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Huw Roberts

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Snow Crash
Snow Crash
by Neal Stephenson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

4.0 out of 5 stars Good, fun read, 10 Sep 2014
This review is from: Snow Crash (Paperback)
I enjoyed this book quite a lot. Found it difficult in some bits and sometimes I found myself getting confused as to what the plot was (it does all make sense towards the end though). Some pretty thought provoking themes, numerous bad-assed characters and it never takes itself too seriously although I didn't find anything overly hilarious, but there were many instances where I couldn't help but grin. I'll definitely reread this at some point and I would recommend it to anyone who is either new to Sci-Fi or fancies something a bit more light hearted when compared to many other books within this genre.

Pale Communion [Amazon Exclusive Art Card Edition]
Pale Communion [Amazon Exclusive Art Card Edition]

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece, 26 Aug 2014
From what I'd read in articles leading up to the release of the album, I knew I'd be expecting something special when listening to this latest release from Opeth. Mikael Akerfeldt had said in numerous interviews that he'd been wanting to concentrate on melody a lot more for this album and he really was telling the truth. This album is one of the most melodic Opeth releases, if not the most melodic release in their entire catalogue. Not only is the singing melodic but also the guitar parts and the strings, making for an extremely listenable album.

The songs are memorable, catchy and with all the right twists and turns / light and dark bits that we all love Opeth for. The Prog elements really work on this album. Even though they're a lot more subtle when compared to Heritage it makes it sound very organic and fluid. It's obviously progressive but not in a jarring way, which is also down to the emphasis on melody. People moping about the 'excess' of prog that Heritage was (apparently) seem to forget that Opeth have always been progressive. They've certainly gotten more progressive over the years but they've not released anything that's been completely out of the blue. This is them taking the prog of Heritage and cleaning it up a bit. Heritage had to happen for this album to be made, although oddly enough it sounds as if this would've been a more logical follow up to Watershed than Heritage was (I would like to point out that personally, I love Heritage and have absolutely no problem with it).

I've listened to the entire album a good 4 or 5 times now and it's rather addictive. No one is like Opeth. I've heard people say that the Opeth of today release music that is '70's prog worship', and I've never heard so much bollocks in my life. This, to me, is a very modern sounding album in both the music and the production. Opeth just do prog differently to say, Dream Theater. You really feel that everything is about the song, and there's never too much showing off, although my only complaint is the fact that Fredrik Akesson doesn't show off enough, because he can seriously play. The solo on Cusp of Eternity is fantastic and in terms of modern guitarists he must be one of the most underrated players out there. I'd like to praise everyone's playing on the album actually. The whole thing is very well played and performed. Mikael's singing is brilliant as always and I love the choir of Mikaels that pop up throughout the album.

Probably my favourite Opeth release, although to me there isn't a single album of theirs that I dislike. If you're in the mood for some very well crafted, incredibly melodic progressive music with lovely string arrangements (a very nice addition to Opeth's sound!) then buy this album. There will always be the crowd of people who feel as though they're entitled to another Blackwater Park but to us fans who can appreciate that Opeth's sound has progressed and was obviously headed towards this direction then I think it's only fair to call this Opeth's crowning achievement so far.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 12, 2014 9:27 AM BST

For Musicians Only
For Musicians Only
Price: £6.30

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Master musicians at their very best!, 3 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: For Musicians Only (Audio CD)
What an absolute monster of a recording this albums is! Diz, Stan and Sonny stop for absolutely no one. It's quite breathtaking hearing them play with such ferocity and vigour. It really is inspiring. There's not a whole lot to say about the album apart from the fact that it's just sheer burning bebop done the right way. At no point do I feel as though it gets 'pretentious' (a term I really dislike when used it to describe the playing of master musicians) or self indulgent. There's something so exciting about all those notes flurrying past at ridiculous tempos whilst being harmonically complex and full of emotion at the same time. Like a lot of other reviewers have said, the backing band deserve major props for being able to keep up and holding the tunes down, and doing so very well. I love this album, and I highly recommend it to anyone who's interested in the kind of jazz that runs on rocket fuel.

Question And Answer
Question And Answer
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Killer!, 16 July 2014
This review is from: Question And Answer (Audio CD)
This is most definitely my kind of jazz. "What kind of jazz might that be?" I hear you ask. Well, the kind that completely and utterly tears it up on the soloing front whilst also being 100% musical. I mean, straight in with Solar and dear old Pat completely rips! But in the best of ways. Not to mention Roy Haynes and Dave Holland's playing! Both of whom are extremely enjoyable to listen to. I've not enjoyed a drummer's performance on an album quite as much as I have Roy Haynes's here. I'm fairly new to jazz, and by fairly I mean been listening seriously for about 3 years or so, which, of course, isn't nearly enough time to properly understand and know the who's who and what's what of this wonderful genre. But having said that I know what I like and what I don't like for the time being and this album satisfies my jazz hunger in every way possible. I have a decent collection of albums by now, but this definitely stands out for me.

It's a very 'real' album. You really feel the improvisations, I find. You can feel them going to that place where you're just free and going for it and then before you know it, your allocated amount of bars to solo over has come to an end. Another aspect that I thoroughly enjoy about this album is the intensity and ferocity of which they solo with. It's not a chops-fest by any means, but the three of them all play to the best of their abilities.

In short, bloody brilliant album to be enjoyed by absolutely any jazz fan, guitarist/drummer/bassist or not. And if anyone reading this happens to know of more albums with this kind of intensity but still sticking to a fairly straight ahead style like on this album, please don't hesitate to comment and recommend me some good albums, I'd really appreciate it!

Once More Round The Sun
Once More Round The Sun
Price: £7.98

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Have not stopped playing the album!, 11 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Once More Round The Sun (Audio CD)
There's not much more I can say that the other 5 star reviews haven't' said already, but this album is absolutely brilliant in my humble opinion. People whining about how it isn't the same band any more really can not hear good music when it's right in front of them. Mastodon, like Opeth (another band who release consistently good albums) are a progressive band, in many ways. The music is progressive, definitely, but the band's style has also progressed, becoming much more concise but without losing the creativity. They music is merely a representation of where they are in their lives now (something master Devin Townsend likes to point out whenever he releases his consistently good albums) and they are not the same people who made Remission. People forget that music is a representation of it's creator, making it a very personal thing, and we as fans need to respect that. They don't write for us, they write for themselves and are so much better for it.

The songs on this album (especially the first 5 or so) are incredibly catchy - and catchy is a great thing! I've been humming the chorus's to The Motherload and High Road for the past few days and I can't get enough! I recently saw them live at Sonisphere Festival and they played some material off of the album and it blew me away entirely. The second half of the album is way more psychedelic and resembles past Mastodon a bit more, with some (well, most!) of the riffs being absolutely huge and some really nice instrumentation and arranging between the entire band. And Brent's solo's are as wicked as ever!

Definitely my favourite 'Don album and I hope they continue in this direction with more emphasis on melody and Bran's voice whilst sill keeping the complexity and the proggyness, and if not, then I'll love whatever they do regardless.

Casualties Of Cool
Casualties Of Cool
Price: £20.21

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful music, 19 Jun 2014
This review is from: Casualties Of Cool (Audio CD)
This album has to be my favourite thing that Devin has produced so far in his career. It has some of the most beautiful music that I've ever heard on it and it really takes you on a journey. I've seen it being said many times, but the music really conveys the story of this album really well. When you first read the story and what it's about, it's quite difficult to imagine what it would sound like musically, but Devin and Che capture it beautifully.

Che's vocals make this album extra special, they just fit the atmospheric space country so perfectly. That's the best way to describe this album as a genre really, atmospheric space country - with a bit of jazz and an Indian raga type thing at the end (which shows Devin's Ravi Shankar influence, who he talks about with much enthusiasm in a now, somewhat old video)

Devin's vocals are also great but they aren't the main attraction here, which is how I think Devin wanted it. I really enjoy his guitar playing on this album as well, he has some beautifully simple solo's that again, fit perfectly with the music.
I also enjoy the ambient sections, they never drag on for too long and there always seems to be a beautiful melody right around the corner from the harsh coldness that the ambience creates. It all contributes to the story and the experience of the album as a whole.

Another stand out thing for me on this album is the song writing, melodies and harmonies. All of which are kept rather uncomplicated and simple but with a whole lot of thought put into them. Everything's where it's supposed to be and nothing sounds out of place.

So overall, as I've probably made quite clear, I love this album. It's the type of album that I've always wanted to hear, but never quite knew how to describe it exactly. Devin's really getting better with age, and I hope he continues to make music for the majority of his life, because I definitely need it in mine.

Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £11.12

5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing band, fantastic album, 23 May 2014
This review is from: Revocation (Audio CD)
This album is seriously heavy. It's probably their heaviest album, well, it is their heaviest album. It's not quite as melodic in terms of hooks compared to Chaos of Forms, not to say there isn't any melody, but there's certainly an angrier and darker vibe to this album... which is great! I love really pissed off chaotic music and this album seriously delivers. It's still got the Revocation quirkiness, like the banjo in Invidious, and the angular and technical riffs that they're known for - it just sounds a hell of a lot more serious, which is both a good and a bad thing. I kinda miss some of the catchy choruses that where on Chaos of Forms and the previous albums. I like the whole mixture of the brutal technicality and then an epic choruses that you could almost sign along to. Having said that, this album definitely stands out in terms of it's heaviness and sheer epic-ness. The songs are great, the guitar playing is FANTASTIC (I really mean that Dave Davidson's guitar playing is just superb) and it's genuinely an amazing album. Essential in any metal fan's collection.

Guitar Fretboard Workbook
Guitar Fretboard Workbook
by Barrett Tagliarino
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.96

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of work and very good quality, 27 April 2014
There is a lot, and I mean a lot, of work to do in this book, both on and off the guitar. The system that Mr. Tagliarino uses for finding, creating and using chords, scales and arpeggios is really rather good. Very simple idea at it's core, and that's one of the best things about the book, I thought, was that it doesn't over complicate anything. You're not given mountains of information on theory and harmony, it's all about helping you being able to apply whatever you want to the guitar by using a simple and easy method. It's well written and I definitely felt like I wanted to finish it (I literally just finished it - like, 10 minutes ago ).

My only issues with the book were that, firstly, I've been playing a while now and I see the fretboard in my own way, everyone does, this makes it that much more difficult to apply the book directly to my playing because of the specific 'fretboard viewing system' that the author has based the book on. I think you'd benefit from this book more if you're just starting to look at ways in which you can navigate the fretboard, rather than trying to change the way in which you do already. Having said that, I'm definitely making an effort to try and apply what I've learnt to my own playing and I do have some moments every now and again where I'm rather chuffed with myself for doing so, seeing as it is a very good way of looking at how to 'join the dots'.

Then, the only other issue I had with the book was the amount of time spent filling in the scale/chord/arpeggio shapes, which is what you'll be doing for most of the time you spend with the book. Although it does help you think for yourself and in doing so, helps you realise for yourself how the system works rather than just have the book tell you, it can get rather tedious having to fill in example after example. Then again, I learn in a very visual and aural way so I think it's more just my personal preference, and it's kinda cool when you complete some diagrams and all of a sudden all these patterns just click in your head and you finally get it.

So overall, 4.5 stars if I could, cos the problems aren't really problems with the book itself, but certainly more suited for the players who are just starting to delve into trying to learn the fretboard.

Venomous Fingers
Venomous Fingers
Price: £3.84

3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as I'd hoped, 18 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Venomous Fingers (Audio CD)
There's not too much to say really, I mean George Bellas plays really really well, like, he plays super humanly good on a technical level, but then again some of his ideas when he improvises are often the same, I'd be listening to one track, thinking "cool solo", then two tracks later, "cool solo! kinda like the other one though...", until you finally realise that it's basically the same few shapes and the same basic idea that is used for every solo played. There isn't much melodic development going on or any build up, but still can't fault his technique. Then there's the matter of the compositions, which are pretty mediocre, there's some cool tunes, nothing overly memorable but still enjoyable. The whole sound and production of the album probably doesn't help, the synth strings and choir can get a bit annoying and are pretty cheesy. He does have quite a good tone though, considering the type of album it is. Overall I'd say maybe he has better albums than this one, I've heard good things about his first two or three, I'll look into those. I mostly listen to jazz but I enjoy a healthy dose of shreddy guitar noodles and there's some really good albums out there. This isn't up there with the best, but it's worth listening to anyway. Overall: Not amazing but not terrible by far, good playing, cheesy songs (as is the norm with a lot of guitar albums.

Price: £52.71

5.0 out of 5 stars Criminally underrated!, 12 April 2014
This review is from: Kaboom (Audio CD)
I'm a huge James Muller fan, he deserves to be so much more well known! Some of the lines he plays are absolutely nuts, he has some super chops but melody really always comes first, his phrasing and just how melodically interesting his ideas are is what does it for me, the fact that he has great technique is just a bonus. Also, his tone isn't as dark and 'moody' as a lot of other great modern players, which sets him apart. There's only so many good players that can dial the tone knob on their 335's right back before they all start sounding the same! Definitely a voice of his own. So in short, brilliantly refreshing playing and highly enjoyable music which make for a thoroughly excellent album.

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