SiX By SiX – SiX By SiX (InsideOut Music) [Matt Bladen]
A prog power trio, with singing bassist/keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist, a powerhouse drummer and a virtuoso guitarist. No they aren’t from Canada (well one of them is!) but they are influenced by the Canadian legends Rush, if The Upside Of Down or Yearning To Fly are anything to go by. If I’m being honest SiX By SiX are heavily influenced by the glory days of prog rock, from the strong Rush vein we have a shift to ELP, frontman Robert Berry having played with Palmer and Emerson in the band 3, taking these skills over to the jazzy Casino and also Live Forever. There’s also a massive amount of Pink Floyd worship on Reason To Feel Calm Again, guitarist Ian Crichton especially, who brings his skills from Canadian Prog rockers Saga gets to unleash some guitar expertise on this atmospheric masterclass, which is Momentary Lapse Of Reason Floyd with a bit of Gabriel/Eric Serra for good measure.
Then there’s some Big Generator Yes that features on Skyfall driven by the percussion of Saxon sticksman Nigel Glockler. So what we have is three musicians taking from their favourite 70’s classic rock/prog bands and making songs that pay homage to them, with a lot of Led Zep 3 meets Gabriel/Hackett Genesis on Battle Of A Lifetime. There’s a virtuosity in every note and composition my personal favourites being Reason To Feel Calm and the final song Save The Night but with each play you hear something new, something different; a nuance, a bass line, a synth phase, a drum beat. The only thing that stays similar are Berry’s vocals which are good but at times he does seem to have some kind of fuzzy effect on them that is a little off putting. Still this is a little niggle on what is otherwise astounding debut record.
Supergroups often get a bad rep, and while I loathe to call this a supergroup as to a UK audience it’s Glocker who’ll be the most recognisable, it is a collaboration between three supremely gifted individuals, playing music that is highly influenced by others but manages to sound different. The record is also apparently conceptual, so much so that there is an accompanying graphic novel called The Journey Internal created by J.C Baez, the novel intrinsically linked to the record. So head on out and pick both up as you’re in for treat. 8/10
Hammer King - Kingdemonium (Napalm Records) [Matt Bladen]
Germany's premier Regal Handtools are back with more stories of The Hammer King. Titan Fox and his band have been weaving, chest beating.heavy metal about the subject since 2015 and unlike with certain Pirate based bands who have shown themselves to be both horrible people and creatively barren. Some how Fox and co continue to crank out classic heavy metal. Since the last album they have gained a new bassist but the style is still classic, anthemic heavy metal with pounding war drums, twin axe attack and anthemic vocals singing songs about the fantasy world of the Hammer King.
Fans of bands such as Manowar and fellow hand tool enthusiasts Hammerfall will be delighted that very little has changed in the bands style other than Kingdemonium feels a little more brooding than the triumphant previous few records. Almost bringing more realism to the record but yet still firmly in their conceptual world. These darker phases remind me of Powerwolf who blend power metal and the macabre, Powerwolf guitarist Charles Greywolf recording the album, as Fox produces and Jacob Hansen mixes/masters. It's big, it's bold and it's even got Ross The Boss on it, ripping out some lead guitars on the cinematic Guardians Of The Realm.
Four Horsemen is a gallop through the apocalypse and neither a Metallica or Aphrodite's Child cover, Live Long, Die Nasty has a bit of W.A.S.P to it, as Pariah Is My Name and We Shall Rise both have that Manowar sway, fists (or hammers) held high. The 7th Of 7th Kings and Age Of Urizen are both longer more theatrical performances but for most of Kingdemonium sees Hammer King embarking on their latest quest with 10 more classic/power metal anthems. Hail to the king! Play loud! 8/10
Psychlona - Palo Verde (Psycho Waxx) [Rich Piva]Desert/Stoner/psych perfection. That sums it up for the new album from Psychlona. This has been my most anticipated release of the year, and it does not disappoint in any way. On their third album, the UK four piece have somehow topped their 2020 classic Venus Skytrip, which also happened to be my album of the year that year. This album is everything you want for an album in this genre without anything that sounds like a retread or any kind of “heard it all before” vibe. Yes, they are influenced by all the bands you would think they are when I throw around words like “desert” and “stoner” and “psych”. But Psychlona is its own and should be mentioned amongst the greats in this space, especially given the near perfection of their last two releases.
The production on this album is spot on and perfect for eight tracks on Palo Verde. There is so much swirling around with the guitars and the reverb filled vocals that you catch a little nuance on each new listen. Check out the track Rainbird and pay close attention to all the great guitar bits that are floating around you during the six-minute trip. The first two tracks can go on any all-time stoner/desert rock playlist. Gasoline and 1975 are both song of the year contenders and I dare anyone who loves this type of music to tell me otherwise. Gasoline has some keys underlying the stoner groove and that awesome psych drenched guitar. Oh, and they brought back the cowbell. Pretty much the perfect track.
Psychlona has done it again, releasing what may very well be my album of the year (again). It sounds perfect, the playing is excellent, it grooves, it rocks, it trips you out, it rides along with you on a desert highway, it pretty much has and does it all. Highest recommendation for fans of rock music. 10/10