The Shizit—Live at Club Spirit (2008)

The Shizit—Live at Club Spirit (2008)

The Shizit—Live at Club Spirit (2008)

Details

Tracks 1 to 4 originally recorded on 13 September 2000 and released on mp3.com. Unreleased until 2008.

Band

  • J.P. Anderson—vocals, guitars, programming
  • Brian Shrader—guitars, backup vocals, samples

Tracks

  1. 32-bit whore (live)
  2. Anti-culture (live)
  3. Point click kill (live)
  4. Firewall (live)
  5. Audio jihad II (slip mix) *
  6. Anti-culture (slip mix) *
  7. Dear government (slip mix) *
  8. Just one fix (ministry cover) *

*bonus tracks

Review

Out of sheer laziness, I’ll hand the introduction to Wikipedia to cover the salient points:

The Shizit was a digital hardcore act from Seattle, Washington, USA, initially formed by J.P. Anderson and Brian Shrader in 1999. The music was an intense mix of gabber, breakbeat, drum and bass, hardcore techno, hardcore and heavy metal guitars, amped up with aggressive political lyrics.” (Source)

I expect that this genre of music would go down well in the bangin’ clubs and discotheques the length and breadth of the country. It is fast paced with heavy bass and rapid drum beats. This is music for dancing to, not sitting listening to. Ironically, though, if I was in a club (say, if I’d had a personality change) then I would probably prefer to sit and listen to the music, and analyse it than simply be carried away by its frantic beats.

Of all the tracks, I enjoyed only the final “Just one fix”. I found myself thinking, “This sounds like a Ministry song”. It is a Ministry song. That’ll be why, then.

Conclusion

I didn’t really connect with this album too much. And with the accompanying DVD even less. Sorry, it’s not you, it’s me.

Review score: 40%

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Russian Circles—Station (2008)

Russian Circles—Stations (2008)

Russian Circles—Stations (2008)

Details

Recorded at Studio Litho in Seattle, Washington in December 2007. Produced, engineered and mixed by Matt Bayles. Mastered by Ed Brooks at RFI. Management: Cathy Pellow and Sargent House. Released on Suicide Squeeze Records.

http://russiancirclesband.com/

Band

  • Mike Sullivan—Guitar
  • Dave Turncrantz—Drums
  • Brian Cook—Bass

Additional musicians

  • Morgan Henderson—Double bass
  • Matt Bayles—Keyboards and organ

Tracks

  1. Campaign
  2. Harper Lewis
  3. Station
  4. Verses
  5. Youngblood
  6. Xavii

Review

Looking at my music collection, in light of listening to this CD, I realise that I have very few instrumental records: the most obvious being Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, Shutter and the occasional track from other albums. Perhaps I ought to make a compilation of all my instrumental tracks and report back with a list, as a comment. My point, though, is that I don’t have too many bands in my collection to compare this to.

I had two immediate thoughts when I first listened to this album. One was that I loved it; the second was that it reminded me of ShutterAmplifier and Jesu. With comparisons like those how can you possibly go wrong?

One of the great things about progressive albums is that the songs are longer than most, so even though there are only six tracks on this LP it still clocks in at a very reasonable 43 minutes 23 seconds.

The album starts quietly, like a single note fluctuating in the darkness, joined by an arpeggio that weaves itself around the tone. It sounds like the dawn, like an album waking up. It’s quite beautiful. And then only two and half minutes after the main song has begun it ends. “Campaign” creeps up on you, wows you, and then disappears again into the darkness.

“Harper Lewis” opens with the kind of drum pattern and tone that makes me long to be a drummer. Joined after forty seconds my the kind of bass ‘bounce’ that takes me back to performing on stage with a few bands and why I loved, loved, loved playing the bass: a simple, understated but highly effective bass line.

The pace quickens on the title track “Station”. The distorted guitar riff about a minute in provides a metronomic wall of sound for the bass guitar to dance in and out of. This is a song that can’t fail to put a smile on my face every time I listen to it. But then just under five minutes into the song it begins to slow to be replaced forty seconds later by another theme. A palm-muted guitar picks out a new rhythm and melody.

If there was one song that most reminded me of Jesu it is the next one, “Verses”. A majestic bass line, legato guitar squeals that I presume have been teased out with an EBow, and then the most exquisite melody picked out on a clean guitar. Check out the unofficial video below, featuring video from NASA and the international space station.

“Youngblood” is a seven and a half minute exercise in arpeggios, chugging distorted guitars and… well, I love it. It has a subtle melody that sounds ‘sour’ in places.

Finally, “Xavii” begins with a picked melody that reminds me of a Steve Lawson track. The song is laid back and melancholic (or maybe I’m just projecting my own mood today) and very reminiscent of Shutter with its crystal clear guitar melody. It’s quite a beautiful song to close the album.

Conclusion

I had never heard of Russian Circles before. I had bumped them to the top of my list because I loved the name and I found the album cover intriguing, and I’m glad I did. This is definitely an album I will be playing again; a lot. And they are definitely a band I will be looking out for in the future. There really isn’t anything I can fault on this album, so I’m going to give them a full 10/10.

Review score: 100%

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Queensrÿche—Empire (1990)

Queensrÿche—Empire (1990)

Queensrÿche—Empire (1990)

Details

Empire is the fourth full-length album by the American heavy metal band Queensrÿche, released on August 20, 1990. The album reached triple-platinum status and the single extracted, the power ballad “Silent Lucidity”, reached No. 1 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks and No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Silent Lucidity” was also nominated for the Grammy Awards of 1992 in the categories Best Rock Song and Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.

Peter Collins – producer
James Barton — engineer, mixing
Paul Northfield — engineer on track 6
Tom Hall — engineer on tracks 6, 13
Neil Kernon — engineer on track 13[13]
Marcus Ramaer, Tom Hall, Dan Harjung – assistant engineers
Greenhouse Studios – recording and mixing studio, Vancouver, Canada
Bob Ludwig – mastering at Masterdisk, New York

—Source: Wikipedia

Band

  • Geoff Tate—Vocals
  • Chris DeGarmo—Guitars, keyboards, backing vocals
  • Michael Wilton—Guitars
  • Eddie Jackson—Bass guitars, backing vocals
  • Scott Rockenfield—Drums, percussion

Tracks

  1. Best I can
  2. The thin line
  3. Jet city woman
  4. Della Brown
  5. Another rainy night (without you)
  6. Empire
  7. Resistance
  8. Silent lucidity
  9. Hand on heart
  10. One and only
  11. Anybody listening?

Review

The year was 1988 and I had about 30 minutes to wait between buses on my way to Peebles to meet my girlfriend’s parents for the first time. What might be the best way to impress them? I know, I’ll run round the corner from the bus station to John Menzies and buy a metal album! I had two choices: Anthrax—Among The Living (1987) and the newly released Operation: Mindcrime (1988) from Queensrÿche.

Well, there was only really one choice, wasn’t there… and it turns out that Among The Living lasted exactly the length of the bus journey from Galashiels to Peebles in the Scottish Borders. I listened to Operation: Mindcrime a few years later and I was really disappointed. I know it’s supposed to be a prog classic concept album and all but… I know, I know <whisper>I still don’t get it</whisper>.

And then this album came out a couple of years later, and I loved it. And four years later they released Promised Land (2004) which is still my favourite Queensrÿche album.

I realised this week while listening to this album back to back that for all these years, in a strange way, I’ve always kind of regarded Queensrÿche as the American—and slightly better—Def Leppard. Although, of course, Queensrÿche are generally a bit more proggy than their Sheffield cousins.

The song writing on this album is superb. How can one album hold so many classics such as “Best I can”, “Jet city woman”, “Empire”, the sublime “Silent lucidity” and the final track “Anybody listening?”? If I could write even one song as good as any of these I would be beside myself.

This is one of those albums that I struggle to find a ‘filler’ track on. “One and only” perhaps. At a push. Probably not. As you were.

Conclusion

It’s hard to fault this album. It’s exquisitely written, beautifully performed, recorded and mixed. I’d forgotten just how much I love this album. I put it on again and again this past week and realised that it felt like a well-worn jumper: warm and comforting, reminding me of my family home in the ’90s, back when my dad was still alive, of hanging out with my brother, jamming on begged, borrowed or stolen guitars in our bedrooms, dreaming of becoming rock stars.

That sentimentality aside, this is a solid album, and one that’s stood the test of the last 23 years. (Is it really that long ago?!) It’s just such a pity that the band itself is in such a mess at the moment, caught up in a bitter feud between Geoff Tate and the rest of the band. Hopefully that can be resolved soon. You hear me Queensrÿche? Is anybody listening?

Review score: 100%

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Somnae—Forever More (2010)

Somnae—Forever More (2010)

Somnae—Forever More (2010)

Details

Recorded and mixed at the Darklab and SCC Studios, Seattle, USA, summer of 2009. Produced by EJ Oropza. Mastering by Dan Swano at Unisound Studios, Örebro, Sweden. Drums engineered by Brian Stephens at Eternal Beat Studios. Music and lyrics by EJ Oropza.

Band

  • Jesse Heidner: Vocals
  • EJ Oropza: Guitars, bass and synths
  • Brian Stephens: Drums

Tracks

  1. Forever More
  2. An Ominous Strain
  3. Fragile Tomorrow

Review

Somnae hail from Seattle, Washington but don’t fall into the stereotypical ‘Seattle-sound’ genre forged by the likes of Mudhoney Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, or the like. Encyclopedia Metallum categorises them as melodic/progressive death metal.

To date this appears to be their only release, a three track EP from 2010. Their website hints at a full-length album in the works, but it also hopes that this will be available at the beginning of 2011; that was two years ago. So what has happened, where are they? Their website doesn’t seem to give any hints.

Somane’s sound falls somewhere between Opeth (but without the clean vocals or more quietly acoustic sections) and Paradise Lost, and I’m sure a million bands in between. Heavy but melodic; the fusion of a doom-like pace with a death metal attitude.

The title track opens the EP with a dischordant riff that quickly morphs into a pretty recognisable death metal chord progression for about 30 seconds before the vocals join in: throaty, growling lyrics that aren’t always easy to make out. The remaining two songs follow a very similar vein.

“An Ominous Strain” kicks off with a very energetic riff that promises an up-beat, up-tempo song. But when the vocals grind their way into the mix at around 27 seconds the pace slows down to an almost dirge that is held up by the constant kick drums in the background.

“Fragile Tomorrow” begins quietly, with a rather too slow a start, taking almost a minute to warm up to full speed and volume. Then it’s more of the same: growling vocals, ponderous melodies, grinding riffs.

The trouble with this EP is that in my mind one song merges into the next. I’ve just listened to the disc three times back to back and I still find myself thinking, “isn’t that the same riff as the previous song?” At least I can now distinguish the intros.

This isn’t a bad release per se. The musicianship and production are very good, and the songs are very well crafted; none of that gets in the way as can sometimes happen. The problem is though that I’ve heard it all before. If I wanted to listen to a band that sounded like Opeth or Paradise Lost then I’d listen to Opeth or Paradise Lost. Somnae haven’t really brought anything new to the table with this EP, they don’t yet seem to have stamped their own unique mark of identity on their sound. Maybe the last three years have changed some of that. If they have then I wish they would tell us.

Conclusion

This is a solid EP with three very finely written songs. But it’s almost progressive metal by numbers which kinds of lets it down a bit. I certainly wouldn’t fast forward any of these songs if I heard them on a random-play playlist on my mp3 collection, but I’m not sure I would make the effort to look out the album to play it specifically.

Review score: 60%

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