Hard Reviews 2
by Martin Popoff

My Dying Bride - 34.788%...Complete
(Peaceville/Futurist)

What a crock to say these guys have screwed up a nice career. It's still nice, for this ain't no Paradise Lost or Moonspell as far as I'm concerned. Mod elements, sure, we‚ve had a few, but My Dying Bride is just as daft, fang-dripped and miserable as ever, despite the slight/slate electronic flourishes and Aaron's point-blank confessionals. All packed up, this still rocks resoundingly and yes, apocalyptically, all negative advance press really deserving to be stopped dead. There's colour here, followed by sick, decadent violence worthy of the Stranglers, all the claptrap about Heroin Chic being no more than an over-examined focus on something wry, fleeting and ultimately refreshing. Fact be, My Dying Bride, through minor strife, have found new ways to churn quietly the juices of the bowel. Howard Devoto and Pete Hammill rule the sympathies within Apocalypse Woman, a track that drives the Bride towards the dynamic punch of Magazine, with recording values that wake up way past anything previous within this drear lot. Hey, you guys rule, despite the overly difficult rekkid title (to do with Calvin's dream about the death of the world).
Rating 9

Nothingface - An Audio Guide To Everyday Atrocity
(Mayhem)

Cool to see the system working with worthy indies like Nothingface moving up to a mid-size, with an attendant increase in both heft and finesse. These boys are chock full of ideas, becoming at least creative leaders among the pack blurring hardcore and metal, evoking thoughts as various as Tool, Korn, Fear Factory, Coal Chamber, Vision Of Disorder, with an astounding dose of detailed trickery not out of place within the ranks of latter years Testament. But the biggest advancement past Pacifier is the wandering Tool influence, that slightly spacey moral void that speaks (and sings longingly) more to ennui than angst (see Sleeper). Y'know, this is one of those still small bands one can champion excitedly, and champion I will, until folks turn onto Nothingface's crafty, hi-fidelity atrocity. Thoughtful, complicated hardcore with vision.
Rating 8

Meshuggah - Chaosphere
(Nuclear Blast)

There's a strange leap-frogging of fame that happens with music so insistent and heart-exploded. We all revere and bow to the majesty of something like this that incinerates the heaviness of Pantera, turns Phil into a wilting flower, and pummels the geometric heart of both prog rock and prog metal into a silly flick of mold. Meshuggah are the dried crust of heavy rhythm, more about guitar as drum, drummer as exalted sick being from elsewhere, and vocalist as strapped on, white-knuckle piece of stunned, whipped around bewilderment, than anything comprehensive as music. Just as black metal makes claims to all things artsy and abstract, Meshuggah counters with sick jackhammer amusement. And those in the fold bow accordingly. But have these slide-rule abstractionists befuddled their audience? There is indeed more scooped out aggression dripping from the revisited, belaboured, delayed mix, and there is more of everything inherently Meshuggah-doom/bred. We've grown tired of Fear Factory, scattered to all extremes with My Dying Bride, and now we are confronted with this: way more of a frenzied, provocative thing. Who can say whether this scratching, braying batch of relentless pulses is worthy art? I'm fencing it and dumbfounding my being at the high end, where emphatically Meshuggah will always belong.
Rating 8

Aerosmith - A Little South Of Sanity
(Geffen '98)

First off, I've been accused of being way too kind to Aerosmith, one of my favourite bands. I don‚t think they‚ve made an even remotely bad record since Done With Mirrors, and before that, their debut. But having said that, my complete indifference to this double live fat cow started with the no-brain, no-class, no-fireworks track listing, a raft of predictable juggernaut hits that are larger than the economies of some small nations. The graphics are scant, fleeting, and derivative of the Nine Lives look. And the music, well, it just makes me shudder thinking of sitting at the back of Maple Leaf Gardens or Skydome, fighting off sleep and bad bass-boom, watching a bloated machine mail in their schtick. The production of this thing is dull, dull, dull, Tyler gasping for air way back in the soup, while the weak-tea riffs (more like computer-generated weaves) on the band's over-produced studio records die a merciless death, despite the presence of two guitarists and God knows how much tampering of the tapes. Aerosmith's main strength is the mountain of work that goes into assembling their records, coupled with the fact that they are great songwriters, or more accurately, part of great songwriting teams. The live record allows for none of these strengths to be exploited anew. Plus the fact that this is a cash grab for Geffen before the band flops their bellies over to Sony, might cause one to believe this is the product of a huge lack of care anywhere.
Rating 6