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Friday 1 September 2023

Reviews: Spider Kitten, Phil Campbell And The B*stard Sons, Firewind, Albany Down (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Spider Kitten - A Pound For The Peacebringer (APF Records)

31 albums! There are very few bands that have released 31 records in their career, especially in what is actually quite a short amount of time. Having been a band for about 20 years, A Pound For The Peacebringer is the 31st release (11th full length) from South Wales heaviest music merchants Spider Kitten, their debut on the UK’s loudest label APF. 

It has been seven years in the making, recorded in fits and starts, you notice immediately that it feels like it was done with all the band in the studio jamming out the songs together rather than in bits. Its coherent but experimental, shifting sands between sludge, doom, noise and various other ear deafening styles with folk, blues, country and psych, as the lyrical content sways between therapy, drugs, altruism, politics, religion and peace through death, this elevated lyrical scope and introspection always a hallmark of the Spider Kitten style. 

Spider Kitten always weave an effective/impressive soundscape, fearing very little with their style, it’s no wonder that the title track, which opens the record is 16 minutes in length and shifts from concrete smashing, down tuned sludge into electronic, organ drenched fuzzing progness. You need a sit down after just one track but with 4 more to go you are definitely into this for the long haul. That’s what the band do though, make albums that need to be experienced in their entirety, so you pick up the nuances, like acoustic Americana of Safe To Drown, which is the second song, it could be jarring but it’s just what is needed after the mammoth title track. 

Spider Kitten is the creation of Chi Lameo who plays the lion’s share of instruments, joining him is drummer Chris West who also shares some of the instrumentation, a major part of the band since 2010, it’s the synchronicity between Chi and Chris that has seen Spider Kitten reach higher plateaus than previously thought, the two have shared love of country/roots music so this has been brought to the sludge/doom/noise beginnings to create the band they are now. 

This Kitten has had many lives in the past but since 2018 joining the foundation duo, are Steve Jones on bass, Gareth Day on guitars, this is the current touring version of the band, so both are featured here. While there’s guest appearances from Luke Oram and Rob Davies, all these names known to anyone from the South Wales UK doom/sludge/stoner scene, so Chi and Chris surround themselves with people who understand the artistic vision of Spider Kitten. 

From Safe To Drown we go into the dark vaudeville of God’s Song, the strumming and vocals reminding me of Tom Waits, before the volume is cranked back up for the doom of Bellwether, the groove of Fluid Druid taking a shamanistic-like turn with repeating riff and vocals, before breaking down into the apocalyptic “na na na” refrain as if sung ad-nauseum while the inhabitants of Jonestown drank the Kool Aid. 

Spider Kitten are a perfect fit for APF, monolithically heavy but with a rootsy soul and emotional heart A Pound For The Peacebringer, starts their stay on this label brilliantly. 9/10

Phil Campbell And The B*stard Sons - Kings Of The Asylum (Nuclear Blast)

Former Motörhead guitarist Phil Campbell formed his solo/family project along with his three sons in the last few years of Motörhead's existence. With Todd (guitar), Tyla (bass) and Dane (drums) they made their debut as the Bastard Sons in 2016, releasing an EP along with two previous albums, Age Of Obscurity (2018) and We're The Bastards (2020). 

Armed with a glut of their own songs they never shy away from the shared history putting Motörhead tracks in ther sets to this day garnering immense loyalty from the Motörheadbangers fan club. Having seen the band live a few times I always thought vocalist Neil Starr's shriller tone never quite fitted the ethos, however Joel Peters who sings on third album Kings Of The Asylum, has the attitude needed to perform a track such as Maniac with it's "Fuck You" refrain. His delivery is gritty but melodic, ideal for the anthemic driving hard rock that PCATBS play. 

This is what some magazines would call 'blue collar' rock, originating from the South Wales valleys, they wear their honesty on their sleeve, rallying against politics and injustice with a raucous rock n roll that of course makes you want to throw up a beer (or cider) and sing along, on tracks such as Hammer And Dance, Phil himself peels off riffs and solos joined by Todd, as the fist pumping rockers such as Motörhead thrust of The Hunt are joined by grooving numbers such as the title track. Without varying too much from the set script, PCATBS sharpen their edge, feeling to me more like they should have from the start. 

Capturing their live energy on this thrid album it's a riotus record, these bastards definitely run this asylum. 8/10

Firewind – Still Raging (AFM Records)

Celebrating their 20th anniversary, Still Raging is a live album recorded in their hometown of Thessaloniki, Greece in 2022. Released as a double CD and Blu-Ray, it features the current line-up of the Greek power metal veterans playing a massive 20 song set from the entirety of their career. Still led by virtuoso guitarist Gus G, he’s joined by long time bassist Petros Christo, drummer Jo Nunez and singer Herbie Langhans, recorded in the Principal Theater where they recorded their DVD Live Premonition in 2008.

It’s a treat for Firewind fans, displaying all the songwriting skills the band possess and how their style has adapted over the years. The guitar chops of Gus G are brilliant as you’d expect, the renewed interest in the band due to his stint as Ozzy’s guitar player. You get all the tracks you’d want on this record from Head Up High, to live staple The Fire And The Fury, the always excellent Falling To Pieces as well as many others including their cover of Maniac from Flashdance. Now there is an issue here, I have to admit, I’m a Firewind fan, I’ve seen them with three previous singers, but I really don’t like the vocals of Herbie here, on the songs he sang, they’re decent but elsewhere he really struggles. 

This has always been a downfall live, choosing singers that can’t always pull it off live, however Herbie just seems like his in-ears are not working so he can’t hear, so goes out of tune. A shame because I know he’s a good singer but it’s not reflected here I don’t think. If you’re a super fan then this is a way to celebrate the legacy of the band, however I’ll stick to their records I think. 6/10

Albany Down - Born In The Ashes (AD Recordings)

Fourth album by British blues rockers Albany Down is another thirteen tracks of modern blues rock, coming from a variety of blues foundations, from the classic rocking opener Always Want What You Can't Have and closer Let Your Love Shine, the Stax brass parps of I'll Come Running and Same Damn Thing, to the funking Good News and ballad The Memory Of What Used To Be where Paul Turley showcases both his soulful vocals along with Cat Wyn Southall and his killer guitar playing, where he shows off some melodic lines, moving into the fuzzy Reflections

The grooving rhythms of Pete Hancock (drums) and Ben Atkins (bass) augmented by Nick Nasmyth's keys making for a potent blues rock combination, these classic rock influences return on the title track as they start the second half of the record with a bang, the production of Greg Haver making tracks such as Darkest Day slick and modern sounding, Rockfield Studios making them having more magic. Kingdom Of The Blind and Don't Look Back channeling the modern rock ethos of Black Stone Cherry, Kris Barras Band but obviously keeping their blues roots. Albany Down will be treading the boards for the remaining part of the year delivering this live, but you'll be hearing much more of them on the back of Born In Ashes. 8/10

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