Most people’s experience of ‘spoken word’ music, outside of the Rap genre, is Jim Morrison‘s ‘American Prayer’. Beat Poetry, for this is essentially the format, is a hugely involving yet highly personal style which often resounds with the listener. This is most definitely the case with Enablers: a San Francisco post-Punk four-piece whose beguiling, occasionally fiery music is set to the poetry and narrative of frontman Pete Simonelli. Continue reading
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.
For some time now, Californian Psych junkie Zach Oakley has wanted to team up with his percussionist brother Matt, and this wish has finally materialised with new project Volcano. Debut album The Island (Tee Pee Records) is a million miles away from the weird Blues of Harsh Toke, Joy, and Loom, from where the quintet has been culled: introducing African rhythms to whacked-out jams and creating an unusual yet vibrant concoction. Continue reading
It’s possible to believe that the boys of Virginian powerhouse Inter Arma gave themselves an impossible mountain to climb, given the superlative-exhausting greatness of 2014’s single-track opus The Cavern (Relapse Records). The hubbub generated in anticipation of new album Paradise Gallows (Relapse Records) shows the rapidly gained reputation the band’s output has gathered, and it’s an excitement that proves well-founded.
From the mournful acoustic beauty of opener ‘Nomini’, expanding to some incredibly affecting dual lead soloing which reappears alongside heartbreaking piano to devastating effect in the molten melodies of ‘Potomac’, it’s obvious that the unit’s collective desire to elicit emotion with powerful statements is still impossible to contain. TJ Childers’ gargantuan drumming is also to the fore and it is this, combined with growling riffs and Mike Paparo’s spacey, resonant roars, that governs the monstrous first shot in earnest ‘An Archer in the Emptiness’.
The echoing might carry into the following ‘Transfiguration’ and the chaotic, punishing Prog of the aptly named ‘Violent Constellations’: the quickened passages still implosive, the coruscating roars rebounding across the ages. Indeed, it seems the band now has more in common with the so-called ‘Caveman Doom’ of Conan than their Blackened roots, yet there’s a sense of grandeur and invention that the Liverpudlians can only dream of; a storytelling wonder which makes its lengthy tracks breeze by. The opening riffs of the future classic ‘Primordial Wound’, staccato yet oscillating and crushing, create a wall of sound, whilst Paparo’s fearful chants dwarf those of Charlton Heston’s Moses, hollering from atop Mount Sinai. ‘The Summer Drones’, meanwhile, still trampled by the footsteps of a colossus, sees a Jim Morrison-esque clean vocal soar through the skies on the back of monolithic, pregnant rhythms which grow with a fulminating tension, the middle section a dream of rampant Doors-like atmospheres yet crashing with the brutal euphoria of the Gods at war.
The title track begins with lazy Lounge airs, the undeniably sinister feel coated in a relaxed warmth. So the explosion is unexpected when it should be anything but, whilst still retaining torch-song sensibilities and more of that exquisite, Floydesque solo work easing the path of the pummeling body. Closer ‘Where the Earth Meets the Sky’ returns to the ethereal yet powerful beauty, a tragic Country lament given magnificence by echoing harmonies and that mesmerising strength, here sparing yet marvellously effective.
It’s evident that The Cavern set the template for Inter Arma’s future. Their Black elements almost gone, save the frequent obsidian rasps, the band nevertheless stand apart in making such epic-sounding, ferocious yet moving music; in turn reaffirming their status as one of the Metal scene’s most important outfits. That impossible mountain? Scaled, and some.
New York natives Moon Tooth started off their new year by self-releasing their first full length album Chromaparagon whether the music world was ready for it or not. From listening to the result, it is clear the band members were ready.
The Keith Haring like album cover conveys exactly the colorful and primal, yet poetic sounds that the band comes up with. It is all off to a driving start with the first track ‘Queen Wolf’. The song was also the first off the album to be released alongside a music video. Although there is trouble understanding the lyrics during a few parts, one can tell that a badass story is being told.
These stories are what make up the entire album. They could also be interpreted as personal revelations or even poetry. One gets the feeling that if Jim Morrison had been born at a later time, this is what he would be doing. The lyrics are the strongest point which is not surprising since the entire band shares the credit of writing them; vocalist John Carbone brings them to life. The music is quality too and the instrumentation is similar to Mastodon.
Moon Tooth primarily describes themselves as being hard rock and progressive, but it is evident from tracks like ‘Little Witch’ that they can channel other influences. As the title suggests, the song is reminiscent of the Misfits horror inspired punk and is a fun jam. ‘Bats in the Attic’ is another thoroughly enjoyable tune. Because it is an instrumental, it breaks up the album well.
The only point at which Chromaparagon falters in the least is ‘White Stag’. After listening to an intense and thought-provoking album, it can be heard to listen to a gentler ten minute track. Overall, it is quite an impressive début album and a great way to start off the musical year.
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Even in this musically idiosyncratic world of genres, sub-genres, tribes, sub-tribes and singleton geniuses, the desire for Finnish psychedelic folk rock may not have been top of your musical shopping list. You should change that forthwith now that Hexvessel’s third album, the striking When We Are Death (Century Media), has arrived for our collective delectation.
Four years ago, their second album, No Holier Temple was a curious and often compelling blend of Woods of Ypres inspired atmospherics, Opeth tinged acoustics and an obvious and deep-seated love of drug influenced 60s and 70s rock, particularly that made by Mr. Jim Morrison and his partners in crime in The Doors.
No Holier Temple was about the trip and the mood; it was inviting and beguiling. By contrast, When We Are Death initially appears as a straightforward folk rock record. Before you jump to a logical conclusion that they have thrown the baby out with the Finnish bathwater, hold your psychedelic horses. The band’s love of psychedelia remains resolutely intact: when you have songs called Drugged Up On the Universe and Mushroom Spirit Doors it is fairly self-evident how the band spend part of their leisure time but there is also a much more deliberate attention to song structure and that oft-ignored discipline of the tune in distinct evidence here. Have a listen, for example to the sparky, keyboard soaked friskiness of When I Am Dead or the smoky jazz backdrop of the reflective and melancholic Mirror Boy and you’ll immediately understand what I’m getting at.
At the heart of this collective endeavour is the vocal prowess of British born Mat McNerney who has a fragility and emotional heft to his voice that does three things particularly well. First: it brings an authenticity to the songs that cuts through with striking immediacy. Second: as narrator, his range is never overbearing nor irritating. Third: he does the best Jim Morrison you’ve heard in ages. Oh and, yes, this is the same Mat from Beastmilk, by the way.
Hexvessel are an intoxicating proposition. They are not, repeat, not, a heavy metal band. Not in the stereotypical sense of the phrase anyway.However, Hexvessel share some of the same qualities and attitude that underscores the metal aesthetic. This is a record is a record of charm and wit and invention. It is a record that is warm and inviting and, being released in the depths of winter, you cannot say any fairer than that. So we won’t.
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I’ve never been a fan of an artist tweaking with a release, especially after it has been available for fans to pay money for a couple of years. It rarely improves the product and in most cases damages the initial spark that brought it to life in the first place. Perfect example, how many people watched Star Wars and thought “Oh I wish Han didn’t shoot first!! Can we have a shit laser blast to appear from nowhere and make the character a little less bad ass please?” No one? Thought so.
Milking The Stars (or fans’ bank balance) is the new album by veteran space rockers Monster Magnet. The record features re-recordings of five tracks from the bands previous album The Last Patrol (both Napalm) which itself was released the previous year in 2013. Despite this Milking The Stars: A Reimaging Of The Last Patrol ,to give it its full title, reckons it would be a good idea to rerecord them. Oh and by ‘reimagining’ Dave Wyndorf and co basically mean, make it sound like The Doors then add more acid and tie dyed sheets.
The album opens on one of the new songs recorded for the release (five reimaginings, two live tracks and five brand new tracks for the album in total) called ‘Let The Circus Burn’ which can be best described as seven minutes of the band instrumentally pissing around. It might sound good if you were let’s say, smacked out on enough acid to wake Jim Morrison up in the morning, or think it was a good idea to let Ringo sing on a few songs, but to me this is unbearable self-indulgent hokum of the highest order.
The album does have some pretty dirty moments peppered throughout the record when it is not off tripping its face off. The third track ‘No Paradise For Me’ is pretty filthy stuff, not necessarily a return to their stoner roots or their Power Trip (A&M) days, but there is at least something in there.
Overall, Milking The Stars: A Re-imaging Of The Last Patrol is a reinterpretation of more recent material released by the band less than a year ago with more of a psychedelic vibe. I am going to be honest and say I am baffled as to why this “reimagining” exists as the tracks already feature a heavy psychedelic presence , with the re-recording seemingly pushing that into overdrive, damaging the album in the process.