Ghost Of The Highway: Self Titled

From the moment the song So Sick from UK rock band Ghost Of The Highway, was submitted to and heard on The Reputation Radio Show, a review of the forthcoming mini album it came from was a must. When the track was recently broadcast the eager acclaim towards its vibrant and powerful sounds by the audience of the show was expressive and full, something the band will surely become used to with the release of their impressive album on September 1st.

From Guildford, Ghost Of The Highway consists of vocalist and guitarist Jon Lett (The Black Zetas, Calico), bassist Jack Williams, and Jack Summerfield on drums. The band began in 2010 when Lett met Summerfield in a bar. Drinks, reflections of the state of local music with probably more drinks in tow, led to the linking of their musical creativity. Working hard on songs and going through a pair of bassists, the band released the demo Hope and Other Four Letter Words through bedroom label Specky Records the following year. It was well received drawing much acclaim to its heavy rock energies and sounds. Later in the year Williams was recruited and now stable the band entered the studio with producer Paul Frost to work on the album. Earlier this year saw the release of previously mentioned single So Sick, it again pulling in nothing but great and enthused responses.

The song opens up the album and instantly has the word infectious at the ready for its excited and greedy hooks and melodic enterprise. The guitars electrify the air initially with a blistering scuzzy energy whilst larger melodic strokes flash within its bristling presence. In full flow the song is soon offering intensive rhythms and a great bass prowling from Williams whilst the vocals of Letts, also with that distorted tinge to their breath, impress. The track is aggressive without resorting to force or being over demanding, its energy and appetite enough to stir up the senses. The band comes from the home of the Reuben and though Ghost Of The Highway do not quite have the intensity they hold the same ability to create compelling and addictive riffs and hooks as that great band.

The following Preacherman starts with a gently caressing melodic whisper of guitar and voice before the song unleashes a punk rock lined piece of rock n roll. The song is excellent though slightly frustrating as at times it feels like it wants to explode into an unbridled storm but to be fair if it had gone that way it is doubtful the well crafted and defined song would have worked quite as well. Not for the first time the band have a Green Day feel about their sound which though an easy comparison is accurate.

The steely Vultures is an outstanding piece of rock music with a seventies garage blues gait alongside its melodic pulse whilst the bass of Williams has a vibrant yet niggled sound, his lines gnawing on the ear wonderfully. With its slight stoner air too, the track is a thrilling contagion showing a wider variation to the music of the band.

Punk spices the excellent Second Rate next, another song which like the opener hits all the right buttons to have senses, limbs, and heart rate in active accompaniment. There is an underlying grunge flavour to add extra texture to the song and once more Ghost Of The Highway shows its ammunition is diverse and potent.

The last pair of songs ensure the album maintains its high levels to the very end, March Of The Pigs and Another Pretty Boy leaving only pure satisfaction behind. The first again finds the band with an American Idiot era Green Day lilt to its inciteful heart whilst the closing second single from the release opens like a sensitive crystalline ballad. Of course the band cannot maintain their restraint and the song soon steps into a slice of emotive catchiness which excites the ear and warms the senses.

With their self titled album, Ghost Of The Highway step forward to show themselves as one of the more inventive and inspiring bands in UK rock music right now and one who all should get to know in September.

RingMaster 24/08/2012

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Xander Demos: Guitarcadia

Let us open with the admittance that guitar virtuosity has never been high on requirements for our tastes at The RR, the infernal indulgences and flamboyant intricacies no substitute to our preferences for riotous passion and inciteful riffing. That said there are a few artists which have emerged recently to show over blown excesses are not necessarily needed to create impressive and expressive guitar driven music. One such artist is UK guitarist Jay Parmar and now there is Pittsburgh musician Xander Demos. Both bring a more stable and balanced approach  for these tastes and though Demos especially does walk the line of excess at times it has a restraint which leaves us enjoying it more. Of course this is just personal and easily Guitarcadia, the new album from Xander Demos, is more than a vibrant feast for guitar lovers to purr over.

Demos is an artist who seemingly likes to keep busy as not only does he have his own solo band who back him on the album, he also plays in Into The Arena, the top cover band in his home city which he formed in 2006, and has recently joined the new East Coast chapter of the Sabbath Judas Sabbath project. With his own band, Demos has shared stages with the likes of Neil Zaza, UFO, The Dio Deciples, Lizzy Borden and Kip Winger over the past year or so and with the release of Guitarcadia through Rock N Growl Records, he is set to find his name open to international awareness.

Backed by bassist Matt Williams, drummer Chris Batten (with Dean Minerva and Mike Stover appearing on some tracks),

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and Adam Heuesy on keyboards, Demos ignites the air which what is impressively inventive and intelligent artistry. It may not always trigger our deepest responses but there is no denying his craft and heart which drips off every note. The album opens with Right Angles, a track with an eighties rock feel which flavours the wash of sonic skill which coats the ear from first note to last. The song reaches out to caress with scorched melodies and enticing harmonic mastery whilst the drums form a powerful frame to hold it all in place. In his bio the influences of Shawn Lane, Eric Johnson, Steve Vai, and Vinnie Moore are listed amongst the main inspirations, and their essences can easily be heard in his inventiveness on the song alone.

The following Nothing Major again reaps essences from early guitar rock especially with the keys adding their own nostalgic embrace. It is a piece of music which feels like the soundtrack to a larger than life TV show or movie, it does not quite work for us but again Demos shows he is a manipulating wizard with fingers to make any girl sigh.

Many of the tracks for us have the same result, their impressive songwriting and play obvious and easy to applaud but they do not ignite any real sparks, the likes of Chase The Sun, Metagalactic, and Lady In Red, heated pleasures at the time without firing up any real passions. With our unfortunate for him different preferences we brought in a couple of independent opinions who love guitar playing extravaganzas to give a balance, and both found the songs and album an impressive and inspiring treat.

There were some notable moments on the album though which also had us licking our lips, firstly the first of two songs out of the ten which had vocals. Under A Darkened Sky is a melodic rock gem which is still eighties based but has a classic metal energy and presence to captivate fully as well as further show the eclectic breath of the album. The second vocal track is a cover of Boys Of Summer by Don Henley. Sadly it does not work and is the only unsatisfying track on the album. Musically it is imaginative as Demos energises it into a speedy metallic surge but the vocals are weak in comparison and the production even worse, there is a lack of clarity overall whilst the layers of sound do not blend so everything sounds clumsy and unrelated.

As said it is an exception and with the further consecutive highlights of the excellent White Knuckle Driving , Guitarcadia, and  Woodshed Sonata of such stature and compulsive quality is a mere blip. The first of the three is a feisty storm of incendiary melodic enterprise which dazzles consistently. It is the best song on the album though closely rivalled by the other pair, the title track a guitar player’s wet dream and the latter a piece of music which is as mischievous as it is muscular and absorbing.

Obviously Guitarcadia is not really the type of music which is best served by our personal likes but we can say if artistic invention and eye watering guitar skills lights your fires you should have a raging inferno inside over the new album from Xander Demos.

RingMaster 24/08/2012

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Xibalba: Hasta La Muerte

Murderous, corruptive, and aurally spiteful, the new album from Californian hardcore destructors Xibalba is a towering beast for which no hiding place is safe enough. Hasta La Muerte is mighty, a storming tornado of intensity and sonic bruising which leaves one on all fours and whimpering like a dog but with satisfaction oozing from every pore. It is not an album which gouges fissures to split open the boundaries of extreme metal but utilises its already established tools into one impressive and oppressive pleasure.

The album is the first since signing with Southern Lord and follows their 2011 respected debut Madre Mia Gracias Por Los Dias. The band name comes from Mayan mythology, a vast underground city ruled by the demon gods of death with their music and album the epitome of the black intent to cause human suffering of the rulers of “the place of fear”. Hasta La Muerte is a shifting predatory release which mills the violence of hardcore with the metal essences of death, doom and sludge for a crushing and deeply rewarding consumption on the senses. Recorded with Taylor Young from Nails, the album sears synapses and decimates senses whilst bones crumble before its intensity for possibly the most enjoyable demise brought aurally all year.

The album evaporates defences instantly with the crawling insidious beginning to opener No Serenity. With a bitter atmosphere it gathers its energies to unleash a venomous storm of tenderising riffs, vindictive rhythms, and malicious vocals. Once in its stride and evolving from a hardcore onslaught the track latches onto the ear with an acidic groove to drool over and a droning breath which envelopes every atom.  It is a powerful start equalled and elevated over the following tracks.

The likes of Soledad with its downtuned oppressive molestation of the senses and Laid To Rest, a track with slight industrial tendencies initially which evolve into a ravenous and savage malevolent festering, continue the tsunami of overpowering annihilatory intent and energies. There is no place to hide before Xibalba, if their ruinous aggression does not grab full submission their acidic grooves and distorted melodic taunts surely will.

The exceptional highs of what is an immensely consistent album, comes with the following Burn and later on, The Flood and Stoneheart. The first is a relentless flurry of vehemence and caustic breakdowns which captivates and ignites the passions with ease whilst offering another helping of coarse addiction for the senses. With a grinding groove which leaves the ear sore but braying for more, the song is a merciless barrage of barbaric riffs and beats to leave one punch drunk and grinning incessantly.

The Flood is a tribal driven hypnotic abusing disguised as an instrumental. Its onerous predatory shadow wraps tightly around its recipient as the beats with metronomic precision jab throughout and then the piece slowly crawls through a thick mire of scathing energy to salt the already existing sores for a staggering climax.  It is a sumptuous and infectious disease which slowly overwhelms whilst Stoneheart is a niggling waspish cruelty upon the ear, its winding acerbic melodies burning upon touch and rhythms instantly barbaric. With the grievous weight of the track holding one down for its elements to flail ferociously it is an intensive examination and feeding of the senses.

      Xibalba may not be setting new dimensions with Hasta La Muerte but they have easily brought one of the most thrilling and explosive releases this year. It is a dangerous rage of low slung sounds, rabid intensity, and near immoral vocals which leaves one in a pool of their own juices wasted and fully satisfied.

RingMaster 25/08/2012

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Eagle Twin : The Feather Tipped The Serpent’s Scale


Like melodic tar the heart and breath of The Feather Tipped The Serpent’s Scale, the new album from US sludge metalers Eagle Twin, sticks to and smothers the senses with startling intensity and refined craft. It is a coarse and scorching experience which ignites creative fires and expressive thought whilst treating the ear to adventurous and provocative imagination.

From Salt Lake City, Eagle Twin consists of guitarist/vocalist Gentry Densley of legendary post-hardcore/jazz band Iceburn and ex-Form of Rocket drummer Tyler Smith. Together they create a sound which at times is concussive but is perpetually swarming all over the senses to evoke and provoke. Their sludge metal core pulsates with heavy metal and progressive essences to easily set them apart from fellow genre bands and make time spent in their consumptive presence memorable and rewarding.

The Feather Tipped The Serpent’s Scale follows directly on from their acclaimed debut album The Unkindness of Crows. Though there was a split 7″ with Night Terror in 2009 before the first album and another split, this time an album alongside UK band Pombagira in late 2010, the new release continues directly the concept started with The Unkindness of Crows, picking right up where it left off. The first album investigated and brought themes regarding the crow, their portent and associations in biblical and mythical worlds. The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale continues from the crows having battled the sun to be burned and sent back down to earth as black snakes, the album theme this time looking at the serpentine presence within mythic and symbolic arenas.

The album ignites and swarms over the senses with the opening Ballad Of Job Cain, a two part eighteen minute epic which sizzles with sonic derision and blood boiling grooves brought through a malevolent intensity. The guitar of Densley embroils the atmosphere in showers of consumptive blistering sounds and energy whilst the rhythms of Smith masterfully frame and direct it all through the ear with gladiatorial skill. The vocals of Densley growl with a gravel infused tone to his chanting and singing, his Tom Waits like delivery so abrasive at times you feel the flesh in his throat withering.

As with the following Adan (Lorca), the pieces do stretch the staying power though the quality and evolving invention ensures there is never a moment one is looking forward or for an exit. The third song has moments where it is a maelstrom of energies and festering sonics to make general discord feel like a quiet afternoon, its corruptive heart disorientating and vehement. The song does temper it with some melodic stretches which helps what is a testing yet rewarding track find a ready welcome.

The following Snake Hymn and Horn Snake Horn assault with equal expertise and deviousness, the first a slurry of guttural borne riffs and malicious rhythms which leave the body restless yet mesmerised and the second is a track which with a relatively brief stay is a slowly searing melodic heavy weave which envelops like acidic fog. Both evoke shadowed emotion and thought and though the lyrics get smothered by the intensity at times the song still evokes ideas. The second of the pair leads straight into its companion It Came To Pass the Snakes Became Mighty Antlers, an excellent though fleeting instrumental which is as delicious as it is caustic sonically.

The closing Epilogue, Crow’s Theology brings things to an oppressive end, its doom assault a raw and devouring weight which sucks the air from within its recipients. It finishes off with a towering presence what is an immense album. It is not a release which maybe is going to top favourites lists outside of the genre but easily stands equal with any album in regards to craft, invention, and imagination, and well worth almost an hour of any life.

RingMaster 24/08/2012

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