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Monday, 17 August 2020

Reviews: Master Charger, Cytotoxin, Psychlona, Hannah Aldridge (Matt, Charlie/Dr Claire, Lucas & Mike)

Master Charger: Origin Of The Lugubrious (Stoned Rocka Records) [Matt Bladen]

What do you get from a Master Charger? Not the ability to power all of your devices but riffs, big fat dirty riffs, that straddle the sounds of stoner and doom metal. Origin Of The Lugubrious is the 3rd album from these Midlands based noise merchants are just a trio (again) but make the fuzzed up noise loud enough for ten men, it's a sound that has been refined and made much more destructive on this third album featuring some of the most aggressive and best songwriting of Master Charger's career. From the gutter dwelling opening crunch of the title track you can hear that the bands sludgy rock n roll that has been called "Satanic Blues Rumble" is at full strength summoning the beasts from the deep with a rumbling groove from the outset. 

This instrumental sweeps into the first vocal track the swaggering Embers Of The Sun which is based around the throbbing bass of Dave Hayes and groove laden guitars from J P. Vocally there are links to both Viking Skull and Blind River as J P's sleazy raw vocal adds another level of filth to this record. The influences on this record are exactly what you expect them to be with Sabbath the most obvious, especially on Who The Hell Are You? On which Jon Kirk half inches the drum fill from Fairies Wear Boots but that's no issue as for bands like this Sabbath Worship is expected so long as they write songs such as the proggy Blood & Sand or the hard rocking final duo of Our Time Has Come and Earthbound & HellboundOrigin Of The Lugubrious sees Master Charger at their meanest, heaviest and most focussed ever! 8/10

Cytotoxin: Nuklearth (Unique Leader Records) [Charlie Rogers and Dr Claire Hanley]

German tech death bruisers Cytotoxin have been around for nearly a decade, and upon releasing their fourth album Nuklearth, it’s clear that the gamma rays absorbed over this time have only increased their powers.

Atomb opens the album with aggressively catchy, melodic hooks. Incredibly stylistic, it sets the bar sky high from the beginning; the tremolo picked riff into the sweeping section is the bomb! Following this impressive start, is one of the first singles we were teased with, Lupus Aurora. The song structure and passages sound purposeful, with an unwavering resolve and direction. Clearly, a lot of thought has gone into the composition. In particular, drummer Stocki’s immense talent is well and truly on display here, with flawless execution and perfect snare tone. It’s got just the right amount of punch to hit hard through the mix, without being overbearing. The weaving intricacies and harmonic flavour of the guitars sit perfectly alongside, painting a sonic picture in stunning 4K HD. Grimo’s vocals only intensify this further, with a style that oozes brutality, without compromising clarity. Next up, is Uran Breath, which is no doubt going to create absolute carnage live. The unrelenting pace and energy is perfectly suited to whip up a frenzied throng of berserk moshing. There are few moments to catch your breath, which only serve to emphasise the intensity, thus making it that much more impactful. 

Dominus kicks down the tempo, with an insurmountable flex of an intro. Guitar duels between Fonzo and Jason are jaw dropping, showcasing their absolute mastery of the instruments. The mid section tempo decay is absolutely dripping with attitude, swagger, and bravado. This certainly takes you back to Cytotoxin’s roots of heavy slam style writing, yet incorporates their evolution as musicians by adding an intricate melodic line to contrast against the uncompromising brutality. Switching things up yet again, Drown In Havoc changes the game. With more thrash laden riffs and a song structure that leads with a clear melodic focus, the heaviness is imparted purely by the nature of their writing style - as opposed to it being the primary goal. The bass snarl is unmistakable during the intro to Soul Harvester, like the clanging of suspension bridge cables. Vt’s tone and playing throughout the album is superb, and this track highlights that exceptionally well. Bringing back all the bravado and swagger unleashed during Dominus, the timings and use of syncopation are super effective at building anticipation here, culminating in a neck snapping groove. Possessing an infinitely huge sound, and tons of atmosphere, Coast Of Lies is the opposite of predictable. It’s anthemic guitar lead comes from left field, and is yet another jaw dropping display of musicianship, which is magnified in Quarantine Fortress, which melts your face from the outset. 

The album’s final section is led by Dead Zone Anthem, which is a foreboding, atmosphere building transitional piece. It’s a great example of how bands can create original material of this nature, without the overuse of samples - a common cliche in this genre. Title track, Nuklearth, is another demonstration of the refined, restrained approach Cytotoxin have adopted on this record. It’s magnificent, and yet understated. In particular, the blistering outro, featuring lead lines over tapping parts, encapsulates the grandiose theme. Mors Temporis closes the record as the instrumental epilogue. A Geiger counter crackles over the sound of crashing waves, while a solemn piano and string section emphasizes the gravitas of the subject matter. A feeling of gut wrenching emptiness takes over. It’s not often a death metal record can hit you right in the feels, but this track evokes a sincere emotional connection, and serves as a chilling reminder of the horrors of Chernobyl. 

If there was ever any doubt, Nuklearth cements Cytotoxin’s stellar musicianship, and ability to create a dynamic death metal masterpiece. A firm contender for album of the year. 10/10

Psychlona: Venus Skytrip (Ripple Music) [Luca Tuckwood]

Delivered to my hard drive this morning was the latest cargo from Yorkshire space truckers Psychlona their fresh new album, Venus Skytrip. Billowing out of the speakers amidst the hash fumes are eight of the sludgiest and heaviest tracks I’ve heard all year, and boy are they something to behold. 
Venus Skytrip is a magnificently heavy record- each track boasts a sound heavier than a brontosaurus, and positively oozes with that sludginess that you just don’t get with other sorts of music. Frankly, some of these songs are so heavy and dense they’re starting to form their own gravitational pull. The guitar and bass are mixed to perfection, and combined with the laser-precise drumming on display, contribute to this album’s utterly monolithic sound- vocals are on point too, adding a nice punky edge to the relentless riffs.
The highlight for me was the track 10,000 Volts, where the slow and gentle crooning of the verses suddenly kicks into a chorus heavier than the earth’s core, sludgier than the La Brea tar pits and nastier than a bag of hornets. Excellent as this album may be, there are some minor hiccups in the form of some rather simple solos that shoot high, but fall somewhat short, often wavering on a few notes for just a tad longer than they ought to. Regardless, they never feel out of place, and perfectly suit the rest of the songs- hell, even without any solos at all I think I’d still adore this album, and I can’t imagine how much better it is listened to while baked out of one’s gourd. 

If you’re looking for the soundtrack to your trip across the universe or your next hot boxing session with the lads, Venus Skytrip is absolutely the record for you. I cannot recommend this album enough. 10/10

Hannah Aldridge: Live In Black In White (Icons Creating Evil Art) [Mike Chapman]

They say music speaks to you, this I can attest to, but when you come across a special sort of songwriter, one that makes each word resonate deeper than most it makes for a compelling experience. Raised in the State of Alabama, true Bible Belt territory, Hannah Aldridge has courted the darker side of things, dealing with subjects as heavy as depression and hopelessness she found her home in the craft of Southern Gothic Country. The fact that this is a live album adds a level of intimacy, as if a curtain is slowly pulled across to reveal a rare brand of raw and melodic gothic country. you really feel each word, each chord, her masterful grasp of the songwriting craft is laid bare, this lends a certain vulnerability sure, but Aldridge meets this with such defiance, speaking with a maturity and tone only found in those who have truly lived a life, even at the tender age of 33 Aldridge has lived the life of someone beyond her years. 

Standout examples of this include the magnificent Goldrush, Aldridge’s voice is exceptional throughout the album but Goldrush lays it bare as the guitar takes more of a backseat. The beautiful harmonies provided by Robbie Cavanagh conjure memories of The Civil Wars, a rare treat I must say. Aftermath is another track that showcases Aldridge’s fierce defiance in the face of adversity, it feels Springsteen-esque but in a style that is absolutely hers. My final pick is the captivating Born To Be Broken, a folk tale that once again shows how adept Aldridge is at her craft, a mesmerizing performance from start to finish. A must for fans of Seth Lakeman, Laura Marling & Larkin Poe, I implore you to give this a try. 9/10

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