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Tuesday 26 September 2023

Reviews: Death Dealer Union, Kal-El, 10% Reptile, By Fire & Sword (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Rich Piva)

Death Dealer Union - Initiation (Napalm Records) [Matt Bladen]

Death Dealer Union are not an offshoot of power metal supergroup Death Dealer, they were formed by CC McKenna (drums), Doug Weiand (lead guitar) who quickly brought in Lena Scissorhands from modern metal act Infected Rain on vocals to lead their occult leaning heavy metal alchemy. 

This resulted in singles and then the pandemic stalled things, however now with Hunter Havokk (rhythm and lead guitars) and Jonny Heinz (bass) as part of the band, Valentin Voluta behind the desk they give us their album Initiation. Vangelis must have influenced the title track, the multiple layers of electronics that's drives into The Vow Of Silence where the poppy rocking is joined by symphonic metal and Lena's diverse vocals. 

If I were to make a comparison I'd say they sound a lot like In This Moment, vocally especially, along with a power metal flair of Amaranthe. From hear they take journey's through modern metal, 80's metal, prog metal and even some huge theatrical elements on the final track Beyond Heaven. Lots of variation in what kinds of metal they play, different enough from Lena's day job to feel new, the electronics and guitars working well, but it's nothing you won't have heard before. 

12 tracks over 54 minutes is about right but a few of the songs last a little too long, for what is a decent metal album, that I suggest you check out but it's an Initiation and rather masterclass. 6/10

Kal-El - Moon People EP (Majestic Mountain Records) [Rich Piva]

I am not breaking any news here when I say that the Norwegian stoner/doom band Kal-El rules. They are one of my favorite bands out there in any genre and any new material is always a treat, especially when the songs are as good as what is on their new two-song teaser EP, Moon People. Now don’t get me wrong, of course I want a new full length, but I will take what I can get, and if what I can get is this quality, then bring me like 20 more two song EPs because these songs are killer.

Both of the two tracks on Moon People could have been on one of their classic full lengths like Dark Majesty from 2021 and my favorite album from the band Astrodoomeda. You don’t get the feeling that these tracks were just left over from some recording session. The title track is classic, trademarked Kal-El, from the unique and killer vocals, to the totally tuned down everything, to the never too fast or too slow pace, to the amazing guitar work (dig that two part solo!!!), and don’t forget the overt catchiness of everything they do, Moon People is another Kal-El classic tune for their someday best of collection that will come on some kind of really cool swirl/splatter vinyl. The B-side, Universe, is no slouch either, with a nice faster paced opening led by some killer drum work, an excellent riff, more of those great vocals, and whoa that riff breakdown at about the 2:20 mark that leads to the chorus. Just amazing stuff.

Two songs are not enough, but beggars can’t be choosers, so I am going to just play the crap out of the Moon People EP until we get a new full length. Yes, it is a tease, but it is a tease of the highest quality by one of the top five bands playing this style today. Go get these two amazing tracks. 9/10

10% Reptile - Holographic Fuzz (Playgroundz Records) [Rich Piva]

I don’t think grunge ever went away, but it just seems more and more prevalent in 2023, case in point the new album from 10% Reptile. These guys play fuzzy stoner grunge, which is a sentence I have written a lot this year. The New York band are not here to piggyback on your 90s heroes, as they have their own spin and own sound on the genre(s), creating a sound both familiar and unique to them on their new release Holographic Fuzz. A quick five songs and seventeen minutes of their take on post grunge, there is not a stinker in the bunch, even if the bunch is small in both song volume and length.

I love the opener, City And The Furnace, with its unique guitar sound, almost reminding me of Mudhoney which of course is a great thing. But a more melodic Mudhoney, which strong vocals which are even stronger layered. Catchy, fuzzy, and grungy. A nice stoner riff opens Unfamiliar Hazard, a groovy little tune that reminds me a bit of Raging Slab. The layered vocals work very well on this and all the tracks on Holographic Fuzz. I am also getting a grimier version of Days Of The New vibe on this one as well. More cool riffing with The Last Patrician, which sounds like The Cult/Jerry Cantrell mashup. Don’t Let A Good Thing Go To Waste has serious STP vibes and keeps that groove thing going. Another killer riff introduces us to Nothing’s What It Seems To Be, which is the angriest of the five tracks, and could fit nicely between I Hate You by My Sister’s Machine and Machine Screw by Gruntruck on a 90s mixtape.

This was fun, and I can see myself going back to Holographic Fuzz for a quick listen many times for the foreseeable future. 10% Reptile scratches a lot of 90s itches for me without ever being too formulaic. They get it and do just enough to make what they are doing so different than all the other fuzzy stoner grunge bands out their today. I just wish this was longer. 8/10

By Fire & Sword - Glory (No Remorse Records)

Seeming as if they may be the heavier brothers to bands like Stryper or Wytchazel, By Fire & Sword utilise Christian dogma in the same way that Church Of The Cosmic Skull do, or the way Ghost invert it. Tongues planted in cheeks, the over the top sermons from The Honourable Reverend Tim Tom Jones, right out of hell fire and brimstone Ol' Jim used to give in Jonestown. 

His voice deliver their message loud and clear as Brother Jeffrey supplies the riffs on guitar and bass. With influences from NWOBHM, BOC and even the doom of Candlemass. Leave A Little Room is the welcoming sermon where the Reverend wants his holy spirit to "pierce your frigid heart, again and again". With that established we go from Iron Maiden, to Judas Priest, though those gallops still firmly locked in Fear And Trembling, the gospel call backs coming from guest synth player Jeff Black and Isiah Fletcher the pace behind the kit. On The Feast there's organs from Anthony Parry, me song it goes very Ghost as does The Conduit

With the killer melodic vocals, the NWOBHM styled riffs, classic rock keys/organs and the spiritual themes treated with a wry smile. Glory, Love And Life to you from By Fire & Sword. 7/10

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