I watched an interesting movie the other evening with my wife. “The Devil’s Candy” is the new film from writer / director Sean Byrne (“The Loved Ones”).
The film opens in the dark of night where Ray Smilie (Pruitt Vince Taylor – “Homefront”, “Identity”) resorts to blasting out loud heavy guitar riffs in the family home in order to keep from hearing sinister-sounding voices.
Next we’re introduced to the Hellman family – that’s mum Astrid (Shiri Appleby – “Swimfan”, “UnReal”), dad Jesse (Ethan Embry – “Cheap Thrills”, “Eagle Eye”) and teenage daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco – “Maps To The Stars”, “Copper”) – the latter two clearly being definite heavy metal fans. In fact the whole film is soundtracked by various metal artists, including Metallica, Slayer, Cavalera Conspiracy and Sunn O))).
The trio move into a new house, which they are able to afford due to its knock-down price, and which just happens to be the former Smilie family home. At this point my wife was convinced that she knew exactly how events would play out.
Before you know it artist Jesse, settled into his new home studio, finds his piece on butterflies – a commission from a bank taken on reluctantly in order to help pay the bills – suddenly and inexplicably takes on a much darker tone, seemingly without his conscious involvement, as he begins to hear whispered voices and see terrible visions. Meanwhile serial killer Ray – still hearing voices of his own – starts to hang around the house and stalk Zooey…
When we got to the end of the movie my wife commented that things had developed much more subtly and in different ways than she’d expected. There were some excellent performances, particularly from Embry, and some inspired visuals – the juxtaposition between Jesse painting and Ray killing was very effective, for example – which combined to make a very impressive film. The solid soundtrack certainly added to the overall result too.
Perhaps a little short at less than an hour and a half, and perhaps Jesse’s interactions with the art dealer and his somewhat demonic-looking assistant could have been expanded on a bit? Nonetheless Byrne’s script and the actors’ performances mean that the characters come across as more rounded than is often the case, again strengthening the final product. I do like a good horror movie, occult themes and heavy metal and “The Devil’s Candy” contains all three. Recommended viewing!…
American guitarist Dave Mustaine was an early member of thrash metal band Metallica until being fired in early 1983. Following this he and bassist Dave Ellefson formed a new thrash metal band called Megadeth.
The band’s debut album “Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good!” surfaced in 1985 and featured guitarist Chris Poland and drummer Gar Samuelson alongside the two Daves. Second album “Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?” in 1986 was the last to feature that line-up but was a much more successful record, reaching number 76 in the US.
Poland and Samuelson were replaced by Jeff Young and Chuck Behler respectively for 1988’s “So Far, So Good… So What!”, a number 28 hit, but the two new men were themselves ousted before breakthrough album “Rust In Peace” in 1990 which saw the introduction of guitarist Marty Friedman and drummer Nick Menza.
This line-up would remain stable for another three studio albums before Menza withdrew from the band during 1997 needing knee surgery with former Y&T man Jimmy DeGrasso taking over.
Friedman left the band following the poorly received “Risk” album in 2000 and a number of guitarists, drummers and bassists have graced the band’s ranks at various points in the years since. The band took a break between 2002 and 2004 following a nerve injury to Mustaine’s left arm which left him unable to play guitar for that time. During that time he and Ellefson had a falling out with the latter only returning to the band in 2010.
Now featuring Mustaine and Ellefson together with Angra guitarist Kiko Loureiro and Lamb Of God drummer Chris Adler, the band are back with their fifteenth studio recording “Dystopia”. This follows the 2013 album “Super Collider” which itself received something of a mixed response. So how will the new record fare?
Well my initial reaction as “The Threat Is Real” blasted out of the speakers was wow this is good, any why the hell is it that Metallica seem unable to make music this good anymore?! Fast, furious, technically brilliant – a classic Megadeth track in the making.
“Dystopia” itself is slightly more sedate and melodic but still has that classic Megadeth sound, in fact it’s very reminiscent of the “Rust In Peace” era. Whether you consider this to be a retread or not there’s no denying that it is another massive tune. Perhaps it’s significant that the band had apparently tried to reunite with Friedman and Menza before Loureiro and Adler were brought on board in terms of this record’s classic Megadeth vibe.
Loureiro sounds as if he’s been with the band for years, as his playing seamlessly blends with Mustaine’s. Ellefson is as solid as ever and Adler’s percussive assault in perfectly attuned to the music on offer here.
“Post American World” hints at “Countdown To Extinction” numbers “Symphony Of Destruction” and “Sweating Bullets” but comes out as a genuinely classy track in its own right. This, together with the title track, “The Threat Is Real”, “Lying In State”, the instrumental “Conquer Or Die!” and “The Emperor” are highlights on this album.
This is an excellent Megadeth album. In fact I’d go so far as to say it’s the best I’ve heard from them in years. Time will tell if it stands shoulder to shoulder with the likes of “Peace Sells…” and “Rust In Peace” in the long-term, but right now I’d say it looks pretty promising!…
1. The Threat Is Real / 2. Dystopia / 3. Fatal Illusion / 4. Death From Within / 5. Bullet To The Brain / 6. Post American World / 7. Poisonous Shadows / 8. Look Who’s Talking / 9. Conquer Or Die! / 10. Lying In State / 11. The Emperor / 12.Last Dying Wish / 13. Foreign Policy / 14. Melt The Ice Away / 15. Me Hate You
I thought today I would give the new Trivium album, titled “Silence In The Snow” a spin.
Formed at High School in Florida back in 1999, the band’s line-up for their first album release featured singer / guitarist Matt Heafy, drummer Travis Smith and bassist Brent Young.
Additional guitar was supplied by Corey Beaulieu for the recording of the outfit’s debut album “Ember To Inferno” in 2003, and he joined the band full-time shortly afterwards .
Young was replaced on bass by Paolo Gregoletto in 2004, prior to recording of “Ascendancy” and a slot on the bill at the following year’s Download Festival saw the band start to attract serious attention.
The Metallica-like album “The Crusade” came out in 2006 and was the band’s first top thirty album in the US, and reached number seven here in the UK. Fanbase opinion was split by that album as it was the first Trivium album to feature clean vocals and no harsh vocals at all, a marked change from the previous releases. On top of this common consensus seems to be that Heafy sounds a little too like Metallica’s James Hetfield for comfort. Nonetheless, the band’s success and popularity were definitely on the up.
2008’s “Shogun” was musically along the same lines as “The Crusade” but featured the return of Heafy’s harsh vocal style. Undoubtedly their strongest album to that point, number one son and I witnessed the band perform live in Bristol on the subsequent world tour, by which time the drum stool had been taken over by Nick Augusto.
The new line-up (Heafy, Beaulieu, Gregoletto & Augusto) were responsible for the next two studio albums, “In Waves” (2011) and “Vengeance Falls” (2013). On these records the group tried to move slightly away from the complex songwriting and musicianship found on “The Crusade” and “Shogun” and popularity-wise the band continued on an upwards trend.
Augusto left the band mid-way through 2014 and has since been replaced by current drummer Mat Madiro who appears on the new album. Just a few days after Augusto’s departure the band had to cancel tour dates when Heafy’s voice gave out requiring a period of rest and recuperation.
With Heafy having taken some vocal coaching in the meantime, and the promise of clean vocals alone again, what does the band’s seventh album sound like? Will it take the band further forward? Will it be divisive just as “The Crusade” was?
Well, lead single “Silence In The Snow” shows Heafy’s new and improved vocal range on top of some superbly heavy riffing. Along with the two other singles released – “Blind Leading The Blind” and “Until The World Goes Cold” – the band seem to be in similar sonic territory to the likes of Alter Bridge now rather than Metallica.
Whether this is a good thing or not will depend on the taste on the listener. For myself, it’s almost like listening to a different band in a way. And perhaps that’s the key. This isn’t really comparable to the band’s previous work, especially the earlier stuff, as this record is far more melodically based than before.
Standout cuts on the album, to my ears, are “Pull Me From The Void”, “Silence In The Snow”, “The Ghost That’s Haunting You” and “The Thing That’s Killing Me”.
Will this be Trivium’s commercial breakthrough to the really big time as Metallica’s self-titled 1991 album was for them? Maybe. Who can tell in this day and age what will sell and what won’t? The record is certainly more accessible and immediate than the group’s previous albums and, taken as a piece of work on its own merits, really is a very good heavy metal album…
“Silence In The Snow” tracklist:
Snøfall / 2. Silence In The Snow / 3. Blind Leading The Blind / 4. Dead And Gone / 5. The Ghost That’s Haunting You” / 6. Pull Me From The Void” / 7. Until The World Goes Cold” / 8. Rise Above The Tides / 9. The Thing That’s Killing Me / 10. Beneath The Sun / 11. Breathe In The Flames / 12. Cease All Your Fire / 13. The Darkness Of My Mind
As promised a week or so ago, when I looked at my favourite albums of 1980, I’m now going to look at those from 1986. There was a lot of great music released in ’86 which meant that it wasn’t easy to narrow down my list to just ten records and a number of excellent ones slipped through the net, so honourable mention must be made of Black Sabbath “Seventh Star”, Bruce Hornsby & The Range “The Way It Is”, Europe “The Final Countdown”, Huey Lewis & The News “Fore!”, Judas Priest “Turbo”, Paul Simon “Graceland”, Peter Gabriel “So”, Slayer “Reign In Blood”, Toto “Fahrenheit” and Van Halen “5150” – another ten albums that could have made my list, were it not for the fact that the following ten are the ten that did make it to my personal top ten for the year…
Bon Jovi “Slippery When Wet”
US rock giants Bon Jovi were only moderately successful until their third album came along. “Slippery When Wet” broke the band into the big time. The bulk of the songs were written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, with additional input from songwriter Desmond Child on four tracks, including the singles “You Give Love A Bad Name” and “Livin’ On A Prayer”.
In addition to these, two further singles were issued in the UK. “Wanted Dead Or Alive”, which features one of my all-time favourite guitar solos, and the ballad “Never Say Goodbye”.
On top of those, there are some great hard rock tracks on this record including “Let It Rock”, “Raise Your Hands” and the rather excellent (if non-PC) “Social Disease”. Rightly regarded as a highpoint in Bon Jovi’s career, this is a superb album from start to finish.
2. Genesis “Invisible Touch”
The follow-up to the group’s self-titled album from 1983, “Invisible Touch” hit the streets in the summer of ’86 and went on to become one of their most successful albums ever, achieving the number one spot in the UK and number three (their highest album chart position) in the US.
To promote the album five of the record’s eight tracks were released as singles – the title track, “Throwing It All Away”, “Land Of Confusion” (the video for which featured puppets from the then popular “Spitting Image” TV show), “In Too Deep” and an edited version of “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight”.
Of the remaining three tracks, “Domino” was a ten minute, two-part, epic, “The Brazilian” a great instrumental and “Anything She Does” the only track not performed by the band on their subsequent world tour. Despite not being released as a single there was a video made for the latter track which featured Page 3 model Maria Whittaker as well as Phil Collins’ fabulous mullet!
Musically this was the commercial side of Genesis at their best, and even though it sounds very much of its time with synth bass and electronic drums very much evident. Nonetheless, this is a classic record and one that I still play often.
3. Iron Maiden “Somewhere In Time”
This was something of a divisive album amongst fans of Iron Maiden when it was released in September of 1986. This was because of a marked change in sound which incorporates synth guitar and bass.
In addition to these, there are some standout tracks on this record including “Heaven Can Wait”, “Caught Somewhere In Time” and the superbly complex epic number “Alexander The Great”. Throughout the album the material is very good and the performances from all band members are typically on the money.
“Somewhere In Time” may not be a universally loved Iron Maiden album, but in my view it is a very underrated one, and actually one of the best from the first period with Bruce Dickinson as lead vocalist.
4. Kim Wilde “Another Step”
The first pop album on this list. I’d been vaguely aware of some of Kim Wilde’s early hits, like “Kids In America”, but it was her 1983 hit “Love Blonde” and its cool swagger that made me sit up and take notice.
One of my crushes of the era, Wilde really hit her stride in terms of commercial success and great catchy pop tunes with her late 80s albums – “Another Step” and the following “Close” from 1988.
Three singles came from this record. A cover of The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”, “Another Step (Closer To You)” and “Say You Really Want Me”. The sound of this album was more rocky than her previous material, though still contains plenty of keyboards and 80s sounding drums etc.
I would personally have changed the running order, as the uptempo songs all come first with the latter part being given over to the more balladic numbers, and I think it would have perhaps flowed better if the songs had been mixed up a bit.
Despite that, and the limitations of Wilde’s voice – which actually add a charming vulnerability to much of the material – this is still, to my mind, a great 80s pop album.
5. Metallica “Master Of Puppets”
Without doubt, this is the heaviest record to make this list. Metallica’s third studio album, “Master Of Puppets” was their first release on a major label.
A real step up from “Ride The Lightning”, this album was to see the band begin to make it big. Although not a commercial success in the same league as 1991’s self-titled album (also known as “The Black Album”), this particular record has been very influential in the decades since it’s release.
Just one single was released to promote the album, “Master Of Puppets” itself, which failed to chart either in the UK or the US.
Regardless of chart positions etc., this album has rightly become regarded as one of the highlights of Metallica’s recording career because it is a splendidly cohesive record. The performances are tight and passionate, the songs classics of the genre and the production noticeably better than on their previous recordings.
The last record to feature bassist Cliff Burton, who was killed in a tour bus crash just six months after it’s release, there are a number of stone cold classic Metallica tracks present, including “Battery”, “Master Of Puppets”, “Disposable Heroes”, “Orion” and “Leper Messiah”.
6. Nik Kershaw “Radio Musicola”
Nik Kershaw’s first two albums were released within eleven months in 1984. There followed a gap of almost two years until third album “Radio Musicola” came out, which will have no doubt had an effect on its chart success given how fast things can change in the world of music, especially pop music.
Four singles were released. “When A Heart Beats” (which was bizarrely not included on the vinyl version of the album) reached number 27, whilst “Nobody Knows” and the title track narrowly missed top forty positions. Fourth single “James Cagney” failed to chart however.
There were some superb Kershaw compositions contained within the album. Not just the singles, but tracks like “Don’t Let Me Out Of My Cage” and “What The Papers Say” were further examples of his knack of writing a great, catchy and memorable melody.
7. Pallas “The Wedge”
Scottish progressive rock band Pallas had achieved some cult success with their first two releases “Arrive Alive” (1981) and “The Sentinel” (1984) and then lost their original singer.
Replacement vocalist Alan Reed’s arrival coincided with a streamlining of the group’s sound. Whilst still firmly rooted in progressive rock, there was more focus on melodies and shorter, more accessible songs. I hadn’t heard Pallas prior to “The Wedge”, however, and my introduction to the band was when they had supported rock legends UFO in November 1985.
Not as well known as the work by fellow progressive rock band Marillion in the mid 80s, this album is a cracker. A couple of ballads are present, of which the brilliantly evocative “Just A Memory” is by far the best, but it’s the rockier and proggier numbers that work best for me, like “The Executioner” and, “Throwing Stones At The Wind”.
Best of all is the eight minute epic “Rat Racing”, lots of time changes etc. The use of the Emulator sampling keyboard kind of dates the album, I suppose, but I still enjoy listening to this record as much now as I did when it first came out. An unheralded progressive rock classic.
8. Queen “A Kind Of Magic”
Another band that had progressive tendencies. At least, they did in their mid 70s work. By the mid 80s, however, the band really were firmly into commercial rock / pop territory.
The last Queen album to be promoted with a world tour, which I was fortunate enough to attend at Knebworth Park in August ’86, “A Kind Of Magic” was an unofficial soundtrack to the film “Highlander” (also released in 1986) with six of the record’s nine songs being featured in the film, albeit in different versions.
One of the band’s most successful albums, “A Kind Of Magic” saw an astonishing seven of it’s nine tracks released as singles. Four charted in the UK – “One Vision” (number 7), “A Kind Of Magic” (number 3), “Friends Will Be Friends” (number 14) and “Who Wants To Live Forever” (number 14) – whilst the remaining three, “Princes Of The Universe”, “Pain Is So Close To Pleasure” and “One Year Of Love” failed to do so.
Not the best Queen album, in truth, with the four hit singles representing the very best of the material on offer. The record as a whole suffers from a lack of consistency, perhaps as a result of much of it being written for the film. That said, it’s head and shoulders above the “Flash Gordon” album and does contain two of the very best Queen singles in “A Kind Of Magic” and “One Vision”.
9. Status Quo “In The Army Now”
This was the album that marked the start of the second real phase of Status Quo’s recording career. With founding bassist Alan Lancaster having fought and lost to guitarists Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt over ownership of the band’s name, Rossi and Parfitt reconvened with longterm keyboardist Andrew Bown and a new rhythm section – bassist John “Rhino” Edwards and drummer Jeff Rich to record “In The Army Now”.
The album was the band’s most successful for a while, and produced four UK top twenty hit singles – “Rollin’ Home”, “Red Sky”, “In The Army Now” and “Dreamin'”.
Alongside those numbers there are some really good album tracks like “Save Me”, “End Of The Line”, the country flavoured “Invitation” and my favourite “Overdose”.
Granted it all sounds a little dated now, with prominent 80s keyboards, but this is another album that still gets regular airings.
10. Tesla “Mechanical Resonance”
I discovered US hard rock band Tesla when they supported Def Leppard on the first UK leg of their mammoth world “Hysteria” tour in 1987, but their debut album “Mechanical Resonance” was released in December ’86, so it belongs on that year’s list.
Two tracks saw the light of day as singles, the brilliant “Modern Day Cowboy” and “Little Suzi”.
This is one of those rare albums, and a debut one at that, which contains absolutely no filler. Jeff Keith sings brilliantly throughout, Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch tear out some stonking great guitar riffs and facemelting solos, with bassist Brian Wheat and drummer Troy Luccketta underpinning the whole thing with solidity and power.
Personal highlights include “Cumin’ Atcha Live”, “Gettin’ Better”, “We’re No Good Together”, “Love Me” and “Cover Queen”, but in truth this is one of the best hard rock albums I’ve ever heard and is essential listening from beginning to end. Classic stuff.
1986 was also the year that I passed by driving test, so a lot of this music would have made it onto cassettes and been played on my car stereo, which could go some way to explaining the nostalgic appeal of lots of the music from this year and 1987.
Elsewhere in 1986 Margaret Thatcher was in her second term as the Prime Minister in the UK whilst Ronald Reagan was also in his second term, as President of the USA. In football Liverpool won the old First Division and the FA Cup, securing the Double. Cinema-wise, top films released included “Top Gun”, “Platoon” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”.
The next eighties year to be looked at will be 1988…
In 2010 a cover version of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” first brought Grace Potter & The Nocturnals and their self-titled fourth studio album (also released that year) to my attention.
The band was formed in 2003 by singer / multi-instrumentalist Potter, guitarist Scott Tournet and drummer Matt Burr. Debut album “Original Soul” was released in 2004, 2005 heralded second album “Nothing But The Water” and “This Is Somewhere” followed two years later.
Fifth album, “The Lion The Beast The Beat” (2012), saw the band’s music take a more commercial direction, less rootsy, and took a while for me to appreciate in relation to the previous records, especially that brilliant third album.
Potter and the Nocturnals built a solid reputation for their live shows, with plenty of enthusiasm and energy on display and Potter’s voice really coming to life. With her solo band she recently opened for the Rolling Stones and was able to duet on “Gimme Shelter” with Mick Jagger at one of those gigs in June.
Now Potter has released a solo album called “Midnight” – apparently so named because that is when she was born. Without the Nocturnals to back her up the majority of the musical instrumentation on the album was supplied by Potter and producer Eric Valentine with drums and percussion from Nocturnal bandmate Burr (who is also Potter’s husband). Other Nocturnals make contributions too – Tournet and Benny Yurco provide some guitar work Michael Libramento some bass guitar.
Already this record has divided opinion massively within her existing fan base. This is undoubtedly a far more pop sounding record than anything she has done in the past and bears little resemblance to her early work with the Nocturnals.
But then Potter has been quoted as saying “…the bands and artists that captivate me are the ones who are always pushing it, always taking risks. A great musician can shine in any genre. I refuse to make the same kind of record over and over—that’s not how art works for me. The worst thing an artist can do is what is expected of them.”
On first listen I wasn’t particularly impressed – probably for similar reasons to many who have been vocal in their dislike for Potter’s new direction. However, having given it repeated spins I can say that this is actually a very good record.
The vocals are excellent, as always, more restrained in places but still let loose in others, the melodies are very catchy and the musical style changes throughout the album which I think helps keep the listener interested.
Lead single “Alive Tonight” are “Delirious” are probably the most modern pop sounding songs here, whilst “Look What We’ve Become”, “Biggest Fan”, “Instigators” and “Your Girl” have a slightly harder edge. Closing track “Let You Go” is a piano-led ballad.
Listening through Potter’s work from “Original Soul” through to “The Lion The Beast The Beat” her evolution is quite clear to hear, and in truth “Midnight” continues that. Ultimately, whether you like this or not I think it’s good when an artist follows their heart musically rather than churning out similar sounding albums for fear of upsetting fans and losing sales.
Granted that approach doesn’t always make for consistently good music (see Metallica’s “St. Anger” and their collaboration with Lou Reed on “Lulu” for evidence of that!) but in the case of Potter she is, to my ears, managing to make the transition and still remain as entertaining and appealing as ever. A warmly recommended pop / rock album…“Midnight” tracklist:
1. Hot To The Touch / 2. Alive Tonight / 3. Your Girl / 4. Empty Heart / 5. The Miner / 6. Delirious / 7. Look What We’ve Become / 8. Instigators / 9. Biggest Fan / 10. Low / 11. Nobody’s Born With A Broken Heart / 12. Let You Go