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Lee Vickers "Metal fanatic" (Chesterfield, UK)
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Beautiful Stories For Ugly Children
Beautiful Stories For Ugly Children
Price: £10.17

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Make room for the 'shroom!, 18 Oct. 2010
To my ears, Mushroomhead's last outing "Saviour Sorrow" was a poor effort. To these ears, the songs just didn't stick and I didn't feel that Waylon was a suitable replacement for the much missed J Mann. I gave the album enough spins but it just didn't hit the mark.

So, follow up "Beautiful Stories For Ugly Children" (title of the year) is a real surprise...as much so in that this could be the finest Mushroomhead release to date.

The production is absolutely solid and even driving down the M1 I could hear all of the instruments. Unlike...ahem..another masked band, one thing that I love about Mushroomhead is that they do utilise the scratches and the keyboards, there is some piano in there and this can give the songs real depth. It's always been there but seeminly more prominent on this release.

I've always loved Mushroomhead's gothic tinged brand of metal. After 3 listens, the standout songs have to be Inspiration and Harvest The Garden.

Love the packaging of the CD and the cover art especially. Mushroomhead have gone to town on the masks this time around.

Overall, a terrific album and one that I can see being welded to the stereo.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 20, 2010 12:41 PM BST


The Cold
The Cold

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning return, 15 Sept. 2010
This review is from: The Cold (Audio CD)
I've been a Flotsam and Jetsam fan since their debut. Flotsam always had that little bit more than some of the bands that came out of the thrash scene. No doubt there will be some saying "are they still going?" but where some bands from the scene disbanded (and then reformed when the scene kicked in again many years later)...Flotsam never went away. Apart from the odd break, Flotsam have constantly released albums. Flotsam and Jetsam are hard to pin down because, as I say, they do add a little more to the mix than bog standard thrash, there was an experimental edge and a tendency to take risks and push the envelope.

'The Cold' is Flotsam's 10th album and it is an absolute belter. The previous album, 2005's "Dreams of Death" seemed be all over the place, a bit like its subject matter. I really thought that this was the end...but no, not only do Flotsam come back with a great album but a career defining album. This is the best that Flotsam have sounded, in my opinion, since Drift and Cuatro. Standout tracks on "The Cold" have to be...power ballad (Flotsam style) "Better of Dead", the glorious "Take", the haunting title track and the thrash fest, just to show that they still have it, my favourite track, "K.Y.A.". What impressed me about this album was not just that it sounds like Flotsam back to their best but they really have gone out of their way to make the best album that they could. By that I mean that there are some arrangements that, even as a long time fan, are surprising but they have ensured that there are some great solos and riffing. I have played this album on repeat since my download was ready Tuesday morning.

Oh and the cover artwork is probably one of the most striking covers I have seen. Ever.

Flotsam and Jetsam have had some career...but they've persevered. Music's cockroaches. To me, they have criminally been ignored and it would be a cfurther rime to ignore this album.

Flotz til death!!!!!!!!!!!!


Wintercoast
Wintercoast
Offered by ProgRock Wales
Price: £8.75

4.0 out of 5 stars I admit to being wrong about Touchstone!!!, 4 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Wintercoast (Audio CD)
I saw Touchstone support It Bites a few years ago and despite liking female fronted music, I just thought that they were plain dull. I admit to not knowing any of their material at all, which normally doesn't bother me, especially with a support act, many a time, I'm impressed enough to buy the entire back catalogue the next day. Touchstone just had a very monotone edge, they worked hard but at the time they just didn't cut it and I thought that they would languish in prog infused anonymity.

Having read the latest version of "Prog" magazine, Wintercoast came up time and time again in the critics poll. "Oh, them", I uttered. On one play of Wintercoast, I got it so wrong. Maybe a band in it's infancy at the time, maybe not enough material, maybe just finding their feet. I don't know and it doesn't matter. One listen of Wintercoast has convinced me that if they keep on this track, Touchstone will be massive. The playing is incredible, the vocals, at first, they really cut but 4 tracks in and they settled and really bore into the ears. I kept hearing a lot of different influences in there, I could hear Marillion at times, Genesis too. I liked it when the guitars kicked in and a rumbling bass line was in there to add some weight. The song structures don't meander as much but the vocals pin them down, even in the quiet parts, there is a sense of expectance.

I was so impressed with this album. I've tried other acts of their ilk and found that I couldn't get on with them. Not all (Karnataka and The Reasoning for example) but well respected acts like Magenta for example, great vocals but spoilt by overbearing keyboards. This is exactly why Touchstone have hit the mark, balance of the instruments and the voice.

I can't say that I won't be quick to judge in the future, it's a pleasure to say that I was wrong though. This album is amazing and I can see it it sitting in my CD player for some time to come.


Halestorm
Halestorm
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £7.63

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Impressed, 3 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Halestorm (Audio CD)
I actually only caught Halestorm very recently on Kerrang tv, something I stopped watching a while ago but a pre-work-easy-to-watch chance meant I saw the "I Get Off" video.

I've always liked female rock vocalist in all of their guises, from the 70's prog of Sonja and Curved Air, the 80's brought us Lee Aaron, Wendy O, Doro Pesch, Saraya, Robin beck (the list goes on for that decade) the 90's Christina Steele, Skin from Skunk Anansie and the onslaught of "symphonic" bands like After Forever and the early screaming of the wonderful Maria Brink. Female vocals throughout the decades of rock music have a lot to give a listener. The short explanation I can give is that the dark and light in rock music, to have a female voice over seering guitars and pounding drums. It's a sound to behold.

This dark and light has evolved though and at the moment, the symphonic angle is over-done, there are some diamonds in the rough but the record companies have gone over the top. Female fronted prog is barely getting a look in within the mainstream, a shame considering the talents of Mostly Autumn, Karnataka, The Reasoning and Touchstone.

Halestorm are a breath of fresh air. It would be wrong to say that this harks back to the 80's, for me it does but I know there is negativity about the decade and don't want to tag it in this way, my reasoning is that the Lizzy has the air and most probably takes inspiration from Beck, Ford, Aaron et al. What's important is Lizzy's voice is powerful, has range and is a joy to listen to. Ok, this is not just about Lizzy. The guitar grabbed me when I heard "I Get Off", clean and razor sharp. The rhythmn section are no slouches either. This is a foot tapping, no nonsense album, no worries as to finding complications within the music, or looking for hidden depths. This is an album for the car and for that time when only a straight forward rock album, verse-chorus-verse, will do.

I've no opinion as to lyrics, I can't get over the strength of Lizzy's voice to care a jot. This band have surprised and made me want to dig out a pile of female fronted bands and they won't be from this decade.

I've knocked a star off for the simple reason that they have more to offer in the way of their "heavy" and there is an insistence with ballads, always has been, unfortunately but they kind of break of the momentum. The cynic will say they have a record company to please as well. It's a personal preference that I'm not bothered about ballads, it's just in this case, it just broke the album up a little.

Halestorm will be massive and deservedly so.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 19, 2011 4:56 PM BST


Witch & Wizard
Witch & Wizard
by James Patterson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Abracadabra...it's in the bin, 12 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Witch & Wizard (Hardcover)
Although I am aware of James patterson's reputation as a writer, I've never bothered with his books before. If I want those thrilling page turners, Baldacci is the man. I saw this book sticking out of the, believe it or not, horror section of a major bookstore, picked it up, read the back, sounded interesting...didn't think that Patterson did "horror". I wasn't prepared to shell out hardcover prices, so left it. I spotted it again at "airport prices" whilst waiting for a delayed flight and thought that I'd give it a whirl. Blimey..I wish I hadn't bothered.

For all of the reviewers who like Patterson and his past works...you've all been stiffed. As a first time reader of his work, I know now to stay well away. I love horror and I like the supernatural stories, authors like Kelley Armstrong have got this stuff down. First off, this is obviously a teenage fiction, although there is no mention of it on the book and the shop obviously wasn't aware. I'm not knocking teenage fiction, anything to get kids reading is good but it's not my thing, I DO have an imagination and I like to give it a work out but this book did nothing of the sort, especially when there are ample more "adult" supernatural fiction novels out there. Despite the short chapters, the book became an endurance and I lasted to the end for the simple reason that I'd paid for it.

On the positive side, I liked the two main characters Whit and Wisty. The plot however, was so thin that it was laughable, as another reviewer said, everything was so convenient, there was no character development at all, Celia, literally appeared out of nowhere (I know, she's a ghost but we had no idea who she was), with ghosts busting the witch and wizard out of the hospital, a ready made army of teens on the "other side" willing to help, a talking weasel and the unintentionaly hysterical Michael telling them his story and then telling Whit and Wisty to naff off after he'd rabbited for a minute, I found myself wondering if I'd still kept the receipt for the book. Maybe I'm just the wrong age group and I intend donating the book to an avid teen reader just to see what she thinks.

There's a reason why Harry Potter does so well (I've not read it myself) and Rowling obviously has a knack of appealing to children and adults alike. Patterson doesn't have this knack and he should stick to what he's good at.

I won't deny that I'm miffed at being conned at where this book was placed to spark my interest, if it had been in teenage fiction, I would have walked straight past and bought something else. No doubt this novel appeals to someone and I think that teens would actually like it...if they can put Twilight down. However, hats off to whoever wrote the jacket description, far better fiction in my opinion in that it was nothing like what was contained inside.


Monster
Monster
Price: £6.09

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Oomph for your money, 1 Dec. 2009
This review is from: Monster (Audio CD)
I picked up on Oomph! from one of their much earlier albums "Unrein" and particularly the song "Gekreuzigt", which was a slab of hard and heavy industrial metal. "Monster!" and in fact the last three albums couldn't be further from "Unrein" and I love the direction. A grand departure, yes but a major progression, showcasing real talent, maturity and a good ear for a top notch tune and catchy chorus. Maybe some would consider it "selling out" but I don't because the songs have developed to such an extent that what's on offer is a superb listen with not a duff track anywhere to be heard.

"Monster!" is in my book far more consistent that "Wahreit...", strong production which harmonises the band rather than isolates one member from the other Oomph! are one strong unit.

There will be inevitable comparisons with Rammstein and I've heard of Oomph! being described as "Rammstein-lite" - unfair at best, considering the only real comparison is both bands insistence on singing in their native tongue. I don't see why Rammstein fans haven't picked up on Oomph! as yet.

I could wax lyrical about the individual tracks but I won't, suffice to say that "Wach Auf!" is addictive and it makes for a good alarm tone on the mobile phone.

With so much good music around, I'm sure Oomph! will be off most people's radar...time to get acquainted.


Shallow Life (Limited Edition)
Shallow Life (Limited Edition)
Price: £14.03

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Horrible album, 1 Dec. 2009
This is not only LC's worst album but has to be the worst album of the year by a country mile. I'm not elitist in any way, I'm happy that a band widens its audience, I don't always expect integrity, fortune and fame are too much of a grab for that but I do expect that bands improve as songwriters. Unfortunately, LC have gone in the opposite direction. I have never heard such unispired writing. The songs are flat and boring, the production has no real tone or depth, it all sounds the same from beginning to end, this album is an endurance.

I used to like LC, like others, Comalies is a good, strong album. Karmacode showed promise, hinted at a commercial direction but I don't care about that as long as the tunes are good.

Scabbia and that bloke that sings...I've always liked their interplay, I've seen them live and it works quite well in a "beaty and beast" kind of way. However, on CD, especially this one, it sounds very much like Scabbia's backing band...with a bloke that sings.

There are dozens of other female fronted acts that are worth your hard earned pennies and I'd head for those over this album. However, there is one redeeming feature of this album - it makes a good door stopper.

Avoid.


Apple iPod nano 16GB, 5th generation, Silver
Apple iPod nano 16GB, 5th generation, Silver

279 of 287 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 1 Dec. 2009
I'd always avoided iPods like the proverbial plague. After hearing numerous reports of weak earphones, tinny sound and the domineering iTunes, it sounded like a world of pain to me. So, 5 years ago I bought a Creative Zen, was very happy with it and would never look at anything else. Then, a pc upgrade rendered my "old tech" Zen unusable and I had to consider a replacement. Creative's range was uninspring and I found myself looking at iPod's again.

All I can say is...wow. What a little marvel. Sound being the most important, I was blown away by how good the 5th gen nano sounds. I don't see why good sound should be sacrificed for portability and the 5th gen exceeds any expectations. On all other portable players I've bought, I've always swapped the earphones that came with it for more expensive models but the standard are so comfortable and snug. My music has never sounded so good, it is a joy to listen to on my 2 hour to and back from work. No matter what song I play, the sound is fluid, has bounce and handles bass/treble and mid ranges with ease.

The 5th gen is super slim but packs such a punch, a beautiful finish, large screen and weighs nothing. I recommend a hard case for it though, I can see it easily scratched. I have to applaud Apple's forward thinking, instead of re-releasing the nano with nothing new, the difference between the 4th & 5th gen is staggering. Radio will be a major pull for some, not for me apart from if my bus is stuck in a traffic jam, the video camera and pedometer are interesting and inspired thoughts. A stills camera I would have definitely used but it's a minor whinge over a missed oportunity.

I still don't like iTunes, it's like the tail trying to wag the dog but I acquired a book about iTunes and already have navigated some of the irritating aspects about it.

So, I'm a convert. Instead of selling out, I've been missing out. I can't recommend the new nano enough, it will be interesting to see what Apple do next.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 26, 2011 2:19 PM BST


The Dark Knight - 2-Disc Batmask (Ltd Edition Exclusive to Amazon.co.uk) [DVD]
The Dark Knight - 2-Disc Batmask (Ltd Edition Exclusive to Amazon.co.uk) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Christian Bale

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pow!, 5 Feb. 2009
The best film of 2008 didn't exactly get any better by being housed in a plastic box shaped like the Batman's mask BUT it does add that cute touch.

I'm a sucker for the limited edition/exclusive tag and even though the Bat mask box 1. doesn't stand up unless you lean it against something which then lets dust in and ruins your discs and 2. is referred to my wife as 'tacky' the little extra price paid for something that is exclusive was well worth it.

As for the movie...where have you been? Dark Knight is simply the greatest Bat flick ever. Heath Ledger's Joker is pure malevolence, just like the comic books. There are some breathtaking scenes and much has been made of the violence which, even under close scrutiny at home is really not that bad.

The contents of the bat box are the same as the other two disc version, but if you want something that not everyone else has then a extra quid won't bother you.


Godspeed On The Devil's Thunder
Godspeed On The Devil's Thunder
Price: £38.28

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, 5 Nov. 2008
I was never much of a fan of Cradle's early works, although I admired the bands visualisations and their subject matter, I couldn't get past Dani's banshee/night after a bad curry vocal combo. However, Midian reeled me in with the fantastic "Her Ghost In The Fog" and I've been a fan ever since. I find it easy to like/dislike Cradle's albums, where Midian was an amazing album, I found Damnation hard work. I loved Nymphetamine and whilst I couldn't immediately like Thornography, I've since revisited it and found it to be an excellent album that I unfairly wrote off at first.

Godspeed is a whole different ball game though, I can't stop playing it. I've noticed other reviewers, fans of Cradles early stuff saying that this is the best since the old days...which I find interesting because I think that this album is a progression from Thornography. This album is meticulous in execution, from the concept to the ever reliable Doug Bradley's narration. The music is astounding, this band has never sounded better, I've always been impressed by the sheer poetry of Dani and this release is no exception.

I'm not even annoyed at the inclusion of two 'bonus' tracks on CD2 from "Harder, Darker Faster" (even though I bought the original Thornography) as for a change Roadrunner have given me the option of buying a special edition at the same time as the regular edition. Rare for Roadrunner!

All in all, I've never played a Cradle album as much as this one (much to the annoyance of my family/neighbours), a solid release from a band that polarize opinion but are always full of surprises.


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