The Mission – Another Fall From Grace Review

the-mission_another-fall-from-grace_front_cover_onlyIt was a brave step by Wayne Hussey to set out to make an album that sounds like 1985, yet it is one that by and large he manages to pull off. ‘Another Fall From Grace’ plays like an echo, an echo of former glories when The Mission were riding on the cusp of a wave towards being the UK’s biggest alternative rock band, or an echo of days gone by, when making epically dramatic tunes was de rigueur in the realm of Goth.

Tentative drum beats signal the opening of title track, ‘Another Fall From Grace’, but it soon takes shape around a rumbling bass line as layers of jangly 12 string guitars weave a tapestry of wonderfully bombastic Goth drama reminiscent of Tower of Strength’. Hussey sounds a little older and wiser, but there’s still a powerful richness to his voice and this deeply layered epic is surely one of the finest tunes this band has ever produced.

They seem to have rediscovered their signature sound and on ‘Met-Amor-Phosis’, featuring Ville Valo, it effortlessly translates into the type of song that would’ve bothered the top twenty back in the day. ‘Blood On The Road’ is in a similar vein, but despite being rockier, it is actually a little lacklustre and doesn’t quite nail it.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of moments when they do totally nail it, whether it’s the brooding drama of the atmospheric ‘Within The Deepest Darkness (Fearful)’, featuring excellent vocal contributions from Martin Gore and Gary Numan, or the instantly likeable ‘Can’t See The Ocean For The Rain’; a quality, largely acoustic number with a wistful air.

However, it’s on ‘Tyranny of Secrets’ that they are firing on all cylinders; there’s a distinct Sisters of Mercy feel to the driving electronica of the opening, but it’s got everything else that we know and love about the Mission besides a surprising element of vitriol to the vocal; great tune.

In fact, this opens a section of the album that is pure class, as the wonderfully overblown ‘Never’s Longer Than Forever’ and the intricate intensity of ‘Bullets and Bayonets’ follow stylishly before the spoken word reflections of ‘Valaam’. This segues neatly into my favourite moment of the album, the emotionally charged ‘Jade’ with its signature guitar lines and a haunting piano melody typically reflective of glories past. The song meanders along in darkly atmospheric fashion until Simon Hinkler finally lets rip with a soaring solo, before an emotional finale where Wayne gives it both barrels. This is the Mission at their finest, talk about recapturing whatever it was that once made them great.

Despite being firmly rooted in the past, it is interesting that on closing track ‘Phantom Pain’, another dark 7 minutes, there are some skittering saxophone touches to add a little extra depth. It is a cool touch and offers a hint that this creative well is far from running dry.

All in all, ‘Another Fall From Grace’ is a deeply satisfying record full of great touches, including a number of subtle backing vocals from long term collaborator Julianne Regan; long time Mission fans will surely be overjoyed that they have managed to recapture the essence of what it was that we fell in love with all those years ago, whilst also looking forwards. Sure, at 12 tracks and over an hour long there’s probably one too many pedestrian paced sweeping epics making it a little OTT, but I’m sure Wayne wouldn’t have it any other way, especially when it is such a strong album both musically and vocally.


Get the bombastic new album right here:


Metallica – Moth Into Flame Review

Hold the phone, Metallica just dropped another track from the forthcoming album, ‘Hard Wired’, and much like the first single there is a nagging sense of familiarity about it. This, however, is no bad thing, as it sounds like the Metallica we know and love being the Metallica we know and love – it’s like they’re done pissing around and have gone back to writing quality heavy metal.

‘Moth Into Flame’ is not quite the full on thrash fury of the first single, but this take on the attractions and pitfalls of fame is a satisfying listen and worth it for the blazing Kirk Hammett solo alone, heavy wah wah and all. The track opens with a Maidenish lick that soon turns into a chugging riff straight out of the bay area, featuring those little rising licks on the end of riffs, besides the typical Lars stops and fills, a slick vocal from James and even a hint of harmony on the chorus.

Ok, so there’s plenty of recycling going on, including a mid section tempo change, lines with only one word – ‘Decadence!’ – and I’m sure I’ve heard that melody somewhere before, but hey, who really cares? They’ve proved everything they’ve ever needed to prove, conquering the rock world in uncompromising fashion, I mean, when you’re heavy metal champion of the world you can do a lot worse than sound like a copy of yourself with a few of your influences and contemporaries thrown in for good measure. Sounds like the new album will rock.

Love/Hate – Blackout In The Red Room

lovehateBack in the late eighties hard rock was fast disappearing up its own rectum; the proliferation of hair metal bands had reached epidemic proportions and each and every one of them was following the same formula of massive choruses, massive heels and at least one massive power ballad. Quality hard rock was hard to come by, except, of course, in the form of Guns n Roses, who totally dominated the HR/HM scene, and to a lesser extent Skid Row, who were somewhat unfairly lumped in with the sunset strip wannabes, when in fact they were substantially heavier and had a lot more going on in the songwriting department, especially on ‘Slave To The Grind’. Anyway, in the midst of all this a band that had been struggling to be heard and get a record deal finally got signed and delivered a quality slice of hard rocking, Jack soaked tunes with barely an eye liner in sight.

In simple terms ‘Blackout In The Red Room’ rocks, and hard. The refreshing thing about the album was that it wasn’t just copying GnR, it wasn’t just following the formula of all the hair bands and although there are a few clichés, it wasn’t all high hats, cow bells and radio friendly harmonies. Instead, what you get is a bunch of dirty sounding riffs, abrasive vocals and some coolly arranged tracks largely about getting wasted. Oh yeah, and no power ballad.

The title track sets the pace with a mid tempo swagger and some serious groove; it may be a true headbanger, but in rock clubs it was a surefire floor filler. ‘Rock Queen’ is a stylish second track featuring a stack of hooks and the wonderfully bizarre line of “Let me touch your cookies/Let me eat your cookies”!

The album continues in a flurry of hard riffs and well worked tunes, with highlights like ‘Fuel to Run’ and ‘Tumbleweed, which are good hard rockers and the frantic old school finale ‘Hell, Ca., Pop.4’. Although ‘She’s an Angel’ borrows heavily from the book of hard rock clichés for its more serious tone, it is as quality a slice of metal lite as you’re likely to hear.

Ok, so one track or another doesn’t exactly set the world on fire, i.e ‘Slutsy Tipsy’ and ‘Slave Girl’, but in general the standard is high. For example, the ode to weed that is ‘Mary Jane’ is a nicely arranged number with some cool twists to the tempo and more great guitar work. The standout track though, is the song which got heavy rotation on MTV, ‘Why Do You Think They Call It Dope, a killer tune with a great hook and some funky assed bass.

On the whole ‘Blackout…’ stands up as a damn good record that was a cut above a lot of what was coming out of sunset strip at the time. They may not have been PC or had the general appeal of a GnR or a Skid Row, but there was some serious talent in the band and some hard rocking bangers on this record. If dirty riffs, blazing solos and raspy vocals are your thing, it’s well worth revisiting.


What’s Hot In My House – September 2016

There aren’t that many benefits to writing a music blog or contributing to independent music websites; it involves quite a lot of work, you end up listening to a lot of stuff you might not choose to and financial recompense is a non-starter. The words labour of love spring to mind. However, there is the great satisfaction of having an outlet for your opinion (and occasionally gaining some respect for it), it’s kinda cool to be a part of the industry in an albeit minuscule way and, most importantly, you get to hear (and sometimes download) new releases before everyone else. When people ask me if I get paid, I always tell them I get paid in music! Anyway, every now and then, the humble music writer might be privileged enough to get to hear about a particularly cool new talent way before the rest of the public, or, be lucky enough to receive the new release of a genuinely iconic band almost a month before it hits the racks. This might explain one of the big spinners on my digital turntables this month – check it out….

Yes folks, the Pixies are back! Friday the 30th will see their sixth studio album ‘Head Carrier’ unleashed on their expectant public, which is sure to provoke stacks of debate in internet land. Having spent the last couple of weeks playing my advance copy on an almost daily basis for my review for Already Heard, I have a few observations. First up, it’s a grower – don’t expect to be blown away on first listen – give it a chance and it’ll eat into your subconscious. Second, it was never going to be the same cutting edge experimental slop of yester year, that was nearly thirty years ago and they just ain’t that hungry anymore, so tone down your expectations. Finally, they always had an ear for a melody, think ‘Here Comes Your Man’, and this record has a bunch more to get your toes a tappin’, as well as the irresistible ‘Um Chagga Lagga’, which is a fucking tune.

Besides Pixies, I have also been listening the shit out of the Black Foxxes record, the brilliantly titled ‘I’m Not Well’. The British three piece offer up a loud chunk of cathartic indie rock with an enviable sense of melody that is nothing short of awesome. It is sure to be among my records of the year – this is a band that deserves to be massive.

Another recent release that I have been slipping into with frequency on early morning and late night journeys, is the beautifully melancholic folk of Lisa Hannigan. It’s lyrically sharp, wonderfully sung and avoids the whimsically bland trappings many singer songwriters so often succumb to, instead she delivers a contemplative mix of quite lovely tracks that is very easy on the ear.

Metallica Top Ten Covers

With the coming release of the new Metallica album in November there’s gonna be a whole lotta words dedicated to the San Francisco Metal titans in the next couple of months. As I’m currently researching a mega piece for Already Heard, I’m listening to pretty much everything they’ve ever done and have to say the awesomeness of their back catalogue is really quite something.

I’m finally giving the ‘Load’ and ‘Reload’ albums the chance they always deserved and can now grudgingly admit to their undeniable quality (I prefer Reload) even if they’re not the sound of James and Co in full thrash fury. Anyway, when it comes to Metallica, there’s nothing more divisive than a top ten, and as good as their entire catalogue may be, mine would be firmly rooted in the glory days of the band’s career. Unless, of course, we do an alternative top ten, say of cover versions…. because if there’s one thing the Metallica boys like doing, it’s loosening up on someone else’s songs. Check it out.

10/9 Last Caress and So What
The Misfits’ ‘Last Caress’ originally featured on the $5:98 Garage Days EP and is basically an ode to rape, murder and the longing for death and is enjoyable and disturbing in equal measure (check this explanation! However, with references to cock sucking, goat fucking and piss drinking, ‘So What’ is probably the most politically incorrect song in history and Metallica make it sound as fun as it was always intended to be. British punk band Anti Nowhere League originally wrote the song to poke fun at people telling exaggerated stories, but given the offensive lyrics it tends to stir a little controversy, especially when it’s played with ‘Last Caress’ live on MTV when the band were supposed to be airing a brand new song, oops!

8 Helpless
Lars must love Diamond Head because this is not the only song of theirs Metallica have covered. Anyway, this was the first song to feature Jason Newstead on bass on the $5:98 EP and it fucking rocks! In fact the whole EP is great and Newkid played a blinder, quite why they then smothered the bass with layers of guitar on the Justice album is beyond me (now there’s a remastered version waiting to happen).

7 Tuesday’s Gone
James has been out of the country closet for sometime now and there’s no better way to marry that passion to his first love than by covering Lynyrd Skynyrd with a bunch of rock n roll friends. Great song, great version.

6 Remember Tomorrow
This is a great version of the Iron Maiden “ballad” – Metallica being Metallica, there´s a bit more meat on this than the original, but the quality of the song itself cannot be denied and they certainly do it justice – killer!

5 The Wait
Not the most obvious song to include, but personally I love this track and think it’s seriously underrated. Killer riff, killer bass line and a dark pulsating groove, this is a great version of the Killing Joke track – love it.

4 Turn The Page
Like many of their covers, I don’t know the original (by Bob Seger), but that doesn’t really matter. Although it’s obviously a departure from their normal style, it suits Metallica’s penchant for a big rock ballad; tune.

3 Stone Cold Crazy
Such is the lightening fast riffing that this Queen track is now actually considered as a precursor to thrash, making it the perfect song for Metallica to cover. As with most of their covers they stay true to the original, but also add that little dash of metalligrit, making for a super fast barnstormer – what’s not to like?

2 Breadfan
I first heard this on the b-side of my ‘Harvester of Sorrow’ cassette single (seriously), which I still have somewhere, and immediately fell in love with it. Obviously, I’ve never actually heard the original by British seventies rockers Budgie, and to be frank, why would I, no way can it be better than James and co in full flight. Go.

1 Am I Evil
This has been part of Metallica’s live set for so long that there are probably people that don’t even realise it’s a cover, talk about owning it. This version is mind blowing.

The Big Four Part 1 – Thrash

If by some mysterious quirk of fate I were ever to find myself with my own radio show, I would have a section on Big Fours. Although the term was first coined for the big four thrash bands, Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax, it is a trend which seems to occur in other genres too; there are often four big players that tend to be at the vanguard of innovation within a given style and, more often than not, achieve the most commercial success.

As I don’t have a radio show, and it’s probably not among the most likely things to happen to me, I figured I could just write about (and rank!) Big 4s instead. So, to kick off the series, what better place to start than with the original big guns from the world of relentless riffing, blistering solos and fast fingered fury that is thrash metal.

Thrash was born in the early 1980s as the sound of traditional heavy metal was taken to a new extreme. There was a heavy influence from the likes of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and New Wave of British Heavy Bands like Iron Maiden and Diamond Head, except thrash bands were playing harder, faster and heavier, besides moving in a more serious direction lyrically. It’s impossible to pinpoint an exact beginning to the movement, although albums from US punks Void and Newcastle’s Venom are often cited as being forerunners to the scene. Whatever the case may be, it was the emergence of bay area bands like Metallica and Exodus that really provided the impetus. However, of the big four that would emerge, it was in fact the only east coast band that probably played the most pivotal role.

4) Anthrax
Despite being the third of the four to release their debut Anthrax were actually formed first and as such were already getting established in New York by the time Metallica pitched up for their watershed visit in late 1982. They made the San Franciscans welcome and helped them out during the stay when Dave Mustaine would get fired prior to subsequently forming Megadeth. Moreover, the term “thrash metal” is said to have been coined in February 1984 in reference to their song “Metal Thrashing Mad”.

Even so, Scott Ian‘s band have always been slightly different; their early sound enjoying strong hardcore influences, besides having an interest in Skate culture and a more humorous approach to their image. Scott is also a lover of rap and their version of Public Enemy‘s ‘Bring The Noise’, featuring a rapped verse from the guitarist, is not only one of the earliest cross-overs, but one of their finest moments.

Like the other big guns in thrash, their output peaked between the mid eighties and early nineties, yet they’ve battled through line up changes and a myriad of record label problems to continue producing quality records. Their latest release, ‘For All Kings’ is another fine release and is as metal thrashing mad as anything from their peak.
Essential Albums: Among the Living & Persistence of Time
Personal Favourite: State of Euphoria
Random Classics: I am the Law, Got the Time, Bring the Noise, I’m the Man, Be All End All & Caught in a Mosh

3) Slayer
The heaviest and most uncompromising of the top thrash bands is far and away Slayer; you won’t find them straying into hard rock territory in search of a number one. It’s fair to say that Kerry King, Tom Araya and co are the darkest of the big four, regularly writing about serial killers, hell, war and suicide, whilst pushing the boundaries of thrash to go harder, heavier and faster.

Slayer‘s material has always stood up for its quality and influence, inspiring subsequent generations to go to even greater extremes – ‘Reign In Blood’ was mind blowing at the time of its release and without it, genres like Death Metal may never have happened. Last year’s ‘Repentless’ was the first to feature new guitarist Gary Holt (Exodus), following the tragic death of Jeff Hanneman, and continues their long line of quality, no holds barred, metal mayhem.
Essential Albums: Reign in Blood & Seasons in the Abyss
Personal Favourite: Seasons in the Abyss
Random Classics: Angel of Death, South of Heaven, Mandatory Suicide, Dead Skin Mask, War Ensemble & Raining Blood

2) Megadeth
Dave Mustaine was pissed when he was unceremoniously dumped by Metallica, but he turned that fury into music, and Megadeth was born. He stayed pissed for a very long time and it’s kinda understandable given that his band has always been and will always be judged in comparison to James and Lars’ work. I mean, you gotta feel for Dave; as Scott Ian says:

“The guy is arguably the godfather of thrash metal. He wrote a lot of the riffs on Kill ’Em All and even some of Ride the Lightning. Without Dave Mustaine, maybe thrash metal never would have happened. At least in the beginning, he was the driving force, artistically.”

Although less successful than his old band, Mustaine is probably the most technically proficient of the big four and the releases from the eighties and early nineties are as good, if not better, than those of his contemporaries – is there a more perfect thrash song than Holy Wars…the Punishment Due?

Despite constant line up changes and well publicised drugs problems, Megadeth‘s output has been pretty damn regular and of consistently high standard ever since -,even the hard rock debacle ‘Risk’ has its moments! This year’s furiously fast ‘Dystopia’ is actually Dave’s fifteenth studio album, so in terms of catalogue, none of the other bands can boast such an extensive collection of high quality original work.
Essential Albums: Rust in Peace, Countdown to Extinction & Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying
Personal Favourite: Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying
Random Classics: Holy Wars…the Punishment Due, Hangar 18, Darkest Hour, Hook in Mouth, Symphony of Destruction & Devil’s Island

1) Metallica
You have to respect a band that has sold over one hundred million records, I mean, you don’t get much bigger than that – Metallica are basically the undisputed heavyweight champions of the world.

As for their role in the thrash scene, would the others have done so well, if it weren’t for James and Lars? This is a band that carved out an enormous reputation and was well on the way to becoming a major force on the metal scene without releasing a single or even making a video until their fourth album, and even then, the video for ‘One’ wasn’t exactly made with MTV in mind.

It’s also testament to their stature that the self-titled record which turned them into global superstars, was released just six weeks before Nirvana‘s ‘Nevermind’ changed the face of rock music forever, practically destroying the metal scene in one fell swoop.

Sure, they’ve made all sorts of bad decisions and of all the big four, theirs is the most divisive back catalogue; but they have never stayed still and have always pushed forward on their own pioneering terms; sometimes as true visionaries and at other times misguided. Whatever way you look at it though, there’s no denying the importance of Metallica to Thrash, to Metal and to the music industry as a whole. The fact that they are releasing a new album is about the biggest thing that could happen in music right now, lets hope it delivers the goods, after all, the other three have all come up with killer records.
Essential Albums: Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets & Metallica (The Black Album)
Personal Favourite: …and Justice for All
Random Classics: Enter Sandman, Creeping Death, One, Damage Inc., Whiplash & The Unforgiven

Beyond the Big Four
Back in the mid to late eighties the thrash metal scene was well and truly thriving and a number of other bands were particularly important to the scene and even knocking on the door of mainstream success. Exodus in particular played a major role, supplying Kirk Hammett to Metallica and thirty years later Gary Holt to Slayer, besides recording some superb records like ‘Bonded by Blood and ‘Fabulous Disaster’.

Also from the Bay Area were the likes of Testament and Death Angel, both of which are still active; the former set to release new album ‘Brotherhood of the Snake’ in October, while DA released the superb ‘Evil Divide’ earlier this year. It’s fair to say that the thrash scene is enjoying something of a renaissance.

Suicidal Tendencies, the former band of Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, is another favourite that is also still active. I have previously written at length about their classic album ‘Lights, Camera, Revolution’ right here:

Of the many other great bands around back in the day, the one that really stood out and we went mad for in England was Sepultura. ‘Beneath the Remains’ and ‘Arise’ were two of the finest albums from the genre and were comparable to the best work of the big four.

Random Classics: Exodus – Bonded by Blood, Testament – The New Order, Death Angel – Act III, Sacred Reich – The American Way, Suicidal Tendencies – Lights Camera Revolution, Sepultura – Beneath the Remains, Death – Leprosy & Annihilator – Alice in Hell.