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Reviews Written by
Chris Johnson

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Mercury Lift
Mercury Lift
Offered by BestSellerRecordshop
Price: £2.78

5.0 out of 5 stars promising stuff..., 10 Nov. 2003
This review is from: Mercury Lift (Audio CD)
The Mercury Lift
Century Media
2003 has been a year of metamorphosis in the music world, with bands changing as quickly as catwalk models between outfits. Lostprophets became American, Minus became melodic, rock became pop, hardcore became 'cool' and nu-metal became irrelevant (wasn't it always?). Ok, so Busted still haven't stopped living yet, but there's still time... Haste have been part of this shape-shifting phenomenon, and their new album represents a noticeable departure from previous offering 'When Reason Sleeps'. However, to simply state that they have 'changed', doesn't really do the transformation justice. Haste have evolved, in the truest sense of the word, and have emerged from their chrysalis as a superior band, a 'hardcore butterfly' if you will. Their sound has taken on a new melodic edge, with vocalists Kelly Reaves and Chris Mosley toning down their dual-pronged attack from the usual gravely screams, at times sounding like Stephen Carpenter from Taproot or Hopesfall's Jay Forrest at his most melodic.
Haste quote a diverse list of influences that range across the entire rock spectrum, from Quicksand and Sparkmaker all the way to Pantera and EyeHateGod, so its hardly surprising that The Mercury Lift is an eclectic beast. It will lull you into a false sense of security with songs like the beautiful "Houdini Lost His Key", with its probing guitars bringing back memories of post-rock threesome The Junket, only to then explode in your face without warning. Its almost like Haste have some form of musical Schizophrenia, with a melodic rock band crammed into the same body as a metallic hardcore band, and the album sees a constant battle between the two, with them both trying to exert their dominance on proceedings. It may have been better if one of the parties had dominated, because whilst diversity is always a good thing and can help increase the impact of both the heavier and more melodic moments, it almost proves to be a problem, as the one criticism I could level is that the album suffers from a slight lack of direction. Haste have yet to master the art of merging the heavy and melodic without losing some sense of coherence and continuity, although the songs are of a sufficient quality to overshadow this relatively minor shortcoming.
'God Reclaims His Throne' sees Haste slow things down, with a sludgy track that would sit comfortably on any album made by Electric Wizard or Warhorse. It also sees a vocal contribution from Randall Blythe of Lamb of God fame, whose guttural screams of "the deepest scars are made by the most familiar blades" crawl alongside, slow, sludgy riffs and a rumbling bassline.
The album title is inspired by an incident in their hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, where a university illegally disposed of mercury, poisoning several people in the process. This incident is not the specific focus of the album, it instead deals with the problems that exist throughout the world, and the fact that they are an inescapable fact of life - the incident simply acts as an embodiment of that theme that the band can relate to. This pain and hurt is realised in the savage "Revenge Tastes Like Blood And Broken Teeth', although I'm sure you could guess that, with a title like that, it was never going to be a ballad. This onslaught of pummelling bass drums and menacing guitars serves as a brutal climax to the album, leaving you reeling and ensuring that, at the very least, 'The Mercury Lift' will not be an album that you forget in a hurry.
Haste are planning to tour our shores early next year, don't miss out on this opportunity to see one of the most exciting bands around today.

The Artist In The Ambulance
The Artist In The Ambulance
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £4.03

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars metallic hardcore at its finest, 10 Nov. 2003
Hardcore is cool, its official. At this very moment, baggy trousered youths across the country are disposing of their Linkin Park t-shirts ("I mean, what was I thinking?"), to be suitably replaced with something a bit more 'this year' - Finch perhaps. Or maybe it will be a Thrice logo emblazoning their impressionable chests. But don't be fooled into thinking that Thrice are a flash-in-the-pan story, whose t-shirt you will be throwing in the bin next year. This is not a debut release that happens to accord nicely with whatever is popular at the moment (which in the case of a lot of bands is something less than a coincidence) - they are one of the reasons that hardcore is popular at the moment.
Thrice inhabit a potentially awkward middle ground between Thursday and Poison The Well, where the music may be too heavy for some fans, and not heavy enough for others. They deftly overcome this by seamlessly integrating harmonious melody with pummelling barrages of sonic assault, without either feeling overpowering or out of place.
The Artist In The Ambulance (a title inspired by a book called The Burn Collector by Al Burian) is the third release of a band who have been steadily progressing since they formed in 1998, and who are only now beginning to see the success that a band of their quality deserves. This success has seen the band join friends Thursday at Island records, a relationship which resulted in the release of a split 7", which, to quote myself "absolutely rocks". Thrice were previously signed to SubCity, a label which attracted them due to its policy of donating a proportion of all record sales to charity, something which Thrice have been keen to continue, with donations from this album going to the Syrentha J. Savio Endowment.
The album opens with "Cold Cash And Colder Hearts", its driving beats and menacing harmonics providing an explosive start, whilst setting the tone perfectly for the rest of the album by ending with a restrained strings section. The band state that "dark things are more interesting", and vocalist Dustin Kensrue concedes that "I find it harder to write when content", so the fact that there is a lingering sinister feeling throughout the album is hardly surprising. This is epitomised in "Paper Tigers", which is what I imagine graveyards would sound like if they had their own inherent sound - the chorus even sounds a bit like Michael Jackson's Thriller, albeit with a bit more guitar work and a lot more screaming... The duality that Thrice exhibit is most clearly demonstrated between the shimmering "Stare At The Sun" and "Silhouette", which has a chorus that is liable to strip paint at twenty paces.
I felt that Thrice's debut full-length "Identity Crisis" was simply mediocre, as it lacked imagination and was slightly repetitive, whereas follow up "The Illusion Of Safety" received critical acclaim and won the band a good underground reputation, as well as a hardcore fan base. The Artist And The Ambulance continues this positive trend, and should provide ample sustenance to propel the band firmly into the mainstream.
False alarm, the artist in the ambulance is in perfect health. And long may it continue.
Chris Johnson

War All The Time
War All The Time

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars yet another classic, 10 Nov. 2003
This review is from: War All The Time (Audio CD)
War All The Time
For me 'War All The Time' was always going to be one of the most eagerly awaited albums of 2003. Thursday's first two albums 'Waiting' and 'Full Collapse' were nothing short of magnificent and would both feature in a list of my all-time favourite albums, so this was always going to have a lot to live up to.
So does this album live up to its hype? Frontman Geoff Rickly recently described the album as "an art-rock album with no hooks", and whilst this may be the least immediate Thursday album yet, all of the elements that make Thursday so great are present and accounted for. The balanced interplay of Geoff and Steve's Jeckyll and Hyde vocal attack combines to perfect effect with intricately woven angular guitar work on album opener 'For The Workforce Drowning', which was featured on a split 7" with labelmates and close friends Thrice. This song looks at the dehumanisation that occurs when you are a slave to the nine-to-five routine "we'll get up and drive to work, in single file, with everyday just like the last, waiting for life to start". This theme of personal examination is one that runs deep throughout the album, with the harrowing 'Tomorrow I'll Be You' looking at how Rickly dealt with losing a close friend in a car crash.
Recording the album provided a much needed focus for the band, after a turbulent time of broken relationships and label disputes, culminating in Geoff being diagnosed with epilepsy after having blackouts on stage. Despite these troubles, the recording process helped the singer look at issues from a different perspective, and this new viewpoint allowed the songs to be written with a more positive outlook. This ability to find a silver lining in even the darkest cloud is displayed in 'Marches And Manouvers', where Geoff, after a painful break-up with a long-term girlfriend, can conclude that "after time, all this will heal".
Thursday have overcome what has been a stumbling block for many bands by successfully negotiating the tricky transition to a major label, and aptly demonstrate that you can sign to a major and still retain both your musical and artistic integrity. They have once again created an uncompromising, intelligent, passionate record, and have re-inforced their status at the forefront of the melodic hardcore scene, showing why their near perfect blend of heartfelt emotion and gut-wrenching aggression is often copied, but rarely bettered.
So does it live up to its hype? Absolutely.

I Wish I Was a Girl [CD 2]
I Wish I Was a Girl [CD 2]
Offered by actionrecords
Price: £1.50

1 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars novelty rock, 25 Mar. 2003
Hmm, comedy rock... The song title on the cd case has the suffix "(dirty version)", so I was prepared for the ensuing onslaught of juvenile knob jokes and naughty words. Violent Delight are like Blink 182 for metal fans - with pop-punk, some annoying rapping and even a bit of screamo thrown in to the comedy melting pot. Avoid.

Fried My Little Brains
Fried My Little Brains
Offered by Bully-Boy-Music
Price: £5.13

1 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars sub-standard white stripes clones, 25 Mar. 2003
This review is from: Fried My Little Brains (Audio CD)
I hate to make the no-brainer comparison between The Kills and The White Stripes, but its too obvious to ignore. Not only are they a male-female duo, but they play "rootsy, blues-influenced music with a garage-rock edge", and they even have the pre-requisite definite article before their name - very chic. The problem is, they're not anywhere near as good as the White Stripes, so not only are they unoriginal, they're not even very good.

Come on [CD 2]
Come on [CD 2]
Offered by Direct Entertainment UK
Price: £9.55

4.0 out of 5 stars better than most, 25 Mar. 2003
This review is from: Come on [CD 2] (Audio CD)
As soon as the dirty bass line kicks in, you know exactly what you're in for here - more garage rock. "More garage rock?" I hear you sigh, and whilst I agree there is far, far too much of it around at the moment, if you're going to listen to garage rock, it may as well be the D4. The New Zealand quartet have been honing their craft for some time, and like many others, have benefited from the sudden explosion of 'garage-chic'. It sounds like AC/DC, it sounds like Motorhead: its no-frills, lo-fi rock 'n' roll, and its rather good. Get down and boogie.

Offered by CDandVinyl
Price: £1.67

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars worth it just for the b-side, 25 Mar. 2003
This review is from: Nasty (Audio CD)
There's not much to say about single 'Nasty', only that its predictable rawk'n'roll - complete with minute long guitar solo, has been done before, and better than this. However, b-side "Too Cool" is a much more upbeat and altogether exciting affair, and sounds like a punked up version of The Donnas "Skintight", which is great, obviously.

Holding on Hopefully
Holding on Hopefully
Offered by cdbear1
Price: £6.69

4.0 out of 5 stars eclectic, but still makes sense, 25 Mar. 2003
This review is from: Holding on Hopefully (Audio CD)
This debut single release from Welsh sextet Small Victories is a strange mix of melodic guitars, keyboards, scratching and samples. They manage to merge all these styles to great effect, coming across like a more straightforward version of The Dismemberment Plan. Perhaps a greater victory than they give themselves credit for.

Every Word I Drop [CD 1]
Every Word I Drop [CD 1]
Offered by jack_bauer_twentyfour
Price: £2.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars superb blend of massive attack and coldplay, 25 Mar. 2003
As soon as the first note floated out of my speakers, with sparkling xylophone dancing over a jazzy bassline and an almost Carribean rythm section, I was enchanted. Mellafone are constantly compared to Coldplay, and even though there are definite similarities between vocalist Chris Mears and Chris Martin, I feel musically Mellafone share more with Massive Attack. It's been described by Nitin Sawhney as "Emotional, beautifully produced and sonically sublime." I couldn't agree more.

Everybody Down
Everybody Down
Offered by msales-8
Price: £0.95

3.0 out of 5 stars promising debut, 25 Mar. 2003
This review is from: Everybody Down (Audio CD)
Matthew are not exactly what I was expecting. For a start, they are a they, not a he. I was expecting acoustic strummings from a whisky soaked vocalist who has spent the last 20 years of his life touring small, badly lit bars, playing to about 3 people, one of whom is only there because he's too drunk to move. What I got was nicely constructed, melodic rock, with hints of the Posies and a dash of Shiner and The Junket.
Whilst the album does have some notable highlights, such as "Stream", which is a powerful song with a riff that's as catchy as fresher's flu, the album as a whole is a little disappointing. Vocalist Brian McSweeney does his best to impersonate the sublime falsetto of Jeff Buckley, without ever quite hitting the mark.
However, all is not lost for Matthew. As a debut album, it does display some promise, and if they manage to create something with a little more individuality next time round, they could create a fine record.

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