High on Fire “Electric Messiah” Review + Stream…

HIGH ON FIRE

Electric Messiah – Limited Vinyl // CD // DD

eOne Heavy Records – released October 5, 2018

Reviewed by Ric “Suisyko” Dorr

 

Location:
Oakland, CA USA

Members:
Matt Pike – Guitar / Vocals
Des Kensel – Drums
Jeff Matz – Bass Guitar (ex Zeke, member since “Blessed Black Wings” tour)
George RIce – Bass Guitar (ex-Dear Deceased, on :”Art Of Self Defense” / “SUrrounded By Thieves”)
Joe Preston – Bass Guitar (ex Melvins / Thrones, on Blessed Black Wings)

Previous Releases:

“The Art of Self-Defense” 2000

“Surrounded By Thieves” 2002

“Blessed Black Wings” 2005

“Live from the Relapse Contamination Festival” 2005

“Death Is This Communion” 2007

“Snakes For The Divine” 2010

“De Vermis Mysteriis” 2012

“Spitting Fire Live Volume I” 2013

“Spitting Fire Live Volume II” 2013

“Luminiferous” 2015

 

 

Review:

Way back in 1998, Matt Pike was deep in the band SLEEP as guitarist and when the other guitarist quit, Matt began inviting people to come to his garage to jam.  This led to Matt deciding to work in a power-trio again.  Within 6 months, the jams led to the formation of HIGH ON FIRE, allowing Matt to keep his tone similar while his playing style was becoming faster and more aggressive in delivery and structure and taking over vocals and writing the bulk of the new material.

As of 2007, the current and most prolific line-up solidified into the unit that is getting set to take the new release to the world. Having toured endlessly with a wide variety of acts from GOATWHORE to CONVERGE, including a stint on MEGADETH’s “Gigatour”.

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With the release of “Electric Messiah” Pike & Co. are not trying to re-invent the wheel; FAR from it. Nine tracks and 59 minutes later, HoF have delivered what can only be described as the quintessential definition of what High on Fire has come to demonstrate;  aggressive precision seasoned perfectly with Matt’s lyrical creations.  This fits seamlessly into his 6-string myriads of hyper-aggro masterpieces. Tracks like ‘Spewn From The Earth’, ‘The Pallad Mask’ and ‘Freebooter’ show that the might is still intact and the longer compositions are still present as ‘Steps Of The Ziggeraut/House Of Enlil’ and ‘Sanctioned Annihilation’ show clocking in at over 9 minutes plus. ALL factors that encompass High on Fire are present and even the title track belies that they are even more cohesive and just flat-out IN YOUR FACE than ever before, using power-chords, bombastic bass tones and drum-attacks that ring in sheer might.

Matt Pike

The standout on this record, for ME, is the closer ‘Drowning Dog’.  I hear the culmination of the best of each previous release, all winding into this diatribe that allows Matt to give it all and offers what can only be HoF at it’s absolute top-notch performances.

If you don’t have it yet, GET IT asap. If there is any in your circle that may not yet be aware of what High on Fire entails, force-feed them until they know, support these guys live if you get the chance and above all else, KEEP IT LOUD!!

High on Fire Tour Dates

Tour Dates


Wolftooth “Wolftooth” Album Review + Stream…

Wolftooth

Wolftooth – Vinyl // CD // DD

Physical CD available on March 5th, 2018 on Blackseed Records

Limited & Standard 180gr Vinyl available April 20th, 2018 through Cursed Tongue Records

Reviewed by Eric Layhe

 

Tracklist:
Blackbirds Call (5:41)
Aegaeon (5:16)
Sword of my Father (3:55)
White Mountain (4:31)
Frost Lord (4:18)
The Huntress (6:06)
Forged in Fire (6:14)
Season of the Witch (6:07)

 

 

Review:
Stoner Metal has a very storied history. Debatably beginning with Black Sabbath and Hawkwind and surviving through Monster Magnet, the bandcamp era has created something of a golden era of Stoner Metal and one of the beneficiaries of this golden age is Indiana’s Wolftooth.

Wolftooth is a classic Stoner Metal band through and through, albeit one with a little extra heft added for good taste. Their self-titled album is chock-full of great riffs and much better vocals than the genre usually calls for and even features a few twists and turns as well – album opener “Blackbirds Call” opens with an atmospheric intro that is almost symphonic in nature. “Sword of my Father” is (fittingly) extremely reminiscent of the Apocryphon-era of The Sword, with Kentucky-fried grooves and lots of southern twang. Through its raw production, Wolftooth’s “Self-titled” album does a great job of emulating a live show. If you close your eyes, you can almost imagine that Wolftooth is right there playing for you.

Band Pic

It’s not a perfect album, though. In terms of the genre of Stoner Metal, Wolftooth doesn’t bring a whole lot of new material to the table. If you’re a member of the fairly sizable group that feels as though Stoner Metal is a tad tired and needs a major mix-up in order to be truly rejuvenated, then you probably won’t find a whole lot to enjoy here. It really is a faithful recreation of the genre and therefore won’t be much of a treat if you’re not a fan of that particular style.

With their self-titled album, Wolftooth has created a very faithful recreation of Stoner Rock with a modern edge. Fans of the genre will love it, whereas those that aren’t simply won’t. While it really is as simple as that, I cannot emphasize how good of a job Wolftooth has done. If you enjoy Stoner Metal, I absolutely recommend you check out this excellent release.

Additional Links:
http://cursedtonguerecords.bigcartel.com/

https://www.facebook.com/wolftoothmetal/?ref=br_rs


Legend Of The Seagullmen “Self Titled” Album Review + Stream…

They Ain’t No Flock Of Seagulls

They are the

Legend of the Seagullmen

“Self Titled” – Vinyl // CD // DD

Dine Along Records – released February 9, 2018

By Terry ‘The Ancient One’ Cuyler

 

Legend of the Seagullmen are
Danny Carey – drums (Tool)
Brent Hinds – guitars (Mastodon)
Jimmy Hayward – guitar (Director – Jonah Hex)
David ‘The Doctor’ Dreyer – vocals
Zappa Meets Zappa’s Peter Griffin – bass
Chris DiGiovanni – synth // keys

 

 

Hello friends this is the Ancient One and recently I found myself having a flashback to some of the crappy music that MTV tried to force feed music fans in the 1980’s. Specifically the music of A Flock of Seagulls.  Yes I hated that band. So when my friend “Matthew Thomas” Messaged me and said “Hey Ancient One you gotta listen to these guys called Legend of the Seagullmen. I had a name association flashback and like a punch drunk boxer that hears a distant bell, I flew off the handle and responded with a stream of profanity in all caps about how I despised that band. Thankfully I kept my cool and looked up their website…

When I eyeballed the Legend of the Seagullmen’s  website I was still a little hesitant but the Ancient One isn’t one to knock any music till he hears it first. While some may automatically look into who a band is before listening I try not to do that so I can keep any personal bias out of my listening experience so I skipped looking up the press release that was used to hype the band to the audience, and instead followed the link I was given by “Matthew” to the album. From the moment I hit play to the end of the album I found myself entertained by the Legend of the Seagullmen’s with some amazing, eclectic rock.

Hooked like a fish, I had to know more about this band that calls themselves Legend of the Seagullmen. In their description on Bandcamp and their band page  Legend of the Seagullmen states “ Legend of the Seagullmen is a genre destroying super-group crafting conceptual rock ‘n’ roll hymns of epic proportions.”  What I managed to learn from their Bandcamp page is the band is made up of   Tool’s Danny Carey on drums, Mastodon’s Brent Hinds on guitar, the director of films such as Jonah Hex  Jimmy Hayward on guitar, Zappa Meets Zappa’s Peter Griffin on bass,  Chris DiGiovanni on synth/keys &  David ‘The Doctor’ Dreyer on vocals. Seeking more info about the front man I searched the web until I came across an article in the  The mighty Rolling Stone Magazine that said “The Seagullmen concept is the brainchild of three brothers, Frank, Chris and David Dreyer, who have put on appropriately theatrical concerts and made movies about the band’s long-running legend in recent years”  Which is as far as I could seem to get with details about him. Well no matter I loved the music.

 

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I could easily heap praise upon Legend of the Seagullmen’s Danny Carey, Brent Hinds, and Peter Griffin because they are the three  most well known musicians but would be unfair to the band as a whole. They also have a guitar playing film director Jimmy Hayward, a keyboard playing Production Manager from Blue Sky Animation Studios Chris DiGiovanni and a mysterious vocalist David ‘The Doctor’ Dreyer are able to take their place on stage and in the studio with them and not embarrass themselves is quite a feat in itself.

If I were to describe the music I’d say it’s a wonderfully cheesy Rock ‘N’ Roll meets, Spaghetti Western meets, Nautical Adventure movie. Some of my favorite tunes on this are…all of them!!  I recommend listening to this gem straight through like being at a Drive-In Movie Theater watching a double feature of kick ass B movie re-runs. This is definitely an album I’d recommend.


Ward XVI “The Art of Manipulation” Album Review + Stream…

WARD XVI

The Art Of Manipulation – CD // DD

Self Released: July 1, 2017

Reviewed by Ric “Suisyko” Dorr

 

 

Formed:
Summer 2013 in Preston, England

Alleged Psychopaths:
Vocals – Psychoberrie

Bass / Vocals – Beardy McStumble

Accordion/Keys – Min

Guitar – Dr. Von Stottenstein

Guitar / Vocals – Lex Whittingham

Drums – Jake Lawrenson (on the album)

              Chris Manslaughter (as of Dec. 2017)

 

Further Releases:
Ward XVI EP  – Jan 2015

“Crystal Ball” single – June 2017

“Cry Of The Siren” single – Feb 2018

 

 

Review:
In a world filled with an overload of bands out of nowhere, most as forgettable as their music, it is always amazing to me when a gathering of forces manages to coalesce into a force to be reckoned with and have the means combined to put their vision forth with a barrage of what has been described by this band themselves as “a genre defying mix of hard-hitting metal riffs, off-beat ska rhythms, melancholic piano, accordion, catchy female vocals, with a hint of electro” enquote. They further describe their influences as ranging all the way from Alice Cooper to Alter Bridge, from Diablo Swing Orchestra to Living Colour and even as far as Jason Becker to Lordi. Quite the range of sources to pull inspiration from and with this first full length release, they have it all and THEN SOME in the mix. Quite the build-up before I heard note one and as I was researching Ward XVI, I came across this descriptor of what I was just getting ready to devour. And it read…

The gates of Whittingham Asylum have been struck open and for the first time in history the high security Ward XVI invites members of the public to meet face to face with the UK’s most violent serial killers. The ward’s longest-standing resident Psychoberrie, listed as the UK’S most dangerous criminal, will give an insight into her life prior to her incarceration. With assistance from medical staff Lex Whittingham and Dr. Von Stottenstein and fellow inmates Min and Jake she will tell the story of the reckless life led by herself and former partner Beardy McStumble and the narcotic induced murders that took place prior to his own decapitation. This is a sordid tale of deceit and manipulation…”

Logo Image

Needless to say, I was intrigued beyond description by this point and I pushed play and cranked it up, ready for what the next 63 minutes held in store and 16 tracks later…

Complete with interludes interspersed between to give further info into the tales spun as Psychoberrie regales us with a clear carry that is her weapon of vocal delivery, each song is the chapter of another as we follow Psychoberry on her road of darkness, told as only she could tell it. Opening with the sound of an old cassette recorder loaded, tape rewound, and it starts with a discussion where in we find out she has been in ‘treatment’ for two years states clearly, she is not insane with a laugh and the story begins with a progression sounding dreamlike as she tells us to ‘take her hand’ as she reminds you that she is more than you can dream along this medium tempo walk and then exactly 1 minute 10 seconds in, pace doubles as the twin guitars punch in over a twisting bass line and key flow that melts perfectly into the hyper-speed drumline as Psychoberrie bids us ‘Welcome to the show!!’ As a fast fade leads right into an almost spacey sound with cymbal washes and that ever present bass rumble gives the body underneath as the keys come up during this build-up before the pick-slide brings in the might behind ‘The Art Of Manipulation” that is an even quicker tempo than the previous and gives the perfect example of what is to be expected from this gathering of six that has created something beyond merely ‘spectacular’ here. “The Flight” is a fast-track that took me immediately to Lords Of Acid with the key-line between verses and this is done in such a manner that Praga Khan himself would be smiling ear-to-ear as Psychoberrie describes being ‘So high, so high’.

“Crystal Ball” carries an almost circus feel with the accordion progression that flows in unity with the tale that seems to be a warning from a fortuneteller, letting us know of Psychoberrie’s tactics that will take you down if you don’t pay attention. Another hyper-speed time shift just past halfway and it is seamless in execution, where ‘Hold Me’ open with a melancholy straight piano jag that let’s the soaring guitar notes and cymbal taps draw you even deeper within to catch her every word as she will ‘suffocate your soul’ and asks to hold her, because she can’t hold herself and the last minute and a half is where the rest of the band get to shine bright with the complexity and intricate weaving in and out and back and forth of each solidifies the way they fit exactly together as a band, even as the song fades out. “Blackened Heart”, “Run For Your Lives” and “Adrenochromania” further showcase the virtuosity of each band member and utilize even further their penchant of mixing as many musical ingredients together to deliver the utmost with each track, and even ‘Inner Demon’ that starts off with sole bass notes quickly coalesces into another instant classic that can stand alone apart from the story of the album, much like each track can and DOES!!

WARD-XVI

Stand-out tracks for me from this opus would have to be “Toy Box” with the accordion intro and carnival-feel and when the bridge of the songs hits with keys, guitar and vocal harmonizing, it gave me chills of the best kind. “Cry Of The Siren” is another with a touch of electro that is thick and brutal in progressions and time shift and is easily the MOST intricate composition here. And then there is the final track, seemingly the descriptor of where the name of this powerhouse configuration of souls came from and is as haunting as anything I have heard and is the absolute book-end to wrap what is a prelude of what is yet to come. Remember, this is the tale that brought us to the point of ‘two years later when Psychoberry began this diatribe. Whittingham has corroded remember??

From the gauge of this record, there is nothing but amazing things ahead for WARD XVI and I demand you help get the word out, play it for ALL around you and support them if you are granted the chance to witness this live…. Another one of those rare moments when I get to use the ‘I-X’ scale and this is one that blows off the chart with a……what else, XVI!!

As always, keep it LOUD!!

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Concert Review – Sons of Apollo @ Music Factory, Battle Creek, Michigan + Videos + Pics…

Concert Review – Sons of Apollo

The Music Factory, Battle Creek, Michigan – February 17th, 2018

Review by Eric Layhe 

Photos by Eric Layhe & Terry “The Ancient One” Cuyler

 

Review:
Speaking as a fan of Progressive Metal, this show was basically a dream come true.

On a chilly February night in Battle Creek, Michigan, a seemingly endless crowd of people representing nearly every age demographic (albeit almost entirely male) crammed themselves into a fairly small music venue for the opportunity to see a group of veritable giants of the music industry play- but more on that later. The night consisted of three musical groups, each of a different distinct sort of progressive metal. As we entered the venue, the stage was packed with instruments, including two normal-sized drum sets and Mike Portnoy’s drum kit, which is so ridiculously large it should have its own zip code and no fewer than five keyboards including a full-sized Wurlitzer Organ.

This jam-packed stage presented something of a challenge for the first act, Dark Trilogy. Dark Trilogy are an instrumental, progressive metal band from South Bend, Indiana with (rather fittingly) three members. Nevertheless, they seemed a bit cramped on the already jam-packed stage setup. That said, I have to say that they made the most of it, delivering a short but well-crafted setlist consisting mostly of shredding prog that gave each member more than enough opportunity to showcase their considerable talents, the peak of which was an excellent drum solo featuring entertaining theatrics and an impressive display with LED drumsticks!!

After a relatively quick reprieve between bands and the removal of one drum set, second act Sifting took the stage. Sifting are a Progressive Metal band from Los Angeles, California. Sifting, the touring opener, has a very radio-friendly but still proggy sound, as if Avenged Sevenfold took some songwriting lessons from Claudio Sanchez of Coheed & Cambria. From the first note, it was immediately apparent why Sons of Apollo chose Sifting to tour with them; While they are indeed a young band, they have immense talent, expertly blending complex guitar work with classically-influenced songwriting and well-executed vocal harmonies.

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After the clearing of one more drum set, finally leaving enough room for a band to perform, Sons of Apollo took the stage, and they did not disappoint. For the uninitiated, Sons of Apollo is a Supergroup, comprising of former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy, former Dream Theater keyboardist Derek Sherinian, Mr. Big Bassist Billy Sheehan, Former Guns N’ Roses Guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra and former Journey vocalist Jeff Scott Soto. This virtuoso pedigree made itself apparent right out of the gates with their album’s opener, “God of the Sun.”  The band transformed and contorted with incredible aptitude to fit each and every song from their epic album “Psychotic Symphony”, including several covers (see below). In Sons of Apollo’s case, each member (debatably barring Portnoy) had an entire song peppered throughout the setlist to showcase their world-class talents.

Band Pic_Good

Keyboardist_Good

Sheehan and Sherinian each had an original (and possibly improvised) solo section for each of the two, while Thal had a beefed-up cover of Henry Mancini’s famous theme to “The Pink Panther” and Soto had given himself the previously-thought-to-be-impossible feat of covering Queen. He began by mimicking the now-famous call and response schtick popularized by Freddy Mercury and then transitioned into a downright exquisite cover of Queen’s deep track “Save Me”, tastefully backed by Thal on guitar.

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Re-sized Singer_Drummer

The aspect of the show that was most impressive was just how comfortable Sons of Apollo felt with each other on their very first tour. The entire group, even the famously stoic Derek Sherinian, were smiling like goofballs through the entire set, and were playfully joking with each other throughout the show, with special mention going to the mesmerizingly energetic Jeff Scott Soto. Most important, they were clearly having the times of their lives, and if you want to as well, do not miss Sons of Apollo on their continuing tour.

Re-Sized_Singer_Guitarist Singing

 

Sons of Apollo Set list:

  1. God of the Sun
  2. Signs of the Time
  3. Figaro’s Whore
  4. Divine Addiction
  5. Just Let Me Breathe (Dream Theater Cover)
  6. Labyrinth
  7. Bass Solo
  8. Lost in Oblivion
  9. Prophet’s Song (Queen Cover)
  10. Save Me (Queen Cover)
  11. Alive
  12. The Pink Panther Theme (Henry Mancini Cover)
  13. Opus Maximus
  14. Keyboard Solo
  15. Lines in the Sand (Dream Theater Cover)
  16. And the Cradle Will Rock… (Van Halen Cover)
  17. Coming Home

Dead Quiet “Grand Rites” Album Review + Stream…

Dead Quiet

Grand Rites – CD // DD // Vinyl

Artoffact Records – released November 3, 2017

Reviewed by Zachary “+Norway+” Turner

 

Lineup:
Aaron “Boon” Gustafson: Bass (Anciients, ex-3 Inches of Blood (live), ex-SprëadEagle)
Jason Dana: Drums (ex-Karen Foster, ex-SprëadEagle)
Brock MacInnes: Guitars (AnciientsTobeatic, ex-Venomous Tusk, Percheron, Rotting Hills, The Blood River Band, ex-Hammer of Hades)
Kevin Keegan: Guitars, Vocals (ex-Barn Burner, Klandestīn)
Justin Hagberg: Keyboards ( WorseBlack Wizard (live), Allfather, ex-3 Inches of Blood, Klandestīn, Ritual Dictates, ex-Roadrunner United, ex-The Villain Avian Symphony)

Previous Releases:
2014 – Demo
2015 – “Self Titled”

Tracklist:
Moon Curser 08:26
Blood Lovers 06:37
Corpse Revival 08:26
Disgraced 05:41
Fucking Oath 06:12
Dear Demon 08:10
Old Hopeless 06:37
Spiritual Abuse 05:02
Grand Rites 08:48

 

 

Review:

On bandcamp the band describe their sound as, “…influences ranging from doom metal to classic rock, Dead Quiet seeks to meld melody with catastrophe as they weave through a dissonant landscape of crushing metallic riffs and somber choral musings.” Dead Quiet masterfully delivers this is high fashion with “Grand Rites”.  If you recognize some of the members’ names above that is because Dead Quiet are the closest thing to a modern day “Supergroup”.

As a follow up to their first album it fits in well.  They have improved sonically and sound as if they are maximizing the talents of each member while making it a cohesive and flawlessly executed throughout the 64+ minutes and 9 tracks that comprises “Grand Rites”.  With their roster set, there truly isn’t a dud in this second album. Like I said before this album is an improvement over the first, they went from a good first album to a great second and sadly, more times than not, bands do the opposite due to a myriad of reasons; time constraints, label demands and just the overall pressure of the “Follow Up” from the “Big Debut”.

Keegan’s vocal delivery is certainly worth noting.  The songs are packed with acid laced lyrics ranging from Politics to Religion to The Thrill of the 1st kill in closer “Grand Rites” that name a few subject matters.   Keegan preaches to the listener; the concert goer. He draws the listener in to pay closer attention as it is impactful, powerful, meaningful, genuine and most important…..it fits perfectly with the band’s overall sound – a melting pot of Rock, Sludge and Metal.  We are only at the beginning of 2018 and we may already have a top 3 contender!!


Links:
https://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Dead_Quiet/3540399775

https://deadquiet.bandcamp.com/

https://deadquiet.bandcamp.com/album/grand-rites

 

Dead Quiet Live!! Photo cred to @holtproductions Live Band Pic


The Atomic Bitchwax “Force Field” Album Review + Stream…

THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX

Force Field – Vinyl // CD // DD // Merch

TeePee Records: released December 7, 2017

Reviewed by Ric “Suisyko” Dorr

Formed:  1993

Current Members:
Chris Kosnik bass, vocals (currently of Monster Magnet, formerly of Godspeed and Black NASA)
Bob Pantella drums, percussion (formerly of Raging Slab, currently of Monster Magnet, Riotgod, Cycle of Pain)
Finn Ryan guitar, vocals (formerly of Core)

Previous Releases:
The Atomic Bitchwax (1999)
TAB-2 (2000)
Spit Blood EP (2002)
TAB-3 (2005)
Boxriff EP (2006)
TAB-4 (2007)
The Local Fuzz ‘single’ (2011)
Gravitron (2015)

 

 

Review:
Veterans all, referring to the members of this long-running unit, that all started as a side-project in the summer of 1999 and has since evolved into this raging storm comprised of three forces that meld seamlessly into the animal that stands before us, represented by the band’s seventh offering, “Force Field”.

Twelve songs and thirty-four minutes make up this release and is by far the strongest release yet from The Atomic Bitchwax aka TAB, bringing all of the honing, sharpening and precision born of endless touring here in the States and internationally over the last 18 years together to blast you out of your seat as never before. Having been previously described as a band that ‘specializes in high-octane, 70’s based hard rock, space rock and psychedelia’, TAB has taken that base formula from the edge of the century and brought it to the front in ALL of it’s sonic glory.

From the drum intro of “Hippie Speedball” through the histrionics of “Humble Brag“, there is no lack of bravado tinged with sheer brilliance of power chords, psycho-quick time shifts, hyper-rumbling bass lines and all of the lyrical twists and turns we have come to love and expect from TAB and tracks such as “Tits And Bones” fill that order with ease. Closer “Liv A Little” let’s those 70’s root fly high with the keyboard fills and an over-modulated vocal line that brings you to the sound and feel of what is must have been like at a T-Rex crowd with the energy that is necessary for the listeners of this century.

Band Pic

 

Two stand outs to me from this instant classic and MUST-HAVE for the long-time fans and the ones just discovering this trio are “Super Highway” with it’s phase-shifted drum intro into a high-speed jaunt with lyrics to match is one of those songs that begs to be played at full-volume and gets your heart racing alongside, trying to keep pace and would be a great track to feature as the lead off, in MY opinion.  The second is “Fried, Dyed and Laying To The Side“, an instrumental romp that allows each guy to shine in their own mastery of their individual ‘weapon’ which only brightens the genius of this release.

If you were expecting something closer to a Monster Magnet record, hope you weren’t too disappointed. While the interweaving and endless touring with each band has not stopped and will more than likely not change anytime soon, The Atomic Bitchwax have proven time and again that they are their OWN entity and their finest-hour to date is upon them with “Force Field”. See ’em if they come anywhere close and convert the ‘unknowing’ in your circle.

Let it roll endlessly and keep it LOUD!!


Music From The Labyrinth: Part One – Minotauro Records…

Music From The Labyrinth: Part One

By Andy “Dinger” Beresky

 

 So….I was record shopping in lovely downtown Northampton one fateful afternoon, and ran into this dude Glenn, who works for the Italian label Minotauro Records.  I’m not sure exactly how his collaboration with the label came to pass, though we got to talking music: cool bands from New England we’d both been big on, such as Ogre, whose back catalog was re-released by Minotauro Records, incidentally.  At any rate, all good things come to an end, and when Glenn and I parted ways, we planned on staying in touch, and he said he’d send me some stuff to review over at Taste Nation LLC.  Well, as it turned out, he sent me quite a bit of material to review!!  I was thinking of different ways to approach this, maybe figure out what the priorities are, see if any of the writers wanted to take on some of the work.  It seems that everyone else here at Taste Nation always has a ton on their plate, and this was kind of my pet project, so I decided that I’d just forge ahead and do a feature on Minotauro, and basically write mini-reviews of each of the albums that Glenn sent me.

Now, that’s STILL a lot for me to take in and process, and like a lot of my creative endeavors, it really took on a life of its own.  With that being said, I’ve decided that I’m going to break down the feature into two parts, with a longer biographical element on Minotauro in the second part of the feature.

Without further adieu, strap on your shields folks, as we take a trip into the labyrinth, the lair of the Minotaur, in search of our proverbial Daedalus within the dark depths of Italian underground doom and metal….

Where the Sun Comes Down_Album Cover

 

Where The Sun Comes Down – Welcome

Minotauro  – 2017

This collaboration between Death SS founding member Thomas Hand Chaste and Alex Scardavian, who played with Paul Chain, has some of the more interesting cover art I’ve seen of late.  It looks like a child’s drawing done with magic markers, though it’s none-the-less intriguing, especially given the reputation of the folks involved.  This led me to reach for this album first and foremost.  What I really liked about it was that it bucked all cliches of metal and doom in general, and I had no idea what to expect when I pressed play on the album.  Would it be similar to Paul Chain’s material post Death SS?  Even then, Chain’s projects and various solo albums haven’t all sounded the same, and have explored various styles and aspects of his personality.   Would Where The Sun Comes Down opt for a more psychedelic or space rock sound?

It’s actually pretty close to what I’d initially expected: ultra raw cult doom with dramatic, emotional, over-the-top vocals, noisy, blown out Sabbathian riffing, off the cuff guitar and saxophone solos, a sparse yet powerful rhythm section, and haunting keyboards, all delivered with a heavy emphasis on atmosphere, theatrics and the bizarre.  I don’t pull any punches and I’m not going to do so here either: it’s called “cult doom” for a reason.  It’s not going to appeal to everyone, and it’s not meant to.  The vocals alone are a hard sell, as they’re all over the place and quite frequently strained and/or out of tune.  That’s not a deal breaker for me personally, as they have moments when they really shine, and they’re a vital part of the whole experience.  They add a flair for the avante garde, and they make me feel like I’m living in a horror movie for the duration of the album.  This is the perfect soundtrack for October….

Grand Delusion_Supreme Machine

Grand Delusion – Supreme Machine

Minotauro – 2017

Sweden’s The Grand Delusion play pretty traditional doom metal with a focus on the metal.  Blending Black Sabbath, NWOBHM and 80’s metal influences with Wino inspired biker blues licks, big stoner tones,  and just enough experimentation with psychedelic sections and additional instrumentation to keep things interesting.  The vocals also offer up a nice cross-section of influence and variety, from the full throated bellows of the first two tracks, to the Iron Maiden-esque epicness of the two-part “Trail Of The Seven Scorpions” and the operatic choir chants of “Imperator.”

This is a really solid release.  I like the production a lot – it’s fairly clean and polished, and the sheer variety of cool guitar tones and well written compositions benefit from this approach.  There’s a lot of more mid to uptempo sections, which keeps it from feeling like a slog.  They’re not reinventing the wheel by any means, as that’s a tough feet with doom.  However, if you’re bored of the same monotonous stoner doom fare, this is both a bit more nuanced and upbeat.  It wears its influences well, giving them all a chance to shine and never sounding merely derivative.

Kroh_Altars

Kroh – Altars

Minotauro – 2017

 

Birmingham UK occult doom crew Kroh also bring a refreshing take to the table with their second album.  With a new lineup and new vocalist, Polish born Oliwia Sobieszek, they craft a captivating, dark and mesmerizing take on traditional doom metal.  This sound revolves heavily around the powerful and ever prominent vocals and slim song arrangements.  None of the tunes overstay their welcome, all clocking in at under the five minute mark or so, which is a mixed blessing.  In one sense, it makes the album stand out, a concise statement trimmed of all excess.  On the other hand, sometimes the lack of expansive parts makes the songs feel stifled and abrupt.  There’s also the impending sense of predictability when all the songs follow a similar format.  I personally like a bit of decadence here and there, and I certainly like variety.  It’s the spice of life, as a wise woman once sagely stated.  With all that being said, this is a great record, and makes ample space for improvement on future albums.

It’s worth noting that the guitar sound on this album is one of the meanest and most distinctive I’ve heard in recent years.  It’s got that massively distorted, “swarm of bees” hyper-fuzz going on, and it  also retains much of the notes clarity rather than just becoming a blur of notes.  This alone makes this one worth a listen,  just hearing those righteous, crushingly oppressive guitar riffs coupled with the haunting vocals.

Ufosonic Generator_The Evil Smoke Possession

Ufosonic Generator – The Evil Smoke Possession

 Well, once again, this is totally not what I was expecting based on the name, illustrating the old adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover.  I was expecting something a little more space-y, of the more cosmic doom variety, and that’s simply not the case. Ufosonic Generator play pretty straightforward stoner metal, complete with Garcia inspired vocals, uptempo songs with righteous boogie breakdowns, a rock solid rhythm section, and scorching guitar solos.  The songs are a bit paint by numbers – you’re not going to get many surprises, and the influences are the usual suspects: Black Sabbath, Kyuss, Dozer.  You get the idea; it’s a tried and true one.

I dig what Ufosonic Generator are doing on this album.  Its approach is both charming and disarming, just four peeps really going for that proverbial “it”, with songs served meat and potatoes style, lean and mean.  There’s certainly some standout tracks with killer riffs going on throughout.  I’m not going to spoil the magic by giving you the play-by-play, song-by-song analysis.  You’re going to have to do the heavy lifting and figure out for yourself which songs make your mind soar and your booty shake.

Funeral Marmoori_The Deer Woman

Funeral Marmoori – The Deer Woman

Italy’s Funeral Marmoori have a classic doom sound with a 70’s horror tinged vibe, thanks largely to the excellent usage of Farfisa organs, which make them sound like a more evil version of Deep Purple or Uriah Heep at times.  It’s cool to hear a band that has such an intense interplay between the guitars and keyboards, just like the days of old.  They wear some of their other influences on their sleeves, a bit of Saint Vitus styled gonzo guitar solos, some vocal mannerisms reminiscent of Lee Dorrian’s work in Cathedral, and of course a heavy debt to all things Paul Chain.  Hell, they even cover a Death SS song, “Profanation.”

One of the things I really like about this album is the way that the vocals alternate between sounding more theatrical and more psychedelic.  Similarly, there’s excellent variation in the guitar parts: sometimes we’re treated to righteous Sabbath-inspired riffs, other times more otherworldly explorations and introspective moments.  The thing that really makes this one work for me is the rhythm section – the busy bass and drum work keep things moving forward.  The Deer Woman never gets dragged down into the gloomy realms of excessively downtempo dirges, while the music always retains its evil edge.  Highly recommended for fans of cult and traditional doom metal.

Ancient Spell_Forever in Hell

Ancient Spell – Forever In Hell

Los Angeles’ Ancient Spell bring something much different to the table, with a decidedly more modern take on doom metal.  It’s really telling that they list Death, Slayer and Lamb Of God as influences, because they bear more resemblance to these bands than Black Sabbath or Saint Vitus.  The vocals in particular are more on the death metal end of the spectrum, harsh growls and drastic screams with dark and misanthropic themes.  The guitars definitely utilize those chromatic style intervals that Slayer famously made into their trademark, and alternate between a thrash chug and a doom groove.  Though the tempos can get pretty quick for a more doom influenced band, they never approach anything near the breakneck tempos associated with either thrash or death metal.

in keeping with the thrash tradition, this is a pretty short and sweet album, clocking in at under 40 minutes.  That’s a good thing, as there’s not a ton of variety.  It’s interesting to see a band bring together such diverse influences, and this feels like an album where they’re trying to figure out how to make all of those influences come together into something coherent.  While it certainly never lacks in that department (their sound is fluid and polished, and never sounds forced), I think they have a lot of room to grow and try other things.  I’d love to see them incorporate some of the aforementioned faster parts, some death or black metal styled tremolo picking, some super slow doom bridges and breakdowns.  Forever In Hell seems like a great jumping off point for a band that has lots of room to grow and develop.

 

Tony-Tears-Follow-the-signs

Tony Tears – Follow The Signs of The Times

Wow, what an opening to an album!!  This one starts off with a brief intro that could straight up be a Goblin track that’s part of a D’Argento soundtrack.  It nails that sound with a combination of synth washes, blurps and appergiated chords, overlaid with creepy, demonic voices.  From there, we’re treated to more cult, esoteric doom in the traditional Italian style – darkly dramatic vocals reminiscent of King Diamond, 70’s metal riffs, ever present keyboards and a battering ram rhythm section of bass and drums.  True to form, they even cover a Paul Chain song.

I really dig on the production job here.  For me personally, cult doom has to have just the right production: grimy and cavernous, yet with enough clarity to let each individual instrument shine.  Follow The Signs of The times showcases exactly how this is pulled off.  I also really enjoyed the three shorter tracks (intro, an interlude, and an outro) that pull off that Italian horror soundtrack vibe so convincingly.  It’s always great to hear a band so refined in their craft!  Apparently Tony Tears started off as a solo outlet for Antonio Polidori, though he has since added a full band of backing and touring musicians, and I must say that I’m impressed with the results.

My Silent Wake_Damnatio Memoriae

My Silent Wake – Damnatio Memoriae

 Hailing from England, My Silent Wake are another band in the world of doom with decidedly modern influences, most noticeably of the death metal/goth metal variety.  However, that ain’t the end of the story.  There’s also a modern progressive slant to the songwriting and arrangements that keeps things fresh and dare I say, lively?  Take the intro to the song “Highwire” for example, with its bouncing bassline and bursts of jazzy, dissonant chords.  The album is loaded with tons of tempting little musical moments like this, and it makes for a rather refreshing listen.

Basically, if you’re into The Peaceville Three….you’re going to like this.  I’m generally not into the more goth doom bands like Paradise Lost, Anathema, and My Dying Bride.  I do like this album by My Silent Wake, as it’s got a lot of variation, tons of twists and turns.  The keyboards add a nice texture, it ‘s got a clear production, some strategic usage of guest musicians, and they’ve clearly got the chops.  Fans of the bands I’ve mentioned should give this a swing, it’s rather righteous in its ambition and scope of vision.

Misantropus_The Gnomes

Misantropus – The Gnomes

 Oh cool, another album with some truly bizarre and iconoclastic cover art, this one a simple cartoon looking drawing of what I’d assume to be a trio of green gnomes.   I’ve talked earlier about the lack of longer numbers in discussing the other albums, and although this Misantropus album is rather short on the whole, tracking in at just above 35 minutes, it’s only four songs.  So….we’re treated to a 9 and a half minute opening track and closer pushing the 13 minute mark.

http://www.minotaurorecords.com/shop/cd/misantropus-the-gnomes-copy/

These guys are obviously into the occult, as the song titles indicate. “The Gnomes (Ariel)”, “The Salamander (Mikhael)”, “Undines (Gabriel)” and “Elis (Raphael)” all connect an  elemental spirit to the corresponding archangel for each of the Greek elements: earth, fire, water, and air.  It’s obviously some kind of concept album, or ritual invocation – only the creators, an Italian duo, would know for certain.  It definitely creates an air of mystery and intrigue.  Musically, it’s an equally odd piece, consisting mainly of a variations on one stripped down guitar and bass riff with a trance-like drum beat.  There’s a guest guitar solo on the second track, and some cool ambient synth passages that bookmark the beginning and end of the album, and zero vocals.  Their stripped down instrumental approach levies them in my eyes as the Karma To Burn of Italian cult doom.

Once again, this is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.  It’s extremely monotonous, with very few changes, even from song to song.  And while this may sound boring to some, and honestly left me pretty non-plussed initially, I found myself out humming those riffs in my head as I went out and ran my errands today.  There’s something rather captivating and enchanting about them.  If this sounds like your kind of jams, hey….I’d encourage you to give it a listen.

Additional Links to Minotauro Records:
http://www.minotaurorecords.com/https://
www.facebook.com/minotaurorecords/
https://minotaurorecords.bandcamp.com/

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Traffic Death “Dead End” Album Review + Stream…

TRAFFIC DEATH

Dead End – Vinyl // Digital Download

Sump Pump Records – Released – Dec 10, 2017

Reviewed by Mike Hackenschmidt

Line Up:
Nate “Fetus” Phillips – Vocals
Andrew Smeltzer – Bass
Brian Greenfield – Drums
Garan Drozd – Guitars

Review:
Traffic Death is certainly an interesting band name. I figured I’d dig into this bad boy while I was stuck in the passenger seat of a large suburban-type vehicle on a long road trip as I tilted my seat back for a nap. Don’t let my nap fool you, this album is heavy as fuck – I just happen to sleep incredibly well with loud abrasive music in my ears. What I can’t sleep through is shit music. It wasn’t long before I nodded off and found myself in a very non-vanilla sex dream about Miley Cyrus that unfortunately ended too soon. Whether Traffic Death’s lullabies inspired my sweet images of leather and chains and Miley, I can’t say.

So now that I’m fully awake I’m giving Dead End a more serious listen. Traffic Death describe themselves as a “high speed, violent crossover 4 piece”. I see no reason to re-invent the wheel here as they’ve nailed their sound in six words though I will elaborate later. Near as I can tell, Dead End is their 3rd exclusive release but they also have a split release with The Lurking Corpses… whoever they are (I’m going to check them out for sure).

Dead End starts out with “Spontaneous Decomposition/Nothing to See Here” which reminds me a lot of M.O.D. and Billy Milano. I hear aggressive, thrashy, unapologetic hardcore with a touch of dark humor. However, it’s not long into this ingeniously titled tune before it steps up a notch, both musically and with the vocals leaving my comparison behind moving to a more Converge-cult sound.

Promo Shot

“Mandatory Sentence” opens with some seriously fun speed metal guitar work from Garan Drozd that I just was not expecting after hearing its predecessor. What comes next, though, caught me completely off guard. Nate Phillips rips a speed metal scream reminiscent of early Tom Araya. The rest of the track goes somewhere else but the change in direction is completely fluid.

I’m not going to track-by-track this album because the rest of it is more of the same. Clever and darkly comedic song titles perhaps over-use the “/” to translate multiple concepts. There’s a merge of, or shift into and out of, several styles. It seems to be random but if you go onto the band’s (hyperlinked) Facebook about page and read their influences and you know even half the bands, it all makes perfect sense.

My biggest complaint about Dead End is the fact that it’s only 24 minutes long. So even in waking, Dead End is a would-be wet dream cut entirely too short.

Additional Links:
https://sumppumprecords.bandcamp.com/album/dead-end

https://www.facebook.com/TrafficDeath/

Trafficdeath.bandcamp.com

 

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Sons of Apollo “Psychotic Symphony” Album Review + Music Videos

Sons of Apollo

Psychotic Symphony – Vinyl // CD // DD

Inside Out Music – Released: October 20, 2017

Reviewed by Eric Layhe

 

Tracklist:
God of the Sun (11:12)
Coming Home (4:23)
Signs of the Time (6:43)
Labyrinth (9:23)
Alive (5:06)
Lost in Oblivion (4:28)
Figaro’s Whore (1:04)
Divine Addiction (4:42)
Opus Maximus (10:39)

American Rock Supergroup featuring:
Mike Portnoy – Drums
Derek Sherinian – Keyboards
Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal – Guitar
Billy Sheehan – Bass
Jeff Scott Soto – Vocal

 

Pro Band Pic

 

Former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy is a man with many hats. Granted, most of those hats are as a drummer, he has many hats nonetheless. His latest project, yet another Progressive Metal Supergroup called the Sons of Apollo, may actually be his strongest. Sons of Apollo, comprised of Portnoy, fellow Ex-Dream Theater bandmate Derek Sherinian on Keyboards, former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, Mr. Big Bassist Billy Sheehan, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra vocalist Jeff Scott Soto.

Psychotic Symphony is essentially exactly what you would expect from a Portnoy excursion – it’s essentially a Dream Theater album with a harder edge. That’s not a bad thing, however. As long as you like this very distinct and often-imitated sound, you will be very pleased with this album. Solos galore, plenty of irregular time signatures, and top-notch musicianship abound.

As a slightly lesser-known name in the music business, one would expect Jeff Scott Soto to be something of a weak link in the band, but that is simply not true. Soto has a very muscular baritone that does the music plenty of justice and he is a welcome addition to the band. During the Sons of Apollo’s formative year, they sampled quite a few vocalists, such as Strapping Young Lad Virtuoso Devin Townsend and King’s X wailer Doug Pinnick, and Soto just happened to be the one to stick around.

The Production on this album is notable, being performed by band members Portnoy and Sherinian. The mix is very, very bassy, with a lot of priority being given to lower tones over higher ones. The bass is very audible and few keyboard lines go to very high pitches. Even the guitar is tuned as a baritone guitar, all the way down to B Standard tuning for any guitar players reading this. This grants the entire album significant edge and weight, allowing for a heavy groove in nearly every song. However, such a priority on lower sounds can occasionally result in the songs sounding muddled, especially in faster songs like the blistering “Lost in Oblivion”.

As usual with Progressive Metal, the longer tracks are easily the highlight — in this case, “God of the Sun” and the Instrumental “Opus Maximus”, but this whole album is a recommended listen for any and all fans of Progressive Metal. If musical self-indulgence and sheer showcases of talent is a turnoff for you, then this probably earns a skip, but if those things instead pique your interest, then you’ve probably already bought this album. Otherwise, go pick up Sons of Apollo’s “Psychotic Symphony”.