Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Wrong Creatures (Vagrant Records)
Many years ago, I saw BRMC at Cardiff University in the Great Hall. I don’t remember much about the gig to be honest, but it was sufficiently good for me to stay until the end, something that doesn’t always happen at metal gigs these days. I knew they were still around, but it’s been a while since I heard any of their music. The San Francisco trio’s eight album and their first since 2013’s Specter At The Feast is a tasty hour of alternative and grunge style rock, ranging from the powerful Spook, the emotional soaked Echo through to the moody slow burn of the excellent Haunt, with its introspective slightly gothic feel. BMRC create a sound that belies their three-piece status, with Peter Hayes, Robert Levon Been and Leah Shapiro crafting a balanced and measured release which makes a smashing alternative to the ear-splitting noise we tend to favour. If you fancy something a little off the usual path, then Wrong Creatures may be just the job. 8/10
Soldiers Of Solace: We Are Immortal (Rock ‘N’ Growl Records)
In the maelstrom of sub genres, sometimes all you want is a beefy chunk of heavy metal. US metal outfit Soldiers Of Solace bring you heavy, in a traditional muscular style which initially fitted the bill perfectly. It’s not going to take your breath away with originality but opening double salvo Rude Awakening and the title track hit fast and with some weight behind the punch and my interest was fired. The power ballad which inevitably follows; Cold As A Stone is pretty routine. From there on it’s a little bit paint by numbers in the FFDP and Shinedown style, arena rock which would no doubt get those who love their music with little variation a little moist. Another power ballad, Washed In Flames allows vocalist Jason Longo to open the pipes, the similarities with Ivan Moody evident but does little. I’m afraid that for all the intensity at the start of the record, halfway through and it was just the same track on repeat. Penultimate track Freedom’s Children does at least get the neck muscles straining even if it is a bit Anvil-esque. Despite the big, brash production and throwaway riffs unfortunately this album doesn’t really prompt much excitement. 5/10
Amid The Barren And Lost: Shadow Self Psalms (Nemacystem Records)
According to their press release, London’s Amid The Barren And Lost is the focused and distilled sound of a quartet with one unified aim; the creation of the most uncompromising, and pummelling heavy metal. Well, they certainly do the pummelling well; this is one nasty full on assault. Crushing riffs and thunderous drums alongside a punishing vocal assault of dark, abstract lyrics take no prisoners. Its intensity is ferocious, with Sean Gibson’s guttural vocal delivery sitting comfortably alongside the brutality delivered by guitarist Doug Cartwright, bassist Chad McCamlie and drummer Leigh Costanza.
With more than a little groove underpinning their gnarly thrashing, Amid The Barren And Lost won’t be playing at your little sister’s wedding party any time soon. However, they will be opening up raging pits in the live arena with their relentless battery. Opener Of Blood And Bone sets a tempo which the band match with energy and fury throughout; four tracks in and Nameless Slave just destroys. I was breathless from listening to this onslaught. It rarely stops, and the ambitious eight-minute closing track The Beautiful Architecture Of Lies provides the ideal conclusion to superb debut. 8/10