Lesoir: Latitude (Gentle Art Of Music)
Netherlands band Lesoir are an interesting act, they bewitched me with their previous record so it's with great anticipation that I delved into the fourth album from Lesoir. They are a band very difficult to pigeonhole classing them as artrock means that they have a very broad palate (no pun intended) to play with, they have the cinematic textures of Anathema, the progressive heaviness of Tool and the fiery attitude of Skunk Anansie or Alanis Morissette. Whereas the previous release Luctor Et Emergo was a rockier record with big heavy riffs, Latitude is a much more artistic, experimental and ambitious, creating beautiful multi layered soundscapes as frontwoman Maartje Meessen along with guitarist/keyboardist Eleen Bartholomeus harmonize beautifully with distinctly empowering lyrical content that deals with climate change, mankind’s role on this planet and the band's friend who survived the Bataclan terror attack.
The music is melancholic but pins it's impact on the existence of hope, for all the bad there will be good you just have to find it. The slow burning Modern Goddess starts with a single piano before the rest of the band come in and with a dynamic drum fill from Bob van Heumen the strings swell and as quickly as it begins it ends. It's the beginning of 13 song journey, the dramatic In The Game follows with chunky riffs from Ingo Jetten's bass, it moves into the dark, uneasy and fidgety Icon which is the first time guitarist Ingo Dassen can let rip. The album progresses with more dense music that really needs to be listened to intently so you can get the full effect, In Their Eyes once again relies on a slow building delivery that explodes at the end with Maartje giving a brilliant, emotive performance.
I mentioned Anathema earlier and the Liverpool band can be heard right the way through the record, they have similar panache and use of musical alchemy to hit you right in the feels, the employment of orchestral elements are measured but let rockers such as Gone And Forgotten have more of an impact for every orchestral epic though they also bring some attitude filled alt rock on Cheap Trade which is followed by the Portishead ambience of Comforting Rain. This fourth album will be hard work for those looking for a quick musical fix but if you think an album needs multiple listens to really appreciate it then Latitude will satisfy your needs, it's fantastic. 9/10
Galactic Cowboys: Long Way Back To The Moon (Mascot Records)
I’d never heard of Galactic Cowboys before but apparently they were a band originally between 1989 and really 2000 with members shedding like skin before that leaving only bassist Monty Colvin and vocalist Ben Huggins by the end. However after a few reunion shows in 2009, the band reformed in 2016 with all of the original members and Long Way Back To The Moon is their long awaited new album, their first since 2000. Galactic Cowboys are apparently a progressive metal band who cite The Beatles and Anthrax as major influences, as this record opens up it’s very easy to see why, all the band contribute to the harmonic backing vocals but it’s at odds to the chunky stomping thrash riffs.
A song such as Drama highlights this very well, however you can also hear the more traditional prog metal of Dream Theater on Amisarewas which builds on Dane Sonnier’s intricate guitars with Alan Doss steadying the pace with his drumming. Now I’m not going to criticise the music on this record it’s clearly the work of talented individuals but much like King’s X (a band who Galactic Cowboys are often compared to) I just can’t get into this record, having listened to it a few times it doesn’t leave me with an impression, it does get better as it progresses, getting proggier later but for the most part I think this is technically proficient but I don’t find it particularly memorable. 6/10
Stalker: Shadow Of The Sword (Napalm Records)
Shadow Of The Sword is the debut album from squealing speed metalllers Stalker who hail from the foreign shores of New Zealand. Speed metal tends to come from either the Nordic countries or Canada so it’s time to hear a band from the Southern hemisphere doing this leather clad machismo. They really ramp up the retro, the production has an 80’s hollowness, the guitar riffs are distorted and too busy playing at a million miles an hour to really give much differentiation, while the vocals are scratchy and go into the high squeak once too often. It’s pretty standard fair and if you’re into retro metal then you’ll lap this up, otherwise you might actually find it a bit annoying. 6/10
King Bison: Snake Head Burial EP (Self Released)
King Bison are what you’d get if Viking Skull got into a bourbon soaked brawl with Motorhead and Pantera, it’s dirty mudslinging metal riffs, piledriving groove and raw vocals galore with songs named Filthy Son Of A Bitch and Demon Tongues & Leather you already know what you’re getting. The four tracks on this EP give you enough of a flavour to want more (hint the flavour is Southern smoked chipotle), it’s all over in flash of heaviness as the Plymouth band batter you from the outset. Snake Head Burial is a mere taster for the band’s bludgeoning heaviness, a full length will need a bit of variation, maybe a couple of cleaner bluesier tunes, to keep the attention the maximum but these four songs do enough to get the blood pumping and your drinking hand active. 7/10