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The Ultimate Story of Free
by David Clayton and Todd K Smith
UK Magazine Classic Rock’s top 20 Rock books you MUST own.
“Thank God Free got the book about them they deserve: heavyweight (288 pages), with lots of illustrations, and well written by the dream team of Free expert David Clayton and US journalist Todd Smith. Including everything from hand-written lyrics to an illustrated discography all in classic black and white this great book evokes not only a band but also an era.” ~ Classic Rock
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A Dream of Lasting Peace
For their fifth studio long player, Swedish retro rockers Siena Root enlarge their ‘70s progressive heaviness with a fresh set of pipes and ten tracks that secure their place as genre leaders. A thick rhythm section and extended soloing gives room for new vocalist Samuel Björö to breathe his own style into the densely layered opening track “Secrets” while packing emotion into the laid-back “Sundown” and folk-drenched “The Piper Won’t Let You Stay”. The line up of founders Sam Riffer (vocals/bass) and Love ‘Billy’ Forsberg (percussion) remain while the addition of Matte Gustavsson (guitar), Erik “Errka” Petersson (organ) who joined in 2012, give the band their uniquely original sound. With A Dream of Lasting Peace, they seem to have found their heavier side while still broadening the roles for drums, bass and keyboards. “Tales of Independence”, the group’s video and single for the new album, generates a cool SRV-like guitar swagger with an inspired ZZ Top groove. The keyboards fluctuated between support and spotlight while guitarist Matte Gustavsson proves himself as one of the great innovators of modern electric blues.
In the summer of 2015, we were lucky enough to catch the band on their European tour. One of the intro tracks that stuck became the opening to “Outlander” a real headknocker with potential for an arena showpiece. On the set list it was referred to as “Deep Purple 84” because of its ode to Perfect Strangers. Along with the song’s tribal beat and catchy organ riff, it plows the fertile soil of an early Sabbath/Purple merge with Samuel Björö rising as a mix of Ian Gillan and David Coverdale. On the flip side “Empty Streets” has a nice Southern Cal vibe before exploding into a massive chorus rocker. Heavy-laden keyboards dominate “Growing Underground” as the singer belts “Heads are gonna roll” while the band throw down with Robin Trower-like confidence in “No Filters”. Following the jazzy instrument “Imaginarium”, where Gustavsson and Petersson swap leads, the haunting “The Echoes Unfold” basks in the glow of ELP. The band is promoting the album with an extensive Summer 2017 tour opening, at least on one date, for Deep Purple.
Website: Siena Root
Heavy Psych Sounds
Turbocharged from their highly acclaimed debut, Austin, Texas four piece Duel bring hellfire and thunder with sophomore outing Witchbanger. Locked away in a remote farmhouse studio with only a bag of mushrooms, drums, bass, a couple guitars and full amplification, the band tapped into their darker, more sinister side. What they produced, in a hallucinogenic haze, was eight tracks of thick blues-based grooves and weighty riffs that pay tribute to early 70’s proto-metal and classic old school 80’s HM. Opening track “Devil” gets right to it with all guns blazing. Fuzzed out guitars over a Judas Priest-like rhythm run assault the ears with a blast of fist pumping, full-tilt rock. Madman Tom Frank (ex-Scorpion Child) growls through subterranean lyrics while playing bone-crushing rhythm guitar. Guitarist Jeff Henson (who also produced and engineered the record) finds his inspiration on old Sabbath, Thin Lizzy and Deep Purple solo bends while the rhythm section lends it’s heft and strength through bassist Shaun Avants (ex-Scorpion Child) and drummer JD Shadowz.
The album’s title track “Witchbanger” is overt and deadly. “If you see her it must be late / because the blood has chosen your fate,” sings Frank as a series of open chords dominate the Sabbath-like backend. The track drops like a lethal wrecking ball setting the pace for the rest of the record. “Heart of the Sun” and “Cat’s Eye” follow suite with a raw punishing blows that move from early Pentagram and Obsessed to the low-fi angst of Trouble and Sacred Reich. Standout track “Astro Gypsy” is five minutes of cosmic boogie played with strut and swagger. It’s here the bass brings the fatness to the groove while the guitar distorts into the fray. Nugent-inspired “The Snake Queen” continues the band’s adoration of all things wicked and female while “Bed of Nails” lets the drums lead as it rumble across the tundra with a galloping guitar hot on its heels. At six-minute plus “Tigers and Rainbows” brings a slightly more melodic edge to the proceedings as the layer guitars cavalcade into a wall of distortion. A mid-section break offers a mood swing suppressing the bass/drum and giving the guitars full access to a swirling conclusion.
Website: Heavy Psych Sounds
THE DEVIL AND THE ALMIGHTY BLUES
Blues For The Red Sun Records
Beating the sophomore jinx, Norwegian rock band The Devil And The Almighty Blues return with a more progressive and developed second album. The riff-heavy quintet has matured in their last two years of constant touring and the 6 tracks on II show an increase in depth and style. “These Are Old Hands,” a song they have been kicking around in their live set for almost a year, opens the disc with a bold riff and structured rhythmic beat. At ten-minutes long, it moves like a desert Sidewinder, embracing Sabbethian sludge then moves through a melodic refrain before pile driving into a dense landscape of fuzzed-out blues with energetic soloing. On the opposite end of the scale is “When The Light Dies”, a slow burner that soulfully creeps along creating a mesmerizing stew of hypnotic howling with pain-tempered lyrics. The mid-section has the distorted guitar surfacing briefly before being dragged back into a river of Mississippi mud. The number is brooding, wistful and tempered while still being emotionally powerful.
The majority of songs on II average seven-minutes plus evident the band takes time to fully developing their electric blues. “North Road” and “Low” take full advantage of their extended time to explore a full musical story with texture and ambiance. Elements of Dylan-like drama echo back to the late ‘60s and early ‘70s where folk, blues and rock where aqueously merged into a hybrid signature sound. “North Road” is especially rich as a road weary traveler’s tale. Personal favorite “How Strange The Silence” brings to life a sinister riff as the singer warns, “Speak from the heart, let the soul out, or bind your tongue and speak not at all.” A crashing surge dominates the mid-section as the bass and guitar circle the drumbeat in a tribal dance while a flaming solo burns higher. Drumsticks count in “Neptune Brother” giving the track a quicker beat and showcasing the group’s steady rhythm section. Vocals follow the guitar lick with ever-increasing anxiety finally culminating in a frenzied jam that runs out the record with the plea “Take my hand my brother.”
Website: The Devil And The Almighty Blues
Crispin Glover Records
Norway’s own Spidergawd are sticking to their promise to deliver one album a year. 2017 brings us IV in all its beauty and heavy elegance. Setting the eight majestic tunes a blaze are guitarist/vocals Per Borten, drummer Kenneth Kapstad, saxophonist Rolf Martin Snustad and bassist Hallvard “The Kid” Gaardløs who replaced Bent Saether (of Motorpsycho) last year. Though the band first came to prominence under the shadow of Motorpsycho (borrowing a couple members for bass and drum) they are their own entity. This year’s record continues to draw from early seventies hard rock with the Grand Funk thunder of ‘Is This Love?’ to the Ted Nugent homage ‘Stranglehold’. Both praise the almighty riff forged in the metal mindset of Mr. Borten and getting the necessary brain-damage rhythm kick from one of the best bass/drum duos on today’s heavy scene. To some, the addition of the sax might be an odd fit but not for this quartet as the woodwind texture creates an almost sinister edge that’s uncomfortably delightful.
Fuzz-filled ‘I Am The Night” erupts with a hair-raising beat as the tribal drums fuse with the electric guitar in a spell binding incantation. The barrage of wood and steel amplified to full volume with mass distortion creates a cosmic climax. “LouCille” is a jazzy love song with piston-pumping feedback while the band take a reckless road trip under the “moon’s fading light”. An MC5 influence ignites a jackhammer rhythm in “What You Have Become” which takes the blood of a breakup, injects a high-octane riff and adds an echo vocal to create tense visceral emotion. Other tracks like the tribal “Ballad of a Millionaire (Song for Elina)” and the Celtic-flare of “Heaven Comes Tomorrow” celebrate the mid-tempo muscle of The Cult’s Sonic Temple with huge chunks of arena rock. If there ever was an epic saxophone jazz/rock masterpiece, it’s the 8-minute “What Must Come To Pass”. Building on a blues base, the track moves from a sax solo to a hammering backbeat and metallic chord sequence. Pleading vocals add a level of drama to the psychedelic workout but the wooly guitar runs are spine tingling!
Website: Spidergawd, Crispin Glover Records
Century Media Records
With each record Sweden’s Horisont take another step towards perfecting their unique brand of rock’n’roll. About Time showcases their staggering growth with layered twin guitars, prominent keyboards and dynamic hooks. Looking at each of the band’s four previous releases, one can see where they have moved from a simple Free-like presentation to working through Foghat, Status Quo and BÖC in terms of influence and sophistication. About Time strikes as a muscled-up Boston. The rock is still there in songs like ‘Without Warning’, ‘Night Line’ and ‘Dark Sides’ while embracing the openly melodic “Electrical” and beautifully crafted ‘Boston Gold’. Keyboard-led ‘The Hive’ starts the record off with a tantalizing nod to Seventies hard rock in a surging wave of balance and volume. A mix of UFO and April Wine come to mind as the five-piece roll out song craft and instrumental prowess. Single ‘Electrical’ capitalizes on the momentum with its chugging rhythm and Sweet-styled chorus.
Heavier numbers, ‘Without Warning’ and ‘Dark Sides’ celebrate the band’s love of Sabbath and Deep Purple with sinister riffs and cosmic keyboards over a loud and established rhythm section. Giving the bass its own solo space allows the song a grater magnitude while the dual guitars trade monstrous licks. It’s important to note that guitarist Tom Sutton left the band just before they signed an international deal with Century Media Records last spring. David Kalin was recruited in his place and brings his own set of dangerous playing to compliment guitarist Charlie Van Loo. Embracing their Swedish heritage ‘Letare’ lifts the record with native lyrics and folksy melody while ‘Point Of Return’ and ‘Hungry Love’ celebrates a time when Kansas ruled the airwaves. ‘Boston Gold’ boldly pays homage to the polish of ‘Don’t Look Back’ as title track ‘About Time’ goes for the epic factor with six-minutes of sonic exploration. The album is incased by yet another Henrik Jacobson painted masterpiece.
Website: Horisont, Century Media Records
From the Pink Floyd-like ‘Pale Moon’ to the hammering ‘Mr. Strange’, Sweden’s Asteroid prove they are masters of the almighty riff with their aptly title third LP, III. The power-trio are well versed in seventies heavy rock bringing the doom of Sabbath, the melodies of BÖC and the cosmic exploration of Hawkwind. At just under 40-minutes, the record pours out an orchestrated mix of tone and color moving easily from quiet passages and timbre treble to massive power jams. The eloquent build of ‘Pale Moon’ radiates a ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ texture with a blossoming chord progression that hooks a melody and brings it to a bass-infused crescendo. Though understated, the guitar is smooth and silky giving support to the vocal chorus inline with the best of Dire Straits. Both “Last Days’ and ‘Silver & Gold’ push the boundaries of the groups laidback texture bringing to mind country-mates Graveyard. It’s here the production comes clearly into focus moving layered harmonies into sonic landscapes.
‘Wolf & Snake’ stands out as the album’s clear single. Bass and drum set pace as a warm guitar riff drives the six and a half minute piece. Echoing the vocals brings the solar purity of early-seventies Hawkwind where music and time converge into a spiritual epiphany. The song explores astral mind-numbing feedback eventually locking in on a fuzzed out guitar pile drive complete with a memorable chorus. The heaviness of ‘Them Calling’ is only matched by its clever tonation and pin-point tempo changes. “Now I stand at the gates of hell waiting for you to arrive…I want you here by me side,” is the vocal howl taking the listener on an Odyssey-inspired descending thrill ride. Standing in a thick seventies groove is ‘Til’ Dawn’ basking in the glow of pure stoner/fuzz and plodding rhythms while closing track ‘Mr. Strange’ drums it’s way into a Sabethian dance complete with Iommi-inspired chugging, evil blues and tortured chanting. AN ABSOLUTE MUST!
Website: Fuzzorama Records
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