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Saturday 15 June 2019

Reviews: Danny Bryant, Thirty Giants, Tanzwut, The Brink (Matt & Alex)

Danny Bryant: Means To Escape (Jazzhaus Records) [Matt]

Danny Bryant has the blues, the only cure is to grab a six string, play some twelve bars and write an album. This is his 11th studio album and the first one he has produced by himself as he felt the songs on this record would benefit from a live-in-the-studio recording method to give them an organic feel. He's managed to capture that as Warning Signs (In Her Eyes) has a nice steady beat before the fireworks in the middle, it's in the middle of two tender ballads in the shape of the stripped back Skin And Bone and the piano led Where The River Ends which is an emotional piece that has some tasty Hammond in the bubbling in the background.

Means To Escape is a record that is very personal to Bryant, as it signifies the way he takes himself away from the rest of the world and by locking himself in a studio with both versions of his band (four piece and Big Band) he has managed to craft a record of contemporary blues numbers that carry all the traits of the greats, Hurting Time has a New Orleans shuffle with some soulful slide guitar and brass parps while Tired Of Trying is a big, ballsy rocker and the title track is particularly due to soaring guitar playing and Bryant's husky voice. Bryant considers this the album he's most proud of and you can understand why that is. Modern blues at it's best, a very welcoming Means To Escape. 8/10

Thirty Giants: Struggle (Self Released) [Matt]

Rising from the ashes of several Brighton based bands Thirty Giants, want to make a building levelling footprint on the UK rock scene. Struggle is their debut record and they are clearly trying to define themselves as a band that draws from certain styles but uses them to their own advantage. Those styles are that of bands such as Mastodon and Baroness (whose new album maybe an AOTY) where the drumming is expressive but battering, the bass is as important a riff machine as the six strings which also sometimes explode into blasts of melody along with crushing grooves like on 1409. This version of the band has only been in existence since 2017 but their sound is honed by live performance giving it bite but with some progressive touches that separate them. What also gives them a distinction from other UK bands playing this music is the European pronunciation of Luca who’s Italian heritage comes through but can also be heard in numerous Greek stoner/doom bands.

Personally I love the grittiness of his vocals against the cleaner tones of bassist Sam as they work well with the riffs they both lay down along with Dale, the separation of the instruments is key on the beginning of Vessels, it’s led by the bass and the guitars are both adding different sounds to it as Will’s drums keep it all together with imaginative drumming as it builds into a track that has a marching discordant ambience to it. It’s got a mish mash of genres much like the two bands I mentioned they draw influence, even moving into the hardcore style of things on Orchard Of Bones, but the treat it all with deference as they know they are on well trodden ground. As much as that maybe Thirty Giants are making their own imprints with this debut album. 7/10

Tanzwut: Seemannsgarn (AFM Records) [Alex]

Seemannsgarn translates from German to English, roughly as ‘sea story’, which makes sense. While all the hallmarks of traditional industrial are still in place – Guttural vocals, punishing guitars and pounding rhythms – there is a nautical folk twist. There are also hints of power metal present, and I will even go a far to say that the melodies have lots of flesh on the bone, in spite of the fact that the instrumentals often don’t. While industrial isn’t exactly known for vast and ambitious composition, the genres drawn on here demand a certain flair, skill and richness which Tanzwut do not express here. Firstly, the primary instrument they employ in fostering the medieval, olden days feel, are bagpipes - four of them to be exact. Now, before I provoke the wrath of hordes of furious bagpipers, let me say that I have nothing against this move. Alestorm, Nightwish and Eluveitie have successfully employed bagpipes in the past, and they certainly help to lift these anthems to a level of authenticity. However, they lose their poignancy when they are the only instrument carrying the folk aspect, without so much as an acoustic guitar, violins or woodwind to disrupt the monotony. Furthermore, a sense of tedium is also exasperated by the albums hour long run length. The result is a fun album, yet one which fails to hold my attention or pique my interest to explore the band's catalogue

Seemannsgarn opens, the bagpipes establishing a dramatic and tense beginning. Galenvogel is equally commanding, the powerful chorus compelling me to sing along, despite the fact that I don’t know any German. Die lettzte Schlacht brings huge guitars into the mix, harnessing a melodramatic vibe and doing so with pride. You get the idea by now, right? Tanzwut is having an unashamed fun time with this album, and good for them! Decent music does not need to take itself entirely seriously 100% of the time. However, around about here, a problem starts bleeding through the light-hearted facade. All the songs start to blur into one cohesive, ultra-ambitious mess. The different instrumental choice becomes grating and has the effect of homogenizing the album, in the most abnormal way possible. Say what you want about how an instrument is only as good or bad as the person playing. The skill of the four bagpipe players is not in question - each of them is undoubtedly talented behind their instrument.

What I am going to question is the effectiveness of the instrument in conveying emotion, when it can barely shift pitch or tone. One of the much needed moments of respite we get is on the traditional sounding, Franscoise Villon, where there is more focus on guitars and vocals than anything else. Alas, as cliché as it may seem to compare a German act to Rammstein, there is no denying that they have a sound which is easy to imitate. Das Gewissen and I'm freien fall try to replicate the sound as closely as possible, except, rather than gnashing guitar interludes offset by growled vocal passages, take a wild guess as to what instrument they use. That said, I do think Till Lindeman and the gang could learn a fair bit from Tanzwut. A Bagpipe or four could have made the self-titled album interesting. I guess the moral of the review is to always use traditional Celtic instruments in moderation, especially when they have a reputation for being irritating.

As I said in the intro, I do welcome the traditional influence and wish more acts within metal would employ such tactics. However, in embracing such a stereotypical, repetitive and annoying way of broadening their horizons, Tanzwut have created an album which proves an incredibly tedious and difficult listen. 4/10

The Brink: Nowhere To Run (Frontiers Records) [Alex]

Playing a style of throttling hard rock, The Brink bring the riffs and choruses hard on Nowhere To Run. There’s plenty of nods to the classics to be found, but the production and tone lend a distinctly modern sound to the debut. Energy and attitude serve to differentiate the quartet from the multitude of generic rock bands imitating their idols, and bringing nothing new to the genre. Where we do see a decades-old technique being employed here, it feels genuine and born out of a real passion for the style.

Little Janie opens, a high octane riff, and a galloping rhythm section getting the record off to an exhilarating start. The melody feels made for arenas, the bravely soaring nature, echoing many of the great vocalists of glam metal. In a possible Alice Cooper reference, Break These Chains continues the momentum, gliding at a mid-tempo ride, and picking up powerfully for the hook. Even when taking on ballads, these musicians are able to capture the exaggerated sentimentality in impressive fashion. Both Never Again and Save Goodbye are slow songs with towering guitar solos and awesome string sections. That said, One Night Only makes a return to the raunchy, crude and exciting type of anthem which the Brink excels in creating. Meanwhile, Don’t Count Me Out and Are You With Me? Utilize freneticism and volume to dispel a positive message of enjoying life while it lasts, and seizing the moment. By altering from slow to fast, the album keeps the listener interested and retains a gripping texture.

Overall, while I don’t expect Nowhere To Run to change the minds of anyone who just doesn’t care for straightforward hard rock (who are you people?), it represents the genre exceedingly well. I will admit that the genre label bears connotations of typical musical traits, which not too many hard rock acts deviate from. Even this one stand by the conventions which define their influences. However, rather than cynically pander to those influences, they embrace them, reinvigorating classic rock in a way which reminds us why we started to enjoy it in the first place. 7/10

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