Magnolia Park – Halloween Mixtape II (Epitaph Records)
Less is more, right? It’s a mantra I’ve often referred to in reviews, even if Yngwie would never agree. Nor, so it seems, would Magnolia Park. Seventeen tracks, nine collabs, six hundred and sixty six musical deviations taking in emo, pop-punk, nu-metal, hip-hop, cartoon horror pop and more is testament to the fact that the quintet may be on to something with their embracing of musical diversity.
No review from the Colchester Arts Centre would be complete without hailing the best small venue in the UK. Able to host 400 when packed to the architraves, its post-COVID refurb has cleaned up and modernised where needed (toilets, bars), whilst maintaining the features and character that every converted church that is now a gig-hosting venue should. Added to that, great views and a powerful sound-system, and the stage is quite literally set for a much more adventurous and welcome Tuesday night than you might normally get in the Britain’s oldest (and newest – Google it) city*
World Domination is a big old task. Both in terms of, um, well, actually taking over the world, but also in terms of taking everything about the fifth full-length from Norwegian collective Blood Command in. Twenty tracks, and everything from Black Metal to slick pop, via snarling punk, metallic stomping Hardcore, and even the odd pause for breath (though only a sharp intake before heading off somewhere else, into urban beats, or shimmery synths, or kicking someone’s head in).
When your first two albums are such bonafide classics as to not only launch you to rock fame but also firmly establish your sound and style in everyone’s conscience, it can be difficult to find the space to grow amongst the weeds and weight of expectation, particularly when your third album saw some of the earnestness and depth not quite sacrificed at the altar of “the commercial gamble” (one that paid off, whether or not you choose to blame it on the Boom Boom), but tempered in exchange for slick, rock arena fillers.
As the dog-fighting solos of “Give Her To The River” battle across the sunlit horizon between your ears, flurries of shrapnel-barbed melodic notes and runs fired first from one side of your headphones then the other, for those of us who are battle-hardened Heavy Metal warriors it’s hard not to grin and surrender to the glory of the Ghost At The Gallows, for the Spirit Adrift has claimed another champion to its horde.
Sometimes an album can be considered on its own merit, or with just a passing reference to the context it exists within. For others, they can, indeed, should, be linked to a “run” or an arc of albums within a period of a band’s career. And for some, it is worth going back to the beginning to truly see the big picture of what and why a specific album is.
Nearly thirty years of diving headfirst into the void, and Church of Misery are back with Tatsu Mikami once more giving worship to the Blackest of Sabbath’s, acolyte to ‘The Riff’ and servant to the retro groove once more on Born Under A Mad Sign (Rise Above). Joined once again after a twenty-five-year absence by original vocalist Kazuhiro Asaeda, there is a fine sense of anticipation about the Japanese doom merchants seventh full-length.
Ah, the age-old balance between the jagged, dirty edges of rock and the polish, apparently, required to make a commercial success of this left of mainstream universe we all inhabit. Get it right, and radio and playlists and such stardom-related “things” await… yet, to play that game too much and for too long is to risk losing the soul and joy that is at the heart of the art that got you there in the first place. So, seemingly as a response to the more contrived, collaborative, and involved process that led to their predecessor Fuck Art, alternative rockers The Dirty Nil have given themselves over to their natural instincts, indulging a Free Rein To Passions (Dine Alone) on their fourth album.
In their forty-three year (!) recording career, it isn’t unfair to say UK rock stalwarts Def Leppard are known for a pretty steady formula and approach of, in the main, pristine, polished hard rock songs, centred in an eighties sheen. Most of us could recognise a Def Leppard-style song without too much difficulty, and they aren’t (a few deviations – RetroActive, Slang, Taylor Swift, and Ghostly interactions – aside) known for their musical risk-taking or surprises.
While resilience and, well, pure obstinance (so much for the ten-year plan, hey?) have been foundation stones to the story of Irish alternative noise rock stalwarts Therapy?, there are also certain relationships that have been integral throughout their journey. The three-decade (plus) partnership of singer/guitarist Andy Cairns and bass-pounder Michael McKeegan is one, the teaming up with Marshall Records on phoenix album and Marshall’s first release, Cleave (2018) feels important, too particularly as it was a release that also saw them reunited with producer Chris Sheldon, the man behind the mixing desk of the seminal and still majestic Troublegum album that catapulted Therapy? to mainstream success in the mid-nineties.