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Thursday 25 November 2021

Reviews: Imperial Triumphant, The Tea Party, Crooked Shapes, Pale Wizard Records (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Imperial Triumphant - An Evening With Imperial Triumphant (Century Media)

Having released their last opus Alphaville last year Imperial Triumphant confidently strode into a division of one. Fiercely heavy, brainbrekaingly complex and as experimental as a High School Chemistry lab, the band combine the explosive aggression of black/death metal with numerous other styles such as jazz, avant garde, electronica and so on. So with Alphaville staying in the mind for a good while, it's deep into the cavernous Big apple we go for this new live release. An Evening With Imperial Triumphant, now it's only 8 tracks but so many of them are sprawling, musical explorations so we get about 40+ minutes of music on this record as the mysterious band perform selections from Alphaville and earlier albums at the Slipper Room, a variety theater in Manhattan. It's telling that their last album featured collaborations with members of Mr Bungle as Imperial Triumphant often reach that same class of "what the hell is going on?" 

They are able to translate this wildly inventive sound to the live arena, tracks such as Atomic Age are evidence of what the band do brilliantly shifting its focus several times, keeping it extremely heavy throughout they also rely heavily of quirky rhythms, tonnes of effects and percussion that is hypnotic. Chernobyl Blues follows bringing a painful industrial soundscape, that quickly shifts into a sparse main body. There's so much technical skill here it's hard to believe that they are a three piece, but anyone who watched them at Damnation in 2019 will realise that they are a multifaceted trio of musicians, applying some late night sax on Cosmopolis as Alphaville really fries the brain cells. I can understand that for some Imperial Triumphant may be a little too experimental but this live record is a good place to start if you want to enter into their chaotic world. 8/10  

The Tea Party – Blood Moon Rising (InsideOut Records)

The Tea Party return with the first album since 2014 and it’s a record that has been worked on over the past five years, tracked in numerous places as the band were scattered to the four winds, indulging in other projects and touring, however just in time for their 30th anniversary they have released Blood Moon Rising, their ninth full length which couples their Black River EP with new songs, fleshing it out into an album. Now I love The Tea Party, I’m a fan of the Canadian trio’s ‘Moroccan Roll’ which brings North African/Middle Eastern flavours to sturdy, multi-instrumental progressive rock style, however I do find this record a little disjointed. Perhaps it’s due to the laboured creative period around it but, it never quite grabs you as a cohesive album. 

There are three covers (two bonus, one in the album track list) which are frankly not needed, though their version of Zep’s Out On The Tiles is the best of the bunch, the Zep doesn’t stop there though as Black River feels like it could be from Houses Of The Holy or Physical Graffiti, the throbbing blues riff, mandolin breaks and lots of groove, capped off by Jeff Martin’s unmistakable baritone vocal. The tracks that featured on the Black River EP are all set in the British blues rock sound of bands like Zep, Free etc. If I’m honest they are the better offerings here as well, but nothing on the album is bad, it just feels as if they are going through the motions a little, adding a few extra tracks to a record that already exists, because of their inability to tour. 

Anything Jeff Martin (vocals/guitar), Stuart Chatwood (bass/keys) and Jeff Burrows (drums) put their mark on is invariably, richly musical and full of little nuances of technicality hidden behind accessibility, but this release is them going through the motions a little. 6/10

Crooked Shapes - Crooked Shapes (Self Released)

The self titled debut album from Crooked Shapes is a mix of classic hard rock and alternative rock, drawing influence from Soundgarden and Alice In Chains but also bands such as Raveneye and SKAM who as a three piece comprised of George Twydell (guitar/vocals), George 'Ivesy' Ives (bass) and Craig Carlaw (drums), they sound the most like. Grungy riffs on the instrumental title track, sit side by side with pacier groovers like Fire and the more doomy feel of Chains In My Mind, giving Crooked Shapes a breadth of sound, while never straying too far from the alt-rock template they established on previous releases. 

Having been around since 2018 and released an EP in 2019, this debut album builds upon this adding a wider sound as I've mentioned, with radio ready melodies on Fallout and Rise Again, you may think that this record was happy go lucky but much of it deals with mental health and their own struggles, the band wearing their hearts on their sleeve and channeling their issues through some hard hitting power trio rocking. Lots of power and panache on this debut offering, stand this Reading trio in good stead going forward. Crooked Shapes is a off-kilter rock treat that will garner the band lots of fans. 7/10    

Pale Wizard Records - 50 Years Of Killer (Pale Wizard Records)

Released on 27th November 1971 Alice Cooper's fourth album Killers, it was the making of the band and essentially began the rise of Vincent Furnier into the rock n roll legend he is today. It was the first record to feature the theatrical schlock n roll style that Coope would take to the nth degree after the collapse of the Alice Cooper Band. To celebrate this milestone, Pale Wizard Records have put together an album that serves as tribute to both Killers and Cooper beyond. Handpicked by the staff at Pale Wizard, 50 Years Of Killer is 8 tracks from the original album along with four Cooper covers performed by some of the best and brightest of stoner, psych and doom. 

The album tracks are basically in the same order as they are on the album Under My Wheels gets us started with the occult masters Green Lung, getting the boogie riff going with some harmonic guitars and organs. All the songs stick close enough to the originals to be a homage but are filtered through each individual band's own style, after the organ drenched Under My Wheels, The Grand Mal swagger through a distorted version of Be My Lover, while Sergeant Thunderhoof adding their trippy psych stylings to Halo Of Flies making it more mind bending than the original. From here Ritual King up the atmospherics on an echoing doom version of Desperado while 1968 and Mos Generator (no strangers to an obscure cover themselves) built up the fuzz layers for You Drive Me Nervous and bring that swirling sound to Dead Babies, as Trippy Wicked slows and thunders on on Yeah Yeah Yeah

The final album track is of course Killer which here is given a Two Tonne Fuckboot by Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, and actually is the closest to the sleazy original track. As for the covers. A great reinterpretation of the (majority) of the album with the bands all adding their own style to it as for the bonus tracks they are all Cooper classics Swansea's Suns Of Thunder smashing out Billion Dollar Babies utilising dual riffs and vocals, Possessor beat the heck out of the punky Muscle Of Love, as Sound Of Origin have a broken down Sick Things into a punishing doom track. The last cover is stoner rockers Alunah putting their own slant on I'm Eighteen and doing it much better than both Anthrax and Creed! It's a triumphant tribute to one of the most influential Alice albums and the Cooper Band days. Kudos to Pale Wizard Records on what apparently is the first of such releases  8/10

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