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Tom Chase (London)

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Price: £5.10

5.0 out of 5 stars Birth of AIC, 6 Dec. 2007
This review is from: Facelift (Audio CD)
"Facelift" was AIC's surge into the grunge limelight. It has become regarded as something of a classic over the years, showing the roots of one of the best bands from the grunge scene. While I feel "Facelift" comes up lacking when compared to the band's later LP's (their career pinnacle "Dirt" and the menacing self titled release), it is a great album, and worthy of a place in any rock/grunge collection.

There is no lack of good song writing on "Facelift". The album contains a bunch of AIC classics, such as the one-two punch of "We Die Young" and "Man In A Box", both AIC at their catchiest and heaviest (As a side note, I saw the band's new line-up this summer in Toronto and "Man In A Box" has lost absolutely none of its power - it was one of the highlights of the show, with the whole crowd booming along to the chorus and headbanging relentlessly to the lead riff). Other standouts of the album include the menacing "Bleed The Freak", the slower "Love, Hate, Love" and the unapologetic brutality of "It Ain't Like That". All of these songs hit hard with typically excellent Cantrell riffs and solos and of course the glorious vocals of the late Layne Staley. While other parts of the album become a little repetitive, especially towards the end of the album, "Facelift" is a very pleasurable outing into the boom of grunge and one of its most important bands.

Price: £5.86

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Transition, 6 Dec. 2007
This review is from: Unplugged (Audio CD)
Alice In Chains showcased throughout their career that they could master a slow brooding ballad, most particularly through the outstanding acoustic EP "Jar of Flies". This MTV Unplugged session culminates this ability, with the band converting even their most visceral of rockers into moving acoustic gems.

Of course the set list includes a number of expected re-runs, such as the beautiful works from "Jar of Flies" ("Nutshell", and "No Excuses") and the slower, more ballad orientated works from their LP's ("Down In A Hole", "Rooster", "Heaven Beside You" and "Frogs"). All of these are expectedly excellent as the songs lend themselves to such a makeover, and AIC delve effortlessly into them. "Brother" and "Got Me Wrong" from the EP "Sap" again lend themselves perfectly, and both are album highlights for me. Where I had scepticism for this album was with the heavier songs, such as "Would?", "Angry Chair" and most notably the monolithic dirge of "Sludge Factory". To my upmost pleasure the band work these songs very nicely, converting the main heavy riffs into glorious acoustic passages, adding delicate touches and all being encompassed by the sheer power and raw energy of Layne Staley's voice. "Sludge Factory" is especially good, with the acoustic guitars emphasising the contrasts between the thundering main riff and the gentle chorus picking.

This is a must have album for any fan of AIC as it showcases such an intense and overwhelming performance. It should also appeal to those who enjoy AIC's acoustic and slower works over their heavier outputs (a friend of mine listens to this and "Jar of Flies", but never their more classically grunge LP's). Honest, uncomplicated and moving acoustic music - this is highly recommended.

In Our Nature
In Our Nature
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £8.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars José Delivers., 27 Nov. 2007
This review is from: In Our Nature (Audio CD)
I've read reviews claiming "In Our Nature" is merely "Veneer Part 2" and sees Gonzalez re-hashing a winning formula. I feel these accusations are a little unjust. "Veneer" showcased such a wonderfully unique singer/songwriter sound that it would be hard and pointlessly dangerous to move too far adrift. Unfortunately the classic sophomore criticism is apparent thanks to this inimitable style; grand expectations of something new and better become rife. I feel that while the overall sound is undeniably similar, the album is in no way the same. It touches on different subjects and evokes new moods and atmospheres.

"In Our Nature" is another superb album from José Gonzalez, continuing his sound and style, but addressing new problems and forging new atmospheres and moods. It contains a number of songs which I feel to be his best work to date, such as the pinnacle "Teardrop", the striking "Fold" and the powerful climax of "Cycling Trivialities". Take this for what it is, not some wild new direction. Enjoy it!

Offered by the_record_factory
Price: £14.95

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Floyd's Overlooked Classic, 18 Nov. 2007
This review is from: Animals (Audio CD)
I am firmly in the camp of Pink Floyd fans who feel "Animals" is an unfairly overlooked masterpiece. It was the band's response to the evolving British society of 1977, enveloping the boom of punk, Rotten's "I Hate Pink Floyd" t-shirt and countless political and social divides. Roger Waters in typical style confronted his views head-on, creating parallels between society and the animal kingdom presented in three grand pieces.

The pieces each represent a different aspect to Waters' animal theme, with pigs for greed, sheep for thoughtless following and dogs for unabashed selfishness. At times the lyrics become slightly derived and a little too obvious, but this is to be expected as Waters' vision for the album was not to confuse with subtlety - it is essentially a straight-edged, hard-hitting satire. The lyrical content is presented perfectly in three classic and epic Floyd tracks. The first of which, "Dogs", is the band at their best, combining Gilmour's cutting and beautiful guitar motifs and solos, heartfelt vocals from Waters and a typically excellent atmospheric performance from Wright. The song is the essence of Floyd's progressive best, and has over the years become one of my favourite prog rock songs. "Pigs" fashions a catchy chorus hook, more brooding atmospherics and grand guitar antics. "Sheep" showcases the most energy, shifting the tempo up and galloping to its excellent climax. These three songs weigh in at a hefty forty minutes, so patient and repeated listens will reward. The songs are bookended by "Pigs On The Wing", a lovely little two-part piece that finishes off one of Floyd's greatest achievements.

Age Of Winters
Age Of Winters
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Price: £12.78

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tip of a Large Iceberg, 6 Nov. 2007
This review is from: Age Of Winters (Audio CD)
Recently it seems the relatively obscure genre of stoner metal has been creeping into more popular realms. Take for example the massive success of Mastodon, a band who, like The Sword, combine staple stoner metal with visceral classic metal. Then there are acts like High on Fire, Witch and Down all releasing huge slabs of stoner/doom tinged metal. Black Sabbath's influence is still going strong, and it seems masses still enjoy a heavy riff and groove. So, along came The Sword from Austin with their debut "Age of Winters", an album that I was fully expecting to love and wave around the mainstream yelling "here's some GOOD music". As you could have guessed from my 3 stars, I don't love this cd. In fact, I find it a rather large damp squid.

I want to talk about the album's positives firstly, as it does have some good things going. There are some songs here where the band really hit the nail, instantly recalling their classic metal and stoner influences. For example, the opening two cuts, "Celestial Crown" and "Barael's Blade" are powerful and give the album a thundering start. "The Horned Goddess" and "Iron Swan" make for a fantastic middle section, the latter being one of the best metal songs I have heard in a while. These songs are what the band should be doing all the time. Chopping and changing doom riffs, classic metal solos, big grooves etc. The backing band is superb in full flight.

Unfortunately, the band does not always deliver this. The songs I mentioned earlier showcase such penetrating riffs and writing that the utterly annoying singer's vocals are no longer important. I am able to zone out and soak up the excellent instrumentation, something I cannot do in other songs. Whoever said this guy sounds like a modern day Ozzy is talking out of their sphincter. This singer is monotonous, always singing the same pitch, tone, volume...everything. Very annoying and potentially could have ruined the album had the backing band not been as powerful. Then there is also the matter of variation. When the band hit the nail as I spoke of earlier, they are immense, they grab my attention. But, unfortunately too many songs flow past without really developing or being any more than standard stoner metal by numbers. Songs such as "Freya" and the massively overlong "Lament For The Aurochs" which goes through an unnecessary eight minutes. Then there is the issue of production. While the guitars sound deep and meaty, something any metal and stoner album requires, the annoying vocals are too far forward, and the drum cymbals are way too loud, cutting through the tones with a harsh thin treble that becomes irritating. I have seen another reviewer pick this up, so I know it is not my picky expectations. Considering this band is somewhat commercial, being given airplay and appearing on MTV, I expected a very polished production job. Finally, what do these guys look like? Cool metal dudes? No way. They look so far removed from the rest of the field, almost more indie rock than metal. I know that's picky, but I do kind of like metal bands to look badass, or at least not standard indie.

Popular stoner/classic metal a la Mastodon, High on Fire and Witch with too many flaws for me. It is a decent album, and it is nice to see this kind of music get more popularity, but this is just the tip of a very big iceberg. Go find some better stoner metal, such as Electric Wizard, Goatsnake, The Melvins, Kyuss...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 17, 2011 11:09 PM GMT

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Price: £7.96

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dominant Classic Metal, 5 Nov. 2007
This review is from: Paranoid (Audio CD)
1970's self-titled debut gave Black Sabbath acclaim, albeit relatively low-key. It showcased a unique and wonderful sound - something far heavier and darker than any other metal band around. Later in that year the band released "Paranoid" to surprising colossal acclaim, propelling the band into both European and US stardom. This rise bewildered leagues of music fans against the band's supposed satanic proclamation, stupidly labelling them Satan worshippers and disregarding the music on offer. "Paranoid" trampled over the naysayers, planting the band into legendary status.

Most of the songs on "Paranoid" have become timeless classics. The title track is the song that everyone who doesn't know Sabbath, or doesn't really know classic metal and rock, knows. Supposedly written as a last ditch thing in the recording studio, the song's overt simplicity and various catchy hooks has become the public face for Sabbath. Ask a group of 40 year old mothers and I bet some, if not most, will know the song, or at least the lead riff. While I don't rank the song as particularly great Black Sabbath, I believe it to be a testament to their ability - their sound is so unique and wonderful, the simplest of Iommi riffs and most slapdash lyrics from Ozzy are elevated, boosted by a sense of raw energy and passion throughout. Obviously Ozzy leads this from the front, booming his voice from the get-go with the fabulous opener "War Pigs/Luke's Wall", one of my favourite Sabbath songs, galloping through sections, swaggering through riffs, solos and police sirens. The song is Black Sabbath at their best.

"Paranoid" is a wonderfully consistent album, flowing from song to song, and boasting no filler. While many of the songs have become anthems, such as the title track, "War Pigs" and the monolithic "Iron Man", the album has plenty to offer as a whole. "Hand of Doom" is up there with the best moments in the album, containing a great galloping sense and trademark Iommi riffing. "Fairies Wear Boots" is another underrated Sabbath song, and another that could have easily hit the mainstream popularity as others.

Many people have loosely thrown the abuse of Satan worshippers at Sabbath, and most particularly Ozzy Osbourne. Yes, he did bite a live bat on stage, but as he has said in countless interviews and retrospect programs - it was a stage mix up, and he was under the impression of it being rubber, as planned. Yes, the album imagery is dark and intense, but this was their image, it was their aesthetic style of branching out and creating an identity, a menacing identity. Lyrically, confusion seems to be in the band's interest in the occult, with the band members, and especially Geezer Butler having experienced bizarre experiences in their earlier lives. The obscure lyrics were easily misinterpreted, and even the less obscure ones, such as the poignant Vietnam War attack in "War Pigs", in which Ozzy paints a gloomy portrayal of humanity, with Satan "laughing" as he watches. Hardly proclaiming Satanism. While thousands of fans have argued as I am, the "evil" stigma became something of a tag, wrongly giving the band a controversial and mysterious label. It is for this that I can concede the criticism proved a double edged sword, as it certainly boosted the bands legendary persona.

"Paranoid" broke into mainstream success, giving the band ultimate stardom, and creating endless influence for the metal genre and many of its offshoots. Fans of classic rock should pick up this album, and discover the wonderful journey of Sabbath's lengthy and stellar discography.

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Price: £39.86

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thundering Melvins, 5 Nov. 2007
This review is from: Maggot (Audio CD)
After a stint of superb major label releases in the mid 90s ("Houdini", "Stoner Witch" and "Stag") the Melvins were under pressure to maintain form. Never ones to stick to one sound, and always inclined to create off-centre weirdness, they responded with the rather jumbled "Honky" in 97. Two years down the line and on Mike Patton's Ipecap label they released "The Maggot", a thunderous return to glory, combining Buzzo's idiosyncratic huge riffs, sumptuous vocal harmonies and experimental craziness.

The album is structured as one large song, sprawling through movements of classic rock, experimentalism, slogging sludge metal and punk-come-thrash. This may sound daunting and potentially terrible, but if any band can draw together such an album it is the eccentric talents of the Melvins. The two-part "Amazon" piece kicks the album off in style, shifting from fast paced thrash with psychedelic vocals (wild but wonderful), into classic Melvins sludge riffing merged with menacing vocals from Buzzo. From then on to the thundering climax of "See How Pretty, See How Smart" the album delivers consistent excellence. This is most notably found in the album's central piece, the cover of Fleetwood Mac's "The Green Manalishi". The song is given such a remarkable makeover, with Buzzo flourishing in the sprawling riffs and ghostly vocal melodies. This remains one of my favourite Melvins songs to date, and one of the best classic rock covers I have ever heard - a triumph to the band's ability.

"The Maggot" was a great return to the heights of "Houdini" and "Stoner Witch". Combining all the elements that make the band special - intriguing structuring, big riffs, big vocals, experimentation...everything is there for the Melvins fan, or those that desire something a little different.

Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Pinnacle Of The Melvins, 5 Nov. 2007
This review is from: Houdini (Audio CD)
The Melvins found themselves in the right place and the right time in '93, as record companies were desperately looking for the next big grunge band. Atlantic swept up the band, a somewhat odd move as really, none of their previous records were particularly "grunge", nor were they accessible for mainstream listeners. Questionable move or not, the result was the Cobain-produced "Houdini", a monolithic sweep of huge riffs, grooves, vocal harmonies and eccentric experimentation.

With the exception of the quirky "Sky Pup", every song on "Houdini" has something to give. The album is packed with Melvins classics, such as the brooding "Night Goat", which showcases Buzzo in fine form, switching vocal styles with ease and laying down monumental riffs. "Goin Blind" is a superb adaptation of the Kiss original, shifting it into a glorious heavy onslaught juxtaposed with excellent vocal harmonies. "Hag Me" is Melvins at their sludgy, sloth-like best, reverting back to their roots (a la "Lysol") and swaggering through wonderfully thick walls of tone and gritty vocals. Another major positive is the album's sense of flow, with many songs seeping into one another. This is particularly evident in the later stages of the album, with the short combinations of "Joan of Arc", "Teet" and "Copache", all of which combine the thundering guitar heroics of Buzzo with delicious vocal melodies.

The Melvins always experiment and create moments of true dementia. And while "Houdini" has a very quirky feel to it, it balances the levels of experimentation perfectly, resulting in arguably the band's best release. Fans of heavy rock looking for something a little different should pick this up.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 30, 2010 4:29 PM BST

Hostile Ambient Takeover
Hostile Ambient Takeover
Offered by inandout-distribution
Price: £19.33

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fun Blast, 28 Oct. 2007
"Hostile Ambient Takeover" is a flourishing blast of modern day Melvins. It is about as accessible as the band can get, boasting few moments of their trademark experimentation (which often boils down to abrasive noise) and no thick walls of guitar drone a la "Lysol" or moments of "Houdini". While this may disappoint some of the hardcore Melvins fan who prefer the old slugging dirge, it should please the majority, and do well to bring in new fans.

Like the majority of post "Houdini" albums, "HAT" is a great album, but doesn't quite live up to past classics. At times they show blistering form, with Buzzo combining his huge bombastic riffs and solos with powerful vocals in "Black Stooges" and "Brain Center At The Whipples". "HAT" also boasts the thick wall of sound the band is famous for with the slow burners "The Fool, The Meddling Idiot" and "The Anti Vermin Seed", both songs rife with intensity. Unfortunately the album falls short in places, such as "Foaming" which promises much, but ultimately meanders through dull plodding. "Dr. Geek" is a rather novelty song, with Buzzo singing in some kind of bizarre down-south-farmer voice, and soon becomes filler. These blemishes make "HAT" inconsistent, and being a relatively short album (as most recent Melvins albums are) the inconsistencies become more glaring. For this reason I cannot rank "HAT" up there with past greats such as "Houdini", but I can recommend it as a good Melvins release with much to explore and enjoy.

Blues For The Red Sun
Blues For The Red Sun
Price: £5.93

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Josh Homme & Co Will CRUSH YOUR BONES!!!, 28 Oct. 2007
This review is from: Blues For The Red Sun (Audio CD)
Before finding worldwide success with Queens of the Stone Age, Josh Homme was the monstrous lead guitarist of legendary 90's desert rock act Kyuss. Along with "Welcome To Sky Valley" and "...And The Circus Leaves Town", this album created an enthralling and influential trilogy. All three albums fused retro bluesy grooves with thundering riffs, trippy sonic jams and the booming rasp of vocalist John Garcia, creating an utterly unique and bold sound. Today many bands imitate this breed of stoner rock, but none can reach the absolute supremacy of Kyuss.

"Blues For The Red Sun" was the first realisation of the band's potential, as their debut "Wretch" left much to be desired. The song writing was vastly improved, being more ambitious and importantly executed with greater precision and style. Examples of this include the intense "Freedom Run", a vast slow-burner that envelopes trippy brooding passages, a swaggering lead riff, sublime jamming and Garcia's glorious gritty voice. The two-part piece of "Molten Universe/50 Million Year Trip" is my favourite moment on the album, and really showcases everything great about the band. The piece is a journey, starting with Homme laying down some monumental riffs, backed up perfectly by Brant Bjork's powerful drumming. Things take a swift and energetic tempo shift and Garcia's vocals come swiping through. The song closes on a wonderfully laid-back groove, with Homme creating some trippy sounds over the top of Garcia's echoing ethereal vocals. This song alone is proof that Kyuss kick some major ass.

The album also shows Kyuss' ability to create concise and infectious songs. Opener "Thumb" kicks things off in sweet and simple style, evolving around a booming main chorus and lead riff. Similarly "Green Machine" is mostly centred around a simple and addictive chorus theme - hence why it was one of the rare Kyuss songs to obtain some form of commercial success. "Thong Song" is a tongue-in-cheek comical affair, with unapologetic lyrics concerning long hair, brawn and is a simple and fun rocker. These songs act as great contrasts to the extended pieces, giving variation and needed balance to the album.

For fans of the desert rock/stoner rock scene, this album and all other Kyuss releases is necessary. It should also very much appeal to fans of 70s rock - Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Hawkwind etc as the band lends heavily from these influences, but gives the styling a fresh outfit. For those interested in getting into Kyuss I would suggest this album or "Welcome To Sky Valley" as the best starting points. Happy rocking.

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