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Friday, 12 October 2018

Reviews: Benighted, Idlewar, Bad Touch, The Virginmarys (Reviews By Paul H & Alex)

Benighted: Dogs Always Bite Harder Than Their Master (Season Of Mist)

Well this is a face melting son of a bitch and make no mistake. The French madness which has struck terror for the past 20 years shows no sign of stopping in this fresh album which consists of three new tracks, six live pieces and a rather tasty cover of Slaughter Of The Soul (At The Gates). For those not familiar with Benighted, they are a death grind outfit from France who literally shake foundations of huge buildings. The new tracks are very much in the vein of previous works by the band, full onslaught drumming and colossal riffing as well as the gore-soaked vocals and squeals of Julien Truchan. The six live tracks were recorded in Lyon and feature guests including Ben from Unfathomable Ruin, Niklas from The Shining and Sven from Aborted. Cum With Disgust, the opening salvo of Reptillian and a blood curdling Necrobreed are punishing highlights from a band with no handbrake. Nurse, I need my cheek flesh remoulded to my face please! 7/10

Idlewar: Fractured (Self Released)

James Blake, bass and vocals. Rick Graham, guitar. Pete Pagonis, drums. This is Idlewar, a band that we’ve been following since their early days with their debut EP Dig In. Fractured is the third album from the Orange County trio and builds on the solid foundations of debut album Impulse and last year’s excellent Rite. Once again, the band hit all the right notes, their fuzzy stoner sound a perfect combination With elements of Soundgarden, Zeppelin and Queens of the Stone Age amongst the identifiable riffage, Fractured is their most mature release to date. The power of opener Turn To Six, the stomp of Stab and the dirty, murky sound of Drama all combine to create another impressive album. Blake’s vocals remain impeccable, his range striking whilst the music is tight. Graham’s guitar swings between aggressive rawness and tender delicate tones with ease. Idlewar play Fuel in Cardiff on 24th November. Their live shows are superb. I suggest you get along there to enjoy it. 8/10

Bad Touch: Shake A Leg (Marshall Records)

I was unimpressed by album no.2 by Norfolk’s Bad Touch. Truth Be Told was unimaginative and a let down after the drive and determination of their debut Halfway Home. Two years have passed, and the band are back with album no.3. I say back because they’ve hardly been away, touring constantly and building a media profile which fits neatly in with the current ‘New Wave of British Classic Rock’. Led by the soulful vocals of Stevie Westwood, Shake A Leg has a lot more going on. Full of anthemic rock tunes, such as Hammer Falls, with its sing-along chorus and the AC/DC stomp of Too Many Times, there remains the Zeppelin swagger alongside the ballsy approach of The Answer (where are you guys by the way?). The musicianship remains high class, with the guitar work of Rob Glendinning and David Seekings particularly noticeable.

The introduction of some Hammond style keys on the likes of Dressed To Kill adds depth and layers, the slow-paced I Belong smoulders with emotion and the high tempo Tussle gets the foot tapping. My only issue with the album is the length. It’s 45 minutes and 13 tracks in duration; possibly two or three tracks too long. Still, it’s a return to form, with more confidence and polish. I maintain the band are better in the live arena, where Westwood is captivating, but Shake A Leg is a solid release in a genre which is more saturated than most. 7/10

The Virginmarys: Northern Sun Sessions (Self Released) [Alex]

The Virginmarys are just one power duo in what has become something of a staple in contemporary rock, since the white stripes went on to achieve legendary status, and acts like Death From Above and Royal Blood has impressively carved out their own sphere of influence, avoiding the dreaded hipster label. In my view, duo need strength and power to make up for the lacking in the traditionally 5-piece rock band dynamic, and to stop themselves from slipping over into sloppily mediocre Black Keys territory.

Do Northern Sun Sessions achieve this? Well, yes and no. Make no mistake, there is definitely only two musicians playing here, and songs like All Fall Down and Eye For An Eye do not leave you scratching your head or looking for parts where there are none. Admirably though, rather than let that restrict them, Ally Dickstay and Danny Dolan, seem to revel in their rawness, with moments from Blind Lead The Blind and For The Two Of Us seeing them bash at their drums and meddle with their guitar strings with such ferocity that you barely notice how the guileless setup driving the southern-tinged sound.

Playing with the listener's expectations becomes a staple of the album. Certainly, while there are cases which are tastily fast and loud from start to finish, Lookout for My Brother and Wanna Be Free is definitely some of the most memorable ones by beginning as ditty blues songs before letting loose, satisfying a hunger in both the listener and performer for chaos, distortion and pure, undiluted energy. If you prefer to marvel at the complexity just two musicians can emanate, this may not be to your tastes. Respecting the record for what it is, however, and realizing that there will be a subset of the community who like nothing more to hear the crash of traditional, unfiltered instrumentation, under the hands of musicians with a passion to entertain, undeniably makes it worthy of your respect 6/10

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