Jeff Beck: Loudhailer (Atco/Rhino Records)
Veteran guitarist Jeff Beck has done it all in his career, the 71 year old has been inducted into the rock n roll hall of fame twice, he was a member of the famous Yarbirds, has had a successful solo career and is recognised as one of the best and most influential guitarists of all time, constantly adapting his sound and style as his career wore on, settling recently for a blues/fusion sound concentrating mainly on the instrumental expression of his guitar surrounded by bands made up of other virtuoso's. On Loudhailer, his first album in six years, he has once again switched up his style and this time has teamed up with two young women that are the driving force behind the gritty London pop rockers Bones, Beck met guitarist Carmen Vandenberg at Roger Taylor's birthday party last year and in turn was introduced to singer Rosie Bones.
With these two women he found kindred spirits, allowing him to write an album to express his opinions at injustice and as he says "nasty things" happening in the world, through his preferred medium. Along with the fiery Femme duo, Beck also recruited Filippo Cimatti to aide him with production with Cimatti bringing in drummer Davide Sollazzi and bassist Giovanni Pallotti to round out the band. Loudhailer is not quite the album you would expect from Beck, it's got an defiant sound to it, the songs have an uncompromising message to them, it's the sound of man who has paid his dues, has something important to say and is using his music to say it, aided by two young musicians that are full of fire and passion.
For the first time in long time the album is primarily a vocal album with Rosie's London twang giving the songs a new edginess, giving a tough showing on Thugs Club which could be the anthem to Danny Dyer gangster flick. She switches to a defiant tone on The Revolution Will Be Televised which is almost like beat poetry and teases sardonically on the funky O.I.L (I Love That Sticky). The songs are vibrant, bright and chock full of Beck's guitar prowess, spanning a myriad of genres from the bluesy Live In The Dark which has an electronic beat and treated vocals but some ragged incendiary guitar playing, to the beautiful Scared For The Children which has some excellent phrasing and would sit comfortably on a modern pop record, highlighting Bone's huskiness.
Interestingly Pull It merges slicing guitars with a modern hip hop sound (Gary Clark Jr is the master of this) and stands out because of genre clash. Loudhailer is a truly eclectic, impressive effort the guitar playing aside, the performances by the rest of the band are incredible and happily are highlighted by the songwriting, there is no showing off for the sake of it on this record Beck at times seems restrained, content to play sideman while the song progresses and it's all the better for it. Loudhailer is Beck's message to the world, well it's loud and clear. 9/10
XII Boar: Beyond The Valley Of The Triclops (Self Released)
Aldershot band XII Boar (12 Boar) only released their debut full length last year and hot on the heels of this they are now ready to unleash their sophomore album. The album's title and gratuitous cover will put many in mind of Manowar style metal but XII Boar are a dirtier, grittier prospect with a thundering kind of metal n roll that brings to mind the whiskey soaked vocals, riotous pummelling basslines, raucous drums and the sleazy riffs of Motorhead or High On Fire with the Southern stoner groove Corrosion Of Conformity. BTVOTT is a non stop, heavy record that barrels along with the force of a tornado the massive rhythms of Dave Wilbraham and Adam Thomas crushing from the opening title track as Tommy Hadrocks riffs like a bastard and barks down the mic with his scarred throat gruffly shouting the lyrics.
XII Boar have opened their sound up a little adding some Southern boogie on The Hustle with a parping harmonica infiltrating the Motorhead style rocking as a killer solo from Hadrocks slices through the middle of the record. The spirit of Lemmy still looms large on the metallic blues of Strange Kinda Lonesome which could have come off any of the more recent Motrhead albums. As well as the Motorhead sound there are nods to Volbeat (El Mucho Grande), Fireball Ministry (Abyssal Lord) and yet more heavy blues with the hammering Black And Blues, showing that XII Boar have focussed their sound, streamlining it into a record that is rich with colossal sonic destruction. Roll on Bloodstock to see these songs in the bands live wire stage show as it's guaranteed to be one big heavy metal party! 8/10
Wolverine: Machina Viva (Sensory Records)
Doing what seems to be the now natural shift from death metal band to introspective prog band Sweden's Wolverine are the latest in long line to complete the transition and Machina Viva is their fifth album and sees them attempting their most complex pieces to date, the album itself opens with the 14 minute The Bedlam Overture which indicates the 'feel' of this record with sprawling, layered textured piece crammed full with technical, though not intrusive, instrumentals and some soaring downcast vocals from Stefan Zell. The record is about atmosphere with the mood moving from reflective on Our Last Goodbye to downright tragic on Pile Of Ash in some instances as the musical backing ranges from technical rock music (Pledge) that nods to melodic appeal of Haken, progressive expression on When The Night Comes Down and even some electronic drum loops on Machina.
Machina Viva has eight songs on it and they are all performed by virtuoso musicianship but like Katatonia and Anathema, the bands Wolverine share their style with, the impressive musical skill is used to enhance the songwriting and makes the tracks interesting rather than trying to take easier progressive route of rampant showing off. If you like this style of gloomy, progressive music then Wolverine will be on your stereo right after you want to give yourself a break from The Fall Of Hearts. 7/10