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Quick Play: A round-up of October 2007 album releases

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

MAN FROM M.A.R.S. Tales of a Reluctant Astronaut

Nothing to do with the sixties comedy with Don Knotts and Leslie Nielsen (He's an ASTRO-KNOTT turned ASTRONAUT in the Maddest Mixup in Space History!!), this is out and out space rock from the mind of Jeff Hopp.

And you will be delighted to know that it's a full blown psychedelic concept album about M.A.R.S., a mysterious organisation called the Man and Robot Society whose chief agent is an expert in analog synthesis whose musical sound generators are the source of propulsion for the mighty starship The Oblivion. The part of the expert is played by the aforementioned Jeff Hopp.

In finest one man band tradition, Jeff takes care of lead guitar, bass guitar, analogue and digital synths, theramin, vocoder, analog drum modules, sonic generators and also acts as alien communicator. And if this sounds to you like the finest confection this side of "It Is The Business Of The Future To Be Dangerous", you would be 100% correct. For it is space rock of the highest, maddest order.

For sure, it's not perfect, there are a couple of tracks like 'The Invisibles', which are just monotonous bleep fests, but when he sets up a swoosh and a swirl as on the utterly splendid 'Dance of the Vulcanoids', then the mix of Hawkwind, mid period Pink Floyd and a sprinkling of hippy Ozrics tosh is absolutely beguiling. Things peak on the kling klang 'Twenty-Five Light Years', which is as good a slab of space rock as you will hear on any planet this year. ***½

Review by Stuart A Hamilton


It's time for studio album number 10 in the career of Finnish black metal monsters, Impaled Nazarene. And according to the band, it's "definitely the most varied one since Suomi Finland Perkele". Now by varied, I assume they mean the Venom / NWOBHM impersonation on 'Goat Justice' (yes, they're still leading goats a merry dance), or the 'mellow' midsection on 'Die Insane', because, to be frank, it's still as ragingly mad as ever.

It's also the final album to see the guitar contributions of Tuomio, despite what the sleeve notes lead you to believe, having been replaced by Tomi UG Ullgren after the album was recorded. His contributions since the arrival of the 21st century have been particularly fine, so it's fitting that he went out on a high.

Of course, out there in the world of black metal bulletin boards, they're still claiming that Impaled Nazarene have been going downhill since ‘Goat Perversion’, but we all know that it's the deluded rantings of basement dwellers still awaiting their first non self induced sexual experience. Impaled Nazarene remain one of the best black metal acts out there, something reinforced by the likes of 'The Calling' and 'Funeral For Despicable Pigs'. However, I'm not convinced that it hits the peaks of "Pro Patria Finlandia", as there are a couple of moments when they threaten to expose their punk leanings a bit too much. But that's what the skip button was invented for. ***½

Review by Stuart A Hamilton


Well, after four albums of solid death metal, French metallers have made the move to indie bigwigs Osmose and decided to make a death metal concept album. As you do.

It's nearly ten years since they got together, but they never really impacted upon me until the arrival of the "Insane Cephalic Production" album back in 2004. It was by far the best album of their career and seemed to signal a big step forward but follow up "Identisick" didn't work at all for me, and I expected them to fall off my radar.

But here they are, unveling a tale of "about the slow fall in psychosis of a man with fragments revealed in each song as flashbacks of his life", and blow me down, if it isn't a step back in the right direction.

It's pretty much everything you would want from a brutal death metal release with the schizophrenic vocals of Julien Truchan a constantly evolving surprise. Or not, if you consider the fact that he works in a psychiatric hospital.

There are a few absolute crackers here with 'Slut', 'Pledge of Retaliation' and 'Human Circles', which features a guest vocal from Disbeliefs Karsten "Jagger" Jäger, the cream of the crop. ***½

Review by Stuart A Hamilton

iNsoFAR  Medicine For The Melancholic (Not On Your Radio)

The blurb for iNsoFar (Paul Brigstock- vocals, Hannah Marie - lead guitar & backing vocals, Katy Brisco - bass & backing vocals, and Paul Deadman) says that the band are about 'big songs, big guitars and big ambitions'.

And somewhere along the way they've picked up plaudits from Metal Hammer and Bruce Dickinson. Which is never a bad thing to have on your cv.

Two girls in a rock band, taking lead and bass, and none of the lead vocals is probably a fairly unique selling point, whereas the 8 songs on the mini album 'Medicine For The Melancholic' tend towards formulaic heavy melodic rock played a generally frantic pace.

That said it's a perfectly acceptable offering, but if the band are to raise themselves above their hordes of contemporaries they're gonna have to pull something more out of the locker than a couple of girls with guitars. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

MV & EE WITH THE GOLDEN ROAD Gettin' Gone (Ecstatic Peace)

Hot on the heels of Green Blues, MV (Matt Valentine) and EE (Erika Elder) have found time to get into the studio again to lay down a shack load of the material they've come up with while touring their debut.

The opening discordant Susquehanna - reminicent of an axe wielding Neil Young - is a bit like accidentally sticking your fingers in a 240 volt socket, but The Burden finds the duo on more familiar acoustic territory. At an extensive 13 tracks running out at over an hour you can hardly complain about being short changed. But this time around there is a generally more loose limbed electric influence to the set list. Hammer reminds of PJ Harvey - doomy and melodramatic, while I Got Caves In There is folk psychedelia at its most trippy and spaced.

And the album sort of proceeds on that pattern - edgy Neil Young influenced discordant folk, interspersed with edgy Neil Young influenced discordant space rock. But it's not a smooth ride, but taken with a stiff joint it should appeal to those who like their rock raw and unadulterated. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

MAGIC MARKERS - Boss (Ecstatic Peace)

Magic Numbers, Magic Markers? What's the difference? Everything actually.

Opening with feedback that sounds like an impaled cat before a bludgeoning groove emerges reminiscent of PJ Harvey at her brilliant best - edgy, dangerous and sexual. Sound like Magic Numbers? Fuck, no.

Magic Markers comprise Elisa Ambrogio on Lead guitar and vocals, and Pete Nolan on drums, guitar, piano, electronics and vocals.

Body Riot kicks out the punk jams, while Last Of The Lemach Line returns to PJH territory. Empty Bottles is as close to a ballad as the band gets (which isn't close), while Taste pulls you in and spits you out with a seductive rythmn.

Pat Garrett paints an ambient soundscape, while Bad Dream soothes your pulsing brow and Circle brings you full circle, closing the album with a slow space rock grooove. Hawkwind might have sounded like this if Stacia had taken the mic. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

GUILE Love Around Here

Guile's 'Love around Here' is the kind of slow burner that you will probably play a few times and quickly return to, if only because of the catchy hook.

The opening few lines build up the tension and you quickly come to recognise the moment when the wall of noise will break through the brief stop time pause and burst through like an avalanche before Neal Sawyer's angst ridden vocals take over.

Guile drawn you in to their Jesus & The Mary Chain style white noise as they lean into an angular slice of psychedelic power pop.

'Love around Here' is a post grunge style anthem full of mangled psychedelic guitar, with an insistent edgy tambourine and an angst ridden huge chorus that sweeps all before it But these are early days for the band and one track doesn't make a career.

The proof of the pudding will come when they finally commit themselves to a full album. As it is the rather pedestrian second track 'The Horizon' suggest they have a way to go. For while on this track they might wear their Velvets Underground influences unashamedly on their sleeves, there is in fact a lack of guile (pun intended) on the second helping.

Where the dynamic of 'Love Around Here' carried them through the spacey guitar noodlings and echo reverb production and whispered vocals of 'The Horizon' is the stuff of recycled Jim Morrison rather than anything ground breaking. ***

Review by Pete Feenstra

MAGICA Hereafter AFM Records

Third album by the female fronted power metal band from Romania and this is their first release with a more established label and distribution network. Overall it is well played and produced melodic power/epic metal and you have the requisite classically trained vocalist in Ana Mladinovichi but what it does lack is anything special to make it stand out above the deluge of similar bands out there. That said the keys and guitars on 'Turn To Stone' and the vocals on 'Entangled' are fine songs indeed.

Fans of Nightwish, Edenbridge, Epica et al may well want to check this out but for me it just lacks that killer touch to the music to make you want to keep palying it again and again. ***

Review by Jason Ritchie

WILL DAILEY Back Flipping Forward CBS Records

His second album and one of modern pop tunes with a laid back feel, almost too laid back at times. 'Grand Opening' and 'Eliza' are good, solid pop songs although 'Good To Me' does sound like it needs some fire in the vocal delivery. The music and production qualities are first rate and Dailey has a melodious voice (not unlike James Blunt at times!) but you hanker after a bit more passion in the voice at times.

It is not a bad album but for me the recent albums by TD Lind and Ben Lee are better bets for your CD collection! ***

Review by Jason Ritchie

WOLFPACK UNLEASHED Anthems Of Resistance

"Wolfpack Unleashed" proudly proclaim themselves Austria's premier new Thrash Metal outfit, declaring their motto to be "Thrash till Death" and to be fair that pretty much sums them up!

Clearly and openly influenced by the traditional thrash titans of Metallica, Megadeth and Testament etc there sound is heavy, aggressive and fast yet definitely not without melody as supplementing the double-kick thunder of the drums and the speedy riffing are some glorious lead guitar licks that at times give this album a commercial accessibility similar even to early Helloween. In fact, instrumentally I'd go as far as to say that this album is simply excellent. However, the willingness to recommend this release whole-heartedly to all is held back, considerably I'm afraid, by the vocals.

The band claim that in selecting lead voice, Gunther Wirth they "didn't want a screamer who kills all the harmonies and melodies by barking all the time". Unfortunately, all too often on the nine tracks featured on the album its Wirth's guttural voice and all too frequent growling that blight each and every song.

That's not to say this album won't appeal to a good few. Death Metal remains a popular genre, and my inability to decipher many of the lyrics showcased here the vocals won't be a problem for many a listener more attuned to the musical violence within.

For me though I can't help thinking what an album this would be with a snarler akin to Mustaine, a frontman along the lines of Hetfield or even a more conventional metal singer ala Michael Kiske and that were the case this disc would be an essential across a much wider audience.

However Wolfpack Unleashed have chosen their path and seem intent on sticking to it. Best of luck to them but I reckon it's a shame as, instrumentally, this is a cracker. ***½

Review by Bill Leslie


Debut album, mixing noise metal with Iggy Pop/Stooges era punk/rock'n'roll.

Actually, there's a fair bit of rock'n'roll, but it's too metal to really be punk but opening track 'Dirty Needs' has an infectious groove you'll enjoy.

'I Don't Know You Stranger' has a moodiness to the sleaze, kinda like when the Rolling Stones did 'Harlem Shuffle' only a lot heavier.

I've heard a couple of bands from Scandinavia taking this angle and it works, this Swedish band doing it heavy and well. There are some decent metal guitar solos in there too. ***

Review by Joe Geesin


Released to coincide with the release of several digital only albums, this double CD covers pretty much everything, hits and rarities.

Carter USM were an electro power pop duo who sampled, begged, borrowed and stole, with vocals and guitars and infectious grooves over programmed backing. A bit like the Pet Shop Boys with attitude. A chorus of 'I love you, you pay my rent' nods at the banality of The Macc Lads.

There a couple of nice tunes here, it is a decent compilation, but CUSM were never as rock'n'roll as they liked to make out.

As good as you can get for hits and rarities on a 2CD, but the music really doesn't cut it with me, gets very samey after 2 or 3 tracks. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

CLAWFINGER Life Will Kill You

It can't be much fun being Clawfinger. I mean, you've had your monster hit, the one that everyone knows, muddafugga, but you're tarnished with the whole rap-maetal label, and no matter how good your albums are, people are still going to think you've got something to do with Fred Durst.

Now, it's nearly 20 years since they first formed and they've actually managed to put out two good album sin a row, so maybe it's time you good people started paying a bit more attention. For sure, it's not as consistently good as its predecessor "Hate Yourself With Style", but there are some mighty fine, meaty, beaty, big and bouncy riffs on offer here.

Lyrically, I still find them to be overly preachy in places, but when I put that to one side, my head, inexorably, starts to bounce up and down with pleasure as they crank out the likes of 'Prisoners' and 'None The Wiser'.

Of course there's no denying that it's still old school rap-metal, so if that still makes you blush at the thought of your youthful indiscretions, you may want to avoid. But don't pooh-pooh it out of some musguided too cool for school pose. ***

Review by Stuart A Hamilton


Featuring the single 'Mr Jack', this album mixes the singer/songwriter pop of Billy Bragg and Paul Weller with some chugging metal and folk rock moments. Opener 'Bring It On' has a decent melody, and some high energy vocals.

'Nothing At All' tries to be a little too clever, in a Sting solo record kind of way, and although not bad, does sound a little disjointed.

The same goes for 'Mr Jack', I wasn't overly impressed with the single and nothing has changed. No matter how good the angles, doesn't always make for a good shape. Something I can't put my finger on. Nice guitar solo though.

'Canada', with its acoustic touches, is more the power folk rock angle. 'Bang Bang' is more uptemp, the rock end of U2/Police.

Some good tunes, but a bit of a mixed bag. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

PAGAN'S MIND God's Equation LMB Music

The band's fourth studio album and another concept piece based on the concept of God and the origins of humankind. Overall it is a well played and produced album but lacks any big stand out epic which I always feel you need in an album like this plus the song quality seriously peters out by the time you reach track six.

Prior to that you get some wonderful keyboards on the title track and 'United Alliance', which is the most 'instant' song on here and not surprisingly the single. They even pull off a decent cover of David Bowie's 'Hallo Spaceboy'.

Worth a listen but for me there are better bands out there more worthy of adding to your collection. ***

Review by Jason Ritchie

TIM MATHEWS Somebody Else (Crash Records)

Imagine, if you will, a scene from ITV's new Saturday night show I'm A [Minor] Celebrity X Factor.

Ant: Whey ay, Dec. So what have we got lined up to make viewers suffer this week?

Dec: Whey ay, Man. We've got actors who think they can sing. Which is a bit of a tester, as none have ever successfully managed it before.

Ant: Lee Marvin?

Dec: Whey ay, I rest my case, Man. Anyway, who's first up?

Ant: We've got Tim Mathews. He's starred in Band Of Brothers, Wire In The Blood, and Doctors as well as acting in the West End with Rachel Weiss and he's just released his first album. So let's hear it for Tim …[wild studio applause]

Tim plays the panel and studio audience his 10 track debut album.

Louis: He should be in a boy band. He's cute, the girls will like him. He should be in a boy band.

Sharon: Ooo Tim. You look nice, you smell nice, I like you.

Dani: Nice buns.

Simon: Look guys, I have to be honest – it was average. The songs were average, the voice was average, there was nothing special about it. No X Factor. This is a talent show, and if I'm honest I've heard better buskers. Tim, take my advice – don't give up the day job.

Ant: Whey ay, that's a bit of a facer. Tim, anything you'd like to say to the panel?

Tim: But, but I haven't played the hidden bonus track yet …

Dec: [talking over Tim, who has begun to sob uncontrollably] … and after the break we'll be back with Sid Owen. **

Review by Pete Whalley

JONAS HALLBORG Art Metal (Bardo Records)

Jonas Hellborg is some Swedish bass legend, and here he has teamed up with Indian percussion master Selvaganesh to explore the Indian jazz fusion side of metal.

If you wish to leave the room already, I quite understand.

The band is made up of Anders Jogansson (Malmsteen, Hammerfall, Dio) and brother Jens (Malmsteen, Stratovarious), and Swedish guitarist Mattias 'Ia' Eklundh .

An instrumental set of mediocre metal with jazz fusion and occasional Indian rhythms, aimless noodling and bass lines so anal they come out of the ears, the musicianship is largely excellent, but this is just so difficult to listen to.

Unless you are a real muso and musician, willing to dissect every note, this is guaranteed to induce ill health. *

Review by Joe Geesin

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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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