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Quick Play: A round-up of January 2008 album releases

We've listed albums in order of star rating. Best first.

HIATUS Hiatus

Hiatus have got a clutch of excellent songs and in the hands of a top US producer/engineer this would be golddust.

As it is, the Manchester four-piece have produced a very competent debut that should open a few ears in the coming months. From the opening, 'Panacean' the album's full of grumbling heavy guitar riffs, funky stylings, and Dominic Stannage's excellent vocals.

The band groove in places like Spin Doctors ('Ambition Killer', 'Jenni's House' and ''96') and rock out on 'Another Side' (Danny Rigg's semi-Edge phrasing a highlight) and 'What I Take From You'.

'This Is Your Kingdom' starts with an insistent jazzy riff and with Gaz Bowe's rock-solid bass shows the band can play with subtlety when needed. And on 'A Genuine Way' the riffing gives way to an attractive ballad. One to watch. ****

Review by David Randall

DESERVE TO DIE Surrender All But Our Skin (Grind That Axe Records)

What a great title, and the rest isn't half bad either. Am I getting old or aren't grindcore vocals a little passe now? Whatever, this Yorkshire five-piece have an excellent sound and so they should: Cradle of Filth producer Dan Turner twiddled the knobs.

The combination of hard riffing and more melodic sections makes comparisons with As I Lay Dying and early-period Lost Prophets inevitable. I have to say, though, Deserves To Die serve all this up with a high panache quotient. ****

Review by David Randall

CRY FOR SILENCE The Glorious Dead (Visible Noise Records)

After listening to this, you will Cry For Silence, for it is brutal metal at a high level.

Formed out of a love of Pantera and Metallica, you get an atmosphere of deafening noise, a lyrical theme of war and conflict (check out the lyrics to the title track), and a hint of some intelligent duel guitar work that mixes the trad of Maiden and Priest with the European melodic metal of Freedom Call and Mob Rules.

Opener "Nightmare" really kicks, and "A World Benign" features some hardcore vocals and staccato rhythms and guitar that goes from noise to trad and back again.

Some dark yet brutal sounds to match the lyrics, extreme fans will love this set. Headache inducing in a kind of good way. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

LUPEN CROOK Iscariot The Ladder

Re-emerging for his 2nd album with his band The Murderbirds, Lupen is a difficult singer-songwriter to pigeonhole.

His debut Accidents Occur Whilst Sleeping found critical acclaim and a niche following, and this follow up will more than satisfy acolytes. It's a brittle and fractured collection from an artist in every sense of the word. Commercial success is not a goal, this is punk folk - raw emotions spilling from every orifice.

At sub-30 minutes, it may not be the longest album you'll hear this year, and to be honest it's not an easy listen, but there's something utterly compelling nevertheless - a bit like slowing down to stare into the wreckage of a car crash. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

MINUS The Great Northern Whale Kill (One Little Indian)

Icelandic band Minus are a driving, solid noisefest of rock with influences including The Foo Fighters, QOTSA and Sepultura. This album kicks of with 'Cat's Eye' and from there on is a fast moving 11 tracks including highlights such as 'Black and Bruised', 'Shadow Heart' and 'Throwaway Angel'.

Well worth a listen, this band should be good live. ***

Review by Nikk Gunns

ORIGINAL BROADWAY CAST Xanadu PS Classics (2007)

The original film version starred Olivia Newton-John with many of the tunes penned by ELO's Jeff Lynne.

This Broadway version is even cheesier than the original movie! Some of this makes you cringe like the abomination of 'Evil Woman' - what have they done to this ELO classic?

Elsewhere Cheyenne Jackson sounds like Olivia Newton-John especially on the two most recognisable tunes - the title track and 'Magic'. It is well produced with a strong backing set of musicians and I would imagine on stage it is very colourful and good fun. But if like me you're an ELO nut beware, as they really have messed up some ELO classics on here! ***

Review by Jason Ritchie

A CHINESE FIREDRILL Circles (Prog Rock Records)

A Chinese Firedrill is the brainchild of Armored Saint and Fate's Warning bass player Joey Vera, in fact he plays every instrument on this 7 track CD except the drums.

With the music being somewhere between modern prog rock and the more melodic side of Metallica, the CD itself runs to just over 45 minutes.

Highlights include 'Circles', 'Insane' and 'Grass and Stone (Ethereal)'. Hopefully this will not be the last we hear of A Chinese Firedrill. ***

Review by Nikk Gunns

SHED SEVEN The Singles Collection (Universal)

Having split in 2003, 90ís favourites Shed Seven announced they were reforming in 2007 for a greatest hits tour and album.

This 2 CD set features 18 singles on disc 1 and disc 2 contains 20 tracks of rarities, b-sides and previously unrecorded tracks.

Amongst the highlights on disc 1 are the Smiths like 'Mark', breakthrough singles 'Speakeasy', the bands biggest hit 'Going For Gold' and 'Ocean Pie'- a Xmas Number 1 in Thailand!!!

This compilation is a great statement to the bands career. ***

Review by Nikk Gunns

DOCTOR HELL Stir Up The Fire (Bad Reputation)

Doctor Hell hail from France and have just released the 10-track 'Stir Up The Fire' CD, their 2nd album- which is a heavy, yet melodic affair with hints of Metallica, Motorhead and even AC/DC.

Highlights include title track 'Stir Up The Fire', 'Feeliní Better', 'Brother' and 'Can Run, Canít Hide'. ***

Review by Nikk Gunns

PLASTIC TOYS For Tonight Only

Popular with the Kerrang! crowd, this is actually more NME territory, mixing rock, pop and electro noise. With the strange music hall piano intro, we get a mix of sleazy rock'n'roll and formulaic guitar boyband pop. Both styles of music there please on the surface, with catchy innocence, but hide anything real or meaty. Mix them too, and no matter high octane it is (which it is, credit there), it leaves you feeling somewhat unsatisfied.

Electro pop comes in by "Still Alive", sounding like beefed up Depeche Mode. Some good melodies in there, but I'm not sure about the electronic touch, but the piano sounds nice. Could do without that 'singing down the telephone' sound though.

"The Tragedy", is a better song. Thought in the structure, less on the pretentiousness or bullshit counts.

Some good points, some bad, which shows their youth. Hard rock for the trendy indie crowd. **½

Review by Joe Geesin

ONE DAY LIFE Heroes, Hoods and Headphones (Frontierless Records)

The press release says they're for fans of Busted, McFly and Blink 182; I very very nearly didn't even bother playing it on that count alone.

In all fairness though, this punk-pop (for that is what it is, or at least aspires to be) has more bollocks than the above mentioned band; maybe they're mature enough to actually have a pair?

Anyway, substance or not, the album opens at high pace, and track 2 "Warm Glows And White Lies" actually features some decent pop guitar. Almost (and dare I say) a solo? In a guitar pop song? Wow!

While some songs have a noisier intro than others ("Shakedown"), there is an element of the guitar pop formula, with most of the songs running at a very similar pace, but this is better guitar pop than most. Teenagers will enjoy. **½

Review by Joe Geesin

OPEN SKIES Conspiracies (Rising Records)

Surrey based band Open Skies have toured extensively over the past 2 years and this year brings more of the same.

The band releases their debut album 'Conspiracies', a melodically solid 14 track CD with heavy screaming vocals not too dissimilar to say Sepultura.

Highlights on the album include Keiko's Last Smile, Interlude, Change and So Season Two. **

Review by Nikk Gunns

MORGLBL Grotesk (Free Electric Sound)

Morglbl have a sound veering somewhere between experimental jazz guitar and frantic lift music, this European 3 piece release 'Grotesk'- an instrumental 10 track album.

Featuring high points such as 'Tapas Nocturne', 'Buffet Froid' and 'The Toy Maker'. *

Review by Nikk Gunns


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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly


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