It’s time for some new music as entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out new releases from pop chameleon Lady Gaga, metal lads Avenged Sevenfold, nu-metal survivors Korn and Bosnian punks Dubioza kolektiv.
New Album from a New Artist
Dubioza kolektiv — Happy Machine
While Dubioza kolektiv have technically been around since 2003, I’d be willing to bet that nobody reading this column has ever heard of them.
Founded by former members of Gluho doba Against Def Age in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Dubioza kolektiv took an early stand against the nationalist regime that controlled the Balkan region, earning fans across both the musical and political spectrum.
From the anti-establishment anthems of The Clash to the royal-baiting antics of The Sex Pistols, Punk music has deep roots in political protest, but the genre has steadily been moving into more PG-friendly realms with the help of punk-lite bands like Good Charlotte and Fall Out Boy. Dubioza kolektiv turn this trend on its head with unashamedly political songs, railing at injustice and a world controlled by the rich and the ruthless.
Switching between English, Spanish and Punjabi, songs are inspired by recent events like the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul (All Equal), the arrest of the founders of The Pirate Bay (Free.mp3) and the Syrian refugee crisis, Dubioza kolektiv aren’t afraid to take a stand. They are joined on this mission by a host of world music luminaries including Manu Chau, Benji Webbe and Punjabi singer BEE2, all of whom add to the global perspective that this album provides.
At the end of the day, a punk album sung in multiple languages is going to prove a challenge for some listeners, but those who persevere will be rewarded by one of the best punk releases of the last decade. Best of all, the band are making the album available to download for free on their website dubioza.org — check it out!
Standout tracks: Free.mp3, Red Carpet, Boom!
Sample lyric: ‘Our music is for free, you can download MP3.’ (Free.mp3)
Verdict: 8/10 — if you can get past the weirdness, this album is awesome
New Album from an Old Artist
Lady Gaga — Joanne
With an ear for a catchy track and a persona inspired by David Bowie and Marilyn Manson, Lady Gaga burst onto the pop scene in 2008 with debut album The Fame. Early hits included Poker Face, Just Dance and massive single Bad Romance, which combined with Gaga’s unique fashion sense to put her on the cover of every tabloid magazine in the world.
Sophomore album Born The Way (2011) solidified Gaga’s fame, introducing a message of positivity to girls, young women and anyone else who ever felt different. Christening her fans "little monsters", Gaga embraced alternative lifestyles while producing the most mainstream of pop music. She also gave acting a try in American Horror Story and produced a Jazz album with Tony Bennett, neither of which set the world on fire but proved that the artist born Stephanie Germanotta is far more than a one trick pony.
Produced by Gaga, along with collaborators including Mark Ronson, RedOne and Jeff Bhasker, new album Joanne addresses issues of family and mortality, inspired by the death of Gaga’s beloved aunt Joanne. Perhaps due to this dark theme, there isn’t an obvious breakout hit upon first listen, although I’m sure we will be hearing many of the tracks from this album for months to come.
Joanne is probably the most mature album that Lady Gaga has made, showing both the growing wisdom of age and a jazzy swing picked up from Tony Bennett. Well worth a listen for fans of polished pop.
Standout tracks: John Wayne, Perfect Illusion, Million Reasons
Sample lyric: ‘Blue collar and a red state treasure, love junkie on a three day bender.’ (John Wayne)
Verdict: 7/10 — well written, slickly produced and catchy
Album I Expect to Suck
Korn — The Serenity of Suffering
When Korn got together in Bakersfield, California back in 1993, they were considered one of the pioneers of the much-maligned nu-metal genre, along with bands like Limp Bizkit and Staind. Few fans and fewer critics would have predicted that Korn would still be together 23 years later, but those naysayers clearly didn’t understand the staying power of nu-metal.
From a musical standpoint, The Serenity of Suffering is heavier than previous Korn albums, almost as if they were trying to shake the nu-prefix and become a proper metal band. Unfortunately, all of these efforts are wasted the moment singer Jonathon Davis opens his mouth, because the man just can’t help rock-rapping. If you’re unfamiliar with rock-rapping, it’s what untalented white dudes do when they’re trying to bust a rhyme, and it almost universally sucks.
Thematically, The Serenity of Suffering is about what all nu-metal albums are about; depression, anxiety, relationship breakdowns and how much life sucks being a middle-class American white guy living in the 21st century. As a far more talented JT once said; "cry me a river".
At times, The Serenity of Suffering veers dangerously close to parody territory, with the relentlessly depressing themes suggesting a nu-metal version of Steel Panther. Still, if you’re one of those people who think that music reached its nadir in 1995, maybe you should check out this album.
Standout tracks: Everything Falls Apart
Sample lyric: ‘Happiness is found in the darkest of ways, and as I search around I’ve made nothing but mistakes.’ (Black is the Soul)
Verdict: 3/10 — about as awful as you would expect a Korn album in 2016 to be
Ch-check It Out…
Avenged Sevenfold — The Stage
It is very easy to make fun of Avenged Sevenfold. The band members have ridiculous names like Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance, they’re fond of bombastic, hair-metal style tracks and lead singer M. Shadows never takes off his sunglasses, suggesting he is either a vampire or a massive wanker. Still, I’m going to resist the urge and give The Stage a straight review…
Formed in Huntington Beach, California in 1999, Avenged Sevenfold took a "screamo" approach to their first couple of albums, attracting a loyal metalhead fanbase but alienating many mainstream fans. This changed with the 2005 album City of Evil, featuring the breakout single Bat Country, driven by a far more mainstream hard rock sound.
Subsequent releases were marked by the untimely death of drummer James “The Rev” Sullivan, who was briefly replaced by Prog-rock legend Mike Portnoy before former Bad Religion drummer Brooks Wackerman joined in 2015. It is interesting to note that Wackerman was christened with his ridiculous name so fortunately didn’t have to change it when joining Avenged Sevenfold.
Musically, The Stage isn’t a bad album, with a nice range in guitar solos and thundering drums, and Shadows has to be given credit for digging deep on his lyrical influences. Citing Carl Sagan and Elon Musk, and featuring an appearance of Neil DeGrasse Tyson on the epic Exist, The Stage seems custom designed to appeal to nerds. So why does it leave me cold?
Standout tracks: Creating God, Exist (just for the Tyson appearance)
Sample lyric: ‘Jesus Christ was born to die. Leave it to man to levitate his own to idolize.’ (The Stage)
Verdict: 5/10 — smart metal, but not necessarily very good metal…
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