled grey. The title is in a tiny, inconspicuous font in white above her head. There is nothing better that they could have done - because the album sounds like the cover art and the cover art looks like the music.
We see Jesy alone in the middle of the image as it's just her inside the record - you feel as though there is nobody else for miles around apart from you, looking from where the image was taken. But she's slightly blurred and windswept and out of reach. The lyrics represent this as they are thought provoking and very visual but quite impenetrable. As do the melodies - they are there but they're so sparse and subtle it's hard to glean anything from them. I find this so intriguing that I just keep listening to it over and over It's perfect for this time of year - Manchester in Autumn. Grey, yet filled with life.

Life On Earth is such a baffling record for me - half of the tracks break the six minute mark and the title track cracks ten minutes. All just acoustic picking and vocals. With such a lack of obvious melody the whole thing should scream of dullness but it doesn't, there's something about it that makes me return. Maybe I see it as a challenge - to extract something, anything from it's such familiar, yet alien elements.

Jesy's voice is warm and the reverb accentuates it but when she sings louder there is a coldness creeping into the edges of her voice. Like a warm jet of water suddenly frozen in the air whilst the reverb carries it's ghost into the distance. That feeling of melancholy permeates everything about Life on Earth.

Yet it is still quite impenetrable music and as I've mentioned, it's unignorable lack of traditional melodies will put off a lot of people. It's music for a state of mind - for a grey day in Manchester. It's music that takes you to that shot on the record cover. And when you get there it slowly transforms, without perception, to the bright orange of the sleeve that holds the CD inside.

Static Tensions
Static Tensions
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £7.51

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wandering Freely..., 7 April 2009
This review is from: Static Tensions (Audio CD)
I can safely say, right off the bat, that Kylesa have knocked out one of the albums of the year with Static Tensions. It's a fairly bold statement considering we're only a quarter of the way through 2009 but this album really is a stormer.

Kylesa's sound is pretty hard to pin down - they use elements of stoner rock, doom, hardcore, metal and good old fashioned psychedelic rock to paint a Jackson Pollock-esque musical landscape. At first Kylesa's music seems messy as it jumps around all over the place, they have two vocalists (three on past albums) and their songs do seem to blur together somewhat. If you give them the time to sink in, you realise everything is so finely crafted and considered it forms a bigger, more textural and elaborate picture.

Kylesa employ two drummers, which may seem a tad overindulgent but they lock together in time so well that often it seems there's only one. What would the point be you ask of having two drummers that sound like one drummer? If you've ever seen a band with two drummers live, then you'll not be asking that question.

Static Tensions is most definitely the peak of Kylesa's career so far. Their previous two albums were both great but lacked something. Without doubt, Static Tensions has this - the elusive aspect of melody. A wee bit of a taboo when discussing a metal band - I'm not talking about a Disney theme amount of melody here - but just the right amount to offset the riffs and stampede of drums; and most of all - so every single track locks iteslf into your mind in some form or another.

Every track has a recognisable vocal hook of some kind - a catchy bridge riff or breakdown or intro - there's always something going on. The two drum kits are split left and right and pretty much everything else runs through the centre of the mix. Everything is tight and clear enough for Static Tensions to be forceful and heavy without being sludgy.

One of the key factors of this being a brilliant record is the complete lack of throw-away material. I'll be honest - as I've mentioned, the tracks to blur together a bit because they jump around stylistically so often, but when every track is this good, who cares?

The only band they can really be compared to is Mastodon. They aren't as obsessed with virtuoso prowess as Mastodon and have a much darker Neurosis-like tension. Whereas Mastodon are losing focus as they mature - Kylesa are getting better and better. A perfect example where the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts.
Hopefully Static Tensions will garner the attention and respect Kylesa deserve, they've definitely earned it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 22, 2012 8:42 PM BST

This Face
This Face
Price: £18.63

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Gnawed my own foot off..., 22 Mar. 2009
This review is from: This Face (Audio CD)
I read a fair few reviews of `This Face' before I bought it, yet after the first couple of listens, I realised that every review I've read failed at actually giving you the information you essentially want from a record review - "is it any good?".
I'll cut to the chase - No. It's not good. In fact, it's pretty terrible.

The main selling point and appeal of Gnaw is the vocalist is one Alan Dubin, who's pedigree in extreme music is impressive - handling vocals for O.L.D. in the early Nineties and up until their split in 2007, for Khanate.
O.L.D. and Khanate were both creative, broundbreaking extreme metal bands and for me, Khanate are almost unsurpassable in the doom metal genre. The reason they're so well regarded is the tension and unpredictability in their sound - the creative use of dead space and crystal clear production opened everything out to you so no nerve ending was left unscathed. Dubin's vocals were centre stage and every word he scraped from his larynx was utterly terrifying on first listen. In fact, I really should be reviewing Gnaw as it's own beast but it's impossible to stay away from Khanate comparisons because of those unique vocals.

Therefore, hearing those vocals in a new setting after the demise of Khanate is an exciting prospect. It was exiting at first but then the music sinks in then the lyrics sink in and frankly, both elements are pretty bad. There's been a massive amount of hyperbole surrounding 'This Face', reviewers describing how the lines of high art and music have been blurred. I'm sorry but that's just stupid.

The presentation of the product is superb (shiny things can be deceptive - like a turd wrapped in tin foil) - it sounds amazing thanks to the inclusion of Emmy Award winning sound mixer Brian Beatrice and the ever reliable, James Plotkin's mastering job. However the music, for want of a better word, is highly abstract industrial noise mixed with traditional elements of doom metal. Both trades interact and fight against one another without deciding on a winner and the whole thing is a big mess in my opinion. There are no riffs to pick out, no atmosphere or tension to draw you in, not even any vocal hooks - even Khanate had vocal hooks. Because the music is like this, Dubin's delivery doesn't seem to gel and sounds out of place throughout most the album. He even has a go at clean singing - Alan, please don't try this again, and if you do, make sure it's in tune.

Dubin's past lyrics have been abstract, well crafted rantings of a madman. He uses implication and suggestion and crafted his words round the music to great effect. Here, because there isn't much music to speak of, the words lose imapct and are meaningless rantings, broken sentences and ridiculous phrases - "Clean white tile, sneers the filth". "Stain the floor with my shame". When he does get the lyrics right, the music renders them almost meaningless because it's so brash and devoid of emotion. One thing you cannot fault him for however, is the conviction in the delivery.

Arguments against what I'm trying to get across could be that fact that this isn't supposed to be pleasant and it's an experiment in extremity, and suchlike. I understand this; this is why I bought it, this is why I listen to Khanate / Discordance Axis / Corrupted / etc. etc. It's just that `This Face' seems too forced, to messy and aimless to be really enjoyable.

It will be interesting to hear what Gnaw do next however, so let's just chalk this down as a badly failed experiment - like a freak locked in a cupboard that you'd only open out of sheer morbid curiosity.

Evil Empire
Evil Empire
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.21

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More relevant than they ever were..., 19 Oct. 2008
This review is from: Evil Empire (Audio CD)
Rage have had a lot of influence (musically) on my life. I was introduced to them via MTV of all places where I witnessed People of the Sun maybe 10 years ago. What a song! It was like nothing I'd heard before, or since for that matter. It smashed, devoured and danced over the graves of everything I'd heard previously. So much energy, intensity and anger, so much groove. I was undoubtedly and unquestionably hooked and Rage became my favourite band up until I discovered Kyuss a few years later when the features of my musical landscape shifted once again.

There was something untimely special about Rage & their intense political leanings; even if you didn't exactly agree with De La Rocha's extreme left wing, anti capitalist political views he damn well made you aware of them. But with tracks like People of the Sun, Bulls On Parade, Vietnow, & Down Rodeo, who cares what they're about; they're some of the best tunes ever written and I will say that with a hand on my heart.

The musicianship, often overshadowed by Zack's rants, is outstanding; possibly the most flawless and tightest band I've ever heard. Such is their insensity, these guys don't even need to speak and they whip up a crowd as if it were effortless. Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford were, and still are, a stomping rhythm section and Tom Morello can coax some ungodly sounds out of his guitar. Unfortunately their talents have been wasted over the past few years in Audioslave.

Evil Empire, to me, feels like the forgotten middle album, overshadowed by the mighty self titled. Also, whilst not being their best album, the self titled takes that prize, it is my favourite. It's a lot darker, it's more diverse and my favourite two Rage tracks are on here in the form of People of the Sun and Bulls On Parade.

As they virtually invented `rap-metal' as it's now known, (now a near blasphemous phrase), there isn't as much on here as you'd think. There's more subtlety & more experimentation; Snakecharmer, Revolver, and Tire Me, don't actually have any rapping on them. Also, because Rage were a heavy band De La Rocha is largely considered a rock vocalist but his talents as a rapper are among the best. Stringing the lyrics together as he does with a political message and often storytelling is a difficult skill rather than "gangsta shopping list" style dross. Listen to 'Maria' from Battle of L.A. as proof - some of the best lyrics I've ever heard.

Evil Empire is still one of my favourite albums I have to say. Even though I sorely overlook them in my frequent ventures to my CD collection, Rage will still be in my favourite bands list 5, 10, years from now. Everything by Rage is essential. Nothing like them will happen ever again.

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