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Thursday, 21 June 2018

Reviews: Yob, Lizzy Borden, Black Fast, Thunder Horse (Reviews By Paul Scoble)

Yob: Our Raw Heart (Relapse)

Our Raw Heart is Yobs 8th studio album, and follow up 2014’s Clearing The Path To Ascend. So, how do you follow up one of the best doom albums ever made? An album that has insanely heavy and aggressive parts, but was featured in Rolling Stones top 50 albums of 2014? An album so good that the world outside of heavy metal sat up and took notice? Yob have always had an enigmatic, impenetrable, quality to them. They are almost the definition of an acquired taste. Their dense, demanding riffing style took effort and time to properly appreciate. If you gave the songs the chance to get into your psyche, to allow them a few listens, they would unravel themselves, and you could properly appreciate them.

This slight difficulty, this lack of accessibility, has led to their being loved passionately by their fans, and bemusing everyone else. I gave them a bit of time, and am happy to admit to being a fan. 2014’s Clearing The Path To Ascend showed a new direction, with the song Marrow. The first 3 tracks on the album, fit broadly into the style of doom that was characteristic of Yob, although the songs were getting softer, and more meditative as the album progressed. But with Marrow the 18 minute closer to the album, Yob seemed to be taking a new direction. The song features riffing that is more open and expansive than Yobs previous style. Less jarring rhythms, more of a flow to the structure. Mike Scheidt’s singing style was much softer and melodic that before, lyrically the song was less angry, more contemplative. Don’t get me wrong, Marrow isn’t a ballad, it’s still heavy, but it’s a different kind of heaviness. After the anger and pain of the first 3 songs of the album, Marrow feels like healing. 

Now 4 years later, how have Mike Scheidt, Aaron Rieseberg and Travis Foster followed Clearing The Path To Ascend? The 73 minute album is a bit of a juxtaposition. It’s broadly in two halves (although this is a bit of a simplification), the first coming from Yob’s more traditional dense, impenetrable style, the second half is in a more Marrow style direction. The first 3 tracks leave you in no doubt that Yob are still heavy and aggressive when they want to be. Second track The Screen is driven by one of the angriest, nastiest riffs Yob have ever used. The riff’s rhythm is slightly off kilter, giving it a lurching, staggering feel. In some ways it sounds a little like the main riff to Pantera’s Shedding Skin, but without the syncopation. This strange, urgent rhythm makes this just about the angriest thing I’ve heard from Yob. The song does have a few more tuneful, looser moments, but as soon as they arrive, they’re gone again as that angriest of all riffs, comes crashing back. 

The song Lungs Reach feels like a median point in the album, between the older style, angry, dense Yob, and the newer Marrow style material. The first half is quiet and delicate, but has a noisy, heavy ending. After Lungs Reach we come to the more meditative, expansive, sweeping style of material (although the track Original Face is quite a fast, aggressive version of this style). The second half of the album contains what I feel are the best 2 tracks on the album; Beauty In Falling Leaves and the amazing closing, title track Our Raw Heart. Beauty In Falling Leaves starts slowly, the relaxed pace at the beginning gives the song a reflective quality, that is answered by a heavier passage, that although heavy, is warm and musing, rather than angry. The song going between these moods, feels like the song is searching for answers, rather than feeling rage that all is lost. 

The final track Our Raw Heart is a fitting closer for what is one of the best albums I have ever heard. Its a blissful acceptance of life with all it’s faults. Mike Scheidt nearly died after contracting Diverticulitis, and then again from a post operative e-coli infection last year. Coming so close to death seems to have given Mike a different view of the world. He seems to be more aware of the positive, affirming aspects of life, he’s still angry, and depressed at the state of the world, but seems to have gained an insight into not missing the beauty and love. Hence we have Anger and Acceptance, Rage and Understanding, Depression and Joy. And Our Raw Heart is a perfect reflection of this. Yob have followed up one of the best doom albums ever made, with a doom album that is even better. 9/10

Lizzy Borden: My Midnight Things (Metal Blade Records)

Lizzy Borden has been making music since 1983, so has been doing this for 35 years. During the 80’s he was at the forefront of the shock rock/metal scene, making several successful albums before grunge came along to stop people having fun. Although Lizzy was successful, and made some fine albums, he was always a little overshadowed by W.A.S.P. and was sometimes (unfairly, I’ve always thought) considered to be a bit of a novelty act. As someone who was around, and into metal in the 80’s, I thought Lizzy was a little harder than W.A.S.P., basically more metal, I thought he was unjustly lumped in with the glam rock that was big at the time.

So, 35 years later, and 11 years since his last album (Appointment With Death), what has Lizzy Borden served up for us in 2018? We get 11 tracks that are on the cusp between hard rock and heavy metal. It’s a softer sound than a lot of his 80’s output, the production is very slick, with a little more keyboards. The songs themselves are really good, title track My Midnight Things is a thumping rocker, with great riffs and a monster chorus. In fact all the way through this album the choruses are HUGE, they’ve clearly worked on making sure every chorus is an enormous singalong. The track Long May They Haunt Us is as good as anything from David Lee Roth's 80’s output (you know the 2 great albums I’m talking about), with a chorus about the same size as Jupiter. Run Away With Me is another huge track, every bit as good as anything that was around in the 80’s, with a melody that gets into your head, and has you humming it to distraction.

The album does feel like it sags a little in the last third. I don’t think the reprise of the title track is needed. Doing it softly with keyboards and piano, doesn’t add anything to the album, maybe a softer section to the original song might have been more effective. However, this does feel a little like quibbling. My Midnight Things is a great, fun album. If your still listening to bands from the eighties (Guns N Roses are headlining Download as I write this), then you should definitely give this a go. If you are an existing Lizzy Borden fan, then this is essential. 7 / 10

Black Fast: Spectre Of Ruin (Entertainment One)

The publicity blurb that comes with this album proudly proclaims: “There isn’t a single clean passage, moody interlude, orchestral intro, or shoegazing break on Black Fast’s unapologetically destructive third album, Spectre Of Ruin.” And it’s not wrong, from the word go this album is a blast of crossover thrash. The St Louis quartet go for the throat from the first track, the incendiary Cloak Of Lies opener to the pounding, relentless closer Husk this album doesn’t let up once. The style is kind of a cross between Power Trip and Municipal Waste with a bit of a blackened edge to it (Famine Angel is a little reminiscent to early Skeletonwitch). 

The riffs are fast, and rip along at a neck wrecking pace, everything about this album feels energised, and alive. The solo’s fit the songs nicely, they’re fast and tuneful and never outstay their welcome. The vocals are fairly harsh, from the Bobby Blitz Ellsworth, Steve Souza, Tony Foresta school. The rhythm section do exactly what you want a thrash rhythm section to do, and beat the living crap out of you, it’s full on attack from start to finish. The album is produced by Hate Eternal main man and producer Erik Rutan, who does a sterling job, as this sounds fantastic, heavy as anything, but is still crisp and punchy. This is a great thrash album. Keeps your head banging throughout, and when its over you just want to go strait back to the beginning and start again. Great fun. 8/10

Thunder Horse: Thunder Horse (Self Released)

This is the first album from San Antonian 4 piece Thunder Horse. So, what do we have on offer from these Texan hooligans? On offer is 6 tracks of huge sleazy doom, with a touch of psych and blues. The main sound here is doom, massive riffs that drip with sleazy swagger, with a lovely dose of blues and rock and roll. Black Sabbath are an obvious influence here, the opening of the track Demon Speak has a definite Children Of The Grave feel to it. The sleazy rock and roll side of this band brings to mind Orange Goblin, and Goatsnake, with maybe a little Eyehategod in there for good measure. This is clearly a band who are open to lots of different influences, and are happy to incorporate many different styles into a sound that, although references a lot of different bands, is unique and their own. 

There is even a touch of early nineties alternative rock in this album, the vocals occasionally seem to be channeling Jane's Addiction. What this album has is great songs, all the tracks on this album feel complete and well rounded, I get the impression the band has lived with this material for a while, and spent time developing them. The beautiful, bluesy guitar solos are a case in point. They fit perfectly with the songs. This isn’t one member of the band showing off, each solo is an integral part of the song, the songs would be poorer without them. So, huge riffs, great grooves, massive swagger, brilliant solo’s, all handled with composure and grace. The album comes to a close with the track Pray For Rain, a mellow, blissed out blues workout, which acts as a very satisfying end to the album. Really great album, highly recommended. 8/10

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