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Friday 19 August 2022

Reviews: SiX By SiX, Hammer King, Psychlona, Motorpsycho (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Rich Piva)

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. 

1975 has a great riff and a Kyuss groove that kills. The buildup midway through the track that leads to the solo, then back into the groove, great stuff. Meet Your Devil is a slow burner and dare I say the doomiest track in their discography, and it looks good on them. Purple River is leaning in on the psych rock tendencies of the band and even a bit grungy in parts. Jetplane is some QOTSA style up-beat desert track with a catch AF chorus that you will be singing along to. The closer, Warped, is the prototypical Psychlona with all their best qualities and the perfect ending to this modern-day desert rock classic. The whole thing, end to end, needs to be experienced, and experienced loud. There is zero filler on Palo Verde.

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

Motorpsycho - Ancient Astronauts (Stickman Records) [Rich Piva]

A new Motorpsycho album is pretty much a yearly even at this point, and almost always it is a welcomed and enjoyed release by those who dig the Norwegian trio. Sometimes they can be a little too soft on the self-editing, but for the most part they have been consistent over their four-plus decades as a band. In the case of their newest album, Ancient Astronauts, I think we have a mixed bag when it comes to the four tracks on this latest effort. 

The opening track, The Ladder, is a ripper that reminds me a bit of the more straight-ahead rock output of Cave In. If we had four tracks like this, I think Ancient Astronauts would be up there with their best albums. The problem is the rest. The next track, The Flower Of Awareness, is an instrumental, almost silent almost three minutes of which I struggle to understand why it was included. This flows into the eleven-minute plus Mona Lisa Azrael, which starts out for the first couple of minutes just like the previous track and then morphs into a spastic instrumental jam, reminiscent of something you may have heard on an older Mars Volta record. The track ends with a couple of minutes of that ambient instrumental too. If you cut out six or so minutes of this record so far, I would be on board, but up until the final track we are very hit and miss, with me mostly waiting for something to happen. 

Speaking of waiting for something to happen, we get the final track, the twenty-two-minute Chariot Of The Sun – To Phaeton On The Occasion Of Sunrise (Theme From An Imagined Movie). The title makes this out to be way more interesting than what it is. Three minutes in and you are still waiting for something to happen. We get a bit of movement at the five-minute mark with some oohs and aahs. At six minutes the song finally kicks in, but by this time I find myself fatigued. It should not be this much of an effort. Don’t get me wrong, I love long songs. The Wo Fat record is probably going to be my album of the year, but there is just no direction here. Anyway, with this track, we get a krautrock type jam with some nice guitar work for the next few minutes, but for me it has not been enough to keep me engaged with still nine minutes to go. Those final nine are filled with some of the synth/ambient stuff we have heard throughout, not the payoff I was looking for after putting the time in. 

Maybe I am not arthouse enough (there was a connection to a dance/theatre group for this album), but I found this record to be a bit of a bore, and I am a big Motorpsycho fan. It is somewhat self-indulgent, but at this point in their career they have earned the right to do whatever they want. This one was just not for me. Outside of the killer opening track, this is a forgettable addition to an excellent catalog. 5/10

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