Monthly Archives: March 2014
From The Vault: Bad 4 Good – ‘Refuge’

1992 was an interesting year in music. Looking back at some of the landmark events of its 365 or so days:

  •  Rob Halford announces that he’s leaving Judas Priest while Ozzy Osbourne “retires”
  • Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ album goes to No. 1 in the US Billboard 200 chart, establishing the widespread popularity of the Grunge movement of the 1990s, while ‘November Rain’ by Guns N’ Roses enters the world record books when it becomes the longest single, at 8 minutes, 57 seconds, to reach the US Top 20
  • The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert takes place at Wembley Stadium in London with all proceeds going to AIDS research

In terms of notable releases:

  • Faith No More release ‘Angel Dust’
  • W.A.S.P ‘The Grimson Idol’
  • The Prodigy ‘Experience’
  • Ugly Kid Joe ‘America’s Least Wanted’

….and somewhat completely under the radar, Bad 4 Good release ‘Refugee’.

Who Were Bad 4 Good?

Bad 4 Good were a band of teenagers put together by guitar hero Steve Vai.Bad 4 Good - Band Cover With the youngest at the time being aged 12 and eldest at 16, Bad 4 Good were leap years ahead of their time. The band was comprised by Danny Cooksey on vocals, Thomas McRocklin on guitar, Zack Young on bass and Brooks Wackerman on drums. At 16 years of age, Cooksey was a child actor who had appeared in the US hit show ‘Diff’rent Strokes’ as well as the movie Terminator 2. McRocklin, at the tender age of 11, had appeared in Steve Vai’s ‘The Audience Is Listening’ video and had his 5 minutes of fame while opening for Ozzy Osbourne in concert. Young was the youngest graduate of the ‘Bass Institute of Technology’ at 15, while 15-year-old Wackerman had won regional rock and jazz awards, plus had a Remo endorsement.

Bad 4 Good - 'Refuge' These guys were anything but amateurs and while their music may have been dismissed by many rock/metal fans, it’s not an album that one can dismiss all-together. Aggressive, polished, straightforward hard rock played by an accomplished group of teenagers, mentored by Vai who had his fair share of contribution in the songwriting, composition and production of the album itself. It kicks off with a cover of Phil Lynott’s ‘Nineteen’ which really get’s the album off to a pace-paced aggressive start. ‘Curious Intentions’ and ‘Bangin’ Time Again’ continue in roughly the same pace, while things start to mellow out from ‘Mother of Love’ onwards. ‘Slow and Beautiful’ is your typical late 80’s to early 90’s emotion-drenched get-yer-lighters-out ballad while a few “filler” tracks start to creep in. ’Terminate’ is a cheesy as cheese can get with influence clearly drawn from Cooksey’s acting years, while ‘Tyre Kickin’ (Ya Makin’ Me Nervous) doesn’t seem to really go anywhere. The album closes with the inane rap-rocker ‘Felony’.

The Downward Spiral

‘Refugee’ failed to sell and after the accompanying tour was complete Bad 4 Good - Refugee - Back CoverMcRocklin departed to form Virgin Sun. The remainder of the band remained together briefly as Lucy’s Milk, before deciding to break apart. Following the break-up, Cooksey returned to acting, Wackerman joined both Bad Religion and Suicidal Tendencies, Young formed a rock/electro-clash band called Artificial Intelligence (A.I) and McRocklin started working in a music store. It was an abrupt end to what was a promising start for this talented young band.

I was fortunate to own ‘Refugee’ on cassette and will admit to listening to ‘Nineteen’ pretty much on repeat. The tape disappeared as did my memory of the band but every once in a while Bad 4 Good would creep back into my thoughts. Through the wonders of the internet, in March 2014 I found their album on CD in near mint condition on eBay for a mere £3.99. Suprisingly, their album seems to have not only retained its original value but also gained some as well, with some new and sealed CD versions worth over $150 and used one’s above $50. The cassette edition is also worth a pretty penny as well.

Remembering ‘Refugee’

And there you have it. Our trip down memory lane, remembering an album which is now some 22 years old. Yet listening to songs like ‘Nineteen’ you get the feeling that it was only just released yesterday.

If you’re lucky enough to still have this in your collection either on cassette or CD, hold onto it. If you’ve never come across them but would like to, shop around, there’s still some copies floating about and with some unaware of the growing value of ‘Refugee’ it’s easy to swipe a bargain.

Here’s that killer opening track ‘Nineteen’.

 

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Album Review: Audiomachy – ‘Holofracture’

Audiomachy can only be described as the Sheldon Cooper of rock music. For those living under a rock and not familiar with the name Sheldon Cooper, he is a fictional character, portrayed by actor Jim Parsons, on the CBS television series ‘The Big Bang Theory’,

An Australian band based in Brisbane, ‘Holofracture’ is Audiomachy’s 3rd album.  They’re a two-piece band which much like Sheldon posses an incredible amount of “Geek Factor” but unlike our fictional Big Bang character, these guys do have a wicked sense of humour.

Who Are Audiomachy?

Audiomachy call themselves “The greatest Electro Metal band in the history of Audiomachy Band PictureInternational Relations”. And whilst their statement may be deemed as tongue-in-cheek or potentially narcissistic behaviour, we will ask this question again at the end of this review.

At their very core they are an eclectic, progressive and highly experimental outfit, fusing metal and electronic music elements.  Their influences range from the likes of Meshuggah, Panzerballett, Every Time I Die, Dillinger Escpae Plan, The Number Twelve Looks Like You and  Justice among others.

Dissecting ‘Holofracture’

Album opener ‘Mobius Gyp’ is an extract from ‘Titus Andronicus’ the tragedy written by William Shakespeare. Why? Well according to the band “because we can can” . They go on to insist that the song has nothing to do with the ‘Möbius strip’ or ‘Möbius band’ as it’s also known, which is described as being “a surface with only one side and only one boundary component”. Further research also tells me that the möbius strip has the mathematical property of being non-orientable.

While I won’t disagree with the band’s statement, knowing what I know about them today I’m more inclined to believe that this is a very very cleverly put dichotomy; while Titus Andronicus may very well be the content the subject matter sways me more towards the Mobius Strip theory. Then again, perhaps I’m digging too deep!?

I’m sure by now you’re all asking “What on earth are you on about Johnny?” Please bare with my thought process and let’s move on to their lyrics and inspiration…

Take ‘πchotomy’ (track 3 of their album) as a further example of Audiomachy’s superb geek factor. Apparently, the lyrics for this song are written in ‘Pilish’, a style of writing in which the lengths of consecutive words match the digits of Pi, the mathematical constant equal to a circle’s circumference divided by its diameter. For example:

3 – For

1 – a

4 – life

1 – I

5 – aptly

9 – eradicate…

…and so on.

 In addition, every riff is related to Pi in some way.  How awesome is that?!

Holofracture Front CoverThe inspiration of ‘Audiomachy: The Song’ (track 4 and one of my personal favourites) came from a Polish review of their first album. This led to a song in which they used poorly translated english lyrics for, you just can’t make this stuff up!

On track 5 we find (potentially) a world first in music of any genre. ‘There’s No I In Socket’ is a song which has been written without using the letter ‘I’ and a small bit at the end without ‘E’ as well. Has this ever been performed by a band before I’m honestly not sure but my guess is that the answer would be a definitive no…?

Track 10, ’10 This Song Is Called Go To 10’ will have computer geeks left with a ear-to-ear grin. To quote the band “The title is a reference to computer code where if it says to “go to 10″ the code will be read back from where “10” is. In this case, the title is an infinite loop. With that in mind, the theme of the song is fractals which are shapes that stay the same if you zoom in on them infinitely (basically).

There is even a reference to the Dragon curve in the song, at 2:12 the pattern plays a riff with notes in the left or right speakers: 

R R L 

R R L R R L L 

R R L R R L L R R R L L R L L ….“

Last but certainly no least is track 12, ‘Tormentertainment’ which is another standout track in what is an incredible sounding album beginning to end. ‘Tormentertainment’ finishes with a reference to a scene in the 2005 film ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’.

I’ve lost you haven’t I?

Well as you have probably realised by now, Audiomachy are not your typical band. They could choose to sing about politics, the environment or take the brain-cell killing approach that the so many (so-called) artists and band’s do and who are currently enjoying vast (and repeated) airplay on mainstream radio. Their approach may seem trivial to some, over-engineered for others and potentially you’ve been all too quick to shrug this review and band off and say “so what”?

And maybe it is just me. I like to understand a band’s way of thinking, inspiration and what makes them tick. Tox And Jesse AudiomachyAudiomachy have produced a technically, technologically and lyrically accomplished masterpiece that sadly could go entirely unnoticed. The effort, creativity and thought process that went into this album is second to none. It almost feels as though this album could have been the product of a 30-year project, but I’d be wrong, given their last one was released in September of 2011.

Even if you’re not a fan of the geek-wizardry applied in plentiful amounts by Jesse and Tox from Audiomachy, you would be seriously missing out on one incredible sounding album.

So is it a case of a superiority complex and/or narcissistic behaviour?

Categorically no. It’s more a case of two incredibly talented folk with a great sense of humour, a passion for technology, and who have taken music to a whole new level in terms of creative and lyrical subject matter. Are they perfect? Hell no and I wouldn’t want them to be. This isn’t about polished productions with glossy covers. It’s about raw, edgy material that pushes well beyond the conventional boundaries we know today.

I can only hope that Audiomachy get recognition for their work as it tuly deserves every bit of praise.

‘Holofracture’ is available digitally via their Bandcamp website. It’s a “name your price” option but sincerely ask that you donate what you can in support for Audiomachy. My only request is that a physical copy of this album is available soon!

Rounding up this review, I’ll leave you with track 10, ’10 This Song Is Called Go To 10’ and allow you to draw your own opinions.

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Album Review: Glass House – ‘Long Way Down’

As the first “Other” category review I chose a group that really stood out for me and that’s before even listening to the actual album. It’s not a recent release, as it dates back to October 2013 but with so much material available these days, it’s easy for acts to completely slip under one’s radar. And what a shame it would be if Glass House slipped under mine. I can only thank Billy James from Glass Onyon PR for bringing them to my attention.

Glass House is an amazing duo featuring David Worm on vocals and multi-instrumentalistGlass House  Mark Vickness. Their hard to define stylistically with their sound featuring elements of folk, progressive rock, acoustic passages, funk and there’s even some beatboxing for good measure.

This is their 3rd album to-date and was produced by Jon Evans,  best known for his long association with Tori Amos and Third Eye Blind and also features the Grammy award winning ‘Turtle Island String Quartet’ who appear on the third track of the album ‘Turn Away’. It’s complex, much like an onion there’s layer up on layer to uncover, an intricate richness that seems to be lacking from a lot of bands these days. The lyrics are warm and powerful, sometimes socio-political in ‘Turn Away’ and ‘Where I Belong’, while elsewhere they are deeply personal and intimate such as in the case of ‘For Now’ and ‘Thank You’. Another stand out track is track four, ‘Broken Arrow’, which Impressively when first released, became the seventh most-viewed YouTube video according to Billboard.com, ahead of Christina Aguilera’s “You Lost Me” and Pearl Jam’s “Unthought Known.”

Mark Vickness

With over 25 years of experience working together David Worm and Mark Vickness certainly do deliver in ‘Long Way Down’. Even if you’re not a fan of their sound, you’ll still get an irresistible and compelling urge to continue listening to this album, it’s hard to ignore. They say it’s never to late to review an album. It may have taken me a few months to catch up to this release but I’m glad I did.

‘Long Way Down’ is available physically via CDBaby and digitally via iTunes.

If for any reason this review wasn’t convincing enough, perhaps this song will seal the deal, here’s Glass House with the magnificent ‘Turn Away’.

 

 

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Album Review: Skrillex – ‘Recess’

The name Skrillex has made its way into every teenager’s home it seems. He must be, without a doubt, the most overhyped name in the music industry today while at the same time also being the most under-appreciated. Let’s not forget that Skrillex was partially responsible for the resurgence of Electronic Dance Music in the late 2000’, he’s been nominated for 8 Grammy’s having won 6, rubbed shoulders with who-is-who of the celebrity A-list and all this at the age of 26. No mean feat. But one look at his entire discography and one get’s the feeling that some of his decisions could be deemed as rash, spasmodic, repetitive at best and quite often totally off-the-wall and that’s when you really do get the feeling that he still has some growing up to do.

Skrillex Photo

Like any public figure, Skrillex, or Sonny John Moore as his parents call him, has a legion of loyal fans but not without his fair share of haters. In true Beyonce style, Recess was dropped practically out of thin air. No mystery tweets from his account, no publicity, just a low-key App titled “Alien Ride” which was uploaded to  Apple’s App Store on March 7th. The App contained a secret folder with 11 hidden objects and a countdown ending March 10th at 6:30 EST. The official Skrillex website was updated with the App’s picture on the front page and was later revealed to contain a folder of Google Play and iTunes links which were released to his fans one at a time. Naturally these links were in fact the 11 new songs available to stream and which made up his latest offering titled “Recess”. A novel and entrepreneurial idea, I’ll give him that much.

Is it any good?

Skrillex - 'Recess' Album CoverYes and no. It’s Skrillex at the core. Look no further than opening track ‘All Is Fair In Love And Brostep’ which oozes Skrillex through and through. It’s one of two collaborations with the Ragga Twins and had me bobbing my head along to it from beginning to end. Track 2 is the album title track, featuring the likes of Kill the Noise, Fatman Scoop and Michael Angelakos; and that’s where my interest really started to fade. I almost had to double check to see if my iPod had accidentally skipped to another album, but no, it was still ‘Recess’. Track 3, ‘Try It Out’ perked my interest for a minute or so while 4 and 5 had me pushing the ‘Next’ button within the first 30 seconds. Track 6 sees the second collaboration with the Ragga Twins in the aptly titled ‘Ragga Bomb’. Like ‘All Is Fair In Love And Brostep’, it too follows the Skrillex staple formula. ‘Doompy Pomp’ is somewhat of an ill-conceived homage to the likes of Aphex Twin and Squarepusher, with Skrillex admitting on more than one occasion that he is a big fan of the scene and these two very influential heroes not to mention innovators. Does the tribute work? Well, not really. Disjointed at best, coming across as a b-side that should have perhaps stayed filed under “Work In Progress”. With 3 remaining songs, I skimmed through them and pretty much gave up.

So what does this say about Skrillex?

The album is hit and miss. Some of it is cleverly crafted and no doubt will make it’s way through the EDM charts and possibly cross over into the mainstream Top 40. His loyal fan-base will surely defend him, his choices and the album, and no doubt it will be a commercial success by today’s standards. But the reality is, as popular as the name Skrillex is, his music is still confined to what he is known for and what he does best. Any attempts to push the envelope in ‘Recess’ have fallen flat, sounding more like experimentations and leftover ideas, a “let’s test the waters why not” approach. In reality he’s got nothing to lose but this is one album I would personally rather forget. No doubt the internet will be ripe with the “It’s brilliant” and “It sucks” comments from fanboys and haters – let me know who wins.

‘Recess’ is available through i-Tunes as of March 18th.

Here is the album opening track ‘All Is Fair In Love And Brostep’.

 

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Spotlight Search: Pharmacy Music

Logo

Pharmacy Music is the brainchild of American and trance legend, Christopher Lawrence. For those unfamiliar with the name, Christopher Lawrence built a loyal fan base during the progressive trance movement in the late 90’s. He has a good 17 years of experience in music and lately he’s focusing this experience and knowledge to delivery the best he can out of trance, this channeled via his record label, Pharmacy Music.

While the website boasts that the label is strictly focused on the underground movement, I a statement true to its word (for now at least). See trance music hit its peak in the mid 2000’s, flooded by wannabe’s, one-hit wonders and a diluted, commercial sounding appeal. At the height of the progressive trance gravy train, I truly struggled to tell two tracks apart. Everyone was utilising the same formula and applying a copy/paste mentality. This is true for most of the sub-categories of trance music, be it psychedelic, progressive or straight up trance. Today, this same fate can be seen in dubstep which like trance was quickly adopted, exploited, was over-used, led to a host of sub-categories (drumstep, brostep, chillstep, psystep etc). Some call it evolution, I prefer to call it dilution. It is this overexposure that has led some talent to sit in the sidelines, away from the centre stage. The real question is, how long can this type of movement sustain itself without venturing into the limelight. More importantly, what happens when it does?

Platipus Records were the pinnacle of trance music at one point. Simon Berry’s unique sound transcended and captured the hearts and mind of a loyal fan-base. But as the label grew, I feel they also lost their way and with it, sight of what they were trying to achieve. Sadly this lead to the closure of the label in 2010. Thankfully however they are now back and trading as Platipus Music, doing what they do best, old school trance.

Academics (and personal opinions) aside, Pharmacy Music are a welcomed breath of fresh air. Gone is the cheese, sappy vocals and the super ego’s of the DJ, Pharmacy is all about the music. Back in is the old school trance appeal, a good mix of straight up trance, psychedelic with a strong emphasis on technique. These are well produced, well crafted songs. It’s not original, nor is it groundbreaking, but for lovers of trance like myself it’s great to hear a trance album that you can listen to beginning to end and not feel like you’ve heard it all before. Sure, there’s moments where those deja-vu techniques sound familiar but it’s more akin to receiving a visit from a welcomed friend as opposed to a door-to-door salesman.

If you’re looking for an introduction to the label I can thoroughly recommend the ‘Phase’

Album Cover

series currently in it’s third instalment. Having only just been released on March 4th, Phase 3 sees the label head to South America where, according to Christopher Lawrence, there’s a thriving trance scene. He recruited Buenos Aires artists Fergie (Fernando Picciano), Sadrian (Adrian Sartore) and studio partner Emiliano Ayub) to take the helm on this mix compilation. The compilation features 14 full-length songs and a near 80 minute non-stop mix courtesy of Fergie and Sadrian.

If you want to know more about Pharmacy Music check out their website. ‘Pharmacy: Phase 3’ is available via the label’s website and Beatport.

Here’s one of my personal favourites from this compilation as a taster, Fergie and Sadrian with ‘Mind Control (Original Mix)’.

 

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Album Review: FROM HELL – ‘Ascent From Hell’

My biggest gripe in music today is the lack of emotion. Emotion can mean different things to different people but for me it is that moment, where minutes into a song, you get that spine-tingling sensation, shivers and then the goose bumps… Emotion can translate into a number of feelings be it anger, love, fear, or in the case of FROM HELL, sheer terror.

Within the first 30 seconds of ‘Standing At The Mouth of Hell’ you really do get the feeling that you are truly standing at the mouth of hell itself. The intensity, chaos, the snarls; you can almost smell brimstone and ash whilst flames engulf your screaming body. That’s certainly not an emotion that’s easy to convey but trust me when I tell you, FROM HELL do it, and boy, do they do it well!

So what differentiates a group that’s able to convey emotion so succinctly? 

Well, cue in George Anderson. Anderson had a successful stint as the frontmanFROM HELL Band of Down Factor, a California-based band with a strong socio-political message. He soon grew tired of the ideologies the band was portraying and wanted to seek alternative sources of creativity. And so he came up with the concept of FROM HELL.

FROM HELL means a lot of things for Anderson. It’s a homage to his all time hero King Diamond, a nod towards the likes of Aleister Crowley, while at the same time he also credits an old black and white version of the movie ‘A Christmas Carol’ as his inspiration. In this version,  Ebenezer Scrooge who was portrayed by actor Aleister Sims. A quick play on words and Aleister Sinn was born, Anderson’s alter-ego and the narrator of this dark and broody tale.

FROM HELL LogoAleister Sinn is not the only character of this story.  Anderson, having mustered some trusted and experienced (to say the least) talent from reputed sources, has a force to be reckoned with; Paul Bostaph on drums (Slayer, Forbidden, Exodus, Systematic, and Testament), Steve Smyth on guitar (Forbidden, One Machine, The Esseness Project, Nevermore, Testament, Dragonlord, Vicious Rumors, Ariah) and by no means least, Damien Sisson on bass (Death Angel). This is by its own virtue a supergroup, an all-star cast that cannot be easily dismissed.

So what is the story behind ‘Ascent From Hell’?

FROM HELL Album CoverIt is a horror concept album which was originally titled “Eyes Of My Dead”. It tells the story of a corpse which wakes up in hell and needs to find its way back to earth in order to reclaim its soul, which (rather inconveniently) is in another body. It was later, and rather appropriately so if you ask me, that the band renamed it “Ascent From Hell” to fit in with the overall theme.

At 70 minutes long this is by no means a short album, with the average song ranging at 6.5 minutes and some up to 10 minutes in duration.  Did I at any point get the feeling that the album was stagnating? To be honest at an average of 6.5 minutes I was expecting it to be, but just when you think things are sounding a little stale, bang!, a riff, a break, a bass/drum solo, reminds you that this is anything but a predictable journey as our corpse battles it’s way out of hell.

What I like about FROM HELL is that they refuse to be type-casted. This album is all over the place stylistically with echoes of trash, death, doom and black metal all thrown into the mix. Even the vocal delivery changes from time to time.  During the ‘The Walking Dead’,  Anderson sounds almost Jeff Walker-like  while in ‘Nuns with Guns’ there’s more than a few Rob Zombie undertones. And that’s not a bad thing in my opinion. Too often I’ve seen bands try to do too much; they showcase what they can and try to cram as much into 60 minutes as humanly possible as a measure of diversification. It’s a risky strategy and has been known to fail miserably.  But FROM HELL really do pull it off. It’s almost as though the album takes you on an evil journey and like any good story there are twists, turns and a few pleasant surprises for good measure. It is for this reason that I thoroughly recommend you enjoy this album from beginning to end. Each song has a way of linking into the next; clearly a lot of thought has gone into the sequencing of the album. Moreover, the album in its theatrical release comes complete with segues in between each song, providing the listener with additional details to this horror story.

Yes, But Is it any good?

Absolutely! Many supergroups have tried and failed with their first release. For a debut, FROM HELL have certainly captured my imagination and tapped deep into my head banging subconscious. Have they raised the bar too high for a debut…? I guess we’ll have to wait for the next chapter to decide, but I have a good feeling about these guys.

Visit the band’s website or Scourge Records for more information and future tour dates.

‘Ascent From Hell’ is expected to be released physically and digitally worldwide on April 8th, 2014

Ahead of the album’s release here’s the title track ‘Ascent From Hell’, enjoy!

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