Charlie Munro – Maverick (2014) – Album Review

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Sometimes you’ll be on the internet and you’ll come across something you like. Having a YouTube account and following various label pages grants access to a wide variety of music and whilst liking a lot of heavy music can lead to a constant cycle of bands copying one another every now and then you come across someone with a bit of ambition.

This week is happens to be Charlie Munro with his album “Maverick”. It begins delicately and seemingly an exploration or demonstration into ‘look how nice I can play the guitar’. Quarter of an hour in however after ‘II – Insanity Void’ has finished it’s clear this man possesses some talent and a penchant for writing indulgent songs that astonish as opposed to annoy. The rhythmic irregularities are actually good to listen to, not being thrown around at random intervals but picked carefully and cleverly.

Instrumental albums can be quite a leap of faith for some, the lack of vocal melody is akin to the lack of dialogue in a modern film. A coherent narrative is never too hard to pick out however. With open influences from the likes of Coheed & CambriaDillinger Escape PlanBetween the Buried and Me and many more it’s no surprise Charlie Munro knows how to string a melody together into an hour long piece; ‘V – Perfect Cosmic Meltdown’ carries influences from Yes or even 90s Steve Vai. Riff city is also alive, ‘VIII – Archeus’ shows this before turning in on itself into a jazzy, funky reggae song. Good stuff.

In a quick summary this release was definitely a nice surprise when trudging through mountains of genericism. The guy is talented and has some interesting ideas. Given the right balance of counterpart musicians he should be able to find the sweet spot that’ll grant him the success he desires. However currently he’s a student so study hard!

Verdict - 7/10 - It’s great for a solo effort, especially granted the limited success. It does could benefit from a band keeping Munro‘s idea in check and whittling down the unnecessary parts. Asides from that it’s pretty good if instrumental progressive metal is your thing.

 

Listen to the album for free at BandCamp and if you like it don’t forget to support the artist!

Slash, featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators – World on Fire (2014) – Album Review

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Slash returns once again into a land which is thankfully familiar. His releases with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators are becoming regular on the cycle between Slash and Alter Bridge. The new album “World On Fire” rides along the same vein as “Apocalyptic Love” without sounding too much like it’s predecessor. At one hour and 17 minutes it is a considerably long album for  a heavy rock band, but with the years of experience carried on all the musicians shoulders it shouldn’t be too much to maintain the intensity.

The opener and title track feels familiar enough. Lightning fast, simple structure and wailing vocals. It’s not a format for what is to come but it’s a easy route in, being the lead single too means the listener will be dropped into familiar territory. It also is the first song in a long while in which Myles Kennedy uses profanity, just a little bit of trivia. ‘Shadow Life’, ’30 Years to Life’, and ‘Wicked Stone’ ensure a strong start to the album. Each track worthy of merit in  Slash‘s ever-growing back catalogue. They each contain little bits that sound like throwaways from “Apocalyptic Life” but the experienced musicians know how to alter the songs and give them a life of their own. ’30 Years to Life’ notably is one of the best tracks on the album; it’s dynamic and balanced well pace wise.

The album is effectively in two parts, due to it’s extraordinary length. In the second half ‘Battleground’ is one song that adds a beautiful element to the album. A traditional Slash ballad in a sense but, as with most softer songs, it’s Myles vocals that shine above everything else. The construction of this is familiar with Guns ”Illusion” era but Myles alters it just enough and again asserts himself as rocks vocal titan of the modern age. No means the deepest and best ballad but it’s a great “feel good” song, and utilises a “la la la” passage that is so often messed up by other artists. it’s all rock n roll but there’s no reason you can’t smile once in a while. ‘Iris of the Storm’ is another staple point on the album, great melodies and a direction away from the traditional “amped up blues”, nothing wrong with it but the change in dynamics makes it stand out. ‘Avalon’ reintroduces pace whilst ‘The Dissident’ makes use of the “oohs” and “aahs” in a fresh way again. It also bounces between moods very well, in the latter song, and towards the end becomes a really good ‘pop’ song.

‘Safar Inn’ is a surprise instrumental, and at 3 minutes it’s a good length for a quick blast of indulgence without being too arrogant. The jazzy undertones in favour of  solid heavy blues throughout keep up the energy and interest. The final track could almost entirely be comprised of praise for Myles. His voice may not suit heavy rock brilliantly (some people’s opinions) but the labyrinth of melodies on ‘The Unholy’ are astounding. Slash has definitely found the vocalist he’s been looking for for 30 years. The vocals combined with the dooming instrumentals make this track stand out too. Definitely one of the “keepers” should the album have been whittled down.

In the end it’s clear that Slash, featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators is totally separate any previous work by other artists. Sounds obvious but there’s few instances of “This sounds like Alter BridgeGuns n Roses or Velvet Revolver“, Snakepit at a push but Slash has found a formula that works and is sticking to it. That’s a good thing. Perhaps trimming the album or expanding to a double would have been best for “World On Fire” as it’s a little too cumbersome to listen to all the way through. It’s got it’s share of throwaways, generally the shorter songs. Not bad songs but in comparison to the rest they seem wasted.

Verdict – 8/10 - It seems to be a grower. The fat could have been trimmed heavily but thankfully the 90% of good material is absolutely solid. Possibly better than “Apocalyptic Love” and in a different ball park to the rest of the catalog.

U2 – Songs of Innocence (2014) – Album Review

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Surprise surprise. U2 have released “Songs of Innocence” for free for every iTunes customer, generous move. Obviously they’ll have been subsidised  by the mega-money giant but the surprise of opening your iPod to see the new album downloading is still a nice gesture. U2 however have not recaptured their creative genius that came with albums like “The Joshua Tree”, and “Achtung Baby”. The last few albums haven’t missed out on their share of great songs, but having a wall to wall album of inspiring album is a far cry.

It’s definitely a pop album. It’s also clear they’ve been listening to current popular music in their time away. The recent “band revolution” is clearly inspiring on this album, ‘The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)’ clearly attributing guitar styles that have come to prominence again. An obvious contender for their pop anthem is ‘Song for Someone’, which is U2 through and through but again has clearly taken inspiration from modern music, for the better. It does lack in that it doesn’t live up to their previous ‘ballads’ but credit is due for evolving the sound, one thing U2 manage to do well (sometimes not so well) is change their sound to what fits the time best. ‘Iris (Hold Me Close)’ is one of the songs that molds the two styles and produces a genuinely great song, definitely one of the best songs on the album. ‘Raised By Wolves’ too is one which feels like U2 finding their good streak again, whilst ‘Cedarwood Road’ adds a delicate acoustic guitar riff to the normally spacious and airy music which balances well with the normally effects laden music.

“Songs of Innocence” sounds like U2 in their early days, but more mature, with inspiration from today’s music meaning it doesn’t sound aged. No, it isn’t fantastic and it’s songs likely won’t be remembered in as bright a light as classics like ‘One’ and ‘With Or Without You’ will but it’s still a reflective evolution of the band’s career, whilst continuing to move forward musically. The influence of the modern era can sometimes hold it back, sometimes sounding as though it’s playing catch up with what’s popular. But their willingness to escape ego of what is “U2‘s sound” and advance it is what makes them a great band.

Verdict – 7/10 – It’s enjoyable but missing that divine spark.

Pulled Apart By Horses – Blood (2014) – Album Review

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Leeds locals Pulled Apart By Horses have offered their latest album “Blood” up to the table of scrutiny. Their alt.Rock sound goes further with this record, immediately sounding familiar yet different to their last. Sounding more early 90s, late 80s American Surf Rock than the previous releases, “Blood” contains more catchy songs, written very maturely but still packs the youthful punch that the band are garnering a reputation for.

Opener ‘Hot Squash’ immediately draws upon modern Foos influences, however dives quickly into darker territory  popularised by Queens of the Stone Age. A co-headline tour between these with Pulled supporting would probably be the ultimate goal. What follows is clearly something that would have been one of the best underdog albums of the 90s. ‘Lizard Baby’ is the first “chanty” song, brilliantly written for the live atmosphere.

“Blood” has it’s share of what would be happy catchy songs for playing at the beach. The grunge influence and raspier vocals add an extra texture that prove this album was definitely released 20 years too late. The best thing about it is the dirtiness it has, the pace rarely lets up too which can be a criticism as much as a compliment. It’d be nice if things slowed down once in a while, not for a ballad, but just bringing in the ‘stoner vibes’, however it’s an adrenaline album that gets the blood pumping.

The album does peter out towards the end, the vibe is still the same and is likely just a case of mis-dynamics. Had they altered a bit it would have given the journey the proper lift and fall it needed. Saying that ‘Medium Rare’ is one of the better tracks, with the clear grunge vibe. That and closer ‘Golden Monument’.

Verdict - 7/10

Royal Blood – Royal Blood (2014) – Album Review

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Royal Blood are an exceptionally talented duo who without releasing an album have already amassed a gigantic fanbase. Packing out festival tents in the afternoon is no easy feat but Royal Blood had thousands swarming the venues. They’re debut album sees the songs which everyone knows so well, but doesn’t know how, release together in a 30 minute order.

30 minutes doesn’t seem very long but with the single pace of the album it flows well and any longer would result in neck injuries or tiresome of the vibe. The second album will likely be longer and with softer dynamics. There’s a lot of energy in “Royal Blood” and it’s something that needs to be crafted carefully from now on. With the instant success of the album it’ll gain the attraction of money markers who are intent to put their mark on the music industry, as long as Royal Blood can continue crafting their unique rock music.

The opening three tracks summarise the album best. ‘Out of the Black’ is a head banging anthem whilst ‘Come On Over’ adds in elements of Muse and Rage Against the Machine, with ‘Figure It Out’ being the ultimate in catchy rock songs. ‘Ten Tonne Skeleton’ too brings in the elements of those two bands, in a huge song that’ll be ringing in your head for days.

Not every track is 100% but the vast majority, especially the ones mentioned, hit the mark beautifully. It’s catchy in a pop element but it’s not sanitised, still containing it’s raw passion and emotion that certifies this as one of the better rock albums you’ll hear on Radio One this year. Seriously big things to come from this duo and for a band without a guitarist they could be the next band that brings guitars back. The modern music scene has a lot of guitar music without realising, Royal Blood however may bridge the gap between the ‘single listeners’ and the ‘album listeners’.

Verdict – 8/10 - The next big rock band, as long as they stay on the right track.

Listening Playlist – August 2014

A lot of these are based on my experience at Reading Festival so actually contains stuff I hadn’t heard before. Also contains some classics but only 3 are albums I’d heard more than once before the festival.

  • Songs for the Deaf – Queens of the Stone Age – Absolutely shone at Reading. Definitely one of the best bands there and arguabley the best headliner. From front to back they were enjoyable.
  • Royal Blood – Royal Blood - A new band who managed to pack out their tent at Reading. Big things to come from this band, interesting style of just bass and drums but arguably using just the rhythm section gives them the advantage over the over saturation of guitar/drummer duos. Imagine Muse but raw.
  • Himalayan – Band of Skulls - There’s something about southern styled rock that’s actually from England (the south as it happens). BOS are catchy and have some great songs that have that vintage feel.
  • Pale Communion - Opeth - Naturally brilliant. Strong release and a clear comfortable direction. Enjoyable for anyone who likes the band’s current direction or if you appreciate music, truly beautiful.
  • Pulled Apart By Horses Pulled Apart By Horses - The debut of this band is great. Exciting and fun. Doesn’t take itself too seriously but is evident it’s not a parody. A fun and dirty rock album
  • Heaven & Earth – Yes - Surprisingly decent despite the immense history. Nowhere near as good as the classics but it’s light and happy which is all it takes to make something good.
  • Möngöl Hörde – Möngöl Hörde - Violent. Only really included because of their live show but the album is decent. They have to be seen live though.
  • Once More ‘Round the Sun – Mastodon - Listened to many a time but still great. Probably not as good as the rest of their albums, at least most but it’s good enough.
  • AM – Arctic Monkeys - This is the Monkeys‘ “Black Album”. It’s enjoyable, catchy and all round good. But it’s not as good as the later albums and now they have to be careful with their next release. Let the producers and board in too much then the northern charm will have all but disappeared.
  • Snakes & Arrows – Rush - Hadn’t heard this album before but upon listening I’d realised how many songs I actually liked, from watching the live shows. It’s not wall to wall but ‘Far Cry’ and ‘Working Them Angels’ are brilliant whilst the instrumentals pack a punch.