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Sunday, 14 September 2014

Reviews: Royal Blood, Death Penalty, The Scintilla Project

Royal Blood: S/T (Warner Bros)

The Royal Blood seem to be a kind of phenomenon at the moment arriving from almost nowhere and ascending the charts to land a number one album. As you work through the album you can see why this has happened as the band combine big rock riffs with a commercial sheen. They come from the old school sounding garage rock in the style of The White Stripes and the Black Keys, in fact when I first heard Figure It Out I thought it was Jack White himself. However where they differ from both these bands as they feature just a drummer and bassist, Ben Thatcher the skin smasher and Mike Kerr the string plucker as well as providing the blues howls. Despite just being two men and just being what can be considered as backing instruments they sound like a full band with Kerr's bass truly a lead instrument even having some solos and lead breaks on some tracks, the aforementioned Figure It Out being one that stands out. Yes this is simple yet effective, meat and two veg rock with a stripped back live-in-the-studio feel to every song, the band have purposefully eschewed overdubbing to make the album sound as live as possible and it works with the album having an authentic hard rock sound throughout. As I've said the band have a garage/blues rock style and with tracks like Blood hands having the bluesy delivery, before Little Monster rocks everything up again, the style varies a little on Ten Tonne Skeleton but for the most part this album is chart bothering rock at it's finest. An album that lives up to the hype and is another punch to those that declare rock dead (yes you Mr Simmons). 8/10

Death Penalty: S/T (Rise Above Records)

After the demise of Britain's premier doom metal band Cathedral many wondered what the band members would do next, well guitarist Gaz Jennings has plunged back into music with this heavy/doom rock band named after Witchfinder General's first album. The riffs of his old band are still there with Jennings slick, thick, sludgy guitar tone present on all of the songs however unlike his previous band everything is a lot more pacey with most of the songs coming thick and fast with all the hall marks Jennings gave to Cathedral but as I've said at a more rapid pace than means Death Penalty straddle the border of Doom metal and traditional heavy metal, due to the faster songs, long guitar solo passages and most notably Belgian Michelle Nocon's fantastic vocals, she has a real rock and roll voice that lends the band a sound similar to a female fronted Grand Magus. Which is far away from Lee Dorrian's evil vocals in Cathedral. She wails like a banshee and croons like Bruce on Eyes Of The Heretic, which has a Maiden-like gallop throughout driven by Raf Meukens' bass and Fredrik Cosemans' drums which lead the key change into the solo section, the doom legacy is still there though with the head banging heaviness of Golden Tides which has big distorted guitar riff. The band are unafraid to mix up the sound though as Into The Ivory Forest is very progressive in style before things get dark and gloomy again on Children Of The Night and the occult trappings of She's A Witch. This album rocks hard its the perfect match of old school doom and traditional heavy metal which means that it will have broad appeal for all fans of heavy metal. As they say as one door closes another opens so even though Cathedral are no more Death Penalty are nowhere near the last rites for Jennings creativity. 9/10     

The Scintilla Project: The Hybrid (UDR Records)

Scintilla is a British (straight to DVD) Sci-Fi/horror film based around a secret communist genetics programme deep underground called The Scintilla Project, now as a tie in to the film a band also called The Scintilla Project has been formed. It is the brain child of drummer Lionel Hicks (Balance Of Power) who was introduced to Saxon's Biff Byford by Toby Jepson the producer of Saxon's Call To Arms album. Now this is where it gets complicated, Saxon wrote a song for the film but this one song stretched into an entirly new group, most of the music was written by bassist Anthony Ritchie (also Balance Of Power), with Hicks contributing, the men found a couple of session guitarists to create the songs with but the real breakthrough came when Byford agreed to sing on the album, he brought with him HELL guitarist/producer extraordinaire Andy Sneap who contributes guitar and co produced the album with Byford. So with all that out of the way what does it sound like? Well think a more symphonic metal version of Saxon and you won't be far off, the songs have great dual guitars, a huge drums sound, a rumbling bass and some massive keys and synths. As the jangling synths of John K start off the opening track Scintilla (One Black Heart) it speeds through with some power metal riffs, a huge hooky chorus, showing that Byford, much like on the most recent Saxon albums, is in the best vocal form in his life! The ominous Beware The Children has a Queensryche feel to it which extends through Permanence which also has the theatricality of Kamelot et al, the piano driven Some Nightmare is a ballad with an almost AOR guitar solo in the middle. Yes this album is very, very good indeed, a hell of a soundtrack that is definitely the sum of it's parts, the addition of Byford and indeed Sneap is inspired as they put their stamp all over this record raising it from relative obscurity to having many sit up and take notice. I don't know how good the film is, but this album is very good indeed! 9/10       

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