Sunday, 10 March 2013


Watching Ron and Russell Mael on one of those 70s compilation shows that BBC4 do so well I was reminded yet again what a fabulous, quirky, bonkers group Sparks were. I am old enough to remember their first appearance on Top of the Pops and how we all talked about it the next day at school.

I bought the Propaganda album when it came out, one of the first albums I owned. Now I have a whole bunch of them on CD and still play them when I'm in the mood. Apart from Propaganda, which is a fantastic album, I have a particular love for Sparks...In Outer Space. A really under-rated pop album with fun tunes and funny lyrics:

I went to Balboa Island
And laid in the sand
I may be as ugly as sin
But at least now I'm tan

Can't beat that, can you?

Sparks were also responsible for one of the great dance songs "The Number 1 Song in Heaven". Obviously, I am not a dance fan but there are about half a dozen records from the last fifty years that make me jump around like a fool, and this record is right at the top.

There are very few bands who can change genres at the drop of a hat and be brilliant in all of them, but Sparks sure could.

And still can.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Review of The Truth Is Dangerous by Reform The Resistance

So I love Opeth and Meshuggah and Machine Head and Metallica and Testament and Fear Factory and Oceansize and yadda yadda yadda. But strangely I also have a bit of a soft spot for Christian/positive thinking rock bands, too.

Weird, as I have less than no interest in religion. Maybe its the indefatigable cheeriness of a lot of these bands that appeals to me.

Anyhoo, today I've come across Reform The Resistance, a Christian three-piece who were called Justifide a few years back. I am assuming that the name change hasn't also meant an overhaul of their belief system.

I read on the web that The Truth Is Dangerous was recorded in 2010 so not sure how it has found its way to my door in the second half of 2012 but better late than never as its a reasonably strong album, featuring one song in particular that you simply must hear.

Read full review at This Is Not A Scene

Friday, 3 August 2012

Review of Silencing Machine by Nachtmystium

Another illegible band logo, another black metal band, this time Nachtmystium who, despite the name, are from the US and led by guitarist/vocalist Blake Judd.

I can't be any more specific because the band's bio neglects to mention anything useful like this. Hey ho. One of the web sites describes them as a psychedelic black metal. I'll have to leave it up to you to work out what that might mean.

First couple of tracks Dawn Over The Ruins Of Jerusalem and the title track seem to fulfill all the criteria you would want in a black metal band. They storm along in a hail of fierce growls, pounding drums and colourless guitars but are not disagreeable as such...

Read full review at This Is Not A Scene

Monday, 21 May 2012

Review of Seven Rages of Man by Blue Gillespie

This is one of the hardest reviews I've had to write, and I'm not sure quite why. I think its because this album is really tough to listen to, and its important to say that that is not because it's a bad album. On the contrary.

Blue Gillespie are an independent prog/metal band from Newport, South Wales and Seven Rages of Man is their second album. Evidently they see the character "Blue Gillespie" as a collective alter-ego who represents the hidden darker side of each of the band members.

Now, you might say that's a little pretentious, but let's put that aside for the moment and ask the important question: Is the music any good?

Oh my laws yes.

Opener Prologue - natch - introduces us to rumbling drums, strident guitars and the very forceful vocal presence of Gareth David-Lloyd...

Read full review at This Is Not A Scene

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Review of Intersections by Mekong Delta

If I were a Mekong Delta fan I'd probably hate this album.

No self-respecting fan wants a band to re-record their old songs. It smacks of desperation and a lack of ideas and is just a bad idea all round. Also, they invariably miss out a couple of your favourites and include one or two you could quite happily live without.

But as I'm not familiar with Mekong Delta, a German metal band who have been going for 25 years, I'm going to put aside my scepticism and look upon this as an excellent chance to catch up on them.

These ten tracks are taken from the band's first few albums released in the mid-80s to mid-90s period.

After my first run through the obvious thing to hit me is quite how I have never heard of them. They must have well and truly kept themselves under the radar.

Which is crazy because they are a really good band.

Having started in the 80s you'd say Mekong Delta are at heart a thrash band but there is plenty more things going on to keep your interest. The guitars are mostly furious chainsaws but on track four The Healer, for example, there is almost a Rush feel, which is unexpected and highly agreeable. Vocalist Martin LeMar is very Bruce Dickinson-like but there's no shame in sounding like one of the most prominent metal vocalists ever. I read that LeMar only joined in 2008 so I have no idea how he compares with previous vocalists.

As well as the aforementioned reference points the other band I hear at various points throughout Intersections is Voivod, one of the most interesting, intriguing and enormously under-rated bands to come out of the thrash period. I hope Mekong Delta don't mind that comparison.

Throughout the album there are great moments; moments where you go, what about that bit where...

Shades of Doom has a great solo section, Sphere Eclipse has a fantastic fast riff that refuses to lie down, and final track Prophecy is the most heavenly thrash-fest.

Ultimately this album introduces me to a band I'd never heard of - which baffles me, but I guess I can't listen to every metal band that has ever existed - and makes me want to check out all their stuff.

On those terms I'd say Intersections is mission accomplished.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Review of The Weight of Oceans by In Mourning

Last week I reviewed the most anticipated metal album of 2012. This week I have the second most anticipated: In Mourning's third album The Weight of Oceans.

The band's first two albums, The Shrouded Divine and Monolith, are both supremely accomplished pieces of work in the melodic death metal / progressive black metal field so this third album has a lot to live up to.

After the first track, called Colossus - a nice link to Meshuggah last week - I sit back in my chair to reflect.

By heck, it is phenomenal.

Everything that is marvellous about In Mourning, everything that is marvellous about metal is encapsulated in this track.

Bass and drums start, with keyboards playing a refrain that conjures up the atmosphere of the movie Blade Runner. Then a guitar comes in playing an understated melody. Things begin to build and what sounds like about eleven guitar tracks explode into life.

It is utterly magnificent.

Colossus continues to be utterly magnificent for its entire nine and a half minutes. Indeed, the final section, the last 90 seconds or so, are so beautifully, brutally, brilliant that I make this assertion:

If there is a better metal track released in the rest of 2012 I will eat my hat.

I don't have a hat. Instead, I will eat my Oceansize T-shirt and post the video of me eating it on YouTube.

Right, now I've got the rest of the album to listen to.

A Vow To Conquer The Ocean, the second track, suffers only because it comes after Colossus. Apart from that, it is another excellent seven minutes of metal. An uptempo opening thunders into a slower passage with vocalist/guitarist Tobias Netzell roaring his head off.

Track 3 From A Tidal Sleep demonstrates In Mourning's complete mastery of dynamics and of craft. Even within such a brutal musical genre songwriting is all-important and In Mourning, continuing on from their first two albums, show accomplishment to match Opeth...and no finer compliment can be paid.

Fourth track Celestial Tear is a ballad. Sure, its got some noisy guitar towards the end, but basically it's a ballad. Tobias Netzell gets to show off some clean vocals and in the process makes us realise he is one of the best metal singers around.

Convergence bursts out of the speakers, featuring more excellent guitar work from Netzell, Björn Petterson and Tim Nedergård. It almost goes without saying that Christian Netzell's drumming and Pierre Stam's bass work are also exemplary. I don't usually mention individual band members in my reviews but it feels right and proper to do so this time.

Sirens completely changes the mood and is a minute and a half of piano. To coin the most appropriate cliche, it is the calm before the storm.

Final three tracks Isle Of Solace, The Drowning Sun and Voyage Of A Wavering Mind actually sound like a band with the power of the ocean behind them. I don't want to pick apart each track. I think you should savour them as I am doing. Revel in the collective majesty of these final three tracks and then immediately go back to the start, put on Colossus, and listen to the whole album again. And again.

This is modern-day metal at its very best. In Mourning deserve to be enormous.

Actually, it sounds like they already are.

I reckon my Oceansize T-shirt is safe.