Witch Mountain: Self Titled (Svart Records)
Following their own destiny for over 20 years, the legendary doom mongers from Portland, Oregon return after a three-plus-year hiatus with a refreshed line-up that sees new singer Kayla Dixon and bass player Justin Brown join band stalwarts Rob Wong and Nate Carson. The result is imposing; a gritty mix of dark blues, thunderous doom and even some death growls. From the opening strains of Midnight, Dixon’s superb blues-soaked vocals take centre stage, soaring high one minute, then delving low into the Devil’s doorway the next as the deep doom which surges through this album kicks in. Dixon’s control is impressive, and she oozes soul and charisma.
Although Dixon and Brown are newcomers in the recording studio, they have toured with the band for much of the past three years which has helped them smooth out any wrinkles and develop a tight unit. “We’ve always been a patient band,” said founding drummer Nathan Carson. “Thanks to all the touring Rob Wrong and I have done with Justin and Kayla over the last three years, we were able to make this album as a full-fledged, road-tested, family unit.” Burn You Down moves at pace, with a fat Sabbath style riff particularly enticing but it is the mammoth 14-minute Nighthawk which is the biggest thrill here, an absolute brute that brings a crafted and polished release to its conclusion. 8/10
Stryper: God Damn Evil (Frontiers Records)
Unfortunately for those of us who like our metal on the fiery, slightly demonic side, those God-Fearing Christians from Orange County show no sign of disappearing in their sunshine coach. Having appeared way back in 1983, the band thankfully disbanded in 1992 before proof that there is no God arrived in the shape of a reformation in 2003. Since then, Stryper have continued to churn it out and by some miracle this is their seventh album since they returned. Astonishingly they have sold over 10 million records. To Who?? Opening track Take It To The Cross is absolute dogshite, the squealing Michael Sweet maiming the chorus and even the presence of Shadow Falls Matt Bachand doesn’t save it from eternal damnation in the septic tank of canine excrement.
It doesn’t get any better, with the title track stifled by lyrical content, the pace of a slug and Sweet’s saccharine sweet voice raising the bile in the throat. I managed to listen to this one all the way through, but second helping had me screaming for my water to be turned into a vat of wine that I could drown myself in. No such luck though. Closing track is The Devil Doesn’t Live Here, and that’s just as well because he certainly has better tunes than the guy in white robes. This is a musical crucifixion which is probably more undeserved than that of the carpenter’s son in that relatively famous book. Avoid. 2/10
Pale Bastard: Pale Bastard (Self Released)
Although their sound suggests that they are an integral part of the NOLA stoner movement, Pale Bastard hail from way out West; Swansea to be exact. With a motto that screams “Riffs, Beards, Beers and Blunts” you quickly paint the picture of a lifestyle that matches their thunderous music. For a debut album this is about as assured as it gets.
A massive sound which rolls elements of Crowbar, Down, Mastodon and Red Fang into a ball and then blasts them out at full velocity. There isn’t a bad track on this seven-song release, with The Ballad Of Clint Montgomery and Spider Blood vying for top spot. It’s sludgy, heavy, filthy and stoner rock at its finest. This is possibly the most impressive and addictive debut release you will hear all year. 9/10
The Kut: Valley Of Thorns (Criminal Records/Cargo Records)
40 minutes of alternative rock from The Kut, a female three-piece from the UK based around the multi-instrumentalist Princess Maha. Voted one of the breakthrough artists of 2017 by Kerrang! and with plaudits from both Metal Hammer and Classic Rock, Valley Of Thorns combines Courtney Love, L7, the raw power of The Stooges and The MC5 and wraps them all into a hard-hitting bundle which is well worth a listen.
Hard hitting riffs, clean melodies and perfect harmonies added to a variety of styles from grunge and industrial tinged hard rock make this an album well worth a listen. The band will be present at many festivals this summer including the second episode of Amplified and are reputed to be impressive live. Based on this release, The Kut are worth checking out. 7/10