For those of a certain age, the news that twenty-five years have passed since the death of Kurt Donald Cobain will scarcely be believable. But it is 25 years and yes, you do now feel old. You probably still feel sad and melancholy. Time has a terrible way of playing tricks with your memory but the passing of Nirvana’s frontman still resonates as if it were yesterday. The past remains, undoubtedly, a foreign country but I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. I was in laundrette in Bristol, England doing a weekend load of washing (this is what students did then). I was listening to the BBC on my five-year-old Sony radio walkman- remember those?- when the terrible, heart-stopping news came through on that grey, terrible slate grey April day.
It would seem that this is Scandinavian ‘Drenched Riffs’ Week, but to pigeonhole Swedish quartet The Riven as mere seventies Rock does them no justice whatsoever. Their bass-heavy groove machine is positively electric and eponymous debut album The Riven (The Sign Records) drips The Blues while shooting fire from both hips. Continue reading
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.
Started in 2011 and playing Roadburn last April 2013, Blues Pills are now signed with Nuclear Blast and quickly becoming quite the rising star. With the incredibly powerful, husky vocals by Elin Larsson, the blonde Swedish front Fury of the international quartet, incredible soulful guitar lines by the French youngster Dorian Sorriaux (only just 18) and a rocking, swinging base laid down in bass and drums by the two American initiators of the band Zack Anderson and Cory Berry, it’s a trip back to the birth of music festivals in the late 60’s early 70’s. Devil Man (Nuclear Blast) conjures a sense of a jam between Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Cream. Continue reading