The Simpletone – Angels’ Share

the-simpletone-band-pic_RingMasterReview

There are some releases which just demand success. Whether they get it in the increasingly fickle attention of the modern music fan is never a given but Angels’ Share, the new album from British rockers The Simpletone, does all the right things to make that commanding statement.

There is little we can share about the 2010 formed band other than its line-up is made up of John Davison, Craig Seymour, Glenn Eastoe, and Tom Cahill, it hails from St Neots in Cambridgshire, and has previously released the albums, Rampenny in 2012 and Dark Matter two years later, both seemingly well-received propositions. A UK tour with New Model Army in 2014 has been one of many live highlights for the band built on their stirring fusion of heavy and melodic rock with grunge, stoner and numerous other essences. It is a mix of flavours making for a striking proposition and imaginative proposal in Angels’ Share and songs which just roar with anthemic majesty and fiery enterprise.

The first of the ten cuts gripping ears and an early appetite for the band’s invigorating rock ‘n’ roll is Outta Control. Instantly a spicy groove winds around ears, leaning in closer as tenacious rhythms and riffs join its opening bait. Effect coated vocals equally lures keen ears as the song swaggers along with steady but rapacious grooves and a suggestive melody. The restraint stopping the track from exploding as it hints it might throughout is an inspired move, the song teasing and almost taunting along its enterprise shaped body. The heavier throb of bass and flames of harmonies only add to the lure of the song with guitar craft similarly as magnetic.

The following Love Street (Modern Mystery) keeps the rich enticement going with its punk folk lined stroll, simple but potent riffs colluding with swinging beats as vocals paint a suggestive picture. Its catchiness is a swift persuasion rapidly backed by the boisterous antics of the guitars as the track carries on the great variety already showing in the band’s sound, diversity more than confirmed by their mighty new single Storm Chaser. At over eleven minutes it is an epic persuasion which serenades the senses with melodic and harmonic caresses initially before building a bolder energy amidst an addictive rhythmic prowess. Weaving strands of space and progressive rock among other textures into its ever evolving adventure, the song is a kaleidoscope of melody heavy rock drawing on an array of decades while creating its own fresh, individual, and ever changing landscape of imagination. Like a mix of Skyscraper (the nineties UK band), Life of Agony, and Voyager, the track barely feels like its length and relentlessly has the listener compelled.

angels-share-cover_RingMasterReviewThe fact that next up Black Box still manages to eclipse it slightly shows the quality of its own exceptional design. A spirit stoking beast from its first touch, the song canters with muscular tenacity and fiery invention bred to virulent proportions as its mix of hard and heavy rock consumes ears and imagination. The track is exceptional, as punk in many ways as it is feisty rock ‘n’ roll with a drama of character and craft that demands attention and involvement.

Fire in the Sky steps up next with a growl in its basslines and a contagious swing in its rhythms, guitars and vocals dancing within their addictive tempting as soulful blues lined grooves bring an incendiary heat to the proposal. Like a seventies inspired union of Therapy? and Reuben, to try and offer a comparison, the song forcibly hits the spot before making way for the slower stoner-esque prowl of Nehemiah, an incitement pulling sludgy textures into its increasingly exotic and suggestive theatre. It is seriously compelling stuff, another song blossoming through an array of twists and flavours as it grows in ears.

The melodic charm of Day by Day is a similarly riveting proposition, the graceful yet sinewy instrumental finding a place between XTC and Tool as it seduces the imagination, setting it up for electrified air and nature of As Above so Below. Courting ears with a rapaciously formidable core in its raw riffs and bold rhythmic, the track wraps it in a melodic spiciness and mellower harmonic seducing which echoes elements of bands like Bush, Alice In Chains, and Sick Puppies yet sounds little like any.

If we tell you that Easy Come lacks the same galvanic sparks of its predecessors do not mistake it for a weak link within Angels’ Share; the song a highly persuasive slice of rock ‘n’ roll with guitar craft which shines like a beacon as the bass uncages a funk inspired personality. The fact the track is outshone by others is down to their might, a strength revelled in again by album closer Hunters. Whether by coincidence or design, there is a Horslips feel to the song certainly early on, and of fellow Brits KingBathmat but as across the album, things are soon woven into an addiction of sound and creative hooks roaring The Simpletone.

It is a glorious end to one treat of a release which deserves all the praise and attention it should and surely will get. Angels’ Share is another rousing encounter to add to our lustful favourites of 2016 list and no keener a recommendation we can offer.

Angels’ Share is out now across most online stores and on iTunes @ https://itunes.apple.com/album/id1169473074?ls=1&app=itunes

http://www.thesimpletone.com/    https://www.facebook.com/thesimpletoneband/

Pete RingMaster 16/11/2016

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Blood Ceremony – Lord Of Misrule

pic_Ester Segarra

pic_Ester Segarra

Dancing on the imagination like a village maiden in the throes of a pagan celebration, the new album from Canadian quartet Blood Ceremony is a bewitching and evocative adventure to get wrapped up in. It is called Lord Of Misrule; its title inspired by “a tradition that dates back to Late Antiquity, the Lord Of Misrule or “Abbot Of Unreason” was the doomed figure elected to preside over the Feast Of Fools, an annual Saturnalian bacchanalia in which masters became servants and servants masters, while drunken revelry and strange entertainments pervaded Britain and parts of mainland Europe for 30 days. At the end of the month’s festivities, the Lord Of Misrule’s throat was cut in sacrifice to Saturn.

Its body is a collection of highly provocative and melodically fiery encounters; aural rites and mystical endeavours awash with psychedelic/ acid-folk imagination amidst doom and progressive rock scented landscapes. Exploring the secret corners and depths of rural villages and pagan practices, it is an encounter playing like a sonic Wicker Man of dark festivities from across the decades in tradition and sound.

Recorded to analogue tape with producer Liam Watson, Lord Of Misrule opens on The Devil’s Widow, a song slipping into view upon an inviting guitar spun melody. Its tantalising lure is soon joined by crisp percussion and the magnetic caress of keys, then in turn by the throbbing resonance of bass. It is a masterful beckoning leading into a feistier stroll with vocalist/flautist/organist Alia O’Brien at the helm in voice and melodic craft. The wiry tendrils of Sean Kennedy’s guitar adds fire to the proposal, its rawer touch backed by the dark tones of Lucas Gadke’s bass and the swinging beats of Michael Carrillo. Recently Kennedy called Lord Of Misrulea very English album”, and straight away it is easy to hear what he means as particular British folk hues spice the vivacious energy and melodies sweeping through ears on the wind of the O’Brien’s  flutist craft.

album cover_RingMasterReviewLoreley is next to entice and please ears; electronic pulsing early attraction alongside O’Brien’s ever potent vocal presence and style before a catchy rhythmic swing sparks a livelier saunter to the song. Perpetually, Blood Ceremony fuses sixties, seventies, and other decades of rock ‘n’ roll into their music, the first pair the seeds to the refreshing colour and blues scented shade of this track’s gentle but pungent creative drama.

A fiery air to flaming textures shape the following exploits of The Rogue’s Lot, its darker shadows equipped with sinister threat and hidden dangers as O’Brien and the melodic enterprise of guitars embrace lighter infectious essences in their captivating persuasion. Twisting and turning in energy and dramatic flavours, the track is glorious; a rousing slice of rock ‘n’ roll easy to free a lively spirit and lustful appetite for, much as with the album’s title track which smoulders and tempts next. With raw blues touches colluding with the almost Horslips meets Jethro Tull like folk enchantment which shines within the track’s dark landscape and tale, ears and thoughts are quickly bound up in a theatre of sound and suggestiveness.

An earthy character is shown by Half Moon Street straight after; its air carrying a dirty tone around a less joyfully tempered nature, though hooks and melodies again have a shine to their invitation. With the flute like rays of sun skipping across the darker strains of endeavour, band and song commands full attention before The Weird Of Finistere slips in with an evocative climate of sound and voice becoming catchier and more, if gently, tenacious with every passing minute without ever breaking from its reserved sway.

The wonderful sixties pop inspired Flower Phantoms takes over and quickly steals ears and the spotlight. Carrying a Crystals meets The Ronnettes glow to its contagious pop enterprise, the song flirts and seduces with inescapable success, its warm magnetic revelry aligned to flames of raw guitar and sinew brought beats, and quite delicious.

The album closes with the blues rock fuelled Old Fires and lastly by Things Present, Things Past; two tracks which individually provide resourceful and unpredictable drama within the recognisable Blood Ceremony invention. The first is another spirit arousing incitement whilst its successor is an acoustic hug which simply serenades body and soul for an enthralling end to another highly flavoursome offering from the Toronto foursome.

There is no apparent blood shed at the end of Lord Of Misrule as the tradition dictates but for stirring creative and tenacious fun under the glare of a full moon or dusk shaded sun, the album more than fits the bill whilst increasingly thrilling.

Lord Of Misrule is released March 25th via Rise Above Records.

Upcoming Live Dates:

April

15 – Paris, France – Backstage by The Mill

16 – Tilburg, Netherlands – Roadburn Festival

17 – Hamburg, Germany – Rock Café St. Pauli

18 – Berlin, Germany – Privatclub

19 – Vienna, Austria – The Chelsea

20 – Munich, Germany – Backstage Club

21 – Madonna Dell’alberto, Italy – Bronson

22 – Milan, Italy – Legend

23 – Olton, Switzerland – Coq D’or

24 – Nurnberg, Germany – Hirsch

25 – Frankfurt, Germany – Nachtleben

26 – Cologne, Germany – MTC

28 – Manchester, UK – The Deaf Institute

29 – Glasgow, UK – Audio

30 – Birmingham, UK – The Rainbow

https://www.facebook.com/bloodceremonyrock

Pete RingMaster 24/03/2016

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

For more exploration of the independent and promotional services check out http://www.zykotika.com/

Blackhour – Sins Remain

Blackhour_RingMaster Review

A few days in and the new year gets its first metal treat courtesy of Pakistan hailing Blackhour. The Islamabad quintet unleashes their second album on January 5th through Transcending Obscurity Distribution, and a mighty slab of inventive and skilful heavy metal it has proven to be. Sins Remain offers five rich and imagination fuelled tracks which explore far beyond that heavy metal tag, and such its thick and pleasing impact you wonder how Blackhour has so far escaped the fullest global acclaim.

Drawing on inspirations from the likes of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Guns and Roses, and Alice in Chains, Blackhour has certainly teased local and wider found appetites with their music and debut album Age of War which was released in 2011. Fair to say though, that most of us will probably have missed the presence of Blackhour until now but things surely are about to change with Sins Remain.

Straight away the band’s metal bred rock ‘n’ roll shows its adventure and variety with opener Losing Life. An instantly engaging caress of provocative guitar opens things up, the bass of Salman Afzal just as swiftly vocal with its suggestiveness. The tremendous coaxing eventually erupts into a fiery roar of sound with sonic tendrils of guitar veining a tempestuous yet controlled climate of sound and intensity. There is a touch of Disturbed to the track whilst the rhythms of drummer Daim Mehmood almost bully the senses as the bass prowls and growls within their potent web. With vocalist Tayyab Rehman also quickly impressive, the track paints a great provocative and persistently evolving proposal for ears and imagination.

BlackhourArtwork_RingMaster Review     The outstanding start continues with Wind of Change. From the off heavy metal essences steer the persuasion, the guitars of Hashim Mehmood and Mubbashir Sheikh Mashoo flirting with eighties hues to infectious effect. Their hooks and grooves because of it hold a familiarity which only adds to the forceful virulence of the encounter, whilst rhythmically the song nurtures an anthemic rock ‘n roll canter becoming increasingly wrapped in melody rich sonic enterprise. The song is irresistible and more potent with every listen, a quality applying to the whole of Sins Remain to be fair and certainly the following Life Brings Death, Love Brings Misery. The third track is an epic temptation, its nine minutes blossomed on Metallica like seeds but equally casting textures sprung from seventies heavy rock and thrash laced heavy metal. Imagine Reign of Fury and Stone Temple Pilots meets Iron Maiden and you come somewhere near the compelling encounter.

Battle Cry opens with an instantly addictive guitar hook next, one welcoming more militant and aggressive elements to join its tenacious stirring of ears and appetite soon after. It is maybe the least unique offering on the album but the fiercely boisterous song simply whips up a storm of attitude and creative prowess easy to greedily devour and want more of. The individual skills of the band are, here alone, there for all to see and praise but their unity and the powerful songwriting casting their invention is where the album truly wins out, as proven a final time by the album’s title track.

Bringing Sins Remain to a glorious conclusion, the track is a kaleidoscope of imagination, moving through acoustic elegance into Celtic spiced adventure and Eastern majesty across its length landscape. Fascinating and irresistible, the track is a thrilling end to an increasingly impressive album. With moments which stir thoughts of bands from Arch/Matheos and Horslips to Motherjane, the closer is theatre for the ears, a melodic seduction for the imagination, and alone one reason to check out the album.

Blackhour is ready to breach the broadest spotlights with Sins Remain, an album which could also be the key to opening the door to the great metal adventure going on in their homeland and surrounding regions just a little wider for the world.

Sins Remain is out now via Transcending Obscurity Distribution @ https://transcendingobscurityindia.bandcamp.com/album/sins-remain-heavy-metal

https://www.facebook.com/blackhourofficial/    http://www.blackhourofficial.com

Pete RingMaster 06/01/2015

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

For more exploration of the independent and promotional services check out http://www.zykotika.com/

Ian Prowse – Companeros

ian-prowse_RingMaster Review

It is fair to say that Ian Prowse has given British rock some impressive and successful times through previous bands Pele and Amsterdam, but it is hard to remember a time as rousingly enjoyable as his new solo album Companeros. The release is a collection which embraces a mighty handful of songs written by comrades he has met and/or admired, and tracks which have “never entered the national psyche, but should have.” The press release does not give enough info to say if all the eleven songs are covers or mixed with originals, but one thing it does get right is in declaring Companeros ‘stuffed full of rock and roll infused with Celtic soul and song wise it’s his most listenable set of tunes yet.”

That actually underplays the impact and virulent contagion unleashed by the crowd funded album to be honest. The successor to the Prowse’s acclaimed debut solo album Who Loves Ya Baby of 2014, the Tony Kiley produced Companeros hits the ground running and never looks back until the final note of its last emotion inciting song.

It all starts with Town And Country Blues, a superb version of a definitely shamefully neglected song from a similarly undervalued band. The track from Jim Jiminee has lit our personal fire ever since the band’s debut album Welcome To Hawaii hit the sweet spot in 1988, so there was an instant smile when it burst from the speakers upon Companeros and even more so with Prowse offering a contagious and lusty version. With horns and that Celtic essence colouring the track from its first breath and the distinctive voice of Prowse superbly shadowed by captivating female tones, the distinctive take on the outstanding song just has bums bouncing in seats, bodies to the dance-floor, and a greedy appetite ready to devour the rest of the release.

album-cover_RingMaster Review     English folk singer/ songwriter Alun Parry has his song My Name Is Dessie Warren embraced by Prowse next, acoustic and sultry electric guitar hugging the vocals from the start with a restrained but pungent bass line and jabbing beats emerging as the song catches the imagination with increasing energy and expression. Once more ears are left seriously satisfied though maybe not as much as they are by new single Mississippi Beat, a magnetic encounter featuring a duet between Prowse and acclaimed Irish singer Pauline Scanlon, who is one half of folk duo Lumiere. The song, written and recorded by songwriter Jez Wing and his band Cousin Jac, wraps the senses in melodic beauty and emotive temptation; the siren-esque tones of Scanlon the perfect contrast and company to the plainer but no less expressive tone of Prowse and the piano courting both with its own intimate elegance.

What Am I To You steps up next, its summery stroll pure infection from its first rhythmic shuffle and twinkling melody whilst the voice of Prowse delivers further mellow catchiness to the song’s swing before You Can’t Win Them All Mum has its turn to seduce ears with a smouldering air and potent lyrical reflection and intimacy. Originally by The Lost Soul Band, the song like its predecessor just lights the imagination and with its great sax flames, sparks a new hungry wave of appetite, though both tracks get slightly overshadowed by the pair of Derry Gaol and St. Patrick’s Brave Brigade. Not for the first or last time there is a whisper of Elvis Costello to a song on the release; the first of this pair openly hinting whilst merging it with an equally enjoyable whiff of Thin Lizzy in its magnetic slice of rock ‘n’ roll and a whiff of a Horslips like spice in the enterprise of the guitar and keys. It’s just as enticing successor is a swarthy and potent version of the powerful Damien Dempsey song, its sultry climate a mesmeric lure into the honesty of word and voice stirring up thoughts and emotion from within.

Diversity across Companeros is never in short supply as proven again by Johnny & Marie and its fifties rock ‘n’ roll infused revelry. Written by fellow Liverpudlian and city legend Phil Jones, frontman of eighties new wave band Afraid Of Mice, the song was originally released that same decade by Jones as part of the duo Up And Running. Given the creative stamp of Prowse’s enterprise and carrying the swagger of an artist you just know has a lusty affection for the material, as well as again being backed and warmly spiced by female vocals, the track has hips swaying and feet flirting with the dance-floor with consummate ease.

An indie/funk rock flirtation is uncaged by the following Conscience, the track another irresistible physical beckoning enslaving the listener before Spare Change and its Graham Parker like r ‘n’ b/punk rock stomp turns the heat up even higher with its slim but undiluted rock ‘n’ roll intoxication. It is hard to pick a best song from such a rewarding bunch on the album but certainly the penultimate track upon Companeros is up there shouting loud every time.

The album is finished off by a glorious nine minute live cut of the Amsterdam track Name & Number; the version a sure fire cert to again have bodies and energies aflame with its Celtic festivity and instrumentation aligned to one organic creative grin. It is a superb end to a thoroughly enjoyable and uplifting release. In these times of turbulence we all need something to light the soul; Ian Prowse and Companeros has that tonic in brilliant abundance.

Companeros is available now!

Pete RingMaster 21/09/2015

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

For more exploration of the independent and promotional services check out http://www.zykotika.com/

Decaying times and self-evidence: an interview with Ade Mulgrew of Darkest Era

DE Ade Mulgrew

The recent release of their new album Severance showed that Northern Ireland metallers Darkest Era has not only evolved as a band with a new flush of blood to its line-up but also pushed their potent sound into new emotively fired and imaginatively compelling proposition. Providing another exploration of the band’s Celtic infused heavy metal in a greater voraciously flavoured and intensive proposition, band and album reinforces the stature and impact of the developing force whilst thrusting Darkest Era upon a new dramatic plateau. Taking the chance to find out more we took some of guitarist Ade Mulgrew’s precious time to talk about Severance, the difficult time around its creation, inspirations and much more…

Hi Ade and thank you for taking time out to talk with us.

Please tell us about the beginnings of Darkest Era and the inspirations or spark to forming the band.

We formed the band while still in school, about 17 years old. Myself and Krum had played together in cover bands, but wanted to form a metal band. We started playing some covers by Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest…but soon we were writing our own songs. The inspiration was, as ever, just to be in a metal band; to write songs and express ourselves. The same reason we do it now.

Was the Celtic influence in your songwriting and music an immediate flavour to your ideas?

It was, yes. The first song we ever wrote came about after I was noodling on a particular riff in ¾, not even thinking about it and Sarah added a guitar harmony. It happened to have a distinct Celtic vibe which we really liked and things just went from there. We didn’t really think about it so much…it just happened to transpire that way and the kind of Celtic atmosphere in our music isn’t contrived really, it’s just how we write.

Where did the Celtic inspiration come from, other metal/rock bands exploring that vein of sound or from a more traditional influence?

I guess you tend to take influence from things around you so growing up in Ireland obviously there is a rich heritage of folk music. We were already to an extent influenced by the folk rock band Horslips, and also the kind of sound on Thin Lizzy’s material. Something about this kind of vibe just came naturally to us. We’re a heavy metal band though at the end of the day and it’s those influences that were the most prevalent and the most important to us.

Initially called Nemesis, why the change to Darkest Era as a band name?

Things started to pick up for us and get quite serious rather early on, so we needed a name that wasn’t taken by 100 other bands. Our sound had started to take shape and we wanted something to reflect this. Candlemass were originally called Nemesis for example and changed their name for the same reasons.

It is fair to say that the second of two EPs opened up a new spotlight on the band and led to signing with Metal Blade Records. Is there something you can point to or say which specifically pulled the trigger to that recognition?

I don’t think so, apart from we are at the right place at the right time. You need a little luck to get noticed sometimes and the fact that we have the Thin Lizzy influence helped a lot as Brian Slagel is a massive Thin Lizzy fan. The band had a bit of buzz going from the demos which helped but I would say to be honest that we were a wild card signing for Metal Blade. We were the first of a few bands brought to their attention by Alan Averill of Primordial, but were an unknown entity by and large. I guess it was a testament to the quality of our demos that Slagel was impressed enough to offer us a deal.

With the label, The Last Caress Of Light, your debut album was unleashed in 2011 to great acclaim and reactions. How did that impact on the band and its emergence beyond having your first full-length out? DE

Joining a label like Metal Blade meant there was a lot of press surrounding the album; we were definitely exposed to a wider audience than we had been before. We had reviews in tons of printed magazines, websites and ads in the right places – so it was a big step up in terms of the amount of people paying attention to us. However the band was still quite pro-active in pushing itself using its own resources. But simply having an album out at last meant we could then go on tours, play festivals and so on so it was a big milestone, as it would be for any band.

Can we turn to new album Severance now; it feels like the band has found a new depth and potency to songwriting and sound, tapped into a stronger vein of invention…

Yes I would agree with you. A lot of it is simply down to maturing as people and as songwriters. The band is on a creative journey, we had no intention of writing the first album over again. We always want to push ourselves and move forward artistically, and on this record we had a much, much stronger idea of what we wanted to do and how to bring our own identity to the fore. It’s also a little darker and more aggressive, which is probably down to the circumstances surrounding the band at the time of writing. It was a fist clenched, teeth bared, back to the wall kind of scenario…

How do you see the evolution in your sound from not only early days but from the first album and Severance?

As I said it is a darker, heavier and generally a lot more focussed. We create a certain sweeping melancholy with our sound but we wanted to bring this into a much more focused heavy metal framework this time around. We cut the fat and went straight for the throats of the listener. We have a lot of different influences in the band, individually and collectively, and we fine-tuned this to bring more of our own identity to the mix and I really think we succeeded. People are having a hard time figuring out what to call us, but the reviews are very positive so that speaks volumes to us.

Did you take a determined or particular course with the new album or let it organically unfold in the writing and recording?

Myself, Sarah and Krum sat down after coming back from one of our tours and talked about what we wanted to do with the album, and we agreed on very general ideas which I said above, for example a general trimming of the fat in our sound. But at the same time things we written in such a short space of time that we didn’t really have time to stop along the way and think too much about things. There was definitely a significant element of letting things unfold naturally. You kind of just have to trust yourself that you have the songs somewhere inside you, and go with your instincts. Too much thinking can hinder creativity, I find.

So how long did the album take to make?

We wrote the album in about 10 weeks, during a very intense period of writing where the band was pretty much falling apart. We then entered the studio almost straight after, and recorded the album in 16 days. We were still writing quite a bit in the studio, although we had the songs more or less there. There was a lot of lyric writing, tweaking arrangements, vocal melodies and so on in the studio. It was intense also but a different kind of intense. Lisa went home after she recorded her drums but the rest of us knuckled down and worked together to push it over the line. The 10 weeks writing, in comparison, was quite bleak and isolated for me at times as I was shouldering the task of getting most of the ideas off the ground.

You were touring heavily leading up to Severance, it must have been less easy to sit down and write songs, certainly in comparison to the creation of its predecessor?

Yes absolutely, as the cliché goes you have your entire life to write your first album, and with album 2 suddenly there is pressure. Even more so when it’s difficult to put time aside to write. To be honest we gave ourselves a deadline because we knew that otherwise we would never get round to making the album. Things will always get in the way, especially when you aren’t playing music as your job, so we said ok this is the date, let’s just do it. We did not foresee the line-up instability however, which definitely made things a lot more difficult. We did two pretty big tours in 2012, and in the middle of it all we were trying to keep the band from falling apart…So yeah, very difficult circumstances to try and write an album in.

de coverYou mentioned there that the band had line-up issues before the album, how big an effect did that gave its making if at all?

As above really…We had no permanent bassist in place, and Lisa was in the process of leaving the band. Things were often at boiling point during some of the writing sessions, and as I mentioned Lisa went home when her drum parts were done so there was a serious atmosphere. Things could easily have fallen apart but we had far too much determination and belief in the band to let it crumble.

How does the writing process work within the band generally and specifically this time around with Severance?

Generally the songs start with myself or Sarah; we’ll have a guitar part, or perhaps a few riffs and ideas put together and we go from there. We’ll normally have a fair idea of where the song is going before bringing to the rest of the band and there it changes shape, gets arranged, pulled apart and the guys add their parts and ideas. Occasionally someone will noodle on a riff in rehearsal and we’ll jam it out over and over and work it into a song, but there was very little opportunity for this on Severance. Mostly it was stuff that I had come up with, and I would send it to Sarah and Krum and we would exchange thoughts and ideas. I did a lot of home demos on this album as I had to have the bones of songs ready quite quickly so the guys knew where I was coming form. Sarah probably had more material on this album than the debut as well; particularly Blood, Sand and Stone. We’ve always had kind of a songwriting partnership but it really came to fruition on this record.

There is a passion and freshness to the album which obviously was not affected by the stronger pressure of getting songs ready for its recording?

I think the passion that people pick up on with this record is a result of the stormy emotional climate that I mentioned earlier, and an unwavering iron will to make a really killer metal record regardless of the circumstances. Some people crack under pressure but it has always been something that I have thrived under, thankfully.

How about in the studio, how did that pan out and did you learn lessons with the first to help with the recording of Severance?

We had a fair bit of studio experience with our previous EP’s and demos, but I guess after doing our first album we knew exactly how the recording of an LP worked and prepared us somewhat. This time around we had a better idea of how to get the sounds we wanted for the album. Drum sound and guitar tone were something we wanted to shift around a little compared to the first album, and I think we’ve done that. We stripped the guitars back to just one rhythm track each for myself and Sarah, as opposed to the double tracking on the first record and I think that’s helped give the album a darker and grittier tone overall. You can really hear the bite of the guitars on this one.

Give the readers some idea of the themes behind the album and particular songs.

Decay of all things physical and metaphysical, Cormac McCarthy-esque post-apocalyptic dystopia, the unstoppable force of time hauling us further to the ground, and the philosophical concept of Solipsism.

Severance is released through Cruz del Sur Music, a label with a great pedigree and a striking array of releases especially over the past year or so. How did that link-up come about?

I’d been a fan of Cruz Del Sur for many years, since I first discovered Slough Feg and started trading CD’s with Matt from Pharaoh. Enrico was aware of our stuff and when it came to searching for a new label they were an obvious choice really. As you say they have an absolutely killer back catalogue so we’re in very good company.

It is a home more fitting for Darkest Era you feel?

Yes I think so, with Metal Blade we got totally lost in their roster and the sort of stuff we’re doing is never going to be a priority for them really unless it’s selling 30,000 copies or whatever. Maybe 25 years ago things would have been different but the days of a label nurturing artists and helping them grow into worldwide forces over the course of 2 or 3 albums are sadly gone. There just isn’t enough pie to go around anymore.

From the outside watching the intensive work you guys put in with shows and tours we wonder if there has been time to reflect on the journey of the band so far, if so thoughts at this point in time? DE2

Not really, we’re constantly looking forward and are a very ambitious band. We have many milestones we’ve yet to reach and don’t feel like stopping to smell the flowers until we’ve achieved a lot more. The band is entering a new phase now I guess; we’ve done our first album, did our first big tours and festivals and come through the line-up changes that often occur when a band starts to step up through the gears. Now we have our second album, a steady line-up and are looking to the next touring cycle and writing album 3 so I think the best we have to offer is still ahead of us.

Talking of shows, we can assume Darkest Era will be supporting Severance intensively around Europe and elsewhere in the months ahead?

Yes we have our first headlining tour of the UK starting this September, hopefully Europe in the spring and who knows after that. Touring and playing to as many people as possible is our number one priority right now.

Did you have any particular aims or hopes for the band starting out and if so have they been realised or replaced with new intentions?

We’ve always wanted to push the band as far as it can go from day one, but first and foremost we aim to write albums that satisfy our creative needs and that people will enjoy and get something out of. We’re on course so far I think.

Thanks again for chatting with us, is there anything you wish to add?

Metal or death!

And lastly give five of the most important releases in your record collection which you could never be without?

Iron Maiden – Powerslave

Queensryche – Operation Mindcrime

Judas Priest – Painkiller

AC/DC – High Voltage

Fields of the Nephilim – Elizium

 

I should point out though these 5 albums will change each time I am asked! 🙂

http://www.darkestera.net

Read the review of Severance @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/06/04/darkest-era-severance/

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 15/07/2014

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Turning on the future: an interview with Mike Scalzi of Slough Feg

Mike Scalzi

As numerous impressive releases find them drenched in acclaim already this year, the outstanding Digital Resistance from Slough Feg stands on the frontline as one of the more imaginatively incendiary and virulently contagious adventures. Stretching and pushing their unique blend of Celtic folk and traditional metal with an array of additional potent flavours for  release which triggers a new thirst for the band’s sounds past and present, Slough Feg show themselves to be a force which continues to evolve and impress adding something special to the world of metal. Seizing on the opportunity and pleasure to delve deeper into the band and new album with vocalist/guitarist Mike Scalzi, we explore Digital Resistance, home town prejudices, technology and humanity, Slainé and much more…

Hi Mike and many thanks for sparing time to talk with us.

Before we get to your new album Digital Resistance can we ask about the band name… it comes from the Slainé story strip in UK comic 2000 A.D., a publication I have boxes of around the office I must admit. You are comic geeks or just this one character captured the imagination?

I was never really that into comic books—- except when I was pretty young and into Marvel stuff. The Slainé comics I just came across kind of by mistake and liked the “Warp-spasm” idea a lot, and thought it would be cool to write heavy metal songs about that. They came out with a 2000 AD hard-cover book recently featuring all the old cover art from the original Slainé comics and allowed me to write some of the liner notes—– really great. I was really happy about that.

As mentioned you have just released your new album, Digital Resistance, a release which marks a new strength of adventure in the band’s sound?

This is more of a statement than a question. But, here’s what I think:

We’ve done concept albums and albums that were taken to be concept albums that were not. This one I would have to say, is a concept album in the sense that the Beatles Sgt. Pepper is a concept album— it has somewhat of a consistent lyrical theme that runs through several of the songs, but not every song— it is not a concept album in the sense that our Traveller album is. I used to like technology, and still do in a poetic/literary sense, but the reality of it is becoming quite frightening. This theme then expanded to the role of technology in human evolution, etc. I am a teacher, and I watch students’ mindsets changing on a yearly basis—let’s just say I can’t say they are becoming noticeably smarter, with the advent of all this technology at their fingertips.

Did you musically have any clear intention with the direction of Digital Resistance or has it been primarily an organic coveremergence of ideas?

It’s just whatever we felt like writing at the time, no real preconceived ideas. Whatever inspires us at the moment is what we write. I tried to accomplish some different types of sounds on this album— some organ, some more rock songs, some more traditional, simple songs as well.

Your sound seems to be tagged as a merger of Celtic folk and traditional metal, something the new release certainly supports but there is plenty more flavours working away from within suggesting that if not inspirations your own personal tastes in music are potently wide and varied. How would you describe Digital Resistance to newcomers to really nail its presence?

I don’t know if I can. When someone asks me what the band sounds like, that is someone who has never heard it before, I say it sounds like Maiden, but older, with more traditional music influences, even stuff from Broadway musicals. I just write songs, and listen to different types of music, not just metal. In fact I don’t listen to too much metal these days— more traditional songs, like Frank Sinatra, and older rock stuff like the Beatles and Yes and even the Police, lately. These influences find their way into the music.

At times the album sparked up thoughts of bands such as Horslips as well as Thin Lizzy, Helldorado, and Hammers of Misfortune as additional loud whispers in an overall unique sound and adventure. Are there specific inspirations which have actually flavoured your invention over the years would you say?

Well, the stuff I mentioned above. Horslips was an influence at one point for sure; we covered Dergid Doom from their Tain album on Hardworlder. But that’s the only Horslips album I’m familiar with.

As you referred to earlier lyrically Digital Resistance looks at technology and how it impacts on all aspects of life, can you expand on its theme and how personally you have seen that ‘invasion’ coming into your lives?

Some of the songs are interconnected just because they have the same theme—resisting technology, or at least what it’s doing to the human mind— making it lazy and ‘flabby’. Some of the songs though are not about this— they are just about growing up and becoming middle-aged in a world you do not understand. Very simple—- many people go through this— especially today when musicians in particular don’t want to grow up— they want things to stay the way they were when they were younger— when you get older  you tend to think the world is getting older, or dying with you. It’s hard to accept the changing world. I am no exception. I don’t understand what’s going on in the mind of most Americans, it scares me. SO I write songs about it, like Warrior’s Dusk and Magic Hooligan.

Society is leaning on and allowing technology to infiltrate their daily lives more and more, how long do you see it before cyber implants and upgrades become as common place as tattoos and breast enlargements?

No long at all. That’s some of what the record is about. It’s not going to be long before the cell-phones are not outside of our bodies anymore— now people’s eyes are glued to them. Soon they won’t have to stare at them; they’ll already be in their brains!!

..and until the species becomes ‘stupid’ as machines make our decisions for us?

It’s already happening.

Back to the album, how have you approached Digital Resistance in its creation and recording which was different from previous releases?

Not really any different. It’s the same basic songwriting and recording process.

SFHow does the songwriting play out generally within Slough Feg?

Usually I write guitar or now organ parts at home, and then bring them down to the band to see if they sound good with everyone playing their own parts. I let the other guys do whatever they want to do over my riffs– unless it doesn’t sound right and then we all throw in our 2 cents. Generally we agree on what sounds good. Songwriting is really mostly editing. Coming up with the parts and melodies is not the hard part—- ask any songwriter– it’s putting it all together that is challenging— making it all sound like a song.

Having numerous albums under your belts, does each new adventure become easier to immerse within and bring to fruition or are there always new questions and obstacles to engage in which each journey into the studio?

Usually the latter… It is actually becoming very difficult trying to find a new way to do things, so that things continue to sound ‘fresh”. I always worry about putting something out that sounds just like the last thing we did— bands should be more concerned with this, because how many albums have you heard that sound just like the last one the same band put out? Bands need to try to break new ground, but they are often scared to do this because they may lose their audience. But I think they run a higher risk of losing their audience by doing the same thing over and over again.

How has that processed change most dramatically for you over the years?

It was not different than any other album, other than the fact that I used some organ on this one, but really it was just the same.  The songs were written with the band in the rehearsal space just like our other albums- etc. And the singing took forever because my voice is getting old and decrepit, and was never really suited for metal in the first place. I have a crooners voice, or if I’d worked at it a little maybe a choir voice, but not a high pitched metal voice– but I love metal, so I try to sing like Freddy Mercury and fail- and end up sounding like Neil Diamond on steroids. What can I say?

Pretty much the process remains the same—and I’m not actually that happy about it—I write guitar riffs, or now sometimes piano parts, and then bring them to the band and we work out arrangements, transitions, etc. But honestly, after a while that gets a little old, I’d like to do it a little different in the future— maybe if we had more money we could go into the studio and write a lot of the stuff in there and get a more spontaneous feeling for the record— we did some of that on Twilight of the Idols and some really interesting songs came out of that approach. But that takes a lot of time, which means money that we don’t really have right now.

I have noticed in previous interviews you are a band which looks back at your older releases and are quite honest in what worked and just as openly did not work. How soon after a release does hindsight lead you to these observations, when does the cold light of day sink in?

It usually happens in waves. I get pretty critical of the album right after we’re done with it, and then later on after listening to it a bunch I start to like it. But then I start to get critical again in a few months and after a few months I decide I don’t like the record. Then later after a year or so I start to like it again!!!!! It drives me insane!!!

Digital Resistance is released through Metal Blade Records, how did that union come about?

They asked us to do an album with them and we said ‘yes’, that simple. We negotiated a contract and went with it. What do we have to lose?

Mike you are a philosophy teacher, and I was wondering is there a comparison or similarity between that profession and music itself for you, in its content and presentation especially?

Yes. It’s almost exactly the same lecturing in front of kids and performing music in front of them. You have to use gimmicks to sf2keep them interested, and you have to write out content that is interesting and valuable. Doing a philosophy lecture is just like playing a metal show. It has to have peaks and valleys, heavy parts and light parts, a good intro and outro—– you have to keep them engaged just the same!!!

Slough Feg and its sound is not a typical San Francisco band I suspect, how have you fitted in your hometown’s scene over the years?

They hated us for the first 10 years. Hated us, in fact I think we stayed together just to spite everyone here. This was during the 90’s when everyone hated metal, and they hated us a lot. It wasn’t until the late 90’s and early 2000’s that people started to appreciate us. We don’t fit in here, never have. But now we have fans here and it’s cool, but I think we do better in a lot of other places.

What is next and across 2014 from Slough Feg?

A European tour in late May/early June, a couple of local shows and then in July shows in the Midwest– Chicago!! We did a movie soundtrack recently, and a few other projects. Just the same stuff——writing music, recording and playing rock and roll!!!!!!!

Thank you again for sharing time with us.

Thanks!!

https://www.facebook.com/sloughfegofficial

https://twitter.com/slough_feg

Read the review of Digital Resistance @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/slough-feg-digital-resistance/

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 05/03/2014

 Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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Slough Feg – Digital Resistance

slough-feg

    More an acquaintance in name than sound in the ears here at The RR, Slough Feg has been a presence tempting attention over recent years but never quite drawing it their way. That has now certainly changed with the band’s new album Digital Resistance; the release an irresistible charge of rock and metal which has triggered our thirst to truly investigate previous encounters leading up to this latest triumph. With songs taking a look at technology’s effect on society and life, the Metal Blade Records released album again explores Slough Fegs’s unique blend of Celtic Folk and Traditional Metal with magnetic potency. There is admittedly a constant familiarity to the sounds which rather than disappoints simply coaxes out a greater appetite for the propositions, but holding an energy and adventure which easily fires up the imagination and emotions, the album is one virulently contagious endeavour.

    With a name derived from a character in ancient Irish mythology brought to life via UK comic 2000AD, the Central Pennsylvania hailing and since San Francisco based Slough Feg has consistently lit up the metal world since certainly their debut self-titled album of 1996. Under the moniker The Lord Weird Slough Feg at first, until 2005 when they shortened the name for fourth album Atavism, the band continued to evolve their sound and reputation with albums such as Hardworlder in 2007 and Ape Uprising! two years later. It is easy to suspect that the band has never been a towering enticement for every metallic taste, ours alone finding excuses or distractions to never really immerse in their undoubted excellently crafted and passionate sounds, but as the successor to the acclaimed 2010 album The Animal Spirits rampages with incendiary might in the passions, you realise it was to our certain loss.

     Recorded with Justin Weis, who co-produced the release with vocalist/guitarist Mike Scalzi, Digital Resistance immediately SloughFeg-Digital Resistancestirs up thoughts and excitement with opener Analogue Avengers / Bertrand Russell’s Sex Den. Instantly the impressive vocals of Scalzi are invading the ears alongside imagination tempting keys and guitar speared by energy inciting rhythms. It is a romping temptation which within seconds brings thoughts of Horslips to the fore though with a more subtle Celtic wrap to its thrilling invitation. The song continues to run with the senses until seamlessly slipping into a slower emotive embrace which grips just as enthrallingly, keys and guitars crafting a melodic web to wrap the rich rhythmic bait. It is a riveting and exciting start soon elevated with the fiery dynamics of the title track. Once again, and to be honest within every track, the rhythmic patterns, skill, and temptation provided by drummer Harry Cantwell is scintillating with a virulence for the passions which is immeasurable  and alongside the darker throaty tones of bass from Adrian Maestas, the pair provide the strongest exploratory heartbeat and shadows to drive the persuasion of songs. The track itself weaves around the imagination with a rich fascination sculpted by the guitars of Scalzi and Angelo Tringali, their sonic and melodic designs seductively clasping the lyrical and vocal narrative.

    The outstanding start to the album continues with the excellent Habeas Corpsus, its opening sultry Western climate around an imposing rhythmic provocation drawing thoughts to imagine dust filled climes and black dressed undertakers waiting for their next gunslinger sparked job. The melodramatic intensity to the song brings a mix of Helldorado meets Hammers of Misfortune to thoughts whilst the almost smothering production to the song, especially around the vocals, just intensifies the thick breath of the solemn scenery.

     Both the Thin Lizzy-esque Magic Hooligan with again a healthy dose of a rawer Horslips adding to its irrepressible bait and Ghastly Appendage with its delicious gothic theatre, keep the passions raging with greed and pleasure whilst the heavy metal/hard rock merger of Laser Enforcer brings another lick of the lips around an eager appetite even if with not quite the same intense reactions found elsewhere on the album. As always though even when songs slip a little below the early pace and level the quite dazzling rhythmic alchemy of Cantwell steals an ardour its way whilst bassist Maestas, most notably in the third of this trio, unleashes a presence and snarl to his invention which instinctively stirs up a pleasure to stand tall alongside the satisfaction cast by the guitars and vocals.

    The Price Is Nice is another striking highlight of the album, the song pushing recognisable yet indefinable lures and hooks in its stalking presence as Scalzi deliver words with his excellent dusty almost growling tones. As with many songs either rhythmically or in riffery, there is an ensnaring repetition to the song which in other’s hands may seem limiting but from Slough Feg only increases the creative mesh to get caught up in. The following Curriculum Vitae is the same, a pulsating unrelenting torrent of rhythmic pressuring often a singular surge of intent but as magnetic as the sun. The song as its successor The Luddite, does not impact on and raise the emotions as potently and forcibly as previous tracks, though neither do the pair leave satisfaction and fun lacking a square meal, but there just is not the fuse to the imagination and passions as offered from the rest of the album even if musical craft and invention is as undeniable as ever.

   The closing Warrior’s Dusk unveils another Western twang to the guitars to intrigue thoughts within an otherwise full bodied presence with medieval folk adventure and melodic flames all brewed in a heavy metal vat. It is a fine finish to an excellent album, one which maybe was unexpected due to our poor attention to the band previously but a release providing one of the most enjoyable and easy to recommend albums this year so far.

https://twitter.com/slough_feg

9/10

RingMaster 18/02/2014

 

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KingBathmat – Overcoming The Monster

KingBathmat Publicity Photo 3

The fact that Overcoming The Monster, the new album from UK progressive rockers KingBathmat, is their seventh full length release but the first time they have come to our attention really drives home the fact that we, and I suggest all of us are only scratching the surface of music and the depth of good bands, no matter how much we think we are in control and knowledgeable of what is out there. Better late than never certainly applies to this outstanding release as well as relief that they finally have ventured upon our radar, though again a mystery as to why a band this good has remained in the shadows for so long especially as going by those in the know, Overcoming The Monster is an album in a strong line of impressive releases from the Hastings quartet.

KingBathmat musically is a band wonderfully impossible to pin down. Hailed as a progressive rock band they equally employ all essences from psychedelic and alternative rock through to electronic, grunge, experimental metal and more into their unique creativity. Formed by songwriter /vocalist/guitarist John Bassett the band has unleashed a sextet of albums from debut Son of a Nun in 2003 through to the acclaimed Truth Button which came out at the start of the year. With David Georgiou (keyboards), Lee Sulsh (bass), and Bernie Smirnoff (drums) completing the line-up, KingBathmat creates a tempest of invention and imaginative adventure which is impossible to resist or escape once within its riveting clutches. Overcoming The Monster is a compelling flight of melodic fire, rhythmic provocation, and sonic beauty all wrapped in an ingenuity of craft and thought which leaves the listener quite breathless. With tracks which investigate the theme ‘of psychological obstacles (monsters of the mind) that are manufactured in our thoughts, both internally through our insecurities, externally by the outside influence of others and collectively through the mass media which uses fear as a tool to manipulate our perceptions’, the Stereohead Records album evokes and ventures into personal reflection igniting emotional dialogue with its potent premise and presence whilst all the time teasing and soaking the senses in music which is simply enthralling.

Opening track Sentinel makes a muscular entrance, riffs and rhythms claiming their piece of the senses whilst a brewing sonic Overcoming The Monster Album Covermist wraps deviously around their capture. It is an immediately gripping start which once in command from its dramatic stance, relaxes into an emotive plea of keys and the vocals which paint the thought cradling narrative. The tenderly toned weave continues to expand its call with growing keys and group harmonies whilst the bass adds shadows that menace as they lurk within and stalk the melodic blaze of sound and feeling. As the song ventures further from its strong start across an equally intense if slightly underwhelming course there is a brooding sense of something impending. This becomes a solid gripping breath as, and not for the only time on the album, the track evolves into a potent and aurally dexterous mesh of ingenuity and contagion. Just beyond midway of the near nine minute track it unleashes the bass to roam with a new raptorial hunger framed by the equally greedy rhythms of Smirnoff whilst the vocals of Bassett ride their refreshing caging with expressive might. As riffs add their ‘savagery’ for the next evolution of the song, it climbs all over the senses as sonic ropes of invention tether it securely to the passions.

Though it took a while to fully persuade the song makes an impressive start to the release which is soon surpassed by firstly Parasomnia. The haunting opening child’s toy box like charm is a breath of innocence against the disturbing ambience enveloping the senses behind it, the tones of Bassett shaping the narrative with a continuing magnetic pull. Into its full presence the shadows dissipate as melodic hues paint their caresses from guitar and keys onto the imagination. Combining flames of heavy rock, metallic angst, and melodic washes, the song captivates from start to finish with its unpredictable grandeur, thoughts of Mars Volta, ELO, King Crimson, and most definitely Horslips spawning from the shifting spicery within the scintillating song. For all its triumph it is soon eclipsed by the stunning title track, easily the best song on the towering album. The niggling sonic coaxing which introduces the song is a continual temptation throughout whilst around it the band ebb and flow in crystalline invention, infectious melodies, and multi-flavoured invention. There is a familiarity to the track which is deceiving but certainly as it unwinds its striking persuasion and mystique the likes of Muse, Comsat Angels, and Soundgarden as well as Porcupine Tree and Floyd spring to mind.

Both the layered Superfluous, with its tantalising wealth of textures and jazz bred soaring heat, and the smouldering Reality Mining lead the listener into new teasing excursions of epidemically alluring emotional and aural exploits whilst the closing Kubrick Moon reaches into absorbing space for another original baptism of progressive and psychedelic musical chemistry. The trio of songs make for a towering conclusion to one of the very best progressive releases this year, one though completely unique in voice we suggests stands easily by the side of the new releases from The Ocean and Between The Buried And Me…it is that good.

http://www.kingbathmat.com/

9.5/10

RingMaster 22/07/2013

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S.I.Q. : A Constant Struggle

A Constant Struggle the debut album from US rock band S.I.Q., is one of the most intriguing releases to appear in recent months. It is a stirring and thoroughly enjoyable release which ignites the senses and emotions whilst provoking thoughts and questions. If you are looking for a release to bring you striking rock sounds, adventurous invention, and satisfying slices of metal as well as leaving you with food for thought than A Constant Struggle is the release that you should check out.

Formed in the Summer of 2009, the Charlotte N. Carolina band took no time in grabbing attention with their imaginative progressive sound and were soon playing the top local venues, winning  two battle-of-the-bands events, as well as making their first demo. Line-up changes  ended in the current quintet of founders, vocalist Ashton Johnston, guitarists James Nelson and  Philip Rich, bassist Cole Millward, being joined by drummer Paul Wood. Together the five piece entered Knothole studios at the twilight end of 2011 to record A Constant Struggle, bringing all their very individual and distinctive talent and ideas together to create a fully collaborative album which is infectious, captivating and provocative.

S.I.Q. (Society in Question) are a band which obviously from the evidence of the album puts full thought into every aspect of the album from music, to lyrical content and the presence that fuels it. The songs within the album feels closely linked, part of a journey or theme though it is not openly obvious or it is simply being missed. It might just be the passion and heart of the band pouring through into each track but there is a definite bond between the songs which is as intriguing as the sounds and ideas within them.

The opening track Riddle Of You gives an instant indication of the progressive nature of the release with its initial bubbling melodic beckoning towards the ear. The song soon expands into a striking creature as the track slowly rises to its feet. Muscular riffs start flexing and leading the cause as the fine vocals of Johnston starts unveiling the heart of the song. The riffs continue to niggle and badger the ear as the melodic invention infuses within the powerful intensity. Lit up by the magnetic pull of the melodic enterprise that pours from the song as it progresses, the senses are captivated and eager to drive further into the album though the lengthy ten minute opener ensures the wait is very satisfying and the following Slightly Out of Breath ensuring it was worthy while.

The second song litters the ear with a blistering insistent shower of metallic artillery of riffs, picking and spotting the senses like hailstones until a lull leads into a feisty and formidable display of towering riffs and sharp melodic manipulations. As the track paces and slightly intimidates the senses the rhythms of Wood announce fully their strong and inventive prowess, the drummer bringing an adventurous spine to the songs which never breaks lose from his intelligent and skilful control.

The progressive Dream Theater like Stasis and the acoustically driven ballad Silver Lining keep our attention and enjoyment firmly in the grasp of the band though both tracks do not quite spark the reactions the previous duo of tracks inspired. The album takes a defined rise though from Nightmare Lullaby on to its conclusion revealing further proof that S.I.Q. are a band that is destined for great things. Few of their songs make fleeting appearances but Nightmare Lullaby takes us on a ten minute plus journey of warm melodies and exhilarating songwriting. The track is irresistible, an invention offering evocative guitars and melodic interplay alongside harmonies which excite and touch the emotions in the way seventies band Horslips were skilled at. Arguably the track is a little overlong but there is never a moment it out stays it’s welcome.

The losing trio of tracks under the umbrella title of ‘Till Life Do Us Part continue the deep enjoyment. Parallel Worlds starts the trilogy bringing more of the unique and impressive sounds already graining the album whilst the closing Until the End takes one on a thirteen minute blissful journey of pure progressive pleasure, but it is the linking middle hypnotic instrumental Alive or Dead which hits the loftiest heights. It is immense and the declaration of this being a band that can induce rapture by music alone.

    A Constant Struggle was an unexpected and deeply rewarding introduction to S.I.Q., a band that surely is destined for great things. Their list of influences include the likes of Protest the Hero, Symphony X, Dream Theater, As I Lay Dying, Devin Townsend, Periphery, and Alice in Chains, if any of these make you rise up in eagerness you will love S.I.Q.

http://www.facebook.com/siqband

RingMaster 02/04/2012

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Blood Ceremony – Blood Ceremony

There has been plenty of re-issues of debuts and albums from bands finding  a resurgence in popularity or simply the re-release of recordings that originally had a limited presence and were lost and out of circulation for many years. A varied collective in sound and quality they have been too but even the best of them will find it hard to match the essential quality and vibrancy of the latest from Metal Blade Records / Rise Above Records in the shape of the self titled debut from the Canadian folk/heavy rock band Blood Ceremony. The release is a gem that pulsates and bewitches with a startling array of elements that sees them as part homage to their influences and distinctly unique in the current metal/rock world.

Originally released in 2008 Blood Ceremony is a wonderfully colourful blend of psychedelic/folk/doom and stoner rock punched through with the audacity and attitude of heavy metal. There is so much going on that it is a mesmeric and beguiling release that is mischievous and also deceiving at the same time. The nine tracks within this psychedelia influenced doom rock beast offer up numerous recognisable elements and sound, riffs and melodies that you may think it is just a band wearing their influences openly on their sleeve, which in many ways they are, but without anything more. A focused listen though and you soon realise there has been and is no one fusing these things into their own unique sound like Blood Ceremony, and whether their sounds take a hold of you or not you will not have heard anyone exactly like them.

How to describe them is not a swift thing to do, imagine a bubbling cauldron of the likes of Electric Wizard, Black Widow and Pentagram spiced up with the psychedelic sounds and freedom of The Doors, the downtuned heaviness of Black Tusk, the meaty riffage of Black Sabbath, and the folk inspiration of a Jethro Tull or a Horslips without the Celtic sound, and you are in the vicinity of what Blood Ceremony weave together. With songs inspired by the heart and soul of witchcraft movies, the occult and magick, and Satanism, the quartet from Toronto conjure up fascinating and unavoidable imagery and emotions with their stirring songs and imaginative themes. As the album plays you can just see them playing to a back drop of a modern day Wicker Man ceremony or numerous covens and satanic festivals, their sounds uniting pagan and witchcraft inspired intent.

Formed in 2006 Blood Ceremony carry a heavy 60’s/70’s rock sound borne of sterner modern intensity and as their second album Living With The Ancients of 2011 confirmed it is a sound that whatever your preference in rock music one will find plenty to feast upon. From the opening concussive intro to opening track ‘Master Of Confusion’ on the debut, the band swoop upon and gather up the senses taking them on a part theatrical and wholly absorbent experience. That is one thing about the album, it has a showman feel in a way, the dark themes and sinister tales lacking venom and fear, but offer up glorious fun. The track provokes the ear with belligerent riffs and attitude as it winds its way through the ear to menace and tease the senses, especially from the lovely grumpy bass and expressive keys.

The album is perfectly varied, from the heavy opener ‘I’m Coming with You’ muscles in with a well crafted blend of militant riffs, throbbing energy, and Lucifer spawned pan pipe like flute from vocalist Alia O’Brien. This is the harshest of the tracks keeping a deliberate muscle throughout despite the wicked ‘pipes’ that whip around the bulky energy. Guitarist Sean Kennedy and bassist Lucas Gadke give real heavy fibrous intent to the sound on the album perfectly supported by drummer Andrew Haust, all allowing O’Brien to light up torches of exquisite melodies and add incisive breaks to the weighty atmospheres.

The album is impressive from start to the last devilish wink of its closing note, with tracks like the shadowed ‘Into The Coven’ , the spirit raising necromantic celebration of ‘The Rare Lord’, and ‘Hop Toad’ with its insatiable preying riff and siren like melodic beckoning, rifling through and engaging the senses completely. If you have not found Blood Ceremony yet then here is your chance to jump in at the beginning, time to immerse into their earthy dark world with more burning flames than you could wish for.

RingMaster 30/01/2012

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