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Sunday, 11 May 2014

Reviews: Epica, Imelda May, Salem's Pot

Epica: The Quantum Enigma (Nuclear Blast)

So a concept album based on a physics could only come from the thinking man's symphonic metal band. The brainchild of Simone Simons and Mark Jansen (no stranger to these pages). This is the band's sixth studio album and shows the Dutch band moving forward and looking backward at the same time. This album has the heaviest songs Epica have ever recorded, Jansen and Isaac Delhaye's guitars rip and snort chomping on the bit from the opening strains of The Second Stone through The Essence Of Silence and the djent-like VIctims Of Contingency, obviously Jansen's work with MaYan has rubbed off on his day job. New boy Rob van der Loo ploughs the basslines and Ariën van Weesenbeek's drumming pulverises. So the metal part is heavier than ever with every track featuring some neck snapping heaviness, but what about the rest, the other elements that set Epica apart? Well the symphonic elements of Coen Jansen are impeccable with strong synths and pianos throughout that work in conjunction with a full string quartet meaning that unlike many bands the classical elements are as authentic as possible. Vocally the album is very strong too with Simone's amazing operatic vocals being the main focal point but with Marcela Bovio's background vocals, Jansen and Weesenbeek's grunts, guest vocals from Textures' Daniël de Jongh on the majestic 13 minute title track, the album has rich vocal tapestry that means that every strong is strong vocally. All the vocalists are excellent in their own right but when they sing in conjunction with a chamber choir it gives the album an almost cinematic scope. The album has a break with the Asian flavoured interlude The Fifth Guardian before the death metal-like riff of Chemical Insomnia kicks things off again until the obligatory ballad on Omen-The Ghoulish Malady brings the sing-along quality to the record. Five albums in Epica have brought their symphonic roots crashing into the modernity meaning that they have at last found their sound, with a seriously heavy album this is a clever, complex and genuinely exciting album and possibly Epica's career best. 9/10

Imelda May: Tribal (Decca Records)

So with the rumbling double bass of Al Gare hitting you like a steam train from the off Irelands rockabilly queen Miss Imelda May is back with her band of  misfits singing songs of love, death, and craziness all with that old school, slicked back brothel creeper authenticity they do so well. Yep the rock, the jazz and the R&B is here in droves and with Darrell Higham's fuzzed, guitar stabs moving everything along nicely, from the surf rock of Wild Woman which evokes the spirit of The Surfaris or The Trashmen, to the country chicken-picking of It's Good To Be Alive with some great lead breaks and the romantic waltz of Gypsy In Me. Again May's band are amazing with the strings, drums and brass all working together to create some soulful, rockabilly music fresh from the 50's but also distinctly modern. Imelda May shows why she was chosen as Jeff Beck's vocal muse, her voice is amazing full of verve on the rockier tracks like Hellfire Club and full of soul on the ballads like Little Pixie which sounds like John Phillip Baptiste's Sea Of Love albeit with juxtaposed lyrics!! The first single It's Good To Be Alive (complete with Bride Of Frankenstein video) is a little throwaway but i guess that is kind of the point, its just a feel good anthem. With the success of her previous album Mayhem and the relative inactivity coming from being a mother that followed meant that she had to come back with a killer album and she has done so, Tribal is the next step on the ladder for Imelda May showing that all the old songs are the best!!. Put on the leathers, fire up the chopper and get yourself down to the nearest juke joint as Tribal will definitely be the soundtrack to your next Jive contest without a doubt! 8/10

Salem's Pot: ...Lurar ut dig på prärien (Easyrider Records)

From the name you can guess what kind of music Salem's Pot play, this is creeping, crawling, bone rattling, brain frying stoner doom metal. This is their first EP (translates to Lurking...you out on the prairie or something similar). From the Hawkwind-esque opening to the 14 minute first track Creep Purple which is full of swelling psych synths before the searing doom bass of Peter drives things along with the drums of Direktörn providing the (dead)beat, top this with the reverbed, squealing, feedback drenched guitars of Knate who also has some howling vocals. With three songs all over 9 minutes Salem's Pot bring the occult, drug fuelled sludgy almost oppressive metal of Electric Wizard and drags it over 3 songs meaning that this EP is a hell of a trip for those botanically inclined (and I don't mean gardening). 6/10

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