Voivod—Killing Technology

 

Last night I drove to Dundee to watch the new Lamb of God documentary ‘As the Palaces Burn‘ I listened to Voivod‘s third album Killing Technology (1986).

Voivod, from Canada, were one of the first metal bands I got into along with Celtic Frost, Metallica and Slayer. Plenty of friends, both then and now, listened to Killing Technology and simply couldn’t understand what I heard in “that noise”.

As I drove north through the cold, dark, wet night beyond St Andrews towards the Tay bridge I was reminded of similar nights as a young teenager growing up in Selkirk in the Scottish Borders trying to make sense of life. This album is now inseparably fused with my memories of those early years. But I suppose it’s not so much sentimentality as thankfulness.

There’s an unpredictability about this album. There’s a boldness and a fragility, that saw me through many an early crisis. This is the music that gave me hope, that no matter how unclear or uncertain I was about how life may turn out it would be an adventure, and that life… LIFE… was bigger and more incredible and wondrous than the small glimpse that I saw as a frightened teenager peering between his fingers in a sleepy Scottish Borders town, wondering if his dad would ever be okay again (he had three brain haemorrhages in 1983), worrying about how his Mum was coping, as well as all the usual teenage stuff (spots, girls, school) and occasionally wishing that he could just escape. And this was one of those albums that helped me do that but remain there at the same time.

I listened to this album in the car last night, in the dark, through the rain and fog, and I remembered listening to it on my personal cassette player back in the late 80s. I remembered walking down Forest Road on a cold and moonless winter’s night, probably having taken our dog Zen for a walk, and I felt thankful. I felt thankful for the love and support that I got from my parents as I grew up. I felt thankful for the group of friends who accepted me as we were trying to figure out how this life thing worked. I felt thankful for the hours of music, on miles of cassette tape, that helped me through it all; music that challenged me, that opened my eyes and ears to ideas beyond my homely little cottage on Forest Road.

I listened to this album in the car last night for the first time in years, and while I acknowledged all of that, that history, I simply marvelled at the genius of this album that I don’t think Voivod ever surpassed on any other album (as brilliant as they also are).

Another bonus is that the production is such that the frequencies don’t get lost amidst the rumble of the road while listening to it in a car!

It’s funny how deeply attached I feel to the third albums of these four bands, my big four:

  • Voivod—Killing Technology (1986)
  • Celtic Frost—Into the Pandemonium (1987)
  • Metallica—Master of Puppets (1986)
  • Slayer—Reign in Blood (1986)

Even now when I listen to it my soul sours, it still makes me smile, it still delights me after all these years, and it still surprises me. This is music that continues to give me life and bring me hope.

For me this is an almost perfect album.

Аркона—Лики бессмертных Богов

This week’s 195 metal CDs offering is by a Russian folk-metal band from Moscow called Arkona (Аркона).

While searching for information about them I discovered this video released in 2010, from their 2009 album Goi, Rode, Goi! (Гой, Роде, Гой!).

It’s a song called ‘Liki Bessmertnykh Bogov’ (‘Лики бессмертных Богов’) which means ‘Faces of immortal gods’. I rather like it.

The song describes a human who has lost his reason for being. With his spirit in vexation, he stands on a crossroad, fearing death and having a wish to flee from the reality. Only the Faith can give him the will to live on.

“With life praying to your native shrines
You are looking into nowhere, in the mist of your dreams
And in this oblivion of the soul, in grey vain life
Will revive in your memory the faces of immortal gods.”

Perhaps one day I’ll finish learning Russian.

My High Fidelity ‘Three EPs’ moment

This morning I stood in front of my CD bookcase pondering what to listen to on my drive to work. “I want something I’ve not listened to in a long time,” I said to myself.

My fingers danced along the top shelf. Alice in Chains? Anthrax? Apocalyptica? Audioslave? Beta Band?

The Beta Band!

More specifically, The Three EPs by The Beta Band. A compilation of the band’s first three releases: Champion VersionsThe Patty Patty Sound, and Los Amigos del Beta Bandidos.

It’s a triple-EP that was probably made most famous through its reference in the film of Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity. (Watch the video above.)

“I will now sell three copies of The Three EPs by The Beta Band”, Rob Gordon (played by John Cusack) whispers to Dick (played by Todd Louiso), as he drops a copy of the CD into the in-store stereo.

The closest I came to experiencing that moment in real life was in February 2003. I was still living in Inverness at the time and had wandered into the HMV store in the shopping centre for a browse.

Having been looking for something interesting-looking in the metal section, I remember suddenly stopping dead in my tracks. I stood perfectly still and listened.

I wandered up to the counter; I was still wearing my black clerical shirt and dog collar as I’d wandered up the high street from the cathedral, where I was serving my curacy.

“Excuse me?” I said to the young lad behind the counter, pointing up towards a speaker above us. “Is that… is that a new Richard Thompson album you’re playing just now?”

He looked at me with a most surprised expression, then grinned, “Yeah! It’s his new album The Old Kit Bag.” It would appear that clergy are not supposed to recognise folk-rock legends.

“It’s great!” I said.

“It is,” he agreed.

“I’ll take a copy, please.”

I do hope he sold another two copies that morning.

NYCGB Alumni concert in London (18 January 2014)

Next weekend I’m going to be singing in a concert in London. (I’m so excited!) It will be the first official meeting of the new National Youth Choirs of Great Britain alumni choir.

The idea is to re-engage with past members of the choir (of which there are well over 1,000), to catch up with one another, make music, and also hopefully raise some money to help existing choir members.

I’ll be tweeting throughout the weekend on @exncygb.

Where: Christ Church, Spitalfields, London
When: Saturday 18 January 2014 at 5.00 pm.

If you’re going to be in London or know someone who would enjoy this informal concert the please email them this flyer: Sing Joyfully—NYCGB Alumni flyer (PDF, 1.02 MB)

Or check out more information, including details of music being sung on the NYCGB concerts and events page.

Sing Joyfully—concert of National Youth Choir of Great Britain alumni, London, 18 January 2014

Sing Joyfully—concert of National Youth Choir of Great Britain alumni, London, 18 January 2014

My albums of 2013

Montage of album covers

This review is a few days late, due to a nasty chest infection that’s been plaguing me from before Christmas.

If I thought that 2012 was a frugal one in terms of album-buying, 2013 was even more so with only 12 albums or EPs added to my collection (and of those 3 were gifted to me).

Much of my music listening during 2013 was focused on my 195 metal CDs project: I acquired 195 CDs via Freecycle and I’ve been trying to review a CD each week.

10. Steve Lawson and Daniel Berkman—Accidentally (On Purpose)

Steve Lawson and Daniel Berkman—Accidentally (On Purpose) (2013)

Steve Lawson and Daniel Berkman—Accidentally (On Purpose) (2013)

www.stevelawson.net

This is an album that I have been guilty of not listening to enough this past year. I suspect it’s because this is music that deserves space and time. It’s a beautiful, atmospheric album that immediately makes me feel as though I have been transported to an enormous enclosed space, somewhere peaceful like a cathedral or the Tate Modern.

This has been a year of increasingly feeling pressured and busier. What might be interesting would be to see if playing this more over the next few months might give me the sense of space that it offers me each time I do listen to it.

Listen and buy on Bandcamp.

9. JJ Hrubovocak—Death Metal Christmas

JJ Hrubovcak—Death Metal Christmas (2013)

JJ Hrubovcak—Death Metal Christmas (2013)

http://deathmetalchristmas.bandcamp.com/album/death-metal-christmas

I reviewed this album on my 195 metal CDs blog. This was my conclusion:

This is clearly a death metal album first and foremost, and a Christmas-themed one second. It is beautifully played, produced, and mixed. If you like death metal then you will love this and will have something to put on over the Christmas break to counter the endless repeats of Slade, Jona Lewie and Cliff Richard.

I gave the album a solid 98%.

8. Metallica—Dehaan at Orion Music, Detriot, MI

Dehaan (Metallica)—Orion Music, Detriot, MI (2013)

Dehaan (Metallica)—Orion Music, Detriot, MI (2013)

livemetallica.com

On 8 June 2013 played a surprise gig at their own Orion Music + More festival in Detroit, MI under the name Dehaan. (Dane DeHaan played the lead character in Metallica’s 2012 film Through The Never.)

2013 marked thirty years of Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All (1983) album. This live recording (available to buy and download from livemetallica.com) is said album played live from start to finish. It’s solid, it’s tight, it’s just as exciting as the original.

You can watch the full gig in HD on YouTube:

7. Amplifier—Echo Street

Amplifier—Echo Street (2013)

Amplifier—Echo Street (2013)

www.amplifiertheband.com

As I’ve no doubt mentioned on this blog before, I first stumbled on Amplifier when they supported Melissa auf der Maur back in 2004, I think. Having decided to avoid the support band we wandered in on the final two or three songs of their set and I loved them, and I’ve bought everything they’ve brought out since.

Echo Street is a gentle, melodic album in the prog genre, but not in a clichéd, ‘muso’ way. I actually think that I prefer this to their critically acclaimed 2010 album The Octopus. It still doesn’t have the excitement and energy of their debut album, though, which for me remains my favourite in their back catalogue.

An honourable mention should also be given to their Sunriders EP, also released in 2013.

6. Ancient VVisdom—Deathlike

Ancient VVisdom—Deathlike (2013)

Ancient VVisdom—Deathlike (2013)

http://ancient-vvisdom.bandcamp.com/

While the lyrics and song themes are a bit too satanic for my liking, I do love the music which might best be described as gothic doom acoustic black-metal.

Having learned to play the guitar on a cheap nylon acoustic guitar—learning mostly rock and metal songs—this album really appeals to me. I love the interplay of electric and acoustic guitars.

This is quite a gentle, melodic album but with quite a dark, melancholic feel to it.

Definitely a band to keep an eye out for.

5. Stone Sour—House of Gold & Bones, Part 2

Stone Sour—House of Gold & Bones, Part 2 (2013)

Stone Sour—House of Gold & Bones, Part 2 (2013)

www.stonesour.com

I’m sure when I review House of Gold & Bones, Part 1 last year I said that I still needed to read through the lyrics to figure out the story behind the album. Unfortunately, that is still the case… and so I’ve now also got this album to read through too. One day… maybe…

What can I say? I love Stone Sour: heavy, melodic, delicate, powerful. What’s not to like, and Splitknot buddies Corey Taylor’s voice and Jim Root’s guitar playing are exquisite.

I’ve not listened to this album enough. It certainly deserves it.

4. Newsted—Metal EP

Newsted—Metal  EP (2013)

Newsted—Metal EP (2013)

http://newstedheavymetal.com

When I saw that Jason Newsted (formerly of Flotsam & Jetsam, Metallica, Echobrain, and Voivod) had a new EP out I was keen but a little apprehensive. I have owned a few of Newsted’s Chophouse Records offerings in the past (IR8 vs Sexoturica and the two Papa Wheelie albums) and I found them quite… rough and unstructured.

But this EP is brilliant. It’s heavy, it’s melodic, the production is fabulous, and Jason’s vocals have never sounded so good.

The only problem is that this EP is just too short. Which leads me nicely on to…

3. Newsted—Heavy Metal

Newsted—Heavy Metal (2013)

Newsted—Heavy Metal (2013)

http://newstedheavymetal.com

When I saw that Jason Newsted (formerly of Flotsam & Jetsam, Metallica, Echobrain, and Voivod) had a new full-length album out I was really excited. His previous EP Metal was fabulous!

Eleven tracks of full-on metal. Newsted is clearly going for a modern take on old school metal with elements of the early days of thrash circa 1983/84. A few of the tracks have leanings towards Metallica’s debut Kill ‘Em All.

I’d love to see Newsted playing this live, and I look forward to hearing more.

Review

2. Fish—A Feast of Consequences

Fish—A Feast of Consequences (2013)

Fish—A Feast of Consequences (2013)

http://fishheadsclub.com

It’s been six years since Fish’s last solo album 13th Star (2007) and he’s certainly returned with a really strong collection of songs, his tenth solo album since leaving Marillion in 1988.

Nestled in the middle of the album is his “High Wood Suite”, which is a sensitive, dare I say beautiful, collection of five songs about the first world war, a war in which both his grandfathers fought.

I bought the deluxe edition which includes a 100-page book, 24-bit FLAC digital download and a ‘making of…’ DVD, which has some touching footage of Fish visiting the locations in France where his grandfathers fought nearly 100 years ago.

A beautiful album. Welcome back Fish!

1. Steven Wilson—The Raven That Refused To Sing (and other stories)

Steven Wilson—The Raven Refused To Sing (2013)

Steven Wilson—The Raven Refused To Sing (2013)

http://stevenwilsonhq.com

I’ve been a fan of Steven Wilson and Porcupine Tree for quite a few years now, and I was keenly awaiting the release of this album, particularly having heard how strong his collaboration with Mikael Åkerfeldt had been in 2012 with Storm Corrosion.

I wasn’t disappointed.

This album has quite a retro 60s/70s feel to it. It’s rock, it’s prog, it’s beautiful and melodic and in places captivating. No more so, I think, than his song “The Watchmaker” which I found myself playing over and over again. It’s a song which is heart-breaking in its beauty and fragility.

An obvious next step, having loved everything I’ve heard of his so far, would be to complete my collection of his music. But… have you seen how much he’s put out?! If I do this review next year will need to be called “My favourite Steve Wilson albums that I listened to in 2014″…

Laibach watercolour

 

laibach-watercolour

The next album I’m reviewing on my 195 metal CDs project is by the Slovenian and former Yugoslav avant-garde / industrial group Laibach, a live album called Volk Tour London CC Club (2007).

I’ve listened to it now a couple of times and while I’m still not entirely convinced by the album, I do rather like this piece of artwork on the inside of the discpak cardboard packaging.

What is it of, though?