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Tuesday 27 May 2014

Reviews: Devin Townsend, Timo Tolkki's Avalon, Brother Firetribe

Devin Townsend: Casualties Of Cool (Self Released)

Is Devin Townsend the finest musician (metal or otherwise) of the 20th Century? Debatable but what is true is that he certainly is a musical chameleon with the ability to lend his talent to a variety of styles, see his contrasting careers in SYL and The Devin Townsend Band and his fully integrated psyche in the Devin Townsend Project which was rock, metal, acoustic, trance, electronica all rolled into one. Casualties Of Cool is another feather in his cap, as this is a concept album of bluesy, country and even ambient styled songs and they feature the vocal talents of relatively unknown Ché Aimee Dorval. The album is a essentially an expanded version of Townsend's Ghost II bonus disc with lots of the same themes running through the record. A crowd funded affair Casualties Of Cool is somewhat of a stop gap between Townsend's Epicloud and his next full project Z2 the follow up to his famous ode to coffee Ziltoid: The Omniscient and as such many were not expecting much, however as usual Devin has the Midas touch and Casualties Of Cool is yet another jewel in his expansive crown. Things kick off with Daddy which has a dreamy, ambient style to begin the album and its on this first song we hear Dorval's rootsy countrified voice. She has a strong vocal delivery with authentic soul in every lyric she utters, see Flight as an example. With tracks such as Mountaintop which has a propulsive but dark and brooding atmosphere and Devin's expansive vocal range this time opting for his half whispered delivery. The majority of the album features acoustics over electrics meaning that the album has a very analogue sound at its core but one that is brought into the present by the electronic treatment of the tracks. Yes this fan funded album has all the elements of Ghost and Ki and it is the complete opposite to Epicloud's euphoric, guitar driven rock style. This is more laid back, woozy, dreamy music to escape the modern age with, music to stir the soul and relax the mind. Mr Townsend you have done it once again!! 9/10

Timo Tolkki's Avalon: Angels Of The Apocalypse (Frontiers Records)

The former Stratovarius guitarist returns with the second part in his trio of concept albums. This time things get darker as the titular apocalypse descends on our story. This means that the main character of the last story Amaranthe's Elize Ryd is only on the final two tracks. This means that a new cast of singers have been brought in for this album the most notable of these being Floor Jansen (Nightwish/Revamp) and Fabio Lione (Rhapsody Of Fire), himself no stranger to a concept album. Lione and Jansen provide the vocals for majority of the songs but both David DeFeis of Virgin Steele on the heavyweight The Rise Of The Fourth Reich and Zach Stevens of Circle II Circle/Savatage who lends his pipes to the Maiden-like Neon Sirens. From the vocal only Song Of Eden which shows off Lione's vocals excellently and leads into the massively orchestral and heavy Jerusalem Is Falling which again shows the almost operatic nature of Lione's vocals and also shows how good Tolkki's guitar playing is with an absolutely killer, classically influenced solo to finish the song off. His assembled band is also amazing with two former members of Stratovarius taking up the drums and keys and Tolkki's handling everything else instrument wise. This album is far heavier than the previous effort with lots of searing riffs, fret melting solos and massive keys see Paradise Lost which has a pulsating electronic part to it. The vocalists hold their own with Floor Jansen taking the most of the kudos in the talent stakes especially on the spine tingling You'll Bleed Forever which also has a mountain top guitar solo that Slash would be proud of. The final two tracks are possibly the best with Simone Simons, Elize Ryd, Floor Jansen and Caterina Nix all showing off their pipes on High Above Me and the nine odd minute title track. This is a great album and Tolkki is finally showing why he was the main creative force behind Stratovarius for all those years, after a shaky start with the lacklustre Revolution Renaissance and the under rated and beleaguered Symfonia, it seems Tolkki has rediscovered his mojo with Avalon and on this album particularly it is prime Strato territory. 8/10    

Brother Firetribe: Diamond In The Firepit (Spinefarm)

Indulge me for a moment...Imagine if Journey gave up after the Next album, so no Steve Perry, no Evolution, no Escape, no Don't Stop Believing and more importantly no world domination as the worlds best AOR band. What if instead that this all happened in Finland? Well that band would be Brother Firetribe, three albums in and they have avoided the weird jazz-rock stage that Journey went through and came out swinging with some muscular AOR from their debut album, this theme continued through their sophomore effort and yet again Diamond In The Firepit is an album that harks back to those glory days of, big hair, big keyboards and big ballads. Brother Firetribe is the brainchild of Nightwish guitarist Emppu Vuorinen who swaps his symphonic metallic playing for clean guitar lines, melodic leads he is aided by the huge keys of Tomppa Nikulainen meaning that the band have that Schon/Cain feel throughout with the guitars and keys equally important to the bands sound see Far Away From Love which has both a guitar and a keyboard break. The drums and bass are also key to the sound but it's the vocals of Pekka Ansio Heino that also give the Journey references legs, he is pure Perry with a soulful croon and soaring highs. This album is pure cheese yes but it is played with pure heart and belief meaning that you can't help but be drawn in. The album has some speedy melodic rockers and obviously the obligatory busy which comes in the shape of Desperately (Faithfully?), they also have a cover in the shape of Winner Takes It All, which is not ABBA but a Sammy Hagar song from the Sly Stallone-does-arm wrestling movie Over The Top. The album like I said it is aimed at a niche audience but this is an album for fans of Foreigner, Reo Speedwagon and yes Journey. Brother Firetribe are band out of time but they play what they want any way they want it (I am sorry) 7/10    

Monday 26 May 2014

Another Point Of View: Bonded By Blood (Paul Hutchings)

Bonded by Blood – Fuel Cardiff

A six band thrash fest for ten quid? Absofuckinglutely sir!  And so it was that the legends that are Mr Rhod Davies, Mr Benjamin Beer and of course Kreator’s bastard love child Nurse Nick and yours truly rendezvoused at our usual pre-gig haunt of The Gatekeeper for a pint of foaming ale, handily placed right next door to Fuel Rock Club where the gig had been moved to. Credit to Fearless Management who are really going balls out to support metal in South Wales and who really deserve more metal heads to get along to gigs like this. In a week when established venues like The Fleece in Bristol are under threat, it really is difficult for promoters and they deserve massive kudos for putting on such a stunning event.


Unfortunately we missed openers Dread Bolt and arrived in time to catch Madicide, a four piece from Glynneath doing their stuff to a sparse but enthusiastic crowd (which appeared to be the theme for the evening). Madicide are heavily influenced by the usual thrash titans that you would expect for bands on this bill. They battled gamely against a pretty ropey sound system but unfortunately their stuff is instantly forgettable. They weren't helped by some rather disjointed changeovers and endings which suggested that a bit more rehearsal might be helpful. I don't like knocking bands, especially fellow countrymen and there is certainly some potential trapped within the band but on the night they did very little for me. Being named after a brand of disinfectant might not be the best idea either. 5/10

Inferno Ortum

Next up, after a pint of decent but overpriced Trooper was Inferno Ortum, melodic technical death outfit from the Bay area. That’s Cardiff Bay, well, actually Penarth but you can see where I was going with that one can’t you? Their name means Hell, It Will Rise and by the end of the night it probably did. Luckily the sound had picked up quite nicely and the local lads gave a decent 25 minutes which included the intricate instrumental Euhemerism. These lads are all young and provided some decent tunes with plenty of groove and a Lamb Of God type feel about them. Good stuff and worth a second watch. They gig locally quite a lot according to their Facebook page so if you are around give them a watch. 6/10


The evening took a massive turn for the better when Bristol death thrashers Seprevation climbed onto the stage and powered out half an hour of blistering burning groove laden thrash. Led by the incredibly tall Lluc Tupman on bass and vocals, Seprevation, managed by Bloodshot Dawn’s Josh McMorran, delivered a set that belied their obviously youthful years. Tracks from their freshly released album Consumed were absorbed with relish by the assembled throng. Superb shredding from Ian Aston and Joss Farrington and powerhouse drumming from Jamie Wintle combined to provide a sound that crossed Death with Kreator, Bloodshot Dawn themselves and a healthy nod of respect to the big four and other legendary thrash outfits such as Vio-lence and Exodus. All damn fine stuff and I can confirm that Consumed is a storming slab of metal. 8/10

Flayed Disciple

The West Country influence continued with the arrival of Taunton Death metallers Flayed Disciple. I saw these guys at BOA in 2012 in the Sophie Tent where they blew me away with their power and disciplined delivery. Their self-titled EP was in the stereo for a long time after that. Led by Tim ‘Death Chuggin’ Whyte on demonic death growl, FD tore through a selection of tracks from their 2012 release Death Hammer and  their other EPs (who doesn't love an EP entitled Ejaculate While Killing) including the brutal The Westboro Massacre. Welshman Paul Williams and drummer Rich Lewis provide a sledgehammer of a rhythm section, and the combined thrash onslaught of Thurston Howe and Jon Whitfield’s guitars combined to make all the heads in the room bang along. Flayed Disciple are vicious but like the best death metal outfits also possess a bit of melody and groove which really enhances their sound. Whyte is the focal point of the band, and his delivery fits the band perfectly. They went down a storm too with the crowd wind milling and demonstrating their appreciation with a massive ovation at the end of the set. Certain members of our party were so impressed that they were calling for an encore. Excellent. 9/10

Bonded By Blood

So the main event of the evening arrived, Bonded By Blood, all the way from California. Unfortunately, a very limited number of the South Wales metal community had demonstrated the same commitment although the pit was enhanced by various members of the evening’s supporting acts kicking seven shades of shit out of each other! The evening was running late and it was a slightly curtailed set. After Josh had patiently organised the sound, it was down to business. Think Death Angel, think Exodus, and you'll get what Bonded by Blood sound like. Frontman Mauro Gonzales, complete with red jeans and a Bloodshot Dawn shirt screams and growls with real venom, while guitarist Juan Juarez lays down riff after riff. This is old school thrash delivered by part of the new school and bloody good it is too. Airing a range of tracks from their three albums including Shepherds Of Rot, Mind Pollution, Prison Planet and The Aftermath, BBB didn’t fuck around and thrashed their way through an hour or so which was well received. Gonzales encouraged the crowd all evening and there were big smiles from the other band members who put on a quality show despite the low numbers and rounded off an excellent evening. 8/10

Thursday 22 May 2014

Reviews: Truckfighters, The Birds Of Satan, Monument

Truckfighters: Universe (Fuzzorama)

Sweden does seem to be the home of classic rock and metal now and Örebro natives Truckfighters have been peddling their brand of stoner riff rock since 2001. The band have three albums, numerous E.P's and a film to their name, Universe is their fourth album and from the mono lead in of Mind Control with its fuzzed up riffs, hammering drums and fat low end the band immediately show no signs of changing their trademark sound. The second song shows Ozo's throbbing, rumbling bass in full bowel moving The Chaiman, before the super punk of Convention which melds into the trippy Get Lifted which has a great sprawling fuzzed up delivery bringing to mind Queens Of The Stone Age. The album,  The band also have elements of Fu Manchu, Kyuss and also Swedish bands like Spiritual Beggars and Mustasch who they sound a lot of like especially on Dream Sale. As I said Ozo is a great bass player and singer meaning that the album is very bass heavy, Enzo smashes the drums, Dango is a great guitarist with some big guitar lines and understated playing especially on the progressive, 13 minute final track Mastodont which sounds a lot like the band it ribs. Truckfighters are a band that do what they do very well and in the live arena they are probably explosive but as I find a lot with stoner rock, it lacks a little on record, still a great album of riff heavy rock from the Swedes. 7/10 

The Birds Of Satan: S/T (Shannabelle Records)

The Birds Of Satan are a progressive rock band formed by The Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins. No stranger to solo projects Hawkins already has one under his belt with The Coattail Riders record merging the man's love of classic rock and Queen together to create a funky, rocky album. The Birds Of Satan morphed out of a covers band Hawkins was in called Chevy Metal. Yes the album shares similarities with the previous band (due in part to Hawkins' involvement) but has much more of progressive feel to it;  as witnessed by the nine minute opening salvo of The Ballad Of The Birds Of Satan which is a long and winding song that brings in all the sounds of Hawkins' youth, it kicks off with percussive drums and staccato riff that wouldn't be out of place on the last Foo's album, before moving into a Sabbath style doom middle that bursts into a David Bowie sounding final third. The rest of the tracks are all confident rockers with proggy flourishes meaning that the thirty odd minutes of this album fly by. Hawkins as usual handles drums and vocals his drums are jazzy, rocky, funky and many other things ending with 'y' and his vocals are as usual smoky as a Scottish Salmon factory. He is aided and abetted by his Chevy Metal cohorts Wiley Hodgen on bass and Mick Murphy on guitar, both of whom are excellent foils for Hawkins' drumming, the album also features guest appearances by Pat Smear, Rami Jaffee and Dave Grohl (naturally). The rest of the songs are the 'tick tock' Bowie-like rhythm of Thanks For The Line and the crazy Queen like Pieces Of The Puzzle which moves from cod-reggae to driving rock anthem in just over 4 minutes, standing out as two of the best. This is a great album that brims with immediacy, you can hear the 'live in the studio' feel of the record in the songs and the production. This is music made without much preparation but a whole lot of heart! 8/10

Monument: Renegades (MGR Music)

Monument arose from the ashes of the second White Wizzard split. Singer Pete Ellis left the troubled band to forge his own path with Monument and amongst all of the NWOTHM it is Monument that are British meaning that they are one of the few bands that can lay stake to NWOBHM crown. From the opening title track this is all so lovingly familiar, the galloping basslines of Chris Dale, the machine gun drums of Matt C, the dual guitar attack of Lewis Stephens and Dan Baune who switch from razor sharp leads to blistering solos in an instant. All of this leather clad retroism is topped by the air siren vocals of Ellis who evokes the greats of Dickinson and Halford. After you are thoroughly brought in to their retro metal world by the proto-thrash of the title track, Fatal Attack does it all again albeit this time with a song that sounds like it could easily be on Powerslave and it is followed by the fist pumping Manowar-like Crusaders which just cries out to be sung back by the warrior hordes. So so far we've been firmly stuck in the 80's with the spiked armbands and leather waistcoats it's on Runaway that things get a bit more modern with a track that wouldn't seem out of place on Dance Of Death. So yes with bands like Enforcer, Cauldron and Holy Grail all flying the flag for Traditional metal, Monument bring a distinctly British vibe to things, and about time too!! Things go a bit naughty on Midnight Queen before the obligatory mid album instrumental Red Dragon is up there with Transylvania from the Maiden catalogue, things finish with the 6 minute plus Omega. Yes with Monument have shown through their tenacity and more importantly their stability that they can bring back the sound that spawned a genre. All hail the NNWOBHM!! (Sorry Mr Barton). 8/10

Monday 19 May 2014

Reviews: Arch Enemy, Killer Be Killed, Lionize

Arch Enemy: War Eternal (Century Media)

Losing a lead singer is always hard for a band, they tend to be the most personal part of the band it's the voice that we the public relate too. So when Angela Gossow announced that she was stepping down as front-person of Arch Enemy (she continues to be the band's business manager) the metal world was shaken a little. Here was the defining element relinquishing the reins of the band she made her own. However as the death/thrash riffage of Never Forget kicks in all the worries are dispelled as new girl Alissa White-Gluz, formerly of The Agonist, immediately starts roaring and growling like the great Warrior Queen herself. Gluz's vocals are excellent echoing Gossow's banshee like screams but also bringing her own twist to the album, as in her former band she alternates between clean and harsh vocals, so because of this she has a slightly more melodic approach. It is for these reasons why she was handpicked by her predecessor no doubt. As for the other elements of Arch Enemy they are all present and correct, the drums of Daniel Erlandsson are head crushing, blast beat after blast beat laying down a battery of noise, Sharlee D'Angelo bass holds everything together rhythmically and allows founder member Christopher Amott and new boy Nick Cordle to lay down some neck snapping riffs and face melting solos.

This album is relentless with all the band firing on all cylinders every single song, As Pages Burn and No More Regrets are two such songs that just destroy you with their ferocity before the more melodic You Will Know My Name and the instrumental Graveyard Of Dream gives you a respite before the Stolen Life rips your throat out again and things change up with the black metal influenced Time Is Black which even has some orchestral elements to it which brings another dimension to the song giving it more menace than just the straight up anger of the rest of the album. So is there life in Arch Enemy after their matriarch? The definitive answer is yes, this album is excellent it is far better than it's predecessor Khaos Legions it is simultaneously: aggressive, melodic, catchy and bone breakingly violent to listen too, the production job is crystal clear ensuring maximum volume. If you like your music with a side order of whiplash then check out War Eternal. 8/10

Killer Be Killed – Self Titled (Nuclear Blast) [Review By Paul]

The long awaited result of the super group Killer be Killed is well worth the wait. This is a super group of quality musicians led by the formidable Max Cavalera and Greg Puciato from The Dillinger Escape Plan. The line-up is completed by Mastodon’s Troy Sanders and former The Mars Volta stickman Dave Elitch.
The album kicks off at breakneck speed with Wings of Feather and Wax, which is a real fusion of styles from all of the band. And it continues in this vein throughout, Face Down is much more Soulfly in sound with an aggressive vibe, pounding rhythm and Cavalera taking the lead on vocals for one of the few occasions, but with Sanders calmer delivery providing an excellent foil.  Puciato also weighs in throughout the album. The combination of styles really works although for me Sanders vocals are always going to be in the lead. Melting of My Marrow would stand alongside any of Mastodon’s best works; a formidable beast of a track with Puciato and Sanders combining superbly and a sing along chorus that will incite serious action if these guys ever get into the live arena. Snakes of Jehova has a much doomier feel with huge riffs and Puciato duelling with Cavalera before the track kicks into overdrive with Sanders vocals and driving bass lines. Elitch’s drumming is impressive throughout, varying the style on virtually every track. On Snakes of Jehova he delivers a real spread, doom followed by all out thrash with double bass drumming blasting away. Curb Crusher follows, a real driving tour deforce, delivered with a massive hook in the chorus.
The albums features a range of styles from all out thrash, hard core through to punk but all delivered in the way that you would expect from this collaboration. Fire to Your Flag really hits hard, an all-out thrasher which attacks like a drive by shooting whilst IED drips with a combination of hard core, punk and a Sabbath type breakdown with another slab of riff work; Cavalera literally spitting out his delivery. All that is missing is his obligatory AK-47 reference. Album closer Forbidden Fire is a massively trippy doom laden track which builds with Cavalera snarling whilst Sanders provides a more relaxed calming delivery. This is an impressive album which combines the talents of four excellent musicians in a way that really delivers. Well worth a listen. 8/10

Lionize – Jetpack Soundtrack (Weathermaker) [Review By Paul]

Lionize are a three piece outfit from Maryland, the home of Earth Rocker compatriots Clutch. Jetpack Soundtrack, the fifth album by the band, co-produced by Clutch drummer Jean-Paul Gaster and producer Machine (Earth Rocker; Blast Tyrant) is an absolute must for anyone who loves the groove and drive of Neil Fallon’s merry men. Indeed the Clutch links are numerous with Lionize; Jetpack Soundtrack is released on the Weathermaker label and they have just supported Clutch on their recent UK tour. Our resident Clutch expert, Anthony Hutchings was so impressed with them that he even bought this CD!
Well, apart from the obvious Clutch influence, the main thing that hits you is the massive Hammond riffs that are littered throughout. Opener Breather is a funkster style race with Chris Brooks’s keys blasting out. A hugely catchy chorus and infectious rhythm complete the package and give you a taster of what to expect. However, similar to Clutch, this album is a mixture of styles. Evolve allows guitarist and vocalist Nate Bergman to his demonstrate lyrical agility ala Mr Fallon, and also contains the brilliant line “I’ll steal your girlfriend … and I’ll eat your lunch”.  Once more the Hammond drives the song forward, and there are obvious comparisons with the style of the late Jon Lord, the ultimate purveyor of the Hammond sound. Jetpack Soundtrack contains some of the album’s most groove laden hooks, and combines some jazz elements with straight forward rock ‘n’ roll and an infectious chorus. Replaced by Machines continues the addictive drive, with another contagious ear worm chorus. This whole album is catchier than impetigo and leaves you nodding along and then suddenly realising that your legs are already cutting some serious shapes. Lazarus Style and Amazing Science Facts have a beautiful amalgamation of some lyrical genius, intricate guitar and keyboards; the latter would snuggle quite comfortably on Blast Tyrant or Robot Hive Exodus. Album closer Sea of Tranquillity is a reggae influenced tune, demonstrating the band’s long standing love for the Jamaican sound.  This is a real peach of an album and well worth a listen. Apparently our resident expert says they are absolutely brilliant live; a fact backed up by regular reader Benjamin Brook who was up earlier than me at Temples where Lionize kicked off Day 3. For a band that has been around for 10 years this demonstrates a continuing development and progression which hopefully will continue for many years to come. Awesome stuff. 9/10

Saturday 17 May 2014

World Of Metal 9: Hanggai, Crimson Blue, Seneron, Slavedom

Hanggai: Baifang (Harlem Recordings)

Hanggai hail from China via Mongolia and they play in a loose term folk music however they also dabble in rock, folk, punk and indie. They mix them all together to create an album of great songs with a myriad of styles. Things kick off with a Mongolian chant and straight into the driving Oriental instrumentation of the title track which has some massive percussion lots of morin khuur (a kind of one string bow) and tobshuur (a two stringed large guitar), authentic Chinese instruments that lend the band a very appealing sound on top of the pulsing bass and the rocking guitars. The vocals come from Ilchi and Ileta and they are very sonorous and melodic from both men, as well as the normal vocals they both use Mongolian throat singing to great effect, this is seen on both Hershut Hero and the Pink Floyd-like Tavan Hasag. This album takes you back to a simpler time, this is Hanggai's idea, they long for the pastoral folk of their past and this album achieves it along with some modern rock and punk stylings. At 18 tracks album may seem a little long but many of the tracks filter into one and other and with some real show stoppers like the title track, the rocky Hong Galou, the plantative Ulanbator Nights, the reggae style My Mother and the simply awesome Western themed Beautiful Mongolian Horse. A hell of an album from the Chinese band which is rich in scope and full of strong songs, no it's not metal but in parts its as heavy as!! 7/10

Crimson Blue: Innocence (Molot Records)

Russians Crimson Blue are a Gothic metal band with some progressive and nu-metal touches. Singer/Keyboardist Dominica has a bewitching voice, which is both poppy and dark. The heavyweight guitars and bass of Iceland are a counterpoint to Dominica's keys. This is followed by the slap (5-string) bass filled L.M.A which is straight off a Korn album. Yes there is that killer word the band have a lot in common with the Nu-metal masters, as well as Tool and Evanescence, mainly due to Dominica's soprano vocals. Clouds is a driving rocker which has some amazing guitars from Iggy Hans and Stan Lee (not the comic empresario). This is a band that could easily support bands like Korn, FFDP, Deftones, Tool but also more traditional female fronted fare like Within Temptation especially on Ave Sensorium. The down tuned Flax comes next replete with of head banging break down. This is an album full of some excellent songs that are equally heavy, melodic and hark back to the early 2000's with nods to the early dark prog rock scene with some electronica thrown in on the djenty 7 minute H. U. Lab Experiment I - The 6th Sense. This is a great album from Dominica, Iggy, Stan, Andrew and Alex who all work together to create some strong, technical but melodic modern metal. 8/10

Seneron: Order Restored (Self Release)

Seneron are a power-trio that hail from Derry in Ireland and they play balls to the wall hard rock in the style of Attica Rage and Viking Skull, this is leather clad, alcohol fuelled biker rock full of big hooks, massive guitar riffs and some grizzled vocals from John Shields. Please Me, Stand Your Ground, Dead Stare and Just A Kid all have similar sound relying on big drums from John Hamilton, powerhouse bass rhythms from Ivor Ferris and lots of distorted riffage to get you pumping your fist and reaching for the cans!! These Irish boys could quite well be my replacement for the sadly now defunct Trucker Diablo as they have the same qualities as their countrymen, they too beat around you the head with their songs and with just the four songs on this EP they really do impress on their first time out. A band that will be a definite live attraction with their heavy riffage and feel good factor, get your denim, polish your leather and get ready to bang your head because Seneron play back to basics heavy fucking metal!! 8/10

Slavedom: Against The Fire (Self Released)

Slavedom play traditional heavy metal, with elements of Metallica, Maiden and a big heaving leap Iced Earth thrown in as they merge some thrash elements with the classic gallop of NWOBHM. Coming from Kastoria in Greece, the band definitely have the riffs with some dual guitar riffery coming from George Stavridis and George Apostolakis, the galloping bass of Sakis Sarafas and the heavyweight drumming of Christos Polyzos, this three song E.P is very well produced and kicks off with the fist pumping title track which brings to mind Iced Earth with Apostolakis' voice ranging between growls and high pitched shrieks much like Matt Barlow's. Apostolakis' voice one of the deciding factors on this EP you will either love it or hate it, I started out not liking it but it has grown on me after repeated listens, on Follow The Sun the he has a uncanny knack of emulating Geoff Tate's emotion filled cry before things finish in fine style with No Tolerance which again has a lot of Iced Earth about it as well as a Steve Harris-like bass break in the middle. This is a very well executed debut EP from these Greek boys, lots of traditional/power metal influences, filled with some face melting solos and big songs. A great debut!! 8/10 

Thursday 15 May 2014

Reviews: Down, The Black Keys, John Wesley

Down: IV-Part II (Down Records)

The NOLA legends are back with their second of four EP's and as is the norm with Phil, Pepper and co this is riff city!! Set your riff counters to unlimited as they just keep on coming in true, stoner, doom, southern metal style. This is the first Down release not to feature Kirk Windstein however unless you knew you wouldn't notice as replacement Bobby Landgraf does a great job as Pepper Keenan's sideman bringing the riffage and solos to the six tracks that are boosted by the rumbling heaviness of Patrick Bruders and long time sticksman Jimmy Bower who smashes his kit with aplomb. Phil Anselmo as usual does his usual southern snarl and banshee scream. The emphasis of these 6 tracks is on the doom metal style, from the opening dirge of Steeple which then evolves into a fist pounding rocker that wouldn't seem out of place on an Orange Goblin album, a serious riff fest to kick things off and the pace rarely lets up from there, sliding straight into the classic Down stomp of We Knew Him Well which also has a reverbed almost voodoo vibe with it's repeated refrain of "Rise Up!!". Hogshead/Dogshead is a sprawling guitar filled track that changes time signatures throughout. Then we get onto Conjure which is prime Sabbath down to the Iommi-like riffage and Geezer-like bass, this slow moving vocoder filled, ode to the white stuff (not snow) is so like the Birmingham Iron Men, it's practically a lawsuit waiting to happen, still it is just another element of Down's expansive repertoire, the album ends with the heavyweight Bacchanalia which smashes along heavily until the final part which is an acoustic comedown. This is another great EP in this coming quadrilogy a true riff monster of a record and one that will kill in the live arena! Roll on Bloodstock!! 9/10

The Black Keys: Turn Blue (Nonesuch)

Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney return with their eighth album, their previous release 2011's El Camino was very upbeat and catchy, however due to much excess the two men have taken all this time to release their follow up because of their fried-mental state this album is a sprawling, mind bending trip of an album. The songs are longer, slower and more expansive in sound, yes there are still some awesome R&B rockers with the funk fuelled 10 Lovers and Gotta Get Away which ends the album in an upbeat style. However for the most part these tracks are in stark contrast to the sparse, trippy, hippy haze of the Weight Of Love which is part Hendrix, part french electronic rockers Air. The electronic backing of the title track drives it along Carney's drumming coming to the front here, the synth filled Fever has a bit of New Order or INXS about it. All of these electronic and sampled elements are probably the continuing influence of producer Dangermouse who is much apart of The Black Keys sound as Carney's excellent drumming and Auerbach's guitar stabs, blues howls, along with everything else these men do. The result is an album that comes straight out of the vinyl Stax records era, through the 90's trip hop scene and right up into modern era. The band have always been talented and have been able to mix their styles but their albums have always had a theme of sophisticated modern blues rock however with Brothers, El Camino and Turn Blue they have crafted three unique and equally excellent albums that have a wide musical scope show exactly how good these two men are. Another great record in The Black Key's purple (blue?) patch 9/10    

John Wesley: Disconnect (InsideOut)

John Wesley is the touring guitarist of Porcupine Tree and as such he is the guitar foil for Steven Wilson, this inevitably means he has to be good and he is very damn good. His guitar playing is simply staggering, technical, precise yet understated. He solos amazingly but he also has some serious songwriting chops as well, yes there is a lot in common with his day job (as there has been on all of his solo albums) with a melodic, slightly alternative metal with lots of progressive elements.Wesley manages to be progressive without having to rely on noodling, most of the songs are four to five minutes long but feature time, pace and stylistic changes with Any Old Saint being the longest song on the album at 7 minutes. The album mixes some touching melancholic acoustic tracks with some modern progressive rock replete with some sterling guitar work (another feature of his early work. Wesley's voice too is excellent very gravelly to carry emotion but also melodic enough to be listenable. Obviously with a man of Wesley's talents he will attract talent and Disconnect is no exception as he has assembled a great studio band to play with him, the guitar of Dean Tidley is the perfect foil for Wesley's freakouts and he even provides some killer solos of his own, the rhythm section of Patrick Bettison's bass and the drums of ex-Iced Earth Mark Prator also keep things solidly locked in tight leading the time changes. He has also got a few great guests with Geri X providing some welcome female vocals to the proceedings and most notably Rush axeman Alex Lifeson provides his six string magic on Once A Warrior. If you have never heard John Wesley before and you are a fan of Porcupine Tree, Fish or even Sound Of Contact then pick up Disconnect as you will not be disappointed, then download the man's discography for free from his website (what a nice chap he is!) 8/10

Sunday 11 May 2014

Reviews: Epica, Imelda May, Salem's Pot

Epica: The Quantum Enigma (Nuclear Blast)

So a concept album based on a physics could only come from the thinking man's symphonic metal band. The brainchild of Simone Simons and Mark Jansen (no stranger to these pages). This is the band's sixth studio album and shows the Dutch band moving forward and looking backward at the same time. This album has the heaviest songs Epica have ever recorded, Jansen and Isaac Delhaye's guitars rip and snort chomping on the bit from the opening strains of The Second Stone through The Essence Of Silence and the djent-like VIctims Of Contingency, obviously Jansen's work with MaYan has rubbed off on his day job. New boy Rob van der Loo ploughs the basslines and Ariën van Weesenbeek's drumming pulverises. So the metal part is heavier than ever with every track featuring some neck snapping heaviness, but what about the rest, the other elements that set Epica apart? Well the symphonic elements of Coen Jansen are impeccable with strong synths and pianos throughout that work in conjunction with a full string quartet meaning that unlike many bands the classical elements are as authentic as possible. Vocally the album is very strong too with Simone's amazing operatic vocals being the main focal point but with Marcela Bovio's background vocals, Jansen and Weesenbeek's grunts, guest vocals from Textures' Daniël de Jongh on the majestic 13 minute title track, the album has rich vocal tapestry that means that every strong is strong vocally. All the vocalists are excellent in their own right but when they sing in conjunction with a chamber choir it gives the album an almost cinematic scope. The album has a break with the Asian flavoured interlude The Fifth Guardian before the death metal-like riff of Chemical Insomnia kicks things off again until the obligatory ballad on Omen-The Ghoulish Malady brings the sing-along quality to the record. Five albums in Epica have brought their symphonic roots crashing into the modernity meaning that they have at last found their sound, with a seriously heavy album this is a clever, complex and genuinely exciting album and possibly Epica's career best. 9/10

Imelda May: Tribal (Decca Records)

So with the rumbling double bass of Al Gare hitting you like a steam train from the off Irelands rockabilly queen Miss Imelda May is back with her band of  misfits singing songs of love, death, and craziness all with that old school, slicked back brothel creeper authenticity they do so well. Yep the rock, the jazz and the R&B is here in droves and with Darrell Higham's fuzzed, guitar stabs moving everything along nicely, from the surf rock of Wild Woman which evokes the spirit of The Surfaris or The Trashmen, to the country chicken-picking of It's Good To Be Alive with some great lead breaks and the romantic waltz of Gypsy In Me. Again May's band are amazing with the strings, drums and brass all working together to create some soulful, rockabilly music fresh from the 50's but also distinctly modern. Imelda May shows why she was chosen as Jeff Beck's vocal muse, her voice is amazing full of verve on the rockier tracks like Hellfire Club and full of soul on the ballads like Little Pixie which sounds like John Phillip Baptiste's Sea Of Love albeit with juxtaposed lyrics!! The first single It's Good To Be Alive (complete with Bride Of Frankenstein video) is a little throwaway but i guess that is kind of the point, its just a feel good anthem. With the success of her previous album Mayhem and the relative inactivity coming from being a mother that followed meant that she had to come back with a killer album and she has done so, Tribal is the next step on the ladder for Imelda May showing that all the old songs are the best!!. Put on the leathers, fire up the chopper and get yourself down to the nearest juke joint as Tribal will definitely be the soundtrack to your next Jive contest without a doubt! 8/10

Salem's Pot: ...Lurar ut dig på prärien (Easyrider Records)

From the name you can guess what kind of music Salem's Pot play, this is creeping, crawling, bone rattling, brain frying stoner doom metal. This is their first EP (translates to Lurking...you out on the prairie or something similar). From the Hawkwind-esque opening to the 14 minute first track Creep Purple which is full of swelling psych synths before the searing doom bass of Peter drives things along with the drums of Direktörn providing the (dead)beat, top this with the reverbed, squealing, feedback drenched guitars of Knate who also has some howling vocals. With three songs all over 9 minutes Salem's Pot bring the occult, drug fuelled sludgy almost oppressive metal of Electric Wizard and drags it over 3 songs meaning that this EP is a hell of a trip for those botanically inclined (and I don't mean gardening). 6/10

Saturday 10 May 2014

Reviews: Prong, Black Stone Cherry, Insomnium (Review By Paul)

Prong – Ruining Lives (SPV)

Legendary New Yorkers Prong return with one of the definitive musical statements of 2014. This album is the musical equivalent of the book that is impossible to put down. It is so addictive you’d swear it was laced with crack. Following 2012’s Carved in Stone, Ruining Lives kicks off at breakneck speed, machine gun style drumming, huge beefy riffs and Tommy Victor’s distinctive clean vocals propel through opener Turnover. The tempo doesn't let up at any point with the mix of styles that have made Prong’s distinctive sound. The fusion of hard-core, punk, metal, thrash and a large slab of industrial all combine to provide some stunning performances. Remove, Separate Self has all the hallmarks of a classic, smashing along in rapid time and laced with a hook so catchy you might need to check in at the STD clinic afterwards. Indeed, this album has hooks galore throughout; so many that the rest of the metal world may well have a drought for the rest of the year. Victor produced this album and has done a great job, with the vocal delivery in particular outstanding. Title track Ruining Lives is an angst ridden delivery, with more massive riffs and drumming pounding throughout. The sound is huge, powerful and menacing. The band that brought you Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck, one of the metal genres ultimate riffs, do it again on Absence of Light, which has possibly the most groove and hook on the entire album. For a three piece, this is an astonishing piece of work, Victor’s guitar work never over exaggerated but incredibly effective whilst Tony Campos on bass and Alexei Rodriguez (drums) provide the most solid rhythm section. Rodriguez’s drumming is very impressive, in particular on the total thrash out The Book of Change, which is likely to turn the hallowed turf at Catton Hall into a dust bowl or mud bath depending on the weather. There is not a bad track on this album. It grabs you by the nuts, throws you around for the best part of 40 minutes before leaving you in a gasping heap. Snap your fucking neck indeed. 9/10

Black Stone Cherry – Magic Mountain (Roadrunner)

Kentucky outfit BSC’s highly anticipated fourth album Magic Mountain is another large helping of sing-a-long arena rock with the Southern tinge that we've come to expect. Opener Holding On … To Letting Go is a galloping rocker with which on first impression suggest that this album may well be a bit heavier than the band’s last release, Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Rapid drumming from John Fred Young and some killer guitar work from Chris Robertson and Ben Wells provide a balls out track. The band then revert to type with Peace Pipe, a more traditional style BSC track full of multiple harmonies. Bad Luck & Hard Love highlights the impressive vocals of Chris Robertson, which combines some intricate guitar playing and a good helping of riffs. Of course, BSC’s entire sound is built on the fact that all four members of the band contribute vocally in the tradition of the best Southern boogie bands. Magic Mountain is likely to propel BSC to the next level. Second stage headliners at Download in 2013 and arena tour this autumn indicate the direction that this band are heading. Catchy first single Me and Mary Jane has anthem written all over it, and has been provided with sufficient exposure on the likes of Planet Rock and Team Rock to ensure that we will all be singing along in the horrible Motorpoint Arena come October. Runaway is possibly my least favourite track on the album. Full of cheese and sickly harmonies, this is a real lighters aloft track and sits alongside Things My Father Said as the tracks that the whole arena will sing along to when the band lower the tempo during gigs. Title track Magic Mountain is a different story altogether, much more in your face but with an incredibly catchy hook on the chorus. It leads nicely into the second half of the album, driving forward at some pace. And it is the second part of the album where things begin to hot up. Never Surrender is a decent rock and roll track with some trademark BSC guitar work. Sometimes bring the tempo right back down; a delicate acoustic piece that really allows Robertson to release one of his best ever vocal performances. I shall probably use it to have a pee when we see them mind! The remaining tracks (there are 13 on this album – it is VFM for sure) are pretty much standard BSC fare. The usual stomping anthemic delivery with their trademark sound. And that’s not a bad thing. All in all this is a decent offering and one that will cement BSC’s place in the arena rock division alongside the likes of Alter Bridge and Nickelback. 7/10

Insomnium – Shadows Of The Dying Sun (Century Media)

Melodic death metal - a bit of an oxymoron at times right? Have you ever tried to explain to someone who isn’t a metal fan what the genre actually is? Is it the combination of growling and clean vocals? The all out thrash combined with huge hooks and melody? Or is it easier to hand them a copy of an album by Insomnium? Well, Shadows of the Dying Sun is probably THAT album. The long awaited follow up to 2011’s excellent One For Sorrow, Shadows of the Dying Sun could well be a melodic death metal masterpiece. Opening track The Primeval Dark is incredibly atmospheric, building slowly with Niilo Sevanen’s growling vocals and seguing seamlessly into While We Sleep, a six minute epic which ebbs and flows. Clean vocals; yep. Perfect. Death growls; oh yeah. They are all present and correct. While We Sleep contains sweeping hooks, breakneck drumming, soaring guitar solos and driving rhythm. It also contains deliciously sweet break downs with acoustic elements and whispered vocals. Revelation continues the delivery, with a gentle introduction before blast beats and manic riffing kick in, and then back to the more gentle delivery. This is an album full of contrasts and massive technical ability. Listen to any Wintersun opus and you’ll have the exact idea. The dual guitars of Markus Vanhala (superb metal name!) and Ville Friman complement each other perfectly whilst Sevanen’s bass work combines with Markus Hirvonen’s majestic drumming to propel the Finns through each track. However, unlike Swedish compatriots In Flames, Insomnium have more hooks and much more melody. These guys can write songs that you don’t forget quickly and this is a real grower of an album. Black Heart Rebellion clocks in at a shade over seven minutes, but you don’t notice that as you are drawn into the intricate construction and power. At times sheer brutal thrash, at times intricate and gentle, yet always with harmony and riffs. Black Heart Rebellion could be the stand out track on this release … until you get to The River which really gets the heart pumping with its power and pomp. Another long one, this time just under eight minutes, Sevanen’s vocals focus on the death growl for the majority but that fits perfectly. Time changes galore, thunderous drumming and once again riffs delivered in such abundance you’d think they were going out of fashion. (Riffs out of fashion for metal? Discuss!) Ephemeral is an out and out thrasher, and then you get yet another epic, The Promethean Song which is beautifully constructed with a deliciously fragile middle section and chorus framed by the more aggressive elements. The title track is also the album closer and is another outstanding track. In a year that has already delivered some absolutely stunning work, this rightly stands alongside the best. 10/10

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Another Point Of View: Temples Festival (Review By Paul)

Temples Festival – Motion, Bristol 4 May 2014

A quick trip across the Severn Bridge on a sunny bank holiday weekend to visit the inaugural Temples Festival was too tempting to miss. We parked up in the vibrant city centre early on Sunday afternoon near our hotel and fought our way through the heaving throngs enjoying the glorious weather. 25 minutes later we arrived at the Temples Festival, located close to Temple Meads Railway Station. This was day three and I'd already heard good things about the festival which had seen well received performances from a range of bands including headliners Electric Wizard and one of the heaviest sets ever witnessed from Neurosis. One fellow metaller told me that he had never heard anything so loud in his life.

The layout of this festival is simple. Located in the Motion venue on the edge of the River Avon, there are two stages which adjoin each other, a merchandise section and ample outside seating with numerous bars and food stalls. Okay, the beer was pretty limited, with staples like Red Stripe, Guinness, Stowford Press cider etc. available in cans at relatively high prices but there was the option to wander in and out at will. Anyway, I appeared to manage to get rather bolloxed without leaving the site for more than half an hour (Where I did manage one of Brett Perry’s magnificent 7.8% French lagers.)
We were too late to catch Lionize who were also supporting Clutch on their current UK tour which was a bit gutting especially as Ant, who had travelled to see the evening’s headliners Clutch in Nottingham the night before raved about them all the way to the venue. However, we arrived in time to catch the last half of Black Moth’s set which was a bonus. The Leeds outfit, led by vocal powerhouse Harriet Bevan have a doomy Sabbath infused sound which is really infectious and for 15 minutes we were pinned to the wall by the wave of sludgy metal. Mental note to self: check out their debut album The Killing Jar as soon as possible. A great introduction to the festival. 8/10

Next up for us was Beastmilk, from Finland who inevitably became known as Breastmilk for the rest of the day. These had been on my radar since early this year when the infectious Fields of the Nephilim sounding Death Reflects Us had appeared on a Classic Rock compilation CD as one of the bands to watch in 2014. I clearly wasn't alone as the second stage was full to capacity. The ‘Milk (as I shall call them) didn't disappoint with a number of tracks of the excellent release Climax. Led by the excellent vocals of Kvohst their sound is a mix of Joy Division, The Mission, Killing Joke and even a dash of Echo and the Bunnymen, albeit with a slightly heavier tinge. Standout tracks for me were Surf the Apocalypse and the already mentioned Death Reflects Us which received a very enthusiastic response. 9/10

Featuring former members of Taint and Whyteleaf, Welsh outfit HARK drew a healthy crowd in the main arena. Fusing angry post-punk with elements of sludge and doom, HARK got straight to business with a run through tracks from their latest release Crystalline. Guitarist and vocalist Jimbob Isaac can riff with the best and demonstrated this throughout, cutting and scything out at will. Ably supported by bassist Nikolai Ribnikov and drummer Simon Bonwick HARK are a driving force who gallop along at full force. Excellent stuff and when Neil Fallon joins them for Clear Light of … which he also contributes to on Crystalline then you know they can't be bad. 7/10

After a quick breather we headed back towards the front for the Bristolian power trio Gonga.  Described as a heavy stoner band, Gonga are an instrumental outfit who defy the word heavy. Formed in 1998 by brothers George Elgie (guitars), Thomas Elgie (drums), they (line-up completed by bassist Latch) proceeded to lay waste to all around with wave after wave of deep powerful free styling that shook the very foundations of the building. At one point I’m convinced my liver had realigned itself and I had to keep a check on the walls just in case masonry began to break lose. However, there is also huge groove to this band and as I scanned the crowd everyone was nodding along vigorously. These guys don't play short stuff mind, with the opening two tracks clocking in at close to ten minutes each.  This was captivating stuff and no-one left during the set. Finishing to an almighty ovation Gonga are one I will definitely see again. 8/10

I have to admit that we took a bit of a break after this and spent a couple of hours enjoying the lovely evening whilst catching up and having a couple of drinks. Having watched a few minutes of Doomriders, but not enough to make a genuine comment, we headed back to the front to wait for Clutch. This meant I only had chance to stick my head around the corner to watch death metal legends Repulsion blasting their way through a powerful set. However, at my age and at 23:15, I need something to lean on and the barrier provided an inviting space for me.

Now, this was my fifth time of seeing Maryland’s finest, Clutch, and most of them have been close up. What hasn't changed is the raw energy that this band, now nearly a quarter of a century, possess. What has changed is the quality of their music. Latest album Earth Rocker was the album of 2013, and having seen them at London’s Forum on the Earth Rocker tour, I knew the new stuff fitted into the set like hand in glove. Clutch rarely if ever play the same set twice, and once again they threw in a couple of gems. Kicking off with the immense The Mob Goes Wild, they laid down a 75 minute headline set of absolute quality. Delivering a huge nine tracks from Earth Rocker, the set also included some older gems. Pure Rock Fury got the place moving with Neil Fallon in fine form, all bluster and shape cutting. One of the world’s most under rated drummers, Jean-Paul Gaster combined with Dan Maines to provide the backbone whilst Tim Sult delivered some absolutely stunning fret work.  The Yeti from The Elephant Riders was a welcome addition as well as blinding versions of Gravel Road and The Regulator. The main set closed with The Wolf Man Kindly Requests and then a more traditional ending of Electric Worry and One Eye Dollar from Jam Room rounded off a thoroughly brilliant set. This is a band that just gets better and better. See them whilst you can. 10/10

Reviews: Nervosa, Graviators, Omnilarity (Reviews By Nick)

Nervosa: Victim Of Yourself (Napalm Records)

Riding in from Brazil Nervosa are an all female thrash band that are hell bent on showing us blokes what thrash still has to offer, and damn… they sure shut us up! Debut album Victim Of Yourself opens with a spooky almost haunting track “Twisted Values” that lulls you into a false sense of security before kneeing you hard in the nads. Twisted Values is an all out thrash delight filled with sludgy riffs that fall into quick fire fret shredding screams accompanied by thumping rolling drums delivered powerfully by Pitchu Ferraz. All this combines to bombard your ears in a harsh but somehow satisfying sound. The highlight throughout this album is the voice of bassist come vocalist Fernanda Lira, the beauty of her vocals is that she is sharp, edgy and has all the qualities of a cleaner Angela Gossow however she seems a lot more at ease; the closest I can compare her to is the voice of Deaths late Chuck Schuldiner. She can shriek and growl and you still want to hear more… it’s sinister yet almost memorizing. The album continues to plough on through in this heavy, deep and creeping motion throughout, however it does take the time to make you listen in awe as guitarist Prika Amaral throws in brilliant melodic solo’s that break through the crushing riffage, this really is the element that makes this album what it is. The ladies from Nervosa clearly want to break us with their immense talent and the sounds they produce, but at the same time realize the danger of becoming stagnant in doing so. From “Nasty Injury” to “Mosh Pit” the album shows class hard work and also when needed a little bit of fun (Mosh Pit in particular). Every track is brimming with the signature bass and rumbling heavy riffs until the final track “Uranio em Nos” that is a much more frantic off the handle track that epitomizes everything about these girls; utter passion for the music they have produced here. In all honesty I can’t recommend this album enough, its fast yet the tone is slow and sludgy, the musicianship is brilliant and I really do think the vocals of Fernanda are up there with the best thrash vocals ever to grace the genre. Not necessarily just for the sound but also for the control she adheres to with it. Despite all this Victim Of Yourself doesn't necessarily break any new ground, which could be seen as a bad thing? Yes, but what Nervosa do he is take us back to old school thrash and fine tune it a little 9/10.

The Graviators: Motherload (Napalm Records)

The Graviators was formed deep in the woods of southern Sweden, their third album Motherload; with a mix of heavy yet melodic riffs, that takes you on a trip back in time, when bands like Black Sabbath and Pentagram took heavy rock to new heights. Motherload really is a piece of musical intrigue. Describing themselves as “70’s hard rock” I can see where the lads are coming from, however they also have a grungy stoner undertone that is hard not to exaggerate. The first two tracks: “Leifs Last Breath; Dance of the Valkyrie" and “Narrow Minded Bastards” scream the aforementioned bands Pentagram and Sabbath respectively. Rammed full of bass laden rhythms and bluesy stoner riffs plodding along at a steady pace Martin Fairbanks (Guitar) and Johan Holm (Bass) carry this album beautifully with a power of direction. “Tigress of Siberia” is where this album really started to take me aback. Opening with a four-minute instrumental of outstanding and proficient balance it bounces along hypnotically in a swing like possession. As the pace picks up slightly the unmistakable vocals of Niklas Sjöberg enters the scene and with little effort he sets out to regale us with his Ozzy like cavalier tone and attitude. From “Tigress of Siberia” all the way through to “Drowned in Leaves” the album keeps you interested and does not lose your attention for a second. Chocked full of flawless solo’s courtesy of Fairbanks that brings songs such as “Corpauthority” and “Tigress of Siberia” to stunning crescendos. Along with Fairbanks and Holm’s undoubted talent we are treated to a truly perfect five plus minute blues come swing instrumental during “Lost Lord” that left my jaw wide open and pupils dilated… this truly was perfection. Soft frenzied keyboard topped with slow groaning bass lines and supported beautifully by the controlled skill and attuned ear of Henrik Bergman on drums, wow! The final few tracks from Motherload: “Eagles Rising” and “Druid’s Ritual” follow a similar pattern only with a more psychedelic edge to them, the latter being a fourteen minute epoch of pure original unadulterated skill, passion and heart. Every member of this band contributing their part flawlessly with obvious pleasure, you really don't hear this often enough in music of any description. The beauty of this album is that despite its eighty-minute length, by the end of it you still want more. The Graviators have a recipe that is really unique and quite frankly bold but faultless; keep the steady grungy stoner laden tone throughout the album but then hey! Why not throw in some blues? Or some swing? Or even a bit of psychedelic edge? While your listening have some brilliant solo’s and crashing riffs too! No need for endless vocals here, only when it’s right. None of this should work, none of it! Yet somehow it does and I can’t help but think to myself… I want more! Ultimately, if you don't like this album, then you're not just “not a fan of metal”, you're not a fan of music I’m afraid! 10/10

Omnilarity: Ameliorate (Unsigned)

Ok, so I’m not sure where to really place these guys from Chino CA. They're very much instrumental, minimal vocals here. Fusing all kinds of metal into each other as well as other genres of music completely into metal. Omnilarity represent a brave bunch of lads whose work and gall has paid off. Each track very much individual due to the very nature of the bands concept, which in turn makes this hard to review with the space/time I have. So the one thing I need to get across is what these guys do, they do damn well! Impressive from the off each member of Omnilarity show off there unquestionable skill and technical aptitude. Brennan Netherton on guitar is able to melt our very brows with burning solos from out of nowhere then turn his hand to some slow jazz with great resonance, while Bassist Duke Gray is able to do the same. Supporting a furious metal attack of sound with precise plucking to laying down a beautifully leaping bass line when the band hit the slower genres they chose to infuse. The highlight of this band however and ultimate kudos here goes to drummer Daniel Amaral; this guy is truly sensational! Firing out ridiculously paced blast beats that Danny Herrera himself would be proud of one second, to delicately tapping his Hi Hat and leading a blues number mid track, the skill and sheer athleticism of Amaral’s drumming is astounding! This 8 tracked debut album is a great conquest of brave trial and error at its best, its unique concept means you have to keep on listening to hear what the lads of Omnilarity have come up with next, and they never let you down… not for a second. Fusing thrash metal with swing, Death riffs with a bluesy breakdown and techno keys with ripping solos all with ease of success. The only other thing can really say here is go out and buy this album and make of this unique brand/concept what you will, these guys are a small band that deserve a hell of a lot more praise and listener ship than I’m sure they’re getting. Bands like this is where the future is at, lets make it happen! 9/10

Sunday 4 May 2014

Another Point Of View: The Temperance Movement (Review By Paul)

The Temperance Movement – Shepherd’s Bush Empire

My first trip to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and the first of two opportunities to see Classic Rock’s Best New Band of 2013 in short succession. Having been blown away by a storming set at the Steelhouse Festival last summer as well as missing the opportunity to see them later in the year at The Globe, the opportunity to see the British Blues and Rock outfit whilst in London was one I wasn't going to turn down. Despite the ball ache of a tube strike, it was surprisingly easy to get to Shepherd’s Bush via London Overground and I arrived at the venue which has, like several other O2 venues, been slightly tarnished by the mobile phone company’s sponsorship approach. My location for the gig was on level 3, which for those of you who have never visited the venue is high up. Although a little way from the action it affords a smashing view of the whole hall, with some rather ornate coving and architecture which I think would have been a little difficult to appreciate from the stalls. It also allowed me to sit back and watch the bands from on high, providing a different perspective from that which I usually obtain.

Anyway, onto the support act. Brother and Bones are a five piece Alt-rock outfit from the UK who simply oozed class. With a very enthusiastic crowd lapping up every note, the band delivered an impressive 35 minutes which included tracks from their two EPs; 2012s For All We Know and last year’s five track offering To Be Alive. The band, who comprise Yiannis Sachinis on drums, Simon Robinson on bass, James Willard on guitar, Robin Howell-Sprent on percussion are led by the charismatic Richard Thomas who provides acoustic guitar and voice. Having researched them a little more after the gig it would appear that Brother and Bones are already widely tipped as one to watch and I would heartily endorse this. They can rock with the best of them but it is their acoustic numbers that really make them something special. I don't really want to compare them to anyone but I suppose that Kings of Leon would be a reasonable similarity but that might be doing both bands a disservice. They are delivering a full acoustic set at Cardiff on 3 May which will be something not to be missed. 8/10

Last July the editor of this illustrious blog and I (along with the incredible Brett Perry) stood in a field on the top of a mountain in Ebbw Vale and watched TTM deliver 40 minutes of classic blues rock with all the swagger of The Faces, The Black Crowes and of course the Rolling Stones. Their self-titled debut album which was released shortly afterwards was a beautiful slab of rock fused with elements of soul, country and in passages almost evangelical in delivery. Led by the hyperactive Glaswegian Phil Campbell, TTM delivered a fantastically paced set, opening with the upbeat Ain't No Telling with Campbell whirling like a dervish. He cuts shapes like a young Iggy Pop (minus the cock in your face), dancing across the stage, unable to stand still for a second. The band followed this with Battle Lines before an extended Take It Back where some improvisation demonstrated the talents of the rest of the band. Guitarists Luke Potashnick (ex-Rooster and Ben's Brother) and Paul Sayer complement each other beautifully, with both demonstrating some mean axe work as well as the more delicate side of their craft. The rhythm section consists of former Jamiroquai bassist Nick Fyffe (who has also deputised for Roger Glover in Deep Purple, no less) and Australian-born drummer Damon Wilson, who has played with the likes of Ray Davies, The Waterboys and Feeder. The set naturally featured the bulk of songs on the debut album. They debuted a new track in Oh Lorraine which nestled perfectly comfortably amongst numbers that have already become firm fan favourites

After a brilliant version of Only Friend TTM lowered the tempo with a beautiful version of Chinese Lanterns that segued into Lovers and Fighters with Campbell adding some acoustic guitar to proceedings. The main set closed with Know For Sure which left the packed house asking for more.
If you are a fan of TTM you'll already have worked out the encores: The glorious Pride which had goose bumps on the skin before the evening was wrapped up with a rousing Midnight Black. An hour and a half of top quality music which absolutely flew by. If you like a bit of good time rock ‘n’ roll then make sure you catch these guys. They are absolutely stunning and destined to go on to much bigger things. 10/10

(Editor's note: After witnessing the band in Cardiff, I wholeheartedly agree with Paul, The Temperance Movement are certainly one of the finest live bands on the circuit, never has electrifying been such an apt term. Brother And Bones Richard Thomas performed an acoustic solo set too which was stirring and very an excellent warm up, his voice is amazing!)

Friday 2 May 2014

Reviews: Anti Mortem, Lesser Key, Gloryful

Anti-Mortem: New Southern (Nuclear Blast)

Oklahomans Anti-Mortem are down home Southern metal filled with swagger and lashings of groove along with some serious aggression. Imagine if you will a mix of Black Stone Cherry, Hellyeah, FFDP and yes (of course) Pantera. The band are all windmilling hair, Dean Razorback's, groove riffage, southern soul and some strong vocals from Larado Romo who is backed by his brother Nevada Romo and Zain Smith both of whom provide the riffage that Dime would be proud off. Corey Henderson and Levi Dickerson on bass and drums respectively anchor the heaviness with some serious hard hitting rhythm. The band are being hailed as BSC with an angry streak and this is true to a point but I think the band are a broad spectrum of influences meaning that yes Pantera will come to mind from the opening of Words Of Wisdom which has thrash like aggression. This is before the more soulful title track goes down like a bottle of Southern Comfort and things get stompy with the groove laden 100% Pure American Rage which show off Romo's snarl. The change in style comes on Black Heartbeat shows off his Romo's clean crooning on a ballad BSC would be proud of before things get back to normal on the chest beating I Get Along With The Devil which is pure Death Punch. A very good album from this Oklahoma mob, some pit inciting metal with serious groove and some killer song writing insure that if you come from the Pantera/FFDP school of Southern Groove metal, then you will love Anti-Mortem its powerful and melodic metal full of Southern grit!! 8/10

Lesser Key: Lesser Key (Sumerian Records)

The Lesser Key is a new project from former Tool bassist Paul D'Amour and in his words "represents an exploration into personal and artistic freedom." This is a bold claim from anyone especially someone coming from an abstract place like Tool, D'amour has rounded up a band in the shape of guitarist Brett Fanger, drummer Justin Hanson and they are rounded off by vocalist Andrew Zamudio. So does this self-titled EP live up to D'Amour's words or is it all just hyperbole? Well yes the album is very free flowing, full of experimentation and shifting dynamics, along with angular guitars, cascading drums and D'Amour's pulsating bass at the forefront. Yes there is a lot of artistic freedom but then D'Amour hasn't come from a band that were narrow minded as a result Lesser Key is not far removed sonically from the Tool mothership, the creeping doom like riffage of Intercession kicks things off nicely showcasing all the elements I have mentioned before you hear Zamudio's emotional vocals. Obviously Tool is not the only reference point the band also have nods to modern progressive champions Tesseract with their ambient-yet-heavy delivery (see In Passing Through and Pale Horse) as well as the more laid back emotive power of Anathema. This album ebbs and flows throughout its six songs, yes there is a similarities between them all but that’s part of the point, much like with Tool, this is all about the feel, it’s all about the pictures painted and visions created by the sonics. A heavy trip of an EP over too soon, not the exploration into artistic freedom mentioned but certainly an exploration into psychedelic modern prog! 8/10

Gloryful: Oceans Blade (Massacre Records)

Coming out of nowhere (well North-Rhine Westphalia) with a critically acclaimed last year (stupidly missed by your reviewer). Power metal troubadours Gloryful have returned with their sophomore album. The title and artwork scream Dragonforce and Gloryhammer style silliness but Gloryful are more restrained in their power metal madness.  The band have a sound not too dissimilar to Grand Magus with some heavy riff based traditional metal. Whereas the debut was swords and sorcery things get nautical this time, bringing to mind Rock N Rolf and Running Wild. Hiring The Dead has the fist pounding riff, melodic lead breaks and solos galore from Vito Papotto and the aptly named Shredmaster J.B. The vocals of Johnny La Bomba are indeed good, he has a grizzled vocal that can go to growls and high croons, similar to Matt Barlow however after 10 songs his vocals can grate a little bit as they are not a varied as Barlow’s. The musicianship however is amazing throughout, check out the drumming on E Mare, E Libertad and you will be floored by the blast beats, as for the rest of the songs they are all suitably trad metal with some scorching riffs, galloping bass lines and big gang choirs, there is no let up until the acoustic Black Legacy which aims at Blind Guardian campfire mistraling. Yes a great album for anyone that likes galloping trad metal, however I feel the vocals let it down a little. 7/10