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Monday 15 April 2024

Reviews: Furze, About Us, King Zebra, Ivory Tower (Reviews By Patches & Matt Bladen)

Furze - Caw Entrance (Devoted Art Propaganda) [Patches]

Psych Black Metal from Norway! Furze’s trebly acoustic intro paints a picture of the awful fuzzy production of a tape player resting against an uncleaned festering sheep’s skull. Which is precisely what we want in our black metal! The intro, simply called intro actually reminds me of a bit of Acid Bath. Remember them? Foresee His Infernal Rights starts with a surprisingly wonky circusy blues full of punky mischief and more treble. 

An interesting mix of psychedelic tremolo picked highs and doomy lows play off like somebody released a psychedelically doped up squad of wasps into a Black Sabbath practice room. The unrecognisable crackly snarls of death vocals has so much reverb on it I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that they were recorded in an old well, because fuck lyrics right?!? Double bass, ting, ting, ting, ting, ting, ting, ting and sudden stop to rupture your insides. The song doesn’t feel like 7 minutes at all. Fast, entertaining and unapologetically filthy. One doth approve.

Post Mortem Trippin’ , what does that even mean ? It’s so fucking messy and chaotic it sounds like Daron Malakian from System being forced to play for his life after being dosed up on both tranquillisers and amphetamines whilst having his legs eaten by piranhas. I Think I heard the word “strangle”. Imagine if the Primus’ Tommy The Cat was sung in Black Metal voice. An old horror synth and crunchy groove riff combination is bloody great. Back to the book of Sabbath but this time accompanied with a creepy music box as that demon’s bark continues to echo from the old well. Another surprise to find that all that excitement was over 10 minutes long.

W.I.R.E sounds like a botched abortion of the early days of hardcore punk inspired black metal. But the abortion survived and now eats tourists in the Norwegian forests occasionally catching the eye of and inspiring the Death Metal bands who walk the woods looking for album cover locations. A delightful barrage of pure brutality.

You Shall Prevail has those wasps from earlier on a comedown with a much sludgier vibe. The singer now speaking like a member of the B-52s as overdriven minor chords colour a more depressing post rock vibe. Perceptible lyrics include “Fuckers giving birth”, aye, I agree. Absolutely mad time signature changes just bring a big old smile to my face. It’s no longer common to be surprised by new music and Furze … I thank you. There are some really tasty riffs in this deranged cacophonous blackened symphony.
Avail The Autocrat Of Evil’s riff is a playful surf rock meets stoner. Whilst the vocals over the doom section sound like an unholy combination of those mentioned above (Ozzy, Claypool and Fred Schneider) with occasional call backs from that well. Unfortunately, at four and a half minutes, this song finishes too early damn it. Long song at the end or quiet outro is the typical formula, but for someone who is always pulling bands up for being too formulaic I think I should let this one go before hypocrite be thy name.

Furze - Caw Entrance is absolutely batshit from start to finish. The production may be terrible and the playing a little messy yet this somehow feels intentional. Whether intentional or not, the compositions are intense and diverse and for some reason I can’t explain, this has been the most entertaining album I’ve reviewed this year. Straight from Satan’s experimental narcotic phase, this pandemonium of Psych/bedlam of Black Metal is a beguiling blend of bizarre that I won’t be forgetting in a hurry. 10/10

About Us – Take A Piece (Frontiers Music Srl) [Matt Bladen]

There seems to be a glut of bands emerging from India, many of them in the glam/melodic/hard rock vein, see Girish & The Chronicles, and Fifth Note, with special attention given to bands from the Nagaland region. About Us is the latest and their second album Take A Piece comes again on Frontiers Music, the label they signed with to release their debut, on this follow up they manage to up the ante with their songwriting. 

On just the first two tracks you have the boisterous melodic rock of Come To You but with Endure they really get heavy with screamed verses and sung choruses, bordering on metalcore. If it does anything it shows how good singer Sochan Kikon is, versatile vocals means they can take genre risks like this without them feeling out of place. 

In fact there seems to be a real shift into the sounds of Atreyu or BFMV where thrash/metalcore riffs come at you with pace and aggression, augmented by synths into huge melodic hooks that also add some Symphony X to tracks such as Legion

Don’t panic though rock fans they still have melodic rock trappings on EVH, which of course features two hand tapping, as does closer FortitudeTake A Piece skilfully melds melodic rock accessibility with some heavier elements and while the shouted vocals may throw off fans expecting normal Frontiers AOR/Melodic rock About Us add them seamlessly. 7/10

King Zebra – Between The Shadows (Frontiers Music Srl) [Matt Bladen]

Swiss band King Zebra are a new band with veteran experience. Fronted by ex-China singer Eric St. Michaels, they have previously been on Golden Robot Record but have now found a home on Frontiers. Between The Shadows is only their third album, but there’s no new band jitters, the melodic rock here is slick, mature and has been honed over years of performing. 

With the bass heavy bounce of Children Of The Night, the percussive Out In The Wild and the dramatic Cyanide, they show themselves as loving tribute to the likes of Poison or Motley Crue, sleaze, glam and hair metal brought together for piston pumping rock n roll. 

Will you have heard the likes of Wicked or Love Lines from Def Leppard before? Do you need ballad like With You Forever? Or is Restless Revolution trying too hard to be modern? Well yes all of the above but there’s no denying that King Zebra write songs that are very catchy and performed very well. 

Is it near a pastiche sometimes? Yes but it’s done with reverence and experience, than flagrant copying. Between The Shadows begins their Frontiers career well. 7/10

Ivory Tower - Heavy Rain (Massacre Records) [Patches]

Heavy Rain opens with Black Rain. Like an updated Iron Maiden with poppier hooks (Power Metal).
Good galloping energy (Power Metal) Ripping guitar solos (Power Metal) the first track certainly takes from the appendix of the book of Power Metal. I never know how to conduct myself properly in these instances. Is it a positive that the song stuck so closely to the Power Metal Recipe? Or does this suggest that said recipe is for some kind of Power Metal stock? 

Holy War is a much heavier number from the get go. Chugs, synth and some fantastic vocal vibrato that makes you want to pull your arm in front of your face while slowly clenching your fist. Ending with a dramatic YYYEEEEAAAHHHHH always brings a smile to my face. A far superior song to its prior.

The immediate groove of Never fits somewhere between Stoner and Nu Metal! And demands a swinging motion from the neck up. Once again the vocals are rather hooky. Although not overly dynamic, Never is certainly a headbanger. 

The Destination leads with cheesy 80s B-movie synth melodies that replace the genre’s horse with a frantically peddled BMX. Mixing it up with a surprising proggy twist before cycling back on track is a valuable detour. A fruitful endeavour that throws the premature stock comment in my face and says; Ivory Tower are not a one trick pony/horse/BMX!

60 seconds mixes It up once again with some thrash vibes and more head rattling grooves whilst maintaining the driving Power Metal vocals. An all round great track! Title track Heavy Rain sticks with the darker chord progressions and more aggressive approach. The call and response vocal line perfect for a live setting. In general I find title tracks tend to play it safe and because of this are usually a bit of a disappointment. 

Thankfully this band has written a title track deserving of its position. Monster feel like an appropriate time to mention that Thorsten Thrunke is a beast of a drummer. Unusual for Power Metal but in my guitar snobbery opinion I’d say that the weakest element is the guitar solos. This is only because the genre is teaming with tremendous players, making it harder to stand out. Monster shows off some beautiful motifs between shredding.

Voices keeps up the momentum yet fumbles In running time not being diverse enough to justify being the longest song on the album. Wrapping up with The Tear Francis Soto utilises vocal melodies that harmonise with the chorus riff in a gorgeously haunting way. 

Sven Boge whips out his impressive lick library with some of the best guitar work on the release. From neoclassical arpeggios, diminished runs and harmonies with keys player Frank Fasold that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Dethklok album. A punchy finish is a satisfying conclusion as Ivory Tower end on a high note.

With an uninterrupted percussive flow, proficient riffs and a singer that somehow reminded me of Bruce Dickinson, Dio, Devin Townsend and Sting, Heavy Rain is a fine addition to the PM roster. Regardless of some of the songs overstaying their welcome a little and Black Rain being a poor choice of opener, the album is solid. Making me say “Power Metal” a total of eight times (Not including that last one) Ivory Tower - Heavy Rain is an armour wearing thunder horse riding a skull encrusted BMX right into a big fat 8/10

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