MC Rut – 25 Years

Posted in Album, Reviews on June 22nd, 2009 by Alex
Seeing double

Seeing double

Like the White Stripes, California’s MC Rut (aka Middle Class Rut) make their stripped down noise as a backward leaning guitar-drum duo. However, kitch-blues revivalism this isn’t. MC Rut make pop-rock that could fill stadiums, and they make it sound BIG. There’s such a glut of obvious influences here it’s impossible to cover them all. The sound, especially the vocals, owes an obvious debt to Jane’s Addiction, although they sometimes come off sounding more like Blink 182. The music lies somewhere between BRMC and Torche – there’s indie, punk, stoner/doom, there’s a nod to robot repetition of Queens of the Stone Age and perhaps even the space-age stylings of Cave in.

If you’re starting to get the sense of a band that’s trying to please everyone, then you’re probably about right – they quote Jonny Cash, Radiohead and Sepultura as influences on their MySpace site. This EP is aimed squarly at the popular market. Sure, the vocals are shouty at times, and there’s a distinct whiff of middle-american angst here, but isn’t that what Green Day are selling bucket loads doing at the moment?

That said, trying to be popular isn’t a sin per se, especially if you manage to hold on to your respecatbility while doing it, something that MC Rut seem capable of doing.  You’ll find yourself humming along after 1 listen, and punching the air after 2. This is well crafted pop-rock of an order well in advance of most of their peers, and well worth repeated listens.

★★★★☆(4)

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The bit where the noise kicks back in

Posted in Petulance on June 21st, 2009 by Alex

It’s a well understood technique, in literature, music, movies, even politics, that if you want something to have particular impact, you precede it with something quiet, calm, inert, mundane. The classic horror scare technique is to dupe the audience into thinking that the protagonist is safe, before slamming them sadistically into new levels or terror and torment – think, in Alien when Ripley thinks she’s safe in the shuttle only to find that they alien followed her in.

Look me in my brand new eye - no thanks

"Look me in my brand new eye" - no thanks

Metal is a musical genre that uses this technique to devastating effect: there’s quiet bit (usually around two thirds of the way through the song) that lulls you into a little pocket of calm – the eye of the storm – before smashing back in, like a cricket bat to the side of the head, with the most brutal part of the track that make you mosh so hard your head snaps clean off at the neck. Bloody marvelous!

Here’s a few examples of this technique used that will make you run, face first, into a brick wall.

Rage Against the MachineKilling in the Name of (4:34 “F*ck you I won’t do what you tell me!”)

Lamb of GodContractor (2:21 “They all die!”)

AmenMayday (2:26 “Take your bible, burn it alive!”)

SlipknotEyeless (3:05 “Look me in my brand new eye!”)

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Avoid: Five Finger Death Punch

Posted in Avoid, New on June 15th, 2009 by Alex
Cringeworthy

Cringeworthy

A bunch of never-had-beens (two from some irrelevant incarnation of the mighty W.A.S.P) formed a band and thought it appropriate to call themselves Five Finger Death Punch – clearly a name chosen from Cringeworthy Band Names For Dummies. The founder member is a bloke named Zoltan Bathory which is obviously not his real name, and if he thinks that using the word ‘bathory‘ will endear him to the snobbish Black Metal fraternity then he’s got another thing coming.

Having heard some Nu-Metal in the 90′s they have set about pretending they hadn’t and have re-created Nu-Metal, which didn’t need doing. There’s some Nu-Goth influence here, and guitar solos (how very modern!) but mainly just posturing, pop-metal nonsense.

Over produced, over styled, over the hill.

http://www.last.fm/music/Five+Finger+Death+Punch/_/The+Bleeding

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Great guitar solos #2: Megadeth – Tornado of Souls

Posted in Guitarists, Old, Solos on June 14th, 2009 by Alex

Struggling to keep up with Metallica‘s creative frenzy – 3 devastatingly original and critically lauded albums – and failing to live up to former glories of the genre defining Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?, in 1990 Dave Mustaine finally managed to assemble the dream team and record the album of their career, and the first great metal album of the 90′s.

Thrash Metal - serious business

Thrash Metal - serious business

Rust in Peace is a pounding epic of fiercely technical speed metal displaying some of the best musical prowess seen in the genre. As guitar solos go, there’s many to choose from. Mustaine enlisted solo guitar prodigy Marty Friedman to great effect sparring from one guitar duel to the next. The guitar is king here – indeed, track 2, Hangar 18, is practically all guitar solo.

It is Friedman who has the finest moment on the exhilarating Tornado of Souls. Unlike many metal solos, which  often trade-in melody for technical trickery or brute force, there is beauty and subtlety here, and it is the very heart of the song. Often cited as one Friedman’s best solos, it’s probably one of the best ever recorded.

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Mastodon, O2 Islington Academy 9th June 2009

Posted in Gigs, Reviews on June 10th, 2009 by Alex

If I had to sum up my thoughts on last night’s Mastodon gig at the O2 Islington Academy in less than 5 words, they would be “It is not cool”. Allow me to elaborate.

Mastodont

Mastodon't

When Iron Maiden, touring to promote their (admittedly excellent) album A Matter of Life and Death they played the whole album, note for note, in its entirety from the beginning of the gig. That was not cool. However, in the fullness of time we forgave the Maiden their misdemeanor as, as they rightly put it, they had earned the right, after 2 and a half decades, to play their prized and critically acclaimed new album from start to finish live, should they so wish. Or to put it another way “we are Iron Maiden, and we can do what we want, so f*ck off!”. Fair enough as they did conclude the gig with some time honoured classics, but it still spoilt my enjoyment of the gig.

When The Mars Volta did the same thing, on their debut tour, celebrating their debut album, it was also not cool. But in fullness of time we learned to forgive them as, at that point it was the only material that they had ever recorded. They could have jumbled up the order a bit to make things a bit more exciting, but Deloused in the Comatorium was a concept album which threads a narrative, so playing it out of order would have seemed a little strange.  Fair enough, and the quivering afros did enhance the entertainment value somewhat.

When Metallica chose to perform their seminal album Master Of Puppets (1986) while on tour in 2008, this was cool. This album had earned its right to be performed in its entirety live. I would have killed to have seen that.

When, last night, Mastodon decided it would be appropriate to perform their (admittedly excellent) album Crack in the Skye in its entirety (I can only assume as I left half way through track 6) IT WAS NOT COOL! It still is NOT COOL. Neither band nor album had earned that right, and they had plenty of other astounding musical ditties to choose from.

You see, live music is all about spontaneity. If I want to listen to an album I can stick it on my iPod anytime and listen to it. I can even jumble up the order so I don’t know what’s coming next. I don’t need to spend 15 quid to breath in other people’s sweat and queue at the bar for overpriced beer – I just put my headphones on. Unpredictability cannot, and should not be taken for granted. Part of the mystique of the live experience hoping, nay praying that they play your most prized track, watching the clock thinking closing time is drawing uncomfortably near. Will it come as part of the encore? Will there be explosions or and extended space jam (thank you for this many times Queens of the Stone Age)?  Sculpting a set list is a different discpline than putting together an album’s running order. Knowing the setlist of AC/DC’s phenomenal gig at the O2 arena earlier this year actually detracted from my enjoyment of it, despite the fact that they always play the same stuff.

Hear me now Mastodon (or should that be Mastodon’t), it is NOT cool!

I can only thank Valient Thorr, last night’s support, for an electrifying and highly amusing performance in which the songs were in a random order and from multiple albums. Your beards are truly inspirational. Valient Thorr, that IS cool.

★½☆☆☆ (1.5)

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Stumbled upon: Anaal Nathrakh – The Final Absolution

Posted in Stumbled upon on June 7th, 2009 by Alex

Black metal, grindcore, industrial black metal, death metal? Make up your mind boys for gods sake!

Too cool for corpse pain

Too cool for corpse paint

Anaal Nathrakh generally sound mostly black metal, although don’t suffer that terrible corpse paint affliction that most black metal children do. This song is actually a little frightening, but extremely enjoyable never the less. With a foot firmly in the grind camp, there’s also an air of Rammstein here, and not a whole lot of black metal at all.

Warning, this will make your ears bleed!

http://www.last.fm/music/Anaal+Nathrakh/_/The+Final+Absolution

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Great guitar solos #1: Annihilator – Fun Palace

Posted in Guitarists, Old, Solos on June 7th, 2009 by Alex

Jeff Waters is one of the unsung heros of the Thrash era. This may be because of his silly fringe, or that despite Annihilator being responsible for some of the most technical and exhilarating music of the movement, they are also responsible for some real toss, including some very ill-advised balladry. That aside, Jeff’s guitar wizardry makes Kirk Hammett’s skills seem pedestrian and unimaginative, and Dave Mustaine’s sloppy.

Fun Palace is my favourite Annihilator song, which, un-coincidentally, contains one of my favourite guitar solos.  About 3 and quarter minutes in (just past the bit with the King Diamond style helium vocals) the song tumbles into the exhilarating build up from which the frenzied yet controlled solo bursts forth. This is more than just widdles, but a brutal and assured demonstration of pure skill and technical mastery. The fact that he can play it note perfect live is just plain irritating – Jeff you need to try harder at sucking.

Welcome to the fun palace? Bow down and worship the king!

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What’s in a name?

Posted in Petulance on June 4th, 2009 by Alex
What do you mean track 7 doesn't sound like you expected it to?

What do you mean track 7 doesn't sound like you expected it to?

I always derive a noodle of amusement when bands announce the title of their forthcoming album. Usually a couple of weeks after announcing the impending glorious advent, which came a few months after they embarked on the booze addled studio sessions. What are we to make of this tantalizing tidbit of information?

For example, Dillinger Escape Plan recently announced that the title of their new studio album to be “Option Paralysis”.  Being in the unenviable position of not having heard this audio treat, I can only speculate on what this means. Fanboys out there will cling on to this tiny slither of information using it to derive a sense of what the new album will sound like. It seems clear to me that the clue is in the title; the title of the band that is. This is TDEP – it’ll sound like a troupe of free form jazz musicians being kicked in the face. Although ever obstinate they are, it has a similar probability of being a Justin Timberlake covers album.

Something that will no doubt tantalize the metal community is the announcement that the new Slayer album will contain the word “blood”. Does this mean that it will be a return to form of the seminal Reign in Blood? Who knows, although it’s about an exiting piece of news as hearing that an Iron Maiden album has the word death in it’s title – I will actually be more surprised if the new Maiden album doesn’t!

Next on the new album continuum is the track listing. Now we can speculate on what each and every song sounds like! I think track 3 will be gothic hip-hop, while 7 is clearly a funk-doom-country fusion. It’s slightly less ridiculous than when football fans preciently assert, before the match, that the first goal will half way through the 26th minute. Well obviously! I predict that the ball will be round, there will be very few goals be scored, and that that any given track on the new Slayer album will sound like a runaway tube ride through an abattoir.

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One to watch: Xerath

Posted in New, Watchlist on June 4th, 2009 by Alex

British progressive metal upstarts Xerath aren’t so much adding something new to the scene, but merely mashing it up in a very entertaining way. Combining the metronomic brutality of Meshuggah with orchestral ambience. It’s a compelling mix, and one which conjures Faith No More at times, although it’s still more Decapitated than Dimmu Borgir.

Their debut album I is out now.

http://www.last.fm/music/Xerath/_/False+History

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Valient Thorr: Intfinite Lives

Posted in New on June 1st, 2009 by Alex
Valient Thorr

Some hairy men

How cool is it when you find a band that’s like all your favourite stuff mixed up into one tasty package? I remember someone saying that about ill-fated aussie Nirvana-meets-the-Beatles rockers The Vines. They were wrong. But they did have some good tunes (Get Free is wall nutting fun).

No-one ever told me that Valient Thorr were like all my favourite stuff mixed up (more likely they would tell me that my beard is going gray, or perhaps that I have pizza where my brain should be) but perhaps they should have done, as listening to Immortalizer makes me go all mid 80’s. It’s  a rather fashionable mix of mosh-baiting thrash, AC/DC, Thin Lizzy and Stoner. Delightful. They guys should be the biggest band in the world right?

Unfortunately, they just can’t maintain heady mix for the whole album which tends to feel like a AC/DC covers band on speed at a full listen.

Never the less, it’s unselfconsciously stupid (more Exodus than Steel Panther) and a whole lot of fun.

Infinite Lives is kicks off like Megadeth if the lightened up, then descends into Stoner anarchy.

http://www.last.fm/music/Valient+Thorr/_/Infinite+Lives

They’re supporting Mastodon in London next week, which will be much like Bon Jovi opening for Radiohead.

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