Albums: Foals, Jimmy Eat World, Rob Halford and Michael Monroe
Rob Halford with Family & Friends
THIS early Christmas present from Judas Priest's stalwart frontman finds the metal god thumbing through and adding to the Yuletide songbook.
Of the four original Christmas-themed compositions, the instrumental title track leads into standout rocker Donner And Blitzen, while Morning Star is an unlikely ballad – though not a patch on ridiculous closer Protected By The Light.
However, the highlights lie on the traditional numbers, including a magnificently melodramatic Away In A Manger and seven-minute Good King Wenceslas.
Only intermittently does Halford truly let the heavy metal loose, most spectacularly with the driving riff and spiralling solo of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and the guttural fa-la-las on a skull-crushing Deck The Halls. A similarly thunderous Hark! The Herald Angels Sing segues straight into a perfectly traditional, orthodox rendition of The First Noel.
I'm not sure whether to rate this lunacy at two or four out of five stars, so let's settle for three. Merry Christmas!
Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 2
FOALS' follow-up to ENSWBLP1 manages to usurp its predecessor – and that's no easy feat.
The album is a powerful eruption of intense, foreboding rock tracks, with a couple of more melodic and upbeat tunes to lighten the mood. You'll find no filler here: even the two short instrumental offerings, Red Desert and Ikaria, bring to mind an empty but beautiful wasteland that lays waiting for Oxford quartet to descend upon with thrashing guitars, foot-stomping riffs and Yannis Philippakis' melancholic, haunting vocal.
Lead single, the heavy, rhythmic Runner, is an advantageous starting point from which the band start sprinting, and don't stop; Black Bull bulldozes into the senses like the animal itself, the more upbeat Wash Off takes the band's trademark sound to a happy place, while Dreaming Of has more of an undulating feel. The calming presence of Neptune brings the album to an end, a 10-minute long emotive closer to an exhilarating ride.
Jimmy Eat World
JIMMY Eat World are not a band known for venturing outside the hook-laden guitar sound they helped carve out in the early 2000s, but on this record they reach for the future by turning back to the past.
1980s teenage pop metal faves like Quiet Riot, Ratt and Motley Crue seep into Surviving, adding a raw rock edge that has been missing from their recent records. There's even a political slant to some of the music – Criminal Energy alludes to Donald Trump's narcissism – while frontman Jim Adkins provides his trademark soaring vocals.
Surviving is unlikely to surprise fans of Jimmy Eat World. But it might make them fall back in love with them.
One Man Gang
AT A time when Motley Crue were conquering much of the world with a watered-down hard rock/glam rock crossover, Finland's Hanoi Rocks were the real deal – but never got the respect or record sales their talent deserved.
Thirty-odd years on, frontman Michael Monroe is still rocking like a demon at a time when most musicians of his age (57) are slowing down and thinking about doing a country album.
The Damned's Captain Sensible provides lead guitar on the short punky blast of the opening/title track and Last Train To Tokyo pays tribute to one of the few countries where Hanoi Rocks sold a lot of records, and where Monroe continues to do so.
Monroe also salutes his hometown with the high-octane Helsinki Shakedown, but slows the pace down with two anthemic ballads, Midsummer Nights and In The Tall Grass, while the album's best track is the mariachi horn-driven (thanks to guest trumpeter Tero Saarti) Heaven Is A Free State.