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Saturday, 8 October 2016

Reviews: Van Der Graaf Generator, Red Fang, Dynazty

Van Der Graaf Generator: Do Not Disturb (Esoteric Recordings)

The VDGG are a different beast to the one that arrived with huge dollop of weirdness back in 1967, the line up has remained reasonably consistent since 1968, really only decreasing to the three piece they are now. The saxophones of Dave Jackson that were used liberally in the early years have all but been replaced, but the constant presence that is Peter Hammill remains at full strength. His guitar, piano, keys and of course vocals are the major elements of the band, the vocals particularly are what separate them from many of the other 'prog' bands out there at that time. His languid, slightly aggressive, vocal delivery is is trademark, only truly being echoed by the vocals of Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson (but his lower register not the Air-Raid siren highs).

Do Not Disturb is the bands 13th album overall and it has claimed to be their last, so how does it measure up to their legacy. Well the record sees VDGG in reflective, sombre mood, no they've never been the most upbeat of bands as much of their back catalogue is from the darker end of the musical spectrum but Do Not Disturb seems to be more reflective than ever, almost like the band are coming to terms with their legacy. Hammill once again becomes the ultimate narrator for the lyrics while the music from himself, drummer Guy Evans and organist/bassist Hugh Banton is as off-kilter, technically impressive, aurally striking and downright weird as normal, but as I've said this time wrapped in a bittersweet coating.

Evans' drumming is frenetic, evocative and scientific, with Banton's organs taking up the slack left by Jackson's departure more so on this record than ever before, they are keys to the more orchestral offerings such as Alfa Berlina. The combination of the insistent drums, overwhelming organs, mellifluous guitars, introspective pianos and Hammill's unique vocals means that Do Not Disturb is a more vicious beast than previous efforts, it has a defiance that screams VDGG are not going down without a fight. As is normal the record is a melting pot of genres with jazz cutting into the proggier than thou rocker (Oh No I Must Have Said) Yes, Canterbury folk on Forever Falling, flagrant Floydisms with Brought To Book all of which leading to the finale of Go which suddenly casts the dark cloud over the record in it's closing moments. If as Hammill says this is the final VDGG record then it's a triumphant and fitting end to this always interesting, never compromising, influential group. 8/10  

Red Fang: Only Ghosts (Relapse)

Three solid years of touring have paid dividends Red Fang sound at their best, honing their impressive live talents and putting them down on record for the first time. Flies is a pounding hard rocker that takes the Motörhead style of raw speed and fuzz riffs, the dual vocals coming into their own while a few psych elements creep in with the synths. On Cut It Short they add some groove with throbbing bass and a start stop rhythm relies heavily on the clean vocals and it's to its benefit, there's a touch too of grunge to the track, it also has a great break in the final third with excellent drum fills on the track that sounds a lot like QOTSA.

It leads into the feedback filled Flames which serves as an outro that builds into the down-tuned disconcerting aggressiveness of No Air. Red Fang have always had more of a hard rock sometimes punkier sound than many of their contemporaries it shows on the riotous Shadows and the snotty Not For You both of which have a D.I.Y ethos, albeit with better production values. Only Ghosts is the strongest effort from Red Fang yet moving away from the Mastodon style in their early sound and fleshing out to broader boundaries. A strong return from Red Fang especially if you love your rock/metal chocked full of riffs. 7/10

Dynazty: Titanic Mass (Spinefarm)

Swedes Dynazty (terrible spelling) play a direct, punchy style of power metal that uses synths and electronics to bolster their sound. The Human Paradox starts the album off with the Rob and Mike's dual guitars powering the track along with the pulsing electronics, a fantastic opening song that hooks you into Dynazty's sound. It's really a sign of things to come as the rest of the album continues in a similar way, they sound a lot like Amaranthe and the more modern releases from legend Stratovarius, George's double kick drums and Johnathan's bass driving the songs with a bounce but it's really the synths that give this album it's incredible sound, it's in your face and direct with every song just ramped up to maximum, much of this is due to frontman Nils' impassioned vocals that can melt the hearts of the hardest naysayer and it's all bolstered by Pain's Peter Tägtgren production, he's the reason this album is heavy and danceable.

The solos fly between the two guitarists but they never intrude on a great chorus, songs such as Roar Of The Underdog merge both impressively it's a chest beating track with a one-against-all theme to it. The title track and Keys To Paradise continue with the theme of the record managing to meld Maiden with electro excellently, Keys To Paradise also acknowledging the influence of Symphony X, finally the band ease off the gas on the chugging I Want To Live Forever which is a dramatic middle to the record and the last track The Smoking Gun is an orchestral climax worth waiting for. Titanic Mass is a great power metal album and one that makes me very excited to see them later this month! 8/10

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