Muse: Simulation Theory (review)

Is this daring 80’s synth snaring Tron style record too risky or is the Muse sound still there? Come check out the review!

The lads from the South of England are back with their 8th album ‘Simulation Theory’. Albeit daring and innovative, will this Muse record be one to forget or praise for its daringness?

Over the past few days I have been stunned and angered by some of the reviews that have come out from renowned magazines like Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and NME. I have been a fan of Muse since their days as the Rocket Baby Dolls and have always adored their distinct sound. That does not mean I cannot be objective about a record that clearly means to shock some of Muse’s fanbase.

In some reviews I read the complaint about songs sounding far too pop-like, being out of sync with the current music trends and mocking the underlying layer of political and psychological messages Matt Bellamy expresses in his lyrics. Their ratings varied from 2 stars out of 5 or a grade 6 out of 10, which just proves music taste is bloody subjective. So here is my very subjective opinion after listening to Simulation Theory about 8 times.

Why do I mention 6 times specifically? As this record requires multiple tours of listening before you can really grasp its meaning and sound. This is something I encounter with other artists as well, where at first glance you might have your reservations or even utter disgust, but after a few rounds start to enjoy it all.

Daring
Simulation Theory shows us that Muse dare to innovate with their sound and are looking to bring the Muse tunes into a new recipe. If you ask me they do so very effectively. With the cover art created by ‘Stranger Things’ artist Kyle Lambert, it sets a futuristic yet 80’s synth sounding theme. Coming on the back of the politically beefed up record Drones, which was Muse at its best if you ask me, the political undertone on Simulation Theory can still be found quite vividly. 

Where Matt Bellamy thankfully does not go full anti-Trump hate tripping, he sticks to a more philosophical stance on human kind needing to stand up for their opinion and freedom, instead of being forced into certain thinking by the media and countless governments. This is evidently put to the test on the tracks ‘The Void’ and ‘Propaganda’. Especially ‘The Void’ left me with a nostalgic deja-vu feeling referring back to the classical melodic strength of the Muse sound as I love it.

Whereas previous record ‘Drones’ could at times be dark and heavy, ‘Simulation Theory’ plays with the notion of empowerment, strength, fighting and not giving up. That brings me to the two best songs on the album ‘The Dark Side’ and ‘ Dig Down’. The latter was created from Bellamy’s youthful experiences in church and his love for gospel music. The gospel like vibe to Dig Down is maximised on the Deluxe version of the record where there is an additional track with a Dig Down Acoustic Gospel Version which is a nice change up on this album. Also on the Deluxe and Super Deluxe versions of the album you will find a few additional songs with alternative versions. The Alternate Reality Versions and Acoustic Versions are a refreshing and scintillating variety.

With the help from hip hop moguls Mike Elizondo (Dr Dre, Eminem), Shellback (Taylor Swift, Britney Spears) and Timbaland (Missy Elliot, Justin Timberlake), Muse manage to change things up in the drum and beat section of the record.

Tron-style
With an ever increasing trend of trance and dance style songs in the charts nowadays, it is not only daring but risky to bring a synth, 80’s Tron style record which in some ways tends to forget the Muse sound so typical to them. This eerily comes to effect on the really poor ‘Get Up And Fight’ and annoying ppppppp-ppppp-proppaa ‘Propaganda’, which is like Prince meets R&B gone drunk.

On the other hand a positively note worthy track is the September released single ‘Pressure’, which is like a love child between Muse and The White Stripes, and the ever so cool Terry Crews appearing in the music video. And if you happen to have an Apple Music or Spotify account you can get yourself access to the Super Deluxe version of this record with version of Pressure together with the UCLA Bruin Marching Band, which just makes me jizz in my pants every time. Check out the snippet below for a quick taste.

Out with the old, in with the new?
Anybody daft enough to claim that ‘Simulation Theory’ is not a Muse sounding album needs to get their ears and brain checked. Although there are some very evidently daring concepts and 80’s style sounds being toyed with, overall this still signifies as Muse, in my opinion. Being a metalhead, I do miss the more Rock themed style record like ‘Drones’, but it is a refreshing change. For a next record I would love to see a combination of Simulation Theory and Drones. However ultimately I respect and admire Muse’s daring step with this album, even though they might have some (daft) angry fans who want the old Muse back.

P.S. If you want to get your money’s worth, then get the Deluxe or Super Deluxe versions, with a bunch of additional tracks well worth a listen.

Review: 8.2

 

 

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Lil Wayne – Tha Carter V (Review)

One of my favourite lyricists and rappers is back with the long awaited ‘Tha Carter V’. Here is the review.

Let us be real about one thing: there is only one real ‘lil’ and that is Lil Wayne. And all you mumble rappers called A$AP can also do one. More importantly Tunechi is back, after 2015’s Free Weezy Album, the world was eagerly awaiting the return of Wayne with the Tha Carter V record, the pentalogy of the Tha Carter albums.

Unfortunately Tha Carter V was put on hold for almost four years due to a long-running contractual dispute between Wayne and his mentor Birdman. After suing the shit out of each other, the duo finally settled their dispute this summer. And after becoming the sole owner of Young Money Entertainment, Wayne was finally ready and actually able to bring out Tha Carter V.

To be honest I was hoping to find a few more bass-thumping-speaker-breaking tunes like ‘blunt blowing’, ‘a milli’, ‘6 foot 7 foot’ and ‘bill gates’. Unfortunately that is not the case on Tha Carter V, but what Tunechi does to make up for that is opening up to the world in a way that is unprecedented for Lil Wayne standards.
The New Orleans born rapper talks at great length about his difficult youth, his struggles with contemplating suicide, shooting himself as a kid and self-hatred. This really comes to life on the track ‘Open Letter’ which really brings the human out of him. This is like a breath of fresh air on a long 23 track record, which I have to admit is nice to see compared to most 10-15 track records nowadays.

Wayne really expresses his emotions, demons and feelings as portrayed on the track ‘Can’t Be Broken’ where Tunechi let’s loose on his haters and telling them to put it where the sun don’t shine. Re-emphasizing that he definitely was not broken and done for, as so many uttered publicly.

In between we find a few proper Wayne-esque type songs like ‘Used 2’ which is one major rapping onslaught full of beautifully construed lyrics that just flow. Real saucy. Combine that with a really catchy melodic tune I would consider this one of his most memorable tracks on Tha Carter V. Additionally the song ‘Dedicate’ assisted by a hook from 2Chainz follows this lyrical hyperflow. On the song ‘Let If Fly’ featuring Travis Scott, Wayne manages to fill a whole verse with the word ‘line’ and everything that rhymes with ‘line’, quite majestic if you can appreciate a lyricist at work.

On his previous album the song ‘I’m that nigga’ already featured the word n*gga so often that the KKK radar was glowing red on full alert. Tunechi goes down a similar road with the track ‘Open Safe’, where 90% consists of the same n-word. Personally I consider it a lack of creativity and intellect if a rapper has to fill his songs this way, so that is a bit disappointing in my opinion.

Quite to the contrary of most songs is the tune ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ featuring Nicki Minaj, which is actually a nicely sung tune about an apocalypse on earth and how Nicki and Wayne stay true to each other through the love for each other. To my positive surprise Nicki actually sings here, which makes me wonder why she doesn’t sing more in general, we know she has a big mouth as a rapper, but I still believe her true strength is her singing voice.

One slight downer on this album is the song ‘Start This Sh*t Right Off’ featuring Ashanti & Mack Maine. Yes sir you read correct, that is (Ja-Rule/Fat Joe groupie) Ashanti. The semi-failed actress features on this track with her epitomising incessant wailing that makes you wonder whether your speakers are out of tune or Cher’s autotune stopped working. Please go back to acting Ashanti.

To finish the album I can only suggest listening to the song ‘Mona Lisa’ featuring the legendary lyricist Kendrick Lamar. Tunechi shifts to overdrive and especially Kendrick goes absolutely bonkers near the end with about 5 voice changes, a rapping speed that would make the average Premier League footballer doing 150mph on the A1 look slow.

Lil Wayne covers women, riches and smoking but with the added flavour of emotions, self-reflection and some surprising humility makes Tha Carter V the typical Lil Wayne-esque record that proves all the haters that he is not yet broken or ready to retire.

Review: 7.4

Eminem’s ‘Kamikaze’: is it time for the Rap God to retire?

Eminem is back with a surprise diss album bonanza. Strap in tight folks, Em is droppin’ the bomb on us with Kamikaze.

As a wee lad my best mate introduced me to this white boy rapper from Detroit with his rude, misogynistic, homophobic, angry yet lyrically astonishing catchy raps. Eminem or Slim Shady as he proclaimed his alter ego to be when things really needed to get dark, fiery and sometimes downright ludicrous is now back with a surprise album called ‘Kamikaze’.

Revival
On his last and 9th album called ‘Revival’ from late 2017 we heard the mumblings of a rapper who had lost his identity and mojo by filling his emptiness and frustration towards the hip hop scene with pop-minded jibber jabber and terribly copied hooks and tunes, making the album almost sound like a bad karaoke night. This is epitomised by the absolutely horrendous cover of The Cranberries classic ‘Zombie’ which he calls ‘In Your Head’. (#avoid) The guest vocals of world pop stars like Beyonce and Ed Sheeran did not help one bit. And that is not me slagging of Beyonce and Ed Sheeran. No. I mean ginger pubes actually made the song River good by adding his voice. To be fair Eminem needed to take a good hard look in the mirror. The critics killed his record, and maybe rightly so. This was Slim Shady unworthy. Using his own words: he needed to put a dick in his mouth.
And to be honest being a massive Eminem fan since a young age, this record made me want to puke and punch Hillary Clinton in the face. (Bill was too busy getting his shlong sucked)

Criticism
Eminem, let alone from album sales, but as an image and rapper will never be forgotten in the music world let alone be outclassed by the current dimwits that call themselves rappers. (ahem Lil Yachty, Migos, Machine Gun Kelly)
However one thing Marshall seriously needs to comprehend is being able to take criticism without killing his legacy. In the 2000’s there was nobody like Em, a true Rap God. And up to 2013’s album The Marshall Mathers LP 2 I would agree with view. Unlike most rappers he thankfully did not start wearing skinny jeans and change his name to Lil Em. Marshall Mathers a now almost 46 year old rap veteran still cannot let it go that times have changed and the rap scene has moved on and has now turned into an incestuous mumble auto tune load of shite that makes you wonder where it all has gone. Dam you Ja Rule!
Em seems to suffer from an everlasting urge to show the world he is still the best lyricist out there as if he were an emerging rapper from Detroit’s underground, oh wait…deja-vu! If anything Eminem can take a bow to the global audience and enjoy his record selling legacy. However..

Kamikaze
Marshall was not ready to throw the towel in the ring and instead of an accurate hook to the eye, chews the opponents ear off with his surprise comeback record Kamikaze. (sorry Tyson) Anger, frustration, fear, insecurity, misogyny and pure brilliance fuel an album where Em sets the record straight versus all of his critics.
This record exudes disses towards the biggest names in politics, rap, pop music, entertainment and maybe even you. No need for Beyonce and ginger pubes to appear on this record. This is Em going back to the angry white boy from Detroit’s underground battle scene, that made The Marshall Mather’s LP the epitome of rap, probably for all time. (that is my opinion, let’s not have all these Nas loving b*****s get their panties in a twist about his Illmatic album)

Dissing
The likes of Trump, Pence, Machine Gun Kelly, Drake, Joe Budden, Lil Pump, Migos and Diddy are just a few on a long list of casualties. I am sure Eminem has set a new record for most people insulted on a single album. And you know what if anybody can pull it off or deserves a go at these people its Em.

Em has gone back to Dre fuelled beats and hooks that fit perfectly with his lyrical brilliance. Good examples of this are the songs Not Alike (feat. Royce Da 5’9″) and Lucky You (feat. Joyner Lucas), which I personally think are the true sound of Kamikaze with lyrics that will make you wonder, how does one even come up with this shit! Damn! Marshall sometimes seems to just stop breathing to fit in so many words, but makes it look as easy as Kim Jong Un hiding his nuclear weapons arsenal. The tempo changes, and musical intervals are mind blowing, let alone sheer genius from my perspective.
I grew up with rap phenomenons like Lil Wayne, Busta Rhymes, DMX, 50 Cent, Wu Tang Clan and Dr. Dre. That is a stark contrast to the current rap scene full of skinny jeans wearing pussies. Word of advice, please do listen to these songs a few times to really grasp the lyrics and meaning of his disses.

Retirement?
Eminem has made me nostalgic with Kamikaze and yet again shows he might be getting older and is out of sync with the current music scene, but that is okay and acceptable, because this is Marshall Mathers we are talking about. Em please take this piece of advice from a critic and also lifelong fan: stop giving a f*ck about what people say, focus on Slim Shady and what made him the most disturbing, genius, record album selling, lyricist and MC of the past 20 years.”

I forgive you for ‘Revival’ but please don’t pull that shit again bro. Retirement? No way man. Keep firing away Slim!

Review: 8.0

 

 

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courtesy of last.fm

Metalheads: time to set things straight (grunt)

Grunt grunt grunt…aargghh…arrghhh…pain….death…etc… No, heavy metal is a lot more than that. Let me explain.

Not heads of metal, and not the material metal either. I am talking about the music scene of heavy metal and the members of this subculture called ‘metalheads’, which my wife and I happen to be part of as well. As my wife and I are about to go to the yearly Graspop Metal Meeting festival in Dessel, Belgium this week I felt it was time to set some common misconceptions about heavy metal music straight.  Now please keep reading especially if you are NOT a metalhead or actually hate this type of music. You are exactly the type of person I am trying to reach! Over the next few weeks I will be crowd surfing over topics associated to the metal scene so please stay tuned.

No we do not all wish to die, kill others or have chronic anger issues!
I have to say it is difficult to give opinion on something so subjective as music, but screw it here it goes anyway. See I grew up listening to good old Elvis Presley over dinner as my dad just could not get enough of him. And although I love me a bit of Elvis and Hip Hop like Eminem, DMX, Busta Rhymes and 50 Cent, nothing gets me as excited, adrenaline pumped, psyched and crazy like heavy metal!

Now If I were to ask a random person in the street what they think of when talking about metal music what would people say? Tattoos, anger, gothic dressed people, head-banging, depression, self mutilation, aggression, satanism, death-wishing and massive fighting in crowds at a concert. You probably agree with some or even all of them right? Well, please find enlightenment in the following paragraphs you bunch of blasphemers! (Haha)

Metalheads are mostly very passionate, caring, life enjoying, happy people.

Expression
In all fairness the thought of anger and aggression associated with metal music I can understand, but it requires some much needed perspective. And the following might sound silly or even unbelievable, but most metalheads are actually very passionate, caring, life enjoying, happy people. Now I do say ‘most’ because there are some, yet very few suicidal, angry, self mutilating idiots who ruin it for the rest of us. (I might be writing lightly about those people, but they seriously need help and are often too scared to reach out for it)

See the key thing to happiness for most people in life is being able to ‘vent’ some much needed energy, frustration, passion and love through some sort of medium, in this case music. Plenty of you will absolutely jizz in their pants by listening to a bit of Adele on a Sunday evening whilst picturing a much fitter woman instead of Adele. You dirty buggers!

We all vent in different ways through sports, hobbies like instruments, running, playing chess, listening to music and the occasional masturbating. (yeah you know who you are)
Metalheads are the same, although for most of us it goes further than just listening to music, it is a way of life. I grew up with the likes of Rammstein, Limp Bizkit, Godsmack, Metallica, Led Zeppelin and System Of A Down. It was not until I met my now wife that I got introduced to the various metal festivals and bands like Slipknot (yes those geezers with funky masks), Avenged Sevenfold, Volbeat and many others a lot rougher/darker than the above mentioned bands. This brings me to Slipknot and one of those many misconceptions: dress styles do not always tell the whole story, perception can be misconceiving.

The Slipknot Effect
Let me start with a good image of one of my favourite bands Slipknot, originally from Iowa (USA).

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image via voir.ca

Hey, there is that dude with the mask from the cover image of this article! (guitarist Mick Thomson) What I love about Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor’s voice is his ability to sing in a very pure tone as well as grunt and interchange between the two as if it was the easiest and most normal thing in the world. You might recognise the name Corey Taylor as he is also the frontman of the slightly milder rock band Stone Sour.
See the thing with Slipknot is that most people look at their masks and think: ‘what is this horrendous look?’. And then they often do not even give them a chance. They are just masks. Think about Kiss and their looks that did not put you off either did it? It was the tongue that did it for you, wasn’t it?! Haha! Well the same happened to me all those years ago. It was not until my now wife made me listen to them and actually go to their concert and boy was I wrong!! This situation though seems to be an assumption about a lot of other metal bands as well, unfortunately.

And of course I know, even after you might have listened to them it might still not be your music scene, no worries.

Lyrics
So if you are already put off by the looks of some metal bands or the sound even then there are a lot of you who think that there is another disturbing factor: the lyrics. I know that a lot of non-metalheads (haters) consider the lyrics of most of these bands to be very angry, focused on suicidal thoughts, death, misery, depression, hurt, pain etc..

There are some bands who exert complete anger, even satanic views. Those are definitely not the mainstream, more popular metal bands. Do not forget that there is a multitude of genres within the metal scene. I will explain more about these genres in my next post.

When I look at Slipknot, Avenged Sevenfold, Five Finger Death Punch then you will find a wide range of lyrics that mention fighting for what your worth, survival through the struggles of life, truth, deceit, lies, friendship, love and heritage for example. Now most of these are very common in every day music, from pop to rock and country music. But a lot of people associate the heavy guitar riffs, drumming and vocal styles as permanently angry, negative and creepy.

I only have to look at my own family. As soon as I play 20 seconds of an average Slipknot song they look at me in disgust and start swearing that this aberration is not music!
Fair enough, I respect we all have our own opinions.

Mosh Pits and Walls of Death
The topic of most pits and walls of death are a common association to the metal scene at concerts and festivals. There is a story and explanation to this perceived madness that I will cover in one of my next posts. But in short I would like to point out that most pits are not done to hurt each other, intimidate or injure. They are a form of expression of passion and a feeling of togetherness that can mostly not be understood by non-metalheads. More on the psychology of these activities soon.

What I would like to finish with is the companionship between metalheads, even between the different genres of metal. There is a distinct togetherness that I never felt at a pop or rap concert. Someone falls, they get picked up by everyone around them. A girl has to puke, the others will hold her hair up. Everybody is accepted for who they are, no matter how ludicrous they might be dressed. It might seem ludicrous to you but to them it is a way of life that let’s them be themselves and more importantly be happy about themselves. That is something I believe we all can and should respect.

Graspop 2018
Tomorrow my wife and I will be leaving for Belgium for the 4 day metal fest called Graspop Metal Meeting and below you can find the full line-up should you be interested. Yes before you say anything, Ozzy Osbourne is still alive and performing. (bloody awesome right)

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image via graspop.be