Saturday, January 31, 2009

Atheist - Intro

Atheist (who wisely changed their name from R.A.V.A.G.E.) were one of the most unique bands to come out of the late 80's Florida death metal scene. Combining jazz influences with harsh vocals and one of the most hyperactive rhythm sections you'll ever hear, they were one of the first technical death metal bands. Want to know more? Read on...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Sisters of Mercy - A Slight Case of Overbombing

6/10

This is a compilation of all the band's A-sides for Time Warner. It probably would've been preferable if Eldritch had just chosen what he thought were the best songs instead of some suit deciding just to include all the singles; as a result, we get FOUR songs from "Vision Thing," only one of which is "More", While three pretty good songs from "First and Last and Always" are included, neither "Some Kind of Stranger" or "Black Planet" are among them. Floodland is well represented except for the fact that "Lucretia My Reflection" is an extended version which adds ZILCH to the original.

There are two non-album tracks; they consist of a re-recording of "Temple of Love" with Israeli singer Ofra Haza on backing vocals and a brand new song called "Under the Gun." This song, thankfully, is more in the vein of earlier material than the dreck on Vision Thing.

These two tracks were the last ever recorded by the band- Eldritch went "on strike" from his label and eventually got out of his contract by producing two albums of techno that were so bad that they haven't been released. I'm hardly one to side with the record label in this kind of situation, but given how no less than three bandmates quite citing personality conflicts, I think Eldritch may have had more than his share of the blame. There's also the fact that he's been promising a new Sisters album for more than a decade now, and produced nothing whatsoever. I'm assuming that that'll become the butt of jokes that used to be directed at Chinese Democracy.

The Sisters of Mercy - Vision Thing

4/10

Ugh. The gloom of previous releases is completely gone, and it’s replaced with lame female backing vocals and loud guitars that sound like hair metal at times. As much as Eldritch hated being associated with the term “goth,” the Sisters sure sucked when they decided to leave that aesthetic behind completely. The only real standout track is “More,” another song produced by Jim Steinman (he also gets a co-writing credit). It sounds nothing like previous Sisters releases, and I’m assuming that Steinman’s production was the main reason why this track stood out; he obviously knew how to work with this kind of material, and it’s a shame that he couldn’t have stuck around to produce the rest of the album. This one’s only for completists.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Sisters of Mercy - Floodland

10/10
Nope, Eldritch put out an awesome album! This is basically an Andrew Eldritch solo album, as the only official Sister other than him at the time was Patricia Morrison, whom he claims didn’t actually play on the album and was only hired for promotional appearances (yet another example of Andrew being such a considerate and kind individual).
Floodland’s sound is much more epic than the Sisters’ previous work; Eldritch even got Mr. Over-the-top himself, Jim Steinman (famous for writing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and songs for Meat Loaf) to produce two tracks, and they’re some of the best on the album; “Dominion/Mother Russia” is an intriguing work of Cold War paranoia, and “This Corrosion” is simply epic, with a choir and lyrics which sound epic without making the least bit of sense. There’s some more typical Sisters gloominess on the two “Flood” tracks and “Lucretia My Reflection,” and even a piano ballad in “1959” and a semi-ambient song in “Driven Like the Snow.”
Even if you’re a vinyl freak, I recommend you get a CD version instead. That’s because the CD contains two bonus tracks. One of them, “Colors,” is a re-recording of a song from the album “Gift” by Eldritch’s side project, The Sisterhood, and it’s not that good. However, “Torch” is just a wonderful song, with this weird synth bassline that I couldn’t quite place. After listening to it a few times, it dawned on me that the bass synth was set to the same setting as the flute solo, but just played at a much deeper pitch. I love songs which use synths in unorthodox ways like that. This is definitely the place to start with the band.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Sisters of Mercy - First and Last and Always

8/10
This is the only Sisters album which featured guitarist Wayne Hussey, who left to form The Mission along with bassist Craig Adams. Apparently, Andrew Eldritch had very little involvement with writing the music on this album, with most of his contributions being lyrical in nature. As a result, it’s not surprising that this is the only Sisters album that sounds like what little of The Mission that I’ve heard.
This is a pretty guitar-heavy album, with more of an acoustic sound than any other Sisters release. Synthesizers are less prominent, but are used well in the tracks that do feature them, such as “Possession” and “Some Kind of Stranger.” And thankfully, Doktor Avalanche’s sound is considerably less rudimentary than on any of the “Some Girls” tracks, although you’d never mistake it for actual drums.
This album reminds me more than a little of Slayer’s Reign in Blood in that I feel that the best songs are the ones which open and close the album. “Black Planet” is a wonderful four minutes of a dark acid trip, and “Some Kind of Stranger” is the dreariest love song you’ll ever hear. That said, the rest of the album isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination- it’s just that it’s hard for the other songs to stand out next to those two.
After this album was recorded, a funny thing happened. All the members of the band except Andrew Eldritch quit, citing personality problems with him, leaving him as the only remaining member. Was the band dead?

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Sisters of Mercy - Some Girls Wander By Mistake

8/10
This is a compilation album of singles and EPs released during the band’s early years, and, as can be expected, it doesn’t exactly have a consistent sound. It’s also not in chronological order, as the band’s first single, “Watch,” is buried deep into the album, and you don’t really get much of a feel for the band’s evolution as a result. Still, much of the material is quite good, and even some of the songs that aren’t so good are at least interesting, such as the aforementioned single (which has Gary Marx on vocals and Andrew Eldritch on drums – yes, it’s a Sisters track with actual drums), and some of the other more punk-based tracks, such as the cover of the Stooges’ “1969”. Standout tracks include the atmospheric instrumental “Phantom” and a great cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”.

Other interesting tracks include the extended version of Temple of Love, which would have been awesome if they hadn’t gone the easy route of having the second, “extended” half sound almost exactly the same as the first, like a late-era Vital Remains song. Several songs, like “Kiss the Carpet” and “Fix,” aren’t instrumentals but seem like it at first, with Eldritch’s vocals not coming in until a minute or two. This is kind of a low 8, considering that Doktor Avalanche frequently sounds more like castanets than actual drums and that some of the lesser songs are practically interchangeable, but I can still recommend it.

The Sisters of Mercy - Intro

The Sisters of Mercy were one of the most prominent goth rock bands (but don't say that to their face, they hate the term). The only constant in the band was moody-voiced singer Andrew Eldritch. (Yes, I know that the drum machine was nicknamed "Doktor Avalanche," but there were actually a whole bunch of them.) The band technically still exists, but it's in limbo because Andrew Eldritch is an asshole.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The best album openings

I decided I'd write my first proper blog entry about albums which have great openings. Some albums just start off incredibly well and do a great job of drawing one in; these are some of my favorites.

The Beatles - A Hard Day's Night: The opening chord is just iconic; there's a good reason it's one of the most famous moments in the Beatles' entire catalog.

Cannibal Corpse - Kill: It's far from my favorite album from the Corpse, but I love the opening. Corpsegrinder just lets loose with one of the best screams he's ever done. I also like how the song sounds like it started in the middle of a song- it's hard to describe, but great.

The Cure - Disintegration: The album starts off with some jangly chimes, and then the awesome synth part begins. It's repetitive without being dull; the word which comes to my mind is "panoramic".

King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King: The riff to 21st Century Schizoid Man is awesome, to be sure, but I included this for the 30 seconds or so of ambient noise that precede it. You get the impression that when this album first came out, people listening to it had no idea what they were in for.

Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath: Ditto for this album, which came out just a year later. The thunder, rain and church bell in the background do an excellent job of setting the mood- and then those three notes come in, and they couldn't possibly sound more sinister.

Meat Loaf - Bat out of Hell: The first two minutes of the title song are astounding; they do a great job of establishing the album's over-the-top Broadway sound. Supposedly, Todd Rundgren managed to record the opening guitar solo in one take.

Slayer - Reign in Blood: I think this album's a bit overrated, but good God, does it ever grab you by the throat at the start. Tom Araya does an excellent job of sounding like a wailing guitar for the first half of his scream.

Marillion - Misplaced Childhood: Pseudo Silk Kimono's simple synth riff does a great job of creating the sensation that something big and important is about to happen. It doesn't really work as a song by itself, though.

Starting out

Hi there, I'm Pugs Malone and this is my blog. I decided to start a blog because I was writing reviews for another blog called Metal Jerks, and I wanted to have my own blog were I could write music reviews without being confined to the metal genre (although I'll definitely be covering metal, too). I'll also occasionally write articles about music that aren't reviews.

My ratings will be using the same system that Mark Prindle uses; a rating on the scale from 1 to 10, where no artist can get more than one 10. I am also going to focus on reviewing entire discographies; I will not start reviewing a band's albums unless I intend to hit all of their major releases. The only exceptions to this rule are when I feel that a band's sound has changed significantly after a certain point, such as the loss of a key member or a break-up and reformation.