Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Lockdown Reviews: Bring Me The Horizon - Post Human: Survival Horror

 



For anyone that's read any of my reviews for the past year or so with my many reviews for black and death metal, it might come as a surprise that I consider myself a fan of Bring Me The Horizon (I'm sure the metal elitists will be hammering on my front door in no time), or at least I used to be. 

I consider 2015's 'That's the Spirit' to be one of my favourite albums of all time and I even have quite an emotional connection to it, to the point where I even have the umbrella from the front cover tattooed on my left arm and I considered every album from 'Suicide Season' onwards to be a masterpiece in their own right. That was until March of last year when I took to reviewing the band's latest LP 'amo'. I'll leave a link here for anyone wanting to check it out: amo review

Long story short, I had mixed feelings on the album as it did go for much more mainstream and pop sound mixed in with the hard rock they'd been using on 'That's the Spirit' and it didn't always hit the way I wanted. I've mellowed out on the album since then and whilst I still need to skip a fair few tracks I don't enjoy, I still get a kick out of listening to it again and again. 

With this EP released on October 30th, I didn't even plan on listening to it nevermind reviewing it as I was worried about further disappointment with their musical evolution. Curiosity eventually got the better of me and I decided to check it out and HOLY SHIT I'm glad I did. This is EP has totally turned be back into a fan of the band and I've spent the last while binging their albums again. So just how good is it? Well let's take a look. 

Right from the start I was pretty much hooked with the opener 'Dear Diary' which might be the band's heaviest track since the days of "There is a Hell" and whilst it's a short one, there's so much about it I love. The sheer ferocity of Oli's vocals (the scream is back!) along with a near death metal level of fury including a soaring guitar solo and even a catchy chorus it does so much in it's short time. There's even a killer breakdown at the end. The EP could have ended here and I would have been happy. I also love the lyrics as it's obvious that survival horror games were an influence with some of the words even taken right from passages from the very first Resident Evil game which I did enjoy as a fan, and this mixing with the claustrophobia of being stuck in lockdown works perfectly. Phenomenal start. 

Next up we have one of the first singles with 'Parasite Eve' that came out all the way back in June and was pretty much a sign of things to come. This was the first hint that the band may be going back to a heavier sound whilst keeping intact their evolution by including electronics. There's even a choir at the beginning making me think of the Japanese survival horror games 'Fatal Frame' keeping that theme going. Hell, the song's even named after a survival horror game itself. Anyway this is a song that may end up being divisive but I dig the hell out of it with another catchy as hell chorus and provides a bit of elation for the lockdown period. Although with the lyric "When we forget the infection, will we remember the lesson", I can confirm that no we will not. Too many dumbasses on this planet. 

Next track was 'Teardrops' and before I'd even heard this song, I'd heard people comparing it to Linkin Park so I wasn't sure what to expect. Turns out I didn't have anything to worry about as it does sound like Linkin Park but more like Linkin Park in between 'Hybrid Theory' and 'Meteora' so that's all good in my book with the more melodic moments mixing very well with the heavier sections. The track is all about how the current generation is becoming more addicted to technology and even some references to Oli Syke's battle with depression leading to some emotional vocals from him that really kept me hooked. Another winner as this EP is on a role so far. 

'Obey' is next and I have no idea who 'Yungblud' is as he's a vocalist guest featuring on this track. He did well enough here even though I have no desire to actually find out anymore about him. This was another single released and references oppression and corruption from current governments. Don't worry Oli, Trump is out now so now we just need rid of the Tories and we're all good to go. I have to ask where all this attitude was on 'amo' though. It was sorely missed. Another big banger of a track with another massive chorus that I'd love to hear in a live setting but we're still a while off from that. 

"Itch for the Cure" (another Linkin Park reference?) works as a nice intro to what might just be the best track on the album: "Kingslayer". This track also features work from Babymetal and whilst I've never really been into them myself, after listening to this I'm tempted to give them another go. This track is just completely mental and almost goes full cheese at points but manages to hold back. Those electronics mixed with those massive riffs just go together so well and Oli's heavy, growling vocals mixing with the innocent vocals of Babymetal was hilariously awesome. Bring Me almost went full power metal and it was a wonder to behold. I need to hear this on a dance floor at some point in the future. 

'1x1' featuring the Nova Twins (?) and 'Ludens' are the next tracks but this is when I started to come down on the album just a tad. '1x1' is a fine track with yet another good chorus but it can't really match or follow some of the tracks that came before. 'Ludens' I'd already heard back when it was released as a tracks for the Playstation 4 game 'Death Stranding' and I wasn't a big fan of it. I like it a bit more now after a few listens but in my opinion it only really becomes interesting in it's last couple of minutes when the heavier guitars kick in. It's a decent rock track.

Thankfully the EP ends on a high note with the huge name of 'One Day the Only Butterflies Left Will Be in Your Chest as You March Towards Your Death' which features the very talented Amy Lee from Evanescence. This might be the only proper ballad Bring Me have ever recorded and Amy's vocals do bring a level of class to the track and Oli's vocals work well and he isn't overshadowed of Amy at all. A nice different track from the band and whilst I think it was missing a big spine-tingling moment you would hope for in a track like this, it was still damn good while it lasted and built to a lovely crescendo. 

My biggest argument against 'amo' was that the band was trying too hard and too much to sound different from their past selves, but here they've kept true to their older sound whilst embracing new ideas that enhance their sound in many places. Whilst not every track was an absolute killer, there was plenty to enjoy here and I can only hope their next full length album is as good as this. I'm so happy to say that Bring Me The Horizon are back and as good as they've been in years. This is the nicest surprise 2020 has hit me with so far. 

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Lockdown Reviews: Pallbearer - Forgotten Days

 



Whilst I've been planning out which albums I want to review to keep me busy as the world continues to stand still, this is one I didn't initially plan to work on until I gave it a listen after a friendly recommendation and felt it was worth talking about as in depth as I could. 

Truthfully whilst 2020 has been a shitty year overall, it's also been a pretty meh year for album releases as well. By this time last year I had a good idea of how my top albums of the year was looking, but this year it's pretty much slim pickings and part of the blame lays squarely on myself as I've lost a ton of motivation to listen to new releases with the stress of the lockdown taking over until now where I'm trying to listen to as much as I can. 

Thankfully this album came along and it's the first album to give me similar feelings I had with my pick for album of the year for 2019 with Swallow the Sun's latest release as this was one of the first this year to get any real emotion out of me in a similar vein. This is the first time I've actually checked out Pallbearer, an American doom metal band bringing out their fourth studio album: Forgotten Days. Hell, I've even bought the vinyl already.

They have dropped a bit of their doomy sound as while there is a doom core here for the most part, the band does add elements of prog and even a bit of grunge to their sound as they feel almost like a cross between Electric Wizard and Mastodon at times. This is one of those albums that's meant for late night listening with rain softly hitting the windows whilst you read the lyrics at the same time to really have the proper effect. It's far from a chill album and yet still has a smooth as hell feel to it all. 

The album starts off strong with the title track and already we have a pretty emotional track with the lyrics describing a person slowly being overtaken with dementia as their mind fades away to nothingness. As in similar fashion to the rest of the album, the clean vocals mix well with the heavier instrumental sections which does bring that Mastodon comparison. It's definitely one of the doomier tracks on here without ever going a repetitive route and keeping things fresh through it's near 7 minute runtime. The band likes to add in melodic guitar sections and it's usual a real standout moment when they hit out of nowhere. Great opener to set the tone. 

"Riverbed" is a great follow up track as well with nice little guitar solo at the start to set it apart from the previous track. As the song goes in I did adore the quiet atmospheric moment before the big chorus hit to really emphasis the sheer size of it. There's also some great vocal work with vocalist Brett Campbell hitting the high notes in impressive fashion. Doesn't hurt to have some chunky riffs in there too. 

The biggest highlight for me though was easily 'Silver Wings' which is the longest track on the album by far with it going over 12 minutes and didn't waste a second of it. It just built and built as it went on and the last few minutes with only instrumentals I can only describe as breath-taking with some fantastic, emotional guitar work pulled off here to give me goosebumps every time I hear it and the orchestral backing definitely helps as well. Trust me when I say this is one you should check out. 

Another of my favourites on here was the album closer "Caledonia" (thankfully not a cover) as I can't help but have a bit of Scottish pride here with the title. It almost starts like it's gonna be a massive power ballad and it's a bit of a relief that it never does as this is one of the doomiest tracks on offer and adds a bit of grunge to it's slower riffs as well. The bass does have a chance to show off here in the quieter moments. A very different track to the rest of the album and a great way to close it in my opinion. 

Overall this is a pretty damn great album with no real low points for me at all with every track bringing something to the table whether it be the doomy closer or the one-two punch of "Quicksand of Existing" and "Vengeance & Ruination" bringing the fire after a 12 minute epic, it always had me interested and for a doom album over 50 minutes long I'd say that's impressive. The only skippable track I found was maybe "Stasis" but even then it's not a bad track at all, just doesn't hit as hard as the others. 

It's definitely one that demands more that one listen to catch things you missed the first time around whether it be the subtle bass work woven throughout or the orchestral moments that arrive when needed most. It's an easy recommendation from me and one I'm sure that will pop up in my year end list. 


Tracks to check out: Forgotten Days, Silver Wings, The Quicksand of Existing, Caledonia



Monday, 26 October 2020

Album review: Hellripper - The Affair of the Poisons

 


It’s been a while hasn’t it? I had planned on taking a break from writing whilst the world of gigs remains in flux and the world of new music remains a tad stale with a much lower output of releases due to the bastard known as Covid-19, but since there’s pretty much fuck all to do around here now, I decided that to keep my spirits up, I needed to keep talking about my favourite thing: heavy fucking metal.

I’m gonna try and do as many new releases as I possibly can to highlight bands that I think deserve it with releases from this year and maybe even some nostalgic ones here and there to keep things fresh. To start with I think I found a new possible contender for my favourite album of the year…..

Hellripper is a blackened thrash metal band (my two favourite genres rolled into one, YAY!!) from the Scottish Highlands and amazingly is pretty much orchestrated by one guy in James McBain in a similar vein to America’s blackened rockers Midnight. Affair of the Poisons is the second full length release from the band after their 2017 debut Coagulating Darkness.


This is the first time I’ve checked the band out after a recommendation and I’m glad I decided to lie in bed at midnight listening to it at full blast when I had nothing better to do. Not in a bad way, but this isn’t an album I can really go in depth with as I would end up repeating myself quite a bit. It’s not a repetitive album at all but the band sticks to what they know throughout the quick 29 minute runtime without too many changes, not that I was asking for any because this stuff rattled my damn brain in the best way.


For an idea of the sound, imagine Metallica’s 1983 classic Kill ‘Em All but with an extreme and satanic edge to it with vocals sounding like a young, possessed by a demon James Hetfield as he snarls out the lyrics like a goddamn monster. The sound is defiitely influenced by early 80s thrash and speed metal especially with tracks like the brilliant ‘Vampire’s Grave’ that sounds like a mixed Motorhead and Metallica track thrown into a black metal blender.


I feel like the band knew there would be comparisons to Kill ‘Em All and threw in some throwbacks like the opening riff to ‘Spectres of the Blood Moon Sabbath’ which would fit on that album perfectly, and the shout of “alright!” at the opening of Vampire’s Grave sounds just like James Hetfield before ‘Seek and Destroy’ really kicks in.


I do love the opening title track as well with an almost deliberately slow pace to open with to lull the listener into a false sense of security before exploding into high speed thrash without ever really taking their foot off the peddle for the rest of the record and I’m happy that’s the case. Whilst there isn’t a bad track on here at all some more of the highlights do come towards the end of the album like the fantastically titled ‘Blood Orgy of the She Devils’ with a twin guitar solo that would make Iron Maiden jealous and a catchy chorus to boot. I also love the final track ‘The Hanging Tree’ which comes the closest to feeling like core black metal before we hit the one minute mark and the thrash comes again to send us home happy and even gives us a nice melodic outro out of nowhere for a proper full stop.


Overall I loved this album as it’s a great throwback to the glory days of early thrash whilst managing to keep a fresh sound that makes way for a bright future. It helps that the album is only 29 minutes so never outstays it’s welcome at all and can be played over and over again to keep the adrenaline going. This is an album that begs to be played live and I can only hope I get the chance to in the future. Check them out for sure.


Tracks to check out: Spectres of the Blood Moon Sabbath, Vampire’s Grave, Blood Orgy of the She Devils, The Hanging Tree

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Iron Maiden: Killers

A word of warning before I start, I may overuse the term 'underrated gem' here and I apologise in advance for this.

As I said in my review of Maiden's self-titled debut (link here) I would be looking into each one of Maiden's studio releases and now we look into their sophomore effort, always a testing time for any band especially after a debut as good as theirs.

There's been a bit of a lineup up change since we last heard from our heroes as Dennis Stratton is out and Adrian Smith is in on guitar. Adrian is still a member of the band to this day but he did leave at one point which we'll get to in a future album review. This would also mark the last album recorded with vocalist Paul Di'Anno before he was fired due to drug and alcohol issues causing problems with his stage performance and we'll get to his replacement soon enough. According to Paul, he wanted to leave the band due to missing home and needing a break from the tour schedule so believe who you like.

This was also the first album produced by Martin Birch who would remain with the band until 1992 and you can already hear the improvements from the last record as the instruments are so much clearer than before, and Martin was smart to keep the vocals sounding similar to the last album as Paul's raspy, punk rock voice is once again a highlight and making it any clearer would have ruined it in my opinion.

Killers was released onto the world on February 2nd 1981 and ended up being the album that made them a big deal in America and Japan whilst also growing their fanbase at home in Britain. The artwork is quite simply gorgeous and is one of my favourites that the band has ever released, showing beloved mascot Eddie with a sadistic grin on his face after cutting down a victim in the middle of the night. Yeah this is one you're going to want to get on a t-shirt.

Just like the last review I'll be looking at the vinyl album version which is the same as the ones that can be found on streaming sites like Spotify and Amazon Music as it features the original 10 songs, so no 'Twilight Zone' here unfortunately.

So how did this release match up with their spectacular debut? Let's take a look.

The first song is strangely quite a well covered song despite being an instrumental track that only lasts about a minute and a half but bands like Arch Enemy have featured this on recent releases so it must have had a bit of an impact. 'The Ides of March' is a cracking start to the album and really builds up your expectations as to what's coming next and sure enough we're greeted with the Maiden classic 'Wrathchild'. This is one of the bands shortest ever songs clocking in at just under 3 minutes, but it definitely leaves an impact in that short amount of time. Right away you're hit by Steve Harris's bounding bassline before a guitar riff comes in out of nowhere to tear your face off before Paul's harsh vocals appear to sing about a boy looking for his estranged father in a quest for vengeance. This is how you start a Maiden album off right and it's no wonder why this is still a track that is played live to this day and I've had the luck of being able to experience it in person.

Next up we have 'Murders in the Rue Morgue' and my isn't this an underrated gem of a song. It sounds like it could have been a backup opener for the record with it's slow, atmospheric start before bursting out like an Alien from John Hurt and hitting a fast and furious verse that could quite easily cause a rare Maiden mosh pit if they wanted. This is a song they haven't played live since around 1982 and I really with they would because it would be such a set highlight due to how much energy there is here. The song follows a man that has discovered two butchered girls by the side of the road, and as he's the only person there, the police believe he's responsible and he runs away from a crime he didn't commit. Fun stuff that would be continued later on.

Next up is 'Another Life' and I'm sorry but this is another underrated gem from the band and another one I'd love to hear played live again. The song starts with a great little drumming intro to really show off the skills of Clive Burr before another awesome guitar riff keeps your attention. The song only has three repeated verses with no chorus but it still has a fascinating little story here as a man is lying in bed, going insane with voices running through his head and contemplates suicide. Great little track here.

Up next is another instrumental track called 'Genghis Khan' following in the vein of  'Transylvania' from their last album. I'd say it's a slight step down as this new one isn't nearly as memorable as the old one, but it's not bad at all. I mean it's a galloping Iron Maiden with more great guitar work so you can't really go wrong.

'Innocent Exile' is the next track and follows on from 'Rue Morgue' earlier in the album as we continue with our framed protagonist as he continues to run away from the law for a crime he had nothing to do with. While not as energetic as it's predecessor, this is still a good little track that can be filed under the 'underrated' songs. It keeps the flow of the album going well and onto the title track which is probably my favourite of the entire record. This track is just so good and those twin guitars before the verse are just heavenly. This song was made for Paul Di'Anno to sing and it's one he continued to play even after leaving the band. The song follows a madman stalking the underground and killing anyone he comes by. I'm starting to see a theme with this album. The guitar work here is just fantastic and you could see how Adrian Smith and Dave Murray would become as legendary as they did with their dual axe attack. Just terrific and highly recommended if you haven't heard it already.

The next two tracks are 'Prodigal Son' and 'Purgatory' that have always just came across as filler tracks to me. Don't get me wrong they aren't bad songs in the slightest and they certainly have their moments, but 'Prodigal Son' sounds like they were trying to redo 'Remember Tomorrow' from their first album and it didn't work out quite as well. Outside of a damn fine chorus and some great guitar work 'Purgatory' doesn't have much else going for it and becomes a bit forgettable. I'm sure there are some people that consider these two to be underrated gems themselves but I'm not one of them.

Finally we end the album with 'Drifter' and this is definitely an album highlight and the best note to end proceedings on. This is yet another one that could make a comeback in their live set and it would blow everyone away. After all the murder on all the previous songs, this one is more about a band on the road singing their songs so it does stand out a bit due to that and just due to how much fun it is. The instrumental sections are especially good after the first chorus with guitar and bass just working so smoothly together that you can't help but tap your foot along. A great ending to a great album.

Overall I had a blast reliving this album as I always forget how good it is. It's always been considered their most underrated by their fans and while it does rank as the weakest of their 1980s output (which is freaking mindblowing) it's album definitely worth checking out for some songs that deserve a second look. While it might not be as good as their first release, it was still one hell of a way to follow it up and things would only get better from there.



Saturday, 30 March 2019

Gig Review: Overkill presents Killfest 2019

Gig reviews: Overkill presents Killfest 2019

On Sunday March 24th, I descended upon the Glasgow SWG3 venue in the TV Studio room for a night of thrash metal goodness. This was kind of a last minute gig for me as I only found out about it the Friday before on Facebook so I scrambled to buy a ticket which thankfully wasn't yet sold out.

This was my first time in this particular part of the venue as I'd only been in the larger room for a Powerwolf gig in January (joined by site owner Joanne, link to her review here:   ) and this room was about half the size of that room and made for a better sound overall in my opinion. Although after being there and standing almost right next to the speakers, I would definitely advise on wearing some sort of ear protection, because I sure as hell didn't and was half deaf the next couple of days. Lesson learned and warning passed on.

So now onto the bands and we have three bands in total here, starting with Flotsam and Jetsam

Flotsam and Jetsam are an American thrash metal band that formed in 1981, just a year after our headlining act. They are a band I wasn't too familiar aside from knowing that their bassist from 1981 to 1986 was former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted as he left the band to replace the at the time recently deceased Cliff Burton (RIP).

The band started of well with their first 2 tracks Prisoner of Time and Desecrator, but had a bit of a struggle with getting a crowd that was unfamiliar with them into the tracks, but due to just a great musical performance with soaring guitar solos that Iron Maiden would be jealous of, the crowd quickly came around. Mosh pits and a ton of crowd surfing followed (man that kept his pint intact, my hat is off to you) as the cheering and reactions grew louder and louder as the band became visibly more comfortable onstage, even bantering with Overkill's crew who were viewing from the side of the stage. It was a pretty a short set with 8 songs played in total, but it left me wondering why a band that has been around for so long is stuck on a gig opener like this. I could easily see these guys on headlining tours having an absolute blast and earning more fans along the way. The made one with me on this night.

Band tracks to download: Iron Maiden (not a cover), Hammerhead, No Place for Disgrace


Next up was Destruction.

Destruction as are a German thrash metal band formed in 1982. Out of the 3 bands on this bill this was the only band I had never heard of before and researching them I've found that they are considered part of a 'Big Four' of German thrash metal with Tankard, Sodom, and Kreator. I'm aware of these bands so it's strange that I've never come across Destruction. Due to the last minute purchase of a ticket I didn't have the time to familiarise myself with any of their work and was essentially going in blind for the first time in a while.

It was obvious that the crowd was aware of the band as you could hear the excitement in the room with the set up of their equipment, complete with microphone stands that had flaming skulls on them because why the hell not? I think these guys may be the reason why I went slightly deaf for a bit as their set was pretty damn loud with duelling guitars and a booming bass right next to my left ear. This set was just chaotic in the best possible way as these guys played for around an hour with barely any stoppage time between tracks and the pace was just so fast and furious that I could barely keep up with it. Every track played was an absolute headbanger and the mosh pits were largest I'd seen all night. The whole show was practically stolen here and I'm pretty sure I heard a wall crashing down next door due to the sheer impact of the songs. If the gig had ended here, I would have walked home satisfied with my night and now I have a new band to check out and enjoy. I'm going to relish the chance to see them again. Check them out if you haven't already.

Band tracks to download: Release from Agony, Nailed to the Cross, The Butcher Strikes Back 

And finally we have the headliners: Overkill

I recently reviewed the band's most recent album Wings of War (link here:   ) which I still love and was my main reason for buying a ticket. After the onslaught of Destruction, I didn't think Overkill would be able to match up, but all doubts were erased from my mind when the band rushed the stage to recent single Last Man Standing and blew everyone away. Bobby Ellsworth's vocals blew me away as he's as good singing live as he is in the studio. Even when talking to the audience between songs there was just this intensity to his voice that demanded attention. I did notice that he ran off the back of the stage quite a few times during the more instrumental moments and I wouldn't be surprised if he had to quickly rest his voice for the next bit of screeching. The latest album was presented well in the form of the previously mentioned Last Man Standing, Distortion, and fantastic set closer Welcome to the Garden State. Seriously, I couldn't get that song out of my head for ages. Classic songs from the band's past were in full force like the thrashy goodness of Elimination, the crowd singalong of Hello from the Gutter and the fury that was Mean Green, Killing Machine. For the encore they even managed to pack in what has become my favourite song of theirs: Ironbound and it sounds like it was meant to be played before a live crowd. Overkill proved why they are one of the best bands going in the thrash metal scene and they are bringing it screaming back with a vengeance.

Band tracks to download: All the ones I just mentioned

Overall I had a blast at this gig as all three gave me my moneys worth and the ticket price was actually very good for a show like this as I would have paid even more for the experience. I do advise to check out all three bands if you're a fan of thrash metal or even if you're just looking for something new to try out.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Iron Maiden: Iron Maiden (1980)

Ross here again with yet another retro review. Don't worry I know I said I would be looking at the all the Slipknot albums but we have plenty of time until the new album comes out and I'm still working on it. There's just too many albums I want to look at right now, starting with this one.

Now that I'm more comfortable with music reviews having written a few of them now, I wanted to start looking into the full discographies of my favourite artists starting with my all time favourite: Iron Maiden

Now this isn't going to be me just gushing all over the band, as I want to go over the history of the albums and the band at the time of release so that I can give my personal views on each one. There's no such thing as a perfect band and Maiden are no different as I will definitely be critical whenever is necessary. Just wait 'til we get to the 90s albums. It's like a goddamn minefield. I'll just be focusing on the studio albums though rather than the live albums but if we do come to certain points in time where live albums were released, I can certainly recommend them. Once I'm finished I might even rank all the studio albums.

Now as far as being as critical as possible goes, I don't get to start with one with that much in the way of criticism towards it, but I'm getting ahead of myself. How does the album hold up almost 40 years later? Let's take a look.

Iron Maiden first formed in Leyton, East London on Christmas Day all the way back in 1975. After five years of lineup changes, including longtime guitarist Dave Murray even leaving at one point before returning, their self-titled debut album was released to the world on the 14th of April 1980 through the EMI label. The record did surprisingly well for a metal debut as it peaked on the UK album chart at number 4 when it was first released and his since went platinum.

While reviewing this, I'll be going with the version that appears on both Spotify and on the vinyl as these exclude the B-Side track Sanctuary and while this is a good track, I feel like it's the true version of the album that needs to be looked at and it'll be the same on the next two albums since they're in the same situation.

Out of the five band members credited on the album, only two of them are still with the band to this day and the three of them that left the band would be gone by the time the band's fourth album was released.

Of course Maiden's most famous member is lead singer Bruce Dickinson, but he wouldn't join the band for another couple of years and so here we have Paul Di'Anno. While Bruce is known for his almost operatic voice, Paul sounds more like a singer you'd find in a 70s punk band which sounds weird for Maiden, but in the early days it worked surprisingly well. This album would be guitarist Dennis Stratton's only credit on a Maiden album as he was fired from the band shortly after the album's release.

The album cover designed by Derek Riggs, is also the first of many appearances of Maiden's belived mascot: Eddie. Riggs would would design each album cover up to 1990's No Prayer for the Dying before being replaced, and each of his covers has to be considered iconic and worthy of a t-shirt (of which I have a few).

In terms of the album's sound, it does have a distinct lack of polish that would be found on each following album, I do enjoy it as it gives the album a slightly edgier, punkier feel to it even if that wasn't what the band was going for as founder Steve Harris has said that he hates how the album sounds and that they hated punk music so hated being compared to the punk bands of the time. He may not have enjoyed it but the fans, myself included, still adore the album as I have read quite a few rankings of the band's discography and this album is almost always in the top five.

The album starts with the track Prowler and I don't think you could have picked a better intro to a debut album. Every time I start listening to this record, this track gets me pumped up for the rest of the album and it's one of Maiden's more underrated tracks. The song was originally recorded back in 1978 for the band's Soundhouse Tapes. The song is a short one but a great intro to a great album and right away you could tell that the band's guitar work alone was something to be feared from the twin axe attack that has now become legendary to a face-melting guitar solo. While the topic of the song leaves a bit to be desired (a man stalking a woman and flashing her), I can't help but love this.

We move onto Remember Tomorrow which starts off on what seems like a more melodic and ballad-like note, but then by the time we reach the chorus the band reminds you of who they are and burst in with a big guitar riff and another epic guitar solo that keeps you coming back for more. This is a song I've appreciated more with each listen and I'd definitely consider it another underrated gem. It's been covered a couple of times as well, most notably on the deluxe edition of Metallica's Hardwired to Self-destruct. Singer Paul Di'Anno has said that the song was about his grandfather who passed away the year this album was released, as 'remember tomorrow' was something he used to say to Paul as a kind of catchphrase.

Next up is Running Free as this is a track that has become a bit of an anthem for the band and is a track they still play as a gig closer to this day. This is where the comparisons to the band being a bit punk come from, due to the bouncy sounds to the track, and the theme of running away from the law definitely goes with that. A short track with great musicianship from everyone involved and the guitars just can't be stopped at this point and Steve Harris is making damn sure that his bass can be heard from all angles. A fun track and a fan favourite.

Track four is Phantom of the Opera and is of course about the novel of the same name. Apparently this is the song that made Bruce Dickinson fall in love with the band so it definitely earns extra points for that. This is Maiden's first attempt at an 'epic' style of song, something they would become the masters of in later years, and even now this is one of their best ones. After a fast and furious start with a fantastic riffing intro, the song slows down and allows for more instrumental time which I absolutely love as the twin axe attack is in full force here. This is the kind of song you can listen to a few times over and find something new to love each time. This is another that's still a live favourite and for good reason as the song sounds even better with Bruce on vocals. Best song on the album for my money.

After that track, a break is needed and I think the band knew this as well as Phantom... is followed up by Transylvania, a rare Maiden instrumental track. I'm not usually big on instrumental tracks that last over four minutes, but this is an exception as it's Maiden at their best. When it's just the band and their instruments, magical things happen and it's no different here. The song starts slightly slower than some of the other tracks before building and building to massive finale that could easily spawn a mosh pit. If you're a fan of guitar play, then it should be obvious by this point that this album is for you, and we're not even done yet! Another gem and this wouldn't even be Maiden's best instrumental track but we'll get to that another time.

To bring the adrenaline back down again, we now have Strange World which is a song I didn't really like all that much when I was younger due to it's slower nature , but it's one I've appreciated much more as I've gotten older and can appreciate how well it works to the album's pacing as there was no way they were following the last two tracks so it was best to slow things down a bit. The song almost has a Pink Floyd quality to it with dreamlike lyrics that no one can agree to what they actually mean, as well a great guitar solo that will stay with you for some time. Paul's singing is at it's best here as his voice is quite beautiful when a more melodic sound is needed. Another gem of a song that deserves more attention.

Immediately after, we being the saga of Charlotte the Harlot, which would be revisited on a few albums for the next twelve years. This is rare track written by Dave Murray as he doesn't get too many writing credits. Of course this song is about a man in love with Charlotte and can't seem to get over the fact that he can't have her to himself as she needs to be with other men to make ends meet. A short, fun track that's a very easy listen and yet another underrated gem on this album that doesn't get enough mention. I mean I'm pretty sure my face is now melting after hearing that intense guitar solo so excuse me while I go clean it up.

And finally we end with the song Iron Maiden, on the album Iron Maiden, by the band Iron Maiden, because confusing the Spotify search bar is fun. Anyone that knows Maiden knows this song as it's the only song of theirs that has been playing in every gig they've performed since they started releasing albums. The riff at the start is just so iconic at this point as we then burst into the first verse with Paul threatening to kill us in his room. Fun times ahead. Again the guitar work is just flawless and I can't help but headbang along. This is the point in a live gig where Eddie would come out to terrorise the band and the audience so I have fantastic memories of this song. A perfect closer for a practically perfect album.

Overall, I can't find anything to criticise here as everything just works and flows so well and it might just be the best debut album by any band ever. There isn't a bad track on here and it has a something for everyone vibe to it. Want some ballads? Covered. Completely instrumental? Covered. A longer epic track? Covered. The album is full of timeless classics and underrated gems that are worth more than a glancing look. If you haven't heard this album before, I urge you strongly to pick it up. It's a short album at only 37 minutes total and it might just convert you to one of the greatest bands in existence. Somehow they would only get better after this! Up the Irons.

Tracks to Download: Just all of them, but if I had to choose three I'd go with Phantom of the Opera, Iron Maiden, and Prowler. 

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Bring Me The Horizon: amo Review

amo is an album that I never planned on reviewing as I felt my personal tastes would have clouded my judgement of the full experience. When it comes to Bring Me The Horizon I consider myself a big fan of theirs and have been following them since their 2010 release There Is A Hell.... which blew my little teenage mind at the time and it's a record that I still consider a favourite to this day. 

Then within the next 5 years, Sempiternal and That's the Spirit were released and while I wasn't sure about their much softer sound, they won me over with superb musicianship and and lyrics about dealing with the darker side of life that really stuck with me and kept me coming back whenever my heart needed a glowing light to come back to. Without getting too personal, I adore That's the Spirit for this reason as the songs have a real emotional connection with me that have helped me through some tough times when my head wasn't quite in the right place. That's why the album was on my top 10 list a while back and why I have album cover tattooed onto my left arm. Because it means something important to me. 

Now when I heard that the band would be releasing a new album in early 2019, I was over the moon and couldn't wait to hear what they had up their tattooed sleeves this time. They also announced a live tour that I bought tickets to on the first day of sale so I could experience them for the first time. Despite being surrounded by teenagers, I had a blast of a time and it's a gig I'll hold close to my heart for years to come. Then we reached January 25th 2019 and amo was released to the public. While some had commented that the band had gone pop, I wasn't worried in the slightest as That's the Spirit had some poppier elements that didn't bother me. What I didn't realise was how far into the realm of pop they would go. 

After only one listen I felt saddened by what I had just heard. What happened to the band that made me feel something and could have me headbanging at the same time? The album seemingly offered neither of these things. It's only now that I have decided to review the album that I have listened to it in full more than once and I think I'm finally ready to talk about it from a fair perspective. 

The album starts with i apologise if you feel something which is more of an introduction to a bigger song rather than it's own song and it works well in this fashion as the few lyrics presented focus on the theme of love (the word amo is Portuguese for 'love') and it has a nice synth effect to it that sticks in your head after the song has moved on, and continually grows louder and louder, heightening the tension of what's to come. 

That brings us onto the first single from the album MANTRA which is most likely the most popular song from the album and it is one I really enjoy. It's one of the heavier songs on the album with a killer riff and fantastic opening line of "Do you wanna start a cult with me?". This song is great and a proper opener that almost sets the tone for the rest of the record. The chorus is massive and was meant for a big live crowd to sing along to. I do love the lyrics as well as it focuses on someone starting a fake cult for the money and the fame, and knowing people will follow him out of the concept of faith. Definitely one to check out. 

After a very promising start, we hit a massive brick wall in for the form of the track nihilist blues. Now I'm sure this a good track if you're into rave music or an Ibiza Clubland soundtrack but after so many listens I still just find this song so forgettable. It's like every other pop song you hear in the charts that'll be forgotten by everyone in a few years. This was the 5th single released for the album and the first that really threw out some red flags as to the direction the band was going in. And it's just so damn LONG. Over five minutes is way too long for this kind of track. After a rocking start to the album this just threw the whole thing left field as the tone is just all over the place and we're only 3 tracks in!

Next track is in the dark and has some of the same issues I had with the last song but at least this one has less of a club vibe and more of an Ed Sheeran vibe that I can get behind a little more. It's one I've found stuck in my head a little more due to a catchy chorus, but again there's just not much substance to it and it ends up as another forgettable track. While the earlier albums dealt with depression and dealing with it which I adored, I'm not really getting into the theme of love in this album as it's not a subject I really care about personally. 

Thankfully we move onto the second single wonderful life and this is one of my favourite songs from last year and this is easily the heaviest track on the album. Hell there's even a guest appearance from Dani Filth! The song delves more into the themes of mental illness and is just way more interesting than the last 2 tracks combined. The chorus is gargantuan and I can't help but scream along with it. It also really helps in a gig setting. 

'Lone getting high on a Saturday night
I'm on the edge of a knife
Nobody cares if I'm dead or alive
Oh what a wonderful life'

This just builds and builds to an adrenaline fuelled finale that I love more everytime I hear it. Love it. 

After a transitional track reminiscent of the first track in the form of ouch, we hit the third single in the form of medicine. This was the first track from the album that people accused of being pop and while it definitely has huge pop vibes, it really reminds me of Follow You from That's The Spirit which I love so it gets a pass from me. It does help that the chorus is catchy as hell and finds the band getting a little more aggressive. While I'm sure the song is about a lover causing pain to their ex, I related with the lyrics at the time as I was just getting over a toxic friendship and the aggressive nature of the lyrics helped me through a tough time. 

Next up is sugar honey ice & tea, and while this is another of the albums heavier tracks due to a nice guitar riff and the pre-chorus sounds like it would fit right on That's the Spirit, but it's the main chorus that ruins it for me. This song could have been another hit, but the chorus is just ear-grating to me due to what sounds like an auto-tuned voice singing the thing. I really want to like this one for it's fun heavy elements, but sadly it's one I'll most likely end up skipping over on another listen. 

I'm skipping over the next 2 tracks because I have the same feelings to them as I had towards nihilist blues and I'm not a fan. Even after listening to the album around 6 times in full now, I can still never recall how these songs sound so I think that tells you all you need to know. 

After these 2 mistakes, we hit the fourth single mother tongue. It's a song I wasn't a fan of on first listen, but after quite a few since then, I'm quickly becoming a fan and I'd say it's my guilty pleasure of the record. It's poppy as fuck and almost like something Justin Bieber would release (excuse me while I throw up violently for even suggesting that I'd like a Bieber track) but it's just so damn catchy and is guaranteed to be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. I mean I'm still listening to it regularly even after it's been out this many months. It does hurt my Extreme Metal cred a bit, but fuck it. I dig it. 

And now we come to heavy metal and this track...... oh boy this track. Oli what were you thinking? This song is basically a fuck you to people that don't like the bands softer sound (because apparently customers aren't allowed opinions of products they purchase but hey ho what do I know) and this track almost shits out any goodwill that the band had produced up to this point. I mean I know I'm not the target here since I enjoy their music even if they've gone soft, but there was really no need for this. 

"I keep picking petals
I'm afraid you don't love me anymore
Cause a kid on the 'gram in a Black Dahlia tank 
Says it ain't heavy metal"

Real mature guys. I don't remember Linkin Park making diss tracks when they went soft, but hey at least their later albums were consistent. Songs fine but I don't think it needs much attention and is a definite low point for the band as they even decide to have a breakdown at the end for another middle finger. 

Final song is i don't know what to say and thankfully after all this it does end on a high note as this is a great, emotional track as the song is about Oli's friend Aidan who tragically to cancer and this song feels like a tribute to him. The song feature's an orchestra that works very well with the themes of the song and some of these lyrics are just heartbreaking:

"How a flower in the rain
Only grows more when it's grey
You just shined on brighter
Making gold out of the pain"

Not only that but we get a pretty terrific guitar solo that mixed in with the orchestra just sounds fantastic and gives me chills when I hear. After a low point for the band we hit a highlight as this is one of the albums best tracks and one of the best they've ever written in my opinion. 

Overall I still have very mixed feelings on this album as there's a lot I do like and it's some of the best the band has ever recorded, but the rest is just so forgettable and sometimes just downright bad that it makes listening to the whole album a chore so I can only recommend a few tracks to go out of your way to hear and leave the rest. Easily my least favourite the band has released to this point and while it's not a bad album at all, it is a bit all over the place with it's style choices as it's trying to be something for everyone but comes across more like splitting a few genres together for the sake of it or to a reach a bigger audience to leave the one they had originally behind in the dust. Sadly that may include me. If this is the direction they're going, I'm just going to stick to the songs I know and love. 

Tracks to download: MANTRA, wonderful life, medicine, mother tongue, i don't know what to say