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Sunday, 28 October 2018

Reviews: Greta Van Fleet, Nothgard, Windhand, Oracle (Paul H & Matt)

Greta Van Fleet: Anthems Of The Peaceful Army (Republic Records) [Matt B]

This was a difficult album to review there was a temptation to be cynical and make the obvious Zeppelin comparisons saying that it's a pastiche etc, read the Pitchfork review if you want a review like that. But I've opted to go the other way and try to prove the claim that by sounding the way they do, they have garnered an appeal that has made them go stratospheric in very short time. I thought I'd talk about the music itself, Age Of Man the song that opens this record is an organ drenched atmospheric, anthemic beginning with Geddy Lee waspishly harping over the top, it's followed by The Cold Wind which I will admit sails too close to the Zep template with the funky blues guitar, walking groove and the Plantisms in full swing as does When The Curtain Falls. So yes they do sound a bit like Zep, but equally they are the epitome of that hippie sound from the late 60's, a time period that is probably ancient history for this youthful band.

Still there are plenty of band's that use the Zep/Free mold to make music, Rival Sons being the obvious example, the only difference here is how uncannily vocals sound like Percy without being a complete rip off, they haven't quite got the honeyed lower register but that may develop with age, only time will tell. The rest of the band play the Delta-blues aping hard rock rich in groovy rhythms and jangly guitar playing, they aren't reinventing it for new era but drawing on it to create new songs that sound oh so retro. Whether their naivety in interviews about trying to sound like Zep is honest or not, I don't know but for such a young band to be churning out this very slick accomplished rock is something that needs to be applauded. In a world where rock is supposedly dying having bands such as Greta Van Fleet, Rival Sons, The Temperance Movement and even Inglorious playing new music that is instantly recognisable (for better or worse) can only be a positive thing. Yes it's nothing new but there are only so many songs/sounds and styles in the world and Greta Van Fleet do it better than most. So baulk if you want, make snide comments, this is a young band who know how to navigate the torred seas of the music industry, The Song Remains The Same as it always has give the people what they want! 8/10

Nothgard: Malady X (Metal Blade Records) [Matt B]

Singer and lead-guitarist Dom R. Crey formed Nothgard in 2008, 10 years into their career (Malady X geddit?) they continue on the maxim of epic symphonic arrangements and intensely technical playing. This is melodic death metal that ventures into the power metal realm with some neo-classical guitar playing added just to really get you nice and excited, if you're expecting high shrieks and powerful crooning you won't get that here as Crey opts for harsh death vocals meaning there's a lot of comparisons to be made to Children Of Bodom but also Dragonforce.

I will say that for fans of this kind of music Nothgard are at the higher end, especially with this record they have tried to set the bar higher than ever before which can hear in every orchestral swell or blistering guitar solo (of which there are many), they've got pumping synths driving Guardians Of Sanity, thrash touches on Serpent Hollow, fist pumping symphonic metal for Herald Of Death and a cover of Ninja by Europe (yes, really) that give you a pretty decent overview of what Nothgard are all about. I'd not heard much about Nothgard before this album but I'll be doing some digging as Malady X is a very accomplished epic melo-death. 7/10

Windhand: Eternal Return (Relapse Records) [Paul H]

Windhand is a psychedelic doom band from Richmond, Virginia. The band comprises Dorthia Cottrell on vocals, Parker Chandler on bass, drummer Ryan Wolfe and guitarist Garrett Morris. This is the band’s fourth album, since they formed in 2008. At over an hour long you certainly get value for money with this release. Opener Grey Gardens, complete with distorted bass and filthy fuzzy guitars certainly sets the tone and pace. A theme which focuses on life’s highs and lows, joys and sorrows is represented here with the sanguine Pilgrim’s Rest sandwiched between Grey Gardens and another crashing doom riff laden track in First To Die.

The band has experienced loss, changes and death in between 2015’s Grief’s Infernal Flower, including the departure of founder member and guitarist Asechiah Bogdan, which is reflected in Eternal Return. Whilst the monstrous Sabbath and Sleep riffs remain, Cottrell’s hauntingly soft vocals move the band slightly more towards Soundgarden and even Alice In Chains at times with a sludgier feel. Windhand follow a clear pattern, and it’s the gargantuan heavy Eyeshine which really shakes the foundations. 11 minutes of crawling, thunderous riffs, atmospheric vocals and crashing drumming and if this wasn’t enough, Feather rolls in shortly afterwards at a crushing 13-and-a-half-minute ride full of punishing doom, distorted feedback and rolling bass lines. Windhand won’t be everyone’s thing. The ponderous style works fabulously if you like your doom at chest crushing levels. 7/10

Oracle: Tales Of Pythia (Self Released) [Paul H]

This debut EP from Northern Irish groove bastards Oracle was released in June, ahead of their balls out performance at Bloodstock in August. I was impressed with the band on the day in the New Blood tent and this release is a solid example of what they threw into the mix on that day. Four hefty songs as well as an intro track including the thunderous No God Waits For You, which stomps and kicks like a unbroken horse. Harsh vocals fit the heavy stomp and the thunderous cacophony that envelopes the listener pummels from left to right and back again in a relentless pattern of abuse. With more heft than an Ulster Fry, Tales Of Pythia is a debut to be proud of. 8/10

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