Sometimes the epithet ‘Southern’ can make one shudder in fear rather than delight, with stodgy ‘Dad Rock’ often found invading its borders. There’s no such danger here… from the off Black Ocean Waves (Graveyard Hill Records), the third album from Virginian old-timers King Giant, displays a brooding intensity: the rumbling bass notes and lead howls of opener ‘Mal de Mer’ invoking feelings of both melancholy and trepidation. The roaring riffs of ‘The One That God Forgot to Save’ carry more of a barrelling stomp than a latent groove, whilst the overall feel possesses some of the Stoner / Grunge of Gorse with Dave Hammerly’s vocal reminiscent of the Brighton trio’s James Parker.
There’s a sleazy, nefarious quality here which prevents the album’s early stages from diving into flabby mundanity. Todd “TI” Ingram’s leadwork is often understated yet enlivening when it appears, evoking The RollingStones’ ‘Gimme Shelter’ when splitting ‘Requiem For A Drunkard’s raunchier elements. It gives the lament of ‘Red Skies’ an indolent, Eastern quality, while Hammerly’s plaintive roar portrays guilt and shame with real passion; the whole swaddled within intricate rhythmic patterns and fluid time switches.
There’s nothing new here of course, and the younger metalhead may doubtless find this lacks his or her required energy levels. Rarely, however, does this kind of stuff possess the sort of up tempo, pulsing vibe that King Giant produce with seeming ease; the rampaging yet tempered heavy rock of ‘Trail Of Thorns’, for example, displaying the vitality of The Doors’ later, heavier moments, albeit without the quirky invention. Creativity is here though – the angry roars and swells of ‘Blood Of The Lamb’ are occasionally quelled by a softer texture; a constant duel which heightens the emotion and piques the curiosity further with a dreamy, truly moving Ingram solo. The crushing oscillations of closer ‘There Were Bells’, meanwhile, mix with lamenting yet euphoric verses in an elephantine take on Pearl Jam.
All sounds the old man might like? Sure. Black Ocean Waves, though, gives them a serious injection of power and fervour which lifts King Giant way above the often bloated fayre of their genre.
“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.
While preparing to launch her second band and release her second debut album in as many years, Johanna Sadonis, formerly of The Oath and now of Lucifer, spoke to Ghost Cult about the authentic sound of Lucifer I and why the music of yesteryear is at the core of her bands’ identity.
Lucifer I (Rise Above) has a very authentic, organic, warm 70’s sound to it. Was it difficult, in this age of Pro-tools and plug-ins to find place that would allow you to record in an older style way, and someone skilled enough to do it?
“I didn’t look in the places you would normally look for a band that plays rock and metal. I was working at a record store and there was a guy who plays session bass for a lot of different bands and he said he had to go to the studio to record something with guitar player from The Swans for a side project. He came back with 4 or 5 songs and he played them over the big system in the record shop. And I said “It sounds amazing. It sounds like a 1960’s Serge Gainsbourg record!”, so I asked how on earth did he do this in one day, and he said the guy they recorded with (Ingo Krauss) was a true wizard!”
“He actually used to run Conny Plank’s studio, the old hero of the Krautrock scene, and he told me it was full of vintage equipment, so I asked for the contact. It was good to take it out of the context of going to one of the normal metal studios.”
“It was a good thing to do. He did an amazing job and we were able to record live. You don’t have clicks so you have an organic flow to the music, and it can be a magic trick to have that. So, we went to an old studio with all this vintage equipment, and it sounds so much more organic, and you’re able to record live and you hear the little flaws. It’s not over-produced because that would take the life out of it.”
Occult rock is a very “in” scene to be involved in. Why do you think this is, and do you associate with the other bands coming from a similar vibe?
“I’m sure it’s popular for similar reasons. People realise where the real gems are lying. It’s hard in rock and metal to reinvent the wheel and (when people try to) there have been such abominations of style and sub-genres that have been looming over the last couple of decades that have been quite horrible, you know? Also the horrible productions…”
“You look, and you have to return to the roots. But a lot of bands do that, bands that have been around for a long time, maybe during the 90’s they had a horrible phase trying out other stuff that was in fashion then, but now they return to their raw roots, because they realise where it’s at.”
Ha! I always think of Paradise Lost when you talk about bands doing things like that. I loved the earlier stuff, then they took some musical decisions I didn’t like, and I lost touch, though I’m pleased to hear they’re supposed to be heading back to their earlier sound…
“I guess you have to do that if you play music for a long time because you don’t want to repeat yourself. But, hopefully after you make a horrible album you return to what’s right! But everyone does it – even Sabbath with the last album tried to re-invent the old feeling. Whether it worked or not is another question… Or Danzig, the last album is much more back to the roots and to a raw production.”
“I don’t compare Lucifer to other contemporary bands, even those in the same genre although I am friends with many of those bands. I respect their stuff, and we look back to the old influences. I’d rather have a band looking up to those old classics than trying to copy the copy of a copy.”
What is the attraction of a musical style and aesthetic that is older than you are?
“It’s part of a long journey. Being a metalhead for more than 20 years, and going through various different phrases I started with classic metal, of course, but then I went really into death and black and doom. But then when you get older and you start to open your mind a little more, you start to dig more into the historical paths of music.”
“When you’re a music nerd, you start digging, and I came to realize all the bands were based on these classic bands that have been there for 50 years, and you examine why have these bands been here for all this time. Why are Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep classic bands and so good? If you’re a music lover or musician you hear all that and it’s all genuine.”
“So, here I am, at this stage in my life and I have the taste of a 56 year-old man, you know!”
It’s weird, isn’t it, when you come round to listening to the same music as your parents did…
“Exactly! My Dad listened to Deep Purple, and my Mum was into rock n’roll. When I was 13/14, I thought this is not cool! You don’t want to listen to what your parents listen to, because you’re brought up with it. It’s not something you can find your own individual space, because your parents are there too. For me, it was Metallica and Danzig when I was 13. Later on you grow up and you realize “Oh shit! It’s amazing what my parents listen to! Give me all your records!!””
Swedish multi-instrumentalist Dan Swanö has had a long and strange career. On the one hand, he’s known for ambitious melodic death metal with Edge of Sanity on the other, he’s been a stalwart of the progressive rock scene with the likes of Nightingale, who are back after a seven-year hiatus. Their new album, Retribution (InsideOut), it’s all about the melody.
This is the seventh album from the band – made up of Swanö on guitar, keyboards & vocals, his brother Dag on guitars and keyboard, Erik Oskarsson on bass and Tom Björn on drums. In their early days, Nightingale was a goth rock outfit unafraid to embrace their experimental progressive sides. Today, they’re more of a poppy, radio-friendly outfit with hints of 80s goth, 70s style synth and AOR.
From the upbeat opening of ‘On Stolen Wings’ to the gentle rock of ’27 (Curse Or Coincidence?)’ it’s clear Nightingale are sticking to the lighter side of the rock spectrum. Whether it’s the synth heavy ‘Chasing the Storm Away’ or the slow gallop of ‘The Voyage Of Endurance’, every track is essentially a catchy, hook laden pop songs and it’s not to get caught up in the moment.
Swanö’s vocals have always been a strong point, no matter which band he’s playing in. And while there are no death growls, his powerful, soaring voice suits the AOR style of Nightingale’s music perfectly. But despite being easy on the ears, there’s little on offer for anyone who doesn’t like their rock dad or radio friendly. Pretty much every song is either a mid-paced stomper or some kind of power or acoustic ballad. The song writing is all to a high standard, there’s little filler, but there’s nothing to get the blood pumping or the head banging.
It might lack any adventure or experimentation, but Retribution is an enjoyable and perfectly listenable album. Edge of Sanity fans may find little to enjoy, but anyone who enjoyed the melodic aspect of Witherscape‘s debut or any of Swanö’s prog-orientated releases will be pleased to find the man back on good form.