Hiatus. Is there any more potentially chilling term in all of music history? Well maybe ‘orchestral project’ or ‘unplugged.’ The lads from Atreyu have been off the album/tour cycle for four years and it’s been even longer since they last released an album (Congregation of the Damned was 2009). They dipped their toes back in the water with the Knotfest, South By So What?! and Aftershock festivals, but Long Live is the first real opportunity to hear who Atreyu are today. Read More …
If I may be indulged with an overwrought metaphor, being a Mastodon fan is kind of like driving along the coast and gazing out the window: the view in the near field keeps changing – buildings, beach, cliffs – but the view out to the horizon remains more or less the same, give or take a few clouds or whatever. Whatever Mastodon does, it has a certain emotional, ragged-yet-anthemic quality which is always there, but sometimes the more up-front aspects are expressed in a psychedelic, unpredictable way and sometimes the attitude is more blatant and direct. Thus far Crack The Skye is the epitome of the more abstract approach, while The Hunter went for directness, especially in terms of groove. Now Once More ‘Round The Sun further refines the latter approach, but this time the melody is cranked up to 10. A great example is the chorus of “The Motherload.” It’s practically arena rock – albeit a rather skewed, dark take on arena rock. “High Road” does a great job of building upon the sound established on The Hunter, while “Chimes At Midnight” returns to some of the more moody-then-chaotic moments of Crack The Skye but without quite the same level of sophistication. Read More …
The release of a new Rush album is always cause for celebration among Our People. Progressive, melodic, virtuosic, energetic, verbose, thoughtful – Rush is music for those of us who like to ponder, think, analyse, and discuss as well as rock out. And Clockwork Angels gives fans more fodder for discussion and immersion than any Rush release to date. It’s their first concept release since side one of Hemispheres and it goes all out, with an accompanying novel to be released later this year. It tells a tale of a steampunk world, oppressive leadership, a surreal carnival, flying ocean liners dashed by deceptive lights on the horizon – it’s almost like a Terry Gilliam film has been teased into a musical rather than visual narrative. And it matters: when you take the lyrical and thematic content on board, Clockwork Angels is an immersive experience. And yet that’s not the reason why this is being called the best Rush album since Moving Pictures by so many fans. The reason is, it’s simply good music. Thought Vapor Trails and Test For Echo sounded urgent and energetic? They’re almost naps compared to the power of Clockwork Angels.
Porcupine Tree and Opeth are both bands with distinctive sounds – Pink Floydian prog rock on one side, and sprawling progressive death metal on the other. So you could be forgiven for expecting a collaboration between each band’s masterminds (Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson, Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt) to be a progressive death metal epic full of odd time signatures, crushing riffs, growled vocals and ambient guitar solos. But for hints as to what you can expect from Storm Corrosion, you need to look into each artist’s most recent works. Wilson’s Grace For Drowning leans more towards lush soundscapes and psychedelic ambience, while Opeth’s Heritage could have come straight out of the seventies, with its vintage progressive rock (rather than progressive metal) elements that share more in common with King Crimson and Yes than Dream Theater and Symphony X.
And it’s here, in the middle of these two releases, that we find Storm Corrosion. The album’s six tracks – the term ‘song’ doesn’t quite cover it in this case – typically end up in a very different place to where they start, with structures that seem dictated by the previous note rather than any adherence to accepted song structures. And that’s a big reason why it’s such an engaging experience.
Fourteen years since their last full album of original material and 28 since their last album with David Lee Roth, Van Halen finally, triumphantly returns with A Different Kind Of Truth. Sure, Michael Anthony is no longer there, sure Dave’s voice sounds a little more weathered than it did during his original run, and EVH’s guitar tone is fizzier and more distorted than it ever was in the early 80s, but hey, you can’t have everything exactly as it was three decades ago.
Tony Martin has always been a hell of a singer. He has to be: in Black Sabbath he needed to compete with the legacies of predecessors Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio and Ian Gillan, in both sound and charisma. And he nailed it. Albums like Headless Cross, Tyr and Cross Purposes are crammed full of incredible performances and thoughtful lyrics. Martin has teamed with Dario Mollo a few times before, but with The Third Cage the duo really get it right.
This is that rare album that freely moves from melodic hard rock to dark heavy metal and back with effortless ease, with witty lyrics, engaging performances, strong vocal melodies, and some blindingly cool guitar work. The material veers from darkly majestic (“Still In Love With You,” “Oh My Soul”) to driving metal (“Cirque De Freak”) to upbeat hard rock (“One Of The Few”) and all points in between. Lead track “Wicked World” is a fine kickoff which gives you a taste of the brilliant overall sound of the album from a production perspective, but as a straightforward energetic rocker it tends to get swallowed up by the deeper material that follows it. The video is below and it’s a heck of a song, but there’s even better throughout the album. Martin has rarely sounded better than this vocally, and Mollo plays like a man possessed, with chunky rhythm work and firey lead work. He combines bluesy phrasing and a traditional European metal approach with flashes of modern flair as well.
It’s easy to throw around claims like “this is one of the best hard rock albums of the last few years,” but that’s pretty much what you have here. All of the elements fall right into place, with Mollo and Martin delivering a close to perfect album. Whether it catches on is anybody’s guess, but it deserves all the praise I can heap upon it and more. Check it out.
I loved Megadeth’s previous album, Endgame. Freaking loved it. It was extremely aggressive, angry, passionate, smartass, dark, brooding and bloody – y’know, a really good thrash album. But these same qualities made it a pretty intense listen, and I find I don’t return to it as often as I do other albums of similar impact. It just bums me out too much. Megadeth running on pure dark energy is a splendid beast to behold, but I’m firmly of the belief that you need a little light to go with the shade. Endgame is so dark that I need a bit of a break in between listens otherwise it starts to get kinda overwhelming.
The tricky thing about making instrumental music is this: do you make it ultra technical for the musician crowd, or do you make it more accessible for the average punter? Every once in a while someone finds the perfect balance – Satch had it on Surfing With The Alien – and that’s what I dig about Joe Matera’s EP, Slave To The Fingers. Joe has captured that elusive middle ground where melody and musician-impressing meet.