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Greatest hits: album reviews

Music reviews: new releases from Lamb of God, Four Tet, White Reaper and Wilco

A teenage fan's death at a Prague concert in 2011, and its legal repercussions, weigh heavily on the latest album by one of the world’s biggest metal bands, Lamb of God.

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 August, 2015, 11:03pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 August, 2015, 11:03pm

It’s certainly been a whirlwind few years for one of the world’s biggest metal bands, Lamb of God. Charged with manslaughter following the death of a teenage fan at a 2011 concert in Prague, frontman Randy Blythe was finally acquitted in 2013, but the legal fees and enforced hiatus caused by the nine-month trial crippled the Southern metal merchants. The tragic events of 2011obviously weigh heavily on Lamb of God’s new album, which follows close on the heels of Blythe’s Dark Days memoir, detailing his time spent in prison. The doomy 512, the number of Blythe’s jail cell, is about “the radical mental and emotional shift you undergo when you go into prison”. Over the past two decades Blythe has screamed and hollered with the best of them but on Overlord he actually tries his hand at proper singing, though his clean vocals stray dangerously close to lumbering 1990s grunge pop.

Lamb of God VII Sturm Und Drang (Sony Music )

 

It would be rude, if not disrespectful, to say that 34-year-old English producer Kieran Hebden, aka Four Tet, creates music that is outside the box. From jazzy noodlings, folk-tronica and drum’n’bass, to his collaborative work with producer Burial, in the mind of the inventive laptop maestro I believe there is no box to begin with. Morning/Evening is Hebden’s self-released eighth full-length album and the follow-up to 2013’s Beautiful Rewind, built from just two lengthy tracks (that’s one track per side for all you old-school vinyl people) and created “on a laptop computer using the Ableton Live software to control and mix VST synthesisers and manipulations of found audio recordings” (for all you geeky electronic nerds). The Eastern-sounding audio recordings are voice samples of Lata Mangeshkar’s Main Teri Chhoti Behana Hoon, taken from the Hindi movie Souten, and along with a propulsive beat and lush strings create a warm orchestral dawn. Evening takes a more dreamy meditative groove, a slow-burning soundtrack to a long dusky summer evening, and a perfect end to the 40-minute journey.

Four Tet Morning/Evening (Text)

 

Joining the recent barrage of 1970s garage rock revivalists, the frenzied punk-pop debut from youthful Kentucky new boys White Reaper (the quartet are barely entering their 20s) could quite easily have been made 40 years ago. While these 12 lean and relentless tracks certainly buzz with the freewheeling three-chord spirit of The Ramones, White Reaper Does it Again also spits with the snarling brashness of British punk rock. It’s music for sticky floors and a mosh pit, but no matter what side of the ocean they draw their influences from, White Reaper’s kinetic rock’n’roll is a simple reminder that being in a band should first and foremost be uncomplicated fun. At its core it is a pop record, melodic and fuzzy, each song happy to punch you in the face before snaring you with its gigantic hook. A little ‘80s vibe creeps in with bursts of catchy keyboards, but there are no great surprises hidden within its brief 34 minutes, the pace barely dipping as singer-guitarist Tony Esposito’s nasal holler cuts through the raucous feedback and booming drums.

White Reaper White Reaper Does it Again (Polyvinyl Records)

 

The ninth album from Illinois alt-folk rock band Wilco is free to download from their website. With 11tracks bristling with an energetic fuzz, Star Wars is surprising and delightful. Once touted as the “American Radiohead”, frontman Jeff Tweedy and company have always drawn from a diverse range of genres, with every piece of their musical puzzle seemingly laboured over until near perfection had been achieved. Here Wilco sound wild and free, as loose and ragged as they have ever dared to be, but the songs are no less engaging. Opening instrumental track EKG is a fuzzy jam of screeching stabs of guitar which sets the tone perfectly, before Random Name Generator brings a gloriously ramshackle vibe, as if Pavement’s lo-fi king Stephen Malkmus had stolen the stoned desert rock groove of Queens of the Stone Age. Taste the Ceiling is a mournful and melodic acoustic strum.

Wilco Star Wars (DBPM Records )