Music Review: AMERICA by Thirty Seconds to Mars (Polydor)

30SecondsToMars-America“Your ears start bleeding” when one cranks modern music up to 11, Thirty Seconds to Mars frontman Jared Leto observed to Rolling Stone‘s Brian Hiatt. He has a point — modern music production methods tend to lean towards loud, busy and highly-compressed recording. “It used to be pleasurable to crank up Zeppelin or Nirvana to 12 in your car,” he continued. “Now everyone would complain — it’s so piercing, so bright.”

This observation struck me as a little odd coming from Leto: Thirty Seconds to Mars is one of the most melodramatic, cinematic rock bands working today: pretty much the whole of their This Is War album, for example, is operatic and bombastic. The concern about modern production, and the “brightness” of contemporary songs is popular among ‘purists’ and classic rock fans — it’s common to see comparisons of sounds wave graphs (which I admit is extremely nerdy) of Beatles recordings with those of recent singles. This concern seems to have informed Thirty Seconds to Mars’s America throughout. Continue reading

Advertisements

Quick Music Review: CATHARSIS by Machine Head (Nuclear Blast)

MachineHead-CatharsisI’ve been a fan of Machine Head’s music since 1999’s The Burning Red — an album that divided long-time fans of the Oakland bruisers’ earlier albums (1994’s Burn My Eyes and 1997’s The More Things Change…). I’ve loved most of their output ever since. During my undergraduate years, I was also lucky enough to interview drummer Dave McClain at a Roadrunner Road Rage gig in Newcastle, when I was running my music fanzine (the sadly-defunct-but-fondly-remembered MWRI. While I’ve found their previous couple of albums very good, I don’t think they did much to move the band forward. With Catharsis, however, Machine Head have done a lot to reinvent their sound while at the same time staying true to their thrash/metal roots. Continue reading

Music: Five Finger Death Offspring…

Yesterday, during one of my many YouTube music-video binges, I stumbled across the new video for Five Finger Death Punch’s “Gone Away” (above). I had missed its release entirely (despite 5FDP being one of my favourite bands), and quickly realized it was a (very faithful) cover of The Offspring’s song of the same name. It’s been a long time since I last listened to anything by Offspring (which is strange, because I love their earlier albums), but it was amazing how quickly the lyrics came flooding back. So, naturally, I sang along. It was a welcome trip down memory lane.

5FDP’s cover appears on their greatest hits (so far) collection, A Decade of Destruction. The original song (video below) appeared on Offspring’s Ixnay on the Hombre album (1996) — the follow up to the appropriately-named Smash (1994).

Quick Review: A HISTORY OF HEAVY METAL by Andrew O’Neill (Headline)

ONeillA-HistoryOfHeavyMetalUKAn entertaining romp through a comedian’s history of heavy metal

The history of heavy metal brings brings us extraordinary stories of larger-than-life characters living to excess, from the household names of Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Bruce Dickinson and Metallica (SIT DOWN, LARS!), to the brutal notoriety of the underground Norwegian black metal scene and the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. It is the story of a worldwide network of rabid fans escaping everyday mundanity through music, of cut-throat corporate arseholes ripping off those fans and the bands they worship to line their pockets. The expansive pantheon of heavy metal musicians includes junkies, Satanists and murderers, born-again Christians and teetotallers, stadium-touring billionaires and toilet-circuit journeymen.

Award-winning comedian and life-long heavy metal obsessive Andrew O’Neill has performed his History of Heavy Metal comedy show to a huge range of audiences, from the teenage metalheads of Download festival to the broadsheet-reading theatre-goers of the Edinburgh Fringe. Now, in his first book, he takes us on his own very personal and hilarious journey through the history of the music, the subculture, and the characters who shaped this most misunderstood genre of music.

There is so much to love in Andrew O’Neill’s A History of Heavy Metal. O’Neill’s love for the genres is clear and rings true throughout. He’s opinionated, clear in his opinions, and damned funny. As he mentions at one point, metalheads are nerds, and this book is packed with nerdy details for all metal fans of any age. For me, it evoked my favourite music journalism from the ’90s and early 2000s, but with extra humour. Continue reading

Music: BARNS COURTNEY

BarnsCourtney-DullDrumsI only just discovered Barns Courtney‘s music. Thanks to the eclectic radio station they usually have on, my favourite coffeeshop in Toronto has been a pretty great place to discover new music (or, new to me in some cases). Earlier this week, Courtney’s “Fire” came on and it grabbed my attention. I’ve been listening to his EP, The Dull Drums pretty much constantly ever since. Released by Virgin EMI, here is the short tracklist:

  1. “Fire”
  2. “Glitter & Gold”
  3. “Little Boy”
  4. “Hellfire”
  5. “Hands”

Continue reading

Quick Review: LEARNING TO FLY: LEARNING TO FLY (Orion)

WallM-FooFightersA quick biography of Nirvana Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters…

The definitive, no-holds-barred biography of one of the biggest-selling rock bands in the world, the Foo Fighters.

Everyone from Sir Paul McCartney and Jimmy Page to Queens of the Stone Age now relishes the chance to share a stage with Dave Grohl and his legendary Foo Fighters. The question is: why? Musical depth? Not really. Major success? Well, yes. Despite no longer shifting albums in the same quantity as they did twenty years ago, this band can still fill stadiums the world over (when Dave’s not breaking his leg, of course).

Long before Kurt Cobain blew his brains out in 1994, Dave Grohl was planning for a life after Nirvana. The unflinching bright sunlight to Cobain’s permanent midnight darkness, Grohl had come from a similar broken home to his erstwhile band leader, but came out of the experience differently – brimming with positivity and a shrewd grasp of opportunities in the music industry.

Did Grohl merely take the sonic blueprint of Nirvana and embellish it with a more life-affirming pop sheen? Of course he did. Every band in America that sold over a million records in the post-grunge 90s did the same. The difference was that Grohl had real credibility. And he knew it.

With exclusive testimony from true insiders (including Krist Novoselic, Grohl’s bass-playing partner in Nirvana, ex-girlfirends, record company executives, tour photographers and confidantes), this book is an exploration of the real story behind Grohl and the Foo Fighters — the only serious literary biography of the group and its leader, one of the most famous and critically bulletproof rock figures of the 21st century.

I waited a long time to pick up this book. I sadly cannot say that it was worth the wait. This is, at best, a mediocre re-hash of information you’ll find elsewhere from more-informed and better writers. Yes, it covers everything important in Dave Grohl’s musical career. But it’s not particularly enlightening, nor is it gripping. It is not definitive. It is by no means “literary”, either — the interpretation and analysis is simplistic and not particularly deep. At least, not that provided by Wall. He does interview some people who know what they’re talking about. Continue reading

Music Recommendation: HANDS LIKE HOUSES

HandsLikeHouses-Dissonants2016

Another band I discovered through Outburn (same issue, in fact, as the one that led me to Polyphia), Hands Like Houses‘s new album — Dissonants — has also become a new, heavy-rotation favourite. The Australians’ third album has already spawned a handful of singles, with accompanying videos. Here are the best three:

“I Am” — this is also the first song on the album, and a good, strong intro to the band, with a hook/chorus that has embedded itself in my memory…

“Colourblind”

“Glasshouse”