Maggot Heart: Mercy Machine (Rapid Eye Records)
Swedish born, Germany residing guitarist Linnéa Olsson has been a part of numerous bands the most notable being The Oath and Beastmilk/Grave Pleasures. But since 2016 her focus has been on her metallic punk project Maggot Heart a band that already have an EP and a full length in the bag, both of which have gained praise from Darkthrone's Fenriz and seen the band supporting Voivod and Earthless on a lengthy American tour. The three piece of Olsson on guitar/vocals, long term drummer Uno Bruniusson and bass player Olivia Airey, take a left field view of the world that is shrouded by darkness and that comes through on these Detroit garage rock meets British post punk anthems, that are always a little bizarre and experimental referencing Killing Joke, The Stooges, Big Black and also some classic proto-metal troupes.
The band claim that Mercy Machine is an album about sex, death and the pursuit of freedom. With that in mind I pressed play and delved into it, pressing play I was met by some discordant phrasing to kick off the vaguely threatening Second Class, choppy guitars met with a persistent bassline and Olsson's breathy delivery, Sex Breath however moves away from the post-punk darkness with some classic cut punk attitude. Each song on this record is a jarring mix of sounds, but they hark to that late early 90's of experimentation seen from bands mentioned before along with a whiff of Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Jesus Lizard and perennially metal oddities Voivod. The off-kilter psych of Roses is mesmeric, while Gutter Feeling has a dark sexuality to it and the title track brings some ringing Goth rocking similar to The Mission. You can understand from the jangly dissonant Mercy Machine, why there has been such a positive reaction to Maggot Heart from the more underground reaches of music as they channel a sound that has long been bathed in the moonlit glow depravity and cynical romanticism. Guaranteed to please your inner Goth or your latent punk. 8/10
Transit Method: The Madness (Brutal Panda Records)
Back in 2017 Paul H called Transit Method's debut release We Won't Get Out Of Here Alive and essential listen, awarding it 9/10 and also praising the quirky mix of Rush, Soundgarden and Jane's Addiction that the band conjure through their alternative edged proggy grunge riffs. So after 5 years have the trio from Austin Texas managed to stand up to these lofty kudos on their follow up, The Madness? Well on first listen there isn't any major changes of sound, Matt LoCoco (vocals/guitar), his brother Mike (drums) and Danny Borja (bass) still play a nifty, groovy driven blend of 60's psychedelia, 70's punk, classic prog, grungy metal and 90's alternative rock though this time if anything they have become much more focussed act tightening up everything they played with on their debut. Now this means that with the title track they moves from propulsive dirty sounding punk, into some post-rock moments, Matt's vocals still carrying that Perry Farrell-meets-Geddy Lee nasal quality.
The tracks here have comparatively shorter run times than on their previous record making them a bit more direct, from the grooving Scarred And Petrified which relies on explorative space rock-esque bass playing, Reincarnivore ramps up the Jane's Addiction choppy funk rock, Cannibals builds into a heavy rocker. There does seem to be much more pronounced punk sound on this sophomore in comparison to their debut with a stack for songs having that spiky, although much better played, punk aggression. They certainly have adapted things a little here, the more streamlined songs will mean that fans of the Rush influences on the debut will have to look a little harder, though Mutiny has it in spades, but they have clearly embraced their more alternative rock influences. Will it get (nearly) top marks this time around? No, but it is still a great rock album with a mix of styles that from a trio of great musicians, worth checking out! 7/10
The Dirty Denims: Ready Steady Go! (Handclap Records)
No I listened to this record directly after absorbing the A.A. Williams album and I can see why this Eindhoven foursome call themselves 'Happy Hard Rock'. They successfully bring a smile to the face with their glammy, rocking that successfully sits somewhere between AC/DC pub rock, hell Thunder From Down Under is actually a tribute to the antipodean legends (also I'm in love with the Dutch pronunciation of 'Thunder') and Joan Jett styled powerpop. So expect simplistic, clap along hard rock music, with a blues backbeat from Marc Eijkhout (bass) and Suzanne Driessen (drums) while the the walking riffs of Mirjam Sieben and Jeroen Teunis get tracks such as Last Call For Alcohol nodding your head. Mirjam also gives this album it's punk vocal sound that is backed by the rest of the band with gang choruses on the title track and the pop-organ styled Too Much Information (which is a song about people having loud NSFW conversations on the bus/train). Yes it's all very simplistic but when done right this kind of music can be very rewarding and having a few drinks to Ready Steady Go! would be a heck of good time. 6/10
Imperivm: Holy War (Revalve Records)
Formed apparently in Ancient Rome Imperivm are from the Italian capital and their whole ethos is that of the glorious notion of Imperium Sine Fine. This record keeps that with both the first and second Triumvirates covered on 3-Headed Monster and Second Triumvirate, Roman soldiers duty on Brothers Of Legion, the eruption of Vesuvius on Rain Of Ash but they also move into the beginnings of the Holy Roman Empire with In A Holy War about the 1095AD expedition to Jerusalem that became the First Crusade and Sign Of The Cross. Now what you have here is pretty much power metal 101 with the historical lyrics of Sabaton mixing with the more folky/triumphal strains of Blind Guardian/Hammerfall. They even turn their attention to a massive ballad duet on Quo Vadis Domine? (Where Are You Marching). I've listened to Imperivm's albums before and there does seem to be much more of a Christian overtone to this record than previously, now that could be due to the title but for me there are millions of stories that could be told from the Republic/Empire that would seem less preachy. But that's just the classicist in me, musically this album is ok if a little cheesy, but the vocals let it down a little in places. If you've ever fancied Grave Digger doing Stryper covers then this may interest you however if you want the real blood and guts of Ancient Rome then Ex Deo should still be your go to. 5/10
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