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ratmonkey (Hardy Country)

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Draconian Times
Draconian Times
Offered by MMT-UK
Price: 11.54

4.0 out of 5 stars Hallowed, 7 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Draconian Times (Audio CD)
This is a great album and can possibly be considered as one of their best efforts, but not at the expense of so many other better ones. For many years since its release (almost 20 years now - eek!) this one album has been the focus of fan and critic reveration. I enjoyed it when it came out and I enjoy it equally now but it is debatable whether this is their BEST. But that's purely objective and depends from fan to fan. For me this is close but not their best effort by no short distance. Icon and Shades of God were more my preference, and I even rate Host and Believe in Nothing as equal in quality to Draconian Times I'm afraid (you'll feel the urge to stop reading now, but honestly I'm not insane:)). Draconian Times is a very good album. But not the holy grail of Paradise Lost. Why?

It is possibly their most accessible and easily their most conventional album to that point. 'The Last Time' was even on Top of the Pops. This did not harm it in any way but it seemed that the material was honed towards an audience with less time on their hands to appreciate the nuances of, for example, 'Your Hand in Mind' or 'Crying for Eternity' on Shades of God. This was both good and bad. It produced a large handful of excellent, single-like tracks. But it felt a bit empty. However this is a minor gripe really as most bands go through a commercial stage, and quite rightly a lot of them have to as the more listeners, the more revenue, which is something critical analysis shouls also be sympathetic to. Selling out is not always an abhorrent practice. It puts food on musicians' tables. But I suppose there are ways of selling out. PL did not sell out at all (even with Host, which I prefer to view as brave rather than foolhardy). Draconian Times was still a very heavy, very well written and thoughtful entry into their portfolio. It just wasn't QUITE as good as the 2 that preceded it.

Best tracks are 'Hallowed Land', 'The Last Time', 'Shadowkings' and 'Shades of God'. But the rest are still good. Well worth a purchase for any self-respecting metal fan.

Shades of God
Shades of God
Offered by westworld-
Price: 17.98

4.0 out of 5 stars The future's so bright..., 6 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Shades of God (Audio CD)
Near perfect and an almost-classic (possibly a very real classic in many fans' eyes though), Shades of God was the sound of a band in transition. Since their doom-sludge origins on Lost Paradise to the more melodic and gothic, Gothic, every album seemed to have a different bent and approached with different ideas and sensibilities. Shades of God changes tack once more and moves further onto the road they were to travel in the following years; towards a more conventional heavy metal/hard rock style a la Metallica circa Ride the Lightning. This was no bad thing. Holmes' growling vocals became a soaring and rousing mixture of roars and 'proper' singing. The guitars were crisper and more powerful and the song structures veered towards the tuneful, dare I say single-worthy(?). But this was all wrapped up in a fine coat of proper metal and was not about to face the listeners of Radio 1 et al or break into the mainstream (yet). It was still a fine, underground metal album that was assured and gentle and heavy and thoughtful. But it was far more accessible than their previous efforts.

Best tracks are 'Mortals Watch the Day', 'Embraced', 'Pity the Sadness' and the excellent 'As I Die'. But there is not much of a lull in quality with the rest. They are all just longer, and a little more rambling. But on the whole this is a fantastic, fresh sounding metal album. And they would continue to evolve...

Theatre of Pain
Theatre of Pain
Offered by iPodMeister
Price: 15.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Smokin!, 30 May 2012
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This review is from: Theatre of Pain (Audio CD)
By far not as bad as a lot of folk make it out to be, infact it may not be on a par with Shout at the Devil or Girls, Girls, Girls but there are some seminal Crue tracks to found.

'City Boy Blues' is a surprise of an opener. It is bluesy (shock, horror!) and has a confident, southern swagger that heralds the 'new', more generic glam-rock sound that was to stick until present day. 'Smokin'...' is a classic track. It's silly and purile but then so is 'Girls, Girls, Girls'. But it is also one catchy tune. As is 'Louder Than Hell', another classic in my opinion, created from the demo, 'Hotter Than Hell' from the Shout sessions. 'Home Sweet Home' is cheese par excellence. '(We Need a Lover) Tonight' is a pacey rock tune that hits all the right buttons.

Granted the rest aren't perfect but there are no actual 'bad' songs to be found, just a couple of average ones perhaps. But no self-respecting Crue fan should be complete without it!

Offered by Discountdiscs-UK : Dispatched daily from the UK.
Price: 12.95

3.0 out of 5 stars Rapturous, 30 May 2012
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This review is from: Gothic (Audio CD)
A slightly different direction than the death metal stylings present on their debut, Gothic exhibited a new sense of melody that Lost Paradise was sorely in need of. It is not perfect by any means but Paradise Lost are interesting as their career can be mapped, album by album as they became more seasoned and confident, their influences far more evident as the years progressed.

The best tracks hear are the title track, the now classic 'Eternal' (it is excellent) and 'Shattered'. The rest are all good but some do not have as much to enjoy as others. The new goth-metal sound was a perfect transition from their sludge-doom/death beginnings that evolved again on their next release to embrace more conventional metal as well as industrial leanings, all the way to their eventual Depeche-Moding after One Second.

But Gothic was the beginning of a stretch of excellent albums.

Trouble With Angels
Trouble With Angels
Price: 8.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Angels and Demons, 23 May 2012
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This review is from: Trouble With Angels (Audio CD)
Less polemic than the rather fine Anthems for the Damned and possibly better for it. This follows suit however as far as quality is concerned, being as good as the last 3 records prior, but similar to The Almalgamut in tone. There are just 10 good to excellent songs, no sub-dance/goth/industrial closing dirges and most tracks are pretty catchy.

Opener, 'The Inevitable Relapse' is hard to like at first as it's quite angry and pummeling, akin to their industrial roots, but it becomes quite a catchy, mantra-like tune in time. Still, it's not the best on offer here. 'Drug Boy' is one of the best. It's hard, heavy, dirty and quite beautiful and uplifting once the chorus is reached, soaring vocals and instruments used to great effect. 'Absentee Father' follows suit but to a slightly lesser effect. As does 'No Love' although that employs slightly more balladry, despite it rocking at a pace in places. 'No Re-Entry' is another belter. It's a ballad of sorts, dripping with melancholia and a near-perfect chorus.

'Down With Me' is a perfectly passable, if usual 'verse/chorus' track. The chorus however draws it above the ordinary and into the 'very good' category. 'Catch A Falling KNife' is ok, no cigar with yet another good chorus. The title track is as 'Down...' was in quality and effect. And 'Clouds' is much the same: not perfect but very well done. It's with the slightly less powerful (or less over-produced) version of 'Fades Like a Photograph' where the album returns to and finishes on a high. At first it pales in comparison to the version from the 2012 soundtrack but after a while the chorus becomes so contagiously beautiful that the 2 versions seem interchangeable. If you want a bit of oomph, try the 2012 edit. If you want a more reserved version, go with the album edit. Either way it's a great song.

Another very pleasing, if not groundbreaking, piece of work from Partick et al. It seems that the ideas and songs keep on coming after the long break between The Amalgamut and Anthems for the Damned. Here's to looking forward to Gurney and the Burning Books (unreleased at time of writing 05/2012).

Snakes & Arrows [Jewelcase Version]
Snakes & Arrows [Jewelcase Version]
Price: 9.53

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Divine work, 23 May 2012
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After the almost-alternative dark and difficult strains of Test For Echo and Vapor Trails, Snakes and Arrows literally breezes in and fills your ears and soul with light. It is immediate, much, much more so than their previous 2 efforts; it is musical, possibly the most well-written and tuneful since Hold Your Fire; it is classic, insomuch as it sounds like the Rush of old played by Rush now; but it is still as deep and as thoughtful and as measured as any other release. It is swiftly becoming one of my favourite Rush albums, which is a pretty big statement considering the competition. However there are 2 tracks I would eject, which I will get to later.

'Far Cry': a true Rush opening track. It is powerful, brusque, hooky as heck and peppered with sublime sections that battle with raging, heavy licks for supremacy. In a word: priceless. So, a good start. And this is important as I had difficulty with liking their previous 2 albums due in no small way to the dense and impenetrable nature of the opening tracks which heralded a daunting experience. No such quagmire here. You're straight in with chouses and verses and bridges that sing like the finest crystal due to one of the finest production jobs a Rush album has enjoyed since maybe Presto. It is clean and clear and almost the aural equivalent to 3-D. 'Armor and Sword' is another winner but also a nice reminder of how Rush used to make songs. It is longer and more keenly constructed, possibly a little darker in tone and content but in the way that a lot of the material from A Farewell to Kings was, but it sounds positive and new and humming with purpose and intent and quality control. 'Working Them Angels' returns to single territory but in the most effective way. It is another classic tune, structured a little like 'Roll the Bones'. 'A Larger Bowl' is sublime and very Presto-ey. A more considered, acoustic-lead track that has one of those choruses that Rush used to be able to do so well, the ones that come up from behind and remain with you forever. 'Spindrift' is a monster that mixes heavy guitars with melody and finesse. So far, no duds at all. Instrumental, 'The Main Monkey Business' is now my new best Rush instrumental (which gets beaten very shortly). It is a great, catchy, melodious almagamation of all member's expertise. 'The Way the Wind Blows' is acoustic, light, deep, tuneful and everything a great track has to be. Another classic.

Then my new, new favourite instumental kicks in. It's only 2 minutes long but it is one of the most beautiful pieces of acoustic guitar strumming I have heard. Truly uplifting and thoughtful. Near perfect, literally. Then another lighter track, 'Faithless'. Again it is hard to see this not becoming a future classic. It is up there rubbing noses with perfection. 'Bravest Face' and 'Good News First' are both similar in quality, not quite as good as what has come before but only by the thinnest of hairs. My pick is 'Bravest Face'. It has another infectious chorus and is just a simply excellent song, period. 'Good News First' is not as immediate but still contains enough melody and understated nuance that it is hard to deny its impressive power. The only 2 tracks that didn't do it for me were the closing 2. 'Malignant Narcissism' was an instrumental too far in my opinion. It is not bad as such, just not nearly as good as the other 2. And 'We Hold On' is an ok track that cannot ever be as good as the music that precedes it.

Still, despite 2 little hiccups, Snakes and Arrows offeres both a return to form and a nudge to the past. It contains the biggest collection of good material the band have released in years and is just a very, very good rock album. Fingers crossed for Clockwork Angels.

Wrecking Ball (Deluxe)
Wrecking Ball (Deluxe)
Offered by jim-exselecky
Price: 9.49

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars New Build Americana, 18 May 2012
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This review is from: Wrecking Ball (Deluxe) (Audio CD)
Similar in scope to 2002's excellent The Rising but altogether different in tone, Bruce has returned to reinvent himself a little by adding some folk sensibilities into the mix. He has always dabbled around the folk area of music, incorporating country, funk, soul, alternative and pop on a regular basis but very rarely have any of his songs sounded quite so 'Irish Rover' as they do here. That is not to say it is a bad thing or that the style is prolific; indeed the majority of the material is Bruce doing what he does best - singing up for the working class, despite his countless millions and the continuingly widening gulf that exists between himself and his collective muse. But what is striking about this collection is how different it is from his previous albums, Working on a Dream and Magic. They were inimitably Bruce. Wrecking Ball is an album with its eye on the charts, albeit a very worthy and thoughtful eye. But the good news is that it is both a return to form and a relatively brave step, musically.

Opener and single, 'We Take Care of our Own' is a great little song that reminds of the tone of material circa Tunnel of Love - the GOOD material. 'Easy Money' is down and dirty and the first folk forray. And it's pretty swinging and catchy and upbeat in spite of the content. 'Shackled and Drawn' is ok. It sticks with the fiddle-de-dee folk stylings and works pretty well but is beaten by 'Easy Money' in quality. 'Jack of All Trades' is the Bruce we know and love of Nebraska and Devils and Dust etc and is the first truly excellent track. It takes a while to sink in but it is measured and simple and perfectly quotidian. 'Death to My Hometown' returns to the folk-rock bent but with further gusto and fire of intent. It's a great, fun tune to tap you toe or slap your knee to. 'This Depression' returns to Bruce's melancholic territory but in a powerfully moving and hook-laden way. Another near-perfect track. The title track is pacey, fun and catchy. It's a little slight but will become a hummable classic I'm sure.

'You've Got It' has a swagger and a slow rock'n'roll, bluesy lick that sounds like a cross between 'State Trooper' from Nebraska and 'Gloria's Eyes' from Human Touch. And it is the quality of both combined. 'Rocky Ground' is by far the best song on the album. It's a gospel number ostnsibly and it knocks your socks off with its effortless hooks. It even has a rap in the middle that you don't realise until it's done. It's good. 'Land of Hope and Dreams' is a little too long for the quality of material but it is still a very good song, powerful and driving. And 'We Are Alive' finishes things off on a very upbeat note, albeit not a particularly interesting one, compared to the rest of the material.

The 2 bonus tracks are both great but 'Swallowed Up' wins with its brooding terror and despairing tone. It is barely a song, sung almost acapella but it haunts rather than excites. 'Americanland' is the folk-Bruce back at his most derivative. It is an ok song but so is 'Irish Rover'.

A great album, not a perfect album. It's a return to form musically but also sounds less like a Bruce Springsteen album than ever. But I can live with that as long as the songs are as good as this.

Vapor Trails
Vapor Trails
Price: 5.90

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Secret touches, 17 May 2012
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This review is from: Vapor Trails (Audio CD)
2002: The US invaded Afghanistan; The Queen Mother passed away; the Mars Odyssey mission finds evidence of water on Mars; and Rush released their first new album in 8 years. A new Rush album is always a momentous ocassion, especially as Vapor Trails(VT) emerged as the excrutiatingly hard to love AND hate follow-up to 1996s' equally hard to love and hate, Test For Echo(T4E). Personally every Rush album feels like a challenge, something I began to realise started happening around A Farewell To Kings and Hemispheres (now they WERE challenging - but worth it), because they never begin to sound how they end up sounding. Nearly all post Permanent Waves releases at first sounded musically bereft until after the 3rd or 4th spin when, without warning, aural manna would start to vent from the speakers. I would be taken by surprise almost every time. This did and didn't happen with T4E and VT. They both got increasingly better but never reached the level of musical addiction that other albums had.

'One Little Victory' is a good start and quite similar to the title track from T4E. It is epic, technical, angular, majestic and a little average all at the same time. But very good. 'Celing Unlimited' felt slightly underwhelming and even after many listens this did not change. Yes, there are the trademark Rush melodies and hooks that you simply cannot ignore and your brain will relay back to you in those inappropriate moments when trying hard not to whistle in people's faces, but ultimately it is good and no more. 'Ghost Rider' is a near all-acoustic saga that, once again, you cannot deny in terms of understated catchiness. BUt it, still, is no classic in my opinion. 'Peaceable KIngdom' follows suit. It is only when 'And The Stars Looked Down' appears that proceedings start to take on a calmer ambience. It is a great song. But one that you will probably not replay, especially when other classics from better albums are sitting there waiting to let out again. In short, it is good but no 'Marathon' or 'Spirit of Radio' etc. 'How It Is' is another gentle track with lots of great music and the usual 'catchy-but-you-don't-know-it' chorus but it also suffers from a little slice of mediocrity. The title track: ditto, only better.

I won't extend further criticism to the remainder of the album, suffice it to say that the interplay of excellent songwriting together with a lack of creativity makes for a similar experience as the first half. Apart from the one pick I have from the album that stands out as arguably the best out of the material present, 'Secret Touch'. It sounds like Rush from Power Windows or Hold Your Fire which is never a bad sound. It is very technical and creative and catchy and, well, Rushy. More of this would have made for a far more exciting record. As it stands this is on par with T4E and very similar in tone also. BY any other band this would be reason for joy. From a band of Rush's calibre it is a little disappointing.

I also have to agree with one other reviewer regarding the remastered production. It is too loud and distorts a lot of the heavier movements which doesn't help when trying to enjoy it.

On the whole: better than good but no complete triumph. One little victory I suppose with 'Secret Touch' (excuse the almost-pun), but I'll save my slings and arrows (sorry, snakes) for the much better produced and far more immediately likeable follow-up album.... what was it it called again?
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 27, 2012 9:45 AM BST

Test For Echo
Test For Echo
Offered by playanywhere
Price: 4.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Testing...testing..., 4 May 2012
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This review is from: Test For Echo (Audio CD)
Once again Rush have confounded critique, evolved AND maintained the status quo and created yet another frustratingly brilliant yet flawed addition to their body of work. Test for Echo(T4E) is at first uninteresting, at times harks back to material circa A Farewell to Kings/ Hemispheres (an era that for me produced similar feelings of apathy towards their music) and on the surface presents itself as quite an 'average' sounding record. But, as with most of the Rush albums I have initially disliked, T4E does probably the most impressive job of slowly becoming a fantastic collection. It's never going to be a classic in my eyes and there are no outstanding tracks but every single song is well-crafted and contains melody, rhythm and hooks that are more subtle than any that have come before.

The title track is probably the best proof of this. At first it sounds a bit of a mess with tempo changes aplenty. Fast, slow, heavy, acoustic. It is difficult to pin-point and make any sense of. But this is Rush and they are all about that. Suffice it to say that it will eventually become a great song with swagger, attitude and grace. 'Driven' is the most immediate track here. It does not take long to 'get' as it were. However once you think you've nailed the melodies it just gets better and better with every listen, and instead of sounding like a single with a great chorus it turns into a thoughtful, dark anthem. 'Half the World' is rather breezy in comparison and does itself an injustice of making it sound trite at first. But, yes, it also transforms and its simple wassailing become passionate strains. 'The Colour of Right' is probably one of my picks from the album while initially it was my least favourite. It's another quiet song that has so much packed into it it is a wonder how they made it all sound so simple. 'Time and Motion' is an angular, erratic, heavy and almost alternative piece(not unlike material from Counterparts). Same rules apply - it gets better with every listen. Much better.

'Totem' is quieter but still contains the magical expertise of the band to create so much tune and melody from something that sounds like a wisp of a song. 'Dog Years' turns the amps back on. At first I found this almost laughable but it was hard to deny its musical prowess. Time once again proved to soften its edges and sharpen its bite. 'Virtuality' and 'Resist' are another of my highlights. The former is akin to a Rush single and has a very simple but irrepressible chorus. The latter is a near perfect ballad with a central melody that both soothes and moves, together with the usual excellent harmonies. 'Limbo' is possibly the only Rush instrumental I have ever liked. I don't know why I have never been that fond of them but I suppose it can relate to how well they can create a song with lyrical content. But 'Limbo' is great. And 'Carve Away the Stone' finishes how it started and continued - frustratingly. An ok song suddenly turns into a belter after 4 or 5 listens. Cracking chorus.

So yet another statement of intent and triumph of creativity over marketability. I'm almost sad that I only have 2 more Rush albums to enjoy (3 including the yet to be released Clockwork Angels at time of writing 05/2012). But as an album that it seems many fans list as one of their least favourite, T4E does itself justice eventually with nothing more than being full of just great music. It is there, and just like Sisyphus' stone, you'll need to chip away at it, put the effort in and it will be freed. It will be more than worth it.

After all that I think I'm coming down with a case of the vapors. Which can mean only one thing....
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 16, 2012 10:24 AM BST

Anthems For The Damned
Anthems For The Damned
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: 12.08

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Damned good, 25 April 2012
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This review is from: Anthems For The Damned (Audio CD)
Another consistent album with a handful of very good tracks. The style has changed slightly from The Almalgamut, it's less heavy and brash but just as confident. The subject matter also helps to calm things down and creates a sombre ambience that suits the mellower tracks. However it still does have a few up-tempo moments and loud guitars are the order of the day - just not too loud.

'Soldiers of Misfortune' starts everything off perfectly. It is one of the best tracks on the album and plays a nice balance between heavy rock and industrial, whilst also being a perfect mainstream single, complete with a very good chorus. And it feels worthy as opposed to simply jumping on the bandwagon of Bush administration-hating. 'What Next' is another winner. Great chorus, it's more of a heavy track with some searing vocals by Patrick. 'The Wake' is not as good as the first 2 but is still a great song. 'Cold(Anthem for the Damned) sits well as a title track of sorts. Again it does pretty much the same job as those tracks that preceded it with an outstanding chorus. 'Hatred...' is quite tuneful insomuch as you'll be humming the chorus quite quickly after hearing it. 'Lie after lie' is equally as contagious, more stripped down and acoustic for the most part. And 'Kill the Day' has a similar vibe, it's quite sunny and strummy. But all very good.

After the first 7 tracks the quality becomes less consistent. 'The Take' is ok but could have been shaved from the final cut in my opinion. 'I Keep Flowers Around' i cannot seem to gel with at all. It's a bit sprawling and angular but in a drum-machine kind of a way. Again, it's not so much bad as just not very interesting. 'In Dreams' and 'Only You' though are both very good. The first is a mid-tempo rock song similar to the opening salvo. And the latter is an excellent ballad of sorts that is one of the best songs on the album. 'Can Stop This' has the perfect title. It is another like 'The 4th' from the Amalgamut; ambient dance music with no real tune as such.

Overall on a par with The Amalgamut in quality alsthough slightly lighter and more thoughtful in tone. Not as good as the monster that is Title of Record but definitely another worthy addition the the slowly growing Filter catologue.

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