The West Pole – Music Reviews

The question for the fans (less so the band) was how move on having lost possibly the greatest singer there has ever been. The answer for the band is to first remind yourselves that you made the music and in many ways Anneke was simply the super sweet icing on the top. Fans of the band have come and gone in stages- some when Anneke first joined, others when they changed their sound, and certainly more now that Anneke has gone. Similarly to the situation with Nightwish (but to a lesser extent) there was a lot of disapproval and many thought that this would be the end. The rest of us knew (cautiously) that this would spur the band on to new directions- would they go for a copy cat replacement? Would they go back to male vocals? Perhaps they would use a mix, or even scrap vocals altogether. What we have is a more commercial rock sound, lighter lyrics, and overall a more upbeat, faster album than the last couple.

`When Trust Becomes Sound’ opens with a distorted, angry growl- nothing like they have sounded before. It almost has a grunge feel, a simple riff building up as more instruments join in- this one gets the feet and head moving and sets you up for what appears to be an all out rock album. This instrumental piece almost seems like a joke from the band- we’ve waited so long to hear the new singer and then they don’t even put her on the first song! It works great as an opener, perhaps a similar style of song for the next track would have fitted better.

`Treasure’ opens with distinctly lighter guitars and a poppy drum beat and when we first hear Silje Wergeland’s voice we know we are in good company. There is a definite Anneke depth and great ability, but she sounds more like the girl next door while Anneke was the rebel. This track makes for a perfect single and could really have been a hit in any number of charts- the melodies are catchy and light, the lyrics are simple and have great sing along quality all building up to a sun-filled chorus. This being The Gathering, they throw in a nice bridge towards the end to stunning effect, bright and loaded with emotive strings before the calm, easy finish.

`All You Are’ opens in a similarly poppy fashion, this time with a muted guitar riff which bleeds into some Tori Amos style e-v-e-r-y syllable counts singing. This builds to a heavy, non-metal chorus giving Silje a chance to show off the power of her voice, backed again by a powerful string section. Like Anneke at the beginning the lyrics need some time to mature but they are okay for the moment. Halfway through the song the chorus extends into a long thumping section with some new melodies and bitterness. Again this is a song which will get the crowd moving.

`The West Pole’ opens with a distant, hissy guitar, a line that almost sounds dismissive. The lead chords crash in along with some sorrow filled vocals for the album’s first epic. If that had been written 10 years ago it would have had a massive production behind it with guitars and effects flying all over the place. As it stands now it is fairly basic, happy to rely on vocals and drums for the most part, things only getting varied in the chorus. This album is filled with big anthem style choruses and this is no different- it seems like the whole album was written for the fans to scream back at the band during every performance. There is the traditional sound clip in the centre of the song before a nice change comes along with some sweet, whispered singing.

`No Bird Call’ is quite a strange song, opening with flanging organs to sound like a funeral march. The first vocals make it seem like this is going to be a downbeat, `Souvenirs’ song but the problem is that never gets going. I think this one could really have been half the length and still worked as well, cutting out part of the middle and shaving the last couple of minutes, leaving the part when the glorious strings enter. As this album is quite short another song or two could have been written and used, but what do I know?

`Capital Of Nowhere’ features almost childlike singing, an offbeat accent, and giving a new twist to the sound. This is another one with a big pop style chorus, great melodies but is stretch out to epic status with some interesting, spacey interludes.

`You Promised Me A Symphony’ is a piano led ballad with a great chorus featuring classic melody and lyrics. My only problem is that the verses don’t match up to the quality of the chorus. The lyrics are nice throughout, just those verses are pretty forgettable. With stronger verses on top of the excellent chorus singing this could have been on of their best, but just misses out.

`Pale Traces’ is the longest song on the album, opening in atmospheric style with strange sounds, deep vocals, and a good melody. The song then picks up pace with one of the best bass performances from Marjolein and steady drums. I’m not sure what is missing from this one- maybe some of the early parts seem bare, but this is as good as anything on the album and has some of my favourite singing. In my more contemplative moments I wonder what Anneke would sound like covering this but it doesn’t really matter. This is a great song that I hope they play live because it’s bound to have an emotional response.

`No One Spoke’ speeds things up again with a faster rock song. This one has a nice building up atmosphere which is sure to make it a live favourite, catchy verses and chorus and some effective piano parts. There are a few bass and guitar moments thrown in to spice things up making it another commercial sounding song with a rock twist.

`A Constant Run’ finishes the album at high speed, an ominous, urgent bass line, galloping drums, and some atmospheric synthesizer. The vocals here are strong, but it is again the chorus which stands out- anthemic, a joy to sing along to, and of course it all makes you wish you were watching them in an adoring, dancing crowd. This leaves you begging for more, for an encore at the end of the album but unfortunately none comes. As I type I wish they would come to Britain again. The ending stretches out to over 7 minutes (but it seems much shorter) with speeding drums and keyboards in true Gathering style- they are still here and they still have it.

This may be the band’s most simple album so far in terms of how it sounds and how the songs are structured. The new line-up (if it remains) will take some time to gel, hopefully after some touring and writing together they will come back with another classic. This album is a good new beginning- lots of great moments, a few forgettable ones, but it is still the band we love and we should rest easy in the knowledge that after all this time they can still do little wrong. Silje does a great job under a lot of pressure (as do the guest singers) and the rest of the band are as good as always. Rene doesn’t get much time to show off- there aren’t really any trademark moments- just the occasional Johnny Greenwood style fast playing. I think this still gets fairly mixed reviews, I would say that while it isn’t one of their best it is certainly very good (though painfully short) and as it is The Gathering it still reigns supreme over most other bands.

*Written at time of release

February 26, 2015 at 1:55 pm Leave a comment

Manic Mondays – 23rd Feb 2015

‘Oh this country is but an empty shell/A clearing house for heaven a clearing house for hell’

All We Make Is Entertainment

February 23, 2015 at 12:43 pm Leave a comment

Best Music (Scoring): 1963

This year the category was split into Best Original And Best Adaptation Scores, but I’ve bunched them together:

Official Nominations: Tom Jones. Cleopatra. 55 Days At Peking. How The West Was Won. It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Irma La Douce. A New Kind Of Love. Bye Bye Birdie. The Sword In The Stone. Sundays And Cybele.

 

Tom Jones: A light and suitably fluffy suite of music which mimics the lighthearted antics on screen. The slower, more poignant pieces are the most enjoyable, but there isn’t any memorable theme which you’ll recall after the film is over, surprising then that this picked up the official win.

Cleopatra: Alex North gets another nomination (he totalled 15 without a win) for the epic, his soundtrack features, as you would expect, a lot of Eastern instrumentation, sweeping string sections, all giving an evocative whole. Again, the main theme isn’t overly memorable, but a variety of the single pieces are emotive without managing to stay in the memory.

55 Days At Peking: Similarly epic to Cleopatra, Dimitri Tiomkin’s score for 55 Days At Peking is more immediate and punchy, less lavish, more energetic. An odd mixture of Eastern sounds, Old Western themes, and military marches, it’s a difficult score to swallow in one piece, but rewarding nevertheless. It is again let down though by lacking a memorable theme, though ‘Moon Fire’ comes close.

How The West Was Won: Tiomkin passed duties on this one to Alfred Newman, and it is regarded as one of Newman’s best. A rousing score, another epic, this one is more grounded in classic, robust American sounds – it’s a Western soundtrack at heart – big and bold. Finally we get a memorable main theme!

It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World: Ernst Gold creates a madcap score, a main theme which has a few memorable moments. if anything it’s evocative of a massive circus, with clowns and trapeze artists flying and falling. Some of the individual character themes are strong too, with Captain Culpeper’s being particularly memorable.

Irma La Douce: Andre Previn picked up a win for his adapted score of the French musical. The central piano theme is quite nice, but the rest of the soundtrack is forgettable.

A New Kind Of Love: Erroll Garner and Leith Stevens create a jazzy, snoozy score for the romance, but it’s nothing you haven’t heard before – typical smokey bar mellow, smooth jazz.

Bye Bye Birdie: Johnny Green and Charles Strousse adapt Strousse’s stage music to the screen, giving a lighter, less raunchy tone. Notable for a number of songs, the incidental music simply mimics these and not a lot more. 

The Sword In The Stone: Hardly the most fondly remembered Disney animation from a musical perspective, The Sword In The Stone nevertheless carries some weight. Sherman’s fun songs merged with the music of Bruns make an oft-forgotten, yet still enchanting score.

Sundays And Cybele: Maurice Jarre’s score is a mostly soft one, again there isn’t anything too powerful, but it’s a subtle approach to the slightly uneasy, and hurting tragic events on screen.

My Winner: How The West Was Won. The Sword In The Stone.

Sword_In_Stone_ST4901

My Nominations: The Pink Panther. The Great Escape.

For my list of nominations I’ve cut way back on the chaff and only selected the two best examples of soundtrack for the year, two entries which coincidentally were shockingly omitted (or in the case of The Pink Panther held back until the next year’s Awards). Henry Mancini’s theme for The Pink Panther is one of the most iconic pieces of movie music – simply by hearing the first 2 (or 4) notes you know what it is, and where it is from. The rest of the soundtrack is equally strong, giving a cosmopolitan air of crime capers, jazzy notes, and sultry tones. Equally, Elmer Bernstein’s theme for The Great Escape is just as iconic, acting as both a rallying cry, and a two finger salute. The theme appears frequently in other movies and shows, and sports events, taking on a life of its own. The rest of the soundtrack too features stellar work, with bombastic pieces of hope, and a selection more poignant, slower pieces.

My Winner: The Great Escape.

 Disagree with my choices? Let me know in the comments and poll below!

February 20, 2015 at 2:48 pm Leave a comment

Best Make Up: 1963

There was no official award for Best Make Up this year so I have made my own selections.

My Nominations: Jason And The Argonauts. Cleopatra. The Birds. The Comedy Of Terrors

Jason And The Argonauts is most commonly, and unsurprisingly, remembered mostly for Harryhausen’s groundbreaking special effects, but a fair amount of work went into the Make-up too. Cleopatra obviously has stellar work in all departments, Make-Up included (Alberto De Rossi, Vivienne Walker, Robert J Schiffer), while The Birds uses Make-Up effectively in a few scenes to heighten the fear in the aftermath of recurring attacks (Virginia Darcy, Howard Smit). Finally, The Comedy Of Terrors employs a variety of well worn and innovative techniques thanks to Betty Pedettri, Carlie Taylor, and Verne Langdon.

My Winner: Jason And The Argonauts.

Let me know what your pick for the Best Makeup of 1963 would be in the Poll and comments below!

February 19, 2015 at 3:11 pm Leave a comment

Amazon Vine Freebies – July 2014

One month closer to the big Vine shake up, and one final month of frantic 8pm F5ing. July was an improvement over June, which wasn’t very difficult given June’s scant offerings:

Fisher-Price Nursery Rhymes Projector Lightshow: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0056FSALU

It’s a crib projector which plays songs, tells stories, and projects images onto the ceiling to disturb your baby to sleep.

Ultrasport Men’s Men Function Softshelljacket – Victoria/Blue, Small: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B006HCSBME

It’s a coat for the tiny man, smooth like a horse’s neck. I gave it to my wife.

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H2D VI Professional Ionic and Infrared Hair Straighteners: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00KLTEMMW

It’s a very good set of straigheners. Not to be used on horses.

 81p5ddNJWZL__SL1500_ 

Philips Disney Princess Children’s Night Light and Projector – 1 x 0.1 W Integrated LED: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00J3O9LHC

It’s a projector which doesn’t play music or tell stories, but projects images onto the ceiling to disturb your baby to sleep – with added Princesses!

February 18, 2015 at 12:38 pm Leave a comment

Best Sound:1963

The categories for sound this year were split into mixing and editing, but I’ll bunch them together. This was the first year that the Sound Editing category appeared, with It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad Word picking up the win, while How The West Was Won won the Sound Mixing Award.

Official Nominations: It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad Word (for mixing and editing). A Gathering Of Eagles. How The West Was Won. Bye Bye Birdie. Captain Newman MD. Cleopatra.

My Winner: How The West Was Won.

 

My Nominations: How The West Was Won. Cleopatra. 8 And A Half. The Birds. The Haunting. The Great Escape. Jason And The Argonauts.

My nominations see an almost entirely different roster, with the rip-roaring The Great Escape joining the fold and displaying high quality in the sound fields. 8 1/2 perfects Fellini’s technique of having the actors mouth random dialogue and having the sound, and indeed script added after filming completed, while a whole world of sounds are created in Jason And The Argonauts by Cyril Collick, Alfred Cox, and Red Law to breathe even more life to Harryhausen’s creations, and to create more depth to the mythological world. The Birds and The Haunting are two of the most powerful horror movies of the decade from a sound perspective – both using sound in startling and unusual ways, both using sound as the first harbinger. The calming at first, yet ever more sinister tweets and flapping of wings becomes overpowering and creates a claustrophobic mood in Hitchcock’s classic, while Wise essentially makes sound the central evil presence in his powerhouse. Using a variety of gimmicks, from shouting off camera to pre-recorded soundtracks for his cast to react to, it is the creaking and whispering and shrieking which give the house its character, and make the visual effects all the more effective.

My Winner: The Haunting.

February 6, 2015 at 1:40 pm Leave a comment

Unbreakable – DVD Review

The follow-up to The Sixth Sense is a much superior film, smarter and more stylish, a mix of thriller, mystery and comic book which sees S.L Jackson and Bruce Willis teaming up once again. Willis is again distancing himself from his action movie persona by making films like these, proving he is a very capable actor. Here he plays David Dunn, the lone survivor of a traincrash- a man with a history of near-perfect health. He meetsElijiah, a comic book fan who kids call Mr Glass because of his crippling brittle bone syndrome.Elijiah takes an interest in David, and at first seems like a stalker. He wants to prove that David is almost like a superhero as he believes David is impervious to physical harm. He convinces David’s son and tries repeatedly to convince David, who claims he has been both sick and injured and is just a normal man who got lucky. However, David eventually realises otherwise and at the request ofElijiah, uses his powers to help the weak and defenceless.While The Sixth Sense was atmospheric, but relied heavily on its famous twist, Unbreakable is subtle and works on many levels. It was unfortunately, but unsurprisingly a smaller success. Shyamalan’s style is present here, with floating cameras and contrasts in lighting, built around a twisting plot. Naturally there is a twist, not as overt as his previous film but one which leads to more interesting dissection. Jackson and Willis are equally impressive, and the rest of the cast are good, mainly Robin Penn and Spencer Clark. A highly interesting film worth several watches, and an original take on the typical Comic Book movie.

This double disc edition has plenty of interesting features- cast and crew chats, deleted scenes with director introductions, and a super hero feature narrated by Mr S. L. Jackson.

*Originally written 2005

February 5, 2015 at 12:37 pm Leave a comment

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