Wednesday, 28 October 2015

OZONE MAMA ~ SONIC GLORY..........review

One of the few pluses of being born in the late 50's is that my musical awakening came to fruition in the era of long hair, bad fashion and red hot rock music.....the late 60's and early 70's. Much of my teenage years was spent, along with other more carnal interests, listening to music and going to gigs in and around London. Venues like the famous London Marquee and the Dagenham Roundhouse were two of my regular haunts where I got to see so many of the bands that we now call legends strutting their stuff at the start of their careers. You might be wondering where i'm going with this..well when I spun the new album, "Sonic Glory", by Hungary's Ozone Mama today all those memories came flooding back

"Sonic Glory" captures a time when rock music ruled the world and does it with an authenticity of sound that could easily fool the casual listener into believing that this was an overlooked gem from 1973 or thereabouts.
The band's line up of Márton Székely: vocals, András Gabor:guitars, combo organ, background vocals, Gergely Dobos:bass, and Máté Gulyás: drums employ, with the help of a few friends, all the usual clichés that you would expect to find on a "classic rock" album but celebrate those said clichés with an enthusiasm and a joy de vive that is refreshing, familiar and comforting. From the Mountain-esque blues rock groove of "Good Times Roll" to the Bad Company-ish swagger of "'Aint No Place Of Mine" Ozone Mama cover all  bases on "Sonic Glory". Out and out rockers " Backdoor Man" and "Hard Times" recall the hard blues rock grooves  of Cream and Mountain while "Man On The Run" does a very good early Doobie Brothers impersonation by adding a little bluesy funk to the mix. If you want a little Uriah Heep storytelling then "Siren's Call"  fits the bill perfectly with its tale of myth and magic. Ballads, always the staple of any classic rock album, are also represented here by "Lovelight"  a soulful power ballad and "Hope" a gentle semi- acoustic number. In fact every aspect and sound of 1970's classic rock is explored on "Sonic Glory" and are executed by a band who have a real understanding of what makes classic rock "classic!"
If you have a hankering for the days of yesteryear, when down tuning was the territory of only the most adventurous folk musicians and doom was a word not a genre, then you cannot go wrong by giving Ozone Mama's " Sonic Glory" a spin. it's all your favourite 70's bands and albums in one place!

Thursday, 22 October 2015

KAYLETH ~ SPACE MUFFIN.......review

One thing I never expected when starting this blog was the huge amount of music that was suddenly going to be heading my way! What with recommendations from readers, requests from bands to review their latest output and my own finds etc. plus the fact I have a family and a day job to maintain it is not surprising that every now and then something gets missed or put on the backburner for another time. In the case of Kayleth's latest release "Space Muffin" (which was released in Febuary 2015) it was a mixture of all of the above, but as the saying goes "better late than never".

For those of you not in "the know" Kayleth hail from Italy and are made up of Massimo Dalla Valle (guitar), Alessandro Zanetti (bass), Daniele Pedrollo (drums), Enrico Gastaldo (vocals) and Michele Montanari (synth). The band have released three previous albums In The Womb Of Time (2008), Rusty Gold (2010) and The Survivor (2012) and deal in a heady mix of stoner grooves laced with heavy doses of space and psych.

"Space Muffin" continues Kayleth's story with a collection of eight songs of absolute essential stoner/hard rock beamed down from the outer edges of the cosmos.
"Mountains" kicks things off nicely, no fancy intro's here just a few seconds of swooshing synth and BANG straight into the main riff. The song  rides along on an infectious stoner groove driven by a glorious Dalla Valle riff and pushed by the exemplary rhythm section of  Zanetti and Pedrollo. Over this whirlwind of rhythm'n'riffs Gastaldo adds his vocal, coming across like a cross between Sasquatch's Keith Gibbs and Monster Magnet's Dave Wyndorf, his rasp adding a real air of stoner authenticity to the bands sound. At around the three minute mark the song takes on a whole different vibe, the initial riff dropping down in to a dark doomy groove that then allows synthmeister Montanari  to take centre stage, twisting knobs, flicking switches and pushing keys he evokes a myriad of electronic effects that swoop, swirl and soar over and around a deliciously dark Dalla Valle solo. The doom takes things to a close with Gastaldo adding a a slightly echoed and distant vocal amidst a wall of synthetic noise and doomy rhythms.
The rest of the album follows very much in the same vein with songs like "Secret Place", Bare Knuckle" and "Try To Save The Appearances"  seeing the band riffing on desert/stoner grooves coloured by elements of space and psych from Montanari's synth, coming across like, the aforementioned, Sasquatch jamming with Hawkwind. It's a sound that's infectious, fun and rocks like tree in a hurricane, and if that was all this album was about I would still give it five stars but the band manage to find yet another gear on what for me are the albums two standout tracks,. "Spacewalk" and "NGC 2244", the former a mini rock opera that combines heavy riffs with narrated sound bytes and spacey effects that tells the story of an astronaut lost in the cosmos and trying to survive and the latter an instrumental journey that sees Montanari's synth and Dalla Valle's  guitar going toe to toe against a lo-fi rhythmic backdrop, dreamy and beautiful.
There are those that are gonna say Kayleth are just another stoner/hard rock band and the only thing setting them apart from the hoi-polloi is that they have a synth player within their ranks. In some respects this is true, but if you take the time to listen a little harder you will hear a band with a wealth of ideas and talent who write tight concise songs full of melodies and hooks and who are unafraid to add a little experimentation into an already tried and tested formulae.
I highly recommend you give this a listen.....

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

STARLIGHT RITUAL.... album review

Remember those early days of doom, when bands like CandlemassSolitude Aeturnus and Solstice took a little NWOBHM slowed it down, added some atmosphere  and created something a little sinister and creepy, a time before vocalists were possessed by demons and singers could SING!
Well if you do, then when you drop the needle, push the play button or click the mouse on this little beauty from Canada's Starlight Ritual, it will feel like you have just stepped back in time.

This music is often called "Epic" and this album fits that description perfectly.. From the deep fluid bass line, supplied by Le Forge, that opens the albums opening number "The Triangle" to the operatic vocal note that brings "Seal The Light" to its conclusion not a note or a drum fill is wasted, the songs shifting from one dynamic to another with effortless ease. Guitarists J-F Bertrand and Dan Toupin when not laying down a unison wall of fuzz and distorted riffage swap lead and rhythm duties, their solos swooping and swirling over and around the tight solid rhythms of Le Forge and drummer Lou Weed (these can't be real names). Vocalists who can sing with the clean tones and power needed to compete in this genre of metal are getting a little thin on the ground of late but Starlight Ritual have found a gem in, the aptly named, Damien Ritual. Possessing the "air raid siren" power of Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson combined with the epic tones of Ronnie James DioRitual's voice dominates the albums four tracks whether he's smashing wine glasses with his impossibly high notes or getting a little down and dirty at the lower end of his range. This guy has a real talent.

It could be said that the epic doom genre has maybe seen its best days pass it by, what with the emergence and popularity of the more extreme doom sub-genres, but with bands out there like Starlight Ritual still flying the banner and producing albums of this depth and quality maybe we could see a resurgence. Now where did i put those Count Raven albums?

Saturday, 17 October 2015

WHERE THE PAVEMENT ENDS ~ S/T EP........review

I have not covered an EP on here before that just consists of two songs, no reason, it just has not happened before, well that all changes today with  France's Where The Pavement Ends new self titled EP.
The first thing that strikes you about this extraordinary EP is the artwork, a scene depicting crows flocking around a derelict car in a field of golden grass with dark clouds looming overhead. Painted by Guillaume Menuel (gmgallery.blogspot.ca) it draws the viewer in, feeding the imagination, Foreboding and mysterious it is a good indicator for the music you are about to hear.

"Circle Of Life" opens the EP with guitar pickups being tapped and strings being raked before a doomy bass line enters, sinister and darkly menacing it is accompanied by gentle effect drenched guitar licks and arpeggios then explodes into a Sabbath-esque riff before collapsing down again for the vocals to enter.  Clean. strong, partly sang, partly spoken they convey a dark apocalyptic atmosphere that is further enhanced by the lyrical content and the truly wonderful use of  musical dynamics throughout the songs nine minutes. WTPE perfectly understand how to use shades of differing colours and tones to create and build atmosphere and intensity and in "Circle Of Life" they have not only achieved this goal they have surpassed it.

"Lucid Dream" begins with an almost hard rock stoner groove, a stop/start unaccompanied guitar riff filling the void before the rest of the band come in on a groove of doomy distorted guitars and bass bolstered by thunderous rhythmic drumming. The vocals here are in the upper register of the singers range and are sung with a little more gusto and power than the previous number especially when it comes to the songs gloriously catchy chorus. At just after three minutes the song drops into a passage of psychedelic ambience the guitars dropping into gently plucked arpeggios over a backdrop of fluid bass and lightly brushed drums, then just when your getting chilled and relaxed they explode back into a thick syrupy doomy riff with swirling guitar solos screeching and soaring over a SLEEP -like groove that takes it to its conclusion. It is 9:18 of some of the best stoner doom you'll hear this year!
The EP is available over at Bandcamp and you can get it for free if you so wish but i would urge you to throw a few coins the bands way as music this good deserves to be paid for!

Friday, 16 October 2015

BLACK VULPINE ~ HIDDEN PLACES........review

Black Vulpine hail from Dortmund, Germany and the quartet of Sarah (guitar/vocals), Daria (guitar,vocals), Rüdiger (drums) and Stefan (bass) started life in 2004 as Newphoria and shared stages with Kylesa and Vintage Caravan before discovering their own sound and changing their name.

Influenced by the stoner/desert grooves of Kyuss, QOTSA and Red Fang the band also started,whether consciously or sub-consciously, to absorb the relatively new sounds of the occult/doom scene that was sweeping across Europe at the time. These influences culminated in the band, now called Black Vulpine,  releasing a stunning demo simply titled "Demo EP 2013" The demo contained three tracks of fuzzy stoner rock with a dark occult undercurrent and fronted by delicious female vocals.
Two years later and under the umbrella of Moment of Collapse records Black Vulpine recently released their debut album "Hidden Places".

"Hidden Places" shows a band who over the space of ten years have not only managed to stay together but have evolved as a band, a band who understand each other and who also understand how to write a good tune.
"Twisted Knife" kicks things off, it's QOTSA-like riff complimented by Sarah's smooth vocal delivery. Around the 2:40 mark the song takes a dark turn with the bass laying down a thick distorted doomy drone-like riff over which the guitars slur and slide taking the songs initial  groove from sandy desert dunes to the gates of hell. It's a trick that's repeated throughout the albums eleven tracks.
Songs like "White Witch", "Demon Of Future" and " Avra Kadavra" are embellished with catchy hooks and melodies yet contain a dark underbelly that is both seductive and sinister.
This darkness is ramped up a notch or two on, what for me, are the albums three standout tracks "Devil's Blanket", "Mother of Pearl" and "Dark Glow", on these three songs the band shift away from those QOTSA comparisons and instead fully embrace the darker side of their sound. The guitars move away from the desert fuzz of previous numbers and take on a thicker deeper tone reminiscent of Seattle's Alice In Chains more darker moments.
Things come to a finale with "The Forest" its infectious riffs and sweet smooth vocals incorporating all the elements of the previous ten tracks and ending in a glorious howl of feedback.
"Hidden Places" is a monster album that mixes desert grooves with occult/doom vibes and themes, its just a shame its took ten years for us to hear it!


Wednesday, 14 October 2015

SPELLJAMMER ~ ANCIENT OF DAYS........ Review

I was going to leave this little beauty alone as this album has been covered by all the main bloggers and in the case of one blog twice! I tried to resist, I really did but after giving it a spin today I thought what the hell this deserves all the plaudits it can get. Anyway this is MY review....

It seems like an eternity since Spelljammer released Vol. II way back in 2012 and although rumours persisted that the band were working on something new nothing materialised until this year (2015). "Ancient Of Days" arrived with very little fanfare just seeming to appear from nowhere, one day nothing the next appearing on my Bandcamp feed like an early Christmas present.

The albums first track "Meadow" opens with distorted guitar and bass droning noisily with moments of shrill feedback and white noise underpinned with the occasional drum beat and shimmering cymbal. The track continues to build slowly until eventually settling into a bass heavy groove with Robert Sörling's guitar laying low in the mix yet adding just the right amount of colour and added texture to the songs sonic cannon. Niklas Olsson's vocal roar adds yet another dimension to the songs dynamic sound, as well as supplying his exemplary bass skills he also supplies a vocal that sits somewhere between a sludge-like bellow and a clean monotone mantra. At the mid-way mark the song breaks down into an ambient space rock episode before exploding once again ,this time harder, louder with new boy Jonatan Rimsbo underpinning the mayhem with his slow deliberate but immensely effective drumming. The relentlessness continues until Sörling takes things to the fade with some scorching lead work. As an opener for a new album this is a monster!
Second track "Laelia" is a short acoustic affair and reminds me of the sort of thing Tony Iommi would throw in on those early Sabbath albums. It's pretty but only really works as a moment of respite before its business as usual with next track "From Slumber"
"From Slumber" enters stage right with an ambient space-like intro, Sörling's  guitar sitting higher in the mix, soaked in effect  laying down echo drenched licks with an almost Gilmour-esque beauty. Olsson then enters with more mantra like phrasing before all hell breaks loose after the first verse,  Rimsbo tearing into his kit like Keith Moon on steroids, Sörling wailing like a banshee on his six strings and Olsson using every inch of his fretboard to create fluid bass lines and fills. Olsson's voice steps up a level to match the cacophony all around it by going full sludge bellow, roaring his lyrics like a demented Furher at a night rally. Things settle down again for the songs last quarter, the vocal dropping back to a croon against a backdrop of spacey ambience that takes it to the close.
"Pathfinder" finds the band exploring their classic/hard rock side, albeit with a thick slow doomy distorted edge, grooving on a riff with Sörling adding solo's Page and Iommi would be proud of. Olsson and Rimsbo lock in tight creating a wall of noise that will not only shred your speakers but also melt them
"Borlung" closes the album with just over eleven minutes of pure Spelljammer magic, incorporating everything from droning distortion, shifting time signatures, scorching solos, passages of funereal doom and powerful vocal tones. In fact everything you want from a Spelljammer track
I was a little apprehensive when approaching this album, it had been a while since Vol. II and with  line up changes bands can often shoot off on a tangent heading into different directions of sound but I need not have worried, although Spelljammer have explored other areas with "Ancient of Days" they have still managed to maintain that core of sound that make them such an exciting band to listen to and enjoy.

Monday, 12 October 2015

HUMULUS ~ ELECTRIC WALRUS.....EP

Judging by their photos Humulus look like the type of guys you'd expect to see wading ashore from a Viking warcraft ,axes at the ready and bloodlust in their eyes. The fact that these guys come from Italy and not Scandanavia is irrelevant... these guys look mean!

Those of you who wrapped your ears around the bands 2012 self titled album with its chainsaw riffage, throaty sludge vocals and stoner rock rhythms may be in for a bit of a shock when confronted by the bands latest  three track EP "Electric Walrus"

First shock comes when you discover that opening track "Red Star, Winter Orbit" has about as much to do with heavy sludge as Lemmy has to do with sobriety. Instrumental, atmospheric and quite beautiful the song shifts its dynamics between passages of Colour Haze type experimental psych and traditional 80's stoner fuzz with the emphasis heavily on the psych. The fuzz does feature fleetingly but only as a tool to lead you into the next passage of textured ambient psychedelic beauty. Mesmerising and addictive it's a sonic journey that'll have you reaching for the repeat button again and again.
Next track "Maud and the The Black Moon" sees the band move into grunge/alt territory with vocalist and guitarist Andrea Van Cleef  crooning Mark Lanagen -like over a laid back Americana groove. his voice smokey and weary adding a gritty gravitas to the songs lyrical content. A perfect song to unwind to with a glass of your favourite tipple and the lights dimmed low.
"Glider" closes the EP with the band jamming on a dusty desert groove with Giorgio Bonacorsi (bass) and Massimiliano Boventi (drums) laying down a solid foundation for Van Cleef to coat with his warm clean voice and tasteful guitar tones. Short, sharp and about as close to the bands original sound as your gonna get on this EP it finishes "Electric Walrus" with a nice fusion of the old and the new.
"Electric Walrus" is a real departure in direction for the band and may alienate some fans of their previous work but on the other hand may herald the start of a whole new fan base. See for yourselves....

Sunday, 11 October 2015

MOJO WIZARD ~ EP review

Electric Wizard, Red Wizard, Black Wizard the underground scene seems to drag up a new "Wizard" named band every other week! Well this week it's the turn of Canada to deliver the goods and they have done in the shape of Quebec's MOJO WIZARD!

Rico Desjardins (vocals), Karim M'Sallem  (Guitar), Guillaume Couture (Bass) and Maxime Lussier (Drums and Percs.) are the four guys who make up Mojo Wizard and are also the ones responsible for the bands stunning new self-titled EP.

Rooted in the blues but with a healthy respect for fuzz pedals and distortion the band's sound sits somewhere between the boogie of ZZ Top and the more out there aspects of that other Texas band Wo Fat.
Opening with 1:13 seconds of incendiary guitar noodling for the first track, the  aptly named "Intro" the band then settle into some psychedelic blues with next track "Sweet Baby Death". Desjardins delivering old clichéd lyrics like "I wanna be your man" with such a conviction you will be fooled into thinking you've never heard the line before! Clean, clear and with a tone that is more Alabama than Quebec he brings a rootsy authenticity to the songs blues/psych groove that takes it out of the ordinary and into the realms of extra special.
"Passionate Beast" begins with a majestic bass line from Couture that paves the way for M'Sallem's guitar and Lussier's drums to arrive in thunderous unison, the formers guitar wailing banshee-like and the latter pounding his skins like a madman. Desjardins vocal in turn switches from anguished crooned pleading to indignant angry frustration and touches on every emotion in between.
"Wild Love" drops the pace for a bluesy semi ballad that is taken to another level by a gut wrenching, soul shaking guitar solo from  M'Sallem the sheer emotion of his solo raising the hairs on the back of your neck and sending shivers down the spine.
The fuzz takes over for the next song "Red Machine" its stop start groove morphing into a full on stoner blues fuzz fest before Desjardins brings things to an end unaccompanied on the final verse.
"You're Me" closes the EP with a bit of down home blues boogie with M'Sallem, Couture and Lussier laying down a delicious platter of up tempo blues grooves over which Desjardins whoops, hollers and croons his way to the songs glorious last chord.
Blues rock can, in the wrong hands, be a little stale and derivative but Mojo Wizard have managed to avoid this by adding a little stoner grit and attitude to proceedings and reinvigorated the blues for today. Check 'em out....

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

UZALA ~ LIVE AT ROADBURN 2015....Review

Uzala are a band who seem to have slipped under the radar of the "underground" scenes movers and shakers on the interweb. The trio of Chad Remains ~ Guitar & Vocals, Chuck Watkins ~ Drums and Darcy Nutt ~ Guitar & vocals from Boise/Portland have consistently delivered quality both in the live arena and in the studio. The band and  have released two albums "Uzala" and "Tales of Blood & Fire" since their conception in 2009 as well as an EP and a split single with Mala Suerte and have just released their first live recording "Live At Roadburn 2015" via Roadburn Records.

Recorded at the Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, Netherlands " Live At Roadburn 2015" sees Uzala as a band who not only can produce the goods in the studio but are also a band quite capable of recreating that quality on stage also.
Drawn mostly from 2013's "Tales of Blood & Fire" and with the addition of 2012's  single "Death Masque" and new (to me) songs "The Gallows" and "Shores" "Live at Roadburn 2015" just throbs with intensity.
"Countess", already a big favourite of mine, takes on even more epic proportions live, deeper, darker it seems to take on a whole new dynamic with Nutt's vocals soaring majestically  above the wall of doom being laid down behind her, the occasional feedback and white noise emitting from the guitars adding rather than detracting from the songs overall impact.
"Seven Veils" is lifted above it' slightly pedestrian original (it was my least favourite on the last album) by being infused with a thicker, doomier dynamic that gives the song a whole new lease of life, the guitars are punchier more in yer face creating a wall of sound over which Nutt's enigmatic dark tones reach their full potential.
"The Gallows" sees Uzala step up the pace a little hitting a groove a little more traditional than their usual fare but nonetheless containing the same levels of dark intensity that colour the rest of the albums content
"Dark Days" another highlight from "Tales of Blood & Fire" sounds even more menacing than its original studio recording, Nutt's voice emitting a dark  mournfulness and anguish against the songs backdrop of sinister doom. This song really excels within the live context and for me is the highlight of this recording.
"Shores" is a wonderful doomy torch song that if sang by anyone else other than Darcy Nutt may well of wandered into symphonic territory but is saved from this fate by the glorious darkness of her vocal delivery and ably backed up by the stunning musicianship of Remains and Watkins and the lady herself.
"Death Masque" closes the album and the performance with an absolute stunning display of musicianship and vocal athletics, guitars screaming and wailing over  waves of percussive thunder taking what was essentially the B-side of a single and turning it into something truly epic. Mostly instrumental with just a smattering of vocals it ends with a delicious whirlwind of noise and feedback.
Live albums can be hit and miss and there are those who will just dismiss them out of hand but some are exceptional snapshots of bands doing what they were born to do. This is one of those!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

THE RARE BREED ~ debut EP

Californian trio The Rare Breed make no secret of their love of Black Sabbath even going so far as to describe themselves " 3 rock'n'roll Sabbath worshipping dudes based out of Los Angelas, CA" on their Bandcamp page. Now the question is do we need another Sabbath sounding band, especially as the likes of Sheavy, Orchid and The Graviators already, with various degrees of success, fill that particular niche quite nicely. Well I can't answer for everyone but if the enthusiasm, vigour and freshness the band display on their self-titled EP is anything to go by then the answer is a resounding YES!

Guitarist Oscar De la Torre kick starts opener "Mountain of Dreams" with a swirling reverb soaked guitar motif that is then joined by the booming bass of Joey Castle and the LOUD percussive thunder of tub-thumper Hernan Rojas, the three soon settling into a groove over which De la Torre then injects his vocals. Tonally somewhere between Wolfmother's Andrew Stockdale and  Ozzy, De la Torre's clean, slightly nasal vocals weave into the music rather than float above it and add a certain classic metal feel to the groove. Full on and in yer face the song is a great way to start a debut EP
"Under The Shadow of the Sun" fools the listener in to a false sense of security by opening with an acoustically strummed guitar before turning on the electricity and exploding into a monster riff of epic proportions. Rojas drives the song from beneath with furious Bonham-esque percussive fury locking in with Castle's dexterous bass playing, creating a wall of Sabbathian rhythm for De la Torre to add vocals and guitar to, It is Del la Torre's guitar playing that lifts The Rare Breed out of the Sabbath also rans bracket, by managing to avoid the pitfall of trying to sound like Tony Iommi and instead opting for a more hard rock/blues approach. Drip feeding his solos with Angus Young type rock'n'roll clichés married to dark pentatonic meanderings reminiscent of Budgie's Tony Bourge he dominates the musical passages between verses and choruses with his powerful tone and choice of notes and in doing so makes this track the highlight of the EP
"Visions" sees The Rare Breed going fully into Sabbath territory with a groove that would not of sounded out of place on the UK bands "Sabotage" album. Dirty fuzzed out and blessed with two delicious solos it is short sharp and deeply addictive.
Things come to a close with "Witches Lore" a song that brings all the elements of the previous three tracks into play and adds a nice dash of old school hard rock and metal into the mix just for good measure. Bringing to mind Michael Schenker era UFO  with its slight "Rock Bottom" riff "Witches Lore" rolls along on a delicious wave of fuzz and distortion with Rojas and Castle going hell for leather underneath and Del la Torre coating everything with a delicious mix of vocal and six-string pyrotechnics.
Some will call this Sabbath worship others will call it plagiarism I prefer to call it ROCK'N'ROLL!!!