Monday, 25 September 2017

Album Review: REX BROWN - Smoke On This

Rex Brown - Smoke On This

01. Lone Rider
02. Crossing Lines
03. Buried Alive
04. Train Song
05. Get Yourself Alright
06. Fault Line
07. What Comes Around...
08. Grace
09. So Into You
10. Best Of Me
11. One of These Days 

Smoke On This is the debut solo album from the legendary Pantera/Down/Kill Devil Hill bass player. I saw Rex jump on stage with the appallingly bad Philip Anselmo and The Illegals at Download festival 2014 to play a cover of Pantera's A New Level, and it was truly sad. Rex could still play, but he looked skinny and gaunt, like a man on death's door. I felt a little disturbed looking at him, and I honestly thought that he wasn't long for this world. I know that's a fucked up way to start a review, but I'm really happy that three years later, I'm sitting here writing about his excellent new album as opposed to his obituary.

If you thought Smoke On This was going to be a super heavy album like something from Down or Pantera, you'll be surprised. It's more like Southern Classic Rock than brutal Metal, but with a contemporary twist. To my ears, it sounds like Soundgarden mixed with AC/DC and a twist of Black Stone Cherry, which is fine by me.

With the exception of the first Down album, this is my favourite record from any of the ex-Pantera members. It's not breaking any musical barriers, but still sounds new and interesting mainly due to the simple fact that it's full of well crafted songs, all brought to life with a 'top of the range' production. This style of music is both timeless and hugely popular, and Rex is doing it just as well as anyone else out there, including the artists that are filling stadiums worldwide.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Album Review: ARCH ENEMY - Will To Power

Arch Enemy - Will To Power

01. Set Flame To The Night
02. The Race
03. Blood In The Water
04. The World Is Yours
05. The Eagle Flies Alone
06. Reason To Believe
07. Murder Scene
08. First Day In Hell
09. Saturnine
10. Dreams Of Retribution
11. My Shadow and I
12. A Fight I Must Win
13. City Baby Attacked By Rats (Charged G.B.H. cover) [Bonus Track]

Will To Power is the second Arch Enemy studio album to feature Alissa White-Gluz on lead vocals, the first being the awesome War Eternal. I've followed the band since their debut album Black Earth came out, and I heard the song Bury Me An Angel on a compilation. Before Alissa White-Gluz joined the band, my favourite of their records was Wages Of Sin (Angela Gossow's lead vocal debut), which features the incredible track Ravenous. I enjoyed the subsequent albums, but if I'm completely honest, started to lose interest in the band a little more each time.

When War Eternal came out, it totally blew me away, and I think it was their best album to date, and totally rekindled my love for Arch Enemy. The big question was, could the follow up match it, or even surpass it?

Will To Power holds no prisoners. It's full of the brutal Thrash and technical Metal that we've come to expect from Arch Enemy, thanks to the writing talents of lead guitarist Michael Amott. However, this time, there is definitely more of a melodic Power Metal influence in the music. The World Is Yours has a grandiose chorus that reminds me of bands like Virgin Steele, except with a Death Metal vocal style, and Dreams Of Retribution brings to mind a really pissed off version of Stratovarius.

The production is very polished, and brings out the precision of the playing without compromising the crushing heaviness. I think it's the most commercial album they've done so far, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  Alissa White-Gluz has an amazing singing voice, and her clean vocals at the start of Reason To Believe showcases her ability to shine in different stylistic areas, and brings a new dimension to Arch Enemy. Some of the lyrics on the record may be a little cringey for older listeners, but I'm sure they're empowering for angry kids, for example, The Eagle Flies Alone. In fairness, that's where this album strikes gold. Not only is it a very strong Heavy Metal album, but it's guaranteed to be a 'gateway album' for teenagers, exposing the younger generation to Extreme Metal for the first time.

Will To Power may be a little too commercial sounding for older fans who prefer the band's earlier Melodic Death Metal style, but I'm sure fans of the previous record will thoroughly enjoy this one. I really enjoyed it, but I can't say if it's my favourite of theirs yet. Only time will tell.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Album Review: WINTERSUN - The Forest Seasons

Wintersun - The Forest Seasons

01. Awaken From The Dark Slumber (Spring)
02. The Forest That Weeps (Summer)
03. Eternal Darkness (Autumn)
04. Loneliness (Winter)

There's something unbelievably pretentious about releasing an album with just four songs on it. Granted, they are all really long songs, but still, this shows a total disregard for radio or television airplay, which is either a wonderful display of sticking two fingers up at the mainstream, or a record label's worst nightmare. Probably both.

Wintersun are all about being epic. That's their 'thing', and they do it very well. What's more, people love them for it. They did a crowd funding campaign to not only make this album, but to build their own recording studio, raising more money than your average third world country.

Musically, the band are highly skilled craftsmen and masters of their art. I trust that was a suitably epic description! They seamlessly blend Power Metal, Black Metal, Thrash, and Classical music, creating sonic landscapes that capture the imagination. This kind of music is an acquired taste, but if it appeals to you, Wintersun's new album is essential listening.

What is really cool is that the band have put the whole album on YouTube, so check it out!

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