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Friday 19 November 2021

Reviews: Khemmis, L.A Guns, The Lurking Fear, Dion (Reviews By Richard Oliver & Matt Bladen)

Khemmis - Deceiver (Nuclear Blast) [Richard Oliver]

There are plenty of bands out there at the moment keeping the spirit of traditional metal alive at the moment as well as plenty of bands such as Khemmis who are mixing a traditional heavy metal sound with a doom metal sound. The Colorado band have been making waves since 2012 and with their fourth album Deceiver it may be more of the same but it sounds absolutely glorious.

Khemmis have a vast sound that incorporates doom-laden riffs and forlorn melodies with a huge cinematic trad-metal scope. The album is made up of six songs that are as equally bleak as they are vibrant and epic. The riffs are crushing such as on the monstrous House Of Cadmus and Living Pyre whilst traditional metal gallops and some punchy riffing make their way onto the huge Avernal Gate and The Astral Road though the highlight for me was the mournful Shroud Of Lethe which is the most doom-laden song on the album with hefty amounts of emotion throughout before things get really heavy and with the aid of some effective harsh vocals bring the song to a suitably savage conclusion. 
The vocals from guitarists Ben Hutcherson and Phil Pendergast are hugely melodic and righteously uplifting despite the gloomy nature of the music giving this band an ‘epic doom’ feel at times. The inclusion of harsh vocals dotted throughout the album help give it a bit of a gnarly edge as well.

Deceiver is another fine album from Khemmis. The band know their sound and their audience and don’t stray from what they have done before but Deceiver is just a fine tuning of what Khemmis do best. It doesn’t offer anything new but what it does offer is 45 minutes of glorious doomy heavy metal. 8/10

L.A Guns – Checkered Past (Frontiers Music Srl) [Matt Bladen]

Since Tracii Guns and Phil Lewis, reunited under just one L.A Guns banner, they have been producing some darker edged, swaggering hard rock records. Re-discovering that danger they had back in the early 80’s, a style that inspired pretty much the entire Sunset Strip scene. Recorded in the midst of the pandemic, Guns, Lewis, Johnny Martin (bass), Scot Coogan (drums) and Ace Von Johnson (guitar) set to capturing their blues infused sleazy hard rock yet again, and while the world was in turmoil they kept their heads and kicked out the jams ready for their return to the live stage.

What we get from these sessions is Checkered Past, a collection of punchy rock songs and introspective ballads, its Guns/Lewis writing partnership in full flight. Living Right Now is chugging punk rocker, Better Than You moves towards thrash, Cannonball an ideal propulsive opener, Get Along and If It’s Over Now meanwhile are slower numbers the first a country ballad, the second a more dramatic love/loss song that feels a little like Alice Cooper. It’s clear to see why L.A Guns are considered by some to be the unsung heroes of the Glam/Sleaze style, and while bands like G’N’R, Poison etc went on to super stardom L.A Guns has certain internal struggles that thankfully have been resolved as the band have never been better.

Comfortably slipping into their underground legends persona by relentless touring and producing albums that hark back to their glory days but also add modern flourishes that understand the changing music industry. Without the name attached, L.A Guns would be considered to be bright new thing as their style is very much in vogue again, as it stands they are still showing people how it’s done in this delight for those that much prefer that danger filled early sleaze/glam sound. 7/10

The Lurking Fear - Death, Madness, Horror, Decay (Century Media Records) [Richard Oliver]

There is an overabundance of young bands emulating that old school death metal sound of late and whilst a lot of those bands are absolutely fantastic it is always good to hear something from those who grew up in the scene. The Lurking Fear was formed in 2016 as a side-project for old school death metal buddies but soon became a lauded band in their own right after the release of their debut album Out Of The Voiceless Grave in 2017. With everything put on hold during the pandemic for not only The Lurking Fear but the main bands of the members involved it afforded them the time to write and record a follow up which we have with the suitably savage Death, Madness, Horror, Decay.

The Lurking Fear are seen as a supergroup as they feature members from many prominent extreme metal bands such as Tomas Lindberg on vocals (At The Gates, Lock Up), Jonas Stålhammar (At The Gates, God Macabre) and Fredrik Wallenberg (Skitsystem) on guitars, Andreas Axelsson (Tormented) on bass and Adrian Erlandsson (At The Gates, The Haunted) on drums. Their combined old school death metal knowledge and expertise results in a ferocious beast of an album with Death, Madness, Horror, Decay

The album mixes short, sharp and savage blasts of fast-paced extremity such as Abyssal Slime, Ageless Evil and Restless Death with more measured, slightly doom-laden slabs of meaty metal goodness such as Funeral Abyss, In A Thousand Horrors Crowned and the title track. The most unusual song is Kaleidoscopic Mutations which is very discordant and features the mighty Chris Reinert (Autopsy) on guest vocals. A lot of these songs are short and to the point wasting no time and never sticking around longer than they need to which can be a good thing but also means some songs are over before you know it.

Death, Madness, Horror, Decay is a fantastic second album for The Lurking Fear. It is a step up from the debut and feels like a far more cohesive, well-rounded and savage album. With three members of At The Gates in their ranks you would think there would be similarities in sound but The Lurking Fear is very much old school death metal with very little in the way of melodic. A fantastically gnarly album featuring some legendary Swedish extreme metal talent. 8/10

Dion - Stomping Ground (KTBA Records) [Matt Bladen]

Another release on Joe Bonamassa’s KTBA Records label, another guest appearance, on the track Take It Back, but this time it’s for an artist who is a bit of an American R&B/Blues institution. Having fronted teen-idols The Belmonts back in the pre-British Invasion, Dion Francis DiMucci or just Dion has been recording since the 60’s with his most recent output sitting very deeply in the blues attracting the attention of Joey Bones who has made sure to release this album on his and Roy Weisman’s label. Dion is one of those industry legends that can be seen as a musician’s musician, so it’s no surprise that in addition to having a musical, called The Wanderer, written about his life, this record also features liner notes by Pete Townsend. 

Now unusually due to Dion’s standing amongst musicians Townsend is not even the most high profile guest on this record. Continuing the theme of his previous release Blues With Friends, Dion has enlisted some of the best and brightest to feature on this record. Co-written with long time writing partner Mike Aquilina and co-produced with Wayne Hood. From that unmistakable guitar playing of Mark Knopfler on Dancing Girl, to the boogie of Billy Gibbons on My Stomping Ground, there’s a plethora of names here as Eric Clapton (though he recently has attracted attention for things other than his music) and Peter Frampton make a mark on If You Wanna Rock N Roll and There Was A Time. As do Patti Scialfa and Bruce Springsteen on the gospel western flavoured Angel In The Alleyway

Dion’s voice is masterfully rich and has crooning, aged quality to it, when it works in tandem with artists such as Boz Scaggs, there’s a real full bodied style to his delivery, that comes from a long career. The albums only cover is Hendrix’s Red House featuring Keb’ Mo’ continuing a theme of Dion covering Hendrix. Stomping Ground is an enjoyable straight blues release with a star studded line up, highlighting why Dion is held in high regard by musicians and music lovers alike. 7/10

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