The Panic Beats – Strike Again/Without Warning

The irresistible psychotic homage to the Ramones from The Panic Beats was one of the highlights of last year with their thoroughly enjoyable self titled debut album. Returning with not one but two releases in the space of a month, the band not only continues their impossible to refuse onslaught of one to three chord punk urgency and horror film borne malice, but have grown into an even more compulsive and blood soaked pleasure. The elements which arguably did not quite come off on the first album have been addressed and the sound has evolved to a tighter hungrier assault to make their vindictive company more welcome than ever. You still have to be a fan of the Ramones to truly enjoy the releases as the songs have taken mere steps away if any at all from their prime influence but this is what makes The Panic Beats so magnetic.

The solo project of Michigan musician Dale Van Thomme, The Panic Beats rampages through twenty five blood lusting tracks across the two albums Strike Again and Without Warning. Every song is an energetic, frenetic, and psychotic outburst and confrontation of pure punk rock with its heart firmly entrenched in the late seventies. Van Thomme continues to unleash his off kilter discord soaked vocals and waspish melodies but as the songs play there is a new twist in store without any major change in direction, leading to even more satisfaction. How long he can carry on producing what is a sound which carries obvious similarity to its driven creativity to the previously mentioned band without losing effect and appeal time will tell but that was the thought at the end of his first album and we now have two more which are even more impressive and pleasing, and as mentioned there are new things stirring. The music and intent behind the releases is honest, no attempt to fool itself it is groundbreaking or strikingly unique but given the choice of listening to what we originally called his musical interpretation of the Ramones though an aural freakshow mirror or some fartsy prog rock epic there is no contest and Van Thomme the devil in control.

The first album Strike Again immediately lets you know the terrain has not changed for the hateful venom to ensue, just some of the weaponry. The cover, as across all the albums, instantly lets you know the ride will be vindictive, violent and messy, the horror film themes and Italian giallo imagery as strong as the New York quartet soaked sound. The storm that is Red Alert opens up the riot, a rampaging thrust of chopping riffs, ear bashing beats, and punk harmonies to fall in league with within seconds. The bass has more snarl than before to add a gnarly presence and the song itself is a tight caustic gem to start things off.

The scurrying brawling intensity of Rats, the gun slinging in the face stomp They Call Him Django, and the predatory Black Gloved Killer, continue and raise the fun, all impossibly infectious and inciteful to voice and limbs. The first album was a little hit and miss at times though never to any real detriment admittedly, but here and on the third album the consistency is impressively high, going part of the way as to explain why these are a definite move forward for The Panic Beats.

Songs like the excellent Dirt Nap with its surging guitars and merciless intent, the equally contagious Phantasm, and Stranger In The Dark, the perfect anthem for any night time stalker antics, just rile up the senses to a more agitated greed for more. Closing on the outstanding drum driven mayhem of Night Of The Bloody Apes, Strike Again leaves only pleasure and breathlessness behind, it is over before you know it with every second something to savour and unleash primal punk energies to.

Without Warning is more of the same yet a little different. One sort of assumes, because of the closeness of release times, as mentioned a month apart, that the songs and recording was done at the same time relatively, yet in hindsight after listening to all three together there is an obvious evolution or shift taking place, though never far from the core sound. Strike Again is like a bridge, the obvious follow on from the debut and lead into the more melodic soaked Without Warning. If these latter two releases are borne from the same time then the track placing has been spot on without doubt.

Opening on the garage punk like instrumental They Call Me Death with Van Thomme expanding his sound into a fuller punk fire of sound, the album again leaves one in a tempest of brutal and combative punk rock. The following Killing Spree hits with pure feistiness and combative sound whilst Bash His Brains begins opening up new avenues for the sound. It is still that rampant ear crushing riot but brings a wicked barbed melodic hook in which springs from End Of The Century era Ramones but more so from bands like Buzzcocks and The Vibrators. It is refreshing, wholly magnetic and offers the promise of further inventive sparks within the future sound ahead from Van Thomme. The song is arguably the best of all across the three albums and has one joining in at the top of the voice, with returning worried frowns from those in ear shot.

Ready To Explode continues this breath, the addictive surge within rounded and sizzling upon the ear whilst Watch Me When I Kill captivates not only from is burning sonic riot and tribal beats but the great female vocals delivered with the same style and drone lilted delivery of Van Thomme. It is another brilliant treat to show the artist is growing and exploring his sound without losing what makes him already so enjoyable to rampage along to.

The Johnny Thunders spiced Junkyard Dog with excellent guitar work sparking its skies and Dead Meat with definite Sex Pistols spawn riffs, push the creativity further whilst the likes of I Gotta Kill, The Mutilator, and the great closing onslaught of Zombie Hell just show that vintage punk rock is still alive and kicking ass.

If old school punk and the Ramones light your emotional molotov cocktail than Strike Again and Without Warning not forgetting the debut, are essential listening. The Panic Beats do not come to bring new unheard sounds or to save the world, but to offer the best enjoyable and exciting soundtrack as the world destructs and burns around you.

The albums are available on vinyl or as name your price downloads from …still here?

RingMaster 05/10/2012

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Botanist – III: Doom In Bloom/Allies

Leaving strong acclaim and impressions behind with first release, the two part I: The Suicide Tree/ II: A Rose From The Dead, doom/death metaller Botanist returns with new release III: Doom In Bloom which is accompanied by a second CD, Allies. Openly different to the previous release, the album released through TotalRust, challenges the senses and thoughts with dramatic tones, dynamic atmospheres, and a black depth which envelopes and squeezes tightly around the senses. It is a testing listen at times but thoroughly rewarding and wonderfully leaves one alone in thought and blistered ambiance long after its departure.

Botanist is the solo project of Otrebor centred around a crazed man of science called The Botanist who lives in self-imposed exile. The songs are told from the perspective of The Botanist from his sanctuary of fantasy and wonder, called the Verdant Realm. There he surrounds himself with plants and flowers, finding solace in the company of the Natural world whilst envisioning and waiting for the destruction of man, the time when man pays for his crimes against nature and when plants will be able to make the Earth green once again. Whereas the previous parts were impactful and full of short and intensive black metal corruptions the new release offers sprawling malevolent soundscapes, their crawling tempos and intrusive keyboard driven atmospheres whipping the senses and dragging one into post-apocalyptic shadows of intent and blackened sonic realms of new enterprise.

Dulcimer guided as before, the album wraps every atom and synapse in a shifting expanse of sonic revelation. Opening track Quoth Azalea, The Demon (Rhododendoom II) laps at the ear like forceful waves, resonating squalls taunting and exploring the senses whilst disparaging whispers permeate the atmosphere. It is impossible to make out the lyrics on the track such the serpentine lilt and distorted breath they offer but it is a stirring texture to the melodramatic and provocative sound to make it all a deeper experience. The percussion is startling and spots the thick mass surrounding them perfectly whilst the rhythms fluctuate from inciteful to mere barbed guides.

It is an immense start continued just as impressively by Deathcap and elevated by the likes of Ganoderma Lucidum and Vriesea. The first of the trio is a decayed caress which consumes and sucks up all light and hope borne thoughts whilst the middle piece takes one through a sonic blistering brought with sharp acidic invention. It is a journey soaked in an intense ominous weight of sound, its passage a slow and lumbering event which with every twist and distraction of sinister melodies and irritant percussion is a mesmeric intrigue with destruction on its hands.

The last of the three steals attention with military precise drums and a droning ambience before stoking the embers of psychedelic/progressive fires, it provocation encouraging them to flame and scorch the bewildered atmosphere. It is glorious and as with all tracks, at times a challenge in its persistence and acute delving through the senses, a song to bask in and surrender to.

Highlight of the album is Amatina Virosa, another barrage of drum enticement leading the way into resourceful and imaginative magnificence. It stirs up the passions and energy, its anthemic drive and distraught vocal assault a corrosion to devour greedily. The remaining songs which sandwich this song, Ocimum Sanctum and Panax are massive funereal dirges which transfix and transport one into the darkest discomforts and sapping realms though both have spears of melodic light to scar the way.

Second disc Allies is a compilation of tracks from friends of Otrebor who have brought their own musical visions about Nature created around drums tracks recorded during the Doom In Bloom sessions. It includes songs from Ophidian Forest, Cult of Linnaeus, and Lotus Thief, as well as a two part sonic manipulation of the track Vriesea on the main album by Matrushka. It is an intriguing and different compliment to Doom In Bloom and completes what is a great release. It is a hard demand at times but always rewarding and evocative with impressive expression brought through strong invention and passion.

RingMaster 05/10/2012

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Piano Magic – Life Has Not Finished With Me Yet

Despite existing for sixteen years and their new album Life Has Not Finished With Me Yet being the eleventh from their creative minds, Piano Magic had eluded our attention to this point, something which maybe can be said of the UK as a whole to date, the band finding more appreciation and acknowledgement around Europe than in their homeland over the years. Research left only mystery going into the album as to what would grace the ears, their previous releases seemingly an evolving mix of dark electronic shadows, surreal pop, and most lately guitar heavy intensity. This first introduction for us suggests the band is returning to earlier sounds and aural themes, its heart a dark and mysterious weave of compulsive yet chilled thoughts and breath. It is at times quite mesmeric and captivating and in others a testing but wholly intriguing adventure of emotion and sound.

Released on Second Language Music, Life Has Not Finished With Me Yet sees founder member Glen Johnson alongside Jerome Tcherneyan, Angele David Guillou, Franck Alba and Alasdair Steer, with also additional guests throughout the release. The album is an evocative collection of songs which reflects and explores those dark corners of the human condition and life, a series of nihilistic ruminations to provoke thought and emotion. It is a deeply layered release emotively and aurally which ensures every second is drenched in intrigue and impactful resonance. Some tracks work better than others for personal tastes but there is never a moment when full willing immersion is not in place for the magnetic creativity.

The album opens with the brief Matin, a heated ambience of violin and vocal harmony to incite the senses to attention and lay a base soundscape to stir from. It leads into the wonderful Judas, a song which easily is the best on offer and the inciter of strong imagery and thought. Its dark sinister pulsing is a glorious intimidator to leave one slightly wary as the immense vocal mix and harmonies take flight within the Middle Eastern skies and breathtaking sonic landscape. Everything is perfect about the song, guitars and rhythms a teasing yet guiding companion into the warmth maelstrom of emotional energy and lurking shadows. The escalating energy at the climax is subtle yet obvious to rile up the edges of the mesmeric embrace ensuring the song is a challenging companion with dark secrets.

The following track The Slightest Of Threads saunters within sonic dust thrown up by its sweeping electronic heavy steps behind a transfixing bass and classy guitar enticement.  It is a melodramatic joy which seals the deal with the hypnotic moody cello sounds of Katie English and emotive vocals. Every stretch of its emotive arms brings another delight be it the keys or guitars entrancing the senses whilst the tempest of energies and caustic sounds leading into the final kiss of the song is dramatic and stunning.

The impressive start continues through the glorious minimalistic Sing Something, a song which feels like a doomy Young Marble Giants with the voice of Angèle David-Guillou captivating every atom of air, and the contagious prowling electro pop brilliance of Chemical (20 mgs) where the band walk in the footprints of Reproduction era Human League. With the title track completing the immense experience so far the album leaves one glowing under the diversity and ever evolving presence of the album, its startlingly invention and imagination in sound and construction hypnotic.

Weirdly though the remaining six tracks whilst not doing the opposite certainly did not have the same deep effect. It is impossible to offer any major reasons why other than personal taste but something in them or us lost the connection. The songs are still very easy to spend time with and are marked by their craft and skilled composition but just do not ignite any more sparks in ear or beyond. The Way We Treat The Animals with its provoking strings and keys does bring the senses to the boil though arguably out stays its presence a little. The arrangement of the track is magnificent but there is nothing to re-ignite the fires from earlier despite growing as a deeper and more welcome guest in thought and heart the more time given to it.

The sizzling and brittle ambience of Jar of Echoes again engages the mind as well as the ear with its haunting abrasive breath whilst the dazzling guitar and keyboard brew of instrumental Higher Definition is a shard of sonic sunshine within the album, both furthering the strong appeal of the album if still adrift of that first triumphant half.

Overall Life Has Not Finished With Me Yet is impressive and very enjoyable; an impactful delight all should make acquaintance with to find their personal highlights. Piano Magic ensures there will be some for all.

RingMaster 05/10/2012

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Archimedes, Watch Out! – In Context

Archimedes, Watch Out! the pop punk sextet from Lubbock in Texas certainly have a fun and appealing name to grab attention but do they have the sounds to back it up was the question going into their debut album In Context. Their previous A Face for Radio EP of two years ago certainly suggested this was a band on the march and it has to be said the new album has more than fulfilled that early promise. It comprises of twelve vibrant and energetic slices of melodic punk brought with great enterprise and craft, each song a well thought out and presented riot of rock n roll.

Drawing influences from the likes of Motion City Soundtrack and New Found Glory, those flavours easily apparent throughout the release, the band know how to write captivating songs with structures and imagination to intrigue and satisfy. It can be argued whether the band have yet found a unique identity for themselves yet as the songs really do not offer anything openly brand new to devour but with their obvious great creativity and accomplished ability the band has created an easy and deeply agreeable companion.

Released via Search and Rescue Records, In Context lights up the air straight away with What About Smee?, the song a flaming surge of sharp guitars, great vocal harmonies, and abrasive energy. Offering pop punk with a snarl and addictive hooks, the track is an instant brawl to engage in with no hidden aspects or testing elements. It is an easy start which sets things up nicely without igniting any great fires but instead tones the senses for what is to follow.

From the song alone one can only be impressed with the vocals, Dalton Claybrook a frontman with a clear and powerful delivery backed up excellently by the rest of the band at times, making for a perpetual anthemic feel on the song and album overall. The following Inspired By True Events has a more even paced attack with finely sculptured melodies and reflective emotion. The bass of Evan Wallis is ear catching, its gnarly breath a great presence whilst the female vocals which join the fray midway are a great piece of enterprise.

With a twin guitar attack alongside keys from the combined might of Austin Light, Tommy Loewen, and Mason Parkman driving each song, as on the likes of Breakable Things and Bad Tattoos, credit must go to the production which allows they and the aforementioned bass of Wallis and drum skills of Jeff Stringer a real clarify to their presence within the bustling furnace of sound. The first of these songs has a definite Fall Out Boy feel whilst the second reminds of bands such as The Wonder Years and Motion City Soundtrack, both offering great aural diversions and unexpected moments at times to eagerly applaud.

At times songs if given less than full focus carry a similarity across their feast of sound though that core noise is unstoppably infectious, a brew to greedily enjoy. With strong attention the album unveils great and compulsive ideas which as well as giving strong gratification suggests even further promise ahead. Songs such as Everybody’s Russian, Merry Christmas, You Filthy Animal!, the Green Dayesque Holding Out For Hours, and closing song Sullivan leap at the ear more readily than others with the vocals of Claybrook lighting beacons to each individual charge, to ensure the release captivates from beginning to end.

In Context is a catchy and openly pleasing release to spend plenty of energetic time with. Archimedes, Watch Out! is a band still evolving one feels which on the evidence of this their first album makes the future of the band rather exciting.

RingMaster 05/10/2012

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