The Allman Betts Band: Bless Your Heart (BMG Rights Management)
Forced to cancel the end of their UK/European tour in 2019 due to Devon Allman's illness where he had to have an emergency appendectomy operation. Things looked bleak for Allman/Betts however with Allman now on the mend the The Allman Betts Band moved forward with the second album Bless Your Heart the follow up to their debut Down To The River a record I gave 8/10 to last year. Where Down To The River was the foundation of this new union, Bless Your Heart is the first step in building their own legacy not just as the band featuring the sons of Gregg and Dickie but as a Americana-infused powerhouse of their own. Again this album features Berry Duane Oakley on bass, Johnny Stachela (guitar), John Ginty (keyboards), R Scott Bryan (percussion) and John Lum (drums) but here they have really amped up everything, starting their own mythos with a sprawling 78 minute double album clocking in at 13 tracks.
This is not a Southern rock record, it's an American rock record drawing musical inspiration from the Delta, the Bayou, the beaches of the West Coast and even the busy cityscapes of the East Coast. The singles have shown this change in sound that is present across the album with Magnolia Road giving those hazy Grateful Dead vibes on a very personal song where both Devon and Duane tell the tales of their colourful history, as Pale Horse Rider is a rolling Outlaw flavoured number built on some bubbling keys and jangling guitars. On these two songs alone you can tell that the scope of this album has been widened to encompass as many musical types from the American songbook as possible. However all of them are layered with that lush mix of acoustic, electric and slide guitars, a powerful driving rhythm section, lots of layered keys and the soulful vocals that are often accompanied by gorgeous harmonies. We get a bit of New Orleans brass on King Crawler, while Ashes Of My Lover has that Nick Cave-esque percussive voodoo and Savannah's Dream is a 12 minute jazz instrumental, you know like those famous instrumentals the Allman Brothers were known for.
It's clear that the influence of the Allman's is here but also is Lynyrd Skynyrd, Neil Young and also Eric Clapton (Southern Rain). I could go on ad nauseum about every song on this record as they all bring something a little different to the table. You will have to listen to the record a few times to really let it works it's magic. As like I said at the beginning of this review Bless Your Heart destroys the idea of a 'difficult second album' in fact it solidifies The Allman Betts Band as not a tribute or an offshoot of their fathers but a multifaceted, down to earth and extremely talented rock n roll band who create from the melting pot of influence that is the United States for some stunning musical magic. 9/10
Bill Fisher: Mass Hypnosis & The Dark Triad (Septaphonic Records)
Known to many as Brother Bill from Church Of The Cosmic Skull, Bill Fisher has been a busy boy during the Covid-19 lockdown of Nottingham (and the rest of the UK), ramping up the conspiracy theories for his debut solo record under his real name. Mass Hypnosis & The Dark Triad is a daker, heavier style than the overt psychedelic leanings and Thin Lizzy worship of his dayjob. Moving things into the fuzzier stoner realms on first song All Through The Night, Fisher plays everything you can hear here, from the punchy (if a little tinny) drumming to the low strung bass on tracks such as Mirror Of Tomorrow. Now obviously as well as the rhythm section Bill also provides the big riffs and reverbed hypnotic vocals as he does with COTCS. The heaviness returns on Psychopathy where he really lets loose with the six string attack.
After two thick rockers things get back to the sound many will associate with Fisher on Celador which has an echoing instrumental sound that reminds me of desert rock bands such as Kyuss as does The Dark Triad (where those Lizzy influences creep back in). Now I don't really know how long this album took to write but if it was a lockdown project then it has emerged almost totally formed as a parallel project to The Church... and even if these songs are ones that were left of previous records they work together at giving a darker view of the white suited leader of that musical cult. Yes Fisher's writing always has an element of the occult, darkness and mystery to it but musically it is a little upbeat whereas here things differ enough to avoid the comparisons to the main bands that Andrew Stockdale's solo album did a few years ago. Enter the cult, conspiracy and mythysicm of Mass Hypnosis & The Dark Triad. 7/10
South Of Eden: The Talk (Lava/Republic Records)
The band formerly known as Black Coffee (possibly after the Traffic song) they are now known as South Of Eden and they have got around to releasing their debut EP called The Talk. Hailing from Columbus, Ohio the band are on a mission to bring back good old fashioned rock n roll mixing it with the modern(ish) grunge lens. They have already performed with bands such as Foo Fighters and System Of A Down bringing with them a lot of prior experience with other bands before forming South Of Eden (then Black Coffee). They rapidly began establishing a following along with creating songs that didn't require any overdubbing or technological refinement just the band laying down riffs on vintage equipment. These came together under the ear of Grammy Award-winning producer Greg Wells [Adele Twenty One Pilots, Deftones] for The Talk. So have South Of Eden managed to capture the vibes of those halcyon days of hard rock.
Well as things start off with the title track which has some of the Middle Eastern influences from frontman Ehab Omran whose vocals are very modern sounding similar to those of bands like Rival Sons, Greta Van Fleet while you get some more psych sounds on Solo with guitarists Justin Young adding some choppy funk riffs. Now they aren't just a band that crank out big rockers, they also manage to slow things down on the soulful Morning Brew where Young goes wild with some solos as the deft drumming of Tom McCullough and for bassist Nick Frantianne he gets to show off some thick solid grooves on final song Dancing With Fire. With a myriad of 'retro' rock bands on the scene it'll be interesting to see how they develop more to catch the attention. For now then they have a good classic rock EP with a lot of promise on show. 7/10
Shrapnel Storm: S/T (Great Dane Records)
Hailing from the Nordic wastes of Finland Shrapnel Storm play vicious old school death metal, apparently their influences stem from the 90's Florida scene owned by bands such as Obituary and Six Feet Under with major grooves of our own Bolt Thrower. With blistering flesh ripping riffage, growled vocals and songs that move between destructive full battery and mid-tempo stomping this self titled sophomore record, their first for 5 years, definitely reminds you of death metal's most fertile period. You can almost feel the pit starting to tracks such as First Blood, The Burning and Triumph Over The Weak. What also makes you feel as if the 2000's never happened is the production this record, the drums are a little flat but relentless nonetheless and the guitars bite with a HM2 ferocity. It makes the record sound authentic as if it could have come from the Floridian underground in the 90's as it unleashes it's gnarly death metal assault on you. If you want some old school nastiness then I'm sure Shrapnel Storm will be your ideal living room pit starter. 7/10