by Martin Popoff

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Fresh Metal

Velvet Revolver - Contraband

Contraband was made under weird circumstances, the Gunners (and later Dave Kushner) working on music for more than a year before a singer was found, with a flurry of raw and wild activity at the end slamming the record into place. What you get is essentially and thankfully a musical soundtrack that is sturdy and rich in detail, closer to dirty, finicky, dimensional GN'R than the lunkhead plow chords of STP. Then of course, Scott Weiland lays himself wiry and squirming o'ertop, all nasty rock star, which tends to chill relations with the album, ironically, just as Axl did with the old band. It's hard to come out liking this lead singer - he's very cranky and if you missed it, he even says so through these druggy, depressive, anti-social lyrics. Too bad, 'cos the other guys make an explosive, slamming powerful anthemic band. Still, I guess you could call Scott the rock 'n' roll edge, the danger in the mix. Hey, Johnny Rotten didn't exactly commune with the fans smiling, nor do all sorts of happy guys in death metal bands, or Corey from Slipknot. Beratement is the norm, so attempt to put aside those feelings (a - Scott hates you; and b - this is yet a third corporate merger somewhere after Audioslave and Brides Of Destruction) and revel in the fact that the rockers rock timeless and huge and classic, sampling with discipline from grunge, and that even the ballads are complex enough melodically to not suck.
Rating 7.5

Therion - Sirius B/Lemuria
(Nuclear Blast)

I hesitate to call this plush, elegant, yet headbanging Therion set two albums packaged as one, given the flow between the two musically, graphically and even lyrically, each being a collection of tracks that spans the globe for spiritual, paranormal and mythic disciplines, to the point of offering a track in German plus fragments of both Spanish and Russian. With all sorts of hugely symphonic and choir-blessed folk/prog passages, and plainly chugging metal bits (loaded up with those same classical elements), Sirius B/Lemuria holds ones attention throughout, the listener marveling in the background at the expense and effort to must have taken to pull this off. Another nice touch is the multi-dimensional male vocal presentation between lead Ther-ian Christofer Johnsson (a bit o' death!), Mats Leven (rough, distinct, thespian) and Piotr Wawrzeniuk (hilariously, intriguingly old school Swedish - like 800 AD old school). With all this, surprises routinely pop up, armchair quarterbacking the choices made by Christofer becoming a productive and entertaining game as we move from one lost world to another... progressively, timelessly, in metal, in a community of musical voices across decades and disciplines, border crossings and slippages from one fantasy realm to another. In summary, this is Therion's most accessible, mid-paced, expensive sounding, progressive album(s), the two-fer offering 100 minutes of kaleidoscopic myth-mad metal that dares to merge disciplines as only the long-reigning master can.
Rating 9

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