Sunday, 26 December 2010

Coldplay - Prospekt's March [EP] (2008)

1. Life in Technicolor ii
2. Postcards from Far Away
3. Glass of Water
4. Rainy Day
5. Prospekt's March/Poppyfields
6. Lost+
7. Lovers in Japan (Osaka Sun mix)
8. Now My Feet Won't Touch the Ground

Now it’s Complete – 7,8/10

On its own, Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends didn’t really feel like a whole full-length release, even though I said it was their best at the time. I am probably biased in my judgement of that album alone, because I never knew the album that well without the Prospekt’s March EP attached to it. This little addition to the main album made it complete as this would probably have been on the album itself if the record label would have shown a little more patience.

In terms of sound, ambience and songs, this little EP picks it up where Viva La Vida Or […] had left it. There’s the intimate and somewhat experimentally acoustic sound again. This even features a new, finished version of “Life in Technicolor”; this time appropriately entitled “Life in Technicolor ii”. This version further expands the instrumental concept of the first edition and adds vocal melodies and lyrics to the song. Now the song is finished it has become one of my Coldplay favorites. “Postcards from Far Away” is purely an instrumental resting point between the drum-heavy “Life in Technicolor ii” and the explosive “Glass of Water”, another one of Coldplay’s best tracks ever. The verses feature a somewhat funky rhythm and the chorus explodes with the bombast of the X&Y album and the intimate sound of the 2008 album. “Rainy Day” further expands into unusual rhythms with its computerized intro and uses the same synthesizer-sound as in “Viva la Vida”. “Prospekt’s March/Poppyfields” is a beautiful ambient ballad, somewhat reminding of the gentle tracks from the Parachutes era.

Then come the rehashes. “Lost+” is a new rendition of “Lost!”, this time with rapper Jay-Z contributing some raps on the bridge. His voice wasn’t mixed properly in the music, not to mention “yeah, uhuh, I got you, uh” doesn’t match Coldplay’s attitude. In other words: this version pretty much fails. Then there is “Lovers in Japan (Osaka Sun mix)”, which is just the same song as the album version, but just without “Reign of Love” attached to it and with an extra voice dub in the second verse. “Now My Feet Won’t Touch the Ground” has this typical bedroom-ambience they also created on X&Y’s “Til Kingdom Come”, except that this time there are additional instruments that join the track about halfway. It’s a quite satisfying closer to the “Viva la Vida”-era of one of the most relevant bands of today.

In the end, Prospekt’s March is a very welcome addition to the Coldplay discography, even though most of the tracks featuring here simply should have been on the actual album. Still, I’m glad they were released, even if eventually. Highly recommended to fans of Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends.

Strongest moments: “Life in Technicolor ii” and “Glass of Water”.
Weakest moment: “Lost+”.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Coldplay - Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends

1. Life in Technicolor
2. Cemeteries of London
3. Lost!
4. 42
5. Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love
6. Yes
7. Viva la Vida
8. Violet Hill
9. Strawberry Swing
10. Death and All His Friends

Well Worth the Wait – 8/10

Coldplay albums have always shared one thing: they were always well-received and always very different from the previous release. Not to mention every album has its fair share of big hits. Yes, commercially, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends was no different in those aspects. After all, there’s probably not a single soul in the world that hasn’t heard “Viva la Vida” at least once in their lives. Having worked with producer Brian Eno on this album, expectations were high and I think they’ve been lived up to.

Where to begin with describing the differences with previous efforts? There’s so much difference. First, the band experimented with different recording locations, which is quite evident in the somewhat intimate sound they developed. It all comes right at you. Vocalist Chris Martin more often uses his lower register and only rarely uses his trademark falsetto, which made famous hits like “Talk” or “Clocks” so memorable. No, it’s quite evident Coldplay wants to take a different approach this time. Compared to X&Y, the album is a lot gentler. There are no rock tracks like “Talk” or “Speed of Sound”. Instead you get these modest songs like “Cemeteries of London” or “Lost!” that show a completely different side of the band, but it’s one side that’s been quite fully explored on this album.

The album opens with the somewhat exotic sounding instrumental “Life in Technicolor”. It’s a brilliant intro to the album and is built up really well with a great climax just before we pass on to “Cemeteries of London”. This track is quite uplifting but very ambient at the same time. Since the whole album relies on ambience, this album really is a grower and needs patience. “Lost!” is a drum-heavy song that somewhat takes the listener into a trance with its ongoing rhythm. Then with “42” we get ourselves a mini-epic sharing the same build-up as X&Y’s “Fix You” by first being extremely gentle and in the middle burst out into a more upbeat middle part. One of the album’s highlights is the uplifting “Lovers in Japan”, another song in which drummer Will Champion shines. Watch Jonny Buckland’s guitar riff as well, it’s extremely catchy. It’s a bit of a shame that this song is tied to “Reign of Love”, a very gentle ballad that’s not a bad song by itself, but these should be available for separate listens instead. The same is there with the brilliant “Yes”; another ambient track with very inventive acoustic instrumental arrangements. Tied to this track is a hidden track called “Chinese Sleep Chant”, which is not bad but doesn’t add a thing to “Yes”.

Next is “Viva la Vida”. Need I say more? A four-chord quick-hit that stormed the charts all around the world and marked the band once more on the map. After the very intimate “Yes” it’s quite refreshing to hear the song kick off, but the true beauty of the track has been taken by the local radio. And of course it’s always fun to know the vocal melody of the song is mysteriously similar to Joe Satriani’s “If I Could Fly”. Sorry, I just couldn’t leave that out of my review. “Violet Hill”, the album’s first single, takes this record into a gentler direction, which is followed as well by “Strawberry Swing” and the dreamy “Death and All His Friends”. These last three tracks I mostly listen to as one, because they all carry on the atmosphere created by “Violet Hill” as it’s quite gentle but still holds power. The lyrics are also quite interesting here.

Now, where does this album go wrong? Although I think this is Coldplay’s finest album to date, an album like X&Y seems a lot more solid. Maybe that’s because this album wasn’t really finished yet? Later in 2008, the band released the Prospekt’s March EP, containing some songs that weren’t finished when the album had to be released. I daresay if some of those tracks would feature on Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, this album would be even better. But for now, it’s just looking forward to their fifth full-length, due for release sometime next year. This album is essential to every fan of Coldplay or modern pop-music.

Strongest tracks: “Lovers in Japan” and “Yes”.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Queensrÿche - Hear In The Now Frontier (1997)

1. Sign of the Times
2. Cuckoo's Nest
3. Get A Life
4. The Voice Inside
5. Some People Fly
6. Saved
7. You
8. Hero
9. Miles Away
10. Reach
11. All I Want
12. Hit the Black
13. Anytime/Anywhere
14. sp00l

A Sign of the Times – 9/10

Just like a lot of 80s bands that entered the 90s, Queensrÿche felt it was no longer the time for their kind of music. Haven’t we been here before? Yes we have. A lot of bands made albums in the 90s that are not well accepted by the fans, like Scorpions’ Eye II Eye, Megadeth’s Risk, Dio’s Angry Machines or Iron Maiden’s Virtual XI. Queensrÿche were not much different, oh well perhaps the main difference is Queensrÿche never fully returned to their old status. With 1994’s Promised Land lacking commercial success, these gentlemen seriously considered making music that was more in the picture at the time.

Hence, Hear In The Now Frontier basically contains Queensrÿche’s interpretation of alternative rock and grunge. They reinvented their entire sound as a band and redeveloped their formula of songwriting. If it wasn’t for Geoff Tate’s trademark wailing vocals, you would never have recognized the band. Gone is the colour palette with which they painted classic, colourful releases like Rage For Order, Operation: Mindcrime and Promised Land. In return, the album contains down-to-earth straightforward songs with a very intimate production. Everything is close to the listener. Straightforward and heavy guitar riffs with relaxing and mostly groovy drum rhythms are the main focus on this record, with the necessary catchy vocal melodies on top. The band focuses a lot more on the feel of the songs, rather than the instrumental performances. We still have the great guitar leads by Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton to make this stand out from the other alternative albums and the star on this album really is drummer Scott Rockenfield who once again proves to be an amazing drummer and handles these grooves just as well as he handled the metal material on previous releases. Really, this band makes a change too huge for most fans to grasp. It’s not really a surprise that therefore this album is not quite popular. Nevertheless, once you get the feel of it, you will know it’s outstanding.

The album begins very direct with lead single “Sign of the Times”; a catchy and quick introduction to the new Rÿche with the catchy chorus and straightforward-sounding guitars. Most naysayers of this record will say this song is the one to get, but it’s not more than an introduction as it’s not getting as intense as later songs. “Cuckoo’s Nest” begins quite dry and doesn’t really suit as a second track, but nevertheless has a nice groove. The real thing begins with “Get A Life”. Though lyrically it’s a true failure, the song itself really kicks in with a heavy riff and driving rhythm. This is where the album truly starts. “The Voice Inside” and “Some People Fly” are two tracks that actually sound like Queensrÿche but are still unmistakably on this album; two little highlights though. With “Saved” we hear another song like “Get A Life”, but this time a little less aggressive. “You” is one of my favorites, containing a bit of an industrial rhythm and the best guitar riff. We get some rest on the ballad “Hero”, before we hear a very dry and direct intro to “Miles Away”. The dryness of a lot of songs is actually very much in favour of the intimate ambience. The track contains one of the finest choruses on the record. It's time to kick some true ass again with the heavy and groovy “Reach”, before we get to hear Chris DeGarmo sing on the power ballad “All I Want”. “Hit the Black” and “Anytime Anywhere” are more of those heavy, groovy tracks, which in the end are the best ones on this record. “sp00l” concludes the record in a classic Queensrÿche vibe like we heard on Promised Land. Its lyrics are critical towards modern day society, like we hear a lot from the band.

In the end, Hear In The Now Frontier is far from a bad album. It’s just a little hard to accept this change if you were expecting the progressive metal from the previous albums. Once you are open for Queensrÿche’s ‘obscure’ period, this record would be a good start; it’s easily the one that bears the most resemblance to the classic Rÿche sound at some tracks, possibly due to the presence of guitarist Chris DeGarmo, who called it quits after this record. This album is highly recommended to those that liked what they just read.

Highlights: “The Voice Inside”, “You”, “Hit the Black” and “sp00l”.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Edward Reekers - Child of the Water (2008)

1. Inside the Pain
2. Stop the Time
3. I Love You Anyway
4. Never a Moment
5. Belle of the Ball
6. Child of the Water
7. Breathe
8. Eyes Like Twins
9. When Wise Men Say
10. Strawberry Blonde
11. Long Ago, Far Away
12. The Best of Me

Sweet! – 7,8/10

Yeah… that pretty much sums up Edward Reekers third solo album and possibly even his character. As we all know from his vocal duties at Kayak, the man has the sweetest voice in all of Holland and certainly one of the most beautiful voices. It seems he is well aware of that and makes his solo material a bit more adept to the sweet sound. Even though it has been sixteen years since his previous solo full-length Stages, Child of the Water is without a doubt a Reekers album through and through and certainly is a better overall record than Stages.

At Kayak, he mostly gets to sing symphonic rock, which has become quite bombastic on their last two albums. To add the contrast, Reekers chose to maintain a more acoustic and intimate setting with the piano and acoustic guitar as the main instruments. Sometimes even recorders are heard where you would’ve expected a lead guitar or a synthesizer. He again distances himself from Kayak by not going symphonic at all. This album is full of these sweet songs with sweet little melodies that would remind slightly of Kayak’s Periscope Life, but this time it’s not as bad. Most songs really go by at ease without adding any tension for the listener. Reekers must watch out not to go auto-pilot too much at times, but vocally he’s done an amazing job at each and every track.

The album opens with “Inside the Pain”, which really sounds like an acoustic Kayak classic, mostly because it’s quite an adventurous song with inventive and tense melodies. Hearing this track, you’ll have high hopes for the following tracks, but with “Stop the Time” we already get a sign it might end differently. It’s a nice and poppy track with a nice saxophone-solo, but the melody in the chorus tends to get annoying after a while. The sweet poppy tunes continue with lead single “I Love You Anyway”. Possibly another highlight from this album it is, and that chorus is hard to forget. “Never a Moment” takes it easy and slow as our Kayak vocalist presents us another love song. Edward Reekers is quite a Romeo as he appears to have written some of the finest love lyrics I have heard; like this fragment from the waltz-like “Belle of the Ball”: ‘the stars were no match for the look in her eyes tonight’. Title track “Child of the Water” falls more under the same category as “Inside the Pain” with its enchanting melodies of both the vocals and the recorder. It is tracks like these that keep all songs together.

Next are two covers. “Breathe” is originally written by Ultravox-vocalist Midge Ure and Reekers’ version sounds very real. We never leave the acoustic setting, but it’s still true to the original. Amazing how Reekers uses his falsetto voice. “Eyes like Twins” was covered from Wilson Phillips, but I never heard that version. There’s a very good contrast between the verses and the more bombastic chorus. One of my favorites and another track to feature a great recorder melody is “When Wise Men Say”. I love it how this song stays very acoustic and intimate but yet contains such a powerful climax. The lyrics are also very strong with lines like ‘when wise men say this man arose from nothing but clay, our statue makes the day’. Back to sweet poppy tunes with the Pim Koopman-penned “Strawberry Blonde”. Since Koopman was very active in Kayak as well this song has somewhat of a Kayak-sound at some points, but it’s still very understandable why this was not included on a Kayak record. And then we conclude the album with “Long Ago, Far Away” and “The Best of Me”; two great ballads with both very enchanting melodies. You can’t deny Kayak influenced Reekers’ songwriting at least a little since Stages.

In short, Edward Reekers delivers a strong solo record. But why not a higher rating then? What the man released here is a good album, but is it really anything we’ve never heard before? I don’t think so. His solo records never tend to be groundbreaking in any form and I don’t think that’s what he’s trying to accomplish either. Still, I’d highly recommend this record to fans of his previous solo efforts and to fans of Kayak.

Strongest moments: “Inside the Pain”, “Child of the Water” and “When Wise Men Say”.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Boy Kill Boy - Civilian (2006)

1. Back Again
2. On And On
3. Suzie
4. Six Minutes
5. On My Own
6. Ivy Parker
7. Civil Sin
8. Killer
9. Friday - Friday
10. Showdown
11. Shoot Me Down

The Typical One-Off Artist – 5/10

Ever heard of Boy Kill Boy? No? Not very surprising. I guess they had a small hit in the United Kingdom called “Suzie” and a song added to the popular game FIFA07, entitled “Civil Sin”. Actually, it was the latter that made me hear the entire album. And, frankly, this is one of the best examples of a one-off artist. They recorded only one album after Civilian, but it completely failed to impress so the band called it quits. That doesn’t take away that their debut album is good listening material and to a certain extent is quite impressive.

That certain extent is the fact that one of their songs at the time, any song, is perfectly okay. A track like “Civil Sin” is one of the finest tracks from the game I heard it in, but would you like an album by an artist recording eleven exact same songs? There we go. Technically, this band is top-notch. Every musician knows what he does; it all sounds very tight and difficult to play as a band. The production is very slick, but at the same time very clear. Every instrument is heard the way it’s supposed to be heard. So that’s not the issue. Every song sounds the same; and if all of these songs were “Bohemian Rhapsodies” you would not have me complaining about that. Every track is upbeat, uplifting, cheery, slightly epic, catchy, compact and unbelievably crowded. You hardly get the chance to breath between the tracks. Oh, and did I mention a few clichés? The chorus melody of “Six Minutes” or the keyboard theme on “Friday – Friday”, for example, is just made before. Perhaps not released before, but that’s quite understandable. Add to that the length of every track; they’re all over before you know it. Now I don’t deny that I slightly enjoy hearing this record once in a while, with the consequence of fatigue afterwards. But with every song being the same, you can’t expect this band to grow and live up to the current pop legends like Coldplay, Keane and U2.

That being said, this record will not be of great interest to anyone. I can’t believe these guys would’ve had die-hard fans crying when they decided to invest their efforts in other projects. If you fell for the minor hit “Suzie” or for the song from FIFA07, the best you should do is stick to that single song. Play it eleven times if you really want to have a clue about how the album sounds.

Strongest tracks: All of them.
Weakest tracks: All of them.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Amy MacDonald - A Curious Thing (2010)

1. Don't Tell Me That It's Over
2. Spark
3. I Got No Roots
4. Love Love
5. An Ordinary Life
6. Give It All Up
7. My Only One
8. This Pretty Face
9. Troubled Soul
10. Next Big Thing
11. Your Time Will Come
12. What Happiness Means To Me

The ‘Difficult’ Second Album – 7,2/10

In modern popular music it’s quite hard to stay alive. After a very successful first record, it’s is absolutely necessary for your second to be a smash as your survival in the music industry depends on it. So what did Amy MacDonald do after her debut album This Is The Life? Did she just continue to do more of the same or did she succeed in her struggle to survive? Where one might’ve expected her to do the former, it’s the latter that she actually did.

When you say Amy MacDonald, you say acoustic pop/folk guitar girl. This album totally changes that image. While she, surprisingly, wrote every song on this record herself, she really only sticks to the mike and her acoustic six-string. This is so surprising, because the album has a very full, electric sound similar to an album like X&Y by Coldplay: dominant synthesizers and heavier electric guitars. Where her debut album sounded like folk-rock, this album sounds more like ‘plain’ pop-rock with at first listen only her very recognizable voice as the connection between the two albums. After a few listens you’ll notice there are similar writing techniques between the albums, but I think it’s safe to say MacDonald survived the second round. What will be a disturbing factor on this record is the way most songs sound alike. Each and every track here is catchy in some way and has its charms, but they all share something very similar. It’s hard to hum a certain song when you just heard the album in its entirety.

The highlights of the album are almost the same as the singles. “Don’t Tell Me That It’s Over” is unmistakably one of the most smashing songs on A Curious Thing; it really showcases every aspect of this record’s sound. We get to hear a new and fresh side of Amy, but unfortunately after five tracks in this sound that side’s getting less and less fresh. “My Only One” really stands out in the way it’s crafted; with tense and unexpected chord progressions and good vocals. The absence of the drums in this song was a great choice. On “Next Big Thing” you will instantly recognize MacDonald’s trademark upbeat pop tracks and you will once again know that those never get old. “Your Time Will Come” reminds slightly of 2007’s “Run”, but still sounds refreshingly good. Album closer “What Happiness Means To Me” is also one of the better compositions on A Curious Thing with its slightly epic atmosphere and the dominant synthesizers; it also contains a live recording attached as a hidden track which is really one of Amy’s best vocal performances. Also worth mentioning is the guitar solo in “Troubled Soul”; otherwise a quite bland track. This solo is not spine-shivering or any of the sort, but it certainly lifts the track to another level and shows how little effort it takes to make your tracks become more than they are.

And that brings us the downside of this album. With most of the songs sounding very alike, they are all very compact once again. While this may not bother fans of the genre, as a self-proclaimed music critic I would like to see more of that instrumental magic we heard on “Troubled Soul”. Still, Amy MacDonald did a great job on sounding different, but still the same and I guess that’s all we can ask for as long as she falls under the pop category. I highly recommend this album to fans of her debut record and to fans of popular music in general.

Strongest tracks: “Don’t Tell Me That It’s Over”, “My Only One” and “What Happiness Means To Me”.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Halford - Made of Metal (2010)

1. Undisputed
2. Fire and Ice
3. Made of Metal
4. Speed of Sound
5. Like There's No Tomorrow
6. Till the Day I Die
7. We Own the Night
8. Heartless
9. Hell Razor
10. Thunder and Lightning
11. Twenty-Five Years
12. Matador
13. I Know We Stand A Chance
14. The Mower

Better Than I Expected – 8/10

A new Halford album… what could we expect from the Metal God at this stage of his career? Would it be as heavy as his previous two solo efforts? Will it be as cheery as Winter Songs? Will he continue what he did on the latest Priest release? When “The Mower” was released I had almost lost hope for a decent album. It seemed obvious his voice was gone; the live performances were dreadful… how the hell could a next solo release from Rob Halford be good?

Apparently, I was very mistaken about the Metal God. His voice is not gone; it’s just as good as it has been on a release like Painkiller. Only his high-pitched trademark screams are not as good as before, but hey the man gets older too and luckily there’s only one track with these screams and that would be “The Mower”, a track full of bland low e-picking and directionless screams. But apart from that, Rob Halford is absolutely not a has-been singer. He sounds so alive and fresh on here, at times you’d even forget he is close to 60 years old. At tracks like “Hell Razor” he even sings like he did in the 70s. Combine these fresh vocals with a very fresh sound of the instruments. Unlike on Crucible or Resurrection, the main focus is not a heavy guitar-sound. Made of Metal sounds very much like 80s Priest classics like Screaming for Vengeance or Defenders of the Faith. Tracks like “Speed of Sound” or “We Own the Night” might as well have been Priest classics. I think a lot of people who hear this album will feel this should have been the previous Judas Priest effort, and not Nostradamus, even though I really liked that one. This is also the first album to feature tracks that have been written entirely by Rob Halford. Mostly he co-writes them with his band mates. Talk about his band-mates, they are in great shape too. The album is full of inspiring riffs and terrific solos, especially on “Fire and Ice”.

Unlike the previous solo efforts, this album does not begin with an in-the-face heavy killertrack, but with “Undisputed”, featuring lyrics about boxing, Halford presents us the intro to a more melodic release with still enough power to fill your veins with adrenaline. A track like “Fire and Ice” sounds like an Yngwie Malmsteen classic, probably due to the neoclassical riff combined with the epic vocal melodies at the chorus. The title track is quite a standard track with a four-chord chorus and monotonous verses, but later on we’ll be pleased with superb tracks like “Speed of Sound”, “Like There’s No Tomorrow” and “We Own the Night”. “Till The Day I Die” is a real stand-out track. It’s very bluesy and clearly shows Halford’s interest in the genre. With tracks like “Heartless” and “Hell Razor” the album collapses a little. These tracks suffer from less originality and have a ‘been-there-before’-feel to them. With “Thunder and Lightning” Halford gives us another epic with certainly one of the finest choruses on this release. “Twenty-Five Years” is the only ballad on the album. It lasts seven minutes and perhaps that is a little too long for this song, but then again, it’s a good track and a very personal song. With “Matador” we get another track about racing, but it has these very catchy melodies and even reminds me a bit of “Nostradamus” in the chorus. The final epic “I Know We Stand A Chance” could’ve been expanded upon, but it’s a good track and should’ve been the last track. “The Mower” closes the album, and surprisingly the song is a grower. It’s obviously the least interesting track of this release, but the quality of the album lifts this song up and makes me able to enjoy it even if only a little.

In short, Made of Metal is nothing like Resurrection or Crucible in terms of sound. It sounds a lot more like 80s Judas Priest with a dash of new Halford. Were you disappointed with Nostradamus? Do you want some more kickass old school metal? Then you’ve got to listen to this record, ‘cause it’s Made of Metal!

Strongest tracks: “Fire and Ice”, “Like There’s No Tomorrow”, “Till the Day I Die” and “Thunder and Lightning”.
Weakest tracks: “Heartless”, “Hell Razor” and “The Mower”.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Scorpions - Pure Instinct (1996)

1. Wild Child
2. But the Best for You
3. Does Anyone Know
4. Stone in my Shoe
5. Soul Behind the Face
6. Oh Girl (I Wanna Be With You)
7. When You Came Into My Life
8. Where the River Flows
9. Time Will Call Your Name
10. You and I
11. Are You the One?

Hidden Genius – 9/10

Isn’t it surprising how almost every 90s album by an 80s metal band gets bashed nowadays? And you should know most of that isn’t even deservedly. Take this album for example; the Scorpions take a different step in their career than cheap, commercial hair metal and in an instant the fans bombard this album as one of their worst. Lucky for this album there is still someone like me to stand up for this hidden gem.

Hidden behind the abominable cover art are eleven great tracks; all of them containing a lot of colourful themes and arrangements. There’s just one problem for our everyday Scorpions fan: there’s a certain lack of heavy rockers. Predecessor Face The Heat had enough of them and is perhaps the heaviest Scorps record to date. What better solution for a follow up is there than to release the inevitable opposite? Oh yes, there are a few rockers on the album, and probably some of the best the Scorpions have written. “Wild Child” with its drum-heavy verses and very catchy chorus is an instant Scorps classic, “But the Best for You” rolls on tightly with a friendly riff and “Stone in my Shoe” is a relaxing track with a typical 90s-Scorpions feel to it. Said quite blandly: the rest of the songs are all ballads. Now don’t you dare to trash this album just because of that. These eight ballads happen to be some of the finest the Scorpions have ever put together.

The first you’ll come across is “Wind of Change”-clone number two: “Does Anyone Know”; to sum this one up it’s a sing-along track with similar styled lyrics to the aforementioned track and is probably one of the less original songs on here, but still not bad. “Soul Behind the Face” takes the album to a whole new sound with its bluesy lead guitars at the intro. Given the often cheesy lyrics to ballads, it’s safe to say this one features some of the most thoughtful love-styled lyrics they’ve written. A lot of arrangements have been done with the clean and acoustic guitars, though the electric guitar still mostly blinks at us from the chorus and the solos. “When You Came Into My Life” is a very passionate one with a great build-up with very persuasive spine-shivering vocals from Klaus Meine. That brings us to another element in favour of this album: Klaus Meine is in a great shape. Combined with the very colourful and intimate arrangements of the songs, the result is breathtaking. We are surprised by Matthias Jabs when he plays some slide guitars on “Where the River Flows”, my favourite track off the album. In this track Ralph Rieckermann proves that he is the only worthy successor to Francis Buchholz and his bass-lines make the song. He does so much more than just accompanying it.

A little bit of guts are added with the acoustic swinger “Time Will Call Your Name”. Very catchy chord progressions vary with the inventive vocal melody in a way that is neither cheesy nor cheap. Note that this track’s chorus is one of the catchiest on Pure Instinct. “You and I” is the lead single from this album and somehow the Scorpions always succeed in writing an amazingly catchy ballad and making it so memorable at the same time. This is one of their finest ballads ever, even topping classics such as “Still Loving You” or “Wind of Change”. The almost orchestrally arranged “Are You the One?” closes this album and might seem like a weak track, but when you listen the album as a whole it perfectly closes the album as it actually sums up the record.

So in fact we have a pretty good Scorpions album here. Hell, on of the finest they’ve released I’d say. They might not be playing metal here, but that shouldn’t matter and it doesn’t. This collection of pop/rock tracks deserves to be much more than just another album in the Scorpions discography nobody knows. Underrated and highly recommended.

Strongest tracks: “Where the River Flows”, “Time Will Call Your Name” and “You and I”.

Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns (2010)

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

Best Surprise in a Long Time – 9/10

How everybody had lost hope for the American sextet known for combining electro, rap and metal under the name of Linkin Park. After Meteora, which sounded almost exactly the same as the debut album Hybrid Theory, the band really needed something new to their sound and they knew it. In 2007, they released Minutes To Midnight and it was one of their biggest mistakes. You don’t change your style from kickass nu-metal to cheap radio hits… that’s just unethical. But then they said they were going in a completely different direction again and at that point you have got to stop hoping for Hybrid Theory III. A Thousand Suns is totally different from anything Linkin Park has released before, but it’s still unmistakably the same band.

It’s really a shame a lot of “fans” gave up on this album after only a few listens. I have reasons to believe this is their strongest album to date. The approach for this album is without a doubt very different than their previous efforts, with Mr. Hahn in the leading role. The entire album is very dominated by electronic sounds, drums and effects. It seems drummer Rob Bourdon and especially lead guitarist Brad Delson were on holiday during the recording sessions for this album clearly was not in need of a lot of drums and guitars. Most drums are done by the band’s DJ Mr. Hahn. A more positive move from the band is the more dominant position of the band’s rapper Mike Shinoda. After having very few space on Minutes To Midnight it is a good move by the band to bring the raps back in. It’s one of Linkin Park’s trademarks to mix the raps with rock and at least they didn’t give up on that. Mr. Hahn’s DJ-scratches have returned from absence as well; even as far as a scratch-solo on “Wretches and Kings”. Chester Bennington’s screams have not returned as persuasively as on the first two albums, but they did return on the aforementioned track and on “Blackout”.

In order to embrace this album you need to understand it and I think that’s where most fans decline. A Thousand Suns is a concept album and it deals with quite a serious, though not original, subject: a possible third world war, which would be a nuclear war. As a concept album, it’s brilliantly built up. Of the fifteen tracks present there are only nine full songs, but it doesn’t disturb because the album feels as one. The many interludes really add to the concept and to the feel of the album. Loose excerpts will not be half as impressive as the album in its entirety. Once you get that, you can enjoy this.

The journey begins with the electro-dominated introludes “The Requiem” and “The Radiance” which set the right atmosphere for the modest opener “Burning in the Skies”. This modesty of this opening track is a real strength of A Thousand Suns; it keeps the mystery of the album intact and brilliantly introduces the concept. Mike Shinoda gets to dominate on the drum-heavy “When They Come For Me”, featuring middle-eastern rhythms and chants in the chorus. A track like “Robot Boy” doesn’t really add a lot on its own, but in the flow of the album is fits perfectly. The song itself is mostly electronic with the exception of Bennington’s mellow vocals. My personal favorite part of the album begins with “Waiting for the End”, a great duet between Bennington and Shinoda. It opens up with some experimental electronic rhythms and Shinoda imitates a Jamaican accent for some catchy raps, only before Bennington takes the song and turns it into an electronic rock track. The reprise of Shinoda’s intro is the highlight of the track. Next is “Blackout”, probably very notable due to Bennington’s aggressive vocals like he did them on the first few albums, but this time the background music is not guitar but some kind of beat or autotune, which only adds to the concept and the atmosphere of the album. About halfway the song turns into chaos and after that into a gentle track. The album does not handle with standard song-structures.

One of the best moments on this record is “Wretches and Kings”. It takes off with a long speech by Mario Savio before we begin with the first and only guitar-heavy track on this album. It’s a bit of a catchy hip-hop beat portrayed by a heavy guitar and computerized drums. Shinoda handles the verses extremely well with some inventive raps before Bennington gets his chance to scream at the chorus. This song truly feels like the good ol’ Linkin Park. After the second chorus we get a small sort of bridge before the speech returns and a good scratch-solo by Mr. Hahn. A speech by Martin Luther King Jr is included in the interlude “Wisdom, Justice and Love”; a real resting point after the violence of previous songs. Here is where the album reaches its climax. The rest of this speech is reflected in the Coldplay-influenced “Iridescent”. And then the interlude “Fallout” reprises some of the most important lyrics from earlier tracks before we enter the grand finale “The Catalyst”, which begins with electronic beats and some panicky vocals by Shinoda predicting our end. Bennington joins him and the panic starts to rise until halfway the song where the full band joins them in some sort of prayer for survival. Album closer “The Messenger” features nothing but acoustic guitar and Chester Bennington with his very powerful voice; this time preaching there’s still hope for mankind.

Now, I see in my enthusiasm the review has been given quite a length. I will say no more. A Thousand Suns is not for everyone, but only for those that can look beyond what they hoped it would be. This is not Hybrid Theory III and there never will be. Accept that and take Linkin Park for what they are now. This album is a grower and will grow on you if given the chance.

Strongest moments: “Waiting for the End”, “Wretches and Kings” and “The Catalyst”.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Rammstein - Mutter (2001)

1. Mein Herz Brennt
2. Links 2 3 4
3. Sonne
4. Ich Will
5. Feuer Frei!
6. Mutter
7. Spieluhr
8. Zwitter
9. Rein Raus
10. Adios
11. Nebel

Bombastic Industrial, with a dash of Mediocrity – 6/10

It’s been four long years since Rammstein’s previous effort Sehnsucht. Why on earth they waited so long with their third effort is beyond me. I guess they were working hard on a new sound to depart from the basic industrial metal they created on their previous releases. But the times changed to 2001 and so Rammstein updated their sound a little. Would this band work with a different sound or did this mean the end of the band?

Yes it worked and blimey this sounds so refreshing. It’s still undeniably industrial in terms of riffs and samples. These are still riffs to dance to while banging your head and in essence this all still sounds very Rammstein. Perhaps not all songs are alike this time, but there’s definitely some formula stuck in the band’s heads again. But first the sound. Where Sehnsucht mostly featured a killer riff with some nice grooves and then the monotonous vocals by Lindemann, Mutter has a lot more depth in the songs. The use of synthesizers is a little more refined than just the samples this time. A good example is the chorus of “Links 2 3 4”. The riffs are less notable this time, but contribute more to the overall sound of the song. This combination of slightly more dominant synths and pushed-to-background guitars results in a bombastic sound. With some tracks this even leads to a slightly gothic sound, like on the choruses of “Sonne”, “Mutter” and “Ich Will”. Now, about the formula, even this formula tends to get old in terms of the band’s creativity. After the sixth track “Mutter”, the album goes downhill quickly and that’s where the mediocrity part comes in. A refreshing sound is one, but if one uses it with mediocre tracks it only gives the listener headaches.

The album opens with the bombastic “Mein Herz Brennt”, which begins gently with Lindemann’s trademark monotonous voice muttering a few words before the chorus bursts out with an evil synth melody on the lead. The march-like “Links 2 3 4” also has its verses gently with a more bombastic marching riff in the chorus. Then some new aspects to Rammsteins repertoire are the sing-along tracks “Sonne” and “Mutter”. Both have quite unimportant verses but shine in the catchiness of the choruses, which are, perhaps, even epic. “Ich Will” is another high quality standard industrial track, with some highly entertaining lyrics. One of the finest tracks would be “Feuer Frei!”, the famous hard-industrial up-tempo anthem. This is truly a great kickass song, except for the annoying vocal performance at the break. Lindemann is not a singer, he should just be monotonous and not try to sing. If he’d just do that, Rammstein can’t go too wrong on the vocal department, except for the metrics. The metrics in his vocals are often similar and formulaic, which makes many tracks from this album predictable. After “Mutter”, the album goes downhill fast. The riffs have suddenly become boring, the vocals predictable and the synths have disappeared... It suddenly lacks all the catchiness, all the inventiveness and all the quality. Maybe only the narration at the beginning of “Spieluhr” is worth a listen. Even “Nebel”, what instrumentally is not that terrible, is totally ruined because this ballad would require a singer, and when somebody who can’t really sing takes the job... you’ll guess the result. It’s a bit of a “Klavier II”.

In the end, Mutter is not a bad follow-up to Sehnsucht, but gets so damn weak after track #6 that I can’t call it good. The first six tracks on the other hand are worth checking out if you like Rammstein. The other tracks will be reserved only for those who like everything the band releases. But to new ones it’s not recommended.

Strongest tracks: “Feuer Frei!”, “Mutter” and “Ich Will”.
Weakest tracks: “Zwitter”, “Rein Raus” and “Adios”.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Linkin Park - Hybrid Theory (2000)

1. Papercut
2. One Step Closer
3. With You
4. Points of Authority
5. Crawling
6. Runaway
7. By Myself
8. In the End
9. Place for my Head
10. Forgotten
11. Cure for the Itch
12. Pushing Me Away

An Innovating Combination of Genres – 75%

When you think of Linkin Park these days you immediately think of hits like “In the End”, “Breaking the Habit” or “What I’ve Done”. You can’t help to think of the commercial rock meets rap combination that somehow works remarkably well. But once, Linkin Park were a part of the nu-metal movement and one of the most innovative bands in that very genre. A combination of DJ, rap and raw metal screams... how on earth would that work commercially?

This band did it. Where Rob Bourdon delivers some solid drums, Brad Delson and Mike Shinoda take care of some asskicking guitar riffs and to top it off there’s Joseph Hahn adding keys and samples to give the music a more DJ-like approach. Vocally we have Chester Bennington with his aggressive screams and at the same time his beautiful singing voice, nicely varied with Mike Shinoda’s rap. Normally I don’t like rap, but Linkin Park proves anything can be cool as long as the song that features it is cool. And that is the strength of this band. The songs are simple in structure, but undeniably catchy and heavy. Opening song “Papercut” gives us a perfect overview of the potential of this band’s formula. Computer drums open the album, soon to be accompanied by catchy lead guitar melodies and some rap. Bennington shows up two words at the chorus and at the bridge. The song is rap, metal and a bit of trance all within three minutes! And then they didn’t even show their full capability of voice combinations. Shinoda’s rap and Bennington’s screams are varied so greatly they finish eachother's sentences and feel as one. It’s highly unique and I haven’t heard anything like this anywhere else.

After the rap dominated “Papercut”, Bennington gets his proper introduction in the metal dominated “One Step Closer”. “With You” is more of a combination between the two with Shinoda and Bennington swapping vocals in the verses. The downside of the album is perhaps the alikeness between the songs from number four to nine. However, since the formula is so inventive and never heard before, the album loses almost none of its greatness. The instrumental “Cure for the Itch” is the moment of Mr. Hahn to show off his DJ skills. And then the last song “Pushing Me Away” is a true highlight with its epic chorus. Lyrically, the entire album is very depressing, dealing with adolescent problems, which commercially would connect perfectly to their adolescent fans.

I cannot find more words to describe the content of the album. It’s a really good album and I would definitely recommend this album to fans of nu-metal and to people who seek innovating albums. This one is definitely one to check out.

Strongest tracks: “Papercut”, “Place for my Head” and “Pushing Me Away”.

Disturbed - The Sickness (2000)

1. Voices
2. The Game
3. Stupify
4. Down with the Sickness
5. Violence Fetish
6. Fear
7. Numb
8. Want
9. Conflict
10. Shout 2000
11. Droppin' Plates
12. Meaning of Life

Music for Children with ADHD – 45%

In the late nineties, a lot of industrial metal and nu-metal acts came up. Most of them were seen as a threat to “real” metal, as they were more commercial in style and a lot less riff-based. One of the nu-metal acts you can not have missed would be Disturbed. Whereas their debut album The Sickness is generally looked upon as the bands best effort so far, I must disagree heavily.

Today, Disturbed is quite far from their roots, from The Sickness, and I’m glad they are. The four-piece from Chicago are definitely renewing and innovating within the genre, but on this album their lack of experience makes the whole sound way too crowded, too raw and too filled up. The entire music is build around the rhythmic and charismatic voice of David Draiman, who really likes to make odd choppy guttural sounds, which is unique to this man. He is the one who carries each and every song and he rarely shuts up. Then there are the chaotic riffs of Dan Donegan, the man behind the guitar. His riffs on this album are mostly quite wild and unoriginal, with some exceptions. For example, his riff on the lead single “Down with the Sickness” is simplistic but so damn effective and unique with the use of natural harmonics. Bassman Steve Kmak is hardly hearable throughout the mix and mostly just follows Donegan in the accompaniment. Drummer Mike Wengren is a bit more notable though. At times he can be modest and just guide the song like on the groovy “Stupify”, but he also knows how to make the song rise above the others with his drums like on “Down with the Sickness”. This sounds like a band that at least can create a decent album.

Well, that moment is not now. Most songs sound a lot the same and are very crowded, in short. Within the nu-metal genre, this is not uncommon. Riffs often are carried by a groove you’d normally hear in RNB music. Also, there are almost no tracks that really blow your mind. The opening track “Voices” for example features some wacko chaotic riffs and some harsh shouting but fails to deliver a good song. The same problem features in “The Game”. Even in the instrumental parts of a riff, we have Draiman making stupid noises. These tracks are also way too compact and lack calmness. “Stupify” is a much better track with a good groove but doesn’t sound right. It’s a lot better live. Then there’s the lead single “Down with the Sickness” with its genial drum intro and great riff. It’s just a killer riff with the harmonics and Draiman’s voice shows a more mature side in the verses. A true letdown is its interplay, where we would want a solo or perhaps something calm, but over a crowded and chaotic riff Draiman continues to shout manically which perhaps fits the lyrical theme of the song, but only adds to the chaotic nature of the album. This way the album continues with some nice riff here or there but with almost only shouting choruses and crowded song structures.

The point when the album reaches its worst is two tracks. “Conflict” is the only song that annoys me so much I’d want to delete it from my memory. It misses every direction and lyrically Draiman never stops shouting ‘enemy!’. Then there is “Dropping Plates”. As the song is nothing special, just another chaotic failure, Draiman, again, decided to ruin the song even further by using harsh language in the lyrics. He also does that in the interplay of “Down with the Sickness”, but that one is saved by its great verses and chorus. “Dropping Plates” has nothing decent to it. Then there’s the Tears For Fears cover “Shout 2000”. Disturbed has a talent for doing covers. It really changes an 80s pop song into a modern metal track. But if I remember correctly the original had a synthesizer interlude... unfortunately Draiman can’t shut up even when that interlude begins. It would add so much more depth if he would just shut his mouth for a few seconds.

In short, this crowded and chaotic debut album of every child’s favorite metal band is worthy only of the trashcan. Perhaps you should get “Down with the Sickness”, but for the other tracks, don’t bother. And don’t even think about getting the 10th Anniversary edition... it features two more of these tracks... what a way to treat fans. As if these twelve weren’t enough yet. ‘Nuff said.

Strongest tracks: “Down with the Sickness” and “Stupify”.
Weakest tracks: “Conflict” and “Dropping Plates”.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Static-X - Wisconsin Death Trip (1999)

1. Push It
2. I'm With Stupid
3. Bled for Days
4. Love Dump
5. I Am
6. Otsegolation
7. Stem
8. Sweat of the Bud
9. Fix
10. Wisconsin Death Trip
11. The Trance is the Motion
12. December

Industrial at its best – 8,5/10

In the late nineties there was a major uprise of industrial metal bands and within the genre a lot of albums within the period of 1997 to 1999 are classic industrial albums; among them Wisconsin Death Trip. Few fans of the genre have not heard of Static-X and their promising debut. This is arguably one of the best albums the genre has to offer and the best album Static-X would release until this very date.

We’ve seen a lot of ‘classic’ industrial albums on this site such as Rammstein’s Sehnsucht or Rob Zombie’s Hellbilly Deluxe. Needless to say all three albums rely on the brilliant combination of heavy metal and dance rhythms by means of metal guitars and computer samples; Static-X is no different. We’ve also seen that vocalists never really sing, but merely emit the lyrics as monotonously as possible; Wayne Static is no different. Then what makes this album so much better than most of its contemporaries? The difference lies in a few corners. First, Static-X is much heavier than other industrial acts and therefore a lot less commercial. They call themselves ‘evil disco’ and that is only the right way to describe them. Where Rammstein or Rob Zombie still sounds disco-friendly, Static-X distances themselves from the mainstream sound and becomes more of an underground industrial act. Second, Wayne Static has a lot more ways to express himself than the other vocalists I’ve heard in this genre. He combines raw vocals with various emotions and tone-heights, while not really singing. Apart from that, he has a loyal bassist at his side in Tony Campos who adds some extra dimensions with his low growls. All these elements combined make Static-X one of the most unique bands in the music world.

There’s also a lot more variation among the tracks themselves. While the first ten tracks are basically to-the-point industrial tracks with heavy riffs, groovy rhythms and unique vocal performances, with a few absolute highlights such as the classic “Push It”, “I’m With Stupid” and “Otsegolation” with its killer groove. Near the end we see some atmospheric industrial, which I’ve never heard before. “The Trance is the Motion” takes us to a relaxed track with soft grooves and a sudden outburst of Static’s vocals. The so beautiful “December” ends the album with style in an industrial ballad. It’s a very silent track with softer vocals than heard before and a bit of an epic feel to it. I believe this is the first industrial ballad I’ve heard. The rest of the album mostly continues to combine simple-but-heavy guitar riffs with the most extreme of grooves. The unique combination of that type of songs and Static’s vocals is certainly promising, but it’s hard to think of what the band would do next as this is one of the hardest genres to be inventive in.

In short, this is the best industrial album I’ve heard so far. It’s got everything a typical album of the genre needs and way more than that too. I would gladly recommend this to any fan of industrial metal or to people who are new to the genre. It’s a perfectly accessible album if you can appreciate the vocals.

Highlights: “Push It”, “Otsegolation” and “The Trance is the Motion”.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Rob Zombie - Hellbilly Deluxe (1998)

1. Call of the Zombie
2. Superbeast
3. Dragula
4. Living Dead Girl
5. Perversion 99
6. Demonoid Phenomenon
7. Spookshow Baby
8. How to Make a Monster
9. Meet the Creeper
10. The Ballad of Resurrection Joe and Rosa Whore
11. What Lurks on Channel X?
12. Return of the Phantom Stranger
13. The Beginning of the End

Horror Metal...?! – 7/10

In search for some good industrial metal, I came across Rob Zombie’s debut album Hellbilly Deluxe. While this album is mostly industrial in terms of style, Zombie’s name already suggests he won’t be singing about ladybugs and flowers. The lyrics are true horror tales in itself, which gives a dark-but-not-depressive tone to the album. As for the music; it was probably one of the biggest industrial metal albums to be released in the late nineties. Let me tell you what to expect...

This is industrial in the very meaning of the genre. It’s metal to dance to. It mostly relies on grooves and rhythms that encourage you to dance. Think of offbeat drums, cool keyboard samples and simple catchy anthems. That is basically what every song on this record is about. The riffs are very simple, quite heavy and undeniably catchy. Now, all you need is a simple and obvious song structure and you’ve got your average Rob Zombie track. This all sounds pretty plain, but that’s exactly what this album is, which makes sure you will like this album but later totally forget about it. As for Rob Zombie himself; the man has a very low, bluesy and raw voice. Basically he can’t sing, but he can hold the tone, which is alright for this kind of music. Still, he can be a real pain in the ass when you’re not in the mood for his voice.

What could have made the album more interesting or more memorable is more variation among and more substance to the songs. Now, “Superbeast” is an excellent opener with its drum-heavy verses and brilliant build up. From here on we get a lot of tracks that in essence sound the same, such as “Dragula”, “Living Dead Girl”, “Demonoid Phenomenon” and “Spookshow Baby”. I’m not the type of listener that’s easy to please with ‘more of the same’. Every time the songs begin with some theme that’s alright, and then go to the monotonous but groovy verses with low vocals from Zombie, we sometimes get a pre-chorus of some sort and then there’s the chorus with that temporal attractive force. There are not really songs with reasonable sustainability. “Return of the Phantom Stranger” on the other hand is clearly different with at least an attempt at creating an epic in the industrial genre. Furthermore there are some fragments of uselessness like “Perversion 99” or “How to Make a Monster”. Personally, if one song on the album is not a song but some intermezzo, I don’t mind, but there are at least three of them on here. A bit too much for me that is.

In the end, it’s a solid industrial album, but not really fascinating on the long term. That being said, it is a must have for any fan of industrial music. If you expect ear candy rather than food for the masses in the disco, then you shouldn’t try this album.

Strongest tracks: “Superbeast”, “Dragula” and “Return of the Phantom Stranger”.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Judas Priest - Jugulator (1997)

1. Jugulator
2. Blood Stained
3. Dead Meat
4. Death Row
5. Decapitate
6. Burn in Hell
7. Brain Dead
8. Abductors
9. Bullet Train
10. Cathedral Spires

There’s no excuse for this – 3,5/10

When you say Judas Priest, your mind instantly travels through time and you name up classics like “Tyrant”, “Beyond the Realms of Death”, “Metal Gods”, “Love Bites” or “Painkiller”. Without hesitation you think about Rob Halford’s high-pitched vocals and the superb guitarduels between Glenn Tipton and KK Downing. But there’s a darker side to this band and it came right up when Halford called it quits. As a result Tipton and Downing, both accustomed to writing good songs, took Halford-wannabe Tim Ripper Owens to replace the Metal God on vocals. Don’t you want to know how that turned out? No you don’t. I usually dig albums other people loath, but Jugulator just lacks creativity in every corner and sounds terribly uninspired. It’s been seven years since previous album Painkiller, which everyone remembers as one of Priest’s greatest. Whether Downing and Tipton wanted to create something in the same vein or something totally new is not clear. The music sounds like a parody of what Priest was before and I daresay the band just needed a reason to tour. And of course, there are enjoyable parts on this album, but most of it’s pushed towards the end of the record or it’s ruined by what follows.

Let’s begin with Halford’s replacement Tim “Ripper” Owens. Some people praise his vocal talents and his range, saying he resembles Rob Halford. Well, he tries very hard to resemble the man, but he does not really succeed. Halford could actually sing in the higher regions of his range, while Owens only screams and he doesn’t even hit half the height Halford does. Not that it matters, but the man really is annoying to listen to. His screams sound fucked up, his lower voice sounds cheesy as hell and sometimes he just sounds like a barbarian that’s about to attack a wild boar. Then there’s the boring songwriting. There are riffs I made up the first year I picked up a guitar. The best example is the opening track “Jugulator”. It begins with a nice machine-like rhythm (could make you think Priest is joining the industrial rise), but is quickly ruined by a cheese-evil theme and eventually bursts out into a three chord riff that is just too ridiculous for words. The lyrics on the song are so wannabe Halford, about freaky monsters and terribly beasts. But this is not convincing. The same formula of boring riffs and annoying vocals is used at tracks like “Dead Meat” or “Decapitate”. It sounds just so unprofessional it’s like a textbook “How to make my first metal song”. Then there’s “Death Row”, which actually flows pretty well if you don’t count the tiresome fragment at the beginning... that is, until you hear the chorus. Are we listening to a band playing (or trying to play) metal or is this a child’s party and we’re singing nice cozy songs?

Then the positive side of the album... I’ve been negative for far too long now. As I mentioned before there are some better songs near the end of the album with the exception of “Blood Stained”, which is number two. The said song is not really different from the others around it in terms of sound, riffage or structure, but the major difference is: it flows and stays cool ‘til the end. This is also what makes “Abductors” and “Bullet Train” more successful creations than crap like “Burn in Hell” or “Dead Meat”. And if a song doesn’t flow, it’s not a good song. If it does, then you can be proud like on “Bullet Train”, which is full of adrenaline and deserves to be written by Judas Priest, and “Abductors”, which begins evil and stays evil. And when you’ve achieved that, you find you can also like Owens’ vocals. Then there’s “Cathedral Spires”; the long song of the album. Peaking at a little over nine minutes, this song is a true epic consisting of three parts: the first part is a ballad, the second a rocker with an anthemic chorus and the third is a mesmerizing continuation of the anthem from part two. And when you’re done listening to these tracks, you begin to wonder why they didn’t bother to write more songs that actually sound good?

In short, Jugulator is a bad album with some positive surprises. This is Judas Priest being totally confused about what the hell they are, what they’re supposed to do and what the hell metal is. Still, I would recommend the last three tracks to any Priest fan, since they are really good tracks. As for the overall album; avoid it. Don’t be seduced by the cover.

Strongest tracks: “Bullet Train” and “Cathedral Spires”.
Weakest tracks: “Jugulator”, “Dead Meat”, “Death Row” and the others minus “Blood Stained” and “Abductors.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Amy MacDonald - This is the Life (2007)

1. Mr Rock 'n Roll
2. This is the Life
3. Poison Prince
4. Youth of Today
5. Run
6. Let's Start a Band
7. Barrowland Ballroom
8. L.A.
9. A Wish for Something More
10. Footballer's Wife

A Young Scottish Guitar Girl with Talent – 7,5/10

Back in 2008, it was very hard not to have heard of Amy MacDonald. Her big hit “This is the Life” was played to death on every radio station and no matter where you were, you were bound to at least here her name. At such a point, it is impossible to ignore the release of her promising debut album, released a year before the single under the same name. The question you will ask yourself at first listen is: will this be a one-off artist or will she come back strongly on her next album?

Amy MacDonald herself is playing the acoustic guitar and mostly bases her songs on what she figures out on that very instrument. This keeps the overall ambience very acoustic, even though the electric guitar regularly bumps in for additional accompaniment. Her voice sounds quite raw and relatively low for a female voice. This whole combination of acoustic elements and this rough alto voice sounds quite unique and differ her from most pop bands and artists, and above all distances her from all the other female solo artists such as Beyoncé, Rubyn or Lady Gaga by not adding elements of R&B. Add a good amount of catchy chord progressions, upbeat rhythms and tempting arrangements and you’ve got a #1 album, which is exactly what this album was destined for. The album opens with the swinging “Mr Rock ‘n Roll”, which is a perfect introduction to MacDonald as a singer. Her voice sounds very powerful as she reaches for the higher notes. Her trademark type of song must be the four-chord acoustic indie rock tracks like “Poison Prince”, “This is the Life” and “Let’s Start a Band”. These tracks are all uplifting in both the drums and the vocals, but sound a bit similar as well, which is something MacDonald needs to watch out for. There are some very powerful ballads like “Youth of Today” or “Footballer’s Wife” with lyrics that sound a bit oddly critical towards certain types of people, but it’s not disturbing.

The downside of the album is the compactness of all the tracks. While some tracks are really outstandingly performed, it’ll always remain very compact as most of it is just intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-end. Sometimes I could use some more listeners challenge in the songs, but of course, one cannot expect that from simple pop music. Overall it’s highly recommended to fans of the genre.

Strongest tracks: “Mr Rock ‘n Roll” and “Footballer’s Wife”.
Weakest tracks: none.

Keane - Night Train [EP] (2010)

1. House Lights
2. Back in Time
3. Stop for a Minute
4. Clear Skies
5. Ishin Denshin
6. Your Love
7. Looking Back
8. My Shadow

Musical Confusion – 6,5/10

After hearing 2008’s Perfect Symmetry, I was positive about following further Keane releases and when I heard they would release a new EP entitled Night Train, I was pretty curious. The mini-album on the other hand was pretty much a letdown. I bet a lot of fans wanted to hear more of the great piano rock the guys made their mark on the music world with. But unfortunately, Keane tried very hard not to use their trademark here. The positive step: they try to renew their sound.

It’s pretty much a continuation of what we’ve heard on Perfect Symmetry’s lead single “Spiralling”. A lot of synthesizers dominate the scene combined with bombastic, sometimes beat box-like drums. Actually, most of the material on this EP sounds like recycled 80s synth pop, with a dash of Keane, mostly only to be recognized by the voice of Tom Chaplin, which saves most songs from being totally unbearable, and the trademark bombastic drums by Richard Hughes. On one particular song, keyboardist Tim Rice-Oxley even takes the lead vocals, to even take away from the song what it needed the most: a sign to make sure this is Keane. Rice-Oxley does not have a bad voice, but it sounds a bit too standard, whereas usual singer Chaplin has a very unique voice with lots of possibilities and even some similarities to early Freddie Mercury. More songs feature different vocalists as Keane chose to collaborate with other artists. Japanese pop artist Tigarah features on the abominable “Ishin Denshin”, which has the most annoying and happy chorus in the world and is not at all enjoyable in the verses, where Tigarah groans a few words in Japanese. This song of all makes it clear that Keane is just trying to find the boundaries of their can, which in itself is not bad at all.

Examples of good or at least better collaborations are those with Somali-Canadian rapper K’naan. Now, I’m not at all a fan of rap music, mostly because it’s all just some beat and some rambling about chicks. K’naan is different; on the lead single “Stop for a Minute” for example, he sings a verse which he does very well, and later he raps the bridge. His voice is not low and pimpy like most rappers, but rather high-pitched and fragile. It really fits the song, which is easily one of the best of the mini-album, not because it’s so much trademark Keane, but because it’s very catchy. The second collaboration with K’naan is “Looking Back”, but this one is not as mighty as the other. As with “Your Love”, as with “Back in Time”, as with “Clear Skies”, the song has some nice hooks here and there but in fact it’s just a piece of 80s synth pop with a modern touch to it. And this really does not attract me. Especially “Your Love” is the worst, due to synthesizer overload. The EP ends with traditional Keane style in “My Shadow”. At first it’s a ballad but later the epicness of the chorus embraces you.

So in fact this EP is not really a worthy follow-up to Perfect Symmetry, mostly because it is influenced too much by the 80s synth pop bands like Duran Duran, early Talk Talk and Ultravox. Still, Night Train contains enough to fascinate for a few listens. Afterwards, you’ll just put it in a drawer and never take it out again. Recommended only to die hard Keane fans.

Strongest tracks: “Stop for a Minute” and “My Shadow”.
Weakest tracks: “Ishin Denshin” and “Your Love”.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Summer Break

As you might have noticed not many new entries have been written in the past month. This is all due to summerbreak. You can expect new entries near late august.


Monday, 28 June 2010

Halford - The Mower [Single] (2010)

1. The Mower

What’s the fuss? – 3,5/10

There’s absolutely no reason for you to hold on to your seats. Nothing exciting has happened in the past few weeks and now we’re even starting to worship songs that are in fact ships lost at sea lead by a broken compass. And as soon as this compass tends to point north for only a few seconds we immediately convince ourselves that the Metal God is back. He is not. Only now, we are sure that he is gone for good.

This song is different from other Halford releases in terms of sound. It’s also the first time a Halford song begins with narration. When we’re done telling bedtime stories we receive an outburst of heaviness and the guitar and bass drums smoothly fire a round of bombastic heaviness. Not really original, but never seen before at Halford. Then, our beloved vocalist Rob Halford comes in. The last time he used his convincing screaming falsetto was on the Crucible record in a song like “Betrayal”. We heard him at two Priest albums and a holiday record since, and wise men have already concluded Rob Halford to be too old for this. Yet he manages to release a studio recording such as “The Mower”, this one, featuring his high screaming falsetto. Except, there’s something wrong... it’s even painfully wrong. It doesn’t go as fluent as ever before and this just seems as an obligation to the fans. The man is old, but still doesn’t want to admit it. His screams do reach his notes, with the help of some studio editing, but it truly sounds as if the man squeezed it out of himself, thus giving his last breath.

Alright, the rest of the song. Well, it pretty much doesn’t really get interesting. The bombastic salvo of guitar and bass drums continues to merge with Halford’s deathscream to the mid of the track. At that point, the song speeds up a little and lets Mike Chlasciak and Roy Z give us a one note palm-mute riff. In the meantime they sometimes play some random powerchords and Halford screams a bit maniacally and out of control. After a while the drum becomes bombastic with its tom-toms and the noise continues. Then the guitarists enter with a mediocre riff and a non-impressive guitar solo sounds through the speakers. And so it goes on a little with some variation in the drumming pattern and some more headaching screams from our has-been Metal God. Frankly, at the end it even starts to become a little cool, but that was only just a few seconds before the end, which is celebrated with a grunt from Halford?! Anyway, I guess it’s pretty clear now that the track is not really a reason to bang your head, unless you would bang it to the wall, but I assure you that deleting the single will be more helpful to the situation.

In short, this is quite a boring song that could sound impressive if you never heard Robbie Halford or metal before in your life, but for experienced listeners this should be a real letdown. If, however, the upcoming Halford IV album features inventive material in the same style, I could still be interested. But “The Mower” ain’t doin’ it for me.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Rammstein - Sehnsucht (1997)

1. Sehnsucht
2. Engel
3. Tier
4. Bestrafe Mich
5. Du Hast
6. Bück Dich
7. Spielt Mit Mir
8. Klavier
9. Alter Mann
10. Eifersucht
11. Küss Mich (Fellfrosch)

Good for what it is – 7,2/10

When it comes to commercially successful bands in the present, the metal band you’ll first think of is Rammstein. Said to be making industrial metal they strangely reach the ears of people sworn to hate metal. Rammstein really isn’t any less heavy or less noisy. It’s probably the trance influences that sail through every riff combined with the unique low German voice and a few catchy anthems that make commercial music fans think Rammstein is different from the ‘other’ metal. This band’s most successful effort would probably the notorious Sehnsucht as this record features industrial metal at its purest and Rammstein at their finest moment.

What is being done here is quite unique but is relatively annoying after a while. Trance rhythms with often the use of off-beat drums and synthesizer themes combined with a heavy cool guitar riff for the metal of it, and then we ‘sing’ with a very low voice that portrays evil itself. It’s quite ear-friendly as there are no astonishing guitar solos or shocking differences between the songs. What you hear at the first song is exactly what you hear at the last song. The trick with this album is not getting bored as the end gets nearer. Of course there are a few differences between each song, such as an epic synth-theme at the chorus of “Tier”, different tempos, different riffs, but the idea with each song is exactly the same. Just kick the hell out of a riff with a trance-like beat and silly lyrics. Sounds boring and I assure you that’s exactly what it is when you listen to it too much. But I won’t deny it could be very appealing at the first listen. It will not be helpful at all if I would describe this album track by track, as I covered most tracks already. Only “Klavier” will deviate from this formula by being a ballad.

With this being said, there’s nothing more to add. Sehnsucht is exactly this. Even when I listen to the album right now I agree with myself. In the beginning I am amused, but after song seven or so, I’m bored to death and reach for a different album by a different band. I would recommend this album to people curious about industrial metal or about the band Rammstein, but if you’re not then stay away.

Strongest tracks: “Tier” and “Du Hast”.
Weakest tracks: none.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Kayak - Letters from Utopia (2009)

1. Rhea
2. Because I...
3. Turbulence
4. Before the Angels Fell
5. Breaking the News
6. For All the Wrong Reasons
7. Under the Radar
8. Hard Work
9. Nobody Wins

1. Circles in the Sand
2. Never Was
3. Glass Bottom Boat
4. Horror in Action
5. A Whisper
6. Parallel Universe
7. Let the Record Show
8. Brothers in Rhyme
9. When the Love Has Gone
10. Letters From Utopia

Good, but could’ve been better – 7,5/10

The celebrated lineup that produced Coming Up For Air has hereby released their second and last album. This is the last album ever to feature drummer, composer and founder Pim Koopman, which makes this album quite special. A quick listen lets us conclude that the band continued in the same vein of the previous album. Yet there is one thing... it is a double album?! And there’s not even a concept... They must have a VERY good reason for doing this. Coincidentally, they stated on the site that they simply recorded too many songs. And that’s just the reason why this album is not as great as it could’ve or should’ve been.

Oh yes, there still is that heavy prog sound of deep and heavy guitars combined with the clear and fresh synthesizers. There’s a good variation of the powerful voice of Cindy Oudshoorn and the sweet voice of Edward Reekers, with the occasional entry of the somewhat hoarse voice of Rob Vunderink. Surely, the vocal performance on most of the songs is absolutely great and one of the stronger elements of Letters From Utopia. Only Edward Reekers sometimes seems to let himself go on auto-pilot, thus sounding rather uninspired at for example “Circles in the Sand”. This album mainly expands on the sound of the previous album, but this time also includes true epics and anthems such as “Before the Angels Fell” and “Nobody Wins”. Also, Pim Koopman seems on fire with his compositions as they are among the best songs. They are few, but great. The majority is written by Ton Scherpenzeel, who is responsible for some true gems, but also for the mindless filler material. It’s also good to see Edward Reekers having written his first song for Kayak. “Horror in Action” that is, and it’s got a bit of a nostalgic early 70s sound.

This album is overlong. We’ve got 19 song spread over two discs, but I can tell you it would’ve been a better idea to release one disc with a little less tracks. They could’ve used the other tracks as bonustracks or b-sides, if they wanted. Now let’s begin with the album-worthy tracks. “Rhea” opens the album with an insane synth-riff and some wah-wah guitar underneath. The verses are a real treat with cool guitarlicks by Joost Vergoossen between the words. “Because I...” is the first Koopman song you’ll meet. It’s an enchanting ballad with the heights on Reekers’ voice instantly reminding of the good ol’ 70s period. The transition from Reekers to Oudshoorn on vocals is a brilliant move. There’s the 8-or-9-minute epic “Before the Angels Fell”. All three vocalists feature here, beginning with Oudshoorn and a piano background, which soon turns into Reekers and a cheerful dragging synth-rock accompaniment. Not long after it becomes a truly symphonic masterpiece when the epic guitar melody is blown into your ears. Soon Oudshoorn comes back for some rock, and a little later Vunderink will accompany you through a fast-paced rock piece. And then it goes back to Reekers, the melody, Oudshoorn, a climax, and a sad instrumental outro. Without a doubt it’s one of the best songs Kayak released since 2003’s rock opera. “Under the Radar” sounds very nostalgic and sounds like it could’ve been released in the early 70s, just like “Horror in Action”. Other great tracks will have to be the Koopman tracks “Nobody Wins”, “Brothers in Rhyme” and “Let the Record Show”. The first two are downright epic, and the third is a pop song that just sounds very fresh.

Then the darker side of this album... I appreciate Kayak is trying to grow balls and implements more hard rock tracks on their albums, but “Turbulence” is not the way to go. It features a non-catchy synth-theme with VERY boring and hectic drums. There’re some perhaps funny things in the chorus, like the little screams by Rob Vunderink, but overall it’s just not well found. There are some good hard rock tracks on this album though, like “Hard Work” and “Glass Bottom Boat”, although they might not always fit in between the other tracks. “Circles in the Sand” is a ballad without power. That being said it mainly features Scherpenzeel on piano and synth and Reekers on the microphone; there’s no build up, which I take it, was done on purposely to let the lyrics gain a climax, but it’s the worst way ever to open a disc. “Never Was” sounds like it could’ve been epic and I guess it is a little, but it’s nothing we haven’t heard before on this 2CD. “Parallel Universe” is a power ballad with Oudshoorn on vocals, but again we’ve heard it before. We don’t want too many of the same, and that’s this album’s biggest mistake.

All in all, this is not a bad release, but it contains too many songs. Luckily, modern technology allows us to delete those tracks we don’t want to hear in any media player, thus giving us the destined but subjective tracklist of Letters From Utopia. Here down below I will put my suggestion of the tracklist. I sincerely recommend this album to Kayak fans, since it’s just another good album, really.

Strongest tracks: “Because I...”, “Before the Angels Fell” and “Nobody Wins”.
Weakest tracks: “Turbulence” and “Circles in the Sand”.

Suggested tracklist:
1. Rhea
2. Because I...
3. Under the Radar
4. Before the Angels Fell
5. Breaking the News
6. Hard Work
7. For All the Wrong Reasons
8. A Whisper
9. Glass Bottom Boat
10. Let the Record Show
11. Brothers in Rhyme
12. Letters From Utopia
13. When the Love has Gone
14. Nobody Wins

Monday, 7 June 2010

Kayak - The Anniversary Box (2008)

The Fan's Choice
1. See See the Sun
2. Lovely Luna
3. They Get to Know Me
4. Mountain Too Rough
5. If This Is Your Welcome
6. Life of Gold
7. Still My Heart Cries For You
8. Relics From a Distant Age
9. Daughter or Son
10. Phantom of the Night
11. Daphne
12. Anne
13. Lost Blue of Chartres
14. Love's Aglow

1. Frozen Flame
2. Forever
3. Icarus
4. Tradition
5. Avalon
6. The Last Battle
7. Friend of the Stars
8. When Hearts Grow Cold [live 2006]
9. Broken White
10. Cried for Love
11. Love Lies
12. Never Before
13. Dear Lover

The Anniversary Concert
1. Alienation
2. Time Stand Still
3. Man in the Cocoon
4. Merlin
5. When the Seer Looks Away
6. Niniane
7. Freezing
8. Sad State of Affairs
9. Medea
10. Behold the Firelight
11. Hold Me Forever
12. Only You and I Know
13. Where Do We Go From Here

1. Medley: Lyrics/Mammoth/See See the Sun
2. Irene
3. Close to the Fire
4. Undecided
5. Coming Up For Air
6. Celestial Science
7. Pagan's Paradise
8. Settle Down
9. The Flying Squadron
10. Act of Despair
11. Starlight Dancer
12. Chance for a Lifetime
13. Sad to Say Farewell
14. Selfmade Castle
15. Ruthless Queen

Rejoice... or perhaps not – 7,5/10

Kayak’s Anniversary Box is perhaps the most expensive Kayak item to be found in the store. As soon as I see a price tag that high, you’d want to conclude that the content of this Box must be pretty special. Well I’m here to reveal the mystery for you all... it’s not that special really. What we’ve got is a fan-assembled double compilation album and a concert from the Anniversary Tour on 2CD and DVD. That makes it five discs to enjoy or endure.

Really this Box is quite interesting, even though I might sound a little unenthusiastic towards it. It’s just not something you’ll be likely to listen to a lot. Let’s begin with the compilation album The Fan’s Choice. They were allowed to pick their favorite track from each album, and so the songs with the most votes made it to this album. It’s practically a time travel from 1973 to 2008. A true collector would already own most of these songs, but it’s good to hear them in remastered state for once. The best thing about the compilation is the inclusion of three rare tracks and one brand new song. The Japanese bonus tracks from Close to the Fire and Night Vision were included here. “Cried for Love” and “Love Lies” are from the former album, and are quite good songs with a little bit of a poppy sound, while “Never Before” from Night Vision doesn’t really fascinate me. The new track called “Dear Lover” is a very ambient power ballad with Cindy Oudshoorn on the vocals. The song is definitely worth checking out.

Then we get to the live part of the Box. The 2CD version of the Paradiso concert makes the exact same mistake as done with 2001’s Chance for a LIVEtime. They cut out all the talking in between the songs, while the DVD testifies that there in fact were conversations with the crowd. Now it’s just the new Kayak lineup playing their songs and older songs with applause in between. Perhaps it’s Eyewitness part III, you’d think if you would not have seen the DVD. The DVD gives us the full concert experience and shows perfectly how Kayak was on stage in 2008. Having been at a concert in that very tour, I can say it’s just a perfect rendition and reliving of the show I attended, which is exactly what the DVD should be all about. A shame I can’t say the same thing about the 2CD. Kayak need to understand what live albums are all about; it’s not about the songs and the applause, it’s about the ambience and the live feel of the album. Just songs and applause do not create a live atmosphere.

With possibly one of the most time spanning compilations of Kayak ever and with an excellent concert on DVD, The Anniversary Box makes a good Kayak collector’s item. I wouldn’t recommend this to the new fans though, simply because the price you could invest in this Box should go to the full-length studio albums instead.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Queen + Paul Rodgers - The Cosmos Rocks (2008)

1. Cosmos Rockin'
2. Time to Shine
3. Still Burnin'
4. Small
5. Warboys
6. We Believe
7. Call Me
8. Voodoo
9. Some Things That Glitter
10. C-lebrity
11. Through the Night
12. Say It's Not True
13. Surf's Up... School's Out!
14. Small Reprise

Ouch... – 5/10

What a big sensation was there when the two remaining Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor announced to record a full-length studio effort as Queen, albeit with a different singer. Can Paul Rodgers live up to the expectations of Queen fans, and most importantly, will the album relive or destroy the image of the legendary quartet known as Queen? No way.

That being said, The Cosmos Rocks would probably never have enjoyed as much success as it did, were it not Queen who released it, but May, Taylor and Rodgers. The Queen-level of the album might also be questioned. Does this album still qualify as Queen? Is Queen minus two members still Queen? Probably not. This album does not differ a lot from the so called ‘comebacks’ of famous old bands. As a Queen album, The Cosmos Rocks is average with almost no memorable moments, and as a stand-alone album, it’s a little better, but still nothing to write home about. Apart from that, it’s also all just loose song material on record that doesn’t complement each other. The Taylor-penned tracks are Taylor solo tracks, the May-written songs are May solo songs, and the Rodgers-composed tracks are bluesy little anthems and gimmicks that never belonged to Queen. Rodgers’ voice sounds very whiny and uninspired to me, probably because you always keep wondering what the great vocalist with the big range Freddie Mercury would’ve done with the songs. That’s one thing that’s hard to face; this is Queen + Paul Rodgers, and not Queen. Therefore, I will stop questioning the Queenness of the album, and review it as if it were a debut album by a brand new band.

The album is quite bad, but still not dreadful. The opening on the other hand is strong. “Cosmos Rockin’” is a true Taylor-penned rocker, quite reminding of a track from his latest solo album in terms of style. It’s a fast-paced and uplifting rocker carrying a lot of adrenaline along with it. Rodgers’ vocals sound quite calm and cool here and really fit the song. Second is a Paul Rodgers track “Time to Shine”, instantly setting foot on new area. It’s a bit of a slow-paced track build largely around the vocals, which lead the track. Whiny in the verses, hopeful in the chorus. May’s “Still Burnin’” sounds like written for 1992’s Back to the Light, his first solo record. A driving rock song with some glam-ish influences. It’s got a good beat to it though, but isn’t very interesting in the end. This is where the album causes mixed feelings. “Small”, written by Taylor, reminds of his 1994 album Happiness?. We’ve got here a mellow ballad with a more uplifting chorus, and of course the song’s got a positive message. Rodgers gives us a rocker with the somewhat cool “Warboys”. It’s a strong rocker with a tense drumming pattern and an active vocal performance. The last of the enjoyable tracks for a while.

Now we’re really entering a few lows. “We Believe” is a May-written ballad with another goodwill theme but some less memorable themes, though it isn’t bad, could’ve been a Queen song. Rodgers kills a possible respect for the album with his blues songs “Call Me” and “Voodoo”. The former features a very happy and uplifting ambience with some incredibly cheesy performances by our vocalist Paul Rodgers, while the latter is a true homage to boredom and annoying vocalists. Rodgers sings through his nose over a backing track where every musician is sleeping... I’m sorry; you’ve got to make a song more interesting in order to keep people’s attention and respect. After having fallen asleep during “Voodoo”, Brian May says hello with a ballad called “Some Things That Glitter”. While the track actually is pretty strong and once more could’ve been a Queen song, it still features the same sleep-inviting and annoying vocalist as the previous song. “C-lebrity” should wake us up with its strong and pounding guitar riff that reminds us somehow a very lot of... Judas Priest’s “A Touch of Evil”...?! Is Brian May stealing riffs from the Metal Gods? Aside from that, it’s a pretty obvious Roger Taylor song with a strong and present-day theme, lyrically something we would’ve seen on his solo records. “Through the Night” features more of the nose-singing boredom, and “Surf’s Up... School’s Out!” sounds like a forced attempt at trying to relive the old days where Taylor wrote these songs about youth and freedom... now he is old and matured. Imagine how that would sound. “Say It’s Not True”, another track by Taylor, is a ballad dedicated to Nelson Mandela’s AIDS foundation 46664. Lyrically it’s typically Taylor, and as a ballad it’s just another solo song. It features Taylor and May on vocals though, and even though alongside Rodgers, it finally signals you’re listening to something Queen members worked at.

Well, as you can see the album is not dreadful... but it’s just not Queen. The name of the product is not nearly as important as the quality of the product, but the name often invites us to have a peek inside the product’s packaging. I would love to hear the May- and Taylor-penned songs being sung by their writers on a solo record... I could imagine them sounding a lot more convincing. Apart from the quality everything points out that this album was not a serious effort to release something great, but only a moneymaker and a reason to continue the Queen + Paul Rodgers tour. As possible proof for this statement, take a look at Live in Ukraine’s setlist and tell me how many new songs were played.

Strongest tracks: “Cosmos Rockin’”, “Warboys” and “Say It’s Not True”.
Worst tracks: “Call Me”, “Voodoo” and “Through the Night”.