It becomes obvious right from the opening salvo of I Don’t Feel It that Fred Argir revels in the sound of the guitar. Some people are content to lay down a killer riff or weave through some deft melodics, maybe create hypnotic energy by throwing in a repetitive background phrase or heighten the song with some eloquent soloing. Fred Argir does all of that and more. It might sound like a bit of an overkill but somehow he manages to find enough space for each layer, each texture, each sonic line to breath as they all wrap around each other like four actors in a play each delivering their piece and then stepping out of the limelight to allow their fellows to do their job before returning to the literary affray.
Advance releases should act as a teaser, a sonic signpost to a forth-coming bigger release, a taste of things to come. And on the face of it that is exactly what Stop Talking was in regards to this album as it landed in the review pile only a few days previous. But it is a curious record, a teaser certainly but its dichotomous nature, an opening minute of aggressive punk-metal that their Bay Area home patch has traded on since the early eighties, followed by a longer payout formed of drifting guitar lines and restrained vocals left many questions unanswered too. What it did tell me though was to expect an onslaught of raw-edged, punk infused, hard and heavy music that blended simple progressions and direct sonic salvos with technical guitar work, but to also expect the unexpected, the odd musical trick or trap to throw me off balance. And for all the strangeness of Stop Talking, it did its job perfectly as that is exactly what I got.
Bristol-based RXPTRS are a brand new quintet that combines a mix of ferocious grit with an ear for melody. The group, who formed in early 2018, blend elements of hardcore punk, grunge and hard rock to make a noise crammed full with hooks that still manages to pack a punch.
The quintet is set to self-release their second single, ‘Parasites’, a love song, personifying the music industry, portraying it as a relationship that has seen better days on July 20th. “It relates to certain experiences we’ve had in our short time and what our friends in other bands have experienced.” said vocalist Simon Roach. “It’s no secret that we’re in times of change within the industry and it’s far from glamorous.”
In support of the new single, RXPTRS will take to the road for a run of shows throughout early August:
Previous Song of Love music I have written about has, and the band admit this to be the case, suffered from poor production to the point that whilst you could see what they were trying to do, it was difficult to really appreciate the music fully. Well, what a difference a month or so makes as the latest piece of rock and roll goodness from gang is leaps and bounds above those previous recordings.
Stagger The Devil is a blend of New Wave of British Heavy Metal style classic rock and more progressive and technical metal styles. It is now possible to appreciate the intricacies of their playing and at times they remind you of the likes of Rush or Triumph in the way that they are able to mix heavyweight guitar riffs with more deft and delicate playing. The bass pops and pulse and the drums keep things firing on all cylinders. Maybe there is still some work to be done on the vocals but considering how far they have come in such a short space of time they will have that issue addressed in no time at all. Good work guys!
Ravenscroft continue with their mission to keep rock music, especially that infused by its classic halcyon past, relevant to modern audiences. Not always an easy thing to do with the fickle finger of fashion constantly causing scenes to evolve and move on at an alarming rate, when the short attention span of the modern age and the sheer ridiculousness of the amount of music being made these days conspires against you. But Ravenscroft has one thing on its side. Heritage! Although they are certainly creating highly original music, it wears its influences openly like badges on a fading and ripped denim jacket for all to see. Badges that sign post everything from raw 70’s classicism, 80’s stadium sky-scraping, 90’s grunge and the alt-rock of modern times.
But those are just generic labels, more designed for us journalists than of any real concern to the musicians making the music it aims to describe. Call it what you will but we can all agree that we are in familiar territory here. Not that it is a problem, not everything is about kicking down the barriers and exploring new pastures, some of it is about diving for pearls in familiar waters. And that is just what Ravenscroft is all about.
This sort of music is done often, too often you might argue, but it is often not done well. That then is the band’s selling point for whilst they are clearly playing with familiarity and comfort zones, albeit it edgy, spiky and fairly uncomfortable comfort zones…as comfort zones go…they do it much better than most.
A bluesy Zeppelin edge shows through in the shifting dynamics they employ but for the most part they are a full throttle, hard-edged rock onslaught that joins dots between the likes of The Almighty’s uncompromising sound and Soundgarden’s low slung swagger, The Cult’s knowingly wonderful foot on the monitor clichés and a whole host of other sounds from nu-metal to New Wave of British Heavy Metal.
Sometimes it is enough just to re-invent the wheel especially if the wheel in question allows you to then open up the throttle and take a white-knuckle joyride through the side streets and alleyways of the history of rock before unashamedly heading down the highway to follow in the tyre marks of previous iconic suicide machines. Or something…I’m not great with analogy.
Ravenscroft might not change your life, but it might just remind you why you fell in love with rock music in the first place!
I sometimes wonder if the spirit of rock and roll hasn’t got a bit lost as modern bands try to out technical each other, out volume each other, to be tougher, harder, more dangerous than each other. It seems the more they try the further away from rock and roll they get. Chuck Berry isn’t an icon because he was loud or unnecessarily detailed in his approach, he is an icon because he was the coolest cat on the block. That says more about rock and roll than any wall of Marshall amps or 20 minute drum solo.
Electric Radio Kings understand this all too well. Picture the scene. The club is full, the band is in full flight and the night is young and full of potential. There’s a guy down the front making mental notes of the guitar chops and chord progressions, there’s always one but he’s okay, and whilst he is dreaming of getting up on that stage one day, all of the cool kids are concentrating on something else…the groove. They are boogieing the night away, getting lit, getting loaded, getting hot and sweaty, bumping hips and looking to get off with each other. That’s the spirit of rock and roll right there. Low slung guitars, re-appropriated blues licks, the poise and the pose in equal measure, the spirit of Chuck Berry and Jack Daniels working in unison.
The band on the stage in this scenario, well, that could easily be Electric Radio Kings. They groove and grind, they growl and prowl, they understand the balance of melody and infectiousness with musical muscle and a gritty edge, that rock can have pop sensibility, that no nonsense four to the floor rock and roll is still alive. It just needs a touch of sparkle and a quick polish now and again but essentially it is still more than fit for purpose.
Whilst the opening spoken word introduction which leads us into Scandic Tribe’s debut album keeps you guessing where this is all leading, it is a question which is quickly resolved as Dusty Sunrise kicks in with its classic rock hallmarks. But if you think that it is a genre which has had its day, Light At The End is a perfect reminder that certain music is called classic for a reason and their blend of traditional rock sounds, inherent melody, hook laden songwriting and modern day sass make it a worthy torch bearer for its modern incarnation.
If hard rock, in many ways, feels intrinsically linked to a European heartland, seems to carry a Teutonic weight on its shoulders and Nordic blood through its veins, it is, arguably, in America where the genre reached its greatest heights. Scandic Tribe are the embodiment of this ideal, Thomas Okland and Morten GP, a Norwegian vocalist and Danish guitarist respectively, took their Old World sounds to the New World and the band was born.
Light At The End is a worthy addition to the rock canon, leaning more to the melodic side of things than the harder-edge but built around all the sonic trappings and embedded traditions of the genre and still displaying a wide range of styles within the chosen rock field. Angel is bluesy mid paced instrumental and Life is Good is the sort of power ballad that Extreme would have bitten your arm off for back in the day. At the other extreme they prove that they can rock out with the best of them via groovy strutters like Only Will Tell whilst Heroes sails very close to the iconic Def Leppard sound.
Sad Times has some wonderful sax sounds bubbling away just below the surface and it is inclusions such as this and the flamenco guitars which add detail to My Sweet Baby Valentine, sounds not normally part of the hard rock landscape, that might just be the key to them getting noticed above those staying too close to the template.
It’s a solid collection and a great effort, I feel that they are yet to fully define their own sound instead relying too much on the existing sound palette, but it feels like that is only a short step away. Before very long they will have written that one future classic which will truly put them on the map and even though this is the sound of a band finding their musical feet, as debuts go it is a great first step, one which more than suggests a promising future ahead.
It’s difficult to imagine what someone obsessed by Chicago Blues, Klezmer and Slash could possible fashion those musical strands into. Difficult that is until you hear Mishti and her mercurial pop-rock blends. Raw rock guitar vibes collide into pop aware melodics, western blues structures are coloured in by eastern exoticness and strange arabesque riffs add depth and detail to the whole affair. Parts of it you have heard before, much of it is wholly and unexpectedly new.
Riffs coil and writhe like dangerous serpents, beats pound out tribal rhythms and Mishti displays a vocal strength and range which matches the pace and pitch of the music. This is no holds barred music, reined in just enough to fashion something of raw and windswept beauty.
In this age of R&B divas and pouting pop girl gangs it often feels as if the heady days of the female rocker, when the girls who had served their time in the classic rock trenches or proudly displayed the scars and bruises gained fighting in the punk wars like a badge of honour, had been signed to the annals of history. Thankfully artists like Mishti and her uncompromising approach and force of character are proving once more that the term “having balls” isn’t meant to be taken literally.
I always maintain that one of the things that sets apart bands destined to remain a permanent fixture of their local gig circuit and those who get out there and get the breaks, ones that are easily marketed to an eager audience is often the look, the vibe, the credibility of the bands image. If you hit the stage looking like you have just come from your job at the local hardware store or have dressed comfortably for a summer barbecue, then who is going to take you seriously? Turn up looking like O.D.D and the battle is halfway won. These three rock stalwarts look like they did their bit in the rock and roll wars, were the first over the top of the trenches to repeal electronic dance music, made daring night time raids to thwart the plans of evil indie kids with their skinny jeans and their complicated hair and probably display the heads of boy band members proudly in their hallways.
For that, we salute you. And thankfully the music that they make lives up to just such an image. Rock’n’Roll in the true spirit of the name before the ridiculous onslaught of sub-divisions, generic preciousness and tribalism hit the genre. It is groovesome biker rock, blues turned loud and nasty, hard riffing to a muscular beat and a pounding bass line, rock music boiled down to its essence, gimmick free and with no added sugar. It is surly and antagonistic, sure of itself and in your face…isn’t that how rock music is meant to be? All four songs on this EP occupy similar sonic space – driven, angry, four to the floor head bangers – but that isn’t to say that they don’t all stand apart from each other, it is just that having found what it is they want to do, they have kept at it and been content with just doing it so much better than most of the other bands competing for the same audience.
Okay in the scheme of things it isn’t all that clever, I’m pretty sure that they never set out to split the musical atom or create the hard rock equivalent of a treatise from Descartes, but it is big, or as the aforementioned Frenchman might have put it “I rock therefore I am!” We might live in enlightened times but every now and again it is nice to be reminded that sometimes, sonically at least, size does matter.
Every band should get to have their AC/DC moment. The Cult did it better than most, certainly better than Accept did it, Rose Tattoo did it in it’s native accent and Humble Pie seemed to do it through the use of time travel. Gold Phoenix has always wandered pretty parallel sonic paths but here they strip it down to its bare essentials, lead with a gloriously dumb riff…and I mean that as a compliment, four-four beats with just the right amount of swing and a large dash of innuendo. Sometimes that is pretty much all rock and roll needs to be about.
And if the template is familiar and rock and roll this straight-forward can’t really be about bringing much new to the table, Surrey’s finest (that’s the Jam fans pissed off then) use their inherent swagger and attitude to make up for it and then some. It grooves and grates, blisters and boogies, it snaps, crackles and rocks and somewhere high above the ghost of Bon Scott is looking down and saying something profound like….strewth baby, that rocks like a beast!
According to their bio “The Vampire Monkeys take pride in being the voice of discontent in an unhinged world, even if they offer no valuable insights to its reformation.” And that’s fine, we don’t look to rock and roll for the answers to our worldly troubles, we look to it to act as a distraction from them. And Disposable is the perfect distraction. A strange video narrative that doesn’t take itself too seriously and a cracking riff and hook driven slice of rock.
All too often bands in such genres feel the need to take things to extremes; metal bands are too intense, rock bands using tricks and gimmicks, punk bands picking unnecessary fights with imaginary adversaries. The Vampire Monkeys, thankfully, remember that the power of rock and roll lies in melody and groove as much as it does in punch and power. And so they walk that perfect line between the two camps offering something you can boogie to for all the right reasons but that also ticks all the non-conformist rock and roll boxes regarding swagger and attitude.
You don’t have to take the band that seriously, you certainly don’t have to take the video seriously but as far as the music is concerned, this is serious business.
Despite being the product of modern day Boston, Heavy America have a sound that links together points in time and places on the map from a much wider and deeper musical palette. Alternative rock is a pretty broad term but in the case of Heavy America it is a dark and moody rock core, built of slow burning meandering builds and incendiary dynamic shifts. It is then shot through with sleazy Doorsian menace and drifting desert blues, a slightly retro psych-rock touch and some Sabbath-esque drama. Throw in a bit of musical swagger and garage rock rawness and you have the perfect musical storm. And all that in under 4 minutes!
Back in the day, when the debut Sabbath album first blipped on the rock and roll radar, this sort of music would have been considered heavy metal a genre which has has long since become something else, something overplayed and over complicated, swapping technique of emotion somewhere along the way. But strip things down to their bare essentials, slow it right down and this is the essence of the genre, though such a label will cause a lot of confusion amongst todays skinny jeaned, sleeve-tattooed keepers of the flame. But if you want to know what heavy metal is really all about, forget the unnecessary outer trappings, this is what its soul sounds like.
Even with the best of intentions, rock music has a habit of veering off into cliché and self-parody. But what if you could find a way of discarding the extraneous silliness and blend all those remaining exciting and integral threads together to make a low fat, straight to the point, in your face and genuinely fresh sounding subgenre. Imagine that? Or you could just listen to the new track from Brisbane rockers Smoking Martha.
They manage to combine the drive of hard rock without the overblown histrionics, the swagger of underground garage rock only without you feeling the need to shower after listening to the record, the attitude of punk but none of that nonsensical year zero rhetoric and the melody and sheer infectiousness of pop-punk though thankfully stopping short of the innuendo and cliché its associated image of gangs of overgrown American frat boys in big shorts.
That said, it doesn’t mean that this is some sort of rock-light or it in anyway compromises in its mission. If anything the sharpening of intent makes the music rawer, more visceral, edgier and more street smart. It also walks that fine line of cultishness and commerciality making it totally palatable to the rock creatures of the night, the discerning and those in the know but with the right push and certain doors being opened for them, Smoking Martha’s sound is one that could break through into more mainstream markets.
So the best bits from all rock genres, clever enough for the leather jacketed tastemakers but with a potential for a very lucrative career path? Does that sound to good to be true? You’d better go and listen to the track again, and again, and again….
Get it yet?
Classic rock, hard rock, rock…call it what you will but we can all agree that we are in familiar territory here. Not that it is a problem, not everything is about kicking down the barriers and exploring new pastures, some of it is about diving for pearls in familiar waters. And that is just what Anonymous are all about.
This sort of music is done often, too often really, but it is often not done well. That then is the bands selling point for whilst they are clearly playing with familiarity and comfort zones here and wearing their references very openly on their sleeve tattooed arms (presumably, I haven’t checked) they do it much better than most.
The bluesy Zeppelin edge shows through in the shifting dynamics of Will You Ever Learn but for the most part they are a full throttle, hard-edged rock onslaught that joins dots between the likes of The Almighty’s uncompromising sound and Black Stone Cherry’s southern swagger, The Cult ‘s knowingly wonderful foot on the monitor clichés and fellow emerging rockers Mother.
Sometimes it is enough just to re-invent the wheel especially if the wheel in question allows you to open up the throttle and take a white-knuckle joyride through the side streets and alleyways of the history of rock before unashamedly heading down the highway to follow in the tyre marks of previous iconic suicide machines. Or something…I’m not great with analogy.
THE SOURCE is an exciting new chapter in the Ayreon saga, with contributions from renowned vocalists like James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Simone Simons (Epica), Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Tobias Sammet (Edguy, Avantasia), and Russell Allen (Symphony X). The Source will be released on April 28 through Ayreon’s new label Mascot Label Group/Music Theories Recordings.
While Ayreon’s ‘Forever/Planet Y’ saga seemed to have reached its conclusion with the album 01011001, it’s clear that Arjen Lucassen’s creative muses had other plans. The new Ayreon album The Source revisits the Forever saga, adding a whole new chapter to Lucassen’s impressive body of work. With its top-flight cast of singers and musicians, compelling songs, overwhelming sound, and intriguing story, The Source offers everything that has gained Lucassen dedicated fans worldwide since he laid the foundations of Ayreon back in the mid-90’s.
The story of The Source is set six billion years in the past relative to Earth. It begins on Planet Alpha, a world in the Andromeda system where computer intelligence has far surpassed that of humanity. Alpha is facing a massive global crisis, with ecological and political catastrophes threatening all human life. The Alphans (our human ancestors) try to save their planet by entrusting the global computer mainframe—The ‘Frame—to find a solution. Given total control of the planet, the ‘Frame reaches the logical conclusion that its creators are the cause of all the trouble. The only way to solve Alpha’s problems is to exterminate humanity. This leaves the Alphans no other option than to try and escape their horrific fate. But their escape comes at a terrible price. It’s the beginning of a story that contains everything that has made the Ayreon epics so endlessly fascinating all these years.
The international status of Ayreon enables Arjen Lucassen to write his characters with some of the most respected singers in rock in mind: James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Tommy Giles Rogers (Between the Buried And Me), Simone Simons (Epica), Mike Mills (Toehider), Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Michael Eriksen (Circus Maximus), Tobias Sammet (Edguy, Avantasia), Nils K. Rue (Pagan’s Mind), Zaher Zorgati (Myrath), Tommy Karevik (Kamelot), and Russell Allen (Symphony X). Special contributions were offered by guitarists Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big), Guthrie Govan (The Aristocrats, Asia, Steven Wilson), Marcel Coenen and keyboard player Mark Kelly (Marillion).
Just as on his previous albums, The Source has Arjen Lucassen playing a wide variety of instruments, while the inimitable Ed Warby (o.a. Elegy, Gorefest, Hail Of Bullets) once again masterfully handles the drums.
2017 will be a particularly exciting year for Ayreon fans thanks to a unique chance to actually see Ayreon live. Limited to three exclusive performances, “The Ayreon Universe” will take place in September in the prestigious 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland. This unprecedented live event features the best of twenty years of Ayreon music, brought to life by a top cast of musicians such as Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Russell Allen (Symphony X), Damian Wilson (Threshold), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Tommy Karevik (Kamelot), Jonas Renkse (Katatonia), Anneke van Giersbergen, and various others. The reclusive Arjen Lucassen himself is also expected to make a rare appearance on stage. The tickets for all concerts – 9000 in total – sold out within a day, proving once again that the Ayreon magic is still very much alive and kicking.
Often reviewing music can be tricky, particularly when it is hard to find an interesting starting point, when nothing new or interesting is being offered up. Growing Wild presents a challenge for exactly the opposite reason. With so many intriguing musical ideas and genre-hopping approaches going on before your ears it is difficult to know just where to start.
Well, let’s start with three words… Instrumental, guitar and rock. That’s pretty safe ground but the charm of the album comes from the generic paths along which that template is allowed to wander and evolve. This isn’t just the same old Vai-esque hard rock indulgence, this is hard rock given wings and a license to fly. And if you think that the lack of vocals is likely to diminish the appeal of the music, one listen to songs like Buffalo Jump and particularly Backroad Ride where the guitar melody is used like a voice and effected washes take the place of harmony vocals, is enough to set those preconceptions straight.
What this instrumental approach does promote is a less song orientated feel that vocals would demand and a more cinematic journey, one that wanders the dynamic scale from simple emotive blues to soaring progressive rock hypnotics, from the power-pop melodicism of lead single Technicolor to the funky grooves of The North End.
Growing Wild is the Canadian guitarists 6th album, so it is obvious that Slang knows what it’s all about and the ability to take such an established style as hard rock on a journey of exploration through new metal, jazz, blues, funk and pop pastures is obviously why he has maintained such a successful career.
“This album represents a journey through my life,” observes Rik Emmett and what a life it has been, a fact borne out by the calibre of the guest musicians found on the album. As well as the regular RES 9 players, Dave Dunlop, Steve Skingley and Paul DeLong you will find contributions from Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson, Dream Theatre vocalist James LeBrie and one-time Triump band mates Gil Moore and Mike Levine. Quite a musical cast to be able to call on.
And just as the players on the album are drawn from different stages of Rik’s life, the music also represents a scattergun delivery of the various styles and sonic pathways he has travelled. From the blues of When You Where My Baby and whispering soulfulness of The Ghost of Shadow Town to songs such as Heads Up where the anthemic sound offered has hints of the band that first put him on the map. It is safe to say that all boxes are ticked.
This is definitely a rock album anyway you measure it but as the sound is blended with jazz, blues, soul and more progressive threads, you will be reminded that Triumph may have been what brought him to the worlds attention but that is only a small part of the story. And if this is the perfect showcase of the various musical strings to Rik’s bow, once you have played this to death…and you will, all you have to do is buy up his extensive but wonderfully rewarding back catalogue. Better get saving.
So how do you stay true to the tenets of the music you love without becoming a pastiche of what has gone before? I guess if I knew that I would be a rich man but whether by luck or judgement Pilgrim seem to have found the answer. Whilst rooted in a classic, heavy rock sound, one that mixes dexterity and power, aggression and craftsmanship, this is much more than four guys merely paying tribute to their own record collection. Others may be happy to copy what has so far defined the genre but the art is to take those influences, re-shape them, re-package them for the current music buyer and move the genre forward into pastures new. And that is exactly what they do.
They may wear their influences honestly and openly on their collective sleeves and why not, those influences are built of iconic sounds and timeless qualities, ones that have served the genre well for over 50 years, but they are also fully aware that the art is to bend those influences to their own will. The end result is some impressive guitar lines which show off just enough but which are normally happy to delivery heavy but accessible riffs and bass lines which wander between their default job of linking the back beats to the melody and something far more rhythmic. The drums have the necessary relentless drive and build solid songs structures and soaring and powerful vocals are the icing on the cake.
If you think that genres even so previously defined and carefully guarded as heavy rock have nowhere new to go, then Pilgrim will make you think again. Any band that can balance familiarity and originality so well is obviously the flag bearers that every genre needs to lead the charge of modernity.
Monster Truck is gearing up for an exclusive European tour in support of their new album Sittin’ Heavy, which will be released in Europe on February 19, 2016 on Mascot Records. Tickets are available now!
|March 29||Rockpalast||Bochum – Germany||Get your tickets|
|March 30||Privatclub||Berlin – Germany||Get your tickets|
|March 31||Strom||Munich – Germany||Get your tickets|
|April 1||Melkweg||Amsterdam – The Netherlands||Get your tickets|
|April 3||La Maroquinerie||Paris – France||Get your tickets|
|April 5||100 Club||London – UK||Get your tickets|
Although I grew up on what was then termed as “metal” bands, the classics, bands that could be referenced by only using half of their name, Maiden, Purple, Priest, then the genre moved on to more extreme potential and left me behind. Shotgun Rodeo, however, seem to reference those heady and more melodic days in their music and because of that I find a lot here I like.
Rather than the extreme technical style over substance that prevails in the genre today, this is a band that understands the middle ground, riffs are big but accessible, the beat moves with the song rather than dominates in a showcase of double kick mayhem, the songs groove and swing whilst coming at you like a thing possessed and the lyrics are aggressive and growled, yet clearly identifiable rather than the guttural noise that has become the fashion.
In short it moves the modern metal format on by referencing what was so good about the past, a past where bands like Pantera led the game, and the end result is an album that will appeal to old school hard rockers and modern day metallers alike.