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Archive for the ‘Heavy Metal’ Category


 

TRACKLISTING:
1. Here I Stand (4:11)
2. In My Place (3:33)
3. The Keeper (5:33)
4. Cannibal Tango (3:27)
5. Fever (the Battle Rages On) (4:48)
6. Hate Incarnate (2:58)
7. Get Out of My Way (4:38)
8. Russian Girls (3:32)
9. Demon Disco (4:05)
10. Be My Pride (4:30)
11. Fathers & Sons (5:01)
12. Inner Feelings (Silence) (18:54)

LINEUP:
Christophe Godin – guitar, lead and background vocals
Julien “Peter Puke” Rousset – vocals, drums, percussion, background vocals
Gaby Vegh – vocals, bass guitar, background vocals; tablas (3)

With:
Lilit Karapetyan – Russian girl’s voice (8)

French power trio Gnô are one of the projects of guitarist Christophe Godin, known in progressive rock circles as the founder and mastermind of Mörglbl, as well as one of France’s hottest guitar players. Cannibal Tango, Gnô’s second album, was released in the early summer of 2011 on the US-based label The Laser’s Edge – 10 years after their debut, Trash Deluxe, released in 2001 after Mörglbl’s temporary demise.

Mörglbl are widely considered as one of the most exciting bands on the current prog scene, and anticipation is running very high for their forthcoming US tour – whose culmination will be the  headlining slot on Saturday, September 3, at the legendary ProgDay festival in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Though adopting a somewhat more straightforward format than Mörglbl’s output, Cannibal Tango is bound to win over most fans of Godin’s main gig, especially those who have a broader view of progressive rock than the average fan pining for the good old days of the Seventies. With their irrepressible, genre-bending attitude and obvious enthusiasm for making music, Gnô deliver a real rollercoaster ride of an album, bubbling with a wild and wacky sense of humour, crushingly heavy but also full of infectious grooves and catchy hooks.

Cannibal Tango’s press release describes the band as “Pantera meets The Beatles” – a rather weird, but oddly effective definition.  Driven by Godin’s high-powered, razor-sharp riffs and searing lead breaks, propelled by Julien “Peter Puke” Rousset’s thunderous drums and Gaby Vegh’s solid yet nimble bass lines, Gnô;s music is always brimming with energy, but capable of unexpected twists and turns. While the influence of heavy metal – both in its classic incarnation (as in Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden) and the more eclectic strains represented by the likes of the above-mentioned Pantera, Faith No More or System of a Down – is clearly recognizable, one of the closest terms of comparison would be King’s X, whose imprint is hard to miss in the impossibly catchy vocal harmonies. Like the American trio, Gnô rely on conventional song structures spiced up by intriguing hints of a higher complexity.

With 12 tracks averaging between 3 and 5 minutes, the album’s 63-minute running time is quite deceptive, as it includes the unexpected “Easter egg” (a funny a cappella version of “Fever”) tacked at the end of closing number “Inner Feelings (Silence)” after a lengthy pause.  Although the canonical “prog” features of mind-boggling time signature changes and extended instrumental sections are conspicuously absent on Cannibal Tango, there is still plenty of variety to hold the listener’s interest. Starting with opener “Here I Stand”, the songs as a whole are bold and relentlessly dynamic, without too much subtlety, yet introducing different elements into the sheer heaviness of their foundation. The funky  pace and catchy chorus coexisting with an aggressive guitar solo reminded me of another of the seminal crossover bands of the Eighties, New Yorkers Living Colour; while with “In My Place” some lazy reggae licks are thrown into the mix, together with a chorus that owes a lot to The Beatles, though with a much harder edge. Echoes of King’s X emerges in numbers such as the slower, doom-infused “The Keeper” with its faint Middle Eastern vibe, the groovy “Get Out of My Way” and the intense, slow-burning “Inner Feelings”. The more nuanced instrumental bridge of  the brisk “Demon Disco”, on the other hand, points to another hugely influential power trio – the mighty Rush; while the unabated intensity of “Russian Girls”, probably the heaviest number on the album, borders on hardcore punk.

As pointed out in the previous paragraphs, Cannibal Tango requires a high level of tolerance for heaviness and fast and furious riffing in order to be fully enjoyed – as well as a taste for artists such as Frank Zappa or Primus, whose music prominently features a blend of chops and off-the-wall humour. Packaged in a colourful, zany cover proudly emblazoned with the band’s striking logo,  and photos hinting at the “cannibal” motif gracing the CD’s inner sleeve, this is a genuinely entertaining album from a very talented outfit, which fans of the more crossover-

Links:
http://www.gno-music.com/

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TRACKLISTING:
1. Neon Knights (3:54)
2. Children of the Sea (5:35)
3. Lady Evil (4:26)
4. Heaven and Hell (6.59)
5. Wishing Well (4.08)
6. Die Young (4:46)
7. Walk Away (4:26)
8. Lonely Is the Word (5:53)

LINEUP:
Ronnie James Dio – vocals
Tony Iommi – guitar
Geezer Butler – bass
Bill Ward – drums
Geoff Nichols – keyboards

Though I generally try to be as unbiased as possible in my reviews, in this particular occasion I will have to let objectivity take a back seat, because Heaven and Hell, Black Sabbath’s ninth album, is one of my top 10 albums of all time. As my faithful readers should know by now, even if the majority of the music I review can be placed under the extensive ‘progressive rock’ umbrella, my listening tastes are quite eclectic, and I do have quite a soft spot for what might be termed ‘classic heavy metal’. Indeed, Heaven and Hell is a masterpiece of the genre, signaling the band’s return to sparkling form after the severe decline shown by their late Seventies albums

At the beginning of the new decade, Sabbath underwent what could be called a total makeover. Gone was the muddy, uncertain sound a of their earlier albums, to be replaced by Martin Birch’s state-of-the-art, crystal-clear production, which allowed every instrument to shine – not just Geezer Butler’s and Bill Ward’s thunderous rhythm section or Tony Iommi’s legendary riffing, but especially new guy Ronnie James Dio’s awe-inspiring roar. The latter’s addition  made the real difference in the band’s performance: though Ozzy’s distinctive, eerie wail had been Black Sabbath’s trademark  since the beginning of their career, Dio (who had left Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow to join the band) was something else completely. Such changes obviously altered the band’s sound in a rather substantial way, so that  Heaven and Hell sounds quite unlike their Seventies output – less chillingly menacing, more crushingly powerful, yet also more accessible.

The hard-driving “Neon Knights” (one of the strongest opening tracks ever) sounds like a statement of intent right from the start, brimming with Iommi’s towering guitar riffs and Dio’s soaring bellow. Things slow down for the following number, the epic, doom-laden “Children of the Sea” – one of Dio’s career-defining vocal performances together with Rainbow’s “Stargazer”.  On the other hand, “Lady Evil” is a catchy, uptempo song, punctuated by Butler’s booming, dynamic bass lines, which provides a respite of sorts before the monumental title-track – strategically placed at the end of Side A when the album was originally released.

A concert classic for both Dio-era Black Sabbath and its unfortunately short-lived, eponymous band, “Heaven and Hell” is a crushingly heavy cavalcade bolstered by Butler’s thundering bass and Iommi’s manic riffing, with Dio’s voice soaring and swooping above the din in true epic style. As a sort of release of tension, another catchy tune follows, the almost poppy “Wishing Well” (no relation to the Free song of the same title).   “Die Young” can instead be counted as another of the album’s highlights – a powerful, keyboard-laden hard rocker, it sees another cracking vocal performance from Dio, enhanced by Iommi’s  sterling guitar work.

While the slightly nondescript “Walk Away” is, in my view, the only track   that approaches filler status, the album is wrapped up by another memorable number.  “Lonely Is the Word” most closely resembles Sabbath’s earlier output with Ozzy – a sinister slice of doom driven by Iommi’s iconic riffing,  while Dio’s vocals sound pleading and commanding in turn. The wistful yet intense guitar solo at the end of the song is undoubtedly one of Iommi’s finest moments.

Originally released on April 25, 1980, Heaven and Hell  is still revered by rock fans, even though the younger generations of metal fans may find it  somewhat lightweight if compared with the output of the countless extreme metal acts flooding the current scene.  While it  does contain occasional progressive touches, it  was never as influential to the development of prog-metal as Black Sabbath’s Ozzy-era offerings. The presence of a few catchy tunes might also put off some purists, who might find the likes of  “Lady Evil” o “Wishing Well” too close to AOR for comfort.

All this criticism notwithstanding, Heaven and Hell is one of the milestone releases of the past 40 years, and one of the greatest vocal albums in the history of rock. As well as being a celebration of the album’s 31st anniversary, this review is meant as a homage to Ronnie James Dio, who passed away almost a year ago, on May 16, 2010. Together with Rainbow’s Rising, this album was possibly Ronnie’s finest hour.

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