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Music

All Time Low – ‘Wake Up, Sunshine’ Album Review

I believe it’s safe to say that 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone. Luckily, there have been some incredible new album releases to help aid us through this tough time. One of my personal favourites has been All Time Low’s ‘Wake up, Sunshine’. For their eighth album, the Baltimore pop-punkers didn’t hold back, producing 15 exciting tracks that are guaranteed to have you dancing. After hearing the singles ‘Some Kind Of Disaster’ in January and ‘Sleeping in’ back in February, I had high hopes for the album. I particularly enjoyed hearing these tracks live for the first time when the band played The Garage in London on February 21st. Little did I know there were even better tracks to come.

After listening to the album for the first time, ‘Monsters’ (featuring American rapper ‘blackbear’) was the track that ended up sticking in my head all day. The catchy chorus and relatable lyrics really caught my attention. At first, I was unsure when I saw the feature from blackbear as I personally don’t listen to his music, however, his contribution pleasantly surprised me. The title track ‘Wake Up, Sunshine’ was another song I really enjoyed. It has a 00’s pop-punk sound and a softer sounding bridge to contradict the chorus. ‘Melancholy Kaleidoscope’ is another that stands out to me as it masks its gloomy lyrical themes of seasonal depression with a catchy melody and fun rhythm that I can’t help but dance to.

 

As well as having blackbear feature on the album, All Time Low also collaborated with ‘The Band CAMINO’ for the track ‘Favorite Place’. The song didn’t interest me much at first, however, after listening a few more times, I caught myself passionately singing along to the powerful chorus. ‘Getaway Green’ is a track that the band played for the first time at Slam Dunk Festival 2019 and then again at their intimate UK shows in February. I remember dancing at the London show as soon as the first verse kicked in and I still dance every time I hear it on the album now. ‘Clumsy’ is a fan favourite song that is very quickly growing on me. I’m beginning to really love the emotional lyrics and dynamic melodies, particularly in the chorus.

 

The rest of the album has some strong highlights like the sombre tones in ‘Pretty Venom (Interlude)’ and the supreme guitar riffs in ‘Summer Daze (Seasons pt 2.)’. The album ends on track ‘Basement Noise’ which is definitely one of my least favourites on the album, but it’s still a great testament to how much the band has grown with the lyric “stupid boys in the basement” repeating throughout the song.

 

All Time Low managed to create an album that includes all the best elements of their 7 previous records while also adding a modern edge. It’s an album that appeals to both old and new ATL fans. Even music lovers who have never heard an ATL track before will love this record if they’re looking for upbeat, fun songs to dance to during lockdown. For me, the album reminds me of growing up in the early 2000’s listening to my favourite pop-punk bands while dancing around my bedroom. This nostalgic summer album oozes with optimism, which is what everyone needs in a time like this.

 

Order ‘Wake Up, Sunshine‘ online from EMP and don’t forget to check out our All Time Low merch.

 

Chloe Berrell

Music

Tool – Fear Inoculum Album Review

I knew reviewing a Tool album, especially one that’s been anticipated for so long, would be difficult but I decided to take on the daunting challenge in order to fully rationalise my own thoughts on the album and hopefully share sentiments on it that will resonate with others. However, I fully welcome contrasting opinions as I firmly believe that music is subjective and album reviews should never sway anyone into viewing a record as intrinsically good or bad. Album reviews are opinions, and mine is that the new Tool album rocks!

I didn’t think so right away – it took a few listens to come to that conclusion. As with every Tool album, and most progressive rock/metal records, repeated listens are required to fully absorb the intricacies and for the hooks to sink in.

My initial opinion after my first listen was that it was an interesting album with some spectacular moments but it didn’t stand out enough from the rest of their catalogue and didn’t fully warrant the hype given their reported meticulous approach to writing the songs. I remembered listening to 10,000 Days (their last album) for the first time and noticing a clear evolution in sound from Lateralus (the album before it). In this case I felt that the typical Tool tropes, picking patterns and chord progressions felt slightly too familiar despite being extremely well executed and jaw-droppingly technical.

That naturally started to change as the album called me back for second, third and fourth listens. The way the songs swell, crawl and contort is extremely compelling. Despite the songs being centred around particular motifs, new elements are frequently introduced in unexpected places which creep up on the listener and take the songs in exciting new directions. Yes, it is all done in a way that sounds unmistakably like Tool but to be honest that’s not a bad thing! In an age where so many popular bands follow trends and imitate each other, Tool should be applauded for finding a sound that listeners immediately recognise as belonging to them. It’s not easy to take a singer, guitar, bass and drums and find a sound which is distinct from the thousands of artists who have used those instruments to make music before you.

Although I do still believe that 10,000 Days was a stronger evolution in sound from Lateralus than Fear Inoculum is from 10,000 Days, I feel that Fear Inoculum introduces enough new ideas to keep it fresh. Also, I was only 16 when 10,000 Days came out and wasn’t as familiar with Tool’s discography as I am now – context is important kids!

The new elements I am referring to include EVEN longer songs than usual, synths, bass chugs, a drum solo (!) and a vocal timbre and delivery employed by Maynard which he usually reserves for his other band A Perfect Circle. Although each member is a master of his craft and they all get moments to shine, Danny Carey’s drumming is particularly impressive. His drum solo on the track Chocolate Chip Trip is a personal highlight and the range of techniques he uses is astounding – there’s even drumming on the track 7empest which wouldn’t sound out of place on a metalcore song!

7empest, which recalls the fury of their earlier material, is probably my favourite track from the album, followed closely by Invincible and Pneuma. 7empest closes the album on an epic note and contains the album’s most memorable and climactic moments. However, this brings me to one of my few gripes with the album. Some of the crescendos on this album, of which there are many, don’t fully deliver at their peaks and that’s primarily due to the guitar tone. To put it bluntly, the heavy parts don’t sound heavy enough! In all the other parts of the songs, the guitar tones are stellar, but the more abrasive riffs don’t have enough grit to do them justice.

The same can be said for most other Tool albums though. The guitar tones are just Tool being Tool and I feel like that’s a good way of summarising the album. I get the impression that this is exactly the album that Tool wanted to make and they haven’t been pressured by outside influences into compromising on any front.

Tool are pioneers and I’m glad they’re still around today. They created a compelling blend of brooding 90s alternative metal with psychedelic progressive rock, completely bereft of any of the cheesy qualities the genre is traditionally associated with, which is, in my opinion, extremely commendable. However to reiterate; just because I enjoy it that doesn’t mean I expect everyone else to as well. The technical nature of the music impresses and engages me but I can understand it being off-putting for other listeners.

I give the album an 8/10 and am keen to hear what other people think (as long as it’s something more thoughtful than ‘this band sucks’).

Check out our Tool merch here!

Written by Anthony Best

EMP, Music, Special

Ghost – Prequelle: Album Review

Ghost have been going from strength to strength in recent years. When they burst onto the scene in 2010 they were more of a curiosity than a full-fledged part of the metal world, thanks to Papa Emeritus’ extravagant costumes, the fully disguised ‘nameless ghouls’ and the band’s knack for mixing blasphemous themes of death and the devil with downright catchy music and clean vocals. Certainly, they’ve never been a band that you could be indifferent about. And whilst the gimmicks might have been a nice way to get attention, it’s the music that keeps the fans there. Music which has remained of an extremely high caliber since day one (or Year Zero, if you will). So naturally there was considerable hype regarding the release of the band’s new album ‘Prequelle’ with a brand-new member of the satanic clergy at the helm.

In a way, the choice to ‘fire’ yet another Papa Emeritus (we were already on Papa Emeritus III by the third album) in favour of the significantly less intimidating Cardinal Copia looks quite a lot like a deliberate step away from their satanic image towards something which is still quirky but a bit less cumbersome. Since the satanic pope’s real identity has been making its way into the media anyway thanks to the legal quarrels between (nameless) band members, it was probably time for Tobias Forge to shed a couple of layers of papal robes and be a little freer. What does this mean for the music, though?

Whilst the band’s image and music have always been separate beasts, there is certainly something of a trend going on. When I last saw Ghost at Bloodstock festival in 2017, Papa/Forge shed most of his costume halfway through the set anyway, opting for a mostly black ensemble and a corpse-paint makeup style instead, marking a shift from the band’s first two albums to the slightly more classic rock style of Meliora. Yet another image change and (mock) personnel change looks to herald another significant shift in musical style for the band. In my opinion, it seems that they’re gradually trying to drop some of the gimmicky elements which made them famous but have gradually begun to hold them back in terms of experimentation. We can no longer expect spooky organs, satanic invocations and liberal use of slightly grammatically-incorrect Latin. Instead, the band have gone full steam ahead with the energetic classic rock with a twist that’s been part of their sound all the time, but has now come to the fore.

(Photo credit: www.rocksins.com)

The album opens with a creepy kids’ nursery rhyme which introduces the theme of the Black Plague / apocalypse that loosely ties the album together, then plunges straight into the lead single ‘Rats’. Straight away, you can recognize that typical Ghost sound, with the characteristic vocals and keyboards, although with a more simplistic structure and a slight 80’s touch, especially the OTT backing vocals. Is this a good direction? In my honest opinion, this isn’t one of the best tracks they’ve ever produced, which is a shame, although it’s certainly on the catchy end of the scale. As with any band, over the years the style does change and some will be more or less happy.

Faith’ kicks in with an utterly epic metal riff, which unfortunately doesn’t set the tone for the rest of the album. Whilst Ghost have never been extremely heavy, I sense the metal elements dropping away – none of the songs here have the heavy edge that, say, Mummy Dust did on the previous album. I’d have liked to hear a bit more of that riff, for sure.

Unfortunately there are one or two weaker moments on this album, especially ‘See the Light’ and ‘Dance Macabre’. ‘I wanna be wit’ you in the moonlight, I wanna be wit’ you all night’, Forge sings on ‘Dance Macabre’, a track which wouldn’t be terribly out of place on an Abba album. They are fellow Swedes, after all.

For some reason the most interesting stuff was left for the end of the album. Both instrumental tracks have left space open for Ghost to try something new musically and flex their creative muscles. ‘Helvetesfonster’ in particular has a slightly medieval sound and picks up on some of the musical themes earlier in the album, gradually seguing from classical melodies into energetic progressive rock.

My favourite track is probably ‘Pro Memoria’, something that would probably sound a little ridiculous coming from many other bands ‘don’t you forget about your friend death’… but when Cardinal Copia sings these lyrics over a background of perfectly executed keys, it ends up being a rather anthemic pean to death, which almost makes the idea of dying seem rather cheerful and fun. The final track, ‘Life Eternal’ isn’t bad either though, albeit it on the power ballad side. Forge has always had an uncanny ability to awaken the emotions, which he does here almost as well as on epic tracks like ‘Cirice’ on Meliora. It’s something that should almost be cheesy, but just because it’s Ghost, it isn’t.

Prequelle is probably never going to be my favourite Ghost album, but I can see the value in their maturing away from the satanic gimmicks and costumes and developing their style into something more universal. Whilst moments hark back to the 70’s or 80’s, others look forward to a new era of Ghost, which will definitely be something to keep an eye on.

Can’t get enough of Ghost? We have lots of Ghost merch to feed that obsession!

Alex Turner