Me And That Man: New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol.1 (Napalm Records) [Paul Hutchings]
Songs Of Love And Death was an interesting release, the collaboration with John Potter a complete diversion from the usual raging black metal that Nergal spews forth with such passion. New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol. 1 is an extension of the bewitching spell that was cast with the first record and in many respects, this is probably a better album. Once more the appeal will be widespread, and there will be those that hear this who will be amazed (and possibly horrified) to discover Nergal’s day job! Maintaining an element of mystery about the collective, this album calls in a wide range of music icons who all bring their own styles and individuality. Menacing lyrics thread throughout the blues, gothic-laced folk, outlaw country and Americana-influenced tracks whilst the dark desert vibes will surely appeal to fans of Nick Cave, Johnny Cash and Tom Waits. Alongside Nergal we get Corey Taylor, Brent Hinds (Mastodon), Matt Heafy (Trivium) and Sivert Høyem (Madrugada).
Included amongst the many highlights are By The River which sees Ihsahn join the pact with an electrifying performance. Jørgen Munkeby’s (Shining NO) distinctive vocals and saxophone contributions weave throughout the first single, Run With The Devil whilst Mat McNerney (Grave Pleasures) adds his distinctive rasp to the outlaw-infused Burning Churches. Rob Caggiano’s soulful guitar combines with Dead Soul on the haunting Surrender, and the combination of Johanna Sadonis (Lucifer) and Nicke Anderson (Entombed) on the almost comical country style of Deep Down South ensure the style never becomes predictable. An intriguing album once more then, with plenty to enjoy. Variation and challenge are always good in the music world, and this record is no exception. 8/10
Devilskin: Red (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]
New Zealand four-piece return with the third album of their career. Red is a slight change of direction for the band, moving away from their more direct, some may say simplistic, earlier records for a more complex, diverse collection of songs. Opening with the brutal Do You See The Birds that earlier rawness is still in tact, with barrelling riffs from Paul and Nic Martin (bass & drums), some guitar flourishes from Nail and the expansive vocals of Jennie. All Fall Down is still in their earlier groove heavy metal style but with a stunning solo in the middle adding a more feathers to their bow. Paul said that the songs on this album are about "struggle, depression, suicide and loss and there are songs about strength, hope, victory and love" and you get taken on a musical journey through all of these emotions. Corrode is a grinding percussive rocker that caps off this chest beating opening few numbers.
The mood changes with Eyes Red Heavy a massive ballad that sounds very similar to their long time tourmates Halestorm Jennie using her distinctive voice to really put the point across soaring high while on Same Life she pairs massive clean chorus with aggressive growls on the verses that are led by both Martin's throbbing rhythms, this song shows where the changes have come in as it's got an almost LOG style to it. Production-wise, handled by award winners; producer Greg Haver and engineer/mixer Simon Gooding, things are little more natural than before meaning that on tracks such as The Victor there's a passionate rawness. One of the standout moments of the record is Endo a song that is filled with pain and adversity set to a backdrop of thumping heavy metal with huge sing along and fistful of anger that breaks down for some definite pit action, it's a more progressive theatrical song with slow deliberate opening and closing moments.
This is the most varied record of Devilskin's career, it takes a couple of risks but happily doesn't move too far away from what appealed to me on their first two records, small prog sounds creep in, a bit more pop (Bright Lights) and even some smouldering blues on Sweet Release. They continue the theme of naming a song on this record after the title of the previous record with the swaggering Be Like The River but it's probably the last song Everybody's High But Me that will raise the most eyebrows with it's odd final moments. Still it's another big rocking album from this Kiwi band. 8/10
Lucifer Star Machine: The Devil’s Breath (The Sign Records) [Simon Black]
I love a bit of punk-infused Rock’n’Roll me (it’s what got me here after all way back when), and on paper (now) Hamburg-based Lucifer Star Machine ought to tick quite a few of my boxes, so I found myself starting to listen to this with some much needed positivity in these bleak times. A few bars in to opener The Void and I’m not convinced, “it’s too basic punk-thrash” thinks me, but then it starts to get slightly experimental with the style and throw some nice musical touches, and suddenly I’m listening. This opener belies what’s to come, and by the time we get to track two - Dwell In Misery, we’ve got a much more musically structured number that shows that unlike too much output with a foot in the punk world these chaps can play their instruments rather well. Add to this some really strong song-writing, and I feel I’m onto a winner.
The mix of classic rock with a nasal shot of pure punk works really well - the songs are focussed, to the point, with a stripped back sound and structure, but enough flourishes and twists to keep you listening. Although the sound feels more British (they were originally), there are also nods to the more commercial sounding punk that Green Day made work in their Dookie era, consequently many of the songs are very catchy, and this clearly is an act that needs to be seen in the flesh, as the energy comes through loud and clear, bristling like a hedgehog on speed. Baby When You Cry and The Night Is Young show different sides to the whole, and clearly illustrate that these guys have depths beyond the roots they so clearly wear on the sleeves.
When they do go pure punk, they do so in the traditional of Brit-punk, with tongue in someone else’s cheek (or stash) humour, like vibrant head-nodder Eat Dust, a two and a half minute shot of pure agro that took me back to 1976 faster than a bang on the head. It's short and sweet at 42 minutes, but good Rock’n’Roll should always leave you wanting more, and fortunately I’ve got a new back catalogue to explore. A winner? Definitely. 9/10
Demonic Death Judge: The Trail (Suicide Records) [Manus Hopkins]
The thing with doomy riffs that go on forever, is they have to be catchy. If the riff a song is built around doesn’t have a hook, the song will be a droning six or seven (if you’re lucky) minutes of boredom. With strong riffs, though, sludge, doom and stoner metal can all be very enjoyable. Demonic Death Judge have done it right with The Trail. It’s the riffs that really carry this record, like it is with any good sludge or stoner album, but there’s more to be heard beyond the guitar work as well. The vocals aren’t typical of the style, but fit in well, and the intricate basslines add a whole other layer to the compositions. For fans of Demonic Death Judge and the sludge genre, this will no doubt be an pleasing album. 7/10