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Old 07-18-2012, 04:52 AM   #1421 (permalink)
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What do you fancy on your scones, vicar? Some Jam, perhaps? (Oh, the worm is so funny, don't you say he's not...)
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Old 07-19-2012, 04:48 AM   #1422 (permalink)
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Back in the 80s ZZ Top successfully reinvented themselves, for a short while, and took the charts by storm, mostly on the back of some very sexy videos. Here's one of them.
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Old 07-20-2012, 05:27 AM   #1423 (permalink)
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Sing-along songs for the damned and delerious --- Diablo Swing Orchestra --- 2009 (Ascendance)


Ah, mythology! Ain't it great? Certainly serves to provide interesting backstories, histories and tales to support the formation of bands, even if those claims are patently untrue. The Diablo Swing Orchestra claim they are descended from a band who travelled 16th century Sweden, playing orchestral works in flagrant violation of church edicts, and were in the end martyred, but not before playing one final, defiant concert.

The fact that they could even dream up such a story, never mind expect anyone to take it seriously, says a lot about this band and their approach to music. With a style that combines metal, classical and avant-garde influnces, this is their second album of three so far. It opens with “A tap dancer's dilemma”, which is a kind of tarantella beat infused with twenties influences, swing and big band themes with trumpet and guitar meshing well, vocal from mainman Daniel Hakansson sung in a sort of mono style, almost like one of those barkers outside the carnival freak shows, with backing vocals in a very twenties style, and it all rocks along nicely in a very weird but satisfying way, trumpet from Martin Isaksson and trombone from Daniel Hedin setting the scene really well.

You can't but help think of things like “Chicago” and “Boardwalk empire” listening to his, then “A rancid romance” opens on a deep piano roll before guitars and drums crash in, quickly joined by Mariachi-style trumpets from Isaksson; this time the song is set like a tango, with Annlouice Loegdlund taking the main vocal, while Hakansson does his best Nick Cave and there's some very good cello added in too. Great vocal harmonies between the two singers, with Hakansson's guitar cutting through the tune like a cleaver. Loegdlund then goes into a high operatic performance as the song gets faster and more intense, sparring with Hakansson until Johannes Bergion's lovely cello calms everything down, alongside synthesised accordion from Pontus Mantefors as the song winds to its close.

A big heavy fanfare and we're into “Lucy fears the morning star”, a heavier track than either of the first two, with a decent amount of guitar and a much rockier melody, Loegdlund again in operatic voice for the vocal which for the moment at least she takes on her own. There are backing vocals, to be sure, but it's not like the first two tracks, where there were two singers, she and Hakansson. Some very effective picked bass helps the melody along, and there's a somewhat bossa nova trumpet ending, as “Bedlam sticks” hops along in a really mad uptempo bass-driven swing piece that would have Tom Waits crying in appreciation. Hakansson takes the main vocal here, backed up by Loegdlund, and it really rips along at quite an amazing pace.

It all slows down then for “New world widows”, or does it? Started off slow, seemed like a ballad but suddenly the guitar whistled in and the drums kicked up and now we're heading off, not quite at the speed of the previous track, but certainly fast. More diva-style singing from Annlouice and a lot of guitars, very heavy, then “Siberian love affairs” is a short, less than a minute track, almost more an intermission than anything else, with accordion and Russian-style chorus, again very Waitsesque with rolling organ, followed by the breakneck “Vodka inferno”, Annlouice on vocals duetting with Hakansson, their voices perfectly complementing each other, his in the lower vocal register, hers a mezzo-soprano I think. Great work on the cello from Bergion and some more heavy guitar, while “Memoirs of a roadkill” lopes along happily on great upright bass and Spanish guitar, with the vocal taken by Hakansson, then stops for a dramatic strings-laden passage that slows everything down, almost as if in a dream, before it just picks right up again where it had left off and the guitars and handclaps go on; very uptempo, very bright, very listenable.

A beautiful little piece of Spanish guitar then ends the song before “Ricerca dell'anima” rocks everything back up to ten, with Martin Isaksson's trumpet making a welcome return as Annlouice puts in a great performance behind the mike, and we end on the longest track on the album. “Stratosphere serenade” opens with manic violin and punching guitar with heavy drums, the first ninety seconds of its eight and a half minute length taken up by the instrumental introduction, then Hakansson comes in with the vocal, soon joined by Loegdlund as the cello adds its own flavour to the song. There's an excellent, powerful little guitar piece to end the song, and indeed bring the album to a close.

So how do you describe this sort of music? How is it labelled, pigeonholed, if indeed it can be? Wiki has Diablo Swing Orchestra as “avant-garde metal”, and while I certainly see the avant-garde bit, I'm not so sure about this being metal. It's certainly heavy in places, but I would say more rock than metal. And there are so many other influences prevalent here, I think the tag is a little simplistic. To me, this is almost like a bunch of performers from the past got thrown into the twenty-first century and tried to make the same sort of music they had been in their time, while melding it with what they had heard being played here. Neo-classical? No. Operatic metal? No. Art rock? Not really.

In the end, I think there is only one way to describe this music, and this band, and that is Diablo Swing Orchestra.

TRACKLISTING

1. A tap dancer's dilemma
2. A rancid romance
3. Lucy fears the morning star
4. Bedlam sticks
5. New world widows
6. Siberian love affairs
7. Vodka inferno
8. Memoirs of a roadkill
9. Ricierca dell'anima
10. Stratosphere serenade
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Old 07-20-2012, 10:07 AM   #1424 (permalink)
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Let's go way off base now, shall we? Here's one of the original divas, still going strong after all these years.
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Old 07-20-2012, 10:39 PM   #1425 (permalink)
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You may not know it, but whenever I lurk the forum, I tend to be drawn to your journal. It's got an incredible format and I see something different mentioned each time.

Really nice job on it.
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Old 07-21-2012, 07:42 AM   #1426 (permalink)
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Hey, thanks indeed! It sometimes gets a little lonely writing and wondering if anyone is reading (hard to tell when there are so few comments), so words of encouragement like that really help. Hope you're enjoying the latest batch, and let me know if there's something you're interested in seeing.


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Old 07-21-2012, 07:47 AM   #1427 (permalink)
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Damn the Machine --- Damn the Machine --- 1993 (A&M)


Well, you'd think a side project by a member of Megadeth would be welcomed, wouldn't you? But it seems no-one was interested in a more progressively-leaning band formed by Chris Poland, onetime guitarist for the “answer to Metallica”, who left in 1987. It took him six more years to set this band up, though in the interim he had released one solo album under his own name. Perhaps because it was an instrumental guitar album (never the easiest to sell as a concept, less so when you've been a rather peripheral member of one of the biggest “other” heavy metal bands in the US), or perhaps as a backlash by Megadeth fans, who knows, it never fired the imagination and Poland's next idea was to form his own band.

Fair enough, you would suppose: Dave Mustaine, fired from Metallica, had founded Megadeth, so why
should Poland not be able to do the same? But this was the only album that Damn the Machine recorded, and in a very short time it was clear it was not going to be a big seller, and the label drew support away from the album, leading to the breakup of the band shortly after this self-titled debut was released. Chris tried other projects but eventually settled into a jazz-fusion group, without the rest of the members of DTM.

But did we all dodge a bullet, or was this album a diamond in the rough, an overlooked classic that should have been nurtured, followed up and imitated? Well, let's open those shell-likes and see...

“The mission” opens more like an indie-rock song than a heavy metal one, it's got good tempo but the drumming seems a little lacking, a little thin perhaps. Decent guitar as you would expect, given that Poland is a guitarist, but David Clemmons does not at first at any rate impress me with his vocals. They're not bad, but they're nothing special. So far. Nice bit of laidback guitar halfway through, breaks up the almost punk style of the axework, but it doesn't last and we're back into the stop/start rhythm, then there's a sort of fadeout guitar solo at the end, which seems only to be beginning when it's over, and seems a little pointless.

The guitar is strong and powerful, grinding and angry on “Fall of order”, with the vocals a little better this time, almost as if Clemmons is slowly finding his feet. The drumming from Poland's brother Mark is also getting a little tighter and more solid too, though it still has some way to go before it's the kind of forceful beat you expect from metal (or any) drummers. The lyrics at least are thoughtful and deep, with songs like “Corporate reign”, “Lonesome god” and “Patriot” leaning a little away from the standard rock motif, revealing a more progressive approach to songwriting. I'm not a huge fan of Metallica and know little of Megadeth, so can't say if this is the sort of thing they usually grapple with in their own lyrics, but I kind of doubt it. Up next, “Corporate reign” is a heavier, slower song, with thick guitar and raspy vocals, but it kind of wanders around looking for an idea, and the drum lead-in to the second verse is nowhere near as powerful or impressive as it by all rights should be. Far better is the menacing bassline from Dave Randi, who does at least seem to know what he's doing. “Honor”, then, has a nice acoustic guitar intro, with atmospheric electric guitar holding the line, and Clemmons puts in a decent performance behind the mike, but so far he's not winning any prizes.

Neither, to be honest, is this album, and “Lonesome god”, “On with the dream” and “Patriot” all sort of slide by in a yawning blur; I can't remember anything about any of them, or even find something decent to comment on. The guitar work is fine yes, but nothing startling, nothing that makes you sit up and take notice, and the vocal just seems to stay mostly the same throughout, not too much in the way of emotion, though maybe I'm doing David Clemmons a disservice and he can sing better than this: we'll see, as we struggle on through the album, of which we're halfway through now.

Nice sort of proggy start to “I will”, and you wonder if the addition of keyboards would have helped Damn the Machine to fill out their sound and realise their vision more successfully? Some of the songs here --- when I notice anything interesting, which is not that often sadly --- sound like they're almost built around a progressive rock or metal idea, in which a keyboard or synthesiser sound should have been dropped, and the guitar work of Poland, good as it is, just isn't equal to the task of building and maintaining every melody. There's a nice blues idea to “Silence”, with some lovely guitar and a half-decent vocal, and to be fair it's probably the best thing on the album so far. That's not saying much, admittedly, but at least there's finally something solid for me to write about.

Excellent guitar solo from Poland it has to be said, and some effective backing vocals: maybe DTM could write good songs when they put their minds to it? Still, “Russians” is unremarkable, and though “Countryside” tries to get across a message about, I think, the plight of the Native Americans, it's just not clear enough, and Clemmons's voice is just not engaging or forceful enough to deliver the message. Kind of reminds me of Kamelot's vocalist on their first two albums: very sub-par. The album finally ends on “Humans”, and all I can say is I'm glad it's over, cos it's been something of an ordeal to get through.

What's left to say? There's no mystery about why this didn't sell, and why DTM had only the one album. It's just simply not good enough. Chris Poland is a decent enough guitarist, certainly, but whatever possessed him to try forming his own band? And where did he get these other guys (other than his brother, who does his best on the drums but really isn't equal to the task)? Was it all put together in a hurry? If so, why? Why not take your time and find the proper mix of musicians, lyrics, themes and expertise, decide which genre (if any) you're going to shoot for, instead of confusing fans of both Metallica and Megadeth? Why not do the job properly? What was the rush?

Questions to which we will probably never have answers, though that won't keep me awake at night.

TRACKLISTING

1. The mission
2. Fall of order
3. Corporate reign
4. Honor
5. Lonesome god
6. On with the dream
7. Patriot
8. I will
9. Silence
10. Russians
11. Countryside
12. Humans
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Old 07-21-2012, 11:29 AM   #1428 (permalink)
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Before she found TV fame as Rose Tyler on "Doctor Who", Billie Piper had a musical career, of sorts, though back then she was just known as "Billie". Here's one of her hits.
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Old 07-22-2012, 05:21 AM   #1429 (permalink)
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Been several months since we last checked out those tracks that close an album well, even if the rest of it has been not the best. Always important, I think, to have a good ending as this will invariably be the tune that gets stuck in your head, and which you will most remember initially about the album, until you hear something else. A bad ending track can come close to ruining your experience of an album, while a good one can heighten and complete it. Good memories, instead of bad; sweet instead of sour.

We've had Supertramp before, and indeed many of their albums end strongly, but one of the best in my opinion is the closing track to “Breakfast in America”. This is “Child of vision”.
Spoiler for Supertramp: Child of vision:


One of my favourite female rock singers, this is Lana Lane, from her album “Lady Macbeth”, this is called “Dunsinane walls”.
Spoiler for Lana Lane: Dunsinane walls:


And one of my favourite male singer/songwriters, Dan Fogelberg. This is the closing track from his 1977 album “Nether lands”, and it's “False faces”.
Spoiler for Dan Fogelberg: False faces:


I like this one from Axxis, not only because it's a good closer, but because it really says “that's the end of the album”. From “Voodoo vibes”, this is “The show is over”.
Spoiler for Axxis: The show is over:


And another metal track to end this selection, it's Praying Mantis, from the album “Predator in disguise”, with “Borderline”.
Spoiler for Praying Mantis: Borderline:
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Old 07-22-2012, 05:24 AM   #1430 (permalink)
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Heard this on a documentary recently about the Space Shuttle. Cool to think this song was actually in outer space! This is Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, with “Southern cross”.
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