Reviews Coming Soon

Album Reviews Coming Soon: From Eden To Exile - Modern Disdain

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Album Review: Motion Picture Soundtrack - The Shapes We Fear Are Of Our Own

With Motion Picture Soundtrack’s last release, the 'Departure EP', appearing late last year it‘s no surprise to find that this debut album 'The Shapes We Fear Are Of Our Own', features the same haunting, nihilistic approach to songwriting. This time round, though, the band have not one, or two, but three producers on board. Paul Schroeder (The Stone Roses, The Verve), Bob Ludwig (Rage Against The Machine, Tool) and Cenzo Townshend (Editors, Bloc Party) - I don’t know about you but that sounds like a case of too many cooks to me. I think we can safely assume that certainly Ludwing’s input has resulted in a heavier product whilst Schroeder and Townshend (both who featured on the EP as producer and mixer respectively) would be the ones wrestling their sound back towards the contemporary.

In essence, MPS are an eclectic mix of Editors, White Lies and Placebo and who come across as both disarmingly sincere and simpering at the same time. With lead single ‘Glass Figures’, for instance, there is an attack that invigorates as it crescendos, yet resorts to falling back into line along a well-trodden path, far too readily. Strikingly clean, yet lazily repetitive guitar sits beneath Alastair Blackwood’s urgently emotive, morbid musings with the damaged whole echoing climactically from beginning to embittered end.

Often the band seem happy pounding away at a few repetitious chords, perhaps to engender a poppier sound, but when they do flick about between song parts they manage to create luxurious layers of rhythm and texture. Simultaneous fierce undercurrents, jangling mid-range and falsetto peaks feature within tracks like ‘Make It Through The Night’ or ‘Whiterooms’ which tug upon a Coldplay/Keane loose seam until the whole thing happily disassembles itself. Heartier fodder sweeps in with tracks like ‘I Clipped Your Wing’ or ’On Earth (As It Is In Heaven) which are anchored down to a bruising bass and thunderous piano combo whilst all around piercing vocal crashes at the listener in cresting wave upon cresting wave.

The real disappointments here hide within the lack of momentum and the dearth of stop-gaps. Each song keeps to the same vague pattern that echoes the others around it. The last three tracks fight desperately to escape the familiar arrangement, but that wavering vocal drags it all kicking and screaming back into line. Sure, there are peaks and troughs on show here, but in the end it just feels like one big featureless ocean of sound. Whilst you’ll crave the sight of an iceberg or an island, I was simply finding it a struggle to stop from drowning.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

DVD Review: Unearth - Alive From The Apocalypse

Disc One is the restrictively short live show that Unearth played in Pomona, California last year and has been edited down to just 45 minutes. Despite this fact and the restrictions of the venue on shot variety it truly gives any prospective punter an insight into the manic energy and aural assault that is the band’s live material. It’s achieved by rapid cutting between cameras and sequential close-up work that includes both a view of fret and stickwork as well as allowing zoomed frames displaying both the emotion of the crowd and the band. And it’s not found wanting for sound quality either. Every instrument is clear and crisp with Trevor Phipps’ vocals particularly intense.

As a live band, Unearth make particularly fascinating viewing simply because of their unique capacity to surprise with their music (a twisted combination of thrash-metal and hardcore) and their onstage antics. The two guitarists Buz McGrath and especially Ken Susi are dual blurs of motion, leaping off amps, swinging their guitars around their necks, playing each other’s strings mid-riff, and even doing press-ups in between producing a sequence of shreds that would make Freddie Krueger proud. And amidst it all, standing stock still, Phipps simply stands and lets roar with an ear-shattering volley of lyrics before turning to the crowd and yelling “Don’t just fucking stand there!”

I could go through each song but I think you’re getting the message. It’s a pretty impressive show (and one I’m already wishing I was at) and perhaps that’s the thing. Not being there means it eventually ends up as a slightly disappointing experience. And it’s not just the brevity of it all. It’s rather dark and gloomy on stage, with the occasional burst of colour and this tends to produce a feeling after awhile that you’ve seen it all already. Thankfully, there is the magic of Disc Two still to come.

It’s a 75-minute documentary which provides a full history of the band from their humble beginnings playing clubs to the raging force they’ve become today. The genius here is the liberal use of opinion and information from the band’s contemporaries. The willing contributors include luminaries like Tim Lambesis (As I Lay Dying), Matt DeVries (Chimaira), Hoya Roc (Madball), Corey Taylor (Slipknot/Stone Sour), Dino Cazeres (Fear Factory/Divine Heresy), Brian Fair (Shadows Fall), Adam Dutkiewicz (Killswitch Engage) and ex-Pantera legend, (currently with Hellyeah) Vinnie Paul. They provide many of the most comedic moments as they recant tour tales and insights into the true personalities of each of the Unearth band members. Find out who flipped the tour van and who puked!

I won’t go in to any further details but it really is a superb watch and makes you wonder whether these lads were actually born with a cameraman attached! Without this insanely brilliant documentary this would just be another half-arsed and ultimately inconsequential release, with its inclusion this becomes an essential purchase for all fans of metal.