Saturday, 21 February 2009

ANVIL! The story of Anvil – Review

Much has been made of this documentary by director Sacha Gervasi, with the film being dubbed the best rock documentary to be made in many years. Many have likened it to This is Spinal Tap, but, to these eyes, that cheapens the film somewhat. This isn't a spoof performed by comedians- this is a chronicle of real people hanging onto a dream and a promise, working extremely hard to keep something they believe in alive.

It is the story of the classic early 80s metal stars Anvil, who were overshadowed by the very bands they influenced in that most active period in metal. Even though they got rather left behind by the tides of the metal hierarchy, they stuck to their guns and carried on their own way. The documentary tells the story of the band's early years, their fall from the front pages of the scene and their dogged determination to never let the Anvil name fade and die.

Through personal and financial struggles, a disastrous European tour, the recording of a self/family-funded new album and its eventual independent release, the film paints a very honest picture of two men in their fifties who refuse to give up.

While there is a great deal of humour to be enjoyed in the film, there are also a number of moments that are incredibly poignant, showing just how much the two founding members (Lips and Rob) see each other as brothers, and how much Anvil means to their lives. You are left with a huge amount of respect for them, their achievements and the belief in what they do.

For anyone that loves metal, has been in a band, or just understands the importance of chasing a dream (no matter how long it takes) this is essential viewing. Anvil love the music they make, they love to play for people, and they love their fans, friends and family. Through a rollercoaster period of their lives, this film captures something very real and incredibly special. It takes in the highs, the lows, and everything in between.

I hope that the film is garnering the band a new generation of fans, as they clearly love to entertain, and their decades of hard work should be recognized.

I cannot recommend this release highly enough. Excellent.

Visit the website for Anvil! The story of Anvil

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Red20 - 'Love Me, Or The Baby Gets It' album review

Love me, Or The Baby Gets It!
Independent Release

This was never going to be an easy review to write, was it? The new album from the act I recorded three albums with is almost here, and I have been lucky enough to hear it in all its splendour. Red20 mainman Alastair Turl, my longstanding musical colleague and friend, is the whole band on this fifth outing under the Red20 name. After the lengthy silence since 2006’s Citizen Stain opus, Al is back with what is quite possibly the Red20 album he was meant to make all along. This album has gone through countless different versions in recent months, and a sudden burst of productivity has changed the tracklist again with astonishing results.

‘Contraband (Party Mix)’ gets things off to an ideal start, showing the listener that this isn’t the Red20 of yore. An electro-funk-pop-industrial stew, it showcases his improved vocals and heightened sense of freedom perfectly. ‘Everything is Money’ and ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ further underline his move into pure electronic territory, and while the album does have some moments of glam-tinged guitars, it is almost completely synthetic. It works very well, too.

While three of the five Red20 albums featured my metal shredding all over them, this one feels like the logical follow-up to ‘World in Flames’, the Red20 debut that featured Al and a computer. It really does feel like the closet thing to getting inside Alastair’s fevered mind. With demented vocals ranging from croons and 80s pop stylings to rapping and Mike Patton-esque screeches, this is the clearest look at the mind of this musical genius we have ever had.

‘The Wedding Song’ is bouncy and cheerful, just don’t listen too closely to the lyrics or you may lose a little bit of your soul. I do believe this is the first time I’ve heard a song with the lyric ‘Stick your finger in my hole’ as part of its main refrain.

‘Experienced’ scares the hell out of me from the opening moments of the prayer-styled speech, but then it hurtles off into unsettling swing-flavoured mania with a singalong chorus and Al giggling in the background. ‘NME’ is great, with some blissfully amusing lyrics. The thing is, this isn’t mania for mania’s sake- this is a pure sound that has been honed over years of tweaking and twiddling. It is possibly the most well-rounded Red20 album since ‘The Red Album’, and it is most certainly the closest to the vision Alastair originally had for Red20.

It is along these lines that the album continues, until coming to a glorious close with the quite honestly titled ‘The Death of Everything Red’. While ‘Love Me, Or The Baby Gets It!’ is nowhere near as harsh and much more polished than all of the previous Red20 albums, it is also one of the purest and the most driven, and I wish Alastair all the best with whatever comes next.

Visit Red20 online
Red20 on Myspace

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

The Freedom to Create

For countless years, writers have been held back by the idea of being stuck in a slush pile for all eternity, for their works to get no further than a stack of brown envelopes. After eons of thrashing away at typewriters and word processors, the fruits of their labour may never have amounted to much beyond a friendly rejection letter.

With changes in the world economy, it is in some respects even harder to break into the publishing industry, but now, with the ever growing importance of the internet, we are free to create our content as we please, and release it in its purest form. Not only that, but we now have the opportunity to prove ourselves as writers to the publishing houses by creating our own brand and finding our on audience.

It is a much more attractive prospect to publishers if a new author comes with an in-built audience who already enjoys their work. It makes the expense and effort of putting out a book rather easier to deal with, as there is already a supply of fans whop will pick it up. This is fantastic, as it gives writers an opportunity to hone their craft even better, thanks to the feedback and the opinions of those who have taken the time to check it out.

With more and more authors podcasting, offering books as free downloads and creating all manner of other online content to share with prospective fans for free, everybody wins. Fans of a particular genre are able to check out new content and stories by new authors, and those new authors are able to improve their skills from the ground level.

This should under no circumstances be seen as an excuse to put out any old nonsense- you are offering your content directly to your audience, and as such it should be the absolute best that you can possibly make it.

This is a great time for new authors who want to grow an audience this way- with readers wanting books they know they will enjoy, and publishing houses wary of unproven writers, we have a perfect chance to prove just what we are capable of. We may not have huge budgets and advertising staff, but armed with a computer, a microphone, some talent and a hell of a lot of determination, we have everything we need to make ambitions a reality.