Wayward Sons: Ghosts Of Yet To Come (Frontiers Records)
Toby Jepson should be a name recognized by any British rock fan, the founder/frontman of Little Angels, he has also served time in Gun, Fastway and as a solo artist, before more recently turning his hands to producing records by The Virginmarys, Saxon and The Answer. I say should be but you will find that he isn't that's because he, like many UK rockers in the early 90's were overlooked in favour of their American counterparts. Well Toby has returned to redress the balance with Wayward Sons it's been a while since Jepson has played in rock band of his own creation but like previous acts Jepson's bands have always had the feel of a group of outcasts, on the Little Angels breakthrough single Kickin Up Dust they even use the line wayward sons to connect with the disenfranchised teens in Thatcher's Britain. This take no shit approach is once again rampant on Ghosts Of Yet To Come, there's a tenacity to the record, it bristles with attitude and rallies against the state of the nation on Small Talk (again name checking Mrs T as the rooyt of much of this
Apparently this was the first record Jepson wrote and recorded in the studio live with his band and it feels like it, these songs are written for performance. The band in question are Nic Wastell (bass, Chrome Molly) Phil Martini (drums, Spear Of Destiny, ex Quireboys, ex Tokyo Dragons), Sam Wood (guitar from Treason Kings) and Dave Kemp (keys, ex Little Angels touring band and long time sideman to Toby) they all bring their individual quirks to the record, Sam Wood is a heck of a discovery, the guys an axe wizard who slots in well with the old hands peeling of slick licks that weave in and out of Kemp's keys as Wastell and Martini lay down a 70's groove with a modern gloss.
The record has 10 tracks no ballads and whole load of rocking Alive is written like this is the last roll of the dice, Until The End and Give It Away are Jepson doing what he does best the way he used to, Ghost is a slab of proto-metal, Killing Time the hefty singalong, as is Crush and bluesy Something's Wrong ends the record with a cool nod to the classics. Wayward Sons is a band for the people, Jepson and indeed British rockers generally always seemed a man out of place during the big rock revival of 88 - 94, while G'N'R and Tesla were achieving legendary status acts like Little Angels, Thunder etc were doing things with the plucky determination of the Brits, it's only in the last 10 years that their contribution has been recognised and as Thunder see their star shining brighter than ever maybe it's time we re-evaluate Toby Jepson, forget ghosts, the best is yet to come! 8/10
Prophets Of Rage: S/T (Fantasy Records)
Just when you thought politically charged rap rock was dead three quarters of Rage Against The Machine return with Chuck D and DJ Lord of Public Enemy and B-Real of Cypress Hill. The band were formed in the melee of the 2016 Presidential election as a collaboration between activist musicians against the political madness of the time. This is their debut record and it's pretty much RATM without Zach De La Rocha, unfortunately this is where it falls down. Yes there are filthy riff on Radical Eyes Unfuck The World and Hail To The Chief with Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford bringing those funky molotov wielding grooves and Tom Morello fills the songs with his distinctive funk meets video game guitar playing.
It's the mic work that really differs though as Chuck D and B-Real may be politically savvy and know how to spit a rhyme but they just don't seem to have the unmitigated anger shown by De la Rocha on classic RATM on Sleep Now In The Fire. Prophets Of Rage has the feel of a 'star' protest, millionaires trying to be 'down with the kids' where as the original RATM and to the same extent Public Enemy were from the streets with genuine beef, this record is a group of musicians with money to burn taking a political argument that is already out of date. They would have been much better getting these songs released maybe one a week during the election campaign where they would have been more anthemic.
Still musically it's what you would want for those protests against tyranny that seem to be getting more and more necessary, there is no Killing In The Name but there is the pro-weed anthem Legalize Me, the impressive Latin flavoured funk of Take Me Higher along with the Rage-alikes I've mentioned earlier. From a music perspective there is nothing wrong with Prophets Of Rage (unless you hate rap-rock) but it's message just feels a little late in the day. 7/10
Witherfall: Nocturnes & Requiems (Century Media)
One look at the Facebook page of Witherfall tells you what to expect before a note is even played. They state their influences are King Diamond, Nevermore, Pink Floyd, Savatage and you can really hear all of these bands on this record. The American act was born out of the ashes of White Wizzard with that band's former guitarist Jake Dreyer (also Iced Earth and ex-Kobra & The Lotus) and vocalist Joseph Michael coming together in 2013 with drummer Adam Sagan. This record is a tribute Sagan who tragically died in December 2016 during the final production stages and it's one that I think encapsulates the vision they were trying to achieve. Nocturnes & Requiems is a record that has furious technical thrash on Portrait but takes this and adds ambient Floydian textures, a heavy use of acoustic and classical guitars and wraps it all up in a progressive metal package.
Nevermore and King Diamond are the two main comparisons, heading back to the aforementioned Portrait it's right out of the Melissa era with it's ominous hooks and Michael's wailing vocals (repeated on The Great Awakening. The record gets faster on What We Are Dying For before it turns into heavy doom that Leif Edling would be proud, however they throw another curveball with some fleet fingered classical guitars in the middle section. Dreyer plays up a storm here moving between shredding and folk acoustics on the 9 minute Sacrifice, which is one of two 9 minute tracks on this record full of pretty long songs, Sacrifice is also notable as it goes full Floyd in the middle as Anthony Crawford's bass leads the record ala One Of These Days.
Sagan's drumming is immense on every track he's got the extreme metal blastbeats that lay a tough base layer for Dreyer's guitar heroics and Michael's wide range. It's a shame if this is the only record from Witherfall as it's excellent, I'm a huge Nevermore fan and this is the closest thing I've heard in ages, more proof that White Wizzard has been the breeding ground for some of the best traditional metal bands around. 8/10