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Monday 2 October 2023

Reviews: Black Stone Cherry, Asinhell, Dead Man's Whiskey, Bear (Reviews By GC & Matt Bladen)

Black Stone Cherry - Screamin’ At The Sky (Mascot Records) [GC]

I have to admit to having a bit of a soft spot for Black Stone Cherry, its all my wife’s fault I usually wouldn’t listen to this sort of music, southern rock with a kind of country twist in places, it sounds like the thing of nightmares but there is something about Black Stone Cherry that stands out and they are one of the best lives acts going, if you haven’t seen them you are missing out! Anyway, the last couple of albums have sort of passed me by so is this the one to draw me back in?

Starting off with title track Screamin’ At The Sky straight away we are introduced to the familiar rich and chunky guitar sound of Ben Wells that is always highlight of the BSC sound and makes them stand out because they aren’t really heavy but they aren’t not heavy either, it’s a decent trick to pull off and is probably a good reason why they are so popular, then comes the unmistakable voice of vocalist/guitarist Chris Robertson, and this guy can seriously SING! It all comes mixed with the immense drum work of John Fred Young and the rhythm of relative new boy Steve Jewel Jnr and it all flows along nicely to create a boisterous and energetic start. 

Nervous has a huge riff to start us off and as soon as the vocals kick in you are sold, the way the story comes across in the music is a thing of beauty and you can feel every word and note means something and the song itself is bound to be amazing live. When The Pain Comes doesn’t let up on the riffs, these guys just throw them out for fun and its worth nothing this is their eighth album and the talent they possess to craft massive singalong songs should not be sniffed at, this is another rock n roll stomper with a huge chorus and the end section of this tune is just pure unadulterated guitar heaven. Out Of Pocket has a more subdued feel and lets the song brood and build up to something exquisite when it does kick in and it uses the more mellow parts perfectly and the whole thing just leaves me beaming! 

Unfortunately Show Me What It Feels Like has all the usual elements of a mid-album track in that it doesn’t give you everything you want but it’s not exactly awful either, it’s just kind ok to listen to but, I imagine it won’t be anyone’s standout song, Raindrops On A Rose is the kind of standard rock ballad that used to be all over radio and MTV but the beauty of this song is its not a sappy acoustic lead yawn fest this has feeling and energy and that makes it stand out from the usual shit you would get. 

Smile, World seems a little sort of throw away and doesn’t really stick in my memory for too long again its not awful its just a bit one paced and flat, The Mess You Made has another earworm riff and the bass work is a thing of beauty it’s another subdued verse mixed with big chorus type song and it all ties together nicely enough if not spectacularly so!? On Who Are You Today? They craft a dark and moody rock n roll rager that is full of emotive lyrical content and a sublime solo in the middle and the end verse builds up towards a big riffy ending. 

Not Afraid just keeps the big riffs coming and again relies on the dialed back verse to then explode into a massive chorus and mixing all the big chunky guitars in with this you get and undeniably great song that most bands would kill to be able to write but it just seems to come naturally to these guys! Here’s to the Hopeless is then the second ballad of the album and it fairs much better than the previous one as this is absolutely beautiful the vocals almost pierce your soul; they are so emotive and the way they craft the song around the vocals is just something that needs to be heard as I’m not really sure I have the words to describe how perfect it is! 

It falls to You Can Have It All to close this album and it does so in perfect fashion. This is a big, heartfelt southern rock hug and is full of all the things that make Black Stone Cherry such a special band. I’m not sure what to say really? After a few years of not really connecting with Black Stone Cherry, this has re-introduced me in spectacular fashion, my only criticism is there are a couple of tracks that were just ok and probably could have not been included but overall, this is as close to perfect as an album can be! Welcome back lads I’ve missed you!! 9/10

Asinhell - Impii Hora (Metal Blade Records) [Matt Bladen]

Michael Poulsen has always been a person's of interest in the metal world. His band Volbeat have managed to carve a niche where they can play heavy metal that owes as much to Elvis as it does Metallica, but somehow they have always found a way to introduce artists on the more extreme side. Much of this is due to Poulsen's love of death, black and thrash metal, having been in a death metal band before forming Volbeat. Essentially he wanted to be a part of the Metal Blade roster from the 80's/90's, and now in 2023 his wish has come true, with a phone full of death metal riffs he formed Asinhell asking Marc Grewe of Insidious Disease to front it and Morten Toft Hansen of Raunchy on drums. Impii Hora is Latin for Ungodly Hour and there's something pretty ungodly about this record, it's OSDM built on HM2 buzzsaw riffs, blastbeats and "urghs". 

Poulsen himself names Bolt Thrower, Entombed Autopsy and Grave as influences and as soon as Fall Of The Warrior came out of the speakers I immediately though Bolt Thrower, especially due to the vocals of Grewe, but in the lead guitar playing of Flemming C. Lund you can hear the techincality of Chuck Schuldiner, as Poulsen drives the skull crushing grooves on tracks such as Inner Sancticide and Trophies with producer Jacob Hansen playing bass. Asinhell don't hang around showing what they've got Island Of Dead Men and The Ultimate Sin absolutely tear things apart, the riffs acting like a bead knife through bone fully commited to the OSDM sound. If you remember Volbeat's last UK tour when Napalm Death were their support, Asinhell shows you why that was the case; Poulsen has an affinity with death/grind, Impii Hora his death emtal showcase. 8/10

Dead Man's Whiskey - In The Storm (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

"I love rock me...it's great" this is line that constantly sticks in my head whenever I get an album like this. The quote comes from Bill Bailey, who did a show in Swansea and emulated accent after the crowd confirmed they were ready to rock. Why it makes me chuckle is that in subsequent years Wales has become the heartland for new rock music, with Planet Rockstock, Winters End and Steelhouse all becoming pilgrimages for hungry rock fans. It's a place where a band like Dead Man's Whiskey can really make their mark, doing so this year up in the Valleys. I can hear the voices now saying "this is a bit flipping good" as they pump out their own style of Southern rocking. 

The influence of a band such as Black Stones Cherry is strong but if they were frontned by Graham Bonnet who singer Nico Rogers sounds a lot like. Due to the involvement of Chris Clancy and Colin Richardson, In The Storm relies on the atmospheric sound cultivated by the modern metal acts both men have have worked with, the intro sounding like a start to a Trivium album. But as soon as the riff from Masquerade kicks in you know you're in for a rocking. The rhythm section of drummer Charlie Gray, bassist James Titley and guitarist Elliot D'Alvarez cranking out some pace, adding the crunching heavy riffs to Raven's Call so Billy Kons can add that bluesy slide guitar. 

Dead Man's Whiskey comes from a sound where blues/southern rock is fused with the American radio sound of bands like Alter Bridge songs such as Who I Am and Do Or Die, blending both well the soulful vocals of Rogers adding passion. Known for being a great band, they've managed to capture some of that here but with a maturity that's separates then from middle of the road hard rock. They play with heaviness bringing big muscular riffs to tracks such as Fighting To Survive and What's Your Name, but also know when to slow down with songs such as Closer To You

If you're a fan of bands such as The Dust Coda, Scarlet Rebels and Kris Barras, or indeed if you love a "bit of rock" and avidly listen to Planet Rock radio then In The Storm will be a must listen. 7/10

Bear - Vanta (Pelagic Records) [GC]

Today I am heading to Belgium and have Vanta the new album from hardcore act Bear, after a bit of research I can see that this is their fifth album. I admit to having never heard of them and have no idea what to expect from this release.

What I am first introduced to on opener Atone is a furious hardcore assault, it absolutely blasts out of the speakers full of anger and fury there is not a single second wasted on breaking you in gently they go straight for the throat and even when they do throw in a bit of a melodic vocal it doesn’t dull the force and it’s an exhilarating start that leads into Cisplatin which has some off kilter mathcore guitar work and a slow and moody bass lead vocal line drops in at the beginning but this song feels way to jumbled like they are trying to put too much into one song and it suffers because of this its good, it just needs more focus. 

Defeatist then drops the pace of everything and has introduces a nu-metal influence into the sound with big groove infused riffs and again the off-kilter rhythms are still running through the main part of the song, then randomly out of nowhere we get some weird jazz section that kind of throws me off a bit and again this song seems to suffer from trying too much all at once but the end section of this song is a beauty!, Repose Beyond Fate once again goes for the simple and effective bludgeoning but in a more metalcore type of way there are more melodic vocals on this song and they benefit the flow massively and really hit you hard because the mood they create is spectacular an album highlight for sure! 

Title track Vanta is up next and its another mish mash of styles but the overall thing you take away is that these guys can throw huge riffs around for fun! They know just when to add in a big chunky beatdown and I would like them to probably focus more on a specific style as the constant changing of rhythms and melodies makes you kind of lose patience sometimes as just when they hit a groove it’s gone it’s all just slightly chaotic and usually that would be something I like but it all just lacks a that focus needed.

Earthgrinder though is an absolute monster of a song! The first verse riff is fucking monstrous, and the chaotic feel does benefit the song as it feels like they have managed to pack all their ideas into a song and not make it sound disjointed or messy, and because of this we get the best song so far, its full of huge guitars and the vocals sound suitably furious and everything they try hits, beast of a song! ArmMe is probably my least favorite of all the tracks as it doesn’t really do anything? It relies heavily on the jagged and jabbing guitars and mixes in a lot more melodic vocals than before but it’s just kind of there and doesn’t really register any feeling? Think it’s just boring! 

Cells is my least favorite thing on any album, a pointless 2 minutes of ambience and feedback that offers fuck all and should have just been binned off! Piece does pick the pace back up and is full of guitar wizardry and honestly some of the stuff in this song is breathtakingly good and you just wish that it all sounded this good, and the vocals are unreal also! Serpents throws another curve ball at you and is absolutely 100% influenced again by nu-metal but not even good nu-metal its all very 2005 end of the line nu-metal and should be cast off the face of the earth, shocking song and really annoying! Andram thankfully is another fucking beast of a song and makes you once again wonder why they don’t just always sound this good? It they did this album would be unbelievable but, they just try to hard to do too much all the time and make questionable song choices along the way! But this is a very good way to close the album out.

Bit of a mixed bag on this one, when Bear are good Vanta is exhilarating, urgent, heavy and exciting but when they swing and miss it is such a huge miss you think it’s a different band!? I liked the vast majority of this album but overall feel they need to focus more and not try everything together all at once. 7/10

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