Avatarium: Hurricanes And Halos (Nuclear Blast)
One of the hardest working men in metal is Leif Edling, bassist of doom godfathers Candlemass and about a billion other projects. We recently reviewed the fabulous doom laden debut from The Doomsday Kingdom and now Edling returns with the third full release from Avatarium, the band who formed in 2013. It's been two years since the sophomore Girl With The Raven Mask which was a superb follow up on the self titled debut. Hurricanes And Halos has a real 1970s Deep Purple feel throughout, and nowhere more so than the opening two tracks, especially the Hammond soaked opener Into The Storm. Carl Westholm's keyboards take centre stage as Into The Storm and The Starless Sleep both race at full pace. Jennie Ann Smith's unique blues soaked vocals come into their own on the blues rock tinge of Road To Jerusalem which contains some beautiful guitar work from Marcus Jidell. This track is quite a departure from the usual melancholic doom, featuring a slower paced acoustic approach that is one of the most atmospheric tracks the band has ever written. It's quite stunning. Medusa Child contains a skull crushing riff guaranteed to stove the cranium whilst the child vocal is both apt for the song and hauntingly scary.
The Sky At The Bottom Of The Sea is next, a super Dio era Rainbow tune, high paced and full of pomp and ceremony. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking this had been written by RJD and Ritchie Blackmore. More crunchy keys here, the highlight of the whole album for me being the way they underpin virtually every track. In additon, there is some brilliant Ian Paice jazz fused drumming thanks to the sterling efforts of Lars Skold. The pace slows right down on When Breath Turns To Air, a moody, measured beauty which would sit perfectly in a smoke filled cafe or bar. Jennie Ann Smith's soothing velvet tones supported by sublime keys, relaxed rhythm and delicate guitar work. It's an astonishingly good piece. Penultimate track A Kiss (From The End Of The World) starts with intricate flamenco style guitar before exploding into a massive doom laden riff which evolves majestically during the nine minute epic journey. Powerful and brooding, it slows but loses none of its strength. It is imperious. The album closes with the instrumental title track, a lone bass drum joined by deep resonating bass which then peaks before fading eerily into the distance. This is one of the best albums of the year, by a mile. Treat yourself to Hurricanes And Halos. It is fantastic. 10/10
Hawkwind: Into The Woods (Cherry Red Records)
Album number 30 for the sonic masters and it’s another fantastic release. Last year the band’s take on EM Forster’s dystopian novel The Machine Stops was just thrilling and the band show no sign of stopping. Beautifully paced and delivered, the combination of Dave Brock’s wisdom and guidance along with more recent additions to the band is evident. As with all Hawkwind releases, Into The Woods is a combination of driving space rock which is synonymous with the band and some more bizarre compositions. Tracks like Magic Mushrooms, Have You Seen Them and the trippy Space Ship Blues are ageless. The themes of nature and environment are up front and unapologetic. Vegan Lunch is just pure space boogie whilst the title track, Cottage In The Woods and the gorgeous melody of Wood Nymph all place nature in majesty. By now you’ll either get Hawkwind or dismiss them as aging hippies. For me the band remain rock’s consciousness about the state of the world around us, standing proud alongside the likes of Gojira and Crippled Black Phoenix. Prophetic as always, the band’s views are as accurate now as they were in the 1970s. As Dave Brock and co. Continue to deliver the goods, we should remain thankful. The Machine has not stopped yet. Long may they continue. 9/10
Woodhawk: Beyond The Sun (Self Released)
Straight forward fuzzed up stoner rock with a Sabbath riff coursing through every song. Welcome to Woodhawk, a power trio from the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. Beyond The Sun is a stomper of an album, albeit following a tried and trusted formula. Turner Mizdan plays a dirty mean guitar, Mike Badmington thunders the bass and Kevin Nelson hits seven shades out of the drums. If you like the sounds of The Sword, Mastodon, Clutch and the craft of RavenEye (A New Hope is especially reminiscent of the Milton Keynes trio) then you’ll dig this release. At just under 40 minutes it does the business and then heads off to the pub. Can’t fault it. 7/10