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Thursday 4 June 2020

Reviews: Palaye Royale, Astolat, Mouth Of Clay, Hellbound (Bob & Matt)

Palaye Royale: The Bastards (Sumerian Records) [Bob Shoesmith]

The name Palaye Royale (for the uninitiated) is a bastardisation of the name of a dance hall in Toronto where the founder members’ grandparents met (The Palais Royale) in case you were wondering. Treading the circuit since 2008, it’s only been in recent years they have started stepping up to the bigger leagues and gathering traction with two albums (Boom Boom Room Side A in 2016 and the follow up (Boom Boom Room Side B in 2018) which charted in the lower reaches of the US charts plus winning ‘Best Breakthrough Artist’ at The Rock Sound Awards the same year. It’s clear that with a move to LA and eight singles being released in the last two years that their label, Sumerian Records, are intent on giving them a big push, with the appearance of fan pages, a glossy website, videos, a ton of merch and favourable reviews in tomes like Kerrang, even a not insubstantial Wiki page. So, it seems they’re now being given their shot.

So, what do you get with Palaye Royale. Visually? My Chemical Romance meets Marilyn Manson, a nod to Ziggy era Bowie maybe; lots of ‘guy-liner’, a bit of androgyny and swathes of black and red branding over everything. Grizzled old rockers (like me) could balk at the blatant sprinkling of glitter and swathes of electronica but the gothy hoardes that have been left icon-less since Mr Manson went a bit off-piste, and the striking dark theatre of Black Veil Brides (who couldn’t hide the fact that they were, well…a bit shit) will love them, as they fill that void perfectly.

Musically Remington Leith (vocals), Sebastian Danzig (guitar) and Emmerson Barratt (drums) and have successfully created a wall of glitzy yet gritty pop-glam-punk’n’roll. A lot of the tracks thematically and in audio style are very much the bastard sons of Messer’s Manson and MCR with layers of distortion, hooks and make-up with a sneery attitude, it's impossible escape the comparisons. Take the 2019 single Massacre: The American Dream, it charges off like Queens Of The Stone Age track and then gets ably supported by some rumbling bass, keys and distorted guitars and there is more than a passing resemblance to Manson’s Golden Age Of The Grotesque’ album on the track and throughout tracks like Nightmares and Anxiety which are big New Rock boots to fill, but they do manage the idiom with some style. On my second listen, Remington Leith’s vocals, especially when the effects are layered on, keeps on nagging at me to another comparison, other than MM, I keep hearing Arctic Monkeys Alex Turner (I’m not sure how widely he resonates in LA but now, I can’t unhear). That’s no bad thing at all, it’s just a sign post for the UK readers to compare.

A cynic might take a cursory look at the heavy marketing, guyliner and the obvious similarities with the aforementioned artists and maybe dismiss them as a ‘product’ or a style over substance act but scratch beneath the surface and this is a great album of a (generous) 15, abrasive, well written, postmodern rock tracks. Really enjoyed the album and it seems the LA music industry believe in them too. 9/10

Astolat: The Winning Tragedy (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

The Winning Tragedy is the debut full length from duo Astolat who have been working toward this since 2011 having released numerous EP's and compilations. So how does The Winning Tragedy show evolution? Well if I'm honest it feels epic from the first moments across 12 tracks of progressive doom metal, layers upon layers of ringing instrumental virtuosity come from just two members EPIALES on vocals, guitar, bass and keys while A┼┼ASUERUS takes drums and some backing vocals too. For just the two of them they have managed to create a massive noise on this album, it is unashamedly Swedish sounding, the band come from Linköping and there is the moody dissonance of early Opeth (with fewer death vocals) along with the melodic doom metal force of bands such as Paradise Lost and While Heaven Wept.

It's symphonic at times with more reserved passages on the stripped back The Brightest Days & The Darkest Descent and opening strains En Kall Förvaltare and There is an overall similarity to the emotional resonance of Warning on tracks like Pathless which broods as the strings swell, the guitars soar and the drumming carries weight, vocally too EPIALES has haunting voice not to dissimilar to that of Warning's Patrick Walker. A Winning Tragedy is a very impressive progressive doom metal album steeped in darkness and gloom but with a very bright streak of hop that comes through as well, certainly an album we need in these dark times it's a record that gets into your soul. 8/10      

Mouth Of Clay: Songs From The Wasteland (Jib Machine Records) [Bob Shoesmith]

Another recruit to the Swedish rock invasion. Mouth of Clay are a band I can’t tell you too much about as all their Facebook page of 130 followers simply says is: “a Classic hard rock blues and psychedelic band. Formed year 2000 and broke up 2002. The comeback was in 2017 and we’re back”- that’s it. In this day and age of some frankly, quite tiresome, overblown biography writing and shameless self-promotion, this certainly bucks that trend, but something, anything would be nice…

Mouth Of Clay dig deeply into the southern rock mine in the style of Free, The Black Crowes or Joe Walsh with the prevalence of some excellent slide guitar from Hawkan Englund. The cover of the album shows a biker with a guitar strapped to his back so there’s no hiding the direction of travel and the biker-rock roots of their writing. It starts promisingly enough with You’ve Got My Mojo and Highwater are sleazy, slide-guitar blues rock grooves and some always welcome Hammond organ. Vocalist Jocke Eriksson gives it his gritty all and certainly sounds the part. When he’s on it, he bares more than a passing resemblance to Chris Cornell or a young Paul Rodgers, so in and of itself they start the album working their style well.

Given the whole southern rock trope of the album I can forgive the rather cornball Skynyrd-a-like song titles and lyrics. Mouth Of Clay give the impression of being an inexperienced band with a fairly basic studio production (Foxy Lola in particular and the guest appearance of some nasty cowbell in places) plus a lack of any evidence of marketing or basic information. In places Eriksson’s efforts to belt out the track are superb (Mojo, Highwater, Blood Is Thicker, Gotta Let Me Go, Righteous Man) but occasionally he tries just a bit too hard and doesn’t always quite hit the mark (Hard Times, Temporary Salvation). It seems like nobody in the studio mentioned that just maybe, he could ease off occasionally and keep it sharp? Potentially he could be a great singer of the old school with a bit of polishing.

What we have here is a fairly stock run through of some pleasant enough, if a bit clichéd, southern rock, slide guitar based fare, but what it has at its heart, is the rough diamond of Jocke Eriksson who is crying out for a big studio and a knowledgeable producer to harness and maximize the sizable potential he has. Get yourselves busy Mouth Of Clay, while you have an ace up your sleeve with Eriksson, you have some work to do to get heard. 7/10

Hellbound: Overlords (Rudin Productions) [Matt Bladen]

Sweden's Hellbound are a curious band sounding like an amalgamation of Rob Zombie meets Pantera, in fact if I want to be more accurate they basically sound like Hellyeah! Overlords is a record that has a lot of stomping industrial groove similar on tracks such as Too Fast To Die along with a lot of schlocky-horror themed imagery that Zombie brings to the table while the title track and the slower Out Of Time has some of the Dimebag-like guitar playing which mixed that melodic quality with thumping riffs, though the end of it goes a bit Zakk Wylde with some emotional piano at the end. Unfortunately most of this record does move a little to much into 'groove metal' cliches it's too similar to Zombie at times, too close to Korn in places and sounds a lot like Hellyeah! throughout they even manage to bring back turntables on Towers Burning which is a comeback no-one wanted. Hellbound really are too hung up in in the early-2000's Southern Nu-Metal nostalgia to really leave an impact. I mean with Hellyeah now gone there is a gap for them to slide into but whether anyone will look towards Sweden for a plug who knows!? 6/10 

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