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Friday 4 November 2022

Reviews: The Offering, Warlung, InTechnicolour, 96 Bitter Beings (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Rich Piva)

The Offering – Seeing The Elephant (Century Media Records) [Matt Bladen]

I salivated over The Offering’s first album Home back in 2019 as did many of my colleagues (and ex-colleagues) and the general music press at large. This follow up then would be considered by most to be greatly anticipated and Christ they’ve grabbed a hold of the listener with both hands here, evolving the style of their previous record into something that is much more aggressive, explorative and ear-piercing. 

There’s still elements of bands such as Nevermore but these are built upon by the frenzied approach of Slipknot on Ghostmother, while it’s his Devyness (it's a word now) that is brought to the forefront of your mind on this album. First song W.A.S.P especially has all the shifting time signatures, moments of sheer chaos and extreme metal viciousness of Strapping Young Lad, this makes for a jarring start to the record but there’s little rest bite from this much more inherently angry The Offering. 

The times we live in today have inspired Alexander Richichi (vocals), Nishad George (guitar), Spencer Metela (bass), and Steve Finn (drums) to create and album that is astonishingly heavy, throwing out the composition rule book for songs of disaffection and hatred, aimed at the corrupt political forces in the world, the album title has a strong political connotation for these Americans, but I’ll let you figure that out. Rosefire for example is filled with samples of riots and gunfire as the music shifts between Slipknot, Korn and Disturbed in the defiant chorus, I realise I’m not doing it justice but you have to listen to the song to understand what I mean. It’s the bands most personal album, Nishad especially having numerous flash points that have inspired the songs, from the January 6th Uprising, to the shooting of George Floyd (title track), to his dad’s battle with cancer, the frustration and fear is very prominent, but behind all these often downbeat lyrics and crushingly heavy songs there’s glimmers of hope. 

My Heroine is a moment of joy in a otherwise desolate soundscape, before the ultra-modern, ultra-heaviness comes back on the sarcastic Flower Children, which speaks of the changing role of the 60’s generation, it’s hostile and unsympathetic to anyone that is in a position of power, siding with the weak, disenfranchised and voiceless throughout. Produced, recorded and mastered to sound massive, tracks such as the scorching With Consent will carve up your speakers, while Esther Weeps is an evocative, sweeping progressive metal track about the oppression of women, in the style of Opeth/Oceans Of Slumber, featuring Becca Cadalzo of Cerce on vocals, it’s an atmospheric, cathartic closer to this colossally heavy album. 

Nishad’s father managed to hear the album before he passed away and called it their greatest achievement so who am I to argue. For me it took a few listens but Seeing The Elephant, is an evolutionary step for the band akin to growing wings, masterful and merciless The Offering are defining their legacy here. 9/10

Warlung - Vulture’s Paradise (Heavy Psych Sounds) [Rich Piva]

Houston, Texas’ Warlung is back with their fourth record, and it is a gigantic slab of heavy rock psychedelic awesomeness. The band had put out three excellent records so far, but if go big or go home was not a played-out notion this would be the definition of it. Vulture’s Paradise is huge. It sounds bigger, the songs are more epic, and the playing is just so next level that in starts to take over their entire already excellent back catalog as the one to beat.

As you can tell big is the theme here, and that is the vibe from all the nine tracks on Vulture’s Paradise. Sky Burial is the perfect example. This may be my favorite Warlung track of all time. The riffs and the atmosphere that the dual guitar action brings is amazing, and the layered vocals brings the heavy psych feel that these guys are known for. This is by far the best produced Warlung record, with exhibits A and B being the opener Hypatia and the title track. The latter has the layered vocals on just perfect point, and you feel like you are gliding with the vultures looking for their prey. Love it. The band sounds tighter than ever and the perfect example of this is Demonocracy

Sabbath worship with the psych leanings and layered vocals; if someone asked me for one Warlung song to explain what they sounded like it would be this one. Tracks like Return Of The Warlords and Grave Marauders are excellent heavy stoner/psych tracks that fit perfectly on this record and the track Caveman Blues reminds me of some of my recent favorites like fellow Texans Thunder Horse and Indiana’s Wolftooth. Chunky riffs and excellent vocals. Worship The Void sounds exactly how you think it would sound based on the rest of this record, and call me crazy but is there a solo Dio vibe going on too? Ruins is a slow burn psych heavy trip with a killer solo to round of this excellent effort.

I love when bands a few albums into their career pull out their best one yet. Vulture’s Paradise is a perfect example of this. The playing and the production are next level, and the enormity of the record is felt from the first riff. Excellent stuff and will be on several year end lists. 8/10

InTechnicolour - Midnight Heavyweight (Small Pond Records) [Rich Piva]

InTechnicolour was not a band I was familiar with before I grabbed Midnight Heavyweight from the available to review folder, and damn am I glad I took a flyer on this one. The first thing that came to my mind when I first played the Brighton, UK band’s sophomore album was “90s”. I see labels like “stoner” and “doom” on their Bandcamp page, but I hear more 90’s heavy alternative with some grunge then I hear anything remotely stoner.  There is an atmosphere to this record that you do not get from the more classic stoner style. These guys are more stoner adjacent, but whatever you want to call them there is one thing for sure: this record kills.

Right off the bat on Midnight Heavyweight you know this record is going to be something special.  Blood Moon Shine has a bit of a stoner groove, but this to me is like if Catherine Wheel listened to Kyuss while on shrooms, wandered around the desert for a bit, and then decided to add their experiences into the recording of Chrome (this reference is not for everyone).  This song is catchy and melodic but still has an underlying heaviness to it. 

This description could go for all eleven tracks on Midnight Heavyweight. The Way reminds me of later period Therapy? in the best kind of way and has a gigantic, radio friendly chorus. I am sure there are some big bands out there that this sounds like; I am the wrong person for those comparisons, but what I can tell you are songs like Tokyo Dream and Corner Of Time In The World are some catchy 90s alt rock goodness that could hang with any bands playing this style then or now. There is a shimmer to these songs that are extra evident on these tracks. I mean let’s throw in bands like Swervedriver and Chavez while I fawn over Midnight Heavyweight to get some of us super pumped for what they will experience on this record. Turn It Loose will be the live crowdpleaser and reminds me of 90s bands Overwhelming Colorfest and Liars Inc. (deep, deep 90s references). 

The pop sensibilities of InTechnicolour are on full display here as they are on a track like Making Friends With Shadows. The title track is a melodic slow burner with Tobie Anderson’s vocals of full display and to me would be the reason they would have opened for the Pumpkins back in the day. I love the vocals on this track so very much and the song has some serious shoegaze vibes going on. A track like Fever Queen reminds me of when I liked Chevelle and what I wish that band still was. The highlight of this amazing record for me is the killer and powerful track Eastman. What a way to end an album. Raw emotion and a plea for help while trying to swim upstream. Just amazing.

Go listen to Midnight Heavyweight. InTechnicolour have knocked it out of the park. If you like your rock with 90s vibes pop sensibilities while still being “heavy”, you will love this record.  A top 20 record of the year candidate. 9/10 

96 Bitter Beings – Synergy Restored (Nuclear Blast) [Matt Bladen]

Between 1998 and 2011, Deron Miller was the founder, frontman and songwriter for every Skateboard/BMX/Greebo kids’ favourite band CKY, in my own teenage years, it seemed as if you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing their logo on every denim, shop, venue and skatepark in the country. They captured something of a zeitgeist, possibly due to their links with both skateboard culture and Jackass, but for people of my age they were the most popular party band around. 

Having been the voice, guitar and creator of many of their biggest songs, Miller has been re-writing his legacy with 96 Bitter Beings, changing the name and the members but keeping that flame of CKY alive. He’s a man controlled by the riff, needing hooks and heaviness in equal measure, he doesn’t write music for the kudos or the fame but to get people’s heads banging and crowds singing/bouncing along. 96 Bitter Beings consists of Miller on guitar/vocals, Kenneth Hunter on guitar, Shaun Luera on bass and Tim Luera on drums, being a four piece they make the noise of a four piece, there’s very little overdubbing or studio trickery, just four guys cranking out riffy tracks such as Wish Me Dead which will appeal to anyone that loves CKY but also for fans of stoner bands such as Mastodon (Slither Away) or Fireball Ministry and the alternative rock/metal scene in general. 

Having been recently signed to Nuclear Blast they didn’t laze around, setting about recording their major label debut (third album overall) while retaining that underground influence that Miller was such a key part of, though of course aiming to bring hard rock back to the mainstream. Tracks such as Throw Yourself Inside, the choppy 90 Car Pile Up, the chugging thrash of Adios Amigo or the woozy Bloodrock Mania all will get anyone who identified with the ‘cult’ of CKY or indeed that early 2000’s stoner/alt/rock scene back into their cargo shorts and chugging beers like it’s 2001! 8/10

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