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Friday, 5 August 2022

Reviews: Early Moods, Alan Parsons, Basalt Shrine, Planet Of The 8's & Duneeater (Reviews By Rich P & David Karpel)

Early Moods - Early Moods (Riding Easy Records) [Rich P]

The term “Sabbath Worship” gets thrown around a lot these days. Hell, even the record label for which the debut full-length self-titled album from Early Moods, Riding Easy Records, has a ton of merch with that phrase emblazoned on t-shirts, hats, mugs, bongs, and anything else where the two words can fit. But like some words and phrases that started out as a positive and now are being used to shame people (see: woke), is Sabbath Worship just a way to say a band is rip off the purveyors of a genre or is it that they are paying homage by incorporating their own style with the best of what the innovators did throughout the 70s and beyond? I think the answer is, like in many cases, it depends. Some bands just think they can throw a riff out there and tune down and now they should be considered in the conversation. 

Early Moods is not that. They are no cheap imitation. While they may on the surface look like they could be (album cover: check. Lots of hair: check. Wardrobe choices; check. Lyrical themes and doomy song titles: check) there is a lot more to these guys. Yes, they check all the boxes, but these guys do what they do better than almost any of the bands playing this style today. The result is an amazing debut and an album of the year candidate. Some highlights include the first track, Return To Salem’s Gate (witch theme: check) which is a proto ripper that is the perfect opener for this blast back in time. It leads us to the riff-tastic Live To Suffer (pain title: check), which is right in that Sabbath Worship wheelhouse, with a hallmark tempo change and Iommi inspired guitar work (that solo: check) for sure. I do love when a band name, album title, and a song title converge (and done on their debut: check), but it needs to live up to that trifecta of awesome, and the track Early Moods certainly does. Doomy opening, killer riff, awesome solo, Dio era Sabbath vibes, just excellent stuff. 

You get zero filler on Early Moods, including the proto/doom ripper of Broken (spoken word evilness: check), the lumbering doomy riffage of Funeral Rites, the up-tempo doomy goodness with some Trouble vibes and some sweet cowbell from Curse Of The Light, the Candlemass inspired Damnation (riffs for days: check), and the evil riffage of the closer, Funeral Macabre (using “funeral” and “Macabre in song titles: check) , the most sabbathy/doomy track on the whole the record. In addition to the amazing songs, this album is produced perfectly for the vibes generated. The record just sounds excellent. There is no posing or pretending here. These guys live up to Sabbath Worship in all the right ways. There is no shame in wearing that label on your sleeve when what you are doing is pure and executed flawlessly. If you love the proto/Sabbath/70s vibes and want the best of the best who are doing it today, this is the album for you. Go kneel at the altar of Early Moods. 9/10

Alan Parsons - From The New World (Frontiers Music Srl) [David Karpel]

In his book Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils and Rewards of Artmaking, author David Bayles points out that for an artist "craft is the vehicle for expressing your vision. Craft is the visible edge of art.” This idea comes to mind listening to Alan Parsons’ latest, From The New World, a slick ship for craft if there ever was one. When it comes to shaping the formless idea into the form of song, his edge is crystal clear: supremely palatable, pleasantly enjoyable, and as soft as a tee shirt bought at an Alan Parsons Project performance with Kansas at the Greek Theater in LA circa 1995. If you’re reading this blog, it’s not likely you’ve been tracking Parsons’ career and I won’t bother you with all of the details. His resume is extensive, shows a great amount of success, and has garnered him the respect of long-time fans and fellow musicians alike. 

As with most of his work, From The New World is a group effort with him at the helm of the vessel giving everything shape, mission, and tone. The cleanest, prettiest strumming heard in a long time opens the album with the sentimental Fare The Well. Those who appreciate studio craftsmanship and solid songwriting will want to stick around for more, though, so don’t take the title’s suggestion to heart. Interesting to start an album with a goodbye, though. The 8 songs that follow stand out for the emotional depth and polished production level that range the genres of rock from folk to Beatles pop. But to name an album From The New World and sequence the songs to conclude with two covers is a wild move. While Goin’ Home is deeply expressive, it is a heavily theatrical song and falls out of place here.

A faithful cover of the Ronettes’ Be My Baby is cute and seems to harangue the listener with the obvious: even in the new world, some tunes are timeless. We get it. Parsons is a legend. That he continues to write, compose, and produce music into his 70s is something many artists wish to do: play on, play on until the end. No doubt there’s still an audience for Parsons’ palette of tunes. From The New World shows an artist still absorbed in the minutiae of his craft, creating songs anyone can listen to this late into a full life and for that alone, Parsons deserves props. 7/10

Basalt Shrine - From Fiery Tongues (Electric Talon Records) [David Karpel]

From the Philippines, post-metal, sludge-crusted Basalt Shrine burn a unique and grippingly heavy sound. Composed of scene stalwarts, the band wrote, recorded, and produced their intense debut From Fiery Tongues, and it’s worth checking out if listening to messages from the the crumbling tombs of the long-dead is your cup of tea. Discordant doom drops from the first note of Adorned For Loathing, with an element of Unsane in the grinding churn. Rallye Ibanez’s vocals slither from a grisly netherworld while the band plods through doomy sludge that slightly picks up to a midpace at around the 6 minute mark. Listening is a dark experience.The title track is less abrasive at first, but just as slithery. Starting with a swinging riff that builds, strips down, and builds again, Ibanez’s vocals once again become a focus. How a voice can sound so soul-grinding and as moist as a haunted foggy marshland is beyond me, but here Ibanez accomplishes the sound. 

Thawed Slag Blood, the shortest piece at just over 5 minutes, is an atmospheric and meditative, inky sound exploration that feels like unnecessary filler. Otherwise, the first two and following final two longer songs provide post-metal arrangements and breathing space for the festering sense of their gloomy subject. In The Dirt’s Embrace, the longest song of the collection, spans their emotional and technical breadth. While it’s hard for me to get past the vocals, this song showcases their doom and post-metal chops with aplomb. The final track, The Barren Aftermath, is a surprisingly pleasant instrumental that plays on the lighter side of their foreboding atmospherics. These post-metal jams provide a sensuous home for Ibanez’s spine twisting voice. While it’s difficult for me personally to get past his serpentine style the band have put together an album that fans of the heavy will at the very least find intriguing if not outright addicting. 7/10

Planet Of The 8ths & Duneeater - Turned To Stone Chapter 5 (Ripple Music) [Rich P]

A couple months ago I did the review for Turned To Stone: Chapter 4 from Ripple Music, and of course I loved it. I love the Turned To Stone splits because it allows these awesome bands to get more exposure on the best label in heavy rock at what I assume is a lower cost option given the whole split thing, and the outcome has all been excellent. I was extremely excited when the pre-order was announced for Volume 5, with all sorts of fun combinations being conjured up in my head. My two favorites so far have been the Howling Giant and Sergeant Thunderhoof split and the most recent one I mentioned, the Saturna and Electric Monolith combo platter. 

This time, we are going down under, for two of the most interesting and exciting Australian stoner bands, Planet of the 8s from Melbourne and Duneeater from Sydney. I have loved what I have heard from both bands so far, and have been craving some more output, especially a physical release that I don’t have to mortgage the house to cover the shipping for. Come to find my excitement was warranted given Volume Five may be my favourite of the bunch, which is saying a lot. The Planet Of The 8ths side is straight up fire. The opening track, Dawn Part 2 is a short instrumental that sounds like something right off Rated R in the best possible way and leads into the heavy riff and groove of Raised By Night

I get some Baroness vibes from this track and as their bio says, it is groovy AF. A big soundscape floating over the desert, with riffs. Gravity is eight plus minutes of absolute awesome and is in the running for my song of the year. The lyrics are excellent, there is a pseudo grunge/stoner vibe and is a song that needs to be experienced by all. Dusk Part 1 is a nice instrumental ripper that leads nicely into the next track. Dawn Part 2, which is actually on the Duneeater side. I love how they just flowed the songs seamlessly when transitioning from band to band, and now Duneeater starts off with a great instrumental ripper into the heart of their songs, which, like the Planet Of The 8ths offerings, are also combustible at the highest level.

 I love the riff on Twin Voyager, and we are about to settle in on a trip across the Australian desert, SUPERSONIC SOUNDS OF ROCKET POWER!!! Another song of the year candidate. Pleather Sex is absolute stoner ripper, let’s get our groove on indeed. C.O.B.R.A. has some serious riffs; I love the guitar work on this track. The whole package is wrapped up nicely with Devil Dodgers (Dawn Part 1) which tells us “don’t come knockin on my door, I don’t want to hear that shit no more” in no uncertain terms paired with a killer solo and some QOTSA worship. 

This split is just awesome. Two song of the year candidates from two of the most important bands in the Australian stoner scene, this needs to be experienced, and experienced at maximum volume. Ripple has once again done it again with Volume 5 of the Turned To Stone series. Can’t want for the next full lengths from both bands and what Ripple has in store for their next Turned To Stone offering. Todd, I have some ideas if you are reading this. 9/10

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