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Tuesday 1 February 2022

Reviews: Eric Gales, Last Ten Seconds Of Life, Hazemaze, Giant (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Zak Skane, Rich P & Alexander Hay)

Eric Gales – Crown (Provogue/Mascot Records) [Matt Bladen]

Eric Gales isn’t taking it any more, no longer standing in the shadows, he’s here to take his throne as the premier blues rocker around. Crown is his manifesto, a clarion call to the disenfranchised and the put upon not to fight back! Delivered with some mean guitar slinging and soulful personal lyrics, this is a 15 song record sequenced almost as a live set list to bring Gales into the upper echelon. 

The first few tracks set the pace and tone, Death Of Me is about going back in time to deal with his substance abuse it’s a big rocker to start while The Storm is aimed at racists everywhere, written just after the death of George Floyd, it’s delivered with thundering blues power. I Want My Crown is a tongue in cheek shot at anyone that tries to deny Eric Gales’ place at the head of the table, including album producer (along with Josh Smith) Joe Bonamassa who duels with Gales in the explosive finale of the song. 

The album marks Eric being five years sober and the record is used to document his new found creative vigour and his desire to make positive changes with his most confrontational music yet. Having been fighting his way up the mountain for 30 years (since the age of 16) Crown is where Gales has been aiming for, having overcome great personal difficulties, including a stint in jail in 2009, (documented in You Don’t Know The Blues) there’s optimism running through the record but also a retrospective look at how far he has come. His resurgence aided by the blues fairy godfather himself Joe Bonamassa who invited him to play on his blues cruise reminding everyone there why the two men are the top echelon. 

There are three instrumental interludes that as I’ve said make this album sound like a live set, making the transitions between the sections smooth and seamless. This live set feel is enhanced by the self-introduction at the beginning and the closing ‘go home’ number I Gotta Go, where the band are introduced. 

On the final part of the album there are at least four tracks that are essentially tributes to Gales’ wife/backing singer/manager LaDonna the poignant I Found Her being the pick of the bunch though Take Me Just As I Am being a riot as she takes lead vocals. Crown is Gales returning from as low as you can go with some of the best music of his career. Put respect on his name as this is blues rock album of the year! 9/10

The Last Ten Seconds Of Life - Self Titled (Unique Leader Records) [Zak Skane]

The Last Ten Seconds Of Life have solidified their mark in the deathcore/beatdown community since their 2015 release Soulless Hymns. Since then the band has had a few line up changes and a few other albums released; The Violent Sound in 2016 and Machina Non Grata in 2019. 2022 brings the bands magnum opus full length self titled. 

Opening with Invictus Unto The Fire, it's combination of razor sharp precise drum fills and baritone-registered chugs it will really grab the most weak willed attention. Vocalist John Robert Centerrino sounds brutish as ever, mixing modern death metal vocal techniques with classic southern tinged harsh vocals makes him one of the most underrated vocalist in the game. The musical marriage between Wyatt Mclaughlin’s guitar parts and Steven Sanchez’s drum grooves are an unstoppable force especially with songs like Zapffa Isn’t Invited To The Party, The Sabbath and Birth Of A Butcher

Wyatt Mclaughlin’s guitar solos sound more confident than ever on songs like Birth Of A Butcher and Altar Of Poison putting his influences on his sleeve from bands like Alice In Chains and Pantera. This album shows the band stemming out of the classic deathcore formula by adding different sounds and sections like for example Altar Of Poison’s stoner jam in the middle and the spacy effects of Hate What You Love

In conclusion I really enjoyed this album. The guitars and the rhythm section on this album sound crushing, Johns vocals sound iconic with his mix of modern but yet classic with sounding like Hernan Hermida from Suicide Silence with providing the low gutturals to having the southern attitude and bark of the likes Phil Anselmo. The only concerns that some of the experimental moments can put some of the traditional deathcore fans off on first listen, especially with tracks like Vampire and Glory Be 2 Misery. 8/10.

Hazemaze: Blinded By The Wicked (Heavy Psych Sounds) [Rich P]

There are a ton of bands who practice Sabbath worship in the stoner/doom genre today, with varying degrees of success. Hazemaze is a proud member of the congregation, proudly waving the flag of Iommi unapologetically (they have a Sabbath covers EP called The Paranoid Sessions, so…). On their third full length, Blinded By The Wicked, the Stockholm based three piece proves that they are one of, if not the leader of this particular pack with their debut on Heavy Psych Sounds. 

Don’t get me wrong; Hazemaze are in no way a Sabbath rip off. They leverage the best of what they love, it just so happens they REALLY love Black Sabbath. But to continue to compare the to THE classic metal band is lazy, but it is hard not to. Hazemaze brings their own evil concoction of riffage to produce an excellent record, led by tracks like Devil’s Spawn, that brings the crunchy evil you come to expect from the band. The instrumental interlude Sectatores Et Principes (try to not hear Planet Caravan) leads into my favorite track on the album, Ceremonial Aspersion, that delivers not only the doomy riffage, but some well place, creepy keys that I personally love when used correctly. 

Another standout is the closing track, Malevolent Inveigler, where you get the heavy riffs but some harmonizing vocals that you never heard from Mr. Osbourne. There is no filler on the eight tracks on Blinded By The Wicked; the album flows beautifully and never out stays its welcome. Speaking of lead singers, I really enjoy the vocal stylings of Ludvig Andersson; he is never trying to be anything more than he is: a riff machine communicating his evil doctrine in his vocal style, never trying to do more than that. 

I think this is why bands who worship Sabbath get a way with it more than bands who worship Zeppelin. You can sing in your personal style with the former and tend to sound like a cheap imitation many times with the latter. Hazemaze once again hit it out of the park. The songs, the vocals, the production, and the riffage are all top notch. If you are a fan of the band, you get more of what you expect and love. If you are unfamiliar with them but love the genre, you must check out Hazemaze. Blinded By The Wicked will for sure appear on my end of the year list, highly recommended. 8/10

Giant – Shifting Time (Frontiers Records Srl) [Alexander Hay]

As logos go, the one for Giant, a veteran US melodic rock band, takes some beating. All present and correct on the cover of new album, Shifting Time, it looms, huge, gold and bronze over the head of a tiny figure dangling his legs off a cliff. You can't really mistake it for being anything other than it is. Which is to say, loud and very 1980s. "HELLO!!!" it bellows. "I'M A MELODIC ROCK ALBUM! ABANDON ALL SUBTLETY THEE WHO ENTER HERE!!!" 

The ensuing twelve tracks are... fun. They're well arranged, performed and, if not world-beating, then certainly a good listen if you're not being too discriminating. You can play pool to It's Not Over, knock back a bourbon and cola to Don't Say A Word, and fail miserably to chat up the woman in a Poison t-shirt to Don't Wanna Lose You. It succeeds by being what you expect, and in a reliable fashion. Sadly, Shifting Time came out on the same day that a certain Meatloaf died, and with appalling timing, it shows why the album stalls somewhat. 

Meatloaf was put on this earth to remind us that rock shouldn't just be workmanlike and reasonably OK-ish. It needs to also consist of a plainly mad, fat, sweaty Texan roaring his lungs out about the sort of love which ruins your life, but by gosh, you want it so hard, like sandpaper to the heart. Listening to one on the laptop and the other on the radio at the same time brings both into stark relief. And that's why Shifting Time slightly falls short. It's just not deranged enough to rock out the way it needs to. 7/10

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