Album Review – The Rocket Dolls / DeadHead (2018)

A fresh, contemporary collection of music that combines the best bits of heavy rock, grunge, punk, and pop smart sensibilities, symbolizing a reflection on personal demons and modern day society.

Brighton, England-based Heavy Rock trio The Rocket Dolls are ready to set fire to the scene with their brand new studio album DeadHead, featuring just the right amount of melody with straight up hook laden driven riffs combined with curveballs when you least expect them, being highly recommended for fans of the music by Alice In Chains, Foo Fighters and Kings X, among many other renowned rock bands. Recorded at London’s award winning British Grove Studios (David Gilmour, Razorlight, Mark Knopfler), and featuring a stylish arwork by Sam Hayles at DOSEprod (Earthtone 9, Pitchshifter, Jayce Lewis), DeadHead offers the listener a fresh, contemporary collection of music that combines the best bits of heavy rock, grunge, punk, and pop smart sensibilities, all meticulously put together by the band’s unstoppable trio.

Lead singer and guitarist Nikki Smash had a few words to say about the album art and how it connects to the music. “Sam captured the essence of what our new album is about. It’s a reflection on personal demons and modern day society; the split in the wolf (half animal/half machine) symbolizes the transformation between good to bad and bad to good. It demonstrates not just the struggle of depression and anxiety that inflicts itself upon our society, but also the wolf in motion should be seen as a symbol of hope and the need to fight and overcome what’s wrong in our world.” And you better get ready to rock with this wolf pack hailing from the UK, as they’re not kidding when they say DeadHead is their strongest collection of music to date.

Crushing their instruments from the very first second as if they were the Incredible Hulk of Hard Rock the trio offers us None Of This Is Right, a song about recovering from being ill and being addicted to prescription painkillers presenting a solid instrumental with rumbling bass lines and potent beats, all led by the slashing riffs by Nikki. Then we have She’s Starting Something Now, where Nikki discusses about domestic violence against women and their sweet revenge, showcasing heavier-than-usual riffs and beats (and even with all that heaviness this song can still be played on any radio station), and the title-track DeadHead, narrating Nikki’s battles with depression, drugs and prescription painkillers. Furthermore, although the song does have a darker feel when compared to its predecessors, it’s still very vibrant, with drummer Benji Knopfler showing he’s not only precise with his drums, but he also knows how to properly pound them.

A lot smoother and more melodic, She Said is a radio-friendly composition where Nikki fires some interesting semi-acoustic guitar lines while bassist Joe Constable makes sure the atmosphere remains as dense as possible; whereas The Last Thing On My Mind is an introspective heavy ballad by the trio displaying a great vocal performance by Nikki, while the song’s background orchestral elements bring a sense of melancholy to the overall result. Nikki said that Stop The Dead Men Crying is the hardest song for him to sing and play due to its content and meaning, and the final result couldn’t sound more obscure, including even hints of old school Doom Metal, with his henchmen Joe and Benji providing him a fantastic support with their thunderous instruments. And in Drowning, a somber tune about suicidal thoughts (which explains its gentle but at the same time piercing sonority), you can sense that lancinating feeling flowing from both Nikki’s clean vocals and his enraged screams.

Putting the pedal to the metal The Rocket Dolls fire the thrilling and harmonious The Desperate, inspired by modern-day Punk Rock and led by the rhythmic beats by Benji, while Nikki fires what are probably his best riffs of the whole album. Following that explosive tune, his battle with mental health issues goes on in the also dark and pensive Strain, where Benji shows no mercy for his drum kit by smashing it like there’s no tomorrow (and the same can be said about Joe, who produces an ominous sound with his bass). In Rusty Bones, Nikki once again talks about taking painkillers for his osteoarthritis knee pain, and all the drinking and abusing that can sometimes make everything feel sluggish and slow, with the music being highly inspired by Stoner Rock and Metal, therefore bringing a neck-breaking riff and tons of agony and pain to our minds; and the band’s last blast of fury comes in the form of another thunderous Stoner Metal-like tune titled Trigger, where Joe doesn’t get tired of crushing his strings. It’s a very dense and bold composition, and needless to say a fantastic closing act for such personal album for the band’s talented frontman.

In a nutshell, I believe Nikki more than succeeded in turning all his personal demons and struggles with drug and alcohol abuse into high-quality rock music, pointing to a great direction for The Rocket Dolls wolf pack to keep following with their future albums. If you want to know more about the band and about how music has helped Nikki overcome all his fears and problems, go visit their Facebook page and YouTube channel, and don’t forget to grab your copy of DeadHead from the band’s own Big Cartel page, from iTunes, from Amazon or from Cargo Records. It’s always a pleasure to see how rock and heavy music can help a normal person like Nikki beat such delicate topics like drug and alcohol addiction and abuse, and an album like DeadHead only confirms that while Rock N’ Roll exists, nobody is alone in this world.

Best moments of the album: None Of This Is Right, The Desperate and Trigger.

Worst moments of the album: She Said.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1 .None Of This Is Right 3:54
2. She’s Starting Something Now 3:35
3. DeadHead 4:35
4. She Said 2:58
5. The Last Thing On My Mind 3:51
6. Stop The Dead Men Crying 4:29
7. Drowning 4:25
8. The Desperate 4:05
9. Strain 4:45
10. Rusty Bones 4:04
11. Trigger 3:43

Band members
Nikki Smash – vocals & guitar
Benji Knopfler – drums & backing vocals
Joe Constable – bass & backing vocals

Album Review – Chugger / Human Plague (2015)

A fearless band from Gothenburg bringing forth a technical and organic fusion of Melodic Death Metal and Southern Rock.

Rating4

CHUGGER - Human Plague cover artWhenever you think of the Gothenburg Sound (also known as Melodic Death Metal), forged in the 90’s amidst the harsh climate and technological progress in Sweden, names like At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity and In Flames will instantly come to your mind. Those bands were capable of creating something completely new in the world of heavy music, blending melody and violence in a unique way augmented by tons of catchy riffs and contemplative lyrics. Hailing from the same fruitful area comes the five-piece Groove Death Metal band Chugger, who after the 2013 EP entitled Scars are releasing now in 2015 their first full-length album, the heavy and modern Human Plague.

The initial idea behind the band came up in 2006 by guitarist Robert Bjärmyr, but it wasn’t until the end of 2012 that Chugger actually came to life with their progressive and aggressive musicality. Although they can be seen at first glance as just another Swedish Melodic Death Metal group, perhaps what differentiates them the most from all other Gothenburg bands is their ability to accurately add many interesting elements from American Southern Rock and Metal to their music, enhancing the level of belligerence found in every song in Human Plague. In addition, the album art designed by independent artist Sam Hayles at DOSEprod also effectively expresses the high-tech but organic fusion offered by Chugger in the album.

And all the modern music proposed by Chugger becomes clear as soon as The Grid starts, a song built of traditional Gothenburg sound pinched by Industrial Metal, Death Metal and even Metalcore, something In Flames have already done (but unfortunately got lost somewhere), as melodic as expected from a Swedish metal band and a great choice for jumping up and down with the band. The harsh growls by frontman David Dahl definitely help define the violence in their music, which is also the case in the first single of the album, Virus, where the band truly spreads their “virus” of metal. Furthermore, its short and effective apocalyptic chorus is more than perfect for screaming along with them (“One shot at glory / Ascending through the sky – Virus”).

CHUGGER band photo 2Rust is probably their most Americanized song, especially its heavy guitar riffs and vocals and its awesome headbanging rhythm (providing the listener once again another good opportunity to scream the lyrics with the band), while Never Alone showcases a melancholic slow intro followed by a dense atmosphere, an amazing “devilish” duet between David and Swedish singer Maria Strandén (ex- Therion), and inspiring lyrics about unity and never being alone in our society.

Feed The Fire follows similar lines as “Rust”: it’s another excellent raw and direct metal track with its main riff made for breaking your neck. Not only that, it’s important to say those guys know how to craft addictive choruses (“Burn! You feed the fire / Burn! With everything you do / Burn! You’re feeding the flames / Burn! Time to pay the price”). The following tune, Ignorance Divine, has a strong Gothenburg vibe with lots of rhythmic breaks, from a faster metallic sounding to Southern Metal/Rock riffs and Melodic Death Metal guitar solos, thanks to the great job done by guitarists Robert Bjärmyr and Fredrik Carlstedt; whereas Five Feet Down reminds me of some of the best songs by In Flames and Soilwork. The heaviness of the chorus is at the same level as the most violent Southern Metal, with kudos to drummer David Pergament for smashing his drums during the whole song.

CHUGGER - Spreading the Disease Tour FlyerIn Cut Out From Hell, which despite all its violence is a very harmonious 6-minute song, David offers some deeper guttural while the rest of the band keeps kicking ass at a high level, and after a short display of some nice riffs in The Pendulum Swing the band presents us Endgame, with its Arch Enemy-ish sonority and uprising vocals. Besides, maybe if this song was a little shorter it would have been a lot more effective. And finally closing the album with razin’ guitars and piercing vocal lines we have the title-track, Human Plague, a song that was born ready for Chugger’s live performances where the bass lines by Henrik Östlund are more solid and ferocious than ever.

There are many places on the web where you can find more information about Chugger and listen to their excellent music, such as their Facebook page, YouTube channel and ReverbNation, as well as enjoy an interesting reading about how Human Plague was brought forth with their online studio diary. And of course, don’t forget to purchase their music and witness their furious metal live, as their Spreading The Disease Tour 2015 is just about to take off with many dates around Europe. As the band states, “We are the voice of the voiceless. We do not fear what lies beneath. We are Chugger.”

Best moments of the album: Virus, Feed The Fire and Five Feet Down.

Worst moments of the album: Endgame.

Released in 2015 Rambo Music/Gain Music Entertainment/Sony Music

Track listing
1. The Grid 4:32
2. Virus 4:14
3. Rust 4:20
4. Never Alone 5:51
5. Feed The Fire 4:35
6. Ignorance Divine 5:21
7. Five Feet Down 3:37
8. Cut Out From Hell 5:56
9. The Pendulum Swing 1:24
10. Endgame 5:46
11. Human Plague 6:17

Band members
David Dahl – vocals
Robert Bjärmyr – guitar
Fredrik Carlstedt – guitar
Henrik Östlund -bass
David Pergament – drums

Guest musician
Maria Strandén – female vocals on “Never Alone”