The Brew: Art Of Persuasion (Napalm Records)
The Brew were one of those bands that we appeared destined never to see live. Several cancelled gigs in Bristol and Cardiff frustrated the flip out of us before we cornered the bastards at Hard Rock Hell in Pwllheli in 2014. They didn’t disappoint. Their previous albums (amongst several in their back catalogue) did receive glowing reviews from Matt (9/10 for 2014’s Control) and me for 2016’s Shake The Tree (8/10). Two years on and the lads from Grimsby are back with another quality release. Once described as ‘earthy, fertile and sometimes wonderfully grainy’, the opening Seven Days Too Long demonstrates that the lads have lost none of the confidence and swagger that made them such a hot prospect a decade ago. Tim Smith, Kurtis Smith and Jason Berwick have once again released an album that combines the spirit of Soundgarden with the passion of Wolfmother and the gravitas of Zeppelin. This album is crammed full of stomping hard rock which should please all but the most stubborn rock fans. Gin Soaked Loving Queen, Excess and the excellent Shaking The Room are amongst the plethora of highlights on another quality release. 8/10
Drift Into Black: Dead Suns Under The Forever Moon (Self Released)
One of the bonus points of writing for this blog is the range of music that we get sent. I was recently contacted by Craig Rossi, a multi-instrumentalist from the States who sent me a friend request on Facebook. Craig is the mastermind behind Drift Into Black, a doom metal and dark rock outfit from Sayreville, NJ. Dead Suns Under The Forever Moon follows the 2017 debut EP Shadow People. Dibs handles the vocals, guitar, keys and production with guest musicians Paul LaPlaca on bass, drummer Kleenex Markelji, Rick Habeeb on additional guitars, Melissa Hancock on vocals and Elizabeth Weaver on cello. Dead Suns Under The Forever Moon is a concept album which deals with revenge, going too far and coping with the aftermath of it and trying to be normal again. Heavy stuff! The monstrous opening Reign segues into falling rain before a huge riff opens Sifting Through The Dead, a track that is dripping with atmosphere and haunting imagery.
Melancholic yet ominously heavy, clean vocals comfortably weaving into the very living breath of the track. Subtle keys add depth as the track builds to a crescendo. The massive sound continues on Left In The Ash, highlighting the excellent production quality. Waves of doom metal crash down, the sheer depth of emotion almost suffocating. An unexpected pause hits halfway through, the riffs take a back seat as there is a change of pace. The heat intensifies substantially on Hollow, the huge drum sound underpinning an initial charge before once again the direction suddenly shifts. Weaver’s cello features on the haunting Gone But Not Forgotten, a melancholic reflection, enhanced by Hancock’s beautiful backing vocals. The blackness descends with a lonely guitar riff, accompanied by a piano key on Death From Above, a track that then explodes into a wall of thunderous doom, sweeping powerfully like an avalanche descending a mountain side. Fuzzy dirty guitars open up No Return To The Light, another tune that skulks in the shadows before the ambient style instrumental track Home, complete with cello, provides a fitting finale to an impressive release. 7/10
Arion: Life Is Not Beautiful (AFM Records)
Symphonic metal band Arion follow up on 2014’s debut Last Of Us with their sophomore album Life Is Not Beautiful. Now I’m not much of a fan of this genre, much of it is lost on me and it’s as close to Eurovision as we get in the metal world. At The Break Of Dawn captures that feeling completely, with the duel male/female vocals, huge melodies and rampaging 100mph power metal style approach. The band comprises Greg Velinov on bass, Lassi Vagranen on vocals, Topias Kupiainen on drums, guitarist Ilvo Kaipainen and keyboard player Arturo Vauhkonen and they really give it everything, such as the frantic The Last Sacrifice which fires along after an enormously dramatic introduction in full power metal style.
The tempo is halted by the obligatory ballad, Through Your Falling Tears which is truly dreadful. From here on in it is rather standard fare, unimaginative and melodramatic, veering from AOR to power metal and always with the overblown symphonic elements exaggerated beyond necessity. Punish You at least has a bit of balls, some aggressive thrash style riffs pumping away but it’s marred by weak vocals. Overall, Arion do little for me and whilst life may not be beautiful this is just plain average. 5/10
Widetrack: Widetrack III (Self Released)
This is the third album from multi-instrumentalist Ron Tippin. The American formed the band in 2007 and released two albums in quick succession before a series of personal challenges caused a hiatus in the band’s status. Having finally got his shit back together with the support of guitarist Brian Burleson, a lifelong friend and fellow Pink Floyd devotee, and enlisting his young son Zach on bass, Widetrack III finally emerged. 12 songs which range from Tool to The Smashing Pumpkins in style and approach, this is a expertly composed and produced album, containing some superb guitar work and with a general appeal to those whose tastes in music may be considered a bit more sophisticated with a range of moods and reflections, generated with an ease and quality which appears easy. Ghosts, Gift and the impressive Life Force are cleverly constructed in an album that provides both an easy and challenging listen. 7/10