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FROM THE VAULT

DECEMBER 2015

GRAVEYARD
Innocence & Decadence
Nuclear Blast

Back with their fourth outing since forming in 2006, the Swedish titans of retro rock Graveyard continue to forge a new path that is as exhilarating as it is nostalgic. Innocence & Decadence follows the quartet’s last offering (Lights Out) by three years and introduces new bassist Truls Mörck. Almost immediately the disc sounds richer and more composed than their last outing. “The Apple & the Tree” (referencing the album’s title) is compelling and beautifully crafted. It defines what has become the band’s signature sound with a side-winding riff and a delicious hook. Guitarist Jonatan Larocca has added to his rock repertoire a health dose of Motown soul while singer/guitarist Joakim Nilsson finds his late night collection of Tom Waits/Leonard Cohen records highly inspirational. The groove is polished with a nod to Corrosion of Conformity building strength in the bottom end as drummer Axel Sjöberg and bassist Mörck lock down a tight rhythm.

The band pull back their heavy rock assault with only “Magnetic Shunk” and “Hard-Headed” waving the banner of their old chugging, feedback ways. Both tracks are right at the three-minute mark, piling a dense layer of vocal emotion over a wailing guitar and thunderous drum into a compact punch. “Hard-Headed” even drifts into MC5 territory with a throaty gospel refrain just to fire it up. An element of the Hellacopters rises out of the turbo-charged “Never Theirs to Sell” and, whether intentional of not, it does flashback to when the Swedes resurrected rock ‘n’ roll during the mid-nineties when music disintegration into fluff. The drive gains momentum with “From a Hole in the Wall” featuring bassist Mörck on vocals. His deeper growl adds as psychedelic texture as the group rifle through a ‘60s garage beat. The swagger moves through to “Cause & Defect” an almost Tom Petty-like playful ditty that sweetens the deal with a melodic chorus over a delicately balanced guitar.

“Can’t Walk Out” pummels its way as a standout track with a flurry of drums and aggressive riffing. A Doors-vibe keeps the song firmly rooted in the late sixties while the amped-up rhythm section fuels some searing heat. Just when it couldn’t get hotter, breakup number “Too Much Is Not Enough” goes down deep with soulful splendor dripping with emotion and class playing. A lesser band could not pull it off, but these guys prove they are seasoned professionals. The blues are an easy sell when the band slows down and allows the warmth and richness of the songs to simmer. “Exit 97” is a laid-back affaire brought into focus with fuzzy keyboards and a bump in volume. The more traditional “Far Too Close” lumbers along through thick Mississippi mud with Nilsson howlin’ at the devil. The mood drops a notch with the acoustic-based “Stay for a Song”, a nice album closer that drifts into a ballad for the band to bid goodnight to their fans.

Website: Graveyard, Nuclear Blast Records


NOVEMBER 2015

HORISONT
Odyssey
Nuclear Blast Records

Returning with their fourth album since forming in 2006, Swedish band Horisont move past their Status Quo blues-based rock and explore a more progressive terrain. We got a preview of the new batch of songs with the spring release of the single “Break The Limit”. The tune introduced us to their new direction and roared with excitement in a catchy hook and smokin’ riff. Since then the five-piece hired guitarist Tom Sutton to replace long-standing Kristofer Möller. Sutton adds a distinct maturity to the songwriting while still giving the band a powerful dual guitar drive. The title track is the best way to sum up the group’s new-found direction. The ten-minute “Odyssey” is a musical tidal wave that surges against an electronic keyboard backbone. Vocalist Axel Söderberg reaches his full potential with a soaring presence as the song embraces elements of classic Yes and early Rush. The track bulges with a mid-section jam that transverses Maiden’s galloping, Samson’s soloing and Tank’s rumbling – as if the New Wave of British Heavy Metal were rolled into one opus.

The rest of the album is segmented into more digestible five-minute bits. The 12-song tracking order plays out like a sonic trip, a mighty voyage of sound or in the band’s own words, “a space saga”. Most of the songs are in some way connected to a bigger theme. “It concerns a supreme race of mysterious beings who experiment with the creation of life and start to populate planets around the universe,” says Sutton. “This is the story of one of those planets.” To aid in the album’s cinematic feature, the band hired the talents of Dutch painter Henrik Jacobsen to give the cover a unique ‘60s sci-fi paperback look. The majestic cover does a great job capturing the vibe of retro-rocker “Bad News” with its BÖC power chords and thundering bottom end. Flashes of Queen and Thin Lizzy embrace “The Night Stalker” as the real soulful nature of Söderberg’s voice mesmerizes a layered composition and twin guitar harmonies with keyboard-laced swells. Just when you think the band have completely abandoned their roots comes the roaring biker-burner “Red Light” with a tank full of fuel-injected testosterone.

The record’s magic is in its sonic structure, a musical trip from 1972-85. There is the Jethro Tull-like breakdown in the middle of “Blind Leder Blind”, the flamenco/folk of “Flying”, a Ziggy Stardust luster in “Beyond The Sun” and the elegant eight-minute album closer, “Timmarna”. While broadening their horizons with a wider tapestry, there is still plenty of their traditional signature sound in “Light My Way” with a pop rock chorus and ode to Golden Earring. The muscled-up “Back On The Streets” is a complete band showcase giving each their rightful due from the pounding rhythm section to the riffing guitars and soulful vocals. Then comes the speedy “Städer Brinner”, sung in Swedish that harkens back to their first LP Två Sidor Av Horisonten. Marching headlong into Scorpions/Schenker territory gives the track a distinct European edge that bolsters twin guitar harmonies with timeless craftsmanship that gives the listener a thrilling joyride. Odyssey is a stunning presentation moving Horisont into the top tier of modern heavy rock.

Website: Horisont, Nuclear Blast Records


OCTOBER 2015

UNCLE ACID
The Night Creeper
Rise Above Records

For their third installment, Uncle Acid begin by dropping “& The Deadbeats” from their brand along with their bass player of three years. On the new opus The Night Creeper bass credit goes to singer/guitarist Kevin (Ryan) Starrs according to the disc’s liner notes. Lineup swaps aren’t new for the band. With every album they’ve changed at least one member. In addition, the concept of each album has also transformed. After the private release of their first demos Vol 1 (2010), they moved into a horror / death direction with Blood Lust (2011). When Mind Control (2013) came along it found its inspiration in Charles Manson and Jim Jones. The music matured from Beatle-esque psych metal to a more refined sonic barrage. The Night Creeper (2015) picks up the story of Jack The Ripper complete with a London “bobby” on the album’s cover and an alley stage set for their live shows. Whichever direction the band moves, Starrs is leading the charge. It’s his vision that gives the band their eerie and unpredictable mood but also it charm and finesse.

Joining Starrs on The Night Creeper are brothers Yotam (guitar) and Itamar (drums) Rubinger with Vaughn Stokes (bass) lending a hand for the tour. Their combined effort gives the record an intoxicating power and melody that is fully developed when the needle hits the groove. Immediately, the quality of the songs are striking. Playing out like a ‘60s pulp flick comes lead track “Waiting For Blood” with it’s swirling euphoric whirlwind of guitars and driving rhythm. Kevin harmonizes with Yotam in an uncanny serenade as they lock in a falsetto shrill that’s become signature for the band’s sound. The loose script takes the lyric protagonist through the bold and brash riffing of “Murder Nights” and the plodding “Downtown” with the lyrics “I am the darkness and I am the night.” The crisp headbanger “Pusher Man” develops the scene and keeps the group firmly rooted to their core elements of Sabbath and Alice Cooper. Darker shadows of film Noir creep into the instrumental refrain “Yellow Moon” scripted as if to offer hope for the doomed and the damned.

With “Melody Lane” all hope vanishes under dim streetlights shrouded in fog. The track was lifted as the record’s single with its electric organ intro and addictive chugging guitar. It’s here the band showcase how far they’ve come as songwriters as they find refreshing ways of combining a retro groove with modern production while still keeping it uniquely their own. The sludgy title track “The Night Creeper” sets the listener up for the bloody end while “Inside” crackles with marching madness in a final blow that embraces Sgt. Pepper (Beatles), The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (Pink Floyd) while piling on a heavy dose of Am I Evil (Diamond Head). The end credits role in the nine-minute dirge of “Slow Death” a raw, whispered incantation that slowly builds into a monumental cacophony of bone-rattling psych metal. It’s one of those tracks that has to be constantly repeated to get the full effect of its massive weight. The hidden track “Black Motorcade” plays out like a funeral procession which fades from view with only the rain falling on the cobblestone streets.

Website: Uncle Acid, Rise Above Records


SEPTEMBER 2015

KADAVAR
Berlin
Nuclear Blast

Fans of this site are aware of our allegiance to German power trio Kadavar. We’ve traveled as far as Vienna, Austria to see the group play and have dutifully supported their studio efforts as well as their live opus. Current release Berlin clearly takes it up a notch capturing the band in a primal, raw recording that’s full of energy and bolstered by incredible song craft. It’s no secret these guys worship at the altar of heavy ‘70s rock. Not only do they make every effort to use vintage gear, but the songs actually sound 40 years old. Much of the record’s success is in the stability in their lineup. Guitarist/singer and composer Christoph “Lupus” Lindemann, bassist Simon “Dragon” Bouteloup and Christoph “Tiger” Bartelt have fused together in their common love of Sabbath, Zeppelin and aged Krautrock. The roots of psychedelic, stoner and doom are still present, but their new exploration of acid fuzz is a surprising delight. From the burning riff of “Lord of the Sky” to the early Scorpion-like “Pale Blue Eyes” we hear a band bursting with innovation.

Using a keen sense of humor, Kadavar celebrate their devotion to the past with titles like “Last Living Dinosaur”, “The Old Man” and “Thousand Miles Away From Home”. The rhythm section is merciless as they pound out their tribal beat. Yet, it’s Lindemann’s big, fat Iommi-like riffs that fill the disc to the brim. “Last Living Dinosaur” is pure electric blues that pulses with a Lead Belly groove. The distorted fuzz blows the wool off the speakers while the vocals summon the witches. On its heels comes “Thousand Miles Away From Home” a melodic, psychedelic freak out that orbits the sun with mammoth feedback. Clocking in at five minutes, it uses every inch of tape to explore a mind-bending trip. “The Old Man” was released as the album’s first single due to its instant charm. The familiar riff bounces along with the thump of the drum while the bass dances to an ancient cadence. Twilight Zone lyrics immerse into the fluid timbers of the song’s smoky haze, “And then you realize / this old man sings the song I know…this song I wrote.”

A treasured favorite is the German sung “Reich Der Träume” (Realm of Dreams). Developing over six minutes gives the band the opportunity to transverse a sonic landscape of cosmic folk with the rare addition of keyboards. The guitar effects are strange yet enchanting as they layer over the top of each other in surrealistic meditation. The diversity of Kinks-like “Filthy Illusion”, the staccato chugging of “Circle in My Mind” and the swaying “Spanish Wild Rose” keep the disc fresh and interesting. The change in rhythm and tempo broaden the scope of a traditional three-piece. Yet, what Kadavar do best is roar with enthusiastic anthems. “Stolen Dreams” is the most lethal with a wall of feedback and driving chorus. The instruments are barely controlled while Lindemann’s frantic vocals fuel the sonic whirlwind. Borrowing from their Norwegian neighbors, “Into the Night” sounds like a track custom-built for Turbonegro, where punk and doom meet over a pop-styled classic. Best yet boys.

Website: Kadavar, Nuclear Blast Records


AUGUST 2015

THE DIRTY CALLAHANS
Never Get Ahead
Lunde Records

It’s been a very long wait for Never Get Ahead, The Dirty Callahans’ third long player. The Norwegian five-piece took their time allowing raw emotions and social ills to percolate under intense heat. In order to cook up rock and roll this good required a slow and steady boiling process, but now that it’s ready, the satisfaction is overwhelming. Since their last release Steppin’ on Toes (2009), very little has changed. The band’s line up is still Kjetil Andresen (vocals), Morten ‘Dr. Love’ Low (guitar) and Peder ‘Pesh’ Wandem (guitar), Sniz (bass) and Lars Fjell (drums). However, after recording Sniz left and has since been replaced by Tor Ingar Barkenud. They still deliver energetic, pounding, hard rock with a punk attitude. This time, however they are more refined, and dare we say, more mature. Leading with the single “Stutter”, the band kick into high gear with a quick-time bass-beat and an open riff charge. Kjetil sings like his life depends on it but never loses his raw, soulful swagger. Mid-track, the guitars gleefully inject a ‘60s surf edge before sliding into a killer chorus. It’s an honest push at a catchy rock tune that leaves you begging for more. And more is exactly what they give you.

A converging of Hellacopters and Turbonegro can be heard as distant influences while the band rise from their six-year hibernation. Title track “Never Get Ahead” is a blazing tribute to all that’s right in rock ‘n’ roll! The song is built on an acoustic backbone with layered density and is a no-holds-barred onslaught of rhythm and blues. A tight, husky, melodic chorus caps it off nicely. The crack of thunder is just around the corner as the band leap into the arena rocker “In the End” with its searing twin guitar and throbbing bass-line. Their polish and finesse continues as the lyrics become more socially political. The brash drumming “No Free Seats”, a hypnotic garage monster with guitar texture and a divine hook makes for a lasting impression. The pacing of the song adds to its lyrical content when it breathes, “One day for treason / the aftermath of things unseen / lost stars with no dream / can they ever keep it clean.” Chilling and addicting all at the same time!

Front-page news is equally noticed in verse and chorus. “Social Skills” takes a more staccato approach over a bouncing bass beat while politically charged “Friedman” sizzles with angst armed with an edge of dark humor amidst scathing irony. When the band slows, as in the chanting “How Good”, the groove takes on a more West Coast laid-back vibe until a barrage of drums carries it through to the end. A more personal approach is the mid-tempo “It’s Time” as it awakens from a tuneful refrain. Thirty seconds in, the song roars to full tilt while still maintaining its gracefully phrasing. Personal favorite, “What Goes Wild”, dances in the shadow of classic mid-70s complete with driving organ, piano and Fender tones. Reflections of Tom Petty, Jackson Brown and Credence all take their turn as the band generate one of their finest crafted songs to date. The Dirty Callahans lead the pack in the emerging stars of Norwegian rock with incredible song-craft, a taste for strong melodies and incredible musicianship.

Website: The Dirty Callahans


JULY 2015

THE ORDER OF ISRAFEL
Wisdom
Napalm Records

The Order of Israfel is the brainchild of guitarist Tom Sutton (Church of Misery, Horisont, Night Viper). Most know Sutton from his current residence in Swedish rock band Horisont or may have spotted him on tour with Church of Misery at one of their many showings at Holland’s Roadburn festival. The story goes: Australian-native Sutton moved to Japan to teach English and ended up joining Church of Misery. His doom metal yearnings eventually pulled him to Gothenburg, Sweden where he met bassist Patrik Andersson Winberg whose band DoomDogs were opening for Pentagram. Patrik knew drummer Hans Lija and Sutton’s old roommate was guitarist Staffan Björck. After a couple jams, Sutton was convinced this was the perfect vehicle to introduce songs that he had been working on for years. He never intended to be the band's vocalist, only singing on the demos out of necessity. The band auditioned several singers, but eventually convinced Tom that since he wrote the songs, he should sing them.

A fan of Cathedral, Candelmass, Reverend Bizarre, Gates of Slumber, Black Sabbath and Trouble gave Sutton the inspiration for The Order of Israfel’s general direction. However, as the song writing developed, each of the members brought their own signature and style to the music. The first two tracks of Wisdom are more metal than doom. The title track “Wisdom” introduces the band’s creative texture with an acoustic intro, almost Celtic in nature, before the opening power riff opens the door for the entire band to kick in. The heavy riffing follows the acoustic melody into the vocals weaving a nine-minute tapestry of textured beauty. Second track, “The Black Wings a Demon” forges its twin guitar attack in the steel-clad muscle of Judas Priest. Fueled by an infectious groove, aggressive soloing and melodic chorus makes it a clear stand out. The track is bolstered by a video showing the band in full flight (but watch out for the creepy ending). “Born for War” has a similar growl with chugging guitar and hammering rhythm section.

The doom side of the band really gets going with third track “The Noctuus”. Low and slow, it conjures up the heaviness of Sabbath with the color of Cathedral. After plodding along for five and a half minutes, the track picks up pace marching headlong into a whirlwind solo and a mountain of distortion. Celtic ringing continues in the epic “The Earth Will Deliver What Heaven Desires” where the band uses thematic passages to capture a landscape of moods. Most of the album’s songs hover around nine-minutes giving full blossom to each idea. The extremes are the compact, yet blazing, “The Order” and 15-minute workout, “Promises Made to Earth”. The latter ebbs and flows through a torrent of musical waves giving breath to each instrumental construction from the dense rhythmic undercurrent to the soaring guitar solos dashing and dancing over the chanting vocals. The record closes with the marching “Morning Sun” and a reading from the movie “Omen III: The Final Conflict”. Wisdom is elegantly packaged in an art nouveau gatefold that compliments the music with intriguing illustrations and design. Check out our in-depth interview with Tom Sutton by clicking here.

Website: The Order of Israfel, Napalm Records


JUNE 2015

SPIDERGAWD
Spidergawd II
Crispin Glover Records

Less than ten months following their critically praised debut, this Norwegian four piece come roaring back with a stunning sophomore platter in Spidergawd II. This psychedelic, proggy mixture of Seventies-inspired boogie biker rock captures the full spectrum of Technicolor musical hues with a distinct modern production. Within their DNA is the reverberating thunder of drummer Kenneth Kapstad and bassist Bent Sæther (both members of Norwegian prog pioneers Motorpsycho) joined by guitarist/vocalist Per Borten and saxophonist Rolf Martin Snustad. Together they pull the heavier elements from Motorpsycho with a reverent devotion to muscle rock and create a unique texture that’s both powerful and melodic. The garage-rock “Tourniquet” is the lead off single capturing the imagination of Hellacopter fans everywhere. Fuzzed out vintage guitars, brassy hooks, dense drums and a killer solo that follows the chorus is a righteous recipe for retro madness.

Watching Motorpsycho perform Grand Funk’s “Into the Sun” at 2014’s Freak Valley festival was a revelation. It was then we discovered, buried underneath the layers of prog fog, the boys could kick it old school. In album opener “Is All She Says”, Spidergawd follow the pattern of Zeppelin, Purple and Free by taking a blues foundation and turning it up to eleven. The intro leads with a stripped down acoustic blues riff a-la Black Keys before launching into a full-on stadium rocker that’s part Clutch and part Motörhead. The bludgeoning continues on through “Fixing to Die Blues” with its frantic attack, rapid-fire drumbeat and the lyric “black smoke rising” echoing out of the speakers with Sabbath conviction. Adding a bit of shuffle, comes the infectious “Made from Sin” keeping things loose and baked in feedback. The horns give the track a surprising jump but it’s the overall layering that creates a unique eclectic mood.

Bone crushing is the best way to describe bass/horn infused “Our Time (Slight Return)”. Like the 14-minute “Empty Room” from their debut, Spidergawd keep it interesting by stacking up rhythms and time signatures eventually landing on a power chord chug. It’s the unexpected Pink Floyd elements that capture the soul of the band. There’s the QOTSA-like “Crossroad”, the cosmic Asian “Caerulean Caribou” and straight up barnburner “Sanctuary” that flush out the full expanse of what this band is capable off.  Personal favorite is the cowbell driven, “Get Physical” with its funk beat, blaring horns and riff-rock that generate a heatwave of electric swagger. Like the music, the modern folk-art inspired cover is exotic and colorful. The boundaries of graphics are explored in the offering of colored vinyl with interactive design. Spidergawd prove there’s still a future for heavy rock while making the complicated seem simple, the heavy textured and the melodies irresistible.

Website: Spidergawd, Crispin Glover Records


MAY 2015

LUCIFER’S FRIEND
Awakening
Cherry Red Records

In conjunction with UK record label Cherry Red Records, ‘70s heavy rock icons Lucifer’s Friend return with the Awakening, a 2-disc compilation complete with four brand new tracks fresh from the studio. Over the years, the German five-piece have become an enigma of sorts as their music migrated from thunderously heavy, to progressively jazzy and eventually pop rock. With the release of their first two records, Lucifer’s Friend (1970) and Where the Groupies Killed the Blues (1972), the band established themselves as heavy doom with progressive elements. In league with groups like Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep and Atomic Rooster, they pioneered the future of heavy metal which would influence Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Saxon. Led by leather-clad British singer John Lawton and Iommi-like guitarist Peter Hesslein, the band found firm footing in the pounding rhythms of drummer Joachim Reitenbach and bassist Dieter Horns. Keyboardist Peter Hecht brought a strong Deep Purple presence to the band forging an aural experience that can only be found in the rich texture of classic ‘70s rock.

Awakening does just that. It awakens the listener to the magic that made Lucifer’s Friend stand out as real pioneers of a genre. Disc One: features ten remastered tracks that pick the very best of the band’s song craft from 1970-1981. From the first single “Ride the Sky” to “Burning Ships”, “Dirty Old Town” and “Fire and Rain” the songs stand the test of time.  The tracks plays in chronological order pulling the first four tunes from the self-titled 1970 debut including the afore mentioned “Ride The Sky”, “Keep Goin”, “Toxic Shadows” and “In The Time of Job When Mammon Was A Yippie”. From Where the Groupies Killed the Blues comes “Burning Ships” as the only offering. It would have been nice to have “Prince of Darkness” or “Hobo” to add a little depth, but not critical to the record’s progression. Nothing made it from the third album I’m Just a Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer (1973) where the band all but abandoned their metal roots. However the horn-infused title cut and the dance beat of “Groovin’ Stone” are worth exploring on your own.

“Dirty Old Town” was selected from the critical praise Banquet (1974) while “Fugitive” and “Moonshine Rider” represent the best of Mind Exploding (1976). Lawton left the band in 1976 to join Uriah Heep (replacing David Byron). After three albums and a string of hits with the Heep, Lawton joined German band Rebel, later know as Zar. In 1981 he returned to Lucifer’s Friend to record the incredibly polished Mean Machine where two songs “Fire and Rain” and “Hey Driver” close out the compilation. After 1982 the band went inactive until a short reunion in 1994 saw the release of Sumo Grip. Twenty more years would lapse before the band entered the studio to rehearse and record four new tracks to expand Awakening with a second disc. Disc Two: Of the new batch of songs comes “Pray” and “Riding High” which return to the band’s heavier side. Bombastic power chords and Hammond recreate the spirit of the Seventies with Lawton’s vocals at their absolute best. The surging “Did You Ever” boasts moments of Dio-era Rainbow while “This Road” brings folk and garage rock together in a timeless minstrel dance. Check out our interview with singer John Lawton by clicking here.

Website: Lucifer’s Friend


APRIL 2015

BLACK DEBBATH
Universell Riffsynsing
Duplex Records

Back with their seventh long player, Norwegian hard rock quartet Black Debbath conjure up a cosmic array of metallic brilliance in Universell Riffsynsing. With roots firmly planted in Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Motörhead the group focus on the almighty riff in force and intensity. Their tongue-in-cheek humor winds its way through every song with a wry smile while their political satire maintains its sting. “Har du betalt for denne låten (Forlemper og ulemper ved digital nedlasting)” leads the charge with the hammering guitars of Lars Lønning and Aslag Guttormsgaard. Lønning’s gravelly voice is commanding and lyrical with a menacing force. The pounding bass and drums of Egil Hegerberg and Ole Petter Andreassen create a rhythmic Viking beat that harnesses the sweat and thunder of the Old Norse gods. Mid-way through the track, the band pause for some Monty Python-like verbal commentary that ends with a crash of electrically-charged chest beating.

Though the lyrics are sung in Norwegian, they merge into the musical current as an instrument of passion and texture. The Sabbath-laden “Dum dum minister” and doom-infested “Sulten” celebrate the vocal in a tidal wave of traditional hard rock leaning towards heavy metal. The sonic power of the guitars reverberates through the amps with a distinctive chug and twin attack while the solos are uniquely melodic. Using their full arsenal “Til hælvete med Munchmuseet!” is a magnificent showpiece bringing in elements of Deep Purple and Uriah Heep. The keyboard parts the wave of guitars with a haunting surge that flexes with classic ‘70s muscle. A Jon Lord vibe continues in “(Hei hei, vi er) Justervesenet” as the organ surfs over a rumbling rhythm section while psychedelic guitar drips from mescaline clouds. Contrasting the band’s retro wandering is the brief but pungent “Fjern moms på råtten frukt!” and the densely heavy “Barbér Salæret!” both fully fueled by a thrashing whiplash of utter destruction.

Pausing long enough to ease the album’s dynamic tension is the beautifully crafted “Pensjonsballade” (Pension Ballad) featuring Swedish folk-rock legend Bjørn Eidsvåg. Surprisingly delicate with flute and jazz drum fills, the song benefits from a tranquil melody and folk components making for a brave foray into the singles market. The album progresses with the inclusion of “Trygghetstyranniet” and its adventurous arrangement. While still within the heavy rock medium, the song expands into complex time changes with prominent bursts of soaring keyboards. There is a freedom when the group totally unleash that compliments their ability as musicians and songwriters. Closing the album is the mid-tempo “Syv dager til fredag (Kontoristens klagesang)” with its bass groove and Small Faces-like swagger. It feels almost like a pop song in the first two minutes then radically changes into a seismic keyboard-led jam. A keen production balances the thunderous drums with the warmth of the guitar and bass, while still allowing the track to be a festival of tuneful treats.

Website: Black Debbath


MARCH 2015

MOTHERSHIP
Mothership II
Ripple Music

Our favorite Texas trio return with their second bone-crushing opus Mothership II. Brothers Kelley (Guitars/Vox) and Kyle Juett (Bass/Vox) with drummer Judge Smith hammer out eleven tracks of smoking heavy blues perfect for the winter doldrums. If you thought their 2013 debut was heavy, strap in ‘cause this second one will blow you away. For months they’ve been playing “Serpents Throne” live to ravenous response from the audience. With their sophomore outing they have finally committed it to vinyl and it sounds huge. The thick blues riff gets under your skin and slowly works its way to the brain just as the feedback is joined by a crashing wave of drums and bass. You catch yourself reaching for the volume and cranking it up. The vocals tell the story of voodoo swamp black magic over a pounding tribal beat. The solo is piercing and melodic and strikes with venomous poison. It just may be the perfect song for Mothership to tear open the souls of men and take full possession.

With so many great songs it must have been a toss up as to how to start the album. Eventually “Celestial Prophet” won out with an eerie Hammond organ intro that paints an ambient astral picture. The drums lightly fill the void over a ghostly guitar soliloquy until the Sabbath-like dirge powers the song to a pulse-racing, climactic finish. On its heels follows the driving “Priestess Of The Moon” also in the band’s live set for over a year. The closest thing to a single, the song blossoms into a powerhouse with a hook riff, twin guitar harmonics and an insanely catchy groove - all the while Kyle’s singing the warning of the she-devil as “she attracts them in with psychedelic eyes…harvesting souls one fool at a time.” The grinding “Astromancer” keeps the theme going while pulling in Fu Manchu influences in a stoned out haze of amplified cosmic fuzz. The metallic “Eye Of Sphinx” tells the story of Ancient aliens while instrumental “Tamu Massif” keeps the reefer burning with spaced out wah wah and trippy fusion.

Mothership wear their sense of humor in abundance in “Shanghai Surprise”, a love story of boy-meets-girl (who turns out to be a dude). The lyrics are hysterical sung over power chord mayhem and a nasty taste of twisted reality. Both “Holy Massacre” and “Centauromachy” are born under the darkness of Black Sabbath and poured into subterranean magma. When they hardened under the massive weight of the band’s all consuming density we get a double set of diamonds. “Hot Smoke and Heavy Blues” could easily have been the title track. The Motörhead-meets-Metallica barnburner attacks with raging force eventually settling into a Neanderthal crawl while giving into the primal cravings of carnal copulation.  The platter ends with Chicago blues standard “Good Morning Little School Girl” (originally done by ‘Sonny Boy’ Williamson) all rocked up and heavy in the hands of the three. They turn the song into a fun little exercise of Marshall stacks and bludgeoning rhythms that ooze Texas bravado and hot sauce.

Website: Mothership


FEBRUARY 2015

SIENA ROOT
Pioneers
Gaphals/Cleopatra Records

Stockholm-based heavy jam band Siena Root release their sixth album Pioneers to well deserved fanfare. Having formed in the late ‘90s, the band has enjoyed great success in Scandinavia and Europe. With Pioneers they decided to reach across the pond to see if America was ready for their blend of Deep Purple-meets-Iron Butterfly blues. The rich texture of the group has matured over the years with some twenty musicians passing through its eclectic and colorful fabric in the quest for cosmic serenity. Using a range of instruments from sitar to flute, mandolin, violin, hurdy-gurdy and harmonica to enrich their dynamic musing, they keep the basic structure rooted in heavy rock with large amounts of organ, strat leads, bass riffs, big drums and soulful vocals. The unique combination gives the five-piece enough horsepower to generate a massive dose of ‘70s-retro with heavy psychedelic vibes. Like their name implies, Siena Root is warm and earthy, steeped in the deep muddy roots of old school analog recording and exercised as a thrilling live act.

Pioneers may be the band’s most commercial to date with eight tracks kept on the shorter end of the scale below the five-minute mark. “In My Kitchen” is the only one that branches out to a full ten minutes. The song is beautifully layered over a jazzy organ riff with the guitar coming in waves while the drum and bass move with the tide. Vocalist Jonas Åhlen’s bayou baritone cast a spell over the proceedings as the music ebbs and flows until it reaches a dramatic crescendo. Very Zeppelin-like indeed! Unlike their earlier work, all songs are sung in English instead of Swedish and the absence of original singer Sanya is clearly felt. Yet, the progression of the testosterone-driven “Between The Line” sets the pace for a record strutting with confidence among preening organ swells by Erik Petersson. Matte Gustavsson approaches the guitar with the skill of a master artist striking a balance between hot and cold, light and dark, melody and thunderous distortion.

The hooks come fast and furious in the Uriah Heep-inspired “7 Years” and the bluesy “Going Down” where bassist Sam Riffer and drummer Love Forsberg lock into their swinging ‘70s groove. “The Way You Turn” was introduced as the album’s lead track for it’s dynamic organ intro and pulsing backbeat. It’s here, the guitar breaks in with a ferocious riff that, when joined by strident vocals, gallops headlong into a memorable chorus. The listener then understands the blues-based “Root Rock Pioneers” as the signature piece to an epic set where musicianship and song-craft merge into sonic ear candy. Other influences burst forth in the Hendrix-inspired “Spiral Trip” and the Sabbath-like dirge of “Keep on Climbing”, all assembled to herald the return of heavy rock to the masses. The record ends with a cover of Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” using the organ to run the riff and bass to set the beat. Raw and uncompromising, it feeds on the primal nature of blues, sex and passion rolled up into one sweet smelling blunt of aromatic intoxication.

Website: Siena Root


JANUARY 2015

CARL CANEDY
Headbanger
Independent Release

As an original member of Manowar and legendary metal outfit The Rods, Carl Canedy has become one of the premiere metal drummers of our time. He has toured extensively supporting Iron Maiden, Twisted Sister, Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions and Rainbow. After 30 years behind his drum kit, Canedy releases his debut solo album appropriately titled Headbanger. The album’s eleven tracks spotlight the drummer as a visionary and dedicated musician. From the innovative “Cult of the Poisoned Mind” to the brutality of  “No One Walks Away” and hammering “Madman,” Canedy is at the top of his game … passionate, dangerous and intensely powerful. Clever songwriting nods to the past while a modern production attempts to harness the aggression of a man unleashed. Headbanger carries the banner of traditional metal while showcasing Canedy as one of the genre’s finest drummers still in love with the game.

The disc kicks off with the Celtic prelude “The Calm Before The Storm”. Layered with mystical flare, it draws the listener in, then transitions to a metallic beast with scorching guitar and Canedy’s signature drumming. His rapid-fire, double bass is celebrated as having laid the foundation for the thrash elite including Metallica, Slayer and Death Angel. Dark and brooding with searing guitar leads, the instrumental paves the way for a journey of full-throttle mayhem. Recording seven studio albums with The Rods and touring internationally has bolstered Canedy’s unique drumming style and thunderous might. That power is barely harnessed in “No One Walks Away” where the bass (provided by Nolan Ayres) and drums forge a cacophony of ironclad steel. The blues-soaked vocals of David Porter (805) give the song a classic hard rock sound while the singer’s interpretation of “Madman” provides a more intense fuse as the drums and guitar cascade to the very “depths of hell” capturing the emotion of psycho-psychosis.

Savatage/Trans Siberian Orchestra guitarist Chris Caffery lends a hand on the “Cult of the Poisoned Mind”. Along with guitar hero John Hahn and vocalist Joe Comeau (Annihilator, Liege Lord and Overkill) the track rises as a true metal classic carved out of the ‘80s yet with modern muscle. Caffery and Hahn also add a lethal mixture to “My Life, My Way” sung by Mark Tornillo (TT Quick, Accept) keeping the spirit of metal raging, while Canedy adds his own flare with a “stick” solo at the end of the track. Tornillo stays on to add his whiskey-stained vocals to the pounding “Heat of the Night” and biker riff-rocker “Ride Free or Die”, both monster tracks. Single ready, “Crossfire” is stamped for radio play with a massive hook, pounding rhythm and dynamic riff. Pulled from The Rod’s Vengeance album comes “The Code”, one of the last songs written with the late, great, Ronnie James Dio. The track not only celebrates Dio’s tremendous talent, but fits perfectly into the framework of what can only be definitive “Dio Rock!” Canedy’s unbelievable combination of feel, groove, power and technique make Headbanger a must-listen for fans of true metal and heavy rock. CRANK IT UP!

Website: Carl Canedy (The Rods)


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