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Thursday 7 March 2019

Reviews: Hedfuzy, Last In Line, The Devil And The Almighty Blues, Wicked Witch (Manus)

Hedfuzy: Waves (Hostile Media)

Hedfuzy mastermind Pat Byrne proves himself something of a musical visionary on Waves, his second record under the Hedfuzy moniker. It features an entirely different roster of musicians than its predecessor, with the exception of Byrne himself, of course. It also features a much more evolved sound, which is impressive for such a new band. It’s prog rock, but it’s exhilarating prog rock, not boring and full of technical wankery. It is technical, but the technicality is essential to the songs and pulled off expertly. It’s hard to have a record contain so many musical styles and a sense of cohesiveness at the same time, but Waves does it. This is really an album—not just a collection of songs written at different times in different mindsets.

Hedfuzy has a signature sound when it comes to the prog elements, especially the way synths are used, but the songs incorporate bits of straight up hard rock (The Boy Who Killed The Man), funk (Black River), and even some hints of new wave (The Promise). And that’s just to name a few of the diverse styles these songs incorporate. The complex songwriting on Waves is incredible, but what really makes Hedfuzy stand out among their prog contemporaries with this album is its risk-taking. It’s not really experimentation; the songs feel calculated and like there was a clear vision in mind to be carried out. But Hedfuzy aren’t afraid to venture into atypical territories on this album, and the result is unique. 9/10

Last In Line: II (Frontiers Records)

Last In Line’s sophomore record won’t stand up against any of the classic Dio records, but realistically, it would be ridiculous to expect it to. For what it is, it’s solid. It’s fun, and it reminisces the 1980s heyday of heavy metal in a nice way. That being said, it very much sounds like something that was done for fun. It makes sense, given that it’s not the main project for all its members. Since these ex-Dio musicians originally formed Last In Line to play old Dio material anyway, its not really a waste for the band to hold side-project status. II is still worth a listen. It won’t blow anyone away, but it’s an enjoyable record nevertheless. The dedication to the classic heavy metal sound is commendable, even if the album never takes off in any new directions. There’s nothing terrible about any of the songs. Some of them, like Sword From The Stone, are even pretty good. 6/10

The Devil And The Almighty Blues: TRE (Blues For The Red Sun)

Norwegian quintet The Devil And The Almighty Blues mould together an array of styles on album number three, TRE. For the most part, the songs are written as blues songs, but they aren’t played in a blues style. Stoner, doom, psych and sludge elements all find their way into the music—and manage to blend together. The dual guitars of Petter Svee and Torgeir Waldemar Engen carry the songs, and while there are some killer and memorable riffs, there are times when they go on for too long. It sounds like those passages would probably work better in a live setting, but without the momentum you get in a performance, they kind of drag on. There’s enough packed into the record’s six songs to make up for it, though. There’s excitement in the upbeat tracks like No Man’s Land and One For Sorrow, and passion in the slower ones, like Heart Of The Mountain and Lay Down. If there’s one riff in particular that really stands out here, it’s the main riff in the album’s opener, Salt The Earth. Though the songs are long, with only six of them, the album as a whole feels a little short. Still, most of tracks warrant second and third listens. 7/10

Wicked Witch: Wicked Witch Of Boston (20th Century Music)

The 2018 sort of self-titled release by Wicked Witch is an old-school heavy metal extravaganza. The members of Wicked Witch are veterans of the scene, having played in Savatage and as Machines Of Grace before, so no less would be expected. Chalked full of huge hooks, heavy riffage and ear-splitting shredding, the record’s guitar work alone is nearly arena-worthy. The vocals are perfect for the style, being both heavy and melodic, and delivered with power and force. The band can play, alright—and they play killer songs.

Fortunately, the songwriting is not overly formulaic, because the record would be boring if it was. Wicked Witch plays a style of metal that many other bands do and have done for decades. It would be a simple move to recall the glory of respected metal acts and stay inside those lines, but Wicked Witch do their own thing on this album. It’s easy to hear the group’s influences in tracks like Soul To Fire and Breakdown, but that doesn’t mean the songs sound like other bands’ songs. With just the right number of sing-along choruses and ripping solos thrown in, Wicked Witch Of Boston is a strong debut for this reformed band. 8/10

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