Lionize: Nuclear Soul (The End Records)
It seems longer than three years since Jetpack Soundtrack. The fifth record by the Maryland rock funksters was crammed full of delicious sounds to provide substantial auditory delight. Since then the band has been regular visitors to the UK with a couple of supports to good friends Clutch as well as their own tour which culminated in a magnificent set at Bloodstock this year. Two EPs kept fans happy but at last album number six is here and what an absolute treat it is. Whilst retaining all the elements of previous releases, there’s a fresh energy about Nuclear Soul. A harder edge to the rock is balanced by the magnificent Hammond organ and Rhodes piano work of Chris Brooks whilst the funk current which has always surged through the band remains in plentiful supply.
Once again, the band has included intergalactic themes and added more social commentary on the state of the world. Coming from the States must give them endless subject matter but the words of Election Year could apply to just about any country and certainly rings true in the UK with the line “Don't trust the government” so appropriate. Lionize has always been a rock ‘n’ roll band at their core, despite the reggae rock label. Album opener Darkest Timeline and March Of The Clones flex those rock muscles whilst Face Of Mars and Power Grid add groove and funk with Henry Upton’s bass lines free to wander. Nate Bergman’s soulful voice is supported with superb harmonies on many tracks, Brooks and Upton adding depth.
The blues soaked Let You Down slows the pace after the rage of March Of The Clones and there is a soulful side on Fire In Athena. The title track haunts with poignant lyrics and a slow burn which reaches a crescendo before this superb piece of work closes with the racey rocker Blindness To Danger. Nuclear Soul has so much going on that it takes several listens to really appreciate it. Bergman’s guitar work is fantastic throughout, Brooks riotous but controlled keyboard work underpin everything whilst Chase Lapp’s drumming links with Upton’s rampaging bass lines to provide a concrete foundation. This is very likely to be my album of the year. Lionize: to give a lot of public attention and approval. Absolutely. 10/10
Voodoo Six: Make Way For The King (Cadiz Music)
I must be honest, I thought Voodoo Six had gone their separate ways. After 2013’s Songs To Invade Countries To, they completely disappeared off my radar so it’s pleasing to find that the band’s melodic hard rock sound returns, with album number five, Make Way For The King. Opener Electric is a statement of intent, stomping, clean and fresh. Nik Taylor Stoakes blues soaked vocals and Matt Pearce’s sterling guitar work immediately catching the ear. Pearce shouldered all the guitar work on this record, impressive work.
The title track follows, a catchy number that will be well received in the live arena but everything else of the album pales after you reach the magnificent 8-minute epic Amen which is the centre piece of the whole record. It is just a monumental track and one that deserves airplay which it will never get because of the duration. There is a hard rock throughout, such as the stomp of Until The End, but Voodoo Six can also mix it up, such as on the Godsmack sounding Release The Hounds. I played Fluke regularly when it came out back in 2010 and this record is likely to be another that is likely to be on the playlist for some time. A welcome return. 8/10
Gaerea: Self-Titled (S/T)
Portugese black metal outfit Gaerea present a mysterious image. Their Facebook page has silhouetted masked figures cloaked in swirling mist. No names or details of the band. Their debut six track EP promises to ‘bring and present you what your system could not solve by itself. We'll cover the daylight with ashes and smash the massive skull that's blocking your brain and will to evolve’. What follows is atmospheric, sky burning black metal.
Final Call brings the doom, slabs of mountainous riffs and powerful drumming but soon explodes into a frenzied onslaught. And that’s pretty much how it stays. Vocals that sound like Satan’s arse after a vindaloo, combined with a battery of hyperactivity. It’s far from appalling, and at time interestingly mixes the heavier elements of Alcest with Winterfylleth. It’s black metal, pure and simple. Punishing but not overly impressive. 6/10
Implore: Subjugate (Century Media)
If you want fast, thrashy blackened death metal with a crust and grindcore topping then you may want to check out this German outfit. Subjugate is their second full release and it’s short, sharp and oh so intense. With tracks lasting the typical two minutes, Implore accelerate at breakneck speed, whipping the neck so hard that a surgical collar is essential at the end of this album. The usual mix of influences are clear here, with shades of Napalm Death and Municipal Waste in the mix. It’s brutal and should clearly been heard in the live arena where no doubt these guys are absolute carnage for a three-piece. Enter at your own risk. 6/10