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Monday 19 June 2023

Reviews: Steve Lukather, Roseneath, New Dawn Fades, Sammath (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Mark Young, Rich Piva & GC)

Steve Lukather - Bridges (The Players Club) [Matt Bladen]

“Toto will never record another studio album” are the words of Toto co-founder Steve Lukather upon the release of this new solo album…his ninth. Much of his solo work has tried to vary the Lukather songwriting from what he did in the Yacht Rock pioneers, but on Bridges, he is actively trying to make it sound as Toto as possible. 

Following on from the excellent debut solo album from co-founder David Paich, Bridges features both Paich and Joseph Williams (current and long term Toto vocalist/multi-instrumentalist) co-wrote this album with Lukather, “Luke” (his nickname) also inviting many of the Toto collaborators to play on it and longtime co-writers Randy Goodrum/Stan Lynch to make it sound as close to Toto as possible but still a Lukather solo record. This combination is alluded too by the title, the album building a bridge between solo and Toto.

Opening with Far From Over, a song written by Steve’s son Trevor, who plays guitars, bass, and synths, definitely following in his old man’s footsteps, with slick, melodic rock. As Lukather is guitarist much of this album is based around the six strings rather than the synth foundation of Paich or Williams, but the guitar riffs have always been a key part of Toto music (Hold The Line?) so this album reflects the ‘rock’ side of the band. As well as writing, Williams gives backing vocals, synths percussion and keys sharing that duty with current Toto keyboardist Steve Maggiora who co-wrote the bluesy Take My Love and David Paich who performs on five songs. Simon Phillips and Shannon Forrest (both Toto alum) play drums as Lee Sklar and Jorgen Carlsson play bass (as does Lukather) these old friends all making their mark on Bridges, showing that friendships carry on long after professional relationships end. 

Musically you can pick out the songs that are trying to sound like Toto, All Forever’s Must End is similar to I Won’t Hold You Back, if you listen closely there’s lots of references for the discerning fan, though for me I’ll Never Know stood out as it reminds me of Gilmour-fronted Pink Floyd. With David Paich’s solo record from last year being the start, you can assume Bridges is the next part of the “Toto but not quite” album series from the current creative hub of the band, Lukather has the most experience solo, so quite rightly it’s a bloody good melodic rock record with understated but gifted playing. 8/10

Roseneath - Nowhere Safe (Thirty Something Records/Trepanation Recordings) [Mark Young]

As we know that fashion moves in circular moments and to an extent music follows as emerging talent release music that has been shaped by their environment and in some cases from older siblings which informs what their art should look like. For some of us, guitar driven music has never gone out of fashion despite what popular media might tell us. At present there has been resurgence in interest in alt / shoegaze and grunge which is no bad thing as long as it is good music. Now I am of a certain vintage to have been there the first time round so I need to be careful of being overly critical and avoid things such as ‘it was better in my day….’

Hailing from Richmond, Virginia Roseneath take these influences and imbue them with their own unique sensibility and album starter Noisy is a typically quick-fire affair and is instantly familiar but not in a straight copy of what we have heard before. They avoid going for that popular trope of loud / quiet / loud and it’s a decent start with Free Fall coming in with some good solid rhythm but possessed of good voice that will come across well live.

Burned To Black is slower and we are into the shoegaze at least in the early moments. It picks up with that familiar build to then drop back. It actually reminds me more of early to mid-80s new wave with the way bass goes in that early section and the music itself moves well, showing that they have that appreciation of the better sounds of the 90s instead of plundering wholesale. Passerby has that quality discordant sound to it overlaid with those great vocals again, that really fit the songs without being too strong or too rocky. 

That is one of things that strikes in the early moments is how well these are put together. Numb possesses that instantly recognisable approach that has been on college radio for years and would have probably made its way onto a number of compilations found on the cover of Q Magazine. Or Select. I realise that this sounds as though I’m making light of it, I’m not because it is a good track and when you think that at halfway point each song has its own identity then you can’t ask for more than that.

Over It has a massive chorus, combining the vocals and some chiming chords that work incredibly well. It has that class alt-rock feel to it, and although it employs the quiet to loud motif, I’ll forgive it because of that chorus. 

Not Lost takes in some Helmet for its heavier moments and is probably the most sound-alike of the tracks here and being honest it feels the weakest here. Roll Credits has some cracking singing on it, over a decent riff pattern. The vocals have that sort of far away effect to it so when the harmonies come in, they really come into great effect and is another top example of the good work they have got going on here 

This Alone channelling that Helmet vibe again but without going full bore or fully quiet. It doesn’t quite match up to the songs preceding it (IMO), but it sets up the last song and again I think it will become a live classic for them. Spill changes tack with a The Killers type keys / vocal arrangement but funnelled into a shoegaze tunnel. It’s a confident thing to close out on a song that employs something different at the last minute, but they have got those really dynamic choruses nailed. This has ethereal vocals that weave through it are storming and this shows that they have the tools to really progress. 7/10

New Dawn Fades - Forever (Heavy Psychedelphia) [Rich Piva]

New Dawn Fades is the new project from the lead singer GFA of the amazing Philly band Ritual Earth who are as awesome of doom band as they are people, given how active they are on Twitter and how cool they are to interact with. While Ritual Earth leans more towards stoner doom, the three tracks on the Forever EP are way more stoner grunge, and I am not sure there is an EP in recent memory I am more excited for a full length follow up because these three songs are next level great.

True Till Death kicks us off and we are firmly in Seattle territory here, with equal parts Soundgarden, My Sister’s Machine, and Gruntruck musically but have a more straight-ahead hard rock feel to the vocals. For some reason I can’t shake hearing influence from Testament’s The Ritual which I will wait to hear I am crazy for calling that out right from GFA himself. The middle of the track has a sort of stoner meets Loud Love breakdown which is the perfect bridge to this track across it’s five-plus minutes. 

This Night Has Closed My Eyes is up next, and we veer a bit more into the stoner rock territory with that trademark Philly sound that so many of us dig from that scene today. Riffs for days and a song The Age Of Truth and Zom (I know they are from Pittsburg…) would be proud of. I am hearing some COC love here too. New Moon has riffs for days and is familiar in a way, that there are probably 30 bands you can reference but sounds like exactly like none of them. I love the sludgy Melvins riff to end the track.

Talk about leaving you wanting more, Forever is a tease of the highest order. New Dawn Fades started out as a one-man (or a couple man) project that as of this writing has expanded into a full-on band that will tour and will produce one of the more anticipated full lengths we will get in 2023 or 2024. Get on the bandwagon now, because New Dawn Fades will be everyone’s favorite band very, very soon. 9/10

Sammath - Grebbeberg (Hammerheart Records) [GC]

Formed all the way back in 1993 as a one-man black metal band Sammath have since spawned into a full band and have also released 6 albums, album number seven Grebbeberg is not a concept album as such, but it is set in World War II during the battle of Grebbeberg and tells the story of creator Jan Kruitwagen’s great-uncle who fought and died during this battle.

There is no time to prepare yourself for opener Grebbeberg which is the equivalent of striding purposefully into no man’s land without a gun or helmet, it’s a furious and raw black metal onslaught full of buzzsaw guitars and blast beat drums, its just as unpolished and lo-fi as you want, Reichswald opens with a bit more of an atmospheric element in the guitars but this takes nothing away from the fury that is injected into the playing and creates an unrelenting feeling of dread and terror, you can feel the passion in the vocals and midway through they slow the pace down slightly and mix in a death metal section which leads nicely into the final barrage of atmospheric but still ultimately black metal savageness. 

Murderous Artillery just continues with the barrage and gives no sign of letting you have a minute to catch your breath and focus, the one thing that does kind of let the song down is the samples of bombs and guns about 1 minute in all it does is make it almost sound like a skipping CD and really stunts the relentless nature of the music that when does come back in is as furious as you have come to expect, Last Gasp Of The Dying opens with some sombre guitar work that blasts into life and mixes with some anguished but still raw and stripped back vocals and there is definitely a more atmospheric feel to the music here and the actual pace for the song while still fast is dialled back to create a more suffocating and dense sound and because this song has an almost 7 minute run time, it give you some time to actually start imagining what being surrounded by the horror of war must actually feel like for the people involved. 

Crushed, Shattered And Destroyed is another almost 7-minute track that due to its run time has a more thoughtful pace, almost as if they are trying to make you think more and really understand what the subject matter is really about, it’s more atmospheric but still brutally raw and uncomfortable black metal that as always aims directly for the throat and never misses with its direct shots and is utterly devastating when it hits you, before both Tot de Laatste Granaat & Decimated now completely forget the atmosphere, and epic running times and just return back to the pure violence and you can really feel the influence of the first wave of black metal in these tracks, having formed back during its peak you can feel it running all the way through these songs in all of their scathing and unhinged rawness.

Stahl Und Feuer starts as an altogether more sombre affair, and you feel that as it’s the final song may be acting as a funeral march, its moody and grim and the pace is the slowest it has been all album and when it does blast into life about midway through to inject on last slice of savagery it still then seeps into a closing section that has a slower pace than usual and the whole song is a bit up and down throughout to be honest and ends the album on a bit of a mixed note.

This wasn’t an easy listen and nor was it meant to be I imagine; it does challenge you in places and makes you think about what people must had had to endure in times of war and how lucky that most of us are that there is no war in our lives. It has peaks and troughs but never really relinquishes its grip on you until right at then end which is the only disappointment really that they couldn’t end on a high but if you like raw, savage, and nasty black metal you won’t go far wrong with this album! 8/10

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