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Friday 19 June 2020

Reviews: Enterprise Earth, Thirteen Stars, Exit, Airbag (Liam, Simon, Rich & Bob)

Enterprise Earth: Foundation Of Bones (eOne) [Liam True]

Born from the ashes of Dan Watson leaving Infant Annihilator, Enterprise Earth have been on my radar for a few years, and I got the chance to see them back in 2018, and they blew me away from the technicality of their playing to the live vocals of Watson. It's now 2020 and EE have dropped Foundation Of The Bones. A short, but sweet, surprise EP. And no matter how short it is, it’s packed full of their typical slams, blast beats and Deathcore nuances. Title track FOTB is classic EE. From the moment the track kicks in to the very last cymbal hit, it’s a non-stop adrenaline rush that takes over your mind and with Watson growling at you and the band being as tight as a string of fishing wire. Now here where it gets interesting. There are two cover songs on this EP. Now You’ve Got Something To Die For by Lamb Of God & Fermented Offal Discharge by Necrophagist. Both covers are done magnificently by staying true to the bands who created them, but also with the EE Deathcore twist on it providing a brutal environment for their abilities to flourish. There Is No Tomorrow from previous album Luciferous, gets an acoustic treatment which is both beautiful and haunting as the vocals of Watson resonate through you and send shivers down your spine. The title track is then given another appearance, but this time as an instrument, if you want to try and outshine Watson’s monstrous vocals. From start to end it’s a great EP and provides us with covers from a band we didn’t know that we needed. Beautiful. 8/10

Thirteen Stars: Finest Ramshackle Jam (Rock People Records) [Simon Black]

Sophomore album for UK Southern Rockers Thirteen Stars, and they’ve been cooking this one for a while, since it’s been a five year wait since their debut The White Raven. I guess a lot has happened in the world since then and the album is very much pitched as an antidote to the madness of today, because clearly what we all need in our lives is bit more old-fashioned Southern Blues. Which is just as well because this album is positively dripping in it (who would have known that Cumbria is where it’s at?) The title of this piece tickles my sense of humour, because the album’s anything but. It’s the mark of good Rock’n’Roll that it leaves the listener feeling that what they have just heard was fresh, off the cuff and dripping with spur of the moment improvisation, whilst actually being the complete opposite, and Finest Ramshackle Jam does this very, very well indeed.

So, the highlights: Are You Ready a solid mid-paced rocker that gets things going nicely, with some nice riffage and guitar harmonies and a solid beat. The song is about the concept of music as an anthropomorphised Gypsy, and Gypsy rock is a good handle for where this and much of the rest of the album is heading. Running So Long is a bit slower and does singer/guitarist Hoss Thompson more justice (think Spike from The Quireboys) and his voice sounds much more relaxed from this second track. It stays there ‘till the end to be fair, and Sleeping is a good example of the tighter, more controlled technical interplay that goes on under the hood of a good band, with some strong rhythm interplay and a willingness to get a bit more experimental with the guitar effects. It has a highly effective hypnotic streak running through it, and is a high point of the album for me. Sorcery take sit back to more familiar R’n’R territory with some nice subtle Hammond layering in the background. Be There In The Morning opens with a great clap along drum sound and a meandering guitar line, and you could be forgiven to thinking you were listening to the opening bars of a Travelling Wilburys album, but the nods in that more Country direction work remarkably well. 

When it goes straight rockin’ it does so with ease and panache. Single Mint Jelly with its Dr And The Medics greatest hit sounding beat and intro (along with a massive nasal snort of Primal Scream), this track has a great chorus and an unexpected and effective horn section interplaying well with honky tonk piano and guitars, and you have for me the strongest song on the album. It’s quite a long album too, with 15 tracks and a run time of 55 minutes to play with and it doesn’t drag because the mix of styles is so eclectic whilst staying very much in its genre box, so think of it as a Rock’n’Roll album taking a tour round their influences. The simple sounding end product belies a tightly structured bit of music under the hood, that made this week pass just that little bit better. 7/10

Exit: Traces Of Human Existence (Art Gates Records) [Rich Oliver]

Exit are a band from Switzerland who formed in 1996 as a death metal band. From the release of their album III in 2009 the band have shifted more in a modern thrash/groove/metalcore direction and this is where we still find them with the release of their fifth album Traces Of Human Existence. The album is comprised of nine songs of fast and aggressive melodic death metal and metalcore. The death metal roots of the band aren’t forgotten as the music is played with a ferocity and intensity with a heavy use of blastbeats and ferocious riffs as well as the heavy use of melody and the chugs and breakdowns of metalcore. The vocals are a mainly done in a screaming style though there is a use of clean vocals especially in the song Empire. The music on Traces Of Human Existence though fast and intense I just generally found rather generic and pretty forgettable. This contemporary mix of modern thrash, groove, melodic death metal and metalcore is done very well though in this case it didn’t do much for me. 6/10

Airbag: A Day At The Beach (Karisma Records) [Bob Shoesmith]

In one of my other guises I am currently promoting an album with my musical co-conspirator. For reasons best known to the gods of music, said album has been warmly adopted by the Prog scene. In recent times, it seems that the Prog scene has mushroomed exponentially and has become a MUCH broader church than the traditional double album, with 25 minute keyboard fests about wizards and middle earth (although that style still lurks in there). In fact, the current Prog scene has become one of the most inclusive and encompassing categories out there, seeing a massive resurgence in interest and various mutations of the genre by new artists (I know, who saw that coming, right?). So, with my other hat on, I had already stumbled across a bit of a buzz about the latest offering by this Norwegian trio long before it came across my desk.

A Day At The Beach, is Airbag’s fifth album, and has already caused ripples on Prog based radio shows, webzines and magazines ahead of its release. Airbag, while self-confessed, unashamed Proggers, often get compared to Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree and while those comparisons are valid to a point, the band do have their own, distinct sound too. Bjørn’s Riis’s slow, Neo-Prog guitar sections are definitely reminiscent of Gilmour, for sure, and there are swathes of slow burn atmospheric keyboards and gentle emoting that would ease the soul of many a beard stroking old school Prog aficionado. But dig a little deeper and there’s a far more of an 80’s electronica vibe that permeates all the tracks and, for example (and bear with me here) on tracks like the opener Machines And Men this track genuinely bares comparison – in my head anyway - to Morten Harket singing for OMD more than leaning towards the self-indulgence of older artists they lazily get compared to, which really works – even if my comparison doesn’t. Airbag have a great commercial ear for hooks amongst the ambience. Yes, they do create soundscapes, yes, there are at least three tracks that are over 10 minutes long (hence only six of them) but they have moments of commerciality not often associated with the genre. One of the little conundrums is why the excellent bass playing of Kristian Karl Hultgren is only a guest appearance? Snap him up quick Airbag.

Only two of the six tracks you could described as more up-tempo (the aforementioned opener and Sunsets) and the remainder are slow burning mood enhancers, although, I for one would personally like to hear more in the style of Machines and Men and lose the Gilmour safety blanket references, but that’s just me. I enjoyed A Day At The Beach, the production is wonderfully crisp and deep and all the tracks draw you in, keep you interested and encourage you to engage with them. The whole album package is well conceived and you can see why it has already intrigued the Prog community as they fuse 70’s Floyd (or 80’s Marillion of you prefer) with more updated electronica and production values. Something for everyone. 9/10

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