Noise-some Notes – A Week in Listening 8th October 2012

What has the HMOverlord been listening to this week?

Robert Calvert – Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters Brilliant concept album from Hawkwind vocalist/lyricist Robert Calvert. The story centres on the Luftwaffe’s purchase of dodgy Lockheed Starfighters from the US. These were subsequently nicknamed “Widowmakers” due to their poor safety record. It’s an odd topic for a Rock album… Python-esque sketches and zee crazy German accents mingle with powerful, spacey Rock featuring Lemmy, Dave Brock, Brian Eno and Arthur Brown and more!

KISS – Monster I didn’t find Sonic Boom very enduring so I’d been trying not to get my hopes up for this. I’m happy to report that this is a vast improvement. Looking back to their formative years and influences (Zep, The Who, Slade, Hendrix etc…) has helped KISS come up with a very fresh and forward-looking album. The Thayer/Singer line-up finally has a sound it can call its own.

Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and Nursery Cryme Lamb is my favourite Genesis album and one that keeps on giving. It’s much tighter and more economical than the previous Gabriel-era albums. There is a moment in Fly on the Windshield that is not just one of the most thrilling moments in the history of music but also in the history of… humans.

Nursery Cryme is an earlier album of theirs that I enjoy but only The Musical Box, Return of the Giant Hogweed and The Fountain of Salmacis stick out for me. The rest always seems to go in one ear and out the other. Those three tracks are more than sufficient to invite further listens though.

Manowar – Hell on Wheels Enjoyable but frustrating live debut from the Metal Kings. Wimps and posers, leave the blog!

Kansas – Kansas The band’s debut is not as good as later albums like Leftoverture or Point of Know Return but this is good stuff anyway. Proof that the US could do Prog too! With Fiddles! Gaun’ yersel.

Celtic Frost – Monotheist The Frosties comeback album is a staggering achievement. An absolute black pit of a record that you just sink into until the gorgeous orchestral finale puts the lights back on and you emerge, blinking and in disbelief. Love it.

Mastodon – Leviathan and The Hunter Still a lot of Moby-Dick chat going on at HMO Mission Control lately so what better reason to stick on Mastodon’s modern Metal classic? And while I was at it I gave their last album The Hunter a spin too. I’m still feeling that one out but I’ve enjoyed it so far… doesn’t seem as good or as bad as people are making it out to be. But it’s early days and Mastodon albums always take a few listens.

Gerry Rafferty – City to City A bit of a mellow one for a Saturday night. I bought this for Baker Street but every time I put this on I like another track from it. Eventually I’ll like the whole album! Gerry is a major figure in Scottish music and there was a cool BBC documentary on him a while back, Right Down the Line, that is well worth a watch.


Noise-some Notes – A Week in Listening 1st October 2012

Aerosmith – Aerosmith I really enjoy Aerosmith’s debut despite Steven Tyler’s odd James Brown impersonation. Quite a few classics on here: Dream On, Mama Kin and Walking the Dog but I especially love the intro riff of Make It that kicks the whole thing off.

Manowar – Gods of War Live The third of Manowar’s live releases. I’ve already reviewed their first, Hell on Wheels, as part of my post-1985 live albums series and I’ll be getting round to this one in due course. So I won’t give anything away just now.

Black Flag – The First Four Years Enjoyed this so much I bought it twice! Well, I had bought the vinyl and then fancied listening to it on the move so I got a download for £3 too. It’s good to have something fiery to listen to on the bus in case you have a shite day at work!

Rollins Band – The Only Way to Know For Sure Another recent purchase and gave this a ton of listens this week. I had it on good authority that this was going to be a good listen but I’m still genuinely surprised by how good this is. It’ll get a fuller review up at some point but all I can say is that this album caused bopping to happen. Actual bopping.

Glenn Hughes – Addiction The Voice of Rock has come in from the commercial cold in recent years but, at the risk of being a contrary bugger, I’ve found myself losing interest. This one is from back in the mid-90s when I was still on board! It took a few listens to get into but is continually rewarding. Dark, down-tuned Rock with real soul and atmosphere. I always liked JJ Marsh on guitar. What happened to that guy?

Genesis – Selling England by the Pound I’m always spellbound by the opening track on this, Dancing with the Moonlit Knight, the song that got me into the band. It’s got a cool mythical feel and an excellent early example of two-handed tapping from 1973. The Cinema Show is also essential Genesis. This is a superb album but it’s let down by I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe), which gets old quick, and The Battle of Epping Forest, which is fairly impenetrable.

Iron Maiden – The Trooper/Flight of Icarus Another two-single compilation from the First Ten Years box. Features an excellent cover of Montrose’s I’ve Got the Fire and a cover of Jethro Tull’s Cross-Eyed Mary, which is a bit of a howler but, in fairness, not actually as bad as I had remembered.

Fleetwood Mac – Tango in the Night I always manage to squeeze some 80s pop into my weekly listening, don’t I? This one’s a patchy affair from the AOR behemoths. I really enjoyed all the singles from this era but, sadly, only a few other tracks here are worth your time.

Hawklords – 25 Years On Maybe a bit of an obscure one, this. In the late 70s Hawkwind disbanded but the main players reappeared as Hawklords for this one excellent album. Eccentric vocalist/lyricist Robert Calvert is on particularly good form here. PSI Power is fantastic, probably my favourite Hawkwind-related song (unless you include Motorhead in that category in which case it’s Dancing on Your Grave), Freefall is gorgeous and Flying Doctors is about a cabinet key. Presumably the key to a cabinet with drugs in it.

Manowar – Hell on Wheels (Review)

“Ladies and Gentlemen. From the United States of America… all hail… Manowar.”

Being a Manowar fan brings with it both agony and ecstasy. Ever since their debut Battle Hymns in 1982, the New Yorkers have pounded out albums where epic, awe-inspiring classics have been accompanied by unwelcome bass solos and monologues. So the question that always has to be asked of any new Manowar release is: does the filler outweigh the killer?

Arguably, the band’s golden-era ended with 1992’s Triumph of Steel so the release of their first live record Hell on Wheels in 1997 seemed a bit belated but also had a tantalising wealth of material to draw from.

The album kicks off in thrilling style. Orson Welles heralding the band’s arrival on stage for their signature tune, Manowar. The album does a fine job of capturing Manowar’s punishingly loud live sound, vocalist Eric Adams fighting to be heard amongst the din. Unfortunately, the momentum created by the strong opening is damaged by the ill-conceived grouping of a guitar solo, piano interlude and the ballad, Courage, which creates the feel of a last dance too early in the album’s running time. Blood of my Enemies and Hail and Kill close off the first disc and should be the album’s centrepieces but their effect is neutered by the poor pacing.

Thankfully the second CD is slightly more even. Once again it opens well and although Joey DeMaio’s bass solo Black Arrows is well played and varied, it’s too long and Fighting the World struggles to restore the excitement levels. The back end of the album is over-weighted with newer material from 1996’s disappointing Louder Than Hell but the songs are more convincing live than in the studio and the final stages of Hell on Wheels are great fun, culminating in the moving Battle Hymn.

Ultimately, what should have been the definitive statement of Manowar at their absolute best is hobbled by the inconsistencies that often dog their studio output. You can press “skip” or stick the kettle on and this is a great live album, but victory is barely snatched from the jaws of defeat and I expect more from the Kings of Metal. Thankfully, Manowar had now developed a taste for the live album. There would be more… and they would be better.

HMO Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Noise-some Notes – A Week in Listening 24th September 2012

Isengard – Høstmørke The only album proper from the Fenriz side project that I mentioned last week. More of the same as the Vandreren demo really and sounds as much like a demo as that did! Maybe even more so. This was a great escapist listen on the Monday bus to work.

INXS – Listen Like Thieves and Kick I’ve been a fan of these albums since the 80s but I’ve found myself really reconnecting with them in the last couple of years. It’s tight, funky Pop but when I was a young ‘un this stuff made perfect sense alongside the rockier fare of the day like Whitesnake and Def Leppard.

Rush – Vapor Trails I’ve not listened to this one for ages. I never minded the production of this as much as some people seemed to. Listening to it this time it strikes me as a tad overlong but every time I started to drift off they hit me with a belter like Secret Touch. I’d definitely rate this above Snakes and Arrows but I think the new one, Clockwork Angels, has trumped it. There’s been talk about remixing/remastering Vapor Trails too which I’d be keen to hear.

Dissection – Live Rebirth Gave this a listen while writing my previous post about it. A great introduction for fans of traditional Metal that want to dip their toes into more extreme territory.

The Misfits – Collection I Also known as the first disc in their awesome Box Set. This is just front to back great fun. Direct, catchy as hell and songs like Astro Zombies even manage to be strangely touching!

Iron Maiden – The Soundhouse Tapes Mike Ladano has been expertly reviewing the Iron Maiden catalogue recently and you should definitely check out his excellent reviews. Although the albums concerned are basically hard-wired into my consciousness, while reading his posts I realised that I hadn’t listened to The Soundhouse Tapes or their many B-Sides for ages. I got totally caught up in The Soundhouse Tapes even though it was, understandably, naïve and rough around the edges. Pretty much the NWOBHM in a nutshell! Loved it.

Iron Maiden – Running Free/Sanctuary It was fun to go back to the singles again too. I’ve got these from the First Ten Years Box Set which I’m lucky enough to own (sadly sans lid). The highlight of this one is the enjoyable but atypical Burning Ambition. I love that washy vibrato effect that NWOBHM bands were so fond of.

Iron Maiden – Women in Uniform/Twilight Zone Never liked either Women… or Twilight Zone that much but releasing non-album singles was pretty old-school, even in the 80s, and good value for money for the fans. The B-Sides are excellent and include the naff but fun Invasion (almost inventing Bad News single-handedly with its lyric “robbing and pillaging, raping and looting the la-a-and”. Kind of poetical political isn’t it?) and an excellent live version of Phantom of the Opera.

Iron Maiden – Purgatory/Maiden Japan Had forgotten how amazing the song Purgatory actually is. Can’t escape the feeling that Maiden picked an odd bunch of songs to promote the Killers album though. Maiden Japan is shit-hot with an awesome version of the under-rated Innocent Exile.

Ghost – Opus Eponymous This was totally mis-sold as a Mercyful Fate/Angel Witch style affair when it was released when anyone with half an ear can tell they’re pillaging Blue Oyster Cult for all they’re worth. Still, one of the best debuts of recent years and I’m intrigued to see how they are going to follow this up.

Pink Floyd – The Wall I could never get into this band when I was younger. They appealed too much to all the layabout stoners I knew and I was too busy listening to Ted Nugent going gonzo at Hammersmith! Glad I’ve found my way round to Floyd now though because there’s lots of amazing, dramatic stuff here. I’ll wager Pink Floyd never played three headline shows in a row though! Wimps.

Buying Round-Up – 3rd October 2012

Some more stuff I done bought.

Is there a particular reason the Dynasty cover portrait is so badly framed?

KISS – Hotter Than Hell, Rock and Roll Over and Dynasty Vinyl (Missing Glasgow £10 for the lot)

I’m always on the lookout for KISS LPs and there was a load suddenly appeared in Missing Records that I cherry picked from. None of the frills or extras that some original issues might have had but they were in great condition, were only £4 a pop and the chap gave me the three for £10 which was a cool deal. Still on the lookout for KISS, Dressed to Kill, Love Gun and Alive II but it’s only a matter of time before I get my grubby mitts on them!

“G N’ R Meets Hovis” cover

Guns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy Vinyl (Amazon Marketplace £6)

I absolutely adore this album and I’d been on the lookout for a cheap vinyl copy as I had a right clear notion this would work great as a double LP. Due to its lukewarm reception it didn’t take a genius to work out that the price for this was eventually going to drop so I played the waiting game and finally pressed “add to basket” when it hit £6!

The Stranglers – No More Heroes (Fopp Glasgow £3)

I enjoyed The Stranglers’ La Folie so when I saw this going for £3 at my local Fopp I couldn’t say no. Haven’t listened to it yet, mind you, but it’s not going anywhere either. I feel sorry for people that don’t live near a Fopp…

OK… so I round the prices up…

Black Flag – The First Four Years Vinyl (Monorail Glasgow £13)

Been wanting to check out Black Flag due to my renewed interest in all things Rollins-related. Fact-fans will note, however, that Rollins doesn’t actually appear on this one but I wanted to start at the very beginning. This is pretty much what I expected: fast, aggressive, catchy and fun! Bought this repro-vinyl at Monorail in Glasgow for a respectable £13 which is not a shabby price at all for an import album. Great shop!

Rollins Band – The Only Way to Know For Sure (Amazon Marketplace £10)

Rollins Overload! Emphatically recommended by the keeper of the Thumb and a shoe-in for my Live After Live After Death series. I’ll review in more depth later but I’m pretty blown away by this. Intense heavy rock with a really loose bluesy delivery. The whole band is tireless and on fire. Took a couple of weeks to arrive despite the sterling efforts of the Canadian Postal-Canoes crossing the Atlantic but this is proof that good things come to those who wait!

Amount spent on purchase: £42

Amount spent in total so far: £348

Noise-some Notes – A Week in Listening 17th September 2012

Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth Stonking comeback record from the Diamond Dave-led VH. Strong contender for Album of the Year and You and Your Blues is even a contender for Song of the Year. Love how dirty and raw this is and Roth’s got a charismatic bluesy croon to his voice now. I’m not sure I can handle living in a world where Dave Lee Roth is anything less than an alpha male so this is welcome stuff!

Public Image Ltd. – First Issue John Lydon’s first post-Pistols venture. It’s pretty adventurous stuff with some fantastic jaggy guitar playing. I thought I’d check this out as I’ve been reading Simon Reynold’s Rip it Up and Start Again which covers this band in a couple of chapters. Although the album is often quite naïve and atonal it’s also surprisingly hypnotic and the lead-off single Public Image livened up an otherwise dull bus journey!

Def Leppard – High N’ Dry I really love Def Leppard and this is an excellent album.  Just couldn’t get into it this week for some reason. It happens.

Deep Purple – Live in Japan (Disc 1 – Osaka Show) Live Purple Overload! This excellent set features the three separate shows that were drawn from to make up the Made in Japan album. I only listened to the first show on CD1 and got right into it. Ian Gillan once described this band as “ a monster of the individual contribution” and he wasn’t wrong! Top notch.

Mastodon – Leviathan My girlfriend is listening to the 135-day-long Moby Dick Big Read Podcast so it gave me the notion to check out Mastodon’s hefty take on Melville’s classic tale. I see that the band chose to jump straight to the Whale stuff and gloss over the touching White Christian/Pagan Cannibal bromance. Shame.

Danzig – Danzig Not enough people mention Danzig when Rick Rubin’s name comes up. It’s all Johnny Cash-this and Reign in Blood-that. Fucking Danzig! Maybe I will move in with him…

Yes – Yessongs Another monster of the individual contribution. This is an absolutely transcendent live album. As you listen you feel like the full, rich possibilities of music are being explored! At least I do anyway. I just got this on vinyl so it’ll be appearing in a “Buying Round-Up” sometime soon.

Celtic Frost – To Mega Therion I really like the Frosties and while this is regarded as one of their best albums I can never quite get into it for some reason. But it must have something going for it cause I refuse to give up on it and often pop it back on for another whirl.

Isengard – Vandreren Darkthrone’s Fenriz gets his Viking on for this 1993 demo. Really raw stuff but also has some stirring riffs and swarthy Nordic vocals. While listening to this I found myself drifting off into a reverie of longboats and helmets and basically grinning like an idiot.

The Black Crowes – The Lost Crowes (Tall Sessions) This is a great album but was scrapped for… reasons. Features many alternate versions (some better) of songs that would eventually end up on the excellent Amorica and Three Snakes… albums.

Journey – Trial by Fire Listened to this after reading a review on the excellent LeBrain blog. The post caused a surprising amount of debate over the album’s merits. I had a listen and chipped in about it in the comments section there so you should go and check that out and save me repeating myself!

Dissection – Live Rebirth (Review)

Swedish Black Metal legends Dissection had only released two studio albums before they embarked on the “Rebirth of Dissection” tour that kicked off with this show in Stockholm (listed on the LP jacket as September 2004 but it other sources suggest that the show was actually in October!).

The band had disbanded in 1997 following the imprisonment of guitarist/vocalist Jon Nödtveidt as an accessory to the murder of an Algerian man in Sweden. Upon his release in 2004, Nödtveidt quickly assembled a new line-up of Dissection for the tour captured on Live Rebirth.

For a band with only two albums of material to draw from, this is an exceptionally strong set of well-written and passionately performed tracks. The atmosphere and excitement at the show is well captured. The taped intro of instrumental track At the Fathomless Depths combines with the enthusiastic crowd cheering to build the excitement level for the first track proper Nights Blood so the feeling of being at the gig is palpable from the offset. In fact, the opening song is exciting and epic enough to be worth the price of admission alone.

Dissection’s take on extreme Metal is grounded with a strong grasp of songwriting and pacing. There are stunning, memorable riffs in abundance here and, although the hoarser vocals and dark atmosphere may be off-putting for some, there is much to love here for fans of the NWOBHM era and other older acts like Mercyful Fate.

Highlights for me include Where Dead Angels Lie and Maha Kali (the only new track here). These are absolutely thrilling and timeless, both delivered with an enigmatic folky lilt. Maha Kali also builds to a fantastic climax with its exotic feel bolstered by female Hindi vocals. The Somberlain evokes Iron Maiden with its melodic guitar harmony lines and there is also an excellent cover of Tormentor’s Elisabeth Bathory. Another band for me to check out!

Overall, this is an incredible Metal live album and is right up there with the best of them. It’s dripping with atmosphere, epic in scope and there is not a single track on here that is anything less than incredible. For such a short-lived band to have created a set like this is pretty remarkable. Jon Nödtveidt would commit suicide in 2006.

Buying Note: This full gig is available on DVD as Rebirth of Dissection and also available as Live in Stockholm 2004 on CD and LP but that version has some tracks removed and some are shortened. This edition, released in 2010, by the excellent High Roller Records has the full set intact.

HMO Rating: 5 out of 5

… and classic rock too!