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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

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Kvelertak Nattesferd Review

General Information:

Artist: Kvelertak
Album: Nattesferd
Genre(s): Rock
Subgenres(s): Hard Rock, Punk Rock
Released: 2016
Length: 47 minutes
Language(s): Norwegian
Label(s): Roadrunner

Track List:

01. Dendrofil for Yggdrasil
02. 1985
03. Nattesferd
04. Svartmesse
05. Bronsegud
06. Ondskapens Galakse
07. Berserkr
08. Heksebrann
09. Nekrodamus

Kvelertak Nattesferd Cover

Kvelertak Nattesferd Cover

Kvelertak Nattesferd Review

Nattesferd is the third studio album by Norwegian rock band Kvelertak. While they have been referred to as a black metal/rock hybrid in the past it is hardly relevant to Nattesferd because Dendrofil for Yggdrasil is the only black metal song, along with part of Berserkr, on the entire album. Almost everything else is broadly hard rock or punk rock filtered through the lo-fi aesthetic of black metal with a vomitus vocal style spraying all over the music. The lyrics all happen to be in Norwegian and given how they’re delivered it is questionable how intelligible they are, even to a native speaker.

After opening with a black metal song, Kvelertak immediately shifts to hard rock and then alternates between that and punk rock up to and including Ondskapens Galakse. The fusion and alternation of all these different elements is novel but in practice comes across as disjointed (and arguably unfocused) despite the sincerity and passion that the band clearly possesses. The vocal style doesn’t suit any of the hard rock songs and they detract from the experience since songs in this subgenre tend to sound powerful and spirited, whereas this leaves you lacklustre and wanting an actual singer that could have really made the songs into something special.

Berserkr, as the name implies, goes all out with the aggression and wild experimentation in which they blend all three styles into a single song. The majority of the song is black metal meets punk rock and from the bridge onwards the hard rock influences seep back in. To Kvelertak’s credit this is pulled of remarkably well and is certainly a highlight of Nattesferd, as is Bronsegud, a short and punchy hardcore punk flavoured song where the vocal style seems to fit almost naturally.

The last two songs on the album, Heksebrann and Nekrodamus, are almost yin and yang to each other. Heksebrann is a curveball at 9 minutes long while drawing on progressive rock and having a large instrumental section lasting about 4 minutes at the beginning. This contrasts with Nekrodamus, which continues the Kvelertak tradition of having “Nekro” in a song title, and is the complete antithesis of Heksebrann. This song sees hard rock stripped back to the basics and is much slower compared to the other songs, which once again take the listener in an unexpected direction, but is a bit longer than it needs to be.

It’s always good to hear a band perform in their native language and for anyone to embrace the spirit of rock wholeheartedly to the same extent that Kvelertak does. However, the scattershot approach to writing for several subgenres is often inconsistent and they seem to rely on the unpolished aesthetics and consistent use of harsh vocals to add a cohesive thread to the album.

Performers:

Erlend Hjelvik: Vocals
Vidar Landa: Guitar
Bjarte Lund Rolland: Guitar, Piano
Maciek Ofstad: Guitar, Vocals
Marvin Nygaard: Bass
Kjetil Gjermundrød: Drums

External Links:

Kvelertak Homepage
Kvelertak on Wikipedia
Nattesferd on Wikipedia

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Tomahawk Mit Gas Review

General Information:

Artist: Tomahawk
Album: Mit Gas
Genre(s): Rock
Subgenres(s): Experimental Rock
Released: 2003
Length: 41 minutes
Language(s): English, Spanish
Label(s): Ipecac Recordings

Track List:

01. Birdsong
02. Rape This Day
03. You Can’t Win
04. Mayday
05. Rotgut
06. Capt Midnight
07. Desastre Natural
08. When the Stars Begin to Fall
09. Harelip
10. Harlem Clowns
11. Aktion 13F14

Tomahawk Mit Gas Cover

Tomahawk Mit Gas Cover

Tomahawk Mit Gas Review

Mit Gas (German for With Gas) is the second album by American experimental rock super group Tomahawk. Released only 2 years after their self-titled debut and the band has already shed themselves of their country influences and delved a little bit further into soundscape territory with more noise and ambient elements creeping into the mix.

Birdsong sets the ball rolling, ever so slowly, with a mild-mannered wall of distortion contrasted with samples of birds tweeting. If you can imagine a sludgy liquid slowly oozing out of your speakers with birds gently perched on your lightshades tweeting joyously then you’ll have some understanding of the surreal nature found in this song. The tension builds up over the first minute and then bassist Kevin Rutmanis and drummer John Stanier change the pace by beginning with a moody mid-tempo rhythm before Duane Dennison’s guitar comes in to enhance the tension further.

So far so good – and steady – then Mike Patton introduces his eclectic vocal stylings in the form of a wordless wail that sounds rather distant and is somehow akin to a lunatic chasing you through the woods with a knife, if only that lunatic was a gleeful Mike Patton taunting you with his sinister vocal acrobatics. The verse arrives with a characteristically obtuse narrative delivered in a deep spoken voice about “the way you look at me when you’re hungry/lay your head down, shoot a load in your ear/the way you look at me when you’re hunted” that only gives credence to the lunatic-chasing-you-through-the-woods image. The song eventually breaks into a frantic lead-guitar with the energetic rock attitude fans will be anticipating. A steady decline in tempo then leads to what would have been a disappointing fade out but buzzing noise, church bells and the familiar bird tweets carry the song into an unexpected and satisfying conclusion.

Delving into completely new territory, a looped drum beat more akin to an ambient drum and bass song is coupled with a slow and sombre clean guitar to make the mid-album Capt Midnight instantly stand out. In case there’s a chance of you losing interest the song explodes into full-on rock fury half way in and Mike Patton goes from an eerie croon to shouting without any vocal effects which lets the rawness of his performance stand by itself. The drum loop and ambience is restored after the outburst with the song ebbing and flowing to the build-up of it happening again through the use of noises and sound loops to keep the anticipation high without ever reaching the expected payoff.

More atypical song arrangements are also found at the end of Mit Gas with the bass and keyboard centric Harelip breaking down and turning into the transitional piece to Harlem Clowns to create a two part song. The latter quickly returns to the distortion and noise first heard on Birdsong and uses a looped snippet of dialogue stating “I don’t know how to read notes” before the unusual soundscape becomes the focal point. Another recording is played at the end which listings numerous other bands and artists.

Even more challenging than this is Aktion 13F14. It marks the return of the acoustic sound found on their debut but is nothing like what Tomahawk has done before. A mechanical voice, presumably performed by Mike Patton, is overlaid and gives the listener instructions on how to defeat an opponent in hand-to-hand combat and concludes with a reminder stating “remember, attack aggressively, with one purpose in mind: to kill”. A series of rapid snare drum rolls are performed before ear shattering noise is pumped into your skull at maximum volume and goes on relentlessly for about half a minute. Assuming you haven’t suddenly developed tinnitus there is a graceful period of silence before a melodic guitar begins and is overlapped with mumbled and incoherent voices.

There isn’t any real context available for the last two songs so their durability is down to how outside the musical box you’re willing to travel before you start asking if you really get what’s going on or if Tomahawk is just taking you for a ride.

With so much focus being given to the noise and experimental aspects so far it is fair to ask what happened to the atypical rock songs. The answer is that they’re still here with inviting names like Rape This Day, Mayday, Rotgut, When the Stars Begin to Fall and Harelip. They’re far more accessible and probably what most fans are after so they are more likely to garner repeat listens and favourability than the bits that genuinely remove themselves from most people’s understanding of music. In contrast to all of this there is a sincere moment to be found in Desastre Natural, a ballad with its only quirk being that it is sung entirely in Spanish and somehow it manages to fit in with everything else around it.

Mit Gas has a broader experimental edge that draws on ambient and noise music while still maintaining a balance with their off-kilter rock foundation. However at the same time these new influences are more likely to deter listeners so it is worth listening to for existing fans but for newcomers it is advisable to start with Tomahawks self-titled debut.

Performers:

Mike Patton: Vocals, keyboards
Duane Denison: Guitar
Kevin Rutmanis: Bass
John Stanier: Drums

External Links:

Tomahawk on Ipecac Recordings
Tomahawk on Wikipedia
Mit Gas on Wikipedia