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Thursday 7 December 2023

Reviews: Bad Touch, The Bad Electric, Winterhorde, Nebula Drag (Reviews By Paul Hutchings, Matt Bladen, Mark Young & Rich Piva)

Bad Touch – Bittersweet Satisfaction (Marshall Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Scroll through these esteemed pages and you’ll find ample coverage of these fine men from Norfolk. One of the best bands to come through the NWOCR, Bad Touch probably precede that movement by a good few years. 

They’ve been plying their trade for a decade or more now, with debut Halfway Home, recorded at Foel Studios in North Wales a fine debut release. Since then, they’ve gigged steadily, building enough traction to be worthy of headlining the 2023 edition of the Station 18 Festival in Swansea in April.

We’ve arrived at album number five by my reckoning, and the first to be unleashed since 2020’s Kiss The Sky which got a high 8/10 here back in June 2020. The good news is that Bad Touch have brought more of the stomping swagger, chunky riffs, and Hammond organ along with the unmistakable vocals of diminutive frontman Stevie Westwood, whose performance here is as good as anything he’s done in the past.

The songs are well structured, honing their style which is reminiscent of those 70s and 80s gods, Zeppelin, Free, Aerosmith, complete with the swagger of The Black Crowes and the more contemporary sound of Rival Sons and The Answer. 

From opening track Slip Away, through the title track which raises the tempo, and the soulful mid-point Nothing Wrong With That, destined to be a crowd favourite in years to come, there’s plenty to get excited and appreciative about on this album. Rob Glendinning’s lead guitar work is full of emotion and feel, whilst the gospel edge that occasionally floods The Answer’s music is evident from time to time.

Bad Touch inevitably bring a good vibe that allows you to singalong, and Tonight is one of those songs, led by Michael Bailey’s bass lines that drive the songs forward, with Westwood backed by some female harmonies that give the song a delightfully poppy vibe. It’s one that’ll worm into the brain and nestle there, with the hook popping up when you least expect it. It’s also an album that doesn’t fizzle out. 

See It To Believe It is as strong at penultimate track as opener Slip Away. Anthemic, good time music, Bad Touch have done their cause no harm with this release. It’s a record that slips easily into their catalogue. 8/10

The Bad Electric – Happy Endings Are Overrated (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

The orange cagoules are back! Swansea electro garage rockers The Bad Electric recharge and return with more flashes of vibrant music tongues firmly in cheek and D.I.Y ethos. Initially started out of boredom caused by how long the members other bands were taking to do things, The Bad Electric started out as punk, but with the addition of synths and samples owe as much to Devo as they do The Ramones. 

Are they not men? Well yeah they are actually: Jonny Randell (guitar/vocals), Matt Williams (guitar/synth/vocals), Zach Williams (bass/vocals) and Tom Young (drums) to be exact coming from some of the heaviest bands on the South Wales scene, they have moulded The Bad Electric into something different, angular and abrasive but with some boogie and neon hued tones. 

Their debut EP was well received by myself and others and so after many gigs locally, there was a brief line up change and they set about recording their second EP, Happy Endings Are Overrated. Once again they written, performed, recorded, mixed, mastered, drew the artwork and released it all by themselves, totally independently, preceding the EP with two singles over the space of two weeks. 

First single Beans gets going with some 90’s garage rock, as the Dandy Warhols fight with QOTSA, second single I Guess I’m From Here Now has the upbeat danceablilty of new millennium Manics merged with the snarl of The Wildhearts. Two singles that will open the ears to The Bad Electric style before Moff Kant delivers proper angry punk, the count of “1, 2, 3, 4” and punchy riffs very CBGB’s as the indie rocking comes back on No Way Kid

So far so eclectic but without sacrificing their influences, if anything diversifying here with the surfy vibes of Bonk Eye reminding me of Supergrass or Super Furry Animals. Thankfully Bomber is not a Motorhead cover but it is a psychedelic freakout to end things weirdly, just as it should be from these orange oddities. Angular music form angular people, this is The Bad Electric but it’s potent. 8/10

Winterhorde - Neptunian (Noble Demon) [Mark Young]

Now, seeing the cover adorned with what could be described as a figure similar to that of Prince Namor (King of Atlantis, The Sub-Mariner) piqued my interest. Hailing from the Haifa District of Israel, they have been kicking around since 2001 and have three full-length releases under their belt. Maestro (2016) certainly garnered praise in the metal community and on this showing they should receive the same and more.

An orchestral flourish, classical vocal lines and the sounds of the sea herald Amphibia, a symphonic collection of blast-beats, atmosphere and brass, which is surprisingly good. In some respects they had to do a song like this to start the album off, given the album cover. 

It has that epic sound and feel to it, mixing in the clean and dirt vocals accordingly bringing in the expected musical moments: Widdly solo, organ swells that if they hadn’t have provided would have left the song floundering. The brass enters the fray once more at the end giving the song a frankly crazy sign off that shouldn’t work but does.

It continues in this vein, taking what are simple melodies and building epic tales of war and battle that some of their Scandinavian contemporaries would struggle to catch. Title track, Neptunian (As The Trident Strikes The Ice) does this superbly and throws in some of ‘those’ Halford screams which is just spot on. It is a prime example of having one idea and building something around it that works so well.

They also turn in some solid black-metal on Angels In Disguise (which features Kobi of Orphaned Land) which although keeps some of the epic traits in place it’s an melodic stormer that has a really well-built solo break amongst the d-beats. However, what I found is that each song is well crafted, it felt as though there wasn’t enough to distinguish between them. The song lengths which by no means are excessive could have been trimmed just to give them a little more heft. 

Its likely that with atmospheric / progressive black metal (thank you Bandcamp) that song lengths such as these are expected but for me having a short blast in there livens things up. If you are going to drop songs that are over 5 minutes long then for me you have got give me something that engages from start to finish. If the length is a conceit to allow both vocal styles to have a go at leading the song, then write two songs instead. 

Before you start nibbling at me, they aren’t bad songs as they showcase a high level of thought to them which is reflected in their respective arrangements its just that they don’t resonate with me as they might with others. An example of this is Alone In The Ocean which just meanders with a number of instrumental breaks which were just ballast to me.

So, with this in mind I am conflicted in what score to give. There is some great stuff on here and that is beyond debate. Its sounds excellent, but feels excessively long in some parts. It's a solid 7/10

Nebula Drag - Western Death (Desert Records) [Rich Piva]

Nebula Drag tear it up on their third album, Western Death. The San Diego, California heavy psych rock rippers bring us seven tracks that waste no time kicking your ass and reminding you that you can very nicely blend heavy psych with punk rock elements to create something absolutely killer. Blue Cheer, MC5, Monster Magnet, Deathchant, Volume, and Stepmother are all reference points here, but Nebula Drag are not here to rehash or reshape, they are here to bring you their own version of psych rock that will leave you both breathless and wanting more of what they bring to the party.

The band wastes no time is showing how awesome Western Death is by unleashing the opener, Crosses, On The World. The drumming is excellent on this track and throughout the album and fits perfect with the chugging guitars that lead you right into what reminds me of Monster Magnet musically, which of course is awesome, but higher, more spaced-out vocals that bring a heavier psych feel. I love the spaz out at the end of the track, once again giving me early Monster Magnet vibes. 

Sleazy Tapestry is next, and continues to rip it up, with some of the punk vines I mentioned above partnering nicely with the heavy psych vibes and some killer riffs. Nebula Drag is not afraid to spread out, and they do so nicely on the almost nine-minute psych romp, Failure. This one has the riffs and the heavy but gives you room to expand your head with some killer psych rock jamming. This is the highlight of a record filled with highlights. 

Kneecap brings more of the Monster Magnet via Blue Cheer vibes to the table with the heavy space track Kneecap while Side By Side brings the same kind of goodness. Tell No One has an almost grungy space feel to it while the closing title track is a riff machine that gives me 70s heavy proto vibes along with the heavy psych that have perfected on Western Death.

I loved their last album, but Nebula Drag takes it to the next level on Western Death. I would not be surprised if we see this one as a late entry on a number of year end lists, I know it will be somewhere on mine. 9/10

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