Hellsaw: Trist

Black metal comes in many malicious dark shapes and sizes to generally stretch and twist the senses. It is a genre that plays with fears, toys with emotions and intrudes with caustic effect, numbing and violating from the ear inwards. Austrian black metal band Hellsaw does this and much more. Their fourth album Trist, released February 24th via Napalm Records, is a blistered beast that eats away at the flesh, consumes all feelings and leaves one a scattered pool of depleted energy and numbed emotion. It is an album that one finds hard to know if they liked it as all that is left at the end of its extreme and unpredictable sounds is a shell devoid of being able to conjure rational thought, it is that demanding, consuming and powerfully effective.

Formed in 2002, Hellsaw influenced by early 90s black metal bands began their destructive ride with their debut release Sins of Might, this coming a mere few months after forming, and  first album Spiritual Twilight in 2005. The band drew and gathered up strong attention, their uncompromising sounds setting them apart from other similar bands. Initially a project consisting of just drummer Svart and vocalist Aries, who also took the guitar and bass roles, the band had to evolve and began touring throughout Europe with session musicians, the expanded band garnering more solid acclaim and growing fan base. Subsequent albums Phantasm and Cold, this their first with Napalm, increased their musical stock and popularity. Guitarists Malthus and Isiul as well as bassist Desderoth were now permanent members of the band and the full force of Hellsaw being unleashed as shown with Trist.

The album is a gnarly beast, a release that rips at and abuses the senses with an evil intent that is openly and proudly carried like a flag of combat. Trist runs with traditional black metal sounds a lot of the time but avoid predictability by veining it with unexpected and intelligent intriguing diversions. It teases and taunts, never giving you what you assume, and just when it looks like becoming slightly formulaic the album will turn on its tail and writhe with something unexpected and diverse. It is these touches which makes the album worth full attention throughout.

The Devil Is Calling My Name opens up the infernal damnation of the senses, though at first its slow awakening is a deliberate falsehood to entice and beckon. As soon as one is hooked the track explodes into scorched riffs and a flurry of bullying drumming. The rasping vocals of Aries spew every word with acidic venom, coating the lyrics with sonic bile complimenting the razor sharp guitars. The song is malevolent, the bass of Desderoth lingering behind the assault of the guitars to grab its prey periodically, though that is more due to the fact that at certain times it is hard to consistently hear the growling basslines.

It is an impressive start to an album that maintains a strong level throughout but with definite peaks in the likes of the brilliant Doom Pervades Nightmares, A Winter Cold, and the imaginative closer Silence. The first of the three is an excellent nasty aural corruption, and the first of the more varied tracks offered within Trist. The groove and razor sharp guitars slice through the senses whilst the grouchy basslines are insistent and intimidating. Aries is pained and bitter, his demonic delivery distressing and enticing, a force as potent as the sounds. It is when the track steps off track into a melancholic mandolin led instrumental climax that the song truly unveils its beauty and uniqueness.
A Winter Cold is part chant, part frosted celebration, and all direct bitterness. The song is less about the violent assault than the creative melodic grandeur the band can also summon. At times it ventures into a blackened thrash sound that is inspired and a welcome diversity. Silence brings a wonderful melodic opening song but soon erupts into a full on confrontation but still with a melody driven core that is impressive, further proof that Hellsaw are musicians that can write and realise well crafted songs of blended beauty and malevolence.

The album does have its flaws, mainly in the drums production which is annoyingly tinny, and the slightly predictable vocals of Aries. There are moments one wishes his delivery was as diverse as the sounds within Trist. Despite those things, which are more personal preferences, the album is an impressive release that puts recent black metal releases in the shade. It is creative and at times adventurous within the defined limits of the genre, it is also ultimately enjoyable.

Ringmaster 20/02/2012

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Johnny Throttle: Johnny Throttle

Infectiously nostalgic, energetically unbridled, and irrepressibly excitable the self titled album from UK punks Johnny Throttle is the perfect album. Yes if you analysed it there are edges and elements that could be ‘improved’ but the point of music is to exhilarate, inspire, and give a good time and Johnny Throttle do this in abundance. There are plenty of good punk bands out there right now but there is nothing finer than real 70s punk and with this influencing the heart and attitude oozing vein of Johnny Throttle, there is no finer a bunch of punk reprobates than Johnny Quid and his cohorts.

Released on Dirty Water Records the album is a flurry of immediate and eager stabs of punk that light up the senses and revitalise old hearts and ambitions. Formed by ex-Parkinsons front-man Afonso Pinto (Johnny Quid), and aided by guitarist Hermano J, bassist Rory Seminal, and drummer Ricky C, their pedigree as ex-members of the likes of Menace, The Shakin Nasties, the Jackoffs, the Chinese Lungs, the Stains and Urban Shocks undeniable, Johnny Throttle go straight for the throat with blistering ill tempered sarcastic diamonds of sound and attitude. The band and each track offers up twin fingered salutes to whoever is in their aim and intent, it is garage punk without complications but bursting with vibrant riffs and catchy hook laden venom.

From the opening Heartbreakers/Ramones like Lost Sputnik the album lights up the senses and heart.  Song after song high energy and brief concussive blasts rolls through the ear with contempt and belligerence. The first track though spiky and forceful is probably the least rampant on offer but shows pop punks of today more than a thing or two on how to do it. Throughout the album Johnny Throttle or songs remind of or hint at other bands but the overriding similarity they have is to The Cortinas, a sadly overlooked band from the 70s.  The vocals of Quid have a definite Jeremy Valentine sound and both bands have a defined handle on creating irresistible hooks and melodies within their barbed tunes.

This review could go on for pages there is so much that could be said about and praised upon Johnny Throttle. It has been a long time since an album has thrilled as thoroughly from first track to last and there are fourteen classics here. If you want a taster before falling into the tempestuous arms of the album than first head to songs like the incessant longing of Ann or The Vibrators like Love Me Till I Come a spattered lust fuelled two minutes and a touch. There is also the cheerful sing-a-long casting aside of I Wanna Be Your Ex or the very early Blondie/Buzzcocks/Cute Lepers eager simple melodies of Heart Of Stone available and as sure to entice. Let us be honest here, every track will grab and pull you into their siren like well of essential punk and garage rock.

Johnny Throttle as one anticipates does not shy away from the controversial either saving that for the best song on the album in the brilliant Spazztastic. It defies anyone not to join in with its addictive chorus and heart tingling riffs. With a bass from Seminal to lose fluids over the song is immense and its brevity the only complaint, but leave them wanting more right?

Johnny Throttle is an album that revives the heart of true punk music and punks, its heart a reminder of days when things had an intensity and breath that has since dissipated, well until this band arrived came along. They have not only reminded of but ignited the heyday of punk and taken it forward with an album so impressive and enjoyable that one does not need to dig out those old vinyls, the new breed is here and its name is Johnny Throttle.

RingMaster 20/02/2012

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Coldworker – The Doomsayer’s Call

Like a colossal juggernaut the new album from Swedish metalers Coldworker thunders through to the senses before unleashed a bludgeoning and inventive mix of grindcore/death metal rage. The album is unrelenting and consuming like a violent unavoidable storm but it is tempered with grooves that manipulate and explode with a burning energy alongside melodic craft as sour as the intensity is tumultuous.

Released via Listenable Records The Doomsayer’s Call is the third album from the powerful quintet and the result of intensive writing and preparation by the band since previous album Rotting Paradise in 2008. The Doomsayer’s Call is not a major evolution to their sound but does feel more defined and focused within the acute grooves and melodic flows without losing any of the bands renowned intensity. This makes for a release that is not remarkable in any new direction but more inventively crafted than its predecessor and their debut album The Contaminated Void of 2006.

From the opening might of A New Era the album is a formidable and welcome intrusion within the ear. Without being overly destructive the track pressures and tests limits whilst offering a grind that is impossible to resist. The guitars of Daniel Schröder and Anders Bertilsson strike eagerly and deeply with riffs that coax and wind around the senses, taking them into harsh avenues that entice with dark menace. Equally though they enflame and ignite emotions with cultured grooves and imaginative melodies. The result is not a sound that is overtly addictive but is thoroughly intriguing and the inspiration to delve deeper within the album.

On the first song and throughout vocalist Joel Fornbrant growls and vocally grimaces, his words offered with malevolence and apparent disdain. Though he is not particularly diverse in his attack it works perfectly as a foil to the more expansive ideas the music brings. The songs come thick, powerfully and fast, an incessant probing and manipulation from heavyweight and incisive provocative sounds. Tracks like The Glass Envelope and Murderous rage with little regard for health, their eager aggression limitless whilst songs such as Monochrome Existence, turn the ear into a defenceless puppet as its sound commands and directs responses.

As The Doomsayers Call progresses it seems to get better and better. Vacuum Fields is a challenging explosion of brutality and smart songwriting, its diversity and ideas impressive whilst The Walls Of Eryx attaches itself with a groove that is infectious and a grind that demands obedience from the off. Drummer Anders Jacobson and bassist Oscar Pålsson, both excellent throughout erect a frame that is formidable and commanding allowing the others to wreak havoc upon the senses.

It is all wonderful stuff added to by the excellent Violent Society and impacting Becoming The Stench and with only the lack of a stronger diversity between tracks a downside, The Doomsayers Call is an impressive and striking album. Coldworker stand at the fore of grindcore/death metal amalgam bands and their new album has only gone to enforce their position.

RingMaster 20/02/2012

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