Prophets of Rage – The Party’s Over EP Review

ep-coverProphets of Rage is a supergroup named after a Public Enemy song, featuring the uncompromising rapping of Chuck D and Cypress Hill‘s B-Real, with Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk of Rage Against The Machine, as well as Dj Lord of PE manning the decks. According to the band’s website “We can no longer stand on the sidelines of history. Dangerous times demand dangerous songs. It’s time to take the power back.” And that’s precisely what they deliver on this hard rocking, hard rapping collection featuring one original song ‘The Party’s Over’, and four reworkings of assorted classics.

A siren call hails the calling card opener, ‘Prophets of Rage’, which is sounding fresher than ever with Morello’s signature riffing and a new verse from B-Real, whose sharp delivery is a good foil to Chuck’s rough edged baritone. It’s a simple but effective protest song stacked with old skool references, whilst still sounding current; its slick delivery like a controlled release of pent up anger.

The band’s first original material comes with ‘The Party’s Over’, which kicks in with a signature bass heavy riff typical of RATM, and rumbles along at a slow grind as Chuck and B-Real trade verses expounding on the failure of party politics. It’s a hard hitting tune that pulls no punches and as they crank up the intensity for the furious finale it all just sounds so damn badass as everything slips perfectly into place.

It’s pretty hard to go wrong with such a superb song as ‘Killing in the Name’, and the dual vocal attack totally nails it, besides delivering a nice twist on the lyrics in the second verse with “Some of those that hold office/ are the same that burn crosses/ some of those up in congress/ are the same that burn crosses”. As the song builds to its inevitable climax of ‘Fuck You…’, the dynamic sounds like that of a band that loves playing together, they may be protesting against pretty much everything, but it sure as hell sounds good.

‘Shut ‘Em Down’ features a verse each from the Cypress Hill and PE songs of the same name and is another hard rocking slice of hip-hop. It’s easy to see how these bands always crossed over so well. Final track, ‘No Sleep Til Cleveland’, is basically the Beastie Boys’ classic mashed up with Enemy’s ‘Fight The Power and reworked for 2016. Here Morello comes into his own as he rolls out all the tricks on a mesmerizing instrumental section – first time I saw Rage he blew me away – good to hear he’s still got it. “No sleep til Brooklyn” morphs into “til Cleveland” at the end, as it was recorded at the band’s protest against the Republican National Convention in the same town. Talk about taking it to the streets!

On the whole this is a mighty fine showcase of what Prophets of Rage have to offer and is testament to the commitment the various members have to their political principles. Moreover, they sound so naturally good together that it would be great if there were more original material to come taking it beyond reinterpretations of their own impressive catalogues.

9/10

http://prophetsofrage.com/

What’s Hot In My House – August 2016

What a crazy few weeks it’s been, what with the city being painted with that rose coloured tint only the Olympics can provide. Everything went well, Brazil proving itself a superb country to host an event of this magnitude; the streets felt safe, the city well organised and there was an atmosphere of peace and love as a heady mix of nationalities mingled harmoniously at the various sporting and cultural venues. There was palpable disappointment as the IOC’s Thomas Bach declared the games closed.

Musically speaking Brazil showed its chops in diverse style in the opening ceremony, featuring tropicalia stalwarts Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil alongside pop sensation Anitta, besides showcasing contemporary funk, samba, pagode and rap. It was however a classic which reigned supreme as Tom Jobim’s grandson sat at the piano and played a beautifully delicate rendition of ‘A Garota de Ipanema’ as Gisele cat walked across the Maracanã. What with family days out, work commitments and being glued to the TV in between – did you see the Andy Murray gold medal match?! – it’s been a stranger month than usual music wise, yet I have somehow found the time to fill my headspace with another winning selection of classy bangers, check em out.

For a while now I’ve been trying to put together a piece on classic thrash albums, but can’t seem to find the right angle, so have been listening to a lot of old school moshers. So what with the surprise release of new music from Metallica (reviewed here: https://hardpresseded.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/metallica-hardwired-review/) it seemed only fitting to pay ‘Master of Puppets’ another visit to remind myself why it’s still considered the greatest thing Metallica have ever committed to vinyl. Basically, it’s fucking awesome from beginning to end; it’s about as close as you can get to the perfect (thrash) metal album, Hetfield and co took the genre to a whole new level with the complexity of the compositions, yet despite its intricacies and the length of some of the tracks it remains highly listenable. Genius. Still a classic.

I had the privilege of reviewing the new Dinosaur Jr record for http://www.alreadyheard.com a couple of weeks ago and it was a pleasure to hear that J Mascis et al have still got it. ‘Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not’ is the sound of a band that has been honed to perfection. There are a host of tracks that neatly encapsulate their alternative rock formula of hard edged riffs, drawled indie pop melodies and shredding solos, besides a few left field numbers where they stretch their creative muscle out of their comfort zone in fine style. Top album, well worth repeated listens.

On a more relaxed vibe, I’ve also been giving a fair few plays to the lovely record from Slow Club, ‘One Day All of This Won’t Matter Anymore’. The English duo of Rebecca Taylor and Charles Watson have come up with a rich slice of laid back folk tinged indie bliss with more than a hint of darkness lurking beneath the surface. It makes for perfect journey home listening to smooth away the rough edges with barbed wire kisses – this one’s a keeper.

Metallica – Hardwired Review

There are very few bands left in the world for which the release of a new record would be an event, and lets face it, outside of the reformed Guns n Roses dropping ‘Appetite…Part 2’, the biggest possible such event is new music from Metallica. The San Francisco metallers once thrashed out 4 albums in five years, so having waited 8 years since ‘Death Magnetic’, a new album is long overdue, but finally, come November, the 12 track double album will hit the racks. In the meantime, we have the video for album opener ‘Hardwired’, which they dropped yesterday, August 18th, three months ahead of the album. The question is though, is it any damn good?

The short answer is yes, of course! It’s fucking Metallica, even their worst music is streets ahead of the majority, the bigger issue though, is whether it will stand up alongside ‘Master of Puppets’ and the uber popular Black album, which is precisely what it sound as if they are aiming for. The production has that clean crisp resonance of Death Magnetic, not surprising given Greg Fidelman is once again fiddling with the knobs, but there is more than an echo of ‘Battery’ to Lars’ furious drumming and Kirk’s blistering soloing. There’s also a definite air of the early 90s about the black and white claustrophobic video for the track.

The song actually begins with machine gun riffing/beats and a staccato riff á la ‘Enter Sandman’, before the real thrash gallop begins. It features all those little stops, time changes and familiar elements of the signature Metallica sound, although James wasn’t exactly up all night on the hook – “We’re so fucked!/ Shit outta luck”. He does make amends in the ‘Whiplash’ style third verse however – “Once upon a planet burning/ Once upon a flame/ Once upon a spirit turning all in vain/ Do you feel that hopeless feeling?/ Do you comprehend?/ Do you feel it terminating in the end?”. It all sounds somewhat familiar, but hey, I guess that’s kinda cool, we want Metallica to sound like Metallica!

After repeated listens, I’ve gotta admit that it pretty much hits the spot – one foot in the past, one in the present – ok, so it may lack the rawness of ‘Ride The Lightning’ or ‘Master of Puppets’, but this is brand Metallica launching new product, so there’s no way it will ever be that amazing again. However, considering that it’s now thirty something years down the line and the band are in their fifties, it’s good to know that like the rest of the big four, they can still shred. See for yourself right here:

The official word from Metallica: https://metallica.com/blog/news/429181/hardwired-to-self-destruct-available-november-18-2

Everybody Loves a Ballad

Ok. Hands up, I admit it – I’m a sucker for a big rock ballad. You can’t beat a bluesy riff, some heart-break lyrics, a soaring solo and a massive chorus. Sure they roll out cliché upon cliché, but who cares? What am I made of – stone? Hell no! Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved a good old soppy love song or a tragic melancholy slice of the break-up blues; I mean my favourite Elvis track as a kid was ‘I Just Can’t Help Believing’ and I loved ELO‘s ‘I Can’t Get It Out of My Head’; Doctor Hook‘s ‘Sylvia’s Mother’ was another that drifted up through the floor late at night that I couldn’t resist. So call me a sentimental old fool if you will but come on, we all love a good ballad really and here’s a few that have stood by me.

How do you end an album almost totally dedicated to shagging? Getting dumped that’s how. ‘What It Takes’ has to be one of the ultimate power ballads – it is Aerosmith at their heart aching best. Lyrically it is nothing short of superb, even with its cheeky references to other Aerosongs*, and musically it’s sublime, the subtle time shifts are pure genius. Throw in an astonishing vocal from Steven Tyler and you have one of their finest crying in your beer tunes ever, something they’ve tried hard to match multiple times since, failing repeatedly every damn time. Yes, even on ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’ – it was good, but pales in comparison. Pass the tissues.

Ah yes, I remember it well, one of my first musical epiphanies. Back in the days before the internet, before satellite TV and even before channel 5, entertainment back home in England fell way short of today’s multiplicity – we had four TV channels and a handful of radio stations, yet access to non-pop programming was available for a few precious hours here and there. Besides The Tube (Channel 4), The Old Grey Whistle Test (BBC 2) and of course the legendary John Peel on Radio One, we also had the Friday Rock Show with the gravel voiced Tommy Vance for the rock/metal crowd, of which I was an enthusiastic member. Anyway, there I was one Friday night, in the middle of winter, must’ve been January ’89, headphones plugged into my midi system, when Tommy announced the next song – “Top 40 record? Hmmmm” – followed by the heartbreak riff of ‘How Come It Never Rains’ pulling on the heartstrings of my lovelorn 15 year old self. Damn it, I almost cried! I fucking loved that song, still do, Tyla‘s raspy cracked voice, the hook laden chorus and all those bluesy notes bending out of shape – unbeatable.

‘Don’t Know What You Got (til it’s gone)’ is without doubt one of the cheesiest most cliché glam rock power ballads in the history of hair spray. Forget about that shit and check out the pure blues of the title track from the same album ‘Long Cold Winter’. Cinderella were somewhat unfairly lumped in with the whole 80s glam thing, Tom Keifer is actually a pretty badass singer and sure played a mean lick of guitar, especially on the weeping notes of this Zeppelinesque blues lament, man, the sky is crying, the guitars are crying, even Tom sounds like he’s crying and it’s gonna be a long cold winter without your love baby.

Jeff Buckley‘s ‘Grace’ is one of the finest albums ever committed to vinyl, bearing not even the vaguest hint of filler. Although ‘Last Goodbye is an absolutely incredible break up song, there is way too much groove to the bass line to call it a ballad; ‘Lover, You Should’ve Come Over’ on the other hand….slow acoustic strum, rainy funeral imagery and tonight you’re on my mind… we get soaring vocals in the hook, brooding Hammond underpinning the melody as the emotions stack up in the lyrical climax:
“It’s never over, my kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder
It’s never over, all my riches for her smiles when i slept so soft against her
It’s never over, all my blood for the sweetness of her laughter
It’s never over, she’s the tear that hangs inside my soul forever”


Then there’s ‘Forget Her’ which features Jeff at his best, fuck it just listen to it – it’s awesome.

Tesla were so sure they’d written the ultimate love song that they called it ‘Love Song’. Ok, so it’s like mega cheesy but hey, it works. Medieval intro and classic break up lyric to kick off, but the twist here is that this song offers hope that we can all find love again. It’s corny, it’s lighters in the air time and on one level it totally sucks, but on another you can’t argue with it’s delivery, from every soaring guitar lick to the arm waving sing along parts – the extended five man acoustical jam version is unbeatable – it out clichés every glam rock cliché ballad ever – even ‘Every Rose..’.

You don’t get much more heart breaking than the warm bath, open vein agony of ‘Black’ by Pearl Jam. Man, that Eddie Vedder dude was really upset when he wrote those words and if you can’t identify with how the poor fella feels then you are either a cold unfeeling shell or you’ve never been dumped. There’s only one thing more emotional than Eddie singing that killer mid section and that’s thousands of people doing it for him. Check this out, the camera work is awful but the sound’s impeccable.

One of my all time favourite songs is so obscure you’ll be hard pushed to find it anywhere. On the UK version of Tones of Home by Blind Melon, ‘Wooh G.O.D.’, also known as ‘Whoa Dog’, is either a mispress on the vinyl 12″ or wrongly credited as ‘Soak The Sin’. Whatever the case may be, this melancholy lament by tragic vocalist Shannon Hoon to his dead dog** is just so damn raw…

Notes:
*) “Girl before I met you; I was F.I.N.E fine; but your love made me a prisoner; yeah my heart’s been doing time”
**) “Wooh” was the name of Shannon’s dog. It is spelled Wooh, but pronounced “whoa.” Shannon would always catch it tearing something up or raising hell and he always yelled “whoa!” to try to get him to stop so he named him that. Shannon got him in a pet store and really connected with the dog and felt bad that he was cooped up in a cage. The dog was expensive so Shannon went back to the pet store, slid the glass up on the cage and snuck Wooh out of the store under his coat. He died when he swallowed a pin cushion. He was undergoing surgery and was over-anethstized by the vet. Shannon and Rogers buried Wooh near the big “HOLLYWOOD” sign in California. From http://www.blindmelon.org

What’s Hot In My House – July 2016

I am so damn busy. I mean, stupid busy, like every waking hour seems to be taken up with work or work related activities, which is no bad thing – but as a result my listening habits have been a bit, well, weird, I guess. Obviously there’s the stuff I’ve had to review, which has been OK to excellent, but there’s also been massive amounts of classical. Yes, classical, specifically Beethoven and Rachmaninoff, as it helps me concentrate when I’m translating. All my language functions get taken up by the work so I can’t possibly listen to anything with lyrics as my brain would stall, so it tends to be classical or ambient, classical’s winning that battle right now – getting old I guess! Nevertheless, my writing commitments have had me listening to some rather interesting new(ish) stuff that I find myself migrating back to on my day to day journeying around this fair city. So, here’s what’s been piping intermittently through my barely functioning headphones with the dodgy connection.

I’ve been working on a preview piece for http://www.alreadyheard.com on the upcoming Rebellion festival. It’s a largely punk affair and includes all sorts of acts with weird and wonderful names like Spunk and the Volcanic Eruptions and The Pukes, besides classic acts like Stiff Little Fingers and Buzzcocks. Anyway, excitingly, the great Dead Kennedys front man, political activist, Jello Biafra and his band The Guantanamo School of Medicine are set to hit the UK, so I have been checking out their 2013 album ‘White People and the Damage Done’. To put it bluntly, it’s fucking awesome and I keep going back for more. It’s like listening to the DKs only freshened up for this century – it’s as visceral a slice of politically charged punky hard core as you’re likely to find and Biafra’s distinct voice is as great as ever. Badass.

The debut album from Puddle Splasher, ‘Separate States’ has slowly grown on me. It has a real nineties feel to it, with a kind of Britpop grunginess not far removed from Stereophonics, only with more muscular guitars, better pop sensibilities and…ok they are way fucking better and a damn site cooler than Kelly Jones and co. Interestingly, they seem able to switch between the catchiest of pop melodies and the dirtiest of grunge, which all makes for an enjoyable listen – well worth checking out.

I’ve already talked about Evarose in the pages of Hard Pressed, but I’m finding the catchy grunge pop of these girls from Oxford unputdownable. Basically, every damn song on their album appeals on some level and the amount of earworms burrowing my brain is insane – talk about infectious. Check out their cover of Tatu‘s All the Things She Said.

In my explorations into classical music there is the stunningly beautiful ‘Spiegel im Spiegel’ composed by Arvo Pärt, which is of such sublimely compelling beauty that it never fails to move me.

Eight British Bands You Really Ought To Know About

Ever since I started writing about music I have had the dubious pleasure, and occasional outright torture, of listening to a plethora of new, old and downright ancient bands from the ragged cross section of multiple sub genres that exist in the world of rock. Basically, I have been introduced to the world of music far removed from the Coldplays, Mumfords and Adeles of the world – it’s a bit like that iceberg photo explaining deep web, where there is so much going on beneath the surface that the general public have absolutely no idea about, which is both glorious and heartbreaking in equal measure. Glorious because you discover that there is so much more talent in the world than radio, TV and record company executives would have you believe and heartbreaking because you know that most of them are fighting a losing battle. Nevertheless, there is hope, as many of these bands, most of whom are doing things on their own terms (or are even D.I.Y), are establishing fan bases way beyond the level of the thousand faithful and are gaining enough leverage to bother alternative chart lists and secure spots on festival bills. The quality of their music is surprisingly high and in some cases truly innovative. Anyway, having previously written about British rock bands that could use a break at the truly hard end of the music scene, I’ve now decided to put fingers to keyboard in regard to a bunch of upcoming bands that have released quality music over recent months and people really ought to know about.

Making Monsters
The Northern Irish alternative rockers have just closed the cycle of their superb EP, ‘Bad Blood’, by playing the BBC Introducing stage at T in the Park, prior to shutting themselves away to write their full length debut. In Emma Gallagher the Derry four piece boast one of the most talented vocalists around and with their emotionally charged, well constructed songs they managed to deliver a set of musically versatile hard hitters packed with bad ass riffs and winning hooks. They’ve got the talent, they’ve got the songs and they’ve got the style – watch them go places. http://www.makingmonsters.co.uk/

Roam
When you think of punk pop, you could be forgiven for thinking purely in bands from California, yet there is a bunch of rockers from Eastbourne putting a very English twist and injecting some life into an otherwise tired genre. With hard thrashing tracks like the excellent ‘Deadweight’ and the brilliantly worked ‘RIP in Peace’ there’s plenty to like about this band, whose talent, energy and hard work should see them making waves. https://roamuk.bandcamp.com/

Heel
There is a distinctly commercial edge to the alternative (dark) pop rock of this four piece from London. Margarita has a fine voice to supply the hooks and they are also blessed with quality musicianship; guitarist Dan consistantly delivering the goods. Debut album, ‘The Parts We Save’, offers up plenty of ear candy, as it is blessed with many a tight melodic rocker; ‘Nothing New’ being prime example of one of their many killer tunes. http://www.heelband.com/

Heck
The band formerly known as Baby Godzilla have already built up a formidable reputation for their stunningly chaotic live performances and on their debut album ‘Instructions’, they have managed to translate that wild abandon into a quite sublime record. They are seriously pushing creative boundaries with this gut wrenching collection of hard riffs and pure destructive energy – it sounds so refreshingly free it’s hard not to be infected by the raucousness of it all. Tracks like the punky ‘The Great Hardcore Swindle’ and the epic 15 minutes of ‘See The Old Lady…’ barely scratch the surface of what this band are all about. Go see them live, they have some festival dates coming up, including Reading and Leeds, before embarking on a co-headlining tour with the excellent Black Peaks. http://m.ents24.com/uk/tour-dates/heck-1

Speaking of whom…
Black Peaks
What a monumental sound this band has. Their debut album, ‘Statues’, also dropped earlier this year and it features a heady mix of naked aggression and progressive post hardcore melodies that pulsates with a controlled release of raw power that is nothing short of stunning. This band will be massive. https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/statues/id1052921521?app=itunes

Witterquick
It’s been about a month since ‘Beneath the Spinning Lights’ dropped and its brand of smoothly crafted melodic alternative rock keeps winning new fans. Vocalist Will Alford is gifted with a fine voice and the band´s mature song writing approach provides the perfect vehicle. Tracks like ‘Rise’, with its massive hooks and soaring guitars, show precisely what they can do, – this is a band with enormous potential. http://witterquick.tmstor.es/

Evarose
These four girls from Oxford certainly know how to deliver straight ahead hard edged grunge pop with massive choruses and killer hooks. Their exciting debut, ‘Invisible Monsters’, packs punch after punch of ear fodder on eleven slickly delivered songs of substance. Tracks like ‘Glitch’ and ‘Provoke Me’ are quite simply banging tunes and showcase just what this band is capable of – great vocals, quality musicianship and top songwriting – check them out.http://evarose.bigcartel.com/

Giants
Earlier this year Essex hardcore brawlers Giants finally released their long awaited debut, ‘Break the Cycle, which neatly showcases their brand of 21st century angst ridden punk. They’ve managed to put a modern twist on old school vibes and come up with a fresh and vibrant record with some excellently crafted tunes like the excellent hard edged ‘I’ve Been Low’ and ‘I’m Not Around’. Exciting, intense and with plenty to say. https://giants.bandcamp.com/

Witterquick – Beneath the Spinning Lights Review

PromoImage1This is a classy offering to showcase the talents of upcoming British rockers Witterquick. The five piece from Exeter formed a couple of years ago and have taken their time perfecting their art into five rather good tunes on their long awaited debut EP ‘Beneath The Spinning Lights’. They are on the melodic side of the alt-rock spectrum and there’s an anthemic feel to their well crafted songs that makes for highly enjoyable listening; don’t be surprised if they start picking up some serious airplay.

Opening track ‘Soldiers’ has been kicking around for a while; its laid back rock groove, rousing chorus and unhurried approach are pure quality. The uptempo ‘Fade Out’ follows with another catchy chorus and shows off frontman Will Alford‘s vocal versatility.

Their radio friendly appeal is very evident on the smooth ‘The Road’, its atmospheric lead in adding a laid back dimension to what is a big tune of soaring guitar lines. Although it is another winning moment, it is very much within their comfort zone as they tend to stick to traditional arrangements to structure their work.

Even so, every track on the EP has something to offer, the acoustic strum and easy piano melody of ‘Wayward Signs’ highlights their heartfelt side and is a quite lovely track. The interesting thing here is the restraint they show, it’s a very mature approach for such a young band that obviously has the chops, but has chosen the route of less is more; good work fellas. ‘Rise’ then rounds things off in style as they kill it on this massive track of superbly delivered hooks; it’s a stirring finale that helps make this a well rounded little collection of songs.

Witterquick seem to have a natural feel for quality tunes and there’s a hell of a lot of potential on display here. It would be great to see these guys push their creative boundaries a little and see how far they can go.

8.5/10

‘Beneath The Spinning Lights’ is out now on LAB Records and is available from http://witterquick.co/

What’s Hot in My House – June

After binging on Iron Maiden in order to give birth to not one, but two monumentally massive mega articles on the metal legends, I actually ended up at a bit of a loss as to what to listen to. For like a minute. There has been a couple of really hot records out recently that I’ve reviewed, like the gorgeous Whitney record, besides a couple of other gems, and there’s been some interesting releases over at Already Heard as well. We’ve also had this bizarre change in the weather here in Brazil, where it has actually been cold. Seriously. I’ve even worn a jacket once or twice. So, naturally the music of choice tends to take a turn for the melancholy – more so than usual – and some old wintery songs get dusted off. Anyway, check out the current selection of hot favourites blasting through my earphones at unfeasibly loud volumes that my phone consistently warns me about.

The first time I played Lonely The Brave‘s Things Will Matter and opening track ‘Wait in the Car’ segued into the massive ‘Black Mire’, I got flushed with goosebumps, like a full body chill; damn when music has the power to move you like that you know it’s something special. The rest of the album is also nothing short of superb and I keep going back for more. I love the fact that LTB didn’t rush this record, nor did they make it overtly commercial, instead you get a band relishing in their own sound and pushing their creative boundaries a little further with some seriously good tunes. Massive band, massive album.

There was quite a lot of fuss about The Hotelier‘s emotionally wrought record ‘Home, Like NoPlace Is There’, and quite a lot of anticipation for it’s follow up, ‘Goodness’, which is all about trying to find the light, and which I personally am enjoying immensely. This is an intelligently crafted album, with deeply reflective lyrics and some wonderfully worked songs that reveal more with every listen. I don’t want to compare them to R.E.M, as that’s kind of limiting and hugely unfair considering the personal nature of their work, but we are in similar territory sonically, albeit with a little more edge to the jangly college radio feel of their guitars. Whatever, it’s pretty damn good and well worth a serious listen.

Which brings me to the new Red Hot Chili Peppers album, ‘The Getaway’. The Chilis may have mellowed a little with age, but their inimitable brand of funk rock is no less compelling. There’s a more laid back feel to their sound and with Dangermouse at the production helm there is a marked atmospheric vibe to the songs. Nevertheless, lead off single ‘Dark Necessities’ is blessed with a killer hook, a pulsating bass line and some delicious funky guitar touches; it’s got quality written all over it and sets the tone for the rest of the record. The album is packed with great tunes like ‘We Turn Red’, which wouldn’t sound out of place on ‘Blood, Sugar…’, the gorgeous ‘The Longest Wave’, and the quirky reggae funk of ‘Feasting on the Flowers’. Ok, it’s RHCP being RHCP, but they do it so well.

Parent – Parent Review

a2085079901_10If you’re anything like me and are a bit of a sucker for some folky melancholy, then Parent are probably right up your street. This is the self titled debut offering from the Manchester duo of Jason Brown (guitar) and Rachel Kern (voice), ably assisted on bespoke string arrangements by Sarah Brandwood-Spencer, and it features a selection of beautifully crafted songs.

‘Dear Lucia’ opens proceedings with an energetic acoustic intro that soon gives way to sedate orchestrated folk. It’s pleasantly atmospheric and Rachel’s chocolate smooth voice is very easy on the ear. ‘Weren’t That Bad’ and ‘You’re Not Broken’ follow in quick succession, continuing the relaxed vibe; it’s all very soothingly melancholic and both tracks benefit from the orchestrated elements that give their sound another dimension.

‘Tipperary’ and ‘Oh Lover’ are comparatively ordinary, but hint at their versatility. ‘Trying’, meanwhile, stands out for its emotional climax as Rachel pushes her vocal range, while delicate touches of piano compliment the swirling orchestration; good track.

Things take a sunnier turn on ‘This Place’, with its slight country feel to the guitar, while piano driven ‘Maneater’ has a jazzy bossa nova vibe that shuffles along nicely. In fact, there’s a surprisingly varied mix on offer, whether it’s the soulful ‘Disadvantage’, the acoustic jazz and meandering violins of ‘Hold on Till Tomorrow’ or the melancholy lament of ‘Until Then’. There’s even a somewhat surprising cover version of ‘You Are My Sunshine’, though it’s a totally non-sunshine dirge like version packed with emotion.

Although the lack of percussion gives the record a slightly empty feel, there is plenty to like about these well crafted songs and a lot of potential in their emotionally charged work. Obviously, Parent‘s appeal is more likely to be among those who like their listening on the easy side, but we all need to chill sometimes so why not check it out.

7/10

‘Parent’ is available to buy right here:
http://parentmusic.bandcamp.com/album/parent

Iron Maiden – Somewhere in Eternity

I recently wrote a massive kind of introduction to Iron Maiden piece for http://www.alreadyheard.com, but due to editorial constraints I had to cut it down and change the format and stuff. However, having put rather a lot of time and energy into its researching and writing, I’ve decided to make the most of it to reproduce a brief history right here.

Iron Maiden was born on Christmas day 1975, but spent three years messing around with different members, before Steve Harris, Dave Murray and their then colleagues got it together to record a demo on New Year’s Eve 1978. Such was the popularity of the demo, that in under a year it had been pressed and released under the name of ‘The Soundhouse Tapes’, all 5000 copies selling out in a few short weeks based on word of mouth; had secured them a manager in the rotund form of Rod Smallwood; oh yeah, and landed them a major label record deal with E.M.I..

By April of 1980, riding high on the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, the Londoners were already delivering the goods – their eponymous debut crashing the UK album charts at number 4. Featuring Paul Di’Anno‘s rough edged vocals, it boasts a raw energy honed to perfection by five long years on the East London pub circuit. From the sinister rock riffing that opens the murderous ‘Prowler’ there is something quite daring about it; this is the sound of a band exploring its creativity, pushing themselves and the Heavy Metal genre forward, reworking classic ideas whilst incorporating new. The most startling example of their innovation is the monumental ‘Phantom of the Opera’, an epic master class in songwriting that helps make ‘Iron Maiden’ one of the finest debuts in Heavy Metal. In one fell swoop, Iron Maiden established themselves as the act to follow, not only in sound, but also in marketing, the stunning first glimpse of Eddie The Head the first step to establishing their merchandise empire.

However, Harris and Murray were still having difficulties with personnel, which led to Adrian Smith joining the band prior to the recording and release of 1981’s ‘Killers’. Although it was another quality album, there was little to set it apart from their debut, it largely consisting of left over material, plus there were more personnel problems on the horizon. Besides the excessive drug use of vocalist Paul Di’Anno, which never really fit the band’s profile, the raspiness that had initially attracted Harris to his voice would prove to be the singer’s downfall; his hard rock tropes were just too limited for the direction the songwriting would take.

Samson‘s Bruce Dickinson was seen as the perfect replacement and slipped seamlessly into the band for the recording of ‘The Number of the Beast’, the album that changed everything, providing their first UK number one. ‘Beast’ is jam packed with killer material, the songs are quite simply in a different class, whether it’s the riff fest that is ’22 Acacia Avenue’, the hook filled chorus of ‘Run to the Hills’ or the subtle complexities to the epic tale of ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’, which is arguably the band’s finest moment in itself, the songs are quite simply in a different class. It is a genuine classic that created a template by which future Metal albums would be judged. With Nicko McBrain replacing drummer Clive Burr after the supporting tour, what would become the classic line up was in place and the Maiden machine would march on to conquer the world.

The first half of the 1980s was the band’s most prolific period and would see them produce a quite staggering album a year for five years until 1984, followed by the definitive heavy metal live album in 1985’s ‘Live After Death’. Simply put, it is one of the finest live albums ever recorded and documents the seemingly endless World Slavery Tour following 1984’s ‘Powerslave’ and the 1983 album that first broke them stateside, ‘Piece of Mind’. The tour went on so long that Dickinson actually threatened to quit if they didn’t have a few months off.

The break was short lived however, as they were soon back in the studio for ‘Somewhere In Time’, on which they controversially added some synthesised elements to their signature sound; something they further explored on 1988’s conceptual affair ‘Seventh Son of a Seventh Son’. Even so, both albums were warmly received by critics and fans alike; the latter providing the band with their second UK number one. The supporting tour culminated in their first headline performance at Donington for the Monsters of Rock festival, which was marred by the death of two fans in the crush during Guns n Roses’ UK debut set.

Chinks were starting to appear in Iron Maiden‘s armour though, Dickinson was feeling creatively limited by the band’s sound and released his first solo album, the vibrant ‘Tattooed Millionaire’ in 1990, alongside guitarist Janick Gers. Gers would then find himself employed by Maiden after the departure of long time member Adrian Smith, who was distinctly unhappy (and rightly so!) with the stripped down direction the band was taking on ‘No Prayer for the Dying’, which proved to be a stinker of a record. After having produced seven classic studio albums, at some stage the creative juices had to run dry and ‘Prayer’ is the sound of band pushing the self destruct button. It looks and sounds like Maiden, but it’s like they decided to give the tribute band a shot. How ironic that the second single from the album, the stunningly awful ‘Bring Your Daughter…’, gave them their first number one single – must’ve been a quiet week on the charts.

1992’s ‘Fear of the Dark’ managed to recover some lost pride, but was the final nail in the coffin for Dickinson, who’d simply had enough, the tension of the subsequent tour signalling the end of an era. He was eventually replaced by Blaze Bayley from Wolfsbane, who had supported Maiden on their 1990 tour. Blaze’s deeper voice added a darker edge to their sound on the competent ‘X Factor’, but his limitations were starting to show by 1998’s disappointing ‘Virtual XI’ and were undisguisable in the live arena, many of Bruce’s songs proving too challenging for Bayley’s natural register. January 1999 brought the likeable front man’s five year stint to a close, and, at the suggestion of manager Rod Smallwood, Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith were both approached to rejoin the band.

From the opening chords of ‘The Wicker Man’ on 2000’s ‘Brave New World’ it is clearly the sound of a band reinvigorated, now boasting a three guitar line-up of Smith, Murray and Gers and a return to more complex compositions. Maiden were back on form and would embark on a run of quality releases through the noughties; besides the superb ‘Rock in Rio’ live album, which neatly captures the enthusiasm of Brazilian fans, both ‘Dance of Death’ and ‘A Matter of Life and Death’, from 2003 and 2007 respectively, were well received and would result in ever more ambitious touring. Not only were their songs getting longer and more complex, rarely dipping below the five minute mark, but the tours were also going to ever greater lengths, visiting more exotic locations and flying in their own plane, Ed Force One, with lead singer Dickinson at the controls. The ‘Flight 666’ movie of their 2008 ‘Somewhere Back in Time Tour’ makes for compelling viewing, giving rare insight into the logistics of a world tour and the dynamic of the band, as they play in places like India, Colombia and Costa Rica as well as the well trodden stages of previous world tours.

For a band that had weathered the turbulence of internal difficulties, coupled with the ever changing musical climate, the fact that after Dickinson and Smith returned they consolidated their creative reputation, besides cementing the popularity of their live performances, is testament to their talent and enduring appeal. For 15th studio album, ‘The Final Frontier’, which was widely expected to be their last, to then go to number one in 28 different countries was a remarkable achievement, as was the Grammy win for single ‘El Dorado’ and the fact that the supporting tour gathered audiences reportedly totalling 2 million people.

It would’ve been no surprise if Iron Maiden had decided to call it a day, but with another greatest hits album, ‘From Fear to Eternity’, and more live releases they found excuses to keep on touring. Their headline performance at Download in 2013 would be their fifth at Donington, 25 years after 1988’s infamous occasion.

The breaks between the albums may have got longer but 2016 finds Iron Maiden touring the world once again, and with another Donington headline appearance lined up. Last year’s ‘Book of Souls’ proved that despite Dickinson’s brush with cancer, Maiden marches inexorably on, the longest album of their career providing yet another UK number one. Although all the albums since the return of Smith and Dickinson have been well received and stand up in terms of quality, it is ‘Book of Souls’ that holds up when compared to the cannon of albums from the eighties. Tracks like ‘If Eternity Should Fail’ and ‘Tears of a Clown’ show that they still have a trick or two up their collective sleeves, and that’s before we get to the 18 minute piano driven epic ‘Empire of the Clouds’!

Whether or not ‘Book of Souls’ is their swan song remains to be seen, but for the moment at least, it’s business as usual as their enduring brand continues to thunder across the globe. Who would’ve thought that in the 40 plus years since that Christmas Day in Steve Harris’ living room his brainchild would go on to sell over 90 million albums and monstrous quantities of merchandise, becoming one or the most recognised brands and bands in the world, with multiple number ones, multiple awards and a legacy that makes them one of the most important forces in the history of rock music.

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