Category Archives: Reviews

W.A.S.P. – Live… in the Raw (Review)

 

Live… in the Raw 1997 Reissue

Many of the great live albums functioned as “end of an era” releases. They documented a period of a band’s career and placed a full-stop on it before evolving into something new.

Ever since the release of their debut single (Animal) Fuck Like a Beast, controversy had dogged W.A.S.P. and they soon became a prime target for the PMRC, while also experiencing death threats and even assassination attempts. The stress had tired the band, causing tensions in the ranks but also galvanising band leader Blackie Lawless who felt that the focus on the band’s image and antics had meant their musical merits were under-estimated.

Live… in the Raw was recorded over three dates on their successful world tour promoting their third album, Inside The Electric Circus. Opener Inside The Electric Circus is thrilling and has some great sawing guitar riffs. The band proceeds to tear through a taut, muscular set that mixes classics and new tracks alike. In fact there are three tracks on here that would have previously been unavailable: two excellent live tracks Harder Faster and The Manimal and one studio track Scream Until You Like It recorded to promote the Horror sequel Ghoulies II.

2011 reissue of Inside the Electric Circus relegates Live… in the Raw to mere bonus disc.

Like many of the best live albums, some of the songs here enjoy their definitive performances on this album. Inside The Electric Circus, L.O.V.E Machine, Wild Child and 9.5.-N.A.S.T.Y. are all superb. The only thing that stops Live… in the Raw being all the W.A.S.P. you’ll ever need is the notable omission of (Animal) Fuck Like a Beast (although they would atone for this with the release, in 1988, of the Live Animal EP).

Live… in the Raw would prove pivotal to the band’s career. It boosted the profile and legitimacy of their catalogue and functioned as a historically important “end of an era” release. The album would provide a full-stop on the sex, parties and gore period of their career. From now on, W.A.S.P. were going to get serious!

HMO Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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Ihsahn – Eremita (Review)

I resisted buying this for a surprisingly long time. Eremita has been picking up some great reviews since its release and has been compared very favourably with its 2010 predecessor, After, which I enjoyed very much. Despite all this, every time I picked it up in the shops I just couldn’t be arsed. Weird.

Eventually I just had to force myself to buy it and I’m glad I did because this has the edge on its predecessor and is one of the most enjoyable releases of the year so far.

Opener Arrival gets things off to an exciting start with a Dream-Theater style rampaging riff. It’s also immediately noticeable that the vocal performance is more nuanced than on After and there are some pleasingly soulful Kings X style harmonies which are a nice touch (Arrival guest vocalist Einar Solberg certainly brings to mind Kings X vocalist Doug Pinnick). The guitars are also allowed some free reign from Ihsahn’s usual orchestrated approach and the result is some great shredding solos, in particular from Jeff Loomis on The Eagle and the Snake (one of the album’s centrepieces).

Emperor fans will be in more familiar territory with the track Something Out There which hits you in the face like an icy gale. Although the album’s overall feel is quite Avant-Garde (check out The Eagle and the Snake’s Jazz Café opening and orchestral interlude Grief) there is still enough evidence of Ihsahn’s Black Metal roots for this album to appeal to Emperor fans.

For an album that’s title translates as “Hermit” Eremita is surprisingly collaborative and impressively cohesive. It maybe doesn’t have the same peaks as After but it is more consistent and more fully-formed. I hadn’t been in the mood for this but it won me over and that’s an accomplishment in itself.

HMO Rating: 4 out of 5

Rush – Clockwork Angels (Review)

Any new Rush album is a big event and lots of folk have been very excited about this one. As a Rush fan I was inevitably going to buy this as the band is always capable of great things and always has the potential to come up with something new and exciting. But in truth, my expectations weren’t running too high for this one after the disappointing Snakes and Arrows.

I’m happy to report that after a few listens this has defied my expectations quite dramatically. And I’m also quite sure the full joys of the album have not yet revealed themselves so this is already a strong contender for Album of the Year. They channel a lot of the excitement and energy of Vapor Trails here but with a much warmer sound and looser feel. The band performance is more reminiscent of their earlier days and there are some throwbacks to earlier material like the Bastille Day referencing Headlong Flight. At times they seem to be channeling The Who and even have some riffs that would sound at home on latter-day Cheap Trick records!  There are also some dynamic choruses and tasteful orchestration. It’s a great sounding record and a really electrifying band performance.

One of the most pleasant surprises of the record are the lyrics. I found Neil Peart’s writing on Snakes and Arrows to be a bit too mild mannered and lacking in edge. In some tracks like The Larger Bowl the lyrics actually hampered the effect of the tracks. So it’s really pleasing to report that the man is in fine form here. The use of a story-concept for the album’s lyrics has helped add mystique and, conversely, some of the lyrics here seem more personal and biting than before. The opening tracks refrain of “I can’t stop thinking big” could be Neil’s life story and other tracks deal with religion and the cruel passage of time in a really intriguing way.

So, in short, Rush are back and I’m delighted to say they are defying the ravages of time coming up with one of their finest albums yet.

HMO Rating: 4 out of 5

Manilla Road – Crystal Logic (Review)

Manilla Road are a band that seem to be held in very high regard but I had never heard of them until a couple of years ago. I read about them in a Terrorizer Magazine review of the last decade before noticing recently that a proportionately high percentage of the Metal Vinyl section in Monorail (an excellent record store in Glasgow) was taken up by this band. My curiosity was piqued!

After a bit of Interweb research and a really shit week at work I decided to treat myself to their Crystal Logic album which, by all accounts, seemed like a good place to start. Another deciding factor was that the vinyl was released on the excellent High Roller label. A German label with a great line in NWOBHM reissues. Before deciding to give up buying music *cough* I picked up a Holocaust reissue and two Urchin resissues which are just indescribably excellent. I’m getting excited just thinking about them and you should immediately pop over to the label’s website and check them out.

I’ve been listening to Crystal Logic a lot since picking it up and I’m really enjoying it. They are from Wichita, Kansas and play in a NWOBHM style (Manilla Road describe themselves as Epic Metal) that reminds me of another great obscure band, Legend.

What strikes me immediately is the odd nasal voice of the singer, Mark Shelton, and the strength of the songwriting. Songs like Necropolis, Crystal Logic and Flaming Metal System have hooks to die for and immediately burrow into your brain. The Riddle Master also has the kind of incredible but simple riff that makes you wonder why no-one wrote it before them.

The production here is pretty raw but that’s no great problem. The no frills feel of the band in a rehearsal room adds to the charm. However, Flaming Metal System (recorded separately for a local compilation but later added to the album) has a better production that highlights the rest of the albums sonic weaknesses. The song starts off with a Manowaresque solo which, with it’s strange octaved sound, has you checking the turntable speed. The vocals are also noticeably more confident and more forceful than the other tracks and the band sound charged up.

Closing epic Dreams of Eschata/Epilogue is another highlight with gruff, echoey vocals in the chorus that sound like something latter-day Darkthrone would have been proud to come up with.

I’m going to be listening to this a lot (while gazing in wonder at the spectacularly bad but hypnotic album cover) and the only drawback here is that I’m going to want to hear more of their catalogue. Ulp.

HMO Rating: 4.5 out of 5