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Betty Swallaux - 'Demo 2011' (self released) 4.5/5

Llanelli outfit Betty Swallaux were formed earlier this year and are currently a studio project whilst they are seeking 'the right drummer'. This is their first release and is in effect a collection of various demo recording the band have assembled over the past few months.

Now this one is very interesting indeed. It's not often that I get to hear such a diverse blend of influences and inspirations. There are bits that sound like Venom type primordial death metal, other bits remind me a little of Ramstein style teutonic industrial rage rock. Then there are bits of Sore Throat style grindcore, snifters of RATM style groove metal, touches of Rolo Tomassi style prog-core; even hints of Gay For Johnny Depp style post hardcore... and its all rolled into one overall sound that is the closest to 'unique' I've come across for a long time.

OK the production is a tad rough as is to be expected, but nowhere does that detract from the pure quality of the music on offer. Gaz Wooloffs vocals are remarkable, he manages to sound like Ramsteins Till Lindenmann, Sore Throats Rich Walker and FFAF's Matthew Davies-Kreye all at once, switching styles often bar to bar. The guitars of the aforementioned Mr Wooloff and Peter Smith and the bass of Dai Price are so bleedin' heavy they create their own gravity field. And a special mention must be made about the drums on this demo. Lacking a stickman, the band created them beat by beat, track by track from the bass drum upwards, a long and laborious process, but one that works so well here. The result is something that falls halfway between the warmth of a real drummer and the clinical precision of a drum machine, and sounds perfect for Betty Swallaux's black-groove-industrial-progressive-hard-metal-grindcore stylings.

I really do love this stuff. Tracks like the dark and sinister Change, the industrial groove of Extremist and the progressive grindcore of Give In, just roll out of the speakers like a glorious sonic assassination that can kill from several hundred yards and put a smile on your face while they are doing it. I'm hard pushed here to select a favourate track, it changes with each play, but at the moment it's In My Veins, a cut that starts off all trippy and mellow, then goes all Venomesque blast and bludgeon before ending with a section that sounds like Tangerine Dream goes happy house (I kid you not!!)

This is cutting edge stuff, I've not heard its like before, I doubt if many people have, and I'm sure if the band started to hawk this demo around some of the more left-field and open minded progressive record labels, internet radio stations and magazines, things could start to happen for them. After all this could well be the future of music.

For fan of... Ramstein, Rolo Tomassi, Saints Of Eden, Sore Throat.... 

Hate Gauge - 'Hope, Envy, Love & Lies' (self released) 4.5/5

Hate Gauge hail from Pembrokeshire in West Wales, and when they list Stella Artois and kebabs amongst their influences I had a feeling they would be right up my street. They have put out a few eps in recent times and now they have issued this six track mini album.

The moment I started to play this album and heard the opener Metal Messiah and found to my delight it sounds like Tokyo Blade, Persian Risk and Tygers Of Pan Tang style NWOBHM with lyrics to match; "Hand in the air like a metal messiah; on a long cold road out of hell...", I knew I was onto a bit of winner; and its gets better as you go along. One More Lie has cool groove metal feel that hints at Pantera; In To Deep is a bit of an anthem with bit of a Maiden meets Anthrax thing going on. This Drug is a bit of an epic in the same vein as Metallica used to be before they sold out to the majors, Jealousy continues the classic Metallica vibe but this time incorporates a Mastodon style groove and closer Let Me Know is the real surprise, a mellow acoustic track that has a certain Black Stone Cherry feel to it.

To say I'm a little impressed with this one is an understatement. The production is spot on, it still maintains a little roughness around edges, and that is good. Ever since Metallica dropped a bollock with 'And Justice For All' there has been a trend amongst some metal acts to polish all the life and fire out their sound, but fortunately this is one trend Hate Gauge haven't picked up on. The sound here is crystal clear, but still raw and in your face like metal should be. And all praise to the performances, every member of this quartet delivers the goods in fine style, the playing is first rate, the vocals clear, melodic and powerful without ever needing to resort to pig grunts or power wails, and the song writing is top notch.

In short Hate Gauge have in Hope Envy Love and Lies delivered a cracking little gem of a mini album that should start to open doors for them. But don't take my word for it, its available through Amazon and the other usual outlets, go get a copy and see for yourself.

For fans of... Metallica, Pantera, Mastodon, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Elimination....