20 October 2011

A couple of reviews

It's been a busy week/month/year, so this week I'm not going to get around to writing anything new for the blog. What you get instead is a couple of previously unpublished reviews of albums that I've really been enjoying lately.  They're two completely different and contrasting albums, so hopefully at least one will appeal to your discerning musical tastes.

Heard these albums yet?  What did you think of them? What new music have you been listening to?  Drop a comment below and let me know all about it.

Today is the Day is the sound of a tortured soul.  Not some starving artist that paints the sort of picture that people look at and go “he’s got a tortured soul”; it’s actually the sound of a real human soul being tortured.

Their last album, Axis of Eden, was 29 minutes of blast beats, a guitar buzz like a chainsaw cutting through bone, and frontman Steve Austin screaming like someone had set him on fire.  Disturbing stuff, so it’s a relief to see them return with a more melodic sound, forgoing the experimentation of the past to deliver 9 strong tracks that range from punishing to surprisingly emotional.

Pain is a Warning is their 9th studio album and is almost a return to the sound of their 1999 breakthrough In the Eyes of God.  Almost, because two thirds of the band are different (the line up tends to change from album to album, with Steve Austin being the constant and the sick mind behind the band).  Where the earlier release had Mastodon’s Bill Kelliher and Brann Dailor forming the rhythm section, this new recording sees Wetnurse’s Ryan Jones and Curran Reynolds recruited to the roles.

While the album has the intensity of previous TITD releases, it also manages to surprise with the diversity of songs.  Sure, Steve Austin is still a pained, angry man but he also shows a softer side here, a side we haven’t really seen much of since 1997s Temple of the Morning Star, although it did pop up briefly at the end of In the Eyes of God.  This is You, the penultimate track, best showcases this and has an almost melancholy alt-country feel that really shows off Austin’s songwriting and voice, before the album closes with Samurai as a perfect counterpoint to This is You.

The album is available dirt cheap through iTunes, or in stores for the usual CD import prices and if you think your mental state is strong enough to handle it, I recommend you hunt out a copy.

Royce da 5’9” either knew he was onto a good thing when he called his latest album Success is Certain, or he’s one arrogant mofo.  I’m hoping it’s the former, because he deserves some recognition after 9 albums and nearly 10 years in the hip hop game.

In that time he’s worked frequently with other MCs who have gone onto big things, most notable Eminem, but until now success has eluded him.

This album starts huge with the track Legendary where he proclaims that this time around is starting to feel easy, my enemies startin’ to fall down” before announcing that he is, in fact, legendary.  And that’s probably not too far from the truth when you look at his longevity outside mainstream hip hop.

The sound on this album is great and the songs are mostly full of nice fat beats that work well with his style of rapid delivery and boastful claims (on Legendary he announces that “God melted a Rubic’s cube into fluid and threw it into my intuitive brain”; he’s always been more about his own skill and intelligence than your average MC).

Emimen makes a guest appearance, on Writers Block, but, smartly, only sings the intro and hook, very much taking a back seat to Royce’s verses while perhaps lending some pulling power.

Unlike some of his previous albums, 2002’s Death is Certain in particular, this has a positive, uplifting feel to it, almost as though he’s managed to convince himself that this is finally his masterpiece, his ticket to the big time.   I hope that his prediction comes true because an artist of his skill deserves to succeed.

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