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Thursday 21 December 2023

Reviews: Palace Of The King, Taxi Caveman, Imperatore, Rash Panzer (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Rich Piva)

Palace Of The King - Friends In Low Places (Reckless Records) [Matt Bladen]

I've been following Aussie rockers Palace Of The King for a while but they did drop off my radar for a bit, happily they have just released their latest album, their fourth full length, Friends In Low Places and it reminds of how much I enjoyed the bands previous work. They haven't released a record since 2018 but during that time they have been touring with numerous bands For me they have the rock n roll swagger of a band such as the much missed Temperance Movement, The Black Crowes and also The Answer. Soulful blues, Americana and good old rock n roll.

A track such as Get Right With Your Maker, will appeal to any fan of the Brothers Robinson, gospel influences and organs of Sean Johnson against those brilliant vocals from Tim Henwood. Johnson's keys are also integral to the swaggering Tear It Down, a proper strutter driven by the drums of Cameron McGlinchey while the title track has the fuzzy punch of The Hives or Wolfmother, Leigh Maden (who returns after sitting out the last album tour), Johnson and Henwood's guitars distorted and grubby. Rounding out the band is bass player Anthony Licciardi who gives the low groove to Tell It Like It Is and the soulful I'm Sorry Blues which has plenty of Steve Marriott and some Red Hot Chillis too.

Friends In Low Places re-establishes how good Palace Of The King are as a band. Hard rocking comes on Tear It Down, the three guitars in glorious union while One Of These Days brings the sneer of Aerosmith or Rose Tattoo, as does the mouth harp fuelled Dead End Blues. Christ this is good, one of 2023's best rock records released just as the year comes to a close. They are going to tour the hell out of Oz during their summer over the next couple of months, hopefully they come back over here soon. 9/10

Taxi Caveman - UGH! (Interstellar Smoke Records) [Rich Piva]

Every time Warsaw, Poland’s Taxi Caveman releases new music I seem to be surprised that it was coming. I never seem to have a heads up like I do with almost every other band I dig, so new Taxi Caveman material winds up being a nice surprise for your reviewer. The new and second full length from this fuzzy stoner power trio, UGH! Is chock full of what I dig about this band; fuzzy heavy stoner rock with California desert influences that can be both riff-filled heaviness as well as catchy as hell. UGH! Doubles down on this, bringing some of the heaviest and best material that the trio has delivered till date.

Duke Nukem and Black Magic Hole, the first two tracks on UGH! are the perfect example of how the band has amped up the heavy. The former has some crunchy riff goodness with an aggressive vocal style and just enough melody to remind you of their influences, such as Kyuss and Fu Manchu. The latter has an almost hardcore punk feel, but with a vocal melody that will stick with you all day. I love the vocals on this track as well as the solo, and this may be the heaviest song in their catalog. 

The excellently titled Sexy Caveman brings the heavy and musically reminds me of early QOTSA in all the best ways. More punk/cross over thrash vibes hit you with the short blast of the title track, and they pull it off perfectly. The fuzz gets cranked up to 11 on Funeral Kingdom, with another chunky riff and a more slowed down doomy pace and works nicely within the flow of the record. 

The last three tracks of UGH! goes in a very different direction, starting with the melodic rock of What A Day with guest vocalist Macias that shows that these guys can take their music in many different directions. There is a more chill, psych vibe to this more straight-ahead rocker. One thing is for certain though, What A Day rules and may be my favorite from them so far, and I really enjoy Taxi Caveman. Dig that fuzzy solo. The final two tracks are covers, with a more straight ahead take on Katatonia’s Wait Outside (but with a nice TC spin) and a super fun take on Tay Tay’s Don’t Blame Me.

Another surprise from Taxi Caveman has once again delighted me. The band has yet to disappoint and now brings you some new direction and some of their best work on UGH! Yeah, there is a Taylor Swift cover, which could be considered a bit cliched at this point, but even that brings the fuzzy stoner rock goodness that Taxi Caveman is becoming known for. Great stuff. 8/10

Imperatore - Imperatore (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

If like me you spent the festive season listening to Trans Siberian Orchestra records then you'll be very aware how they bring together classical music and heavy/power metal. Usually they have a host of operatic vocalists and stirring orchestrations so when I saw that Aussie band Imperatore pair opera and heavy metal I was intrigued to hear if it sounded like TSO or were they just clutching at straws.

Thankfully this album has all the bombast I could want, a debut concept album about Julius Caesar, the Imperatore in question, it's got the heavy/power metal you'd want, Invisible Hands sounding a lot like Kamelot or Serenity, a major point in their favour, keys/synths augmenting the guitars, bass and drums. Layers of acoustics too used well to increase those classical influences and musical dynamism.

Their vocalist though is the main attraction, he has a proper operatic singing voice, his gritty singing voice swelling into a top tenor, massive range without ever being jarring. His diversity vocally is perfect for the cinematic/concept of this album as they take some progressive routes into the sound of Virgin Steele on Second Coming and folky title track and ballad Angel Eyes adds Blind Guardian to the influences.

It's bombastic, baffling and bonkers, but bloody entertaining! For a debut this is a bit of a risk but it pays off for the most part, going forward they need a little refinement but if you want an album that brings something a little different then take a journey to the Roman Republic via Perth Australia. 8/10

Rash Panzer - Liberation (7hard Records) [Rich Piva]

Talk about time between releases! The Swiss band Rash Panzer has apparently been around since 1979. I personally had never heard of them when assigned the review by the boss, but in my research found that they have only put out a handful of material in their time as a band, including an EP that apparently had some legs in 1988-89, gaining them some exposure, even in the States, but after that only three total full lengths, one in 1989, 2013, and now ten years after their last and four plus decades after starting the band, we get Liberation. That is a long time to be a band and have such little output, but in many cases, quantity does not mean quality. Let’s see what these guys do with such a long break.

I hear hints of Scorpions and early (hobo, not drifter) Whitesnake from the band on Liberation, as they play straight-ahead, no-frills party rock. The first two tracks being perfect examples, where the vocals have a Coverdale type feel, especially on the chorus of Rock On. Freewill is a weird track after the first two, with some almost spoken word vocals and a bit more heaviness than the rocking bar band vibes you get from the first two, maybe hearing some Accept here. Great guitar work on this one and throughout Liberation

Rock Saved My Soul moves make towards the territory of the first two tracks, but I hear some AC/DC vibes coming into the mix here too. No Way has an early rock and roll heavied up vibe too it, and it is a fun listen, but like most of Liberation, nothing that is going to sound unique or something that is not borrowing from the greats of early metal. That is not to say it is not worth a spin, because it is. You head into the stadium rock anthem territory with Testament. You even go into some hair band territory, you know, when the hair bands tried to be blues influenced, with Wild Roses. Liberation is like a tour of all things early 80s hard rock/metal, done over twelve tracks by guys who have been around and lived it.

Rash Panzer’s third album in 40-something years is worth your time if you enjoy some straight head hard rock/metal fun. You will hear all sorts of influence on here, as the band hits pretty much every big band in that category. Don’t expect anything groundbreaking on Liberation but listen if you want some good time rock and roll from guys who have kept it together for so long for the love of the music. 6/10

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