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Friday 1 July 2022

Reviews: Righteous Fool, Paganizer, Howling Wolves, Theodicy (Reviews By Rich P & Matt Cook)

Righteous Fool - Righteous Fool (Ripple Music) [Rich P]

The long-lost self-titled debut from Corrosion Of Conformity offshoot Righteous Fool has found a home on Ripple Music, who are finally unleashing this beast upon the world. The songs on Righteous Fool date back as far as 2009 and the release of the record in 2022 is a fitting goodbye to the late COC/RF drummer Reed Mullin who founded the band and even sings on a track. Rounded out Mike Dean of COC fame and Jason Browning (who played guitar with H.H. of Bad Brains fame), given the players here you have some idea of what’s in store, but be prepared to be floored by the finished product. 

Obviously, you are getting some serious COC vibes, like a combination of the early stuff and the more recent stoner side of the band. But this is way more then just a sound-alike side project. This record rips. COC has become a slickly produced band at this point (which I love), where Righteous Fool has some grime to them. This sounds more like the old COC stuff production wise, which to me is a very goods thing. But let’s stop with the COC comparisons because this album stands tall on its own. Starting with the opening instrumental intro, Enter The Fool, you get bluesy stoner riffs in your face with the drums turned up a bit to really experience what Reed could do on the skins. I love the drum sound on this record. Asteroid is a ripper that is two minutes of pure old school punk energy but with plenty of riffs and quite the crunch to it. The track Shifty brings more riffs and a frantic solo partnered with Mullin’s killer drumming. Forever Flames is one of the songs that could have been on one of the bluesier COC offerings. 

Next is an excellent rendition of The Green Manalishi that I would put next to any of the covers of it that are out there with RF making it even chunkier and darker. The second half of this record is even better than the first, which is saying something, starting with Hard Time Killing Floor, which may be my favorite track, offering some serious bluesy riffage and almost sounds like a Masters Of Reality (the band) demo at some points. Heavy Is The Head is another standout track with some serious riffage and one that I could see the other band have in their setlist for sure. Edict Of Worms is both heavy, bluesy, and catchy with a chorus that sticks with you while the Mullin’s sung Low Blow has a killer riff and a great vocal performance (“Stop the enemy of the state!!!” he screams). Awesome. The close Vortex is RF’s attempting and succeeding at Sabbath worship. Great closer. 

Regardless of when this was recorded or if it should be considered for album of the year lists, the Righteous Fool record is straight up fire. I love the way this record sounds, and the playing is just top notch, especially the drum work. This will be one of the top releases of the year and anyone who remotely enjoys COC, bluesy riff rock, or anything remotely like that needs to check this out. I wish they could have a follow up, but we will just have to enjoy this and remember Reed though it. 9/10

Paganizer – Beyond The Macabre (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Matt Cook]

Take old school death metal grotesquery and mash it up with a healthy serving of melodic death metal vocals circa mid-2000s and you’ll be left with Paganizer. Beyond The Macabre can stand as both a pummeling crusade or a Smorgasbord of artistic expression. The drumming is guiding, laid down emphatically with a take-no-prisoners mantra. The riffs are spot-on in that they don’t overcompensate. The interplay felt between lead guitarist Kjetil Lynghaug and drummer Matthias Fiebig is blindingly obvious and laughably astute. This can be heard particularly so on the titular song but also throughout the entire record. 

Lone remaining original member and front man Rogga Johansson is sinister and remorseless. Standout Left Behind To Rot cuts to the bone. Burly, chafed vocals amplify the powerful track. As an aside here, humor yourself and look at the Metal Archives page for Paganizer and all the acts Johansson is associated with. Come back to this in about 45 minutes when you’re done perusing. The solo for Raving Rhymes Of Rot is pleasing in its ambidexterity. Dove-tailing from clean to heavy and vice versa, Lynghaug pens a riveting display. Oh, and the chugs found on Menschenfresser are unapologetically obese. Unpeaceful End’ sticks out like a delectable sore thumb, a sloggy, grimy affair. 

Finally, Fiebig operates the kit in a way that morphs the drum slams into shoes tumbling in a clothes dryer. Either way you approach Beyond – as background music or a case study on modern metal – Paganizer have asserted themselves as a formidable band. Formidable and fucking relentless. 8/10

Howling Wolves - As Above So Below (Karma Conspiracy Records) [Rich P]

The boys from Berlin’s Howling Wolves all come from a hardcore punk background, and this shines through on their new record, As Above So Below. While their promo material cleverly calls them SabbathPunk, I would say this leans way more on the punk side, almost more crossover thrash at times then the doomy stoner side of the coin. There are aspects of heavy grunge and some stoner vibes, but this is way more hardcore punk record than something you would hear next to a playlist with Kyuss and Fu Manchu. 

That being said, the hardcore side of Howling Wolves is done very well, outlined in such tracks as the opener World Of Doubts and the closer and D.I.E. (“they’re poisoning our food” is some serious early 90 HC stuff right there). Eye Of The Storm leans more towards the stoner/grunge side but still has that hardcore vibe which is very present especially in the vocal stylings. It reminds me of the bands on 90s hardcore label Revelation Records (a compliment for sure). 

More Hardcore goodness from the song Bad Company with a slower hardcore chug and those vocals and lyrics that scream 90s’s hardcore. Gorilla Biscuits vibes shine though on this track. I can hear CiV singing this song. Human Error is the most Sabbathy track, at least the opening of the track with some riffs, but again leans way into the punk/hardcore side of the coin. I hear Danzig like vocals, but when he tries to sing in a higher octave. 

The closer, D.I.E., is my favorite track on the record. Both catchy and angry, this is the track that outlines what As Above So Below brings to the table. And what Howling Wolves brings to the table is some excellent hardcore with grungy/stoner vibes sprinkled in here and there to make for an nice combination. But make no mistake, this record is more hardcore/crossover than anything else. Ignore the SabbathPunk label and enjoy this for what it is. Check it out. 7/10

Theodicy – Torture Of Industry (Self Released) [Matt Cook]

Forgive me ahead of time, but let’s quickly talk golf. You know that insufferable bloke who takes an ungodly amount of time to tee up his first shot? Futzes around with his shirt one-too many times and takes a half-dozen breaths before swinging? But when he finally makes contact, the ball travels 300 yards and lands on the green perfectly aligned with the hole? That’s what Theodicy did in music form. 

Minus the annoyance, the German veterans of groovy death metal created a thoughtful, empowered and poised record that features a full dozen tracks that are all so joyous to consume and certainly worth the time to sift through it all. Nothing is half-assed, and it’s dripping with a veneer of perfectionism that is masked by a confidence crafted behind a whopping quarter-century of experience. Even aside from the tantalizingly exceptional brand of metal (more on that in a bit), Torture Of Industry is teeming with anti-social media themes that put Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg through the absolute ringer before defecating on the conglomerate (Comment And Conquer). The title song captures the essence of the sad existence we all seemingly get sucked into; a flurry of social-media alerts chips away at the listener’s already-tainted psyche. The real selling point is the visceral vocals tag-teaming with stiff, complementary drumming. 

From Alive To Skeleton bludgeons you with an imposing riff which slams your head against a brick wall. The soloing is even done atop penetrating percussion which makes for a sultry showcase. The groove which is the driving force of Torture… never overstays its welcome or yucks the yum. To further the golf metaphor, it’s the caddy that knows when you’re on a hot streak and keeps back, out of sight and ear shot. The caddy that simply hands you the tools knowing full well the illustrious artwork you’re about to masterfully craft. 9/10

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