Gravity Machine: Red (Zyse Records)
Just a heads up, don't type the words "Gravity Machine" into Google (other search engines are available) by itself without adding "band". It's not because you'll get anything NSFW, it's just you'll be transported to a world of home exercise machines. Something your average prog fan is not to keen on, let's be honest they prefer a pie and pint of real ale. It's here we actually get to talking about Gravity Machine, they are a prog band, but they draw from a myriad styles that put them very firmly in the art rock style. The band themselves categorize their sounds as "A Perfect Circle to William Orbit, via Peter Gabriel and Soundgarden" so you can expect massive expanses and walls of lush arrangements against clinical, stripped back synths and ambient flourishes. I'm a MASSIVE Peter Gabriel fan...like massive, so I was eager to hear if the comparisons were accurate, and you know what dear reader? They are, oh they are indeed, musically at least Red is like a lost Gabriel record from his early four Self Titled-era with some of the elements of Us and Up.
Opening with the tribal sounding It's Summer we get some shimmering open guitar chords, intricate bass, fizzing synths and an almost U2 like scope before the distorted guitars come in about halfway through adding layers again and again. What's impressive is that this Dartmoor-based band are just two men, nearly everything you hear except drums is Niall Parker, guitar, bass, keys, synths, samples and vocals while behind the kit is Bob Shoesmith, it's a feat that very few full bands that could do. Now I will warn proggers that Niall doesn't sound like Peter at all, his vocals are gruffer reminding me of Mostly Autumns Bryan Josh, check out the folky She's Calling Me Home and also Eric Serra, another performer with the same artistic spectrum as Gabriel.
Red is Gravity Machine's debut album having spent a long time in gestation, but there is a reason for that when you hear this record as the songs bleed into each other, the acoustic Dreamtime segues into the moody industrial In The Depths which has some beautiful slide guitar that drifts into Standing Stones where things get a bit more traditionally proggy albeit through some almost desert rock trappings, as Time Cut Short The Dance relies on that funky bass, glistening synth layers and electronic sounding drums for a trip-hop edge, though Pharmacopoeia ramps this up into some blissed out EDM as Lifting Mountains has rockier sounds. Finishing off with the atmospheric Nightfall, Red is a pretty much perfect album for prog/art rock nerds, I adored it! 10/10
Bakken: This Means War (Self Released)
Formed in Norn Iron in 2011 Bakken are a traditional heavy metal band, their third album is full of leather clad, fist pumping heavy metal. So you'll get twin axe harmonies, air-raid vocals and galloping riffs on this third release from Bakken. Bakken were formed by Simon Pickett (Guitar/Vocal) who is the main songwriter it's his riffs that power rockers like Star Machine, he's helped by the blasting double kicks of founding member Niall McGrotty (Drums) and the throbbing four strings of Thomas Alford (Bass) who has served time with Tim 'Ripper' Owens, in fact Evil Walks This Way sounds a lot like one of Ripper's projects. Now Bakken do take an American approach to their music with a darker, more thrash influenced edge.
Even on slower tracks such as In Requiem they have a dramatic, hairs on chest power due to the soaring lead vocals of Frank Levi who reminds me of The Ripper at times and of course the brilliant solos of Shaun Nelson (Guitar), formerly of Attica Rage. Nelson, Levi and Alford are all relative newcomers to the band and this injection of new membership makes This Means War an album full of vitality. As I've said there are touches of Priest, Iced Earth (Storm Angels) and also Helloween (We Fight) making it a must have for anyone that likes heaviness and melody in their classic metal sound. 6/10
Lady Beast: The Vulture's Amulet (Reaper Metal Productions)
Yet more speed/power metal now, this time from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the latest album from heavy metal outfit Lady Beast. Now as you can probably guess Lady Beast have a female singer but don't expect corsets or operatic warbling, no Deborah Levine's vocals are a lot ballsier than the numerous bands with female singers reminding me a lot of Unleash The Archers due to her powerful vocal atop the raging speed metal riffs on tracks like The Gift and the opening thump of Metal Machine. Deborah is a brilliant vocalist but the rest of the band don't rest on their laurels having an engine the size of a muscle car with Greg Colaizzi (bass) and Adam Ramage (drums) ripping it up on Sacrifice To The Unseen and The Champion with Christopher "Twiz" Tritschler (rhythm guitar) playing riffmaster general for the de-rigueur instrumental Transcend The Blade which is another showcase of Andy Ramage's screaming lead guitars, though he does this throughout The Vulture's Amulet. I'm always a sucker for proper heavy metal, you know the music that sounds like a foundation of the genre itself, and Lady Beast do it really well, open the windows (mainly as you won't be able to go cruising for a while) and play this sucker loud! (You're neighbours won't mind) 7/10
Hellfekted: Woe To The Kingdom Of Blood (Self Released)
Originally released under this title as a two song record in 2019, Woe To The Kingdom is the debut full length from Stoke-On-Trent blackened thrashers Hellfekted. Now we've seen them do their thing in Fuel Rock Club a few times and they do impress every time their thrash sound infected with black metal nastiness making them an ideal opener for so many of the South Wales live acts. So is their live sound reflected on this full length? The answer to that question is yes as it has a real raw vibe to it, from the tolling bell of the title track, through the crushing aggression of Treachery you can already hear that they mean serious business, the D.I.Y nature of the production gives the entire record a underground sound, harking back sonically to a period when albums were recorded in toilets. (You know which ones I mean).
That's not meant at a slight, the style of music suits the production technique, as Liam Stubbs' guitar and Chris Brownrigg's bass are both distorted and fuzzy with the treble quite high on Myles Stockton's drums. Composition wise there's a bit of deviation with the 7 minute Tower Of Life giving way to the berzerker-like Fractured and the bruising Stigma where Liam roars like a wild eyed murderer, though Paul H has said that his vocals are at odds with the music on a live stage but on record they work much better. In fact it's the two tracks that have already appeared that are the weakest on the album. Woe To The Kingdom Of Blood is an ideal introduction to the blackened thrash of Hellfekted. 6/10