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Monday, 10 August 2020

Reviews: Curses, Selenseas, Zebadiah Crowe, Tennessee Champagne (Liam, Simon, Mike & Matt)

Curses: Chapter ll - Bloom (Sharptone Records) [Liam True]

Chapter ll: Bloom is more or less a contemporary Metal album that takes elements from different styles of genres and packs them neatly into the 36 minute package to provide one of the most technical Metalcore albums this year. Having an album that’s both technical and progressive in the genre isn’t unheard of, but it’s hard to come by one that’s actually nailed the formula and can pull it off this ease. Bloom is up there with the albums that sound terrific and push the boundaries to create the bands base sound. Metalcore with hints of Djent, touches of electronically-enhanced ambience and even some of the more atmospheric aspects of post-metal. The instrumentals themselves sound absolutely gorgeous with Davey Nicewander taking the helm of guitar duties, he does it flawlessly making it sound like the band has two guitars battling each other at the same time. We then have Michael Olivares on double duty with backing vocals as bass guitar providing the booming background. Shane Cyrus creates the pounding beating heart of the band with his ability on drums, surveying the kit like Neil Peart has been reincarnated as an octopus.

Then we have the duel vocalists. Both Brando Casto & Eli Fry combine their vocal efforts together to cause a whirlwind of destruction of both clean and guttural vocals that entwine to create a vicious sound. Taking inspiration from other Prog/Core bands such as Tesseract and Periphery (Who’s frontman makes a cheeky appearance on Follow The Fire) they take everything they’ve learned from their elder and applied it to their own will and sound to create a beautiful record. You could be mistaken for this album being one of many of a band while a huge discography. But this album is only their second studio album, and with this big of a sound on their second output, they’re only going to get bigger and better in the future. This isn’t a band you want to sleep on. 9/10

Selenseas: The Outer Limits (Rockshots Records) [Simon Black]

Although Russian Power Metallers Selenseas have been around since 2010, this is only their second full length studio EP, and the line up has been so fluid since their debut За гранью возможного in 2017 as to be almost a new band. The difference is more noticeable perhaps as this first album was originally sung in Russian, whereas The Outer Limits is in fact the same album re-recorded in English, so to all intents and purposes this is a new band reaching out beyond their borders. That said, I tend to treat debut albums with gentler words to compensate for the fact that a lack of experience in the ways of the studio, a paucity of budget and a bit of naivety about what works and what doesn’t (which is a long hand way of saying many bands don’t always find their sound first time out). So there’s no excuse when you’ve already had a go with the same material. And actually it’s not bad at all, so if you come from the early Stratovarius, Excalion or Rhapsody Of Fire end of the spectrum, then this is for you.

Once you get past the token introductory instrumental track, Hope kicks in with the kind of energy you need from this genre, with the technical virtuosity badges out for a polishing in the day, particularly in the guitar department. Next up Frigate takes us into nautical territory, another touchstone of the genre, although sadly isn’t pushing the boundaries of the style, although it does showcase vocalist Mikhail Kudrey well (think Blaze Bailey at his best). About him then. His voice has a nice strong timbre, and he’s a recent addition to the line up. His challenge remains that he’s working with material written for someone else in another language, and consequently doesn’t always come off as confident on some tracks as others. Dante has much more of a distinctive backbone than some of the other tracks and works the better for it, and with more like this the album would be a killer, especially as vocally the confidence is here in spades, and the more simple structure works brilliantly. I particularly like The Mirror, whose galloping baseline is pure Maiden and again benefits from a tighter structure allowing the instrumental pizazz to show itself sparingly, particularly in the wonderfully high tempo solo section.

It’s strong conceptual Power Metal material covering all the usual semi historical/mythical tropes you expect from Power Metal; enough of a tinge of the Progressive to stop it being predictable, and plenty of variety in the sound with lyrics at the forefront of the mix. That said the instrumentalists are on top of their game, with plenty of experimentation and complexity thrown into the mix. One slight frustration is that with so much going on in the songs, many of them feel like they are missing a musical anchor – a clear and catchy riff, or phrasing to hang their hat on and give the complexity some context. With a bit more structure consistently throughout, this could have gone a lot further, but then the Russian metal scene is another world to me and they are definitely the kind of band that take a couple of listens to really appreciate. When this line up actually sits down and writes together for their own abilities, they may well prove a force to be reckoned with. 7/10

Zebadiah Crowe: Host Rider (Sefl Released) [Mike Chapman]

Anyone familiar with Black Metal knows its brutality, with a punk DIY attitude to playing and production it conjures up images of a rabid animal. What I admire most is when artists of today keep flying the Black Metal flag in their own creative way, Zebediah Crowe are one of those bands. A talented duo that blends their influences of HP Lovecraft & Edgar Allen Poe with the ferocity of Black Metal had my attention from the off, their dramatic voices and imposing kicks hit you right from the off with Knucklebones, from then on out you are at their mercy. Despite the modern production the use of programmed drums help to give the feel of lofi production somewhat, packing a punch but with a restrain that keeps them from dominating the mix. 

It's the production that reels me in with this record, the inclusion of eerie intros on tracks such as A Tincture Of Malice and The Neon Goat Of Crimson Grief, the latters intro gives me flashbacks from the boat scene from Willy Wonka, you feel transported to an ethereal realm before being bludgeoned over the head with relentless riff that show a controlled aggression that doesn't end until the track concludes. As much a fan I am of the genre I do find myself yearning for a little more variation but that is a personal gripe that shouldn’t detract from a very solid record. I look forward to more of Zebediah Crowe in the future. 7/10

Tennessee Champagne: S/T (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Ooh this goes down smooth like the beverage of designated origin they are named after (Tennessee Whiskey - Alcohol Ed) Tennessee Champagne are a band that has a smoky feel, a taste you recognise and burns on a trail left by their forebears. Hailing from the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, Elizabethon, TN, the band have that mountain rock grit and a Southern swagger of bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Blackberry Smoke, Blackfoot and even the Outlaw Country heroes such as Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson on Can't Get Over You which also doffs a cap to The Black Crowes with it's bubbling organ. From what I can tell this self titled album is their debut and it positions them firmly in the new Southern Rock revolution spearheaded by Blackberry Smoke, Cadillac Three and Whiskey Myers.

Now they have rockers here as you'd expect, Wicked is an excuse to let your hair down and shake your beard around, while the bands tribute to their home Mountains In My Bones has a funky hip shaking quality of Stevie Ray Vaughan, those guitar solos duelling with Hammond as things turn into The Allman Brothers at the end. As you you can tell from the numerous comparisons I've made here Tennessee Champagne clearly understand their roots; Chris Kelley, Jonathan Grindstaff, Tim Hall, Bill Cowden and Ryan Kendrick expertly blend rock, country, blues and Americana (in Oak Barrels I'd assume) into one big flavoursome mix of good time rock n roll with a distinctly laid back attitude on tracks such as the stomping, slide guitar driven, honky tonk of Corn From A Jar and the breakup ballad Selfish WaysTennessee Champagne are a bunch of Southern boys with an understanding of their musical heritage and the creativity to write music that doesn't fall too far in to being a pastiche. Grab a jar of corn, easy the seat back and let the Tennessee Champagne work it's magic. 8/10  

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