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Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Reviews: Brass Owl, Jazz Sabbath, Chaos Over Cosmos, Liberator (Paul S, Simon & Matt)

Brass Owl: State Of Mind (Self Released) [Paul Scoble]

Hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, Brass Owl are a three piece playing a very seventies style of Hard Rock. I say seventies, but with the revival of many styles of rock and heavy metal from the nineteen seventies this could be described as Seventies/Naughties style of Hard Rock. The band have been going for long enough to produce one self-titled EP in 2018 before this album. Thee band is made up of Brian Tarter on Guitar and vocals, Lonnie Buckley on Drums and Brent Olds on Bass, and all of the members of Brass Owl are very talented and respected musicians, Brian Tarter having played with Steve Vai in the Nineties, and Vai knows a thing or two about playing guitar. So, this is a band that should be able to deliver the goods, but is State Of Mind any good?

Well, the short answer is: Yes, the long answer is YYYYYeeeeeesssssss (Sorry). State Of Mind is a vibrant, bluesy, groove laden piece of uptempo Hard Rock that takes the best from seventies rock and passes it through a modern 2020 filter to produce something special. The main part of Brass Owls style is tight, blues rock riffs, with vocals that have a nod towards grunge (there's places where the vocals sound a little like Layne Staley), cracking bass lines and some very tight, but expressive drumming. There is a similarity to some classic rock; Bernie Marsden era Whitesnake, in particular, but also from some more recent bands. There is a resemblance to Rival Sons, and some of the guitar work, particularly the solo’s remind me a little of Green Lung's excellent album Woodland Rites. I also felt that some of the material sounded a little like the last few Clutch albums, but with a little bit more blues infused into the sound.

Land Shark opens the album in a very tight driving way. The song has a bluesy edge that tempers the tightness while bringing some nice melody and tunefulness. Deuce Face is a slightly more relaxed and understated, that is until some really huge and heavy riffs come in for a much more intense section before the track speeds up for an up-tempo ending. No Filter has a tight and bombastic feeling to the first half, the second half is a little bit more Alt Rock and the song comes to an end with a drum solo. Side Effect vacillates between taut, clean blues rock, and huge, melodic rock and boasts a fantastic solo. The album also has 2 instrumentals; The Legend Of FUJIMO which is a blues based jam and Hoka Hey, which is a beautiful little acoustic folk/country piece of loveliness.

Probably the stand out track on this album is Jive Turkey which is a fantastic piece of blues rock that is a little reminiscent of Black Betty by Ram Jam, and has a great central riff. The album is brought to an end by Pale Horse which is a mix of slow and soft blues and huge stomping rock that brings the album to an end in a very pleasing way. State Of Mind is a cracking album. After a few listens it really gets into your head, and you end up constantly humming riffs from it. The strength of this album is in the songwriting. This is simply a very good collection of songs, ok it isn’t particularly groundbreaking or new, but what classic rock album is. This is the joy of a band doing something that has been done before, but doing it incredibly well. There have been quite a few blues infused rock albums released over the last few years, State Of Mind is definitely very close to the best of all of those albums, highly recommended! 8/10

Jazz Sabbath: S/T (Jsab Records) [Matt Bladen]

Apparently this is a 'Long Lost Debut' from a band who were "considered at the forefront of the new Jazz movement" unfortunately their founding member Milton Keanes had a heart attack, once he'd recovered he found that a metal band from Birmingham had copied his songs interpreting them into 'heavy metal'. If you want to read more about this story then check it out here: http://blacklake.eu/jazzsabbath/thestory.php

In reality Jazz Sabbath is the new project from Black Sabbath keyboardist Adam Wakeman, who if you've seen him live, especially when playing with Damian Wilson, regularly plays Iron Man (included here). The album accompanies a new Mockumentary about the unlucky history of Jazz Sabbath to be released soon I believe. Now with jazz there is always a little wince in the face of a metal fan, to be honest most music fans, but Adam treats these songs with deference, Iron Man starts out as almost a romantic ballad before the it ramps up accompanied by the tick-tock drumming and upright bass allowing Adam to go wild on the keys. Elsewhere Fairies Wear Boots shows that it is actually just a jazz song with distortion, this version just as bouncy as the original. Changes to works so well as piano instrumental (as long as it hasn't got Kelly Osbourne singing I'm happy).

If you want an album perfect for a night in front of the fire, with a glass of wine in your hand but have always been scared that jazz songs are just endless scatting and covers of The Saints Go Marching In then buy Jazz Sabbath as it's songs every metalhead will know just done in a more laid back style, avoiding the Richard Cheese sound. I'm so watching the mockumentary when it comes out too! 7/10   

Chaos Over Cosmos: The Ultimate Multiverse (Narcoleptica Productions) [Simon Black]

So Chaos Over Cosmos come from … well, all over the world. In fact, they’ve never actually physically met, which makes the achievement of this album very worthy of comment, and the two musicians behind this project hail from Poland and Australia. At any other time this unique selling point would have been a novelty, but in the current coronavirus pandemic, I suspect it is a glimpse into the future. They’ve been at this for a couple of EP’s, and an album with a different singer, although this album is in fact a compilation of the two most recent EP with their new vocalist/lyricist Josh Ratcliff. More about him later…

Everything else instrumentally is the work of Rafal Bowman, who takes on all the guitar work, synths and programming ... and the technical skill in his work is little short of astounding. As is often the case with Prog music (which let’s face it tends to attract those of us from the more geeky and technically minded end of the spectrum), the production on this record is absolutely top notch, with the only negative being the hole in the mix that is always left when you programme your drums rather than having a hairy urchin hammering away in the corner shortening the life of your microphones, but in this instance it works because the ambient elements would be drowned out by a more traditional metal stools-man.

Kicking off with Cascading Darkness, this album opens with some of the most blisteringly beautiful guitar work I have heard in a very long time, underscored but not drowned by some sweeping ambient synth work that give an epic feel to the music without dominating the sound. It really is a solid prog metal track. Then we get the vocals. I have to say that although I am normally more of a clean vocals man, the ability of Josh Ratcliff to effortlessly flit between one of the most spooky but highly-intelligible death growls and some clean straight singing is really quite spooky, especially when he self-harmonises. One Hundred is much more haunting and ambient, but the hammering double bass drumline keeps this firmly in the metal camp, although there is much more keyboard emphasis, and most of the tracks fit this mould.

There’s a notable switch in sound in the tracks coming from the more recent EP, and the sound gets noticeably heavier, but it still has the same feel of old school 70’s Prog snorting Euro Power Metal, kind of what might happen if members of Yes started doing lines and whisky with Symphony X whilst listening to black metal. This really does not fit any pigeonhole easily, but has made a very lasting impression on me. 9/10

Liberator: Total Devastation (Sunfish Records) [Matt Bladen]

Nottinghamshire band Liberator owe a debt to the Nottingham compatriots Hell, albeit on a smaller scale. Their album opens with some buzzing chainsaws leading into first track K.M.B where their singer Corporate B'stard croaks over some thrashy/trad metal riffage from Mike Bower (rhythm) and Rob Hilton (lead guitar). Liberator is their full length debut and its speedy opener leads into the slower Knights & Nightfall with Breaking Point picking up the pace again, Ro (bass) and Nathan Wilson (drums) galloping for their lives.

Now from pictures of the band I see that they add some theatricality from their vocalist especially who has an odd vocal style that fits the aggressive yet melodic music, however other than that I wouldn't be able to tell you much else as I wasn't given any info by the band to review this record with just a link where I could listen to it. Power & Glory and Eye For An Eye both rampage but the fuzzy D.I.Y nature of the production does make most of these songs very similar sticking to the thrash/classic heavy sound throughout. It's well performed yes and at times gets your foot-tapping but Total Devastation isn't life changing. 5/10    

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