Sunday, 12 May 2013

Queensrÿche - Frequency Unknown (2013)

1. Cold
2. Dare
3. Give It to You
4. Slave
5. In the Hands of God
6. Running Backwards
7. Life Without You
8. Everything
9. Fallen
10. The Weight of the World
11. I Don't Believe in Love 2013
12. Empire 2013
13. Jet City Woman 2013
14. Silent Lucidity 2013

Not the F.U. we were hoping for – 6,8/10

When it comes to Geoff Tate and the credibility of his more recent albums, I think it’s fair to say he has become an acquired taste. Who once sung glorious melodies in equally glorious compositions in the early years of Queensrÿche has undergone multiple changes. Changes are good. Never stay the same. However, changes have to be for the good. Tate lost a lot of his vocal range and, more recently, lost his manners. Now I shall do my best not to refer to his shameless attitude that has polluted online media the last year, but it is becoming harder and harder to like this chap. But when you take away the attitude, take away the rushed context, the inferior production, the legacy of Queensrÿche… Basically, when you look upon the album as if brand new, would we still hate it as much?

I will admit, I’ve always loved Geoff Tate. In times where albums like American Soldier or Dedicated to Chaos were mercilessly burned to the ground by critics, I managed to find things to love in a place where most wanted to puke. I took it for granted that would be the case with Frequency Unknown. Even though Tate has been kicked out of the band, he does manage to make his album sound like it could’ve been the next Queensrÿche record, had he not been kicked out, which is of course not a very plausible scenario. Yes, he has used these outside writers again, even though they are now inside, and yes, his voice has decayed just a little more since the previous effort. Millions of guest musicians play on this record including four drummers, three bassists, thousands of guitarists, but fortunately only one vocalist. Yet the music still sounds like Queensrÿche has sounded since Q2k, only slightly heavier.

Which brings us to the sound of the record. Tate desperately had to make a metal record. If the fanbase was leaving him because he wasn’t metal enough, he would just release a metal record, get everybody happy and go back to sleep, right? Unfortunately for him, that’s not the way it works. I rather enjoy hearing Tate doing what Tate does, but this is not what Tate does. This is what he comes up with when put under pressure and that is a shame. Yes, it’s heavy, but very grungy as well, treading the same territory the band had trodden on efforts like Tribe, Hear in the Now Frontier or Q2k. I will, however, not deny that “In the Hands of God” for instance reminds me heavily of Promised Land, and that “Life Without You” takes me back to 1990’s Empire, or even that “The Weight of the World” fits the list of classic album closers like “I Will Remember”, “Anybody’s Listening?” and “Big Noize”. So again, the album is not alienating fans at all, but merely raising their eyebrows regarding said context. Going back to these familiar sounds feels like a routine. Tate himself sounds a bit bored on occasion, and that is because he is used to challenging himself, but not here. Not on Frequency Unknown, where no new ground is trodden.

Lyrically, Tate exposes himself as a desperate man, who sees his world collapse around him, but who in response ignorantly raises a clenched fist and adopts this angry, tough guy attitude… like a child would. Every song can be interpreted to be about the ongoing lawsuits and chart battles… and the split. “Dare”, a simple song which any band has written before, but discarded because the idea seemed fun for just a few minutes, has clear lyrics without deep layers, like we are used to from Tate. “You won’t dare hurt me, for you just might get hurt yourself!” Yes, very profound indeed. “Slave” is a very powerful rocker with equally weak lyrics. Then there’s shallow lyrics like on “Cold”, “Life Without You” and “Everything,” which of course can be interpreted to be about the split as well, but with or without that connection they are not up to standards set by the lyrical content of albums like Rage for Order, Empire or even Dedicated to Chaos. A positive exception is the somewhat forced but successful epic “The Weight of the World,” where Tate openly reflects upon his future and where he genuinely weeps a little about the coming fall (pun intended).

Looking back on Frequency Unknown, it stirred up a little commotion due to its context and its pathetic cover art, but take away all of it and what you have is a pretty standard post-DeGarmo Queensrÿche album, even though I have a hard time seeing this as a genuine Queensrÿche record. Still, what we’re offered is pretty decent for fans of Tate’s post-DeGarmo mindset. It’s just not the F.U. we were hoping for.

Finest moments: “In the Hands of God”, “The Weight of the World” and “Slave”.
Worst moments: “Dare”, “Running Backwards”, all of the re-recordings.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Meat Loaf - Bat Out of Hell 3: The Monster is Loose (2006)

1. The Monster is Loose
2. Blind as a Bat
3. It's All Coming Back to Me Now
4. Bad for Good
5. Cry Over Me
6. In the Land of the Pig, the Butcher is King
7. Monstro
8. Alive
9. If God Could Talk
10. If It Ain't Broke Break It
11. What About Love
12. Seize the Night
13. The Future Ain't What It Used To Be
14. Cry to Heaven

Third Time's The Charm – 8,2/10

Meat Loaf was just doing his thing with all kinds of other albums when suddenly, out of the blue, the third installment in the Bat Out of Hell series was announced. Even noted composer of the first two albums in the series Jim Steinman was apparently caught off guard as lawsuits between the two occurred soon after. What was Meat Loaf thinking using the Bat Out of Hell name for a third time, and this time without new genuine material from his longtime friend Steinman?

Our dearest Meat Loaf has carefully picked a few Steinman songs from the past that he would cover on this album. It was a Bat Out of Hell album after all and it required some over-the-top rock ’n roll epics. Most of it, however, was taken from Steinman’s solo record Bad for Good from 1981 and Pandora’s Box’ sole album Original Sin from 1989. Other tracks like “Cry to Heaven” or “In the Land of the Pig” were demos for a Batman musical due in 2003, but which was cancelled eventually. Steinman’s songs are huge and make the Bat Out of Hell part of this record. The other half is taken care of by notable songwriter Desmond Child and his team. This is what makes the Monster Loose. They introduce a new, catchy, modern rock sound for Meat Loaf that makes him almost sound nu-metal at times. The combination is very refreshing and actually just what the Bat-franchise needed. Where Bat 1 was a downright classic, Bat 2 was a dull attempt at copying part 1 and Bat 3 makes a suiting close to the series and ends it on a high level.

“The Monster is Loose”! Deep, heavy guitar riffs welcome us into this dark track and a bombastic chorus totally masks Meat Loaf’s usually light and cheerful atmosphere. If the name wasn’t on the album cover, we’d hardly recognize his voice. “Blind as a Bat” continues on the dark, modern vibe the title track ignited and shows us Desmond Child has penned Meat some tunes totally equivalent of the post-1977 songs by Jim Steinman, who debuts on this album with 1989’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now”, made famous by Céline Dion. Meat’s rendition sounds very theatrical as he engages in a duet with Marion Raven. The second Steinman track is “Bad for Good”, featuring Brian May on guitar. This track was actually meant for the second Meat album and you can hear this old school rock ‘n roll vibe throughout, but the modernized sound doesn’t conceal the song’s a downright epic with energetic themes. Had they used this for Bat 2, that album would’ve been a lot better. These first four songs show the beautiful contrast between Child’s darker, heavier and more modern songs and Steinman’s over-the-top stash of melodic, theatrical rock ‘n roll.

Other notable moments on the record are the previously unheard Steinman track “In the Land of the Pig, the Butcher is King”, featuring the celebrated Steve Vai on lead guitars. It contains some good punch and a haunting atmosphere that fits this record’s dark environment. Desmond Child delivers to highlights with the catchy “Alive” and the gripping “If God Could Talk”. These songs have those bombastic choruses that get stuck in your head without becoming nuisances, if you know what I mean. Steinman again proves himself a master with 1989’s magnum opus “Seize the Night”; a beautiful orchestra introduces the piece that goes through many themes; from small piano-driven passages to dark symphonic rock riffs; from traditional Steinman verses to Latin-choirs at the chorus. From the songs not mentioned, they are almost all a joy for the ear. With talented songwriters like Child and Steinman delivering some of their finest works on this record, you will hear only one track you might want to skip. “If It Ain’t Broke, Break It” is a rock song by Steinman, but has a very weak chorus trying to be heavy and hard but failing completely on both platforms.

In the end, Bat Out of Hell 3: The Monster is Loose is the ultimate classic of modern Meat Loaf. It contains al the Steinman-ness of the previous Bats in high quality, but doesn’t lose its potential of being a rock album first and foremost; something which Meat Loaf is focusing on a lot on his newer records. It’s what I’d call a suitable disclosure for the Bat Out of Hell series and I would highly recommend it to any fan of this singer.

Strongest tracks: “Bad for Good”, “Alive”, “If God Could Talk” and “Seize the Night”.
Weakest track: “If It Ain’t Broke Break It”.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Wayne Static - Pighammer (2011)

1. Pighammer
2. Around the Turn
3. Assassins of Youth
4. Thunder Invader
5. Static Killer
6. She
7. Get It Together
8. Chrome Nation
9. Shifter
10. Slave
11. The Creatures are Everywhere
12. Behind the Sky

Static without the X – 7,2/10

This little piggy had candy…
This little piggy comes home…
This little piggy went around the turn…
And this little piggy went …!

And with this twisted version of the famous little piggy poem Wayne Static introduces us to his long-awaited solo record Pighammer. After the sad breakup of Static-X, Wayne decided to go solo and if anything, Pighammer testifies how Wayne was responsible for Static-X’s trademark sound. The album might not be covering a lot of new territories for Static, but honestly, did anyone ever really expect that?

Static’s career with Static-X had seen highs and lows but ended on a definite low with 2009’s Cult of Static. They were out of fresh ideas and the whole band sounded tired as well. Maybe the breakup was necessary. With Pighammer, Wayne definitely proves he is not weakened by the break-up of his former band. In fact, he just goes on where Static-X left it: heavy industrial metal. This time around, the elements that required the other members have either been erased or replaced. The low growls of Tony Campos, the guitar solos by Koichi Fukuda and the drums of Ken Jay are all gone. Instead we have a drum computer throughout the album and increased electronic elements are passages. This last element is actually quite refreshing and even a little experimental in some tracks.

Wayne doesn’t want to alienate us loyal fans. “Around the Turn” features his trademark barking and a march-like industrial tune to warm us all up for the adventure that is Pighammer. Though the song stands its ground, things are getting more intense with the single “Assassins of Youth”, a song about Wayne’s drug use and how he got rid of his addiction. It’s very powerful and full of adrenaline, which is continued by the energizing “Thunder Invader”. “Static Killer” takes us back to Wisconsin Death Trip-styled industrial with the typical computerized keys and the sexual moans of pornstar Tera Wray-Static in the intro. The song itself is okay, but with “She” the album steps up again. With the spoken word-styled verses and a danceable groove at the chorus, it’s quite a unique song for this record. Further highlights include the hard-as-hell “Chrome Nation” and the very experimental “The Creatures are Everywhere”, which makes more ambient use of the electronic elements. The other tracks are all fine, except for “Get It Together”, which gets on my nerves.

In short, Wayne Static got himself a nice solo record out and it’s not bad at all. If you like Static-X, there is no reason why you wouldn’t like Pighammer, because it has the typical Static-X vibe to most of the tracks. It’s actually a whole lot better than 2009’s Cult of Static and in a way also it’s follow-up. There’s nothing more to say about this album than I already have.

Strongest tracks: “Assassins of Youth”, “Thunder Invader” and “She”.
Weakest tracks: “Get It Together” and “Slave”.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Meat Loaf - Bat Out of Hell 2: Back into Hell (1993)

1. I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)
2. Life is a Lemon and I Want My Money Back
3. Rock 'n Roll Dreams Come Through
4. It Just Won't Quit
5. Out of the Frying Pan (and Into the Fire)
6. Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are
7. Wasted Youth
8. Everything Louder Than Everything Else
9. Good Girls Go to Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere)
10. Back into Hell
11. Lost Boys and Golden Girls

A Pathetic Attempt at Reliving Old Days – 6,5/10

Not many will have forgotten the huge impact the first Bat Out of Hell made on the music world. Well, at least Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf haven’t. After Meat Loaf’s announced hiatus from recording in 1987, he said he wanted to wait for more Steinman material to work with. While some of his albums since 1981’s Dead Ringer did feature a single Steinman song, he thought it was time to record another full Steinman album. And what better way is there to attract attention than to name your new album to the most successful one?

Seriously, what does album have to do with the first Bat Out of Hell? Apart from Steinman and Meat Loaf, absolutely nothing! It’s not as if the first part was a concept album to be further explored on this release. It’s a purely commercial move. And that just stinks. It makes the listener expect the album to be just as good as the first part, which… it just isn’t. It’s not a bad record, but not quite outstanding either. Jim Steinman was even that lazy that he used songs from his 1981 solo album Bad for Good for this release. He only wrote half of the songs especially for this album. How motivated was he on this reunion? Seeing as he hasn’t released anything significant since, we might as well conclude he was hoping to get one more quick cash grab and then disappear. It’s really a shame, but Meat Loaf is not to blame. While all Steinman does nowadays is boasting about the first Bat Out of Hell and its success, Meat Loaf still releases good records and updates his sound every time.

Bat Out of Hell 2: Back into Hell doesn’t start off that disappointing actually. The intro to “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” is a downright reference, or copy, of the intro to the title track on the 1977 album. The rest of the song takes a different approach though; it’s a twelve-minute over-the-top piece with gentle, epic, obligatory and wilder passages. It basically contains all the composed elements that made the first album so great, but it just sounds forced on a certain level. The spontaneity is gone and the two are turning into a cliché. “Life is a Lemon and I Want My Money Back” travels down the same road, but instead of piano-driven rock ‘n roll we get a mean guitar riff instead. That sounds quite refreshing, but the song continues for eight minutes, which is actually a little too much for this track, although it’s quite a good one. Absolute highlight of the album and one of the best tracks Steinman ever penned is the classic “Rock ‘n Roll Dreams Come Through”. Not surprisingly, it’s been released by Steinman himself on his solo record back in 1981 before, so this one hasn’t been put together hastily for a commercial cash grab. No, this song sounds honest, pure and Meat’s voice just sounds so beautiful on this song. Now this is what we want. Is the album getting better now?

We basically had the three best songs of the album now. From now on we mostly get mediocre concepts and agreeable melodies stretched and repeated to death on songs that peak on mostly six, eight or ten minutes. While not all of them are truly bad, it’s not enough as a sequel to one of rock’s most classic albums. “It Just Won’t Quit” has a nice melody in the chorus, but really mostly plods along without ever really bursting out. “Objects in the Rear View Mirror…” tries to crawl into the skin of “Heaven Can Wait” and would’ve succeeded at that if it wouldn’t last over ten minutes with the last three minutes being solely repeating of the chorus over and over again. “Wasted Youth” is a monologue of Steinman that serves as an intro to “Everything Louder Than Everything Else”, which is quite a good rock song not unlike “All Revved Up…” from the first album, except for the stretched structure. “Good Girls Go to Heaven” is the worst song on this record and is so terribly happy you’d just want to skip right away… to the title track “Back into Hell”; an instrumental interlude echoing the main melody of the previous track, which makes it an instant failure. So many fine melodies on this album to chose from and then they pick the worst one to reprise here. Luckily “Lost Boys and Golden Girls” ends the album on a relatively high note, even though it’s another “Heaven Can Wait”-clone.

What happened after this album? Meat Loaf went on to release more albums, each one better than this one as a whole and reinvented his sound, trying different things and styles and different songwriters. What about Steinman? Well… see his website and conclude how he is living in the past… We all know he can write another good album, but if one isn’t trying to, one will never succeed. This album is only to be recommended to big fans of Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman. Don’t be deluded by the title; this comes nowhere near Bat Out of Hell. I guess with some editing here and there, it’d still be an enjoyable record, but in current shape it is one of the weaker Meat Loaf releases.

Strongest tracks: “Life is a Lemon”, “Rock ‘n Roll Dreams Come Through” and “Everything Louder Than Everything Else”.
Weakest tracks: “Good Girls Go to Heaven” and “Out of the Frying Pan”.

Meat Loaf - Bat Out of Hell (1977)

1. Bat Out of Hell
2. You Took the Words Right out of My Mouth
3. Heaven Can Wait
4. All Revved Up With No Place to Go
5. Two Out of Three Ain't Bad
6. Paradise by the Dashboard Light
7. For Crying Out Loud

Classic to the Bone – 8,6/10

Nothing is more justified to start a string of Meat Loaf reviews with his most successful and unquestionably classic debut album Bat Out of Hell. This legendary album was the brainchild of composer Jim Steinman, who also performed keyboards on a few tracks. It was the first, but certainly not the last time Steinman and Meat Loaf would work on an album together, but I think it’s safe to say the two of them never succeeded topping the very first Bat Out of Hell; a milestone in the history of rock ‘n roll.

What is it that makes this classic album so worthwhile? Where Steinman’s trademark songwriting is a little too calculated and too forced on later efforts, Bat Out of Hell captures a few of his most spontaneous compositions in the genre. The songwriting is very over the top to begin with. These melodies are very catchy and the arrangements show a bombastic sound, but Steinman never finishes a song until you’ve got the tune in your head. This results in lengthy tracks that never get boring, because they all remain catchy as hell in every verse, chorus or interlude. Another nice flavour to the album is the theatrical influences. Steinman is a composer for musicals as well and it shows. The title track alone is a long, twisted tale about a motorcycle-crash; changing in tone from rebellious to heroic, from sad to real rock ‘n roll and overcoming death. Another sign of Steinman’s musical career is the club favourite “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”, whose epic boy/girl duet has become a standard in rock ‘n roll history. And the second mainman of the album is of course Marvin Lee Aday, better known as Meat Loaf. The man has a voice so unique and so strong; he’s bound to get your attention on this album. Since he too was involved in musicals a lot, his voice tells a story so powerful you don’t need to pay attention to the lyrics. Unfortunately, Meat Loaf suffered vocal problems not long after this album and his voice never returned to the magnitude it portrays here.

So, what does this supposedly amazing duo bring us on Bat Out of Hell? Let’s begin with the amazing title track. A few numb chords enhanced by drums welcome us into the album until a loud piano takes over from the drums and the song turns into an almost ten-minute piece of melodic and heroic rock ‘n roll. This is one of the best songs ever penned by Steinman and ever sung by Meat Loaf: epic guitar leads; soaring high vocals; catchy chord progressions; and a story that strings every theme and every melody together. A dark, somewhat creepy conversation precedes “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth”, which explores more cheerful melodies and more contemporary atmospheres that don’t question why this became a hit at the time. It’s a simple tale of love, but the way it’s packaged and sung, it becomes much more than that and it holds epic lyrics such as in the chorus:

"You took the Words Right Out of My Mouth
Oh, it must’ve been while you were kissing me"

“Heaven Can Wait” brings us the first ballad and proves Steinman also knows how to maintain enchanting atmospheres on quieter songs. Meat Loaf’s voice guides us gently, but steadily, through this landscape of powerful pianos, soft string ensembles and gospel-esque backing choirs. “All Revved Up…” brings back the 70s spirit we also found on the second track. It’s tracks like these that make the album one of a kind, even within the Meat Loaf discography. Again, Meat’s voice is the main attraction, especially in the pre-chori. The epic acceleration at the end just gives me shivers. Another hit single we find in “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” and again does the trick. “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” needs no further introduction; it’s the most well-known rock ‘n roll anthem and frequently played on radio station to this very day. “For Crying Out Loud” ends the album on a high note with another piano-driven power ballad that unfolds into a bombastic epic later up.

Honestly, the way Meat Loaf sings on this album is just amazing. Such a shame he suffered vocal problems a short time after the release of the record. He still sings very well nowadays, but the energy isn’t as pure as on Bat Out of Hell. If you haven’t heard this record, it’d be time for you to finally do listen to this. This is a classic through and through and deservedly so. I highly recommend it to fans of music.

Strongest moments: “Bat Out of Hell”, “All Revved Up…” and “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Queensrÿche - Dedicated to Chaos (2011)

1. Get Started
2. Hot Spot Junkie
3. Got it Bad
4. Around the World
5. Higher
6. Retail Therapy
7. At the Edge
8. Broken [*]
9. Hard Times [*]
10. Drive
11. I Believe [*]
12. Luvnu [*]
13. Wot We Do
14. I Take You
15. The Lie
16. Big Noize

Very ‘Now’ Indeed – 9/10

Merciless have the ‘fans’ and critics been as they relentlessly denigrated this album and the band’s current status, citing reasons as ‘weak, boring songs’ or ‘commercial sellout’ for the album’s lack of quality, or even the ‘lack of metal’. How could Queensrÿche, which should be a metal band, make fine albums if it’s not metal? And then there are people claiming the lack of metal is not why they failed on this album. Want to hear my side of the story? These ‘fans’ and critics don’t have large fantasy or the capability to empathize with a band or that band’s full-length, when it doesn’t quite match their expectations. Allow me to explain to the very detail.

How many times have (or haven’t, takes less time to count) we read how weak and useless opener “Get Started” is and especially as the opening track for this infamous record. Reasons as ‘mellow riff’ or ‘no balls’ were used to point out that the song is quite numb. Well, the song indeed doesn’t kick your balls off and it doesn’t go right in your face. Even more, it’s not metal. The Rÿche have made albums before that evaded the metal genre, but never have they sounded so tame, especially not on an opening track. What is wrong here? And have you heard that single? “Wot We Do” is its name. I have read tons and tons of people hating that song for the very R’NB influence that flows throughout. How on earth could the creators of masterpiece Operation: Mindcrime (only the first part) have decided to throw in a brass section and to leave out the distorted guitars? I have also seen multiple criticisms about lyrics to the song “Retail Therapy”, which deal with apps on a phone. It is said this item is not worthy to put in a song as lyrics and it might be proof that Queensrÿche is trying to connect to the younger audience, thus selling out commercially. That statement would be supported heavily by the popular song titles (“Hot Spot Junkie”) and especially the wrongly (read: popularly) spelled ones like “Big Noize”, “Luvnu” and the previously mentioned “Wot We Do”. And if that wasn’t enough, we would be to believe that the album wouldn’t get exciting at any point and that, an essential piece of criticism, the guitar sound is weak and forced to the background or even replaced (by a brass section for example). Michael Wilton even stated in an interview that he didn’t really like the album, but was reprimanded by the rest of the band and was forced to state on the band’s site that he enjoyed the album a lot.

Phew… if that all were to be believed, one was to think Queensrÿche lost their mind; made one hell of a sucky album; were no longer a cohesive unit as a band; and were trying to connect to younger audiences and to make hit singles. It probably takes a very strong and open mind for a Queensrÿche-fan to be able to like this record. I guess I probably am. Let me explain to the very detail why Queensrÿche chose this direction and let me explain as equally detailed why I like it so much.

Queensrÿche is a band with the will to experiment. They almost never do the same thing twice and the one time they did try to with Operation: Mindcrime 2, they failed shamefully. No, this band is better off treading new grounds and finding new ways to play music for themselves. If they left the metal scene it’s because they have nothing more to say in the metal language and learn to speak new languages. The experiment of 2011 is the present. The now. You walk around town in a random street. Look around you, what do you see? A car driving past you; the wind blowing; the occasional passer-by, possibly with headphones plugged in; mothers that just dropped off their kid at school, determined to quickly pick up some groceries and then head off for an appointment with a good friend, a dentist or a pedicure. Either way, you’ll get my point: life is hectic nowadays. It moves fast and there’s little time to just do nothing. With internet, everything is possible and within reach. There’s no excuse not to have done something these days because it is all possible. Everyone is reachable at all times, as everyone carries their mobile phones with them day and night. The band took this very theme as the main theme for the album and you must understand it is a very important aspect of Dedicated to Chaos. Today’s life is fast and we find ways to speed things up: faster internet; multi-tasking; special abbreviations and orthography for text messages and chat sites and what not. To capture the spirit of the themes, song titles in these so called ‘popular languages’ were used. The title “Luvnu” for example fits perfectly within this concept.

‘Rock music is no longer the music of the times,’ said Geoff Tate in an interview. He is right. In order to stick more to the concept the band decided to structure their songs around the rhythm of the now. Drummer Rockenfield and bassist Jackson have developed a rhythm section as solid as ever, but now built around the alternative world of today. Guitarist Wilton might not be as much in the spotlight as he was back in the metal days, but he plays a role reminiscent of any guitar player in a alternative/pop band and even though his playing is more subtle here, it adds so much to the music and he has a beautifully tight guitar sound. Vocalist Tate is in an ever-inspiring shape as he leads us through this new-found landscape with his warm, recognizable and above all outstanding vocals. If there’s any singer who I’d never get tired of it’s Geoff Tate. He’s really got the groove. The multicultural, ever-changing society of today results in the huge diversity of the songs themselves. We have laid-back grooves on “Got it Bad”; a Coldplay-ish pop song in “Around the World”; alternative rock on “Hot Spot Junkie”; classic Queensrÿche on “At the Edge”; a funky track with “Drive”; the hip-hop/R’NB influenced single “Wot We Do”; and an atmospheric, hypnotizing and very intense album closer “Big Noize”. It requires a tolerant taste, but if you can let go of your stylistic principles you should find yourselves enjoying the album, even though “Wot We Do” sounds sinful at first.

Yes, it’s chaos. Life is chaos. Queensrÿche dedicate this album to chaos. But it’s albums like these that make this band to one of my all-time favorites. Experimental to the full and totally dedicated to the concept. The most important part of the album for the listener is to understand the concept before criticizing lyrical content. As a suitable close to the review, let me cite a few of the lyrics, which are by the way outstanding, that can be interpreted to be about the album.

“We can’t get what we’re looking for unless we break some rules.” – Get Started
“All these changes, all these re-arranging starts with me if I want more” – Around the World
“Time to look at what’s behind closed doors” – At the Edge
“When you’re backseat driving keep your hands off the wheel” – Drive
“It’s much more fun when everyone surrenders” – Wot We Do
“Time to change the view” – Get Started

Strongest tracks: “Hot Spot Junkie”, “At the Edge”, “Drive” and “Wot We Do”.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

System of a Down - Hypnotize (2005)

1. Attack
2. Dreaming
3. Kill Rock 'n Roll
4. Hypnotize
5. Stealing Society
6. Tentative
7. U-Fig
8. Holy Mountains
9. Vicinity of Obscenity
10. She's Like Heroin
11. Lonely Day
12. Soldier Side

Mezmerize Part Two – 6/10

Alternative metal giants System of a Down released two albums in the same year. First came Mezmerize, which is arguably their finest album, and second came Hypnotize… their final album before their long hiatus, which has ended a few weeks before I type this. It certainly matches the success its predecessor had, but does it match its quality?

No. Where Mezmerize sounded new, fresh and inventive, Hypnotize sounds like the band going through the very same motions, with a few exceptions of course. The good side is that the album is not really bad either. It’s actually quite ok from a certain angle. It contains the same formula of wacky, psycho metal as Mezmerize, with perhaps a less slick production. Malakian and the guys give us time to adjust with the bombastic “Attack”, which attacks you right in your face with the blastbeat intro. Its verses are very catchy and melodic, but the chorus is once again aggressive and bombastic. “Dreaming” is equally aggressive and bombastic with blastbeats and all, with a catchy hook hidden within. The middle section features an attempt at en epic bridge; something which works quite well. The shared vocal duties of Serj Tankian and Daron Malakian work remarkably well here, and on “Kill Rock ‘n Roll” as well. The latter track is comparable to the last few tracks of Mezmerize, with a very melodic and light ambience throughout. The title track “Hypnotize” is a lot more ambient and to the point than the tracks before and perfectly paints the face this album is about to adapt.

It is at this point that a few tracks start to become tediously dull and would receive the ‘filler-tag’. This tag will be awarded to: “Stealing Society”, which is a rather standard System song with nothing really memorable except for a short Malakian-rap about halfway through; “Tentative”, which actually reminds of the very first album in its intro, but quickly takes the modern System route; “U-Fig” … just another System song without anything memorable, which by the way also has verses that remind of the debut album; and “She’s Like Heroin”, with highly annoying vocals by Malakian. These songs aren’t necessarily bad, but are dull, unmemorable and forgettable. Furthermore we have System going for longer tracks with epic structures, as previously heard on songs like “Forest”, “Lost in Hollywood” or “Streamline”. This time that song is “Holy Mountains”. The track unmistakably has a killer chord progression as the main theme, but sounds a little forced throughout and never really stands out. “Vicinity of Obscenity” is one of the weirdest songs I ever heard and I wouldn’t know how to describe it. I can just say it’s wicked and features many weird and odd themes that are seemingly impossible to coexist within one song, let alone in less than three minutes. It is one of the few good tracks of the album’s second side though. All that is left now is the very commercial and somewhat tedious single “Lonely Day” and the epic album closer “Soldier Side”, with its strong lyrics.

I don’t want to dedicate more time for this album’s review. It’s pretty much System doing what System does. The result? There’s a few outstanding tracks, a couple of nice songs and a lot of forgettable tracks. I wouldn’t really recommend Hypnotize to anyone unfamiliar with the band. You’d have a better start with Toxicity or Mezmerize. If you know the band this album definitely got some gems on it.

Strongest tracks: “Attack”, “Dreaming”, “Vicinity of Obscenity” and “Soldier Side”.
Weakest tracks: “Stealing Society”, “Tentative”, “U-Fig” and “She’s Like Heroin”.