Djerv – Self Titled

Distinctive, maniacal, and slightly disturbed in places that one never knew existed, the self tiled album from Norwegian band Djerv has filled the hole left by the demise of Animal Alpha in 2009. The dark vaudevillian touch that fuelled the fellow Norwegian band’s sound was left in the more than capable hands of the likes of Stolen Babies, The Shanklin Freak Show and Creature Feature , but still there was an empty corner of dark discontent from their absence. Djerv have filled that gap and how, though as the band is led by the same vocal powerhouse Agnete Kjølsrud it should be of no surprise, her visual and skilful vocal eccentricities and creations coming full force with a harder and more aggressive intent and sound from within her new home.

Kjølsrud has teamed up with drummer Erlend Gjerde (ex- Stonegard) and guitarist Stian Kårstad (ex- Trelldom), to bring a sound that employs the influences of the other two’s heavy metal and black metal past and abilities into the inspired variations and melodic probing hooks that made Kjølsrud’s previous band stand out so strongly. Djerv are direct and powerful, and with the unforgettable and always irresistible voice of Kjølsrud, is an extremely impressive original and diverse rock band.  

The album consists of nine compelling and varied pulsating tracks, from the simple but strong punk metal attack of the opener ‘Madman’ to the intense and shadowy tones of closer ‘Immortal’ the album ripples and bulges with big riffs, pounding rhythms, sonically teasing melodies and addict making hooks.  The album and band revel in finding new and inspired ways to satisfy and treat the senses and no track within the album does less than is musically possible.

There are so many moments that one wants to shout about but a few to point out are the prowling and growling beckoning riffs of ‘Headstone’ and the dark recesses of the mesmeric ‘Gruesome Twosome’, a song that like a sinister puppeteer has one dancing on its musical strings. Adding the wicked groove stomp of ‘Only I Exist’ and ‘Abmuse’ with its consuming black gothic heart the album is already an essential listen.

Though it can almost already be labelled as so it is the track ‘The Bowling Pin’ that tips the album over into a classic category, it’s incessant rapping on the senses with a superior air backed up by scorching riffs, throbbing rhythms and the never failing imperious vocals of Kjølsrud makes the song is a masterclass and masterpiece in making intense and addictive music instinctively and eagerly. To be fair though that applies to the whole album.

Djerv the band and the album is a glorious pleasure and deeply satisfying release. Intensely powerful and stunningly melodic, darkly tainted and caressingly loving, and strongly direct whilst insanely addictive the album has it all to make the world disappear as you fall into its hypnotic charms. This is an album that will satisfy and inspire in equal measure and appeal to audiences of any genre and as for Animal Alpha fans they will rejoice in another band with eccentric originality and forthright musical intent screaming out with unique smooth and stirring grace.

RingMaster 30/09/2011

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Red Enemy – What We Are Contained In Is What We Are

Like a pneumatic drill the new EP from Irish metalers Red Enemy hits hard. Imposing and formidable it lays waste to ears, senses and any other parts it can infiltrate and violate. With a relentless intent and intensity the five track release once it explodes into action 10th October in the UK should confirm the falsehood in and removal of the unofficial tagline of Red Enemy being “Ireland’s best kept secret”, as after the quality of their previous debut EP Outsiders and now their follow up What We Are Contained In Is What We Are the band will surely be on the lips and in the ears of an ever increasing multitude of fans in the UK and beyond, as well as coming under an avalanche of critical praise.

Forming in 2008 the Dublin based quintet has firmly established themselves within Irish metal, building an ardent and strong fan base for their crushing mix of metalcore, hardcore and technical metal. They are a band that cannot be pigeonholed, their mighty sound bringing in flavours from various sources that compliment and complete their vision of loud and forceful metal. Shows with the likes of Canada’s Despised Icon, Australians Parkway Drive, and the UK talents of Attack! Attack! and Tesseract amongst others has given notice of and established the bands reputation for, an impressive live power and skill. Now with What We Are Contained In Is What We Are that fact has been passed to their recorded sound as well.  

The EP explodes into action with ‘Where We Call Home’. The track is a brutal surge of riveting and incisive riffs, pummelling drums, and guttural growls that go beyond primal at times. As well as being the perfect opener to the EP it is probably the best track too though all songs attack with and bring an equal skill, threatening intensity, and driven passion and desire. The band is sure in their intent and confident in their ability to deliver and the opener is the proof that Red Enemy are primed to make deep inroads into the hearts of metal fans. The pulsating throbbing bass of Jay Doyle and the incessant and intrusive drumming of Daniel Lang make the track essential alone but with the added bite of vocalist Kevin Letford stretching his bile lined delivery to the limit the song is a marker for the band that will make more and more take notice.

Betrayal’ is another savage attack on the senses and strongly brought forth, but despite its power, more devastating riffs, and notable creativity it is less memorable placed between the striking opener and the third song ‘Prodigal Son’. Having declared ‘Where We Call Home’ the best track on the EP ‘Prodigal Son’ is equally as impressive and shows the strength of the release already. It stand tall with ominously imposing drums supporting yet more essential riffing and an enthused sludge tinged attack. This is then tempered and enhanced by a lighter melodic guitar grind groove showing whether with determined destruction or thoughtful coaxing of the senses, guitarists Robert Powderly and Conor Dockery are impressive and accomplished.

Of course aggression is favoured predominantly as the last two tracks ‘No One Will Remember Our Names’ and ‘Wolves’ show to fine effect. The first brings an incessant and controlled intrusion that is irresistible and with a sparse almost discordant melodic play mixed in, the track treats the ear to a varied and flowing assault. ‘Wolves’ returns to an all out ferocious face melting assault, smashing down walls of any fragile sanity, eating away with riffs and energy that makes the word ‘intense’ lightweight.

What We Are Contained In Is What We Are is as impressive as it is powerful and announces Red Enemy as a real and strong force within Irish and European metal.

RingMaster 29/09/2011

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The Duel – All Aboard The Crazy Train

Steeped in 70’s punk and 80’s new wave, the new album from London Punk Rockers The Duel is a glorious nostalgic trip and modern interpretation of all that made original UK punk the reason some found music as something more than just for the ear. The band and their third album All Aboard The Crazy Train ripple with reminders and influences of an array of essential bands turning them into their own stirring sound. There is a wealth of ‘punk’ bands around now but there are not many that proudly hark back to a time that set so much in motion like The Duel who use it as fuel for their own vibrant and honest music. For an album that song by song has essences of so many from the past the release is one of the freshest and encouraging this year.

The Duel began in 2001, a duo of vocalist Tara Rex and keyboardist / bassist Andy Theirum. Finding their feet and sound before expanding the line-up the band’s first gig was supporting the Dead Kennedys. Since then they have played with the legendary might of the likes of UK Subs, The Slits, Buzzcocks, Sham 69, The Vibrators, and Angelic Upstarts to name just a few. Their first two albums, the 2007 debut Let’s Finish What We Started and its 2009 follow-up Childish Behavior took them into a bigger and wider national spotlight fan and media wise and now with the release of All Aboard The Crazy Train through FFR UK on 28th November, the anticipation of further strong acclaim is surely to be realized.   

Though soaked in a marinade of old school punk/new wave The Duel have fused it into their own electro/cyber punk/rock  pot of sounds combining instinctively bold vibrant riffs, direct and sharp attacks and vocals with melodic and resourceful hooks and synth/keyboard weaves. Combined it makes for songs that are inventive, easily accessible and pulsating. Each track carry the true punk ethos of challenging boundaries and being oneself, loaded in self expression and DIY truth it is an example and reminder to all current punk bands about the real meaning of what they claim to be.

The title track opens up All Aboard The Crazy Train to immediately lay down what the band is all about. The track bristles with a firm drum beat from Pumpy, whilst the keyboards of Thierum soar nonchalantly throughout the song. The vocals from Tara Rez coated in effect, ring with a deliberate disdain adding to the tracks moody feel. Though a mid pace stroll it sneaks up and by its end one realizes it has its hooks deep inside and has taken over the ear, that is until the energetic and slightly discordant punk attack of ‘Singing N Dancing’ takes over. Pulsating with the bass of Chris McDougall and a rock guitar ending from Thanos Oscar Pap it plays like an X-Ray Spex/P.I.L. merger and Rez herself sounding like the vocal offspring of John Lydon and Siouxsie Sioux.

The following songs all play and satisfy immensely like the Horrorpops/The Creepshow sounding ‘Empty Highway’ and the emotive and in many ways surprising ‘Loneliness’. When the big bass thumping and vibrant pop punk of ‘I’m On To You’ takes the stage though things go up a level and continues until the end of the album. Addictive and bouncy with again a Horrorpops feel, it enthusiastically entices and beckons with its blatant hook and melodies. The ska vibed Clash like ‘Freeway’ with Rez sounding a little like Penetration’s Pauline Murray, the Generation X punk ease within ‘Blaze Of Fury’, and the TV Smith/ Adverts flavoured ‘We The People’ with a mesmeric pulse beat ,all feed the senses eagerly and wonderfully.

The album contains 16 great songs and those mentioned and not, all deliver and please with equal quality, the album is a joy but two tracks have to be mentioned. Firstly ‘Not Found Behind A Gun’, a song that hungrily and openly displays its fine attributes to reel in the heart. Its sound is very Psychedelic Furs and Rez herself seemingly takes on some of Richard Butler’s vocal style, a wonderful track that despite its skill is eclipsed by the best song on the album ‘The Way London Used To Be’. A pulsating union of The Clash, Ruts and Transplants, it rings with a hypnotic hook and bass stomp alongside the keys of Thierum which dance engagingly. The song builds into a big sounding and pumped climax; with its anthemic hand and social commentary it epitomizes the band and their fine sound.

All Aboard The Crazy Train is simply excellent and the more one hears the more one sinks into its glory and bathes in its simple magnificence. As the penultimate track declares “Get ready for the sounds of liberation…” that is just what The Duel and their album bring.

RingMaster29/09/201

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Harpoon – Deception Among Birds

Chicago metalers Harpoon have already garnered strong and high praise with their 2009 debut full length album Double Gnarly /Triple Suicide and the split releases with noise/drone/metal duo, Locrian (2009) and The Muzzler (2010), but with their new release Deception Among Birds the band have moved forward into levels that are staggering and glorious. The album to be released October 25th via Seventh Rule Recordings is a monument to creativity and thoughtful songwriting, as well as an instinctive beast of power, intensity and melodic meanderings. It challenges, leaves a striking mark, and firmly pleasures the senses in equal measure.

The trio of Toney Vast-Binder (vocals), D.J. Barraca (bass), and Dean Costello (guitar, drum programming) have combined to unleash eight tracks of fearsome power and imaginative ingenuity. Crossing through grindcore, hardcore, punk and numerous other spices, Deception Among Birds is a potent and rampant collision on the senses, hitting directly with the intent of shaking up the safety and security of the listener. Engineered by Andy Nelson, who also did their debut album, Deception Among Birds is a maelstrom of ideas and sounds careering around the ears with wanton eagerness and determination to bring something new and distinct.  

The album opens in the same way it ends, with controlled chaos. The blistering opener ‘To The Tall Trees‘ and the senses tripping discordant closer ‘Deception Among Birds‘ both challenge and stretch the boundaries of instant appeal whilst at the same time bringing the strongest essence of addiction within their journeys. Though the two tracks have a similar testing composition the closing song is a sure footed piece of disruptions and diversions blending in many tastes and edges within a forceful intensity and melodic spine. The opener in contrast has a more ordered direction. Starting on a sure hardcore base it soon whirls through varied imposing flavours and wells of sound. With an ascending consumption it reaches a plateau of ominous calm before reaching an eventual atmospheric and beckoning intolerance.

Each track on Deception Among Birds is a remarkable and welcome interloper on the senses, from the semi drone of the harsh and melodic ‘Prequel To A Lifetime Of Disappointment’, through the stalking predatory rampage of ‘Phlegm‘ a track that ebbs and flows in attack without losing a decibel of threatening intensity, to the immense instinctively primal heights of ‘Troglodyte’s Delight’, the album pummels and bashes the pleasure receptors wonderfully. The more the album is played the more the deeper delights reveal themselves which increases the enjoyment each time, the wealth of engaging and formidable elements unveiled for great satisfaction.

Two tracks stand out amongst the array of great songs with an even greater vibrancy to tease and feast on any addictive tendencies. ‘The Cut Of His Jib‘ is a battering burst of licks and incessant riffs with an attack to fire up any hardcore or punk heart. It drives directly and venomously with great static melodic vocals alongside frantic shouts and growls. The other song is ‘Shit Wizard‘, another hardcore/punk flavoured display with a strolling grind groove as a spine. The song is like a lure on a hook and has to be the one to entice the most newcomers to this impressive album.
Deception Among Birds is exceptional and refreshing amidst an abundance of what admittedly have been some great releases this year. This album though has something extra that is not exactly easy to define but there is a sense and air of innovation and freshness to it not heard often elsewhere. From Vast-Binder’s vocals, the impressive and manipulating guitars of Costello, to the bold and dark bass lines of Barraca, the trio have made a release that makes ‘essential listening’ a term tinged with underestimation. Harpoon is back and music has gone up a level.

RingMaster 29/09/2011

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Single Bullet Theory – IV

Philadelphia metalers Single Bullet Theory are not everyone’s preferred flavour it is fair to say but with the bands new and fourth album titled IV  released via Goomba Music maybe that will change, and then again maybe not. They are a band that either work for you or not, apparently there does not seem to be a middle ground of simply just liking them. People either heap almost adulation like praise upon them or ridicule, especially in the media. After listening to the album and to be honest hearing the band for the first time it is obvious here is a band that creates some of the strongest rumbling riffs and technical skill heard anywhere infused with a diverse variation of sounds that sometimes work gloriously and in others moments leave the ears bewildered.

Formed in 2000 the new album sees the new line up of band founder and guitarist/vocalist Matt DiFabio with guitarist John Ruszin III and bassist Jeff Kalber, bringing a collection of songs that hit hard and stir up the senses. As mentioned there is a distinct and strong variety within the tracks that importantly should receive many listens before forming a view of the release, as at times they work instantly and in others simply confuse, but always they challenge and keep the listener off guard and alert which is commendable. There is no safety first aspect to Single Bullet Theory either, a trait so many other bands should pay attention to and adopt.  

The band fuses a mix of metalcore, death metal, and thrash into a parallel palate of progressive and classic rock to bring something certainly different and intriguing, even when it does not work the urge is still to move to the next track and not to leave alone. The album opens on ‘Diabolical’, a pounding track rippling with deliberate intent to consume the ear, massive riffs and bludgeoning rhythms drive it perfectly. A dark slice of metal core based intensity that raises high hopes for what is ahead and shows straight off the quality and skill of the band as well as a no compromise attitude to their sound.

From the opener the anticipation was of a fusion of genres in the same vein as the recent Livarkahil album that bristled magnificently with a similar approach. The second track on IV deflated the eagerness unfortunately. ‘What Have I’ is a beast of a track, with unrelenting riffs, a great dark vocal delivery from DiFabio and stunning guitar work from he and Ruszin the track is immense until the switch to classic rock vocals and it simply stalls. As the whole album reveals Single Bullet Theory are second best to no one when they prowl and leap from their predatory and consuming dark hearts and it seems obvious if they stayed in that field of attack they would be leading the pack of like minded bands. They choose to do it their way and that should never be criticised but the mix of classic and black just does not sit well together. Obviously liking or not liking something is down to personal taste and the repeat plays of the album reveals more positives than negatives and admittedly an aversion to classic rock vocals is rife here at the Review, but that is the aspect that does not work as musically the band is impressive and enjoyable whatever flavour they bring.

It must be emphasised though that when the band veer away and assault from the darkness they are undeniably impressive and one can listen to them constantly and eagerly. For every track like ‘What Have I’, ‘The Wake of Betrayal’ and ‘Echoes of the Past’ which is a mess sadly the only word that can be used , there is the brilliance and striking power and strength of the industrial lined ‘Samsara’, the vibrant and aggressive ‘Hands of the Wicked’, the pulsating lumbering beast that is ‘Leviathan Smiles’, and the best track on the release in ‘Letting Go’ carrying a punk/gothic feel that reminds of bands like Type o Negative.

The bass of Kalber is stunning throughout the album bringing a deep and inventive pulse to the release, his lines and riffs delicious enough to make one drool. The same can be said for the epic near instrumental ‘Auctioneer of Souls’, a track as deep in length as in skill from not only the band but the likes of Tim Roth (Into Eternity), Jed Simon (Strapping Young Lad, Zimmers Hole), Mike Riggs (Scum of The Earth, Rob Zombie), Jeff Loomis (Nevermore, Sanctary), Jack Frost (Seven Witches), James Murphy (Testament, Death, Obituary) and many more, all contributing their talents and solos. The track is mesmeric and stays the right side of indulgence to satisfy any six string lover.

With the bonus tracks on the cd version of ‘The Hurt That Never Ends and a cover of the Death song ‘Spirit Crusher’, the album is overall enjoyable and worth recommending for investigation at the very least. When the band brings their aggressive nature veined with more power over extreme ideas, they wipe the floor with many other bands easily. It is the attempt to bring two separate and defined genres into a mutual working space that it loses cohesion and appeal. Many will adore it and many will shake their heads but make sure you do find out your own opinion as IV when it works is solidly agreeable and Single Bullet Theory one satisfyingly enterprising band.

RingMaster 28/09/2011

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Saligia – Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

On first listen to the debut album from Norwegian black metal band Saligia, the release did not inspire any strong reaction either way except the question of was it liked or not. After numerous listens that indecision is still the overriding thought about Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, a release that at one turn intrigues and in the next blurs into one flowing sound. The album is not bad, far from it, the duo of Ahzari (vocals, guitar, lyricist, composer) and Malach Adonai (drums, lyrics) creating strong and uncompromising black metal, but somewhere along the line it keeps slipping from the grasp of consistently satisfying the senses even though the ear is always entertained.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi has been released as a vinyl LP by UK-based label Barghest, a label that strives to bring forth the best challenging and non-commercial black metal around based on more than simply technical skill. The release by Saligia is another success on their part even if the longevity of its appeal is most likely short in the wave of constant releases trying to grab attention. Containing impressive power and emotional intensity lyrically and by sound, the band “offers up seven burning visions of the journey towards enlightenment, the first steps on the path to find one’s True Will, and to follow that Will.” The album at the same time succeeds in branding and scaring the ears with its incessant and at times, especially in tracks like ‘Womb Caverns’ overwhelming oppressive sounds. The main problem is the strong similarity across the whole release track by track. To be fair at times the music is very mesmerising but in equal measure also comes over as one ball of sonic withering that is depleted of any defined variation or diversions to keep the listener truly engaged throughout.  

The opening track ‘Casus Gloria’ is the albums best song and a great intimidating but also inviting opening to the release. With an increasing incessancy and almost hypnotic flow the mixed paced and viral like atmosphere it brings is rewarding and inviting, giving high anticipation for the rest of the album. Vocally Ahzari agreeably sings in the area between growls and clean vocals, at times almost seemingly chanting as he casts his devilish weave throughout the dark power seeping from the track. It is a great song bringing high hopes for the remaining six slices of presumed prowling darkness.

What emerges though is more of the same in structure and delivery but somehow losing the spark the first track brought, any variation minimal even after many listens. The second track ‘Sar Ha-Olam’ plays like an echo or dulled mirror image without any of the vibrant appeal of the opener. Again it must be stressed that it and all of the tracks on the release are actually strong but as a package just ‘play the same tune’ too closely for it to work as well as it deserves.

There are moments that manage to shine out before being lost again in the overall feel, such as the menacing atmosphere of ‘Womb Caverns’, the burrowing sonic fingers within ‘Orb of Flesh’ which are subsequently repeated in the following track ‘Shed Old Skin’, and the other stand out track on the release ‘Blood Staineth’. This song instilled more urgency and aggression than the others before it, bringing a revitalising energy and appeal to proceedings if only for that tracks length.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi is a strong album in many ways and the suggestion is that all who feast on original black metal sounds especially should definitely check it out as Saligia deliver their creations with undeniable skill and passion. It is just for some ears that passion does not quite translate into something that engages deeply or simply enough to make a lasting connection.

RingMaster 27/09/2011

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Allele – Next To Parallel

Though it is fair to say Jacksonville, Florida rock band Allele (pronounced Uh-Leel) come from a pool of sound that has spawned many similar sounding contemporaries there is certainly a freshness and vibrancy about the band that raises them above and sets an individual marker down against most others. With their new album Next To Parallel the band bring a passion and vitality that many rock releases and bands seem to lack with consistency and though there is still that kind of similarity across the thirteen tracks with other bands it also gives a familiarity that brings an instant intimacy in the bands favour.

The band was formed in 2002 by vocalist Wally Wood and ex-Otep guitarist Lane Maverick releasing their debut album Point of Origin in 2005. The following year saw the band contribute the track ‘Stitches’ to the THQ video game ‘WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2007’ as well as being featured in trailers and promos for the TV Stephen King anthology series, ‘Nightmares and Dreamscapes’. Began in 2010, Next To Parallel is set to take the band and their music deep into the hearts of hard rock fans far and wide and to set Allele to the fore of the genre.

As the album plays the band deliver songs from the same field as the likes of Three Days Grace, Slaves To Gravity, Sick Puppies, Nonpoint, Saliva ……but there is something inspiring about their music that elevates them from just another band with the same sound basis. Certainly they instil a connection with the listener that goes beyond the ear with emotive sounds and lyrics that grab deeply and firmly.

Let It Go ‘opens up the release, its winding and building pulse erupting into great vocal control and delivery from Wood and striking guitar play over eager rhythms. Though not a track that lets loose with a vengeance it is still powerful and forthright making a strong opening to the album, a strength that continues through the next track ‘Closure’ and beyond. This track has a personal feel, something common to most songs on the release. The tracks across the board seemingly close in a personal way if not to its creator to the listener, or someone they know. This is another reason their sound connects to the listener, Allele write and bring to reality with their music things that all have felt or been affected by in some way, things one can relate to whether personally or through the world’s current turmoil. 

Amongst the abundance of great tracks are those that stand out that little more like the two tracks fuelled with a harder edged aggression in ‘Feed The Wolves’ and the harsh attitude of ‘ Stay Down’. The band can lay down intense riffs and sonic sounds just as easily as the melodic and infectious hooks, and with these two combine both instinctively. ‘Answers’, ‘Hurt ‘, and the impressive title track are equally noteworthy as the album is as a whole. More melodic and measured in a way they still carry an intensity that is felt effectively.

Next To Parallel is thoroughly enjoyable and if it does not attempt to break down any doors into new originality and directions, it without doubt brings to the ear music that satisfies and entertains with more accomplishment and passion than most other bands treading the same musical road.  Allele have and give everything one would want in a band, mesmerising melodies, highly charged riffs and senses touching emotions wrapped up in gratifying rock music.

Next To Parallel is available now on Goomba Music; make it a stop on your musical journey this year.

www.alleleonline.com

RingMaster 26/09/2011

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Smokey Fingers – Columbus Way

With a sound steeped in the southern rock inspirations of the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Allman Brothers, Italian rock band Smokey Fingers release their debut album Columbus Way on Tanzan Music. Fusing hard rock, blues and country to their southern base sound the quartet from Lodi have brought a fresh and invigorating feel to their music, creating songs that do not hide their open influence but instead excel in its spirit and glory whilst bringing it into a modern arena.

Smokey Fingers began officially in 2008 when drummer Daniele Vacchini and guitarist Diego “Blef” Dragoni teamed up with old friends in vocalist Luca Paterniti and bassist Fabrizio Costa, the various members having played with another in such bands as Smell Of Dog, Dixie Line and in the Double Trouble Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute band. Together they began working on new songs as well as revisiting and developing tracks and melodies from songs written as far back as 2006. What evolved was a flavour of southern rock in the distinct style and touch of Smokey Fingers and a self produced EP Smokey Fingers in 2009 that first brought them a strong attention. Now with Columbus Way and its solid and creative sounds the thought that Smokey Fingers will wake up an unsuspecting world to their music is rife and really there is no reason why it should not be so.

The album consists of twelve tracks that ooze class and vibrancy, with stirring guitars, firm and engaging riffs, and playful smart melodies and harmonies. There is strength across the whole release that not only eagerly grabs attention but satisfies and pleasures. There is also in many ways something for everyone, even those who head for the heavier assaulting riffs and intense attacks. Smokey Fingers brings rock ‘n’ roll to trigger anyone’s inner rhythm. 

The album opens with ‘Old Jack’, a get down and get dirty track that plays easily upon the ear. With a catchy chorus, a great resonating bass, and scorching guitars the song sets the scene for the band’s sound and the album to come, lively and fun it is the perfect lead into the release.

Immediately second track ‘The Lover’ comes in with confirmation of what one first noticed in the opener that Costa is a classy and accomplished bassist. For the second time and not the last on the album, his bass resonates and throbs to give the song an organic feel, a pulse that brings the track even more alive. The other notable thing is how American the band comes over, the expectation was of a sound, certainly vocally, tinged with an Italian flavour but far from it. It also does not feel wrong either, usually one complains of a European band trying to sound American but here it is so natural and easy the thought does not arise.

Across the album produced by Mario Percudani (Hungry Heart), there is a good variety and a very strong consistency with tracks such as the skilful ‘Chains Of Mind’, the emotive grace of ‘Ride Of Love’, and the album’s best track ‘Die For The Glory’ complete with another addictive bassline and stunning creativity, all reinforcing what an extremely well written and performed collection of songs this is. The guitars of Dragoni as everywhere lay down mesmeric patterns with his play and the beats of Vacchini keep everything controlled and neatly paced. Vocally Paterniti is spot on; there are no negatives to send his way even if he sounds more American than should be possible. Combined the band bring America and “the sunny and dusty roads of Alabama!” to the ear but in their own stylised way.

Columbus Way is an essential listen for all Southern and hard rock fans, but anyone who enjoys great melodic rock ‘n’ roll should take a listen. Smokey Fingers has one tasty release for all rock fans to feast upon.

Ringmaster 23/09/2011

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Glorior Belli – The Great Southern Darkness

A very important rule when approaching the music from Paris band Glorior Belli for the first time is make no opinions until having listened to them for numerous times. That applies to most bands to some extent with a true and rounded view of a release not truly achieved until having heard it enough times to find the less obvious nuances, treasures and flaws within. With Glorior Belli it applies very much so, their blend of southern rock grooves and guitars melded into a black metal doom laced field is a distinct and at first bewildering sound. On first listen there is more than enough intrigue to keep with it again and again, and the result is the discovery of a smart and openly different sound that has so much more in quality and satisfaction to offer than initially thought. For some it will hit a note instantly but for others the extra work needed is far exceeded by the resulting pleasure.

Glorior Belli consisting of duo J (guitar/vocals) and G (drums) began late 2002 garnering attention and notoriety within their homeland with their black metal brutal sounds and the releases of a demo and two albums up to 2007. A third album, Meet Us At The Southern Sign released 2009 via Candlelight Records, was the point more people really took notice of the band’s “blend of Desert-Rock textures with the brutal, ominous, doom-laden vibe typical of Black Metal.” Having signed with Metal Blade Records the band’s fourth album The Great Southern Darkness is released late September to further impress, recruit and probably confuse more and more people. Confusion is good if hand in hand with intrigue and more than a dose of engagement and that is certainly the case with The Great Southern Darkness.

Opening track ‘Dark Gnosis’ stands proud and tall boasting deep veins of heavy riffs and throbbing bass lines courted with sonically melodious scythes of guitar. Unrepentant it drives at the senses and though brief it sets up the powerful following bestial ‘Secret Ride to Rebellion’. This track overwhelms with as much dirty eagerness as its predecessor but an even blacker heart. The guttural growls backed by the throbbing menace of the bass and the incisive and hard drums bring an oppressive sound permeated with more razor sharp and repetitive guitars.

They Call Me Black Devil’ is the first track to offer a more distinct hard rock guitar sound on the album. Still a dark centred intense song it carries a danger like a mutated beast drenched in the black arts whilst soaked in a still of Mondo Generator and at times QOTSA with the striving guitar sounds that call out from within the shadows of the song. A one dimensional flavour to a genre can be fine but ultimately bore after a while, with Glorior Belli there is no fear of that happening within the song or indeed the whole album.

There are moments on the album that send tingles down the spine like the opening twang of ‘Negative Incarnate’ as it rumbles into a dark musical insanity, the wanton bedlam of ‘Bring Down The Cosmic Scheme’, and the unrelenting crescendo build of ‘Chaos Manifested’ an instrumental of unstoppable urgent energy. These already make the album something more than worth attention  but with the added addition of the release’s best two tracks, ‘The Great Southern Darkness’ and ‘The Foolhardy Venturer’ it becomes an essential listen.

The first strolls in with a blues touch and muzzled clean vocals on a mid pace attack before opening up into J’s gravelling tones alongside great hard rock forceful sounds all coated in a dark vibe. The latter of the two and probably the superior is a hell spawn offspring of death sludge grooves and a roving bass looking to corrupt more than the ear. An additive guitar hook over hazardous riffs makes the song a masterclass in making challenging and equally rewarding music.

For many The Great Southern Darkness will ask for more attention and effort than other more instantly accessible and possibly less rewarding releases but go for it, the result as found out here is an album that stirs up and connects with the emotions in a most gratifying way.

RingMaster 22/09/2011

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HateSphere – The Great Bludgeoning

Thoughts of European Thrash metal always immediately include the Danish metalers HateSphere, their presence, status and contribution nearing legendary level. Since being formed in 2000 by guitarist Peter “Pepe” Hansen the band has been at the forefront of the genre pushing limits, setting new boundaries, and dropping a pace for others to keep up with. The end of September sees the band return with their seventh album The Great Bludgeoning via Napalm Records, a release once again cementing the quintets place as one of the leading forces in thrash metal.

The band’s previous 2009 album To The Nines set a distinct mark earning deserved acclaim worldwide for its power and quality. The Great Bludgeoning follows with equal devastation and satisfaction, a full force heavy riff machine loaded with additive pummelling rhythms and infectious engaging melodies. The album is also the first recording with new vocalist Esben Hansen and bassist Jimmy Nedergaard (Gob Squad) who joined May of this year, additions that brings new aspects to the band’s sound without diminishing their trademark aural intensity. They both add a new distinct spice to the music, especially in Hansen with a more controlled delivery than heard before with Joller Albrechtsen. Though the sound has an old school feel their additional flavours do push the band in a newer direction, one certainly with more seeming variation. The band commented on the new album: “We have aimed the new album in a more old-school direction than its predecessor. With people this experienced joining the band it has been a very relaxed and enjoyable process to write the songs, and we have all agreed on the concept: More metal and everything that follows. The cover, the title and the lyrics speaks for themselves. We are an angry-sounding metal band, and we have no intention of denying that. That’s why the cover is more back-to-the-roots and the lyrics are again about aggressions, drinking and hate, the things that HateSphere has always been about.” 

The Great Bludgeoning strikes forcibly from opening track ‘The Killer’, the first chords and incisive riffs setting out the album’s landscape; Hatesphere are back with a vengeance, the sound driven, intense and dripping menacing attitude lyrically and musically. The band do not go for niceties, they target the jugular from the off and even with some inspired subsequent creative melodic guitar play from Hansen and rhythm guitarist Jakob Nyholm, nothing is ever anything other than incisive and clear in aggressive intent.

Venom’ takes over wandering in on a slow melodic guitar but soon transforms into a track fitting of the title. Mike Park lays down a beat that resonates inside, his drums pounding on the songs chest wonderfully as the guitars conjure up powerful and emotive sounds. Hard rock sounds integrated into the might of the bands thrash power work perfectly and bring a well rounded feel to this track, others, and to the album as a whole.

Each song bursts its guts to bring forth all the power and energy within its skin, the brutality of ‘Decayer’ plus the thrash/rock straight to the point attack, spiced with engaging melodic guitar play of the final two tracks ‘Need To Kill’ and ‘Devil In Your Own Hell’, all combine to show a release well crafted and brought to satisfying realisation. It gives a highly solid base to the album allowing the best tracks to elevate things onto even higher levels.

The album is strong but the quality within the mighty incessant riff and drum belligerence of ‘Smell Of Death’ and the best track on the album, the predatory slowly stalking ‘Resurrect With A Vengeance’, and the heavyweight ferocity of the title track, make the release immense. After a few listens of The Great Bludgeoning the realisation that again Hatesphere have produced an album that will be a benchmark was clear. Thrash metal is in safe hands as long as the band keep this kind of quality coming.

http://www.hatesphere.com/

RingMaster 22/09/2011

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