Plus we review and rate the latest releases from Underoath, Marillion, Sons Of Seasons, Sonne Adam, Paradise Lost, Asking Alexandria and the fantastic Falling Red.
After what could easily be described as one of the most challenging and slightly bizarre processes to make an album, Welsh rockers The Blackout return with new release Hope. And what a return.
After a recent article in Kerrang! charted the band’s journey to making their third album, you’d have been forgiven for feeling sceptical. Any band that has to raise funds from their fans after two previous releases would normally take a long look in the mirror and call it a day. But The Blackout aren’t just any band. They’ve paid their dues and as a result have come out swinging, repaying every fan with a fantastic record.
First release from the album, Higher And Higher sees the boyos join up with Hyro Da Hero to create a rock/rap combo that unlike other tracks in that genre works well. The most polished the band sounds is on title track Hope and they could easily rival compatriots Lostprophets with songs like this.
The Blackout certainly haven’t forsaken their previous efforts and maintain some emo screamo style tracks, This Is Your Time changes the pace up a gear and gives loyal fans a glimpse of the band’s past.
Quite understandably a lot of the album is commercially more accessible than most of their back-catalogue. That’s not to say Hope isn’t heavy or the band sold out to make it big time. If anyone knows the importance of keeping their fan base happy it’s these guys.
Looking at the steeped rock alumni that come out of Wales, The Blackout come across as the most grounded or down to earth and by the time You’re Not Alone finishes you will find yourself rooting for them, the proverbial underdog, to get the recognition they deserve.
Sean Smith and Gavin Butler deliver both emotion-laden and gritty vocals that, matched by the impressive guitar work by James and Matthew Davies, create great chemistry. Hope manages to swagger from radio friendly to anthemic to angst ridden and back again. If the previous couple of albums were warning shots then this release is a headshot.
Welcome to the big time boys, you’ve earned it…. AS
rushonrock rated: 10/10 A New Hope
At a time when sleaze rock is enjoying a long overdue revival, Falling Red are at the forefront of an exciting generation of new and energetic British bands mixing the dirtiest aspects of the Sunset Strip with a punky punch and some serious attitude.
Live favourites on the thriving underground club scene, this crazy quartet possess that happy knack for penning singalong anthems steeped in the finest traditions of partying, womanising and fighting for the right to rock.
This four-track EP – times to coincide with yet another nationwide trek – features the familiar and frankly addictive live standard Ain’t Down With The Rock with its suitably foul-mouthed refrain. Perfect for rabble rousing on a Friday night it transfers seamlessly to CD and really should be played louder than your neighbours could possibly stomach.
If opener Come On Down and follow-up My Little Vice are decent enough tunes then neither compares with Ain’t Down… in terms of pure ‘smack-you-in-the-face-and-knock-you-down’ angst. But the best song here is Falling Red’s very own November Rain as they show their softer side with the fabulous The Last Kiss Goodbye.
Had this been the late 80s (and oh, how we wish it still was) then this is the tune which would have guaranteed these boys heavy MTV rotation and had the American major labels falling (pun intended) over themselves to sign the band for life. As it’s 2011 there’s a fair bet this belter of a ballad won’t get the credit it surely deserves but Falling Red is a band no self-respecting sleaze rocker should be without. SR
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Hasta Sauce
Underoath? More like underwhelmed. This is a classic case of a much-hyped metal band failing to meet the expectations of fans worldwide with a lazy and forgettable addition to a solid and often spectacular back catalogue.
Quantity has finally diluted quality where Underoath are concerned: prolific releasers of thought-provoking metalcore in the past, this mishmash of a record bears no comparision to 2008’s meaty predecessor and top 10 US album Lost In The Sound Of Separation. In fact so mundane and ordinary is the bulk of the music here that you have to look twice at the album cover just to convince yourself this is a genuine Underoath record.
Perhaps all of those line-up changes, the lack of any founding members and an incessant album-tour cycle is finally catching up with the Tampa crew. Creativity is sure to suffer given all of the above obstacles and if a decade of upheaval may well inspire songwriting it can just as easily tire and frustrate those concerned.
And that’s what Disambiguation really is. A tired and frustrated attempt at delivering the big metal standard the music world had been waiting for. Opener In Division is simply not strong enough for a band of of Underoath’s talent and reputation and you have to wait for Driftwood, five tracks in, before things step up a gear. Even then any momentum is barely maintained.
Disappointing doesn’t really sum this up. Disambiguation is a little bit worse than that. At a career crossroads, Underoath have taken a potentially fatal wrong turn. SR
rushonrock rated: 4/10 Undercooked
As anniversaries go the 16th is not normally marked by any great fanfare or celebration. But then Paradise Lost have never, ever been normal.
For those who invested in Draconian Times in way back 1995 – and helped this most cerebral of British bands gain an unlikely chart hit in the process – there is no need to be reminded that this is a very special record indeed. At a time when hair metal was on its way out and grunge ruled the world, to own this piece of metal mastery was to be part of a knowing elite for whom trends meant nothing and the music meant everything.
From the off it’s clear that Paradise Lost meant business with this sprawling epic of an album as the six-minute plus Enchantment immediately conjures images of gothic metal fantasy underpinned by a genuine emotional edge.
Throughout this diverse and deeply thought-provoking record the heavy riffs, light keyboard touches and rough-edged vocals shouldn’t work in tandem. And yet they do. It’s a heady mix of artistic bombast which proved that, five albums in, Paradise Lost had finally found their calling.
Contrast the meandering opening track with The Last Time and you get a snapshot of why the Halifax mob were ahead of their time and primed for greatness. A three-and-a-half minute burst of pure metal, it’s focused, forthright and fantastic. On Draconian Times this band felt confident enough to do anything, any way they wanted. And they did.
Extras on the Legacy Edition include demos, live tracks and, for the audiophiles out there, the full album mixed in fabulous 5.1 surround sound. Such mixes were made for bands like this. Paradise Lost always sounded good – as their trademark riffs bounce off every wall they’ve never sounded better. SR
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Sweet Sixteen
York and Vikings? Tick. York and the National Railway Museum? Tick. York and metalcore? The jury’s still out.
Asking Alexandria might well be making huge waves on the other side of the Pond with their furious, angry and, at times, ear-bleeding music but a top 200 Billboard album doesn’t always equate to quality. And breakneck pace coupled with snarling vocals doesn’t necessarily mean we’re dealing with the best British metal export since Bullet For My Valentine.
There’s something about frontman Danny Worsnop’s uncompromising and unrelenting approach which demands respect. On the other hand he’s clearly a singer learning the trade and would do well to look beyond sheer volume in the future – Asking Alexandria will only progress with a touch of variation and this record smacks of safety in some very bullish numbers. And playing safe – or sticking to the same formula – is a dangerous game indeed.
Driving force Ben Bruce clearly has the ideas, the command of the fretboard and the determination to be a big success in the music business but this much-anticipated follow-up to Stand Up And Scream is, for want of a better word, dull. And dull is not a word anyone would expect to hear when assessing Asking Alexandria. It’s time to shape up or ship out. SR
rushonrock rated: 5/10 Asking Questions
So the 2011 prize for most ridiculous album title of 2011 goes to…Sons Of Seasons. Wtf? But then the side-project of Kamelot keys puncher Oliver Palotei has wacky written all over it.
When asked to describe the follow-up to 2009’s Gods Of Vermin the band responded by saying that Magniswotsitsname is ‘not a mere continuation of [the] chosen path, but rather a bold step into unexplored musical territories’. Given that aim it’s fair to say Sons Of Seasons have achieved everything they set out to achieve.
Much of this record is jaunty melodic fare straight from the Kamelot songbook. Palotei’s ear for a power metal melody hasn’t deserted him and if Henning Basse’s vocals aren’t the best we’ve heard then at least he’s fronting the right band within the right genre.
Bubonic Waltz (yep, you read that right) is the pick of the better-than-average compositions here and it also happens to have one of the snappier titles. Given Palotei’s history it’s little wonder he chooses the grandiose over the simplistic but over-elaboration can grate when the song titles are as long as the opening verse.
It’s unlikely this record will make an impact beyond the symphonic metal world and those Kamelot fans keen to keep up with their keyboard chief’s latest work and that’s probably just as well. It’s not the worst record of its kind we’ve heard this year and yet falls some way short of challenging the very best. SR
rushonrock rated: 6/10 Seasons In The Mist
That Marillion chose to dub their 2009 acoustic tour Less Is More is something of an irony. Renowned for their love of the intricate, more has always been more where these prog-lite heroes are concerned and, unsurprisingly, Live From Cadogan Hall isn’t the stripped-down stroll through the band’s Steve Hogarth-era back catalogue you might expect.
But that is, of course, a good thing. Even given an acoustic makeover Marillion’s finest compositions take on a depth and a delight that fans of this articulate quintet have come to expect. Easter, possibly the finest of the post-Fish tunes, is energised here with Hogarth’s calm and considered vocal delivery only occasionally, yet purposefully, interrupted by instruments carefully chosen for their complementary effect.
CD Two is, by far, the better of the audio discs on offer, opening with the back-to-back brilliance of No One Can and Beautiful. The latter has always been a marvellous example of Marillion at their trend-setting best but here its lofty place at the very summit of the band’s lofty back catalogue is simply strengthened. You’ll skip back to disc two, track two time and time again. We promise.
Of course there’s an equally engaging DVD/Blu-ray version of LFCH if it’s the full audio-visual experience you’re after. But a word of warning here: listening to this acoustic-led tour-de-force inspires a dream state brought on by the magical music and the inspired ordering of a near-perfect set-list. Watching the same concert is, bizarrely, a less immersive experience as you become obsessed with the HD clarity and miss the finer musical moments. Less, as Marillion might say, is more. SR
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Hall Right Now
Sonne Adam – Transformation (Century Media)
When a band opens up with the track We Who Worship The Black you know what to expect. And it’s not a series of Steel Panther sillies or punk rock jollity. When you discover the rough Hebrew translation of Sonne Adam is ‘hate humanity’ any confusion that remains is quickly cleared up. This lot have a lot on their minds and they paint the future as bleak – on this evidence theirs is not.
Century Media took what could be seen as a brave leap of faith signing this old school death metal crew from Israel but Transformation is pretty powerful stuff. There’s a tension evident from the start and it seems this lot specialise it atmospheric, brooding metal straight from a time when this genre was feared and loathed in equal measure.
The most remarkable thing about this cracking record is that it’s Sonne Adam’s debut. It sounds like the work of a band with at least three solid albums under their belts and the end product of two decades searching for the perfect sound.
The title track is a killer. Using that old chestnut the church bell to turn the screw and up the volume, Sonne Adam ensure their name will be remembered long after the spring of 2011. It’s a name which, through the band and their self-titled anthem, threatens to resonate with black metal traditionalists and death metal’s new breed for years to come.
Vocalist Dahan does a great impression of the most blasphemous and brutal frontman on the planet and guitarist Davidov (think hot shit rather than cool water) rolls off pounding riffs like they’re going out of fashion.
Israel’s diverse and ambitious metal scene is enjoying halcyon days right now. Add Sonne Adam to your (albeit fairly slim) list of must-see Middle Eastern bands. SR
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Adam Fine Effort