Archive | July 2013

Super Collider by Megadeth – Album Review

Image

Album: Super Collider
Artist: Megadeth
Year: 2013
Genre: Heavy Metal, Hard Rock
Label: Tradecraft/Universal
Songs: 11

Megadeth get a lot of bad press. In fact, they get bad press almost every time guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and all-around I-am-the-band guy Dave Mustaine opens his mouth and says something. Usually it’s something controversial. Generally it’s something political. Every now and again it’s about another musician, though those days seem to be behind him now. And yet, it’s surprising that a man who talks so often, with so much gusto for talking and so many opinions to share manages to actually say absolutely nothing over the course of 11 songs and 45 minutes.

Yeah, it’s time for another Megadeth album.

I’ll admit, I went into Super Collider with good expectations. As a rule, I like Megadeth – albums like Killing is My Business… and Countdown to Extinction are both fantastic thrash albums, and their last two albums, Endgame and Th1rte3n were decent-to-good albums in my opinion. So, forgive me for expecting something good from their latest offering. Had I paid any attention to reviews – which I don’t – I’d have known it has been received with a less-than-lukewarm opinion. More fool me, since I could’ve saved myself from this.

And yet, when the album fires up with Kingmaker, I was enjoying myself. The riffs were powerful and thrashy, the solos were impressive and the backing bass and drums were nice and heavy. But then, like a tone-deaf siren looming through the murk to taunt the beleaguered Argonauts, Mustaine started singing. Flat? Flat isn’t the word. Steamrolled perhaps. The vocals form an awful top layer to the song, drawing attention away from the glorious thrash metal goodness underneath so that by the end of the song you’re more than happy for it to end.

Next up is the lead single Super Collider, followed by Burn, Built for War and Off the Edge. I’m bunching all four together because they form their own little quartet of tediousness, kind of like a movie marathon of the Star Wars prequels followed by Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but with less good music. Super Collider is an utterly bland hard rock track, perfect radio friendly fodder, shovelled out the door devoid of any soul or life. Burn is equally tepid, but this time laced with the worst lyrics on the album, lyrics which abuse the “fire = passion” metaphor. Like Super Collider, Burn sounds churned out, a vacuous filler track that doesn’t deserve yours or anyone’s time. Built for War is actually a solid thrash track, but once again Mustaine ruins the track both with his out-of-time singing and repetitive lyrics that deal with aggression using the words of a tantrum-throwing teenager. Finally, Off the Edge continues the wearisome wave of vapid vocals, with Dave complaining that “this world’s gone crazy”. I’m not sure how – perhaps it’s a form of cabin fever where we’ve all gone mental listening to this album. Either way, it’s still a dull track, from the lazy soloing to the bog-standard riff that runs behind the entire song.

Following that cavalcade of mediocrity we have Dance in the Rain. I’m not sure whether the song is decent, or if it’s just good enough, coming as it does after that last barrage. I’m quite a fan of the verse riff, and for once Mustaine’s singing works very well, this time properly complimenting the music. It’s refreshing to actually hear a verse segue neatly into chorus, chorus to solo, solo to verse once more – you know, like proper song writing! I do have an issue with the latter third of the song though. Around 3-and-a-half minutes in, the tempo abruptly shifts, as does the music. The change heralds Disturbed and Device frontman David Draiman’s guest spot on the song, and unfortunately his section of the song is the weakest. His voice doesn’t really suit the song, and the change from Dance in the Rain to this forms a messy schism, and while it doesn’t kill the song it does mar it.

Despite that, Dance in the Rain signals a change in the album. Beginning of Sorrow is a serviceable thrash track – it doesn’t stand out and it’ll never be counted amongst Megadeth’s greats as far as I’m concerned, but by this point I hardly cared. I’d found two – well, very nearly two, call it one and a half-ish tracks I didn’t hate, so it was good enough for me. Try not to listen to the lyrics though; aside from the repetition of the chorus – the last minute of the song is essentially a constant chorus – there’s also bad grammar, which just offends me to my very core. I mean really, “one of you was have to go”, “the doctor says she got to go” and “soon he get revenge”. If you’re going to write contentious political opinion, at least express it properly, else pedantic arseholes like me will never respect your ideas, Dave. In any case, it’s all just heavy-handed political allegory anyway, so you’re better off letting Dave warble away and just plod onto the next song.

Onwards, then, to The Blackest Crow. This is easily the best track on the album. First off, it begins with a banjo, which runs throughout the entire track and actually works with the music. Hell yeah. There’s also this nifty little southern guitar chord pattern on the rhythm guitar, which I love, not to mention the awesome slide guitar solo. Basically, it’s thrash metal mixed up with a southern rock style, and I love it. Add to that decent vocals, pretty bleak lyrics and actual pacing and you have one good song. Admittedly, it’s basically this album’s 13, but whatever, it’s still good.

The album wraps up with Forget to Remember, Don’t Turn Your Back and Cold Sweat. Forget to Remember has a neat riff framing it, and a pretty good upbeat heavy metal style chorus. It’s nothing special, but still worth a listen; again, probably a case of being just good enough given the rest of this album. Don’t Turn Your Back starts with this weird guitar noodling that sounds like a clip accidentally left in, but it segues into the track, so I suppose it was supposed to be there? Don’t know why, it sounds unprofessional. In any case, Don’t Turn Your Back is pretty much dull hard rock and would probably more at home nearer the start of the album with the rest of its kin. Finally, the album ends with a Thin Lizzy cover, Cold Sweat. Perhaps an odd choice, but Megadeth produce a crunchy, heavy version of the song that works quite well, and it’s a great song regardless of who plays it. It ends the album on a high at least.

All said and done, Super Collider is a bit disappointing. The majority of tracks are tepid hard rock with nothing to recommend in terms of vocals, music or lyrics. There are definitely some stand-out tracks on the album, whenever Megadeth return to thrash and heavy metal – The Blackest Crow, Forget to Remember and the first two-thirds of Dance in the Rain would’ve been right at home on either Endgame or Th1rte3n, possibly even Youthanasia. Overall, it’s a poor performance from Megadeth. On Kingmaker, Dave shouts out to us “I want to be the King” but really he’s more like the jester.

Listen to: The Blackest Crow, Forget to Remember
Avoid: Burn, Off the Edge
Recommendation: Best to give this one a miss.

Cheers,

Jim.

Advertisements

Bill Bailey in Metal by Bill Bailey – Album Review

ImageAlbum: Bill Bailey in Metal

Artist: Bill Bailey

Year: 2011

Genre: Comedy, Metal (sort of)

Songs: 9

It has to be said, I do love Bill Bailey. To be fair, there are a lot of reasons to. Aside from the fact that he’s an incredibly funny comedian, he’s also insanely musically talented, able to whip between multiple instruments and genres in his shows to produce hysterical and satirical comedy, often set to music and accompanied by Bailey’s whimsical persona. But, does this attitude successfully transfer onto a CD?

Not entirely, I’m afraid.

Bill Bailey’s Bill Bailey in Metal is a collection of some of Bailey’s more famous songs from across his career that he used at Sonisphere. The name suggests the album would be metal, a suggestion made all the more plausible by Bailey’s appearance at Sonisphere; in reality only a handful of tracks can really be called metal or hard rock of any kind. This, of course, doesn’t mean that the album is bad, or that the songs don’t live up to expectations. In fact, some of them are brilliantly reworked into their new rock trappings, while others display a flair for electronica. Perhaps this is the point; in his live shows Bailey delights in playing with his audience’s expectations, and he continues to here.

The album opens with the instrumental Lazer Gazer, a neat electronic-rock fusion that feels at times eerie and melancholy thanks to the high-pitched beeps of the keyboard and the dark, mournful violin backing. The opening is underpinned by a nice crunchy guitar, although this is replaced halfway through by a screeching lead lick. All of these together not only make for a lovely sounding track, but it all combines to form a crescendo before a prerecorded female voice exclaims that there’s an unexpected item in the bagging area. While it’s not a great guffaw of laughter, it’s a fantastic sounding track and elicits a little chortle before the album kicks off for real with Leg of Time, a tribute to the fantasy-fuelled prog-rock of the ‘70s. Like the greatest tracks of the genre, it constructs a narrative; in this case, it tells the tale of Terry the thief who steals one of Time’s titular legs. It revels in its absurdity – of course it does, it’s a Bill Bailey song. From lines such as “Ride a white pig to the edge of Lapland/Why did I do that? I don’t know” and “Magical chanting is no crime/When you’re suckled by a blind Alsatian”, to the absolutely wonderful non-sequitur Cockney middle 8, the song is consistently funny as well as fantastically constructed and forms the first highlight of the album.

Following this is Love Song, an at first morose, then sickly sweet ballad that highlights and then parodies typical love song clichés and phrases before descending into a furious and heartbroken hard rock finale complete with a rock-and-roll scream and solo. Again, most of the comedy here comes from Bailey’s lyrics, which gleefully tear apart typical protestations of love. For example, the protagonist’s love is likened to that most romantic of animals, a duck, clumsily falling over its own feet while it tries to stand on ice. However, by the end of the song the duck now “lies shredded in the hoisin of your lies”. While it’s not as funny as Leg of Time, and nor is it as musically engaging, it’s still an amusing song and you’ll find yourself both horrified at and furious with the protagonist by the end.

Apocalyptic News is an odd track. Another instrumental, it plays off an idea Bailey mentioned in his earliest stand-up shows; namely, that the opening to the BBC News sounds like it is the harbinger of the end of times. To that end, Bailey frames that opening with an odd medley of creepy chords, effects ripped from an early science-fiction show and funk guitar. If that sounds like it shouldn’t work, that’s because it kind of doesn’t. The song shifts from genre to genre abruptly, and each section is overlaid by a different effect that sounds separate, creating a strange dissonance. After that, we’re treated to a cover of Scarborough Fair, but with a twist – this version is Bill Bailey pretending to be German industrial metallers Rammstein, and so the song features a chugging guitar riff underlying an electronic lead while Bailey sings along in broken German. While the song is amusing the joke does wear thin and it ends up being not quite as funny as Leg of Time or Love Song. The same issue happens with Cars, a French language cover of Gary Numan’s Cars and Das Hokey-Kokey, a German cover of the Hokey-Kokey (unsurprisingly). Again, the music is fine (and Cars even features a car horn solo) but the joke wears out quite soon.

The penultimate track is Oblivion, Bailey’s take on emo. While it may be crass to laugh about self-harm, you can’t really help but chuckle at the protagonist (who works at a coffee house) slapping himself with a flapjack or fumbling over the word “Why?” because he’s used a coffee stirrer to stab his tongue. The main musical draw comes from the fact that around a minute-and-a-half in Bailey switches to an almost death metal genre, with a powerful guitar rhythm and growled vocals. Ultimately it ends up being an average song – a bit bland in terms of the music (death metal break notwithstanding), but the piano-led outro does lead nicely into the final song, Pot Plant Elegy, which combines a morose piano with the strange sci-fi effects from Apocalyptic News to form a beautiful and surreal ending to a surreal album.

With 9 songs the album sits at just under 25 minutes and I can’t help but be glad. While the stand out songs are clustered at the start it does mean the latter half of the album is a little flat, but I can’t but be impressed at it as a whole. The music is superbly crafted and it does manage to capture, at least in part, Bailey’s absurdist humour. While it’s obviously not an acceptable substitute for his stand-up, Bill Bailey in Metal is still a decent album for fans and might help introduce one or two new listeners to that wonderful part-troll comedian.

Best song: Leg of Time

Worst: Das Hokey-Kokey

Recommendation: Buy it if you’re a fan, listen to it on YouTube first if you aren’t.