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Wednesday 17 November 2021

Reviews: Wolfmother, When Rivers Meet, Black Soul Horde, W.E.B (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Wolfmother – Rock Out (Self Released)

“No label, no distributor, no manager” this is where Wolfmother find themselves in 2021. However Andrew Stockdale, who really is Wolfmother, has managed to release the bands sixth full album without any of those things, released through Discogs, Rock Out is another selection of big classic guitar anthems with Stockdale’s fuzzy vocals over the top. A real D.I.Y effort, due mainly to the multiple harsh lockdowns that were enforced in Australia, Rock Out has Stockdale playing everything except for drums, which are handled by Wolfmother drummer Hamish Rosser. On two of the tracks Alexx McConnell plays bass while the record was engineered by Cameron Lockwood while Paul Pilsneniks mixed the track Humble

That’s basically it in terms of the recording line up but what you get is a swaggering rock album that also moves into some psych/folk and Americana. What is evident is the sense of humility that the album portrays, tracks such as Humble and Ego both allude to Stockdale feeling a little washed up in the eyes of the media, due to the past glories. However it is upbeat and features a few nods to other bands such as Kiss on the title track, Oasis on Outside, some glam stomping on Upload and Ozzy on Humble, with Metal & Fire feeling like Wishbone Ash. Despite being slightly different, independent release, Rock Out retains the quality I’d expect from Stockdale, he quite clearly no longer bothers about recapturing past glories content with cranking out great rock songs for himself and the hardcore fans of the band, you know, like me. 8/10

When Rivers Meet - Saving Grace (One Road Records)

Following up their critically acclaimed debut album was never going to be much of an issues for husband and wife duo When Rivers Meet. They are clearly on a creative hot streak that has seen them release an album just a year after their previous debut full length We Fly Free. They were, against all odds able to tour that record heading out with King King last month in preparation for this albums release, but the beginnings of this album start not long after the release of the last one. 

Grace (lead vocals, mandolin, violin) and Aaron Bond (guitar, vocals) capitalised on the creative flow of their debut to dive right back into recording, making sure that this record not only retained the sonic step up of their debut (they released two EP's before that) but also had a more upbeat, rockier feel to make both records distinctive from each other while also retaining the core sound of When Rivers Meet. Much of that core sound comes from producer Adam Bowers who not only produced the record but basically played everything the duo didn't including bass, drums, keys and anything else that may be laying around the studio! (Including the tried and tested Hammond Organ) 

This trio have a tried and tested working method creating these songs in the studio from little riffs or melodies until the become fully formed ready to be refined. It's evident that these creative sessions have produced a much louder, more dynamic approach from When Rivers Meet as their first album was great, it sat very firmly in the blues, on Saving Grace they amp up the classic rock paying homage to Free, The Black Crowes and even Zeppelin (He'll Drive You Crazy), throwing in echo, feedback and numerous other authentic sounds to make this album feel more akin to a classic rock band than a traditional blues one. 

The idea is helped by Aaron's smoky vocals and reckless guitar playing, inspired by the blues legends but also Page and Kossoff, while Grace has the voice of a southern preachers daughter, but it so easily morphs into one of a hell raising Jezebel, that you'll get this delicious duality between the two depending on the nature of the track, Eye Of The Hurricane demonstrates this very well. Saving Grace retains the quality of We Fly Free but focusses it differently to achieve another swaggering, delicious modern blues rock record that continues When Rivers Meet's ascent to the top. 8/10

Black Soul Horde - Horrors From The Void (Self Released)

Black Soul Horde hail from Greece and they are what would happen if Iron Maiden read far too much H.P Lovecraft and started writing songs about unrelenting horror and monstrous creatures from the void. Black Soul Horde is basically a project for John Tsiakopoulos and Jim Kotsis, the duo have crafted two albums and an EP so far in their career with Horrors From The Void being that third full length. It's probably their darkest offering too, the occult/horror themes are writ large over this NWOTHM/Speed metal sound of this album. In terms of organisation on the playing, Tsiakopoulos handles guitar, bass and produces the record, while Jim Kotsis' vocals are sneering and come into the Rob Halford style at times with a bit of King Diamond in there as well, relying on some growls on the galloping Blinding Void

The lyrics take inspiration from Lovecraft, Robert E Howard and dark fantasy while the music sits comfortably in classic metal sound, with a lot of dual leads and anthemic choruses, Costas Papaspyrou giving the guitar solos while Vasilis Nanos plays the drums . On a track like the moody Malediction Of The Dead they move away from the bluster of Lair Of The Wolf or God Of War but either side of their style is impressive if classic heavy metal is your thing. Malediction Of The Dead is their moodiest track coming out like one of those dramatic Maiden epics positioned right in the middle of the album in an ideal bit of pacing that leads to more speedy heavy metal before The Betrayal Of The King yet more cinematics and time signature switches. This third record is the culmination of Black Soul Horde's career so far and it is dripping in monstrous metal mayhem. 8/10    

W.E.B - Colosseum (Metal Blade Records)

Forging together as a coven in 2002 Athens based W.E.B have been forging their dark path since then, their previous four albums have seen them build upon their symphonic extreme metal sound, but on this fifth album they have tried to keep things as simple as possible, not simple in terms of composition but made to be direct and not linger too much on atmospherics. There are of course lots of symphonics which are a key element of the W.E.B sound much like they are for bands such as Fleshgod Apocalypse, Cradle Of Filth and fellow Greeks Septicflesh, in fact Christos Antoniou handles all of the orchestrations here as he does for his brother Spiros' band (Septicflesh). The title track encapsulates this fusion of blistering extreme metal and symphonic elements with swelling strings in unison with the blasting heaviness.  

This change to a more direct, aggressive sound, one that is brought in by Dark Web, a track that establishes this more aggressive offering. The more focussed rage of W.E.B from the addition of a new rhythm section that features the explosive percussion of drummer Nikitas Mandolas and the multifaceted contribution of bassist/vocalist Hel Pyre, who brought bass, lyrics and clean/harsh vocals to this records. This is the first album that both feature on and they are very much make their mark upping the heaviness on tracks such as Exaudi Luciferi while they attempt to bring the spectacle of the colosseum on the Pentalpha which has a repeating Satanic incantation that I'm sure the Orthodox Church will love. 

At just 38 minutes in length Colosseum doesn't hang around but manages to pack in plenty of musical muscle, Exsanguinated for example puts crushing death metal together with Middle Eastern flavouring as December 13 ups the heavy quotient again with this chanting final instrumental. Still led by vocalist/guitarist Sakis Prekas who retains the lead guitars of Sextus A. Maximus, Colosseum is another substantial feast from W.E.B. 8/10

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