Tides Of Sulfur: Extinction Curse (Black Bow Records)
Finally after a long time and a lot of build up the South Wales merchants of heavy have released their debut album, the suitably doom-laden titled Extinction Curse is everything TOS have been working towards over these last few years of relentless touring and the occasional EP/Split albums. The three piece band of Chris Bull (shouting/bowel shaking) Anthony O'Shea (riffs/shouting) and Tom Lee (concussion) have made name on the local and UK scene with aggressive, ear bleedingly heavy metal that straddles the death and sludge sound, with some massive riffs, throat shredding vocals and drumming that can rearrange your teeth.
The record opens on a familiar note as the slow, creeping intro to Eternal Bleeding starts the record, many followers will know this song from the band's demo EP and it loses none of it's power, despite gaining a clarity from the production which in fact makes it hurt you more. This is what TOS try to do with their music, they bludgeon you into submission with the impressive hefty bottom end leading the charge as O'Shea plays some great lead guitar over the top as the song speeds up in the final part. After the opening gambit of sludge doom the second song ...Of Suffering And Grief starts with a slow spoken word intro and kicks into an ear splitting dose of blastbeat filled death. A theme that continues on Woe To You O Destroyer with yet more death metal battering.
Tides Of Sulfur are definitely one band from the underground and as such their sound can be categorised as against the grain, not that they care as they worship at the pagan altar of heavyweights such as Crowbar, Iron Monkey and Neurosis especially on the progressive doom meets hardcore punk of Maltheist. Extinction Curse serves as one of the records most impressive songs, the longest song on the record is a multi-faceted piece with a slow burning melodic haze punctuated by sludge slabs in the first section before ramping up to some heavier-than-thou doom for the rest of the song, it's a guaranteed live staple and one that insists you band your head until it falls off.
This is Tides Of Sulfur's statement of intent and it's one that grabs you by the throat and shakes you until your bones are dust, well done gents this is a lesson in making an apocalyptic impact. 9/10
Oceans Of Time: Trust (Melodic Revolution Records)
Norway is usually known for it's black metal scene, but it does have a niche in progressive power metal too with Pagan's Mind and Circus Maximus being the biggest two names in the genre. Pagan's Mind vocalist Nils K Rue turns up on this record along with 'The Voice' Jorn Lande on the four part final suite sparring with the more than able voice of Oceans Of Time Ken Lyngfoss, who holds his own and impresses elsewhere.
This is melodic, dramatic progressive power metal with touches of Pagan's Mind, Kamelot and Serenity throughout the album, Nicholay and Geir's rhythm section is propulsive and technically proficient as you'd expect meaning that guitarist Lassse and keyboardist Nickolas can duel and play off each other on tracks like the fists in the air Save You which owes a debt to folk metal which is offset by the heavier sounds on Pray For The Dying which is drummer Nicholay's showcase as you get more of Ken's raspy but powerful vocals (which have a bit of Jorn about them) as well as a keyboard solo too.
Trust is the band's second record and it sees them continue their evolution into a more impressive metallic beast, none of the songs are particularly long but Oceans Of Time's songs contain more riffs, changes of pace and musical dexterity in their 5 minute tracks than many bands can do with 10 minutes plus. There's heavy riffs on the Purple-esque title track which also has some very welcome female guest vocals, Show Me The Way has huge gang chorus and a symphonic sound, 1865 builds on the fuzzy keys of Nickolas for a Wild West themed story that has a Maiden gallop but bridges it with layers of AOR sounding keys.
This record is one of those rare ones that get better and better as they progress, Black Death sounds a lot like Pagan's Mind or Symphony X with the off-kilter rhythms and the fusion of keys and guitar, Nemesis ramps up the heaviness and the climactic final suite Grapes Of Baccus really ends the record on a high note with the four vocalists, (the fourth being the harsh tones of Ole Myrholt) all interplaying brilliantly to interpret the narrative of the piece that switches between so many genre's sometimes you are unsure whether they are the same band.
With a fluid mix of prog, power and melodic metal it's the nuances of this record that are to it's benefit, I'd never heard of Oceans Of Time before but they have impressed me so much with this record that I will be keeping a keen eye on them from now on. 8/10
Steven Tyler: We're All Somebody From Somewhere (Dot Music)
Fuck off Steven Tyler, just fuck all the way off. I'm sorry for the language folks but I love Aerosmith, they've been a favourite of mine since I was young, I rate albums such as Toys In The Attic, Rocks as the blueprint for blues rock albums, then with their late 80's releases starting with Done With Mirrors through Done With Mirrors, Permanent Vacation Pump and climaxing with Get A Grip they became one of the biggest bands on the planet receiving notoriety and global stardom without really giving up their influences.
However I've become weary with all of the in-fighting and general malcontent that seems to be affecting the band, much of this has come from frontman Tyler's extra curricular activities as a judge on American Idol, his numerous media appearances and the continuing friction between him and the rest of the band most of which has stemmed from the creation of this solo record. OK many band members make a solo record away from the mother-ship but most aren't this contentious, abandoning the hard rock sound he is associated with.
We're All Somebody From Somewhere is a country album of sickly love songs, down-home shuffling and if it was Garth Brookes then it would be a serviceable if formulaic country album. I like a lot of country music but this is not good only a few of the songs on this record suit Tyler's voice the, peace and love spreading title track is one and it should have opened the record rather than the tepid My Own Worst Enemy, although on it's down side it does have some terrible lyrics.
The record is let sewn by there being too many ballads on this record, yes I realise that Aerosmith are more known for their ballads these days but most of the songs are just ineffectual and a bit dull, the worst of the bunch is the sickly and naff Red, White And You, the unnecessary reinterpretation of Janie's Got Her Gun and cover of Janis Joplin's Piece Of My Heart to round off a 15 song album. This is nothing more than a vanity project for Tyler and really if you want him at his best go back to his day job, he's so much better there, get back to the band and finish it on high while you are all still defying the odds. 4/10