Beautiful Crutch – Album Review

American alternative rock band Dommin released their third studio album Beautiful Crutch last year and, with the promise of a darker yet more hopeful vibe after their somewhat downbeat previous efforts Rise and Love Is Gone, this looked like possibly the start of a new era for the goth/new wave metal group.

The first track, “Desire”, opens with a screech before settling into softer, melodic verses and occasionally building up to the rockier chorus. There’s a very good guitar hook keeping the song balanced throughout and a short but effective solo near the end. The vocals by lead singer Kristofer Dommin are passionate and bring a welcome edge to the song. “Show Me” is the first killer track of the album with its faster pace, its bluesier tone and its ridiculously catchy chorus. This is definitely one to open concerts with as it’s instantly recognizable and kicks butt no matter how picky you are with your music.

“The Scene” is next and it’s a solid, reflective, dramatic song with a stuttering rhythm, an emotional chorus and some clever breaks here and there. It’s also very catchy and another very concert-friendly tune for sure. It is followed by “This World”, which instantly evokes The Smiths with its darker lyrics and the Morrissey-esque vocals. It’s still very much a Dommin song, however, as it’s certainly heavier than anything the aforementioned artists ever did.

Then we have the title track “Beautiful Crutch”, a slow-burn where the vocals and the lyrics initially take centre stage before the rest of the song finally unveils itself through an evolving melody that gets catchier and catchier as it goes on. It’s certainly worthy of being the title track. “I Die” is a softer, darker and rather beautiful song about loneliness, loss and longing with a rockier chorus and a short but sweet guitar solo halfway through.

Song number 7 is “Vulnerable”, which opens with a faster beat and a melody slightly reminiscent of Blondie‘s “Call Me” but with a significantly moodier, more emotional vibe. The song somehow gets more hopeful and upbeat as it goes on so its constant evolution plus the catchy chorus make it never dull. Then comes “The Flame” and, right off the bat, this is a completely different animal altogether. With its violins playfully marking the rhythm and its musical-style vocals, this is an experimental track which tries something rather unique by mixing a couple of very different genres, similarly to how Muse went in a different, glammier direction with The Resistance.

It’s still a rock song, though, so don’t expect it to be so different you’ll be thrown.

“Madly” is another fun track. This one banks on its catchy, upbeat chorus but its real strength is the melody that permeates the verses. This is definitely one of the most commercial songs on the album but its radio-friendly nature is never off-putting. “The Saddest Dream” has a slow yet compelling build-up with an electro heartbeat marking the rhythm. You keep expecting it to suddenly rock out but it teases you until much later than you’d expect and it’s altogether a surprisingly epic track which should play really well at concerts, even an extended version with added solos and breaks. “Madly” takes its sweet time and is all the better for it.

Finally, we have “Outer Space” and it feels like the end track from the first minute with its airy, upbeat tone. This is basically a soul track with a bluesy tint which might not please fans of Dommin’s moodier, edgier stuff but after an album this strong, it’s certainly earned its final flight of fancy plus the vocals are top notch from start to finish and the proudly 80’s feel is enjoyably nostalgic.

There’s very little wrong with this new Dommin album: the songs are all well written, the vocal work from Kristofer Dommin is versatile and would even make Scott Stapp jealous at times, the whole thing is paced perfectly and the music itself is really good: you can tell there are genuinely talented musicians behind every track so Konstantine (keyboards), with the help of Cameron Morris (drums) and Billy James (bass) knock it out of the park. There are enough trademark motifs in the album to please the band’s long-time fans but also enough fresh ideas to bring in a new audience so I certainly recommend you try this album whether you think you’ll like it or not because, chances are, you will.

Beautiful Crutch is a very cool album which gets 4 Ziggies out of 5 from us and one hopes to see Dommin get bigger and bigger because they deserve it.

You can find out more about Dommin on Soundcloud and their Youtube Channel.

Advertisements

Earthling – Album Review

Earthling

David Bowie released the album Earthling back in 1997 and, although it wasn’t too big of a hit in terms of sales, it was critically well received.

Let’s see if it’s dated well.

The opening song is “Little Wonder” and it was the second single to be released from the album. In fact, it did better than any of the songs on Earthling reaching number 14 in the charts. The track kicks off with a disjointed garage beat which comes and goes. The whole thing is best described as playful experimental Brit Pop with a catchy hook buried in a sea of conflicting rhythms and Snow White references. It is followed by “Looking For Satellites”, which also has a clubby vibe and sounds a bit like something Blur and Oasis would have cooked up together if they had gotten along.

“Battle For Britain (The Letter)” is next and you can expect more of that garage beat and some grungy guitar work from Reeves Gabrels. It’s another track which purposely goes all over the place, even jumping headfirst into random piano solos near the end. Clearly Bowie was having fun playing around with remixes in this album.

“Seven Years In Tibet” is a slower track and it’s also the last one to be released as a single. There’s a regular core beat to the song with increasingly elaborate effects and instruments backing it. The chorus is simply fantastic with the guitar kicking in and turning the song into a rocky anthem. You get the feeling that the band TV On The Radio were influenced greatly by this one.

“Dead Man Walking” is another erratic dancy single you could probably find in quite a few clubs in the late 90’s but this one has a much more Bowie vibe, at least in terms of melody. It was used in the film The Saint and includes a guitar riff once used in Supermen which was taught to Bowie by Jimmy Page. Far prefer the terrific acoustic version to this one, personally.

“Telling Lies” opens with whispers floating over a repeating garage beat. It’s a very layered track as Bowie accuses using the song’s title both in real time and in slow-mo and the whole thing speeds up and slows down at unexpected times. The chorus is the most accessible part of this one, which is another experimental exercise in controlled messiness. As is its follow-up “The Last Thing You Should Do”, which also goes all over the place. At this point, the album has become basically impenetrable and it couldn’t care less: it’s having too good a time.

“I’m Afraid Of Americans” is much more involving in that it’s got a more interesting rhythm to hang onto and the hook kicks in early. The track was co-written by Brian Eno and it’s surprising it wasn’t released as a single since it’s got loads of attitude and a raw energy to it which would have played well on the radio despite its not-so-pro-US lyrics.

“Law (Earthlings On Fire)” is the final track on the album and it’s a dancy one with distorted voices, melodies popping in and out and a purely electronic structure. It’s a far more enjoyable clubby tune than some of the others on Earthling as it keeps throwing musically interesting little bits and bobs throughout.

What to make of Earthling, then?

Here’s one album which should divide David Bowie fans completely. Earthling really is the artist going for something radically different, tackling new remixing techniques and jumping into a Brit Pop techno vibe completely. The good news is this makes for some truly wacky songs full of creativity, the bad news is it’s a little too hard to pierce through the wall of eclectic beats and distortions to enjoy Earthling as an album rather than just a curious piece of late 90’s frenzy. Those who enjoy club music should have a ball with this one but others will probably be turned off by the album early on.

That’s only 2 Ziggies out of 5 for Earthling, mostly because it just doesn’t sound quite Bowie enough making it a much less likeable outing than any of its successors.

Still cool to see the man tackle yet another musical style altogether and keeping up with the times, though. Plus the cover art for the album is one of my personal favourites.

Ziggy MAskZiggy MAsk

Foot Of The Mountain – Album Review

Foot_of_the_Mountain_Album

A-ha‘s very last full length album before they split in 2010, Foot Of The Mountain promised to be a return to form for the band whose recent work, despite the odd cool song here and there, failed to match their quality 80’s stuff.

Even with their better recent albums, there was always an unevenness about them which took you out of it at various points. For every catchy hit there were five forgettable attempts at a catchy hit.

Can Foot Of The Mountain help A-ha end on a high note, at least?

Singer Morten Harket’s famously good at those, after all.

The album opens with “The Bandstand” and why that one wasn’t released as a single is beyond me as it’s clearly the best track on the album and really sets the wanted tone of the whole thing by feeling like classic yet also modern A-ha. It’s a clubby synthpop tune and a catchy one at that so definitely the perfect starting point. It is followed by the infinitely more upbeat “Riding The Crest” which isn’t bad despite its main hook sounding a lot like an extended ringtone.

“What There Is” is next and slows things down a little with a more paced beat and a longer build up. It’s another very decent, simple electro track with a memorable, softer chorus. It has that nostalgic tone which a lot of older A-ha songs had and a pretty melody so that’s good, at least. It is followed by the title track and lead single “Foot Of The Mountain” which starts off promisingly with nicely melodic verses but the chorus it delivers is sadly anti-climactic. Still, it’s an overall enjoyable, chilled-out track.

“Real Meaning” is song number 5 and it is a softer, cheesier effort. To be honest, it’s very easy to space out during this one. It’s the first dud on the album and is entirely skippable even if it is basically harmless. Another slow track is “Shadowside”, which was released as the album’s third single but, although its build up is a bit soporific, it makes up for it with a genuinely pretty chorus. With a little more energy, this track could have been much better but, as it stands, it’s ok.

Track 7, “Nothing Is Keeping You Here”, another single, starts off sounding a bit like Harry Nilsson‘s classic “Everybody’s Talkin'”. This one is let down by some much too easy lyrics which beg for more thought and imagination. Otherwise, it’s got an alright (if a bit sleepy) chorus and a slightly faster rhythm than the two songs preceding it. The stuff that inspired Coldplay is much more obvious in this one in that it’s… well, rather dull. The album, by this point, is definitely stuck in a lull, though. Another song which suffers from unimpressive lyrics is following track “Mother Nature Goes To Heaven” but, luckily, this is a far better song with a decent hook, a nicer chorus and a build up that actually works pretty well. The song develops at a good pace and, even though it would have been amazing had it been a bit darker, it’s a step in the right direction for the album.

“Sunny Mystery” is a dancier track and more of a departure from A-ha’s usual style but not in a bad way. It’s actually an entertaining song with a nice atmosphere to it, even if the hook is a little weak this time, again sounding close to a ringtone. Finally, we have “Start The Simulator” and it’s a strangely slow one to end on. On the plus side, the slightly sinister ballad has a weird Twin Peaksian quality to it in places (with a Radiohead-style vibe) but the hook is more reminiscent of Big Ben and it kinda goes off track sometimes. It’s not too bad though, it does grow on you.

So was Foot Of The Mountain a worthy album to end on?

Kind of. I mean, it’s in no way as good as A-ha’s earlier stuff but this is definitely a return to form of sorts for the band. While Analogue provided a couple of genuinely good songs but not much else, this one is much more consistent and does include at least a handful of decent tracks with only a couple of misfires.

Foot Of The Mountain is by no means a masterpiece but fans should lap it up and be satisfied enough with it.

3 Ziggies out of 5 ain’t bad.

Ziggy MAskZiggy MAskZiggy MAsk

The 2nd Law – Album Review

The 2nd Law It seems that Muse can basically do no wrong at this point. With The Resistance, the band introduced new colourful elements into their style which certainly contrasted with their infinitely darker and angstier beginnings but, instead of alienating their entire audience, they were applauded for showing such versatility and daringly reinventing themselves.

The Resistance was a fun glam rock album with some enjoyable Queen-style over-the-top moments: it was still very much a Muse album but it had a playful feel to it which was welcome. Their follow-up, The 2nd Law, came three years later and promised something completely different, something very experimental: a new era for the band.

So, as with every experiment, let us look at the results and see if it worked.

The album opens with “Supremacy”, an explosive James Bond-style opening, a battle song with some lyrical moments and some rockier ones as well as a lot of Sparks-style grandeur and camp. The song’s overall crescendo is very cool and it delivers with an appropriately kickass ending. It’s the perfect way for the album to start and promises many more great things to come. The second single to be released from the album, “Madness”, is next and it’s a more R&B effort with dancier electro beats and tones. You’ve got a nice melody surrounded by a perfectly nutty rhythm, a great build-up and it all gets pretty atmospheric near the end.

So far, so good. The third song, “Panic Station”, opens with an 80’s Genesis-style beat before delivering some decidedly Oingo Boingo-esque verses with some very Danny Elfman vocal work. The song is a hell of a lot of fun but it’s also worryingly derivative. Hell, even the chorus sounds like something Franz Ferdinand would have come up with years ago. Next up is “Prelude” and it’s exactly what you think it is: a prelude to the next song. A piano and violin-led instrumental transition, it’s actually very dramatic and very pretty so it would be a shame to skip it.

“Prelude” leads us to “Survival”, a surprisingly grand, operatic anthem which opens on choruses, lures us in with a slow build-up before entertaining the hell out of us as it reveals itself to be yet another battle song. It’s an ambitious, theatrical track but it definitely works. The next song, “Follow Me”, also opens with a quiet, almost a capella intro. This is underlined by some electronica which grows underneath the song throughout and, eventually, we get an overall catchy retro tune with a dancier beat kicking in about halfway.

Song number 7 is “Animals” and it’s a softer, more chilled-out track with a mysterious vibe to it. You’ve got some cool solos in there and the song is ultimately compelling if not the most memorable one on the album. “Explorers” is an entertaining slow-burner with a decidedly Queen-esque camp feel to it. It’s got a genuinely nice melody which should keep you listening till the end.

“Big Freeze” hits you straight away in that it sounds exactly like an early U2 song. It’s not at all subtle about it, either. This makes it distractingly derivative but, luckily, a killer, very Muse chorus makes it all worthwhile. Besides, the song is admittedly very fun as a whole. Next is another transition track, “Save Me”, which starts off kinda like a lullaby and remains rather soft throughout. It is the first song on the album to be sung not by Matt Bellamy but by bassist Christopher Wolstenholme. Musically it’s not bad at all but it’s pretty forgettable.

Wolstenholme also sings the next track, “Liquid State”, and that’s blindingly obvious since it sounds like no other Muse song ever put together. Instantly rockier and heavier than anything on The 2nd Law, this one sounds like a really good, grungy Nine Black Alps track or something. The chorus is sadly slower than the rest of the song but it works well enough nonetheless. I like it but I could see Muse fans being pretty taken aback by its radically different approach.

Finally, we have the final two tracks, “Unsustainable” and “Isolated System”, which I’ve decided to group together since they’re both basically instrumental epilogues to the album. “Unsustainable” is a grand, orchestra and chorus-led movie score-style track which would feel right at home on the Avengers Assemble score or something to that effect. It is instrumental save for some TV reports being played here and there during it and the whole thing devolves into Daft Punk-esque electro dance folly. It’s a loud and obnoxious ending to that particular track but some will no doubt love it.

“Isolated System” isn’t quite as epic as its predecessor, prioritising a slow-beat-driven build-up rather than orchestral madness. It’s not bad and its electro beat is engaging but it’s a disappointingly anti-climactic end to the album. Perhaps it would have worked better as a prelude to “Unsustainable”?

Anyway, what to make of The 2nd Law?

It’s honestly pretty decent and whether you’re a fan of the band or not, it’s so varied and experimental that you should at least find a couple of songs to shake that head of yours to. I would say, however, that it does lack the unity that The Resistance had as that made all the songs on that particular album work brilliantly together, even if they did go weird places here and there.

Also, it’s overall so derivative that you almost forget you’re listening to a Muse album so that might piss off fans of the band’s earlier stuff. Besides, these constant tangents into songs that sound like they should be sung by other bands are altogether pretty distracting. There are still gems in there and some very Muse moments but it’s certainly not as successfully experimental as their 2006 masterpiece Black Holes And Revelations.

You’ve got some great songs on The 2nd Law and it’s certainly worth a listen but, be warned, as an experiment it’s only partly successful.

A solid 3 Happy Goths out of 5. Think of it as a 3 and a half, in fact.

Happy GothHappy GothHappy Goth

Credo – Album Review

CredoHere’s an 80’s band I never expected to make a comeback.

10 years after their last album Secrets hit the shelves, The Human League returned with Credo, which received mixed reviews upon its release but better general feedback than their slightly disappointing 2001 effort.

How does the album fare, then?

Well, Credo opens with second single “Never Let Me Go”, a simple yet effective and very catchy tune with a great bridge and a great chorus. A cool song which starts the album on a high note. The album’s first single, “Night People”, is next and it’s a dancier, more club-friendly track in that it’s faster-paced and altogether very energetic. A fun, memorable retro song.

The next song on the album is simply called “Sky”, the third single released from the album, and it’s a good song despite not having the greatest, most intricate lyrics out there. The song develops really well, though, and its nice melody pulls it through. As for “Into The Night”, it’s an atmospheric little song with a more nostalgic feel to it: it makes a good driving song.

“Egomaniac” is one I’m surprised didn’t get released on its own as it’s got a catchy hook to it and a pretty, upbeat chorus. The vocals are lower-pitched at first and the build-up feels like a battle song but the contrast the song delivers is what makes it as enjoyable as it is. “Single Minded” is the sixth track on the album and it’s a Duran Duran-esque, happier song. Unfortunately, it suffers from a disappointingly off chorus which just doesn’t gel at all with the rest of the song and, ultimately, kinda kills it.

We’re back in faster, dancier territory with the next song, however, “Electric Shock” being an entertaining piece of clubby electro which may not build up to much and which may be a tad repetitive as a whole but which still works well enough that you’ll enjoy it ok. “Get Together” follows and it’s one of the best songs on the album. Not much to say about that one except that it’s got a good beat and a nice melody. It’s just a solid, memorable song.

“Privilege” opens with a slower thumping beat before delivering a cool robot-voiced chorus. It’s not the catchier song on the album but that robot voice is hard to resist. Song number 10, “Breaking The Chains” is another good one. It’s not too different from what we’ve heard before, though, and could almost be another version of one of the previous songs. It has a familiar ring to it. And, last but not least, we get “When The Stars Start To Shine”, which opens with a confident beat and has its really good moments although it’s a bit all over the place and ultimately kind of forgettable.

I could definitely see how this album would get mixed reviews. You can clearly hear the old Human League in there but there’s a sense that every single note has been worked on to death, the album just doesn’t get a chance to breathe enough.

That said, there’s a lot of good stuff in there, more good stuff than bad. You’ve got some great, catchy tunes you’ll be humming long after listening to the album and want to hear again. It may not be vintage Human League but it’s a worthy comeback and a really nice surprise.

That’s a very strong 3 Ziggies out of 5 for Credo.

Ziggy MAskZiggy MAskZiggy MAsk

Fest I Valen – Album Review

Fest I Valen

Fest I Valen was a 2001 self-released album by Swedish electronic/synth-pop band Slagsmålsklubben. The band, named after the movie (and the book) Fight Club, being mostly known for their clever, cheeky use of retro electronic sounds mixed with irresistible beats and melodies.

Fest I Valen was one of the first things the band ever did together as they were formed only a year prior and it’s easy to see that album as the “pilot” for everything they did next. It’s a short one composed of only 10 songs but it presents a really good example of what the band’s about.

One track, “Hit Me Hard”, actually incorporates short audio clips from the movie Fight Club which is why this can definitely be seen as their intro album. The song was actually released as a single some years later: it’s a heavier, more energetic track than some on Fest I Valen with a slower bit in the middle acting as a useful break. Good stuff.

The first track on the album is “KKKKK Come On!”, a robot-voiced piss-take with a video game-style beat and a guitar coming in eventually. It’s like an odd cross between a chiptune and a mini Daft Punk outing. It’s fun. As is the other robot-voiced song on the album, “Synthpopper”, which also has a fun rhythm to it.

The awesomely titled “Fox Goes To Japan In Order To Meet Other Ninja Foxes In The Tribe Of Hokkaido” sounds epic and hilarious but is in fact surprisingly cute and simple. It opens on sounds of rain and thunder before introducing a genuinely nice little melody with basic but brilliantly used synth sounds. Speaking of basic synth sounds, “Nya Krafter” sounds like it was made on the cheapest synthesiser around, like if someone pressed the “demo” button on one of those. A beautiful melody is soon layered over that, though, and a screeching guitar is added about halfway making it one of the best songs on the album and one of my favourites.

“Dagen Då Medeltiden Raserades” is a simple, slower song that’s more about the rhythm than anything else. It’s atmospheric and it builds up to some pretty cool retro game-style sounds. That said, it’s perhaps a tad too long as it can get a bit repetitive. As for “Australien”, it’s a much more abstract effort with some weird voices peppering it throughout. Then there’s “Kåldolmar”, a title which I believe means “stuffed cabbage” or “cabbage rolls”. It opens on radio frequencies changing and we finally get a dancier beat. The relatively short song has a cute build up with some succinct lyrics and it somehow works.

The last two songs on the album are actually really short also which means that Fest I Valen ends somewhat abruptly. Having said that, “Räven Återuppstår” is one of my personal favourites: it’s a simple as hell synth demo beat but with a beautiful and catchy little melody. I only wish it had been like 2 minutes longer and continued with the way it was developing. The final track, “The Return Of The Mutant Kamel”, is not much of anything really, a mix of film clips, bleeps and a single beat for 30 seconds. Though the fact it’s probably referencing this little dated gem is frankly awesome in itself. Think of it as an epilogue.

So that’s Slagsmålsklubben’s Fest I Valen, a short but sweet piece of madcap Swedish electro serving as a very solid intro to a playful band which would end up making many more terrific albums soon enough.

Short album but it’s still worthy of its 4 Daft Punks out of 5.

Daft PunkDaft PunkDaft PunkDaft Punk