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Monday 18 March 2019

Reviews: JD Simo, Tempered, Black Anvil, Mike Tramp (Paul H & Mark)

JD Simo: Off At 11 (Crows Feet Records) [Paul H] 
The quality of the Blues Rock released this year is superb. Hot on the heels of albums from Robin Trower, Gary Hoey and Eric Gales comes JD Simo and his latest release, Off At 11. Kicking off with the instantly impressive reworking of Little Walter's Boom Boom Out Go The Lights, you can tell straight away that this is a man who delivers the blues in his own style but with more than a nod to the past masters. Short but oh so sweet, this is a man whose own PR describes him as sounding like “the surge of sound from a classic car.” I can’t disagree as the temperature stoking title track follows; A rash of concentrated chaos followed by a more meandering expression of fluid guitar playing. It’s liberating, visceral. Certainly intense. Simo embraces the intricacies, subtleties and necessities required; they are all here on an album that echoes the ghosts of those blues legends of the past. This is a man whose home is in Nashville. What else would you expect then? This isn’t a fashion choice. It’s a lifestyle. As the man says "The blues is not for kids. Blues to me, it’s an art form. It's not supposed to be flashy. And that fools a lot of people." Expressions of joy and sorrow, deep soul and the simple throw away hooks that come so easy, it’s all contained in this album. Listen to the simply timeless workouts on You Need Love, the groove and soul in his version of Slim Harpo's Got Love If You Want It. If you aren’t moved by the way Simo shares a slice of his soul in Sweet Little Angel, which acknowledges the legends B.B. King and Mike Bloomfield then you need to reevaluate what is important in your life. 52 minutes of light and dark perfection, Off At 11 is at times simply breathtaking. 9/10

Tempered: Greenwashed (1181259 Records DK) [Mark]

This short EP from Glasgow based thrashers Tempered is a nice departure from all the sludge and doom I’ve been listening to recently, just for the change of pace and upped fury in the playing, there are some tight compositions on this EP, but at roughly 200 bpm it’s a lot easier to fit in a lot of riffs over a short period of time. Greenwashed kicks off with Tempered, an instrumental thrash song, a quick introduction of what’s to come, fast drumming, tight riffs and playing, good start. Monotonous is the second track on this six track EP, the song opens with a nice dive bomb and lead with all the classic feel of thrash in its primal anger. Some gang vocals add a bit of depth to the otherwise slightly strained sounding vocal performance. Inversion has some excellent musicianship, the guitars and drums are tight, the solo is a flying machine, really rips it up, a nice breakdown rounds out this EP highlight. Greenwashed seems to be the only track to depart from the pure thrash formula and it benefits from it the most, hearing a band here who could have their own style in forthcoming releases.

Unfortunately this EP is too formulaic, there’s nothing inherently wrong with just being a thrash band, and Tempered do the thrash bit really well, they’re unashamedly playing thrash, but for all the tempo, aggression and musicianship, I’m left feeling ever so slightly deflated by this offering. If you want twenty minutes of thrash demo then this EP is for you, if you can handle the slightly jarring vocal performance I think you should check it out, the instrumentation is excellently played, the song structures are standard thrash numbers with everything you’d want from a band who can clearly pen a decent tune. Ultimately, this could be a demo from a large number of late 80s/early 90s bands and that’s a shame, to come to the realisation that thrash is somewhat stuck in a feedback loop at its ground level. I’ve no doubt this would be a blast to see live but the EP won’t make it into my rotation. 6/10

Black Anvil: Miles (STB Records) [Paul H]

Frantic occult tinged Black metal is packaged up in Miles, an EP recorded over a period of three years and the follow up to 2017’s EP As Was. The New York four-piece initially recorded merely the title track and their cover of Mercyful Fates A Corpse Without SoulMiles was written in tribute to Selim Lemouchi, a friend and former mastermind of Dutch occult rock band The Devil’s Blood, after his untimely passing in 2014 finding the band take a more hauntingly melodic form, but it was shelved to focus on As Was. So Black Anvil have finally concluded this EP and it’s an impressive release, consisting as it foes of a mere four tracks. Iron Sharpens Iron explodes in a frenzy of demonic riffs and blast beats but with a massive punk style vocal delivery. The title track shares clean, progressive rock stlye vocals with plenty of death growls and to be honest, this is faster stoner rock than black metal, albeit an infectious song with its driving rhythmic pulse. Two covers to conclude, the solid cover of A Corpse Without A Soul and The Devil’s Blood's Everlasting Saturnalia. The latter pulls at the heart strings, full of emotional sentiment and sensitively and carefully crafted reconstruction of a loved song. 7/10

Mike Tramp: Stray From The Flock (Target Records) [Mark]

Let me just come clean straight away, I don’t know how to review this album, I don’t know what comparisons I can make, where it sits for me as a listener, where it sits in the musical landscape, or who it appeals to. Let me take you back to when I put this album on for the first time, I was in the car with my partner and told her I had an album to review, could she write some notes for me as I blabber my way through the listening process, she agreed and by the time we got half way through the first track I asked her to turn it off. Second attempt, I managed to make it to track three, then it went off, I was resolute that I didn’t want to review this, I didn’t have the capacity to critique songs of such low quality country rock sung by a Danish man with an American accent. Attempt number three, sat at my desk in my office, head in my hands cringing my way through every chorus, every contrived rhyming scheme jammed into this 53 minute sack of wet grass that I do not like. Sorry to Mike, I am sure he’s a lovely chap but this album is terrible 2/10

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