Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Some musical mini-reviews

As the year draws to a close, I thought I'd provide you with a selection of mini-reviews, summarising my thoughts on a few of the albums I've purchased recently.

As I Lay Dying - Shadows Are Security

The second album from the USA's premier Christian metalcore band, charting their evolution from the raw brutality of their debut album, 'Frail Words Collapse', to a more refined and crafted sonic assault. Although some of the tracks are a little repetitive, AILD still retain their relentless aggression and passion, making this record an effective link in the band's musical progression.

Must-hear tracks: Confined, Empty Hearts
Rating: 3/5

Hurts - Happiness

If melodramatic 80's-inspired electro-pop is what you're after, then this duo from the UK is for you. Hurts debut album features incredibly catchy tunes, crisply recorded instrumentation and innovative yet vintage synths and beats. Pop princess Kylie Minogue also features on the record, giving the experience the authenticity it deserves.

Must-hear tracks: Wonderful Life, Better Than Love
Rating: 5/5

As I Lay Dying - The Powerless Rise

AILD's most recent release, featuring more piercing guitar harmonies, pummeling riffage, unforgiving drum beats and questioning lyrics. Although there are some great melodic sections to be sampled here, the solos let this album down, feeling unoriginal and bland for the most part. Not a bad record overall, but a step back from the perfection of 'An Ocean Between Us'.

Must-hear tracks: The Plague, Upside Down Kingdom
Rating: 4/5

Gypsy and the Cat - Gilgamesh

Another electro-pop duo for you now, but this time hailing from Australia. Possibly too sickly-sweet for some, but hitting the spot for others, this record features the great combination of lyrical ballads and programmed rhythms and tones. Some of the songs point to the band's influences a tad too overtly, but on the whole this a soulful and original album; I challenge you not to sing along.

Must-hear tracks: Time To Wander, The Piper's Song
Rating: 4/5

Demon Hunter - The World Is A Thorn

Christianity and heavy metal may not be a natural combination for some, but for US industrial-thrash veterans Demon Hunter, it's a way of life. This, the band's latest album, continues their no-holds-barred musical rampage, using epic riffs, rapid-fire drums and soaring vocals to spread their uncompromising message. As close to perfection as you can get outside of Heaven.

Must-hear tracks: Collapsing, Tie This Around Your Neck
Rating: 5/5

DJ Fresh - Kryptonite

And finally, some British drum and bass. This album features a mix of straight and swung tracks, as well as some dubstep beats for good measure. Although some of the songs aren't particularly special, there are a few absolute gems to be found here, utilising grimy synth tones, deep bass lines and high-speed drums alongside brilliant vocal performances.

Must-hear tracks: Talkbox, Golddust
Rating: 3/5

That's all for now, have a great New Year!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Birthday presents, video games, movies and rediscovering the joy of four strings

I intended to get a post in before my birthday, but other commitments have sadly drawn my attention away. So I'm going to condense all my recent thoughts/experiences into this post, as I can't say whether I'll get to write again before Christmas!

My birthday has come and gone once again, leaving me a year older but blessed with some really cool presents. Lauren covered all the bases by getting me Enslaved: Odyssey to the West on PS3, a Adidas/Star Wars T-shirt and the Lego Star Wars Visual Dictionary! If you can't be a kid on your birthday then what's the point of having a birthday? As we both had the day off, we went out and bought a Christmas tree, which was an interesting experience to say the least. When we got the tree out of the netting, we realised it's a little too big for our flat, and had to rearrange our furniture to accommodate it! It looks nice now it's decorated though, so I have no regrets.

I haven't played much of Enslaved yet, but my initial experience has been very enjoyable. Although to start with it seemed to lack risk (impossible to fall off ledges, low damage in battles), the difficultly/danger jumps up quite quickly after the tutorial sections are done, forcing you to use all of Monkey's agility and power, alongside Trip's intelligence and technical skill. The game's visuals are absolutely stunning, with vibrant colours and crisp detail. On the subject of striking visuals, I recently purchased Inception on Blu-ray. What a film. Like The Dark Knight, I think I'll be repeatedly watching Christopher Nolan's latest masterpiece, as its concept generates so much debate and split opinions. Is it all a dream? Does Cobb get back to his family? Am I dreaming right now? Of course not. I got out of the Matrix ages ago...

Over the past few weeks I've got back into playing the bass guitar, as my friend's bass was recently fixed, allowing us to use it for music at church. I'd forgotten how much fun it is to play the bass; it's been great to brush up on my Rage Against The Machine riffs! Having the bass for church has been very useful, because when I've played electric guitar recently its not worked very well with the other instruments (treading on the toes of the piano and acoustic guitar), where as the bass has really added some power and definition. Don't worry though, I'm not abandoning my six-string roots! Got a load of Christmas carols to learn for Sunday, so I'll leave it there. If I don't write again before the 25th, Merry Christmas!