Moonbow: War Bear (Ripple Music)
Moonbow have the rhythm section made up of Steve Earle (Afghan Whigs, Hermano) on drums and former Valley Of The Sun Ryan McAllister on bass so the groove is all you are going to need with this Appalachian muscle music. Moonbow play stoner metal that calls for much beard wearing, tonnes of beer drinking and heavy riffing, The band was started by BMX legend Matt Bischoff and Hank 3 guitarist Davey McElfresh and it's got a gut load of groove, Davey plays mean, dirty riffs while Bischoff has a great voice his timbre is measured but he can let loose as well, sounding a bit like Mastodon's Brent. Vocally the record also features a guest slot from John Garcia, now if you like stoner.desert rock and you don't know who John Garcia is then stop reading and educate yourself.
War Bear is very polished but loose record with Bloodwash having a heavy bassline and a hazy sound that could just go on and on but eventually stops and the band move onto Death Of Giants which has a riff so thick it could be in government, Alone Eyes is all bass and drums with the guitar sliding in and out while California King just rocks with the soulful groove of Clutch. War Bear is a solid slab of stoner from Moonbow who continue Ripple Music's current form of bringing together the best stoner metal on the planet, crack a couple of Buds, sit back and enjoy the ride. 8/10
Circle: Terminal (Southern Lord)
Well this is bloody weird, repetitive guitar passages, 70's prog jangling and raw black metal vocals make Finland's Circles a particularly strange act to try and review. Musically the band are part Krautrock, part proto-metal with the huge classic synthesizer sounds and fuzzy guitar riffs the major backing however this prog rock revivalism is offset by the schizoid harsh vocals, you will never hear Tangerine Dream doing this! This band have been around for a while and released over 30 albums with the kind of frequency of Hawkwind (with 12 coming between 2003 and 2007) and indeed the same level of spoon licking madness.
It's this avant-garde approach that will either draw you in or see you off, the record can be hard work, give the 12 plus minute opening track Rakkautta Al Dente and see how you feel, if you sink into a world of experimental progressive jazz space rock then Terminal will be for you if find yourself jumping for the off button than may be give it a miss. Circle clearly make music for themselves and a loyal fanbase, their music is challenging and could be the undoing of even the most hardened progger, but give the album a bit of time and it turns into a very rewarding listen, just don't put it on when granny comes for tea. 7/10
Angelwings: The Edge Of Innocence (Pride & Joy Music)
There aren't many bands (to my knowledge) that hail from the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar but Angelwings are out to prove that 'The Rock' rocks! They started life as a Nightwish tribute act so you you can make an educated leap about what they are going to sound like as their debut album opens with the excellent Wonderland you can hear Tuomas and co in the riffs, the orchestrations and yes the vocals, which are nearer to Annette Olzon than those of Tarja, they soar yes but not in the operatic glass shattering way of Tarja. The music reflects this too Glenn Cano's keys are key to many of the track with synths pulsing through tracks such as Forbidden Love while Memories is an atmospheric ballad led by a dulcet piano riff.
Liltih meanwhile relies heavily on the theatrical almost carnival sound of a wurlitzer favoured by Nightwish on the Imaginaerm before ramping up the gothic elements. The rest of the band all play well with Paul Cano's guitars, Darren Fa's bass and Mark Brooks' drums ramped up for The Fallen which is also the song that I think best displays Divi Cano's vocals with snarl in the verses before the high melodic passages come in the chorus. The Edge Of Innocence is a strong debut album from these Gibraltarians, it has all the prerequisites you would want from the style of music but doesn't fall into the trap of being too repetitive or generic. 7/10