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Friday 7 June 2019

Reviews: Duff McKagan, Stoner Kings, Sepulchre, Stormhammer (Paul H, Matt & Rich)

Duff McKagan: Tenderness (Universal Music Enterprises) [Matt]

Out of all of the Guns N Roses/Velvet Revolver offshoots that came about when both of these bands were on hiatus/split up/were a tribute act. The ones that I enjoyed most were the ones Duff McKagan made with his band Loaded, these and his dalliances with The Walking Papers showed a side of a man far removed from the spindly four stronger of "The World's Most Dangerous Band". Built around his love of Hanoi Rocks/Heartbreakers guitarist the iconic Johnny Thunders, McKagan has used his music as a rallying cry that draws from the American traditions of country and Americana as well as the acerbic British punk scene.

On his third solo album (second to be released officially) he has lowered the volume a little but not the resolve, this is bubbling mixture of Nashville country and blue collar grit at its finest much of that due to the influence of Shooter Jennings who takes the role of guitarist and producer for this album bringing most his band with him to add those oh so familiar fiddles and lap steel sliding. There's emotion to this record much more so than on any GNR track, Feel is a tribute to Chris Cornell that resonates for a long time after as does the rap-like Parkland (about the schools shooting of the same name) and the brilliant Last September where he shows his solidarity with the #MeToo movement. 

It's a record that simmers rather than burning brightly but that's due to the lap steel and slide guitars that ring true, with even a few brief solo flourishes adding to the strings that swell. If you're looking for a hard rocking album this...isn't it...but if you want a considered, laid back record that has some serious points to make. 8/10

Stoner Kings: Alpha Male (Self Released) [Paul H]

Unreconstructed stoner rock with all the charm of Cro-Magnon man? If for some bizarre reason you are looking for such a thing, then please alight at this station because Finnish four-piece Stoner Kings are perfect for you. Formed initially in 2000 in Helsinki, the band split in 2008 following two albums [2001’s Brimstone Blues and 2006’s Fuck The World]. Founder member Michael ‘Starbuck’ Majalahti then turned to professional wrestling before resurrecting the band in 2016. Influenced by Sabbath, Kyuss, Cathedral, Trouble, Grand Magus and QOTSA, Alpha Male is 45 minutes of heavy riffs which are chunkier than a bag of chips from chip alley in Cardiff on a Saturday night at 2am, primitive drumming and an attitude bigger than the Cardiff City Soul Crew. Designed to be played loud, there are elements of sleaze in Starbuck’s delivery which is generally bombastic and full on. Tracks such as Fucked AD, Damnations Own and Born of Ape leave little to the imagination; blasting hard and heavy, Stoner Kings’ approach may well belong to a bygone age, but they certainly do what they do with a swagger which is kind of endearing. Play this loud. It’ll certainly annoy those pesky neighbours. 7/10

Sepulchre: Thrill Of A Kill (Self Released) [Paul H]

The latest release from Swansea death-thrash beasts Sepulchre promises much. Opening with a brooding riff driven instrumental, Raptures End. This track is massive, imposing in stature with the switch between slow, crushing riffs and all-out speed balancing neatly. Disappointingly it stutters to an end when it is crying out to segue directly into Ignored which follows. That gap drops the needle on the accelerator when it needed to be blasted into orbit. Ignored remains a brutal punch in the face, one of five tracks on this album that formed the second EP, The Great South Western Depression. The pace doesn’t slow on the following track Entropy which chugs along nicely, Darren Evans’ snarling vocals spitting out the chorus with venom. Three tracks in, less than ten minutes gone and its already at a pleasingly frantic pace. Sadly, the mix is regrettably poor, and as a result instead of the razor-sharp lacerations of Evans and Dan Yeoman’s dual guitars, we get a muffled sound, with the guitars lost in a soupy fog. 

Evans’ lead on Jolly Jane for example, is almost intelligible when it should be slicing like a hot knife through butter. Aimee Coppola’s snare sound on the other hand is front and centre and her reliable time keeping throughout the album is impeccable. Acid For Blood is a gruelling beast, whilst the familiar gnarly Modern-Day Slavery ebbs and flows, the underlying repeating riff crawling inside the brain. Move Or Die is another favourite from the EP, but it’s two of the new tracks, the monstrous Clouded, which has one massive mother of a hook, and the showpiece central song Desolate with its wave of bone crushing riffage, cohesive rhythm section and guttural roars which really demonstrate how tight a unit Sepulchre are. At times Thrill Of A Kill is punishingly good. I just wish I could hear it a little more clearly. 7/10

Stormhammer: Seven Seals (Massacre Records) [Rich]

It’s common knowledge that if you want to find some good power metal then the place to look for it is in Germany. Despite there being a countless number of German power metal bands it is rare to find a dud band amongst them and thankfully Stormhammer do not break the trend and have greatly impressed with their latest and seventh album Seven Seals. Seven Seals is very much on the heavier end of the power metal spectrum with clear influences from thrash metal and melodic death metal as well as the standard anthemic European power metal sound. Ably steering the ship into all these directions is frontman Matthias Kupka making his debut appearance fronting the band.

 He covers a wide array of different vocal styles seamlessly slipping between them from gruff thrash style vocals, power shouts, throat shredding screams and growls and epic soaring cleans. Plus to boot he even performs lead guitar duties. This is one talented gentleman. The songs range from thunderous opener Sleepwalker to speed metal assaults such as Your Nemesis and Downfall to softer ballads such as Deal With The Dead to more heavy metal anthems such as Prevail and Under The Spell. This mix of sounds and styles keeps things interesting throughout the album and my attention was held from start to finish. Seven Seals whilst nothing groundbreaking is another great piece of German power metal. 8/10

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