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Thursday 9 March 2023

Reviews: Skam, Stargazer, Cromlech, Blak29 (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Rich Piva)

Skam - Intravenous (X Ray Records) [Matt Bladen]

Reviewed as separate EP's by m'colleague Simon in 2021. The Intra and Venous EPs have now become one album called, wait for it, Intravenous. This will be the Leicester power trio's fourth full length and to make a worthwhile investment if you already have the EP's they have had Ade Emsley remaster the album, change the running order and added a new song called Do It Again

The band have been making waves across the UK for a while now and Intravenous is their most personal and mature album to date, focusing on modern day struggles and negative traits, the overall record carries positivity throughout, a record of 'proper' rock tracks that sees them firmly in this NWOCR and few dalliances with other genres. 

Big ballsy rockers such as How Many Times are the type of tracks Skam do best, the driving rhythm section of Matt Gilmore (bass) and Neal Hill (drums) moving between big rock riffs, to grunge grooves of I Didn't Know as Steve Hill's guitar employs choppy riffs and screaming rock solos. His vocals too are top notch, similarity to to a singer such as Joss Stone they are honeyed beyond their years, powerful and at times raw. If you've heard the EP's then you'll know how good these songs are, the new mix making them bolder than before. Worth checking out even if you've heard the originals. 8/10 

Stargazer - Life Will Never Be The Same (Mighty Music)

When do a Norwegian hard rock sound like Megadeth? When they open a record with a song like Can You Concieve It? There's a real nod to Dave Mustaine where it's meant of not but it doesn't detract too much from the song.

Thankfully there's no further throwbacks to thrash legends on this new album from Stargazer, the remaining 10 tracks are all bluesy, European hard rock that comes from the influence of Europe, Whitesnake, Def Leppard and Post-Dio Rainbow. Europe/Whitesnake especially present on riffy Rock The Sky, which has William Ernstsen carving out flashy guitar solos as he does on most of the songs here, even getting an instrumental (Beyond The Moon) to show off his skill set. Ernstsen often works in tandem with Sondre Bjerkset's keys/organs too for those melodic moments. 

Life Will Never Be The Same is a very Scandinavian sounding album, the hard rock bites a little harder on Turn Off The Light and the melodies shine a little brighter on Take Me Home, despite being written during the pandemic, it's upbeat with huge choruses sung brilliantly by Tore André Helgemo, filling them emotion and rock n roll attitude, it's the rock that does so well in the Scandinavian countries, the sort that a label such as Frontiers would be quick to pick up as well. 

Much like Voodoo Circle, Edens Curse or even The Dead Daises it's music that has the spirit of Ritchie Blackmore/John Norum and David Coverdale/Joey Tempest infused into it. Classy hard rock with influences from the best around. I implore you to check it out. 8/10

Cromlech - Ascent Of Kings (Cave Dweller Records) [Rich Piva]

The new album from the Canadian epic, and I mean epic doomsters Cromlech will not be for everyone but for those who love their metal like a 2000 page mega novel with twists and turns and crazy shit all around, then Ascent Of Kings may be for you. There is so much going on in this album it will be very easy to get overwhelmed…but hang in there, this thing is pretty great.

There are a few things right off the bat working against Cromlech for a good number of people. First, the vocals. My closest comparison I can think of is Serj from System Of A Down, but think that but way move over the top almost operatic version. You will know immediately if you love it or hate it, I am in the former camp. Second, the album is really long at seventy plus minutes, for me this was a bit exhausting and for others I know it will be a deal breaker.  

Speaking of deal breakers, if you shudder at the thought of songs over, say, five minutes, go listen to the Ramones because the shortest song on here is six minutes, with three of the six tracks being over twelve and the closer over eighteen minutes long. This album takes a commitment. But again, if you like your doom epic, then the time spent is worth it. A track like Cimmeria has killer guitars and insane drum work with those crazy vocals paired at points with an angry yell when at points the vocals sound like an opera soprano got kidnapped and was forced to sing epic doom metal. You get strings, you get some folk aspects, but mostly you get extremely over the top doom battle metal like if Manowar started listening to only funeral doom, which to me sounds pretty damn cool.

So, what do I think of this album? Its excellent, if not a bit over bloated. The musicianship is top notch.  The vocals are so unique and over the top I personally just must love it, and the songs and story are just huge and so much fun, fun be the optimal word here. I am pretty sure these guys take themselves very seriously, which makes this even more fun.  Commit, check it out, spend the time, and I think you will find something that sounds pretty much like nothing else out there. 8/10

Blak29 - The Waiting (Cleopatra Records) [Rich Piva]

Steve Zing has a lot going for him on the surface when I started reading about the latest album, The Waiting, from his project Blak29. He has been a member of Danzig and Samhain. He has Tommy F’ing Victor playing guitar on the record and Johnny Kelly from Type O Negative playing drums (one of my favourites) He’s been around the scene forever and has been influenced by all the things I love in music.

When I read the bio, I was all in:

“…a brutal new project featuring heavy riffs, punishing rhythms, and the bleakest of lyrics…”
I mean how awesome does that sound? Unfortunately the songs do not match up with all of these positives that it had going for it. I find the record to be sterile and overproduced, with the songs unmemorable and really not the bleak subject matter I was expecting based on the promo material. 

Though the details provided say Zing and his collaborator wrote the whole album, there are two covers that were both misses for me, one being the Kinks cover of Destroyer that was the lead single (I never have confidence in a record where the lead single is a cover) and the closer, a cover of the Hollies classic Long Cool Woman with the guy from 69 Eyes singing which sounds unfortunately like bad goth karaoke. 

There is nothing really bad about The Waiting, it is mostly extremely disappointing given the players and all the hype stuff I read going in. End Of Days is a pretty cool track with a nice riff but honestly there is nothing here I am ever going to go back to, and that is sad considering I love all of the parts to this, just not the sum of those parts. 5/10

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