CB3 (aka Charlottas Burning Trio), and expansive space-rock outfit hailing from Sweden’s Malmo, recently released their new album, Aeons and delivered another healthy dose of accessible hazy instrumental jams. This, their fourth album, which was partially funded through Kickstarter, is the band’s first with The Sign Records. It sees them continue their eclectic mix of spacy psychedelic rock sprinkled with moments of jazz and occasional stoner riffs. Continue reading
It’s been almost forty years and we’re still reviewing Anvil albums. Would you like to know why? Because, Anvil are like your comfy, furry, winter slippers. Anvil is your grandmother’s meatloaf [I’m assuming this isn’t a euphemism…! ed] Anvil is always there in a comforting, supportive way. You don’t have to dig deep or get all metaphysical about an Anvil album. It’s just Rock n’ Roll. It’s straight-forward, undeviating, good old-fashioned Heavy Metal. Pounding The Pavement (Steamhammer/SPV) is forty-six minutes of throwback tunes from a more simple time in Metal. Continue reading
Fifty years ago this week, The Jimmy Hendrix Experience exploded on the scene with the release of their début album Are You Experienced (Track Records), and changed music forever. A critical and commercial success at the time, the album stands today as one of the most innovative and enduring records ever released, with a musical shadow that is still inspiring new guitar players today across every genre of music. Continue reading
In theory, the new Flotsam and Jetsam album Flotsam and Jetsam (AFM Records) should be called Regeneration. Their press brief says that the band really started in 2015 with the line-up of Eric AK, Mike Gilbert, Michael Spencer, Steve Conley, and Jason Bittner (Shadows Fall). For this, I gave Flotsam and Jetsam a fresh listen, forgetting the past albums and attacking Flotsam and Jetsam as a new separate entity. The new album Flotsam and Jetsam is twelve songs lasting 56 minutes. It’s an hour that goes quickly by as the tracks seamlessly blend from one song to another.
The first thing that struck me was the heaviness of opening track. ‘Seventh Seal’ is has a heaviness that weights it down. If it weren’t for the guitar lines and jaunty pace of the song, it could be a doom song. There is something about the song that claws at you and keeps you earthbound. ‘Life is a Mess’ has the same thundering drumming as ‘Seventh Seal’. The vocals have this nu-metal rap feel with 90s metal singing. I hear shades of Testament in the guitar parts. ‘Taser’ opens up like a muscle car on an open backwoods Texas road. It’s fast and it’s wild. The vocals are a bit strained, but the music more than makes up for it. ‘Taser’ has a swagger about it. I went into ‘Iron Maiden’ wanting to love it because I love Iron Maiden. True to form, it’s a Bruce Dickinson epic lyrics love fest. It’s a bit of the ‘Trooper’ in new clothes. I nice wink wink nudge nudge to a great band.
The rest of the album is more of the same. Solid tunes that follow the tried and true metal formula. Flotsam and Jetsam the album has lots of guitar solos in all the right places and heavy drumming and bass playing keep everything solid. Some of the songs are a bit chunky and plodding while others have interesting accoutrements. If you like Overkill and Testament, you’ll enjoy Flotsam and Jetsam.
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2014 sees Dutch Death-metallers Thanatos celebrating their thirtieth year as a band, and to celebrate, they’ve dropped a nice new slab of brutality. Global Purification(Century Media) is the band’s sixth full length, and even into their third decade they can still keep up with bands half their age.
From the off, what you’re treated to is a shade under 40 minutes of abrasive thrash-influenced death metal. From the opening title track to the band, [Stephan Gebédi (Vocals, Guitars), Paul Baayens (Guitars), Marco de Bruin (Bass), Yuri Rinkel (Drums)] sound like a barely contained explosion of rage. Gebédi’s guttural vocals, the relentless barrage of drums and copious amounts of neck-busting shredding combine to deliver a slab of well-delivered classic-sounding death metal.
There’s plenty of relentless savagery on offer. Every track delivers a pounding dose of aggressive chugging riffs and pummeling drums (‘Infestation of the Soul’, ‘Blood Will Be Spilled’) – but Thanatos aren’t afraid to show off some dexterity. ‘The Murder of Innocents’ starts at full speed before segwaying into an intricate set of guitar solos, while ‘Feeding the War Machine’ is nice groove-laden thrash number that wouldn’t be out of place on a Slayer album, yet surprises with a Black metal-influenced interlude. The album sounds great, too, which only makes those more melodic moments shine through.
‘Demonized Minority’ is a slower, ominous track that builds to a blasting end, while ‘Word Jihad’ is a full on death metal shredder complete with whammy dives, while closer ‘Bastion of Blasphemy’ wears its galloping thrash influences on its sleeve. One of the best aspects of this album is the flurry of solos – furious and melodic, they add something special to each track.
Thanatos know they do well and stick to it; aggression, brutality and storming solos. And they do it really well. It’s impressive to see a band with so many years under their belts to still be releasing such intense and aggressive records. Global Purification doesn’t reinvent the wheel at any point, but the energy Thanatos bring to the table ensures it doesn’t get old.
The evolution that Mastodon began almost fifteen years ago, continues in 2014 as they prepare to drop their newest album. Along the way there have been few easy roads taken, and any battles won were well-earned on their climb to success. Certainly no one who started out with the band in their early days would have predicted where they would be today as a major international headliner, but this is where they are. As the band has grown they have picked up some new fans along the way who seemed to click with the newer, psychedelic rock vibes of their last few albums, while some die-hard lovers of their sludgy early forays have abandoned ship. That was bound to happen. If you stopped liking this band around the time of Crack The Skye, Once More Around The Sun (Reprise) will likely not see you make a return. However, if you have followed their entire oeuvre from the start and stayed, or came in as of late, this album has your name all over it.
Feeling like an erstwhile greatest hits album of tracks you have never heard before, there is a familiarity to the songs on Once More…. that calls to mind the best moments of the bands’ career. Even if it wasn’t intended, it has an odd effect on the listener. On one hand there is a comfort to this, like “Oh hey! I remember when they did that before!” The other effect is when the band goes back outside of the box yet again, it seems even a little more way out than before. Not every band can pull this off mind you, but the guys in Mastodon learned from their idols (mainly Neurosis and The Melvins) how to break down the machine of creativity, and build it back up again like few other modern bands do. For better or worse they always reinvent themselves slightly with each new outing and they do it selfishly, not the fans or their label. Take that for what it’s worth, this is what they do best.
And now for the music. When the band said earlier in the year that this album was a continuation of 2012’s The Hunter, they weren’t kidding. Although this album is a little less fuzzy and bright sounding than its forerunner, there is a ton of catchy prog and stoner grooves on this album to satisfy. The middle eastern-tinged guitars that open ‘Tread Lightly’ actually remind me of the opening of the Jonah Hex movie soundtrack Mastodon did a few years ago. This brief intro gives way to a driving rock anthem with some urgency. Bassist Troy Sanders and his dusky vocals dominate the track. So slick changes in the pre-chorus and bridge are typical of most Mastodon’s better releases. As usual, about ¾ of the way through the track BrentHinds and Bill Kelliher just go to town with layers of neat guitar parts. With almost no let up, ‘The Motherload’, also rocks. Drummer Brann Dailor’s lead vocals are stunning, the way they were in ‘Oblivion’. They knocked me out of my seat, as does his entire performance here. Impossibly, he continues to get better and better all around, every time. The first single ‘High Road’ comes next and in the context of the first two tracks, its welcome grooves bring us back down to earth a little bit. Totally obtuse and weird, the title track will leave your jaw agape. It definitely calls to mind Remission and Leviathan(both Relapse), but also has the prog factor of their recent work too. I was also surprised by the track’s brevity too, but for once the band of high-minded idealists gives you the Cliff’s Notes. And if it hasn’t set in by now, the concept of this album is time, life, and loss, and acceptance; as these are the things marking the lives of the Mastodonians for the last few years.
‘Chimes At Midnight’ has a touch of the old Mastodon in its DNA too. Fabulous string skipping guitar riffs, tribal beats and stellar vocals comprise the track. By now, the three-headed KingGhidorah monster vocals of Sanders, Hinds, and Dailor can rival any band for their ability to bring a variety of chops to the table. ‘Chimes…’ also has a musical and lyrical call-out to fan favorite ‘Hearts Alive’, which may explain why that song returned to the set list on their last US tour. Meanwhile ‘Asleep In the Deep’ mines some new ground melodically, while going with some staple song structures: call and response like vocals, and a nautical beat. Hinds just glows on this one, with his soulful crooning in full effect.
‘Feast Your Eyes’ is a raucous feeling song with a lot of twists and turns, but left me a bit flat as a trying-too-hard progressive/psychedelic rock tune. ‘Aunt Lisa’ was shaping up to be one of the best tracks on the album until the clunky ending gang vocals just made me cold. The Coathangers do the cheerleader-esque chant, but I feel this is better left to Faith No More and even Marilyn Manson; and adds some unnecessary schlock value to an otherwise good song. These represent the only less than par moments of the record for me.
Returning to form, ‘Ember City’ is transcendent, and a special song in the band’s history. When they do everything right, this band can give you chills. This is a great song on every level and I hope they add it to the set list when they tour behind this album. ‘Halloween’ follows quickly with yet another, killer fast song with great signing, baddass solos and basically a lot of head-banging material. ‘Diamond In The Witch House’ is another collaboration with Scott Kelly of Neurosis, once again it’s a marriage made in hell. Troy and Scott trade vocals in a way that just contrasts the other so perfectly, you wonder why Scott doesn’t just join this band already too, until you remember he has two other bands. The song itself is excellent and almost would be a more fitting title track for OMATS.
While still lacking the fierceness of their earlier rage-fests, the new Mastodon album is definitely worth a listen if you can forgive them their emotive, proggy trespasses.
KEITH (KEEFY) CHACHKES