Music Banter

Go Back   Music Banter > The MB Reader > Album Reviews
Register Blogging Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read
Welcome to Music Banter Forum! Make sure to register - it's free and very quick! You have to register before you can post and participate in our discussions with over 70,000 other registered members. After you create your free account, you will be able to customize many options, you will have the full access to over 1,100,000 posts.

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 10-02-2021, 10:35 AM   #11 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 24,099
Default

So what's the verdict? Well I'll get to that in just a moment. But first I'd like to reiterate what I said above in the actual review, and that is that I don't hear anything here that could have ended up on The Division Bell, other than maybe the closer. For me, this sounds more like unused material from everything from Dark Side of the Moon to The Wall. I find it hard to believe that in 1994, working on what was to be their final proper album, Gilmour, Wright and Mason were thinking about and writing in the style of music they had produced two decades earlier. Far from making me want to revisit The Division Bell, it's more Wish You Were Here that's playing in my mind, and that album I want to listen to now. Famed as the band who put the experiment in musical experimentation, it seems unlikely they would still be stuck in that old seventies groove. But the music here mostly reflects that, to me anyway. If someone had given me this on disc, told me it was unused material from a session for an album and asked me to guess which album, I'd be going for Wish You Were Here with maybe Dark Side as a possibility. I would never in a million years have guessed it was from the recording sessions for The Division Bell.

The music is really great, but with Pink Floyd really great is not good enough, and given that this is to be their final album, I think they really shortchanged the fans here. If they wanted to put out one more record before disappearing “far away, across the field”, then they should, in my opinion, have written something totally new, something that would stand to them and that would have made a fitting tribute and end to their over forty years in the music business. Pink Floyd almost single-handedly invented the idea of crossing from psychedelic to progressive rock, and for them to bring the curtain down in such a, well, uninspiring way is a real disappointment.

Of course, I had to some degree made up my mind about this album before listening to it: the idea of “a load of stuff that wasn't used now being put out” did not sit well with me, and it felt like the remaining members of Floyd were scraping the bottom of the barrel and slapping it on a disc, hoping to sell it rather than throw it out. To be fair, had they done this and then offered the album for download totally free, that might not have been so bad - we have these tracks, we didn't think they were that good but you might like them so here you go - but they expect people to pay for these, and in fact there are two versions of the album, a deluxe one with two extra tracks plus bonus videos, which no doubt costs more. So to again return to Dark Side, they're giving none away.

But I must say I do like the music. It does wander and meander, somewhat like the river in the title, and ideas seem to be half-formed, in some cases just getting going when they're over, in others more or less staggering along, kind of lost and unable to find their way back. Some of it certainly deserves the title of the ninth track, “On Noodle Street”, as it is pointless jamming and experimenting. It's almost, in some ways, like the tuneup before the show, except that this is the show! But some of the music is really good, just a pity it doesn't go anywhere. I see why Gilmour says it needs to be listened to in one sitting though.

He says this is the last Floyd album, that there'll be no more. Well that's no surprise. With the passing of Richard Wright and the Satan-skating-to-work possibility of Waters ever rejoining, another Pink Floyd album is about as likely as a new Beatles one. Which is why the news that there was a new one was initially greeted with much skepticism, then excitement, then disappointment when we learned what the “new” album consisted of. It is I feel a little harsh of Gilmour (and let's be honest: Floyd has been Gilmour for quite a while now) to end his career on this somewhat sour and commercial note. For a band who struggled to make it, then became bigger than most other bands and passed into music history, it's a sad end I feel and something of a middle finger to the fans. I thought Roger Waters was the one who had contempt for his followers?

In the end though, what I write here will not change your opinion. If you like The Endless River then you'll like it and if you hate it you'll hate it. Me? I think it's okay; certainly has its moments but they're a little too far spaced out among the wide variety of tracks here to make any real impact on me. As an album, and purely taking it on track numbers, it's good value at eighteen tracks, though the whole thing only clocks in at a total of just over fifty-five minutes. For a double album that's pretty short, and for an album that rings down the curtain on forty-five years of music it's hardly inspiring.

It's even hard to see this as a Pink Floyd album, as much of the time it really does not sound like them. Floyd had instrumental tracks sure, but they were never what anyone would call ambient: their instrumentals had a hard, bitter edge. Think “Any Colour You Like”, “Marooned” or even the instrumental majority of “Shine On.” There's an anger there, a sense of frustration, of loss and of exasperation. I don't hear that here. It sounds more like Floyd have settled nicely into their retirement and are content to sit back and watch the grass grow, happy that there are no lunatics on it anymore.

This could have been so much more. But for what it is, I have to give them credit. It is very good. Mostly. But they're kind of standing on the shoulders of giants, even if those giants are their own previous albums, and you wonder what would have happened had they not had that elevation? Perhaps they might have faded away, slowly losing relevance in a world that contains too many kids now who ask “Pink who?” Still, they would have retained some of their integrity, I feel. Many people slated The Division Bell, but I enjoyed it, and I think it could have been the proper swan song for Floyd.

But I suppose the important thing for Gilmour and Mason is that The Endless River will supply them with an endless amount of retirement money, and serve to finance their solo careers, or whatever they choose to do in a post-Floyd world. I don't begrudge them their retirement, I just wish they could have bowed out more gracefully, instead of kow-towing to the corporate shills and leaving us with a rather unsettling line from Dark Side to perhaps encompass their feelings towards their fans as they wave goodbye from the tinted windows of their private jet:

“I'm all right Jack, keep your hands off my stack!”

Bon voyage, boys. May the endless river help you to forget when you used to swim against the tide, and not go with the flow.

What would Syd think of it all, I wonder? Or, to paraphrase another progressive rock icon, Van der Graaf Generator, whatever would Roger have said?
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-02-2021, 10:54 AM   #12 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 24,099
Default

Originally posted in The Playlist of Life, December 2 2014

Krill --- Plankton's Odyssey --- 2013


When I was asked to review this album by Plankton a few different emotions charged through my brain. First was of course pride and a sense of honour, that he would select me of all the many journal writers and reviewers here to undertake this task. Hard on its heels though was doubt and worry: what if the album turned out to be - um, how can I say this without offending? - crap? How would I then be able to tell him - and my readership - that I didn't like his work? Then that worry expanded to encompass fear that, assuming the album was good, I would be able to review it both dispassionately and yet afford it the praise it deserved. So you can see it was no small undertaking, and despite my attempts to convince myself that I would just approach the review as I would any other, that was not likely to happen in reality. If you're critiquing a friend's work then you of necessity feel under more pressure, both to review it fairly and not to gush overly in a way that both becomes sycophantic and strips the review of all its meaning, including its sense of impartiality.

For any who don't know, Plankton is one of our own. He's been a member here for a while now and is generally regarded as a nice guy with a lot to say, and is indeed praised for his music in the subforums dealing with members' contributions, which I must admit I have never frequented. This is not his first album, but the one he's looking on I believe as his debut for public consumption, and for a first effort I have to say I'm more than impressed. I actually faced two major problems agreeing to review this: one was that it was the album of a friend, someone I know and respect, so I wanted to make sure I did it justice in the writeup. The other, something I only realised when I began playing it, is that it is an instrumental guitar album, and if you read my review of Neal Schon's The Calling last year you'll see I have little time for those sort of albums. In short, they usually bore me. Conversely though, I thoroughly enjoyed Buckethead's Electric Sea, so perhaps there was hope.

At any rate, I have now listened to it well over twenty times and feel qualified, as far as I can be, to set down my thoughts on it. I've consulted with Plankton for some pertinent information, and will drop that into the review as I go, but for now let's get to the meat of the matter, the lifeblood of any album, its raison d'etre. Yeah: the music.

I should also point out that I am not a guitarist and know little of the instrument beyond the basics, so I can't tell you when he's using a flange bar (if such a thing exists), a tremelo or capo, and I can't identify when he's using effects pedals or what they are. What I can tell you is that everything you hear here is his own work, played and written by him, arranged and produced solely by him. Oh, with one exception, which I'll come to in due course. He tells me he worked on a track a week, every Monday from the time he got home to whatever time he got to bed, and that the album was conceived and recorded this way in about nine months - should I say born? Plankton has thirty years' experience playing guitar and it certainly shows here. From what he's told me he's almost completely self-taught, which is another plus to add to the many he already has racked up.

We open on the oddly-named (and it's not the only one!) "Flustraxion", which right from the off has an early Iron Maiden feel to me, like something off Killers or Number of the Beast, with a sense of acoustic guitar under a squealing electric, then it kicks up with heavy, machinegun drumming and the tempo rises as the track comes fully to life, the guitar wailing histrionically through the piece, with another one growling and snorting in the background. The similarities to Maiden continue, and I'm sure Dave Murray or Adrian Smith would be proud. It's a short track, just over two and a half minutes long, and ends as it began, with a laidback acoustic-sounding outro, taking us into "Waiting Impatiently", which has a nice Gilmour touch to it, quite relaxed with a much slower, more measured drumbeat driving the rhythm. The guitar is kind of ringing, bit like the sound you get on the Police's "Walking On the Moon", that sort of thing. There are also little flickers of folk running through it, with a superb little fluid solo about halfway through before it suddenly kicks up a whole gear and breaks out into a real heavy rock tune, with some fine shredding alongside the now churning second guitar.

This is the first (though certainly not last) time we hear Plankton break loose and show how his feet are truly on the path to rock god stardom. The song fades out then ends on a downward slope and we're into "Shoveled". Now, here I'm afraid I must sound a note of discontent. The idea in the song is fine, but somehow the execution, for me anyway, doesn't work. There's nothing wrong with Plankton's guitar work; that's as powerful and expert as anything you'll find on this album. But he's chosen to play over a recording of a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, and it just jars for me. It's the only vocal you'll hear on the album, but even at that every time I hear this I keep mentally trying to shut out the great man's voice and concentrate on the music. To be honest, idiot that I am, the first ever time I heard this I wasn't listening too closely, and did not know that it was a one-man show, and I thought "Whoever is singing there hasn't got a great voice", or, alternatively, "If that's Plankton then I hope he's not singing on any more!" Sad I know, but that's what I thought. Having consulted the author of this work, I was set straight and it makes sense. But even then, I reluctantly have to admit that there is one song on the album I don't really like, and this is it.

Of course, if you concentrate on the music you'll realise it is great: a thick, angry guitar is overlaid with another howling at a higher octave, with some fine shredding adding more rage and unrest to the piece. I find it hard to believe though that that is not keyboard in the very first opening notes, though I'm assured there are only keys on one track, and this is not it. When the voiceover drops back you can really hear how powerful and energetic Plankton's guitar playing is, but then it comes back in and your ear is drawn back to it, so that you have to force yourself to again focus on the music. Also, the recording ends in a fade but it does cut off in the middle of one of MLK's sentences, which I think is a mistake. A few more seconds might have made it work better.

Still, much as I dislike "Shoveled" (and I tried hard to like it) it is the only track on the album that I have anything bad to say about, and there are plenty of superlatives left for the rest of it. Again I find it hard to believe that it is not a keyboard opening to the next track too, but what do I know about what this guy can do with a guitar? A spacey, progressive rock feel opens "Lights of an Unknown City" in almost an ELO manner before Plankton unleashes the big guns and in best Steve Earle fashion lets fly as the track powers out at you. Some great soloing and crunching, grinding guitars frame this song, and (sorry Plankton) if you needed something to blow away the cobwebs after the somewhat cloying, claustrophobic "Shoveled", this is just what the doctor ordered! It fades down at the end then to some lovely acoustic noodling, accompanied by that chiming electric. Sweet.

The only song not to have been completely created by Plankton, "Canadian Mist" has keys, drums and bass laid down and composed by a guy called Kevin from Canada, which is all Plankton can tell me about his collaborator on this. It's a lovely, Gary Moore style opening and is in fact the first slow track on the album. Again it gives me a sense of Maiden too, especially "Strange World" from the debut, with some soaring, emotional guitar, and I can hear Lizzy's "Still in Love With You" in there too. Apologies for all the comparisons, but this is the only way I know to translate how this guy's music feels and sounds to me. Someone better versed in guitars would be able to go more into the technical side and tell you how great he is, but this is all I can do. I originally had picked this as my favourite track on the album, but over many listens it's now been superceded by the one which comes next. For a while it was something of a battle between the two, but now I think there's a clear winner.

With a lovely rippling guitar to start things off, "Son of Soothsayer" soon rips into a big, stomping, heavy metal track with punchy guitar and squealing second guitar, rocking along like there's no tomorrow. Personally, though I'm sure he enjoyed recording every track here, this gives me the impression that it's the one Plankton had the most fun playing. It just gets your feet tapping and your head bobbing, and would not be out of place in any heavy metal fan's collection. It's also one of the longer tracks at over five minutes, though to my mind it's not long enough. A real boogie rhythm keeps the song going, and it could be talkbox that he's using to make that sound where the guitar almost seems to be singing, though I could quite easily be wrong there. It's a testament to Plankton's art and expertise that though this track more or less maintains the same basic riff all the way through it never gets boring or repetitive, and as I say when it comes to an end it seems way too soon.

And he keeps things barreling along for "Here We Go Again", a riproaring fretfest which is probably the fastest track on the album. A driving, steamhammer beat pulls it along, with great shredding and again a real heavy metal feel to it. His fingers must have been sore after this, is all I can say! Sort of a cutting, slicing guitar in the background while the main guitar just flies all over the place, solos being fired off left, right and centre. He also seems to have a weird sense of humour in titling some of his songs, as "Xphereblotish" proves - no I have no idea what it means and no I'm not going to ask him: have to maintain some sort of level of ambiguity and mystery, after all! - with a rising guitar riff that then pulls in staccato guitar with a boogie-ing second guitar kind of delivering a blues style melody, a lot of Led Zep in this I feel. Some superb solos and a sense of restrained energy to it, like at any second he could really pull loose and just hit you with a salvo you wouldn't even have a chance to dodge, should you somehow want to.

Another of my favourites, "Screaming At an Empty Canvas" is built on a thick bass and a heavy Sabbathish riff, almost Plankton playing doom metal perhaps. It's a lot slower and grindier than anything he's done up to this point, and his main guitar screeches and screams through it like a banshee with dire warnings. There's a real sense of pent-up frustration in this track, the idea being I guess that you have something you want to say but no way to say it, when the inspiration won't come and you're staring at a blank page. Plankton certainly doesn't seem to encounter this problem much anyway, and this is another triumph, with an angry guitar getting more and more animated as the song progresses, till at one point it all drops away to just the one guitar and rhythm section, and a really nice little bass solo in the background before the bigger, harder guitar kicks its way back in for the big finish.

That's actually the longest track on the album, just shy of five and a half minutes, though only technically. If you take the title track, which is split into two parts, as one, then you get almost ten minutes of music. "Krill Part 1" opens on soft jangly acoustic guitar which is then joined by screeching electric as the percussion kicks in and the shredding begins! It's another hard, almost metal rhythm as the main guitar screams and the secondary guitar does a passable Vivian Campbell at his Dio best. Great melody to this, with a real sense of longing and loneliness, maybe a touch of despair in the wailing, screeching guitar crying for attention. It fades down then on the back of single guitar and takes us into part 2, where again jangly echoey guitar stands alone until joined by wailing second guitar sounding a little like a violin, and the percussion this time is much slower and more measured, the guitars too slowing down as the fretburning, though still fierce, has a more restrained, almost melancholic feel to it.

There's kind of a sense of endings in this song, and I must admit it brought a tear to my eye. Dunno what it is, it just sounds very sad and yearning. The percussion backs a single guitar for a while and each swaps with the other, taking the limelight for a few moments before they join back up for the powerful yet downbeat fadeout finale. Which in itself would have been a great way to close the album, but Plankton has one more for us before we go. Written for his daughter Hanna, "Fields of Youth" is mostly played on introspective guitar with a real sense of reflection and memory, rather commercial in its way. Could see it as the soundtrack to some TV programme maybe. An understated and yet brilliant way to end the album, and a fitting gift to his daughter. Little or nothing in the way of percussion in this, with two guitars making the melody between them, can't even hear any bass. For all that though the tune works really well - ah, think I heard a little bass there - and brings the album to a very satisfying close.

TRACK LISTING

1. Flustraxion
2. Waiting Impatiently
3. Shoveled
4. Lights of an Unknown City
5. Canadian Mist
6. Son of Soothsayer
7. Here We Go Again
8. Xphereblotish
9. Screaming At an Empty Canvas
10. Krill Part 1
11. Krill Part 2
12. Fields of Youth

This is the first time I've ever had to review an album for, and by, a friend, and I'm really glad I can say it was a pleasure to listen to, and review; though if I had not enjoyed it I would have said so. It's just nice not to have to deliver bad news, however important it may have been seen to have been required. This album has been my constant companion over the last two weeks or so, accompanying everything from walks to dishwashing to making dinner; everything I normally use music as a background for has had this as the soundtrack, and I feel like Krill is an old friend now, and that through it I've come to know better the man behind the music. Plankton hasn't just got talent, he has that special something that makes you feel certain that it's only a matter of time before a lot more people are listening to, and enjoying his music. He may not be at an age where he can start touring the country and appearing on talk shows (though who says he won't?) but this music he makes is far too good to remain locked away somewhere in the files of an obscure website tucked into a forgotten corner of the web. This is music that needs to be heard, and heard by as many people as possible.

My own advice to him would be to go the YouTube route: playing his songs live and inviting people to hear them. This has after all worked for many artistes in the recent past. Of course, that may not be his goal, but one way or another this music has got to get out to the public at large. I can't recommend highly enough that you head to his website Home - Planktons Odyssey and download his album and hear this for yourselves. I knew nothing of his talent before agreeing to review this, and now I'm gobsmacked and so impressed I can't say. This album had been of necessity spinning on my ipod for days in order for me to get a good idea of how it sounded, so that I could do an informed review, but even after the requisite four or five plays it usually takes me to get a good feel for an album, I found I was continuing to listen to it, and still am, just for pure pleasure.

Some day I'm going to be the envy of my friends (better get some first!) when I tell them that I knew Plankton before he was famous. I honestly feel like I'm watching the birth of a star here, and it really couldn't happen to a nicer or more talented guy. Download this and you're probably going to find your playlists waiting for a while, and your Last.FM or Spotify plays containing an awful lot of this man's music. Join the odyssey: get on board, because Plankton is without question going places.

Rating: 9.8/10
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018

Last edited by Trollheart; 10-05-2021 at 08:22 PM.
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-02-2021, 11:12 AM   #13 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 24,099
Default

Originally posted in Trollheart's Listening List, December 16 2015


Title: Sun Leads Me On
Artist: Half Moon Run
Year 2015
Nationality: Canadian
Familiarity: 100%. Loved their debut.
Genre: Indie Rock/Pop
2

Expectations: Dark Eyes was an amazing album, a real discovery for me in 2012. It's often hard to capitalise on that success, though again, Half Moon Run weren't exactly winning Grammys or topping charts with it, so perhaps they can unobtrusively slip in a small hand grenade disguised as a pineapple here and upset the whole fruit cart? I certainly hope it lives up to the promise of the debut, and I'm a little more than cautiously optimistic.

1. Warmest Regards: A really gentle laidback start, puts me so much in mind of the APP with some Beatles and Bread thrown in there. I love this guy's voice. Almost dreampop at times mixed with a kind of folky feeling; just makes you want to smile.
2. I Can't Figure Out What's Going On: Touches of CSNY here with a great run (sorry) on the piano, then it kicks off on a lovely upbeat melody with super vocal harmonies, one of the things Half Moon Run are becoming known for. If I felt like smiling and relaxing for the first track, I feel like dancing for this one (don't worry, I won't: I wouldn't subject anyone to that!) Crazy little guitar solo.
3. Consider Yourself:Real sense of rockabilly meets acoustic Springsteen about this, probably the rockiest track so far. Great bass run, though it does sound like a sped-up version of The Boss's “State Trooper”...
4. Hands in the Garden: A more uptempo song, with a real upbeat feeling. Great vocal line and in particular a fantastic sort of echoey group vocal before a harmonica cuts in and takes the song to another level. Superb.
5. Turn Your Love: Great peppy keyboard line here on another uptempo track; kind of gives me a feeling of China Crisis in parts, also Deacon Blue. Really explodes into life in the middle. Drops then to single piano and drum hits for the last minute or so. Bit odd, after all the exuberance and somewhat a low-key ending: I'd even venture to suggest the last minute could have been cut out, as it really adds nothing to the song. Hmm. I'd consider dropping the rating to Orange but ... naaahhhhh!
6. Narrow Margins: Talk about introspectiv --- oh. Just took a slightly more uptempo turn. Is that vibraphone? More wonderful vocal harmonies. Could be violin there, or, possibly, steel guitar. Lovely, either way. Rippling piano running through this like a soft river.
7. Sun Leads Me On: This is very Eagles/CSNY with a great guitar line and a gentle, bittersweet theme; love the way his voice hits the slightly higher registers on the end of the verse lines. Like the best of the seventies West Coast singers. Superb.
8. It Works Itself Out: Slowburner that really hits its stride in the second minute and really never looks back. Real vocal histrionics from Devon I assume, unless Conner can reach those notes!
9. Everybody Wants: This is just beauty in simplicity. The yearning in the song, the simple message, the sense of wanting to belong. Just amazing. Gorgeous lush organ line running through it and some of the best vocal work I've heard on the album, which is saying something.
10. Throes: Fifty-four seconds of blissful piano Heaven.
11. Devil May Care: Cool little folk ditty
12. The Debt: Holy crap, another Blue! Yeah, this blues-based ballad is just another that deserves that rating. Incredible. This is the kind of song that can make you cry. Pussy. What? No, no: it's just a bit of grit in my eye....
13. Trust: And a great boppy almost new-wave rocker to close it out. Wonderful. Wipe those tears away and shake that booty. Unless you're me, in which case do not under any circumstances shake what you laughingly call a booty!

Final result: A triumphant followup to Dark Eyes, and makes me remember why I enthused so much about these guys the first time. A next-to-perfect collection of songs to satisfy anyone really, and with any luck Half Moon Run will soon be a name spoken of in other than hushed whispers and the word “Who?”

Rating: 9.8/10

__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-02-2021, 11:29 AM   #14 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 24,099
Default

Originally posted in The Playlist of Life, as part of Metal Month II, October 12 2014


I remember buying this album and just being so impressed by it, considering I had at that point never heard of the band. Even the title sounded metal, both of the band and the album, and I had a feeling I would not be disappointed. I wasn’t. From the first glance at the sleeve you get a sense of awe and majesty, power and strength, and you know this isn’t going to be any “wimpy” soft rock album. In fact, through a clever campaign of publicity Manowar raised their profile and interest in their debut by utilising what I believe was the first I ever heard of the term “False Metal”, and urging those who listened to their music to reject same.

False Metal was deemed to be anything that masqueraded as Metal but was not seen to be hard enough or dedicated enough. The likes of glam and hair metal would have fallen under this banner - Motley Crue, Hanoi Rocks etc - as would anything that used too many ballads or keyboards, girly vocals or wimpy lyrics. Manowar would ally themselves to the new breed of Metal bands coming up like Tank, Venom and Slayer, as well as bands who were established and had proven their credentials like Priest, Maiden, Motorhead and Sabbath. These bands all played True Metal, and were to be either revered or accepted. Anyone else was not.

It was a clever ploy, but as I mentioned when I reviewed Hail to England some time ago, Manowar’s bastard-hard-come-and-have-a-go stance was purely for the cameras, as it were, revealed when they were reported to have run from a fight with another band. I can’t recall the details but it was reported in The Bible (no, not that one: “Kerrang!” of course!) and I remember I think it was Joey’s grinning admission: “Hey, we’re musicians, not boxers!” As an impressionable kid who had believed every word these guys said and expected they practiced what they preached, it was a huge blow to me at the time to find out that it had all just been words, a ploy to help them sell albums and gain fans.

Battle Hymns - Manowar - 1982 (Metal Blade)
But when I bought this album on its release in 1982 I knew nothing of Manowar’s true lives and excitedly dropped the stylus onto the vinyl to see if what “Kerrang!” had been saying could be right, to see if the hype was deserved. It was. From the moment this album starts it’s like suddenly getting hit in the face with a steel glove, spiked and studded, and until the final chords of the closer you never get a chance to recover. The sound of a motorbike is synonymous with Heavy Metal and as this one revs up we’re suddenly subjected to the guitar punch of Ross “The Boss” Friedman, quickly followed by the high-pitched scream of Eric Adams as “Death Tone” opens the album that would become, for me at least, something of an epiphany.

With lyrics that flip off society in that way you love when you’re that age - ”I give some square the finger/ Now he won’t look again!” it’s a powerful statement of intent as Eric growls ”Pull alongside if you’re looking for a fight!” In somewhat the same way as Ian Gillan did with Deep Purple - but nowhere near as good a range - Adams sets the tone for Heavy Metal vocalists for years to come, a loud, angry, triumphant scream that can go into yells and roars at times. Ross the Boss rocks on, but won’t come into his real element just yet. “Metal Daze” gives him something more of a platform to build on, a faster, rockier song as Adams again lays down the marker: ”Only one thing sets me free/ Heavy Metal, loud as it can be!”

It pounds along with a kind of boogie vibe and a chanted chorus that would ensure they would receive adoration onstage: ”Hea-vy Me-tal!” simple but effective. Manowar certainly knew how to work the system, and they gave us what we wanted. Their fans became known as the Army of the Immortals, and when you listen to their music, that’s how you feel. Like nobody can touch you, like nothing can hurt you, like you’re gonna live forever. The thing I quickly learned about Manowar though was that they relied very much on power and bombast rather than the speed some of the bands coming up during the time of the NWOBHM - Raven, Angel Witch, Motorhead etc - preferred. Even “Fast Taker”, which you would expect to rocket along, well, does, but it’s not the heads-down, break-your-neck speed that the likes of Slayer and Anthrax would later espouse.

There’s a great solo from Ross here, his first real chance to show what he can do, and he does not waste it. Of course, Manowar were really an eight-piece: four guys and their egos. They had no compunction about going around saying they were the best, and inviting other Metal bands to take them on, a real case of “Come and have a go”, but it must be accepted that the talent was there. They knew how to play, and they knew how to write. They also knew how to project an image, before many Metal bands had a clear idea of how they wanted to present themselves to their fans, and went through various changes, Manowar had it down pat. “Death to False Metal!” they roared, and we roared back in delight. Had we horses, and could we ride them, we would have followed them into battle. It was just that empowering.

Much of their lyrical content concerned, at least on the first album, the Vietnam war, with it being mentioned in the opener and the main theme of the next track, “Shell Shock”. Later they would turn to more historical/mythical, even fantasy themes, recalling great battles and warriors, and musically worshipping Odin and the Norse gods. But here they were still sort of shaping their ideas, and war and Heavy Metal always go well together, so why not? The next song however is their mission statement, and is simply called “Manowar”. It’s a faster, more driving song, with drummer Donnie Hamzik thundering the beat, and tells the story of the band’s formation, somewhat embellished - ”We met on English ground/ In a backstage room we heard the sound/ And we all knew what we had to do” - with perhaps what The Batlord would term the goofiest and yet most satisfying chorus line - ”Manowar! Born to live forevermore!/ The right to conquer every shore!/ Hold your ground and give - no more!” Oh you have to laugh now, but back then we believed every word passionately, and loved it.

Another cracking solo from Ross as Joey de Maio thumps out the bass, then the beginnings of their move towards a more fantasy lyric with a darker, grindier sound comes with “Dark Avenger”, which slows everything down to Doom Metal speed, as Adams shows that he can sing at the other end of the scale too. A raw, angry lyric speaks of the lust for revenge of a hero left to die after his enemies have taken everything he has. The gods, impressed, allow him this opportunity for vengeance. Taking him to the land of the Dead, they resurrect him and send him back as their instrument of retribution. This song could be on any Sabbath album, and includes, rather amazingly, the services of the famous Orson Welles, narrating part of the story. It’s a powerful addition and really adds gravitas to the song. It sounds like there’s a synth backing, but I can’t find any credit for it, though Ross did later play keys on other albums, so maybe they snuck one in but didn’t want to tell the Army of the Immortals about it!

As the song reaches its climax, Ross goes wild on the guitar, Hamzik rattling the drums like galloping warhorse as Eric screams out his revenge with gusto, stretching his vocals cords to the limit. You can almost see the blood dripping off his sword, already slick with the life essence of so many slain enemies - and many more to be slain! - and the terrified women cowering on the ground sodden by the blood of their husbands, awaiting their fate. In a total change of pace, Joey deMaio gives a virtuoso display on the bass as he interprets Rossini’s “William Tell” for a Metal audience with the assistance of Ross, before we end on the big title track, a stunning almost operatic piece, opening on acoustic guitar which fades down as Hamzik starts slow then increases the speed as he calls in Adams.

A triumphant, victorious battle song, it’s the perfect end to this amazing debut album, and cuts right to the heart of what Manowar were about. With choral vocals evoking the feel of an army on the march, the lyric is full of words like “blood, steel, fight” and “glory”; in fact, the title of the followup album is prophesied here as Adams yells ”Sound the charge!/ Into glory ride!” In the midsection the song drops to an acoustic gentle passage, with more choral vocals as the battle pauses, but we’re quickly back into mayhem as Ross takes control, urging the troops on as dust rises about them in a cloud and enemies fall on every side. ”Kill! Kill!” screams Adams, and you could say it’s glorifying violence, but it’s hard to take it too seriously and it’s set to the backdrop of a battle. It’s not like Manowar are exorting their followers to go out and kill people in the street, unlike some bands I could name.

It all ends then in a run-up on the drums, a squeal on guitar and a choral interpretation almost of Orff's “O Fortuna”, and with a final guitar chord we are out, and the battle is won. The fictional battle in the song, and also the battle for the hearts and minds of metalheads, who having heard this album became instant followers and fans of the band, and a legend was born. As Manowar had intended from the start. To quote the late, lamented Rik Mayall, the plan worked brilliantly!

TRACK LISTING

1. Death Tone
2. Metal Daze
3. Fast Taker
4. Shell Shock
5. Manowar
6. Dark Avenger
7. William’s Tale
8. Battle Hymn

Over the years I’ve given Manowar a bit of a rough ride, and that’s for two reasons. One, I did, as I said above, believe everything they said when I was nineteen and bought this album. I thought they were hard as nails, and Heaven help anyone who crossed them. When reality showed itself to me in the cold light of day, I was crushed. My idols had feet of clay. The other reason is that a stance like this can only be maintained for so long, and Manowar have now dined out as it were on this for over thirty years. The joke, so to speak, is wearing thin. It’s hard to take seriously men who are now in their sixties - spookily, although I can’t find a birthdate for Joey deMaio, all three of the others were born in the same year, 1954! Destiny or what? - raging about “False Metal” and talking about riding forth to slay the unworthy. Yeah granpa, just sit down in that chair and remember your blood pressure!

But I do love Manowar, and always have done, and if I poke fun at them it’s gentle and not meant in any way to be hurtful or dismissive. They filled my late teens and early twenties with some amazing music, with some great great lyrics and drew for me vistas with music I could only otherwise read about in my fantasy novels. When I bought this album and listened to it, it was like Conan the Barbarian had taken up a Fender and ridden into battle. It was that powerful, that influential, and the two albums that followed just reinforced my belief at the time that this was a band who could take on the world.

And they did. What can I say in closing? Into glory ride! Death to False Metal! Yeah!
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-02-2021, 11:37 AM   #15 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 24,099
Default

Originally posted in Bitesize, September 2 2014

More like A Perfect Yawn!


Artiste: From Oceans to Autumn
Nationality: American
Album: A Perfect Dawn
Year: 2013
Label: Self-released
Genre: Post-rock?
Tracks:
Aurora
Zenith
Eos
Halo
Visible Light
Legend
Split Sky
The Absolute
The Illusion of a Moving Sun
Faultless

Chronological position: Fifth album
Familiarity: Zero
Interesting factoid: It's mentioned that the band changed their name (after five albums) to Mountains Among Us, though their Bandcamp page still shows them as From Oceans to Autumn... Oh, and the previous band of founder and mainman Brandon Helms was ... Autumn is Forever. Apparently not.
Initial impression: Atmospheric, powerful, moving music. Definitely instrumental.
Best track(s): Eos, Split Sky
Worst track(s): Not really interested enough to pick out worst tracks
Comments: Another band I chose purely on the basis of their name. I like bands with the word “autumn” in their names. It just always seems a very creative thing to do. I found these guys on Progarchives so they must or should be some sort of progressive band, but whether rock, metal, experimental or something else I do not know. I do get the impression they may be an instrumental outfit though. Well, the first track certainly is.

And so, it would seem, is the rest. Mostly it's driven on the sort of hard guitar work you get with ASIWYFA and God Is An Astronaut, but occasionally there are quieter, more reflective pieces, such as Eos, which is short but very ethereal with what appears to be synth guiding the music. Other than that it's pretty basic. Great music, there's no doubt, but the same as I could hear on any of these post-rock instrumental albums from any band in that genre. Losing interest....
Overall impression: Meh
Hum Factor: 0
Intention: Not intending to check any more of their stuff out.


Rating: 6.4/10
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-02-2021, 11:50 AM   #16 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 24,099
Default

Originally posted in Love or Hate? November 6 2015

Title: The Door Behind the Door
Artist: The Black Ryder
Genre: Shoegaze
Familiarity: Zero

1. Babylon: Nice kind of dark, introspective instrumental, good start.
2. The Seventh Moon: Oh good holy ****! Is that the voice of a sultry angel or what? I think I'm in love! Song's massive too. A real laid-back powerful lament which just drips emotion. I love this.
3. The Going Up Was Worth the Coming Down: Another beautiful dreamy track, but with a male vocal this time. Almost as good as the female. Though not quite. The sort of backwards masked cello (?) at the end is immense. Nearly pushed this to a Blue.
4. Let Me Be Your Light: Oh she's back with a sort of, well, shoegaze vocal I guess; quite muddy at times, just adds to the attraction in this case. Love everything so far. Hear elements of Mostly Autumn here certainly.
5. Santaria: And another beautiful track with some Edge (U2)-like guitar in it; sort of puts me in mind of “With Or Without You”...
6. Throwing Stones: Beautiful (seems I'm using that description a lot here; ya man ya bob!*) acoustic song with herself on vocals again. She sounds a little different here, not quite as ethereal as on the first track, more kind of earthbound than angelic. Still beautiful though. There I go again! Sublime gospel feel to this.
7. All That We Are: All right; running out of superlatives now. Think I'll just relax and listen to this. Oh, this sounds very 21st century Marillion. Lovely. Oh good ****ing god! Lush organ! There surely can't be anything on this that I don't love?
8. Until the Calm of Dawn: Cello? I'm fainting with pleasure here. This album could replace sex, it really could. The mechanised vocal fits in so well. I'm actually delighted to see that the last track is twelve minutes long, and I don't often say that!
9. Le dernier Sommeil (The Final Sleep): Oh my god. How do you make music sound like the sun rising? I don't know, but these guys have managed it. Almost spiritual. This is actually drawing tears, it's so moving and gorgeous. Shut up Batty: you'd be crying too if you heard it. Is this twelve minutes of orchestral instrumental? A third of the way so far and no vocal. Yet. I kind of hope there is none, it might break the fragile spell this track is weaving over me. I've not words enough to describe how awe-inspiringly sumptuous and moving this is. I feel like I felt when I first heard Hospice. Thank god; it was all instrumental. It's a long time since anything has moved me so profoundly.

End result: If more shoegaze (if this is shoegaze) was like this I would want to hear much more of it. As usual though, seems these guys only have two albums, but thanks a bunch for turning me on to them, bob. Loved every single damn moment of this album, from first note to last.

So, Love or Hate? Oh wow, I don't know. Hard one! Yeah, we're back on track, bob. A True Love if ever there was one. Superb is not praise strong enough, if such exists.

Rating: 9.9999999/10 (Only one point less because it would have to be Blue-rated all the way to achieve that, and this has some Green in it)

* Love or Hate? was a thread in which people recommended albums to me and I listened to them and then gave my reaction. This was recommended by bob.
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-03-2021, 02:34 PM   #17 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 24,099
Default

Originally posted in The Playlist of Life , October 3 2011

Tapestry --- Carole King --- 1971 (Ode)


One of the mega-albums of the early seventies, a huge hit and a massive success for singer/songwriter Carole King, Tapestry was in fact her debut album, which makes it all the more remarkable that there were five hit singles from it, four of which reached number one! Since its release, to date, Tapestry has sold over 25 million copies. Not bad for a first effort!

Carole King had of course written songs for other artists, and many had hits with her songs, like Aretha Franklin, who made “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” something of a signature tune for herself, and of course James Taylor, who scored a massive hit and enduring success with “You've Got a Friend”. But this is Carole's album: she writes or co-writes every track, and what she doesn't write on her own she contributes the music to, as in two tracks where the lyric is supplied by Toni Stern. On three others she shares songwriting duties with ex-husband Gerry Goffin.

The album opens with “I Feel the Earth Move”, a pacey, upbeat song about love, which has been covered by many artistes down the years, the most recent I recall being Martika. The style of the album from the off is quite laid-back, almost jazzy, folky in places, but it's by no means an album of ballads. “So Far Away” is one though, a wistful, almost pleading song asking why people don't stay together. It's a simple piano-driven song, with King's voice as simple and yet as distinctive as that of the late Karen Carpenter, singing as if she's been doing this all her life.

“It's Too Late” is one of the standout tracks on the album, a disarmingly uptempo song whose subject matter is far from fun, the bitter realisation that a breakup is unavoidable, as Carole sings ”Stayed in bed all mornin' just to pass the time/ There's somethin' wrong here, there can be no denyin'/ One of is changin', or maybe we just stopped tryin'”. It's carried on bouncy piano with some nice acoustic guitar, and was one of the many hits from the album. It's also one of the few Carole did not write, lyric duty falling to the aforementioned Toni Stern, music by Carole.

A great fusion of pop and folk modes, Tapestry was in fact the biggest-selling album by a solo artist until Michael Jackson came along with Thriller, and smashed all records. Not bad though: that was 1982, so she kept the top spot for eleven years. The album features some names which were to go on to be rather huge, including Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Russ Kunkel and a young Danny Kortchmar. Another piano ballad, with country flavour and a touch of gospel, “Home Again” keeps the quality high with some lovely piano from Carole, and a simple melody and theme.

“Beautiful” is a much more uptempo, happy song, with a “smile and the world smiles with you” idea, with an almost carnival ending, while “Way Over Yonder” fuses blues and gospel perfectly in a touching little ballad that's almost a hymn in disguise, with some supersmooth sax work. There's just nothing that can, or needs, to be said about the next track. A huge, massive hit for James Taylor, as well as others, I think everyone knows “You've Got a Friend.” It's followed by “Where You Lead”, a sort of mid-paced rocker with some great keyboards and a soul chorus line. It's the second track on the album written by Toni Stern, though interestingly there's a line in it which very closely mirrors one in “You've Got a Friend”... The song would be seen nowadays as sounding like the words of a submissive, subservient woman, with lines like ”Where you lead I will follow” and ”If you wanna live in New York City/ Honey you know I will”, but come on, this was 1971!

Another hit next, already a big success for the Shirelles in the sixties, again everyone knows “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” and yes, Carole King wrote it, along with Gerry Goffin. Her own version is a much slower, laid-back and piano-led version than the bubblegum pop of the original release, and so much the better for taking its time, with excellent and powerful backing vocals from James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. Another collaboration with Goffin, “Smackwater Jack” was also a hit, although of the singles taken from the album, this is one I have never heard prior or since, but it's a bluesy bopper, with a great piano line and striding guitars. Honky tonk! Without question the most fun track on the album.

The title track is a nice little ballad played on piano and guitar, almost the testament of a much older woman, with an interesting little parable within its lyric, and the album closes on another by-now famous song, that one that made Aretha so famous, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” ends this incredible debut on a high, with a powerful, anthemic love song with gospel overtones.

Carole King is one of those people who a lot of music fans will not know, or even know of, but the chances are that her music has touched almost everyone, whether it's through TV or film soundtracks, hits for other artistes, or her own music. Like the title of the album says, it's all part of the one wonderful interwoven tapestry. Now approaching seventy years of age, Carole is still busily recording, and doesn't look likely to slow down for some time. It's rather fitting, then, that our week of seventies album reviews kicks off with such a classic, iconic and timeless offering from a woman who has had more impact upon the music scene over her forty-year career than just about anyone else I can think of.

TRACK LISTING

1. I Feel the Earth Move
2. So Far Away
3. It's Too Late
4. Home Again
5. Beautiful
6. Way Over Yonder
7. You've Got a Friend
8. Where you lead
9. Will You Love Me Tomorrow?
10. Smackwater Jack
11. Tapestry
12. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman

Rating: 9.7/10
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-05-2021, 11:10 AM   #18 (permalink)
Just Keep Swimming...
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: See signature...
Posts: 6,888
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Trollheart View Post
Originally posted in The Playlist of Life, December 2 2014

Krill --- Plankton's Odyssey --- 2013



That's actually the longest track on the album, just shy of five and a half minutes, though only technically. If you take the title track, which is split into two parts, as one, then you get almost ten minutes of music. "Krill Part 1" opens on soft jangly acoustic guitar which is then joined by screeching electric as the percussion kicks in and the shredding begins! It's another hard, almost metal rhythm as the main guitar screams and the secondary guitar does a passable Vivian Campbell at his Dio best. Great melody to this, with a real sense of longing and loneliness, maybe a touch of despair in the wailing, screeching guitar crying for attention. It fades down then on the back of single guitar and takes us into part 2, where again jangly echoey guitar stands alone until joined by wailing second guitar sounding a little like a violin, and the percussion this time is much slower and more measured, the guitars too slowing down as the fretburning, though still fierce, has a more restrained, almost melancholic feel to it.

There's kind of a sense of endings in this song, and I must admit it brought a tear to my eye. Dunno what it is, it just sounds very sad and yearning. The percussion backs a single guitar for a while and each swaps with the other, taking the limelight for a few moments before they join back up for the powerful yet downbeat fadeout finale. Which in itself would have been a great way to close the album, but Plankton has one more for us before we go. Written for his daughter Hanna, "Fields of Youth" is mostly played on introspective guitar with a real sense of reflection and memory, rather commercial in its way. Could see it as the soundtrack to some TV programme maybe. An understated and yet brilliant way to end the album, and a fitting gift to his daughter. Little or nothing in the way of percussion in this, with two guitars making the melody between them, can't even hear any bass. For all that though the tune works really well - ah, think I heard a little bass there - and brings the album to a very satisfying close.
I always get a bit misty when this pops up, and I can't thank you enough for this review. I've since put the guitars down for a while, but I do still play my Uke quite a bit. My chops have faded though. I don't think I've ever told the story of how Krill II was made, which is a bit of a sad story with a happy ending, but here goes:

Right around the beginning of 2012 or so, my lady friend was diagnosed with cancer, so she was hospitalized while they pulled the tumor out, then she was put on chemo for quite a while. I took care of her when she needed me to, and a lot of my time was spent just being there for her as she writhed in agony after treatments. She had also developed some serious side effects from the drugs they were giving her to counteract the chemo. I had my 'studio' setup in her dining room and thats where I'd play with headphones on all while she'd lay on the couch watching TV or sleeping. There was one particular day I set out to record something that would reflect how I was feeling at the time, so I loaded up a drum track, layered a rhythm over it and then started on the voice, or solo of the tune. I sat watching her as I played and the feel of the tune really took it's direction from there. It was one take. The momentum of that spurred the title of the album and I put together some of the recent songs I'd done to fill in the rest, like Part I that utilized the same rhythm structure, but at a faster pace.

Krill is the theme, which is representative of how we're basically fuel for other organisms, whether it's an animal eating another animal, or a conglomerate using people as resources, which was the case for my lady friend. They wanted to keep her on some meds that were killing her, and they wanted her on those for the rest of her life. She was a commodity. Once she said **** you, and stopped taking those meds she grew healthier and cancer free. She's still the picture of health to this day.

But, that right there is how this all came to be. I'm so glad you were able to enjoy it, my friend. Warms my heart.
__________________
See location...
Plankton is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 10-05-2021, 02:35 PM   #19 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 24,099
Default

Wow, that is some story. I'm glad your lady recovered. It's pretty awful what the medical profession (not all of them of course) will do in the pursuit of profit; makes you wonder how they sometimes square that with their hippopotamus oath.

Your tracks still come up occasionally on my shuffled playlists, and I never feel the need to skip them. You really have talent and it would be a mistake, in my opinion, not to develop it and see where it can take you. I hope you continue to play and write, and let me know if you have any new recordings. I can't promise to review them - like you with the guitar, I haven't quite hung up my mouse and keyboard but they're more occupied with historical and other matters now more than music - but you never know.

Take care, my guitar god friend.
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-05-2021, 02:50 PM   #20 (permalink)
Music Addict
 
DianneW's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2021
Location: S W France S. Deux Sevres
Posts: 1,063
Default

Wow Guys that was a lot to take for sure.
I was copying Trollsheart Tapestry by Carole King.. a friend has joined the overs50's forum and she is a great fan as well as the Carpenters......Logan1 if you see her.
Think some of the music fans will enjoy that review also.
DianneW is online now   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Similar Threads



© 2003-2021 Advameg, Inc.