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Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind (Album Review)

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Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind (Album Review)

When I saw Slipknot perform Unsainted, on Jimmy Kimmel Live, I have to admit that I wasn’t impressed. I didn’t connect with the song as I hoped I would and Taylor’s new mask made me question the direction Slipknot was taking. Thankfully, I don’t have to look at #8 when listening to We Are Not Your Kind and therefore Unsainted and the entire album is simply stunning.

Yes, that mask. It’s the worst in Slipknot history, making me think of Meat Loaf and what he’d look like if his face melted from too much cosmetic surgery. It shouldn’t taint the music, but unfortunately, it does when you see them perform live. It will be interesting to see if Taylor keeps dawning the same mask on tour, or if he makes minor adjustments to it as I don’t think it will appeal to many fans; what do you think about the mask, dear reader? 

After two decades since their eponymous debut, Slipknot has largely become part of the social consciousness and it is difficult for me to recall a time when the band weren’t part of the music scene. Perhaps I’m just getting old, but it is amazing to think We Are Not Your Kind is only their sixth studio release as it feels as though they’ve been around forever. Nevertheless, I’m thoroughly enjoying this release and can say without a doubt that it is amongst their very best work and is one of the greatest albums of 2019. 

Insert Coin is a killer tune to introduce the album and flows magically into Unsainted. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t have asked for a better, slow-burn, introduction. I love it!

Unsainted is EPIC! The choral introduction merged with the musicality and Taylor’s vocal is something very special indeed as it builds up to the tempo we’re used to hearing from Slipknot, then downshifts as the chorus kicks in. Brilliant! 

I hope you’ve already pumped that volume to 11, for this is not one album you want to play at low levels. The Apple Music stream sounds excellent, but I dare say the vinyl release would trump it. That is certainly the version I hope to pick up, sooner rather than later. 

Birth Of The Cruel has a seriously good rhythm and Taylor’s firing lyrical delivery is right on par with what we’ve come to expect from Slipknot over the years. Taylor is a vocal maestro and while I could listen to Slipknot’s musicality for countless hours, it is Taylor that makes it worthwhile for me and it shows in Birth Of The Cruel. This will be one killer song for them to perform live. 

Dead Because Of Death is an interesting interlude that refreshes the pallet in preparation for Nero Forte. I thoroughly enjoy it, but I can’t help but wonder what an expansion of this song would have sounded like. Nevertheless, I love it!

Nero Forte has a killer guitar riff and rhythm that is Slipknot 101 with a vocal growl that only Taylor can deliver with absolute precision. Nero Forte is going to be mosh pit gold. 

Critical Darling, as with many of the songs on We Are Not Your Kind, has an incredible introduction that draws you in from the very first note. Critical Darling is a great tune, but the chorus is a little weak, from a musical perspective, in my opinion. In many ways, when I listen to Critical Darling, it sounds as though it would have fit perfectly on All Hope Is Gone. That isn’t a criticism for I adore their 2008 release, but just a noticeable correlation. The final minute is also intriguing as it sounds like it’s the start of a new song, or another interlude, but it isn’t. I’d love to know what the thought process was with regards to the outro on Critical Darling. That said, it does flow beautifully into A Liar’s Funeral.

A Liar’s Funeral is incredible! The slow and bright tempo, mixed with the demonic, is a perfect mix and Taylor absolutely nails the vocal in both styles. Without a doubt, A Liar’s Funeral is one of the best songs on the album and one of the best in Slipknot’s extensive catalogue. While I’m not sure if A Liar’s Funeral has the potential to be a fan favourite, when played live, I adore the studio recording. 

Red Flag is old school Slipknot! What’s not to like?

What’s Next has a terrible xylophone-styled interlude that admittedly introduces Spiders well, but is largely superfluous to the album, other than being an indicator of shifting gears. 

Spiders is a great song with a great rhythm but I’m not convinced by the Horror-movie styled backing. It works, but I can’t help but think that after repeat listens that I may grow tired of it. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Nevertheless, Spiders is thoroughly enjoyable but a remix wouldn’t go astray. 

Orphan is a great song, but it takes a little too long to get into the core of the song in my opinion. I also wish the chorus was more pronounced as it is incredible. I could, honestly, listen to the chorus of Orphan on repeat indefinitely. 

My Pain is, interesting! Even after multiple listens, I’m not sure it fits the album too well. That said, as a song on its own, the layers of musicality are intense and the soundstage will compel and envelop you. My Pain is a song that you’re going to have to listen to multiple times to really connect with it. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it allows for greater appreciation of the song and album, but I’d love to know what the thought process was in the studio when it came to not only recording My Pain but including it on We Are Not Your Kind.

Not Long For This World is a stellar track. The slow-burn intro once again compels me and the rhythmic undertone ticks all the boxes. However, as much as I enjoy it, it needs a little less treble and a little more bass. It doesn’t sound flat and from the sounds of it, the style is intentional, but I really do like Slipknot’s music when the rhythm reaches into your soul and takes you on a visceral journey where you feel the music rather than hear it. Not Long For This World just misses the mark when it comes to the complete sensory experience that I associate with Slipknot; yet the outro gets the low end pumping as it merges into Solway Firth. 

Solway Firth is a killer closing track that will compel you to listen to the album again and stay within Slipknot’s catalogue. 

Overall, We Are Not Your Kind is an incredible release. As an album, it is a cohesive experience that you would be advised to sit and listen to from start to finish. I’d also say that We Are Not Your Kind is one of Slipknot’s most accessible albums as it will appeal to hardcore fans and newcomers alike. Slipknot, like a good bottle of wine, gets better and better; the future looks good for us maggots!

We Are Not Your Kind is available on Vinyl, CD, and the iTunes Store.  

Click here to read other Slipknot reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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Rob Zombie – Zombie Live (Album Review)

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Rob Zombie – Zombie Live (Album Review)

Rob Zombie is one of those unique enigmas of the music industry that one can’t help but gravitate towards. His legacy and influence is legendary and while he still classes Alice Cooper amongst his idols, Zombie is without a doubt a force to be reckoned with and has arguably matched the success and influence of his idol, if not superseded it. As a serious Cooper fan, I’m glad to see the torch has been passed to the younger shock rocker, but one does have to wonder who will come after Zombie for they broke the mould when they made this monster of rock.

Personally, I’ve been a fan of Zombie’s work since I first heard White Zombie’s More Human Than Human on an episode of the television series Millennium. From that moment on, I was hooked and if Zombie released it, I tried desperately to purchase it if the budget allowed for the expense. Yes, like all good record collections, there are a couple of significant holes in my Zombie-based library, but if I had everything, then there’d be nothing left to look forward to. Trust me, the unfulfilled feeling in this regard is real. I have every AC/DC album in my collection and I feel ambivalent towards it. I want more, yet there is nothing more to get. Rule 1 of music collecting is to always ensure you pass on a release that you know you’ll regret not picking up at a later date. That way, you’ll forevermore search for a copy, or hope for a reissue, and that keeps you going as you explore and expand your collection. Perhaps my greatest regret was not picking up a copy of White Zombie’s Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. Well, I wasn’t going to make that mistake again, as the aforementioned album is now impossible to get on the Australian market for a reasonable price, so I subsequently picked up the incredible It Came From N.Y.C vinyl boxset upon release. Yes, I know Zombie himself had nothing to do with that release and similarly the former White Zombie band members had nothing to do with Let Sleeping Corpses Lie but for this Zombie fan, it was always going to be a value-added proposition that includes a beautifully presented hardcover book with a detailed look at the band from inception to Zombie’s ultimate decision to go solo. Regardless, I’m sure I’ll eventually pick up a copy of Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, but it is fun to pass on copies when they come up. It becomes a talking point and I absolutely love obtaining that hidden gem as much as I enjoy leaving it on the record store shelf for another fan to purchase and add to their own collection.

The same excitement also occurs when I decide if I should pick up the CD or Vinyl release. Generally, in Australia, CD prices are at an all-time low and are always more affordable than the vinyl counterpart. The only problem with that is that as much as I adore the CD format, the mastering is often hit and miss. Not in this case, however, as Zombie Live, while mastered a little on the hotter side, is full of dynamic range and provides a real sense of the concert experience one could expect from a Zombie performance. It is, quite frankly, one of the best recorded, mixed, and mastered live CD’s I’ve ever heard. Thank you Scott Humphrey!; a man as pivotal to Zombie’s success as Bob Ezrin is to Alice Cooper. Of course, Zombie Live would be the last album Humphrey would work on with Zombie and it’s such a shame because their collaboration was off-the-charts good. As usual, I digress, but Humphrey knew how to get the very best out of Zombie and while Zombie continues to amaze, his early-era solo releases still outperform his more recent output in my opinion.

So, we have established that the mastering is perfect on the CD release and quite frankly there isn’t a single element that I would change as it simply sounds right. However, in 2018, Zombie Live was reissued on vinyl, for the first time as the vinyl resurgence wasn’t even a blip on the radar at the time of release in 2007. We were still, inserting CDs into computers, ripping them to our iPods, and accessing bonus material via the connection between the CD and the associated artist website. We’ve certainly come a long way since then and purchasing the vinyl edition would at least remove that ungodly black box of text from the exquisite album artwork. My concern, however, is what if the pressing sucks? The CD sounds right, as I mentioned earlier, and vinyl certainly has it’s own unique sound signature that is neither better or worse than the digital edition, it’s just different. Now, I have plenty of Zombie’s albums on vinyl and his Spookshow International Live is a personal favourite, that while presented on a spectacular picture disc, sounds absolutely incredible; hence it shouldn’t really be an issue but vinyl pressings are as hit and miss as CD masterings. Logic says I should be happy with the CD release, and perhaps I am, but I will always wonder if I should have picked up the vinyl edition. Of course, if I did, I would gift the CD to my son as I no longer collect and hoard both a CD and vinyl copy. It’s excessive and I found that I wasn’t enjoying an album because I got into the bad habit of comparing the CD to the vinyl release upon each play – quite frankly a futile process! 

All that said, I am thoroughly happy with the CD release and while some vinyl releases come with extensive liner notes, many don’t and if there is one thing that I’ve always appreciated about Zombie’s CD releases, it is the attention to detail and providing the music lover with a full-featured booklet to go along with the purchase. Not bad considering Zombie openly acknowledges the end of the album and the fact that no one buys them anymore. Well, Rob, I still purchase them and I thank you for keeping the album format alive, even though it goes against your personal beliefs.

Of course, I know how easy it is to simply listen to music via streaming services, but you should seriously consider picking up, at least, the CD release of Zombie Live as it offers enough additional content to appease any Zombie fan. Okay, so much of the booklet is photographs from various live performances, but they are killer shots that you likely wouldn’t find elsewhere. Unfortunately, while this live recording is Mastered for iTunes, no digital booklet is included with the iTunes purchase. As disappointing as that is, we’re here for the music, so let’s take a look at the 18 thunderous songs that make up Zombie Live.

Sawdust In The Blood, from Educated Horses, offers the perfect backdrop to launch this live performance. A killer instrumental!

American Witch flows seamlessly from Sawdust In The Blood and remains my favourite song from the Educated Horses era. It’s a little heavier than some of Zombie’s other groove-based metal songs, but I love it! Interestingly, given this was the live album that came after Educated Horses, it is somewhat surprising that Foxy Foxy didn’t make an appearance. Nevertheless, American Witch is perfectly suited to the live lineup and the attitude of the performance.

Demon Speeding has a near-symphonic sound signature that reminds me of Metallica’s astonishingly good S&M recording with the San Francisco Symphony. Subsequently, I love it, but I have always loved this song and I may have, in my younger and wilder years, used this song as the soundtrack for a little street racing.

Living Dead Girl is a song I have mixed emotions about. I’m not a fan of the studio recording, nor did I like the music video, but I absolutely love this live rendition as it adds the attitude that I feel the original recording was missing.

More Human Than Human is one of the greatest songs ever written and recorded and this live version is nothing short of pure perfection. Zombie doesn’t get much better than this!

Dead Girl Superstar has never been a favourite of mine, and I consider it to be one of the weakest songs on The Sinister Urge, but I can’t deny just how well it works live. I actually enjoy it within this context.

House Of 1000 Corpses is a personal favourite. The film is already a cult classic and this song has such an addictive mellow groove that it’s hypnotic, drawing you into the crazy psychotic mind of Rob Zombie. What’s not to like?

Let It All Bleed Out is thrash metal meets groove metal with a touch of blues rock and roll. What can I say, it works! Although, I have to admit that it took me a number of listens to fully appreciate the song when I first heard it. Actually, Educated Horses, the album from which Let It All Bleed Out comes from, was so different to Zombie’s previous works that at first, I detested the album. Thankfully it grew on me and it is now one of my favourite Zombie releases. I guess that just goes to prove that one should never be too quick to judge as music can be an acquired taste that needs to develop over time.

Creature Of The Wheel is a killer White Zombie track and is performed flawlessly.

Demonoid Phenomenon is full of energy and attitude and is a sensational live rendition of the Hellbilly Deluxe classic.

Super-Charger Heaven is another song that is sensational live. Some songs just suit live performances; it certainly seems as though Zombie has more than his fair share of songs that fall into that category.

Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Kroovy) is an absolute favourite of mine. That said, The Sinister Urge has always been, and likely always will be, my favourite Rob Zombie album as it was a revolutionary shift in his style that linked him to his White Zombie origins but also put him on a new path of exploration as an artist.

Black Sunshine flows seamlessly from Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Kroovy), further validating my previous statement about being similar, but revolutionary. It’s a great song and is incredible when played live.

Superbeast is a killer rock and roll tune. I’ll never forget first hearing it while watching the film, End Of Days. If memory serves me well, the music video was also an added DVD special feature. It blew my mind then and still does to this day. This live version is yet another flawless performance on a live album that goes above and beyond all expectations.

The Devil’s Rejects has an incredible twang and is an awesome song that gets about as close to a ballad as Zombie is ever going to get. It’s also surprisingly well-suited for this live performance and doesn’t feel at all out-of-place.

Lords Of Salem isn’t bad, but it isn’t one of my favourite Zombie songs and I’m not entirely sure it is suited to a live performance, despite the obvious approval from the crowd. Hopefully, the cheering wasn’t added in post-production.

Thunder Kiss ‘65 has one of the most recognisable riffs in the history of rock and roll, but I have a love/hate relationship with the song. The rhythm is fantastic and the verses work well, with plenty of groove, but the chorus drives me absolutely mental. Thankfully John 5 gives a masterful solo at the end of the song. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I love John 5’s solo work as well. He’s a master musician if there ever was one and while he receives significant recognition, he is under-appreciated outside the Zombie camp.

Dragula is the perfect song to close the live performance on. It’s one of Zombie’s greatest and I never tire of turning the volume up when this song comes on. Without a doubt, it encourages me to listen to Zombie Live again and stay within Zombie’s extensive catalogue of music.

Overall, Zombie Live is a masterpiece and as polished as Zombie’s studio recordings are, this live recording maintains and amplifies his overall addictive groove and attitude, thereby taking some of Zombie’s greatest hits to another level. Honestly, it isn’t often that live performances can match or exceed their studio counterparts, but this one does.

Without a doubt, this is one album you must own. Call it a Greatest Hits, if you will, it is simply that good and is available to own on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

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Apocalyptica – 7th Symphony (Album Review)

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Apocalyptica – 7th Symphony (Album Review)

It’s cello-metal time!

Yes, the world has collided and those of you who are die-hard classical music fans may wish to look away. Similarly, the metal heads may also have a difficult time coming to terms with just how perfect metal and classical overtures and instrumentation work together. Certainly, Metallica proved just how well the mix could be applied when they performed their exceptional live concert, S&M, with the San Francisco Symphony, in 1999. It’s a classic performance and one of the best recordings Metallica has ever released. It’s certainly better than their latest live effort, Helping Hands...Live & Acoustic At The Masonic. I love Metallica, but this album is only slightly better than their Lou Reed collaboration, LuLu. Regardless, Metallica has been an inspiration for the Finnish cello-metal band Apocalyptica and you should really check out their 1996 release, Plays Metallica By Four Cellos. It’s exceptional and one can only wonder if upon hearing this album, Metallica decided to test the waters with their own classical interpretation three years later. Whether or not this was the case, S&M is one of the greatest live albums and performances of all time and Apocalyptica has grown beyond covering their idols, becoming a band that has not only stood the test of time but commands the respect of the classical music lover and metal head alike.

Released in 2010, 7th Symphony is Apocalyptica’s seventh studio release and fast became one of my all-time favourite albums. This review is based on the iTunes/Apple Music standard edition as that is the one that I’ve been enjoying for years. Interestingly, however, as much as I adore this album I’ve yet to add it to my physical collection. Given it was released on various formats, it amazes me that I’ve never taken it to the next level. My only reasoning is that I thoroughly enjoy the digital edition that I purchased so many years ago and as such it makes me wonder if obtaining the vinyl release, amongst other possibilities, is really that important. The music collector within says it most certainly is, but the music lover says if you like the way it sounds, don’t buy another copy. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I have countless examples of different formats sounding at odds with each other, as if you’re listening to an entirely different album. Sometimes it is subjectively better, other times it is just different. Yes, I’m aware of how different masterings can sound and that each format has its own unique sonic elements, but that doesn’t always mean that vinyl is better than digital or vice versa. Subsequently, I say, enjoy the music you have and if you’re not grooving with the sound, then perhaps you should look for an alternative format/mastering to see if a subjectively better release is available. Of course, as I say that, I’m looking at the cello-shaped USB edition of the album...I want it! Yes, I know I contradicted myself. It isn’t the first time and it certainly won’t be the last. It is the bane of the music collector and as much as one can enjoy the process, it is an addiction just like any other hobby.

Addicted is certainly one way to describe my love of 7th Symphony. By and large, the album as a coherent piece of musical art is superbly crafted and I welcome you to join me as I take a look at the songs that make up Apocalyptica’s 7th Symphony.

At The Gates Of Manala is a sonic wonderland and is the perfect song to open the album with as you know exactly what to expect from the rest of the album when you listen to this song. That isn’t to say that Apocalyptica repeats themselves, for they are certainly diverse, but what is immediately apparent is that this record, in particular, is going to be a little more on the symphonic heavy side than some may assume. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing and there are more mellow tunes throughout 7th Symphony, but At The Gates Of Manala, and the entire album, is one that takes no prisoners and if you’ve never heard anything by Apocalyptica, up until now, I’ve no doubt you’ll be hooked listening to this instrumental song. I certainly was!

End Of Me (feat. Gavin Rossdale) has incredible rhythm and while I’m not overly familiar with Bush, Rossdale performs this song beautifully. However, as good as he sounds, I’d love to hear Corey Taylor on vocals here. Yes, I may well have a man crush on Taylor, but the guy epitomises the lifestyle and genres he performs in. Nevertheless, Rossdale should be congratulated on a stellar performance and the backing musicality is off-the-charts. A great song and a wise choice for the first single from 7th Symphony.

However, Not Strong Enough (feat. Brent Smith), is the best song on the album. Smith has an incredible vocal range that is perfectly suited to the album. Interestingly, however, due to frivolous music industry practices, the Brent Smith original was unable to be released stateside and subsequently another version of the song was recorded with Doug Robb of Hoobastank. To be completely honest, both versions are spectacular but if I had to pick one, it would be the rendition with Brent Smith as I feel his vocal is more suited to the style of the song and backing musicality. Either way, Not Strong Enough is one of the greatest songs in Apocalyptica’s catalogue and I can only recommend you turn the volume up and enjoy. It has an attitude that will make you feel invincible; a positive confidence building element that is exclusive to the listening and appreciation of music.

2010 (feat. Dave Lombardo) is another killer instrumental and Lombardo delivers an exceptional drum track. Its speed metal meets rhythmic metal but performed with symphonic overtones. What’s not to like?

Beautiful is certainly more mellow but is absolutely stunning. I hope you haven’t turned the volume down for Beautiful needs to be heard as loud as you can play it without causing hearing damage or inducing audible distortion.

Broken Pieces (feat. Lacey Sturm) is a lovely song and Sturm delivers an exceptional vocal performance that in some ways reminds me of Avril Lavigne. Perhaps the only disappointment I have when listening to Broken Pieces is the crushed percussion elements as a result of brickwalling. This is quite a shame as all other songs sound dynamic with a broad soundstage, despite the album’s overall low dynamic range. That said, according to the Dynamic Range Database, Broken Pieces has the greater dynamic range in comparison to the rest of the album, almost double the other songs, yet when you listen to it, you wouldn’t agree with that finding

On The Rooftop With Quasimodo begins in a mellow tone, but that doesn’t last as this instrumental track grows in boldness before returning to its original mellow state mid-song, then returning to a heavier symphonic sound. The sonic shifts are done extraordinarily well and you won’t feel they’re disjointed as they blend masterfully together resulting in a song that tells a story through instrumentation alone.

Bring Them To Light (feat. Joseph Duplantier) picks up the pace and it’s a killer scream/speed metal track. The rhythm on Bring Them To Light really directs the song beautifully and Duplantier’s vocals are spot on. A sensational track!

Sacra is absolutely mind-blowing. The moodiness of the cello certainly comes out in this song and I couldn’t imagine a metal-infused cello track being more textbook accurate than this one. If you want to let someone here just what symphonic metal and the cello can sound like, this is most certainly the song to play for them. Perfect would be an understatement as Sacra really is beyond adequate description and has to be heard to be believed. Although, I’m not fond of how it transitions into Rage Of Poseidon.

Rage Of Poseidon has an opening that doesn’t compel me, but as the song progresses, the grinding rhythm takes hold and it becomes a valued addition to the album, ensuring that I’ll certainly play thestandard 10-track edition of 7th Symphony again and stay within Apocalyptica’s diverse and extensive catalogue.

Overall, 7th Symphony is an album that should be in everyone’s collection, be it digital or physical. It is compelling and while on the surface it may seem a little mismatched to the newcomer, it is absolutely perfect to those of us who believe the merging of musical genres is not only a good thing but is an essential element in the continuous evolution of music as a form of art.

As for the tracks not included on the standard edition, but present on varied releases in different regions, I have this to say:

Return Game is simply stunning and brings the cello right to the front of the mix, an element that I thoroughly appreciate. I really wish this song was included on the standard 10-track album.

Through Paris In A Sportscar is a solid tune. Nothing to write home about, but adequate nonetheless.

The Shadow Of Venus is a lovely song, but it does have the tendency to sound a little repetitive.

Spiral Architect is a Black Sabbath cover, first appearing on Sabbath’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath from 1973. Let me be completely honest, just listen to the original Sabbath version of the song.

These additional four tracks, along with a DVD featuring performances from the Sibelius Academy, are all included on the Deluxe Edition. Thankfully, this additional content has also been made available on iTunes, as well as Apple Music, for those who wish to download or stream the content. The additional performances included are for the songs Beautiful, Not Strong Enough, End Of Me (if you’d like to see the official music video (feat. Gavin Rossdale), click here), I Don’t Care (an incredible song originally released on Apocalyptica’s 2007 release, Worlds Collide), Sacra, and Bittersweet. Yes, these additional elements can often be seen as bonus material that you’re unlikely to consume more than once, but I would encourage you to check it out as the songs are performed in an acoustic manner, showcasing just how seriously talented these musicians are. Tipe Johnson of the Finnish rock band, Leningrad Cowboys, provides the vocals on these acoustic performances and does a simply incredible job.

Apocalyptica’s 7th Symphony is available to own on CD and iTunes. A Deluxe Edition is also available on CD/DVD and iTunes.

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Device – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Device – Self-Titled (Album Review)

David Draiman is a man with few peers and with such a unique vocal presentation it can be difficult to separate the man from Disturbed; a band that would catapult him to international fame. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your philosophical bent, Disturbed entered a hiatus between 2011 and 2015, resulting in a series of side projects by the various band members. Bassist, John Moyer, would join Adrenaline Mob and form Art Of Anarchy, while Dan Donegan and Mike Wengren formed Fight Or Flight. Draiman, of course, went on to form Device with former Filter guitarist, Geno Lenardo. Device, while not completely dissimilar to Disturbed, in part due to Draiman’s unique vocal presentation, does have a greater electro-industrial sound than Disturbed that fans will undoubtedly adore.

You Think You Know is a hard-hitting start to the album and in some ways is reminiscent of Disturbed’s Believe era. Despite that, You Think You Know sounds fresh and unencumbered by the link to Disturbed. The rhythm elements are fantastic, but the drums are sadly a little flat, especially in the high-hat region. This is due, in part, to the over-compressed nature of the album whereby the dynamic range is brick-walled rather badly. When you listen to this song, and much of this Self-Titled album, it becomes apparent that the music is screaming to be heard with more separation and depth. Yes, the highly compressed nature of this style of music is somewhat of a trademark, but I feel it was taken a few steps too far and could have been dialled back a little to allow a greater sense of scope, rather than the wall of sound that is currently present. Nevertheless, I love You Think You Know and believe it is the perfect song to commence the album with.

Penance is stadium worthy as that rhythm will get you moving. Perhaps the only questionable aspect is the tempo. The chorus and overall musicality are perfectly timed, but I do wonder how Penance would have sounded if the vocal delivery was sped up a little.

Vilify is a great song, but the electro-industrial elements are a bit too in your face and sound as if they were added as an afterthought. Yes, I understand this is the style Device was aiming for, it just feels as though there are two songs here, instead of one coherent one.

Close My Eyes Forever (feat. Lzzy Hale) is amazing! I love it and could listen to it indefinitely. This is most certainly a song for my lost on a deserted island playlist. Lzzy Hale is one of the greatest rock/metal vocalists in the world today and the duet with Draiman has a sense of purity that could only have been made in heaven. As much as I love the Ozzy Osbourne and Lita Ford original, this edition takes the song to a new level while simultaneously paying homage to the original.

Out Of Line (feat. Serj Tankian & Terry “Geezer” Butler) is a raw and riff-driven song full of attitude. Seriously, turn this song up to 11, you’ll thank me later.

Hunted started out promising, but I don’t like Draiman’s lyrical presentation on this song. Subsequently, I’ve got to call Hunted a B-Side.

Opinion (feat. Tom Morello) is a great left-of-the-centre song. The rhythm is disjointed, but that is where the magic happens proving that order and chaos can coexist.

War Of Lies is a solid track, but it’s nothing to write home about.

Haze (feat. M. Shadows) is enjoyable and while there are moments of brilliance, I don’t feel Shadows is presented as prominently as he should have been on this track as his input sounds a little lost in the mix. A shame considering just how exceptional he is as a vocalist. In all honesty, if you didn’t know Shadows contributed to this track, you’d be forgiven in missing his addition as there is very little sign of the vocal prowess the Avenged Sevenfold frontman is known for.

Through It All (feat. Glenn Hughes) is a sensational closing track that encourages me, like all good closing songs should, to listen to the album again.

While there are no major disappointments on this album, it is frustrating that this self-titled release was never issued on vinyl. The cover art alone demands a larger canvas and the greater dynamic range, provided by the vinyl mastering process, would be a welcome addition. Similarly, it frustrates me that the edition available to Australian audiences, via digital downloads, streaming, and CD, are limited to 10 songs. There are, however, three additional songs that have been made available on various editions of the album. A Deluxe Edition that includes a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ Wish and A Part Of Me. The Best Buy Exclusive also includes the track titled Recover. Are these additional songs any good? Well, I have reluctantly taken to YouTube to check out the tracks, despite the poor audio quality, and one can understand why they weren’t included on the core album. That doesn’t change the fact that in the era of streaming, these songs should easily, and legally, be available to fans the world over.

Overall, Device’s Self-Titled album is exceptional and while Draiman has stated that there is no intention to release more music under this moniker, I hope he reconsiders this position as this work complements his work with Disturbed in much the same way that Corey Taylor’s Stone Sour complements Slipknot.

Device’s Self-Titled album is available to own on CD and iTunes.

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SIXX:A.M. – This Is Gonna Hurt (Album Review)

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SIXX:A.M. – This Is Gonna Hurt (Album Review)

One would be forgiven for thinking rock legends of the calibre of Nikki Sixx, Dj Ashba, and James Michael wouldn't have anything inspirational to say, particularly if you consider Sixx's entertainingly sex, drugs, and rock and roll past. That, however, couldn’t be further from the truth as This Is Gonna Hurt is perhaps one of the most positive, heartfelt, and inspiring albums to ever be released in the rock and roll genre.

This Is Gonna Hurt is a stellar hard rock song to commence the album with. I love it!

Lies Of The Beautiful People is fantastic, but I feel it’s sonically compromised as it sounds overly compressed. Ashba's guitar solo is also lost in the overly complex and shallow soundstage. Yes, I recognise this is a style of recording, but when you have musicians as skilled as Ashba and Sixx, you really want them to shine.

Are You With Me is a great tune with a killer semi-solo drum beat that blows my mind. Unfortunately, it’s another track that is sonically compromised due to a shallow soundstage.

Live Forever is superb! Michael's vocal dexterity is perfect for the song and while I don't often listen to lyrics for their literal meaning, preferring to consider lyric delivery as just another musical element, I often find with all Sixx: A.M. records that I gravitate to the vocals. James Michael is clearly not only a marvellous Producer, but he has the unique vocal chops that are needed to stand out from the crowd. Plus, Ashba's solo really stands out on Live Forever. I love it!

Sure Feels Right slows the album down with a mellow, country-inspired, tune. Yes, it may sound a little strange, but when you listen to the song it simply works and surprisingly doesn't feel out-of-place with the rest of the album. It reminds me a little of the shift in rhythm that Kid Rock has applied to some of his music over the years. Exceptional!

Deadlihood is one of my favourite songs on the album. It is a hard-hitting rhythmic wonderland with some very cool vocal distortion.

Smile is an absolutely beautiful recording.

Help Is On The Way is a fun song. One of their best! Yes, it is overly compressed with almost no soundstage to speak of. However, it reminds me of the intense rhythm of Rob Zombie's Sinister Urge album. I don’t know about you but I feel the importance of rhythm in rock and roll is understated. A solid rhythm can make an average song sound exceptional and that is certainly the case for Help Is On The Way. That said, I must admit I also find the song to be a little campy, not that that is always a bad thing!

Oh My God is a song so similar in tonality that the casual listener would be forgiven for thinking it’s a U2 song. That shouldn't be seen as a negative reflection as the song is beautiful in its own right. There’s even a small hint of Bon Jovi’s musical style in Ashba's guitar solo. Regardless, Oh My God is an exceptional song that most listeners will find inspirational.

Goodbye My Friends is a mixed bag. I love the musicality and piano introduction, but I'm not sold on the vocal style throughout the verses. Overall, Goodbye My Friends sounds too busy, causing my brain to struggle to determine which all-important rhythm to connect with.

Skin is brilliant! Amazing! Exceptional! You get the idea. This song should inspire everyone. It is so beautiful and I would go as far as saying it is one of the best songs ever written and recorded.

This Is Gonna Hurt is an incredible album that I have always enjoyed. Although, truth-be-told, I could say that about all of Sixx: A.M.'s music.

This review is based on listening to the CD (cat: 88697749012). While I would love to be able to own a vinyl edition, specifically for the artwork and increased dynamic range, This Is Gonna Hurt was unfortunately never released on vinyl. Hopefully, a reissue will turn up sometime, perhaps for the 10th Anniversary. That said, a unique iTunes edition exists that I’ve owned since the album's release in 2011. It is superb with interactive artwork, a documentary, and music videos. While I may lament the sonic quality of iTunes AAC 256kbps files, the iTunes LP is a value-added proposition. Sadly, despite Apple continually claiming music is in their DNA, iTunes LP releases are not available on the iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV. I say sadly because the iTunes LP idea is pure gold for music lovers. It is the missing link in digital music downloads and streaming. Whether it was Apple dropping the ball or the record labels not willing to invest in the concept, l’m not sure. Perhaps consumer demand wasn't there either. I still hold out hope that this will change, especially considering bonus features in films have made their way to iTunes purchases, across all Apple hardware platforms, but I feel it is more likely that Apple will quietly abandon the iTunes LP feature. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but l’ve never understood why higher quality and more elaborate content is rewarded in the film industry but dismissed in the music industry. It simply doesn’t make sense!

Regardless, This Is Gonna Hurt is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), iTunes LP, and as a standard iTunes release.

If you prefer streaming, This Is Gonna Hurt is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Other Sixx: A.M. Reviews By Subjective Sounds

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Gloomball - The Distance

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Gloomball - The Distance

I first heard of Gloomball, the alternative metal band out of Germany, when their lead singer Alen Ljubic followed me on Twitter. As you do, you look a little deeper into the individuals that choose to follow you. As soon as I found out he was a lead singer, for a German-based metal band, I knew the result would be superb as Germany has been home to some of the most respected rock and metal bands that include, but are certainly not limited to, Rammstein, Scorpions, Accept, and Gamma Ray.

Germany also plays host to the world-renowned Wacken Open Air (W:O:A) heavy metal festival. It is then no doubt that a band like Gloomball has risen to deliver an impressive debut album.

The Distance is Gloomball's first studio album, but it certainly doesn't play like an initial release. As soon as I heard it, I couldn't help but think of the impact that Guns 'N Roses made with their debut Appetite For Destruction. Both albums were fresh takes on the genres they entered and while Appetite For Destruction may be the more commercially successful of the two, there is no denying that Gloomball will reach astronomical heights, throughout their career, with a style that is uniquely metal driven, while remaining accessible to the masses.

Gloomball isn’t just for the head bangers. Gloomball is for the rock and roll lovers. After all, they covered Robert Tepper’s No Easy Way Out beautifully and have a ballad-style song, Living With My Tender Pain, closing out the album. I know some metal-heads detest ballads, but I find they can be an incredible addition to an artist’s catalogue, if done well.

When I listen to rock or metal bands, the vocalist is the most important element for me. They must be able to hold tune and not just scream random lyrics. I can’t tell you how many bands play incredibly well, but are not added to my collection because of the lack of vocal talent. Well, Gloomball doesn’t suffer from this problem as Alen simply has it! The man is gifted with vocal talent and appears to be comfortable across all metal subgenres. His vocal abilities remind me of David Draiman (Disturbed, Device) and Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour) with their ability to belt out extreme guttural vocals, but maintain control and tonality while shifting tempo and style. Alen's vocals are truly amongst the most amazing that I have ever heard in the metal scene.

Gloomball’s The Distance is one album you really must listen to. It is an exceptional debut by a band that I truly believe will reach international headlining status, in the next decade, if they continue down this road. It is filled with heavy beats and riffs that will appeal to the demon within, but with songs like The Distance and Bitter Place, you will find yourself singing along to the album. You will likely hear the band play homage to many of the great bands that have come before, but they apply a fresh and unique presentation to the metal mix. I can honestly say, with complete certainty, that Gloomball plays like a band that has recorded several albums together, rather than a debut, as they have already found their sound.

The Distance is available on CD, TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and the iTunes Music Store. While I have yet to purchase the CD, it is in the wish-list. I do wish they would release a vinyl edition of the album, but the last I heard regarding this was they were considering it for their follow-up album, The Quiet Monster. Unfortunately, a vinyl edition for either album has not yet surfaced.

I have found the mastering to be uniform across TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music, so I suggest you just listen to the album and turn the volume up so the neighbors can hear Gloomball in the distance. 

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