HOT PRESS REVIEW: IRON MAIDEN ‘THE BOOK OF SOULS’

28 08 2015

Here’s a reprint of my review of the outstanding new Maiden album.

Fun fact-while I was writing this I had a workman at Castle McFee beating the absolute shit out of my living room ceiling. I don’t recommend trying to make a deadline while it feels like your head in caving in….

IRON MAIDEN

The Book Of Souls

Parlophone

9/10

KEY TRACK: ‘Empire Of The Clouds’

METAL MAESTROS MAKE A MASTERPIECE.

iron-maiden-the-book-of-souls-large-3

Arguably their most anticipated album since The Number Of The Beast (a record which saw Maiden take a huge gamble by replacing original singer Paul Di’Anno with heavy metal air raid siren Bruce Dickinson back in ’82), The Book Of Souls is a similarly important opus in the world of rock. Hell, even the likes of Lady Gaga has confessed to getting up at 5am just to buy the damn thing. You see not only it is the band’s inaugural double album, it also features the debut of their frontman playing piano on the 18 minute long ‘Empire Of The Clouds,’ (their longest track to date) and, perhaps most importantly, it is their first release since Bruce Dickinson beat tongue cancer.

Clocking at over 92 minutes of music, the two disc beast is a feast for fans of the evergreen metal titans. The Robin Williams-inspired ‘Tears Of A Clown’ is a touching tribute to the departed comic and has a massive chorus and Thin Lizzy-esque rhythms, the bombastic ‘Death Or Glory’ sees them hark back to their NWOBHM days, while the sprawling, Steve Harris penned ‘The Red And The Black’ is another future classic from the band’s founder thanks to some Irish trad-inspired melodies.

‘Empire Of The Clouds’ is sure to be the album’s biggest talking point though. Inspired by the R101 airship disaster (a craft so big the Titanic could fit inside) and penned solo by Dickinson, it’s a mammoth rock opera packed with orchestra flourishes, numerous time changes and even some Morse Code. Topped off with beautiful piano playing from Bruce (the singer began learning the instrument when he won one in a recent raffle) it’s very much his masterpiece and closes this ambitious and often spell-binding opus in style.

OUT NOW

EDWIN McFEE

Advertisements




HOT PRESS ALBUM REVIEW: Ash ‘Kablammo!’

28 06 2015

Here’s a reprint of my review of the ace new Ash album that ran in Hot Press.

ASH

Kablammo! (earMUSIC)

Key Track: ‘Go Fight Win’

7/10

ASH ON FIRE FOR THEIR COMEBACK ALBUM.

ash

Almost eight years to the day, trail-blazing garage pop rockers Ash announced that Twilight Of The Innocents would be their final album and from that point on they’d only release singles. As the quick witted among you might have already guessed, they recently had a change of heart and thank whatever deity you worship they did as it’s a resounding return to form for the Downpatrick natives. Perfectly capturing the fizz and fuzz of Ash’s incendiary live show, Kamlammo! strips away some of the electronic influences of recent singles and reboots the band somewhat.

Old school fans will be thrilled to learn that some material recalls the scuzzy punk of Trailer. The likes of the unrelentingly catchy ‘Cocoon’ and the Brian Wilson meets Rivers Cuomo vibe of ‘Machinery’ are like being punched in the face by a rainbow, while ‘Go Fight Win,’ stomps along like Deep Purple’s ‘Space Truckin’,’ and is packed with pop hooks and metal guitars. It’s not all about revisiting their early days though as the instrumental, galloping sci-fi western ‘Evel Knieval,’ cowpunk-tinged ‘Shutdown’ and string-laden ballad ‘Moondust’ prove they’ve plenty of new ideas and sounds to explore. Welcome back boys.

OUT NOW

EDWIN McFEE





HOT PRESS COLUMN: MY TV FORTNIGHT

27 04 2015

Here’s a reprint of a recent TV column I wrote for Hot Press. WARNING: there be spoilers.

MY TV FORTNIGHT

WITH EDWIN McFEE

clown-ahs

Recently at Castle McFee I waved goodbye, with my metaphorical lobster claw, to American Horror Story: Freak Show. Now that the dust has settled on this tale of Elsa Mars’ travelling carnival, looking back I feel that the fourth series of this wildly inventive anthology (yep, I’m still not down with this Yank-ified “season” lark) was definitely a divisive one. Ultimately though, creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk should be applauded for not milking the tried and tested horror tropes this time around. As much as the FX Channel may have wanted a more straight forward show featuring large chested ladies incessantly running up stairs away from loonies whose one-liners are as sharp as their knives, the producers instead gave them (and us) an oddly sweet offering about misfits and mistakes.

Once again bolstered by another barn-storming performance from American Horror Story stalwart Jessica Lange, her turn as the fame-obsessed, German ex-pat Elsa Mars was, as expected, terrific. Full of pathos and pure ambition, the leader of the freak show was actually strangely lovable despite her [SPOILER] murderous ways. Other highlights of the 1952-set story was the tale of Pepper the Pin-Head and the eventual reveal that each series is loosely connected. While at first, one of the appeals of AMH was that each instalment featured a different theme and different characters (often played by the same troupe of actors), the comic fan in me loves the intertextuality of it all and [SPOILER] Sister Mary Eunice from American Horror Story: Asylums unannounced appearance in Freak Show was a great treat for fans. Especially as it was set before the events of the aforementioned Asylum. Poor old Sister Mary Eunice….

Anyway, other high points included Neil Patrick Harris as the mental magician Chester Creb. Obsessed with his ventriloquist dummy (which looked a little like Susan Boyle to these eyes), his brief two episode stint was mesmerizing, as was Wes Bentley’s three episode turn as the (literally) two-faced nobleman Edward Mordrake who treaded the line between camp and creepy with ease.

Now onto the negatives. Namely, lobster boy Jimmy and his relentless weeping over [SPOILERS] the murder of Meep the Geek. While I’m sure wee Meep was a lovely lad (when he wasn’t biting the heads off of chickens for a laugh), the grief was over-cooked and unconvincing. Another misfire was the handling of Twisty the Clown, who unfortunately only appeared in five of the 13 episodes. An absolutely terrifying creation inspired in part by John Wayne Gacy, actor John Carroll Lynch was superb as the misunderstood maniac. In fact, according to director Ryan Murphy, a third of the crew often left the set when he was shooting his scenes as he scared them all shit-less. Sadly though, Twisty’s reign of terror ended abruptly and although many suffering from coulrophobia won’t thank me for it, I would’ve really loved to have seen more of his mutilated mug. Some rumours have said that show-runners canned the clown early as they felt he was simply too scary and would force viewers to turn off. Wusses!

Overall, Freak Show was an enjoyable oddity and certainly better than last year’s uneven Coven. New-comer to the series Finn Wittrock was the undisputed star for me. Playing murderous mammy’s boy Dandy Mott, he rivalled Jessica Lange when it came to on screen charisma and killer lines and here’s hoping the actor returns for AMH’s fifth chapter later this year.

Speaking of series number five, the writers have revealed they hid some Easter eggs related to the next theme (American Horror Story: Hotel) throughout Freak Show for fans to speculate over. According to Ryan Murphy, the various images of top hats in different episodes are worth paying attention to. Oh, and Lady Gaga will join the cast. Consider me more than intrigued.





HOT PRESS ALBUM REVIEW: THERAPY? ‘DISQUIET’

23 03 2015

Here’s an un-trimmed for space review of the new Therapy? record that ran in Hot Press (with added ‘Still Hurts’ track review below).

THERAPY?

Disquiet (Amazing Record Co.)

Key Track: ‘Deathstimate’

ROCK LEGENDS STILL KICKING AGAINST THE CLIQUES.

8/10

Known, loved and rightly lauded for never making the same record twice, the unpigeonholeable rock pioneers Therapy? have once more set sail for pastures new on Disquiet. Leaving behind the measured menace of their previous two LPs, album number 14 is a more direct beast which often kicks as much ass as the Mighty Thor. Something of a spiritual successor to High Anxiety, Disquiet boasts 11 melodic punk and metal-imbued blasts of head-cracking riffs and filthy basslines and fans of the likes of Troublegum and Semi-Detached will find much to love on the record.

Lyrically speaking, singer/guitarist Andy Cairns is in vintage form as he muses on the passage of time (the Pantera-punning ‘Vulgar Display Of Powder’ is a particular standout on that front). ‘Still Hurts,’ ‘Idiot Cousin’ and ‘Tides’ are future live favourites, packed with pithy lines, massive choruses and satisfyingly meaty guitars, but it’s album closer ‘Deathstimate’ which really steals the show. Initially intended as a fusion of early Sabbath and Portishead, the seven minute long monster is a masterpiece and like nothing they’ve done before. Built around a magnificent riff dripping with doom influences, Cairns’ mournful vocals are perfectly weighted and utterly arresting. Not only is it the best track on the record, it’s one of their finest recorded moments and a welcome reminder that Therapy? still have plenty of surprises up their sleeves.

MARCH 20

EDWIN McFEE

WP_20150323_11_54_40_Pro (2)





HOT PRESS 900

17 03 2015

So,issue 900 of Hot Press is out (yes,nine fucking hundred) and this fortnight I interviewed Ripper Street’s Charlene McKenna and hotly tipped singer Natalie Prass,waved a fond farewell to American Horror Story: Freak Show in‪#‎MyTVFortnight‬ and reviewed records by Swervedriver, the Answer and Cry Monster Cry. My ‪#‎TracksOfTheFortnight‬ include offerings from Therapy?, Race The Flux,More Than Conquerors, Paranoid Visions, Joanna Gruesome and more. Here’s to issue 1000.

10403059_10153653061788761_4563038375303516603_n





HOT PRESS ALBUM REVIEW: CHERYL ‘ONLY HUMAN’

28 02 2015

Here’s a reprint of my verdict on the new Cheryl Tweedy album that ran in Hot Press a few issues ago.Guess who’s still disappointed in her solo stuff?

CHERYL

Only Human (Polydor)

Key Track: ‘Goodbye Means Hello’

5/10

POP PRINCESS’ CROWN CONTINUES TO SLIP.

cheryl-cole-twitter

Only Human is something of a make or break album for “Cheryl.” Her first record since the split of Girls Aloud and her second since dumping any kind of surname, the former reality TV contestant and current talent show judge really needed to step up her game with her fourth solo outing. Unfortunately, her latest effort only sees her stumble and in some cases, spectacularly so.

Part of the problem is that her solo career has failed to yield a truly stellar hit, one which would do for her what ‘Crazy in Love’ did for Beyonce post Destiny’s Child. Whereas Girls Aloud unleashed some of the most exciting and inventive pop songs of their generation (thanks in part to production team Xenomania), Cheryl has struggled to release anything even remotely original and Only Human carries on that trend. Throwaway, club-tinged plastic pop songs like ‘I Don’t Care’ and ‘It’s About Time’ are as dull as big band night on The X Factor while elsewhere her ballads (such as the title track) are mawkish and mediocre. The songs that are co-written by ex-Girls Aloud member Nicola Roberts are worth your attention though (see a trend here?) and ‘Goodbye Means Hello’ in particular has a fiendish hook, but ultimately there’s nothing to rival the likes of former G.A. hits ‘The Promise’ or ‘The Show.’

OUT NOW

EDWIN McFEE





HOT PRESS ALBUM REVIEW: SLASH

11 11 2014

*REPRINT*REPRINT*REPRINT*

SLASH FEATURING MYLES KENNEDY AND THE CONSPIRATORS

World On Fire (Warner Bros)

6/10

Key Track: ‘Automatic Overdrive’

MORE FRET-BOTHERING ANTICS FROM TOP HAT CLAD TUNESMITH.

It’s just over 20 years since perennially top hatted guitarist Slash bowed out from the ongoing soap opera that is/was Guns ‘N’ Roses. However, despite the decades that have passed (and subsequent metric ton of moaning from his former cohort Axl Rose), in a weird way it’s like he never left. For millions of people, he will always be “Yer man from Guns ‘N’ Roses” and judging by the material on his latest solo record, Slash seems just fine with that as World On Fire doesn’t stray too far from the sound that made him a household name.

His third “official” solo record (90s project Slash’s Snakepit was a different beast entirely) Myles Kennedy once again features on vocals and it’s packed with plenty of sleazy riffs to appease the faithful. World On Fire is far from a classic though, as it suffers from way too many songs. At 17 tracks and a running time of a whopping 77minutes, the record tests the patience more often than not and the likes of run of the mill hard rock romps such as ‘Wicked Stone’ and ‘Dirty Girl’ blend into one. ‘Automatic Overdrive’ is a stand-out though, thanks to Slash changing things up with a distinctly NWOBHM-like riff and the title track is an incendiary offering, but overall the record is as bloated as Slash’s ex band-mate.

OUT NOW

EDWIN MCFEE