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Thursday, 6 August 2020

Reviews: Howling Giant/Sergeant Thunderhoof, Geoff Tyson, Misery Signals, Vampric (Paul H, Lucas, Liam & Rich)

Howling Giant/Sergeant Thunderhoof: Turned to Stone Chapter II - Masamune & Muramasa (Ripple Music) [Paul Hutchings]

Sometimes the low hanging fruit is further from the ground than you think. Reviewing a split EP is often a straightforward listen. Not this time though. With Ripple Music’s second installment of their Turned To Stone split 12" series, they invited Nashville's psych-metal purveyors Howling Giant and Somerset's own cosmic fuzz groovers Sergeant Thunderhoof to deliver two interconnected 20-minute epics telling the story and face-off of legendary Japanese swordsmiths Muramasa and Masamune.

The routine approach to a split EP would be for each band to contribute stand-alone pieces which fit each side. Not in this case, with each band combining to craft two epic tracks that are thematically and sonically cohesive. The result is a 40-minute piece of stunning sonic soundscapes which demonstrate the quality of the two progressive riff lords. It’s like listening to two giant megalodons tussling on the tundra, their heaving bulk clashing in harmony as they sway together.

Side one sees Howling Giant embark on a twenty-minute opus, weaving their brand of progressive stoner rock as they tell the story from swordsmith Masamune’s perspective. Lush Hammond organ permeates the driving guitar riffs, the powerful punchy passages mellowing with slower, calmer passages. Melodic harmonies and chunky guitar all combine in a free-flowing track that is a joy to listen to.

Then we have side two as Sergeant Thunderhoof’s slightly heavier, yet less aggressive approach focuses on Muramasa. Thick fuzzy guitar and bass hammer out over nearly 22 minutes of rich, pumping, and roaring rock. Soaring vocals combine with rougher edged singing as the song evolves in impressive style. It really is work of some beauty. With the bands sharing melodic ideas, this translates to a cohesive flowing release that feels more like an album that a split EP. It’s ambitious yet totally achievable and with a story that hooks the listener in deep, this is a release that is well worth spending time with. Superb musicianship from start to finish, I’m sold. 8/10

Geoff Tyson: Drinks With Infinity (Geoff Tyson Music) [Lucas Tuckwood]

Geoff Tyson’s debut instrumental album, Drinks With Infinity, is thirty six minutes of pure rock n roll, and positively oozes with technical prowess, and meshes a number of different styles and genres into one neat little package. Having learned from guitar maestro Joe Satriani, his teachings shine through on every song, as the listener is treated to numerous styles, all held together by Tyson’s magnificent fretwork.

Track five, Bark, is a fast, blistering little piece, featuring multiple soaring solos, tight woven basslines, and drumming so precise you could set your watch to it. Track three, Strawberry Napalm, feels like it would fit perfectly into the score for a video game, featuring funky electronic background beats which run perfectly in tandem with the guitar. Track six, Asabara, is a slow, melodic piece, and the solo gracefully soars over the top. Each different style utilised is done so with incredible precision, and is a true testament to Tyson’s skill on the six string.

Now, I’m no guitarist, but even I can clearly see that there’s some real talent on this record; each song bristles with that cosy feeling of real musicianship, and every component of the music works flawlessly. While I can see some finding the lack of vocals causing some tracks to blend in together, the sheer technical prowess on display more than makes up for any shortcomings. No matter if you’re after that classic bluesy feeling, or some fast paced hard rockers, Drinks With Infinity has easily got you covered. 9/10

Misery Signals: Ultraviolet (Basick Records) [Liam True]

Blending Hardcore and Metalcore together is an odd thing to do as they don’t really go hand in hand (Really? - Ed). But Misery Signals have perfected the art of it. On their fifth studio album the band have reignited their stance as one of Metalcore's most influential bands. Their not the most brought up band while talking about the subject, but between 2004 – 2008 they were on top of their game. And with only one album and one EP release since 2008 they’ve been on the quiet side of things. Until now.

On their first studio album in seven years, and reunited with original vocalist Jesse Zaraska on his first full length with the band since their debut back in 2004, the band are on fire with their signature sound that so many other bands have modelled their current sound from. First single and first track The Tempest is a brilliant introduction back into the band as it starts with the lyrics’ We will be lifted again’. And their not wrong. From start to finish it’s a whirlwind path of destruction. Sunlifter is the more melodic riff orientated side with hard hitting breakdowns. Through Vales Of Blue Fire is an intense, yet short burst of energy all cylinders.

Old Ghosts & The Fall fade flawlessly into each other to create a track that needed to be put together as one. Cascade Locks is proof that you don’t need to start of heavy and in your face, but the softer melodic sounds builds it up and entices you in to the song before filling you with their classic sound. Some Dreams is then the perfect ender to this great album. Combining the heavier and softer sounds together as one creates the song that the album needed to end on to make it more of a varied sound.

All in all it’s a terrific comeback for the band who’ve spent 7 years in the dark, only releasing an EP 4 years ago and taking their time readying ourselves for their return into the genre that they once ruled. Granted it’s not a phenomenal album, but it’s a great sounding album in the sea of bland same noise records. But Ultraviolet stands out as a contender for one of the best they’ve released. 7/10

Vampiric: Supernatural Tales (Self Released) [Rich Oliver]

I have a bit of a problematic history when it comes to one man bands. A lot of them are absolutely dire but like with anything there are exceptions to the rule. Vampiric is the Arizona based project of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Nik Williams and Supernatural Tales is the second album from the project.

Supernatural Tales is nine songs with a vampiric or supernatural lyrical theme whilst the music is a mixing pot of gothic metal, symphonic and orchestral leanings and direct influences from the heavier end of the metal spectrum such as thrash metal, death metal and black metal. This does mean the songs can be a bit all over the place but there is a cohesion to the music that binds all these influences together. This is music that is crushingly heavy as well as melodramatic and over the top. Nik is an excellent musician and his talents shine throughout the album as well as his compositional skills. His vocals are fraught with shortcomings however but whilst not very good are definitely serviceable and don’t detract too much from the music.

Vampiric have a very good album with Supernatural Tales which seamlessly mixes gothic melodrama with an extreme metal bite. It is probably not essential listening but there’s no denying that this is a very decent album. 7/10

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