Music Release Reviews (Page 2)

15 Reviews (3 New)
A Dark and Scary Place

Live at the Smokehouse, by Psychic Lemon

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Label: Tonzonen Records

April 2019

Tonzonen Records releases Live at the Smokehouse, by experimental rock band Psychic Lemon – available on limited edition orange and green splatter vinyl and CD. The band consists of Andy Briston on guitar and synths, Andy Hibberd on bass, and Martin Law on drums. They first got together in 2014 in Cambridge, where they still rehearse today. Their first album was Psychic Lemon (2016), followed by Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay (2018); this is their third full release...


Live at the Smokehouse was recorded in Ipswich on 10 August 2018. The first side of the disc features three tracks from their previous album, Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay: 'Interstellar Fuzz Star', 'Satori Disko', and 'Hey Droog!' The second side is made up of two new tracks: 'Jonny Marvel at the Milky Way', and 'White Light'. The former of these last two is a tribute to their greatest fan, who became a good friend and has, sadly, passed on.


When I received this for review all I saw in my mind’s eye was Blind Lemon,   before I suddenly realised it was a group I had never come across before. The music of Psychic Lemon has been described in several different genre combinations. They themselves prefer Krautfunk (strange, as they are English). I would classify them as Psychedelic Space Rock. The music is instrumental, and in the vein of experimental jamming. To find their purpose the tracks are all upwards of six minutes – two of them over ten minutes.


If you like some of the earlier Tangerine Dream albums, or Pink Floyd in their weirdly brilliant UFO Club era ('Interstellar Overdrive', etc.) you’re almost certain to like this. It generally takes a simple melody and builds/plays around with the theme. Personally, I enjoyed this outing, but could only appreciate it fully in small doses of two tracks at a time. It gets a bit too much after that, and you start to lose your grip on it. Having said that, I’d much rather listen to hours of this than inane commercial pop which begins to grate a lot earlier. The odd   thank you to the audience from the band is very low in the mix and barely audible. But it’s not a necessity; it’s the music we’re here for.

Verdict: 7 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2019)  

Auburn Rule, by Wren

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Label: Holy Roar Records

July 2017

Wren is a four-piece post metal/noise-rock combo from London. Since its inception the band has undergone a number of line-up changes. The self-titled debut EP was released in 2014 and followed-up by a second one, Host, which garnered favourable reactions from the likes of  Metal Hammer magazine and Terrorizer. One of the most significant word-of-mouth recommendations came from BBC Radio 1’s Rock Show, with repeat plays. Now Wren releases a first full album called Auburn Rule on Holy Roar Records, and sets out on a string of live dates including Raw Power...


Wren can most simply and accurately by described as doom metal. As a long-time follower of metal music I have experienced the vast majority of sub-genre categories. Sometimes it is easy to be deterred by below par examples of a certain type of metal, and this can mean missing out on some hidden gems. It makes more logical sense to simply try every band you might easily come across before deciding whether or not you can’t abide them. Doom isn’t one of my chosen areas of metal, but I have soaked-up the (depressive) atmosphere of some. One thing I will say for Wren is they are a really tight unit. The timing as well as the impact of musical structure changes are so spot-on it’s spooky.


Did you sense a ‘but’ coming? Never! ‘However’, although all of the solid   groundwork is there, certain factors let down the finished product. Firstly, the vocals seem to be quite low in the mix, like someone calling for help from a distant hilltop. They are ‘sung’ in exactly the same manner for every song with no variation or deviation. Doom is by its very nature low and moderately-paced. Here, once you have appreciated what they can do, you begin to grow tired of the monotony. There are only five tracks: 'In the Great Yield', 'Scour the Grassland', 'The Herd', 'Traverse' and 'Dwellers of the Sepulchre'. Two of these attempt to introduce some atmospheric interludes halfway through, before returning to the set formula.


Lack of originality and diversity is the problem here. If Wren was to progress into ground breaking territory they could very probably be a force to be reckoned with.

Verdict: 5 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017)  

Sombre Dessein, by Herod

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Label: Pelagic Records

February 2019

Pelagic Records releases Sombre Dessein by Swiss band Herod. Emerging with their first album, They Were None in 2004, this follow-up is described as riff-based polyrhythmic patterns and heaviness. More simply, it’s progressive sludge metal. New singer Mike Pilat also plays guitar, as does band originator Pierre Carroz. The rest of the line-up consists of Fabien Vodoz on drums, and Bertrand Pot on guitar. There’s a guest appearance by Bill Steer of Carcass, who plays guitar on the track 'Fork Tongue'. The theme is said to follow the end of our Judaeo-Christian and thermo-industrial civilisation. With images of container shipbreakers, they seek to highlight human consumption and waste, and the risk of life to those breakers...


When   you hear that Herod (not to be confused with the American band) have toured supporting the likes of Obituary, Voivod, Napalm Death, Crowbar and Carcass, it would be easy to assume they are extreme metal in a similar vein… and you wouldn’t be too far wrong. I was intrigued by the potential of Herod, and really wanted to like it. Unfortunately, this is not a bracket of metal that excites me. I require energy and melody in my life, and this supplies only the former. I’m sad to say it’s not even original in its sub-genre field, producing a hurried and chaotic cacophony of noise and nonsensical growls. Don’t get me wrong, I like growled vocals as long as they fit the melody and hook you in. Amon Amarth and Finntroll are two prime examples of this.


The   track listing is: 'Fork Tongue Intro', 'Fork Tongue', 'Reckoning', 'Don’t Speak Last', 'Silent Truth', 'Mourning Grounds', and 'There Will Be God'. I found myself waiting impatiently for variation, music breaks and cadences purely as a change from the monotony. All of the songs are at the same moderate pace, and ninety percent of the vocals are growled without tune or harmony. The exceptions are the background clean vocals or, in the case of 'Silent Truth', alternate clean and growled. These clean vocals come across rather better, but the set pace offers them little opportunity for variation. The main saving grace here are the drums, which hammer-out a different odd pattern for each song. I found myself listening to the drums more than the entire combo.


'There Will Be God' has a very nice melody and driving drum beat which slowly builds over the first four minutes, and then bursts through with menace to play-out the almost 10-minute song as an instrumental… That is until the eight-minute mark when there is a handful of growled vocals thankfully forced into the background. This is by far the best piece of music on the album, and it makes me wonder what Herod could have achieved here in different circumstances.

Verdict: 4 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2019)  

Black Dog Barking, by Airbourne

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Label: Roadrunner Records

May 2013

Airbourne is a traditional rock band 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)  

New Southern, by Anti-Mortem

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Label: Nuclear Blast

April 2014

Anti-Mortem is a young five-piece band from Oklahoma, which has been raised on American Rock and Metal. Their humble beginnings rehearsing and playing live to friends and family in a barn has led to the big time, opening for bands such as Black Label Society, Killswitch Engage, and Five Finger Death Punch. They play the Download festival this month. New Southern is their debut album. The band consists of Larado Romo on Vocals, Zain Smith on Guitar, Nevada Romo on Guitar, Corey Henderson on Bass, and Levi Dickerson on Drums.


Let me say first of all that I love the artwork for the cover of this album, which has a skeleton Confederate soldier on a skeleton horse bearing down on two Yankee soldiers, in an obvious scene from the American Civil War. The band logo looks very nice, too. Anti-Mortem is described as Southern Rock fused with Metal, so I was expecting something like ZZ Top or Molly Hatchet, with Metal hooks or perhaps some rasping speed, but I would describe it very much as nineties American Stadium Rock, with the tiniest hint of Nu-Metal. There is no recognisable Southern Rock or Boogie style at all, so don’t be misled by the title or cover.


They are not a million miles away from a Metal version of Nickelback, but with much less melody and practically no light and shade. The first four songs are all mid-tempo, using pretty much the same riff, and I’m sorry to say are instantly forgettable. Track five, 'Black Heartbeat', owes a debt to Bon Jovi, at least in terms of style. It’s a sort of non-ballad if there is such a thing, and it reminded me of 'Wanted Dead or Alive'. 'I Get Along With the Devil' is one of those angry Nu-Metal songs wherein it seems there has to be as much bad language as possible to perhaps impress their fellow youngsters – and I’m no prude.

   

'Wake Up'  is the closest I came to relating to a musical structure. There is a proper verse and chorus which you can grab onto and return to. 'Ride of Your Life' has the best opening of the bunch, and I briefly wondered why they hadn’t opened the album with it. It has a nice little melody, but as soon as the vocals begin the guitars return to that chunky chugging which accompanies every song. It’s rather ironic that the most different and pleasing song for me is the bonus track, 'A Little Too Loose'.


Admittedly I’m not a real fan of American Metal (Rock bands like Blue Oyster Cult, ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughan, etc. – yes), and, although I love many sub-genres of Metal, I have never been able to get on with Nu-Metal. I have to say, I’m disappointed, and that’s probably because I was expecting so much. The band photo looks cool and so does the cover; but you should never judge a book by the cover. I was expecting the next Molly Hatchet album. Any band, particularly a new one, needs to be drastically different in some way, or at least have a member with a lot of charisma. Apparently, Anti-Mortem has already written over a hundred songs; with that in mind, I was expecting the ones on the album to be stronger.

Verdict: 5 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2014)  

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) 

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) 

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) 

Hellfire Ocean Void, by Demon Head

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Label: Svart Records

February 2019

Svart Records releases Hellfire Ocean Void, by Danish doom rockers Demon Head. They hail from Copenhagen and consist of M.F.L. on vocals, guitar and synthesisers, J.W. on drums, T.G.N. on guitar, M.F. on bass, and B.G.N. on recording, mixing and soundscapes. Since forming in 2012, they have released a Demo (2014), Ride the Wilderness (2015), Thunder on the Fields (2017), The Resistance EP (2018), and the aforementioned Hellfire Ocean Void. They record first in their own analogue studio before getting the resulting tracks remastered by producer Flemming Rasmussen (Metallica, Mercyful Fate, Morbid Angel). The album incorporates the songs 'Rumours', 'The Night is Yours', 'A Flaming Sea', 'In the Hour of the Wolf', 'Labyrinth', 'Strange Eggs', 'Death’s Solitude' and 'Mercury and Sulphur'.


You might have guessed from the song titles that Demon Head’s main theme of songwriting is the occult and dark fantasy. These themes work well with this music, as you would expect with doom rock. But within the sub-genres of rock and metal there is doom and there is doom. Many people believe that metal is metal; it’s all pretty similar. However, for those in the know, even a sub-genre doesn’t necessarily tell you exactly what you’re getting… and most people wouldn’t have it any other way.


The main element which places Demon Head’s music in the doom category is the vocals. I wasn’t sure at first about the ultra-low, bass-like vocals, but they quickly grew on me. Like the rest of the structure, you never quite know where it’s going. I love this sort of format. Just like a mysterious alien or monster in a movie; the moment it is seen and understood fully it’s power is depleted. I listened to this album through three times, and I’m still not sure if I’ve got a handle on it. Music which does something radically different – that stretches away just out of reach – often proves more captivating than the conventional verse, verse, chorus, verse, solo, chorus.


'Rumours' is a mostly keyboard slow intro into the whole, and proves to be a mislead into the pleasurable shock that is 'The Night is Yours'. I don’t know if Demon Head release singles, but if so this is the obvious candidate. You are immediately drawn in by the excellent guitar hooks and melodies, with a solid low bassline of bass guitar and drums. This is by far the most upbeat track, despite the subject material and the vocals which sound just odd enough to tell you something eerie and bizarre is going on. In retrospect, they are a perfect accompaniment to the music elements, even though he’s not going to win any awards for singing prowess. That’s one of the many good things about rock and metal: you don’t need to have the greatest singer in the world, just something which suits the music. And this fits it like a glove.


Although still in low tones, the vocalist sings out more in 'A Flaming Sea'. It’s driven by a layered guitar riff which is suitably unconventional, and even the short instrumental break is odd but in a good way. 'In the Hour of the Wolf' has what you believe to be conventional rock song elements, but halfway through it gets creepy with some sound effects and a dully tolling clock bell, before a slow and heavy time change is incorporated which although there are some vocals, has more the feel of a long outro. The guitars build up throughout this section and then die away.


'Labyrinth' is an electro-acoustic number which has a very pagan feel to it. It wouldn’t be out of place in a film like The Wicker Man. 'Strange Eggs' is just outright weird, with several time changes, out of tune (or at least, out of key) guitar break, vocals with very little inflection, and a slowing to an odd screeching at the end. They’ve gone for Twilight Zone off-kilter and come very close to achieving it, although this is probably the weakest track.


'Death’s Solitude' has an almost medieval introduction, before the vocals set the scene for a showcase for the drums doing a near-repeating pattern (à la Nick Mason on the first half of Pink Floyd's 'A Saucerful of Secrets'), with the guitars using heavy chords. There is another nice outro, which maintains the drum pattern. 'Mercury and Sulphur' has a central theme which alters very slightly just when you get used to it. The guitar melody over the top is very good. A great way to finish the album.


Overall, this is completely unconventional, bonkers… and I love it. As I’ve said, I look forward to experiencing something different within established genres. Send me the previous albums and I’ll gladly review them.

Verdict: 8 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2019) 

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) 

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)

Yn Ol I Annwn, by Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard

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Label: New Heavy Sounds

March 2019

New Heavy Sounds releases Yn Ol Annwn (Return to the Underworld), by Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard. It is the third part of a trilogy of albums – their first intergalactic voyage – following Noeth Ac Anoeth (2015) and Y Proffwyd Dwyll (2017). The band from Wales consists of Paul Michael Davies on synthesizer and guitar, Jessica Ball on vocals, bass and synthesizer, Wez Leon on synthesiser and guitar, James Carrington on synthesiser and drums, and Stuart Sinclair. The music can be described as Space Rock, incorporating Soundtrack music (in particular John Carpenter), Acoustics, Psychedelia, and a large dollop of Doom.


How does all this pan out, you might ask? 'Tralfmadore' acts as an introduction to the whole, with a building keyboard riff and a hissing rush. 'The Spaceships of Ezekiel' has electronic noises of old (bass synth?) and  a deep riff which takes over, with female vocals low in the mix. Another bass and synth takes control after one verse. Although this is top drawer weird, you can’t help getting hooked-up and dragged along to the asylum. Is it my imagination or do the vocals become increasingly prominent? 'Fata Morgana' has a trebly guitar intro which forms the basis of this track. It’s slower, with husky and echoing vocals. A second guitar is entered into the fray, playing a melody which is similar but noticeably different to the other. I have to say it works well. The entire thing sounds quite ghostly. Then the song suddenly becomes much heavier with a riff and full band feel, whilst maintaining the same pace of the vocals. Like track 2, after a while the experience becomes quite hypnotic. Towards the end of the song electronica once again becomes more prominent to enable a cosmic outro.


'Du Bist Jetzt Nicht in der Zu' begins with a melancholy electronic intro and bass string accompaniment. The vocals come in very melodically and are joined by strings and melody guitar. I expected this song to explode like the previous two, but it is pleasantly surprising to have this one play-out as a ballad or sorts. 'Yn Ol i Annwn' hits with the shock of a heavy, full band sound right from the outset, which brings an appreciative smile to the face. The vocals are, again, plaintive and reverberant. They are even slightly layered in this one. The repeated riff drives this along so that, when weird noises and a guitar solo join the party, the mind itself helps keep the direction of the back beat. 'Katyusha' is a moderate-paced typical Doom-laden full band piece, which then gradually emits keys and electronica. This is the longest track on offer here, and it allows MWWB to really let the mood run and experiment with the outcome. This has a free reign feeling, as if it’s a jam and being made-up as they go along. If this is the outcome of active experimentation, artistes should be going down this route more often. The spaceship weird noises come in about two-thirds of the way through. This is a great instrumental which demands repeated plays.


The   opening of 'The Majestic Clockwork' sounds very much like a Black Sabbath riff. A break changes the format in an instant. For a moment it resembles Soundtrack music, before the heaviness and vocals arrive simultaneously. If I’m honest this track is weak compared with what has come before. 'Five Days in the Abyss' wraps things up for this journey. It has an atmospheric, somewhat Celtic opening which summons melancholy, before Thor’s mythical hammer is slammed down. A repeated riff is backed by haunting vocals which return to the opening echoing sadness… and then back again to the Doom-laden heavy sound. This time the two opposite approaches are meshed. Guitars break through the introspection and play the track into an electronic discordance.


Any fans of classic Hawkwind, Doom and Black Metal will surely love this.

Verdict: 8 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2019)  

Zero Days, by Prong

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Label: Steamhammer / SPV

July 2017

The band Prong has been around since the late 1980s. After putting the band on hold for a major rethink, mainstay Tommy Victor reinvented the combo in 2012 with the album Carved into Stone. Ruining Lives followed in 2014, and in 2015 they released an album of cover songs, called Songs From the Black Hole. X – No Absolutes heralded a major headlining tour. Which brings us to the brand new release, Zero Days, a 14-track relentless statement of the world today. Prong hails from America and incorporates Victor on guitar and vocals, Mike Longworth on bass, and Art Cruz on drums. 2017 sees another major tour, taking in many of the Metal festivals...


Prong is described as an amalgamation of Thrash, Hardcore and Industrial Metal, and I would say that’s pretty accurate on the whole. Many of these small and heavy bands are rooted in a coupling of Punk and Metal. This can go one of two ways: either into Green Day territory or down the path of Grunge/Grindcore. Prong has taken the latter route, and I must say at the outset that it’s not really to my taste. I like all types of Metal, but it has to be melodic. Many of the songs have good guitar intros for the first few seconds but thereafter are overtaken by monotone vocals which seldom if ever vary. Many of the songs sound pretty much the same because there’s no light and dark moments. In other words, although there is plenty of energy, there is no emotion… so you just don’t care. Perhaps that is exactly what the music is trying to portray.


Things look up occasionally with a melodic guitar break or cleanly-voiced chorus. 'Divide and Conquer' is a prime example of this, but it doesn’t occur any more than a maximum of three times over the fourteen songs. I realise this is an established group whose material often garners rave reviews, and gets them invited to festivals, but I’m afraid this interpretation of the genre just doesn’t pull me along for the ride.

Verdict: 4 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017) 

Zeit, by Tangerine Dream

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Label: Varèse Sarabande

April 2018

Varese Sarabande sold all available copies of Tangerine Dream’s debut album from 1970, Electronic Meditation, when re-released as part of Record Store Day’s Black Friday in 2017. Now they are re-releasing a special addition of the group’s breakthrough third album from 1972, Zeit, on tangerine-colour vinyl. Each side of this double disc incorporates one song. The tracks on offer are 'First Movement – Birth of Liquid Plejades', 'Second Movement – Nebulous Dawn', 'Third Movement – Origin of Supernatural Probabilities', and 'Fourth Movement – Zeit'...


Tangerine Dream is a German band which seems to have been around in one form or another for ever. Their output has been prolific, to say the least, with upwards of 100 studio and live albums, and more than 30 film soundtracks (including: Sorcerer, Firestarter, Legend, Risky Business, and The Keep) – which they are probably better known for. They are no doubt one of the originators of Electronic Rock. Although always having been aware of their presence, my best introduction to them came as late as the 1990s via long-term member Christopher Franke’s brilliant music for the science fiction series Babylon 5.  I have four CDs of music just from that show, and it’s full of emotion, action, tension and intrigue.


However, Zeit is very different. Whereas Tangerine Dream’s later releases were more in the aforementioned Electronic Rock vein, the early releases could be closer described as ambience pieces. Soundscapes, conceived to transport the listener to another place. Remember, when Zeit was first released it was still an era of hippy preponderance (a contradiction, perhaps), finding oneself, stretching the imagination by any means necessary and Psychedelic Space Rock – although the tail-end of it. I didn’t like this at first, and that’s because I rushed through the listening process, doing other things at the same time, and didn’t really give it the chance it deserves.


I discovered that you have to be of a certain mindset to fully appreciate what was intended with this album. Lie down, close your eyes, put on your headphones, and allow no distractions. Zeit is not so much about music as creating movement, emotion, and in particular foreboding. This experience is dark. It takes you into the great expanses of space and purposefully casts you adrift. Alone, with your senses heightened, your heart beating in your ears, you wait for and experience the ‘everything’. Something is coming and it might not be friendly. It might change us forever.


If it seems like you’re reading a review of some kind of total immersion experience ride at a theme park rather than a music release, let me tell you that listening to this album had the same effect on me. It’s not brilliant, but once you begin to understand the concept it’s like a mini revelation. Giving it time and appreciation is the key. Nevertheless, there were much better albums to come, and I can only imagine wanting to experience this one once.

Verdict: 5 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2018) 

The Strange World of Suzie Pellet, by Transmaniacon

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Label: New Heavy Sounds

November 2018

Transmaniacon releases The Strange World of Suzie Pellet via New Heavy Sounds. It is a concept album based on a nightmare by artist Ian Miller, who has adorned many book covers, and supplied the artwork for their previous release, The Darkening Plain. The story here follows future street dweller Suzie Pellet, a survivor in a dark and unsettling ruined world; a sort of apocalyptic London-esque dystopia known as Duht. Lidia Lunch plays a hind-sighted Suzie, while Maya Berlin portrays a current (future-setting) Suzie. There are eight tracks making up around 47-minutes of music. The titles are: 'Inca Sunshine', 'Painted On Skin', 'The River The Birds', 'Sexton Breen', 'Dogs of War', 'Outrun The Pack', 'Tooled Up', and 'Aerosol Death Rattle'...


The term "Transmaniacon" is described as the dangerous, grotesque, amoral world beyond the farthest reaches of chaos. It was a science fiction book title by John Shirley and a song ('Transmaniacon MC') by the excellent band Blue Oyster Cult. There were plans to amalgamate these two themes into a film which, sadly, never came to fruition. Fortunately, some music was written and the musicians became the band Transmaniacon (originally XM3a) to progress the style and content fitting the mood of a dark apocalyptic background. They have been described as anything from Dark Doom to Post Punk, but closer fit the mantle of Space and 1970s Rock in a mix which sounds quite unique.


What can I say about the first track, 'Inca Sunshine', except that it knocked me sideways. I love it when a band does something radically different with the genres of Rock, Punk and Metal. Immediately, this one sets a scene of hard science fiction, the breakdown of civilisation, the need to be tough and streetwise, and that you can’t always win so long as you survive. There is a mid-paced but heavy theme which fades in. A spoken narrative speaks a few words from the Suzie character every so often, but it’s the music which throws you off-kilter. Counter-points come into the mix, and it is only after listening to this three times you start to get an inkling of the direction it’s going in. It’s dull sometimes when music is lazy and conforms to expected patterns.


I would have been totally satisfied if the whole album had been narrated with this Mechanical/Industrial Groove but, although it does return a couple of times, the other songs are reminiscent of 1970s Hard Rock or Progressive Rock, mixed with Post Punk, Doom Metal, and even Sludge. Everything from Emerson, Lake & Palmer or Deep Purple to Patti Smith or Pat Benatar. There are heavy riffs and a thick, wide sound which even incorporates the drums; but there are also guitar solos and a wonderfully overdriven Hammond Organ, which befits the Post Psychedelic Rock Super-groups of the early '70s. All the while there is an ever-present weirdness about the whole thing, which reels me in.


It’s very difficult to research Transmaniacon, because there is very little information out there. To my mind, that’s a sad injustice. This band is doing something new and exciting whilst paying due homage to the past and setting it in the future! Do yourself a favour and check them out. It’s testament to how impressed I am by this release that I’ve ordered a CD version of the album (and their previous outing, The Darkening Plain). The Strange World of Suzie Pellet is also available for download and as a limited edition vinyl.

Verdict: 9 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2018)