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Music Review: Animals as Leaders, Exilia, Testament, Ted Nugent, and Deep Purple

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Here we are back for another collection of the latest in heavy rock that passes muster.

CD Reviews

Animals as Leaders: Animals as Leaders

This oddly named group is a basically an outlet for Tosin Abasi, the 7 string guitar master, formerly of the band Redux. Redux was described as politically charged progressive-tinged metalcore. Fortunately, this release only retains the progressive elements and dispenses with the boorish metalcore that so many bands use as their template these days.

Instead we have a great collection of prog guitar-led and ambient-tinged music that glides past electronica at times. It's quite a rewarding album to listen to and is best if appreciated over several listens. You are sure to miss the nuances of this release on the first few attempts. The decent modern prog album seems to grow to the ear which each listen. As you might imagine, considering Abasi plays both 7 & 8 string guitars this CD would probably be most interesting to guitarists. You can quite imagine this guy using the (in)famous and notorious hard to play “stick” for his next release.

It's more or less a concept album about getting older, but don’t that let that put you off. There is none of the pretentiousness one might expect from such a release. It might not be for everybody, but those who give it a chance will amply rewarded.

Exilia: My Own Army

I made the mistake of playing this while playing pool with my wife and a band-mate. They both forced me, under a decent amount of pressure, to take it off as they both considered it “rubbish”. The metalcore-cum, rap-metal release is not exactly what I would call the best thing I have listened to of late, although there has been a few worse things. The album does get better towards the end when the front-woman stops trying to out scream the lads and actually sings.

The band describes it as “heavy”, I would describe it as heavy going. There is not much of what you would call songs here merely a bunch of shouting, breaks, and playing fast as you can. It doesn’t seem very together for a release and it really never took hold. Yes, there is lots of heaviness and power on here, but seems all for not.

What it most reminds me off is the bloody awful band My Ruin. All in all not exactly my favourite release of the week and one that is best avoided. I wish the band would “exilia” themselves to some island and try to come up with some decent songs.

Testament: Live in Eindhoven ‘87

Fresh from their mighty return to form on record, Testament have decided to release this epic live CD from their 80s heyday. It was recorded in front of 14,000 fans at the Dynamo Festival for an EP of the same name that was released on cassette and record back in the day. The whole show was recorded at the time and the band have finally decided to release the entire 45 minutes for their hordes of fans.

Before Skolnik, who has written the liner notes, wandered off into the realms of his jazz trio and when the original line-up was firing on all cylinders, they captured this piece of thrash metal history. The album that is featured most is their classic release “The Legacy” and it shows that they worked well live. Needless to say it's been treated to the re-mastering touch, making sure to eek out every bit of thunderous sound that Testament can produce.

This release fits nicely into the pantheon of 80s thrash live albums. Testament fans would be foolish to pass it up and thrash fans should find a place for it in their collection. One listen of “Burnt Offerings” made this a CD that I could not avoid recommending.

Ted Nugent: Motor City Mayhem

Released as a CD, DVD, and Blu-ray, this marks the epic gig that happened last July 4 to celebrate da Nuge’s 6000th gig. It occurred, in front, of his rabid fans in Detroit at a party featuring a woman jumping out of a cake and fireworks. Fans were treated to songs from his entire back catalogue, except for Damn Yankees, and his mates Derek St. Holmes (Ted Nugent Band) and Johnny Badanjek (Mitch Ryder) playing tracks from their days. Ted even wheeled out his guitar teacher Joe Podersek for the track “Honky Tonk”.

In addition to the 23 songs on all the releases, you get Uncle Ted ranting and raving about all things Ted. His fans love every minute of it and his trio featuring ex-Dokken man “Wild” Mick Brown absolutely prove why they are considered so damn tight.

He celebrates with the troops for the opener, the National Anthem. If you stick around for the credits you get to hear “Journey to the Centre of the Mind” from his tenure in the Amboy Dukes. Along the way you get to hear all the Uncle Ted stalwarts including “Stranglehold”, "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” and “Cat Scratch Fever.” If you ever wanted a modern live album from Uncle Ted then go for this one. I would recommend the DVD/Blu-Ray as it's worth the spectacle.

Ted shows no signs of slowing down in any of his guises. Long live Uncle Ted and this release will make sure he does.

DVD Review

Deep Purple: History, Hits & Highlights 68-79

A sea of lame outfits and daft dancing by their fans, this DVD set traces the band’s history from their free-form beginnings to the rock machine that they ended up becoming. On this two DVD set we get to see Playboy’s Huff Hefner doing his louche’ bit as the band plays his “pad,” complete with daft 70s epileptic dancing. The 20-minute potted history that begins the DVD is useful for all of those that are unfamiliar with their early days.

Then they move on to their hits starting with a rather interesting version of the Beatles “Help” with Rod Evans on the mic, through some freaking odd stuff with the Mark 2 line-up with Ian Gillan, that ends with a cracking version of “Smoke on the Water”. Then we hit the most interesting and sometimes forgotten line-ups featuring David Coverdale (who went on to form Whitesnake) and Glenn Hughes. They nail that version’s signature track “Burn” as well as “Mistreated.” It's rounded out by a couple of tracks with the late Tommy Bolin on guitar “Love Child” and “You Keep on Moving.”

The second disc has some highlights with the band on various odd TV shows, a New Zealand TV documentary, a Leeds Poly student project, and an interview with the band’s manager in French. To be honest the second CD is odds and sods and one you won’t watch more than once. That said, the collection is very interesting and well worth watching for those curious about the early days of Deep Purple.

That is your lot for this week. I hope you find something therein which suits your fancy.

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About Marty Dodge