Albums/EPs

EP: The Last Alive – This Is Your Escape Route

Release Date: June 30th, 2009
Label: Unsigned
Website: None available
MySpace: www.myspace.com/thelastaliveuk

Rating:

Rising like a phoenix from fallen ashes, Cheshire 5-piece The Last Alive‘s debut ‘This Is Your Escape Route’ may have a literal meaning behind the title name – escaping from past projects and chuggering onto new and better plains.

Opener ‘Asymphony’ brings you into their realm of indie/alt. rock like fusion, and though clearly doesn’t on its own stand as a proper track, the lead onto following track ‘Look Past The Bright Lights’ makes it a fitting and natural transition into what’s to follow. This is when their more ambient and post-hardcore inputs come into play; showcasing frontman Rob Scrannage‘s both melodic vocals alongside his more belted bittersweet screams and yells.

Arguably the best track on the release, the title-track, deals out everything this band has in their arsenal at great potential. Rob Scrannage‘s and back-up vocalist Stuart William‘s voices compliment one another like garlic butter and bread – except it doesn’t leave any awful after-stench. The eerie piano intro slowly draws you into an ongoing barrage of drums from George Blything and walls of distorted guitar chords, galloping onto a fiddly guitar solo which soon drops you into the depths of the song’s bridge. Rob‘s vocals change much like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, swiftly switching from the soft “I still lie awake at night / We’re not your saviours / Wearing the same suit and tie” before slamming a razor-sharp scream of “Something grabbed the air!” square in your face.

A breather is offered on a plate with ‘Shallow Breathing’, before throwing you in the shark tank one last time in closer ‘Cocaine White’. The guitar work on this effort is more at the forefront than anything else, dual-axe team Stuart Williams and Stephen Roberts work together much like Tony Blair and George Bush once did. What’s more, the repeated line “We’ve all been reduced to syringes” may make you cringe at the though of it’s meaning, but it’s more than guilty of getting stuck in your head.

The Last Alive may be known by very few across the world, heck even across the nation, but this 5-track debut most certainly shows an act planting seeds that could soon grow into something so much more. This is proof talent can be found in the most unlikely places.

Written by Zach Redrup

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ALBUM: Lady Gaga – The Fame Monster

Release Date: November 18th, 2009
Label: Interscope
Website: www.ladygaga.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/ladygaga

Rating:

Little over a year ago, the name Lady Gaga wouldn’t have rung a bell with most. You’d most likely mention how it made you think of Queen‘s ‘Radio Gaga’ or that it sounded like the name of a drag queen. Isn’t it amazing how things change? Nowadays the New York songstress, who’s as infamous for her outrageous outfits as she is her songs, is a strong household name worldwide.

Her debut effort ‘The Fame’ has sold more than 10 million copies in the UK alone, and boasts hit singles such as ‘Poker Face’ and ‘Just Dance’. So when it was announced that the Lady would re-release her album with a bonus disc featuring eight new tracks everybody went gaga, for lack of a better word. Aptly titled ‘The Fame Monster’, the record follows on from her debut and continues to tell the story about Gaga‘s growing obsession with fame and fortune.

Opening track and first single ‘Bad Romance’ is lyrically darker than previous material – a song about her relationship with the music industry whom she refers to as a lover, “I want your love, and I want your revenge / You and me could write a bad romance”. But despite the ominous tone of the track, the music is incredibly catchy. The trademark dancey beats which have made Gaga popular are still present and are infectious as ever. Tracks ‘Monster’ and ‘Dance In The Dark’ also possess menacing lyrics, Gaga sings in the latter “Silicone, saline, poison, inject me, baby I’m a free bitch”. But, once more the words are disguised behind cheery melodies – upbeat 90’s synths to be exact. Eurovision anyone?

Perhaps even more significant than these Europop-approved songs is her duet with fellow superstar Beyoncé Knowles. Together the dream team create a masterpiece of a song, ‘Telephone’, which has hit written all over it. Again, the cheesy rave synths are there – think Britney prior shaven head, but undeniably it is one of those tracks that will never get boring, regardless of how many times you hear it.

‘The Fame Monster’ is literally bursting with contagious pop tunes, every track on this record could quite easily be released as a single and receive chart-topping success. Gaga‘s creativity reaches new extremes on this effort and quite frankly her desire to always be famous is likely to be fulfilled if she continues to produce hit after hit. Everything that was on her debut album is ultimately still present on this record – poppy beats, rave synths, lyrics divulging into the world of fame and fortune. But somehow Gaga manages to make everything sound fresh, new and original.

Gaga‘s got the goods that everybody wants and having just announced that she’s already working on her next release, the hype around this fascinating lady isn’t disappearing in the forseeable future. This chick is in it for the long haul. Madonna, I suggest you start panicking.

Written by Kate Rees

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ALBUM: Lacuna Coil – Shallow Life

Release Date: April 20th, 2009
Label: Century Media
Website: www.lacunacoil.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/lacunacoil

Rating:

Lacuna Coil are one of many bands that I cannot seem to like no matter how hard I try. The Italian six-piece fit into the gothic metal genre that personally I don’t find appealing. I would love to say that upon listening to their fifth studio album ‘Shallow Life’ that I’ve been converted to the dark side, but if truth be told I haven’t. Fortunately for a band that have been making music for 15 years, they have a solid fanbase who will lap up whatever they can get.

‘Shallow Life’ is one of the most anticipated albums of 2009, mainly due to the band working with producer Don Gilmore (who’s worked with Linkin Park, Pearl Jam). The 12 tracks have clearly been thought out carefully and there’s no denying that the sextet have worked hard. Yet, considering the Italian group have been working on this album since 2007, you can’t help but feel dissatisfied with the end result.

As per usual, it’s often hard to feel that Cristina Scabbia‘s vocals fit the heavy music driving it. Her voice is suited for bigger and better things that don’t involve what Lacuna Coil holds for her. Yes I’m being a little harsh but let’s be frank here, Scabbia‘s sex appeal is the only reason the band are so popular. Andrea Ferro‘s vocals are weak to say the least, and his monotonous tone is extremely irritating. Guitarists Cristiano Migliore and Marco ‘Maus’ Biazzi are not to be overlooked, and it is fair to say that they have truly given it their all. Bassist Marco ‘Maus’ Biazzi and drummer Cristiano ‘CriZ’ Mozzati have also worked hard and it is clear to see they have matured as musicians over the years from the bands inception.

However, ‘Shallow Life’ differs a lot from previous releases and it appears that the band are moving away from their heavy roots. It’s great to experiment with your sound and all that jazz, but when it provides you with your weakest sounding album it’s probably best to stick to familiar ground. Lead single ‘Spellbound’ is the strongest melodic track on the album, so the fact it’s the first promotional push for the record is nothing but a good thing. Lacuna Coil‘s marketing team are certainly doing their job right, as this song provides a false illusion as to what the rest of the album will sound like. Another stand-out is opening track ‘Survive’. Being one of the heavier offerings on ‘Shallow Life’ it is similar in sound to old school Lacuna Coil, which proves perhaps they should take a step back and expand on that area before taking anymore steps forward.

‘Shallow Life’ will be loved by loyal fans without question, for those of you who are intrigued as to what gothic metal sounds like, you’re best off listening to something from the band’s earlier releases. Lacuna Coil have failed to bring their best to the table, and quite frankly I’ve given up hope of ever liking the music they make.

Written by Kate Rees

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ALBUM: Korn – Untitled

Release Date: July 30th, 2007
Label: EMI
Website: www.korn.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/korn

Rating:

The past few years haven’t been the best for KoRn. Co-founding guitarist Brian ‘Head’ Welch left the band for God and christianity, and drummer David Silveria left on temporary hiatus just before the recording of this album. But still, remaining members Jonathan Davis, James ‘Munky’ Shaffer, and Reginald ‘Fieldy’ Arvizu kept fighting strong, and have now released their most experimental compilation of songs to date. Now a three-piece band, KoRn release their eighth full-length studio album, ‘Untitled’.

Opening instrumental track, ‘Intro’, reveals a little taste of what’s to come during the next 45 minutes of this band’s latest work. The band throw away their common use of chugging guitar and bass riffs soaked with distortion, replacing them with something that fans wouldn’t expect to hear from them 10 years ago.

Recent single release ‘Evolution’ is another sample of KoRn‘s new experimental approach to songwriting. With some vocals providing rather haunting effects, this is one of the more catchy songs you’re going to find on ‘Untitled’. However, with that in mind, it’s also not the most powerful chorus KoRn have done to date by any means. Take a look back at previous offerings like ‘Blind’ or ‘Here To Stay’ and you’ll notice that an element of intensity is missing.

Infact, KoRn haven’t quite brought back the same level of fire and angst that existed in their earlier achievements, though they have still managed to keep their anger, low-mood lyrics and song messages in place throughout the record. ‘Kiss’ is one of the lower, more haunting, and in places more progressive offerings the band has this time around. With lyrics such as “Why can’t this hurt be through? / I’m going head on to something I know I will fail” you can stay assured that Davis still has something to moan, scream, shout, and be pissed off about.

Though KoRn don’t have that ‘smack in your face’ attitude and power in their music that they once had, the band can still plough on with their eighth offering strong and proud, which not many bands can achieve in their career. Whilst they don’t quite hit the brutal barrage of ‘Blind’, and they don’t quite achieve the work of ‘Freak On A Leash’, most KoRn fans can sleep happy with what is held in ‘Untitled’.

Written by Zach Redrup

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ALBUM: Knights Of The Abyss – Shades

Release Date: June 24th, 2008
Label: Ferret Music/Siege Of Amidia
Website: None available
MySpace: www.myspace.com/knightsoftheabyss

Rating:

With a name like Knights Of The Abyss, you know straight before you even hear a single note that this band aren’t going to be ones that sing of sunshine, lollipops, or rainbows. With recent release ‘Shades’, the band return with their second full-length studio album, offering as much chaos and carnage that you’d find in the middle of a war battlefield.

You get chucked into the deep end from the first second, being pummeled by the ferocity that this band holds. ‘Whorror Storm’ unveils the skill and talent that guitarists Cody Brechtel and Nickoli Florence have on offer, providing a harmonising short solo to reveal technicality and songwriting skills this band has. Though it wouldn’t seem a likely and compatible addition to this genre of music, ‘Shades’ has elements and sections of melodic music, such as that present in ‘Running Out Of Earthly Wealth’, offering to us brutal music with a catchy and memorable undertone.

We’re offered a short moment with ‘Feeling Faint’ for a brief pause of clarity, before we’re again launched into the metal firing range with ‘Dis Unveiled’, with haunting and graphic lyrics repeated in an unexpected chorus fashion, “Trapped in a fiery tomb / Dwelling in terrible gloom”. More melodic yet heavy and angered moments are shot across the album, such as those present within ‘Suicide Reign’, and ‘Bound By Heresy’. The closing track ‘Behold The Frigid Realm Of Div’ closes the records perfectly, again shining with unlikely yet effective melodic deathcore, polishing ‘Shades’ to an honourable and respectful end.

Though it won’t be evident to all, Knights Of The Abyss‘s take and development on melodic deathcore is one that works, and possibly one that will catch on and become more common and appreciated in a short space of time. For now, ‘Shades’ is a piece that the band should be proud of creating.

Written by Zach Redrup

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ALBUM: Killswitch Engage – Killswitch Engage

Release Date: June 30th, 2009
Label: Interscope
Website: www.killswitchengage.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/killswitchengage

Rating:

Following on from the success of previous release ‘As Daylight Dies’, American metalcore gods Killswitch Engage return with their second self titled album, and what a return it is. Christened ‘How to shit on your competition from a great height’ by one music magazine, Killswitch would have a tough job of bettering ‘As Daylight Dies’, but they manage to surpass it in many senses.

From the off you can tell this is going to be another cracking set of songs, the opening duo of ‘Never Again and first single ‘Starting Over’ are typical Killswitch all over. Not that this is a bad thing, the switching by Howard Jones from his deep growling to melodic harmonies are what set this band apart from others. They can try, but no one does it like Killswitch. ‘Reckoning’ is a stand-out track on the album; players of Madden ’10 will have heard it on the game soundtrack, although it does suffer from being heavily edited in the game due to the references to ‘God’ and so on. The album version is how it should be, nothing cut out and nothing edited, and resulting in arguably the best song on the album.

We then have the weakest offering on the album, ‘The Return’. It just sounds odd as it is the polar opposite to pretty much the entirety of the album. We know they can do the ballad-like songs, but this one just doesn’t cut it like ‘End Of Heartache’ and ‘Arms Of Sorrow’ on previous offerings. Thankfully they return to the tried-and-tested formula with ‘A Light In A Darkened World’; featuring some of the best guitar on the album and back-up vocals from Adam Dutkiewicz, it is a superb song and a definite high-point of the album.

‘I Would Do Anything’ builds up some smacks of old-school KSE; as in the times before current vocalist Howard came on the scene. ‘Save Me’, ‘Lost’ and ‘This Is Goodbye’ sound from their names that they could be yet more ballad driven songs, but thankfully they are nothing like that. Infact this very trio of songs close out what will be one of the best albums of the year in a great way.

It may not divert from the tried-and-tested KSE formula too much – granted, it has a much heavier sound to their previous offerings – but when you are a band like Killswitch Engage, there is no need for them to divert much from that. What they do is superb and no other band comes close. A fine album, despite the one weak song.

Written by Tom Donlan

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ALBUM: Ke$ha – Animal

Release Date: February 1st, 2010
Label: Sony Music
Website: www.keshasparty.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/kesha

Rating:

Everyone who’s not living under rock and their dogs are familiar with Ke$ha‘s chart-bothering hit ‘Tik Tok’, even if commonly thought to be too similar to Lady Gaga‘s ‘Just Dance’ in the chorus line. Regardless of which after featuring in other mainstream artist’s songs as a guest vocalist or in their music videos, this young American party girl finally releases her debut full-length, appropriately titled ‘Animal’.

Now if this animal was shaggy, unclean, and difficult to love then it’s perfectly inter-twinned with the record’s content. Opener ‘Your Love Is My Drug’ brings delightful bouncy electro-pop capable of filling-up even the biggest of dance floors, and most of the first half of this lazy album isn’t much different. The infectiously brain looping ‘Blah Blah Blah’, the spite spitting ‘Kiss N Tell’ and ‘Backstabber’, and of course the chart-topping ‘Tik Tok’ tick all the boxes for pop success. However, this album seems to have been crafted for a strong start and leaving lazy, bland and half-finished pickings for the end.

The more rock-driven ‘Party In A Rich Dude’s House’ is presented in a dampened demo quality which just doesn’t blend well with the rest of the album’s production, ‘Stephen’ has a cringe-worthy lyrical direction and immatureness not necessary or fitting for what potential this album could’ve had, and ‘Dinosaur’ remains a yet another wasted effort that could’ve been executed a bit better with it’s fun yet offensive message of the elderly. On their own these songs could work very well, but with their placing and quality in this record they just don’t go together, and leaves a confused and somewhat rushed feeling to what ‘Animal’ could’ve really been with a little more thought and consideration in mind.

The songs are fun and ‘Animal’ has great potential for the first few songs of electro-pop delights, subjects of partying and having a good time, but it just doesn’t cut it the way it could’ve done with a little more time put into it. Maybe that dollar in her name could’ve gone to better use.

Written by Zach Redrup

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EP: Kenan Bell – Good Day

Release Date: November 17th, 2008
Label: Cutlass Recordings
Website: www.kenanbellmusic.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/theblackkenanbell

Rating:

Just like most other genres, artists in the rap/hip-hop field have a tough time making it big too. Kenan Bell is no exception to the rule, but with his upcoming release ‘Good Day EP’, he hopes to receive plenty of what the record says on the tin.

Much like The Secret Handshake, it seems Kenan Bell wants to have his place in the alternative scene too, incorporating a lot of electronica and synth into his music, to hold the properties to make this possible. He’s quite knowlegdeable in the field aswell, with lyrics referring to rock acts like “A girl at Church, no longer she repents / She at home taking naked pictures like Pete Wentz(bassist of Fall Out Boy) from the song ‘Good Day’, and “I don’t know who’s the Daddy / Is it Joel or Benji?” (members of Good Charlotte) from ‘Celebrity’. He’s got catchy moments too, like the insatiable chorus hook of ‘Enjoy’ guaranteed to get stuck in your head for hours. Though the tracks are catchy, and at times witty and clever with the lyrics, there are moments which come across as a little tedious and unnecessary, but these flaws aren’t huge.

Not a bad effort by any means, especially for a 4-track EP, but when the time comes along for a full-length album then things need another step up. There’s no reason to say that this can’t be achieved with time though.

Written by Zach Redrup

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ALBUM: Job For A Cowboy – Ruination

Release Date: July 9th, 2009
Label: Metal Blade
Rating: 8/10

Website: www.jfacmetal.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/jobforacowboy

Job For A Cowboy profile

The death metal five-piece from Glendale, Arizona, have undergone several changes in personnel in the two years since ‘Genesis’ hit the shelves, and as such bring a different sound to the table with ‘Ruination’ and show that they have matured as a band in the time between album releases.

Many will like the fact that Davy no longer relies on pig squealing, being non-existent in this album – instead opting for a more death metal sounding vocal throughout. New drummer John Rice adds a different sound to their previous drummer, moving away from the generic death metal sound.

This is also evident in the lyrics. No longer are they about death and gore, instead JFAC adopt political lyrics – screaming about topics such as torture in the American military and human rights issues in North Korea. You may not be able to fully understand what it is Davy is on about, but reading the lyrics at the same time you can begin to appreciate the lyricist’s approach.

Album opener ‘Unfurling A Darkened Gospel’ does its job well. The fast-paced intro and power metal-esque solo in the middle make for a great start, and it’s the beginning of what is a quick paced and aggressive collection of songs. As we reach the mid-point of the album it becomes apparent that JFAC cannot do songs that are over 3 minutes long. I’m referring to ‘Regurgitated Disinformation’ and the six minute epic ‘March To Global Enslavement’. It isn’t that they disappoint, it’s just that after a certain point they seem to drag and you get a sense of déjà vu with the music and accompanying lyrics. Stick to tight, 3 minute bursts and call them “songs” then they won’t go far wrong, otherwise a loss of interest is at high risk.

Throughout the album you can tell that they have refined many things since their debut; the guitar work is better, the drumming has evolved, the vocals are much more suited to the genre, and the song structure could become a future blueprint for yet more wannabe death metal bands JFAC have managed to spawn off over the years. That being said, this album is not perfect. The songs sound far too similar to one another and there is a lack in variation – for all its good points, being repetitive never helps an album, especially if a band wants people to come back and listen to it again and again.

It’s obvious to say that death metal isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s enough in these ten songs to suggest that fans of the band and fans of the genre will love it from beginning to end. Overall it is a quality death metal album, and a vast improvement on their debut.

Written by Tom Donlan

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ALBUM: Job For A Cowboy – Genesis

Release Date: May 15th, 2007
Label: Metal Blade
Rating: 7/10

Website: www.jfacmetal.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/jobforacowboy

Job For A Cowboy profile

Job For A Cowboy are at the top of their game right now, this debut full-length is one monster of a death metal album, but what is it that make this band and this album so bloody brilliant?

‘Embedded’ is probably the most popular track from the album right now. From the word go this track delivers fast and heavy guitar riffs and drum lines that just attack the listener non-stop. With the final delivery of the brutal vocals from lead vocalist Jonny Davy, this is one track that metal heads are likely to love.

Another track to listen out for is ‘Reduced To Mere Filth’ which shows off the musically talented side of the band. Dense with squealing, fast paced and exciting guitar riffs, the track is filled to the brim with fast gut-punching drum lines, and quite literally screaming with brutal and harsh vocal work. This shows in many ways that the band have surpassed some of their earlier work.

However there are a few flaws, one being that the album only lasts just over 30 minutes. So, though what you’re hearing is constantly heavy and brutal, it only lasts for so long. The album also contains only 10 tracks, 2 of which are instrumentals, so it technically only has 8 proper tracks; past fans of this band will surely notice the removal of pig squeals and grunts which were dense in the band’s ‘Doom’ EP.

But if these flaws really don’t matter to you, and even if they do, this album is certainly worth a listen. One thing to keep in mind though – this album isn’t recommended for those who like easy listening.

Written by Zach Redrup

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