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Music DVD/CD Review: Black Label Society, Janes Addiction, Electric Light Orchestra, Salem, Neurosis

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This week we have another mix of DVDs and CDs. And, as with many weeks, I am holding on a review to give one CD a bit more time to grow on me. This release, from a big band which is a favourite of mine, is quite a grower.

DVD Reviews

Black Label Society: Doom Troopin Live

As this DVD is subtitled the European Invasion, it’s no surprise that the live gigs featured on here come from European cities: more specifically, Paris and London. The trouble, as so often happens with these sorts of releases, is there is duplication between the two dates. In fact, all those tracks that appear on the London portion of the CD, have already been heard on the French part. Well one track “Stillborn” is part of an extended jam, but that still seems a bit lame.

There is the requisite 50 minute documentary on the tour, the video for “Suicide Messiah,” and the making of clip. The “In this River” and “Fire it Up” music videos round it out to 228 minutes of material on this Blu-ray. It is quite a good amount, however you have to wonder if it’s a value for the money. BLS is in good form at both gigs and deliver it all in grand style.

Does anyone but the most hard-core fan need another live set from Zakk Wylde and company? Then again BLS do deliver the goods in grand scale. This could be seen as too much of a good thing by some, but that would be cynical.

Jane’s Addiction: Live Voodoo

Love them or hate them, Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro do put on quite a spectacular show. This live testament to one of their recent reunions, with all original members, was recorded in New Orleans on Halloween night in 2009. The art rock styling of the band seems perfectly apt for Halloween night in the big easy. The crowd seems to think so and lap up what they deliver in droves. There is no doubting the power and majesty of JA in full flow, they deliver a quite spectacular live show.

This is pretty much a greatest hits show with most of the thirteen tracks coming from their first two albums. As you would expect tracks like “Been Caught Stealing”, “Jane Says,” and “Mountain Song” are highlights. Both material includes bonus footage from their LA gig, as well as featurette from England’s New Music Express, plus the requisite photo gallery.

With less than 100 minutes of combined material no one is going to hail this as an overly generous set. However those rapid fans of Jane’s Addiction, which there certainly are, will eat this up. There is nothing here that will convince the band’s detractors from their position about the band.

Electric Light Orchestra: Live

This a DVD of ELO in “the early years” just as they are about to take off into the mega-band they became. Some might question why ELO would appear in this column, afterall they are a “pop” band right? They may be seen as that because of their string of hits, but they were innovators of their time, not least from using a string section. In the amusing Rockenplast interview included on this CD Jeff Lynde (probably better know to many in the US for his time with the Travelling Willburys) explains that the band “got bored” with the normal guitars of a rock band.

ELO’s less poppy and more proggy tracks influenced many bands that followed. There probably would have been no Apocalyptica or symphonic metal without these pioneers. Taking classical instruments making them electric and using them in rock was quite innovative at the time.

You get three concerts, alas with repeat tracks which might have been included because sound quality on the earliest gig on here isn’t great, one from Brunel University in 1973, a Rockenplast gig in ’74 and finally a gig at Fusion in 1976. Needless to say you get to see the band grow into the force it became over the these gigs. Casual or unwitting ELO fans will recognise “Evil Woman”, “Do Ya” and “Showdown” at least. While probably not essential for all but the most fanatic ELO fans, this is quite an interesting release.

CD Reviews

Salem: Playing God and other short stories

The first thing that strikes you about this band is the fact they are Israeli. They have been around since 1985 and are quite possibly the instigators of the Israeli extreme metal scene. They have showed up “Headbanger’s Ball” another first for an Israeli band. They were part of the whole move to include string quartets into their music and have performed with one of them live. Thus they are a band that has been known for innovating.

This time they have former At The Gates frontman Tomes Lindberg lending his vocals to two tracks. Not surprising, this album contains elements that would not be out of place on an album by Opeth or any of the other progressive metal albums streaming out of Scandinavia. This, their seventh full-length, has a lose theme of superheroes, but with their normal political twist.

And it has some oddities on it like the bizarre little ditty “I Hate Pigs”. As with many of these sort of releases, if you didn’t know the band’s extreme metal past, you wouldn’t take this for that sort of album. It’s a clever mix of whatever works and while not exactly instantly gratifying, rewards generously repeated listens.

Neurosis: Enemy of the Sun

Neurosis is a band that you either love or loath. They have gone from hardcore punk, through progressive doom sludge, to an rather odd amalgam of progressive metal, hardcore, tribal, and even ambient music. For the most part you have no clue what to expect, but you just know that it will continuously ride that fine line between genius and absolute, complete tosh. Then again with Neurosis, you can find yourself thinking either of those things about a track depending on the day.

This is a reissue of the seminal release from the band, an ode to post-metal that many bands have tried to emulate and few manage. It’s one of those releases that critics and fans of the band wax poetic about but many people can’t understand. As with many of these re-releases you get a couple of extra tracks: a demo of “Takeahnase” and a live version of Cleanse called “Cleanse II”.

One word of warning, if you have never heard what these guys do, make sure to listen to this release and pay attention. Neurosis do music that is not meant to be in the background. It’s meant to be the focus of your attention lest you miss it subtleties.

Black Label Society: Order of the Black

Zakk and the boys are back with one hell of an album. This is a great collection of tracks, that remind you, if that were necessary, why Wylde is so missed on the recent Ozzy album. In fact, there are quite a few tracks on this album, not the least “Overlord” where Zakk channels Ozzy’s vocal style. This is everything a good Ozzy album should be, and even more.

It would be very easy to say this is the best thing he is has done with Black Label Society since “Blessed Hellride”. This is BLS firing on all cylinders and producing one hell of a damn good album. It’s the perfect combo of Sabbath, Skynrd, and Ozzy sifted through the mind that is Zakk Wylde. The band are on fine form and tight as they can be. You will be seriously hard-pressed to find a better more accessible metal album this year. This a solid collection of heavy rock and metal from a guy who is back to his old self.

There is not a stinker on here and the band have produced something special. No idea if it will reach the heights of popularity of some of the band’s previous output. However considering Zakk is going to be touring this to hell and back, it will probably sell quite a few copies. BLS is teaming up with those other great purveyors of Southern metal, Clutch. If you ever liked Black Label Society, then this is album to get you reacquainted. It’s quality from start to finish and that says a lot. What do you bet if Ozzy does another release Zakk will be back on guitar?

Great to see that Zakk’s sobriety hasn’t ruined what makes him such a great frontman and guitarist.

Well on that southern fried note, it’s time to end another column. Stay safe and rocking no matter what you do.

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