Alien Weaponry: Tū (Napalm Records)
Fuck me! I’d heard the rumours about this New Zealand three-piece, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the onslaught that hit me when I first hit play on their debut album. To be honest, how often do you even consider New Zealand, outside of the annual crushing of the Welsh Rugby team? A little background is necessary. Alien Weaponry consists brothers Henry (drums) and Lews De Jong (guitar and vocals) and bassist Ethan Trembath. Their name is drawn from the District 9 film. The band was formed in 2010. Okay, let’s pause there. 2010. When the brothers were ten and eight respectively. Holy shit. That makes them an ancient 18 and 16 now! So, having formed and won competitions, the band was successful in obtaining New Zealand On Air Funding for their first three singles and then released The Zego Sessions EP in 2014.
Tū is their first full-length release and it's an angry, stomping, thrashy bastard of an album. Full of old school thrash metal influences, sung partly in Maori, which enhances the burning rage within the band, and with a lyrical content that focuses on injustices and outrages against the indigenous peoples as well as social commentary on the wider political world, this is an album that is stunning in terms of its energy, freshness and overall complexity. Tracks such as Rū Ana Te Whenua, Kai Tangata and their first single Urutta belie both the band’s age and their three-piece status. A huge sound enhances the album, which is ferociously heavy and has echoes of Gojira about it in parts. No bad thing. Alien Weaponry play Wacken and Bloodstock this year. I for one will not miss them. 8/10
Witchskull: Coven’s Will (Rise Above Records)
A wall of sound hits you as soon as Coven’s Will opens. It doesn’t let up for the next 35 minutes as the blend of Sabbath soaked doom and Witchtripper/Orange Goblin style biker rock of Canberra’s Witchskull penetrates your soul. There are many doom bands plying their trade, with varying degrees of effectiveness. Witchskull has taken the essence of the 1970s and melded it into a faster, thrashier and heavier sound which gets the seal of approval from me. It’s not classic in the sense of Trouble or Candlemass, but the intensity and the power drive it into the upper levels in terms of quality.
Smashing drums, ample crashing symbols, raging guitars and sludgy, fuzzy riffs and Marcus De Pasquale’s wailing vocals on tracks like Priestess and Spyres captivate and enchant. There is an intensity and drive rarely seen with doom bands on this album, a heaviness that crushes without smothering and and an overall quality that makes Witchskull tower majestically above many of the same genre. These Australians, Tony McMahon on bass and Joel Green on drums alongside De Pasquale (guitar and Vocals), have released a grand debut which demands your attention. 8/10
Marc Rizzo: Rotation (Combat/SPV)
It’s almost inconceivable that you won’t have head of Marc Rizzo. Originally a member of Il Nino, Rizzo is the shredder who has spent most of his musical career as Max Cavalera’s right hand man. Rizzo has laid down the riffs for Soulfly since 2004, which means Prophecy, Dark Ages, Omen, Archangel, Conquer and Savages all bear his hallmark sound, as well as the four Cavalera Conspiracy releases, most recently 2017’s notable Psychosis. Rotation is Rizzo’s fourth solo release, his first since 2010’s Legionnaire and it is a stunning piece of work. Heavy on the Latin flavour, there are changes at every turn, with the low-end riffs and thrash intensive leads that Rizzo is synonymous with all present. Coursing with melody, Rotation contains gems such as Jungle Jam Slam, a vicious and intense six-and-a-half-minute composition which has a huge Latin feel. Thrash Boogie is just that whilst the technicality in Downside Up is astonishing. Rizzo is a superb and underrated guitarist. If you like to hear astonishingly heavy instrumentals, then Rotation should be on your list of purchases. 9/10
Shotgun Rebellion: Outlaw Rock N Roll (Twelve Gauge Records)
Formed in the southeast Oklahoma town of Ada, Shotgun Rebellion is Rick Davis (vocals / guitar), Randy Johns (bass), Steve Parnell (guitar) and Johni Walker (drums) who provide a quality release dripping with Southern heavy rock music with an outlaw country whiskey kick. This album is, as their press aptly captures it, ‘Pure Rock and Pure southern to the bone’. I can’t argue with that. It bleeds Southern tradition. Outlaw Rock N Roll is a burning cauldron of roaring rock which has the heady combination of classic southern rock icons such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, country legends Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jr., and David Allen Coe, blues master Robin Trower and the hard rock and metal of The Black Crowes, Black Label Society NOLA bands Down and Corrosion Of Conformity as well as the heavier riff laden masters Pantera, Sabbath and Zeppelin.
Shotgun Rebellion mixes these influences brilliantly, pulling out a sound that crosses many genres and is genuinely infectious. The lyrical roots and ideals sit heavily with outlaw country, whilst the underlying groove of Southern rock is the groove and feel of southern rock is scattered with the intensity of metal. The bombastic swagger on Outlaw Rock N Roll immediately draws comparisons with Hogjaw and the brilliant Texas Hippie Coalition, one of many bands that Shotgun Rebellion has opened for over the past few years. Highlights are many, and include the BLS rage of Devil’s Daughter, the chug of Addiction Road, the anthemic Won’t Back Down and the Black Oak Arkansas feel of Just As Good A Day. Whilst I’m pretty sure the band’s political views are way different to me, especially when it comes to guns, their music connects perfectly. This is an album that you need to hear. 9/10
Moon Gypsy: Numbskull (Self Released)
Under 30 minutes, Numbskull is eight tracks of stoner and psychedelic rock from this outfit who hail from Charleston, USA. It certainly is a retro affair with each track retaining a 70s feel, albeit with darker riffs that envelope the listener, transporting you into a vortex of spinning doom. Certainly not something for a hot sunny day, Numbskull will appeal to those who like their rock painted black and full of fuzzy distortion. 7/10