HardReviews 6
by Martin Popoff

Voivod - Katorz
(The End)

Just to cover off how this was made, Piggy, before he died, had demo guitar tracks, to which Jason - on his porch - ran through with him on bass, the end. Away's drums were added and tinkered with a bit, then Snake did his thing. It was ass-backwards and difficult 'cos of the unfortunate circumstances, but you'd never know it - the album rules, and roils, and flows. Starting off with what the above causes, Katorz is jumpy, nervy, punchy and organic, like an early Voivod album, the guys finding a punk rock ethic that is inspiring to action. So the sound is urgent, fastback and live, live, live, in marked contrast to the self-titled first of the Jasonic ere, which had polish. And simplicity, in marked contrast to Katorz which... well, it's got some of that, resulting in effortless heavy metal grooves and songs which unfold logically. But most fortunately, Katorz has loads of Piggy's astringent, slide-rule melodies, his dark prog componentry as derived from King Crimson and Van der Graaf Generator. And almost as much a joy is Away's swirling, circular drum tornado rhythms. It helps to see him do it, but even just in the listening, one quickly gathers the impression that this is one of the dozen or so legendary drummers with his own sound, a trademark. It's a jazzy, effortless, grooving arc around the kit and back again, and it's a canny match to Piggy's trademark riffs, which also seem to zig-zag in an arc, rinse, repeat. Snake adds the crowning eccentric touch, with his punk and goth preponderances (see 'Silly Clones' for the Bauhaus moment) and his chopped to-the-quick lyrics. But I love opener 'The Getaway', on which Away gets away with the signature moment: his single stroke accompaniment during the break - percussive genius. 'After All' is cool as well, Piggy turning in one of his many secret agent man riffs, taking us back to the resplendent MCA years albums. Fave comes late in the sequence, 'The X-Stream' slamming over a sharp, shocking riff, Snake enforcing the punk rock speed of it with his monotone cool. I dunno, in basic terms, what Katorz does is combine the best elements of the self-titled - that record's immediate songfulness - with the note density and the exotic tripiness of Outer Limits or Angel Rat, all over a production job out of Robinson that clangs like any one of Away's chaotically assembled robot beasts. The album closes with a haunting bit of Piggy on acoustic guitar, which, as legend seems to have it, was the only time he ever picked one up.
Rating 9.5

Bruce Dickinson - Anthology
(Sanctuary)

Didn't really need to go three DVDs to fit this all I imagine, but no one's complaining about getting the motherlode of Bruce solo all in one place. The first DVD features two concerts six years and a world of metal evolution apart. Dive Dive Live is a Bruce with something to prove, that he can go it alone brandishing Tattooed Millionaire, and he does in fine trench warfare fashion, in black leather fringe jacket, no shirt, Janick doing his "everything but play guitar and still play guitar" thing. Skunkworks comes next, Bruce with his bob hairdo, an updated attire, vampirically rocking with no-name young grunge pups, really cool and artsy backdrop but dark, jittery, grainy filming - quite annoying, but man, this is an under-rated album, ridiculed at the time... go ahead, have a listen. Back in Spain (!), and it's a large crowd, and they love it when the guys close with 'The Prisoner'. Flash forward to Sao Paulo in 1999, and disappointment is at hand, for this is semi-boot quality in both sound and vision. Still, tough and grinding Accident Of Birth songs fill the set and Adrian Smith looks cool. O'er to DVD 3, and the wow factor hits, Anthology offering every video Bruce has ever done, with bonus regaling by an animated, always self-assured Bruce about the songs and the videos attached to them. I never got to see any of these and it's the reason to make this a keeper and repeater. Tacked onto the end is the Tyranny Of Souls EPK which really fleshes out the story of that quickly overlooked album, plus the hilarious Biceps Of Steel twee and weird movie Samson thought they would make for some bizarre reason back in 1980. An eight page booklet basically repeats the already edifying back cover, and then that's it, back to this weird world of production videos that were destined mainly for furtive underground viewing.
Rating 8

Hard Reviews Page 7