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Wednesday 24 August 2022

Reviews: Whiskey Myers, Dreadnought, Manifest, Atramentum (Reviews By Matt Bladen, David Karpel, Elliott Spencer & GC)

Whiskey Myers - Tornillo (Wiggy Thump Records) [Matt Bladen]

Recorded in just 21 day while isolating at Sonic Ranch Studios in their native Texas, Whiskey Myers bring a decade plus of experience and hard work to make this sixth studio album. With their first four albums there was a shift from their soul/R&B/Country roots to a more rock style which worked but where Whiskey Myers' magic is when they take from Waylon Jennings' outlaw attitude, Muscle Shoals' rhythms and Motown's grooves. They returned to the country sound of there first records on 2019's self titled album which was something of a rebirth (as so many mid career self titled albums are). 

Tornillo, named for the town where the recording studio is, keeps those influences of Americana and country, on the atmospheric Heavy On Me, but also brings in more Southern swagger of the swamplands, the Detroit shuffle and plenty of parping brass, like those Stax recording artists of old or the gnarled old bluesmen and gospel singers. In fact frontman Cody Cannon has recruited the McCrary Sisters for those luscious gospel melodies on the Other Side. Cannon is still the lead songwriter on this record, his vocals at the forefront of what Whiskey Myers do, his drawl perfect on the choppy John Wayne, where he also blasts on the harmonica, but bandmates John Jeffers (lead guitar), Jamey Gleaves (bass) and Tony Kent (keys/percussion) all have songwriting credits as does songwriter Aaron Raitiere. Even with the collaborative nature of this album and the varied musical styles, Tornillo is an authentic mix of all American music styles. 

From the Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jeffer's slide driven rock n rolling of Feet's where he and Cody Tate trade off as they do on Whole Word Gone Crazy. Bad Medicine is hip shaking R&B, the moody The Wolf borrows from Shooter Jennings' modern outlaw country and more Skynyrd/Hatchet outro soloing. The searing leads and brass unify on ballad For The Kids, as the train shuffle of Jeff Hogg's drumming leads Mission To Mars. Tornillo is Whiskey Myers adopting a wider range of influences to make blue collar working man anthems that are bound to impress. 9/10

Dreadnought - The Endless (Profound Lore Records) [David Karpel]

With the release of their fifth and most realised album, The Endless, Denver’s Dreadnought should by all rights have your attention by now. Unfortunately, I just recently missed their live performance in Brooklyn when I arrived too late to catch them open for Ruby The Hatchet and Elder. It’s something I'll regret until they swing by again because I would have loved to have seen them perform these songs that night, to hear these incredibly gorgeous and dynamic vocal exchanges, these atmospheric keys, this precise, driving percussion. Like some of my favorite progressive metal bands–DVNE, Vokonis, The Huntsmen–Dreadnought takes these elements and creates worlds. The Endless isn’t something to put on in passing. The album demands your attention wholly and completely. It’d be good to prepare the scene: candles, incense, something warm and smokey to imbibe. 

While their previous albums have also been multi-layered, richly painted collections of progressive musical explorations through black metal, classical, jazz, folk, and post rock, the mix on The Endless is cleaner, clearer, and rightly focused on the vocals and percussion. This better quality of production serves their songs well. The four musicians–guitarist/vocalist Kelly Schilling, drummer Jordan Clancy, bassist Kevin Handlon, and keyboardist/vocalist Lauren Vieira–are each given the right space in performances that capture their absolute precision. Every song illuminates their various parts and highlights their songwriting craft, but Midnight Moon and The Paradigm Mirror, both including more Tricky-like tribal and electronic percussion, show the band’s willingness to continue to experiment and push their own envelope. 

Schilling and Vieira exchange soaring, beautiful vocals, trade in harmonies, explore melodies, and can scrape the inside of your skull when their more harsh singing breaks in. While the whispery Portishead-like sections, tribal movements, and the prominence of percussion in general allow the songs both the lightness and power to carry their lyrical metaphysics, the groove laden riffs pave the space for the theatrical, the dramatic, the inevitable crescendos. At forty-one minutes, the six songs on The Endless build a captivating world of wonder with powerful songs laden with amazing vocal performances, driving percussion, and crisp production. 8/10

Manifest – The Sinking (Vicisolum Records) [Elliot Spencer]

Despite the death/thrash label attributed to them, there’s a gnawing feeling when listening to The Sinking that Manifest draw from more influences than they let on. The death n’ roll riffs that guide the opening track The Origins are typical but in stark contrast to atmospheric passages and an almost grindcore freakout in the song’s final minute. These different elements don’t quite coalesce here but do play out more successfully on deeper cuts throughout the tracklisting. Final Curtain Call provides the best example of this while adopting some riffs that wouldn’t sound out of place on Mastodon’s Blood Mountain and the accompaniment of a Barney Greenway-esque snarl.

It’s no surprise then that Manifest is yet another addition to the rogue’s gallery of Norwegian metal bands. They’re not so much a band that worships unashamedly at the altar of Sepultura’s Chaos A.D as they are the brethren of fellow riff-cocktail mixologists like Bokassa and God Mother. Unfortunately, the range of different elements doesn’t always make for consistent momentum on The Sinking. The sludgier Upriver feels out of place as the second track and the length of the southern-inflected blues of Mistakes rests awkwardly between death n’ roll bangers like Jobkill and Infant Rage.

Nonetheless, the disparate elements that Manifest revels in throughout the album do come together more successfully (spoken word passage aside) on the album’s two-part title track. The near 13 minutes of The Sinking’s two parts are nothing if not a sign of the band’s potential going forward and should provide a solid foundation for further refinement. Fans of the Norwegian school of bands like Kvelertak and Spidergawd will no doubt find familiar ideas on The Sinking, but they’ll also find a band edging closer to securing their own identity. 6/10

Atramentum - Through Fire, Everything Is Renewed (Invictus Productions & 11th Temple Productions) [GC]

I don’t know too much bout Atramentum and after a quick search I find out that its usually a one man project from multi-instrumentalist Frater XI but, this time he has joined forces with a new co-conspirator in the shape of Jehannum to create a second release in the shape of Through Fire, Everything Is Renewed which over its 9 tracks clocks around 52 minutes of music, so I had better get going. 

Starting things of with the mysterious and brooding I (all songs are Roman Numerals) it slowly falls into a big sludgy death metal riff mixed with some off kilter drum grooves and off time rhythms that confuse and twist your mind and lead you into II which is a frenzied blackened death metal bombardment filled with some impressive drumming and a good variation on the guitars which veer between the buzzsaw black metal riffs and some nice atmospherics to mix with the vocal variations which mix the highs of black metal and guttural roar of death metal, III begins with an almost tribal beat that gives way to some almost inhuman double bass and mixes a slower tempo in places which highlights the guitar work beautifully in places and has a great break in the middle which gives you a chance to prepare for what is next. 

IV introduces us to an almost doom like element with some slow, claustrophobic riffs and adds a particularly hypnotic feel to the grim blackened death metal before we are back into the usual barrage of riffs and drums that we are used too, V is more of the same brutality but is ramped up somewhat to keep you going for its 7+ minutes running time and this is where I get to thinking that some of the songs here are just that little bit too long and could do with trimming down! VI is a prime culprit for this as it is really a bit of a of mess structure wise and towards the end the vocalist sounds like he’s lost interest as well! 

VII offers more of the same and is probably the most straight forward black metal track on offer and mixes in the atmospherics to good effect and it just about keeps your interest until after 7 tracks and 45+ minutes of music we are onto the last track VIII which at just under 10 minutes is the longest track and seems like an interesting option for an album closer, it builds from another moody and dark opening section with its slow build it is almost Gothic in feel until halfway through the barrage of drums and riffs drops back into to pound you into submission which doesn’t let up until 9:46 seconds later it has faded out and the album is done! 

To say this was a challenge is an understatement, because as I mentioned I thought it was just that little bit too long. Fore me this is one for the black metal purists as its not really death metal enough and the varying of style does always end up giving way to an ultimately black metal vibe which wouldn’t draw in a casual listener and keep them paying attention throughout. It was good in places but also not so good in some places and I’m not sure I have another listen in me! 6/10

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