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Thursday 16 September 2021

Reviews: Employed To Serve, Holy Death Trio, Kadabra, Little Jimi (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Employed To Serve – Conquering (Spinefarm)

Calling your fourth album Conquering is a real statement of confidence, but one playthrough of the record and you know that this is the culmination of what Employed To Serve have been working towards since Justine Jones and Sammy Urwin formed the band as a grindcore project back in 2013. The band membership has increased and they have gone from strength to strength gathering a loyal following and numerous high profile shows and festivals, each album adding another style to their multi-genre offence. On the back of 2019’s Eternal Forward Motion, ETS took their place amongst the brightest and most innovative bands on the UK scene, their melting pot of hardcore, djent, groove, thrash, speed and classic metal influences blending seamlessly, on Conquering though they have really refined it to produce their most accomplished album yet. 

The album title is in reference to nurturing the positive and growing even in the face of adversity, it’s this attitude that can be heard throughout the record, on the title track the hardcore aggression and beatdown grooves are broken up by flashes of twin guitar harmonies, Universal Chokehold meanwhile takes a more atmospheric route in it’s opening before building into a modern melodic thrasher that you could expect from Trivium or a band of their ilk Sammy Urwin and David Porter using plenty of twin lead guitar breaks. Exist firmly sits in the crossover thrash sound of bands such as Suicidal Tendencies or Powertrip, Justine Jones’ ragged screams met by Urwin’s guttural growls. The album is deliberately antagonistic and hostile throughout, nothing approaching a ballad comes here as the noise they make shifts more towards metal but without losing their hardcore/punk/grindcore beginnings. 

As soon as I played this record once I wanted to return to it again, hearing raging numbers such as Twist The Blade and heavy groove power on Sun Up To Sun Down just gets you nodding in anticipation and wanting to delve deeper into the lyrics as you get caught up in the experimental sound of the instrumentation. The rhythm section of Casey McHale (drums) and Nathan Pryor (bass), drive both the full on blasters such as the death metal inspired World Ender and the slower numbers like the militaristic We Don’t Need You. Both Justine and Sammy vocally do brilliant work here, Sammy even breaking out some clean crooning on Stand Alone as Justine is just unrepentantly irate. A coming of age for Employed To Serve, Conquer is the start of even bigger things for this Woking five piece. 9/10

Holy Death Trio - Introducing (Ripple Music)

You must be something a little special if you have been handpicked by Ozzy bassist Blasko as the first band he chose as part of his partnership with Ripple Music (although he is also the manager of Black Veil Brides so you could be a little wary). Holy Death Trio are a little special though, this Austin three piece are a modern boogie unit befitting their statesmen Scorpion Child and ZZ Top (R.I.P Dusty). This raw and ready debut, feels vivid and alive, the intro even featuring the band walking to the studio and plugging in before kicking into the country inspired White Betty which does pinch riffs liberally from Ram Jam’s seminal boogie rocker Black Betty, but that is the point. 

It’s a breathless opener, filthy, frothy and brimming with rock n roll attitude, Holy Death Trio set out their stall early as the bastard sons of Sabbath, Hendrix and Grand Funk, John P Rosales (guitar/vocals), Jonathan Gibson (bass) and Trey Alfaro (drums), take no shortcuts on the road to rock n roll stardom. They put in the work with some excellent psych/blues influenced heavy rocking, the choppy punk licks of Bad Vibrations culminating in a wild guitar solo as a cheeky drum fill takes us into the chunky Black Wave. This unity between song transitions feels as if you’re listening to the album as it was recorded, in real time, live in the studio with few overdubs. Producer/engineer Charles Godfrey, there just to try and capture the bands live show on recorded format. 

Get Down brings out the funk, and guarantees that you’ll shake your money-maker to Gibson’s basslines. The Killer rings out with a deviant late night strut, Fishsticks upping the psych quotient and Witchdoctor moving into the echoing doom sound, closing out the record with a controlled savagery and the footsteps of the band leaving the studio after job well done. It’s not often that a debut album makes this sort of impact but Holy Death Trio have set themselves up to be stratospheric. 8/10

Kadabra – Ultra (Heavy Psych Sounds)

The seven tracks on Washington state trio, Kadabra’s debut album are all fuzz drenched, lumbering, riff fests. The guitars of Garrett Zanol are brought alive by the distortion, the bass of Ian Nelson rumbles and rolls, laying down steady grooves with drummer Chase Howard, combining for a heady mix of psych, blues, grunge and doom. The 7 tracks all see to weave into one another, almost like an ouroboros the album feeling as if it has a cyclical nature to it. There is a noticeable similarity between the songs, due to the factors previously mentioned but despite feeling the same, but they are different enough to keep the attention as you hop on board the Kadabra magic bus on its maiden voyage. 

Inspired by the uncertainty of the world and the ever lingering sense of dread that many have been feeling since February 2020, the reverbed vocals of Garrett, having a shamanic, unsettling quality that makes me think of a more downbeat The Sword. Comparisons have been drawn to All Them Witches and on final song Settle Me I can understand why the shift between strutting blues riffs and doom breaks makes for a strong end to a strong album, it even has a fade out again highlighting this idea of the music being a self-repeating journey as the opening stab of Graveyard could have easily come after the final track had faded. Sonic travelling on a psychedelic plain Ultra is a trip into the unknown. 7/10

Little Jimi - The Cantos (Mrs Red Sky) [Matt Bladen]

The Cantos is the second album from Bordeaux fuzz psych trio Little Jimi. Released digitally in August but on LP in September through the label. As you may expect from that spelling of Jimi, they take from numerous 60's bands, but Hendrix, Atomic Rooster and Blue Cheer are all the ones you can hear. Though the name comes from their EP regarding the disturbing adventures of a boy named Jimi. There's Syd Barrett fronted Pink Floyd on the opener First Cantos and across this 6 track effort. The fuzzy 60's style that is on offer is taken further with the progressive stoner sound, which has many of the songs unravelling into big, reverbed riffs that come from two guitar players, ignoring any bass guitar so they rely on both guitars working in a harmonic mind-expanding unison. The atmospheric, slow burning sound on this album is deliberate as thematically The Cantos deals with Homer's Odyssey, and Jimi's extended journeys which is an almost hallucinogenic journey across multiple wonders, the songs on the album shift tonally through space rock, crawling doomscapes and psychedelic wandering making for a transcendental listening experience. 7/10  

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