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14.12.11

Pilgrim - 'Misery Wizard' (metalblade) 4/5

Until yesterday I knew three things about Rhode Island. 1) It's the smallest state in the union, 2) its the home to a fictional family in a popular US animated sitcom and 3) The place gave its name to a breed of chicken. But now I have a fourth fact, its the place where doom metal titans Pilgrim hail from.

Now Pilgrim are a classic power trio of The Wizard on guitar and vocals, Elric The Soothsayer on bass and a certain Krolg, The Slayer Of Men on drums; and they play doom metal of the darkest and doomiest kind. Imagine the sort of stuff the likes of St Vitus and Candlemass were doing back in the late 80's and you'll get the idea.

Now the first thing you notice about this album is how slow it is. Its SLOW, very slow indeed; so slow in fact it makes a lot of Black Sabbaths early work sound almost speed metal in comparison. In fact its not until half way into the the third track Quest, that the tempo even lifts beyond funeral march speed, when Pilgrim go off on a Witchfinder General style trip for a minute or so before slamming on the breaks again and grinding out the rest of the track in fine funeral metal tradition.

The second thing that hits you it that this album is epic in scope. There are six songs on offer, half of which top the 10 minute mark - in fact only one song, Adventurer (a surprisingly snappy tune that sounds not unlike NWOBHM gods Pagan Alter) comes in at under five (don't go expecting much mainstream radio play guys).

Now I know what your thinking, this has gotta be one boring album. But you'd be wrong in thinking that. Despite the fact this album moves along with all the pace of an arthritic tortoise it still keeps itself very entertaining and listenable. This is partly due to some cleaver production that positions everything in the mix perfectly, with plenty of space around each instrument so every power chord and cymbal splash has room to breath and resonate to maximum effect and turns the whole listening experience into a gloriously dark sound-scape. The other key factor is that the vocals here are clean, not a pig grunt or death groan in sight, this means you can hear exactly what The Wizard is singing about as he spins his dark tales of swords, sorcery, death, damnation and daring do. All of this results in a very entertaining listen that holds the attention for the entire album and makes the whole work stand up to repeated plays.

In short I'm pretty impressed with this album. it's been a while since I last discovered a new doom act of the old school, and a long time since I've found one as good as this. Highly recommended.

For fans of... Black Sabbath, St. Vitus, Candlemass, Pagan Alter, Witchfinder General.....

13.12.11

Trucker Diablo - 'The Devil Rhythm' (Ripple Music) 5/5

Ok, this lots are new to me. Apparently Trucker Diablo are out of Northern Ireland and are a four piece formed by some veterans of the local music scene; and recently they are having a bit of a purple patch. This, their debut album, has gotten its self a worldwide release through that home of all this old school and interesting, Ripple music, are getting airplay on five continents and early next year are out on the road with Black Stone Cherry.

Now listening through to this album its easy to see what all the excitement is all about. Trucker Diablo play good old no nonsense heads down boogie fueled damnation rock and roll. Imagine a truck load of Molly Hatchett and Black Oak Arkansas style southern boogie in a motorway horror smash with a cargo of Spider / Dedringer style NWOBHM and a van load of Black Stone Cherry type modern hard-rock sensibilities piling into the wreckage and you'll get the general idea. The end result has a certain Almighty vibe to it, and it's no surprise to find former Almighty front man Ricky Warwick turning up to add his voice to the track Juggernaut.

Gotta say I'm finding this one right up my musical alley. Tracks like the opener and current single Drink Beer, Destroy with its beer fueled blue collar slam boogie riffage and mob yell chorus; the Sweet Savage style truckers anthem Big Truck, the juke-joint sleaze of Dirty Love and the ZZ Top on Steroids drive and grind of When Angels Die: all thunder straight from the speakers like the devils own 18 wheeler and they give you a simple choice, get on and enjoy the ride - or end up as another lump of roadkill in their musical wake.

The performance and the production here can't be faulted - its smooth enough to be clear, balanced and 100% listenable, but still retains enough rawness and rough edges to keep its greasy rock sensibilities true and maintain the whole 'rock and roll is the devils music' feel.

This is one of the best truckin' rock and truckin' roll albums of recent years, and I'm not alone in that opinion, When they number the likes of Dee Snider (Twisted mutha truckin' Sister) and Joe Elliot (Def Leppard) amongst their admirers, you know you have summit special on your hands, and I've got high hopes that this may just be the album that puts old school hard rock and roll back in the public eye where it belongs.

Its truckin' great, buy it and love it forever.

For fans of... Grifter, The Almighty, Motortrain, Sweet Savage, Black Stone Cherry, Drivin' and Cryin'....

KoRn - 'The Path Of Totality' (roadrunner) 3.5/5

Anyone who has read back through the reviews in this blog will already know of my utter and intense dislike for dance music, so when I read that KoRn were teaming up with a load of drum machine monkeys to do a full album I was filled with a more than a little dread and bile. After all Korn themselves are a band I can take or leave at the best of times, and the thought of having to listen to a full album their stuff remixed for the pilled up dance-floor massive was more than bit off putting. Still Roadrunner were good enough to send me a copy and ask for my honest opinion, so here goes....

Ok on first play I gotta say this isn't as bad as I was prepared for. At least what we have on offer here are real songs, not endless drum loops with three second sampled hooks dropped in at random, and to be honest some of the songs here are fairly good, for KoRn tracks. The opener Chaos Lives In Everything is probably the best cut on offer here, Like most of the album it comes over  little like Rammstein and features some nice metal riffage and even the dub-step drum beats don't annoy too much. And so the album continues. Other high points that suprised me a bit were the Peter Gabrielesque Sanctuary and the dark industrial grind of Way Too Far.

In fact there are only three places on the entire album that had me reaching for the next track button, the two Skrillex produced tracks, Narcissistic Cannibal & Get Up, where fair competent songs are ruined by scratch mix masturbation and pointless random drum beat breakdowns; and the closer Bleeding Out, where what starts out as a nice downbeat chilled out bit of post rock ambiance is ruined by over complex drum beats, naff euro trance synth breakdowns and a mix that buries the vocals into a wall of acid dub whatever drum machine monkeyisms and a strange and pointless bagpipe sample sequence.

I'm still suprised I made it to the end of the record with out wanting to throw up, or smash up the CD player, and for me to say that really is something. Don't get me wrong, this has done nothing to win me over to dance fusion, or make me a KoRn fan, but at least its something in that genre that I can listen to without a psychotic reaction.

Not as bad as you would expect.

For fans of... Pendulum, Rammstien etc...

11.12.11

Beggars And Thieves - 'We Are The Brokenhearted' (frontiers) 4.5/5

New York rockers Beggars and Thieves have been around for a while now, although they haven't always had the best sense of timing, they arrived on the world stage just at the time when the world and his wife were going grunge crazy and attempted a come back at the height of the Nu Metal revolution. The result was their distinctive brand of prog influenced melodic hard rock just was never right for the time and they seamed destined to remain firmly in the also ran camp. However Louie Merlino and his crew are a persistent bunch, and at times persistence can pay off. So when they issued a low profile ep to great acclaim last year it looked like this time the world may take a bit more notice of the band, so as a result we have 'We Are The Brokenhearted' their fourth full length studio offering, and the first full album in 12 years.

Now I've been living with this one for a few weeks now and I've been meaning to review it for a while; but you know how things go, you sit down to start typing, the phone rings or something else crops up that demands immediate attention and you put it off for another few days... but when this has happened I've tended to leave the album playing in the background, and I've grown really fond of it as a result.

The over all sound is a very ear friendly blend of old school melodic hardrock that sounds not unlike Warrant meets Magnum; poppy prog in the It Bites, Asia style and even a slice or two of early U2 / Simple Minds / Energy Orchard type of celtic influenced stadium rock. all in all a nice and diverse blend of influences and styles that sit together nicely and make for a damn good listen.

There are some damn fine personal musical performances on show here, Mr Merlino has a great voice, it's natural sounding, mid ranged and very distinctive. There's none of that cliched power wailing or screamed high notes that singers in this genre are often suckered into - here's a guy who knows his own voice and uses it to maximum effect. The guitars of Ron Mancuso are a real joy to listen to, there no over the top hysteronics, just some very nice playing that ranges from some soulful and beautifully under played acoustic lines to some tasteful melodic lead lines that Floyds Dave Gilmore would be proud of. Add in the rhythm section of former Left for Dead Stickman Bobby Borg and bassist Phil Soussan returning from his various outings with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol and Dio and you have a well tasty line up capable of peddling some first rate, intelligent rock music.

Picking individual highlights from this one is tough, the whole album is damn good, but I have a big soft spot for Midnight Blue, a great hardrock number which resolves into a very tasteful piano lament at the end. Then there's the title track that sounds a bit like Simple Minds jamming with Bruce Springstein, turns into an air punching anthem to die for and ends up going sort of left field jazz at the end; and then there's Oil & Water a prog rock influenced little number that wouldn't sound out of place on a classic Pendragon album - complete with a Nick Barret style solo. Or how about Seven Seconds with its sleaze rock riffage and Paul Toner (Energy Orchard) style guitar bridge section....

...I could go on, but don't wanna give you a full track by track breakdown (it annoys me when reviewers do that - I like to give a few pointers and let the listener explore the record for themselves), but I will say I don't think there's a single weak moment on show here, this is a great record and if there's any justice in the world it will be the record that after all these years will show the world what a great band Beggars and Thieves are.


Well worth checking out.

For fans of... Simple Minds, Warrant, Boston, Pendragon, Queen...etc

10.12.11

Austrian Death Machine - Jingle All The Way' (metalblade) 4/5

This is the latest seasonal offering from Californian Arnold Schwarzenegger worshiping outfit Austrian Death Machine (actually a side project featuring As I Lay Dying vocalist Tim Lambesis) and this time its Arnies Chrimbo comedy flick 'Jingle All The Way' thats set up for equal doses of praise and parody.

There are three songs on offer here, all very over the top and very silly looks at various Arnie one liners from the movie. We get I Am Not A Pervert, It's Turbo Time and Who Told You You Could Eat My Cookies? All of which are packed with some gloriously over the top power metal, self parodying shred solo breaks and off course some fairly passable Arnie impressions delivering some very much tongue in cheek comments through out. "What the hells the mater with you, you totally forgot the guitar solo, you idiots, play it, play it now..." It's not big and it's not cleaver... but it is highly entertaining, and like the movie that inspired it, mercifully short, so the joke is not worn thin at the end.

In fact I'll be honest I like Austrian Death Machine, which is more than I can say about As I Lay Dying (never a band that has done anything for me) and I also find it refreshing that this is a seasonal record that doesn't feature cheesy sleigh bells and Santa references, which is another big plus.

In short this is the best Chrimbo release of the year, Highly recommended.

For fans of.... ARNIE. (Girly boys should give this one a miss)

9.12.11

Hellish Outcast - 'Your God Will Bleed' (Transend Music) 4.5/5

Norwegian metallers Hellish Outcast are a bit of a supergroup, comprising of former members of such acts as Byfrost, Breed, 66 Crusher and Keep Of Kalessin, they first raided our shores earlier this summer when they laid waste to the bloodstock festival and left us with the impressive 'Raping Killing Murder' ep. Now anyone who knows their dark ages history will tell you that once the Vikings have raided, they will be back in greater force, and now we have again dark sails on the horizon as the band once more are set to return with their full length debut in the form of 'Your God Will Bleed'.

Now first impressions of this album are very favourable. What we have here are ten slices of deadly and effective Norse steel that make longships out of your ears, sail straight into your brain, lay waste to all they can find and make such an impact that you know your gonna remember the event for years to come.

The first assault comes in the form of The View, So Disgusting (a comment on a popular US day time talk show?) - a track that is dripping brutal riffs, and features a vocal approach that comes over like some weirdly compelling death metal hip-hop. From there on in its death and sonic slaughter all the way, we gets cuts like the violently short You Will Scream, that is a sub two minute berserk assault of unbelievable fury; the prolonged battery of tracks like Muffled Screams (lots of screaming going on here), which do show a fair degree of subtly in the bludgeon, with some slower paced riffs to counterpoint some blindingly fast blast beat sections; and my fave cuts on show the frenzied Face Forced Down and the masterfully epic closer Hubris.

Maximum praise must be given to the guys performing this act of metallic conquest. The music here isn't groundbreaking, it follows naturally in the footsteps of previous viking raiders such as Bathory, Darkthrone, Amon Armath etc, but it is particularly well penned and performed, instantly likeable and is a worthy edition to Norways metal heritage.

In short this is a damn fine record, and one that will win Hellish Outcast a lot of friends indeed.

For fans of... Tyr, Forefather, Amon Armath, Noctem, Glorior Belli....

8.12.11

We Die Tonight - "Stem The Tide" - (Self released) 3.5/5

'Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the inbox....' The tide of metalcore wannabes had been drying up over the past few months, and I was starting think the whole movement was dead or at least on its last legs; but then with out warning my inbox and ears are suddenly brutally assaulted by this four tracker by London hopefuls We Die Tonight, to show us that the corpse of metalcore hasn't quite finished kicking just yet.

To be honest, this one aint that bad, and does have something interesting to bring to the table. While in some places it does sound a bit like almost every other metalcore outfit I've been sent recently, in other places it show some creativity. There's the superb climax to opener Dancing With Daggers with its impressive selection of riffs, insanely heavy approach and some cool and controlled dirty vocals; and the wonderful Salt In The Sharkbite which kicks off with a very impressive speedcore opening, takes in a mathcore sequence that make Periphery sound like a 4/4 rock and roll band and some glorious post thrash brutal guitar attack.

But there is a fundamental flaw here, and that's the vocals. Like every other metal core outfit since the dawn of time we have the old clean and dirty vocalist interplay here. Now because every metalcore band on the planet, and their dogs are doing that the whole thing since the year dot, it's starting to become a bit of a cliche, and unless its done very very well, just doesn't work. And sadly this is the case here.

Now please, please, please don't get me wrong , both the clean and dirty vocals here are good, both guys (that's if it IS two guys and not Peter Park doing vocal gymnastics - the press notes that came with this aint clear about this point), are powerful, clear understandable and suit the music well. But its just they blend together like oil and water. They just don't sit well together, The dirty vocals are powerful direct and brutal, the cleans softer in attack and are hesitant is a sort of Elvis Costello way, the result is they clash horribly in the mix, jangle the nerves and just don't sound right.

This is a shame cos if the clean vocals were taken out and the lines added to the dirty's you would have a bit of metalcore gem here. And by the same measure if the cleans sang everything We Die Tonight would be a power / thrash metal band to take note of... but together...nah. The problem is compounded by the fact that as instrumentalists WDT are one of the best bands I've heard in a while, and with either vocals they could be great.

In Short, Not bad, but....

For Fans Of... Screaming Eyes, Periphery, Devil Wear Prada, Terakai, etc...

1.12.11

Avenge Thee + Naime - "Open Carpet" (self released) 4.5/5

Experimental sludge 'n' grind outfit Avenge Thee + Naime are a funny lot, they never play on a stage - even at major festivals - preferring to set up in the middle of the crowd instead, they have two drummers and claim to '...eschew the usual heavy metal traits of machismo and raw anger, instead preaching a message of unity and optimism'. But then you notice they hail from Canterbury, home of the likes of Soft Machine, Camel, Caravan, Gong and Todd Dillingham, and the Canterbury music scene has never marched instep with the rest of the musical world.

In fact as you listen through this eight tracker you begin to notice that despite all the doomy sludge grind sensibilities the true anarchic spirit of the classic Canterbury sound still shines through. The music on offer here is gloriously left field, very trippy and strangely uplifting.

Tracks such as Maximum Purity (Buy My Water) with it's soft acoustic intro, slow doomy and discordent build up politically aware lyrics; and the almost death jazz Wound Licker with its complex riff structure and sub-Amebix drive, go to show that this is the new 'hippy' rock for post 9-11 generation. This is the sound of future free festivals, the anthems for those who say NO to the system and want to do something about it.

To say I find this album engaging, accessable and highly enjoyable is a great understatement. My personal highlight has to be The Chode with its relentless post tribal beats, angry rant vocals, primal scream backing vocals and relentless driving beat that does indeed sound something that Gong would have recorded if they had invented sludge grind back in the early 1970s'.

In short this is a great record, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to hear something a little outside the box.

For fans of... Amebix, Gong, Rolo Tomassi, Leather Nun, Somnus.....

The Famous Class - "Have You Ever" (pledge music) 2/5

London self styled 'pop-punksters' The Famous Class have been building a bit of a reputation around them over the past year or so. Headline tours of China, bill topping Belgium festival apperanaces, 02 Academy tours.... They must be doing something right. But What?

I gotta admit I'm at loss to describe it. After all there's nothing remarkable on this four tracker at all. OK its it competent and well played, but its so bloody generic it could be by any one of the hundreds of 'You-and-Green-182-at-Six' clones that are chancing their arms all over the world. You can play through this ep and tick all the right boxes for 'pop-rock cliche 101' on every track; wall of fuzz guitar sound, teen angst/coming of age lyrics, mob yell stabs and backing vocal, chorus key changes, middle eight breakdown... hell this stuff is so formulaic it could have been penned by machine.... That's a thought, are TFC the result of some evil Frankenstein experiment to make the most perfectly cliche commercial pop-rock band in the world? There is a hint in the press blurb that came with this ep. Apparently the band applied to be the band in the adverts for a certain diabetes inducing commercial energy drink... and failed. Could it be that even the band themselves see themselves not as musicians but product?

(Note - the question can be answered by a short visit to the bands website, where your bombarded by a series of adverts for pot noodle type snacks before you can explore it... This is not a band, they are an ad agency)

As you can guess this leaves me cold. In a time when the UK music scene is alive with great music by outfits such as The Skuzzies, Elimination, I Divide, Dakesis, Awake and many many more this ep can only be a retrograde step, as it is nothing more than a clone of what the mainstream music industry has been pumping down our throats for the past few years via the likes of Kerrang!! fm etc, and does nothing to help raise the profile of what is really going on on the UK rock scene.

Still horses for course I suspose. You teenies who have yet to experience real music and fans of disposable teen agnst pseudo punk might like it, and good luck to them, but real rock and punk fans will want to give this one a very wide berth indeed.

Not recommended at all.

for fans of.. Greenday, Blink 182, You and Me at Six, Razorlight....