Jonathan Hill Dot EU

A Soapbox for Uninformed Opinions

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Napalm Death Smear Campaign Limited Edition Review

General Information:

Artist: Napalm Death
Album: Smear Campaign (Limited Edition)
Genre(s): Rock
Subgenres(s): Grindcore
Released: 2016
Length: 54 minutes (including bonus tracks)
Language(s): English
Label(s): Century Media

Track List:

01. Weltschmerz
02. Sink Fast, Let Go
03. Fatalist
04. Puritanical Punishment Beating
05. When All is Said and Done
06. Freedom is the Wage of Sin
07. In Deference
08. Short-Lived
09. Identity Crisis
10. Shattered Existence
11. Eyes Right Out
12. Call That an Option? (Bonus Track)
13. Warped Beyond Logic
14. Rabid Wolves (For Christ)
15. Deaf and Dumbstruck (Intelligent Design)
16. Persona Non Grata
17. Smear Campaign
18. Atheist Runt (Bonus Track)

Napalm Death Smear Campaign Limited Edition Cover

Napalm Death Smear Campaign Limited Edition Cover

Napalm Death Smear Campaign Limited Edition Review

Smear Campaign is the twelfth studio album by British grindcore pioneers Napalm Death. While many of their albums from the 1990s to the first half of the 2000s walk the line between death metal and grindcore, the punkish approach to song-writing pushes Smear Campaign further towards the grindcore camp this time around.

Despite the overtly chaotic nature of Smear Campaign, the music is relatively straightforward with the raw intensity coming from the self-described blast beat terrorism drumming of Danny Herrera and the combined guttural performances of lead vocalist Mark “Barney” Greenway and bassist/backing vocalist Shane Embury while Mitch Harris provides feral high pitched shrieks for contrast.

For this reason alone the lyrics are largely undecipherable without having a written copy in front of you for reference. In some ways this is quite a shame because Napalm Death brings a much needed intellectual counter balance to extreme music lyrics which offset the staple diet of guts, gore and cartoonish bellyaching about the woes of the world. Instead they deliver sharp and direct criticism of religion and society, the main themes of Smear Campaign, without the tired and overused approach of most other bands that tackle the subject.

Early on the band addresses the philosophical concept of fatalism, on the song Fatalist no less, to proclaim that “existing becomes a prison where self-discovery’s forbidden”. Since Fatalism is the belief that all actions are predetermined (fated to happen) then there’s no control or changing of any unfolding events. It is then concluded at the end of the song that “any fool starting afresh would surely ditch this/after two-thousand years of schism/only irreligious hearts can do the saving” so as to offer a solution in saying that a new, non-religious train of thought must take hold within society to make progress for the betterment of everyone instead of clinging on to ideologies that were developed thousands of years ago and don’t necessarily apply to modern life.

The theme of societal progress and anti-religion is reinforced with the chorus to When All is Said and Done, which proclaims that “when all is said and done/heaven lies in my heart/no slave to beliefs that propagate pain/when all is said and done/heaven lies in our hearts/this life is a gift to be lived and loved” to reject ideologies that harm people and strip away the value of life itself.

Along with the critical lyrics comes an added sense of melody and experimentation in some instances because, after all, there is only so far you can push outright aggression before you repeat yourself or begin to stagnate. Some notable moments include the industrial influenced introductory song, Weltschmerz, which includes a wordless vocal contribution from Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gathering), who also performs the monotonous spoken word piece on In Deference. On paper this comes across as an odd pairing but it is probably the only way that her voice could fit into this kind of music and the end results are effective in blending her voice to the cacophony around her without coming across as forced experiment for the sake of it.

Smear Campaign closes with a 3 part mini-epic that will easily catch many fans off guard. Persona Non Grata is the first part and sees Napalm Death using measured aggression to play off against slower moments with growled vocals performed in a melodic fashion that will make you think that the band are about to burst into clean singing at any second. Sludge metal is then embraced for the miniature title track along with the more melodic singing style that turns into a sort of echo-laden chant before fading out and concluding the album on the standard edition.

On the limited edition this then leads into the second bonus track and third part of the mini-epic, Atheist Runt, which is the slowest and longest song on the album at nearly 7 minutes long. This will prove to be quite a test for some fans due to the slow nature of it and yet it is by far one of the most rewarding moments of the whole album if you appreciate the bands decision to branch out and do something a bit different.

Underneath what will sound like the utter chaos of a battlefield to most people, Napalm Death have artfully fused thoughtful lyrical content and a bold experimental edge into their frantic grindcore blueprint to prove that they are as innovative on Smear Campaign as they were at their inception.

Performers:

Mark “Barney” Greenway: Shouting, Screaming, Swans, Sermons (Lead vocals, lyrics on 1-4, 6-9 and 11-6)
Shane Embury: Four Strings of the Apocalypse, NY Aggro Lung Assault (Bass, backing vocals, lyrics on 5 and 10)
Mitch Harris: Shredding, Grinding, Subliming Noise, Shrill Cries (Guitar, backing vocals)
Danny Herrera: Blast Beat Terrorism (Drums)
Anneke van Giersbergen: Additional vocals (1 and 7)

External Links:

Napalm Death Homepage
Napalm Death on Wikipedia
Smear Campaign on Wikipedia

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Easy Star All-Stars Until That Day Review

General Information:

Artist: Easy Star All-Stars
Album: Until That Day
Genre(s): Reggae
Subgenres(s): N/A
Released: 2008
Length: 25 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): Easy Star Records

Track List:

01. Got to Get Away
02. Bed of Rose
03. Like the Stars
04. Until That Day
05. The Finest
06. Dubbing Up the Walls

Easy Star All-Stars Until That Day Cover

Easy Star All-Stars Until That Day Cover

Easy Star All-Stars Until That Day Review

Until That Day is the third release by reggae collective Easy Star All-Stars. Following the success of their first two albums, reggae and dub interpretations of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon (Dub Side of the Moon) and Radiohead’s Ok Computer (Radiodread), Easy Star All-Stars released an EP of original material.

The first thing that you will notice when listening to Until That Day is the number of distinctly different vocalists that appear on this 25 minute EP. They range from the smooth vocal melodies of Junior Jazz on Got to Get Away and Tamar-kali on Like the Stars to the frantic “WAAAH” cries and rowdy vocal delivery of Menny More on Bed of Rose and The Finest as well as Until That Day, which shows him in a more restrained role.

These conflicting styles, while well executed, are the biggest dividing line on the EP because some of them hardly sound like they belong on the same release. However, being an EP as well as the first body of original work from Easy Star All-Stars, it could be seen that the intention is to show off a variety of styles to avoid being pigeon-holed one way or the other following their successful reworking of two famous albums.

With the first song, Got to Get Away, the focus is placed on vocalist Junior Jazz and his lyrics which deal with stress and enduring it through the Rastafari faith (they’re fighting everything I do/but with the help of Jah I’m going through). The relaxed nature of the song combined with the positive lyrics make for a welcoming introduction to the EP whereas Bed of Rose quickly shakes things up with an alarm-like brass section accompanied by the frantic “WAAAH” cries of Menny More, which are matched by the choppy drum fills near the end of the song to shake up the pace early on.

Rastafari themes return more extensively on the titular song courtesy of Ras I Ray and this could alienate some listeners who are not familiar with the religion but the infectious nature of the song will win over many listeners regardless of the lyrics because the lively brass arrangement proves to be the single biggest earworm on the EP.

The final song, Dubbing Up the Walls, is a dub remix of their Climbing Up the Walls cover from the aforementioned Radiodread album. Starting out with a slow and ominous brass bellow, this version places a much bigger emphasis on mood by making liberal uses of percussive echoes and low, unassuming bass playing to go along side Tamar-kali’s disembodied voice which sits in between the other instruments instead of on top of them as heard on Like the Stars.

The only real divisive element found on Until That Day will be determined the listeners own preference in singers and to a lesser extent some of the lyrical content. However the well-arranged brass instrumentation littered throughout the EP, along with the overall positive message put forward, will most likely win over new listeners.

Performers:

Jenny Hill: Sax, flute
Ras I Ray: Bass, lead vocals (track 4), backing vocals
Junior Jazz: Guitar, lead vocals (track 1), backing vocals
Ivan Katz: Drums, percussion
Jeremy Mage: Keyboards, programming (track 5)
Menny More: Lead vocals (tracks 2 and 5), DJ vocals (track 4)
Buford O’Sullivan: Trombone
Tamar-kali: Lead vocals, (tracks 3 and 6), backing vocals
Pam Fleming: Trumpet (track 5)
Victor Axelrod (Ticklah): Organ (track 6)
Michael Goldwasser: Guitar, percussion (track 6)
Victor Rice: Bass (track 6)

External Links:

Easy Star All-Stars Homepage
Easy Star All-Stars on Wikipedia
Until That Day on Wikipedia

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Re-evaluating the Seller Protection Policy on Ebay

I work for a business that, like many others, has an Ebay shop and recently there have been 2 cases which have been unfairly ruled in the buyer’s favour when Ebay has intervened. It has become apparent that certain aspects of the Seller Protection policy need to be re-evaluated to ensure that the policy lives up to its name.

What Happened?

In the first instance a buyer opened a case in the resolution centre on Saturday 09/04/16 to claim that they had not yet received their order. On Monday 09/05/16, when we opened for business again, we replied immediately to inform the buyer that their order would arrive in 3-5 working days because they did not opt for the first class option at the point of purchase.

Many Ebay sellers will be familiar with this sort of impatient query, which is sometimes escalated to the resolution centre without reading the delivery/dispatch information or trying to open a dialogue through the messaging system to clarify the situation. While the buyer should read the listing information properly, Ebay do not help the situation by including their own mandatory estimates which almost always fail to accurately reflect the shipping options.

The buyer did not reply to our message for an entire 4 weeks to the day until Sunday 07/05/16 when they simply said “still haven’t received my item.” The buyer immediately escalated this with Ebay, who issued the buyer a full refund within 30 minutes while failing to acknowledge that the buyer did not engage us in a dialogue to resolve the alleged problem, which is the entire point of the resolution centre.

When a staff member phone up to enquire about this, they were only told that they should have sent another message. This failed to address the issue at hand as well as the blatant flaw in their system because apparently it is up to the seller to constantly send messages to the buyer and check every case among the thousands of orders and emails received each month. This defeats the entire point of the system and while we were told that this would be looked into, we have not seen or heard of any action been taken to rectify the problem.

This clearly demonstrates a major flaw in Ebay’s seller protection policy because it allows dishonest buyers to easily take advantage of the resolution centre without having to participate in it, despite them initiating the case, which ultimately lets them receive goods without having to pay for them.

What Can Be Done?

Both the buyer and seller should be given a maximum of 3 working days to respond to the last message sent and all cases should be resolved in no more than 14 days instead of the unreasonably long 45-day limit. If a buyer is capable of opening a case then they are also capable of engaging the seller in the dialogue that they initiated to resolve the problem within a reasonable amount of time.

Ebay needs to list accurate delivery estimates as per the couriers own quote or list nothing at all. This will reduce the number of queries and cases that appear after 2 days of an order being dispatched because it currently gives many buyers the impression that they can get a first class service without paying for it.

The Shortcomings of Ebay’s Return Procedure

The second case relates to Ebay’s returns procedure, which allows buyers to safely return an order to the buyer while giving both parties access to the same tracking information.

This system works for full refunds but falls apart when only a partial refund needs to be issued. In our case the buyer ordered x2 pairs of the same part and returned both of them because they ordered the wrong size. Only one pair was returned in good condition so a partial refund was issued directly through Paypal because the returns system only lets you refund a whole order; you cannot do partial refunds in it.

We submitted photographic evidence of the damaged pair and asked Ebay to intervene and look at said evidence so that they could close the case without us having to issue the buyer a full refund. We are not responsible for what any buyer does with a part once they unpackaged it, nor are we responsible for how they package it when returning it to us. For this reason alone a seller should not be penalised for something that is entirely out of their control.

There is no quality control variable in the current system. This means that a buyer could potentially return hundreds of pounds’ worth of stock that they have damaged (but was sent and delivered in good condition) and then the buyer can reclaim all of their money which leaves the seller out of pocket for something that is entirely out of their control.

Ebay responded to our case within 30 minutes and issued the buyer a full refund without contacting us to give a reason for this decision in spite of the evidence provided.

The purpose of the resolution centre is for the buyer and seller to discuss the problem and work towards a reasonable conclusion and understanding of the problem. In both instances written about here, Ebay has not adhered to their own seller protection policy all while ignoring the evidence presented. They have supported the buyer’s lack of engagement which only proves that under the current system there is no real seller protection.

A New and Balanced System

Ebay needs to implement a new system that will allow the seller to upload photographic evidence of any damage, wrong parts or wrong quantities returned by the buyer as standard. Any conversations conducted through the Ebay messaging system or emails should also be available as evidence that Ebay will take the time to investigate. This will create a more balanced system which will allow for returns to be dealt with in a more effective and fair manner when a customer does not follow the rules that are set out for both parties.

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Sabaton Heroes Review

General Information:

Artist: Sabaton
Album: Heroes
Genre(s): Heavy Metal
Subgenres(s): Traditional Metal
Released: 2014
Length: 37 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): Nuclear Blast

Track List:

01. Night Witches
02. No Bullets Fly
03. Smoking Snakes
04. Inmate 4859
05. To Hell and Back
06. The Ballad of Bull
07. Resist and Bite
08. Soldier of 3 Armies
09. Far from the Fame
10. Hearts of Iron

Sabaton Heroes Cover

Sabaton Heroes Cover

Sabaton Heroes Review

Heroes is the 7th studio album by Swedish heavy metal band Sabaton. Following the announcement on 31st March 2012 that 4 members had simultaneously departed the band, lead vocalist, primary songwriter and now keyboardist Joakim Brodén and bassist Pär Sundström were saddled with the arduous task of reforming the line-up. With 3 new band members being brought into the fold it would be difficult to guess what would happen after such a heavy blow was dealt.

Heroes sees the sound of Sabaton moving away from the realm of power metal and drawing closer to traditional metal with their secret weapon, the voice of Joakim Brodén, being made the focal point of every song. His powerful and charismatic performance commands the listeners’ attention while bassist Pär Sundström and guitarists Chris Rörland and Thobbe Englund all double up as backing vocalists to add a real anthemic quality with their gang vocal delivery.

Long-time Sabaton fans will be familiar with the lyrical content largely revolving around military history and Heroes is no exception although a slightly different approach is taken because each song is used to sing the praises soldiers who exemplified humanity, bravery and valour while often facing dire circumstances in historical battles.

The lyrics take on a central role in songs that are heavily informed by pop song structure and length so they can appear to be direct and nondescript. This is a hindrance from a storytelling perspective because they don’t always delve deep enough to explain the situation that these people find themselves in so if you aren’t familiar with them or the battle in question then you won’t be able to appreciate what Sabaton are trying to convey. However if you spend a few minutes researching the subject matter you will be able to apply your own knowledge to the lyrics and fill in the gaps yourself to bring greater meaning to the songs.

Aside from some lyrical short comings there is also a notable deficit between the guitar riffs played during the verse/chorus sections and the lead guitar parts that burst into life during the bridge on songs like Night Witches, Smoking Snakes and Far from the Fame. These moments are often accompanied by more exciting drum parts courtesy of Hannes van Dahl and there seems to be a recurring theme of their skills being downplayed in favour of the aforementioned focus on anthemic choruses.

The first 3 songs establish exactly what Heroes is about and while many of the others follow suit, Inmate 4859 takes on a much slower and darker tone to tell the story of Witold Pilecki, a Polish soldier who infiltrated Auschwitz as a prisoner to gather intelligence on the camp and the holocaust before escaping to report his findings.

To Hell and Back features the tasteful use of a (synthesised) flute and some minor folk influences without crossing over into folk metal while the power ballad, The Ballad of Bull, features a piano, choral singing and a string section that frames Joakim Brodén’s voice in an entirely different setting and works to great effect. This is easily one of the biggest highlights of Heroes and the total change of pace breaks up the albums flow without losing any of the power or conviction found in the other songs.

The emphasis on hooks and simple arrangements shows that these songs were written with a live audience in mind because that same essence of power and engagement found at a concert is captured on Heroes although a healthier balance between this and more moments that would have shown off the skills of the new band members would have yielded some more exciting (and varied) results overall.

Performers:

Joakim Brodén: Lead vocals, keyboards
Pär Sundström: Bass, backing vocals
Chris Rörland: Guitar, backing vocals
Thobbe Englund: Guitar, backing vocals
Hannes van Dahl: Drums

External Links:

Sabaton Homepage
Sabaton on Wikipedia
Heroes on Wikipedia