Classic Rock’s New Release Round-Up
This week we’ve got the new records from Soulfly and Deftones, punk versions of classic rock anthems, a Spanish alternative to Nightwish, plus a Thunder box set, Porcupine Tree DVD, a book on James Hetfield… and a young London band who’ve attracted Ronnie Wood’s attention!
Words: Malcolm Dome
While there are those who desperately want Max Cavalera to return to Sepultura, you have to ask what the point would be when he continues to make such great music with Soulfly. The band’s seventh album Omen (Roadrunner) continues to funnel extreme prog metal through a punk attitude and a restive ambient atmosphere. Once again, Cavalera delivers brilliantly. The intensity and darkness are dramatic.
Less successful are The Deftones with Diamond Eyes (Reprise). Maybe the fact that bassist Chi Cheng is still in a terrible state, 18 months after being badly hurt in a car crash, has adversely affected the band. But whatever the reason, this comes across as going through the motions and rather dull. Amazing when you consider The Deftones’ rich heritage and influence.
Punk Goes Classic Rock (Fearless) is the ninth in an ongoing series, which does what it says on the proverbial tin – with little impact. Some moments here work – Versaemerge do a creditable job with The Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black and A Skylit Drive enthusiastically tackle Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) from Journey – but most of this is insipid. Worst of the lot are The Summer Set, who really don’t convince they can party for 30 seconds, let alone Rock And Roll All Nite. As for Never Shout Never, who take on Bohemian Rhapsody… well, it’s a disaster.
Year Of No Light come from France. And their morbidly psychedelic ambient doodlings on Ausserwelt (Conspiracy) are gloomily eerie. This lot could make a convention of hopeless pessimists seem a positive delight. But when you’re in the right mood, this is actually music in which you wanna be immersed. If Marvin The Paranoid Android took a cocktail of acid and downers, this is what might happen.
Sora is guitarist/vocalist Erol Sora, who’s worked with the likes of John Lawton. His album Desire And Truth (Avenue Of Allies) is full of well-constructed, neat, melodic hard rock songs. But what this lacks is edge and a real sense of a leap of faith. It’s all just a little too polite. Still, it does showcase the man’s instrumental talents, and that might just land him something with a high profile band.
Spain’s Niobeth take the whole operatic/symphonic metal approach a stage too far. The Shining Harmony Of Universe (Molusdo) is so over the top, it becomes something of a pastiche. Shame, because there are some decent ideas here. All it needs is careful pruning and shaping.
Spartan Warrior are a throwback (and some might suggest they should be thrown back) to the NWOBHM era, when every day you’d get a collection of half-eaten, misbegotten cassettes (yeah, those things) featuring bands whose biggest claim to fame is that they once met a Saxon roadie in a pub near Chesterfield. Well, actually it was the second cousin of a roadie! Anyway, there was always one tape that somehow, despite its irredeemably naff contents, sort of endeared itself to you. The Warrior just remind me of those innocent days. Behind Closed Eyes (Iron Age) is meat-and-two-veg British heavy metal, with clichés scattered like broken promises after an election. The drummer makes the infamous Les ‘Feathertouch’ Binks sound like a herd of stampeding mammoths. The vocalist is to Paul Di’Anno what the former Maiden man is to Ronnie James Dio. The guitarist clearly idolises Paul Gaskin (!) and these songs are dishwater when up against the champagne material of Blitzkrieg! Classic Rock online writer Xavier Russell reckons it’s the worst sounding album he’s heard since Angel Witch’s 1980 debut! But there is something endearing here. There again, I recall obscure NOWBHites Triarchy and Alien with affection. Maybe I just need help.
Thunder are aiming the six-CD box set Live At The BBC 1990-1995 (EMI) firmly at the diehards who must have everything. Just as well, because the repetition here is astonishing. There are no less than eight versions of Backstreet Symphony, three alone on the final disc, which collates the band’s radio sessions (the rest are live recordings). And 60 per cent of the set from the first CD (Hammersmith Odeon, 1990) makes up half of the final live one, namely disc five (Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 1994). Get the idea? Still, the performances from the lovable London larrikins are impressive, everything is previously unreleased and true Thunder fans will love it. When it’s all said and done, they are the ones this is aimed at. Mind you, it should have been called Hello Team!
Finally, a book, DVD, gig and blast from the past. The book’s James Hetfield The Wolf At Metallica’s Door by Mark Eglinton (Independent Music Press). A well-researched biography of Hetfield, nonetheless it does end up being yet another book about Metallica. It’s hard to avoid this, as the band are such a huge part of the man’s life. However, it still manages to give a good overview of Hetfield, the man and the musician.
The DVD is Porcupine Tree‘s Anesthetize (Kscope). Filmed in Holland during the band’s 2008 tour, this is an impressive two-disc set, showcasing the true masters of modern prog. Doubtless, it’ll look even better on the big screen when it’s shown at the Prince Charles Cinema in London on May 20. All the details on that are here.
The gig is Saint Jude, who played the 100 Club in London on May 5. Fronted by the stunning Lynne Jackaman, these Londoners have a definite Stones/Faces groove, but with the songs to be much more than just another bunch of wannabe pub rockers, who end up closer to being a pale imitation of the Quireboys than anything else. Some have compared Jackaman to Janis Joplin. But try this one: a young version of Jenny Hahn, when she fronted Babe Ruth. It’s all so effortless, and you have the feeling this is one singer with so much more to come. They’re playing again on June 5 at the same venue. Ronnie Wood is a fan, and has actually got on stage for a noodle – as it were – with them. See this lot now, because I’ve the feeling they’re gonna be a major band very fast! Check them out at www.myspace.com/saintjudemusic
The blast from the past is Fee Waybill‘s Read My Lips (BGO). Originally released in 1984, this was the first solo album from the Tubes leader. Classy, classic AOR, with Steve Lukather on guitar plus other members of Toto hovering in the background. There are touches of funk and steel drums. The production might be very much of its time, however that never spoils the entertainment. No, this has not just been reissued, but it’s nice to dust down an oldie from the collection every so often.
Tags: A Skylit Drive, Alien, Angel Witch, Babe Ruth, Chi Cheng, Deftones, Erol Sora, Faces, Fee Waybill, Iron Maiden, James Hetfield, Janis Joplin, Jenny Hahn, John Lawton, Journey, Les Binks, Lynne Jackaman, Max Caveral, Metallica, Never Shout Never, Niobeth, Paul Di'Anno, Paul Gaskin, Porcupine Tree, Quireboys, Rolling Stones, Ronnie James Dio, Saint Jude, Sepultura, Sora, Soulfly, Spartan Warrior, Steve Lukather, The Summer Set, The Tubes, Thunder, Toto, Triarchy, Versamerge, Year Of No Light