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Monday 15 July 2019

Reviews: Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Empyre, Hollow Haze, Sinheresy (Matt, Steve & Rich)

Robert Randolph & The Family Band: Brighter Days (Provogue) [Matt Bladen]

We get shed load of really heavy, angry, aggressive music here at MoM Towers so sometimes it’s nice to hear something that gets the foot tapping, the hip shaking and the face smiling. Happily it was my turn to experience this thing humans call joy with the iridescent new album from Robert Randolph & The Family Band, fresh, funky, soulful but steeped in the blues traditions Brighter Days gets you cracking out those pearly whites straight from the first moment and even some of our more dour writers would be nodding along by the second bar. Randolph is a steel player, lap based guitar played usually with a slide, he spend years honing his craft in the gospel churches in New Jersey before branching out to clubs with his Family band so named as bassist Danyel Morgan and drummer Marcus Randolph are Robert’s cousins and his sister Lenesha, brings the soulful co-vocals on these rollicking gospel/soul/blues mash ups.

This record is pure R&B born out of the church and brought to the dancehalls where his gigs regularly turn into crazy free-for-all dance parties. Randolph chose to work with producer Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell) and this 10 track album has erupted out of those studio sessions. If you want comparisons then you can hear The Black Keys, Gary Clarke Jr (Baptise Me) Vintage Trouble (Strange Train) and of course STAX records. His cousins are the backbone of these tracks giving groove and soul as organs bubble and shimmer meaning that Robert and his sister can sing with the passion of a revival all the while Robert himself displays why he is one of Rolling Stone magazines top 100 guitarists ever as well as being nominated for 3 Grammys.

The frenzied Don’t Fight It will have you spinning around your living room with delight, Second Hand Man will get you bobbing and humming along, the cover of Pops Staples and the Staple Singers is just as poised as the original but has the burning lap steel cutting through it, while Cry Over Me is given emotion by the excellent pipes of Lenesha. I’m a sucker for origins of American music so any good blues, soul, gospel, funk will get my heart racing and Brighter Days is an album for sunny days and loved ones. 9/10

Empyre: Self Aware (Self Released) [Steve Haines]

From the slow build intro to first track My Bad, I get a feeling that this could be something good. As the track develops with excellent drum lines and driving guitars, I already find myself hoping that the whole album is like this. Well, it is and it isn’t. The album feels very prog metal in style and showcases great musicianship across the board and deep resonating vocals with a raspy edge at times – these combine to make a very good album. But, and there is a but, there are a few things that struck me when I was listening to it. The songs that started with a slow build (My Bad, Too Close and Homegrown) were in my opinion the strongest tracks. Of the other tracks, my favourite is the Black Stone Cherry-esque Drive. Overall, and understandably for a debut album, the band have tried to showcase different types of songs. They do these well musically but sometimes it can feel too formulaic and there are a couple of songs that feel very much like filler tracks. Musically, the band certainly have the ability and this is unquestionably a strong album. Based on this offering, the band are strongest in tracks that have a slow build up to soaring, guitar-driven songs and I hope they move in this direction more in the future as, on the evidence of this album, they do it as well as anyone else. 7/10
Hollow Haze: Between Wild Landscapes And Deep Blue Seas (Frontiers Records) [Matt Bladen]

Nick Savio returns with the first Hollow Haze album since the band split in 2015. He initially split to form Eternal Idol with Fabio Lione but with Lione being so in demand it was probably only a matter of time until Hollow Haze came back with their seventh studio album. Reuniting with long time bassist Davide Cestaro, the reborn Hollow Haze has vocalist Fabio Dessi (Arthemis) and drummer Paolo Caridi (MLB) joining the band, which has renewed itself with refocused attitude and sound. The sound in question is a symphonic, melodic and even slightly progressive heavy metal style that suits the Frontiers template ideally, with big anthemic hooks met by brilliant guitar and keys from Savio who also arranges the orchestral passages for tracks such as Oblivion which has all three of these things in abundance (including a keyboard solo).

Between Wild Landscapes And Deep Blue Seas has a mixture of styles but much of it is the slick style of melodic metal that Italian bands seem to have a handle on as the more pacey numbers are balanced by ballads such as I Will Be There, tracks like The Upside Down and New Era add drama with their cinematic sound. I hadn’t heard much Hollow Haze before this but on the back of this record I’d go back to their six previous albums to hear the progression of the band. Melodic metal done well is always a good thing, Hollow Haze do it well. 7/10

Sinheresy: Out Of Connection (Scarlet Records) [Rich Oliver]

Out Of Connection is the third album by Italian melodic metallers Sinheresy. The band is led by the vocal duo of Cecilia Pedtrini and Stefano Sain and their dual vocal delivery is a definite selling point for the band as both are very fine singers. Music wise Sinheresy play straightforward, catchy and pop oriented melodic metal sounding like a cross between Amaranthe and Lacuna Coil. There is a heavy use of electronics and keyboards throughout the album which along with the very straightforward songwriting gives the music a very contemporary pop sheen. The guitars, bass and drums are all heavily prevalent throughout but don’t really do anything impressive and dazzling. This band is very much led by the vocals. I can see the appeal of a band like Sinheresy especially as a gateway for people to get into heavy music but whilst the songwriting is decent and the performances competent this sort of thing just isn’t for me. 5/10

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