Friday, 28 April 2017

Alice Cooper - Hey Stoopid (Album review)

Alice Cooper - Hey Stoopid (Album review)

Year - 1991
Genre - Heavy metal, Glam Metal, Hard Rock

Catchy choruses, flashy guitar solos...another glam rock album

After Cooper's hugely successful glam rock mega-hit that was "Trash" Cooper went to release Hey Stoopid to similar commercial success even in a time when glam was starting to die out.

Cooper was going for catchy songs on Hey Stoopid with every song on this album being clearly set out to get stuck in your head and no doubt be a big hit single, which most were.

The songs are by no means bad, not at all, fast guitars and Cooper's brilliant vocals are enjoyable, but does the album have substance or a great meaning? not really. That doesn't mean it's bad but for anyone looking for more contemporary music, this is not the album for you.

Cooper starts off this album fairly weak, with singles "Hey Stoopid" and "Love's a loaded gun", they serve their purpose but really leave little impact, however "snakebite" (another single) really changes the feel of the album, while sounding similar to the previous songs it somehow feels of a higher quality. The musicianship feels tighter from this point on. None of the songs are exceptional but they're all good to say the least, simply put, it's a late 80's/early 90's glam rock album. They all sounded similar but Cooper was fortunate as he not only had great musicians but the skill of his own writing, which on his work from the 1970's was truly exceptional.

This album is packed with amazing guest musicians, Joe Satriani bringing Snakebite to life and Nikki Sixx adding a thudding bass line to Feed my Frankenstein with guitar duo Joe Satriani and Steve Vai making the song feel like something otherworldly.

Hey Stoopid is fun, a fun album for rock fans, not much more but no less either. Cooper's best work? No. A high standard album, especially compared to a lot of the late 80's dismally bad glam rock? yes!

A record for all fans of Cooper as well as Glam rock to own, but past these fan bases, Hey Stoopid has little appeal.

Cooper has proven in the past he can create innovative rock music but seems to be too taken up in the "MTV radio rock" sound that dominated the scene, this album is disappointing when compared to his masterpieces of the past, but by no means its a bad album in its own right.

6.5/10

For fans of - RATT, Cinderella, Poison, Twisted Sister.

Highlights - Snakebite, might as well be on mars, Hurricane years

D.A. Clarke

Monday, 17 April 2017

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey (Book Review)

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey (Book Review)

Year - 1963


Ken Kesey's phenomenal first book on the complications and corruptions of a 1960's mental health institute.

 Told from the perspective of  one  of the Oregon's psychiatric ward's patients, Cuckoo's Nest is a novel that opens the eyes of its readers. Kesey has the story told through the eyes of "Chief" Bromden, a tall inmate who is half Indian (Native American) and supposedly deaf and dumb. We see the Ward in which he lives on change with new inmate McMurphy who is not having any of the lies and corruption of the heartless, controlling Nurse Rached.

From this unique narrator the reader can see corruption from a man who acts as a grey blur in the background, as part of the scenery, very few people seem to notice Bromden, yet he is there to hear all the darkest secrets of corruption within the ward, this creates something never before seen in literature, Bromden and the writing style in which is narration is written by Kesey is insightful and fair yet at times the reader is reminded, this character IS not mentally well, from his visions, however what a reader gains from this is, yes he isn't "sane" but does that mean his opinion doesn't matter?
Kesey sets out to educate and inform from this novel, and he delivers well.



The novel cannot be summed into a single genre or tone, some parts are genuinely heart warming and funny, other moments fill the reader with hope and a sense of justice as the characters get back at the system, then of course there are moments which are infuriating due to the cruelty and injustice as well as moments that are heart breaking. Kesey created an emotional rollercoaster that is simply perfect, in balance, structure and feel.


Cuckoo's nest features drawings done by Kesey himself that add an interesting and different overall experience to the novel, adding a more depressing feel, as, personally, the drawings feel disturbing, showing the horror and affect of psychiatric wards on the patients.

Nurse Rached deserves to be discussed,  an unconventional villain, purely being a woman that is a nurse, villain stereotypes are broken by Kesey, you as a reader will despise this woman and I challenge anyone to try and find good in her, though I am sure there are excellent interpretations that do so.

McMurphy is a character like no-other, the original anti-hero, none of this "Deadpool" stuff that is now considered an anti-hero, McMurphy is a lying, cheating gambler who likes to show his dominance and cause trouble, but he also wants to help and expose the corruption of the system within the ward, he may be coarse, but he's one hell of a character and a literary character that is inspirational, along with narrator Bromden.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is an in-depth study/critique of behaviourism, a novel laced with controversy, from bad language to prostitutes, Ken Kesey wrote a masterpiece that will go down in history as an incredible classic in literature that truly attacks the corruption of hospitals and their methods, showing that mistreatment can happen to those who don't deserve it, everyone should read this novel.


rating - 10/10

by D.A. Clarke

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Danny Worsnop - The long road home (album review)

Danny Worsnop - The long road home (album review)
Year - 2017
Genre - Country, rock


Image result for danny worsnop the long road home
From metal teen idol to big bearded country singer, The long road home (originally titled as the much cooler "Prozac sessions") truly shows the evolution of Worsnop's music. starting in metalcore band Asking Alexandria, starting hard rock band We Are Harlot, leaving Asking Alexandria, to then return Worsnop has now decided to give his love of American country ago on his debut solo album.

Worsnop has created something unique in his debut, but unique does not necessarily mean it is good, long road home is a very hit and miss mixed bag of an album, with some songs having the potential to be classics, such as "quite a while" and "Prozac", but others, such as the obnoxiously bad "Don't over drink it" hitting the album and stopping the flow. The issue for many people will be the fact they are a fan of Worsnop's previous work, being more oriented in low tunings and blaring screaming vocals, The long road home appears fake, as original fans of Worsnop will know he had a very clear British accent which is not anywhere to be seen on this album, instead the listener is treated to a southern American accent that is convincing but it does feel false. Getting past nostalgia and the false accent The long road home is an interesting piece of work, having smooth guitar lines, thick rumbling bass lines, solid drum lines and of course the immensely powerful vocals of Danny Worsnop, to say this album is bad would be wrong, however saying it's fantastic would also be incorrect, as it lands in the middle being enjoyable but nothing special. The long road home features very typical conventions of Worsnop's work, such as sex, drugs and heartbreak, these conventions, while silly at times, are not bad, in fact they're a lot of fun. "I feel like shit" is the best example of being a song that is slightly odd yet easy to enjoy.

Overall if the listener were to get over their initial nostalgia of "the old Danny" they will easily enjoy this album and personally it seems that Worsnop has the potential to reinvent country's popularity, offering the genre to his young adoring fans, soon they might be listening to Johnny Cash as well as Slipknot. Good, not terrible, Worsnop clearly put his heart into this record and it shows, if you're a fan of Worsnop's previous work or country, buy this album.

rating - 6/10

for fans of - Aerosmith, Bon jovi, We are Harlot, Garth Brookes.
Best tracks - "Prozac", "I feel like shit", "Quite a while", "Mexico".

By D.A. Clarke

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Carrie - Stephen King (book review)

Carrie - Stephen King (book review)
year - 1974
Genre - Horror, gothic.

Image result for carrie book coverCarrie is the first published novel by acclaimed writer Stephen King, even as a debut it put King into the mainstream as a writer who was capable of becoming huge within the mainstream horror market (which is exactly what he did).

Carrie centres on a ridiculed teenage girl in her final year of highschool, mocked for her clothing, appearance, religious background and later her lack of knowledge regarding the female menstrual cycle, the latter half of the novel details her revenge on those who wronged her.
King states in the novels introduction that his inspiration stemmed from two girls he knew of from highschool, one bullied for her unfashionable clothing, the other for her religious beliefs. Both girls sadly committed suicide, King stating "both girls - fortunately or unfortunately - did not have the wild talent of Carrie White". King described the two girls as "ghosts" who "kept coming back to me" urging him to combine them in one of his novels. This background to the story gives it a raw and emotional setting which is clear in the writing, not only was King writing this because his family needed money but also as an homage to the two girls who were the victims of bullying within the American  highschool system.

Carrie is written in a unique narrative style that swaps between the events of 1979 from the perspective of several characters, most prominently Carrie White herself then to magazine articles, autobiographies and police reports among other things to discuss and elaborate on the strange and tragic case of Carrie White, leading to the infamous "Prom night". At times the magazine articles regarding telekinetic powers can be a little slow but its a small gripe considering the rest of the novel and its unique narrative style are immersive and thrilling, being a literal page turner.

King creates many of his traditional conventions within this novel, the most obvious being taking place in Maine as well as taking jabs at religion/extremism. King also seems to borrow from various traditional  gothic tropes such as religious overtones regarding good/evil, the female character in distress but also empowering her with powerful inhuman strengths (something later gothic writings would do) and the supernatural abilities in general. I think Carrie could be interpreted as a gothic feminist novel (similar to that of "The Bloody chamber collection" by Angela Carter), as it shows the patriarchal system in American culture in which a girl can be bullied relentlessly purely for the way she looks as well the many references to blood being a possible metaphor for periods, which in a sexist society is seen as dirty and even something to be ashamed of, not as a natural process of female anatomy. Obviously that is just one interpretation that could very well be wrong, though this novel is definitely a gothic classic, that is undeniable.

Carrie is chilling but not necessarily scary, the novel acts very psychologically on what is right and wrong, for example there is a character who dies yet he was only doing good, it shows injustice, and clearly what happens to Carrie White is unjust and evil, yet was she correct in her actions? that is the sort of questions King leaves the reader asking themselves. Carrie shows the ruthless and cruel acts of people that can push others to a point of no return.
Not lacking in gore and violence, Carrie is an undeniable horror classic that shows the true power of the supernatural and the pain that bullying can cause, King truly started off his career strongly with Carrie as a memorable and thrilling debut that will leave readers feeling on the edge.

8/10

By D.A. Clarke
 

Saturday, 1 April 2017

IT - Stephen King (book review)

IT - Stephen King (book review)
year - 1986
Genre - horror, thriller.

IT by Stephen King is regarded as one of the writer's best works and also infamous for causing children to be afraid of clowns, whether that be down to Tim Curry's portrayal in the 1990 mini-series adaptation is for you to decide.

Image result for steohen king it covera common misconception of this novel is that it's only about a clown, those who believe this are very ignorant to the wide scope of monsters and creative horrors brought forward in this epic.
The plot swaps between 1958, in which we see our protagonists as children and 1984 where we see them as adults as well as the events going on in Derry, Maine, due to the return of  IT/Pennywise. This writing style is very cleverly executed as King seamlessly swaps between different time periods and narrative perspectives/tenses. This gives the book an unique feel in each chapter as who is telling the story and the tense it is being told in changes frequently and to a dedicated reader this will be highly enjoyable.
IT is often considered a horror novel, I think the previously mentioned mini-series is the cause of this misconception. The novel certainly has its chilling and scary moments, however they are few and far between....yet when they happen they are hard hitting. The novel acts as an epic thriller, with a wide story that tells the lives of not only the 7 members of "the losers' club" but the backstory to various other characters too, the rich character development is what makes this novel so interesting, the reader becomes invested in their wellbeing.
Both time periods are fun to read,  offering different tones completely, and towards the end the swapping of each time period is constant and frequent but smooth and not too confusing (though it can be, which I will explain further). The 1958 sections where our protagonists are 11 are easily the better out of the two time periods.
IT has a surprising amount of humour and emotion that is often forgotten yet it makes up a great deal of the novel and it makes the juxtaposition to the horror/scary sections even more effective to the reader.
One thing King should be highly praised for is his way of writing some of his human characters so evil that they are easier to hate than IT (the, to avoid spoilers I'll call it, thing that eats children). Patrick Hockstetter being a character I despised for his evil acts, Henry and Butch Bowers and Tom Rogan also being characters so awful in their ways they are actually more disturbing than IT/pennywise. I think the thing that makes them more scary/horrific is their evil characteristics are based in reality (such as torture and murder) something that IT/Pennywise is not, this shows that King can borrow from traditional gothic and horror conventions as unrealistic entities wreaking havoc as well as delving into the dark analysis of psychological evil and deviance, so well written even Phillip Zimbardo would be impressed.

Despite IT's greatness, there are faults, the ending is notorious for being disappointing, its not bad, just after a great 1000+ pages of build up, it feels a little bit underwhelming, for me the issue was that King goes overcomplicated, making cross reference to ideas from the dark towers series as well as Terry Pratchett's disc world series. The ending itself, after what is considered the disappointing part is not bad at all, it is in fact highly emotional and very well written, leaving me satisfied but upset at the outcome to certain events, this shows King wasn't afraid to go with a bitter-sweet ending. Back to the negatives (I enjoyed the novel so much I find myself always adding more and more positives), the swapping of time periods did become slightly confusing at times towards the end and also cut backs to events in Derry during the final climactic battle are unnecessary and boring.
some of the other monsters that appear also are not scary in the slightest, maybe there is symbolism behind the giant bird and giant eyeball...but they are not the slightest bit unnerving, however pennywise the clown, the werewolf and others are good enough in causing chills that I let it pass,
Now to cover the most notorious and I would say the worst thing about the novel, the under age sewer orgy....if you've read the novel you know what I mean, however I don't mind spoiling this part as it is genuinely awful, the character Bev decides to have sex with the six boys (Bev as well as all the boys being 11) of the loser's club in the sewers to "help them" in defeating IT....it didn't make sense and while it was consensual so it wasn't rape as such, it is still highly disturbing. whether you look at it as King making a profound message about sexuality or friendship or that King was simply trying to disturb the reader is up to you to decide however either way I believe the short chapter was unnecessary and didn't fit the tone of the book.
That short chapter should not ruin the whole novel for you, it is poor but it is a small, maybe 7 pages of 1300. the whole novel is enjoyable and shouldn't be spoilt by a small chapter at the end.

Overall IT is an incredible epic that is not only a best seller but a classic among horror fans, highly recommended, but only to dedicated readers, this is not a book you can follow if you only give it half your attention.

8/10

By D.A. Clarke

Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden (Self Titled) (album review)

Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden (self-titled) (Album Review)
Image result for Iron Maiden Album cover
original cover, pre-1998 remastered edition
year - 1980
Genre - heavy metal, new wave of British heavy metal.

Iron Maiden is the debut album by heavy metal titans Iron Maiden, starting not only the new wave of British heavy metal but also being the starting point for one of the Genre's greatest and most well known bands.

Iron maiden is one of two studio albums to feature Paul Di'Anno as vocalist, the latter being "killers", many people instantly disregard this album purely for the lack of (Bruce) Dickinson's vocals, however when given a fair chance Iron Maiden is no ordinary debut, it excels in places that many bands so early into their recording career could never achieve, simply because Iron Maiden doesn't have the more popular vocalist doesn't mean it is low in quality, featuring catchy hooks, melodic and memorable choruses and of course the fast and heavy distortion of any decent metal album.

Paul Di'Anno is highly underrated, his vocals are powerful, being great at highs and as well as fast paced almost shouted verses, Di'Anno is a highlight and should be considered a legend among heavy metal vocalists as his vocals on Iron Maiden do not fail once, his range is wide and his tone powerful.
Like every Maiden album released after this debut features the now iconic galloping basslines from, only member to remain in the band since its beginning, Steve Harris. Harris does not only show how bass lines can be used to add heavy riffs to the distorted dual guitars and actually lead the song but also beautiful melody, with tracks such as "phantom of the opera" being a notable example that springs to mind.
Dave Murray and Dennis Stratton (the latter making his first and only appearance on an Iron Maiden album) show incredibly fast and technical dual guitar riffs that are just as heavy as they are melodic and catchy, adding to the beauty of Maiden in which they cross the scope of being heavy or melodic, doing both incredibly well.
Clive Burr does an excellent  job on the drums, keeping a fast rhythm, while not exceptionally technical, they are exceptionally well played and add a steady backbone to the music, working with Harris' bass lines perfectly.

I think it should be noted that band themselves have come to criticise Iron Maiden's production quality, despite this, I personally do not hear anything wrong with the production quality, only that it makes a huge improvement on later releases such as "The number of the Beast", yet that doesn't necessarily mean this album lacks production quality, only when compared to later releases.

Iron Maiden features long songs, "remember tomorrow" being an example, that keep the listener absorbed into the truly ground-breaking musicianship. "Running Free" is the most famous song off this album, possibly because Maiden still play it live to this day, however no live performance from Dickinson can beat the original Paul Di'Anno vocals that fit the song in a way that Dickinson can replicate, but never fully have as his own, giving this album a special uniqueness to it in which it is almost impossible to replicate in a way that will ever match or surpass the original.

Is Iron Maiden their best? It's certainly debatable, I would say it isn't though, Iron Maiden is an album paramount in quality, especially for a debut, yet it isn't perfect when compared to later Dickinson-Maiden albums, however on it's own it is certainly an awe inspiring metal album that will leave listeners wanting to learn guitar, bass and drums.

9/10

for fans of - Metallica, Judas Priest, Rainbow, Dio
Best Tracks - "Phantom of the opera", "running free", "remember tomorrow", "Charlotte the Harlot"

By D.A. Clarke