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Tuesday 31 July 2018

Reviews: Halestorm, Hangman's Chair, Breaking The Chains, Pelugion

Halestorm: Vicious (Atlantic)

It seems Halestorm have finally hit upon a sound. There critically acclaimed second album The Strange Case Of was raw and rocky featuring some big radio hits that came almost by accident however on their previous album they were actively trying to seek the radio and it meant that Into The Wild Life was too long and far too middle of the road, with only the singles standing out. The gap between that album and this, Halestorm have been constantly on tour and frontwoman Lzzy has become an in demand collaborator for numerous bands as well as a leading light for feminism in the rock world. She uses her sexuality in a positive way doing nothing more than say Vince Neil or Axl Rose did back in the day but it seems controversial as she's a woman. I personally find it a breath of fresh air that Lzzy feels confident enough to take on the boys at their own game while also being on hand to dispense advice to girls and boys around the globe who may struggle with problems (check out her Twitter if you don't believe me).

This take no shit attitude has been reflected in their latest album Vicious which is a product of extensive touring, making the band sound more intense than before and Lzzy's swagger. The songs here brim with sexual confidence, lust, social awareness and defiance, it's the heaviest, darkest material the band have produced. Take a song like Do Not Disturb it's a dirty, filthy bottom end driven stomper on which Arejay Hale and Josh Smith lead, is about anonymous sex in hotel rooms and honestly it sounds like a Nickelback sexcapade however when Chad does it it's sleazy, when Lzzy does it it's empowering (Although can't it be both?).

The Nickelback comparisons don't end there and much like Kroger and co have managed to balance populist melodies and heavy rocking Halestorm seem to have finally nailed it as well, the rampaging Uncomfortable Lzzy and Joe Hottinger riffing like mad, the groovy Skulls, Black Vultures has almost a doom riff letting Lzzy croon and scream and even the ballads Novacaine and The Silence are full of Pat Benatar attitude. Vicious is the follow up I was waiting for from Halestorm after The Strange Case Of... and while it's not groundbreaking it'll see them becoming interstellar. I would say check them out but their UK tour later this year is sold out so just pick up Vicious and play the waiting game. 7/10

Hangman's Chair: Banlieue Triste (Spinefarm Records)

Translating to Sad Suburb the fifth album from French stoner/doom act Hangman's Chair are a band who dwell in the darkness as does their music. Slow deliberate heavy music that creeps rather than gallops relying on low slung riffs, expressive drums and reverbed vocals to get the lyrical themes of this record across. Founding member Julien Chanut (guitar) admits: "I’ve always been interested in suicide, and more precisely hanged men, it is fascinating. When I was a child, I knew someone who did it, and it’s still in my mind." So with this morbid fascination in place (the band name) this Parisian act have crafted an album that is wrapped up in grief, tragedy, bleakness, alcohol, drugs, depression all of which they saw in their suburban upbringing.

It's not supposed to be a happy album an in place it's downright bleak drawing from the band members own experiences especially 04/09/16 which deals with an unnamed member of the band's drug overdose and hospitalisation, Sleep Juice is about insomnia and Sidi Bel Abbes is about the Algerian town where a former band member was buried after being killed in a hit and run in 2010.  Think Type O Negative on valium and Hangman's Chair musical style will be easy to understand, it's dark, maudlin and disconcerting with some very good collaborations such as Marc De Backer from Wolvennest and French synthwave artist Perturbator on Tired Eyes. Banlieue Triste is not a record for the faint of heart or anyone of a nervous disposition, thundering doom rock in its rawest form Hangman's Chair is brilliant. 9/10

Breaking The Chains: We Are Breaking The Chains (Dutch Music Works)

Remember back in the 70's 80's when charity collaborations were a big thing, we had The Concert For Bangladesh, Band-Aid and for metalheads there was Hear N Aid. Well it seems the Dutch have revived the genre with We Are Breaking The Chains an album featuring 40 of the Dutch rock and metal community collaborating in the name of  Bikers Against Child Abuse. Some names you may know are vocalists, John ‘JayCee’ Cuijpers (Praying Mantis), Irene Jansen (Ayreon), guitarists Ruud Jolie (Within Temptation, For All We Know, Maiden uniteD), Timo Somers (Delain),
bassists Rob van der Loo (Epica), Johan van Stratum (VUUR, The Gentle Storm, ex-Stream of Passion) and drummer Ed Warby (VUUR, The Gentle Storm, The 11th Hour).

As you can see members of some of the biggest Dutch metal acts are here and much like the Ayreon project there is a genre mix but things are mainly kept to the power/symphonic metal and AOR. t opens with the acoustic laced Superhero but Angels On Wheels brings a percussive loudness which builds and builds into a powerful end. We go symphonic/folksy on Believe In Me with this segueing into saccharine Follow My Way and the bouncy Valley Road. I'll be honest there are no bad songs on this record, some are better than others but the record keeps you entertained with the the eclectic mix of musicians involved who are all doing it for a great cause. It's a testament to the Dutch scene that they can produce an album of this quality with so many people involved, I've always carried a baton for Dutch bands and Breaking The Chains is validation to why. 7/10

Pelugion: I (Self Released)

Coventry Metal 2 The Masses winners Pelugion have very conveniently put all of their recordings together in one place just before their New Blood Stage appearance at this year's Bloodstock Festival. With this clever bit of marketing the three piece have now got a CD that contains every Pelugion song ever made.  

Monster (2016) comes from 2016 and has a real Sabbath groove to it which seems to be the overarching style of Pelugion's music vocals & bass Andy Sweeney has a whiskey smoked hued vocals and locks in with drummer Brandon Balou providing the heavy grooves for Bide My Time (2015) however tracks such as Desire (2017) and the Metallica-esque Bane Of Humanity (2018) give John Pittaway the chance to shred away with big chords and thrashing riffs.

Clearly a well oiled machine they have a fusion of styles even bringing a huge amount of prog for Serpent's Mistress which brings a nod to The Sword with it's sprawling psych styled middle section. I is a very confident, assured EP from a band who are on the cusp of that next leap in their evolution as a band, check them out on Friday when they play the New Blood Stage at Bloodstock and bang your head. 8/10      

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