Grifter: Self Titled

The end of last year saw many a fan and media source excited by the self titled debut from UK trio Grifter. The release slipped past us then but having finally been introduced to its enthused and energetic rock n roll we just had to share it here in case you too had escaped its initial emergence. Quite simply the release is unadulterated and straight forward rock music for the heart and aural bar room liquor to intoxicate the ear. The band do not offer up anything particularly new or groundbreaking but other than label stable mates at Ripple Music, Trucker Diablo, it is hard to bring to mind another band that does it with the same accomplished quality and passion with which this band does.

Grifter formed in 2003 as a quartet well for their debut gig anyway. The show saw the vocalist quit on stage and the band has remained a threesome of vocalist/guitarist Ollie, bassist Phil, and drummer Foz, ever since. From day one they have riled up and excited people with their honest heart borne rock sounds, big teasing riffs, and high octane rock n roll. As their music and reputation grew to draw in a wider and more eager fan base across the south west of the UK the band released their Elephantine demo in 2005. Favourable reviews rolled in and they found themselves the attention of Fury 76 Records with whom they recorded the High Unholy Mighty Rollin’ EP the following year, its actual release not coming until 2008 and again to very favourable reviews. The band were then approached to do a track for a compilation by Catacomb Records which led to their second EP The Simplicity of the Riff is Key in 2010 and again on the label. Last year saw them contribute to a split EP release with Stone Axe, Sun Gods In Exile and Mighty High on Ripple Music, a success that has seen them now release through Ripple again their first album.

Grifter the band and album encapsulate rock n roll, their sound and songs bringing the best from an obviously thick blanket of influences and turning them into their own irrepressible heart fuelled music. As the album plays you are reminded of the likes of Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Clutch, Stone Axe, Motorhead and ZZ Top as well as to a lesser but as important degree bands like Orange Goblin, and Kyuss. Classic rock, hard rock, stoner, blues and southern rock are all in the rich heady and thrilling concoction, a sound with no demands asked and no unrequited emotions taken, Grifter is full of rock music at its best given with heart, energy and fun, and made for people like themselves, rockers.

The tracks whistle by due to the way they pull one in straight away to party with the band, the likes of the southern tinged stirring opener Good Day For Bad News, Alabama Hot Pocket with its muscle flexing rhythms, and Young Blood, Old Veins with a stoner swagger and middle finger offering, leaving the pulse racing and breath looking for air to re-energise ready for more of the same insatiable, exhaustive and rampant sounds.

Every song on the album offers a bottle of double strength rock to become light headed from. It is full of sure and tight riffs leading one down to dirty deeds and rhythms that draw willing and impossible to resist contortions of limbs and energy. Some tracks do have more of the devil in them than others though like the wanton groove driven Strip Club, a song that seduces and teases with all the tricks of a bar pole dancer, the rockabilly toned Buck Tooth Woman where the band have a sure touch of The Stray Cats about them, and Bean with its classic UK hard rock flavouring. As mentioned all the tracks hit the spot perfectly and have the desired effect  of pulling one to their feet to participate to some degree even the closing bluesy acoustic lined ballad Gone Blues. Once in its stride the song has lighters, voices and bodies swaying in unity with its mesmeric groove.

Grifter is an excellent rock n roll album, no more and certainly no less. It does not have to be anything more as it and the band deliver eleven pieces of pure and delicious rock music, what could be better?

Ringmaster 20/04/2012

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7 Horns 7 Eyes: Throes of Absolution

The release of a three track digital EP in the shape of Convalescence last year from Seattle melodic/progressive death metalers 7 Horns 7 Eyes inspired much anticipation for their debut album Throes of Absolution. The trio of songs on the release showed the band had evolved in sound and might into a formidable and thoughtful band in craft, songwriting, and the bringing of those into an aural reality. The long awaited album more than confirms this and fulfils all the enthused eagerness that the EP spawned. Impressive, powerful, and imaginatively constructed it is a mighty and thrilling release, its open and undeniable glories far outweighing any negatives of which there are very few.

Formed in 2006 the band first drew attention with their self released debut EP from fans, media, and other musicians equally, especially from now ex-Nevermore guitarist Jeff Loomis who makes a guest appearance on Throes of Absolution. The sounds on the album are a long way from the early music from the band, their ability and skills let alone ideas having evolved and matured in the subsequent years. The recording of the album did not run smoothly though with a change in frontman meaning all the album vocals had to be re-recorded by new singer JJ “Shiv” Polachek. Finally though the album is unleashed via Basick Records and it more than builds on and expands the promise and hopes instigated by the earlier release.

     Throes of Absolution is not the easiest of albums to get to grips with, it is a demanding beast with depths that require and deserve full focus and time to explore and be consumed by. There is never a moment where the release goes for the instant and easy connection, the band only intent on making music that has an atmosphere and breath of its own. The album is almost like an immense groan, the release of dark and ominous emotions in the shape of intense and weighty riffs, threatening yet controlled rhythms, and melodies that burn as they light up the senses. The release feels alive in itself not merely from the skilled musicianship of the band and the energy they give to it. It is because of this the album is a challenge that confronts all before it and is all the more impressive for it. Some may have to take it in bits or stages but the rewards for the endeavour are immense.

From the opening beckoning almost peaceful beginning of Divine Amnesty the album wraps itself around the ear before bursting from within with thunderous rhythms, a predatory bass, and guitars that weave sonic colours and passions upon the senses. As the track flexes and reveals its muscular strengths the band brings emotive melodic imagination and manipulations to alternately sooth and further scorch the bruising caused by the intense sounds that surround them. Vocalist Polachek and his delivery are bestial; a black hearted growling creature all on their own that add to the dramatic and deepness of the song.

Each track that follows is wonderfully varied but within the same structure shown on the first, the brutality going hand in hand with the marked and intrusive yet mesmeric melodic invention and presence. Phumis: The Falsehood of Affliction alongside the likes of The Hill Difficulty and Delusions with its perfect mix of warm light and invasive dark, all turn listening into an experience involving passions, thought, and a deliberate submission before the invading extensive sounds. Throughout the band shows their obvious and controlled ability, the guitars of Aaron Smith and Sean Alf making each note and riff an exploration and satisfying experience for the listener whilst the bass of Brandon Smith prowls with a menace and bulky pulse alongside. The drums of Ryan Wood are excellent throughout too, the guy knowing exactly when to pummel and smash through the ear and when to bring vibrant restraint. The production of guitarist Smith has to be commended highly too; he allows each component of the band to have a clarity and depth without interfering with the overall intensity and organic flow of the songs.

Many of the track almost lumber across the senses but as a personal preference it is when the band raise the tempo and energy that they find even greater heights. Cycle of Self first shows this with its eager rampage, feisty riffs and merciless initial march whilst the guitars throw cascades of melodic expression down amongst the debris. The song does slow its stride as it progresses to evolve into a different but still impressive track. Vindicator is the best song on the album and again a raised energy within it takes it above the other fine tracks. The intrusive riffs and sonically sharp guitar creativity its offers is a seamless blend of opposing diversity from the flowing melodic elegance and crushing heavy dark aggression. Mesmeric and at times hypnotic the track is dangerous and irresistible.      

     Throes of Absolution is one of the best albums out so far this year and for those who want more than simply being crushed and barracked without any depth it is a must investigation. It is not perfect with the excellent vocals of Polachek lacking a distinct variation, whether the song is a long crawl or an intense rummage through the senses he stays within his own strong but similar delivery. The only other comment that can be made is that not everyone will or want to take on the challenge of delving deeper to find the rewarding treasures beneath the surface assault but it is doubtful the band really care about that and why should they as7 Horns 7 Eyes has created a great and impressive album for us to revel in it.

Ringmaster 20/04/2012

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