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Monday 25 September 2023

Reviews: Paul Rodgers, Bruce Soord, Guilt Trip, Anima Hereticae (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Danika Ulrich)

Paul Rodgers - Midnight Rose (Sun Records)

If you don't know the name Paul Rodgers then you don't know rock music. The founding member of both Free and Bad Company as well as the singer who reactivated Queen (as Queen + Paul Rodgers) in the 2000's before they settled on Adam Lambert as vocalist, if there's a blueprint for blues rock singer it's the leather lunged, soulful delivery of Paul Rodgers.

Midnight Rose is special for anyone that's a fan as it's his first solo album of all new material in 25 years, released on the legendary Sun Records (Elvis Presley), produced by Paul's wife Cynthia and Bob Rock, these eight tracks are perfectly formed to remind you of how good Rodgers is not just as a singer, his voice doesn't seem to age! But also his skill as a songwriter/musician, having written everything here with the exception of Living It Up which was co-written by bassist Todd Ronning, and drummer Rick Fedyk.

Midnight Rose starts off with the bluesy strut of Coming Home (great sax) while Photo Shooter moves more towards pop rock, perhaps the follow up to C-lebrity recorded with Queen. It's typical Paul Rodgers fayre but great to hear him letting loose again.

The first slow number being the country/Americana of the title track, the rock coming back on Living It Up which is a biographical track about him moving from Middlesbrough to America (via Canada) where he resides now and how the blues is his biggest inspiration. The hooks are big and the choruses easy to repeat but instrumentally these eight tracks are all quite concentrated with different layers.

The Paul Simon approach of Dance In The Sun is welcome after Living It Up, Classical/Spanish guitar playing, hand claps and great vibes, it's corny but enjoyable. Highway Robber brings a bit of that Free magic. Organist Chris Gestrin working his magic over the soulful R&B of Take Love while Ray Roper and Keith Scott absolutely slay on the guitars whether on the acoustics, on which most of this album is built or when they get to show off a bit on the first two tracks.

Does it have the next All Right Now, Wishing Well, Can't Get Enough or I Feel Like Making Love? No but the lineage if these tracks can be found here. More importantly the evergreen voice that brought them to life is still as potent and powerful as it was all those years ago. At a time where a lot of the big rock vocalists are mellowing or changing their tact, least said about Rod Stewart the better, Paul Rodgers is still creating music that is as authentic to who he is as a performer. 8/10

Bruce Soord - Luminescence (Kscope)

Bruce Soord is a polymath, singer, songwriter, multi instrumentalist, band leader of The Pineapple Thief, having made his name with said band a few years ago he released his debut solo album, fast forward and Luminescence is now his third solo offering. His solo albums have always been less heavy than the prog rock mastery of The Pineapple Thief, often favouring layered acoustics and repeating electronics to create ambiance rather than just being direct and riffy. 

Soord was inspired by Charles Duvelle, using field recordings like on Nestle In or Rushing, to mold the sound of this album, in an attempt to find peace and serenity Luminescence was written on the road and at Soords home studio with Andrew Skeet who is the musical producer of The Divine Comedy and an orchestrator. The acoustic guitar sits at the heart of all things Luminescence, tracks such as Olomouc hang on the intricate acoustic guitar but beautiful strings make it come alive, Lie Flat meanwhile has some electronic percussion to drive it along as So Simple is just that Soord's fragile vocal and a single instrument, Dear Life the first single encapsulates the ethos of the album, musical density paired with introspection and calmness. 

Soord has crafted an album that is designed to bring serenity, beautifully composed record where the sequencing is king, a long musical thread that links the songs together, carrying you away to this world of calm. With so much loud, riffy, aggressive music around, diving into an album such as Luminescence occasionally realigns your brain that music can be quiet, deft and spine tingling. 8/10

Guilt Trip - Severance (MLVLTD MUSIC) [Danika Ulrich]

Manchester’s hardcore 4 piece Guilt Trip are back with their first release since signing to Malevolence owned MLVLTD MUSIC. With this release it is clear Guilt Trip are ready to break into larger audiences after devoting several years honing their craft in the underground hardcore scene. Many bands recently have ferociously stomped out of the UK's underground from all over and pushed their way to the top of the international scene. Guilt Trip is one of these groups leading the charge with this brand of UK hardcore that is fresh, extremely aggressive, and relentless. Severance, their sophomore album, is a ruthlessly brutal piece of work filled with thrashing breakdowns and some unexpected delights.

Overall, it is ferociously brutal and sharp. Even though the band have broadened their sound, they haven't forgotten their roots. This is prominent in tracks Tearing Your Life Away, Sanctified, Eyes Wide Shut, and Hell Will Replace The Rain. The sound changes in Broken Wings, where they add cleaner guitars and vocals. This gives the album an emotive evolution that is then developed more in the closing song, Dusk. This soft, heartfelt track reveals a side of Guilt Trip that we haven't previously seen. It's a fascinating way to wrap up such an aggressive album.

Severance sounds much more punchy and precise thanks to the band's evolution of sound to incorporate melody and more dynamic riffs as well as higher quality production. It appears that Guilt Trip have borrowed techniques from Malevolence, particularly in the albums second half, which features emotionally loaded melodies and clean vocals. The majority of this album radiates an unrestrained rage. As they move through the metal, hardcore, and thrash spectrum, Guilt Trip do not hold back in releasing a barrage of intense aggression. Throughout the course of this album, each riff and breakdown annihilated my ears. The tension and momentum that are steadily built up in Guilt Trip are then released in incredibly satisfying breakdowns or bursts of groove-heavy riffs. 10/10

Anima Hereticae - Descended From The Mountains (Inverse Records) [Danika Ulrich]

Finnish blackened death metal three piece, Anima Hereticae, have released their debut album and I’m ready to be engulfed by the foreboding and sinister soundscapes. A blend of Scandinavian melodic metal, death metal, and black metal aspects makes up the band's distinctive sound. Even though their music is referred to as blackened death, Anima Hereticae combine the best of Scandinavian melodic death metal into their arsenal. This masterful blending of genres produces an album that is at once aggressive but when necessary, held back and calming.

The band unleashes into Two Wolves which unquestionably the album's best track. It features an impressive vocal performance paired with frantic but melodic riffs. Track 3, the albums single Kraken, perfectly encapsulates Anima Hereticae’s dexterity of blackened death metal. Fusing scorching riffs, fearsome vocals and thundering drums to produce an incredibly hypnotic and atmospheric song. The vocals are the focal point for me on this album with such a wide range. The vocals in Kalman Väki range from black metal growls to the occasional clean. This distinguishes the song and creates an album with real substance and atmosphere.

I found myself captivated by their eerie melodies and unrelenting aggression. There is a chillingly gothic aura throughout the album. Magnificent soundscapes brimming with atmosphere abruptly give way to the stereotypical sound of Scandinavian metal. Descended From The Mountains is a perfect debut album. The band is entirely unknown but are rushing into territories where their genres elite exist. Anima Hereticae appeared out of nowhere armed with an assault of obscene death metal. 8/10

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