Ghost Cult has partnered up with rising British rockers DRUIDS today to bring you their mind-blowing new music video for their track ‘Time’. You can see the clip below: Continue reading
Ghost Cult has partnered up with rising British rockers DRUIDS today to bring you their mind-blowing new music video for their track ‘Time’. You can see the clip below: Continue reading
A cosmic haze surrounds everything from Texan duo Wo Fat: their chunky, thunderous rhythms swelled by fizzing riffs as suffocating, as implosive, as the vacuum of space. Despite having lost long-time bassist Tim Wilson, sixth long-player Midnight Cometh (Ripple Music) shows no signs of that trait discontinuing.
Though unabashedly Stoner, the Blues melodies and leads of opener ‘There’s Something Sinister in the Wind’ are shot through with added pace, urgency, and no little mysticism, blowing away the blubber often encasing such offerings. Sure, you could hear this kind of stuff down the local Rock pub but not with this power, this weight. The way the dreamy leadwork joins forces with a tight, rampant rhythm section from the mid-point is joyous: whilst the oscillating riff of the denouement, repetitive and swelling, crushes in indolent yet savage fashion.
‘Riffborn’ again provides nothing new, while Kent Stump’s gnarled vocal doesn’t incite the listener to any high emotion. Yet there’s something strangely electric, even comforting, in the fact that such traditional Heavy Rock can still force you to get down and boogie. Stump’s guitarwork is king here, the leads and riffs duelling with lightning dexterity yet retaining their corpulent girth. ‘Of Smoke and Fog’ meanwhile, creates atmospheres in keeping with its title: leads wailing and growling, permeating vaporous wisps as the cabs groan beneath the volume: whilst a rumbling bass and Michael Walter’s drums gradually creep in like a curious rhino, suddenly appearing and looking a little mad to see you on his territory.
That 70s Rock undercurrent is built to the fore during ‘Le Dilemme de Detenu’ and ‘Three Minutes to Midnight’: a shabby, hairy mob on The Old Grey Whistle Test embodied by the harsh, ZZ Top-style verses. Both tracks are enlivened by those fierce guitars, the latter’s moody centrepiece torn to shreds by a dazzling solo. Closer ‘Nightcomer’ meanwhile, is a Psychedelic crush of threatening Groove and pulsing swell that leads to a suitably huge finale.
Comparisons with both Kyuss and Orange Goblin abound for these guys, yet Wo Fat plough their own reverberating furrow. Sometimes the old-fashioned ways are still exciting.
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1. Ghost – ‘Meliora’ (Spinefarm)
Released on 21st August, Ghost Cult’s Album of the Month for September and now our official Album of the Year, managed, even in a year in which Slayer released a divisive selection and Iron Maiden unveiled a 90 minute double album after a five year hiatus, to dominate conversations, causing arguments and endless discussions about it’s place in their canon and Ghost‘s status in the world of rock and metal.
For a “new” act to take on the established acts for column inches and internet debate is testament to how successful the Satanic vision of the original Nameless Ghoul has been.
The band formed in 2008 with a simple mission to spread the word of Satan through the medium of retrospective rock with the devil’s harmonies carrying and subverting the masses.
“This is the album where Ghost have consolidated the tricks and tropes that drew us into their strange vaudevillian universe to begin with and the album that will hold us there for some time more. Meloria sees Ghost honing all their tricks into one accessible and often infectious package.”
Much as dream follows day, Infestissumam saw a definite evolution and movement on from Opus Eponymous, and so Meliora is a further celebration of the Ghost sound, of their continued exploration of a musical niche, adding rock opera tendencies, even, at times, grinding War Of The Worlds into the feted gristle flowing through their distinctive Satanic mills as 70’s synths flutter, guitar solo sing, and holding it all together into memorable hook-filled hymns is Papa Emeritus III.
You can throw superlatives, or analyse things to the nth degree, or you can enjoy that most special of things – an album filled from top to bottom with great songs.
And more than anything, THAT is why Meliora is the Album of 2015.
Ghost Cult Top 50:
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Leif Edling is an unsung, underrated, talented bastard, and a legend. Part-responsible for some of the finest, melodramatic slow and mystical metal known to man across the first four Candlemass releases, his seat and decanter of wine at the table of legacy and honour is assured. Founding member of one of the founding fathers, as his main gig has become more of a part-time, festival turn, two years ago he celebrated the year of his 50th anniversary on earth by putting together Avatarium.
Leaving behind the doom bent of the ‘mass to feed the muse of progressive, heavy retro-tinged rock, and allowing the 60’s and 70’s bands of his youth to influence his writing, at their very best Avatarium are transfixing. The Girl With The Raven Mask (Nuclear Blast), the second band’s full length, is retro without being Sabbathian, fuzzy without being stoner, more Hammer than Occult (any bandying around of the term “occult rock” in this direction is being incorrectly applied for no limp or quaint quasi-folkisms abound here) and progressive without losing focus or atmosphere.
‘The Master Thief’ is Opeth-style progressive luxury and ‘Pearls and Coffins’ is a simply magnificent track, seguing from bare, Western-tinged Tarantino soundtrack led eloquently by stunning vocals into a swirling Deep Purple vortex of an org(an)asmic post-chorus coda; its’ seven minutes an epic sway. And speaking of the Purple ones, in ‘Hypnotized’, Marcus Jidell channels the spirit of pure Blackmore with a majestic mellifluent magic carpet ride of a solo.
The Girl With The Raven Mask does not crush you with weighty riffs, but instead mesmerizes, with singer Jennie-Ann Smith a rare, enigmatic and captivating talent who sparks when the songs are sparse; reminiscent of Nancy Sinatra’s version of ‘Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)’ (sorry Cher). Given more room than on either their self-titled début, or last years’ All I Want EP, Smith is magnificent. If she had been a solo artist in the late 60’s she would be revered amongst the Joplin’s of history.
A diverse and intriguing marriage of stripped back and the grandiose, of top-level psychedelia and rock, all carried out to sea on the beguiling voice of Smith, for a while I feared The Girl WithThe Raven Mask was doomed (sic) to be one of those releases where the idea was better than the reality, but, while not every track hits the heights of the true moments of genius, the swirling, epic qualities draw you in.
Founded in 2003, British rock outfit Gentleman’s Pistols are probably – and somewhat unfairly – best known as “that band Bill Steer joined after Carcass broke up.” This is a shame, because their new album is actually pretty good.
Hustlers Row is the band’s third album and first on Nuclear Blast after nearly a decade on Rise Above. Its 10 tracks play out like a walking tour of rock’s 70s heydays. Track by track you get a who’s who of classic rock influences shining though; Led Zeppelin (‘The Searcher’), Lynyrd Skynyrd (‘Stress and Confusion’) and Deep Purple (‘Personal Fantasy Wonderland’) are all present, and clearly Steer & Co know how to emulate their heroes’ boogie and jive. They’ve also got a good sense melody, and it’s easy to hear the likes of The Beatles (‘Lady Teaser’), CSNY (‘Hustler’s Row’) and Cream (‘Time Wasters’) shine through on the lighter moments.
This, however, is probably its biggest problem it’s a very good rock album without an identity of its own. Where, for example, Clutch’s new record Psychic Warfare sounds like a hard rock album only they could have made, Gentleman’s Pistols and Hustler’s Row sounds like a lot of (albeit very good) different bands without settling on their own distinct sound.
The late one-two of ‘Dazzle Drizzler’ and ‘Coz of You’ are probably the best example of the band getting into a groove without overtly playing tribute, and they’re probably the best moments on the album. There’s nothing wrong with Hustler’s Row; the vocals are great, the riffs and solos top-notch, and the song-writing more than solid. Even the production gives the whole thing a warm authentic sound that makes it feel like a genuine gem from 40 years ago.
Despite the lack of an identifiable “Gentleman’s Pistol” sound, Hustler’s Row is still a decent listen, and an album youngsters who’ve just discovered the likes Deep Purple and oldies who were there originally can enjoy together.
On their latest trip to the UK, Ghost Cult caught up with Mikko Von Hertzen of the Von Hertzen Brothers where, over very strong espressos to nurse away hangovers, we talked about touring, more touring and, surprisingly, the joys of cricket….
2015 may be entering its final quarter but for the Von Hertzen Brothers, they can already look back on the last nine months with a combination of pride, satisfaction and, dare we say it, contentment. A universally acclaimed album, tours that seemed to get bigger and bigger and a series of summer festival appearances that cemented their burgeoing popularity… 2015 seems to have been a good year for the Finns.
The last time we spoke, New Day Rising (Spinefarm) was about to drop. This is now your third time back in the UK this year. How have the past few months been?]
“(laughing) You know… festivals are really the cream on top of the cake. It’s a totally different experience playing at a festival compared to a club where I can see the faces of the crowd. For me, it’s all about the interaction with the fans – whether the music is making them happy, whether they think you are doing something cool and they get caught up in the vibe of it all. At a festival it’s bang! 15 minute turnaround and bang! 20 minute set and bang! you’re outta there! In those 20 minutes you have to come out, perform and hope you connect with people.”
“At Download, we had no idea at the time if it was going well or not – about 95% of the people who came to see us were new to the band and the stage was so far away from the crowd that it was hard to tell if it was working or not. But, it seems like it had an effect in a good way because our agent told us that at that time of the morning we had 16,000 watching us and the reviews have been very kind so it must have had some effect.’
“If I am being honest though, I am a fan of the smaller more intimate gigs.”
How do you compare that set with the smaller, acoustic one you also played that weekend? Some friends of ours said that they thought you were the highlight of the weekend…
“Oh man, that was an unreal moment. We could see Faith No More in their white suits playing at the same time that we were about to walk on stage and they start playing Epic and we go “Fuck! How do we compete with THAT?!” But that’s good because it’s a challenge and we like a challenge. It was not unlike the time when we toured in Sweden with Opeth and they wanted to do a stripped down version of their show and they asked us to do the same and it was really cool.”
“That acoustic approach is also good for testing the strength of your songs; to see whether they really are as good as you hope they are.”
“You know, looking back on our summer, those Download shows really were a moment for us. At the time, the mayhem, the rain, the quick turnarounds, you don’t appreciate how important it was at the time but looking back it was really important for us.”
So, you’ve book-ended a couple of live dates around your appearance at the Prog Magazine Awards…
“Yeah, we thought we would tag a couple of shows around those as we were already flying everyone over and it was a great decision because it’s good to follow up what we did earlier in the year and say thank you to those people who have been supporting us. The ticket sales have been really good and I feel that every time we come here it feels like it is building and really going somewhere like a step by step progression; people are talking, the band are getting better known and it just feels….right.”
Going off subject for a minute, we read an article about you from back in 2006 that said your favourite sport was cricket, a very English game and not one we would normally associate with the Finnish people. How did that come about?
“Yes, it’s true! I lived in India for seven years and every one of my friends there was crazy about cricket. At first I didn’t get it at all: a bunch of people standing around for hours with nothing happening but once you start to get the rules and what everyone is doing you get into it; I love it. When we were recently on tour there I was “ I should really go and see all the important tourist sites” but I ended up staying in my hotel room for hours and hours just catching up with games, wherever and whenever I could find them! So, yes, I’m a fan!”
So what’s next for the Von Hertzen Brothers?
“For me, I’m moving house! I get the house move sorted and then we have a short break and then, come end of October, beginning of November, we start another European tour….”
How do you keep going? What’s the secret to eternally staying motivated and focused on the road?
“You have to believe in yourself and that you have something worthwhile to offer. For me though it is about the fans. The fans are like a family to us. They are long term friends. In order to keep it going we have to come up with something new and fresh and not repeat yourself. That is a big motivator. When you do come up with something, you get a fresh sense of momentum and that keeps you going too.”
“Being on the road means you can meet new people and that is fantastic. It is part of the reason why we keep coming back to the UK. This is where it all really began for us outside of Finland; not just for our band but in terms of the style of music that we love and the bands that we love. The UK is where we belong musically, this is our spiritual home.”
And with a shake of the hand and a draining of the coffee, we are done.
The mid-to-late 90’s bore witness to a phenomenon in underground metal. If the UK with Napalm Death et al had been the birth place of death metal, a sound that travelled the big blue to the States to be forged into the beast we know today, then the British Isles was once again the location for the conception of one of the most influential albums for a new sub-genre that, while it didn’t infect the American sound, instead traversed east rather than west and took Europe by storm, giving birth to the eponymous “Gothic” Metal.
Paradise Lost’s Gothic (Peaceville) wasn’t just a landmark, it was an album that tolled a massive bell with eager, willing and creative minds and created the landscape for the mid-to-late 90’s in underground metal. Last year saw the twentieth anniversary of Amorphis’ Tales From The Thousand Lakes, an album that was to develop that blueprint and take it in a different direction, the Finns being one of the first to fuse death and doom with folk-inspired melodies, clean vocals and progressive 70’s influenced music. But without Gothic, and it’s ground-breaking innovation, bringing in female vocals, orchestral manoeuvres (most probably in the dark, yes) and haunting melodic leads over doomier death metal, …Thousand Lakes may not have turned out the way it did.
“It was probably one the most influential albums for Amorphis in the early days, yes” agrees Amorphis lifer, Esa Holopainen, the six-stringer responsible for creating the Finns classic early release. “Paradise Lost started the way of combining melody lines into death metal music, with a doom ensemble. That then started to influence a lot of bands.
“It’s funny, because, you see in the longer term bands, there’s a lot of bands, like Moonspell – I just heard their new album – bands start to look back at where they came from and their past”. Even Paradise Lost themselves… “Yes. Everyone is starting to walk the circle around and taking more and more influences from their roots, which is a really good thing.”
When Holopainen was taking inspiration from Gothic and crafting the two albums that really put Amorphis on the map …Thousand Lakes and the follow up, Elegy (both Relapse), it was in the midst of an explosion of creative excellence that flooded through Europe.
“The period of time was when little underground labels started to grow up with their bands, and bands were releasing their classic albums. In the 90’s a lot of classic albums and a lot of albums that became milestones to those bands were made, and that influenced other bands. It’s pretty amazing, but look back at how many great metal albums there were (at that time)!
“There hasn’t been another era after that since then that’s matched it for so many good albums. I don’t know why.
“A lot of bands at that time, when we did those albums, proved to be a platform for the metal scene to be able to explore what we were doing, but much wider. Since then there’s been more and more new bands (influenced by the European metal albums of the 90s); heavy metal became almost trendy over here in Finland when Lordi won the Eurovision and even grandmothers were listening to metal, and those albums of the 90’s were the platform for the next wave of bands.
“You see Nuclear Blast who weren’t so big then are now probably the biggest label out there, selling as much as some major (labels); it’s pretty amazing how it’s all grown.”
While Paradise Lost may have opened Pandora’s Box, Holopainen’s Amorphis were one of the first bands to stick their heads deep into its recesses and really find freedom in the possibilities. Their debut The Karellian Isthmus (also Relapse) had been a decent, Scandinavian death metal album, but they then took the bold step to incorporate doomier riffs, clean vocals, folk music, keyboards and take influence from Deep Purple, Rainbow and other more retrospective elements.
“At that time we were huge fans of 70’s rock bands. In Finland there were a lot of progressive rock bands who were incorporating traditional and folk music, and we were listening to things like Jethro Tull and Hawkwind, lots of hippy music we liked!
“The big thing was, we felt there were no limits when we were writing the music for …Thousand Lakes – there were some really strange arrangements in there! We had a keyboard player, Kasper, who came into the band and he’d never played in a metal band, he was totally into The Doors and playing those types of songs. He was so excited when he realized there was a mini-moog in Sunlight Studios and, naturally, he wanted to use that a lot.
“All that mixture of things, all that soup, became the Amorphis sound.”
Happy to talk about their prestigious history, and their first landmark album, Holopainen continues. “We didn’t have a big plan, we were just doing the album how we wanted, until Tomas the producer asked “Does your record company know what you’re doing?” He was afraid they weren’t going to like it because it was so different! We just thought “OH SHIT!” but carried on.
“Then we started to get praise and good critics for it, and it was a success. It was kind of, but not by accident, but it came by following our instincts and being ambitious with what we wanted to do.”
Did you realize at time how ground-breaking it was? When did it sink in that it was a “classic”?
“It came as surprise how popular that album became. It took many many years before we realized how important an album it actually was. Even just a couple of years ago, we were only just realizing it must have been a really influential album because you read interviews from other bands that they say …Thousand Lakes was influential for them.
“At the time there was no black metal scene, it was just bubbling under, and no folk metal at all; that was many years later with bands like Ensiferum, and they say our albums were very influential for them.
“That is the greatest feedback you can get as a musician that you actually influenced other musicians to make their bands”
The second Amorphis classic was to follow two years later, as the sound evolved and deathly chugs were replaced with a much more progressive and folk-tinged rock bent, power chords replaced with open strings, and the timeless Elegy was created, an album most definitely not better unborn.
2016 sees Paradise Lost bringing Gothic back to life on stage at Roadburn, and following the success of both 2014’s tour and Amorphis’ spot at Maryland Deathfest playing …Thousand Lakes’ shows, could we see a twentieth anniversary celebration for Elegy?
“It’s not an impossible idea. We had a good time doing the Tales… shows, and the good thing about production now is we know how to get these sounds and make these things work. One of the great things of Amorphis is we can do different products – we did an acoustic tour – and we like to challenge ourselves and do something different.
“Elegy, for me, is my favourite album of the earlier Amorphis times and it’s not an impossible idea that we can do an Elegy tour.”
The ninth studio album by Symphony X, titled Underworld (Nuclear Blast), is not a concept album, but thematically deals with the journey into the underworld, specifically as pictured in Dante Alighieri’s ‘Divine Comedy’, which is reflected in titles such as ‘Underworld’, ‘Charon’, and ‘To Hell and Back’.
The album opens very nicely with the instrumental ‘Overture’, which, while not an actual overture, has a nicely bombastic classical feel and flows right into ‘Nevermore’, the first single of the album. It is a very heavy progressive song with fast guitar riffs and a slower cadence to the vocals. In similar vein, ‘Underworld’ features some very heavy vocals and even screams from Russell Allen; this contrast between the primal vocals and a more ethereal, clean voice gives a great deal of depth and energy to this song, though the placing of second single, ‘Without You’, straight after – a much softer song that features acoustic guitars and a Country feeling mixed in with the Symphonic Prog – is rather jarring.
‘Kiss of Fire’ has another killer intro, but the most impressive part of this composition is the choral arrangement, which delivers interesting emphases in the lyrics. This is also one of the songs in which Russell Allen can really show off his vocal range. ‘Charon’, a song about the ferryman of the underworld, is also very interesting, as the muted riffs set a really interesting atmosphere and the vocal melodies have notes of mystery and suspense.
Elsewhere, Symphony X mesh heavy prog, 70s prog, and classic hard rock, and the album finishes strongly with ‘Legend’; fast paced and heavy, yet melodious, exactly what you want from the X.
Nine albums in, and while there are some absolute killer songs on this album, there are a few bits, such as ‘To Hell And Back’ and ‘Swan Song’ with its clichéd lyrics that break the tension and don’t come together so well, yet overall the bands’ class shines through more often than not.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that “Grease” was the word. In fact it was the word right around the time that Black Sabbath were threatening to implode and spilled Ozzy out of the band and out of the back-end of the crest of a tsunami they’d been riding since their début. And then came the 80’s, a decade where every man, woman and child involved in rock and metal tried to distance themselves from the fuzzy, darkness of the Sabbath sound. The 90’s ushered back in a reverence for Sabbath and Zeppelin through the scuzz of grunge, before the nau/oughties eschewed the doom in favour of clinical metal(core) once more.
And so we find ourselves mid-way through another cycle, one where the Hand of Doom is not just welcomed, but feverishly worshipped and celebrated by the cult, the kvlt and the cunt alike. And here sit Kirk Hammett’s favourite occult doom quartet Orchid on their fourth EP, Sign of the Witch (Nuclear Blast) a four-track stop gap en-route to their third album. With bell-bottomed production values deeply steeped in the seventies, this is a warm EP of 70’s fuzzy doom.
The issue is that, while this is lovingly crafted and the first two tracks in particular are decent songs, Orchid are so close to being a Sabbath tribute band that Tony and the boys may be getting their copyright lawyers on the case. Theo Mindell warmly apes Mr Osborne, while Keith Nickel’s fuzzy, wandering basslines are pure Geezer worship.
Despite a strong start, matters lose impetus, meandering off down the blandest of paths with ‘Strange Winds’. There is a multitude who have taken the works of Sabbath and created many varied and beautiful things. Orchid have slavishly recreated the works of the masters, but without the requisitve song-writing skill.
“I’m sixty-three years old, booking a world tour, the tickets are flying out the door… Why the fuck should I give a fuck?!” was David Coverdale’s rather eloquent response to criticisms of the concept of Whitesnake’s The Purple Album (Frontiers), an album that does exactly what it says on the tin (and then some), revisiting The Cov’s years as frontman of Deep Purple and Whitesnake-ing up a selection of his favourite tunes.
And, the guy has a point (so to speak – as the millions… and millions… of The Cov’s female fans would testify), for not only did he co-write all of these magnificent and timeless rock songs in the first place, but The Purple Album is a rather fine run through of them that will please both ‘snake and Purple fans alike, as tracks from the 70’s are electrified by the guitar talents of former Winger six-stringer Reb Beach and Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Joel Hoekstra.
It needs to be said, these are not “better” versions of the originals, but new, different versions, presented in vibrant aural technicolour – a thoroughly enjoyable run through of a selection of songs that do benefit from the modern, ballsy rock (but oh-so-slick) production, provided by Coverdale, Beach and Michael McIntyre. It also needs to be acknowledged that this is no bog-standard re-record. What we have here is one of Rock music’s most iconic and distinctive vocalists laying down versions of some truly seminal tracks – ‘Burn’, for example, an instantly identifiable riff and powerful chorus that inspired many . All through, The Cov is on absolute fire, effortlessly wrapping his larynx, like thick, oozing melted chocolate undulating down and over a fulsome breast, around ‘Love Child’, playful and powerful on a driving version of ‘Lady Double Dealer’ that sounds like it could have been on 1987 (EMI/Geffen) or soulful and with gravitas on ‘Soldier of Fortune’. While predominantly a Rock album, ‘Holy Man’ and ‘Sail Away’ are sensitively delivered by the distinctive, legendary tones of Lord David Coverdale.
What we have is a celebration of Coverdale’s career that sees him taking classic songs from the very beginning of it and peppering them with the condiments of his band, Whitesnake. The only real mis-step is ‘Mistreated’, because despite all the skill and best will in the universe no one can play that song and make those notes sing and emote like Ritchie Blackmore, but it is the only time things don’t quite hit the mark. For when all is said and done, all The Purple Album is, is a(n excellent) selection of Deep Purple songs played by Whitesnake. And a very good thing that is too.