Tuesday, 2 June 2015

David Locke - Transitions (2015)

David Locke is a great guitarist. Let's get that out there right now. With two instrumental albums under his belt, Locke is quietly making a name for himself as that unassuming yet talented guitarist from the UK. That much can be said from his harmonised riffs and solos that lend a depth to the tracks.

The album bursts into life with opener Foundation, full of sweet gentle melody, underpinned by some chunky riffs. The major keys used conjure memories of Emerson, Lake and Palmer's heyday, with the riffs lending a modern sensibility that binds the parts together as a pure example of modern guitar virtuosity.

Locke cites Brian May as his inspiration, and this is certainly noticeable in the way solos meander through the tracks, offering up those melody lines that would normally be taken up by a vocalist.
Stand out tracks include States of Mind, which is full of grandiosity and pomp, and Time Shift, with its unusual time signatures and Prince-like funk chops.

Transitions is cast in much the same mould as Locke's debut, 2013's Riding Out Youth, but I can't help wondering if Locke couldn't have done more to progress from one album to the next. I guess there's no harm in being the Motorhead of the progressive rock world, but I would suggest that Riding Out Youth is the more experimental and bold of the two albums. Still, that doesn't stop Transitions being an enjoyable romp through a playground of string bending, tapping and improvisation.

You can listen to and buy Transitions at https://davidlocke.bandcamp.com/album/riding-out-youth

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Machinergy - Sounds Evolution (2014)

Sounds Evolution is Machinergy's second full-length, and the Portuguese three-piece have produced one hell of thrashy beast!

Singer (and guitarist) Rui Vieira has a vocal style that seems to mix the stles of early Fear Factory with mid-era Prong, producing an aggressive but forlorn sound that complements the industrial feel extremely well. The guitar work is very technically accomplished without being too technical, leading to fast and brutal songs that have great hooks.

The industrial elements are limited to samples and intros (such as in the excellent track Venomith) and imagery rather than musical content, leaving the album as a rather stripped-back thrash affair. There is the occasional melodic death element, and I can hear some Metallica and even Machine Head influences! The riffing is therefore varied enough to keep the listener's interest throughout.

Carne & Mal has some great riffs and a neat retro groove section, Cado Falso has some excellent lyrics that will speak to fans of Testament, and Waterwar (great title!) has a solo that definitely needs to be witnessed to be believed!

Machinergy have managed to pack a lot of vintage thrash into a modern album, aided by the mixing which is slightly bass-light, and an excellent drum recording. If I had one criticism, it is that the vocals lack body. There are times where they could have been brought to the front of the mix more, giving them the room they deserve, powerful as they are.

Portugal is not known as a place to find great thrash, but give Machinergy a chance and you may just find your new favourite band.

Available from https://machinergy.bandcamp.com/album/sounds-evolution


Sunday, 8 June 2014

Hok-key - Znak Biady (2014)

Hok-Key's dramatic new album is something you should definitely hear this year. The Belorussian folk metal band have been producing quality music since 1994, when they started as a comedy metal band. Since 2004 they have ploughed the furrows of folk metal, incorporating violins and keys into their grandiose sound. Znak Biady bursts into life with a dramatic introduction, and the following songs meander between chugging bursts of riff, beautiful folk strings and vocals, and bombastic, Finntroll-esque sections of bouncy melodic metal.

The vocal sound is huge and epic, with vocalist Dmitry Rudovich singing in a clean style, which is quite a departure from previous efforts, where he tended to produce a vicious scandanavian-style snarl. The new style works well with the bombastic production, however, and there are even some female vocals.

There are some unusual melodies, not least in Opener, Ruch, and some wonderful acoustic folk parts that sound very melodic and well considered. If you're looking for the Pantera-inspired riffage that littered previous albums, you may be disappointed, but tracks such as Spadčyna and Horad M have some great heavy parts.

This album, one which is altogether more coherent effort than 2009's Ad Libitum and more epic and natural sounding than previous album, R.I.P., comes highly recommended for fans of symphonic and folk metal alike.

The album will be available on CD, but, in what is quite a generous move, you can download their entire discography, including Znak Biady, from their website at http://www.hok-key.com/page.php?id=3

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Thursday, 17 April 2014

Iskald - Nedom Og Nord (2014)

The last Iskald album I heard was 2008's Revelations of Reckoning Day, so I don't actually know what they've done since then, but I'll review their latest offering, Nedom Og Nord (Journey to the North), anyway.

I quite like the fact that this band has only two members, one of whom does the drums and the other of whom does everything else. One- or Two-man bands often have a tight focus that is missing from larger bands. Iskald are entirely focused on recreating the feeling of an arctic blizzard in your front room, and they do it pretty well. If you're looking for a reference point, they've clearly learnt a lot from Immortal, with the excellent drumming providing the backing for riffs that quickly move from sauntering groove to icy blasts. The arpeggios are a particular joy, with a crackly edge to them that conjures images of the glittering crests of icebergs.

Underworldly is a track that borrows from Blut Aus Nord, with some particularly chilling atonal chord lunges. The track is largely instrumental, but the vocals that are used are vast yet comprehensible and suitably emotional.

The song Iskald is worth checking out, mainly for the strained vocals that sound more Impaled Nazarene than Iskald, but the riffs are much broader and epic than in the other tracks, and contain that Marduk-esque style of moving down the fretboard as the song goes on rather up it. There's even a touching solo, though don't expect any fret-wankery here - it's a sparse solo, drowning in a sea of chords.

You've got to hand it Iskald: they know how to create that frozen atmosphere. They're no Immortal, but they're clutching at the same frostbitten cloak. The album is not as varied as it could be, but the formula works, and there are parts of this album that are classic black metal, with a chilling vocal performance. Good work from these chilly Norwegians. Someone light them a fire.

Out now on Indie Recordings.

Click here to listen to 'Underworldly'

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Lizzard Wizzard - Lizzard Wizzard (2013)

There's a lot of great metal coming out of Australia recently, and Lizzard Wizzard is no exception. Their self-titled debut is a slab of stoner-style doom riffage that would please any student of lizzardology.

I like stoner doom with a bit of humour, and there's no shortage of that here, with song titles such as Total Handjob Future and Reptile Dysfunction. Chaaaaarles is a great anthem of despair, with the hammers of guitar punctuated by sarcastic howls, like a fuzzed-up Pink Floyd. Game of Cones is an homage to the title theme of that show, and is actually one of the heaviest songs on the album. The riff around 1min48, in particular, is apocalyptically heavy. I headbanged so hard that my headphones flew off into my monitor. Don't worry, it's okay.

Back to the tunes, and my personal favourite is closing track Dogs Die in Hot Cars. This track is slower than an asthmatic ant carrying some heavy shopping. It's a anvil chained to the ankle of a re-animated brontosaurus that's smoked a little too much weed. It's massive. And with that, I think I should leave this album in the capable ears of you, the listener. You won't regret clicking play on the little widget just below this review.

Available now as a 'name your price' download from http://lizzardwizzard.bandcamp.com/ .

Friday, 8 November 2013

Dungeön Hammer / Rust - Frozen Wasteland / Summon the Burning (Split 7" EP, 2012)

The Dungeön Hammer side starts with an almost Celtic Frost-like riff, full of menace and supplemented with rolls on the tupperware drums. The sound is dripping with hall-like reverb that sounds very natural, and the only downside to the production is the lack of stand-out bass. A little more audible attack and the songs would have a bit more punch. However, the two songs are well crafted and have a swaggering black-core vibe that is hard to do well. Hellwolves is a mid-tempo song with two interesting solos. Bloodkult is a little more like a romp through Tom G. Warrior's riff box, with foot-stomping goodness aplenty. There's plenty of cymbal in there. I like cymbal. Lots of grim utterances from vocalist "R." in his powerful voice, sounding like a Fenriz who's had too much whiskey. All in all, a heavy and inviting concoction of cavernous black metal crossover.

Rust have a more traditional black metal sound, kicking off their side like a mixture of Darkthrone and Marduk, blasting their way through opener Hellsaw in what seems like no time at all (but is actually three and a half minutes). The riff is quite generic, but is played well, and the song is thoroughly enjoyable. Second song Death's Curse is fantastic. There is energy in abundance and one can almost hear the heavy breathing of the band as they rip through riffs like there's no tomorrow. There are stop-start moments that showcase the band's excellent timing and sense of rhythm, before they pummel their way to an abrupt and punky ending.

If you like your black metal raw and savage, you can't go wrong with this split EP.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Prophets of Saturn - Prophets of Saturn (2013)

Prophets of Saturn is the self-titled debut album by this English, psychadelic doom band. Recording it onto 1" tape gives this album a warm and fuzzy sound that just begs to be turned up loud, and when you do, oh my is there a lot of bass! Stomping stoner riffs cut through the haze and pull you into the prophetic visions conjured by this four-piece. A couple ambient fuzz and feedback sections are incorporated to great effect, building tension before the riffs return. Most of the songs appear to based around the repetition of a central riff, winding its way through the fog a fulfilling destination.

The opener, Belief in Magick is probably the best track on the album, but no track lets the album down at all. My only criticism is that the album is not quite long enough, at 33.51. That's pretty short for a doom album, but hopefully there is more to come from an exciting new band.

Prophets of Saturn are not quite heirs to Electric Wizard's throne, but they should certainly expect an invite to court.

Out now as a download at http://prophetsofsaturn.bandcamp.com
and on tape at http://cosmictombrecords.bigcartel.com/