After last years shameful soap opera called Queensryche I must admit I finally lost all interest in one of my all time favorite bands. I’ve always stuck by them, even the abominable Q2K contained some good songs in my opinion, and I even thought they were on their way back. I liked their last album ‘Dedicated to Chaos’ very much. I think I was one of the few… But the fighting and spitting on stage made my vision of the ‘thinking man’s metal band’ crumble. Thanks to Spotify I did listen to Geoff Tate’s solo and FU albums I thought they where not half bad but a step back from Dedicated. And I mean songwise. You can argue about style and production, but I’m a song guy. And I really liked the songwriting on the first 6 albums (yes even Hear in the Now frontier). I think they started drifting after Chris Degarmo left. Specially in the songwriting department. Fast forward to the ‘other’ Queensryche’s self titled album. Now I didn’t have big expectations for this album due to the fact that I always thought that Tate and DeGarmo where the main songwriters of Queensryche. Now I stand corrected….
After reading some raving reviews on the net I became curious. I didn’t really care for the high pitched vocals of the new guy Tod LaTorre although they resembled old style Geoff Tate’s. But this was based only on some poor quality youtube movies of a Rising West gig. But the reviews where all raving. So I gambled a little and ordered the album….
After the intro, real QR-like with voice sound effects, the first song kicks in. It’s a fantastic song, style wise it would fit perfectly on my favorite QR album ‘Rage for Order’ . Surprisingly it’s written by other new guy, guitarplayer Parker Lundgren, and I think he listened really well to the older QR albums. The last time I saw QR live, he’d just joined and they played a lot of Rage and Warning songs and they rocked. The first thing which sprung to mind the first listen: Rockenfield is back!!! The drumming is outstanding. Where did he hide all the time!? I think his drumming was a large part of the typical QR sound of the old days and probably held back by GT for the last bunch of albums (actually starting even with ‘Empire’). Second thing: The twin solo’s are back! Loads of ’em. As are the sometimes brilliant guitar-solos. Michael Wilton’s back too!!!
The album is short (only 35 minutes or so)but sweet. No filler songs. It took a while to get used to Tod’s voice, I thought at first that he sounded a lot like a standard high pitched prog metal singer. I hear some resemblance to Ray Alder of Fates Warning and Midnight. And sometimes he actually sounds like Geoff Tate. But having said that, his hooks and melodies are outstanding. I found myself listening the album time after time (competing with Jon Oliva’s also brilliant Raise the curtain) enjoying it thoroughly and singing along with it. The songwriting is great, with hooks and good chord progressions. I missed those really from Q2K on and they’re back. And thus, together with the drumming, back is the familiar old school Queensryche sound. I now realize how much I missed that. This album is a modern version of the never released rightful successor of Rage for Order or if you want Mindcrime. There’s no doubt in my mind that this version is the real Queensryche. And this comes from a big Geoff Tate fan. But this album simply sounds way more as QR then his album. Although I would have really loved to hear his voice on this album….
I have been a fan of Mustaine & co since day one. I really like the man and the controversies he always stirs up with either his interviews or his releases. What I mostly like about him though is his ability to craft real songs. Real good songs. Whatever the style or form the respective albums are in, there are always good songs on it. I even liked Risk, which contained a couple of real good touching songs. Having said that, I didn’t really care much for the last two albums. They contained some great songs, but also, in my opinion, some filler songs. I really didn’t like the productions either. Dense with very tight and compressed drum sound. Actually I didn’t really liked the drumwork of masterdrummer Shawn Drover at all. It was too perfect. The man is like a machine. Very tight and on the mark. I’m much more a fan of the jazzy feel of the first Megadeth drummer, the late, great Gar Samuelson.
So I actually was hoping for some controversy on this album. And I got it. The reviews of the first released songs were mercilessly bad. I only heard the song ‘supercollider’ before the album release and I kinda liked it. It’s a good song. Not a heavy Megadeth song like there where all over the last two releases, but a more ‘poppy’ song like there where on Criptic writings or Euthanasia, albums I love very much. When I actually got the album I was surprised that the first song is way heavier than the title-song. And moreover, it’s also a good song with a great hook and some fantastic guitar work And drum work. Somehow the drum work all over this album seems more adventurous and less dense. The whole album’s production I like better then of the previous two. It’s somehow lighter, less dark and more open.
I must admit I was a little disappointed the first couple of spins of the disc, mainly because of the 3th and 4th song, respectively Burn and Built for War. The choruses of these two songs are, although they grow on you, at best mediocre. But the rest of the songs are really good. Nice hooks and breaks, fantastic solos and great gritty Mustaine vocals. I read in a review somewhere that the best vocals where David Draimans’ on ‘Dance in the rain’. Now I’m of the opinion that if you don’t like Mustaine’s vocals, don’t listen to Megadeth. Dave’s vocals on this album are spot on. A little more gritty and gnarly which makes them better.
All in all I really like this album. It has great songs on it. The style is a little of all previous Megadeth albums with the main focus on the more mid-tempo rock song style like on aforementioned Criptic Writings and Euthanasia, mixed with some of the heavier songs on the previous two albums. It’s typical Megadeth with a slight shift to mainstream rock. If you’re a fan, don’t believe all the bad reviews and go and buy it.
2012 has been a special year for me. Epic even. Definitely musically. There’s been a lot of brilliant releases. Lots of classics. To name but a few, Anathema, Katatonia, Van Halen, Paradise Lost, COC and RPWL released all some of their finest albums ever. Furthermore there were some fantastic new collaborations, like Storm Corrosion and flying Colors, and new discoveries, like Pigeon Toe and Crippled Black Phoenix. But one album I seem to revisit more then the others, even now, almost a year later. And thats Baroness’s epic Yellow/Green. Every day on my way to the gym I rode my bicycle listening to it and I never got bored with it. I read reviews saying it was a big step away from their previous efforts, but brilliantly the first song worked as kind of a bridge for me. A bridge between the old work and this album. The fantastic and moody ‘Take my bones away’ still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. After that the album gets more experimental every song a step as it seems. The ‘second’ album is therefore very different from anything the band has ever produced. And less harsh. Specially the vocals. Speaking of which, the vocals are brilliant all the way through the album. Melodic, moody and full of emotion. This a big step ahead. The songs are all very melodic full with hooks and smart breaks and rhythms. Overall the instrumental playing is brilliant, the guitar and drums work very well together. But most important, there’s a soul in it. It gets to you. It stays with you. I still find myself sometimes singing ‘Take my bones’ in my head. The album became a friend. A companion through a beautiful but sometimes still difficult year. It takes a special album to become that. There’s only a few in my vast collection. And this one’s definitely one. So every music lover, be it rocker, metalhead or proggy, or even popfans, have to get this album. Its fantastic. Album of the decade for me!
Actually my wife started out as the biggest Anouk fan in our house. Anouk is a dutch singer/songwriter/rockbitch and infant terrible of the dutch music scene. And she’s absolutely brilliant. The first couple of albums she released were nice, contained some really good songs, but were not really my cup of tea. A kind of poprock with lots of hooks, recorded by really good studio musicians with fantastic vocals. But it lacked something. It sounded perhaps too perfect. But the last two albums, ‘For bitter or worse’ and ‘To get her together’, both produced by Tore Johansson with Martin Gjerstad, I liked better. They were different, more ‘soulful’ and the songs stood out more. I really enjoyed those albums, although they were not very ‘rock’.
And now there is Sad Singalong Songs. I had read somewhere it would be a dark and somber album and it is. I had heard a couple of snippets of the song ‘birds’ with which Anouk would attend the Eurovision song contest. No I don’t understand contests in combination with music, I think it’s all a matter of taste, and I certainly never liked or followed the ESC, but this song I really liked and like. And guess what? It’s not even the best song on the album. But the rest of the album is certainly in the same vain. Dark, moody, pastoral, symfonic, elegant and strange. There almost no drums. There’s orchestra and choirs, and there’s Anouk voice. Singing about heartbreak and pain. And you can feel her pain. It’s brutal. I found myself a couple of times with tears in my eyes while listening to the album. Anouk’s voice never sounded better, never sounded more soulful. And never so full of pain. As said, it’s a dark album, but it’s also quirky and interesting. And not depressing. It’s different. And I love it.
In the early eighties, as a young teenage heavy metal kid I was very much into the NWOBHM… Bands like Iron Maiden, Raven, Savage rocked my world. One of the most mysterious bands at the time for us was the aptly called band Satan. Now this was before black metal. This was just before Thrash metal (actually Kill em all and Show no Mercy where released later that year… the buzz was already there..). The name suggested kinship to the at the time very popular Venom but the music was way more melodic and in the league of Iron Maiden and such. I bought the album firstly because I liked the album sleeve very much. I kinda figured (and still do a little) that if a band was creative enough to choose a good interesting cover they must be good and creative and interesting. And they were. The album was fantastic. The music creative, exciting, loud fast and melodic and they had a quirky singer. I saw the band live later in my hometown after they were renamed Blind Fury. They released some more albums as Satan with yet another singer (called Michael Jackson..) which I really didn’t like.
Now fast forward to 2013. They’re back. When I first saw the cover of their comeback album ‘Life Sentence’ I had a feeling this was gonna sound old school. And it does. In a good way. The music sounds as if it was their second album. The same fast pace, the same melodic quirkiness, the same singer. Only the sound is way better. I really like the production. It’s crisp, you can hear the instruments very well and you can actually hear the singer and that he’s really good. Very melodic and with lots of feel. He actually is, together with the guitarplayers though, responsible for the recognizable Satan sound. The songs are well written and the guitarwork is fantastic. What I really like about a lot of the NWOBHM bands is that the guitar-players are not only good soloists but also the riff work is creative. I’m kinda missing that in a lot of nowadays metal. Interesting and odd cords, twinwork and strange, interesting rhythmic changes. All that is on this record in abundance. It makes this album a real pleasure to listen to. Nostalgic but still contemporary. Fine album. It’s good they’re back.
So it has been decided. In my head. The best King Crimson album for me is Red. I just ordered the 3 KC studio albums with John Wetton on it. So now I’m allowed (once again in my head) to listen to them extensively. The first ever KC album I bought was the Nightwatch, a recording of the concert in the Amsterdam concertgebouw, of which many pieces where used for the ‘Starless and Bibleblack’ album. So I was familiar with the style when I first listened to this album. John Wetton has been a hero of me for quiet a long time, ever since I first heard the ‘Night after Night’ album of UK. But here on this very album he’s at his best. The bass-playing is magnificent. It’s eerie, heavy, distorted, mysterious, tight, and loud. Together with drum-master Bill Bruford he leads the band through the songs. Fearless. Ferocious. And then the voice. He’s got a strong, melodic and warm voice and he fills the songs with beautiful, memorable melodies and hooks. Fallen Angels, sort of a ballad, must be the most beautiful song ever recorded by Crim. Or maybe Starless. It’s a draw I think. They’re both stunning songs. Touching, melancholic, beautiful. Then there is ‘one more red nightmare’, a haunting song, again with fantastic vocals. And the strange and eerie electronic percussive sound*, which at first I found anoying, later intriging and now quiet brilliant. Especially when in mingles with the guitar soli of Fripp and later the sax. What a fantastic and adventurous song. The opener, Red, is a typical Crimsonian intrumental song, haunting, heavy and beautiful. Providence is a strange sounding intro for Starless. It reminded me a little bit of UmmaGumma. Eery, mysterious, clearly improvised.
So it’s been decided. Best album of one of the most brilliant bands ever.
*I recently found out that the sound was a ‘scrapped’ cymbal Bill found in the thrash of the studio, left there by the previous band, all bend and crooked.
In my quest to the secret of King Crimson I found out that I hadn’t have anything of the first incarnation of this band. The one it all started with. Now being an avid reader of Fripps online diary I know he finds the live shows of KC much more important then the studio work. And since I started getting to know all illustrious forms of this band with live albums this boxed set was the one to buy for me. Now I only listened to the first disk and I must say that, apart from the soundquality, I was positively surprised about how good this band was live. I actually already knew some of these songs from other bands or other KC editions. But these recordings prove to be far superior to them. This first KC contained already everything I like about KC in later versions of the band. It’s a dangerous, ominous, wild beast. And by listening to these recordings I understand why this band had such an impact at the time. It’s free jazz packed in rock and some classic music, dressed up as a wild dark technical heavy metal band, way before that music style even became invented. The first song on this first disc, the famous or infamous ’21st century schizoid man’ is of poor sound quality as is mentioned in the liner notes. The soundboard recording of this song got lost and this is a bootleg recording. But once used to the sound you can actually hear a band on fire. Fascinating stuff going on here. The second song and onward the sound quality improves and is this disc one fascinating trip. tbc
In ’88 my new girlfriend at that time gave me a tape with Deep Purple’s ‘House of the Blue light’ on it. Being heavily in love with the girl I played the tape to death. I loved the fact that a girlfriend gave me music. I even more loved the fact that she gave me heavy music. And so I loved the music. I still love that album. It introduced me to Deep Purple and I still regard that album, even though it’s considered one of their worst albums, as one of their best. Together with Purpendicular. And now a third favorite has entered their ranks: Now What?!
Now What?! It sounds fresh. It still sounds like Rapture of the Deep, you can hear it’s the same band, but it has a little more. Although I really liked Rapture, Now What?! sounds way better to me. It has more ‘soul’ perhaps, more vibe. The songs are great, and the playing superb. And it sounds like they’re where actually having a lot of fun playing. That might have something to do with the producer, the famed Bob Ezrin. The production is immaculate and the songs are fantastic. And there’s a lot of Don Airey on it. It actually has a lot of ‘music’ on it. Improvisation even. It sounds like the band was struck by creativity and where unleashed in the studio, brilliantly captured by Ezrin. This might have something to do with the death of John Lord, which happened while the band was recording, or the good spirits the band are in right now or a combination of the two. Anyway I’m really enjoying this new Deep Purple album and having it in heavy rotation for the last three weeks. Like I said, it sounds like Deep Purple, era Morse/Airey, but it has just more. Great album!!
Motorpsycho I always considered a modern day equivalent of King Crimson. Without sounding anything like them though. They both however have explored lots of different styles over the years, with lots of improvisations and always of high quality. This new album therefor sounds nothing like the last one, the monster double album “The Death Defying Unicorn”, a jazz/postrock equivalent of a rock-opera, a collaboration with keyboardist Ståle Storløkken. This album sounds more loose, more catchy and more rock. Be it jazzrock, metal sometimes. The album consist of 5 songs, of which one, the brilliant Ratcatcher is more then 17 minutes long.
The album starts with a threatening and heavy metalriff, which resolves in a catchy, harmony sung, stoner song for about seven minutes before changing into a largely improvised jazzrock song. The following song, August, starts also with a sinister guitar part, but this one changes in a interestingly played popsong. Both other short songs are poppy, jazzy rocksongs with interesting guitarparts (with guest guitar player Reine Fiske), breaks and hooks. The last song particularly made me think several times of pre-darkside Pink Floyd. Altogether very pleasurable listening experiences. The main part of the album however is the 17.10 minute long Ratcatcher. Again a very sinister beginning with bass and guitar quietly intermingeling until the real start of the song. Complicated rhythm, fast pace and an almost hysterical vocal part. After the first refrain (Ratcatcher) the rhythm and pace stay the same but much more quiet. And then the improvising (i think) begins. The two guitar players mingle, play off eachother, together, alone and in unison, all brilliantly hold together by the ryhtm section. Especially the drum work is phenomenal. After about 7 minutes the intensity shifts to heavy, then back to medium and heavy again. At about 11 minutes the vocals come back, even more intense then the first verse, while the guitar onslaught goes on. After the refrain (Ratcatcher!!) the intensity slows down again and the song comes almost to a halt at 13 minutes after which the guitar solo’s quietly go on, now joined by the bassplayer. Brilliantly played. This is how I like my music. Exciting stuff. Fantastic album by a fantastic band.
King Crimson is not a band. It’s a beast. A wild, unpredictable, angry, sometimes sweet monster. A beast pulling the chains of conformity, of predictability and conventions. Swallowing rules, tonality, harmonics and band members along its long history of music-world domination. Starting with the unbelievable ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’, an astounding album, still sounding modern after all this years even with the relentless use of the mellotron, to the recently released ‘a Scarcity of miracles’, not a ‘real’ King Crimson release, but a ‘ProjecKt’. The ProjecKts will be the topic of another blog so I just want to mention that I believe the ProjecKts are as much King Crimson as ‘Islands’ or ‘Red’.
In 1994 KC re-appeared for the third time. This time in the so-called, famed, double trio formation. With veteran Robert Fripp at the helm, alongside Adrian Belew, two drummers (Bill Bruford and Pat Mastelotti) and two bass/stick-players (Trey Gunn and Tony Levin). This rather brilliant formation released only one studio album at the time, but did extensive touring. Two live concerts (or at least large pieces of it) are on this oddly named album. Another odd thing, the first disc is recorded about a year later then the second disc (apart from the last song), and much more furious.
cd1: Live in Mexico City, Mexico, 2-4 August 1996: It starts with two brilliant instrumentals. The first one furious quirky, sometimes atonal,with Fripps structual playing as basis, two drummers banging away, feeding off eachother and a heavy heavy bass at the bottum end. The second one, a little less furious at the beginning, with a downward moving chord progression and some strange entangled guitar lines. And from then on it’s a rollercoaster ride of unconventional, furious, mysterious, unconventional KC music. The players feed off eachother which makes the songs and especially the improvisations, improvs called in KC language, intense, fierce and brilliantly played.
cd2: And then on to the second cd, as said, recorded about a year earlier. This one is a lot more accessible. Beginning with a short drums-only intro, this disk is filled with more melodic songs off the previous incarnation of KC. Thela Hun Ginjeed, Frame by Frame, People and One time are all melodic songs with, although filled with lots of quirky and exciting instrumental parts, a main roll for Adrian Belew and his lyrics. These songs though are build up on a basis of strange structural guitar parts of Fripp, sometimes doubled or tripled by Belew and (probably) Gunn, with fat, sometimes allmost funky basslines. But all with melodic and pretty straightforward vocals. Indiscipline is doubled basslines (with guitar and stick?), strange, fierce and beautiful drumparts which turn in a real heavy textbook KC parts with atonal guitarwork after which the basspart return with narration by Belew. The rest of this fantastic disc is alternating instrumentals, sometimes almost ambient, sometimes real heavy (THRAK), with songs like Three of a Perfect pair and Walking on Air. And even a cover (Free as a Bird).
This album pulled me headfirst back into the strange, haunting and beautiful world of KC. I was already a big fan of the mk.3 line up (with Wetton) but this album and particularly disc two got me hooked on the Adrian Belew era of KC. I already owned the ‘Absent lovers’ disk but it somehow didn’t click with me at the time (too strange and atonal maybe?). Revisiting it after getting into the Vrooom vrooom disk I really really loved it. More extreme maybe then VV (disk 2) but equally compelling. After VV I ordered Heavy Construcktion of the Construcktion of Light tour and revisited Electric. And I loved them both. Actually ever since I bought VV I’m really into all KC era’s and consider it one of my favourite bands and even one of the most brilliant and inventive so called ‘prog’ bands to have come out of the early seventies. And the eighties. And the nineties. And the 2000’s……