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Monday, 2 November 2015

Reviews: Hotei, Earthside, Gamma Bomb, Starblind

Hotei: Strangers (Spinefarm)

Tomoyasu Hotei is something of a legend in Japan he has released 15 albums that have sold millions of copies in his native country, he is a bona fide superstar in his homeland, having his music featuring in many films and shows, most notably in Kill Bill Vol 1. Since 2012 he has been firmly installed in London and because of this his 16th album Strangers is the first to be released in Europe, so are Europe ready for the Japanese virtuoso? Well on the evidence of this album the answer could be up in the air as there will be many who may not 'get' this record, it is a mix of guitar instrumentals and songs that feature guest vocalists, that move through a myriad of genres, from the industrial edge of Move It which features Richard Kruspe, to the jangling surf rock of Medusa, the electro punk of How The Cookie Crumbles which along with the bluesy Walking Through The Night have the unmistakeable pipes of Iggy Pop who weaves his dangerous magic on the songs. The songs are more than just three minute hits they are soundscapes created by a very talented musician however they do have a bit of a schizophrenic tendency as they move between the genres at a brisk pace, the orchestral dark ballad has Matt Tuck doing what he does best before the title track shows an 80's style solo instrumental that EVH himself would be proud of, before the thumping Texas Groove shows off her bar room whiskey vocals and comes off as the albums star because of it, the final three tracks are all instrumental but they add little to the album if I'm honest, unless you're a hardcore guitar fan. This album would be good if it was featured as a film soundtrack but as an independent album it's a little hit and miss, only Battle Without Honour Or Pride (the song from Kill Bill) Medusa, Walking Through The Night and Texas Groove lift this album up but they are good enough tracks to stand independently. 7/10             

Earthside: A Dream In Static (Self-Released)

New Haven Connecticut's Earthside are primarily an instrumental band that play modern, progressive metallic rock that has nods to O.S.I, Liquid Tension Experiment and the more recent act Animals As Leaders; with polyrhythmic down-tuned riffs, thundering drums, technical fleet fingered bass playing and swathes of synths and electronics Earthside are very much in the 'cinematic rock' genre they claim to have created. This is an album that needs to be heard in it's entirety, it is a musical journey that is bolstered by the sharp, clear production from David Castillo (Opeth/Katatonia/Novembre) and Jens Borgen (Opeth/Soilwork/Symphony X/Devin Townsend) who immediately make their presence felt on the opening track The Closest I've Come which shows off the bass led opening of Ryan Griffin as the guitars of Jamie van Dyck dance on top and the song gets heavier with distorted rhythms meaning Griffin, van Dyck thunder along with Ben Shanbrom adding a jazz drum pattern beneath the heaviness as Frank Sacramone adds layer upon layer of keys that work in conjunction with the guitars in the flowing melodies that are driving the song along.

Now I've said that Earthside are an instrumental band but on this record they have found four guest vocalists meaning that the album is half vocal and half just the instrumentation, Tesseract's Dan Tompkins adds his impressive voice the title track which sound like it could have featured on an album by his day job. The Albums most cinematic track is Mob Mentality which has Sevendust's Lajon Witherspoon lending his soulful pipes to the track as well as an inspiring performance by the Moscow Studio Symphony Orchestra to give the soundtrack to a movie yet to happen, Mob Mentality is a story in itself and is in parts breathtaking, an very emotive, the orchestra also leave their mark on the atmospheric Entering The Light with Crater is a the world away from the sound of Soilwork, mainly due to Björn Strid liberally employing his clean singing than the harsher tones he uses in his normal delivery. This record works on many levels it is immediate giving the satisfaction that many rock and metal fans will want after one play, but also it's a grower and after repeated listens it really opens into a jewel. This is an impressive debut from the American's that really shows that they have an incredible talent. 9/10

Gama Bomb: Untouchable Glory (AFM) [Review By Paul]

Northern Irish thrash at 150mph? Yep, it must be Gama Bomb blasting back in your face with a no holds barred half an hour of crazed aggressive thrash. Back in the race after 2013’s The Terror Tapes, Gama Bomb get through this album quicker than I can drink my first pint on a night out (and we all know the first one doesn't count). I’ve seen these guys a couple of times over the years and they really have improved. Technically Untouchable Glory is excellent, with some vicious axe work courtesy of John Roche and lead axe man Domo Dixon. The humour remains; see Drinkers Inc, which demonstrates the tightness of Joey McGuigan’s bass and Paul Caffrey’s ferocious drumming. Philly Byrne’s vocal delivery is exactly what you want with a thrash outfit. He can hit the notes but maintains a steady yet honest approach which adds in all areas. My Evil Eye is one wild ride, huge riffs and a battering assault which to be honest, never lets up. You want some stomping Anthrax thrash? Check out the serious nature of Tuck Your T-shirt In, a topic of some concern in today’s society. Gama Bomb’s blueprint is pretty straightforward. Three minutes, accelerate to break neck speed, thrash the nuts out of it, move onto the next one. Repeat. It works for me. I ♥ thrash. 8/10

Starblind: Dying Son (Pure Steel Records) [Review By Paul]

Sometimes you just have to call it as you hear it. The sophomore release from Stockholm’s classic metal outfit Starblind is decimated by two absolutely massive elephants in the room. One, Mike Stark cannot sing. His combination of Geoff Tate, Kai Hansen and Bruce Dickinson is at times just painful. Second; if you are going to absolutely plagiarise a band’s sound then pick one that is slightly more obscure than Iron fucking Maiden. The playing is absolutely fine. Unfortunately at times I actually thought it was Maiden. Of course, that’s when Starblind weren’t doing Helloween circa 1987. Oh, and thirdly, Mike Stark cannot sing. Seven minute “epic” Firestone, for example, is completely crucified by his screeching and wailing. Oh, and your cover is pretty dismal too. 3/10


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