Church Of The Cosmic Skull: Is Satan Real? (Kozmik Artifactz)
Band, cult, collective call it what you will Church Of The Cosmic Skull are a group of musically inclined individuals all of whom are performers in their own right. They have come together to form this new collaboration under the leadership of Bill Fischer under the idea of new music driven religious movement who "seek to free mankind from their material possessions and unify all living beings into a singular cosmic whole" a lofty ambition but this Nottingham 7 piece band aim high with their 70's inspired prog/psych/pop influenced rock that owes a debt to Queen, Hawkwind, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and The Beatles with a kaleidoscope of colours displayed throughout the record.
The massive doom riffs created by Fischer's guitar and Sam Lloyd's bass are backed by the tub-thumping of Loz Stone for maximum impact but what really shines are the swirling sometimes dizzying organs/keys of Michael Wetherburn, these give a the woozy, psychedelic edge, especially when aided by the electric cello of Amy Nicholson who is one of three female members of the band contributing to the vocals and harmonising with Jo Joyce and Caroline Cawley for an almost spiritual, choral polyphony.
With seven members and six vocalists, Withers and the girls taking most of the lead vocals, while Wetherburn and Lloyd bolster the ELO levels of vocal layering, you may think that it might all be a bit overkill but it's all nuanced well the riffs are fat and juicy, while the pop melodies get their hooks in you quickly and the girls waft in and out of the discord with syncopated beauty. Whatever the description of COTCS this debut record sets out their stall from the opening few seconds of Mountain Heart through to the final crescendo of 11 minute closer Evil In Your Eye.
In a time when Ghost, Purson, Kadavar, The Blues Pills are all at the forefront of the psych/occult retro hard rock scene, this church needs a congregation, so raise your hands high and give praise as this is very good indeed. 8/10
Thunder & Lightning: The Ages Will Turn (Self Released)
As Phil Lynott once said Thunder & Lightning should "hit you like a hammer" so let's see if the German power metal troupe live up Mr Lynott's exacting standards on this their sophomore album.T&L are a power metal band and play towards the heavier end of the style with crunching dual guitars and a furious rhythm section beating out the hard edged power metal with gruff vocals. The Ages Will Turn like I said is their second record and sees the band focusing on the urban myths, the darkside of the moon on Welcome To The Darkside, the infamous Mary Celeste on the track of the same name along and on Silent Watcher they deal with the Slender Man.
It's not all tin foil hat stuff though, the title track is a lament of war and Colombia is a homage to the Bioshock: Infinite videogame (Seriously). With such a wide range of subjects influencing the album the music varies very little from the standard heavy metal template not that it's a band thing as the band are all good musicians and the songs get your head nodding, The Ages Will Turn is 45 minutes of competent power metal, for fans of Iced Earth, Mystic Prophecy and early Blind Guardian. It does indeed hit you like a hammer but it's the workmanlike claw rather than the more specialist sledge or ball-peen, still it does the job and hits the spot numerous times. 7/10
Bronco: Modern Mythology (Self Released)
Modern Mythology is a record of muscular hard rock, it kicks off with the chunky Falling Free, then 122dB brings a more melodic sound while retaining the bands stoner influenced groove. Bronco hail from Quebec and are a four piece with a female singer, from what I can decipher from their all French biography. The songs on this record are filthy with distorted riffs the order of the day but there is and overarching laid back sound to the band, it's blues influenced music to smoke a medicinal plant to. With smoky female vocals, fuzz guitar riffs and hip shaking rhythms on Never Ending Dance and Starting Again it's nothing hasn't been heard before but Bronco play bluesy stoner rock well and if you love a bit of filthy riffage and soulful delivery they will be up your alley. 6/10