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A. Hughes (Ireland)

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Shadowcast (Limited Edition)
Shadowcast (Limited Edition)
Price: £13.73

3.0 out of 5 stars This Disease is Nasty But Not Life Threatening, 3 Oct. 2011
A death metal super group of sorts, combines to give us Shadowcast (2010) and I have to say that after many listens it is difficult not to feel a bit under whelmed by the music on offer from these (individual) metal legends. This is 11 tracks of modular, straightforward, death metal. If that is your cup of tea, (and admittedly, it is mine) that's fine. It's just that in 2010 death metal has become a multi headed beast and has arguably become more versatile and innovative as a result. With predictable, unimaginative song structures, the music here at times becomes monotone and repetitive in comparison with some of the more technical or experimental brutalists of today. But on the other hand, I guess it boils down to a matter of taste. On this album, Insidious Disease do not ponder tampering with death metal's original bloody blueprint and are proud of it. But, it's just that with the combined talent of these individuals, I expected Shadowcast to be more memorable, defining and indeed more thought out. However, it's not all bad and there are definite positives that can be extracted from this, their debut long player.

Whilst Insidious Disease are far from melodic, at times there are distinct flashes of melody in the lead work that creeps into their choruses and bridges courtesy of Silenoz (Dimmu Borgir), which is most welcome. And brutality is most definitely attained throughout the album, primarily due to the brilliant and well enunciated vocal work of Mark Grewe of Morgoth (he can be likened to Chuck Schuldiner in style). Whilst tub thumper extraordinaire Tony Laureano pounds away with pure menace as always. No major standout tracks, but `Boundless' is worth a mention as it has a brilliantly, disturbing and murderous video which can be viewed online. `Abandonment' is a slow, torturous instrumental with a looping guitar lead that is both haunting and atmospheric. Their version of the classic `Leprosy' is easily the best cover of this song I've heard and Grewe was born for it. Shadowcast is certainly not pushing any barriers or breaking new ground and perhaps that's the way the band like it. Rather, it harkens back to the often one dimensional thrashings of yore which resulted in the ugly birth of the genre all those years ago. It is a revisionist death metal album that is unpretentious and true to the great old ideals that made the best early death metal. That said, here's hoping that should they let their full inventive fire burn freely on their next release (if they're planning one?) then a step into more expressive pastures can be attained, whilst still keeping it brutal and old school of course!

N.B. It's refreshing to see that the band put so much thought and effort (maybe at the expense of the music!) into their album packaging. The artwork is fantastic and there are plenty of delightfully deviant images on display throughout the inlay card, most of which represent the various song titles. As a plus there are additional sadistic mock ups to peruse on the website so don't miss out, top marks all round on this front lads!

Def Jam's How to Be a Player
Def Jam's How to Be a Player
Offered by westworld-
Price: £20.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Above Average Soundtrack for the Players!!!, 27 Sept. 2011
Here we have one of the better hip hop soundtracks from what seemed like a plethora of urban film soundtracks that emerged throughout the 1990's. Usually the soundtracks were the selling point not the film, which tells its own story. Although, I must confess that I havent seen the accompanying film. And from reading some of the tag lines, I wont be in any rush to track it down, but I digress! It's mostly hip hop all the way here thankfully, with only two or three R n'B tracks thrown in for good measure. Lead single at the time, came in the form of Foxy's `Big Bad Mamma', but the Ill Nana's other track `I Gotta Know' has a fresher feel and altogether tighter lyrics from arguably the finest ever female MC (a two way battle between sexy Foxy and the Queen B; Lil Kim of course!).

The two best tracks come as we approach midway on the album. The `Usual Suspects' has a posse cut kind of feel and should definitely have been on the film soundtrack of the songs namesake, great stuff. Then there's the dirty south bowdy hollerin' of da P, Fiend and Silk Da Shocker. Whatever happened to these `cash money' legends? I really miss all that stuff, a brilliant track. Nothing outstanding for the rest of the album but a few solid cuts deserve a mention. 8Ball & MJG deliver as always with their gangsta flavoured tones and EPMD ensure that the east is in the house with `Never Seen Before'. Unfortunately, 2Pac's `Troublesome' is far from one of his better songs but maybe Pac completists will appreciate it. The album is intro'd, interluded and outro'd (can I say that!!!) by blaxploitation legend Max Julien doing a take on his iconic `Goldie' persona from 1973!. While on my first few listens, I mostly pressed forward or ignored the talkovers (of the then 52 year old actor), but after a while they became strangely appealing. His mildly poetic musings do kind of grow on you especially when he refers to the Pac. It made me wanna watch `The Mack' all over again! Nuff said, a far from brilliant but certainly solid hip hop album here, with enough to keep the average fan interested, and at this price a definite bargain.

Boyz 'n' the Hood
Boyz 'n' the Hood
Price: £14.97

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre Soundtrack to the Greatest Film on American Black Urban Gang Culture Ever Made, 14 Sept. 2011
This review is from: Boyz 'n' the Hood (Audio CD)
So here we have the soundtrack to certainly one of the greatest films of the 1990's and unfortunately it does not live up to it's illustrious companion piece. That's not to say it's a poor soundtrack, but for every quality song (predominantly the hip hop tracks) there seems to be a duff throwaway number (predominantly the R n'B tracks). The second best song on the album is probably the first track, performed by none other than the mighty Ice Cube (or should that be Doughboy!). The chaotic sample led structure of the track brilliantly reminds us of when the Cube was at his creative peak in the early 90's. Other bangers include the wholly underrated Yo-Yo and the sadly missed pioneers that were Main Source. The true standout and best track of the album is of course from original west coast thugs Compton's Most Wanted. It perfectly encapsulates the nihilism yet normality of the lives of the film characters. The legend that is Too-Short also weighs in with an incredibly catchy salutary warning of following the `hood' life! While underground godfather Kam makes his vocal debut here and spits some instantly credible urban reality.

The album is wrapped up by the sax infused and haunting film theme music by score producer extraordinaire Stanley Clarke. While his piece is repetitive, its searing sax wanderings really capture the gritty hopelessness of the films main theme. Instantly forgettable R n'B fodder comes courtesy of Tevin Cambell, Tony!Toni!Tone!, Hi-Five (who?!) and Force One Network (what?!). Original British home girl Monie Love's song is just ok while 2 Live Crew's three or so minutes are listenable but not essential. So there we have it. It's a pity the soundtrack doesn't have the `classic' status of the main feature but I guess that would be a lot to ask. However, on reflection this album is certainly worth owning if you're a hip hop fan. The main reason being, that there are many decent tracks here that you probably wont find anywhere else and of course the quality songs here are from that sadly missed golden era of hip hop.

The Force
The Force
Offered by rapid17
Price: £10.00

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Onslaught of Bristolian Brutality, 27 May 2011
This review is from: The Force (Audio CD)
This riff fest of classic thrash was released in 1986 in what was to become probably the most defining year in the history of the genre. And have no doubts, The Force deservedly takes it place in the list of classic thrash albums that were released that year. Of course, it's no Reign in Blood, Peace Sells or Master of Puppets but it easily stands shoulder to shoulder with other heavyweight albums such as Pleasure to Kill, Eternal Devastation or Game Over. And all this from only downthe channel in Bristol? Yes, we too here in the British Isles could thrash with the best of them so we should be very proud of the mighty Onslaught indeed!

This is seven tracks of relentless riffing that is delivered with passion and precision and it is so brilliant an example of thrash in its heydey. Why make do with all the current thrash wannabe's recycling these old riffs when you can have the real thing! A strange album in some ways as there are only seven tracks but with each song clocking in at over 6 minutes except one, there are no fillers or leftover indulgences here. The intricate solo's are all handled with aplomb by the backbone of the band; Mr. Nige Rockett. And the thunderous riffs just keep on coming which culminates in an all encompassing sound characterized by knockout punch heaviness. And vocalist Sy Keeler is a revelation too. At times he does his best Tom Araya impression, but what thrash band at this time didn't want to sound a bit like Slayer eh? But in fairness, Sy has an accomplished set of pipes of his own and he really rallies the troops with anthems like `Let there be Death' and `Metal Forces'. The lyrics are the usual evil/demon hokum which are pure tack but all the best thrash just wouldn't sound the same if they were signing about flowers and knitting would it? But it's the quality of the execution that's important, and with The Force, Onslaught truly deliver.

The band would go on to release one more weak and ill advised album and then call it quits. But the good news (in case you hadn't heard!) is that this legendary act is back on the scene since around 2005. Their comeback album Killing Peace (2007) was a solid but predictable enough affair, but I'm hearing great things about their new slab; Sounds of Violence released a few months back. I was fortunate enough to witness their awesome live show a couple of years ago in Waterford and having spoke briefly with Nige afterwards, he is a certified thrash icon and all round top bloke. But I digress and the most important point here is that The Force is a thrash classic and is one of the great influential albums released in the genre. Onslaught may have never got the success they deserved at the time (I had great difficulty getting their albums back around `89) but that appreciation is long overdue.

Price: £14.98

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Malevolent Mid Career Assortment, 11 April 2011
This review is from: Retrospective (Audio CD)
Now there are no shortage of compilations in recent years documenting the bloody career of these Floridian death metal behemoths. Depending of course on what kind of `retrospective' of the band you require! First there was the Joe Black (1996) compilation, which was hastily assembled by Mr. Malevolent himself Phil Fasciana in place of an actual new studio album when the band imploded, in what was to be one of its many break up's as the years went by. It contained only three new tracks, a few demos and oddity's and a rather brilliant cover of Raining Blood no less! Then we were treated to Manifestation (2000) which was a fairly blatant cash in by their record company Pavement Music at the time. Now as any knowledgeable death metal fan knows, Malevolent Creation's true classic albums are their debut, followed closely by their second album Retribution (1992). If, shock horror, you don't own these two slabs of deathly genius then perhaps the Manifestation compilation album is more appropriate than Retrospective (2005) as the former features tracks from their 1991 debut right up to The Fine Art of Murder (1998).

The Best of Malevolent Creation (2003) quickly followed suit which saw Roadrunner records stake their claim for a piece the malevolent cake. This compilation features tracks exclusively lifted from their first three albums; the aforementioned first two classics and the all but forgotten Stillborn LP (1993). This is the only compilation to include tracks from this, their hard to find third album. Perhaps the less said about this album the better though, as the recording quality was truly awful (a problem that has dogged the band on other albums also) and most notably, it was also the album that got them dropped from Roadrunner at the time. Although, the genre of death metal itself was effectively dead at that time in the mid nineties anyway. Subsequently, Retrospective was thrust upon the metal world in 2005 and this collection accurately documents what in many ways were the lost years for Malevolent Creation and to a lesser extent, death metal in general. The tracks here are chronologically lifted from their six albums between 1995 and 2002. And it is this collection in particular which more or less affirms why their first two albums are considered their best works i.e. the songs here are nothing to get excited about. This is mostly average, plodding death metal fare. There are only a handful of memorable songs really, to include Blood Brothers, In Cold Blood, The Fine Art of Murder, To Die is at Hand and The Will to Kill. Rather annoyingly, Retrospective does not include any tracks from Warkult (2004), presumably because this album was released on yet another different label (the thoroughly respectable Nuclear Blast). It does however include the track Confirmed Kill from Envenomed II (2002, their re-recorded version of the album Envenomed, 2000)

Finally, their old record company Crash Music (formerly Pavement Music), tried one last time (we hope!) to milk the beast again by releasing Essentials (2009). This three disc package is basically the albums; Eternal (1995), In Cold Blood (1997) and The Fine Art of Murder (1998) all placed together and labeled as a new compilation called Essentials! Seriously, the hoodwinking and profiteering by record companies has to stop here! The last time I checked, none of these aforementioned three albums were rare or difficult to find (unlike Retribution and Stillborn) so avoid this Essentials album at all costs, not least because the music is fairly awful. So all in all, Retrospective is the best of a bad lot as far as their compilations go but it is certainly not a `must have' in your death metal collection, unlike their first two classic albums. Let's hope they now get some stability with the well respected Nuclear Blast label, because at this stage in their career they sure deserve it. Incidentally, their latest album on this label; Invidious Dominion (2010), while not perfect, is easily the best album they've produced since those halcyon days of 1992.

A New Era Of Corruption
A New Era Of Corruption
Price: £11.28

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Marble City Murderers Come of Age, 6 April 2011
This review is from: A New Era Of Corruption (Audio CD)
Whitechapel have bludgeoned their way out of Knoxville, Tennessee and while their punishing symphonies may be a suitable accompaniment to that region's finest bourbon..... blues music it certainly is not! They have become a tighter death metal killing machine with each release, but with A New Era of Corruption (2010), they display a new found maturity in sound, evidenced by great songwriting married to brilliant technique. The result is completely punishing. And with this release they have distanced themselves somewhat from the deathcore tag whilst still utilising it's most powerful traits to maximum effect. 2010 had already been an extremely healthy year for death metal with some sublime efforts from the likes of Immolation, Malevolent Creation, Master, Atheist, Hail of Bullets and Misery Index to name a few. But with this, their third opus Whitechapel have established a well deserved place at the top table alongside some of the aforementioned scene innovators.

The triple guitar attack of Savage, Wade and Householder really adds crushing intensity to this album and while some songs are more memorable than others; the anthemic `Reprogrammed To Hate' and `Murder Sermon' being two, there are certainly no filler track's on this 42 minute aural beating. In addition, it is only after multiple listens that the songs really start to reveal their depth. The thickness, heaviness and intensity of the tone here make it clear that this is a real statement of intent from Whitechapel. This album flirts with a quasi-industrial aesthetic that is first suggested on the amazing cover artwork. This is further realised via the grinding riff work which, while displaying frequent tempo changes, still allows the harmonies space to breathe alongside the dissonant brutality. It is most refreshing that in tandem with these suffocating riffs, there is an array of subdued melodies that further hone the melodic approach of the lead guitar playing. This is their first album where there are fluid solo's throughout which are allowed the space to be heard among the maelstrom. Then there is Bozeman's lyrics which are both nihilistic and misanthropic in equal measure. It is rare that one should be bothered with death metal lyrics but these hateful odes really allow the listener to appreciate the bleak futuristic visions on offer.

All in all, this is Whitechapel's most accomplished and complete album and one thinks that they will find it hard to better it. Most importantly, A New Era of Corruption is listenable and memorable which is an essential ingredient of any great album. To round it off the production is pristine without being over polished. It is a record that is brimming with precision and intensity and wonderfully encapsulates a death metal sound that is truly of it's era.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 4, 2011 9:36 AM GMT

Drawing Down The Moon
Drawing Down The Moon
Price: £23.03

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Finnish Ice Lord's Experimental Second Opus, 19 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Drawing Down The Moon (Audio CD)
After the straight forward black metal blasphemy that was the brilliant; The Oath of Black Blood (1991, even though it turned out later that it was a load of their early demo's thrown together without the band's permission, seeing as they spent the original recording budget getting pissed,..legends!!), Beherit took some controversial stylistic chances with this their second full length. This album is commonly hailed as their classic work and while it has its moments, I fail to see how it tops the ice pick barbarity of their debut. Basically, if you like your black metal fast and aggressive, this is not the album for you. For this album the band decided to focus on trying to achieve that much sought after musical ingrediant `atmosphere'. Unfortunately, I don't think they really succeeded, which is a pity because they certainly are talented musicians. The key to understanding this album is by seeing the direction that the band would take after this release. Main man Marko Laiho subsequently sullied the bands name by releasing two albums of terrible `dark ambient' music under the sacred Beherit moniker.

Beherit tried to create a dark sinister atmosphere here by experimenting with their recording techniques. Firstly, the music is one of the most lo-fi recordings I have heard. No crime that mind you, because all of the best old black metal recordings are predicated on this particular aesthetic. But then the vocals kick in! Holocausto's whispers and dulcet tones are recorded far too high in the mix. There's barely a shriek or high pitched rasp anywhere on many of these songs. It's all whispers, sighs and some chanting thrown in for good measure. When there are more typical black metal snarls such as on `The Gate of Nanna' or `Nocturnal Evil', you just wish they would up the tempo and let rip, but alas it never happens. The only track with pure feral aggression throughout is the vicious 'Down There...' while `Werewolf, Semen and Blood' is probably the standout track on the album (what a song title!). It's just that there are too many songs comprising of repetitive doom laden guitar riffs which become inevitably tedious after many listens. Consequently, the `atmosphere' achieved is ordinary and nonthreatening. None the less, the album is a grower and one can find themselves drawn in by the more hypnotic aspects of the arrangements. Ultimately however, we know that the mighty Beherit are so much more of true black metal band than the lightweight experimentalism displayed here on Drawing Down the Moon (1993).

Guru Presents Ill Kid Records
Guru Presents Ill Kid Records

3.0 out of 5 stars One of the Lesser Lights of the Late Great Guru's Discography, 8 Feb. 2011
A strange one this and it cannot exactly be classed as a true solo album from the great bald head slick himself. In fact, he only features on three of the album's twelve tracks. Not sure of the story behind this album but it looks like it might have been a sampler for a record label that Guru was maybe going to start with some or all of the featured artists? Anyway, apart from the king himself, this 1995 compilation provides a nice selection of hip hop artists from the New York scene who were affiliated with the Gang Starr collective at the time.

Some would go on to bigger and better things (Bahamadia, Jeru The Damaja, M.O.P.) but others would struggle to make a name for themselves in the game (Baybe and Fabidden anyone?) Standout tracks include any featuring the main man himself, Big Shug's lazy wordplay (two tracks) and some rare lyrical gymnastics from Wu-affiliate True Master. The legendary Group Home also contribute a lesser known track which is a must for completists like yours truly. Overall, it has a grimy and lo-fi production which only adds appeal to its underground aesthetic. And it's not the easiest album to track down judging by its slightly raised price on this site. While not an essential hip hop album by any means, if you're a fan of Guru or Gang Starr it's well worth its place in your collection.

The Resurrection
The Resurrection

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Houston Hip Hop Legends Hit Gold, 2 Feb. 2011
This review is from: The Resurrection (Audio CD)
So here we have it, the album of which we knew these hip hop legends were always capable. It's all here, the uncompromising lyrics, the soulful beats and the bleak urban narratives mixed with chunky bass heavy soundscapes. The rightly acclaimed The Resurrection (1996) saw the Geto Boys truly establish their worldwide fan base while deservedly garnering the plaudits from a hip hop community they helped create, but one which for the most part, had shunned them for much of their career. This album was birthed, rose up and then settled on the water without even causing a ripple towards the mainstream music media. And true hip hop fans would want it no other way. And that's because this is our music not theirs, this is from the streets, this is concrete nihilism.

And yet many turntabalists and so called old skool heads still didn't give them props. They were too `gangsta', too crude for the breakin' crew who had their nursery rhymes and paper mache wordplay. This, their sixth LP saw them build on the brilliance that was Till Death Do Us Part (1993). But the rawness on that album (a sound which some prefer) was cleaned up, production values were raised and every note shone without it ever becoming clinical and digitalized. Despite what some have said, Big Mike done a very admirable job on Till Death Do Us Part, but here the original is back with Willie D. the kingpin sounding rejuvenated. While, Scarface bristles and dives with his usual bluesy wordplay, it is the tortured genius of Bushwick Bill that once again brings the brutality of ghetto living and gang violence so vividly to life. He drags us unwittingly from the contemplative soul searching of `Time Taker' to the self destructive finality of `I Just Wanna Die' with almost reckless ease and abandonment

The Geto Boys would go on to release two more full lengths. The next album `Da Good Da Bad & Da Ugly (1998) amazingly had no Bushwick Bill (as he tried to pursue a solo career). They then made their second group reunification album The Foundation (2005) which,while not without it's moments, did suggest that maybe their best days were behind them. As for the present day, Bushwick has apparently found God, Scarface continues to have a reasonably successful solo career and Willie D. is currently on lockdown in the penitentiary. So if you like your hip hop gangsta flavoured, lyrically dark and uncompromising and delivered without the pretentious bling factor then start with this classic album and work your way backwards. Geto Boys, you are sadly missed.

High School High
High School High
Price: £3.58

3.0 out of 5 stars High School High Hits the Right Notes, 2 Feb. 2011
This review is from: High School High (Audio CD)
Soundtracks are generally hit and miss affairs by their very nature, the main attraction after all is supposed to be the film. And let's face it, the majority of film soundtracks are awful. The quality tends to improve somewhat when it comes to American black urban movies due to their relationship with urban music, be they comedy or otherwise, but still one must tread carefully. Now, I picked up this album shortly after the film came out. Not on the strength of the film mind you, because I must admit I haven't seen it! Answers to this place if you have and whether it's any good!

Hip hop was very much alive and well back in 1996 and what we get here is a solid mix of rap and R n'B tracks from this era (mostly hip hop actually). There are a couple of duds as one would expect. Quad City DJ's anyone? And both Jodeci and Changing Faces have had better days. But for the most part, very solid tracks from some of the biggest names in hip hop in the form of Wu-Tang, Lil'Kim, De La Soul, Krs-One and of course the mighty A Tribe Called Quest. And a lot of these songs are only to be found on this compilation, to the best of my knowledge. A couple of curious ones are thrown in for good measure also. The Braids (who?) do a very funky version of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody and arguably the strongest track is D'Angelo and Erykah Badu's powerful rendition of Ashford & Simpon's `Your Precious Love'. It's emotional mix of soul, doo-wop and the amazing vocal performances is a joy to behold. If you like your hip-hop and R n'B, you could do worse than picking up this little ditty.

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