Last time we left HIM…they left us on the cliff hanger with a foreboding sense of impending happiness…what did they mean? What did Valo have up his sleeve? What creative direction would they take next? The answer would surprise many…the previous release; “Screamworks: Love In Theory And Practice, Chapters 1-13” wasn’t received very well by a large portion of fans, with Valo himself even suggesting the album was a failure…so were the band done with the commercial radio-friendly approach? Would Valo brush his 80’s new wave pop influences under the carpet and pick up the guitar again? The short answer is, not quite…the band instead opted to do a LINKIN PARK and release a remix album entitled “SWRMXS” and if fans were confused before, this had them scratching their heads…
We do we even begin? One thing that can be said about HIM is, they’ve always tried to stay fresh…each and every album they’ve released has, while retaining the core HIM sound and principles, always mixed it up a little…be it in tone, or genre influence, ranging from doom metal to hard rock, to Gothic piano ballads…but if anything the last album proved that heading down a commercially friendly mainstream route upset fans to some extent…so was this in essence a middle finger? A fuck you? Many viewed this as a die-hard fans only release, one for the collectors and a record that had no real place in the bands discography…but how good or even bad WAS it? The eleven track mix tape opens up just like its predecessor with “In Venere Veritas” but it’s been reworked by Finnish electronic composer HUORATRON (Real name Aku Raski) and what we find is a dirty slab of EDM, dotted with broken vocal samples and distorted dub qualities…its…different. “The Foreboding Sense Of Impending Happiness” can in ways be blamed for the project as a whole given the musical approach and here its mix by American house DJ MORGAN PAGE is very much the lo-fi, chilled listen it was always meant to be, rich in ambience. Some of this material DOES work…”Love, The Hardest Way” has the pleasure of having TIËSTO at the helm and is probably the sole source of credibility here for any casual listener…his approach is simple and trance-inspired with some genuinely catchy qualities, while “Dying Song” is given similar treatment…again, lo-fi but up-beat and at least enjoyable…when they get it wrong however, my god do they get it wrong. “Heartkiller” gets absolutely butchered courtesy of a MERCYFVCKS remix…I honestly wish it had mercy and fucked off…while the oOoOO remix of “Shatter Me With Hope” could put a glass eye to sleep…brave? Very. Stupid? Debatable…one thing’s for sure; it left a sour taste in many a fans mouth and is arguably the worst thing the band ever put their name to. 
"XX: Two Decades Of Love Metal"
There would be another quiet spell following on from the Screamworks touring cycle and in ways, a period of recovery and reassessment too, on both sides to a degree…but fans got excited again in 2012 when HIM returned out of the blue with a new single; “Strange World”…another cover, this time by KÉ and another cover the band could ultimately call their own, credit to HIM, they know how to pick a cover…but excitement soon dwindled as the new song would be just that; one new song, merely to accompany another greatest hits collection…”XX: Two Decades Of Love Metal”. No more than an upgraded version of “And Love Said No”, it simply included the singles from the albums post 2004 and many fans felt disappointed. Sure the track was good, it was even more satisfying seeing the band pick up the guitars again and belting out some hard rock…but why just the one song? It turns out there was an issue with previous record labels who still owned rights to the bands back catalogue and wanted to put out a compilation…HIM literally recorded the song to shut the label up and the album was swiftly forgotten about; a brilliant cover and a solid collection of classic songs but…ultimately pointless. 
"Tears On Tape"
It wouldn’t be long however for HIM to release another full length album, spurred on by the recording process the year prior, the band had signed a new deal with RAZOR & TIE releasing “Tears On Tape” in 2013. The album wasn’t without its difficulties mind you…in fact the album very nearly didn’t happen, with the band worryingly close to calling it a day before it was even completed…an omen for things to come sadly. During the writing process, drummer Gas was suffering from nerve damage in his hands from repetitive stress and was ordered to take time out…would the album be completed? More importantly would Gas drum again and, with that, could HIM continue? Lucky after several months he returned and the album was finished…once again produced by long-time collaborator Hiili Hiilesmaa, it saw the band again return to their roots, delivering a raw, garage rock vibe full of grit and maturity. The back-to-basics approach led to Valo's vocals having a vulnerability to them, his morose poetic lyricism was showing an honest pain…tracks like “I Will Be The End Of You” and “Hearts At War”, blistering in their delivery, highlighted a suffering for love in their guitar driven frustration, while cuts like the title track and “Drawn & Quartered” tugged at the heartstrings with a strong sense of empathy…never afraid to experiment however, the album includes the band’s first and only instrumental pieces, breaking up the album allowing for a fresh listening style, before the album closes on the emotionally powerful “W.L.S.T.D.”…one of the bands heaviest, gloomiest and despairing pieces of music, coupled with one of Valo’s most impassioned vocal displays, it’s truly heart wrenching…and sadly…it was to be a fitting and poignant swan-song. 
After the record was released and the touring cycle was completed, Gas decided his time was up and left the band, leaving question marks hanging over fans worldwide. This…was to be the Finn’s final album…HIM were done. Stand-in percussionist Jukka took up the drum-kit to play for the band on live dates in the few brief years that followed, but in the March of 2017, HIM announced to the world that, they would be breaking up. The writing of new material simply wasn’t working, the spark had gone, the Heartagram was no longer beating, and the hearts of legions of fans were broken…tears were no longer on tape, they were on the cheeks of hundreds of thousands of fans worldwide as his infernal majesty relinquished his crown, kissing goodbye to us all. The band embarked on one last hurrah, a farewell tour dubbed “Bang And Whimper” (Still with a sense of humour on their way out) which led to the bands final ever performance at Helldone in Tavastia, Finland, on the 31st December 2017. After a 20+ year career…8 albums and having garnered one of the most cult-like followings in music…HIM were no more, and the world lost something truly magical. From here on out, I’d like to wish Ville, Mige, Linde, Burton and Jukka all the best in everything they set their hearts on, as we’ll always be there for them. You gave countless people hope, something to live for, something to cherish, and you'll be missed greatly, not just as a band, but by an extended family. Thank you, and farewell. Tears on tape…we will follow. <3
Picking up from where we left things last time, HIM were taking over the world; BAM MARGERA had helped them break out of mainland Europe into the UK and America, by introducing them to the MTV generation…their sales and fan base were on the rise, they were playing bigger stages at festivals, they were all over the charts internationally, Valo even won Metal Hammer’s prestigious Golden God award, and pandemonium couldn’t be sweeter…his infernal majesty had finally taken his rightful place upon the throne…but there’s an old saying; what goes up must come down and sadly, this began to happen sooner rather than later for HIM and it all came around the time of their next album…
In the September of 2007, two years after they hit their commercial peak, the band did a dramatic U-turn, ditched the radio-friendly pop-rock of “Dark Light” and opened up the gates of hell with their follow up “Venus Doom”…praised by critics for its experimentation and total change of direction, the band had embraced a new found sense of heaviness, channelling the likes of PARADISE LOST, with Ville reacquainting us all with his love of all things doom metal (As if the title wasn’t a clue already)…musically it was far heavier than anything they had ever done before, even their earliest work…the riffs, bass and percussion were all full of aggression and suffering…the deep tones of the album allowed Valo to truly hypnotise the listener with his impressive baritone vocal range, on times sounding truly demonic and chilling like on the title track, the lead single “Kiss Of Dawn”, also on the hauntingly beautiful prog-metal journey of “Sleepwalking Past Hope”…but no matter how harsh the band gets musically there’s always a delicately balanced track listing and this album was no different. From the brief, acoustic campfire ballad “Song Or Suicide” to the tortured lamenting of “Cyanide Sun”…this was Adams Family level Gothic romance and it was stunning…their rise in popularity even found the song “Passions Killing Floor” used for the original “Transformers” soundtrack! Despite the change in direction, they were still big, still in the charts, even getting Grammy Award nominations…but the fame came at a price…Valo had developed worsening alcohol problems which over time became more and more of an issue…plagued by exhaustion from the pressures of success, plus problems in his personal life, the writing and recording process took its toll on Valo and he damn near drank himself to death…until he was admitted to rehab. With the blurry oil painting depicting Venus, the goddess of love, now forever a reminder that in nearly dooming himself to drown in a bottle, Valo unwittingly perfectly encapsulated HIM's marriage of love and death, even if he was looking at her through beer goggles...I’m sure he appreciates the irony looking back 
"Digital Versatile Doom"
Their success in America and mainstream popularity up to that point led the band to release their first and only (The bonus 6-track DVD footage with “And Love Said No” doesn’t count) live album; “Digital Versatile Doom”…released not long after “Venus Doom”, it was recorded as part of their rescheduled American tour at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles. The tour and resulting live album was heavy on Venus Doom content but also featured several of the bands biggest singles to date, acting as an updated (Albeit live) version of their greatest hits…for those who were never fortunate enough to see the band live in person for whatever reason, this is essential, especially as it came with a DVD of the performance recorded as part of a 2-disk package…here you can get a real feel for the band; how tight they are as performers and how emotional the songs truly are on the raw environment of the live stage…not to mention Valo’s cheeky sense of humour mocking Linde for the amount of solo’s he has to play…
"Screamworks: Love In Theory And Practice, Chapters 1-13"
The trouble HIM faced for their follow up album was quite simply a matter of, where the hell do they go from here? They’ve just dropped the heaviest album of their career and Valo nearly did a George Best and put his liver through unthinkable punishment which nearly killed him…the answer? Another U-turn…yes this is where the band lost a lot of fans, as they began to yo-yo in style and lost a sense of credibility among the rock and metal community. In 2010 they released “Screamworks: Love In Theory In Practice, Chapters 1-13” (It just rolls off the tongue doesn’t it) and Valo, again in his self-depreciating mentality dubbed it their DEPECHE MODE album…gone was the bleak bombardment of gloomy, doom metal…gone were the tortured wails of Linde’s guitar…in their place were gentle melodies and enough pop hooks to give Simon Cowell the horn…written and arranged with far, far more emphasis on Burton’s keyboard playing and a much softer song writing approach, HIM found themselves facing a lot of uncertainty…critics were again, generally in favour, praising experimentation once more and championing Valo’s song writing, but a lot of fans weren’t impressed. Many were confused at the direction and while though it retained plenty of HIM’s trademark melancholy, it lacked the bands usual depth and came across as all too synthetic. Even Valo had convinced himself that it was a failure upon release, but in honesty, it’s merely by their own already high standards…lead single “Heartkiller” was undeniably infectious and the majority of the tracks on the album followed suit; “Scared To Death” is quite possibly the sweetest thing the band have written since “Join Me”…while “Acoustic Funeral (For Love In Limbo)” does have a slight emo influence, which people were already moving away from. There were naturally tracks with a bit of attitude however, with the likes of “Shatter Me With Hope” and “Like St. Valentine” having the most bite, but they were a far cry from what had preceded them…before the album closed on the synth-heavy “The Foreboding Sense Of Impending Happiness”…possibly the lease HIM song HIM have ever written, but far from terrible. Ultimately this was a solid collection of commercially heavy pop-inspired alt. rock that sadly got lost in the shuffle…wrong place, wrong time with the wrong sound…from here on out things would slowly go downhill. 
Finland’s finest alt-rock romantics HIM have left behind a luscious and long-lasting legacy now that they have sadly called it a day, and last time round we revisited the band’s earliest albums as we reminisced over their formative years, and the tracks that laid the foundations for the band we grew to love. Continuing on from where we left things in 2001 and the band had established themselves throughout mainland Europe with multiple successful chart positions, but their journey didn’t stop here…oh no…there were other markets to tap into and thanks to a certain celebrity skateboarder and a shit load of plugging, Valo and co were about to break into the UK and beyond…and it all kicked off in 2003.
First and foremost, we need to talk about BAM MARGERA…say what you will (Some people disregard him completely but I personally believe that’s not fair) but without Bam, HIM certainly would not have taken the path they found themselves on, and you could argue that he directly contributed to a lot of their success outside of Europe. Bam discovered HIM while in Finland for a skateboard competition when “Razorblade Romance” was released and he was seeing HIM everywhere so, ultimately fell in love with the band. He was using songs for skate footage in the CKY DVD’s…he used tracks in soundtrack for his movie “Haggard”, he used the Heartagram on his official Element skate decks…HIM were getting exposed to the “Jackass” crowd and a lot more ears fell upon HIM’s music…the result? More success! Bam and Valo became good friends and when the opportunity arose, they naturally collaborated…he did them two music videos; "Buried Alive By Love" and "The Sacrament"...and they would both come on the next album…
HIM returned to the studio in 2002 with their original producer Hiili Hiilesmaa and the resulting album was a blistering return to form; “Love Metal”. Once a tongue-in-cheek term for their style of darkly romantic rock music, it had now become its own cult-like sub-genre so naturally, Valo (In all his sarcastic brilliance) does a VENOM and makes an album out of it! The Heartagram, in all of its glory emblazoned across the album cover in solid gold on a glossy, intricately designed Gothic black background was more than artwork, it was a thing of beauty, it was symbolic and the music within was just as powerful…opening up with “Buried Alive By Love”…with Gas crashing those cymbals, Mige and Linde bursting in with those powerful riffs…this was a band full of hunger and intent. As openers go you’d be pushed to find one with such impact…this was raw, this was rocking like a motherfucker and HIM were back! When the band get going it’s hard to stop them…tracks like “Beyond Redemption” feature some of Valo’s most powerful vocals and “Soul On Fire” is simply scorching…but they still manage to balance the beauty with the brutality. “The Funeral Of Hearts” with its rich melodies was their first foray into the UK charts hitting a very respectable 15, while “The Sacrament”, with Burton’s dreamlike piano intro was simply beautiful. Rounded off with “Love’s Requiem” and the seductive, spine-tingling “Circle Of Fear”…HIM were on the up. Very much like an erection Valo may say with a wry smile…
"And Love Said No: The Greatest Hits 1997 - 2004"
With their music now reaching across the sea…and having already been around for nearly a decade, now was the perfect time to capitalise on all of the new fans they had accumulated and in 2004 the band released their first compilation album; “And Love Said No: The Greatest Hits 1997-2004”…not only spanning their four full-length releases up to that point, they also acquired Bam Margera to direct them another two music videos for two brand new tracks to accompany the collection. The first was the title track, which with its quaint melodies and gentle vocal harmonies provided blissful listening, but tugging on your heart strings just enough to remind you that it was HIM here, it was still a bit dark…while the main single was another cover the band would arguably go on to claim as their own; “Solitary Man” by NEIL DIAMOND. This powerful rendition added plenty of the Finn’s character and took the song to another level, eventually reaching number 9 in the UK charts…HIM were on top of the world, or so they thought…there was just one more place to conquer; America…and the only thing in their way, was the Atlantic ocean, but they’d crossed oceans of wine to find you before…
Ville Valo has always made little jokes about himself and the music, being really quite humble…and in 2005 HIM would go on to take over the world with what he calls their BON JOVI album. Yes in the September of 2005 they released “Dark Light” after signing a deal with Sire Records…produced by Tim Palmer, it would be some of the sleekest and most polished work of the bands career and it did them wonders. Tracks like “Wings Of A Butterfly” and “Killing Loneliness” saw the Finn’s stamp their name on the charts yet again with their infectious pop qualities and the direction, despite being primarily more mainstream earned them many positive reviews with critics. As a whole the album was produced with accessibility and radio play very much in mind, with the band losing much of the aggression from its predecessor, but it retained Valo’s darkly poetic writing style which the band still carried off superbly…tracks like “Under The Rose” and “Behind The Crimson Door” being up-beat and a little feisty, another superb cover in the form of THE RAMONES classic "Poison Heart", while “Play Dead” and the title track heaped on the melancholy…too smooth for some fans, but it saw them become the first Finnish band to go Gold in America…HIM had made it…but pressures were mounting. 
“When love starts to die it begins with a kiss; violently soothing and warm”…beautifully morose, melancholy has always played a major part in the lyrical style of Ville Valo and it’s that tortured feeling of love-lost that catapulted HIM into the hearts of legions of fans around the world. With a whole tongue-in-cheek genre of their own in Love Metal and with a logo reaching semi-religious status (The Heartagram is arguably the McDonald’s M of rock music) they steadily took over the world, branching out of their native Finland into mainland Europe, the UK and then beyond to the US, selling millions of albums worldwide and becoming Finland’s most successful musical export. On New Year’s Eve…Valo and co put those words into practice at their final performance at Tavastia, Finland for the last ever Helldone…calling time on their 20+ year career and kissing goodbye to a sold out teary-eyed crowd. With a rich back catalogue of albums and compilations, right now I’d like to pay respects to the band by taking a retrospective look at each of their albums and remind the world that, we’ve just lost something truly special in HIM, and the pleasure was all ours.
"666 Ways To Love: Prologue" EP
The bands journey started way back in 1991 when Valo and Mige originally came together playing covers but it wasn’t until the release of 1996’s now infamous “666 Ways To Love: Prologue” EP that the ball truly started rolling…with only 1,000 copies originally made, it’s considered by many to be the holy grail of HIM memorabilia, just short of kidnapping Valo himself…and it’s this little 4-track EP that started it all. From the opening screams of “Stigmata Diaboli” we soon get a taste of the hard rock inspired gothic tones the Finn’s would quickly master…Valo’s baritone vocal accompanied by the raw riff-heavy approach of Linde gave them a distinction that would before long have us eating out of the palm of their hands. The song that put them on the map however, was THAT cover of sombre CHRIS ISAAK ballad “Wicked Game” and here we have the bands earliest recorded version…again, raw, but it was impossible to ignore the potential in these Finn’s and as far as covers go, it was original. “Dark Sekret Love”, a far drearier affair highlighted Valo’s love of doom metal with its bleak, methodical style and an early, rough rendition of “The Heartless” rounds things off nicely. Early days but plenty to be inspired by…his infernal majesty wasn’t quite ready for his throne. 
"Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666"
Just a year later they were back and the world finally got HIM’s debut full length album…”Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666”…and here we got a much better sense of direction from the band. Despite being a touch more polished with slightly better production quality courtesy of Hiili Hiilesmaa, you can still sense the raw, garage rock feeling the band used to deliver their intertwined messages of love and death. Housing some of their darkest and grittiest pieces of music; tracks like “The Beginning Of The End” and “Our Diabolikal Rapture” really embraced the gloom and channeled the influence of the likes of TYPE-O-NEGATIVE and CATHEDRAL…the beautifully bleak “When Love And Death Embrace” became a trusted fan favourite, a song the band would later rely on as a solid encore, and another cover in the form of “Don’t Fear The Reaper”…the BLUE OYSTER CULT classic getting it’s wrists slit to be bled out on a bed of roses…dark and romantic…HIM were here to violate us in the most sensual ways…
The next album wouldn’t follow for another three years but to say it was definitely worth the wait is by far an understatement…in 2000, after coming to Wales to record in Rockfield Studios, they dropped not only the album of their career…but arguably the greatest Gothic rock album for generations; “Razorblade Romance”. With its bright pink cover art acting as a middle finger to stereotypes and super slick production it saw the band rise to heights they’d never have expected in their own humble self-depreciating humour. With tracks like “Join Me In Death” hitting the top of the charts in both Finland and Germany, HIM could do no wrong and no wrong they did…with an album literally full of top tunes, they exploded onto the scene with tracks like “Right Here In My Arms” and “Razorblade Kiss”...and not forgetting that cover of “Wicked Game”…re-recorded here again but SO much smoother, it’s here the band claimed the song as their own, creating a modern Gothic rock anthem in the process. The newly found sense of melody also saw the band embracing their softer side too, adding a depth to their song writing and playing on their romantic rock style…songs like “Heaven Tonight” and “Gone With The Sin” helped balance the chugging with the charming and quintessentially, the record was a masterpiece. No…the record IS a masterpiece to this day…and HIM will forever be pretty in pink. Goth rock was sexy again. 
"Deep Shadows And Brilliant Highlights"
HIM’s next album wasn’t far behind as the band didn’t take long writing new material, but the huge success found with the preceding record had made the record companies aware that there was money to be made with these Finn’s…and a lot of pressure was put upon the band to release a record equal in commercial acclaim; the result was “Deep Shadows And Brilliant Highlights”. Aided by producer Kevin Shirley, the band found themselves embracing (albeit reluctantly) a far sleeker sound leaning more towards pop music, stripped away was the grit and vigour of their established style and in its place, was even more emphasis on melody and mass-marketing. While it raised questions from long term fans, it still had the strength of Valo’s song-writing backing it up and despite the criticism, songs such “Heartache Every Moment” and “Pretending” were still huge…Linde is allowed to perform some tight guitar solos and the lighter musical approach allowed Burton to shine on the keyboard. “In Love And Lonely”, “You Are The One” and “Please Don’t Let It Go” all highlight the beauty of not only Valo’s song-writing ability but the capability of the band too, to diversify and pull it off with ease. Deep Shadows behind the scenes, but brilliant highlights on record…and frankly an under-appreciated album. 
Many societies have numbers deeply rooted into their own cultures…for example the number 666 may trigger many of you as, Satanic…be it spiritual or even from just a horror perspective (Films like “The Omen” being a prime example)…some may even naively say it’s an IRON MAIDEN thing but…those people are idiots. Other numbers may include 420 which, for all intents and purposes is a call to arms for partakers of the devil’s lettuce (Marijuana if again, you are naïve…also a coincidence and a half)…but what about other numbers? Shy of a run-down bingo hall what do numbers really have to do with society? Well few numbers incite thoughts and superstitions like the number 13…to some it’s lucky but to many more, it’s not…again, I refer to horror and the whole notion of Friday The 13th…and many hotels won’t even acknowledge a 13th floor…going straight from 12 to 14…so what’s my point I hear you asking? Well today’s band have recently released their 13th album and in reality it’s both a blessing and a curse…let me remind you about ELECTRIC SIX. Having exploded like the most frustrated of sexual releases back in 2003 with the hit singles “Danger! High Voltage!” and “Gay Bar”…the Detroit rockers have since slid into all but obscurity in the years that have followed but has that stopped them? Hell no…against all odds and regardless of public opinion they have released an album every year since…let’s check out 2017’s “How Dare You”…
The album opens up with “Chicken Wine” and first things first its textbook randomness from not only E6 but their charismatic front-man Dick Valentine…a recipe for disaster or something far saucier? Truth be told it’s a wonderfully energetic, up-beat introduction to the record with some vibrant, light-rock attitude, vocal harmonies and synth elements…it’s a wonderful little opener and while far from their greatest work it’s infectious and gets us off to a solid albeit abrupt start. “Arrive Alive” slows things right down and here we get Valentine’s textbook drawl...many would call him a poor vocalist but his lack of tone in places is really a long running joke and they are very much aware of this…it’s part of their charm. The chorus here is the highlight of the track with its bold approach and there’s not much more you can say really…
There are a couple of talking points dotted throughout this album…the title track is a wonderfully slick, synth driven affair with a solid groove and while it plods along it showcases E6’s ability to excel at both bleak and the banter-filled song writing. “Hatchet Man” utilises a strong solo-driven outro and oozes passion building up to a well-crafted fade-out…it’s lengthy but it’s hypnotic and provides an unconventional album highlight…”The Chimes Of Titus” too makes the most of the outro approach with an energetic hard rock flurry providing ample enjoyment…while stand out track “Routine Cocooning” is at the utmost simplistic enjoyment. The chorus is catchy and it balances the deep-vocal approach of the track well. Album low points are minor…”Sex With Somebody” is a track a band this far into their career could have avoided…it’s a bit cringe worthy…and closing track “A Quiet Man” focuses too much on a spoken word narrative and it’s far from an easy listen. Ultimately what can be said about E6? For any artist...THIRTEEN albums is a hell of an achievement…but the fact that the band has released virtually one every year since their debut comes with its problems. Sure they are prolific and clearly have the creative bug…but in ways it’s partly the reason why they aren’t as big as they could be. When they dropped “Gay Bar” the reaction was phenomenal…comedy rockers yet but it was more than an in-joke…everyone enjoyed it…in the years since, it’s like the band have opted for quantity not quality. Sure there are absolute gems in the bands back-catalogue that you will love…but you have to dig through so much to find it. This is a solid record and to be honest their best in a few years but, honestly…we’re exhausted. How dare you give us so much Electric Six! Warning! Danger! High Voltage! 
Just a couple of short weeks ago, I returned to Nottingham on what’s become a sort of annual Winter Goth pilgrimage…yes myself and my better half got the opportunity to visit Rock City to say our goodbyes to our favourite lads from Finland; HIM. Their “Bang And Whimper” farewell tour was announced out of the blue earlier this year and it was as you can expect, an emotional night in Nottingham, tears were shed, several were my own…and I’d like to take this opportunity to again express my gratitude for all the guys have done for both music and myself. As a unit they were one of a kind and in my opinion criminally underrated by many…we shall miss you greatly. However, as they say, when one door closes another opens and no gig would be complete without a support band and that’s why we’re here today.
Let me introduce you to BITERS…formed in Atlanta, Georgia, the four-piece (Consisting of lead vocalist Tuk, guitarist Matt, bassist Phillip and drummer Joey) joined HIM on four dates around the UK and in all honesty there were several complaints before the tour even began. You see when HIM performed their American dates, they were joined by CKY and to many this was the perfect line up, calling Americans lucky fuckers, and many dismissed Biters outright out of bitterness…but how they would eat humble pie when the tour came around. With a style deeply rooted in the hey-days of glam rock, they whipped up the crowd with a warm feeling of nostalgic rock ‘n’ roll and won the vast majority of people over. Impressed, I immediately looked them up and discovered they had released a new album this year; “The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be”…let’s check it out…
The album opens up with “Let It Roll” and quicker than you can slip into your skinny jeans we’re wriggling our hips to some good, old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll charm. After a brief build-up of simple percussion and minimalist guitar work we’re thrust into an up-beat dose of classic rock, mixed with youthful vigour…in a weird way imagine STEEL PANTHER and BOWLING FOR SOUP had a child…it’s a fun start and sets the tone well. “Stone Cold Love” gives the listener a real feel for their influences as we’re teleported right back to the 70’s and the glam-rock stylistics of T-REX etc…it again plods along with a simplicity but the chorus is truly infectious and Tuk (AKA Noel Fielding) here truly channels his inner Marc Bolan for this one…the references to vinyl adding extra nostalgic value and it’s a wonderfully enjoyable little track.
“Don’t Turn This Good Heart Bad” is another of the albums stand-out tracks with its innocent pop-hooks and clap-along cheer, it really is a wonderful little love song and again channels all of that 70’s charm, likewise with “Chasin’ The Feeling”…a no nonsense swagger-fuelled dose of melodious rock ‘n’ roll rollicking…while album highlight “Vulture City” really hits the nail on the head with all of the aforementioned but with far more bite and attitude…this is infectious as fuck, reminiscent of VEINS OF JENNA and THE 69 EYES early garage days in ways…incredible stuff. There are naturally weaker moments as we can expect a lull on most records…”Gypsy Rose” again channels everything T-REX and sounds like something you’d hear on “Top Of The Pops 2” re-runs…”Hollywood” highlight’s an irony, speaking of longing to be on the infamous walk of fame…yet with over 2,600 stars on the boulevard, it’s value is diminished and the ballad here comes across as tongue-in-cheek, before “Goin’ Back To Georgia” closes proceedings with a clichéd acoustic led ballad type piece…a soppy, happy ending about heading home…a lighters in the air type track, it’s sickly sweet. For a band of this ilk to be signed to Earache Records, it’s surprising really but it’s no different to NICKELBACK being signed to Roadrunner…a great classic rock ‘n’ roll album this for a modern generation and they bridge the gap well…they went fishing on tour with HIM and we’re all biters at the end of the day, and I’m not ashamed to have been caught. 
As a Welshman myself I can safely say this without too much fear of backlash but, in reality, if you ever hear anyone Welsh speak, especially on TV (The ones they pluck off the street for ITV news are always the worst) we honestly sound dull as fuck. Really now…we have quite possibly the most equally poetic and plebeian accent on Earth…so the notion of “Cool Cymru” as a pigeonhole for our 90’s musical exports is quite astonishing. Nevertheless it was indeed a thing and we proudly gave the world bands like CATATONIA and SUPER FURRY ANIMALS…and a slightly better known band by the name of STEREOPHONICS. Formed way back in the early nineties in the town of Cwmaman, the ‘Phonics eventually burst on to the scene with their debut album, “Word Gets Around”, in 1997 and they’ve never looked back…having had a stellar career with millions of sales and a back catalogue of chart toppers, we find them in 2017 releasing their 10th studio album; “Scream Above The Sounds”…let’s turn it up!
We open up with “Caught By The Wind” and we welcome the album in with some gentle, melodious guitar tones and light percussion…the hooks utilised here are quite basic but the simplicity is part of the songs charm, it’s quaint, it’s easy listening…it's textbook 'Phonics...there’s an innocence to it and as openers go it’s far from unpleasant, easing you into the album nicely. “Taken A Tumble” follows up and here we have a little more bite, though only fractionally. With a sound based more in indie and classic rock, it’s more stripped back, though with the key changes towards the tracks closing moments we’re given an enjoyable, climatic finish. Sadly however, highlights here are generally quite sparse to be perfectly honest…”Geronimo” for all its outlaw swagger and solid groove ends up feeling stuck in second gear, it lacks an edge and would benefit a strong, hard rock inspired chorus, unlike “Chances Are”…possibly the strongest track on offer, the build up here is wonderful; restrained for the most part, it gradually gets deeper, led by some decent riffs and a little more attitude…it struts its stuff all the way towards its well-executed crescendo, coupled with Kelly Jones’ trademark drawl, this is more like it, this is more like classic ‘Phonics and it’s a joy to listen to.
The rest of the tracks however are…well…lackadaisical at best…“What’s All The Fuss About?” for example is a brilliant question because I for one can’t really see it myself. At near six minutes it’s a yawn inducing dabble in soft jazz with blues elements and it really is dreary, especially with Jones’ painfully droned vocals…the same fate falls upon “All In One Night” and again it’s a monotonous, uninspired soundscape coming across as no better than boring. “Would You Believe?” is another brilliant question, as would you honestly believe these once feisty valleys rockers could peddle such lazily written indie-pop? This isn’t even middle of the road, they’ve pulled over in the lay-by for a fucking nap!…”Cryin’ In Your Beer” does it’s best to reignite your interest towards the end of the album with its brassy, bass-driven lively delivery but really it’s too little too late. Scream above the sounds? A more appropriate title would be loudly tut in disappointment over the sleepy sounds of mediocrity…I expected better…
There’s a history of professional wrestlers who have dabbled in careers beyond in-ring action; some of them haven’t been entirely successful truth be told. We looked at Jeff Hardy’s band PEROXWHY?GEN earlier this year which left room for improvement...and even Hulk Hogan’s movies failed to reach any blockbuster status despite his star power in the 80’s and early 90’s…but there have been those who have managed to make a name for themselves beyond the Lycra, breaking kayfabe and breaking into the mainstream. The Rock for instance is now officially a bona fide mega star in Hollywood, Jesse Ventura had successful runs as a Mayor and then Governor of Minnesota…and then there’s Chris Jericho. Yes the ayatollah of rock and rolla is, as well as a highly successful professional wrestler, a New York Times best-selling author, a podcast host and oh yeah…front-man for the band FOZZY. Having formed back in the late 90’s and initially focussing on classic covers, they steadily rose in prominence and popularity with their tight live performances and in the years since, they’ve honed their craft with a series of promising and encouraging albums, now, in 2017 we see them return with new album “Judas” on Century Media records…let’s check it out…
We begin with the title track…THAT track…quite possibly the biggest success of Fozzy’s career to date. Their highest charting single ever, reaching number 5 on the US mainstream rock charts and racking up over 11 million views on YouTube, “Judas” perfectly works the soft melodious tones of Jericho’s clean vocals around some text-book hard rock riffs, building up to this huge, infectious chorus. This is incredibly polished and kicks the album off brilliantly, a great start. We follow up with “Drinkin With Jesus” and again we have some solid riffs; no frills, no nonsense, this is straight up ballsy rock ‘n’ roll…another powerful chorus and it’s clear Fozzy are on top form here. This is further proved with additional highlights such as “Weight Of My World” and especially the massive hooks of “Burn Me Out”…the latter is incredibly addictive with its subtle electronic elements and pop-rock appeal, this is some catchy shit!
There are a couple of lesser tracks here breaking up a lot of the momentum however, “Painless” for example comes across as a little sluggish and disinterested, while “Wordsworth Way” despite having a slightly dramatic intro fails to excite overall…but generally the album is consistently impressive. “Three Days In Jail” shakes things up with some nu-metal inspired rapping, adding fresh character to the Fozzy sound, just as “Elevator” again dabbles with subtle layers of electronica with yet another infectious chorus. Essentially what we have here is a band that have finally found themselves…everything that’s led up to this point has been exploratory, and while there have been glimmers of hope throughout their back catalog, such as “Watch Me Shine” and “Lights Go Out”…here we find them nailing it. This is Fozzy and it’s easily the strongest material they’ve ever put to record. Do you know what happens? Do you know what happens when Fozzy make one of the rock albums of the year? Do you? Do you know what happens? You stupid idiots….Fozzy just made the list! My top albums of 2017 list that is... 
We’re going to go on a little trip down memory lane right now…back in 2014 when this blog was but a fledgling project with little to no sense of structure (Honestly I’m a little bit of a technophobe)…where my earliest reviews and my first forays into writing were there, posted for all to see in their amateur, cringe-worthy glory, I came across a band by the name of ANAVAE. Formed in London in 2011 and consisting of only vocalist Rebecca Need-Menear and multi-instrumentalist Jamie Finch, they had released a mini-album by the name of “Dimensions” and I praised it for its slick production and catchy, easy-listening electronic rock qualities…now, three years later and after a couple of random singles here and there, they’ve released their much anticipated follow up EP “Are You Dreaming?”…Well? Let’s find out…
We open up with a statement of intent in “All Or Nothing” and the track slowly crawls out of the shadows with some cold, semi-industrial tones…the feeling here is a serious one and the sound they’ve gone for is considerably deeper…the chorus here is still bold, not quite anthemic but it is assertive…coupled with the subtle techno qualities layered throughout, it’s a solid opener but heavier than previous works, an interesting start. Following that however we have the wonderfully quirky “Forever Dancing” and this is the Anavae I recognize…the charm and innocence of the pop melodies, coupled with the positive up-beat tone of this track are delightful…this is the catchy Anavae we are familiar with and it’s a clear EP highlight.
More questions are asked next with “Are We Alone?” and musically we’re met with a more stripped back, ambient alt. pop sound, there’s a gradual build to this huge chorus before it dies down again, the two elements of the song complimenting each other quite nicely but it ends on an abrupt flat note instead of properly peaking at a crescendo, leaving the listener wanting just that bit more. “Stay” has a similar issue with a feeling of being a little more, reserved or restrained, despite its harmonies…there’s a huge pop hook here, again in a strong chorus and in ways this would appeal to fans of SHINY TOY GUNS to a degree, before we finish up on “Lose Your Love”. Probably the weakest track on offer here, it’s lethargic as though the love truly has been lost; it’s personal…drained of all energy and hope, like she’s given up and ultimately it’s a sad listening experience. While the EP itself it a pleasant collection of songs within itself it lacks in the intensity and stand-out appeal that made its predecessor so appealing. Am I dreaming? No…but at least its not a nightmare. 
Tis’ the season to be jolly, fa-la la-la-la, la-la-like-fuck it is….let’s talk about Christmas. Every year we spend offensive amounts of money on food, drink and presents because one day, a little boy was supposedly born very unhygienically in a stable, in a pile of hay, surrounded by animals and a frightening amount of NHS health and safety violations…to a woman named Mary who claimed to be a virgin…(Joseph mate she’s having you on by here and I’d call Jeremy Kyle for a DNA test ASAP…) Yes she claimed immaculate conception and that the father was God, and the baby, who we now know as Jesus Christ, the Messiah (Not Brian, no, he was a very naughty boy) became one of the most important figures in organised religion with a following of over 2 Billion people worldwide and also, the acclaimed host of the call-in show “Jesus And Pals” on SOUTH PARK. All of this…because his mother Mary had an affair resulting in her concocting an ENTIRE RELIGION to hide it from Joseph, who was either naïve or high on animal glue from his woodwork and went along with it. And now that that’s off my chest…let’s talk about a band that links perfectly with my ranting; THE VIRGINMARYS.
Formed in Macclesfield in 2009 and now only consisting of vocalist/guitarist Ally Dickaty plus drummer Danny Dolan, the VM’s have become one of the UK’s most acclaimed up and coming indie-rock artists with several well received EP’s and albums, not to mention Classic Rock awards nominations…and this year they hope to continue in the same vein of quality with their latest EP entitled ”Sitting Ducks”…let’s check it out. The EP opens up with the title track and we’re off to a simple start…with only basic percussion and a predominantly bass-driven intro it takes a while to warm up, but we don’t have to wait long before we’re met with more melody and substance, until the chorus bursts into life with a flurry of passion. The tempo throughout is generally steady and it carries with it a certain swagger aided by that big, bold chorus…the additional guitar solo sequence breaks the track up nicely and there’s nothing to not enjoy about this track once it’s gotten going; a strong start.
We follow up with the lead single taken off the EP “Sweet Loretta (You Know Me Better)” and it’s got a great build up…no nonsense, hard rocking indie that steadily intensifies, utilising a solid groove throughout, for the most part a real foot-tapper of a track but the chorus…the chorus sadly lets you down feeling just a little anti-climactic…it lacks the edge the rest of the track hooks you with and suffers ever so slightly from repetition…it’s a bit hit and miss this. “Through The Sky” then has shades of KINGS OF LEON dotted throughout in some aspects, fully embracing an indie rock tone…its smoother, it’s mellow but the guitar solo here is slick and smile-inducing, eventually ending the track on a mildly chaotic flurry…this is far from anti-climactic and is much, much better. Finally then we close up on “Sleep” and it’s ironic as we’ve got the dreariest track on offer last…though the acoustic harmonies are both quaint charming, and it’s clear the emotions here are raw, the sadness is unavoidable and there are moments where Ally’s vocals simply grate on your ears when he releases his pain…yet beautiful is the suffering. Overall however the four tracks here get you through a very pleasant quarter of an hour and the EP as a whole is an enjoyable listen. 
Coincidence; not something I’d class as a phenomenon as such but, it’s weird how some things just happen to fall together. In this instance, I’ll be talking about Minneapolis Minnesota…why you ask? Well when I’m not writing reviews I spend (Some might say waste) a lot of time on YouTube watching what many would describe as “random shit”…and lately I’ve been watching a lot of political interviews with former Minnesota governor JESSE VENTURA…you might remember him from his time in the then World Wrestling Federation…but his no nonsense, brutal honesty towards the American government is refreshing and I urge you to go have a listen to what he has to say…anyway I digress, as it turns out, the next band on my list for this blog, also happens to be from Minneapolis! So that’s a nice Segway to allow me to introduce to you COLD KINGDOM. Formed in 2014, the five-piece (Consisting of vocalist Dani Engum, bassist Jason Michael, drummer Chris Morley and guitarists Evan Ogaard and Zac Boyd) have done pretty well for themselves in their formative years, having supported the likes of BUCKCHERRY and SALIVA…and earlier this year they released a new self-titled EP…appropriately being a snow day, let’s check out “Cold Kingdom”
The EP opens up with “The Break” and right away we’re met with an incredibly rich piece of bold alternative rock…it’s up-beat and catchy with its pop-inspired hooks and melodies, the resulting chorus is genuinely infectious, while the guitar work here retains a hard-rock vibe. Gang vocals give the song ample depth and the solo is OK…as openers go it’s on-point, it’s a solid track and slots itself somewhere between HALESTORM and IN THIS MOMENT to some extent…a decent start. Following on from this we take it down several gears for “In Stereo”…a power ballad of sorts, it’s dramatic without sounding pompous and it’s well delivered…Dani gets to showcase her impressive vocals and ironically this is the kind of thing fans of THE DIRTY YOUTH could get into…anyone for a Dani-duet?
It’s not long before we’re back to the meat and potatoes however courtesy of “Not Tonight” and we’re greeted with the gritty riff-work of Zac and Evan; its impassioned and even Dani gets a little agro too, this is decent alt. metal, which can also be said of “Perfect Chambers”…the riffs here are crunching, there’s a lot more weight behind them, this musically is probably the heaviest track on offer here, this is something you can head-bang too but it loses none of the bands melodic qualities in the process, despite the breakdown-outro…before we finish up then on second ballad "Child". Far, far softer, it’s slower, with sweeping string sections and acoustic subtlety…it’s incredibly tender and emotional, rounding the EP off nicely. Despite its five-track length here you can still appreciate a diversity in the way Cold Kingdom write and create and they’ve done themselves proud with a genuinely solid outing here. The production is good and each track here is enjoyable in its own right…Cold Kingdom should at least make you feel all warm inside. 
As you’re probably familiar by now, I’ve credited a lot of my musical taste to one Mr BAM MARGERA, having discovered several of my favourite bands thanks to his compilation albums and personal choices for soundtracks (The CKY series, “Haggard”, “Viva La Bam” etc.) and one such band are Germany’s favourite alternative melodic punks BEATSTEAKS…with a brand new record released earlier this year, I was lucky enough to catch up with drummer Thomas Götz for a quick chat about the record, touring and an insight into German punk…here’s how it went down.
“I’d like to start off by saying Congratulations! You’ve just recently released your brand new album; “Yours”, twenty years after your debut…did you ever see yourselves getting this far back in the mid-nineties?”
TG: “Never…I never have seen myself going anywhere and I am really glad for spending the last 18 years with the band. I had the chance to see really beautiful places and travel through Germany, Europe and even America with the band. And I am very proud that I was finally able to avoid real work and spend my time playing music for such a long time!”
“When people think of German music, initially, a lot of people make the connection with metal; bands like RAMMSTEIN, SCORPIONS and HELLOWEEN etc…very few people automatically associate Germany with punk rock in any capacity. What inspired you to go in that direction and what’s Germany’s punk scene like?”
TG: “I think that Germany has a very vital punk scene and always had. For me it started all when bands like EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN, ABWÄRTS, DER PLAN, DIE TÖDLICHE DORIS entered the scene in the 80's and brought really innovative music to the table….back then people said it’s just noise - not even music. But these bands opened the doors for so much other bands - they were like pioneers….and nowadays bands like PISSE, KARIES, HUMAN ABFALL, GEWALT, TURBOSTAAT, DIE NERVEN, LEVIN GOES LIGHTLY, WOLF MOUNTAIN and others reap what’s been sowed back then. We as a band are somewhere in between…too melodic for real punks….too punk for mainstream pop….too much guitar for young kids….we love DEPECHE MODE, Hip Hop, AC/DC and all kinds of music…so we are not considered as strict punks….we just play some kind of pop music or at least something that we think of as pop music.”
“Coming back to “Yours”, it’s another batch of great songs in your ever reliable repertoire, tracks like “You In Your Memories” and “Fever” in particular stand out for me…what can you tell us about the album? What’s the inspiration and story behind it? Having recently listened to it, it’s worth noting that its 21 tracks long, which in most cases is a lot for any album, was that always going to be the case? The writing process was evidently very fruitful…”
TG: “We wanted to make an album as diverse as possible….not our usual 11 song album 32 minutes long that we normally make but an album with a wider variety….not everybody in the band has to love every song as much as another…as long as everyone enjoys contributing to the songs….that was somehow the bottom line of the album….and every time we felt clueless and didn’t know what to do….we just asked friends that we met along the way in our career to help us with the particular song…we asked JAMIE T for help with the song "HATE TO LOVE" and he wrote us a wonderful bridge and lyrics. We asked CHAD PRICE of the band ALL to help us out with the singing because we thought that’s the voice we want to hear on "YOU IN YOUR MEMORIES". FARIN URLAUB of the band DIE ÄRTZTE wrote lyrics for "ABBA DU"….the hip-hop band DEICHKIND wrote lyrics for "L AUF DER STIRN" and sang on it…FRANCOISE CACTUS wrote the lyrics for "VELOSOLEX"….so finally we had our first French song… BREZEL GÖRING of STEREO TOTAL produced two songs on our record…..then there was STEPHEN STREET who helped us with producing and mixing of the album and so on….every time we asked for help we got help and so it was a great experience to work on this album and besides the fun we learned a lot…we had a lot of songs in store and this time we didn’t strip down and made no selection of songs worth to work on….we just worked on every idea that was on the table and we succeeded almost every time but in three cases where we just couldn’t finish the ideas……”
“Another talking point would be those collaborations themselves…it’s not something you’ve done a lot of on past records but here there are several, with tracks featuring the wide variety you just mentioned…how did these come about during writing? Did you seek them out specifically?”
TG: “Jamie T. did a show in Berlin while we recorded so Arnim and me went to the show and Arnim went backstage to ask him if he could imagine to help us out which he said was no problem…..a few weeks later he sent us his ideas and we loved it…..I met BREZEL GÖRING and FRANCOISE CACTUS during a Radio session that I did with STEREO TOTAL for the Berlin based station RADIOEINS….a few months later I called them because we had this demo that cried for French lyrics and also would be perfect with her voice….and she didn’t hesitate - she listened to the song and asked for a theme to write about…BREZEL suggested something with motor scooters and Ii suggested something light and something anti right wing…she came up with the story of an ex lover trying to make up for his bad behaviour….trying to reach his ex girl living in Aix and on his way he meets Brigitte Bardot to tell BB that she’s a cunt….”
“Collaborations are everywhere in the charts these days, especially in pop, rap and R'n'B based genre's...are there any artists you'd love to work with that you've not had a chance to?”
TG: “BEASTIE BOYS, TY SEGALL, TOPPER HEADON, PAUL SIMENON, MICK JONES, TONY ALLEN, FRANK OCEAN, LIGHTENING BOLT…..all in all ….too much to mention…”
“Coming back to the new record, you’ve just completed a tour promoting the album, primarily within Germany but a couple of shows around Europe including a date in London, how was the tour for you? How has the reaction been to “Yours” in general?”
TG: “We had a great time including an amazing evening at the KOKO in London…we got along really good, the audiences were great and we’d love to come back to England as soon as possible to continue with our tour. The reaction to the new material was good and it’s getting better all the time! I guess we will have a lot of fun during the next year with this album.”
“What’s next for Beatsteaks in the new year? Is there going to be more extensive touring overseas or aiming to play any festivals? What does 2018 have in store…?”
TG: “Another tour in Germany in spring, a lot of festivals all over Europe during the summer hopefully coming back to England….maybe a few shows in France and definitely some shows in East Europe.”
“Nochmals vielen Dank und viel Glück mit dem Album.”
TG: “Thank YOU!”
Back in September I ran a review on one of Klayton’s numerous projects on the FiXT roster; SCANDROID, who returned with their highly anticipated second album “Monochrome”…a very nostalgically indulgent project acting as a throwback to the 80’s era of new-wave synth pop, the neon retro glow of early electronic music, with the concept of living in a futuristic cyberpunk neo-Tokyo…it was done incredibly well and proved once again that Kalyton is one of the top electronic artists in the world today…but he’s not the only one dabbling in the past. Fellow label-mate BLUE STAHLI (Real name Bret Autrey) has caught the retro bug too it seems and for his own new project, he’s dropped the heavier, guitar driven EDM for a spot of synth-pop. With the debut album “Starlight” being released December 1st…let’s checkout SUNSET NEON…
We rather appropriately open up with “Opening Title Sequence” which, really, is probably the most straight-to-the-point, generic track title you could possibly imagine…if this was a film score, I would understand but here it doesn’t even have any sense of ironic self-awareness…it’s just lazy. The track itself is just over a minute of otherworldly, spacey soft-synth…it’s like something that may have found its way into one of the scenes on "Stranger Things" and while it’s promising regarding the rest of the album, I’m already distracted now, Netflix is calling me…I regain focus however as first track proper; “Got You” kicks in and this is more like it! It’s rich in bubbly, up-beat disco inspired new-wave indie-pop…the style, the sound, the vibe; it’s all absolutely spot on here…an early album highlight this is something you could easily imagine having been on old-school Top Of The Pops.
Further highlights include the vibrant “Never Dance Again” which wonderfully blends era’s into one light-hearted, happy-go-lucky electronic pop number…imagine KIM WILDE collaborated with CHARLI XCX and you wouldn’t be far off…it’s beat and rhythm are minimalistic while the guitar during the chorus adds a little depth and just a touch of attitude, this is an enjoyable pop song. “You Are The Sun” layers incredibly soft vocals over a relaxed soft-synth backing, akin to early boy bands in ways, while the title track utilises a lo-fi ambience with a charming delicacy fans of SAVAGE GARDEN would appreciate. The real highlight however comes courtesy of “Tonight”…more guitar-driven in tone and in ways more suited to a glam rock band, it’s got more of an edge, it’s pumping, it’s motivational; it’s the kind of song Rocky Balboa would punch frozen cow carcasses to…excellent stuff. Several of the tracks fail to inspire as instrumentals however; “Strut” has this, nu-disco swagger, it’s got funk but it feels like filler…”Metrocenter 84” too suffers similarly, though more laid back and ambient…but the real kick in the childhood comes from the surprise cover of PRINCE classic “Kiss”…merciful god…the original was painfully cringe-worthy with his unique high pitched vocal but it’s worse when imitated…it’s like MIKA and Justin Hawkins from THE DARKNESS had a bollockless lovechild and it attempted to match the track cringe-for-cringe. Ultimately though, the album as a whole has its quaint nostalgic tones firmly set in the lighter, poppier end of the retrospectrum (See what I did there?) and it offers a wholly different listen to Scandroid, though sadly, the songs here are weaker if we compare the two projects…Sunset Neon needs to replace a few bulbs I think. 
It's competition time! Yes! Are you a fan of NIKKI SIXX and fancy getting hold of some goodies? Do you know someone who would appreciate some rockin' stockin' fillers this Christmas? Well look no further! The lovely people over at ELEVEN 7 MUSIC have sent to me a copy of Nikki's New York Times best-selling autobiography "The Heroin Diaries" to give away...PLUS...to go alongside that, I have a copy of "The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack: 10th Anniversary Edition" to give away too...which features the original 13 tracks, plus 3 additional 2017 re-recordings of "Accidents Can Happen", "Girl With The Golden Eyes" and the single "Life Is Beautiful"...to be in with a chance of winning, Like & Follow the GAVTHEGOTHICCHAV Facebook page, and answer this simple question;
"Nikki is infamous for his multiple overdoses due to his love of heroin...and has seen numerous doctors in his time, but, what doctor found Mötley Crüe success at the top of the US Billboard Charts back in 1989?" Was it;
A] Dr. Seuss
B] Dr. Dre
C] Dr. Feelgood
D] Dr. Acula
Leave your answer, along with your name in the comments below this post and a winner will be chosen at random. I'll even wrap the prizes for you myself, gift tags, ribbons the lot! The competition closes Monday, December 11th. Good luck!
The great thing about reviewing is, from time to time, you’ll witness growth…now, while all artists change and evolve from one album to the next (Well, I SAY all…AD/DC made a fortune on stagnation) nothing quite beats seeing a band in their formative years growing in sound, growing in style and more importantly, growing in confidence…back in 2014 in the early days of this blog’s existence, I reviewed a band by the name of DRIVEN in Fuel, Cardiff (I’ll never forget that conga line) and in the years since, I’ve witnessed them achieve so much in such a relatively short period of time. Having undergone a name change, and finding themselves signed to Spinefarm Records, IN SEARCH OF SUN (As they are now known) dropped a highly promising debut album by the name of “The World Is Yours” and grabbed a lot of people’s attention…now…in 2017 they deliver us the much anticipated follow up; “Virgin Funk Mother”…was the world truly theirs for the taking or were they ultimately searching for the sun at night? Let’s find out…
There’s no messing about with this record whatsoever as we open up with “Say It Like You See It” and we’re thrust into an infectious, groove-laden surge of riffs and funk-driven passion…the song writing, the musicianship, the delivery…it’s hard to imagine these were once just a couple of lads from London giving copies of their EP away for free just wanting to be heard, this is superb; this is anthemic…the sound here is positively huge and in ways it’s a blend of INCUBUS and YOUNG GUNS, a brilliant start this. “Bad Girl” follows immediately afterwards and while notably restrained compared to our opener it utilises a heavier, prog-fuelled guitar sound giving the track a more menacing tone as it maniacally reaches its more metal inspired crescendo…with the addition of MONUMENTS guitarist John Browne bringing a certain djent style, this is a lot darker.
Next up we have Ronseal…or at least it may as well be, as “Motherfunk” does exactly what it says on the motherfucking tin! Its super upbeat, super smooth and front-man Adam’s clean vocals are wonderful, he’s developed into such an equally charismatic and capable vocalist he really helps carry these songs effortlessly, while the guitar work here again from David, Rory and not forgetting bassist Faz, is top drawer; they’ve nailed it here again…funk has seldom felt so relevant in alternative rock music. “Never” ticks all of the same boxes with another bold chorus emphasising another impassioned vocal display, slower and emotionally deeper in tone with subtle power ballad qualities, this further highlights their song-writing capabilities…while “Mega Piranha”…well, it’s more metal in style but don’t worry about that, look up the film…it’s amazing…it’s no Sharktopus but it’s still amazing. Actually scrap this review lets go watch them both! I jest...there are a couple of weaker moments though, yet nothing that completely ruins the record…”Little Wolf” as an interlude is barely existent and while acting as a segue, it may as well have just been a lengthy track intro instead of being its own entity, it’s a little bit pointless, while closing track “Mon Amour” overstays it’s welcome. While a decent track for the most part, we hit the halfway mark and we slide into repetition, couple that with the rising level of distortion and feedback at the songs climax and it just becomes annoying rather than awe inspiring and it really, sadly closes proceedings on a dud note. That’s not to say however that this record is a failure by any means, not at all…the past couple of years has seen the guys really put the time and effort in and it’s clearly paid off, this is a totally different band to the wide-eyed aspiring metal heads I saw in Cardiff back in the day and they certainly aren’t looking back…in search of sun? This album is positively beaming…
I want to take a minute to talk about “emo”…but before you get all excited like a wide-eyed eleventeen year old browsing Blue Banana for the first ever time, I mean proper emo…no not the pompous black parade peddling MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE or even worse, BLOOD ON THE DANCEFLOOR (Seriously how are they even a thing?)…I’m talking about proper, original emo. All emo really is…is emotional rock music, that’s where the tag comes from, but it descended into a fashion statement and became more of a trend among youngsters. Bands like HELL IS FOR HEROES wonderfully blended post-hardcore with melodic indie elements to great effect in the early days but were overlooked for the poppier commercial value of the likes of FALL OUT BOY and PANIC! AT THE DISCO as the genre snowballed, and one such band who were resigned to their cult fan base, was REUBEN. The Surrey based three-piece hit their peak with 2004’s “Racecar Is Racecar Backwards” but went on indefinite hiatus following 2007’s “In Nothing We Trust”…this year, they’ve re-released the latter on white vinyl celebrating its 10th anniversary…let’s revisit it…
The album opens up with “Cities On Fire” and after a mellow, softly plucked guitar intro, we hit some feedback and the song suddenly bursts into life with a bitterness; a sharpness with Jamie Lenman’s intense, heavy vocals…he’s giving this his all, switching between soothing and savage you get a real sense of what emo should be…the mellifluous segments find themselves somewhere between SNOW PATROL and LONELY THE BRAVE while the more aggressive elements really add weight and character, balancing it out well, this is a nice opener. “We’re All Going Home In An Ambulance” has some wonderfully distorted guitar tones aiding a frenetic, disjointed musical onslaught…it’s noisy, it’s messy, it’s off-kilter…someone would probably label this mathcore today but whatever you want to call it, it’s wonderful.
Second single “Deadly Lethal Ninja Assassin” has a slower, lethargic tempo but its simplicity is infectious. Its melody is subtle and it’s a far tamer track overall with a solid climatic flurry, add to that an appearance by one Mr FRANK TURNER and we’ve got an enjoyable listen. Lengthy track names became a staple of emo albums, and “Crushed Under The Weight Of Enormous Bullshit” was no exception…for the most part utilising almost “Psycho” inspired notes, it’s an intense, unsettling listen, while “Good Luck” on the other hand is a far more peaceful acoustic led track, featuring guest vocalist Hannah Clark, it’s a lovely little relaxing campfire ballad, providing another highlight. Speaking of which, “Agony/Agatha” is another enjoyably simplistic offering; piano driven, equally quirky and catchy, before we eventually finish up on “A Short History Of Nearly Everything”. Primarily sombre in tone, it’s a fitting closure to not only the album, but their career at the time. Emo may have gone stratospheric in the years that followed and many would argue its core values were more than tainted, but bands like Reuben were properly underappreciated as soon as there was a commercial bandwagon to jump on. Ten years on, this is still a solid listen, while emo itself, was crushed under the weight of its own enormous amount of bullshit. 
The weather today is absolutely shit, it’s windier and wetter than a category 5 queef…so I’ve decided to uproot and head to Italy! I’m just kidding, there’s perfectly good pizza in my local kebab shop I’m not going anywhere, but today’s band however are indeed from “lo stivale”…let me introduce you to HELL IN THE CLUB. Formed in Alessandria back in 2009 and consisting of vocalist David Moras, bassist Andrea Buratto, guitarist Andrea Piccardi and drummer Marco Lanciotti, the four-piece have been living their dream of sex, drugs & rock ‘n’ roll over the past couple of years, and with a couple of records under their belt already they’ve accumulated a strong fan-base, with their sound taking influence from the glam-metal heyday’s of the 80’s…2017 sees them release their brand new album “See You On The Dark Side”…returning Jedi or are they rock’s Jar Jar Binks? Let’s find out…
The album opens up with lead single “We Are On Fire” and immediately we hear their glam-metal influence…there’s a level of swagger here akin to the likes of MOTLEY CRUE and HANOI ROCKS in places, coupled with the melodic hooks, the gang vocals, all the way down to the guitar solo, acting very much like a time capsule full of 80’s rock splendour and they fit a lot into this relatively brief opener, setting a good tone for the record going forward; a decent start. “The Phantom Punch” follows this up with little to no change in overall approach then other than slight tempo changes; there’s a more power-metal tone in the chorus with Moras properly belting this one out, more gang vocals and another solo round this one off and again, it’s decent…
The incredibly random “I Wanna Swing Like Peter Parker” is a peculiar one…while upbeat and lively for the most part, highlighting an apparent fondness of Marvel comics, it’s got this wonderful soft-jazz fill halfway through the track, it’s a cheeky play on words; half web-slinger, half FRANK SINATRA, literally swinging and I imagine this was in part inspired by THAT scene from Spiderman 3…bizarre. “A Melody, A Memory” starts off well enough with a rich, groove-laden riff sequence but as we switch into the chorus there’s this really awkward key-change that doesn’t sound right at all…it kills all the momentum gained leading into it, while it should really burst into life for a bold chorus we get an underwhelming transition…disappointing this, before we finish up on a stronger, consistent note. Album highlights like “The Misfit” utilise vibrant, catchy pop-rock qualities to deliver a light-hearted, fun listen, while “Withered In Venice” by contrast is a more mature rock ballad; dramatic and emotive…ultimately there’s enough here to entertain fans of that bygone glam-rock era but it isn’t over saturated in clichés to the point where it’s a mere tribute act…or even worse, STEEL PANTHER. Now if you’ll excuse me…I’m off to dance my way down the street looking like an absolute prat like Toby Maguire, despite the rain. 
Outside of the squared circle, wrestlers are very rarely (if ever at all) taken seriously…obviously I mean by people who, don’t particularly care about wrestling in the first place that is…sure there are anomalies, Rock “The Dwayne” Johnson has become a global movie star all credit to him…John Cena is trying too but nobody can see him doing it and Hulk Hogan? The Hulkster is a living legend there’s no two ways about it brother! Say your prayers eat your vitamins and believe in yourself and you too, could land yourself winning millions of dollars in a court case over a sex tape…but I digress…what about music? Chris Jericho has been gradually winning people over with his rock band FOZZY…John Cena, again, remember that rap album? Enough said…and then there’s JEFF HARDY. Hardy is one of the most loved and decorated tag team wrestlers the industry has ever seen alongside his brother Matt, he’s won numerous singles titles too in both WWE and TNA (Or whatever the hell it’s called these days)…but…did you also know that he front’s a band too? Let me introduce you to PEROXWHY?GEN…no that’s not a typo, that’s actually the band’s name (Pronounced Peroxygen) Hardy and co have released several EP’s and albums over the past couple of years and this year they dropped “Precession Of The Equinoxes”…let’s see how far we can get before we tap out…
We open up with “Sphere On Earth” and it’s an interesting one to say the least…it’s a weird, spoken word track, almost a monologue in ways…he speaks of his mother with a poetic adoration and it’s all an ode to her in her passing, this family role model, loved and respected and while quaint, it goes full-on track length at 3:00…it’s really quite artsy instead of being a brief intro and while creative it doesn’t really benefit as being an opening track…an odd inclusion this. The first proper track, “Revived” gets the album going more adequately with a mixture of rock, indie and emo qualities, tapping into that general genre-bracket…imagine bands like AMERICAN HI-FI and that ilk…clean vocals, melodic but raw…it’s got substance this…there are moments where the vocals can come across a touch flat but there’s enough here to carry it forward, this is more enjoyable start. We change gears again though as immediately we follow up with “Occasion” and while we stick with certain, soft-emo tones we’re given a far more delicate track. Heavy on piano and strings, leading into acoustics it’s got an almost semi-country feel and in ways develops into something fans of SMASHING PUMPKINS could appreciate.
At 2:44, “Otherwise” is the shortest track on offer here and while it’s a little disjointed in places, we’re treated to some decent throwback, early 2000’s alternative rock, this could have easily of come out of the nu-metal era listening to this chorus, balancing on a fine line between nostalgic and dated…”Unforgiveable” then retouches certain ballad aspects but here it’s clear Hardy doesn’t have the vocal capability to properly do this justice, he lacks a softness; a sweetness at times which would have taken this track to the next level, before we finish up on another diverse trio of tracks. “Emotionless” has more of that throwback nu-metal influence with its crossover rap metal vibe, “September Day” utilises slow, gritty electronica; coming across as spacey before we close on “Catastrophic” and it’s a weird mixture of trippy spoken word and poor rap…leaving the listener with more of a sense of “Why?” as opposed to “Wow!”. Overall…while I can sit here and applaud Hardy for all the entertainment he’s provided me over the years in ladder matches, musically he doesn’t quite grab my attention so easily, there are genuine moments here that offer a great deal of promise as some of the rockier tracks have potential, and credit to him he's not afraid to experiment, but he needs to iron out a couple of things. One things for sure, it’s not as bad as THAT match with Sting at Victory Road 2011….
What happens when you combine Finnish alternative metal with WWE tag team The Ascension? No, this isn’t some quirky “Sorjonen” crossover episode of the Fashion Files…today we’re actually talking about a band by the name of EMBER FALLS. Formed in Tampere, these red and black clad rockers dropped their debut single “Shut Down With Me” back in 2015 and since then have steadily become a promising home-grown talent in their native Finland, backed up by being signed to Spinefarm Records…now, 2017 sees them release their debut full-length album; “Welcome To Ember Falls”. Is the album really welcome though? Let’s find out…
We open up with “The Cost Of Doing Business” and immediately we’re subject to a barrage of slick metal tinged hard-rock riffs channeling an infectious groove; it’s an up-tempo introduction and full of energy, aided by both gang-vocal harmonies and metalcore-inspired screamed vocals courtesy of guitarist Calu, it all accompanies front-man Thomas Grove perfectly with his almost power metal core style…in some ways imagine if ASKING ALEXANDRIA and TURISAS had a baby…that’s what you’ve got here essentially…this is a strong intro. “Falling Rain” continues with the power metal / almost symphonic elements and in places has subtle nods to NIGHTWISH within the structure of the track giving it a slight dramatic touch, before “Of Letting Go” steps it up a gear with a more prominent electronic based sound layered within the riffs and percussion. It’s really up beat and throws a power-ballad style chorus into the mix; its balanced well, some delicate piano coupled with a decent guitar solo and provides another enjoyable listen.
“Freedom” then goes all the way into soft ballad territory with no shame whatsoever, showing a versatility in the Finns, it doesn’t come across as pompous but simply oozes genuine emotion and as the track ascends to its climax it picks up with a certain classic rock tone; the guitar here is simply elegant, a softer track all around but no less impressive. The clear highlight here though is “Open Your Eyes”…featuring NC Enroe (Niko Moilanen) from Finnish pop rockers BLIND CHANNEL…coursing with electronic, vibrant pop-rock energy and a touch of nu-metal attitude courtesy of NC's rapping, this is the kind of song that would get any alternative night club moving, incredibly infectious and easily the standout track on this record, before we close proceedings with another inclusion of their debut single, and “The Lamb Lies Down In Sacrifice”…a meatier, melodic death metal inspired piece akin to the likes of SCAR SYMMETRY and such, the riffs are back, as are the wailing guitars and the whole thing ends on a more aggressive, assertive note. While some of the albums track’s all too easily blend in to some of their influences from the Scandinavian melodic death artists, primarily their neighboring Sweden’s Gothenburg scene, you can’t dispute how down right enjoyable a lot of this album is…welcome to ember falls? You’re very welcome indeed. 
Without meaning to sound pessimistic, I absolutely love being set up for a fall…listen to this; “The album hits like a revelation, jolting the listener upright and transporting them from a dreamy landscape to a wide-eyed state of consciousness textured by humility and sandblasted by the winds that weather life”…it sounds amazing doesn’t it? You read that and think who the hell is this?! Well…let me tell you…this is a snippet from a bio by Las Vegas rockers OTHERWISE. Yes, clearly they spent most of their creative energy on their biography, and settled for one of the most mundane sounding band names of all time in the process…but the question now is, will we truly be swept away by their newest album “Sleeping Lions”…or…are they musically as beige as their own name? Let’s find out…
The album opens up with “Angry Heart” and after a brief period of guitar feedback we’re met with some fairly standard metal-tinged hard rock riffs…vocally Adrian Patrick is relatively clean, especially within an admittedly catchy chorus, aided by gang-vocal backing…the bass here is on occasion reminiscent of KORN in subtle ways, and I mention this purely to state that, bassist Tony Carboney has a better name than the band he plays in…say them both out loud…told you. If I may get back on track, we follow up with the title track and we get more generally run of the mill American alternative radio rock…fans of say, THEORY OF A DEADMAN or NICKELBACK and the like would probably enjoy this…what I’m certainly not getting, is the dreamy landscape or the feeling of being sandblasted by, anything to be honest, other than, mediocrity…it’s fine, but they set the bar so high with their bio that, this falls so far short…
There are a couple of pleasant tracks on offer here if I’m totally honest, such as “Suffer” with its pop rock melodic tendencies providing easy listening, while “Nothing To Me” drops some solid hard rock hooks…there is a slower fill mid-track which sounds out of place that detracts from an otherwise enjoyable song, before “Weapons” gives us our first real album highlight with it’s incredibly catchy pop qualities…the rest of the album however goes completely arse over tit via its own determination to appease the mighty god Chad Kroeger…just listen to “Crocodile Tears” and “Dead In The Air”…honestly it’s as if they climbed up into the Canadian’s arse, crawled directly into his brain and had him write them songs like some sort of parasitic infection…either that or there’s a case for plagiarism here…”Blame” on the other hand is effectively yawn inducing while, “Bloodline Lullaby” just…shoot me, someone…anyone? This is every clichéd romantic movie epiphany / last dance soundtrack rolled into one song…”Won’t Stop” ends things on a livelier note but, it redeems nothing. They promised the world and more in their biography and what they delivered was nothing more than a rip-off of a rock music meme…Sleeping Lions? Sleeping Gav…
It’s been an incredibly nostalgic year for SAXON…as they slowly approach their 40th anniversary, the Yorkshire based veterans have taken us on a trip down memory lane of late, celebrating their heritage and educating new generations on how they became one of the most important and influential metal bands of all time, flying the flag for not only metal, but Britain too as part of the NWOBHM (New wave of British heavy metal). Inspired by the likes of IRON MAIDEN and MOTORHEAD, Saxon, led by front-man Biff Byford, have had one hell of an illustrious and prolific career, releasing an incredible 21 studio albums and in 2017 they’ve been dusting off some classics courtesy of some new collectors sets. Earlier this year we were treated to “The Solid Book Of Rock”…a wonderfully packaged set of albums covering everything from 1991’s “Solid Ball Of Rock” all the way to 2009’s “Into The Labyrinth”…showcasing the bands ability to withstand the test of time in an ever changing musical landscape…but they’re going further this time…far back, right to the beginning with “Decade Of The Eagle”…set for release on November 17th, “Decade…” highlight’s the band’s first ten years; from their emergence through the most commercially successful years of their career which included gold and platinum selling albums and multiple chart positions…let’s check it out…
The two-disk compilation appropriately opens up with a selection of tracks from 1979’s historical debut; “Saxon” and it’s here where it all began…given the time, we were in the very earliest days of metal and it’s a far cry from today’s brutality, with a sound having borrowed more from rock ’n’ roll. Here you can hear a band trying to find their feet, with “Stallions Of The Highway” and “Militia Guard” proving to be raw and pacey…the production quality wasn’t great but it’s here their journey began, marking a milestone in metal history. From there however, things would pick up big time…as follow up release, 1980’s “Wheels Of Steel” sped up the charts to their highest ever position at number 5 and the band would never look back. With better production quality and a sound more rooted in blues rock, the band would release one of their most popular songs of all time “747 (Strangers In The Night)” and the seeds were sewn for success…seeds that quickly blossomed as they released not one but TWO albums in 1980, following up with “Strong Arm Of The Law”. While not charting as high, reaching number 11…it made up for a lack of standout hits, despite “Dallas 1pm” (Written about the Kennedy assassination) with a more consistent writing quality and the album is considered one of the best in the bands discography by many, many fans. Just a year later then, they broke into the top 10 once more with 1981’s “Denim And Leather”…there was no stopping them! With subtle nods to their beginnings, they included a slicker, classic rock feel into their sound and the title track became an anthem for the metal lifestyle as we came to know it, musically and fashionably transcending style…
Disk two then gets us going with highlights from 1983’s “Power And The Glory” returning yet again to the Top 20 kicking off with “This Town Rocks” and a return to their frenetic hard rock roots, paying homage to the likes of Motorhead, contrasting the generally slower “Midas Touch” which focused on a catchy chorus balancing a more ballad-driven piece, delivering another solid collection of songs. In 1984 we saw Saxon release their final album for the Carrere record label; “Crusader”…a touch softer than previous releases, it garnered its criticisms, and the single “Sailing To America” does suffer from repetition, an anticlimactic end to the relationship with their label. Their form soon picked up again however when they joined to EMI and released 1985’s “Innocence Is No Excuse” and the bulk of disk two’s content is taken from this…tracks like “Rockin’ Again” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll Gypsy” again using classic rock and slick guitar tones to their advantage, which can also be said for 1986’s “Rock The Nations”…Saxon, already established by now, dabble in subtle glam-rock elements for tracks such as “Waiting For The Night” and shock horror, using acoustics and piano for “Northern Lady”, showing they were far from a one-trick pony with another power ballad not sounding out of place whatsoever, before we round off the collection and the decade with a couple of tracks from 1988’s “Destiny”, which includes a cover of “Ride Like The Wind” by Texan songwriter CHRISTOPHER CROSS and the scorching “Red Alert”, ending the collection on a hard rocking high note.
Whereas sounds and styles have changed multiple times over the years, with new genres and fads coming and going with each decade…one thing that will always stand the test of time is metal and here, Saxon prove that like the rock royalty they are…having pounded out so many classics in such a relatively short space of time shows just how important and influential a band they are, even to this day, paving the way for many acts such as the mighty METALLICA…this collection of songs highlights the heydays of heavy metal in all of its unashamed glory and Saxon were at the forefront of a revolution, helping lay the foundations of one of the world’s longest standing genres of music…many would argue it’s more than that, many would say it’s a way of life and thanks to bands like Saxon, we still live for the denim and leather. 
Back in 2003 the world of rock music underwent a little renaissance and for the first time in a long time, Goth was cool again…yes black was back and several artists made huge impacts on the world stage. Without a shadow of a doubt, EVANESCENCE stole the show with their chart topping, haunting super-hit “Bring Me To Life”, alternative rock having rarely seen such commercial success…veterans TYPE-O-NEGATIVE dropped the outstanding “Life Is Killing Me” in all of its dark humoured glory…Finnish icons HIM made their UK / US breakthrough with “Love Metal” (Helped ever so slightly by the relentless plugging of Bam Margera) and rock music as a whole found a new heart-throb in Ville Valo…and a little band called THE RASMUS released one of the year’s biggest hits, “In The Shadows”….many thought that the Finns had come out of nowhere, capitalising on this wave of alt. rock popularity but in actual fact they started life back in 1994 while still in high school, and while charting higher than their Scandinavian peers here, the longevity wouldn’t last and as quickly as they became new Goth’s on the block, they ironically slid back into the shadows, eventually going into lengthy hiatus in 2012. Fast-forward five years however, and 2017 see’s The Rasmus return with their ninth studio album; “Dark Matters” but…the question is, do The Rasmus? Let’s find out…
The album opens up with lead single “Paradise” and it finds itself somewhere between ambient acoustics and generic indie-rock…front-man Lauri’s vocals are still honey coated as ever and he sings with an air of innocence as he juxtaposes the idea of one man’s hell being another man’s paradise…it’s a pleasant little song for what it’s worth but for a come-back single after a five year absence it’s a little underwhelming and it doesn’t incite much excitement to start the album…”Something In The Dark” follows up immediately afterwards and here we have this incredibly light, bubbly pop track…musically it sounds like it’s taken influence from modern dance-pop records, lacking only in pace, and the chorus here suffers from being a little flat really, it works as a nice, simple pop song but little else. With “Wonderman” then we’re finally met with some chugging riffs and you’re lead to believe that the album is going to come to life here but, the idea is shot down as the track descends into a soft ballad and it’s massively disappointing…and here we find the album’s primary flaw.
While we know Lauri’s vocals aren’t exactly the strongest, they’ve never been an aggressive rock band…but…we do know they can churn out an absolte banger and he’s capable of delivering, I’ve already mentioned “In The Shadows”, but they also have “Guilty” in their repertoire and hell, just listen to “Life Burns!” with APOCALYPTICA…they can do it, but this album is bereft of life, or even a point at times… despite having certain easy listening qualities, such as the funk driven “Crystalline” and the frankly Eurovision-esque “Delirium” providing an album highlight in all of its catchy pop splendour, the rest of the album is annoyingly lacklustre. “Empire” for whatever reasons deemed acceptable in production utilises a god-awful kazoo-like effect that you’d possibly find in a clichéd R’n’B track…it’s actually horrendous…while “Black Days” and “Dragons Into Dreams” are for whatever reason content with boring the listener into a coma more effectively than an opioid overdose…this album simply fails to inspire on many levels and it’s just an absolute shame…even from a pop music perspective this is relatively half-arsed and lifeless and to make the point clearer, there’s more substance to the last LINKIN PARK record, and look how that was received. Dark matters? Well, this album sadly doesn’t. 
Sinister Visions Records are a new independent label with a fresh perspective. One that will support exceptional artists who have a lot of potential but aren’t necessarily seen as commercially viable.
They are currently raising funds to launch their new way of thinking, business-ethical artist-friendly Heavy Metal record label in Greater Manchester, UK. They will be focusing mainly on Thrash, Death, Extreme and Black Metal bands but are not limiting themselves to these genres. If a band can start a decent pit going at a gig then they are most welcome!
Here is what Sinister Visions Records told us:
"Put simply, the only people making money at the moment is Record Labels and this has to change because if bands don't make money then they cannot survive".
"Our business model is this....the band pays for the studio time, recording costs, mixing and mastering costs. The label pays for the cost of putting the finished album onto CD, LP and/or Cassette (whatever is agreed with each band), it also pays for any necessary advertising and PR costs".
"Any profits from the sale of music after production, advertising costs and monthly donations (oh, we forgot to mention that didn't we? A set percentage which is to be confirmed but likely around 10-15% will be donated to mental health chariites) is split 50/50 with the band".
"We are by no stretch classed as "Tree Huggers" but we are mindful enough about the planet and switched on enough to know that we would prefer and insist on (where possible) to use recycled packaging and materials for all our releases. We have been pricing up the costings involved such as recycled card for all digipack releases and vinyl record sleeves etc and these are not much more (if at all) than the costings of non-recycled materials but as that big supermarket chain says - "Every little helps".
While the record label will be going ahead regardless, by clicking on the link above, you'll be taken directly to the SINISTER VISIONS KickStarter campaign page, where you can donate money towards helping the label hit the ground running and make it success not just for the team involved, but for all the bands who will work with them in the future, giving them the best possible start. All donations are welcome and appreciated but if you donate so much, you will be rewarded with items like physical CD's or T-Shirts from the label, or even digital downloads from the label's roster...or...if you really want to splash the cash and are feeling generous (Should you have the funds spare) you can even get a performance from one of the artists in your own home, or even have yourself named as an executive producer on a future release. If you want to do your bit to support up and coming metal...donate now!
If I were to utter the phrase, “Jesus Is A Cunt”…odds on I’d get one of two reactions. I’d either be greeted with a heap of hostility; morally sentenced to an afterlife-time in hell (For the record, Jesus simply could not have been a cunt, on account of his lack of existence, but, I’m sure, had he been real…he MIGHT have been a cunt)…or…you’d of course realise that I was about to make a reference to CRADLE OF FILTH. Yes the Suffolk based black metal mob formed back in the early 90’s and have courted their fair share of controversy over the years, that now infamous t-shirt included, but as time has gone by and the shock-tactics have worn thin, COF have steadily become one of the UK’s most prolific metal acts, rising from their underground status to one of the most recognised names in extreme metal, and despite numerous line-up changes throughout their colourful history, front-man Dani Filth still stands firm as they recently released their newest record “Cryptoriana: The Seductiveness Of Decay”…the question is, can their new music still seduce us or has quality decayed over time? Let’s find out…
We open up with “Exquisite Torments Await” and from a titular standpoint it’s wholly accurate, such is COF’s often grandiose yet macabre musical onslaught and it sets us up for the album really rather well; initially sounding more like the score from a horror movie with its chilling atmospherics, we soon descend into the depths of hell with a flurry of metal and some ominous Latin-esque verse, layered within like something out of THE OMEN, it’s typically foreboding as we lead directly into the albums lead single “Heartbreak And Séance”. It starts off rather melodically with some smooth guitar but it quickly escalates into COF’s trademark blend of fast-paced demonic thrash metal, Dani’s vocals piercing as ever with one of the most distinctive shrieks in all of metal, adding perfect character to their traditionally dark lyrics. The same can also be said of “Achingly Beautiful”…another trademark shriek from Dani, double kick-drums and even a subtle layering of church organ, add to that backing vocals by Lindsay Schoolcraft in her narrative delivery, we’re treated to a dose of old school Gothic COF.
The title track here; “The Seductiveness Of Decay” hammers home the main theme of the album as a whole…firmly planted in Victorian England, Dani states that the album has been inspired by the Victorian’s obsession with the macabre, the supernatural…all of their fascinations with ghosts and the ghoulish and it’s delivered within a prog-inspired Gothic metal onslaught, despite it’s obvious ferocity in places it goes though certain key changes, assisting in the story telling through the era, before we’re met with album highlight “Vengeful Spirit”. Featuring returning collaborator and former LEAVE’S EYES vocalist Liv Kristine, the dual-tone vocal approach softens the song ever so slightly (despite a simply shredding guitar solo) and it only amps up the Gothic feeling here, before eventually we finish up on a cover; “Alison Hell” by Canadian thrash veterans ANNIHILATOR. Naturally tweaked to accommodate COF’s own chilling, atmospheric styling’s, it’s appropriate by name and gives general fans of metal an extra little treat…and it’s better than their cover of “Temptation” so at least there’s that going for it already. Overall though, it’s a solid record and credit to COF for their consistency over the years…admittedly some tracks tend to blur with little distinction between them musically, and with an average track length of around 7 minutes it’s not a casual listen and to many it would appear to drag on, especially if you aren’t a fan of Dani’s high pitched vocals, but it’s a decent record with a strong theme, however I’m hardly seduced. 
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Gavin Griffiths, a.k.a GavTheGothicChav, lover of new music and supporter of bands. I aim to give exposure to great unappreciated bands from around the UK who bust a nut to earn next to nothing because they're musicians...the occasional big name band, and the odd over seas band because I'm a cultural sort. Hope you enjoy what you read! x