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.

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Chinese Democracy – Album Review

GNR

15 years after their 1993 album “The Spaghetti Incident?”, which was comprised solely of cover songs, the Guns N’ Roses minus everyone except Axl Rose finally put together a new album. Many years in the making, Chinese Democracy was highly anticipated to say the least, even without Slash, Duff McKagan and the gang involved.

Some loved it, others hated it.

But was this big comeback really worth it?

A boldly simple riff leads the way in a kickass opening title track which most definitely sounds like the Guns N’ Roses. You’ve got some great guitar work in there, a top chorus, it’s short and sweet: the album couldn’t have started any better.

Axl goes low for second track “Shackler’s Revenge”, before slowly building to his usual highs. Expect a chaotic guitar hook mixed in with quite a lot of electronic sounds and a solo which is all over the place. The bridge is a bit weak and doesn’t quite fit but luckily the chorus works. It’s a very metal, very experimental track you’ll either have fun with or dismiss altogether as just too messy.

“Better” is a rather modern track for the band as it doesn’t exactly have that nostalgic retro feel to it. Which is not to say it’s not good, it’s got a very unique melody to it which builds really well with some heavier bits thrown in plus a respectable Slash-esque solo. Axl’s voice sounds weirdly different in this one I should point out but it remains a cool song.

A piano solo opens “Street Of Dreams” which goes for a “November Rain”-style ballad. Going back to Axl Rose’s voice, it sounds great when high but a little odd when low here. The song itself is appropriately grand and ambitious and boasts a strong melody despite not being quite as memorable as it probably wanted to be.

“If The World” is next and that one has more of a hip hop beat with something of a Middle Eastern vibe in places. Its pace speeds up and slows down in random places so, while it’s another good song, it’s also another experimental song which might sound a little off here and there. The next track, “There Was A Time”, has a a really strong melody but the chorus ruins it a bit by being so off-key somehow. It settles more later with an atmospheric solo and a solid build-up to the end but early on it’s frankly a bit too distracting.

“Catcher In The Rye” definitely has its moments, especially its solo and the main hook which help structure the song well throughout. You never know where this one’s going but it holds up really well even if it’s not the most memorable track on the album. It’s the nifty little touches here and there which make this one as likeable as it is. “Scraped” is a faster-paced track and, again, there’s a good hook and a cool solo in there. Unfortunately the key changes don’t really fit the vocals which makes it sound like two people are singing two different songs at the same time.

Another track with some weird key changes is “Riad N’ The Bedouins”, a song which, otherwise, is musically sound and which definitely has a lot going for it. “Sorry” is next and it’s a slower track with more of an R&B vibe. It’s a great ballad that works perfectly overall: chorus, bridge, it’s all steeped in attitude and regret. Easily one of Chinese Democracy’s best even if it rarely sounds like the Guns N’ Roses.

The next song, “I.R.S.”, is a fun track with a good melody and lots of energy. Could have definitely heard a song like it on Appetite For Destruction back in the day. It is followed by “Madagascar”, a more political track with more of an emphasis on mood and lyrics. Think of it a bit like a callback to classic GNR song “Civil War”. The track opens with a mini-orchestra (in synth form) giving it an appropriately grand, almost epic quality. Axl sounds like an old soul/blues singer here, in a good way!

There’s a beautiful piano-led melody throughout heartfelt ballad “This I Love” and an admittedly very pretty bridge also. The track grows and grows towards the best, longest guitar solo on the entire album. One of this new Guns N’ Roses’ best and most underrated songs. The album ends on “Prostitute”, a song about… exactly what it says it’s about! The pace is much too up and down in this bizarre ode which is surprisingly pretty but also unfortunately never allowed to fully take-off.

What to make of Chinese Democracy, then?

The fact that Axl Rose finally delivered this album which was such a long time coming and never felt like it would ever exist is in itself something of a miracle. While it’s certainly uneven, with some of its songs jumping from key to key or rhythm to rhythm sometimes with very little rhyme or reason and Axl’s voice sounding nearly completely different depending on where he is in the album or in a song, fans of what used to be the world’s biggest band should still find plenty to enjoy here.

The lack of some key band members means that this isn’t really the Guns N’ Roses, of course, but what we can learn from some of this album’s best moments is that the Roses without the Guns are still worth something.

That’s 3 Drunk Hatters out of 5 for Chinese Democracy. I’ll happily add an extra Hatter but only when Axl releases a brand new album which should be…

Any decade now.

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Full Circle – Album Review

Full Circle

After the release of Creed’s 2001 album Weathered, it looked like this was going to be the end of the post-grunge band but, 8 years later, Scott Stapp and Mark Tremonti reformed the band for a fourth album: Full Circle.

While said album didn’t receive the standing ovation that their first two outings enjoyed and received about as many mixed reviews as Weathered, it was still a full-on comeback with the band firing on all cylinders.

But there hasn’t been a follow-up yet, save for a Scott Stapp solo album, so was the album just not good enough to warrant another? Or is it mostly just a case of the band being too broken to literally get their act together?

The first single “Overcome” opens the album in an appropriately explosive way. Fans of the band should have been pretty satisfied with this comeback track which included a shamelessly catchy chorus and even a “Stapp rap” which the singer somehow pulls off without making a fool of himself. It’s a commercial track but a cool track all the same.

“Bread Of Shame” follows with an initially messy, off-beat guitar beat which ends up working surprisingly well when the vocals and the chorus kick in. It’s a very heavy track clearly designed for going nuts at live shows. Incidentally, it is followed by a much softer track.

“A Thousand Faces” boasts a genuinely beautiful melody and, all in all, it’s a bittersweet, heartfelt track which may just be the album’s highlight. The song goes in an unexpected direction towards the end before the terrific chorus kicks in one last time.

A heavy riff then kicks in as next track “Suddenly” begins. There’s a Middle-Eastern vibe to the chords in this one and we soon get another catchy, powerful chorus which makes the song. A clever key change halfway through also helps keep it worthwhile throughout. “Rain” is next and it’s a softer, more chilled-out track which certainly sounds closer to Christian rock, a subgenre Stapp would later embrace fully, of course. Though the song has an admittedly appealing chorus, this is still one tame, cheesy effort.

The sixth track, “Away In Silence”, starts off slow but hooks you in thanks to a catchy melody. This is another poppier, more commercial track but it’s pretty enough to still be likeable, though fans of the band’s heavier material might start to lose patience. Not for long, though, since we’re soon back to rockier stuff with “Fear”, an energetic but rather shapeless track which is nevertheless kept afloat by some good glammy guitar work and a solid chorus.

A strong contender for best song on the album has to be “On My Sleeve”, a moodier song with some hugely creative guitar moves, a kickass melody with a softer, yet still effective, break and a powerful chorus. Arguably one of the band’s all-time standout tracks. Title track “Full Circle” opens with a chilled bluesy riff which ultimately leads us to a solid chorus. It’s an optimistic, personal song about how the band finally got back on track but, ironically, it sounds more like a Puddle Of Mudd song than anything else.

I guess there’s worse bands to sound like!

Track number 10, which is simply called “Time”, is more melancholic but although the chorus is admittedly poetic, the song ends up sounding way too emo for its own good. “Good Fight” is a more entertaining but much messier track with a heavy chorus. The main problem with this one is it’s not too memorable. Finally, we have “The Song You Sing”, which is probably the closest Creed have come to a folk song with its acoustic riff. The track and its chorus seem to criticise artists who sing pointless songs with no message. This makes the track come off as a bit preachy but its point is not untrue.

Following the underrated Weathered this many years after was always going to be a challenge but Full Circle does a good job at reminding us why some of us liked Creed back in the day: Tremonti’s inventive riffs, Stapp’s unique tones.

The album itself may be a little uneven and unfocused at times but it’s got some good tracks in there, some of which are right up there with the band’s best work so if you like Creed, there’s a very good chance you’ll enjoy this one.

That’s a high 3 Happy Cobains out of 5 for Full Circle.

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Devil Soldier – Album Review

Loudness

The first Japanese heavy metal band to be signed by a major record label in the U.S., Loudness was formed in the early 80’s and has since enjoyed a lasting career with a huge range of albums to their name.

It’s a shame the band isn’t as well known in the UK because they really do have a lot of good stuff in their discography.

Case and point: Devil Soldier.

The second album to be released by Loudness, Devil Soldier was a short one but definitely helped cement the band as one to look out for. It even won the Best Heavy Metal Album award in Japan back in 1982.

With all that in mind, let’s have a listen.

The first song, “Lonely Player”, kicks off the album Judas Priest-style with a whole lotta energy. It shows off singer Minoru Niihara’s range and develops in an eclectic, unexpected way that, somehow, kinda works like a weirdly improvisational, jazzy take on metal. The second song, “Angel Dust”, has more of a KISS-esque beat to it and starts off strong before delivering a fun, catchy chorus.

Good stuff so far.

“After Illusion” follows and slows things down a little after an explosive start by bringing in a rather beautiful, softer melody and slowly building back up to something heavier and more grand. It’s easily one of the best songs on the album (my personal favourite) and single-handedly should make you fall in love with Loudness’ creativity and melodic flair. It’s definitely a hard one to follow.

The fourth song on the album is “Girl” and, although it’s a fun, rhythmically rich tune with an annoyingly catchy repeating riff, it’s also a bit ineffectual and messy. It’s more of a transition track, really. It’s followed by “Hard Workin'”, an energetic, Iron Maiden-style ride with terrific, complex vocal work and a thoroughly entertaining vibe all the way through. A good time.

“Loving Maid” is next and, although its build-up is a tad forgettable, whenever the song speeds up, it gets genuinely really good. It’s a perfect concert song which should drive those lucky enough to party down in a Loudness mosh pit completely nuts. Not bad. “Rock The Nation” is a very cool song with catchy verses and a memorable anthem-like chorus. It could have done with a little more of a punch to it but it still works and gets the job done.

Finally, we have the title song, “Devil Soldier”, a seven minute-long experimental track which opens with a fab galloping rhythm packed with attitude and, after a short break, changes completely, becoming a different song altogether. You never know where this one’s going, calling back to the jazzy madness of “Lonely Player”, but it does brilliantly to keep your attention throughout. Eventually, the song changes once more to become a slower, sexier Led Zeppelin-style ballad with solos and the odd moan but it soon builds back up to a thrilling, epic finale.

That last song is all over the place but Loudness make it work remarkably… somehow.

Overall, while the band has much more to offer than Devil Soldier, it’s still a very solid outing for Loudness and, if you’re interested in finding out about this madcap Japanese 80’s metal band then it’s a pretty good place to start.

I give it 4 Drunk Hatters out of 5.

Check it out 🙂

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Point Of Entry – Album Review

Point Of Entry

Point Of Entry was Judas Priest‘s 7th album, it was released in 1981 and its mission was to be a somewhat more commercial, more radio-friendly piece of metal fun.

Mission accomplished?

Come on, of course it is: it’s The Priest!

The album opens with popular single “Heading Out To The Highway”, a solid, straight-forward driving song which starts things off on an upbeat note. The somewhat bluesier “Don’t Go” follows and goes for a different, slower rhythm which hammers away at regular intervals as sharp bursts of energy pepper the song.

Then comes “Hot Rockin'”, which opens with a very effective riff before delivering cool guitar solos and a chorus that’s not exactly great poetry but which works perfectly fine. It’s a great song and the video (see below) is so silly it’s… a must see. “Turning Circles” suffers from a forgettable chorus but otherwise it’s a fun listen which shines during its quieter moments, when the song rests a second to build itself back up. Then we have “Desert Plains”, an entertaining if not too ground-breaking tune which you can find a live version of in the 2001 re-mastered edition of the album and which weirdly kinda grows on you.

“Solar Angels” is a somewhat more slow-burning song which has a bit of a Black Sabbath feel to it. It’s not really a catchy one but it’s got a good bluesy solo in there at least so it’s still worth a listen. “You Say Yes” is a weird one in that it starts off sounding like a standard 70’s-style hard rock tune but eventually it blossoms into a pretty sexy song. It is followed by “All The Way”, a classic party song that’s easy to rock out to: it’s a crowd-pleaser, a fun, upbeat hit designed to drive people nuts at concerts. It’s memorable and irresistible.

The next track is “Troubleshooter”, a catchy AC/DC-style hard rock anthem that’s most definitely head-bang worthy and, again, ideal for live performances. It comes complete with a short but sweet solo perfect for an air-guitar session. Finally, “On The Run” ends things with energy but it remains one of the more forgettable efforts of the bunch. Great vocal work from Rob Halford, though.

The re-mastered edition also includes “Thunder Road”, a really cool, very 80’s song recorded much later in that decade.

Overall, while not the best Judas Priest album out there by a long shot, it’s still the band on top form delivering consistently fun songs and, really, that was kinda the whole point of Point Of Entry.

Fans should lap it up and even the uninitiated should find a handful of songs to rock-out to.

That’s 3 Drunk Hatters out of 5 for this one.

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