Tuesday 29 March 2016

HOLY GROVE ~ HOLY GROVE ...... album review

It seemed like Holy Grove were going to be one of those bands that everyone knew about but only a few  outside of their hometown actually got to hear. The band from Portland, Oregon had been treading the boards supporting bands as well as headlining their own gigs since forming in 2012 and in that same year released a four song demo (no longer available) on Bandcamp, they then followed this up with a short live two song affair Live at Jooniers in 2014, a move that garnered positive reviews and brought them to the attention of interested record companies. The band, Andrea Vidal - Vocals, Trent Jacobs - Guitar, Gregg Emley - Bass and Adam Jelsing - Drums, were eventually picked up by HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS and this year released their debut self-titled album Holy Grove.

For those that are familiar with Holy Grove's past output will also be familiar with at least three of the tracks on the album, "Nix", "Holy Grove" and "Huntress" have all appeared in one form or another on the bands previous efforts. Here though the songs have been polished, re-worked and re-imagined, and of these three tracks it is, in my opinion, "Huntress" that benefits the most from this treatment. Darker and more intense than it's demo version it is falls into epic territory here. Jelsing's drums that ,on the demo, were up in your face have been tamed somewhat, laying a little further back in the mix allowing Emley's bass to stand a little further out thus solidifying and equalising the bands rhythmic base. Title track "Holy Grove" differs from its original by sounding almost creamy in comparison with Emley's bass syncing perfectly with Jacob's guitar, laying back when Jacob's unleashes one of his scorching solo's and pushing and driving with him on the meaty riffs. On "Nix" the band opt for a whole different guitar tone, one that, like "Huntress", makes the song sound deeper, darker with a doomier atmospheric. The newer songs stand up well against the older ones with opener "Death of Magic" being the perfect example with its mix of heavy riffs and catchy hooks that are pushed from beneath by Jelsing's furious and industrious drumming. Jacobs lays down a spine tingling solo that is as emotive as it is technical and this combined with Emley's bass ensures that this album begins with a bang!  "Caravan" rolls along on a slightly Sabbathian groove and sees Jelsing and Emley locking in tighter than a Scotsman's fist beneath Jacob's fuzz drenched riffs and licks. "Hanged Man" has the sort of epic doom feel that was/is associated with the likes of Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus, massive, grandiose and dark. "Safe Return" closes the album and continues in much the same vein as the previous track but this time adds into the mix a little bluesy colouring as well as a little loud/quiet/loud dynamics.
Many of you may of noticed that thus far I have omitted to make any mention towards the vocal component of the albums songs and the reason for this is they deserve a section all to themselves!
Every band should have something/someone that stands them out from the crowd, gives them an edge, a focal point and Holy Grove have a veritable peach in that department. Andrea Vidal owns one of those voices that once heard will never be forgotten, possessing a depth of tone that resonates with passionate power and emotion. She pitches her vocals perfectly throughout the albums seven songs, applying a dark bluesy grit over and around the musical soundscapes surrounding her, filling the spaces with wonderful phrasing and delivery, complimenting the songs arrangements with something not usually mentioned in underground rock circles....soul! Vidal's voice combined with the exceptional musicianship of Jacobs, Emley and Jelsing ensures this will be an album fans of the occult/doom genre will be coming back to time and time again

Holy Grove is a stunning album from a band who have built a following  by sticking to their principles, working hard and believing in themselves, check it out....

Sunday 27 March 2016

MOUNT SOMA ~ ORIGINS....... EP review

Ireland is a country with a rich history of producing storytellers and poets so it comes as no surprise that Dublin quartet Mount Soma should decide to follow in this tradition by making their debut EP a concept piece. The band, Brian Kiloran (vocals/guitar), Keith Walsh (lead guitar), Conrad Coyle (bass/synths) and Aaron Carroll (drums) originally intended the three songs that make up "Origins" to be part of a longer, full length project but decided in the end to trim this down into a three song EP.
The theme of this concept is loosely based around the circle of life so it seems fitting that I am writing this review on Easter Sunday, a festival celebrating a similar concept of birth, death and resurrection.

"Origins" blends doom, stoner and sludge metal with elements of both prog and psych around grooves that have a slight but unmistakable underlying celtic vibe.
First track "Nebula" begins with a gentle guitar arpeggio married to a swirling, droning synth that is then joined by vocals. Kiloran sings the songs initial verses in a low, hushed  almost medieval folk tone before letting loose with roared feral intensity when joined by the rest of the band. The song then swings through a series of shifting dynamics, the gentle Celtish intro makes way for hard fuzz drenched riffery that in turn makes way for a spoken narrative over psychedelic ambiance before the whole song takes off into the stratosphere again. Walsh solo's majestically against a backdrop of distorted guitar and bass riffage from Kiloran and Coyle and thunderous percussion from Carroll.
"Origin" is an atmospheric and quite emotive piece that employs acoustic guitars, picked sparingly, against a backdrop of swishing, swirling synthesiser effects over which Kiloran sings of darkness and cleansing rains sweeping across an imaginary landscape. The song has a stark and quite dark beauty and serves as the perfect bridge between the  marvellously schizophrenic  "Nebula" and next track " Lazarus"..
"Lazarus", like the first track trades in shifting tempo changes and dynamics only where "Nebula" relied on elements of psychedelic colouring and textured ambiance to portray its theme "Lazarus" utilises a more doomy and dark approach to emphasise its point. Carroll lays down stunning arrays of rhythmic pulses, driving the musicians in front of him with a mix of heavy and light percussive touches, over which Walsh and Kiloran grind out heavily distorted guitar riffs and solo's and Coyle lays down growling and rumbling bass. Kiloran, as well as supplying the rhythm to Walsh's lead delivers a vocal that sits somewhere between a hardcore guttural scream and a sludge-like bellow, passionately pleading for Lazarus to "rise up".

Brutal and beautiful in equal measure "Origins" successfully blends a variety of genres and sub-genres together and wraps them up under one glorious umberella of sonic excellence. Concepts and themes are not an easy thing to pull off so for Mount Soma to attempt and then manage to pull this off over just three songs is quite a feat. Imagine what they could do with a full album!
"Origins" will be released on April 5th 2016.

Thursday 17 March 2016


German label H42 Records are to release a limited 7" split between Oxford stoners Desert Storm and Swansea groovers Suns of Thunder. The split will be released  April 29 on a variety different coloured vinyl with corresponding artwork, details of a digital release have not been announced.

Desert Storm kick things of with "Signals From Beyond" a barnstorming blues flecked hard rocker that shows why Desert Storm are so highly regarded within the UK's, small but burgeoning, underground scene. Matt Ryan roars lion-like above a wall of fuzz drenched riffage superbly delivered by, guitarists, Ryan Cole and Chris White while beneath Chris Benoist (bass)and Elliot Cole (drums) supply a heavy stream of hard driving solid rhythmic pulses.This is hot stuff!

I hate to admit it but this is the first time I've heard Swansea's Suns of Thunder, this is something i'm determined to rectify. "Earn Your Stripes" is taken from the bands 2015 album "Start As You Mean To Get Downand is a swagger fest of bluesy stoner rock. full to the brim with foot on the fuzz pedal riffery. This four piece consisting of Greg Bombroffe - Vocals/Guitar, Matt Williams - Vocals/Guitar, Chris James -  Bass and Sam Loring - Drums n percussion know their way around a good tune ,,, and this is a good tune.

As well as the Desert Storm/ Suns of Thunder split H42 Records will alsp be releasing a Monster Magnet/Raging Speedhorn 7" Split.....

Thursday 10 March 2016

BOSS KELOID ~ HERB YOUR ENTHUSIASM .......... album review

Sludge has never really been my thing I have always been more of a stoner/hard rock man but every now and then a band will come along that will blow away my misconceptions and make me rethink. Boss Keloid are one such band
The quartet of Paul Swarbrick ~ Guitars, Ste Arands ~ Drums, Adam Swarbrick ~ Bass  and Alex Hurst ~ Vocals  are about to release their second album "Herb Your Enthusiasm" on Black Bow records on April 8.
So what do you get for your hard earned cash? Well for starters you get a sterling production courtesy of Conan bassist Chris Fielding, sludge can often suffer from muddy sounding production but Fielding manages to get a crisp, clear sound down on tape without losing any of the heaviness and rumbling bottom end that is so vital to music in this genre. Especially pleasing is the way Hurst's vocals appear in the mix, his raw edged rumbling bellow sits perfectly within the musical soundscape with every syllable clear and concise. Musically Boss Keloid are a monster, whether churning out thick syrupy riffs or laying out on gentler psychedelic coloured passages the bands levels of musical skill never falter. The bass and guitar pairing of Adam and Paul Swarbrick compliment each other perfectly while Arands fills everything with brutal and complex rhythmic percussion. Boss Keloid are not just about the heavy though, there are, among the ten songs that make up this album, moments of psych ambiance and prog like complexity that show a band who are unafraid to step outside of the box . This band know how to construct a song, injecting moments of light and shade within the brutality, building up atmospheres, taking listeners to the edges of places they might not want to go to then bringing them back just before tipping over into the abyss. Comparisons have been made with USA's Mastodon and in some respects this can be understood, both bands weave instrumental virtuosity around primal heaviness but there are also elements of post-rock's  A Storm of Light within Boss Keloids sonic cannon, especially on the albums more psychedelic moments. Either way you look at it Boss Keloid are a band who are quite capable of standing shoulder to shoulder with both those iconic bands and in "Herb Your Enthusiasm " have made an album to prove that fact.

I used "sludge" as a description for the music Boss Keloid create in my intro to this review but after listening a few times to this album I am not sure if that tag is appropriate, There is so much more going on here than can be described in one word. Check it out for yourselves and see if you can, or even want to stick what you hear into some neat little labelled box.


Six members in a band must cause all sorts of headaches when touring, first off you gonna need a bigger van, next your gonna struggle to get everybody on stage at smaller venues and last and most importantly your gonna have to split any money you do eventually make six ways!
This is a problem that Greek stonernauts Instant Boner have to deal with all the time.
Instant Boner were formed in 2013 in Thessaloniki, Greece and have gigged with such underground luminaries as Samsara Blues Experiment and Radio Moscow as well as sharing stages with fellow Greek stoners Nightstalker and 1000 Mods. The band ..Dafy- Guitar, Johnny- Bass, Kostas- Vocals, Orestis- Saxophone, Paris- Guitar and Vaggelis- Drums. released their debut EP "Perfect Sunday" in 2014 to good reviews and have now followed the promise that debut showed by releasing their new EP " Outburst"

"Outburst" is an EP quite capable of pinning you to the wall with massive chainsaw riffs and thunderous rhythm as can be found on opener "Messiah" and title track "Outburst" but it is also as capable of smoothing your furrowed brow with gentle moody jazz as on the beautifully smooth "Falling Stars" or getting all psychedelic and blue as on the deliciously eclectic "Lady Sin" What sets Instant Boner apart from their peers, aside from the fact they have a saxophonist among their ranks, is the diversity of  moods, grooves and feels within these songs. "Messiah" rocks hard but it also swings, modal jazz shapes and psychedelic colouring weave in and around fuzzy guitars and gritty vocals creating a landscape of  differing textures, an effect that is slightly schizophrenic but at the same time quite brilliant. "Outburst", the EP's only (original) real out and out stoner rock tune, does not escape this treatment either, it's heavy distorted riffage and powerhouse rhythms are offset against swirling effects and punctuated by stunning sax solo's. "Falling Stars" as mentioned previously is a smooth  jazzy, slightly funky number with  smokey sax and echo laden guitars wending themselves around a crooned weary vocal  underpinned by creamy bass and intricate percussion, it's a real curveball but one that works really well. "Lady Sin" channels the spirit  vocally of one Mr Don Glen Vliet, or as he was better known Captain Beefheart, in an atmospheric and quite stunning swampy, blues drenched torch song that meshes Dick Dale sounding guitar licks with a little Dixieland swing before taking flight into a balls to the wall fuzzy stoner riff fest in the songs last quarter. The band throw in a cover to bring things to a close and it's an inspired choice. Rumour has it that Jimi Hendrix was, before his untimely death, talking about moving more into a jazzy more improvisational phase, so it seems quite fitting that a band who like to do the same within the stoner/psych field should decide to record one of his tunes, the tune they chose ...."Foxy Lady". It's not a radical departure from the original but does contain a nice psych soaked bridge and the harder edged full on stonerized treatment given to the last half of the song really gives it an edge. I think Jimi would of approved!

Instant Boner are not your typical stoner/hard rock band, the six guys who make up this band like to mix it up a little, throw in a few surprises. What they do they do extremely well and I for one cannot wait to see where they take this music next. See what you think....

Wednesday 9 March 2016

OUTLAWS OF ZEN ~ III ........review

Michigan's The Outlaws of Zen have been doing their thing since forming in 2011. What is their thing I hear you ask...well TOOZ like to play it hard and fast blending a love of 70's hard rock with  elements of 80's stoner/desert grit and 00's psych ,sprinkling it all with, what the band call, a  DIY ethos and working class attitude. The band have released two previous EP's to the one being reviewed here "Don't Bother Getting Up , We'll Let Ourselves In (2012) and Death In The Afternoon (2013) both recorded as a quartet. Last year (2015) vocalist and second guitarist Joe Gibson left the band leaving bassist Tommy Koppmann to take over vocal duties, ably supported by Korey Christopher (guitar) and Travis Evans (drums) III is TOOZ's first release as a trio.

Those that may have worried that the loss of a second guitarist would somehow water down and dilute TOOZ's sonic impact are in for a nice surprise. Like a sports team that have had a player dismissed from the field of play TOOZ have had to tighten their sound to accommodate the loss and the result is a more focused, rounded aural assault. The bands core sound still remains rooted very much in the 70's but when  combined with Koppmann's throatier, slightly more hardcore/punk vocal style the groove achieved seems grittier and a little more in the now. Opening track "Dirty Hands" is a perfect example of this, it's superbly executed seventies retro riff is offset by Koppmann's feral 00's vocal tones giving the tune a raw edged  modern feel that would have been lost had the vocal been of a more conventional styling. This theme continues through onto second track "To Live For", Christopher, who seems to relish the responsibilities allied with being the sole guitarist, lays down a barrage of tasty riffs and licks over which Koppmann roars. Koppmann can also play a bit too, his big, beefy rumbling bass lines combining with Evans solid ,tight rhythmic drumming to create a massive wall of sound. "Black Market Karma" is a little more sludge orientated in style if a little more frantic than is usually found within that genre, Evans pushes the song along on a bed of seismic rhythmic thunder over which throat ripping vocals are delivered and strings are shredded. The next two songs "Out Of Touch" and "New Faith" are a little more straight forward and melodic than the previous tune channelling an almost rock'n'roll vibe, both marry retro riffage with hard edged vocals but are a little smoother around the edges than what has gone before and show the band are more than capable of mixing it up a little. Final track "Where Teeth Once Hung" pulls all the threads of the previous  four songs together in one kick-ass tune. A blistering stuttering riff is the foundation over which Koppmann sings the verses but the real hook is the line/answer/line chorus that is swapped between the singer and the backing vocals. Infectious, addictive with a monolithic groove the song brings to a close an album that would be worthy addition to any stoner/hard rock music fans collection.
Check it out.....

Tuesday 8 March 2016

THE GREAT ELECTRIC QUEST ~ CHAPTER 1 ........ album preview

A while ago a relatively unknown band contacted me by e-mail and asked if I would consider giving their demo a review on Bandcamp. The band went by the name The Great Electric Quest and the demo they asked me to review consisted of five songs of ass-kicking hard rock/stoner mixed with elements of modern and classic metal. I duly complied to their request and at the same time invited the guys to participate in a discussion forum (Hard Rock Revolution Forum) that I was a member of.
To the bands credit they took up the offer and instead of just posting the obligatory thank you for your support and then disappearing into the mist the guys stuck around swapping recommendations, joining in discussions and generally interacting with the other members. Over time and through constant touring and gigging the bands fan base  began to grow, so much so that one of their tracks was chosen to appear on one of Classic Rock magazine's free compilations. Things were starting to look good for TGEQ, unfortunately things do not always go smoothly in the land of rock'n'roll and after having to scrap a nearly finished album and the departure of a bass guitarist the band found themselves almost back at square one, but these guys are resilient and instead of feeling sorry for themselves they just buckled down, recruited a new bassist,  and got on with things. These guys like to joke about having a good time, drinking beer and living for the party but this band are also about hard work and having a vision for their music, a vision that after a few lengthy setbacks has culminated in the bands first "official" album. Ladies and Gentlemen I present you The Great Electric Quest's (very) long awaited debut "Chapter 1"

First track "Ogrelude", an instrumental, begins with guitarist Buddy Donner wrenching from his axe,via his whammy bar, a sound not unlike a helicopter on heavy downers, swirling back and forth between the speakers before the rest of the band explode into life around it. Donner leads from the front ripping titanic power chords from his fretboard one minute, shredding notes like a man possessed  the next, pinched harmonics popping and squealing in a display of scintillating six-string virtuosity,  Behind and beneath him  bassist Devin Walker and drummer Corey Ciota dictate the pace with a stunning mix of power and finesse, driving the groove in and around the ever shifting time signatures and dynamics with incredible musical skill and dexterity. . It's a brave move to kick off your debut album with an instrumental track but one that TGEQ pull off admirably.
"1901" begins with raked guitar strings and dive bombing whammy bars before the rest of the band fall into the slightly nwobhm  main riff and we get our first taste of vocals. Tyler "T-Sweat" Dingvell's clean and powerful voice adds a whole new dimension to the bands groove, his phrasing and tone recalling a time when vocalist would actually sing, no stoner growling for this man or demon possessed unintelligible utterances this is old school metal vocalising the way it used to be.
The songs groove swings back and forth between Iron Maiden-esque galloping metal and Candlemass-like doom with Ciota and Walker laying down a solid and tight foundation of muscular rhythm over which Donner's  neo-classical guitar solos and licks add flourishes of colour and texture around Dingvell's vocals.
"Madam Elbib" will already be  known to some reading this review as it was the track chosen by Classic Rock magazine to showcase the band on one of  their giveaway cd's. A powerful mid tempo  piece the song has an almost baroque feel that is further heightened by Dingvell's dramatically and emotionally charged vocal performance. Donner matches Dingvell with some utterly scorching solo's, peeling of flurries of notes  and managing to sidestep the trap of self-indulgent shredding by finding a perfect balance between technique and feel.
"Damn You" is up next and sees Walker laying down a deeply delicious throbbing bass line that is complimented by Ciota's sympathetic and effective percussion work. The songs doom-ish vibe veers nearer to the epic end of that genre and sees Dingvell's vocals take on a deeper and slightly more gothic tone than on the  previous two songs.
"Cry Of The Wolf" is an atmospheric mid paced song with a touch of bluesy swagger within its grooves. Full to the brim with catchy hooks and boasting a great sing along chorus this would be perfect for rock radio (Rock DJ's please take note).
"Egypt"  first turned up on the bands limited EP "Prelude" where, in my Bandcamp review, I described it as "a tune that rocks along like a camel on crystal -meth" I stand by that statement still. Here it has been sharpened up with a new, more intricate  intro but at its core remains that same little gem of a rocker with an eastern themed melody sang over a chugging heavy metal riff that blew me away a year ago.
"7 Years" drops the dynamic down for a nicely paced ballad/torch song that avoids being overly sentimental by swapping sweet and saccharine for intense and powerful. Dingvell excels within this environment exchanging his rock god wail for a smooth warm croon. Donner tears from his fretboard a burning bluesy solo mid song that is pushed to even greater heights by the barrage of rhythmic pulses Walker and Ciota create beneath him. It's a strong, well written song and shows a side to the band that I had previously not known existed.
"Beers In Hell" is a somewhat anthemic song for TGEQ and one that epitomises the bands outlook on life, a sort of no matter what shit goes down if we can have a beer at the end of the day everything will be ok statement. Fun and uptempo the song swings like a cradle in a hurricane.
"Until We Meet Again" closes the album with a blues drenched scorcher. Walker and Ciota channel the spirits of Zeppelin's Bonham and Jones in an amazing tour-de force of rhythmic thunder over which Donner evokes the ghosts of past masters with his blistering soulful solos. Meanwhile Dingvell assures us we will meet again.,here's hoping we do....... and soon.

Saturday 5 March 2016

TREVOR'S HEAD ~ TRICOLOSSUS .......album review

Surrey is a county just outside London, a county that has spawned such legends as Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, a county that can now boast among it's many musical luminaries three guys who play a form of rock that although is rooted in stoner rock, grunge and punk is not defined by those influences, three guys who collectively go by the name of Trevor's Head.

Trevor's Head were formed in 2010 in Redhill, Surrey England and have to date released one full album "Trevor's Head (2012), and two EP's "Juice" (2014) and "Otherside (2014). Over the years there have been a few comings and goings regarding the line up but the bands new album "Tricolossus" was recorded as a trio comprising of Roger Atkins - guitar and vocals,  Matt Ainsworth - drums, flute, synthesizer and vocals and Aaron Strachan - bass, acoustic guitar, organ and vocals.

"Blood Moon" kicks things off with a delicious slice of desert grooviness that although pledges its allegiance towards the sand blasted fuzz'n'roll of Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age also nods its head, in places, towards the more experimental leanings of  Causa Sui and Colour Haze. This is nevermore evident than when, mid-song, the riff heavy intensity drops  away and opens the door for a short but utterly beautiful moment of psychedelic ambiance that is enhanced with some effective use of flute before going back full tilt into the main riff. All this plus a vocal that is crystal clear in tone yet rough enough around the edges as to not be cloying.
The desert/stoner vibe runs thick and true through the whole album but the band are not afraid to throw  a few other genres into the mix. "Idiot Time" and "Roll It Over" see the band get a little hardcore and punky with chainsaw riffage and gritty raw vocals being the weapons of choice while "But A Scratch"  is a strange mix of pop and grunge that has a certain "Englishness" in its quirky off kilter vocal delivery. The band even throw in a curve ball with a  strange little poem "I Had Dreamt I Was Man....."
It is on the more hard/stoner rock tracks though that Trevor's Head really show their true colours especially when they mix it up with a touch of alt/grunge dynamics as in "Pan-Galactic Peacenicks" with its stuttering riff and slightly disjointed rhythms and the absolutely stunning "Ordinary Kind" with its clever use of vocal interplay. Highlight of the album, for me, though is the atmospheric and musically complex "21 Tonnes" its shifts in dynamics and time combined with its weirdly wonderful synthesiser segment taking it into a place a thousand light years away from the gentle intro of the songs origin.
The album ends with a superb mix of English indie whimsy and American desert grit on the delightfully eclectic ""Casa De Eduardo" a song that matches Ray Davies (Kinks) like observational  storytelling against a backdrop of fuzz and distortion and is very reminiscent in style to now defunct UK band The Members, who incidentally were also from Surrey!

"Tricolossus" is a diverse and quite brilliant album from a band unwilling to stay confined within the boundaries of a specific genre or sound and who in making this stance have created their own genre and sound. Get inside Trevor's Head it's a great place to be!