A Different Kind of Truth
The last three or four years in Van Valen’s history have been relatively sedate compared to all the rehab, the acrimony, splits, reunions and fights that preceded this later chapter in their career. However tumultuous and public these events have been, Van Halen have not so much bounced back as they have carried on without a care, much like their touring strategy, which seemed focused on their home country. After all the rumours, the will they, won’t theys, have they and haven’t they’s, Van Halen are back with their first album in 14 years, with ultimately defining vocalist David Lee Roth leading the line – the first album he’s recorded with the band since rejoining VH back in 2007.
The first thing to talk about this record is the opening track and lead single, ‘Tattoo’. Quite simply one of the best VH tracks recorded in years, with a simple and funky bass groove from Wolfgang Van Halen, making his recording debut with the band, underpinning a sassy verse which leads into a fantastically catchy refrain of ‘tattoo, tattoo’ that you’ll be singing over and over again for weeks. I’m quite appreciative of that song, and upon first listens, admittedly I was finding trouble in appreciating large parts of the album. But it really opens up on further listens and the album’s quality begins to shine. ‘China Town’ is one example, where drummer Alex injects a little more energy into proceedings. The highlights come and go but there are some outstanding tracks, such as the monstrous-sounding ‘As Is’, one of Van Halen’s heaviest tracks to date, replete with another dazzling Eddie solo and some great bass fretwork from Wolfgang to keep up; ‘Stay Frosty’ is the bastard child of ‘Ice Cream Man’ from their eponymous debut and shows Roth’s lyrical waxing hasn’t diminished one bit, and closer ‘Beats Workin’ is a fine way to end the album with cracking riffs all the way through.
DLR’s voice certainly isn’t what it used to be, now seemingly unable to reach the highest registers, but he still puts in a typically passionate and glitzy performance. Anyone who doubted Wolfgang’s ability or indeed right to fill Michael Anthony’s boots will hopefully be silenced by a more than able performance, though it has to be to keep up with his father’s chops. Still, ‘A Different Kind of Truth‘ probably isn’t going to suit everyone, and no doubt long-time fans of Van Halen will find something they don’t like about the album in greater quantities than I did. The band’s biggest glory days are undoubtedly behind them, but this album has already tasted huge success, and after all the shit rumoured and discussed about them over the last few years, its great that they’ve come back with a pretty good album that still keeps Van Halen relevant in 2012. Still, a UK tour wouldn’t go amiss.
Any regular visitor to our site will know my appreciation for metal-themed cake, especially as I received a Slayer cake on my 27th birthday, so it goes without saying that any well-executed metal cake deserves its due as far as I’m concerned. So when this spot-on creation of an Immortal/Abbath cake started doing the metal newsrounds a few days ago, its only fair that we share it around. Take a bow Jessica Blavatsky of SlaytaniCakes!
Some interesting things to note about Gorlovka:
1. It is one of the largest districts in the Ukraine, home to the city of Donestk.
2. A meteorite fell there in 1974.
3. A good number of the results when searching for ‘Gorlovka’ link to mail order dating/bridal sites. Crikey.
Thankfully, we’re not here to discuss any of those points, or the district in general. In actual fact, we’re here to talk about the beer, Gorlovka Imperial Stout, brewed by the Acorn Brewery in Barnsley, the town which is twinned with Gorlovka and presumably where the ale gets its name from.
The first thing to note as it poured from the bottle into the tankard was its deep colour. It wasn’t the blackest ale I’d ever seen, but this stout certainly packed an intensity within the deep tones bubbling about in the glass. Upon the first sip, I couldn’t fail to be impressed. It had a real roasty flavour to it, one that had me eager to savour it more. The fact it seemed to smoulder at me probably further helped. As I further delved into it, the liquorice tones made their presence felt most welcomely. I think it lasted me close to an hour on this occasion. At 6.0% ABV, its not the strongest ale but it still packs a punch in its own right, below that rich favour.
The Acorn Brewery was established in 2003 by Dave Hughes, a former chef, and his wife Judi, in the village of Wombwell in Barnsley, and pride themselves on using the same yeast strains and the original Barnsley Brewery, which was founded in the 1850’s. They’ve been going strong ever since and are best known for their ‘supremely popular’ Barnsley Bitter, which is widely available and, like most of the brewery’s ales, has won many awards. Today they supply over 300 free trade outlets and 3 national wholesalers.
Sadly, the same can’t be said for our featured ale. Gorlovka Imperial Stout appears to be out of stock through the official brewery website at present, however My Brewery Tap do stock cases of the stuff, as well as gallons of other fine ales from the Acorn Brewery and more. If you live near a UK local produce/specialist shop it might be worth heading down (I found my review bottle in Czerwik’s in Brighouse, as well as a host of potential new candidates for this feature). Grab yourselves a few bottles. You won’t regret it.
Disguised as Birds
This release actually combines two EPs (‘Black Circles‘ and ‘New Demons‘), released in 2011 and 2009 respectively by Milwaukee rock trio Disguised as Birds, but Phratry Records have now put the two together for a vinyl release. Despite their combination, it does still feel slightly like two separate releases podged together, but that’s only a minor complaint.
There seems to be a few influences to these guys – they list acts such as Jawbox, Shipping News and Fugazi amongst their chief inspirations, yet some parts (the opener ‘Black Circles’ for one) sounding like a more expansive Foo Fighters and Torche-like harmonies bundled together. ‘Hayabusas Lament’ is another notable example of this. Other times, there’s a Melvins/Big Business vine, others a lot like the 90’s acts that inspired them. The approach works to great effect, with the band showing they can pull off a range of different songs and not get caught up in simply playing it safe.
The rerelease contains two download-only songs when purchased through Bandcamp, ‘Song About a Gun (Fallen Windows)’ and ‘Just Can’t Hold’, one from each EP session. It might be a reissue but its just as good as anything new these days, and I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if they garnered a little more attention. They certainly have the chops, so it wouldn’t harm you to check them out while they’re still relatively unknown. Get on it. Now.
Note: Cheers to Phratry for the promo copy
So this video has been around a while now, but that’s not going to stop me discussing it. It beats a far cry from other vids that I’ve covered in previous posts, in so much that its just a performance video. But if you ever needed reminding of Van Halen’s effortless cool and swagger, ‘Tattoo’ will leave a permanent mark.
David Lee Roth might have kept the masses waiting for this moment for some time, but from the moment he appears, even wearing a flat cap and devoid of the long blond hair of the golden days, he still has a flamboyant streak in his fancy footwork and suave moves. It feels just like a Van Halen vid from the 70s and 80s, with Eddie Van Halen occasionally leaning round to look into the camera singing ‘Tattoo, tattoo’ with a beaming smile. The feelgood factor is definitely back.
One listen to ‘Tattoo’ and you’ll be hooked. The chorus is real catchy and you’ll probably be back for more. Just drop the sceptic in you. I went out and got the new album, ‘A Different Kind of Truth’, just last week. I hadn’t cared much before but maybe, just maybe, the good times are back.
2012 marks Mark Lanegan’s 27th year in the music business and he shows no signs of slowing down, given his many collaborations with the likes of Soulsavers, The Gutter Twins, Isobel Campbell and more, yet ‘Blues Funeral‘ is the first new album from his solo moniker, the Mark Lanegan Band since 2004’s ‘Bubblegum‘. That effort oozed swagger and cool, but ‘Blues Funeral‘, Lanegan’s seventh solo record. is a little more eclectic, still retaining ‘Bubblegum‘s verve but calling in influences from many of Lanegan’s solo and feature outings.
This broadness in scope means, in comparison to its predecessor, ‘Blues Funeral‘ has a few lengthier songs, venturing past six or seven minutes on a few occasions. It’s a bit of a slow burner, but eventually the Lanegan magic shines through and ‘Blues Funeral‘ is something of a shining record.
Starting with ‘The Gravedigger’s Song’, Lanegan’s recognizable, smoky voice soon appears and guides you through a haunting, memorable number, a feature which repeats the trick of worming into your brain. The album veers from sumptuous slower cuts like ‘Bleeding Muddy Water’ to cooler stompers like ‘Riot in my House’, which wouldn’t feel out of place on The Sopranos or CSI or something, thanks to a sassy riff from Queens of the Stone Age frontman and long time compadre Josh Homme. ‘Ode to Sad Disco’ is almost precisely that, a mellow Lanegan number over a melancholic disco-esque backbeat, while ‘Harborview Hospital’ is perhaps the one of the most beautiful songs you’ll hear all year, shimmering with echoey guitars and some incredible vocals from Lanegan yet again.
They’re just some of the highlights on another masterpiece from Lanegan and co. It might be billed as the Mark Lanegan Band, but its all about Lanegan himself, the singer. Bar the Screaming Trees, where, effective as Lanegan’s vocals then were, the success was more a group effort, his incredible voice affords him complete centre stage time and time again. Like any fine wine, he seems to get better with age, and having listened to it a few times, I can safely say this is among his finest outings. I just wish he’d allow himself centre stage a little more often, but the best vocalists often wait in the shadows – and if Lanegan does retreat from the spotlight for a while again, at least this is a timely reminder of his unique soulful power.