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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Reviews: Evil Scarecrow, Audrey Horne, Messenger (Reviews By Paul)

Evil Scarecrow – Galactic Hunt (Deadbox Records)

The scarecrew’s third full release has been a bloody long time coming. Forged out of a massively successful pledge music campaign and capitalising the momentum deservedly achieved from their constant gigging, not to mention two fucking incredible BOA appearances, Galactic Hunt is certainly packed full of new goodies from Dr Hell and his cohorts. Opener Rise is a full on heavy metal rocker, whilst Space Dementia, all homage to Red Dwarf races along, ringmaster Monty Blitzfist’s drumming powerful and combining with the guitars of Dr Hell and Brother Pain. However, throughout the album it is the subtle synths of Princess Luxury which have been enhanced in the excellent production, adding a soothing and essential layer to many of the songs. Of course, if you've seen Evil Scarecrow live, the opening few tracks will be familiar already. Space Dementia is greeted like an old friend whilst Crabulon has been around so long it seems scandalous that it is only now committed to record. Evil Scarecrow make no bones about their parody element; their lyrics are ridiculous yet right. However the band can really play and Galactic Hunt certainly justifies their right to THAT Saturday morning slot at BOA. Flight Of The Dragons, one of 12 tracks, certainly provides a demonstration of their musical prowess, building atmospherically from an Arthurian setting into a full on heads down metal attack, harmonies in full use, before the pace slows and showcases Pain’s guitar work. In fact there is little for me to criticise on Galactic Hunt except for … and this is a minor issue, the vocal delivery. Dr Hell’s voice is really suited to the live arena and although it fits the band perfectly, on record it can become a little difficult to live with after the first few tracks. Having said that, this is a really decent release, we'll worth the wait and the pledge. The opportunity to see them convert these songs in the live arena should be taken with both claws; Hammerfest can't come quickly enough. 7/10

Audrey Horne – Pure Heavy (Napalm)

Regular readers of this illustrious blog may recall that I waxed lyrical over Audrey Horne’s 2013 release Youngblood. Indeed, if memory serves, it made my top 10 of last year [They did- Matt]. It was with delight that I discovered that Pure Heavy had been released, albeit below my radar. So what is it about Audrey Horne that makes them so damn fine? Well, a listen to Pure Heavy should answer that very easily. Excellent musicianship, beautifully crafted heavy rock songs with no hidden agenda and of course the brilliant voice of Toschie. I won't provide a history as this has been done before, save to say that in my opinion Norway has produced nothing finer. Highlights on this album? Opener Wolf In My Heart rocks comprehensively, whilst Out Of The City is pure AOR filth. The whole album just reeks of classic rock, influences of many rock giants evident including Van Halen and one of my all-time favourite bands Thin Lizzy but all what the Audrey Horne stamp. Harmonies adding to the the sing-a-long choruses (Tales From The Crypt is a prime example), hooks galore and an overall great feel. Unfortunately Audrey Horne are rarely on the UK shores although I had the massive fortune of seeing them live at Sonisphere a couple of years ago (and at the same time introduced the legendary Brett Perry to Jagermeister but that’s another story) but they are really worth catching if you get the chance. Into The Wild, possibly my favourite track on the album, demonstrates the excellent guitar work of Arve Isdal (Enslaved) and Thomas Toftenharg (Sahg) and really is the essence of the band. Powerful rhythms and swirling guitars topped off with great hooks and vocals. Pure Heavy continues the excellent work laid down in Audrey Horne and Youngblood. Another great release in a year of quite exceptional music. 9/10

Messenger – Illusory Blues (Code 7-Svart)

Messenger first appeared on my radar when I was fortunate enough to see them support Casualties of Cool at the Union Chapel in September. Even in their short set their complex delicate compositions pricked my interest and the subsequent purchase of their first long player left me with the feeling that I'd uncovered a bit of a gem. Formed in London in 2012 the core of the band consists of Khaled Lowe, Barnaby Maddick and Jamie Gomez Arellano. This album sits very comfortably in the KScope stable, alongside the likes of Anathema, The Pineapple Thief, Lunatic Soul and Blackfield.  Combining the best elements of the progressive movement with folk, rock and even Jazz, the album is delicately crafted and beautifully constructed. The Return starts with harmonies and an instrumental opening that quickly develops in an acoustic epic complete with flute action! The track slowly meanders to a dramatic and thunderous conclusion, rolling drums and chords a plenty. Piscean Tide is awash with folk, violin and acoustic guitar providing a folksy opening which progresses into another quite delightful track, mellow and relaxing with the violin enhancing the rhythm. The vocals are pristine throughout, warming melodies and soaring harmonies combining to quite stunning effect. Dear Departure captures the huge Pink Floyd influence that surges through the whole of Illusory Blues, no bad thing. Atmospheric sound effects provide another layer to the compositions. The combined vocals are of the highest quality, rich and powerful yet measured and composed. The Perpetual Glow Of A Setting Sun contains oriental influences along with the. Swirling keys and effects synonymous with bands like Hawkwind. Somniloquist sweeps you on a journey which ebbs and flows, intricate time changes and some quite heavy riffs in the middle section, contrasting perfectly with he overall calming vibe which flows through the album. String sections and keyboards are used to great effect, adding a number of complex layers to the tracks. The Eastern feel continues with final track Let The Light In, Led Zeppelin influences fusing into a fitting climax. This album requires some dedication, each listen allowing you to discover more and more of the delicious elements which are almost hidden within each song. A quite enchanting album. 9/10

Monday, 20 October 2014

Reviews: Decapitated, Cannibal Corpse, Black Moth (Reviews By Paul)

Decapitated: Blood Mantra (Nuclear Blast)

When it comes to technical metal you immediately think of Meshuggah, giants in the world of polyrhythmic time changes. Add the word death to the technical metal and there is no finer artist than Polish quartet Decapitated. Following on from 2011’s excellent Carnival Is For Ever, Blood Mantra elevates an already high bar into orbit. Crammed full of intricate and subtle time changes, this is a work of the highest quality. From the aggression of opener Exiled In Flesh to the atmospheric Blindness, the whole album just oozes brilliance. Blast beat drumming combined with powerhouse riffs which stick in the memory entwine with the stunning soloing from the main heartbeat of the band, Waclaw ‘Vogg’ Kieltyka. Dripping with hooks and no little dose of groove, Blood Mantra provides vocalist Rafal Piotrowski with the perfect platform to demonstrate his prowess and his growling delivery fits the bill completely. Each of the tracks are crafted brilliantly with the supporting rhythm section of bassist Pawel Pasek and new recruit Michael Lysejko on drums ensuring that the heaviness remains ever present. Just as an example, album closer Moth Defect contains an absolute blitzkrieg of powerhouse drumming. Blood Mantra is without doubt a masterclass for the genre of technical death metal. This album will definitely feature in my end of year top 10. A stunning piece of work from a band now firmly established in the top percentile. Roll on 12 December and their supporting role to Behemoth. Nergal and co had better watch out. His countrymen might well blow them off the stage. 10/10

Cannibal Corpse: A Skeletal Domain (Metal Blade)

The blueprint for death metal over the past 26 years has been crafted and delivered by New York’s gore masters. With A Skeletal Domain, their 13th release, Cannibal Corpse continue to demonstrate why they are the absolute masters in their field. Granted, if you don’t like death metal, this album won’t change your view one iota; however, if you happen to like a bit of extremely fast aggressive violent bloody death metal, this album will tick your boxes. 2012's Torture was a decent release and maintained the momentum that Cannibal Corpse have built over the years. Yet whilst the subject matter remains very much par for the course, (Sadistic Embodiment or Ice Pick Lobotomy anyone?) this album is a real improvement with some excellent writing and playing. The band are tighter on this album that a bull dog clip on your nut sack; blast beat drums hammer away from start to finish, crashing down with tsunami force; riffs drop from the sky at intense speed, solos peel off at an alarming rate and as always George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fischer’s vocal delivery remains the ultimate pinnacle of death metal frontmen. Take Kill Or Become, nothing says death metal more than Corpsegrinder growling “If you want to live you have to kill or become”; and the catchy refrain of “Fire Up the Chainsaw”. This album won’t change the world but what it does do is cement the position of Cannibal Corpse as the ultimate Death Metal outfit. No band from this genre has sold more records than them and they remain the true ideal for thousands of pretenders to their crown. Top quality death metal at its finest. Now, where was that chainsaw again? 8/10

Black Moth: Condemned To Hope (New Heavy Sounds)

Leeds outfit Black Moth’s second full release is a glorious mixture of doom, gothic, indie and hard rock. In fact, it's difficult to actually put a label on them. Opener Tumbleweave displays the doom influences of Sleep and Sabbath, stomping riffs and dark atmospheric lyrics cascade around you. Set Yourself Alight has the brashness and aggression of Iggy And The Stooges with elements of many of the guitar based indie bands; think of Sonic Youth or the Breeders for example. However, what provides Black Moth with an edge over many of their contemporaries is the haunting vocal delivery of Harriet Bevan. Sticking to a doom laden delivery, Bevan’s vocal suites the dark and witty lyrics: “your eyes say rock n roll but your lips say pepperoni” (Tumbleweave). Condemned To Hope displays pleasing variations in style, memorable hooks and catchy choruses, laced with the introspection of Siouxsie and the Banshees amongst others. The biggest problem facing Black Moth may the difficulty in categorising them and trying to gain the exposure they deserve. Are they metal, are they indie, goth or as I would suggest a magnificent hybrid of all genres. Having seen them live at Temples Festival earlier this year I know they can deliver live and I'm looking forward to another viewing at Damnation in November. 8/10

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Another Point Of View: Opeth (Review By Paul)

Opeth – The Institute, Birmingham

Having been unable to get to the Bristol date of the Pale Communion tour it was a first ever visit to The Institute in Birmingham to check out the last leg of Opeth’s UK tour. Getting to Birmingham at tea time on any evening is always a massive ball ache but with the gods on our side we made it shortly after doors opened and in good time for openers Alcest.

I have a lot of time for French outfit Alcest. Their music is moving and emotional and Shelter earlier this year was a quite beautiful release (see review earlier this year in MoM). This was my fourth viewing of them in the live arena, following their magnificent headline set in the Sophie Tent at BOA in 2012 and two stints as support on the last Katatonia tour. A short set consisting of five songs represented their works from their four albums. Opening with Opale from Shelter, Neige’s voice was initially lost in the grubby mix, overwhelmed by an overpowering bass line. Alcest need a clean mix to highlight the nuances and complexities in their compositions and once it was sorted their quality began to shine through. Heavier live than on record, Neige’s vocals vary from clean to death growl. Autre Temps followed, Winterhalter’s powerful drumming looking easy. Indria’s bass playing blends perfectly whilst Zero’s guitar playing combines with Neige’s to provide the riffage alongside the shoe gazing. Zero’s backing vocals were excellent and look very strange coming out of a mountain of a man. Closing with Deliverance from Shelter, Alcest received a very warm reaction from the packed crowd, even from me who had been dozing off; we call that the Alcest effect! Warm and dreamy, they really do make you lose yourself for a few minutes at time. 8/10

Opeth are fast approaching classic status. After over 20 years in the business, a band much loved by many (yours truly included) and surely but slowly but surely increasing in status, they also attract quite a lot of negativity from members of the metal community. There are those who feel that they have lost their heaviness and abandoned their black metal roots with their last two albums moving effortlessly to a progressive and 70s sound far removed from their debut Orchid. How wrong they are. What we were treated to was an absolute master class in metal and how to construct the perfect set list. This was my 11th evening with Mr Akerfeldt and company, and with the exception of the sensation Albert Hall gig in 2010 this was the best set list and performance I think I've ever witnessed. As the strains of Through Pain To Heaven faded out, the band launched into a double header from Pale Communion; Eternal Rains Will Come and Cusp Of Eternity. Opeth had a few dates before Birmingham to get used to playing these live and both were pretty astounding; heavier than on the album but also allowing the delicate and clear tones of Akerfeldt to come to the fore. Any suggestion that this was going to be a set consisting of the quieter side of Opeth was immediately blown away as a thunderous Bleak blasted any cobwebs away. As usual, Akerfeldt was in fine form, dry humour and his self-depreciating approach evident every time he engaged the crowd. A comedy moment followed as guitarist Fredrick Akersson launched into Advent, only to be hauled back as the next track was actually The Moor from the excellent Still Life. As several of the crowd laughingly shouted that Akersson would be “sacked in the morning”, Akerfeldt made light of it. What never fails to astound me is the technical ability of all members of the band. Both Akerfeldt and Akersson are stunning guitarists, able to peel of solo after solo as well as add the layers required to the complex structures of the songs. Martin Mendez’s bass playing is consistently solid and he combines with Martin ‘Axe’ Axenrot superbly. Axe’s drumming is so impressive, powerful bass drumming hammering away whilst he effortlessly moves around the rest of the kit. However, what was really noticeable this time around was the influence that keyboard player Joakim Svalberg has on the music. His mellotron and Hammond keyboards flow through the tracks, enriching the sound and adding a fresh dimension to older songs. He also has added a welcome harmony to the backing vocals, an area most recently shared somewhat limitedly by Akersson. Following The Moor it was indeed a welcome rare airing for Advent from 1997’s Morningrise, a powerful and complex track, full of atmosphere and numerous changes in mood and speed. The tempo was then reduced as Opeth slowed the tempo, delivering the beautiful Elysian Woes from Pale Communion before dipping back to Damnation for the delicate and fragile Windowpane. After this though it was heads down for an all-out assault as Opeth demonstrated that when you need heavy, there aren't many bands that will come close. April Ethereal bludgeoned its way towards the sole nod to Heritage with The Devil's Orchard before the band closed with a brutal combination of The Lotus Eater from Watershed and The Grand Conjuration, an evil and twisted piece from Ghost Reveries. An encore followed and despite several shouts for my favourite track Blackwater Park, it was the crushingly heavy Deliverance, all 13 minutes of it, which ended a performance that had lasted well over two hours. A complex journey through much of Opeth’s catalogue with some rare outings adding to the overall excellence of the evening. Opeth just get better and better. 10/10

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Reviews: Slipknot, Flying Colors, Sanctuary

Slipknot: 5: The Grey Chapter (Roadrunner)

The world's most dangerous band have been in turmoil as of late, with the passing of bassist/primary song writer Paul Gray in 2010, something that shocked the band to it's core and saw them on the verge of collapse. This feeling of loss has been doubled by the resignation of drummer Joey Jordison in 2013 meaning that this album, the band's fifth, has been gestating for six years. In the meantime the disagreement between Jim Root and Corey taylor around their other project Stone Sour has caused conflict between the two, however Slipknot have always been a twisted family and it is all of the members first love that they always return to. Because of this the release of a Slipknot album is always an event and .5: The Grey Chapter (title is a homage to their fallen brother) has been teased for months the full reveal coming with the video for The Devil In I which the band debuted their new masks, Taylors being the most radical change and also their new rhythm section. However the music is the same as it's always been, animalistic percussion from the new drummer, the twisted genius Shawn Clown Crahan and the gonzoid Chris Fehn, samples galore from the silent killer Craig Jones and the evil gimp Sid Wilson, murderous riffs from man mountain Mick Thompson and the Viking bearded joker Jim Root before the twisted master of ceremonies, Taylor, sings, croons, growls, barks the aggressive lyrics becoming the mouth piece for another slice of fervent rallying becoming a clarion call for the disillusioned and the angst ridden. The overall sound of the album is a mixture of the melodies present on Vol. 3 and the aggression and primitive nature of Iowa. XIX is a call to arms with just a single electronic sample and Taylor's scarred vocals showing the scars of their recent past before Sarcastrophe starts off subdued but as the guitars kick in they proceed to bludgeon just like the old days with everything going 100 mph, AOV kicks it up another gear with a riff meant to cause huge pits. The pace doesn't let up on The Devil In I which has more melody in it harking back to Vol 3 but still has enough bile and violence to ensure that you are still aurally beaten. Killpop slows things down and is a percussive violent love song before Skeptic takes things back to the boilersuits and blood of Iowa, with Taylor screaming his head off. The riffs are brutal, the percussion is bone breaking and Taylor shows why he is considered one of the best singers around, see the change between barks on Lech the croon on the electronic ballad Goodbye (a song that is heart breaking) and even the expletive filled machine gun spoken word delivery on Custer. The finale is in two parts, the first is Negative One which is Slipknot distilled and the second is the sparse, haunting, depressive If Rain Is What You Want. So even though they have matured and had their fair share of tragedy the nine man killing machine is still pumping out some of the most confrontational, influential metal music in the world. Lock up your loved ones, Slipknot are back whether you like it or not! 9/10    

Flying Colors: Second Nature (Mascot)

When supergroup Flying Colors relased their first album in 2012 expectation was high, here you had one of the leading lights in prog Neal Morse, his Transatlantic bandmate and frequent collaborator Mike Portnoy, joining forces with Deep Purple's Steve Morse and his fellow Dixie Dreg Dave LaRue, the only unknown being singer Casey McPherson. With the talent involved everyone a expected a prog extravaganza but what they got was a technically proficient, brilliantly executed mix of pop, rock, funk and jazz all brought together in one place with the immense musicianship of the the musos mixed with the pop voice of McPherson. However many felt the album didn't scratch their prog itch so Second Nature aims to redress the balance doing exactly what the title suggests, prog is in these men's blood so as the Transatlantic style opening of Open Up Your Eyes we dive straight in at the deep end with some airy keyboard fuelled majesty that then changes into a synth filled 13 minute stunner of an opener that echoes ELP and Yes, Neal Morse's fingerprint is all over the opener and as the song progresses we get changes in key, pace and style as LaRue lets his jazz side out, Portnoy turns from easy patterns into huge fills and Steve Morse solos like a demon in the middle eight and at the climax. Again it is McPherson's voice that is a revelation as he can really sing, his voice reminiscent to a cleaner version of Dave Grohl and his pop phrasing means that he hasn't got the overblown histrionics of many prog singers. Yes prog certainly is in this bands nature and they show this to full effect on this record with most of the songs over 4 minutes and the album is bookended by one 12 minute track and one 11 minute track the glorious finale Cosmic Symphony. In between we have Mask Machine which is big rock track followed by the orchestral backed power of Bombs Away and the Queen-like ballad of The Fury Of My Love which again is pure Neal Morse. The band gel so well on this record there is no self-indulgent nonsense, everything is for the good of the song, we are taken on a journey through the members influences from the Beatles-like A Place In Your World, the Celtic flavoured One Love Forever and of course the likes of ELP, Yes and even Floyd on the plaintive acoustic strummed Peaceful Harbour which gives McPherson ample opportunity to show off his impressive voice. This is a passion project from all those involved they created the songs, performed them and produced the album meaning that this album pips it's predecessor only because; one it is what is expected and two a true labour of love. So the prog is most definitely back and Second Nature is the sound of five men doing what they do best and doing it with style. 9/10      

Sanctuary: The Year The Sun Died (Century Media)

Move along Axl Rose your album Chinese Democracy took 14 years to make, well Sanctuary's last album, the excellent Into The Mirror Black, was released 25 years ago, and in the year 2014 it now finally has a follow up. This gap between albums is because the band broke up after their last album and only reunited again in 2010, this isn't to say the band faded into obscurity, frontman Warrel Dane and bassist Jim Sheppard formed Progressive metallers Nevermore with guitarist Jeff Loomis. Nevermore was a totally separate entity from Sanctuary, it was far more progressive with wider style and themes explored on their albums. Sanctuary on the other hand were smack bang in the middle of thrash (their first album was produced by MegaDave himself) so they managed to make strong aggressive but also progressive thrash/traditional metal albums. Now I don't have a preference, I think both bands are excellent so thankfully The Year The Sun Died has all the elements you would want from Sanctuary with the modern, mature touch of Nevermore. As the opening riff of Arise And Purify kicks it is clear the thrash is definitely back with Lenny Rutledge and Brad Hill proving some expert riffage along with the speedy gallop of Sheppard's bass and the frankly excellent drumming of Dave Budbill, obviously one of the major selling points of both Sanctuary and Nevermore was the amazing vocal range of Dane who shows his form off brilliantly here from the bellowing lower range croon on tracks like Let The Serpent Follow Me and the monolithic doom of Exitium (Anthem of the Living) to the ear piercing shrieks (not favoured in Nevermore) of I Am Low which is a surprisingly Nevermore sounding track as is The Dying Age which ends with cries of "Exterminate". The Year The Sun Died is glorious return from Sanctuary, it picks up where Into The Mirror.... left off and adds everything that Dane and Sheppard have been part of since, the songs are heavier, bolder and more mature than before and as the emotive and passionate title track ends the album perfectly I felt as if Sanctuary have continued their legacy by carrying on the sound of both the bands they are associated with, this is one for fans of the original Sanctuary and also happily for fans of Nevermore too. 8/10

A View From The Back Of The Room: The Treatment

The Treatment, Buffalo Summer & Massive, Clwb Ifor Bach

So another gig in my hometown (Thank Christ!) and this one was real doozy, three young rock bands flying the flag for rock and roll in the face of many that say rock is dead (Yes you Mr Simmons!). As the lights went down the first band hit the stage


The trials of support band are well documented, playing gigs to five or six people, most of whom are uninterested in what the hell is going. This is all standard fare for a band in the opening slot, not for Aussie's Massive (or is it MASSIVE), they dove straight into their ballsy brand of AC/DC meets G'N'R snarling rock and roll and went for the jugular with first song Burn The Sun then ploughing straight into Dancefloor. The crowd garnered as these four Australians worked themselves into a whirling dervish of riffs similar to that Antipodean Devil Warner Bros gave us. The between song banter was short sweet and completely incomprehensible but the bands songs spoke for themselves, smash and grab drums of Jarrod Medwin, the thumping bass of Aidan McGarrigle, the smoking leads and solos of  Ben Laguda and finally the whole testosterone fuelled, attitude lace rock and roll cavalcade is fronted by firecracker frontman Brad Marr on rhythm and vocals. Having a self aggrandising name like Massive can be a curse however it's both a blessing and prophecy for these Aussie madmen. Mark my words they will be Massive soon enough! 8/10

Buffalo Summer

A small change of pace was required after the muscular man rock of Massive and Buffalo Summer provided it perfectly. This Welsh quartet have been getting bigger an bigger on every tour and with good reason; the band play the same kind of 70's style hard rock that was always favoured by Zeppelin and Free as well as more modern acts like The Answer. However the band are much more than just a pastiche to the past they bring a modern edge to proceedings adding some heavier elements to their sound and also a tonne of funk that lends many of their songs a sound not too dissimilar to Extreme. Jonny (guitar), Andrew (vocals), Darren (bass) and Gareth (drums) all gel togetehr perfectly to give real guts to songs like A Horse Called Freedom, Ain't No OtherRolls On Through as well as the bayou stomp of Down To The River which got everyone stomping and clapping like a revival. Yet another home grown rock band showing that rock is still alive and well and at this gig particularly giving  a great bluesy, funk laden break in between the riotous rock a roll with some sublime classic rock straight from the Page and Plant copy book. 8/10

The Treatment

I've seen the Treatment evolve on stage from long haired teenagers to the stylised, focussed, precision rock machine they are now. As the lights went down the speakers jumped to life with Swords Of A Thousand Men which in my opinion is one of the best drinking/fighting/attitude songs of all time. As the crowd bellowed along the band appeared on stage decked out in their Sex Pistols leathers oozing attitude from every pour. The song cut dead (it is only three minutes long) and I Bleed Rock And Roll was (obviously) the first song, it's a declarative statement with AC/DC style riff getting heads banging and fists pumping. The band definitely have the look as I've said with frontman Matt doing his best M Shadows meets Axl Rose throughout, but what the band also do is stun you with just how accomplished they are musically, their song writing is great and their live delivery is flawless. Special kudos to the guitarists Dee Dammers and Tagore Grey who both gurn for their lives as they kick out the riffage for tracks like Emergency, the filthy The Doctor, the clarion call of Drink, Fuck, Fight and the mini epic The Outlaw before they played Running With The Dogs which is pure distilled punk rock. The set was well paced leaning heavily their excellent new album, the climax of the set came with Get The Party On which encouraged the (quite large) crowd to drink like it was Saturday night (it was in fact Wednesday) before Shake The Mountain made the roof come off. After being hit with nearly and hour of pure rock and roll all conducted by a band that have grown into a great, polished live act, the crowd caught their breath as the encore came with the lighter waving sing along Nothing To Lose But Our Minds. Next time they tour do your self a favour and see The Treatment live, this is what rock and roll is about! 8/10

So with a bill of three young rock bands, all of whom gave their all for rock and roll, I can say that ignore what the detractors say rock is still alive and kicking ladies and gents!!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

World Of Metal 19: Reaction, Son Of Wine, Second To Sun

Reaction: Kill The Parasite (Self Released)

Reaction hail from the shores of Italy and they bring with them some progressive thrash metal. As the intro subsides we dive head first into Behind Your Mask which is part Metallica, part Testament with a speedy first half, shouted vocals and a breakdown final part that will get the masses jumping. The band are all consummate musicians with some great drums from Jvan Tagliabue who rumbles like thunder on Betray The Time, which also features a bass solo from Enrico "Terry" Rusconi who plays his bass like a lead guitar merging seamlessly with the six strings of Marco Vicari who also provides the Chuck Billy-like vocals. Things slow down on Lost which is an acoustic song in the vein of Metallica's Black Album period which turns into an electric solo filled finale before we are driven right back into thrash territory on Criminal Pride replete with 'Tallica's bells(!). Yes they wear their influences on their sleeves but this trio play with passion and conviction and the songs themselves are strong with lots of great dynamics in the music and the playing is in places amazing (see the acoustic introduction of Cage Of Freedom). There are some problems Vicari's voice is not amazing but it is good enough to be listenable and give weight to the songs, the production too is not amazing but it does lend a taste of authenticity to proceedings. All in all though this is a great thrash album from these Italians!! 8/10

Sons Of Wine: Walking In The Mud (Self Released)

As the jangly guitars of the Beatles-like opening title track kicks off you would be forgiven for thinking Sons Of Wine are from the swamps of America and as the album continues this down home Black Crowes like Americana continues, however Sons Of Wine hail from the country of Dionysius himself, Greece. With many European bands, they sound European, Sons Of Wine don't, they sound very Anglicised with elements of The Who, The Beatles, The Eagles and The Allman Brothers especially on Angel's Ride and the Countrified I'm On Fire. Now I'm a fan of The Allman's and blues based rock in general and Sons Of Wine do some top quality laid back blues rock with a dash of funk thrown in for good measure. The steam train percussion of Dragon is the bands backbone, Bill is the funk thrown in with his hypnotic bass rhythms and Zen, Sergeant and Captain are the triple guitar delivery providing clean melodic guitar lines and sweet solos. With Sergeant providing the laid back soulful vocals throughout. With a distinct late 60's, early 70's vibe the Sons Of Wine are a great band that defy expectation, these Greeks do chilled out blissful blues rock better than a lot of Yanks and that is saying something! 8/10  

Second To Sun: Three Fairy Tales (Self Released)

Russia's Second To Sun are an instrumental power trio coming from the truly twisted minds of guitarist Vladimir Klimov-Lehtinen, bassist Anton Danilevsky and Theodor Borowski on drums. The band meld djent, black metal and their own Finno-Ugric music. This EP is a follow up to their debut album Based On A True Story and it is three songs all of which are heavy, crazy and endearing. The opener The Trapper is filled with blastbeat drums, palm muted djent riffs and lots of synths. Second track Merämaa is an almost video game affair and is where the band's Finno-Ugric music meets metal before Barmaley rounds out the trio of songs with a straight up metal affair. A great little EP from Second To Sun, short and sweet. 6/10

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Reviews: Electric Wizard, Dave Kilminster, Emergency Gate

Electric Wizard: Time To Die (Witchfinder Records/Spinefarm Records)

Electric Wizard have always been the flag holders pure British occult doom and on their eight album Time To Die they show no signs of lightening up, this is yet another album of bowel punching, ear bleedingly heavy doom metal hailing Satan in a psychedelic, narcotic induced fug. There has been four years since their last album and in that time frontman/guitarist/general misery guts Jus Oborn has not mellowed at all in fact Time To Die's overarching theme is that of humanities destruction, mixed with usual occult imagery, B-movie samples, murderous intent and huge helping of abject hopelessness. So this is not going to be a barrel of laughs, but Electric Wizard have never claimed to be, a band that have always delivered their brand of metal with the poest of po faces and as the rain falls on first track Incense For The Dammed we are greeted with news reports of drug fuelled Satan linked murders, before the down-tuned brain punching fuzz and feedback filled guitars of Oborn and Liz Buckingham plough their way through a 10 minute funeral dirge backed by Mark Greening's concussive percussion and Count Orlof's (name is from Nosferatu fact fans) belly of the beast bass playing, as the drug worshipping track comes to it's conclusion there is no let up in the aural battery with the title track shorter but no less terrifying with yet more reverberated heavy doom guitars, howled vocals some backing organs all set to a lyrical pastiche of mankind's eventual self inflicted demise, the first half of this record ends with possibly it's heaviest song, the nearly 12 minute skull splitter of I Am Nothing which just beats you into submission with it's huge repetitive riff. The song is then followed by the instrumental and retro news report filled Destroy Those Who Love God which splits the album into two halves, digging on the analogue vibe that Wizard have always indulged in. It's not all Sabbath (see Funeral Of Your Mind) and leaf worshipping doom though the Wizard's have widened their sleeves a little on this record encompassing some blank knee gazing noise and general audio disruption on We Love The Dead before things get all Iommi again on Sadiowitch. Yet again Electric Wizard manage to both compel, terrify the faithful and bludgeon all the competition. 9/10 

Dave Kilminster: ...And The Truth Will Set You Free... (Killer Guitar Records)

Dave Kilminster is a still unfortunately a relative unknown, well that is to say his solo work is, the man himself has been seen numerous times, most recently atop Roger Water's Wall taking the role of another Dave, one Mr Gilmour (on the highest grossing tour by a solo artist ever). Kilminster has been in Water's band since 2006, he has also toured with prog greats such as Keith Emerson (ELP), John Wetton (Asia/King Crimson) and Carl Palmer (ELP). So then the man has honed his guitar chops with the best meaning that he is an immeasurably talented guitarist in the same category as Guthrie Govan, who is currently part of Steven Wilson's band. Kilminster is a guitarist of the highest calibre and his previous release Scarlet is on heavy rotation in my house, I love the mix of styles, the consummate playing and the intelligent song writing on it so I was keen to hear what his latest release had in store. Messiah is the first track and starts with just a single acoustic guitar and Kilminster's breathy, soulful vocals, around 2 minutes in everything gets electrified and Kilminster's guitar is accompanied by Pete Riley's drums and Phil Williams bass, this gives the band an honest feel with just the three instruments blending together allowing for lots of harmonies and the occasional contribution from the Larkin Quartet which means that the first track builds into a hell of a crescendo that opens the album with aplomb, it's also on this first track that you hear the talent involved, Kilminster's guitar playing amazing but is also understated. He also has a keen ear for genre bending and drawing influences as Addict has a dark, percussive world music feel driven by a slide guitar and some tribal drumming which weaves it's way around your brain before he really lets rips with the guitar, albeit as a backing to the rest of the song, this again sums up the reserved style of Kilminster he doesn't need to show off and doesn't let his virtuosity get in the way of the songs. Well until Thieves that is where the funky mid-paced song is interrupted by a searing guitar solo in the middle. Circles is a laid back ballad, with some sublime musicianship and an emotional heart, the acoustics come out again on the raw Save MeCassiopeia is a great set piece encompassing everything that has come before it and distilling it into one excellent track (possibly the best on the album) that ends with a sublime guitar solo; it is followed by the rocky, funky driven The Fallen which ends with The Beatlesesque outro and the finale of the sparse, Floydian Stardust which ends the album brilliantly. This is a strong album that is a not as immediate as it's predecessor but he is emulating Messrs Wilson, Wesley and many others that are aiming for an album's overall feel, this is not a singles record, it needs to be heard in it's entirety and over a few listens it grows into something truly excellent. Seen the face? Now hear the music! 9/10             

Emergency Gate: Infected (Bob Media)

When you think big, ballsy chest beating metalcore you think the US of A, Emergency Gate play the kind of music FFDP have made their own with massive groove riffs, snarled/clean vocals and battering ram drumming, however Emergency Gate are from Germany and as such add a European flavour to the massive American style metal. As The Sons Of The Second bursts to life in flurry of blast beats, big guitars and a synth backing we are in straight Killswitch, FFDP and even LOG territory as vocalist Matthias Kupka moves from shouted to clean vocals as the song erupts into short sweet guitar solo. Kupka's voice is good but has a European tinge which betrays their nationality, the guitars of Udo Simon and Vladi Doose bring the headbanging fist pumping riffs and solos, the rhythm section of Mario Lochert and Chris Widmann bring the groove and power, it is Daniel Schmidle's keys that are part of what sets them apart from other bands in this genre, meaning that songs like Revelation sound like a huge club banger with the synth backbeat. I first heard of Emergency Gate when they released a cover of Haddaway's What Is Love? which featured the man himself, but Emergency Gate have been releasing albums since 2000 and theur own songs are just as catchy as their infectious cover. The band have the right balance of brutality and melody to endear themselves to both fans of European and American metal, yes there are some weak songs; We Wanna Party is an absolute stinker I'm afraid, mainly because it is bookended by the excellent relentless riffage of Crushing Down and the Howard Jones era Killswitch sounding Infected Nightmare. Still with some of the fat trimmed this album is great blast of European metalcore from a band that are more than just a crazy cover. 7/10