The XX: I See You (Podcast Ep: 04)

McIlwaine, Callum      3/03/17

“I See You” is an album that quite frankly I’m not overly ‘wow’d’ by. I came into this album such a surface level XX listener I cannot even call myself a fan. I knew one song and it was only because it was remixed with a Kanye West song. The album starts out with the track ‘Dangerous’ which, as an opening track works well i believe. With the trumpets and beat being catchy and a high point. However, I feel that the vocal performance is not fantastic, in sections the female vocalist is out of tune (to my ear at least) and I can’t fathom an idea why they would go with out of tune takes on a studio album. It is an odd thing but in the case of the song, it actually sort of works. Which is a sense I gathered from most of the album, it all works in a very unconventional way but it works for them at least.

‘Say Something Loving’ was one of the singles released for the album itself, a song that I personally didn’t mind if it were not for the horribly cliche lyrics, “would you like chips with your cliche?” (Podcast Ep: 04) Musically however, it feels more like a complete song with more thought put into composition over the minimalist and stylistic pieces we are used to from the XX as a band. Back and forth from both singers is an effective technique to drive the feel of the song home. This one was not bad at all, just a little cliche.

“On Hold” is a song that has become more a part of my life through working in retail and hearing it at least once a day. This track is probably the only track that has finally peaked my interest after my initial listen. The track really (for me) only has an interesting chorus with the “on hold” lyrics. The guitar makes a very slight come back and in  it’s subtlety is nice. “On Hold” for me is one of the highlights of the album.

I feel this album overall is one that was needed but i think, as an album, will struggle to g anywhere. All with the XX not being the biggest band in the world in honesty and the fact that their album releases are so sporadic and distanced will be something that the XX would need to fix before they break into proper mainstream rather than their loyal fan-base which seems to be where they are stuck, listen to Lauren on the Podcast as a prime example. There are some high points in the album itself, songs like “Replica” and “A Violent Noise” are, for me, quite strong singles and ones that fit the sound the XX are known for, it is a shame that this album, is very mediocre and a little safe. I know this sounds harsh, but as an outsider looking in, I am the kind of person they are trying to sway and for me, this wasn’t swaying me much.

5/10

Advertisements

You Me At Six: Night People (Podcast Ep: 04)

McIlwaine, Callum.        01/03/17

 

 

I’m not going to lie, I came into this album a complete stranger to You Me At Six (YMAS) and all i knew of them was a pop rock/punk very manufactured sound that was created to be played to death on Kerrang. Not the best of starts to my listening, however i would not let it deter my interest and I went into this album as open minded as I possibly could.

 

The opening track is the album titled track “Night People” is an awesome start to the album itself, with a very black keys/ muse style sound that i genuinely did not expect from YMAS and one that i was pleasantly surprised by as my initial thoughts of YMAS are as stated above. This change from the stigma is a welcome on and I enjoy that the album follows this sound throughout, well done.

The song “Heavy Soul” has an almost Scottish sounding intro, but what it lacks in variety it makes up for in a catchy chant-able chorus and a definite crowd participation machine with ‘what are you waiting for’ later in the track itself. A little softer than most of the other songs on the album however, it shows a good balance, having a little more YMAS and a little less black keys is welcomed. This is turning out to be a solid album and one that is truly removing my original prejudice against YMAS.

One of my favourite songs on the album is funnily enough the last track “Give”. I just think it is a genuinely strong ending to an album which has swayed my opinion and made me feel like a true asshole for reading a book by its cover. The song is a great blend of ballad and nostalgic driven instrumentation and the lyrics are easy to remember making them that much more catchy. I like this track a lot. It’s just a well written piece of rock music in my opinion.

In a nutshell, I really liked this album, it takes YMAS away from their days of ‘Save it for the Bedroom’ and ‘Underdog’ with a much more mature approach to writing their songs with more polish and stronger instrumentation, this proves that in cases simplicity and a catchy riff is much more effective than a shredding guitar solo and it works in their favour. One complaint and it is one I mentioned on the podcast itself. WHY DO THEY NOT USE THE RIFF FROM ‘CAN’T HOLD BACK’ MORE!?!? It’s an insanely catchy riff and it is so underutilised which is a damn shame, hopefully on their next release they write a little more riff focused and don’t forget that sometimes they’re sitting on a gem.

8/10

Avenged Sevenfold: The Stage (Podcast Ep: 01)

McIlwaine, Callum. 28/02/17

‘The Stage’ is Avenged Sevenfold’s newest release. The bands comeback from the much debated “Hail to the King” album. “The Stage” follows an outer worldly experience with many sci-fi elements and a lot of strange instrumentation alongside some serious experimenting. The title track and single released before the album was launched itself titled “The Stage” is an 8 minute masterpiece in my honest opinion.

I was very surprised when I heard this song for the very first time but it was a pleasant surprise. The song itself is an epic in the eyes of a metal fan like myself with a very interesting intro followed by Sinister Gates shredding as usual. It has the makings of a very standard Avenged Sevenfold track but somehow manages to differentiate itself from the stigma. After a blistering solo, the track slows down, to a beautiful and melodic clean guitar riff followed by a very bass-y solo again from Gates allowing the song to pick up speed again which it continues until the end. With the joint guitar performances and the vocal prowess of M. Shadows this, I think, is a very good start to the album.

On the album there a few other songs that I have grown to love including: “Sunny Disposition” and “Roman Sky”. The song “Sunny disposition comes third on the album itself and has grown on me for being one of the heavier songs with more metal elements than the other songs. It does include what i think to be one of the most interesting aspects of any song on the album with the inclusion of a brass section. I think this works very well and in cases makes me think of the beginning to Mudvaynes ‘Dig’ intro. Not saying I’m a huge Mudvayne fan but I did enjoy the meme enough to give the song a listen. With this in mind, it is a 6 and a half minute Avenged Sevenfold anthem with a quirky brass section included and a rapid ending which i can only imagine is insane live.

“Roman Sky” is a tune. No two ways around it, just a very well put together ballad. With the clean guitar riff at the start with M. Shadows vocals driving the song. It tells a tale of astronomer Giordano Bruno who was burned at the stake in 1600, astronomy and sci-fi is a strong theme throughout the album itself if the cover didn’t give it away too much. This 5 minute epic incorporates a string section and an orchestra/metal mix is always welcome in my books.

Overall, I  believe the ambition of the album is refreshing but it is also lack-luster, with some tracks being considerably weaker like “Paradigm” in my opinion. The final blow is the fifteen minute epic called “Exist” featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson which is pure prog metal beauty, however it is a track you need to hype yourself up for to listen too. Good thing the album is the perfect hype generator.

Overall, i really liked the album itself, a much more experimental Avenged Sevenfold is an Avenged Sevenfold I’m happy to embrace and one I’m excited to see in the near future and how they expand their music.

7/10

Metallica: Hardwired…to Self-Destruct (Podcast EP 02)

McIlwaine, Callum. 24/02/2017

They finally did it! Metallica finally released their much anticipated album “Hardwired…to Self-Destruct” on the 18th of November 2016. Hi everyone, it’s Callum here to give you a review of my personal favourite bands long awaited album, the good the bad and the ugly of Metallica’s newest project. Overall :  8/10

Disc 1

Song 1 – “Hardwired”  run time – 3:09

First song, first single release as well and my god does it pack a punch. Possibly the shortest Metallica songs ever! It is one of the rare songs that James Hetfield explicitly swears on the track “We’re so fucked, shit out of Luck” (chorus lyrics). Even with this in mind, the track is fast, short and angry holding what feels like a classic writing style from the guys in the band, very riff based and heavy, very refreshing. Out of the three songs that were released as singles prior to the albums release “Hardwired” was sometimes overlooked by the other two but it stands strong as an opening song even if it does break the “tradition” of Metallica introducing albums with a slow starting song. This was a “we are back and we are louder than ever” message from the band.

7/10

Song 2 – Atlas, Rise!    run time – 6:28

“Atlas, Rise!” this was the last of the three songs released as singles and is possibly my favourite song on the whole album. It mixes a perfect cocktail of pure riffage and oddly expressive lyrics for a 21st century metal track, however this is not just any 21st century metal band. My initial listen to the track was hindered by the environment I listened to it in. I was surrounded by loud people trying lot listen to the sing through my phone speakers, not a great recipe i know. However, like any actual music fan would do, i gave it another chance and then many more. The melodies and harmonies intertwined in the song remind me of class “puppets” style writing with 6-8 minute songs being key filled with riffs and chug to get you going.

9/10

Song 3 – Now That We’re Dead     run time – 6:59

The third track on the album is a polarising one. A very love hate relationship with this song is what i feel most fans will have. It seems to me like an album filler and possibly one of the weaker songs on a very strong first CD. With a chugging verse and an almost dance feel to the chorus, it’s a song that i don’t believe will stand the test of time unfortunately. I personally like this song but i  feel like it is a filler track again, on a strong first CD.

6/10

Song 4 – Moth Into Flame    run time – 5:50

The second single released by the band on the lead up to the albums release and oh my god do i love this song! It starts loud, continues loud and ends loud. Starting with a harmonised guitar riff with James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett joining each other as they always have. Now we can talk about the recent Grammy’s performance. The song was going to be sung with Lady Gaga, which in all fairness, was a very good match that people who view musicians outside of their respective genres were not entirely surprised by. The performance famously didn’t go to plan but it stands that ‘Moth into Flame’ as a single release was a successful one and an effective one.

7/10

Song 5 – Dream No More    run time – 6:55

‘Dream No More’ i believe falls into the same category as ‘Now That We’re Dead’ as one of the weaker songs on the first disc. However, commercially it isn’t the strongest, I personally love it. It has a  strong feel to it reminiscent of ‘Sad But True’ from the very popular ‘Black Album’  which is one of heavier songs in their arsenal. This flashback to their most successful era was refreshing and in a sense, describes what this album is all about. A familiar feeling but new sounding experiment which overall i believe works, it is a shame that the first CD is very strong in comparison to the second and because of that, a couple songs do get lost, this is one of those songs.

6/10

Song 6 – Halo On Fire     run time- 8:15

‘Halo on Fire’ or ‘Fade to Black’? I am so grateful of some clean guitar!! The whole album up to this point has been balls to the walls metal which is fast and aggressive and melodic (only in some songs mind you ). The over 8 minute song is a nod back to classic melodic metal songs with a clean chordal progression in the verse and a powerful chorus with an insane instrumental breakdown and essentially ‘a jam’ at the end of the song. Listening to the track, I can imagine that they had a load of fun recording the final couple of minutes just jamming in a very melodic way as it feels very free flowing and relaxed whilst holding the full sounding heavy tone. This is up there with Atlas, Rise! in my opinion. Classic Metallica.

9/10

Disc 2

Song 1 – Confusion   run time – 6:41

‘Confusion’ to me, is more interesting for its video. It has a very similar video to ‘The Day That Never Comes’ which is my favourite song from ‘Death Magnetic’, the last album released before this one. Confusion is the beginning to an arguably weak second disc. The track has a very powerful, in your face intro with heavy drums and pounding guitars playing in a very static manor really waking you up. But then the song delves into a very ‘bleh’ track overall with not much going on in terms of a new sound or a new style. Just classic metal, very safe. Not a bad thing, but there could have been more experimentation in the track.

6/10

Song 2 – ManUnKind    run time –  6:55

Honestly…this song is poor. I cannot get behind it and the silly ‘Load/Reload/St.Anger’ style title. The video is silly and the song is forgettable, I am not meaning to be harsh on the track but it is almost an unnecessary track on a potentially unnecessary second disc. Everything about the track screams the Load/Reload period, arguably a forgettable period at that and sounds more like a B-side track to me than anything else.

3/10

Song 3 – Here Comes Revenge    run time – 7:17 

‘Here Comes Revenge’ is a light at the end of the tunnel on the poor second disc in comparison to the first. With a riff that stands the memory test (basically can i hum it after not listening to it for a week) and a video that is inspired by an evil dead/ Alice in wonderland style cartoon thing creates a solid track that would have been better on the first album. The video looked to have been inspired by Kirk Hammett but in matter of fact was actually Lars Ulrich’s idea. Once again with the clean vocals and guitars in the verse and the large chorus, very ‘Wherever I May Roam’ feeling with a writing style of ‘One’.

8/10

Song 4 – Am I Savage?   run time – 6:29

‘Am I Savage?’ has a similar feeling to ‘ManUnKind’ in which i personally believe is hit or miss. The title of the song is, in my opinion, silly. However, the opening riff is moving and has a certain chug to it. However, it does contain some very Megadeth sounding pre-chorus which i don’t mind being a Megadeth. This is another song that is aided by it’s somewhat strange video with a family made of people in morphsuits? This drags the second CD down even more.

5/10

Song 5 – Murder One     run time – 5:45

‘Murder One’ is Metallica’s tribute to the late Lemmy Killmeister of Motorhead. In the metal community, his death was a huge blow to a lot of influential metal bands, many citing him and motorhead as their inspirations. The song however, i find the song lack-luster at best, with the video helping the main point of the song with a cartoon style depiction of Lemmy’s life. The lyrics are also about his life, you have to listen to hear most of the imagery that James is trying to depict. The idea of the song is a thoughtful one and I am happy they managed to incorporate it into an album however the song I feel is trying to be too many things at once.

6/10

Song 6 – Spit Out the Bone   run time – 7:09

HOLY SHIT this is loud and fast and thrash and awesome. What a way to end an album I’d say. I know this will sound like most fans opinions but i strongly believe that “Spit Out the Bone” is a song that is what this album should have been throughout. It’s classic and pure metal gold. The melodic breakdown later in the song around the half way mark is beautiful and just brings back classic Metallica vibes. Now, it isn’t without sin, the video is nothing next to awful. With some of the videos released, they could have tried harder with the end product on this one, make the ‘Dream No More’ video less pretty and spend more time on this one.

9/10

My overall opinion of the album is that is a good return to form for my favourite band. I feel if there was a few swapped songs, the first CD could have been released standalone. Putting ‘Spit Out the Bone’ and ‘Here Comes Revenge’ on disc 1 would have made it a beast of a first CD leaving the second disc to be a B side in honesty, i would have preferred that. However, thank you Metallica for coming round on more time, I eagerly await the next one, please don’t be 8 years again.