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Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Reviews: Alter Bridge, Neurosis, Sumerlands

Alter Bridge: The Last Hero (Napalm) [Review By Paul]

After their respective sojourns with Slash and solo careers, Messrs Kennedy and Tremonti reunite with Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips for Alter Bridge’s fifth studio album. It's a darker, heavier sound than previously heard on Fortress with Mark Tremonti’s fret work as ferocious as ever. A move towards much more political themed comment is apparent from the opener, the riff heavy single Show Me A Leader through to bonus track Last Of Our Kind, with its pounding bass lines and edgy guitar. 

Of course, what distinguishes Alter Bridge from Tremonti the solo vehicle is the quality of Myles Kennedy’s vocals, which are as clear and impressive as ever. The Last Hero contains 13 tracks, most of which are classic heavy rock. Marshall and Phillips lay down the concrete foundations which provide the theatre for Tremonti and Kennedy to cut loose. it's good stuff, heavy enough to give you a neck ache, with thumping tunes such as The Writing On The Wall, Poison In Your Veins and Crows On A Wire and the crushing Island Of Fools all perfect for the live arena. In fact, it's just possible that when it comes to solid heavy rock, Alter Bridge are about to enter the real big game park and step up to the plate as successors of the behemoths of Maiden and Metallica.

Yes, I think that these boys are now in that sector. With their anthems raging against governments and global warming inaction, the band have upped their writing substantially. Sure, there are a couple of weaker ones including the pretty ghastly You Will Be Remembered which raise the flag to the fallen of the U.S. forces but overall this is a big slab of meat which holds its head high and swats away challengers. Whether it can be reproduced in the live arenas where sound is often just soup is debatable but The Last Hero may just be the release that gets Alter Bridge a deserved Champions League placing. 9/10

 Neurosis: Fires Within Fires (Neurot Recordings)

The masters of sludge return with their latest album, it's their 11th record, their first in four years. It sticks with the sound they have become known for. It's a piece of noise heavy, slow and deliberate post metal, moving from mind altering lighter passages augmented by Noah Landis' synths and keys to the bone rattling sludge riffs.

There's an organic sound to the record, in places it has a harrowing feel too it. There are only 5 songs on this record but all come in at over 6 minutes long, Bending Light builds from a psych opening into the slamming heaviness of it's final part Scott Kelly shouting atop the discord. A Shadow Memory slows with clean guitars from Kelly and Steve Von Till, as Jason Roeder thumps out a beat and Dave Edwardson down tunes his bass to a low fuzz. This track has the loud quiet dynamic Neurosis do so well.

I would say if you listen to this album do so on headphones as its a better experience you can hear every nuance of the songs due to the unrivalled production of Steve Albini, in some parts the record can be quite disconcerting but that's part of the appeal of Neurosis, they produce music to challenge you from an emotional and spiritual standpoint.

Fire Is The End Lesson is probably one of the most straightforward songs on the record, barked lyrics from Kelly on guitar and synth filled heaviness before drifting into an instrumental mid section as thick as molasses and eventually taking off into a ear piercing feedback assault. Broken Ground melds Hawkwind space rock with a heavy assault and Reach the final track is the longest, a labyrinthine song that ends the record with an emotive punch. Fires Within Fires is a powerful hard hitting record from Neurosis, it's uncompromising and pulls no punches, just as you would expect. 8/10

Sumerlands: Sumerlands (Relapse Records)

American heavy metal that takes its cues from the 80's but rather than the normal influences of Maiden etc they take their cues from bands such as Queensryche (The Seventh Seal and The Guardian) which could have come from Empire especially vocally where they are touches of Geoff Tate. The other big influence on this record is Ozzy which Sumerlands also having nods to Ozzy's solo records on Timelash which has some Jake E Lee style guitar playing on it without the blatant commercial sound, especially on Haunted Memories, which takes the more romantic Ozzy sound.

Much of the Ozzyisms come from the vocals of Phil Swanson, who is the direct vocal foil for guitarist/producer/band leader Arthur Rizsk who's guitar prowess on this record is immense he is flashy without being too virtuositc. This debut record harks back to an era of 80's American metal that avoided the big hair and the sleaziness by drawing from the 70's hard rock era, it's not NWOBHM, thrash or indeed glam it's just honest, slightly progressive American metal and it's a great listen. 7/10

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