Discography Review | Volbeat

Continuing on from last year, my new year’s resolution once again is to expand the breadth of my musical knowledge and experience. As with last year, I’m listening to the discography of a different band each month.

This is my entry for January 2017.

My previous entry saw me take a look at proggy retro rockers Bigelf.

This time around I’ve gone for Danish rockabilly loving heavy metallers, Volbeat.

Background: I’ve been aware of them for a while (they are huge on mainland Europe and often play towards the top of the bill) , but never actively tracked down their stuff. I’ve heard their cover of I Only Want To Be With You before, and a couple of their later singles.


the-strength-the-sound-the-songs – The Strength/The Sound/The Songs

Their 2005 debut opens up with the solid Caroline Leaving, which leads into the vastly superior Another Day, Another Way. The latter’s main riff reminds me of No Doubt’s Hella Good, in a good way. After the decent Something Else Or…. there is a trio belters in the form of Rebel MonsterPool of Booze, Booze, Booze and Always.Wu. Each of them is contemporary heavy metal, but with a slightly different twist (Pool… for example, sounds almost stoner metal, whereas Always… has some speed / trad metal elements). Say Your Number is good, and the pseudo-ballad Soulweeper is a cracking tune! Fire Song feels like a bit of a filler, and Danny & Lucy gets better as it goes along. Caroline #1 is another track with stoner rock vibes, and really sodding good! Alienized is fine, but is a nice buffer between Caroline #1 and the excellent Dusty Springgield cover, I Only Want To Be With You. The closing double are good in their own ways – Everything’s Still Fine has a tasty mid-paced chugging riff, plus a nice Kasmir-era Zeppelin eastern sounding guitar flourish every now and then. Healing Subconsciously has a warmer guitar sound. Song itself is a rousing, upbeat and triumpant one – a really good closer.

Overall [4]
A really flipping good debut album. Plenty of catchy tracks throughout, and – while there is a sort of signature sound in each song – there’s a nice variety within than scope. It keeps everything fresh.

Best tracks: Soulweeper, Caroline #1, I Only Wanna Be With You.


rock-the-rebel-metal-the-devilRock the Rebel / Metal the Devil 

The 2007 follow-up has a decent opening track in The Human Instrument, featuring a nice guitar sound that’s halfway between Floydian and country/western. Mr. & Mrs. Ness sounds like something from the early 90s – like a mid-paced Megadeth intro, or a heavier Queensryche track. The Garden’s Tale has a calmer intro, before kicking into a track thats almost pop punk. This makes sense considering the guest musician is from post-punk band Magtens Korridor. This is one of the best things they’ve put out so far. Devil or the Blue Cat’s Song feels like a slight comedown after the previous quality of what preceeded it, but would probably be a good track elsewhere on the album. Sad Man’s Tongue has a nice banjo led intro and a very southern US vibe to the whole thing. Not a bad track. River Queen is a bit of a grower, but Radio Girl and A Moment Forever aren’t anything memorable. Soulweeper #2 is a cracking slower to mid-paced, more sombre piece. Juxtaposing You or Them with the previous track is neat, as it makes this seem heavier than it is . A really catchy track. Boa (JDM) is a decent closing track, if nothing special.

Overall [3]
A good follow-up, if one that doesn’t blow me away. There’s some really cool tracks here, but – for a relatively short album – there’s a bit too much that’s just decent filler.

Best Tracks: The Garden’s Tale, Soulweeper #2, You or Them.


guitar-gangesters-and-cadillac-bloodGuitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood

After a plesant intro, the title track kicks in. It’s a really catchy tune/chorus and screams ‘single’. This flows into the pop-punky sounding Back to Prom, and things gets a smidge heavier with Mary Ann’s Place. By this point, all the tracks have had cracking intros anfd been pretty sweet. Hallelujah Goat is a little less memorable than that which went before, but still pretty good. Maybellene I Hofteholder uses the typical ‘slow things down before hitting you with a punchy punky riff’ intro – and does it well. Good track. We is more of the same, and similarly good. The next few tracks are all ‘pretty good’, before the really good cover of Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonely I Could CryA Broken Man and the Dawn starts well, but sort of a peters out. Find that Soul is a pretty good album track, before another good cover (of Jimmy Work’s Making Believe) closes things out.

Overall [3.5]
Probably the middle ground, quality wise, in the releases so far. First half is pretty damned good, but the back half is a bit hit and miss.

Best tracks: Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood, Back to Prom, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.


untitledBeyond Hell / Above Heaven

The Mirror and the Ripper is a solid opener, which makes way for up-tempo pseudo-ballad Heaven Nor HellWho They Are has a deliciously malovolent riff that wouldn’t be amiss on a Ghost album. Once things kick in, it sounds like a contemporary metal track as on their earlier albums. It’s good stuff. Fallen and A Better Believer are fine, but 7 Shots is really good! It features guest lead guitar (Michael Denner from Mercyful Fate/King Diamond) and guest secondary vocals (Mille Petrozza from Kreator). It’s not as heavy as the inclusion of those musicians may imply, but it’s heavier than the previous tracks on the album. Nonetheless, its areally catchy tune that utulises them both well. A New Day is fine, but 16 Dollars is better. The latter is closer to a rockabilly / old school rock n roll sound, making it sound somewhat fresh with where it’s placed on the album. A very likeable tune. A Warrior’s Call is fascinating – it’s a song about, and as a tribute to, Danish boxer Mikkel Kessler. It’s got a nice punchy fists-in-the-air sort of chorus, and it’s really catchy! Magic Zone is an upbeat tune that makes user of a warmer guitar tone for the intro, and has a punchy main riff. Evelyn is a fair whack heavier, and features thier first track with growling vocals, courtesy of Barney from Napalm Death. I’ve never been a fan, and this didn’t do much for me. Being 1 changes the tone once more. It’s a short song (a little over two minutes) and feels like it’s made to be the first part of a medley. Thanks is an actual song thanking their fans for their support over the year. Despite how cheesy this sounds in concept, it’s actually quite a memorable tune, and would work in tandem with Being 1 as a sort of medley to close out a concert.

Overall [3.5]
A pretty strong album, probably on a part with their previous release. Though there aren’t many outright killer tunes, there’s very little filler.

Best tracks: 7 Shots, 16 Dollars and a Warrior’s Call.


outlaw-gentlemen-and-shady-ladiesOutlaw Gentlement & Shady Ladies

A collection of acoustic/Spanish guitars, a harp and a mouth organs/harmonica combine to set the western scene in the tro track Let’s Shake Some Dust. The next next couple of track are simply decent, despite some nice guitar work. Dead But Rising is a bit heavier and a bit better. Cape of Our Hero is one of the few tracks I’d heard previously, and this is where the album properly kicks off – a pretty great track! Room 24 has a sort of a horror vibe to it, which makes sense with Kind Diamond on guest vocals. A really good heavy metal tune. The Hangman’s Body Count was the second single released from the album, and you can tell why on one play. The lone blip on the back half of the album is the forgettable My BodyLola Montez is another track I’ve heard before, but I’m not sure where  – maybe a club? It’s one of the better tracks on the album – in fact, it may be one of the tracks I’ve enjoyed the most so far. Black Bart is a good, up-tempo track. Lonesome Rider features guest vocals from Sarah Blackwood (of Dubstar fame). She adds a pleasant extra dimension. The song itself has a the vibe of a single from a film’s soundtrack. Really good stuff. The Sinner Is You grows into a really catchy tune with a memorable chorus. Doc Holliday is a bit heavier and the better type of album track. Our Loved Ones is a strong, epic osunding finale.

Overall [4]
From Cape of Our Hero onwards, it’s a really good album and the closest they’ve come to replicating the quslity of their debut to date.

Best tracks: Cape of Our Hero, Room 24, The Hangman’s Body Count, Lonesome Rider.


seal-the-deal-and-lets-boogieSeal the Deal & Let’s Boogie

Prodecings are started with their best opening track to date, The Devil’s Bleeding Crown. Parts of it remind me of the stoner rock/metal vibe of Poole of Booze, Booze, Booze and Caroline #1Marie Laveau reminds me of one of their previous songs, but I can’t place which. It’s a solid track, either way. For Evigt features Johan Olsen from Magtens Korridor. It’s a bit of a grower, and better than the previous song. The next couple of tracks (The Gates of Babylon and Let Ir Burn) are fine, but would be lost in the mix on the better albums I think. Black Rose features Danko Jones and is a definite step up on the previous tracks. Rebound is a cover of punk band Teenage Bottlerocket. Unlike their previous covers, it doesn’t overly stand out, though still decent. Mary Jane Kelly is somewhat better. Goodbye Forever slows things down a nudge, before Seal the Deal ramps things back up (the former is solid, the latter pretty darn good). Battleship Chains is a cover of The Woods’ song (made famous by The Georgia Satellites). It’s a really good cover of one of my favourite songs. I’m undecided on You Will Know – future listens will determine whether it is a grower, or just a decent album track. The standard edition closes with The Loa’s Crossroad. The intro riff is really cool, punchy and kick ass. Song itself is solid, with a nice – random – bagpipe solo in the middle!

Overall [3]
A step down from Outlaw Gentlemen but still a good album. There’s a little too mych that’s just decent filler for me to rate it any higher.

Best tracks: The Devil’s Bleeding Crown, Seal the Deal, Battleship Chains.


 

And that’s that. I’ve really enjoyed this particular listen through. Over the ix albums, there’s some cracking tunes, and no single album is less than good.


 

YOF2017 #4 – 15 | Remainder, Rams, Your Name, Hunt for the Wildepeople, Lights Out, Fire at Sea, La La Land, Under the Shadow, Money Monster, The Neon Demon,The Take, The BFG

In my quest to blas through as many films from 2016 before submitting my film of the year list to my fellow Geeketeers at Fake Geeks, I’ve watched a whole heap of films in recent weeks. They make up all but one of these entries.


YOF2017 #4 | Remainder

You can read my full review of Remainder over at Fake Geeks. In short, while Omer Fast shows promise in his full length debut, it is ultimately more of an interesting head-scratcher than a mind-bending classic.

3/5


YOF2017 #5 | Rams

You can read my full review of Rams over at Fake Geeks. In short, it is an expertly crafted, affecting drama that’s spiced up with sprinklings of dark humour.

4/5


YOF2017 #6 | Your Name

Your Name was at the UK cinemas for about 5 minutes, but a few of us were very loucky to have gotten down to see it. It’s the last film from Makoto Shinkai  (5 Centmieters per SecondThe Garden of Words) who is one of a few directors that has been given the ‘next Miyazaki’ label.

Briefly, Your Name is about a  boy and a girl who – every so often, and seemingly at random – exchange bodies when they sleep, and they spend a day as the other person. Going into the whys and wherefors will spoil this one, but I can honestly say that this an excellently made film. It’s very much a mulit-layered piece, without being impentrable to the casual viewer. I have a feeeling it’ll place well in our film of the year list.

4.5/5


YOF2017 #7 | Hunt for the Wildepeople

Another strong contender for film of the year is this adventure comedy-drama from Taika Waititi (What We Do In The Shadows, the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok).

Julian Dennison is excellent as Ricky Baker, a troublesome youth who floats from family to family in the child welfare system. His latest stop is with “Uncle” Hec (Sam Neill) and “Aunt” Bella (Rima Te Wiata).  For reasons that I won’t get into for fear of spoiling certain plot points, Hec and Ricky end up the object of a manhunt in the New Zealand bush.

Hunt for the Wildepeople is a brilliant film. While it’s mostly humourous, there are moments of genuine tenderness and drama. Neill is great, and Dennison steals the show.

4.5/5


YOF2017 #8 | Lights Out

While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, there are some nice spots in this adaptation of a 2013 short. The cast is pretty good too, and the characters feel a little more three dimensional than the usuals that get wheeled out for horror franchises.

A sequel has already been confirmed, here’s hoping it improves  on what they have already built and don’t send it the way of Saw etc.

3.5/5


YOF2017 #9 | Fire at Sea

This is a narrrator-free documentary look at the European island of Lampedusa. Being so close to Africa, the island is often a first port of call for migrants from the continents to the south and east.

What could have been excellent, is merely decent. Too much time is spent with the families of the island doing trivial tasks. The times spent focussing on the plight of the migrants is moving, and one of the doctors giving a talking heads piece about why he helps them is somewhat prodfound.

3/5


YOF2017 #10 | La La Land

Damien Chezelle’s  first film since the amazing Whiplash (the Fake Geeks film of the year)  is a musical set in Hollywood, about chasing your dreams.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are very good in the lead roles, and the songs are mostly good. The story meanders a smidge, but the ending is pretty darn good. It’s gonna be quite high on my list of films in 2017.

4/5


YOF2017 #11 | Under the Shadow

This is an acclaimed internationally produced horror set in Tehran, during the Iran-Iraq war of the 80s. As Tehran is bombarded with missile attacks, Shideh (Nerges Rashidi) tries to comfort her daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi). As the film progresses, things take a turn toward the unexplainable – is a djinn stalking Dorsa?

While I don’t think it’s amazing (it received five star reviews from a number of notable publications), it’s still really good stuff and has a shot at my top 15 for the year.

4/5


YOF2017 #12 | Money Monster

A decent hostage thriller starring George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Jack O’Connell. It wholly unoriginal, but done quite well throughout. There’s alsodecent support from prominent TV actors such as Dominic West, Giancarlo Esposito, Denis Boutsikaris and Chris Bauer.

3/5


YOF2017 #13 | The Neon Demon

A bit of a mixed bag from Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest release. It looks amazing (as you’d probably expect), and the soundtrack is spot on. Elle Fanning is pretty good on the most part, though significantly better in the first half than the second (her character undergoes a transformation, and she’s much better at portraying the former than the latter). The film is a smidge slow, and the last third seems to be shocking for shocking sake. Still, I didn’t ‘not enjoy’ it. It’s just… decent/fine.

3/5


YOF2017 #14 | The Take (Bastille Day)

Like Money Money, this is decent (if by the numbers). Elba plays a CIA agent, Richard Madden is a pickpocket and Charlotte Le Bon an naive political idealist. The three of them end up tangled up in bomb plot. Fun enough entertainment.

3/5


YOF2017 #15 | The BFG

I must confess that I’ve never read the book, nor have I watched the famous 80s cartoon. However, I really enjoyed Steven Spielberg’s adaptation. It’s definitely at the better end of and increasingly bloated kids CGI film selection.

4/5


 

YOF2017 #3 | Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One poster.pngMike did a cracking review of this for us over at Fake Geeks, which I mostly agree with so I won’t go on about it too much.

I thought it was very good. There was a strong cast, with Felicity Jones, Diego Luna and Riz Ahmed probably the standouts.

While it wasn’t OTT, seeing the film in IMAX certainly seemed like the way to go. The space battles were more impressive for it, and the whole 3D experience worked well. It defintiely didn’t feel like a ‘gimmick’ in this one.

I’ve heard rumblings of continuity errors, though I’m not sure I noticed them myself. I’ve read up on one or two, but they seem to have been explained away (one of them by the director himself).

There isn’t too much more I can say without delving into spoilers (hat hasn’t already been said in Mike’s review).

In short, it’s very good, it’s likely making my top ten films.

4/5

YOF2017 #2 | Where to Invade Next (2016)

With the deadline looming for the Fake Geeks teams to submit our lists for Top 15 films of 2016 (so we can populate a combined Top 20 list), I’ve been using every medium possible to catch up. In this case, I used my trusty Lovefilm account to grab this doc from last summer.

The original review was posted at Fake Geeks, but you can read it in full below.


Where to Invade Next poster.pngDirected by | Michael Moore
Produced by | Carl Deal, Tia Lessin, Michael Moore
Written by | Michael Moore
Starring / Narrated by | Michael Moore
Run Time | 120 minutes
Certificate | 15

Plot |  Michael Moore goes on a fact finding mission to discover which policies would benefit the United States, were they to adopt them.

Review | Michael Moore documentaries can be more than a little hit or miss. He can make moving pieces (Bowling for Columbine), as well as films that lift a lid on profit-driven governmental policies (Sicko). He can also make sensationalistic, conspiracy-theory guff (Fahrenheit 911). Though lighter in tone to all those previously mentioned, Where to Invade Next thankfully harkens back to his work on Sicko more than anything else.

Where to Invade Next img 2.jpg

For those that remember his 2007 feature on the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, you may recall a scene where he goes to France and asks questions of how the system works there. We discover that their higher tax rates take care of a number of issues, which expands past the limits of healthcare briefly to discuss paid leave for life events (such as your Honeymoon or moving house). Where to Invade Next can be boiled down to being a near two hour version of this scene, focussing on many facets of every-day life.

After a mildly humorous, fictional set-up (he explains that the Government has asked his opinion on where they should invade next), Moore treks across to Europe and Northern Africa with the idea of pilfering any ideas he comes across that could be of benefit to the US of A.

Where to Invade Next img 3.jpg

While Moore’s film making style and overt political leanings are never going to win over staunchy conservative right-wingers, Where to Invade Next is a nonetheless entertaining film, and some of the things he discovers about each of the countries he visits is genuinely surprising (the amount of paid annual leave Italians get may raise an eyebrow, as may Norway’s prison system, Slovenia’s free University education or Portugal’s stance on drug possession).

In a departure from many of his other releases, Moore retains a relatively light tone throughout and even offers a surprisingly upbeat outlook come the conclusion. This helps elevate Where to Invade Next towards the better end of ‘good’.


The Verdict | Moore’s refreshingly upbeat and light tone helps make Where to Invade Next an interesting and entertaining documentary.

4/5


YOF2017 #1 | Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

Year of Film is dead!
Long live Year of Film 2017!

With the new year, I have decided to reboot my Year of Film blogsperiment. It retains the same idea as before – I give my thoughts on every feature film I see over the period of a year. In some cases, like this one, I will have previously published the article as a review (or part of one) over at Fake Geeks. Other times, I’ll just be putting up my thoughts directly here.

To kick things off, I watched Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!!. I’ve been a fan of his for a while, and the Before trilogy is some of my favourite films of all time.

Below is the brief review I wrote for Fake Geeks:


Everybody Wants Some poster.pngDirected by | Richard Linklater
Produced by | Megan Ellison, Richard Linklater, Ginger Sledge
Written by | Richard Linklater
Starring | Blake Jenner, Zoey Deutch, Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin, Glen Powell, Wyatt Russell
Run Time | 116 minutes
Certificate | 15

Plot |  Baseball pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner) has arrived at his frat house, just a few days prior to starting college as a freshmen. We follow his exploits as he bonds with the new housemates.

Review | For anyone unfamiliar with Richard Linklater’s work, Everybody Wants Some!! may seem a little odd, as it is a film with exceptionally little by the way of conventional plot. However, those more familiar with the auteur’s previous works will know that Linklater is more interested in the interactions between people, then of a centralised narrative. This is very much the case with Everybody Wants Some!!, which simply shows us a three day period in the life of Jake Bradford.

Helping Bradford to settle in are his new team-mates: Finnegan (Glen Powell), Roper (Ryan Guzman) McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), Plummer (Temple Baker), Douglas (J. Quinto Johnson), Beuter (Will Brittain), Jay (Juston Street), Coma (Forrest Vickery), Brumley (Tanner Kalina), Nesbit (Austin Amelio), and Justin (Michael Monsour).

everybody-wants-some-img-2

While a large principle cast inevitably leads to some being featured more than others, the acting is pretty good across the board. Jenner is likeable in the lead role, and Powell, Russell and Amelio’s turns are particularly memorable in their own ways – as is Zoey Duetch as the love interest Beverly.

The twelve guys spend their last few days of freedom drinking, partying, getting high and chasing girls – as well as having the odd intellectual conversation. While this might mostly sound like a recipe for disaster in the vein of many a screwball, lechy hollywood comedy, this really isn’t the case. Yes, the guys are out for a good time, but the film treads a line closer to romanticised nostalgia.

everybody-wants-some-img-3

There is a genuine warmth to the script and the characters are played with such fresh faced honesty, that you can’t help but just smile at the antics of this cheeky dozen. An early scene sees five of them are cruising the streets on a sunny summer’s afternoon looking for girls, only for it to turn into a Wayne’s World style singalong to Rapper’s Delight. It’s fun, a bit daft and genuinely entertaining – which is pretty much a perfect way to sum up Everybody Wants Some!!.


The Verdict | A genuinely warm, meandering piece of nostalgia that will leave you with a smile on your face.

4/5


 

New Year’s Resolutions – Music & Film

Happy new year!

Throughout 2016 I set myself a number of tasks and resolutions relating to both music and film.

Music wise, I set my self the goal of averaging a minumum of two albums per month that I’d not listened to before (one from 2016 and one pre-dating 2016). Additionally, I would listen to the entire discography of an individual band each month.

Film wise, I started my Year of Film series. I started it in March sometime to help me keep track of everything I’ve seen (regardless of whether it was from this year or not) and to write a little about it.

In the music front, I managed to pretty much stick to the plan, even squeezing in some extra albums at the back end of the year. It was also great to check out the discographies of (most) of the bands I went for. So, for 2017, I’ll be doing the same.

On the film front, while I managed to mostly keep a track of things, I did slack off in the back half of the year (hence the fewer updates with an increasing number of entires per update). I’ve decided to abandon my initial YOF list and start afresh with a YOF2017 list, running it from 1st Jan – 31st Dec to bring it in line with my musical resolutions too.

With all that in mind, I am open to suggestions for which band to cover for the January disography. Any and all suggetions are welcome, though my loose ground rules still apply – no more than 6 albums, and all have to be on Spotify.

P.s. For those interested, the albums I rated the highest from this year were:

2016 Releases
Kvelertak – “Nattesferd”
Opeth – “Sorceress”
SubRosa – “For This We Fought The Battle of Ages.”

Pre-2016 Releases
Mastodon – “The Hunter”
The Darkness – “Permission to Land”
Rise Against – “Appeal to Reason”
*Shels – “Sea of the Dying Dhow”

I would give all of the above 4.5 / 5 (except The Hunter, which gets the perfect 5).