Will Preston

Albums

A haircut and a crystal meth habit later…

by on Feb.12, 2012, under Albums, Music, Review

Hair metal is the most laughed at genre in music history. Even skiffle has maintained more dignity. Whilst it’s always argued which band started what, Van Halen were often credited as the forefathers of hair metal craze. Bringing to light one of the most influential guitarists who could ever abuse his fingers, the band are an icon for frantic rock solos, athletic stage presence and enough spandex to gift wrap a whale.

Nothing says old like wearing sunglasses indoors

But 6 years into their fame, they reached their peak and demise with golden haired David lee Roth leaving the group, only to be replaced with red-obsessed rocker Sammy Hagar. Van Halen slowly descended into sounding less like the band that started it, to sounding more like the bands that copied them. The 1998 album Van Halen III was the final straw. Not even Extreme’s Gary Cherone could save the band from itself.

Like a carrot on a string to a donkey, fans were led in false hope as constant rumours of reforming with Roth filled the circles. Despite a few fleeting appearances of the Hagar line up together with the eventual exile of Michael Antony, there was still hope for the golden days of the early 80’s to return. When Diamond Dave cut off his thinning hair and Eddie’s teenage son stepped into the 4 string role, this same hope was still strong.

Back in the day

Last month saw the release of the band’s new single Tattoo, a rumoured rehash of a previously unreleased song from the bands prehistoric days. First impressions of the song was the same as any other group from 30 years ago: they’re long passed it. After the appallingly dull Final Frontier by Iron Maiden and Gun N’ Roses long overdue Chinese Democracy, nobody was really expecting another MTV-era group to pull it out the bag after storing it away for so long. The new album, A Different Kind of Truth, would need to be an effective apology for the last 2 decades.

The video didn’t help that much either. Eddie is looking just about healthy after a long bout with crystal meth, Alex Van Halen resembles the ghost of drumming future, David still clings to his cool rather well, and Wolfgang Van Halen seems overwhelmed to be there. No jumping. No crazy poses. The band is showing it’s age and making the lesson about growing old taste bitter. But the song slowly grows, providing you just listen and don’t watch. It’s a steady beat number with everything in the right place. Dave’s lyrics still feel as abstract as ever, but you slowly decrypt his nonsense behind it.

Without warning A Different Kind of Truth reaches back into it’s glory days like the last 30 years never happened. Suddenly, the hard rock sound of Fair Warning and Van Halen I jump out. She’s The Woman, You And Your Blues, and China Town provide the soundtrack to what must be retro tour of the bands early days. But one small problem lies. Once you get to the chorus of You And Your Blues, the vocal harmony reminds you of the angelic voice the band had. They almost have that, but without Anthony screaming his ultra high tones against the rest of the band, the chorus loses a vocal range that makes you feel like someone is still being missed.

Flat caps and dungarees for the older gentleman

As soon as Bullethead thunders in, this thought goes away and the bands range to break into a full fast force. From here on, the rest of the album continues its flawless routine of reuniting the bad long lost sound. Even the weirdness of some of the lesser known album tracks are relived. Towards the end of the album, the 1978 blues cover of Ice Cream Man gets its 2012 counterpart with Stay Frosty. Starting with a stripped down blues progression, the song explodes into an electrically charged rock anthem with blues beat still intact. You could almost say that this track is the band signing its name to win back your trust.

So after 10 years of water down Bon Jovi-esque pop number, with another 15 or so years of near obscurity, why have they waited for so long to bring the A material out at the end game? Has their punishment of fading away and growing old been the long overdue kick up the arse? Whatever it was, it’s a miracle. Van Halen are back.

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Dead Pinups EP

by on Oct.28, 2011, under Albums, Music, Review

Click the picture to go to the bands site

Well my large clock is yelling to me that Halloween is this weekend. If all hallows eve is going to really go off without a hitch, you need some anthemic tunes that are going to define 2011’s darkest day. The ideal melding should include the dark metal of White Zombie, the rotting rawness of misfits, and perhaps spray some right old dirty rock out of your jugular whilst you’re looking for a bandage. Which brings me to this month’s newest act, Dead Pinups.

Lurking under your bed in Portsmouth, this frightening four-piece are the must have for anyone who knows how heavy rock should sound. I was convinced I could feel the leather after a minute in. Now that is scary. Mixing the repertoire of drink and drugs with stuff that makes you jump in the dark, there is nothing stopping you waving a severed arm in the air like you just don’t care. Bouncy, swaggering and just enough riffs to bury in a mass grave against UN regulations.

Without stopping to check the speed limit, Drone Zombie bashes through the wall of the EP as the opening track. Pounding with a creeping guitar riff. Bump in the Night feels more like a mosh in the pit. This one will possess people and have them chanting the chorus back at the band like the best dressed cult ritual you’ll ever see. Turning right at Serenade Boulevarde is Dancing Tonight, a headbanging declaration of filthy love. Finishing with a stunner is Facedown, a White Zombie-inspired track with unexpected jabs of Oingo Boingo.

Dead Pinups are the only thing you need to listen to whilst wearing leather and looking cool this month. Just remember to take a shower before, and preferably after; this is dirty rock.

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Chimaira – The Age of Hell

by on Oct.05, 2011, under Albums, Music, Review

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It has been ten years since Chimaira’s first album screamed into existence and the band have just about perfected their heavy roar. The Age of Hell is the latest offering from Cleveland’s metalcore gathering and there is nothing light about this album.

On the whole, it’s a gritty and pounding affair with little call for calm. The title track bursts into the album like an epic doom anthem that draws you in. There are moments throughout of surprising guitar finesse. The track, Scapegoat, suddenly whips out a beautiful rush of Spanish guitar straight after a heavier than thou grindfest.

It’s also a pretty well produced affair, but you can tell that Chimaira have just about got their sound perfected. Not the most surprising album, but certainly not the dullest.

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The Interbeings – The Edge of Obscure

by on Sep.14, 2011, under Albums, Music, Review

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Like a supernova explosion, The Interbeing is a celestial force to be reckoned with. The debut self titled album plays like a mix between a charged up Tool and the soundtrack to the most brutal space opera epic yet to be released. Between bouts of driving hardcore metal, there’s enough synth based weirdness to keep your ears pricked up with surprise.

Opening with a quasi-prog cyberpunk intro, this band sound like the future of metal. As soon as Pulse within the Paradox launches off, it’s hard to tear yourself away. Each track keeps hitting harder and harder like a meteor shower made of lead titanium.

From the machine grinding intro to Fields of Grey to the awe inspiring doomsday cry of Swallowing White Light, there is never a dull moment. Add soaring melodies with the irregular drum patterns from Meshuggah and you have one of the finest first entries from a metal band in the last five years.

The Interbeing take you to the edge of obscure and launch you over it.

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Saul Hudson & Chums

by on Apr.27, 2010, under Albums, Music, Review

Slash

He sold his chair to buy more guitars...

He’s probably one of the only people I have ever seen who can display a lot of personality by just not talking (well, him and Clint Eastwood, but Clint still knocks you dead when he says what he needs to say). Probably more famous for his trademark (*cough* Mark Bolon *cough*) hat and hair, Slash is one of the icons of rock that pops up every time you raise a horned fist into the air. Although his new album is considered his debut solo album, I think people are forgetting about ‘Slash’s Snakepit’, his project after splitting up with ‘Guns N’ Roses’. Whilst this new affair and his snakepit was an all star project, We are now presented with a string of ‘guest’s’. Although They don’t feel like guests on Slash’s album; more the other way round. A collection of B sides and guest appearances on other peoples albums rather than a collection of Slash-heavy work.

My main issue with this album from the off is that it’s too bland. Slash has pretty much reached that ‘Eagles-esque’ level of playing dull music that isn’t bad, but isn’t great either. Technically, it’s a good effort, but then again technically ‘Nickelback’s’ back catalogue is as well. And the less said about them the better! This is the kind of album you’d play at a party with no personality; a gathering of unrelated friends – yet again, but like the album itself. What really surprises me is the cameos from people who can usually kick a bit of arse into a dull song. Ozzy Osbourne pops up and makes me want to cut my own head off rather than nod it. Talk about a ‘Suicide Solution’. eh, Ozzy? Even Iggy Pop abandons being vaguely crazy and lulls into the smooth twang that really lets the album down. Same goes for Lemmy’s appearance. But the human house plant, Andrew Stockdale of ‘Wolfmother’, gives the album some worth with his contribution (such a contribution that Slash is nowhere to be heard) with ‘By The Sword’. It deserves the radio play single treatment by far – a great song with power and melody. That , and it doesn’t drift me into an angered slumber.

There’s a cameo by, sur-ruddy-prise, Dave Grohl. I do like the man and he really has talent, but does he have to appear on every all star affair nowadays? Also, there’s Kid Rock abandoning his ‘Twat-Rap’ routine and sounding like every single contemporary rock singer for the last ten years. But he was never that good to begin with, so we’ll let him off with a caution and a £30 fine. If you’re looking to fill the space in your CD collection where a new Velvet Revolver album should be, give it a go. Just don’t expect the next ‘Guns N’ Roses’ album, expect a mayonnaise enema; bland on the whole.

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Muse – The Resistance

by on Oct.14, 2009, under Albums, Music, Review

Muse - The ResistanceI still remember the first time I saw the video for ‘Plug In Baby’ on a battered ‘Kerrang!’ VHS (pre-DVD technology, kids!) and thinking what a wonderful sound. It wasn’t long before the band known as Muse were storming the alternative music scene with their powerful mix of drama and power. After the pinnacle that was ‘Absolution’, the sky was no longer the limit. Unfortunately, the band decided to splinter into an indecisive web of pop obscurity.

Fans of Muse’s rock origins will be disappointed to know that the new album abandons the power and emotion in favour of a dull, robotic radio-friendly affair. It’s too similar to the previous albums mode of direction and decides to explore the side of that experience that would have probably have been better left jettisoned into a super-massive black hole. The album kicks off promisingly, with a nice ‘Doctor Who’ sounding space rock anthem “rebelliously” titled ‘Uprising’, but dithers with progression, with less than enough memorable tracks on offer. It’s only the closing three tracks (the ‘Exogenesis’ Trilogy) that offers the album any major saving grace with its booming orchestral sound harking back to the fabled ‘Absolution’ era.

Whilst lacking originality and power, this album is worth the one listen. Hopefully Muse will eventually go back to sneakily borrowing from Radiohead rather than shamelessly ripping off Queen.

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Lilies On Mars

by on May.15, 2009, under Albums, Music, Review

Macabre melodies. A descent into dark obscurity. Floating into uncertainty. Many things came to mind upon immersing yourself in the new and unfamiliar sound of Lilies On Mars; an experimental duo claiming, quite rightly, to be “based on another world.”

The self-titled debut album had a sense of mystery from the name alone, as if beckoning with my curiosity to become audience to the unknown and cosmic sound. A journey into madness, if you will, except far more enlightening.

“Maori Legend” opens up the album, a track with a sensation comparable to staring into an abyss so long, that not only the abyss has had a long look at you, it now has you locked in a perpetual staring contest and the only way to leave was to forfeit your sanity and plunge in. Closing my eyes as the music shrouded over my consciousness, I could almost envision the dark journey that awaited my ears.

The only aspects reminding me that I was still on Earth was the guitar laying thoughtfully in the background, right next to an Italian narrator. If you knew what she was saying, you could be one step closer to uncovering any secret messages in this CD.

Next in the journey comes the more forgiving “Passing By”. A more relaxed approach with a sound similar to that of a cyber version of Portishead. I couldn’t help but free myself to be swept by the hummable chorus and alien drum beats. But watch out for the off beat guitar in the background; it gets me every time.

By this point, I was accustomed to the authorship of the duo. Lisa Dply Masia and Marina Cristofalo come together to find new ways of musically expressing themselves, with new sounds being experimented.

The hard part about listening to this album is trying to find a similar artist to compare it to. Musically, it’s so abstract that I’m actually convinced it came from another world. Could it be? Could it be that a music act has come along which isn’t a diluted version of a band that have already been going for 20 years? Such a scary concept, if you’ll pardon the shaking.

Continuing with the album, you are spoon-fed a gallery of obscure effects that would feel in place in either an experimental perfume advert, or a stylish psychological horror film. With this analogy in mind, it’s not hard to believe that these girls created a tribute show for bizarre filmmaker, David Lynch.

After the terrifying techno trip that is “No U Turn”, the journey begins to cross calmer ground with “Insane” and “Hey, What’s Wrong? Wake Up!” The former can only be described at future jazz, whilst the latter fills the atmosphere with dream state acoustic guitar melodies and lullaby vocals. These tracks gave a nice intermission quality to the album experience; a more familiar sound to gather my mind together.

I wondered where the album could possibly turn next. Then came the comfortably Indy sound of “Electric Fits”, Sounding almost like an alien hymn to an almighty being made of physical joy and inexpensive wonder.

Bringing the focus to more folk guitar playing comes “Et Voila”. It’s not long into the song before this peaceful ancient instrument is swallowed by the modern dominating synthesisers. Surviving the onslaught, the guitar rises triumphantly, almost uninterrupted.

Planting the flag at the end of this expedition is the oddly named “x2”. A breezy epilogue to a mindful journey through sound and music itself, I felt accomplished and enlightened come the end of this track.

The album experience as a whole keeps a very concise style that never risks stepping over its creative borders. And why should it? Lilies On Mars have managed to establish a sound that is experimental to the extent of causing unseen images to drunkenly wander into your head and take your mind on a spiritual journey.

While not being the most easy album to listen to, it is still nice to be treated to a sound like this; Scary, soothing and sexy. If you’re after a new sound that’ll scare you as well as open your mind, “Lilies On Mars” are the mistresses who will make your dreams come true and real.

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Kid British – Sunny Days single

by on May.11, 2009, under Albums, Music, Review

Kid British 1You can imagine the expression of surprise and relief when I dared to insert this single into my player. From the band name and cover, featuring a dodgy looking skinhead, I thought I was in for an angry an offensive audio chav romp. Instead I was exposed to a pleasant little ditty from a new indie slash ska band from t’Manchester.

The piano intro reassures you that this is a song that’s not going to get you angry looks from your parents. What shortly follows is a simple and catchy warbling about…well…sunny days, I guess. Well not about sunny days in a normal context. “Sunny Days are rare, but I don’t care” is the message, thus making this a suitable anthem for coping with British weather. After the sing-along lower class chorus, we are “treated” to some rapping about “Beans on toast” and “Watching Countdown on TV”; the most insightful and uplifting of all subjects.

While it’s relentlessly happy and features some nice vocal harmonies, the song lacks any drive and just feels like it’s wondering slowly in one direction like a determined toddler. If you’re after an ironic anthem for the summer, stick this one on. You’ll play it for a few times before this sunny day loses its shine.

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Frost* – Tour EP

by on May.08, 2009, under Albums, Music, Review

Despite being the band the industry needs, ‘Frost*’ has passed the ever straining eye of the mainstream music industry, that tends to overlook such talent in favour of something cheap, short lived and generic. Experimental, powerful and melodic, this modern progressive rock band shows that the genre is far from being dominated by aging bearded rockers and musicians with far too much talent.

With minor success with their first album ‘Milliontown’ and a well received tour that followed, the band provided fans with this tour EP that gave a little glimpse into how the next album will sound, as well as providing some juicy bonus’s to quench the fans thirst for more. The EP is more of a secluded showcase, rather than a flowing album, with unrelated songs being slotted together in no particular order. But it still doesn’t fail to impress.

The route for this musical journey is still laid before us. First stop is the title track of the upcoming album ‘Experiments in Mass Appeal’, a seemingly calm song to start off. A metronome heartbeat, perhaps a reference to Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, starts the ball rolling down a slope that gradually expands as more instruments join in.

First we have a guitar playing a suspenseful melody, with the bass following behind before a melodic grand piano gracefully dances around the rhythm. Vocalist Jem Godfrey provides a cryptic verse, probably best left to your own interpretation: “Of all things you claim to be/The earth beneath the industry”.

An abrupt silence is interrupted yet again as the band appears to explode with sound, energy and passion that would make a burnt rock jump up in excitement and surprise. Progressing into a futuristic sounding guitar solo battling against the epic sounding band, yet another abrupt silence brings us back to the calm melodic guitar, before taking no time in revisiting the graceful, yet tragic sounding, opera that is the full power of the entire band.

After wiping the sweat from my brow, it was time for the next track; ‘Wonderland’, the other song from the upcoming album. Taking a similar approach to the previous song, the tone conveys more feelings of hope and aspiration, with a calm beginning leading gallantly into yet another powerful display of emotionally charged song writing. So far, my mouth is salivating for the release of this new album. Next we have some nice EP exclusive bonuses.

Paying tribute to one of the most well known progressive groups, ‘Frost*’ digs up and reanimates a lesser known song by the Electric Light Orchestra. ‘Here is the News’ retains the electronic sound and train-like pace of Jeff Lynne’s original, whilst adding a heavy guitar focus and an interesting variation on the chorus’s vocal harmony. This cover is a hard song to stop listening to; you’ll be making friends with the repeat function on your CD player.

Unfortunately the adrenaline runs out on the next track ‘Wedding Day’; a synthesiser driven ballad with use of annoying effect that makes you think the band recorded the song on the sunken wreck of the Titanic. Not to say it’s a totally bad song, it just seems a bit out of place after three emotionally rousing tracks. An ambient, yet dreamlike, affair that I often tend to skip in case I fall asleep.

There is nothing much to say about this track, other than it sounds like an experiment with noisy effects rather than a song, but that’s hit and miss nature of this unusual genre. To finish off this showcase is the alternate take of ‘Snowman’, a song from the first album. The previous version was carefully smudged with electronic effects that gave off a wintery feel, music to walk through a snow covered landscape with an expression of childlike wonder.

The new version abandons the bulk of the breezy background noise in favour of a cleaner sound, almost as if we are sitting indoors next to a large fire rather than enjoying the white mystery outside. A little tame and disappointing with a supposedly 3 second joke ending that makes you jump with fright. With three out of the five songs living up to the bands expectations of composing mainstream friendly experimental rock, this EP will keep you warm at night though the cold wait for the next album.

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Chris Cornell – Scream

by on Apr.27, 2009, under Albums, Music, Review

Chris Cornell ScreamWith a music career spanning two big bands over two decades, Chris Cornell is well known around the music scene, fronting the rock giants “Soundgarden” and “Audioslave”. He furthered his exposure by providing the powerful theme for the recent Bond film “Casino Royal”. Things are going to keep getting bigger and better, it would seem.

Not only were my assumptions wrong, but my hopes had been deflated and defiled, and later slapped around my tearful face a number of times. The bullet that shot down what faith I had for Cornell’s future came in the form of “Scream”; a joint misadventure with R&B star “Timbaland”. By now, you should be familiar with the robotic ditty “Part of Me”, the monotonous single. The album opens with its most well known song and gets worse from there, sowing a trail of dreary electronic boredom along its way. As hard as it is for me to express this without convulsing violently, Cornell’s voice does suit the R&B genre uncomfortably well. His bluesy grind eases the pain slightly, but can’t distract you enough from the depths of hell the music is dragging him to. Despite a couple of tracks that are average at best, the only real redeeming feature about this album is hearing Chris’s soothing vocals.

Hopefully this will just be forgettable detour rather than a future path, or perhaps the cue for “Soundgarden” to regroup. “Scream” is the musical equivalent of missing your bus on the way to work and having to walk 5 miles in heavy rain. If there is justice in the world, a black hole sun would come and wash away the pain that this album has caused.

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