“Guitar, bass and drums. Played loudly.” And that is how Philadelphia’s own BEACH SLANG describe their music via Bandcamp and Facebook as no pretense, just strait-ahead to the point. And that is exactly how they want it. Representing the latest incarnation of post-punk pop wrapped in teen-angst and power chords, this second full-length release brings 10 tales of strife / love / hate and getting through it all screaming, “I still taste you in the ash of every cigarette you kill.” I think everyone KNOWS that feeling. If you don’t, you are a better person for it!!
Mixing a delivery that rings richly of PSYCHEDELIC FURS meets GREEN DAY, then devoured by SOUL ASYLUM and finally, snorted by SONIC YOUTH all the while adding that ‘snap’ of GANG OF FOUR soaked drum lines being brought to a froth with the richest production values utilized as of yet by this four piece, we have this gem that stands on it’s ‘own eight feet’ as it were, not trying to clone the 2015 1st full length album. James Alex, songwriter and front man for Philly indie-punk outfit Beach Slang, says that “‘A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings’ (Polyvinyl), is a crash-and-thunder collection of songs about what it takes to keep yourself going, to make it through the rest of the night—hell, through the rest of your youth—and beyond.”
Opener ‘Future Mixtape For The Art Kids’ sets the tone from the top, e-chords and lyrics, “Play it loud, play it fast” and you are already moving when the rest of the bands hits stride with the first step.by the last line, “We are fucking alive” and the squealing note fades. Next comes the faster ‘Atom Bomb’ that punches you right in the face from the first second. Pure rage-rock-n-roll hammering forward non-stop to the end. The jangly guitar intro to ‘Spin The Dial’ sets a slower tone with that early SOUL ASYLUM vocal permeating this tale of being “born at the bottom but…”
‘Art Damage’ rips open with a multi-layer guitar line that sounds almost happy with the aforementioned PSYCHEDELIC FURS style delivery from James giving a nod of influence in this track as well as ‘Hot Tramps’, ‘Wasted Days Of Youth’, ‘Young Hearts’ and the quintessential love song ‘The Perfect High’, all that secret recipe mix of spices and seasonings to create this date-friendly blending of songs that run the gamut of scenarios and flavors. ‘Punks In A Disco bar’ has more of that SOUL ASYLUM / SONIC YOUTH blend of punchy guitar lines and reverb soaked vocals that just keeps you moving as sitting still is not an option and there is no fighting the urge anyway.
It appears to be a continuing trend, the last song is the standout here for me. ‘Warpaint ‘ stands out as one of those songs that could be either the perfect opener for a live gig or the ultimate closer in said scenario, it is that powerful and attention grabbing of a song. The first minute thirty is just guitar and vocal before the rest of the band kicks in for the final minute. Striking me as a song of encouragement and direction with the lyrics “Make a muscle with your brain. You’re not as broken as you are brave. All the things that fuck you up, knock them out then come back to us.” By the time that final ringing note decays to silence, the grin doesn’t leave your face with the satisfaction factor of what you have just consumed.
In describing what was put into the writing of this record, James said “I did feel a sense of responsibility to the kids who told me they were finding something in our music that brought them back from a bad place, the ones who were getting BEACH SLANG tattoos and quoting lyrics to me after the shows. I don’t want to let those people down. Am I leaving behind work that’s going to matter? What’s this going to say about me when I run out of air, and my son is listening to these records and tapes that I left behind. Is he going to say, ‘Yeah my dad was all right’? I want to do right by them. When this whole thing started it was like, ‘Alright, I’m going to get to hear my sappy little songs played loud and interact with other human beings again,’ the admittedly shy Alex says looking back on Beach Slang’s existence. “Then one day this really sweet explosion happened and Beach Slang became a thing that mattered to people.”
James and Company put everything into their music. They sweat it, bleed it and it shows in every note of this album. Simply, they are a rock and roll band that makes records, tour and repeat… find out when / where they are playing and get out and SUPPORT!!
Release date: July 09th 2016. Label: Self Released. Format: DD/Vinyl
Leuven, Belgium’s Wheel Of Smoke play 70s tinted prog covering metallic space/psych/stoner territory, as well as calmer and more melodic songs. There might be a mix of Opeth, Ozric Tentacles, King Crimson, Agalloch and Pink Floyd as well as some elements of pure underground America flavorings reminiscent of the likes of Lone Star (not the country band) and Roy Buchanon and the like with soulful bluesy progressions. Founded June 7 2005, this marks the third full length release and does not depart much from what has become their own signature approach. The band cites their interest as “Providing our fans and public with a memorable experience at our live shows.” and state that they are influenced by “good music, everyday life, knowledge and ritual, and the anthropology of perception” but extend further that Wheel Of Smoke has NO affiliation or affinity with any religious/political beliefs whatsoever. So nothing too esoteric or any social-commentary based fronts. Not a bad thing by any means, particularly when that is the approach of seasoned musicians such as these four show they are with this latest release.
‘Degeneration’ is the first off and wastes no time with that 3/4 time sig, slight fill every 7th measure approach into the gravel-laced vocal that we can always expect from Filip (guitar/vox) / Erik (guitar/vox) / Jouk (drums) / Tristan (bass/vox) and this has an inherent heaviness that grabs you by your shirt with no sign of letting go as the lunar-guitar assault screams higher and higher until the song fades among that bass rumble and you breathe deep. ‘Ruins’ has a quicker pace and shows of those KING CRIMSON razor sharp time shifts with guitar breaks to match showing that they are indeed happy to keep pushing the envelope with the timeless mix of fills and outbursts of tweaked wah-pedal glory flying in and out of each verse until the second the song just stops, no warning. ‘Bad Shepard’ hits next with pure 70’s almost dance-hall twang over the fuzzed out base line bouncing behind the rhythm section, sounding almost happy in progression until, just past two minutes when the tone turns noticeably darker and that trademark growl screams out again. ‘Unnamed’ enters with a soft guitar line, ghostly vocal climbing into the picture behind as the crescendo breaks into a trot then a slow-run, while ‘Synchronicity’ has a ‘jig’ tilt to the progression of the body of this song to the point this could be one of those ‘audience participation’ songs with lines like “We all know what it feels like” before the snap-pop tempo shift back into the next verse. I can almost see it in my mind’s eye when we hear “Hey” before the chorus rains again into your ears. ‘No More TV’ has a softer intro but breaks right into full unrelenting gallop as we hear of the fucked-up dream leading to a scream and then we are told “Let’s go drinking…” and the fuzzed out bass leads to an even faster run through as we run right along through the entire six minutes plus of this crowd-rouser type of song, executed with a surgical precision of solo attacks left and right, perfectly punctuating this track.
‘Feral’ is the last offering on here, and in my opinion, is the strongest composition recorded utilizing all the tools in their collection from a multi-layered vocal mix giving more substance and body as well as even using harmonic bends at the end of the solo-runs giving even more flavor to what has already been a feast for the mind and the bass/drum line could not be tighter or more precise than what is captured in this opus that clocks in at one second short of eight minutes. The shift to the spaced-out runs littered with revered and slight delay galore will make you feel the ground leave the bottom of your shoes in that stoner-rock way. As you are rising along with the note-scales searing your veins as your pulse quickens to match the tempo for the last half of this final chapter that grows more and more complex and intricate driving madly towards that final three chord burst that ends with a dead-stop. My ears were almost ringing with the silence.
Amazing production, levels above each previous release and shows they are ready to rise out of the underground. If you are a fan, this is a must have, if you are new to the camp, great introduction and will make you appreciate the ‘precursors’ to this release as you witness the growth of each part of the machine that makes up Wheel Of Smoke. Based on the ‘live’ vibe they profess, I recommend going to see them if you get the chance!! \m/
New York is the home for this band that Ken Ghani (vox/guitars), Nikhil Kamineni (guitars/bass/synths/noise) and Tama Vadja (drums) have procured to give this epic 3-track EP to us and this is indeed something special.
A not so subtle mix of elements of post-apocalyptica/ambient/doom/industrial with a splash of stoner thrown in for good measure, Ghani / Kamineni have created a soundscape of shadows and whispers and foreboding that as ‘Sycamore’, the opener, fades in, you can feel the fog swirling as you advance with caution into the quagmire of what awaits next. Full-instrumental here that sets the tone for the remaining two tracks as the sounds that surround you seem to wrap tighter and tighter as you approach ‘The Merchant’ that is waiting in front of you and greets you with an almost tantric sounding drone-chant. Once the first hit of the snare rings out, the whisper-screams float by your ear and the droning repeats and repeats lending to the feeling of mystic capture that permeates and then seems to dissipate for the fade out of the song. ‘Good At Craft’ comes in with a lone guitar progression followed by more ambient noises closing in again from all sides, slowly closing in. The same whisper-vocal weaves around like so many snakes, the power chords giving them body to strike as you abandon to the enveloping you feel closing around like a black velvet glove that is getting firmer in its grasp of plush control, accentuated by the increased intricacy of the music that rings of almost divine splendor in that same plushness as EBISU drive you from where you stand to the multi-dimensional planes from which they have brought forth this musical mastery.
Amazing mix with solid production values give this release the power to crush and if this is the future of ambient-sludge -goth-doom hybrids, I say BRING ME MORE because three tracks just isn’t enough…
Argonauta Records – Release Date: Digital album releases February 27, 2017 /
Physical Album Ships around March 10, 2017
Ship: Void Cruiser mod.1.0 (Interstellar heavy metal exploration vessel)
Last known location: The Andromeda galaxy
CREW – T-Hug: Low Frequency Engine, Ambience Generator
V-Salo: Soundscape Systems
T-Bag: Battering Apparatus
S-Salo: Fuzz Machinery, Communications
Post: Void Cruiser has always been there. Only now the crew have awakened from their cryogenic sleep and they are on a holy quest. A quest for The Massive Resonance. This is how we begin…
And so is how my introduction to VOID CRUISER began. I discovered that this is the third release, the first being 2013’s EP ‘Motherload’ followed in 2015 with the full length “Overstaying My Welcome” and now in 2017 we are gifted with “Wayfarer,” a seven song collection of pure stoner-metal bliss; fuzzed out bass lines, staggered tempo’s and fills running amok with searing, soaring guitar solos that perpetuate every minute that has no other voice voiced communications. Grab your vaporizer/pipe/bong/etc. as we travel along with this mod 1.0 vessel.
‘A Day In Which No Man Was Born’ serves as the lift-off and slowly takes you through the entry of the edge of this sector as the background becomes the majesty that is the interwoven expansive net that is propelling you into the unknown ahead with no apprehension. Instead anticipation as the power chord driven final section of this track shifts as you can almost feel the turning of this vessel which effortlessly flows to the next track ‘I Didn’t Lie, But Know Now I Should Have.’ The band swings right into a blues-tempo’d, doom-slow and low tale of Salo speaking of the “voice” inside of him, letting us see through his eyes what is transpiring within and why he knows why he should have. As the last note rings out, we suddenly hear footsteps and a quick staccato snare pulls us into ‘As We Speak’ where we are told that we will ‘hear with your eyes and see with your ears’ as if he could reach you. Electronic sputters lead us right into the power chord beginning of ‘Madonnas And whores’ where Salo tells us that when he was all alone, in his own narcissistic way, all he could feel was love for everything. Now that he is willing in his own altruistic way, all he can feel is just jealousy as he further exposes the events of the ‘looking for comfort’ and there is no way it’s gonna fall. At the four minute mark, we begin the turnaround portion of this leg of the journey with the tastiest guitar section this record has offered up so far and filled the void around this spinning vessel perfectly carrying you though the ectoplasmic expansion that surrounds you outside until you are told that the ship has been taken over.
‘Seven Years Late’ is a tale of Salo speaking of ‘your heart of gold, my heart of steel’ and his careening vocal carries you further long. telling of a dream he had, saw his grave, seven years late. Faster footsteps, a coughing man and ‘All Over Nowhere’ begins that Salo is ‘The man that helped you, he’s the man that stabbed your back…’ and then asked if ‘you’re having a good time baby’ with the same monotone sneer you would expect from somebody that tells you he knows for sure that you ‘go around.’ Perfectly accentuated at the end with the same running footsteps at the beginning before final track ‘Maailmann Kallien Kaupunki’ which per a translator means ‘The most expensive House’ which leads me to imagine some spectral equivalent of The House of Heaven or some such. Speaking no Finnish, I can not be positive, but the music of this 10-minute soliloquy gave me a feeling of bliss that carried to the very end as the very last faded out through a backdrop of white noise that seemed endless until it was no more…
Compared to the previous releases, VOID CRUISER have come a long way with “Wayfarer” and have grown not only as a unit, but as a concept and they have executed the concept quite well here. If given the opportunity, I encourage you, the reader, to find their tour schedule and get out and see how this outstanding studio effort is translated to a live forum. We can not recommend this album enough…
Kingnomad is a band out of northern Sweden, and they don’t really mention their actual hometown on any of their biographical information, only that they’re from a small village. I like that, a little mystery right off the bat, especially for a band with supposed occult leanings. I use the word “supposed” because it’s clear from this foursome’s bio that they’re a bunch of down-to-earth dudes in it for the ha-ha’s, not hardcore Satanists intent on destroying the universe by hurling curses from Ancient Grimoire of black magic. That’s fine and dandy, though I’m not sure how many of you caught the recent blog post from the fabulous Invisible Oranges author Joseph Shafer, entitled “Ten Metal Clichés We Can Do Without.” I’m going to doing something that I’ve never done, and link it here for posterity, because it really spoke to me: http://www.invisibleoranges.com/ten-metal-cliches-we-can-do-without/
Give it a read. Go ahead. You might hate the article, and you might hate me for agreeing with the vast majority of what the author has to say. Why do I bring this up within the context of this review? Well, that’s kind of my thing, isn’t it? No album or band exists within a bubble or a vacuum, and I firmly believe that context and relevancy are extremely important. I’m also a firm believer in the Zeitgeist, the “spirit of the age”, and if an album doesn’t in some way, shape or form speak to that spirit, then it’s simply not for me.
I may constantly chastise myself for my tangential reviews, though there’s a method to my madness. I have two diatribes to launch into for this review, and luckily, they flow pretty well from one to the other.
Firstly, did you read the Invisible Oranges article? If you’ve read some of my reviews, you’ll probably know by now that I’m highly critical of quite a number of these things listed. I remember seeing the title of this article and thinking “Man, they had better have Satan as the number one cliché or I’m going to be extremely disappointed in humanity.” Thank you, Invisible Oranges, for delivering the goods – I’ve had enough disappointments with the whole of humanity as of late.
Kingnomad manage to encapsulate and incorporate three of the items on the cliché list: Black Sabbath worship, Satan, and Cthulhu. I’d like to emphasize that the aforementioned article calls for moderation and thoughtfulness, a “less is more” approach rather than an outright abolition of some of metal’s most traditionally treasured golden calves and sacred cows. I could use plenty of examples from occultism and esoteric traditions to illustrate the validity of this argument, though I’ll instead drudge up one from contemporary popular culture. In the Star Wars mythos, one of the main ideological differences between the Jedi and the Sith is their interpretation of the Force, beyond the light and dark sides of it. The Jedi believe that the Force is like a candle, and that a bright burning flame can be used to light many more candles, while the Sith believe that the Force is more like venom, and to spread it out too thinly is to dilute its potency. When it comes to metal, I’d have to agree with the Sith on this one. The reason that lyrical subject matters that are traditionally held as taboo carry so much weight and power is their relative scarcity. It’s the fact that they’re not the norm that makes them so alluring. The ritualistic and artistic deconstruction of societal barriers releases a wave of liberating cultural energy that can be harnessed into transformative effects. That’s the basis for a whole system of esoteric practice that’s intrinsically linked to metal, The Left Hand Path (let’s save that particular can of worms for another review, though it is worth mentioning here). However, as these themes become overused and ubiquitous, they lose their ability to shock and awe; their potency is diluted. They cease to be the language of counterculture, heterodoxy and ultimately liberation, and instead become the manifestation of a mindless adherence to a tired and cliched orthodox blueprint. Anything that holds the potential for liberation also carries with it the threat of oppression when it transitions from the realms of the fantastic and abnormal into just another lame-and-tame inevitability of the mundane world.
In that regard, Kingnomad are not one of the more egregious offenders, as their references to Lovecraft and Lucifer His Dark Majesty are used sparingly and light-heartedly. The band openly admits that they’re in it for the fun, and that’s just fine with me. Ghost set the stage for the whole “Scooby Doom” school of metal, and it looks like the good times are here to roll. As far as the Black Sabbath worship, well…. if you’re playing metal and feel like you’re not indebted and influenced by The Sabs, then you’re doing it wrong. I’ve attempted to defy the unquestioned supremacy of Sabbath for many years now, to cast doubt on their reign in hopes of finding other worthy usurpers to the crown who’ve lurked in their shadows, and I’ve come to the conclusion that Black Sabbath are kings, lords and masters wherever The Heavy is concerned. This you can trust. Plenty of their contemporary proto-metal protégées from the late 60’s and early 70’s left their marks and signposts, though none blazed a trail the way that Ozzy and crew did from the moment that the iconic tri-tone of their title track was committed to tape.
On Mapping The Inner Void, Kingnomad mine the Sabbath treasure troves for what that they’re worth, though their incorporation of the more psychedelic elements of bands like Witch and Mammatus sets them in a place firmly above a mere Sabbath clone. They’ve got more of that indie rock vibe that started creeping in from the neo-psych movement that Dead Meadow brought to the forefront of the stoner scene. They’re able to use some of those fuzzy, major key riffs that Dead Meadow pulled off with such poise on their debut and also dive into some of the more nuanced, layered sounds that made Feathers such a breakthrough album. They’re also going for some of the pop hooks and harmonized vocals that turned Ghost and Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats songs into such mesmerizing ear candy.
Herein lies my second tangent, which is the continued resistance to the melding of the metal and indie worlds. I bring this up because Kingnomad wisely call themselves “doom rock”, rather than doom metal. This may seem like a small distinction, though it’s a very important detail to some. Metal carries with it a sense of tradition that lends itself to puritanism, while rock is more open ended. I’m a pragmatist who also doesn’t like to falsely advertise; if you’re a traditionalist or purist who is turned off by the bands that I’ve name dropped above, then this album very well may not be for you. I personally have never been turned off by indie rock getting its proverbial peanut butter mixed in with metal’s chocolate. I’m a steadfast believer in one of the central themes of the Russian dramatist Anton Chehkov’s continual literary themes: that art needs new forms.
With two tangents down, it’s time to get this review back on track and talk about the music itself. Kingnomad write slow to mid-paced fuzz-fests characterized by an overall ethereal vibe. All the songs have a delightful other-worldliness, from the juxtaposition of super saturated and squeaky clean guitar tones, to the wispy vocal delivery and the smidgens of choice samples from horror movies that the band laces into their songs. There’s some cool synth sounds too, which I’m always a sucker for. There are seven songs total; the entire album clocks in at just under 40 minutes, so it’s the perfect length for vinyl, and it won’t test either your attention span or your patience. All the songs are good, distinctive and memorable, making for a inclusive and cohesive listening experience that deepens with repeat listens. I don’t really have a favorite song, though ‘Nameless Cult’ certainly burrowed its way through the canals of my inner ear and lodged itself unwittingly into my memory with its haunting chords and major key dalliances. Similarly, the closing track, and the longest of the album, ‘The Waiting Game’ is also a highlight in its epic take on heavy psych rock freak-outs. Even the shortest track, the instrumental interlude ‘Whispers From R’Lyeth’ confidently stands on its own strengths. This is fine album in my eyes, especially for a debut.
In case you haven’t noticed, I also have a penchant for offering constructive criticism when I think that it’s pertinent. With that being said….guys, keep it fun and keep it fresh as you move forward with your musical career. This is an extremely imaginative release, and you’re going to have to up the ante on your next one to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump. Look into all the weird fiction that’s out there beyond the wall of sleep. There are lots of great anti-heroes that you can draw upon for inspiration besides The Adverse One. Keep drinking your beer and writing your riffs, because you’re obviously onto something, and no one can take that away from you, not even me with my feeble pen and polished words.
Gods Of Violence (Japanese Edition) – Vinyl / CD / DD
Nuclear Blast Records – German Thrash Metal
Release Date: January 27, 2017
“The Big 4 Of Thrash” has never been a term I give any merit into. None. It’s based on record sales/public acceptance far more than overall quality of output and integrity. If that wasn’t the case, so many bands are realistically more deserving and would get their due, and Germany’s Kreator ranks extremely high on the list for proper candidates. Don’t think so? Then you must not have heard their latest, “Gods Of Violence”.
Quite simply, “Gods” may just be the band’s best work in their 35 years of existence. The previous three albums to it have been really excellent, but this trip around actually manages to surpass them in terms of intensity and musicianship. Grandiose intro “Apocalypticon”, complete with choirs, marching drums, orchestration and melodic guitar overlays, strong implicates something epic is soon to come. And does it ever! Starting with “World War Now” and completing with bonus closer “Earth Under The Sun”, the listener is thrown back in a sonic blast that is amazing in its heaviness, songwriting and versatility. While smoothly executed speed with snarling, intense vocals is the overall order of the day, all tracks have plenty of dynamics, be it an acoustic intro/section, flawless time/tempo shifts, or devastating guitar leads and solos of impeccable melody. Every track, without exception, has a clear identity of it’s own, yet taken as complete work, each fits together nicely to create a unified package. Accomplishing that in any genre is an admirable task, and rightfully so.
Dare I say that Mille, Ventor and company have created a bona fide thrashterpiece? Damn right I do. If I had 10 thumbs, they’d all be up. Either get this into your collection or just admit you aren’t really a metal fan after all. A bold statement for an equally bold platter.
Aschaffenburg, Germany is home to the four men that make up MY SLEEPING KARMA. The town is located in the southwest part of Germany, 41 kilometers (25 mi) southeast of Frankfurt, Aschaffenburg lies in the far northwest of the state of Bavaria. This is referenced only to give you an idea of where they hail from and give some perspective into these master musicians that proclaim they are “Not beginners or amateurs and when they take the stage, you will forget everything around you as they take you by the hand into the deepest, hidden corners of your soul” enquote. Tough to imagine from a band that has potato chips showing as the band interest and list SLAYER as another band they love…
Five studio albums later, beginning in 2006, sporting two singles and an appearance on Napalm Record’s Christmas compilation, MY SLEEPING KARMA has put together a ‘Greatest Hits’ of sorts ranging from the first self-titled 6-track record all the way through to 2015’s release “Moksha” and the result – “Mela Ananda Live,” is simply stellar!! Classifying their musical style as a conglomeration of Psychedelic / Stoner / Instrumental / Space / Progressive Rock, it is awe-inspiring how they move between lush almost-jazz tempered cool into near metal-thundering riffs ripping through you, never dropping a beat throughout this 68-minute beast, traversing of what can best be described as inner catacombs. Each track exposing its own light across the shifting shadows of drums / bass / keyboards and guitar, keeping your attention as you hear every word that is never spoken by the voices of this quartet, each voice offering its own color. I barely noticed the audience between songs with the flow of the performance being as smooth as tempered glass.
Each of the ten tracks included would have been the ones I would have selected from their extensive library if I had been asked to design the set-list, personal favorite ‘Psilocybe’ especially and the running order lends to that smooth-as-glass tempering making this offering almost as good as being there yourself!! Great introduction to a veteran band that seems to tour nonstop as their schedule for March 2017 they have posted shows; every day booked from 3-16 to 4-1-17. If you get the chance, go and reward yourself to this near-transcendental experience offered to you. If you cannot, immediately add this album to your library and enjoy the inner-ride. As they further state, “My Sleeping Karma offers the perfect movie soundtrack to everybody’s own inner journey. Just be warned, you may never want to leave again!!” enquote. Nothing better than ‘truth in advertising’ and this record is exactlythat. OUTSTANDING accomplishment!!
Century Media Records – Release Date: February 3rd 2017
“Odyssey” really saw them forge their own path instead of being a Witchcraft/Graveyard also-ran. – Brian “Butch” Balich
I hope that Brian Balich, of Argus fame (for starters), doesn’t mind me quoting him to start off this review, though he beautifully summed up my thoughts on Horisont with this one sentence when we were recently having a lively Facebook discussion regarding their releases. I remember getting my hands on the first Horisont record some years ago, I believe it was when I was writing reviews for the now defunct Stonerrock.com, as that was a period in my life when I had all kinds of random promos floating through my home office. I remembered that they were a Swedish retro 70’s rock band, as was very much in vogue at the time with the success of Graveyard and Witchcraft, though they sang a considerable deal more in Swedish than Witchcraft, and there was a little more of ZZ Top’s boogie and swagger in their sound than was typical of the other throwback bands of the era. These guys obviously owned well-worn copies of Cactus albums. That was really the extent of the impression that their debut left upon me. It was well written, it was cleverly crafted and executed with style and poise, though for me personally, there wasn’t much to distinguish Horisont from any other band devoted to that big blues rock sound of lore. When I later received a promotional copy of their sophomore album, Second Assault, it just sounded like more of the same, and I kind of wrote them off as exactly what Butch described: a hopeful band following in the footsteps of these aforementioned other more successful bands, and ultimately finding themselves swallowed in the shadows instead.
With this in mind, it was with some surprise that I found more than a few people heralding Horisont’s 2015 album, Odyssey, as their favorite of the year. Granted, I’d no longer kept up on the band, because honestly there’s just too much music out there for any one person to fully absorb in a live time, and they’d just done nothing thus far to captivate my ever-ebbing attention span. Still, there was something so insistent, so fanatical about the praise being heaped on Odyssey, from people that I knew and trusted. I had to check it out for my lonesome.
I’m glad that I did, because it’s a real gem, a literal diamond in the proverbial rough. It blew me totally out of the water – right out of left field, Horisont had unleashed the best conceptual sci-fi metal album these ears had heard since Slough Feg’s most triumphant Traveler. Perhaps there was some trace of this transition in the band’s third album, Time Warriors, which I’d never heard prior to starting this review. I intend to remedy this situation and find out for myself. Okay, fuck it….I listened to it on YouTube just now, and although it’s a leap forward from the first two albums, flirting with some NWOBHM and prog rock influences, it’s nowhere near as actualized as Odyssey. Perhaps it was the addition of second guitarist Tom Sutton, who had previously played in a past incarnation of Japanese doom mongers Church Of Misery, that galvanized Horisont to so radically step up their game on their fourth album. The most obvious point of departure from the prior albums is the sheer scope of influence that Odyssey so seamlessly encompasses. It’s also worth pointing out that in their bio, they straight up state that it was Tom’s idea to write the ten minute song that eventually morphed into the title track, so there’s that. At any rate, this is the album that The Sword wished that they’d pulled off with Warp Riders, a 70’s throw back album that goes heavy on the science fiction elements without going full prog and thus sacrificing the bodacious boogie.
As much as I’d love to wax poetic about Odyssey for another several paragraphs, I’m going to resist that constant temptation for tangents, just this once. Instead, let’s fast forward a bit to the present moment; the year is 2017, and Horisont is on the verge of releasing their follow-up album, About Time. Tom Sutton is out, some other guy named David is in. This is their first album that’s coming out on Century Media, about a year and a half after Rise Above released Odyssey. I bring these things up strictly because they’ve boxed themselves into a very tight corner, coming off a real creative high point, signing with a new label, replacing a guitarist, then perhaps feeling some pressure to establish themselves on said label with a new release that’s going to follow up their crowning achievement. That’s a tall order, and a year and a half isn’t a lot of time to deliver.
About Time does ultimately deliver, capitalizing on the same strengths that marked its predecessor. It’s another progressive proto-metal album that reminds me of the mid-70’s output of some of my favorite bands of the era: Scorpions, Rush, Thin Lizzy, Blue Oyster Cult, Uriah Heep, Judas Priest, you get the idea. Musically, there’s a ton of super cool things going on. I can’t find a credit anywhere for who is covering the keyboard work, though that’s really one of the album’s strengths, the increased usage of synths both in terms of melodic lead parts and more atmospheric backdrops. The dual guitar attack is once again superb, each part bubbling over with taste and tact. The vocals continue to show improvement, mostly in the sheer bravado of frontman Axel’s delivery, though there are also so many awesome, Scorpions-esque backing parts laced throughout. I also enjoy the playfulness and subtle irreverence of the lyrics, plus the now obligatory song sung in Swedish. The bass and drums play well off one another, and they’ve both got an uncanny knack for holding down the groove while also making sure things stay fresh and interesting. The production is stellar – it’s a nice clean mix that brings out all the myriad elements. It’s also worth noting that the cover art is bad ass, looking like a page from a long lost comic book adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.
Okay, let’s revisit a point I was making earlier in relation to Odyssey. I often don’t like it when an album feels “rushed”, like the band wrote it hastily for some reason that leans more heavily towards being business rather than artistically oriented. I could potentially make that argument here. About Time clocks in at 10 songs in 37 minutes, which is quite a downsize from Odyssey’s 12 tracks and 52 minutes, plus we’re not getting a ten minute epic opener. About Time lacks that special kind of ambition and urgency, it doesn’t overflow with the feeling of unrestrained liberation unleashed by the breaking of prior constraints flows through every note of Odyssey. Rather, it’s more about a refining process, of solidifying and then expanding on previous ideas until they reach their new heights. I really enjoy the songs in and off themselves, the hooks and the pop sensibilities incorporated into a heavier retro metal format, that same alchemical formula for success which catapulted Ghost’s career, minus the corny costumes. Ultimately, this is my favorite Horisont album, largely on the strength of its songwriting, which in my mind frees me from that feeling that they might have been better off if they’d spent some more time on its creation.
Whenever I review a band that’s obviously going for any form of retro-rock shtick, I find myself wanting to go on a tangent about whether or not it’s creatively limiting to strictly mine certain eras of the past for inspiration, if such an approach ultimately cuts an artist off from whole swaths of potential influence. Horisont have pretty much put that particular internal argument to rest for me, as they’ve proven that any time period is a potential goldmine if one is simply willing to expand the breadth of one’s influences. Does any given retrophile act still reek a bit of gimmickry, however sincere in its intent? Sure, though that’s so often the price of entertainment, isn’t it?
Reviewed by Andy “A Beautifully Simple Smart Doorbell By Ding” Beresky
Explosive Live Performance by Warsaw, Poland’s Sludge / Heavy Rockers Sunnata!! ‘Asteroid’ is from their 2014 release “Climbing The Colossus.” You can read our Album Review of their new album “Zorya” in our News/Reviews Section. Both Albums are self released and are available on Vinyl / CD / DD.
Support & Buy: https://sunnataofficial.bandcamp.com/
From the deep South, southern Louisiana to be exact, the birthplace of sludge-metal, comes this hybrid of all things resonating traditional metal, elements of folk / blues / stoner / doom / progressive, and a pure rock dynamic to morph it all into this, the debut offering from this three piece named ELECTRIC AGE. While this is the first release from this line-up as a unit, I was informed directly that these seasoned players have decided to forgo sharing their collective pedigree to let this album stand on its own merits in the here and now. After taking it in, I believe they have created something amazing that can indeed stand tall as an accomplishment of songwriting, musicianship and something that has been so lacking as of late in American metal; the art of storytelling. Dripping with the archetypal concepts of good, evil and the divine throughout this sojourn, the band states that this is “A conceptual and mythological journey through the threshold of time and consciousness, into the heart of darkness and divinity, through death and redemption, and finally into the inexorable void.” So, not just another “Wankfest” but actually thinking-man’s metal?? The pulse quickens…
From the first notes of ‘The Threshold’ through to the acoustic fade out of ‘The Dreaming’, there is a precision of delivery from each member of this power-trio reminiscent of DEMONS & WIZARDS in the exacting musicality given with each track. ‘Shepard And The Raven’ comes on with a single snare-drum pop and a full-on power chord assault hits you before you know it, this chapter of the story unfolding with the might of the voice telling the tale of…
‘Robes Of Grey’ comes out of the gate with a gallop and you can’t help but to hold on as the freight train rolls on. Even when the tempo slows for a moment, you draw your breath slower until that next chord hits and you go again. Ultra thick bass serves as the intro to ‘Cold Witch’ before the hammering guitar takes you into the tale one more “Four long winters have past a ray upon the feet of cold offering…” and further into the mind of the king you are drawn as he asks her to carry him away. Soaring deep notes serve as the perfect accent to the vocal flowing forth. The bass line towards the end reminds you of just HOW deep and dark these guys have shown they can get.
‘Priestess Pt.1’ allows you to catch your breath for a minute through intricate overlaying guitar lines, as the main body of this song, and when ‘Black Galleons’ hits with a thundering drum-line steeped in reverb; it is right on time to keep you glued to this epic journey, time shifts galore that are indeed suiting this diatribe as we hear that “We would die for the Purity and Grace” as the solo lets you traverse onward back into the thunder as the song fades out. ‘Sleep Of Winter’ wastes no time, right back to full-on ‘rock-god’ phrasing on that Les Paul and the pace does not cease to push you along at full-charge. ‘Silent King’ enters with a clean guitar tone and a slower pace again but the majesty and multi-layers of the lush mix is never gone, letting you forget that this is a trio. Our king is in self reflection as the ‘Elders’ and his feelings of being “born of the dark and will leave the same.” ‘Priestess Pt 2’ shows more of the acoustic/folk side complete with violins in the background as “She spreads her black wings to fly”.
The last two tracks are the ones I kept going back to time and again. ‘Electric Age’ is one of those songs with enough hooks to catch a bushel of fish out of the air with and could definitely be the story behind the name of this power-trio. The slow doom fade out into ‘The Dreaming’ is the perfect segue into the song that sums up what we have traversed over the last hour plus and offers final insight into the king’s mind in reflection and attempted remembrance. Is he awake or still in a dream or somewhere in between or… as the ‘pick-birds’ chirp randomly, are we are all dreaming??
I have told my kids as I put them to bed to ‘dream the dreams of royalty’. I now wonder if any of their own nights were filled with tales such as this…
Each of these songs stand tall on their own, just as I was told was the intention and together, they represent a near-masterpiece. For a first debut album, gotta give it an ’11’ on a 1-10… get it the second you can!!