Find us on Facebook!

To keep updated like our page at:

Or on Twitter:

Or E-mail us at:

Monday 24 June 2024

Reviews: Danava, Construct Of Lethe, The Mercury Riots, Joe Bonamassa (Reviews By Rich Piva, GC, James Jackson & Paul Scoble)

Danava - Live (Heavy Psych Sounds) [Rich Piva]

There are certain bands that, even if you never experienced it first-hand, you know are excellent live. Portland, Oregon’s Danava would fit in this category. I myself have never seen them live, and if were to bet I would say the probably rip it up. My thoughts are confirmed with the new record, the correctly titled Live, that documents the band in all of their glory.

The cool thing here is that you get two era of the band live. Side A is from their European tour from 2008 supporting their second album, UnonoU and side B from their most recent tour in 2023 supporting the excellent Tee Pee Records ripper, Nothing But Nothing. Live comes to us via Heavy Psych Sounds, who have been bringing very cool live records from some amazing bands like Nebula, Duel, Ecstatic Vision, The Atomic Bitchwax, Bongzilla, and The Lords Of Altamont. Danava live is right up there in quality with those other killer bands who bring it on stage.

As mentioned above, the first two tracks are from way back in 2008, and whoa does the band rip it up, especially on Maudie Shook where the solo is just mind blowing and the drum work seems impossible for a human outside of Keith Moon. The band goes off on these tracks, one each from their first two records, with the twelve-minute (including intro) Spinning Temple Shifting kicking it off right, with controlled chaos around fuzzy, frantic, swirling psych guitars and amazing jamming from the five-piece. At about the four-minute mark the band just goes off and never looks back. The guitar and synth combo is just next level. Amazing stuff from a band still young in their days as a band.

We get a band 15 years later with the last five tracks, spread across material from their full discography. First is the opener from 2011’s Hemisphere Of Shadows, Shoot Straight With A Crooked Gun that also kicks all sorts of ass, especially with that riff and guitar work. The title track from their most recent studio album is next and does nothing except confirm how awesome this band is live. The 2023 part of the set is focused more of the straight forward (for Danava) songs, so there are less long jams and more of the shorter Danava songs, but that doesn’t mean the band doesn’t continue to go off.

The first record is represented again in the form of Longdance which is one of my favourite Danava songs (that dual guitar work!!!) and the live version does nothing to change my mind as well as a second cut from the new record, Let The Good Times Kill which is heavy psych perfection. The CD gives you a bonus track in the form of The Last Goodbye, also from Hemisphere Of Shadows, and I hope those who bough the vinyl of this grab the digital too because no quality is lost by adding this one to the set.

So obviously I need to find a way to catch Danava live because if this record is any indication, I will surely have my mind blown by the killer dual, trad metal combined with psych guitars, the Moon-esqe drumming, and the mind-blowing heavy psych these guys bring. Hat’s off to Heavy Psych Sounds for brining another killer live record to those who have not been lucky enough to see Danava live. 9/10

Construct Of Lethe - A Kindness Dealt In Venom (Transcending Obscurity Records) [GC]

Usually when I see a Transcending Obscurity release in my inbox, I generally get excited as they pretty much always hit the spot, after a quick read about this, I am a bit nervous, this album is meant to be listened to as 1 entire track that has 12 relatively clear sections apparently and before a note has been played, I feel confused and a little weary as it’s all about depression and suicide, so clearly this will not be an easy listen! 

It all begins with Artifice and it’s all very chaotic, thundering death metal that chops and changes its stylistic attack every 5 seconds and you can feel that there are absolutely some unsettling feelings in the lyrics but the constant shifting of the song makes it difficult to connect with fully, following this up with the 9 minute long Bete Noir is a brave move but one for the most part that pays off as the lengthy run times allows for the chaos and time changes to be put on the back burner and a more straight forward structure takes its place and it really benefits from this, the song is a big, towering collision of slow doomy death metal mixed with more of the heartfelt, pain ridden lyrical content and when given the time to breath the music really comes into its own. 

Creating a suffocating blanket of horribleness that is followed up by Contempt which instantly reminds me of Today Is The Day and their depressed induced noisecore but this is slowed down to fit in with the feelings of utter helplessness a person goes through when suffering depression and with the additions of furious blasting death metal it is an unsettling but ultimately rewarding listen. Denial In Abstraction is more utter chaos that throws you off slightly guard but is also very needed as it picks up the pace and focuses everything on the anger a person may feel for themselves and its more brutally savage honesty that you usually don’t get with a death metal release. 

Then for reasons I cannot fathom we now get 2 instrumentals in the shape of Flickering, which shows off excellent technicality and musicianship but takes a bit of the emotional sting out of the album and I Am The Lionkiller is just not really anything apart from a bit off chugging guitars and drums but for me really serves no purpose other than some respite from the rawness which for me isn’t really what is needed and so when they do get back to business with Labyrinthine Terror it’s a relief and of course it’s more of the usual chaotic and uncomfortably bleak death metal furiousness that made the beginning of the album so urgent and engaging with every note they play. 

You get more dragged in to the fragility of the lyrical content which is again highlighted beautifully on Monument To Failure in a relatively short run time it creates a massive uneasy and uncomfortable feel with its mix of atmospherics and short blasts of doomy death metal the usual vocals are mixed with some spoken word interludes and that up the unease quota further and it’s probably a good thing as well as the next 4  tracks Paroxysm As PragmatismRaw NerveIron WillSacrosanct and Tension- There is Nothing For You Here are ALL instrumentals barring Sacrosanct that does have some spoken words in it but, once again while showing they are very capable musicians they just take away that gut wrenching feeling needed to full appreciate the lyrics and sort of ends the album on a bit of a low.

When A Kindness Dealt In Venom concentrated on the emotive lyrical content of suicide and depression this was a brutally raw and savage experience to listen to and while I assume the 6 instrumental tracks fit into Construct Of Lethe’s overall vision of the album, they do not fit into my listening habits and really take a lot of impact away from the actual songs. If this had 10 tracks with perhaps 2 instrumentals my score may have been way higher, but alas it does not. 7/10

The Mercury Riots - In Solstice (SAOL Records) [James Jackson]

Aerosmith, Motley Crue and Guns N Roses, just a few of the names that spring to mind when listening to this album; The Mercury Riots, a three piece LA based Hard Rock outfit, is comprised of members who have played in a variety of bands within the South California region, acts like Bullets And Octane who have been a staple of the scene since the late nineties. As with the vast majority of bands within this genre, the lyrics are centred around that old adage of “Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll”, the sleazy guitar riffs accompanying the lyrics are as low slung as the tight denim jeans that they’re singing about. 

And whilst neither the lyrical sentiment nor the riffs feel particularly original, it’s exceptionally hard to not tap along or find yourself singing to a track you’ve heard only once and surely that’s a sign of a good album? The hooks do their job, the choruses are catchy and designed to be sung along to, simple and to the point, the chorus to Save Me A Drink literally revolves around those few words, instantly something that you’d be shouting out to in a live environment. Overall, a catchy, feel good album that fans of 80’s Glam Metal will enjoy. 7/10

Joe Bonamassa – Joe Bonamassa At The Hollywood Bowl With Orchestra (J&R Adventures) [Paul Scoble]

Over the last couple of years my musical taste has changed completely. Ever since I was 12 (39 years ago) I was obsessed with heavy metal and rock. From NWOBHM through all forms of extreme metal up to crazy stuff like War metal, heavy metal was everything to me. Then about 2 years ago I started to get bored of metal. I spent hours searching through Bandcamp and YouTube looking for music I liked, but most metal just left me cold. I then stumbled across some Stevie Ray Vaughn videos and was blown away at how good they were. So, I started looking at more blues and was fascinated and enthralled by what I found.
I pretty much only listen to blues for pleasure, and I am loving the history and listen to loads of 50’s, 60’s and 70’s Blues. I do listen to some contemporary Blues; I like Joanne Shaw Taylor (whose new album I reviewed recently), Gary Clark Jr and The Black Keys. One contemporary act I have avoided is Joe Bonamassa. I have several friends who are big blues fans and amongst those friends Joe Bonamassa seems to be divisive. 

Some love him and see him as an important artist, but some of them think he isn’t really blues and is as authentic as Greek antiquities made of Plastic. I figured I’d learn more and could make up my mind when I felt I understood the blues a little better. So, when Musipedia’s editor asked me to review this album, I was a glad I would be finding out what Joe was like, but I was also a little nervous, an Orchestra to me is the antithesis of what the blues is all about.

Joe Bonamassa got his break in music when he got to support B.B. King at the age of Twelve (Joe was 12, B.B. was much older). The 47 year old from New Hartford, New York has released 16 album since his first, A New Day Yesterday in 2000, his last album was released in 2023 and was called Blues Deluxe Vol 2. Joe has also released countless live albums and several albums with Black Country Communion, Rock Candy Funk Party and 4 with Beth Hart.
This album was recorded in August 2023 at The Hollywood Bowl with a 40 piece Orchestra. In addition to the Orchestra Joe was joined by Keyboardist Reese Wyans, Guitarist Josh Smith, Drummer Lemar Carter and Backing Vocalists Jade MacRea and Danielle DeAndrea and Calvin Turner on Bass.

The album opens with When One Door Opens Overture a short Orchestral instrumental. The track feels like a soundtrack from a Game Of Thrones offshoot, I would have expected some sort of Fanfare for the start of the gig, but this is more dirge like. The fact that this sounds like a sub-par film soundtrack does not bode well for the rest of the album.
It doesn’t bode well because this isn’t a very good album, and it’s the concept behind it that is at fault. Blues is a music form that is simple and intuitive, its tempo and pacing is based on feel, groove and syncopation. Orchestral / Classical music is complex and controlled, its tempo and pacing is based on rigidity, conformation and power. The two forms of music are diametrically opposed, the whole point of blues is that it isn’t classical. 

The problem for Joe Bonamassa and Co. is that the sections that are blues based with Joe and his band sound like warm melancholy blues, but as soon as the Orchestra joins in the timing has to keep 40 classically trained musicians in time, the whole feel shifts to rigid classical. You can’t mix blues and classical, as soon as you add the orchestral elements it immediately stops feeling like blues and becomes classical, and as soon as you lose the orchestral sections it immediately becomes blues. The outcome is something that is like a patchwork quilt of ideas that does not feel like a whole, it’s as if the album has Multiple Personality Disorder.

The first song on the album Curtain Call is a good example, the song opens with blues rock with the orchestra, as this is a song with vocals it actually sounds like a slightly weird Bond Theme. The song then goes into a verse section that is all blues and feels great, the chorus then goes back to orchestral so suddenly it’s an odd Bond Theme again. The fact that a lot of the material ends up sounding like Bond Themes has another issue; Joe’s Voice is fine for blues or blues rock, but Bond Themes need huge voices like Tom Jones or Shirley Bassey, the orchestral parts highlight that Joe Bonamassa’s voice is probably the weakest part of his performance.
I ended up finding the tracks with the least orchestral elements the most enjoyable; so, No Good Place For The Lonely, and Prisoner are in my opinion the best two tracks. In both cases the songs are treated pretty strait with the orchestra only supplying String Swells or a little bit of Flute or Oboe. Whenever this is subtle it works, but whenever the Bombast comes in it falls apart. There are also some very good guitar solos on the album, on a lot of the songs the solo is left alone by the orchestra, so this is full of very good guitar solos.
The songs that had a lot of orchestral elements I found hard going, The Ballad Of John Henry was particularly difficult as this has orchestra throughout it almost feels like a violation, No soul, no feeling and to be honest no point, it sounds like the soundtrack to a bad advert.
I realise I haven’t been very positive about this album, but at the same time I see this as more of a mistake than anything else. It’s an experiment that has definitely not worked. However, until I heard it I wasn’t sure it wouldn’t work, so I imagine everyone involved had good intentions and thought they were making something special. Art will always need artists to experiment, but sometimes experiments don’t work. 

I don’t think Joe has been well served by the people who wrote and arranged the classical elements, a lot of the big orchestral material felt quite flat and uninspiring, the opening instrumental that felt like a dirge being a case in point. Hopefully Joe will go back to blues and blues Rock, He’s good at those parts, maybe leave the Bond themes to people with bigger voices. 5/10

No comments:

Post a Comment