King Giant – Black Ocean Waves

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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 Rolling Stones’ ‘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.

 

7.0/10

 PAUL QUINN

Headless Kross – Volumes

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I’m not one for instrumental albums, and the first eight minutes of Volumes (Black Bow), the debut album from Glasgow trio Headless Kross, left me fearing the worst. Following ‘splits’ with Brit Sludge-Doom outfits War Iron and Lazarus Blackstar, riffs the weight of lead elephants pierce the sky with a more psychedelic feel than one may expect. The slow, repetitive groove and lack of vocal in the early stages of epic-length opener ‘Rural Juror’ however, had me scurrying for the exit door. Cometh the Man…

Derek Sexton‘s raking scream gives the touch of evil, a Sludgy edge, that the initial strains so badly need. His intermittent holler is initially subtle in the mix following the middle section’s bleep fest, until harrowing screams burst through welcome chord progressions; squealing, scratching leadwork lifting the track from its rolling monotony toward a drifting, Eastern-flecked paradise. The developing sound is akin to melding Karma to Burn with Brighton Sludge-Grungers Gorse, the warm fuzz of Tommy Duffin‘s wailing, oscillating leads cascading the coda through the cosmos.

It’s when threatening to break its creative tethers that Headless Kross realises its full array of talent and possibility. Sexton’s fulminating blackened scream drags the carcass of ‘Who Is This Who Is Coming’ to a rude awakening, aided by an explosion of barely harnessed power; a languid, luscious guitar solo easing its pain and pushing back to the usual Stoner vibe. The crushing riff of closer ‘Even The Destroyed Things Have Been Destroyed’ is doleful, the vocal at times bitter and railing yet occasionally full of anguish and, in exposing this, evoking the emotional protestations of Winterfylleth‘s Chris Naughton. More subtle leadwork opens to a vicious mind-bending oppression, and it’s here where the true power of this outfit is laid bare: the ability to weld harsh, frozen wastelands with phenomenal weight and resonance and, crucially, palpable emotion.

Volumes is an album full of paradox: repulsively angry and often brutal, yet vulnerable and endearing; impassioned yet periodically riddled with flexing, latent groove. It’s a risky yet fascinating combination which ultimately ensures these powerful Glaswegians will stick in the mind.

 

7.5/10

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PAUL QUINN