The sophomore album from Belfast rockers saw them setting up a PledgeMusic to fund the album successfully, however once the PledgeMusic platform collapsed, it affected the band badly but they've managed to get the album made and with those venerable folks at Stampede Press handling the promotion it's finally seen the light of day. It's also a major step forward for the band musically, this is clear from the opening bars of Light Up The World which has an immediate riff and some pumping organs to lay down what's to come.
The songs here a lot more mature than on the reasonably generic debut, that could be because The Answer's Cormac Neeson co-wrote a few of the songs, now I'm not sure which ones but Livin' This Way has that driving The Answer groove to it, then they ramp up the swagger riffs on Better Days Coming which has the brilliantly smoky vocals of Amy Montgomery in conjunction with the unique style of Matt Fitzsimons who has a brilliant set of pipes which remind me a lot of the band Rattlesnake Remedy (that's an obscure one even for me) and even Neeson himself, but it's an ideal classic rock vocals that's full of dynamics equally suited to ballsy rockers and the orchestral ballardry of Where We Started.
The rest of the band are Adam Parkin's excellent fluid guitar playing, Chris Fitzsimons' rhythmic bass and Ryan Hood's expressive drumming. The crunching Psycho is moody and a bit proggy, though the rushed lyrics in the chorus will annoy one Mr Hewitt, I think it works. Light Up The World is an album that brings together hard rock, country, blues and radio friendly anthems (Fight For One More Day), they aren't afraid to mix it up a little and it's that kind of attitude that will see them heading to bigger things this year, after a rocky genesis Gasoline Outlaws are ready to Light Up The World. 8/10
Kurokuma: Sheffield’s Best Metal Bands Vol.1 (Off Me Nut Records)
What happens when you mix the gargantuan grooves of doom, with the extremity of sludge and the brain melting weirdness of avant-garde into a bowl, put them in a blender with a can't give a shit attitude? Well you get Sheffield cult madmen Kurokuma. This is their third EP and it's four tracks of ear abusing oddness that doesn't follow any musical patterns at all, it's 24 minutes of sonic expressionism that rarely has vocals letting the almost abusive music do all the talking needed. KVN the first track opens with bass throb that will bring to mind One Of These Days, it's hypnotic and lasts for a good minute before the repeating drum beat kicks in, then after about another minute the harshest riff I've heard for a long time opens up, sounding like it was played with a cheese grater RVN is enough to put you into a trance-like state.
Then a more distorted guitar sound speed the track up as the dual vocals never approach anything you could consider to be 'clean' both shouting and screaming fo the last part of this 6 minute acid trip from hell. No time to breathe Wasp Nest has a bowel moving bassline and is actually the shortest song on the album almost used as a transition ready for the cover. Yes folks a cover and it's an obscure one as this Sheffield trio take on Deeper Underground by Jamiroquai, however this is probably unlike any version you've heard before, with the dance-funk giving way to lumbering doom interpretation that's preceded by lines from one of the original Godzilla (Gojira) films, with that familiar bassline now as destructive as the gargantuan lizard's feet through downtown Tokyo. The EP ends with a buzzing EDM version of Wasp Nest which sounds like a Prodigy song, it's an appropriately strange ending to a immensely peculiar record that's got a great balance between heaviness and quirkiness. 7/10
Red Handed Denial: Redeemer (Self Released)
The conceptual storyline started on Toronto native's Wanderer EP continues on their latest album Redeemer, now the concept is a little strong and this record follows the "anti-hero's journey as they wander through limbo seeking passage into the afterlife". If I was to characterize their sound it would be a Monuments merged with Coheed & Cambria fronted by Paramore's Hayley Williams if she was able to roar like Alissa White-Gluz, so now you are adequately prepared you can crank the volume and let the down-tuned riffs of tracks like Empire hit you like a tonne of bricks.
While songs such as The Art Of Bargaining have a much more pop-friendly feel but has a backing track of InMe styled technicality as Chris Mifsud and Aleksei Perepelitsa (guitars) trade off fleet fingered six stringing while a breakdown in the middle letting Dominick De Kauwe (bass) and Tyson Dang (drums) bring some groove with Lauren Babic relying heavily on her soaring cleans though on other tracks like Awakening and the abrasive Locked In A Vacancy she uses those paint peeling screams to really bring the power. At 14 tracks it's probably a little too long but it is a concept album and it's very well sequenced meaning that it never really gets too samey, with Solace a brilliantly emotive orchestral ballad that brings us into the final two songs. Redeemer is a great album for anyone who's a fan of modern technical metal that has a knack for a massive chorus. 7/10
Raised By Owls: Dreadful (Self Released) [Rich]
I am a massive fan of comedy and a massive fan of extreme metal but never really see the pair combining together in a working formula. In my experience metal bands who try to be funny either come across as forced or relying on a cheap gimmick to garner laughs but Raised By Owls as well as being a very competent deathgrind band are also side splittingly funny. Raised By Owls started off as a silly project between a few friends and have in a short space of time got a following beyond anything they ever imagined resulting in a performance on the New Blood stage at Bloodstock 2017 which was so popular that you could not get everyone into the tent to watch them. The band are still riding off the wave of popularity with their second release Dreadful. If you have managed to avoid Raised By Owls up until now they basically are a mix of death metal and grindcore with supremely silly song titles and idiotic lyrical content playing on the silliness and weirdness of British popular culture (especially if you grew up in the 1990’s).
The band's natural comic talents really come to the fore with their belly rupturing hysterical song titles with such gems as Cult Of David Dickinson, The Philip Schofield Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween At Richard And Judy’s and my personal favourite Rob Halford Robs Halfords. It’s very rare that an extreme metal album can have me snorting with laughter (it can also earn you some weird looks on the bus) and that is the genius of Raised By Owls. If you took away the silliness then the music would work on its own but the two go so well together in the band’s capable hands. Dreadful will no doubt be lost on overseas listeners unless they are well versed in British popular culture but if you want a laugh then this album is well worth a listen. I think the band themselves are completely baffled by their success but as long as they continue to mix their fantastic sense of humour with some gnarly deathgrind then I think they may be around for a while yet. This is definitely the only album I am likely to hear death metal and Mr Blobby combined. Brilliant stuff. 8/10