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Motörhead - Motörhead (Album Review)

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Motörhead - Motörhead (Album Review)

There are imitators, but there is only one Motörhead; there will never be another. Whether it is the sex, drugs, and rock and roll persona that came naturally to Lemmy, and his musical counterparts, or their musical talent that was beyond reproach, there is little doubt that Motörhead changed rock and roll forever, starting with this eponymous debut.

While Motörhead was not technically the first Motörhead album, it was the first released to the public with the earlier effort, On Parole being shelved until 1979. This review is based on the original 8-track release from 1977. While an expanded 40th Anniversary Edition is also available, I’m somewhat of a purist and while there is nothing fundamentally wrong with extended releases, there is something special about the original 33-minute release. It leaves you wanting more and I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I feel that is a good thing.

The artwork is also iconic and debuted the War Pig mascot that would become as recognisable as Iron Maiden’s Eddie, AC/DC’s lightning logo, and Metallica’s Ninja Star-inspired logo. 

Motörhead is a killer opener that was originally recorded by Hawkwind, when Lemmy was a member, and by Motörhead for the On Parole album. The Hawkwind original is, as you’d expect, more psychedelic but is, in my opinion, a superb recording with a killer violin solo. It was also the last song Lemmy wrote for Hawkwind. The On Parole recording is rather raw, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the motorcycle revving introduction is incredible. This version, by comparison, is a perfect evolution of the song, even though I’ve always felt Philthy’s drum track, while sensational, was compromised. When listening via speakers, it isn’t as apparent, but when using headphones, there is a flat wallop sound to the drums. Look, Motörhead was never going to win any audiophile awards, but it just doesn’t sound right as it is a little concealed; of course, that could be part of the song’s and album’s appeal as it has most certainly stood the test of time. 

Vibrator is an old-school rock and roll tune that I simply adore and the drums on this recording are significantly better than Motörhead when listening on headphones. There are some killer musical riffs to be heard here and if you haven’t already, may I suggest you turn the volume up. This version is more rock and roll than the original found on On Parole and perhaps the most appealing aspect is Lemmy’s deeper, whiskey-soaked, vocal delivery as Larry Wallis’ original vocal on the On Parole version is piss-weak. 

Lost Johnny is a solid rock tune. It isn’t anything to write home about, but it is a perfect addition to the album with a killer guitar solo by Fast Eddie. This version is so similar to that as heard on On Parole that I’m torn as to which I prefer. Of course, Lost Johnny’s origins go further back as the song was originally written by Lemmy for Hawkwind and I adore that version, feeling it is much stronger than the subsequent Motörhead re-recordings.

Iron Horse / Born To Lose is one of the coolest, no, it has to be the coolest, song on the album. Lemmy was, without a doubt, one of the greatest bass players to have ever recorded a tune. He had incredible rhythm. Bloody brilliant! If you haven’t checked out the original, while very similar to  this re-recording, it simply must be heard as it’s equally impressive. 

White Line Fever is another rhythmic masterpiece, but Lemmy sounds a little too far back in the mix. It isn’t a mood killer, but I would have loved to have heard his vocal more prominent in the mix.

Keep Us On The Road is a song you can groove to. A killer tune! 

The Watcher has incredible rhythm and is yet another song, from the Motorhead collection, where you’ll need your air guitar to fully enjoy it. It is, thankfully, significantly stronger than the version from On Parole. Although, as with a few of the original Motorhead songs, The Watcher was originally written by Lemmy for Hawkwind and that psychedelic acoustically-styled rendition is simply magical.

The Train Kept A Rollin’ is a classic song that’s been covered by a who’s who of rock and roll with Aerosmith probably championing it most throughout their career with the song being featured on Get Your Wings. Nevertheless, the bass-heavy groove that Lemmy throws into the song really works well and while I remain unconvinced that The Train Kept A Rollin’ was the perfect closer for this eponymous debut, I find that it still compels me enough to listen to the album again.

Motörhead may not have been the first set of studio recordings from Motörhead, but the album showcased a band that was highly polished as a result of extensive touring; especially considering the album was recorded in 48 hours*. Is Motörhead subjectively a stronger album than On Parole? Yes, I believe it is, but On Parole is definitely one album you should check out as it is arguably the true origin of Motorhead and this debut is merely a more polished re-recording of many of the original tracks. If you’re at all interested in Motörhead, then this eponymous debut is essential for your collection. It is raw, full of energy, and is pure rock and roll. 

Motörhead is available to own on Vinyl and CD. 

Motörhead 40th Anniversary Edition is also available on CD and Apple Music.

*Lemmy: The Definitive Biography - By Mick Wall (pg. 129)

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KISS – August 24, 2019 – Saratoga Performing Arts Center (Concert Review)

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KISS – August 24, 2019 – Saratoga Performing Arts Center (Concert Review)

When I was in high school KISS was playing at a local venue. I was planning on going with a group of girls, but as usual, my mother said no. She wouldn’t let me go to concerts, and she especially wasn’t letting me see KISS, even though the venue was about five miles away and parents volunteered to bring us both ways.

Flash forward to late 2003. KISS is touring with Aerosmith. I’m excited-I had never seen Aerosmith, either. My husband can only tolerate so much, and this was one concert he refused to attend. So I did the next best thing: I brought my two oldest kids, who were both in high school. Yes, I’m the cool mom!

Which brings us to August 2019. Still the cool mom, my oldest son and I were in the front row balcony when KISS brought their tour to my neck of the woods. Thousands of fans packed the amphitheater and lawn, some in face paint, many in KISS t-shirts from this tour and tours from years ago. The “KISS Army,” as the die-hard fans are called, were in full force.

“You wanted the best, you got the best. The hottest band in the world…KISS!!” The curtain dropped, and descending from the ceiling were Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, and Tommy Thayer, playing the opening licks to “Detroit Rock City.” Drummer Eric Singer was on an elevated platform at the back of the stage. Fireworks and fire were prevalent throughout the concert; I could feel the heat of the fire from the balcony!

KISS played the hits you would expect at one of their concerts: “Shout It Out Loud,” “Calling Dr. Love,” “Deuce,” and “Lick It Up.” KISS doesn’t simply sing their songs, they perform their songs. With the exception of “Beth,” beautifully sung by Eric Singer while playing the piano alone on the stage during the encore, every song had pyrotechnics, lasers, lights, rising platforms-more like a show within a show. And the crowd ate it up.

Paul Stanley, at 67 years old, is just as enthusiastic and happy to be on stage as he was when KISS was in their heyday during the 1970s. His schtick was obviously rehearsed and a bit insincere: “we will never, ever forget this night.” But that can be forgiven as he was relating to the crowd and showing appreciation. As a concert fan, I would rather hear that than have the artist ignore the fans.

A highlight of the show was “I Was Made For Loving You,” where Stanley was zip lined to the back of the amphitheater to a second stage. 

Before finishing the encore Stanley lead the crowd in singing happy birthday to Gene Simmons, whose birthday was the next day. Simmons proudly told the fans he was 70 *bleep bleep* years old. You’d never know it as he stood there in full leather and platform boots.

The just over two-hour concert ended with arguably their most popular and well-known song, “Rock and Roll All Nite,” complete with KISS balloons dropped into the crowd and enough confetti to keep the maintenance team busy for days. 

KISS isn't just a concert, it’s an experience. The fans, ranging in age from grade school kids to senior citizens collecting social security, were looking for a good time that night and they got their money’s worth. It was loud, gawdy, sometimes silly, even cartoonish-and the fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

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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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Ozzy Osbourne – Under Cover (Album Review)

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Ozzy Osbourne – Under Cover (Album Review)

Ozzy Osbourne is a living legend and while is work in Black Sabbath and his solo career has been spectacular, was a covers album really what fans were looking for from his ninth studio album? The song selection, focusing on rock and roll from the 60s and 70s, is fantastic and it’s unlikely you’ll hear a song that you’ve never heard before. Of course, the biggest question is if these songs suit Osbourne’s vocal and musical styles or is Under Cover largely a self-indulgent release and homage to Osbourne’s musical idols?

Rocky Mountain Way is a Joe Walsh classic and Osbourne performs it admirably, mixing a little of his own style while paying homage to the original. If you like Joe Walsh’s recording of this song but want it to feature a little more hard rock, perhaps a touch of metal, then you’re going to love this cover.

In My Life (Radio Edit) is a beautiful song and was one of the best songs from The Beatles’ Rubber Soul; although there are so many! One of the things I’ve always found fascinating about Osbourne is that despite his hard rocker persona, he can sing ballads exceptionally well and I’d even argue that he is a better ballad singer than he is a heavy metal vocalist. That may irritate some, but I’m blown away with his performance of In My Life. It is so good that as much as I adore The Beatles original, I enjoy Osbourne’s better; partially due to the darker style and the slower tempo. Regardless, both are exceptional and Osbourne has done himself proud on In My Life.  

Mississippi Queen is a killer rock and roll tune that is styled very similarly to the original Mountain classic. Do I have a preferred version? Not really, they’re both exceptional but if you’re looking for a little more hard rock, then Osbourne’s rendition is the one to listen to. 

Go Now is one song that I would have never imagined Osbourne covering. It’s a great song and while you may be familiar with The Moody Blues version, the Bessie Banks original is the one to beat and Osbourne has done just that. An exceptional cover with a gorgeous musical interlude that includes a piano and guitar solo. I love it!

Woman is one of the greatest songs ever written and recorded. It doesn’t matter how good this rendition is, nothing and nobody will ever beat John Lennon’s original. That said, Osbourne covers it superbly, paying homage to the original while also putting his own spin on this classic.

21 Century Schizoid Man is a classic late 60s masterpiece that Osbourne has turned up to 11. 

All The Young Dudes is a killer tune. A David Bowie original composition, Bowie’s recording has always been exceptional, as was the original recording of the song by Mott the Hoople, but Osbourne takes All The Young Dudes to another level completely. Sensational!

For What It’s Worth is an incredible cover. I love the Buffalo Springfield original and it is that version that we’re arguably most familiar with. However, if you’re looking for a modern interpretation that infuses the original with hard rock elements, then look no further for this is utterly perfect.  

Good Times is a song I’ve never been fond of. The Animals original isn’t fundamentally bad, but it never grabbed my attention. While there is nothing wrong with Osbourne’s interpretation, it doesn’t change my thoughts on the song as a whole.

Sunshine Of Your Love is one of the greatest songs from the 60s. The distortion in the original Cream version is stunningly good and while you can’t beat the original, Osbourne pays homage to it and adds a little of a harder rock edge to the song that I find to be thoroughly enjoyable. A killer song no matter who performs it!

Fire is a really interesting psychedelic rock tune from 1968. The Arthur Brown original isn’t bad, but Osbourne has made Fire his own and I much prefer this interpretation. 

Working Class Hero is another John Lennon classic. Again, Osbourne doesn’t disappoint. Admittedly, he doesn’t stray too far from the original in his interpretation, but Osbourne’s approach breathes new life into Working Class Hero and is arguably perfectly suited to his vocal and musical style. 

Sympathy For The Devil is a killer song. The Rolling Stones are the ultimate masters and arguably nobody has done it better. Yes, Guns N’ Roses covered it incredibly well, but the original is beyond reproach. Nevertheless, Osbourne’s rendition is enjoyable and is a great closer for this collection of covers ensuring that I’ll likely listen to the album again, stay within Osbourne’s catalogue, or explore the original artists he’s covered. Yes, on some editions of the album, the Black Sabbath song, Changes (with Kelly Osbourne), is included but that isn’t the case with the Apple Music release which sticks to the original 13-track lineup. 

As far as cover albums go, this is one of the most enjoyable I’ve come across. Yes, I would have preferred to have more original Osbourne music, but he has given fans a look at some of his favourite tunes and has covered them with the respect they deserve. Under Cover, however, isn’t an album I go to when I think of Osbourne, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it when listening to his entire catalogue. 

Under Cover is available on CD and iTunes.

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Metallica – Ride The Lightning (Album Review)

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Metallica – Ride The Lightning (Album Review)

For as long as I can remember, Ride The Lightning has been one of my favourite Metallica albums and despite their long legacy that continues to amaze some and disappoint others, Ride The Lightning remains timeless and is just as compelling now as the first time I heard it when I purchased the CD in the 90s.

Yes, those of you older than I would likely have memories dating back to the album’s release in 1984, on vinyl, but alas at the age of 5, Metallica was yet to appear on my radar for no one in my family would have even heard of the band and even if they had, it is highly doubtful that they would have approved for my beloved Guns N’ Roses collection, that I accumulated in the 90s, was banned in my home and I was forced to sell all their albums. One day I’ll tell you that story, dear reader, but despite the passage of three decades, the pain is still with me, even though as an adult I have replaced the records. Nevertheless, later on, as the #MP3isawesome era took off, I stupidly ripped my copy of Ride The Lightning (the 1996 reissue on Vertigo/Mercury - Cat: 838 140-2) and sold it on eBay. I honestly can’t recall the sound quality of that CD, but I recall fondly of listening to it on repeat for hours; Ride The Lightning really is that good!

Fast forward a couple of decades and as I started to rebuild my physical library, I picked up a copy of Ride The Lightning on vinyl; it’s the Blackened Recordings release from 2014, remastered by George Marino at Sterling Sound. Despite the legacy of the band and Marino’s mastering work, I was sure that I would enjoy this release and in some ways I do, but the pressing just isn’t a strong performer. Yes, the thrash elements come through loud and clear and everything is where it should be in the mix but it is very concealed; almost as though a blanket is covering the speakers. It really lacks from both soundstage and depth perspectives as the sound emanates from the speakers, rather than the speakers disappearing as the studio layout is virtually and sonically presented in the room. Unfortunately, it doesn’t change when listening via headphones and I can say, without a doubt, that mono recordings have a greater sense of scope than this vinyl pressing does.

Interestingly, the 2016 remaster that is available as a Mastered for iTunes edition, on both iTunes and Apple Music, is exceptional. To say I am smitten by this stream would be an understatement. It sounds exactly how it should; ultimately delivering a captivating performance that the vinyl release simply can’t achieve. Yes, as with my other early Metallica records, I will need to look into replacing the 2014 editions with the post-2016 counterparts; a shame considering I paid good money for a lacklustre pressing and selling them will yield next to no return. Of course, I could just stick with the Apple Music stream as it doesn’t disappoint. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Metallica should be ashamed of the 2014 vinyl pressings on their own label, Blackened Recordings, as the sound quality just isn’t there and those cheap rice paper sleeves infuriate me as they do little to protect the record and add scuff marks to the surface.

Despite the lacklustre audio performance of the 2014 record, the artwork and liner notes are beautifully replicated, even if my edition got a little banged up in the shipping of the record, thanks to an overzealous postie who used my record for frisbee practice.

Side One

Fight Fire With Fire is a killer intro. That acoustic-styled introduction never gets old and as it builds to the crescendo, you know you’re in for a treat. This is thrash metal 101 and I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I love it.

Ride The Lightning flows beautifully from the explosion that closed Fight Fire With Fire. That guitar riff is absolutely amazing. Get your air guitars out, ladies and gentlemen, for you will need them. That mid-song shift is off-the-charts and while the vinyl record doesn’t present the drum tracking well, the Apple Music stream sure does and the depth is mesmerising. Metallica’s music doesn’t get much better than this and the final elements of the song are so good that there really are no words to adequately describe the experience for you really need to experience it for yourself.

For Whom The Bell Tolls is EPIC!

Fade To Black has an interesting country twang to it, that is before the electric guitar riff takes the song to a completely different level. Although, as long-time listeners of this album would note, the song returns to the semi-acoustic element throughout. It’s a masterful composition and Fade To Black is one song, on Ride The Lightning, that truly showcases the dexterity of not only Metallica’s musicality but Hetfield’s vocal capabilities. Fade To Black is the perfect song to close out Side One of the vinyl record as you’re left wanting more. 

Side Two

Trapped Under Ice launches Side Two in a similar manner as Fight Fire With Fire opened the album. While not as strong as the leading track, this is no filler B-Side but I do find the soundstage is a little concealed and the guitar elements aren’t as prominent as they should be thereby preventing the mind from attaching itself to a single groove and rocking out. This is relevant for the Apple Music stream as well. Yes, perhaps I should focus on the bass and drum elements, but there is a guitar riff that is screaming to take centre stage but isn’t strong enough to invoke the air guitar within the listener.

Escape is a song that some may class as a filler track, but when you’ve got such songs as Ride The Lightning, For Whom The Bell Tolls, and Fade To Black on the same record, one or two tracks have to take a backseat. Without those aforementioned tracks, however, this would be a AAA song and I thoroughly enjoy it. That escape siren towards the end of the song is a nice touch!

Creeping Death is fantastic and constantly evolving. Every element is perfect and it’s one of the best songs on the album.

The Call Of Ktulu is pure gold and is one of the greatest songs Metallica, or anyone, has ever recorded. I love it, but the best rendition I’ve ever heard is the live performance from their legendary S & M concert.

Overall, Ride The Lightning is one of the greatest thrash metal records ever released and hasn’t aged at all. There isn’t a B-Side to be heard and while I’d recommend you steer clear of the 2014 vinyl reissue, later reissues tend to be favoured by fans. That said, I can’t help but wonder if it’s a case of once bitten twice shy as I’m not breaking any speed records to obtain another edition of this album as the Apple Music stream is, honestly, extraordinary. I’d hate to have finally found a version I love, only to be disappointed if the vinyl release didn’t at least match the performance of the stream. Of course, I’ve been disappointed before with Metallica’s reissues, but I do have to say that all the album pressings following the eponymous Metallica album sound superb, it is only the early records, predominantly the thrash metal era reissues, that have been disappointing. Nevertheless, if you can find a good, non-2014, copy on vinyl, grab a drink, dim the lights, and ride the lightning for the experience of this album is profound.

Ride The Lightning is available on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes). Deluxe Box Set editions are also available.

Click here to read other Metallica reviews by Subjective Sounds.  

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Slash - Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Slash - Self-Titled (Album Review)

Slash really needs no introduction. Widely recognised as one of the greatest guitarists in rock and roll, Slash has played with a who’s who of the music industry and in 2009, it was only fitting that peers and idols collaborated with Slash on his first solo, non-band, outing entitled Slash. While the album is, of course, self-titled, I like to refer to it by its visual cover art moniker: R&FN’R.

The idea of Slash & Friends admittedly sounded campy from the outset as that style of album has been released ad nauseam, across various genres, and has a reputation that isn’t far removed from the cliche and utterly pointless Christmas album. However, Slash didn’t disappoint on this release, writing and co-writing the entire album of completely original recordings. Perhaps this is where other artists have come unstuck as they have a tendency to simply re-record their classics, with their friends, resulting in a less than stellar release.

Released in March, 2010, Slash would once again catapult the guitarist to international fame resulting in a World Tour with the incredibly talented Myles Kennedy on vocals – a match made in heaven and one that continues to exist to this very day when Kennedy isn’t busy with Alter Bridge and Slash isn’t touring with Guns N’ Roses. For this Self-Titled release, however, Kennedy would only perform two songs, Back From Cali and Starlight; both are exceptional and an indication of what was to come.

Ghost (feat. Ian Astbury) gets the album off to a rocking rhythmic start and is superb from start to finish. Astbury has an incredible vocal that is perfect for the tonality of Ghost. Such an incredible start to the album.

Crucify The Dead (feat. Ozzy Osbourne) flows seamlessly from Ghost and showcases Osbourne’s vocal prowess perfectly. I don’t know about you dear reader, but I like the slower, more methodical, Ozzy songs. Sure his fast and heavy stuff is good too, but the tempo of Crucify The Dead is absolutely perfect.

Beautiful Dangerous (feat. Fergie) is one of the greatest songs on the album and one of the most unexpected. Seriously, most of us know Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas and while her contribution to the Black Eyed Peas was extraordinary, she takes her skills as a vocalist to another level on this song. She really should be fronting a rock and roll band, if not undertaking her own solo hard rock album and associated tour. I’d buy tickets for that! The groove and guitar licks used here are sensational and I could literally listen to Beautiful Dangerous on repeat indefinitely. It is so good!

The music video is also quite entertaining with a well thought out story and connection with the song’s lyrical meaning. It is, however, let down when you see Slash taking a shot and then drinking a Monster Energy Drink. Talk about product placement! Truth-be-told, Monster probably paid for the music video, especially considering a Monster Energy Drink Edition, of this Self-Titled release, was released with the bonus track, Chains And Shackles (feat. Nick Oliveri).

Back From Cali (feat. Myles Kennedy) is the first of two masterful Myles Kennedy additions to this incredible Self-Titled album. Music doesn’t get much better than this!

The music video for Back To Cali is your classic interwoven scenes from a variety of live performances and random backstage and location shots. It works. It’s R&FN’R, but once you’ve seen it a couple of times, you’ll likely forget about it and simply enjoy the song.

Promise (feat. Chris Cornell) is sensational. I’ve adored Cornell’s vocals ever since I first heard Soundgarden’s Superunknown and Promise only intensifies my admiration.

By The Sword (feat. Andrew Stockdale) is a great tune. That semi-acoustic element is off-the-charts good! Plus, Stockdale’s vocal is so unique that I can’t help but be drawn in. It happened when I first heard Wolfmother’s Self-Titled debut and it continues here on this masterful performance.

Gotten (feat. Adam Levine) is a lovely tune and perfectly suited to the album. To be completely honest, I don’t know much about Levine, or his band Maroon 5, as they have remained off my radar over the years. Trust me, it isn’t intentional, there are just so many hours in the day and only so many albums I can listen to. Subsequently, some artists will naturally fall through the cracks. Given how good Levine is on this song, perhaps I should check out his other creative works. Nevertheless, Gotten is thoroughly enjoyable and if this is the only song of his I ever listen to, I can be satisfied.

Doctor Alibi (feat. Lemmy Kilmister) is hard and fast with an addictive rhythm that is perfect for Kilmister’s vocal prowess.

Watch This (feat. Dave Grohl and Duff McKagan) is the only instrumental track on the album and while Grohl and McKagan are legends that I admire, I feel this song is a little lacklustre and nothing more than filler. Given Grohl’s history as frontman for the Foo Fighters, one would have thought that a killer rock and roll tune with him on vocals and Duff on backing vocals would have been the perfect combination. Nevertheless, it wasn’t to be and while Watch This isn’t fundamentally bad, it feels like a missed opportunity to me.

I Hold On (feat. Kid Rock) is a solid song and as much as I enjoy anything that Kid Rock releases, I really feel that I Hold On could have been written and recorded with a harder rock element. Yes, it is in line with much of Rock’s catalogue, but for this particular collaboration, I would have been interested to see something heavier come out of the recording session. That isn’t to say that I dislike the song, or the performance, just that if I were sitting in the producer’s chair, I’d likely suggest trying a different style.

Nothing To Say (feat. M. Shadows) is perfectly suited to Shadows’ vocal style and is a much better collaboration than his inclusion on Device’s song Haze. It is reminiscent, to my ears, of Avenged Sevenfold’s Self-Titled 2007 release. Subsequently, I love this addition to the album.

Starlight (feat. Myles Kennedy) is incredible. It is one of the best songs on the album and you’d be hard pressed to find a song that Kennedy does any better than Starlight. You really need to turn the volume up on this one, you’ll thank me later. Superb!

Saint Is A Sinner Too (feat. Rocco DeLuca) is a lovely track with an acoustic approach that is not only perfectly suited to the album but fits masterfully into the tracking of the record.

We’re All Gonna Die (feat. Iggy Pop) is a song that only Iggy Pop could have sung. It’s the perfect way to close out the CD and Vinyl release of Slash’s eponymous album and one can’t help but agree with the sentiment expressed in We’re All Gonna Die; it’s priceless!

Bonus iTunes/Apple Music Track:

Paradise City (feat. Cypress Hill & Fergie) is a great mashup tune and it’s great to see it included on the streaming version of the album. It certainly pays homage to the original and while I adore the original edition on Appetite For Destruction, this is an incredible cover that will likely appeal to fans of this classic song.

Songs Not Included On Mainstream Releases:

As is often the case, different regions get an exclusive bonus song or edition of the album. The Japanese market got Sahara (feat. Koshi Inaba), a very different rock tune that upon reflection doesn’t match the rest of the music released on this eponymous release. It merely sounds disjointed as if the vocal element has been taken from another song and overlaid on an instrumental track. It isn’t inherently bad, but I am glad it didn’t make the final cut for the international release.

The now out-of-print Australian Deluxe edition includes an acoustic version of Back From Cali. As much as I love the integration of acoustic elements in the original studio recording, the acoustic version feels a tad lifeless by comparison and subsequently I’m glad a little more production was added to it. It is interesting to ponder, however, what my opinion would have been if the acoustic version was the only one ever released. Would I have loved it, loathed it, or been ambivalent towards it? We may never know, but the right version was selected for the international CD release.

Also on the Australian Deluxe edition is an acoustic version of Sweet Child Of Mine with Myles Kennedy on vocals and Izzy Stradlin on guitar, side-by-side with Slash once again. It is a beautiful rendition and I truly wish that I didn’t have to listen to it on YouTube, for it is unavailable physically, via digital downloads, or streaming services in Australia. Such a shame considering how good it is.

While we’re on the topic of Australian editions, those that pre-ordered the album on iTunes received the bonus track Chains And Shackles (feat. Nick Oliveri). It’s a killer rock and roll song and it’s ridiculous to think that it isn’t currently available for fans who didn’t pre-order.

Mother Maria (feat. Beth Hart), is an iTunes exclusive song that is not available to the Australian market. It’s your blues meets country meets rock song that is appealing if you enjoy Fleetwood Mac. I do, hence I like it, but it’s style is quite different from the entire album and wouldn’t have suited the international release.

I bet by now you’re thinking that I’ve covered all the bases. Well, there are several more editions that I won’t bore you with, other than to say the song, Baby Can’t Drive (feat. Alice Cooper, Nicole Scherzinger, Steven Adler, and Flea) is fantastic and should have never been excluded from the international standard release of the album.

Overall, Slash is the epitome of R&FN’R. While the CD generally sounds good, at lower volumes, due to a low dynamic range, it doesn’t scale well and subsequently can be disappointing. While I don’t have the vinyl release, a regret that has haunted me for years, I’d suggest looking for a copy as the dynamic range is certainly greater on the format and would likely result in a broader soundstage with greater separation throughout. Streamers, while getting the same mastering as the CD, will be happy to know that this eponymousrelease sounds excellent via Apple Music and Apple’s AirPods. It is quite frankly my preferred way to listen to this album as my main stereo setup is less forgiving when brickwalling is concerned. Either way, Slash is one album that just about every rock and roll fan will enjoy.

Slash (Self-Titled) is available to own on Vinyl, CD and iTunes.

Click here to read other Slash 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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Slash (feat. Miles Kennedy) – Made In Stoke 24/7/11 (Live Album Review)

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Slash (feat. Miles Kennedy) – Made In Stoke 24/7/11 (Live Album Review)

Following the highly successful Self-Titled Slash album, from 2010, Slash hit the road with Myles Kennedy as lead vocalist. Kennedy certainly has the vocal chops to deliver a wide range of styles and subsequently was the perfect choice as vocalist. Also joining them on this outing was Bobby Schneck on Rhythm Guitar, Todd Kerns on Bass, Backing Vocals, and Lead Vocal on Doctor Alibi, and Brent Fitz on drums. Kerns and Fitz have remained with Slash and Kennedy through their subsequent albums and touring schedule, being dubbed as The Conspirators. It’s certainly a solid lineup and as you listen to the performance, you get a sense of energy and cohesion that is usually reserved for bands that are at the apex of their careers. Yet, here, on an early outing, this is no garage band wannabe stadium headliner that was thrown together merely to capitalise on the success of the eponymous album and Slash’s back catalogue. Of course, this album was recorded in front of a modest audience of 1,500 at Victoria Hall in Stoke-on-Trent in England. Nevertheless, you don’t get a substandard performance and while it may sound different to that of a stadium-sized concert, the intimate location results in audible audience interaction that goes beyond the standard concert screaming and cheering as you can easily hear the audience singing along to many of the songs and chorus lines. It adds to the performance and the intimate feeling of being there vicariously.

While I obviously wasn’t in attendance, I am fortunate enough to have the 3LP Green Vinyl edition that looks as amazing as it sounds. The records aren’t your standard 180-gram releases; probably 140-gram, but this is never a negative aspect for 180-gram is more about marketing than quality. You can have a paper thin record and it can smoke a thick behemoth any day of the week if the mastering and pressing process was handled with respect. 

The tri-fold gatefold is stunning and when you hold this record sleeve in your hand, you know exactly why you’re a vinyl collector for no digital counterpart can ever be this immersive. iTunes LP tried, but the listeners didn’t care, nor did the record labels or the artists; the end result is a feature that is no longer being supported. It’s a missed opportunity, but if I were working for Apple or one of the record labels, I’m sure I’d sink countless millions into things like iTunes LP, whether it made financial sense or not. It’s a shame though, that the dollar value must dictate what music lovers receive. Nevertheless, Slash’s Made In Stoke 24/7/11 is one vinyl release you should own if you’re a fan of the artist/band. The records themselves are quiet, flat, and well pressed and mastered. No, this is not going to sound as good as a highly produced studio album, but it certainly gives the feeling of a live performance better than many other live albums I own. For that aspect alone, I applaud this release and while I don’t find myself gravitating to it on a regular basis, when I do, I thoroughly enjoy the experience and ponder if I should pick up the concert Blu-ray release to go along with it. 

Interestingly, in my younger years, I used to love watching recorded live performances. As I’ve aged, however, I find myself less compelled to sit and watch, preferring to relax and listen. It’s a strange dichotomy that I can’t explain and perhaps I’ll have to give some live performances a chance again to see if I can reinvigorate the interest in watching the performances. Perhaps I’ll start with The Rolling Stones’ From The Vault: No Security San Jose 1999 as the Stones have made the concert available on Apple Music. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I wish Slash and all other artists and record labels would offer this kind of value-added proposition. Of course, I’m not sure if I’d watch them all, but I know many people who would find significant value from such an inclusion. While I’d love to be able to at least rent Made In Stoke 24/7/11 from iTunes, unfortunately, the only Slash concert available to the Australian market, on iTunes, is the 2014 performance Live At The Roxy. Hey, you never know, I may just review that someday as well. Until then, let’s get back to the review of Made In Stoke.

LP 1 – Side A

Been There Lately was a really strange song to commence the performance with. It was never the strongest song from Slash’s Snakepit and it’s therefore unexpected. That isn’t to say that this live rendition isn’t good as it’s arguably better than the original, but there are many stronger songs from that era that I would have selected. Speed Parade would have been perfect as the opening song, in my opinion. Perhaps, even, Dime Store Rock would have been a better choice.  

Nightrain is an absolute classic and a personal favourite. This live rendition doesn’t shift far from the original, and that’s a good thing, but it has its own personality and is thoroughly enjoyable. I have to say, Kennedy does a wonderful job, on vocals, with all the classic Guns N’ Roses songs. 

Ghost has a killer rhythm and is textbook Slash. Kennedy does a good job with the song that was originally recorded with Ian Astbury. While I can understand the unwillingness to open the live performance with Ghost, given it was the opening track for Slash’s eponymous album, it would have been ideal and would have flowed perfectly into Nightrain. Although, Ghost also flows smoothly into the Snakepit original Mean Bone.

Mean Bone isn’t a bad rock and roll track. It has a classic vibe to it but fails to stand out and subsequently doesn’t offer much to write home about. Nevertheless, it works well for the live performance and is a value-added proposition for those of you that may have not been exposed to the Snakepit era. 

Back From Cali is Kennedy’s song and it’s astonishingly good. While not intended to be, Back From Cali is the perfect song to close out side one, ensuring that the live performance is full of energy and the listener feels compelled to keep listening to a live performance that simply gets better as the show goes on.

LP 1 – Side B

Rocket Queen is a favourite of mine, but that could be said about all songs from the Appetite For Destruction era. They haven’t aged and remain as relevant today as they were when recorded. A sign of good music? Yes, I believe so! 

Civil War is an incredible song and the band performs it stunningly with Kennedy doing a solid job of interpreting the song for his vocal style, but as much as I enjoy Civil War, I would have much preferred to hear the band perform November Rain. Of course, Slash didn’t co-write November Rain, as it was a Rose-only composition, and subsequently, it makes sense that it hasn’t made an appearance. Although, that closing guitar riff is spectacular.

Nothing To Say is brilliant and Kennedy really nails this interpretation, resulting in a song that leaves me divided because I equally enjoy this rendition and the original version featuring M. Shadows on vocals. It’s a great fast-riffed rock and roll tune. Yes, some may suggest that Slash’s style is better suited to his core blues-based rock and roll riffs. While I wouldn’t completely disagree with that point of view, the man is a legend and can certainly shred without issue. 

LP 2 – Side A

Starlight is beyond belief good! It honestly leaves me speechless as it’s nothing short of a masterpiece. Just sit back, turn the volume up, sing along, and enjoy. I know I do!

Promise is an incredible song and while Chris Cornell was the perfect choice for the original studio recording, Kennedy performs it perfectly, showing yet again just how talented he is as a vocalist. Yes, it could be argued that he is merely singing a variety of blues-based rock and roll songs and therefore the shift isn’t that dramatic, but one must remember that the original songs were written with and for other vocalists and vocal styles. The result is Kennedy pays tribute to the original vocalists, makes the song his own, resulting in pure perfection. I dare say there are very few vocalists who could adapt to so many varied styles in a live performance and absolutely nail them all.

Doctor Alibi was a killer Lemmy Kilmister song and Kerns has covered it perfectly. Seriously, if Motörhead ever wanted to tour again, following the unfortunate passing of Kilmister, they should pick up the phone and call Kerns. No, he’s not a Kilmister imitator, but his vocal prowess is most certainly appropriate for the Motörhead sound. Either way, Doctor Alibi is a killer rock and roll tune. 

Speed Parade is your classic meat and potatoes rock and roll song. Full of attitude with a riff and rhythm that is addictive and appealing to the rock and roller within.

Watch This was lacklustre on the eponymous Slash album and I was a little worried about it being included in the live performance. However, the worry was largely unnecessary as the live performance adds a little grit to the instrumental that wasn’t present on the studio recording. That said, it still isn’t exceptional and is quite frankly nothing to write home about, but this rendition is, at the very least, a better interpretation of the original composition. 

LP 2 – Side B

Beggars & Hangers On is one of the greatest songs Slash has ever written and recorded. I’ve always loved it. Eric Dover did a fantastic job with the original and as much as I enjoy Kennedy’s vocal prowess, I really feel that Dover’s is superior as the song just isn’t quite as strong with Kennedy at the helm. That isn’t to say he did a bad interpretation, it’s awesome, it just isn’t up to the same standard of the original and I wonder what Kerns would have sounded like performing this song as he nailed the gruffer vocal delivery on Doctor Alibi. 

Patience is a truly lovely song and this is a beautiful rendition of the Guns N’ Roses classic. 

Godfather Solo flows perfectly from Patience and has arguably become a Slash trademark. Having performed it for years, I dare say there isn’t another guitarist, in the world, that can express the song as elegantly as Slash does; on an electric guitar that is. Absolutely sensational! That said, I would suggest that Slash has become a little self-indulgent regarding the length of this solo. Certainly, he has earned the egotistical right to play that guitar for as long as he likes, I’m just wondering how captivated the fans remain throughout. 

LP 3 – Side A

Sweet Child Of Mine is another seamless transition, especially if you listen to the album via CD or Apple Music. Unfortunately, if you’ve got the vinyl release, you’re not going to notice this continuity. Nevertheless, Sweet Child Of Mine is exceptional and Kennedy can belt this classic out just as well as Rose has over the years. This is the type of song where Kennedy’s unique vocal style really shines. 

Slither is a favourite from the Velvet Revolver era and while I’ll always associate this song with Scott Weiland, Kennedy pays homage to the original and makes it his own. Yes, I should stop comparing the efforts of Kennedy to the vocalists that came before him, as I’m not doing that for the other musicians, but the vocal element, as an instrument, is so pertinent in music that it is difficult to separate the memory in one’s mind to the performance one is currently listening to. Perhaps that is why I dislike cover bands as I feel, despite their best efforts, they are subpar compared to the memory of the classic songs they sing. That said, I am the first to admit that not all covers and cover bands are bad, some can be better than the original, but it is the exception rather than the rule. 

LP 3 – Side B

By The Sword is epic and Kennedy absolutely nails it. 

Mr. Brownstone is one of my all-time favourite Guns N’ Roses songs. The beat is tribal and the rhythm addictive. I love it! 

Paradise City rounds out this live performance and while it would have been nice to see the album end with one of the songs from Slash’s eponymous album, Paradise City is a showstopper and one of the very best songs ever written and recorded. That riff, those lyrics, and that rhythm are sensational. If you need a textbook example of a perfect rock and roll song, I dare say this is it. Without a doubt, Paradise City leaves me compelled to listen to Made In Stoke 24/7/11 again and stay within Slash’s back catalogue.

Overall, Made In Stoke 24/7/11 is a sensational live performance that any fan of Slash and his musical cohorts should check out, if not own, as it is most certainly worth your time. Including music from Guns N’ Roses, Slash’s Snakepit, Velvet Revolver, and Slash’s iconic eponymous release, longtime fans, such as myself, will undoubtedly find something to love about Made In Stoke 24/7/11

Made In Stoke 24/7/11 is available to own on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes

Click here to read other Slash reviews by Subjective Sounds. 

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Legs Diamond – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Legs Diamond – Self-Titled (Album Review)

If you’re into rock and roll, especially the sort that came out of the California music scene in the late 70s, then you’re going to love this eponymous debut album from Legs Diamond.

I often sit and wonder why one band is more prominent than the other. How did they connect with the social consciousness of the time? Was a band who didn’t receive the recognition they deserve merely out of time? Well, Legs Diamond failed to set the world on fire but would later gain a dedicated following that would result in them reforming and continuing to tour and record to this day; along with various breakups throughout the years. Subsequently, you can be forgiven for having never heard of the band, but thanks to the modern era of music streaming, we can all explore and enjoy the music that was merely out of time, for Legs Diamond is certainly no diamond in the rough and is one of the greatest 70s hard rock albums I have ever heard. How Legs Diamond is not a household name is beyond comprehension, but join me as we explore their eponymous debut. You can thank me later!

It’s Not The Music kicks the album off with a rhythm that is out of this world. If you’re not head bopping and toe tapping from the first note, you’re listening wrong. With numerous influences, including Pink Floyd and Deep Purple, Legs Diamond’s It’s Not The Music is not only a song that should go down in history as one of the grooviest 70s rock anthems, but it is the perfect song to open the album with. So good!

Stage Fright has a killer guitar riff and flows perfectly from It’s Not The Music. It’s full-on 70s west coast rock and roll that will require you to dust off your air guitar. I love it!

Satin Peacock is your classic blues-based rock and roll tune. Turn that volume up and enjoy, I know I am.

Rock And Roll Man is an epic song that reminds me fondly of Black Sabbath’s Ozzy era. This is one seriously good album!

Deadly Dancer is another great song that is very much inspired by Deep Purple and as a Purple fan, that isn’t a bad thing.

Rat Race is full of groove. Yes, you can again hear the influence of Deep Purple, but Legs Diamond creates a sound that is so unique and perfect that it is only reminiscent of Deep Purple in spirit. Regardless, Rat Race will have you head bopping and toe tapping to the addictive rhythm. 70s hard rock doesn’t get much better than this!

Can’t Find Love is a little over-produced at the beginning of the song and really doesn’t start until almost two minutes have elapsed. However, once the song gets going, it’s a riff and vocal driven masterpiece and is literally one of the best songs on the album.

Come With Me closes the record out with the same energy that has permeated throughout the entire album; although I’m not fond of the fade out as I feel commencing the fade on the vocal was a mistake. Nevertheless, there is absolutely no doubt that I will listen to Legs Diamond again and stay within Legs Diamond’s rather extensive catalogue.

Overall, Legs Diamond is not only an exceptional eponymous debut, but it is one of the greatest 70s hard rock albums to have ever been recorded and released. How I wish I could have been a fly on the wall during these recording sessions as the album is mixed and mastered beautifully. So well, in fact, that I’m blown away by the dynamics and soundstage present via the Apple Music stream. While I’d love to track down a vinyl copy, and likely will at some time, this digital release is absolutely amazing and will showcase the very best your speakers or headphones have to offer. It also provides further validation that lossy music can sound exceptional if it has been recorded, mixed, and mastered properly. An incredible album from start-to-finish!

Legs Diamond is available to own on CD and 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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