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Dave Hall (Ekaterinburg, Russia)

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A Dramatic Turn Of Events
A Dramatic Turn Of Events
Price: £13.43

79 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, complex and very nearly a masterpiece of modern music, 12 Sep 2011
Dream Theater fans tend to be an obsessive bunch, almost invariably skilled and knowledgeable musicians themselves. As I sit here writing this on the morning of the CD's release in the UK, there are debates raging on various forums about Dream Theater's latest album. Some are analysing the music like it's a crime scene, dusting through every bar looking for odd time signatures and evidence of earlier influences. Others are obsessing over the mixing and mastering. And yet another group is combing through the lyrics (particularly those by John Myung) looking for clues to the secret of life. I'm going to take a radical angle here and discuss the music itself, and how it affects me. I'm not saying those other issues don't matter. Clearly they do, or else so many people wouldn't write so passionately about them. But I'm not a gifted musician, I know nothing about the techniques of recording and mastering music, and if I want great words, I tend not to look to rock stars for them. Why I fell in love with Dream Theater back in 2001 was the exceptional musicianship and gorgeous textures of their music. So this is how I'll try to appraise this latest album.

Firstly, as we all know, Portnoy left in September 2010. What affect has this had? Well, immediately, only Labrie sings. There are no more growls and toe-curling death-metal rapping, for lack of a more apt description of that abomination that marred A Nightmare To Remember. And Labrie sings brilliantly. Nowhere on this record does he sneer or snarl or bark or shriek his way through passages, as he occasionally did on the previous 2 or 3 releases. He merely sings, and his voice has colour and charm and beauty and power. It is becoming a cliché on those forums I mentioned, but it is nonetheless true: this is the James Labrie of Images and Words and Awake. It is among his best work.

His contribution to the song-writing is also evident. Build me Up, Break Me Down sounds like something that would have fit nicely onto one of his solo albums, and has a wonderful chorus. Not my favourite track on the album, but a good, solid piece. Lost Not Forgotten works for me on many levels (Petrucci's guitar solo is wonderful. Echoes of Under A Glass Moon, but this could never be a bad thing). The opening contains an over-the-top segment of (it seems to me) completely aimless widdling, but it doesn't last too long.

The real surprise on this album was the 3 ballads. With a few notable exceptions (Anna Lee, Hollow Years, Disappear) I've never really taken to DT ballads. Too sickly, too banal. The appeal of Dream Theatre is usually the formidable musicianship and wholly unique arrangements of their pieces. Water them down to a 3rd-rate Coldplay and what's the point? But on this album, the ballads (I'll repeat, 3 of them!) are a) well placed on the CD, and b) beautiful. This Is The Life has a soaring guitar solo (2 of them in fact), and tasteful playing from Rudess. Far From heaven ddn't do it for me at first, but after many listens, is now one of my favourite DT tracks. It's a short one, but...such a beautiful, gorgeous vocal line from Labrie. And finally, what may be the most purely sublime piece DT have ever written, the album's closing track: Beneath The Surface. I like to think I hold myself together quite well, I'm not an overly-emotional person, and very few things move me to tears - but this track did, the first time I heard it. And with each repeated listen, it somehow becomes more and more beautiful. One of those tracks (for me at least) which, once it's sunk in to your soul, it's hard to imagine a time before it was a part of your life.

The other tracks on the album are very strong. Bridges In The Sky begins oddly, with a noise that any lover of a spicy mutton vindaloo will find familiar, but turns into quite an epic song, with a soaring melody and - lord be praised - a tasteful instrumental section which fits with the song, as opposed to a collection of impossibly difficult technical exercises. Some chap on the Dream Theater website's forum is currently engaged in a forensic examination of this song, claiming that its structure exactly mirrors that of Metropolis. Maybe so, maybe so. I personally couldn't care less about that degree of analysis. To me, it's just a great song, and to my ears sounds nothing like Metropolis. Besides which, I'd much prefer Dream Theater draw on their own catalogue for inspiration rather than any other band's, which is what I feel they were sometimes doing with Octavarium, Systematic Chaos, and Black Clouds. After all, nobody ever did it better than they themselves did.

Outcry is an album highlight, a great balance of technique and beauty. Breaking All Illusions is the album's masterpiece, with one of the most beautiful and spine-chilling endings I've ever heard in a song. I know the album is still fresh and it's tempting to be hyperbolic before it's really had a chance to sink in fully, but nonetheless, if I were stranded on an island I honestly think I could be happy with only this track for company. Dream Theater have often written exceptionally beautiful endings to otherwise mediocre tracks (Octavarium, Best of Times), but here, the entire track is one flawless gem.

So, in conclusion...I loved Mike Portnoy (still do). I think his drumming on In The Name Of God was a masterpiece of technique counterpoised against emotion. He was that rarest of entities - a truly musical drummer. But I didn't like the direction DT was taking with recent albums, and I feel that he was the reason for that change. Too much death metal growling. Too much musical masturbation, too little music. Sometimes it was just plain silly, and other times, embarrassingly derivative (watch the Systematic Chaos `Making Of' DVD and count the number of times Portnoy says things like: "Wow, this is great, we sound like Biohazard here!" Or "This is our cool Meshuggah section". Just be freakin' DT please!). This album is the sound of a group of preternaturally talented musicians playing as a tight unit. The songs are well constructed and brilliantly executed. They are original and inspiring, sometimes sending chills down the spine. There are moments which are supremely beautiful, but never childish and mawkish as seen on previous albums ("The Answer Lies Within" - is that right? There was I thinking an unexamined life was the way forward). This is not an easy record, it takes time to even begin to get a grasp of all that is going on here. Hence, it is classic Dream Theater. God forgive me but I'm happy Portnoy left if this is the result. This is what made the group wholly unique, and this record - while drawing on their past - is entirely new and fresh.

Album highlights, in order:

Breaking All Illusions
Beneath The Surface
Outcry
This Is The Life

My whole-hearted recommendation is to buy this album. And thank you Dream Theater, on the off-chance you're reading this. The music you create makes my life so much better.
Comment Comments (21) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 6, 2012 10:27 AM GMT


Relentless Reckless Forever
Relentless Reckless Forever
Offered by davehopetrading
Price: £4.99

15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional music, 8 Mar 2011
Here is a run-down of Bodom's new album:

Track 1) Not My Funeral: whether intentionally or not, the album kicks off with a riff almost identical to that which kicked off 1999's Follow The Reaper (the band's masterpiece, in my opinion.) It's a very strong opening track, with an excellent chorus (tasteful use of solo guitar to complement the words) and a solo quite reminiscent of the brilliant solo towards the end of Hate Me. This opening track is tuneful, brilliantly played, with a lot of variety. Interesting from first note to last, never dull, nothing repeated. It also, in my opinion, summarises what sets this band apart from many others: their albums may be short, and always contain only 9 songs, but at their best they manage to pack more musical ideas into a single track than most groups manage in an entire album.

Track 2) Shovel Knockout. A lot going on in this song, which begins with a rumbling bass line. Again, many musical ideas, a lot of creative energy. The first half is not as effective as the 2nd. The first part of the song (the first minute or so) is fast and shouty, not especially catchy. But then the kyboards and the chorus kick in, and it becomes an album highlight, Bodom at their best. An excellent solo, and good unison lines at the end. Very technical musicianship.

Track 3) Roundtrip To Hell and Back. The best song on the album, a masterpiece from first note to last. Not only one of their best ever songs, but one of the best metal songs of all time. If it is comparable to anything, it would probably be Every Time I Die, from Follow The Reaper. Similar pace and structure. What elevates this track to the pantheon of exceptional Bodom tracks is the keyboards. The solo is the end is sublime and fits perfectly with what has gone before. Alexi deservedly gets so many plaudits, but Janne is a vastly under-rated component of this group.

Track 4) Pussyfoot Miss Suicide. Sad to say, quite a forgettable track, one of the weakest on the album. Excellent musicianship of course, but it's just a straight-forward thrash-fest. Impressive soloing from Alexi and Janne, but it lacks melody and never really holds the interest. Fans of Slayer will like this song, but I didn't, because what I value in Bodom (what makes them unique) is their meshing of classical structures and textures with speed and energy. This song has plenty of speed, but little invention. It sounds like something which was left off Blooddrunk. 4 minutes of very well-played noise.

Track 5) Relentless Reckless Forever: 2nd best song on the album, opening with 3 simple ear-shattering blasts of pure metal but ten getting very complex very soon. Great melodies, good keyboards, and very original music. This, again, is the kind of song which Bodom produce every once in a while which sounds like it was written in a moment of white-hot inspiration (as almost all of their first 3 albums sounded), rather than because they had made a decision to sit down and make another album. It sounds like a bunch of guys with almost supernatural skill, who adore the kind of music they play, letting the creative instinct flow. A wonderful track, with a spine-chilling chorus.

Track 6) Ugly. Special mention in this song goes to Alexi's solo, which is brilliantly-written, tasteful, suits the song perfectly, and needless to say is artfully played. A very strong track, following the trsusted Bodom structure of riff - chorus - solo - riff - chorus - guitar solo - keyboard solo - unison - coda. One of the fastest tracks on the album. Riff reminded me a little of the song Are You Dead Yet. Lovely chorus.

Track 7) Cry of the Nihilist. A pleasing nod to the classically inspired solos which defined their first 3 or 4 albums. The music here (as opposed to Pussyfoot Miss Suicide) is thoughtful and melodic, not just aimless, lightning-fast shredding. A good, complex riff, good use of keyboards. Some odd vocal effects, it seems to me, but this isn't too distracting, because I don't really listen to Bodom for the singing or the lyrics.

Track 8) Was It Worth It? Never before has a Bodom track divided opinion as much as this one. I guess everyone reading this has already heard it, since is has been available on Youtube for a month or so. Personally I like this song very much, I think it has a great riff and a wonderful chorus. The guitar solo is perhaps unusual, but overall listening to this is a very pleasant way to spend 4 minutes.

Track 9) Northpole Throwdown. The fastest and shortest song on the album. I'm not too keen on it to be honest, I'm not sure what they were doing here other than seeing how fast they could play. It reminds me of the end of Slayer's Reign in Blood album. Flat-out, break-neck speed, not very melodic and not many interesting musical ideas. Sure, it has mind-blowing musicianship, but so do a lot of bands. It lacks the Bodom touch, that unique blend of gorgeous harmonies, textures, skill, and original composition. Bodom have usually finished albums brilliantly (Downfall, Kissing The Shadows, We're Not Gonna Fall...), but this doesn't really do it for me. Too thrashy.

And there you have it, my take on Bodom's latest album. Where does it stand in the context of the rest of their catalogue? Well, to give an idea of how fanatic I am of this group I actually stepped across the border from my native country to Poland to pick up a copy, where it was released early. I have spent all weekend listening to it over and over again, so this isn't a knee-jerk reaction. I'd say this is my 2nd favourite album after Follow The Reaper.

It contains 2 tracks which are up there with the best music ever written in the metal genre (I can't be bothered to get involved in the tedious debate over which sub-genre they belong to; it's all metal to me):

Roundtrip To Hell and Back
Relentless Reckless Forever

It contains a collection of songs which are excellent examples of intelligent, tasteful, energetic, soulful, technical and passionate musicianship:

Not My funeral
Ugly
Cry of the Nihilist
Was It Worth It?
Shovel Knockout

And 2 not-so-strong songs, but still outstanding by any other band's standards:

Pussyfoot Miss Suicide
Northpole Throwdown

My unequivocal recommendation is to buy this album because when these 5 guys are on form there is really nobody else that I know of who can match them for natural talent and musical ability. As a parting note, and on the off-chance any of the Bodom guys are reading this, thank you to you all for producing music which makes my life better. See you on tour.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 9, 2013 5:52 PM BST


Sapphire
Sapphire
by Katie Price
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is, like, a proper good buk, 13 Dec 2009
This review is from: Sapphire (Hardcover)
I dont reed much usually coz readings like proper borin but I reeded this buk in like 3 weeks. Thats how proper gud this buk is. I havent reeded a buk since I woz at school like but Jordons like totally in anuver leeg compared to those nobs we ad to reed at school. U gotta buy this buk an see for yurself, she like totally writes brilliant. Even me mates Candice, Chantelle and Kimberly-Jade reeded it and they reckon reedings for losers and nobs. And they sed it was proper exelent an all. Kimberly-Jade reckons the bloke in the buk is proper fit. This buk is better than Shaykspeer and I reckon they shud learn it to kids in school. Ive alredy started reedin it to my own yung uns, Jemima, Holly, Dexter-Bradly, Cheryl, Jordan, Oman, Mbongo Junior, and my new one Saffire.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 7, 2011 8:12 AM BST


Blooddrunk
Blooddrunk
Offered by PressPlay
Price: £3.19

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Light-years ahead of anyone else, 1 Sep 2008
This review is from: Blooddrunk (Audio CD)
I should start by saying I'm one of those Bodom fans who thinks Are You Dead Yet is a brilliant album. So I guess most of you have already selected 'no' in the 'was this review helpful column'. Fair enough, but hear me out. This album is melodic and contains simply blistering playing, heavy as hell. How a bunch of guys so young manage to be so clean in their playing is beyond me. In fact everything they've done since Something Wild has been head and shoudlers above any other metal band out there, with the possible exception of Dream Theater in their heavier moments ('Train of Thought', the first disc from '6 Degrees of Inner Turbulence').

As for Blooddrunk - it has little in common with Something Wild or Hatebreeder. Only the clean execution of the playing in fact. This album is more straight-forward thrash, with perhaps a little less of the goegeous melodies they had in some of their earlier stuff. The only thing missing, in my opinion, is some of the classically-inspired guitar solos (think Kissing The Shadows, Lake Bodom, Hate Me...). But I still can't stop playing it. I only wish they released albums more frequently.

5 stars to the 2nd best band in the world (Yep, I'm a Dream Theater fanatic, depsite Laiho's criticism of them). Keep the songs coming Alexi and co!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 14, 2009 10:23 PM GMT


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