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BabyLamb (Edinburgh, Scotland)

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Solitaire
Solitaire
Offered by hotshotrecordsgermany
Price: £7.66

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crunchy, just like chocolate digestives..., 18 Aug. 2010
This review is from: Solitaire (Audio CD)
Okay, I've listened to the CD enough now to give an honest and well-judged (I hope) opinion of Edenbridge's new release "Solitaire". In some ways I agree with Northern Warrior's review that the album is very crunchy, and that Edenbridge have most certainly left their old power-metal sound behind which featured so heavily on Arcana and Aphelion (sorry, I don't have their first album yet :() and there is still marked progress from MyEarthDream, a cracker of an album.

A rather heavy-metal, riff-based sound predominates instead of the aforementioned twiddly power-metal harmonies (meant in the nicest possible manner) and no track showcases this more than the weirdly named 'Bon Voyage Vagabond', possessing an intro almost unbecoming of the band, such is its ferocity. Fortunately for the listener, the song is one of the high-points on the album. Another highlight is the single 'Higher', which has both heaviness and hooks; it is more infectious than anything the band has ever done and had me singing it for days (in my head of course). Also of note is how clean Sabine's vocals are; her diction is perfect, and is pretty much flawless for the whole album (which hasn't always been the case I'm afraid). It was also a delight to learn that the track 'Come Undone' is wholly original and not a Robbie Williams cover, though it would not be surprising for Edenbridge to make it rock.

Northern Warrior mentions that the first song he/she truly got into was 'Out Of This World' and I can honestly say that this song stands alone from anything else in the band's back catalogue; sure there are songs on Solitaire that are heavier than anything before, or hookier but 'Out Of This World' truly aspires to its apt title. It begins softly with an almost electro-sounding beat, unrelenting and reminiscent of some alien landscape, but then complimented by some soft vocals from Sabine, which crescrendoes into a magnificent chorus and, later, a monumental guitar solo, a solo rivalling any other that Lanvall has done.

One thing Edenbridge know how to do is end their albums well; Arcana(the song) was hauntingly beautiful, The Grand Design just fantastic and MyEarthDream atmospheric and wondrous. 'Brothers On Diamir' does not disappoint. The first section (I think of it in two sections) is good but not overly special, but after the solo (another blinder from Lanvall) the song picks up real momentum and maintains a grand, epic state complete with crashing guitars, roaring drums and Sabine's wonderful soaring vocals that convey here a sincere sense of sadness and loss, fitting for the song. It closes the main body of the album very nicely.

Problems? I don't understand the need to have two operatic instrumental tracks at the beginning AND the end; okay, it's nothing new for Edenbridge to have a pseudo-classical intro but to have an outro as well seems superfluous, especially when 'Brothers On Diamir' does such a good job of closing the album. Also, there is no ballad on this release; I know not everyone likes ballads, but Edenbridge really excel at them (Whale Rider, The Final Curtain, Where Silence Has Lease...) although this is more a complaint at what isn't there than at what is, and what is there is very strong and demonstrates the progress the band are making.

All in all, this is at least on a par with their previous albums and is exactly what I hoped for, even if this has more in common with proper heavy-metal than power-metal. Still, an easy five stars. Enjoy!


The 13th Floor
The 13th Floor
Price: £17.51

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great release from Morten Veland!, 1 April 2009
This review is from: The 13th Floor (Audio CD)
The 13th Floor is the fourth album from the Norwegian band Sirenia, led mainly by the multi-instrumental Morten Veland who also lends his growling vocals to the mix. The main vocalist however is Ailyn, a Spanish singer who auditioned on the Spanish version of X-Factor. Don't be put off though since she is a rather talented singer and brings a certain grace and beauty to a rough and raw genre of music.

The most prominent songs of the recording are 'The Seventh Summer' and 'Sirens Of The Seven Seas', both with a more classically-tinged edge than the rest of the album though the effects are on the whole produced by keyboard instead of a real orchestra; the choir is very real though and is put to commendable use by Veland, bringing a very Gothic sound to the album. The performance of the choir on the final track ('Sirens Of The Seven Seas') is phenomenal and really gives a sense of grandeur to the music, only emphasised by the wonderful guest performance of Jan Kenneth Barkved. The final track truly sounds like the culmination of the entire album combining every element previously heard into one dramatic finale. The rest of the songs are, at worst, enjoyable but some are certainly better than others ('Winterborn 77' and 'The Mind Maelstrom'). The lovely vocals of Ailyn serve to make this album more accessible to those less accepting of Death Metal vocals and harsh, pounding rhythms, and are successful in doing so; her voice has a soothing charm that floats atop of the mix rather than buried within and her accent is delightfully Spanish-sounding, only making the vocals more enchanting.

So far, it probably seems that Sirenia is for people who want to listen not to real metal but to metal watered down with lighter elements but this is certainly not the case. 'Beyond Life's Scenery' is perfectly heavy and there are many songs on which there are growling vocals. My reservation however is that they are always found at the end of the song, as if Veland wrote the song and then felt like adding some of his own vocals; they are never really integrated with those of Ailyn, which is an opportunity missed. Otherwise, every other aspect of this album is very strong, the production powerful, the mix perfect and the songs both melodic and heavy.


The Fabled City
The Fabled City
Price: £15.11

4.0 out of 5 stars Strong solo album from Morello, 1 April 2009
This review is from: The Fabled City (Audio CD)
Released in 2008, the second effort from The Nightwatchman (AKA Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave fame) is a rather enjoyable affair although I cannot compare it with his debut since I have not heard it. For people expecting razor-sharp riffs and pedal-heavy solos, The Fabled City will be somewhat of a disappointment but those of a more embracing disposition will find much to enjoy and will discover a more intimate and revealing side to one of the most distinctive guitarists of the last decade or two.

The album opens with the eponymous title track, a rousing acoustic riff with sparse but pounding instrumentation from Brendan O'Brien, with Morello's baritone snarling 'Me & Javi shouted slogans in Spanish', immediately highlighting the political agenda here; Morello is not not happy with world politics and is expressing this through his music. The opening track is certainly one of the best and most-uplifting tracks on the entire album. 'Whatever It Takes' however, jars slightly at first with its sharp almost funk-inspired rift, but as one grows accustomed to the contrast, there is another fine, if bitter, song to be enjoyed. Other standout tracks include 'The King Of Hell', 'The Lights Are On In Spidertown' and the fantastic, frenetic 'Saint Isabelle', possessing a sing-along chorus which cannot fail to ignite some form of passion within the listener, such is its power.

There are also two or three slower, more relaxed and laid back songs present, which pass by enjoyably enough but usually border blandness and tend to overstay their allotted time. If each of these tracks, 'Night Falls', 'Midnight In The City Of Destruction' and 'Rise To Power' were a minute shorter, I would probably not highlight them as particular weak points but, because they are not, their weakness is only more apparent.

However, the production of the album is fantastic, as are the guest vocal performances of Serj Tankian and Shooter Jennings; the instrumentation is generally complimentary to Morello's acoustic guitar. Ultimately, this is a rewarding political/country-rock hybrid with something for fans of Morello's earlier work and fans of acoustic rock in general.


Mother Earth
Mother Earth
Price: £5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably More A 4.5/5, 25 Feb. 2009
This review is from: Mother Earth (Audio CD)
It is only in the last month or two I have begun to delve in the great depths of Symphonic Metal and, since Within Temptation are probably the most radio-friendly and well-known within the genre, I purchased this album first after listening to some samples in which I was captivated by the beauty and range of Sharon Den Adel's voice and the Celtic undertones throughout. I can honestly say that I do not regret my decision.
Firstly, the initial track, 'Mother Earth', is unbelievable. Here Sharon sings with such urgency and yet beauty climaxing in a chorus of a chilling whoosh of strings, a moment of perfection where your attention really is wholly drawn to the music, if it was not already done so after the Celtic-sounding intro, which suddenly crashes into a cacophony of orchestra and metal simultaneously. This is probably one of my favourite tracks I've heard for some time from anyone. Other highlights include the melancholic ballad 'Our Farewell' and, though it may sound slightly patronising to a grown man, it retains a sense of dignity. 'Deceiver Of Fools' is also a strong album track on the heavier side of things (heavier being a relative term for WT) featuring more fabulous vocal work, though this could be said for all of the songs. The live version of this is also strong despite the Dutch introduction.
There are plenty of other stand outs here but it would be tedious to list them. There are, however, a few downsides. Anyone expecting head banging metal but with a woman singing will be in for a surprise (not necessarily a bad one) and there is only one guitar solo played by Ayreon, which is actually very good. It is nice not to have egotistical noodling throughout every song (Iron Maiden!) and I think that is why this solo seems particularly good; anyway, it is wishful thinking to truly call this a metal album so be warned. As mentioned earlier, there are a few soppy moments which can be a bit saccharine. Finally, my biggest disappointment, is that the instrumentation is simplistic; the metal riffs are rather generic but the orchestration conceals this fact, or at least makes me not care.
Overall then, a very strong album but with some flaws that some people will find more off-putting than others.


His 'n' Hers
His 'n' Hers
Price: £7.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime album from a fantastic band, 20 Feb. 2009
This review is from: His 'n' Hers (Audio CD)
I'll get to the point here. His 'n' Hers is an utterly fantastic album in every possible way. The songs are tuneful, meaningful and heartfelt and are beautifully played and sung all the way through although it does sound ever-so-slightly dated today. The production is a bit flat compared with Different Class and This Is Hardcore but this disc has more longevity than the former yet more accessibility than the latter.
Anyway, the songs themselves; unfortunately the album opens with arguably the weakest track (weak being a relative term) in 'Joyriders' which is short and rocky enough for one not to mind but the tracks that follow are all in a different class (it's been a long day). 'Lipgloss' is a Pulp classic, as are 'Babies' and 'Do You Remember The First Time?' and all rightly so; catchy but perverted, prime Pulp material. On a personal note though the tracks 'Pink Glove' and 'Have You Seen Her Lately?' are for me some of the best numbers the band has ever recorded, from the irresistible hooks right down to the tuneful wail of Mr. Cocker. The tenth track, 'Someone Like The Moon', is much-maligned by Pulp fans and I cannot see why; it is slower than the preceding tracks but is almost tragic and mournful, a different direction from the band here. The final track is probably longer than is necessary and a bit uninspired when contrasted with what has gone before but it is a grower.
My only complaint is that 'Razzmatazz' is not on the CD (at least the British version of it) which is a shame since it would make an outstanding album unbearably and overwhelmingly amazing.
Five stars awarded, easily.


Load
Load
Price: £5.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something Different, 12 Feb. 2009
This review is from: Load (Audio CD)
First off, I will say that I very much like Master Of Puppets, Ride The Lightning and ...And Justice For All so I'm not someone who dislikes metal-ly Metallica, but I do feel that these album receives a fair amount of unjust slander. I understand entirely that Load does not sound akin to the aforementioned but that it is not a reason alone for rubbishing it. If you are buying this album because MOP or RTL is one of your favourite ever CDs, you must prepare for, at the least, a surprise, at the worst, disappointment.
Now the album in question; for me it is an outstanding change of direction for a band not really treading new ground since 1986 and I think it comes off remarkably well. There is enough Metallica-ness to make it work and to justify its parity with their earlier works; for instance, 'King Nothing' is virtually 'Enter Sandman' in structure but very different aurally, James Hetfield's lyrics are as bitter as previous outings and Kirk Hammett still provides some blinding solos.
No longer is the music about how fast one can play or how heavy, but how coherently, how unified as a whole the band are on this record. There is also a more personal and emotional sincerity within the music ('Mama Said', 'Poor Twisted Me') which, other than perhaps in 'Nothing Else Matters', the band have not demonstrated and this allows the listener to connect far more with the music than before.
Unfortunately this is not what every Metallica fan wanted and so the record is just dismissed, unfairly I feel, since there are many fantastic songs present like 'The Outlaw Torn' and 'Bleeding Me', only offset by the boring '2x4' and the unexciting 'Thorn Within'. Other than those two tracks, the rest are all enjoyable.
Just be open-minded and expect a rockier sound, and you'll find a very good album, if not quite a great one.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 25, 2009 6:08 PM GMT


Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3)
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3)
Offered by EVERGAME
Price: £9.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely not Lipstick on a Pig, 10 Nov. 2008
Firstly, let me just say that, though I've played demos of all them, this is the first MGS that I've actually played through myself so, while I know what to expect roughly, I do not know the ins-and-outs of the games as a series. Also I know next-to-nothing about any of the games of the series before it came to the Playstation all those many years ago. Basically, I am not completely engrossed by all things solid and serpentine and so will pertain to some form of objectivity.

Initially, the game is set in an atmosphere very different to previous offerings; there is, in the first act (of five), an incessant battle ongoing between two different militias and the ricochets of their gunfire seem to hound you round the entire map, tricking you into believing that, despite your best efforts at inconspicuousness, you have been seen. It very quickly becomes apparent that the visuals of this game are achingly impressive and the war-ravaged scenery really does look good enough to eat. The detail of each character, each building, each vehicle is truly special to behold and the hair on a person's head, something that has always been notoriously difficult to render, looks remarkably life-like and usually behaves as such though the hair of a certain Redhead (trying to minimise spoiling the plot) seems never to move once regardless of being among vicious street-combat. So, all in all, the visuals are good, be it an urban landscape, a South American plain or an Eastern-Bloc city, and you'll certainly have enough time to admire them...

The gameplay on the other hand, while not really bad at all, is not quite so revolutionary. This is the game which basically invented the 'sneak 'em up' genre, and yet, as a greying albeit beautifully modelled Snake, you can shoot your way through the entire game. There are certainly times when hosing down anything that moves is not the answer, such as the beginning of Act Five, but for the majority of the game you simply can just pummel the enemy with lead, which is not very stealthy. You can buy a suppressor for most weapons but this doesn't make killing all the enemies you meet stealthy. I expected far more sneaking and waiting (which is not necessarily dull) yet it is unnecessary, especially when you're carrying a belt-fed machine-gun. Shooting all the enemies is not, in itself, a dull experience, just a hollow one since really you should be creeping past them. In addition, the weapons are, on the whole fun to use, but the control system is slightly irksome and is not particularly intuitive. Furthermore, the actual controls cannot be changed, only such settings as sensitivity and invert axes, leaving one to grow highly frustrated at times. On balance, the control system is at the very least adequate.

Now we'll (I'll) discuss the flaws of the game, beginning at the very obvious one of the length of the cut-scenes. I don't care that people claim it is trying to blur the boundaries between game and film; if I wanted to watch an hour of cut-scene I'd watch a film. Cut-scenes are quite necessary to most games and help the story along immensely, yes I concede those facts, but there is a point at which you just want to muller all the enemies with your newly-acquired assault rifle. I understand that the plot is somewhat intricate (I'm not even going to try to explain it) but more than half-an-hour for a cut-scene really is pushing things a stage too far. I also concede that I could have skipped them but, for knowledge of why I was mindlessly killing everything, I felt I had to watch them; I owed it to the developers to at least understand the story a bit.

My second gripe is that it seems to suffer from similar flaws to, coincidentally, a film. Shrek III, an enjoyable affair, is bogged down by having too many characters from the previous outings to truly give any of them any real character and MGS4 follows suit almost. Out of the previous MGS offerings, I know the original Playstation release most thoroughly (which is not saying that much) but I felt that the developers had gone too far in trying to name-check everything from MGS1, that it seemed a bit contrived for my liking. Also the fact that everything that happened in the first instalment actually didn't quite happen how you thought it did is rather annoying. You'll see exactly what didn't quite happen how you thought it did.

There were also a few moments of frustration. One of these was the boss-battle against Vamp. I admit that I took a while to remember that I had my syringe but, even when I knew how to finish him off, the control system made it so awkward (I admit I checked on the web to see what to actually press) that I must have killed him for more than forty-five minutes, knowing what I had to do but not knowing how to do it. Why couldn't Snake just inject Vamp when he was shot down? It seemed he'd suddenly turned into Guybrush Threepwood with his inability to do anything. Also the 'B&B' battles were rather easy (I played it on Solid Snake Normal since I'd never played much of them before)/samey and really was not very interested in what Drebin (you'll find out who) had to say about them.

I've given it four stars because, while it is visually a masterpiece, the gameplay at best is enjoyable, though not so revolutionary, and the length of the cut-scenes serve to foil this game getting any sort of five-star rating. Very good and very enjoyable but inherently flawed and possibly a bit too contrived.


Test For Echo
Test For Echo
Price: £5.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4/5 relative to other Rush Albums, 22 Feb. 2008
This review is from: Test For Echo (Audio CD)
This album unjustly receives a fair amount of cop, which, I am glad to say, is undeserved and wholly unjustified. Many people highlight the lack of a standout track, something from which I believe Counterparts and Roll The Bones suffered, and they are still great albums. There is nothing wrong with there being no standout track if they are all relatively strong. A standout track only implies that there is an inconsistency within the album, that some tracks are far better than others.

And now the album itself: It has a well-produced clean sound that, unlike Presto (probably my favourite album), is not bare and minimalist. It is produced by Peter Collins again, who also worked on Power Windows, Hold Your Fire and Counterparts, but this time he has dispensed with the production used on PW and HYF, ensuring the album does not quite sound so much like the Eighties as those two did.

The songs are varied and concern different themes and are also musically different. My favourite track would have to be Dog Years, assuming one does not take it too seriously. Here Geddy's vocals are impressive and the lyrics portray a lighter, energetic Rush who were obviously enjoying life in 1996 (though possibly not so much after the album's release).
Resist is also a fantastic song with a very aquatic sound to it that is not at all edgy. It is a very sincere sounding number in a musically lighter vein than, say, Driven or Virtuality. Limbo is also very good, stronger than Leave That Thing Alone and Where's My Thing, with some great vocal backing (though not lyrics) from Geddy. Virtuality, Test For Echo and Driven are all strong songs and are rather heavy when compared to their albums of the late 1980s.
The only song I am not overly happy with is Time And Motion. It is not particularly exciting to listen to or lyrically great but the riff of the beginning just about saves it for me. I'm sure it will grow on me, as all Rush songs do.

This album would receive 5 stars quite comfortably had Rush's other material not been so astoundingly great though it is not as bad as some people make out.

P.S. Listen to Available Light off Presto and understand why Rush are better than any band today. Rush should show today's bands how music should be made.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 18, 2011 1:00 PM BST


Tales from Topographic Oceans
Tales from Topographic Oceans
Price: £7.03

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Make Your Own Mind Up, 6 Feb. 2008
There are many reviews here rubbishing this album for its pretentiousness, boring-ness etc. and I can see exactly from where these people are coming.
It is not always the best album to listen to because it is rather inflexible and there are times when a quick fix is required, rather than a lengthy assimilation but it is true in this case that the brightest flame burns quickest. No song on this mind-blowing album is under seventeen minutes, which is rather daunting but ultimately as rewarding as anything else that takes rather a lot of time, like reading The Lord Of The Rings. This album is about as epic as The Lord Of The Rings as well.
To truly admire this album, you must ignore the sleeve on which all the lyrics are printed, otherwise you may be put off but, though linguistically and semantically questionable, the lyrics are melodically pleasing and I bear no grudge against Jon Anderson's vocals.
Finally, this is a great album to lose yourself in, one you'll either love with a bit too much enthusiasm or will loathe because there is nothing like this today. This is truly 70s Prog.
Also, many reviews ask you to begin with other albums but this is my first Yes album, so I suppose some ambition will reward you greatly.


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