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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Let there be Light., 4 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Terrestrials (Audio CD)
Sunn O))) and Ulver are two of the most important bands in experimental music of the last decade, with Sunn O)))’s drone metal redefining what it really means to be heavy in the 21st century, while the ever-changing Ulver, since abandoning their early black metal beginnings, have mixed their own style of electronics with a diverse mix of genres such as trip-hop, ambient and even classical chamber music over the years. With this shared penchant for experimentation, this collaboration just makes sense, and my excitement for this release was huge.

Let there be Light features Sunn O))) playing their trademark droney guitars, but not in their usual bludgeoningly heavy style, instead providing some dark and haunting textures as a base for Ulver to play off of. Their contribution continues in the vein of 2012′s Messe I.X-VI.X, with brass and string instruments played over the top, creating a sense of uneasiness and melancholy, the sound of the horns particularly adding to this. It would seem the title “Let there be Light” isn’t fitting at all, until near the end when slow drums come in over the top, and the brass instruments grow louder in the most epic of manners, while all the while the drones play on and on, and it hits you like the sun suddenly coming over the horizon over a dark landscape, illuminating everything around in a sea of light and brightness.

Western Horn brings back the sense of darkness. With rumbling monolithic bass tones, electronic weirdness, ambient guitar riffs drenched in delay, haunting string sections, brass instruments, and even sparse piano and drums, there’s a heck of a lot going on in this track. It takes several listens to fully appreciate, but it’s excellently complete, and despite it’s dark atmosphere, it almost feels serene at the same time – it fits in the dark ambient bracket rather well. It drones and rumbles darkly, but it’s also wonderfully beautiful and melancholic. It’s perhaps the best piece on the album, despite it’s short length.

The closing track “Eternal Return” is the most ambient track of the lot, with a lot of emphasis on the strings instruments over the rumbling bass, with Ulver’s trademark electronics coming in at the half way point along with Garm’s only vocals of the album delivering a dark and haunting performance, possibly his best one ever. It’s the longest piece on the album, and it has a beautiful atmosphere to it.

If there’s anything negative to say, it’s that its simply too short, clocking in at only 36 minutes. Sunn O))) have longer singular pieces of music in their catalogue, and there are so many great ideas, particularly on Western Horn, that they could have been fleshed out further over a longer playing time. However, despite it’s short length it doesn’t feel incomplete, and most good albums should leave you wanting more.

A lot of collaborations don’t seem to work, but like Sunn O)))’s earlier collaboration with Boris, this is incredible, with both artists gelling together well and delivering an excellently dark and melancholic release. This is a perfect follow up to both Ulver’s Messe I.X-VI.X, and Sunn O)))’s Monoliths and Dimensions, and is an exciting, vibrant album which doesn’t fit neatly into any genre, taking it’s cues from Drone, Electonic, Dark Ambient and Chamber Music. Definitely not one to be missed by fans of either band, or experimental music in general.

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Paradise?, 4 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Hydra (Audio CD)
Dutch Symphonic Metal band Within Temptation have been one of the most famous bands in the genre ever since the release of their 1997 debut Enter. The release of their 6th album Hydra sees them continue in the vein of 2011′s The Unforgiving, with their bombastic, catchy metal songs, while also displaying something of an experimental edge with guest appearances on four of the tracks, with artists as varied as ex-Nightwish singer Tarja Turunen, and rapper Xzibit. It’s also a lot more symphonic than The Unforgiving, with choirs and orchestra really adding to the music. The end result is another great bombastic and powerfully catchy symphonic rock album, with a lot of variation.

It’s clear from the outset that Sharon’s singing has improved immensely since The Unforgiving, where her voice was a little weak – she puts in a fantastic performance on this album, her best yet on a Within Temptation release. The guitar work is at its best too, with catchy riffs and epic solos throughout the album. The opener “Let Us Burn” is an excellent catchy track, with a fantastic riff and catchy chorus, it’s an epic which is sure to be a future crowd favourite. “Dangerous” features Killswitch Engage Singer Howard Jones, and is another bombastic heavy song, however, his overly clean vocals seems a little out of place, but the song still works well. The same can be said of “And We Run” featuring rapper Xzbit. It’s extremely rare that rap works in a metal setting, and this really doesn’t change anything, it still sounds odd, and doesn’t really add a whole lot to the song. It works quite well, but not without raising a few eyebrows.

All is not lost on the guest vocalist slots though, and one of the best tracks of the album is definitely the brilliant “Paradise (What about us?)” Featuring Tarja. It contains simply everything that makes Within Temptation so great, it’s catchy, bombastic, heavy, symphonic and contains fantastic vocals from both Sharon and Tarja. Its one of their best tracks to date. The album gives a change of pace in slower tracks “Edge of the World” and “Dog Days” with the former seeing Sharon’s voice beautifully take centre stage alongside excellent symphonic melodies, and the latter being absolutely excellent, providing the best symphonic sections on the album albeit a lazy chorus “1,2,3,4 what are you waiting for?” which mars an otherwise fantastic track.

The album even sees the return of Robert Westerholt’s death growls, missing ever since the debut album, 1997′s Enter, on the excellent up-tempo track Silver Moonlight, and the equally brilliant Tell me Why, these two sounding perhaps the most complete tracks on the album, the latter being the longest and the heaviest track. Closing track “The Whole World is Watching” features another guest in Dave Pirner, who has a soft tone to his voice, which fits well alongside Sharon’s voice. It’s one of the album’s softer and more upbeat songs, with excellent symphonic sections and lyrics; its a good way to end the album.

Overall, this album is Within Temptation at their very best, it’s perhaps their most complete effort to date. It shows them perfecting their trademark style of catchy, bombastic symphonic metal, while still showing their willingness to experiment with varied guest vocalists. Most of the tracks have the potential to be excellent live, and will be sure to be played on their upcoming World Tour. There are a few minor flaws, where the guest vocalists don’t fit all that well, and the pretty bad chorus of “Dog Days”, but overall the rest of the album is so good that this can be ignored. Within Temptation fans will love the album, and any fans of Symphonic Metal in general should find a lot to enjoy in this release.

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Wild Card
Wild Card
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 30 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Wild Card (Audio CD)
Released in the second half of last year, was the second album from Revamp, the new band formed by Floor Jansen following the demise of After Forever. After suffering from burnout and completely leaving music for a year, Floor was asked to join Nightwish to replace Anette Olzon in the middle of the Imaginaerum world tour to fill in for the remaining dates, and has since joined as a permanent member. After the tour finished, a re-energized Floor set to writing the follow up to 2010′s self titled, and the album Wild Card was released.

The first thing you notice on this album is how much heavier it is compared to the debut album. Perhaps because of her burnout, there were a lot of negative emotions she needed to get out, and it comes across in every aspect of the music. Heavy chugging riffs and grooving sections are interspersed with keyboards and choirs contributing a symphonic flavour to the album. Guitar and keyboard solos are also used and give the album a progressive edge, while heavy drumming and lots of growling add to the heaviness and atmosphere of this rather diverse album. The most symphonic track on the album is Distorted Lullabies, which is one of my favourite tracks, it just has everything. Fantastic vocals, heavy riffs, symphonic sections and catchy melodies.

Floor's voice on this album is just staggering. She's one of my favourite singers, and she puts in a very diverse performance here, definitely one of her best. She can belt out powerful emotional melodies to match anyone, while also able to growl, sing beautifully soft passages, and use her operatic voice to incredibly dramatic effect. It's an incredibly genuine performance, and the lyrics for a lot of the songs are based on her burnout, three of the track names are even prefixed with the title "The anatomy of a nervous breakdown". A perfect example is found in "The Lymbic system":

"Open nerves, they're killing me.
Enlarging everything.
My mind explodes; it's burning up and scaring me.
Nothing feels the same, So strong it shuts me down, so strong I lost control."

Guest performances really add to the album: The prog mad-genius Devin Townsend contributes vocals to "The Anatomy of a Nervous Breakdown: Neurasthenia", Mark Jansen (also ex-After Forever, Epica) provides growls on "Misery's no crime", while Marcela Bovio (Stream of Passion) and Daniel De Jong (Textures) provide choirs across the album, which really add a nice addition to the heavy riffs.

All in all, this was by far the best symphonic metal which I heard from 2013, and any fan of the genre should check it out. It's incredibly emotional, heavy, progressive and epic in every sense of the word. It's almost a shame Floor will be splitting her time between ReVamp and Nightwish, especially after releasing an album this good, a good deal better than Nightwish's lastest release. Stand out tracks are: The Anatomy of a nervous Breakdown: the lymbic system, Wild Card, The Anatomy of a Nervous Breakdown: Neurasthenia, Distorted Lullabies and Misery's No Crime, but in actuality there isn't a single weak track on the album, and the album flows well as a whole, every track is its own piece of brilliance. And did I mention just how fantastic Floor is?

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15 Storeys High : Complete BBC Series 1 & 2 [DVD]
15 Storeys High : Complete BBC Series 1 & 2 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sean Lock
Price: £5.93

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crazy, 19 July 2013
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Bought this for my dad for father's day, him being a fan of Sean Lock's stand up and his role in the tv series 8 out of ten cats.

This is a very surreal sitcom, centering around 2 people who live together in a tower block. Everything about the characters and the situations they end up in is completely bizarre. You'll find yourself simultaneously in hysterics and scratching your head wondering how on earth someone had come up with this.

Sean Lock's comical mind is very outside the box and different. If you want a laugh out loud comedy series with a difference I can't recommend this highly enough.

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