Foreshadow: The Stranger End Of Death

The Stranger End Of Death EP from Foreshadow is initially not a release that bowls you over though it more than satisfies the craving for good metal sounds but by the time one is enjoying its length a second and third time it has become an infectious little creature with hooks gripping deeply.  The EP does not leap through the ear with obvious hooks and easy delights but it is one that unerringly delivers the goods and leaves one thoroughly fulfilled each and every time it powers through the ear.

Foreshadow are a Florida band that has invigorated the metal scene of its home town Tampa and throughout the state beyond. Formed in 2008 the quartet of Daniel McConaghy (vocalist), Aaron Robinson (guitarist), Richard Hudson (drummer), and Perry Bassin (bassist), have shared stages with Dying Fetus and many more as well as beginning to emerge as regulars at festivals in the state. Their sound with its influences from the likes of Slayer, Metallica, Mudvayne, and Pantera is a strong and unpredictable mix which consistently on the evidence of their new EP, intrigues and keeps one enthralled. The band obviously does not bow down to convention and expectation musically and that can only be a powerful tool as they evolve and grow into their already impressive sound.

Recorded with Producer Tony Gamalo, The Stranger End Of Death the second EP from Foreshadow has a darker and more black/death metal based sound than the previously mentioned influences taken from their bio would suggest. Though elements of those bands are there especially Slayer there is a definite feel of bands like Dimmu Borgir, Cradle Of Filth, Lamb Of God and also classic heavy metal bands like Black Sabbath. It makes for songs that take the ear by force and with caustic intent but skilfully thrills them at the same time. The release does not break into new avenues or wide realms of originality it has to be said but instead brings music that leaves one captivated and songs that still rampage through the head long after they have left the building.

This is especially the case with the opener The Meaning Of Life. The song muscles in with rampant riffs and intimidating rhythms, the guitars offering abrasive grooves and melodies whilst the drums cage the senses within a flurry of strong and demanding rhythms. With a fine prowling bass from Bassin veining the track and the vocals of McConaghy dripping venom from his scorched bestial growls the whole combination is irresistible, a contagion that returns time and time again. The song midway through its oppressive blend of aggressive intensity and simplistic but openly catchy grooves steps to the side into a restrained progressive setting which with its emotive feel and strong guitar work elevates the song to another level in combination with the returned blackened insurgency.

The eight track release including three live cuts continues to menace and taunt the senses with tight vicious riffs and defences breaking energy, not that one ever truly wishes to resist the sounds that are turning feelings and emotions numb. The likes of the excellent War Without End, a merciless march through the body with ear piercing melodies and acidic creativity alongside the muscle-bound power, and the malicious black humoured and stunning The Stranger Within with its dehabilitating ravenous death crawl expose the listener to metal to high quality and deeply satisfying metal. The latter of the two is the best track on the release though the other mentioned tracks and the remaining unbridled threatening Art Of Hate and the morbid interpretation of Romeo and Juliet by the band in Death By Medicine hardly flounder in its wake.

As mentioned The Stranger End of Death does not instantly connect but it goes one better by infecting with a wicked and insatiable stealth which leads to a much more fulfilling reward. The EP is not without flaws though only of the minor and personal taste type like maybe a bit more variety from the still excellent vocals of McConaghy and the bass of Bassin being brought out more from behind the guitars and drums in the mix.  Overall though The EP is an excellent way to introduce you to the band but also a very fine addition to metal in general that leads to strong anticipation for more from Foreshadow.

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RingMaster 19/04/2012

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Thee Vicars: I Wanna Be Your Vicar

It has to be said that whenever there is a new release on Dirty Water Records there is always a twinge of anticipation and excitement, rarely has there been deep disappointment in the quality of the music from their bands. The same applies to the new album from Thee Vicars, a release that thrills and excites whilst lifting emotions no matter their starting point to a height of grinning satisfaction. Following up their excellent single Everyday, the band from Bury St Edmunds, England have released a collection of unfettered and eagerly pleasing garage rock, mod, 60’s beat, and R&B rock tunes that light up the emotions and heart.  Simple, direct and hell of a lot of fun I Wanna Be Your Vicar is nothing but a piece of irresistible pleasure.

I Wanna Be Your Vicar is the third album from the band which is now down to the trio of Mike Whittaker (bass/vocals), Chris Langeland (guitar/vocals), and Alex De Renzi (drums). Released May 7th the album sees the band even tighter than ever and still fuelled by their irrepressible garage sounds but with an even more varied and flavoursome result. To date the band has shared stages with the likes of The Horrors, Black Lips, and The Mummies to name three and it is obvious they have absorbed and twisted the inspiration gained into their own extra spices as shown on the album. The music of the band is not the height of originality though there are not many that bring the vibrant mix this band do, but it is completely and deeply captivating and infectious.

The release opens with the playful and feisty title track, its mischievous beckoning charm an instant connection for the ear and beyond. The guitar of Langeland jangles and slices through the ear with sharp skill whilst the bass of Whittaker is a boisterous yet almost shy presence alongside. Leading it all to bear is the excellent beats of De Renzi, her rhythms direct and enthused but tight within the compact structure here and of each song perfectly. With the added keys laying their impulsive fingers and palms on the song it is an opening gem that only raises the enthusiasm for what is to follow.

Next up I’ll Be Gone raise things another level with its sparkling sixties punk flow, each note and word carrying a wink and a smile that only inspires further emotional applause and adoration. The infection really started from the first note of the release but as this and each subsequent songs swaggers and teases one is drawn defencelessly into adding their own willing vocal sounds and eager limbs, the contagion impossible to prevent.

What follows from now on is an unrelenting pleasuring of the senses from the next up Johnny Cash tinged Lights through tracks like the early The Horrors meets the Stones I Feel Alright with its agitated energy and disruptive beats and the impassioned love song Your Eyes with its more than strong sense of an illicit longing through to the rock n roll/mod stomp of Crocodile Chomp, a mix of Sam Cooke, Chuck Berry and Thee Mighty Caesars. Each and every song in their different guises ignite and warm the senses with an excited love of their inspirations and what they bring that can only be transferred to the listener and their hearts.

As great as the album is to this point the band save the best tracks for the latter stages starting with the brilliant Hauser & O’Brian. With a Troggs meets My Red Cell sound the track is glorious, a patient stroll with rasping riffs and caustic melodies and a siren touch. It is caked in the garage dirt and scuzzy sound that simply excites like a wanton temptress, the always distinct vocals of Whitaker finding an extra nasally and emotive depth. The song is soon equalled by the bristling Kinks tasting Satisfy You and of course the magnificent previous single Everyday. The more the single has pleasured the ear in recent weeks the more it has captured the heart with its insatiable mixture of the doo wop of 70’s band  Darts and the electrified rawness of 13th Floor Elevators and again The Horrors, all treated with the inspired uniqueness of Thee Vicars.

I Wanna Be Your Vicar is a fully rewarding pleasure, a release to make you feel good no matter the nature of your day. Thee Vicars stood right at the front of garage styled rock and punk and with his album have announced they plan to be there a long time.

RingMaster 19/04/2012

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16: Deep Cuts From Dark Clouds

It is your twentieth anniversary as a band so how do you celebrate? In the case of Southern California sludge metal band 16, you release an album of violent, filth caked, and senses consuming might. Deep Cuts From Dark Clouds is an extreme heavyweight mass of growling anger, insidious grooves, and malicious intensity. It is also a mightily impressive oppression of the ear and beyond that ruptures all the senses whilst leaving one drooling like a ravenous animal over a still feisty feast, though in reality we are the prey to this monstrous beast of a release.

Since forming in 1992, 16 has riled up and flattened the emotions through the years gathering acclaim and fans with their serial killer like muscular vehemence, persistently capturing and captivating through their releases and shows. From the original line-up of Bobby Ferry (guitar), Cris Jerue (vocals), and Jason Corley (drums) with bassist Tony Baumeister joining a year later, the band from debut album Curves That Kick of 1993 onwards grew and consumed. The follow-up album Drop Out came out in 1996 to strong critical acclaim with Blaze of Incompetence a year later equally eagerly received. Throughout these years members came and went with all the baggage this and rock n roll can often offer falling on the band yet they continued to grow in might and stature. Zoloft Smile came next recorded on 1999/2000, but released 2002 by which time the band had changed once again. 2004 saw the band call it a day but the original quartet reunited three years later and signed to Relapse Records with whom the excellent  Bridges to Burn came out through in 2009. The album immediately placed them back at the fore of the genre and metal. Another change came in the departure once more of Corley to be replaced by Mateo Pinkerton (ex Buzzov-en, Crom), and now the new Los Angeles based foursome are ready to set metal alight and celebrate the year with the unleashing of the stunning Deep Cuts From Dark Clouds again via Relapse.

There is not one single shaft of light that escapes from the album, the whole release a muggy expanse of masterful bleakness and doom trodden sludge corruption that is glorious. Like a pit of the thickest inescapable quicksand the album sucks one in and devours the life from the senses.  Each track brings down their sonic shutters to enclose and violate with venom, anger, and despair to create an irresistible and infectious depressive world that one is only too willing to succumb to. From the opening Theme From ‘Pillpopper’ the album lays its gnarly caustic palms on the senses and draws  all hope and defiance from them, not that one is putting up much of a fight for this great assault of sound. The opening track itself is a parasitic crawl through the ear that expands into every synapse and corner of the listener to drag them into its slow powerful frame. With scorched guitars, throbbing basslines and grooves that whip around the ear it is an immense start.

The following Parasite badgers and probes with searching riffs and eager grooves, neither are refined or offered with cut clarity but the music is all the better for it, their lack of definition adding to the intense weight and consumption. The vocals of Jerue spray bile and fury with every syllable of his cutting outraged lyrics, their distorted white heat cutting through the slab of sound and mesmeric grooves decisively.

Throughout its length Deep Cuts From Dark Clouds only offers up intrusive and exhilarating experiences. Tracks like the brilliant Her Little ‘Accident’ with its grooves that wantonly swagger through the sprawling intensity, The Sad Clown a song that leaves one punch drunk through its concentrated heavy jabs and grievous intensity, and the dark menacing Broom Pusher a song that prowls with predatory riffs and suggestive intimidating sounds, all leave one deeply satisfied and wasted. Do not mistake the album for simply the crushing overwhelming beast that it is for the band produces some of the most addictive grooves and distinct unsettling melodies and guitar moments possible. They may not be lined with glossy touches and glowing fragrance but they ensure the songs captivate from every angle and with sure quality.

Ending on the mesmeric Only Photographs Remain, a song that infects every cell of its victims with its slow prowl and incisive fired grooves as well as demanding intensity, the album is a commanding and testing chunk of sheer satisfaction. For all the young and powerful bands emerging and have lit up sludge metal recently 16 show they still hold the reins very firmly and impressively.

RingMaster 19/04/2012

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