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Queen Greatest Hits (UK Version) Review

General Information:

Artist: Queen
Album: Greatest Hits (UK Version)
Genre(s): Rock
Subgenre(s): Art Rock, Progressive Rock
Released: 1981
Length: 58 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): EMI, Parlophone Records, Hollywood Records

Track List:

01. Bohemian Rhapsody
02. Another One Bites the Dust
03. Killer Queen
04. Fat Bottomed Girls
05. Bicycle Race
06. You’re My Best Friend
07. Don’t Stop Me Now
08. Save Me
09. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
10. Somebody to Love
11. Now I’m Here
12. Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy
13. Play the Game
14. Flash
15. Seven Seas of Rhye
16. We Will Rock You
17. We Are the Champions

Queen Greatest Hits UK Version Cover

Queen Greatest Hits UK Version Cover

Queen Greatest Hits (UK Version) Review

Greatest Hits is the first compilation and ‘best of’ album from iconic British rock band Queen. Released in different regions with slightly altered track listings, there isn’t a strictly definitive version of the compilation. The UK version features at least one song from every album from Queen II (1974) through to the Flash Gordon film soundtrack (1980).

Bohemian Rhapsody is the opening track and was Queen’s first and only number one UK single (1975) when Greatest Hits was released. One would not expect lyrics about committing a murder (Mama, just killed a man/Put a gun against his head/Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead) being executed via the electric chair (Thunderbolt and lightning/Very, very frightening me) and then sent to hell (Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me) to be part of the package.

Coming from a progressive rock background where song-writing sensibilities demand musical boundaries to be pushed, they are effortlessly married to pop accessibility and rounded off with a flamboyant exuberance rarely found elsewhere. Most notably this is found in the operatic segment of Bohemian Rhapsody, where the nonsense lyrics are spliced between the narrative just for the sake of doing so it seems. The song also lacks a chorus which makes it even more of an oddity in pop music and, yet, this unlikely single became one of the most easily recognised songs in British pop culture.

Considering that there are songs from 8 different releases on Greatest Hits, and noting Queen’s lack of inhibition when it came to crafting their sound, it should be of no surprise that the songs do not always flow from one to the next effortlessly. What is more remarkable is that everything featured here was released in a short period of 6 years.

After Bohemian Rhapsody the listener suddenly finds themselves a world apart in the mind numbingly repetitive bass hook from funk rock hit Another One Bites the Dust. More twists and turns ensue with the jovial piano-driven Killer Queen about a call girl and the sentimental You’re My Best Friend was written by bassist John Deacon for his wife. The centre piece of Greatest Hits is the infectious rock ‘n’ roll of Crazy Little Thing Called Love featuring hand claps, an acoustic guitar and Freddie Mercury’s Elvis-inspired performance but the bass is the underlying source of the momentum here. Jumping from that to the gospel arrangement on Somebody to Love or the jaunty nature of Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy lacks even the pretence of consistency.

Greatest Hits is concluded with the two iconic anthems from News of the World; We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions. Often cited as a rock anthem, We Will Rock You is actually devoid of rock music entirely until Brian May’s guitar solo at the end. The rest of the song is made up of the instantly recognisable stomp/stomp/clap body percussion arrangement.

Immediately beyond the realm of a Spartan approach to music, Queen offers an absolute gourmet of songs that are loosely ordered into two halves as the best way to present the eclectic collection. The first is mostly material from Night at the Opera and Jazz whereas the second is divided evenly between Day at the Races, News of the World, Queen II and the ‘Flash’ theme song. Both halves have one song from Sheer Heart Attack and two from The Game, which produced four charting singles from 1979 and 1980, along with ‘Flash’ from the aforementioned film soundtrack.

Releasing this compilation at such a prosperous time for Queen must have played a big part in not only to the success of Greatest Hits as a business and marketing opportunity, but also in immortalising their contributions to music. Going on to sell over 25 million copies globally, it is one of the best-selling albums of all time and the best-selling album in their home country with 6.3 million copies sold to date.

For all the inconsistencies one could imagine finding on a compilation album, due to the nature of the format more than anything else, it isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to listen to all the way through. It will give newcomers a good oversight into the first half of Queen’s career and from there, a course can be plotted to specific albums based on any preference they find.

Ultimately, the flamboyant personality embodied by Queen combined with their immense creativity exemplifies what has made them endure as strongly as they have while attracting listeners, both new and old, to this day.

Performers:

Freddie Mercury: Lead vocals, piano, finger snaps, bicycle bells, handclaps, acoustic guitar, organ, synthesizer, foot stomps, co-lead vocals on “Fat Bottomed Girls” (chorus)
Brian May: Acoustic and electric guitars, backing vocals, bicycle bells, handclaps, piano, synthesizer, foot stomps, co-lead vocals on “Keep Yourself Alive” (bridge)
Roger Taylor: Acoustic guitar, percussion, backing vocals, timpani, gong, triangle, chimes, bicycle bells, handclaps, woodblocks, tambourine, foot stomps, cowbell, co-lead vocals on “Keep Yourself Alive” (bridge)
John Deacon: Acoustic, bass and electric guitar, piano, bicycle bells, handclaps, foot stomps

Additional Performers:

Mike Stone: Co-lead vocals on “Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy”
Roy Thomas Baker: Stylophone on “Seven Seas of Rhye”

External Links:

Queen Homepage
Queen on Wikipedia
Greatest Hits on Wikipedia

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Opeth Damnation Review

General Information:

Artist: Opeth
Album: Damnation
Genre(s): Rock
Subgenres(s): Progressive Rock, Soft Rock
Released: 2003
Length: 43 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): Music for Nations, Koch Records

Track List:

01. Windowpane
02. In My Time of Need
03. Death Whispered a Lullaby
04. Closure
05. Hope Leaves
06. To Rid the Disease
07. Ending Credits
08. Weakness

Opeth Damnation Cover

Opeth Damnation Cover

Opeth Damnation Review

Damnation is the seventh studio album by Swedish band Opeth. Unlike all of their previous albums, Damnation sees the band shedding themselves of their renowned death metal, progressive metal, folk and acoustic music blend for a hybrid of progressive and soft rock. The album is soft to the point that at times it can be seen as pushing the boundaries of what can be considered rock music, progressive influences or not.

Windowpane sets the tone perfectly with a sound crafted around a central clean-sounding guitar melody that interplays with an acoustic guitar and a steady rock drum beat devoid of metal tempos that give room for the prevailing melancholic mood to take hold. This is further enhanced by the keyboards and is indicative of what Damnation is about. Fans hearing this for the first time, and being familiar with their previous output, will be anticipating the sudden transition to Opeth’s metal sound but that moment will never come. On top of this, vocalist and guitarist Mikael Akerfeldt has also left his death growls in favour of a restrained singing voice that sounds fragile at times. While some fans will have undoubtedly being disappointed by these drastic changes, it would have also been impossible to fit that aggressive vocal style into Damnation and make it work.

The melancholic mood is a central theme to Damnation and in some ways this helps to paint the album as a by the numbers effort. This is due to the songs, at times, blurring together and losing their distinctive nature when listening from start to finish. Two of the biggest standouts are the minimalist Weakness, which is centred on a subtle keyboard arrangement and is entirely devoid of percussion. Closure, the only song that shakes of the passive sound thoroughly, actively engages the listener in a different way. The tempo picks up as the song progresses and Opeth pushes it even further towards the end to create a total cacophony when put next to the rest of the album. This abruptly cuts out and if you had downloaded this song through one of the illegal file sharing services around at the time Damnation was released you would have thought that the song had been corrupted or was incomplete. This leads directly into Hope Leaves and makes these songs contrast in a way that can be seen an intentional throwback to their previous albums where the acoustic and metal parts can come right after each other. This way of integrating that aspect of Opeth’s character into Damnation is not as well executed as desired, if that is the case, since it is more disjointed than fluid in its delivery.

It’s difficult for any band to break away from their established sound to explore new ideas but Opeth embrace their progressive rock influences honestly and passionately. This combined with the efforts of co-producer Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) on the keyboard and piano rounds off their sound and helped them to realise their vision. Damnation is an important milestone in Opeth’s history and is recommendable to anyone wanting to experience the softer side of rock music.

Performers:

Mikael Akerfeldt: Vocals and lead guitar
Peter Lingren: Rhythm guitar
Martin Mendez: Bass guitar
Martin Lopez: Drums

Additional Performers:

Steven Wilson: Keyboards, piano, Mellotron, backing vocals

External Links:

Opeth Homepage
Opeth on Wikipedia
Damnation on Wikipedia

By

The Devin Townsend Project Ki Review

General Information:

Artist: The Devin Townsend Project
Album: Ki
Genre(s): Rock
Subgenres(s): Progressive Rock
Released: 2009
Length: 107 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): HevyDevy, Inside Out

Track List:

01. A Monday
02. Coast
03. Disruptr
04. Gato
05. Terminal
06. Heaven’s End
07. Ain’t Never Gonna Win
08. Winter
09. Trainfire
10. Lady Helen
11. Ki
12. Quiet Riot
13. Demon League

The Devin Townsend Project Ki Cover

The Devin Townsend Project Ki Cover

The Devin Townsend Project Ki Review

Ki (pronounced key) is the first of a planned 4 part series by Devin Townsend following a 2 year hiatus from recording music after he found himself uncomfortable with the fact that he had difficulty writing music without drugs. During the hiatus he wrote music that he found fitting into 4 different styles and wanted to create an album for each of them.

To help him realise this ambitious goal he enlisted a different group of musicians for each album. For Ki he chose long-time collaborator and multi-instrumentalist Dave Young, who provides much of the ambiance as well as drummer Duris Maxwell (Heart, Jefferson Airplane and Skylark) and bassist Jean Savoie who is a member of a Beatles tribute band called The Bobcats as he thought that they would bring a fresh perspective to Ki’s quieter aspects. Devin Townsend himself takes on lead vocal and guitar duties as well as some bass playing and ambiance.

There are 2 distinct sides to Ki. The first is the moody and introspective music that would be the perfect soundtrack to a quiet winters evening. This is introduced immediately with the minimalist A Monday, which focuses on simple and undistorted guitar playing with some keyboard work to fill in the spaces around it. Other songs like Terminal, Winter and Lady Helen are particularly close to this blueprint in terms of the mood and stripped back musicianship while Coast is slightly more up-tempo, especially towards the end when the music intensifies with layers of voices. Ain’t Never Gonna Win is a loose jam song that never loses the feeling of the other songs mentioned but sounds distinct from everything else in its own right.

Unfortunately there is also the other side to Ki which is made up of irate songs like Gato, Heaven Send, the title track and the aptly named Disruptr (yes that’s how it’s spelt). They all contain the softer side as well but Devin Townsend’s latent aggression starts to seep through in a controlled way. The loud chugging guitars come in, Devin Townsend shouts and snarls in his distinct way as the songs intensify like at the end of Coast before dissipating into soft ambience once again.

There are 2 problems with this. The first is that the anger seems to be allowed out in controlled bursts which prevent it from really taking hold of the music and going somewhere of significance. The second is that the different styles are divisive because the moods that they create rub shoulders in an awkward fashion instead of complementing each other. It would have been a much wiser idea to split Ki into 2 separate albums for the sake of consistency if nothing else.

There are other anomalies such as Quiet Riot, an optimistic sounding folk song that turned out to be a real highlight of the album and I can’t help but wish there was more of this on Ki. Then there’s Trainfire, a tongue-in-cheek rock and roll song with more of the wrath-filled heavy metal segues that eventually gives way to the introverted night time music. This is one of those songs that you’ll either accept as a particularly odd progressive rock song that blends 3 styles of music together or you’ll sit back and think that it’s a train wreck of conflicting ideas. Demon League is another low key song that closes the album while bringing Ki around full circle by revisiting the themes found at the start of the album on A Monday.

Ki gives the impression that Devin Townsend was fighting with himself over what kind of music he wanted to create and ends up with an odd combination of styles that would have been better suited to 2 separate albums. It’s a bumpy ride because of this but if you are either a fan of Devin Townsend or want to hear something different without having to jump into the deep end it would be an ideal place to start.

Performers:

Devin Townsend: Vocals, Guitars, Fretless Bass Guitar, Ambience
Duris Maxwell: Drums
Jean Savoie: Bass guitar
Dave Young: Keyboard, Piano, Ambience

Additional Musicians:

Ché Aimee Dorval: – additional vocals
Ryan Dahle: – additional vocals on Gato
Bjorn Strid, Peter, Christopher, Grant, Corey, Jeremy, Ryan: additional vocals

External Links:

Devin Townsend Homepage
Devin Townsend on Wikipedia | Ki on Wikipedia

By

Opeth Pale Communion Review

General Information:

Artist: Opeth
Album: Pale Communion
Genre(s): Rock
Subgenres(s): Progressive Rock
Released: 2014
Length: 56 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): Roadrunner Records

Track List:

01. Eternal Rains Will Come
02. Cusp of Eternity
03. Moon Above, Sun Below
04. Elysian Woes
05. Goblin
06. River
07. Voice of Treason
08. Faith in Others

Opeth Pale Communion Cover

Opeth Pale Communion Cover

Opeth Pale Communion Review

Pale Communion is the eleventh studio album and third progressive rock outing by Opeth. Following on from the Damnation and Heritage albums, Pale Communion sees Opeth once again exploring their progressive rock influences without any traces of their death metal side which thankfully excludes the grunts and growls too. There is also some jazz fusion influence creeping in, which could be due to co-producer and guest backing vocalist Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, solo) following his own taking to the genre in the last few years.

After appearing in a guest role on Heritage’s title track, keyboardist Joakim Svalberg has now joined the ranks of Opeth as a fulltime band member following the departure of Per Wiberg (Spiritual Beggars). The overall sound of Pale Communion is most easily described as a continuation of what is heard on Heritage. The big differences are that Opeth are more confident in embracing their progressive rock roots and the songs are more fine-tuned with many of them having a longer running time to reflect this.

Like many of the songs on Pale Communion, Cusp of Eternity has a myriad of passages woven together seamlessly but for no reason it ends with a fade out. Given how many directions some songs on Pale Communion take, it almost comes across as Opeth brushing it aside for the ambitious 11 minute Moon Above, Sun Below, which does not feel like it’s half as long as it is.

Still not content with their new sound, Opeth takes a breather on Elysian Woes by introducing elements of folk music and keeps a steadier pace to bring Michael Akerfeldt’s voice to the front. River is written in the same vein with a stronger emphasis on vocal melodies (which is another major addition to the album that gets its biggest spotlight on Faith in Others) and has a bit of a jam session part way through to mix things up even further.

Goblin tips its hat to the Italian progressive rock outfit of the same name and is the only instrumental track on Pale Communion. It centres around a steady build up and drummer Martin Axenrot throwing in plenty of short and sharp fills to keep you on your toes. With all the songs before Voice of Treason being much lighter by comparison, it takes an uncharacteristically tense twist that is reminiscent of the song Closure from Opeth’s 2003 album Damnation. The atmospheric keyboard work at the end bridges it with Faith in Others to create a 16 minute 2 part song.

The complete lack of heavy metal will be a disappointment for long-time fans that haven’t embraced Opeth’s progressive rock side but for the rest of us, it’s another exciting chapter in Opeth’s discography as well as the modern progressive rock scene as it seems that Opeth has its collective heart set on this path for the time being.

Performers:

Fredrik Akesson: Guitars, backing vocals
Mikael Akerfeldt: Vocals, guitars
Martin Axenrot: Drums, percussion
Martin Mendez: Bass guitars
Joakim Svalberg: Keyboards, backing vocals
Steven Wilson: Backing vocals

External Links:

Opeth Homepage
Opeth on Wikipedia | Pale Communion on Wikipedia
Opeth on Discogs | Pale Communion on Discogs
Opeth on Metal Archives | Pale Communion on Metal Archives