Black Swamp Water: Distant Thunder (Mighty Music)
On first play I was convinced that Black Swamp Water were another hard rocking band from the States. Oh no. This five-piece hail from Denmark. Distant Thunder follows their 2016 debut album and opens with a sweet piece of Southern style acoustic slide on Badlands. As the thunder crashes in the distance, a banjo then threads together the crashing riffs as Bitter Harvest slowly hits top gear. Vocalist Bjorn Bolling Nyholm has a Hetfield style, but one that isn’t attempting to imitate the Metallica main man. Black Swamp Water are very much in the Black Label Society meets Lynyrd Skynyrd arena. Hard rock intertwined with the Southern rock but add in a large serving of Corrosion Of Conformity. Each track builds to huge choruses, the guitar work of Jan Geert and Martin Lykke Hansen sublime. Rebellion thunders along with huge hooks enticing the listener and by half way through this album it’s impossible to stop tapping the foot. Rise and Down For Good close the release, both tub thumping beasts which demonstrate that sometimes it doesn’t have to be complicated to be bloody good. 8/10
Yylva: The Wood Beyond The World (Self Released)
For those fortunate enough to have been at Fuel early on 9th June, you’d have caught the live set from Yylva. Anticipation about the debut album from this enigmatic outfit has been high and now it has finally arrived, well, what a beauty. The atmospheric ethereal black metal swirls around your throat, whispering delicately before blistering blast beats and demonic riffs tighten their grasp, whilst the haunting vocals of Clare Webster soar above the maelstrom. The intricate opening of A Foreshadowing, with the deft harp work taking centre stage, before the first real masterpiece appears as A Sidhe In Throes, all nine minutes of it, develops and spreads like a virus, weaving its way from peaceful intricacy to evil mutations.
Nepenthe, not the Opeth track from Heritage, maintains the combination of pagan doom and black metal superbly, a memorable riff holding pace with the elaborate and enchanting harp work which spreads over the whole album like a spider’s web in a darkened cave. Tears Of Awakening combines harp, ghostly vocals, death growls and thundering riffs in a way that should not work but does surprisingly well. At 55 minutes for just seven tracks, this album will take some listening to really appreciate but on the first few listens it is most impressive. Chillingly heavy, intoxicatingly light and woven together in magnificent style, this is a truly special album which should cast shivers up and down the spine. 9/10
Mountain Tamer: Godfortune/Dark Matters (Magnetic Eye Records)
Hailing from Los Angeles, California, Mountain Tamer are about as far away from the traditional LA sound as you could get. Heavy, throbbing psychedelic doom, massive reverb and space rock are all present as the band deliver a ball crushing release. For a trio, the band make an impressive noise; fuzzy, dirty guitar work of Andru Hall who also handles lead vocals combines with the aching bass lines of Dave Tegat and the rampant thunder of Casey Garcia on drums.
Listen to the meandering Funeral Of A Dog, envelops you with a swirling heady mix before an abrupt stop saps your head back into position. The crashing Primitive Control careers out of the speakers with no controls in place, distortion and down tuned guitar mixing with distant echoing vocals. It’s sweet stuff alright and sufficiently challenging to stand above many of the Swedish bands of similar style. 7/10
The Stone Angels: The Stone Angels EP (Self Released)
I don’t know what I did to deserve this to review but I don’t want to get anything like it again. The Stone Angels are apparently a three-piece from Torbay and have kicked around since 2009 with a debut album Spirit, Love & Higher Meanings released in 2016. This five-track EP contains three average rock tracks, one particularly unremarkable cover of The Human League’s Don’t You Want Me and a lounge room style track called Set Me Free which fuses a bit of jazz, synth and indie style guitar into the mix, horribly. I’m sure they may be the ‘South West’s Best Kept Secret’. On this showing, let’s hope it remains that way. About as exciting as a bowl of two-day old porridge. 4/10