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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New Look!!!

I know I know, I said back in July that we'd be back up and running soon, but, things get in the way offline and on, and even though it makes me look like a jackass for saying so, we're still on track to get things running again as soon as we can.

We really do love to do this for those of you that read our stuff, or just come here for the free things, or even by accident, and look forward to getting things running up to speed again and cranking out the albums soon.

So again, thank you for your time and we hope we've not lost alot of you in the delays between posts and albums.



Saturday, July 10, 2010

Back Up And Running Soon!!

Ok so afew things of note...

First off: we're sorry that we've been missing in action sense December, it wasn't ment to be that way, we were just planning on taking like January and maybe a week or two into February off, but one thing led to another and between connection issues and internal group and personal stuff, we just all never made it back here to put up new music, sure it sucks, but sometimes that happens and its beyond anyone's control. But none the less, we are back and with a return and atleast one new addition to the staff, or which we hope there will be more to come along as we go, we hope to be back on track and running at full speed and putting out atleast two to three albums a month, or more if time allows or we find some really good stuff, you all know how it is.

Secondly: We as a staff would like to welcome back Tamara, who given her busy offline schedule might not be able to post alot, but she always finds something amazing and awesome for when she does get her chance to post. We would also like to welcome the addition of Mojo, he's been a long time friend of ours who's been trying to get into the group for awhile now and we just got tired of his whining and let him in, hopefully he'll have his first album up soon, if not he'll get the boots to him. And hopefully in the near future we'll have afew more additions coming along to make the group bigger and better and more diverse, because thats what surreal soundz is all about, bringing your ears things its never heard from all over the world.

Thirdly: We've been emailed some rather good albums by afew artists in the 8 or so months we've been missing in action, we will be sorting through them and putting them up when we're able too. And again, thank you all who have sent us music, we love it when people do that, its like a delightful surprise!

Again, any artist or group that would like to have their stuff put on here, please email us either a link to where we can download your album, or atleast 5 to 10 tracks (this allows us to get a full range of your work's feel) at the following address: surrealsoundzaccount@gmail.com However, please be advised, this is a download site and though we don't host anything here, we do provide links to where albums or songs can be downloaded, so as long as you have no issue with that, we'll be glad to help promote you.

Fourth: We would like to thank artist Casey Desmond for her lovely thank you note for including some of her music on our site, we love getting letters of that nature from artists who are happy we can give them some free press and try to broaden their fanbase and are glad to do so. BC's been a big fan of hers for a long time now and was glad to include his fellow Bostonian in the list of artists from new england he's brought here, and he says he plans on adding more in the near future. He says his only regret isn't having some acapella tracks of hers for a remix album he's kicking around the idea of putting up on here.

And Finally: Expect us to be posting again in the near future, hopefully in the next two weeks is our goal, BC and Bez would be back to putting stuff up around that time, and hopefully soon Sherry, Tamara and our newest edition Mojo will have some things up and ready to go in the near future as well.

Thank you for your time, and for staying with us even though we weren't here, and also, if there are any dead links floating around, please let us know so we can go about fixing them for you all.

Again, thank you all for your time, and we are sorry for the delays....


The Surreal Soundz Staff

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mamas Gun - Routes To Riches

Mama's Gun - Routes To Riches

Every now and then, I'll find a band that just stops me in my tracks, makes me listen with all of my attention and focus, and makes me just instantly love what they do, many of these bands and artists I've shared with all of you here, and today, I share another with you, the UK band called Mama's Gun, taking their name from a recent album by the brilliant Eryka Badu, its hard to really garner where they fit in the world of music, but I do know that i love them and this album is just amazing, I've yet to find anyone thats not listened to it afew times through, which to me is a sign that a band or artist is amazing at what they do. What they do is a sort of retro style pop, where bands like The Magic Numbers, who i love immensely are all about the retro british pop style, Mama's Gun is all about the 1970s soul, funk, and general mid 1960s pop from both the world over, I hear alot of The Jackson Five and The Beatles in them, which though not a fan of the beatles so much, i find when others take their style and expand on it, is a lovely trip through the nuances of music's past that many for whatever reason see as hallowed ground. Taking risks and reworking what we see as classic, thats brave and so very made of win, most artists should do that.

The album itself, Routes To Riches opens with the song I find myself listening to more then anything else on the disc, the brilliant "House On A Hill" which is just a brilliant upbeat Jackson Five style pop love song that just blows me away whenever I hear it, I wanna just get up and party like its 1972 all over again and everyone's trying to be 10 year old Micheal Jackson, the party continues with "Rico" which is a brilliant fusion of Stevie Wonder and early Eagles music, its got enough rock for the rockers to like and enough funk that you could pop and lock like nobody's business to, its a great groove with a great flow and a great hook which a funk song must have, followed by an even better bridge thats just brilliant. From there our trip through the music spectrum takes us to "You Are The Music", which starts with a beautiful string arrangement and then drops you a very soulful Earth, Wind and Fire or maybe Ohio Players style uptempo ballad of love, you could really hear this on the soundtrack of any blaxploitation movie ever made and you wouldn't know its a group of British white guys, it switches tempo and feel at the bridge, and becomes gritty dirty funk for a verse, then back to original, its brilliant really. From there our next stop is, "Finger On It", an upbeat dance heavy funk track that you can almost hear George Clinton's influence in it with lines like "hotter then a hot potater hotter then sex in an elevator, shake your funky junk, shake your funky junk for me" its almost guaranteed to get you up out of your seat and moving around and singing around to it, brilliant dance track really. Next up in this party is "Pots Of Gold" a slowed down ballad that seems to almost smack of the influence of mostly forgotten but still a favorite of mine neo-soul singer Maxwell, which delighted me, Maxwell doesn't get enough love these days, it also drips of Marvin Gaye, which is just all sorts of win for a guy like me, who grew up to old Marvin Gaye records, its a beautifully romantic and meaningful song, one of my favorites on the disc really. Its followed by "Chasing Down Shadows" which is a great sweeping ballad that has a great retro late 1960s style british pop feel to it, which is great because though am eating up the retro funk and soul vibe with a spork, I was craving a change in style just to see what they'd do with other ideas, incredibly pleased by the result. Next stop on our tour is, "Phycho Territory" a great fast paced upbeat funk track you can totally see people getting their late 70s boogie on too, its fast paced and bouncy and just plain awesome no matter how you see it, its almost like the BeeGees came out of the past and gave them this track and showed them how to make it brilliant, by this point I'm completely lost in this wonderland of sound they've created for my ears, they follow this up with "Bitch" which is a great funk blues track with an INCREDIBLE guitar riff that leaves me in awe and makes me kind of think they went into the past and stole it from Bootsie Collins, its a thick and sexy straight up funk blues song, its kind of like if you mixed John Lee Hooker or Howlin Wolf with Parliament in a blender and mixed them till it was all liquid, with just afew thick chunks left for the guitar, totally brilliant. From there we go to "Lets Find A Way", a song that sounds like an uptempo Disco era BeeGee's song, or some other uptempo Ballad, you find yourself wanting to roller disco to this one, which is pretty awesome really, its great when music sends you back in time like that, shows a great power to it, next up is "Miracle" which has this great guitar arrangement and is like a total Marvin Gaye song, its just so damn brilliant, the soul falsetto, the upbeat Barry Gibb / Marvin Gaye style vocals and the whole funk dripping beats its just amazing, I find myself listening to it over and over and just living it more and more each time, and the bridge? i totally love it. Our journey ends with "Big Betty" a dirty, gritty, chunky as hell guitar driven funk rock track that sounds like something close to Stevie Wonder's Superstition or something very akin to it, with its brilliant rocky vocals, its untouchable guitar riffs and its overall sound that makes you feel like its a summer night in 1975 and its coming out the speakers of your home stereo at a backyard barbecue somewhere, it leaves you wanting to just loop the disc so you can hear it all again, because you aren't done with it blowing your mind into a million little shards yet.

Now the big question, Is this album for everyone? Oh hell yes it is, i mean come on, this is one of the best discs I've heard in YEARS, this thing blew me away from the very opening and continued to do so all the way to the very end, and left me wanting more, so ofcourse this disc is for everyone who wants to take a nice trip through the music spectrum and relive an era that alot of us wish music would get back to because of just how great it all was. So yeah, if you are a lover of music, if you're a lover of retro music, if you're a lover of fun loving good time music you can dance too and not feel embarrassed to play around your kids, parents or grandparents, all of which who more then likely will wanna get down with their funky selves to this, much to your horror at the image of that, even though it speaks to the beautiful feel and joy put into this. So yeah give it a listen, you'll love it as much as I do.

This is a brilliant accoustic version of their song "House On A Hill" which is by far my favorite song of theirs, so catchy, the album version is alot more funky though, but still love this version to death, wish it was on the disc really...

Artist: Mama's Gun
Album: Routes To Riches
Genre: Soul, Funk, Retro Pop, Britpop
Homepage: Mama's Gun's Homepage
Myspace: Mama's Gun on Myspace

Download: Download the Album here



Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hugh Dillon - Works Well With Others

Hugh Dillon - Works Well With Others

Like many, i first encountered Hugh Dillon on the insanely good Canadian television series "Durham County" where he plays the completely out of his mind, super violent cop Mike Sweeney, Hugh also stars in a series called "Flashpoint" where he plays a sniper for a swat team or something, I've never actually cared for or watched that series. Now you might question why I'm actually promoting an album by someone who is famous in another field, well, thats a simple answer, for 20 years before Hugh got into acting, he had been playing a distinct brand of hard rock meets blues rock all around Canada, even gaining a rather noted amount of success in the 1990s with his old band The Headstones, who happen to be one of my favorite Canadian rock bands of the 1990s in case you were wondering. And its based on that, not his recent turn to acting and the fame its garnered him that makes me want to share this album with you, plus, its a really good album and i'm pretty sure it'll get dismissed as just some famous guy attempting to cash as much in on his fame as possible unless you know who he is and his history. Its not too hard, not to soft, not to gritty, its kind of like a brownie in music form if you will allow for the sarcastically funny metaphor.

The album starts off with "Friends Of Mine", which if I recall happens to also be the lead off single of the album. As you'll be able to tell by the video embedded below, its a nice pop friendly rock song, not to hard, not to soft, somewhere nice and in the middle, a nice introduction to Hugh's work if you've never heard it before really. Following that is "Sentimental Me", a nice mellow song that finds hugh reflecting on many things, this song has a brilliant opening few bars and a great guitar riff and has this whole bar song feel to it, its great. Next is "well On Your Way" a nice faster pace song which has Hugh looking forward and sending someone he cares about away because he feels they deserve better then him, its a nice enjoyable track honestly. Following that is "Ten Feet Tall" which has this completely awesome 1970s southern rock feel to it with a guitar riff and feel that sounds something like a ZZ Top song if ZZ Top were Canadian, its a great upbeat catchy bouncy song its totally awesome. After that is "Surface Of The Sun", which is a nice slow down then speed up song about how life should not always get you down no matter what comes your way, that reminds me abit of a slower Tragically Hip song, but thats understandable, there is alot of The Tragically Hip in Hugh's music, and I like that just fine. After that is "reel to Reel" a song that starts out with a brilliant stevie wonder style opening, and has a nice upbeat flow to it that has Hugh looking at his life talking about his if its his time to leave the spotlight he'll just quietly bow out with out flair and notice. Next up is "Lucky" a nice rock blues style song that seems downtempo and relaxed for this album, its a really good track, its followed by "Lost At Sea" which is a great downtempo moody song, thats all awesome and hypnotic. From there the album's second half kicks in, with songs like "Raido Plays", "Bottom of a Dream", "My Mistakes", "Ignore that Call", "Puzzle I am", and finally "Don't Be Fooled". All rather good songs, and abit more of a rocky feel to them, with "Puzzle I am" being the stand out really, its all a great disc and a joy to listen to over all.

Now, the big question, is this really for everyone? Sure i'd think so, its mellow enough for those who like mellow, its rock enough for rockers, and blues enough for the blues lovers. I feel most people will enjoy "Puzzle I Am" the most, but thats just me, and a personal favorite, but please if you are up for something different and not exactly what you'd expect, then give this a listen, hopefully, you'll enjoy it as much as I have.

Here is a video for Hugh's song "Friends of mine"

Artist: Hugh Dillon
Album: Works Well With Others
Genre: Rock, Blues, Pop
Homepage: Hugh Dillon's Homepage
Myspace: Hugh Dillon's Band On Myspace
Download: Download The Album Here



Friday, December 4, 2009

Hideyo Blackmoon - Blackmoon

Hideyo Blackmoon - Blackmoon

I've always been a fan of out there electronic music, most people will tell you that in truth electronic is my wheelhouse, and I don't really mind that statement, its fairly true, most of you long time readers will remember my raving about bands like The Boats and Magoo and artists like Paul Duncan who straight up use electronica to drive or enhance their music, proving that it is possible to take the most limitless genre and make it work with just about anything. There is no ceiling when it comes to electronica and i personally feel its time the world started to pay attention to that fact.

A key element in my beliefs on this is DJ turned trance/electronica artist Hideyo Blackmoon, a stunning female DJ from Japan who is more of a preformance artist then she is anything else, Its hard to actually explain Blackmoon's work with out an audio example, its like mixing traditional Japanese and Asian musical sounds and imagery with modern trance and club themes together behind mostly upbeat fast paced high energy stuff, the album sort of flows together like one giant track with enough distinction to know that a new one has begun but just continues on the same journey. Its really quiet interesting, like a concept album that takes you through the history of Japan and the Asian counties, but that trip happens when you are apparently on acid or something. Its really mindblowing.

There aren't any real stand out tracks, they all blend together into this brilliantly lovely trip through time and space. I know I'm not really doing the album justice, but you really need to hear it, which is why i'm short reviewing this one. Is it for everyone? Maybe yeah, if you are interested in something completely different and new that you've probably not heard before, so sure, give it a try, you'll probably be glad you did, i sure know i am. And again, i'm sorry for the short review, but i gotta tell you, you gotta just hear this, words won't do it justice that hearing it will.

If you need abit more convincing, or are unsure, here is the video for her song Kokoro One

Artist: Hideyo Blackmoon
Album: Blackmoon
Genre: Trance, Electronica, DJ, Drum and Bass
Homepage: Hideyo Blackmoon's Homepage
Myspace: Hideyo Blackmoon on Myspace
Download: Album Download Here



Aloan - Pretty Freaks

Aloan - Pretty Freaks

There aren't many artists these days that actually make me excited when I hear a new song or that there is a new album coming soon, maybe I'm too picky, maybe I'm jaded, I don't really know, but what I do know is this, one of the few bands that actually do make my excited, is the phenomenal Swedish fusion band Aloan. Many of you will remember back in the early days of Surreal Sounds, I bought you their album "Better In Springtime" which to this day I am still raving about, and having recently acquired the rest of their musical catalog, which i will share with all of you, I felt first I should share their most recent album, the not so long ago released "Pretty Freaks". Which as I'm sure you can guess is a magnum opus in the art of fusion. It stays true to Aloan's constant commitment to their many flavors, showcasing their soul, jazz, hip hop and trip hop sounds, and adding little elements of rock and metal in there just to average things out for the masses. Its an amazing trip through the worlds of sound and sight, and truly worth a listen too, and more so, its been truly worth the wait its taken for them to release this album, even if the wait seemed like more years then it was.

The album starts with "Liquid Girl", an upbeat and rather funky mix of pop and retro 1960s style pop, its abit different for Aloan, but I love when a group or artist takes themselves out of their comfort zone and tries something new, it shows care and dedication to their craft, you don't get that much these days its lovely to see, the song is pretty catchy too, which always helps. Next is "Swinger" the first single released off the album, it follows the same fast paced late 60s pop guitar with traditional trip hop beats over blues style vocals and rap, its a great big loud song thats just so incredible, the booming chorus is incredible and Granite's rap is just so damn onpoint is actually makes me wonder why he's not more respected among rappers, brilliant song. Next is the downtempo "Whitehair Child", which is a touching and beautiful soul style ballad about love and innocence lost, its alot deeper then most of the songs Aloan does, I was very pleased by this actually, I love when artists open up as they progress musically, its so amazing when it happens. Next is, "Invisible" a catchy beat driven funky blues style song that is just incredible, its a great hook, a great beat, vocals that are just flawless, its just so right and a great almost midway in the album point, most artists don't take care in stuff of that nature, the whole caring what point in each album a song is thing is normally the last thing on an artists mind, I love that its at the forfront here. Next is possibly the greatest song on the album, the incredible trip through sound called "Kabuki" continuing that thick retro guitar style, added with some soul and funk elements and enough catchy lyrics and backing beats to make this just the most perfect song I've ever heard from Aloan, Kabuki is a catchy fast passed song that I personally just love to play loud while I'm driving or just moving about the house, Granite's flow is again a clinic on how to use rap effectively outside of the genre, this is the track you'll be playing over and over, and singing along to the background hook on. Next is the surreal "Into A Werewolf" which is haunting, catchy and beautiful all at once, its a great blend of styles and metaphor, which has always been par for the course with Aloan, I've found over the years their imagery is just as impressive as their music and lyric content. After that is "Pain And Sky", another slow and eerily sexy ballad, thick booming guitar and bass drums, with just enough electronica style backing to make it unique and distinctly their own, its a beautiful song about how no one is truly pure and clean anymore, I seriously love when they do this style stuff. Following that is "Wanna Be A Rocker", takes them back again to the retro pop style that they've been trying to keep with on this disc, the music itself is amazing and the vocals and lyrics are catchy and just so perfect, I wished there was more of Granite in it though, we're almost done the disc and there hasn't been the feature track of his yet, normally there are one or two, also, I completely LOVE the reference to The Matrix in this song, its just so delightful, retro style with a modern reference, just awesome. Next is "I Slowly", which is a nice electronica mixed with rock and blues song, it at first felt slightly out of place, but once it gets going it fits right in with the rest of the disc, I completely love how Granite's using his laid back deep voiced flow on this song, it so fits the song perfectly, its just this booming, beautiful and sexy gritty track, its like a gangster movie in trip hop fusion form. Next up is "Beat Of The Black Heart" which starts out with this incredible bass beat that leads to a sublime soul and rap song, its almost like a battle song really, which I gotta admit I been fiending for sense the last album, its just a perfect blend, and its catchy as all hell, with also helps, the acapella in the middle, totally brilliant. This is followed up with "Dragons Are Frail", a rather sexy blues trip hop song that just makes me wanna listen to it over and over again, I love when they use imagery and metaphor for things, its so unique and brilliant when they do it, this is a love song hidden behind the metaphor of a dragon and the lady of the lake and other medieval imagery, its just so out there and yet so awesome at the same time. And finally the last new song on the album is "Try Not To Forget" which starts out alot different then most Aloan songs, it has a distinct and unlike anything else they've done sound to its start, in a sense the closest thing to a simple guitar and vocal song you'll find on an Aloan album, its a sad song about remembering one's self no matter what they go through in life, and the questioning of how far you have to go before you lose who you are and who you feel you are. The album ends with a reworking of Swinger, which I feel is a pretty good way to end the disc honestly.

Now the big question, is this album for everyone? Well, i like to think that as long as you aren't someone thats pigeonholed into one form of music and nothing else, that Aloan is a great band for everyone, but I guess that comes down to personal taste, I would like to think that there is something for everyone, some pop, some rap, some blues, some rock, some electronica, some jazz and rock too. I like to call Aloan one of those groups that takes you on a tour of the music spectrum in the course of their albums, and i'd like to think in the future more groups and artists would move in this direction, it keeps music from getting stagnent and overflowed with sound alikes and boardroom created and marketed bands. So if you want to try something different, and new, and unlike most of what I'm sure you've heard out there in the world, give this album and the band Aloan a try, Ill be posting their other albums soon to combine with this one and their earlier effort "Better In Springtime" soon.

And if you aren't convinced by my review, here is a look at the video for Swinger..

Artist: Aloan
Album: Pretty Freaks
Genre: trip hop, blues, funk, rock, jazz, hip hop
Homepage: Aloan.ch
Myspace: Aloan On Myspace
Download: Album download here



Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thea Gilmore - Strange Communion 2009

With each coming Christmas season I become more and more troubled by what the music scene is going to thrust upon us. This year has been filled with surprises more than disappointments and for that I am eternally grateful. From Halford to Dylan to Weezer I have been pleasantly gifted by each new release so far, but this one I say takes the cake so far. Britain's Thea Gilmore , folk singer and lyricist extraordianaire, has released her own contemplative if not cynical Christmas themed "Strange Communion".

With the exception of a few tracks, Strange Communion doesn’t seem particularly Christmassy, or even wintry, but it feels as comfy as a pair of slippers. Of the ten tracks, eight were penned by Thea and/or her husband and long-time producer Nigel Stonier, and the remaining two are covers of lesser known recordings by Yoko Ono (‘Listen, The Snow Is Falling’) and Elvis Costello (‘The St Stephens Day Murders’). Consequently, what we get is a very personal reflection on the festive season, exemplified best on the tellingly titled ‘Thea Gilmore’s Midwinter Toast’. Starting out plaintive and honest, Semay Wu’s cello accenting the melancholic twinge in Gilmore’s vocal and acting contrapuntally to the faint, synthesized choral backing that emerges later, it’s part love letter to her fans, part affirmation of her faith in the power of song.

Having given us a whopping nine studio albums in 11 years, it’s forgivable that Gilmore hasn’t shown the same amount of artistic progression between releases as some of her peers, but Strange Communion shows this fact up more than any other. So while ‘Cold Coming’ sounds uncannily like a leftover from Harpo’s Ghost given extra bells (no whistles), both ‘Drunken Angel’ and ‘Old December’ echo the weary ruminations of last year’s Liejacker. That’s not to say that Gilmore doesn’t stretch herself at all here; she does, in good and bad ways. By recruiting BBC Radio 2 DJ Mark Radcliffe to be her male vocal foil on ‘The St Stephens Day Murders’, Gilmore turns a very silly song even sillier. Even looking favourably on Radcliffe’s dominating gusto, the delivery so acutely recalls the infallible Pogues and Kirsty MacColl duet, ‘Fairytale Of New York’, that its ramshackle nature feels a little forced.

Ever the outsider, you get the sense that Gilmore has an indefinite struggle with the idea of Christmas. On album opener ‘Sol Invictus’ (Latin: ‘the unconquered Sun’), beautifully recorded with a cappella choir Sense Of Sound, she sounds much more at home with the straightforward Pagan sentiments of the lyric than when rolling her words around to avoid overt Christian terminology. Likewise, the spoken-word ‘Book Of Christmas’ sounds awkward on paper, but the heavily politicised lyric, courtesy of Irish poet Louis MacNeice’s ‘Autumn Journal’, is so very Thea that she pulls it off. It helps that Nigel Stonier’s electric piano and harmonium backdrop on this song is probably Strange Communion at its most musically interesting, with all its shades of Moon Palace-era Lisa Germano. For pure evocative songwriting, though, a timely re-recording of ‘December In New York’ from the long out of print As If EP is the album’s main draw, achieving a difficult balance between stark and poetic over a simple circular melody.

Of course, what the vast majority of people seem to want at Christmas is a feelgood pop singalong, and Gilmore bravely steps up to the plate with ‘That’ll Be Christmas’, Strange Communion’s only real attempt at the money shot. Drawing on various Christmas staples – mulled wine, ‘The Sound Of Music’, Jona Lewie, mistletoe – Gilmore cleverly crafts her words to take a sideways swipe at Christmas while simultaneously celebrating it, a two-handed approach that probably captures how a lot of us feel about the whole ordeal. In fact, it’s this attitude that really serves to sum up Strange Communion as an entity, a Christmas album for people who don’t really like Christmas, or at least who view it with a healthy dose of cynicism. Even pseudo-Scrooges need music, and this modestly ambitious and solid collection caters to them perfectly.

here is a clip of Mrs. Gilmore for those that heven't the pleasure to have heard her as of yet.

Artist: Thea Gilmore
Album: Strange Communion
Genre: Folk,Indie, Acoustic
Country: UK
Download: Here

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Beatallica - Masterful Mystery Tour 2009

The concept is pretty simple...take one half mega-sellout metal band Metallica and one half legendary God's of classic rock, The Beatles, put them in a blender on puree and voila! You have the new entity known as Beatallica. Formed by 4 devotees of both bands who lovingly go as the pseudonyms Jaymz Lennifield, Kirk Hammetson, Ringo Larz and Kliff McBurtney. Of course, this is a piece of brilliance layered with such hilarity that it is truly hard to convey in text alone. Yes, this is a band that must be heard.

The only thing better than the band members names are the song titles, "Fuel On The Hill", "Tomorrow Never Comes", "I Want To Choke Your Band", and my personal favorite title "Got To get You Trapped Under Ice". Even with the obvious humor in tow, one cannot escape the fact that this band is definitely talented as well as irreverent in their reverence to each band and the combination of songs and lyrical themes. Just for example let's look at the lyrics from album title song..."the masterful mystery tour is waiting to pull all your strings"...that is nothing short of brilliant.

As I said before, the music is so tight and complete in its structures that it is only complimented by the uncanny impersonation of Hetfield that Jaymz is able to convey in his vocals..even down to the several instances of the obligatory "YEAH YEAH" trademark of Metallica.

These guys only prove that by taking the Beatles and Metallica they can sell out and be bigger than Jesus....evey single copy of the album they will produce. (Didja see what I did there?)

This gets my vote for best comedy album of the year hands down.

Artist: Beatallica
Album: Masterful Mystery Tour
Year: 2009
Genre: Metal/Comedy/Classic rock/mash Up

Swallow The Sun - New Moon 2009

Hailing from Finland, Swallow The Sun are quite the enigma in the modern doom scene. With this, their fourth full-length release, they are continuing to progress with every album further into the depths of despair and utter bleak doom. They have matured beyond their early works with sweeping lush soundscapes and melody for a more straightforward songs with intense lyrical subject matter. Their last album, 2007’s Hope, was a leap in this direction from 2005’s Ghosts of Loss (they apparently like to work on the evens; see you in 2011, boys), and the latest output from the Jyväskylä six-pack, New Moon, confirms the shift that seemed so sudden last time around.

Of course, there are still melodic/melancholic parts. It wouldn’t be Swallow the Sun without them, but as heard on opener “These Woods Breathe Evil,” it’s much more about the structure of the song, and in this case the catchy chorus, than trading off between heaviness and atmospheric. The atmospheres have become part of the songs, to put it another way. We hear that in the Katatonia-esque “Falling World,” and later in the title track, where vocalist Mikko Kotamnki gives what might be his most accomplished performance yet, showing a melodic range and dynamism with his deathly growls that only speaks to the growth he’s undergone as a performer since the band started out.

What’s happening more than anything else on New Moon is that Swallow the Sun are coming into their own. They’ve toured Europe and the US, they’ve been around the world, they’re coming up on their first decade as a band, and they’re in a position where more and more people know who they are. For melodic death/doom, they might be the top name out of Europe today that hasn’t already been around for 20 years. Are they this generation’s My Dying Bride? Maybe, if you take away some of the gothic drama and consider the fact that while the seminal UK doom act had a full scene supporting them, with bands like Paradise Lost, Katatonia and Anathema to accompany, Swallow the Sun are pretty much doing this with zero companionship on their level. In a way, that makes it all the more admirable.

As with anything, some will bemoan the loss of the extended ambiance, but just as many will delight in the chunky riffs of guitarists Juha Raivio and Markus Jämsen, appreciating the more condensed Swallow the Sun approach. I say “condensed” and mean it in terms of their songwriting. There still isn’t a song on the album under five minutes and synth-heavy closer “Weight of the Dead” clocks in at a respectable 9:05. Certainly no one who heard last year’s Plague of Butterflies EP, which boasted a half-hour-long title track, could accuse the band of shortening their songs to gain commercial appeal. No one who isn’t an asshole, anyway.

Weight of the Dead” might be my personal pick of the album, since it seems to contain so many of the elements that make Swallow the Sun a special act. Mikko Kotamnki’s vocals range from shrill screeches to growls and sad melodicisms, while the song itself follows an agonizingly slow pace (yet somehow also features blast beats in its earlier moments) while seeming to touch on just about everything the band has in their arsenal, including some epic moments. Skip to six minutes in and find me another act on the world stage making music like this. Please.

But naturally there’s more to Swallow the Sun than wide distribution and a hectic touring life. I, for one, have been glad to follow them as they morph into themselves musically, and New Moon, as the latest episode of that process, is a more than satisfying listen. Anyone who’s followed European doom at all and not been exposed to these guys yet would do well to climb aboard the bandwagon before it gets even more out of hand.

Artist: Swallow The Sun
Album: New Moon
Year: 2009
Genre: Melodic Death Metal/Doom Metal
Country: Finland

Friday, November 6, 2009

Halford III - Winter Songs 2009

First off, let me say this...in a million years I would have never even fathomed the idea of Rob Halford of Judas Priest fame doing a Christmas song, let alone an entire album...but now I must say I truly thank him from the bottom of my heart for doing so. In my younger days blaring Defenders Of the Faith I would have never conceived one day he would be singing odes to little baby Jesus's birthday, although, his vocal talents lend tremendously to the awe inspiring renditions of such traditional carols as " O Holy Night" and "Come All Ye Faithful". Yes, For this household Christmas has come a bit early already.

I am sure there will be a spark of outrage among the die hard try hard metal fans that will refuse to accept the fact that Halford has made a disc filled with Christian lyrics, sentiment and sincere reverence...but to be frankly honest, those douche bags aren't the people Rob made this album for anyway. Let the die hard tryhards listen to shitty hate filled bands like Deicide and the rest of us will feast upon this holiday buffet of metal prowess.

From beginning to end this album is filled with the Christmas spirit. Launching first into "Get into the spirit", Halford set into an 80's-tastic metal rhythm that will get your spirit flowing and your blood pumping. Rob's vocals are outstanding as usual and the mix up of metal tracks and traditional takes make this an all around winner for the season to come.

Highlight moments are "We Three Kings, "O Come O Come Emanuel", Winter Song and What Child Is This?". This is a definite for the avid Judas Priest/Halford fan and collector and also for fans of modern Christmas music acts like Trans Siberian Orchestra, The December People and even last year's shocker, Twisted Sister's "A Twisted Christmas".

Artist: Halford
Album: Winter Songs
Genre: Power metal/Christmas Music
Country: UK

Thursday, November 5, 2009

While Heaven Wept - Vast Oceans Lachrymose

Little can compare to the feeling of being truly leveled by the work of an artist, whatever the medium may be. The stroke of Vermeer's brush, the flow of a Gehry building, or even the seemingly simple written words that whip up an epic tale of rabbits fleeing to a hill in northern England: it's a wonderful experience, this personal mesmerization through art, and one of the added benefits of having it done by a piece of music is that you can carry this particular medium and enhance the pleasure of its twisting tendrils by experiencing it in an environment of your own choosing. Such was the case with my encounter with Vast Oceans Lachrymose. After I listened to this disc the first few times I knew I needed to go somewhere quiet and free of distractions. I walked out into the woods near my home and nestled upon a log where I had gone times before to think. And holy shit did that endeavor open the album's majesty to a new crowning achievement. Now, understand my point is obviously not that one need pack up for the closest shore or the quietest forest in order to cull this platter's full reward, but rather that when you come face-to-face with one of these seemingly rare beauties, you want to figure out means to enhance the experience to towering levels. That's precisely the type of album Virginia's While Heaven Wept have accomplished with Vast Oceans Lachrymose, their third full-length in two decades of existence.

So, what exactly is on the menu? Well, to put it simply, While Heaven Wept play epic doom with strong traditional and progressive metal leanings. You can clearly note the influence of sole founding member Tom Phillip's supplementary bands, Solstice and Twisted Tower Dire, but throw in healthy measures of Solitude Aeturnus and John Arch-era Fates Warning to better paint a true picture of what's in store. That essentially means you new-fangled metal fans out there with your heads in the screamy/posty numetal clouds should probably pass on by; this record isn't likely to blow your hair back. But if any of the above-mentioned bands are held close to your heart and you've not yet experienced this band, it's quite possible you'll soil your pants heavier than a baby that's just huffed down five helpings of mashed carrots & broccoli.

The perfect score, while admittedly directed within the stated sub-genre, is something I stand by whole-heartedly. The production is crisp and clear enough to draw out each player's necessary role, not just the expected guits/vox/drums. Past classics from the band's peers have occasionally skimped on bass, but such is not the case here. Jim Hunter (Lord Vicar, October 31, Revelation and Twisted Tower Dire) is clearly audible throughout the album and definitely adds another layer of heaviness to the surprisingly dense riffing dropped by Phillips and fellow axe-man, Scott Loose. In addition, the record's keyboard-play is folded in perfectly as backdrop atmospherics and only take a more prominent role when there's an added emphasis on upping the epic ante.

Songwriting strikes the bull's-eye due to the overwhelming amount of fluid tempo and mood shifts pouring from the speakers. There's pure pounding heaviness (37-seconds into opener "The Furthest Shore"....wow), loads of exquisite acoustics wrapped in doleful mellowness, stretches of knotty prog, and of course piles of sweeping, melodic grandeur immersed with outright epicness. And it all flows so smoothly from one measure to the next, revealing the sheer amount of work it must have taken to string all the pieces into the Vast Oceans Lachrymose whole. Ultimately, there's just too much going on throughout the album's relatively short length (a mere 42-minutes: my only criticism) for me to pinpoint highlights in one review. It's safe to say your emotions will run the gamut between galloping triumphantly to "looking out to sea with heavy heart" from the second the album starts to the moment it draws to a close.

Just looking at the sheer number of bands these folks have all played in over the past two decades should be sound evidence of While Heaven Wept's expertise in the musicianship category. But I'd be remiss if I didn't focus a little attention on the vocals provided by newcomer, Rain Irving. Before his entrance, Phillips filled the role, but eventually decided the band would best be served if his focus remained purely on six-stringing and providing background vocals: a wise move, as Irving's version of the higher register epic doom vocals puts a smidge more grit into the mix -- something I've always felt was missing from the band's previous full-length. Beyond the proggy feel of the music throughout Vast Oceans Lachrymose, it's Irving's vocals that also help bring to mind the Arch-era of Fates Warning mentioned earlier; the 1-minute mark of the excellent "To Wander the Void" is ample evidence of this. Rain certainly stands as the band's rookie of the year, and he truly shines during the emotive chorus that repeats throughout the wonderful "Vessel" that hits at the midpoint of the record.

It's a little embarrassing to gush on at such length about an album as I've obviously done here, but Vast Oceans Lachrymose does such a wonderful job of throwing down the perfect mix of undiluted emotion and crazy amounts of depth, I can't help but trumpet its worth from a mountaintop. In a word, I'd call the record Magnificent, with a capital "M" dropping shadow clear into the next county. It's a fantastic work of metal that's undoubtedly deserving of high accolades, and it just might turn out to be my album of the year.

Just on album cover alone I give this band high accolades. John Martin's (1789-1854) Christ Stilleth the Tempest commandingly augments the entire "epic package" delivered by this work, and it's something I hope to dive into at great length once the record eventually comes out on vinyl.

Pants soilingly bombastic and wholly recommended!

Artist: While Heaven Wept
Album: Vast Oceans Lachrymose
Year: 2009
Genre: Epic Doom Metal/Power metal
Country:: USA
Overall Rating: 10 out of freaking 10 stars!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Trans Siberian Orchestra - Night Castle


If there is one word in the English language that can sum up the music and stories that Paul O'Neil and Company conjure up it is that one. Their latest epic tale is finally here and yes they have beat McDonalds on Mars as the band has jested about on tour for the last few years. Was it worth the wait? Let me just tell you that if there is one disc that you purchase this year, this has to be it.

Let's start with the story. As with all the tales that Paul has produced it is one that deals with faith, hope, fate and the inherent belief that there is good in all people. Without giving the storyline away, let me just say that one of the most unlikely folks you will meet is shown the power of love and faith. He also comes face to face with another twist of fate that shows to him that people do have choices. It is what we do with those choices that determine our destiny.

O'Neil also makes it clear that everyone can make a difference. In this story, one man touches the lives of many across the globe and in such a way as he will never know. Sometimes it is the smallest act that gives the biggest reward. This is quite a story, one for the ages and a timeless tale that I cannot wait to share with my daughter and hopefully for her to pass on to her kids someday. If you take anything away from these discs, I would hope it is the message that Mr. O'Neil is delivering.

And how he delivers it!! With all the pomp of a Broadway spectacular, O'Neil and TSO bring you a musical masterpiece that will have you on edge one moment and weeping like a baby the next. Breathtaking in its scope, this is as good of a concept work that you can ever imagine finding. Using the style of telling a part of the story and then musically creating that scene, TSO brings to life the tale of Night Castle vividly with the wide array of musical talent at their disposal.

Starting off with the guitarist: Paul himself, Al Pitrelli, Chris Caffery, Angus Clark and Alex Skolnick, TSO has a virtual high powered six string arsenal! They deliver a multitude of styles that combine to create some of the most majestic metal moments you will hear. This shines through very much in many of the instrumental tracks such as "The Mountain (Hall of the Mountain King)", "Tocatta-Carpimus Noctem" and the closing track to the story "Embers". Of course this is not the only places they shine as this is a disc that has been in the works for so long that every note and nuance is so well thought out you should expect to hear only the most phenomenal music.

The magic of the TSO is in a large part the work of not only the orchestration but also the way that they bring a very epic feel to all they produce thanks to the glorious keyboardist involved. Co-Producer Robert Kinkel along with the legend Jon Oliva, Luci Butler, Shih-Yi Chiang, Jane Mangini and Derek Wieland bring the music to a level that is unsurpassed. Just a couple examples would be the amazing "Dreams We Conceive" and the exhilarating "Moonlight And Madness". These are just two of many fantastic keyboard moments on Night Castle.

Drums are handled by John O.Reilly and the man…Jeff Plate. On this disc they both bring just the right touch no matter where the music takes them. Never overpowering but done with the idea of complimenting the story, it is that cymbal crash or the dynamic roll at the perfect time that is the final touch that completes the picture TSO is painting.

The voices of TSO are some of the most dynamic artist on this planet. With singers like Jeff Scott Soto, Jay Pierce, Tim Hockenberry, Rob Evan and Jennifer Cella just to name a few, they bring this epic to life. Each one of these vocalist have the ability to make us feel each of the characters involved. I cannot wait to see them perform this live. It will be amazing I am sure of it.

I don't know if it was intentional or not but Paul O'Neil has made this album one that will make all the fans of the core group Savatage drool. There are so many moments that make you think of the group in their heyday. He even manages to touch on different periods in the bands history. "The Mountain" was of course partially taken from The Hall of the Mountain King. "Moonlight And Madness" is a spin on Mozart and Madness from the Savatage album Dead Winter Dead. The song "Another Way You Can Die" has a similarity to another song from the same album "Doesn't Matter Anyway". Then of course there is a version of the classic Savatage song "Believe". Most of the songs that are credited to Jon Oliva and Paul O'Neil as songwriters seem to have this quality. Not much of a stretch when you think about it.

The bonus tracks on the disc are just as good as anything else on here. The first song "Child Of The Night" is kind of the epilogue to the tale. It is the final twist that happens twenty years later.

"Believe" is one of the best songs ever done by Savatage. As Jon Oliva's song to his brother who was taken from us way to soon, this is as touching a song as you will find and although it isn't Jon singing this time, Tim Hockenberry does a find job and I am sure that Jon must agree.

TSO enlist the help of one Greg Lake to perform a scintillating take on the Emerson, Lake & Palmer classic "Nutrocker". ELP is one of the founding groups of this style that blends classical with rock and the band pays tribute to them in a way dynamic way.

The final two songs "Carmina Burana" and "Tracers" are amazing, if you have seen the band in concert the last few years than you are familiar with these songs already. If you haven't seen them than you are in for a treat!

I have tried to not give too much away about the disc as this is one of those that the thrill of hearing it and being enthralled is something to cherish. There are few times that you will have the chance to be swept away in this kind of manner so I suggest that you forget about what you are doing and find a way to get this into your home as soon as possible. This is the stuff that dreams are made of and you cannot help but be touched by what Trans-Siberian Orchestra has to offer.

Artist: Trans Siberian Orchestra
Album: Night Castle
Genre: Symphonic/Orchestral/Prog Rock/Metal
Country: USA
Overal Rating: 10 of 10 stars
Download: Here

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More

It’s fair to say that that 2009 has been a pretty great year for albums and while mentally checking the more impressive releases of the year past there seems to be a much healthier British contingent than there would have been in the last couple of years. The Twilight Sad, Bat For Lashes, Wild Beasts and Noah & The Whale have all made records to be proud of, and Sigh No More sees Noah playmates Mumford and Sons produce a debut album that deserves to be held in the same honorable company...maybe even the cream of this proverbial crop.

Let’s get rid of those NATW comparisons right away, another London based four piece from the same somewhat incestuous nu-folk scene, if you were being overly simplistic you might say The Mumford sound is a pretty even mix of the rustic pop of the first and darker more world weary sound of Fink and co’s second record, but such comparisons would be doing a disservice to the band to only talk of them in the context of their more famous friends.

From the opening title track, it’s Marcus Mumford’s gravelly voice that dominates the record, and he has the depth, wisdom and timbre of a man older than he is. In terms of influences Sufjan Stevens is perhaps the most relevant touchstone. Whilst Mumford’s lyrics are not explicitly religious they do contain a certain spiritual zeal, the chorus of ‘Sigh No More’ being a case in point as he sings of a “love that will no longer betray or dismay you, it will set you free/make you more like the man you were meant to be”. There is also The Cave with it’s refrain of “I’ll find strength through pain/I will change my ways”.

Perhaps those lyrics look a bit cheesy written down, but executed with such belief and sincerity and carried perfectly by the band it’s pretty powerful stuff. There are also hints of Sufjan in the trumpet playing throughout, particularly the melodious ‘Winter Winds’.

It’s not perfect though by any means, musically there is a deal of repetition by which the band only get away with thanks to the strength of songwriting; dizzying banjo arpeggios are often employed to pick up the choruses on the quicker, more bluegrassy numbers and drive them along although they use this trick just one too many times.

A White Blank Page’ is a particularly weighty performance as Mumford fantasizes a letter to someone now beyond reach as dramatic violins and sudden chunks of piano melt with an angry yet sorrowful vocal performance. Despite the mournful surface of the song there does seem to be a sense of redemption by the song’s end.

Marcus Mumford is clearly someone who believes in learning from mistakes, or at least being made a stronger person by them. Latest single ‘Little Lion Man’ is more rueful, less vitriolic but finds a kind of all encompassing relief in it’s confession of wrong doing, although the less than sly radio edited cry that he “fucked it up this time” may prevent it becoming a radio smash...not that I give a shit about the radio and its corporate bullshit, but I digress.

The level of quality and attention to detail on display vindicates the amount of time the band took to get the record out and although it does trail slightly towards the end but what really impresses is the way that Mumford & Sons ideals and personal philosophy seep through the lyrics of the record to make it a far deeper and overall more rewarding listen than those made by their more chart-friendly peers.

This is highly recommended for fans of The Decemberists, Noah And the whale, The Steeldrivers..and folk music in general.

Artist: Mumford and Sons
Album: Sigh No More
Genre: Folk, Nu-Folk
Country: England
Overall Rating: 8.5 of 10 stars
download has been suspended by request of greedy music companies and RIAA.

The 11th Hour - Burden Of Grief

"Diagnosed with a terminal lung disease, haunted by unspeakable nightmares..."

...so begins the explanation of the concept behind "Burden Of Grief", the debut album from part-Dutch/part-Swedish duo The 11th Hour. Behind the facade of The 11th Hour lies a supergroup of sorts: we have main man and multi-instrumentalist Ed Warby of Gorefest, Demiurg, Hail Of Bullets and others, and growler Rogga Johansson of Edge Of Sanity, Demiurg and Paganizer collaborating on a "wish-come-true" album of pure doom for Ed, a significant deviation from the death metal past for both of them.

New to the creation of doom the duo might be but a long history of appreciation towards the genre is imminently obvious in the slightest listen to "Burden Of Grief". Recalling most prominently the legends Candlemass (both new and old) and Solitude Aeturnus, and the less ancient Isole (raising a credit to their brilliant "Silent Ruins" this year), the style played is a most honest and humble take on the epic doom sub-genre flexed in a modern suited production (ala Isole). Being humble and true to the genre's ethos "Burden..." is not one for moving faster than it needs to, usually residing in the 'slow-mid paced' section of the genre, yet the defining aspect of it is the growled vocals of Johansson. Now of course I trust the idea of a pure doom album was a collaborative one between two good friends, but with Warby writing all the songs, playing all instruments and contributing some worthy clean vocals of his own I wonder if the growls of Johansson are really required. His Akerfeldt-meets-Swanö death metal style provide a sharper edge in their moments than Warby's soulful croons but such is the way in the world of epic doom, a pleasantly haunting clean vocal goes a long way further than in many other metal genres, and I'm just not sure if the music is dark and brooding enough to necessitate the throaty growls we are sporadically treated to.

As well as judging the variation in the vocal styles the quality of music mustn't be forgotten, oh no. Epic doom has never been awash with a multitude of bands, and for that I am eternally grateful O Lord, meaning much of what one hears is entirely listenable, and this dear reader is the case with "Burden Of Grief". But little more. Those I rate most highly in the genre of late have either taken the genre in a fantastically epic direction (Doomsword) or simply pushed the classic template that bit further (Isole, again) but The 11th Hour could be well accused of simply playing by the rulebook without offering anything new. Yes there are much worse accusations out there but "Burden Of Grief" is just a little too safe in it's epic doom regimentation to garner top marks. "Atonement", thanks mainly to Warby's passionate requests of a dying man, backed by a wonderful synth backing, is a very good listen and "One Last Smoke" is so Candlemass it would fit right in on their recent "Death Magic Doom", but the special element of fragile beauty key to the genre is noticeably missing. Even with the intelligently inter-woven theme of a dying man's last moments, concluded by the cold beeping of a life-support machine come the end of "Longing For Oblivion", the ingredients for a great doom experience are somewhat incomplete, leaving us an album for the 2nd tier of the epic doom pantheon. With all of that said, for a freshman release this is not bad whatsoever and I look forward to seeing them improve with age. A definite listen for fans of Candlemass, Opeth, Isole, Solitude Aeternus and My dying Bride.

Artist: The 11th Hour
Album: Burden Of grief
Genre: Epic Doom/Death
Country: Denmark/Sweden
Overall Rating: 7 out of 10 stars
Download: Here

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

State Of The Art - Hilltop Hoods

Its never been a shock to anyone that I'm a huge fan of international hip hop, and in particular Australian hip hop, which is why, when the group that introduced me to rap from down under, The Hilltop Hoods, released their new long awaited album "State Of The Art", I jumped with joy. looking through the backlog, I've only posted The Hard Road Restrung by them, I'll have to fix that... Anyway, for those that aren't aware, I first heard of The Hilltop Hoods in 2003, when I was sent an mp3 of "The Nosebleed Section", and been hooked sense. Its been a joy to watch their evolution.

Which is why its no surprise that I rather enjoy the innovative "State Of The Art" which though remaining true to its roots in Aussie Hip Hop, broadens and expands and at times crosses into other genres, in a sense its a concept album hidden as a rap album thats abit more aggressive then what most of us are used too from the hoods, but don't let the harder edge turn you off, the album is the same awesome mix of perfectly crafted beats and both meaningful and innovative lyrics, even their freestyles are unlike what we get here in the states, as a child from the tail end of the first generation of hip hop, I enjoy that. But enough of that, lets get into the tracks shall we?

The album starts with "The Return", a nice Run DMC style rock mixed with rap beat where the group freestyles their reintroduction after being off for three years, its a great track that sets the tone for the album, a perfect opener I think. The second track is called "Super Official" and is a return to whats made the hoods loved by true hip hop lovers the world over, a nice easy to listen too party friendly track that just begs to be put on repeat. and played through some big speakers. Next is "Chase That Feeling", the album's first single, which was a nice choice, a really nice opening that sounds kind of like "Kung Fu Fighting" played on a piano, the track is a great easy to listen too track about the tribulations of life and what it means for everyone to chase their dreams, you actually find yourself repeating this one afew times when you first hear it, its just awesome and vintage hoods. Following that is "She's So Ugly", a battle rap thats just so straight for your head its just brilliant, the song is their commentary on the current state of hip hop the world over and how radio is slanting toward "radio friendly" american pop hop, its similar to Downsyde's song about the same subject, but I still love it. Next song is "Still Standing" a great bass heavy party track with an awesome hook that you find youself singing along too by the end while you nod your head to the beat of the awesomely smooth groove that makes you kind of wanna get up and dance, I do love this track so very much. Following that is "Classic Example", a nice freestyle track with american rapper Pharoahe Monch, who makes his first apperance on a song sense 2007, which is a big surprise for me, I'm a big fan of Monch's complex delivery and slant toward the more intelligent lyrics, much like most rappers that aren't from the states, he blends well with the hoods on this track, its got a nice jazzy beat and a nice flow all over all. Next song is "Chris Farley", a song that names off many different famous people of note that are dead, and their desire to gain that level of legend like rappers, singers, and actors known for living a hard lifestyle before them, the chorus on this is just so catchy that you don't realize how far into the song you are by the time you start feeling it completely, brilliant. After that is "The Light You Burned", which starts out with a catchy little sample that I can't really seem to find who does it, but I'd like too, the beat has that sort of rock meets rap beat, which is fast tempo and goes for the head right off, the hoods flow keeps up that pace from the onset, and doesn't really let up, this is another of those great play it on a loud sound system tracks, even if it is basically a break up song, I always enjoy when you can make a song about breaking ups and it be so awesome you have to play it loud and often, its just so catchy that you can't not do it. Next on the list is "Parade of The Dead", a nice hard edged track with a very unique beat, that normally I'd see MCs stumble over, but not the hoods, its a nice hard edged freestyle, which seems to be abit of a theme on this album, but i don't really mind it, its actually a nice change of pace after their last album, it shows they're growing as artists, which I always love. Next is "Last Confession", a nice "redemption track", which is kind of a staple of the Hilltop Hood albums, a smooth laid back jazzy beat sometimes with an obscure old audio sample played in the background, this is one of those things you don't feel complete with out hearing atleast once on a hoods album, they're just so well done, smooth beat with a live piano and violin in there, meaningful interspecies lyrics that make you look inside yourself, I honestly think they're the best group in the world at this kind of track. The second to last song is "Hillatoppa", a song that starts with this nice not to fast beat and a piano beat, as the hoods muse about their place in Hip Hop and its history, its a nice track that gets you from the start and keeps you all the way through straight to the end, a great listen. The final track is "Fifty in Five", which is something really rare in hip hop, its kind of "We Didn't Start The Fire" but done in rap, its a very strange track but its also an incredibly brave track, that I sat here and listened through to repeatedly just to get the whole impact of it, that actually makes it a great choice for a final track for the disc, I love when an album ends on a high note instead of a fizzle, it shows respect and care for the craft instead of just tossing some things together at the end to make it seem like you knew what was going on.

So, the big question, is this album for everyone? I'm not really sure, I'd say its a must for hip hop fans, be it if you've not ever heard international hip hop or are a lover of the genre no matter where the artist comes from, my one downside would be that the album seems alittle like they're trying to mimic the american heavy swearing style at times, the hoods have always had afew swears in their tracks, but this is the most to date, I don't dislike that, I just think it makes it seem slightly american, if that makes sense. As for everyone else, if you are up for an interestingly different take on a genre that is both brilliant and trash at the same time depending on your exposure to it (american radio being trash, the stuff you don't hear on the radio being brilliant at times), I'd say give it a listen, you probably won't be let down, you might even find something you enjoy on here, who knows?

But, if you aren't sure still, here is a video/whatever for "Chase That Feeling", for some reason the actual video for the song is unable to be embedded, which sucks, so this is the closest to thing to it, I can gather, it still lets you hear the song, so not a total loss.

Artist: Hilltop Hoods
Album: State Of The Art
Genre: rap, hip hop, australian hip hop, freestyle hip hop
Homepage: Hilltophoods.com
Myspace: Hilltop Hoods on Myspace
Download: Album Download Here