Earth – Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II

Earth
Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II

Southern Lord

At this stage in their career, there’s been so many words used to describe Earth’s ever changing sound that there’s pretty much no more superlatives available to describe them. So we’ll keep it simple and describe new album ‘Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II‘ for what it is. Recorded at the same time as part I, ‘Angels II‘ sees Earth supplying yet more lush riff-orientated sonic soundscapes, continuing down the drone desert blues path forged since their reinvention by mainman Dylan Carlson seven years ago now.

Setting the scene with ‘Sigil of Brass’, ‘Angels II‘ is another slice of Morricone-tinged compositions, led as ever by the timeless Carlson. Lori Goldston turns in another impressive performance, and her work on the cello is particularly notable, especially on ‘Multiplicity of Doors’, a thirteen-minute doozy where she takes centre stage. Goldston is always noticeable but never overpowering, remaining the ideal foil to Carlson’s guitar and perfect for the setting Earth seek to project. Where drummer Adrienne Davies is in the picture, she too sets the tone with elegant percussion scattered across this track and selectively across the album.Ultimately one of the highlights has to be ‘The Rakehell’, an incredible slow jam with a cracking groove throughout that would make for a fantastic bluesy number if the pace was quickened.

That said, as with any Earth album, you really need to listen to it as a whole to fully realise its majesty. Doing so will allow you, the listener, to immerse yourself in its riches time and again. It doesn’t quite top its predecessor but its a recommended record nonetheless, and I suspect you still won’t find many better this year.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II‘ here 

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Shining – Live Blackjazz

Shining
Live Blackjazz
Indie
Without question, Shining (NOR) were one of 2010’s top emerging bands. Although they began in 1999 (as a jazz quartet), and later embraced metal fully with 2005’s ‘In The Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster’, 2010 was the year that, for me, they truly impacted with the imperious ‘Blackjazz’. Melding black metal, jazz and more in a more intense fashion than ever before, Shining landed themselves in many people’s top albums of 2010 list way before the year had even ended. It was strange, malevolent, gonzoid and somehow cohesive.
Live Blackjazz’ isn’t a performance of that album in full, although the bulk of material from the album is present here. It compiles a full Shining performance comprising of material from that album plus older albums including ‘Kitsch’, and manages to do the rare job of doing what most live albums simply cannot, which is capture the raw, volatile energy of a band at the peak of their game. None of the craziness that manifested the studio album of the same name is lost, with frontman/saxophonist Jørgen Munkeby still screaming the ‘one three seven five’ out of ‘Fisheye’ and sounding nothing short of on the edge on the likes of ‘Madness and the Damage Done’ and ‘Exit Sun’. The closing cover of King Crimson’s ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’ is just as apocalyptic as it was on ‘Blackjazz’, enhanced by its domineering live presence
If you haven’t yet checked out Shining then you really owe it to yourself to immerse yourself right away into one of the most original bands of our time. Rarely does metal lend itself to diversity as much as it does with Shining, and without question this is an opportunity to grab with both hands and ears.

Peter Clegg

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Mike Patton – The Solitude of Prime Numbers

Mike Patton
The Solitude of Prime Numbers
Ipecac

The ever unpredictable Mike Patton throws yet another curveball at us with the release of ‘The Solitude of Prime Numbers’, a musical score to the film of the same name (2010’s La Solitudine dei Numeri Primi). The film (based on the book of the same name) applied the theory of twin primes – numbers that differ from another prime number by two. Having not seen the film yet, I’m not in a position to judge how well it applies to the silver screen, but Patton makes the theory work well here in a musical sense.

Each musical track is sequenced by Patton according to prime numbers – so therefore, only 2, 3, 5, 7…all the way to 53 feature musical content, the remaining tracks between filled with four seconds of silence or a slight overrun from the previous track. Patton himself is largely absent vocally, only bookending the album with some ‘la la la la’s’ to open and conclude. Instead, its down to the musical arrangement to carry the album’s concept and the lonely listener on a distant journey. The general mood of the songs runs anywhere from ominous and unsettling (’11 – Cicatrix’ being one example) to dream state (’19 – Radius of Convergence’) and simply beautiful (’29 – The Snow Angel’). Ultimately though, the music shouldn’t be dissected – the album must be listened to all the way through as a whole, to ensure you capture every mood and emotion going through the music.

Conventional rock or metal fans probably won’t buy into this due to its abstract nature and admittedly it will appeal more to the art masses. But Patton has scored this film incredibly well, much likes his previous work on ‘A Perfect Place‘ and on ‘Crank 2: High Voltage‘. It’s an excellent slab of modern classical music from the man of many guises. Needless to say, I found this an excellent diversion from the daily shredding, blasting and growling of metal, and indeed of the daily grind, as I made my daily, long commute home. An excellent companion, particularly within the loneliness of nightfall.

Peter Clegg

Lou Reed & Metallica – Lulu

Lou Reed & Metallica

Lulu

Warner Bros/Vertigo

Before I start, it should be noted that ‘Lulu‘, the much discussed Lou Reed and Metallica collaboration, is that its not a Lou Reed record, or a Metallica record – its a collaboration. A team effort. Expect it to be different. A lot of people can’t get their head round that little fact, spouting outrage on par with the daily affront from the Daily Mail. With that in mind, I made sure I went into this with a blank slate. Yes, I’m a Metallica fan. No, I’m not a massive Lou Reed fan. But I’m open to change and I really wanted to give this record a chance to see if ‘Lulu‘ was the furore. If you’re genuinely interested, then give it a spin and see if it floats your boat. Just don’t expect ‘Ride The Lightning‘.

Despite my enthusiasm in approaching it in this light, post listen, that enthusiasm no longer remains. For though I can applaud particularly Metallica’s endeavour in creating a record vastly different in scope and approach to all previous efforts, it was doomed to fail and that sadly is reflected in a large proportion of the end product.

Ironically, the first thing I noticed was despite this being a collaboration, Metallica really don’t stand out often enough.Yes, musically they contribute the majority, but Reed gets the lion’s share of vocals above James Hetfield. Largely, this entails in Reed taking either a spoken word approach, or singing in a low croon. The problem here is that most of the time, the two don’t go together, an imbalance skewed in favour of the vocals that serves only to emphasise, rather than compliment, the differences in each artist’s styles.

The real fatal flaw of ‘Lulu‘, however, is its meandering nature. The lengthier songs in particular fall prey to repetition, whether through the riffs or Reed’s lyrics, which he sometimes rambles through again and again and again. This becomes woefully apparent on the largely forgettable second CD, which essentially becomes the Lou Reed show completely, bar one or two decent riffs. ‘Junior Dad’, the closing track, is particularly culpable, the longest track by some stretch due to an unnecessarily long outro which follows an equally uninteresting song overall. And yes, the lyrics are somewhat perplexing as well, although personally there’s more to be concerned about than Hetfield’s soon-to-be-infamous ‘I am the table!’ moment during ‘The View’. I understand this is an art concept – based on two plays by German playwright Frank Wedekind – but it just strikes me as bizarre and nothing you can really get your head into without really wondering what’s going through Lou’s head?

Occasionally though, there are some cracking moments to be had. These don’t often translate into full songs, but it’s not the disasterfest everyone would have you believe. Often its down to Metallica to provide this initiative, and while they aren’t the greatest things they’ve come up with, they do turn up some mighty riffs (‘Brandenburg Gate’, ‘The View’ and ‘Dragon’ to name a few instances). In fact, I’d go as far to say now the former two, now they’ve had time to bed in, aren’t half bad – although it helps that Hetfield gets a look in and that Reed’s diatribe is a little more shackled within the time limit of each song. There’s even a sense that the melodies between Reed and Metallica can work, judging from ‘Iced Honey’, which is as straightforward as the album gets, although too a little repetitive.

The bottom line though, is that there’s far too much in the way of glaring misjudgements to save it from its eventual fate. I can happily say I gave ‘Lulu‘ a fair crack, but it’s not an album I’m willing to ever go back to. If its pretentiousness doesn’t get you, the repetitiveness and sheer length of the album will. It could have been confined to one CD, particularly considering how long they stretch out some of the songs. The lengthier ones in particular take far too long to get going and even then, it’s more of a threat than something they actually deliver on. And of course, it’s a combination that works as well as a chocolate teapot.

Lou Reed and Metallica really won’t care what you or I think in that regard, and at the end of the day, they’ll still go back to their day jobs with those solo reputations intact. Some avenues are worth exploring. This one wasn’t.

Peter Clegg