DeWolff - Wolffpack (Mascot Records) [JT Smith]
Wolffpack, by Dutch Trio DeWolff, is another satisfying throwback of an album that I’ve had the pleasure to review in the short time I’ve been here, but not just of one genre. You get obvious Southern driving rock as the spine and skeleton of the album, but there’s flashes of fun, acid-blues experimentation like on the excellent Treasure City Moonchild, where there’s a fun call and response between the vocals and guitar, a time signature change and a pretty ripping solo, and a dabbling in old school, crooning R&B on Do Me. There’s also a satisfyingly old school feel to the production on the album. If you’d told me that this had been recorded, produced and released in the 70’s, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid, and they wear it extremely well.
Between the strong songwriting, the gorgeously harmonised vocals, the fuzzy, lo-fi guitars, and the slightly woolly tub-thumping of the drums, everything about Wolffpack just screams ‘satisfying.’ It scratches a number of itches at the same time. If you want that driving, Southern Rock, it’s present all the way through (like the extended solo on Lady J). If you want to slow down with something smooth and sexy, it’s there. If you want a bit more of a trippy, slightly psychedelic feel, it’s there too. While DeWolff aren’t reinventing any of the wheels that they’re spinning, they’re spinning them with such accomplished ease that it doesn’t matter, because you’ll be spinning this record many more times. 8/10
Arcaeon – Cascadence (Self Released) [Liam True]
Hailing from the south of the UK, split between both Reading & London, Arcaeon have now unleashed their debut album, which is the follow up from their critically acclaimed 2018 EP Balance. And the question on my mind, is can the band replicate the sound and drive they had from the EP that gave them the push to play festivals and tours across the UK & Europe? And they 100% have nailed it with their unique blend of Progressive Metal, Djent & almost divulging into Death Metal with the vocal range of Stuart Sarre that transcends from the mountain peak highs of James LaBrie to the tectonic plate shattering lows of Phil Bozeman and everything in between.
Album intro and instrumental, Infernum Demergeris, only gives you a taste of the minds of Arcaeon as it’s mainly programmed with the guitars flourishing toward the end of the track but somewhat soothing and eerie. Until Origin Of Dreams hits full force with the drive of the band showing how they manipulate, distort and twist their sound around multiple genres at once. The rhythmic guitars of both Rhys Tomas & Sam Machin entwine with the pounding bass of Eifion Sweet to create a near perfect sound that slides beautifully into Ghost In The Machine as they show off their technical prowess as drummer Joe Farrell leads the band in terms of timing and speed as Sarre shines his vocals bright on this track and Replicant as he plunges his vocals low and slow to the electronic pulse in the background as the band keep the chaos from spiralling out of control. Ezekiel’s Wheel & Zenith l & ll are the band at their most experimentative with the band fusing the electronic programming with the mixture of the bands beating Djent background and Sarres’ soaring vocals on point.
Heretic & An Endless Sky bring the band to a slow as they still give their signature blends but to a more melodic sound which is both heavy & catchy. Ode To Unknown is a perfect track for the album to end on as it shows the band as a whole at their most aggressive and also at their most melodic as they weave in and out of the growls and high pitches that you’ve become all too familiar with. From start to finish it’s an absolute eruption of genre bending Progressive Metal that has put the band at the forefront of the British Prog Metal Scene as they’ve crafted an absolute behemoth sound that is only backed up by the heaving amount of effort they’ve put into this. And it’s an astonishing album to say the least. 8/10
The Pretty Reckless – Death By Rock And Roll (Century Media Records) [Simon Black]
Whilst although not something many Metal fans might necessarily gravitate towards, The Pretty Reckless have been fairly successfully cranking solid Hard Rock albums out since 2010 and seemed on the point of exploding to a much wider audience off the back of their North American support slot for Soundgarden back in 2017, but got kicked into touch by the sad and pointless deaths of both Chris Cornell and then their long-time friend and producer Kato. This completely knocked the wheels off of the Reckless bus and the band floundered in the doldrums of sadness, depression and substance abuse until the wise decision to focus that negative energy in a creative direction has led to this their fourth and quite frankly superb new album Death By Rock And Roll.
Nothing summarises that process more than the opening title track itself, a bluesy slab of high octane energy that kicks the listener up the backside and drags them kicking and screaming down the Reckless road. The lazy backbeat belies a really tight musical delivery and a vocal performance from former actress Taylor Momsen that is little short of spectacular. Only Love Can Save Me Know is positively Grungy, with a down and dirty guitar sound and one of the most hauntingly catchy singalong choruses I have heard in a while. This is damn fine stuff.
Getting equal billing on this disk are a bunch of much more radio-friendly ballads which should mean their mainstream upward trajectory is fairly safe, for which the poignant Rock And Roll Heaven - with all its heavily laden references and bold ‘Fuck you’ to the notorious 27 Club of talent taken before its time, gives me the feeling that this is band with longevity in mind having stared so very deeply into the abyss. These dark moments haunt this album (particularly what happened to Kato), which crops up lyrically on several tracks, not least on the almost Country sounding closer Harley Darling with its heart-rending subject matter directly contrasting with the soft-ballad delivery and slightly up-beat tempo.
Although this is the first time I’ve come across their material, I know this is a record that is going to get a lot of spins in the weeks to come. It’s moody, it’s catchy, it’s soulful and has some of the most poignantly delivered and downright gutsy vocals I’ve heard since I first heard Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black album. Although they have a reputation of being less effective live, I would be interested to see how this much more from the heart material is delivered by an act who have pulled themselves up by their emotional boot straps from a very dark place to deliver one of the best records I have heard in a while. Pretty Reckless maybe, but in this instance Pretty Damned Awesome as well. 9/10
Haunt: Beautiful Distraction (Church Recordings) [Matt Bladen]
Trevor William Church, is a man who is clearly influenced by the work ethic of men like Bruce Springsteen, he has a relentless creative streak, when he's not producing or guesting on albums for other bands, most of which release their records through his record label, he is writing and recording albums with his doom band Beastmaker and his NWOTHM project Haunt. Just last year alone he released two records and in February of 2021 he is dropping his fifth Haunt album, with a particularly apt title for a record created in the height of a pandemic. It bursts out of the stereo with the title track a four minute gallop through that 80's metal sound that came out the UK and influenced the thrash and speed metal bands of the West Coast.
Church I believe takes the lion's share, if not all of the instrumentation here as it is essentially his solo project so the level of virtuosity is very high but in keeping with the original ethos of the NWOBHM there is a focus on making the songs in a D.I.Y way with a huge amount of melody that come through the sing along choruses and directness of the songwriting. Beautiful Distraction has got a little more depth than some of the earlier Haunt records with a lot of background keys (Sea Of Dreams) and addition to the dual guitars that is normally so associated with NWOTHM (Face Of Danger). This record also features two re-records songs from previous records, Hearts On Fire from Mind Freeze and
It's In My Hands from If Icarus Could Fly rounding out this fifth record. Beautiful Distraction is another top quality journey into the mind of Trevor William Church. 8/10
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