Album Review – Jollymon / Void Walker (2018)

A lesson in groove, electricity and punch by an American Stoner Metal power trio reborn from the ashes in the name of Rock N’ Roll.

Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, more specifically from Vancouver, a city on the north bank of the Columbia River in the U.S. state of Washington, Stoner Metal outfit Jollymon has just released their fifth full-length album titled Void Walker, their first in eighteen years and a lesson in groove, electricity and punch. Comprised of frontman and songwriter Carey Rich on vocals and bass, John Colgate on guitar and vocals, and Mark Blackburn on drums, Jollymon were originally formed in Eugene, Oregon, releasing their debut full-length album, Sailing, in 1995, followed by a stream of high-quality albums until the band exploded in 2000 with no plans to return, until the power trio began to talk, jam and work on a batch of songs that would become their newborn child. “Whereas the previous four records were more grungy rock songs, the material on Void Walker is more on the metal side. But, we managed to keep the space-rock element, and even turned it up,” comments Carey on the band’s shift of direction with Void Walker.

Another thing Carey notices about Void Walker compared to the band’s previous releases is that the album is clearer and better produced. “We’ve come full circle with our recording approach. The first and second albums had great studio gear with Grammy-nominated producer Drew Canulette running the show. However, the third was a lesser studio done on more of a budget. And, the fourth album, our self-titled one, was a home studio recording. Sure, it sounds good, but you can definitely hear the quality difference between it and Void Walker – or even our first two records, for that matter.” He also explained that the album is entitled Void Walker because it is what Jollymon’s name should be. “Void Walker is a kind of symbol of what our sound is. It’s hard to describe, because it’s really left up to the imagination, which has been more of what we are: less wordy, forced lyrics, but simple imaginative shorelines with an epic soundtrack to back whatever is said.”

Old school ass-kicking Rock N’ Roll permeates the atmosphere in the psychedelic and catchy opening track Tsunami, led by the deep vocals by Carey while John mesmerizes us all with his wicked riffs and solos, followed by Monkeyhawk, where an eccentric intro turns into a very progressive tune, with John’s guitar lines being flawlessly complemented by Mark’s groovy beats, not to mention the song’s wicked lyrics, something you can only find in Sludge Metal (“Monkeyhawks not black or white, makin love giving life to fire, Monkeyhawk baby sings a song, its gonna make me cry, its gonna make me cry…”). And inspired by the potent and unique music by Mastodon, the trio fires a dancing-headbanging-beer-drinking extravaganza titled A Good Day, with Corey showcasing an awesome vocal performance while Mark’s precise drumming keeps the rhythm vibrant and entertaining from start to finish.

Less piercing and more rhythmic, Be Nice presents the band’s “softer” side in a 70’s-inspired Rock N’ Roll vibe, perfect for warming up the night at a rock pub anywhere in the world (and you’ll definitely feel compelled to sing the chorus along with them). After that classic rock tune we have Slice of Life, perhaps the most psychedelic of all songs, where the trio extracts pure groove form their instruments, in special John with his hypnotizing guitar while Mark is responsible for bringing heat to the musicality; followed by Forecast, where all you need to do is simply close your eyes and let Jollymon guide you on a whimsical music journey. John is simply superb with his sick guitar solos, and the music remains ethereal and captivating until its gentle ending for our total delight.

The metallic bass lines by Corey ignite the rockin’ feast Missile Commander, another solid composition by the band with John and Mark being in absolute sync, therefore providing Corey all he needs to thrive on vocals, whereas the title-track Void Walker is a flawless fusion of Stoner and Progressive Metal, proudly representing the high quality of the music found in the entire album with an electrifying vibe morphing into Progressive Rock beautifully, all in line with the song’s enthralling lyrics (“Here we go away through the sky, / here we go wade through the fields, / wondering where are lives, are drifting / away through the wheel. / With wings so wide and no room to soar, / before you can fly, you must find the floor. / A picture of the rain, when it falls it won’t feel the same.”). And last but not least, the closing song of the album, entitled Sky Burial, is just as pleasant and soulful as its predecessors, with John kicking some serious ass with his fiery guitar solos.

Do you want to surf the rockin’ waves blasted by Jollymon and show your appreciation for such distinct underground band? You can follow them on Facebook, listen to more of their music on YouTube, and grab your copy of Void Walker (which by the way you can listen in full on Spotify) from their own BandCamp page, as well as from Amazon or from CD Baby. Let’s hope Jollymon don not explode again after the release of Void Walker, but based on the awesomeness found in the album and the way the band is facing this new phase in their career I’m pretty sure we don’t have to worry about that at all. Quite the contrary, those three dauntless musicians will surely keep on rockin’ in our free world and keep marveling us all with their sensational music.

Best moments of the album: Monkeyhawk, A Good Day and Void Walker.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Tsunami 3:48
2. Monkeyhawk 4:43
3. A Good Day 3:56
4. Be Nice 3:46
5. Slice of Life 3:50
6. Forecast 4:07
7. Missile Commander 2:35
8. Void Walker 4:50
9. Sky Burial 5:02

Band members
Carey Rich – vocals, bass
John Colgate – guitar, vocals
Mark Blackburn – drums

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Album Review – Black Box Warning / Attendre La Mort EP (2018)

A high dosage of Sludge and Doom Metal split in five corrosive tracks recommended for fans of devastatingly heavy, sulfur-smelling tunes, courtesy of an up-and-coming French power trio.

Their medicine is not a syrup. Formed in 2015, French Doom/Sludge Metal band Black Box Warning is here to offer us all a heavy über rhythm section, staggering as a depressive overdose of neuroleptics ready to commit the irreparable to silence the voices in his head, obscure guitar sticks and a black tar singing that graze your brain and you inexorably asphyxiate neurons. Comprised of Kevin Dubois d’Enghien on vocals and guitar, Hervé Bettios on bass and Julien Rousset on drums, this French unity is releasing their debut EP titled Attendre La Mort, or “waiting for death” in English, featuring a dark artwork by Gilles Da Costa and five corrosive and downtrodden tracks highly recommended for fans of devastatingly heavy, sulfur-smelling tunes à la Crowbar, Primitive Man and Old Man Gloom.

It takes the power trio only a few seconds to blast an overdose of heavy, sluggish sounds in the opening track, titled 5 mg, with Kevin firing some deep, obscure growls while Hervé and Julien keep the music dense, menacing and thunderous with their sharp bass lines and beats, respectively. Then faster, more aggressive beats and tones ignite another Sludge and Doom Metal extravaganza by the power trio, this time lowering the dosage and naming it 4 mg, before morphing into that old school sluggish-as-hell Stoner Metal sonority we all love so much. Furthermore, the strident sound of the guitar by Kevin brings a touch of finesse to the music, boosting its impact and taste considerably, with its last part being a frantic fusion of sounds with Julien smashing his drums furiously while Hervé extracts devilish roars from his bass guitar.

1 mg, the lowest dosage of the album, begins in the most traditional Sludge Metal way, flowing smoothly but at the same time violently from start to finish, with highlights to its neck-breaking rhythm led by the intricate beats by Julien; and the distorted bass by Hervé kicks off the most Stygian of all tracks of the EP, 2 mg, with the beats by Julien getting more intense and vibrant while Kevin slashes his guitar strings mercilessly, generating a rumbling and captivating sonority. And 3 mg, the last track of the EP, brings sheer aggressiveness and heaviness spearheaded by Kevin and his demonic gnarls, resulting in another tune perfect for banging your head nonstop with the band’s stringed duo blasting flammable, metallic lines while Julien once again doesn’t show any mercy for his drums.

In case you want to have an overdose of Black Box Warning, you can enjoy all 15 mg of the corrosive Sludge and Doom Metal found in Attendre La Mort at once on YouTube or on Spotify, and purchase your copy of the album from their official BandCamp page, as well as from several other locations. In addition, you can also keep an eye on all things Black Box Warning by following them on Facebook, on YouTube and on SoundCloud, and never miss your necessary dosage of crushing riffs and aggressive roars thanks to this talented power trio of Sludge Metal doctors.

Best moments of the album: 4 mg.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. 5 mg 3:37
2. 4 mg 5:54
3. 1 mg 4:28
4. 2 mg 5:47
5. 3 mg 3:26

Band members
Kevin Dubois d’Enghien – vocals, guitar
Hervé Bettios – bass
Julien Rousset – drums

Album Review – The Black Swamp / Witches EP (2018)

Australia’s own five-headed creature from the swamp is back with a short and slimy album of Sludge and Southern Metal that celebrates the riff-driven sound they’ve become known for.

For the love of the riff, Australian Southern/Groove Metal group The Black Swamp was formed as a live act in 2012 in the Gold Coast, in South East Queensland, soon evolving to a full-bodied band and releasing their debut EP Foulness in 2014, followed by the full-length I Am, in 2016, not to mention a handful of unofficial releases on their way to support slots with Hellyeah, Black Label Society and Sebastian Bach, as well as their own national tours. Always playing a sludge sound reminiscent of the 70’s and 90’s, “the swamp” is back in 2018 with a short and slimy EP titled Witches, a celebration of the riff-driven sound they’ve become known for, also marking their first release with new frontman Luke Hosking (from Australian Groove/Thrash Metal band Azreal). Hence, the quintet comprised of Luke on vocals, Grant Scott and Jesse Kenny on the guitars, Rohan Downs on bass and Brendan Woodley on drums again focuses their energy and creativity on raw sounds, highly inspired by Heavy Metal pioneers Black Sabbath and Doom/Sludge Metal masters Crowbar.

And “the swamp” needs only a few seconds to blow our ears with their ruthless and heavy-as-hell Stoner Metal in the opening track Headless, with Luke delivering sheer rage through his Phil Anselmo-inspired deep, crude vocals, while Grant and Jesse are simply bestial with their crushing riffs. If that’s not heavy enough for you, just keep banging your head nonstop to another soulful and aggressive Sludge Metal creation by The Black Swamp, named Event Horizon, where the bass lines by Rohan feel like if he was rubbing metal to metal so piercing and thunderous they sound. Put differently, this is a drinking-smoking-slamming-headbanging tune, bringing a classic rhtythm tailored for lovers of the genre. Then we have 1487 C.E., a short and serene bridge that sets the stage for to the demolishing title-track Witches, showcasing the heaviest and most whimsical elements found in Sludge, Stoner and Doom Metal, with Brendan pounding his drums mercilessly while Luke continues his musical rant à la Pantera, not to mention the always crisp and furious riffage by the band’s guitar duo.

In a nutshell, it’s quite impressive the amount of heaviness and rage found in each one of the four tracks of the EP in a littles less than 17 minutes, proving The Black Swamp are not joking around when displaying their admiration and passion for Sludge and Doom Metal. If you want to show your support for this resonant quintet, go check what they’re up to on Facebook and buy your copy of Witches (which by the way is available for a full listen on YouTube) directly from The Black Swamp’s BandCamp page, as well as from iTunes or from CD Baby. After this brief “attack” by Australia’s own five-headed creature from the swamp, I’m sure you’ll get curious to know what comes next in their career, getting more and more addicted to their sluggish, vile and totally awesome music.

Best moments of the album: Headless and Witches.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Headless 4:32
2. Event Horizon 6:46
3. 1487 C.E. 1:00
4. Witches 4:13

Band members
Luke Hosking – vocals
Grant Scott – guitar
Jesse Kenny – guitar
Rohan Downs – bass
Brendan Woodley – drums

Album Review – Sata Kaskelottia / Sydän On Vuori (2018)

The most unconventional gam of sperm whales hailing from Finland strikes back with more of their flammable fusion of Stoner and Progressive Metal.

After three long years of writing and recording, the most unconventional gam of sperm whales hailing from the Finnish capital Helsinki is back with a brand new album, ready to show us all that the human heart is a mountain. If that doesn’t make any sense to you, then you should definitely take a listen at Sydän On Vuori (Finnish for “heart is a mountain”), the brand new album by Stoner/Progressive Metal act Sata Kaskelottia, following the success of the band’s 2015 debut self-titled release while experimenting with new sounds and nuances and exploring the breaking points of life, points in which difficult choices have to be made.

Sata Kaskelottia’s combination of progressive, darker tones and often catchy, lighter and strangely triumphant mood produces a unique musical blend that walks its own path, with Sydän On Vuori introducing the band’s evolved sound and songwriting. Comprised of Eetu Kauppinen on vocals and guitar, Matti Kangaskoski on the guitar, Markku Suoniemi on bass, and Ville Salonen on drums and percussion, Sata Kaskelottia, which means “one hundred sperm whales” (if you don’t know that already), are beyond sharp and electrified in Sydän On Vuori, and if you’re a fan of the music by bands such as Mastodon and Baroness I’m sure you’ll have a good time listening to the nine tracks of unrelenting rock and metal found throughout the album.

We need only a few seconds in the opening track Aamumandaatti (“the morning mandate” from Finnish) to know we’re dealing with the “Finnish Mastodon”, with the guitars by Eetu and Matti sounding as sharp as a sword, not to mention you’ll certainly feel compelled to sing along with the band even knowing nothing in Finnish. Just as psychedelic and heavy as its predecessor, Leskentekijä (“widow’s origins”) is a well-balance hybrid between Stoner and Progressive Metal, with Ville bringing an extra dosage of electricity with his intricate beats while Eetu keeps firing his wicked vocals nonstop; followed by Parantaja (“the healer”), where the whole band speeds things up a bit sounding more aggressive, rawer and denser, with the music being led by the crushing riffs by both Eetu and Matti. In addition, the bass guitar by Markku sounds thunderous and metallic, adding an extra dosage of heaviness to what’s by far one of my favorite songs of the album.

Samarkand might be known as a city in modern-day Uzbekistan and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Central Asia, but from now on it should also be recognized as a lesson in Progressive and Sludge Metal, with its guitar lines and rhythmic beats inspiring you to bang your head together with the band, whereas the title-track Sydän On Vuori begins in an atmospheric, almost psychedelic way, evolving into a dark and deep Stoner Metal feast with Markku and Ville smashing their respective instruments, therefore creating a beyond obscure background of sounds. And in Ennen Kuin Sateet Alkavat (“before the rain begins”), Sata Kaskelottia deliver sheer electricity through their music weapons in a top-of-the-line fusion of Stoner Metal with old school Rock N’ Roll and modern Hard Rock, with highlights to the fantastic job done by Eetu with his demented vocal lines.

Bringing elements from traditional Heavy Metal to their musicality (which ends up giving it an epic vibe), the band offers the listener the vibrant Musta Tähti (“black star”), once again showcasing Eetu and Makki in absolute sync with their riffs; while Lumimies (“abominable snowman”) lacks the same punch and energy from the rest of the album, despite presenting melodious guitar lines and a solid performance by Markku on drums. And lastly, instead of another hard and heavy tune, Sata Kaskelottia surprise us all with a pensive ballad titled Ovet (“doors”), closing the album in a unique and very interesting manner, with Eetu leading the sonority with his introspective vocals until the song’s somber finale.

What are you waiting for to dive into the sea of Progressive and Stoner Metal ruled by Sata Kaskelottia? You can listen to their new album in full on Spotify, follow them on Facebook for new and tour dates, listen to more of their music on YouTube and on SoundCloud, and buy a copy of Sydän On Vuori from their BandCamp page, from Record Shop X, on iTunes or on Amazon. As you might already know, there’s nothing better than listening to the potent nad harmonious metal music blasted by one hundred sperm whales, and the new album by Sata Kaskelottia is here to show us that.

Best moments of the album: Aamumandaatti, Parantaja and Ennen Kuin Sateet Alkavat.

Worst moments of the album: Lumimies.

Released in 2018 Rhoska Records

Track listing
1. Aamumandaatti 5:03
2. Leskentekijä 4:54
3. Parantaja 3:30
4. Samarkand 5:19
5. Sydän On Vuori 5:16
6. Ennen Kuin Sateet Alkavat 4:01
7. Musta Tähti 5:39
8. Lumimies 5:14
9. Ovet 4:56

Band members
Eetu Kauppinen – vocals, guitar
Matti Kangaskoski – guitar, vocals
Markku Suoniemi – bass, vocals
Ville Salonen – drums, percussion

Album Review – Suum / Buried Into The Grave (2018)

Enjoy this Stygian and occult album featuring seven tracks of pure gloomy Doom Metal, masterfully delivered by an Italian quartet that has already succumbed to the dark side of music.

Let’s dive deep into the sluggish and obscure realms of old school Doom Metal to the music by a Italian quartet that goes by the name of Summ, formed in 2017 in the Italian capital Rome. Comprised of Mark Wolf on vocals, Painkiller on the guitar, Marcas on bass and Rick on drums, Suum are releasing now in 2018 the full-length album Buried Into The Grave, featuring seven tracks of pure gloomy Doom Metal, bringing to your ears not only a Stygian sound tailored for the doomed, but also cryptic lyrics about darkness, doom and occultism, being highly recommended for fans of Black Sabbath, Danzig, Candlemass, My Dying Bride, Electric Wizard, and all other bands and artists that have beautifully succumbed to the darkest and most lugubrious side of music.

If there’s rain, thunder and wind, you know the music is going to be doomed, which is exactly what happens in the opening track Tower Of Oblivion. Marcas kicks off this damned feast with his low-tuned bass until the rest of the band joins him in darkness, with lead singer Mark Wolf haunting our souls with his Black Sabbath-inspired vocals while Painkiller fires sheer obscurity through his riffs, with all vileness increasing in intensity until its crisp ending. And their Doom Metal mass goes on in Black Mist, led by the steady beats by Rick while the phantasmagoric vocals by Mark and the heavier-than-hell riffs by Painkiller generate a truly somber atmosphere; followed by Buried Into The Grave, which in my humble opinion is the most Stygian of all tracks of the album (hence, it would definitely make Tony Iommi proud). Not only the vocal lines are deep and deranged, but the combined sound of guitar, bass and drums create this gloomy creature that will mercilessly enfold you just like pitch black darkness.

Last Sacrifice is another classic Doom Metal tune spearheaded by the slashing riffage by Painkiller and the slow but intricate beats by Rick, putting you on a trance and inspiring you to crack your neck headbanging, with the music flowing smoothly and darkly until the end. Then bringing the most acid and somber elements from Stoner Metal and Rock we have Seeds Of Decay, an atmospheric and sluggish creation by Suum with highlights to the rumbling sounds extracted by both Painkiller and Marcas from their hellish strings, whereas in the melancholic and introspective instrumental The Woods Are Waiting we face more rain and wind, going on for a bit too long though (albeit nothing that will make you skip it). And finally, rhythmic drums and scorching hot riffs ignite their last breath of old school Doom Metal, the somber extravaganza titled Shadows Haunt The Night, where Painkiller sounds absolutely on fire during the entire song, adding an extra touch of malignancy and obscurity to the final result.

You can succumb to total darkness by listening to Buried Into The Grave in its entirety on YouTube, by visiting Suum’s official Facebook page, and obviously by purchasing such dense and entertaining album from the band’s own BandCamp page, from the Endless Winter webstore, from the Hellas Records webstore, or from Discogs. Those four skillful Italian metallers not only live up to the legacy of traditional Doom Metal, but based on the high-quality of the music found in Buried Into The Grave, they’re also more than ready to carve their names in the history of such distinct music style.

Best moments of the album: Tower Of Oblivion, Buried Into The Grave and Shadows Haunt The Night.

Worst moments of the album: The Woods Are Waiting.

Released in 2018 Endless Winter/Hellas Records

Track listing
1. Tower Of Oblivion 6:25
2. Black Mist 4:40
3. Buried Into The Grave 4:55
4. Last Sacrifice 5:13
5. Seeds Of Decay 5:44
6. The Woods Are Waiting (Instrumental) 3:38
7. Shadows Haunt The Night 4:23

Band members
Mark Wolf – vocals
Painkiller – guitars
Marcas – bass
Rick – drums

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 – High Reeper / High Reeper (2018)

Reeper, deadly reeper, it’s time to rumble to the flammable fusion of Stoner Rock and Doom Metal by this up-and-coming five-piece act from Philadelphia.

Formed in 2016 in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s largest city, in the United States by Zach Thomas on vocals, Pat Daly and Andrew Price on the guitars, Shane Trimble on bass and Napz Mosley on drums, Hard Rock/Doom Metal act High Reeper originally started as a studio band, but it rapidly became apparent that their music was meant to be heard live and loud, making their debut in the Philly stoner rock scene in early 2017 with success and, as a consequence, being followed up by the release of their self-titled debut album now in 2018. Deeply rooted in modern Stoner Rock but still giving a nod to the early days of Black Sabbath, the band’s first offering is driven by pounding rhythms, thick guitars and soaring, screeching vocals, meant to be played loud and to be played often.

In other words, High Reeper is an unapologetic punch in the face for fans of early 70’s proto-metal, with the sound and smell of leather, weed, boozing, gambling and death permeating the record from start to finish. Produced, engineered and mixed by bass player Shane Trimble at TTR studios in Philadelphia as well as his home studio Delwood Sound in Delaware, the sound is laced with old school elements while still maintaining the focus of a modern-sounding release, being highly recommended for fans of the aforementioned Black Sabbath, as well as other noisy and obscure bands like Saint Vitus and Orchid. Throughout its 42 minutes of music split into nine unique tracks, each one with its own purpose and soul, High Reeper will take you on a psychedelic and stoner musical journey, running from up-tempo straight-ahead rock, to slowed down, heavy, early doom.

Otherworldly riffs kick off the flammable Doom Metal feast titled Die Slow, a fun tune that will certainly put you into a trance where Shane with his rumbling bass and Napz with his rhythmic beats set the stage for the Ozzy-inspired vocals by Zach; and enhancing their electricity and stamina to a whole new level, the quintet delivers a rockin’ hymn titled Chrome Hammer, showcasing a great riffage by the guitar duo comprised of Pat and Andrew in what’s in my humble opinion the best song of the entire album. Keep in mind the party is just starting, as in Soul Taker we’re treated to another excellent Black Sabbath-like anthem by High Reeper, with Napz smashing his drums and Pat and Andrew delivering pure feeling with their strings.

The title-track High Reeper is sluggish and somber as expected in good old Doom Metal, ignited by the low-tuned bass by Shane before it becomes a drum feast by Napz, flowing into a thrilling, metallic ending; whereas in Reeper Deadly Reeper a dark and menacing intro evolves into a hard rockin’ Stoner and Doom Metal mass, with Zach putting his heart and soul into his performance, therefore enhancing the song’s already powerful vibe considerably. Then we have Weed & Speed, where the name says it all, with the weed part coming in the form pure Stoner Metal flowing from their instruments, while the speed appears every now and then amidst the most sluggish and soulful riffs you can think of. However, the final result doesn’t feel as cohesive as the other songs, falling flat after a while.

In the fantastic Double Down And Let It Ride, simply let their doomed sounds and noises invade your senses, led by the always thrilling guitars by Pat and Andrew. This is what I would call the perfect depiction of a hybrid between old school Doom Metal with modern Stoner Metal and Southern Rock, and a path High Reeper should definitely keep exploring in their future releases. Black Leather (Chose Us) is an ode to the 70’s lifestyle where heavy rockers used to wear black no matter what, translated into top-tier Stoner Rock full of crisp riffs and solos, rhythmic beats and the inebriate vocals by Zach. And last but not least, closing this feast of witchcraft and psychedelia we have another solid tune titled Friend Of Death, where we’re able to enjoy all the dexterity by the band’s guitar duo as well as the precision and feeling of Napz on drums for over six minutes, not to mention Shane with his blackened low-tuned punches, with its last part being a thing of beauty for fans of the genre.

You can easily enter the psychedelic world ruled by High Reeper by visiting their Facebook page and by purchasing their incendiary album through the Heavy Psych Sounds BandCamp or webstore (as a regular version or as a bundle that includes the album plus a T-shirt and a patch), as well as on iTunes, on Amazon, and on other retailers like Saturn and Best Buy. Because, you know, it’s time to rumble to the flammable fusion of Stoner Rock and Doom Metal by this excellent band from Philadelphia, and once you get into their vibe there’s no way out.

Best moments of the album: Chrome Hammer, Reeper Deadly Reeper and Double Down And Let It Ride.

Worst moments of the album: Weed & Speed.

Released in 2018 Heavy Psych Sounds Records

Track listing
1. Die Slow 5:28
2. Chrome Hammer 2:53
3. Soul Taker 3:27
4. High Reeper 4:37
5. Reeper Deadly Reeper 6:09
6. Weed & Speed 5:37
7. Double Down And Let It Ride 4:40
8. Black Leather (Chose Us) 3:28
9. Friend Of Death 6:07

Band members
Zach Thomas – vocals
Pat Daly – guitar
Andrew Price – guitar
Shane Trimble – bass
Napz Mosley – drums

Album Review – Judas Priest / Firepower (2018)

The Metal Gods are firing on all cylinders with their majestic new album of pure and highly inspired Heavy Metal.

When British Heavy Metal legends Judas Priest announced they were just about to release their 18th studio record, the magnificent Firepower, I already knew it was going to be an epic album. Not only it’s the first studio album since their 1988 release Ram It Down to be produced by Tom Allom and the first ever with the always precise and competent Andy Sneap as co-producer, but the entire band (Rob Halford on vocals, Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner on the guitars, Ian Hill on bass and Scott Travis on drums) is absolutely on fire throughout the album’s almost one hour of the purest form of “British steel” that will beautifully and powerfully pierce your ears and control your mind, compelling you to bang your head nonstop and raise your horns to the iconic Metal Gods. By the way, the amazing album art, created by Chilean artist Claudio Bergamin, breathes scorching fire like an enraged dragon, fully in line with the unparalleled history of one of the most formidable bands in heavy music.

Although their 2014 opus Redeemer of Souls was already fantastic, showcasing a veteran band at the top of their form, the metallic extravaganza found in Firepower is so majestic and inspiring that not even the terrible news of Glenn Tipton being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which unfortunately for all lovers of true metal music won’t allow him to tour as much as before with the band (being replaced by Andy Sneap during the upcoming Firepower 2018 World Tour), could ruin the magic crafted by the band in Firepower, and Glenn in his most humble “the show must go on” mode had a few nice words to say about his situation, encouraging the band to continue with the tour. “I want everyone to know that it’s vital that the Judas Priest tour go ahead and that I am not leaving the band – it’s simply that my role has changed. I don’t rule out the chance to go on stage as and when I feel able to blast out some Priest! So at some point in the not too distant future I’m really looking forward to seeing all of our wonderful metal maniacs once again”, said one of the greatest guitarists in the history of Heavy Metal.

Getting back to the album, five seconds are all that the mighty Judas Priest need to explode our senses with their incomparable metal music in the title-track Firepower, where Glenn and Richie begin their flammable riff-fest before the Metal God Rob Halford comes crushing with his unique metallic vocals. Put differently, the band offers us a high-octane, electrifying and straightforward 80’s-style version of themselves for our absolute delectation. And without wasting a single second the Metal Gods fire another superb hymn titled Lightning Strike, a mid-tempo, rumbling composition led by the always precise Scott Travis, with the rip-roaring way Halford declaims the lyrics being beyond thrilling (“I’ll bring you the head of the demon / I’m peeling the skin from his face / The life that you lead is inhuman / Its cause and effects a disgrace / You’re sowing the seeds of a nightmare from hell / Your prayers and your demons are tolling the bell / Walking through fire, fate’s in my hands / Waiting for lightning to strike / Man on a wire, bearing the brand / Waiting for lightning to strike / Lightning to strike”). Then darker riffs by Glenn and Richie permeate the air while Halford tells a somber story in Evil Never Dies, a sonic masterpiece perfect for hitting the road that will urge you to bang your head and scream together with Halford every single time you listen to its flawless lines.

Slowing down the pace a bit, but still sounding vibrant and epic, Never the Heroes brings forward lyrics about the fortunes of war and all the darkness that fills the heart of a soldier (“We were fearless but so afraid / Though in our hearts we still felt pain / We’re on fire but on a leash / We only ever wanted peace”), with the solos by both Glenn and Richie being a thing of beauty. Needless to say, this battle hymn will sound stunningly powerful when played live. Following such touching song we have Necromancer, a solid display of Heavy Metal infused with Stygian elements and nuances (mainly due to the nature of the song), closer to the band’s  sonority from the albums Angel of Retribution and Redeemer of Souls; and Children of the Sun, another song to sing along with Halford & Co., presenting a headbanging rhythm led by Scott with his steady beats and the simple but effective bass lines by Ian Hill. As usual,  the band’s guitar duo does an amazing job with their crisp solos, enhancing the song’s punch considerably.

Their metal feast goes on with a gentle piano bridge named Guardians, warming our ears and minds up for the powerful Rising from Ruins, displaying an elegant sonority where Halford has a titanic performance, stealing the spotlight with his deep and passionate vocals, not to mention how Scott keeps the music flowing smoothly with his classic beats. And what to say about the next tune, aggressively titled Flame Thrower? When I first saw the name of the song I was more than sure it was going to be ass-kicking, and guess what? It is indeed a true rockin’ extravaganza ignited by the slashing guitars by Glenn and Richie, in a blend of their own music from albums like British Steel and Ram It Down mixed with Halford’s solo career. Also uniting old school and modern Judas Priest, the quintet delivers the gripping Spectre, where Richie adds a touch of modernity to the band’s trademark sound with his guitar while Halford once again impersonates a “dark poet of metal”. Then a melancholic intro quickly morphs into a flammable and adventurous metal hymn entitled Traitors Gate, showcasing all elements we learned to love from NWOBHM, and, as a consequence, being tailored for admirers of the more epic side of the band. Furthermore, the guitars by Glenn and Richie are in total sync with Scott’s beats and especially with Halford’s potent roars and high-pitched screams, making it a true exhibit of classic metal.

The last batch of songs in Firepower is quite interesting, as if the band decided not to release them as bonus tracks of a deluxe edition of the album despite their uniqueness, but instead they added them to the regular version of it as a gift to all metal maniacs who have been supporting the band since their inception. No Surrender is straightforward Rock N’ Roll infused with Heavy Metal nuances highly inspired by the band’s own 80’s musicality, or in other words, if this was part of British Steel, Defenders of the Faith or Screaming for Vengeance it would have been a metal classic today. Hence, can you feel their guitars penetrating deep inside your heart? Then the superb Lone Wolf feels like they wanted to pay a stylish tribute do Black Sabbath, Pantera and Down all at once in a fusion of top-notch Heavy Metal with the dementia and aggression of Stoner and Doom Metal. Even the usually quiet Ian Hill delivers some thunder through his bass, with Richie and Glenn stealing the spotlight with the heaviest riffs of the entire album while Halford is simply astounding on vocals. And last but not least, how about a touching and majestic ballad titled Sea of Red, closing this grandiose album in great fashion, with Halford’s voice sounding even more impactful together with the fiery guitars by Richie and Glenn? And don’t forget to pay very good attention to the lyrics as they’re simple but very potent.

In summary, Judas Priest are all fired up in Firepower, delivering everything we love and expect in their classic and always incendiary Heavy Metal, therefore proving once again they’re not called the Metal Gods in vain. There are several retailers where you can purchase this masterpiece of old school and contemporary metal perfectly united, such as iTunes, Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart, providing you the most exciting soundtrack for anything you need to do in life. After such brilliant job done in Firepower, let’s hope now that Glenn can somehow overcome Parkinson’s disease, and that we can see him sooner than anyone can expect on stage with the rest of the band, firing some of their biggest classic together with the new combustible songs from the new album, because that’s where a talented and hardworking guitar god like him should always be.

Best moments of the album: Firepower, Lightning Strike, Evil Never Dies, No Surrender and Lone Wolf.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Epic Records

Track listing
1. Firepower 3:27
2. Lightning Strike 3:29
3. Evil Never Dies 4:23
4. Never the Heroes 4:23
5. Necromancer 3:33
6. Children of the Sun 4:00
7. Guardians 1:06
8. Rising from Ruins 5:23
9. Flame Thrower 4:34
10. Spectre 4:24
11. Traitors Gate 5:34
12. No Surrender 2:54
13. Lone Wolf 5:09
14. Sea of Red 5:51

Band members
Rob Halford – vocals
Glenn Tipton – guitar
Richie Faulkner – guitar
Ian Hill – bass guitar
Scott Travis – drums

Album Review – Magick Touch / Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire (2018)

A “magickal” music journey to the golden years of rock and metal, reminding us all why we love those electrifying sounds so much.

In these times where trends seem to come and go on an almost monthly basis, sometimes it’s never more satisfying than to simply sit back and rock out. And that’s exactly what Norwegian Hard Rock/Rock N’ Roll power trio Magick Touch will make you do with their highly anticipated second full-length album, entitled Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire, a beyond exciting follow-up to their critically acclaimed debut endeavor Electrick Sorcery, released in 2015. In other words, there are no tricks, no special effects nor any other type of shenanigans in Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire, just three skillful musicians declaring all their passion for classic rock and metal through their music.

Formed in 2014 in Bergen, a southwestern coastal town in Norway, Magick Touch are HK Rein on guitar and vocals, Christer Ottesen on bass and vocals, and Bård Nordvik on drums, blending in their music several elements from the most classic forms of Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll with a strong focus on the synchronicity between their vocal lines and the slashing power of their guitar riffs. This Norwegian trinity of rock will take you on a journey to the golden years of rock music through the 10 electrifying tunes featured in Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire, always reminding you why you love the gripping sounds of rock so much in your life.

And the Rock N’ Roll running through their veins becomes latent in the opening track, the upbeat Under The Gun, bringing the purest form of rockin’ riffs and the high-pitched, electrified vocals by HK, with the bass punches by Christer knocking us out within seconds, and keep banging your freakin’ heads nonstop and raising your beers to the soulful guitar lines by HK in The Great Escape, while Bård keeps pounding his drum kit mercilessly. Following such electrified start to the album we have Midnite Sadusa and its Cat Scratch Fever-inspired main riff, an ode to 70’s and 80’s Rock N’ Roll where Christer and Bård are responsible for creating a massive wave of rumbling tones perfect for the classic vocals by HK. Put differently, this is one of those songs that would have been an all-time classic if written 30 years ago.

Leaning towards more contemporary Hard Rock with hints of the sonority by bands like Nickelback and Breaking Benjamin (but also showcasing the band’s old school core essence), Believe In Magick is a song tailored for dancing together with your boyfriend or girlfriend at a rock n’ roll party; whereas the roaring bass by Christer takes the lead in this potent fusion of Southern Rock, Stoner Metal and Hard Rock titled Polonium Blues, which will certainly please all fans of the golden years of Southern Rock. In Siren Song we’re treated to a thrilling intro that keeps growing in intensity until groovy Rock N’ Roll fills our ears, presenting sharp guitar lines with psychedelic elements while the vocal lines sound hard and heavy just the way we all love in rock music. And speeding up their pace, Magick Touch deliver a flammable rockin’ chant named Lost With All Hands, with its guitar and bass slashing our brains while the beats by Bård don’t let us stop dancing for a single second.

Slowing down again and bringing elements from Blues Rock to their sonority, the band offers us After The Fire, a radio-friendly composition with a solid drumming and a catchy rhythm, despite losing its grip after a while, followed by Electrick Sorcery, the second to last Hard Rock comet by Magick Touch and, more important than that, their personal tribute to 70’s and 80’s Rock N’ Roll and Heavy Metal, showcasing amazing performances by all band members (especially HK with his passionate vocals and spot-on riffs), and with its backing vocals adding an extra touch of awesomeness to the overall result. Furthermore, the last part of the song is absolutely fantastic, with the band paying homage to KISS, Judas Priest, AC/DC, Dio, Motörhead and other rock and metal idols through the song’s clever lyrics. At long last we have a song which name could have been easily used by Manowar in one of their songs, the title-track Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire, a mid-tempo heavy-as-hell hybrid of pure Rock N’ Roll with the most rumbling form of Southern Rock and Metal, also displaying an amazing chorus accompanied by the lowering bass by Christer and the slow, steady and fierce beast by Bård, even presenting some Iron Maiden-ish moments effectively inserted throughout its faster and more complex passages.

I guess I don’t need to say you should definitely let your rockin’ heart be touched by the electrifying and magical waves crafted by Magick Touch in Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire, and in order to do that simply go visit their Facebook page, YouTube channel, Spotify and SoundCloud for news, tour dates, videos and, above all that, first-class Rock N’ Roll. Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire, which is already on sale through several online stores such as the band’s own BandCamp page, the Edged Circle Productions’ webstore (in CD or LP format) and the Season of Mist’s webstore, as well as on Amazon, on iTunes or at Discogs, doesn’t aim at revolutionizing rock and metal music. Quite the contrary, Magick Touch’s main goal with their new album is simply to remind the whole world how awesome our good old Rock N’ Roll is and will always be, and the band not only nailed it, but they also provided us all a “magick” soundtrack to our days and moments on the road, at work, at school or anywhere else good music is needed.

Best moments of the album: Under The Gun, Midnite Sadusa and Electrick Sorcery.

Worst moments of the album: After The Fire.

Released in 2018 Edged Circle Productions

Track listing
1. Under The Gun 2:53
2. The Great Escape 2:56
3. Midnite Sadusa 3:39
4. Believe In Magick 3:36
5. Polonium Blues 4:17
6. Siren Song 4:30
7. Lost With All Hands 3:13
8. After The Fire 4:10
9. Electrick Sorcery 4:26
10. Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire 6:18

Band members
HK Rein – guitar, vocals
Christer Ottesen – bass, vocals
Bård Nordvik – drums, vocals

Album Review – Temptation’s Wings / Skulthor Ebonblade (2017)

Follow the epic adventures of the mighty warrior Skulthor, told by a relentless American power trio through their vibrant fusion of Stoner and Southern Metal.

Hailing from the mountains of North Carolina, in the United States, more specifically from the city of Asheville, here comes a bludgeoning power trio known as Temptation’s Wings, who since the band’s inception in 2005 has been blasting an old school fusion of Stoner and Southern Metal full of raw power, crushing riffs and epic vocals with influences ranging from Amon Amarth to ZZ Top, from Candlemass to Iced Earth, and so on. All that passion for heavy music culminated with the release of a demo titled Destruction of Another Dimension, in 2010, and the EP’s WarMallet: An EP of Brutality, in 2011, and Legends of the Tusk, in 2013, leading the band to play several concerts in support of their releases, including opening for metal legends Iced Earth in their hometown’s biggest venue, The Orange Peel. However, it’s now in 2017 that the trio aims at spreading their metallic wings over the entire world with the release of their debut full-length album, the rip-roaring Skulthor Ebonblade.

Showcasing a comic-inspired artwork by Minneapolis-based artist David Paul Seymour (the “Artist of Doom”), Skulthor Ebonblade is a doom-thrashing sonic representation of battles, berserkers, bizarre beasts and bashing skulls by the trio comprised of Micah on vocals and guitars, Chad on bass and Jason on drums, who above all things love to tell us epic tales of bloodshed and conquest through their music. With each one of its songs being a crushing narrative of brutality from start to finish, Skulthor Ebonblade can be considered a concept album that keeps the level of epicness and adventure always at the highest possible level. Having said that, simply grab your sword, ax and shield and head into the battlefield together with Temptation’s Wings to the sound of the glorious anthems found in the album’s 48 minutes of unrelenting metal.

Blazing fires in the intro Burning of Hjalmar warn the listener a monumental war of Sludge and Stoner Metal is about to begin in I’ Destroyer, where Micah and Chad build a wall of sound with their strings, being powerfully joined by Jason and his smashing beats. In addition, Micah impersonates the main character of the story in a gripping manner, while Chad and his bass sound as thunderous as they can be throughout the entire song. And the rumbling tunes by Chad kick off another heavy and potent creation by Temptation’s Wings entitled Into the Maelstrom, presenting top-tier Southern Doom with an epic atmosphere in the background, together with faster passages interspersed with darker, slower moments that end up turning it into a full-bodied experience for the listener.

And it seems that the skies are getting darker and darker as the music in Skulthor Ebonblade evolves, which is the case in To Forge a Legend (Ulfbehrt). Micah fires spot-on enraged vocals in perfect sync with the pounding drums by Jason, exhibiting a more melodic side of Temptation’s Wings with highlights to its sustained epic vibe. Then we’re treated to one of the most thrilling, razor-edged chants of the whole album, Lair of the Gorgon Queen, where Micah not only slashes our ears with his riffs, but his vocal performance is beyond heroic and vibrant. Furthermore, this flammable chant is also full of breaks, variations and nuances of several different music styles, not to mention Micah’s fantastic guitar solos; followed by Treachery of the Blind Raven, which by the way has a superb name for a metal song, where they continue their quest for Southern Metal in great fashion, with guitar and bass sounding as metallic as they can be and with all spaces being filled with the dense sounds of all instruments.

Witches of Dredmoor offers our avid ears almost 10 minutes of melancholic passages, low-tuned bass punches and passionate performances by all band members (in special Micah with his gripping story-telling vocal lines). It’s by far the darkest of all songs, presenting more of their stunning guitar solos and rhythmic beats to make the whole composition even more exhilarating; before the closing tune of the album, titled My Name Was Skulthor, brings forward an anguished anti-hero Skulthor with his dark thoughts and evil feelings consuming his mind, with all that negativity flowing from the song’s low-tuned bass lines and obscure vocals. There’s no happiness in sight, only the melancholy and sadness of a fallen warrior beautifully turned into first-class Doom Metal by Temptation’s Wings, concluding the album majestically. Actually, if you buy the CD version of the album, you get as a nice bonus from the band a 2-minute acoustic instrumental track named Solitude (inserted between “Lair of the Gorgon Queen” and “Treachery of the Blind Raven”), a simple but very positive extra touch to the album in my opinion.

You can take a detailed listen at Skulthor Ebonblade on YouTube, follow the band on Facebook, and purchase the epic, rumbling adventures of Temptation’s Wings through their BandCamp page or official website, as well as on iTunes. Although no one truly knows what lies ahead for Skulthor, we all know for sure that, no matter what destiny brings to our fallen warrior, the skillful minstrels of Heavy Metal known as Temptation’s Wings will be there to tell us another gripping story of violence, death and revenge through their kick-ass music.

Best moments of the album: I’ Destroyer, Lair of the Gorgon Queen and My Name Was Skulthor.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. Burning of Hjalmar 1:24
2. I’ Destroyer 7:03
3. Into the Maelstrom 6:25
4. To Forge a Legend (Ulfbehrt) 7:46
5. Lair of the Gorgon Queen 6:03
6. Treachery of the Blind Raven 4:40
7. Witches of Dredmoor 9:40
8. My Name Was Skulthor 6:44

CD bonus track
6. Solitude 2:18

Band members
Micah – vocals, guitars
Chad – bass
Jason – drums