Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Temperance Movement's 'The Temperance Movement' - Album Review

It is always nice to see a new rock band doing well. Reaching number 12 in the Official UK Album Chart, The Temperance Movement's self-titled debut album did very well indeed which is a considerable success for a band that was only formed two years ago! They play a brand of blues rock that owes a lot to bands like The Rolling Stones and The Black Crowes but without falling into too many of the clichés that befall so many modern blues artists. The Temperance Movement are not original by any stretch, but they have a sound that is fresh and exciting so it barely matters. However the big thing about the band that really stands out for me is that everything about them seems so genuine. Far too many of the big indie/blues crossover bands, e.g. The White Stripes or The Black Keys, have never seemed 'real' to me. The blues has always been about real people singing about real things but those kinds of bands have always had an air of cynicism about them with their perfectly dishevelled hair styles and designer clothes made to look retro. Sure in interviews they might mention their love for many obscure blues guitarists from the 1930s, but it never comes across as anything other than contrived. In this respect, The Temperance Movement are a breath of fresh air and people are starting to realise that. They are attracting fans from all ages and walks of life and that proves they are writing good songs that transcend genre labels and boundaries. There is absolutely no pretence about them, which would be very hard to say about someone like Jack White. The Temperance Movement is just as much a rock album as it is a blues album which is another reason for it's huge popularity. Fans of the Faces, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Quireboys will all find something to like but it never feels like a copy of anything that has come before. British blues rock has been a musical staple for years and this is just another chapter in a long and diverse history. The band's debut release was the Pride EP which came out in September 2012 and all five songs from that EP (albeit re-recorded) also feature on this debut album. At first I was disappointed when I read about this, but when I heard the album and how well it flowed I no longer cared. In any case, the songs are excellent and it would be a shame if they were banished to obscurity on a now out-of-print EP.

The album gets off to a rocking start with Only Friend. The song is based around chunky riff that is present throughout but frontman Phil Campbell's gravelly vocals are the main focus. He really has the perfect voice for this sort of music. Luke Potashnick and Paul Sayer make for a a solid and unflashy guitar duo. Surprisingly for blues-based music, there is little in the way of extended soloing but their talents for melody and songcraft shine through. One of the highlights of the song is the slightly gospel section in the pre-chorus that makes good use of vocal harmonies from the whole band. Ain't No Telling is up next and has a distinctive American southern rock vibe. The riffs have a snaking, boogie feel to them and the laid-back verses with some nice snappy lead breaks under Campbell's vocals bring to mind The Allman Brothers Band without the overpowering organ. There is a solo in this song, and it is rooted deeply in the blues with choice phrasing and obvious melody. Pride follows and starts off slowly. Campbell channels his inner Don Henley here and shows that his voice is far more versatile than many of his contemporaries. Once the drums come in, the song is driven by a subtle bass line from Nick Fyffe that allows the guitars to intertwine on top of it. It is very chilled out but does pick up the pace a little towards the end, building naturally and unobtrusively. Be Lucky gets back to the pure rock 'n' roll sound of the first two songs and is the catchiest so far. The chorus is infectious and the rest of the song is supported by a simple riff that sounds raw and gutsy. It is one of the best songs on the album and will be stuck in your head for weeks. Single Midnight Black is up next and this is another really strong track. It has a real energy and sounds a little like a ballsier version of Status Quo. It has another excellent chorus and it is no wonder why they chose to release it as a single. It has a fun video (see below) to go with it that really encapsulates everything that the band are about - people having fun with good music! A nice solo is the icing on the cake and completes the picture, plus we even get a nice little drum outro from Damon Wilson!

Chinese Lanterns is the most stripped back song on the whole album. Campbell once again uses the delicate side of his voice and some understated slide guitar really enhances the mood of the piece. The Temperance Movement can really rock, but when it is needed they can also be gentle and their ballads are generally excellent. When they play this song live, they do it totally acoustically without any microphones or amplifiers. I can only imagine what a wonderful experience that must be! The next highlight is my favourite song on the album: Lovers & Fighters. If an Eagles influence is heard anywhere on this album then it is on this song. It is the most beautiful song on the album by a mile and opens with Campbell backed only by some acoustic guitar. Soon, some delicate keyboards help to fill out the fledgling chorus. Slide guitar really adds to the mood and the second chorus sees the whole band harmonising with Campbell to excellent effect. If Glenn Frey and Don Henley had written this song and put it on One of These Nights, it would have been a massive hit - that is how good this song is! After that melancholy, the album ramps it back up with the anthemic Take it Back. This is party rock at it's best with a catchy vocal refrain in the intro that is sure to go down a storm live. This also acts as a sort of chorus and it really is good fun. A real toe-tapper! The album comes to an end with two slow-burning epics. The first of which is Smouldering which is excellent. This song is sure to get many lighters (or phones) in the air with it's big chorus and laid-back guitar work. The thing that strikes me about Potashnick and Sayer is that there is always a lot going on in their playing but it never dominates the song. It is always adding something necessary and never turns into showboating. This is often my problem with some blues music, but The Temperance Movement do not fall into this trap. Serenity is the second of the two and, while it is not quite as good as Smouldering, it still brings to the album to an end and ends it on a high (not that there are really any lows here!). If I had a criticism of the album it would be that it would have been better to end the album with Smouldering and move Serenity somewhere else in the track listing - or maybe even have saved it for the next album as having two very similar songs together slightly ruins the effect of the second one. That is my only real issue with an album that is very enjoyable and a band that are surely destined for bigger things. With many sold out shows ahead and behind them, I am sure it will not be long before they are household names.

The album was released on 16th September 2013 via Earache Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Midnight Black.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Ashes of Ares' 'Ashes of Ares' - Album Review

'Supergroups' are a fairly odd entity in the world of music. The idea of many well-established names coming together and making music is often an exciting one. Questions like: 'How can this not be awesome?' are thrown around and the hype is usually huge, but more often than not supergroups fail to live up to the expectations. Either that, or in the case of bands like Velvet Revolver, they fall foul of inflated egos and furious in-fighting that threatens to overshadow the music entirely. It is quite rare for a supergroup to find bona fide success but Ashes of Ares might just be one of those bands. While their self-titled debut album will never be considered a classic in the progressive/power metal world, it shows a lot of promise for the future - providing it becomes a full-time venture for all invovled. Made up of frontman Matt Barlow (Iced Earth; Pyramaze), guitarist Freddie Vidales (Infusion; Iced Earth), and drummer Van Williams (Nevermore; Pure Sweet Hell); Ashes of Ares have a lot of talent. However, it is important to remember before going into this album that none of these three were ever the main creative force behind their respective bands. Sure Barlow has contributed some lyrics and melodies to many Iced Earth songs over the years but the mastermind behind the band's sound and success has always been Jon Schaffer. The same can be said for Williams who always lived in the shadow of Warrel Dane and Jeff Loomis in Nevermore. Having said that though, having two ex-members of Iced Earth in their ranks - including the person whom many still consider the band's most iconic frontman - is naturally going to push the band in that direction. There are hallmarks of Iced Earth's distinctive sound on this album but without the spark that makes them so well loved by many. That being said, Ashes of Ares is still an enjoyable album and I was impressed by Vidales as a musician and a songwriter. He played bass guitar for Iced Earth between 2008 and 2012 but here he handles all the lead and rhythm guitars (apart from a couple of guest solos) as well as all the bass guitars. The album was produced by Jim Morris who has worked on nearly all of Iced Earth's albums in the past so clearly knows Barlow and Vidales well. Overall it sounds good, but a couple of places sound just a little muddy. Luckily, this does not affect the listening experience too much.

The album gets off to a good start with The Messenger. The clean guitar work in the intro is pure Iced Earth and Barlow's layered vocals sound as fresh and beautifully menacing as ever. He is one of the few singers in metal that really conveys emotion in an honest way. The main verses ramp up, backed up by some interesting drumming from Williams, and Barlow alternates between his falsetto and his more natural, rich baritone range. After a melodic chorus, we get to hear Vidales' first real lead work and it is impressive and totally suits the style of the song. As I mentioned before, if anything really stands out about this album, it is the fact that Vidales really is a musician to be reckoned with! Move the Chains is next and it ups the pace. The song has a thrash feel to it but with still enough melody to stop it becoming too mindless. Barlow's vocals really are excellent here and makes the song sound quite dark and evil. Again, Vidales impresses us with another fluid solo that slows down slightly in the middle to make good use of harmonies. Barlow also really lets rip at one point and unleashes one of his signature banshee screams. On Warrior's Wings follows and it is an acoustic-led piece that acts as a ballad. Barlow gets to show the more melancholic side of his voice here and does so very well. He has sung ballads well throughout his career and this is no different. Things pick up towards the middle of the song with a simple riff from Vidales and some round-the-kit work from Williams. This song is a bit of a tour-de-force, with everyone in the band getting to show off their skills. Vidales gives his us best solo yet (maximum shred!) and Barlow's delivery helps to make the chorus a real anthem. It ends as it began with some delicate acoustic guitar and comes full circle - an mini epic! Punishment is up next and gets back to the metal in convincing fashion. It steams along at a fist-pumping mid-pace before Williams' double bass drumming helps to drive the verses.The chorus is probably the highlight here, along with a very technical guitar solo performed by Williams' former Nevermore bandmate, the aformentioned Jeff Loomis. Another solid metal tune that most fans will enjoy.

This is My Hell follows and contains another acoustic intro. It is these moments on the album that really remind me of Iced Earth - even the guitar tone is very similar! This song, which has an accompanying video, is probably the most straight forward 'metal' song here. There is nothing fancy going on here just good, solid metal. I can understand why they filmed a video for this song, as it is extremely accessible without compromising their sound in any way at all. Dead Man's Plight was probably the first Ashes of Ares song that most people heard as it was put on Youtube a little while before the album was released. Again, it is another more straight ahead metal song with some catchy vocals from Barlow. One thing I like about this song is how the really fast double bass drumming of Williams is in direct contrast with the slower paced riff from Vidales. It works well and makes the song feel heavier than it actually is. Another very enjoyable number! Chalice of Man is properly heavy however! The dirty guitar tone really works here and it sounds like something that would more be suited to death metal production. Barlow's melodic vocals stop it from becoming anything of the sort though, but there is a part where he almost is perfoming harsh vocals! It works so well and just shows his voice is extremely versatile - true talent. There are a couple of really nice solos here too. The first is from Vidales who by now we realise is a great player and the second is from Gio Geraca (Malevolent Creation; Murder Suicide) who is also part of the Ashes of Ares live band. The following couple of songs are slightly more average and unremarkable but the album ends on a high with the excellent The One-Eyed King. It opens with some nice lead guitar before really kicking off into a real headbanger! I would say that it is one of the most varied tracks on the album and has a destinct progressive feel that makes it one of the album's highlights. Williams' drumming on the song is very solid and uses lots of good patterns to keep things fresh and interesting. For my money, this is the direction that Ashes of Ares should take into future releases. It has a sound of it's own and does not sound too reminiscent of any of their previous bands. It makes sure the album ends on a memorable note. Overall, Ashes of Ares is a solid debut album from a new band. My point earlier about none of the members being the main creative force of their previous bands meant that I was not really sure what to expect here, but on the whole I am pleased with this effort. I feel that this band has the potential to have a good future and I hope that they take the time to really nurture the project and devote all the time to it that it deserves.

The album was released on 9th September 2013 via Nuclear Blast Records. Below is the band's promotional video for This is My Hell.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Reckless Love's 'Spirit' - Album Review

Over the past few years, lots of new hair metal bands have been coming out of the Scandinavian countries, so much so that the market has been flooded by lots of average bands that all sound alike. Within that however, there are some bands that stand out. Finland's Reckless Love are of these and, along with bands like Crashdïet, have helped to create somewhat of a hair metal revival in Europe. Their self-titled debut album released in 2010 had everything that you would want from your average hair metal release. The songs were well written and catchy and the production was sleek and huge. Animal Attraction came only a year later and continued on the successful formula of the first one. Again, it was well received and the band started to build up a large, loyal following. This year sees the release of their third album Spirit which again seems to be more of the same. However, there is something about this album that seems far less inspired and far less catchy than the previous two. All the ingredients seem to be present. The big production is there, thanks to Ilkka Wirtanen, the riffs are still good and most of the songs have decent choruses but overall Spirit just does not excite me like their other two albums did. I am not saying that it is necessarily a bad album, because it is not, but I do think the band need to take some time to think about how to keep things fresh. At the end of the day there are certain things that people expect to hear when listening to a Reckless Love album so I am not expecting the band to make a huge shift in sound, but I think some thought is needed. The thing is, is that I do not really know what is needed which makes me wonder whether the problem lies with me and the fact that, maybe subconsciously, I am getting slightly jaded with the genre as a whole. One thing I can put my finger on though is the lyrics. While Reckless Love's lyrics have never been overly intelligent or poetic, they have always been fun - which is all the counts really. On Spirit however, some of the lyrics are downright dreadful. I will go into more detail throughout the review but I just cannot get over how bad some of the lyrics are here. You might think that after reading all that that I hate this album. I really do not, and overall Spirit is a decent album but for me it just fails to live up to their other two albums.

Things get started convincingly with the first single Night on Fire. This is classic Reckless Love that mixes 1980s style guitars with some nice keyboards to back it up and Olli Herman's recognisable vocals. He is in no way the best vocalist in the genre but he has his own style and charisma that makes him a great frontman. As usual, the guitar work is pretty good. Pepe is a very accomplished player and the solo in this song is flashy and stays true to the style of the genre. Bad Lovin' is up next. While this is a decent tune, it sounds like a rip off of Badass from their self-titled album. I know that hair metal is usually pretty derivative and unoriginal but seemingly ripping off yourself is a little silly. With that said, this song still has a killer main riff and chorus that redeems it from being forgettable. The following song I Love Heavy Metal is where things start to get quite bad though. The lyrics here are dreadful and sound like an attempt to create a family-friendly version of Steel Panther's Death to all But Metal. Unsurprisingly, it just sounds like a poor man's version of that song that just ends up namechecking songs and bands from the 1980s. While the lyrics are awful, the chorus is sickeningly catchy so be careful not to get caught singing this in public! The next highlight - and I do mean that - is the ballad Edge of Our Dreams. True to it's title, the song is quite dreamy with really nice laid back verses that powerful choruses that echo the best of power ballads of the past. It is songs like this where Herman really shines. His voice is suited to the ballad and he conveys just enough emotion to make it sound genuine. The only thing that this song could do to improve is to have a longer solo. Pepe teases us with a little one but to be a true classic it needs a big, epic solo!

Sex, Drugs & Reckless Love is up next and this is another catchy little rocker. Again, the lyrics are somewhat cringy but they are bearable because the music and melodies are infectious. The key change at the end is a hair metal staple but sounds good here and this is sure to be a great song live that the crowd can really get into. Maximum cheese, but enjoyable all the same! Dying to Live is another pseudo-ballad that works well. It is quite a chilled song with a really fantastic chorus that feels modern but still having all the hallmarks of classic 1980s metal. You could imagine some new pop band doing this slightly differently and it being a massive hit. Do not let that put you off though, it is still a very nice song. Metal Ass is up next and this is another song that has some terrible lyrics. The music is quite decent but what does Metal Ass even mean or represent? This song reeks of being thrown on the album at the last minute and it's a shame as with some decent lyrics this would have been good. It has that glam/thrash feel of early Skid Row but is let down by the lyrics. The next highlight is second single So Happy I Could Die. It starts off with a big riff and the catchy verses are sure to make many heads bang. This is really the only song on the album that feels like a true anthem. The chorus is full of melody but also has a bit that is full of fist-pumping brilliance. Pepe also lets rip with a good solo too, something which this album does not really have enough of on the whole. He is an excellent player and we need to hear more of him! The album comes to a close with another gentle song in the form of Hot Rain. It is a true 'lighers in the air' moment that would be an excellent set closer live. Herman's vocals are excellent here and we finally get a true Pepe ballad solo, full of excellent phrasing and melody! Overall, I do actually have lots of positive things to say about this album. Many of the songs are perfectly enjoyable and as a whole it is a decent body of work but it just pales in comparison when compared to either of the band's previous albums. Maybe it is time for the band to shake things up a little and work with a different producer who would come at the material from a different angle, thus creating something that sounds a little fresher.

The album was released on 2nd September 2013 via Spinefarm Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Night on Fire.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Alter Bridge's 'Fortress' - Album Review

I have been aware of Alter Bridge for quite a few years now but I have only been a fully-fledged fan for about the past three. The first time I heard Blackbird I did not really take to it, but a revisiting a while later turned me around. Seeing the band live in 2010, supporting AB III, helped to cement my love for them. Alter Bridge are, at least here in Europe, one of the biggest hard rock bands around and as a result the hype surrounding Fortress has been ridiculous. I do not think that any album could realistically live up to the excitement but Fortress has given it a bloody good go! Unlike many reviewers, I cannot say that I think that this is their best album (that still is Blackbird in my opinion) but I do think this is their most varied to date. I would not say that I was in any way disappointed by this album - as I really enjoy listening to it, but I do feel that prehaps I do not love it as much as I should. I guess I just succumbed to much to the hype! There are no real stylistic departures here but a few tweaks to the sound just help keep things fresh. The fact that the band has been away for a year or so probably helps. Frontman Myles Kennedy has of course been busy touring with Slash on the back of the Apocalyptic Love album and guitarist Mark Tremonti released his first solo album, the excellent All I Was, last year and has been touring that. Tremonti, and Alter Bridge rhythm section Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips, have also done some shows with their previous band Creed. The time away working with others has probably helped Kennedy and Tremonti to really focus where they wanted Alter Bridge to go musically and the result seems to be slightly darker and heavier. Fortress is definitely a more technical record than anything the band has done before and certain songs have a progressive vibe too. As with their last couple of albums, this has been produced by Michael Baskette who has done a good job in getting a big sound from the band.

Fortress gets off to a good start with Cry of Achilles. Some nice Spanish-style classical guitar starts things off before the big rock guitars come in and get things going with a chunky riff. Kennedy is really on fire throughout this album and demonstrates why he is one of the best vocalists in the genre at the moment. Cry of Achilles is quite a dynamic song. The choruses are more in the traditional hard rock vein while the verses are much more stripped-back with some excellent rhythmic drumming from Phillips backing up some simple arpeggiated guitar lines. Lead single Addicted to Pain follows and this is the most classically-Alter Bridge song on the album. It comes racing out of the gates with a big riff and is sure to get the blood pumping. It is easily the catchiest song on the album and the chorus is massive and will get stuck in your head after only a couple of listens. Tremonti also finds the time to include a rather tasty solo. I feel that he is actually quite an underrated guitarist, which seems odd since he has been in two of the biggest rock bands of the past couple of decades. Bleed it Dry is up next and this sounds like something that could have come from AB III which was a much moodier album than the previous two. Again, there is another strong chorus here that really opens up on repeated listens. It slows down towards the end and sees Kennedy singing over a very simple guitar line before Tremonti shows us he can play a solo with genuine emotion that just drips with the blues and it becomes one of the album's more beautiful moments. The next highlight is the heavy The Uninvited. The main riff has a groove that Alter Bridge have never really had before and this one of the songs on Fortress that sticks out as been obviously new a new sound for the band. I think it works really well but a melodic chorus helps to remind us who wrote the song. Phillips' drumming throughout this song is very inventive and I am glad he gets a chance to show off his skills here. Overall, it just feels like the band have tried something new and as a result I feel it is one of the album's best tracks.

Peace is Broken follows and this is another song that sounds like classic Alter Bridge. I really like the main/verse riff and Kennedy uses some of his impressive range to make the vocal melodies stand out over the fast guitars. The chorus is, of course, catchy and melodic but some nice guitar leads that sit just under the vocals add some extra depth and act as a counter-melody to Kennedy's strong voice. Calm the Fire is up next and this is another example of the band trying something a big different. It has an acoustic intro with some haunting vocals from Kennedy sung in falsetto. While not being terribly original, it just seems fresh and new - and it works very well. It is not long before the song kicks on through the gears and starts to rock out. Something about this song just reminds me of Queensrÿche too, but I just cannot put my finger on exactly what. Tremonti gets to sing the next song Waters Rising. Anyone who has heard his solo album All I Was will know that he is a more than competent singer and he does a good job here. Unsurprisingly, this song has a similar vibe to his solo material but it still fits in well with the Alter Bridge sound. It was another one of the album's highlights as it is just so catchy! The verses are clean, with Tremonti's clear vocals demanding attention, before the big choruses take off and - for a minute - we almost forget about Kennedy. That is, until his unmistakable tones help to make the bridge so eerie and the powerful. However, Tremonti has made his mark as a vocalist here and I would not be surprised to see him take the microphone more in future. Farther than the Sun takes the album back into a more simple hard rock territory. It is very reminiscent of the material on their 2004 debut album One Day Remains and firmly displays the band's post-grunge roots. Still, the song is full of melody and I can imagine that it would go down very well live with the whole crowd singing along with the big chorus. The next highlight is the epic title track that closes the album. While not reaching the hights of Blackbird's title track, this comes close and contains everything that makes the band great. Within the near eight minute track length, we have: clean passages with heartfelt vocals, massive choruses with soaring vocals, big guitar riffs, delicate clean guitars, and plenty of excellent solos. It is a bit much to take in all at once, but over time you start to see just how much this song contains. Overall, Fortress is another impressive album from Alter Bridge. It does not quite contain the pure songwriting excellence of Blackbird (which I think will be considered an all time rock classic in time) but it sees the band being inventive and trying a few new things while still remaining true to their original sound. Excellent stuff!

The album was released on 30th September 2013 via Roadrunner Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Addicted to Pain.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Nine Inch Nails' 'Hesitation Marks' - Album Review

After putting the band on hold in 2009 I was surprised when, earlier this year, Trent Reznor annouced that he was working on a new Nine Inch Nails album and tour. Hesitation Marks is that album and it sees Reznor breaking some new ground and keeping his legacy fresh. For the last few years he has been working on his film scores and his other band, How to Destroy Angels, to great success but I am glad that he still feels Nine Inch Nails to be a relevant force in the music world. Each previous album has had it's own personal identity and Hesitation Marks is no exception. It is much more laid back than previous releases and relies more on electronics and ambiance than walls of heavy guitars and distortion. In this respect, it owes more to the softer side of 2007's Year Zero and 2008's instrumental work Ghosts I-IV than say the industrial madness of 1994's The Downward Spiral or the raw rocker that was 2005's With Teeth. I think that this album probably represents the mental state of Reznor at the moment. He seems much happier with his life currently and I am glad that he does not feel that he has to make angry music for the sake of it. Hesitation Marks has more of an optimistic feel about it than any other Nine Inch Nails release and that sets it apart from the rest. As with most of the band's previous albums, Reznor performs most of the material himself but a few choice guests make their mark here too. From the sublime - Adrian Belew (King Crimson) - to the rediculous - Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac) - the guests on the album all add something to the overall sound. Despite it's slightly more uplifting nature, Hesitation Marks is still a pretty dense album and will probably take a long time to fully reveal all it's hidden secrets. It certainly has an air of mystery about it that keeps me coming back for more.

After the short instrumental opening The Eater of Dreams, which is a collaboration between Reznor and frequent live band member Alessandro Cortini, the album gets started with Copy of A. This is very synth driven and sets the tone for the rest of the album. The melodies in this song are very infectious - both Reznor's vocals and the catchy synth loops - and will stick in your head for ages. It slowly builds up, adding many layers of sound, in classic Reznor style and contains all the halmarks that made Nine Inch Nails so popular in the first place. Single Came Back Haunted follows and continues with the synth-heavy sound of the previous song. It is another ear-worm that follows the more tradition verse-chorus structure of pop music. The atmospherics get much denser during the choruses and give the illusion of 'heavy-ness' without using big guitars or drums. It also has a pretty crazy music video that was directed by alternative film-maker David Lynch. Find My Way is a classic Nine Inch Nails ballad in the vein of Something I Can Never Have (from 1989's Pretty Hate Machine). The distant-sounding piano is a trademark part of the band's sound and works well here. Reznor's slower, quieter tracks have always been strong and the foreboding atmosphere always creates an unease in the air. The next highlight is Disappointed. It is still very synthy but some distorted guitar gives the song a very disorienting feel in places. Reznor's voice sounds so strained here and he has always used that to good effect throughout his career. There are even strings on the track, and they work excellently! Everything is up next and this is really the only out-and-out rocker on the album. It is simple, to the point and does well to get the blood pumping mid-album. I imagine that this song would be very good live, as the crowd could really get into it.

Satellite follows and feels quite funky. Sparse synths and distored bass drive the song and it feels like something that could have been on Year Zero. Big bass has always been a big part of Nine Inch Nails' sound and I am glad that it is used to good effect here. It also has a pretty catchy chorus that sounds a bit like something that Depeche Mode might have come up with. After this song, the album goes down hill a little in my opinion. As with many albums, the first half has all the best songs and things get a little more uninspired from now on. Various Methods of Escape is quite cool though. The guitar-led chorus moments are excellent with Reznor employing some nice falsetto vocals in places, but the verses seem a little bland. It picks up again towards the end though when the guitars really kick in and we get another, bigger, chorus. I Would for You is also pretty good. Again, it has some nice strings adding atmosphere in places and actually features some live drums courtesy of Ilan Rubin (Lostprophets; The New Regime; Angels & Airwaves; Paramore). In Two and While I'm Still Here seem to fly past without being anything remarkable. I feel that many albums these days are just a little too long for their own good and a bit of fat-trimming here would have definately benefited the album overall in my opinion. Still, I do not think that this detracts from the quality of many of the songs here. The instrumental Black Noise brings the album to a static-filled close which seems appropriate. Hesitation Marks is an odd album and probably is not the sort of thing that many fans were expecting (or wanting) to hear from the band. However, those who have followed the band for a while should realise that each Nine Inch Nails album is different and it is best to listen with an open mind and go in not knowing what to expect. This is a very worthy album that, as I said earlier, is likely to reveal itself even more over time. Definately one to check out and invest some time in!

The album was released on 2nd September 2013 via Columbia Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Came Back Haunted.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Fleetwood Mac - Birmingham Review