Sunday, 4 July 2010

John 5 - The Art of Malice

(To be printed in PowerPlay Magazine Issue 122)

From the blistering opening of 'The Nightmare Unravels' alone, it is clear that John 5 is a phenomenal guitarist - few others can match the sheer velocity of his playing. However, John 5 is more than just a one-trick pony, quickly turning his hand from Van Halen-esque shredding on tracks like 'Ya Dig?' (featuring fellow David Lee Roth Band alumni Billy Sheehan) to rapid banjo twanging on 'J.W.'. This country and western aspect to John 5’s playing is prevalent throughout the album. For instance, the guitar noodling of the title track shows off John 5’s chicken-picking chops whereas 'Steel Guitar Rag' is an exercise in country-blues stomping. Of course, it’s not all country bops. With John 5 probably most associated with industrial acts Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, there’s a fair share of metal on this platter. One of the more conventionally structured cuts, 'Wayne County Killer', opens with danger siren leads before moving on to apocalyptically fast guitar parts that would make even the likes of Alex Skolnick cower. Also of particular note is closer 'The Last Page Turned', which progresses charmingly from thumped acoustic chords to masterfully intricate interludes, creating a stunning end to the album.

The Art of Malice is a strong record that greatly displays John 5’s versatility as a musician, but will probably only truly entertain guitar enthusiasts. The technical feats achieved by John 5 will certainly wow and amuse music nerds, but the casual listener will find The Art of Malice quickly developing in to an indiscriminate mess of super-fast notes.

Belligerence - Remember Who Put You There

(To be printed in PowerPlay Magazine Issue 122)

Belligerence’s Remember Who Put You There is a groove-laden offering of metal from the get-go, boasting ball-bustingly heavy riffs with the southern drawl that’s characteristic of bands like Clutch or Crowbar. Opener proper, 'A Breaking Dawn', is almost like a half-way point between Pantera and Down, with singer Tim Brock certainly having something of a Phil Anselmo quality to his voice. Throughout the E.P., the instrumentation remains strong; the guitars drive the music and the rhythm section makes sure there’s a constant thump to support the musical vehicle. The title track is by far the heaviest on the E.P., boasting painfully palm-muted riffs and a great wah-ed solo before leading into a neck-snappingly heavy breakdown.

Remember Who Put You There is gutsy display of sludgy riffs that is sure to please those who enjoy their metal with a booze-slugging punch behind it. If Belligerence can pull out an album as consistently strong as this E.P., they’ll be on to great things.

Peter Frampton - Thank You Mr Churchill

(To be printed in PowerPlay Magazine Issue 122)

Thank You Mr Churchill is a collection of serene songs augmented by the classic guitar stylings and soft, Colin Hay-esque croon of Peter Frampton. Indeed, the guitar playing on the album is fantastic. Tuneful, well thought out and tasteful – exactly what the world has come to expect from Peter Frampton. But what’s more, it’s clear that Frampton hasn’t lost his knack for song-writing as there are some absolute stunners on this album. 'Road to the Sun' includes Frampton’s son, Julian on vocals and throws the listener a hugely memorable chorus whereas 'I’m Due A You' is a beautifully melodic soft-rocker that evokes a somewhat Santana-esque vibe. Subtly present throughout is Frampton’s Motown influence, one that makes itself most apparent on 'Invisible Man' through its bouncing guitars and effectively placed soul backing vocals.

The album as a whole seems to be calm and unassuming, moving along steadily and offering slightly laid-back tunes that are involving without being intrusive. Even when things get slightly heavier, such as on the Jimmy Page styled riffery of 'I Want It Back' or the classic metal chops of 'Asleep At The Wheel', the dynamic of the music somehow remains cool and collected. Whilst perhaps not quite the power rock of Frampton’s glory days, Thank You Mr Churchill offers a sublimely contemplative collection of matured songs that are sure to entertain both fans and newcomers alike.