FROM THE VAULT
SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT
Waiting For The Flood
Electric Magic Records
Four tracks and almost 50-minutes long Waiting For The Flood easily exceeds expectations. The third outing by German psych rockers Samsara Blues Experiment is their most balanced and harmoniously driven yet. 18-months in the making and averaging 10-mintues per tack, the record combines the best of the group’s two previous studio albums while drifting further into mid-‘70s prog rock. As seasoned professionals, Christian Peters (guitar/vocals), Hans Eiselt (guitar), Richard Behrens (bass) and Thomas Vedder (drums) have fused together their individual talents to create something truly majestic. Elements of British acts Man, Khan and Camel can be heard in the creative expanse of the individual songs while the occasional southern-style heavy rock of Corrosion of Conformity or Floodgate rattles the cage. With no limitations, the band is free to wander through transitional soundscapes using the ebb and flow of the instruments to accentuate the individual strengths of the musician while still maintaining a cohesive edge.
Side One kicks off with “Shringara”, a blend of stoner heaviness and southern fried psych with an Indian raga vibe. The extended moog solo gives the song a retro feel morphing like a giant tuneful nebula. Peters’ baritone vocals resonate with Zappa-like candor in a celebration of Musique concrete. A thread of old-school blues intertwines the electric feedback while the rhythm section pumps vibrant beats into cascading guitar tones. The album’s title track “Waiting For The Flood” follows as a 12-minute opus so free and easy yet so complex. Composed as a hybrid between Hendrix and Santana it includes an impressive array of jazz arrangements, duel guitar and thundering bass. The modest organ moves like an undercurrent that sweeps the track along a cosmic highway. At times a bit of a freak-out the eclectic nature of the song moves from improvisation and experimental sound collages to straight ahead hard rock. Though somewhat avant-garde, the raw, emotional sound is complimented by its sophisticated arrangements.
On the flipside “Don’t Belong” plunges headlong into the quartet’s collective dark side. A doom blues lick snakes its way into an adventurous mid-section that bounces with a funky beat. The song ends with an epic riff complete with heightened guitar solo. Closing the disc is “Brahmin’s Lament” a classic heavy blues number with a haunting chorus and stunning vocal. The extended psychedelic mid-section features Indian rhythms and sitars with a vast Hawkwind-like finish into the chorus. With repeated listens the magnitude of each composition comes into a clear focus with radiating energy. On the edge of a musical frontier, Samsara Blues Experiment transcend the tag of Stoner, Psychedelic or Progressive rock. Boasting a fresh innovative style they have amassed a passionate, visceral approach to modern jamming while pulling together cosmic elements that harness pure, metaphysical energy. As genuine innovators of an unrestricted melodic art form, they are in a class all their own. This is what makes them so extraordinary. Check 'em out here.
Website: Samsara Blues Experiment, Electric Magic Records
Reconnecting to their psychedelic roots, original stoner rock pioneers Monster Magnet release their 10th studio album in the form of Last Patrol. Slogging through the ‘90s, the Jersey five-piece was one of the few retro rock acts to “soldier-on” in the face of grunge and boy bands. Founded by Dave Wyndorf (vocals and guitar) and having gone through a number of lineup changes, the band landed squarely with the smash hit “Space Lord” propelling their Powertrip (1998) record into a tidal wave of sales. Tours with Aerosmith, Metallica and Marilyn Manson kept the band on the road for nearly two years putting the struggling underground outfit on the map. More albums followed, more faces changed in the lineup but their dedication to big, beefy power rock anthems never diminished. The Jersey five-piece may be nearly 30-years old but are still as vital and creative as ever. This time around Wyndorf is flanked by guitarists Garrett Sweeny and long time sidekick Phil Caivano with the reliable rhythm section of bassist Jim Baglino and drummer Bob Pantella. The talent-pool brings a heavy dose of weird, cosmic psych-rock to the masses just in time to save the world.
Last Patrol opens with the expansive, “I Live behind the Clouds”. Simple in structure, the song builds around a steady E-chord with Wyndorf almost whispering the lyrics until the two-minute mark when the band comes crashing in. Suddenly, the record is swaying to a space-rock beat with a classic solo jam before settling back into an acoustic groove. Masters of bonehead rock, the nine-minute title track “Last Patrol” uses ‘60’s garage rock to propel the record into Hawkwind territory, with just enough swagger to keep the extended jam from fraying into a whirlwind of solar dust. A tip of the hat to one of the original pioneers of psychedelic rock is found in the Donovan cover, “Three King Fishers”. Part folk, part sitar-driven classic, the tune applies traditional psych elements with a heavy-handed hardness that’s both bold and beautiful. A perfect combination of Vanilla Fudge meets Jethro Tull. If there is a Single on the album it’s “Paradise”, a cosmic circus with a hook chorus and Wyndorf’s best vocal performance. The guitar tone is warm and fuzzy over a bongo beat that takes a joyride into reefer-fed sweetness.
The foot-stomping “Hallelujah” is stoned out old blues at its best. Loosely structured around a gospel beat, it flashes back to a primitive arrangement that’s strange and spooky with voodoo vibe. Wyndorf pays homage to Howlin’ Wolf with an augmented call and response, but the spin is in the lyrics with the band singing ‘Hallelujah’ as they ride into Berlin for a few sensual delights. “Mindless One” is maximum ‘70s riff rock, something MM knows all too well with plenty of wah-wah and echo guitar as you “get your mind blown!” A nod to Sabbath’s “Spirit Caravan” is the essence of “The Duke (of Supernature) with a bongo beat, laid-back groove and slide guitar while “End Of Time” is seven minutes of, punked-out, pounding drums and slamming guitars complete with a screaming chorus. The album ends with the mellow, “Stay Tuned” a weed-haze that targets Pink Floyd, comments on society, and immortalizes the line, “every piece of dung is the next big thing”. A fan of vintage comic books, Wyndorf commissioned a painting for the album art that was retro ‘50’s Sci-fi. The glorious gatefold is perfectly packaged for vinyl junkies. Read our exclusive interview with Dave Wyndorf here.
Website: Monster Magnet, Napalm Records
Rise Above / Metal Blade
Sweden rock giants Horisont release their third ode to ‘70s rock in the form of Time Warriors. Moving slightly away from the raw Free-blues of their first album Två Sidor Av Horisonten and past the Deep Purple-laced Second Assault, they now find themselves colliding headlong into a wake of vintage twin-guitar heroics, ala classic ‘70s riff rock. It’s incredible just how strong the current batch of songs are, due in large part, to their constant ‘live’ re-working in front of audiences across Europe this summer. Named after the first track on Second Assault, Time Warriors strikes an immediate chord with muscle-bound guitar, thundering bass and pummeling drums. First track “Writing On The Wall” digs deep into early Thin Lizzy and Uli Jon Roth-era Scorpions with a mind-blowing space jam fueled by a galloping rhythm section. Lead vocalist Axel Söderberg uses his piercing vocals as a rallying cry for street justice with full impact. Mid-way through they slow the tempo and absorb an April Wine moment reminiscent of “Sign of the Gypsy Queen”. A very cleaver bit of songwriting.
The proto-metal of “Diamonds In Orbit” is a tribute to powerhouse rock with its shadow cascading over the likes of Grand Funk Railroad, Cactus and Mountain. The twin-guitar attack of Charlie Van Loo and Kristofer Möller is unrelenting as they carve out big chunks of heavy riffs that dust off the cobwebs of Neanderthal rock with a renewed passion and take Marshall amped-guitars to a higher level. With an arsenal of classic chords up their sleeve, “Ain’t No Turning Back” and “Eyes Of The Father” are open game for Ted Nugent-like hammering. It’s one massive riff after another with plenty of seduction and groove in the mix. Bassist Magnus Delborg and drummer Pontus Jordan lock into an ancient Viking beat that calls to the masses with heart-pounding adrenaline. Never losing sight of their Scandinavian roots, the band create added texture with the heavy rock of Vänd Tilbaka and the Graveyard-esque Dödsdans, both sung in Swedish. Like a secret weapon, the language of Horisont’s music brings an added edge and verbal twist to the listening experience.
Calling back to some of their early psychedelic jams, “Backstreet” is laced with duel-guitar leads and a chanting chorus. A nod to German Teutonic fury, the track embraces plenty of krautrock spirit with a bit of UFO vengeance. Time Warriors isn’t all about reckless maneuvers through the past. The seasoned five-piece showcase their modern edge with the clarion, “She Cried Wolf “ a metallic barnstormer that paints a vivid picture of a time-warn tale compete with a frantic drum-beat and driving bass. Embracing their heritage from folk to classic rock serves up a tremendous amount of authenticity and keeps the music honest and pure. “Brother” is the one track that bridges the past to the present as it embraces 77’-era Scorpions with the group’s own inspired song-craft, putting them in company with Grand Magus, Witchcraft and Orchid. Album closer “All Must Come To An End, Part I & II” can only be categorized as psychedelic Thin Lizzy with galloping bass and concise riffing. The piano interlude and accompanying ballad connects an organic space, which skillfully balances the furious with the soulful warmth of the band.
Website: Horisont, Rise Above, Metal Blade
After nearly 15 years as a high-energy rock guitarist, Robert Dahlqvist, the famed guitarist for the Hellacopters, Thunder Express and Dundertåget has just finished putting the cap on his first solo album. Joining forces with original Soundtrack of Our Lives guitarist Björn Olsson has given Dahlqvist a more introspect direction. That means that the melodies are marvelous, the definite rock lineage is still there and yes, it’s sung entirely in Swedish. Simply titled Solo, the record feels most comfortable under the genre soft rock. Elements of America, James Taylor and Bob Dylan creep into the compositions as well as Swedish folk rock heroes Cornelis Vreeswijk and Pugh Rogefeldt. The guitar playing is superb moving from the dreamy, James Taylor-like ballad “Jag Va Kött Och Blod” to the Bowie / Stooges inspired “Sneseglaren”. And though Dahlqvist’s voice is an acquired taste, his emotion and phrasing are in line with his delicate writing. Of the record’s eleven tracks, the guitarist penned eight, putting his stamp on each with a sincere, soulful approach that radiates from the heart.
The guitarist allowed himself to step outside the world of guitar god and journey into the soul. “I loved the Hellacopter and I loved Dundertåget but sometime I just want to be mellow,” the guitarist told us. “Some of the music is very raw and emotional. My girlfriend had just left me, my band was no more and the first song we recorded was ‘Ej Med Flit’. I cried all the way through it.” That sentiment can be heard in the reflective “Det Tog En Lång Tid”, the Dylan-esque “Ej Med Flit” and the folk ballad “Åker Tåg” where the orchestration fills the emotional cracks. Martin Hederos, the keyboardist from Soundtrack of Our Lives, wrote all the orchestration for the album. The instrumental “Ingrid Isabel” is another heartfelt melody that Dahlqvist named after his daughter. “It was a lullaby for my daughter when she would go to bed. When Björn heard it, he was like, ‘man, we need to record that!” Other tracks like the electric folk of “Vi Tar Båten” and the laid-back ‘70s west coast “Inte En Dag” (the album’s first single) pull total magic from Dahlqvist.
Fans of Dahlqvist will be hard pressed to find similarities between Solo and the high-octane rock of his past. However, his vintage rock guitar does come growling out of “Redo Nån Gång” a gigantic riff rocker that benefits from it’s simple headbanging structure. The snarling “Sneseglaren” mixes Stooges energy and cool Bowie flash that bring a bit of ‘70s glam to the party. It also contains the best electric solo on the record. Fuzzy “Ta Det Kallt” has a hip-shakin’ 60s swinger that pulls an edge of garage rock into a pop masterpiece. Though they each take a different element of the guitarist’s amped-up playing, they are nicely balanced between the album’s softer moments. The more experimental “Vi Tar Båten” is a leftover Soundtrack of Our Lives tune Olsson brought into the session. The song benefits from Dahlqvist eloquent guitar playing and the ethereal female backing vocals. The desert vibe of “Det E Hon” with its guitar echo and ghostly keyboard are reminiscent of early Phil Collins meets Pink Floyd. Solo is a masterful turn for the artist, skillfully crafted and sonically beautiful. An emotional ride for the listener as well as the performer. Check out our interview with Robert here.
Website: Robert Dahlqvist, Despotz Records
Sounds Like Heaven Looks Like Hell
Swedish metal band Mustasch final get their internationally acclaimed masterpiece Sounds Like Heaven Looks Like Hell released in the States on Metalville Records. Their sixth disc overall, it follows the band’s nomination in three categories at BanditRock (Swedish Radio) awards with Best Artist, Best Album and Best Live Act. A steady line up with Ralf Gyllenhammar (vocals/guitars), David Johannesson (lead guitars), Mats ‘Stam’ Johansson (bass) and Danne McKenzie (drummer) deliver a meaty effort mixed by engineer extraordinaire Stefan Glaumann (Rammstein, Paradise Lost, Within Temptation). Leading single “The Challenger” has already become a breakout hit in all Scandinavia with hopes of making waves on these shores. Intentionally leaving their stoner/doom influences behind, the band pump out ten pure, unadulterated heavy metal gems of the utmost quality. Beginning with the hook-filled “Speed Metal” the band go for the throat with an almighty riff and sludgy rhythmic backbeat. Ralf’s vocals are classic metal and embrace the song in the tradition of Dio, Halford and Kilmister.
It’s their approach to songwriting and old-school delivery that make Mustasch the new breed of classic metal. Think Priest, Sabbath and Motörhead with a bit of The Cult tossed in and you have it nailed. The guitars are straightforward punching the air with a chainsaw grind and open-chord riffage. The solos are never overstated, just simple ditties that retain the melody and accentuate the beauty of the song. “It’s Never Too Late” polishes their six-string tone with just enough rust to give it an edge of legitimacy in the face of new-metal’s overproduced splatter. The lyrics are cleaver, like the fabrication of the word “Skeletones”, that when combined with a catchy chorus, make it stick like glue. “Destroyed by Destruction”, “The Challenger” and “Cold Heart Mother Son” are ripe with chugging guitars, brutal bass and plenty of cowbell. In a world where most band’s lean on gimmicks to get noticed, it’s nice to hear a bunch of guys turning it up and focusing on the honest, the brave and the true.
Not to be dwarfed in distorted amplification, “Morning Star” maybe the closest the band get to a love song. “You came into my world and blew my cool,” sings the gruff frontman, “my sleeping beauty, can’t stop watching you” proves there’s still good lovin’ in heavy metal. Counter that with “I Don’t Hate You” where our hero is “on the road alone again / riding the healing winds of change” as emotions run full circle. The darker side of “Dead Again” takes a step back into vintage Sabbath complete with a plodding march under an Iommi-inspired ostinato phrase. Uniquely their own is “Your Father Must Be Proud Of You” which revisits the adage of youth vs. parent. Closing out the disc is the loosely constructed keyboard outro “Northern Link”. All-in-all Sounds Like Heaven Looks Like Hell is a perfect summer soundtrack where the songs are rock-and-roll-driven, instantly memorable and heavy as hell. Sit it alongside the new Danko Jones, Volbeat and Grand Magus for essential listening. Check out our feature with guitarist David Johannesson by clicking here.
The Mouths of Madness
We were lucky enough to attend The Mouths of Madness pre-release party at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco, 8 March 2013. To the sold out crowd, the Orchid could do no wrong as they purged their inner Sabbath with the writhing hordes enraptured in St. Vitus dance. The frenzy at the merchandise booth proved the group were well on their way to establishing their brand worldwide. The Mouths of Madness is the second long-player from the Bay Area quartet and follows their sophomore outing Capricorn by two years. In between was the Heretic (EP) to keep tongues wagging. Their lineup remains intact with vocalist Theo Mindell, guitarist Mark Thomas Baker, bassist Keith Nickel and drummer Carter Kennedy. Often compared to Black Sabbath due to their doom / psychedelic presentation and Iommi-flavored riffs the band has carved out their own murky sludgefest with an onslaught of driving heavy rock. “Wizards of War” was released in Europe at the beginning of the year as a teaser EP to whip up a frenzy. The chugging riff and bludgeoning bass / drums did just the job as the band’s European spring tour sold out in record time.
The record opens with the title track, The Mouths of Madness, a gargantuan riff fest hungry for attention with all the essential element intact. Mindell’s voice has shades of Ozzy’s frantic lunacy but is more focused, dark and direct. To the point it sends a shiver down your spine as the singer peals off the chorus behind a surf guitar lick. A modern, clean production keeps the recording sharp so that the bass and drum retain their individual sound while still able to merge into one of the most diverse rhythm sections of the genre. As the disc rolls through the piledriving “Marching Dogs of War”, the open-chord masterpiece “Mountains of Steel” and the bass-driven “Loving Hand of God” it’s obvious the band have moved more towards doom metal than the psychedelic fuzz of Capricorn. The space between notes gives the songs more breathing room and allows for the structure to ripen on it’s own without a muddy mixture of filler nonsense.
It’s in the deeper tracks that we find the greatest amount of pleasure. “We didn’t think we could ever do better than Capricorn,” bassist Keith Nickel told us. “When the tracks started to come together for this album we knew we had something special.” That “something special” is found in the cavernous recesses of “Silent One” where the bass intro converges on a crashing drumbeat fused by dense echoed guitar. The repeated stanza loops itself with a tambourine rattling in the background. A wider landscape fills “Nomad” with echoes of Pink Floyd-like atmosphere. “Leaving It All Behind” is the closest the group get to Black Sabbath. However, the track is more a tribute than a copycat as heard when they lock in the groove and ride it out past the seven-minute mark. Album closer “See You On The Other Side” gallops along with stomping drum beat and harkens back to the band’s first EP. “I never thought at 40 I’d be fronting a ‘70s retro rock band, ” Mindell told us as we grabbed a slice of pizza after the gig. “Guess there’s no age limit these days.”
Website: Orchid, Nuclear Blast
Nuclear Blast Records
You know a band’s got ya when you buy both the vinyl and CD of their latest release. Kadavar are easily one of the more exciting bands to arrive on the underground scene in the past couple of years. The Germany power trio return with their sophomore opus, the cleverly titled Abra Kadavar, delivered straight from the bowels of hades. Regrouping at the end of the touring session last year, Wolf Lindemann (vocals / guitar), Rivoli Mammoth (bass) and Tiger (drums) high-tailed it into their Berlin studio for an intense two week writing session that produced ten slabs of spontaneous, energetic and diversified retro-rock. The disc celebrates their heroes Black Sabbath, King Crimson and Hawkwind with a warm, intense, authentic sound based on a solid riff structure with a doom-like vintage charm. The chugging “Doomsday Machine” was pushed as the first single capitalizing on the band’s open-chord devastation and addictive groove. The track fuels their proto-doom metal sound with deafening drums and a thick rumbling bass.
Lindemann’s guitar finesse is stellar as he moves from chunky riffs to caustic solos. His vocal calisthenics give the record its eerie sustain while staying in the upper register between a banshee wail and the caterwauling of Pentagram’s Bobby Liebling. The album could easily be divided up into thirds; the first third swirling in King Crimson-meets-Uli Roth-era Scorpions territory, the second third plowing through Sabbath doom, the last third landing in Hawkwind psychedelia. “Come Back Life” opens the first third with a fray of distended notes over a high-hat beat. As the drums and bass kick in, the song moves into a late-sixties krautrock twilight zone. A modification of the Simon and Garfunkel lyrics, “Hello darkness my old friend / I won’t talk to you again,” cast a hypnotic spell that, when combined with the repeated guitar lick, pulls the listener into a vortex. The six-minute “Eye of the Storm” is the longest running track on the album and has an immediately addicting guitar chug with a sticky chorus. It’s a stoner rock classic that will be a monster live.
“Black Snake”, the bluesiest number on the disc kicks off the second third with its bedrock core in rhythmic groove that pulsates under the dirty grit and howling leads of Wolf’s six-strings. “Dust” and “Fire” follow as straightforward rockers. “Dust” is the first song on the B-side of the vinyl and cracks open with a power surge of early UFO with Teutonic fury. “Fire” is the record’s catchiest tune with the bass taking its place as lead and galloping head long into a pulverizing ode to Pentagram. It’s the final third that shows the group’s biggest growth. “Liquid Dream” makes the transition with its driving ‘60s organ and occasional flute flurries in what is a beautifully crafted progression. The full psych take-over though is “Rhythm of Endless Minds” a spaced-out cosmic wah wah free-for-all with augmented vocals. It’s possibly the most adventurous song the band has done to date. Closing the vinyl is the title track “Abra Kadavar”, an instrumental that’s full on space-rock complete with trippy effects and synth echoes. Bonus track for the CD is “The Man I Shot” a song worth getting as it’s the closest these tube-amped worshipers are going to get to a pseudo pop rocker.
Website: Kadavar, Nuclear Blast
Italy’s premiere rock band Small Jackets return with their fourth album of turbo-charged, high-octane rock ‘n’ roll with a record simply called IV. Four years in the making, the record lunges out of the speakers with a festival of monster riffs and an earthshaking rhythmic punch. A couple changes this time around, bassist Mark Oak has taken over lead vocal duties while newcomer Matt West steps in as second guitarist. Eddy Current is back with an arsenal of sonic chops and drummer Danny Savanas is still the thunder king. The band get straight to business as an air-raid siren sounds a warning call before the minute-long instrumental “Bridge Head” cuts through with twin guitars ablaze. Immediately the crisp production amplifies the whole affair with a jolt of electricity as the band rumble into “Ball ‘N Chain”. The song is a blistering breakthrough that has classic written all over it. Taking off where Pat Travers, Ted Nugent and Montrose left off, the Italian four-piece claim their place among the new breed of guitar gladiators as they plant a hook-filled chorus, a bombastic backbeat and searing solos straight between the eyes.
Echoes of Ram Jam and Thin Lizzy fill all ten tracks with the best of Southern-tinged 70’s hard rock. The proof is in “Black Beauty”, an open chord masterpiece that teams Current and West in a showdown of biblical proportions. As the two guitarists cut and slice their way through one mean lick after another, the bass and drums are beating the hell of the backbeat. Oak’s Sammy Hagar-like vocals give true authenticity as he reaches ever higher with the shear momentum of the music. As the pace gets more frantic, speed demon “Troubled Blues” is Motörhead-meets-Allman Brothers with some hardcore Dixie Dregs fingerpicking. Running from the law and trying to cross the border has Oaks shouting, “We wanna go to Tennessee”. A flashback to 1975 is the ZZ Top cover, “Heard It On The X” from the immortal Fandango! record. The Small Jackets up the volume and sharpen the attack giving the track a mind-blowing makeover with a modern twist.
The band has an uncanny ability to write instantly addictive hooks that have a knack for commercial appeal. “What We (Feel)” leads the pack with a dynamic chorus and rockin’ dance beat. A biographical tale of starting over from the beginning to a new end with the line, “I ain’t got nothing to lose / I take my case and run away / When I feel blue.” Inspired by Thin Lizzy is, “Wanderlust” an ode to the girl that got away. The guitars strum out the riff while the drum marks the beat with just enough boogie in the bass to keep it groovy. One can’t help but hear a bit of Hellacopters in the song structure. The band’s humor shows through in, “Uncharted Waters” which takes it’s cue from “Space Station # 5” on the 1973 Montrose debut followed promptly by the metallic “Hellraiser”. Personal favorite is the soulful classic, “Mama Said” where Oak does his best James Dewar over some of the best Robin Trower licks since Bridge of Sighs. The disc closes with, “The Wall of Sound” a five-minute tribute to your dad’s classic vinyl collection. Absolutely killer! Check out our feature story here.
Website: The Small Jackets
No Quarter Records
Named after the 1971 John Lee Hooker album (featuring Steve Miller), New York City’s Endless Boogie began as a weekly jam band back in 1997. They had no real interest in the soulless death cycle of recording, touring, recording. They just wanted to meet at the local pub and hammer out long extending blues jams. Guitarist Jesper “The Governor” Eklow, was in it for his buddy, the nicotine-stained vocalist, Paul “Top Dollar” Major just to get him out of his apartment. A rotating turbine of drummers and bass players filled in the backend denting wooden floors with echoes of Patto, the Groundhogs and Mott the Hopple. No one was more surprised than the band when Full House Dead (2010) started to make waves. Astonishing still was the critical darling Focus Level (2012) released two years later. Long Island steps it up a notch painting a gritty unadulterated portrait of electric blues while showcasing Eklow’s rhythmic wall of filthy sounds and Major’s freakazoid vocals.
Joining the two old timers are the super-steady combo of drummer Harry Druzd and bassist Marc Razo. Together they give birth to a slashing Gibson SG marvel that drowns beneath the weight of it’s own feedback. Tracks like “General Admission” and lead single “Taking Out the Trash” are prime Rory Gallagher built around a circular riff and cranked to eleven. While the guitar aches and moans the drums pound out a tribal beat with the bass deep in the groove. Major’s voice is crusted under a thick layer of a thousand late nights, umpteen cigarettes and pitch-black coffee - yet; it oozes character with hair-raising effect. At six-minutes, the two tracks are actually the album’s shortest and a snapshot of the band’s more aggressive, hook-laden abilities. The dry production of fifth member Matt Sweeney (Johnny Cash, Turbonegro) stamps the recording with authenticity guaranteed an etching in the annals of thug rock.
However, the real magic is heard as the songs unfold into extended jams stretching past nine minutes. Of the record’s eight tunes, six are too lengthy for FM radio. The 13-minute “The Savageist” is a tough boogie retro rocker gruff with harry vocals that worshiping at the feet of the Mississippi Delta. The jazzy “The Artemus Ward” brings in elements of The Doors and Savoy Brown marinating in a toxic witches brew. The muscled-up wah-wah freakfest of “Imprecations” is gargantuan while “On Cryology” burns slow as a Canned Heat groove centers the masterpiece for the Sixty-something music mutants. Personal favorite is the hypnotic Santana-like instrumental “Occult Banker”. It’s escalating solo runs and mesmerizing beat only get richer and more manic as the song progresses. “The Montgomery Manuscript” closes out the disc as a weird 14-minute spoken word piece accentuated by psychedelic chugging guitar with moments of lunatic madness. If they weren’t so absent of good looks, the band could easily rival The Black Keys in a their timeless dedication to the devil’s jukebox.
Website: Endless Boogie
Ais (Hear No Evil Recordings) Records
Pig Irön hail from the UK mixing southern rock with blues and heavy metal. Their reputation for beer guzzling, throw-down heavy biker music gets a little more polish with their fourth released IV. Granted, they’ve toned it down a bit since their first release The Law & the Road Are One (2005) taking a side step from their Motörhead attack and becoming more akin to Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple with the Allman Brothers, Bad Company or Lynyrd Skynyrd on the fray. The record is a proper showcase for new guitarist Dan Edwards who joins forces with bassist Hugh Gilmour, drummer Joe Smith and vocalist Johnny Ogle for a rowdy romp through some classic ‘70s styled rock. The magic of the record’s ten tracks is a keen sense of melody, skillful playing and distinctive harmonies. Opening track “The Tide Within” kicks the disc off with a nod to vintage UFO, maximizing on Ogle powerful voice over a chugging rhythm within the seven-minute song. Edwards earns his wage as his tasteful playing moves from strumming riffs to electric sizzle, never losing sight of the song’s direction.
The guitarist follows with the Celtic-driven “Carve Your Name” straight from the Gary Moore school of signature licks. Richly textured by dynamic keyboards, the song slowly rises to grandeur as the rhythm section kicks into a harmonica-laced crescendo. The guitar continues to inspire in the picking wizardry of “Diggin’ In The Well” a southern rock knockout that heralds back to Ram Jam’s “Black Betty”. It’s here we get the full range of Edward’s arsenal with picking chops, slide and open riffs spiced in the Mississippi heat. The south rises again with a full color banner in the laidback “Low Grade Man” a whiskey charmer that sounds more like an outtake with Ogle’s voice pushed through what might be a broken down amp, giving the whole thing character and charm. The last two minutes of the song bring in a saxophone solo that lights a fire burning right to the end. There may even be a bit of orchestration in the shear madness of the final few seconds of this epic masterpiece.
When they do rock it’s balls out nitro. “Horseshoes & Hand Grenades” is full on Kid Rock with a thick backbeat and a power riff Gary Rossington would be proud of. The drum and bass reach a fevered pitch with the harmonica coming back to set the whole thing a blaze. “Bootlace Noose” finds a southern groove bolstered by just enough electric blues to keep it fierce, passionate and ready for action. The extended “Good Man, Poor Man” is another slow burner with an outlaw’s tale, a seductive groove and catchy chorus. The record does takes a more acoustic approach with the folky instrumental “Chapter 6” but the blues comes back in the grief-stricken “The Curse of an Aching Heart”. The disc closes with the minute-long instrumental “Grave’s End” reflective and subtle with a hint of pain in it’s lingering notes. It can’t be emphasized enough how heavy these guys get in the subtleties that lie outside their earlier metal days. Check out our interview with bassist Hugh Gilmour by clicking here.
Website: Pig Irön
Nuclear Blast Records
They wear their hair long, don’t shave, roll their own cigarettes and walk around in deerskin jackets and bell-bottoms. Scorpion Child hearken back to early ‘70s psych-rock with a modern twist hailing Aphrodite’s Child, Sir Lord Baltimore and Bang! as influences. They consider themselves purists that pay homage to Britain’s Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy with a hint of Black Sabbath. The five-piece hail from Austin, Texas where they’ve spent the last six years perfecting both their songwriting and stage presence. Layering high-energy twin-guitars over a pounding rhythm section with a singer that’s a cross between Robert Plant and Blind Melon’s Shannon Hoon has built the band a substantial fanbase and made them the darlings of SXSW. After song writing sessions in Nashville, the band spent 2011 recording their self-titled debut album with Grammy-nominated producer Chris “Frenchie” Smith (The Answer, Slayer, Meat Puppets). The result is a hybrid of eight, hook-filled mammoth classics that breathe new life into a stale hard rock market.
The band feature founding members and chief songwriters Aryn Schwartz (vocals) and Shaun Avants (bass) joined by new drummer Sean Ouvwier (a mix between John Bonham and Bill Ward). Joining on guitars are Austin legends Chris Coward (lead guitar) and Dave Fender (rhythm guitar, pedal steel) bringing a technically progressive, doom metal edge to the mix. Together they share a reverence for Muddy Waters in the electric blues of “Kings Highway”, Dio-era Rainbow in “Polygon of Eyes” and the pummeling drive of Deep Purple’s In Rock with “The Secret Spot”. Built for the big stage “Salvation Slave” hearkens back to when guitar rock ruled the airwaves and made going to a concert the ultimate main event. That surge of electricity carries over in to the hippie infused “Antioch”, a Yes-like folk number with hypnotic beat and subtle shades of light that build into a blinding guitar solo. A galloping pulse distinguishes “In The Arms of Ecstasy” as a celebration of groove while the slow building “Red Blood (The River Flows)” continues to attract comparisons to Led Zeppelin. The band join an elite few including The Sword, Graveyard and Radio Moscow that celebrate a warm Marshall and liquid feedback while still pushing boundaries. NEWS FLASH: Scorpion Child just signed to Nuclear Blast 2013. Check 'em out here.
Website: Scorpion Child
Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue
The Canadian trio have finally landed on the perfect combination of ruckus rock that takes in their love of Cheap Trick, Kiss and Ted Nugent. The band’s music is just as irreverent as ever with large-scale chunks of guitar and a rolling rhythm section that could take out entire neighborhoods once plugged into a Marshall stack. First thing great about this, the band’s sixth album, is the title Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue - completely fitting for the kind of music it incases. Main man Jones did a series of video vignettes commenting on the writing of the album over the past several months. The funniest had to be “I Believe In God” where the singer / guitarist talks about hiring a church choir to sing the chorus to a song that about the carnal aspects of man meeting woman - a bit like “Domino” by Kiss. The other is “Legs” a cheap shot of sex with the memorable line “The longer they get / the more foolish I get in the head” with the chorus “Oh lal la” ripped off from The Faces.
The sense of hilarity and self-indulgents is why Danko Jones albums are such a hoot to listen to. They stick to what they know best, sex, lust and break ups all dealt with in a conventional song structure, minor chord progression with a sing-along chorus. A couple changes to sound: drummers switched again as Atom Willard of The Offspring fame became the bands sixth in just as many albums. The production also took a major leap forward into a slicker, easier to digest, fast-paced punk and sleaze. Though the record has it’s playful moments in “Don’t Do This”, “Type of Girl” and “Conceited” it’s the heavier chugging guitar approach on “Terrified” and “I Don’t Care” that set the record up as a nice marriage of punk, metal and rock. As with all three-piece bands, the drums and bass are just as front and center as guitar and vocals. “The Masochist” puts all three to the task in a rough-and-tumble sledgehammer anthem while the band prove they can be astute musicians in the more complicated Zeppelin-like “You Wear Me Down”. Jubilant, cheeky and more cleave than most. Check out our exclusive interview with mainman Danko Jones by clicking here.
Website: Danko Jones
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