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Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Reviews: Beth Hart, Ross The Boss, Earthless, Underside

Beth Hart: Front And Center - Live From New York (Provogue)

Recorded in the intimate setting of NYC’s Iridium Jazz Club the first lady of blues Beth Hart culminates her post-millennial career revival with a special performance held as part of Public Television’s Front And Center series of shows. The record has Beth performing 15 tracks that range from new tracks from her Fire On The Floor and classics from her back catalogue. You get a great mix of music on this record with Badass Blues an early contender for the showstopper giving Beth a chance to really impressive with her superior vocal talents, moving swiftly between blues, jazz, soul and even rock n roll she’s backed by an excellent band who are interpreting these songs for a live audience but give Beth enough room to express herself with her huge range.

She’s been called a mix between Janis Joplin and Etta James and the latter is really obvious on Jazz Man where she tries some scat singing as the piano bashes away. This is followed by the grunge rocking Delicious Surprise which is a really good track that proves the record is live do to some awful call and response with the small crowd struggling to get the power of Hart but it’s a testament to them that they tried. The record is rich in emotion and really exhibits that the best way to experience Beth Hart as a performer is in a live setting, on St Teresa I assume there wasn’t a dry eye in the house and Isolation is a track that hints at Hart’s future diagnosis of bi-polarity in a very prophetic song.

The setlist here is eclectic as I said with the slower torchlight ballads usually followed by a strutting blues rocker such as Fat Man. Live From New York is a great introduction to Beth Hart’s music if you’ve only ever had a passing interest, however for fans it’s a great chance to hear her where she shines and serves as a warm up for her UK tour at the end of the month. 8/10

Ross The Boss: By Blood Sworn (AFM)

Since the second Ross The Boss solo album Ross Friedman has reactivated his punk band The Dictators and released another album with Death Dealer, he has also changed the membership of this solo band wholesale. This was due to Ross wanting to work more in conjunction with New York musicians to get a more cohesive feel to this third record. Now I liked his first two albums they were big slabs of powerful heavy metal this one, I’m not too sure about, it was co-written by Symphony X’s Mike LePond and as I pressed play the title track did little to interest me, it’s by far the weakest cut on the album and I didn’t really warm to Marc Lopez’s vocals however things get better from there with Among The Bones and This Is Vengeance having riffs, bass lines and vocals that could have easily been on Battle Hymns especially This Is Vengeance which has the rapid fire riffs and expansive vocal range of classic Manowar.

The issue here is that it’s a bit hit and miss some tracks are great others just fade into blandness; much of this is due to the variable vocal work of Lopez who can be terrible or excellent depending on the song. The compositions are usually consistent if nothing else but By Blood Sworn doesn’t seem to have the cut and thrust of first two records and Faith Of The Fallen no matter how poignant is a rubbish song. Like I said I don’t know how to feel as for every great ‘True’ metal anthem there’s more filler than a plasterer's trowel. 6/10

Earthless: Black Heaven (Nuclear Blast)

San Diego's Earthless have explained their new album Black Heaven like so “It has six songs, and most importantly it has vocals on about 70 percent of the record. There goes being pigeonholed as an instrumental band, I guess…” Yes before this Earthless were known more for their sprawling instrumentals but on this record they have trimmed it down to two instrumental tracks the rest are Krautrock influenced, heavy, psychedelic, desert rock music that sees Isaiah Mitchell comfortably settling into his role of singer as well as guitarist linking up with Mario Rubalcaba's drums and Mike Eginton's bass in what is a very retro sounding album.

It has the production techniques of the 70's all over it, the songs are soupy with the percussion and vocals high in the mix but if you're here for the riffs then you're in luck as there are plenty of them. The hard rocking Gifted By The Wind is pretty much 80% guitar solo and from the wild riffs of this track the journey begins with kaleidoscopic, frenzied guitar playing, tight knit rhythms and a big heaving slab of proto-Sabbath rocking. The abrupt ending of the woozy Electric Flame let's Volt Rush rumble on by in a flurry of axe slinging. At 6 tracks Black Heaven doesn't stick around most of the vocal based tracks are reasonably long but when the whole record flows like a river of retro rocking you don't zone back into reality until it's over and that has no chance of happening until the title track has finished with you. Still relying on their instrumental prowess to control the course of these records the addition of more vocals will bring evolution for Earthless. 7/10

Underside: Satan In Your Stereo (Self Released)

Satan In Your Stereo blares out groove-laden metalcore that has been a part of the American music scene since the heady days of Lamb Of God, Killswitch Engage, Hatebreed and Devil Driver. Underside have adapted this sound though to make it more modern throwing in some Gojira technicality, the outright mentalism of Slipknot on Right To Hate and a healthy mix of harsh and clean vocals. As this album sticks so religiously to the NWOAM you'd think that Underside were American but they actually come from Nepal which is a bit further East.

To get to this point Underside have really had to struggle Nepal is very poor and as a result there is a lack of opportunities and platforms for emerging talent, however the resourceful members of the band started the Silence festival in Kathmandu six years ago to support heavy metal in their country and it has now become the biggest metal festival in India and Nepal attracting 4000 metalheads a year. This hardship and their unwavering support for their metal scene has meant that Underside have had to work doubly hard to get this album out there. I suggest you pick it up as it's got the muscle of FFDP, the aggression of Lamb Of God and the melodies of BFMV (Scare) and keeps you guessing as to what's coming next. An album born out of adversity these tracks will likely tear a live stage apart. 7/10

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