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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Reviews: Thunder, Mutiny Within, Hark

Thunder: Rip It Up (earMusic)

Thunder's glorious recorded return came with 2015's Wonder Days it saw the band release their first new material in nearly 8 years and set the British hard rock institution back on course that would see them headline Steelhouse festival as well as appearing at numerous other festivals and tours, the albums retrospective lyrics and use of the band's bluesy hard rock, along with the anticipation that had been building since the band had almost called it quits after 2008 meant that this record was seen my most as glorious return to form. However now Thunder are back to being a going concern how do they follow up? Well in the truly British way they grab opportunity by the balls and make it say 'ahh'

Rip It Up is the bands eleventh studio album and it once again is everything you could want from a Thunder album the retrospective, upbeat lyrics come through on No One Gets Out Alive, although this time they have rough-up the edges a little giving them a youthful exuberance not seen since their 90's heyday. Tracks like the gritty She Likes Cocaine are outright rockers with lyrics that deal with fame culture and features the excellent Lynne Jackaman on co-lead vocals and a jangling tambourine.

The workmanlike drumming of Gary 'Harry' James and Chris Childs bass grooves are on point begging your hips to shake on the title track. Luke Morley just pours his soul into every riff and solo especially Shakedown the records heaviest outing. The songs are all prime quality rockers infected by the blues as well as liberal uses of acoustics on Right From The Start and the atmospheric Heartbreak Hurricane which highlights the contribution of Ben Matthews aiding Morley with the guitars and the keys, he's as vital here as he is on the live stage.

Rip It Up is the sound of a band who feel like they have something to prove, this record has been made to dispel any notions that Wonder Days was a success due to rose-tinted nostalgia, every note Danny Bowes belts out is riddled with confidence and defiance, his leather lungs bolstered by the crooning backing vocals of the aforementioned Lynne Jackaman along with Heather Findlay and Susie Webb. Thunder are one of the best British rock bands around and they are still at the apex of their powers with Rip It Up. 8/10 

Mutiny Within: Origins (Self Released)

Every new Mutiny Within album to me is always a sign that even with the music industry in relative freefall, bands can still get their product out without any major label backing. That wasn't always the story however formed by bassist Andrew Jacobs the band was notable for bringing over UK singer Chris Clancy to front the band, much was made of the move as the debut album was released on Roadrunner records and the band seemed destined for greatness.

However they were struck by the scourge of illegal downloading, the debut didn't do as well as expected and the band were left with serious financial issues so it led to a hiatus in 2009, after lots of work behind the scenes finally in 2012 the main members reconvened to finish the tracks for their second record and with the the music industry changing they decided to self release with the album being released in 2013. With a positive response to the record showing that the band could exist without a major label Mutiny Within were officially back and set about writing material for a third album.

In the interim Chris Clancy formed Wearing Scars with Sacred Mother Tongue's Andy James promoting a more melodic style than the technical, melodic death metal sound of Mutiny Within, it stands to reason that Clancy's involvement in that project and the slots as support to some of the big hitting bands means that interest in the third MW album would have increased but can they capitalize on this with the music which of course is the important part, well it looks like that's the easy bit. From pillar to post this record is brimming with incredibly technical, virtuoso performances from all involved without forsaking the accessibility of the songs.

The record does take fewer risks than it's predecessor but that's probably because it was written with an intent to do so as a cohesive unit and going concern, rather than one that was trying to save a project, so this album is the band settling back into a groove they enjoy. MW have always expertly crafted their songs with nods to power and death metal driven by the furious drumming of Bill Fore and the intricate bass playing of Andrew Jacobs (who also contribute some rhythm guitar).

Daniel Badge's guitars are excellent switching between riffs and solos with ease as he also brings the synths and keys to the album giving the band the huge sound they have always had that is assisted by the slick production skills of Clancy who once again does wonders with his voice, the duality he has from his pipes still sends chills down your spine with his guttural roars and soaring cleans.

Archetype Of Destrucion is a chest beating opening that sets the tone, while Silent Weapons and Reasons feature the guitar prowess of Scar Symmetry's Per Nilsson and Wearing Scars' Andy James really ramping up the fretboard fireworks, Origins is the third album by Mutiny Within but it establishes them as back where they belong, get to their website, buy the album and support them as Mutiny Within are a band that need to triumph over adversity. 8/10            

Hark: Machinations (Seasons Of Mist)

Let me take you back to those heady days of 2002, Nu-Metal was still firmly in control of metal music, the rising NWOAHM scene was kicking off with metalcore bands leading the way and then out of the underground came the complex heaviness of Mastodon who successfully married the aural discord of Neurosis and the Southern riffs of the Allman Brothers, the progressive sludge of their debut Remission was a revelation to the more mainstream metal listener as it showed that noise could be accessible. Since then of course Mastodon have gone on to become a big name in the metal arena and their records have become more ambitious bringing in more prog and blues influences moving away from the rage of their debut.

Luckily then we have Swansea's Hark to redress the balance, Machinations is their second album and it instantly takes you back to the almost primal sounds of the Atlanta band's debut record from the outset. Fortune Favours The Insane the crushing sludgy rhythm section of Simon Bonwick on drums and sees Tom Shortt coming in on bass as Joe Harvatt takes up a second guitar position meaning that the guitars on this record give all the songs shining harmonies and killer solos that take from blues and hard rock.

Machinations doesn't drop in quality every song is gut-bustingly heavy but more importantly tuneful getting the light and shade right as Jimbob Issac's vocals echo the bark of Troy Sanders. The finale of the melodic clean instrumental Comnixant 3.0 leading into the excellent 8 minute last track of The Purge really hammer home how talented this band are with so many bands coming in the wake of Mastodon and the rise of the sludge/stoner scene HARK are flying the flag for the Welsh with a superior second album. 8/10   

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