Ben Watt – Hendra

Ben WattBen Watt‘s ‘Hendra’ is not exactly old but no doubt slipped under a lot of people’s radars, including mine. I actually discovered it a few months back after an Amazon browse when I stumbled across Ben’s highly rated books, Patient and the memoir of his parents’ marriage ‘Romany and Tom’. Anyway, something drew me to his first solo outing in 31 years, which is quite removed from the sophisticated pop of Everything But The Girl and even further away from his electronic stuff, but these beautifully crafted songs make for a compelling listen nonetheless.

There is a lot to like about ‘Hendra’ even if you are not battling with the (not so) mundane difficulties of mid-life. The laid back feel to these acoustic/piano songs tackling issues such as loss, regret, break ups and aging are imbued with the richness of some sublime guitar strokes from Bernard Butler. Also, there is a likeable honesty to Watt’s voice and his lyrics, which focus on the minor details of everyday life, and succeed in evoking vivid tapestries we can all identify with; the awkwardness of the ordinary and the snapshots of emotive scenes adding such a strong touch of reality to these heartfelt tales that it’s impossible not to empathise.

Title track ‘Hendra’ provides a downbeat introduction with some subtle touches from Butler and light orchestration, whereas ‘Forget’ is contrastingly upbeat with an easy keyboard melody and understated guitar lines. Butler puts in some fine work and Watt delivers a great hook in the chorus; good straightforward songwriting.

Although it is a very chilled out record, it has plenty to keep it interesting, exploring all kinds of melodies. There’s the lazy piano and bluesy guitar licks making ‘Spring’ such an emotional track while the vaguely tropicalia feel to the laid back celebration of life on ‘Golden Ratio’ is reminiscent of John Martyn. The melancholic meanderings of ‘Matthew Arnold’s Field’, where Ben scatters his father’s ashes “beside a couple with sandwiches and tea”, provides a contrastingly bare prelude to the edgy guitar lines of ‘The Gun’. Here, Watt wades into the gun debate accompanied by sweeping organ chords and subtly intelligent lyrics.

In fact, death is an oft returned to subject whether it’s on the upbeat Americana tinged
‘Nathaniel’, or the haunting ‘The Levels’, featuring Dave Gilmour playing an atmospheric lap steel in this song written after the unexpected loss of Watt’s sister.

‘Young Man’s Game’ is very much about life though, and there’s a lovely vibe to this lament on aging. ‘The Heart is a Mirror’ then closes the record to an acoustic strum over a discordant synth line and a rich double bass sound; it’s a poignant note on which things shuffle to a stop.

While ‘Hendra’ may not exactly be overflowing with pop classics, it is a master class in quality songwriting and features plenty of sublime moments; well worth sitting back and immersing yourself in these emotional slices of life.

Check out the sublime new track, Gradually, from the forthcoming album Fever Dream, out next month.

What’s Hot In My House – March

Since the release of The Cult‘s largely awesome ‘Hidden City’ I have been streaming the shit out of it, the album having become my default option for pretty much any and every time of day. Even so, there has still been plenty of room for other aural delights, what with the stack of awesome new music http://www.alreadyheard.com have been making me review; twisting my arm until I give in and put fingers to keyboard. Then there’s all the interesting new releases outside of AH’s remit; 2016 shaping up to be a damn fine year for new music. However, given the subject matter of some of my recent posts I’ve also been doing more than a little memory lane, so check out the diverse selection of listening pleasures that have been riding my personal air waves of late….

The Mission
The Mish are a band I tend to listen to fairly regularly anyway, but one of the most recent things that I have written is a look at their 30 year career with a definitive top 10. As such, in the name of research I went trawling through their catalogue, agonising over what to include, so there’s been days when they were the only band ringing in my ears. Here’s a classic performance on British TV:


https://hardpresseded.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/30-years-of-the-mission/

Aztec Camera
I always had a bit of a soft spot for Roddy Frame when I was a kid, he came up with a handful of really good tunes, which have actually stood the test of time. I was reminded of AC while reading the tome that is ‘How Soon Is Now’, on the mavericks behind 80s indie, and was thus inspired to write about the vibrant Scottish scene which spawned so much of the music that sound tracked the UK during the 1980s, including Aztec Camera. Anyway, I tracked the greatest hits down on Deezer and was pleasantly surprised by the enduring quality of the songs, ‘Working in a Goldmine’ being a personal favourite as its a lesson to any budding songwriter in how to nail a good hook.


https://hardpresseded.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/postcards-from-glasgow/

Noise – Heck and So Pitted
The DIY ethic around the music business right now and the whole indie punk vibe afforded by the internet is leading to some really exciting new music. Seattle’s So Pitted are a recent discovery, their sound being really quite horribly awesome. They have an air of disquiet about their heavy bruising brand of alternative rock, soaked in flurries of feedback, and their debut album, ‘Neo’, makes for a brilliant but disconcerting listen. https://hardpresseded.wordpress.com/2016/02/24/so-pitted-neo-review/


On the opposite side of the Atlantic, but equally noisy, are the chaotic Heck. There is something refreshingly free about the wrecking ball sound of debut album ‘Instructions’ and I’ve had it on heavy rotation since giving it a 5/5 over at AH. http://alreadyheard.com/post/140796180606/album-review-heck-instructions

The Cult
Which brings me back to The Cult. I make no secret of the fact that this is my favourite band and have written about them a lot. Most recently I did a retrospective review of their supremely underrated self-titled album, as I believe that there are a number of seriously good tunes getting seriously overlooked. Check out ‘Gone’ here:


https://hardpresseded.wordpress.com/2016/03/11/the-cult-the-cult/

Grant Lee Phillips – The Narrows Review

LP_YEP_2468_GrantLeePhillips_TheNarrows_COVER_12x12Grant Lee Phillips’ eighth solo album ‘The Narrows’ is a delightfully easy going listen; reflecting on hazy summers and country life. This record is a wonderful example of a singer songwriter deep in his niche, doing precisely what he does best, on these finely tuned tracks that talk directly to the humanity of us all.
The hopeful warmth to the cleansing waters of ‘Tennessee Rain kicks things off with an air of country tinged rock, reflecting Phillips’ California roots and new home of Nashville, whilst setting a comfortably familiar tone to the record. ‘Smoke and Sparks’ follows with an intimacy to the country style picking and a vocal reminiscent of Nebraska era Springsteen that gains depth from the clean touches of piano.

Phillips’ brand of country tinged Americana is real easy on the ear, as we are treated to an array of instruments offering a deeply textured canvas to these tales of life. There’s the lilting violin intro to the reflective slice of down home nostalgia of ‘Moccasin Creek’ that’s filled with a yearning we can all relate to. Then there’s the banjo riff underpinning the electric down home bar filler of ‘Rolling Pin and the rich pedal steel of ‘Taking on Weight in Hot Springs’, which muses on the pace of country life “Moving slower than molasses”.

The theme of life in the country underscores the album; recurring in ‘Just Another River Town’, which has “seen its share of life go down” and borrows heavily from country music traditions while avoiding cliché and keeping that laid back warmth. The shuffling rhythms of ‘Loaded Gun’ provide a little contrast though, as it goes “Flyin’, down the back roads” in a flurry of foot taps and hand claps.

‘Cry Cry’ offers up subtly rolling rhythms and an understated soothing vocal that really captures the comfortable feel to this album, which is also evident on the lovely guitar sound of the easy balladry of ‘Holy Irons’. Phillips’ ability to paint a vivid picture is at its finest on the sweltering ‘No Mercy In July’, which shuffles easily through its summer heat of sleepless nights and stifling days – “Shade’s no shelter on days like these”.

To be honest, there is not a bad track on the album, even the fairly predictable lovelorn lament of ‘Find My Way’ succeeds in sounding honest. In fact, the overall feel is so pleasant that it would be difficult to pick a winner. Besides those already mentioned, the reflective ‘Yellow Weeds’ adds a dash of melancholy and ‘San Andreas Fault’, which looks back on life in the shadow of the California fault line, finds Phillips stretching his voice with an emotional performance.

All in all, ‘The Narrows’ shows Grant Lee Phillips at his thoughtful best and is a fine example of good old fashioned quality songwriting. Ok, it’s not exactly innovative, but it’s a thoroughly likeable record of remarkable warmth – grab a beer, sit in your favourite chair and settle into its richly comfortable vibe.

9/10

Find out more at GLP’s official site:http://www.grantleephillips.com/

30 Years of The Mission

MissionThis year, British Goth rockers The Mission are set to celebrate 30 turbulent years in the industry by doing precisely what they do best – touring extensively and reliving former and more recent successes.

Once upon a time the Mish ruled; achieving an enviable level of commercial success with multiple top 40 singles and top ten albums, as well as being one of only a handful of bands to have headlined the Reading festival on more than one occasion. Their first headline slot is testament to the quality of their early releases as it came a little over a year after Wayne Hussey and Craig Adams had said goodbye to the Sisters of Mercy to form first The Sisterhood and subsequently The Mission.

Their debut album, ‘Gods Own Medicine’, and the amalgamation of their early EPs, The First Chapter, had struck a chord and catapulted the band to early success; tracks like ‘Wasteland’, ‘Garden of Delight’ and cover versions of ‘Like a Hurricane’ and ‘Dancing Barefoot’ were indicative of their growing reputation and a lot of hard work on the road, supporting the likes of The Cult, The Psychedelic Furs and a still credible U2, as well as on their own, soon expanded their hard core of fervent fans – ‘The Eskimos’.

The band’s penchant for the theatrical, Hussey’s resonant baritone and Simon Hinkler‘s intricate guitar work, meant that the Celtic rhythms and rich melodies to their particular brand of atmospherically dark pop could do no wrong. In the period from early 86 to the end of 1990, successive releases saw the band grow in stature and confidence, the John Paul Jones produced ‘Children’ peaking at number 2 in the UK, while the first single from ‘Carved in Sand’, ‘Butterfly on a Wheel’, just missed out on the top ten. As Wayne says:

“Our record label were making us a ‘worldwide priority'” … “We were a band on the cusp of being very successful internationally. It was something that we collectively really wanted at that time.”

However, behind the scenes the excesses of the rock ‘n roll lifestyle were beginning to take their toll and the wheels were starting to come off. Internal conflicts and record company input meant that ‘Carved in Sand’ never did quite as well as it deserved, Wayne having been forced to compromise the track listing; in the words of the man himself:

“I have to say that the only true professional regret I have to this day is that I allowed the final track listing for ‘Carved in Sand’ to be chosen by committee rather than the usual practice of yours truly stamping my feet until I got my own way. I think at this point in time we the band and, more regretfully so, myself were more than willing to allow other people to make important decisions for us. We relinquished control and responsibility and unfortunately I think ‘Carved In Sand’, as an album, suffered as a result.”

The subsequent tour was also wrought with difficulties ranging from illness and staggering levels of debauchery to conflict and walk outs, with Hinkler taking his leave mid-tour.

Wayne:“With the release of ‘Carved in Sand’ (which, almost ironically, actually went on to become our biggest selling album) we were set up to go and conquer the world but instead within the space of a few short months in early 1990 after its release we internally combusted and our trajectory was set downward for the first time since our beginning in late 1985. We were never to recover.”

Nevertheless, that five year period to the end of 1990 had produced five albums worth of genre defining material and makes for an impressive achievement. Such prolific production documents the sound of a band that had hit a rich vein and were peaking in more ways than one. Their early catalogue of releases has certainly stood the test of time and is packed with classic tracks that comprise a fine record of Hussey and co’s songwriting talent.

Although the following record ‘Masque’ had its moments and there was the occasional hidden gem in subsequent albums, The Mission’s material post 1991 has offered little to compare to their peak period. The notable exception being 2013’s ‘The Brightest Light’, which saw Hussey reunite with Hinkler and fellow founder, bassist Craig Adams. This was the sound of a band reformed and reinvigorated and although it owes more to hard rock than Goth, it sounds fresh and honest. Hussey’s voice is a little more gravelly with age but no less powerful, and it sounds as if Hinkler had been given the chance to throw off the shackles a little to let rip on the guitar.

The intervening years had also seen a whole batch of re-issues, compilations and live albums, as well as (far too many to mention here) line-up changes, hiatuses and solo projects. Yet every time they hit the road there was always a faithful army helping to recapture the essence that makes the Mission such an enduring prospect; recent shows on the Blood Brothers tour with Fields of the Nephilim proving a resounding success. So this year’s anniversary tour is sure to be greeted with the adulation it will no doubt deserve, can’t help but wonder if there’s another album in the pipeline…..

In the meantime here’s my Mission top 10, which might raise the odd eyebrow amongst the faithful.

10. Amelia
Probably the bravest song Wayne has ever written, yet it is something he is rightly proud of, given the difficult subject matter of child abuse. Lyrically, it is cleverly constructed and the urgency to the instrumentation compliments it perfectly.

9. Severina
It’s theatrical, it’s magical, it’s a superb slice of Goth rock fantasia – “She’s dancing by the light of the moon”

8. Beyond The Pale
‘Children’ saw The Mission take a more measured approach with a strong nod in the direction of the grandiose; as such Beyond the Pale perfectly captures where they were at the time. There’s plenty of substance to this epic song, yet it’s a great example of their pop tropes, boasting a series of killer hooks in the chorus.

7. Swan Song
Of the tracks on ‘Brightest Light’ this is the most Goth influenced and stands tall alongside the early material. There’s some superbly atmospheric guitar work from the underrated Hinkler that builds to a climax on a fine solo, while Wayne delivers the killer hook and intense finale in fine style.

6. ‘Sacrilege’
There’s a wonderful dark energy here as the arrangement ebbs and flows with subtle time changes and chord progressions. It’s a superbly constructed song and is a fine example of Goth rock at its intriguing best.

5. Bird of Paradise
If Wayne had got his way this epic piano ballad would’ve been the closing track to Carved in Sand and a sublime way to close the album. Darkly atmospheric with a beautiful melody and beautiful lyrics, quality.

4. Wasteland
The opening track on their debut album was a killer cut to kick off with and indicative of the leverage that had secured a seven album record deal. One of their most enduring songs; there’s the evocative opening riff, the barren landscape of the verses and the battle cry chorus, all easily translating to the biggest stages; great start to a great album.

3. Like a Hurricane
If you’re gonna cover Neil Young you gotta do it right and here The Mission do not disappoint. There is sufficient tribute to the original, yet they succeed in making it their own. IMHO this is Hussey’s finest vocal performance at the helm of The Mission, where Young’s original is almost plaintive, live versions showcase Wayne’s voice as powerful, rousing and nothing short of brilliant.

2. Butterfly on A Wheel
The Mission always had a gift for melody and this beautifully atmospheric cut is one of their finest moments. It is a wonderfully evocative song featuring genuinely spine tingling moments; the time change after the second chorus and the ever building intensity sublime to say the least.

1. Deliverance
For me, this is the perfect Mission track, including every weapon in the band’s extensive armoury – from the atmospheric opening, through the driving bass, to the hook riddled chorus and hard rocking guitar parts – yet still shrouded in the Goth feel – I can never play this song loud enough.

For tour dates etc check out the official site:http://www.themissionuk.com/wp/

The Cult – The Cult

The_Cult_(ovelha_negra)_coverThe recent success of ‘Hidden City’, the excellent new album by The Cult, has prompted a revisit to their back catalogue for the second in the series of Overlooked or Underrated. Most of The Cult’s work has got the treatment and reviews that it deserved, but their self-titled sixth studio album, also known as the ‘Black Sheep’ album due to the cover art, is the one from their back catalogue that is constantly overlooked, even by the band themselves. Only two songs, ‘Gone’ and ‘Star’ have been featured with any regularity in their live set and only the much maligned ‘Ceremony’ album has been ignored on a similar scale. ‘The Cult’ was released to almost universal indifference back in October 1994, so what went wrong?

The relative failure and black sheep status of the album can be summed up in two words – Grunge and Britpop, which is pretty ironic considering their oft cited influence on grunge. Even so, Billy Duffy and Ian Astbury had never really fit into a scene, though they’d garnered their audience from the Goth rock crowd and had achieved notable success with their own brand of hard rock; total album sales running into the millions. However, with the reshaped musical landscape they basically became a band adrift, their sound not really striking a chord with anyone outside of their own fanbase and their creative direction moving away from more traditional rock influences not being well received by die-hard fans. They weren’t grunge, they definitely weren’t Britpop and now they weren’t even metal anymore, but when you listen back to the album it really does rock and there is a lot of really accomplished work on offer, it just didn’t exactly fit the time. It is telling that Hidden City probably has more in common with this record than any other releases in the Cult’s extensive catalogue, being that both find the band writing meaningful songs that push them out of their musical comfort zone.

The songs on ‘The Cult’ are among the most personal the duo has ever penned, covering issues like Astbury’s experience of sexual abuse, the death of their contemporaries and sobriety. Lyrically speaking, they are at their most sincere and their most offensive, so, maybe, way back in 1994, it was just not the right climate for the record. It seems strange, however, that the band should distance themselves so much from such a brutally honest record – there are several quality tracks here that have never been played live. Ok, it is by no means a perfect album, but there is plenty of quality material and repeated listens reveal it to be a record of depth and intensity with some genuinely killer moments; Bob Rock‘s crisp production as impeccable as ever.

‘Gone’ opens the album to a bass riff and touches of piano, before exploding in uncharacteristically angry fashion, immediately showing a different side to the band. Damn this song burns! Surely rating among their finest, it is the one track still getting regular live outings. The following track, ‘Coming Down’, is much more disposable but it’s got groove and a killer hook to the tambourine fueled chorus. It is in similar vein to ‘Star’, a track left unfinished from the ‘Sonic Temple’ sessions, which also explores an industrial dance groove, a sound they’d flirted with on ‘The Witch’ on ‘Pure Cult’, but never quite managed to fit. Nevertheless, it’s a good tune with a wonderfully rough edged vocal and is the only other song on the album to have graced repeated set lists.

The first half of the album is probably the stronger, the seriously underrated ‘Real Grrrl’ boasting an emotionally charged performance from Astbury, while the guitar lines have more than a taste of early era Cult. Then there’s the brooding ‘Black Sun’ and the slick bass groove to ‘Naturally High’ featuring some lovely understated guitar from Duffy. It is ‘Joy’ however, which ranks as one of The Cult’s most criminally overlooked songs. It has a dark energy in the abrasive riffing and a powerful intensity to the bridge/chorus, while the organ riff lends an air of modern day Doors; killer.

The second half features some of the more throwaway songs, like the straight up rock n roll of ‘Be Free, which doesn’t really fit with the vibe of the record, and the grungy ‘Universal You’, co-written with The Mission‘s Craig Adams to the loud-quiet-loud formula, though not quite nailing it. It’s not that either of these tracks are bad, they just fall a little short and maybe could’ve been saved for b-sides.‘Emperor’s New Horse’ is another that starts out not really firing on all cylinders, but it’s saved by a killer hook and works within the context of the record.

‘Sacred Life’ and ‘The Saints Are Down’ however, count among Astbury/Duffy’s most atmospherically reflective work. The former, is a sincere tribute to souls the world has lost, and is easy on the ear, while the latter is a slow burning ballad with a heavy dose of hard rock intensity. I love tracks like these and at a different time and in a different context they could’ve become Cult classics.

All told ‘The Cult’ is a vastly underrated album, which today would easily be an eight out of ten and even the band themselves should maybe give a second chance. Astbury is on fine vocal form throughout, stretching his voice way beyond the norm, while Duffy`s guitar playing is sublime as he shows off the versatility that gives them so much depth. There is more than enough killer material on this record to keep any fan of quality rock happy; definitely worth another listen.

Kendrick Lamar – Untitled Unmastered Review

kendrick-lamar-untitled-unmastered-surprise-new-album-compressedThis surprise release of eight off cuts/demos from the ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ sessions making up ‘Untitled Unmastered’ is testament to the genius that is Kendrick Lamar. Despite sounding more like a session than an actual album, there is plenty on display to justify Lamar’s multiple grammies and is a fine insight into the man’s creative process.
These untitled tracks almost never saw the light of day, but recent performances on late night talk shows and a tweet from Lebron James led to last week’s timely drop. As such, the lack of context means there’s something intriguing about these songs and makes for a challenging but interesting listen.

Seedy sex talk leads into ‘Untitled 1’ and a bass line Cypress Hill would be proud of. Kendrick proceeds to wax biblical, switching between judgement day and utopia; “I guess I’m running in place tryin to make it to church”; his urgent vocal is straight up smokin Lamar, tripping over itself to get the message across. A (much repeated) call of “Pimp, Pimp: Hooray!” leads into ‘Untitled 2’, which offers up Kendrick firing off all the vocal guns in his armour over an RnB groove to this free jazz fuelled cut.

There’s plenty of jazz peppered throughout the record, we get a cool vibe on ‘Untitled 3’ with its rhyming on race, philosophy and exploitation – “I shall enjoy the fruits of my labor if I get freed today”, while ‘Untitled 5’ goes back to the free jazz feel with a sublime bass line and cutting rhythms. When it finally kicks in, Kendrick’s flow is incisive contrast to the otherwise late night smoothness and is a badass piece of rhyme.

Sandwiched between, ‘Untitled 4’ feels more like an interlude, its reflective soul sounding more like a vague idea than anything concrete, but it’s intimate and seems to offer a little hope. ‘Untitled 6’ has a similarly soulful feel as it rolls out a bossa groove with a touch of funky soul. It’s swimming in the 1970s, like many of the samples on TPAB, and there’s an easy feel to the rapping on what is one of the most complete tracks on offer.

The dissonant darkness of the first of three parts on ‘Untitled 7 is reminiscent of funk carioca and its starkness would work well in the live arena. It cuts (too soon) into an atmospheric gangster rap that is another killer moment, but again, it’s just a moment. The following studio jam reiterates the message of 4 and gives a glimpse into the creative process, but just feels like a DVD extra. In contrast, the superb ‘Untitled 8’, aka Blue Faces and previously called Untitled 2, is as slick a slice of Lamar as you could hope to find and would slip easily alongside the likes of ‘King Kunta’ or ‘Alright’.

At worst, ‘Untitled Unmastered’ is a sublime companion disc of outtakes and off cuts for last year’s phenomenal ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’, but that would not be doing the record justice. Ok, it’s incomplete, imperfect and, at 35 minutes long, can barely be called an album, but even so, the creative rhymes and the variety of styles embraced here showcase just how far ahead of the game the sublime talent of Kendrick Lamar really is; quality.

9/10

Sixx A.M. – Six(x) of the Best

SIxxAM

In the current musical climate it takes something special to pull off Hard Rock without it sounding like a lukewarm version of the 1980s. Thankfully, the combined talents of Motley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx, Guns n Roses guitarist DJ Ashba and multi-platinum producer/engineer/songwriter James Michael not only pull it off, but also add a modern twist, experimenting with a variety of sounds over the band’s three powerful records.

Originally formed back in 2007 for the soundtrack project to Nikki’s brutal ‘Heroin Diaries’ book, Sixx A.M. were never even meant to tour, but public demand soon changed that and the busy schedules of the individual members had to be put on hold. The tour led to a second record, also accompanying a book, Nikki’s photography project, ‘This is Gonna Hurt’, which inevitably led to more touring, more recording and the release of 2014’s ‘Modern Vintage’. All three albums are jam packed with hard rocking hook filled tunes, but they also include an array of interesting touches, from catchy pop, through industrial to music hall and the theatrical.

There’s a kind of freshness and instant likeability to the creative hotbed that is Sixx A.M.; Michael knows how to deliver a good old fashioned radio-friendly hook, yet their heavy assed tracks are glued together by Ashba’s powerful riffing and soaring solos, all underscored by Sixx’s rumbling bass. As well as covering the hard-hitting subject of addiction and recovery, there’s plenty more substance to the lyrical content in their accessible take on modern life. As Nikki says:

“A big part of our message is, and will always be, finding hope in dark subject matters, taking universal messages and rendering them in a way which people can ascribe their own meanings to and relate to their own life experiences. That is something that resonates with our crowd and gives us the strength of connection we do.”

sixxam2016bandpromo_638

Now that the final nail has gone into the Motley Crüe coffin and that Slash has (temporarily) made up with Axl, it looks like Nikki and Dj might have a bit of extra time on their hands to dedicate to this intriguing project which keeps serving up killer tunes. With Michael making space in his prolific songwriting and production schedule, the coming release of their fourth album Prayers for the Damned Vol 1.’ and the possibility of Vol.2 also following in 2016, should see the band making serious waves; there are already a number of top festival dates confirmed. In the meantime, ‘Rise’, the killer first track from the new record, has already dropped and the album is set to follow in late April, so as a taster, here are six(x) of their best…

‘Relief’ from ‘Modern Vintage’
This starts out like an urgent hard rocker, but soon takes on a darker feel with a more restrained vocal, before the annoyingly catchy chorus. Although a little less epic than some of their work, the frantic feel gives it a vibrant energy that makes for a killer tune.

‘Stars’ from ‘Modern Vintage’
For high quality slickly delivered melodic hard rock, it don’t get much better than this.

‘Lies of the Beautiful People’ from ‘This is Gonna Hurt’
Despite being seriously hooky and possessing a touch of uplift to the chorus, this is actually one of their darkest tracks and features some great work from DJ Ashba.

‘Life Is Beautiful’ from ‘THe Heroin Diaries Soundtrack’
Although ‘This is Gonna Hurt’ has some great moments it’s the ‘Heroin Diaries’ that is all killer and ‘Life is Beautiful’ showcases pretty much everything that rocks about this band – great chorus, banging riff – good, straight forward, hard-rocking tune.

‘Van Nuys’ from ‘THe Heroin Diaries Soundtrack’
They manage to include a killer hook and put a commercial spin on this claustrophobic track about Nikki’s addiction. It also features some lovely touches in the instrumentation as well as James Michael’s most versatile vocal performance; superb.

‘The Girl With Golden Eyes’ from ‘THe Heroin Diaries Soundtrack’
There are so many great tracks on ‘Heroin Diaries’ that it’s actually difficult to pin-point a favourite; I love ‘Courtesy Call’, ‘Pray For Me’ rocks and ‘Dead Man’s Ballet’ is one of the most innovative tracks they’ve done, but there’s something about this song that I love – maybe it’s the brutal honesty of the track, the building intensity or just its atmosphere – whatever, it’s a great track.

Check out new track ‘Rise’ right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzEsBe2bt3w and check the website for news on the album and up-coming tour here: http://sixxammusic.com/

Also, you can check out more of the spectacular photography of Stephansdotter on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/stephansdotter or online at http://www.stephansdotter.com.