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Wednesday 4 November 2020

Reviews: King King, Jaded Star, Lyknatropi, Neptune (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

King King: Maverick (Channel 9 Records)

Now you would be forgiven if, when you heard Never Give In the first track on King King's fifth album, that you were listening to the new Joe Bonamassa record, in fact if you jumped into any part of this record you may think that it was Joey Bones singing such is the similarity between his soulful tones and King King's frontman/guitarist Alan Nimmo. Musically to the spirit of his blues rock reinvention is present even on the funky numbers such as I Will Not Fall which has hip shaking organ coda and bluesy ballads such as Whatever It Takes To Survive. However they add some modern rock balladry on By Your Side a song that could have been on the new Black Stone Cherry album as Fire In Your Soul brings some AOR tones of REO Speedwagon or Styx. 

With a few blues ballads in it purely to show off those excellent vocals, the lush arrangements of the band; Stevie Nimmo (guitar), Jonny Dyke (organ/piano), Zander Greenshields (bass) and Andrew Scott (drums), and Alan's emotional guitar playing, the 'rockers' here are very upbeat and filled with hope Dance Together being the one to pick out and get you moving. Nimmo wrote most of the album with keyboardist Jonny Dyke and many of these tracks are hooked on a killer keyboard riff giving a slickness and depth from the myriad of blues rock bands. Written after a time of change in the band Maverick is Nimmo taking a leap into unrestricted song writing and if that puts them up there with Mr Bonamassa then it'll see them taking arenas by storm soon. 7/10   

Jaded Star: Realign (Noble Demon)

Despite being in existence since 2013, Realign is only Jaded Star’s second full length record, it is also one that features 90% new band membership, with only founding member, singer Maxi Nil remaining since that record, she has recruited Jim Rouvell on drums, Dane Constantine on guitars, John Dres on bass and Angelo Vafiadis on keyboards for this 2.0 line up of the band. This has probably influenced the Realign title but as Led Zep put it the song remains very much the same, although Realign does differ a little from their 2015 debut by bringing a much heavier style into the realms of the more recent Lacuna Coil material, adding some Amaranthe styled bombast too, especially on the bouncy Children Of Chaos which also makes me think of the Within Temptation 

What’s instantly noticeable as the band kick off with the choppy, groove heavy Female Fronted, a song that seems to be Nil reclaiming that over-used journalistic genre trope, is that her voice is incredibly versatile able to shift from attitude filled shouts, to crooning, growls and top end soprano with ease; her band chugging away behind her, with chunky riffs, some electronic twitches that are par for the course now. I will say that the band sound revitalised here, releasing an album with a pretty much new line up could put paid to many bands but it's allowed Jaded Star to explore more musical styles, from the emotionally charged A Pain All Mine which is followed by Maybe a full on ballad with muscular undertones to the harder hitting, hook-laden We're The Heroes (A Song For Us) and future live staple VertigoRealign is Jaded Star returning from a turbulent time with a renewed power. 8/10 

Lykantropi: Tales Be Told (Despotz Records)

I’ve always considered myself a little bit of latent Hippie (albeit with a nihilistic streak) so any bands nail their cheesecloth and bellbottoms to the mast are always welcome into my Yurt. Lykantropi are one such band, following on from the recent re-releases of their first two albums on Despotz records Tales Be Told is the bands third record of mystical, psychedelic folk rock pairing that San Francisco sound with the more the more Canterbury scene, Lykantropi owe as much to Jethro Tull as they do Coven/Fleetwood Mac, putting them pride of place with bands such as The Blues Pills. Warm guitar harmonies, soulful vocals and plenty of flute is what’s on the menu for this record. Thematically the record draws from old folk/fairy tales, with the exception of Axis Of Margaret which is a loving tribute to bass players Tomas Eriksson’s mother. The fairytale influence is writ large in Scandinavian culture so they draw on that as much as we would the old Norse and Celtic paganism that comes from the UK. 

It’s a record very much about the life of the forest, from the driving rockers such as the title track/Mother Of Envy, powered by the twin leads of Elias Håkansson/Martin Östlund and plenty of flute from Ia Öberg to the more laid back sounds of Kom Ta Mig Ut, Tales Be Told never slips into something a little lifeless or achingly modern, it’s full of authentic analogue warmth from beginning to end. The rhythm section of drummer Ola Rui Nygard and the aforementioned bassist Tomas Eriksson keep things tight and focussed even when the songs start to explore more otherworldly realms they keep the grooves for tracks like Spell On Me, My Shaolin’s dreamy vocals used to great effect with Östlund getting to add his lower register too as every track features great execution of backing harmonies for that true San Francisco sound. With the re-release of their two previous albums people are starting to take notice of Lykantropi, and with good reason open up and let this music touch your spirit. 8/10

Neptune: Northern Steel (Black Lodge)

What is about 1980's bands that never really made it the first time around, trying again 20/30 years later? Usually these bands were part of the NWOBHM but it's not a strictly British phenomenon clearly as Neptune made their initial mark on the Swedish metal scene in the late 70's early 80's. The culmination of this time was some demos but nothing substantial until singer Ray Alex was brought into Glory by former member Jan Granvik, thereby effectively ending the band, the members all forming other bands. Now Ray Alex returned to the fold with the band Jar which has evolved into the returning Neptune. A 2017 EP came and went and now we have the debut full length from the band a mere 30 odd years since they split. 

The band now features Ray's brother Rowland taking the vocals, due to Ray passing away in 2019, along with a line up that features Tosh Ason (bass), Anders Olsson (guitar), Johan Rosth (keyboards) and Jonas Wikström (drums) so with everything set what does Northern Steel hold? Well the short answer is Grand Magus playing Ozzy, tracks such as Black Rain sounds a lot like the more radio friendly side of the Prince Of Darkness (and yes I know he also has a song/album called Black Rain) with a big smack of Survivor too. Elsewhere such as Viking Stone and Run For Your Life they have that Swedish Trad Metal gallop with some keyboard flourishes that are very Saracen-like. 

Northern Steel has been a long time coming and it's stuck in the early 80's soundwise but that's no bad thing. In this case they have gone against the normal trend of bands coming back out of nowhere with a surprisingly good classic metal record. 7/10   

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