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Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Reviews: The Cult, Myrath, Simo

The Cult: Hidden Cities (Cooking Vinyl) [Review By Paul]

The tenth album by British rockers The Cult, Hidden Cities contains all the ingredients required for an album by The Cult; from the swirling boogie of Billy Duffy's guitar work and the thunderous voice of Ian Astbury through to the majestic stomp of latter years and the post-gothic rock from the 1980s, Hidden Cities captures all the elements of a band who remain in as much demand today as they did all those years ago when Love crashed into the charts on the back of the classic She Sells Sanctuary. Whilst the album gives more than a passing nod to the past, there is also a contemporary sound which follows on from 2012’s Choice Of Weapon. Bob Rock returns to add his usual high quality production whilst Jane’s Addiction’s Chris Chaney (and Bob Rock) provide the thumping bass lines, on the first album since 1994 not to feature Chris Wyse.

Dance The Night sits firmly in the Electric period, whilst In Blood is firmly ensconced in the Love era.  The drama of Birds Of Paradise allows Astbury to unleash his superb chops whilst Duffy’s underrated guitar work comes to the fore during the powerful Hinterland. It’s not all out guitar work though with some delightful orchestral strings complimenting Deeply Ordered Chaos, while the more traditional stomp, complete with snapping snare and thumping Tom Tom of long serving drummer John Tempesta is served up on Avalanche Of Light. Astbury is on excellent form throughout, with his distinctive deep rich tones dominant. Heathens provides evidence that there is a lot of mileage left in The Cult’s tank, with further fine fretwork from Duffy before the album concludes with the melancholic Sound And Fury. Hidden Cities demands several listens to fully appreciate the subtlety and sophistication which runs through it but boy is it worth it. 8/10

Myrath: Legacy (Nightmare Records)

Tunisian lords of melodic prog/power metal Myrath have taken five years to release their fourth album Legacy but in the interim they have developed their metal meets Arabic influences and have come away with something all the more cinematic and indeed emotive than on any of their previous efforts. Since their third release Tunisia has been involved in some tragedies that I don't need to go into here, meaning that for normal Tunisians life has taken an edge not seen before, this has clearly affected the writing of Myrath who say them selves that: "This album pays tribute to all the victims throughout the world and to all those who fight against all shapes of violence and discrimination." So then with such hard hitting and personal themes present it's up to the music to convey the feeling of hope that Myrath have always focused on.

Luckily this album does its best to inspire hope from the Arabic intro of Jasmin into the first proper track Believer you are sucked into the record that has layer upon layer of Elyes Bouchoucha's keys that come like swathes in and out of each song matching and indeed being bolstered by the live string section that appears on most if not all of the tracks on this record meaning that the whole record sounds just that little bit more ambitious. As there are numerous well crafted orchestrations that create a more vivid soundscape than on previous records, there are the almost defacto Arabic flourishes on the Get Your Freedom Back which borders on electro-pop at times but also more traditional classical sounds making the album more like a score to a blockbuster than a rock record.

That's not to say it isn't a metal album, in fact far from it there are of course metallic sounds with tumbling drum patterns from Morgan Berthet blasting away on the faster tracks, the low frequency rhythms and intricate technical playing of bassist Anis Jouini fleshing out the riffs of guitarist Malek Ben Arbia who brings solid slabs of progressive chords and blistering solos that nuance the songs well without resorting to fret wankery. However the stand out performance has to go to vocalist Zaher Zorgati who has a seriously impressive range, he's bee one of the most important factors on Myrath's albums and Legacy is no different his vocals tell the stories vividly and even when the band edge on euro-pop with the Unburnt or go all over the top on I Want To Die, Zorgati's passion is undeniable. Legacy may be the album to break Myrath to a wider audience, this does seem to be it's intended purpose and hopefully combined with their tour supporting Symphony X many more will discover the progressive, oriental mystique of Myrath. 8/10

Simo: Let Love Show The Way (Mascot)

Well...sometimes a record comes along and really reinvigorates your love for a genre, Let Love Show The Way by American blues rockers Simo is one of those sort of albums. The American three piece are led by singer/guitarist and former wunderkid JD Simo who along with drummer Adam Abrashoff and bassist Elad Shapiro have made a sophomore album that will relight the blues rock fire. The band are friends with blues master Joe Bonamassa (thus signing to Mascot) and have built their status with explosive live shows and this fierce live performance has translated to this record very well indeed, with the rhythmn section hitting you in the guts and Simo's incendiary guitar playing par-excellence. These boys are driven by the power of the blues with nods to ZZ Top, Cream, Rory Gallagher's Taste and even Joey Bones himself coming through the entire album its plain to see why this band have risen through the ranks so quickly. Opening with the SRV shuffle of Stranger Blues and Two Timin' Woman which is built on a cowbell and an attacking guitar pattern, we get more rocky on Can't Say Her Name before the fuzzy I Lied is a showcase for JD's blooze howl.

I personally haven't been this excited about a blues rock album for a while as the band balance both excellently with the propulsive Please showcasing the old school rock n roll edge the band have, before the chest beating Long May You Sail thunders in and could be mistaken for Wolfmother track, then suddenly we find that there is no doubting the bands blues credentials on the sublime I'll Always Be Around and the hazy title track. With virtuoso playing from all concerned but more importantly a hefty dose of quality songwriting although the nine minute showcase of I'd Rather Die In Vain and the 13 minute instrumental Ain't Doin Nothin' are particular highlights if love a good guitar solo or twelve!! Let Love Show The Way is a track that really kicks the blues in the arse at 13 tracks (3 bonus) the album clocks in at around 65 minutes you get real value for money on this record, it's a record that's born in the live era and erupts out of your player with a ferocity that is rare in the modern blues rock scene. 9/10    

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