By Various Artists
The genius of the annual Kerrang! compilation is that, like the Kerrang!-sponsored Download festival, if you're an avid reader of said magazine, then chances are you're already familiar with every last band on this mammoth forty-two track compilation, even the acts being billed as 'ones to watch out for.' Spanning two CDs, it's conveniently split into mainstream-bothering punk and rock songs on the first CD, and metal and heavy rock on the second.
The big-hitters are mostly confined to the punk and rock first CD, including Green Day's foot-stamping call-to-arms 'Know Your Enemy' and My Chemical Romance's seriously-condensed cover of Bob Dylan's 'Desolation Row.' It's a welcome return to the hardcore-punk of 'I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love'-era My Chemical Romance, and is sure to delight fans of their debut.
Other songs guaranteed to notch up record sales, are the shiny pop-rock of The All American Rejects' 'Gives You Hell,' which is a fun track to sing along to once or twice, but quickly begins to lose its appeal after that; and the song that catapulted Paramore into mainstream consciousness: 'Misery Business.'
The Soundgarden-esque new single from punk-rock superstars Billy Talent it also likely to help shift a fair few copies of this compilation, and rightly so, as it's one of the most musically and lyrically inventive punk-rock songs you'll hear all year. Lurching guitars, poetic yet unpretentious lyrics, and frontman Kowalewicz's unique, yelpy-edged vocals, makes this a must-hear.
On the more electro side of things, we have The Prodigy's anthemic 'Omen,' a song that pretty much blows Pendulum out of the water, and the crunching, glitched-up hardcore of Enter Shikari's 'Juggernauts' which, despite some dodgy spoken vocals, gathers to a frenzy of gnashing vocals and screeching, trancey synths.
But, proof that being an instantly recognisable name doesn't necessarily mean you're any good, is the cheesefest of Nickelback's 'If Today Was Your Last Day,' which takes safe-as-houses stadium-rock riffs and layers on the toe-curling lyrics, in typical Nickelback style. At least chart-bothering tweenie-rock outfit Metro Station have the good sense not to take themselves too seriously, marrying their could-have-been-written-by-a-two-year-old lyrics with a naff-but-enjoyable synth-pop backing track, although they'd do well to take a leaf out of the always-entertaining Cobra Starship's book when it comes to making this sort of music. The fizzing synth-pop and tongue-in-cheek humour of Cobra Starship's 'Pete Wentz Is The Only Reason We're Famous' is the sort of garish mock-rock you'll feel a little guilty about enjoying, but will enjoy hugely nonetheless.
Also something of a guilty pleasure is Theory of a Deadman's 'Hate My Life.' Its clunky lyrics ("I hate my job, my boss is a dick," anyone?) and bog standard, radio-rock riffs may be uncomfortably close to Nickelback territory, but there's something heartening about a rousing, sing-along anthem about hating everyone and everything.
Mixed in with the big names, are a handful of tracks from bands that may have slipped beneath your radar, but they're such great introductions, that you'll be clamouring to track down their entire back catalogues - and surely that's the point of compilations such as this? These include the reggae-inspired 'Save The World, Get The Girl' from the always-exciting The King Blues. It may not sound at all punk (or rock, for that matter,) but with its uber-politically and socially aware lyrics, it's a stealthy call to rebellion, disguised as a funky Caribbean ditty.
'Young Cardinals' from Alexisonfire, starts off as the sort of post-hardcore that's destined to rip apart sweaty hardcore gigs, before opening up into a towering chorus, where Dallas Green twists and turns his voice around the battle cry of "ooooooh / young cardinals / nesting in the trees," turning it into the sort of ingenious hook that could bring Alexisonfire to the mainstream. Likewise, Chiodos' 'Lexington (Joey Pea-Pot With A Monkey Face)' is a black-hearted, cabaret stomp studded with chilling piano refrains and bombastic, jazz-hand flourishes, that'll make you wonder why Chiodos aren't a household name.
At the other end of the scale, are Kerrang! darlings You Me At Six, Madina Lake and The Blackout. You Me At Six's 'Save It For The Bedroom' is a sugar rush of big, shiny hooks with a call-and-response bridge section you'll be itching to join in with, while 'STFUppercut' is bristling screamo with a chorus that strikes a crowd-pleasing balance between towering vocal melodies and broken-glass snarls. However, while The Blackout and You Me At Six inclusions suggest they deserve the endless column inches they've garnered in Kerrang! Madina Lake's 'Let's Get Outta Here' dark-pop vibe and harmonised gang vocals, means it's bizarrely reminiscent of Backstreet Boy's 'Everybody (Backstreet's Back)' which is most certainly a bad thing if you bought this album for the Lamb of God and DevilDriver songs.
Taking Back Sunday's 'Sink Into Me' and New Found Glory's 'Listen To Your Friends' are everything you'd expect from these fast-becoming veterans of their chosen genres. Existing fans will lap it up, although if you've never really been a fan of TBS or NFG, then don't expect to be won over by what's on offer. On the other hand, Brody Dalle's new outfit, Spinnerette, couldn't sound less like The Distillers. 'Rebellious Palpitations' is a wall of dense, hypnotic noise, with Dalle's drawly vocals leading the way. While an entire album's worth of this sort of hazy, stoner-rock might become mind-numbing, on its own, 'Rebellious Palpitations' works just fine.
Kerrang! throw one spanner into the works, in the form of Swound!'s 'We Are A Danger.' Easily the most experimental offering on CD one, it features a slew of kooky vocals that'll initially have you enthusing about their originality, before they're repeated over and over, until they become plain annoying. But, nestled amongst twenty tracks of polished, near-faultless rock songs, Swound!'s scratchy, rough-and-ready alt-rock sticks out like a sore thumb and, for that reason alone, you may just find yourself routing for this underdog.
'Kerrang! The Album '09's second CD is a twenty-one track trip around the metal and hard rock end of the music spectrum. Track one and, indeed, the second CDs biggest name, is Slipknot. 'Sulfur' is a darker, heavier and more ponderous sound than some of Slipknot's previous offerings, with a chorus you can actually sing along to. It may not be Slipknot's next anthem-in-waiting, but it does the Slipknot legacy proud, which is more than can be said for Marilyn Manson. His 'We're From America' is proof that Marilyn Manson really does get worse with every release.
In contrast to metal veterans Slipknot and Marilyn Manson, the second disc contains a slew of songs from bands who've only made a name for themselves in the past few years. These include the monstrous metal soundscape of Mastodon's 'Divinations' which marries crushing guitar lines with soaring vocals guaranteed to give you the shivers, and a very strong showing from the British hardcore-punk scene, with inclusions from Gallows ('London Is The Reason') and The Ghost of a Thousand ('Bright Lights.')
Also flying the flag for British metal, are deathcore mob Bring Me The Horizon and Sheffield spazzcore crew Rolo Tomassi. Bring Me The Horizon set out to make the ears bleed with the punishing riffs and skin-flaying vocals of 'Football Season Is Over.' Despite a rather abrupt ending that'll have you doing a double-take, this is an aural assault of rare intensity. However, next to Rolo Tomassi, Bring Me The Horizon almost look all sweetness and light. The electro/hardcore mash-up of 'I love Turbulence' sees frontwoman Eva Spence alternate between a spine-tingling croon, and a throat-shredding howl, while the rest of the band cram in as many time and tempo changes as possible. One for those who like their music to give them a headache.
At the more mainstream end of the metal spectrum, is Fightstar's euphoric 'Mercury Summer' which is dyed-in-the-wool Fightstar, but with a more soaring and cheerful chorus than we're perhaps used to from the band. Big choruses are also on the cards with Papa Roach's 'Lifeline,' a song that thankfully replaces the dodgy nu-metal of Papa Roach past, with foot-stamping stadium rock.
Shinedown are another band with stadium-rock aspirations. However, despite some classy rock and roll grooves, 'Sound Of Madness' is lacking those killer vocal hooks needed to please the arena crowd. However, frontman Brent Smith does have a pub-rock timbre to his voice, that at least keeps proceedings marginally edgy, which is more than could be said for Killswitch Engage and the decidedly pedestrian 'Starting Over.' While there's nothing technically wrong with its mixture of stomping riffs, rumbling drumbeats and desperate vocals, there's a distinct whiff of metalcore-by-numbers about it. The brooding, tribal-tined metal of Disturbed's 'The Night' also misses the spot, despite a smattering of snaky riffs and an impressively technical guitar solo.
One song that has no problems catching the listener's attention, is the cheesy speed metal of Dragonforce's 'Heroes Of Our Time.' It's impossible not to be floored by their guitar-wizardy. Crammed with furiously technical guitar solos played at mind-boggling speeds, it's the sort of song to air-guitar your heart out to, whilst wishing you had a fraction of the London sextet's talent. A song to make every aspiring guitarist the world over, green with envy.
The most metal songs of the second CDs metal bunch, are 'Set To Fail' and 'Pray For Villains,' two songs which are sure to slate the thirst of even the heavy metal purists. The former, by Virginia's Lamb of God, marries a single-minded thrash ferocity, with a vast, mosh-tinged chorus, while frontman Randy Blythe exhibits a wider vocal range than you'd perhaps expect from a metal frontman. DevilDriver's 'Pray For Villains' is even heavier, without even the glimmer of a scream-along chorus, ala 'Set To Fail.' It's a relentless ear-bashing, with punishing riffs falling in unrelenting procession. A straight-up, no-frills heavy metal assault.
Next to that, hardcore-punk outfit Cancer Bats sound positively mellow. Liam Cormier's voice isn't a million miles removed from Every Time I Die's Keith Buckley, and he lays his jabbered vocals over waves of groaning guitars, with thunderous breakdowns and twisted riffs aplenty. Their 'Engine Skull' is a spiky, punk riot.
Tormented vocals are also on the cards for two of the second CDs lesser-known acts: Outcry Collective and The Dead Formats. On 'Dead In The Water,' Outcry Collective frontman Steve Sitkowski sounds as though every word is being ripped forcibly, and painfully, from him, and it means this song resonates with a rare conviction. Meanwhile, the punkish clatter and winding riffs of The Dead Formats' 'Dirty White Shoes' is accompanied by rambling, slurry vocals. Co-vocalists Darren Ditton and Francis Waller fully embrace this sense of messy spontaneity towards the end of 'Dirty White Shoes,' breaking out into jazzy "bah-bah-bah-do-wah" vocals. This is heavy music with a sense of fun that's often absent from the genre.
And the fun continues, with Blackfish's 'Economics' and Static-X's 'Stingwray.' 'Economics' blends street-punk social awareness with a healthy dose of humour, to turn out lyrics about being on the dole and playing Euro Millions every week in the hope of getting a break. Meanwhile, the self-proclaimed kings of Evil Disco, Static-X, treat us to another slice of crunching industrial metal. Their Evil Disco may not be particularly cool, but with its irresistibly bone-headed, driving bass beat, it's as much fun as ever.
Fans of the magazine will no doubt lap this CD up, as it's a veritable who's-who of every band who regularly garners Kerrang! column inches. While it's debatable whether fans of The All-American Rejects, Cobra Starship and Taking Back Sunday, won't be left scratching their heads at DevilDriver and The Ghost of a Thousand; and while fans of the latter are likely to turn their noses up at the My Chemical Romance and Metro Station offerings, there really is something on here for everyone, and it's an invaluable aid for rock fans to expand their musical tastes.