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Thursday 12 September 2019

Reviews: Black Star Riders, The Shaking Sensations, RAM, Witch Vomit (Paul H & Paul S)

Black Star Riders: Another State Of Grace (Nuclear Blast) [Paul Hutchings]

I have nothing specifically against BSR. Indeed, we have rated their previous three albums relatively highly in past reviews. I was particularly enamoured by their last release, Heavy Fire, which contained a harder edge than previous releases. And yet, they were one of the most disappointing live bands I’ve seen, and their constant presence at virtually every festival, repetitive touring and inevitable promotion from the classic rock forums has grated for reasons I cannot really explain. Their links with Thin Lizzy is intrinsic, and I think it is that which causes me a lot of the disturbance. Scott Gorham and Ricky Warwick, probably both nice guys, strike me as mercenaries when it comes to the Lizzy legacy, and I find it hard to swallow.

Having said all that, Another State Of Grace isn’t a bad album at all. Relatively short, at 38 minutes and ten songs, it’s three minute plus songs which follow the same blueprint as before. The opening track Tonight The Moonlight Let Me Down is full of melody, Warwick’s distinctive vocals spearheading the song which adds a neat bit of saxophone playing to add breadth to the sound. The title track irritates me with the Celtic flavour repetitive of tracks from previous albums; this is painting by numbers. Ain’t The End Of The World harks back to Bound For Glory, with the riff recycled from that 2013 track. In fact, there is a far amount of repetition here, such is the sound that the band has established. Everything seems a little familiar, even when it isn’t. Polished, solid production and perfectly played, Warwick, Gorham, bassist Robbie Crane are now joined by drummer Chad Szeliga and Stone Sour guitarist Christian Martuzzi.

Underneath The Afterglow at least has a darker edge and some thick keyboards and Soldier In The Ghetto has a Deep Purple flavour to it. I have no doubt that BSR fans will lap this release up, and as I said, it isn’t a bad album. It just doesn’t do anything new. Playing it safe, giving the punters what they want? It’s the way of the world these days and I can’t criticise them too much for doing that. 6/10

The Shaking Sensations: How Are We To Fight The Blight? (Pelagic Records) [Paul Scoble]

The Shaking Sensations are a 5 piece based in Hovedstaden, Denmark. The band have been in existence since 2005, but have only been releasing music since 2010. In that time the band have released 3 albums How Are We To Fight The Blight? comes 6 years after Start Stop Worrying and 8 years after East Of Youth. The band play instrumental form of Post Rock, there is a very obvious similarity to Mono, as well as a less obvious similarity to early eighties New Wave.

All the tracks on this album feature clean guitar riffs, sometimes tremolo picked. The lack of a singer is an issue on a few of the tracks. On most tracks there is a melody lead guitar part filling the gap left by not having a singer, or an extra rhythm guitar part that is melodious enough to take the place of a singer. However not all the tracks have this, the tracks where this is missing end up feeling fairly flat, the listener ends up feeling like they are constantly waiting for something to happen. The tracks feel as if there is something missing, and this is unsatisfying. Don’t get me wrong, the tracks are very well played, everybody involved in this album are clearly great musicians, but several of the tracks need more melody. I should also emphasise that it’s only a problem on certain tracks. Tremendous Efforts has a New Wave feel to it, that is a little reminiscent of The Cure, and has a fantastic melody lead. Sighting is probably the heaviest track on the album, almost heavy enough to be called Doom.

There is loads of melody, and some very interesting tremolo picked riffs. In Dead Silence is slow and delicate, and has some very mellifluous passages. All these tracks have a fantastic musicality to them and are hugely enjoyable, if all the album had been like these tracks, then this would be a 9 out of ten, unfortunately, the tracks that aren’t at the same level as the tracks I have mentioned, drag the album down. End Of Hope is slow, dreary, and to be honest, boring. Final track Arcadia, is another slow and uninspiring track that cries out for more melody. End Of Hope is nearly 10 minutes long as well, thats a long song to have very little melody. How Are We To Fight The Blight? Is a good album that could have been great. This feels like an unfinished album, a missed opportunity. The album lacks the edge that a little bit more melody and nuance could have given it, it could have been a fantastic piece of work. It’s not a bad album, but being this close to greatness and missing is such a shame. 7/10

RAM: The Throne Within (Metal Blade Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Opening an album with a six minute plus track is a brave move, merely because if it isn’t very good then you immediately alienate many of your listeners. RAM have taken that approach and have made it over the wall, demonstrating the power of a mighty old school heavy metal song. The Shadowwork echoes elements of Hell, another band steeped in dark metal, with a gorgeous old school feel to it. The Swedes, who have been plying their trade since 1999 are full of cutting hard rock, with tracks such as Blades Of Betrayal and Fang And Fur hitting all the right heavy metal notes. Whilst it is hard not to refer to their countrymen Grand Magus (who for me along with Judas Priest and Saxon are the classic metal bands of our times), there is enough contained in this album to make it appeal to a wider section of metal fans. Clean vocals, duel guitars, shredding solos and enough pace to keep the songs moving work well. With several albums including 2017’s Rod in the back catalogue, this is a band who would work well in the Sophie Tent at Bloodstock. 6/10

Witch Vomit: Buried Deep In A Bottomless Grave (20 Buck Spin) [Paul Scoble]

Witch Vomit are a Portland, Oregon based four piece. The band have been in existence since 2012, and as you can probably guess from the name, Witch Vomit play nasty, old school Death Metal. This album is the bands second, coming 3 years after their debut, A Scream From The Tomb Below.
The exact style of old school Death Metal is quite influenced by the Swedish sound made popular by (early) Entombed and Dismember, but with a certain amount American influence, particularly from Autopsy. There is also a little bit of the unhinged lunacy you get with very extreme bands like Pissgrave or Drawn And Quartered. So, lots of horrific tremolo picked riffs and screaming solos, and all harsh vocals (although, I bet you’d already worked that out). The tracks From Rotten Guts and Despoilment open the album with some super fast, nasty death metal. Pretty much everything is pushed up to eleven. Fast riffs, nasty vocals, squealing/screaming solos; the usual stuff we expect with this sort of death metal, but done very well, these guys are very proficient at high speed nasty.

The title track Buried Deep In A Bottomless Grave does a beautiful balancing act between fast and ferocious and sickeningly slow and heavy. Dead Veins is closer to being mid-paced, but has a driving, unstoppable feeling that is really enjoyable. To complete the mix of tempo’s Squirming In Misery is horrifically slow and heavy, it slowly batters you into submission. As with most old school Death Metal , this is firmly rooted in the early nineties. It was a great time for death metal, so there's a lot enjoyment to be had from this album. Don’t expect much in the way of subtlety or nuance from Witch Vomit, but if you want extremity, great riffs, nasty vocals and screaming solos; then this is the album for you. Fantastically nasty fun! 8/10

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