The Record Lounge: Reviews 8/25/2010 – The Sword, Katy Perry, Swans, John Mellencamp, and More

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The Sword – Warp Riders

Austin, Tx’s favorite metal lords The Sword release Warp Riders, their highly anticipated third album of metal stew. Borrowing from early Thrash, shades of Black Metal, Stoner Metal, mysticism, and their other worldly travels over the past couple of years have molded a band ready to take over the world.  But die-hards might be a bit disappointed with the new direction in the band’s overall sound.  

Warp Riders takes The Sword into a world not unfamiliar to King Diamond, the concept album. Based on a wholly original science fiction storyline, Warp Riders is broken into 2 halves.

The first half, Part I: The Archer & the Orb, opens with the instrumental “Acheron/Unearthing The Orb” which gives way to the 70’s riff rock of “Tres Brujas”, introducing a classic groove to their ever expanding sound. This 70’s vibe continues through “Arrows In The Dark”, further displaying a penchant for heavy rock over the unforgiving barrage of straightforward metal we were treated to on 2006’s Age of Winters and 2008’s God’s of The Earth. The strum and dirge of “The Chronomancer I: The Hubris” quickly gives way to the precise guitar lines of “Lawless Lands” which is almost Deep Purple to a “T”.

Part II: The Android & the Sword begins with “Astraea’s Dream”, an instrumental exercise in full bore metal, that would be right at home on Metallica’s classic, Ride The Lightning. This feel continues through the title track “The Warp Riders” on into the riff guided metal of “Night City”. This is followed by possibly the heaviest of the tracks on the album, “The Chronomancer II: Nemesis”, and wraps up on a full bore metal note so as to remind their fans that they are The Sword, the high energy of “(The Night the Sky Cried) Tears of Fire”.

Again, I expect die-hards to complain a bit, but they shouldn’t. This is another solid record from a band at the forefront of their genre. I understand metal fans don’t like their bands taking risks, which is a shame. Maybe this sort of risk taking has been made more acceptable by bands like Mastodon as metal ears and minds are becoming wider and more accepting of change.

I certainly hope so, this should be the record to help them finally conquer America.

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Katy Perry – Teenage Dream

2 years ago, the future Mrs. Russell Brand was gaining cred with her then beau Gym Class Hero’s Travis McCoy as they trekked across the nation on the pre-eminent punk rock party, The Vans Warped Tour. Slowly, she became a the pop princess in early 60’s throwback outfits, with a surprisingly wholesome image and a powerhouse of a record behind her proclaiming she had kissed a girl, and had liked it.

Flash forward two years, she returns with a nearly naked video with Snoop Dogg at her side, making every male within eyeshot want as many ice cream cones as they can eat and disrupting Brian Wilson’s life with the single “California Gurls”.

The latest album from Katy Perry, the sophomore Teenage Dream is a well produced, well constructed pop juggernaut that no one will be able to escape. Get ready to hear this record for at least the next 2 years. Teenage Dream’s mix of pop, rock and hip-hop might be a calculated formula, but is undeniable in the realm of popularity and impending success.

The driving beat and strings of “Firework”, the pop rock guitar driven pop of the title track and “Circle The Drain”, along with the 80’s sensibilities of “Last Friday Night” and the “Mickey”-esque “Peacock”, prove Perry wanted this album to be dummy proof. As the second half feels like it’s losing steam, the second to last track, “Hummingbird Heartbeat” comes in with a straight –forward rock/pop track that wouldn’t be too far removed from Bryan Adams’ 1984 smash album Reckless. Teenage Dream’s denouement is the simple piano structured ballad “Not Like The Movies”, which explains, quite simply, that life is not like the movies. Or as I have found out, TV either. Bringing to close a surprisingly pleasant piece of pop.

I do not believe in guilty pleasures. I do believe everyone likes a little crap now and again, as I am a full-blown self-professed Spice Girls fan. And I think more than a few of you might reluctantly say you like this record.

And that’s okay, you can like some crap here and there.

I know I do.

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Mark Lanegan & Isobel Campbell – Hawk

Somehow, this unlikely yet compelling duo has already released two albums and an EP together. Isobel Campbell, the Scottish former Belle & Sebastian vocalist, teams with former grunge era Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan to combine their polarizing talents on these 13 tracks of Americana and atmospheric early 60’s inspired pop. At home with both larger than life production and the sparseness of arrangements of rootsy 3-piece backing tracks, Campbell and Lanegan mix what should be unsavory flavors to construct another wonderful recording together. Standout tracks include “Time Of The Season”, the bombast of “Get Behind Me”, as well as the screaming, swinging slow burn blues of “You Won’t Let Me Down Again” and “The Snake”. But Campbell and Lanegan are best demonstrated in their more delicate moments, displayed on “Sunrise”, “We Die And See Beauty Reign”, “No Place To Fall”, and “Come Undone

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Filter – The Trouble With Angels

Honestly, I haven’t ever been the biggest Filter fan. And this is the first I have heard from them since 1999’s sophomore release Title of Record. Maybe it was my low expectations, but I have to say I kind of like this record. Big and thick when it needs to be, delicate and sing song-y at parts, the fifth record from Filter is well worth it for fans of the band and casual fans alike. Richard Patrick and co. just might fill a bit of the void left by the currently AWOL Nine Inch Nails with their easily accessible industrial leanings.

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Swans – My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky

Swans is one of those bands that for me has always fallen to the wayside. Not because I haven’t been interested, sometimes there’s just too much music and too little time to ingest. What I have heard in the past I have always liked, from experimental No Wave, through drone-y Post-Punk, Industrial, flirtations with Pop to this latest Michael Gira fronted incarnation. Unfortunately, this has been the first Swans record I have ever sat down and listened to as a whole, and for my untrained, uneducated ear for this band and their repertoire, I must say I rather enjoyed it. I will most certainly seek out more from Gira, longtime former collaborator Jarboe and Swans as a whole. If you like heavy, somewhat experimental, rock, this is right up your alley.

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John Mellencamp – No Better Than This

Recorded at historic locations during breaks from his tour with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson last summer, John Mellencamp teamed up with T Bone Burnett for an album of stripped down simple self-penned folk songs. Sun Studios (Memphis, TN), First African Baptist Church (Savannah, GA), and The Sheraton-Gunter Hotel (San Antonio, TX) were all used as backdrops to convey the feeling and atmosphere Burnett and Mellencamp wanted for specific songs on the record. Unfortunately, the landlord of the Dallas location of Brunswick Records, where Robert Johnson cut his last recordings in 1936, denied Mellencamp access to record in the building.

Nonetheless, this is John Mellencamp at his most vulnerable and intimate junction in his career, and he has put together a hauntingly beautiful album of early –American inspired songs. Standout tracks include the Obama inspired title track, “No Better Than This”, “Save Some Time To Dream”, and “Thinking About You”.


~ by thesynaptic on August 25, 2010.

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