This week sees blues rock aficionados Zodiac and Blues Pills both release an album of live material. The former have their Road Tapes, Vol. 1 for sale whilst Blues Pills have the simply-named Blues Pills Live for your delectation.
If you fancy a journey into your soul and psyche then the
bell-bottomed, warm retro melange of Blues Pills should certainly do the
job. Their live recording is the feistier, fresher and stronger of the
two. Naturally, it is taken is from their performance at the Freak
Valley Festival in Germany, run by their friend Jens Helde, the man
responsible for giving them their name.
Bursting with energy it kicks off with a glorious, spine-tingling
rendition of “High-Class Woman” before heading on into the heart of the
material from their debut self-titled album – the remainder comes from
their few EP releases. The production is full and meaty – vocalist Elin
Larsen gives your ears a good work-out whilst the great lumbering bottom
line tickles your toes. Somewhere in the middle of their set, they
settle down and begin to extend tracks like “Black Smoke” and the superb
“Dig In” with honeyed, bluesy jams. The focus of the crowd turns here
to Larson to help them through and by throwing a few vocal sweeps and
crescendos in, she manages to hold their attention as plenty of
appaluse, wolf-whistles and howls of joy fly back at her.
rather, take that classic Stateside rock n’ roll template yet give it a
contemporary feel by infusing elements of pop, funk and blues. Their Road Tapes
release is well-knitted together and comes from parts of their 2014
Fall Tour. With three albums-worth of material to sift through, only 4
of the 10 tracks come from their latest release.
What they do tracklist makes their “set” feel a little sluggish
although a quiet crowd don’t help their cause. Sadly, they miss out
their pièce de résistance, “Sonic Child”, but they
do reach for their trusty Neil Young cover, “Cortez The Killer” and the
groove-laden “A Bit Of Devil”. The recording is also a little muddy in
places, but the twin guitar attack of Nick van Delft and Stephen Gall
stand out nicely. Certainly, the groove of “Diamond Shoes”, the
shape-shifting beauty of “A Penny And A Dead Horse” and the 15-minute
jammed-out “Coming Home” give this enough variety to warrant your
For those intending to splash the cash, I’d recommend buying Blues Pills Live, leaving Road Tapes by the verge and getting a piece of Zodiac’s mind-blowing third album, 2014’s Sonic Child instead.
Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2015/04/live-albums-blues-pills-v-zodiac-nuclear-blast-napalm-records/
Saturday, April 11, 2015
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Very much driven by Cornell’s songwriting, their album is graced with a bitter-sweet melancholy and more hooks than a pirate convention. As such, it is evocative of his emotion-soaked solo work – driven, poppy, colourful. From the elegant, crystalline choruses of “Say Hello 2 Heaven” and “Four Walled World”, through the funky jams “Reach Down”, “Your Saviour” and “Pushin’ Forward Back”, to that Vedder sucker punch, “Hunger Strike”, their songs are imbued with passion, vivacity and precision. As a unique coming together of musical amigos all approaching their creative zenith, Temple Of The Dog may only qualify as a supergroup retrospectively, but it doesn’t make their inclusion in this list any less valid.
Recommended Track: Hunger Strike
Also online @ HBIH = http://www.heavyblogisheavy.com/2015/04/06/heavy-blog-is-heavys-best-of-supergroups/
One band that falls into this category are Colossus. Striking moniker, striking sound. Labelling themselves as post-sludge, this Swedish trio have their emphasis very much on the former syllable rather than the latter. In all honesty, there is much more stoner drift in their music than they are willing to admit to. The Breathing World carries on from where their debut, Wake, left off and “follows the protagonist’s crooked journey to clarity in a surreal and mysterious but deeply human world.” Their words, not mine.
It’s actually an album that wobbles, rather than strides, into existence with ‘Yehi Aour / Wanderers’ featuring deep, maudlin guitars, jarringly mirrored by a towering vocal monotone. It soon gathers pace and strength of purpose though, becoming the proverbial rolling stone, shedding moss by the bucketload.
Niklas Eriksson’s vocal has most certainly flourished since Wake and is further assisted here by Tom van Heesch’s (Rammstein, Michael Monroe) meatier production. There is an exciting variation of tone here, and Eriksson experiments by doubling up on the vocals and pulling back from his characteristic top end to explore his full range. At full stretch, when he clutches at his upper register, his delivery does become strained but, conversely, it also provides that unique focal point that separates the band’s sound from the masses.
From ‘Darkling Root’ we are pushed further down their rabbit-hole as the pace rises to become a forceful groove, peaking with the addictive hook that marks out ‘Plumed Serpent’ and the furious cries for “Lib-er-ation!”. Here, they begin to pick up elements of Torche, early-Baroness and little riff affectations that mirror monsters like those of Mastodon and Pelican. They also begin to reveal a certain penchant for subtle post-rock exploration.
The softer souls of ‘Virgin’s Milk’ and ‘The Silent City’, in particular, are riddled with emotion as Eriksson dips down to a whisper to pull out tunes that dig their nails beneath the skin. Elsewhere, the dissolute structure that houses the rich, psychedelic pull of ‘Fuga Mundi’ stands in direct contrast to the uninhibited, roaring waves and menacing undercurrent of ‘Whetstone’.
Fans will inevitably love The Breathing World for its esoteric edge, whilst the less tolerant will struggle to accept such histrionics and yearn for more of their famously empowering groove. Colossus have some way to go to find an easy balance between that frailty and crush. What isn’t in doubt is the fact that this next phase in their development is a bold step up from their debut. Its a magnificently diverse, gloriously colourful, forward-facing, wildly introspective album.
From the off, there is an assault of haranguing aggression that very quickly collapses into extended lighter passages of soft, mournful melody. This heavy-soft approach is supported by atmospheric, echoing vocals that segue from a deep, barrel-chested roar into melodic, mournful wails. Both styles are presumably attempts to lock into the crush-to-croon vocal gymnastics of ISIS’ Aaron Turner and Bryant Clifford Meyer and both styles tickle the interest without wholly fulfilling such an imposing brief.
Undoubtedly, the band intend to live or die by “The Lay Of The Coming Storm” because, at 15 minutes and so lethargically paced, it’s quite a ball and chain to throw at the listener off the bat. Lurking beneath all these bleak, harmonic minors the album’s odd construction continues to drop drum parts and underscore the weightier passages with shimmering melodics.
The band do hit their stride as they grow into “Parhelion” and “Avanturine”. The former provides a Machine exhilaratingly crushing finish of growled lyrics, “All we are is dust / Scattered to the ocean”, and the latter provides a shot in the arm with a classy sequence of powerful riffing.
Having undergone a 13-month construction process from conception to post-production, with the band recording at the wonderfully named Chamber of Isolation & the JonneMusic Studio, all whilst under the watchful eye of Korpikaani frontman Jonne Järvelä, it is something of a surprise to find weaknesses in the production and frailities in the album’s sense of direction, pacing and flow.
This undemanding album does need its own space to shine but it still suffers from too many disparate structures and just not enough invention. Whilst their peers explore the extreme depths of tone and texture, Oceanwake carry their listener far more than they engage them. Undoubtedly, Sunless is a solid album but, taken at face value, you’d expect “arctic experimental metal” to chill you to your core.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Where visual art can announce itself as everything from an explosion of different shapes, dimensions and hues or restrict itself to the most minimalist, one-dimensional, single-colour blocks, music can do much the same. This particular beard-toting Kansas trio find themselves at the latter end, pumping out an unfaltering combination of muffled fuzz bass and sludgy, rhythmic chugging. Essentially, they have taken what bands like Orange Goblin, Red Fang and Clutch have done before and refined it to something a little less expansive and a darn sight more punishing.
Cold Was The Ground marks their third foray into long-players and this one thunders along a similar path as its predecessors, crashing in on the listener as wave upon wave of sonic obliteration. Underpinning this dark, suffocating powerhouse of noisome groove, the smatterings of swampy delta blues, gnarly rock n’ roll and virulent stoner metal lie.
Gently ushering itself in with a warping, one-note crescendo, the introductory ‘Along The Chasm‘ suddenly kicks us into the hammering, rhythmic, mile-deep rut where The Midnight Ghost Train demand we remain for the majority of the album’s running time. As we speed on through tracks like the attack-and-release, riff-repeats of ‘Gladstone‘, the chilled-out Monster Magnet-esque drift and rapid wah-wah pedal pneumatics of instrumental ‘One Last Shelter‘ and the dull battery of ‘No. 227‘ we alight on the heart of the album where the band begin to find their soul.
There’s the ripped choral lick on ‘BC Trucker’, thick, dirty and moreishly addictive and ‘Arvonia‘ with its Fu Manchu wall of fuzz and dark, brooding undertones so reminiscent of All Hail The Yeti. Deeper in and there’s the sinister backwoods edge of ‘The Canfield’, the no-frills swagger and bluesy grunt of ‘Straight To The North‘ and creepy, energized panic that so engenders ‘Twin Souls‘. None of these though can compare to the simple, tender luminosity of ‘The Little Sparrow‘. It is the first true glimpse of what lies beneath the bluster – heartfelt emotion. In this case, that emotion is fear. Pure, cold sweat-inducing, neurotic fear.
Undoubtedly, there is a good helping of monotonous, atonal filler here and an infuriating paucity of texture or flavour in a scene so dependent upon small deviations in delivery. However, there is also a more subtle connection to the sordid underbelly that lurks beneath the glossy veneer of so much modern music. Here, you can taste the blood, sweat and tears.
Maybe, if Cold Was The Ground was a painting it would be a Rothko – probably one from his Black-Form series. And like Rothko’s minimalist art, it will have its admirers.