Baroness: Purple (Abraxan Hymns)
It has been three years since the bus crash that almost ended Baroness as band, nine people were hurt in the crash, Allen Blickle (drums) and Matt Maggioni (Bass) each suffered fractured vertebrae and frontman John Baizley was left with a broken left arm and leg. The band were put on hiatus until they had recovered sufficiently, in the interim Blickle and Maggioni left the band to be replaced with Nick Jost on bass and Sebastian Thompson on drums, as Baizley's condition improved he began to create both art and music again as the band toured Europe, this touring and return to activity has resulted in the bands fourth album being released. Continuing with the colour theme the band have had since their debut this new record is called Purple, what is apparent from the outset is how concise and immediate this record is, it harks back to their Red and Blue releases, but goes one further moving further away from the stoner sludge sound they have always known for. However that isn't to say the sonic experimentation of Yellow & Green isn't there, in fact quite the opposite, it's just this album melds it with the record's directness to form something that still sounds like Baroness but sees them yet again progressing.
The opening salvo of Morningstar is sledgehammer heaviness with Baizley's gritty vocals singing with gusto, then we get into the more melodic styling of Shock Me (not a KISS cover) which is the albums de-facto single as it demands to be played repeatedly, the straightforwardness is it's benefit, the songs are less metal with more hard rock and indie sounds adding to the bands sound however they can still get heavy if they need to of this album is powered by tracks like the staccato guitar of Try To Disappear and the spacey Rush-like Kerosene which changes time signature throughout driven by some distorted bass, spiralling keys and dual guitars before it segues into Fugue which is a dream-like jazz intermezzo that allows the magnificent analogue heaven of Chlorine & Wine to build into it's Thin Lizzyesque middle 8 before we go back into the swirling dream-pop of the opening and an anthemic life affirming crescendo. The retro vein continues on the second side of the record with The Iron Bell sounding like it could have come off the new The Sword record. Baroness have yet to release a bad record but Purple does seem to be the sound of a band trying to take the wider music community by the scruff of the neck and announce their intent to conquer. Fuckin' A! 9/10
Sideburn: Evil Or Divine (Metalville)
Sideburn are a stoner metal band from Sweden Evil Or Divine is their fifth album and it sticks to the traditions that the band have always relied upon. We're talking fuzzy hammer down riffs from guitarist Morgan Zocek and bassist Martin Karlsson some smash and grab drumming from Fredrik Broqvist and soulful vocals from Dimitri Keiski. This is 7 tracks of sprawling, chemically enhanced rock with mind bending tendencies, the slow and steady Masters And Slaves takes you on the trip with its low and deliberate heaviness, with Keiski having the almost 'submerged' vocal style of Monster Magnet a band that Sideburn share a lot similarities with. Things get a bit faster on Sea Of Sins before a shedload of Sabbath worship comes on the bass-led When Darkness Calls and The Seer (Angel Of Death). The band are all great musicians and after doing this stuff for a long time they are very good at it, this album does seem to have a much darker tone than their previous releases with the sound of Sabbath is alive an well on Evil Or Divine and all the better for it, it's heavy, progressive and at times ominous. An album from a professional band that play from the heart and with a head full of psychoactive ingredients, turn it up and enjoy the trip. 7/10
A Sound Of Thunder: Tales From The Deadside (Mad Neptune)
A Sound Of Thunder were formed in Washington D.C in 2008 and they have been releasing classic sounding American heavy power metal that were named after an influential Sci-Fi novel by Ray Bradbury, most of their albums have been based around numerous Sci-Fi and fantasy novels and comics. Tales From The Deadside is their fifth album and very little has changed this record is based around the Shadowman comics which follows the adventures of a supernatural superhero. Now if you aren't fully invested in the storyline it could all be a bit much as this is a true concept record that moves between songs and spoken pieces, all the lyrics tell the story in the comics so lyrically the band are telling someone else story meaning that the musicianship and performance to drive the songs along. Luckily A Sound Of Thunder are a superb band that know exactly how to craft a heavy metal song, Josh Schwartz is a great guitarist deftly adding riffs and solos to tracks like the emotive and progressive Sandria (Carry On) which also has some great drumming by Chris Haren, that continues on Can't Go Back which has Jesse Keen filling out the song with keys as well as low bass playing. The band have a real find with singer Nina Osegueda (wife of Death Angel singer Mark Osegueda) she has great set of pipes that sultry on Deadside but can roar the harder tracks such as Tower Of Souls. This is powerful progressive album with some great songs that work outside of the concept but are much better when listened to as whole. 7/10