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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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Take Us To Vegas – Alive (Spotify Premium Review)

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Take Us To Vegas – Alive (Spotify Premium Review)

I don’t know about Vegas, what about Wacken?

Yes, the Australian-based Take Us To Vegas, with only a single record to their name, is already capable of playing the Wacken Open Air festival. While I haven’t seen them live, their album Alive is a mix between rhythmic rock, hard rock, and metal, therefore making them a perfect addition to the festival line-up.

The Metal scene should be paying serious attention to Take Us To Vegas as they have a sound that is mainstream and radio friendly, while simultaneously having the core guttural determination that is a trademark of the greatest metal bands throughout the world. Think Avenged Sevenfold meets All That Remains with a little Escape The Fate and you’ll get an idea of their sound signature.

While Take Us To Vegas is building on numerous influences, they have produced an album with a unique style and it would be fair to say that I haven’t been this impressed with a debut metal band since Gloomball’s The Distance was released in 2013.

Alive is well recorded and mastered with remarkably clear vocals and a bassline that is well defined, but not bloated. This results in a non-brickwalled release that offers a very pleasing sound that is never fatiguing. While it is disappointing that the album is not available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, the Spotify Premium (320 kbit/s) stream is certainly up to the task and sounds incredible via my Oppo HA-2 DAC. However, there is a little vocal sibilance in a couple of the tracks that can become distracting, once you know what to listen for. Based on when it occurs, I would say that it is simply a case of natural sibilance in Ryan Goodall’s vocal. He certainly wouldn’t be the first vocalist to exhibit this behaviour and, to be honest, it is minor and only noticeable on the pronunciation of ‘s’ words and sounds.

While I am happy to subscribe to multiple streaming music services, many consumers aren’t and it is with that knowledge that I implore any artist to ensure their music is available on every platform possible. I can confirm that Take Us To Vegas do have an artist page on TIDAL as their 2012 single, Apparently It’s Frowned Upon, is available. However, it is not available in CD-quality and therefore no better than the 320 kbps Spotify Premium stream. In-fact, I would have to say that the Spotify Premium stream, of this particular song, is superior to the non-TIDAL Hi-Fi stream in sonic depth, bass response, and overall energy. The difference is likely the result of the varied lossy codecs used by each service. Spotify uses the arguably superior Ogg Vorbis while TIDAL uses the AAC codec for their lossy streams. That said, while I can’t compare the TIDAL Hi-Fi lossless stream, I have always found TIDAL Hi-Fi to offer a superior sound quality, for their lossless FLAC streaming, versus the Ogg Vorbis codec used by Spotify Premium.

Regardless, Alive is an incredible recording. It is mastered respectfully and all I can say is a massive thank you to STL Studios for not brickwalling the recording of this epic album. You guys ROCK!

We The Tyrants is an incredibly hard hitting song that sets the tone for the entire album. There are symphonic-styled elements throughout song that I adore and it reminds me of Metallica’s excellent S&M concert.

Following the symphonic-styled closure of We The Tyrants, your mind will be Torn Apart as the song has an incredible rhythm with a killer guitar intro that is somewhat reminiscent of Zakk Wylde’s guitar licks. From a compositional standpoint, Torn Apart is quite complex yet every element fits together perfectly.

Victims (feat. Mike Champa) has a skull thumping beat that reminds me of Slipknot’s All Hope Is Gone era. This is the song that enabled me to declare that Take Us To Vegas is ready for Wacken. I’d love to see this song performed live!

I love the intro and backing instrumental solo elements of Alive. There are some excellent elements throughout the song, but I feel it needs a little more polish and it has too much sibilance for my liking. There are sections where it sounds as though you are being whispered to while simultaneously having the lyrics sung to you. It is simply distracting as a result.

I love the sonic introduction to Holding Fear. The shift between the verse and chorus, in vocal delivery, is sonic perfection. Overall, Holding Fear is incredibly dynamic, with a massive soundstage, and a pleasure for the mind to interpret.

We The Haunted doesn’t really do anything for me. It is a little too campy for my liking. That said, it would make a perfect addition to any coming-of-age film soundtrack. While I generally love explicit tracks, certainly over their ‘clean’ counterparts, the inclusion of profanity can make or break a song. Unfortunately, the inclusion of profanity in this song simply feels out of place and forced; especially considering it is the only explicit track on the album.

Embers has a great rhythm throughout, but the real star of this song is the chorus. It may come across to some as ‘radio friendly’, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The Architect has another symphonic-styled sound that I feel works perfectly with the metal music genre. It is one of my favourite songs on the album and I love the growling vocal interludes as it keeps the song engaging from start to finish. You must also listen to that epic guitar solo towards the end of the song. Warning: you will need your air guitar!

Ventures has a seriously good rhythm and gorgeous bass guitar tracks that, while complementary, stand out in the mix. It is one of the slower songs on the album, but it is a welcome relief from the otherwise skull thumping album. In-fact, I love these almost ballad-style recordings, by metal bands, as it shows diversity and skill. However, you won’t want to get too relaxed as Ventures seamlessly transforms into the skull cracking Empty Pages.

Empty Pages is EPIC!

A World In Waiting is an enjoyable song, but I feel it positioned badly on the album. While I wouldn’t want to change the transition from Ventures to Empty Pages, I do feel it would have been much more suited to follow Ventures.

Fatebreaker is a fantastic song that will encourage you to play the album again.

There is little doubt in my mind that Take Us To Vegas will become extraordinarily successful. However, the band’s name does concern me as it isn’t as hard hitting as their music and is difficult to remember. Although, I do have confidence in their logo as one doesn’t tend to read it, but admire it. In a similar manner, the cover of Alive is a gorgeous piece of artwork. Unfortunately, the album is not available on vinyl; I would buy the vinyl just to have the artwork. Yes, dear reader, in this case you can judge an album buy its cover.

Alive is a perfect addition to any rock and roll/metal collection. While I can strongly recommend the Spotify Premium stream, get behind Take Us To Vegas and buy the CD.

Alive is also available for streaming on Apple Music and for purchase on iTunes.

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Green Jellÿ – Cereal Killer Soundtrack (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

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Green Jellÿ – Cereal Killer Soundtrack (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

For years I have simply loved the song Three Little Pigs. No, not the beloved children’s classic, but the metal-infused Green Jellÿ version from 1993. I like the song so much that I never really gave the associated album any thought. I had originally envisaged that this review would be a one-hit wonder review, but then I decided to listen to the entire album again and I was surprised to find that I truly appreciate the comedic metal and punk infused music style that is applied throughout the entire album.

While it is convenient to dismiss what we don’t like at a given time, this is one example whereby time, and exposure to more music styles, has resulted in an appreciation for the Cereal Killer Soundtrack. I find it intriguing that as time has passed, my musical interests have continued to evolve. Perhaps, I’m finally growing up? Hmm…I don’t know about that, I think I will forever be 16 at heart. Nevertheless, I found that 999’s The Biggest Tour In Sport/The Biggest Prize In Sport really opened doors to the punk side of my personality and I feel there is an entertaining contrast that can be made between these two bands.

Anyway, enough about me, let’s take a look the songs on Green Jellÿ’s Cereal Killer Soundtrack.

Obey The Cowgod is punk heaven and a great way to start the album. The song is intense with punk tones and speed, while having vocals that highlight the metal aspect of the band.

Three Little Pigs is hands down one of my favourite songs of all time. I even added it to Graeme’s playlist when he embarked on his long walk across the Simpson Desert. I honestly don’t think any other song excites me as much as this one. I grin from ear to ear when I play the song and the volume gets pushed to 11. Adding to an already exceptional song is the incredible claymation music video.

Cereal Killer (Edit) is moody, creamy, rock and roll. As this is the edit version, I can’t help but wonder what the complete song sounds like. This edition is certainly worthwhile and reminds me in tone and style of Dio and Iron Maiden. Basically, it’s just bloody good!

Rock-N-Roll Pumpkihn has some seriously nice bass tracks, especially on the intro. However, the vocals in this song drives me nuts and unfortunately detracts from the musicality of the song.

Anarchy In The U.K. reminds me so much of 999 and early White Zombie. Awesome! Plus, for those of you who like The Flintstones, you’ll get a laugh out of this song. It also has a rocking groove that is so addictive, you will be unable to stay still.

Electric Harley House (Of Love) has a gorgeous acoustic guitar intro, but it is one that you know is going to be destroyed once the electric guitar enters the mix. I love music like this as it builds anticipation. This is hardcore rock and roll, with a little punk for added value. I love it!

Trippin’ On XTC is a punk/metal/reggae/R&B infused song that simply gets the body moving. About halfway through it becomes dark and moody in a shift that perfectly suits the song. I certainly appreciate the experimentation the band has shown with this track.

Misadventures Of Shitman has a great spoken and guitar riff intro. Yes, the song is disgusting, as the title eludes to, but it is bloody funny! Think South Park’s Mr. Hankey. I love it!

House Me Teenage Rave is a groovy house-styled song that uses a Monkey as a sexual innuendo point of reference. It is so good, but so inappropriate on so many levels. You simply can’t help but enjoy this track.

Flight Of The Skajaquada (Edit) is a song that has a guitar riff that again reminds me of Iron Maiden. Overall, the song is driven by a killer guitar riff and drum beat, but as any head banger will tell you, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Green Jellÿ Theme Song is the only song from the album, besides Rock-N-Roll Pumpkihn, that I don’t enjoy. The initial groove and beat are superb, but it never really developed into a song that I felt appealed to me. I also don’t feel it was a strong final track as it doesn’t encouraged me to play the album again.

The Cereal Killer Soundtrack, while not technically a soundtrack, is an incredible album that punk and metal fans must listen to at least once. The band is truly greater than the song Three Little Pigs. I can’t believe I ignored such an impressive album for so long.

This is the moment where I need to acknowledge the importance of music streaming services, such as Tidal Hi-Fi. If it were not for these services, my relationship with the band would have remained limited to a single song. Now, however, the CD is in my wish list and if the album ever gets a reprint on vinyl, I will certainly be ordering a copy. While reports regarding streaming services can lament the financial problems faced by the music industry, I feel it offers an opportunity for not only discovery, but for pre-purchasing decisions. Think of it as the modern-day listening booth. You just get to take it with you!

Back to the album and it is fair to say the mastering on this release is superb for this style of music. While it doesn’t have the greatest dynamic range, the stereo imaging of the album is exceptional. Fortunately, nothing has been done to this album since the original release. Fingers crossed it stays that way, it certainly doesn’t need to be ‘remastered’.

Green Jellÿ’s Cereal Killer Soundtrack is available for purchase on CD, iTunes, and the TIDAL Store.

The album is also available for streaming on Apple Music and Spotify.

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Iron Maiden – Purgatory (7-inch 45RPM Single)

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Iron Maiden – Purgatory (7-inch 45RPM Single)

As I’ve likely mentioned before, the artwork that Iron Maiden uses for their albums and singles are nothing short of spectacular. Seriously, just look at it for a minute. Eddie, their infamous mascot, has lost his face to the devil within as Eddie remains in Purgatory, never to be reconnected with his beloved, as shown on the 7-inch Twilight Zone cover.

The additional story that is told through art is incredible. Derek Riggs is one of the most iconic contemporary artists as a result of his life-long work with Iron Maiden, among many others. I’ve always wondered what was in the twisted mind of Stephen King, but Derek Riggs has some serious cool stuff in that brain of his. The man needs to be entered into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Although, Maiden should be added first, but that is an argument for another day.

Speaking of artwork, I have only just noticed that the centre spindle on these 7-inch releases acts as a street light thereby illuminating Eddie as a creature of the night. It’s these small elements that streaming services just can’t offer. While I love my TIDAL Hi-Fi subscription, they’ve yet to figure out how to present artwork, beyond the cover art, in the digital era. Isn’t the technological era supposed to make everything easier and give us access to content that surpasses the analogue version? Apple had a novel idea with iTunes LP, but they dropped the ball as it was only ever functional within iTunes on a Mac or PC. Yes, iTunes is a lossy source, but as a collector I would buy the iTunes LP version as well because the artwork is often animated and uniquely different to all other releases. Even videos such as the making of the album and interviews were included in this iTunes LP format. Admittedly, the artist/record label would need to fund this additional content development, but I still declare that if Apple had allowed iTunes LP to merge to iPhone/iPad/Apple TV, then it could have been a major success. I’d pay twice as much for TIDAL if they could provide me with an exact replica of the liner notes for all albums. They do offer the basics, but it is nothing more than a listing of the production personnel and a short bio.

While no streaming service offers the kind of granularity I’m after, Roon comes close with TIDAL Hi-Fi support built directly into the application, thereby allowing your own music and your streamed music to live in perfect synchronisation. Check out John H. Darko’s exceptional Roon Reviews Part 1, Part 1b, Part 2, and Part 2b.

Getting back to the music, Purgatory was the final single released from the 1981 Killers album. Despite being a sonic wonderland, with an amazing mix of lead and rhythm guitars, the single failed to break the top 50 in the UK upon release. How is that even possible? Okay, UK friends, what were you listening to in June 1981?

For what it’s worth, I believe Purgatory is stronger song than their previous single, Twilight Zone. Purgatory just has that special signature Maiden sound. As much as I enjoy Twilight Zone, it just isn’t in the same league as Purgatory.

Genghis Khan is the B-side and one of the most exceptional instrumental tracks in heavy metal history. Honesty, I can play this song on repeat for hours and never tire of it (after a half dozen times on the turntable, I turn to TIDAL Hi-Fi. Playing 7-inch 45rpm vinyl is fun, but it is also a lot of work). I have often wondered what would have happened if Maiden released this song as a single? That has me thinking, has there ever been an instrumental track reach the number 1 position on the charts? According to the ‘always reliable’ Wikipedia, there have been quite a few in the UK, but they are few and far between. During the decades spanning the 50s, 60s, and early 70s there had been quite a few instrumental number ones, but in the past four decades only three instrumental songs have reached that highly sought-after position. As someone who doesn’t tend to listen to lyrics, I find this shift fascinating. Now I just need to see if the recording of instrumental music has also decreased following the 70s.

You simply can’t go wrong with Purgatory. Featuring two of the best tracks from Killers, my advice is to pick up a copy of the limited edition 7-inch release while it is still available. The mastering is incredible and the artwork…seriously, just get it for the artwork.

If you would prefer to access the songs on the Killers album, they are available on post 1998 CD and Vinyl editions. Killers is also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi for those of you who prefer to stream.

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The Transformers: The Movie – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

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The Transformers: The Movie – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

As a child of the 80s, The Transformers was one of the most amazing franchises that a young boy could be exposed to. In a classic good versus evil story arc, The Transformers transformed our minds and defined what was possible with animation techniques in the early to mid 80s.

I remember as a child receiving an Optimus Prime action figure, complete with his transforming trailer. I was in heaven and despite the toy being primitive by today’s standards, it was truly revolutionary at the time.

Also during that time, the original television series of The Transformers began to air and a couple of years later, Transformers The Movie would be released. I remember being captivated by the film, although I wouldn’t see it until it received commercial television rights in Australia some years later. Interestingly, I don’t recall the soundtrack from the film, but when I saw that Music on Vinyl was getting set to re-issue a limited edition pressing on vinyl, I ordered the soundtrack without being aware of the track listing. It was the collector in me. The artwork is exquisite and being a numbered collectable, well I just had to have that for my collection. Music on Vinyl pressed 1000 numbered editions on transparent blue vinyl. I have number 899 and I believe the other numbered editions are now sold out, although you can still get the re-issue on standard black vinyl.

Streamers will be happy to know the soundtrack is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi. It also contains four additional tracks, although one is not currently licensed for streaming. The licensing is such a major problem for soundtracks when they are added to streaming services. The music industry really needs to work on a solution to this problem. All you have to do is look how many songs are missing from Pulp Fiction, to see what the problem is. Seriously, if you can’t put all the tracks on, then perhaps it is best to not release the album on streaming services until agreements are made. Interestingly, in the case of Pulp Fiction, all songs are still permitted for vinyl and CD replication worldwide. Similarly, all tracks are available for sale on iTunes. As a music fan, it is simply frustrating. I wonder if the music executives know that you can stream all the songs, from the soundtrack, on YouTube for free. That’s an argument for another day, but at least in the case of The Transformers soundtrack, all of the songs bar one are included in the streaming option.

I must admit that I love writing these posts, but it is costing me an arm and a leg. In doing some background research I just found that the soundtrack was also re-released for Black Friday – Record Store Day 2015 on a new coloured, and etched, vinyl release that is limited to 5,000 pressings. If I wasn’t such a huge Transformers fan, I might overlook this release, but I must have it. Yes, I’ve already emailed Ben at Goldmine Records to see if he can get it for me. He is ordering a few copies, so get in touch with him If you want a copy.

Over the last couple of years my son has become equally engrossed in The Transformers. Perhaps this is a result of my influence, but it could also be attributed to the release of new films and the exceptional Transformers Prime animated series. It is wonderful to be able to share this passion with him and when the record arrived he was as blown away as I was. As much as I enjoy the album, I think he enjoys it more. We will often sit down in front of the stereo and build Lego together while the album is spinning. It is a father/son moment to be cherished.

The vinyl pressing is exceptional, as are all Music on Vinyl releases. I’ve yet to acquire one that I’m disappointed in. From the outer sleeve to the record itself, it is truly representative of quality and the sonic aspect of the album is exceptional. Similarly, TIDAL Hi-Fi’s edition sounds full and complete while matching the mastering found on the vinyl release. Hence, you simply can’t go wrong with this album. That is unless you’re not an 80s hair metal fan.

Yes, the soundtrack is primarily infused with hairspray and gel, but there is a small part of my heart that loves the 80s hair metal scene. Many of you will likely feel it is corny, and perhaps it is, but the power ballad is a sing-a-long marvel that permits usage of the air guitar. How can that be a bad thing?

Now you may recall, before my ramblings got out of control, that when I ordered the album I had no idea what type of music was on it. I purchased it for the franchise and for the cover artwork. I know many collectors who do the same thing. The artwork looks cool, so I’ll buy it. I must admit I haven’t done that for a while, but surprisingly you tend to become interested in the music if you like the artwork.

The first song The Touch is performed by Stan Bush. It isn’t a bad rock song, but it is just a little too ‘campy’ for my liking.

Instruments Of Destruction is grungy, without being grunge in style. It has a magnificent beat and the guitar elements are exceptionally controlled despite being the type of song where the guitar solo could easily become paramount. However, I love N.R.G.’s vocalist, Les Brown, and the range he has on his voice. He reminds me of Ronnie James Dio.

Death Of Optimus Prime is a somber and classically infused instrumental track that is simply beautiful. While remaining classical, it doesn’t feel out of place on the album. There are certainly symphonic elements that reflect the overall feel of the album thereby encouraging flow.

Dare is another song by Stan Bush. It is thoroughly enjoyable, with a fast beat, but I think Stan Bush has to be the king of ‘campy’ songs.

Nothing’s Gonna Stand In Our Way by Spectre General is an enjoyable song throughout the versus, but the chorus is just too repetitive. That said, it suits the film and franchise perfectly.

The Transformers Theme ROCKS!

Escape is another instrumental track, by Vince DiCola, that despite starting slowly picks up pace with the rest of the album and is the musical equivalent of watching the action depicted in the film.

Hunger is another track from Spectre General and has some killer guitar riffs and guttural vocal tones.

Autobot/Decepticon Battle is self explanatory. It is of course instrumental and works exceptionally well with the album tracking and the film.

The final track on the album is by Weird Al Yankovic and is titled Dare To Be Stupid. I must admit that it took me a few listens to get used to, and enjoy, this track. Nevertheless, if you hear a song often enough, it has the ability to grow on you. This one certainly has! It is a fun track, albeit a little different to the other songs on the album, but not so different that it detracts from the album experience.

While that is the entire track listing on the vinyl re-issue, the TIDAL Hi-Fi version has three additional instrumental tracks. All are relevant to the film, but I am glad they weren’t included on the vinyl re-issue as they would have been out of place with the selection chosen. That said, they are enjoyable to listen to via streaming.

I’d recommend this soundtrack to anyone who enjoys the transformers franchise, or the 80s hair metal rock and roll era. As a compilation it works surprisingly well, with no track that is so lacklustre it prevents enjoyment. 

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Iron Maiden – Twilight Zone/Wrathchild (7-inch 45rpm Single)

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Iron Maiden – Twilight Zone/Wrathchild (7-inch 45rpm Single)

Following Women In Uniform, Iron Maiden would release their fourth single, but it would take the form of a Double A-Side. For those unaware of the concept, a Double A-Side is where an artist will release a single that contains two album based songs, rather than a B-side which is often a live performance or song that didn’t make the album cut. It is a practice that has sadly died out over the last couple of decades and while not all B-sides are great, I feel we are missing out on some hidden treasures.

In this case however, Twilight Zone was initially a non-album single in the UK, although it was released on the US edition of Killers in 1981, and would be added to world-wide distribution of the album when the enhanced re-issue edition of Killers was released in 1998. That said, not all post 1998 editions have the song. Most notably the 2014 vinyl re-issues and the 2015 Mastered for iTunes release omit this classic song, amongst other editions.  

The subsequent cover of the 7-inch release targeted the song Twilight Zone for inspiration as it showed Eddie, Maiden’s mascot, returning to his beloved girlfriend. Twilight Zone is in-fact a love song from beyond the grave as it appears that England’s then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, did revoke Eddie’s license to live, as insinuated on the cover of Women In Uniform.

Speaking of covers, Iron Maiden would once again be criticized in the media for having a cover that depicted sexism and the stalking of a young girl. I’m sorry, but I just don’t see either of those elements. Anyone who read the lyrics, or listened to the song, would understand that the artwork is a representation of the song as it depicts Eddie’s attempt to reach his beloved from his imprisonment in the Twilight Zone. Eddie’s photo is even presented on the dresser, thereby indicating a connection to the ghostly figure.

All I can say is sometimes ‘political correctness’ goes a little too far. While I don’t condone gratuitous sex or violence, within art and music, a little common sense and research goes a long way. That said, I acknowledge cultural perceptions in 1981 were quite different to how we perceive this cover today.

With this in mind, I can’t help but wonder what kafuffle was made of the original Guns N’ Roses Appetite For Destruction cover. While that artwork is still included in the liner notes, retailers refused to stock it with the original cover, hence it was restricted in most regions and I believe on all formats other than vinyl.

As we take a look beyond the artwork, it is immediately clear that Twilight Zone and Wrathchild are both very much A-Side tracks. I absolutely love the guitar and bass introduction of Wrathchild. It is hard hitting and I feel is one of the first times we see Iron Maiden as not just a heavy metal band, but a band which can turn their music into a theatrical rock opera.

Similarly, Twilight Zone also fits into the style I have mentioned above. The initial guitar riff and drum beats set the tone, but I find I actually care more for the lyrical component of Twilight Zone as it has a story that has been enhanced in importance through the cover art design. This is why I collect vinyl as it enhances the experience.

For those interested, you can still get the limited edition 7-inch release. It is well worth owning as the presentation and mastering is superb.

If you would prefer to purchase both songs on other formats, they are of course available on some of the post 1998 Killers editions that are available on CD and Vinyl.

Killers is also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music for those of you who prefer to stream.

While all these options are great, the version I would recommend, for Killers, is the vinyl edition. This is because the CD, TIDAL Hi-Fi, and iTunes/Apple Music (Mastered For iTunes) releases all have low dynamic ranges that average 07 out of 20. The vinyl by comparison is 12 out of 20. For more information on these scores, please click here. That said, many of the vinyl re-issues omit Twilight Zone, so please make sure you check the track listing before purchasing.

Despite this, I still enjoy listening to my 1998 edition of Killers on CD, but it is sonically compromised when compared directly with the vinyl edition. That said, they never really did master turntables in cars, did they? 

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Iron Maiden – Women In Uniform (7-inch 45rpm Single)

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Iron Maiden – Women In Uniform (7-inch 45rpm Single)

Following the controversy of Sanctuary, Iron Maiden couldn’t help but once again show England’s then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, on the cover of their follow-up single Women In Uniform. Presented in classic Maiden-style artwork, Thatcher is seeking revenge on the beloved, but sinful, Maiden mascot Eddie. As mentioned previously, this type of iconic artwork is all tongue-in-cheek, but it does demonstrate the attitude of the times in which this single was released.

Although, it is important to note that Women In Uniform is not a Maiden original as it was first written and recorded by the Australian band Skyhooks, for their Guilty Until Proven Insane album. While Skyhooks is an Australian rock icon, and certainly a band that I have much respect for, I don’t particularly like their original composition of Women In Uniform. I find the Skyhook’s rendition is a little too pop driven and only truly becomes a rock song during the memorable chorus. It is simply missing that harder edge that I feel Maiden was able to bring to the song. That said, if Maiden hadn’t covered the song, I likely would have been smitten with the Skyhooks original.

While I feel the Maiden version is superior, it is widely regarded by the band, especially founder and bassist Steve Harris, as being a substandard recording due to Tony Platt (producer) mixing the song without the band’s input or approval. As a result, the song was only briefly presented on the original Australian release of Killers. Following the 1998 enhanced re-issue, Women In Uniform was removed from the track listing and subsequently only available hence forth on the 2014 re-issued 7-inch vinyl release. Women In Uniform was also featured on the now out-of-print Best of the 'B' Sides, that was included in Eddie’s Archive Box Set.

Women In Uniform has yet to be released on any streaming service, but the video clip is available for purchase on iTunes as it goes down in history as being their first recorded music video.

Iron Maiden has also made the song available, on their official YouTube channel, for those of you who don’t wish to purchase the 7-inch vinyl edition.

Paul Di’Anno, Maiden’s original vocalist, not only recorded the original but would go on to cover his own cover again in 2006 when he released the re-recorded compilation album The Classics: The Maiden Years. This album is not available for streaming, but you can hear the Di’Anno’s re-recording on TIDAL Hi-Fi or Apple Music as it appears on the The Early Iron Maiden Songbook album from 2010. Di’Anno also released the song on his 2012 release, Wrathchild – The Anthology.

I’m not sure how I really feel about re-recordings. Generally, they are released as a quick cash-grab and opportunity to return to popularity on the coattails of success, in this case Iron Maiden’s. That said, Di’Anno does a wonderful job with Women In Uniform and all other tracks that are presented on the before mentioned albums. They truly are worth seeking out and listening to.  

So, is Di’Anno’s re-recording better than the original he recorded with Iron Maiden in 1980?

Yes, and no! Clearly, Di’Anno’s newer release has a stronger rock edge to it and over the years his vocal delivery has developed, thereby bringing this re-recording inline with modern hard rock and metal recording styles. However, there is just something special about the Maiden original. It has their early raw sound that is reminiscent of a thoroughly pleasing live performance. That said, I don’t think you can wrong with either version.

The B-side on this 7-inch release contains the song Invasion. Unfortunately, the song is not available for those of you interested in streaming, but you can check it out on Maiden’s official YouTube channel below.

The song Invasion was originally released on Maiden’s debut EP, The Soundhouse Tapes. The EP is highly sought after by collectors and is ludicrously expensive, even for the most dedicated Maiden fans. That said, if you have a copy and would like to part with it, please let me know.

Invasion is classic Maiden and I would go as far as saying it was a stronger performance than their cover of Women In Uniform. The drum track and guitar riffs are exquisite and show a band that was well beyond their debut in terms of musicality and cohesion.

For the vinyl collectors out there, the 7-inch edition is still available and well worth owing. The pressing offers one of the best sonic representations of the band to date, although my only comparison for these particular songs is listening via the lossy YouTube quality, hence it is difficult to accurately compare. 

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Metallica – St. Anger

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Metallica – St. Anger

Anger was what Metallica caused amongst fans when they released the 2003 album St.Anger. Although, it wouldn’t be the first time their fans would be divided with the musical style they decided to adopt as, their self-titled [The Black Album] was seen as a radical departure and a commercialisation of Metallica’s original sound. It is then appropriate that producer of the Black Album, Bob Rock, would again anger fans with the direction he and Metallica took with St. Anger.

When I first heard St. Anger, in 2003, I didn’t like it. I remember being disappointed and angered that I paid money for it. Despite listening to it several times, it just didn’t grow on me.

However, that was well over a decade ago and as time progressed, I grew strangely fond of the album. I hadn’t played it for years, yet I missed it. I could even recall the lyrics of many of the songs and the style of music that was portrayed throughout the album. All I can think of is it must have registered with my subconscious.

Just prior to the holiday season I was crate digging and came across the Blackened Recordings re-issue pressing for an incredible price. This was one time when I didn’t hesitate to make the purchase. Given my initial distaste of the album, I can’t explain my incessant need to now own the album.

One aspect that did grab me was the visual nirvana of the artwork. This is where vinyl is really the king of all music formats. The artwork alone justified the purchase.

While I lacked time to listen St. Anger during the holiday season, I decided to put it on last night. As the needle lowered, and Frantic began, I knew at that moment that I had underestimated the album and that in retrospect it was truly a heavy metal record that was not only worthy of the Metallica name, but it was worthy of being added to my collection.

As the album progressed, I felt like I was a one-man audience with the band in their garage. I didn’t stop moving for the entire 75-minute epic and I sang along to every lyric. In reflection, I think I matured as a music listener and was listening to the performance differently than I had upon its release in 2003.

The music, while being metal infused and raw to the bone, has a unique dimension about it. I truly love the shifts in tempo within the songs. It is a jolted feeling, but one that works for the entire album. Think for a moment about how you feel when you’re angry. The waves of emotion you experience. Metallica has captured that emotion and portrayed it perfectly in St. Anger.

Overall, St. Anger is reminiscent of Garage Days Re-Revisisted ‘87, Garage Days Revisited ’84, B-sides & One-Offs ’88-’91, and Motorheadache ’95 from the 1998 Garage Inc. album. I’m a big fan of that album and I love the production credit of ‘somewhat produced’. I wish they would have replicated that production credit for the St. Anger release.

St. Anger would also mark the first Metallica album that hadn’t featured long-time bassist Jason Newsted as he left he band following creative differences. In his place, producer Bob Rock would lay down the bass tracks as Metallica had yet to bring Robert Trujillo into the band. Regardless, the bass elements are really amplified in this release, unlike Newsted’s first album with the band …And Justice For All where the bass tracks are minimal at best. While Trujillo, and Newsted before him, were both incredible editions to the Metallica lineup following the death of original bassist Cliff Burton, I have to say that Rock plays some mean bass tracks on St. Anger.  

Now that I have flipped my subjective dislike of the album, into pure appreciation, I should mention that it is not perfect. In my opinion this album could have been a Load/Reload style release. It would have been a perfect 40-minute album that could have been released in two editions.

Perhaps it is just me, but I find that I prefer shorter albums. When AC/DC released Rock Or Bust, I was initially shocked at the 35-minute runtime. In retrospect, I’m glad it is short and hard hitting as it allows me to appreciate the songs a little more as I’m more inclined to spin the album again. 

St. Anger’s main problem with length is excessive song duration. When you think the song is about to end, it picks up again. Invisible Kid is one which could have been cut down, as could the final track All Within My Hands. With six of the eleven tracks being over seven minutes in duration, you can see where this can be a problem. Don’t get me wrong, some longer running tracks are epic, but it should be the exception, not the rule. I’m certainly not one of the fans that demands a band fill the available storage of the CD format for an album release.

Personally, I would like to see shorter albums, released more frequently. I don’t know about anyone else, but I get tired of waiting several years for a new release. Let’s get back to a 60s/70s release schedule, and album length, and I will be a very happy music listener.

At this stage, I feel it is pertinent to suggest that you should never become closed off to a specific artist or musical style. Yes, that even includes Justin Bieber. I was for a while with St. Anger and if I had not given it another chance, I would have remained ignorant to the truly masterful heavy metal album Metallica released.

The musical journey we all go on should not just be about your favourite artist, or musical genre. It should be about exploration and contemplation of musical tastes. What you may like today, you may dislike tomorrow, and vice-versa. Perhaps this bodes well for the Lou Reed/Metallica collaboration LuLu.

You will notice throughout this post that I have neglected to say much about the sonic quality of the album. There is a reason for this omission. The vinyl edition is amazingly detailed and mastered perfectly for the format. The same can not be said for the Apple Music/iTunes edition. While St. Anger is Mastered for iTunes, it is horrible. On Apple Music/iTunes the album becomes a headache inducing nightmare that makes you angry. As with Katy Perry’s Prism, it is akin to listening to two different albums. I am truly disgusted that this quality could be called music. It is noise. It lacks emotion. It lacks depth. It is the reason why I disliked this album for years as the CD is equally brickwalled.

Speaking of being brickwalled, the CD has an average dynamic range of 05. Whereas the vinyl is a slightly more respectable 09. Neither are great, but when you add low-dynamic range and then further compress it down for Apple Music/iTunes, Mastered for iTunes becomes irrelevant. Check out the Dynamic Range Database for more information on St. Anger.

One example is the song Sweet Amber. It has numerous sonic elements that are clearly present on the vinyl, but in no way are they present on the Apple Music/iTunes version. These elements add to the depth and emotive feeling of the song. I truly wish copyright would allow me to record the two versions side-by-side so that I could showcase the difference to you, but alas you will just have to take my word for it.

I wish I could tell you that there was a higher quality digital version available on TIDAL Hi-Fi or HD Tracks, but Metallica has yet to add their music to either of these platforms.

I would truly recommend you pick up St. Anger on vinyl as the visual presentation and sonic quality is incredible. The specific release I have is: Blackened Recordings (BLCKND 016-1) from 2014/15. St. Anger is also available on CD and iTunes

Click here to read other Metallica reviews by Subjective Sounds.  

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Iron Maiden – Sanctuary (7-inch 45rpm & 33.3rpm Single)

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Iron Maiden – Sanctuary (7-inch 45rpm & 33.3rpm Single)

Iron Maiden isn’t a band to shine away from controversy, but that is exactly what they had to deal with upon the release of the 1980 single, Sanctuary. Although, it wasn’t their music that was the problem, but their Mascot Eddie and his murderous ways.

Adorning the front cover, of the single, is a whimsical scene whereby Eddie had just murdered England’s then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. It is a throw back to Thatcher being declared the ‘Iron Maiden/Lady’ when dealing with the Soviet Union.

Clearly Eddie was infuriated by this and decided to take matters into his own hands. Although, he didn’t do the best job as Thatcher would return on the following Iron Maiden single, with machine gun in hand, to take revenge on Eddie.  

Covers like this shouldn’t be seen as sinister as they tell us something about the period the song was written, recorded, and released. It tells us about the social and political consciousness of the time and encourages us, in retrospect, to review these now historic events.  

While initially a non-album track, Sanctuary was later added to a Maiden’s self-titled debut Iron Maiden.

Without doubt, Sanctuary has become a fan favourite, but it isn’t one of my personal favourites. I don’t mind it within the flow of the album format, but as a single, I’m not to sure it showed off the best Maiden could offer at the time. In my opinion, it was a letdown from their debut single Running Free.

On the limited edition US reissue, Sanctuary is of course the A-side while the B-side contains live performances of Drifter and I’ve Got The Fire with the small, but rowdy, live crowd is in force to support the band.

I must be completely honest when I say that I prefer Drifter, from Maiden’s second album Killers, as a potential single over Sanctuary. I absolutely love the guitar work throughout Drifter and I believe it showcases a band significantly more polished than Sanctuary does.

The live performance of I’ve Got The Fire is interesting as I hear influences of the late Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead, in Di'anno's vocals. That said, the song is actually a cover that was first released in 1974 by Montrose, on their album Paper Money. The Montrose edition is superb and while I acknowledge that Maiden’s version is a live performance, there is just no comparison. Montrose owns this song. It should be noted that the original name of the song, when recorded by Montrose, was I Got The Fire, but Maiden changed it to I’ve Got The Fire. A studio recording of the cover song was also released on Maiden’s 1983 single, Flight Of Icarus. When I offer my opinion of that release, I will re-evaluate my thoughts on Maiden’s rendition.

Irritatingly, at the end of the live performances, but not in the runout track, Maiden left one of the fans woohooing. It drives me insane! I appreciate Maiden acknowledging their fans, but I wish they would do so in a less irritating manner. All I want after hearing the woohooing, is sanctuary.

Interestingly, the 7-inch single is not your traditional 45rpm record. It is 45rpm on side A and 33.3rpm on side B, due to the extended length of the live performances. Talk about crossing the streams!

This is the first time I have ever come across something like this, if you have come across similar, please let me know in the comments.

Okay, so I can switch between 45rpm and 33.3rpm, but every time I play the single, I forget. That said, it is important to note that switching speeds isn’t always as easy as pressing a button, especially when you get into the audiophile-grade level of turntables. For instance, my Pro-Ject Debut Carbon, an entry level audiophile deck, requires a manual belt change to switch between speeds. It’s not a big deal if I’m going to play a number of 45s, but it is an issue when you have to switch it back and forth for one side of a 7-inch single.

That said, the collector in me appreciates this distinctiveness.

Overall, Sanctuary is in my collection because I am a collector. While I do listen to it, it is not a go-to single that I will pull out when I feel like having a couple of days filled with 7-inch bliss. It tends to only get played when I listen to my Maiden singles in chronological order.

If you feel inclined to pickup the 7-inch single, it is still available. Alternatively, Sanctuary is available on all post-1998 mastered editions of the Iron Maiden album that is available on Vinyl, CD, TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and iTunes. The studio-recorded version of Drifter is available on the Killers album, but the live edition of Drifter and I’ve Got The Fire is exclusive to the 7-inch single release. 

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Iron Maiden – Running Free (7-inch 45rpm Single)

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Iron Maiden – Running Free (7-inch 45rpm Single)

For a while, I have been wondering how best to present my 7-inch 45rpm singles. As you may imagine, I have amassed quite a few and while I could probably do two or three at a time, in a single post, I decided that it would be best to dedicate an individual post to each single.

The reason for this is the single is important me. It was often the first connection I had with an artist and it allowed me to sample their music, without necessarily buying an album. Yes, today you would simply go to a streaming music service, but in the 90s the cassette single and CD single were popular beyond belief. I miss those days and the alternative mixes, B-sides, and live performances that would be included on singles. Needless to say, as the vinyl-revival is in full swing, the 7-inch 45rpm single is making a return with new songs being released on the format, as well as limited edition re-pressings from our favourite artists.

Iron Maiden is one such band that has re-issued their singles collection from the 1980s. Starting with the debut Running Free, from the self-titled album Iron Maiden, Maiden would release a further 18 singles in 2014 that I will document over the coming weeks and months. The editions I have are all US, limited edition, pressings. Although, these singles were also released by Parlophone for the UK audience. The only difference is the distribution and record label information. Where it is Parlophone for the UK, it is Ingrooves/BMG/Sanctuary for the US release. I’ve never found out exactly how many pressings Maiden regard as limited, with regards to these singles, but they have claimed that it is a one off pressing that won’t be repeated.

Regardless, I’m happy to have them in my collection as I wasn’t collecting Maiden during the time of their initial release and I wouldn’t become a fan of their work until a friend showed me a selection of CD’s with some of the most incredible album artwork I had ever seen, in the late 90s. Before I even heard a note, I was hooked on Maiden.

Running Free is obviously the A-side on this single and it is clear from the outset that Maiden was here to stay. While Burning Ambition is the B-side, I would call it a A.5 side as it is strong enough on its own. It is a non-album track and unavailable on any streaming services or iTunes. Other than this release, it has been released on the now out-of-print Best of the 'B' Sides, that was also featured in the Eddie’s Archive Box Set.

Both songs feature Maiden’s original vocalist, Paul Di'Anno. While I likely have a small preference for the vocals of Bruce Dickinson, I have to say that Di’Anno’s vocals are superb on Maiden’s debut album. While we can’t, and likely don’t want to, change Di’Anno’s departure from the band, it is interesting to think of what could have been, if he had remained vocalist of Iron Maiden. Alas, we will never know.

While it is disappointing that Burning Ambition can not be heard outside of physical formats, I’m actually glad that the band have kept some of these B-sides exclusive and limited. It plays into the collector’s psychology and it makes for an enjoyable process of collecting each and every song, rather than paying a nominal fee and having access to them all.

Add to this fact that each Maiden single is adorned with magnificent artwork, is reason enough to collect this series of 7-inch records. The artwork for this single also introduced Eddie, Iron Maiden’s Mascot, to Maiden fans as it predated the release of their self-titled debut album. The names of Maiden’s musical influences also adorn the artwork with bands such as the Scorpions, Led Zeppelin and Judas Priest shown on the rear wall in spray paint. This is why I collect vinyl. These small details just aren’t transferable on modern-day digital delivery services and devices.

Also, the album artwork tells a story. It is a visual interpretation of the song Running Free and it is fair to say that it adds to not only the associated album release, but the band, and ultimately the meaning and relevance of the song.

The rear cover presents a blurred black and white image of the band playing live with a ghost-style head looming above. I’ve no idea of the symbolism of this face, please let me know in the comments if you have any thoughts.

The label of the 7-inch vinyl presents Eddie in the same pose on both sides, with only textual information changing. Nothing is amiss here as it is an accurate representation of the original release.

It is important to note that there is a second single in Maiden’s lineup for the song Running Free. It is a live performance that was released in the mid-80s with Bruce Dickinson on vocals. I do have that copy and when it comes time to write my thoughts, I will contrast it against the original single.

Overall, the quality and mastering of this re-issue is immaculate. It is a must own for any Maiden fan. It is still available, but if you don’t feel inclined to pickup the 7-inch single then you can always check out Running Free on Iron Maiden’s self titled debut album that is available on Vinyl, CD, TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and the iTunes Music Store.    

I don’t know about you, but I now have a burning ambition to run free!

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