Saturday, 27 August 2016

EP Review: PROPHETS OF RAGE - The Party's Over

1. Prophets of Rage
2. The Party's Over
3. Killing in the Name (Live)
4. Shut 'em Down (Live)
5. No Sleep 'til Cleveland (Live)

This is the hotly anticipated debut release from 'super-group' Prophets of Rage. In case you've been living under a rock for the last few months, the band is basically Rage Against The Machine minus vocalist Zack de la Rocha, but instead fronted by rap legends Chuck D (Public Enemy) and B-Real (Cypress Hill), and with the addition of Public Enemy's DJ Lord too.

The EP consists of two brand new studio tracks and three live covers. The studio tracks sound exactly as I expected them to. There's been no real change of musical direction here. Both songs sound like classic Rage Against The Machine with Chuck D and B-Real on vocals. It does exactly what it says on the tin. If you were hoping for something original and innovative you're at the wrong party. Fortunately, the music on offer here is exactly what I was hoping for.

This EP is solid. The original songs are both catchy and fill the rap rock/metal void that RATM left. Having one of the finest rhythm sections in modern rock music adds real magic to this style of music, and the rappers remind the listener why they are still highly respected world class artists. The rap/metal crossover scene has been saturated by bands with dumb lyrics and questionable ideologies, so it's always nice to hear music like this coupled with intelligent lyrics and integrity. I think the appeal of this band reflects the current political climate, not just in America but the whole world. The rise of the far right, ever increasing poverty and inequality, and the feeling that the future for the next generation will be a far darker one than they deserve. The fact that someone like Donald Trump could end up being the next president of the USA should make people angry. Really angry. This band taps into that anger, and the timing of the release of this debut EP is clearly no coincidence.

After the two new songs, we have three live cover versions, a Rage Against The Machine classic, a rocked up and grooving 'Shut 'em Down' by Public Enemy, and a re-worked version of the Beastie Boys' 'No Sleep 'til Brooklyn'. All three are delivered with the energy and precision that we've come to expect from these guys. This EP reminds us that these guys aren't just on top of their game, they helped invent it. Right now, they are more relevant than ever, and I'm really looking forward to their full length debut album.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Album review: STUCK MOJO - Here Come The Infidels

  1. Here Come The Infidels
  2. Rape Whistle
  3. Charles Bronson
  4. The Business Of Hate
  5. Verbal Combat
  6. Destroyer
  7. Worst Person On Earth
  8. Fire Me
  9. I Am Legion
  10. Tamborine
  11. Blasphemy

I've been waiting for this album for a long time. Stuck Mojo was one of my favourite bands when I was a kid. I've seen them numerous times, both with Bonz fronting the band (I'm pretty sure the first time was when they supported Type O Negative on the Pigwalk tour), and with Lord Nelson (who replaced Bonz just in time to appear on 'Southern Born Killers'). My understanding is that the original lead singer Bonz and guitarist/main songwriter Rich Ward  just can't get on. They reunite. They break up..and repeat. Now it looks like the divorce is permanent. Bonz has his own band, and Rich Ward has the Stuck Mojo brand, and has presented the world with a new line-up and this album.

The acceptance of this new Stuck Mojo by lifelong fans such as myself will be their biggest hurdle. Everything they do from now will be compared to the classic line-up which was hugely influential on the rap-metal scene worldwide. How can you compete with your own legacy, when it is as historically significant as Stuck Mojo's, especially in a time where rap metal is out of fashion and constantly berated in the press? Couple that with replacing a legendary front-man with an unknown rapper who looks like he wasn't even born when the Mojo first started 'snappin' necks'.  It all sounds like a recipe for disaster. Drama and history aside, there's one thing you just can't argue with. A killer album, and that's exactly what we have here.

'Here Come The Infidels' is a pretty straight forward, no bullshit Rap-Metal album. With legendary producer Andy Sneap at the helm, there are no country covers or anything to send the album on a  tangent, just the full on Stuck Mojo sound that made me love the band in the first place. New rapper Robby J is a great fit for the band and delivers his vocals with the savage precision and vitriol that Stuck Mojo have always been known for. Frank Fontsere is still the drummer, and as expected is still a grooving powerhouse and the backbone of the band. Rich Ward is clearly still one of the best guitar players and song writers in the scene. You can hear the revitalised energy through the speakers. It's obvious that the band are having fun again, and are going at full throttle, making this the most passionate sounding Stuck Mojo album in a very long time.

The album is strong throughout and musically stands up to any other album in their back catalogue. My personal favourites are the vigilante inspired 'Charles Bronson', 'Verbal Combat', and 'Destroyer', the latter being one of the best songs they've ever released.

What I love about this record isn't just the return to the classic sound, but that it's a rebirth. Stuck Mojo deserves more than to be a nostalgia act. 'Here Come The Infidels' shows that they still have a lot to offer, and I really hope we don't have to wait several more years for a follow up.

Album review: MGT - Volumes

  1. Knowing Me Knowing You (with Ville Valo)
  2. You Can’t Go Back To Once Upon A Time (with Miles Hunt)
  3. The Reaping (with Ashton Nyte)
  4. Another Snake In The Grass (with Wayne Hussey)
  5. It Won’t Take You Long (with Miles Hunt)
  6. Star Struck Eyes (with Julianne Regan)
  7. Sweet Valentine (with Carlo Van Putten)
  8. Jesamine (Poetry & Ice) [with Ashton Nyte]
  9. Seconds (with Saffron)
  10. Another Day Back (with Miles Hunt & Erica Nockalls)
  11. Coming Clean (with Raymond Watts)
  12. Drive And Forget (with Ricky Warwick)
  13. Black Heart (with Erica Nockalls)
  14. Dark Storm (with Andi Sex Gang)

This is the first solo album from legendary guitar player 'Mark Gemini Thwaite' (AKA MGT). He has played with a number of bands over the years including The Mission, Spear of Destiny and many others as a session player. For this record, he has brought in a number of different vocalists, most of whom I'm aware he's worked with in the past, so he's clearly called in a few favours here. I really like this approach, as it gives each track a fresh sound, and the songs sit well together as a cohesive album without being too musically eclectic.

The album kicks off with a cover of ABBA's 'Knowing Me Knowing You' with HIM's Ville Valo on lead vocals. It is a masterpiece and one of the best cover versions I've ever heard. The production reminds me of 'Razorblade Romance' era HIM but even more crisp and modern. This is how I wanted the last HIM record to sound, but ended up with more of the post Venus Doom lo-fi sound which I don't think sounds as good. Who knows? Maybe MGT will produce the next HIM album? I'd love that.

The general sound running through 'Volumes' is a bit like a modern take on classic Goth, with some industrial undertones. Naturally, the familiar voices of legends such as Wayne Hussey and Andi Sex Gang work perfectly on their respective tracks. Among the other guest vocalists are Ricky Warwick from The Almighty/Black Star Riders, Miles Hunt from The Wonderstuff and Saffron from Republica. Saffron sings on a really strong cover of The Human League's 'Seconds' which is another of the album's highlights.

From this cauldron of talent and creativity, my favourite tracks are 'The Reaping' and 'Jesamine (Poetry & Ice)', both of which are sung by Ashton Nyte from The Awakening. His baritone vocal style works so well with these tracks, and along with MGT's incredible tone and delivery, make for the perfect take on classic Gothic Rock whilst keeping the songs sounding contemporary at the same time. If that was the intention, they nailed it.

To conclude, this album features outstanding performances from immensely talented artists coupled with a magnificent production. It deserves no less praise than that, and is definitely a contender for my 'Album of the Year'.

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