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Blood Ceremony - 'Blood Ceremony' (metalblade) 4.5/5

Canadian occultic rockers Blood Ceremony have recently signed to Metalblade, and as so often happens with metalblade signings before any new material surfaces there is a little archive raiding, and so we have this re-issue of the bands 2009 debut album.

Now anyone getting this one expecting walls of Behemoth style satanic deathism, or Slayer-u-like devil thrash are going to be in for a big shock. While there is a strong early Black Sabbath vibe haunting this record the most noticeable influences here are more in the Jethro Tull, Black Widow dark folk rock style, with goodly dollops of Iron Butterfly influenced primordial hard rock thrown is as well.

Tracks like The Rare Lord and Into The Coven are all sweet and engaging folk metal work outs with haunting flute solos, jiggy organ passages and seductive female vocals from the hugely talented Alia O'Brien, which perfectly counterpoint the primitive doomy folk metal backing from the rest of the band. The result is an album that sounds like it was conceived and created about 1971 as the sound track for a long forgotten Italian horror movie. And any album that features a short sound clip from the classic Brit biker horror flick Psychomania 'There you go my little green friend' has gotta be alright with me.

In world of metalcore, post thrash, and ham fisted Djentisms, the fact that bands like Blood Ceremony are still out there and recording albums like this comes as a welcome change and a breath of musical fresh air and I for one await their next record with great interest.

A devilshly good album

For fans of... Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Black Widow, Skyclad, Inkubus Sukkubus....

Wim Oudijk - 'Tree' (folkwit / disco fair) 5/5

Now I first discovered Dutch musician, composer and producer Wim Oudijk via his work with Florida based Canterbury Sound legend Todd Dillingham (their most recent collaboration is Todds excellent 'Songcycle 2011' release) and now for the first time I am experiencing the genius of Mr Oudijk's solo work.

Tree is in effect a 46 minute long concept piece in ten parts telling the story of a pine tree from its birth from a cone, to its maturity, its felling and a number of possible afterlives as the wooden horse of Troy, boats, furniture, Christmas trees and firewood. And all I can say is 'wow'. I've been sitting here all day listening to this one over and over trying to work out exactly what to say about it, apart from the old 'fuck me this is fantastic'.

This album runs the full range of musical styles from neo-classical sections, acapella vocals, folk influenced moments, snatches of progressive rock and lots and lots of well tripped out psychedelia. It's all blended together with Wim's distinctive and flawless production style, immaculately played and superbly realised into a spine tingling whole that easily ranks alongside the lost Beach Boys classic Smile as one of the truly great psyche concept works of all time.

This is indeed a work of true genius, a masterwork of the highest order and one that all lovers of really great music should have in their collection.

A masterpiece.

For fans of... Todd Dillingham, The Beach Boys, The Pillbugs, Electric Crayon Set, Caravan etc...

Lamb Of God - 'Resolution' (Roadrunner) 4/5

Well the first of the big hitters of 2012 have chucked their hat into the ring, as Richmond (thats Richmond USA NOT Richmond Yorkshire) metalheads Lamb Of God unleash studio album number seven on the world.

Now I'll be honest and say I've not really payed LOG that much attention, before now, not that I don't like them, but its been a case of so much music so little time and they have slipped under my radar, so I'm coming at this one a fresh and with no real preconceptions.

First impressions are rather good, the double header of Straight For The Sun and Desolation lay out the albums stall in fine style with a wall of post Pantera southern style thrash, gruff yet intelligible vocals, brutal riffs and some fine widdle and shred style lead work, and so it continues for the next 14 tracks.

There is nothing really original or earth shattering on show here, infact there is only the short linking passage, the bluesy Barbarosa, to give a short break from the albums blast and bludgeon. But that doesn't mean its a dull record, there's enough creativity and musical invention on show to make the tracks stand apart from each other and more than enough energy and attitude to make for a compelling listen. Highlights include the groove grind of Invictus, the infectious Terminally Unique - a track that sounds Iron Maiden spiked with ground glass and the headlong thrash out of Visitation. However the true stand out cut on offer is the closer King Me with is blues influenced introduction, epic build up and tasteful use of synths and female backing vocals which gives the whole piece a progressive metal vibe.

Over all this is good solid record, Lamb of God fan will love it to bits, and other metal heads will find it an attractive proposition as well.

Pretty Good

For fans of... Mastodon, Machine Head, Pantera, Not Above Evil....

Betty Swallaux - 'Grinding Betty' (self released) 4.5/5

Just a few short months after hitting the world with a very strong demo release, Llanelli grindcore experimentalists Betty Swallaux are back with their debt album.

If you have managed to track down Betty Swallaux's demo you'll know Gaz Wooloff and his crew have developed an almost unique sound, blending elements of industrial grindcore and extreme metal sensibilities with 'nintendo-core' style electronica, elements of progressive rock and great slices of traditional punk, add in the in your face use of drum machines and loops and the result is a sound that is as near unique as you'll hear anywhere.

This nifty eight tracker kicks off with Fantasy, a nifty little number that starts out sounding like something from a 1990's console game sound track before plunging head long into a wall of glorious Electro Hippies influenced noise. Other high points include Ramstein on acid industrial grind of Deep, the wonderful Give Me Some More, a track that bizarrely wouldn't sound to out of place on an album by the late great Robert Calvert and gloriously brutal Cruel Britannia (in my books the stand out track on the album) with its damning political lyrics and breakneck slam dance frenzy riffing.

There a couple of cover versions on show here as well... the old Divynils standard I Touch My Self is a pretty straight forward rendition in the Betty Swallaux style and makes for an enjoyable listen. Then theres a stripped down and rebuilt version of America (Just Say No), an early single by Bristol band Alien Stash Tin that blows the balls off the original.

Another plus here is the production, Its about as slick as its possible to get with a home recording rig and still maintain Betty Swallaux unique sound and jagged edge attack. Something the guys should be proud of.

Over all Betty Swallaux are one of the most unique, innovative and exciting projects around at the moment and should be bound for international cult status at the very least, and this album will only go to help that process along in fine style.


For fans of... Ramstein, Amebix, 23 Skidoo, Electro Hippies, Elephant 12....