Lunatic Soul: Fractured (KScope)
There is no doubt that 2016 was an incredibly tough year for Mariusz Duda, bassist, vocalist and songwriter of Polish progressive rock outfit Riverside. The death of founder member and guitarist Piotr Grudzinski was followed three months later by the sudden passing of Duda’s father and at times like that you would have totally understood if Duda had called it a day. The fact that he didn’t is testament to the steel and drive of the man and not only did he and the rest of the band complete their Toward The Blue Horizon tour (see review on the blog earlier this year) but he also completed the fifth album by Lunatic Soul, his progressive side project. Unlike the previous release, 2014’s Walking On A Flashlight Beam, Fractured moves more away from the ambient progressive rock and embraces a variety of styles whilst still retaining an element of previous releases. There are glimpses of Numan inspired industrial pop, electronica of Depeche Mode on tracks such as Anymore, loops and rhythms as well as a journey close to the progressive rock in the 12 minute plus A Thousand Shards Of Heaven. Duda plays all the instruments apart from Marcin Odyniec’s stunning saxophone and the magical input of the Sinfonietta Consonus Orchestra on Crumbling Teeth And The Owl Eyes and A Thousand Shards Of Heaven.
Duda has described this album as “coming back after a personal tragedy, inspired by what happened in 2016, by everything that’s happening around us, and what’s making us turn away from one another and divide into groups, for better or worse”. Everything that happens on this album reflect that. Crumbling Teeth And The Owl Eyes has segments that would sit comfortably on the latter Opeth releases, whilst there is the individuality of Steven Wilson’s work sewn throughout. This is an album you cannot categorise, and despite its melancholy and sadness it should be heard by many more than it will be. I’ve played it repeatedly and still allow it to envelope me each time. One of the best releases of the year. You’d be a fool to miss it. 10/10
GWAR: The Blood Of Gods (Metal Blade)
33 years after they first crashed onto the metal scene, and despite being shorn of all original members, Richmond’s shock gore fest known as GWAR return with their first release since 2013’s Battle Maximus and the first to feature Blothar (Michael Bishop) on vocal following the senseless death of Dave Brockie from a heroin overdose in 2014. It’s fair to say that GWAR’s reputation is built on their chaotic live performances rather than any stellar musical output, although I do have a slight fondness for 1990’s Scumdogs Of The Universe. However, the title track which opens the album is a blistering seven-minute epic, full of Sabbath heavy riffs which Tony Iommi would be impressed with. There’s an Orange Goblin feel to the stoner infused Viking Death Machine and whilst it remains raw, there’s a pleasantly surprised feeling as the album progresses. The industrial punk stomp of El Presidente, a critical statement about the state of the US political situation, is catchy as is I’ll Be Your Monster.
I’ve seen GWAR a few times live, and after the first time which was just insane the next shows descended into a wall of noise. The screaming punk-infused Auroch returns to the sound that I’ve come to expect from GWAR, a thrashy almost Anthrax style stomp. Swarm and The Sordid Soliloquy Of Sawborg Destructo do little although Fuck This Place, the band’s tribute to Oderus Urungus genuinely rocks. Closing with a binary cover of AC/DC’s If You Want Blood (an obvious choice!), I reflected that this is an album that many thought would probably never happen in the darker days of 2014. It’s not ground breaking and we wouldn’t expect it to be. It’s much better than some of their drivel of previous years, focusing on some actual music rather than the gimmicks that litter everything they do. It won’t make my top 50 of the year, and I won’t be rushing out to buy it but yeah, it’s okay. 6/10
Revolution Saints: Light In The Dark (Frontiers Records)
If you follow the melodic rock scene then the names of the three members of Revolution Saints will be familiar. Drummer Deen Castranovo did his time with Journey, Ozzy and Bad English, Jack Blades in Night Ranger and Damn Yankees and gun for hire Doug Aldrich will sling the shapes for just about anyone. Following their debut release in 2015, Castranovo had an unfortunate high profile break down which resulted in, well, his world falling apart. Two years later and the man has begun to get his life back on track in an admirable fashion. He’s clean living and places much of his recovery in a newly discovered faith in the man upstairs. It’s clear throughout Light In The Dark that this is the case, as the spiritual themes are evident in many of the tracks.
Light In The Dark is a typically polished affair, full of big drum sounds, saccharine coated harmonies, Aldrich’s peeling guitar work and generally forgettable radio friendly melodic rock. These are quality musicians of course, and musically the album is tight and well knitted. But it also contains several pieces that would have me reaching for the cyanide tablet if you locked me in a room with them. Of particular note is the quite revolting I Wouldn’t Change A Thing, which is an outpouring of emotional gut churn, and the acoustic version of Can’t Run Away From Love, which is just appalling. Alongside that, tracks like Freedom and Ride On are catchy enough, sing-a-long throwaways that do little. I know there’s a market for this, I’m just glad I don’t shop there very often. 5/10
Ironbird: Self Titled (Transubstans Records)
Ironbird is the follow up to 2014’s Black Mountain, the debut from Swedish outfit Ironbird whose sound is stuck firmly in the 1970s. A sound that is unashamedly based on the deep groove and riff of Sabbath, so close that at times you wonder if this is an unreleased piece of music from the Brummies. There is a slight shift on Equation, which starts off in the Zakk Wylde and BLS mould before unleashing a psychedelic and stoner meander for a good seven minutes. Rasmus Janssón’s vocals allow you to reminisce about when Ozzy could almost sing in tune, full of soaring melody and Magnus Jernstróm’s massive riffs leave you unable to think of anyone else but the master Iommi. Whilst the band’s sound is firmly rooted in the 1970s, it’s not merely a copycat exercise and tracks such as River, Chains and the Zeppelin/Groundhogs feel of closing track Sleep deserve plaudits. 8/10