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Album Review: Kill All Control – George Lynch

George-Lynch-Kill-All-Control-300x300

Album: KILL ALL CONTROL

Release: 2011

Artist: George Lynch

Label: Rocket Science

Track Listing: 1) Kill All Control 2) Done 3) Fly on the Wall 4) Brand New Day 5) Wicked Witch 6) Voices in My Head 7) Resurrect Your Soul 8) Rattlesnake 9) Sun 10) Man On Fire 11) My Own Enemy 12) Son of Scary 13) Go It Alone

George Lynch has significantly moved on musically since his eighties heyday with Dokken and this latest release is another example of his ability to morph sonically to suit current trends. With all hopes of an original Dokken line-up reunion dead in the water, fans will have to make do with another Lynch solo record.

Like his first solo effort Sacred Groove, Kill All Control boasts an assortment of special guests. This time around we are treated to contributions from the likes of Keith St. John (Montrose, Burning Rain), Will Martin (Earshot), Marq Torien (Bulletboys) and Fred Coury (Cinderella). With a fine cast in place, Lynch stands in the shadows (no pun intended) for the majority of the album, keeping his shred chops at bay in favour of allowing the songs space to breathe. This works to an extent with tracks such as Fly on the Wall and Brand New Day being strong enough to stand up on their own merits. However the lack of solo embellishment on the opening two numbers results in short songs that feel lacking in substance and in much need of a spark from a glistening solo. Thankfully Lynch finds space to express himself during the likes of Wicked Witch and Resurrect Your Soul, delivering his signature style in a restrained and tasteful manner within well-crafted compositions.

A lot of people will predictably dip into this album to hear Lynch shred like it’s 1987, but here he has found a place in the true band format similar to the way Joe Satriani has with Chickenfoot. Gone are the hyperbolic solos and the clichéd hair metal lyrics and in their place lie collection of contemporary rock songs.

Son of Scary sees Lynch step fully into the spotlight, paying homage to Mr Scary to the point of using the original riffs and melodies. See it as Mr Scary – part 2. The instrumental is a highlight and is easily the best track on the second half which plods on with some mediocre tunes lacking fire such as My Own Enemy and Go It Alone.

Kill All Control contains a healthy selection of solid hard-rock anthems with elements of blues and even grunge with Voices in My Head sounding like a typical Alice in Chains number. Lynch has done well in developing his modern sound and his ability to use his technical talent only where needed shows his professionalism and maturity as a guitarist. Fans of Dokken and Lynch Mob shouldn’t hesitate to give this a spin, but if you’re a newcomer looking to check out Lynch’s chops you’d be better off starting with his eighties Dokken material.

 

Rating: [7/10]

 

TTT:

1)      Wicked Witch

2)      Son of Scary

3)      Resurrect Your Soul

 

Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 03/08/2011

 

Album Review: Tactical – World Under Blood

World_under_blood_-_Tactical

Album: TACTICAL

Release: 2011

Artist: World Under Blood

Label: Nuclear Blast

Track Listing: 1) A God Among The Waste 2) Into the Arms of Cruelty 3) Pyro-Compulsive 4) Dead and Still in Pain 5) Purgatory Dormitory 6) Under the Autumn Low 7) I Can’t Stand His Name 8) Revere’s Tears 9) Wake Up Dead (Megadeth cover)

Tactical is the long awaited debut album from melodic death metal band World Under Blood. Formed by CKY frontman, Deron Miller and Divine Heresy drummer, Tim Yeung, the band have been releasing tracks since 2006, gradually building up attention via their MySpace page. As the group’s founders made space from their other projects, World Under Blood eventually signed to Nuclear Blast Records in 2009 and were ready to complete their first album.

Their debut opens with the impressive A God Among The Waste. A calculated blend of death metal, rhythmic variation and melodic hooks is executed well and is elevated by supreme musicianship and a tight production. The album looks set to be a cracker. Unfortunately, the well-crafted song writing doesn’t follow through with Into the Arms of Cruelty and Pyro-Compulsive being predictable blast-beat infected affairs. To their credit, the former track is comparable to mid-nineties Death material, although it fails to be anywhere near as memorable.

Dead and Still in Pain conjures up some of the magic displayed in the opener and the blast beats feel more appropriate, contributing to the light and shade of the song. The track builds up momentum before breaking into an excellent mellow outro section which ends far too prematurely, a second guitar solo would have been much appreciated. Purgatory Dormitory sounds like a filler and is a return to the uninspired formula fuelled by generic riffage and general noise. Under the Autumn Low and I Can’t Stand His Name both have their moments but the album doesn’t pick up again until Revere’s Tears. The track in question is another journey through a landscape of soft and harsh textures and builds itself up as being something of an epic before ending rather abruptly. Further development on numbers such as this and Dead and Still in Pain would have strengthened the album to a higher level. The record closes with an enjoyable cover of Megadeth’s thrash classic Wake Up Dead, although this particular rendition doesn’t offer much variation over the original to make it particularly worthwhile.

All in all, Tactical is a mixed bag that contains some brief glimmers of quality and potential amongst a collection of missed opportunity. The band should see this as a stepping stone upon which to build their identity with future releases.

 

Rating: [5/10]

 

TTT:

1)      A God Among The Waste

2)      Revere’s Tears

3)      Dead and Still in Pain

 

Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 02/08/2011

 

Album Review: Juggernaut of Justice – Anvil

Anvil_-_Juggernaut_of_Justice

Album: JUGGERNAUT OF JUSTICE

Release: 2011

Artist: Anvil

Label: The End Record

Track Listing: 1) Juggernaut of Justice 2) When Hell Breaks Loose 3) New Orleans Voodoo 4) On Fire 5) FuckenEh! 6) Turn it Up 7) This Ride 8) Not Afraid 9) Conspiracy 10) Running 11) Paranormal 12) Swing Thing

Upon hearing the name ‘Anvil’ some will either snigger at images of frontman, Lips, playing his guitar with a dildo before a festival audience in the eighties, or warm to the band that won so many hearts with their 2008 documentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil. The documentary in question was an unprecedented career revamp for a band that had been pretty much invisible for over twenty years. It showed the true dedication of a group that has struggled to be taken seriously, and revealed their die-hard passion and love for the music they create and the dream of being rock stars. However, all that hard work and relentless touring needs quality to back it up, and now more than ever the band need a solid album to prove their worth. With the first album since their award-winning film and the fourteenth record in their career, can Juggernaut of Justice make an impression upon today’s metalheads?

The record opens up strongly with the title track, When Hell Breaks Loose and New Orleans Voodoo all containing powerful riffs, flashy guitar solos and strong vocal performances. Anvil’s old-school thrash riffs sound particularly poignant thanks to the album’s great production, something that a lot of their later self-released records lacked. On Fire and FuckenEh! are respectable metal numbers, the latter a real live anthem (as the title suggests). The album dips significantly during the half-way point with Turn it Up and This Ride sounding like fillers, but Not Afraid, Conspiracy and Running succeed in reviving the tempo and maintaining the same quality as the opening numbers.

Paranormal almost threatens to outstay its welcome at over seven minutes long. It’s a slice of doom metal that sees the band tread back into the realms of unintentional parody with Lips’ vocal lines sounding like something out of a cheesy horror b-movie. Things at this point needed to be uplifted by another thrash gem; unfortunately the band had other ideas. Instrumental album closer Swing Thing feels completely out of place with brass sections playing a surprisingly heavy role. Despite the randomness of the finale, it only adds to the charm of the record which contains all of what’s great about Anvil: full on metal and passionate musicianship held together with an admirable sense of humour.

For fans of the band, Juggernaut of Justice most certainly won’t disappoint. As for newcomers, this album is well worth checking out. It’s the solid effort that the band needed and although nothing on the album particularly stands out as being a classic, it still delivers a level of consistency that makes it an enjoyable listen. With the majority of Anvil’s back catalogue being reissued apart from their sole classic Metal on Metal, this is a good place to start your collection.

It’s hard to say whether Anvil will be seen as a credible force in today’s metal scene, but with the Big Four touring together and revamping thrash metal around the globe, this is the best time for them to step back into the spotlight. Forget everything you previously associated with the band: the dildos, the laughable stage gear and the comedic song titles, and approach Juggernaut of Justice with an open mind. If you do that, chances are you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what is a commendable album.

 

Rating: [7/10]

 

TTT:

1)      Juggernaut of Justice

2)      When Hell Breaks Loose

3)      Not Afraid

 

Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 01/08/2011

 

Album Review: Dedicated to Chaos – Queensrÿche

DedicatedtoChaos

Album: DEDICATED TO CHAOS

Release: 2011

Artist: Queensrÿche

Label: Loud and Proud/Roadrunner

Track Listing: 1) Get Started 2) Hot Spot Junkie 3) Got It Bad 4) Around the World 5) Higher 6) Retail Therapy 7) At The Edge 8) Broken 9) Hard Times 10) Drive 11) I Believe 12) Luvnu 13) Wot We Do 14) I Take You 15) The Lie 16) Big Noize

Dedicated to Chaos is the latest instalment in a prolific run of releases for Queensrÿche, and unsurprisingly it demonstrates yet another change in musical direction for the band. However, with this release comes their most controversial record to date. Combining elements of electronica, pop, hard rock and hip-hop, this album has the potential to alienate even hard-core fans. Enter Parker Lundgren, a new addition to Queensrÿche. Having previously worked with Geoff Tate during his solo period, some fans already sighted the possibility that Dedicated to Chaos may end up sounding like another Tate solo project. The result is exactly that, with a few essences of the old ‘rÿche sound here and there.

The album kicks open with a duo of hard hitting rock numbers. Get Started and Hot Spot Junkie sound like Q2K and Tribe era tunes with a bit more bite, the latter being one of the band’s heaviest songs to date. There are equally heavy moments elsewhere with Retail Therapy, I Take You and the epic At the Edge. Proof enough that Queensrÿche still rock, here are to be found some of their heaviest riffs. At the Edge is the clear album stand-out, combining ambient atmospherics with bone crunching riffage to dynamic perfection. Just as the record looks set on becoming a hard rock affair, things take a dramatic turn.

Broken and Hard Times provide a pair of prog-tinted ballads rich in layers of thick orchestration. This allows Tate to display the more soulful side of his voice and it is at this point that the music sounds most reminiscent of his solo material.

Musical diversity is explored in a pop direction with Got It Bad, Higher, Around the World and Wot We Do. Around the World is the most radio-friendly track here. With a strong infectious chorus that reeks of stadium rock and essences of U2 it works rather well. Alternatively, Wot We Do sounds like a remnant of the band’s recent cabaret show and lacks the same power and lasting appeal. Got It Bad is much harder to listen to. The lyrics ‘you got those sunglasses on’ are not only sickly but are also repeated too often than is bearable. Musically the song carries a monotonous structure and along with Drive and I Believe is a low-point in the album.

Fans longing for a return to the Empire sound will warm to tracks such as Luvnu and The Lie which tentatively touch upon the golden formula of the ‘rÿche’s early 90s sound. Why the band have decided to use bizarre spellings in some of the track titles is perplexing, perhaps they were foolishly going for a more ‘down with the kids’ approach. Whatever the reason don’t prejudge the material here without giving it a chance. Album closer Big Noize is prime example of this. Epic in its execution, it acts as a platform for Tate to exercise his vocal range to great effect, being very similar in style to Q2K closer The Right Side of My Mind. A killer track with a flippant name.

The album production shines significantly upon first listen and is glorious when played through a good stereo system or headphones. Kelly Gray has worked wonders in the studio and the ‘true headphones record’ that the band promised proves to be one of the most powerful sounding rock records in recent years.

Musically, Dedicated to Chaos is the most diverse album in Queensrÿche’s catalogue and is all the better for it. If approached without albums such as Empire or Operation: Mindcrime in mind, it stands on its own as a strong and intriguing album full of twists and turns with plenty of replay value.

Those who have only just become accustomed to the sound of their previous record, American Soldier, will have to prepare for yet another surprising musical direction. While Queensrÿche’s bravery for taking a risk with an album like this is commendable, it is by no means a perfect product. Lyrically it is weaker than their previous effort with references to Youtube and the ‘Wi-Fi way’ sounding a little cheesy and dated. It’s not as consistent as its predecessor either and is guilty of some mediocre-at-best filler tracks. However, there is quality amongst chaos on show here. Be sure to listen with an open mind and give it a few spins before casting judgement, this might just grow on you.

 

Rating: [8/10]

 

TTT:

1)      At The Edge

2)      Big Noize

3)      Around The World

 

Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 01/08/2011

 

Live Review: Judas Priest, Queensrÿche and Rival Sons

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Headline Act: Judas Priest

Support: Queensrÿche, Rival Sons

Venue: Bournemouth BIC

Date: 24/07/2011

Fans gathered feverishly early on a cool Sunday evening in anticipation of Judas Priest’s final UK date on their farewell Epitaph tour. Opening the night was Rival Sons. The American four-piece are building up a reputation as one of the most promising new rock acts and their placement on the Epitaph tour has allowed them to play some of the UK’s larger venues. A decent audience turned up to watch them deliver a convincing half-hour set where they displayed their 70s classic rock roots with essences of Led Zeppelin, Free and the Black Crowes. Amongst the cliché vintage blues-rock is a band with a true identity, and despite frontman Jay Buchanan’s stage presence being a carbon copy of Robert Plant, he thankfully doesn’t try to sound like a tribute act.

Next on the bill was Seattle’s Queensrÿche. Once pioneers of progressive metal, the band has significantly moved on over the years and has recently released their most controversial album to date with Dedicated to Chaos. An album that saw them yet again reinvent their sound has received a great deal of largely unfair frustrated criticism from fans and critics alike. Get Started from that very album opens things up, with Geoff Tate jumping around in a trilby and waistcoat failing to engage Priest’s loyal ‘metal maniacs’. Thankfully the band then strayed away from the current release to perform some of their classic material. Anthems such as I Don’t Believe in LoveEmpire and Eyes of a Stranger manage to get the audience singing along, with Empire being a particular standout. Despite Tate’s recent statement that Queensrÿche are definitely not to be seen as a prog band, there is space in the set for the experimental pairing of NM 156 and Screaming in Digital. The sci-fi themed songs work excellently together both musically and lyrically, with the tales of futuristic machine dominance over mankind being expertly executed by the band with Tate’s operatic vocals on top form.

It took around twenty-minutes for Judas Priest’s monolithic stage to be created and as soon as the veil was dropped the crowd was greeted with a display of pyrotechnics, lasers and smoke plumes. Priest ploughed effortlessly through heavy renditions of classics such as Metal GodsHeading Out to the Highway and Victim of Changes, the latter turning out to be arguably the best performance of the night. Rob Halford’s vocal performance was sublime, and for a man in his sixties his ability to reach all the highs from the record is astonishing. The audience warmed instantly to KK Downing’s replacement Richie Faulkner who does his best to imitate his predecessor’s every move. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Faulkner was also handed the majority of the guitar solos, allowing him the exposure to best display his technical ability and prove himself a worthy replacement. Halford handed over full vocal duties to the crowd for Breaking the Law before giving them the right to mosh during the metal powerhouse that is Painkiller. A blistering rendition of their heaviest song created a wall of colossal heavy metal and an atmosphere that few bands manage to achieve.

To round off the night the crowd was treated to three encores before Priest finally brought an end to their stunning performance. If this indeed turns out to be their final major world tour then they are ending on a glorious high. However, with a new guitarist and Halford’s vocals sounding as powerful as ever, one would suspect that there’s at least another album lurking somewhere on the horizon.

 

Reviewed by Daniel Aston 26/07/2011

Photography by Daniel Aston

Live Review: Aynsley Lister Band

Headline Act: Aynsley Lister Band

Support: Rude Tiger

Venue: Falmouth Pavilions

Date: 26/11/2010

It was a bitterly cold Friday night in Falmouth, but the weather didn’t deter a healthy turnout at the Pavilions to see acclaimed blues guitarist Aynsley Lister. Lister has been touring prolifically since the release of Equilibrium (2009) and the tightness of his band’s performance is unmistakable. His more recent live session release Tower Sessions is a testament to the current high calibre shows that contains some new material and a long awaited recorded cover of Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’.

Support came from currently unsigned Rude Tiger, a hard rock power trio from Devon. Their presence was immediately stated and not due to their work onstage. The merch stall was all theirs, and what a stall it was! An excess of t-shirts, CDs, badges and an extremely outgoing band rep was all a bit too much to take in with no Aynsley Lister material in sight. As for the musical side of things, Rude Tiger proved that they were more than just a desperate pub band looking for a break. The trio delivered a memorable thirty minutes of original material that was powerful, tight and highly enjoyable. Consistency was lost during their set, a lack of addictive crushing riffage was apparent in certain numbers. However, notable experimentation with time signatures and rhythms kept things interesting yet trying to get the audience to clap along to 6/4 amusingly didn’t get the vibe that was intended.

When Aynsley and his band took to the stage it was evident that a greater force had arrived. Opening with ‘With Me Tonight’ was a platform for Lister to show his renowned solo abilities. A mid-tempo number, the track stretched around the ten minute mark. The set could’ve sounded larger had it exploded into one of his faster tracks such as ‘Soul’ or ‘Hurricane’ given that the crowd had just been exposed to Rude Tiger’s hard hitting rock anthems. A mild complaint indeed, but the night’s set could have done with a few more of his harder hitting hard rock numbers.

We didn’t have to wait long for ‘What’s it all About’. Lister’s signature solo that has earned its place as one of the most emotive guitar solos of all time. If you haven’t heard it already, imagine something in the vein of Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’ and Fleetwood Mac’s ‘I’m So Afraid’. The power of that one track was the highlight of the evening and in a way it was a pity that it came so early in the set.

There were moments of amusement early on as plaster began to fall from the ceiling directly above where Lister was standing. It seemed that even inside the shelter of the Pavilions, there was no getting away from something that looked like snow. Thankfully the ceiling didn’t collapse and Lister completed another inspiring performance. The encore of Deep Purple’s ‘Hush’ fused with Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’ ignited the audience one last time and Lister’s connection with his fans was as strong as his stage presence and charisma. The Aynsley Lister Band have played Cornwall regularly in recent years and his following in the area has steadily grown. Throughout the show audience members were singing along to every song and his loyalty to the area has clearly paid off. However, the tour schedule may show that they won’t be coming back this way for a while yet. So for now, pick up a copy of Tower Sessions and expose yourself to the magic of Aynsley Lister live!

Ratings:

Anysley Lister Band [9/10]

Rude Tiger [8/10]

 

Reviewed by Daniel Aston 27/11/2010

Album Review: Jupiter – Atheist

Atheist-Jupiter

Album: JUPITER

Release: 2010

Artist: Atheist

Label: Season of Mist

Track Listing: 1) Second to Sun 2) Fictitious Glide 3) Fraudulent Cloth 4) Live and Live Again 5) Faux King Christ 6) Tortoise the Titan 7) When the Beast 8) Third Person

The last three years have been exiting times for fans of the early nineties tech-death scene with bands such as Cynic, Pestilence and Believer reforming and churning out long-awaited studio albums. The results thus far have been rather disappointing with Pestilence abandoning their jazz infused evolution that produced Spheres (1993) and Cynic producing a mixed bag of an album in Traced in Air (2006). Perhaps Atheist, then, could be the first to revamp their glory days.

Unfortunately, Jupiter fails to match up to the early classics. It’s been seventeen years since the band’s previous release, Elements (1993), and clearly the genius pool has long since dried up. The classic Atheist sound of death metal and jazz fused together hasn’t deteriorated one bit and if anything has become clearer thanks to a good production job. A great deal of the early nineties underground albums suffered from cheap production quality but thankfully with modern technology, things have improved tenfold.

The constant shuffling of rhythm patterns and the juggling of time signatures is spellbinding, but only if executed in a tasteful fashion. Opener Second to None is a promising start with a flurry of complex riffage succeeding in being both well-structured and energetic. Fictitious Glide is a similar story although it’s lacking melodic passages to latch on to and sacrifices quality for raw speed and aggression. Fraudulent Cloth follows relatively the same formula and doesn’t leave a lasting impression. At this point in the album you can pretty much guess where things are going. Each track resembles its predecessor with the same ideas, the same approach and ultimately the same mediocre outcome.

Live and Live Again is a breath of fresh air in some respects. The eerie string opening bursts suitably into a dark and heavy speed-metal riff. The chorus is actually singable and memorable and the bleaker vibe gives way to a guitar solo that doesn’t sound like a carbon copy of the previous shred-fests, albeit a bit short. It’s the only track that truly grasps light and shade and develops an interesting song with a balance that’s musically and technically impressive.

After the album’s peak, the second half of the album doesn’t provide anything exciting. Faux King Christ is dynamically boring and is a dramatic drop in quality after Live and Live Again. Tortoise the Titan maintains the drivel before Wake the Beast and Third Person save the album from falling into complete dire straits.

Kelly Shaefer’s vocals lack the power of earlier recordings, reduced now to a snarl rather than a growl. The riffs have also become unimaginative and searching the record for solid memorable riffage is a difficult task. Atheist have always been guilty of releasing short albums and you’d think that after all this time they would give fans more than just under thirty-three minutes of new music. The fact that it’s under thirty-three minutes of relatively monotonous music makes it even worse.

The short running time and the lack of consistency brings Jupiter’s overall score down despite its occasional delights. The technical virtuosity is still jaw-dropping although the creative spark isn’t what it used to be. With a mass of new talent thriving within the tech-death style, Atheist have failed to come back and show anyone how it should be done.

For fans this will be a disappointment and if you want to check out the wonders of ‘jazz-death’ for the first time, this certainly isn’t the place to start.

 

Rating: [4/10]

 

TTT:

1)      Live and Live Again

2)      Second to Sun

3)      Fictitious Glide

 

Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 18/11/2010

 

Album Review: Twilight Dementia – Dragonforce

Dragonforce-Twilight_Dementia-300x300

Album: TWILIGHT DEMENTIA

Release: 2010

Artist: Dragonforce

Label: Spinefarm

Track Listing: [Disc 1] 1) Heroes of Our Time 2) Operation Ground and Pound 3) Reasons to Live 4) Fury of the Storm 5) Fields of Despair 6) Starfire 7) Soldiers of the Wasteland

[Disc 2] 1) My Spirit Will Go On 2) Where Dragons Go On 3) The Last Journey Home 4) Valley of the Damned 5) Strike of the Ninja 6) Through the Fire and the Flames

As Dragonforce part ways with their vocalist, ZP Theart, a double live album is the perfect device to stall time whilst they search for a new frontman and begin work on their next album. Thankfully that’s not the purpose of this release, we’re reminded more than enough times during the record by Theart that they were recording for an upcoming live CD. So thankfully a lot of consideration has gone into this and it’s not one of those cheap undercooked ‘live’ records designed to merely cash in on loyal fans.

The good news is that the track-listing captures the magic of all four studio albums and all their classic tracks can be found here. The nit-pick is that the individual performances, although tight and polished, don’t stray from the original studio versions. So what’s the point then? Well for a start this is Dragonforce trying to prove themselves in an area where they’ve been criticised over their career.

Previous live recordings and bootlegs across the web have all been rather disappointing and as fast as the band are, they didn’t seem to be that great live at all: guitars out of tune and Theart seeming to struggle with his vocals. However, those who witnessed the ‘force on their recent Ultra Beatdown world tour, including myself, will have seen that they have greatly improved and matured onstage. Thankfully the recordings on show here come from the finalUKleg of that tour.

Production-wise the album is top-notch and has been mixed to perfection. Despite the tracks sounding almost identical to their studio counterparts, the live energy comes through and some of the mid-song comedy banter has been included. Theart does come across as arrogant and irritating, squeezing as many expletives as he can during and between songs. Having said that, his vocal performance throughout is floorless, but it’s easy to see why the band may have decided to give him the boot.

This is going to appeal more to those who witnessed the band on their recent tour and want a slice of that on their ipod. Due to the song selection though, this is a great introduction to Dragonforce for those wanting something in the way of a greatest hits compilation. This is a great release from a band that has had a bad reputation live, but this should set the record straight and silence the doubters who refuse to take the band seriously.

 

Rating: [8/10]

 

TTT:

1)      Heroes of Our Time

2)      Through the Fire and the Flames

3)      Starfire

 

Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 14/11/2010

 

Album Review: A Thousand Suns – Linkin Park

A-Thousand-Suns-Linkin-Park

Album: A THOUSAND SUNS

Release: 2010

Artist: Linkin Park

Label: Warner Bros.

Track Listing: 1) The Requiem 2) The Radiance 3) Burning in the Skies 4) Empty Spaces 5) When They Come For Me 6) Robot Boy 7) Jornada del Muerto 8) Waiting For The End 9) Blackout 10) Wretches and Kings 11) Wisdom, Justice, and Love 12) Iridescent 13) Fallout 14) The Catalyst 15) The Messenger

Linkin Park is a band struggling to find an identity. The once mammoth nu-metallers have since collaborated with the likes of Jay-Z, alienating the fanbase before making yet another drastic change in musical direction with Minutes to Midnight (2007). The latter album saw the band attempt a more commercial American rock sound, ditching a lot of the rap and hip-hop sampling and even throwing the occasional guitar solo into the mix; albeit to a rather uninspiring outcome. That album turned out to be the kind of record that, given time, will adapt and grow on the listener. However for many fans it was too much of a musical change and was not worth a second spin.

So here we are three years later with A Thousand Suns. For all the critics out there that consistently (and in many cases unfairly) tread every Linkin Park release into the dirt, this album has to be something special if anyone outside their loyal fanbase is going to take the band seriously.

Nothing short of ambitious, Chesterand co. have crafted together a concept album. The theme deals with nuclear warfare and the human race’s fears that come with war and the fate of the world. The build up leading to the first full ‘song’ is nothing short of atmospheric. The Requiem and The Radiance combine synth pads, ghostly vocals and an excerpt of an interview of J. Robert Oppenheimer. The anticipation for Burning in the Skies couldn’t be greater and when it finally bursts into track 3, well, it doesn’t deliver. It turns out to be a slow and mellow number that is as depressing as it is dull, which is a shame. The album needed nothing less than an emotionally charged opener. Sure, slow and purposeful openers work, but not in this case.

Empty Spaces is mere ambience that lasts under twenty seconds and may as well be joined to its follow-up When They Come For Me. Considerably heavier, it’s a platform for Shinoda to blast out some of his rapping before Bennington adds some clichéd ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ to round things up. It’s clear that with little in the way of a catchy melody, it’s all down to the lyrics to apply a lasting effect on the listener here. I say that because it’s no standalone song, a basic riff with some tribal drumming and some mildly-pissed off rapping fails to conjure up much of a secure song structure despite the track clocking in at over five minutes. With lyrics that include passages such as ‘I will not dance even if the beat’s funky – Opposite of lazy / far from a punk – Ya’ll ought to stop talking start trying to catch up motherfucker’ it’s difficult to become emotionally connected to this.

Robot Boy thankfully begins to give the album some credibility. A dreamy number that succeeds in molding an emotional stream that flows through the ears, it is a mesh of positive and bleak feelings that presents a positive future that applies not just to the song’s message but to the record itself. Another short ambience builder follows with Jornada del Muerto before the record’s second single release Waiting For The End. The single forms into a predictable LP radio tune, a first for the album so far. It’s nothing remarkable, and is predictable in its execution making it a rather dull listen.

Blackout is a much more rewarding experience. Bennington’s screams and the catchy chorus work well in this chest-thumping anthem that injects some life into the proceedings. Wretched and Kings opens with an interview portion of Mario Savio before bursting into a heavy weight song that sounds like theLinkinPark of old. Shinoda raps the verse andBennington sings the chorus, the old formula that was so successful does a decent job here. The Mario Savio interview continues towards the end and rallies the song into a battle cry, energy is created but it never reaches the climax that’s so desperately needed.

Wisdom, Justice, and Love is essentially an excerpt of a Martin Luther King speech with some piano chords layered in the background. However the track comes to its premature conclusion with the gradual robotisation of King’s voice and cycles round the title of the song, emphasising a dark and confirmed prophesy. It’s a nice touch that again could have benefited from being expanded with the song over in well under two minutes. It flows into Iridescent that at first sounds remarkably like Coldplay’s Yellow. The song could easily have been written by Coldplay, a statement that represents the many musical perspectives thatLinkinPark have dipped into and played with. The guitar build up and choral section is a fitting end to a relaxing number that includes some un-sampled percussion from drummer Rob Bourdon, who’s presence on the album up to this point has been rather uncertain amongst the excessive use of drum loops.

Fallout is the last of the short fillers. The lyrics are the main attraction once again here, but due to the heavy use of vocoder they are hard to make out. Upon glancing at the lyrics inside the sleeve notes they turn out to deal with self-blame and the loss of things that are undeserved. Bleak and downbeat, maybe it’s best we didn’t hear them in the first place then.

The Catalyst proves to be one of the record’s obvious high points.Bennington’s vocals are powerful and believable and the build up is justified with a proper climax. It is the album’s first single and it is a well constructed song for a change. It’s a shame there aren’t more numbers like this elsewhere on this album that has managed to churn out a series of unfulfilled ideas leading to a rather disappointing feeling as though something is always missing. Whether it’s a song that fails to reach the climax it’s looking for or an undeveloped filler, the record has that essence of poor execution.

The album closer The Messenger is a suitable conclusion to what has been a mixed bag of a record. It’s kept brief and simple.Bennington’s heartfelt vocals and an acoustic guitar are gradually joined by piano and synth in this slow ballad finale.

So there it is, the latest LinkinParkalbum. By far the furthest the band have ventured from their original sound, A Thousand Suns is an interesting listen should you give it the attention it needs. It must be seen as a solid body of work and as one piece of music rather than a collection of songs; it is after all a concept album. Unfortunately it lacks consistency and at times is too bleak and mellow for its own good.

Whether it is an improvement upon its predecessor Minutes to Midnight is debatable, it’s a completely different affair. Then again, looking at it,LinkinPark have been one of the most intriguing bands to emerge from the 90s metal scene. Ever changing their musical direction has however alienated many fans, and unfortunately in their exploration they have failed to fully grasp their newfound territories. Yet still they go forward in a music scene where other bands from their time have crumbled into nothingness, so it’s a respectable effort from a band clinging onto survival.

A Thousand Suns in the end felt like a journey and the more times you embark on it the more you are likely to get from it. It is yet another original musical venture in the band’s back catalogue and who knows what they’ll attempt next.

 

Rating: [6/10]

 

TTT:

1)      Robot Boy

2)      The Catalyst

3)      Blackout

 

Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 13/11/2010

 

Film Review: The Wall Movie – Pink Floyd

Thewall

Feeling alienated? Well, by the end of watching this, the chances are you will be, at least that’s the idea. When Pink Floyd were touring their latest album Animals in 1977, front man Roger Waters became enraged with members of the audience who seemed more intent with screaming and shouting than actually enjoying the music; this lead to him spit in the face of a member of the audience, and, the birth of an idea for their next album. The Wall was born, a double-length concept album that was semi-autobiographical from its primary creator, Roger Waters.

The movie adaptation was originally released in 1982, following a period of the touring of the record in its entirety, in which the band put on a gigantic and expensive visual production; such was the cost of the show that it was only performed in a handful of major cities around the world; all this happened in the space of three years from the album’s release in 1979.

During this period, Waters had forced his way into the driver’s seat of the band, creating stress on the group, leading to the controversial departure of keyboardist, Rick Wright and in the years following, the departure of Waters himself. There’s no denying that he’s all over this production as well, as Waters is in charge of the screen play and the album is even credited ‘by Roger Waters’ during the opening credits; the only thing missing is Roger himself having the starring roll; instead, however, we get Bob Geldof who plays a respectable role as the story’s protagonist, Pink.

The film takes on an interesting mode of story telling as there is virtually no dialogue present, instead the music and visual imagery are left to do the talking. This works wonderfully, providing an eerie atmosphere throughout and allowing the artistic elements of the scenery and music to thrive. The plot, however, is at times a difficult one to follow because of this.

The original storyline tells of a burned-out rock star know as Pink who endures a troubled childhood haunted by the loss of his father in the second world war before he was born. Pink goes through a troubled period with his love life, where the people around him and time under the spotlight, lead him to gradually build a wall between himself and the outside world. From here he feels himself go insane, driven mad by the feeling of being alone, eventually he becomes a fascist dictator before the pressure amounts up and the wall falls down and the story ends sort of happily with Pink being reunited with the outside world.

The music and imagery tells the story well, yet at times fails to fully explain what’s going on, for example how did Pink suddenly become a rock star and a Hitler-like dictator, and has he really or is it all inside his head? This can lead to the plot becoming confusing at times; especially if you’ve never heard the album before or have know knowledge of its background prior to watching the movie.

One of the most interesting sides to this movie is that all the songs we hear have been re-recorded and re-arranged, which comes with some good and bad points. On the plus side, we get a studio version of What Shall We Do Now? which was dropped from the original record, we get a version of When the Tigers Broke Free which was also not on the original album but would feature on the follow-up The Final Cut, and viewers are treated to extended versions of tracks such as Mother and Outside the Wall; it’s also nice to hear Geldof putting his own slant on the two part In the Flesh. The downside is that some tracks don’t benefit from the new edits such asRun Like Hell which becomes significantly shorter and Hey You which is dropped completely. None of this would matter if the film didn’t rely so much on the music, which provides the only sound and dominant form of storytelling due to the lack of dialogue.

Perhaps the film’s greatest achievement belongs to that of Gerald Scarfe’s artwork and animation. The classic incarnations of characters such as the teacher and the judge appeared within the artwork of the original album, but here they appear in their full glory. Particular highlights include the war scene accompanying Goodbye Blue Sky and the grand finale in the scene that portraysThe Trial. In the former, Scarfe creates powerful images of the fallen soldiers and the power of Nazi Germany, whereas in the latter we see all the characters come together in perhaps the film’s most visually impressive moment before the collapse of the wall.

The colourful animation coexists with the human cast. It is here where we see the life of Pink unfold from a young child looking for his father, to the adolescent who begins the building of the wall after feeling the wrath of the teacher.

One of the most thought-provoking scenes is where the second version of Pink meets his future self in all his insanity; it asks the audience what would their past self think if they could see them now?

From the opening scene, the camera drifts slowly down a bleak hotel corridor, passing a cleaner before we enter Pink’s dark room where he sits staring blankly into the television set. In fact, the blank stare becomes the default expression from Geldof until the moment where he completely loses his marbles and throws a TV through his hotel window; and of course when he becomes a fascist dictator. Apart from that, the grown up version of Pink seems forever encased within his own thoughts, trapped within the wall around him.

In the end we have a great film that succeeds in many ways, but is not without its flaws. Fans of the album should love this, but newcomers are best starting with the original record first. The highlight here is the animation which gives this film and the music the character it deserves. For some though, the story may become lost in translation and lead to a general alienation of the audience…wait, isn’t that the whole idea?

 

EXTRAS:

Special limited edition packaging and a movie poster, on the disc is a documentary of the making of the film (25mins), a running commentary from Roger Waters and Gerald Scarfe, a documentary containing interviews with Roger Waters and others (45mins), trailers/stills and music videos taken out of the original film.

 

[8/10]

 

Reviewed by Daniel Aston 14/02/2010