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Tuesday 15 January 2019

Reviews: John Garcia, Soilwork, Relics Of Humanity, Herod (Paul S & Sean)

John Garcia: John Garcia And The Band Of Gold (Napalm Records) [Paul S]

John Garcia of Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida and Vista Chino is back. 2 years after The Coyote Who Spoke In Tongues, Garcia now releases the third album to carry his name. John is joined by Ehren Groban on guitar, Mike Pygmie on Bass and Greg Saenz on drums. So what they served up for us this time? Well the album contains 11 tracks of what would most accurately be called stoner rock.

The album kicks off with an instrumental intro called Space Veto, which starts with relaxed riffing before the final third where a much faster, fantastic riff kicks in and gets the album underway really well. Next up is Jim’s Whiskers which is a cracking piece of desert rock, with a great chorus (which reminds me a little of Overdose by AC/DC). The track gets a kick in the pants with a nice fast ending. Chicken Delight is a more measured song, it’s quieter than the 2 tracks that come before it, with a slightly looser feel. The slightly more controlled feel continues with Kentucky II. The track has a slight Hendrix sense to it, it also has a fantastic chorus. My Everything is a lovely song. Although it has distorted guitars and bass, the song has the feel of a ballad, it’s slower than most of the other material, and John Garcia really excels himself on lead vocals. John vocals are as good as you’d expect, all over the album, but his vocal delivery makes this track. The end of the song has some nice guitar harmonies that are quite reminiscent of Queen.

Lillian is a taught rocker of a track, driving riffs and rhythms keep the track pushing forward before an awesome chorus (this album specialises in great choruses!). Popcorn (Hit Me When You Can) sounds like it was recorded in 1968, it’s a great bit of psychedelic rock, with a great central riff, the song is massively energetic ( I would refer to this as a high point for the album, but this is an album that is full of high points). The tempo is kept up by Apache Junction, powering the album along. Don’t Even Think About It is a fantastic mid-paced track. The opening riff is relaxed but beautifully tuneful and melodic. Cheyletiella the longest track on the album, has a fairly simple main riff, but it keeps the track driving along in an incredibly enjoyable way. The song gets faster at the end and has a really good chorus. Final Track Softer Side is a beautifully relaxed and luxuriant way to end the album.

As the title suggests, this is John and friends in a softer moment, the track does get bigger and more strummy as it goes along, but retains that relaxed feel right to the end of the album. This wasn’t an easy album to make, there were lots of issues with equipment and studios. John Garcia has stated in some of the music press that this will be the last album he will performs on. I hope that this isn’t true, I hope after a little time to reflect he’ll be back in a recording studio, lending his fantastic voice to more great music. But if this is the last album he contributes to, at least he’s going out on a great album. John Garcia And The Band Of Gold is a cracking hard rock album. It’s quite a simple thing, it’s a collection of great songs, played and sung really well. I’ve really enjoyed listening to this album, I think it’s likely to be on heavy rotation in my flat for the next few months. 8/10

Soilwork: Verkligheten (Nuclear Blast) [Sean]

Managing to mostly avoid the stomach churning saccharinity of their American contemporaries, Soilwork have consistently shown jaded kvltists such as myself just how good their brand of “modern” metal can be. Sure, they may use the normally vomit inducing genre tropes; palm muting, the ol’ the good cop/bad cop vocal delivery and ham-fisted “uplifting” chorus, but it’s been done with an authenticity that their fringed imitators have failed to replicate. Though not without the odd stumble, I think it’s safe to say that since releasing the excellent The Living Infinite, the long running Swedish minstrels of melodic death have been experiencing something of a renaissance. Having rediscovered the fury of yore, Soilwork’s current form is what can only be described as an amalgamation. A synthesis of their deathly beginnings, more recent “corish” leanings and an increasing desire to experiment beyond their own borders. Thus we come to 11th album, Verkligheten. Have they once again achieved perfect synergy?

After the intro of title track Verkligheten, Arrival bursts into life in an explosion of blast beats, giving way to staccato riffs and Bjorn Strid’s instantly recognisable roar. An absolute belter of an opener, showing the harmonious marriage between the extremity of old and the melody of new. Neither element undermines the other, a sound remind of Soilworks compositional might stomper Bleeder Despoiler is another example of top shelf Soilwork, complimenting the earlier onslaught with a more measured pace. The Nurturing Glance has a more playful nature, embracing some traditional meta riffs interspersed with the Swedes trademark modern crunch. Stålfågel combines all the best bits from their middle era, into into a solid sing song of anthem power. Needs And Kin is another heavy hitter, bolstered by the appearance of Amorphis’ own Toms Joutsen. On the whole, this is everything you could want and then some! Which makes this next bit all the more difficult to express.

Despite the strength of the after mention songs and for every peak, there is a trough and Verkligheten contains a fair few. Full Moon Shoals is generic mid paced mundanity, When The Universe Spoke starts with enough bravado, but rapidly loses steam the longer the song progresses. The Wolves Are Back In Town and closer You Aquiver just don’t grab me in the slightest, both being content to simply occupy space on the CD it was burnt onto. A shame really, as there are some truly ripping solo’s contained contained on both. All moaning aside, it’s doesn’t diminish Verkligheten’s power too much. Whilst it may not be the smoothest of rides, there is more than enough infectious killer to downplay the fumbling filler. All in all, a solid outing sure to please old bloods and new neophytes. 7/10

Relics Of Humanity: Obscuration (Willowtip Inc) [Sean]

That’s a nice cover, wonder what music this Seagrave illustrated EP will contain? It’s definitely death metal, this is Dan Seagrave we’re one about but what kind? Either one or two things, perhaps something of the techy variety but there’s no purple so it can’t be that. Mayhaps something of the more “brootal” variety? Barely legible logo? Check. Pingy as fuck snare? Check. Inhumanly low gutturals? You bet your sweet keister. Belarusian bruisers, Relics Of Humanity, play brutal death metal with a capital B, bro! Featuring current/former members of Disgorge, Defeated Sanity and featuring Suffocation’s (love react) Derek Boyer as guest on bass, EP Obscuration, according to the band themselves, “lifts death metal to a higher level of intensity, atmosphere and brutality.” Steady boys, I haven’t pressed play yet.

As intro Retson Retap moves into Ana Kihu Alamu, shit comes out ripping and tearing with all the subtly of a sledgehammer to the dick. All the typical elements of BDM are present, utterly disgusting vocals, non stop blasting and thick as fuck riffs at ridiculously low tuning. You know the drill, though as to what “atmosphere” the band were hinting at is nowhere to be seen. Surely that’s the very antithesis to this sort of thing? Third track, When Darkness Consumes God’s Throne continues in more or less the same fashion though suddenly slows to a predictable pit inducing crawl. Whipping The Curse briefly displays some variation, a closing melodic passage finally allowing some breathing space. I’ll spare you details on the other two, as they more or less carry on in a similar fashion of blasting, tempo changes and chugging. BROOTAL!

Imma be honest, aside from a few bands most “brutal” or “slamming” death metal bores the shit out of me. Once you get the hang of it’s initially impressive auditory assault, it often becomes a monotonous affair. Being loud at a breakneck pace is good and all that but what else yah got? I enjoy my grind and war metal for the ear shattering decibels and ridiculous tempos. Why? Coz it’s intense as fuck and BDM often comes off as aimless, unimaginative and rather forgettable in comparison. Thankfully, Relic Of Humanity mostly avoid my ire, as there were a few times that my foot got a’tapping and my neck muscles got a’bobbing. Hell, I even started to somewhat enjoy the single minded tenacity of it all. At any rate, it ain’t going to stand out from the camo-shorted crowd, as it still falls into the same stylistic stumbling blocks one would expect. But if you’re down with this sort thing and firmly wear your snapback in reverse, then Obscuration should keep you entertained long enough until the next update on Slam Worldwide. The vocals were pretty fucking sick, though. 6/10

Herod: Sombre Dessein (Pelagic Records) [Paul S]

Herod are a 4 piece from Switzerland, Sombre Dessein is the band's second album coming 5 years after their debut They Were None. I have seen the band described as sludge, but to me this sounds like Meshuggah style progressive metal. The band are definitely more interested in polyrhythms than they are about huge fat riffs. After a short intro the album kicks off with the track Fork Tongue. The song sets a bit of a template for the album, being a mix of big, very staccato riffs, and softer parts that are mainly vocals and drums, but with some subtle guitar and bass parts. The riffs on offer are far more about rhythm and polyrhythm rather than complexity or syncopation. Second track Reckoning takes the rhythmic aspect even further, in fact some of the riffs on offer here are just basic chugging of one chord, which fits the Meshuggah feel, but does also make it sound a little like Nu-metal simplicity.

Next up is Don’t Speak Last, the longest and most complex song on the album. The track does have the same structure as the rest of the album, but on Don’t Speak Last the soft and hard parts feel like they are building towards the huge ending of the track. This allows the track to have more dynamics than the rest of the album. Silent Truth has a dense opening riff, which again is juxtapositioned with softer more brooding sections. Mourning Grounds has a similar style and structure as the rest of the songs on here, but this time it starts to feel lacklustre, the staccato riffs are just too simple and the effect ends up being simplistic and plodding. Final track There Will Be Gods has a slow and quiet buildup that is brooding and builds to a huge ending, it’s a strong track and a good way to end the album.

Sombre Dessein is an interesting album, I do think that this might be an album that splits people. If you like the sort of polyrhythms they are offering then you will probably really like the album, if you like your metal to be more syncopated and to flow more then you probably won’t. Definitely one for Meshuggah fans. 7/10

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