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Thursday, 15 May 2014

Reviews: Down, The Black Keys, John Wesley

Down: IV-Part II (Down Records)

The NOLA legends are back with their second of four EP's and as is the norm with Phil, Pepper and co this is riff city!! Set your riff counters to unlimited as they just keep on coming in true, stoner, doom, southern metal style. This is the first Down release not to feature Kirk Windstein however unless you knew you wouldn't notice as replacement Bobby Landgraf does a great job as Pepper Keenan's sideman bringing the riffage and solos to the six tracks that are boosted by the rumbling heaviness of Patrick Bruders and long time sticksman Jimmy Bower who smashes his kit with aplomb. Phil Anselmo as usual does his usual southern snarl and banshee scream. The emphasis of these 6 tracks is on the doom metal style, from the opening dirge of Steeple which then evolves into a fist pounding rocker that wouldn't seem out of place on an Orange Goblin album, a serious riff fest to kick things off and the pace rarely lets up from there, sliding straight into the classic Down stomp of We Knew Him Well which also has a reverbed almost voodoo vibe with it's repeated refrain of "Rise Up!!". Hogshead/Dogshead is a sprawling guitar filled track that changes time signatures throughout. Then we get onto Conjure which is prime Sabbath down to the Iommi-like riffage and Geezer-like bass, this slow moving vocoder filled, ode to the white stuff (not snow) is so like the Birmingham Iron Men, it's practically a lawsuit waiting to happen, still it is just another element of Down's expansive repertoire, the album ends with the heavyweight Bacchanalia which smashes along heavily until the final part which is an acoustic comedown. This is another great EP in this coming quadrilogy a true riff monster of a record and one that will kill in the live arena! Roll on Bloodstock!! 9/10

The Black Keys: Turn Blue (Nonesuch)

Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney return with their eighth album, their previous release 2011's El Camino was very upbeat and catchy, however due to much excess the two men have taken all this time to release their follow up because of their fried-mental state this album is a sprawling, mind bending trip of an album. The songs are longer, slower and more expansive in sound, yes there are still some awesome R&B rockers with the funk fuelled 10 Lovers and Gotta Get Away which ends the album in an upbeat style. However for the most part these tracks are in stark contrast to the sparse, trippy, hippy haze of the Weight Of Love which is part Hendrix, part french electronic rockers Air. The electronic backing of the title track drives it along Carney's drumming coming to the front here, the synth filled Fever has a bit of New Order or INXS about it. All of these electronic and sampled elements are probably the continuing influence of producer Dangermouse who is much apart of The Black Keys sound as Carney's excellent drumming and Auerbach's guitar stabs, blues howls, along with everything else these men do. The result is an album that comes straight out of the vinyl Stax records era, through the 90's trip hop scene and right up into modern era. The band have always been talented and have been able to mix their styles but their albums have always had a theme of sophisticated modern blues rock however with Brothers, El Camino and Turn Blue they have crafted three unique and equally excellent albums that have a wide musical scope show exactly how good these two men are. Another great record in The Black Key's purple (blue?) patch 9/10    

John Wesley: Disconnect (InsideOut)

John Wesley is the touring guitarist of Porcupine Tree and as such he is the guitar foil for Steven Wilson, this inevitably means he has to be good and he is very damn good. His guitar playing is simply staggering, technical, precise yet understated. He solos amazingly but he also has some serious songwriting chops as well, yes there is a lot in common with his day job (as there has been on all of his solo albums) with a melodic, slightly alternative metal with lots of progressive elements.Wesley manages to be progressive without having to rely on noodling, most of the songs are four to five minutes long but feature time, pace and stylistic changes with Any Old Saint being the longest song on the album at 7 minutes. The album mixes some touching melancholic acoustic tracks with some modern progressive rock replete with some sterling guitar work (another feature of his early work. Wesley's voice too is excellent very gravelly to carry emotion but also melodic enough to be listenable. Obviously with a man of Wesley's talents he will attract talent and Disconnect is no exception as he has assembled a great studio band to play with him, the guitar of Dean Tidley is the perfect foil for Wesley's freakouts and he even provides some killer solos of his own, the rhythm section of Patrick Bettison's bass and the drums of ex-Iced Earth Mark Prator also keep things solidly locked in tight leading the time changes. He has also got a few great guests with Geri X providing some welcome female vocals to the proceedings and most notably Rush axeman Alex Lifeson provides his six string magic on Once A Warrior. If you have never heard John Wesley before and you are a fan of Porcupine Tree, Fish or even Sound Of Contact then pick up Disconnect as you will not be disappointed, then download the man's discography for free from his website (what a nice chap he is!) 8/10

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