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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Reviews: Volbeat, Ghost, Gary Clarke Jr

Volbeat: Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies (Vertigo)

Denmark's premier (and the world’s only!?) Elvis metallers' new album is one that will not open any new minds it is simply the new record of a band that know how they sound and wouldn't change it if they could. With the last couple of albums the band have focused on gangsters and women this one still has songs about the lawless and the women but it also focuses on a new era of the Old West. Now don't worry frontman Michael Poulsen hasn't started wearing a Stetson he is still very much the rockabilly busting out Metallica riffs his deep crooning vocal is still at the forefront of their sound on the outlaw loving tracks like the thrashy Black Bart, the hook laden Doc Holliday and the melodic Pearl Heart. I used the word thrashy deliberately as Volbeat have added a new lead guitarist to their ranks in the shape of Ex-Anthrax man Rob Caggiano who has definitely brought the noise (sorry) on the speedier tracks like The Hangman's Body Count. He also has produced the record adding his years of experience to the band. This album has many highlights two of which are the bluegrass/rockabilly track Lonesome Rider which features Sarah Blackwood from Canadian indie band Walk Off The Earth and Room 24 which is graced by the vocals of Danish metal legend King Diamond who adds a whole new layer of evil to the track with his demonic wails, the track also gives Caggiano a chance to show off his guitar prowess. Like I said this album isn't going to set the world on fire, if you are a Volbeat fan then you'll know what to expect and you will enjoy another trip through history with these metalbillies (is that a word?), if you don't get Volbeat then there's is nothing here to change your mind, although if you don't like them why not? Another solid slab of Metallica riffage and Misfits vocals joined together perfectly. 8/10

Ghost: Infestissumam (Lorma Vista Recordings)

The 'newly' instated vocalist Papa II leads the Nameless Ghouls in another album of top notch occult rock that still straddles the boundaries between Blue Oyster Cult and a poppier Mercyful Fate. Papa II is the same man in different suit (or is he?) and his voice is still a melodic demon summoning croon. Much remains intact from their debut but everything seems ramped up on this record, it's the sound of a band aiming for arenas backing up the hype that surrounds them. The chamber choral chant of the title track leads into Per Aspera Ad Inferi which has a relentless riff and a very percussive chorus. The guitars still have that classic twin guitar sound with the stripped back bass and drums and lashings of keys and organ all lending to the bands retro 70's sound. The evil carnival sound of first single Secular Haze follows with its tribute to psychedelic occult rock. It's from here that you can see that the band are making taking their shot at the mainstream with the glam stomp of Jigolo Har Megiddo which is like a Satanic T-Rex track and is followed by the progressive schlock horror ballad of Ghuleh/Zombie Queen which is a swaying trippy ballad that starts out as The Eagles before turning into a voodoo Beach Boys. Perhaps the best track on the album is the heavy rocking Year Zero which features some serious guitar work from the Nameless Ghouls which is followed by the AOR of Body And Blood and the eerie 60's power pop of Idolatrine before the album ends with doomy, darkly psychadelia of Monstrance Clock which ends with the chant of "Come Together For Lucifer's Son". Ghost have produced another retro slice of occult rock that will satisfy the faithful and move them in the right direction which in this bands case is to the top! 9/10

Gary Clarke Jr: Blak And Blu (Warner Bros Records)

Gary Clarke Jr. is being billed as the next big thing in blues with Entertainment Weekly calling him "the chosen one". So is this hype warranted? In a word yes, Texas Bluesman Clarke Jr. is doing something that no-one else is he is he is almost reinventing the blues As well as playing in front of Barack Obama and guest appearances on Eric Clapton's Crossroads festival as well as jamming with the Rolling Stones and B.B King. Handling the guitar and the vocals Clarke Jr. does both excellently his guitar sound is fuzzed up and his voice is truthfully soulful showing that this is man that has been doing this his whole life (which he has been receiving his own day in Texas when he was only 17) Things start off with the hip shaking old school R&B of Ain't Messin' Round which is straight off the Stax production line, this record is all about juxtaposition as the second track is a chugging When My Train Pulls In which is a moody, blues piece drenched in organ, a simple guitar riff and some reverbed vocals the song builds up for its seven minutes into a frankly jaw dropping guitar solo, which then turns into another solo. Clarke Jr. has been interviewed many times and has said that his mission is to trace all music back to the blues (clearly a man possessed) and the title track shows this, it is for all intents and purposes a hip-hop song with some processed beats and a sprinkling of staccato guitar that works well with the hip hop backing. This is then totally reversed on the analogue country boogie of Travis County is another one designed to get your feet moving along with the acoustic countrified picking of Next Door Neighbour Blues. It's here that I will mention the cast of extremely talented backing musicians who all contribute their individual instrumentation to Clarke Jr.'s guitar and vocals. The record is also produced by Clarke Jr. Mike Elizondo and Rob Cavallo in various couplings and it means that many of the tracks sound different production wise, this gives the record an almost jukebox feel with its different production techniques and genre shifts. More Hip-Hop comes in through with The Life, with a funk style playing on Glitter Ain't Gold and the doo-wop of Please Come Home as well as a Hendrix cover in the shape of Third Stone From The Sun which shows off Clarke Jr.'s guitar stunning prowess As I've said this is an awesome album moving effortlessly between genres but all with Clarke Jr.'s signature voice and guitar phrasing. Every now and again there are artists that come along and shake up the standard order and just like Joe Bonamassa is headlining arenas without any label backing and his own interpretation of Blues Rock, Gary Clarke Jr. is drawing from a much wider palate and has the technical prowess and songwriting to become bigger than John Mayer, however Gary Clarke Jr. has something Mayer now lacks; individuality. 10/10

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