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Tuesday 28 May 2024

Reviews: Liar Thief Bandit, Vale Of Pnath, Kati Ran, Mortal Wound (Reviews By Rich Piva, Mark Young, Rick Eaglestone & GC)

Liar Thief Bandit - Icon (The Sign Records) [Rich Piva]

Liar Thief Bandit is one of those bands that if you asked me where they were from, I would start with America then move to the Pacific Northwest portion of the States. Well, I was off by 4,848 miles considering these guys perfect their version of grunge with bits of psych and stoner thrown in out of Malmo, Sweden. But no matter where LTB HQ is, these guys do that 90s grunge alt rock sound better than just about anyone if we are considering their new album, Icon, as evidence. 

 Close your ears Foo Fighters fans, but this is what I have always wanted that band to sound like from when that classic first Foo record dropped back in the day. The Foo Fighters bore me, Liar Thief Bandit revive my faith in heavy and catchy rock and roll. 

Deep cut comparison coming up: There was a band in the 90s called Liars Inc. and they put out a record called Superjaded. That is the closest comparison I can get to Icon. This is a massive complement. These guys have the energy, the playing chops, the songs, and are catchy as hell. The production is spot on and it is all you want from a band that waves the flannel flag. 

There is a punk element to LTB too and this is evident with the ripper of an opening track, The Ultimate Sign. This is their This Is A Call and they nail it. Death Pioneer is up next and talk about a catchy chorus. This will be on my end of year playlist for sure. There is nothing complicated about these tracks, just killer straight ahead heavy rock and I love it. 

  Dying Efforts just rips, what a great song. There is more of that punk rock almost garage rock feel to this one and you get that all over Icon. I mentioned the Foos before, and It All Goes Away In The End is the most Foo of the bunch, but better than anything that band has released since the turn of the century. 

Recoil is the song that gave me the most Liars Inc. vibes and if you like melodic heavy rock/grunge listen to Superjaded ASAP, but only after Icon. I love the pace of Icon. Eleven tracks, with only Recoil over four minutes. 

 This record flies by in the best way, especially with a ripper like Retaliation that has a cool riff and could be a 90s punk rock hit; you know the ones that were played on the radio a billion times and you still sing along to today. Big, sing along choruses in the least ironic way are ever present on a track like Red Out Of The Blue while the 90s punk vibes shine even brighter on Traces Of Use that reminds me of something from Face To Face

If there was a weak song on Icon it would be Can’t Slow Me Down. It is a bit formulaic and doesn’t grab me like the other ten do, but it is not bad in any sense and doesn’t hurt the overall quality of the record. In contrast I love the energy on Residence Sorrow that reminds me of the Seattle punk band Seaweed and the closing title track that goes the catchy radio friend grunge route in all the best ways. 

This album is like drinking a can of Jolt Cola. I get the energy, the sugar, and the nostalgia all in one 37-minute package that I am totally here for.  This is the best Liar Thief Bandit record so far and should be consumed only if you are ready to get up and move around. Icon is excellent and if you ever wanted Dave Grohl and his band to start putting out stuff worthy of their 90s output Icon is for you. 9/10

Vale Of Pnath - Between The World Of Life And Death (Willowtip Records) [Mark Young]

After a five-year break, Denver’s Vale Of Pnath has returned with Between The Worlds Of Life And Death which picks up after their last release, Accursed, and in their words captures the band's core sound whilst bringing a newer and bold take on this brand of metal. The four-piece, headed up by Ken Scorceron (V/G) has dug in to deliver what is certainly a tight and focused album with barely any fat (Instrumental introduction notwithstanding). It sounds great, with the right amount of bombast nestled within the aggressive attack. 

The Forgotten Path is a better instrumental introduction than most and brings in Silent Prayers, which gives an indication of the level of drum-nastics we are about to hear. As a statement of intent, it sets the tone for the album – razor sharp riffs, Tier 1 drumming and great vocal delivery. 

Soul Offering has that instant blast from the start, repeating piano lines dropping in and out to suit as the sparing use of synths to expand their sound. The lead break is top notch, with a guest spot here from Donny Burbage (Cradle Of Filth) who also joins in the fun on Shadow. Speaking of Shadow, once the understated opening is done, Shadow takes flight and burns with a lead spot from Matthew Brown (Demon King) adding to the crushing arrangement. 

Uncertain Tomorrow channels that restrained opening again, before unleashing some machine gun riffing, in combination with the drums that just royal. Gabe Seeber has delivered a masterclass here, in total control whilst knocking the holy hell out the kit. Beneath Ashen Skies has that technical approach which is fabulous. Clubbing riffing sits hand in hand with fretboard wizardry. There are some frankly awesome lead moments on this one, Miles Dimitri Baker (Interloper) getting the guest spot here. It never loses sight of keeping the visceral thrill levels high amongst the technical approach. 

No Return, No Regret featuring Michael Wilson, is full on with some light speed footwork keeping those bpm’s high and an effective arrangement leads to a blazing track. Another interlude, Echoes Of The Past doesn’t add anything of note, but Burning Light comes in and delivers as the final song should. 

Its grand, aggressive and full of those technical / melodic moments that have been a showcase here. There is even time for restraint, to catch a breath before launching back into the final measures. It is a fitting end to a devilishly strong album that skilfully blends the technical, the melodic and flat-out approach of death metal into one neat package. 

Quality-wise, it is at a high bar right through as they never rely on one way of expression in each song. The addition of the guest solo spots is inspired, by each bringing their vison to the piece whilst treating the song with absolute respect. Obviously, I’m not fussed for the introduction, but it served a purpose for letting Silent Prayer kick in. 

Echoes Of The Past on the other hand did not add anything and for me could have reduced the impact of final track Burning Light. These are minor criticisms and more of personal thing for me. You might love them, who knows? In any event this is storming album, resulting in a well-deserved 8/10

Kati Ran – Sala (Svart Records) [Rick Eaglestone]

Nordic Dark Folk artist Kati Ran embarks on a far-reaching musical and personal travelogue with long awaited debut album Sala. Named after the Old Norse word for ‘soul’ and ‘sea’, “SÁLA” is an act of ‘soul retrieval’, the shamanic art of trauma recovery, be it illness, death, heartbreak or loss, and the reintegration of a splintered self, the albums opening title track is an evoking and all encompassing of the albums overall aesthetic of the albums narrative with emotionally charged vocals and harmonics which effortlessly sweeps into easily the album’s haunting highlight track Hefring

Some of the albums most delicate vocals appear on Kolga but embedded in it are some of the darkest soundscapes and the duality of the two make for particularly enjoyable listening. Moving onto Blodbylgje there is a hypnotic multi performance which lingers into Drofn | Drifting which is more of a narrative piece, this is then followed by one of the albums most ambitious offerings Stone Pillars

Dufa | Sleeping very much feels like an introduction to Unnr | Mindbeach which at nine and a half minutes really translates the dynamic matrix of mysteries that this album seems to be brimming with which is paired with Himinglva to put into no doubt of the listener that is something that will be revisited over and over. Hrron incorporates more traditional elements with Barra taking a more ethereal approach producing and bleaker tone to the album for the first time. 

The album concludes with the pairing of the rousing Segi Mer and woeful Satta ending this transformative rite of passage. The contributions from across the musical spectrum, including extreme metal vocalist extraordinaire Gaahl, the Icelandic female choir Umbra Ensemble, renowned Norwegian jazz musician Karl Seglem, Björk and Brian Eno contrabassist Borgar Magnason, members of pagan folk acts Völuspá, Gealdýr, Heilung and Theodor Bastard and even Napalm Death’s Mitch Harris on vocals all add an enriched dynamic to this glorious well-structured and no doubt future influencing debut. A Profound Collection of Treasures. 9/10

Mortal Wound - Anus Of The World (Dark Descent Records/Me Saco un Ojo Records) [GC]

Another new release week is upon us and so with that I am obviously reviewing some death metal, now you wouldn’t know Mortal Wound but when you see an album is called Anus Of The World, what else would you really expect? Found Dead In A Bush has a short sampled intro before everything slams into gear and when it does what we get is a sound that is bathed in the gory glory of 90’s Florida old school death metal. 

Scuzzy lo-fi riffs collide with the pounding double bass drums and unintelligible low barked lyrics and while its all done well enough, it doesn’t really spark much in the way of excitement, Tunnel Rat bizarrely starts with a County & Western Hawaii type sound before that makes no sense to anything as the next thing it does is launch into another full on OSDM track that obviously has no stylistic values with the intro.

I’m not sure why but I am not connecting with this at all, its fine, its just not ticking all the boxes I want it too, The Surf Is Gonna Be Bitchin is an unnecessary 43 second sample/interlude before Drug Filled Cadaver does offer a bit more oomph as it really nails down the slower tempo mixed throughout and carries a good weight to everything and does mix up the tempos well and finally sparks a bit of life into the album. One Who Kills & One Who Loves is then another sample/interlude that again is completely annoying and not needed.

Born Again Hard is more slow and low OSDM and you now start to see there really isn’t going to be whole lot of variety on show here and while I can appreciate you are influenced by a sound to just re-create something without really adding your own stamp on it just feels a bit lazy, as everything I have heard so far is ok and passable but nothing stands out and makes you really get excited enough and with most songs clocking over 5 minutes I just tend to get a little bored with what I am listening to. 

This point is no more clear that on Engulfed In Hellfire with a title like that I expected to be dodging blizzards of sharp and precise riffing and inhumane drums but it starts off with a slow build, that does then up the pace slightly but never seems to deliver that final killer blow and just sounds laboured towards the end and then The Worm Has Turned For You is ANOTHER sample/interlude and all it serves to do is just make me lose more of the will to live I am grasping onto!! 

Spirit Of The Bayonet does mercifully clock in at just over 3 minutes and now, with the length trimmed offers a more enjoyable listen as it doesn’t just go on and repeat everything constantly, with the fat trimmed there is more urgency to really create something to pay attention to and not get bored with. 

I can’t believe I am saying this but Even The Jungle Wanted Him Dead another fucking sample/interlude effort. Just shorten the songs and release an EP. Final track Royally Fucked Forever doesn’t offer anything that suddenly saves the day, its more competent OSDM worship all played well and sounds decent but once again does nothing to grab my attention and just drags along for nearly 6 minutes and then its all over in a frustratingly annoying way! To class this as an album is a bit of a liberty in my books, are 8 tracks really a full albums worth of material? 

For me not really, and to make 3 stupid interludes count as actual songs is a ridiculous decision, anyway as I mentioned most of the music was decent enough, it just never really managed to take anything to the level required to get me really involved and I can’t see me bothering to see how their next album will sound on this showing!? 5/10

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