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Wednesday 10 April 2024

Reviews: Blue Öyster Cult, Tarot, Tonnerre, Brutalism (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Rich Piva, James Jackson & GC)

Blue Öyster Cult – Ghost Stories (Frontiers Music Srl) [Paul Hutchings]

We’ve had numerous releases in recent years by this legendary band who celebrated over 50 years together over the past couple of years. They haven’t been prolific with new music in the past few years though, with only The Symbol Remains (2020) and 2001’s Curse Of The Hidden Mirror having been released this century.

So, a possible new album sent a quick wave of anticipation through me. It dissipated quickly though. Another collaboration with Frontiers Music, Ghost Stories is a collection of what is described as “reimagined and newly completed songs that span from 1978-2016. These musical treasures, long considered 'lost gems' by Blue Öyster Cult enthusiasts, were originally recorded between 1978 and 1983, except for one track from 2016, If I Fell."

Now for enthusiasts, this may be a fantastic discovery. Songs crafted in sessions for albums but didn’t make the light of day. And there is usually a reason for that. And so it proves here.

Now, at their legendary veteran status, one can’t really be critical about the band’s direction and decision. And having seen them deliver a master class at their headline show in 2023’s Stonedead Festival, where they were as smooth as I’ve ever seen them.

With original reel to reel analogue tapes transferred to digital and with the help of AI alongside the production and mixing qualities of Steve Schenck and Richie Castellano, there was then additional studio work and overdubs completed by remaining original members Eric Bloom and Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser, both Albert Bouchard and Rick Downey appear on drums with additional overdubs recorded by Joe Bouchard.

There’s nothing offensive about Ghost Stories. Nothing at all. It’s perfectly easy listening. But it’s just that. A cover of The Animals We Gotta Get Out Of This Place is perfunctory, whilst the only known recording of the band playing the MC5’s Kick Out the Jams doesn’t really set the world on fire.

Ultimately, this is a release that’ll please those wanting something a little collectible. For me, despite the usual fluid and integral musicianship, I’m afraid it wasn’t anything that special. 6/10

Tarot - Glimpse Of The Dawn (Cruz Del Sur Music) [Rich Piva]

If someone held a gun up to my head and asked me what was the best decade of music my immediate response would be 1970s, even though I was way too young to remember it first hand. You can tell this to be true by many factors including my record collection, but when I see “70s inspired” or something like that in a review or bio I will go there before anywhere else. 

I have been fooled and disappointed too many times by such descriptions, but my faith has been restored by the first album in eight years from Australian retro rockers Tarot, who very well may have a real working time machine, because be prepared to get transported back to that era when you experience Glimpse Of The Dawn

I’ll throw some70s comparisons at you to get it out of the way: Uriah Heep, Sabbath, Rainbow, early Styx, Deep Purple, the heavier side of Tull, 70s Yes, even bits of early Genesis. I’m done with the old band comparisons. If you want newer comparison points, think the record from fellow Aussies Butterfly and their killer Doorways Of Time record from 2021 or maybe Wytch Hazel minus the Jesus. Glimpse Of The Dawn, however, is in a class of its own and is one of my favourite things I have listened to in years.

Let’s get this out of the way right now. I have heard multiple unrelated comments about the vocals on Glimpse Of The Dawn as being annoying or just not that good. Are the guys singing Geoff Tate or Chris Cornell? Not at all, but the vocals on Glimpse Of The Dawn are exactly what is required to make this record pretty much perfect in my eyes and ears. The organ drives the record and is the catalyst to make this record as great AS IT IS. All eight songs are just epic. 

The opening title track, with the organ and the piano breakdown and the riff and the overall vibe of this track. I’m out of breath typing this and I haven’t even mentioned the solo yet. I love the opening riff of The Winding Road and how the gallop of the track matches with the words and theme just perfectly and the guitar work once again is top notch. The production on Glimpse Of The Dawn is exactly as it should be, as this record is my ideal sounding album; just check how the guitar, organ, and voices meld together towards the end of the second track. 

Leshy’s Warning has an acoustic opening that reminds me of something from the Genesis album A Trick Of The Tail until the dual guitars kick in and the harmonized vocals combine to take you back in time and when the heavier parts kick in look out. Once again, the production is excellent, especially how the acoustic guitars are layered across the track and the sound of the Purple-esque organ work. 

Echoes Through Time has a very familiar sound to it but it is a combination of so many excellent influences from the 70s that you will call out a different band every time you hear the song, but if there is one comparison that overshadows the others it would be Deep Purple. This will also be the song where people question the vocals, but to me this is very much a non-issue. 

 Every respectable 70s album with prog leanings has some kind instrumental interlude, so of course we have a two minute acoustic and synth bridge called The Harrier that leads seamlessly into the soundtrack to an epic journey, The Vagabond’s Heart, where the organ continues to take this album to the next level. The album keeps the excellence going right through till the end, with the amazing organ and guitar partnership on Dreamer In The Dark and the great closer and Purple Heep vibe of Heavy Weighs The Crown.

I have a feeling my love of Glimpse Of The Dawn is going to surprise some people, but nothing has caught me as me as much as the new Tarot record. This will be an AOTY contender and is a generational album that will stay with me always. Yup, I love this that much. 10/10

Tonnerre - La Nuit Sauvage (Cuz Del Sur Music) [James Jackson]

The first thing you notice when pressing play in this album is the very familiar sound, the second is the vocals - they’re all in French.

Quebec based Tonnerre are hugely influenced by the sounds of 70’s era hard rock, citing influences such as Blue Oyster Cult and AC/DC; which the intro to the title track reminded me of immediately.
Whilst I can’t possibly comment on the lyrical content; my high school French wasn’t up to scratch in high school and it’s been over 30 years since I last sat in that classroom; the emphasis and enthusiasm of female vocalist Annick, is something that doesn’t need translation and it comes across convincingly, so much so that I’d imagine a live performance would be worth seeing.

The riffs accompanying those vocals are blues rock inspired, as I listen to the album those influences previously mentioned come to the fore, as do the likes of ZZ Top, Steppenwolf and Lynyrd Skynyrd, the maraca style percussion of Ceux Qui Sommeillent splendid in its nod to the late 60’s and 70’s.

La Nuit Sauvage roughly translates, according to the bio, A Night In The Wild, a title that, again according to the bio, is about nights spent in the woods, shadows in the dark and noises of unknown origin; personally it feels like more of a nod to the free wheeling, long hair and motorbikes images conjured up when you think of 70’s rock - but that may well be my lack of understanding of the French language.

Definitely one for anyone who likes their rock with a blues accent and more than a hint of Classic Rock inspiration. 7/10

Brutalism - Solace In Absurdity (Comatose Music) [GC]

In a twist shocking to nobody who regularly reads M.O.M’s reviews I tend to do a lot of death metal and today is no different, however this is my least favourite of all the death metals, its ‘’brutal’’ death metal in the form of the latest Brutalism album, Solace In Absurdity.
Opening with Introlism (see what they did there), is neither clever or funny, it’s just annoying, it’s a minute and a bit of music that sounds like it’s been recorded by 5 people who have never met nothing goes together and everything is just thrown together and sounds a complete mess. Asphyxiating On Vomitous Excretion only really gets a positive mark because it uses an Arnold Schwarzenegger quote at the beginning after this it all gets very predictably br00tal and is just thudding double bass that sounds like it’s a rolled up blanket being hit with a wooden spoon and the snare is St Anger levels of annoying, the guitars just squeak and squeal for the most part and obviously the vocals sound like someone farting through their mouth.

Solace In Absurdity follows in much the same way really and somehow manages to have less structure and is again a complete mess and just sounds like its been all thrown on to the mixing board and someone has pressed record and hoped for the best, Astrocytomic Hemorrhaging hurts my brain to listen to, all the sections are just sloppily played and tagged together and the twangy bass that pops out from under the mess every now and then just prods the annoyance filter up another notch, when a half decent guitar riff does somehow rear its head its just ruined by all the other noise they choose to throw about and add in for no reason? 

Accelerated Decrepitude follows the all too familiar BDM routine, drums that drown everything out and hide all remnants of guitars barring the squealing pitch harmonics that are always present and then the vocals drown out everything the drums don’t, when you can hear the guitars sort of midway, you can hear that a decent slow and chunky riff is there but as soon as you here it, its gone again BUT towards the end this song does find a sort of rhythm and is ok but the vocals do their absolute best to ruin it again, Flesh Pyramid finally sounds like they have met each other and know what a structure is for all of about 30 seconds and I’m starting to think that this album is a late April Fools Day gag, there is just no cohesion or song structure and while in mathcore or djent that can be a strength, here its just downright annoying! 

Nothing fits with anything else, it’s like abstract jazz death metal played in the dark with blindfolds on, it must be a nightmare seeing this live!? Also to fade a song like this out for almost 30 seconds is a crime against recorded music. It’s surprising it’s taken until Sickening Synaptic Pathways for the usual horror movie sample to be used and that we finally get a listenable track, it’s pretty standard stuff but at least its got some sort of structure and you can make it out as a complete song, Compulsive Acts Of Repulsion is just boring and the drums and vocals take centre stage again and they completely overlook some actual decent riffs for ‘’brutality’’ in another spectacular fumble. 

To be honest I skimmed through Elimination Of The Heliosphere and Consuming Obsession because I was losing the will to live by this point and they were both as drab and annoying as the rest of the album and then I saw final track Asyncritus was over 7 minutes long, I listened to it then just went and sat in a corner and cried tears of joy that it was all over.

Please understand that despite my initial statement that this sort of DM is not for me I always want to be proved wrong by a band, here however Brutalism have just reinforced my view that BDM is just not worth the time and should probably just be avoided, I’m sure there are people who disagree with me and fair play to them, they can listen all they want, I however won't be. 2/10

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