Archive for March, 2011


James Christopher Sheppard reviews
the new Panic! At the Discoalbum
Vices & Virtues

In 2005, Panic! At the Disco burst onto the music scene and rose quickly to the very top of the huge emo/rock genre. Their debut album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, had a theatrical and upbeat fun rock vibe, which went hand in hand with their groundbreaking shows. With lyrics on their first two albums penned by now departed member, Ryan Ross, it’s going to be tough for the new line up, Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith, to match the same depth of lyrical issues the band were known for. Second album, Beatles inspiredPretty. Odd., featured a departure in sound for the band, plus they dropped the much-loved exclamation mark from their name. As a result, the album had underwhelming sales and a luke-warm reception from their fans. Vices & Virtues see’s the band re-instating their original name, Panic! At the Disco, and sounding more theatrical and rock orientated, employing the same style as their debut, but how does it compare?
‘The Ballad of Mona Lisa’
Musically in-keeping with their debut, this first single stands far enough away from the material on their first album to show the bands growth, but also shows that Urie and Smith have realized and are playing to their strengths. The creeping, slightly distorted piano that opens the track is a good indication that Panic! are back and mean business. A dark and upbeat roaring track, this provides a promising start to the album.
‘Let’s Kill Tonight’
The drum machine and vocal effect featured at the beginning of this track, again, is a sound familiar to the lovers of the band’s debut. By the chorus, the track has taken quite a different and intriguing turn, however, becoming darker and angrier. This almost sounds like the Panic! of 2005 meeting Lostprophets, which surprisingly works and provides an invigorating and fresh sound.
‘Hurricane’
‘Hurricane’ sounds a lot like it belongs on a Fall Out Boy album. Catchy and danceable, the track circles around the line ‘you’ll dance to anything’, which is quite a provoking statement. Not bad by any means, but there is nothing unforeseen here.
‘Memories’
The opening of ‘Memories’ sounds slightly Manic Street Preachers-esque which is unexpected after ‘Hurricane’. Musically and lyrically moving, strings soar and the tempo keeps an uplifting pace, ‘Memories’ is the song that hears the boys reflecting on the troubled past of the band. One to download if you are cherry picking.
Read the full review at Eyewear

James Christopher Sheppard reviews
Credo
by The Human League

Original new wave band, The Human League, have just released their ninth studio album, Credo, their first release in ten years. Best known for their huge 1981 hit ‘Don’t You Want Me’, The Human League have enjoyed continued moderate success for the past thirty years. Never straying from their new wave synthpop roots, this release should keep fans of their past work happy, but will it offer them anything they haven’t heard before? In a pop landscape where electro synth 80s descendants, Hurts and La Roux, are making waves, how do one of the first groups that first established synthpop music in 1979, stand up against their new contemporaries?
Credo

1.      ‘Never Let Me Go’
Electro perfection. Building and building, this synth-infused track is literally how 2011 meeting 1981 should sound. Brought up to date with clean production, a catchy melody and a grimy bassline, it’s easy to see why this was chosen as the second single. It really deserves more success.
2.      ‘Night People’
There’s something very mesmerizing and hypnotic about this track. The first single, released in last November, does well to establish the group as being back with a vengeance. Don’t be fooled into thinking this track is simple due to it’s repetitiveness, there is a lot going on here to wrap your mind around.
3.      ‘Sky’
Frankmusik would be proud to have recorded this track- it resembles the sound he employed on his debut album Complete Me, in the best possible way. Mellow, but bass heavy, ‘Sky’ has an awesome quirky-ness going on. Listen right through to the end- the track continues to offer more as it progresses.

Read the full review at Eyewear


Written by James Christopher Sheppard

 

Medicated and resuscitated.

Nothing oxidised the air.

 

Thick as oil,

clogging airways.

Cancerous,

Destructive.

 

Organs twist,

Almost burst.

Blood blackened.

It always comes back to this.

I‘m going to refer you,

You will be contacted in three to four weeks.

Take care.

How have I not noticed that tree before?

This is decided.

Help is a myth.

A feeble attempt.

 

I think I only want help to please you.

I think I only carry on because you tell me I have to.

Potluck Poetry


Written by James Christopher Sheppard

Even in pieces

you will be

Agony.

An eternity of searing and unfathomable pain

will be you,

every last cell.

You have no liberty for thought.

This is you now.

Choice was an extravagance.

Choice is no longer yours.

I’m sorry. I take it back I take it back I take it back. I couldn’t help it.

Quiet.

You have no voice here.

It is done.


Written by James Christopher Sheppard

Following the large amount of attention that my previous short review of the new Within Temptation album received, I decided to write a longer, more comprehensive review, now that I have the album in my grasp.

Within Temptation: In Profile

Dutch band, Within Temptation, have been labeled many things since forming in 1996- gothic metal, symphonic rock, gothic rock; I would say they are flying somewhere between all three. First album, 1997’s Enter, was doom metal and featured a sound far removed from the sound of the band today. 2001’s release, Mother Earth, featured the beginnings of what has become Within Temptation’s signature sound, establishing them at the forefront of female fronted, accessible although heavy, symphonic rock with a metal edge. Both subsequent albums The Silent Force and The Heart of Everything solidified their status and ability to get musically stronger with each release.

The Unforgiving

Within Temptation’s brand new and fifth studio album and first concept album, brings a whole new aspect to the band’s sound. Featuring harder, almost industrial beats, strings, more emphasis on thrashing guitars than on previous releases and lyrics sang from a new narrative perspective to tie in with the comic concept, this is the freshest album the band have ever put out. Here’s how each track weighs up.

1. Why Not Me

A short intro to the album, featuring the voice of, presumably, Mother Maiden, as featured in the Faster music video. ‘Someone has to take a stand against evil. Why should it not be me?’ she asks, against progressive strings. The intro sets us up for the intriguing dark hero perspective with which we are about to engage.

2. Shot in the Dark

A progressive upbeat track, with strings and a haunting intro, turning into a demanding synth and guitar filled track. This could be released as a single as it certainly easily stands shoulder to shoulder with the quality and catchiness of first single Faster.

3. In the Middle of the Night

One of the heaviest and most thrashing tracks released by Sharon and co over the past decade. Goose-bump inducing perfection soars with every chord, lyric and beat. One of the best songs Within Temptation have ever recorded, it takes their sound to brilliant new heights and shows their harsher side to full effect.

4. Faster

All out synth-tinged single, Faster, feels like it’s the love-child of the hair metal rock of the 80s and Within Temptation’s heavy symphonic 2011 sound. The album version blows the radio edit out of the water, featuring an awesome guitar solo and a more progressive feel, which only adds to the track.

5. Fire and Ice

First slow moment on the album, Fire and Ice, shows the strength and richness of Sharon’s voice. A pro at pouring emotion into both her lyrics and singing, this showcases Sharon’s vocal power intensely. Despite the slower feel to this track, it remains epic and in-keeping with the rest of the album. Unlike past slower tracks, such as Forgiven, this track is given the full-blown epic instrumental effect- and it works.

6. Iron

Like In the Middle of the Night, this track further demonstrates Within Temptation’s ever-improving heavy darkness. Any fears that this album would be too commercial or pop, will be dismissed by the time you reach this track. A chanting chorus ‘You can’t live without the fire, it’s the heat that makes you strong’ is blasted by Sharon over undeniably brilliant symphonic rock at it’s heaviest best.

7. Where is the Edge

Continuing the album with Where is the Edge, this is the first track that is neither thrashing around nor slowed down. Still benefiting from the solid production featured on the whole album, this is the only track that, while being pretty good, doesn’t push the sound we are familiar with from Within Temptation. Still worth a listen though.

8. Sinead

Unlike any other Within Temptation track, the beat that dominates the pace of Sinead is pretty much an industrial beat. A fresh sound for the band- it seems to greatly compliment the song.

9. Lost

The second slower moment features some of the most despairing vocals we have heard from Sharon. ‘Help me I’m buried alive’ she cries- as I’m sure we all would if we were buried alive. Furthering the epic ballad sound established on the band’s earlier releases, notably Frozen, the slower tracks here feel fresher than ever, perhaps due to the concept nature of this album, and therefore the innovative lyrics.

10. Murder

The magnitude of chanting voices behind Sharon on this track lifts it’s haunting, gothic feel to a dark epic effect. Frantic strings progress into a brooding, symphonic track. Intense.

11. A Demon’s Fate

Fast paced track, A Demon’s Fate, would be well received to a wider audience than the typical Within Temptation listener. Accessible, yet heavy and symphonic, this is comparable to the best tracks from Nightwish’s remarkable Once album, like Dark Chest of Wonders, for example.

12. Stairway to the Skies

The final track is one of the album’s highlights. With an opening that recalls Marilyn Manson’s haunting version of Sweet Dreams, it swiftly moves into epic ballad territory, but features far more intricacy than previous slower Within Temptation tracks. Soft and brooding and longing, this is a triumph for the band, as it progresses naturally and spine-tinglingly into a truly beautiful song. The best track on the album, along with In the Middle of the Night.

Verdict

The Unforgiving is not only the best album that Within Temptation have released so far, but this is the best album I have heard in a very long time. Astounding and outstanding. Now we just have to wait until November, when the band’s rescheduled UK gigs will take place.

Back-catalogue to check out

Ice Queen Mother Earth Running Up That Hill Stand My Ground Angles Frozen All I Need

Art

Posted: March 20, 2011 in Poems
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Written by James Christopher Sheppard

I am an artist.
I fuck and am fucked.
My sharp brush brings only red
But this is not skin.
This is mine
To draw what I like.
I can scratch. I can tear you to shreds. You are mine to destroy.
And I am yours to embrace.
Fuck me hard. I will fuck you up. Fuck you over. Fuck you in half.
I can replace you
You mean nothing.
I am invincible, re-incarnating.
One day we will be one.

Submitted for Poetry Potluck and One Shot Wednesday


James Christopher Sheppard’s top tunes of the week

Written by James Christopher Sheppard


Within Temptation – Faster

The ever-evolving sound of Dutch symphonic rock band, Within Temptation, reaches a refreshing climax with Faster, their first brand new track since the uncharacteristically acoustic single, Utopia, in 2009. Faster see’s them back in full rock mode and I am loving it. It’s a particularly great track to have blasting on your iPod whilst bombing it around on your bike- unless your back tire decides to abruptly explode on you (yes, that really did happen to me, but I still love the song).

 

Patrick Wolf – Time Of My Life

The first track unleashed to the world from his forthcoming fifth album, Lupercalia, is Patrick Wolf’s soaring, emotive, string-filled track that reminds me of the work prior to his last album The Bachelor. The song received little promotion upon its release in December and was only available on vinyl, but for me, Time Of My Life stands tall above the first official single, The City, which is out this week.

 

Adele – Set Fire to the Rain

Girl of the moment, Adele, is the biggest thing just about everywhere right now and I have got to say I am finding her success refreshing. The stripped down performance of current #1 single Someone Like You at the BRITs has caused more excitement than Susan Boyle’s first audition for Britain’s Got Talent. Rather than striving to find the next shock big thing, perhaps we should stop and take notice of some of the true British talent that is outstanding and capable of being noticed without a majorly hyped TV show. With Adele, it seems people are doing just that- and good for her. This girl can sing, she can write and she can move the hardest heart to tears. This track is layered with strings and features some stunning shiver prompting ad-libs towards the end of the track. A fine song from a fine album.

 

P!nk – F—in’ Perfect

When I first listened to the new tracks on P!nk’s Greatest Hits… So Far!!!, I was a little underwhelmed. Following the masterpiece that was the Funhouse album, I was a little surprised that the four new tracks seemed a little paint by numbers. After a few listens, the track started to grow on me, but it was seeing the video that catapulted my feelings from warm to boiling. With one of the only music videos that has ever induced a lump in my throat, this song is now played daily on high volume.

Read the rest of the article on NXG Magazine, here:

http://nxgzine.co.uk/music/787-top-tunes-of-the-week