Thursday, August 21, 2008

Album Catch-Up Part 4

In order to get these out more frequently, I'm switching from 10 albums to 5 albums per post. I had to take a few weeks for various reason, and since I'm still not really all that stable (I have a feeling that's been coming across in my writing), I may have to do that every now and then.

Anyway, 4 albums that are pretty much essential listens, and one that was surprisingly decent here.

Opeth- Watershed

Does anyone really need a review for this album? Like the rest of Opeth's discography, Watershed is masterful in nearly every way. This is the type of high art that only Opeth could pull off, but it's also an album that sees Opeth genuinely progressing within the incredibly varied and artistic style they've done such a wonderful job of mastering within throughout their career. Watershed is yet another masterpiece in a long line of Opeth masterpieces, and everything from Mikael Akerfeldt's passionate growls to the beautiful melodies works to perfection. It's more melodic than the typical Opeth album, but that's not to say it isn't heavy. Like all Opeth albums, Watershed is about moments, and while many of the album's moments are some of the softest melodies of Opeth's career, there are also moments of pure brutality. However, what sets Opeth apart from other bands, even within these moments, is that Opeth's brand of death metal is not brutal for the sake of being brutal. Instead it's passionate heavy music that personifies Akerfeldt's dark poetry in musical form. There is both a rhyme and reason for everything Opeth does, both musically and lyrically, and it comes together to create a masterpiece that I could not recommend higher. This is how music is done.

Grade: A

NOTE: I will be doing a full review of this album at some point in the future

Immortal Technique- The 3rd World

Many of the flaws on Immortal Technique's first album in 5 years are often because the album is so good. Much of this has to do with the fact that The 3rd World is technically more of a mix-tape with DJ Green Lantern than a full length album, but most of the material here is powerful enough to work on a full length Immortal Technique album, and for the most part, it would have worked better had it been treated as a full album. From a lyrical stand point, this isn't Immortal Technique's most poetic work, but it still has the same aggressive style that effictively gets its message across. Of course, the message is the most important part of Immortal Technique's music, and while the album's message as a whole isn't as powerful or coherent as Revolutionary Vol. 2, this is still some of the most important and truthful music out there. The problem is that the message and lyrics, the most important part of Tech's music, are as intelligent as ever. The reason that's a problem is that the material here is hurt by the album's attempt to be a mix-tape. Although DJ Green Lantern's beats are good by themselves, they take away from the lyrics and message at times, most notably on songs like "The 3rd World" and "Mistakes," where the songs take far too long to actually start due to Green Lantern's constant starting and stopping of the track. If this were a normal hip-hop album, the production could be called top notch. However, it isn't, and if the production didn't get in the way, this might have been a true successor to Revolutionary Vol. 2. Still, what's here is some truly great hip-hop, and it's one of the most important albums of the year.

NOTE: Once I get caught up, I plan to do a track-by-track review of the album.

Grade: B+

Motley Crue- Saints of Los Angeles

It really shouldn't be much of a surprise that Motley Crue's Saints of Los Angeles is a forgettable album, but it may surprise some that the album isn't all bad. It seems that Motley Crue has remembered what they're good at, and while Saints of Los Angeles doesn't bring anything new to the table, it is effective in spots at being a fun and catchy hard rock album. The album runs into trouble everytime Crue tries to bring a ballad or more serious song into the mix, as the lyrics here are just as awful as ever, but songs like the title track do more than a respetable job at recreating the same fun and catchy sound the band became famous for the in the 80's. It goes without saying that this an album only for Crue fans, but considering that the band has done very little that could be enjoyed by anyone in quite some time, this is not only an improvement, but also a return to form.

Grade: C+

Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago

It's hard to listen to an album like Bon Iver's solo debut without comparing it to Iron & Wine, the artistic standard for modern poetic indie folk. Of course, For Emma, Forever Ago does not at the same level as Iron & Wine, but just the fact that Justin Vernon, the man behind Bon Iver, has come close on his first solo record is astonishing. This is quite simply a beautiful album from start to finish, and even though Vernon's influences are noticeable, the album's sound is certainly genuine. Every instrumental you hear is played by Vernon, and while the complicated musicianship certainly isn't the album's focues, he has certainly established himself as a talented muscian. However, the most staggering part of the album is its atmosphere. Unlike Iron & Wine, the lyrics aren't quite poetic enough to work as poetry on their own, but what Bon Iver does best is in the atmosphere of the sound. Every sound on the album works to some degree to bring the lyrics to life, and that is in no way an easy feat. For Emma, Forever Ago is filled with musical subtleties and poetry in both the musicianship and the lyrics, and the sound it creates is almost always beautiful. Not one aspect of Bon Iver's sound is especially impressive, but it's how everything comes together that makes this album special.

Grade: B+

The Mars Volta- The Bedlam in Goliath

Taken from my review of the album...

"An album like The Bedlam in Goliath should not be judged on small flaws, but instead the many things it does well. An album like this one should be praised for doing more and having minor flaws that go along with large amount of unique content than making a perfect album that doesn’t do quite as much. Not everyone is going to be able to understand it, and even many who do might find small things that perturb them. However, the risks The Mars Volta take make this one of the most original rock albums to come along in some time. To call it one of the best albums of its kind would simplifying it to an absolute, and thus selling it short, but The Bedlam in Goliath is an album that should not be missed under any circumstances."

Grade: A-

Go here to read the full review

Thanks for reading! Sorry for the long wait.

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