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Music Reviews: Dragged into Sunlight, Helrunar, Twisted Sister, Nelson, WINO

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As many contemplate New Year’s and their inevitable top 10 lists, I merely continue my normal reviewing progress. Yet again this week, there is something that deserves a mention that is not metal.

Nucleus Torn is a fascinating exploration of folk jazz and progressive music that is both beautiful and deep. More an end of the evening listen, though, as it tends to put me to sleep.

Dragged into Sunlight: Hatred for Mankind

This is kitchen sink, black metal with all sorts of sounds tossed in whenever possible. There are touches of black, doom, death and even avant garde metal in the mix . At first it’s almost atonal and monotonous in its inherent brutality. However, with repeated listens, the intense beauty of the music shows through. This is the type of metal that borders on art, but never drifts into that area of pomposity and outright oddity.

While the band hail from the UK, they remind the listener of some of the odder, intense French-art metal acts. There is clearly a touch of Neurosis on here as you would expect. As with such acts, this is not the sort of metal for everyone and it will come across as atonal noise to all but the most open-eared metal listener.

As you might expect, you have to be in the right mood for this sort of thing. However, if you are in that odd place in your head where you need something intense and enveloping, then try this lot out.

Helrunar: Sol 1 & 2

This is another collection of seriously heavy, turgid, black doom metal. This stuff is enveloping and intense in a way that few bands can pull off. It’s Pagan, black metal at its heaviest. You need to be forewarned becuase this opus stretches over 100 minutes, over two separate releases. It evokes the freezing tundra in the middle of snow-storm where one can barely see and the end of journey looks to be an impossible dream.

Clearly not for the faint-hearted or easily distracted metal-head, tracks on here are epic. Like the above release, this album is very hard to get into at first. Clearly, that is the aim of the band. They want it to be work to listen to this release and they force you into a world of their making. As you reach the title track at the end of this frozen journey, you will either hate this or love it. There are touches of melody and almost Pink Floyd-esque progressive sounds hidden in the midst of that track.

This is the antithesis of music like Fejd and Falkenbach, which I reviewed last week. Helrunar is clearly a band for the bravest of metal fans.

Twisted Sister: Club Daze Vol 1- The Studio Sessions & You Can’t Stop Rock & Roll

Two releases that will remind you just how good Twisted Sister were even in their early career. The former is an odds and sods collection that shows the band developing their sound and creating something different. Unlike most of the releases, the tracks are interesting and are something you would find yourself listening to more than once. Early version of “I’ll Never Grow Up”, “Under the Blade”, and “Shoot Em’ Down” appear here. And for levity you have their version of “Leader of the Pack.”

The re-mastered version of the their second album just flat out rocks. If you ever loved this album on vinyl, it’s time to update your copy. Included are a couple of bonus tracks in the form of “One Man Woman”, “Four Barrel Heart of Love” and “Feel the Power”. Of course what really shines on this release is the awesome title track which hinted at just what a rock monster (in drag) Twisted Sister would become. Of the two, this is definitely recommended for purchase. Expect to see more TS re-mastered releases in the coming months.

Nelson: Lightning Strikes Twice

Perfect hair and Ricky Nelson for their father helped the Nelson twins produce  damn near perfect, heavy pop rock in 80s. Well, that and oodles of talent.That first album had a handful of songs on it that were disgustingly catchy and that have managed to stand the test of time rather well. Nelson never managed to hit the right notes or sales as they did with their debut. Well, except in Japan where they are still beloved.

Said to be a “return to form”, it has been suggested that this is the rightful follow-up to their debut, After the Rain. I think that cheapens the release a bit. Its not a band from the 80s trying to sound like time and music hasn’t moved on. This is a damn good album from whatever era it might hail from. It’s not a bunch of middle-age rockers trying to act like they were in their 20s, but a couple of damn musicians making some fine music. Songs like “How Can I Miss You” hit the right combination of humor and hard rocking goodness. “Kickin My Heart Around” has the right oomph to satisfy. Of course there is the required ballad with “To Get Back to Your”

Nelson clearly doesn’t take themselves too seriously. This version of the release contains a live recording of “More than Ever” with one of them having to stop singing because his voice cracked. Voice cracking is not helpful when you are doing Nelson’s trademark two part harmonies. In short there is not one turkey on this platter. If you liked Nelson even just a tiny bit then you owe yourself a copy. It’s time, like me, that you admit your guilty little secret.

Wino: Adrift

Stoner metal guru and heavyweight Wino has pulled an Everlast (of House of Pain fame) and released a stripped down acoustic album. This is not metal in any way, shape, or form. It’s outlaw country where emotions are worn on the sleeve and words are heavy with pain. It’s one of those albums that gives the listener a glimpse of a serious song-writer doing his craft. It evokes visions of sitting round in his house trying out ideas and seeing where it leads.

The is a great album no matter who released it. Its got all the angst and intensity, but forces you to truly listen do to its mostly acoustic nature. From the title track, through a couple of covers this is just one great acoustic album. Too mellow for some maybe, that does not mean its without merit. If you like Johnny Cash, then this release might be a good fit.

The most accessible thing WINO has ever released, this could open his talents to a whole new audience. Will you see him picking up a CMA award next year? Probably not, but he certainly could tour with Shooter Jennings on the back of this. A genuine pleasure and surprise of an album that rewards in spades.

Well on that rather mellow note, stay safe and rocking as you stumble into 2011.

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