Music Release Reviews (Page 2)

6 Reviews (2 New)
A Dark and Scary Place

Valley of Thorns, by The Kut

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Label: Pledge Music

June 2018

The Kut is a home-grown band consisting of trio Princess Maha (Lead Vocals/Guitar), Stella Vie (Bass & Backing Vocals) and Diana Bartmann (Drums & Backing Vocals). They are described as Trash Rock in the vein of Courtney Love and Hole. Kerrang! magazine featured the band as one of the Breakthrough Acts of 2017. Singles, EPs and tour dates lead up to the release of their debut album, Valley of Thorns, via Cargo and Pledge Music. It is produced by James Le Rock (Def Leppard/White Zombie). The album has just charted at Number 7 in the UK Rock Album Charts. They embark on a promotional UK tour in late July 2018 culminating in a gig at The Lounge – London on 19th August.


The Kut were apparently finalists of the UK Songwriting Contest 2017, and semi-finalists of the International Songwriting  Competition, so they’re no slouches. In fact, they’ve certainly put themselves about – in the nicest possible sense, touring heavily and taking in the festivals such as Download, Camden Rocks and Hard Rock Hell. No mean feat for what is essentially a new band. Sleaze and Gutter Rock is the order of the day. I want to mention Hanoi Rocks, although not as diverse in the songs as that great combo. It’s probably closer to the Andy McCoy off-shoot band Cherry Bombz.


At first I could appreciate the rocking riffs and the often angry energetic vocals; however, I’m not certain after playing this through a couple of times that it stirs the emotions or spirit. It’s sort of enjoyable without ever making you exclaim, ‘Oh Yeah!’


'Mind Games' is a strange song to kick off the album with. A middle-of-the-road pace and almost sleep-inducing vocals is hardly an inspiring start. 'Hollywood Rock n Roll' has a little more drive and energy but is restricted by the lyrics. 'No Trace' has an almost Goth Metal pace but with fuzz guitar and a return to sleepily sung words. 'I Want You Maniac' screams out to be a single, with its rocky riff, catchy chorus and variation in the vocals.


With a moderate pace 'Rush Hour' still manages to be a good song, albeit with an over-familiar structure. In 'I Am Vain' Princess Maha lets loose with the first meaty guitar solo of the album and, although it’s not the best in the world, it gives the music the energy which it severely lacks in a percentage of the tracks. 'Alekhine’s Gun' is a strange one, but inclusion of the screamed vocals works well. 'X-Ray Eyes' is another Commercial Rock piece which I can well imagine joining 'I Want You Maniac' as a single. 'Bad Man', for me, is the stand-out song of the album, being hard-edged, catchy and angry.


I’m no prude but I always consider using expletives indiscriminately as being severely lacking in vocabulary and imagination. They are probably only there to gain the front cover a Parental Advisory Explicit Content sticker. 'Mario' wraps-up the proceedings with a repeating riff and a building energy.


This is a pretty good Rock piece, but it is middle of the road. I think The Kut will find a fair amount of followers; for me though it fails to light the touch paper or drag you screaming along the ground behind a bolting horse. Buy Blood Command’s Cult Drugs and you’ll see what I mean.

Verdict: 6 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2018) 

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Death Song, by The Black Angels

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Label: Partisan Records

April 2017

The Black Angels are described as a Psych Rock band. They formed in 2004 in Austin, Texas, in America, and have since founded the Levitation Festival and toured in support of Queens of the Stone Age. They incorporate Christian Bland on guitar, drone machine and organ; Alex Maas on vocals, bass and organ/drone machine; Stephanie Bailey on drums and percussion; Kyle Hunt on keyboards, percussion, bass and guitar; and Jake Garcia on guitar.


Death Song is the band’s fifth full-length album, but the first in four years. It is released 21 April 2017 on Partisan Records. The Black Angels are currently on tour in support of the title, including a handful of dates in the UK, and hit the London Forum on 22 September.


I would definitely describe this genre as Psychedelic, but not as in David Bowie’s 'The Laughing Gnome'; more in the vein of Pink Floyd’s 'Interstellar Overdrive', and 'Astronomy Domine' – only not nearly as good. There are influential elements of Goth Metal very much in evidence in nearly every song. This means the structure throughout is very similar: lighter verses, with heavy riffs and choruses. I’m afraid that pretty soon it all began to meld together. Each song should really shout out its own identity; there has to be some individuality, like separate quirky hooks or a different way of putting across the vocals (these are sung mostly in the same tone). The sound is very solid and professional but it’s too ‘samey’.


I can certainly imagine 'Comanche Moon' being played in the UFO Club in the 1960s, as it’s the best of the bunch… until 'Life Song'. The final track is something different and so comes across like a breath of fresh air. In fact, it’s very atmospheric and carries some emotion. This feeling is heightened further still by a lovely guitar solo. It proves so refreshing after the constant fuzz of the previous tracks. If only they were all this good.

Verdict: 4 out of 10

 (Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017) 

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Black Dog Barking, by Airbourne

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Label: Roadrunner Records

May 2013

Airbourne is a traditional rock back from Australia. The band members are Joel O’Keeffe (vocals/guitar), Ryan O’Keeffe (drums), David Roads (guitar), and Justin Street (bass). Formed in Victoria in 2003, they have released two previous studio albums, Runnin’ Wild (2007) and No Guts, No Glory (2010). Black Dog Barking is their latest outing. It is released by Roadrunner Records and consists of ten tracks in the standard edition, and a second disc of live tracks on the special edition:


01. Ready to Rock
02. Animalize
03. No One Fits Me (Better Than You)
04. Back in the Game
05. Firepower
06. Live it Up
07. Woman Like That
08. Hungry
09. Cradle to the Grave
10. Black Dog Barking


For anyone who doesn’t already know, Airbourne is like an AC/DC tribute band, except the material is original. The affinity to their world-wide famous country cousins is immediately apparent. Aside from having two brothers in the band, the styling is very similar – only (let’s be honest) not as good. Why listen to the wannabe wallabies when you have the originals. This is probably why, although I’ve been aware of this band, I haven’t really given them much attention. I used to enjoy AC/DC a great deal some years back, and still like to hear their riff-based music, but I was more an advocate of the earlier Bon Scott blues-rock based era. Airbourne is closer to the Brian Johnson stuff.


I’ve heard some tracks from Airbourne’s debut album, Runnin’ Wild, and I have to say it’s a lot more enjoyable than Black Dog Barking. They’re more varied and seem more gritty. I find this one to be very samey. These chorus-chants and stories of bad boys having a good time seems somewhat west coast (America, that is), and the lack of variety in style leaves you feeling that it’s just lacklustre.


I am aware of the almost universal rave reviews and accolades this album has received; everything is subjective, after all. However, after decades of listening to all genres of rock and metal, I find myself increasingly striving for bands in this area which are radically new and different. I remember how I felt when hearing the first albums of Rhapsody, Finntroll and Falconer – these styles hadn’t been heard before. So, you may understand why I found this album mediocre. It’s very spirited and competent, but simply did not excite me. Time will tell whether it’s me or Airbourne who gets shot down in flames.


I do like the idea of the title though; the black dog said to plague dreams of the troubled mind. This Freudian/Jung theme would have made a great concept for the whole album, and perhaps offered it more direction.

Verdict: 4 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2013)  

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Faith or Theory, by Circle of Reason

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Label: Freefall Records

May 2016

Circle of Reason is a four-piece Alternative Prog/Grunge Rock band from Southampton, formed in 2011. Their first release was the EP 'A Favour for a Stranger', the following year. This attracted the attention of Kerrang! TV and the music press. They followed this up with the lighter 'Yesterday Already' EP, and 'These Hands and This Mind', in 2014. Their new album, Faith or Theory is released on Freefall Records just prior to a string of UK live dates...


Though my favourite band of all time is Pink Floyd, my music tastes do tend to lean firmly towards the heavier end of the spectrum. Hard Rock and particularly Metal is my main interest, so I’m drawn to anything which exudes boundless energy but is equally as melodic. Circle of Reason certainly comes under that category. The style has been compared with many other existing bands, but perhaps the closest musically is Mastodon. The vocals are sung alongside a thick riff-based structure, wherein they are a little lost. Nevertheless, as the album begins, it is enjoyable enough to get instantly hooked into the groove – so to speak.


Have you ever picked-up a DVD box set of a really exciting TV series and quickly learned that, to get the most impact from the material, you shouldn’t watch any more than one episode per day? That is called the Law of Diminishing Returns. The more used to something you get, the less effect it has on you. Unfortunately, Faith or Theory suffers from exactly that. It is good all the time you are hearing only one or two tracks at a time. Listened to as a complete piece, the songs seep into each other, so that it all begins to sound the same. I’m not certain how I would cope with an entire live show.


Don’t get me wrong; I’ve heard considerably worse than this, believe me. At least Circle of Reason has something going for it as a band. It’s just not varied enough for me, and so is not my cup of tea.

Verdict: 5 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2016) 

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Burst, by Brutus

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Label: Hassle Records

February 2017

Brutus is a heavy atmospheric trio hailing from Leuven in Belgium. It comprises singing drummer Stefanie Mannaerts, guitarist Stijn Vanhoegaerden, and Peter Mulders’ bass. Initially, the latter two played as a tribute to Swedish band Refused, but after Stefanie turned-up to an audition and blew them away with her talent, the trio went in their own direction. Burst, released by Hassle Records, is the debut album. The tracks are: 'March', 'All Along', 'Not Caring', 'Justice De Julia II', 'Drive', 'Bird', 'Crack / Waste', 'Looking For Love on Devils Mountain', 'Horde II', 'Baby Seal', and 'Child'.

I was quite intrigued at the prospect of hearing a band that the music press, such as NME and Kerrang!, has said so many remarkable things about. It seems that Brutus is described slightly differently by practically everyone who hears them. Rock sub-genres include: Punk, Metal, Heavy Rock, Psycho Pop!, Trash, Mogwai, Hardcore, and many more. My own view is Heavy Pop Punk. The road drill-consistent Tsunami of sound is penetrated by high-pitch (even shrill) vocals which are rather disconcerting in the first instance. It seems so out of place and, although the shock wears off a little, the tone of the singing is almost universally monotone. This is a shame, because there are some interesting guitar hooks which are rather tainted by the air-raid siren singing at the hands of the drummer. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t suppose it’s easy. I can hardly drum with any sort of competence, let alone sing at the same time.

This unusual singing and drumming combination means that most of the best beats are in the instrumental parts, which have their moments. The stand-out track is 'Justice De Julia II', as the construction of the song is eminently different. It features the only change of pace for the vocals, giving a taste of how varied the songs could have been. There are some nice guitar pieces in it, too. Perhaps a shorter E.P. would have had significantly more impact, but this album-length release I find too ‘samey’.

Verdict: 5 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017) 

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Loom, by Loom

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Label: Silent Cult Records

May 2017

Loom is a Punk trio from home-grown Leamington Spa, comprising frontman Tarik Badwan, Matt Marsh, and Joshua Fitzgerald. They have previously put out two low-key cassette releases, the latter showcasing covers of their influences. This self-titled album is their first proper CD. It is released via Silent Cult Records, and distributed by Red Essential...

This may be Punk, but a few different styles are on show here in an attempt to mix it up and not be pigeonholed. It is closer to the American examples than the 1970s British Punk Rock, which you might expect. At lower levels the singer’s voice at times resembles Iggy Pop (which is certainly no bad thing). The best compositions are the first five tracks – even if they do contain song titles such as 'Hate', and 'Lice'! They are Grungy and have more of a hook. The idea seems to be to play guitar in the verses that is somewhat out of context with the rest of the band (even to the extent of sounding off-key), so when it’s done more conventionally in the chorus it sounds all the more "together". These first few even have singalong moments (perhaps if you’re listening in the car alone; you wouldn’t want to frighten the wildlife!).

Touches of The Ramones can be detected, but it’s probably a lot closer to The Misfits. The second half of the album is where it gets more experimental. There’s a form of psychedelia which creeps in, with a slower pace and even more weird guitar… to the extent it sounds like he’s playing a different song to the others.

So, like football, this is a game of two halves. Accordingly, my rating here reflects the better first half.

Verdict: 7 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017)

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