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Monday 14 March 2016

Reviews: Billion Dollar Babies, Church Of Misery, Oceans Of Slumber

Billion Dollar Babies: Chemical God (Metalville)

Billion Dollar Babies are from Sweden and they have made their name with incendiary live shows full of dramatic theatrics, blockbuster visuals and most importantly hard rocking songs. With influences that come from KISS, WASP, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie and of course Alice Cooper (just see the sexy nun on the cover that could apply to any of these artists) BDB have made their name peddling sleazy, schlocky rock music with a metallic edge that cuts through like a butcher knife. Chemical God is their second album and since their debut they have really ramped things up, the three piece of Pat Kramer and Max Lander on guitars and Frankie Rich on vocals work together flawlessly on every track, Rich's vocals especially have an air of twisted ringmaster about them as he moulds his vocal style to fit every devilish twist change  I Want To See You Burn opens things up with big riffs and creepy synths that immediately tell you what to expect, Everyone's In Love With A Chemical God continues fusing Manson with Zombie with a pummeling bassline, more synths on the sleazy Junkies Ball will get heads banging in the chorus.

BDB's are not trying to be a shameless rip off they are drawing on their influences to create something very modern sounding, One slows the pace but President Payne once again pummels you with a Zombie-like stomp rich with B-Movie cuts. There is barely a dull moment on this record all the songs a forged in with skill they will all be live anthems getting fists in the air and heads banging. When The Light Goes Out is like a mix of Frantic and Backstreet's Back (this is no bad thing) and The Nightmare Began and the bizarre melodramatic House Of Dreams are two tracks on this record that Mr Cooper would be proud of. Naming your band after Alice Cooper's most famous album is a risk but Swedes have managed to do their namesake justice, this is filthy, horror-based metallic hard rock is just what the (mad) doctor ordered; Catchy tunes and dirty thrills all round. 8/10 

Church Of Misery: And Then There Were None (Rise Above Records)

Church Of Misery have always been Japan's and indeed one of the Doom Stoner scenes most revered and unique bands. Sticking to writing purely about serial killers since their 2001 full length debut their latest and fifth (sixth if you count Vol:1) follows a familiar pattern comprising six songs based on serial killers, this time we have The Bender Family, Harold Shipman, Arthur Shawcross, Heaven's Gate Cult but we have the same bludgeoning, stoner doom with huge slabs of riff driven doom led by Tatsu Mikami's excellent bass work, on this record Mikami is the only remaining original member of the band with the rest of the band leaving before this record was recorded, this maybe the influence for the title of the album, but despite the lack of members Mikami has managed to employ the talents of Eric Riddle who adds the percussive concussion to this record, Dave Szulkin has the grinding fuzzy guitars that makes Make Them Die Slowly so harsh.

Finally rounding out this new era of Church Of Misery, Repulsions Scott Carson adds the biting growls. With the hazy Doctor Death tells of Shipman one does get the odd feeling that you are essentially reliving these horrible crimes through music but hey serial killers and crimes in general make interesting topics and have been a source of inspiration for many musicians and media (see Netflix's Making A Murder). River Demon  is Vol.4 era Sabbath by another name with it's almost tribal drumming and clean guitar line, before Confessions Of An Embittered Soul slows things down to a heavy crawl. The songs on this record are all over the five minute mark except for Suicide Journey which is almost a psychedelic warm up for the last track the 8 minute slow burn of Murderfreak Blues. It's a case of all change in Church Of Misery however the song remains the same, mind bending, drug-fuelled doom is still the order of the day. 7/10     

Oceans Of Slumber: Winter (Century Media)

Oceans Of Slumber are all about one thing...atmosphere, their progressive nature means that they can effortlessly move from jazz, to rock, to extreme metal in an instant, the Houston natives are very much progressive in the traditional sense that they do not stick to traditional melodies and rhythms. A lot has changed since their debut album, most notably they have a new singer in the beguiling guise of Cammie Gilbert who has devastatingly beautiful vocals that move from graceful, soulful quietness to booming power at the flick of a chord change. On their last EP Blue they came to many people's attention due to their excellent covers of Candlemass' Solitude, Zeppelin's Kashmir and Pink Floyd's On The Turning Away, however on this their major label debut the focus is purely on their own songs, yes there is a cover, The Moody Blues' Nights In White Satin, but it's a little surplus to requirements, but slots in well to the album, although there will be a few purists that will despise it.

Thankfully their own songs stack up the title track has the same feel as a Katatonia or an Opeth track, building and building into it's dark brooding middle section with guitarist Sean Gary taking the guttural vocals as a direct counterpoint to Gilbert's soaring clean vocals. I've mentioned about the atmosphere of this album and much of it is the work of Sean Gary and drummer Dobber Beverly who are the albums main writers that approach every song with the idea of doing whatever they want, from furious black metal blast beats on Devout which also has Gary and Anthony Contreras shredding like hell underpinned by Keegan Kelly's jazz-like bass playing and the extra layers of added by Uaeb Yelsaeb.

Lullaby is one of the best songs to show the beauty of Cammie's vocals with just her vocals taking centre stage leading up to the haunting Laid To Rest which serves as a precursor to the album's most accessible track the groove filled Suffer The Last Bridge. The band mix full length tracks with little inserts that serve as intros and outros for the next phases of this musical journey. At times the sheer force of the emotion on offer here can be a little overwhelming but with the right mix of technical prowess and songwriting ability the band's affecting, impassioned music does a lot to draw you in to the world Oceans Of Slumber have created. These Texans are as big and bold as their home state and they have the same take no shit attitude that means that this record lurches wildly between genres which can be jarring but never fails to be interesting. 8/10   

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