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Saturday, 1 October 2016

Reviews: Feeder, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Those Damn Crows

For the first time in a long time we get to review three bands that hail from God's Country and our home base of Wales.

Feeder: All Bright Electric (Cooking Vinyl)

When Feeder first burst onto the music scene in the late 90's early 2000's (straight out of Newport) many lumped them in with many of the angsty post-grunge acts around at the time, they were even dubbed the British Smashing Pumpkins for their abrasive, distorted rock. However as a kid and then a teenager growing up then their angst ridden but upbeat rock was something we Welsh could cling on to, they were from Newport and they were ours.

Happily this appreciation was shared and converted into mainstream success on Echo Park and tracks such as Buck Rodgers and Just A Day were endlessly repeated on Kerrang. On the other hand Feeder always showed signs of breaking out of the pigeonhole. In more recent years their releases have been more sporadic and critically mixed despite them producing excellent music moving away from the grunge ethos and adding more acoustics and strings, this shift in their sound means that they moved out of the consciousness of the wider public. They opted to go on a hiatus in 2013 as frontman Grant Nicholas grew more weary of the fame and perceived disappointment that they were not the band they once were. (They were they just weren't writing 'hits' but still had fantastic songwriting). In that time both Nicholas and bassist Taka Hirose completed solo albums but in 2015 the two reconvened with drummer Karl Brazil to record their ninth studio album. 

All Bright Electric is probably the band's strongest work for a long while, mature and emotive it still maintains the high level of songwriting and lyricism the band have made their key feature but the music behind it is excellent, the acoustic influences are flowing as are the nods to quiet/soft grunge thing they started with but All Bright Electric is more layered than that strings and synths sit on top of Hirose and Brazil's rhythms. Hirose taking most of the slack allowing Nicholas to be more expressive with his guitar, I'm not talking fret melting solos but he is adding the harmonic touches used by Anathema and Steven Wilson playing what is necessary for the song rather than just riffs for riffs sake. 

Sometimes the guitar is relegated and they lead with a piano and synths, Infrared-Ultraviolet is one such song sticking in the Anathema/Radiohead sound while the processed beats of Divide The Minority take the song into the Wilson camp. As far as the tracks on this album go, they showcase Feeder at their most creative and confident Universe Of Life is a strong lead single and starts the album with a self-assured fuzzy note before Eskimo changes the sound a little adding dark psychedelia to the pot, Paperweight is jangly percussive punk and Oh Mary is echoing, subversive ballad.

Nicholas has said he finally feels comfortable as a singer and I have to agree as his vocals are great, impassioned and defiant in equal measure. I was expecting to dislike this record and worse I was expecting to just let it pass me by, but I'm glad I made the time to listen to it, it's a record that rebirths Feeder as a band able to cope with the changing music scene and produce music that far outshines their commercial and critical heyday, the critics will change but talent is forever and Feeder have managed to adapt their talents to new soundscapes. Welcome back you've been missed! 9/10

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard: Y Proffwyd Dwyll

Welsh doomsters MWWB are the newest in a long line of British doom metal acts, but they add an otherworldliness to their sound due to the haunting female vocals that drift dreamily over the crushing riffs below it. The music is disconcerting, undulating and filled with feedback, spiralling organs and down tuned rumbling. Gallego sits in the centre of the album as a punching instrumental that has fuzzy synths infecting it. 

The bass and guitars work in unison with a low fidelity force that is at its best on the grunting title track which just goes and goes with discord that morphs into the eerie string laden middle eight before smashing back into the thunderous riffage. The band hail from North Wales (thus their album title which translates to The Prophet Fraud) and they have channeled the sparseness of the North Wales countryside into their sound. Playing this on a dark night in their native Wrexham you'd probably wee yourself, but that's the point like any good horror film it gets under your skin and grips you. 

Osirian has more than whiff of London Lords of doom Electric Wizard and like their fellow wizards they are uncompromisingly heavy, their songs creep, crawl and rumble without letting up at all. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard have probably the most apt name for their sound with paeans to magic, mystery and marijuana driven by monstrous bastard riffs. Impressive outright heaviness. 8/10 

Those Damn Crows: Murder And The Motive (Self Released)

Welsh hard rockers Those Damn Crows are taking on the Yanks at their own game, the Bridgend band have produced a debut album that will be a must have for fans of bands such as Nickelback, Shinedown, Seether and Alter Bridge, while also taking some influence from Volbeat. It's radio bothering hard rock bolstered by the heavy hitting riffs and big choruses. The Fighter has both of these in droves a fast head banging riff and a confrontational hook before it grooves out towards the end.

Shane's vocals are simply excellent packing enough grit into the melodic sheen to give tracks like Don't Give A Damn some real Black Stone Cherry Southern sounding guts. Killing Me meanwhile is a drumming masterclass with percussive drive. Like I've said TDC are a band to give the Americans a run for their money, even trying their hands at an emotive rocker on Blink Of An Eye and they pull it off as this song would sound perfect blaring out of a US radio station while you cruise to your lost lover. 

This record is hard rock with post-grunge gloss of the early millennials, this sound is witnessed on One Of These Nights' crunchy distorted riff but they also have bouncy classic rock or Aerosmith and G'N'R in the form of the almost throwaway  but defiant Rock N Roll Ain't Dead. It's the record has a professional gloss and you wouldn't think it was debut, its a confident and assured album from band who's star burning brightly. Murder And The Motive is a top flight debut from these Welsh rockers, showcasing the talent of yet another British rock band at the apex of their talent. 8/10

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