It’s that age old question. What do you get when you put Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith and the much travelled Richie Kotzen in a studio together? Well, perhaps not; the answer however is magic!
Yes, all too often much heralded partnerships or so called supergroups are over hyped only to under deliver. That isn’t the case here as Smith and Kotzen combine for the creatively titled Smith/Kotzen. Together they have created an album of superb blues infused hard rock, equally creatively called ‘Smith/Kotzen’!
Perhaps all their creativity was used up in recording this brilliant album and when it came to promotion they were all out of ideas! Seriously though, this is an impressive collection of songs that echoes the shere talent involved.
It feels as though the duo complement each other perfectly. They are able to stretch their legs without stepping on each other’s toes. Smith excels from the comfortable confines of house Maiden and Kotzen demonstrates his unrivalled talents.
From the openings of ‘Taking My Chances’ all the way to the closing moments of ‘Til Tomorrow’, there isn’t much let up in quality. Smith and Kotzen can be proud of what they have achieved on Smith/Kotzen; even if they can’t be proud of their naming abilities!
Evanescence are an interesting entity. Officially a group for over 25 years but with only three all original studio albums if we don’t include 2017’s ‘Synthesis’. Amy Lee remains the only original member, and only member to survive from 2003’s breakthrough debut album ‘Fallen’.
It can’t be argued that the band are not absolutely huge despite this lack of new material. In fact, you are left to wonder what a more prolific band could have achieved. Now in 2021, the band are back with their first all new studio album since their self-titled 2011 release.
What should we expect from the band? Can they produce anything as good as their early albums? Well, it’s evident from very early on that this is a return to form for the band. There is plenty of what we have come to expect from Evanescence but there is also a good deal of experimentation. Certainly enough to keep the album interesting as it progresses.
‘Feeding The Dark’ and ‘Better Without You’ remind you how gloriously heavy yet anthemic the band can get. Meanwhile ‘Use My Voice’, ‘Take Cover’ and ‘Far From Heaven’ help to explore the versatility of the band.
Having gone ten years since their last album you could be forgiven for questioning the bands drive. With a release like ‘The Bitter Truth’ however you must now question what could have been had the band managed a more regimented release schedule.
What ‘The Bitter Truth’ does is make you remember just how good Evanescence can be, and hope that it’s not another ten years before they follow it up!
Black Honey arrived on the scene about five years ago full of swagger and energy, and their second album, ‘Written & Directed’ does exactly the same. The record bursts into action from the very start with ‘I Like The Way You Die’ and ‘Run For Cover’ packing a huge punch.
If their 2018 self-titled debut album was a statement of intent, then ‘Written & Directed’ is the band delivering on their promise. The band manages to maintain their unique throwback sound that has been their trademark since their 2014 inception, whilst ensuring that there is demonstrable progression.
That is achieved through adding a grandness to songs such as ‘Beeches’ and ‘Believer’. While much of the bands early work managed to sound huge in small venues, you sense on this album that many of these songs are born to engulf much larger spaces.
What is great to see here is a band that refuses to compromise. They are also a band that are hard to pigeonhole by any particular genre. They produce a distinctive sound that can only be classed as Black Honey. Thankfully that identity is embraced fully here as they navigate that sometimes troublesome second album.
‘Disinfect’ is fantastic example of a song that could have gone various routes. Instead it manages to merge these elements to great effect, creating a sonic blast to your ears!
Black Honey are a rare talent that have now reinforced their passion and ability to create great music for anybody who wants to listen but without concession on their vision. ‘Fire’ and ‘Gabrielle’ close ‘Written & Directed’ out perfectly and bookend this short but powerful release from a band growing in confidence.
The trend of festivals selling out continues following the recent government roadmap announcement. We again start our News Report this week with the pick of the festival news.
Up first is Slam Dunk Festival. The organisers had already announced that the twin event would move to the 4th and 5th of September at Leeds Temple Newsam and Hatfield Park. Now they have unveiled a line-up that includes headliners Sum 41 and Don Broco!
Also on the festival bill is a collection of some of our favourites including Reel Big Fish, A, Dream State, Normandie and Wargasm. Pick up your tickets here.
Another event cementing their 2021 line-up this week is Bloodstock Festival. Having lost Mercyful Fate from the Saturday headline slot, the organisers have moved quickly to bring in Kreator to fill that spot.
They join the already announced Judas Priest, Skindred and Saxon. Pick up your ticket here.
Steelhouse Festival reveals their final three
We also saw this week the final three acts announced for a fantastic looking Steelhouse Festival. The Wildhearts, Bernie Marsden and Wayward Sons join the likes of Anthrax, Europe, Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons, Therapy? and Those Damn Crows.
Our final festival coverage this week goes to a stunning line-up from Black Deer Festival in Kent. The event is set to feature performances from Van Morrison, Saving Grace, Frank Turner, Imelda May and Emily Barker.
Enter Shikari reveal rescheduled tour with new dates added
It isn’t just festivals maneuvering in the wake of the governments roadmap. Tours have been also been adjusting to those plans. This week has seen more rescheduling from the likes of Biffy Clyro and Enter Shikari. The latter even adding in five additional dates!
Lincoln, Hull, Bristol, Liverpool and Leeds will now also get to witness the majesty of Enter Shikari with Dinosaur Pile-Up and Nova Twins in tow. Grab any remaining tickets here.
Fatherson plan huge UK tour
Another tour announced this week will see the incredible Fatherson hit the road for a lengthy trek around the UK. This promises to be one not to miss and you can pick up your tickets here.
Korn has announced details of a massive global livestream event taking place on Saturday 24th April 2021. Announcing the event frontman Jonathan Davis said “We hope you take part in this experience with us. And though it is not the same as performing live with you here, we still want to bring you some great music and a fun show.”
The show promises “hits, rare and sought-after deep cuts and select tracks from their latest album”. The event will be shot in downtown LA on the set of Stranger Things! Interest piqued? Grab your tickets here.
We move now into our new music section of our weekly news roundup. This week we were treated to the second single from the upcoming second album from Yonaka. ‘Ordinary’ is further evidence that the new album will be very special.
Finally this week, news from Danko Jones. The band will be releasing their tenth studio album, ‘Power Trio’, on August 27th. In announcing the album, the band also unveiled the first single ‘I Want Out’.
Pet Needs hail from the ancient town of Colchester, and their debut album features the ancient sound of punk rock. Let’s face it, we all have plenty to be angry about right now and the band capture that angst perfectly on ‘Fractured Party Music’.
But whilst the mood of the nation’s youth is represented in the musical and lyrical content, don’t assume this album is just another angry, shouty record. There is plenty of depth on this album taken from a wide range of influences.
One thing that raises this album above its contemporaries is its knack for catchy pop driven choruses that wouldn’t feel out of place on a mid-noughties indie anthem. With that said there is much more substance on this album than you’d expect from those indie by numbers hit makers.
That is what’s great about this record. Whilst it’s unashamedly brash punk rock at its heart, it journeys through many terrains to reach its peak. If we look simply at Pet Needs Xtra Mile Recordings labelmates, you get elements of Mongol Horde, Skinny Lister and Sean McGowan on this album.
This is anything but one-dimensional but it flows sweetly from the opening track ‘Outline’ to its finale ‘Embers’. ‘Fractured Party Music’ feels like a statement of intent from a group that has masses of potential.
With singles like ‘Tracy Emin’s Bed’, ‘Toothpaste’ and ‘Pavlovian’ bursting out of the album, it won’t take long for people to stop and take notice of this great young band. ‘Fractured Party Music’ promises to be just the start for Pet Needs.
Rob Zombie – The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy – Album Review
You have got to love the length of Rob Zombie song and album titles. I’ll be approaching my word count by simply saying that his new album ‘The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy’ features both ‘The Triumph of King Freak (A Crypt of Preservation and Superstition’ and ‘18th Century Cannibals, Excitable Morlocks and a One-Way Ticket on the Ghost Train’!
Seriously though, we’ve come to expect the weird and wonderful from Mr. Zombie. So, anybody expecting otherwise on his seventh studio album would be gravely mistaken. This is over the top, crazy and full on Zombie at his best.
It’s not like we want anything else from Zombie either. We have thrashing guitars, thumping drums, bizarre lyrics and plenty of bells and whistles to emphasise his brilliantly quirky musicianship.
Whilst this is definitely an album that deserves a full play through due to its strength from start to finish, it also has standout moments. ‘Shadow of the Cemetery Man’, ‘The Eternal Struggles of the Howling Man’ and the slow burning ‘Boom-Boom-Boom’ are fantastic and showcase Zombie perfectly.
This album is up there with the best that Zombie has produced. So sit back, strap in, and let Rob Zombie take you on a wild ride!
Kings of Leon – When You See Yourself – Album Review
Anyone looking for Kings of Leon to reinvent the wheel on their eighth studio album should probably temper their expectations. Whilst ‘When You See Yourself’ may be the bands first record since 2016, they haven’t spent the intervening years perfecting a new sound.
This is Kings of Leon doing exactly what Kings of Leon do. The good thing for the band is that what they do is create music for the masses, and they are very successful at it. Single ‘The Bandit’ gives you a flavour of what to expect from the album. It’s standard Kings of Leon stock. It’s trusted stock that people will buy in bulk.
A once very exciting young band, Kings of Leon have reached a level of success that is unattainable to all but a very select few. The fact is the band could rest on their laurels and simply rely on their back catalogue. It should therefore be applauded that the band, albeit sporadically, feel the need to get creative.
Whilst remarking that they haven’t broken the wheel, it should be noted they that also haven’t “phoned it in” as it were. This is a very Kings of Leon record, but it’s also a very good Kings of Leon record that will sit well within their back catalogue.
There are plenty of moments on the album that remind you just why you fell in love with the band. ‘Golden Restless Age’ in particular manages to stand out as just as good a song as the band have produced.
This is more unoffensive output from the band. Stick it on in the car on a Sunday afternoon leisurely drive and let Kings of Leon remind you who they are.
The fact that the first single from ‘You’re Welcome’ was released roughly twenty months ago in 2019, should suggest immediately that A Day To Remember have faced issues with this album. Over the near two year period that has followed the release of ‘Degenerates’ a lot has happened.
There have been a further four singles released. There have been numerous delays with the scheduled release date kicked around, reported delays with artwork and delays with the albums mixing. The band sub-headlined Reading & Leeds Festivals in 2019, and oh yes there has been a pandemic!
This has been the longest delay between two new A Day To Remember albums in the bands eighteen year career, and that delay clearly can’t be blamed simply on world events. The band are on record talking about the high amount of material demoed for the record and the debate around experimentation of their sound and potential alienation of their fans.
Many of the bands peers have experimented with their music in recent years with varying levels of success. As a band pushing towards festival headline slots, there would clearly be pressure on A Day To Remember to produce an album that would appeal to the mainstream. What we have in ‘You’re Welcome’ however appears to be a compromise from the band.
They have tried to appeal to the mainstream world, whilst reining in certain elements as not to disappoint old school fans. Sadly what we get is a clearly compromised effort that feels forced and disjointed.
This is a shame as A Day To Remember are a band that were always ahead of the curve when mixing up their sound to appeal to both traditional and mainstream fanbases. That is what brought them to the level they are at.
‘You’re Welcome’ is not a bad album, there are some songs that will slip neatly into forthcoming setlists. The problem with the album is that at this point in the bands career they didn’t need to compromise. After the time it took to finally release an album, you would expect a band the quality of A Day To Remember to have released a masterpiece.
Instead what we have is a collection of songs that doesn’t do the band justice and when held accountable with their back catalogue are sadly forgettable. Call it a mid-life crisis or a band struggling with their identity, but on this album A Day To Remember feel lost. Let’s hope that they find themselves soon as they can do so much better.
Because Maximo Park shot to prominence during the indie boom period sometimes harshly described as the landfill-indie generation, they are often lumped in with the other artists from this era with little thought. That generalisation does a disservice to a band that has always been a step above, artistically speaking.
Whilst the band has had their fair share of commercial success, it never felt like the aim from the band. Their longevity perhaps now provides the evidence that they were in it more for the music than the money. With the release of their seventh studio album they are once again bucking a trend from bands of that era, that is to simply rely on nostalgia.
‘Nature Always Wins’ is another trademark Maximo Park album and delivers another slice of quality over quantity from the band. I’ll say that there is nothing that upsets the applecart here. This is standard Maximo Park. But, that’s not a slight on the band. That’s because their albums have always featured an element of exploration of their sound.
This isn’t a crude attempt to relive past glories. There is craftsmanship and care on this record that is so often found lacking by bands looking to simply put out another album to plug. From start to finish this album provides a fluid listening experience with the likes of ‘Baby, Sleep’ and ‘All Of Me’ showing that the band still has a knack for creating catchy indie pop magic.
Fans of the band now have another solid album to fit into their collection. ‘Nature Always Wins’ is right up there with anything the band has already given us. Yes, Maximo Park continue to buck trends and demonstrate that they were always a cut above most of their contemporaries from the mid-noughties indie scene!
Architects – For Those That Wish To Exist – Album Review
It feels like there is a lot of pressure on this album for Architects. This is after all a band who has been seeing increasing success in recent years. They are a band that has evolved their sound with recent releases. So, does ‘For Those That Wish To Exist’ continue this evolution? Will the band push on to a higher level on the back of it?
The first thing to note is that at 15 songs and just shy of an hour this is a meaty album that demands attention. That attention is grabbed almost immediately with ‘Black Lungs’ and ‘Giving Blood’ delivering a statement of intent. A reminder to listeners of what this band is all about.
As the album progresses the expansive elements of recent Architects albums is clear for all. There are grandiose ambitions spread throughout the album with the band obviously striving for more. Some may feel that it’s mainstream exposure that the band is striving for. If that is the case then there is plenty on offer to achieve this. Whilst this may be the end result, this doesn’t smack of being a money grabbing, sell out album.
It’s clear that care and effort has been put into creating an album which both pleases fans and satisfies the creative cravings in the band. There is a great deal of experimentation on this album, with Architects also recruiting some A list guests from the world of hard rock.
The three tracks which feature these artists all deliver the goods. ‘Impermanence’ featuring Winston McCall (Parkway Drive), ‘Little Wonder’ featuring Mike Kerr (Royal Blood) and particularly ‘Goliath’ featuring Simon Neil (Biffy Clyro) all help underpin the ferocious elegance of the album.
Overall the album gives Architects fans old and new something to enjoy without sounding disjointed; with ‘Dead Butterflies’ and ‘Animals’ showing that the band has perhaps struck upon their optimal output stylistically.
‘For Those That Wish To Exist’ is everything that Architects need it to be. Whilst it may alienate a small portion of their fans, the majority and many new fans will hold it up as a masterpiece of the genre.