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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The Waterboys – An Appointment with Mr Yeats

Approaching the first listen of An Appointment with Mr Yeats the new album from The Waterboys, one was not sure what to expect and a sense of uncertainty was in the air before a note was played. It was not so much the fact of only having a passing knowledge of the work of William Butler Yeats, the Irish poet and playwright whose poetry the album is a musical companion and interaction with (Poe and Yeats’ ‘enemy’ Aleister Crowley being more of a taste for this palate), nor from having a respect for but no particular like for previous Waterboys musical offerings that a doubt about the album rose. It was more would this just be music behind a reading of WB Yeats works which with no matter how much passion and emotion came with the words, was like a cold shower to the anticipation. Really one should have known better. With the love, passion, and intent from Waterboys vocalist Mike Scott to bring, in a twenty year labour of love, the words of Irelands cultural son into a merger with respectful and understanding music of his own composition, it was always going to be something more than a simple rendition.

Scott had already brought Yeats poetry to music, writing a musical accompaniment for the classic poem ‘The Stolen Child’ for 1988 Waterboys album Fisherman’s Blues and five years later another poem ‘Love and Death was set to music to appear on the Dream Harder album. Over the years as well as doing the same with poems by Burns, James Stephens, Kenneth Grahame, and George MacDonald, Scott slowly added ‘collaborations’ with Yeats to create a wealth of material which remained a secret until the songs premiered at a series of  Appointment With Mr Yeats concerts in Ireland and Britain in 2010 and early 2011. Now fourteen tracks unveiled then have been given a love and attention in the studio to result in a release that if nothing else should be investigated.

Scott painstakingly worked with all the respect and musical skill at his disposal to create an engaging collection of songs. He shifted through poems finding those that would work with his musical ideas and rather than simply reciting the poems vocally he adapted the poems, removed some passages, changed out of use words replacing with ones to inspire the same emotion, and with understanding created songs with their own identity. They connect to Yeats poetry emotionally but stand alone with their own pride.

The songs are varied and extremely well composed and presented, each giving something different, whether with a rock beat, a folk flow or emotively soaring all have a satisfying effect. Opening track ‘The Hosting Of The Shee’ and probably the favourite here, flows on a pulsating beat that is as dramatic as the song is melodic. With immediate effect it takes the hand and sways in the ear marking straight off that the albums journey would be an intriguing and agreeable one.

The core of the band, Scott, bassist Marc Arciero, James Hallawell on keyboards, and drummer Ralph Salmins were joined on various tracks by fiddler Steve Wickham, Flook flautist Sarah Allen, multi-instrumentalist Kate St. John, Catalan trombonist Blaise Margail, and the stunning voice of Irish singer Katie Kim, who is a revelation on the album. Kim’s first appearance comes on ‘Song Of Wandering Aengus making a great track into an excellent one, her voice a force of beauty. The track swoops and lingers siren like, an aural sunshine warming the senses. The one thing that was not expected nor unwelcome was the thoughts of how much this song and other moments as the album progressed sounded like US band Wall Of Voodoo and its frontman Stan Ridgway’s solo work. The uniqueness of that band coincidently resurrected here.

The songs on the album play their own delights openly with the likes of the soulful ‘A Full Moon In March’, the memorable ‘Sweet Dancer’, and the atmospheric rock pulse of ‘The Lake Isle Of Innisfree with a distinctive bass potency that resonates beyond the ear, leaving more than smiles inside.

The consistency over the album is as expected high, though it has to be said at times without the wonderful voice of Kim to always keep the engagement with the album a certain one, maybe one would just dip into the album more often than giving complete listens each time. Saying that though the album is thoroughly enjoyable and far beyond the expectations going into it. One might not be rushing to check out The Waterboys back catalogue because of it but definitely revisits to An Appointment with Mr Years are guaranteed as well as watching out for a certain Katie Kim and her own musical journey.

RingMaster 22/09/2011

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The Lovely Eggs – Panic Plants

Distinct and striking the eclectic sounds of UK grunge-pop band The Lovely Eggs follow no rules they simply do what expresses and feels right to them. Endearing and at times challenging they bring a punk rock ethos to a sound that teases and delights with intrigue and originality.

    The Lovely Eggs are the duo from Lancaster, UK of Holly Ross and David Blackwell, a band with an instinct to push listener’s boundaries whilst caressing their ears with melodies, discordance and musical tangents. New single Panic Plants released via Cherryade Records is a perfect example, simplistic almost childlike sounds with an addictive incessancy that would not feel out of place on an adult Sesame Street episode.  

The track is the third single from the band’s latest album Cob Dominos which garnered much acclaim and is a follow up to the previous ‘Fuck It’ which was released in May on a Bank Holiday when the shops were closed and because of the title DJ’s could not play, that just about sums up the mindset and glory of The Lovely Eggs. They do it their way and we all benefit immensely.

Panic Plants is a portrayal of living with an obsessive compulsive disorder all brought with the duo’s inimitable touch. It brings a grin to the face as it plays without taking any cheap shots at the subject itself. As mentioned it has a childlike quality and plays like a blend of 80’ bands The Chefs, Daisy Chainsaw and the current Blood Red Shoes.

The single b-side is ‘Creepin’’, a slow building melody piece of joy. With a touch of Throwing Muses to it the song morphs into an electrified scuzz moment behind the harmony lined vocals that again engage the senses openly. Less of a sing-a-long than its sister track, it still has that feel of familiarity about it that has one joining in with enthusiasm. This is what pop music should always be like.

The Lovely Eggs ride into the heart on a blend of art rock, punk rock, indie and riot grrrl pop, ’Panic Plants’ the ideal doorway into the band’s joyfully unique and enjoyable sounds.

The band has shared stages around the UK, USA and Europe with the likes of Half Japanese, Shonen Knife, The Slits, The Television Personalities and Art Brut, impressing with every show and are about to tour the UK in October. With the release of their excellent single now is the time to go and revel in their impressive charms.

http://www.thelovelyeggs.co.uk/

RingMaster 20/09/2011

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Livarkahil – Signs Of Decay

There is forceful intensity in music and then there is Livarkahil. The word going around about the French band was positive but there was no indication for the explosive encounter awaiting the senses as the first track on their new album Signs Of Decay revealed its bestial power. The album is a powder keg of passion, violent emotion, and scorching potency, its crushing riffs and sonically stripping onslaught holding dominion over the ear and every second is total bliss.

Formed in 2007, the Parisian death metal band first came to solid attention with their debut album First Act Of Violence in 2009, receiving a good strong response from fans and media as did their demo No Cure For The Fools before it in 2007. Returning on September the 26th via Listenable Records with the devastation that is Signs Of Decay, they are sure to gain much more attention, acclaim and fans wide and far as they lay waste to all before them with their aural offensive. A concept album based on religious autocracy and mans needs being exploited; the release is a blistering attack in every way possible and leaves its mark intently and indelibly.  

The quintet of vocalist HK, guitarists Kaiin and Traüme, plus Neil and Skvm bass and drums respectively, bring a blackened death metal form to their music but it carries much more; at times there are more metal spices, dark industrial tones, and within the brutality a technical play that is immense. The band is confident in their sound and creates things uniquely, following no formulas or expected directions; this brings a fresh and distinct flavour and overall a defined quality to their music.

The albums best track starts the dark descent for the senses. ‘In Nomine Patris’ is staggering, even with the building intensity moving towards an expected crescendo there is no solid warning of the attack ahead, even with its ominous feel. The track goes for the mental jugular as it hits its stride with an aggression and sound that would make the likes of Devildriver and Suicide Silence wince. It leaves one breathless but it is only the start as the equally impressive and ravaging ‘When Hell Is Near’ proves. Another highly ferocious track it invades with riffs that are primal and predatory, like scavengers of the senses. It may be uncomfortable and might even hurt but Signs Of Decay is satisfyingly formidable and enjoyable.

Showing no weakness the album strides through further triumphant monstrosities of noise, all challenging and all invitingly addictive. It is hard to pick out one track over another but ‘Above All Hatred’, ‘The Flesh Of All Damned’, and ‘Heaven Shall Fall’ all stay just that little longer inside after they depart the ear. The album though as a whole is always the important factor and with it Livarkahil have created a release that will mark them as heavyweights in metal sooner rather than later.

Produced by HK& BST (Aosoth, The Order Of Apollyon) the album allows each element of the sound to breathe and excel. Distinct basslines, strikingly creative and intrusive guitars, blasting rhythms and drums filled with vocals that delve deeply within the deliverers and recipients are the fuel; for a collection of tracks that are instinctive and hit with the impact of a explosion. Signs Of Decay is the album of the month already and possibly of the year, is hard to remember many challengers so far.

RingMaster 19/09/2011

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Hemoptysis – Misanthropic Slaughter

Earlier in the year US metalers Hemoptysis released what is not only the best thrash album this year but maybe arguably of the decade in Misanthropic Slaughter. Because of its distinct and essential quality a late review of it was warranted. To call it thrash though is a very limiting tag in regard to this album, as the band from Phoenix, Arizona simply take thrash as a base and infuse it with essences of heavy metal, death and black metal to create an intelligent, vibrant and thoroughly inspiring sound. One does not have to be a follower of thrash metal to be touched by the sounds created as there is so much more to the music of Hemoptysis to ensure that everyone is more than satisfyingly catered for. This is a metal album, and does not truly sit neatly in any box and that makes it so refreshing.

From the first beckoning seconds of the opening title track the album grabs an eager attention.  Throbbing rampaging variant riffs, incessant clutching rhythms and the grisly growls of vocalist/guitarist Masaki Murashita all play firmly and eagerly. Within the first minute one knows this is not going to be a one dimensional thrash album that satisfies but leaves the palate without anything new to savour. Well written, intelligent and with appetising variations in sound and directions within the song it ripples with and oozes quality. This is an indication of things to come for the album and thoroughly rewarding it is too.  

The basslines on the opener from Sunao Arai pulse with energy but on the second track ‘Hopeless’ he lets loose with an even deep resonance that is hypnotic and seductive. Like a deep vein his riffs fuel the track as the guitars of Murashita and lead guitarist Ryan Miller dance on the ear with certain skill and creativity. As everywhere on the album, the track surprises and delights with excursions into new diversions within the tracks forceful flow, drummer Travis Thune leading the way with his controlled energy and craft.

There are no standout tracks on Misanthropic Slaughter because every song is at an equal high level of expertise, thoughtful and intelligent songwriting and ultimately the realisation. There are moments that give a little more blood pumping pleasure than others like the Metallica spiced opening to ‘Impending Doom’, the delicious solos that cruise excitedly in ‘M.O.D.’, and the perpetual riff attack and drum intensity of ‘The Cycle’, but overall the tracks all start and end on an even level of the loftiest plateau. One never gets bored or loses focus with the diverse and continual changes and the engaging imagination within every song.

The album is definitely not the most brutal onslaught to see the light this year but its power comes from the inventiveness and if it had become simply a continual burst of aggression the adept quality and originality of the song writing would have been seriously diminished.   The band’s previous EP Who Needs A Sheppard? found much critical acclaim and it is no surprise that Misanthropic Slaughter has received the same response and then some. Hemoptysis has created a masterpiece which deserves all the accolades it receives.

Produced by Grammy Award winning producer Ryan Greene (Megadeth, Authority Zero, NOFX)it is clear he and the band were on the same wavelength regarding their sound and the result is a crisp and clean sound that is natural and not over polished. The music breathes and flows with an organic feel; in every aspect the album is a joy. Misanthropic Slaughter should be on the playlist of every true metal fan and in time surely Hemoptysis will be on most of their lips.

RingMaster 19/09/2011

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