Archive for October, 2012

October 31, 2012

Album 0150: Shpongle – Are You Shpongled?

Release Date: 1998
Genre: Psychedelic Downtempo

Tracklisting:

1. Shpongle Falls (08:34)
2. Monster Hit (08:57)
3. Vapour Rumours (10:26)
4. Shpongle Spores (07:16)
5. Behind Closed Eyelids (12:29)
6. Divine Moments Of Truth (10:20)
7. …And The Day Turned To Night (19:58)

Total Length: 01:18:00

Shpongle Falls combines a lot of neat elements. The atmospheric intro, slowed down vocals, samples, and cool percussion interjections create a pretty nice vibe. The group also tosses in the first appearance of some world influences in the form of some flutes. Monster Hit gets a little bit more right to the point, starting with some good percussion and building from there. There are also some cool vocal samples and while the track is nice it goes on a bit long for me.

Vapour Rumours is mostly good and reminiscent of the the other tracks. The samples work fairly well to give the song a bit more of a creepy atmosphere, but it never really goes the whole nine yards. Shpongle Shores is a bit slower paced and has some very cool synths that I enjoy a lot. Behind Closed Eyelids is pretty fantastic the whole way through once it stumbles past its intro. I like the way the song builds and keeps changing.

Divine Moments Of Truth uses some neat throat singing samples, and has a pace and rhythm different from the other tracks so far. It feels a bit more fierce, in your face. …And The Day Turned To Night is a big piece to close the album off. A lengthy intro leads into a song that just doesn’t quit. Really the best part of this whole album is that you don’t need to be focused. It is great to simply relax to, despite some intense moments. It’s still not the first thing I pick to listen to, but I’m never unhappy from having listened to it.

Final Rating: 8/10

October 30, 2012

Album 0149: The Chasm – Farseeing The Paranormal Abysm

Release Date: 2009
Genre: Death Metal

Tracklisting:

1. Entering A Superior Dimension (08:25)
2. Callous Spectre – Vehement Opposition (08:29)
3. Fiery Rebirth (06:53)
4. Farseeing… (01:46)
5. Structure Of The Seance (06:58)
6. Vault To The Voyage (11:16)
7. The Promised Ravage (06:40)
8. The Mission – Arrival To Hopeless Shores (Calling The Paranormal Abysm) (11:54)

Total Length: 01:02:20

Entering A Superior Dimension has a nice atmospheric intro before kicking into the pretty cool riffs. I’m not entirely fond of the vocals, a criticism I have that will pop up frequently on this album. They aren’t that great, and to top it off they are pretty low in the mix as well. Pretty cool song in the end though. Callous Spectre – Vehement Opposition solves the vocal issue by not having them. This is a pretty good instrumental that just goes on a tad long, but other than that I don’t have too many issues with it.

Fiery Rebirth has, as always, good riffs and the vocals work a little bit better here. Farseeing… is an okay interlude, there is really nothing special about it but I suppose it is a nice breather. The next two tracks are entirely instrumental as well, and Structure Of The Seance kicks them off with a bang by being fast and relentless. Vault To The Voyage is much the same, just longer.

The Promised Ravage again feels pretty similar, but putting vocals back in, which again are still only decent. The Mission – Arrival To Hopeless Shores (Calling The Paranormal Abysm) closes out the album pretty well. I’m very ambivalent about this album. It’s enjoyable, but nothing really stands out to me, and in fact it feels ‘cloudy’ based on the mix. Maybe I’d enjoy it more if that were different, I’m not sure.

Final Rating: 7.5/10

October 29, 2012

Album 0148: DragonForce – Sonic Firestorm

Release Date: 2004
Genre: Power Metal

Tracklisting:

1. My Spirit Will Go On (07:54)
2. Fury Of The Storm (06:47)
3. Fields Of Despair (05:25)
4. Dawn Over A New World (05:13)
5. Above The Winter Moonlight (07:31)
6. Soldiers Of The Wasteland (09:47)
7. Prepare For War (06:15)
8. Once In A Lifetime (07:47)
9. Cry Of The Brave (05:46)

Total Length: 01:02:24

My Spirit Will Go On starts the album pretty well, with a memorable chorus and some cool instrumental parts. Still not my favorite track as I still think something is off with the mix. DragonForce is a band I’ve gone back and forth on. They were great for getting me started into metal in general, but once I had explored a bit and came back to them, I realized just how odd they sounded. Generic, yet unique. Fast, but not as fast as other bands while still seeming like there was some studio trickery at certain points. Lastly, the guitar solos sometimes sound like gibberish instead of something memorable, depending on the song. I still enjoy the band, they’ve just become a bit of a guilty pleasure.

Fury Of The Storm is kind of the quintessential song by the band. This album is when they started in some more extreme influences, such as blast beats, and they are used to fairly good effect here. I still enjoy this song. Fields Of Despair is the first point where the album starts to fall off a bit. It sounds incredibly similar to the previous two songs, and has almost nothing that sets it apart other than the chorus. Dawn Over A New World is more of a ballad and it’s only decent. I really like the intro piano too, but it doesn’t really go anywhere or have any kind of buildup.

Above The Winter Moonlight embraces the cheesiness a bit more than some of the other tracks, with a really cool synth opening, and some pretty neat vocal lines. The instrumental section has some good riffs as well as tossing in some acoustic guitar. Soldiers Of The Wasteland is kind of what I wish the band did more of. The opening is perfect, and longer songs seem to work a bit better for them honestly. Prepare For War is like track three in that it really doesn’t set itself apart in any way and isn’t necessary at all.

Once In A Lifetime was my favorite DragonForce song for a long time when I was really into the band, and it’s still easy to hear why. The intro is fantastic, the lyrics are fun, and the backing synths are neat. Good song still. Cry Of The Brave is a bonus track and really doesn’t offer anything new. In the end, this album simply isn’t good enough anymore. When I knew less it was great, but after all this time it just doesn’t quite hold up for most of the time. Only a few of the songs try to differentiate themselves and that’s a bit of an issue. However, those songs are still good because I love the cheesiness.

Final Rating: 6/10

October 28, 2012

Album 0147 – The OC Supertones – Loud And Clear

Release Date: 2000
Genre: Ska/Punk

Tracklisting:

1. Escape From Reason (03:18)
2. What It Comes To (03:39)
3. Jury Duty (04:15)
4. Lift Me Up (04:36)
5. Return Of The Revolution (04:26)
6. Wilderness (04:14)
7. Father’s World (03:33)
8. Pandora’s Box (02:23)
9. Forward To The Future (03:56)
10. Another Show (02:47)
11. 20/20 (03:54)
12. Who Could It Be (02:59)
13. Spend It With You (04:23)

Total Length: 48:22

Okay, can I first point out the irony of a Christian band writing a song called Escape From Reason? This song is pretty crap because it sounds like wannabe Zebrahead, the problem of course is that when you are talking about God’s love any sort of ‘fierceness’ from your music and vocals is absolutely stopped in its tracks, resulting in a total mess. What It Comes To suffers from a similar issue. The track has some decent ska/reggae ideas, which then get entirely buried as both singers keep rapping over it. I’m not saying this can never work, but this band certainly can’t pull it off and it comes off as disingenuous.

Jury Duty is very basic and that’s about it. Lift Me Up gives us the first decent track on here. The lyrical theme and music actually matches for once by both of them being upbeat, so this song gets a barely passing grade. Return Of The Revolution has the exact same problem as the first track. This band can not do ‘intimidating’. Wilderness is just plain boring. Father’s World just baffles me. Why did they ever think adding these types of vocals was a good idea?

Pandora’s Box is just more of the same awful crap. Forward To The Future is a little less terrible, but still unimaginative and not that interesting. Another Show has all the same issues I’ve been going on and on about, as does 20/20. Who Could It Be is yet again a retread of what they have been doing all album, which I wouldn’t mind as much if it was good in any way. Spend It With You is only slightly better because the lyrics are more personal rather than religious. This album is just entirely crap honestly. I really can’t even find any good points to say about it.

Final Rating: 2/10

October 27, 2012

Album 0146: NOFX – So Long And Thanks For All The Shoes

Release Date: 1997
Genre: Punk Rock

Tracklisting:

1. It’s My Job To Keep Punk Rock Elite (01:21)
2. Kids Of The K-Hole (02:17)
3. Murder The Government (00:46)
4. Monosyllabic Girl (00:55)
5. 180 Degrees (02:10)
6. All His Suits Are Torn (02:19)
7. All Outta Angst (01:52)
8. I’m Telling Tim (01:17)
9. Champs Elysées (02:02)
10. Dad’s Bad News (02:02)
11. Kill Rock Stars (01:33)
12. Eat The Meek (03:32)
13. The Desperation’s Gone (02:24)
14. Flossing A Dead Horse (01:46)
15. Quart In Session (01:38)
16. Falling In Love (13:42)

Total Length: 41:35

It’s My Job To Keep Punk Rock Elite is a strong start to the album, melodic and catchy. Kids Of The K-Hole is decent, I want to like the music but it doesn’t really go anywhere and the vocal lines aren’t near as infectious as the band is capable of. Murder The Government is pretty whiny but oddly catchy. Monosyllabic Girl is kind of funny and a nice, short track. 180 Degrees has the first instance of something that this band always surprises me by doing: going into ska randomly. For the longest time for whatever reason I thought this band hated ska, so now I wonder where I got that idea. It creates a nice change of pace for this album at least.

All His Suits Are Torn has some neat ideas but can’t quite execute them well. And for my nitpick, the vocals are just too low throughout the entire track. All Outta Angst is a fun ska song, again a nice change of style. I’m Telling Tim is an okay little track, at least the ending kind of sticks in your head. Champs Elysées is a cover, and performed entirely in French and actually kind of a highlight of the album. It’s different from what the band normally does and for that you remember it more. I really enjoy this.

Dad’s Bad News is pretty good with some interesting lyrics. Kill Rock Stars also feels kind of whiny. I guess I’d rather Fat Mike sing about personal stuff like on the previous track rather than political thing. Eat The Meek takes some reggae influence, and sadly I can’t help but be reminded of a terrible Youtube video during the chorus, a video that asks, “Why must I cry?”. Other than that, a pretty cool track. The Desperation’s Gone feels like plenty of other tracks by the band, but having a cool intro helps set it apart.

Flossing A Dead Horse is a pretty fun little ska instrumental. Again, kind of a surprise that something like this is on here. Quart In Session is pretty cool, I enjoy the ending. Falling In Love, the main track, lasts for about 2 minutes 20 seconds. It’s pretty good, since again this is more personal and so evokes a couple more emotions. After some silence, a clip from Howard Stern’s radio show of him bashing NOFX is played. After that, there is a long instrumental that kind of meanders before ending quickly. This album is pretty strong overall, despite a few points where I think things could have been different. It helps when there are more short songs I suppose, it’s like the parts you don’t like take up a smaller percentage of the album.

Final Rating: 7.5/10

October 26, 2012

Album 0145: Dream Theater – Four Degrees Of Radio Edits

Release Date: 2001
Genre: Progressive Metal

Tracklisting:

1. Misunderstood (05:16)
2. Blind Faith (05:24)
3. Solitary Shell (04:12)
4. The Test That Stumped Them All (05:00)

Total Length: 19:52

This is an odd little release from the band. It was sent to radio stations before the full album was released, and also sent out to Dream Theater’s fan club as their yearly release. All four tracks are radio edits, though only three are substantial. Misunderstood honestly almost works better for me for casual listening because it cuts out the entire ending section, which I’ve never been a fond of. However, that section is an integral part of the entire song and its theme, so in cases like these I would still have to side with hearing the full album version.

Blind Faith however I unequivocally side with the album version. It’s barely the same song when it is chopped in half like this. Solitary Shell is pretty easy to digest in this form, but again I’m biased towards radio edits not being a thing. The Test That Stumped Them All gets the least amount of change (a whole 3 seconds!) to make it stand alone instead of being in the middle of a 42-minute piece. I’d assume that the version sent to the radio stations would have the curse words edited since they aren’t on here. Really this is just a little novelty piece, I pretty much never listen to these versions of the tracks.

Final Rating: 4/10

October 25, 2012

Album 0144: The Vandals – Internet Dating Superstuds

Release Date: 2002
Genre: Punk Rock

Tracklisting:

1. 43210-1 (02:43)
2. Appreciate My Honesty (02:35)
3. I’m Becoming You (02:42)
4. Disproportioned Head (02:08)
5. Soccer Mom (02:57)
6. We’ll All Get Laid (02:27)
7. Little Weirdo (03:06)
8. I Can’t Wait (02:44)
9. Where’s Your Dignity? (03:11)
10. My Brain Tells My Body (03:00)
11. When I Say You I Mean Me (02:20)
12. The Unseen Tears Of The Albacore (03:11)
13. My Brother Is Gay (02:33)
14. Lord Of The Dance (03:11)
15. Count To Ten (02:40)

Total Length: 41:30

43210-1 is a pretty fun track that I honestly don’t entirely like. It’s neat to listen and pretty good live but when I think about the song I never actively want to listen to it. It’s a weird thing to think of and to try and explain. Appreciate My Honesty is a much better song though, with an infectious main riff and humorous lyrics that are great to sing along to. I’m Becoming You has a fun chorus but I really don’t like the sections with the slower tempo and vocals with effects.

Disproportioned Head has silly lyrics but I really enjoy the main riff. Soccer Mom is a bit more poppy than their usual stuff, but it’s still pretty good and I enjoy the sentiments in the song. We’ll All Get Laid is a short cool song. I’m not fond of the lyrics but the music is good. Little Weirdo has some good ideas, I don’t mind the band trying to add some synths but the rest of the song doesn’t really live up to it.

I Can’t Wait is a great track though, just makes you want to sing along to everything. The Vandals are pretty good at doing that. For being known as a comedy punk band, they are also pretty good at softer songs, like with Where’s Your Dignity? Dave’s vocals work really well and this song actually does affect me a bit. My Brain Tells My Body is another sing-along track, except this time you want to sing along to the instruments as well, as performed in the song. Great track.

When I Say You I Mean Me kind of feels like standard pop-punk but I really like the song for some reason. The Unseen Tears Of The Albacore is a great parody song. It’s good musically and the lyrics are making fun of plea songs and social ’causes’. My Brother Is Gay is alright. It’s neither good nor bad. Lord Of The Dance has some cool musical ideas but the lyrics do nothing for me.

Count To Ten is a pretty fantastic ending song though, it has everything perfect for the band. This is probably one of the band’s most ‘poppy’ albums and so the overall quality is down a bit. I’m also really not fond of the mastering. It has some amazing songs on here though, so I do enjoy listening to those. Also kind of weird to think that this is technically the second latest album from the band even though it came out a decade ago. Wish they would put out new stuff.

Final Rating: 7/10

October 24, 2012

Album 0143: The Devin Townsend Project – Ghost

Release Date: 2011
Genre: Progressive Rock/Ambient

Tracklisting:

1. Fly (04:14)
2. Heart Baby (05:55)
3. Feather (11:30)
4. Kawaii (02:52)
5. Ghost (06:24)
6. Blackberry (04:53)
7. Monsoon (04:37)
8. Dark Matters (01:57)
9. Texada (09:30)
10. Seams (04:04)
11. Infinite Ocean (08:01)
12. As You Were (08:47)

Total Length: 01:12:44

Fly completely sets the tone for the album. It’s relaxed and calm, and presents no pressure. It’s all beauty. The woodwinds are gorgeous and Devin’s vocals work wonders. Heart Baby kind of has a bad placement, it’s in between two fantastic songs. It is good in its own right, but I really can’t help while listening to it to just think of what’s coming next. Feather is the standout track of this album, it’s what convinced to really like this album in the first place (what can I say, the idea of Devin doing a new age album didn’t appeal to me at first) and is incredibly gorgeous. It’s probably one of the most uplifting pieces of modern music I’ve heard.

Kawaii is a nice little song with a cool vocal line but that is all of it that really sticks with me. Ghost has a slow intro, but I really love when the guitar and drums come in. It’s so happy and poppy and the complete opposite of what you would expect from the song title. Sadly I usually forget about this song, but I think that is changing. Blackberry is more folky, in the Americana sense. This sets it apart and is pretty good on its own, but the real gold standard this song sets is the unbelievably amazing feat of Devin managing to put some slightly harsh vocals in this song. I didn’t think I was really hearing this the first time, it’s incredible.

Monsoon is entirely instrumental, and actually has some pretty cool stuff. A nice piece to listen through. Dark Matters has some cool keyboards but I don’t really get its existence otherwise. Texada however uses the same type of neat keyboard and synth sounds to greater effect, so I like it a ton more. Seams is fairly good, there’s really not too much I can say about it.

Infinite Ocean seems to have a title referencing some of Devin’s past works, but I’m not familiar enough with those to know if it musically as well. Pretty relaxing track, though it feels like it goes on a bit long. As You Were is some of the same. It brings the acoustic guitar back but I honestly feel like the album loses all momentum here right at the end. Even ending with Seams would have been better. These aren’t bad tracks, but they aren’t anywhere near up to par with the rest of the album. That said, I expected to like this album of the four the least, and that is definitely not the case. When things are good on here they are ridiculously good.

Final Rating: 8/10

October 23, 2012

Album 0142: The Devin Townsend Project – Deconstruction

Release Date: 2011
Genre: Progressive Metal

Tracklisting:

1. Praise The Lowered (05:58)
2. Stand (09:36)
3. Juular (03:46)
4. Planet Of The Apes (10:59)
5. Sumeria (06:37)
6. The Mighty Masturbator (16:28)
7. Pandemic (03:29)
8. Deconstruction (09:27)
9. Poltergeist (04:25)

Total Length: 01:10:44

Praise The Lowered can be considered a big, longer intro track. It’s a slow fizz to the heavier part, getting you prepared for the album in full. For this album, the style is a bit more on the extreme end. It’s not all fast and heavy, but there is a bit of a darker undertone throughout the entire album (interspersed with bits of lightheartedness). Stand is in the same vein, with a slower beginning that unfurls into some really infectious vocals. It also brings in the orchestra and choir for the first time, creating an entirely new atmosphere.

Juular is the first all heavy track. Just a constant beat, kind of like a train (thanks to imagery from the music video) and guest vocals pretty much keep this song always playing in the head. Just a fantastic track. Planet Of The Apes is a large song, that starts off with another vocal line that sticks with you. Has some other neat moments but after a certain point it does feel like it drags on a bit. I really appreciate the very brief reference to Awake!!! near the end of the track though.

Sumeria has a decent heavy first half, but I actually like the calmer second half. The Mighty Masturbator is a big, big track and has a lot of stuff going on. The intro is a very cool slice of Devin’s style, it’s pretty much perfect. After a slight bit of comedy we get an insanely cool section that is heavy on the instrumental fun. Suddenly we get a more electronic section with Devin acting like an announcer. It’s neat at first but goes on a bit long. Most of the last chunk of the song is fairly good, but I really do like the ‘circus’ vibe of the ending, even if the comedic stuff doesn’t entirely work for me.

Pandemic is decent, it’s pretty heavy and chaotic and I want to like it but it’s just too much for me. Deconstruction starts off with some more bad comedy, but the music is good once it starts. Fairly good track overall. Poltergeist is fairly good but the ending is a bit sudden. I really wanted to love this album, it sounded exactly like what I wanted from Devin based on what I had heard so far, but it really doesn’t click with me too much out of select moments. This is kind of the album that convinced me that the four DTP albums are a cool experiment, but I’d rather have him mix everything together.

Final Rating: 8/10

October 22, 2012

Album 0141: The Devin Townsend Project – Addicted

Release Date: 2009
Genre: Progressive Metal

Tracklisting:

1. Addicted! (05:36)
2. Universe In A Ball! (04:08)
3. Bend It Like Bender! (03:35)
4. Supercrush! (05:11)
5. Hyperdrive! (03:34)
6. Resolve! (03:11)
7. Ih-Ah! (03:44)
8. The Way Home! (03:13)
9. Numbered! (04:54)
10. Awake!!! (09:44)

Total Length: 46:49

Addicted! is kind of a misleading intro for the album, as this one is the ‘pop’ album with more commercial-type metal songs. Honestly my least favorite tracks on here are probably the first two. This one does have a cool bit that references the last track so it’s something you can only catch once you’ve heard the album a few times. I do also really like the guitar solo. Universe In A Ball! feels a bit repetitive but I don’t entirely mind it.

Bend It Like Bender! is fantastic, it’s the first real taste of fun on this album and Devin varies up the vocals a bit more. Supercrush! really focuses on the female vocals here, after appearing for the first time in the previous track. Pretty good song but what really sticks with me is near the end, the repetition of “You left me to die” and this is when I really feel the album steps up its game even more.

Hyperdrive! is a cover of the same track from Devin’s previous album, Ziltoid, and this time the lead vocals are by Anneke and it’s played in a different key. This made it really jarring the first time I heard it after being so in love with the original, but this one has grown on me and it makes hearing the original weird now. Resolve! is kind of odd and forgettable but I never forget listening to it. For me it is more the placeholder between the two halves of the album.

Ih-Ah! immediately goes into something a little more laid back and I absolutely love it. I cannot help but sing along with the chorus. The Way Home! is also a ton of fun, and a perfect example of how amazing Devin’s production is and how much it helps his work. In all honesty, this song would be good but not half as gripping without the amazing engineering and production. Numbered! is a bit of calm before the storm in my opinion. Still a heavy track but it doesn’t try to be fast or too crazy, it’s kind of lulling in a good way.

Awake!!! is the real masterpiece of the album, and makes the entire album worth listening to. The other tracks are good, but it’s all built up to this and it is so worth it. Devin’s soaring vocals are some of my favorite ever, and everything is brilliant. The album has been pretty non-stop so the long outro helps fade you out and calm you down. I really love this album, and just like Ki it took me a couple spins before I understood what Devin was trying to portray here. The focus here due to him splitting up the four albums works fantastically.

Final Rating: 9/10