Wednesday 23 November 2016

DECADES APART: 5 Albums 5 Different Decades

By: Aaron Pickford & Chris Bull

Decades Apart
The idea of Decades Apart is pretty simple. This year is 2016, so I’ll choose 5 different albums from 5 different decades, 1976, 1986, 1996, 2006 through to the present day.  Whilst these albums may not all be considered classics, they’re certainly amazing records.  I’ll share a little information about them and hopefully you’ll check them out if you haven’t already.  So let’s get started. 

Rainbow – “Rising” (1976)


“Rising” is the second studio album by the British hard rock band Rainbow, released in 1976 the album has been hailed in some quarters as the greatest heavy metal album of all time.  With only their second album, “Rising”, Ritchie Blackmore’s post Deep Purple band created one of rock music's defining records.  Despite playing a prominent role in the development and introduction of heavy metal with Deep Purple, by the mid point of the 70’s  Blackmore had quit and began to explore new possibilities in heavy music with, Rainbow.

Unlike their debut, which was performed by Blackmore, Dio and his previous band Elf “Rising” would feature a new band consisting of bassist Jimmy Bain, keyboardist Tony Carey and drummer Cozy Powell. This was viewed as the definitive line up and they would go on to record “Rising” with Deep Purple producer Martin Birch

Tarot Woman” the opening track of the album set the tone of the album’s ambitious nature and the organic aesthetic carries throughout the tracks of side one with, “Run With the Wolf,” “Do You Close Your Eyes,” and “Lady Starstruck,” The album is perhaps known best for the albums dual eight-minute epics, which dominated side two, namely “Stargazer,” which is viewed by many as  Rainbow’s signature creation, thanks to Dio’s evocative supernatural lyrics and the rhythm and a central riff that originated on a cello. The second epic track is “A Light in the Black,” which many considered the obvious sequel to the “Stargazer” story, concluding the album after mere 33 minutes.  Unsurprisingly then, “Rising” was a critical and commercial success and voted the number one heavy metal album of all time by the readers of British magazine Kerrang!

Ozzy Osbourne – “The Ultimate Sin” (1986)

“The Ultimate Sin” is the fourth solo studio album by Ozzy Osbourne. As the saying goes, there was no rest for wicked, and that was perhaps no more apparent than the recording of this record, which was recorded shortly after Ozzy check out of rehab.  Fortunately for Osbourne his bassist/right hand man Bob Daisley (credited with writing much of his back catalogue) and guitarist Jake E. Lee had been hard at work on a new set of songs while he was in rehab, and these track would indeed form the basis of his fourth solo effort, 1986’s “The Ultimate Sin”.

Being in the Osbourne camp was not without it’s problems, indeed the recording of this album was no different. Lee, who for me is arguably the best guitarist that has ever been in his band, had demanded a revised contract before agreeing to contribute, after feeling cheated out of writing credit for 1983 album “Bark At The Moon” (Ozzy is credited as writing the whole album) and Daisley would leave the band during the sessions, with Phil Soussan hired to play his parts.

Despite Osbourne’s dissatisfaction with the record, I personally feel the album is graced by some of Jake E. Lee’s  best work, indeed it is considered by many including myself that it was him that subsequent guitarists would model themselves, with Lee including pinched harmonics for the first time, which would later become his successor’s trademark, namely Zakk Wylde.  Lee was unceremoniously sacked the following year after the “Ultimate Sin” tour ended, and Soussan — who had his own disagreement over songwriting credits with Osbourne — also exited, only for Daisley to return and the introduction of new guitarist Zakk Wylde.

Corrosion of Conformity – “Wiseblood” (1996)

“Wiseblood” is the fifth album by Corrosion of Conformity and the second album to feature Pepper Keenan on vocals, released in 1996; it would see the band on the verge of breaking into the big leagues of Rock and Metal stardom.  Indeed the band would get picked up for a coveted support slot with Metallica.  Released two years after their classic 1994 album “Deliverance”,  the tone of “Wiseblood” was set instantly with the crushing riff of “King of the Rotten”, but features a succession of superb tracks including the Grammy nominated track ‘Man Or Ash,’ which featured a guest appearance from Metallica’s James Hetfield (uncredited).  Released at the peak of the band’s popularity, the mega-stardom that the album so richly deserved never materialized

With Pepper Keenan on vocals and guitar, Woody Weatherman on lead guitar, Mike Dean on bass and founding member Reed Mullin on the drums, “Wiseblood was the second of three records they wrote and recorded together, with long time producer John Custer in the chair once again.  Following up “Deliverance” was no mean feat, but the record is strong from beginning to end, opening with the catchy ‘King Of The Rotten,’ and ending with the musically complex seven minute closer ‘Bottom Feeder (El Que Come Abajo)’ which completes itself with pig samples and jazzy sections alongside its powerful Black Sabbath inspired stoner riffs.

Stylistically, the album follows the tone of their “Blind” album with minimal trace of their hardcore roots, featuring straight up southern tinged stoner rock tracks with smatterings of variety now and again to break it up, such as the powerful semi-ballad ‘Redemption City,’ and the break neck powerhouse that is ‘Fuel,’ as well as the aforementioned instrumental track ‘Bottom Feeder (El Que Come Abajo)’

For me “Wisblood” is certainly one of the band’s best ever albums and arguably by extension one of the best rock and metal albums of the 1990s. If you like the band then you need this album, if you like Down, and don’t know COC I pity you.  Cue much excitement for the new album next year. 

Mastodon – “Blood Mountain” (2006)

Blood Mountain “is the third full-length studio album and major label debut by Mastodon.

I guess it should come as no surprise to dudes or dudettes reading this that Mastodon are pretty much unequalled in terms of output over the last 16 years, with at least 3 classic albums to their name.  Rewind 10 years and it is safe to say there may have been a few nervous fans with the release of their third album, “Blood Mountain”, perhaps in no small part to the fact it was their first for Warner Bros Records. Rest assured, true to form with two monumental records behind them “Blood Mountain delivered in spades.   Queer; odd; unusual; monstrous are just some of the adjectives you could use for this album, indeed coupled with their dynamic riffs and strikingly experimental approach, the band truly are at the peak of their powers.

Blood Mountain shoots as quick as a drawn gun with the first riff of “The Wolf Is Loose” and ends 50 minutes with “Pendulous Skin”, feeling like you have been engulfed by a tumultuous cinematic experience.  Blood Mountain captures the band as a free flowing symbiotic unit, a colossal swaggering beast, weaving distinct, pervasive and expressive music, virtuosic in its instrumentation, aided by a power house production job from Matt Bayles, who truly captures the unorthodox but magnificent tones from this hulking beast, augmented by a crushing mix from Rich Costey.  Blood Mountain is the standard of excellence on which many have attempted to duplicate, but few will equal.   Mastodon are truly architects of their own language, who like few others,  care only about what they want to write for themselves and refrain from conform to peddling out run of the mill crap for the sake of making a buck. There’s an aura around this band and at the height of their powers, no one can touch them, as this album demonstrates. 

Slomatics – “Future Echo Returns” (2016)

It seems as though 2016 is the year when the UK kicks the ass of the rest of the world in terms of heavy, sludgy, doomy musical output. Slomatics make no exception on 'Future Echo Returns' their 5th album and part 3 of their spacey trilogy that began with 'A Hocht' is my album of the year!

Even without a bassist, Slomatics manage to hammer out riffs with the weight and impact of a fleet of anvils dropped from the empire state building; 'Estronomicon' gives us a brief glimpse while 'Electric Breath' smashes the point home. Vocals from vocalist/drummer Marty Harvey are exceptional here; as they are on 'In The Grip Of Fausto'. More melodic and powerful than some of Slomatics earlier work, demonstrating how much he's come on in recent years. Things get much more mellow and ambient on 'Ritual Beginnings' with slow building guitar arpeggios that transform into drawn out single notes, chords (and even what sounds like a xylophone).

‘Rat Chariot' has the classic Slomatics feel to it. It could be the freshly bathed, more alluring but nonetheless heavyweight younger sibling of 'Beyond Acid Canyon' from 2012's 'A Hocht' album. Ex- Conan bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe weighs in with some serious growls towards the songs lumbering conclusion. When a band's guitarist has their own signature fuzz pedal, it's a safe bet that they can cut through solid rock with their riffs; when both guitarists have an alternate version of the same pedal (you have to check out Dunwich Amplification) then prepare your eardrums for some serious, rock crushing heaviosity. This speaks volumes on penultimate track 'Supernothing' with its gigantic riffs slicing through solar systems. More superb melodies come from Harvey's epic vocals and make this one of seven standout tracks. Yes, I know what I just said.

Finally, we get somewhat of a reprise of 'Ritual Beginnings' on final track 'Into The Eternal', the slightly overdriven choral vocals and what sounds like synths prepare the scene for some killer heavy music. Have you ever heard a sludge doom band use 'whoa whoa's and 'yeah yeah's’ and thought "nah, that ain't right."? Well on this, it fucking works! The majesty of the scene Slomatics have conveyed over the 6 previous tracks (and 2 previous albums) means that actual lyrics would do the song a disservice. I mean, what would you say if you were floating through the vast emptiness of outer space? This is why it makes sense. Some satellite bleeps and spacey sounds travel through the soundscapes as well as some lead guitar work which adds an extra dimension to the whole make up of the song and makes for a glorious conclusion, not only to this album, but to the trilogy.

Slomatics riffs and Chris Fielding's epic production are a marriage made in doom heaven. The towering heaviness of the riffs and the images of the infinite, shimmering darkness of space is executed and captured perfectly. An amazing album worthy of any and all praise it will undoubtedly receive