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Friday 19 February 2021

Reviews: El Pistolero, LÜT, Jakethehawk, Compile (Reviews By Matt Bladen, JT Smith & Alex Swift)

El Pistolero - Mexican Standoff (Metalopolis Records) [Matt Bladen]

The musical equivalent of locking Motorhead, Rose Tattoo and Status Quo in a Tijuana bar with as much alcohol/drums as they can inbide and the amps on full German rock n roll outlaws have been powered around the live scene in their native country for a fair few years now but have few releases under their belt. In May of 2019 they brought in a new frontman, a new drummer and a new guitarist and essentially became a new version of the band, with the song remaining the same. This means that Mexican Standoff is the bands' debut record and it contains seven new songs joining five re-recorded songs from their previous line up. 

You'll know what you're in for when you hear the snarling "Son of a bitch" and a strutting AC/DC riff kicks in. From there we get some raging on Stormbringer which conjures gleeful memories of bouncing around to Motorhead, Machine Gun Preacher is a snotty punk rock rager, Down Under sounds like AC/DC, Airbourne etc (I mean obviously) and the record goes on like this moving between Motorhead and AC/DC ramping up the sleaze and maximising the party rock feel. After member changes and a turbulent existence Mexican Standoff doesn't stay stationary for any length of time, cranking out good time rock n roll with as much gusto as possible. Pour yourself a Jack & Coke then play it LOUD! 8/10   

LÜT – Mersmak (Indie Recordings, Crestwood Records/Loud Media GmbH/Warner) [Alex Swift]

Gaining recognition after live streaming themselves shovelling snow in order to promote their 2020 album Bangkok Nonstop, both the aesthetic and music of this Norwegian band seems to radiate positivity, and that’s without understanding the lyrics. Their take on punk is rowdy yet relatable, monstrously noisy but memorable, anarchic but accessible. And while those might not be new conventions in this genre, LÜT certainly have a distinct take on the sound. They take a distinctly no-strings-attached approach to creating music whereby you could just as easily be watching them from the back of a bar as be listening to one of their records. That’s the type of energy they convey here (although something tells me that the former scenario would be even more unleashed). Mersmak translates into English as ‘lust for more’. 

It’s a joyous but also rebellious term, the sentiment of which is embodied in the animated vibe of visceral tracks like Viepa, and anthemic pieces like We Will Save Scandirock. If I were to name a close companion in sound to LÜT, I would probably point to acts like Donots, Jeff Rosenstock and Against Me! as obvious influences on the rustic, modest yet inspiring feel this band command with. While understanding the words that are being sung or screamed is usually an important factor for me as someone who places so much weight on lyrical meaning, words should never be a substitute for generally moving music. In this case I don’t so much need to understand what’s being said as to feel something from the immediate feel of the instrumentals and the vocals. Furthermore, Markus Danjord’s cathartic vocal exaggerations are matched brilliantly by the adrenaline fuelled way the other band members wield their instruments. While it’s more down to the odd decision to introduce muted production into the mix – maybe they thought the effect would aid the sentimentality? – The only song I don’t care for on this album is the tepid India , where they seem to surrender some of their signature aggression for more of a restrained feel. 

That said, I feel me not liking this one, is testament to how much I really did enjoy the sharp melodic phrasing, and unrestrained emotion on moments like the polar opposite opener, Mersmak or the exuberantly life affirming Strictly Business. The truth is that while it might be a stretch to call LÜT entirely unique or innovative, to me they represent that perfect spot between the more pop-oriented production methods set by emo and pop punk, and the riotous, frustrated sound offered by grunge and post-hardcore. The guitars play a huge tone-setting role here, knowing exactly when to dial back and provide a supportive yet momentum driving feel, and when to unleash. Meanwhile, the rhythm section does its job of keeping everything in pace while again being crafty enough to allow chaos to creep in when needed. It’s that combination of attitude, precision and…well…Mersmak for music which make these one of the most promising acts in their style, that you may not have heard of! Give this 30 minute record a try even if you don’t consider its label ‘up your street’. The effect is one of unashamed elation. 7/10

Jakethehawk - Hinterlands (Ripple Music) [JT Smith]

I always really enjoy it when a band tries something different within the confines of their respective genre. Stoner rock has a very definite sound, and so the opening, gentle clean guitar refrains of Counting are refreshing, and cold sounding, in usual contrast to the heavy, open desert feel of stoner. Of course, being a stoner band, they do the fuzzed out, sonically dense guitars known of the genre (and this is well displayed on Ochre and Umber, and on EP closer June), but this isn’t paint-by-numbers stoner rock. A nice counterpoint to the heaviness is the lush, layered, heavily reverbed, airy vocals. This is a band exploring the boundaries of stoner and post-metal, and it works really well.

Like all stoner rock, there’s a vibe of emptiness running through the record, but it’s a cold, wooded valley emptiness (which is why it comes as no surprise to find out that these guys are from the Appalachians). It’s an emptiness that echoes back at you, and is captured by some very inventively used guitar effects, not all of which are distorted. Along with the airy, floaty vocals, there’s almost a *folky* feel to the record in parts, and nowhere is this more apparent on the awesome Still Life, which is a tremendously cavalier showing off of the *balls* of this band. It;s the best song on the record and it’s mostly acoustic guitars until the absolutely crushing last two minutes. This is an excellent record that says in its six songs and 36 minutes more than a lot of other stoner rock bands do in 12 minutes with twice the songs. 8/10

Compile - Reaching (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

One look at Israeli prog metal band Compile's social media and you'd have to be blind not see their influences as in between the play along videos and behind the scenes looks at the making of this album you get endless and a I mean ENDLESS Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson/ Opeth memes. Their love of Steven Wilson is obvious not just here but also in the music on their debut record which brings the feeling of post-In Absentia Porcupine Tree on the jangling Keep You From Harm but also the big hitters of prog metal such as Dream Theater as tracks such as Illusive have those technical basslines, layered keys and tonal shifts that rarely stick to 4/4. 

From the limited info I could find Noam (bass) and Moshe (guitar) have been a few bands together which is probably why their contributions link so tightly with the drumming of Ben adding that third part of the musical backing for this record. From here they set about writing music but Reaching came together faster with the addition of keyboardist William and the smoky vocals of Eden. There are 8 songs on the record but none of them are four on the floors rockers, they are long winding mini-epics richly populated with musical shifts and solos as well as big choruses. It won't win over any non prog fans but if you're Porcupine Tree or Dream Theater fan then you'll enjoy the hell out of Reaching. 7/10 

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