Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Usual Locations Teil Vier: Be'Lakor & The Eternal

My focus-beam will now be aimed at the land known as Fourecks, sorry I mean, Australia. For some reason whenever I think of the music scene in Australia all I can think of is AC/DC, INXS and Kylie. And I've got to say I'm not a big fan of any of those, I might listen to AC/DC but I wouldn't go out of my way to buy an album. But then again, I do listen an awful lot of Nick Cave. So there is that. There does appear to be an awful lot of different music stylings being composed and published down there, but somehow never leave the shore.  These two these two bands that I am going to discuss sound like something else, and while I'd hope that both could gain some monumental success, I'd suspect that the first one would struggle but the second one could easily win people hearts and minds, especially if they continue in the vein of their last album.

First of we'll start with the behemoth(The monster not the band) sounding Be'Lakor. First time I cam across them was when there was a fairly frequent discussion and review requests on Angry Metal Guy's Facebook page. Their description didn't exactly light my fire. Melodic Death Metal. It's a genre I've never really got into, and not for lack of trying. I tried quite a few of the Gothenburg bands that pioneered that style and I just can't get into it, besides maybe Gardenian. But these guys are a bit more special. The first album I listened to was their rather phenomenal 'Of Breath and Bone', which has pretty much got a world wide wholly positive reviews. So I decided to check them out. And boy did it blow me away. Well.... Maybe not at first. These guys have been around since 2004 and were at one point hailed as "Best Unsigned Band in Metal" by MetalSucks. That obliviously isn't true any more but listening to their debut album 'The Frail Tide' I can understand why people were getting excited. On the whole. These guys have melodies in spade. No. They have melody in barge loads.  The amount of times when I've had people in my ear complaining that metal didn't have melody and was just noise, seriously shut the fuck up and put these guys on and then get back to me. Just in the first two songs you've heard enough melodies, enough musical changes and tempo changes that would usually fill 2 albums by lesser bands. One thing that I found brilliant about their music, their last album especially, is that there is this common thread that is woven into every song making the whole album play like it's just one song. After some listens I was going to say that their weak point is their singer, but after a few more listens I realised I was wrong. He growls and shrieks at the right points, often sounding a bit like a Daemon Storyteller, thus lending a certain malevolent air to the whole thing. But seriously though, the intricacy that all member manage to play their respective instruments and weave and wave around each other with apparently very little effort is astounding. Just listen to the beginning of of 'Remnants' there seems to be a near constant guitar solo on the go somewhere in the background which have been turned into main riffs with such an elegant ease. I am aware of other bands that play similar to these guys, and I've given a fair few of them a listen. But none have the both the staying power or the pull-back power for me as these guys do. I always return for more. These guys do deserve every accolade that surely is coming their way. And if more people had sense they'd be touring the world right now.

The Eternal, now these guys have got the sound to make it big. They've been going for a while though admittedly they changed names in 2003 from Cryptal Darkness. Which was the best decision of their career. It would appear that they read Anathema's textbook on "How to Change Your Sound Successfully". They've gone from this rather generic boring Death/Doom/Grindcore and moved, successfully to alternative rock. With a half-way stop at Gothic Metal. I only came across these guys when I was trudging the muddy waters at the Dark Port. Maybe it's no coincidence that these guys have toured with Anathema come to think of it. But yeah, their last album 'When the Circle of Light Begins to Fade' is very much up the Anathema territory. Melodic, slightly meloncholic, and stadium worthy.  They still retain some of the Gothic element, but most of it has been shed away (Thankfully to be honest, generally gothic doesn't float my boat). On the whole they haven't quite reached Anathema's but they're getting there. No doubt about it. I'm not going to spout of that their last album is a classic in the waiting (Unlike Be'Lakor - Of Breath And Bone). But the riffs are there, the singing is there, the production isn't quite there though soundwise it is crystal clear, there just seems to be something missing and I can't quite put my finger on it. But until I can I will listen to the album over and over again.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Lasting Impact: Iron Maiden - Seventh Son of The Seventh Son

Iron Maiden - Seventh Son of the Seventh Son
Iron Maiden is without a doubt my number one favourite band. They are the only band that I am willing to buy an album when it comes out. I've already written on blog regarding an album of theirs that is close to my heart.

Now from memory rather coffee stained memory I seemed to have gone into their career a little backwards, or sideways or hub-wards. The first song I remember hearing was the phenomenal Aces High, the first album I owned was Live After Death (In cassette form!) but the first studio album I owned was Fear of the Dark. Which I really really liked, but it somehow didn't feel like the Iron Maiden I first knew. So I left it for a little bit. Sometime somewhere someone gave me a VHS copy of Made in England which was filmed during their Seventh Tour of the Seventh Tour. And boy, oh man did those spandex trousers left quite an impression and not in a good way.  But the songs. The songs were so so very very very good. There isn't enough wax for me to wax lyrically or poetically about this album but I shall try my best.

Bruce Dickinson and 80's spandex

Then I got this single given:

Can I Play With Madness

Which had two songs from an album I had not listened to by Iron Maiden. That album? Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. The best and one of the perfect albums of heavy metal. It would not be unfair to say that their creative talents had peaked considerably when they put out this album. That is not to say that all the albums that followed were shit... just not as good. I know there are people now probably shouting at the screen mentioning various names but I would argue that they haven't released a bad album, they've done some awful songs but not whole album full of them.  But Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is just completely different. It is the perfect mixture of Wow! and Woah!

For those who don't know. This was Iron Maiden's seventh studio album, they were at their peak in terms of albums sales and touring relentlessly. They were at the top of their game. These guys had been touring together for 6 years at this point. They had released the rather odd Somewhere in Time, which has their best album cover though, which had featured fairly heavily synthesizers but had not really fully incorporated them. But on this one they completely embraced them and put them to great use.

Apparently Steve Harris had been reading Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card. And with Bruce Dickinson's interest in history and Aleister Crowley in particular it was only a matter of time when this would collide. Them two spoke for a while and then decided to make a concept album about the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.

The story follows a boy who is the seventh son of the seventh son(Betcha didn't see that one coming). In Moonchild he is being born and there is a fight going on between the Devil and an Angel regarding who's path he will follow. Throughout his life he struggles with his dreams, his visions and generally his life seems to be going down the drain. Fast. He tries, but in the end can't live with the burden. So the album ends on a cheerful note called Only the Good Die Young.

To be honest the concept went right over my head, still does in fact, but the music is impeccable.  As a concept album it is really rather weak, nowhere near like say Operation Mindcrime or Christ.O or Brave. But what it does have a common musical thread running through all of the songs. There are two songs that are blatantly commercial namely Can I Play With Madness and The Evil that Men Do, but they are great. And the former has a video that features Graham Chapman! Apparently the former also started of as a ballad, and listening to it I don't understand how, but the latter could have very easily been a power ballad. But both are equally hard rocking and headbangable.


Then you've got the prog element that has always been there. To be honest regarding long proggy songs the best one they've ever done is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. But the title song is an atmospheric masterpiece, but it's by no means the only prog song there, the other contender for prog-metal song on here is Infinite Dreams which has one of the most interesting guitar playing and very unusual song structure, considering that most of the time when they write songs they try to make sure that that the audience can sing along. But that is pretty hard with this one. But it's a great song though and you can feel for the character and the psychosis that is plaguing him. It sorts of meanders from being a power ballad to a fully fledged metal song towards the end with those patented Iron Maiden dual guitar attacks that are just so so very wonderful to listen to. 

With all of this you also get Steve Harris galloping bass playing. I've yet to hear anyone else play the bass like he does, it is quite wonderful to listen to especially when he goes off on one like on The Clairvoyant which for a long long time was my favourite song from this album. Not sure which is my favourite song right now because whenever I put this album on I have to listen to it from start to finish. Each song individually is ranging from great to greatness, but listening to them all in sequence from start to finish just adds that oh so extra special layer on top of all of them. Bit like a smear of Mr. Vikki's BBQ sauce does for ham sandwiches.

Bruce Dickinson goes out of his way to show why he is one of the best voices to come from that Heavy Metal Era (Still has one of the best voices in fact) and mesmerises completely throughout and keeps you captivated in the story that isn't all there. He shows why he's called the Air-Raid Siren with gusto and puts his history degree into good use when writing his lyrics.

Dave Murray and Adrian Smith are the dual guitar players that every other guitar pair, it was such a loss when Adrian left. Though that is not a slight on Janick. But thank the Gods that both Bruce and Adrian returned and kept Janick.

The album ends with the same acoustic ditty and sinister words by Bruce Dickinson (Which he borrowed from the aforementioned Aleister Crowley) that it started with:
Seven deadly sins
Seven ways to win
Seven holy paths to hell
And your trip begins
Seven downward slopes
Seven bloodied hopes
Seven are your burning fires
Seven your desires
They still haven't bettered this album, though Dance of Death came pretty close.

So for people's enjoyments I'll share the album in two different formats.