Knifesex – ‘Babalon’

November 28, 2017

Released November 17th, via 3t3rnal Records, debut album of Knifesex – alter ego of solo artist, DJ and producer Vanessa Irena, ‘Babalon’ is a spiritual album, in reverence to the identically named apocalyptic goddess, originating from the Book of Revelations. This project is very much a worship oriented work, ceremonially based. The disordered internal mechanisms of the album and its production methods mirror the essential personification of the goddess. Influenced by aspects of trip hop, noise and post-industrial, it’s thematic focuses are centred around feminism, spirituality, witchcraft and ‘the occult’. Its intended purpose is as a purifying ceremonial ritual and a catalyst for ecstatic dance.

‘Sex & Death’, the 1st single from Babalon, is a planned feature on ‘Coven’, the compilation produced by Carl Abrahamson and is in memory of Lady Jane Breyer-P-Orridge, October 31st, on Highbrow Lowlife.

Based in New York City, Knifesex previously produced and sang lead vocals for The Harrow, also NYC-based. She was also the other half of electronic duo ‘Synesect’, presented Total Control radio show, on Brooklyn-based Newtown radio, performed live with Public Memory and created the song ‘Cinder’, for the album entitled, ‘What I Speak, I Create’. Knifesex also founded Hathor, a collective of female solo electronic producers and co-founded New Jack Witch, a separate collective of urban witchcraft practitioners.

Holy Is The Whore Part 1 – (Intro) – Very ambient, calm, centred intro, with a mystical feminine vocal, providing a spiritually reverent chant, in deference to the goddess inspired album title muse. Simple in its focus; intriguing in its nature.

Blood In The Cup – Tribal drum beats intro, measured in their timing and gradually introing more ambient sounds, leading up to the contemplative lyrics and thoughtful pace of delivery. The ritual emphasis soon becomes apparent, in the careful repetitive chants and matching instrumental energy. There’s a slightly melancholic feel to this and it’s definitely more of a purposeful track, designed for specifics, than one to rock out to, as such, but there’s no pretence here, as the motives are elucidated, from the start, so even brief research will tell you what to expect. No one’s fooling anyone.

Sex_Death – Carrying the ambient theme into this 3rd track, with just a hint of darkness, yet bringing in a shaft of light and opening of echoed vocals, filling out the track. The devotional angle is clear, as is that underwater sense to the surrounding atmosphere. One for relaxation, when in need of something with which to empty your mind.

Mother Of Beasts – Opening with a cave-like sound, creating instant visuals. More instrumental than vocal, with a host of percussive sounds emerging, into the open. Mid-paced, deeply ceremonial track, almost hypnotic in its rhythm. Flowing repetition swims through this, till the end, with clearly focused intent.

Daughter Of Fortitude – Similar sound to this, but now, the vocals come in, in an oratory style, speaking their message, with quiet, calm confidence, whilst later supported by backing vocals and entrancing instrumentals. Strong messages, within a gentle frame. The solitary purpose of this album resonates throughout and if anything, its power is enhanced by the straightforward manner of its performance.

Living Flame – Continuing the ambient theme, emphasising and strengthening it, with the variety of percussion elements used, to deliver its vital energy. It’s definitely more visual in its imagery evoking nature, again, bringing home its ritualistic emphasis, through the consistent rhythmic repetition.

Holy Is The Whore – Part 2 – (Outro) – More of a penetrative feel to this sound, almost snake-like, in the vivid trance infusion it conveys. A jungle imagining springs to mind. Almost growing in on itself, via its complexity of purpose, becoming difficult to focus on more than one aspect at once, so concentrated is its own focus, you could say it comes full circle, returning to the beginning point. Similar to a sound-tracked circular maze.

Overall – Meditative mood music, more than anything else pertaining to rockier arenas, but unarguably skilled, in its performance. Ambience is it’s overriding sense and sound, combined with ritual and whilst a good deal of song-craft and talent has obviously gone into ‘Babalon’, it may just be more suited to other genres.

7/10 *******

Available now.

For fans of Enya and other ambient mood music.

http://knifesex.com
https://www.facebook.com/knifesex

https://instagram.com/knifesex

Advertisements

Powerhouse – ‘Adrenaline’

November 27, 2017

From Albuquerque, New Mexico, founded on April 16th, 2016, Powerhouse began life as a covers band, paying homage to such bands as Judas Priest and Metallica. From this inspiration, came their 1st original track, ‘Through The Ringer’. After numerous name changes, the band name ‘Powerhouse’ was agreed on.

Their debut show was performed on June 23rd, 2016, at ‘The Co-Op’, where they opened for Act Of Defiance, in their hometown. This led to the rapid growth of their reputations in the industry and the line-up was completed, a few weeks later.

Their live performances increased, including tracks which soon became crowd favourites, eg ‘Crush ‘Em’. In December 2016, they became a 4 piece again and began producing an EP. The 5 track creation, entitled ‘Adrenaline’, was recorded in April 2017.

Following more band departures, ‘Adrenaline’ was released on July 21st, 2017. It’s sold over 100 copies internationally, so far. At the point of ‘Adrenaline”s release, only 1 band member was left, but by the autumn of 2017, the line-up was complete again. In the intervening time, 3 new tracks have been written and a single is planned for January 2018. Powerhouse continues on, with renewed vigour and determination.

Heavier Than Thunder – Drumming intensity fuelled intro, joined in rapid succession, by impassioned riffs, grit filled, heavily enthused melodic vocals and a bass backdrop of matching intent. It’s a great rough, back to basics production; focused, solid and powered by catch and audibly fresh new energy. An impressive start, with the music as central focus.

Trigger Warning – Turning up the power and intensity, this has got a definite wow factor. Faster pace, higher volume, increased strength and a very visual aspect, heightening the whole feel, so much so, that it could easily be imagined as an action movie soundtrack. Get that hugely hungry power scream! If that doesn’t get you, I don’t know what will and it’s chased up by an immediately impacting, assertively performed riff and drum closing section. Memorable and again, impacting.

Project X – Slight tribal-esque beat to this drum intro and a racy, fast-paced vocal and riff section, following. That sound’s also slightly G’ N’ R’-esque and again, holds a real action emphasis, putting you in mind of a life-sized, adult version of Transformers and Power Rangers, combined. Some very tasty riffage, hugely sexual, enormously catchy and very real. Got to like the ‘Tallica-esque close, in homage to the ‘Ride The Lightning’ era and generally? It’s just fun, with a capital F.

Through The Ringer – Very ‘Coma’-esque intro there and now, things are really heating up, big time! Well harmonised and massively catchily melodic. Jam-packed with hooks that’ll have you melting in an instant and growing sharper and edgier, by the second. Party riffs and come to think of it, the whole thing’s got a party metal sound, overtaking the atmosphere and raising the mood, brilliantly. Some cleverly changing, quieter, nearing the edge of stop start drumming sections, creating the impression it’s fading out, before starting again, with the party sound and associated crazed instrumentals, till the end. Intelligently ‘Tallica-esque sense to that whole thing and ultimately, it’s just made to enjoy.

Crush ‘Em – Ace hardened drum and cymbal intro, rapidly moving straight into a riff extravaganza, followed by sensationally catchy vocals and getting right into a deeply involving, ecstatically conveyed performance of stunning levels of contagion. Infectious, fun filled, barrels of crowd favourite material, delivered with joyful ease and simplicity. Enjoyment rules here and that’s exactly as it should be.

Overall – The winning factor of the day here is the all-out enjoyment, so plain to hear and the way in which this basic, vital ingredient is emphasised. There’s a sound inherent in productions of this nature, which have been stripped back, to the bare essentials and deliberately avoided an over polished presentation and it’s one of sheer, unadulterated joy. That’s what’s audible here, in ‘Adrenaline’, as is the accompanying attitude, which says, ‘fuck everything else. This is about fun, enjoyment and pure, unrestricted freedom’. Many bands would do well to take a leaf out of Powerhouse’s book of metal wisdom and that outstanding element of fun is the reason ‘Adrenaline’ succeeds.

10/10 **********

For fans of melodic, heavy rock and metal, such as early G’N’R’, Slash, Duff Mckagan, Pantera, Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth and power metal, specifically.

https://powerhouseofficial.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/powerhouse

Available now.

Emerald – ‘Angels Of Oblivion’

November 26, 2017

Formed in Tucson, Arizona, in 1984, from a humble ad, in a music store, the band name Emerald was originally inspired by their favourite Thin Lizzy track. Following the usual line-up changes, they stayed as a 3-piece, till splitting up, in ’86. 30 years later, Emerald are back! Playing original music, influenced by a wide variety of old school rock and metal artists, without whom, they wouldn’t be here today. Open to any and all future possibilities, Emerald are currently producing the follow-up to ‘Angels Of Oblivion’.

Devil’s Law – Fuck me, that’s one heavy opening! Well, with an intro like that, you already know this band can’t go far wrong. All at once, they manage to fuse straight out heavy-metal, with doom, stoner and a very noticeable Sab-esque sound, creating the impression of conjuring up the Devil himself. A very fitting title, but the melody still isn’t lost, making its presence known, through the floor crashing depths, reached by the dark as night drums and earth-shaking bass. To say that’s a damn strong intro is understating it.

Blind – Again, a boomingly powerful, skull-crushing intro! There’s no mistaking the drive behind those vocals, or the sense of long-awaited release resonating throughout the song. A beautiful piece of acoustic, mediaevally themed guitar plays out around the mid-section, right in the midst of the equally beautiful chaos and thrust that is the surrounding and resounding metal. True skill, born of long experience is clearly audible, in this banquet of metal, composed of well considered combos of inspirations.

Angels Of Oblivion – Wow! Just wow. If that penetrating intro of steel string guitars doesn’t do something indescribable to you, you really need to question your humanity. Like a curtain of steel, drawing back, to reveal a scene of magical artistic beauty, that whole sense of metallic majesty remains, throughout. Performed as if in anticipation of a royal entrance, it really does the title justice. Unquestionably memorable, laced with an otherworldly magic, there’s true beauty in ‘Angels Of Oblivion’.

Rise Of Evil – Blasting its way onto the scene, with that recaptured Sab-like essence, it’s heavy and hard as concrete and totally plausible. Just a few bars in, you’ll feel the catchiness, through the old school call to arms implied in the lyrics. Slight spacey, sci-fi-esque style moving in, from that 3/4 way point, there’s a real bravery and willingness to experiment here, with various strands and styles of the genre and it works. Somewhere in the background, you may even detect a slight Pink Floyd influence, so carefully interwoven, till the approaching, yet acutely sudden outro. Intelligently arranged and thoughtfully composed.

Black Machine – Changing things up a gear here and moving into another, more psychedelic arena, altogether, with a sound reminiscent of Hawkwind’s ‘Silver Machine’, with more interesting riffage and a darker edge, closing with a UFO sound effect, (as in spacecraft, not the band), it’s massively creative and vibrantly colourful.

Lycanthropy – Banging drum and riff intro, joined by intuitively flowing vocals, a strong melody and grounding rhythm, moving into a strikingly upbeat tone, the pace fits, with perfect timing and the main key player here is precision. It positively vibrates with it and it won’t fail to lift you.

Retronaut – Crashing into life again, with more of that vibrant colour, this is just slightly lighter and looser, but certainly no less enthusiastic. High energy dominates, along with a truly classic vibe to the riffs and a softer tinge to the closing vocal harmonies, yet still, it doesn’t lose its prevailing strength.

Sky Of Solitude – Powerfully intense intro riffage and carefully placed accompanying drums. Thereafter, the guitar starts to sing and hum, with vibrato that’ll rock your world. Entrancing, captivating and soul awakening. So pointedly melodic, capturing such high spiritual energy, that beyond this point, no words would do it justice. Just consider a metalled up, filled out version of ‘Parisienne Walkways’, with all the tear- inducingly sentimental sections replaced, with positively energised sounds, buzzing with life affirming intention. Now you’re there.

Overall – How to follow an album as deeply affecting and life enhancing as this, with words alone? By simply saying, you need this in your life. Immediately.

10/10 **********

For fans of mixed old school classic rock and metal, such as Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Hawkwind, Pink Floyd, Hocus Pocus, folk, baroque and mediaeval influenced rock and metal genres and NWOHM, along those same lines.

http://www.facebook.com/emeraldmetalusa
https://store.cdbaby.com/Artist/Emerald6
https://emerald.hearnow.com/

Rebel Scum – ‘The Scoundrel’

November 22, 2017

Formed in 2015, in Buffalo, New York, Rebel Scum’s influences are: Motorhead, Venom, Thin Lizzy, etc. They’re known for their exciting, engaging live presence. ‘The Scoundrel’ is their current album.

The Rebellion – Marching intro, quickly breaking into tough gravel based metal. Ace fiery riffs, hard assed drumming and growled vocals, from a seemingly fire ravaged voice. Short, but effective. Good start.

Immortal Coil – Tight, hardwired, upbeat riffs, chased by that fire swallower vocal sound and still, they manage to inject melody. Unusual take on metal, but it seems to work. Heavy, dark and abrupt. As is the end.

Scum Of The Earth – Hard-line drum intro, sexily timed riffs, catchy rhythm and chorus, an audible classic sound pervades this and one with melody aplenty. Very likeable, especially as the pace increases, incorporating some of those towering/descending riffs so beloved within metal circles and that gruff – soaked vocal edge is never lost. A flavoursome choice and an uplifting one, at that).

Mercenary Battalion – Ooh, very impressive memorable intro there, very much reminiscent of Skid Row’s ‘Chain Gang’. An instant hit for that. Continuing with the classic metal streak with some Slayer-esque sounds and plenty of unique and clearly accomplished sounds that make NWOHM the great and adulated beast that it is. This will get you. It will catch your senses and entrap them. Forever. Good stuff.

Speed Freaks – Now with a title like this, you know it’s got to be worth a listen. It definitely meets those expectations and it doesn’t disappoint. Bloody, full-bodied and drenched in the sweat of real metal men. What’s not to love about that? It’s one of those crowd favourites, for sure and it’s likely to be their ‘Ace Of Spades’. Get some. Now.

Alley Cat – Oh yes! Drink in some of that intro riff! Like the sparks of static electricity that accompany a mild shock. Frankly, you’d almost want to stick your fingers in the plug socket repeatedly, just to get some more of this. Listen to the gory passion in those vocals. So well suited to the accompanying obligatory evil laugh, growing insanity and slanderous accusations. Not to mention the cleverly arranged timing and structure of the surrounding riffs. If nothing else, the closing lyrics will make you laugh. Get some of this too.

The Scoundrel – Heavily loaded, impacting drum intro. Vocals becoming even freer now, the release is evident. There’s a real openness to this song, almost cathartic, in itself. It’d make a good party track. Brief, but fun. Put this on and get in the pit. Or an adult -sized ball pond. Or play a violent game of paintball. You get the idea. It’s fun.

Path Of Self Destruction – This’ll wake you up! Massively vocal emphasis, it’s obviously got a point to make and it’s going to make it. Intense, frenetic, riff filled craziness. It’s ace and it’s like a metal alarm, shouting a pertinent and urgently action necessitating wake-up call at you, whilst throwing some sanity saving metal at you, to rock out to, while you’re processing the words.

War Song – Whoa! Another hugely intensive intro, loading your head space with metallic resonance. Throwing in some fitting battle sounds, on which it ends, it’s an apt and relevant track, which, though brief, provides the perfect aural backdrop to the title.

Fucking Evil – A booming, powerful blast of angry, hate filled venom, against the source of evil. The briefest of the lot, but there’s no lack of clarity. Transparent aggression, plausibly performed.

Overall – A fun house of A.O.R. to release all your energy and give you a life affirming buzz.

9/10 *********

For fans of NWOHM, classic 90’s metal and loud, party metal, with attitude.

http://www.facebook.com/rebelscumofficial

http://rebelscumofficial.bandcamp.com

 

Hell Fire – ‘Free Again’

November 19, 2017

Formed in San Francisco, California, founded by bassist Herman Bandala and guitarist Tony Campos joined soon after. Influences: Angel Witch, Iron Maiden, Rainbow, Exodus, Metallica, Riot. The full line-up was created from former members of Hysteria, (another early well-known metal band who’d played alongside Hell Fire, many times), Jake Nunn (vocals and guitars) and Mike Smith (drums).
In spring 2016, their debut album, ‘Metal Masses’ was released. Recorded at District Studios, San Jose, California, after which, work on new material began, in earnest. The follow-up album, ‘Free Again’, was produced in 5 days, at Louder Studios, in Grassland Valley, by Tim Green, in spring 2017. Currently touring both albums, Hell Fire are now renowned, as amongst the best emerging new bands of the NWOTHM.

Free Again – Instant hit, with that sharp electrifying intro, moving, with total seamless ease, into a comfortingly old school drum and high-energy riff and vocal section, with that immediate recognition that only ever comes from the best. Grab yourself some of those orgasmic power screams and ride all the way to Valhalla. Catchy as hell, packed with metal rhythm, uplifting, vibrant energy and every sound connected to true metal warriors). As a title track, it’s tough to beat.

City Ablaze – Battle-esque drum intro, soon joined and supported by the rest, this has already won the war and unarguably so. Hugely energetic, fiery production, crackling with metal sparks, power screams to die for and just blazing with fire. Such an apt title, as it does exactly what it says. The strength in those vocals is heightened to the max and it’s a storehouse of metallic gold. Finishing off on an intensely power fuelled speed riff, it’s just the height of the metal ascendancy. Savatage fans’ll love it.

Live Forever – Opening with a descending riff, then weaving between climbing and descent, with rapid fire drumming, more of that glorious energised singing and an atmosphere of sheer exalted joy. This here is one of those rare examples of a guitarist making a guitar sing. Filled to the brim with melody and feel good factor, in spades. Worship at the altar of Hell Fire, as it burns through your veins. Better than any medication, this is true 100% metal therapy, at its finest.

Wheels Of Fate – Moving acoustic intro, with an understated voice-over, then drowned out by the joyful metal again). Hints of Savatage’s ‘White Witch’ and a positive feast of metallic goodness. Blitzing their way through the fire and flames, they feed your ears, with medicinal sounds, to the end.

Beyond Nightmares – Heavy as steel, loaded intro, with massive drum emphasis and crazily skilled speed riffs, high octane vocals and an overriding elation, it’s driven, in a big way. So much quality, diligence and love is contained within these arrangements and it just stacks up the power and then some. It’s truly extraordinary and has to be heard to be believed.

The Dealer – Beautifully intricate fretwork intro, with the same consistent unbelievably strong vocals and riffs that could break down any wall or door. Same goes for the drumming. The whole thing’s just powered x 1000, with classic vibes, relentless energy and warmth, born of real passion. Ace fiddly drum and riff combo ending). Infectious, to the max.

Destroyers – Great energised 4 hit cymbal intro, backed up by the following riff fest, high-class drum rolls and Dio-esque vocals. That’s no exaggeration either. This level of vocal strength is rare and doesn’t go unnoticed. Incredibly catchy, with reminders of Yngwie Malmsteen, there’s a treasure chest of truth in this born for metal sound and if you only listen to one more album this year, make sure it’s ‘Free Again’.

End Of Days – Gorgeous acoustic intro, utilising the gentler end of the vocal range now, injecting a dose of contemplation, before bursting into life again, with an up-tempo, upbeat electric section, through which, the level of feeling is audible. You can almost see those studio levels climbing up a ladder of passion). Really going for it, with everything they’ve got, at the end and closing on a palpable feedback riff, this is the true culmination of genius.

Overall – There are times when I’m almost speechless with awe and this is one of them. Sometimes, it really is impossible to articulate the true greatness of a band or their music. Again, this is one of those times. The best I can offer up, in relation to ‘Free Again’? It truly is Hell Fire.

10/10 **********

For fans of Savatage, Yngwie Malmsteen, Dio, classic old school metal, generally and Grand Magus, specifically, in NWOTHM terms.

http://www.facebook.com/hellfiremetalSF
https://hellfiremetal.bandcamp.com/
http://www.hellfiremetal.com/
https://www.youtube.com/user/HellFirekicksass

In memory of Pagan Tordengrav – friend and fellow metal reviewer, who would have loved this album. Now she truly is ‘Free Again’.

Grate – ‘You Should Be’

November 16, 2017

Mincemind – Strange sci-fi-esque oration intro, thankfully followed by loud, aggressive metal, but having said that, there’s something a bit OTT about this, in sound terms, as it’s quite tinny and jarring to the ear. It seems they’ve misguidedly overdone the drums, to the point of drowning everything else out and to say it’s not exactly tuneful is an understatement. Poor production lets it down, so not a great start, but 8 tracks left, in which to redeem themselves.

Daddy Is Here – Better opening, fairly instantaneous drumming, more cohesive riffs and some melody appears, but it lacks catch and actually becomes difficult to focus on. Hard to say much else, except it’s quite downbeat and uninspiring.

Ingrates – More guitar-based intro here, upping the melody a notch. That’s encouraging. It still seems largely absent of hooks, though. Definitely one to plod through. Samey, doom entrenched tedium. Not sure what the lecturey speech is about either, but it’s like wading through mud.

Losing Streak – Slightly more melodic intro riff, quickly joined by a ‘Black Sabbath’-esque accompaniment, initially, but it then moves into an A.I.C. type arrangement, reminiscent of ‘Lesson Learned’, specifically and ‘Black Gives Way To Blue’ era, generally. The main thing that comes across here is the lack of identity in this music. There’s just no soul to it and it feels empty and lifeless.

Legalize Everything – More of the same, yet this time, there is an attempt at lyrical melody, in places. The murder references are actually quite apt for this album, given it creates the impression of murdering metal. Again, not much more to say.

Shoulder Launched – Creeping, tinkling background sound, overtaken by riffs, drums and repetitive lyrics. Again, there’s an underlying A.I.C.-esque grunge emphasis, upon which it ends. There’s just no substance at all.

Mothcan – Unexplained random sounds and spoken word intro, moving into the next section, till the instruments weave in and out of the mysterious words. An abrupt, but welcome ending. Lifeless and dull.

Wrench – Beginning to throw a smidgen of lighter melody in, though it may be too little, too late, especially given the lyrical threats of smashing teeth in, 1000 times etc. It’s just relentlessly grey. Devoid of anything meaningful.

A Perfect Picture – Now the opening riffs hold a tad more appeal, as does the sudden gritty Lemmy-esque vocal style, but it’s way too late and still retains that depressing overtone. A bit more voice-over stuff and a slightly more interesting riff following it, but nothing of note. The same droning note tries to drill through your brain tissue, remorselessly.

Overall – An empty grey shell of nothingness. Torture. Avoid.

1/10 *

For fans of drone, doom, melancholic metal.

Goya – ‘Kathmandu’

November 15, 2017

The point of ‘Kathmandu’ is originality of sound, utilising their favoured elements of trad rock, whilst keeping a unique flavour to it and thereby, creating a form of rock music which exists solely for its own sake, unconfined and unrestricted by the attachment of meaning or concepts.

‘Collider’ is based on 2 central riffs, performed with feeling. ‘Venenatus’ is a lengthy 12 minute combo of neo-classical, Sab-esque doom, upbeat melody, reverb and acoustic styles, recorded live, from pure improvisation. ‘Ashoka’, a track which began life as a notion of rhythm, based around the evolution of a triple note riff. The song’s process is varied and intuitive, becoming a simpler noise performance. The band have experimented with other versions of this concept. ‘Kathmandu’, originally centred around a melodically surrounded bass line, was selected as the best of 3 live takes and is a live favourite of the band, specifically for its closing groove.

Collider – Screeching feedback intro, moving easily, into a relaxed style, with a loose tempo and a free and easy sound, with a bluesy tone. Lots of groove and a laid-back feel, conveyed through the mid-range key and the natural expression in the fretwork. Closing on a much lighter, shorter feedback section, it’s just a warm, easy listen, ideal for winding down and chilling out, after a long day.

Venenatus – Opening acoustically, with a mellow, downbeat tone, carrying a fair amount of ambience and no shortage of melancholia. It’s not long before that’s overtaken, by the crash of unexpected all-out rock, but it then alternates back-and-forth, between the lower, introspective sections and the noise rock. In 1 sense, it showcases perfectly their aim of meaningless sound, free from any associations, yet the very fact that it creates the kind of musical space you could get lost in seems to contradict that. Ultimately, it’s a colourful experience, which could mean anything or nothing and which is simply designed to be enjoyed on its own merits. There are some tighter notes at the end and it has to be said that the 12 minutes goes exceptionally quickly, which, in itself is testament to the fact of its enjoyability and the extent to which you can get lost inside it. There’s also a classic old school quality to those quietly thoughtful closing riffs, which, if you’re anything like me, will have you rifling through your CDs, to try and identify it.

Ashoka – A gradual feedback intro, with a darkly rocky element to it, morphing into more of that ambient, atmospheric sound. A lighter feel to this, carried by a more uplifting tone and a faster paced rhythm. Quite an experimental, proggy edge to it, there’s also quite a strong visual, psychedelic aspect, freeing it up, to be enjoyed for itself or for the listener to attach their own meanings and associations.

Kathmandu – Introing with a thought-provoking sound, reminiscent of water and seascapes, again, with a large dose of ambience. Injecting some heavier sounds, based around a low central key, still, the visual, imaginative thread remains. There’s a faint hint of ‘Tubular Bells’ type eclecticism here and it seems to cross all the perceived boundaries. A determinism to the end becomes apparent in the final drum hits and the overriding message seems to be, ‘make what you want of this – there are no rules’.

Overall – A rare example of eclectic, limitless experimentalism, in action. ‘Kathmandu’ is an EP through which you can see the world, or just 1 small part of it. Creative freedom is its watchword and on that basis, music can travel anywhere. ‘Kathmandu’ could easily be called a psychedelic experience, without the side-effects. It’s basically an alternative mind trip, experienced entirely, through music.

8/10 ********

For fans of psychedelic, alt, prog, experimental, eclectic rock.

XVII – ‘Bow To Me’

November 13, 2017

XVII are a 5 piece metal band from Kidderminster, formed in 2012. Fast-paced heavy-metal, influences – In Flames, Lamb of God, Devildriver and Caliban. They’ve built their sound to one of in-your-face, full on live performance. Since their 2015 launch of ‘From The Ashes’, XVII have worked towards the new release, showcasing their heavier profile. Based on feedback from their gigs at Bloodstock 2015 and Hard Rock Hell Metal 2017, they’ve created a 3 track production, with scorching riffs, storm driven drum hits and ferocious powered screamy vocals.

‘Shatter The Waves’, (the EP’s single) is a relentless vocally driven, high speed metal track. ‘Bow To Me’ – a fast and melodic track, showing a darker aspect of the band, based around living with trauma and how it affects life. ‘Scorned’ is a popular live favourite, bringing closure and consolidation to the rest of the EP.

Shatter The Waves – Introing with 4 focused cymbal hits, giving way to an intensely aggressive powered section, with both screamo and melodic styles. Consistent fast-paced sound, with heavy feel and drum work to prove it. Good strong sense about it and an overruling air of remorseless rage. It just shouts metal energy.

Bow To Me – Great insistent intro riff! Instant memorability. Moving into a gentler vocal tone, whilst still retaining that angry edge, compounded by the blackened roars, persisting in combo with the more melodic vocals and accompaniments. Lyrically intriguing and showcasing that lighter side, yet continuing to temper it with equal extremity. Some fairly vibrant riffs and generally, an effective, easily listenable track.

Scorned – Not missing a beat, introing as if the song’s already started, that quality born of long experience comes across instantly in that intro drumming. A lot of catch to the rhythm and melody, making it a pleasant listen. Liking that drum attack at the mid-section, immediately before the gory roar. They pack a lot of power into this. It’s extreme, yet melodic and the energy is its driving factor.

Overall – Energy, extremity and melody, with catch. That’s the carefully cultivated combo that makes ‘BTM’ what it is. Those three things will ensure it stays current and memorable. It may not be mind blowing or gargantuan, but it’s still powerful, with a lot in its favour. If nothing else, ‘BTM’ is accomplished, multi-dimensional and able to carry off the rarely successful combo of melody and extremity, which is likely to become XVII’s hallmark.

7/10 *******

For fans of Skreamer.

https://www.facebook.com/XVIIofficialband/

Available digitally and physically.

Fister and CHRCH – ‘Split’

November 12, 2017

Due for release on November 17th, on limited edition vinyl, through Crown and Throne Ltd and Battleground Records, ‘Split’ is a collaboration between Fister and CHRCH.

CHRCH formed in 2013 and are all about the basic aspects of their combo genres of metal and honouring the roots of such. Their debut, ‘Unanswered Hymns’ is a comprehensive work, which soars and dips, with the emotions of the moment. Produced by Patrick Hills, at Earthtone studios, in Rocklin, California, it expresses a natural catch and hook, based on trad doom, psych rock, drone and ambience. CHRCH sports an intelligent blend of songcraft, lyricism and bold strength, to tell their story, combining light and dark, narrated through the shaded nature of the riffs and melodies. Summarily, CHRCH’s music is ‘whatever the listener wants it to be’.

Fister are a 3 piece band. Following their latest vinyl edition of ‘Gemini’, (Encapsulated Records), their collaboration 7 ” with TEETH (Broken Limbs Recordings) and their most recent 12 “, ‘IV’ (Crown and Throne Ltd), Fister still include heavy black and death metal genre influences in their heavy breed of sludge, attained by few.

Temples – Very dark intro, exuding a feel of space and alienation, resonant of Radiohead’s ‘Paranoid Android’. Slow and ambient, very bass led and showcasing much down tuned riffage. Strikingly slow, spaced out drumming, with echoes of ‘Black Sabbath’. Then suddenly exploding into shards of light and dark, expressed through edgy, tortured vocals and crashing loud accompaniments. Quite a marked gore sound enters the equation here, with a lot of blackened emphasis. Still, some light does shine through it, though the atmosphere’s decidedly dark and doomy, by now. It’s fair to say the doom overtakes here and becomes the prime focus, so entrenched as to make it difficult to retain focus on any other aspect. It’s drowning in sludge and whilst the bass is strong, the dark element’s possibly overdone, slightly. Some small tonal variations are brought in, but it’s rather like dredging the bottom of a lake, for corpses. Ultimately, it does get dragged out a bit, to an almost proggy point and whether it sinks or swims at this point is going to be down to its target audience and just how dedicated their allegiance to doom sludge is. For me, it’s a bit heavy going.

The Ditch – Livening things up, with this intro, revolving around drums and screamy, roary vocals, it might be at the other extreme, tonally, but honestly, you have to question how much tortured screaming and funereal drumming you can take; especially when it’s all based around a noticeable atmosphere of imminent, impending doom. Black isn’t a black enough word to describe it. Overwhelmingly torturously painful. Now, approximately 3/4 in, they do attempt to alternate the mood and tones a bit, but it’s too little, too late. Just too samey and forcefully dark. Lifting it up towards the close, slightly, with some lighter riff solos, that helps to take the edge off, but that’s all. There’s a feel and sound of running water and encroaching relief, before the close, but still, it’s overshadowed by morose misery. Drums becoming stronger again, the heavy doom takes over once more, building in volume and vibration, as it tries to destroy your brain. On and on it continues, pouring forced depression into your mind, adding in a bit more pained roaring, for good measure. When will it ever end? That’s what you’ll be asking yourself. Oh thank the gods of metal for that. When you hear the intolerable screech, you’ll know it’s finally over.

Overall – Massively overdone, overplayed, enforced helpings of misery, with dirge-like emphasis thrown in, to entrench the depression, further. My ears need some melody and my brain needs to escape. You’ll probably feel the same.

2/10 **

For fans of Radiohead, Fleshpress, Iron Monkey and other mood destroying morosity.

Pre-orders available at: http://crownandthroneltd.bigcartel.com/product/fister-chrch-split-12

Or at: http://www.battlegroundmr.com/product/chrch-fister-split-album

Zero Fire – ‘Ghosts’

November 10, 2017

Zero Fire is a Canadian hard rock/metal band, who attempt to conjure a marriage of impacting riffs with uplifting vocals, groove and intuitive sense and flow. It pays homage to the 90’s and 2000’s eras, whilst retaining an individual style. Founded from the brainchild of vocalist Graham King and drummer Eric Thorkildsen. The self titled, 5 track EP was nominated for a Hamilton Music Award, for Loud/Metal Recording of the Year, 2016 and showcases their signature sound. Taylor Lucas, at Wood Street Studios, London, worked with them on and contributed to the production. Mainly, the tracks represent the heavy catchiness for which the band are aiming. ‘Ghosts’, the self release, is now available digitally, including on spotify and iTunes.

Ghosts – Gorgeous bluesy slide intro, instantly and unexpectedly moving into a crushingly loud, explosive sound. Massively melodic, pop rock style, with a crushing metallic edge. The drumming reinforcement’s particularly noticeable, providing the perfect structural surround. Lively upbeat vocal tones, which stand out, by themselves. Effective harmonies, with plenty of catch. A highly expressive song, with a lot of energy within it. This is what Skin from Skunk Anansie would sound like if she was a bloke. That’s a good thing. The world needs more of this.

9/10 *********

For fans of Skunk Anansie.

Self released, October 27th. Available now, on all digital platforms.