Archive for Mick Birchall

BillyBio – Feed The Fire

Posted in CD, Metal, Punk Rock with tags , , , , , , , on 8th December 2018 by mickbirchy

BillyBio

Feed The Fire

Thrash Metal, Rapcore, Hardcore Punk

Released: 30th November 2018

via AFM Records

 

It’s really cool being able to listen to the new project from the frontman of Biohazard, Billy Graziadei. Going under the new name BillyBio, he has released the new record Feed the Fire and I have to say it’s pretty good. I was interested to listen to this right off of the bat as I am a big fan of Biohazard and I’ve always like their mix of thrash metal, punk and rap metal. So, I wanted to hear what Billy could do on his own. This record is an interesting listen, it’s fast pace, heavy and filled with political statements. It’s clear Billy is a great songwriter and I have always appreciated him as a musician.

I like the production and the overall sound of the record. Right from the first song, the album hits you in the face with a blast of heavy guitars, bass and drums & the forceful presence of Graziadei. There are lots of moments on the record that get you amped up and raring for more. My particular favourite song in this regard is “Generation Z”. Which, along with the intensity, it has a catchy chorus. Everything presented here hits hard and fast. The general writing quality on display is great with Graziadei throwing in rap verses over thrash metal tones and it all fits together so well.

Although, the problem I have with the album is the guitar tone. It’s pretty much the same all the way and it can feel a little samey, hearing the same tone over and over again. It makes the album drag just a little bit. It just grinds away and that can get just a little boring here and there. Even though all of the songs are short and sweet, the never-changing tone just makes it feel like it’s longer than it really is. Only a few songs ended up sticking with me and that because of the great hooks and choruses.

So, I am a little mixed when it comes to this album. There are some really good songs when you take them individually but they just become one long mesh when put together on an album. So the album doesn’t really work as a cohesive whole. There is a lot to like, the strong social commentary, the harsh guitars and the commanding bass and drums. Billy is a fantastic frontman and his personality is what sells the album for me. If this was made by a band that didn’t know how to make these elements work it would just be so weak. Yet, Graziadei can take all these elements and throw them together to make a decent album. He’s such a forceful presence, you have to pay attention to him at the end of the day. It’s definitely worth picking up, though I wouldn’t advise sitting through it in one go.

3/5

Mick Birchall.

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Sky Empire – The Dark Tower

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , on 20th November 2018 by mickbirchy

Sky Empire

The Dark Tower

Progressive Metal, Groove Rock

Released: 26th September 2018

via The Rock Company

I know I don’t cover progressive metal all that often. It’s just not a genre that captivates me in the right way. Sometimes a band comes along that can change your perception on a certain style of music. I will admit, I didn’t know all that much about Sky Empire before now and I don’t know too many people that do. Their debut album, The Dark Tower is pretty enjoyable. Mixing well-executed music with impactful story-telling, they have managed to create a fairly decent debut album. The band straddle the line between dynamic and creative instrumental prog-rock and more classic rock standards. It’s quite an interesting listening experience to be fair.

Right from the first song “Marionette” you get a sense of what to expect from the album. Multiple instrumental parts flowing into each other, dynamic musical parts and an intricate atmosphere. It all comes through quite well, musically. The technical ability on display is certainly impressive. I am amazed by how it all comes together. The production is pretty much on point, making sure every member of the band gets their licks in, and also providing a great balance between the excellent guitar and keyboard solos. All the while, the drums keep the creative pace going. I have to admit, I’m not a fan of the vocal performance as it doesn’t really match the music here. He has a well-toned voice, I can’t think of any flubbed notes or anything, but it just doesn’t work for me personally. The rough and deep tone never really fits in with the style. Also, when he tries to hit the higher notes it sounds like he’s straining his voice.

Whilst everything here is certainly impressive, and it is, there’s nothing that really sticks to my imagination. There are prog bands that really stick in my head and there are ones that don’t. Sky Empire, sadly fall into the latter. I appreciate the musicianship on display and I respect the multiple parts, the rising and falling tone and the solos… Yes, it’s all so glorious. However, it’s not something that I think I would choose to return to, and I listen to bands like Iron Butterfly and Ex Libris for fun. There just needs to be more polish to the presentation and the overall style.

It’s a decent record and they’re clearly talented. As I’ve mentioned, the musicianship is out of this world. The album certainly has its rough spots as well, with the drums feeling a little muted here and there and the aforementioned issues I have with the vocals. There are some things they do incredibly well, such as the riff and solo work, building an atmospheric tone and keeping a tight performance through multiple (and often frenetic) parts. I just would have liked to have heard a little more polish in the production. I liked the time I spent with the record but I have no real desire to return to it.

2/5

Mick Birchall

DC4 – Atomic Highway

Posted in Alternative, CD, Metal, Rock with tags , , , , , , , , , on 22nd October 2018 by mickbirchy

DC4

Atomic Highway

Hard Rock, Classic Rock

Released: 21 September 2018

via Highvol Music

With over 40 releases under their belts combined, it’s really easy to expect a lot from these bonified legends of the industry. DC4 are a supergroup formed by brothers, Jeff, Shawn & Matt Duncan with their brother-in-metal Rowen Robertson, who between them have appeared in such bands as Armored Saint, Odin, Killer Bee & the legendary Dio. So their rock n roll pedigree is far from in question. We know they can do the job. The question is this, are they any good? My answer, in a word, yes. It’s all the great aspects of classic hard rock and none of the fluff. Their new record, Atomic Highway is an enjoyable experience that will get any rocker’s mojo going. If the talent on display didn’t impress you, then know that Bill Metoyer produced and mastered the record. With bands like Slayer, Suicidal Tendencies, Corrosion of Conformity and the aforementioned Armored Saint under his belt. You can bet the album is going to sound as good as it can possibly be.

This album gives you everything you expect. Powerful riffs, gut-busting solos, commanding vocals and grooves for days. The band sounds so good, with strong songwriting and well-executed performances all around. It’s amazing how this automatically feels like a classic record with those familiar guitar sounds that you could swear you’ve heard before. The band just rides the groovy riffs and then go wild during the solos, whilst still maintaining that great control of the rhythm. No one member feels more important than the other, everyone plays their part beautifully. Sure, the rock style may be formulaic, but at this point, it’s a tried and tested formula of rock n roll and it guarantees that people keep listening and enjoy the songs. The impressive guitar solos are what sell this record for me. When the guitar is let loose, I can feel goosebumps shiver through my body. The precision and skill, blended with a wonderful rhythm section make the solos pop and really stand out.

Jeff Duncan’s vocal performance is great as well. He has a dynamic singing voice that ranges from powerful with a rough edge, to tender and well toned. When he sings, his voice sores above the production. The music matching the lyrical subjects really well and the squealing guitar contracts well against his vocal style. I really don’t think there is a dull moment of the album. A real shock for me came with their unique cover of The Who’s “Baba O’Reily”. Although it’s not a flawless cover version, this song is a beloved favourite of mine. So anytime I get to hear it, a smile comes to my face. It also comes with cameo appearances from Guns ‘N’ Roses’ Dizzy Reed on the keyboard and John Bush (Anthrax, Armored Saint) on guest vocals. So that was pleasant and made the song more whole then if the band just tried to do it outright.

In all honesty, you get what you pay for with this record. It’s meat and potatoes rock n roll. If you love your classic rock and that old school flair, then this is for you. As a kid who grew up thumbing through his dad’s old albums, this album is right up my alley. It’s familiar and new in all the right ways. It doesn’t beat you over the head with nostalgia. It simply feels like a record right out of the past with newer production. Atomic Highway is a solid album that will please people who love unapologetic rock music. Let me tell you, I’m having a ball listening to this record.

4/5

Mick Birchall

Browsing Collection – Don’t Want To Dance (EP)

Posted in CD, Metal, Punk Rock with tags , , , , , , , on 18th October 2018 by mickbirchy

Browsing Collection

Don’t Want To Dance (EP)

Hard Rock, Alternative Metal

Released 26 October 2018

via Record Union

Sweden is such a hotbed for great rock and metal music. There just seems to be no end to the great bands I get to talk about from there. A new band for me, hailing from Skövde, are Browsing Collection. A punk rock band that hits you with the force of a heavy metal outfit. These four ladies are out to claim the world of hard rock for their own. Their new EP, Don’t Want To Dance, is certainly an attention-getter. Their metal influenced punk rock immediately grabs you and leaves you breathless. It all sounds so glorious. It’s honestly been a while since a band has grabbed my attention so immediately.

The EP opens on the tune “One Time A Year” an energetic song with lots of hype and an emphatic chorus that get the hard juices flowing. That energy flows through this EP like a surge of power. It’s the kind of song that gives that kick to get you up and moving. The next single from the band is “Something To Hold On To”. This is more of a party rock anthem and keeps that sense of intensity with its well-executed guitar lines and invigorating chorus. The EP just has a great sound and the band keep up an amazing energy throughout. Other songs I lie would be “Thank God It’s Friday” for it big sound and hard-hitting guitar, also, “Hi but No” is a great tune that shows the bands charisma and personality.

The production is outstanding with every instrument coming through loud and clear. These girls know how to make rock music sound so good, with an impactful and commanding presence that demands your attention. Their music has a big anthemic quality that’s great to sing along to. If I was getting ready for a night out this would be the music that would be blasting to get me hyped. Their riffs are kickass, their sound is tight and consistent with loads of energy and creativity. I have been listening to all of their releases on Spotify as well, let me tell you now, you need this band in your life a.s.a.p.

5/5

Mick Birchall

Alice In Chains – Rainer Fog

Posted in CD, Metal, Rock with tags , , , , , on 16th September 2018 by mickbirchy

Alice In Chains
Rainer Fog
Grunge, Alternative Metal, Stoner Rock
Released: 24 August 2018
via BMG Records

The grunge rock icons, Alice In Chains return with their sixth studio album, Rainer Fog. They’ve always been one of those bands for me that I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with. I think they’ve had some amazing songs over the years and their influence is certainly felt across the world of rock music. Yet, I don’t think I’ve ever really enjoyed a full album from them, I like a few songs but never a full record. So, when I got the chance to check out their new album, I was curious to have a listen. This album is the third album with William DuVall as lead vocalist sharing vocals duties with Jerry Cantrell, and the first Alice in Chains album in 22 years to be recorded in their hometown of Seattle. The album’s title was inspired by Mount Rainier, a volcano that overlooks the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area.

Straight away the grunge tone takes over with sharp heavy blasts of the guitar as the opening tune “The One You Know”. The riffs are heavy and have that chugging tone. A lot of bass and the drum hits come through sharp. From a production standpoint, they sound excellent with a great balance and a clear tone. I will say they have a lot of strong hooks that keep you listening. There are moments of the album that just get stuck in your head. Also, the weird vocal effect is so strange to my ears it gets lodged in my brain. The dueling vocals between DuVall and Cantrell creates some very nice moments of harmony. Even the weirder moments from a musical perspective are save by the harmony. Like on the track “Fly”. A song that sounds like it was cut and pasted straight from the nineties.

Musically, Rainer Fog has some particularly strong tunes. The title track is great as it has that old-school Seattle grunge feel injected into it. Also, I really like “So Far Under” with it’s Sabbath-esk riff and bass tone that hits you right in the gut. However, I can’t stand up for the whole thing. A lot of the album feels like filler from previous Alice In Chains albums and it might as well be white noise to me. It has interesting ideas but for the most part it does nothing super interesting with them. It sounds fine and if you’re in to Alice In Chains you’re probably used to the hit and miss songwriting. For me though, there are just long stretches of the album that either don’t pack enough punch like on “Red Giant” or feels like it’s there to just take up space on the album such as “Drones”.

Yet again, Alice In Chains just makes an okay album. Nothing bad just nothing that really gets me going. It’s produced well but lacks a lot of imagination and feels like a band that’s just stuck, spinning their wheels. There are some great songs here and ones I really liked, with strong riffs and hooks. Others, where just long windy tunes that didn’t go anywhere. If you’re really into Alice In Chains and the Seattle scene then… well, you’ve probably already got it.

2.5/5

Mick Birchall

Soul Desire – Ignite

Posted in Alternative, CD, Rock with tags , , , , , on 1st August 2018 by mickbirchy

Soul Desire
Ignite
Hard Rock, Alternative Rock
Released 13 July 2018
Self Released



I was quite interested to listen to Soul Desire. Formed this year, and already armed with an exciting and well-executed EP. I can’t say I knew much about their previous band, One Last Run, so I’m not really going to touch that. However, Ignite is the first taste that we’ve got from Becky Jade (Vocals), Rob Leach (Guitar) & Chris Smith (Bass) in this new project and I am thoroughly impressed. The sound is good, the melodies are catchy, the lyrics are well written all leading to a great debut for them.

The album opens with their lead-in single, “Rapture” and it automatically sets the tone for the EP, which is rocking hard and clearly enjoying it. I like the sound of the guitars and the bass which chug away and the riff is a great one to open with. It really feels like that sound that I have been listening to for a long time, with bands like Papa Roach, Skarlett Riot and Firewind. So points there and the same can be said across the EP. It has that really clear and defined tone that just punches you right in the gut. Also, the songs “Dark Light” and “Ignite” were brilliant headbangers as well. From the production standpoint, this album is great to listen to and catches the ear just right.

My only problem with the EP is that it reminds me too much of other bands out there. In all honesty, there’s not much in this genre anymore that you can make original without co-opting other musical influences. Whilst the lead vocalist, Becky Jade, certainly brings her own charm, energy and personality to the music, the overall sound is something I’ve heard a lot of. Not so much a problem with the band it’s more the genre itself. However, they do suffer from it. I would have liked some other musical ideas or just something to put meat on the bare bones. Maybe some backing tracks, electronics or other instrumentation, but that’s just me spitballing.

I will admit it’s a fine EP. It has some very strong production and beautiful lyrics. I particularly liked the ballad “Falling Apart”, it broke up the EP and showed that they’re not just a one trick pony. I would definitely like to hear more from them as they’re very talented musicians. I also would really be interested in hearing them in a live setting. Ultimately I’m giving this EP a thumbs up. If you’re into you alternative hard rock then I would recommend giving them a listen.

3.5/5

Mick Birchall

DevilDriver – Outlaws ‘Till The End

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , on 18th July 2018 by mickbirchy

DevilDriver

Outlaws ‘Till The End, Vol 1.

Groove Metal, Melodic Death Metal

Released: 6th July 2018

via Napalm Records



This album is an amazing concept and something I kind of want more of. Judging by the title, we might just get it. DevilDriver, have created an album full of metal covers of classic outlaw country songs. Outlaws ‘Till The End Vol. 1. I’m a huge fan of country and metal music, so this works perfectly for me. Also, this doesn’t feel like a cheap cash-grab. There does seem to be a real effort and passion put into the album. It’s clear from listening to it that DevilDriver has a lot of respect and love for the artists that they’re covering. All of the songs pack a punch straight to the gut and give new life to these songs for a new generation, who may have never encountered them otherwise.

Covering artists like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and The Eagles. They manage to capture the soul of the original songs whilst, at the same time, putting their own mark on the tunes. Giving every song that signature DevilDriver edge that sounds really brutal. Production-wise, the album sounds great. With chugging guitars, well-executed drum work and Dez Fafara screaming his heart out. Producer, Steve Evetts, did a great job putting this project together. Every instrument sounds brilliant and Fafara roars over the top of it all, creating an energetic and fierce sound. Joining DevilDriver on the project is an all-star cast of metal artists: Wednesday 13, Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe and Mark Morton, Lee Ving from FEAR, Glenn Danzig, Brock Lindow of 36 Crazyfists, Testament’s Chuck Billy, and John 5. Who all add that little bit of flavour to an already delicious sound. As well as the metal star power, there’s a cool appearance from country heavyweight, Hank Williams III. Who performs his song “Country Heroes” with DevilDriver.

The songs are already tried, tested and beloved outlaw country songs like “Ghost Riders in the Sky” by Johnny Cash, “Outlaw Man” by The Eagles and “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” by Dwight Yoakam. So as far as the songwriting is concerned, it’s great. It really is the way DevilDriver have re-imagined these songs and made something truly original out of them. Almost turning them into their own songs. The way they take the familiar elements and put their own spin on things is mesmerising and is still enjoyable on the other side.

No doubt this album might be little divisive to some. Fans who might have just wanted more original content from the band may be annoyed by a cover album. Also, country fans may not like the idea of these metal versions, “destroying the original sound”. Yet, I really like the idea here. More importantly, I like the execution and delivery. DevilDriver has made a fun, compelling record that I think people will really enjoy. The existence of the covers doesn’t ruin the originals but continues their legacy by getting new listeners on board. Be that with songs they’ve never heard, in the case of metal fans. Or a genre they’ve never considered, in the case of country fans. Since the title is “Volume 1”  all I can say is when is “Volume 2” coming?

4.5/5

Mick Birchall