ARTIST: Alice in Chains
RATING: 4 out of 5

Generation X readers of this magazine may recall Alice in Chains, the often forgotten or overlooked Seattle-based metal group who emerged around the same time as grunge spearheads Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, though established themselves as different by shunning some of grunges shall-we-say less appealing aspects, and embracing vocal and guitar harmonics as one of the cores of their songwriting.

Sadly, since 1995’s self-titled album, the band have been forced into hiatus due to former singer Layne Staley’s drug problems, leading to his death in 2002.

However, armed with a new vocalist in William Duvall and with a new batch of songs written by long-time creative lead Jerry Cantrell, the group has emerged with one of the years’ better rock records.

The group take on the full spectrum, appearing brutal at times, such as on first single “Check My Brain”, yet tender and understated at others, such as on ballad-based track “Your Decision”, before closing with Elton John’s appearance on the title track dedicated to former singer Staley.

While not entirely new sounding, Black Gives Way To Blue is the work of a band returning to what they love to do, and a throwback record that is sure to appeal to most rock fans.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5

It’s one of those curious things you notice, talking to people about music as much as I do, that very few current, mainstream acts have managed to strike a chord (no pun intended) across multiple generations.

One such band is Muse, whose theatrical stage shows and dynamic musical arrangements have seen their star rise among people of all ages across the world.

However, latest album The Resistance may have undone the work that previous albums Black Holes and Revelations and Absolution has done.

The Welsh trio self-produced this time around, meaning that the musical direction, song choice and sound is entirely at the bands discretion.

But while this should have been a good thing, instead we are treated to nearly an hour of experimental symphonies, pop-inspired dance tracks, and guitar harmonics lifted straight from Queen’s A Night at the Opera.

It could have easily been totally inaccessible to casual listeners, but for the most part it works – sure, the record sounds disjointed (at best) but the range of musical styles is huge, showing the immense talent packed into this 3-piece group.

It won’t be an instant hit, but give it a few listens and you’ll find yourself enjoying more with each play.

 ARTIST: The Beatles
RATING: 5 out of 5

Before you think to yourself “is this guy nuts, reviewing a 40 year old album?!” you should know that I’m not reviewing the album – generally revered as one of, if not the, greatest albums of all time – but rather taking a look at the remastered edition released in September this year.

For those living under a rock, Beatle-mania hit again in 2009 with the release of a Rock Band video centred on the Liverpool foursome, and the release of all the groups albums, freshly remastered and with more goodies than ever before.

Starting in 2005 a team, led by Giles Martin (son of legendary Beatles producer George Martin), began sifting through master recordings made on vintage equipment at London’s Abbey Road Studios, using new equipment to remix and remaster the tracks.

The result is a crisper sound, both much clearer to listen to, while warmer as well – older CD versions of this album and others sound harsh to listen to – and a collection of albums that sound on par with current recordings. The overall quality is as good as it’s going to get for The Beatles back catalogue, and a fine way to commemorate one of the most influential bands of all time.