Riverside – Wasteland Review

Polish Prog Metal band Riverside suffered the terrible loss of their lead guitarist Piotr Grudziński less than half a year after their superb sixth full-length studio album; Love, Fear & The Time Machine.

After the difficult decision to carry on without replacing him, their next and at time of writing newest album was released in 2018 via InsideOut Music and met with deserved acclaim (and surprisingly in this day and age, sold relatively well for a prog album, continuing their streak of gold albums in their homeland).

It can’t have been easy carrying on without such a key member of the band, who’d been there since the very start, but somehow they managed to create a beautiful, affecting, and very interesting album with no loss of quality, while also not losing their ‘sound’ or ‘spirit’. If they had understandably chosen not to continue after 2016, they would have been leaving us with a wonderful catalogue. As it stands however, on Wasteland they do a masterful job of continuing their genuinely near-flawless discography and only solidifying their legacy as absolute masters of the genre.

The actual playing and vocals are top notch. The production and mixing and have a tasteful, stripped back, classic-sounding, raw feel that perfectly suits the material and the place in the band’s discography.

The real magic of the album however, comes from the material here, which is simply wonderful from start to finish. There isn’t one track I would lose, edit or alter. Nine perfectly balanced no-fat tracks over 50 minutes and not outstaying its welcome.

Its so good all the way through it could be difficult to choose highlights, but if you like the band at their proggiest, then check out nine-and-a-half minute “The Struggle For Survival” which features a bit of a 21st Century Schizoid Man/Heart Of The Sunrise/The Necromancer vibe with a lot of instrumental muscle flexing with some brilliant bass and keyboard showing off (and Maciej Meller’s guest guitar solo is especially quite entertaining in a Fripp sort of way). If however you prefer the band just writing good songs; then the varied ‘Veil Of Tears’ and the haunting and touching semi-ballad ‘Guardian Angel’ for example are two of the best songs the band have ever released to date.

This is a record with a lot of up front charm and instantaneous gratification, but a lot of mood, atmosphere and subtle depth as well and even the tracks that don’t drop your jaw right away become favourites in time (I like “River Down Below” more every single time I hear it for example, and I do mean every single time, I can’t say that for many other bands). As with all the Riverside albums to date, I can’t recommend it enough.

Coroner – Grin Review

Coroner were one of the more unique Thrash Metal bands. While their earliest material was a bit more pure-Thrash, with each new release they became more technical, more progressive and more unique.

By the time of their final full-length studio album, 1993’s Grin, they had pushed the envelope so far, most of the album is hardly reminiscent of pure Thrash at all.

It opens with the hypnotic tribal “Dream Path” intro, which sounds more like Lateralus-era Tool than it does Reign In Blood or Darkness Descends. That should be the first sign this isn’t your average full-speed-ahead thrasher.

After the brief intro, the record bursts into the first full-length song, “The Lethargic Age” which has a bit of a Beg To Differ era Prong feel to it. There’s still crunch and direction to the riffs, but it also intermittently gives way to jangly post punky ringing too.

That’s followed by the faster “Internal Conflicts” which picks up the pace, but also has a bit of a Ministry-Meets-White Zombie vibe, with its stop/start song structure, bouncy chorus, samples, but tight mechanical verse riffs. That then gets capped off with a sweepy Dream Theater sounding guitar solo.

“Caveat (To The Coming)” which follows, opens with a Beatlesy psychedelic jingle jangle intro, before evolving into a sort of proto-Nu Metal groove. Very bass driven and not as fast as you’d think of when you think of the word “Thrash.”

I won’t get into a full track-by-track but you get the picture, the band are expanding their style, looking in many different directions, trying new styles. It is the 90s after all, and very few Thrash bands are keeping it simple and sounding like its still 1986.

As a bit of a Thrash nut, I’ve spent most of my teens and early ‘20s with a sort of “80s rules/90s sucks” mentality when it comes to this sort of music (aint nobody gonna tell me Green is a better album than Forbidden Evil for example), but as I grew older, I definitely began to appreciate the sometimes underrated 90s releases from 80s bands a bit more. I’m sure if I’d have heard Grin when I was younger, I’d have balked a bit when hearing it. As I didn’t discover Coroner until much later, it just seems like another excellent album from the ex-Celtic Frost roadies. Being a Prong fan first also definitely helps.

I think there’s enough of what makes the previous Coroner albums great. There’s the technical prowess, the willingness to explore and the ambition in general. The vocals are still the same as the early albums (don’t expect any Cobain-isms or Alice In Chains-esque harmonies). The lead guitar is excellent – in fact, I’d argue that some of the band’s best solos to date come on this album and the band in general never fail to be interesting. The only thing that’s missing really is the breakneck speed or the warm fuzzy feeling of classic Thrash charm.

If you want a taster track to see if the album is for you, try the 8-minute, multiple-time signature “Paralized, Mesmerized.”

Overall; is this an appropriate album for adding to a Thrash playlist alongside Pleasure To Kill, The Legacy and Bonded By Blood? Honestly, no, probably not. However, if you are already a fan of ‘80s Coroner, should you shun this album because it is different? No, definitely not.

2020 Buying / Gift / Life Round Up:

I am a bit sad I missed out on the Helloween, WASP & Rammstein concerts I had booked, but I’ll live. Its still been a good year for music. I don’t have much to add to the internet noise about this year in terms of news/health/politics. Work has obviously gone crazy this year and free time is limited due to the bundle of joy, so there hasn’t been as much blogging as usual this year. I’ve just spent most of it head down working and parenting, with a killer soundtrack. I’ve decided today while I have some downtime to condense all the blogging I probably WOULD HAVE done into one digest. The following is a round up of what I’ve been buying/gifted/generally listening to since last Xmas:

Def LeppardPyromania, Hysteria, Adrenalize, Retro-active, Slang, Euphoria. – I’ve had the band’s heavier first two albums for years, and got Pyromania and Hysteria for Christmas 2019. I’ve been really getting into the since then, getting Adrenalize for my birthday and expanding to the other albums slowly since then. I have to say I’ve enjoyed them all so far. Maybe too many ballads, but the same can be said of lots of bands I love, like Helloween.

SepulturaQuadra, Machine Messiah & A-Lex.  – You only need to check out my reviews to know how much I’ve been gushing about the band’s recent output. I was really taken aback by how much the band have improved, evolved and hit-it-out-of-the-park in recent years. Its surprising they’ve taken such a proggy turn in recent years, but its great they haven’t forgotten to Thrash out and groove when needed.

Death AngelHumanicide, The Dream Calls For Blood – Well after that amazing Covid infested concert back at the start of the year, I couldn’t NOT buy more Death Angel, could I?

TestamentRitual, Low, Demonic, The Gathering, Titans Of Creation – Headliners of aforementioned concert; their first 4 albums have been staples of my listening since I was old enough to need to shave, and I’ve been lapping up new releases since I was old enough to vote, but I’d been sleeping on the intervening period and it was time to fill in the gaps. I already knew ritual back to front from borrowing, but its nice to finally own my own copy thanks to a gift from my brother, and I then looked into the less popular post-grunge years which I’d not given a chance before, turns out there’s a lot of good material there too! …and of course I had to pick up the new album when it dropped. (Which slays as usual, they haven’t made a bad one since I’ve been a fan)

Exodus Force Of Habit. – The best band at aforementioned concert, I already owned basically all their output so there wasn’t much left to get. I bought myself Force Of Habit one day this Summer and was surprised that it was a lot better than its reputation.

Power TripNightmare Logic. – Speaking of Thrash albums not from the 80s…  I had been planning to buy this album for ages as my favourite podcast gives it such warm praise on a very regular basis, and they were going to be supporting Kreator when they toured near me, but when their singer passed away I figured its time to pull my thumb out and stop waiting. I figure you’ve probably read enough praise of it already recently that I won’t add my voice to the echo chamber, except to say, if like me you were looking forward to that Kreator tour, then pick yourself up a copy of this if you haven’t already.

RiversideOut Of Myself, Love Fear & The Time Machine, Eye Of The Soundscape, Wasteland. – I’ve had these Polish progster’s 2nd-5th albums (and several EPs) for years, and decided recently it was time to fill out the missing albums in my collection. Turns out they have never made a bad record. Utterly fantastic band.

Haken – Visions, Affinity, L1ve. – My bestie set me up with the British equivalent of Riverside’s Live DVD for my birthday and I then expanded to some studio albums off the back of that. They’re a lot more eclectic than some prog bands, coming across as a mixture between Anathema, Distorted Harmony and Dream Thetater but with strange diversions into 80s pop and Gentle Giant worship. I’ll need to listen a lot more until I full absorb it, but I’m positive on it so far.

OpethHeritage, Pale Communion, Sorceress, In Cauda Veennum. – I’ve been trying on and off for about a decade to get into this band. You may remember some of my posts from years ago about it. I’ve definitely gone full tilt on them in the last year and a half.  I can’t remember exactly when I started buying them up and if it counts for 2020, but I’ll include half the albums I bought in here just in case.

Hammer FallCrimson Thunder, Threshold. – Another example of fleshing out an existing collection. You know I like Hammerfall if you read my reviews. These are some key albums I was missing. Surprising really, I didn’t own the one with “Hearts On Fire” on it? Well, mistake rectified now.  

Iced EarthBurnt Offerings, Plague Of Babylon, Incorruptible. – I was looking at my patch jacket one day, and was wondering if all the bands featured on there were still worthy of inclusion, and I noticed that I hadn’t been keeping up enough with Iced Earth in recent years, and hadn’t gone back enough. My collection started with a gift of their seminal Something Wicked album many years ago, but I never had their first album with the classic line up, and hadn’t been picking up the new releases since then. Time to expand my collection.

Cannibal CorpseThe Bleeding. – Speaking of patch jacket guilt purchases, I have had most of Cannibal Corpses output for a while yet, I stopped collecting the newest albums after a few years, but I still like the band and feel fondly of them. I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to first-four albums by Morbid Angel, Deicide, Obituary & Death and I felt weird that I had never got a copy of Cannibal Corpse’s fourth album. Now when doing a first four DM playlist, The Bleeding isn’t missing.

Orange Fucking Goblin BabyRough Read Live & Loud, The Wolf Bites Back, Back From The Abyss, A Eulogy For The Damned, Healing Through Fire, Thieving From The House Of God, Coup De Grace. –  I saw them live with Down once many years ago and was lukewarm on them, but I caught them live with Corrosion Of Conformity about 1.5-2 years ago and was totally captivated and converted. I’ve been working my way back through there catalogue at each Birthday/Christmas since. Not discovered a bad record yet. They’re like 90s Clutch without the humour, mixed with a sweaty Motorhead vibe.

Ozzy OsbourneOrdinary Man, Live & Loud. – Ozzy’s new album does not live up to the hype, but is better than you would expect too (if that makes sense). I also figured that only owning the Randy Rhodes era live album wasn’t enough for me and wanted to try out one with material from No More Tears & No Rest For The Wicked on it, and hey, if its got a live version of the songs “Bark At The Moon” and “Shot In The Dark” on it, well all the better for me to relive that surprisingly good performance at Download Festival 2018 that reminded me why I like Ozzy so much. I also like how differently Zakk plays the older songs from Randy, making it worth owning two different albums. I mean Randy is obviously better, I’m not an animal, but its nice to hear his tunes reinterpreted rather than just badly imitated.

Motorhead Aftershock, Motorizer, Overnight Sensation, No Sleep At All – Speaking of Lemmy and the boys. Well, you can never have too much motorhead, can you? One day I’ll have it all. Just slowly building up my collection, having time to absorb it. I was looking through my old concert tickets, and I’m still gutted that Motorhead concert I was going to see in Manchester got cancelled, and then they never came back before Lemmy passed. I did luckily get to see Phil Campbell and Fast Eddie Clarke play motorhead songs live at solo gigs, but never the real deal.

Type O NegativeThe Roadrunner Years Boxset. – I’ve also spent a lot of this weird depressing unpredictable year listening to Pete Steel and co’s weird, depressing, unpredictable music. The band can go from 70s Black Sabbath doom, to 80’s New Wave romanticism, to 60s Psychedelia and snotty late 80s hardcore punk irreverence and back within the same album (and sometimes the same song!). A truly unique band. I don’t love everything they do, but when they do line up with my tastes, its truly magical. When you have a bad day, its quite fun to just turn up “Life Is Killing Me” and pretend to be driving a garbage truck around New York with a dead pet as your co-pilot, letting the misery wash over you. Your day can’t be that bad if the music is this good and you haven’t lost your marbles like Pete.

Danzig – 1-4 and the Thrall EP. – Speaking of unique bands, I don’t know why I had never heard Danzig before, I remember reading about them in Marilyn Manson’s biography, and seeing their logo and artwork a lot, but I had never heard a second of their music until last year. Once I got that debut as a gift, I knew I needed more. Some kind of bizarre, Elvis/Jim Morrison crooning with punky ethos, and stoner rock-esque 70s-worship with 90s production. “Tired Of Being Alive” sounds like Heart’s “Sing Child” through a Kyuss filter, then add in the one and only Glenn Danzig’s incomparable vocal style and you have a pretty interesting rock album. The only problem I’ve encountered so far is that the song “Sadistikill” on the fourth album is intolerably boring (and that’s coming from a prog fan) but the majority of what I’ve heard to far has been great.

The MisfitsThe Static Age, Walk Among Us, Earth AD/Wolfsblood. – After reading a metallica biography, getting into Danzig, and checking out HMO’s reviews, I thought I’d dip my toe in the Misfit’s waters too. They have some real killer songs, it’s a shame I knew so many already from covers from the likes of Metallica, Volbeat, Orange Goblin, Cradle Of Filth and more, as I like the cover’s better for most of them. Its awesome when you find one that hasn’t been covered that you like and can just revel in the glory without prior knowledge. “All Hell Breaks Loose” and “Texas Is The Reason” are highlights so far. I have a lot of 80s Hardcore Punk and borderline/debatable Hardcore Punk albums, and rarely are any such bands as catchy as the Misfits.

Man, I didn’t realise how much music I’d been consuming this year until I started this blog. I don’t have all day here! In terms of 80s thrash: I’ve picked up several missing pieces from my collection. More output from Sodom, Destruction, Xentrix, Atrophy, Sacred Reich & DRI.  I’ve also gotten into Hirax, Coroner, Exhumer, Whiplash & Acid Reign. Not quite thrash, but I’ve expanded my Armored Saint collection too. They can deliver.

In terms of new releases: I’ve also picked up Parkway Drive’s live album, Trivium’s newest album, Lamb Of God’s newest album, Protest The Hero’s newest album & Five Finger Death Punch’s new album. I also got King Diamond’s latest live dvd.  But of course I’ve reviewed them in detail recently already. You can see what I think of those by clicking on the links or scrolling down.

Most surprising of all though, is Creeper’s new album, which has gone from absolute hatred/disappointment to one of my most listened-to albums of the year. I put that think on almost every work day lunch, and I listened to it every single day in the first month and a half after its release. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but damn did I end up entertained by it.  Luckily for me, their singer has been busy recently, and made a side-project called Salem basically putting out what I did expect from Creeper. The first single ‘Destroy Me’ is a catchy, energetic blast of pop-punky fun and the debut EP is just about to drop in a few days. I’m looking forward to more of the same hopefully.

On a personal level its been a weird year. If anyone knows me personally, I work in a job I can’t talk about because of various social media policies, but suffice to say I spent most of the last decade sticking tablets, tube and needles in various sick people’s mouths, veins and other body cavities. If this epidemic had happened a bit earlier it would’ve been me on the frontline. Recently, to accommodate for having a child I’ve moved to a cushy computer based job. Now I’m basically caught in a vortex of survivor’s guilt and parental protectiveness and don’t know whether to stick or twist career wise. Its come at the same time as an expensive relocation, which makes it even more difficult to know what to do. Wasn’t it great in February when all you had to worry about was whether you could get enough time off work to see Sepultura live so close to the other concerts you had booked?

Due to the planned house move, I’ve made some very non-me decisions regarding music. I’ve first of all sold off a lot of my collection. Secondly, of the things I’m keeping, I have been recycling the boxes and just keeping the booklets and discs in storage boxes, and the same with concert DVDs into DVD wallets. My music collection once took up a whole man cave, but could soon fit into the corner of a home office. Not something I would have contemplated as a teenager, but times change. I’ve also decided to mainly buy digital from now on, unless it isn’t available digitally (Why does no one sell mp3s of Motorhead’s Bastards album? Its got “Born To Raise Hell” on it for goodness sake!). I’ve been a staunch cd dinosaur and defender for years, but its getting to the point I could build a house out of them, and with the move, the baby and the pandemic, I finally have the mental window of opportunity to let go (or partially let go, as the case may be). I’ve also been using Spotify a lot more this year. I’ve adopted a bit of a try-before-you-buy approach to albums I’m 50/50 on getting. I wouldn’t go full streaming as the artists don’t get paid enough and there’s no sense of curatorship and collection, but using it as a research tool is a new development for me.

That’s a lot of new music this year. I’ve also had to make a lot of time to listen to some of my favourite bands, like C.O.C, Slipknot, Queensryche, Helloween, Pantera, Machine Head and I’ve also been taking out time to listen to ’70s prog bands in the morning with breakfast. Its important not to forget the stuff you already like.

What’s planned next music wise? Probably mop up more albums by bands like Alice Cooper, Aerosmith and ZZ Top that I’ve been concentrating on last year, and collect more missing prog and thrash albums that I haven’t gotten around to. Often I just get the first 4-5 albums (or failing that specific eras; like in the case of Black Sabbath – I only have Ozzy, Dio and Gillian albums, but none with other singers), but I may round out some of the smaller collections a bit more going forward.

As well as music, I’ve also been getting my way through lots of band / musician’s audiobook biographies and good old fashion paperbacks. Rick Wakeman’s is quite funny. Rob Halford’s is illuminating due to the LGBT rights angles. KK Downing’s is great for your basic band story. A few fictional books too. See, I can do some things that aren’t music (not very many, but it does happen from time to time). I have a bit of a book backlogue, but I’ll soon be coming up to Rock And Roll Children, by WordPress’s own 80s Metal Man, very much looking forward to that as well.

That’s my mind dump for the moment. Have a good weekend, readers!

Protest The Hero – Palimpsest Review.

Canada’s Young Punk-Turned-Mature Prog act, Protest The Hero return in 2020 with their fifth full-length studio album, Palimpsest. It follow’s the creatively marketed and disturbed Pacific Myth EP from four years earlier, and is their first proper length album since 2013’s superb Volition (remember, the crowdfunded one with Chirs Adler from Lamb Of God on drums?).

PTH have been one of my favourite bands for years and years now. Their ridiculously-good debut album Kezia could well be in my top 10 albums by any band ever. I’ve seen them live a few times and utterly loved it. They haven’t released a record yet that I haven’t liked. So, you’ll have to forgive me if this review is a little biased, ok?

If you don’t know the band; they are a very techy, slightly complex, musically ambitious band focused on baffling guitar lines, awkward drum patterns, but anchored by a really emotive and varied singer who delivers their really insightful and creative lyrics with such power and personality thatI it gels into this really powerful whole that somehow seems catchy and fun despite how difficult it would be to actually play or hum along to otherwise. There’s also a sort of maturity and balance to it. It isn’t jarring mixes of styles, its all very cohesive.

As they’re such a varied band, its hard to know who to recommend them to fans of? Megadeth due to the guitar wizardry? Periphery due to the techy nature? Letlive due to the really powerful vocals and lyrics? Dream Theater due to the ambition? Killswitch Engage, as if you are the kind of person who hates anything ‘core then major aspects of the band’s sound might scare you off? All or none of the above? I don’t know.

This fifth album is both a mix of various areas they’ve tried before on other releases, and in some cases trying new things and breaking new ground.

A lot of the reviews I’ve read about this album focus on how guitar and drum parts are sort of reminiscent of the band’s first two albums, Kezia, and the ever-popular Fortress (I guess them recently touring doing Fortress in its entirety live might’ve affected their song writing – ‘Soliloquy’ and ‘Gardenias’ in particular stand out as being Fortress-like). But equally, I can hear a lot of the touches from their more recent album and EP, some of the orchestral touches like the end of ‘From The Sky’ & ‘Little Snakes’ are reminiscent of things they’ve tried on tracks like ‘Caravan’ a few years ago, and shimmering guitars from the break in ‘The Fireside’ could be on one of the deep cuts from Voltion. Most of all, some of the newer vocal styles that developed over the years wouldn’t be heard on those first two albums. There’s also parts that don’t sound anything like they’ve done before, such as the grand sweeping opening to the first track. This album is definitely more of a culmination of a whole career rather than a rehashing of the past.

My only minor flaw with the album is that it would probably be better if track eight was the closer, it has the perfect endeding with the nice little piano outro there.

Lyrically; this is a very interesting album, covering topics from the Hindenburg disaster, the plight of the Native Americans, female aeroplane pioneer Amelia Earhart and even the Make America Great Again movement from the perspective of outsiders. As always, its not even so much the topics but the balanced, intelligent and interesting ways in which they are discussed and the clever ways they’re turned into catchy lines you just want to shout out at a concert.

Highlights include the speedy ‘All Hands,’ the heavy ‘Soliloquy,’ the ambitious ‘Little Snakes’ and perhaps most of all, the feminist themed single ‘The Canary’ which is boundlessly catchy and sticks in my head for hours after every listen, (the pre-chorus is as good as the best chorus on most albums, the part where it says “7,000 miles of ocean stand between me and my destiny/Somewhere beyond it or inside it” puts chills down my spine).

Even after being out a few months, its still hard to know where to place this album ranked in the band’s discography, they’re the kind of band like Tool or Opeth that give more and more on every listen and everything they do is a grower that you don’t fully get all the nuances of on first listen, but my first impressions so far are that while it doesn’t dethrone my number one spot, it is definitely a damn fine album and in the upper half of the discography. If you aren’t a fan yet, it should be a great entry point, and if you are a fan already there’s no way you could be disappointed.

Baroness – Gold & Grey Review

I remember when Baroness first broke out, they were quite sludgy and while not inaccessible, certainly not quite radio-friendly either. Early albums like Red Album and Blue Record mixed Thin Lizzy clean guitar with thick stoner-sludge and swampy vocals. I remember also, when they dropped their double album ‘Yellow And Green’ and they went from a band I liked a bit due to a slight Mastodon similarity, to a band I really cared about and actively followed.

To date, I still think of Yellow & Green as an utter masterpiece and that it was one of the best albums by anyone I care about to be released that year. Its when the band really stepped out of any other band’s shadows or any one subgenre’s constraints and just went everywhere they wanted all at once…. The follow up Purple was near as good, trying (and succeeding) to condense the sprawling mix of styles, tempos and timbres of the very diverse double album into one single straight-up rock record with flavours from everything the band had done before but a focus on being succinct and accessible (without sounding too far from their more metallic roots of course).

With their new album, Gold & Grey, the band are leaning a bit back more into Yellow & Green’s experimental territories. There is a focus on diversity here. Succinct is not a word I’d use to describe this. This album seems to be reveling in the freedom to do everything and anything. ‘Seasons’ for example has spidery guitar lines that wouldn’t feel out of place on a King Crimson album, mixed with a strange lo-fi noisy production job that makes it sound like some Sonic Youth style art rock piece, but then there are also blast-beats in their briefly to bring back the metal. Sometimes it goes full prog, with ‘Sevens’ sounding like mid period Camel. ‘Broken Halo’ has some lovely bridges that I can see crowds loving when this material is toured live, but goes a bit Yes during the solo.  

There are also quite a few brief quiet, sombre, slow numbers across the album’s 17-track duration. ‘Blankets of Ash’ for example is a nice sounding acoustic guitar interlude over some creepy foreboding soundscape. ‘Crooked Mile’ is a jangly acoustic number that sounds more like an intro than a full blown tune of its own. ‘Assault On East Falls’ sounds like the music from a dream sequence in a Japanse videogame.

You can hear a bit more Radiohead and a bit less Red Fang in the DNA at times I guess (the intro to ‘Tourniquet’ or for example), but that being said there are still enough big fat choruses and catchy hooks to keep the sing-along feel of Purple. The album opener ‘Front Toward Enemy’ for example is just a foot down melodic rocker to get the blood pumping. The chorus to the single ‘Throw Me An Anchor’ is almost as catchy as something like ‘Take My Bones Away’ or ‘Shock Me’ from previous albums. ‘I’ll Do Anything’ sounds like it could be used to advertise the Olympics. Its like if Bon Iver took happy pills and wanted to inspire people to action.

Singer John Dyer Baizley’s rich voice really sets this band apart from the crowd, and when he really leans into the big melodies, it is proper 360 degree helicopter shots on a cliffside stuff. He has such a powerful and evocative voice that can make any line sound immensely meaningful and majestic.  

Considering the line-up change between albums, it still sounds totally like Baroness. You may not have had female backing vocals back on Blue Record but the way John and Gina’s vocals blend and mesh together just sound right.

The album isn’t without its flaws however. The production seems to be quite controversial based on all people I’ve seen complaining on social media. It is also a bit tough to swallow in one go, sitting somewhere between standard and double album length. (Its only an hour, but with 17 tracks there is a lot of different moods, directions and sounds to digest and so it takes up more brainpower than your typical 10-14 track album. If you just wanted an album of ‘Shock Me’ clones, something like ‘Can Oscura’ might be a bit off-putting for example). You couldn’t just slap this on in the background once and love it forever, it’s a grower that you’ve got to give a lot of attention to. That being said, these are minor flaws at the most. I didn’t really consider the production notable until it was pointed out to me by others, and usually an album being a grower at the start leads to an album you’re still loving years later rather than an album that would lose its flavour as fast as chewing gum if it popped right away.

Maybe if you were only into the band for the heaviness of the early days, this album won’t suit you. If you liked the last two albums though, this album is very much going to be right up your street. Its softer, proggier and more considered than it is bludgeoning and meaty. It’s a bit more ponderous than direct and rocking. But it is definitely worth checking out, sticking on repeat and loosing yourself in. It’s an odyssey of new worlds to glimpse, it’s a journey to get lost on. You might not want to head-bang, but you’ll never be bored.

Coheed And Cambria – Unheavenly Creatures Review

2018’s Unheavenly Creatures, (or to give it its full title ‘Vaxis – Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures’) is modern prog masters Coheed And Cambria’s  9th full-length studio album. It follows up from their 2015 record The Color Before The Sun, which departed from their Amory Wars concept album series, and Unheavenly Creatures sees the band return once more to their sci-fi comic book concept.

Don’t worry if you haven’t been following the story, which is already out of order with various prequels and side stories, as the songs are that catchy anyway you don’t have to follow the story as closely as some other concept albums. It’s a nice touch if you are paying attention, but the band have always been more than just a story, they aren’t a gimmick band and the music, vocals and sound have always been just as noteworthy as the concept.

Musically; The Color Before The Sun was also a bit of an evolution which saw some new territories covered, with big stadium rock riffs and bubblegum melodies. Unheavenly Creatures incorporates parts of that, while also leaning more on the style the band were going for on the two Good Apollo albums from 2005 and 2007.

The vocals, the production and lead guitars are all superb and continue the long tradition of interesting and memorable songs that are easy on the ear, but come across as progressive when you look at them more closely. The band have all the hooks of the catchiest pop punk bands, all the solos of the catchiest NWOBHM guitar masters and an ear for production that always makes them sound humongous. This album is no exception. Just listen to the powerful opener ‘The Dark Sentencer,’ when Claudio sings ‘‘Kiss your lover with that filthy mouth you fucking monster’’ you just want to scream along with it like you’re on top of a cliff in the November Rain video.

That being said, its not an instant album, in fact it is 79 minutes long, so there is quite a lot to get through and it can take a lot of spins to really sink your teeth in to, but there is a lot to love if you are willing to give it the time.

For a band who, in my opinion, haven’t released a bad album yet, it can be quite hard to make a recommendation to an outsider. That being said, the general public would seem to suggest Year Of The Black Rainbow and The Afterman Descension from 2010 and 2013 respectively are the band’s least impactful works, whereas the public would advise In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth 3 and the lengthily titled Good Apollo, Tonight I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes Of Madness (commonly just called ‘4’ or ‘Good Apollo’ for ease)  are the ones to check out first… at this point I can’t really imagine not loving a Coheed album, but just in case, I would say don’t pick this as your first one. Pick up 3, 4 and Afterman Ascension at a minimum before getting this one.    

Once you are an established fan though; this is not an album you want to miss. Some of these choruses will bounce around your head for days. Some of the guitar lines are as memorable as the average band’s choruses. The first four songs alone have more memorable moments than most albums.  In fact, take any four songs in a row, the first four, the last four, any four in between. Even the slower moments like ‘Queen Of The Dark’ pop on this. If you want to dip your toes in, some of the highlights include ‘True Ugly,’ ‘All On Fire,’ ‘Toys,’ and ‘Unheavenly Creatures.’

Queensrÿche – The Verdict Review

Queensrÿche have been on a hell of a hot streak since they got former Crimson Glory frontman Todd La Torre in and started a band called Rising West, playing material from Queensrÿche’s first EP and first 4 albums, following the departure of their long time legendary singer Geoff Tate.

When they changed their name from Rising West back to Queensrÿche, and released their self-titled album in 2013, (with great tracks like ‘Where Dreams Go To Die,’ ‘Redemption’ and ‘Vindication’), it was an utterly excellent batch of material and the ensuing live shows saw the band energised and revitalised in one of the best late-career renaissances in the history of Metal (up there with the likes of Kreator and Accept for later-year triumphs). The following album Condition Human was a strong follow-up that kept up the quality.

As you can imagine, their third album since this revitalisation, 2019’s The Verdict, is my most anticipated album of this year. When they dropped the pre-release tracks, such as ‘Man The Machine,’ ‘Dark Revierie’ and ‘Blood Of The Levant’ it was every bit as good, if not better, than Condition Human’s pre-release tracks like the excellent ‘Arrow Of Time’ and ‘Hellfire.’

With all these expectations I had built up in my head, I was fearful I had built it up too much and set myself up for disappointment.

After having listened to it both via streaming while I waited for the postman, and on CD repeatedly after delivery, I am happy to inform you that not only is it not a disappointment, but rather it is the best Toddryche album to date. Arguably the band’s best album in a very long time at all, Todd or no Todd.

Even from myself, who doesn’t dislike any Queensrÿche album, (even the controversial ones), this ranks easily in the top half of their discography, top quarter even! I hate statements like “it’s the band’s best album since…’’ but in this case, it really feels true.

The production, (once again by ‘Zeuss’) is brilliant. All instruments are clear and distinct, you can hear the bass at all times, you can separate each guitar from each-other and the drums sound fat and powerful. Speaking of drums; Now that singer Todd La Torre is also playing drums this time around as well as his singing duties while classic drummer Scott Rockenfield is on paternity leave, you also get some drum styles you don’t usually hear on a Queensrÿche album. (Have a quick listen to ‘Launder The Conscience’ and ‘Light Years’ and listen to the beats to see what I mean).

The press prior to this saw Whip telling everyone that this was their heaviest and most progressive album in a while. Usually statements like that are always wrong. Strangely though, again, in this case, it really feels true.

There are some nice heavy moments on here; such as the aforementioned pre-released tracks, ‘Man The Machine and ‘Blood Of The Levant’ as well the very crunchy ‘Inner Unrest’ amonst others, and furthermore, there are some great proggy moments; such as ‘Bent,’ ‘Portrait’ and ‘Inside Out.’ There’s moments that recall the middle-eastern vibes of their American Soldier and Tribe albums, there’s some of the bass-driven textured stuff like their underrated Operation Mindcrime 2 album, and there’s some of the trippy expansive stuff reminiscent of their Promised Land album.

As well as the heavy and proggy stuff, there is just loads of great, catchy, accessible Hard Rock meets Heavy Metal material that has been the core thing tying all of the band’s albums together to date. You can hear bits that sound like the last two albums, like calssic material such as Rage For Order and all sorts of new things as well.

There’s so much great bass guitar parts and lots of space for Todd to show off his impressive vocal range. Album upon album he pushes it further, showing off more and more styles and becoming more of his own thing and moving away from the Geoff Tate style, but still staying close enough that it always sounds quintessentially Queensrÿche. (Take that vocal style and mix it with those really distinctive guitar leads, and you’ve got Queensrÿche in a bottle.)

Overall; its yet another strong Queensrÿche album, but more than that, it is an interesting album, with a strong production, a great range of material, and some of their honestly best material in years, even if they have already been on a very strong run.

Mastodon – Emperor Of Sand Review

emperor_of_sand_coverAtlanta Prog Metal legends Mastodon return in 2017 with their seventh proper full-length studio album, Emperor Of Sand. Speaking of returns; frequent collaborator Scott Kelly returns for yet another guest vocal performance and producer Brendan O’Brian returns as well, having last done their fourth album, the 2009 masterpiece, Crack The Skye. Also returning is the concept-album format. Leviathan, Blood Mountain and Crack The Skye had all been story-driven concept albums that also served as a metaphor for the band’s lives and Emperor Of Sand continues that tradition after a break into more traditional territories with The Hunter and Once More Round The Sun.

The concept on this record is of a man being handed down a curse/death sentence and wandering the sands of the desert to his ultimate death and or salvation. The band haven’t been shy in interviews of describing the fact that story serves as a metaphor for cancer and especially guitarist Bill Kelliher’s mother’s death from brain cancer. There’s even a dedication to her cleverly hidden in the artwork on one of the creature’s shields.

When you get told that information before hand, you immediately analyze the lyrics for clues. Is this about a biopsy? Is this about a scan? Does this represent the prognosis? Is this about the stages of grief? Does this represent the loss of cognitive function associated with illnesses of the brain? Is this line about a donation? Is this one about a family dispute? Does this character represent the doctor? Does this one represent cancer itself? …We do know for sure from the documentary that sand represents time. Sometimes it isn’t even so hidden at all; the album ends with the line ‘Its right in front of me, your malignancy.’ It all gives the album such a layer of depth, not unlike Crack The Skye had with Brann’s family tragedy. It feels a bit distasteful going into it so much, but then again if they didn’t want us to it wouldn’t have been released and promoted in such a way as to make it so possible.

Background aside, the main thing that sticks out about this album is the lead guitar. Now, Mastadon have always been musical virtuosos, innovators and masters of distilling broad and extreme influences into a cohesive singular whole, but still, even when we get used to excellence from the musicians, the guitars here are especially strong. There are some really stand up and take notice leads, some very crack a smile solos and some screw up your face and nod riffs on here.

It really is a guitar-centric record. Even with the story, Brann’s superhero drumming, all the bonus keyboards and studio touches, and the team approach to vocals… man those guitarists sure are on damn fine form here.

In terms of direction; this one seems to be an attempt to merge the Crack The Skye formula into the most mainstream moments of the most recent two albums. The first half of the album is all more sing-along, catchy, easily accessible stuff, and the second half drops down the prog. Tracks like ‘Show Yourself’ and ‘Precious Stones’ have radio appeal, then tracks like the magnificent album closer ‘Jaguar God’ are a trippy journey through a dozen speeds, tones and moods with bonkers Robert Fripp-esque guitar noodling meeting metal meeting acoustic meeting big beautiful wailing solos. The middle of ‘Clandestiny’ sounds like it could be on a Yes or Genesis record, something they’ve always talked about but I’ve never heard so litterally before.

With Emperor Of Sand it feels like they’ve taken all the lessons they’ve learned with big vocal melodys, hit appeal and targeting a wider audience, and applied it to the slow-burn, grower, hear something new on every listen nature of Crack The Skye. It doesn’t sound anything like that record, but the second half has the same spirit, ethos or vibe as it did. Its all about the repeat listens, the new discoveries, the changing attitudes. I mean, it doesn’t sound like my favourite album, Leviathan, and that is always an adjustment, but when you get over it, like you do every new release you realize that the band can still be amazing even when they are doing a different style.

On first listen, I wasn’t keen on this album, the next time I wasn’t sure, I felt a bit negatively about this but I was sure one more listen would prove whether there was something good going on here and then from there it built and built for me until I was a bit positive to satisfied and now I’m very impressed. Its got big ideas, its got big ambitions, and its undeniably Mastodon. Some of these songs feel one way, then they hit the halfway mark and morph into something else. There’s all these neat subtle touches in the background (listen in depth to ‘Steam Breather’). There’s such badass little drum parts (hey there, Ancient Kingdom’s midsection!). There’s such sticky vocal parts. From all the singers. They’re working together even better than before, blending better. Its a team approach to vocals and it works really well. Then you get all the different takes on the album. Sit there with the lyric book in an empty room and the album feels one way, listen to it on a sunny walk and its very different again. Listen concentrating on one instrument and it feels like a different record than concentrating on another, or the vocals.

For me; my favourite tracks would have to be ‘Roots Remain,’ especially towards its end which has a Cysquatch feel to it, as well as aforementioned album highlight ‘Jaguar God’ and the most Remission-like track ‘Andromeda’ with its jagged caustic riffs and awesome guest vocals from Brutal Truth’s Kevin Sharp… but hey, if the weather improves I can see it being the singles ‘Show Yourself’ and ‘Sultans Curse.’ Pretty great for an album I initially had a negative impression of, ey?

A grower. An exceeder of expectations. A Mastodon album.

Kingcrimsonprog’s Albums Of The Year 2015

I’ve said it a lot this year, but its been a very good year for music to my tastes!

1. Parkway Drive – Ire

What an album! Crushing beatdowns, catchy fun memorable sing-alongs, twin guitar widdly joy, it’s a surprising and bold move from a band who already perfected their formula, but now seem somehow even better. I didn’t even fully expect it to be my AOTY but it just grew on me and grew on me and grew on me. Monumental!

Highlight moments: The music, vocal delivery and lyrics of the part ‘Tell me motherfucker how the hell do you sleep at night’ as well as ‘Now snap your neck to this’ and ‘…and we all go to heaven in a little row boat.’

2. Bring Me The Horizon – That’s The Spirit

Chocked full of catchy and memorable moments that I’ll remember for years, this album sees the band further distance themselves from the past but in an organic and logical way. This thing just sticks in your head. Its masterful.
Its surprising how well Ollie can sing nowadays. Also, I don’t care if they’re childish, the lyrics to ‘Throne’ are awesome.

Highlight moments: The whole of the songs ‘Doomed’ and ‘Throne.’

3. Clutch – Psychic Warfare

“Oh… I hope Clutch stay focused after Earth Rocker” I found myself thinking…. ‘av some of that Psychic Warfare replied as it slapped me in the chops with exactly what I wanted. Razor sharp, not a wasted second, just as good as always but never-been-tighter focused, Psychic Warfare is the right move at the right time and I hope it pays off for the band like the last one did.

Highlight moments: The music, vocal delivery and lyrics of the part ‘It goes against my catholic upbringing, I admit it…’

 

4. Fear Factory – Genexus

Their best, most exciting release in years. The very opposite of bland; Genexus just gets everything right and perfectly blends everything the band do, creating a real career highlight, possibly their second or third best ever!

Highlight moments: The first few seconds of ‘Soul Hacker’ smashing you in the face.

 

5. Tesseract – Polaris
I was always going to be harsh on this because I loved their previous singer Ashe O’Harra so much, and because Altered State is a genuine masterpiece and in my eyes one of the best albums of the last decade. Even with the weight of those unreasonable expectations Tesseract still managed to make an album this good. That’s talent!

Highlight moment: The chorus to ‘Hexes.’

 

6. Coheed & Cambria – The Color Before The Sun

Is it just me or is the guitar to the verse in ‘Island’ straight off of Permission To Land? What’s all that about? Anyway…dropping the sci-fi doesn’t seem to have harmed the band one bit… As usual, if Coheed release an album its one of the best albums anyone released that year.

Highlight moments: The music, vocal delivery and lyrics of the part ‘Where’s My Life-saver When I’m Screaming Danger’ and the drums to ‘The Audience’ as well as the lyric ‘And if there’s one good thing that comes from my away it’s that you won’t be anything like me, and so better for it you will be’ and the music to the intro of ‘You’ve Got Spirit, Kid.’

7. Queensryche – Condition Human

Was Toddryche’s debut a fluke? Was it fuck!

Highlight moment: ‘The Arrow Of Time’ in its entirety, the guitar solo In ‘Bulletproof’ and the ending to the title-track.

 

 

8. Baroness – Purple

Maybe not as earth-shattering and game changing as its predecessor Yellow&Green (and how could it be, reasonably?), but Baroness’ attempt to create a better version of Mastodon’s Once More Round The Sun is a damn strong album, those Lizzy-esque guitars make me weak at the knees!

Its maybe a bit unfairly placed seeing as how recent it was, so I’ve not listened to it anywhere near as much as the others on the list, but I was always disappointed that Mudvayne’s self titled album missed many AOTY lists due to its late-in-the-year release, so I won’t let that happen here.

Highlight moment: The entire song ‘If I Have To Wake Up (Would You Stop The Rain?)’ in every way.

 

9. Helloween – My God Given Right

Its arguably just another Helloween album… so in my eyes that means its an absolute gem! All Hail the pumpkins, as they say in Germany (I assume).

This makes up for their previous album missing out on my AOTY list when I got it too late.

Highlight moment: Deris’ vocal performance on ‘If God Loves Rock N Roll’

 


10. Periphery – Juggernaut Alpha

I still don’t feel like I’ve fully gotten into this album, plummed all its depths, or really had it click with me yet, but the fact that its still here shows you how good it is. I haven’t researched the concept behind it, or seen songs live and both of those things always make me like an album more so you definitely haven’t heard the last from me on this! This, this weird jazzy, proggy, deathy, emoey, unpredictable melting pot. What, me wearing a Periphery t-shirt to work regularly… never! (shifty eyes).

Highlight moments: The music and vocal delivery of the parts ‘As the water beats upon the window turn the sad song up on the radio” and “Fuck me I am dying for sleep!”

I couldn’t fit some interesting records like F5DP and Lamb Of God’s newest efforts (or Periphery’s other album from this year, two-album-releasing blaggards!), and I haven’t even heard some pretty important ones like Maiden, Saxon and Faith No More’s latest so its not maybe what the average listener’s Top 10 may be… but this is my blog and I’m me, so you didn’t come here to ask what I thought other people’s top 10 might be (presumably).

Also, I thought my number 1 would be Rishloo’s latest but they changed the official release date to its early pre-release date of December 2014 so it didn’t technically come out this year. I was torn over whether to include it anyway or not. So, I’ll retroactively name it my number 1 of last year, because …that sort of thing totally matters to anyone, obviously.

What surprised me was that The Libertines and The Fratellis both had new albums and neither made my Top 10. The Libertines are one of my favourite ever bands and I was an absolute obsessive at one point on all the forums and fansites listening to every single demo, scratch track and live bootleg ever, I’ve been a member of bands that cover their songs, I’ve had a poster of theirs on my wall for years (until this year when I finally moved into my I’m-an-adult apartment with my partner, as a matter of fact) but yeah, this new album didn’t make the top… guess the rest of the years releases were just too good. You’re ok, Anthems Of The Doomed Youth, but you aint no Psychic Warfare! …The Fratellis is trickier, as I think I’ve listened to it more than most of my Top 10, and I think really it might have a good claim to edge Periphery out but the choruses of its two best songs are soooo good they elevate the album as a whole crazily high. Still… ‘(Imposters) Little By Little’ is a song that I’ll never grow tired of. Such a difficult choice.

Top 10s of the year are just top 10s of new releases though….and I didn’t just spend the year listening to new releases…. My actual yearly top 10 would have Stairway To Fairyland, Shout At The Devil, Out Of The Cellar & Detonator, Smash, and several other non-2015 releases in it. I mean, I spent almost the entire spring and summer listening to Slipknot’s newest album almost every day on the way to work.

Hey but at least I’m not broke and can afford some new releases, last year I was so broke I only bought about four new releases and couldn’t make a top 10 list. Anyway, for further reading see my previous year end articles:

2014
2013
2012
2011

A Week of Tull.

I decided a few days ago to finally start reading the Jethro Tull book I received for Christmas as a gift two Christmases ago. To accompany this reading I also decided to listen to every Jethro Tull studio album (as well as a few compilations and a few live albums). I ended up listening to 350 Tull songs in a row, uninterrupted by any other music.

I was going to post a review of each album in turn, but I’m short on time and patience. However I still have some things to say on the matter, and so I’ve opted to post this general week of Tull blog.

So, here is a list of how my mind divides the Tull catalogue, some personal opinions on them, and a few favourite songs. Its not a review, its not a history, its just some assorted quick fire thoughts that my tired brain is leaking after such a big Tull binge.

First off, I don’t really like their debut album as much as what was to follow. I don’t care for Blues or Jazz as much as the average Prog fan, so I guess that’s no surprise. Still, even with it not being as good as what was to come, there’s still some great moments on this album. I really like the album opener for example.
Next up; comes what I’d call the indisputable period parts 1, 2, 3 and 4. Together, all these albums are near flawless and form the largest part of what I think about when I say I like Jethro Tull. The entire Indisputable Period starts with Stand Up and ends after Broadsword And The Beast. The period is so-named because I never wonder if these albums are good, if I still like them, or if anything from them should be included on a compilation or playlist…. this period is ALL excellent in my opinion.

Indisputable Period Part 1, is from Stand Up to Thick As A Brick. This was the early, exuberant, anything goes phase. There’s a sense of enthusiasm and more or less no weak tracks. I could do without the bells/drum solo part on ‘Thick As A Brick Prt 2’ but otherwise its arguably the best album ever written. Even all the B-sides and outtakes from this period are golden, as are the non-album singles. I should really count the compilation Living In The Past as part of this. I usually skip the on-other-albums songs such as ‘Locomotive Breath’ and treat this as an actual album rather than a compilation. I particularly love ‘Up The Pool’ and ‘Sweet Dream.’

Indisputable Period Part 2 I consider from A Passion Play up to and including Too Old To Rock And Roll Too Young To Die. The reason I’ve made this a mental period is partly the association of film projects as well as the mixed fan reactions. I think this period is equally as strong as the previous one, and am not one of the crowd who think Warchild is too bitty or Minstrel In The Gallery is weak. No sir. Some of my favourite ever Tull songs come from this red hot run of classics. ‘Queen And Country,’ ‘Sea Lion,’ ‘Cold Wind To Valhalla,’ and ‘Quiz Quid’ are all amazing and should be looked at as equal to the classic likes of ‘Aqualung’ ‘Lifes A Long Song,’ ‘Locomotive Breath,’ and ‘My God.’
Moreover, the bonus tracks ‘Paradise Steakhouse’ and ‘Rainbow Blues’ are arguably my two favourite Tull songs. Absolute gems. And ‘Minstrel In The Gallery’ is such a banging hard rock song, I’d love to hear someone heavy cover it.

I wish the Mother England Reverie section of Baker Street Muse was repeated more often. Its so big and catchy and exciting but it comes and goes in passing and you never get enough. Its like someone rubbing chocolate across your tongue when you weren’t looking… you go ‘oooh, chocolate!’ but then its gone, and you feel like you’d like to eat some chocolate. (Can you tell its Easter Saturday?)

I will admit that the sound effects on War Child now get skipped (cup of tea making, bombs falling etc) as outside of my big prog phase I’ve lost a little patience, but the music is still great. I’ve become even more fond of Too Old To Rock N Roll than I used to be. I’ll always remember disliking it the first time I heard it because I was not in a receptive mood due to being freezing cold. Its grown on me a lot. ‘Big Dipper’ is great fun, as is ‘Taxi Grab’ and I like the story. Its worth watching the film from the era on Youtube.

I think the only song I don’t like from this whole era is “From A Deabeat To An Old Greaser” but that’s just personal taste… its too slow, and a bit depressing. A momentum killer. I’dve preferred one more hard rock song instead but that’s just me. I know Minstrel didn’t have a film project, so you may disagree with me on the era classification, but there’s the early run, and the folk run, and these nice prog albums fit in the middle. Oh, and seriously, how good is “Only Solitaire” ? Lyrically, musically, vocally, this is just so good.

Don’t let that one flaw throw you off though, its such a solid, interesting and diverse series of songs. Bizarre guitar lines, odd rhythms, structures that defy expectations. Its such an interesting set of records to listen to and pay attention to and listen to all the little bonkers decisions and sparks of genius.

Indisputable Period Part 3, for me, is the folk trio of Songs From The Wood, Heavy Horses and Storm Watch. Some people act as if these were acoustic albums (as if Aqualung, Stand Up and Minstrel In The Gallery weren’t chocked full of acoustic parts). These three albums are more or less pure perfection. The one thing that makes them even extra good is confidence and consistency. I think they’re also lighter, and more fun. Just listen to ‘The Mouse Police Never Sleeps,’ ‘Something’s On The Move’ and ‘Hunting Girl.’ These songs are just such fun. Then when you mix in the nice Double Kick work on ‘Heavy Horses’ and the aforementioned ‘Hunting Girl’ and the big riffing in ‘No Lullabye’ and ‘Orion’ its all just so brain teasingly perfect.

The live albums from this period, Live At Madison Square Garden and the classic Bursting Out are some of the best in Rock history in my humble opinion. The performances and production take the already magnificent material from all 3 parts of the Indisputable Period, and multiplies them tenfold. The riffs are heavier, the drums are more energetic, the singing is bigger and more impressive.

Ending the Indisputable Period are the albums A and Broadsword In The Beast. Some people think A doesn’t count, or is poor. Not Me. I can’t get enough. Who doesn’t like ‘Black Sunday’ ?  and ‘Flyingdale Flyer’ is tremendous fun. On Broadsword, I’d like to especially highlight ‘Flying Colours’ and the still-relevant “Fallen On Hard Times” …also one of the band’s best ever songs. Bonus tracks from this period are brilliant too.

Sure there are synths, but its still all gravy. Its not Power Windows Rush, its Moving Pictures Rush.
Under Wraps follows. I’m not a fan. I love ‘Under Wraps 2” but as an album it doesn’t float my boat. I try a lot to like this the same, especially since Martin Barre likes it so much, but somehow its arguably the worst Tull album. I’d like to like it just to be contrary, but I can’t. Its such a loner it doesn’t even fit in one of the periods.
The next period is what I’d call the Dire Straits Period. That’s Crest Of A Knave, Rock Island and Catfish Rising. I call it this because, well, just listen to Ian’s voice. These albums have heavier guitars, making them better for me, and stiff drums, making them weaker for me. I like a lot of the singles from this period. ‘This Is Not Love’ (a song about wanking) and ‘Kissing Willie’ may be tasteless in a way, but the guitars make me smile. Also, ‘Budapest’ is great. You know, the thing with these albums not being perfect like the Undisputable Period however, is not down to stylistic shifts. Its not Ian’s new voice, its not 80s synth sounds and its not the non-jam style of recordings. Its just that the songwriting isn’t as flawless. There’s now filler. There’s now saminess. This is the House Of Blue Light/Battle Rages On phenomenon. When I first got into the band, I didn’t like this period at all. Now I’ve actually came to like it a lot. I can’t use the word ‘perfect’ but I can use the words ‘pretty good.’ If I wasn’t comparing them to perfect albums, then these would really be even more satisfactory. I think a playlist of the highlights from this period would make a damn high quality listen. Some fans (like my 2008 self) ignore this period, and act like ‘Seal Driver’ was the last good Tull song, but just tell that to ‘Doctor To My Disease,’ ‘Thinking Round Corners’ and ‘Sparrow On The Schoolyard Wall.’ (Oh, and why does everyone say Catfish’ is a return to the Blues of This Was… it is so not, as far as I can hear. It is exactly the same Dire Straits-Tull collision of Rock Island and ‘Knave to these ears).

The final period is the trio of Roots To Branches, Dot Com and The Jethro Tull Christmas Album. Or maybe not the Xmas album, its confusing because it has rerecordings of existing Tull songs on it.

This period is a bit more proggy and adventurous, while retaining the heavy guitar. The drums are more live though, and it just feels a little bigger. The albums are perhaps overlong, and too soft, but there is some seriously strong material here. I can imagine Tool or Dream Theater covering it. I used to ignore these albums, but on this relistening I wonder why, there is some seriously exciting bombastic material on here.

Just listen:

Oh, and I also listened to Ian Anderson’s Thick As A Brick 2. I’ve already talked about it extensively though, so I’ll just say I still feel the same.

The main thing I’d like to discuss however, is how often do Tull and Ian mention jam. Jam, bread and jam, jam sarnies, jampots. I never noticed this 40 year jam fandom. Listening to it all in one go though, there’s more mentions of jam than your average discography.

Anyway… I’ll just summarize. No Jethro Tull album is devoid of good music, not even the ones I used to dislike. Stand Up through to Broadsword’ is some of the world’s best ever music, especially the live albums. A is underrated. The band’s offcuts are as good as their official releases. Most of all, I’ve really come to appreciate the post-Broadsword stuff now. You don’t get the 99% brilliant ratio, sure, and the vocals and production make it a bit different in atmosphere, but it is far from poor.

Looking at the catalogue as a whole too, man, what an endless supply of creativity, what consistently entertaining lyrics. I don’t think Jethro Tull will ever slip from my list of favourite bands. If you like the idea of the band, but are short on cash, I’d highlight the following as especially necessary: Stand Up, Aqualung, Thick As A Brick, A Passion Play, Minstrel In The Gallery, Broadsword And The Beast.  I’d say it would feel absolutely impossible to give up on those albums, and missing out on them is missing out big. Furthermore I’d add, if you want to get into the band, my top pic is to get Bursting Out first. Bursting Out is some otherworldly brilliance, the like of Pantera 101 Proof and Judas Priest Unleashed In The East.