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C. Lee (Manchester UK)

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The Afterman: Descension
The Afterman: Descension
Price: 19.30

5.0 out of 5 stars Return to form!, 18 Nov 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
For me Coheed first lost the plot a bit on No World For Tomorrow, it was sound but lacked the killer edge of Good Apollo. That is probably controversial but I am happy to defend that opinion. We all know that Year of the Black Rainbow was a misstep. Musically it was ok but something about the tone and feel of the album was wrong. It was certainly their weakest effort to date. Ascension saw some green shoots but there was a fair amount of weak material on there too. I feared that they might have made a mistake Guns'n'Roses or Red Hot Chili Peppers style by making a double album and not picking out the best tracks form the bunch.

However, when Descension dropped it was both a relief and a huge breath of fresh air. The album is almost entirely quality from start to finish. There is such a massive diversity in Claudio's songwriting on this album, it shows him maturing into a genuinely versatile writer. We know he can do prog-metal better than most but now we know he can write top notch ballads, funky rock-outs and more. It is also genuinely well sequenced, another issue with YotBR. The songs follow one after the other sensibly and build up a narrative lacking since Good Apollo. There is real sense throughout this album of a story developing, using very different musical styles to deliver a variety of moods and feel to the journey which for me works brilliantly.

I would guess that most people are going to respond very differently to this set of songs. Few fans will like all of them, I'm not a huge fan of Number City. However, I totally respect Claudio's approach and his attempt to put together a fascinating suite of songs. I also love the touch of putting the alternate versions of the songs on the end, I am especially taken with the piano version of 2's My Favorite 1, which is a very subtle and melodic song when played on guitar. Even though some of the songs don't, on their own, grab me, the album as a whole works as a sequence of music, as a story and as an artistic statement. It's a metaphorical two-fingers up to the industry and a massive restatement of Coheed's status and capabilities, moving into new and innovative territory at every turn.

It's worth noting that the songs translate wonderfully into the live arena, where all of them stand up to anything among their classic canon, sitting happily alongside A Favor House Atlantic, Welcome Home, Devil In Jersey City, etc. It's not a cast-iron classic, it probably lacks a genuinely classic song which we know they can turn out but it is a fantastic collection of songs and a very welcome return to form for a truly unique and outstanding band. Few possess their versatility and musicality. It's also the first Coheed album I've found myself listening to beginning-to-end since Good Apollo, singing along merrily and then starting over again! More in this vein please Claudio!

Singles - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Singles - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Price: 6.96

5.0 out of 5 stars Snapshot of an era, and what an era!, 29 Jan 2012
This soundtrack is amongst the very best soundtracks ever in my humble opinion. It is up there with absolute classics like Easy Rider for sheer quality. Nothing on it is weak, nor out of place. The compilation is exceptional and captures a snapshot of an era and as another reviewer eloquently puts it, the soundtrack to a generation. I remember the buzz around this record, not the film, but the soundtrack. It was evident before it even hit the shops that it would be something very, very special. For anyone in my position, 18 years old and into the rock music of the time, this was an absolutely essential purchase. I fondly recall rushing out on release day and picking up a copy with feverish anticipation. I was not to be disappointed.

Whoever put this together literally collected a snippet of the time, a snapshot of what was blazing hot and relevant. It features bands such as Pearl Jam and Soundgarden at their absolute best, just as 'grunge' took off and they were catapulted to massive fame. Cameron Crowe with his rock background clearly had his finger absolutely square on the pulse and grabbed the moment with both hands, at least in terms of the music!

In terms of what is on the album you have a pretty comprehensive selection of the best bands in this genre together with some more off-the-wall and classic stuff. Although it is quite an eclectic selection it is exceptional in its coherence and in taking literally the best many of these bands had to offer. It still amazes me that they managed to tease what are (again only in my opinion) the very finest tracks ever produced by: Pearl Jam (State of Love and Trust is not their usual fare but it is just a wonderful piece of propulsive rock), Soundgarden (Birth Ritual is up there with Jesus Christ Pose and Rusty Cage and better than the bloated and dull Superunknown era), Mother Love Bone (although Andrew Wood had died some years previously their inclusion was important given their influence and position within the genre. Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns is their apogee, as good as This Is Shangri-La but much longer and more emotional), Alice in Chains (Would? is not my absolute favourite but it is many people's and it signalled their even darker and bleaker Dirt era). The sequencing is incredible and the songs just hang together so well. These were bands on the cusp of greatness, but still 'unspoiled' by huge popularity in most cases, signalling music that would go on to dominate the enxt few years.

To attempt to answer some criticisms. The inclusion of Nirvana would have probably damaged this. For one thing Nirvana were slightly beyond and outside this sound. They were more punky and less sludgey than the sound being aimed for here. Also given their immense popularity at the time they would have overshadowed this and probably led to the loss of the cohesion and made it more a "Nirvana and other no-marks" album (with the exception of Pearl Jam). Paul Westerberg wrote the film music (which is made up mostly of gentle acoustic run-throughs of his two tracks here). He is a great songwriter and although by no means 'grunge' his lyrical style and languid music suit the rest of the soundtrack well. Also his two tracks here are some of his strongest. He is just different to the rest, a Generation X slacker/grunge kid might have listened to him in more relaxed moments, as I did with his awesome 14 Songs album.

In short everyone should have a copy of this absolute classic!

Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Complete (PC DVD)
Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Complete (PC DVD)
Offered by Game Trade Online
Price: 6.96

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 20 Aug 2009
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
I should firstly say that I prefer strategy games to all others on my PC. Also that I am old-fashioned. I like really grand, turn-based strategy games. I don't want real-time and I don't want to play others on line. I want to dominate the world on my PC.

Coming from that mindset this is inevitably the greatest game ever published. It will bore some with its slowness and lack of constant action. It lacks the bells and whistles that others want, especially graphically. However, for those who want strategy and don't need any frippery it is unbeatable.

Played on a huge map at marathon speed this is absolutely absorbing. It provides so many ways to win and all of them require attention to detail, planning and thought.

Scouting, building cities, developing them, choosing which tech to go for (I always head for railways as soon as possible), who to fight and when is utterly absorbing.

My gripes would be few but possibly important.

- Given the absolutely critical importance of railways in Civ this variant does not randomnly spread anywhere near enough coal around. You can easily find that you have to reduce yourself to trading for it or are forced to go to war to secure it. It is a pretty common resource in real life.

- The diplomacy is still poor. The leaders are predictable and often act irrationally (e.g. Caesar will simply not make peace until he has been thoroughly thrashed). What irks me is the lack of options. You are really restricted in what you can do. For example, you cannot threaten another power, it's war or nothing. You cannot demand cities or else. This is especially galling when you are far more powerful and revolts in your favour are breaking out. You cannot offer some package in return for the cities, e.g. tech or money. You have to either wait for them to revolt fully or declare war to seize them. Anyone who voluntarily agrees to an open borders agreement is certifiable! It's a stupid idea and makes little sense. If you want to know what's there send in spies. If you want to found cities on the other side of them, you ought to be conquering them!

Overall 99% brilliant, let down only by the terrible diplomacy.

Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay, Dark Heresy - Creatures Anathema
Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay, Dark Heresy - Creatures Anathema
by Fantasy Flight Games design team
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At last a decent supplement for DH!, 22 Mar 2009
As an experienced GM I know what I want from RPG supplements. I want masses of information that will enhance my games, with plenty of ideas for scenarios, stats, etc. Creatures Anathema finally delivers a good supplement for DH that ticks all the right boxes.

The previous supplements have been, to be charitable, poor. I am amazed by the positive reviews on here, obviously from people who have hours to read through pages and pages of self-indulgent guff. All the three prior supplements have been well-written but flattered to deceive. They looked good but said very little. They have been characterised by leaden weight of unecessary detail. The style has been stultifying, incredibly wordy and actually provided very little information. Take Disciples of the Dark Gods for example. This supplement actually contains precious little but background fluff. Any GM worth their salt can make up a few minor chaos cults. The deliberately obtuse and confusing colour text is neither helpful nor does it expand on the game. These supplements read as if hours of self-satisfied writing has gone into saying very little indeed. Compare this to Tome of Corruption for WFRP and the writers should hang their heads in shame. For similar sized books one provides acres of detail, stats, careers, monsters, spells, etc, all concisely written and easy to navigate, with no waffle and nonsense. The other is DOTDG. Similarly I invite anyone who gave a 4-star review to Inquistor's Handbook to actually weigh up what is contained in it. Precious little. It promises to greatly expand the game but provides a few new backgrounds and one (count 'em), one, new career class. Sparse.

The other problem is the crippling restriction of the Calixis Sector. Firstly I am quite able to invent a minor sector for myself, it's a no-brainer. Secondly what has been done is hardly inspiring, it is pretty humdrum and dull. There is nothing innovative or exciting here, just predictable worlds and characters. I know GW have chained the writers but still, come on.

Other GMs and players I know had had enough. I had bought the supplements hoping for an improvement and after DOTDG I decided enough was enough. I could write my own guff. What I wanted was meat, genuine stats for serious opponents, not z-list minor Calixis Sector stuff. A proper set of new weapons. A book of new careers. Stuff that would enhance the game and not self-satisfied noodlings.

Well at last we have it. It's not perfect but it is a huge step forward. Here we have firstly serious stats, for things people want stats for, like genestealers, together with interesting new creatures. Along with this we see the end of interminable waffling and short, to-the-point adventure ideas, ideas for using the creatures, etc. This is more like it, solid writing, well-pitched. On the minus side, it's short in terms of what it contains. What's there is good but for 30 a few more stats would be nice.

Please, please, please let this be the template for the game from now on. Ditch the endless, boring fluff and get into the meat of the game. Get that dull Calixis Sector into the background where it belongs and make this into a genuine 40K RPG, i.e. what the fans actually want from DH.

In short a massive step in the right direction after the first few disappointing supplements. This needs to be the start of a new and focused direction for a game badly in need of new momentum after some very weak books.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 18, 2009 2:38 AM BST

808s & Heartbreak [Digipack]
808s & Heartbreak [Digipack]
Price: 6.37

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A new direction and a new sound, 7 Dec 2008
I bought this hoping for a bit of a move on from the patchy Graduation. Well this is totally different. There is absolutely no doubt that Kanye West is a man of extraordinary talent. Whilst I thought he was an excellent producer he had slipped into a bit of a rut, tied to using the same (speeded up) samples and beats. He even did this when he produced other people's albums (Talib Kweli's Quality, Common's Be, etc). This was fine but I thought he might have shot his bolt, got pigeon-holed, good as he undoubtedly was. He tried to do something a bit different with Graduation, using more electronica and dance rather than jazz and funk samples. However, I felt he missed somewhat. There was also the problem that he was no more than a competent rapper, not bad (like say 50 Cent) but hardly Nas or Guru.

Anyway then I got hold of this excellent album. It was very different from the previous albums and proved me totally wrong. He is more than capable of reinventing his sound and also a strong singer in a more traiditional sense. This might be termed as more R&B in the modern sense of the word, a sort of soul-hip-hop fusion. Kanye seems to have written genuine music rather than constructing from samples and whilst it still has much of his trademark style it is an exciting new direction. It kicks off with a dramatic swirl of synthesisers and grows as it goes.

The subject matter is clearly his recent unfortunate past. Bereavement is there but the absolutely dominating factor is break-up. The title somewhat gives this away, but the sense of despondency and gloom hangs over the whole thing. This is absolutely a break-up album in the old-fashioned sense. He is not vulgar enough to give specifics of his own life but every song is about cruel women, cheating women, a life bereft of relationship and meaning (Welcome to Heartbreak talks graphically about how his friend discusses his kids and he is left only with the empty trappings of wealth). The whole album is shot through with a streak of bitterness a mile wide! Mind you that's no bad thing as it lends it an almost ethereal air of melancholy, which is cleverly built up with very spare music, produced on a synthesiser, not the samples and layered beats he is known for.

The only criticism I would level at this album is that the musical simplicity is too much, in that the whole album has a sameness of sound that emerges as it goes on. At first it seems different in style, but a listen to the whole thing brings the inevitable feeling of monotony. This is as much a product of the negative and miserable tone coupled with the simple instrumentation as it is of anything else. This is, however, a minor concern, since this feeling doesn't come til near the end. Listening from the start is a pretty bleak but moving and strangely entertaining proposition.

Let's hope he experiments and shoots ahead of the competition next time too!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 15, 2009 9:00 PM BST

Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down
Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: 5.75

8 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful, 7 Dec 2008
Rarely do I feel quite so let down when I buy an album. Often I feel that I have bought something that wasn't quite worth the money, but to call this album bad would be generous in the extreme. The central concept seems to have been to produce the most twee, saccharin nonsense possible.

I bought this on the strength of good reviews from magazines I usually trust, because I heard it was 'New Folk' (whatever that is!) and a desire for something a bit whimsical. Well, whimsical it is but to the absolute extreme. Everything about it is bad: songwriting is generally poor with little craft, lyrically it is shallow and twee and the performance is no more than adequate. Listening to it I honestly felt moved to nausea by the sickening kitsch of this album. This is to music what poorly-painted porcelain ballerina statuettes are to home furnishing, a set of extraordinarily extravagant swags, tails and pelmets on the curtains of popular music. As for folk, well if this is the way it's going then I give up right now! They're no more than a pub band compared to the real folk scene in this country. 'New Folk' is a total misnomer, 'twee-pop-folk' would be closer to the mark. I can't think of anything even close, Cosmic Rough Riders had a similar approach when they begun but they had a lot more spirit and drive.

I would hate to think that anyone took this as representative of modern British folk! There is so much great folk out there, none of the following are twee and cheesy: Seth Lakeman, Bellowhead, Julie Fowlis, John McCusker, Kris Drever, Eliza McCarthy. Karine Polwart has more class in her little finger. If you want something good in a similar line of gentle guitar/piano music with male and female vocals there are so many better - Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan's Ballad of the Broken Seas, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss's Raising Sand, etc, etc. Mind you if you honestly think this is good you would struggle to comprehend such excellence! Utterly, utterly dire!

Day & Age
Day & Age
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: 4.00

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A curate' egg, 4 Dec 2008
This review is from: Day & Age (Audio CD)
I absolutely loved both Hot Fuss and Sam's Town, although I found the former immediate and the latter took some time to bite. With Sam's Town in mind I perservered with this album for several listens. First time around I was mortified, thinking what the hell was this rubbish, could this be the same band who made Somebody Told Me and When You Were Young. At this point I would have gone for the 1-star review option.

However, like Sam's Town I gave it a few more spins and soon I was hooked. After about 10 goes I would say that the first 5 or so tracks are of a truly high quality. They are not immediate, grab-you-by-the-throat tunes like Mr Brightside. They are growers which reveal their depths with time. Like Sam's Town there is a also a fair spread of styles and approaches, all firmly within the Killers' signature sound. The first 4 tracks are all very strong and build into a very satisfying sequence of tunes. At first I hated Human but again it soon latched onto me and I have been humming it for days.

On the negative side this is certainly a more camp incarnation of the Killers. I don't know if I would be overly happy with the production if I were them. The sound is poppier than anything they have done before, certainly more so than the almost muscular Sam's Town. It has a sort of disco feel that doesn't sit well with their music for my mind. Also the album suffers from the downside of tailing off hugely towards the end. I hope the filler that ends the album is not a sign of things to come.

Overall a solid effort but poorly produced and lacking a balanced set of quality songs. Too poppy and too much filler. Next time bring the guitar up in the mix and go back to a more traditional, rockier style, with less pop stylings.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 19, 2008 12:59 PM GMT

Price: 15.28

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Walkyier strikes again!, 4 Dec 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: IN THE BIG ENDING (Audio CD)
I have something of a dual relationship with Martin Walkyier (by which I mean his music, having never met him!). I love his lyrics, his vocals and almost all of his output has been of the highest quality. However, I often find the opinions he espouses in his lyrics over-the-top and excessively strident. In short he is a genius and wonderful frontman but he is also something of an 'extremist' at times. He is, and this collective he has assmebled are, pagan. Interestingly he never actually puts this across as a coherent religious message. He makes occasional mentions of the goddess, but is certainly not evangelical. I have always been left to wonder what this paganism is. My own personal experience of 'pagans' is that are usually middle-class kids 'rebelling' by supposedly casting off their Christian heritage and reverting to a pre-Christian faith. In practice this seems to be an intellectual pick'n'mix, a 'build-your-own' religion consisting of whatever the follower feels like believing. Walkyier has much to say in criticism of Christianity, but little religion to replace it with. He seems more to espouse a philosophy, a left-libertarian agenda of freedom of thought, religion and speech, with plenty of egalitarianism and social justice thrown in. I cannot presume to judge his beliefs and he is entitled to whatever he wants. However, I find that sometimes he veers into extremely strident and, to my mind, unjustified attacks on established religion.

Whilst I often find myself feeling he has gone over-the-top there is no doubt in my mind that he is the finest lyricist currently working. Whether you follow his intellectual direction or not it is impossible to be unmoved by the towering brilliance of his lyrics. Whilst his vocal sound is pretty constant his lyrical targets tap into every nook and cranny of human experience. He has written material on so many divergent subjects (e.g: nazism 'Behind the Crooked Cross' or 'Schadenfreude'; England 'Moongleam and Meadowsweet'; child molesters 'Men of Straw'; pretentious critics 'Art Nazi'; sex 'Sins of Emission'; personal troubles 'Building a Ruin'; even the fate of abandoned musical instruments 'No Strings Attached') that it beggars belief. All have been dealt with using a clearly fierce intellect and exceptional grasp of rhyme, rhythm, cadence, meter, etc. His lyrics read just as well as poetry as they work on record.

I have followed his career closely since the days of Sabbat, through the years or Skyclad to the present day. The importance of his midas touch is clear, look at the shell that is now 'Skyclad' since he left! The Clan Destined worried me somewhat, in that it seemed a loose collective, which to me warns of loose, jamming style work with over-elaboration and lack of focus. However, whether it was written this way or has been firmed up with quality editing and production this is a tight set of songs.

The finished product is 6 tracks long, ample for the purpose. Sadly the band never got off the ground and the composer left, leaving Walkyier to claim this would be his last ever musical release (something he fortunately backtracked on later, to 'it might be'). However, it is no disappointment. For those familiar with his prior output it is probably closest in style to the first Skyclad album, before the violin was brought up in the mix from Jonah's Ark onwards. It is lighter than Sabbat and has a heavy keyboard element, where the violin would have been on Skyclad songs. The addition of a backing vocalist lends it richer tones. Overall, though, the music is nothing exceptional nor revolutionary. It is quite nu-metalesque in places, where I had thought it might be more black metal. So musically it is average. As usual it is the lyrical and vocal presence of Walkyier that lifts it to a much higher level. As always he takes the bare building blocks of the music and adds brilliant and thought-provoking words.

I sincerely hope that Mr Walkyier has not given up on music and that this will not be his last release. I place him among the finest modern lyricists, he might not like my comparisons, but I put him up with Paul Westerberg, Wiz, Talib Kweli, Marvin Gaye, etc. Keep 'em coming!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 3, 2012 8:13 AM BST

Return of the Black Death: The World's Greatest Serial Killer
Return of the Black Death: The World's Greatest Serial Killer
by Susan Scott
Edition: Paperback

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important and interesting but flawed, 22 Oct 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is in historical point of huge interest and potential importance. The idea that bubonic plague caused the Black Death is one that refuses to die, despite the clear and obvious (to anyone with a modicum of historical knowledge and understanding of the biology of bubonic plague)facts. This analysis should absolutely nail down the argument. Possibly it does but it won't convince a lot of historians. Not because they aren't right, but because they have somewhat fluffed the writing of this book.

The crux of it is that the introduction is overlong and the actual meat of the argument is skated over. If they are to overturn a century of accepted 'fact' they will need to set out their points in far more detail. They clearly feel that their argument is unassailable and doesn't need to be clearly made so they make it in a few short, punchy paragraphs. They may be right but this approach leaves them open to all sorts of come-back and fails to directly address many of the issues.

I'll get my criticism out of the way first. They dismiss bubonic plague too lightly. The main weakness of their position is that they cite far too few sources to adequately knock it down. Like many non-historians they only quote sources which agree with them and don't bother to actually tackle and knock down those which don't. The best example of this is rats. One scientist reports there were no rats in rural Medieval England. I don't doubt that this is true, but they have not given space to counter-argument to show why this is the correct interpretation. They only give one specific reason, that rat-proof dove-cotes did not exist and then state that these came into use when brown rats moved in. What about black rats the critics will cry. They do the same with the purported DNA evidence of yersina pestis in france. Again as amateurs do they try to conclusively knock down one expert with another of their own. I have no reason to trust their expert above the one claiming to have found plague. They must be much more definitive. They dismiss the French archaeological investigations far too lightly. This badly undermines their argument. It reads as sloppy and amateur stuff.

They deal with some crucial issues in a throwaway manner. They don't give adequate space to pneumonic plague. The answer given to doubters is 'it was spread person-to-person as pneumonic plague'. They dismiss it out of hand without really spelling out the biology and why pneumonic plague does not exist without bubonic. This is crucial and desperately needed solid scientific references. Likewise the human flea. they say it could not have passed on the disease but give no indication of why not. These two flaws alone give the pro-bubonic plague lobby the crack they need to shatter the whole thing.

Their whole section on bubonic plague needs much more fleshing out. They say it can't be bubonic plague as it spreads slowly then in the next section describe an outbreak of bubonic plague spreading across continents. They are just not specific enough about how slow it is, a few throwaway examples with no references don't wash. They completely fail to use the Marseilles Plague of 1722 to knock down bubonic plague. they feint at describing why the old Black Death precautions failed to work but don't flesh it out with explanations, statistics, etc.

Having said all that this is a very powerful work. The evidence they have is clearly absolutely conclusive. Their research has been extremely thorough and their credentials are unimpeachable. They should have got a 'proper' historian to advise them on how to set it out and set out argument. They write in that scientific style which I deeply dislike and which is too quick and sketchy, never really setting out their arguments in depth and ensuring that they preempt any counter-argument. Instead of saying 'here's my full argument' they say 'here is an outline of my argument, now go and replicate it', science not history on a historical topic for which a historical approach is needed as there is no real actual scientific evidence to go on.

Their conclusion is inescapable and terrifying. Black Death was not and could not have been bubonic plague. Any person with common sense can see this. They sadly missed the opportunity to nail this down once and for all. Excellent ideas and research, poorly set out. This review sounds far more negative than I want to be! It's a good book, fascinating and well-prepared. I am criticising because I think it is a shame that they let the argument slip through their fingers somewhat, not because they are wrong but because they get the writing a bit wrong. Better editing or more historical input would have turned this into an absolute classic.

Death Magnetic
Death Magnetic
Offered by positivenoise
Price: 4.99

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great return to form!, 14 Sep 2008
This review is from: Death Magnetic (Audio CD)
I thought that I would give this album a few listens before I sat down to review it. I'm glad I did because I honestly think it is a grower and requires two or three complete listens to really size it up. When I first heard it I thought it wasn't what I expected. Having heard it was like Ride The Lightning I was thinking along those lines. In reality is far more of a mix of all their various styles over the years. The biggest influences in terms of their past that I could see were Ride and Metallica. The areas which are the least obvious are Justice and Puppets. The really epic songs with loads and loads of key changes, tempo changes, etc are not here. So if you're looking for another Puppets forget it!

Probably the best thing to do is to throw away your preconceptions and forget your favourite period of Metallica, listen to this as if to a new band. If you do you can't fail to see it as pure quality. The song-writing acumen is of the highest order, with numerous ambitious and complex riffs per song. The soloing is inventive and not simply of the 'how fast can I go' variety. For me Ulrich is a top-notch drummer, his drum parts are always bang in keeping with the music, nothing too fancy but aggressive and pounding. I don't want a metal drummer to do solos and noodle about, especially in a thrash band I want a ferocious and battering assault. Hetfield still retains a quality voice and he is probably among the most talented rhythm guitarists to pick up an axe. Reviewers can slate him all they like but how many could do what he does, any guitarist knows his a consumate ability to play and sing together.

The songs are varied and punchy. They are long but not in the sort of symphonic, epic way of say Justice. They are long because they contain many parts, several riffs, shifts of tempo and sub-structures. The structures are more Ride than anything else, although a lot of the riffs are Metallica and onwards. My favourite is All Nightmare Long, which I think is a great battering ram of a song, with tinges of St Anger, but importantly the melodics and solo to make it a proper song. In my mind this album hangs together as an album. When I heard 'the Day That Never Comes' in isolation I was not impressed but it sits well within the album as a whole, the overall progression and ordering of the songs is well thought out.

For those knocking this album consider this: how many bands can have weathered the woeful misdirection that began on Metallica and climaxed with the awful Load and Reload. St Anger was a brave, but misguided attempt to dig a way out of pop music and back to aggression. This is not Puppets, but its 20-odd years since then and Cliff Burton is sadly long gone. They can't write that stuff now. They have moved on, matured and like it or not they write different stuff. For my money this is a really gut-busting effort by them, they have poured everything into it and done their best.

For what it's worth, perhaps my hearing isn't up to much but I didn't notice a terrible production. It sounds like all Metallica albums (drums too high and bass too low), but I always think they aim for a wall of sound with the rhythm section melding into the lead instrument. They lack separation but they always have, the sound is as always. My son asked if there was a bass and I had to try to explain to him that the layering was such that it was not possible to pick out most of the individual instruments, to listen to the whole effect instead.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 15, 2008 2:53 PM BST

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