Album art: Korn – Self-titled

When I was first getting into metal during my mid-teens, buying CDs was still really popular. The cover of a CD would be a significant factor in drawing me towards new music or influencing my next album purchase. 

Nowadays a good album cover is a bonus. With streaming and illegal downloading the primary way we consume and circulate music, it’s arguably not as necessary to create decent art alongside an album’s release. There’s a lot to be said for a cover that’s visually appealing, whilst adding an extra dimension to the overall product.

These posts on album art will be dedicated to those I really appreciate.

1: Korn – Self-titled, 1994, Sony Music Entertainment

Photographer: Stephen Stickler

kornselftitled

I was only four when Korn released this groundbreaking debut, but after bangers like Freak On A Leash and Here To Stay drew me in as a teen, I backtracked to this release and subsequently discovered this image. It’s still one of my all-time favourite album covers.

Sinister, is the word that best sums it up.

The little girl is the centrepiece and it’s her who influences our whole perception of this image and the negative meaning that stems from it.

Here she is, in the park – a place normally associated with playing, children’s laughter and happiness. But this girl is alone. She’s not swinging and in fact appears to be frozen to the spot. She’s visibly disturbed by whatever faces her, screwing her face up and shielding her eyes from the sun’s glare. It’s jarring to see a child look so uncomfortable in this environment.

Of course, it quickly becomes apparent why this is, as soon as you notice the omnipotent presence casting the giant shadow beside her.

Like the girl attempting to gain clarity, we also know little about the shadow. It’s not just the figure’s anonymity that’s disconcerting. Is the figure really that tall? Or is the shadow warped? Why do their hands look like sharp objects or hooks? Why are they here and what do they want?

It’s obviously bad news. That is the dominant feeling.

I fear for the girl in the picture. It wasn’t until recently that I read that the girl is hanging in the other shadow, so confirming these dark interpretations. The cover has some evil connotations such child abduction and predatory behaviour.

Given the subject matter presented throughout the album, specifically frontman Jonathan Davis’ anger channelled from his own childhood experiences, the cover is undoubtedly an extension of these themes stemming from abuse and the corruption of innocence.

It’s a powerful image that induces anxiety. To me, the unknown identity of the shadow represents a universal, continual presence of evil among us. Figures that cause pain, suffering and who prey on the vulnerable. It shows an abuse of power and recognition for other young victims out there.

Review: Ensiferum – One Man Army

My review of One Man Army, written for Rock’n’Reel Reviews.

OneManArmy

A lot of metal’s appeal has always been the sense of escapism it provides. It’s the fantasy, encouraged by musicians through their dramatic and elaborate concepts, that sometimes has as much to do with alluring listeners as the music itself.

Perhaps that’s why so many enjoy folk metal. Because even if the music is sub-par, hordes of fans lap it up for the mythical references, the dramatics, advocacy for alcohol and tongue-in-cheek approach.

Finland’s Ensiferum are a shining example to rise from the genre, with a fourteen year run proving their talent. Album six, One Man Army, is the epitome of how heavy metal and folk instrumentals can be unified to great effect.

Guitarist and primary songwriter Markus Toivonen and his bandmates have done a great job on this one. The versatility and colour within the music speaks for itself; every track possessing its own memorable melodies, story and emotional delivery.

The more obviously inspired folk, multi-instrumental songs are dispersed throughout the album and performed as usual by keyboardist Emmi Silvennoinen. Intro ‘March of War’ is the first example, before the listener is hurled into ‘Axe of Judgement’, a stark, speedy contrast to enter battle with.

Later tracks like ‘Heathen Horde’, ‘Cry for the Earth Bounds’ and ‘Two of Spades’ are worth picking out for the their uniqueness and startling contrast in comparison to each other. There’s definitely a lot to experience throughout the album. Who knows, maybe even the cynics will allow themselves to be taken in by it.

Personal Score: 4/5

Review: In Flames – Siren Charms

About once a year, give or take, I fall in love with In Flames all over again and listen to their back-catalogue continuously. Here’s my review of their latest release.

SirenCharms

If fans of In Flames are to stand any chance of enjoying Siren Charms, they’d better embrace change and accept the band’s ongoing evolution into milder realms. Perspective is key when assessing this release. Alone, the Swedes’ eleventh creation is a decent piece of work, but frankly it’s an utter disappointment in light of their past and a painful reminder that their firey, melo-death metal foundation has been truly extinguished.

Whilst remnants of the band’s core sound are present, through their ability to engage the listener with signature atmospheric highs and lows, on the whole the latest offering feels frustratingly tame. A softer, slower musical approach runs throughout and demonstrates a permanent trajectory into rock, even borderline pop at times. Siren Charms is incredibly easy on the ears.

The title-track captures this shift in style and energy perfectly. Anders Friden’s soft, emotive singing voice draws the listener in with a feeling of heartfelt authenticity, as though he’s revealing true secrets and builds up to a soulful, crashing chorus. The following track ‘When the World Explodes’ is one of the heavier picks and compliments its predecessor. Growls return to the fold and a rhythmic metalcore style dominates. Guest vocalist Emilia Feldt also lends her delicate vocals to wrap up the album’s mid-section; the most interesting, mysterious and indeed charming.

Nevertheless, there are far too many songs here that are mediocre. Thrills are scarce, unfortunately. And knowing what wondrous sound and invention In Flames are actually capable of means that this reality is a little hard to bear. The album does possess a certain subtle character, however. One can only hope that it’ll introduce new listeners to the versatile beauty of this acclaimed band.

Personal Score: 3/5

Review: Iron Reagan – Tyranny Of Will

Another review written for Rock’n’Reel Reviews.

TyrannyofWill

It was only last year that punk-thrashers Iron Reagan impressed everyone with their début full length Worse Than Dead. Now they’re back with a second album that’s bursting with energy and just as ballsy. Tyranny Of Will continues exactly where the Richmond ragers left off and may well be more abrasive than their first export.

Like the first, it has a youthful feel; like a band making awesome, aggressive music because they damn well want to. The twenty-four tracks encourage you to let off steam through the rhythmic aggression and catharsis of hardcore punk, while frontman Tony Foresta, clearly indulging in his love of the genre, injects his humorous personality into the band’s sound and approach. Fans of Municipal Waste are bound to adore the ferocity of this record and their beloved vocalist and bassist’s (Landphil Hall is on guitar) more rough’n’ready project.

If anything, the thrash component has been amplified slightly on this one. Songs like ‘Eyeball Gore’ and ‘Nameless’ pack the speed and tenacity of old-school icons. ‘I Won’t Go’ has a particularly Slayer feel to it. As electrifying as these full velocity moments feel though, it makes for a fuller, more interesting listen when broken up with punchy beats and basic, satisfying riffs. Songs like ‘Close To Toast’ and ‘In Greed We Trust’ possess infectious, fist-pumping grooves.

The fivesome’s follow-up effort is fast, frenzied and a hell of a lot of fun. Dive in head first to this one.

Personal Score: 4/5

BFI Feature: Teenage characters we wanted to be

Myself and five other bloggers were invited to write about our favourite teenage film characters, to coincide with the BFI’s Teenage Kicks season.

I chose Sarah Bailey, the cool “natural witch” from The Craft. If you haven’t seen it, you can read about why this character rules and see what other awesome characters my fellow bloggers picked by following the link.

SarahTheCraft

Bloodstock 2014 Photos

Bloodstock was cracking this year. Compared to the overall intensity of doing Hellfest, it was actually a relief not having to travel very far, see some of my all time favourite bands and just completely relax.

There were so many excellent performances at the UK’s premier metal festival and I wish I’d been able to capture more of them. But here are a few photos from across the weekend.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.