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Friday 16 June 2023

Reviews: Queens Of The Stone Age, Royal Thunder, Trouble, Inerrant (Reviews By Rich Piva & Matt Bladen)

Queens Of The Stone Age - In Times New Roman… (Matador Recoreds) [Rich Piva]

There is no debate that Josh Homme is one of the most important and influential people in the desert/stoner rock world, being part of the OGs Kyuss and his own offshoot that has been arguably the most successful band to come out of that scene.  Queens Of The Stone Age is an important band in so many ways and the success they have had has helped grow and legitimize the genre even as they have grown out of it. 

The self-titled debut, Rated R, and Song For The Deaf are all stone-cold classics, and the rest of the discography, while a bit spotty, is super solid making them one of the more consistent “big” bands out there. So here we are at album number eight, In Times New Roman, which for some reason is such a QOTSA name for an record. Josh and the current line up are in tip top form in all aspects on ITNR, making album number eight their best, maybe since Songs For The Deaf.

What makes a good QOTSA album? Well first, it needs to sound like one, and In Times New Roman does. The production is spot on, and Josh has this version of the band in perfect harmony with his vision. The songs need to be there too, where in some of the latest albums there were a few throw away tracks that could have used some self-editing, but not on ITNR, where the runtime of just over 45 minutes is perfect and there is not a stinker amongst the ten tracks. 

Right off the bat you know we are in for some classic QOTSA with the guitar tone and riff of Obscenery. Josh’s trademark delivery and amazing lyrics are all there, as well as his low to high vocal range that screams that this is a QOTSA song. This one will be a classic and constant track in the setlist for as long as Josh keeps it going. Paper Machete harkens back to Rated R with its riff and overall guitar work and Josh’s woos. I have always loved the layered vocals and it’s on here in full effect.  Songs like Negative Space and Emotional Sickness are vintage QOTSA while Made To Parade feels like Chris Goss still has his fingers in things, and I am here for it, with the quirky sounds and guitar work. 

Time And Place almost sounds like their Matador labelmates Spoon, so maybe that indie rock thing is rubbing off on Josh more and more. Josh channels his inner 80s goth persona Caravoyeur while What The Peephole Says is a whirlwind track that also has some big 80s vibes and is my current favorite track on ITNR. Sicily is a cool slow burn with some cool synth work to go along with some psych-tinged guitars. Straight Jacked Fitting is a fitting closer to this killer record.

So, yeah, In Times New Roman is excellent, not just for a later career Queens Of The Stone Age album but for an overall already excellent discography.  I would not be surprised if this album settles nicely in after Songs For The Deaf as my third all time favorite for a band that has always been one of my go to listens.  Josh and the boys are clicking on all cylinders in all aspects, and I can safely say In Times New Roman was worth the six year wait. 9/10

Royal Thunder – Rebuilding The Mountain (Spinefarm Records) [Matt Bladen]

Some bands thrive and some bands crumble under the weight of success and the rigmarole of touring, the pandemic also affected bands adversely with many that spent a lot of their time on the road having to decide if that’s really want to do. Second chances are rare so it’s a minor miracle, and a well-deserved one that Royal Thunder are still here. Trimmed back to a trio, the Georgia band, lost their rhythm guitarist Will Fiore but reconnected with long time drummer Evan Dirima who had left the band in 2018. These splits were mainly related to addiction and toxic behaviour but with time to reflect during the down period of the pandemic and resolved to be better and let the music be the focus. Evan eventually re-joined in 2020 and the rebirth began, this reconciliation and comeback documented by this fourth album Rebuilding The Mountain, their first record in six years.

Working as a trio has led to a sense of urgency, their first time being recorded live in the studio by Tom Tapley and Miles Landrum, there’s little room for overdubs or studio trickery. They had to lock in together and let it flow. Rebuilding The Mountain, definitely does that, from humble beginnings of the slow burning Drag Me, it’s a journey record where moments of psychedelic exploration are brought to Earth by grungy stoner riffs, the culmination of which is final track Dead Star, an anthemic closer to this record which rings out with the same reverb at the end that was featured right at the beginning in a great touch to this record being the next stage in the Royal Thunder story, their redemption arc. Southern styled organs and Fender Rhodes simmer in the background, the Atlanta heat emanating off these songs as Evan Diprima’s drums are mighty on tracks such as the primal No Here No Where and The Knife which reminds me of Jefferson Starship.

Both are also reminders of the stand out, spine-tingling voice of MIny Parsonz, gritty, boisterous but with fragility, Parsonz’s bass playing comes swirling in to match Diprima’s percussive power leaving Josh Weaver to fill in the gaps with heavy riffs and jangling melodies like on Twice or the dreamy Live To Live. After falling apart, Royal Thunder are back with a point to prove and a renewed passion for making noise. Consider the mountain rebuilt and almost perfect. 9/10

Trouble - Run To The Light: Expanded Edition (Metal Blade Records) [Rich Piva]

Anyone who knows me understands my unabashed love for Trouble. From the White Metal/Jesus Doom phase to the Rick Rubin made us the best band that nobody heard at the time phase, Trouble rules and will always rule. So, when I heard that Metal Blade was doing an expanded edition of Run To The Light, I was obviously super excited, especially since this was the only gap in my Trouble vinyl collection, and I was not about to drop triple digits on an OG copy. But what really got me was “expanded” because I am all about some unheard Trouble gems. Given that, this review will be less about the classic original album and more about the extras.

I am not going to ignore the classic album contained in this package, as Run To The Light is some amazing epic doom. RTTL was the bridge from the more traditional doom and Christian themed lyrics to when Rick Rubin grabbed them and ultimately created what is my second favorite album of all time. You can hear some of what was on the Rubin albums starting to form, with tracks like The Misery Shows and the title track. The production on the original RTTL was always one of the challenges with the record, and the expanded edition, while not messing with the original all that much did clean it up a bit and it sounds excellent, and I image when I get my vinyl in the mail it will sound even better.

As for the extras, we know that Eric and the band loved The Beatles through the influences you hear subtly on the first few records and more in your face on the Rubin records, so it is not surprising we get another Beatles cover here. The band did an excellent rendition of Tomorrow Never Knows on Plastic Green Head and Get Back is on a few of the rarities comps that are out there. Here you get a really cool Trouble-ized version of Come Together with some altered lyrics delivered by Eric is his trademark style. This is worth the listen by itself. The demos on the other hand are pretty rough, but still a cool look into the original idea of the classic tracks The Misery Shows, Thinking Of The Past, and Run To The Light. They are not too different than what would up on the record, except super raw, like they were recorded on a boom box, making these for big fans only.

Run To The Light is mandatory doom listening, so if you have not heard it or want to revisit it this is an excellent vehicle to do so in its remastered form. The Beatles cover is fun, and the demos are rough but interesting for the fanatic, but I would have loved a few more uncovered gems to be included, if there are any left from that era at this point. But hey, we can get it on vinyl easily now and I get to hear Eric, who I miss very much, sing Come Together, so this is a win all around. 8/10

Inerrant - Life Or Deaf (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Formed as a lockdown project by members of some of South Wales’ most renowned underground bands, I’ve reviewed all the previous Inerrant releases including their initial EP and their previous two albums. Not bad for a band who have played very few shows, they are now releasing their third album Life Or Deaf, after a period of inaction, a few of changes in membership but the core of Paul Fortescue, Ben Woosnam, Gareth Rowley and Tom Perrett remain at the heart of this politically motivated, uncompromising, furious mix of hardcore, punk and metal, throwing as much influence as they can at the walls of the studio and scraping off what remains into this third effort.

Kicking the shit out of you with opener Dafukami, it’s a heads down pit starter with a strong urge to fight. The remaining songs never really repeat this style going elsewhere but keeping the fire burning strongly. Gawsh Dayng goes more into post metal wandering, as B!te Bach explodes into modern thrashing, the vocal attacks coming from both side, screams, growls and outright rage being levelled at former leaders on Bojo Yolo, particularly potent this week. The crunch of hardcore comes back on the introspective Die For Truth and Corpse Taint slices with more punk fury and those gang vocals, as Disciple Trap takes us back to crossover thrash territory. the closing statement of King Of Norwhere ringing in your ears for minutes after as the deathly doom riff breaks down at the end.

Dissonance comes on Dead. Sea. Scroll as the G’narls Barky has a chorus and chug that will see it go down a storm when they make their live comeback later this year in support of Johnny Mental who not only share members with Inerrant but are the precursor to so many bands on the South Wales scene. Life Or Deaf is not just a title, it’s a mantra, loud music as a way to make sense of the fucked up world we live in. Play it as loud as you can so every knows which side of the divide you stand! 8/10

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