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Music Review: Xentrix re-issues, Nox, With Passion, Helloween, and The Straw Bear Band

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This week's music bag has a collection of reissues, a live album. and a very odd EP from a band whose name matches their musical oddness. Then again, you, my beloved readers, know I like an eclectic mix in this column.

CD Reviews

Xentrix: Shattered Existence, For Whose Advantage?, Kin

Whether you consider this Leyland (yes the origin of all those horribly made cars in the '70s) band Bay Area Thrash wannabes or flag-bearers of British thrash you have to admire their tongue-in-cheek sense of humour. What can you say about a band who gained notoriety for doing thrash versions of "'Ghostbusters" (included on two of the CD reissues) and other pop hits of the day live? It's a rather sharp contrast to the sometimes annoyingly po-faced attitude of certain Bay Area thrashers. Many of B team provided Xentrix with support slots.

This is head down thrash with attitude but never over the top. It's not exactly ground-breaking by any means but it is obvious why they had a following. These three CDs come in classy gate-folds sleeves with liner notes replete with an essay on each release (though it has to be said, in tiny print). Each CD comes with bonus tracks one with all the tracks from the Dilute to Taste EP. Xentrix holds a place in the history of thrash metal and thus is deserving of your metal attention. Sure beats listening to the last Metallica album, that's for sure.

Nox: Ixaxaar

Brutal technical death metal is what you will hear from this lot. Death metal vocals and amazing speed abound. Unlike some of these bands that are just straight grunt, there is a tune found in each track. This is creepy and intense stuff played at full throttle. If you like it heavy, nasty but technical then this lot might just be for you. Let's put it this way… the name of the album is that of the gate of hell… you are warned.

With Passion: What We See When We Shut Our Eyes

Now this lot have been at times, and have toured with, metalcore bands. But like Mastadon and a few others, there is something a lot more clever going on than just metalcore. This is technical progy (at times) death/black metal. Oddles of riffing combine with some seriously impressive musical prowess. This is certainly not your average "modern metal" album that is for sure. A good one for fans of machine-gun drumming… check out "Forgotten Amongst Screams" if you want proof. Worth checking out for the extreme metal fan.

Helloween: Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy-World Tour 2005-2007

It is yet another live collection of from gumby metallers, Helloween. Often scoffed at by critics, this lot have never taken themselves too seriously, whether it be their daft maniac pumpkin mascot or their daft but amusing videos to tracks like "Dr Stein". They took what Iron Maiden had, added some fun, and made some cracking tunes.

This time, as the name suggests, it occurred on the last tour with the new line-up. Andi Deris is in fine voice, delivering tracks, both new and old, with aplomb. This two-CD set is over 2 hours of music with little filler about. If you are a fan of the band you will no doubt want to buy it because of the sheer quality of the recording and production. It also comes in no less than two different DVD formats (Double CD & Double DVD) and soft-box double DVD as well as this two CD set.

As with most live albums it helps to know the stuff appearing on the CD. However this is not just a greatest hits rehash. It contains tracks from both the new album and the classic stuff from their hey-day. Thought I sort of wanted to discount yet another live album from the lads, it is really hard to fault this CD. I thoroughly enjoyed my two hours of Helloween live and it put a sodding great smile on my face.

The Straw Bear Band: Self titled EP

Daft name for a band but once you hear their stuff you will get it. This is eclectic oddball rock that is both amusing and bemusing all at the same time. What is most infuriating is that its quirkiness is catchy and you find yourself enjoying it. It's folky with earnest vocals and lovely guitar at one point and then Portishead-like the next. "The Red Giant", the last track, sounds like a song left off Sgt Peppers with its very psychedelic vibe. And not terribly surprisingly, this lot is English.

Well that is your lot for this week. Excuse me while I dive back into the pile of metal and hard rock offerings. I have just dipped a big toe into the new Therion and am already well impressed. Full review next week, unless I hold off so I can listen some more.

As always stay safe, rocking and catch live music where ever and whenever you can.

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