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Album Review: TBA

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Album Review: Shakhtyor – Tunguska

With “demanding full-time jobs”, these Hamburgers’ often struggle to find time to write, practice and record. And yet here they are with their second album having thrashed out a finished product down at Tonmeisterei Studio with producer Roland Wiegener (Omega Massif, Kodiak, Long Distance Calling). The end result is certainly meaty, but is there something missing?

The instrumental Tunguska opens out with a High On Fire-esque sludge-fuelled attack but soon backs off into meandering doomy passages. Very quickly it becomes apparent that their aspirations stretch no further than hitting a sonic peak and beating their heads against the resultant wall-of-sound until either they or the listener crack. Tracks simply melt into one another as the band vary their attack as little as possible. So close are some of the tracks in style, tone and pitch that you’d almost believe they occupy parts of one almighty whole.

Essentially, the concept of instrumental doom has always been a flawed one. It works, to a degree, if the songwriting is crafty enough and the players and production are of the highest quality. Here, there is merely a sense of being trapped inside one almighty 48-minute jam. Never has a band needed a vocalist more than this lot. They are essentially a combination of Baroness’ sludge and exploratory burble with Kongh’s blackened gnarl and sonic drift – of course, with those bands’ key vocal element removed.

Take “Schlagwetter”, it is the aural equivalent of the M25. It’s cyclical, lane-changing, fast-slow construction irritates to the point of distraction. A certain pleasure could be derived from ramming the volume up to neighbour-bothering levels, with the slow build and crush of “Zerfall” inevitably doing the most damage. Fear not, though, there are tracks that work. “Pechblende”, for the simple reason that it’s shorter running time matches the impact of its sparse content, and “Solaris” which thunders down within a vicious, chug-happy psychedelic groove.

The curse of time may be the deciding factor here then, but there is evidence that, on the stage, Shakhtyor could be quite the band. In the studio, they aren’t a million miles away from making their mark either, they just need to expand their minds and develop their vision. Here’s hoping the boss cuts them a little slack.

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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Live Album Reviews: Blues Pills v Zodiac

BluesPillsLive 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.

ZodiacRoadZodiac, 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 attention.

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 =

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Lists: Heavy Blog Is Heavy's Best Of Selections, Part 3

Discovering Temple Of The Dog’s one-off album for the first time, one that actually pre-dated Pearl Jam’s multi-platinum debut Ten and Soundgarden’s similarly career-changing Badmotorfinger, was like digging through mud to uncover the perfect jewel. Unencumbered by the necessity for the twin extremes of discord and volume, this lovingly-crafted tribute to their friend, the late Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood, almost got lost amidst the hullabaloo of the early-Nineties grunge explosion. Featuring members of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, their work is naturally blessed with the dual vocal talents of Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder, as soloists and in harmony – a combination that works in spite of their own very unique styles.

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

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Album Review: Colossus – The Breathing World

Frailty within crush – the illusion of impact through dissonance and groove can so quickly be tempered by their integration into a honeycombed network of progressive, exploratory structures. What you end up with is the aural equivalent of a wire brush – thick, harsh lines that mesh to form a shape with more space than solid.

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.

Also online @ HBIH =

Album Review: Oceanwake – Sunless

Oceanwake are Luvia, Finland’s finest and purport to play “arctic experimental metal”. Sunless, their follow-up to debut Kingdom, proves this to be an intriguing amalgamation of Katatonia’s black doom, Enslaved’s dark heart and ISIS’ brooding post-metal.

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.

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