Monday, November 24, 2014
The result is his Black Flower Power and it comes with a no-nonsense helping of oomph. Described by the man himself, it’s music that sounds something “like the late-’60s with that heavy rock sound”. Sporting new faces in his morphing support cast, his so-called ‘Low Desert Punk Band’ (consisting of Bubba DuPree, Tony Tornay and Dave Dinsmore) certainly seem to have given him the impetus he needed to get the sound he wanted. To these ears, there’s a modern twist to it all. There’s a smidgen of Black Label Society’s southern groove, a sun-kissed sprinkling of QOTSA, mere hints at Faith No More’s panache and a big smeggy wodge of Fu Manchu’s fuzz-friendly stoner. The end result? A flower-totin’, burnt-out, buzzed-up Lenny Kravitz.
There’s catchy stompers like “We Don’t Serve Their Kind” and “Boogie Woogie On Your Brain” and then there’s big, bluesy cuts like “Buddy Time”, “Ain’t No Runnin'” and “Stokely Up Now”. The latter has a wickedly lurching cadence with a vocal style that comes at you in snatches. The whole thing sucks you in and makes you smile – particularly the addictive shout of “Hey… did you see that? That’s a dog and that’s a cat!” If those tracks don’t slay you, then the chunky blues of “That’s A Fact, Jack”, with its duelling guitars (the overdrive fuzzed groove in your right ear and the intricate lead with little licks of whammy and kicks of wah-wah in your left), should get your heart racing.
Bringing the pace down, “Hustler’s Blues” sees Brant call up a layered, Mike Patton-esque, self-harmonising vocal giving the whole album a sweet sign off. Sadly, things don’t quite end there though. There’s still the rotational, psychedelic freakout of “Where You From, Man” to endure. With an extended jammed-out running time, it’s total filler. He’s due a little self-indulgence but this just doesn’t fit with the remainder (which is why it probably lurks like the proverbial bad egg at the real album end).
There’s also very little experimentation beyond Brant’s initial concept. It could be the fact that there is so much fuzz flying around or that there’s plenty of repetition, but there is a tendency for the songs to leak into each other which is a shame. In the main though it’s a solid, worthwhile album that throws retro sounds, lives and concepts into fresh light. And it’s damn funky to boot.
Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2014/11/brant-bjork-black-power-flower-napalm/
Streaming now: https://soundcloud.com/napalmrecords/brant-bjork-and-the-low-desert-punk-band-stokely-up-now
Monday, November 17, 2014
For starters, the album art by Michael De Lonardo is simply gorgeous. The flaring streaks of light and graduated pink shading create the illusion of slow-motion whilst the subject matter plays on the enormity of the subjects lurking within. Most likely taking inspiration from the birth, late last year, of his first child, lead vocalist Daniel Tompkins’ lyrics deal with the rough concepts of birth, re-birth, life choices, death, evolution and entropy. The music matches up working as an exploration of sound and mood, and as such takes them away from the heavy rhythms employed on their début. Here they linger in the twin realms of post-rock and dream pop, reaching out to the ambient qualities of bands like Palms, Oceansize, and Uneven Structure.
Though there is a beautiful flow to the music and an aching search to make colourful connections to what might be termed the modern pop song, they do still indulge themselves in dragging the music away from the standard, more recognisable structures, often dissecting tracks into two or three-part movements. Exploration and dissolute patterning still play an important role in discovering the true heart of each piece. Some then, may say this isn’t heavy enough (there is no Chaos here, no Sunneith Revankar) and typically the syncopation and palm-muted rhythmic undertow has been smoothed and flattened allowing the dream pop vibe to take over. Notably, though, this is not to the detriment of the songs. This change of direction has also freed Tompkins to explore the warm, tones of that sultry vocal of his; he never raises his force of delivery above a semi-anguished cry and he most definitely does not scream or roar. Hell, he even morphs into George Michael when he takes it down to a breathy lilt, something we’ve never noticed him doing before.
The most straight-forward pieces head the cast, with the punchy ‘Allure’ (featuring Periphery guitarist Mark Holcomb) and the quite simply immense rush of ‘Evolution’ still breaking their shackles but hauling themselves back to the spine for the close. In fact, the latter track is worthy of extra special mention for its warm build, gorgeously-layered centre and hellishly catchy verses. The thing is an absolute earworm – a perfect companion piece to BWN’s award-winning ‘Maeva’.
Elsewhere, the multi-part ‘Halogen’ doesn’t shirk away from complete changes of direction with the stunning input of a female spoken and sung vocal (probably Hieroglyph‘s Valentina Reptile who appears on the cracking ‘Kaikoma’) changing the emphasis. For the biggest show of force, head straight to ‘New Devil’. This has a nagging, cantankerous edge to it, with the affected stringwork hinting at an admiration for the work of The Safety Fire. As a neighbour and yet coming from the other end of the scale, ‘Patience’ is a fragile beauty of a piece; sashaying gently; eloquent and enigmatic. Then, to close proceedings, ‘The Constant’ sports input from multi-instrumentalist Plini Roessler-Holgate and slaps on the layers to paint a rich, striking picture of life in constant motion.
When the songs themselves aren’t blowing your mind, it’s the little touches that elevate this album to a different level. From the heavenly choir that sprinkle their “hallelujahs” at the terminus of the title-track to the passage of spoken Japanese that flavours ‘Kaikoma’- they all make their mark. Some of the more self-indulgent tracks require more perseverance – growers like ‘Idle Minds’, ‘Miracle’ and ‘Guiding Lights’ only making their mark after several listens. It’s no use though. No matter how hard you search for dips in quality, there’s no getting past the simple fact that from any angle this is a potential album of the year. Skyharbor have grown-up, fine-tuned and quietly evolved – we are all just struggling to catch up.
Streaming now: http://music.basickrecords.com/album/guiding-lights
Friday, November 14, 2014
“No politics. No religions” screams their biography.
Italians Sedna are obviously keen for you to focus on their musical output alone and they needn’t worry. At times abrasive and antagonistic, at others soul-sapping and desolate, their self-titled debut album is going to grab your attention. In fact, its nothing short of cathartic. By pumping out exploratory, hardcore-tinged doom/sludge accented by a landslide of drums and throat-ripping screams, their music demands of its listeners.
Their pitch black tone draws influence from inventive monsters like Amen Ra, Wolves In The Throne Room and Year Of No Light, but there is also a keen, morbidly fascinating edge similar to that explored by post-‘core fiends like The Elijah and Amia Venera Landscape. Punishing initially then ebbing into a sequence of sanguine oscillations around 13 minutes, “Sons Of The Ocean” drinks deep upon these influences creating an angular construction of heart-wrenching ebb and flow, whilst “Sons Of Isolation” has an achingly slow build – although its slightly tiresome, it does put one in mind of Russian Circles’ last album, so adds some spice to the mix.
“Life / Ritual”, with bone chimes jangling and tortured chants circling in bouncing echoes around temple walls, disturbs on a whole new level. Somewhere within this band lies a deep rage and here you can feel it cracking through the crust as the vocalists combine to great effect. Then, with a final crackling flourish full of latent feedback, “Sons Of The Ancients” plucks at fresh wounds by cycling two chords until the roars of vocalist/guitarist Nil bring us raging round to an invasive sequence of powerful chugging.
There’s a fascinating range of styles at play here and it marks an enjoyable initial foray. Initially bruising, the impact of it becomes less of an issue with further listens. The so-called “sphere of deep hope” that they wanted to convey within their music is well hidden here, but I certainly felt their passion and it sparked a wide range of emotions ranging from anger to misery.
Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2014/11/sedna-st-drown-within/
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
The American author Mark Twain once said “Familiarity breeds contempt – and children”.
It’s a nifty quote that could be applied to Max Cavalera who, along with brother Igor, head the list of pioneers of Brazilian death-edged thrash metal. Max Cavalera’s literal children, of course, ended up getting involved later, but his musical offspring would be the multitude of bands that he helped establish. Each one of those bands became outlets for Max’s preferred style of songwriting.
Naturally, with so much similar material being pumped out, there stood a case for familiarity breeding contempt. Regardless, fans of his aggressive, tribal metal have stayed faithful and his records continue to sell in their hundreds of thousands. There are no prizes for guessing the content of this third Cavalera Conspiracy album. However, if you’d expected clipped, rapid-fire verses paired with choruses repetitiously bellowing the track title then you’d be a winner.
There are a few little tweaks in Pandemonium that might surprise. Firstly, the album has quite possibly the ugliest cover art I’ve ever come across. Within, the music is marked with an especially haranguing, bleak tone and the emphasis is on more thrash, less groove so expect this to clash heads with early Sepultura material. In the words of Max, “This one is almost grindcore. I was really a dictator in the studio with Igor. So every time he’d go into the groove, I’d be like “Fuck the groove! Go back to the fast shit!” As a consequence it’s inherently evil and is much a case of love by force.
Marc Rizzo puts in a shift, throwing out fizzed chugs and lightning riffs like confetti and Igor’s got a few ear-plosions in store for us with a gut-punching bass drum. ‘Banzai Kamikaze’, in particular, is a crushing power play with a viscous construction that keeps you on your toes. Other leading lights are the fist-pumping glory of ‘Apex Predator’ and ‘Insurrection’. These are two of the most virulent, callous, putrid tracks from the band to date, and the powerful, anthemic smack of ‘Not Losing The Edge’ is little short of glorious. With Converge’s Nate Newton grabbing the bass from Johnny Chow there’s a stomping backline to drive the album forward with real attack and, as a bonus, he’s employed to howl out the echoing, enigmatic words of ‘The Crucible’ – a track that explores the tale of the witches of Salem.
Elsewhere, it’s very much a case of business as usual with ‘Babylonian Pandemonium’, ‘Scum’ and ‘Father Of Hate’ (which, being heavily-accented, amusingly sounds more like ‘Fucker Of Hate’) resorting to type. There’s also the Neanderthal charm of ‘I, Barbarian’ and ‘Cramunhao’ to deal with. Both are distorted to within an inch of their life and the former even employs a jarring industrial edge that simply falls flat. It’s not long before the similarity between tracks does become tiresome and you do find yourself gasping for change. They eventually oblige, raising their heads for the closing tribal pots-and-pans tub-thumper ‘Porra’. Fans of Soulfly should know the script, but this also employs a curious Manu Chao-esque vocal rip and has a danceable latino vibe that it returns to between the messy, gruff sections of grumbling, dissolute thrash.
Pandemonium isn’t going to blow your mind. It is way too predictable for that, which is a shame when you consider the exciting hardcore edge that Blunt Force Trauma offered. Fans, however, will lap this offering up and they should. Amidst all the familiarity, it has enough grunt to kickstart a pit all of its own. Under this particular guise, Max, Igor and Marc do seem to produce their best work.