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29.8.12

The Texas Flood - 'Worth The Whiskey' (self released) 4.5/5

There is land to the west that is wild and lawless, where the men are tough and the liquor is harsh. And from these bad lands (near Swansea) come The Texas Flood. Part of the NWOATYWRB (New Wave Of Annoyingly Talented Young Welsh Rock Bands), TTF are a blues rocking power trio who take their cue from the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan and this is (I believe) their second ep.

Now I first encountered this lot when they played on the same bill as Alien Stash Tin earlier in the year, and I was more than a little impressed that three young guys, barely into their third decade, not only had such a strong handle on classic blues rock, but also the fact they played like guys who had been blues rocking for decades. So I put in a order for their EP and at last its here.

Now there are four tracks on offer here. We kick off with Barking Like An Underdog, an excellent slice of get down and boogie blues rock that has echoes of Jason and The Scorchers about it. Then there's Holding My Own, a slick and subtle ode to masturbation that kicks along like Slug The Nightwatchman (remember them? - damn they were good). Living On The Edge is a glorious Georgia Sats like booze 'n' blues work out and closer Worth The Whiskey comes over like Stevie Ray jamming with Motortrain in a Texas redneck bar and not getting shot. All in all four great tracks.

As for the musicians. Well the core of the band is the superb rhythm section of Tom Williams and Ben Govier, two guys who know how to swing and know how to boogie; a tight unit that just locks down on the beat and keeps the music driving on in classic style. This allows the mercurial talent of singer / guitarist Tom Bradford to shine through - here is a guy who plays like George Thorogood and sings like Ronnie Van Zant. Add in the fact that these guys can write great songs full or infectious hooks and wonderful tongue in cheek imagery and you have in TTF a band that could well go places.

In short a great ep from a superb young band that show a truck load of promise, and is a must for southern boogie and blues rock fans everywhere. Yeeehaaaa South Wales Will Rise Again!!!

Excellent

For fans of... ZZ Top, Motortrain, Jason and the Scorchers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Georgia Satellites....

28.8.12

Grave Digger - 'Clash Of The Gods' (Napalm) 5/5

Koln band Grave Digger first set sail on the seas of metal way back in the early 1980's, and ever since then they have have been plundering the sonic seascapes with their distinctive brand of legendary piratey power metal in fine style, and now we have this, studio album number sixteen, to remind us that Grave Digger are still up their with the very best of them.

OK I have always been of the opinion that what German metal does best is the big epic power metal type of thing, and in my mind Grave Digger, a band I've been a fan of ever since I first heard their album War Games way back in nineteen eighty something, have always been in my mind one of the acts that sums up that form of Teutonic sub thrash epic metal best, and this album is in my mind could well be their finest hour yet. Eleven tracks each one a vast sounding head bang frenzy that grabs hold of your brain stem and forces your head to ossilate violently to the music until your a happy sweaty mess on the carpet.

Blending their pirate / power metal musical style with lyrics that draw heavily from Greek history and mythology, these guys have cooked up real gem of an album. Kicking off with a rather salty sounding shanty by the name of  Charon, that soon explodes into the power metal thrash out of God Of Terror, this album just kills. Other gems include the razor riffed and turbo fueled Helldog, the huge anthem of Walls Of Sorrow with its references to the seige of Troy, the dark and doomy grind of Call of The Sirens and the 'Iron Maiden on steroids' work out of the closer Home At Last.

Vocalist Chris "Reaper" Boltendah, has the perfect voice for this kind of metal, deep gruff and growling, yet at the same time more than powerful enough to deliver those huge air punching man-rock choruses that is the hallmark of power metal. High praise as well to axe swinger Axel "Ironfinger" Ritt, whos riffs smash into your ears like a unit of very angry hopolites and whose solos stike you down like the bolts of Zeus himself. And for the record, the rest of the band; Stefan Arnold (Drums), Jens Becker (Bass) and HP Katzenburg (Keyboards) are no slouches either and do thier part in delivering the Grave Digger sound to the masses in fine style.

All in all this could well be the best slice of power metal I've heard since Powerwolfs 'Blood Of The Saints' from back last summer, and whether your rowing a longship to Vinland, sailing the Spanish Maine on the prowl for English merchentmen or going off to Troy in your Tireem to deliver a wooden horse to Helen, this album makes for the perfect sound track. Of course us lesser mortals will more likely play this one in the car on the way to work or crashed out on the bed / couch with a cold one, but believe me it's just as good for that as well.

EPIC

For fans of... Powerwolf, Primal Fear,  Royal Hunt, Viking Skull, Ex Deo... etc

23.8.12

Fifteen English Pounds - 'Sin City' (self released) 4/5

Fifteen English Pounds hail from the sleepy town of Evesham, in the English Midlands, a place best known in UK rock circles as being the birthplace of 80's OTT glam rockers Wrathchild. This album is a compilation of various demos the band have issued over the past few years brought together into one rather groovy 10 track collection.

Now FEP play hard edged rock of the old school, and they are rather good at it. Kicking off with the high speed blues rock work out of Sin City (not the AC/DC track), this one just screams along, full of tales of sex, motorbikes and rock and roll excess. You get cuts like Effigy with its frenzied harmonica solo, the air punching anthem of Rock N Roll Heaven, the UFO sounding Human Sacrifice... all great stuff. In fact there isn't a weak track on show at all.

If you wanna draw musical comparisons with the great and the good of rock and roll past then if you think of the likes of AC/DC, and NWOBHM legends like Tobruk, Spider, Idol Rich, Tokyo Blade etc then you will be in the right ball park.

The musicianship here is first rate, it's not trying to be to slick and not trying to be overly cleaver, its just a load of great honest balls out, heads down and see you at the end performances. Vocalist Ade Danby has a powerful and compelling voice that reminds me of Toyko Blades Alan Marsh in places, and g-man Andy Crump has a style that draws comparisons with the late great Gary Moore (just check out Cool Tone to see exactly what I mean). Chuck in a rhythm section that's ducks arse tight and as driven as Lewis Hamiltons McLaren and you have a pretty impressive band that can really deliver the goods.

OK, in places the production is a little rough around the edges, but hell, what do you expect from a small up and coming band on a budget, and this can easily be overlooked.

All in all this is a cracking album from a cracking band that has 'cult hero' scrawled all over it, and one that all discerning lovers of the UK underground rock scene should add to their collections.

Impressive

For fans of... Trucker Diablo, Grifter, Dear Superstar, Iron Claw etc....

21.8.12

Lace And Whiskey - 'Running Out Of Time' (Self Released) 4/5

East London rockers Lace And Whiskey have been around since 2008, they play a sort of Americana influenced soft acoustic indie rock and roll, and this is their debut full length album.

Now I'll be honest here, when I got this in my inbox the other day and first played it through I didn't like it at all, but having lived with it for a few days and given it a second chance, I can say its growing on me rapidly. OK I ain't gonna start claiming this is the best release ever to cross my inbox, I will say it is not without a lot of merit.

Based around the slick and introspective guitar work of  Melissa Collett and the direct and sincere sounding vocals of Andy Hodgson, Lace and Whiskey have created a fairly engaging album, that brings to mind the likes of Frank Turner and New Model Army in terms of approach and attitude.

Highlights include the Frank Turner influenced Don't Ask Questions, the hard edged Confuse The Mind, the dark and disturbing Isolation and especially the spine tingling instrumental Night Of The Armada - a track that shows Melissa Colletts six string slinging ability in fine style.

All in all this is a good debut from a band that have a fairy unique approach and could go places.

Worth checking out

For fans of... Frank Turner, New Model Army, The Levellers, Duckfeet..... etc

8.8.12

The All-Seeing - 'The All-Seeing (demo)' (self released) 4/5

(sorry but I have no idea why the cover art loads rotated)

Time for another lucky random surf discovery. The All-Seeing are a stoner rock outfit from Sweden and this, as far as I can work out is their debut demo single. Apart from that I know naff all about them.

Gotta say this is a sweet little two tracker. Kicking off with a 7 minute minute epic entitled No Place, with its grinding post grunge distorted bass, doomy plod and slog riffing and anthalmic vocals, you can't help but draw favourable comparisons with the mighty Mos Generator and Somerset weed-heads P.O.T. The other cut on show is a sweet little three minute pot and roll work out called Sky, with a head bangable riff, a distant and down beat vocal and a rather short but sweet noise rock guitar solo.

All in all this little demo is highly enjoyable and goes to show that rare gems await the discerning music fan whose prepared to do a bit of net trawling looking for the best of what the underground has to offer.

Sweet.

For fans of... Mos Generator, P.O.T., Stone Axe, Dark Earth....

(download this single for free from http://theall-seeing.bandcamp.com/ )

Firewind - 'Few Against Many' (Century Media) 4/5

This is album number eight from Greek metal gods Firewind and main project of Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Gus G.

Now I am a bit of a Firewind fan I will confess, their 2008 album The Premonition being a particular fave of mine. So I was a bit excited about getting this one to say the least. However having lived with it for a while now, I will say I'm finding it a bit of a double edged sword.

On the up side this album is a pretty good exercise in power metal. There are 10 tracks on show, all of a high standard. Gus G is in fine form, check out the wonderful shred and widdle solo on Losing My Mind for an example of a guitar hero at is best. Vocalist Apollo Papathanasio shows once more that he is one of the most distinctive and engaging vocalist in metal at the moment. As for the music, well tracks like Another Dimension with its driving riffs and the huge anthalmic Glorious are all first rate examples of modern commercial metal.

However I do one issue with this album and that's the production.To my ears its a bit too well produced, everything is polished to perfection, and whilst on tracks like the chilled out and introspective Edge of A Dream it works well, in other places the stacked vocals and layered guitar lines and big keyboard wash only serves to take the cutting edge off the whole thing. Riffs that should kill merely stun, solos that should blow the mind tend just to titillate... I dunno may be its a personal thing on my side, but I like my metal with a little bit of the rough edges left on.

Still that gripe aside I can't really say anything negative about this one, and the fact that its topped the Greek album charts and is generating highly favourable fan reviews means they are doing something right here, and more power to Firewind for that.

Pretty Good Overall

For fans of... Helloween, Dragon Force, Iron Maiden, Queensryche, Primal Fear....

Fen - 'Of Losing Interest' (Ripple) 4.5/5

This is the fifth album from British Columbia based stoner prog outfit Fen, an outfit that has been around since the late 1990's and their second for Ripple music.

First impressions of this one are very favourable, like a lot of Ripples roster the term stoner rock is the first thing that springs to mind as the opening cut Riddles lurks from the speakers and conjures up sonic images of early Rush, Black Sabbath and Triumph. However as the nine tracks on offer play you begin to pick up a lot more diversity of influence and sound that many of their retro rocking stoner counterparts. A Long Line has an almost Kashmir style Zeppelin vibe to it. The Glove, with its not so subtle lyrical references to Michael Jackson, hints at the work of Max Webster, Light Up The End is a sweet acoustic led pseudo ballad that hints at The Grateful Dead on a Rainbow trip and Snake Path reminds me a little of Blue Oyster Cult in places (a very good thing indeed in my book)

As is to expected the playing and production here is faultless, Doug Harrison and Sam Levin are both superb guitarist, each capable of laying down some spine tingling lead work and joining together in some classic Wishbone Ash style twin lead sections - just check out the lead playing on Pilot Plant. Another big plus is the lyrical content; which serves up some very intelligent and quite dark imagery that is delivered by Mr Harrisons Burke Shelley / Geddy Lee type vocals in spine tingling style.

All in all a great record from a first rate band, and a release that will do both Fen's and Ripple's growing reputation the power of good.

Highly Recommended

For fans of... Mos Generator, Rush, Stone Axe, Blue Oyster Cult, Led Zeppelin...

7.8.12

Los Criptozoos - 'La danza del cadáver' (self released) 5/5

This is another lucky random surf find, Los Criptozoos hail from Castellón in Spain, they have been together since 2009, play a highly infectious brand of rock and roll fueled pop punk and this is their second album.

Now what first attracted me to this one was the fact that these lads sing in their native tongue. I will freely admit that my Spanish abilities none existent, so I can't tell you what they are going on about, but there are times when listening to songs in a language you can't understands adds to the listening experience. You find that vocal rhythms and melody take on a greater importance and gives the songs a whole new twist and vibe (I love French rap for that exact reason), and listening to this album is really pleasurable experience.

Blending influences that range from old school Clash / Stiff Little Fingers type old school punk, Mighty Mighty Bosstones style bop-able sub-ska sensibilities with buckets of traditional rock and roll feel good attack and big helpings of uplifting Latino get down and party rhythms, they have forged one of the most accessible and likeable pop punk releases I've heard in a long long time.

There are 11 tracks on offer, each one a real get down and boogie gem of high energy punk rocking excellence. Tracks like Xic Dolent, (whose lyrics seam to be about nuclear power), La Danza del Cadaver (The Dance of The Corpse - that one I can translate) and Quein se queja all dance into your ears and get your feet tapping your fists pumping and a smile on your face as wide as the straight of Gibraltar.

On top of that there is some first rate musicianship on show,  just check out the groovy bass line on the wonderful Ska driven Tormenta de feugo (Torment of Fire?) and the sweet rock and roll style guitar solo on Nada nuevo for starters. The vocals are melodic, direct, infectious and demand that you join in even if your Spanish is as bad as mine the drums are tight and driving and the whole thing is played and produced to perfection.

Basically, as you can guess I'm loving this to bits, and I'm sure you will as well, especially as its a free album (see below for download details), I've now got a huge urge to see this lot live, so if your a punk promotor reading this, please try to bring these guys to England on tour sometime, you will have a real hit on your hands I'm sure.

Just Amazing!!

For fans of... The Clash, The Subways, Stiff Little Fingers, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Blunders....

(Download this great album free from here -  http://loscriptozoos.bandcamp.com/ )

Spires - 'Lucid Abstractions' (Self Released) 5/5

One of last years most exciting releases was undoubtedly Spirals of Ascension, the debut album from Manchester prog metal outfit Spires. That release picked up a lot of airplay, both on BCFM and RS666 and narrowly missed out on being shortlisted for the BCFM shows album of the year award. Now Spirals have issued this new five track acoustic album as a follow up. Apparently the idea for this one came about after a series of unplugged show the band performed late last year. It is four new tracks and an acoustic rendition of Spirals of Ascension the title track from their debut album, and its damn good.

Kicking off with a nice and mellow cut entitled Under Bloodstained Skies, this album is breath taking in concept and scope. Stripped of the razor edged metalisms of their debut album Spires have forged in this album (and yes I will say album, cos although the band are calling it an ep, anything with a play time of nearly 40 minutes says album to me) a quiet and deeply introspective exercise in acoustic prog rock that not only shows them as first rate musicians and song writers, but as masters of the soundscape, as they weave delicate patterns of light and shade that flit moth like across the ears and bathe the soul in a gloriously dreamy wash of aural delight.

Highlights? well the whole album flows together perfectly and almost seamlessly but my personal fave moment has to be the spine tingling Perception, a track that is spine chilling, uplifting and head soothing all at the sametime.

All in all this is a fantastic release that shows that Spires are indeed an outfit that are capable of greatness, and the fact that these guys are still unsigned is a travesty. However if they keep issuing material of this diversity and quality they will not be independent for long.

If you only get on progressive album this year, make sure its this one.

For fans of... Fornost Arnor, Awake, Dream Theater, Fates Warning.....

To get you hands on a copy of this gem visit www.spiresband.co.uk (but if you want a CD copy, hurry this comes as a limited pressing of 500 copies)

6.8.12

Big Viking - 'Fucks' (self released) 3/5

Big Viking come from Michigan in the US, and apart from that I know naff all about them. I stumbled on this three tracker as a random surf find, and I'm pretty glad I did, if only for the opening cut.


Sounding like a motorway horror smash between Cannibal Corpse and Converge, this one kicks off with a superb little cut entitled Ray Romano Chop House, a cut that grinds like a bastard, grunts and screams like struck pig and is generally three and a half minutes of fairly impressive in your face metal punk cross over action. Hell theres even a couple of light tongue in cheek spoken interjections to break up the asre grinding intensity.

The other two cuts Bud Dink and Amulet Dead are a pair of flawed gems. They are well played and very enjoyable, but suffer a little from slipshod production and fairly big volume drops, which after the magnificence of the lead track comes over as little bit frustrating, hence I've docked a mark or two. Still it's nothing that can't be cured with a little playing around in Audacity or other such software but a listener wants to download and enjoy, not download and remix.

However believe me this ep is worth getting hold of for the lead track alone, when its a free download you can't really complain that much.

Check it out now

For fans of... Cannibal Corpse, Cattle Decapitation, Converge, Amen....

(Download this ep for free from - http://bigviking.bandcamp.com/ )

4.8.12

Triumph - 'Live at Sweden Rock Festival' (frontiers) 4.5/5

From the mid 1970's right through to the early 1990's Canadas Triumph were right up there with very biggest names in rock, albums like Sport of Kings and Allied Forces sold by the truck load, and they toured the world playing in the biggest venues. However in the early 1990's guitarist and band main man Rik Emmett departed for a solo career, and Triumph fell from view into the were are they now file to spend the next 15 years almost forgotten. Then in 2008 the band reunited for a one off appearance at the legendary Sweden Rocks Festival and as often happens the one off lead to a small tour, which lead to a bigger tour and before you could say I Live For The Weekend the band were back together full time. Now since then there has been no new Triumph material - in fact the band have said there will not be any new studio albums in the foreseeable, but the band have been doing a fair bit of archive raiding and they have just issued this, the full set from that Sweden Rock reunion gig.

Now I will confess I was a bit of a Triumph fan back in the day, but over the past 20 years their albums have been laying at the back of the record rack - in fact I can't remember when I last played a Triumph album for my own enjoyment, and a flick through my playlist archive shows I've only span one Triumph track on air since the BCFM show started, and that was 3 years ago (something I intend to redress over the next few months). So I am finding listening to this one a bit of a journey of rediscovery.

And what a pleasant journey it is. The album kicks off with When The Lights Go Down, a glorious slice of stoner rock, that shows just where the likes of Stone Axe and Mos Generator are getting some of their influences. Other highlights include Allied Forces - a cut that comes on as a real surprise when you realise exactly how heavy Triumph could be from time to time; the aforementioned I Live For The Weekend, always my fave Triumph number, and a rock and roller that still sounds as fresh as it it did back in the 80's; and then there's the epic and progressive Blinding Light Show with Mr Emmett showing he still knows his way around a fret board. All good and classic stuff and when you reach the final notes of the wondrously uplifting Fight the Good Fight you end up with a wonderfully satisfied feeling of having rediscovered something very very good indeed.

This album is a great live document, the production is spot on, showing the pure talent of the band and capturing the excitement of the live situation perfectly. This one will certainly remind the world of Triumph and exactly how good they still are. There's only problem, this has left me wanting more Triumph, new Triumph, I'm sure musicians of this class and standard are still capable of writing and recording anther killer album to add to their back catalogue. Come on guys whatdya say?

Triumphful

For fans of... Rush, Van Halen, Stone Axe, The Rods.....

Various Artists - 'The End is Near' (Shire Records) 4.5/5

The End Is Near is the title of a series of highly successful punk weekenders held in the sleepy Wiltshire town of Trowbridge, that are rapidly becoming some of the most important events on the UK punk scene, having attracted the likes of The Sub-Humans and Rita Lynch in recent times. Now the organisers have put together this rather tasty 15 track compilation celebrating and showcasing some of the best acts that have appeared at the events.

Now this is a rather good un over all, kicking off with Disco, a rather neat slam and boogie cut from The Blunders, this CD is a great portal into the best punk from the English West Country and beyond. I'm not going to give you a track by track breakdown - far better you dig yourself a copy up and explore it for yourself. But I will point out a few of the highlights on offer...

There's Petrol with the driven and frenzied Feed Yourself, Hater UK give a glorious low fi rendition of the Kevin 'Bloody' Wilson classic Hey Santa!. Instrumental noise grind merchants We Are Romans serve up a groovy little cut entitled Heligoland and the irrepressible Rita Lynch gives the spin tingling Longing. Chuck in The Dynamite Pussy Club with Vampire Blues and nine other pretty damn god and infectious cuts from the likes of The Set Backs, Bite The Buffalo and A-Heads and you have a real treat for all those who like it a bit on the punk side.

There is an old joke that says 'punk aint dead, it just smells that way', well this gem not only shows that punk is alive and kicking, but it till has something to say and is laying waste to small Wiltshire towns in the process

Get a copy and pogo til you puke

For fans of... PUNK