Thursday, 25 August 2016

Live Review - Arch Enemy at The Engine Rooms, Southampton 24/08/2016

It has been a really long time since I’ve written a long form review. Not since last year’s Download Festival have I done one. The reason I am doing this one is because last night, I went to a gig that I’ve wanted to go to for about 10 years in going to the Arch Enemy show at the Engine Rooms in Southampton. I first saw Arch Enemy at the 2006 Download Festival. I had never heard of them before and the only reason I saw them is that they were still on the main stage after Devildriver had finished on the second stage and I was walking back round. I hadn’t planned on seeing them but they certainly got my attention that day. I remember thinking I’d like to see them again. That opportunity came when they were on the Black Crusade tour bill, headlined by Machine Head and Trivium. Their set was probably only 30 minutes that night but they were the second best band of the night (they would have been the best but Machine Head on The Blackening tour were phenomenal).  Again, I remember thinking I wanted to see them play for longer. I didn’t see them again until Sonisphere 2011. I had a brutal hangover whilst they were on, but I still remember loving their set.

It was another long time before I saw them again, and in that time, Angela Gossow had stepped down as lead vocalist, with Alissa White-Gluz chosen to take her place. I saw the new look Arch Enemy support Kreator in London and it was superb – it was obvious the change in singer had not taken away from how good the band were live. The last time I saw them before last night was supporting Nightwish at Wembley Arena – the biggest indoor venue I had seen them play which, you probably won’t be shocked to learn, I really enjoyed. It wasn’t long after this gig that a headline tour was announced, with a relatively local date to me – this for me was an essential gig ticket purchase. There had been opportunities to see them play headline shows, but logistically or financially, it just wasn’t possible for me. Thankfully, I was now able to rectify this.

I have one small gripe before talking about the positive. The ticket said doors were half 7. The Facebook event said the same thing. I arrived at 7.45 expecting the first band to just be coming on, and they had finished and the main support had come on. I’ve just looked back over my email and I have just found an email telling me doors had been moved an hour earlier. I got that email nearly 3 weeks ago. It would have been useful for this change to be widely advertised as I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that forgot. It is a minor gripe, and one which was caused by my poor memory, but still. I didn’t get to see Griever, which is why there are no words about them. Anyway, that is the only negative point of the evening for me (spoiler alert?)

Not that this gig needed an extra selling point, but it had one in the form of Soilwork being the main support band. I had seen Soilwork twice before this gig, both times on an open air stage at Wacken in Germany, and both times I remember thinking they were great. Last night was no exception to this rule. Due to the aforementioned door time change, I only saw them for about 40-45 minutes (no idea how long their set was). Either way, they had a great set. They didn’t hang around much between songs which was cool to see. As their set concluded, I wished I could drop everything and go and see them again in London (which is today of this writing). I suspect their headline show at the Underworld will be excellent. They closed their set with Stabbing The Drama, which I really like so I was pleased.

As was said earlier, I have wanted to attend an Arch Enemy headline show for quite some time. However, there are occasions sometimes when you build something up so much in your mind that it just can’t possibly reach those heights. The band (in this context) may do absolutely nothing wrong, but because you internally set the bar so high, they had no chance of reaching it. Despite having seeing Arch Enemy live before, and knowing how good they are live, I did fear that I had done this. What I can now say is that if I did set the bar high, Arch Enemy not only reached it, but they surpassed it. It was an outstanding headline set. The set contained pretty much all of my favourite Arch Enemy songs which I’m sure helped my enjoyment of the gig somewhat. Afterwards, I couldn’t think of any song that I would have cut to shoehorn in another one of my favourite songs. Had they played Rise Of The Tyrant and Leader Of The Rats, it would have been the perfect set list for me. The absence of those two songs did not take anything away from this gig for me though – Arch Enemy were just superb last night. I don’t tend to add a rating to the bottom of gig reviews (I tend to save that for festival reviews) but this gig was a genuine 10/10 for me. Choosing highlights from this gig is too tough an ask. I just tried to and I ended up almost writing out the whole set list. I can comfortably say this – when it comes to the end of the year, this gig will without doubt be in my top 10, if not my top 5. My first Arch Enemy headline show was everything I wanted it to be and more – and you can’t ask for more than that can you?

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Revisiting Bands - Nine Inch Nails

I don’t consider myself to be a very creative person. Certainly not when it comes to writing. These introductions to the revisiting bands blogs are getting harder to write each time without it just being a very literal, functional introduction. Enough about my shortcomings – this blog another blog where I revisit a band and so far, it is my favourite band that I’ve covered in this series, and that is Nine Inch Nails.

My Relationship With Nine Inch Nails

I rather like Nine Inch Nails. This photo is my collection of their releases. Every release has a halo number. I have almost all of them (missing re-releases and the VHS tape). I have also previous written a blog about them which you can read by clicking here. I vaguely recall being introduced to them whilst at college by a friend who went to a different college at the time who loved them (I assume still does). I remember he went to go see them in London at the Brixton Academy and at this time, I wasn’t a gig goer. I remember feeling slightly jealous of him and I hardly knew the band. Next time they came around, I snapped up a ticket for the first of their 4 nights at Brixton. The gig was that good it pulled me out of a funk (I had broken up with a girlfriend that day for unrelated reasons) and afterwards, on finding out there were still tickets left for their 4th night at Brixton, I bought a ticket for that night as well. Since then, I’ve travelled a fair bit to see them. I saw them on all 3 nights of their Wave Goodbye tour. I was at their first ever Belfast show and saw them a few days later at Reading Festival (which was awkward as Trent Reznor was pissed off). I then saw them again on their Hesitation Marks headline tour. Every time I’ve seen them live, they have been great. Every time! I highlight that because there are people I know who say to this day that they were shit at Sonisphere 2009. They weren’t, they just chose a non-festival friendly setlist which was very different from everything else that had appeared on stage that day. I love the set they played. I was right down the front for it, and a photo I took from that gig appears in my Decade of Gigs Photo Book Blog - cross promotion alert!

Before I start this, I just want to clarify what I will be covering. I will be covering the 8 full studio albums as well as the first EP, Broken. I won’t be covering the other EP’s as they are a mix of remix EP’s or live EP’s. I also won’t be covering the NINJA tour sampler EP in full. That would be a really quick one to cover as both songs are great; Non-Entity is one of the finest songs Nine Inch Nails have ever released. Oh, guess I just covered it. I will listen back to Ghosts but I won’t be doing a track by track review. As I’ve said on other blog posts, I’m not a smart man and the track titles will cause me no ends of bother. Gone, Still is a fantastic instrumental from the Still EP. Get Down Make Love is also an awesome track, as are Burn and Perfect Drug. I also want to give special mention to one of the remix tracks from Things Falling Apart. The strings reworking of The Frail is phenomenal and almost as good as the original. I’m not sure if NIN’s cover of Gary Numan’s Metal is on that album or not? Either way, that is another ace song. As is their cover of Dead Souls. Argh, moving on!

PRETTY HATE MACHINE (1989) – Lets just put this out there – this is one hell of a debut album. The album opens in a somewhat understated manner (!) with Head Like A Hole. In all seriousness, superb song and one of my live favourites. There are a few of them as you will come to find out. Another one is the next song on this album – Terrible Lie. A song which has lyrics that inspired many a MSN screen name for me back in the day, it is another superb song. The first single Nine Inch Nails ever released was Down In It and that is the next song on the album. I used to think this song was alright until I saw it in 2009 and then fell in love with it. It was then pointed out to me that they played it when I saw them for the second time in 2007. I have no answer to that point. Sanctified was a song that appeared a fair bit on the Hesitation Marks tour, which was cool. I like the song but if I was ranking the album in song order, it wouldn’t break my top 5 songs from this album. Something I Can Never Have on the other hand would break that top 5 because it is excellent. Kinda I Want To is an alright song. It has been a while since I’ve listened to it, and I remember it being better than I found it on this listen. Oh well. Sin on the other hand is possibly better than I remember it being. It is comfortably my favourite song on the album and one I’ve only see them play once. That’s What I Get is a good song, as is The Only Time, as is Ringfinger. I did not go into this listen expecting Sanctified tobe one of my least favourite songs on this album but it is. Said it up top, one hell of a debut album this.
Album MVP – Sin
Also Recommended – Head Like A Hole, Terrible Lie, Something I Can Never Have.

BROKEN (EP) (1992) – Broken is a massive departure from Pretty Hate Machine but that is by no means a bad thing. Pinion serves as an intro track to the EP which…whatever. If you have read any of my other revisit blogs, particularly the Slipknot one (plug), you will know my feelings on intro songs. Anyway, the first real song on this EP is Wish, and my word – what a song. This has become a live favourite for the band and it is not hard to see why. Despite them playing it every time I’ve seen them live, I still love it whenever they do. The next song is Last. I used to adore this song. I still really like it. I remember the first time I saw them live, this was the second song they played live. I was very happy. Help Me I’m In Hell is a two minute instrumental track which is pretty cool. Happiness In Slavery is next up and it is ace. Gave Up is the last original Nine Inch Nails song on the EP and it is also ace. The first cover on this EP is a cover of the Adam and the Ants song Physical (You’re So). Calling the last song a cover is a bit of a cheat because Reznor helped write it, but it was originally on a Pigface album so it is a cover song. Suck is the final song on the album and like almost everything on this EP, it is superb. Two releases in and I’m not struggling to see how Nine Inch Nails are one of my favourite bands.
Album MVP – Wish
Also Recommended – Last, Happiness In Slavery

THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL (1994) – This album is one of the best albums ever recorded in my opinion. I could go through track by track and say “this song is amazing” to almost all of the songs on this album but to be honest, that would probably get boring quickly. Heresy was one the first Nine Inch Nails songs I loved, because when I first heard it, I was a militant atheist. March Of The Pigs is another live classic and just like Wish, I love it every time they play it live. Especially as they tend to follow it with Piggy. Ace. Closer is probably still a rock club favourite. Listening to it now for the first time in a while, I can definitely see why. I’ve made a tit of myself to this song many a time! I often forget just how good Ruiner is. The same with The Becoming now I think about it. I remember hearing The Becoming live both times on the arena dates of the Wave Goodbye tour and it was just superb both times. According to, I saw them play Ruiner the first time I saw them live. I honestly don’t remember that, but I like it all the same. I Do Not Want This was one of the heavier songs from the Sonisphere setlist that I mentioned earlier in this post ad hearing it live then was probably the only time I’d listened to it outside of listening to Downward in full. I would say the three songs I listen to least on this album when not listening to the album in full are Big Man With A Gun, A Warm Place and Eraser. I’ve just listened to all 3 and they are all great in very different ways. Reptile is one of my go-to songs from this album, but then there are a lot of them. Another one I am really glad I’ve seen them play live. The final song on the album is Hurt. What can I possibly say about Hurt that will do it justice? Oh, I know – Johnny Cash covered it and did an amazing job of it. So much so in fact, I struggle to pick which is my favourite. Right now, as I’m listening to the original, this is my favourite version. It does change though. The video for the Cash version is moving to say the very least. Seriously, revisiting this album has been quite something as I forgot just how good it is. What it must have been like to be in Webster Hall, New York on the 23rd August 2009 when Nine Inch Nails came out on stage and, without warning, played the album in full.
Album MVP –Picking one song as an album MVP when there are over 10 legitimate contenders is just not possible. However, as I have for all the others, I will for this. Reptile. Come at me bro!
Also Recommended – The rest. Seriously.

THE FRAGILE (1999) – How do you follow up one of the finest albums ever written? With one of the finest double albums ever written. Somewhat Damaged is a strong opener for this album and it leads very nicely into The Day The World Went Away. For the longest time, this was a song that I thought was alright but that was all. I think it was hearing it regularly when it was on the Terminator: Salvation (I think) soundtrack that it really clicked with me. With other bands, intro tracks and random instrumentals don’t do a lot for me. With NIN though it is different because it just seems to fit better. None more so than The Frail before The Wretched. I will come back to The Wretched in just a second, but The Frail is just the perfect intro track for what would follow. As a side note, and to repeat myself from earlier, the reworked version on Things Falling Apart is stunning. The Wretched is outstanding. Need I say more? Feeling the need to, this is one of my favourite combinations of songs to hear live. On the Wave Goodbye tour arena dates in the UK, they didn’t play them and I was a bit sad about that. They did then play them at Sonisphere which is one of the many reasons why I loved that set. Anyway, We’re In This Together is the longest song on the album but it doesn’t feel like it when listening to it. It is really good. The title track is another one of my favourites on this album (it is going to be another right bugger picking favourites again). Just Like You Imagined I think is probably the bands heaviest instrumental track up to this point. I really quite liked it. Even Deeper is an alright song, as is Pilgrimage. I really forgot how good No, You Don’t is. There are 3 instrumentals on this first part of the double album. I think that is too many but if you asked me which one to cut, it wouldn’t be an easy answer. I think it would have to be Just Like You Imagined because it couldn’t be The Frail or this track La Mer. I really enjoyed listening back to La Mer. The Great Below is a very calming way to end the first half of this double album.

The Way Out Is Through starts the second half of this album and it is a very good start. The atmosphere builds for about 2 and a bit minutes before ramping up for a bit, then cooling off. Into The Void is the next song and it is another very good song. Where Is Everybody? Is another decent song but one I have to be honest I had completely forgotten about before doing this revisit. The Mark Has Been Made is another instrumental track and probably my least favourite of the ones on this album so far, but still, it is pretty good. Please is another song I had completely forgotten about but is one I quite like. Starfuckers Inc is one of my favourite NIN songs and one I’ve only see them play live once, which is a shame. It appears to be one that has been cast to the side in the live arena as it has not been played live since 2008. Complication is another instrumental and it is very catchy. I’m Looking Forward To Joining You, Finally is another fairly decent song. The Big Come Down is just superb. Underneath It All didn’t do a lot for me. Ripe [With Decay] is the last song on the album and it is another instrumental. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t think much of this either. The album should have ended with The Big Come Down in my opinion. My word though, last two tracks ignored, belter of a double album that!
Album MVP – The Frail/The Wretched
Also Recommended – Somewhat Damaged, The Big Come Down, Starfuckers Inc.

WITH TEETH (2005) – The album opens with All The Love In The World, which is alright. It is the weakest open to a NIN album at this point in time though (competing against Head Like A Hole, Mr Self Destruct and Somewhat Damaged is always going to be a tough ask though). The song picked up towards the end but if I’m honest, I had lost interest by that point. You Know What You Are? Is a very good song. The Collector is another very good song. The Hand That Feeds is a bit shit isn’t it? No, the other one – excellent. Love Is Not Enough is much better than I remember it being. As is Every Day Is Exactly The Same actually. I didn’t think they were bad songs, I just thought they were alright. They are much better than alright. The title track however is an alright song. I’ve no idea why it appears to stop for 90 seconds and then carries on as if nothing happened. Only is superb - enough said. Getting Smaller is an alright song. Sunspots is a good song, as is The Line Begins To Blur. Beside You In Time didn’t do a whole lot for me if I’m being honest. Neither did Right Where It Belongs. These last two songs are alright I guess but they certainly shouldn’t be troubling any best of NIN albums, should one be released. This is a decent album overall, but it is definitely their weakest release at this point in time.
Album MVP – The Hand That Feeds
Also Recommended – Only, You Know What You Are?, Love Is Not Enough.

YEAR ZERO (2007) – I don’t remember if this album was marketed as a soundtrack to a movie about the end of the world. I seem to recall something similar. Anyway – the opener is Hyperpower! which is a cool way to start the album – one of the heavier instrumentals that NIN have ever done. The Beginning Of The End is up next and it is really good. I’d forgotten how good this song is. The first time I heard the next song, Survivalism, was when I first saw NIN live as the album hadn’t come out then. At least I think that is right. Regardless, it is one of the best songs on the album. The pace of the album slows a bit with The Good Soldier but not in a bad way as the song is decent. Vessel is another decent song. I would have liked it more had the outro been a bit shorter probably. Me, I’m Not is a solid song. Capital G is great. My Violent Heart is another very good song, as is The Warning. God Given is a decent song – I remember enjoying it a lot more than I did on this listen. Meet Your Master on the other hand is excellent. The Greater Good didn’t do a whole lot for me. The Great Destroyer is another very good song. There is a song on this album where the version on the remix album is noticeably better – I’m not sure if it is this one or Meet Your Master. I should find out one day. Another Version Of The Truth is a decent instrumental. In This Twilight is the best song on the album. Zero-Sum is a good closer for this album. Overall, I would say this album is pretty good. There are some real highlights on it. It is the second album in a row though which does not threaten the top 3 of Downward Spiral, Fragile and Pretty Hate Machine.
Album MVP – In This Twilight
Also Recommended – Survivalism, Capital G, Meet Your Master.

GHOSTS I-IV (2008) – Ghosts is split over 2 CDs but looking at the track list, I would say it is a quadruple album as the 36 songs are split into 4 9 song chunks. The first 9 tracks are called Ghosts I, the second Ghosts II and so on. It is hard to give this a genuine review like I have any other album I’ve covered in this and the other posts. It is very different from any other NIN release, that much is for sure. I think I am right in saying it is the first release of original music since Trent Reznor and the band concluded their record label deals. I won’t be choosing an album MVP or recommended tracks as it just doesn’t feel appropriate for this album. What I will say though is I believe this album and these set of songs was Trent Reznor dipping his toe in the water of writing a movie soundtrack. As far as I’m aware, there has been no movie for which these songs have been a sound track to, but this was perfect practice for when he wrote the sound tracks to The Social Network, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl (as a side note, how good is the film Gone Girl?) My concluding comments on this album is that nothing on it feels “half done” – none of these tracks, to the best of my knowledge, were cut from another album. This is Trent Reznor showing off his skills working in a studio. Should it have been released as a Nine Inch Nails album? I see no reason why not because at this stage in the game, everyone knew and knows that Trent Reznor is Nine Inch Nails and vice versa. Truth be told, I’m not sure I will ever listen to this album again. As it went on, I did lose my patience with it and want to turn it off. The reason why I think it would be a perfect movie soundtrack is that it makes great background music. It is my main focus though for writing this section and if I’m honest, I’m a bit bored of it. 

THE SLIP (2008) – Ah, July 22nd 2008, I remember it like it was…no wait I barely remember it. What I do remember is that out of nowhere, NIN released this album on their website for free. In fact, it is still there for free if you click here – you can download it yourself. On to the album, 999,999 is an intro track for the album and leads very neatly into 1,000,000 – which is excellent. Pretty sure I’m right in saying it is one of two songs from this album that I’ve seen them play live, which is cool. Letting You is really good. It is followed by Discipline which is superb. I haven’t seen this live which is a shame. I think it was regularly played on the Lights In The Sky US tour – not 100% on that though. Echoplex is next and this is another really good song. This album starts off really well. Head Down is decent enough. It has a nearly minute long outro – on past revisits, things like this have bothered me, But the change in place, including the silence at the end of the song leads nicely into Lights In The Sky. This song is probably my favourite on the album and definitely up there with the classic softer NIN songs. Corona Radiata is the longest song on the album and if I’m honest, it didn’t do a lot for me. I’ve got no issue with instrumental tracks and it does pick up towards the end but by that point, I had lost interest. The Four Of Us Are Dying is another instrumental track which didn’t do a lot for me. The album closes out on Demon Seed which is alright. This album starts really well but the second half only has the one stand out song in Lights In The Sky.
Album MVP - Discipline
Also Recommended – Lights In The Sky. 1,000,000

As a note, in 2009, a tour sampler EP was released with two tracks from each Nine Inch Nails, Jane’s Addiction and Street Sweeper Social Club. Non-Entity is better than any song on The Slip. I like Not So Pretty Now and it would have fit in very well on The Slip. Non-Entity is up there with the best NIN songs released in my opinion. Not sure it would make a top 10 but definitely a top 20. Did I say earlier I wasn’t going to cover it? Oh well. Bonus words! Because there just aren’t enough words in this blog as it is.

HESITATION MARKS (2013) – So this album came as a surprise. After the 2009 Wave Goodbye tour, I thought there might be some studio releases from NIN but there wouldn’t be another tour. Then just one afternoon, a blog was released by Trent revealing this album was finished and would be released soon, and that a world tour would follow it. So, that was good news. They came over to Europe twice and I saw them 3 times. Belfast was great, even if the crowd were a bit shit. Reading was interesting because Trent was pissed off. Birmingham in 2014 was ace.

The Eater of Dreams is an intro track which…well whatever. Copy Of A is the first proper song on the album and it is excellent, as is the next song on the album Came Back Haunted. Find My Way is a change in pace from the first two songs but that doesn’t take away from it – it is a very good song. I wonder if it would have served better as the song that immediately followed Eater of Dreams? That would have worked better as an intro track to this song I’d say. All Time Low is another very good song. Disappointed is a decent enough song. Everything is one of the best songs on the album. Satellite is a good song, as is Various Methods Of Escape. Running and I Would For You are decent songs. I don’t remember ever listening to In Two before (I’m sure I have), but it is really good. While I’m Still Here is alright. It didn’t do a lot for me but it isn’t a bad song. Black Noises closes out the album and it was over before I really had a chance to take it in. The album has some very good stand out songs on it, and there is nothing I would consider to be a poor song. There are a few thought that I thought “this is good” and that’s it really. Overall, this is a decent album. If I were to rank it, it would be a solid 6 or 7 out of 10.
Album MVP – Came Back Haunted
Also Recommended – Copy Of A, All Time Low, Everything.

CONCLUSION – I really enjoyed this revisit, but that was to be expected as Nine Inch Nails are opne of my favourite bands. I did discover though I have spent very little time listening to With Teeth, Year Zero, The Slip and Hesitation Marks. More than once a song came on which I just didn’t remember. They are still one of my favourite bands, and chances are I will continue to mostly listen to songs from the first 3 albums as well as hits from the rest, but I did discover a few songs which I had previously overlooked, which is a good thing. Apparently there will be a new NIN album out this year, so I am interested to see if that happens.