If you reflect on the journey of Blues Pills, it’s somewhat bewildering to realise that as the band reach their tenth anniversary, Holy Moly! is only their third full-length studio release. But with a discography that includes a live album after each studio release, accompanied by three EPs, maybe it’s not such a surprise. Such has been the strength of the band’s live shows, capturing their sound has almost been essential. Regardless, it’s been four years since sophomore release Lady In Gold arrived, and in the meantime, we’ve seen the band whose ethic was built on touring undergo the trauma of a major line-up change with original guitarist Dorian Sorriaux departing (amicably) and founder member, writer and bassist Zack Anderson now taking up the six-string challenge. Enter bassist Kristoffer Schander, alongside drummer André Kvarnström and of course, vocalist Elin Larsson.
Happily, for those fans who feared that Sorriaux’s departure may have rocked the Blues Pills ship, Holy Moly! is possibly the most dramatic and impressive album the band have produced. Anderson’s guitar work smokes as hot as the virtuoso he replaced, whilst Larsson’s aggressive and powerful performance is without doubt the best of her career. Listen to her performance on Bye Bye Birdie and you’ll identify a frontwoman whose confidence is at its peak. She simply explodes out of the speakers. It’s not all roaring psychedelic blues though, with a neat blend of pace and style distributed throughout the album. Song From A Mourning Dove and Wish I’d Known show the mellower side to the band, although the former starts gently before exploding into life, Larsson’s incredible voice once more soaring wildly whilst Anderson’s work is incredible.
Recorded and self-produced at their own Lindbacka Sounds studio using analogue equipment, the band enlisted Grammy award winning producer Andrew Schepps to mix the album. If Lady In Gold was a step up from the self-titled debut, then Holy Moly! is another giant leap. It’s classy, mature, and confident from the opening bars of the anthemic Proud Woman through to the emotive and personal closing song Longest Lasting Friend. Stripping back to their raw power, smouldering with blues influences and including a smattering of the psychedelia that was one of the influential traits on Lady In Gold, the third album from Blues Pills is as good as we could have wished for. 9/10
Jesus Wept: Apartheid Redux (Redefining Darkness Records) [Paul Hutchings]
If you search Jesus Wept on Google, the first hit you get is the American Christian hardcore outfit from Eire, Pennsylvania. Thankfully, this version of Jesus Wept is the antithesis of that band. Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, Jesus Wept originally self-released their (digital only) debut EP Crushing Apartheid in 2017. A description of sleaze-soaked Death Metal is an apt phase, as is the other description of ‘Carcass for the next generation’. Utilizing a filthy combination of Heartwork era death metal ala the Liverpudlian legends blended with the spirit and attitude of 80s L.A. metal, Apartheid Redux sees the original EP remixed and mastered, with two new tracks and a scorching fun cover of cover of W.A.S.P.’s infamous Animal (Fuck Like A Beast).
There’s something quite comforting about this EP. 20 minutes in length, Jesus Wept keep things simple but bury a load of intricacy within each track. The first four songs are those originally on Crushing Apartheid. The bludgeoning grindcore of Drowning In Holy Water blasts from the speakers at frenetic pace whilst the three other tracks all contain enough bruising death metal to raise the dead. Short And Sweet, Hammering In The Nails, Buried Face Down and Jesus In Chains (Father In Hell) all bring an old school rabidity to the table.
The new tracks, Comfortably Dumb and Fucked On The Cross are typically irreverent, highlighted by stomping aggression which one of the band’s trademark sounds. Growls, roars, and the odd razor-sharp solo emerging from the maelstrom make Apartheid Redux a solid riff fest. Jesus Wept won’t be the first band to cover the W.A.S.P song but it’s a faithful, raging version which sticks true to the original, albeit with more grit and fire. 7/10
Navian: Reset (Indie Recordings) [Liam True]
I’m not a huge fan of instrumental music at all. To me it’s usually just full of noodling and and mindless droning. But Navian sort of do it for me with their different sound. Most usually with instrumental albums it’s a mix of Rock and Metal, where as Navian make a fusion of Djent, Power Metal and have added a whole lot of symphonic elements to beef up the background with flavour.
Seemingly coming out of nowhere and being booked into a festival in their hometown of Norway with no material, they recorded Reset in just a month. Now to go from zero music to record a 5 track EP that spans 21 minutes within a month is quite a big feat and is a testament to the skills of the musical trio and their dedication. The EP itself is full of more than just your standard noodling. It doesn’t focus on just the guitar side of things. Bassist Christian Espeseth performs astonishing licks with his bass and is as technical as John Myung. Drummer Ola Dønnem is as versatile as most modern drummers and has the future skills of Gene Hoglan with the way he uses his abilities to stretch around the kit with his miraculous fills and catchy beats. And guitarist Martin Selen uses his skills to control the fretboard with his precise sweet picking and soaring notes while unleashing his inner Yngwie Malmsteen.
It’s a pretty impressive album, as far as instrumental albums go, but there’s no doubt that Navian are to be expected bigger things in their future. If they do decide to go down the route with a vocalist, I’d be interested in their choice. But for now, Reset is a fine piece of modern musical ability. 7/10
The Fall Of Troy: Mukiltearth (That Feeling Of Time) [Liam True]
It’s been a while since I've heard an album that made me reminisce about the early to mid 2000’s Post Hardcore music scene. I was excited when I heard the opening moments of A Tribute To Orville Wilcox as I was hoping to be thrown back to that time. And I was. That was until vocalists Thomas Erak & Tim Ward spewed forth their vile vocals. And I don’t mean that in a good way. Their vocals sound painful, strained and to be completely honest, unlistenable. Splitting the unclean vocals between themselves is a hefty task, but none of them provide a listenable scream. The clean vocals of Erak however do kind of make up for it. The real spark from the band is the instrumentals. Providing odd time signatures to set them apart from the other Post Hardcore bands in the scene does add a certain distinguishing element of Mathcore, but it’s not enough to get past the vocals. It could have been a brilliant album, but it’s been let down severely. 3/10