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Thursday 18 June 2020

Reviews: Bad Touch, Exhumed & Gruesome, Mushroomhead, Shakedown Suzies (Simon, Rich, Matt & Bob)

Bad Touch: Kiss The Sky (Marshall Records) [Simon Black]

Bad Touch have done really well in a relatively short space of time. In the 10 years since this bunch met at college the band have released 3 albums, toured with some respected names in their niche (The Quireboys, Tyketto, The Electric Boys, The Answer, Massive, Skid Row and the Kentucky Headhunters, Dan Baird and FM), delivered the goods at some high profile festival slots and got themselves properly established. Of course it helps when you have the likes of Planet Rock working hard to break them in a scene dominated by 80’s acts and fans of a certain age with fixed opinions, but credit where credit is due, because this one is a monster.

I hadn’t had the opportunity to listen to them before, but I have to say I was quickly hooked by the early Black Crowes vibe that is positively dripping from this, their fourth album and well cut at the legendary Rockfield Studios in Monmouth with Nick Brine (who has done some great work with Thunder recently). It’s a generous disk, with 13 tracks running at 46 minutes, and keeps the pace and attention well for the listener with an even variety of pace and tone, and a darn fine standard of songwriting, with lots of solid rockers keeping the energy going. Like all good blues-based rock’n’roll the instrumental interplay merges into a well-crafted homogenous whole, creating a solid groove but with some clever layering underlying it for the more curious ear to unpick. This is Richards/Wood style weaving at its absolute best, topped off by a really soulful vocal turn from Stevie Westwood.

It kicks off with a bang with Come A Little Closer, a solid riff-driven groove machine and I Get High takes this and runs to the boundary. With a title like that it is quite an unlikely love song, but one which really works. They also squeeze a stonking rendition of Kiki Dee’s I’ve Got The Music In Me, which works really well, epitomises this album and the band’s influences loud and clear in the same way that Hard To Handle did for The Black Crowes. Before I Die is a real foot-tapper, with a driving bass drum and groovy double layered guitar riff intro and chorus that sets the pace and gets the emotion through motion engaged, although very short at 2’28”.

There’s a couple of ballads on here, and they avoid the obvious cliché’s, but Can You Save Me is the strongest by far – with enough power to avoid mushiness but enough gentleness with the layering of acoustic and electric guitars so that you hardly notice the change of pace. However this is definitely a case of leaving the best ‘till last with closer Something About Your Kiss, although you will need the CD version to get this one as it’s a bonus track not available on the vinyl edition. The kick drum and acoustics interplay on this track keeps the tension up well past the halfway point before this track builds up to a soulful, intense and moving overdriven finale, leaving this ole hack really, really wanting more. For those of us in South Wales, these guys hit the Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff on the 1st October (well, here’s hoping – global pandemics and all that) and I for one intend to be there. 8/10
Exhumed & Gruesome: Twisted Horror (Relapse Records) [Rich Oliver]

I’m not the biggest fan of split releases preferring to focus my attention on a full release from a band but this one I was accepting of considering that both bands are the brainchild and are fronted by the same person - the mighty Matt Harvey. Exhumed are the longest running band of the two having been going since 1990 whilst Gruesome have been in existence since 2014. If you know anything about either band then you know what to expect but for those in the dark Exhumed play a vicious mix of death metal and grindcore very much influenced by Carcass whilst Gruesome play old school death metal very much influenced by and emulating the sound of death metal pioneers Death.

Twisted Horror (the name made up of the two latest releases by each band - Twisted Prayers and Horror) is five brand new songs with three from Exhumed and two from Gruesome. The songs from Exhumed follow the style presented on previous album Horror being short, sharp, fetid blasts of deathgrind which are also extremely catchy with opener Rot Your Brain being a particularly depraved little earworm. The songs by Gruesome are very much in that classic Death style sounding like long lost songs penned by Chuck Schuldiner himself with Led Into The Dark being suitable savage and gnarly. This is a lovely little release from two high profile extreme metal bands. As I said at the start of the review I’m not the biggest fan of splits but can more than get behind this one. Five brand new songs of filthy deathgrind and gnarly old school death metal. 8/10

Mushroomhead: A Wonderful Life (Napalm Records) [Matt Bladen]

Written over various tours between December 2018 to January 2020, Wonderful Life is the follow up to their 2014 album The Righteous & The Butterfly. It's their eighth in total and the nu-metal stalwarts show no signs of throwing in the towel yet, their brand of 'horror metal' blends punchy percussion driven industrial sounds, spooky synths, huge bass drops and groove metal to create the style of music Mushroomhead have been delivering since 1993. On A Wonderful Life they have also added to their masked ranks with two additional vocalists Ms. Jackie and Mr Rauckhorst joining longtime vocalist J Mann across the album, with Madness Within standing out as a way that all three work together. Now I said that Mushroomhead were part of that glut of nu-metal bands from the late 90's early 2000's and they retain the sound even to this day.

Their tracks carry that throbbing bottom end driven by the double drums/percussion of Diablo and founding member Skinny, along with the down tuned guitar and bass from Tankx (guitar) and Dr.F (bass) who also supplies keys with Sitch (keys/samples). The macabre and political lyrics are weaved through the highly polished production on this record that runs too 17 tracks including bonus tracks giving you 70+ minutes of music if you're a fan but for those with a passing interest it may all be a bit too much. Mushroomhead's 'horror metal' shows no signs of changing anytime soon, it's evolved but they are still the same band from those days of baggy jeans and wallet chains, this could be good or bad depending on your view. Fans will love it, others (like me) may find it a bit tedious after 10 songs. 6/10 

Shakedown Suzies: A Business Doin’ Pleasure (Picky Is Without Records) [Bob Shoesmith]

Yet another of the legions of rock bands currently marching out of Sweden, this one, an all-male (despite the ambiguity of the name) sleaze/hair metal four piece. Having been brought up on a diet of classic British/LA hair rock, Musipedia knew this was my kind of thing and put it my way, so, happy days. I had no idea what to expect from a band name like Shakedown Suzies, and having heard the album and seen the video it still doesn’t seem to sit comfortably, but whatever, it’s a name, they said the same about Led Zeppelin’s moniker to start with!

So… to the album, A Business Doin’ Pleasure. Any question marks on the name are dismissed with a great opener of a Motley Crue-esque, machine gun rattle of ‘Buckle Up’ which is a belter and then ably backed up by the fist pumping Delicious Vice with vocalist Ricki (unfortunately members are only identified by first names) doing a very passable impression of Vince Neil in his slimmer, early, frankly better, years. Throughout the album tracks are played with energy, grit and determination and importantly, like they really mean it. They play with a sort of ‘Airbourne’ tempo and intensity that some other bands of their ilk seem to lack. Apart from some great riff n roll there’s also lots of nods to the bands influences, like the G'N'R cowbell and the November Rain of I Don’t Do Regrets, the football chant anthemic choruses, the fast play outs (Alibi and Hair Of The Dog) and the thing is with sleaze/hair rock, these are exactly the tropes that your audience want, they WANT to hear all those elements and Shakedown Suzies certainly hit all the marks.

There are some standout tracks along the way in the shape of Forever Wild, the `Motorhead-ish Savage Hearts and the bump and grind of Rascal Remedy. There’s not an ounce of fat or filler on the whole album and, to be fair, I was half expecting a lazy but ubiquitous power ballad to be thrown in somewhere but no, it’s all hard edged, up-tempo and pretty kick ass. There’s no hiding from some of the obvious clichés that come with the territory but if you’re a fan of Motley Crue, G'N'R, Airbourne, Skid Row’s Youth Gone Wild or Hanoi Rocks you will overlook the rather awkward band name or the clichéd lipstick coated lips on the cover (they don’t actually do the whole “glam” thing). A couple of odd quirks musically for me, like the lead guitar solos, while excellently executed, they sound like they were recorded in another room, I wanted them front and centre, and the drummer rather over-does the kick drum triplets a little too much for my tastes, but these are really minor niggles and not damaging at all to the overall product at all. The odd name notwithstanding,

I really liked A Business Doin’ Pleasure s determination and effort, the band sound like they love what they do which will definitely win people over. I shall look forward to seeing if they deliver the same energy live. 7/10

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