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Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Reviews: Spock's Beard, With The Dead, Satan

Spock's Beard: The Oblivion Particle (InsideOut)

American progressive merchants Spock's Beard are now into their 20th year and after all these years the band are still going strong with their third singer, Enchant frontman Ted Leonard, who replaced long term singer/drummer Nick D'Virgillio, who himself replaced founder Neal Morse. Leonard has been on board since 2013's Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep and he fits into the band perfectly, Enchant themselves have the same kind of classic progressive rock sound as Spock's Beard so he was the natural choice. On this album he once again shows off his powerful almost pop-friendly vocals that croon above the intensely technical but beautifully luscious soundscapes created by founder members Alan Morse's guitar, Ryo Okumoto's huge keys, Dave Meros' dexterous bass playing and new boy Jimmy Keegan's percussion. The album deals with the a science fiction narrative based around time travel and freedom from tyranny both funky Tides Of Time and the Yes-like Minion (which is not about those yellow buggers) deal with these issues the best, using the time signature changes of of the rhythm driven by Meros' bass to keep your interested piqued, while Morse stabs heaviness and floats above deftly as Okumoto's organs over arch everything. The Yes theme continues on the acoustic pastoral Hell's Not Enough which is a lilting ballad that builds into the fantastic Bennett Built A Time Machine which is one of my favourites on this record built upon a mandolin riff with lyrics about going back in time to change your past for a better future, this track initially sounds like a throwaway but it draws you in with it's whimsical narrative. As the album progresses the final parts get longer and heavier with trio of the atmospheric A Better Way To Fly, the jaunty classically influenced The Center Line and the guitar driven To Be Free all clocking in at over 6 minutes showing off this band's obvious talent. You don't me to tell you how good this twelfth album is, if you are a fan of 'proper' progressive rock the you' will love, those who aren't will avoid it like the plague luckily I'm in the former and I'm going to play it again! 9/10   

With The Dead: With The Dead (Rise Above Records)

With The Dead are the new project from original Electric Wizard rhythm section Tim Bagshaw and Mark Greening, now that really tells you all you need to know about this EP as the British Doom legends are imprinted all over this record. Bagshaw provides the fuzzy, hissing distorted guitars and droning, buzzing bass that supply the thick as syrup riffs that boom as Greening pounds through the discord crashing cymbals and thumping the drums bringing the crushing ominous rhythm that Electric Wizard have always relied upon. The six songs on this album are blood-curdling, formidable and heavy as hell with the record building from the percussive and rumbling Crown Of Burning Stars through the Sabbath-like bounce of The Cross, the atmospheric stoner metal of Nephthys which sounds a lot like Orange Goblin at their most doom laden, before ending with the double header of the woozy I Am The Virus and the leviathan final track Screams From My Own Grave. As I've said the band features two former members of Electric Wizard but they are not the only veterans in this band as the satanic vocals are supplied by former Cathedral man (and Rise Above boss) Lee Dorrian who once again wakes the dead with his roars on Living With The Dead, which has trademark snippets of old movies to throw you off guard as the riff smashes you in the head. Yes the band sound a lot like Electric Wizard, and indeed Cathedral in moments, however can you accuse a band of plagiarism if the members have been in said band? As you mull this put on With The Dead I'm sure it'll help you think, or spin you out into a drug induced binge, but with music like this either is good! 8/10 

Satan: Atom By Atom (Listenable)

After their comeback in 2013 with Life Sentence NWOBHM also-rans Satan have been in demand at festivals and have toured more than ever, they have also got around to writing and recording their fourth, yes fourth, record. Atom By Atom builds on the comeback yet again combining razor sharp proto-thrash riffs, stomping rhythms and Brain Ross's shrieking vocals, which are the first things you hear on Farewell Evolution before the shredding guitars blast along as Sean Taylors drums gallop with aplomb. Where as Life Sentence saw the band coming back after 26 years to blow away any doubts that they were doomed to languish in the what if? pile by creating a strong, accomplished record that was as modern as it was retro. On Atom By Atom the band have cemented this idea by crafting 10 strong tracks of British heavy metal, that move and twist like those dark figures Bruce sang about brining to mind  fellow NWOBHM resurgents HELL, the songs are not linear pliling as many riffs as they can into every track as Steve Ramsey and Russ Tippins duelling with every melodic passage, lead break and crunchy rhythm, tracks like Fallen Saviour, The Devil's Infantry are the real neck snappers forcing you to band your head and will cause pits in the live setting, Graeme English's bass gets highlighted on the very old school Ruination and the title track does have a whiff of Anvil about it. Still this is quality British metal at it's core with superior tracks like Ahriman excellent The Fall Of Persephone being two of the best on the record. Put it on and turn it up Satan are here to stay! 8/10

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