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Fall Against Fate - 'If Not For Ourselves' (self released) 4.5/5

As I keep saying, there is an awful lot of quality metal core around in the UK at the moment, and the bar has been set very high by the likes of Cinderfall and Terakai etc, so it's getting hard and harder for any band in the that genre to stand out from the crowd. So next up for the high jump we have Fall Against Fate from Hertfordshire with their second album 'If Not For Ourselves'. Can they clear the bar and give us something to take notice of?

Well the good news is that not only do FAF clear said bar, but they have also raised it to a new level. This album ranks among the very best of what this genre has to off. It' powerful, intense, brutal and slick, yet at the same time shows enough invention, melody and intelligence to mark it out as something beyond the ordinary, something to hail as genre defining.

Every track here is something special, from the semi commercial melody's of So Real, to the Rolo Tomassi like Le Corps and the wonderfully titled mini epic I Hate Godzilla, He Destroys Cities (funny I love Godzilla for the same reason), each track is a real gem that entertains, brutalises, enthralls and enraptures at the same time. Amazing stuff.

So in conclusion if you like your metalcore then buy this album. And if your in a band that plays metal core pay special attention, for this is the album that sets the standard.

For fans of...  Pay No Respect, Maliface, Rolo Tomassi, Cindersfall etc...

Byron Nemeth Group - 'The Force Within' (digital nations) 4/5

Ok I'll have to be up front and say I've always had a bit of an issue with solo guitar instrumental albums... all that technical mindless widdle the likes of Yngwie Malmstein and co used to serve up left me cold and wondering what the hype was about. It was 99% style over substance, technically superb, but to the average listener who wasn't a guitar wank freak, it was soulless and lacking in any form of imagination. However over the past few months I've had a couple of releases arrive through my door that have made me take another look at the whole guitar instrumental album thingy. first up we've had 'War march' from Sacred mother Tongue axpert Andy James, and now this little tasty offering from Ohio g-meister Byron Nemeth.

On first listening I began to realise that this album is less Malmsteinesque mindless masturbation and more Ronnie Montrose / Steve Hackett style guitar lead prog; in fact the title track from this album wouldn't seam out of place on one Mr Hacketts more recent offerings with its slick melodic lead lines and synth wash backing. I will go as far as to say that melody is the key word here, Yes Mr Nemeth does go in for the odd bit of technical flashiness, such as the conclusion to Frankenstein's Lullaby, nowhere does he make the mistake and let his playing descend into the mindless blur so many so called guitar heroes consider playing. The whole album does come over as a band work rather than a solo guitar album, the keyboards share just as much of the lead work as the guitar does, and each track is a complete piece of music rather than being an excuse for yet another 5 minute guitar solo. And for that I, and everyone else who hates six string onanism must be thankful for.

Just to select a few choice moments; Dream Catcher is a great track that wouldn't sound out of place on a Yes album, I Don't Mind is a beautiful chill out moment and the closer I am The Walrus (yes the Beatles number) comes over like a classic cover by The Shadows.

All in all a worthy album and a must hear for lovers of all good guitar music

for fans of... Steve Hackett, Ronnie Montrose, The Shadows et al...

Lenny Kravitz - 'Black And White America' (roadrunner records) 4/5

It only seams like yesterday Lenny Kravitz seamed to explode out of nowhere with his infectious funk groove driven brand of hard rock, so I'm a little amazed that he now reached album number 9 in the form of 'Black and White America', how times flies when your having fun! Anyway the bottom line is there's a new LK album around and it's a pretty good one.

Musically this album does just what it says on the tin, it's a stylistic cake walk through the history of American popular music from both the white and African American traditions. you get tracks like the Black And White America itself and Come On Get It that are firmly rooted in the P-funk traditions of Parliament, The Faith of A Child is classic gospel, Rock Star City Life and In The Black and good old hard rockers with a Tom Petty vibe about them, Liquid Jesus is a track that drips classic soul and Motown influence and tracks like Boongie Drop heads off into hip-hop territory (featuring as it does a certain Jay Z as guest rapper).

The album is well played, well penned and well performed. My only complaint being that in trying to embrace so may different styles and genres on one album, and doing each one so well, this album does in places hang together more like a compilation release rather than a full blown album, but as individual tracks there is nothing to find fault with here.

Highlights? well the disco strut of Superlove features some great guitar work, Looking Back On Love has more than a hint of the Carlos Santana's to it (and I love Carlos) and my personal fave cut is the sleazy rock stomp of Stand.

Couple the musical excellence with lyrics that talk about racial harmony, love, peace and empowerment (man) you have a really good and very listenable album. Nice one Mr Kravitz

For fans of... Good American music in all it's guises.