1823 is a very significant album for Alabama four piece Embr. In the run up to this record drummer Eric Bigelow (drummer) had been on a kidney waiting list for around 4 years. in May of 2019 he received that kidney but the only information they had for the donor was that she was a woman between 18-23. Eric, his wife Crystal (vocals), Mark Buchanan (guitar) and Alan Light (bass) were in the middle of writing this record when the transplant took place so this album took on another life as a tribute to both the donor and the surgeons at Vanderbilt hospital in Nashville TN. Embr's music is such that it carries particular emotional weight, they call it "Soulful Doom Rock" it's full of drop-tuned fuzzy riffs, thunderous bass and drums with a fusion of doom, post-metal and grunge.
Perfect when you consider they state their influences as diverse as Clutch, YOB, Torche, Soundgarden and Chelsea Wolf, I would also say that they remind me a lot of Royal Thunder a band I adore, so with great expectation and interest in the band already I pressed play and dove in. The enveloping sound of Prurient opens the album and that massive wall of down-tuned sound balanced by the haunting yet gritty vocals of Crystal, while Where I've Been brings crunching doom where the bottom end crawls from the gutter forming as Stranger has a repetitive riff that doesn't quit rounding off the three opening tracks all of which give you that image of what 'soulful doom rock' is. Powder is a little more extreme as it has dual extreme vocals, from here though they really up the psychedelic touches especially on the Your Burden. 1823 is an album that was forged in troubled circumstances and it has been released in equally troubled circumstances, it's an album of mesmeric, crushing music ideal for these still uncertain times. 8/10
Sleepmakeswaves: These Are Not Your Dreams (Birds Robe)
After three years away Aussie post rockers Sleepmakeswaves return with the These Are Not Your Dreams project. Three EP's make up this project released separately as one time only productions clad in recyclable packaging etc but I seem to have all 12 songs here so I'll be reviewing it like an album. This quirkiness is nothing new for Sleepmakeswaves, the band have always been one who are slightly off the mainstream despite having "3 ARIA nominations, 2 AIR Award nominations and a nomination for a J Award, along with 2 ARIA Top 40 album" their records have always been critical success but it's a live that this trio have really shone brightly their style of mostly instrumental post-rock music touring with such luminaries as Karnivool, COG, Devin Townsend, Underoath, Russian Circles, 65daysofstatic, Rosetta, The Contortionist, This Will Destroy You and And So I Watch You From Afar.
They have forged a very tight relationship with their fanbase who have supported them through all the troubles the band have faced. So to These Are Not Your Dreams and any album that kicks off with 12 minute instrumental (The Endings That We Write) show the confidence of a band and the excellent interplay between Alex Wilson (bass & keys) Otto Wicks-Green (guitar) and Tim Adderley (drums) their sound categorized by extensive use of delay pedals, awash with ambient synths, tremolo picked heavily affected guitars and big post-rock grooviness, much of Sleepmakeswaves music is about the 'feel' of it making up for the lack of vocals with soaring melodies on tracks such as Embraced and the brilliantly percussive Batavia. The atmospheric Zelda is one of the few songs with vocals, and has the poppy alt rock of bands such as The Foos, Serenity Now takes an indie turn while the euphoric voice in Embraced adds another level but vocals are skillfully employed here as it's with all instrumental atmospherics such as the wonderful Cascades that they hit their stride and show their musical prowess. These Are Not Your Dreams is Sleepmakeswaves coming from a three year slumber with another collection of excellent soundscapes. 7/10
Bloody Heels: Ignite The Sky (Frontiers Records)
Hailing from Latvia, Bloody Heels are one of the newest young bands to be signed to Italian label Frontiers. Apparently the label HAD to sign them, though from listening to the record I'm not entirely sure why. Their 80's sounding metal which they call 'Dark AOR' is a little bit basic for my tastes if I'm honest, Ignite The Sky is their second album following on from an EP Summer Nights (2014) and their debut Through Mystery (2017), but their first release on Frontiers. Yes there are some metal riffs that move them into the Skid Row, W.A.S.P style of 80's metal rather than the floaty AOR realms but vocally Vicky White (Valts Berzins) sounds a little too much like Steel Panther's Michael Starr for my liking meaning that the whole album gets the Steel Panther-without the satire feel. Bloody Heels are a professional outfit and this record is jacked full of anthemic hard rock songs but for me it's all a little basic for my taste and the vocals don't help. 5/10
Night League: Night League (Skullcrack Records)
Night League are a Norwegian duo that play NWOBHM styled hard rock, this self titled album is their debut release and features Marita Sundet Solheim on lead vocals and bass and Trygve Joahn Solheim on lead vocals, lead guitar, drums and synth. The have the grittier style of Angel Witch, Blitzkrieg and Diamond Head (early), with the punky Trashing Revolt opening the record, while Rise From The Ruins bringing more psych sounds and lilting acoustics and Viper has some choppy riffs while Fallgate To Hell is an instrumental with a twin axe attack running through it, the only song without the dual vocals. It's pretty basic but good enough for a fan of NWOBHM, the fact that it's a duo gives it another point at least. 5/10