Bell X1: Chop Chop

Bell XI

To be honest Bell X1 is a band we have little knowledge of here and even less awareness aurally of, but being offered the suggestion that the Irish trio create an enterprising and adventurous blend of electronic music and anthemic pop rock, we approached their new and sixth album Chop Chop with eagerness. Released via BellyUP, the nine track album was full of surprises and intrigue. To existing fans it may have familiarity to its evocative songs, only they can say but one suspects such the imposing yet seductive nature of the release and its individual charms, there was a tapestry of invention and melodic exploratory which was making its first tantalising breath.

Consisting of multi-instrumentalist Dave Geraghty, vocalist Paul Noonan, and bassist Dominic Phillips, Bell X1 is said by the accompanying promo with Chop Chop to have stripped down their sound to its essential textures and emotive essences. Certainly the album is a journey of warm and hazy climes which avoids excesses but it still boils up ambiences which swelter with sonic discord and melodic disorientation whilst accompanying atmospheres caress the listener into reflective and intimate landscapes. It is a release which requires multiple listens to fully form the evolving imagery and provocative rewards offered but is an expanding and fresh adventure each time.

First track Starlings Over Brighton Pier teases with melancholic keys and a scattering of rhythmic brushes which persistently 1000816_10151526655647582_1102127215_ndances over the ear as the mesmeric tones of Noonan accompany the piano on an evocative stroll through the heart of the track, their combined reflective embrace a gentle push of one’s own memories and thoughts. Its dusty ambience gains intensity as the track opens up more of its melodic and provocative hues becoming an impacting sonic squall of windy discord and almost cacophonous depths.

The strong start is soon left behind by the excellent A Thousand Little Downers. Once more a gentle touch brings the song into a welcoming embrace from the passions, vocals and keys kissing the senses gently and infectiously. It is a lure soon increased in its sirenesque appeal by the romping rhythms, pulsating bass persuasion and the shifting sonic winds drifting across the enchanting skies of the track. It is an indie pop temptation which leaves tingles across the heart, especially when its discord lined flames of horns and energy expel their moments of fevered passion. One of the major highlights of the album the song leaves a high plateau to be matched by the rest of Chop Chop, and impressively attempt the challenge the songs try as the likes of the smouldering emotively thick Careful What You Wish For, the electro spotted I Will Follow You, and the sultry folk soaked Drive-By Summer unveil their own distinctive narratives and temptress like glamour.

The final three songs do take things to another level, the trio all competing for top honours to end the release on a lofty perch in the ear and passions. Motorcade sways and winds its tender melodic fingers around the ear with craft and expressive beauty, a Mike Doughty essence whispering loudly within the colour tinted sonic and lyrical tale prowled persistently by lingering shadows.  As great as it is the song is a mere appetiser for firstly Feint Praises and closing song The End Is Nigh. The first of the final two has a sixties swagger to its soulful potency as well as a dramatic elegance emphasised by the bewitching vocals and bursts of sun soaked horns. It is a delicious track which would steal the honours were it not its sensational successor. Initially a reserved burst of emotional vocal declaration over guitars and keys adding their almost taunting suasion, the song builds up its energy and intensity to stomp and roam all over senses and thoughts like a darkly troubadour lost in an ambience of end of days inevitability.  It is an absorbing and anthemic tempest of fiery melodies, sonic influence, and heart borne vocals bringing the album to a stormy and towering close.

It is fair to say that the Peter Katis & Thomas Bartlett produced Chop Chop did not light the fires inside as consistently as probably wished but when it did, as at its start and finish, it leaves a rich and lasting imaginative toxicity which was as flavoursome as you could wish.


RingMaster 04/07/2013

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Ashes Of Tyranny – Shrine

Ashes Of Tyranny

It is certainly not an EP you will be shouting from the rooftops over but Shrine, the debut release from US melodic metallers Ashes Of Tyranny has despite its flaws enough to get your teeth and lingering interest into. First of all it has songs which constantly grab attention and even if many need more work to find their pinnacles they consistently leave a level of satisfaction which inspires returns. Equally there is a musicianship and invention which grabs attention and though the album does not offer anything new it offers a craft and strength to the core of its tracks which mark the band as one of strong promise.

Apparently the seeds of the Kansas based go back around a decade with vocalist/rhythm guitarist Jamison Brummel and lead guitarist Adam Caylor playing and writing together initially in the version of what was to become Ashes Of Tyranny called the Jamie and Adam show. Numerous changes and a few band names followed with bassist Dave Miller becoming another of the consistent members when joining around seven years ago alongside Caylor and Brummel. From at one point seeming the end of the band the trio emerged again as Ashes Of Tyranny, and listening to their first album one assumes at their most creative.

The release opens with Demolition Man, a single guitar caress lighting the ear before vocals and the rest of the band step coverforward with eagerness coated sinews. The riffs which drive the song are laid back but hold a carnivorous breath to their muscular presence whilst drums and bass prowl and push the senses with intimidation and strength. It is a strong and pleasing start but one which clearly suggests some issues which the rest of the release confirms.  The main two are the production and vocals, which are linked rather than singularly bringing problems. Brummel has a more than decent voice, his melodic tones and further into the EP grittier delivery right for the music but they also come over flat, without a spark to match the rigorous sounds. It is enough to deflate the impact of the song though not to keep them from attracting attention more often than not, and tied into and a result of the equally bland and uninspiring, DIY suggested production.

The following title track opens with gentle vocal harmonies across a great twang voiced guitar before launching into a cavalcade of rampant riffs and thumping rhythms, the chugging gait of the guitars almost thrash toned as they respectfully but incisively romp through the ear. Like the first, the song has a familiarity to it but also a hook and melodic poise which makes for a pleasing companion despite the mentioned continuing negative aspects, and easily has thoughts and emotions engaged if not seduced. The same can be said of the likes of The Rag Man, a track with a weak start, again more due to the production, but steels itself for an effective presence once into its full stride, and the intense Start the Flood. This song is one of the biggest highlights, the stirring mix of paces, vocals, and imaginative enterprise energising the already in place notion that Ashes of Tyranny has plenty inside and a future promise which is calling out from within the release for greater opportunities, certainly studio wise to show itself.

Shrine does get better as it progresses, songs such Satisfy bringing another notable moment to the release whilst the emotive For You stretches the variety of the songwriting again with its rich melodic provocation. Still the production is doing songs and vocals no favours but looking beyond these limitations and you sense there is a gem of a release waiting to escape. The closing pair of Suffer and Deathbringer satisfyingly completes what is an enterprising release. The best way is to look at Shrine as a demo, certainly production wise it falls into that raw basic status, but one bringing a suggestion of what could emerge. Vocally a snarl to the delivery might elevate things but to be honest you can only feel the problems would be ironed out in a good studio.

Shrine actually reminds of The Catalyst from US melodic metal band Resin. It too was a debut of definite appeal but was flat in its presence, but given the opportunity the band followed it with an album, Truth Be Told, which revisited the same songs and more and emerged as one of the very best undiscovered releases. We suggest Ashes Of Tyranny might do the very same thing ahead but for now their EP is well worth a look as you wait.


RingMaster 04/07/2013

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The Lumberjack Feedback – Hand of Glory

The Lumberjack Feedback 2013 - © Mathieu Drouet

Dramatic and compelling, the Hand of Glory EP from French instrumental metallers The Lumberjack Feedback is a masterful journey through cavernous shadows and depths, a tension packed encounter of doom and sludge metal. Consisting of two tracks lasting seventeen minutes between them, the EP is a stunning debut from the Lille based quintet, a provocative apocalyptic soundscape exploring its own darkness and that of the listener.

Consisting of the twin dual attacks of guitarists Simon Herbaut and Arnaud Silvert plus drummers Nicolas Tarridec and Christopher Poirier, with bassist Sebastien Tarridec adding his terrific presence into the mix, The Lumberjack Feedback has earned strong praise for their live performances which has seen them alongside bands such as Crowbar, Gojira, Kylesa, The Oxbow, Wolf Eyes, Spacemen 3, Grey Daturas, Acid King, and Hangman’s Chair. It will be their first release though which will undoubtedly set them as a potent fixture in the acclaim and vision of the widest audience such the power and creative might of the Kaotoxin Records released and Billy Anderson (Neurosis, Cathedral, EyeHateGod, Cattle Decapitation) produced EP.

Opening track A Whisper to the Thunder takes mere seconds to entice the ear with a guitar beckoning soon joined by that 760137002529_TOX025_The-Lumberjack-Feedback_Artwork_600x600-72hypnotic twin drum assault, their craft and temptation measured yet instantly enslaving. There is an energy and hunger to the beginning of the song which makes for a contagious sludge drenched call, riffs carving out a virulent persuasion whilst rhythms and bass define their own enthralling menace to combine for a primal seduction wrapped in a fluid evolution of imaginative and evocative melodic and sonic narrative. Thoughts of bands such as Neurosis and Sunn O))) come to mind but as the piece moves through a piercing sonic tunnel into a heavily weighted and rapaciously intensive dark doom landscape the sound takes on something distinctly unique to the band and visually provocative. The skies have a villainous hue over the track at this point as it lumbers purposefully with a predatory stalking and proceeds to claim any thoughts of escape as it climaxes with a simple but intrusive and lingering sonic breath.

It is an immense start soon matched and evolved further by second track The Dreamcatcher.  Again riveting rhythms from the drums make an earlier invitation which is instinctively impossible to resist, their sinews pacing along the developing wash of guitar brewed sonic mist and the continually thrilling bass provocation. As with its predecessor there is not theatrical invention or awe inspiring technical wizardry going on but the atmospheres and imagery spawning textures as well as melodic emotional painting being created by every skilful and clear but connecting aspect given clarity by each member is scintillating and impossibly powerful. The mesmeric stroll of the first third of the song comes to a point where the brewing climate entices an unleashing of intensive sonic flames and mutually fierce rhythms before flexing even further muscle in an even paced and exhausting investigation of its deepest corners and those of the listener too. The climatic conclusion to the piece towers over the senses, first marked by a flurry of striking punches before closing on one last enriching fire of intensity and sound, and leaves thoughts and passions suddenly alone within their own stark dark world.

Hand of Glory is an outstanding debut and release, but one which in some ways even at its length does not offer enough to really get the teeth into. This is because you only feel you are getting part of a much larger and incredible story or journey. Whether these are teasers to a full length time will tell but as impressive as it is the hunger and expectations on an album will be excited and demanding. The EP is a daunting adventure which inspires without ever using demanding intimidation and as such makes itself a must investigate introduction to a band we will be hearing much more of and one suspects fawning over in the future.


RingMaster 04/07/2013

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