What’s Hot In My House – November 2016

It’s been a busy old month, what with listening to pretty much everything Metallica have ever recorded for a piece I wrote for Already Heard. Then there was the surprisingly awesome, but shamelessly nostalgic, Guns n Roses show, which meant catching up on some old favourites, plus the usual selection of stuff to review and fill the hours of endless bus journeys. Also, with the usual round of end of year lists coming up, I’ve been dedicating a bit of time to checking out some stuff I’d been meaning to listen to. As such, it’s been a metal heavy month, even so, between the big ass riffs and raging solos I have managed to squeeze in some sublime listening. Here’s the smooth grooves that have been dripping honey into my brain of late.

Although It’s been out a while, only now have I got round to checking out ‘Love & Hate’ the absolutely incredible second album from Michael Kiwanuka. Damn, this is a fine record. Beautiful, heartbreaking, emotional and uplifting in equal measure. It makes for a superb take on human nature, echoing with vibes from the sixties and seventies, yet succeeding in sounding contemporary and topical, this is a sublime record that will be very close to the top of my end of year lists.

The cool groove of Warpaint‘s Heads Up has also been on pretty heavy rotation of late. There’s something wonderfully understated about the subtle mix of textures on these laid back deep cuts that keeps me coming back for more. There is a lot of experimentation with beats to compliment the hypnotic qualities of the vocals and instrumentation, all of which kinda defies classification and gives it a refreshing air of individuality. It’s well worth giving this a few plays and immersing yourself in its subtleties.

Another cracking recent release that I had the pleasure of reviewing, is the totally old school thrash of Testament and ‘Brotherhood of the Snake’. Honestly, this is as good as, if not better than, anything they released back in their heyday. It’s by far their most frantically thrashy record and includes some serious hooks that make it instantly catchy. Chuck Billy delivers an absolutely killer vocal performance throughout on track upon track of raging metal. Killer record.

Advertisements

Metallica – Hardwired… to Self-Destruct Album Review

20160818_193928_7549_939483Metallica are like The Clash of thrash metal, pioneering a genre that they easily outgrew. The thing about them though, is that they have been under pressure to go back to that genre ever since the ‘Black Album’, and while ‘Death Magnetic’ largely placated the naysayers that yes, they could still thrash, the question of their relevance remained open. That has firmly been put to bed by the release of ‘Hardwired…to Self-Destruct’; I mean, how often is a new album an event these days? And who drops a video for every single track on the record the night before its release? This is the very pioneering spirit that established Metallica as the biggest metal band in history and what they are offering on their first album in eight years – ‘Lulu’ doesn’t count people – for the most part does not disappoint, yet is also quite typically flawed.

From the word go, it’s clear there’s still life in the old dogs yet; the fast and furious ‘Hardwired’ being a no-holds barred flier, while the Maidenesque ‘Atlas, Rise’ is a massive tune to follow. Both tunes are pretty much instant classics, yet it’s ‘Moth Into Flame’ that steals the show of the three singles. It is quintessential Metallica – radio friendly, yet defiantly muscular – every bit as good as ‘Enter Sandman’.

The rest of the first disc of the double album is equally high level. ‘Now That We’re Dead’ is a slick take on their early eighties sound, but is fresh and rocks along nicely at mid-tempo; its hook sure to stand the test of time. Then there’s the slow boiling groove of ‘Dream No More’ which eats into the brain and will no doubt become a live favourite, especially with Hammett’s bad ass solo.

‘Halo on Fire’ also boasts an eighties feel to the intro but it gives way to that atmospheric groove a la ‘Until it Sleeps and for a while is reminiscent of Load era, only with more bite. It takes a heavier turn with a series of shifts in tempo and despite being a bit piecemeal, the arrangement really works – with James’ most versatile vocal to boot, it makes for a killer track.

‘Confusion’ opens the second disc in competent enough fashion, although there’s something not quite right about it. Metallica work by putting riffs together like a jigsaw, but sometimes, like here, the pieces don’t fit perfectly – it’s not exactly bad, just maybe a bit, er, confused.

The rest of disc 2 is enjoyable enough, but lacks the quality of the first half. ‘Here Comes Revenge’ is interesting musically speaking, a fine performance from Ulrich underpinning the shifting textures, although it finds Hetfield uncharacteristically obvious on the lyrical front.

The mid-tempo ‘ManUnkind’ and the brooding ‘Am I Savage?’ are both fairly straightforward slices of Metallica at their most functional and don’t really nail it, despite more fine soloing from Hammett. ‘Murder One’ meanwhile is just plain dull, its lumbering metal by numbers makes for a slightly disappointing tribute to Lemmy – the yee ha metal madness of closing track ‘Spit the Bone’, the saving grace of disc two, far more in keeping with the Motorhead front man’s metal footprint.

Despite the shortcomings of the second half of the record, ‘Hardwired…to Self-Destruct’ remains a mighty fine album of quality metal, but when you have set the bar as high as Metallica there are going to be moments when they fall short. Once again, their lack of capacity to self edit has made for an album with excess baggage. It is telling that their first three albums all weighed in under 55 minutes and contained very little in the way of filler, while since ‘Load’ every studio album has over seventy minutes of music, hmmm.

Even so, there are plenty of ticks on the plus side, the underlying influence of ‘Kill ’em All’ is most welcome, Kirk Hammett delivers some of the finest solos of his career and Ulrich has finally evolved into a drummer of versatile excellence. Some of the material on display is seriously high quality, easily standing up alongside their finest work, and could be seamlessly slipped into their live set.

8.5/10

Buy the damn thing here: https://metallica.com/store/featured

Guns n Roses – Live in Rio Review

wp_20161116_005-3So, a few months back I wrote a piece on the much lauded Guns n Roses “reunion”, saying what an awful idea it was. My argument was basically that it was a cynical money making venture and that Axl could not and would not cut it, as he has been largely shit for the last 20 years. I also suggested that the shows would be nowhere near as good as they were back in the day and that it was one more nostalgic nail in the coffin of modern rock.

However.

Then I saw the videos of the performances from the U.S and it was pretty damn obvious that Axl was actually cutting it. Maybe not like a hot knife through butter, but there were high notes and enthusiasm, and not just in GnR, but in AC/DC too. And with a broken foot.

Then, as the tour showed little sign of imploding and actually decided to roll on down to South America, what else could I do, but see for myself. wp_20161116_005-2

So the question is, did I eat my words?

Kinda.

After a functional set from the uninspired choice of opening act, Brazilian rockers Plebe Rude, and a surprisingly short interval, in which we got to see the really quite beautiful logo variations on the backdrop, the Looney Tunes theme blared out and it was showtime.

‘It’s So Easy’ kicked things off and we all went mental. Seriously. Once upon a time Guns n Roses was known as the most dangerous band in the world and for the first 15 minutes or so it was easy to see why. The crowd was like a raging sea as it bounced as one to the punk energy of the opener and the swagger of ‘Mr. Brownstone’, even ‘Chinese Democracy’ got people jumping before the teased intro to ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ eventually sent everyone ballistic. For a few moments Axl, Slash, Duff and Co rocked as hard as they ever did; sure they are a little slower and a little rounder, but they still know how to deliver a good old fashioned hard rock banger.

‘Double Talkin’ Jive’ immediately calmed things down a little and calm they stayed, for the underrated ‘Better’ and an absolutely epic performance of ‘Estranged’. Despite proving spectacular and one of the highlights of the night, this was the first of many rather indulgent mega ballads – we got them all, bar ‘Patience’.

‘Live and Let Die’ was predictably frantic, prior to the cool bass groove of the sorely underrated ‘Rocket Queen’; the already lengthy track gaining an extended midsection and sexy skeletons on the backdrop. There was another surprise in ‘Out Ta Get Me’ before the heroin chic of the tireless Duff McKagan pounded out the bass riff to ‘You Could Be Mine’ to get the crowd bouncing again. Although Axl was mostly excellent, reaching most of the high notes, it was here and more notably on ‘Coma’ that he struggled – the fast sections tripping him up a little. A mid set breather was due – cue Duff and his version of the Misfits‘Attitude’.

img-20161119-wa0002-2‘This I Love’ preceded the epics ‘Civil War’ and ‘Coma’ before the obligatory Slash solo of Speak Softly Love (Love Theme From The Godfather). It was all great stuff and the top hatted one still shreds, but the dude has been playing the same damn thing since I was a kid – talk about playing it safe. Was it then necessary to do an instrumental duet with Richard Fortus on ‘Wish You Were Here’? Sure, it was awesome, the crowd sung it, people cried and Slash and Richard nailed it, but two solo slots?
Sandwiched in between were the unbeatable ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ and the surprisingly fun ‘Yesterdays’, which proved much more enjoyable in the live arena than on record. In a neat twist they then segued ‘Wish You Were Here’ into the piano outro from ‘Layla’ to get Axl on the piano.

Only one song could follow, and follow it did. On the one hand November Rain epitomizes everything that is pretentious and overblown about GnR and can so easily turn into an awful lumbering spectacle of over indulgence. Thankfully though, the front man seems to be in a good place right now, despite him and Slash virtually ignoring each other all night, and he crooned his way though with technique and urgency, delivering one of the best vocals of the night. For some reason most of the crowd seemed to have balloons to go with cell phones and it all made for a quite beautiful spectacle, even more so as the massive full moon emerged above the stadium right on cue – I guess these kind of shared moments are the whole point of such nostalgic outings. Fair play Axl.img-20161117-wa0007-2

Two hours in and the vocalist was visibly enjoying himself as he rolled back the years to dart around the stage to conduct the crowd in a sing off on ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’. By now it was utterly shameless enjoyment of timeless classics, and we were certainly getting our money’s worth.
We rocked again for set closer ‘Nightrain’, but it was back to the ballads in the encore of ‘Don’t Cry’ with more extended guitar work. The Who‘s ‘The Seeker’ offered an irresistibly big riff, but we were really only waiting for ‘Paradise City’ to rock to an explosive close. And it did not disappoint – mosh pits opened up, swathes of bodies bounced as one and it was genuinely wild abandon in the crush – it almost felt like 1990 again.

The crowd actually demanded another encore, but the band returned merely to take a bow, all hugs and smiles.
img-20161117-wa0005-3

So, all in all, I guess you have to take your hat off to Guns n Roses – they are still a mighty proposition and deliver a fine performance. They are seasoned pros and know how to work a stage and get a crowd going, despite the minimal interaction between band members and between band and crowd.
Are they still dangerous? Not really, but they do rock and they are a pretty tight unit; they put on a show but it’s not over produced and works well with less people on stage – no horns, no backing singers, a cool backdrop of images and minimal pyrotechnics keeps it lean.

Is Axl the vocalist he was 25 years ago? He’s a damn sight closer to it now than he has been in the last 15 years. His range is impressive and he works the mic, but the impression is that age has taken it’s toll a little and slowed up the delivery, there may be an element of tiredness too.

Are they just in it for the money? Surely that is a factor, but then again they do seem to be enjoying themselves, so I’ll reserve judgement. Also, they may be raking in the cash, but at two and a half hours long their set is pretty damn good value.

Is it all just shameless nostalgia? Sure, of course, but when you are this good and the material still cuts it, then why the hell not? Quite how long the night train can roll on without new product though is open to question, as is whether or not the relationships will endure. In the meantime though, they are well worth the trip down memory lane.

Revoada

Revoada é o projeto que reúne duas bandas finas da cena Niteroiense, Barcamundi e Gragoatá, cujas trajetórias vêm entrelaçando há tempo. As bandas se conheceram nos meados de 2015, dividindo palcos, emprestando apoio uma á outra, criando uma afinidade e amizade entre os nove integrantes que se realiza num grupo só no EP audiovisual ‘Revoada.

“Revoada, bando de pássaro ou o voo da ave que volta ao local de onde partira, remete ao início das duas bandas, cujas primeiras músicas lançadas foram O Trem e o Pássaro (Barcamundi) e Passarinho (Gragoatá). O nome do EP simboliza um ciclo de renovação natural, simboliza revisitar as origens com perspectiva para os próximos voos. Revoada é um fruto pelo parentesco, que aponta para o semeio de novas ideias.”

O EP conta com seis músicas, sendo cinco inéditas, gravadas e filmadas ao vivo no Espaço Multifoco, na Lapa, pela Selo AudioVisual Útero, cujo produção é estilosomente executada em mais um trabalho de alta qualidade. A gravação do som é impecável, deixando espaço suficiente para os múltiplos instrumentos, enquanto a fotografia está sempre em busca de uma perspectiva inovadora.

O EP começa com o clima intimo, mas animado de ‘Menina’ (Renato Côrtes) em que as duas bandas entrelaçam numa entidade só; as vozes de João Barreira e Rebeca Sauwen se complementando lindamente. O conjunto de influências e instrumentos ajuda cria um som suavemente mesclando mpb, folk e indie com um leve toque de animação.

A meu ver ‘Balão’ (João Barreira) é o destaque. Partindo de um melancólico violão, a musica se constrói em camadas ricas criando uma textura linda em que a emotiva performance vocal duela com o excelente trabalho dos guitarristas. A intensidade cresce nas costas de um slide sublimo de Leon Navarro, (esse cara toca tudo!) e chega à apoteose com a emoção viva na voz da Rebeca – arrepiante!

‘A Grama do Seu Jardim’, uma musica antiga da Barcamundi é gostosamente reinterpretada aqui, beneficiando de uns integrantes a mais e varias toques pequenos que combinam numa musica gloriosamente rica – bom trabalho.

‘Novembro’ do excelente Fanner Horta se beneficia de um clima mais relaxada em que os integrantes se complementam perfeitamente. É uma musica quase infantil com suas toques sutis de instrumentação, mas sucede em criar uma textura rica, especialmente quando os vozes se juntam.

‘Amor Concreto’ (João Barreira), com a bela contribuição vocal da Gabriela Autran, é basicamente uma musica da Barcamundi levando uma melodia e groove típica da banda,. A guitarra do João adiciona um vibe levemente roqueira, enquanto os floreios de flauta levam para free jazz numa mistura surpreendente.

Em contraponto, ‘Rio Abaixo’ (Fanner Horte e Esther Martins) é mais de Gragoatá; a balada levando um toque de blues no ritmo, enquanto a acordeão dar uns ares franceses para complementar a personalidade no vocal Piathesque da Rebeca.

As seis músicas reveladas aqui são um exemplo do que essas bandas são capazes, mostrando os talentos invejáveis de todos os integrantes. Com a filmagem impecável do Útero o EP consegue ser uma produção muito gratificante e é esperançoso ver que existe tanto talento atuando de uma forma tão competente, mesmo comprometidos pelas limitações financeiras do atual cena musical. Parabéns aos todos envolvidos.

Metallica – Atlas, Rise! Review

I think the most striking thing about ‘Atlas, Rise!’, the third track to drop from the new Metallica album, is the obvious Iron Maiden influence. It’s there in the straightforward riffing, the high flying guitar lines, extended mid-section and slightly over-long running time. As such, it’s actually another pretty damn good track – high energy rather than thrashy – echoing much more of ‘Kill ’em All’ than of the convoluted ‘Justice’ era tracks.

Although there is an obvious step back in time, it doesn’t feel like a going back to their roots just to regain some credibility, it kinda sounds like they’ve maybe been listening to some old school tunes and rediscovered what got them excited in the first place. This, and the obvious hooks, succeed in lending an air of vibrancy that was lacking on ‘Death Magnetic’, making it as immediate a listen as ‘Hardwired’ and ‘Moth Into Flame’. Another plus point is that ‘Kirk Hammett is sounding rejuvenated as he delivers more fine soloing and if the video clip is anything to go by, James, Lars and co seem to be enjoying themselves. Whether ‘Atlas, Rise!’ stands the test of time remains to be seen, but it is certainly another promising snippet of what is to come. I haven’t been this excited about a Metallica album in years. Roll on November 18th.