Roaring at and bruising up the senses with a riot of belligerence and unkempt rock ‘n’ roll, Knuckle Duster the new album from UK band Asomvel is an uncompromising and thrilling storm of prime beef heavy metal. With a more than healthy throbbing vein of punk rock and Motorhead like bruising rock to it also, the album is a pungent blaze of sound and attitude which continues the impacting and sparking presence of the band since their first days and provides the year with a release which has no want to create new pastures for metal but is more than ready to churn up and reseed existing fields.
The band was formed in 1993 by guitarist Lenny Robinson and bassist/vocalist Jay-Jay Winter, with a line-up completed by ex-Cathedral/Acid Reign drummer Mark Wharton. The position behind the beats changed on numerous occasions in the earlier years before The Blood Eye demo was released in 2002. Establishing a strong reputation for their sound and live performances Asomvel released the To Hell with All the Rest Demo in 2005 and the Full Moon Dog EP two years later to strong responses and acclaim. It was debut album Kamikaze of 2009 which really set the metal underground and media on alert with its raucous presence and set a rigorous platform for the band ahead. Within a year though tragedy struck when Winter was killed in a road accident which understandably devastated the band. Determined to continue with the spirit and presence of Winter still part of the band, Robinson took time to find a musician to not only match what the frontman brought and intended for the band, but to continue his attitude. It was with the finding and addition of ex-Deathwing bassist/vocalist Conan that the band came back to full life, Asomvel soon after headlining their own inaugural Full Moon Dog Festival in Bradford in 2011 in honour of Winter; the event also seeing the stage thriving with the likes of Carcass, Anvil, and Orange Goblin. Following the Stare at Death & Spit EP of the same year and the split release Vol. 1 of last year, the band with drummer Jason Hope surge back with the Bad Omen Records released Knuckle Duster and it is a fluid continuation of the last album and sound.
Produced by James Atkinson (frontman of Leeds rockers Gentleman’s Pistols), Knuckle Duster flies at the ear with opener Dead Set on Livin’, drums and bass making an instant rapacious charge around and through the ears whilst the guitar scorches their surface with sonic causticity. The vocals of Conan snarl and growl with a throaty rasp which you could easily mistake for Winter without prior knowledge, to again cement that feeling of the band around the time of Kamikaze though there is also an air of the now in the venom and inciting breath of the track, and subsequently album. With a raw edge suggesting the release was recorded live in the studio and an unpolished touch which only ignites the instinctive appetite for dirty rock ‘n’ roll, the track makes a strong and magnetic start to the album, its groove one which only eager submission is the order of the moment.
The following Cash Whore and Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing immediately take the impressive start and shift it up another adrenaline fuelled gear, the first of the two a carnivorous persuasion which grinds its way to the passions whilst tearing up the scenery with a blaze of hungry riffing and rhythmic barracking whilst its chorus is simply a primal torrent of pleasure giving dirt throwing excellence. The melodic flames of the guitar also send shards of addiction causing pleasure through to the heart to help sculpt one of the early pinnacles of the album. Its successor stands side by side with its swagger of blues bait and intensively contagious punk ‘n’ roll teases. There is a southern lilt to the hooks which only light greater attraction whilst the punk rock scythes of guitar and anthemic vocals add to a combination which leaves senses and passions with a great greedy hunger for more.
Both Thrash Talker and Waster settle down the climb of the release though each provides a provocation which continues the compelling draw of the album and the uncluttered, organic fire bred fury of sound. The pair again leaves appetite fully satisfied though its greed is ready to devour the insatiable thrashing surge of Shoot Ya Down and the groove carved Wrecking Ball with a grin on its voracious lips, a lust the songs feed but incite further. Like their predecessors the two encounters leave ears full of cutting riffs, commanding vocals, and a bass grizzle which especially on the second of the pair is as predacious as any offering this year.
From the outstanding title track, a song which glares at the listener eye to eye and challenges it to resist its irrepressible temptation, the album unleashes a closing ravaging of the senses with firstly the savage Final Hour. The track is a ferocious yet melodically grooved blaze of ridiculously infectious combative posturing which is backed up within a gulp of breath by the sizzling intimidation that is Strangehold, the drums of Hope a hypnotic conjuror and instigator of instinctive compliance so the riffs and vocals can cut and graze their punkish vitriol into the psyche.
Hangman’s Rope closes up the album with a searing heavy metal finale though it is the one song which noticeably pales against the rest of the tempests upon Knuckle Duster. It is still a satisfying and easy to return to growl finishing off a powerhouse of honest to the ground rock ‘n’ roll which maybe is not offering anything new but provides a potently exciting bruising and thrilling confrontation. Asomvel are still one of the true joys of UK’s metal underground just now you sense they may get a much wider recognition.
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