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Music Reviews: Jason Aldean, Jethro Tull, Grief of War, U.D.O., and RAM

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Back in my environs now, with my fat broadband pipe and a larger piles of review material, it's time to get back to it.

Obviously this column is tinged with sadness as we all recall the towering talent of the guitar legend Les Paul. His influence on all the bands I review in this column is practically incalculable.

DVD Reviews

Jason Aldean: Wide Open Live

Some of you might be wondering what the hell I am doing recording this chart topping country artist in this column. I got to tell you this guy rocks harder than some so called rock bands. His audience realizes that as well, as there are quite a few long live metal horns being thrown in the crowd. Aldean and his band produce a blend of hard rock and country that would appeal to many rockers. No slide guitar, fiddles, or female backing vocals are too be found, just driving tunes.

Besides Jason’s cowboy hat there is nothing country about this band. It ain’t just “She’s Country” with its Angus Young inspired intro and corking solo either. Hell the DVD even includes a drum-solo straight out of a Rainbow gig (if mercifully shorter). Yeah he has a cheeky song about his “Big Green Tractor,” but don’t be fooled, this guy is equal parts rock. The Blu-ray version of the DVD includes a cover of Tom Petty’s “I won’t Back Down” paying tribute to a band favourite.

Ignore your pre-conceived notions about “country” and give this guy a try. Rock-tinged country was never so much fun. Oh yeah, and the guy seems to have the effect Def Leppard used to have on their female fans.

Jethro Tull: Living With the Past

A musical tour through Tull’s, or rather front-man Ian Anderson’s, past with performances ranging from the bare bones to the full Tull stage show. As you might expect there are all the tracks you would expect including his ode to perverts “Aqualung”, “Thick as a Brick” and their most recent heavier track “Hunt by Numbers”. If you want to repeat the music, without the frequent breaks for interview and recollections, there is a handy CD of just the music to enjoy.

Extras include a couple of snippets of collaborations with other bands, though not complete songs which is most annoying. Just as the track gets going it cuts off and you get returned to the extras menu. Not sure why they bothered to include these two tracks to be honest.

There is one bonus track, out takes, photo gallery and “Tull Talk.” If it weren’t for the CD, this DVD might not be that great. It is probably something worth viewing only once. The CD allows you to listen to Tull’s healthy and varied collection of songs. DVD probably is a must for Tull fans and would be quite a good intro to those wondering what all the fuss is about with this lot.

CD Reviews

Grief of War: Worship

Another bunch of guys who are not old enough to have been around for the first wave of traditional thrash trying their skills at following the master’s lead. This lot do it well, although they have been accused of not really adding anything new to the genre and being a bit by-the-numbers. What sets them apart is the fact they hail from the land of the rising sun and drift, Japan.

There is no arguing this three piece are tight as monkey’s bum and produce the goods with skill and pace. However, it is rather hard to hear them doing much that is new or leaving their own mark. This is an improvement on their previous output and they are showing they are maturing and growing as a band. That said, there is plenty to keep a trad thrash fan happy whether new or old. Grief of War just need to raise their game for the next release or face an eternity in the mid-pack of the new wave of thrash.

GoW need to add that extra dose of bonsai in their music to make it just that bit more interesting to expectant thrash fan.

U.D.O.: Dominator

Udo Dirkschnieder, was once the frontman of Accept the venerable German metal band most famous for the over the top glory of “Balls to the Wall” (echoed here on the track “Black & White"). U.D.O. is his solo vehicle that has been going at a fairly good clip since 1988. His music is actually not that far from his previous band. It's balls to wall metal done in a head down, unrelenting, aggressive way. Of course, Udo delivers in typically German fashion, with all its sing-along glory.

Listen to the title track, it's as if all the major movements in metal in the last 20 years never happened. Udo knows what he does best and does not bother to mess about with any other style. He has been doing it so long, he makes it sound easy. Call it naff or lame, but if you like straight ahead metal there are few who do it this well.

You just want to not like this, but it's infectious. A bit like a new AC/DC or Motorhead album in a way. You know what you are getting before you listen to the first track but it doesn’t matter one damn bit. U.D.O. is Udo and Udo doesn’t give a toss if you like it or not. And yes it's “Heavy Metal Heaven,” try and resist the call at your very peril.

RAM: Lightbringer

From their Painkiller-era Judas Priest-alike logo to their album title it's pretty clear what sort of band this lot are in the end. They have taken the best of 80 metal and stuck it into a giant cauldron for a good mixing. Old school metal-heads will hear all sorts of bands here like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Accept, and a healthy dose of new wave of British heavy metal like Angel Witch and even Venom. No doubt Lars Ulrich’s compilation of the era is in their collective record collection.

As with their debut album, this is not exactly original per se, however the trad metal worship is done with respect. They obviously enjoy paying tribute to their heroes even if it does sound very derivative. At least, RAM do not go out of their way to claim they were re-inventing the metal wheel.

I don’t think there is much here that would necessarily interest anyone steeped in the history of 80s metal or someone who was actually around as the genre emerged. Younger listeners who are less jaundiced and judgmental could enjoy this lot as face value. I am sure they are bloody good live and coming from the Gothenburg, Sweden scene they know their stuff. Maybe a bit more originality with the next release lads?

Well that is your lot for this week, ranging from folk-rock to some traditional heavy metal. Have a good one and stay safe where ever you might be.

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