Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Music Review #40:
Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Getaway
Warner Bros. Records

They're back...but are they red hot?

Absolutely! Granted, the Chili Peppers aren't as "rock out with your cock out" as they were in their heyday, but that's okay. This album arose from the ashes of the rather disliked I'm With You which was back in 2011, so they had about five years to recuperate. The result is a few slamming tracks guaranteed to bring you back to the past, but mostly laid-back lounge funk songs. One thing I must mention is the greater and well-deserved spotlight on the keyboards played by the master himself, Flea. It's most prominent on 'Dark Necessities' and 'Dreams of a Samurai', but for the rest of the songs it creates a lovely background decoration for those of them that are more atmospheric in nature.

The playing is of course wonderful, with the over-the-top slap bass of Flea, the master-drummer Ferrell- err, I mean Smith wields his set as good as ever, and the much more out-there guitar playing of Klinghoffer is something a bit different from prior albums, but still welcomed. There is also of course Kiedis, who sounds practically the same as if it were '99 again.

The Getaway may not be a super-powered swagger-fest as some people may have hoped for, but the album's catchy nature and infinite replayability is sure to impress even the most grouchy of Grinches.

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Metal Music Archives on 6/29/2016.
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Music Review #39:
Sleep's Holy Mountain
Earache Records

A humble step forward for the band, Sleep's second album Sleep's Holy Mountain is a wholehearted tribute to 70's Black Sabbath, with faster riffs and ultimately faster songs. It's actually quite a shock when going from Volume One to this, due to the lighter (or just less somber atmosphere) of this record. As I said before this is mainly a full-blown incorporation of Sabbath's sound (circa debut/Paranoid), from the completely changed vocals of Cisneros to a more Osbourne style yell, to the faster guitar riffing to create a more streamlined sound. Don't let that turn you off in the slightest, because this album rocks hard, with perhaps more vigor than Volume One. With a newfound confidence, Sleep goes full steam ahead!

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Metal Music Archives on 6/29/2016.
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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Music Review #38:
Volume One
Tupelo Recording Company

Sleep's debut is everything a debut should be: a spotlight of everything that the band stood for and would continue to stand for in the future. The slow dragging of lead footed guitar grinds that nod sleepily along to the heart-pounding jam of the drums was something doom metal, especially the stonerriffic Sleep's brand, would be known for. A small con, if you could call it that, is the hoarse, screaming vocals of Al Cisneros, whose style is very akin to Page Hamilton of Helmet. The only difference being Helmet's addition of noise rock to their alternative metal slamming style filled in any amateurish gaps that Hamilton's voice didn't. Cisneros has the problem that he has a lower quality voice, and sticks out a bit from the music. Even with that, Volume One does utilize a dream-like metal state (very truthful to the band's nomenclature), advertised well with Dali's fried bacon portrait. This album's darker tone would be left behind slightly in subsequent albums, so you can expect some uniqueness that you wouldn't find in the rest of the band's discography. Great start!

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Metal Music Archives on 6/28/2016.
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Music Review #37:
Trying To Burn The Sun
MGM Records

I really gotta replace that thing. Every single day the beaten doors fly open ajar I hear the damned ringing of that bell on the door-sounding after awhile like a miniature Notre Dame was being kept in my bar. The man who to cause today's disturbance walked in close to closing hours and took a heavy seat on one of my moth-eaten seats positioned right in front of me. He was a hairy, huge man to say the least, and wore a uniform showing he worked at the lumber mill only a few miles down the road. Unsurprising seeing the way he strong-armed his way into the bar, setting Lucifer's jingling keys a-ringing like mad as he unintentionally made the door tremble on it's hinges. After exhaling deeply with a breath that created a cloud in the cold air of the room, he sat there in silence for a minute or two. When he did speak it was with a surprisingly gentle air, like the whisper of a father talking kindly and curiously to his child.

"S'there a problem sir?"

Confused I looked up from a glass I was drying with one of my rags and directly at the stranger.


"Yer eye's been twitchin' like crazy since I walked in."

I reached up with one of my hands to touch my left eye, which I realized really was quivering like mad.

"Sorry," I muttered, "it's the claxon of my welcome bell that gets me- it's got nothing to do with you."

The man glanced at the door then back at me, one eyebrow raised.

"Really? I do enjoy that bell. Everytime someone walks in as I'm walking down the street I hear it- makes it almost feel like Christmas is always here."

"Doesn't really reflect the mood though does it?"

The stranger looked around at my dank and dark barroom, and I felt a pang of embarrassment as he saw the flickering overheads and dusty windows.

"Before I got here it was only you right?" He said. "Don't really expect much from a room with one man in it. Not like there's suppose t'be any upbeat atmosphere."

I smiled and looked back down to continue my cleanup but I was interrupted once more.

"You could spruce it up a bit y'know? Maybe make it a bit lighter in here."

I ignored this because I'd convinced myself long ago to not touch those window-frames in fear I'd get tetanus.

"At least change the music to somefin' good. This sounds like Gloomy Sunday or somefin'."

I obliged, turning around and lifting the needle from the record that was spinning and spilling out the 'depressing music'.

"What would you like? Seeing as you're the only other one here and I got no taste in upbeat music you might as well decide."

The man put both beefy hands upon the bar, lifting himself forward to inspect my shelf full of records I'd brought from home to keep here at the bar. His eyes squinted as he tried to read the titles of the tilted LP's.

"ZZ Top wouldn't be too bad- I do love that Le Ranche or whatever s'called...but then there's Zepp's IV which has the Levee song with the great Bonham drummin'..."

He leaned back to his seat and fell down with a puff from the chair's stuffing.

"I really like that raucous stuff like Dio or somefin'. Ever since I heard he died I been listenin' to all his stuff- Sabbath, Rainbow, Heaven and Hell, you name it."

Something came to mind suddenly and I pulled a certain LP from it's holding.

"So that means you must've heard of Elf, right?"

"Err, 'fraid not. S'it a band er a person?"

"It's a band Ronnie and some friends formed in '57 in Cortland. They went through a few name changes but in '72, along with their first album, they changed it to Elf."

"Sound's pretty interestin'. S'that what you got there then? An "Elf" album?"

"Yeah. This is their third and final album before they called it quits. It's called Trying To Burn The Sun and I've never actually heard it."

"Sounds cool with me. Put in on then, barman!"

I took the black disc out of the red and bright-orange packaging and slit it onto the player. Setting the needle on it, the first track began. It was an extremely upbeat tune, with Edwards' classic rock n' roll guitar style mixing well with Soule's electrifying piano playing. This was prevalent to the majority of the record, all backed by the conjoined chorus of Soule and the ever-magnificent Dio belting out every single word with awe-inspiring skill. A subtle Rolling Stones-esque influence was very present from the swinging beats laid down by Driscoll made for very typical 70's funky tunes with toe tapping moments.

We listened through the whole eight tracks until the moon came out from behind the clouds. As the ending epic 'Streetwalker' came to an end, the stranger let out a loud laugh.

"That was quite the ride! Wasn't anyfin' too complex but still loved it!"

I nodded, slipping the LP back into it's home and sliding it back into it's place among the collection.

"It really was a great piece of rock history. It had all the tropes you'd expect from cheese in 1975, but with the great instrument playing and the unmatched talent of Dio made it pretty fun!"

The stranger finished his mug and made his way towards the door.

"You should play that more often! Don' think many people know of it- thas' gotta change!"

I chuckled and waved as the door slowly shut behind in the wake of his exit. The record had been a great, fun experience for me, and as that bell rung for the last time that night, I'll admit it was much less painful as I thought it was before.

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Metal Music Archives on 6/27/2016.
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Friday, June 24, 2016

Music Review #36:
The Outer Limits
MCA Records

Nothingface had been a turning point for Voivod in '89, cementing a trait of constant re-structuring and fine-tuning for every subsequent album for the band. The next LP Angel Rat began to hint at a future where Voivod would become an innovative piece of the prog metal scene, but as an album itself was a bit of a shaky change of tone. This loss of footing was completely thrown out the window with it's followup titled The Outer Limits. A fresh, slightly manufactured sound rife with complexity and creative promise was prevalent, without losing the classic aggressive elements of their past.

The track-list provides an albeit cluttered set of unique elements that range from the dark, melodramatic 'Le Pont Noir' to the heavy-footed stomp of 'The Nile Song' and 'The Lost Machine', to gargantuan 'Jack Luminous'. The Outer Limits has some of Voivod's most interesting and eclectic work to date, and surpasses many albums that followed it. If you are one for mind-challenging music in the metal vein, then this is an album you should definitely check out. 

2016 - The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Metal Music Archives on 6/24/2016.
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Monday, June 20, 2016

Music Review #35:
Fly By Night
Mercury Records

Rush's personality didn't really come in until this album. Like such Fly By Night resonates early echoes of what the band would become, granted with less experimentation and overall "progressive" nature and more of the classic rock sound featured on their debut. Then, you may ask, is so great about this album if isn't blatant hard rock or intricate prog? Well, that's very simple. You see, Fly By Night walks such a fine line between these two aforementioned genres that it combines them extremely well, having a bit of each for each type of fans. You have the rock in songs like the title track and 'Anthem', and the prog in 'By-Tor And the Snow Dog' and my personal favorite 'In The End'. If you are indeed a fan of Moving Pictures / Farewell To Kings-era Rush, then this album is right for you.

2016- The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Prog Archives on 6/16/2016.
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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Music Review #34:
Aisles (AISLES)
4:45 A.M.
Presagio Records

This is an album from a band that arises from the less complex side of the neo-prog genre, and features callbacks of vocal-fronted pop rock circa very late 70's progressive rock akin to material by Kayak or Styx. Atypical of most well- known prog bands Aisles (or I guess AISLES as they stylize it) has an aforementioned heavy emphasis on vocal work performed by Sebastian Vergara, which depending on who you are, could spoil most experimentation or improvisation present on 4:45. Guitar work and overall use of flashy, echoing effect-laden playing style is very similar to music you'd find on late-career material from Pink Floyd (Division Bell mainly). To me this is a bit disappointing because it has that sense of a band who used to play extremely well on their own but due to age they had to rely on background ambiance and soundscapes to make up for any emptiness they would have been able to kill in their heyday. This does not at all apply to Aisles, who has been around only since 2001, but is forgivable because, surprise, they aren't Pink Floyd. Variation is mostly present towards the end of the album, but retains mainly the same style, tempo. This causes a bland factor for most of the tracks on the album, making them forgettable for the most part- that is but for the finale epic Melancholia; a song where this style of Aisles actually works as well as has equal balance between the vocals and the instrumentation. This song demonstrates creativity that I do hope to see on upcoming albums from the band.

Unfortunately 4:45 as a whole is humble but also doesn't quite cross the threshold of skill that I expected. Compositions are not unique, lacks a unique style, and overall is not played quite to snuff as I think it could have. Like most of Aisles' releases up to this point, this is another step up the proverbial rung for the band's rising potential. An album doesn't quite satisfy but also makes me expectant for a followup.

2016- The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Prog Archives on 6/4/2016.
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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Music Review #33:
The Dillinger Escape Plan
Miss Machine
Relapse Records

There's a certain point where music can build up too much of a head of steam and simply become a malformed mess of half baked ideas and botched compositions. This is the fate of Dillinger Escape Plan's second album, Miss Machine, released in 2004. Myself never a fan of the band, I will admit their early albums set some standards. Unfortunately such influence does not excuse the honestly poor quality of Miss Machine. The cover alone explains everything wrong with this album; a jumble of angst-ridden songs that try so very hard to be aggressive that it falls backwards into the silly category. Not to mention when placed alongside the band's other (mediocre) discography, this honestly disquieting work sticks out like blood on snow. Any talent the band could show unfortunately does not translate well here. Uncomfortable and enjoyable, this album is one for only those who seek the roughest listening experience possible.

2016- The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Prog Archives on 6/16/2016.
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Friday, June 10, 2016

Music Review #32:
Round Room
Elektra Records

Phish were onto something early in the new millennium- an epiphany if you will. Whilst their well and highly acclaimed 90's albums featured highly eclectic songwriting with zany and nonsensical lyrics, they were able to claim success with a slower, more cooled-down version of their rock. This latter statement is of course in reference to Farmhouse, the 2000's album featuring pop-rock songs that were slightly bogged down by the sappiness of that darned "mainstream" taste. The album was slightly panned by critic for lacking the acid-fueled pseudo depth from Junta or Lawn Boy, but it attracted more every-men to join the Phish circuit. A follow-up album was quickly set up and on track.

Hark! The palindrome year of 2002 rolled around in the form of the spherical Round Room. Like Farmhouse there was many of the same typical rock songs for your casual ears, but something was different this time a"round". The album featured many new epics that are much more intricate than what would be expected. These songs are structured very similarly- with a slow, almost minimalist first half and a raucous second half-, yet are unique in all of their own ways. It's hard to place a finger on it but it's almost as if these songs, mainly 'Pebbles and Marbles', 'Seven Below', 'Walls of the Cave', and 'Waves', feature more depth and meaning than those of any prior Phish album. A controversial opinion maybe, but just a listen to the aforementioned 'Walls of the Cave', with it's creative rhythm patterns set up by drummer god Jon Fishman, and beautiful yet simplistic lyrical abilities of Anastasio and Page McConnell, it is hard for me to deny it to myself. Of course, the shorter songs are good too; like I said they are indeed callbacks to Farmhouse, ranging from slow ballads to jazz-funking, puffed up powerhouses. A noteworthy mention is the track 'Mock Song', which as a fan of the band I felt was a fun poke at their past work, mainly the meaninglessness of their lyrics and such.

Round Room is something that eases you in. It doesn't take multiple listens to enjoy- just let go of any prior notions and sink in. By that time that path of enjoyment has already paved subconsciously for you. And the neatest thing of all: you did it all yourself.

2016- The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Prog Archives on 6/10/2016.
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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Music Review #31:
Monster Movie
Elektra Records

Can's 60's debut is one of the few first albums by a band that I can safely say is my favorite of said band's discography.

I've never been a huge fan of krautrock- most of what I've heard is pretty disjointed, most likely because of me listening to things like Organisation which I absolutely abhor-, but Can was my introduction and still to this day reigns as my favorite from the genre. My largest highlight of their consecutive releases is obviously Can's 1969 Monster Movie. Everything about it is great, at least on the first side of the LP.

Many people make points about how Monster Movie has large amounts of early punk elements. I mean sure, I suppose, but really the seven minute opener epic 'Father Cannot Yell' is most likely the most connected to the genre, but overall this album pioneers flowing, almost hypnotic riffs that early krautrock bands were doing. The band largely relies on improvisation to get through the longer tracks, not unlike jam bands such as the Grateful Dead. In fact, 'You Doo Right' was originally a whopping six hour long jam until it was compressed into twenty minutes. Most of the songs on here have at least some iota of Can's later atmospheric hypno-rock, with in this case a style that paved the way not only for the band but also for other krautrock bands.

The opener 'Father Cannot Yell' as said before it is a speeding, punk-influenced song that starts off the album. Although it was a strange way to set off this particularly slow album, it is quite enjoyable as a casual listen. 'Outside My Door' is a shorter, even more punk-ish track that uses more repetitive drumming as well as some cool guitar riffs.

'Mary, Mary So Contrary' is the best song on the album and perhaps my favorite song from it's genre as well as the band. It uses very different mesmerizing tones with lyrics based off of a children's rhyme. The guitar work, although seems to be pretty standard, sounds absolutely epic in the light of it's overall atmosphere. Mooney's vocals are absolutely outstanding, using a tired, almost scratchy feel to give his voice that needed effect.

Ah, 'You Doo Right'. Probably one of the most boring, repetitive songs I've encountered in my progressive wanderings. Even when the song is three times as long as it should be, it's still boring and retains the same sound throughout listening. It uses massive repetition, and although I can say that I like when Can does it on their other songs, here it's just pointless. Absolutely mediocre and not enjoyable to sit down and listen to.

Even in the light of the second side, Can's Monster Movie still gets a 4.5/5 from me. It introduced me to the genre, and I still love it with all my heart to this day. In the light of me liking it so much, I've rounded the rating to a full five rating. Absolutely fantastic.

2016- The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Prog Archives on 1/29/2015.
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Friday, June 3, 2016

Music Review #31:
King Crimson
Island Records

King Crimson: a pool of ever-changing talent rarely ceases to amaze. Most of the time I disagree with Mr. Fripp's ideas of the structure of his band, however I like to forget background information of something and just listen to the music sometimes. Red was one of these instances, and without thoughts of the details the music simply sounded better.

1974 was the year where metal was starting to spring up all over the place. Much credit was due to King Crimson for their early work to the creation of the genre, however by this time they seemed to be more of another hard prog band.While other bands like Scorpions, Sabbath, and Judas Priest all started experimenting with this newly founded genre, King Crimson continued to write elaborate compositions with much flare and musical brilliance. I will admit that I disliked much of their pre-Red content, but when this album came around everything changed. It was less about being art for arts sake and more about playing what they willed. Mind you, changes were still made and lineups were constantly fixed and re- ordered, so much chaos still happened there. The beauty about Red however is none of that translates to the music. In the recording studio, all was forgotten.

The title track is a wonderful opening, probably one of the more themed tracks as opposed to jamming, but it's utilization of ambiance and heavy guitar with no vocals bogging it down (one of the few songs where I feel like it would). 'Fallen Angel' translates to me more of a ballad, and marks one of the weaker points of the album. Fripp intended it to be more "emotional", but I found it to be rather weak in comparison to the rest of the album. One thing that never really changes is Wetton's amazing vocalizations which seem to fit into every musical circumstance. He is definitely a singer that brightened up any weak part the album has. 'One More Red Nightmare' is one of the aforementioned jams. Although the term 'jam' may not be exactly fitting, the song's length does lead to many tangents that the band members expound on briefly. Much like 'Red', this song has some fantastic riffing and great clear drumming from Bruford. Wetton's vocal skills are probably on peak at this point, along with his bass-work. Violins bring in the next track, 'Providence', most of which is much adventurous work of different instrumentations that come in at different parts. Slightly uncomfortable due to it's erratic nature; very reminiscent to Ummagumma-esque Floyd if you enjoy that sort of music. 'Starless' is a fantastic mix of everything you've heard prior in an orchestral style all in a clean twelve minutes. Shifting constantly, it never ceases to lose your attention and also does a great job closing shop.

As a final verdict, Red is undeniably wonderful. Wouldn't exactly call it a masterpiece due to some of the weaker aspects but it still shines wonderfully with what it does well and I applaud Crimson for being able to accomplish it. I think a healthy 4-4.5 stars is fitting.

2016- The Frying Pan & Thatcher 
Originally written for Prog Archives on 7/7/2015.
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