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Monday, 25 May 2020

Reviews: War Cloud, Fairyland, Hybrid Children, Black Falcon (Matt & Simon)

War Cloud: Earhammer Sessions (Ripple Music) [Matt Bladen]

Rising from Oakland California (now Austin, Texas) riff masters decided to record this as a live-in-studio to capture their fierce live energy. The recording took place at Earhammer studios (thus the title) recorded by Greg Wilkinson and mastered by Alan Douches who endeavoured to make this album sound as close to a live recording as they could get but without the often varying audio quality and crowd noise. Earhammer Sessions is eight tracks of heavy dirty biker rocking that is rooted in the leather clad bravado of bands such as Motorhead and Saxon, numbers like Divide And Conquer having that NWOBHM bounce to it and some glorious lead guitar breaks leading into the the instrumental Tomahawk which has a the propulsion of all great Maiden instrumentals. Elsewhere there are tributes to God himself (Lemmy) with the Speed Demon and Chopper Wired having that Motorhead snarl, the latter featuring a drum solo. Earhammer Sessions is, according to frontman Alex Wein the band's frontman; "the setlist we performed every night of our most recent European tour" so this is why it's paced the way it is. War Cloud rage with a primal rock fury that you can hear in this delicious record full of meaty riffs and lashings of attitude. 7/10

Fairyland: Osyrhianta (Massacre Records) [Simon Black]

French Symphonic/Power metal outfit Fairyland are back, and it has been a long time since 2009’s Score To A New Beginning, which closed their last trilogy of albums and three years have passed since they actually released the track listing for this album, so clearly rushing things is not on their agenda. That's what you actually get with the album as well, and this beast takes time to get the best out of. The core of the band remains songwriter/keyboards man Philippe Giordana, with the rest of the band being more or less a completely new one, but followers of this act will not be disappointed – Osyrhianta picks up where its predecessors left off.

Fortunately, this mouthful of a title is actual pronounced ‘Oh-Syria’ and yes it’s a concept, serving as a prequel to the original trilogy. Fans of the band are used to hearing different singers on each album, so this one goes a step further by having at least three different singers on different tracks, borrowing from the Avantasia style of adding guest artists playing individual characters from the concept as well as adding guest musicians. Not knowing this act well, I found myself having to work at this album. On the first spin I found it a little too Symphonic and inaccessible, but playing it again on the main sound system with the volume up loud I find myself being drawn into this little world. It still took another full listen before I felt that I could even begin to do this any justice, but by then I was hooked.

I can see why this had such a difficult gestation – there is a hell of a lot going on in the nearly hour long running time of this piece, with some incredibly fast and technical performances at some points, - counterpointed by some incredibly well crafted, lengthier and more measured pieces. We also have what sounds like full on actual orchestration and choral recordings, not just keyboard voices creating an incredibly rich sound. The point this jumps home is when you get to the fully instrumental Mount Mirenor, which also has a lovely catchy violin and flute parts and an atmosphere that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Nightwish album and which they manage to successfully carry for 7 minutes.
This isn’t going to be for everyone, even those who love the ostentatious bravado of the symphonic/power genre will need to work at this, but Giordana has spent ten years crafting this complex beast, so don’t expect to unpick it from a single listen. When you try, play it loud on a good quality system, and your patience will definitely be rewarded. 8/10

Hybrid Children: Where The Pub Roses Grow (Self Released) [Simon Black]

Finland’s Hybrid Children have been around the block for a while, and what I generally find refreshing about this sort of Punk-influenced Rock ’n’ Roll is that sounding fresh is absolutely part of their DNA, and this album is no different. Despite being around since the early 1990’s, Where The Pub Roses Grow has that energy and rawness of a much younger act. If you want the answer to the question posed by the album’s title (and you somehow missed the cover), then the answer is the gutter, which is absolutely where this album sounds – it’s down, it’s dirty and it’s borderline sleaze on a couple of tracks.

From the opening bars of Gimme Some Blackout, this album pogo’s its way into your life, leaving this old hack feeling a much happier chap than I started the day and before you know it, it had passed. The whole album flew by quickly, despite the fact that it has more tracks and a longer running time at 38 minutes than is usual for the genre, with the vast majority falling into the 3 minute wham, bam, thankyou-Ma’am category – to the point where I actually had listened end to end 3 times before putting a single word down, which is always a good sign that I’ve found a band I’m gonna follow.

The top track for me is Dee Dee’s Always Home, which is a great love letter to The Ramones, and absolutely stands out for its energy and sheer unmitigated joy and I defy anyone to not bop, or at least tap along some part of their anatomy when taking this track out for a spin. There’s moments of good old Hard Rock heaviness as well, with tracks like Sick Delusion and the positively heavy (almost to the point of full-on Metal) and for this band epic Armies Of The Underdog (well, 5’15’ is epic compared to the rest of the running times on here), proving that these guys aren’t a one-trick pony. Refreshing, lively, varied and catchy – this is absolutely a Friday album. 8/10

Black Falcon: Ego Mortem Machina (Morning Star Heathens Music Group)

With Covid-19 pandemic still enforcing strict social distancing, the live music scene has been ground to a halt. With bands scattered to the winds recording too can be a hassle at the moment however we live in the age of technology so nothing is impossible anymore and many bands, such as Chaos Over Cosmos who exist despite being at separate ends of the world, still manage to produce records despite their geographical location. Add to that list Black Falcon, the Bradford stoner rockers who have produced an EP recorded entirely in their homes. Each band member recorded their parts at home before e-mailing them to bassist Liam Hunter who applied the mixing and mastering finish.

This EP is a follow up to their debut and it opens with some Vangelis-like synths on the bubbling intro Hawkmoon. The first song proper is the title track and it's got some big, groovy stoner riffing and a raw vocal style similar to South Wales' own Lacertilia. You can hear why the band have played shows with L.A Guns, Puddle Of Mudd and at Bloodstock as they know exactly how to grind out a big hooky riff. It's short and yes the production is a little bit D.I.Y, as you'd expect for something turned around so quickly but the little synth flourishes and general good time vibe win you over. 7/10

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