Saturday, 27 October 2012

Coheed and Cambria - The Afterman: Ascension

Welcome Home, Prog!

Before I start, I'll admit I haven't really heard much of Coheed and Cambria before. I had only heard their song 'Welcome Home' which is a belter of a track, and I knew they had a very loyal, and hard-rocking fan base, so I didn't have a lot of prior knowledge to go by when listening to their latest effort 'The Afterman: Ascension'.

For those who are unfamiliar with the band, they are an American band who formed in 1995, and are a mixture of progressive rock, metal and post-hardcore. The vocalist has a mental voice and his range is fairly extraordinary. Also his hair is something special.

Again, as with the Stone Sour album I previously reviewed, this album is part of a double concept album too. Instead this time, the focus is on the Amory Wars; a fight between the Kilgannons and Wilhelm Ryan. It's a heroic journey full of intricately created characters. But now on to the actual content of the record:

The beginning of the album starts with this beautifully played piano section, aided by eerie, almost robotic-like spoken word. Then the transition begins to the second track, and the delay effect from the guitar kicks in, as does everything else and then the unique vocals are introduced as the album begins its journey. You can tell the band have carefully thought this record through, because it seems to be incredibly cohesive throughout and also they have taken the time to create a perfectly produced album. Normally I don't care too much about production, but it is noticeable that The Afterman is made to sound like an Odyssey, a pure hallucinogenic-esque trip. The musicianship is very strong, the band members know how to play the hell out of their instruments.

I will say I am a sucker for a lot of prog music, especially pioneers such as Dream Theater and Rush. This album has moments that are not only inspired by these bands, but certainly compete with them to be just as iconic. There isn't a real comparison I can make to their older work, but this album definitely makes me want to listen to their other material. It shows that prog music is relevant in 2012.

To conclude, it is a solid album for a band who haven't quite broken the mainstream, but this may help them be noted. The sequel to this record, entitled 'The Afterman: Descension' is expected to be released in February 2013, so not long to wait. This album is not necessary aimed at the typical Dungeons & Dragons 'geeks', but it is aimed at those who appreciate good quality music with a great storyline.

Stand-out tracks on this album: Key Entity Extraction I: Domino the Destitute, Key Entity Extraction IV: Evagria the Faithful

Rating: 7 out of 10

Friday, 26 October 2012

Muse - The 2nd Law

Freddie Mercury / Skrillex Tribute Act

I'll be completely honest; I was very apprehensive about listening to this record, for a number of reasons. When I heard Muse were releasing a new album, of course I was extremely excited, but when they mentioned they would add elements of Dubstep, Dance and various other obscure genres, I immediately panicked. Don't get me wrong, I love Dubstep, but I couldn't imagine it working in a Muse album. But I gave them the benefit of the doubt and gave 'The 2nd Law' a listen.

When I saw Muse live at Wembley Stadium roughly 2 years ago, I thought it was one of the best gigs I've ever been to. Everything from the atmosphere of 90,000 fans singing along to anthems such as 'Plug in Baby', to the astounding stage effects, and the pure musicianship of the trio. So I was hoping for anything reminiscent of their older work on this new album.

Well, I was surprised. The one thing I didn't expect from an experimental Muse album was for it to be boring, but unfortunately that's all I could think when listening to it. I hoped and prayed it would be somewhat exciting and atmospheric, but I didn't get what I wished for. Musically, it was competent, but there was no feel of extravaganza. It almost felt too safe, which is surprising seeing as it was meant to be Muse taking a new direction. The whole album screamed out 'Queen' (the band, not the old bird sitting on the throne) As we know, singer Matt Bellamy has a massive man-crush on the great Freddie Mercury, however at times this record just felt like a pure rip-off of Queen.

Now to answer the question you've been dying to ask; how did the Dubstep elements fit in? Well my answer is they were probably the highlight of the album. When it got to the tracks that escaped the cheesy sounds of 1960's rock, the modern sounds of Dubstep gave the album a slight boost. In a way it worked, but nothing groundbreaking. Korn's Dubstep inspired album 'The Path of Totality' is one you would wanna listen to, so you can hear the hybrid of genres work successfully.

So overall, a decent attempt at something new by one of the world's greatest bands, but it is nothing that is revolutionary.

Stand-out tracks: Survival (yes it gets more catchy the more you listen to it) Unsustainable.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Stone Sour - House of Gold & Bones; pt.1

Stone Sour, turned Sweet

I was very excited to hear this album, as I am a fairly big Stone Sour fan, but even more so a massive Corey Taylor (lead vocalist) fan. The album is the first installment of a double concept album. It's a tale about a man who is on a journey to seek happiness, after battling the trauma of heartbreak. The background information made me really eager to listen to it, and now that I have, I will share my thoughts with you.

The opening track called 'Gone Sovereign' pretty much sets the scene for the whole album. A dark, eerie song about the lead character's life and own emotion. We can sense the intensity of his life from the heavy guitar riffs and the strain in Corey's voice. The band convey the emotion fantastically throughout, we grasp a real connection with the story. The lyrics portray a narrative that is not only beautifully crafted, but leaves a genuine message about morality.

Stone Sour have stepped their game up and gone out of their comfort zone to produce for what I believe is their best album yet. The soft, angelic acoustic parts provide a smooth contrast with the gut-wrenching killer riffs and aggressive vocals. The fourth song on the album, entitled 'The Travellers, Pt.1' is an incredible song, albeit that it's only 2 and a half minutes long, that ties together the heavier moments of the album to make the whole thing flow. Musically, guitarist Jim Root has improved immensely, his solos are filled with raw emotion. The music supports the story so well and it sounds as natural as if they were going to make a regular studio record.

House of Gold & Bones; Pt.1 leaves you feeling amazed, and waiting in anticipation for Part 2, which is said to be released in May 2013. The underdogs of the Hard Rock world, who always lived in Slipknot's shadow, have come out into the limelight and have proved to any critics that they can compete with any band and claim their place as the next best and biggest thing in their genre. A fantastic album, and for my money, the best thing I've heard this year. Roll on 2013!

Stand-out tracks are: Absolute Zero, The Travellers Pt.1, My Name Is Allen.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Review Requests

If you have any albums/singles you would like me to review, please leave a comment and I'll get reviewing them a.s.a.p!

Thanks,
Tom