Mr Big: Defying Gravity (Frontiers Records)
They're back, Gilbert hits the riff the immortal line of "OK We're Rolling" is sampled and like that Mr Big are back with Gilbert and Sheenan trading fleet fingered leads on guitar and bass respectively, Pat Torpey still keeps the funky beat and Eric Martin's voice hasn't diminished at all, however there is a little bit of reserve on Open Your Eyes, it grooves but it doesn't instantly hit you like the title track that follows it, swap these two songs around and the record sums up everything Mr Big can do, yes they are always going to be defined by 'THAT' song (much like Extreme) but I've always loved how Mr Big can easily pair accessible Californian radio rock with technical prowess most bands would never be able to achieve.
As I've said Eric Martin can still belt it out, his voice is unique and soulful, Gilbert knows when, to coin his phrase, shut up and play yer guitar, adding flourishes in the main riffs then letting loose in the solo sections, the same can be said of Billy Sheenan who is not your average bass player not content to sit and pluck he is constantly trying to out virtuoso Gilbert even getting his own solos on Mean To Me. They bring New Orleans soul to Everybody Needs A Little Trouble Gilbert indulges his Beatles fetish on the breezy Damn I'm In Love Again, the songs on the record are your normal Mr Big fodder with rock, soul, funk and even pop all catered for.
The worst of the bunch though is the dreadful Forever And Back followed by Shes All Coming Back To Me Now, it spoils the record a bit for me and while Mr Big will be able to revisit their glory days of their heyday, something they poke fun at on the heavy rocking 1992 where they lament having a hit single, they still produce quality music and their more recent output is better than anything they did after 1997 until their breakup in 2002. Mr Big are still Mr Big, yes we are still rolling but the songs remain the same. 7/10
The Midnight Ghost Train: Cypress Avenue (Napalm Records)
I've heard a lot about Buffalo, NY natives The Midnight Ghost Train but I've never listened to any of their albums, so it's about time I rectified that starting with their fourth album Cypress Avenue. It's an intelligent record that straddles stoner, sludge, blues, funk and classic rock, this three piece have their influences with Sabbath, Kyuss with Brandon and Mike thundering in the engine room, there's the spirit of old bluesmen like John Lee Hooker and Lead Belly imbuing Steve with a voice that sounds like he has eaten gravel and washed it down with whiskey as he plays the huge riffs on Tonight and the Clutch-like Red Eyed Junkie Queen.
As the album progresses they shake up their sound with the parping horns on The Boogie Down which pairs funk with NY street rap from Sonny Cheeba of Camp Lo. They dabble with psychedelic country on The Watcher's Nest, New Orleans swing on Break My Love, a depressive, sparse, blues shuffle on Black Wave and creeping blues on I Can't Let You Go. The Midnight Ghost Train are referred to as metal band but on the back of this record I'd say that they are so much more, full of metallic bluster they also are rooted deep in the delta blues and it makes for a very expansive, engaging listen. 8/10
Dead Soul Communion: S/T (Self Released)
Dead Soul Communion is the new project of Devilment founder Daniel Finch, that project has continued with vocalist Dani Filth, but Finch has gone on to pastures new, Dead Soul Communion are a different beast to Devilment, this is melodic groove metal with power clean vocals working with harsher roars. Musically Finch and his ex-Devilment bandmate Dan Jackson are the riff machines behind this record but with Kev Jackson (ex-Fifth Season) and Simon Dawson (Steve Harris British Lion) in the rhythm section the album has a thick heavy groove throughout it that reminds me of Machine Head, this comparison is due in part to Edwin Mascorn's vocals sounding remarkably like Robb Flynn, check out The Last Grains Of Sand and it could easily have been on The More Things Change.
What sets the band apart from the large amount of groove metal acts out there are the bans use of synths, these I believe are from multi-instrumentalist Paul Jensen who brings the orchestral layers on Masked Deceiver, Ghosts and Suicide Lullaby it's these parts of the bands sound that counteract and in my opinion compliment the massive riffs. Finch has dabbled again with a lot of the sonic experimentation present on the Devilment record but I prefer Dead Soul Communion mainly due to the vocals, as I've said before that Filth's vocals really grate on me, this is modern metal with a progressive edge and it's a very strong debut from Finch's new project. 8/10
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