Monday, 10 May 2010

KISS - Liverpool Echo Arena - 4th May 2010

There are very few bands who have the classic stature that KISS have that can still deliver live. You have AC/DC. You have Aerosmith. You have ZZ Top. You have Def Leppard. The best and worst thing about going to see a classic band live nowadays is that you're taking a risk - after all, most members of these bands are pushing 60 (a lot are over the age). Can they really be worth the hefty price tag at such an age? Can they still incite the party atmosphere they're so famous for? Is the legend still justified? It may seem like a case of thinking too much, but all these questions were running through my head leading up to the night I'd finally get to see KISS live.

The answer to all is a massive, resounding yes.

You could touch the electricity in the air as the KISS mantra rings through the air: "YOU WANTED THE BEST. YOU GOT THE BEST. THE HOTTEST BAND IN THE WORLD - KIIIIISSSSSSSSS!!!". And with that, the curtain falls, and lowered to the stage on a riser platform, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer launch into the rallying cry of the opening track from 2009's Sonic Boom, 'Modern Day Delilah'. From hereonin, tonight is the biggest party you've ever been to, and KISS are your soundtrack - the legend is laid bare for all to see, and it's simply. Fucking. Astounding.

Tonight is mostly a Greatest Hits affair and it's exactly what we need. A KISS show is about escapism, the same way a gig from any great band is about escapism, and there's no better way to achieve this than with the tried and tested favourites. 'Deuce', 'Calling Dr. Love', and even rousing versions of seldom played classics 'Crazy, Crazy Nights' and the immortal 'God Gave Rock N' Roll To You', all mixed in with another two choice cuts from the aforementioned Sonic Boom, 'Say Yeah' and 'I'm An Animal', and everything else you'd expect in between. 'Love Gun'? It's there. 'Shout It Out Loud'? Yep, that's there too. 'Lick It Up'? It's all there! Gene Simmons breathes fire and spits blood. Paul Stanley flies to his own personal stage for the disco-tinged 'I Was Made For Lovin' You'. Tommy Thayer shoots fireworks from the headstock of his guitar. And Eric Singer....shoots down a lighting rig for no real reason but it's all in good fun.

And with a no bullshit, all hits encore ending on the climatic 'Rock And Roll All Nite', the party comes to an end. But the best thing about a KISS show is that you're not left wanting more. You leave the building well and truly satisfied (at least until the next day when, by my own admission, I'd have given a bollock to be seeing them again that night). Sure, there was no 'Strutter'. There was no 'Hotter Than Hell'. No 'Heaven's On Fire', no 'God Of Thunder' and no 'Forever' but after seeing such a spectacle, you find yourself utterly incapable of giving a shit. It doesn't even matter that Paul Stanley's vocal skills have diminished in recent years - when you're there, in the thick of it, everything feels just right.

It seems nothing can slow KISS down. A fantastic new album AND incredible live shows when you're coming up to your 60's? Most bands would kill to have that. KISS don't have to.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Deftones - Diamond Eyes [9/10]

Triumph over adversity. It's a phrase so easily associated to bands within this genre. When Cliff Burton died, Metallica came back with what is arguably their best album in Master Of Puppets. When Bon Scott bit the dust, AC/DC came back with a new singer in tow and released the best selling album of all time behind Michael Jackson's Thriller with Back In Black. And just last year, 7 years removed from the tragic passing of Layne Stayley (and despite a great deal of doubt amongst hardcore Layne fans), Alice In Chains returned in spectacular fashion with one of the best offerings of 2009 in Black Gives Way To Blue.

When Deftones bassist Chi Cheng fell into a coma following a car accident in 2008, Deftones' future looked bleak. Following lacklustre live performances and 2006's muddled affair that was Saturday Night Wrist, the band were forced to shelve writing sessions for what would be their sixth album, Eros. Most bands would've broken under the tremendous strain losing a brother inevitably brings. Deftones have instead decided to follow suit with the aforementioned legends, by releasing the best album of their career: brace yourself for the rollercoaster that is Diamond Eyes.

Within seconds you're crushed under the pummeling weight of the main riff to Diamond Eyes' title track, a riff so beautifully juxtaposed against Chino Moreno's haunting melodies - and just wait until you hear that chorus: it's the sound of planets aligning.
Following the heaviest riff in Deftones' back catalogue that closes the title track, you're barely given a second to breath before you're sent hurtling back into that now so familiar signature Deftones sound on 'Royal'; the groove built on darkness, the melodies so simple but so alien - it's the sound of a band finding it's place in the world again, a place that not too long ago seemed all but lost. The heavy-as-fuck nature of track number 3 'CMND/CTRL' is if nothing else an indication that we could very well be dealing with an album to rival the efforts this band have been measured against for years (Around The Fur and White Pony) - this is going to be a journey of experimentation, epic soundscapes and sheer sonic bombast.
Mid-album highlights 'Beauty School' and 'Prince' echo past glories while still retaining the essential tinge of originality that Deftones have always had, and lead single 'Rocket Skates' sends us into more traditonally metal territory, but saves itself from genericism thanks to Chino's unique and, in all honesty, downright wierd vocal stylings. 'Sextape' offers a light break from the commotion, Moreno pouring his soul out for all to see, even through his ever non-specific lyrics, before the album grinds to a halt with a downtrodden and plodding hat-trick with 'Risk', '976-EVIL' and 'This Place Is Death', the second to last track being a particular highlight thanks to a progressive and overwhelmingly powerful chorus.

What Deftones have managed here is what few bands are seemingly able to achieve. They have taken everything you love about Deftones' music and shoehorned it into an album. You'd be forgiven to expect the end result to be a cluttered, scatterbrained and mixed bag of an effort, much like this album's predecessor Saturday Night Wrist. Drop all preconceptions now: what Deftones have delivered is a cohesive and ambitious offering that is easily one of the best, if not the best, of their career. It DEMANDS repeated listenings, and you'll find yourself struggling to listen to any one seperate track from the album without hearing everything else that surrounds it - it simply does not make sense any other way. Put simply, this is essential listening. Inspiring, exciting, and fresh, and exactly what Deftones and the world needs in 2010. If a better album is released all year, I'll chop my cock off.