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Thursday 7 September 2023

Reviews: Asking Alexandria, Dethklok, Laurence Jones, Swami Lateplate (Reviews By Zak Skane, C Hunter, Matt Bladen & Paul Scoble)

Asking Alexandria – Where Do We Go From Here (Better Noise Music) [Zak Skane]

To open up this album we have Bad Blood, which the band tickle us with a cheeky pop line of the title track before we get smacked in the face with some thick ass breakdown styled riffage that would of happily come from their Reckless And Relentless era of fury. Once the brutality subsides the line light shines on Danny Worsnop's raspy soulful vocals, which sings the hyms of heartbreak, whist being backed by layers of ambient guitars, pounding toms until they crescend into blast beats and tremolo picking. The following track Things Could be Different provided some octave dropped effected guitar riffs, up beat organic dance beats provided by the underrated James Cassell's and electronic cinematic layers that elevate this self doubt filled anthem. 

The anthemic Let Go features a female guest vocalist to open the song with angelic flare whilst the band provides big chord riffs, arena-pounding drum beats and heart felt choruses. The pop-infused track Psycho provides Maroon 5-esque swaggered verses to bombastic choruses with sprinkles of hard rock and metal influences. From the beginning of the song with it’s cyborg chants, Dark Void returns the band back to it’s heavy form with huge riffs, soaring hard rock husky choruses to electronic layers which which remind of Danny triumphant return on their 2017 self titled album. Nothing Left contains jolty djenty riffs and soaring solos from Ben and Cameron whilst James provides some sourcey double kick grooves. 

Instrumentally one of the main highlights on this album is the track Let The Dead Take Me where the band swoon from genre to genre, stemming from fuzzy garage rock styled guitar riffs, Hip Hop sampled vocals, piano driven ballads with sprinkles of blast beast and anthemic choruses, all performed with artistic integrity. Their acoustic guitar driven closing track Where Do We Go From Here could easily be mistaken as one of Danny Worsnops solo material, but when you look further into the lyrical themes that display uncertainty and listen to the vocal performance that ooze hints of heartbreak this makes this track a perfect closer to an album that should be praised as one of their best works to date. 

Other than the punk driven track Kill It With Fire which just felt too much of a curve ball to the rest of the songs on the album, this triumphant release is up their along with their greatest. For fans Bring Me The Horizon, Bad Omans and Beartooth. Solid 10/10.

Dethklok - Dethalbum IV (Watertower Music) [C Hunter]

It’s not every day you get to review the world’s greatest cultural force. Without need for introduction as I’m sure you’re all aware; The most popular and successful death metal band … band even! Have released their long awaited fourth album, the geniusly entitled Dethalbum IV. As this is the first album in ten years for the four musical legends plus Toki, I have had to wait until after the albums release to do my write up due to the very real possibility of having my home raided and family torn to shreds for being in possession of such an idol prior.

Opening with the sound of a lawnmower Gardner Of Vengeance is as brutal as Dethklok have ever been. No! Brutaler! Punishing bludgeoning riffs, the textbook melodic arpeggios of Skwisgaar Skwigeff and the screams of people on the wrong side of automatic horticulture instruments make the decade worth the wait. Wrapping up with Nathan Explosion’s gutturals and meaningful lyricisms “Your guts will be liquefied by a weed whacker “.

Aortic Desecration is four minutes of heavy melodic death metal that could have almost had Pickles going through more drum skins than drugs! Poisoned By Food is a sound track to gastronomic rupturing. Mutilation On A Saturday Night could be Dethkloks answer to a party anthem. With such brutalings as “We will interrupt you every time you try to make a joke”, “Where fucking with the thermostat” and “We have devalued your whole zip code”. Bloodbath sounds like early classic Dethklok, you know, like a much much much much better Arch Enemy. So melodious and canorus that when the faux orchestra kicked in I cried tears of blood. I Am The Beast has the brutalisms and hallmarks of a much much much much much better Slipknot with tasty leads.

DEADFACE breaks tradition as the soulful and slow-paced number dedicated to self hating and cantankerous William Murderface actually contains audible bass! I say soulful, but it is still heavier than the maggots on a bazillion mutilated elephants underneath a planet sized anvil. Satellite Bleeding Keeps up the tradition of the previous song of breaking tradition with a slower song that still maintains brutality. SOS is an emotional and possible end to the Dethkolk saga as the band throw down their egos in the shadow of the blazing star. “Fused , we’re the light” please see the film Metalocalypse: Army Of The Doomstar for reference. The last track of the album Murmaider III and third Murmaider related song … Hence the three, stacks harmonies on top of harmonies, eerie soundscape, orchestration and chugs for days for this epic finale .

After taking so long to reform. The legends … and Toki have done it again! Releasing the best melodic death metal album I’ve heard since their last one! It was so good in fact, that on completion, my laptop overheated and exploded. As I write this from the hospital bed, gushing red onto the page and looking like a really shit cyborg, the doctor tells me I have a slim chance of making it. Totally worth it!

Parodying a style gives you so much freedom. And with that freedom, Brendon Smalls has created something quite brilliant. Hitting all the desired beats without any need to worry about sounding contrived because that’s the point of it. The fantasy or joke of the ultimate death metal band has produced another album of great material without any of the tracks feeling “sewn back together wrong."
Great fun 9/10

Laurence Jones – Bad Luck & The Blues (Marshall Records) [Matt Bladen]

The second album on Marshall Records by Laurence Jones goes back to his roots. Now I think I said the same about the previous album Destination Unknown but Bad Luck & The Blues locks Jones back into the blues rock power trio format he started out in. It was a conscious choice from Jones who attempted something a bit more eclectic on the 2022 release deciding on New Years Eve 2022 that he wanted to scratch the itch of playing a more rock askew kind of blues again. 

Influenced by Cream, Ten Years After and Robin Trower, in fact the record was mastered by Christian Wright at Abbey Road who has worked with all of those named. Bad Luck & The Blues was recorded and mixed by Chris Sheldon who has recorded Foo Fighters and King King so there’s a modern meets retro style in the production. Perfect really when you consider that Jones wanted it to sound like those loud, hard rocking blues rock bands from the 60’s/70’s. With the PRS guitars pumping through Marshall stacks, tracks like the grooving I’m Gone are monstrous, a simple fuzz stomp riff, echoed vocal and noodling over the top and Jones shows what this new record is all about. 

With Jack Alexander Timmis once again on bass and Ash Sheehan who recently has been tub thumping for the Voice Of Rock Glenn Hughes, this is proper power trio rocking, with Jones paying homage to Hendrix and Gary Moore as well as more modern bands such as QOSTA and Jack White. Recorded pretty live in the studio as a trio to get the unity and fire This is all in the fuzz and the tone, though Jones says that his “main point of reference on this album was Robin Trower” you can hear that virtuosity right across Bad Luck & The Blues. Things get dirty on Don’t You Leave Me This Way, funky on Lost & Broken (more cowbell), forging some different grooves before returning to big blues rock riffs. 

There’s an urgency to this record, Jones spurred on by his health battles, changed his focus, looking back towards where he came from and bringing blues rock back. 8/10

Swami Lateplate - Doom Jazz II (Subsound Records) [Paul Scoble]

Swami Lateplate is a collaboration of two Jazz artists; Jamie Saft and Bobby Previte. Jamie plays Piano and Keys, Bobby is on Drums and Percussion, Jamie has worked with artists such as Iggy Pop, Beastie Brothers, Laurie Anderson and John Zorn, He has also scored films such as the 2006 Oscar nominated film Murderball. Bobby is a composer / performer who has won multiple awards for composition and was a seminal figure on the New York Downtown scene in the nineteen eighties.

Doom Jazz II is, the followup to Doom Jazz, an album originally released in 2012, and then re-released in 2021. The album features 3 long tracks that are instrumental, and feature a fairly minimalist take on Jazz with just drums, a vintage Yamaha Organ, or a distorted Hammond Organ. The Doom aspect of this album is more as an inspiration for the tempo and feel of the music rather than having sections of doom metal.

The album opens with The New Friend, which begins with a swing tempo, keyboard bass line and fast flowing vintage Yamaha Organ with the occasional dramatic drum beat. The tune builds and diminishes giving a very pleasing feeling of ebb and flow. There is a sense of repetition that is much more hypnotic than boring and in a strange way reminds me more of black metal than doom (black metal often uses passages that are purposefully repetitive to get a similar feeling of hypnotic repetition). Nearer the end of the track an extra keyboard line is added and the drumming becomes bigger and more taut, this part feels dramatic and purposeful with great drive before the song slows down and comes to an end.

Second track Everyone Is Aware has a more experimental feel to it, it’s a song of two halves, the first half is all keyboards with big keyboard swells forming a base with a soloing keyboard line over the top. After this first half the drums build up from nothing and a fast keyboard line is added, in this part it feels like these keyboard parts are made up of burst of scale fragments that become more and more manic as the track progresses. This then breaks down to just drums, before more scale fragments are added, becoming more agitated and frenzied until they almost feel like random notes. The song then breaks down and collapses to just keys and then silence.

The final song is Deception, this song is based around the Hammond Organ and so has a bit of a late Sixties / early Seventies psychedelic rock feel to it. The track opens with Hammond noodling, before the drums join in for some mid-paced hard rock Hammond. In some ways this sounds a little like Deep Purple if Jon Lord had been able to sack Richie Blackmore, get rid of the guitars and do the whole thing with hammonds. The song has a certain amount of the Blues in it as well in the soloing. The track builds to huge, awesome stature, with very dramatic, driving and purposeful sections, before the track slowly breaks down to silence.

Doom Jazz II is definitely a very interesting album. As a big fan of heavy metal, I do listen to jazz occasionally as a change, or if people I know who don’t like metal are visiting. However, listening to some Miles Davis, John Coltrane, or Django Reinhardt every now and then does not make me an authority on jazz, so I feel a little out of my comfort zone with this album. The first two tracks I find more interesting than enjoyable, they clearly have some experimental aspects that are fascinating and I can appreciate the art in them, but I’m not sure I’d listen to them more than a couple of times. The final track Deception is a cracking piece of psychedelic / hard rock without guitars, and as the track proves; sometimes you don’t need Guitars!

A very interesting album, if you know more about Jazz than I do then you’d probably appreciate this more than I did, however this has been a fascinating album to review, and I urge any metal fans with an interest in Jazz to definitely check this out. 7/10

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